Red and Blue
Nations, like stars, are entitled to eclipse. All is well, provided the light returns and the eclipse does not become endless night. Dawn and resurrection are synonymous. The reappearance of the light is the same as the survival of the soul.
~ Victor Hugo
It was amazing how at ease Cybertron Command seemed. The hallway was very nearly deserted. All the 'bots they encountered rushed by without glancing at their party, else distracted with stressed expressions. Cliffjumper walked in sync with Rodimus – beside him – and the Jettwins following in their wake. They walked with purpose. Walked knowing precisely where they were going.
At the end of this hall awaited their destination. Cliffjumper wanted to burst in there and tell Ultra Magnus what exactly he thought of how he'd been treated. Maybe he'd file an official complaint.
However, he doubted he'd be able to do that without getting arrested. Again.
'I hope you know what you're doing,' whispered Rodimus.
'Trust me. Just follow my lead, and everything'll be fine.'
'Considering what's happened in the last little while, I doubt that...I can't help but feel a little nervous, you know. I mean, I've seen Ultra Magnus before, but...but he's never spoken to me and it was always from a distance. What if I make an idiot out of myself?'
'Look, it isn't that big a deal once you get over his size,' said Cliffjumper.
'He is being right,' agreed Jetfire.
'Yes, my brother and I use to feel very...small,' Jetstorm indicated with his fingers.
'But we get over it,' continued Jetfire.
'We just think of Ultra Magnus as any other 'bot,' said Jetstorm. 'He is Magnus, but he is also one of us. Think of him as big Autobot with big Hammer. Well, minus Hammer right now.'
They stopped in front of the automatic doorway. Two Autotroopers stood on either side of it. "Authorized Personnel Only" was branded in intimidating dark letters across it. Cliffjumper flexed his hands, as Rodimus handed his bow over to a trooper.
'I better get that back in mint condition,' Rodimus added, as the Jettwins herded them inside.
Cliffjumper brushed by a hulking, blue figure on his way in. He only saw the back of Sentinel, and expected that he'd determinedly avoided his gaze. He wanted to call him back. But knew that doing that would probably result in one major lecture.
And beyond him was Wheeljack, standing beside a med table. Wires were still attached to Ultra Magnus – but he was quite alert. His side was still ripped apart, a small portion of it partially restored. His arm lay to the side. Perceptor was across from them, fiddling around with computers. Cliffjumper had to peer around Wheeljack to spot the final 'bot in the room. Red Alert. To his great surprise she was smiling and speaking to Ultra Magnus. She saluted him. And walked towards them. She paused when she spotted Cliffjumper. Her grin melted away into a sneer.
'Look who decided to show his sorry face,' she barked. 'Do you know how much trouble I got in because of you?!'
'I didn't want your help to begin with,' Cliffjumper said.
She wheeled around, her stance offensive and apparently ready for an argument. But she gasped when she came face-to-face with Rodimus.
'Oh!' she breathed. 'Rodimus, I was wondering what happened to you! The others and I were beginning to get worried. All they told us was that you got out from the underground.'
'I was with him,' Rodimus gestured to Cliffjumper. 'We'll talk later, okay?'
'Sure. And Cliffjumper.' She came within two inches of his face. 'If Rodimus gets fired because of you, I will hunt you down myself.'
Red Alert made to leave. Rodimus grabbed her arm.
'Hey, uh, about what happened earlier...You know, when I decided we were going after him instead of –'
'This isn't a good place, Rodimus,' whispered Red Alert. 'Later.'
Rodimus forlornly looked after her. She left in the same manner of Sentinel Prime. They were now free to turn their attention towards the Magnus.
Or not. Wheeljack was backing away from the table. Only now could Cliffjumper fully take in the wires connected to Ultra Magnus's body, and the vital signs that Perceptor was examining. Wheeljack looked...worried. He took the two Autobots by the shoulders and turned them away from the Magnus's bedside.
'...He's dying,' he whispered. 'He might live for a while, but...I...I don't think he'll make it.'
That was all it took.
Cliffjumper hesitated; tried not to look too surprised or concerned as they turned their attention back to the Magnus.
Their high commander focused on Cliffjumper and Rodimus. Despite his previous experiences, Cliffjumper had to admit: his beady little optics were enough reason to hightail on out of here. It was surprising that he looked so alert, even more surprising to hear an expert say that he wasn't going to make it. He got the signal and the duo stepped forwards.
Cliffjumper saluted him. 'Sir.'
'There's no need,' said Ultra Magnus. 'I believe we've met a few times before.'
'Never directly. Uh, sir.'
Ultra Magnus was expressionless. In passing, it reminded him of a certain murderous Decepticon. His determinedly kept his face straight at the thought.
'Your name is Rodimus Prime, correct?' asked the Magnus.
'Yes, sir,' nodded Rodimus. 'I lead a repair crew on Iacon.'
'Hm. I understand you participated in Cliffjumper's trial.'
Ultra Magnus shifted ever so slightly. It was painful. Cliffjumper could tell by a change of expression that died away almost at once. 'Now, Sentinel Prime and Jazz have told me everything that has happened while I was on spark support, including your reports. Starting with the fiasco you caused during your escape.'
Cliffjumper looked at the floor, hands behind his back.
'You took unnecessary risks for personal reasons. All Autobots working in Cybertron Command must build up a certain wall between personal feelings and protocol. Apparently yours weren't as strong as I'd first thought.'
'You also dragged other Autobots into this mess with you,' continued Ultra Magnus. 'Wheeljack and Perceptor, for example...'
Both of the mentioned Autobots paused in their work.
'...Rodimus Prime's crew...'
'Uh, sir,' Rodimus interrupted. 'I got my crew involved willingly. I ordered the...them to, so – so I'm to blame –'
Ultra Magnus weakly raised his good hand. Rodimus stopped.
'You even got a well-respected officer, Mirage, arrested. Luckily his case as been sorted out. But your actions of the last stellar cycle will affect Cybertron Command operations for years to come. Not in a positive way, mind. Your imprudent and selfish behaviour has caused disruptions in the system. It is vital that the government and society, itself, remain stable in times of warfare.'
'Were you actually considering the consequences of your actions when this began? Did you even think ahead?'
His clenched his fists. 'Sir,' Cliffjumper looked at the Magnus's face. 'Blurr was a worthy officer of the Elite Guard and Cybertron Intelligence. He gathered valuable information that proved and will prove to be resourceful in the ongoing conflict with the Deceptions. I acted completely of my own accord, however I also acted in the interest of Cybertron Command. I don't believe in leaving our 'bots behind. Even if everyone else has given up, I refuse to let the Decepticons think they have won by killing one of our own. Sir.'
There was a brief silence. Wheeljack, the Jettwins, and Rodimus all looked at him with awe and fear. Awe because he'd dared to speak like this to their Magnus. Fear of what the Magnus's reaction would be. As usual, Ultra Magnus kept his face vacant of all emotion.
'...I'm impressed by your loyalty,' said Ultra Magnus. 'Although your methods were a little less than orthodox, you did ultimately succeed. You sacrificed everything you'd achieved by going to find him. That makes you a true Autobot. It is a pity that Blurr is in an irreversible coma, from which it is unlikely that he will ever awaken from.'
Cliffjumper's gaze returned to the floor. His spark beat madly against his chest. He felt the Magnus's eyes on him, a penetrating stare that made him want to duck for cover. There was a harrowing amount time before he continued.
'The Council has agreed that I should decide your fates,' Ultra Magnus resumed. 'Rodimus Prime, I have heard of your deeds and impressive fighting skills. You agreed to hide Cliffjumper from the government, yes, but you also display great loyalty towards your fellow Autobots. Would you consider joining the Elite Guard?'
It was as though Rodimus had been expecting this. He sighed.
'I've already been asked twice before, sir,' said Rodimus. 'I...I don't believe I will, sir. For personal reasons. My team means too much to me for me to just leave them on Iacon.'
Ultra Magnus frowned. 'I understand. Then know that there will always be a place open for you, in the case that you change your mind.'
Rodimus nodded rather stiffly and backed away from the table. All of a sudden, Cliffjumper felt like somebody had just pushed him into the spotlight. (Though he'd already been there in the first place.)
'Cliffjumper, all charges against you have been dropped, except one,' Ultra Magnus said. 'That is, possession of illegal weaponry. Therefore, you're banned from using weapons, of any sort, for the next fifty solar cycles, and will also do community service on a regular basis until further notice.'
He tried not to wince at the phrase "community service," with little success.
'But there is also the question of whether or not you will remain in the employ of Cybertron Command. I believe that firing you would be more of a mistake than sending you to the stockades. To be blunt, Cliffjumper...not many Autobots will agree with me. To the eyes of many, you are a traitor. That said, you will be given your old job back, but not be eligible for becoming the Head of Cybertron Intelligence for a very long time. And finally your movements will be tracked, meaning that you can't leave Cybertron without authorization. Understood?'
'Yes, sir,' Cliffjumper answered.
'Good. You will report to the Head of Cybertron Intelligence first thing tomorrow. And keep in mind that if you're found to be breaking any laws, the consequences will be quite severe.'
Cliffjumper breathed for what felt like the first time since entering the room. He turned on his heel, only for another thought to pop up.
'Uh, sir,' Cliffjumper said, turning back towards Ultra Magnus. 'About the...the Decepticon that was in the core.'
'That is none of your concern at the moment. You don't have the right clearance.'
'With all due respect, sir,' Cliffjumper said through clenched teeth. 'I was the one that let him get away.'
'Nobody has found any evidence that he –'
'Sir, he's still out there.'
'And what exactly makes you believe that?'
'Because I saw him Transwarp to another location. I'm not the only one. I don't know where, but I'm telling you: that Decepticon is still alive and is massing with Megatron and the other Decepticons. They're up to something. Don't you think that you should send somebody out to look for him, sir?'
'The scientists still do not have any evidence that he existed in the first place.'
'Correct,' Perceptor approached them. 'It is the Ministry of Science's belief that your story is improbable. It is theoretically impossible for an Autobot or Decepticon to be exposed by Transwarp energy and not be Transwarped. We only have yours and Rodimus Prime's eyewitness account of this Decepticon.'
'Do not tell me what to believe in, Cliffjumper,' said Ultra Magnus. 'And do not tell me what I should be sending soldiers of the Elite Guard to do. Dismissed.'
'What about Shockwave?! He could've survived –'
'We're taking care of it. Dismissed'
Cliffjumper's first reaction was to retaliate. But something held him back. He intended to head out.
'One...last thing,' Ultra Magnus spoke. 'Jazz Ttanswarped to Earth sometime ago. I would appreciate it if you tried to contact the planet to see what he is doing.'
For that second, Cliffjumper felt something brew inside of him. A concoction of something boiling hot, something that made him want to leap forwards and kill the Magnus. He stood there, fists shaking in anger. Then he nodded, saluted him, and followed Rodimus out of the med bay.
They headed back where they'd just come, Rodimus retrieving his bow from the trooper on the way. He admired it, grinning.
'That went well,' decided Rodimus.
'You don't have to do community service,' fumed Cliffjumper.
'You should be thankful you got off without any other punishment!' laughed Rodimus. 'Hey, where you going?'
Cliffjumper was just heading down another hallway; different from where Rodimus intended to go. The lift symbolically waited at the other end.
'I'm going to see what happened to my friend, Mirage,' said Cliffjumper. 'Where you going?'
'Well, I guess I'm going to find Red Alert, then we'll head back to Iacon,' shrugged Rodimus. 'We might have to wait a while, though. Knowing Red Alert, she'll want to stay and visit. She's always had the most friends on Cybertron.'
'So...you've been asked to go into the Elite Guard before,' Cliffjumper remembered Ultra Magnus's offer. 'Why'd you turn it down?'
'Right now, I think the Elite Guard is doing fine wihtout me,' said Rodimus. 'I'd rather be fixing a few Space Bridges. But, who knows? Maybe one day.'
'Look me up if you accept the offer,' Cliffjumper said. 'I'll give you a few tips on passing the written portion of the test.'
Rodimus smirked. 'Cheater.'
'How do you think Sentinel got in?'
He snickered. 'Well, there's a bit of gossip for Red Alert. Guess I'll go now. Alert will be looking for me.'
They just stood there for a nanoclick, staring at each other. Finally, Cliffjumper approached him and shook his head.
'Good working with you, Rodimus,' said Cliffjumper.
'Same,' Rodimus nodded. '...This doesn't change anything, does it?'
'Not one slagging thing.'
With that, they parted. Cliffjumper didn't move until Rodimus had disappeared into the lift, giving him one last bemused look. He went in the opposite direction.
Well, he was a perfectionist. But maybe that wasn't so bad after all.
At first glance, the message didn't seem that important. It was in text. Uncommon, but occasionally used over such long distances. Earth was pretty far off. Cliffjumper recalled contacting them sometime before he was arrested; talking to the crew commander and feeling overjoyed that they'd captured some high-ranking Decepticons. That night, he'd toasted to the Autobot victory. And now there was a letter, here. Waiting for him on his first day back.
He reread it a final time.
To Cybertron Command:
Battle between Autobots and Decepticons on Earth. Megatron captured.
Also detained: Decepticon Lugnut. Decepticon Shockwave.
Causalities: Decepticon Starscream. Autobot Prowl.
Autobot Prowl sacrificed his spark in the line of duty. It is thanks to his heroic acts that the crew on Earth has captured the Decepticon leader.
Omega Supreme has been reactivated. Returning to Cybertron. Will arrive within the week.
'SLAGGIT!' Cliffjumper shouted. He slammed his desk and kicked over the nearest box.
However there was no one around to ask what was troubling him. The door leading into the Head of Intel's office was wide open. Its walls were blank, its desk cleared out. Some random objects were knocked over as though someone has left in a hurry. Headquarters, itself, was pretty quiet. As quiet as the day Cliffjumper had left it. His chair was the same. The view was the same. His computer was the same. Heck, his oil tasted the same – steaming liquid that tamed his tense nature. You'd never think that it was this morning that he checked in as if nothing had happened, having made sure to come early to avoid stares from pedestrians. Too many stares, that is.
Sulking, he sank back in his seat, staring at his personal computer with pure vindictiveness. The entrance slid open and – whistling – a familiar Autobot strutted in. Mirage looked around, found Cliffjumper, and that annoying grin of his only grew wider.
He stared at him.
'When'd you get out?' asked Cliffjumper, despite himself. 'They told me the other day you weren't going to be released until day after tomorrow.'
'Just got out now!' Mirage beamed. 'I have money, Cliffjumper, I can bail myself out. Aren't you happy to see me?'
'"Nice to see you, Mirage!"' Mirage did a little twirl. '"Thanks for covering my tail when I escaped!" Boy, Cliffjumper, you're mighty appreciative of those who save your exhaust port.'
He rolled his eyes.
'Primus,' Mirage sat on the desk. 'What's stuck in your fan belt?'
'...Megatron has been captured.'
'What?!' exclaimed Mirage. 'Has he really?! This is great news!'
'Lugnut and Shockwave were captured, too...Looks like Shockwave was transwarped to safety, after all.'
'Shockwave? Then what's your problem?!' He stood on his desk and did a quick jig. 'Sure he's still alive, but still, you should be dancing around and offering me a can of oil so we can celebrate! I have some very high class stuff back at my place. Cost me a fortune, but I've been waiting to open it until this day...'
Cliffjumper continued to sulk.
'Oh, I get it!' Mirage began to laugh and jumped onto the floor. 'I get it, now! You're mad because you weren't the one to capture him! Oh, Primus! Even I didn't think you were this self-absorbed!'
Mirage peered over his shoulder, quickly reading the letter displayed.
'You don't understand!' Cliffjumper lamented. 'I mean, Shockwave was supposed t'be my Decepticon! I was the one who was supposed to beat the slag out of him! And now this repair crew that's stationed on Earth captured him! Ugh! This is total injustice, if you ask me.'
'An Autobot died trying to bring him in,' said Mirage, unexpectedly becoming serious. 'You should be glad Shockwave was caught at all. I mean, he's a pretty smart 'Con...How look here, Cliffjumper, I know you wanted to avenge Blurr's...condition and all, but you don't have to do everyone on your own. So, let's say we gather at the Oil House tonight and have a few drinks. Once this gets out, this'll be big news! Everyone's gonna be so excited!'
'Yeah, well,' Cliffjumper frowned. 'Just because Megatron's been captured, doesn't mean that the war with the Decepticons is over.'
'I know, but it's a pretty big step!' said Mirage. 'By the way, the twins told me you met with Ultra Magnus. Great he's back in working condition, eh? Well, sort of...Anyways, what's the verdict? I know you got your job back, but that can't be all.'
'Banned from using weapons, they're tracing my movements, and...' Cliffjumper grimaced. '...Community service.'
Mirage burst out laughing. He spent a good cycle using the wall for support, clutching at his torso. It was only after he let all of his hot air out that he managed to stand upright and clear his throat.
'That I can't wait to see,' said Mirage.
Cliffjumper punched him in the arm. Mirage gently rubbed the spot he'd hit.
'Good grief, banned from weapons, indeed, but you still pack a nasty punch...So, you really don't have any weapons?'
He sighed. 'Yeah. I don't want anything to do with Decepticons, anyways.'
'Uh, pardon me, but didn't you buy a –'
'Do we have to reminisce?'
'Amazing...you're totally defenseless if you get into a fight...which can't be too far in the future. Ah, well. I suppose this will be good for you.'
'After what I've been through, I don't want to see another gun, stinger, or bazooka,' Cliffjumper replied. '...Well...maybe for two megacycles. But anyways, I can't do anything about it. I always preferred my fists, anyways.'
Mirage grinned. 'You're one weird Autobot. But in a good way.' He looked around. 'Hey, it's kinda quiet in here. Where's Stance? He's still Head of Intel, isn't he?'
'He left a note saying he resigned the moment he heard I was coming back,' said Cliffjumper. 'I know I'm not complaining. I'm running the place until Cybertron Command can find a replacement. And it won't be me.'
'Chin up, Cliffjumper,' Mirage encouraged. 'You should be grateful...Well, I better get back to work. They're giving me my new assignment today. But maybe I can bribe my way out of it...one day out of the joint, and you'd think they'd let me take the megacycle off. Maybe go to my villa or something...'
Mirage paused in the door. Cliffjumper leaned back on his chair, placed his feet on the desk, and took another swig of his oil.
'Hey, whatever happens, I got your back,' said Mirage. 'Just do your own thing and don't listen to other 'bots, 'kay?'
'Yeah, sure,' Cliffjumper mumbled, vaguely waving in his direction. 'Talk to you tonight.'
With that, Mirage left, leaving behind him a sense of relaxation. It was an unfamiliar sensation that made Cliffjumper anxious. A Decepticon could be right around the corner, prepared to kill him. Maybe even a fellow Autobot. He hadn't encountered many 'bots since his return, but he was highly aware of their feelings. Thankfully, at the ol' Oil House, they didn't care if you were Autobot, Decepticon, neutral, or slagging traitor. He'd drown his sorrows tonight in the company of good friends.
His feet still on the desk, he mentally made his plan for the evenings. That's when the phone rang. Primus, he'd forgotten how much he missed just sitting here, twiddling his thumbs. Anticipating action. Well, he was pretty sure that this leisure would die down in a few days and he could get back to his old, tense self.
Cliffjumper looked around. Good to be home.
He answered the phone. 'Cybertron Intelligence. Cliffjumper speaking.'
Blissful – and nightmarish – darkness.
The private room wasn't the scrap heap, but close enough. Cliffjumper stood just inside, feeling suddenly claustrophobic. (Totally against his nature. But hey, it could happen to the best of 'bots.) Tubes and wires were plugged into Blurr's chest, small bleeps in synchronization with his spark beat. He looked just as bad as he had a few megacycles ago. Maybe worse. Cliffjumper found himself afraid to approach. Afraid that if he did so, Blurr would suddenly wake up and blame him for all he went through...Primus, imagine how he must've felt...
He checked his internal clock. He knew that if he didn't get on with it, he'd be late for his meeting with Mirage at the Oil House. Cliffjumper came forwards, as close as he could without touching any of the equipment. The air was moist and smelt of oil. He took a quick look around to make sure that he was alone.
'...Blurr?' he said, his voice hoarse. 'Look, I don't know if you can hear me or anything. I never believed in that slag that a 'bot in a coma could hear. But I know that once you wake up we won't talk so I figured this is the best way.'
He spent another cycle standing there.
'You know how sometimes friends drift apart?' asked Cliffjumper. 'I don't know what most 'bot think, but...even though we stopped talking to each other, I could never stop caring about what happened to you. I never could. I told myself that I should move on from the past, and be stronger than everyone else. They're always saying in Cybertron Command that you have to separate your personal feelings from your duties. I thought I did that. But...But Ultra Magnus...' He swallowed. 'H – He was right. I didn't, because I gave it all up in a split second just to save you. And you didn't deserve to die. You did...didn't –' Words becoming caught in this throat, Cliffjumper struggled to summon the energy to continue. For Blurr. He resumed, his voice becoming stronger. 'You didn't deserve to die at the hands of a Decepticon coward! When you do wake up and hear what happened, I want you to watch yourself.'
He looked around. They were still alone, thank goodness. Cliffjumper leaned a bit closer.
'Blurr, you were my first friend. I'll never forget what you did, even if you didn't do it on purpose. I hope you never forgot about me. You listen to me, Blurr. When you wake up and get back on your feet, you might not remember me or any of this. But you'll still go back out in the field. I know what's what you'd do. If something happens and you get...get captured by Decepticons, or whatever, I'll come help you. I swear it on my spark...But try not to, for Primus's sake, or I'll get arrested, again.'
Cliffjumper lightly touched Blurr's wrist. After spending a long time just staring at him, he backed away, and headed for the door. Halfway there, he paused. He laughed at an afterthought.
'Hey, don't run too fast,' he added, glancing at Blurr. 'Knowing you, you were probably crushed in the first place because you went too fast.'
Cliffjumper exited. The light behind him cast his shadow on the med bay's floor, Blurr's body in the midst of a tangled mess. An ironic allusion to what Cliffjumper and other 'bots had gone through to help him. Managing a small smile, he left. The door slid shut.
Silence. But, like all silence, it was broken. The lines graphing Blurr's brainwaves suddenly peeked.
Blurr opened his optics. Only they did not glow the peaceful Autobot blue.
They were Decepticon red.
I'd like to extend a thanks to all my readers and reviewers who enjoyed this story - for some reason or another. Frankly, I'm surprised people enjoyed it, considering the state it was in before. Hopefully this rewrite clarified a few facts. I think it's much better than it was, though I still think it could use some work. Meh. I'll pay attention to the details, later. I plan to do a semi-sequel and I have a midquel in progress.
Like I said, it needed to be done, and I am pleased with the results.
Special acknowledgements go to Consuelo Hidgon, for the expert and honest advice, and TyLeeChan, for being a flamboyant, very entertaining reviewer and supporter of this story.
That said, I bid you all farewell.