Title: Yellow Ribbon
Rating: T / PG-13
Characters: Jazz, Prowl, Ark Ensemble, Soundwave, Starscream
Warnings: Hurt/comfort, angst, scenes of torture, assumed J/P (non-explicit)
Something is very wrong on the Ark, but why is Bluestreak the only one to notice, and what's happened to Jazz and Prowl?
This is a work of fan fiction, based on the 1984 (G1) Transformers cartoon series, which was based in turn on the successful toy line of the same name. The Transformers brand is owned by Hasbro. All characters and situations are used without permission, and without profit to the author.
This eleven chapter, Jazz- and Prowl-centric story is set close to the start of G1 season two. I've assumed a few items of fanon which I can't find a canon reference – Prowl/Jazz for starters, but also the concept of spark-bonding, a kindred between Praxians and Seekers, and the idea that Vos (original home of the Seekers) was a flying city. I'm sure I've encountered all of those concepts from multiple sources, but can't identify their origin, so my apologies and thanks to the originators.
I'm posting this daily, here and to my live journal (see the 'homepage' link on my profile) if anyone prefers to read it there. Many thanks to Dawnnsgrace for agreeing to beta this story while so busy herself – any remaining errors are, of course, my own. Spelling and grammar are British. Comments, constructive criticisms and reviews of any kind are very welcome, no matter how short, and I'd be happy to have any errors pointed out.
Chapter 1: Bluestreak – Echoes
Bluestreak's footsteps echoed, sharp and clear, down the hallways of the abnormally quiet Ark. His head rang with them, just adding to the processor ache that lingered from the afternoon's crew meeting. Even dimmed, the lights of the corridor sent throbbing pain through his processor.
Bluestreak's only consolation was that bad as he was feeling, he'd gotten off lightly compared to some. With half its mechs still confined to their berths, and the rest grouching and aching through the tail end of this widespread virus, the Ark felt quieter and emptier than Bluestreak had ever known it.
That was bad.
Silence was rarely a good thing in the young gunner's world. Silence tended to be filled, and without other distractions it was sometimes all Bluestreak could do to talk his way past the memories that filled it – both nightmare flashes that he recognised as very real, and the elaborate constructs of death and disaster his overactive imagination had built around them.
The thought alone was enough to unsettle him, and he walked a little faster, his pale grey door-wings twitching nervously behind him. They settled miserably to his back as he walked into the Rec Room, a sinking sensation gripping his spark as he realised the place was empty.
Venting, he wandered over to the energon dispenser anyway. As much as he hated being in this large, sociable space alone, his growling tank was making its displeasure known. He had honestly intended to refuel at some point today, but one thing after another had come up. He'd even fetched a cube on his way in after last night's patrol, only to hand it over to Hound when he'd realised the scout was too wobbly to leave their shared cabin without fuelling. After that, well he'd cut his recharge cycle close enough to the crew meeting that there hadn't been time to grab a replacement, and he'd honestly felt too unsettled when the meeting ended to do more than sketch a vague wave at his friends, and head straight out for his swing-shift patrol.
He couldn't help wishing now that he'd delayed a little and caught the opportunity to speak to someone – Hound, Trailbreaker, Ironhide even. At least then he'd know if it was just him, or whether anyone else was feeling the dark, creeping sense of wrongness that had taken such a tight hold over his spark.
Sipping his much-delayed energon with little enthusiasm, Bluestreak gazed sightlessly across the darkened Rec Room. It was hard to pin down just what about the meeting had bothered him so badly. He just knew that something was far from right.
It wasn't as if anything aboard the Ark could be called 'normal' precisely. The monthly all-crew gathering itself had been held almost a week late, delayed by the virulent virus that, according to Ratchet's report, had now affected every mech aboard. It wasn't a big drama really – no worse than a childhood malady on Cybertron, perhaps exacerbated a little by whatever the long post-crash stasis had done to their systems. It was still bad enough.
Bluestreak, the only one of his frame type around to contract the virus, had been amongst the least badly affected. His mild response to this infection rivalled even Ratchet's medic-firewalled aches and pains. Sunstreaker, Sideswipe and some of the mini-bots had been hit the worst. In fact, as of this morning, the Ark's red and gold twin terrors were the only 'bots still under observation in Medbay. The rest had been ordered back to their own berths - to recuperate, and to give Ratchet a chance to do likewise.
Things were definitely improving. But it had taken a solid orn from the first mechs exhibiting what Sparkplug called 'flu-like' symptoms to reach the point where every officer and a majority of the crew were up and about and able to attend the monthly briefing. Most of those were still groggy enough that Optimus had banned their human friends from the Ark for their own safety. The last thing anyone needed right now was having to watch their feet lest the squishies live up to their Decepticon nickname.
The absence of the humans, and the still berth-bound mechs, was part of the wrongness, Bluestreak was sure. This crew was too close knit not to worry when others were in pain, even if Ratchet assured everyone that the processor-aches, seizing servos and faulty thermo-regulation would soon pass, and weren't all that serious in the grand scheme of things.
Medical's report had taken up most of the meeting. Red Alert took up most of the rest, his security briefing alternating between laments on their poor state of readiness and smug observations that even with the mechs at their weakest, the Ark's extensive defences had discouraged any hint of a Decepticon assault. True, the Autobots had been unable to turn out for one incident – a minor scuffle reported a few states away – but no one was faulting them for that. Bluestreak and the few others on active duty at the time had felt no inclination to intervene in what looked to be internal Decepticon politics.
Thankfully, Ironhide, speaking for the assault squads, and Wheeljack, taking a turn for the science team since Perceptor was still too light-sensitive to leave his cabin, kept their reports short and to the point. The junior officers too kept their statements concise, although that might have had more to do with lingering confusion after the virus than anything else. Bumblebee and Mirage had seemed genuinely unsure which of them was meant to be giving the Special Ops report, while Trailbreaker paused several times during his tactical summary, reading his notes over as if content less than a month old was utterly unfamiliar to him.
All in all, Bluestreak hadn't been the only mech relieved when Optimus dismissed them. But he'd been the only one looking around with a frown, trying to shake the feeling that something important had been left unsaid, and something vital missed.
That feeling hadn't faded, and increasingly, Bluestreak felt the urge to talk it over with someone before his processor imploded under the pressure. His door-wings twitched, the residual effects of even his mild viral dose sending random impulses to his motor controls. His ankle spasmed, the tip of his pede jerking up before dropping back to the deck with a metallic clatter. Mindful of Ratchet's advice that the best way to avoid the spurious impulses was to ensure their systems got plenty of real instructions to compare them with, Bluestreak vented a sigh and started walking.
He wasn't entirely sure how he ended up on the Officers' Corridor, but he hesitated, pausing outside one of the two unused offices that bracketed Prime's. Whether his feet had carried him here by chance, or whether it was under some unconscious instruction from his aching processor, something told Bluestreak that there was an answer to his dilemma here, if only he could find it. More than ever, he was desperate for someone to talk to, and instinct told him that he'd come here with that in mind. He just had no idea why.
Red Alert's office was empty, the Security Director pulling double shifts on the command deck while the medical emergency lasted. Ironhide's was equally dark, and Bluestreak recalled the armoury officer grumbling his way berth-wards after the meeting, complaining about 'old bones' he did not, in fact, possess.
The only hint of life in the corridor was the sliver of light spilling around Optimus Prime's office door, but that hardly explained Bluestreak's impulse to come here, or desire to stay. Even if Optimus hadn't been up to his chest-plates in admin work, and burning the midnight oil to stay on top of the drifts of data-pads, Bluestreak wouldn't have dreamed of disturbing his commander, his Prime, with something so inconsequential.
No, he thought, leaning against the wall outside Prime's office and staring at the door opposite. There was something else… or someone else?
Bluestreak deactivated his optics, trying to listen to the echoes in his processor. Somewhere, on the edge of hearing, was a melodic voice. Tilting his helm, optics still dark, Bluestreak thought he caught a glimpse of a blue visor, and the twitch of elegant door-wings.
A visor? Door-wings?
Bluestreak's optics blazed into life with a flare that lit the corridor. His vents hitched, uncertainty and confusion filling him. His processor ache, dulled for a while by the fresh energon, now worsened by the second as he scrabbled for the door controls in front of him. The empty office next to Prime's would be dark, quiet. It would give him a chance to catch his breath and figure out what in the Pit was wrong with him.
He whimpered when the door didn't open, just one more confusion piled on top of the roiling mess that seemed ready to burst from his helm. Why would an empty office be locked? It wasn't until he asked the question that the strangeness of it struck him. Why the Pit was there an empty office next to Prime's in the first place? On an Ark half-crushed by their crash landing, on which every mech but Prime and Ratchet shared a cabin with somebody, how could there be not one but two offices left vacant on this well-used corridor?
Head spinning, Bluestreak pressed his helm to the cool metal of the door. His legs felt wobbly, his balance centre presenting him with an urgent request that he find a chair and sit in it. For a brief moment he considered trying the second room, only to dismiss the idea out of hand. Jazz kept his office door locked, even when he was inside.
Bluestreak's vents stalled. His spark throbbed in his chest as sudden, dawning horror swept over him. The name brought images with it – black and white plating, a cheerful grin and a visor that swept over Bluestreak, missing nothing even as its owner laughed and joked. Bluestreak's optics blinked out as his processor focussed on that inner vision. He was almost afraid to follow the elegant hand that rested on Jazz's shoulder up to a second black and white figure, head tilted to look fondly at its companion, door-wings held high but relaxed.
"Prowl!" Bluestreak whispered the name, his voice lost in the static that accompanied the memories. He was swept away in the flood of them, drowning in the sudden influx. Guilt wracked him, sheer horror at the thought of forgetting his mentors… and a profound and deepening dread.
He remembered the pair of them leaving the Ark, Jazz excited by the prospect of a tri-state school tour, Prowl wing-twitchingly nervous but smiling nonetheless. He had no memory of their return.
He raised a fist, hammering on Prowl's closed door, desperate just to know what he'd forgotten. The door remained closed, no sign that anyone within might have heard his increasingly loud cries and pounding demands for entry. Switching tack, Bluestreak darted along the corridor to assault Jazz's door instead.
His processor played the afternoon's meeting over again, adding to Bluestreak's fear and confusion. Trailbreaker, Mirage, even Prime – no one had mentioned their missing officers even once. They'd just… continued. As if… as if they'd already accepted that Jazz and Prowl were gone.
No! No, Bluestreak couldn't and wouldn't accept that. He had to know what was going on, and in his anxiety-fritzed processor that equated to getting into these closed offices. He pounded again on Jazz's stubborn door, leaving shallow dents in its thick metal plate and not noticing the far-worse damage he was doing to the delicate servos in his hands.
"Bluestreak?" Much larger servos caught his, Optimus Prime's voice thick with weariness, but coloured with concern. "Bluestreak, what's wrong?"
The question, asked in Prime's rich and ever-calm tones, pushed Bluestreak past his limit. He laughed, more than a touch of hysteria in his voice, and when he'd started, he found he couldn't stop – at least not without help. Prime took his shoulders, giving them a hard shake, and it was as if a switch had been thrown. Bluestreak's helpless giggles cut off. He didn't fall silent though.
Bluestreak's systems were running far too hot, stress heating his circuits beyond their virus-impaired capacity to regulate. His vocalisor flooded with static but words streamed from it nonetheless.
"Where are they? Where are they, Prime? What happened to them? And why is no one even talking about them? It just doesn't make sense, Prime, and they're gone and no one seems to care and, I mean, yes, I knew they were going away and it was meant to be fun even if Prowl is kind of scared of human kids going squish when he's not looking, but they should have been back days ago and they would have told me if they were going to be late, or told Red to tell me, or got word to me somehow even if they're meant to be undercover, because they know how I worry and no one's acting like they're undercover, but just as if they're gone, and that can't be true, it just can't, and I won't believe it, but I can't remember why I couldn't remember them and it was as if someone just took a brick wall and built it across my processor, and now it's gone, but nothing makes sense and I just wanted to find them, 'cause I've got to know, and you'd tell me, wouldn't you, Prime, if something happened to them, and you wouldn't leave me wondering like this, 'cause I just need to find them, and I thought if I could get into their offices, maybe I'd find they were sick or something and collapsed in there, or left me a hint or something, because they would you know, and you've just got to let me get in…"
Prime gave him another shake, harder, and this time Bluestreak did fall silent. His vents hitched and stuttered, heat coming off him in waves. Prime's grip on his shoulders became a little softer, squeezing gently to draw Bluestreak's wandering attention and far-too-bright optics back to him.
"Bluestreak, focus. Just tell me what's wrong."
Bluestreak cycled his optics, looking up at his Prime like a bewildered child. "Where are they, Prime? Where are Jazz and Prowl?"
This time Optimus was the one to cycle his optics, drawing in a deep vent before speaking.