Transformers Prime: The Ties That Bind
The energy blast, a searing, roiling stream of super-heated gas and plasma, tore a deep furrow in the road ahead as Arcee, currently in her mobile form, slipped sides-way, undercutting the shot in a maneuver which would have been deemed impossible by even the most skilled driver on the planet. Tires spinning, the Autobot's second in command peeled forward, doubling her land speed in an attempt to not only outpace the three Eradicons hot on her cybernetic heels but to better safeguard the young human presently straddling the rider's seat.
"I told you we shouldn't have made that pit stop. We weren't that far from HQ!" Arcee shouted over the com-channel built into the rider's helmet. "You humans and your…needs." She finished as though speaking through gritted teeth.
"Oh save it," Jack responded in kind. "Look, humans can't exactly not go to the bathroom. Trust me, the alternative isn't very pleasant. When we have to go, we have go!" Exasperated, Jack's eyes fell upon the three enemy vehicles quickly gaining on them. "How the heck was I supposed to know the Decepticons would be watching every gas-stop between here and the Interstate?"
"Which we would not have had to worry about if you hadn't…oh scrap!" Tires screeching, Arcee side-slipped another energy beam. Hands gripped like a vice upon the controls, Jack could feel the small hairs on his arm singe from the radiant heat. "Ugh, that's it! No more Big Gulps before we ride!"
Thoroughly admonished, Jack chose to shift topics as the pair continued one evasive weave after another. "Any word on support? Shouldn't Ratchet have sent help through the Land-Bridge by now?"
"Yes. That's if he received my transmission before the 'ceps jammed the signal. I swear by the All-Spark, I'm getting tired of these tricks of theirs. Every time we think we have an edge, Starscream pulls another idea out of that twisted head of his." Even without the technological prowess of his new peers and comrades in arms, Jack could none the less understand the gravity of the situation currently facing the Autobots in their never ceasing fight to keep the enemy from taking control of Earth and subjugating Humanity.
Though the combat skills of the Autobots and their leader, Optimus Prime, could rarely be matched by the Decepticons, the other Cybertronian faction on planet had the advantage of their own technology and even a ship to bring to bare against Earth's defenders, while the Autobots had to make do with limited engineering resources. The Autobot base of operations, a retrofitted former missile silo in the middle of the Nevada back country, had but only one truly advanced piece of tech, a device which permitted near instantaneous travel to any point on the planet's surface and even low orbit, a wormhole device dubbed the Land-Bridge. If the base's communications had picked up Arcee's mayday, then Ratchet could zero in on their position and activate the gateway to allow the other Autobots to intercept.
However, if the Decepticon's new jamming device had been successful…
"Either way," Observed Arcee. "We have a problem. Look."
Turning forward, Jack could make out in the near distance the heavily traversed interstate, the national route well populated at this time of year. If Arcee continued on their present evasive course, the Eradicons would possess no problem whatsoever in following them into the menagerie of other vehicles, weapons blazing. Jack knew Arcee's train of thought even before she spoke them aloud.
"Off-road." They said in near unison.
With near acrobatic grace, Arcee banked hard into a turn, leaving a plume of grit in their wake as the pair quickly left the paved road behind. Without hesitation the hunting pack of Eradicons turned to follow. With the threat of civilians caught in the cross-fire no longer a concern, there was only one method left at Arcee's disposal to by time and keep her human rider safe.
"Jack, I'm going to take 'em. Get to cover when I give you the signal." Arcee ordered, her tone unquestioning. Jack however, for his part, had never been good at following orders.
"What? No, there's too many. Just keep evading, we might still loose them." Regardless of his attempt at maintaining an air of bravado and self-assurance, the Autobot commander could easily detect the anxiety in the young human's voice. Despite the hazardous nature of their situation, Jack's concern touched her. Still, she had given her oath to Optimus that she would never permit any of their charges to come to harm. Arcee knew her duty and believed in it. Coupled with that, she knew for her alone she could not allow Jack to be hurt or killed. It would be a wound no amount of Ratchet's repair skill could ever mend.
"Jack, I don't have time to argue. I can't fight them if I'm worried about you. Take the communicator and try to get to higher ground. If they're distracted enough, maybe you can get a signal out."
Though he hated it, Jack knew Arcee was right. It was the best chance they had. "Aright," He said, begrudgingly. "I'll get it done. Just…just be careful."
"You too." With that, Arcee let her tires spin, kicking up enough of a cloud to obscure the Eradicon's line of sight. With the heat of the day in the open desert, even their infra-red sensors would be hard pressed to spot the human as he sped away on foot. "Go! Go now!"
Legs braced, Jack leapt from the motorcycle's seat, rolling onto his shoulder and coming up at a sprint. The dust cloud dissipating quickly around him, Jack made for the nearest outcropping of rocks, silently hoping for the best for his mission, and especially for Arcee.
Behind him, the sound of the Autobot's transformation process rang out in the near silence of the open mesa with metal, gear, and circuits restructuring themselves into a massive humanoid form that would seem to defy explanation considering her former vehicular state. Taking a combat stance, Arcee readied the particle canon that cycled itself from within the confines of her forearm, taking aim.
Detecting the target lock, the lead Eradicon propelled it's automobile form upward, it's violet hued metal panels and other assorted parts twisting and reconfiguring much in the same way as Arcee's previous action. What came down upon the dirt of the desert floor was a similar humanoid construct, though the Decepticon drone lacked the sleek curves and graceful lines of it's Autobot counterpart.
It's own weapon out and firing, the Eradicon charged. Her canon locked, Arcee let loose a energy bolt that nearly toppled the drone as it closed the distance. Despite the superheated scar now present on it's armor plating, the Eradicon closed the distance, it's left arm reconfiguring into a serrated blade which could cleave through steel with ease. This it used in an attempt to sever the Autobot's head from her shoulders. Dipping below the strike, Arcee arose under the blow, using her armored elbow joint to catch the Eradicon across it's face plate. The drone stumbled, and Arcee quickly followed up with another energy blast, knocking the Decepticon off it's metal feet. Despite the damage, the drone was still alive and it's pack-mates where now joining the fray, shifting forms, their weapons armed and ready.
"Scrap." Arcee said under her breath. "Come on, Jack…"
Scrambling over the next in what had proven to be a long series of small ledges, Jack dumped himself over the lip and onto the heated rock, breath ragged and sweat soaking his shirt nearly through. Nearby, he could hear the sound of Arcee engaged in close combat with the three Eradicons and felt his chest tighten.
She'll be alright. She's the best. But I've got to hurry.
Taking another breath, Jack was on his feet, sneakers trying to find traction on the rocks as he scaled the stone pinnacle trying to get as high above the desert floor as was possible. In the distance resided mountains with far greater altitude, but they were both too far and too high. Had Jack even be able to scale them, the time it would have taken would have left Arcee in harms way for too long. No, his present ascent would have to be enough. At least, he prayed it would be.
Hoping he did not encounter a Rattlesnake sunning itself upon the stone, Jack reached the top of the pinnacle, just in time to hear a female cry of pain. "Arcee! Damn it…" Communicator in hand, a retrofitted cell-phone, Jack activated the transponder frequency, trying almost in vain to keep his voice clear.
"Jack to base-camp, please come in! Repeat, Jack to base, are you receiving, please respond!" From the cell's speaker there was only static, and Jack could feel his fury and frustration rising alongside his fear for Arcee. "Come on! Ratchet! Prime! Anyone, please respond. We are under Decepticon attack, is anyone receiving? "
Down on the Mesa floor, the sound of weapon's fire persisted, the high pitched discharge of the Autobot's canon becoming more frantic. Jack knew if help didn't arrive soon there would be little he could do to help…
"No. No, I won't let that happen."
Setting the mayday signal to repeat itself Jack abandoned the cell phone, descending with reckless speed down the side of the pinnacle, his determination clear.
The Eradicons, now on all sides, Arcee found herself dodging or deflecting an attack, just to find herself facing another. Though it had seemed a short time since the battle had been engaged, already her blue and silver chassis was pock-marked with laser burns and impact scars. Thus far she had been able to avoid any critical injuries, but at the rate she was sustaining damage she would not be able to keep that fatal strike at bay for much longer.
She had temporarily entertained the notion of reverting to her motorcycle form in order to escape or buy more time, but just as quickly she had abandoned that plan. There was too much of a risk that one of the Eradicons would detect Jack's Bio-Metric signature and move to capture him. To the Decepticons the humans closely linked to the Autobots were primary targets as taking them would mean possibly locating the headquarters of Optimus Prime and his forces. Arcee would not let either of those goals be achieved. If sacrificing herself meant keeping her family, and just as importantly Jack, out of the hands of Starscream and his insanity, so be it.
Taking a bladed strike on one of her forearms, Arcee could hear the whine of a hand canon ready to fire and tried to turn to roll out of harm's way, but her deflection came to late, the blast catching her at the edge of her midsection plating. Though not fatal, the impact spun her about, momentarily disorienting. Seeing this, the Eradicons used the opening to their advantage, pressing their attack. Blades, kicks, and weapons blasts came in wave after wave, with every other attack getting through to some extent.
At last, an energy beam seared through a critical gear at her knee joint and, crying out, Arcee was nearly down. Still attempting to fend off the Eradicons and their assault, Arcee knew with sobering clarity that it wouldn't be long now. Soon, her Spark would be free of her shell, and she would join Cliffjumper in returning to the All-Spark. Strangely, in a part of her mind, she realized her last thoughts would not be of her fallen comrade, but of someone else.
"Jack, please be safe…"
Stepping forward, one of the Eradicon drones raised it's serrated weapon, the blade aimed for the spark chamber at the center of her chest. The Decepticon suddenly paused as something small and hard struck the side of it's head. Almost as one, the Cybertronians tracked the projectile back to it's point of origin. Standing just meters away, another stone in hand, was a young human male, eyes hard as he sent the stone flying. Yet again, the rock impacted against the Eradicon's armor doing little to no damage. Though doing damage was clearly not the intent.
"Hey! D-bags! You want me? I'm right here. Bring it!" The challenge proved overly effective. Almost instantly, two of the Eradicons shot forward. "Holy…" Though he didn't regret his course of action, Jack none the less felt his eyes go wide, his heart hammering in his chest as the Decepticons charged.
"Jack! Run!" Arcee's shout broke the startled fog that had settled over him and Jack followed suit, turning at a dead run away from the two Eradicons now in hot pursuit. Seeing an opportunity that would not have been available otherwise, Arcee used her human's momentary distraction to her great benefit.
Combating the damage which threatened to overwhelm her, the Autobot took hold of the blade which had only seconds before been ready to pierce her heart. Rerouting what energon she had remaining to her intact leg, Arcee leapt up and forward, connecting head to head with the Eradicon.
Though damaging to her as well, the sudden attack put the drone off balance and Arcee wasted no time it ending the fight, twisting both the Eradicon and it's arm about. Arcee sent the blade up and through the Decepticon's chest, piercing it's spark chamber from the back. With a shudder and small explosion of released energon the Eradicon was down for good. Stumbling slightly as she fought to regain some balance on her solid leg Arcee said absently to the empty battlefield, "Prime did always say I could be hard headed. Good for me."
With a sudden start, her now focused mind recalled the horror of what had just occurred. "No. Jack!" Trying to follow the Eradicons in their pursuit, Arcee felt the damaged joint buckle once more under her weight, sending her to one knee yet again. Internal scans indicated she could not revert to her vehicle form in her present condition. Despite the danger, she couldn't reach Jack in time. The hopeless feeling inside her welled up until it spilled forth in a frustrated cry that echoed across the desert.
Suddenly, a brilliant light filled her vision, and the fading afternoon sun seemed to disappear entirely.
Darting in and out among the outcroppings and boulders which littered the mesa, Jack barely managed to stay ahead of the Eradicon's and their metal talons, the drones avoiding the use of their energy weapons least they damage one of the humans Starscream so very badly wanted to obtain.
Barreling over a rock mound, Jack felt the air part just behind him as one of the drones almost seized hold of him. His lungs straining, Jack knew he would not be able to evade the Decepticons for too much longer, he simply didn't have the strength left in his limbs to continue the chase, where-as his pursuers, being machines, appeared to have all the energy in the world.
Just ahead, Jack spied what appeared to be a narrow crevice. Even from this distance he could see it would be a tight fit. If it was tight for him, it would be near impassible for the Eradicons. At a sprint, Jack shot for the partition. Perhaps having picked up on his attempted destination the drones at last opened fire with their beam weapons, landing strikes just ahead of his path in an attempt to stop him in his tracks. Narrowly avoiding the great plumes of superheated sand created in the wake of the beam impacts, Jack put everything he had left into a dead run. Finally, going nearly airborne, he made it into the break in the desert floor, feeling himself wedge almost instantly.
Despite his narrow confines, the two Eradicons tried none the less to reach the small human, using their blades and talon fingers to rip at the stone, attempting to widen the gap. Jack realized with a resigned sense of absolute fatigue that he had bought himself only minutes at most. Silently, he hoped Arcee had been able to dispatch her lone opponent and escape.
Even if he ended up in the hands of the Decepticon's new leader, at least Arcee would be safe, and regardless of what Starscream did to him, he would never reveal the location of the Autobot base.
After several minutes of frantic digging, the crevice was at last wide enough for the Eradicons to reach in after the human. Taking a large stone in both hand, Jack prepared to do what he could to make his capture as much of a pain as possible.
Before the first drone could reach him, however, it was suddenly pulled back by some unseen force. Visible from his spot at the bottom of the crevice, Jack could see the second Eradicon firing at something until suddenly it too was gone, followed by small explosions and the sound of tearing metal. And just as quickly as it had begun, it was over. The desert was quiet. At the bottom of the gap, Jack waited, hoping to hear a familiar voice as opposed to the strange monotones of the Eradicons.
Without warning, a small tanned human face framed by pig-tails appeared over the lip of the crevice, eyes bright, mouth parted into an all too self appreciating grin. "Yep! Found him!" Smiling down at him from several feet up, Miko Nakadai eyed her friend with only mild humor. "So, Darby? You going to stay down there all day?" As grating as the Japanese girl could be, Jack could not have been more relieved to see the exchange student in the place of the two, he guessed now former, Decepticons.
"Arcee. Did you find her? Is she okay?" He asked without hesitation.
"Don't worry, scrub. She's fine. The Doc's got her back at HQ already." Behind her, a massive form appeared over the crevice, nearly blotting out the sun. The think baritone that followed set Jack instantly as ease.
"Smart move getting yourself down there, kid. Gave us enough time to follow. Good call leaving the transponder on the com active. We couldn't reach you guys, but Ratchet traced the signal. Just in time too. Another minute and Arcee…" Bulkhead did not finish, and Jack was grateful to him for that.
Despite his thickly armored appendages, the heavy Autobot was able to provide a makeshift ladder via his arm for Jack to climb out of the breach. On solid ground once more, Jack felt himself nearly crumple with exhaustion, but he held himself up as best he could. He would not rest, not until he had seen to his injured friend.
Activating the Land Bridge, Bulkhead remained behind to clean up what remained of the Decepticons. Despite the fact that the American Government was aware of the existence of the Cybertronian factions, Optimus Prime had made it clear he had no intention of letting any world power gain control of the technology they possessed. Stepping through the swirling tunnel of incandescent light, both Jack and Miko vanished as the tunnel closed around them.
To be continued…