Chapter 23: Survival of the Spark
"Optimus, you can't be serious about letting her go on this mission," Prowl insisted as he followed at his leader's heels. "She's not ready to go into the field like this."
The Prime was already walking briskly; his long legs required Prowl to really work to keep up.
"Blitzangel is the one who volunteered. She thinks she is ready," Optimus countered, "and she is right. She knows these femmes; she's forged relationships with some of them. That qualifies her to join this mission."
"It's dangerous," Prowl countered.
"All missions have their dangers, Prowl, but I have also granted approval for you and Jazz to go as well, as you requested. You don't believe the two of you can keep her safe?"
Prowl stayed quiet.
"From what I understand, Blitzangel is also a very capable fighter and has been taking care of herself for a while now. I am confident she can stand on her own."
"I'm not questioning her battle prowess, Prime. I'm worried about her mental state. Can she handle this emotionally?"
Optimus paused and turned to his second. "Prowl, I would not ask her to go if she didn't want to. She was the one to request this. If she wants to move forward, I will not be the one holding her back."
"Understood," Prowl accepted, though his face was blank.
"Good. Now let's get that shuttle out as soon as possible. This is an emergency."
Though he would not speak against his leader once the decision was finalized, Prowl still wasn't happy about Blitzangel's inclusion on the rescue mission. His displeasure was almost palpable as he sat in his seat, awaiting the liftoff of the shuttle.
In theory, the mission wouldn't be too involved. The Decepti-femmes were asking for assistance, but not the direct involvement of the entire Autobot army. They had requested only supplies- energon and ammunition- and the evacuation of their wounded. From the sound of it, the Decepticons had already found them and there was a small war going on layers and layers beneath Cybertron's surface.
Optimus Prime had immediately approved the request for assistance. The subject of the Decepti-femme's renewable energy source had yet to be breached with the response plan. While he certainly didn't want the Decepticons to have it, he didn't want to steal it from their female counterparts either. It was a tricky situation. The Prime's first act, as always, was to aid the survival of those under attack. The rest would come later.
Prowl would have to leave those issues to Optimus for the time being. As the shuttle launched for the destination coordinates, he knew he would need to give this mission all of his focus. Springer was at the helm, Jazz in the copilot's seat. Usually, that was Prowl's seat. This time he was one row behind so he could make sure Blitzangel understood her part in the plan.
She was the only femme on board. Elita thought it best not to allow any of her soldiers to go. There was bad blood between the Autobot and Decepticon femmes ... dating even from before Spectra, the Decepti-femme leader, sold the Autobots out to body traffickers. It was a deep feud spanning millions of years. Elita thought it best if the Autobot femmes stayed away from this first attempt at cooperation between the factions.
"Remember, you're only here for one job," Prowl reminded of Blitzangel as the shuttle began its descent toward their destination. "All we want you to do is help ensure we have further friendly communication between them in the future. You're a liaison, someone they can trust to talk to. But if fighting breaks out for any reason, you will NOT engage. You will return to the safety of the shuttle and let us handle it, understood?"
Blitzangel reached out to the white fist clutching an armrest and squeezed his hand. "It's fine, Prowl. This is going to turn out for the better. You'll see; everything will be okay."
Inside her head, however, Blitzangel worried about Spectra. The Decepti-femme leader had seemed a little ruthless and unhinged (not to mention her blatant selling out of her gender for petty reasons). If the situation had gotten so desperate that she was now asking for help, maybe there would be room for compromises. It was all Blitzangel could hope for, and she wanted to. Tired of all the negative thinking, she wanted to look forward with optimism. She wanted to help those femmes who had been down in the smallest, dankest parts of the planet for so long. Everyone deserved to see the light of day.
Prowl looked down at the dainty hand squeezing his and it brought another issue to mind. "There is something else I would like to speak with you about," he said softly. "I think I may have figured out the reasons for your attitude lately."
"Huh?" the femme asked stupidly, having no clue what he was talking about.
"Since Nightshade has arrived, I've had my attentions divided elsewhere. You worry I won't have any time for you. I just want you to know that there is no need to be jealous. I will always make time for you if you need me."
Blitzangel's mouth fell open in a silent laugh, incredulity flooding over her.
Jazz whipped back in his seat. "Prowl, no," he said in a low, warning tone.
Prowl was blanking on his gaffe, but he could feel Blitzangel's look like a palpable weight. The silence was punctuated by the shuttle landing solidly on the planet's surface.
"Are you serious?" she blurted. If she hadn't been belted in, she would have jumped to her feet. "I am an adult, you idiot!"
Autobots couldn't scramble out of the shuttle fast enough to get away from the scene as it exploded.
"Just because I'm not over a million years old, that doesn't make me a child!"
Prowl, you don't say the jealousy word to a femme, Jazz radioed to him privately. Not ever, ever ever.
But even Jazz was gone from the shuttle to escape the argument. Prowl was left on his own.
"Where did you even get this ridiculous idea that-" Blitzangel paused when she found the answer to her own question. "Oh no, you've been talking to that green femme."
"Her name is Nightshade," Prowl said irritably.
"And she's messing with you! You're so much smarter than this, why are you letting her dictate what you think?"
"Maybe she has a point," Prowl challenged, tone calm. "You get irritable whenever she's mentioned."
"I get angry on your behalf! She's stringing you along, using you! And you're too infatuated to notice! She doesn't care-"
Prowl cut her off, physically touching her shoulder to silence her. At first, Blitzangel thought he just didn't want to hear what she had to say. But he wasn't even looking at her. His head was down so his hearing could be focused elsewhere.
Before Blitzangel could even ask what was going on, she began to notice it: the heavy moaning of metal under too much pressure. Before either could figure out what that meant, there was a sickening, snapping sound and the world lurched violently.
Outside, Jazz had been standing closest to the shuttle, wondering if he should step in to play mediator, when he heard the groaning of metal as well. Then the surface of the planet shattered like an eggshell under the weight of the shuttle. Jazz scrambled back so as not to fall in as the entire shuttle disappeared.
The Autobots peered down into the new hole on Cybertron's surface, only to see a black, gaping maw of darkness. Nothing was down there but empty air as far as optics could see. There was still the sound of crackling in the distance as the massive shuttle continued to plummet. Jazz felt his spark sink in horror as realization set in. They had been tricked, and Prowl and Blitzangel were still in the shuttle.
Blitzangel was practically pasted to the wall of the shuttle as she experienced the weightlessness of free fall. Every once in a while, the ship's bulwark crashed into pipes or broken paneling. Each snapped and shattered under the weight, the shuttle continuing to plummet down layer after layer. The femme was frozen where she clutched the wall, clinging to the solid surface.
"The Decepti-femmes tricked us," Prowl spat, impressively standing with full balance in the middle of the floor. "They wanted the supplies, but they didn't want to make an alliance with us. Wherever this shuttle is going, we shouldn't be on it. We'll be outnumbered."
He dragged himself over to the shuttle door and forced it open. It was immediately ripped off by the sheer wall of metal detritus from past generations. Wind whipped into the cabin, tearing at the joints of the door panels on his back.
"There's got to be a way out of here," he yelled over the scream of air.
He felt Blitzangel peer over his shoulder and then back away. This was probably more than she could handle. The second in command was quite resolved to tackle the problem himself until Blitzangel tackled him. The femme charged at full speed from behind and they both went sailing into the black, open space of ancient history long forgotten.
The dead weight of the hulking shuttle pulled it down faster than the two smaller bodies attempting to slow their own descent. Blitzangel's arms had been around Prowl's waist when they shot out into the open air, then she was violently knocked away from him. They ricocheted off metal surfaces, the jolt of the sudden trajectory change bouncing them around like a ping pong ball in a dryer.
Warning systems peppered Prowl's neural net as his body took damage. He finally rolled to a stop, feeling like his spark chamber had been bounced up into his mouth. He was lying face down, one arm dangling out into wide darkness. Somewhere below, the shuttle had crashed to a halt. Not too far below at that. He was too close. He needed to get away from this place, get to higher levels, find the surface. He also needed to find Blitzangel.
As Prowl pulled himself to his feet, all the damage he had incurred immediately began to complain all over his personal status report. Fortunately, all the important systems still seemed to be functioning; he would be okay.
There was the sound of movement behind him and Prowl whipped around. He instantly felt pain rip through his back at the movement. He tried to reach behind to the wound, but it was the joint of his door panel, too far for his fingers. One of the panels was completely shredded and hanging at a broken angle.
A feminine groan momentarily took his attention away from his own pains.
"Angel?" Prowl flipped on his headlights, illuminating Blitzangel's body draped upside down on a pile of rubble. Her head scraped the ground as she tried to move. "Are you damaged?"
"A little banged up," she replied as she attempted to get her systems righted again. Rolling over, she heard the clatter of broken glass behind her. "Aw, man. There goes my cockpit." Standing a bit shakily, she wriggled around, trying to dislodge the last of the broken glass from her back. "How about you? Oh, ouch." She immediately caught sight of the mangled door and moved to inspect it. "Does it hurt?"
Prowl winced in response when she tried to move it.
"Well, that settles that," Blitzangel announced as she opened the hip compartment to her tool kit, "That needs to come off."
She moved behind him and set about severing wires before full extraction.
"That was a stupid plan," Prowl said to the dark tunnel. His systems began to forget his door panel was ever a part of his body as all the connecting wires were removed. "You could have killed us both doing that."
"Well, you were the one who said we needed to get out of the shuttle," Blitzangel responded idly as she removed what was left of the door. "We didn't really have the time to wait for you to come up with something better." She paused, pulling back to inspect her handiwork. "I think I'm going to remove the other one, too. That way you won't be lopsided and going around in circles."
"What do you think I am, a one-oar canoe without it?" Prowl asked, nodding over his shoulder.
Blitzangel smiled slightly. "You'll still have better balance if both are removed. though it would be funny to see you only able to make left turns."
Prowl didn't say anything. She wasn't sure if he was amused or not. Probably not. They weren't exactly in the safest place, nor in the best of shape. Prowl certainly wasn't the type to rest easy under such circumstances.
Just as Blitzangel removed the second door, Prowl's lights switched off completely, plunging them into total darkness.
"What?" Blitzangel asked, her voice suddenly quiet.
"I'm picking up a signature on my sensors," he responded, turning to peer out into the open hole. Somewhere on the other side of the gaping maw, a thin light scratched against the darkness.
Blitzangel felt the mech's arm brace in front of her, backing her further into the tunnel.
"We need to get out of here," he said quietly. Hopefully, any enemies in the area would be too preoccupied with their new shuttle to worry about stragglers.
The femme fell silent and serious. Even with his night vision, Prowl had a hard time picking her out among all the rust and debris around them. Then he felt her small hand clamp onto his wrist. She pulled him off through the darkness, deeper into the ancient refuse of a once happy and industrious people.
"It was a setup, Prime! They played us for suckers!" Jazz yelled over the radio.
"Wait, wait, slow down Jazz," his leader's voice responded. "I don't understand. How do you know the shuttle was stolen?"
"It just dropped, Prime. It was crazy. We landed exactly where those harpies said we should and we parked that thing right onto their trap. The top layer snapped under the weight and there is nothing underneath, just a massive hole. Those sneaky femmes stole all our equipment and brought it right to their back door."
"Prowl and Blitzangel were still in the shuttle when it dropped?"
"Yeah, Prime," Jazz sighed. "They're gone. I don't even-" he paused as Springer shot an arm out again to block Jazz from wandering too close to the hole. The second in command kept pacing in his agitation. He kept wanting to look down at the gaping maw, even though he knew there was nothing to see. They had all agreed it was best to stay far from the hole, not knowing how much more of the chasm's lip was rendered too unsteady to hold their weight.
"I don't know what to do, Prime. We're stranded out here. No shuttle, no ammo, no supplies. It will take all day to drive back to Iacon and I can't just leave them down there."
There was a pause on the other end. "Do I need to put Springer in charge?" Optimus asked.
Jazz's jaw dropped. He suddenly realized he had been panicking all over the radio and it was very unlike him. Now was not the time to fall apart. "No, Prime," he said with a calmer voice. "I'm okay, just lost my cool for a second. I guess Prowl and I swapped bodies. He's usually the one that can't cope when a plan doesn't go the way he wanted it. Time to adapt and react. Thanks, boss bot."
"So what do you want to do?"
Jazz took a moment to calculate, glaring at the deep, dark pit as if it were laughing at him.
"I need another shuttle. Something smaller and faster."
"And for its crew?"
Jazz's jaw was set. "The Dinobots."
Prowl kept all external lights off as they traversed deeper through the old tunnels. Blitzangel led the way while he stayed behind her, more concerned whether any enemies were following them. Though they tried to remain as silent as possible, some of the tunnels creaked and groaned under the weight of robots who hadn't walked those corridors for countless millions of years. Rusted metal crinkled under their feet like dry leaves.
Blitzangel suddenly gave a startled cry as she fell. Prowl instantly flipped his headlights back on in alarm to find her on the ground, one leg puncturing the floor. She winced at the bright light in her face.
"Ugh, turn that off! I can't see!" she barked, trying to shield herself with one hand.
The lights flicked off again as Prowl rushed to help her.
"Are you okay?" she heard Prowl's voice close by. Static was still dancing in her optic band, but she felt him grab her shoulders and slowly tug her loose.
Metal squealed as it was scraped together and Blitzangel winced at the sound. Her vision recovered in time to see Prowl crouched in front of her. His hands ran from her thigh down to the ankle, checking it for injuries.
"It's fine, just scratches," she said, brushing both him and particles off her leg.
When she got to her feet just fine, Prowl looked satisfied enough. "We need to be careful, no telling when something will collapse around us."
"That's why I'm the leader," Blitzangel replied with a grin. "You're twice my weight. If you had been the one to find that rust hole I might have had to go spelunking for your carcass."
Prowl did not return her light tone. "I wish you would have stayed in Iacon for this mission."
"So things didn't quite go the way you planned. You and I are still just fine," the femme insisted. "Just watch, you and I are going to stroll right back up to the surface as pretty as you please and we'll just regroup from there."
The second still frowned, checking his radio again. No service down this far. Too many layers of solid matter blocking all signals. "We should still be careful. That kind of optimism can get you killed. We need to be realistic about the situation."
Blitzangel huffed as she started walking again. "Oh, please. I'm the realist, you're the pessimist. Jazz is the optimist."
Prowl's mouth quirked up just a little. "Is that how it is?"
She turned back to grab his wrist and pull him with her. "Yes, that's how it is."
Prowl allowed her to lead him by the hand for only a few moments before he slipped out of her grip. Though he continued to stay close, he would often turn around to scan behind them for any pursuers. The tunnels continued to seem deserted. The two bots appeared to be the first life forms in these passageways since they had first been abandoned.
Blitzangel paused in her tracks and Prowl almost ran into her during one of his backward sweeps.
"This one's blocked," she stated, eying the solid wall in front of them. "I guess we turn around and try again?"
Prowl stepped in front to inspect the barrier. It wasn't that the tunnel had completely collapsed in their path, there was just a solid wall in front of them. That didn't make sense to him at all.
"No one would just build a wall in the middle of a tunnel. There's an explanation for this." Prowl flicked on his headlights again to get a better view of what deterred them. He pulled out a small energy blade and began chipping away at the thick growth of rust completely covering the area.
Blitzangel stayed back, arms folded. She kept glancing behind her, feeling a little out of sorts now that Prowl wasn't at her back. This place seemed so dead and lifeless at first glance, and yet, she couldn't help but feel that there was some sort of energy down here. It made her wingtips tingle. That familiar sensation triggered memories. She had been down deep in the planet before. It was not the first time she had encountered this feeling. A time with a group of wary seekers entered her mind.
Prowl's sound of triumph returned her attention back to him.
"There's a door here," he announced as he scraped at puffy layer of rust.
Blitzangel moved to help him, eager to continue forward and leave her uneasy feeling behind. She crouched and wedged her agile fingers into the crack. Between the two of them, they managed to force the ancient door open with the loud scream of scraping metal.
"I hope no one heard that," Blitzangel said as she glanced behind her.
"Get in," was all Prowl said in reply.
The threshold actually seemed to be the doorway into a large building. It was industrial in design, not a residence, but a place of business. A place where they used to build. Conveyor belts and long dormant, rotted robotic arms were interred, row by row, in this long forgotten place.
"Looks like an old assembly line," Blitzangel said softly, as if speaking too loudly would cause the dust and ghosts to stir. "I wonder what they built here?" She had a small flashlight in her hand now. It was mostly used to peer inside the darkness of a patient's internal cavity, but it was strong enough to send a concentrated beam to the far wall.
Prowl didn't say anything to answer her question; he was in no mood for conjecture. Still sore about his botched mission, he just wanted to get out and get them to safety.
Blitzangel let out a soft gasp and then "Prowl, look."
Prowl turned to see what her light beam had found. There, slightly disfigured under nests of puffy rust, was a partially completed body hanging from a hook. Robotic guts hung down from the torso like trailed intestines. Blitzangel momentarily thought it reminiscent of a slasher film, then a question came to her.
"Is this how they used to build Cybertronians?" she wondered. "They just mass produced them like this?"
"Not that I am aware of," Prowl said, now observing the body with a fastidious gaze. Despite its macabre appearance, it wasn't a dead body, but one waiting to be completed. "To mass manufacture life is... sparkless. The generation of those who could bring life took great care and pride in their creations. Each was different as each personality is also different. The only robotic mechanisms we mass produced were devices of labor: construction machinery, air shuttles, security sentinels."
But even as he looked over the body, Prowl knew this one was not meant for mere automated labor. The form was too much like his own, though rounded and retro like much older generations, instead of the more modern sharp angles. The form had a face, features; they did not bother with such things if they were just meant as implements of everyday drudgery.
"If someone at some time was trying to mass produce Cybertronians, I don't see the reason for it," Prowl continued. "I also can't imagine Vector Sigma granting life to a cluster of copied designs all at one time. That wasn't what creation was about. I don't understand who would want to do that, or why."
"To make an army," Blitzangel said simply, sending Prowl a small chill. "Megatron has done it himself with his seeker clones."
Prowl gazed at her and then returned his attention back to the pendulous body. "This level is, no doubt, far before even Megatron's time."
"Meaning he wasn't the first to have such an idea."
Prowl had nothing to say to that, but continued to gaze upon the shell thoughtfully while Blitzangel moved on. When he realized she was no longer at his side, he hurried after her, reminding himself they needed to be on the move.
"Check out these control panels," Blitzangel said when he caught up with her. She was standing at a control console overlooking the assembly plant. "It's so short." She squatted down as if sitting in an invisible chair and put her hands up in the position where she would normally find a keyboard. The panel was still quite a bit lower. "I'm not that tall compared to the average size either. Who was running this building? Robot Oompa Loompas?"
Prowl frowned, recognizing that she was using an Earth reference, but not able to look it up without access to her planet's internet. He also didn't much like the fact that this entire building wasn't making sense. It put all his sensibilities on edge when pieces didn't fit exactly how he wanted them to. He also knew they couldn't afford to continue to nose around this place.
"We need to keep going," he said with a guiding hand at her back and urgency in his tone.
They took the hallway leading to the opposite end of the building, hoping to discover an exit.
"The halls are very narrow," Blitzangel continued to point out. Prowl was walking behind her again. If they had been walking side by side, and if Prowl still had his panels, they would have been scraping against the wall. "I don't think Ultra Magnus would be able to fit down here without stooping. Were previous generations of Cybertronians smaller than they are now?"
"I honestly am not sure," Prowl's steady voice sounded behind her. "Like all history, the further back into the past, the less information there is to be found about how life was back then."
"Which is very strange, considering you all have computer brains and you are a very information-oriented people."
"Files still get old and corrupted, or deleted for certain reasons. Political leaders wishing to alter the history of their exploits to portray them in a favoring light. As they say, history is written by the victors. While this current war has been by far the largest and most catastrophic event of our history, it wasn't the only event. I'm afraid we have always been a war-minded people, even in our Golden Age."
Up ahead, their lights flickered to the end of the walkway and to a door that was forever set ajar. Squeezing out of the small opening, the pair found themselves in a wide open world. A vast courtyard sprawled before them, the vestige of a once beautiful city. Now dilapidated sculptures and architecture bore silent witness that once a people lived down here, that at one time they thrived. How beautiful it must have been, these buildings reaching toward the polychromatic sky! Now the sky was a barrier of metal, a silent tomb for a dead city.
"This place is amazing," Blitzangel said in quiet reverence. "Your whole planet is like a history museum. Why did they just build over places like this? Why abandon it, lock it away and never look at it again?"
Prowl, too, was sweeping his exacting gaze over the silent sprawl. "It has always been the nature of our people to look more to the future than the past. We have always built up and out, improving Cybertron, making it bigger, grander. Increasing the circumference of the planet's surface was how we made space for all the newly sparked."
"Why not build downward?" Blizangel wondered out loud as they walked through the decrepit past. "Why the obsession with living on the surface?"
Prowl thought about it, but had no solid answer. "That's just how we are," was all he could offer.
"It almost feels like you keep building out to get away from something," the femme mused.
They followed the uneven pathway in search of a way out. Blitzangel turned a corner and squeaked, stumbling back in startled surprise. Prowl was instantly in front of her, weapon drawn protectively. But there was no danger, no one there. No one living, anyway.
Blitzangel stayed behind the black and white Autobot, merely because the sheer sight of what she had discovered disturbed her. "What... is it?"
Prowl's optics flickered several times in complete perplexity. His files could not find a match for the corpse at his feet. "I...I have no idea."
By all visual evidence, the entire body comprised merely an egg-shaped head. It was quite large for a head. It would have gone up to their knees if propped upright. The face was not Cybertronian in design, but highly stylized into a grotesque expression.
What Prowl found the most disturbing was the evidence of organic material. While the thing didn't seem to have limbs to provide it motion, there were the desiccated remnants of several tentacles coming from the orb-like body. This half metal, half flesh creature was not in any of Prowl's databanks. Where did such a thing come from and what had it been doing on Cybertron?
"Look, is that writing?" Blitzangel asked as her tiny light scraped over the wall next to the corpse.
Prowl shined his light. There were foreign characters burned into the metal. The last words of a dying life form. There were burn marks in the body; Prowl noticed them now. Who had killed this poor creature? And why?
"Do you know what kind of language that is, Prowl?"
He returned his attention back to the marks on the wall, trying to match them to anything in his records. "It looks as though it's a form of ancient Cybertronian."
The femme was intrigued. "What does it say?"
"I'm not entirely certain. The language is difficult to decipher."
She smirked at him. "Really, with all the random knowledge you have, Prowl, I would think you'd take the time to learn the language of your planet's history."
"It isn't quite like that. Ancient Cybertronian was a constantly progressive language. Many of our scientists believe that much like organic species, we had a period of evolution. A time where we grew in intelligence and understanding, where we developed our technology and our alt modes, and where we perfected our language into what it is today.
"Because the grammatical constituents were constantly changing, only erudite scholars on the subject are able to translate our most ancient texts. I can read more recent versions of the language. The older it is, the more difficult it is to decipher."
"I think I've actually seen this kind of writing before," Blitzangel admitted.
"Really," Prowl said in a doubtful tone. "And where, pray tell, was that?"
"It wasn't on Cybertron, it was out when I was running around with Drift. I saw a lot of different writing though. Maybe I'm wrong. I just thought it looked familiar."
Prowl frowned minutely at the mention of the neutral, but didn't comment.
Blitzangel decided to snap a digital still of the scene. Maybe Drift could help her confirm if such writing had shown up in their travels. "Can you figure out any of it?" she then asked, full of curiosity.
Prowl studied it for several moments, attempting to see what sense he could make of it with his limited knowledge. "I'm sure this is nowhere near accurate, but the best I can figure, it says 'I will become alive.' Or maybe 'I am still alive.' I could be completely incorrect."
Blitzangel shivered involuntarily from the message. I am still alive. The last words of a dying creature. Though its appearance was disturbing to her, this creature was intelligent and it obviously died alone. Even though it happened millions of years ago, she still felt pity for it.
Prowl had taken a few stills of the scene as well, but he was getting antsy. They couldn't afford to linger.
"Let's move on," Blitzangel said first, arms around herself as if she were cold. There was something about the place that gave her the chills.
The way she hunched brought out a protective surge in Prowl. This place wasn't any good for her. The same went for this entire mission. He needed to get her home.
They continued for a while, feeling like intruders in the silent, ancient world. Blitzangel felt like even their voices would offend the history of this place. According to Prowl, it was so old it had heard an entirely different language from their own.
Prowl, however, had given no consideration to the history of their surroundings. His first thought was keeping Blitzangel safe. Then he wondered about her emotional well-being. Next his mental process ran back to their earlier discussion, and it still perturbed him to think about it.
"Back then," he announced without preamble, "you said you kept getting angry on my behalf."
"Yeah," she simply agreed.
"I don't know if I believe that your stance on the situation has nothing to do with your own feelings about Nightshade and I."
Blitzangel huffed heavily, though she continued to trudge forward. "Really Prowl? Here? Now? You want to keep harping on this now?"
"I'm sorry, I'm having a hard time understanding your thought process on this. I wish to discuss it. If not here, then when we get home."
"No, you want to keep arguing about it," she shot back, "just because you don't agree with my opinion."
"I just want to know what it is you have against Nightshade. It feels like you have engendered an aversion to her for no logical reason."
Blitzangel suddenly paused in her steps and whirled to face him. Prowl was almost nose to nose with her before he put on the brakes.
"She takes advantage of you, that's why I don't like her," she said in his face. "She uses your blind infatuation to get what she wants."
"There's nothing wrong with caring about someone and wanting them to have all you can give them," Prowl argued. "I do the same for you. I have done everything in my power to make sure you're comfortable, taken care of. Aren't you using me, too? How is she different from you?"
"Because I actually love you, you big-" Blitzangel cut herself off. "You know what? I don't care anymore. You can make your own decisions. Do whatever you want Prowl, just leave me out of it. If you think the problem is me, then stop involving me. I will stay out of your life."
Prowl never really understood the human saying about having a gut feeling. But now he was having a physical response to this. Not in his spark, but something lower. His sensibilities were telling him Blitzangel's statement was so far away from what he wanted that he had better reconsider where he was going with this or she would be out of his life. That thought almost scared him. He suddenly realized that he did not want his future without Blitzangel in it and the revelation was startling.
As he wrestled with his thoughts, Blitzangel's head swung around. Something caught her sensitive hearing: movement.
"Well, look at this," a female voice resounded above their heads.
On top of an abstract sculpture, a red visor glistened in the dark. Blitzangel recognized that head shape, that manic, merciless grin.
"Catscratch," she hissed.
Other pairs of red optics appeared behind her, bodies crouched on top of various buildings. Female Decepticons. Prowl reached for his weapon, suddenly feeling as if they had just stepped into a hornet's nest.
"If it isn't our little traitor. In the company of an Autobot, no less," Catscratch purred. "How do you keep surviving? Primus must have himself one sick sense of humor."
There was hatred in the rust-colored Decepti-femme's voice and Blitzangel knew that talking back would do no good. Catscratch was holding a grudge from the last time they met. Blitzangel had sliced her head clean off. She idly wondered how long it had taken to put the Decepti-femme back together. At the same time, Blitzangel was searching the other silhouettes for someone familiar. She would rather have spoken with Darkstar if she were anywhere around. But it didn't seem the second in command was in this group.
Prowl was standing in front of Blitzangel, weapon aimed and primed. They were vastly outnumbered and lost, the odds didn't look good and he wasn't sure how he could keep his friend safe from all of this. Slowly, he tried to back them away from the enemy, to disappear into the darkness.
"And where do you think you're going?" Catscratch called, irritated they weren't bantering with her.
"We don't want any trouble," Prowl said evenly.
"Of course you don't," one of the femmes sang from the darkness, "because you'll lose."
Several voices joined her in laughing. It was not a pleasant sound. Prowl felt his spark sink. How was he supposed to get them out of here alive? Blitzangel was counting on him to protect her.
"I count maybe eight in all," Blitzangel's soft voice radiated in his audial. "Plus Catscratch. Stay away from her, she's dangerous. If they're not going to let us leave, we'll have to render them inactive. Please don't kill any of them if you can help it."
Her voice was calm and confident. For a moment, Prowl still thought he had his little Crystal with him, brave and trained for fights in the ring, but not for war. So many times had he horrified himself with mental thoughts of the enemy tearing her apart. But this wasn't his Crystal any longer. Blitzangel was cool and competent. She had been though certain things Prowl would never have wished for her, but had gained more experience and confidence than she would ever have earned otherwise.
Blitzangel snapped out her blades and he flinched a little at the unfamiliar sound.
Before Prowl could issue any orders, there was a scream of engines as Blitzangel tore into the air after the femmes. At first, they were startled by the frontal attack, but soon laser fire lit up the darkness.
Prowl did his best to provide cover fire. It was all he could do, being stuck on the ground. The first sounds of energy blades hitting something solid could be heard above the din and a femme fell from the roof. Prowl rushed to the fallen enemy, landing a solid hit to her processor that would knock her out for quite some time. He did not relish hitting a femme of any faction, but this was a desperate situation.
As soon as the first femme fell unconscious, another femme dropped down in front of him: the leader of the team, Catscratch. She didn't have anything to say to an Autobot mech, but she still grinned at him before she attacked.
On the building above, Blitzangel disabled two more femmes, rendering them immobile but conscious with her blades and medical knowledge. The Decepti-femmes were reeling from surprise. They thought they knew the wayward femme, who had been quiet and confused when she was taken to their lair. Little did they know how much Blitzangel had learned about combat since then. And it was all thanks to what the female Decepticons had done to their Autobot counterparts in revenge.
But now it was Blitzangel's turn to be surprised as two more Decepti-femmes landed on either side of her. They were svelte in form and painfully familiar. Blitzangel couldn't help but drop her guard a little.
"Dice, Domino," she said in a suddenly gentle voice.
The twins glared at her in unison.
"Traitor," each took their turn to spit at her. The hurt was clear in their voices.
"I'm sorry," Blitzangel told them. "I really am, but I had to do what I felt was right."
The twins stared at her with confusion on their faces, as if such a concept could not even exist in their world.
"We saved you," Dice insisted.
"We took you into our home," Domino added.
"You owed us your loyalty," they said together.
Blitzangel was filled with regret. "I like you both very much. I am grateful for your friendship when I was lost and confused. But you don't get to dictate my allegiance. My loyalties are with my family."
Dice mouthed the word with incredulity. Domino growled.
"If not with us, you are the enemy."
The two attacked in tandem, rushing her on either side. They were nimble and quick, energy blades in their hands. The twins were used to being a team. They attacked as one, causing their adversary to immediately go on the defensive from the volley of blades. Blitzangel let them put her on the retreat, struggling to block them each time. They were good. As a team, they were nearly unbeatable and maybe, if she'd had this battle with the twins the last time they met, they would have killed her.
But Blitzangel had learned much since then. She had seen many more one-on-one battles. And she'd had a teacher, one who also preferred using blades. One who was far deadlier than either of these femmes. Drift had taught her to be patient, to learn the pace of her attacker. Once she had figured out their rhythm, Blitzangel pushed back.
She plunged her energy blades in darkness and then powered them to full intensity, momentarily blinding the sisters. They were fast and they were strong, but Blitzangel could hit so much harder. With a few slices and a well-placed kick, Domino was sliding across the roof. Startled by being parted from her sister, it wasn't difficult to send Dice to join her. Blitzangel was on them instantly, cutting only a few wires to render their processors unable to control their limbs.
She heard movement behind her and Blitzangel grabbed one of the twins' discarded blades and threw it as she turned around. The blade embedded in the abdomen another Decepti-femme. Both she and the Decepti-femme with her stared at the entry point as an alarming amount of fluid began to leak out.
"You'd better help her," Blitzangel told the unwounded femme. "If you don't stop that leak, she's going to bleed out."
The femme glanced from Blitzangel to her bleeding sister and made a choice, rushing to her fellow's aid.
Blitzangel glanced at the dark world around her with her night vision. From her bird's eye view, she noticed a tunnel that seemed likely to lead out of the entombed city. Below her, she also witnessed Prowl's stand against three different femmes. He had managed to damage the arm of one of the femmes. Another Decepti-femme was still shooting at him.
And there was Catscratch. Prowl was firing, dodging and lunging where he could to avoid those deadly tendrils of hers. The sight frightened Blitzangel to the core. Prowl was an intelligent, accomplished fighter, but one scratch from the poisonous femme could kill him. Unlike Blitzangel, Prowl had a spark. He was vulnerable to Catscratch's virus.
With a growl of engines, Blitzangel dove from the building, landing right on the femme's back like a pouncing feline. Catscratch shrieked at the unwanted contact, her tendrils flailing everywhere, almost hitting one of her own. Blitzangel slashed at the larger femme's back and shoulders in a shower of sparks.
Prowl surged in, incapacitating the other femmes and then rushing to help.
"Prowl, don't touch her!" Blitzangel warned, but the second wasn't listening.
In her own burst of desperation, she reached forward, trying to slash at the deadly tendrils before they had the chance to inflict damage. One of her blades hit its target and Catscratch squalled at an even higher pitch as her nearly-severed tendril spattered liquids everywhere.
"Angel, let's go," Prowl barked in a tone that begged no second guessing.
The purple femme rebounded off of the screaming body and Prowl fired at the sculpture behind Catscratch. Large pieces of debris fell around her and the Decepti-femme had to stumble away before she was squished.
Prowl and Blitzangel fled the scene on foot, shrill oaths scraping at their backs.
"I think I saw a way out," Blitzangel said, taking the lead.
They reached the wall of the metal dome and, indeed, there was a tunnel leading out. Prowl hastily set some small charges all around the exit, hastening them both inside. The tunnel collapsed behind them, blocking the passage of any enemy with the mind to pursue. But the duo continued to race on. They didn't stop running until everything was left far behind them.
Blitzangel was faster on legs than the Autobot mech. When she felt him getting too far behind, she finally put on the brakes to check on him.
Still, Prowl beat her to the obvious question. "Are you okay?" he asked as he caught up with her.
"Me?" she shot back. "Are you okay? Did she get you anywhere? I told you to watch out for Catscratch." She was already fishing for her small light to examine him.
"I appreciate the concern, but I'm fine," Prowl insisted, shielding his optics as her light beam swept over his form. "I was more concerned she got you again. You were in closer combat."
"No, she didn't. But it doesn't matter. I could live through another cut from her, but you can't. I'm going to do a full body inspection just to make sure."
She grabbed his arm, but he jerked away. "It isn't necessary. I'm fine."
Blitzangel put a hand on her hip. "I know you read the reports. Don't even pretend you aren't aware of how deadly this femme's virus is. If there's even the slightest bit of it in your system it WILL kill you. It will eat your spark from the inside out. You need to let me look at you."
Prowl frowned to show his disagreement with the treatment, but acquiesced to the inspection. Blitzangel put the tiny flashlight in her mouth- a very human action, Prowl thought- as she looked him over piece by piece.
"What's this?" she asked, finding a mark she didn't like on the underside of his right arm. There was a curious residue around the cut. Blitzangel was frowning.
"It's just a surface cut. It didn't even go through the armor," Prowl said.
"Either way, we can't take chances. I'm going to remove it."
Prowl stared at her. "Remove... my entire arm?"
Blitzangel had put on a somber business face. not unlike expressions he had often seen on Ratchet. "Can't take the risk."
"I'll need that arm if we run into more Decepticons."
"You'll also need to be alive, Prowl."
The mech was frustrated. This was so new to him. He wasn't used to being told what to do. He wasn't used to being the liability.
"Shut down all functions to that arm," she ordered as she removed the surface armor.
The bare skeleton of where the joint met the body was exposed and Blitzangel powered up her arm blades.
Prowl stiffened at the first blow. It made a sickening, heavy sound that vibrated through his entire body. Another hit, and another. It took several slices before the thick metal was finally severed and the useless limb fell dead to the ground. The femme rushed in to solder wires and staunch all bleeding. Prowl felt off balance without his arm. It made the energon in his tank begin to roil.
Thin arms hugged his neck from behind. "You'll be okay," she said gently. "We've just got to get up high enough to get a radio signal and then we'll be out of here."
As silly as it sounded, those simple words steadied him. Her arms helped the sickness to settle. Prowl found himself drifting back to their last conversation. What would he do if they stopped talking to each other? He found the possibility unacceptable.
"Come on." She tugged gently on his remaining arm. "Let's keep going. Let me know if you start feeling any changes in your health, okay?"
"I'll be fine," he assured her. As soon as he got back to base and was put back together he would be just fine.
The two traversed in silence for a while, opting for any tunnel they came upon that seemed to slope upward. As best Prowl could calculate, they had ascended a few levels by now, but they were still miles away from reaching a level where their radio signal could penetrate the surface. Their lack of progress was disconcerting, but Prowl kept it to himself. No matter how long it took, he told himself he could hold out until they reached topside.
Blitzangel froze in her tracks and flicked her flashlight above her, revealing a vertical tube above her head.
"Pay dirt!" she announced. "I wonder how high it goes?"
Prowl inspected it himself. "Could you fly both of us up there?"
"It depends on how far it is and how much you weigh. I could make it up there no problem. But the more weight I carry, the faster it burns up my fuel." She grinned at him. "Maybe if I cut off all your limbs you would be light enough."
He frowned at her. "I don't appreciate your attempt at humor right now. Maybe if you flew up there alone we could calculate how high it goes. Or you may be able to get an SOS out. I will stay-"
"Um, Prowl?" Blitzangel cut him off, worry in her voice. "What's wrong with your optics?"
In the darkness, one of them was flickering. Just before his vision went, his neural net was peppered with system failures all across the board.
"Prowl!" Blitzangel cried when his optics went black. The mech stumbled and she rushed to catch him, setting him down on the ground. "No! No, no, no, no, no..." she panicked as she began ripping off his chest armor in order to get to his vital circuits.
"I can't see," Prowl said in a detached voice. Energon began leaking out of the side of his mouth.
"Just stay with me, okay? You'll be fine, just hold on." Blitzangel tried to keep her voice steady, but it was breaking.
She exposed Prowl's central relays and began to run a diagnosis. Everything was shutting down. The Catscratch Virus had still made it inside his system. It was slowly eating him up piece by piece.
Blitzangel sat back on her heels, shaking and overwhelmed with fear. She knew how to fix physical injuries, but viruses were far beyond her understanding. Especially something like this. Even if she were to fly up right now to get help, by the time they got the mech's body back to Iacon, the venom would have consumed his spark. Prowl was going to die and she was useless to save him.
"How long do I have?" Prowl asked knowingly, his voice so very calm. Blitzangel couldn't believe how composed he was. For some reason, that just scared her more.
"I don't know, a few minutes maybe." Her pump was beating so fast. She couldn't handle this; it was too much to take. "Prowl, I don't know what to do. I can't DO anything for you! It's going to reach your spark and I can't-" She recalled Catscratch telling her what a horribly painful process it was to die while the virus slowly consumed one's spark. How could she sit here and watch him die that way? She just wanted to fall apart and cry.
"It will be okay," Prowl said and she found herself hating him for being the calm one. "This isn't your fault. Just go and find help. I will hold on as long as I can."
Blitzangel felt pained at the notion of leaving him all the way down there alone. How could she abandon his side at a time like this? How could she leave while his spark was exposed to such a disease? Why couldn't she protect it?
Then, she suddenly had an idea. A horribly crazy idea. Prowl would argue and waste precious seconds. So she wordlessly grabbed his surprised helm, pushing it back to expose the neck. With a crackle of energy, she let her blade swing.
Jazz watched with ever fading patience as the backup shuttle finally came into view. It was no good. They had taken too much time to get there. Any rescue efforts could be futile by now. As the shuttle touched down, he prayed his friends were able to hold out until the reinforcements arrived. They better not be harmed. He and the Dinobots were going to rip that place apart.
Before the passengers could even disembark, the Autobots heard a very distinct sound in the distance. The scream of a particular set of jet engines at full throttle. Only one femme's alt mode could make such a noise.
"Angel!" Jazz cried.
The twinkling of her afterburners was too far in the distance to even make out her silhouette. That tiny light was jetting at maximum speed toward Iacon. But where was Prowl?
Jazz jumped back on the radio, trying to figure out what was going on.
Up at Iacon tower, the entire watchtower staff were on the edge of their seats, waiting to hear from the first team still out in the field. When they were trying to confirm a touchdown for Gimlock's shuttle, a completely new radio signal cut through it all.
"This... Blitzangel, calling Iacon tower. ... emergency." Her voice kept cutting out- not from radio interference, but from a problem with her own vocalizer. Her tone sounded stressed, in pain. "... coming in fast... need Ratchet to... meet me."
Kup was at the main console and wasn't quite in the mood to immediately jump to the femme's tune. "He may be busy, but we'll send out the nearest available medic to meet you."
"YOU GET RATCHET RIGHT NOW! THIS IS LIFE OR DEATH!"
"Now you see here. If this is an emergency, you'll take the nearest medic I can-"
"Do it," Optimus Prime cut him off, urgency in his voice. "Get Ratchet up there now. Tell him it's Blitzangel." The Autobot commander was already racing out the door himself, leaving a stunned Kup with nothing else to do but follow orders.
Ratchet and Optimus both were waiting on the main landing pad of the tower. They could see the light of Blitzangel's thrusters in the distance, drawing closer as her engines screamed as they were pushed to their limit.
Ratchet was fidgeting, processor whirring at a million miles an hour trying to figure out what could possibly be wrong. What sort of damage had the femme incurred? He had no other information aside from the femme's needing him. Not knowing was driving him crazy.
"She's going to blow herself up if she doesn't ease up on the throttle," the medic frowned.
"She isn't coming in very steady," Optimus said.
As the femme neared the city, her wings teetered. She flew like a drunken moth, nearly clipping herself on the city wall as she fought to keep altitude. A few loitering Autobots had to scramble out of the way as the black jet crashed onto the landing pad. Blitzangel was already transforming into root mode before she hit, as if she had no control over it. Her transformation stalled in the middle as she collided. Stuck halfway in between modes, her mishmash of body parts rolled to a painful stop. Chest, arms and head were now visible as she spasmed in pain at the mech's feet.
Ratchet rushed over to her, eyes wide at the uncontrollable tremors in her body. She seemed to have lost all control of her functions.
"Blitzangel, what happened? What's wrong?"
The femme dumped a handful of computer chips at his feet and was now clutching her chest, whimpering as if she were burning up from the inside.
"Get.. get it out!" she cried through a clenched jaw. "GET IT OUT OF ME!"
Before Ratchet could ask what she was talking about, her chest cavity opened. The medic stared with wide optics as she revealed a glowing blue spark, quivering and pulsating strongly inside her.
He was alive, and that was the extent of his knowledge. He could not access his body, not even his intelligence logs. There were no memories, no protocol, no diagnostic reports. There was just his very being, swimming in the essence of his whole self. There was no past or future, just what he was at his core. He existed in the present only. What was now was all he could comprehend, and now was nothing but darkness and his spark. But he was content to be himself, to be now, and he did not want for anything.
A flicker of something suddenly had his full attention. Light, pictures. He saw the movements of bodies, flashes of write and red. The lower half of a frowning face. Then darkness again. Without any sort of information storage device, the spark soon forgot it had happened at all. He was back in his black void, content once more, forever patient.
Indeterminate time passed and the spark felt another surge. Something plugged into him and the spark shivered with pure joy as he accessed an abundance of information. It was all so clear now. He wasn't just him, he was Prowl. He had a life, a memory. It surged forward in a flood of faces and emotions: his history; his brothers, friends and enemies; his training; his job. Everything that had built him over the span of his life was now his again and the spark wondered how he ever could have been content with so little when he had so much.
His vision returned once more with a flash of brilliance. There was the whole world again, splayed out before him. He could see the room, see the medic hovering over him with optic ridges furrowed in concentration. How wonderful to have his senses return. How wonderful to see!
"Oh, there we go," Ratchet announced, his worried brow disappearing when he noticed Prowl looking around the room. "How's your visual? Can you see me okay?"
"Visual status is fine, Ratchet," Prowl responded calmly. His voice sounded strangely far away, as if it weren't coming from him. "It's a very clear picture."
The medic seemed pleased with that response. "Visual feedback working fine, can recognize others," he mumbled as he scribbled on a data pad. "Do you remember your designation?"
"Do you know where you are?"
"I'm assuming the medical wing at Iacon tower."
"What is your current station?"
"Second in command of the Autobots under Optimus Prime."
"Do you recall what planet you were on before returning to Cybertron?"
"An organic planet known as Earth by locals. Comprised of 71% water, world population estimated at 7 billion."
"Excellent. It seems all of your memory is intact; that's good." Ratchet took the time to jot down a few more notes.
Prowl looked around some more. He was nearly at eye level with Ratchet, but how was that? Was he sitting up? Shouldn't he be lying down if he just woke up in the med bay? And for that matter, exactly what was his body doing? He found with a growing panic that he could not attest to the location of any of his limbs. Nor could he access his internal diagnostics. Something was very, very wrong.
"Ratchet," he said, trying to keep the urgency out of his voice. "What has happened to my body? Why can't I feel it?"
The medic slowly raised his gaze, stylus pressing at his lower lip. "Well, that's the thing, Prowl," he said frankly. "You don't have one right now."
"I don't... what?" came the flat response.
"Your body's gone, my friend. The Catscratch Virus took it over. It's useless now."
"Then how am I here, talking to you?"
"Blitzangel removed your spark before the virus could affect it. She was also smart enough to salvage your personality and memory files. Without those, everything you used to be would have been gone. You would have been as blank as a new sparkling."
Though without a physical form, Prowl still felt the weight of that revelation. He would have forgotten everything, everyone that mattered to him. He almost would have preferred a real death as opposed to losing so much and starting all over.
"Right now, I have your spark in a very safe storage unit that will sustain it until I can build you something more suitable," Ratchet went on. "After making sure everything else was clean from the virus, Perceptor and I plugged in your memory hard drive and personality components. The reason you and I can interact is that you're also currently connected to a camera and microphone."
Prowl remained silent as he processed this. He was now reduced to a spark and a camera. What did this mean for him? Would he lose his station? Was he done being useful to anyone? Was the wondrous privilege of just being mobile now lost to him forever?
"What... is going to happen to me now?" This time he couldn't keep the worry from his tone.
Ratchet gave him a confident smile as he leaned forward, elbow on the table. "Well, it just so happens, Prowl, that I went to med school for the sole purpose of learning how to build a spark-housing protoform from scratch. So this current arrangement is just something you'll have to tolerate for the time being."
Relief flooded into the spark. "I see. I suppose that is acceptable. How is Blitzangel?"
"She was a little glitchy at first, but she's been recovering okay."
"Recovering? From what?"
"She carried your spark in her chest cavity to get you here, Prowl. When a spark is housed in a body, its first instinct is to take control of that body. That's how a spark functions. But Blitzangel isn't a blank protoform. Your spark was attempting to rewrite her programming to conform to yours as soon as she started carrying you. She was a bit of a mess by the time she crash-landed at the tower."
"But she'll be okay?"
"She's been repaired physically and nothing was permanently erased, but she's been rather maudlin since then. She's worried about you."
Prowl said nothing.
"I'll tell her that her impromptu experiment was a success and there was no permanent damage," Ratchet continued. "I'm assuming you don't really want visitors in this condition."
"Wait," Prowl said when Ratchet moved to get up. The CMO paused with a curious look. "Give me a moment to process all this and then... I think I will see her."
Jazz was the first one to step in, his hand around Blitzangel's as she followed silently after him. The camera that was Prowl's doorway to the outside world zeroed in on her, noticing how wilted she seemed. Nothing like the femme who had been barking orders at him and chopping off limbs hours before. Jazz seemed to be her source of strength. She was practically leaning on him when they paused inside the room.
Prowl had to wonder how long Jazz had been with her, touching her hand, consoling her.
Ratchet mumbled something softly to them that Prowl couldn't hear. The microphone wasn't quite as sensitive as his original hearing. Then the two came over to sit in the chairs placed in front of the camera.
"Hey buddy, how ya feeling?" Jazz asked, forcing lightness in his tone as he sat down.
"I've been better," Prowl said frankly.
Jazz barked out a laugh. "To say the least! It's good to hear your voice though, Prowl. There was a time when I thought we were going to lose you for good."
Blitzangel now had both hands covering her face, her shoulders shaking. It caught Prowl's attention instantly, the camera panning over to her.
"I'm sorry!" she blurted out, her voice cracking. "I should have tried harder! I should have been smarter! Look what I did to you! I'm so sorry, Prowl. I'm so, so sorry." She barely got the last sentence out as a choked whisper.
The whole experience had been emotionally scarring for her. As tough and strong as she had tried to be about it, as much as she had tried to remove herself emotionally from the situation, it still got to her. To shut down Prowl's systems the fastest way possible, she had to slice off his head. Then she tore through his helm and through his body to get the components she needed. It wasn't just the body of a robot, it was her friend, someone she had grown to care about. She had ripped him apart and left that familiar form in pieces down in the darkness. Every time she thought about it, it made her want to throw up.
"You did the right thing," Prowl said gently.
"Yes, you did," Ratchet insisted behind her with more force. "There was nothing else even I could have done in that situation. In fact, you would have been the only one on the entire planet able to house his spark in your own body and keep it alive long enough to reach Iacon. Without a proper containment unit, Prowl's spark would have gone out in my hands before we ever got there." He put a hand on her shoulder. "You were the right bot in the right place at the right time."
The femme nodded and she slowly vented out some air. It appeared she had been trying to convince herself of that for a while.
"You saved my life," Prowl insisted.
"Yeah, and this whole thing isn't permanent," Jazz jumped in as he motioned to the camera. "Prowl will be back out there on two legs in no time, right Doc?"
"I am putting every capable hand on this project," Ratchet confirmed. "Provided there is no major medical emergency in the near future, I hope to have the protoform built within a week."
Even though he already knew this information, it was reassuring to hear it again. Prowl would happily listen to it as many times as Ratchet wanted to tell him. It was frightening to be in this condition, completely helpless. He could watch, he could speak, but he couldn't physically interact with anyone. Right now, the camera that was his window to the outside world was focused on those dainty black hands that were fidgeting with worry. How he wished he could hold her hands, hold her, and be by her side.
"Everything will be okay, Angel. This is just temporary." Prowl spoke so softly, softer than he ever had before.
She nodded silently.
"Though I hope you can do something for me. While I am indisposed, I will need you to care care of Jazz. He doesn't look it, but this is very hard on him. I need you to stay close by in case he needs you."
Blitzangel had to laugh despite her melancholy. She knew what he was doing. He meant for his fellow second to be his surrogate until Prowl's body was rebuilt. Feeling lighter, she reached over to hug Jazz around the neck. His arm instantly went around her shoulder to pull her in. "You got it, Prowl. I'll take care of him for you. And if you need anything, let me know. I'll come visit you if you want."
"No, thank you. I would rather not have further company while I'm... like this. If Optimus Prime thinks I can be of use despite my current state, I will do what I can. But other than that..."
"You just want time to pout," Jazz accused.
"I want some time to think about things."
"The offer still stands," Blitzangel insisted.
The camera focused on her and her weak but brave smile.
"I understand. It is appreciated."
Despite her earlier promise to keep close to Jazz, Blitzangel had allowed him to leave her side so he could take care of important matters. He would be doing the work of both himself and Prowl until his fellow second recovered. Blitzangel also wanted to take some time to think herself. She hadn't had a moment alone since she woke up in the med bay. Jazz had been hovering over her ever since. It certainly didn't help that she had been such a baby the entire time. Right now, she just wanted to get herself together without Jazz's helicopter mode distracting her.
Blitzangel walked herself into the main courtyard, willing the claustrophobia to pass. It still felt like she was down there in those tiny tunnels. She ached for the sky, but she didn't want to fly anywhere. Being in the air in jet mode didn't grant her the same freedom as it did on Earth. Everything was monitored here. Any time she flew away from the city she would have to ask for permission to fly back. It was maddening and ripped all the joy out of it.
But out in the courtyard, she did feel a little better. The space was wide open and not too crowded. The sky was exposed above her and it felt like that was enough to calm her down. A sense of normalcy set in as other bots moved around her, attending to their business. Out here, standing alone and gathering herself, she began to feel a little better.
"Hm, you get out much better shape than Prowl, I think," said a deep voice next to her.
Blitzangel jumped back in surprise. She had been aware there was a large body nearby, but there always was with so many bots moving around. She didn't expect this one to start talking to her. She got her second jolt when she realized the unfamiliar form was someone she knew.
"Grimlock! You surprised me."
He was in his robot mode, not really the form Blitzangel was used to. It wasn't the mode Grimlock was used to either. But Optimus Prime had insisted the Dinobots remain in root mode while in the city. Their dinosaur states were not only clumsy, but they unnerved many of Iacon's denizens. The Autobots were still getting used to quite a few new things that had appeared in their city of late.
"Me Grimlock not even try to be sneaky. You Angel been thinking too hard."
"Yeah well, there's been a lot to think about," she sighed.
"They send us Dinobots out to fight Decepticon femmes. Go to save you. But then you save yourselves and they don't let us fight anybody."
The right side of Blitzangel's mouth pulled up. "Sorry about that."
"Me Grimlock eager to tear up core of Cybertron, too."
"Maybe next time."
"Me Grimlock hear you kill Prowl and save Prowl at same time. Me very impressed."
She sighed once more, arms wrapping around herself. "And I don't ever want to do it again."
"Angel not happy she save Prowl?"
"No, it's not that. I just wish he hadn't needed saving in the first place. I'm sure he wishes that, too." She rubbed her face. And I just wish there was something left of him I could hold. I feel like I don't have him back yet. "It was just a rough day all around."
Blitzangel then noticed two femmes loitering in the courtyard, talking to each other in hushed tones with judgmental faces. It was very possible she was the subject of their conversation for when she looked their way, they instantly stopped their gossip and pretended to be interested elsewhere. Blitzangel couldn't bring herself to care. She didn't have the fortitude to put up with such things right now.
Grimlock noticed them as well. He transformed into dinosaur mode and glared back at them, teeth bared. The femmes hastily skittered away and Blitzangel couldn't help but find a little entertainment in their retreat. Grimlock seemed to enjoy watching them run away as well. Then he turned back to the femme and she placed a dainty hand on his snout.
"Now there's the face I'm used to." She cupped his nose, rubbing her cheek over the top of his muzzle. Grimlock rumbled deep in his chest, a sound as reassuring as a cat purr.
"I told you, no dinosaur mode in the city," came a patient voice.
Blitzangel glanced over to see Optimus Prime standing before them, arms crossed over his chest. Grimlock's rumble now sounded slightly annoyed.
"What a horrible rule," the femme said softly. "How can you deny everyone this adorable face?"
"You are the only one who thinks it's adorable," Optimus responded. "His dinosaur mode intimidates everyone else."
"Not his fault he was built that way. Everyone else should just get used to it."
Optimus didn't say anything to that, but Grimlock did raise his head and return himself to root mode.
Blitzangel stood before the Autobot leader, rubbing her arms, still waiting for the Prime to say something. When he didn't, she decided he was waiting for her.
"So, what are you going to do about the shuttle and the femmes?"
Optimus's broad stance deflated a bit. "I don't know," he sighed. "They played us for fools and nearly killed our second, but we have nothing to gain and even more resources to lose if we go after them now."
Blitzangel nodded in agreement. "It's not like their lives are exactly trouble-free anyway." She glanced out past the city walls. "They may still get what's coming to them, yet."
Again, the Prime said nothing. He was so very good at expressing his thoughts on the conversation without saying a word. After gazing in the same direction himself for a spell, he turned as if to leave.
"Actually, Optimus," the purple femme quickly said to catch his attention. "I was hoping I could have some time to talk to you." Then she spoke the words Optimus never expected her to say: "I've come to a decision. I want to be an official Autobot."
Far above them, out among the luminaries and the space debris, a trio of objects jetted through the blackness. Up ahead, the metallic surface of Cybertron glittered like a jewel. As they neared the planet, they could make out its tall, electric spires and the blackness zones where war had ravaged the land of energy.
"Well, well, well. Look what we found."
Sunstorm smiled as he paused to admire Cybertron in all her battered glory. Little did it know, the worst was yet to come.