A/N: I know I said I would do an M-rated four-shot after the end of "Broken", but this revised story has been eating at me for some time. ShadowStrike Rising features some major changes to the plot. I hope you will enjoy it as much as the original version and any suggestions would be helpful.
It had been a week since Jackson "Jack" Darby journeyed to long-dead planet of Cybertron in order to access Vector Sigma, ancient source of mystical power, in order to restore the memories of Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots. It all began when Autobots were forced into an uneasy alliance with Megatron, leader of the Decepticon army in order to defeat Unicron, the Cybertronian Chaos Bringer. As it turned out, the massive titan was the very core of the planet Jack called home and his awakening would have spelled the end for all of humanity. Despite their best efforts, the 'Bots knew the only way to stop Unicron was to join forces with Megatron. Everyone was against the idea of working with the Lord of the Decepticons, especially after he attacked Raf just mere hours earlier.
But Optimus knew that in order to protect the planet, sacrifices had to be made. The only way to defeat Unicron without destroying him was to use the Matrix of Leadership, a vessel containing the wisdoms of the Primes that had preceded Optimus. It was the only way to stop the Chaos Bringer without destroying him. Indeed, the Autobots and Megatron had succeeded in stopping the titan from fully awakening, but at the cost of Optimus' memories. Having surrendered the Matrix to the Earth, Optimus lost all of the wisdom that made him a Prime and mentally regressed to his pre-Prime state: Orion Pax.
Orion was once a simple data-clerk who became concerned with corruption in the higher ranks of Cybertron's society. Determined to change things for the better, he became inspired by the words of a gladiator Megatronus. The gladiator of Kaon saw fit to name himself after one of the original Thirteen Primes. He chose Megatronus (now known to history as the Fallen) because the Prime forged his own destiny rather than follow the one set down for him. Megatronus and Orion began corresponding with one another, quickly forming a strong bond of friendship.
Finally, the day came when Megatronus was to be heard by the High Council of Iacon. There, "Megatron" unveiled his true colors by threatening to overthrow the old guard through force and arrogantly demanded to be named the next Prime. However, his plans were thwarted by Orion, who spoke of need to settle thing through non-violent methods. His speech touched the sparks of the Council who made the choice to choose Orion to become the next Prime, to the data clerk's shock and Megatron's anger. Feeling betrayed one he considered a brother, Megatron severed all ties with Orion and took his following of fellow Kaon citizens to rebel against the High Council.
Now called Decepticons, Megatron waged all-out war on the city of Iacon. This called for the formation of an army that would fight back; thus, the Autobots came into existence. Orion, feeling responsible for the entire war, refused to accept the title of Prime, but still fought for the freedom of all. As such, a new Prime, Setinel Zeta, was chosen to lead the Autobots against the Decepticon threat. For eons, the war raged on Cybertron, countless 'Bots and 'Cons alike losing their lives.
The war did more than just destroy Cybertron; it destroyed the bonds of brotherhood among its inhabitants. Friend turned against friend, brother turned against sister, and child turned against parent. The blood shed would continue until Megatron turned the tide of the war by killing Sentinel Zeta Prime, leaving the Autobots without a leader. Thus, Orion reluctantly accepted his destiny and journeyed to the core of Cybertron, damaged by eons of war. There, he was met by life giver of all Cybertronians: Primus.
The ailing deity of the Transformers sensed the innate nobility that existed in Orion, despite his denials of such. Knowing him to be worthy, Primus bestowed the Matrix of Leadership upon Orion. The Matrix not only carried the wisdom of the Primes, but a piece of Primus' spark, so that Cybertron could survive through its upcoming stasis to repair the damage brought on by the war. Sadly, this meant that the planet would go dark for millennia, meaning the Autobots had to leave their home if they hoped to survive. And thus, Orion Pax, now Optimus Prime, made the difficult decision and commissioned an exodus.
Since that day, the Autobots have searched for a new world to call home, but wherever they went, the Decepticons weren't far behind. Finally, the 'Bots arrived on Earth and the rest is history. Orion Pax could not remember his time as a Prime or even his falling out with Megatron. He'd been deceived by the Lord of the Decepticons into believing the Autobots were the cause of Cybertron's destruction and vowed to stop them with all his spark. What he lacked in fighting ability, Orion more than made up for in his skill with a computer. Megatron used him to initiate Project: Iacon, a project in which Orion would decode Autobot codes which contained the location of weapons of mass destruction.
However, the 'Cons grew arrogant with their acquisition of Orion and did not know that the Autobots were making plans get back their leader. Before departing for his battle with Unicron, Optimus presented Jack with the Key to Vector Sigma as sign of the boy's maturity. What Jack didn't know was that he was now the only one who could restore Optimus' memories. By journeying to Vector Sigma, Jack recharged the Matrix and restored the Prime's memory, ruining Megatron's plans. While everyone celebrated at base, Jack couldn't help but wonder how the Lord of the Decepticons would retaliate.
If there was one thing he learned about the leader of the Decepticons, it was that he didn't forget and he didn't forgive.
(Hope that wasn't too confusing)
A week later and the base was still a buzz with joy at the return of Optimus' memories. Miko kept pestering Jack to tell her about what it was like to be on Cybertron while Raf kept quiet, but could not hide his admiration of the young man for what he did. His mother had taken him to several doctors to make sure he suffered no side-effects from being on another planet (given that Ratchet knew absolutely nothing about human anatomy), but they never found anything wrong with him. While the humans were busy chatting, Optimus and the Autobots and Agent Fowler were discussing the situation regarding Jack's safety.
"Autobots," the Prime addressed his men, his tone strong but grave. "Nurse Darby has brought to my attention the issue of Jack 's safety while being among us."
"There is no 'issue'," Ratchet scoffed. "We found nothing wrong with him since his return from Vector Sigma."
"The issue is regarding whether or not Megatron will attempt to seek revenge against him for restoring my memories," the Prime stated. "When I presented Jack with the Key, it was a sign to show how much he had matured since he first encountered us, but I am certain that Megatron will make an attempt on his life sooner or later."
"Just let him try," Arcee growled. "I won't let them touch a single hair on his head."
"Your determination to protect Jack is admirable Arcee," the Prime commended his second in command. "But Megatron always finds a way to get to the children, even when they are in our presence."
"I can have a government detail stake out the Darby residence, the school, and the K/O Burger joint." Agent Fowler suggested.
"A noble gesture, but I do not believe Jack would want to risk the lives of others just for his own protection." Ratchet said.
"What makes you so sure, doc?" Bulkhead asked.
"Because of his similarity to Optimus," Ratchet stated. "Like our Prime here, Jack would not risk the lives of others for his own protection. The only reason Arcee guards him is because of their strong bond and Jack's respect for Optimus' orders." The Bot's continued discussing the subject of Jack's safety while the young man decided to lie down and take a nap.
Jack was running fast in field of darkness, a pair of red optics chasing after him. His body ached from running so long and his legs felt like they would give out at any moment. His heart was beating against his ribcage and his breaths were ragged. Next thing he knew, he found himself in what appeared to be the desert, darkness still surrounding him. The red optics peered down at him.
"Do not think you can escape my wrath, boy!" the figure of Megatron came into view, towering above Jack. The young man glared at him, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of seeing the fear that was stirring in him at the moment.
"I'm not afraid you," he spat, voice shaking.
Megatron chuckled, "You should be." Suddenly, a large figure fell to the ground, kicking up a large cloud of dust. When the dust cleared, Jack stared in horror at the sight of Bulkhead's body lying on the ground, Breakdown standing above him in victory. Before he could say more, Bumblebee and Ratchet's bodies fell to the ground has well, Knock Out and Soundwave standing before the young man.
"No!" Jack cried. Why was this happening? How did the 'Cons get the jump on them? Why not just kill him and get it over with?
"There's more where that came from," a familiar voice called from behind. Jack turned to see Airachnid, standing smugly. She brought out Arcee's severed head and tossed it toward Jack. It dragged across the ground before coming to a stop in front of Jack, his horrified look reflecting in Arcee's chrome face plating. Tears welled up in Jack's eyes as he backed away.
"No," he whimpered. "Arcee."
"Gone," Airachnid grinned. "And to think it's all because of you and that infernal Key."
Jack's head snapped up, "W-what?"
"If you hadn't interfered with my plans, I wouldn't have had to do this. I was more than happy letting the Autobots suffer from the loss of their leader. Speaking of which," Megatron walked over to the still form of Optimus Prime, his body still functioning. He grabbed the Prime by the throat and forced him to his knees. He drew his sword and prepared to strike.
"Stop!" Jack cried.
"I'm afraid it's too late for that," he sneered. Megatron thrust his blade through Optimus spark chamber and pulled out the damaged Matrix. He laughed maniacally as the Prime's body fell forward, his optics off-line. Megatron walked closer to Jack to reveal his mother, June, in his grasp, "Now I think it is time you truly paid."
"Please!" he begged. "Kill me instead; I'm the one who ruined your plans! Take me instead!" Jack fell to his knees, tears streaming down his face.
Megatron merely smiled as he tightened his grip, his mother's cries echoing throughout the darkness.
"NO!" Jack cried as he sprang forward on the couch in the Autobot base. He quickly darted his head around to register everything around him. The base's lights were out, indicating that 'Bots had retired to their quarters for the night. He must've slept longer than he thought. He got up from the couch, realizing there was a blanket on him.
He looked over to find the sleeping form of his mother sitting in a chair. Her face was completely passive as she slept. Jack stood up and placed the blanket on her, kissing her forehead before deciding to take a stroll around base to work off the stiffness his body felt from being asleep for so long. In all the time he'd been spending around base, Jack had never seen much of it, even during the Scraplet infestation. He walked down the halls, making sure to memorize everything so he wouldn't get lost.
His thoughts shifted back to his dream. He'd been having that same dream every night since returning from Vector Sigma, but told no one about it. He figured he was just nervous about being the one to restore Optimus' memories and ruin Megatron's plans for him. He was certain that the Lord of the Decepticons knew it was him; after all, he never forgot a face. He didn't want to think about what Megs might do to if he got his hands on him.
He kept searching around before his eyes settled on a light emitting from a slightly closed door. Jack ventured forward and entered the room. His eyes scanned over the large room, a berth in the middle and a large desk to side. From the looks of this was-
"Jack," the deep voice of Optimus Prime rumbled, catching the young human's attention. He turned to face the Prime, who towered above him like a sky-scraper. "Is something wrong?"
"No," he said. "I was just sleeping and woke up. I decided to explore the base since I was up. I saw the light and went inside; I'm sorry."
The Prime smiled, "There is no need to apologize, Jack. Curiosity is a trait shared by all, even myself." He lowered his hand so Jack could get on and brought the boy over to his desk and sat down. He looked down at the young man who reminded him so much of himself when he was younger. Jack had many traits similar to Orion Pax; he was shy, inquisitive (though not as much), and determined. Optimus could not help but feel a strange sense of pride when he thought of all Jack had accomplished.
For months, Optimus had been observing the children, even if it didn't appear so to the others. He noticed the bubbling excitement Miko took from their adventures. He admired Rafael's knowledge of things beyond the understanding of those his own age. Certainly, both of them brought something to boost the Autobots' morale when it was low. But Jack was different; he remained calm in situations that would have others panicking and came up with solutions to problems beyond the realm of mathematics.
Indeed, Jack had all the traits Orion Pax possessed. In fact, were he able, Optimus would be training Jack to become the next Prime should he fall in battle. But alas, Jack was human and could not bear such a responsibility, which was a true shame. Optimus knew of few Autobots (most of which were deceased) who possessed the traits of a Prime. Sadly, he could not count any of the men stationed here on Earth with him among those few.
His medical officer, Ratchet, maintained a slightly jaded view of humanity, despite how close he'd become with the children (especially Rafael). His weapons master, Bulkhead, had a view that anyone deemed a "jerk" should be left to their fate, regardless of the consequences; he also allowed himself to be drawn into Miko's schemes. His scout, Bumblebee, despite appearances, was still a youngling and often made childish decisions. And then there was his second-in-command, Arcee. Her torture at the hand of Airachnid and the loss of her partners, Tailgate and Cliffjumper, made her put revenge before her duty as an Autobot.
However, Optimus had noticed how close she had become with Jack. There were times where she forgot about her "partnership" with Jack in order to seek revenge. This often led Optimus to wonder if she was merely using the boy at times, but quickly shook such thoughts away as they formed. This left Jack as the only one Optimus felt he could trust with guarding an important device like the Key to Vector Sigma. But there was more to it than that.
For some time now, Optimus had been feeling a strange emotion around Jack. Nothing romantic, of course, but it was definitely an emotion foreign to the Prime. This feeling swelled in his spark when he learned that Jack had shown Megatron mercy when he was trapped in the mine. When he was told of how Jack had kept the Autobots from dissolving without his leadership. This feeling especially swelled in his spark when thought of how Jack had traversed a war-town Cybertron in order to restore his memories.
Finally emergin from his thoughts, he peered down at Jack, "June tells me that you have been having trouble sleeping, but you refuse to talk about it. May I ask what it is?"
"It's nothing," Jack shrugged, avoiding the Prime's piercing gaze. "I've just been having some dreams."
"What kind of dreams?" Optimus raised an optic ridge.
"Bad ones. You know; like the monster that lives under your bed and what-not."
"How long have you been having these dreams?"
Jack sighed, "Since returning from Cybertron." Jack was quick to notice how the Prime's optics softened in sympathy and guilt. One of the reasons Jack admired Optimus was because how he took responsibility for everyone, even him. That was also the reason Jack felt bad for the Prime; to have to carry the weight of an entire universe on one's shoulders could not have been easy. He often blamed himself for things that he had no control over and couldn't stop.
"Optimus stop," he said. "They're just nightmares. They'll pass with time. You don't need to blame yourself." Optimus smiled slightly and pulled out the Key to Vector Sigma and handed it Jack.
"Jack. For risking your life for the Autobot cause, I would like to bestow upon you the Key to Vector Sigma so that you may act as its permanent guardian. Tomorrow, I will ask June if I can teach you some lessons in leadership so that you may be better prepared in the event you are forced into a situation where such traits are needed."
"Optimus, thank you." Jack smiled, but it quickly faded when he yawned. He laid down on the desk, not caring about the cool surface. He suddenly felt something large on his body and nuzzled against Optimus' hand.
A/N: Hope you enjoyed this chapter. Next time: The Prime Minister of Japan is kidnapped by MECH and the Autobots mount a rescue. But what will happen when Miko drags the others along?