Jack stared at the vast vista beyond the cliff’s edge, taking in the incredible scenery. He’d lived in Nevada all his life yet he had never tired of the desert or its serene beauty. There was just something undeniably majestic about it all. Like a portrait come to life...
    He glanced about one final time then turned back to gaze at Arcee who stood nearby. The tall automaton stood vigil before a large stone monolith.
    The stone was a marker symbolizing the sacrifice of the lost Autobot named Cliffjumper. He had been Arcee’s partner and friend before Jack had met her or discovered the presence of the alien robots on his world.
    He hadn’t known the Autobot in question but knew Arcee held him in high regard. His death at the hands of the Decepticon Starscream had hurt her deeply, although she did her best to appear strong in light of her loss.
    Arcee held Cliffjumper in high regard and that was good enough by Jack. He’d known her for several months now and come to trust in her instincts when it came to judging people’s characters. If she said he had been a great comrade, he knew she couldn’t be wrong.
    They stood upon a high mesa in the middle of the desert. It was the most solitary place in a vast empty environment. She’d said it seemed an appropriate place to leave the stone in her lost comrade’s memory. He would’ve loved the view up here, she’d told Jack, and he agreed whole-heartedly.
    The stone was one of commemoration for a lost Autobot. There was no body left after the incident in the Energon mine that had destroyed the last of Cliffjumper. He had died earlier still, of course, yet his shell had been animated by the Dark Energon that had been pumped into it. His soulless body had sought to destroy them when Optimus Prime’s team had land-bridged inside to confront Megatron himself. The mine had been destroyed in the ensuing battle and his battered hulk had been obliterated alongside.
    “He can rest here now,” Arcee said. “Wherever his Spark truly is, I hope he will see this place and know we’ll never forget him.”
    “I’m sure he knows,” he piped up. “With friends like you and the others, he’ll never be truly gone.”
    She gazed down at him and smiled softly.
    “Thanks for indulging me,” she said. “I shouldn’t have dragged you along but I wanted to see this for myself so I could pay my respects.”
    “There’s no need to apologize, Arcee,” he replied. “Cliff was a hero and he deserves his due. Besides, I like spending time with you. You’re my best friend.”
    “Sometimes I wonder if that’s a good thing or not.” Arcee’s mechanical eyes met his. “You’re just a kid, Jack. You should have more human friends. I’m a mechanical life form involved in a war–I could be killed at any time.”
    “If that’s the chance I have to take to be your friend then so be it.” He smiled. “You’re not going to get rid of me that easily.”
    “Humans,” she muttered.
    Before he could respond, she converted her body into her alternate motorcycle mode. The engine roared to life.
    “I should probably get you back home so your mother doesn’t worry.”
    Jack climbed atop her and secured his helmet. Satisfied, he gripped the handlebars before him.
    “She knows that I’m safe when I’m with you, Arcee,” he said as she moved for the road that twisted down the plateau.
    “You’re all she’s got, “she reminded him. “It’s my responsibility to make certain nothing happens to you while you’re in my care.”
    He said nothing as she accelerated down the twisted path, emerging finally at the base of the outcropping and tearing across the barren desert terrain for the nearby highway.
    “Sometimes I think you worry about stuff too much,” he said. “You can’t be responsible for the entire world all the time, Arcee. Nobody can.”
    “Somebody has to keep your world safe, Jack.”
    “Protecting the Earth is all of the Autobots responsibility, not just yours alone.”
    “Maybe you’re right,” she said after a few moments. “It’s just that after all I’ve lost during the war, I feel like I have to try harder–to be better–or risk seeing more people I love die.”
    He considered her words.
    “Arcee, I understand–“
    The desert to their right exploded, sending a plume of sand onto his visor. Arcee’s momentum quickly blew it off again but he instantly knew they had company.
    “Decepticons!” she exclaimed. “Hang on, Jack!”
    Two more explosions struck the highway behind them as she accelerated to her full speed. He gripped tighter at the handles and leaned into her, praying he wouldn’t get knocked loose.
    Arcee swerved back and forth along the roadway, making the jets pursuing them have a difficult time locking on to their prey. Thus far, none of Megatron’s Vehicons had appeared along the road which helped their cause.
    “Can you contact the others?”
    “I’m working on it,” she replied. “If I can stay far ahead enough of them they won’t be able to jam the signal.”
    Jack held on tight as she tore down the highway, continuing to evade their pursuers. A beating sound caught his attention and he gazed upward, discovering a black helicopter approaching their position from another direction.
    “Arcee!” he yelled. “It’s Airachnid!”
    The chopper opened fire with a hail of machine gun fire which Arcee swerved away from,  barely managing to evade the assault in time.
    “It’s no use,” she replied. “I had Base for a moment but she’s made certain we’re boxed in. I can’t be certain my call for help got through.”
    “Now what?”
    “Now, we fight!”
    She cut right hard, directing them toward some rubble strewn hills. The maneuver caught her pursuers off-guard and it took them a moment to adjust their trajectories.
    “When I stop, run for cover and, whatever you do, stay down!” she ordered. “I’ll try to lead them away.”
    Arcee drove up a hill and stopped near some large boulders.
    “Now, Jack!”
    He leaped off her and rushed into the cover of the stone debris. Even with their weapons it would take some work for the Decepticons to be able to pierce the thick shelter they provided him. Once again, his Autobot partner’s instincts had proven invaluable to his survival.
    He watched from his vantage point as Arcee thundered up the hill side, turning at the top of it and roaring off the adjacent cliff side. She transformed in mid-leap, throwing herself into Airachnid as she approached in her chopper mode. The two of them crashed to the desert floor with the Decepticon taking the brunt of the impact.
    Despite the shock of the blow, the Decepticon was quick to recover, converting into her bi-ped form and charging Arcee. He watched in quiet fascination as the two femmes traded blows at breakneck speed.
    From what he’d seen Airachnid was a psychopath that enjoyed the torment she inflicted on her victims–especially Arcee. Arcee was very much her opposite. She actually cared about people and her own influence in their lives. She was determined to see Airachnid receive the justice she deserved for all the Autobots she’d murdered.
    The Decepticon pinned Arcee down on the desert floor but before she could strike the fatal blow Arcee got an arm loose and slashed out with her fist, stunning the other. She shoved Airachnid off her and leapt back to her feet.
    The two of them moved further out of his line of sight, each of them locked in inexorable combat. He glanced about, seeing none of the other Decepticons were present then decided to emerge from safety and find Arcee. He hoped she could take out her nemesis before the other found some advantage against her.
    He moved up atop the cliff side beside where he’d been secluded and watched as Arcee slammed her foot once and then again into her opponent. Airachnid crashed to the desert and slowly wiped at her mouth. Arcee inched closer...
    He heard a loud whine then he was abruptly up in the air, moving against his will. He glanced up to see he was in the clutches of one of the jet drones.
    Stupid! He’d been so invested in Arcee’s fate he hadn’t considered his own well enough.
    The jet reconfigured itself and he was brought up through it and into the cockpit proper before it resealed itself.
    The Decepticons had never expressed interest in the Autobots human comrades before... not really, anyway. Had all of this been for his benefit? And, if so, what did they want with him?
            *            *            *
    “It’s over, Airachnid!”
    Arcee extended her wrist blades and advanced on her nemesis.
    “You don’t know how right you are!” The other grinned.
    Arcee heard the thunder of jet turbines and glanced up in time to see four Decepticon jet fighters soaring overhead. The middle one had Jack in its clutches!
    She turned back to see Airachnid leaping away.
    “I’m going to enjoy watching another one of your partners die!” she hissed.
    Arcee shot at her but the other was already too far away and dodged the blasts effortlessly. She scurried over the nearby cliff top and out of range.
    Before Arcee could react further, she heard Airachnid’s chopper blades spinning and watched helplessly as she soared off into the afternoon sky.
    Had it all been a set-up to get her separated from Jack so that they could take him away, she wondered. But why? Did Airachnid want to torment her so badly she’d make the effort to abduct a lowly human being?
    Sadly enough, she already knew the answer to her own question...
    This wasn’t over. She would not stand for being anyone’s pawn! She’d hunt Airachnid to the ends of the Earth, if need be, and finish her for good. She’d see to it that psycho would never be able to hurt anyone else ever again.
    She expelled a breath sharply then activated her comm circuit.
    “Arcee to base. Come in.”
    “This is Ratchet,” the response came. “Is everything okay?”
    “No.” She looked up. “Get me a land bridge. Now!
    The air in front of her crackled and tore itself open, revealing a green energy nexus. At the center, the event horizon was white with wisps of different colors shimmering about it.
    She paid the phenomenon no extraneous regard, marching straight into its center. The world shimmered around her and then she was in a long metallic tunnel elsewhere. Beyond her, lay a vast cavern. Her comrades all stood near the control system, their expressions ones of consternation.
    “What is going on, Arcee?”
    “Big trouble, Optimus,” she replied. “I was with Jack when Airachnid attacked us with some of her troops.”
    “They abducted him, didn’t they?” Ratchet asked, seeming to already know what she was going to say.
    She nodded grimly the looked at Optimus.
    “We have to get him back before that monster hurts him,” she said. “If anything happens to Jack...”
    Optimus Prime put his hand on her shoulder. “Do not fear, Arcee. We will make certain he is safe.” He looked to the others. “Autobots, mount up. We leave immediately!”
    “It’s a good thing Miko and Raf aren’t here,” Bulkhead chimed in. “You know she likes to be in the thick of the action.”
    “She’s much too precocious for a human,” Ratchet grumbled. “You need to reign her in more. One day that sense of curiosity of hers is going to get her killed.”
     Bumblebee chirped his thoughts.
    “Bee’s right,” Bulkhead chuckled. “Nobody can reign that kid in!”
    Arcee glared at him.
    “She needs to understand this isn’t a game!” she snapped. “They all need to get that through their heads. I will not start burying our humans friends too!”
    “We’ll deal with them later,” Optimus replied. “Right now, getting Jack back safely is our top priority.”
    “I have the coordinates of the Nemesis locked in,” Ratchet said nearby. “We can leave whenever you give the word.”
    “I want the bulk of our force to assault the Decepticons.” Optimus looked to Arcee. “While we distract them, I want you to find wherever Jack is being held and get him to safety.”
    “I’ll save Jack,” she agreed. “And then I’ll make certain Airachnid never hurts anyone else ever again. I’ve seen too many friends die needlessly. Never again!”
    “I applaud your sentiment but we cannot save everyone every time,” he replied. “Life is sacred and we must do our utmost to protect it. But we can only do so much no matter how much we may aspire to do more.”
    She knew he believed it but she would do her best to prove him wrong. She would have to be better–better then she’d ever been before. Faster, stronger, resolute. If she had to wipe out Airachnid and all the Decepticons in order to succeed, so be it.
    “Let’s go,” she said simply.
            *            *            *
    The world flashed back into existence and suddenly the team of five Autobots were aboard the Decepticon flagship, the Nemesis.
    Arcee’s guns were at the ready instantly. She spun about as the land bridge closed, confirming their rear flank wasn’t vulnerable. They’d transported onto a large corridor of the Decepticon vessel and weren’t certain someone would stumble upon them instantly. Fortunately, the corridor was barren.
    The others fell into a loose circle, each of their armaments at the ready.
    “We will not evade detection for long,” Optimus announced. He turned to Arcee. “Find Jack as fast as you can.”
    “I’m on it.”
    She moved for an adjacent corridor back behind their position. There was no Decepticons in the passage she’d chosen. At least for the moment–but she had no way of knowing how long her good fortune would last.
    She used her internal scanners to search for signs of organic life. They were limited in their capability but on a ship full of cybernetic life forms there shouldn’t have been any other hits.
    Back behind her she heard weapons fire and knew her comrades had begun to engage the enemy. She hoped Optimus and the others could keep the Decepticons busy. The last thing she needed was to run into Megatron himself.
    She heard metal scratching the deck beyond her and squeezed into an indentation along the wall.
    It was an instant later that two Decepticons appeared in the corridor beyond her. As the second passed, she launched herself out at it. It barely had time to react as she slashed at it with her wrist blade, severing it’s head module.
    The other turned, bringing it’s arm guns up to bare but she moved faster still, shooting it with her own. The warrior dropped lifelessly to the deck.
    She spun about as three more drones came down the hallway. She leapt forward, losing energy bolts from her guns as she did. The first Decepticon took the brunt of the assault and collapsed to the deck while the other two dodged in time. 
    The two remaining Vehicons opened fire, desperate to take down their new foe. She leapt up, zig-zagging back and forth from wall to wall, moving closer with every hop. Finally, she was upon one, smashing her fist into his visor as she reached him. She thrust her other arm blade into it’s chest, ending his threat once and for all.
    She leapt off the nearby wall, arching upward into the air and firing off both of her blasters at the remaining warrior. He was stunned by her moves and didn’t react quick enough, taking the full volley.
    She landed fluidly on the deck, casting a cursory glance about her but there were no more opponents left to challenge her.
    Over the next few minutes she investigated three chambers in an adjacent corridor. One was some sort of supply area. Another was a darkened laboratory and still another some kind of tactical area for the ship’s external arsenal.
    Her fourth selection proved to be the correct one. It was a large chamber at the end of the corridor she’d traversed.
    The large door had opened to reveal a darkened laboratory. At the far end, Jack was hovering inside an anti-grav field that kept him effectively immobilized. A few miscellaneous panels were illuminated about the room.
    She crept inside slowly, her senses alert to any possible danger. She had no way of knowing if Airachnid had left any security behind to protect her latest trophy.
    “Jack,” she whispered. “Are you okay?”
    “Arcee!” he yelled. “Be careful! She’s still in here!”
    She heard a scuffling sound above her and glanced up as Airachnid was falling toward her. She tried to dodge the strike but the Decepticon was too quick. She struck Arcee as she began to move, resulting in them both crashing to the deck in a tangled mass.
    She twisted, trying to free herself but it was too late. Airachnid’s arms struck her shoulders and she felt every circuit burn as the other channeled her spider sting through her.
    “You’re too late,” she heard the other say through her haze. “Soon Jack will join Tailgate and all the others!”
    The shadows of the lab blurred into the light then and she felt her mind drift away.
            *            *            *
    Jack watched as Arcee’s head dropped to the deck and he knew she’d succumbed to Airachnid’s spider sting.
    His hopes had risen when they’d heard the sounds of battle nearby. Airachnid suspected it was only a matter of time until Arcee charged into the lab and so she had descended into the safety of shadows where she could spring her trap.
    Despite it all, he’d hoped he could warn Arcee in time. Hoped she could react fast enough to dodge her enemy’s attack and incapacitate her long enough for them to make their escape.
    He racked his brain for a solution to their current predicament. Finally, he stumbled upon an idea... it was radical but it might just work. Surely there was nothing to lose at this point.
    “I’ve finally won,” Airachnid said nearby. She gazed at the unconscious form beneath her. “Arcee has put a fine fight all these years but ultimately my talents have proven superior.”
    She smiled and he noticed her large sharpened fangs. “I wonder which of the two of you I’m going to kill first.”
    “How about letting us both go?” he asked innocently even though he already knew the answer.
    “No,” she hissed.
    “Can’t blame a guy for trying...”
    “This is the moment of my greatest victory,” she said. “I’ve finally taken out Arcee. She’s become a lot stronger since we first met, you know. She used to be soft. Weak... but after I killed Tailgate she changed. She’s harder now, more dangerous. She doesn’t seem to frighten so easily anymore.”
    “She’s the bravest bot I’ve met,” he retorted and knew he meant every word.
    “I wonder if it would cause her more pain if I killed you?” she asked. “Or would you enjoy seeing your beloved Autobot guardian perish and have to live with the knowledge she was only dead because she came here to rescue you in the first place.”
    There it was. Airachnid’s bizarre sense of sadism. If he played his cards right, maybe he could find some way to use it against her.
    “Decisions, huh?” He considered the matter. “If you kill Arcee then who will be left to be in awe of your sheer power? I’m a human and we only live so long. She’ll live for millennia, having to carry the burden of my death with her. She’ll know you did it and despise you forever.”
    “You have a point.” She moved up close and met his gaze. “What kind of twisted creature are you, fleshling? I’ve studied your kind just long enough to know you should be begging and crying for your life! Your kind have no sense of concern for one another–all you seem to want to do is save your own necks.”
    He said nothing, defiantly meeting her gaze.
    “Beg me to spare your life!” she snapped. “Beg me to allow you what little time you humans get. Don’t sacrifice yourself like some kind of cowardly Autobot!”
    “Calling me an Autobot is the biggest compliment you could ever give me, Airachnid. Not that you’d ever realize it.”
    She hissed, drawing her fist back and extending her claws. Before she could slash him, a fist grasped her wrist, stopping it.
    She turned to see Arcee.
    She slammed her fist into the Decepticon so hard Jack could hear a ringing in his ears. Before the arachnid femme could react, Arcee followed up with another fist then another and another. After repeated pounding the Decepticon stood uneasily on her feet. Arcee spun about, slamming her foot into her opponent, dropping her to the deck.
    She extended her own wrist blade and stood over the unconscious Decepticon.
    “This ends now,” she growled.
     “Stop!” Jack yelled. “She isn’t worth the effort, Arcee. Just let it go.”
    “I’m not so sure about that.” She met his gaze. “She’s slaughtered so many of my kind over the years, Jack. No more!”
    “If you kill her this way, when she’s completely helpless, how will you be any better then she is?” he asked. “It’s not war, it’s murder.”
    She hesitated and he knew he was reaching her.
    “You’re the best person I’ve ever met. The noblest, kindest, most selfless soul I know. Why lower yourself to this level?” He gazed at the fallen Decepticon. “Her time will come. But it should be on the battle field in a fair battle not this way.”   
    She gazed at the other Transformer. “I... I suppose you’re right, Jack. This isn’t the Autobot way.”
    She turned to him and grasped gently, removing him from the anti-grav field he’d been hovering in.
    “One day she’ll get the justice she deserves,” Jack chimed in as they moved for the corridor. “But it will be the right way.”
    She nodded. “Let’s get back to the others and get out of here.”
    “Thanks, by the way,” he added. “I knew you’d come for me.”
    Her voice took on a lighter tone.
    “That’s what friends are for, Jack.”