Thank you to everyone who reviewed! It's nice to know people still care about this story.

Once again, this should be obvioius, but I don't own Hot Wheels. The reference practically wrote itself, though.

Chapter Ten: Hostage

Liza squirmed and kicked as she tried to wriggle out of Knock Out's grasp, but the crimson Decepticon's hold did not falter. He snickered condescendingly as the human struggled.

"Did you honestly think you would get away with humiliating me like that?" Knock Out sneered as Liza continued to fight her way free. Growing tired of her struggles, Knock Out squeezed Liza tightly in his servo, grinning as the human fell still. Gasping for breath, Knock Out's captive glared at him directly in the optics.

"Put me down, you overgrown Hot Wheel!" Liza hissed as she tried to push herself out of Knock Out's grip.

"Heh, you're too kind, kid," Knock Out chuckled at the insult, "but, unfortunately, you're stuck with me." He raised his hand so that Liza was at optic level. "Lord Megatron has something special in mind for you." Before Liza could protest any further, the Decepticon medic morphed carefully around his hostage so that she ended up in the passenger seat of the crimson sports car.

"Hey, what-" Liza moved to open the door and escape, but the seatbelts quickly shot out of the seat like tentacles, constricting the girl so tightly she couldn't move an inch. Again, the redhead struggled against her bonds with all her might, but something moving in front of her face caught her eye. Looking up, Liza barely had time to dodge before a weak electric shock pierced her nose. The last thing she heard was the revving of an engine and Knock Out's taunting voice.

"Nighty-night, squishy."

~.~.~.~.~

"Took you long enough," Bulkhead shouted to Jazz over the endless stream of gunfire. He sent a Vehicon flying with his wrecking ball before it could get the jump on Bumblebee. "We're getting slammed here!"

Jazz didn't reply, instead taking the time to blast several more drones at almost blinding speed. When he wasn't firing blasts, the silver Autobot was gracefully dodging any kick, energy shot, and punch that was thrown his way, responding with powerful attacks of his own. The martial artist put his skills to good use, making quick work out of the Decepticon warriors with swift kicks and punches until only a few adversaries remained. When they finally retreated, Jazz turned to his comrades with a friendly smirk.

"You're welcome," he told Bulkhead half-teasingly. The silver mech almost jumped when he heard a voice nearby.

"Dude! That. Was. Awesome!"

Spinning around, Jazz was shocked and a little scared to see Miko running excitedly towards the three Autobots, Jack hot on her trail.

"What are y'all doin' here? I said to lay low until we was done!"

"Clearly, you've never met Miko," Jack sighed in exasperation.

"He's right," Bulkhead agreed, "she usually follows us on missions no matter what we tell her." Bumblebee nodded and chirped before noticing the absence of the third human.

"Wasn't Liza with you guys?" Bulkhead interpreted, curious himself. The large green mech grew confused when Jack and Miko looked around, apparently just noticing their missing friend themselves.

"She's probably back at the boulder," Miko realized, whipping out her cell phone. The three Autobots morphed into their respective vehicle modes and Jazz approached the duo.

"Hop in," he ordered calmly, opening his passenger doors, "we'll go pick her up and meet y'all back at base!"

"Gotcha," Bulkhead acknowledged and drove away, followed closely by Bumblebee.

The trio sat in a somewhat uncomfortable silence as Jazz drove towards the boulder he'd orginially left the teens at. Miko's phone was pressed to her ear, waiting for Liza to pick up, and Jack couldn't tell if Jazz was upset with them or not. He didn't seem like the type to be bothered very easily, but one never knew.

"She's not picking up," Miko finally spoke, hiding the worry in her voice. "You don't think something happened to her?"

"Well, it's not looking too good," Jack replied as Jazz reached his destination. The humans filed out of the sports car and Jazz knelt down in front of the boulder. Liza was nowhere in sight.

"This is a bad scene." The mech pressed a digit to his audio receptor before speaking again. "Bulkhead, Bumblebee, come on back. We got a situation."

~.~.~.~.~

"So, you've managed to capture one of the Autobots' human pets, Knock Out?"

"Yes I have, Lord Megatron. All alone in the middle of nowhere. It was almost too good to be true."

Knock Out's arrogant sneer was the first thing Liza heard when she began to flicker in and out of consciousness. When she finally managed to wake up completely, she froze in fear for a moment, remembering where she was and what had happened. Another voice, much darker and more gravelly than Knock Out's coming from the radio brought her from her thoughts.

"I see. And who, pray tell, was the unfortunate insect?"

"The newest of the bunch," the scarlet mech answered, "the redheaded femme...Liza, I think her name was. She's still out cold, probably has no idea what's going on, or what's in store for her." It was hard to miss the chuckle in Knock Out's voice; he was far too engaged in his conversation to notice that his prisoner had awakened.

"Excellent. With the Autobots' precious pet in our clutches, it will be child's play to persuade them to-"

"HEY!"

Out of nowhere, Liza screeched fiercely at the top of her lungs, scaring half a century out of her captor. A high-pitched feminine scream of terror and surprise escaped Knock Out's vocal processors, and he swerved violently off the road. Had the circumstances been different, Liza would have laughed at him until her sides hurt. But now, she had other things on her mind.

"You little brat..." Knock Out wheezed as he regained control of himself and returned to the road. Liza ignored him and stared directly at the radio speakers.

"What's going on here? What do you Decepti-creeps want with me?!"

"Ah, hello again, Elizabeth." Megatron's voice sent tremors down Liza's spine. If he was angry or startled by her outburst, he masked it perfectly; Liza could tell he was smirking darkly. "A pleasure to speak with you again."

"Cut the crap," Liza barked, hoping she sounded braver than she felt, "what do you want with me?"

"All in good time, my dear," Megatron calmly replied. The innocence in his voice infuriated Liza. "You need not fear for your life, as you are of much greater use to us alive. No harm will befall you in our care."

Liza scoffed at the warlord's reassurance. Maybe it was the fact that she was talking to him over the radio instead of face-to-face, but she wasn't as terrified of Megatron as she had been during their first encounter. And she didn't believe a word he was saying.

"You expect me to believe that?"

"You don't have to," Megatron began, "but you can believe this: once the Autobots discover that we've captured you, they'll do anything to ensure your safe return."

"And what would this 'anything' be, exactly?"

"That's none of your business, squishy!" Knock Out snarled, squeezing Liza tightly in the coils of his seatbelts. The girl winced, feeling her air supply constrict. Still feeling bold, Liza swirled her mouth for a moment before spitting on Knock Out's dashboard.

"Ugh! Disgusting human slime!" The red sports car swerved again, slightly this time, before growling. "You've got got guts, kid, I'll give you that." Another seatbelt snaked its way across Liza's mouth, acting like a gag. "But once we're done with you and the bots, you can kiss those guts of yours goodbye." Liza ducked and squirmed, trying to free her mouth. "Everything's under control, Lord Megatron," Knock Out said, "we'll be arriving at the coordinates shortly."

"Good. I will leave you to it then." With that, the connection was severed. A small chuckle escaped Knock Out's vocal processor and his invisible optics flickered to his gagged hostage.

"You can glare at me all you want, girly. You're still gonna lead the bots to their doom."

~.~.~.~.~

"Bulk, Bee. Any sign of Ginger yet?"

"Negative, Jazz," Bulkhead replied with disappointment as Bumblebee whirred a corresponding answer. "We'll keep looking."

"Roger. Jazz out."

Bulkhead sighed as the transmission ended, praying that Liza hadn't been picked up by some Decepticons. "Any sign of her, Bee?"

"Nope, nothing," the scout replied sadly. "You don't think the 'Cons caught her, do you?"

"Hope not," Bulkhead answered. "Miko still can't get ahold of her on her phone, though, so I'm starting to think that's the case."

As if on cue, an engine roaring entered Bulkhead's audio receptors. It was faint, but getting stronger with each passing second. Bumblebee must have heard it as well, because the yellow Autobot halted in his tracks and whirled around to face the sound. Off in the distance, the two mechs saw the small faraway shape of a red sports car speeding through the desert.

"Come on!" Bulkhead shouted, revving his own engine. "That could be Knock Out!"

Beeping in agreement, Bumblebee contacted Jazz as he sped off after his large friend.

~.~.~.~.~

Grunts and cries of frustration and strain were muffled as Liza kept fighting against the seat belts she was bound in. Her gag hadn't budged at all, and she swore she felt Knock Out squeeze her tighter as she struggled. Taking another rest to regain her breath (which wasn't easy due to the seat belt blocking her mouth), Liza felt her anger flare again when Knock Out snickered.

"Why don't you just give it up, squishy?" the evil medic taunted. "You're only getting yourself tired and we're almost there, anyway." Knock Out silently laughed when the girl's eyes widened like saucers. But instead of becoming frozen with terrified anticipation, Liza only struggled even harder against the seatbelts. Knock Out didn't have time to tighten the restraints when the red-haired female finally managed to pull one of her arms free. Wasting no time, Liza reached up to her face and tore the seatbelt gagging her away from her mouth.

"If you think I'm just gonna lie down and be a good little hostage, think again!" With that, she began to pull at the rest of her bonds, incurring several cries of pain from her captor.

"Ow! Hey, watch it! No you don't-" Knock Out moved to trap her again, but stopped himself when he followed Liza's emerald gaze to his passenger side rearview mirror. Behind him, a silver sports car was trailing behind the red Decepticon, and catching up fast. Liza felt her heart soar with hope and relief.

"Jazz!"

"If you want her, ninja, come and get her!" Knock Out shouted as his engine roared almost deafeningly and he raced off at blinding speed, sending his captive back into his seat.

Clinging to the bottom of the passenger seat, Liza scanned Knock Out's interior for anything she could use to aid Jazz and escape. Before she could formulate a plan, however, Knock Out was violent jerked to the side as Bulkhead's massive SUV form smashed into his rear.

"Hey, watch the paint!" Knock Out screeched in fury. "Do you have any idea how hard the bumper is to polish?!"

Bulkhead ignored him. "Let the human go, Decepti-creep, or you'll lose more than your paint!" he shouted angrily as Bumblebee whirred and beeped in agreement. The yellow bot followed Jazz's example and transformed his doors into guns, firing full blast at the red Decepticon.

In response, Knock Out whirled around to face his adversaries, driving in reverse. "All right," he mused calmly, "three can play at this game." Two guns emerged from the medic's doors and a rainstorm of plasma bullets showered on the three Autobots.

"Isn't there something you can do, Jazz?!" Jack shouted at the ninja over the noise.

"Not without crushin' Ginger, there's not!"

As the shootout continued outside, Liza clung to Knock Out's seat, trying hard not get flung around like a rag doll.

Come on, Liza, think!

Then, something caught her eye: Knock Out's steering wheel. As the Decepticon moved, the steering wheel rotated in the corresponding direction, controlling his movement. A triumphant gleam went to Liza's eyes as she quickly scooted over to the driver's seat.

"Hey, what-" By the time Knock Out realized what was happening, it was too late. Jamming the steering wheel to one side, Liza turned Knock Out away from the Autobots and slammed her foot on his gas pedal, driving away from them at an incredible speed. The vehicle constantly swung left and right as the human and Decpeticon fought for control of the wheel, but Liza's grip was unrelenting. As she steered Knock Out in various directions, it suddenly occurred to her how in over her head she was. Liza's father would have nothing to do with teaching her how to drive when she reached fourteen. June had taught her the basics of driving, but Liza had never gone to get her driver's license and hadn't practiced for months.

"Liza," Jack gasped, terrified for Liza's safety if Knock Out managed to regain control. Next to him, Miko cheered and shouted happily.

"All right, Liza! You show him who's the boss!"

"What's she doing?!" Bumblebee shouted to his comrades as they pursued the runaway sports car.

"Grr...stop that, you little-!" Knock Out growled at the teen as he yanked the wheel in another direction. If the glowing yellow dot on his radio screen was any indication, the pair was very close to Knock Out's destination. If he reached it with Liza in tow, she was as good as dead. A plan immediately formed inside Liza's head. It was extremely dangerous, but she'd have to take that risk.

Her only choice was to put Knock Out out of commission.

Seizing the steering wheel so hard that her knuckles turned white, Liza pulled the wheel off to the opposite direction as hard as she possibly could, throwing Knock Out off his path once again. She didn't move an inch as the inevitable approached.

"Wait, no! Stop!"

Knock Out was too late. His hood crashed into the cliff wall at high speed, destroying his entire front. The headlights blinked out in seconds and car parts went flying in every direction.

"No! Liza, no!"

Jazz and the other Autobots raised a small dust storm, screeching to a halt inches from the wreck. Jack and Miko scrambled out of Jazz as he morphed into bipedal mode. Bulkhead rushed over to Knock Out's crumpled vehicle form and tore off his driver door effortlessly. The sight inside was gruesome to the Autobot; broken glass everywhere and a decimated radio and dashboard. The airbag was deployed as well and was inflated to its maximum capacity. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Bulkhead was surprised that Knock Out even had airbags. Leaning against the white cushion was an unmoving Liza. Her eyes were closed and there were several cuts all over her body. There was no seatbelt over her chest, either.

"No, no no," the green titan cried, panic entering his voice as the other humans hurried over.

"Come on, speak to me, Liza!" Miko pleaded, tears threatening to spill from her brown eyes. Jazz knelt down between Miko and Jack and pried Liza from the wreckage as gently as he possibly could.

"Come on, kid, speak!" Bumblebee peered over Jazz's shoulder and softly poked Liza with his digit, whining in terror when she didn't respond to the touch.

Jack just stared up at the girl's frame lying motionless in Jazz's servo. A tear crawled down the raven-haired boy's cheek.

No, it can't end like this. Not now, not after all she's been through!

Just as everyone began to hang their heads and let the tears fly, a tiny groan sounded through the air. Attention whipped to the redhead lying in Jazz's servo as she finally began to stir. Her emerald eyes fluttered open and she smiled at her friends.

"Hey, guys."

"Liza!" Miko shouted ecstatically, her tears of devastation turning to tears of joy.

"Thank Primus!" Jazz cried, kneeling down so the organic could interact with the humans better. Bumblebee cheered and whirred happily, jumping up and down and pumping his fists in the air. Liza had to chuckle at the yellow scout before turning to the others.

"Everyone okay?" She asked, attempting to sit up. A cry of pain escaped her mouth and the ginger promptly returned to her previous position. Her hand clutched the area below her breast and she took in sharp gulps of air to suppress the pain.

"Well, we're all fine, but it doesn't look like you're doing so great," Jack observed with concern.

"I'll be fine," Liza brushed him off, "it's just a little tender right – OW!" Tears streamed down the girl's face when she pressed down on her chest.

"C'mon now, let's get you to the doc bot," Jazz gently ordered. He stood up and stopped when Liza pointed at the destroyed scarlet sports car.

"What about him?" she asked. "Is he dead?"

"Nope," Bulkhead shook his head with some venom in his tone, "just out cold. He'll come back online eventually."

"Interesting," Miko piped up, "Knock Out got knocked out."

Everyone chuckled at the weak joke when Jazz pressed his free hand to his audio receptor.

"Doc bot, we need a bridge!"

~.~.~.~.~

"Ungh..." Knock Out moaned bleakly as he finally flickered back online. He felt like the Pit and soon discovered why.

"That little brat! When I get my servos on her..." he vowed murderously before the sound of a jet engine entered his audio receptors. Every circuit in Knock Out's being quickly turned from furious to terrified as a loud thud sounded behind him, followed by deep approaching footsteps. Looking up, Knock Out saw the glowing blood-colored optics of Megatron boring into his very spark. The warlord looked far from pleased, both his servos were placed impatiently on his hips. Knock Out had promised a hostage, and was not looking forward to delivering the bad (and rather humiliating) news.

"Um...funny story."

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

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