Dying Embers 1
A Safe Mission
A Transformers Prime FanFiction
"No Jess, I'm sorry," June Darby found herself reluctantly saying. "I just have too much on my plate at the moment. You know I would love to go with you. Oh, Jack is doing fine. But he's at that complicated age."
The woman shifted the phone as she stood over the sink and smiled out the window. The boy in question was just finishing washing the last soap suds off of a gleaming blue motorcycle. Complicated indeed.
"Well I wish you the best of luck. Yes maybe next year. Goodbye Jess," the woman place the phone on the counter and brushed a loose strand of hair out of her eyes.
"Hey Mom," Jack called as he came in. "Who was that on the phone?"
"Dr. Black. I called her to cancel our trip to Haiti."
"Oh scrap," the young man said his blue eyes widening, "I forgot all about that."
"Watch you language," his mother said absently as she put the last of the dishes away. "With everything that's going on it was just the right thing to do Jack."
"I'm so sorry Mom," he said. "This is so unfair. I know how much you were looking forward to working with the midwives."
"Mammababy Hati can survive without one more nurse," she said with a smile, "and isn't Arcee waiting for that wax?" She indicated a pot on the stove.
Jack started and grabbed the pot in one hand and a pile of rags in the other.
"Thanks Mom," he called over his shoulder as he rushed the cooling liquid out to his waiting partner.
Soundwave stood nearly motionless at the helm of the Nemesis. Screen after screen of data flowed by his smooth impassive face. Every so often his long thin talons would flick out and mark some irregularity in the flow. At one point he stopped the steam for several seconds to study a particular reading. The Decepticon began to probe deeper into the ships records. More irregularities began to crop up. After a time the con silently left his post. Equally silently a drone stepped up to take his place.
Soundwave strode through the dark corridors of the Nemesis. Drones ducked out of his way as the tactical officer passed. The Decepticon stopped before a sealed doorway. He was in a deserted section of the massive ship. It had been badly damaged shortly after leaving Cybertron and never fully repaired. He forced the warped doors open and stepped into a near empty cargo bay. The bulkheads were charred and bent. Cables and ruptured conduits stuck out of the walls. Soundwave studied the maintenance records. There was substantial damage to the superstructure that only prolonged drydock on Cybertron itself could fix, but there was more to this. Basic maintenance had never been preformed, maintenance that Starscream would have been in charge of as second in command.
Soundwave walked cautiously over to the far wall. Another irregularity; the room was too small. He carefully examined what appeared to be a random fissure in the buckled bulkhead. With the utmost care he ran his servos over the crack. He detected and deactivated no less than three booby-traps, then triggered a small mechanism.
The wall folded away to reveal a small escape pod. The craft had been heavily modified. Several energon lines fed into ports on the side. Here was the odd power drain that had drawn his attention. A power drain that Starscream had been concealing since the Nemesis had departed Cybertron. The Decepticon carefully analyzed the situation and then terminated the power to the device. To his surprise scans showed live energon still inside. The tactical officer picked up a data pad that was attached to the pod and scanned through it.
For the briefest of moments surprise stiffened the implacable Deception's frame. He reached out and touched the pod almost reverently. Quickly Soundwave compiled all the data and sent it to Megatron in a compressed data burst. Seconds ticked by as he waited for the Decepticon leader to respond. Finally it did. Soundwave stiffened again. For perhaps the first time in his existence the mech considered questioning Megatron's orders. The impulse was quickly crushed. Calmly Soundwave gave the necessary orders. The pod was carefully moved to an outer hold and vented into space.
Perhaps it was chance, perhaps something more, that guided the pod on its short journey. Some long dormant program woke as the small vessel fell down into the gravity well of the blue planet. The engine within coughed to life and spread electromagnetic shields across the undersurface while stabilizing the spin. The great magnetic field of the planet caught the shields and sent the pod skipping across the upper atmosphere like a stone across a pond. The natural curves of the field guided the craft towards the northern pole. The shields twisted and wove, sending the pod and its occupants in a lazy spiral down towards the safety of the planet's surface below. When gravity finally won over the dying engines the craft plummeted.
This struggle might have gone unnoticed were it not for chance, or something else, intervening again.
*Romeo Alpha, Sierra Tango,* a man's voice crackled over the radio. *Please tell me you see that.*
*Sierra Tango, Romeo Alpha. Roger that. But what is that?* A woman's voice answered.
Two Piper Navajo Chieftain Airplanes cruised over the Bering Strait. Their silver white bodies were highlighted with forest green and aquamarine striping. The pilots, normally chatting away on the long flight to Russia were both intently focused on a very strange falling star.
*I don't have a clue. It's coming down fast but definitely controlled. Not a burnt out satellite. Not a plane. Help me get a triangulation coordinates and then we'll call this in to the Coast Guard.*
*Roger that Babe.*
A few moments of silence followed.
*Hey Babe? Are you getting what I'm getting?*
*Whatever that is it's headed straight for Diomede Island.*
*But which one?* both of them were old enough to remember the Cold War and old fears began to creep up their backs.
*It doesn't matter to us. I'll just radio this into the Coast Guard and we'll be on our merry way. These Christmas presents aren't going to deliver themselves. Romeo Alpha out.*
*Sierra Tango clear.*
To the north of the two nervous pilots the pod finally gave out its last gasp of energy and fell to rest on the larger of two small islands, unaware of the history that separated them.
*Arcee, head down the left canyon five hundred yards,* Optimus Prime ordered. *There should be a path you can take to gain high ground on the drones. Bulkhead and I will circle around and meet up with you at the pass.*
*Understood Optimus,* the second in command replied curtly. *Bumblebee, cover me.*
*Optimus be careful I'm reading reinforcements coming in from the west,* Ratchet warned over the comm.
*Thank you old friend,* the Prime responded.
The red and white medic stared grimly at the consol in front of him. Four blue life signals glowed, clearly outnumbered among dozens of red Decepticon indicators.
*Optimus,* the medic said with trepidation, *The Cons are broadcasting interference over an impossibly large area. I cannot groundbridge you out and I estimate it will take at least eight hours for you to clear the area on the ground.*
There was a pause on the other end of the comm. Ratchet could almost hear the gears turning in the Prime's mind; calculating safety, escape, combat.
*Understood Ratchet. Maintain constant contact.*
On the observation platform Jack sat on an office chair. His back was ramrod straight and his face impassive. The only sign of his nervousness was the helmet spinning in his hands. The medibot glanced at him and felt a spark of compassion for the young human. Ratchet cast his mind about quickly trying to find something useful for Jack to do. The human's living area was spotless. Every piece of equipment that a human could manage was already organized thanks to the young man. Ratchet allowed himself a small smile. These situations were all too common he was afraid, and the human's tendency to distract himself with productive activities didn't leave much undone around the base.
A flashing indicator claimed the medibot's attention. He was about to respond, but hesitated.
"Jack, answer that for me," Ratchet snapped out.
The human jumped and ran over to the secondary controls. He pulled up the programs to scramble his voice and image. The screen crackled to life.
"Prime!" Fowlers penetrating voice roared out of the speakers. Ratchet sent up a silent prayer of thank for the impulse that had made him turn the call over to the human.
"Agent Fowler," Jack said calmly, "the bots are occupied right now. Can I take a message?"
"Jack? Look this is really important. I need to speak to Prime," the agent said.
Jack could see the middle-aged man wasn't doing well. There were bags under his eyes and his suite was rumpled from days of wear. In his eyes was a frantic urgency.
"Sorry Fowler, but he's in the kitchen at the moment, with everyone except the Doctor," the young man explained, feeling a glow of pride at getting to use the code words.
"Scrap," Fowler growled. "How long until dinner's done?"
"Ratchet says at least eight hours,"
"Jack, I've got three separate missions going simultaneously, all of which involve MECH. And now the Kremlin and D.C. are breathing down my back to take care of something. Every man I've got with the proper clearance is tied up, I need the Autobots now."
"Well they're a bit busy trying not to get killed by the cons," Jack pointed out.
Fowler let out a growl of frustration and slammed his fist down on the table in front of him. He stared intently out into space for a moment mind whirling. Suddenly he glanced up sharply at the young man and smiled.
"So, how's your Russian, Smith?"
"It's a perfectly safe mission Mom," Jack was saying. "No cons, no MECH. It would be a real help to Fowler. I probably won't even have to do anything. Just stand around and look official until Fowler can get a retrieval team to collect the debris."
Mrs. Darby ground her teeth quietly as she stared out the window at the rising Nevada sun. Every mother had to go through this as their children grew up she reminded herself; many recently with both wars in the Middle East. She had been looking forward to spending some of her time off with her son. Now, a slow smile spread across her face.
"I mean it's… wait, what?" Jack stuttered, caught off guard by the woman's sudden capitulation.
"Yes, you can go," June clarified reaching for her bag, "under one condition."
"Both of you?" Fowler blinked in surprise at them across the screen.
"Yes," the nurse said firmly. "If this mission is as safe as you make it out to be then it should be fine if I come along."
"Mrs. Darby it's just a matter of getting you the proper clearance," Fowler protested. "This is the Russians we're dealing with. It is not easy to bluff…" The agent trailed off when he saw the determination in her eyes.
"A currier will meet you in Anchorage with the proper documents," he sighed rubbing his forehead, "along with the mission briefing. Fowler out."
"All right, let's get this show in the road!" Jack called out cheerfully. Part of him was a little disappointed to have his mom along on what was supposed to be his first solo mission. But a much larger part of him than he was willing to admit was vastly relieved.
"Wait just a minute Jack," Mrs. Darby said firmly.
Jack stopped entering the coordinates and looked at his Mom nervously.
"What exactly is the weather in Anchorage right now?"
The young man stopped and glanced down at his the cotton cameos he wore, understanding dawning on his face. He pulled up the weather channel and glanced over the forecast.
"Cloudy, and in the low twenties," he said.
The woman went to the car and pulled out two heavy coats, gloves, hats, and thick socks. They bundled up and Jack entered the coordinates. One bridge later and they found themselves in a dim cluttered hanger. Two planes in different stages of repair sat on the concrete. Stacks of boxed goods waited to be shipped out to the Alaskan bush.
"Dr. Green, Private Smith?" a cheerful voice called out.
They turned to face a smiling middle aged woman.
"I'm Cinnamon I'll be you pilot today," she said. "The government currier is waiting for you in the office."
They followed her inside the building, and she left them with a man in a dark suit in a small office.
"Johnson!" Jack exclaimed in surprise on seeing the federal agent.
"Smith, good to see you again," the fed growled at him. "Dr. Green, thank you for coming on such short notice. Your instructions are in here, along with your paperwork. Please familiarize yourself with them on the ride out to the island."
He handed each a thin manila envelope and ushered them toward a small prop plane that was idling on the runway.
"The trip will take several hours but now we can tell the Russians that you are on the way. God speed."
Slightly bewildered by the hurry Jack and June scrambled up into the plane. The pilot nodded at them and proceeded with the preflight. They sat down in the rear of the plane across the aisle from each other. Jack opened his envelope. It was the same dossier he'd used before when Optimus had needed a human's assistance on a mission. Private K. Smith, stationed out of fort Wainwright, AK. His mother handed him hers with a grin. Apparently she was Jane Green, PhD; the leading expert on xenobiology in the US. Jack gave a smile at that. It was true enough that no human on the planet knew more than she did about Cybertronian biology. Not even MECH.
The flight out was long and cold. The small aircraft's heater struggled and roared but was fighting a losing battle. By the time the pilot shouted back that they were ready to land both of them were freezing. The plane touched down on an impossibly small airstrip on the smaller of the two islands. Jack and June bailed out shivering. Two burly men in parkas hurried them into a building. Hot tea was pushed into their hands and a bustling sergeant ushered them into the bathrooms to change into warmer clothes.
"The Ruskies were extremely pleased when we told them we were sending the US's leading expert on xenobiology out to examine the situation," the base commander was saying as they rode over the thick sea ice to the Russian controlled island.
"Yes, why exactly was I summoned?" Mrs. Darby asked, bracing herself as the caterpillar treads went over a particularly large bump. "My briefing only mentioned debris of a questionable nature. Surely any engineer could examine that."
"It's best if you just wait and see for yourself," the officer returned evasively. "The important thing is that the two governments are making nice and sharing this time."
"This time?" June asked arching her eyebrows.
The commander chuckled and pulled his parka tighter around his face.
"Odd things happen out here Dr. Green. Just keep your eyes open."
"You should not have come," groaned the burly Russian officer who met them at the base. "We sent message, bad thing happen. You did not receive it?"
"What exactly do you mean, 'bad thing'?" the American commander growled, his hand twitching towards a lump under his parka.
"Neyt," his fellow officer reassured him, "not gun trouble, things are breaking down. Computers fail electronics on the fritz. Communications are down. That sort of thing."
"Boris, this is Dr. Green the xenobiologist," the commander quickly introduced them.
"They sent a woman?" Boris asked in surprise.
"Yes they did," June said calmly.
"Ah, that is good," the man muttered.
Mrs. Darby glanced sharply at the American officer who only shrugged.
"Dr. Green, you and your assistant go take a look at the space craft while I investigate this," the commander ordered.
Mrs. Darby arched her eyebrows at her son, who shrugged his shoulders. Random debris had quickly turned to an entire spacecraft that was interfering with communications. "Safe" mission indeed. Nevertheless she quietly followed their guide up a short flight of stairs cut into the snow and along a well tramped path across the top of the island. The darkness was disturbing she had to admit as they plodded along, the wind biting through their parkas. Stars flickered overhead as they approached a large grey tent. There were lights gleaming out from the flaps of the tent.
Their guide opened the tent for them and indicated a battered pod in the center. June drew in a sharp breath and Jack let out a small cry. There was no doubt the pod was Cybertronian. It was about the size of a minivan, scorched and burned from atmospheric entry. The crash had buried it in the snow and the handiwork of man had peeled the already ruptured top layer back so they could see inside. Three small forms were curled up connected to various tubes.
"Sparklings," June whispered.