Inspired by an idea seen on the bunny farm.
Disclaimer: Elton John & Tim Rice own 'Friends never say goodbye'; HasTak, etc., own Transformers and keep all the profits; I just write about them.
//blah// is bond-speak, *blah* is Cybertronian
Chapter 1 - The downward slope
Prowl stared out the window, mesmerised by the passing crowds. No-one wore any factional symbols. No-one bore any visible weapons at all. Across the causeway, a Seeker with bright blue optics was flirting outrageously with a green-opticed dockworker while a Guardian looked on benevolently. Further down the street, he could see a minibot vendor haggling with a tall mech that could have been a double for Shockwave if not for the bright red and yellow colouration, and a small group of winged femmes were waiting impatiently behind him to be served.
"My apologies for keeping you waiting. I trust the accommodation is to your liking?"
He turned, startled by the voice, and found a grey and orange mech standing a few steps away. How had he gotten there? Even if Prowl had not heard him, his doorwings should have registered the stranger's presence in the room.
"Where am I?"
"You're safe. Here, have some oil - you look like you could use it."
He disregarded the offer.
"Who are you? How did I get here?"
"Easy now, there's no need to rush. I am Greeter."
"Because it's my job to welcome new arrivals. And you are...?"
Prowl drew his doorwings up.
"Prowl, Autobot tactician and second in command under Optimus Prime."
His host did not seem impressed.
"Prowl. Welcome, Prowl. You'll find we're quite informal here."
"Just where is here? And how did I get here?"
"This is Sanopi. Not as prestigious as any of the Torus states, but a pleasant enough location for travellers to rest."
Prowl hesitated. The Torus states were on Cybertron. So was this Sanopi also there? The dome that he now noticed shielding the city from the open sky suggested that perhaps it was, as did the architecture and the number of Cybertronians he could see bustling about. Was this a city he was supposed to know about? How had it survived all this time, undetected? And how had he gotten here?
"I was in a battle..." he began uncertainly, finding it remarkably difficult to access his last memories.
Had he not been on Earth? How had he gotten to Cybertron?
"Oh I wouldn't know anything about that." Greeter assured him. "We're a peaceful lot, here. All weapons left at the gates, as you know."
As he knew? Suggesting that he should know. Yet he was sure Jazz had never mentioned this place in any of their many discussions of Cybertron.
"We take in many travellers such as yourself - mechs and femmes who are somewhat confused about whether to go forward or turn back. But everyone makes a decision in the end, and you will too. Ah, but I am being summoned. Forgive me. I'll leave this oil here for you, and of course there's a recharging port there by the berth if you're weary. When you feel ready, please explore as you wish - you can identify any of the guides by this mark if you have any questions."
He gestured to a strange symbol of interlinked circles on his shoulder.
"Guides?" Prowl echoed, feeling lost.
"Yes. Those who have chosen to stay. To help the travellers."
Everyone had seen it happen.
Optimus had been down, Ironhide was offline, the twins were too far away. Megatron had had a clear shot and had charged up his cannon to take it. The battle had been fierce, raging for nearly a joor, and there were many injured on both sides. Most of the Decepticons had already begun to retreat but this opportunity had come up and Megatron would take it.
Almost everyone froze in place, waiting. Almost. One mech moved.
He was too far away from Prime to protect him in any normal fashion, but he took the next best option: he shifted to stand between the two faction leaders just as Megatron fired. His interference saved Prime's life, but threw him into the air to the sound of a dozen gasps of horror from one side and shrieks of triumph from the other, and then the battle was back on.
Everyone had seen it happen, and those on the far right of the field looked to their own group commander in apprehension. He had cried out in a strangled denial just before the event then had fallen silent, rifle dropping from numbed fingers as he watched the strike land. One of the mechs took a hesitant step towards him, not sure what to say or do, then stopped.
Abruptly the frozen witness was in motion, running heedless of the laser fire around him. His team mobilised quickly to try to defend him. If there was a chance, any chance at all, then they had to protect him. Had to protect them both. They had to at least try.
"How can I help you?"
"Please direct me to a medic."
The femme looked at him blankly.
"A medic? Is something wrong?"
"Yes. I am having memory recall issues."
She shook her head slowly.
"I'm afraid we don't have any medics permanently situated here. There are very few with that training, and none that have passed by recently."
In a way, her flustered response was a relief. This place had something of a surreal feel to it and he had started to fear it was some kind of elaborate trap. It may still be, he knew, but it made sense that they had no trained medics. If this place was what it seemed to be, then it was basically a well-concealed Neutral haven. Any medic they found would be a major target and thus put the community at risk from both the Autobot and Decepticon sides: medics were highly valued commodities. Still, it meant that he was left without any answers for his faulty memory.
Thanking the guide, he continued to make his way down the street slowly, observing everything he could. Try as he might, he could not determine what he had last been doing. It made no sense. All memory data was tagged with at least date, time and location, so he should have been able to establish some kind of time frame. Yet his memories were jumbled, fragmented, disconnected from their supposedly-embedded metadata.
As he walked he tried to access them and received only incoherent flashes: laser fire; making a report to Prime; gasping in pleasure as Jazz caressed him and they both approached overload... For an instant there he felt something, almost like a data packet from his bondmate: a jolt of pain and confusion and fear. But it passed as quickly and inexplicably as it had come and he shook his head dazedly.
Probably just another memory flash. Primus knew they had had their share of fearful times when the other had been damaged. None of this helped him establish a theory about how he had come to be in this strangely peaceful place. Resolving to find an answer, he strode on.
First Aid reached Prowl just before Jazz did and managed to vocalise the order for him to stay back. It was harsh, but he needed space to work. He dared not look up at the distraught saboteur, could not afford to spare him any attention as he began working to save the quickly fading tactician. The only option was to focus, and so he did.
The patient was in a critical and unstable condition. The blast had stripped him of much of his torso armour as well as his right doorwing and arm and a goodly portion of his right leg. Fluid lines were emptying themselves into the dirt around him while stripped wiring arced and spat. His pump was failing, his optics already dulled, his CPU mostly shut down.
The initial diagnosis came back as 'hopeless', but he ignored it. Prowl's death here would mean two deaths in the short term and likely many more in the future. He needed to survive. He had to.
The city was deceptively larger than it had appeared from his window. Or perhaps his view had simply been closer to the city walls and he had somehow been diverted back towards the centre. Not entirely unlikely, given how poorly his navigational systems were functioning.
Still, it was becoming alarming. After walking for more than a joor he still had not reached the city walls, and the curve of the dome still seemed a long way off, and now he was beginning to regret not taking a nap or at least some sustenance first.
When he stumbled with the next step, he stopped in his tracks. This was ridiculous. He would need to find somewhere to rest, something to consume. Likely energon was in very short supply here, hence the offer of oil, but he needed something to bolster his flagging systems or he would simply collapse in the street.
Looking about himself, he spotted a mech sporting the 'guide' symbol talking to a small group of minibots. Moving closer, he then waited while they conversed - after all, this was not urgent, and it would be rude to interrupt. He was not sure why he had not rested in the first place if his energy levels were so low, but that was his own miscalculation and not the fault of anyone else. Still, he hoped the conversation ended soon. He could feel his systems beginning to shut down in protest.
Smokescreen kept a firm hold on Jazz's arm with one hand, shooting when necessary with the other. Trailbreaker was on Jazz's other side and was occupied ensuring a forcefield over the surgical area so that the medics could work undisturbed. Many of the Autobot forces had grouped around them, forming a defensive circle, but he knew the key players were unaware.
He was not a medic, but he knew when an injury was fatal - he had seen enough death on the battlefield to recognise a losing battle when he saw one. The rapid greying of Prowl's remaining extremities was a very bad sign. The sheer amount of fluid pooling around him was another. But perhaps the most telling sign was that he had neither moved nor spoken since they arrived: not a flinch, not a moan, nothing.
Smokescreen's sensors registered a large presence to his left and he turned to see Optimus limp up to them.
"Ratchet?" Prime asked simply.
"Don't bother me now!" the medic snapped, then glanced around. "Jazz. Get over here and tell this slagger he's not to go giving up on us. You hear me? He's going to pull through this, he just has to fight for it!"
Jazz did not move for a few clicks, then slipped forward to kneel gracefully by Prowl's shoulder. Everyone watched silently, but Smokescreen wondered how many truly believed this would work. Coaxing from his bondmate notwithstanding, Prowl was dying: Smokescreen would have laid odds on it.
"Can I help you?"
Prowl stared at the unfamiliar mech blankly.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Can I help you? You look tired. Perhaps you would like to rest?"
He looked about himself dazedly. For a moment he had thought he felt Jazz holding him, heard his bondmate calling to him. But that was ridiculous. Jazz was nowhere in sight, and the bond did not allow for long distance communication of that sort. Then he noticed he was on some kind of transport. A Cybertronian barge?
"Where... am I? Where are you taking me?"
The guide - or so Prowl assumed he was, since he bore one of those strange symbols - smiled at him kindly.
"You said you wanted to go this way. Don't worry, I'll see you safely home."
Jazz. Home was where Jazz was. But Jazz was on Earth, not Cybertron. Wasn't he?
"Just rest, relax. It'll all be over soon."
Something in those words bothered him, but he was so tired. So very tired. Perhaps if he just recharged for a few moments it would help.
Jazz bowed his head, putting all his energy into projecting himself through their bond, searching hard for any sign at all that Prowl was acknowledging his presence.
//Prowl? Answer me! Come back to me!//
There was no answer. Prowl was so weak, it felt like he might shatter completely at a touch. And where there was not just exhaustion and frailty, there was pain. The medics were working frantically to turn off every receptor and sensor and to stop the fluid loss and close the damaged circuits, but it was all too slow.
//Don't you leave me. Don't leave me alone. Please, Prowler. You've got to answer me. You've got to fight.//
Nothing. And then he felt something slip.
Prowl jolted back online, feeling shaken. For an instant, he thought he had heard Jazz screaming in fear. Cool hands held him still and he stared up and unfamiliar faces. Then his optics focused on the room beyond them. A mausoleum?
"Easy." a femme murmured, stroking his face comfortingly. "Relax. There's nothing to be afraid of."
"What are you doing to me?" he gasped, struggling to sit up.
He was weak, so painfully weak, but he was not going to let them inter him when he still had so much as a flicker of energy in his spark.
//Jazz!// he called out, panicking. //Help me!//
There was no response but at that moment he noticed that his recharging cable was extended and plugged into a socket. Yet instead of providing him with energy, this connection was draining him of it. They were killing him! Struggling harder, he tried to free one of his arms to pull it out. Seemingly resigned to let him act, they all stepped back to let him try, but to his horror he realised he was too weak to lift his arm. He quite simply lacked the energy to rescue himself, even when it was so simple.
"Why are you doing this?" he whispered as his vision began to flicker and stall.
"We are doing nothing." the femme told him calmly. "This was your choice."
My choice? he wanted to ask. But he lacked the energy to vocalise.
Bluestreak glanced nervously at Ratchet, praying for a miracle but fearing the worst. Jazz's scream had silenced and stilled everyone - including the enemy - and then he had darted forward, gathering Prowl's broken, greying frame into his arms, keening so loudly that even the medics had been forced to back off. But then, a click later, he had gone silent and still. What did it mean? In the unnatural silence they could all still hear Prowl's systems straining so he was still with them. Barely, but still there.
Ratchet met Bluestreak's gaze briefly, then stepped forward purposefully, First Aid following with far less certainty but just as much determination. And then they all heard the sound of approaching jet engines. Fearing the worst, Bluestreak tore his gaze away from Jazz and Prowl and lifted his rifle. But instead of a Seeker or Conehead, he saw a larger form. Skyfire.
From somewhere, he found just enough energy to pull out the cable. He was dazed, confused. Distantly he could hear someone babbling and it reminded him of Bluestreak but the voice belonged to Jazz. He smiled to himself. Jazz would be quite offended if accused of babbling - that was simply not his style. Still, that soft lilting voice most definitely belonged to his lover. If only he could actually hear the words, but they were too quiet and he had no energy to focus his audials.
He had no idea where he was, now. Everything was dark, or perhaps his optics had just given out. There was no further drain on his energy, but no input either. He was cold and tired and all he wanted to do was rest. But so long as that voice spoke, he would wait. Just in case it came closer.
Optimus stepped forward and laid a gentle hand on Jazz's shoulder. He understood his lieutenant's desire to cling to his critically wounded lover - he knew his reaction would be much the same were it Elita lying here - but if they did not get Prowl on board Skyfire and headed back to the Ark they would most certainly lose him. They had to act now if there was to be any chance at all. Ratchet and First Aid had done the best they could, working around the trembling saboteur, but now they had to go. Jazz was not responding to vocal cues, so Optimus was trying tactile contact. If this did not work either, he was not sure what he would do.
"We're ready." Ratchet announced. "If we're going to move him, now's the time."
Optimus nodded, but then let his hand drop down to his side. He could not bear to pull Jazz away, not when it may be their last moments together. Yet what other choice was there? Only one.
"Autobots - gather around. We'll move them both together."
A little warmth seeped into him. A little energy. Not much, and with it came pain, but there was also something else.
//Jazz.// he murmured gratefully, revelling in the feeling of his bondmate's proximity.
The chattering voice carried on, words slurring together incoherently, but he felt a flicker of recognition. Jazz was nearby; it was enough. He onlined his optics and found them mirrored by a blue visor. Staring in wonder at the beauty in that rich azure colour, he barely noticed when the voice stopped. So beautiful. So close. Close enough to touch, if he only had the energy to move.
//Stay.// Jazz begged him. //Please.//
Stay? Well of course he would stay. Now that Jazz was here, everything would be fine.
//Don't leave me.//
He had no intention of doing so. He just needed to rest a bit.
//Please. Please, Prowl, stay with me. Stay.//
His vision was becoming fuzzy again, but he could still see that blue. That beautiful blue.
//I love you.// he responded tiredly, wishing he could touch that brilliant colour.
A finger trailed down his cheek, but it was not one of those strange guides this time; this touch was familiar.
//You're so beautiful, you know that? How did I ever deserve you?//
//Keep flattering me, just stay. Please. Please stay.//
The blue light was so intense, to the point where it was starting to hurt, but he kept the visual feed online.
//So beautiful. So blue.//
//I love your optics. The blue... so soothing...//
//Prowl, you're not making sense. You need to focus.//
He smiled. He had no energy to physically move, but within Jazz's arms he did not need to. He pushed, projecting an image of himself reaching up into an endless blue expanse that was the precise shade of Jazz's visor when the other mech was overloading. It was one of the joys of being bonded, being able to express that kind of complex thought in an instant, and he felt Jazz respond in shock.
//Love you. Always.//
Ratchet heard First Aid's gasp of shock and he looked up to glare at his assistant intently.
"Have you finished with that bypass yet?"
The Protectobot stared at him, his hands shaking in reaction to what his diagnostic sensors were telling him, and Ratchet reached across to grip his arm roughly.
"The bypass. Get it done."
There were too many onlookers to let the junior medic break down now, and he was relieved to see First Aid nod jerkily and turn back to his task.
"Half a breem to landing." Skyfire announced to the mechs crowded into his hold. "Blaster reports Swoop, Wheeljack and Perceptor are waiting in the bay."
"Have Swoop and Perceptor move to the conference room and triage the others." Ratchet ordered. "And tell Jack to have the isolation ward set up for surgery. We won't have much time to spare."
"Ratch," Jazz spoke up hoarsely, his visor dim, "he... he's not responding to me anymore..."
"He's with us for now." Ratchet told him callously. "And he's slagging well going to stay that way."
Skyfire interrupted Jazz's question with a warning about their imminent arrival and Ratchet was relieved. The truth was, Prowl's spark could fade at any instant now; his pump could stop. Already his CPU had stalled, and that was far from good. With every passing click, it became increasingly likely that it may be too corrupted to ever be retrieved. They may end up saving Prowl's body but not his mind. But if they did not try, they would lose him completely and Jazz with him. They had to try.
There was a tune stuck in his processor and he could not quite identify it. Jazz would likely know, but the musician was not about. In fact, no-one was. He was perfectly alone. It should worry him, but it did not. He could feel Jazz nearby, and that was enough to make him feel safe.
"What is done has been done for the best." he sang with sudden confidence, but then could not identify the next line.
Giving up, he adjusted his position slightly to get more comfortable. It was surreal how everything seemed so distant. Like he could fall through the ground he was lying on and just keep going. Silly. Illogical. He sighed, then grimaced, noting that the one line he remembered was cycling endlessly in his processor now. Irritating. Perhaps the only solution was to shut down. That should get rid of it, and he could do with a charge. He was tired.
"For the best." he muttered to himself.
Why did the song make him feel sad? Strange. No, too hard to identify. Time to rest. Jazz would wake him when he arrived, and until then he had nothing better to do.
to be continued...