A Transformers Prime Fanfiction
"Arcee! Highway! Thirty yards, three o'clock!" a rain soaked figure shouted, spotting the welcoming patch of asphalt through a gap in the fog and trees.
He felt the motorcycle beneath him rev her engine in response and change direction. For a terrifying moment her wheels hydroplaned in the slick mud of the forest floor nearly toppling them both to the ground. Without words, almost without thought the young man shifted his weight to help her rebalance. Spinning tires found new purchase and the mud covered bike shot towards the road leaving behind a faint trail of glowing blue that was quickly swallowed up by the rain.
They made the road but the bike stopped once her tires touched the asphalt.
The lanky youth obeyed without question, setting his torn sneakers down on the rain slick surface.
"What's the plan partner?" he asked through chattering teeth.
"You run," the Autobot ordered shortly. "I'll face Airachnid when she arrives and meet you down the road. Go."
"Jack! You need to, aghh!"
"Arcee!" Jack stepped forward and rested his torn hands on her frame. "I am not abandoning you! There is nowhere near enough for me to call for help and you can't face her alone. Can you even transform?"
"Jack please," the cycle-bot begged. "You know better than anyone I can't lose you."
"Shhh! Do you hear that?" the human's helmeted head shot up suddenly.
"Diesel! A big rig is coming."
"Optimus?" the Autobot asked eagerly. Scrap, were her audios that damaged? She couldn't hear a thing over the rain.
"No," disappointment tainted the young man's voice as he squinted at the lights coming over the hill. The outline wasn't right, the engine sounded off. The lights topped a steep hill and he shook the rain from his helmet.
"Looks like an older rig," he muttered leaning into against the bike and wrapping his arms around his chest, wincing in pain. "Maybe if we flag it down he can give us a ride."
"Give you a ride," the Autobot corrected, turning to scan the woods behind them nervously. "I can't involve another innocent human in Airachnid's personal vendetta."
"Arcee," the human gripped her handle bars desperately.
He wasn't going to let go. That thought warmed her to her spark, and terrified her to her core. What was worse, she didn't know if she even had the strength to resist him, let alone the Decepticon chasing them. She was about to begin the argument again when she hear the sound of air-breaks. The door of the big rig swung open and a cheerful voice called out.
"Climb on in kid, it's way too cold out to be riden'."
"Go!" hissed Arcee.
"I can't leave my bike!" Jack shouted tightening his grip on the Autobot.
The door closed and she felt Jack sag against her. Then a dark form crossed her line of vision and a deep voice ordered Jack to roll her around to the back of the truck. The Autobot watched helplessly as the rear door of the trailer rolled up and a ramp was lowered. Strong hands pushed her up and securely strapped the mud coated bike between two rows of wooden crates. Even over the fear she felt a wash of relief at being in out of the rain.
"I'll just ride back here with her."
"No son, you just come on up. There's nothing you can do for your pretty little ride and you look about to drop from the cold."
"Sir, I need to tell you something."
"You got bad trouble followin' you kid?"
"You didn't get them bruises from admiring the sunset kid. Now don't you worry a bit. No trouble will fine you tonight."
Two clicks from Jack's Bluetooth indicated how he expected to communicate with her. Arcee felt a small ball of dread settle in her spark as the door swung shut behind her. Her internal diagnostics indicated the energon leakage had stopped but the mud that had assisted in that was now soaked with the fluid. What was Jack thinking? Airachnid would find them and tear the semi and its driver apart. But she was too tired to fight it, had lost too much energon and was fighting to stay out of stasis lock.
"Trust me Arcee," a voice whispered in her radio. "I just have a feeling. We're safe."
It was ridiculous, something in her processor told her that, but logic was finally overwhelmed by her trust in her partner and the Autobot began to relax as the miles rolled away under the tires of the big rig. Perhaps Airachnid had been recalled to the Nemesis, but she didn't appear. Jack kept clicking his Bluetooth, keeping her from loosing consciousness, keeping her responding. She was vaguely aware that the two humans were talking.
"It's under you seat kid."
"What?" Jack asked absently, his mind still on his injured partner in the back. His thinking was getting sluggish as the heat of the cab's interior began to saturate his rain chilled body.
"The first-aid kit. Looks like you need it," the trucker pointed out kindly.
"Oh," Jack blinked at the man in surprise. He had been so focused on getting his partner away from the threat that followed the he hadn't even got a good look at the Good Samaritan who had accomplished that. He was big, two-hundred ten pounds of solid muscle at least with twinkling eyes and a warm smile. "Thanks, ah."
"Big Joe's the name," the man smiled offering a hand in a firm shake. "The name of my rig is Phantom 309."
"Smith," Jack replied with a smile. He had become so used to the pseudonym it rolled off his tongue without hesitation. Still, always a good idea to change the subject, "Why Phantom 309?"
A huge grin split the man's face.
"Son, this old Mack can put 'em all to shame. There ain't a driver, or a rig, a-runnin' any line. Ain't seen nothin' but taillights from Phantom 309."
Jack nodded his head respectfully as the engine roared in response when the trucker gave a demonstration of the rig's power. It wasn't Optimus, Jack mused, but he didn't doubt it was a three digit ride. He winced at his ribs reminded him of the afternoon's activities. Still there was something nagging on the edge of his awareness. There was something odd about this man, but it didn't feel like a threat and Jack was preoccupied with Arcee's condition.
Airachnid had ambushed the two of them on a routine energon patrol and they had been playing a deadly game of cat and mouse ever since. Arcee had taken more than one plasma burst and while Jack would never admit that she dropped him he had experienced a few less than perfectly controlled dismounts; leaving the young man covered in lacerations and bruises.
He began digging through the first aid kit. It struck him as a bit odd; kind of homemade. Carefully wrapped in a towel was a glass bottle full of clear liquid marked alcohol. There were large and small scissors, clean cloth bandages, and a gleaming length of cotton twine. There wasn't a scrap of plastic evident in the tin box. Jack took the towel and got most of the rapidly drying mud off, then bandaged the worst of the injuries in the cloths, being sure to dab a bit of alcohol on first.
As he worked he noted that the rest of the cab showed the same nearly antique flavor. There was no or very little plastic, a lot of the trucking furnishings looked like mint condition WWII surplus, even Big Joe's clothes had that nineteen-fifties look to them. The trucker let him work in silence until the youth sat back with a sigh.
"Couldn't really tell under all that muck but that looks like a sweet ride you had back there," the big man started a bit tentatively, as if he wanted to talk but was offering the tired youth the chance to nod off.
Jack grinned back at him and shifted to face the driver's seat. He was desperately tired but he needed to stay awake. He had to keep Arcee alert.
"Yeah," a click on the Bluetooth and the reassuring response, "she's a sweet ride all right."
If possible the trucker's grin widened. He began talking and soon they were chatting like old friends. Yes of course he knew the Franklins! Good old trucking family. How was young Kip? Oh you don't say! Seven kids already? How time flies. The miles passed and through the night Jack regularly checked his cell phone, he really hadn't thought there was any single stretch of highway in the continental United States that went this far without a single bar. Big Joe seemed amused by the action but kept any comments on the matter to himself.
"I'm sorry son, this is as far as you go. 'Cause, I gotta make a turn, just up on up the road."
Jack glanced out the windshield to see the lights of a truck stop approaching. He nodded. There were still no bars but there should be a land line in the station. Big Joe offered to help get Arcee out but Jack declined. Just before he was about to roll the cycle-bot away the passenger door swung open and the trucker called out to him.
"Have yourself a cup on old Big Joe."
Jack caught the dime that was tossed with a confused look but smiled and nodded. With a roar the diesel sped off into the night. The red taillights of Phantom 309 disappeared within moments.
"Good call Jack," Arcee murmured.
Jack smiled at her and helped the Autobot over to where a vent was releasing warm steam under an overhang. He took a moment to examine her under the light. With relief he noted that her injuries were nowhere near as bad as he'd thought. She had just lost a lot of energon and unless they were attacked again the leaks should stay sealed.
"Look Arcee. I'm going to go in and call base, just stay here and try to stay awake."
"I'm not going anywhere partner."
The human nodded and walked into the diner. The low murmur of conversation stilled as he walked in then started up again. He went over to the payphone and fed a few quarters in. The other end picked up to a generic answering service after a few rings and Jack quickly typed in a rapid series of numbers.
"Jack!" Ratchet's frantic voice call out over the line. "Where are you? Where is Arcee?" There was a desperate note to the medic's usually stoic voice.
"Were at a truck stop and we're both online," Jack assured the Autobot. "Is this line secure?"
"No, it's not. She's online? You are sure?"
"I was just talking to her a moment ago. I'm looking at her right now," Jack stated a bit confused.
"Thank Primus!" the medic breathed, and then a note of annoyance crept into his voice. "Faulty human equipment. Are you safe and stable for the moment?"
"Yeah, I think we lost Airachnid a ways back."
"Good, I have the groundbridge open for Prime and the others. Just wait a few more moments and I will have you back."
"Roger that Doc," Jack said as the connection terminated.
He leaned against the booth for a moment his eyes drooping. With a start he staggered up and headed for the door. Scrap he was tired. He felt the dime Big Joe had given him in his fingers and glanced curiously at the board listing prices. Black coffee, ten cents. He shrugged and smiled to himself, must be a special. Normally he didn't drink the stuff but it would help warm him up while he waited for the bridge. He walked up to the counter and laid the dime down.
"One coffee courtesy of Big Joe please," the young man called out to the old woman wiping down an ice cream machine. He suddenly tensed as the entire room went deathly silent around him, he could have heard a pin drop. A quick glance revealed that he was the focus of every gaze in the room, astonished and suspicious from the younger truckers and amused from the oldest.
"Did I say something wrong?" he asked nervously, his smile slipping a bit.
The grey haired woman behind the counter smiled and came over to him, picking up a clean but well loved white mug as she came.
"Naw son, this happens every now and then. Everyone here knows Big Joe; either personally like us old-timers, or by the taillights of Phantom 309 like the kids," her work worn hand gestured to include all the drivers under fifty in the room. "Have a cup and listen for a minute and I tell you their story."
Jack wanted to grab the coffee in a paper cup and get back to Arcee but something held him to the spot as she started her story.
"It happened back around 'fifty-nine, or maybe sixty, back at that crossroads where Big Joe picked you up."
Now how did she know that? Jack mused as he took a sip of the coffee she handed him.
"There was a bus load of school kids crossing that intersection on a cold wet night just like tonight. The road was wet and oil slick as Joe topped that hill and saw the bus. He knew they could never make it across in time. They could have been slaughtered, but he turned his wheel. Phantom 309 went into a skid, and Joe gave his life to save that bunch of kids. There at the crossroads it was the end of the lie for Big Joe and Phantom 309. But every so often, on these cold wet nights a hiker comes through and Big Joe will give 'em a ride. Just like you."
Jack blinked and glanced around the diner. A few of the youngest truckers were staring down at their drinks steadfastly but in the faces turned towards him he saw only agreement and fascination. They believed the impossible story. The powerful streak of honesty the young man possessed made him smile; he of all people shouldn't be talking about the impossible. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a quarter.
"Mind if I pay for the coffee with this and just keep Big Joe's dime?" he requested. "To remember him by."
The waitress smiled and nodded and from the feel of the room he'd said the right thing. Jack hurriedly gulped down the strong black coffee and slipped out to wait with Arcee. He scraped the mud off her until a familiar green flash came from a large open parking bay. When the shining red and blue semi pulled out the human was already helping Arcee towards his trailer. Jack rolled her onto the back lift and Optimus carefully pulled them inside. He leaned into her as the powerful engine engaged and the familiar hum of the groundbridge surrounded them. It faded and the rear doors were wrenched open.
Ratchet's intense gaze summed up the scene and he jerked his helm in the direction of the medbay. Jack rolled Arcee out and up to the medical berth. Ratchet tenderly picked her up and set the femme on the raised surface. He inserted and energon drip line and turned his back on the human. Jack gave Arcee one last pat of reassurance and vacated the medbay. Except for Nurse Darby Jack knew the red and white Autobot preferred to work on his patients alone except in the direst emergencies. The Cybertronian version of Doctor patient confidentiality. Arcee was stable, therefore Jack was unwanted.
"Jackson," Optimus called out later as the youth walked away from the showers feeling much cleaner but still very sore.
Immediately pushing his discomfort aside the human pulled himself straight and faced the commander of the Autobots.
A ghost of a smile flickered across the warriors face as he looked down on the young man. He was striving to form himself into a good soldier. The effort was not lost on the Prime.
"We need to ascertain what happened after you were attacked. Shall we begin after you have rested?"
"Actually we may as well do it now," the human said ruefully "I'm not going to get any rest until the coffee works out of my system."
Jack followed the Prime to the main display.
"Here is where we assume Airachnid engaged you," the red and blue Autobot indicated two glowing blue dots on the map. "This happened several hours ago." Suddenly one dot disappeared and the other faded to near transparency. "The scanners indicated a level five interference field completely blocking your cell signal and disrupting Arcee's biometrics information. The field prevented communication or groundbridge travel. This was the situation until you reached this location," the map shifted and refocused on a crossroad at the base of a hill. "When we lost Arcee's biometrics entirely."
Jack sensed the emotion beneath the Prime's calm façade, heard the unspoken words. They thought she had gone offline. The human's gut clenched, his family had thought they were dead for nearly an entire night. How was he going to make that up to his mom?
"That's where we were picked up by Big Joe and Phantom 309," Jack explained. "A trucker gave us a lift to the truck stop where you met us."
Optimus nodded and ran his fingers over the controls. The map shifted again and Jack watched in fascination as Arcee's biometrics slowly reappeared after his call.
"The disruption field was that big?" he asked incredulously.
"No," the Prime responded. "It ended not far from where you entered the truck."
"Yeah, I tried to call but I couldn't get any bars."
"That entire section of highway is well placed with cell-towers Jack. You should have had constant service."
For a moment Jack considered lying or perhaps misleading the Autobot but one glance at those trusting blue optics killed that idea. He took a deep breath and looked straight into the Prime's faceplate.
"I am really not sure what happened Optimus," he stated. He tried to keep his voice firm but his gaze faltered, "but I think I should run anything I tell you by Agent Johnson first."
A look of understanding filled the visage of the warrior as he gazed down at the human. He smiled gently in acknowledgment of the young man's burden and choice. The Prime still did not fully understand the reasons but the humans for one reason or another chose to keep anything related to the more mystical aspects of their world to themselves and he respected their choice.
"So, the trucker who picked you up was a friend of the Franklins?" he asked.
Jack nodded in relief.
"I am glad the two of you made it back safely. No doubt whatever hid you from out sensors protected you from Decepticon discovery as well. If it is in your power please extend my thanks to whoever aided you." With that the Autobot turned back to his screens.
Jack yawned and stretched as he headed for the sleeping area that had been set up for the humans. He stuck his hands in his pockets and felt the warm metal of the dime. The gleaming mint condition nineteen fifty-eight dime. Yes, he could call up Agent Johnson and maybe get an explanation, but his mind wandered over the hours spent in the warm cab while Big Joe did his best to keep the younger man's spirits up. He slipped the dime back into his pocket. Some things were better left mysteries.