A Transformers Prime Fanfiction
Set During "Scattered"
Nothing about this situation was normal. The warrior had retreated from compromised bases before of course. That happened in war, but never like this, never scattering with no way of knowing where her allies were, never not knowing if the Prime was alive, never with a small organic ally, and as strange as it was for her it had to be many times worse for him. Jack; raised in Jasper, Nevada, who had always had a home, who had always know that there was a place for him to go back to. Now everything he had been a certainty from his creation had been ripped from him.
The blue cycle-bot rolled down the dusty two lane road and was grateful for the darkness that concealed them. She needed no headlights to navigate the laser straight road and Jack didn't seem to care. The peace and quiet of the unpopulated area was a blessing as well. In addition to the all the normal worries that accompanied a retreat something was wrong with her partner. Arcee kept trying to assure herself that his reactions were normal all things considered. He might have the spark of a warrior but he was still painfully young. But her processor and her spark kept coming around to the same conclusion; something was wrong, and it was more than what he would admit to.
The strangeness had begun moments before they had left the base, when Miko had glanced out of Bulkhead's window at Jack. Arcee had seen the need in the girl's eyes as she looked to the eldest human for some reassurance, seeking the strength that had always been there given freely for the others to draw on. The Cybertronian had felt her partner sag as he turned his head away. She had seen the shock on Miko's face as the girl first recoiled and then pressed against the clear barrier, hurt and confusion on her face. Then the Wreckers were gone and the scout had focused all her attention on the task at hand sensing the corresponding shift in the raven haired youth. Then they were through the groundbridge and rolling down a cracked and deserted highway. Jack had remained silent for a few moments and then his composure had seemed to crack and the strangeness had really started.
The human had become a constant steady presence that she had not even realized she was relying on until it had failed. He had begun shaking almost before the portal had closed behind them. Over the months she had known him the raven haired youth had grown more mature and with that more quiet. Everyone listened when Jack spoke in a large part because he spoke only when he had something to say. But soon after the green portal had closed behind them he had begun to almost babble. The human had voiced concerns for Miko and Bulkhead, for Raf and Bumblebee, for Wheeljack and Agent Fowler. Then he had latched onto the subject of his mother and held onto that until his ill fated text message.
The femme had spent no time or energy reprimanding him for the lapse in judgment. If she had an energon cube for every rookie who got into scrap for broken communications protocol the Autobots would want for the precious substance. She simply couldn't find it in her spark to be angry at him. She was a bit disappointed but more than that the femme was confused. That kind of mistake, that level of carelessness was not what she had expected of Jack and when she had rushed to his rescue there was something about his movements. There was a hesitation and clumsiness to his movements that she had never seen in him, not in a life threatening situation. He had apparently focused himself for the time it took to defeat their attackers but he had begun shaking again nearly as soon as they had put some distance between themselves and the Decepticons.
The trembling had faded but was still present as night fell and the next day dawned. They had taken to the earthen tracks between the tall rows of corn for cover. Arcee had learned to read the stress signals Jack's body sent out; from his pheromones to the sounds he made to the subtle changes in his movements the femme had begun to master the art of understanding what he refused to tell her. When the trembling had increased she had offered to stop for food but Jack refused. With a quiet inner sigh and a flickering thought about mechs too proud for their own good she announced that she needed to stretch her legs and pulled over. The femme made a show of loosening her joints but doubted it was necessary. Her junior partner was far too distracted to notice the subtle manipulation even if she hadn't put on the display.
A tall machine built to harness the plentiful wind power on the planet creaked in the breeze as the raven haired youth walked towards a low wooden fence. The human paused and seemed to be gazing out at the setting sun.
"Arcee," he called out softly.
The femme winced at the tiredness in his voice. There was something missing from the soft tones, something hard to pin down. It was as if some strength had been stolen from the youth with his home. The Autobot moved forward to be closer.
"Team Prime," his voice tightened almost imperceptibly over the title, "is scattered to the winds. For all we know you and I could be the only ones left."
Arcee felt a small shock run through her at the words but forced it aside. She let her hand curl comfortingly around his shoulder and spoke low and fierce.
"I don't believe that Jack, and I know you don't either."
The certainty in her voice was pointed. Of all of them the raven haired youth was the only one equipped to know if at least there was one other still functional and they both knew it. He looked up at her and then glanced quickly back down at the ground.
"Maybe not, but the Decepticons outnumber us a hundred to one! Aren't there any more Autobots out there who could help?"
He looked up at her pleadingly and Arcee caught a glimpse of the powerful organic computer working away behind his blue-grey eyes, always searching for some solution. The femme closed her optics and grimaced as she accessed memory files she had buried deep long ago.
"The war for Cybertron took a heavy toll," she stated grimly, "but there were others who escaped on the Ark."
She winced guiltily at the gleam of hope that lit up his face as he asked where they were. Slim dark servos dug into the loose soil beneath her and she held up the organic matter and mineral mixture. The breeze caught it and sent it swirling away into the gloaming.
"Scattered to the winds."
The two partners watched the dust disperse for a moment until the femme turned briskly to the human.
"So let's focus on getting back to Jasper; on getting team Prime back together."
It was then that it finally clicked for Arcee. Jack had been listening intently until she had said Prime. Then he had flinched. The look was gone in an instant and she could almost believe it was a coincidence, almost. Except that in all his rambling there was one name he had not mentioned.
"Jack," she leaned forward and rested a hand on the human's shoulder, "what aren't you telling me?"
He jerked out from under her touch and turned his head away, but not before she spotted the moisture welling in his eyes.
"Let's go," he stated hoarsely putting on his helmet. "Jasper."
"Jack," and there was desperation in her voice as she reached out her hands and snatched him close. "You haven't said anything about Optimus and I haven't asked because a Guardian bond is something sacred. But if anyone knows anything about him it's you."
"No Arcee," the youth gasped out attempting to writhe out of her grasp. "Please don't."
"Jack tell me! Is Optimus still online?"
"I don't know!" he shouted out agony staining the cry. "I don't know," he whispered softly as he went limp and let the femme pull him to her chestplates.
"What do you mean you don't know?" Arcee asked in confusion as she held the trembling youth close. "If he had offlined you would have felt it. If he's online you should be able to sense him."
Jack seemed to curl in on himself before answering.
"I just don't know," he finally stated looking her in the optics as if he were facing his doom. "I feel," he paused searching for a word, "something. I, I think it's the Matrix of Leadership but it is between me and Optimus. I can't be sure of anything beyond it."
Arcee felt the energon in her tanks run cold and a hard band seemed to circle her spark. A thousand possibilities ran through her processor but she brushed them aside.
"When?" she demanded. "When did that happen?"
"Back at the base, right after Wheeljack showed up, just before Optimus gave the order to evacuate."
Confusion and relief mixed on Arcee's faceplates.
"That makes no sense," she muttered. "Why would the-"
"I failed," Jack was whispering now, head down, forehead against her chestplates, tears streaming down his face.
"What are you talking about?" the femme asked.
"At the school. I knew something was wrong. I thought about moving everyone. We were out in the open there and something big was going down. I knew," his voice had been rising as he spoke and now it was almost a shout. "I knew we'd be safer at the warehouse. I suggested it but it was warm and they didn't want to walk all that way. I should have insisted, pushed it but I didn't want to be the nag."
"What has that got to do with anything?"
"I could have stopped this!" Jack was shaking uncontrollably now. "If I had shown just a little common sense none of this would have happened! The Omega Lock and the Keys would still be in Optimus Prime's hands. Cybertron would be halfway to being restored by now! But instead your home is dead and, and-"
"Jack stop it!" Arcee ordered harshly.
He ceased talking and looked up at her dully. Shame, she realized it now, how had she been so blind? And she dared call herself his partner? The human had been shaking with shame and guilt since they had fled the base; that and the stress of a blocked Guardian bond. Still, this was no time to coddle the youth, and there were still mysteries.
"Listen to yourself!" she insisted. "Do you truly think Optimus is punishing you like this? Even if there were anything to what you are saying, if you can honestly believe that Optimus Prime could do something that cruel then you don't know your Guardian at all!"
"Then why?" Jack cried out.
He wanted to believe her. She could see it in his eyes but she could also see the crushing guilt and the fear of what her answer might be. She tried to state the most obvious reason but the implications slammed into her processor and stalled the words in her voice box. Her servos dug into the soil again and her helm fell to touch Jacks hot flushed forehead.
"Why does a Prime do anything?" she whispered.
"To protect and serve the ones he loves," Jack answered quietly.
"Optimus knows what risks he would face when he scattered us. He was expecting something to happen," she spoke in a measured tone, not wanting to say the words but plunging on ahead anyway, "and he wanted you to be safe. Ratchet was never quite satisfied that you heart healed completely after, after everything, and if, if-"
"Don't Arcee," the youth shook his head and placed his fingers over her lips. "I get the idea. You're right. He would never cut me off like that. I don't know what I was thinking. I-"
The femme pulled him into a fierce hug and then let him down feeling carefully of his shoulders as she did. Some of the tension had left him but the trembling had increased, shame and the stress of a blocked bond. The Autobot stared compassionately down at her partner kicking herself for not catching this sooner and for once cursing her small size and chosen alt mode. Any of the others could easily carry a sleeping companion while they drove but it was impossible for her and stopping for him to rest only added wasted time to the human's perceived list of offenses and the guilt he was shouldering.
"I need a rest Partner," she stated flatly standing up. "I'm going to take it in there," she jerked her helm towards the old barn behind them. "You can stand out here or take a nap in the hay loft."
Jack nodded and followed her mutely into the dark confines of the structure. She wasn't fooling him she knew, and he knew, but he wasn't going to expend the energy to call her bluff in the state he was in. He murmured something about 'just ten minutes' before falling on a pile of burlap. As she expected the exhausted youth fell asleep before his body hit the dusty material. Moving carefully so as not to wake him the femme coiled around the human. She was not Optimus, she could not reconnect the bond between the two, but she could offer Jack all the comfort in her power. The femme closed her optics and powered down all non-essential systems.
She powered up again when she sensed the youth beginning to stir against her. She carefully disentangled herself and slipped out into the field. The sun was rising against the eastern sky as Jack yawned and stretched.
"I slept the entire night?" he groaned as he looked out at the dawn.
"We both needed the rest," Arcee stated firmly. "Remember I'm running on short rations her and I can't just pick some corn to chew."
She held out the ears she had plucked from the stalks and Jack eagerly took them but paused.
"I should feel guilty about eating stolen food," he stated as he ripped the yellow biomass from the cob.
"Don't worry. I picked these from some stragglers in the ditch," Arcee assured him. "Won't affect the farmer's hydrocarbon yield one gram."
"I'm not sure that counts as a loop hole," the youth replied ruefully.
"Eat Jack," the femme grinned to see his spirits returning. "We've got a long ride ahead of us and as far as I can tell there are no Dennys around here."
Jack laughed at that and while he still looked tired and uncertain there was no doubt he was in better spirits. They rolled out to the singing of the birds and headed south. As they drove the human began to tense up. Arcee would have smiled if she could in her alt mode. There was no doubt that the human was shaping up into a little Optimus, always taking the weight of the world on his shoulders. She tried to keep him calm by going over their contingency plans but by the time the sun was about to set again he had drawn the conversation back to the Prime.
"The last time things looked this bleak Optimus slipped me that key card. Something we could hang out hopes on."
Arcee angled her mirrors to get a better look at the human.
"I know you're feeling helpless Jack," he flinched and glanced away, "but this doesn't need to be your burden."
Whatever his reply might have been was drowned out in the roar of a high powered, energon powered, engine over head. Jack stood up in the seat gasping in astonishment at the sudden appearance of a low slung spacecraft. The boxy body was balanced on either side by a thrust engine longer than itself. Arcee swung to a stop as the vessel pulled around and landed on two rear mounted legs. The human stepped forward in fearless awe and the Autobot transformed quickly warning him to stay behind her. The ramp lowered and a tall form stepped out as the blue scout powered up her rifles. But as the steam from the hot hull meeting the atmosphere dispersed she relaxed.
"Jack, I don't think we are going to need that key card."
The human stared up in awe at the blue and red form; like and unlike his bonded father in both physical form and lifeforce.
"Meet Ultra Magnus."
To be continued….