Chapter 1: The Note That Isolation Plays
Jade Harley was not one to stay up late. This fact oftentimes baffled some of her friends—after all, she lived alone on an island with her dog and didn't exactly have to get up and go to school. She didn't have any early morning obligations, really, aside from feeding Bec. The truth was that she had little to do late at night. Her friends lived in time zones much different than hers, so they were usually all asleep when it might only be a little late for her. It was better, in her opinion, to sleep when they were gone and wake up when they came back, even if it meant getting up at a time her friends might deem to be ridiculously early.
It was for that reason that she was startled when she glanced at the time and found that it was eight-o-clock. To her, that was exceptionally late, especially since she woke up at 2 to talk to John before he went to school. She'd only missed the time because she was talking to Dave. Her lunchtop's projection of their conversation hung in red and green above her head. She frowned at it before she began typing again.
GG: dave do you realize what time it is???
TG: what isnt it like 8 over on devilbeast island
GG: exactly!!! and thats 2 your time!!!
TG: point being
GG: daaaave you have school tomorrow D:
TG: nothing important going on
TG: seriously it sounds like youre trying to be my mom
TG: youre only two days older than me that does not grant you a mothering license
GG: im just trying to look out for you! jeez
TG: seriously harley dont worry about it
GG: okay! if you say so
GG: whoa what??
Jade paused in her conversation again when she heard a strange noise from outside. It had stopped almost as quickly as it started, but as she listened, she heard it start up again. She could only describe it as the sound of machinery, and even that recognition was only from videos and cartoons she had watched growing up. She lived on a deserted island. There was nothing like work crews repairing a street here. There weren't even any other humans.
That was what worried her.
TG: whoa what what
TG: is your dog doing some kind of bizarre ass trick again
TG: teleporting or whatever
TG: i swear to god jade that thing should be dead by now
TG: dogs dont fucking live that long and they dont teleport
GG: dave!!! dont say that about bec :(
GG: and anyway this has nothing to do with him
GG: ill be right back
Jade closed her Squiddle lunchtop before Dave could reply again, but as soon as she did, she heard Pesterchum alerting her of a new message, several times. She'd get back to him as soon as she found out what was going on.
The truth was that the noise made Jade really, really nervous. The sounds of machinery like that could only come from humans, and if humans were on the island… It was a change she wasn't expecting. For a while when she was younger, just after her grandpa died, she had been worried that someone would appear and take her away from the island and away from Bec. She hadn't been sure she could stand all that, especially after dealing with the grief of her grandfather's death. Now, she viewed the idea differently. She was sixteen, after all. She was considered an adult in many societies. She could, conceivably, take care of herself. She had been for ten years.
What scared her was who those humans might be. She wasn't completely naïve. She knew that not all people were nice. She just didn't have the social experience to be able to tell a nice person from a person pretending to be nice. If someone had found the island and was suddenly doing some kind of weird excavation project on it, she had a feeling they weren't going to be very nice. They might even want anyone living on the island silenced. Not that Jade couldn't take care of herself if she had to. She had more guns than she knew what to do with, as a sort of heirloom from her grandfather, and she was very good at using most of them. The problem was that she'd never shot a living thing before.
Humans, aside from her three best friends, just brought into play all kinds of complications she didn't want to deal with. Unfortunately, it didn't look like Jade would have much choice. After a long moment of hesitation, and a chorus of alerts from Pesterchum, she finally took a look out the window.
Jade immediately knew something was different. The island was usually pitch black at night, illuminated only by the stars and the moon. Tonight was different. Near the ruins in the lake not too far from her house, she saw lights. That, she thought, was where the noise was coming from. Even more disturbing was the fact that the stars above seemed to be blackened out by something huge looming over her island. A long tube descended from its bottom side, landing on the ground near the site with the lights. She certainly saw movement out there.
Jade bit her lip. That shadow had to be some kind of ship. Her grandpa had had a similar one, but she didn't know whether or not that was normal. Grandpa Jake wasn't normal in a lot of ways, after all. She'd never thought to ask where he'd gotten it. The only other explanation she could come up with was aliens, and that was a bit too bizarre for her to even try to believe.
Her mind was settled before she had even fully thought about it. She had to go out and see what was going on and try to find out if whoever was making all this noise planned on bothering her. She couldn't sleep or relax until she was sure. She hesitated only for a moment to wonder whether or not to tell Dave what was going on, since she had been talking to him, but she opted against it. Better he didn't know or worry about her. He'd ever admit he was worrying, but Jade liked to think that she knew him a little better than that.
Jade grabbed her shotgun, slung it over one shoulder, and headed downstairs. It was easier than she was expecting to sneak out, in spite of the time. Bec was nowhere to be found, which worried her almost as much as the sounds and figures from outside. He could take care of himself, but the fact that he was gone suggested to her that he felt the need to protect her. She hoped he didn't hurt anyone.
The island was very different late at night. Jade wasn't used to it—she rarely went out after nightfall, and when she did, it wasn't for very long. It was only at night that she felt truly afraid and alone on her island, and that night was no different. After the sun had set, a chill wind had picked up. It tousled her long black hair and tugged at her white shirt and skirt, making her shiver from nerves and the cold. Jade pushed her round glasses a little farther up her nose in a vain attempt to see better in the dark. Her heart in her throat, she made her way towards the lights.
As she drew closer, the sound of machinery grew louder. Jade was sure that they weren't even trying to muffle the sound, either. If they had noticed her house, they didn't care about alerting her. What was more, she could see now that the lighted area was a huge excavation site. They had accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. The hole they were working in was already deeper than she was tall, and it looked huge. It almost made Jade wonder if they had been working much longer than she had realized, and she simply hadn't noticed the noise until she'd had the presence of mind to check the time. Forms worked in it, digging for something, and they were illuminated by artificial lights. When she saw what the forms were, she immediately took cover behind a bunch of bushes, though it didn't make her feel any safer.
The workers were, for lack of a better term, giant robots that looked like they had been taken straight from one of her animes. They were mostly purple, with dark gray joints. Some, she noted, were bulkier, with wheels on their shoulders, while others were slimmer, with what almost reminded her of jet wings protruding from their backs. They all, however, had a red crooked line on their faces in place of eyes. The sight of them made Jade feel even more nervous. She supposed they could be made by humans, but something told her that the case was otherwise. She wasn't sure what these robots were doing here, but the sight of them seemed to confirm her fears. Something was going on, and she was about to be thrust into the middle of it.
Her thoughts were disrupted when she heard a commotion from outside the halo of artificial lights. She followed the noise until she finally saw sparks of green briefly illuminating parts of one of the strange robots. She caught a flash of white as well, just before it disappeared and reappeared shortly after. Bec had taken it upon himself to try to subdue the robots.
For all his abnormal abilities, Jade could tell that Bec was getting nowhere. He was doing little more than disorienting the robot, but Jade could see now that some of the ones in the pit were dropping their tools and beginning to make their way to the scene of the fight. He was going to be overwhelmed if she didn't do something. Ignoring that part of common sense that told her there wasn't anything she could do against giant robots anyway, not with just a shotgun, she left her hiding spot and ran towards Bec.
It was sheer luck that the robot stumbled into the light. If it hadn't, Jade might not have seen the opening she was looking for. As it was, the robot fell to one knee, and she could easily see its torso and head, including the fact that what looked like wires connected its head and the rest of its body. The gap in its external armor was small, but if she could get a bullet into it…
Once she was close enough, Jade stopped and aimed. It only took a moment, but to Jade, it seemed to take an hour before she could finally decide on a good spot. She pulled the trigger.
The robot didn't know what hit it. The bullet struck its neck straight on, and it gurgled once before falling backwards. Jade wasn't sure if she had "injured" it or simply killed it, but she wasn't going to stick around and find out. The noise the gun made when it fired was not quiet. The other robots were staring straight at her, and she wasn't sure she could hit all of them in the same spot. Instead, she did the only thing she could think of.
She turned and ran.
As it turned out, running was pretty pointless. The robots had much longer strides, and it didn't help that their combined footsteps actually made the ground shake, nearly knocking her off balance a few times. She wasn't even halfway back to her house when she glanced backwards and saw one of the robots looming above her. She gasped in panic as its foot rose over her, apparently intending to smash her with it, when a flash of green and white appeared on its face. Both disappeared a moment later.
Bec had gotten a new idea, or a semi new idea. He had teleported her back to her room before, after all. She gasped with relief, but she knew she wasn't ready to celebrate yet. Three more of the robots were still after her.
That was when, just a few yards away, a green portal opened up. She had no idea how, or why, but in the situation she was in, she wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Putting on an extra burst of steam, she ran all out towards it.
She didn't even pause when more robots appeared out of it. She ran between them, barely dodging their feet and only distantly acknowledging the fact that they looked nothing like the ones she had just seen. All she had on her mind was the portal and the safety she hoped it would provide.
Just as she slipped past, it closed behind her.
Chapter 2: Sayonara Kansas
For a moment, Jade was blinded by the bright green light in the portal, but she didn't let it slow her down. She ran with her eyes closed, hoping she wouldn't run into any more of the giant robots that wanted to kill her. Finally, the brightness subsided, and she slowed to a walk as she opened her eyes.
The room she found herself in was enormous. The ceilings were far taller than she would have assumed necessary—unless, she realized, they were made to accommodate giant robots. There were computer panels as well, with screens made to be comfortable for robots, but certainly not humans. What puzzled her, however, was a set of stairs curling around and up onto a platform. These were human sized. She was only just able to grasp this when she heard a growl of frustration in a voice too loud to be a human's. She quickly scampered over to the stairs and hid in them behind their railing.
"This can't be right," she heard the voice say. "The scanner shows that something came back through the ground bridge. But obviously, there's nothing there!" The speaker heaved a sigh, accompanied by a couple heavy, metallic-sounding footsteps. "This is what we get for adapting human technology to Cybertronian needs. It never works!" Carefully, Jade peeked around the stairs, trying to get a look at the speaker.
Luckily, his back was turned to her. He was another giant robot, which she had anticipated from the metallic footsteps, but he wasn't like the ones that had chased her. From behind, she could see that his plating was mostly white with accents of burnt orange. His voice was interesting, too. It was almost grandfatherly, in a sort of irritated way. It occurred to her that she had the perfect chance to shoot him before he tried to attack her, but something made her pause. That pause was enough—he turned around suddenly and, before she could duck her head back in, saw her. She hid almost right away, but he knew she was there regardless.
"Miko? Is that you?" Miko? That sounded like a name, albeit a strange one, but Jade wasn't wasting the time to find out. Ducking her head down so that he could barely see her over the tops of the stair railing, she quickly climbed the stairs, dragging her rifle along with her.
"How long have you been hiding out in here?" As she made it onto the platform, Jade heard him walking towards it. She might get a chance to shoot him, if she timed it just right. She ducked behind a couch she found on the platform and waited. Luckily, the bulk of the couch was between her and the robot.
"I swear, when I find you, I will—" Jade jumped up from behind the couch and aimed the gun. She got a good look at the robot's face, and for a nanosecond, she was surprised by how human it looked. He even looked quite shocked to see her.
"You're not Miko," he said, and then she pulled the trigger.
Whether it was nerves or the fact that he had managed to move in time, Jade didn't know, but the bullet bounced harmlessly off the plating of his head. It was still enough to knock him off balance, it seemed. He teetered for a moment on one foot before falling on his behind. The force actually shook the floor, and he yelped in pain.
"My tailpipe!" He cried, and Jade couldn't stop herself from laughing. He really did sort of sound like her grandpa—she remembered him always complaining about a jolt to his tailbone when Bec got excited and knocked him over. At that moment, though, a second voice rang out. Jade looked around frantically, trying to find the source, only to realize it was over some sort of radio.
"Ratchet, are you there? Arcee said she saw a human running into the ground bridge before it closed—"
"Yes, Optimus, I noticed that already!" Jade heard the other robot say from his place on the floor. "And she has a gun!" He managed to climb up onto his knees and glare in her direction. Jade hid back behind the couch guiltily.
"We believe Eradicons may have been chasing her," the robot that Jade assumed was named Optimus replied. "Try to explain things to her, as gently as possible."
"Easier said than done," Ratchet snapped back, though that seemed to be enough for Optimus. His didn't say any more, and Ratchet used the control panel to haul himself up with a groan.
"You're still there, aren't you?" He said slowly. Jade didn't reply for a long moment, debating if she should. From the way the other robot had talked, this group wasn't with the ones that were chasing her—strange though it seemed that there would actually be two factions of giant robots! But if it meant finding out what was going on…
"Um, yes," she said, finally. "I'm sorry for shooting you. I thought you might try to kill me, like those other ones did." Ratchet was silent for a moment before heaving a sigh.
"I suppose I can't blame you entirely," he said. "And no, ah, real harm done. I'm not sure that gun could actually do much against a Transformer, anyway." Jade decided that just then was not a good time to say something about the "Eradicon" or whatever it was that she had shot in the neck. Instead, she stood and dropped her shotgun to the ground where Ratchet could easily see it. Then, she sat down on the couch she had previously been hiding behind. Of course, she hadn't completely disabled herself. She was ready to leap for the gun if he tried to do anything to her. Regardless, the show of peace seemed to make him relax.
"Alright," Ratchet said. "Long story short, my comrades and I are called Transformers. We are a group of Cybertronic aliens with the ability to mimic your vehicles. Our group is called the Autobots, and we are currently at war with another group, the Decepticons. Those Transformers that attacked you are among the Decepticons, and, as you might have noticed, they have no respect for the planet or its inhabitants." His voice hardened at that. "We are here to protect Earth and try to stop them."
"Oh, okay," Jade replied. She had to admit, the story seemed wild, but what reason did she have to doubt him? "That's awful nice of you. But what did they want with my island?"
"Energon," Ratchet said darkly. "It’s the life force of our species—our fuel and blood, all in one. It just so happens that there was a large deposit of it on your island. And to be honest, we didn’t know that anyone lived there. It was our understanding that humans tend to live in large communities, not in so isolated of a place." He looked a little thoughtful. "Isn't there anyone else on the island? You're just a sparkling, after all. You must have, ah, parents."
"Oh, uh, no!" Jade said, a little quickly. "It's just me and my dog, Bec. I mean, it's my grandpa's house—and his island, I guess—but he died a long time ago, and since then, it was just the two of us." Ratchet looked genuinely surprised at that.
"By yourself? That's ridiculous, surely you needed some sort of supervision—" He was cut off by another incoming transmission from Optimus.
"Ratchet, we need a ground bridge to our coordinates!" Ratchet immediately turned to the computers an away from Jade, though she wasn't entirely surprised. Whatever was going on, it sounded urgent.
"Just a moment, Optimus." He typed something quickly and then ran to a lever and pulled it forcefully. Jade watched with wide eyes as the tunnel she had come in from lit up again, and more robots—no, Transformers!—appeared inside of it. Two larger ones were supporting a third, smaller one, and just as they were leaving the tunnel, a motorcycle without a rider rode in around them. It skidded to a halt just as Ratchet turned off the tunnel and, to Jade's surprise and awe, transformed into a shorter, skinnier Transformer that struck Jade as being more feminine than the others. Ratchet, however, was focused only on the yellow robot that was being supported by the other two.
"What happened?" He asked. It was one of the Transformers that was supporting the injured one, one that was mostly red and blue, that replied. Jade immediately recognized his voice as that of Optimus.
"We ran directly into a group of Eradicons," he said. "They were likely chasing the human that escaped into the ground bridge. We caught the first few off guard, but the rest had already mobilized and were coming as well. We were swarmed, and Bumblebee was injured before we could even get more of a glimpse of the mine." The yellow Transformer, Bumblebee, made a strange noise that sounded like an array of beeps and whirs, but even to Jade it sounded apologetic. It wasn't hard to make out the place on his left leg that looked burnt and damaged, either.
"It's alright, Bee," the other Transformer supporting him, a bulkier green one, said. "Can't win every fight. It's making it back alive that's important."
"For now, let's worry about getting you fixed," Ratchet said, and he led the three Transformers away. As they went, Jade couldn't help feeling guilty yet again. True, she barely knew these robots, but they seemed nice, and they were even trying to help out the humans, if what Ratchet said was true. Jade was inclined to believe him. After all, he hadn't killed her when he'd had the chance, even after she'd opened fire on him. She couldn't help not trusting them, although she had a feeling that both Dave and Rose would have admonished her for it.
"You okay, kid?" Jade was startled out of her thoughts by the voice, but she quickly realized that it was the blue Transformer, the one that had stayed behind. She was leaning against the platform, watching Jade curiously. "I'm Arcee, by the way," she added.
"Um, yes," Jade replied, a little nervously. "I'm Jade. Jade Harley." Now that she wasn't half expecting to be killed, she was suddenly finding it harder to figure out what to say. She was out of practice of, well, holding a conversation. Arcee smiled a little, her expression softening.
"It's okay, I know you're probably a little overwhelmed. You're not the first human kid we've come into contact with." She paused for a moment, as though thinking about something, before she went on. "How many other humans live on your island? Are they in danger of the Decepticons, too?"
"Oh, no," Jade replied. "I'm the only human on the island. I mean, my dog Bec is there too! But he can probably take care of himself." Arcee blinked, looking surprised.
"You're the only human? But you can't be any older than Jack, and he's still living with his mom."
"Well, my grandpa died about ten years ago, and he was the only other person on the island," Jade explained. "Since then, it's just been me and Bec, but we got along fine! It's a little lonely sometimes, but I have online friends that I talk to all the time. They live in the US." Then, she paused. "Where are we, anyway? I never got a chance to ask!"
"Nevada," Arcee replied. "Out in the desert, actually, but the closest town is Jasper."
"Oh!" Jade said excitedly. "I've never been to the US before! I've always wanted to see it, although I guess this isn't really seeing it, since I haven't been outside yet. But does it snow here? I've always wanted to see snow!" Jade deflated a little when Arcee shook her head.
"Sorry, kid, but not here. We're in the desert, remember—hot and dry most of the time. It's not great weather for snow." Jade nodded, a little forlornly, and was about to say more when she heard footsteps. She quickly identified the approaching Transformer as Optimus.
"How's Bumblebee?" Arcee asked him as he got closer.
"Ratchet says he is going to be fine," Optimus said. "It's nothing that can't be easily fixed. To be honest, I am more worried about our new charge." He turned to Jade. His stare was intense, more so than Jade thought was possible from a robot. Transformer. Whatever.
"I'm, uh, Jade," she said. He nodded.
"I am known as Optimus Prime. It is good to meet you, Jade, though I wish it could be under better circumstances." She nodded slightly, and he went on. "Unfortunately, I do not think that it is safe just yet to take you back home. I would like to do more reconnaissance and be sure that all the Decepticons are doing is mining for energon. I would not put it past them to have another motive, and at best, I'm afraid they might very well tear up your island. Are there other humans there that we need to evacuate?" Jade frowned. She didn't like the sound of the Decepticons "tearing up" the island. She was about to respond, but Arcee cut in before she could.
"She says she lives alone," she said. He nodded.
"At the very least, Jade you will need to spend the night here—or what remains of it. Tomorrow, when Bumblebee has been repaired, we will take another look and better assess the situation."
"Is there any way I can help?" Jade asked. "I mean, I know the island really well. I think I know of a way that we can sneak up on the Decepticons without them noticing! But it's hard to explain unless I'm there with you." The two Transformers looked to each other, apparently considering what she had said.
"We will think about it," Optimus said finally. "In the mean time, get some rest. It will be several hours before we move out again, in any case." With that, Optimus turned to leave again. Arcee lingered for a moment, as if trying to make a decision about something, before turning to Jade.
"Will the couch be okay? We're sort of limited on our human accommodations." Jade nodded and yawned.
"It'll be fine! I think I could sleep on the floor right now." After all, a soft place to sleep was better than passing out while hunched over a table thanks to her narcolepsy! Arcee nodded.
"Alright. Try to rest easy, then. Tomorrow's gonna be a long day, one way or another." Jade nodded, and Arcee walked away as well. Jade took off her shoes and laid them beside her shotgun before settling on the couch. After everything that had happened, she didn't think she'd have any trouble falling asleep. It did occur to her just before she drifted off that she had never gotten back to Dave, but she doubted he would worry about her too much. He probably would just assume she had fallen asleep on her own. She could explain everything tomorrow.
Chapter 3: Advance or Abscond?
turntechGodhead [ TG ] began pestering ectoBiologist [ EB ]
TG: you talked to jade this morning right
EB: no, actually.
EB: she usually gets on by now and we talk for a bit before i have to go to school, but not today.
TG: well fuck
EB: why? what's wrong?
TG: she left early last night
TG: well not early it was like 2 or something
TG: but she said she was going to check something and never came back
EB: did she say what she was looking at?
TG: a noise or some shit fuck if i know
EB: well, i wouldn't worry about her too much.
EB: she probably fell asleep again. ever since that dreambot or whatever quit working, she's been harder to catch.
TG: anyway dont tell her i asked you about her
TG: dont need her thinking im a crazy stalker that needs to know where shes at all the time
EB: god dave, just ask her out already!
TG: shut up egbert no one asked you
turntechGodhead [ TG ] ceased pestering ectoBiologist [ EB ]
"Jade?" The voice filtered through vague visions of a golden city she barely remembered. Slowly, she woke, but the insistent voice sounded familiar. If she could just place it…
"Grandpa?" She asked sleepily, opening her eyes. For a moment, she was very confused. She wasn't in her room, or anywhere she recognized on her island. She sat up quickly and looked around, panicking, until she caught sight of Ratchet. Then, the events of the night before flowed back to her mind. Just as they did, Ratchet responded.
"Not quite," he replied tersely, and Jade could hear stifled laughter from behind him. The older Transformer ignored it.
"Sorry!" Jade said, stretching with a yawn. "I forgot where I was for a minute. Is it morning already?
"I'm afraid so," Ratchet replied. "Optimus has requested that you go with him and the others back to your island for further recon." He almost seemed a little apprehensive about it, but Jade hopped up onto her feet immediately.
"Great! I just need to get on my shoes and grab my gun." It took her only a few moments to do so, and with her shot gun slung over one shoulder, she turned back to Ratchet. Because of the raised platform, she was much closer to eye level with the Transformer than she would have been standing on the floor. Now, though, Ratchet was close enough that he could hold his hand up to the edge of the platform. With a start, Jade realized that his palm was easily big enough for her to stand on.
"Come with me," he said. "I need you to help me decide on what coordinates to put into the ground bridge." Jade nodded nervously and, with a little trepidation, stepped onto Ratchet's palm.
Suddenly, they were both moving—Ratchet was turning to go to the computer console. Jade nearly lost her balance, but managed to steady herself after grabbing on to Ratchet's thumb. He slowed momentarily, as if he had been as afraid she would fall as she was, before finally setting her down on the console.
Once Jade was standing on the console, Ratchet began typing. Jade watched the green screen as Ratchet brought up a globe. It spun slowly until the cursor stopped above the Pacific Ocean, then zoomed in until Jade saw her island from above rendered on the screen.
"Where was the place you had in mind?" Ratchet asked. Jade stared at the diagram for a long moment before she pointed.
"That cliff face right there—some of them are pretty long. I think we could hide out there." Ratchet zoomed in to the area that Jade indicated until he stopped on a wide ledge.
"This will do," he said, locking onto it.
It was ultimately decided that Bumblebee should stay behind because of his injury. Although Ratchet had repaired his leg, the medic had decided it would be better if he didn't stress it. Optimus, in turn, insisted that Ratchet come and keep an eye on Jade.
Jade kept her eyes open for her second ride through the ground bridge. She followed behind the Transformers, her rifle slung over one shoulder in spite of Ratchet's insistence that it would be useless and cumbersome. The tunnel of glowing green was not as bright as she had remembered. She watched in awe as the colors, not just green but also blue and white, passed above and around them until it was replaced with the familiar blue sky and green backdrop of her island.
The four Autobots crouched down immediately, totally silent. At a nod from Optimus, it was Arcee that crawled to the edge of the precipice on all fours. She peered past the rocks, obviously catching something before giving the others the thumb's up, signaling that they could join her. Ratchet, a little stiffer and less able to do the necessary crawling, stayed back. Jade stayed with him. Although she could perhaps get closer without being seen, Optimus didn't want to risk her any more than he had to. She had come on the chance they needed further directions around the island, not to actually do any spying. So, while Ratchet crouched b the cliff face, Jade sat on the ground, completely silent. She understood that talking at that moment could be dangerous. They were trying to be stealthy, after all.
Jade's home was not far behind them, the tower reaching high up against the sky and gently drifting clouds. She stared at it for a time, wondering where Bec was and how her friends were doing. It was obvious that she'd missed talking to John. She hoped no one was worried, but boy, would she have a story to tell them when this was all over!
It as at that moment that she noticed that her tower was wavering. A second later, she heard the heavy thump echoing across the rocky mountainside, and then another, in time with the rocking. At first, she couldn't quite make sense of what she was seeing, and then it clicked. Someone, for some reason, was trying to knock down her tower. Just as she realized that, with a crash, the base of the tower gave way, with the ball falling directly towards them.
"Tower!" She screamed, leaping to her feet. Ratchet turned to her angrily until he saw what was coming at them.
"Decepticon attack! Move!" He shouted. The other three turned back, saw what was coming, and climbed to their feet. After that, Jade didn’t see what happened to them. She was scooped up by Ratchet, who leaped off the side of the precipice with her in tow. Luckily, there was a slope beneath them, and he skidded down the side of it until the ground evened out.
"That was close," Ratchet said, sighing. "It looked like the others escaped all right, at least." He shook his head. "The Decepticons must have known we were there—"
"Of course," the heard a smooth voice say from behind them. Ratchet whirled, Jade saw that the speaker was a red Transformer that she didn't recognize. He leaned lightly on a staff with a tined head, grinning. "Did you think we didn't have sentries all over this flyspeck of an island? And if that little pet of yours hadn't decided to scream, we would have at least injured you all before you could attack us. Then, it would have been easy to come in and mop up."
"Knockout," Ratchet growled. "I should have known that you would be behind this. Your lackey Breakdown knocked over the tower, no doubt."
"What are you going to do about it, old 'Bot?" Knockout sneered back. Through the exchange, Jade didn't speak. It seemed as though this robot was another Decepticon, although he wasn't purple like the others she had seen. The fact that he turned that staff, the tip of which sparked with energy, to Ratchet, seemed to confirm her thoughts. Ratchet carefully set Jade down on a rocky ledge, and just in time, since Knockout wasn't inclined to wait for Ratchet. When Jade had stepped onto the ledge, Knockout was already racing forward, brandishing the staff. Ratchet leaped to the side just in time, and Knockout dug the end of the staff into the rock face. The force of the strike was enough to knock Jade to her knees. With a growl of anger, Knockout ripped the staff out of the rock and whirled on Ratchet. The Autobot responded by releasing a blade from one arm.
"I might be old, but I'm not offline yet!" That was enough of an invitation for Knockout. The two ran at each other, and their weapons met.
Ratchet blocked a strike from the staff with his blade and tried to use force to push Knockout back, but the Decepticon was quicker. He slid the staff up the length of the blade and then spun it down to jab Ratchet in the chest. The blue electricity that collected on the tines raced over Ratchet's chassis and he cringed, crying out in pain. The force behind the jab was enough to send Ratchet to the ground, and on the small rocky ledge, there wasn't much ground to land on. He tried to climb to his feet again, but Knockout kept him on the ground by striking him again. The Decepticon grinned wildly as he watched his opponent flounder against the stone.
Ratchet managed to get in a good kick, forcing Knockout to release him, but when he finally stood, it was obvious that the electricity, or whatever it was, was taking a toll on him. He looked exhausted already.
"What was that about not being offline yet?" Knockout said. "You're looking pretty close to me." Ratchet gritted his teeth, but he didn't respond. With that, Jade decided she'd had enough of watching. She wouldn't stand by idly as Ratchet was killed, even if all she had was a gun against a giant robot.
It took a moment for her to get a good shot. The two fighters were moving once more, and she didn't dare risk shooting Ratchet. Finally, an opening presented itself when Knockout pinned Ratchet again, and she pulled the trigger.
Unfortunately, Knockout moved before the bullet struck. Rather than hitting the cords in his neck, the bullet scraped across his face. That was enough to stop him cold. He whirled, his eyes locking on her. He turned from Ratchet, seeming to have forgotten about him entirely. Instead, he advanced on Jade, a murderous look in his robotic eyes.
"You little FLESHLING!" He roared. Jade backed up against the rock face, lifting her gun for protection. Before she could try to shoot again, Knockout lifted a hand and switched it out for what looked like a buzzsaw. "YOU SCRATCHED MY FACE!" Jade tried to aim in time to stop him, but as it turned out, she didn't need to. Ignoring Ratchet was a bad idea on Knockout's part, even as tired as the older Autobot was. The medic came up behind him and whacked the side of the Decepticon's face with his forearm. There was enough force behind the blow to send him flying over the edge of the cliff, buzzsaw and all. Jade heaved a sigh of relief and lowered her gun.
"Let's go," Ratchet said tiredly. "Before he manages to claw his way back up here."
As they spoke, Jade looked over what was left of her home. Even the main house was destroyed now—exactly how, she wasn't sure, but she assumed it was probably during the fighting. She picked through what wreckage she could reach and found the mangled remains of squiddles and manthro chaps, as well as inventions and guns that were smashed and bent entirely out of shape. She did find some ammo for her rifle that was still in working order, along with one lone squiddle and, to her great delight, her lunchtop. The latter had little more than a few dents, and Jade was fairly sure it was in working condition. If not, she could probably fix it. She was jolted out of her thoughts, however, by the sound of heavy robotic footsteps. She turned to find all four of the Autobots staring at her mournfully.
"I am sorry, Jade," Optimus said finally. "It had not been our intention to endanger your home."
"It's okay," Jade replied. "You guys weren't the ones who knocked it over." She looked out over everything, suddenly feeling lost. The room she had spent so much of her time in all her life was gone. It had been her own space, her hope. And now it was gone. A breeze blew past her, and she realized that her face was wet from tears. Embarrassed, she took off her glasses and tried to wipe them away as Optimus spoke again.
"We all know what it is like to lose your home." He kneeled down to speak with her, reaching her level. "Our home planet, Cybertron, was ravaged and left lifeless by this war. We've taken a new home here on Earth, but we have all been displaced." Jade nodded.
"When you've lost your entire planet, it seems silly for me to cry over just a house," she said, sniffling.
"I don't think so." To Jade's surprise, Ratchet stepped beside Optimus and kneeled as well. "It's difficult to lose any home, no matter the scale, but it can also be a sign that you are growing up." He smiled, for the first time since she had met him. "And you've proven yourself to be a warrior and an adult today. Without your help, I wouldn't have been able to beat Knockout."
"I guess," Jade said. "I just didn't want to see you hurt."
"That's the best reason anyone can ever have for fighting," Optimus said. Then, he turned to Ratchet, and the other Autobot nodded. Optimus turned back to her. "Jade, that is why we want to invite you to stay with us at the Autobot base. To repay your aid and to make up for the destruction of your previous home." Jade's eyes widened in shock. Whatever she'd been expecting to do now that her house was gone, that wasn't it.
"Really?" She asked in disbelief. "I—that would be great!" Then, abruptly, she remembered Bec. "Oh, but can I bring my dog?" Optimus and Ratchet both exchanged confused glances.
"Dog?" Ratchet asked.
"It's an animal that humans keep as a pet," Arcee said from behind them.
"Yeah!" Jade agreed. "He's a really god boy, most of the time, but he's kinda restless. He'll probably come back and forth between the base and the island."
"I'm not opening the ground bridge for an animal whenever it likes," Ratchet said, standing. Jade laughed.
"Oh, no, silly! He can get back and forth own his own. He can teleport."
"I… wasn't aware that any Earth organism could do that," Optimus said. Jade just shrugged.
"Bec is a very special dog! But can mostly take care of himself. He'll probably follow me to the base on his own."
"Then we should go back," Ratchet said.
"Before Breakdown and Knockout regroup," Bulkhead added.
"Bumblebee, open a ground bridge to the coordinates we entered from before," Optimus said. Almost like magic, the green portal opened up for them. Jade paused before it only a moment, long enough to pick up her refrigerator and her cookalizer. Both were lying under a bit of rubble but looked no worse for wear. She took them and her other finds back with her through the ground bridge.
The Autobots arrived back at base to find a large white dog waiting for them. Jade recognized him immediately.
"Bec!" She shouted excitedly. She dropped everything she was carrying just inside the ground bridge and ran to him. She hadn't realized just how much she'd missed hum until she could see him again. She hugged him tightly, burying her face in his fur. Like a good dog, he tolerated it. Finally, she pulled away.
"So you know I'm going to stay here, right? Because the house is destroyed. But you can still come! And I'll try to get Ratchet to let me go to the island sometimes! He's kind of grumpy, but he's really nice." To Jade, Bec's silence spoke volumes. She gave him another quick hug before standing up.
"I knew you'd understand," she said. "Seeya later, Bec!" And with that, the dog flashed a bright green and disappeared. Jade turned back to the Autobots, all of whom stared at her in shock.
"Well, it's okay with him!" She said excitedly. "So I guess I'm staying."
"I… that animal…" Ratchet finally just shook his head. "I'm going to go… calibrate something."
"Well, that was… interesting," Arcee said and Ratchet stalked away. "But it's about time to be picking up the other humans."
"Other humans?" Jade echoed. "Oh, yeah! You said something about that…"
"You will meet Jack, Miko, and Raf soon," Optimus said. "They too know of our existence, and we protect them as well." Jade nodded nervously. Other than talking to John, Dave, and Rose, she'd never met another human, and certainly never met one face to face. As she watched Arcee, Bulkhead, and Bumblebee leave in their vehicle forms, she wondered what these three kids would be like. Would they be nice, like her friends? She hoped so.
"Don't worry," Ratchet said, jolting her out of her thoughts. She looked up to see that he was glancing over at her while working on some piece of equipment. "You'll get along with them just fine."
"Okay," Jade replied, but the kind words didn't help her nervousness any. She picked up her few remaining possessions, brought them with her up onto the platform, and settled down to wait.
Chapter 4: Some Shit That Happens
Silence seemed to be the theme of the base once Arcee, Bulkhead, and Bumblebee had left to pick up the other human children. Optimus left to recharge elsewhere in the base, which Jade took to mean he was napping. Ratchet, on the other hand, appeared to be attempting to repair some sort of machinery. Jade herself was nervously eating an apple she had stored in her refrigerator. The only sounds were Ratchet tinkering and Jade biting into the apple.
Jade didn't particularly feel like eating, but she knew she needed to. She hadn't eaten since the night before, which, after everything that happened, seemed like and eternity ago. The problem was that she was nervous. She was nervous about meeting these other humans like she hadn't had a chance to be nervous about meeting the Autobots. Of course, the Autobots weren't human, either, so even that was quite a bit different. She was excited, too, but she was worried that she would do something wrong, or that she would miss something or say something silly, and they would hate her. She was jolted out of her thoughts when Ratchet groaned loudly.
"What's wrong?" She asked, setting down the half-eaten apple. Ratchet looked up, surprised, and then sighed.
"This is mangled," he said, with more than a little touch of anger. "Something Bulkhead broke. And that I needed! But some of the components are too small for me to fix with my digits." He groaned again.
"Maybe I could try?" Jade suggested. Ratchet shot her a questioning look.
"Jade," he said, "this isn't just a bit of human tinkering. This is a complex piece of Cybertronian machinery and will likely be more complex than anything you've ever seen."
"It's okay, Ratchet!" She assured him. "I've built all kinds of machines for fun!" She picked up her refrigerator cube and held it up. "I made this from scraps of metal." Ratchet looked startled for a moment before he set down what he was working on and walked over to the platform.
"And what, exactly, is this cube?" He asked, peering down at it.
"A refrigerator," she replied. "It keeps food cold! And it holds almost an indefinite amount of it, but it's enough for just me, anyway." She turned the dial on the cube to fruits and vegetables and retrieved an orange. She held it up to Ratchet, showing him it was real, before putting it back.
"This is beyond any human technology I've ever seen," Ratchet said in awe. "And you built this yourself?"
"And with some books my grandpa had," she said. "But yeah."
"All right," he conceded. "We'll see if you can help me." He let her climb onto his hand and brought her back over to his workspace.
It was about a half an hour before the other Autobots arrived. When they did, Jade didn't immediately look up. She was quite literally waist deep in the device she and Ratchet were trying to fix. He'd told her it was a delicate piece of machinery meant for scanning optics, and she had to admit, some parts were a little small even for her. She didn't remember that the human kids were with them until she heard a girl's voice while she was tightening a screw.
"So, where's this new girl?" Jade was so surprised that she tried to stand up quickly and banged her head on the metal.
"Careful," Ratchet said warningly.
"It's okay! I don't think I knocked anything loose," Jade said as she pulled herself out properly. She stood, stretched, and turned. On the floor below were the three human kids. One was a small, quiet-looking boy with surprisingly pointy hair and square-rimmed glasses. The lone girl, the one who had spoken, looked to be of Asian descent. Her black hair with highlights of pink was pulled up into pigtails. She had her hands on her hips, looking up at Jade expectantly. Finally, the last was a boy about Jade's own age with dark hair. He of the three looked surprised.
"Were you just… inside one of Ratchet's machines?" He asked, incredulous.
"Oh, yeah!" Jade replied. "I was helping because Ratchet had trouble reaching some parts of it." All three of the humans immediately turned to Ratchet in shock, and so did, Jade noticed, the other three Autobots. Ratchet glared back.
"What?" He asked harshly.
"You never ask for help!" The girl said, and Jade noticed she had a slight accent.
"You never even let anyone touch your equipment," Bulkhead added. Ratchet huffed.
"That's because you'd break it! And that's assuming you weren't the ones to break it in the first place!" Jade took the opportunity to make it to the ground. She was just able to drop from the platform that Ratchet was using to repair his machinery to a large, box-like contraption, and then to the floor. From there, her nervousness gone, she ran over to the three humans.
"I'm Jade!" She said, a little out of breath.
"Jack," the older boy said.
"I'm Miko!" The girl announced.
"Uh, Raf," the younger boy said quietly.
"Oh!" Jade said, something finally connecting in her mind. "Miko! So that's why Ratchet called me that?"
"Whaaat?" Miko said, turning to Ratchet. "You mistook her for me?"
"I saw a dark haired human running around and assumed you had hidden here somehow. It wouldn't have been the first time." Miko laughed at that.
"I only did it once!"
"Anyway," Jake cut in, obviously changing the subject, "how did you end up meeting the 'Bots? I mean, we all kind of did around the same time, but it's pretty obvious that you're not from around Jasper."
"Well," Jade replied, "it really started when I met up with some Decepticons…" She told them everything that happened, starting with the strange noise she heard and how she had lived alone on an island. That had startled the kids enough, but when she described her first run in with Decepticons, all of them, including the Autobots, were surprised.
"You mean you actually injured a 'Con?" Bulkhead asked. "With that tiny stick?"
"That is so cool!" Miko exclaimed. "You have got to show me how to use your gun!"
"It's not a toy," Jade warned. "It's dangerous! I only started using it because I needed a weapon when I was alone on the island." She went on to explain how she'd ended up at the base (everyone found her first meeting with Ratchet amusing), the fight on the island, and finally finding her house destroyed.
"Wait," Jack said then. "So your house and everything is gone?" Jade nodded.
"I was able to grab a few things, like my computer, but that's it. I don't even have any clothes other than these."
"Well, we've got to remedy that!" Miko linked an arm around Jade's and grinned. "America might not have a great selection, but a girl without a proper wardrobe is tragic!" To Jade's surprise, the younger girl tried to drag her along. "C'mon, Bulkhead! You're driving!"
"Wait, where are we going?" Jade asked quickly, sounding a little panicked.
"The mall, of course!" Miko exclaimed.
"Count me out," Jack said. "C'mon, Raf, let's go play video games." He turned, but he was immediately stopped by Ratchet.
"Please, go and make sure Miko doesn't turn Jade into a copy of herself," he said. Jack sighed, and Raf nodded.
"Alright," Jack agreed.
"Yes!" Miko cheered. "Road trip!" Jade gulped nervously, but followed regardless.
The mall was bigger than Jade expected. She'd never been to one, of course, but it was bigger than her house had been, and that made it bigger than anything she was used to. There were also humans everywhere and in all shapes, sizes, and ages. When she first walked in, she couldn't help just staring at them all until Miko nudged her.
"We're not here to look, we're here to shop!" She grabbed Jade's arm and dragged her into a nearby store. Jack and Raf followed reluctantly.
At first, Jade didn't know what she was looking for. She had never thought of wearing much aside from her usual clothes, and here she suddenly had hundreds of styles to choose from. Miko picked up on her reluctance immediately, though, and started picking things out, too. They went to several stores, although Jade thought it was silly to have multiple stores dedicated to clothes. Jack and Raf (but mostly Jack) carried their purchases, all of which Miko paid for.
"Don't worry about it," she'd said at the first store. "My parents have lots of money, and I don't use most of my allowance anymore anyway."
Finally, they stopped in front of a store that didn't look much like the others. Rather than racks of clothes, Jade saw that inside were chairs with people in them while another person stood behind them and messed with their hair.
"What's this?" Jade asked. Miko grinned.
"This is where I get my hair done! C'mon, you need a new style!" Jack and Raf groaned behind them, but Jade, who was a little curious, agreed to go in. She left with her hair a great deal shorter (only a little past her shoulders instead of to her waist) and, at Miko's urging, with highlights of dark green.
"Ratchet's gonna flip," Jack groaned as they walked back out to where Bulkhead was waiting. Jade had decided to wear one of her new outfits, a blue dress with a ruffled skirt and red jacket, out with her. She just smiled.
"But I like it! And that's what counts, right?" She turned to Miko. "And thank you! I've never gone shopping before, or even been to a mall, but that was a lot of fun!
"No problem!" Miko grinned. "It'll be great to have another girl at the base! The boys are alright, but you can't take them clothes shopping, you know?"
"Because we end up carrying everything!" Jack complained, but Jade heard Raf giggle.
"Looking good, Jade," Bulkhead said as they hopped in.
"Thanks!" She replied.
"Anything happen while we were gone?" Miko asked.
"Nope," Bulkhead replied. "Things are pretty quiet with the Decepticons today."
"Then let's get something to eat," Raf suggested. "I'm getting kind of hungry." It was at that point that Jade realized just how hungry she was. She hadn't eaten anything but half an apple all day, after all.
"Can do," Bulkhead said.
"The only place to eat really is KO Burger," Jack said with a wince.
"That's where he works," Miko whispered, and Jade nodded. Bulkhead pulled out, and it seemed the destination had been chosen. They arrived less than ten minutes later. The building was a great deal smaller than the mall, which Jade was glad for. She didn’t want to find out that all normal buildings here that big! She followed the others in through a pair of glass doors and was met by the overpowering scent of fried food. It was a little nauseating to someone who was used to either cooking her own food or eating raw fruits and vegetables. Booths and tables filled most of the space, but to their left was a counter with a person in uniform standing behind it. Hanging above the counter was a list of the foods the place served and their prices. Jade grinned when she saw it, recalling one of Dave's comics.
"Too many prices and values!" She said quietly.
"What was that?" Raf asked, looking up at her curiously.
"Oh, nothing!" Jade replied, and she followed the others to the counter. Miko began ordering immediately while Jade stood back and looked more closely at the menu. It didn't take her long to realize that nearly everything on it contained meat. She frowned a little before finally finding a few things without.
"… and a chicken nugget kid's meal," Jade heard Jack say. Then, he turned to her. "How about you?"
"A salad and a strawberry milkshake," she replied. Jack raised an eye brow, but he only repeated the order aloud to the girl at the register. The four of them then found a place to sit.
"So, are you vegetarian?" Jack asked once they'd settled. "A salad and a milkshake is a bizarre combination."
"Well, I don't really like meat much," Jade said. "It makes me sad, so I stick to fruits and vegetables, mostly. I've never had a milkshake before, though, and my friend John says they're really good!"
"You've never had a milkshake before?" Raf asked, sounding incredulous. "Not once?" Jade shook her head.
"Or ice cream! But it sounds good." Thankfully, it didn't take long to receive their food, but Jade was a little disappointed by the salad. It wasn't anything near as fresh as she was used to growing on her own. The others dug into their meat-based foods while she picked at hers and finally gave up, turning to her milkshake. She took a sip and nearly choked.
"What's wrong?" Miko asked immediately. Jade managed to get control of herself and laughed.
"It's cold!" She said.
"Well, what were you expecting?" Jack asked with a laugh.
"I don't know!" Jade admitted. She took another sip. "It's not bad, though. Doesn't really taste much like strawberries, but it's good."
"That's good, since it looks like your salad wasn't," Raf said, pointing out the mostly-untouched greens as he nibbled on a chicken nugget. Jade nodded apologetically and continued drinking her shake.
After eating, the four stopped briefly at Jack's house, where Jack retrieved some extra blankets for Jade to sleep with that night.
"The Autobots don't really think about things like being cold," he said. "My mom won't mind if I explain."
"Thank you, all of you," Jade said again. "You're all so kind, helping me out when you hardly know me!"
"Well, you're friends with the Autobots, right?" Raf said. "To us, that means a lot."
Finally, they headed back to base, but once they were there, it was already time for the other kids to leave.
"We might not have time to now, but we will definitely get in some quality video gaming tomorrow!" Miko said with exuberance. Jade grinned.
"Sounds like fun!" She said.
"Time to go, guys," Arcee said. "You can talk to her more tomorrow." Arcee, Bulkhead, and Bumblebee all transformed, and the kids hopped inside, or on, as was the case with Jack. Jade waved as they pulled away, wondering, now that everything was over, why she had been so nervous about meeting them. Then, she heard Ratchet's heavy footsteps behind her.
"Good, Jade, you're back. You can help me with—what in the name of Primus did you DO TO YOUR HAIR?!" Jade giggled.
"It's okay, Ratchet! It'll be easier to help you with it shorter like this!"
After spending the rest of the evening helping Ratchet and then having an actually filling meal with food from her refrigerator, Jade settled down on the couch and curled up with the blankets Jack had given her. She was tired, and it had been a very long day, but Jade felt bad about not talking to her friends for so long. She probably needed to tell them some of what had happened. She couldn't tell them about the Autobots, since she had sworn to keep their secret, but surely she could at least tell them where she was staying now?
Stifling a yawn, Jade pulled out her lunchtop and opened it up. Her desktop opened up around her, and Pesterchum popped up with it. She had unread messages from all three of her friends, but only Dave was still on. Leaving the other two for later, Jade opened up a window with Dave.
turntechGodhead [ TG ] began pestering garden Gnostic [ GG ]
TG: so you back yet
TG: apparently not since youre still offline
TG: ok fine ill check back later
TG: and now its morning
TG: still nothing
TG: even if im gone at school just leave me a message ok
TG: back from school
TG: seriously harley no one can sleep this long
TG: do i need to go sleeping beauty on your ass and kiss you awake
TG: fucking knight in shining armor here
TG: just chillin on my ironic white steed
TG: looking for some fair maiden to smooch awake like a fucking creeper
TG: who runs around kissing sleeping girls in the first place
TG: are you so fucking desperate that you will seriously sneak up on a sleeping girl
TG: cursed or whatever i dont care
TG: and then kiss her? really dude
TG: have some fucking manners
TG: anyway later
TG: and the princess awakens
TG: what the hell did you get hit with an extra dose of narcolepsy today
GG: no! well i did sleep some
GG: but thats not the point! youll never guess where i am right now!
TG: you mean youre in a place thats not devilbeast island
TG: god jade dont tell me youre on a raft in the middle of ocean or some stupid shit
GG: no! im not that dumb dave :(
GG: im in nevada!
TG: like the state of nevada
TG: which does not have a sea border
TG: you are in the US for the first time in your life and youre in nevada
GG: yes to all three of those!
TG: how in the ever loving fuck did you get to nevada
GG: its kind of a long story
GG: you know that weird noise i heard last night?
TG: was it pirates? did you get sold into the slave trade or something
GG: no! god dave
GG: well ok the people making the noise were bad
GG: and the bad people broke my house
GG: but im staying with some really nice people now!
TG: that is all youre going to tell me isnt it
GG: im sorry dave! i wish i could tell you more:(
GG: but its not really my secret to tell!
TG: yeah okay
TG: just dont get yourself involved in any serious shit
GG: okay dave! i promise to be careful
GG: ill keep my gun on me at all times!
TG: ok not when youre out in public idiot
TG: people get arrested for that
TG: anyway so where are you exactly
TG: like a city or something throw me a bone here
GG: uh, yeah!
GG: were really close to jasper i think???
GG: jasper nevada
TG: no idea where thats at but okay
TG: is it close to vegas
GG: i have no idea :|
TG: of course not
GG: anyway sorry dave but i am really tired!
GG: i promise I will talk to you more tomorrow but today i am about to fall asleep
TG: yeah ok
TG: thats understandable
GG: thanks dave :)
GG: and im sorry i cant tell you more!
TG: its cool i get it
TG: super secret spy shit or whatever
GG: uhh something like that!
GG: anyway good night dave
TG: yeah night
gardenGnostic [ GG ] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [ TG ]
Jade yawned, this time not even trying to hide it. She closed her lunchtop, set it on the floor next to the couch, and buried herself in her blankets. She was too tired to care about anything and fell asleep almost as soon as she shut her eyes.
Chapter 5: Enter the Coolkid
Dave Strider pushed his chair away from his desktop computer as the green name illuminated on his chumroll faded to gray. He carefully slipped the shades on his face away from his eyes long enough to rub them tiredly. Finally, FINALLY Jade decided to get back online, and then she started spouting cryptic bullshit about being suddenly in Nevada, and that she couldn't tell him why because it "wasn't her secret to tell."
No. That wasn't even what bothered him the most. What really irritated him was the fact that he didn't know who these "nice people" were, or how "nice" they might actually be. He wanted to find out who the "mean people" who fucked up her house were, too, so that he could kick their asses, but that was less imperative. No, what really bothered him was that he didn't know if she was really safe, or if she just thought she was.
Without really thinking, Dave scooted closer to his computer again and started looking up how to reach Jasper, Nevada from Houston. It wasn't too bad of a drive. It would take seventeen hours to get there and back, and he—well, he had the money for gas now. He'd been saving, along with John and Rose, every penny he could for the last three years in hopes of making enough between them to take a plane or a boat out to that island, grab Jade, and bring her back to civilization. Namely, the US.
Even after so long, they weren't anywhere near their goal, but that was a moot point. For whatever reason, Jade was in Nevada now, and Nevada was a hell of a lot more easily accessible than a remote island in the Pacific. Dave had the means to get to Nevada. He printed out the Map Quest directions. He'd have to skip school, but that wasn't a big deal.
Bro had understood his plans even better than Dave had expected him to. In spite of his general lax attitude, he'd always been a hardass when it came to school. To Dave's surprise, he'd even offered to call Dave in sick.
"If it wasn't important, you wouldn't have asked," Bro had said. "Now, if I find out you actually went to Las Vegas, I'll kick your ass for not bringing me along." As a result, Dave was able to leave the next day.
Dave didn't tell Jade anything about his plans. He wanted to surprise her, but he was also afraid she would set things up so that he couldn't meet her "friends " if he told her. It would also likely mean he'd have to search for her, but he was prepared for that.
Although he'd left pretty early in the morning, it wasn't until late in the evening that he finally reached Jasper. It was all he could do, after a day of driving, to find a cheap motel and crash for the night. The next morning, he renewed his search. Unfortunately, Jasper was a small town. Even on a Saturday morning, it was pretty quiet. He found a school, some various shops, a grocery store, and a burger joint that somehow hadn't gotten bought out by McDonalds or Burger King yet. There were houses, too, but Dave didn't see much point in lingering around those. Jade had said she lived near Jasper, not in. Finally, he bit the bullet and pulled into KO burger. He pulled out his phone, planning to message her on Pesterchum, only to find that she wasn't on.
"Dammit," he hissed, sitting back in the seat. "What am I supposed to do, sit around in the truck until she decides to get on?" He waited for a few seconds for inspiration to hit him (or for Jade to miraculously get on), but neither happened. Instead, his attention was caught by the guy leaving the restaurant. He looked to be about Dave's age, wearing the uniform of the restaurant. He was just an average employee. What Dave primarily noticed, though, was that the guy was walking towards a motorcycle. A pretty sweet motorcycle, truth be told, though Dave would have gone for red and black instead of blue and pink.
That was when it occurred to Dave that it wouldn't hurt to ask about Jade. If she knew Jasper was here, even if she didn't live here, some of the locals might know who she was. At the least, they might recognize a description of her. As the kid was pulling off an apron, Dave hopped out of the truck, stuck his hands in his pockets, and started to walk over.
"Hey," he said. The other boy started, pulling off the rest of the apron. He watched Dave uneasily.
"Uh, hi," he said in response.
"You know a girl named Jade Harley?" Dave asked. "Long black hair, green eyes, big glasses, natural tan. Ring a bell?" He noted that the other boy's eyes widened a little in recognition when Dave gave her name and description, but then he looked away.
"Sorry," the other boy said. "Never heard of her." He clenched the apron in his fist and threw one leg over the bike, obviously intending to drive away. He couldn't see it, but Dave's eyes were narrowed behind the shades. Dave covered the distance between them (just a few feet, no big deal) in less than half a second and put a hand on one of the handle bars. The boy looked up at him in shock.
"And you're a terrible liar," Dave said in a deadpan voice. "Where is she?"
"I told you, I have no idea who you're talking about," the boy growled back. "So hands off the bike!" Grudgingly, Dave released his grip, but he was far from done.
"I'm a friend of hers," he said carefully. "Dave Strider. Ask her, and she'll verify it. I just want to make sure she's okay."
"That's nice, but I don't—" the boy started to say, but he was cut off by the squeal of tires. They both whirled as a green SUV swerved suddenly into the parking lot, skidding across the pavement. Dave raised an eyebrow, but a glance at the other kid told him what he needed to know. The kid recognized the car.
The SUV drove in a wide loop until it came to a quick stop almost directly in front of them. As soon as it did, the back door burst open, and a black and green blur all but tackled Dave.
"Dave!" Jade screeched, wrapping both arms around his chest and gave him a bear hug, in spite of being a good head shorter.
"Sup, Jade," he managed to gasp out with his remaining air. He stepped back and finally got a good look at her.
She was better cleaned up than what he remembered from the webcam pictures and the frequent Skype calls. Her hair was a hell of a lot shorter, for one, and the bright Nevada sun brought out the streaks of green like nothing else. Her clothes were different, too: a blouse decorated with blue flowers and a knee-length skirt.
"You're taller than I thought you'd be!" She said with surprise. "And you don't look out of place with those shades now!
"Yeah, well, look at you. Since when did you dye your hair?" He asked.
"Wait, what the heck is going on?" The boy on the motorcycle cut in angrily. He climbed off of it and tossed his apron to the ground.
"Shh, let them have their moment!" Dave looked up to see a girl sitting half out of the front passenger seat of the SUV, looking amused.
"Oh! Dave, this is Jack and Miko! They're some friends I've made here in Nevada." Jade gestured to each in turn. "Miko, Jack, this is Dave Strider! He's one of my best friends." She then faltered a bit and shot Dave a bemused look. "But why are you here?"
"I came to see you, dumbass," Dave replied. "You think I'd miss the chance to see you in person? And besides that, I want to find out what the hell is going on." Jade looked confused, and, Dave noted, Jack and Miko looked a little nervous.
"What do you mean, what's going on?" Jade asked.
"C'mon, Jade," Dave said, "did you honestly think I would just accept your vague story over Pesterchum? I want to find out who these 'nice people' that you're staying with are and how exactly you got here from the middle of the fucking ocean." Jade sighed.
"Dave," she said, "I told you, I can't—"
"I can't even meet them? Jade, I'm not letting this go. We—Egbert, Lalonde, and me—until recently, we were the only ones who knew you existed, and now that you're someplace else, we're not going to just forget about you and hope you're okay. We're gonna watch out for you. And if you'd told Egbert or Lalonde first, they would have done the same thing."
"I know, but—" Jade began.
"Also," Dave added, "does it have anything to do with the fact that the SUV doesn’t have a driver?" He pointed to the driver's seat beyond Miko, which was quite obviously empty. Jade, Jack, and Miko exchanged hesitant looks.
"Alright," someone finally said. Dave looked around. The voice didn't belong to any of the kids. It was pretty obviously an adult woman's voice. Then, to his shock, Jack's motorcycle started moving on its own. It turned around to face them, and it was all Dave could do to act like he wasn't stunned.
"We'll tell you what's going on," the motorcycle (woman?) continued. "It's obvious that you won't leave until we do, and it's better just to tell you and make you swear to secrecy than to let you snoop around and try to find out the truth on your own."
"Are you sure Optimus will go for that?" This was another voice, a man's, and it came, a little unsurprisingly at this point, from the SUV.
"He'll understand," the motorcycle assured him. Then, she turned her headlights back to Dave. "But understand this, human. If you ever betray us, or spread knowledge about us, I'll take care of you personally." Internally, Dave shivered. Something about the tone of the motorcycle's voice convinced him that she was serious, and he didn't particularly want to find out what she could do.
"Sure," he said aloud nonchalantly. "As long as I find out what the fuck is going on."
"Good," she replied. "Then follow us. Jack, let's go." Jack shot another searching look at Dave before climbing on the motorcycle.
"Miko, Jade," the SUV said. Miko nodded, but paused to get in when Jade went to Dave first. She grabbed his hand, squeezed it once, and spoke quietly.
"I'm sorry I worried you," she said. "But you'll see what's going on real soon." Then, she released him and got in the SUV. Miko grinned and pulled herself in as well, but Dave ignored it. He got into his truck instead, hand still tingling a little from where she'd squeezed it.
Dave followed the motorcycle and SUV through the streets of Jasper and, eventually, out of it and into the desert. Dave was beginning to wonder exactly where they were going when both the motorcycle and the SUV started driving straight for a rock face. Just as Dave started to slow down to avoid a crash, an automatic door lifted up from the rock face, easily big enough for all three of them to pass through. Dave drove through it hesitantly and found himself in a hall of steel, lit by florescent lights. Dave was beginning to wonder exactly what he was getting into.
They finally came to a huge open room. It looked reminiscent of a military base, only Dave noticed that the control panels were much larger than what any human could use. That alone set off red flags to Dave. There was a platform with human sized stars, and some computers that were more accommodating of humans, but that looked to be about it.
The motorcycle and SUV came to a stop and let off their passengers. But, as Dave started climbing out of his truck, they did more than that. They transformed. Dave literally stopped halfway out of his truck to watch as the two became humanoid robots that towered over the humans they were with. The motorcycle became a slender, shorter feminine robot while the SUV was a bulkier, taller one. Just as they finished, yet a third robot walked towards them. This one was designed in white and orange, and its (his) figure was with broader shoulders but less brawny than the SUV 'bot.
"Good, you're back, help me—" the new one began, until he caught sight of Dave half hanging out of his truck.
"Who is this?!" He all but yelled, pointing angrily. Dave picked up immediately that this guy, robot or not, apparently had a stick up his ass. Dave climbed the rest of the way out of the truck as the new robot turned to the others. "You brought ANOTHER human here? As if we didn't have enough of them running around!'
"Ratchet, calm down!" Jade yelled back. "This is Dave. He's a friend of mine." That seemed to calm the robot, Ratchet, down slightly. He still didn't look very happy.
"Look, I'm just here to find out what the fuck happened to Jade," Dave cut in. "Obviously, it's something pretty big. Motorcycle chick here said I'd get an explanation, provided I swore I'd take it to my grave or whatever. So?" The blue motorcycle 'bot glared at him, and Ratchet glared at her.
"My name is Arcee, not 'motorcycle chick,'" Arcee said irritably. She turned to Ratchet. "He came to ensure that Jade was safe. I could tell he cared about her, and although he's annoying, I thought he deserved an explanation." Ratchet looked at Dave.
"And how long have you known her that you would care about here so much?" Ratchet asked.
"Six years," Dave replied. "And how long have you known her?" Ratchet winced.
"Enough, Ratchet." Dave turned at the sound of a new, booming voice. From behind a door came yet another robot, this one primarily red and blue. Something about him screamed "leader" to Dave, something about the way that he held himself and how the others reacted to him.
"Optimus," Arcee said, stiffening.
"It's alright, Arcee," Optimus replied. "What has been done has been done. The important thing to do now is to properly explain why we are here." He knelt down close to Dave, looking directly at him. The boy started to feel nervous, like those bright blue robot eyes of his could see straight past Dave's shades and into his soul. Hell, Dave thought, maybe they could.
Dave listened intently as Optimus told him everything from the beginning. About the war, who they were fighting, and why. About how Jade got involved, and how she was living with them now. Dave wasn't immediately sure how to take it, but it was hard to doubt. Not with the proof of it right in front of him, and Jade agreeing with every word.
"Alright, so you guys are nice and all, but what do you know about taking care of a teenager?" He asked, folding his arms over his chest. "Yeah, she's kind of a weird kid, but she's going to have to find a way to live on her own eventually. That means school, and college. Not to mention food and clothes." He stared back at Optimus, waiting for a reply. "Do you guys even have any money?"
"No," Optimus admitted. "And schooling had not occurred to us, either—"
"If she goes to school, she's gotta have an address and a guardian. And my guess is that you don't exactly want people knowing that you're here, and it'd cause a bit of trouble if one of you showed up for a parent teacher conference," Dave added.
"Then what would your suggestion be to remedy this?" Optimus asked.
"You don't have to go to all that trouble—" Jade began, but Dave cut her off.
"Yes, they do," he said. "Jade, you can't function without schooling and, eventually, a job. These guys may be nice and all, but you can't depend on them your entire life." He turned back to Optimus. "I'd be hitting up that FBI friend of yours. He probably owes you a favor. Get money, maybe some paperwork on Jade. Explain the situation, and he'll probably know what to do, or where to start."
"Yes," Optimus said, standing as he did. "I believe Agent Fowler may help us with this. Your are a wise young man, Dave." Dave shrugged.
"I'm just looking out for Jade," he replied.
"We understand that," Optimus said. "We want to do what is best for her as well, but sometimes that is difficult when we do not fully understand human culture."
"As long as someone's doing something about it," Dave said.
"How long can you stay?" Jade asked, cutting in. Dave shrugged.
"I'll probably need to get going soon." he admitted.
"But you just got here! How long does it take to get back?"
"About seventeen hours, give or take," he said. Jade looked aghast.
"You mean you drove seventeen hours to get here? How did you make it that long?"
"Perseverance and the promise of seeing your beautiful face," he replied with a smirk, and Jade laughed.
"Well, couldn't Ratchet ground bridge you home? That would be a lot quicker!" She suggested.
"Now wait a minute," Ratchet cut in. "Our energon supply is severely limited. We don't have enough to waste on—"
"Ratchet," Optimus cut in, "I believe we have enough for one short trip." Ratchet looked like he wanted to argue more, but he finally begrudgingly nodded.
"Wait, what's a ground bridge?" Dave asked.
"It's a portal that can take you anywhere on Earth instantaneously!" Jade said excitedly. "It's how I was able to get here from my island."
"Okay then," Dave said.
"Anyway, it means you can stay longer!" She gave him another hug. He stiffened in response, but accepted it without a word. Finally, she relinquished him and grabbed his arm. "C'mon! I want to show you around the base!" He let her drag him along. Jack and Miko followed. Miko began chattering to Dave immediately, asking him about his favorite music. She was ecstatic about the fact that he did his own mixing, and even more when Dave told her that he had heard of many of her favorite Japanese metal bands. Both girls told him excitedly about all the Transformers, including Bumblebee, the one who was currently gone. He was out with Raf, the fourth kid who knew about the Autobots.
Jack was a lot more reserved. He didn't say much, and seemed to do his best to simply avoid Dave. When he did speak, it was usually something sarcastic. Dave noticed, though, that Jade and Miko seemed oblivious. He didn't entirely want to leave on bad terms with Jack, and though it took some doing, Dave finally got them alone while Jade and Miko left to find a video game.
"Hey," Dave said. "Jack, right?"
"I'm surprised you even remember it," the other boy replied coldly. Dave sighed.
"Look, if this is about pressing you for info about Jade—"
"More about you forcing your way in here," Jack snapped back.
"Like I said, I'm just looking out for Jade," Dave said. "You guys can have your little secret base here. I'm only going to stay here for a while, and then I'll be headed off back to Texas."
"Then why don't you go?" Jack said.
"Because of Jade," Dave replied. "This is the first time I've gotten a chance to see here face-to-face. We've known each other for forever, and I've seen pictures and shit, but it's not that same. You think I'm going to abandon the opportunity to spend some time with her?"
"I guess not," Jack admitted.
"Anyway," Dave said, "I wanted to ask you to do something for me." Jack stiffened.
"What?" He asked tersely.
"Watch after Jade when I'm gone," Dave said. Jack's eyebrows went up in surprise.
"What for? She can take care of herself, probably better than we can."
"With fighting and shit, maybe," Dave admitted. "But she's going to be going to school for the first time. She doesn't know shit about people and how big an asshole most of them can be. We never told her much about bullies or anything like that. The only exposure she's had to them are internet trolls, and I can tell you, she didn't take them well."
"What would you know about bullies?" Jack said snidely. "You look more like the type to be doing it." Dave blinked. So this was the guy's issue? He thought he was some sort of prep? Dave sighed.
"Shows how much you know," he said. "I'm not a jock or a prep. I'm not good at sports, and I don't have a lot of money. And I was pretty damn awkward until I hit about fifteen." He shrugged. For a long moment, Jack didn't say anything.
"Sorry," he said finally. "I guess I just sort of assumed."
"It's cool. That was sort of the point, but I didn't want to leave here with you hating me for something that wasn't even true." Jack looked as though he was about to say something in response, but he was cut off when the girls came back. Regardless, for the rest of the afternoon, Jack was a little less icy and a little more open.
However, the time soon came when Dave had to leave. It was getting later in the afternoon, and Dave knew it was nearly the time when Bro was expecting him back.
"You'll come back, Right?" Jade asked hopefully. "Ratchet can bridge you here!" Ratchet spluttered, as if to say "I'll do no such thing!" but Dave just shrugged.
"We'll see, Harley, but if things work out, you'll be busy with schoolwork pretty soon." Jade looked crestfallen, but she smiled regardless.
"You better come back!" Miko said. "And bring your mixing gear! We'll have a jam session!"
"I'll see what I can do," Dave said. He finished getting in the truck, started it, and rolled down the window.
"Since you have not been seen by Decepticons, I do not think you will require our protection from them," Optimus said as Ratchet locked onto the coordinates they'd found for Dave.
"That's cool," Dave replied. "We don't get much in the way of giant robots down in Texas, so I think I'll be fine." As the ground bridge started up, Dave turned to the kids. "Seeya Jade, Miko. And Jack—don't forget what I asked you." With that, he rolled up the window, revved the engine of his truck, and sped through the bridge. He was transported to a deserted area not far outside Houston, from where he could easily get home.
"What did he mean, 'what I asked you'?" Jade said, turning to Jack.
"Oh, uh, nothing," the other boy replied. "Just guy stuff."
"Now Jade," Ratchet said, walking over to where they stood as the ground bridge fizzled out. "You don't have any other annoying human friends who are going to come and demand you tell them what is going on, do you?" Jade visibly flinched at that.
"Dave did say something about two more friends," Arcee added.
"I, uh, might have told my friend John?" She admitted. "But not Rose! I won't say a thing to her, I promise!" Ratchet just groaned.
turntechGodhead [ TG ] began pestering ectoBiologist [ EB ]
TG: hey egbert
TG: seriously i know youre on
TG: fucking talk to me douche
TG: anyway i just got back from driving to see harley
TG: im assuming she told you shes in nevada by now
TG: i know she probably gave you all the cryptic bullshit but shes fine
TG: its all checked out and approved by dave strider
TG: shes good to go and ready to party at vegas
EB: oh! haha, well that's funny.
EB: i just so happen to be halfway to jasper!
EB: when she was saying all that stuff about secrets she couldn't tell me and her house being destroyed, i got kind of worried.
EB: so i got the okay from my dad to go visit her!
Chapter 6: Never Drive At Night (Or You'll Get Captured By Decepticons)
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Night had fallen on the desert landscape, and John Egbert was still at least an hour out of the Nevada city with the Holiday Inn where his dad had booked him a room. He probably shouldn't have tried to get in so much driving in one day, especially when he was known for driving carefully (not slowly!). He was dead tired, and the darkness sure as heck wasn't helping. He barely noticed the monolithic shadows of rocks or the silhouettes of cacti along either side of him as he drove, getting slowly closer to the smudge of light on the horizon that was his destination.
Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if the douchebag behind him would turn off his brights and finally pass him. It was too dark to even tell who might be in the car or what color it was, but it had been following John for several miles, and in all that time they hadn't passed another car going in the opposite direction. John had actually slowed down some in an attempt to get the guy to pass, but no such luck. He simply stayed there, his front bumper appearing to be glued to John's rear.
Okay, so maybe John was a little irritable when he was tired. It happened to the best of people.
Truth be told, he was pretty excited. After all, he would be seeing Jade for the first time tomorrow. However, he was too tired to be as excited as he was earlier in the day, and now all he wanted was a bed to sleep in. And this guy wouldn't get off his ass.
"Jackass," John hissed. He'd no sooner said it than finally, FINALLY, the guy started to pull over into the other lane. John took his foot off the pedal then, hoping to get the guy past him sooner, but instead, the other car simply pulled up along side him. John got a slightly better look at it from that direction: it was a sports car, definitely, and a nice one. It was still too dark to really see the color, though. Not matter how much he slowed down, the other car stayed even with him. Starting to feel a little worried, John sped up instead, but the sports car remained even then as well. Then, it decided to inch closer to him.
The other car was trying to push him off the road. That was the only conclusion that John could come to as it continued to rush closer, threatening to collide. He did the only thing that immediately came to mind—unfortunately, that was also exactly what the other driver wanted him to do. He drove off the road.
The area next to the road was little more than parched dirt and dust, scattered with the occasional, and mostly dead, plant. John only really noticed the latter when he ran them over because of the sound of dead branches scratching along his car. However, he wasn't particularly worried about those. He was more worried about the fact that the car was still sliding towards him. The same frantic thoughts kept running through his head, that this person was part of a gang and that they were running him off the road to rob him and kill him and rape him or something, and that this whole idea had been horrible. Why did he decide to go on this road trip again? What was wrong with him? He couldn't think of anything else to do, any better method of evasion, so he continued driving out into the desert wilderness.
Then, almost as suddenly as the other car began threatening to run into him, it left off. John was still able to follow the path of its headlights as it let him draw ahead. He tried to take the opportunity to turn back towards the road, but he didn't see the cactus until he drove straight into it. John didn't realize just how sturdy cacti were—this one was big enough to be like hitting a tree. John jerked forward, straining against the seat belt and feeling like he'd been socked in the chest. A second later, the airbag popped open and smashed into his face. The wind shield cracked on impact, and all it took was the force of an upper branch of the cactus falling to shatter it. John threw up his arms just as shards of glass rained down from above, some tearing bloody gashes on his arms and face. Finally, everything settled. John was left feeling battered and bruised, and his car was probably totaled, but at least he was still alive. Then, amongst the tinkling of glass on the floor, John heard the sound of huge footsteps.
They weren't just footsteps—there was on odd, mechanical whirring along with it, like some kind of giant mechanized contraption. John glanced at the rearview mirror to see a pair of robotic legs standing just behind his car. Less than a second later, a matching robot hand came smashing down on the front of his already severely abused car. Another snaked its fingers into the hole left by the shattered windshield and yanked the top of the car upwards, tearing it away with a deafening screech of metal. John could do little more than look upwards in shock into the glowing red eyes of the robot towering above him. It grinned with what John couldn't describe as anything other than malicious glee, but slowly, the smirk subsided. Before John could react, the robot plucked him out of the car. The seat belt that had stopped him from flying through the wind shield was hardly helpful when he was being pulled upward. The robot brought him up to face level.
"You're not the human I was looking for," it said.
"I… what?" John replied. The robot gave him a scathing look.
"I said, you're not the human I was looking for. You look a lot like her, but you're not even female." He, for the robot certainly sounded male, continued to stare at him for a moment, as though analyzing him. "Your hair isn't long enough, either, and your optic magnifiers are the wrong shape, but your face is very similar," he added. "Also, you don't have a gun." He glared at John as if it was somehow his fault. John, however, was more interested in the description.
"That sounds like my friend Jade! How do you know her?" He asked excitedly.
"She shot my face," the robot replied angrily.
"Oh," John said, all excitement gone. If Jade had been fighting this robot, then…
"But you know her, don't you?" The robot said. Slowly, a sly smile spread across his face. "And when one of Optimus's pet humans is squealing in his audio receptors, he'll do just about anything for them. Maybe I won't kill you after all."
"You were going to kill me?" John asked, his voice suddenly high pitched with fear.
"Quiet, human, or might change my mind," the robot snapped back. Then, as though addressing someone else, he said, "Steve, open up a bridge to my location. I've found something… interesting." A few seconds later, to John's amazement, a huge portal, swirling green and white and blue, opened up in front of them. The robot, by comparison, didn't seem amazed at all. From the light of the portal, John could see more of the robot's features. He was mostly red, and on his chest plate was a pair of headlights, which finally drove home to John the fact that the car that had been following him was this robot. That was all he had time to notice before the robot stepped, with John in tow, into the portal.
The vortex of light seemed to close up behind them. It was hard to get a real good look around, since the robot was holding him around his middle and he couldn't exactly turn, but John could tell that much. A speck of darkness opened before them and grew gradually larger until the robot was stepping out of the portal entirely and into a metal room. There were stark lights above them, but to John, after the brightness of the portal, it looked bleak and depressing. Monitors displaying figures that John couldn't begin to understand glowed gently, but most of John's attention was focused on yet another robot slinking towards them. In comparison to the robot that captured him, mostly red with broad shoulders, this one was lanky, looking almost sinister. It was more silver, and, John noticed, it looked as though it had high heels. John thought it might be a girl robot, if that was even possible, until it spoke.
"Your object of interest is a human, Knockout?" The voice was almost grating to John's ears, but it was certainly masculine. "Don't tell me that you think keeping fleshlings around like the Autobots will give us an edge over them." The comment was mocking, and the way the new robot stared at him certainly didn't make John feel any safer.
"Hardly," Knockout replied. "It's a 'friend' of one of the Autobots' pests. It seems to me that we can use it as leverage."
"How do you know that it is?" The other snapped back.
"It told me," Knockout replied. "Does it look like it's able to come up with a good lie? It's terrified." The second robot bent down closer to John, his face only a foot away. John didn't try to hide his terror, hoping that maybe that would convince them he was being truthful.
"I suppose not," the robot said, pulling away. John heaved a mental sigh of relief. "But have it locked up. I'll see exactly what it knows, once I have a chance to talk to Optimus."
"Of course, Starscream," Knockout replied with a mock bow. "But shouldn't you consult Lord Megatron before acting?" Starscream scowled.
"You'll mind your own business, Knockout, and keep this finding between you and me. This is my chance to renew my favor with Megatron." Knockout simply chuckled darkly as he carried John away and down the hall, like he doubted that Starscream had much chance in that. Whoever Megatron was.
The two eventually entered a nearly empty room. It was only dimly lit, with an array of what looked like heavy metal bracelets, among other not so pleasant-looking things, set out on a long table. Knockout picked up the smallest pair and said, curtly, "Hold your arms out." John, deciding that playing along would do him more good than struggling, obliged. Knockout snapped the metal bracelets, which John finally realized were actually handcuffs, over his wrists, but the robot scowled.
"You humans have scrawny wrists, but they ought to hold," he said. He carried John over to a pair of strange electrical-looking devices hanging from the ceiling. He held John up, and, almost immediately, blue electricity shot out of them and seized the cuffs, leaving John hanging up in the air by his arms. John flinched from the pain in his shoulders, but he did his best to stay silent. Knockout didn't miss the expression, though.
"Comfortable?" He asked sarcastically. "Just wait until Starscream comes to see you. He'll make sure you're very comfortable." He laughed sadistically as he turned away and left through the automatic doorway. John didn't like the sound of it, any more than he liked the look of the tools lying out on the table with the handcuffs. They looked like torture devices. And Starscream had said that he would "see exactly what it knows." John needed to escape this room before that.
He started with just one wrist. Like Knockout had said, the cuffs were still pretty loose. They may have been made for slender-wristed robots, but definitely not humans. It didn't take much wriggling before he got one free. Doing so apparently broke the circuit for the electrical chains; he fell, handcuffs and all, to the ground below. It was a long drop, but thankfully nothing he couldn't survive. John fell on his backside, and though he was quite sure he'd have a bruise there, he could get up and walk. He slid the remaining cuff off his other wrist and began to search the room.
There was nothing else but the table and the door, and, while it would have been nice to grab one of the devices off the table to use as a weapon, it was too high for him to reach. It was an odd situation, not being able to reach the top of a table, and one John hadn't thought he'd ever find himself in. Luckily, walking up to the automatic door still opened it, so he slinked out into the hallway.
No one was coming from either direction. He stepped carefully, trying make as little noise as possible, as he searched for a place to hide or, even better, a place to use to escape from. He came to a turn, but, when he glanced around the corner, he saw a pair of matching purple robots walking briskly towards him. He pulled away quickly and looked frantically for a place to hide, but there was none near by—until he caught sight of a grate. The grate, John reasoned, had to lead to a vent. He scampered towards it, only to find that the slots in the grate were fairly small. They seemed just big enough for him to fit through, but it was hard to tell exactly. He didn't have time to guesstimate, so he pushed his head in.
It was a tight fit, but he just made it. As soon as he had squeezed through, he heard the heavy footsteps of the robots turning the corner and walking past. He sighed with relief and then took a better look at where he found himself.
It was a vent alright, a long metal vent. There were no lights of any kind farther in, but it seemed safer to John than the hallways, where he could run into more robots. The only things he could think of that might be running around in vents were mice or rats, and since he wasn't sure where exactly he was, he didn't know if either were possible. Maybe robotic rodents? He hoped not. That would be strange, and a little scary. Regardless, he had to keep moving. Pulling out his phone to use as a light source and keeping one hand on the metal wall, John began his trek through the depths of the vent system.
Jade awoke suddenly to an incessant beeping noise. She sat up immediately in her makeshift bed on the couch, knocking over her squiddle plush as she instinctively reached for her gun. She looked around blearily, trying to find the source of the noise, before it finally occurred to her to put on her glasses.
The alarm was coming from the monitors. On the screen was an image of an African American man that Jade didn't recognize. Ratchet, though, who still seemed to be awake (or at least woken up by the alarm like she was) appeared to know him. He pressed a button and spoke irritably.
"What do you want, Agent Fowler?" Jade recognized that name. Didn't Optimus say that Agent Fowler was the guy from the FBI that was in contact with the Autobots?
"What I want is for you to deal with these 'Cons!" A voice snapped back. "We've got an issue. They've kidnapped someone.
"What?!" Ratchet exclaimed. "A human? Who?"
"They don't say," said Fowler. "We only found out because of a one-way transmission they sent to us. They said that the kid's a friend of one of your kids. And if you don't contact them ASAP, they'll kill whoever it is."
"Scrap!" Ratchet pounded a fist on the control panel. "I'll get Optimus online. We'll deal with this.
"You have to," Fowler replied darkly. "We've already tried to make contact, but they won't give us the time of day. Keep me posted." The communication disconnected, and Ratchet rushed away. Jade was fairly sure he didn't even realize that she was awake, let alone that she'd heard the exchange. She laid her gun across her lap and huddled in her blankets, feeling useless. Who did the Decepticons have? One of the other kids' friends? Or one of hers? She immediately thought of Dave. He was the only one who knew about the Transformers, after all. She pulled out her lunchtop.
Jade found that Dave was online and fine at home in Texas. Ratchet had come back with Optimus and the other Autobots by that time.
"It's not Dave," she said as they did, and Optimus nodded.
"That was my fear, but it is good that he is safe," Optimus replied. Then, they began to speak amongst one another, and Jade focused on her conversation with Dave.
TG: man i pity the idiot that got picked up by the evil gundams
TG: they sounded like bad news
GG: evil gundams?
GG: but yeah i hope theyre alright! id hate to hear that the decepticons did something awful
TG: hey speaking of idiots
TG: have you heard from john yet tonight
GG: oh! no not at all
GG: but you said he was coming?
TG: yeah and he said he would text me when he got to the hotel
TG: but he hasnt yet
GG: really? its super late!
TG: yeah but he probably fell straight asleep after driving all day
Jade was about to respond when she heard a voice she didn't recognize. When she looked up, she found Optimus staring intently at one of the monitors. It was there that the coarse voice was coming from.
"Optimus," it drawled. "So the humans sent my message to you?"
"Yes, Starscream," Optimus replied. "Who is the human you claim to have captured?
"Hah, you expect me to know the human's name?" The Decepticon replied haughtily. "He has dark hair and those optic magnifiers that so many of those humans wear. That's all I can tell you." Jade's heart dropped into her stomach at that comment. That sounded a little like…
"What do you want in return?" Optimus asked.
"You." There was no mistaking the demand. "Contact me again in three hours. If you do, we'll discuss our rendezvous point. If you don't, I'll kill the human. It's all quite simple, Optimus."
"And what do you need three hours for?" Optimus snapped back.
"To interrogate the human, of course." There was too much humor in Starscream's voice for Jade. She swallowed dryly. The communication cut off.
"Slag!" Arcee growled. "He's going to torture him, that sick—"
"Calm down, Arcee," Optimus said, placing a hand on her shoulder. She seemed to calm slightly, but her hands were still clenched into fists. "He said he would not kill the human if we conceded with his demands. In the mean time, we can try to stage a rescue."
"A rescue?" Ratchet scoffed. "We don't even know who the human is! Or if there is one!" At that moment, Jade got a new message on Pesterchum. It wasn't from Dave, she noted with surprise, but from John.
ectoBiologist [ EB ] began pestering gardenGnostic [ GG ]
EB: oh thank god you're on.
GG: what is it john?
GG: i thought youd be asleep by now!
EB: haha, yeah, me too!
EB: but listen. i got taken hostage by these giant robots, and one of them said you shot him in the face!
"John," Jade whispered, the obviousness of his statement hitting her all at once. Of course none of them had heard from him! And worse yet, he had no idea how much trouble he was in.
"Optimus!" She yelled, ignoring the fact that the Autobots were still talking. "I know who they have! It's John!"
This part of CB is only going to have one more chapter! Then I, draconicAlgorithm, am handing the reins over to akwritings. She'll be writing the entirety of the next part, with suggestions and editting and plot discussion from me, as we've been doing with this part. It will be another story, but in the same series.
Chapter 7: Putting Together the Pieces
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
ectoBiologist [ EB ] began pestering gardenGnostic [ GG ]
EB: oh thank god you're on.
GG: what is it john?
GG: i thought youd be asleep by now!
EB: haha, yeah, me too!
EB: but listen, i got taken hostage by these giant robots, and one of them said you shot him in the face!
GG: oh nooooooo
GG: john how did you get captured by decepticons???
EB: decepticons? whoa, they sound kind of cool.
GG: no theyre not cool! theyre mean and they are the ones that destroyed my house >:(
GG: especially the one i shot!
EB: hey, i'm not arguing! hostage, remember?
EB: i mean i sort of got away. half way away.
GG: how do you only get halfway away?
EB: well, they tried keeping me hostage with these weird handcuff things, but they weren't really small enough for me and i was able to slip out.
EB: so now i'm in the vents of their base or whatever. i think we took this weird green portal to get here, so i have no idea where i am.
GG: im pretty sure that the only base the decepticons have is their ship :(
EB: like a space ship? that's kind of awesome!
GG: and really hard to escape from!! D:
GG: but i think i have an idea…
GG: well its sort of complicated
GG: just when i tell you to jump through another green portal make sure to do it!
EB: uh, ok!
EB: but how do you know so much? and what's with the portal?
GG: it has to do with why im in nevada!
GG: long story short i am living with the autobots who are the decepticons enemies
GG: they are also giant robots
EB: i guess that makes as much sense as anything else right now.
GG: anyway just stay away from the decepticons for as long as you can ok?
GG: it is going to take a while to set things up on this side
EB: ok, i'll stay in the vents for now. no one can follow me in here!
GG: just be careful!
GG: im going to go but stay connected so that i can tell you when to look for the portal
John sighed as he slipped his phone back into his pocket. He'd almost forgotten he'd even had it until he got a call from his dad after walking past a few bends in the vents. He'd had to lie, of course, about why he was so late in calling back, but once he'd gotten off the phone, he was able to start pestering Jade. Luckily, Jade knew more of what was going on than he did, and she was going to get him help. Or a portal, which was as good as help.
He briefly considered chatting with Dave, but he didn't know what Dave knew about all this, or how much of it was a secret Jade was trying to keep. Although, Dave had said that he had checked out what was going on with Jade…
John shook his head. Anyway, he was too antsy to sit and talk. He didn't know how long it would take for them to find out he was gone, and he wanted to be as far away as he could. He'd sat down in a corner to talk to Jade, but he stood now and started walking quickly.
He still had his phone out to see by, but even with it, he couldn't make out much in the darkness. He took every turn he came across and tried to remember them all, but he soon gave up. Maybe, he thought, if he got himself thoroughly lost, no one else would be able to find him, either.
At some point, he realized that the vents were gently sloping up. They angled upwards more sharply at one point, and John nearly decided to go back and find a different route, until he noticed a patch of light at the top. It was the first illumination he'd seen since coming into the vent, so he began climbing towards it.
The slope made the going tough. He crawled most of the way up on hands and knees to keep traction and try not to make too much noise. He eventually reached the top, panting quietly. The opening that let in the light was only a little farther away, so he sat down next to it.
It was nice to be able to actually see again, but he flinched away from the light when he saw something moving in the room below. Then, he heard nearly silent metal footsteps. Slowly, John turned to look through the vent.
The grate in this room was much higher on the wall than the one in the hall. He could look down upon the room's occupants, even though they were both robots.
The first robot he noticed was one laid out on a metal slab. He was all red, aside from his yellow chest plate, and he appeared to be sleeping. His eyes were closed, at least. He (John had decided he looked pretty masculine) was also hooked up to tubes and wires that trailed away to meet a set of computers. He looked a lot like a very sick patient in John's mind. It surprised him a little. It seemed almost bizarre that robots could get sick, but then, computers could get viruses. Also, a little strangely, John saw that he had a symbol on his chest plate. It was sort of like a stylized face. His attention was drawn away from it when he saw the second robot move towards the first.
Its back was to John at first, as if it was doing something on the computers. It was dark purple, with broad, almost wing-like arms, but deft fingers. John guessed that it was a doctor, or maybe a nurse.
The doctor robot turned slowly, and when it did, John saw that in the place of its face was a shiny black surface. John wasn't sure if it was some kind of mask or shield, or if maybe the robot simply didn't have a face at all. It stalked over to the patient quietly, and if the room hadn't been silent except for the whir of computers, John was sure that he wouldn't have been able to hear it at all. It came to stand beside the sleeping robot and, gently, lifted a hand to run across the sleeping robot's cheek. John's eyes slowly widened. The action couldn't be interpreted as anything other than intimate, which boggled John's mind. Intimate robots? Could that really be a thing? Apparently, it was. The scene suddenly took on a very different meaning. It was like a movie where the talented doctor was racing against time to discover the cure for his wife's terrible illness—except, robots. Also, the wife was a husband. Was the doctor a girl? Or could robots be homosexual? John didn't know, and it didn't seem like the best time to ask. Regardless, something about it seemed to scream "photo opportunity." If nothing else, maybe he could joke with Dave about it being Robot General Hospital? He suppressed a giggle at that. He pulled out his phone and quickly snapped a picture.
Of course, he'd forgotten that his phone made noise whenever he took a picture. He froze, unsure if they could hear him or not. Luck wasn't with him that day. The doctor robot's head snapped up, and even though John couldn't see its eyes, if it even had any, he knew it saw him. He stood transfixed for a moment, and it hit him that this robot, for all that it was caring for this other one, was still his enemy. Then, a silver plate on the doctor robot's chest detached and flew at the grate. John choked back a scream and stumbled away before turning and running through the vents.
Even as he ran, John heard the grate being ripped open and something scrabbling its way inside. John kept running as fast as he could, but he was already getting tired. He needed sleep, and his body still ached from the crash. Adrenaline was giving him a boost, but he'd need to rest soon. He was jolted out of his thoughts by the sound of Pesterchum alerting him to a message. At least now it didn't matter if he made noise. He pulled out his phone quickly and glanced at the message, glad to see it was Jade.
GG: ok john were ready!
GG: you need to stay still for a moment so raf can track your phone signal
EB: uh, that's a little hard right now!
EB: i'm kind of running for my life!
"Raf!" Jade said, looking towards the boy. He was sitting on the floor in his pajamas, his hair a mess, but he was typing away on his laptop. A black cord connected it to Jade's lunchtop. Bumblebee had picked him up and brought him back to the base so that he could trace the signal from John's phone and use the coordinates in the ground bridge. "John's running from something," Jade went on. "He can't stay still!"
"Okay," the young boy said, never once stopping typing or looking away from his screen. "Just a moment…" Jade waited impatiently as the seconds ticked by, before finally Raf nodded. "He'll be running towards these coordinates. I'm sending them to Ratchet." He hit one more key, and an envelope instantly appeared on the center of the monitor of the base's computers.
"Got it," Ratchet said.
"Okay!" Jade replied.
GG: thats ok! we messed with things on our end
GG: youll be coming to a green portal
GG: just jump through it!
John was breathing heavily now. He was trying to pay attention to Jade's messages, but it was hard, and he was slowing down. Worse yet, the clacking of metal on metal of the robot thing following him was getting closer. He chanced a glance back, and his heart nearly stopped. It was closer than he thought. It was vaguely bird-like, but it was hunched over to maneuver in the vents, scrabbling forward on metal wings. What really terrified him, though, were the tentacles. Mechanical tentacles with clawed ends snaked towards him. He turned forward again, trying to get an extra burst of speed.
And then, the green portal like the one Knockout had dragged him through opened up. John leaped for it and into it—just as a tentacle closed its claws around his chest. He screamed in pain as the metal clenched his bruised chest, and when his feet hit the ground, his knees gave way. The tentacle started to pull him back, and he let it. The pain and exhaustion was too much. He couldn't fight anymore.
A pair of hands, human hands, grabbed his arm and pulled back against the tentacles.
"John!" A girl's voice yelled in his ear. "C'mon, John! Don't give up!" Grudgingly, and with the help of the hands, John pushed against the claws and stood. Every inch was agony, and the pulling seemed nearly impossible, but with help, he could make it. He flinched when he heard metallic footsteps, positive that one of the robots had followed him, but instead, the pulling on his chest lessened.
"I've got it," an older, masculine voice said. "Arcee! Pull the switch!" All at once, the green light faded. John carefully opened his eyes, but it was a struggle. He was so exhausted, they didn't want to stay open. A familiar face, a human one, met his gaze. Jade smiled broadly at him.
"You made it, John!" She said. "You're safe!"
"Yeah," he answered tiredly and looked behind him. A robot, white and orange, stood there, gazing down at the severed end of the tentacle that still gripped his chest.
"Soundwave," he said with the same voice that had spoken before. "You're lucky to have made it over, human." By this point, black was surrounding John's vision, turning into a tunnel of light that was steadily shrinking. He was going to pass out. He tried to say something, but his mouth wouldn't work right, so he quit trying. He closed his eyes and fell backwards into blissful darkness.
"Here." That was Jade. He felt the glasses being set on his nose, and suddenly, the world cleared up. He found himself facing a dark haired woman in nurse's scrubs, and Jade was standing beside her, smiling. What startled John was behind them: three robots. One was the white and orange one he'd seen behind him after getting through the portal, and the other two, one blue and red and the other a smaller blue one, he didn't recognize at all. Regardless, they frightened him. After everything that had happened with the robots that kidnapped him, he didn't want to see any more. He yelped in surprise and tried to push himself away, only to realize he was on a gurney and nearly pushed himself off. The woman and Jade rushed forward to steady him.
"What's wrong?" Jade asked.
"Robots!" John exclaimed. "Oh god, they followed me here!"
"No, John, you're fine!" Jade grabbed his hand. "They're friends of mine. They're not Decepticons!" Slowly, John calmed down.
"Decept—oh, right." He shook his head slightly. "You told me that was what they were called. The ones that held me captive. Then these guys are—"
"Autobots," the blue and red one finished for him. Its, or rather, his voice was deep. "We are enemies of the Decepticons—and friends of mankind." John was hesitant, but he nodded. In any case, they had helped him, and Jade trusted them, so he was inclined to as well. He lifted a hand to his head, trying to stave off a headache, only to notice his arms were covered in bandages.
"You cut your arms," the woman said. "My name is June, by the way. I'm a nurse, and my son, Jack, is a friend of the Autobots. When you collapsed, they brought me here to make sure you were okay."
"Yeah, I'm just… tired," John said. "All this confusing stuff about robots that are and aren't good is only making it worse. Can you just, like, start from the beginning? Like with why you are here in the first place?" This he addressed to the red and blue robot. To John, at least, he seemed like the leader. The robot nodded.
The red and blue Autobot, Optimus, introduced John to each of the other Autobots, which, John noticed, there weren't very many of, even though two more than he had originally noticed were in the room. Optimus explained the war, started by Megatron and his Decepticons, and how it finally came to Earth. Jade gave her own explanations, about how she came to be at the Autobot base, how Dave came to see her. Finally, John gave his story of the crash and resulting kidnapping.
"That explains your bruises and cuts," June said. "I was afraid the Decepticons had done that to you."
"They might have, given a chance," John replied. "They locked me up in what looked some kind of like a torture room."
"Oh, John, I'm so sorry!" Jade clasped his hand in both of hers, looking close to tears. "I wanted to keep you out of all this, and look what happened instead!"
"It's not your fault!" John assured her, and then laughed, if forcedly. "If we didn't look so weirdly similar, this wouldn't have happened at all!" He smiled, and she halfheartedly smiled back.
"Anyway," she said, "rest for a bit longer. I've got to go tell Dave what happened. He'll probably want to come see you, too."
"He'd better!" John said with a laugh. "With flowers, and a get well soon card!" Jade giggled.
"I'll tell him, but there's no guarantee!" She said as she walked away.
"John." John looked up as Optimus said his name. The other Autobots had trailed off, too, leaving just June and the Autobot leader with him. "After some thought, I believe it would be best if you stayed here at the Autobot base with use for a time."
"Why?" John asked. "I mean, I'm not driving home immediately, not with my car wrecked, but how long do you mean?"
"At least until your injuries have healed," Optimus said, and June nodded. "I fear that the Decepticons will continue to target you, and I don't have an Autobot to spare to look after you in Washington." John sighed.
"Yeah, though I'm not sure what I'm going to tell my dad."
"We'll think of something," Optimus said.
"By the way," John asked as something occurred to him, "how do you tell an Autobot from a Decepticon, anyway? I mean, other than just recognizing them as one or the other."
"We both wear specific insignias of our alignment," Optimus replied. He turned, showing John the face symbol embossed on his shoulder. "This is the Autobot insignia. The Decepticon insignia is different." John stared at it for a long moment.
"But… I saw a Decepticon with that symbol back in their base place," John said curiously. Optimus stared.
"What?" He asked. "Tell me what you saw." John blinked, surprised by Optimus's sudden forcefulness.
"I took a picture, actually," John said as he took out his phone. He showed it to Optimus, and the Autobot's expression hardened.
"Thank you, John," he said, not taking his eyes away from the picture on the screen. "It sounds as though you were not the only hostage held on this Nemesis this evening."
This is the last chapter of this volume! It was written by draconicAlgorithm, and the next will be written by akwritings, though we both work together on plotting and what not. A few notices for the second volume, though.
AK doesn't write as quickly as I have been. Updates will probably be happening much more slowly. Also, the next volume will be much more Transformer-centric. The "sick" Autobot will also be playing a large role. They are not anyone from TFP canon, but they are from the Transformers universe. Can anyone guess who?