A short piece set after Epilogue.
As always, any errors are mine, the intellectual properties belong to Hasbro/Taraka.
Note – I haven't changed my position on the human-cybertronian transformation being silly, but something I did in New Cybertron made me start thinking. After all, Arcee and Jack had radically different lifespans, but I didn't want to do something that led to a "Hey, how many humans can we cybertronise" scenario, so I limited it with something that I hope does not conflict with canon.
Besides, they deserved a real happy ever after. Guess I'm a romantic at heart...
The sinking sun raised highlights on the armour of the cybertronian kneeling in front of the grave. On the gravestone was inscribed the symbol of the Autobots and a small inscription.
Jack Darby. Friend, Warrior, Prime.
The cybertronian didn't even twitch as heavy footfalls sounded and a larger cybertronian came to a stop beside her. For a few moments they both looked at the gravestone in contemplation, then the larger one spoke.
"Tho' of short-lived form of carbon made
Your loss is like a cutting blade
For though I shed not crystal tears
I keep thy memory through the years
And while your loss brings Spark-deep pain
If Primus wills, we'll meet again."
"I miss him too, Arcee."
Arcee nodded and reached out, gently stroking the curve of the grave marker.
"Humans are so... brief, Optimus. I never really knew how..."
Her voice seemed to catch and Optimus nodded, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. "I know. Their lives are so short, but they live each day so strongly, they do not hold back. Their joy, their sorrow, their brevity is balanced by how strongly they live."
"Their souls burn briefly, but they are as bright as the sun" Arcee quoted. "I didn't quite get it when Ratchet came up with it but... now, now I do."
Silence descended again, then Optimus held out a small box.
"Jack asked that you be the one to hold this. During the final week, he and I talked. He told me that Vector Prime said you had Prime Potential, something I had suspected for centuries but not managed to confirm."
Arcee rose and Optimus opened the box. She looked into it, then her optics snapped up to stare at Optimus. "That's... the Key!"
"Yes." Optimus said calmly. "Jack said that you were the best choice to carry it. Your experience with cybertronians and humans is unparalleled."
"I... don't think I can accept this yet." Arcee managed, but Optimus placed the box in her hands.
"It is up to you when, or if, you take up the Key, Arcee. Just remember, Jack believed in you, he believed you were worthy of the burden. And so do I."
Arcee stared at the crystalline Key as Optimus withdrew.
The portal to Vector Sigma opened majestically as Arcee approached. Nodding at the cybertronian and human sentries, she walked into the great hall, barely noticing the closing of the portal behind her.
"Thank you for coming, Arcee."
Arcee turned to find Vector Prime watching her, his expression compassionate. "You have lost your Spark-mate, Jack Prime. Through the Key and Vector Sigma, I felt his last breath."
Arcee nodded and Vector Prime motioned for her to follow him.
"I knew him only briefly, but he impressed me. The first human who could have been a Prime in truth, could I only have formed the gestalt-connection that confers the status and knowledge of the Primes. He cured me of my arrogance just by being. A small, short-lived being from a race risen from random changes rather than being designed by one of the Great Ones. Yet his spirit was strong and fierce."
"And he is gone." Arcee whispered, and Vector laughed.
"Gone? Gone? Arcee, you still dream of him, yes?"
"Yes, but with him gone, they are just..."
"They are not just dreams." Vector said firmly and Arcee stared at him. "Over the last few decades, I have observed Jack Prime through the Key. I examined his soul, his indomitable courage, his incredible compassion, his wisdom. When Jack was dying, I asked him if I could perform a rite that has been performed only four times in Cybertronian history, a rite that has never before been performed on one not of Cybertron."
Arcee froze, confusion, shock and hope warring in her mind. Vector placed his hand on her shoulder and guided her through a doorway as he continued to speak.
"The bond between you and Jack was so strong that truly losing him would have crippled you. I have only once before seen a bond that strong, and it was between two of the original Primes. I could not let such a gift from Primus himself be wasted. So, when Jack was dying, I sent my mind to speak to his. I told him what I could do, the factors which allowed me to try and the risks involved. And he agreed. Not for himself, Arcee, but for you. As I said, through the Key and Vector Sigma, I felt his last breath. But his Human Spark did not pass beyond, like most do. Instead, it flowed through the Key, through Vector Sigma, and..."
Vector stopped speaking as they entered a room where a 'bot Arcee had never seen before was standing. The robot was the same size as she was, with the surface texture of one who had just been created from a protoform, and when he saw her, a somehow familiar smile formed on his face.
"Hello, Arcee. I'm sorry it took so long, but..."
Arcee caught him up in an armour-denting hug, lifting him off the ground as she buried her face against his shoulder.
"Jack! Jack! Jack!"
"That's my name..." Jack said in a teasing voice. "Please, can you put me down? My spine feels like you're going to snap it."
Arcee relaxed her grip, then looked into Jack's new optics.
Her voice failed her and Jack nodded, then pulled her into a gentle hug. "You know you'll have to teach me how to transform," he said softly. "I don't have an alt-mode yet, I was thinking motorbike, like you. And if you can teach me how to fight..."
Arcee nodded, unable to even form a coherant thought as she hugged the partner that she thought had been lost to her forever.
"We have centuries ahead of us." Jack whispered. "If you'll let me be by your side..."
Arcee's answer, although non-verbal, demonstrated her feelings. Behind her, Vector Prime chuckled softly and walked out of the door. Closing it behind him, he walked back down the halls to the glowing core of Vector Sigma. Glancing back at the distant door, he smiled.
"Be happy, you two. Love like yours is to be cherished."
"Orion... you really need to... It's Arcee and... I..."
Optimus looked up from the ever-growing pile of e-forms and decision-requests on his desk as Elita-One's voice registered.
"Elita, you sound... confused. What is it?"
Elita waved for her companions to come through the door, then hit the button to close it as Optimus looked at the new arrivals.
"Arcee, welcome. And you are... are..." Optimus paused as his memory failed to pull up a name to go with the 'bot. He frowned and looked closer, seeing that the 'bot seemed to resemble Arcee somewhat in size and form, but with silver highlights on dark blue.
"I am sorry," Optimus said slowly, "But I do not recognise you. I thought I knew every one of the cybertronians here."
"I haven't picked a proper name yet." the 'bot said as Arcee smirked. "We're still discussing it."
Optimus frowned as he finally noticed how the two of them were standing, their postures all but shouting that the two of them were... a memory stirred and Optimus' optics widened in shock.
"Told you he'd get it without us having to tell him." Jack said, and it was indeed him. "You didn't believe me."
"Okay, okay. You win, this time."
"Long story." Jack replied. "Several million-to-one chances, not repeatable any time soon. When you first gave me the Key, it resonated with my soul. That's when the change started. When I took down Megatron, he was almost a Natural Prime, you know, his Spark discharge cost me my arm. It also affected my soul a bit more, changing it a bit, turning it more... cybertronian, I guess. More like a Spark, anyway. Keeping the Key continued the process, especially since it was linked to me through my arm.
"When we retrieved Vector Sigma, I made contact with the Sigma Core and Vector Prime. Although he didn't explain it at the time, he linked the Key to the Sigma Core, like you are linked, and used it to keep an eye on my status, like he does to you. The link was less than you have, but it was enough that he could occasionally visit my dreams. Those I wasn't sharing with Arcee, that is.
"Anyway, he would talk in those visits, we'd discuss cybertronian society and how it compared to that of humans. I told him about the Internet and he tapped into it. That led to a few... interesting conversations. But during those visits, he was able to also examine my soul, and he realised that it was almost a Spark. Human biology meant it couldn't actually be a Spark, but it was as close as my previous form would allow.
"When I was dying, Vector Sigma gave me a choice. To die as a human, or to try and be reborn as a cybertronian with all my memories intact. He admitted that the chance of it working was less than one in ten, but it would be a straight win/lose. It would either work fully, or it would simply not work. I said yes, and we worked together to affect the transfer as I died. It seems that my active co-operation changed the odds in our favour and I regained conciousness in a new body, this one. My soul is transformed, I am now cybertronian.
"The only downside to this is that I now cannot be a Prime. Ever. The transfer used that potential as the conduit anchor, and burned it out in the process. But it doesn't matter. I'm with Arcee, and that's all that really matters."
Optimus slowly rose from behind the desk and walked round it. Moving to in front of Jack, he lowered himself to one knee to look him in the optics.
"That is an... amazing story, Jack Darby. I grieved for your loss, having you back amongst us again fills my Spark with joy."
"It's good to be back, big guy." Jack grinned. "Now you know how we felt when you regained your Optimus memories."
"Indeed." Optimus said, resting his hand on Jack's shoulder. "But I must ask, if you can no longer carry the Key..."
"I'm carrying it." Arcee said, turning to show it on her upper arm. "You asked me to carry it after Jack died, and Jack convinced me that I should. That was a strange sentence."
"Yes, it was." Optimus agreed, his optics glowing with pleasure. "And though it pains me to say this, we must keep news of this miracle quiet, most will not understand, or will demand it be performed for them when it cannot be. Jack, you will need a new name."
"That's one reason we came." Arcee said. "I've been too overjoyed to come up with a good name."
"Yeah." Jack laughed. "Darling, Love, Beloved, Dear... I like it when Arcee calls me those, but it lacks a certain sobriety."
Optimus rose and looked down, then across at Elita-one. "Yes, beloved? You have an idea?"
"Orion, Jack has been as a Sparkling to you, yes?"
"Of the three children, he has been most like the Sparkling I would have been glad to have call me Father, yes."
"Then perhaps you can adopt him, you knew him before, so you are simply... confirming a previous relationship, like we did. Orion Pax, meet your son, Orion Sol."
Optimus thoght about it for a moment, then he nodded and turned back. "If you agree?" Two nods answered him and he smiled. "Then from this day, Orion Sol, you are my son. I expect you both to call me Father from now on."
"Wait!" Arcee said, her expression shocked. "Ja... Orion, yes, but me?"
"You are Bonded to him." Optimus said gravely, laughter lurking in the depths of his voice. "As you are one with him, that means that as he calls me Father, so will you. Although I will insist you alter your bondplate to reflect your new Bond."
Arcee started to open her mouth to reply, then looked down at her hand as the Key on her arm suddenly glowed. The writing on her bond-plate seemed to writhe, then settled into a new name. Optimus glanced quickly at his new son's bondplate and saw a flicker of blue fading away from it, leaving a name behind.
"I see that Vector Prime has already taken care of it." Optimus said with a smile. "Now that this is all sorted, let us go. I hear that Knock-out has overseen a refurbishment of his New Cybertron restaurant and I think an energon salad would be just the thing. Coming, Elita?"
"I wouldn't miss this for the world." Elita laughed.
"Hey," Orion Sol said to her as they left the office. "Does this mean I get to call you Mom?"
"I... I'll have to get back to you on that."
"Coming, coming... Arcee, hello. I didn't think you were due a checkup for another couple of cycles."
"I'm not, Ratchet." Arcee said as the grumpy medic continued to bustle round the medbay, straightening things up from his previous visitor. "But I have someone who needs a full checkup and an Alt-form."
"An Alt-form, hmmm?" Ratchet said, turning to look at Arcee quizzically. "I thought that all New Cybertronians had an Alt-form. More than one, in some cases. Who missed out?"
"He's a new arrival, sort of." Arcee said, stepping aside so Ratchet could see his new patient. "Ratchet, this is Orion Sol."
"Orion... Sol..?" Ratchet repeated. "Interesting name. Good to meet you, I see you're Bonded. Congratulations, who's the lucky femme?"
Arcee smirked and Ratchet froze, his optic widening slightly. His gaze jerked to Arcee's Bondplate, then to Orion Sol's, then up to Arcee's face for confirmation.
Arcee hesitated and Orion stepped forwards slightly.
"Yes and no, it's complicated. We'll explain after the checkup."
Ratchet let out a grunt and turned, motioning for them to follow. "Fortunately, I haven't got anything scheduled for the next couple of hours, so come on. We'll start with a full systems diagnostic..."
Ratchet frowned at Arcee, then glowered at his datapad. "I've never seen anything like this before. He's in perfect health."
Arcee tilted her head questioningly and Ratchet snorted.
"I mean it. Perfect health. No measurable wear on his servos and circuits, full internal energon reservoirs. Enhanced resevoirs too, like Vector Prime upgraded you with. Guns and blades on both arms, leg-blades too. His reflexes are top-line, his sensors at peak effeciency, his self-repair nanites at optimum levels... perfect health."
"That doesn't happen!" Ratchet snapped. "No wear and tear on his servos, yet his development is almost exactly the same as yours! He should have some signs by now. Full energon reservoirs, exactly the same type as yours, a type I had never even heard of before Vector Prime upgraded you! Sharp blades, yet he only knew how to reflexively use the one on his left arm... same for the guns! And optimum levels of repair nanites... means the system has only just been activated! Normally the level is slightly off due to usage and replacement. It just doesn't add up. And then there's the Bond you and he have. It's deep, Arcee. But it's not a new Bond, there's the cognitive/temporal resonance, so it's been active for some time, longer than his systems have been operating for! It just doesn't make sense! And his name, Orion. I asked, and he referred to Optimus as his father, but he and Elita have not yet produced a Sparkling, and Optimus has never been unfaithful to her! Yet there's no residual chroniton flux, so he isn't from the future either! He makes no sense! Who. Is. He?"
"He was Jack Darby." Arcee said as Orion rejoined her. Ratchet froze and Orion nodded with a wry smile on his face.
"...jack. but how..?"
"It's a long story." Orion said. "And if you'll give me an Alt-mode, I'll tell you..."
The two figures stood on the hill looking over a town, and the sea beyond it. For a while, they simply watched as the skies darkened and the stars emerged, then the slightly-shorter one sighed.
"We had a good life here. It was fun."
"Sheriffs Jack and Arcee." The other smiled. "I still think I should have had my name first. Alphabetical, you know."
Orion grinned at that and leaned into her embrace. "Yeah, I've had an interesting life."
"And a new one ahead of you." Arcee whispered into his audio-receptor. "Come on, Optimus contacted me this morning, he said something about having a mission for us. Leading a team to Old Cybertron to collect some relics used by the original Primes."
"So he and Soundwave finally got the Iacon database fully decoded." Orion mused as he let himself be led back towards the highway. "The encryption on those last few files must have been truly ferocious."
"It was." Arcee admitted. "They had to bring Vector Prime out of retirement to help."
"Who's leading it? I'm too young now I'm a cybertronian..."
"Well," Arcee replied, "He's placing me in charge, with you as my second. Now come on, we need to get going."
A familiar noise of shifting metal echoed briefly, then two motorbikes roared off into the starry night.