Transformers Prime: The Ties That Bind III

Part One

Sherman Oaks, California


"David…come on…" She said breathlessly, trying, with feigned effort, to push the young man away. "We're going to be late." For his part, David remained happily preoccupied, face buried in Susan's neck, hands slowly seeking the hem of the girl's shirt.

"David…" Susan coaxed again, this time somewhat more insistently.

"They won't miss us. I'll be quick…" David told her in an attempt to be reassuring.

"I'll be quick?" Susan repeated gruffly, a hand now raised between them. "Wow. That's really romantic." Her irritation, and partial disgust, clearly evident.

"I didn't mean it like that. I mean, I'd want to take our time, but you're the one worried about being late for some freaking cake." he retorted.

"It's my little sister's Birthday, David." She snapped back.

"If it's that important, why'd you want to stop in the first place?" The young man inquired, shifting back completely into the driver's seat.

"Because I wanted to do my make-up and, the way you drive, I didn't want to look like Lady Gaga by the time we got there. Then you wanted to kiss me. I didn't think you'd want to go all the way."

"Well, I sure as hell don't want to now." David replied stiffly.

"Fine. Then let's go please." Heatedly the girl turned to look out the passenger side window, arms crossed.

"Fine…" David answered, muttering under his breath as he reached for the ignition.

Then the ground of the parking lot several feet in front of David's Shelby Cobra exploded, the air filled with shattered concrete, smoke, and flame. Susan screamed loudly, both instinctively trying to seek cover under the dashboard.

"Oh my God! What's was that? Was that a bomb? Is it Terrorists?" Susan's yelling inquiries were met only by David's shocked expression. Fumbling for words, he managed an, "I…I don't know."

After a moment, both recovered enough to steal a glance out the front windshield.

The debris cloud caused by the explosion, or, rather, the collision, had already dissipated. Through the smoke that continued to rise from the freshly made crater ahead of them, Susan thought she could see…something. Something large. Something moving.

"David…let's go. Let's go…"

With a silent nod, mouth agape, David fumbled for the ignition once more. The car had yet to start when an audible impact, heavy metal on concrete, reverberated out from the impact site towards the two in the vehicle. As the pair looked on in terror a massive, bipedal figure rose from the depths of the crater, lifting itself over the rim, rising to it's full height.

Neither teen could see exactly what the massive figure was. However, they could hear it, a strange mechanical sound, like sparking wires and radio static.

"David…David!" Susan screamed.

Shaken from his terrified state, David hit the ignition. At once the car rumbled to life, drawing the full attention of the new arrival. All at once the couple beheld the otherworldly entity before them. Nearly two stories tall, the humanoid machine gazed at them, it's azure eyes aglow.

"What…the…f…" David managed before the car was suddenly awash with a red beam of light, sweeping back and forth across the body of the vehicle. Panicked, David slammed on the gas, rocketing the car forward, straight towards the alien robot, nearly taking the car right into the freshly made breach in the parking lot.

Before the teens could crash down, however, the vehicle seemed to suddenly jump, slipping sideways on screeching tires, narrowly missing the crater. Still trying to recover, David kept the pedal to the floor, speeding away from the walking machine like a bat out of hell.

In their wake, the new arrival had begun to change, it's humanoid appearance shifting as alloy plates, gears, and servo-powered joints realigned, altering the Cybertronian's form. Several seconds later, a black Shelby Cobra sat idle beside the crater. The vehicle form roared to life.

Already, internal sensors began scanning the area for what it would need next. Rolling back from the impact site, the Cybertronian seemed to regard the recently departed human couple, their subsequent reaction, and how it had nudged the car aside, saving the lives of it's two occupants.

"You're welcome." A female voice said dryly.

Without further hesitation, the vehicle tore away. In the near distance, sirens slowly began to grow louder and she had no intention of being present when they arrived.

Arcee wasn't happy. To compound things further, she found she was unhappy about being in the aforementioned sour mood in the first place. More to the point, it was why she was feeling so positively wretched.

Standing on the steps of Jasper High School, Jack Darby was every bit the confident young man he appeared to be, very much in contrast to the moody youth Arcee had first encountered outside of KO Burger well over a year ago. Recalling that first meeting, Arcee could only just feel the echoes of who she had been back then, a relative maelstrom of bitterness, rage, and sorrow. Cliff's death, his first and true death she thought somberly, was fresh in her mind, and the cold fury it left in her had seemed like her whole world.

Then Jackson Darby had come strolling out from his horrid, minimum wage job, looking every bit as furious with the world as she felt. Despite the circumstances, being understandably preoccupied with the Decepticon patrol sweeping the area for her, Arcee had found herself at first taken aback by Jack's sudden attention to her.

When the teen had strolled over, speaking about being, "In love," with her vehicle form, it had taken a measure of control not to spook the young human, not just for his safety, but to avail herself of his materialistic affection.

Then he had touched her, running his fingers down her side and across her seat.

Arcee had felt what she could only describe as a jolt, like electric tendrils dancing across her frame. It had not been an unpleasant sensation. Even through all the anger, danger, and everything else, Arcee could not help but realize how long it had been since someone, anyone, had coaxed a similar reaction from her. Even Cliff, over so many years, had never brought out much of a physical reaction from her.

Her lost partner had been dear to her heart, but even in the quiet moments between battles she had never found herself filled with the Cybertronian equivalent of desire. Cliffjumper had been a comforting presence, for sure, but they had never felt the need to make it more. That was how she had preferred it, something he had understood and respected.

However, much to her bewilderment, on a planet in the middle of the galaxy, in a parking lot in a dot on the map called Jasper, Nevada, the touch of a human had left her feeling more alive then she had felt in too long a time. It had been all she could do not to be lost in the moment, silently relishing the sensation. Then she had spotted the 'cons, and things began to move quickly.

Jack, still every bit the awkward youth, had found himself striving, in vein, to speak confidently to the then focus of his hormonal attentions, the local High School's top of the social totem pole, resident popular girl, Sierra.

The red-headed girl and a friend had treated Jack with something bordering polite tolerance, seeing only a social pariah and not seeing anything of the charm, wit, and potential Arcee would come to witness and, almost instantly, adore. Once the Vehicons had made their presence known, Arcee had spirited Jack away for both their sakes. The rest, as the human saying went, was history.

Over the next year they had come to endure a great deal, great trials and tribulations which had forged a powerful bond between them, surpassing the simple bonds of friendship Jack's fellow humans would come to have with their own Cybertronian protectors. Even now, Arcee was unsure when they're deep trust and mutual affection had become love.

Perhaps, she mused, it had been so from the moment they had met. It simply had taken them some time to realize it. Or, perhaps, they'd always known, deep down on some level. It didn't matter. All that did seem important was what they had now. Something so powerful it had helped them overcome matters of life and death on more then one occasion. Something unbreakable. Something that could never be in danger of coming apart.

Which was why, watching Jack share a laugh with the same Sierra who had rebuffed his attention so long ago, a girl who had, only recently, taken notice of what Arcee had watched spring forth from the teen over the last year, Arcee felt so inherently annoyed and foolish all at once for feeling, as best as she could surmise, jealousy.

Arcee knew, in the very depth of her being, that Jack would never replace her in his heart with any other female. However, Arcee could not help but be keenly aware, in that moment, watching as Sierra, feigning being winded by Jack's great humor, playfully pushed at the teen's shoulder, that their relationship had…limitations.

Yes, they had kissed. Lips, or the nearest thing to them in Arcee's case, pressed together in quiet moments, saying in that simple act what they could not express openly for lack of experience with emotions like passion. Eventually, however, that would be the extent of their physical bond. Arcee knew Jack had never once resented being unable to go any further in their relationship. Despite his youth, his hormones did not supersede the feelings of his heart.

"I don't need anything more then this…" He had told her once, enfolded in her embrace, ear pressed to her chest plate, listening, as he liked to do, to the hum of her Spark Chamber. Likewise, Arcee found she relished the steady rhythm of Jack's human heart, her sensors following it's strong beat. She had never doubted the sincerity of his words then, nor did she now. However, watching Sierra find an excuse to brush up against Jack once more, Arcee could none the less be keenly aware of the human girl's advantage over her.

Were she willing, Sierra could give Jack all the things Arcee herself could not. Arcee had, unbeknownst to Jack or anyone else, used the web to study Human courtship, romance, and all facets of what humans saw as love. The emotional contexts she had researched had been easy enough to understand, the descriptions coinciding with her own feelings. It had been a great relief to see that, in regards to the depth of emotions, Humans and Cybertronians where, once more, not all that different. Optimus had so often preached that observation to her and the other Autobots; however, it wasn't until her feelings for Jack began to truly manifest that Arcee had come to appreciate that fact.

Then she had begun to research the physical interactions of human couples. The practice of kissing had seemed a curious enough custom, one she had often found herself musing over, watching Jack's own lips move as he spoke to her about one thing or another. Though she had often, teasingly, rebuked Jack's halfhearted advances, it had been Arcee who had eventually taken the initiative, pressing her mouth to Jack's, feeling those same electric tendrils she had felt so long ago in the KO Burger parking lot envelop her. The look on Jack's face in that moment was one she often pulled up in her memory for the simple sake of mirthful satisfaction.

It wouldn't be until a short time later that Arcee would investigate further, into activities of the far more intimate variety, only to hit a proverbial brick wall of shock and general bewilderment. Though she had seen, in Jack's company, films and television programs which had depicted, to one extent or another, the act of what human's called Sex, it had always seemed just another part of the story, and something she had, in all honesty, not paid much attention to. Just another strange human custom. During one particular scene in one of the action films Jack enjoyed on occasion, Arcee had inquired off-handedly about what, exactly, the two characters were doing, watching, in growing bemusement, as Jack fumbled over an explanation.

The topic had quickly died off, Jack changing the subject to a conversation he had had with Raf about Bumblebee getting caught on CCTV Cameras as a car without a driver. Arcee had let it go but had, later, investigated further. What she had found had, to the say least, left her speechless.

Though she would not go so far as to say she had been disgusted by what she discovered, it had, none the less, given her pause. The simple fact was, even had she wanted to facilitate the human instinct to physically bond together, it just wasn't feasible. Arcee, her larger physical body aside, simply wasn't built that way. No Cybertronian was. As a species, her race did not procreate in anyway approximating the human fashion. Any attempts to experiment, she had decided, would have simply been an exercise in extreme awkwardness and might have done more damage to their relative comfort with one another then she would ever risk. As such, she had let the matter rest.

Now, a relatively short time later, the painful truths about the physical barrier between her and Jack was being, seemingly, and clearly unintentionally, thrown back in her face. It was something that should not have bothered her or brought about anything even remotely resembling jealousy; however, the emotion had begun to fester in the pit of her systems, and watching Jack continue to be pawed at by Sierra was only making it worse.

"Take it easy, Arcee." She told herself, unheard by any passerby. "She doesn't have a prayer. You know it and, more importantly, Jack knows it." Arcee watched Jack make another comment which prompted fits of giggles from his red-haired admirer. "Now, all he has to do is tell her that." Had Arcee been able to, she knew she would have begun to clench her alloyed hands into fists.

"Arcee?" Ratchet's voice suddenly filled her open com-channel, bringing her out from a growing malcontent. None the less, her response was more unpleasant then she had intended.

"What?" She replied irritably. Ratchet's subsequent pause was almost audible before the Autobot medic, clearing his voice in an attempt to regain some measure of composure, continued.

"Agent Fowler has contacted us about a possible Cybertronian encounter involving civilians. He has asked us to investigate in conjunction with the local Task Force division." Ratchet explained. "Optimus is currently investigating a possible Energon source in the Colorado Rockies. And with both Raf and Miko required to be home at present, that leaves…"

"Yeah, I got it." Arcee replied. "Send me the data, and stand-by to Ground-Bridge us to the location."

"Understood." Ratchet acknowledged curtly. Arcee sighed, feeling instantly guilty. As the Autobot's second in command, she expected better of herself, as did Ratchet. She would apologize to him later. For now, there was a certain human teen who's charm was wearing thin. Thinking to contact Jack's cell as a means of pulling him away from Sierra, Arcee, perhaps not in the most professional frame of mind, had a better idea. Or, at least, a much more satisfying one.

"So, she says, "What do you mean it's not a stick shift? Then what have I been grabbing?"

"Oh my god. That's so wrong…"

"It's not my joke, I swear. Besides, you asked, so AH!"

Jack, hands cupped to his ears, Sierra likewise following suit, tried to trace the source of the piecing shriek now blaring across the High-School's front parking zone. Around them, other teens, and even the occasional faculty member heading home for the day had, likewise, covered their ears.

"Is that someone's alarm?" Sierra yelled.

"What?" Jack asked in response, unable to do much except watch Sierra mouth words he could barely hear.

"Car! Alarm!" She screamed.

"No one's Alarm could be that…!" Jack ventured before stopping short. Despite the growing sense of embarrassment forming in his stomach, he was suddenly, and keenly, aware of where the alarm was coming from. Rushing down the steps, Jack moved to Arcee, seeing the flashing light on her display. Feeling the eyes of more then Sierra on him, Jack hit the button. At once, the sound ceased.

Across the front of the school, students and teachers released covered ears, glowering at the teen as they did so.

"Nice one, Darby!" Came a shout. "Jesus, man. If I'm deaf I'm going to sue your a…" Came another.

"Mr. Darby." Stepping down the short flight of stairs was Mr. Lenard, Jack's History teacher. "Students may be allowed to have their own vehicles on school property, but not as personal loud speakers."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Lenard. I…swear, I didn't know the alarm could be that loud." Jack gazed down at Arcee, knowing his partner could see him via her mirrors. "I don't know what's wrong with her."

"Her?" The teacher asked, looking somewhat curious.

"Sorry, sir. Bad habit. I'll get my motorcycle checked out. This won't happen again."

"See that it doesn't, Mr. Darby. I'd hate to have to report something like this to the Principle."

"Yes. I mean, no, sir, I wouldn't want that either."

With a nod, the teacher was gone, leaving Jack under the scornful gaze of his peers.

"Well, I, uh, better get going Jack." Sierra said from her step. "I guess I'll see you."

"Yeah. Later." Jack replied, watching the girl retreat to the safety of her circle of friends atop the stairs.

With everyone out of earshot, Arcee simply asked, "Can we go?"

Jack, eyes wide with disbelief at the complete lack of guilt in Arcee's tone, tried to find something scathing to say, but knew an angry tirade would just garner the attention of those still watching him from the front of the school.

Feeling that he had been put under the spotlight enough for the day, Jack simply pulled on his helmet, swinging a leg over Arcee's seat. He had barely gotten hold of the steering handles when Arcee roared back, accelerating with enough sudden force to leave him using a death grip.

The subsequent speedy ride down the street and onto the Interstate, heading for the desert, was understandably chilly. When, at last, the pair where beyond the notice of drivers who might take interest in a teen yelling at his motorcycle, Jack did not attempt to hide his outrage.

"What the hell was that, Arcee?" Jack inquired heatedly. "Were you trying to get me detention for a month? Or you banned from the parking lot?"

"Wouldn't be so bad. Maybe Sierra could keep an eye on you." Arcee said coldly, instantly regretting how petulant the statement sounded. 'Damn it, I'm better then this…' She berated herself silently.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Jack asked her, at a loss.

"Nothing. Never mind." She answered, wanting, more then anything, to shift both their attention to the information Ratchet had sent her. "We've got a mission. One that's taking us on a bit of road trip."

Having reviewed the data-packet while speeding towards the desert Bridge out point, Arcee used her display to provide Jack with the visual brief.

"Half an hour ago, a call came in from private security for a Mall in Sherman Oaks, California. They say something touched down in the parking lot outside. Thankfully, the place was mostly empty since the Mall is closed for renovations."

"You said mostly empty?" Jack inquired, reading the transcript of the police report that had appeared on the screen.

"Yeah. There was a vehicle in the parking lot, bit ways from the entrance. The Mall security thinks it could have been a…couple. You know. Parked." Arcee tried not to show that the information in the report had hit a sore spot with her.

"Got it." Jack said, showing no sign that he heard anything out of the ordinary in her voice. "So is that who Fowler wants us to go after? These witnesses?" He asked. "What are we supposed to tell them? It was swamp gas?"

That, despite her mood, elicited a laugh from Arcee. "Cute." She answered sarcastically. "No. They're not the priority."

"So…what is?" Jack asked.

"Keep reading. According to the security cameras that weren't taken out by the explosion, the car that tore out of the parking lot just after the impact? Well, the same car, but a different color, left a few minutes later."

"Oh." Jack said, getting the full picture.

"Yeah. So, that begs the obvious question." Arcee ventured.

"Autobot…" Jack offered.

"Or Decepticon," Arcee finished. "We get to find out."

Clear of Jasper, Jack and Arcee entered the Ground-Bridge.

It had taken more effort then she would have preferred to elude the human security forces searching for her. Once more, she raged silently at herself for being so careless. Had this been an operation from her past, she would have compromised the mission, the cost of which would have been unacceptable. Not long ago she would have never allowed herself to be so reckless.

However, the last few years had proven to be so completely 'from the hip' that she had been given little choice. Without access to a Space-Bridge or proper transport ship she had been forced to use a deep space transit pod to carry her across the star system to Earth. What little she knew of the planet had been gleaned from decrypted, though heavily dated, files taken from the wreckage of a Decepticon Warship.

Judging by her visual recon upon touchdown, the planetary level of technology had advanced significantly from the time period indicated in the recovered files. Those scans had been taken during the chronological period on Earth designated 1938. While she was unsure of the current exact date, it was clear it was quite some time later, unless the Human race had acquired some means of accelerating their technological progress. That possibility gave her reason for concern.

'By Primus, let me not be too late.' She thought.

The vehicle form she had taken continued to prove adequate for her needs. Fast, powerful, and agile. Just as she preferred. Occasionally she would allow herself to reach top speeds when out of site of Human observation units. After so long in transit, she felt like a coil in dire need of being unwound. However, she did not permit herself, for one moment, to loose focus. She was, by all accounts, behind schedule. She needed to find what was required for the next phase of the mission, and soon. Pulling onto a street, she had gone only a few yards at speed when her scans lit up like hellfire.

'Target acquired.' She said to herself, facilitating an old, ingrained habit.

Coming to a stop, she tried to translate the lettering on the glass display set into the building using the dialect samples taken from the decrypted data. Proving unsuccessful, she allowed her sensors to confirm that what she needed was within the unoccupied building. Satisfied, she took a beat, then another, checking for roving patrols of any kind. No longer concerned that enemy units, or human security, were lying in wait or preparing to move in on her, she quickly shifted, assuming her now modified bipedal form.

Tall, though slender, her female frame was slightly more armored then most of her class, these armored plates and braces, now resembling the glossy black finish of her vehicle form, were set over the silver alloy of her polymer skin. With her cranial plates extending up and slightly away from her brow, she had the aspect of a feral biological entity.

The final, and most enthralling, addition to her class was what, she judged, by human standards at least, could be considered akin to a braid of hair. The tight binding of reinforced polymer served two purposes, as a kinetic sensor, providing in the moment combat telemetry and situational awareness but was also an offensive countermeasure. Interwoven with neuromuscular control fibers allowing her to control it at will, and tipped with a Tritanium serrated blade, her braid could quickly become a weapon, joining an already deadly arsenal built into her frame.

Once she had been considered something of a secret weapon for the cause of reclaiming lost Cybertron. Though that time had passed, to any who saw her she was the last remnant of a more brutal time in the War. When even the Autobots had been forced to show no mercy.

Leaving those moments to the past, her transformation completed, she set to work. From her wrist guard she extended a short needle, the tip of which was oscillating at a frequency just beyond the perception of the human eye. The vibrating needle slowly came in contact with the glass of the window, shearing the thick plate material away as though it were made of flimsy paper.

With-in seconds, she had the hole she needed. Retracting the needle, she extended yet another device, this one a tendril of thin cables, each one aglow with an orange light. Snaking out from the entry point the cables made their way across titled floors, up chair legs, across small tables and, finally, found what they sought. Like lovers embracing, the cables bonded with several of the computers set around the confines of the Internet Café.

Though power to the establishment was disengaged, save for a crude, by Cybertronian standards, alarm system, the various cables transferred all the power the terminals needed. In seconds, she had the computers up and running, bypassing rudimentary software firewalls and accessing what she quickly learned was called the World Wide Web, among other names.

Immediately she began searching, gaining a quick understanding of all primary human dialects she initiated multiple search algorithms, looking for the patterns she needed. As she worked she reviewed peripheral data, records concerning all that had occurred since the time period in which the Decepticons had first become aware of the planet, it's inhabitants, and, most importantly to the Decepticons, it's Energon deposits.

It became quickly evident why the All-Spark had brought her kind to this world. Already, they were so much like her own species. She could see it in their history, the potential for great progress and evolution, off-set by a desire to control and conquer. The Human race was destined to repeat the mistakes which occurred so long ago on Cybertron. However, if she were successful, perhaps that fate could be avoided.

At last, after what seemed an eon, though had, in fact, been only a few minutes, she had what she needed. Accessing classified files deeply embedded in servers associated with the Military of the United States of America, the country she currently occupied, she found the required data. Veiled names and references. Incident reports. Cover-Up operations. She had her target.

"Found you." She said quietly.

This phase of her mission completed, she took exactly the time required, no more, no less, to conceal her digital tracks. Though seemingly advanced for them, Humanity's global digital network was a simple enough thing to grasp for someone who had spent almost the whole of their life, century after century, cracking highly encrypted and advanced security networks on a thousand planets across the galaxy. At last, she was done. Stepping away from the building, she shifted once more.

Back in her vehicle form, she was on the move again. With her new data, she had little trouble locating several Wi-Fi networks and connections to use as she sped along. Finding a search engine quite useful, she began pulling all information on a place called Nevada. Her target was there. She knew it. She also knew she could not fail, if she did, then this world, and so many others, would continue the cycle of war that had destroyed so much before, and would yet continue.

In her mind's eye she could see the face of the Cybertronian she had to kill. It would not be personal. She would take no pleasure in it. Feel no anguish from it. For the sake of so many, and for that reason alone, she would extinguish the Spark of the being she loved more then anything she had ever encountered in her life. For the sake of the future, by the will of Primus, she would kill Optimus Prime.

To be Continued…