I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for the reviews and your continued interest in this story. I appreciated it! I really do. :3

Chapter three - Everything is so not Fine

Arcee drove out of the small cave into the warming sunlight. The early morning sun cast long shadows across the land before her. Transforming, she stretched, slowly working out the kinks of having remained in vehicle mode all night. Ratchet had contacted her during the night, which had set her fears at ease. His message had just let her know that communications had been down due to a fault in the system but were back up and running again. She knew Jack would be glad to hear that things were alright. They weren't exactly in a position to pop back and help should anything occur. It also meant they were out there alone if they were the ones to run into trouble. But with any luck, that wouldn't be the case. They were on the final stretch to Base Maize and would reach it by nightfall. Then finally these humans would be safe.

Jack crawled out to stand beside her. "New day."


They stood side by side for a while, silently staring out over the landscape. Small hills dotted the relatively open land. They would be easily spotted out here should any Decepticons come looking. But they had no choice. They didn't have enough supplies to take the long way. The already strict rations wouldn't last more than a day.

"Guess I'd better wake the others," Jack started for the crevice when Arcee stopped him.

"Ratchet called," she knelt down, her expression for once relaxed and at ease. "Everything's alright. Said the Wreckers' rescue was a success too. They just have to get them back to the base."

The tension drained from his shoulders and a small smile of relief replaced his worry. "That's good."

Arcee nodded.

He smirked. "Shame we can't beat them back."

"Collect the others and we might not be far behind," she grinned, glad that his anxiety had lifted. He always worried about everyone's safety when they were away from the base.

Jack slipped back into the cave to begin rousing the humans and hand out the morning's rations. They had a long day ahead of them.

"Ugh, how much more walking do we have to do? And how come Hatchet and that bug haven't found us yet?"

Miko groaned. Of all the people to hang out with, why did Vince have to tag along with her? Oh yeah, because nobody else would listen to his complaining.

"I thought the bots said they were on their way."

Miko turned to glare at him. "Because it's a long way and they're not exactly driving over road. So why don't you go bother someone else for a change?"

"Hmph." Vince crossed his arms over his chest and stuck his nose in their air but didn't leave.

"Don't make me shoot you."

"You wouldn't dare."

"Wouldn't I?" she rested a hand on her pistol.

They glared at one another for few steps before Vince stumbled on the rough ground. He collected himself and huffed. "Fine. But not because you told me to. I'm leaving because I don't like you."

"Good, cause I don't like you much either. Finally something we can agree on."

Vince snarled and stormed off, grumbling to himself about spending the end of the world with a spoiled brat.

Miko snorted after him, for once glad about the peace and quiet. If only it had lasted longer.

"Everybody get down! Find cover!" yelled Bulkhead.

There was a moment of silence as the humans swallowed the idea. Then, as suddenly as it had begun, it was over. People screamed as everyone made a mad dash for whatever tree, bush or rock they could find.

Miko wanted to facepalm, but she didn't have the time. Instead she ran towards her partner. "Bulk! What is it?"

"What else? Cons."

No sooner had he said it, then she heard the sound of three jet engines flying towards them.

Wheeljack joined them "Coulda handled that a little better, Bulk." He snarled at the three figures and slipped the swords off his back. "Guess we'd should give them a proper welcome."

Slipping the pistol from her waist, Miko grinned, "Wrecker style."

"Think they know where we're headed?" asked Smokescreen as he walked up.

"Nah," Wheeljack's battle mask slipped into place. "They're just a patrol. And one that's gonna wish they didn't come this way." He charged forward with a battle cry, drawing their fire as the fliers came within range.

Vince appeared with his shotgun, "Let's do this!"

"Stay back. Protect the humans," ordered Bulkhead as he raced after Wheeljack.

Smokescreen gave the teens a playful salute as he trotted towards the battle. "Have fun guys."

"Take em down!" Miko yelled after them.

Vince huffed, scuffing a shoe in the dirt. "They always get to do all the fun stuff."

"Just stay on the lookout for more," snapped Miko. "We don't need one coming in and crushing the people we just rescued."

He snorted. "Whatever."

Shaking her head she walked off to check the perimeter.

Back at the fight, Wheeljack deflected a red blaster bolt with his sword and clicked on his comm. "Doc, I hope you're not nearby."

:: How many times? My name is not- ::

The Wrecker's blades slashed through the vehicon, its now lifeless body dropping to the ground.

:: Wheeljack, what's going on? :: Ratchet's voice had lost all it's anger, replaced by a dead seriousness.

"Had a few Cons drop by. Should be some more…" a blue-green vortex opened up nearby. "...coming right up…" Wheeljack grunted. "Looks like the party just got bigger." He swirled the sword in his right hand and smirked under his battle mask. "I suggest you don't drop by any time soon. It's a bit crowded. Best not stick around anywhere open either. Don't know if they've got more buddies up there."

:: Scrap, :: growled Ratchet.

Out of the ground bridge stepped Knock Out accompanied by seven more vehicons and three insecticons. The red medic twirled an energon prod in his hand, "It's always so nice to visit old friends. Where've you been hiding? I'd sure love to come visit."

"Like we'd ever invite you over," growled Bulkhead. He smashed his fists together. "But I'd be happy to trade paint with you right here."

"Then who am I to stop you. Have at em, boys."

Blaster fire rang out, forcing the Autobots to dodge the red bolts.

"It's not lookin good, Sunshine," Wheeljack called into his comm.

"Ah, come on. We got this." Smokescreen smirked, shooting down a vehicon. His cocky grin dropped as he heard the scream of an insecticon charging towards him. Running past Wheeljack he said, "Well, maybe we could use some help."

:: Just keep them busy, :: shouted Ratchet.

"Sure thing. Not sure what good it'll do though. Not like we can get the humans outta here. Can't even get ourselves outta here."

:: Leave that to me. ::

The comm clicked off and Wheeljack focused back on the fight. He wasn't sure what Ratchet had in mind, but whatever it was would have to be borderline on a miracle.

"You're kinda like a superhero."

The sudden voice surprised Jack. The small girl he was piggybacking hadn't said much during their journey. Elicia, as she was named, was younger than Raf. The blonde child was a foster kid before the Decepticons took over, and now she had no one. No one except the young brown haired woman looking after her, called Victoria. Apparently they'd found each other amongst the Decepticon prison camp and quickly formed a connection. Even now, she kept a watchful eye on the blind girl, but seemed to have no qualms about Jack carrying her, following from a distance.

There was something about her that didn't quite sit right with him, though. The young woman seemed wary, but not in the way most people were these days. He couldn't put his finger on exactly what is was that made her different. The way she seemed to keep her distance and yet hovered close to him and Arcee. He hadn't really paid much attention to it before now, but he realised she'd been doing it ever since they rescued the group.

His more rational side concluded that she understood better than most people that the Autobots were going to help them, not harm them. That or she had a fearful curiosity towards the bots. He supposed someone could be scared of them and yet curious of their alien robotics.

Returning to Elicia's comment, Jack asked, "What makes you say that?"

"Because you go and rescue people, and that's what superheroes do. They go rescue people who need help. So that makes you a superhero," she answered.

"I don't think we're superheroes." He ignored the rifle thumping lightly against his chest and stared at the grass they were walking through. He let out a slow breath before speaking again. "We're just trying to do what little we can against something much bigger than ourselves." Sometimes he wondered if what they did even had any affect at all.

"You're still my hero," she squeezed his neck in a small hug.

He smiled. But then he had moments like these, when he made a small connection to someone whose life they'd just changed. For them, this seemingly small gesture, meant everything. He realised that everything they did, no matter how small, in order to fight the Decepticons hold on Earth had an effect on someone. Every single life they saved was worth it.

A soft rumble of thunder in the distance drew his gaze skyward. The dark storm clouds had been gathering all day. It was only now that they seemed to be getting worse. He just prayed they would hold out a little longer.

"There's going to be rain soon, isn't there?"

"Yes," Jack answered softly.

"Are we going to get wet?"

"Maybe a little."

The world was silent. The only noise to be heard was the crunch of grass under the group's feet, and the small murmurs of the weary. Thunder rumbled, a little closer this time. A storm was most certainly on its way.

All of a sudden Arcee stopped, her arms switching to blasters. A hush fell over the group.

"Arcee?" Jack asked, stepping towards his partner.

She didn't get the chance to answer as three Decepticons dropped out of the clouds and fired shots in their direction. Arcee threw herself out of the way. Rolling back onto her pedes, she fired back.

Springing into action, Jack turned to yell at the other people, "Get back and stay down!"

He knelt and loosened his hold on Elicia, letting her drop to the ground. Victoria was immediately by their side and took the girl's hand in her own. Jack nodded at her. She nodded back and hurried Elicia into cover.

Jack quickly reached for the rifle slung over his shoulder. Like the other weapons, his had been modified for use against Cybertronians. Unlike the others, his had been barely modified at all, now firing specially made armour piercing rounds that could be used against their alien enemies. Unfortunately these bullets were in short supply, so he had to make every shot count.

Ratchet tore into the base at full speed, not even bothering to unhitch the trailer before he transformed. He muttered urgently to himself as he headed for the side of the chamber. He absently shook a leg in an attempt to dislodge the trailer still attached to his waist, not even noticing when it didn't detach. He ground his denta, too focused on filling his arms with various electronic supplies.

Bumblebee raced in after him, stopping briefly to release his own trailer, and transformed. He watched the medic with wide blue optics, not understanding his haste.

Raf stepped up to the railing around the raised area overlooking at the bots. His brown eyes filled with worry and confusion. "Bee? What's going on? Where are the others?"

The boy's guardian let out a low keen.

"Attacked? Then why aren't you out there trying to help them?" he cried.

"Because by joining them we might as well invite Megatron right into the base," growled Ratchet as he set down the items near where a large tarp covered an undisclosed object.

"But we can't leave them out there!"

"Nor do I intend to!"

"Then what-"

Ratchet flung the tarp to the floor, revealing what had been hidden underneath.

Bumblebee let out a whir of amazement.

"Ratchet…" the preteen's face lit up with hope.

The old medic frowned at the almost completed ground bridge. "I had been hoping for more time." He reached for a scrap of metal as his other hand turned into a welder. "But it is time we do not have. Nor the proper resources. If we can get it running, it will only be stable enough for a single bridge."

"Will it be safe?" asked Raf as he trotted down the stairs to join the bots.

"Let us hope so. For now, we must hurry if we hope to aid the others in time. Rafael, I will require your assistance."

The rain pelted down as Arcee dodged the blaster fire and slid out her arm blades. Springing forward she sliced at the closest vehicon's chest. She heard him cry out but ignored it. In war there was no time for compassion towards your enemy. It could get you killed.

She slipped under its clumsy swing and cut across its chest with her other arm, this time deep enough to hit its spark chamber. He clutched his chest and gave a last strangled cry of pain before giving up and dropping to the ground.

The two wheeler turned to face her next opponent when she stopped cold.

"Arcee…" Jack gasped, held in a vehicon's claws.

Energon dripped from a bullet mark on the side of the vehicon's face where Jack had grazed the Decepticon. His frame radiated displeasure at the humans, the arm not holding Jack being a blaster pointed at two figures huddled on the ground. Victoria and Elicia. The older curled around the other protectively, for all the good it would do if he did decide to shoot.

The femme snarled, aiming her guns at the mech. "Let them go."

"Surrender, Autobot," growled a voice behind her.

She turned her helm to see the third vehicon with his weapons pointed at her. She couldn't fight her way out of this one. Not without someone getting hurt, or worse. And without backup on the way, she didn't have much of a choice.

Retracting her blasters, she raised her hands in surrender, feeling the rain slip underneath her armour as she spoke. "Take me. Let the humans go."

"Ha, you think we came solely for you, Autobot scum," said the one holding Jack.

"Megatron wants his humans back. They all belong to him now," sneered the other.

"Humans belong to no one! We aren't your slaves!" growled Jack, slamming a fist against the fingers holding onto him, his drenched hair quickly becoming plastered to his skull.

The vehicon laughed. "That what you think? Ha. Learn your place worm." His grip tightened on the boy, forcing the air from his lungs. Jack gasped for air. Nearby the small group of rescued humans huddled together, a few letting out whimpers.

"Stop!" Arcee felt her spark constrict in fear and anger for her partner. They could do what they liked to her, she'd already been to the pit and back, but they were not to hurt Jack.

The vehicon just laughed again. "Feel bad for your pet, Autobot? Guess you should have thought about that before bringing him out for a walk."

That was it. Arcee sprang forward, pure rage in her optics. "Arrrhh!"

Her attack was cut short but a shot to the back, knocking her to the ground.


She groaned, her sensors awash with fresh pain. A preliminary self diagnostic told her back plating would require extensive repair. She was amazed that it wasn't more. Ordinarily she would have been dead from a full powered shot at that distance. Unless…

The femme snarled as she was hauled to her pedes. They wanted her alive. The slagging Cons wanted nothing more than return her to their master like some kind of prize. Probably expected some sort of reward for capturing an Autobot. Megatron would enjoy killing her himself, in front of Optimus no less. If he was still alive.

"Do that again and the humans die," threatened the mech holding Jack. The blaster pointed at Victoria and Elicia whined as it reached full charge. "No more trouble, understand?"

Arcee ground her denta, but painfully raised her arms again, her back plates scraping over her wound. "As you say."

"Get moving," the other vehicon jabbed a blaster into her back, earning a grunt from the femme. But she complied and held herself proudly as she walked in front of him.

The other turned to the frightened group of humans. "Walk," he ordered.

Having no other choice, they started to move after the vehicon.

Victoria looked up at the blaster still trained on her and Elicia. The red glow sent a shiver down her spine. Their lives were in the hands of the malevolent transformers again. If they weren't killed as some sort of warning to other people about escaping, they'd be right back where they were before they were rescued. Trapped in a slave camp with no hope.

At the vehicon's urging, she picked up Elicia and headed after the others. On the way Victoria glanced up at Jack, sharing a look with the boy. His blue eyes were wide with worry and looked hopeless. She turned away, the very same emotions swirling through her own heart.

Just as she was resigning herself to their continued captivity, the sound of blaster fire had her ducking for cover.

Arcee's head jerked up to see a Cybertronian spacecraft flying towards them. On alert she watched and waited to see if it was friend or foe. She didn't have to wait long.

The ship fired upon the Decepticon behind her, its lifeless body dropping to the ground. Stunned, the bot holding Jack couldn't formulate a response. Arcee pounced upon this distraction to slice at him with her blades, grabbing Jack as it too joined its companions on the ground.

Putting the boy down, her optics shone with worry. "Jack, are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Who was that?"

She glanced back at the ship as it flew back around. The femme smiled. "One of ours."

"Is it safe now?" asked Elicia, shivering from the cold rain, along with the fright.

"I believe so," replied Arcee with a surprisingly gentle smile. She'd grown remarkably fond of the small child in the short time they'd been together.

The rest of the humans huddled around Arcee, nervous about the new ship landing in the mud nearby.

"Are you alright, Arcee?" Victoria inquired, nodding at the wound on her back.

"I'll live." The two wheeler stood and moved between the humans and the ship, still not about to implicitly trust whoever was onboard.

A platform under the ship lowered and her position automatically straightened. A tall blue and red mech stepped out. He regarded the wet earth distastefully as his large form sunk slightly into the mud. Grunting, he turned his focus onto Arcee. "Report, soldier."

The femme saluted. "Arcee reporting, sir. Welcome to Earth."

note: I love writing for Miko and Vince. Their conflict is wonderful. I don't know how you guys feel, but I'm glad I added him.