A/N: At long last, were at the end of the road (At least for now.)
For what seemed like the hundredth time, the Autobot base was in complete silence. Since returning, Ratchet managed to repair Bumblebee's arm, and treat Bulkhead's wounds. His own neck wound taken care of, the medic stood patiently by the ground-bridge controls. "Anything, yet Ratchet?" Miko asked, worry evident in her eyes. "Not since the last time you asked," the medic made sure to keep his voice soft.
"Sorry, it's just-" "I know, but we must remain calm." As if on cue, Arcee radioed, "Ratchet, we need bridge." Everyone within earshot stiffened. Had she and June found Jack? Were they calling to let them know he was okay? Or were they too late and was Jack dead?
Optimus walked up to the controls, "Arcee-" "We've got Jack," she assured, "He's okay." A whoop of joy from Miko and Raf broke the silence. Ratchet merely nodded, but he couldn't hide the smile of his face. A feeling of relief swelled in Optimus' spark.
The swirling vortex that was the ground-bridge opened in the wasteland that was Shadow Moses. "Ready to go, partner?" Arcee smiled. "Yeah," Jack sighed, "The sooner we leave, the better." Without another word, Jack, June, and Arcee stepped through the portal and found themselves back at base. No sooner did then when they was Jack met with tight embraces from Miko and Raf.
"Jack!" the perky young Asian girl cried, "We're so glad you're okay!" Raf merely nodded, to choked up to speak at the moment. "I'm sorry for everything you guys," he said. "There is no need to apologize Jack," Optimus kneeled down to meet his gaze, "You were the control of mad men." "Prime's right," Fowler said, "It's not you meant to get captured by MECH and turned into some cyber-"
The special agent was cut off by the sound of gun clicking. Jack turned around to find Ramirez aiming her pistol at him, point blank range. "Lt. Ramirez, stand down!" Fowler ordered, but the female soldier kept her steely gaze on Jack. "Drop it," Arcee aimed her blasters at the woman. Still, Ramirez remained silent.
"Arcee," Jack spoke up, eyes never leaving the gun in his face, "Stand down." "Jack," June gasped. "Miko, Raf, step back," the young man instructed. They hesitantly backed away from their friend. Jack grabbed the gun and adjusted it so it was now aiming at his heart.
In the ruins of Shadow Moses, Liquid walked through the debris, scanning for any signs of life. "Such a pity," he sighed, "After all my hard work." Liquid suddenly disappeared in flash of static. Shortly afterwards, an alien looking jet flew over and shifted its parts form the being known as Megatron, leader of the Decepticon Army. "Soundwave," he radioed, "Lock on to my coordinates and return me to base."
Megatron, under the human guise of Liquid, aided Silas in the creation of MECH. Using his influential speeches about bringing the world into a new order was easy enough. Humans were so gullible. In reality, the Lord of the Decepticons had anticipated that MECH would eventually encounter Optimus and his foolish team. He'd hoped MECH would keep the Autobots busy while he and his followers raided this world of its energon.
Of course, Megatron hadn't anticipated Breakdown being captured by them. Foolish oaf. When Starscream informed him of his capture, Megatron didn't want to risk losing the one distraction he had for the Autobots, so he left Breakdown to his fate. However, the 'Bots mounted a rescue mission and saved Breakdown. Not surprising, given Optimus' sickeningly noble spark.
Of course, Soundwave had informed him that Starscream disobeyed his orders and went to save Breakdown himself, no doubt to use the brute in overthrowing him. When Silas informed him he'd captured Jack Darby, one of the humans under the Autobots protection, he'd realize this was a chance to deliver a severe emotional blow to his longtime nemesis. After their encounter in the mine, in which the human had foolishly shown him mercy, Megatron noticed the similarities between the youngling and Optimus. There was no doubt in Megatron's mind that Optimus noticed these similarities as well. Knowing that fool, he'd probably developed a bond with the human.
And so, Jack Darby was transformed into Gray Fox, a human Cybertronian hybrid, or 'techno organic.' Of course, Megatron knew that enough prodding would trigger his memory, but idea of that human being in so much agony over the horrors he committed made his plan all the more sweeter. "I tip my hat to you Silas," Megatron sneered, "You served your purpose well." With that, he returned to the Nemesis.
Just when it seemed June's blood pressure had returned to normal, Lt. Ramirez aimed her gun at Jack. After the emotional rollercoaster she'd been on the last two days, this was happening. "Lt. Ramirez," Fowler tried to calm her, "Stand down." But the soldier didn't budge, her eyes focused on Jack. No doubt this was revenge for what Jack had done to her team.
Jack had been under the control of MECH, serving them as Gray Fox. Under their orders, he'd slaughtered her team, her friends. In the back of her mind, June knew this would happen sooner or later, but the woman could have at least waited for them to rest and she didn't have to aim a gun at him. Finally, the woman in question spoke, "Any last words before I pull the trigger?" "Lieutenant!" Fowler bellowed, "Drop your weapon and stand down this instant!"
"Well?" she hissed, ignoring the special agent. Jack remained silent. He expected her to try something like this, but not in front of Miko and Raf. Finally, he spoke, "Lieutenant." No one failed to hear the dead tone in Jack's voice.
He'd been through more trauma in the last two days than anyone his age, perhaps more than anyone on this planet. Being captured by terrorists, brainwashed into becoming a weapon for the purpose of destroying the Autobots. He'd killed a team of soldiers who been sent to rescue him, Ramirez the only survivor. Finally, he'd been forced to fight the 'Bots, injuring them, nearly killing them all. June shuddered at the fresh memory of her son's agony at realizing what he'd done.
"No words can make up for what I did twenty-four hours ago," he swallowed a lump in his throat, "I killed your teammates." Ramirez pressed the gun closer to his chest. "My friends will tell you I was brainwashed, but you and I both now that's just an excuse," his voice was cracking now, "Even now, now their screams are haunting me. They probably will for the rest of my life." Jack paused for a moment. In all the commotion, he'd forgotten that what Silas told him. The nanomachines used to enhance his body's physical characteristics also stopped his aging.
He glanced at his mother, Miko, Raf, and Fowler. He'd watch them grow older and eventually die, but he'd remain the same age, forever frozen in time. He shifted his gaze back to Ramirez, "You have every right to hate me. Even more of right to act on that hate." The Autobots listened with intrigue. When they'd first arrived on Earth, most of them, save for Optimus, didn't think much of the planet or its inhabitants.
Arcee and Cliffjumper eventually found joy in watching the sun rise and set over the desert horizon. With Agent Fowler as their only means of communication with the human government, the Autobots knew little of the species. Ratchet never made any attempt to hide his contempt for them, seeing them as primitive and violent. After Cliff's death, Arcee joined him in his opinion merely out of frustration. Bulkhead and Bumblebee remained neutral, simply following Optimus' orders.
After encountering Jack, Miko, Raf, and eventually, June, the 'Bots views on humanity changed. Bulkhead and Bumblebee took to their charges immediately. Jack, however, had the difficult challenge of trying to break the ice around Arcee's spark. Initially seeing him as little more than a burden placed upon her by Optimus, the femme made little effort to find some common ground with the young man. Eventually, Jack's charm won her over and the two formed a strong bond of friendship.
As the weeks became months, their bond evolved. They became more than just "partners." They had fallen in love with one another, but had yet to admit it. "If you want to shoot me," Jack said after a long silence, "I won't stop you and neither will the 'Bots." Arcee was about to say something when she caught Jack's stare, telling her to remain still.
"I can only offer you my sincerest apologies for what I've done," silent tears were running down his face. Jack had said everything he wanted to say. Now he could die without regret, without remorse. Ramirez had listened to his words, seeing the emotion on his face. She removed the gun from his chest and placed it in its holster.
"I'm not going to kill you," she said. Jack was hesitant before asking, "Does this mean you forgive me?" "No, I can't forgive you." He felt his heart sink, "I understand." "No you don't," she sighed, "I can't forgive you because you're not the man who killed my team."
Everyone stared at her in complete shock. "But I did kill them," Jack finally said. "No you didn't," she gave him a soft smile, "Gray Fox did. And I'm pretty sure he burnt up in that explosion along with Silas." The room's occupants let out a collective sigh of relief while Jack looked at the woman before him in awe. She was stronger than any person he'd ever met, even Optimus.
He killed her friends, people she considered family and mocked her for it. He'd expected her to simply kill him, but she allowed him to pour his soul out to her. And now, she was forgiving by saying he didn't kill them and the true culprit, his alter ego Gray Fox, was dead. Tears of gratitude and admiration flowed from his eyes. "Thank you," he whispered.
"Quit the water works kid," she chuckled, "You should probably get yourself checked out for any injuries. Surviving an explosion usually leaves a mark or two." Jack simply nodded and followed his mother to the medical bay. Arcee followed, but not before she gave Ramirez a nod, a gesture she gladly returned. Ratchet led the way. Upon arrival, Jack noticed Bulkhead and Bumblebee lying on berths, awake and staring at him.
He'd almost forgotten them with what just occurred. Did they know the truth? Was Bee afraid of him for ripping off his arm? Was Bulkhead going to make him pay? The swirling questions in Jack's mind were halted by Bulkhead, "How ya doing there kiddo?"
Again, Jack was overcome with emotion. He'd tried to kill only a few hours ago and now, they were talking to him like he just fell off a bike or something. Rather than cry again, Jack merely nodded before taking his place on a bed while Ratchet scanned him. He knew it was a matter of time before the med bot found the nanomachines. Hopefully, he'd have just enough time to work out an explanation.
"What is this?" the medic narrowed his optics. The occupants looked at him with interest. Fate could be a real bitch sometime.
Over the next few weeks, Jack and June had moved into the Autobot base. After discovering the nanomachines and Jack giving an explanation, Optimus and Fowler felt it was best for the Darbys to stay with them. Upon discovery, Miko gave Jack her condolences. Normally, the young girl would have envied Jack for being young forever. But after what had transpired, she knew better.
Ramirez began regularly visiting the Autobot base, having grown used to the 'Bots. After some initial discomfort on Jack's part, the two were now able to stay in the same room. Fowler had footed the bill for the renovations for Jack and June's new rooms. It didn't take much convincing from Fowler (who managed to keep the news of Jack's new found longevity a secret.) But Arcee couldn't help but notice Jack was slightly more depressed than usual, no matter how much he tried to hide.
Given that most humans live to be at most a hundred, eternal life, plus youth, given how their bodies deteriorate with age, should have been great news. But Jack saw this as a curse. He could no longer socialize the way he used to, with the friends he'd made at school and around town. He'd have to watch his mother grow old, while he never aged a day. To a Cybertronian, living for centuries was natural, but to a human, a child no less, it must've been a nightmare.
He'd never be able to fall in love with a woman his own age, or species. "Maybe this is a good thing," Arcee thought, "Now maybe Jack and I can be together without the limits of time." What was she thinking?" Jack was probably in more emotional pain than he'd ever known and she was only thinking of her own happiness? Her thoughts were stirred when her partner called out to her, "Arcee, think we can go for a ride?"
Out in the desert, the wind blowing in the night sky, Jack and Arcee were sitting on a ledge. The silence between them was crippling. Jack had asked her for a ride into the desert to speak, but now they were sitting on a cliff, silent as the death. Jack laughed bitterly. What an ironic thought.
"Jack," Arcee broke the silence, "You wanted to speak?" "Yes," he sighed, "But I'm not sure of what to say." Arcee gazed at her partner in sympathy. In just three days, Jack had gone from being a normal teen with a crummy job to being immortal. "Arcee, what's it like to live for centuries?" he asked. She had been anticipating the question, but its bluntness still caught her off guard.
"I can't really describe it," she sighed, "On Cybertron, living for what seems like an eternity just seems natural." Jack nodded, "I guess it was a stupid question." "Jack, I don't know if there's anything I can do to make this seem like a good thing," she bit her lip, "But maybe one good thing that came out of this was that you and I can be together now." Jack looked at her in confusion, and maybe a little anger. "Scrap," she'd done it now.
Now Jack would think she was just a selfish machine, not taking his feelings, the feelings of his mother, and the feelings of his friends into account. He'd blow up at her about how what a selfish thought that was. He'd tell her they could no longer be partners, no longer be friends after what she had said. "What are you talking about?" he asked. "I've always been worried about the short lifespans of humans," she went on, some confidence building, "I know this must seem like a bad thing, but now we can be together without having to worry about the test of time."
Jack listened intently as she went on, noticing how she kept saying "together", before saying, "Can you activate your soligram?" This she had not been expecting. The soligrams were their way of interacting with their human friends. They were different than what the humans called "holograms." Rather than question him further, she shifted into vehicle from and turned on her soligram.
Her soligram was not what an average human female would look like. She had short blue hair with pink highlights, a blue tank top, exposing her stomach, blue jeans and black shoes. Her eyes were an electric blue. "Jack," she placed her hand on his shoulder (another advantage the soligrams provided), "Why did you-" Jack cut her off by pulling her body to his and pressing his lips against hers. Eyes as big as dinner plates, Arcee simply stood there while Jack kissed her.
"Jack," she murmured against his lips. Relaxing her "body", she wrapped her arms around his neck. They remained in that position, until Jack pulled away for air. "Arcee," he pulled into an embrace, "When you said 'together', did you mean you love me?" She didn't know how to answer him.
Why was he asking that? Did that kiss me he returned her feelings? She decided to take a leap of faith, "I don't know when my feelings for you went beyond those of a partner, but they did." She took a deep "breath" before answering, "Yes Jack, I love you." She pulled out of his embrace and looked him in the eye to see his reaction. Rather than anger, disgust, or revulsion, his eyes glowed with what could only be love. For the first time in weeks, Jack was genuinely smiling.
"Arcee," he pulled her into another embrace and whispered in her ear, "I love you too." For what seemed like the first time in her life, Arcee felt like she was back on Cybertron, walking through the parks of Iacon. "Jack!" she cried, burying her face in his shoulder. "You were right," he said. Even if his mother and friends were lost to time, at least he and Arcee would be together.
A/N: There you have it! The last chapter. Thanks to everyone who read the story! I've got a sequel in mind, but for now I might work on another Jack/Arcee story. How about one where an accident involving synthetic energon turns her human?