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Turbulence

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It would have been easier to deal with waking up if he’d been in pain. Instead, Blurr found himself swimming upstream against the current of his consciousness. He felt strangely disembodied, like he was floating a few feet above his own frame, but nothing hurt.

Blurr could feel panic, but it wasn’t his own. It pressed against his frame and into his field, and it brought with it voices. He knew them, should recognize them, but thinking took more effort than he had the energy for.

Something had happened to him, something had gone wrong. He remembered needing to run, and run he had- all the way from whatever planetoid he and the clones had been transported to, all the way back home to Cybertron. He had a feeling it had been too much for him.

Had he delivered his message, his information? Had he been captured?

Had he been compromised?

He was an agent, he had been in this position before, but it didn’t stop fear from welling up within him. It threatened to choke him, his vents hitching and armor flaring in response to it.

Optics flickered sluggishly to life, and Blurr tried to focus through the fog that filled his processor. There were figures surrounding him, nothing but blobs of color to his malfunctioning optics, and whatever lights were present in the room had been dimmed, leaving the walls crowded with shadows.

His sight was impaired but what wasn’t the case with his other senses. The jumble of voices seemed far too loud; he wasn’t just hearing them. Their vibrations moved through his frame like a current, giving him a wavering image of other bodies pressed into what may have been a cluttered lab or maybe even a medical bay. Too disoriented to focus on clear features, they may as well have been ghosts. Blurr couldn’t tell how many there were.

His EM field, which had been held close and tight so as not to betray his fear and disorientation to the enemy, exploded outwards. Blurr was bound and drugged, but he wasn’t helpless. He wasn’t going to give them anything without a fight.

He let his field lash out like it was a weapon, battering those who surrounded him with all the rage and hate he could muster. Trying to force his heavy limbs into action, panic ripped a sharp binary scream from his vocalizer.

A dull roar swallowed up the voices. Heat tore through his frame and the panic in the voices around him grew to a crescendo. His world became a dizzying whirl of movement as heat waves obscured what little he had been able to make out in the room.

Spitting static as he opened his mouth to speak, Blurr’s vision filled with a mess of dark red and something the color of energon. Blurr cried out in protest when he felt a hand grasping the back of his helm.

One of the fields that pressed into his was pulsing and Blurr’s systems, while running slowly, reacted as if it was an intrusion. He pushed back against it, frantic processor beginning to recognize a pattern within the pulses.

Safe. Whoever had him captive, they were trying to reassure him. Blurr had no idea whether or not to trust them. He couldn’t see, couldn’t hear properly, the rest of his senses were dull and working in overdrive to compensate… but the pulsing continued even as slender digits probed into his helm, touching parts of his processor that ought to be off limits. Safe. Safe. Safe.

His manual shutdown was triggered and no matter how hard he tried to resist it, he fell back into unconsciousness.

...

He was having memory purges, but they were more fragmented than Blurr remembered them. It also felt a little like deja vu. He was reliving conversations, arguments, races and fights. He was running, but not for joy- he was running for his life.

His frame twitched as he fought his way to consciousness once more, his legs kicking out.

Longarm. He had to get to Longarm. He had to get the message to Longarm. He had to…

He had to get away from Longarm.

That didn’t feel right, and Blurr fully woke with a high sound of distress escaping his intake. A hand closed over his wrist, another touching his leg to urge him to be still. Blurr’s optics came online and focused on the familiar if not fuzzy face plates of Red Alert.

“It’s alright. You’re safe now.” She was saying, her voice causing her image solidify a little in his vision.

Safe. Again, he felt slow to trust. Safe from what exactly?

If he was being held captive, of course the ones holding him would want him to feel safe. Why not give him a familiar figure, one that could be trusted?

“Just lay still.” A clear instruction, one that was likely the best course of action considering his disorientation. Maybe it was the fog of waking, but was Red Alert smaller than he remembered? It was hard to tell; the room they were in once again, strangely dim. “All the scans indicate things have integrated well enough so far, but there hasn’t been enough field testing to be sure.”

Blurr opened his mouth to ask a question, but only static escaped due to the stress of forcing his vocalizer to emit such high pitched noises before. It almost felt as if his glossa was too big and his dentae were different. The sensation of disembodiment from earlier was more intense now, and not even the presence of Red Alert helped assuage it.

“Seeing as your spark is still spinning the same as it always has, I imagine you have a lot of questions. I have answers. I’ll explain everything, but not right now. You need to rest, Blurr.” Her hand moved from where it rested on his leg and Blurr vented inwards deeply.

“Don’t shut me down again.” He managed to say, hoarse and growling and curiously slow. He blamed that on the processor fog. “I don’t want to go back into those memory purges.”

She picked up a data pad and started making notes, but at least she moved her hands from his frame. For the moment, it didn’t appear that she was going to manually shut him down again. He restlessly twitched while she worked, drawing her gaze and prompting her to return her servo to his leg.

It didn’t make sense, his protoform ought to have been crawling with charge at this point. He felt like he had been prone for some time and he should be wanting to climb out of his own armor. Strapped down like this, he was cut off from indulging in any of his impatient ticks and twitches, unable to get enough clearance to drum his wheel against the berth. The resulting thump of his pede from his hastily aborted attempt to do so only deepened his confusion

“I’m sorry about your thrusters.” Red Alert said in a distracted manner without looking up from her datapad. “We had to put an inhibitor cuff on you to keep you from burning down the lab. Once we get you back on your pedes, we’ll give you some time to adjust to your frame before removing it.”

“Adjust?” Blurr asked in a small voice. Lifting his head took a tremendous amount of effort, his vision swimming as his equilibrium sensors attempted to compensate for the change in position. A chill ran through him as his processor adjusted and he was afforded a clear look down the length of his body.

The shape of his frame was all wrong. His chest was broad and adorned with a domed cockpit, long legs stretched down from a thin waist and ended in thrusters instead of wheels. Even with the shadows, he could see his paint job was too pale.

What in the absolute pit was this? This was beyond being compromised!

Red Alert moved her hand from his leg to his forehelm, applying gentle pressure to get him to lay back once more.

“What is the last thing you remember, Blurr?” she asked.

“What did you do to me?!” Blurr’s rasping voice high and frantic. His armor began to rattle as he renewed his efforts to move his limbs. “What’s going on?! This isn’t my frame! This isn’t my body!”

“You have to remain calm, or I will be forced to sedate you!” Red Alert stood, and now he understood why she had seemed so small. It wasn’t that she had shrunk, it was that he was bigger. Much bigger. “I promise, I’ll explain everything, but you’ve got to calm down.” She slid her hand from his forehelm to the side of his face in an attempt to draw his gaze and hold it. “Now tell me, what is the last thing you remember?”

It was difficult to remember anything clearly, especially on the heels of his strange dream, but Blurr forced his processor to focus. Starting with his most recent memory file, he paused and drew in a slow vent.

It was a backup file, stamped with his unique ID code used to denote that the file was a copy.

Caution and concern began to rise off of Red Alert like smoke, moving through her field and leaving an inky black stain in their wake. “Blurr, I need an answer,” she said.

Staring at her with wide optics, Blurr began to question whether or not it was actually Red Alert, whether or not she was actually here. For all he knew right now, she could be a plant, a pretender…

She could be the traitor he had come home to warn the Director of Security about. This could all be some sort of VR program designed to pry out his secrets.

“Blurr!” Red Alert said sharply, leaning closer. “Can you hear me? Are you still with me?”

His trembling worsened, and he arched in an effort to escape from his bonds. He tore through memory after memory, all of them bearing the stamp, all of them backups. All of them…

This wasn’t possible! It was like he wasn’t even really himself, he was but a copy, like someone had cut and paste his systems and processes and put them into a foreign body!

This had to be a trick! A ruse! “No no no no no…” Blurr struggled more furiously.

Something very, very bad had happened to him to make this his reality. There was no other explanation for this!

Red Alert moved a little closer, her already distorted image fragmenting further. “Please Blurr! Tell me what you remember!” She said ‘please’, but she wasn’t begging. It was another direct order, and this time Blurr gave in to the instinct that came along with all his long years of training.

“Running! I remember running home! I had to tell Longarm what I’d found out!” Blurr blurted, his heels hammering against the berth from the force of his shaking.

“You remember nothing after that?” Red Alert’s tone was softer, and her finials drooped, her image appearing in distorted ripples as he struggled.

“This isn’t happening. This is just a bad dream! I’m still unconscious, this isn’t real!” Blurr tried to force himself up, tried to jerk his head away when Red Alert reached for him. “You’re not real! You’re not really her! You’re not Red Alert!! I won’t say anything more, you won’t get any information out of me!”

He wasn’t strong enough to resist her hands cupping his helm, digits pressing in and sending him sinking back into darkness once more.

Chapter Text

The next time he woke, Blurr found his berth surrounded not by lab equipment, but by bots. Judging by the dim light and shadows and blinking machines that had been replaced by a clean but impersonal space with a small window and a berthside table, it appeared Red Alert had moved him from the lab.

Voices rose around him; Blurr tried hard to sort through them as he fully booted up. Excitable voices. Young ones. Loud and enthusiastic. Both paused when he let out a low growl, his EM field reaching out menacingly.

Seemingly undeterred by the threat, the owners of the voices pressed a little closer, their own fields washing over him. A curious reaction.

When his vision cleared (he was beginning to despise manual shutdown, it played havoc with all his systems,) Blurr scrutinized what appeared to be Jetfire and Jetstorm, their images alternately blurring and sharpening as they continued to squabble over who got to stand next to his berth. A Jazz-shaped figure stood behind them, near the door, his mouth turned up in amusement.

“Simmer down, boys.” Jazz said. The Jet Twins, of course, did the opposite, raising their volume instead of heeding his words.

“We are to be putting him at ease!” Jetfire said, baring his dentae and planting a hand against his twin brother’s face, shoving him away.

“Yes, Perceptor sir is saying so!” Jetstorm grunted, bracing both hands against Jetfire’s chest to push him back in retaliation.

His captors were very thorough. Keeping him drugged meant that he couldn’t see clearly, meant he couldn’t watch for body language, facial expressions and nervous tics in the ‘friends’ that were in the room with him. Furthermore, the degree of visual distortion he was already experiencing meant he couldn’t watch for tearing or flickering that would indicate he was trapped in some sort of VR program.

Blurr rebooted his optics several times to try and get the static to clear. He found it easier to focus on Jazz since he was stationary.

“He’s not gonna find much ease with the two o’ you makin’ such a fuss.” Jazz waved a hand in an easy, casual way when he noticed that Blurr was looking at him. “Welcome back to the land o’ the livin’, mech.”

With his friendly address, the twins’ squabbling stopped and they bounced around to face Blurr with identical grins on their faceplates. Jetstorm’s hand was touching something that was sending a great deal of sensory input to Blurr’s sluggish processor, and whatever was pinned beneath the racer’s unwanted new frame twitched. It was uncomfortable.

“Hello Agent!” the twins chirped together, Jetfire leaning closer, his amber optics filling Blurr’s vision. “So good to see you are waking now!”

“Agent Blurr sir was sleeping for very long.” Jetstorm informed him, his hand moving and sending a slither of sensation through Blurr’s frame. “And so quiet! Feeling better now?”

The vibrations from their voices made it much easier to see the two young bots than it had been to see anything else. Now that they weren’t moving around so much, Blurr could make out finer details, but it didn’t put him much at ease that these twins looked so much like the real ones. The thing beneath him was shifting around, trying to break Jetstorm’s gentle grip, and another growl escaped Blurr’s intake.

Jazz’s smile had slipped a little as he observed. He straightened up and sauntered over to the berth. “Give him a chance to wake up before you start pesterin’ him with questions.”

“And giving him presents?” Jetstorm asked, tilting his head to the side.

“We brought presents for you, sir!” Jetfire said, his field fluttering against Blurr’s in excitement. “Mine is best.”

The re-creation was very thorough indeed. A weaker agent might have dropped their guard at this point, but Blurr had to be strong. Realizing that Red Alert wasn’t there to stop him from looking, he turned his optics to what he could see of his frame. He started with whatever it was that Jetstorm was touching.

“Ah yes, you is having wings now!” The twin said when he noticed Blurr’s gaze had shifted. “Very nice wings, big ones!” He pet the wing he was holding, and when it twitched this time, the sensory input he was getting made a great deal more sense.

The vibrations of sounds and air currents were being picked up by the sensitive plating on the edges of his wings and translated into rough images that were refined by his optics. Using the noise generated by the twins to his advantage, Blurr turned his focus to his new frame.

His chest was a mess of cables snaking under hastily-fastened armor plates. There was enough coverage to afford him decency, but it still looked a little like his insides were spilling out. Blurr saw that the wheels and turbines normally stored in this area of his torso had been replaced with an engine that looked far heavier and higher performance than his original one. His frame’s colors were muted, but he figured he was either going to have to get used to that or it was something that would lessen once the drugs were out of his system. Blurr’s field slowly crept out in distress at what he was seeing.

Seeming to sense this, Jazz reset his vocalizer and gestured to the twins. “Why don’t we give Blurr a bit of venting room, my mechs?”

Jetfire leaned out of Blurr’s line of sight and Jetstorm released his wing. Blurr found it much easier to concentrate once the stimulation was gone.

There was an opportunity here, a chance to get some information. Even if he couldn’t quite see, he could still speak. His inquisitive nature had always been handy when it came to disarming his captors, and rapid fire questioning could fluster just about anyone into spilling secrets and plans.

“Why is this happening?” Blurr asked. “What did they do to me? What frame is this and why am I wearing it? What happened to my body?”

“Is still tired.” Jetstorm whispered to his brother. “Agent Blurr sir not speaking so fast.”

“The science team will answer those questions seeing as we’ve just been made aware of your… situation. We’re here more to tell you you’re not alone in this.” Jazz explained.

“That’s right!” Jetfire said. “We are being in the know!”

“Very important secret, but we will be keeping it.” Jetstorm said in a conspiratorial stage whisper.

“If you’re in the know, then you can tell me! I’m one of you! Please, don’t keep me in the dark!” Blurr’s voice rose higher as he begged, ensuring his body language reflected the desperate pleading in his voice.

The twins exchanged a glance, the two apparently coming to an unspoken agreement. There was no buzz of comms that Blurr could detect, but that didn’t mean they weren’t communicating in some other way.

“Agent Blurr’s new frame feels strange now, but will get used to it. Flying is good. Flying will make Agent Blurr sir forget all about running!” Jetfire exclaimed, his words making Jazz visibly cringe.

“I don’t think that’s gonna make him feel any better.” He cautioned.

Jetfire blinked at him in confusion. “But… is true! Flying is the greatest there ever was!” The protest was delivered in a high pitched tone that bordered on whining. “We just need him to be getting up, then we are showing him!”

“I don’t think him gettin’ outta bed is happenin’ any time soon. He’s gotta rest, remember?” Jazz kept his voice even and both twins calmed considerably, nodding their understanding. He brought his hand down on top of Blurr’s. “Go get your gifts. But don’t run in the lab!” His fingers shifted, and Blurr’s processor translated the movement into words. Science team thought the twins would keep you calm.

Jazz had angled his body to keep his movements hidden from any cameras that might be present. A nice touch. Primus, it was terrible feeling this paranoid, and he longed to be able to trust this mech like he really was Jazz.

He knew he should answer, but as soon as his hand lifted to reply, Blurr noticed the claws on the ends of his fingers. He hesitated, then closed his optics and leaned back in the berth. Why did Ultra Magnus let them do this to me? He tried to ask, hoping that Jazz would understand. Blurr had no problem with chirolinguistics, it was everyone around him that had the problem. No matter how carefully he was trying to speak, he was always doing it too fast. Jazz did his best, but sometimes still only caught half the conversation.

Before Jazz had a chance to answer, the door opened to admit the twins and Perceptor. Jazz pulled his hand away as he turned to greet them. Blurr’s grip was too weak to keep him from leaving.

“Looks like visiting hours are over.” Jazz said.

The twins deflated a little in disappointment. They were both clutching packages, hastily-wrapped and brightly-colored, and they looked eagerly at Perceptor for permission to hand the gifts over.

“Make your exchange quickly. There are a few tests that need to be run on Doppler.” Perceptor said in his monotone, computer generated voice.

“Oh yes, right. Is Doppler, not Blurr.” Jetfire said, scurrying over to the bedside. “These mean the same thing, to go very fast. This is what Perceptor sir is telling us.”

Blurr felt like the energon in his lines was curdling. It wasn’t enough that they had taken his old frame, they were trying to take his identity from him as well.

“New name for new frame! So Agent Blurr sir can still be undercover!” Jetstorm also brought his gift over, dropping it on Blurr’s stomach.

Perceptor glided over and pulled out his diagnostic cables, plugging into him. Blurr twitched in discomfort and looked up at the small scientist with a frown. Perceptor had mentioned needing to run tests, but he hadn’t bothered asking permission before his presence was slithering through Blurr’s software. To the agent’s dismay, there were no firewalls or contingencies left within his systems to keep the scientist out.

If Blurr’s defenses had been in place, Perceptor would already have been riddled with viruses and malware. Not to mention the massive shock delivered would have left him writhing on the ground. It made him feel both frightened and frustrated that Perceptor didn’t so much as blink.

No one bothered trying to stop him. The twins didn’t seem to notice and Jazz was wearing a distant expression, his field unreadable, though he kept his gaze trained on the twins.

“Why?” Blurr asked. Perceptor glanced at him with a detached expression on his face, optics unfocused behind his small glasses while he sifted through lines of code. “Why did you put me in this body?”

“Your old frame was irreparable. Your spark, on the other hand, was able to be retrieved from it. You are an invaluable asset and we were given a chance to see that we didn’t lose you. With the blessing of the Magnus, we took that chance.” Perceptor said, continuing to move through Blurr’s systems. “Please, I need to concentrate.”

A small hand grabbed hold of his arm but Blurr didn’t immediately turn his attention from the scientist. He didn’t need to be distracted while his systems were potentially being compromised further than they already were. It wasn’t until Jetstorm’s voice became rather insistent and pleading and his hand began tugging that Blurr finally looked towards the twins again.

“Here, I will open for you!” Jetstorm said, tearing the wrapping from the package after realizing Blurr didn’t have the strength to lift his arms. “Tada! Your favorite!”

He was holding a box of energon goodies from one of the best sweet shops in Kaon. Under normal circumstances, Blurr would have been thrilled to see it, and while he liked the thought of having delicious treats, he’d just rather be able to have them when he was strong enough to feed them to himself. Besides, he was already drugged. There was the possibility that the treats were drugged as well. This could all be an attempt to further addle him.

“Me too! But I am getting better ones even!” Jetfire boasted, bumping Jetstorm out of the way with his hip and placing his own present on Blurr’s large chassis. “Brother did not get your favorites, I get your favorites! You will see, I show you.”

Turning his optics from the twins and their treats back to Perceptor, Blurr blinked. The scientist was looking right at him, a calculating expression on his face.

A small, round, pink wobble filled his vision and something was suddenly dangling before his optics; Blurr went a little cross-eyed as he tried to focus on it. He opened his mouth to speak and a rather overeager Jetfire pushed the small thing past his lips. An explosion of sweetness filled his mouth, Blurr letting out a noise of surprised pleasure.

“You see brother? This one is favorite!” The orange twin said with a smirk in his brother’s direction.

“You are wrong! Doppler hasn’t had mine yet, you are not knowing this for sure!” Jetstorm scowled behind his visor, pulling his own box open. He offered Blurr one of the small jellies that was inside, which was snatched up immediately and with exuberance. Blurr was so hungry, he threw his caution to the wind. “Ah! Tiny cyberkitty teeth!”

“Delicate pointies!” Jetfire cried, both twins now grinning in excitement.

Curious, Blurr made to investigate their outburst, running his glossa over what appeared to be small but very sharp fangs. Pricking himself with the tip of one, he couldn't stop himself from flinching. No wonder speaking felt so strange.

“I am giving him the next one!” The twins were back to arguing, offering Blurr a moment to further explore this new addition to his anatomy by reaching up with one hand. His restraints kept him from getting far, but it didn’t matter. The fangs, the wings… It wasn’t just any bigger flight frame he was sporting now, it appeared he was wearing a Seeker frame. If his captors were Decepticons, it was evident how they had gotten it, but why they had put his spark into it was still a mystery.

He suddenly felt very tired. At first he thought Perceptor, who was still plugged in and moving through his systems, was responsible. Internal repair updates and notifications about system integration were scrolling past on his HUD; the exhaustion was likely the result of being buried beneath the overwhelming weight of what was happening to him. He couldn’t let them break him, not yet. Not so soon. He had to fight.

“It’s time for you to go.” Perceptor informed the Jet Twins, who made sounds of disappointment in tandem. “Doppler needs to rest now, but you can come back tomorrow. I’m sure he’ll be happy to see you again when he’s not as tired.”

“We will come back. Feed you treats!”

“Tell you of flying!”

That could be nice. As excitable as they were, the twins were also familiar. And anything familiar was welcome right now, despite this being an obvious trap. Blurr looked pleadingly at Jazz, but he mech was already ushering the twins towards the door. If they left, he had to as well.

“Jazz?” He managed to call. “W-wait.”

“Don’t worry mech, I’ll come back tomorrow.” Jazz said in response, raising his hand again in a wave. “We’ll catch you up on what’s been happenin’ since we last saw each other.”

Perceptor’s chair creaked as he straightened, turning to look at Jazz suspiciously.

“Nothin’ wrong with keepin’ a mech up on current affairs, right Percy?” Jazz said in his own defense. It was so like Jazz that it made a fleeting hope steal through Blurr. If this mech did indeed come back to visit him, there was a chance Blurr could get more information from him. Even if this Jazz was a plant, he might give something up while trying to keep his cover.

There was another possibility for all of this, one that went beyond paranoia. It was easier to believe he had been taken by the traitor he had rushed home to stop, easier to think that he was a captive of the Decepticons. It meant there was no way that the Autobots could be involved.

Things like this didn’t happen to Autobots without the express permission of the Magnus or the direct involvement of the Decepticons. Since he had been surrounded by Autobots since he woke up in this strange new body, Blurr could draw the conclusion that the Magnus had given them the go ahead for this project.

But why in the Pit would he have done that?

Did that mean Ultra Magnus saw Blurr as expendable just like he had Jetfire and Jetstorm in the beginning? Or had they done this because something terrible happened and they couldn’t lose Blurr?

Too many unanswered questions. One of his monitors began giving off a high pitched alert and Perceptor looked up. Reaching over to switch the sound off, the smaller mech made a thoughtful noise.

“Did you enjoy your visit? And the gifts?” He asked, voice lacking any of the sincerity one would normally expect of such a question.

“I always enjoy sweets. But I have questions-” Blurr began, voice rough from disuse.

“Of course you do.” Perceptor interrupted, pushing his glasses up.

“I need to speak to Ultra Magnus.”

“I am afraid that’s not currently possible. The Magnus is interested in your progress. Once I fill out my report and he reviews it, he may come to see you. You can ask him your questions then.” Perceptor disengaged, leaving Blurr’s processor buzzing uncomfortably. The smaller mech pushed his chair back and stood. “I’m going to sedate you so you can rest. Your frame still needs to finish fully integrating systems and you’ll likely feel rather taxed as it does so. Just relax, Doppler.”

“My name’s Blurr.” His protest sounded weak, and Perceptor was already tweaking the drugs in the line running to his arm. The processor haze he had been fighting since he first woke began to deepen. “My name is Blurr… my name is… is…”

Chapter Text

Even running for his life, Blurr experienced joy from movement. Too much stillness made charge build up, made him twitchy; going fast gave the charge somewhere to go. Whether it was racing the streets or just running as fast as he possibly could, he always felt better when he was moving.

His journey was important this time around, very important. He had a message he needed to get to Longarm Prime, and no clone of Starscream was going to stop him.

The feeling of his pede pressing against the face of the clone seemed at once distant and fresh, and he remembered using its face as a launching pad.

He ran as fast as he could, faster than he ever had before. He ran all the way home. Cybertron wasn’t even a pinprick of light from where he was, but he knew the way. This was too important for him to fail now. He had to get to Longarm Prime.

He saw planets passing under his feet. Stars were a blur around him as he moved. He wondered if this was what it felt like to fly, and despite the urgency, he felt joy.

He was going to make it! He was going to make it! There was nothing but open space around him and he could see Cybertron and he was going to make it back with his message and give it to Longarm and save everyone!

So why were the walls suddenly and literally closing in around him? With all this open space, why was there nowhere to go? No way to escape?

‘Do you normally make it a habit to attack your own bots sir?’

“I thought you had him sedated!”

“I did. He seems to be burning through the medication far faster than expected.”

“His fluid levels don’t look good. We’re going to have to give him another bag-”

“Fully fueled, I suspect his recovery would only speed up. And we can’t increase the amount of sedative since there’s no telling what effect that will have on his processor.”

“Look at the monitor, Perceptor. I’d say there’s nothing at all wrong with his processor.”

Said monitor drew Blurr’s foggy gaze as his optics booted up. He couldn’t make sense of it at first. In fact, the only thing he really understood as he looked at it, was the name ‘Doppler’ that was posted in the top right hand corner. Not his real name, just the one they had given him.

His chest was rising and falling as swift, frantic vents cycled through him. Blurr felt his fingers twitching, claws clicking against the slab, and he shifted his legs feebly to try and get free.

He was back in the lab. Blurr was some sort of experiment, wasn’t he? He had to get out of here!

Static flickered across his vision and he attempted to kick his legs free. He was strapped down to an operating table, but his pedes thudded loudly and startled the nearby lab technicians.

With a hissing pop, the monitor next to him went dark. A shrill, mechanical beeping filled the air before dying abruptly. Static crackled over the monitor and sparks burst from the side of it, scattering across the floor.

“I thought you had an inhibitor cuff on him!” Red Alert rushed over, an expression of alarm and worry on her face.

“He may have shorted it out.” Perceptor said as he joined her at his bedside, moving away from a table laden with tools nearby.

There was a roar that made both scientists flinch, and Blurr felt his frame shaking, violently vibrating. As his panic grew, the roaring grew louder. Suddenly, the fog obscuring his vision vanished, and at last, he could see the lab illuminated in stark detail. There was barely any visual lag when Red Alert stepped right up to the edge of the berth.

“Listen to me, you’re safe here, there is nothing to be afraid of!” Red Alert shouted over the growing noise. “Please, you have to calm down!”

“Let me go let me go let me go let me go!” Blurr cried, wrenching at his bonds. “I have to get away! Let me move, let me breathe, let me run!”

“We wanted to stress test his systems.” Perceptor said in a thoughtful tone. “Perhaps letting him burn off some energy wouldn’t be remiss.”

“We can’t just let him up, not without the inhibitor cuff in place!” Red Alert argued. “He could hurt himself! Or worse, he could set the lab on fire again!”

Hazy memories of orange light and heat when he first woke in his new frame came to the front of Blurr’s processor. The science team had obviously learned how dangerous his thrusters could be and had taken strides to correct that.

“I will call Wheeljack to replace it. Try to keep him calm.” Perceptor moved away from the berth.

“Stop talking about me like I’m not here!” Blurr shouted. “And stop using those names! You aren’t really who you say you are! This is some sort of Decepticon trick!” He heard something creak ominously as he strained to break free, unsure if it was the restraints or his frame. The drugs working their way out of his system made it difficult to properly feel any part of himself.

What he did feel clearly was heat, radiating from his frame. The reddish tinge the world had taken on wasn’t as obvious as all the colors around him seemed more vibrant. He could clearly hear the thud of his own fuel pump and the restless clicking of what he assumed were his weapons considering the sound was coming from his arms.

Weight dropped over his middle as Red Alert climbed on top of him. She was so small, so very small, and it was so wrong because she was a tall femme and she shouldn’t have looked so small, not to him. She grabbed the sides of his face, holding him still and forcing him to look at her. Her expression was anguished, optics dark, brows knit and mouth turned down, and Blurr found he couldn’t turn his gaze away. Her field was filled with frustrated determination where it touched his own.

“Stop fighting, you’re going to be alright. You’re safe here.” She insisted. The charge that was building beneath his armor crawled across hers now, but if it hurt her, she didn’t show it. “I’m not going to let anyone hurt you, but you’ve got to calm down.”

“Need to move.” Blurr said, his optics growing more and more wide. His armor was clamped tightly against his protoform, his cooling fans screeching as they attempted to dissipate some of the heat trapped beneath it. His vocalizer was full of static, high pitched sounds escaping him as his struggles for freedom increased. Sparks from his errant charge travelled between Red Alert’s drooping finials, making her flinch ever so slightly. “W-what’s happening to me?” Blurr asked, voice shrill.

“You’re having a panic attack. Just vent deeply for me, okay?” Red Alert managed to keep the strain out of her voice.

Deep venting was, in fact, helping him focus, but for some reason his processor chose to focus on odd things. How little Red Alert weighed, she was completely unarmed and it would be so easy to throw her off. Her alt mode wasn’t built for speed, he’d be able to outrun her if he could just get up-

Fresh charge crackled over him, the machine attached to the ports in his left side let out an aborted protest, and Red Alert hissed through clenched teeth. She shifted, looking at something just out of Blurr’s sight, then a hand closed around his ankle. With Red Alert perched atop him still, he couldn’t see who it belonged to.

The sound waves from his roaring engines fed him the dimensions of the stranger at the foot of the slab. With how tall the bot was, the shape of their helm, how much they weighed and considering their unarmed state, Blurr was fairly sure it was Wheeljack.

The charge was abruptly drawn out of him like energon through an extractor, leaving him light headed. Making a sharp noise of protest, Blurr began to struggle once again.

“Easy there.” Wheeljack’s voice said, an air of amusement about the mech as he fussed with something at the end of the berth, blocked from view. “Almost got it.”

There was a click, the sensation of a mild stasis field washed over him and Blurr sagged back against the slab. The roaring noise faded out, the hot metal of Blurr’s chassis beginning to ping as the heat slowly dissipated from it, and though static still flickered between his frame and Red Alert’s, it was no longer leaping off and damaging more equipment.

He looked up at her, their optics meeting. Breaking his gaze she took a quick scan of his spark through his chest plates, an expression of relief passing over her features. The way her EMF pushed against his reassuringly made the concern for his well being seem more genuine.

A static charge like that would have shorted out any VR equipment attached to him. It would have disrupted holograms. It would have made any fake bots in the room show their true faces. None of the faces peering at him had changed, which meant they had been the real ones all along. Everything that had happened up to this point wasn’t an elaborate ruse, a Decepticon trap. These really were Autobots, really were people he knew.

“What have you done to me?” Blurr moaned. “What is happening?”

“What was that?” Red Alert asked Wheeljack as he moved to help her down, and Blurr silently agreed with her sentiment. What in the name of Primus had that been about? Had he been doing that? If so, how had he been doing that? Red Alert’s legs were trembling as she steadied herself with one hand on Wheeljack’s shoulder. Afraid he’d hurt her, Blurr let out a small, rueful sound.

“That engine of his is powerful. Probably has somethin’ to do with his spark!” Wheeljack said, glee evident in his voice. “He could probably weaponize all that excess charge runnin’ through him given enough time to learn how to control it.”

“What scans survived indicate as much.” Perceptor observed.

“What do you mean? What’s going on?” Blurr wondered if he was actually speaking or if he was just imagining that he was. They didn’t seem to hear him or acknowledge his words. He felt like a prisoner of war, and while there was still a possibility of him being trapped within some sort of program, he was almost certain these were his own people! These were Autobots the same as him! He was still an Autobot, no matter what he looked like! No matter what they called him! “I wasn’t doing that on purpose, I swear!”

“I’ll write up a report on what we’ve learned and submit it to the Magnus. We will have to do more tests to get a clearer picture of this new development.” Perceptor sounded as pleased as a bot without a personality core could.

Teeth clenching so hard his jaw creaked, fists curling so tightly his claws dug into his palms, Blurr glared at anyone who came into his line of sight. He couldn’t do anything else right now, and as his field swept furiously through the room, he felt more helpless than he had since this all began.

Perceptor moved to the foot of the slab and gazed at him in much the same manner he had previously, after the visit with the twins.

“We oughta move him into one of the observation rooms and take that cuff off.” Wheeljack suggested. “I’d love to see what’ll happen when Doppler really cuts loose!”

“I have a feeling more failsafes have to be put into place first.” Red Alert replied curtly, standing off to one side and attempting to get her multi-tool functioning. Apparently the charge had shorted it out. Blurr felt oddly justified. If they were going to treat him like he wasn’t conscious and desperately trying to get their attention, to get answers, then it served her right. Even if she was the real Red Alert. Especially if she was the real Red Alert!

“I can’t wait.” Wheeljack was grinning as he engaged Perceptor in a conversation about reinforced safety protocols and theoretical weaponization, his helm extensions lighting up cheerfully.

Red Alert reached for Blurr’s helm, their optics meeting once more. She hesitated, then glanced at the dark monitors.Letting out a soft ex-vent, Red Alert pulled her hand back. “Since the equipment’s broken for now, I’m going to move you back into the recovery room. Just for the time being. Would you like visitors?” She asked in a soft voice. Blurr forced his hands to unclench and felt a bit of the tension bleed from his frame.

“I was told that Jetfire and Jetstorm could come and visit me again. And I was told that Jazz could come too. Give me an update on current events.” He said. Red Alert nodded at him, her field and her expression guarded, and she gave his arm a hesitant pat before reaching to unhook him from the machines.

It shouldn’t have felt so odd to be conscious for such a prolonged period of time. It was frustrating that Red Alert felt the need to hook him back up to the drugs they had been using to keep him calm, but considering the state he had been in after waking up from that strange memory purge, Blurr couldn’t blame her.

Besides, he didn’t want to hurt anyone. He considered the twins and Jazz friends, and the last thing he wanted was to accidentally shock them. He needed to move; that would make the charge go away, or at least be more effective than than some weak stasis cuff around his ankle.

“Can I sit up?” he asked. Red Alert twitched her finials and blinked. She had been turning to leave the room but hesitated at his question. Leveling a sober gaze at Blurr and halting for far longer than such a simple question warranted, she adjusted the angle of the slab. Being somewhat upright was dizzying at first, and Blurr took the opportunity to look around, searching for exits. It was unlikely that he could get loose of course, but knowing where all the exits were was something Agents did by instinct. The door was obvious. There was a grate leading into the vents, but he would never fit in there now. There were no windows. There was likely a maintenance tunnel hidden in the wall that was used by drones or minibots. Again, he wouldn’t fit in that anymore, but at least he knew it was there.

“I was told Ultra Magnus might come visit.” He said, Red Alert’s expression registering surprise.

“I’m not sure who told you that.” She said in a even tone. “Ultra Magnus isn’t well, I’m afraid.”

“Isn’t well?” Blurr frowned. “What do you mean?”

Red Alert’s finials drooped, her brows knitting and optics lowering, then she glanced nervously towards the door as if making sure no one was listening in. Ex-venting, she turned her gaze back to him and seated herself on the edge of the slab, near his leg. “Current events.” She murmured. “The war on Cybertron is, for the most part, over. The Autobots were victorious.”

That should have been good news. Of course, wars took a long time to really end, and while the general public enjoyed what they believed was peace, there were still people working behind the scenes to fix things. People like Jazz and Blurr.

Something had to have turned the tide. Not for the first time, Blurr wondered if his message had been delivered. He had discovered a traitor working in the Elite Guard. If he had managed to tell the other members of the Guard, then they might have found the spy.

On the other hand, news of the Autobot’s victory could be a clever lie designed to put him at ease. Blurr was distracted from Red Alert’s words as he attempted to determine whether or not the news was fabricated and how much they might have been keeping from him.

“How much do you remember?” Red Alert asked him again, the familiar question drawing Blurr’s focus back to her.

His new limbs shifted towards the speaking femme. Sitting upright, his wings weren’t pinned beneath him and could move a bit more freely. They were sensor rich, feeding him visual input as well as an array of other information regarding his surroundings; things like the dimensions of the room and how far away the walls were, how thick the slab he sat on was, as well as the speed and force of Red Alert’s venting were supplied via his HUD. Sound seemed to enhance this sensory input. This was likely why he had been able to see the twins so much more clearly than everything else, seeing as they were louder than most of his other visitors.

“More or less the same as the last time you asked me. I remember running back to Cybertron to deliver my message.” He said, surprised at how icy his words came out.

“What do you mean by that? You said it before, but I don’t quite understand the context.” She had her hands folded in her lap, not holding a data pad and taking notes this time.

In an unconscious gesture of concentration as he looked down at his frame, Blurr caught his glossa between his dentae, the tip poking between his lips. Red Alert watched him, waiting patiently for his answer. “I literally ran home. I was fighting with a clone, a Starscream clone, and I knew I had to get back with the information I had uncovered. I must have caught a transwarp stream or something lucky like that but I ran as fast as I could until I reached Cybertron with my message. I gave it to Longarm, I must have. That’s what I intended to do, at least.” He said, glancing up to make sure she caught what he was saying.

While he didn’t feel like he did really, everyone always told Blurr he talked too fast. Red Alert showed no indication that she didn’t understand, though she did frown a little at his words.

“The message you gave to Longarm Prime… what was it?” She asked, and Blurr sat up as straight as his restraints allowed.

“That information is classified. For the audio receptors of the Elite Guard only.” The words came out stiff, rude and formal. To her credit, Red Alert didn’t seem offended. In fact, she seemed almost apologetic.

“That classified information was never received by the Elite Guard or the Magnus, I’m afraid.” Red Alert murmured.

“It wasn’t?” Blurr felt his spark sink. So, he hadn’t made it back in time, after all.

“Ultra Magnus was beaten almost to death with his own hammer. He’s still recovering from his wounds.” Finials drooping, Red Alert looked away, her hand clenched into a fist on her lap. “The combined might of the science and medical teams here on Cybertron did what they could, but it’s an uphill battle.”

“If Ultra Magnus is out of commission, then who’s running things?” Blurr asked.

“Sentinel Prime is the acting Magnus.” Red Alert said distractedly.

Sentinel Prime? Sentinel was Magnus? No wonder everything seemed to be going so terribly wrong. Sentinel was a good soldier, but he didn’t compromise and he was the sort to charge in helm first without waiting for all the information. Being an agent, Blurr understood that rules and regulations could only get you so far. You had to be willing to compromise, and you had to be willing to make sacrifices.

“He’s the one who told you to do this to me?” Blurr felt his mouth twitch into a brief sneer that likely displayed his newly acquired fangs. “Why? Why would he tell you to do this to me? Why would you take my spark out of my frame and put it in a new one? And where did you get a Seeker frame in the first place? Did the traitor in the Elite Guard attack the Magnus? Was it because I didn’t get back fast enough to tell the Guard who the traitor really was?!”

“Slow down.” Red Alert said gently, unclenching her fist and reaching over to adjust his medication. There was a lot of hesitation in her body language, and now she was avoiding his gaze.

“Who was it?” Blurr asked, his optics feeling heavy. “Who was the traitor?”

“Shockwave.” Red Alert said in response.

“I know that!” Blurr spat, fighting the grogginess. “I know, Shockwave was infiltrating the Guard, but who was he? Who was he pretending to be?”

“Your processor is still working to integrate your new code, Doppler.” Red Alert said, a little too easily. Using the new name the science team had given him as if to distance herself from him, and it made Blurr suddenly, blindingly angry. “I’ll let you socialize a bit with your friends but then you ought to rest. You’ve had a rather eventful day.”

Getting up, Red Alert briefly gripped his hand before moving to the door. Her shoulders and finials sagged in defeat as she closed it behind her and moved away. Blurr watched through the window as she headed up the hallway, a heavy feeling settling in his spark.

Strapped down, he couldn’t move much more than his head, but Blurr was determined to take in as much of his new frame as possible. If he turned his head to the side, he could see his wings resting against the pillows. He could see the claws on his hands, he could see the glass of the cockpit on his chest, he could see his slender waist and his very long legs. They hadn’t even let him keep his original colors. Instead, he was wearing rather drab white and grey with burgundy highlights.

His tires were gone, thrusters in their place, jutting out from his pedes. He had blasters on his arms but could see that the science team had put inhibitors on those as well.What Blurr couldn’t see however was his own face, and he could only assume what it might look like.

He probably looked like Starscream. That wasn’t a very happy thought.

Flexing his hand, Blurr took better stock of his restraints. They were the heavy duty kind used on prisoners that were taken in for interrogation, which meant that there was little he could do to escape them in his current weakened state.

He had injured himself during his attempts to escape the lab, but it was nothing his internal repair couldn’t fix. They could be safely disregarded.

Now that he had a better grasp of what his frame looked like, Blurr turned his attention inward. There were a lot of things the science team and even his own friends weren’t saying. They had information but weren’t sharing it with him, which meant that things were bad.

Red Alert said the war was technically over, and the Autobots were victorious. It was a loaded statement and there was so much obvious bitterness in her words that Blurr couldn’t help worry what the cost of their victory had been.

And Ultra Magnus… The traitor had gotten to him. Blurr couldn’t help feeling personally responsible for it even though he had done all he could. If he had just been a little faster, maybe Ultra Magnus would be okay.

If only he could remember what had happened! All of his memory files were backup, up until the point where he had arrived back on Cybertron, but there might still be some answers within them. If they would only stop drugging him to keep him calm, he could think more clearly!

Shockwave was a master of deception, a shape shifter. He could have been anyone. He could have been Jazz. He could have been Cliffjumper. Or Rodimus or Ironhide or… or…

He didn’t like where his mind was going, didn’t like the insinuations it was making. Blurr glared at the line plugged into the fuel line on his arm and began straining again to try and get it out. He wasn’t sure how long he was at it, but he made about as much progress as one could expect while being drugged and restrained.

It didn’t take long for the twins and Jazz to arrive. Blurr was able to hear them well before he saw them, in no small part due to the energetic nature of Jetfire and Jetstorm.

He felt a bit better once they came in, though he would have been more at ease had he not been strapped down. Hands were immediately on his wings, on his arms, happy and reassuring EM fields pressing into his own, and Blurr let out a slow, relieved ex-vent.

“You two remember what Red Alert said, right?” Jazz murmured in long suffering amusement.

“Oh yes. To be asking Doppler for permission before we are doing the touching.” Jetstorm said with a blink, both twins pulling their hands from his frame immediately.

“Is touching okee of the dokee?” Jetfire asked with a hopeful tone to his voice, Blurr clenching his hands into fists briefly.

“Touching is fine but if you could do me a favor, don’t call me that okay? There’s no one from the science team here and my name is Blurr,” he said, Jetfire letting out a click and Jetfire chirping before they pounced forward once more.

“Of course Agent Blurr sir!” Jetstorm said.

“We are only doing as Perceptor sir is saying!” The Jetfire added as he pressed his field into Blurr’s once more and curled a hand around his arm.

Jazz’s servo tangled with his own again, a great deal of relief filling Blurr when the mech’s fingers shifted around his.

Blurr divided his attention between idle conversation with the twins and the information that he found himself practically begging Jazz for.

‘I can only tell you a little. Cybertron is for the moment safe. Sentinel is the Magnus. Things might not be going as well as he would hope. I’ve been delegated to glorified sparkling sitter.’ Jazz kept his sentences short and to the point but purposely avoided telling Blurr what he really wanted to know. 'Prowl is dead. Starscream is dead. Megatron, Lugnut, Blitzwing and Shockwave are all locked up in Trypticon. There are teams within the Elite Guard hunting down the remaining Decepticons but they’re not making it easy.'

Tension made Blurr’s wings rise slowly behind him, and he dug the claws of the hand not clutching Jazz’s into the slab.

‘All I can tell you about what’s happening to you right now Blurr is that they had no choice but to put you into a new body. Your old one was destroyed but your spark refused to gutter. The details are all classified. You understand why I can’t tell you more.' Jazz lowered his optics, visor dimming slightly, and Blurr turned away from the twins to stare at the other mech in dawning horror and realization.

Someone had tried to kill him. Tried, and failed.

“Agent Blurr sir feels sad. Obviously he is needing treats.” Jetfire pulled a box from his subspace with an air of triumph. “I am feeding them to you, but no biting with your tiny fangs.”

“You’re gonna feed him his treats? C’mon mech, he’s an agent, you can’t just feed him like he’s a turbofox.” Jazz scolded in a teasing manner, squeezing Blurr’s hand reassuringly.

“But he is not of the minding!” Jetstorm argued on his brother’s behalf.

“Besides, you are holding his hand like he is baby bot. C’mon mech, he is being an agent!” Jetfire said haughtily, putting a hand on his hip.

“Well then, someone’s feelin’ sassy today.” Jazz twitched a brow at the fiery twin, who puffed his cheeks out and pouted before letting his aggressive stance deflate. “Sorry, I dunno why they’re bein’ so clingy.”

Shaking his head slightly, Blurr looked over at the twins. “It’s alright, really. Sort of nice after everything that’s been going on.”

'Is it safe?' He asked Jazz, his grip perhaps a little tighter than needed.'Am I safe?'

Jazz brushed his thumb over the back of Blurr’s hand before answering. 'Blurr, baby, you’re as safe as you could ever expect yourself to be.'

That wasn’t what he wanted to hear, Blurr’s grip tightening as he returned his gaze to Jazz. Of course, it wasn’t ultimately up to Jazz to tell Blurr whether or not he was safe. It was up to Blurr’s handler.

It wasn’t the first time he had noticed the distinct lack of Longarm Prime, but it was the first time the weight of that observation pressed down on him. Longarm was the only one who could actually answer the question that Blurr had asked Jazz.

He would wait as long as he could, as long as he had to if need be. That was part of his training. He was good at this sort of thing, he just had to consider it a mission. It was all part of the plan. All a mission, all just part of the plan-

“Ouch!” Jetstorm yelped, jolting Blurr from his thoughts. “Is not nice to be zapping me!”

“I gotta agree with Blue over there.” Jazz had pulled his hand free and was shaking it lightly. He wore a smile but had a guarded EMF and a dim visor. “We’re all friends here, but how ‘bout we try not to have any more zappin’ without permission?”

“Sorry sorry sorry, I don’t know why that keeps happening but it might have something to do with the fact that they haven’t let me up and won’t let me move!” Blurr watched charge crawl over his frame, being drawn swiftly down his chassis before being absorbed by the band around his ankle that Wheeljack had placed earlier. He looked at Jetstorm, glancing over the young Autobot’s form as he searched for visible injuries. “You alright?”

“Brother better be.” Jetfire said with a soft growl. “Why you are zapping him? If not to be touching your wings we are, just be saying so.”

“Not thinking that Agent Blurr is doing on purpose. Still hurts though!” Jetstorm said.

“And you, Jazz? You’re alright?” Blurr asked, but once again any answer the other mech might have had was cut off by the door opening.

“I believe Doppler has had enough excitement for one day.” Perceptor said as he entered, his optics glued to the datapad he was holding. “Thank you for keeping him company.”

It was an obvious dismissal despite being delivered in Perceptor’s trademark deadpan tone. The twins looked at Blurr sadly as they said their soft goodbyes, and Jazz took his time as he followed them out.

“See you later, my mech.” He called over his shoulder, Blurr twitching the claws of one hand up in silent farewell.

Perceptor watched the others depart, his optics calculating as he turned back to Blurr. He extended a diagnostic cable, and Blurr felt his engine rumble deeply in response. The berth beneath him rattled, as did the rack holding up the ever present drip hooked into his arm.

Undeterred, Perceptor plugged into him after manually baring a port, and Blurr was unable to stop the presence moving through his systems.

“I am sorry to have cut your visit so short, but you became agitated again. If you are to make it to the next step of your recovery, you are going to need to remain calm.” Perceptor said, an edge of disapproval in his tone. “We cannot justify removing your restraints until we are sure you won’t try to escape or try to attack. The restraints are for your safety as much as ours.”

“When is the Magnus coming to see me?” Blurr asked, bristling with irritation. He wondered if he could zap Perceptor like he had his friends, but make it count. He didn’t care if it meant he was behaving poorly and acting mannerless, he was tired of being treated like an object by this emotionless mech. “You said he would be coming once you filed your report. I’m assuming you’ve done it by now, so why hasn’t he come to speak to me?”

Perceptor said nothing until he finished his scan. As he pulled his cable free, the scientist fixed his gaze upon Blurr. “The Magnus is very interested in your progress, but will not be coming to the lab yet. We don’t have enough results to have him come here in person. Perhaps when you get back on your pedes, Doppler.”

“My name is Blurr!” Lunging at Perceptor, Blurr bared his dentae. “Agent Blurr! And if the Magnus doesn’t feel fit to grace me with his presence then at least let Longarm Prime know that I need to see him! Tell him that Agent Blurr has a report of his own to file!”

“That is both impossible and unnecessary.” Perceptor informed him, standing up and leaving the room without giving him any further explanation.

Chapter Text

Blurr couldn’t power down, his processor just wouldn’t settle enough to let him fall into recharge. He lay there, one of his bound pedes tapping in agitation, his claws drumming against the slab, and even his dentae clicking.

Powering down would mean falling back into fragmented memory purges and waking up with a processor full of fog. If he could remain awake, alert, he might be able to piece something together.

Every time one of the science team passed by, be it an officer or an assistant, he would fall still and plaster a vacant expression over his face. As soon as they were gone, he began moving again. It wasn’t another attempt to escape, Blurr was using the movement to concentrate.

Normally, unbound, he would be pacing. It was how he gathered his thoughts. If he found his processor was really racing, he’d run. Twitching was the best Blurr could do in this situation.

There was something he was avoiding, something he was refusing to acknowledge, to let himself think or admit, and it was very un-Agent of him to be doing so. Of course, with everyone else avoiding it as well, it didn’t make it any easier.

The identity of the traitor was something no one was willing to discuss. That meant it was worse than anyone had previously imagined, short of it having been Ultra Magnus himself. There were missing variables to factor in. The puzzle he pieced together was one he dreaded completing.

He had been desperate to get back home to deliver the intel to Longarm. Obviously, he had made it back, and while his processor and its backup memories were telling him that his message had been delivered, he had been informed otherwise.

If Red Alert was to be believed, the Elite Guard and Ultra Magnus had never received his message. Perceptor said that following through with his mission and delivering the information to Longarm Prime was ‘both impossible and unnecessary.’

Maybe that meant Ultra Magnus wasn’t the only person compromised by the traitor. Maybe the traitor had gotten to Longarm as well, and that was why he hadn’t come to see Blurr yet. If the war really was over, as Red Alert had implied, the Director of Intelligence would be up to his optics focusing on internal security and trying to make sure it stayed that way. Perhaps Longarm Prime was just very busy.

Movement against the slab made Blurr fall still, surprised. He hadn’t heard anyone approach and hadn’t seen anyone in his peripheral vision. Driven from his thoughts, he found himself detecting minute air displacement like a passing breeze and subtle vibrations that indicated someone was next to him. Blurr turned his head to try and get a visual.

A hand snaked into his own and a familiar field pressed against his, the air he hadn’t been aware he was trapping within his vents rushing out quietly.

‘Sorry for spooking you. I was tired of getting interrupted while we were trying to have a conversation. Do you mind company?’ Blurr’s near tangible relief answered Jazz’s question as clearly as any words could.

The cyberninja had positioned himself so that he couldn’t be seen from the door. The swell of Blurr’s chassis would likely be enough to hide their linked hands as well, so any passersby would be none the wiser.

‘I’m very grateful for it, in fact.’ Blurr told Jazz. ‘I don’t know if I can trust you but I do feel better with you here.’

‘Understandable.’ Jazz let his field mingle with Blurr’s but neither allowed them to fully mesh. ‘How are you holding up?’

Blurr didn’t answer right away, drawing in a slow vent. Tightening his grip on Jazz’s hand, he turned his helm to the side and looked down. Jazz’s gaze was without judgement or expectation. There was no prodding for him to continue, just a steady, silent reassurance from beside him. ‘I need to speak to Longarm Prime.’ He settled on keeping it simple. No use drawing out the conversation. It was better to get to the point.

Jazz let out a sound that he felt rather than heard, footsteps moving up the corridor outside forcing Blurr to relax his frame when he heard them.

Both of them waited for the lab assistant to pass, Jazz responding only after the footsteps faded into the distance. ‘I can see about getting in touch with Cliffjumper. Things have been crazy with the war ending, and going through the science team will get you nowhere. They’re not interested in your wellbeing so much as they’re interested in results.’

It was a harsh truth Jazz was speaking. So far, every question had been dodged or redirected when Blurr was speaking to the scientists, and it wasn’t putting his mind at ease in the slightest.

Turning his head to the side and dimming his optics as if he was powering down, Blurr tried to focus on Jazz. He found himself face-to-face with the dimmed visor of other mech.

‘I want to tell you more. I want to tell you everything, but I can’t. You understand why.’ Jazz said, shifting where he was crouched next to the berth.

So, Jazz had been ordered not to give him answers after all. Blurr couldn’t say he was surprised by this.

‘You really ought to power down, Blurr. The more you sleep, the better your systems will work and the sooner you can get up. I’ll call Cliff, hopefully he’ll come see you soon.’ Jazz continued.

‘I keep having nightmares. I don’t want to recharge.’ Blurr worried his bottom lip with his fangs, trying not to break the mesh. ‘Can you at least stay until I’m out?’

‘You know it, my mech. I’ll stay right here.’ Jazz made a soft noise allowing Blurr to see his smile. Their fingers twined together comfortably, and the warmth of Jazz’s field and the sound of his soft venting were almost enough to lull Blurr into recharge. That fear was still there at the back of his processor, however.

Jazz hummed and rubbed the back of his hand with a thumb. The subvocal sound reverberated through Blurr’s frame, and he vented out, trying to convince it to release some of the lingering tension.

He wasn’t sure when he dozed off, but his next conscious thought was accompanied by the awareness that he was once again surrounded by scientists, restrained and under the watchful optics of Perceptor.

Clinging to the hope that Jazz would be able to follow through with his promise was all that got Blurr through his day.

. . .

 

The continued application of sedatives, the monotony of his surroundings, and the fog that crowded his processor as his new systems integrated meant the days began to blend together. There was no chronometer in here, no way for him to track the passage of time, and since his internal chronometer didn’t seem to be working either, Blurr had to rely on his occasional visitors to let him know what day it was when they came to see him.

By his estimation, he had been conscious for nearly an orbital cycle before Cliffjumper finally came to speak to him.

Since the first night he and Jazz had spoken alone, Blurr had been slowly given more freedom. He had been allowed to sit up without his hands restrained, but only when he was being supervised by the science team. They had slowly decreased the amount of sedative they were giving him, or he had been growing stronger and developing a tolerance for it. Either way, his thoughts weren’t quite as muddled these days.

He was sitting up on his slab, investigating his clawed digits when a flurry of motion drew his attention. Blurr was surprised when the lab techs rushed out of the room to see what was going on and left him unbound.

The mood in the lab turned tense, but considering Cliffjumper had arrived unannounced, Blurr didn’t blame the science team for their reaction. Red Alert was treating the mech with polite tolerance while Perceptor displayed the same cool indifference he always did.

“I need a moment to speak to him alone.” Cliffjumper said to Perceptor and Red Alert, his field kept close to his frame; no matter how far he reached his own out, Blurr could barely sense it.

“Doppler is still in a delicate state.” Red Alert said, her finials lowering in agitation. “It’s imperative at this point that we keep him calm. We still aren’t sure the extent of his powers or if he even has them at all. His spark still generates more charge than a normal bot’s, but with his frame requiring more power-”

“Please spare me the scientific details. I’ve already read all the reports, I don’t need the information repeated to me. I didn’t come here because I wanted to know what you’re doing to him, I came to speak to him.” Cliffjumper interrupted, his face a portrait of discomfort as he moved into the doorway of Blurr’s room.

“Then I will remain here to monitor him-” Perceptor said. Cliffjumper turned to him with a scowl.

“This conversation will involve classified information. I’m afraid I can’t have you in here for it. You can monitor him from outside,” he said. “I don’t have all day. This is something that needs to happen now.”

“Do you really think this is wise?” Red Alert had lowered her voice, but straining his senses to hear and see all he could, Blurr still picked it up. “The timing is very poor.”

“He hasn’t been debriefed properly since he… since the situation… Look, timing be damned, I’m doing this now, Red Alert.” Cliffjumper said with a huff. “Doppler is going to need some time to defrag and unwind, and he’s going to need to do it alone. I don’t expect you to understand because it’s not a scientist thing. It’s an agent thing, and I need you to trust me on this one.”

It was strange to see Cliffjumper coming to take his report directly. It had happened a few times in the past, but Cliffjumper was a bit too impatient to conduct an after-mission debrief as thoroughly as a handler ought to.

Still, Cliffjumper had worked with Longarm Prime directly and knew how to deal with agents once a mission was over. He would also be more likely to answer Blurr’s questions than anyone else he had spoken to.

“He needs to be monitored closely!” Red Alert protested, putting her hand on Cliffjumper’s arm. “All of the data we’ve collected indicates Doppler doesn’t actually like being left alone for too long! His spark rate climbs, as do his body temperature and his fluid pressure! He has trouble falling into recharge and suffers regularly from memory purges that wake him far before he ought to be up!”

“Meaning he hasn’t been able to properly defrag. I know, I understand, I’ve seen it plenty of times before. Doppler needs to be debriefed and once that’s done, you’ll likely find his vitals will improve.” Cliffjumper argued. “But not at first. And no matter what happens in here, I need you to stay out until I’m done.”

It grated on Blurr’s nerves that even Cliffjumper was using his new name. There was still a chance this was all part of a mission and that Blurr was meant to be undercover. It wasn’t the first time he had been given a different identity to maintain while pursuing knowledge.

Opening her mouth to raise a counter-argument, Red Alert shut it again with a click after a few seconds. She clenched her hands into fists and looked helplessly at Perceptor, who merely shrugged and nodded at Cliffjumper.

“He outranks us and we have no choice but to wait.” The scientist said flatly. “All we can do is hope this doesn’t compromise the project too badly, and help Doppler adjust however we need to once it is done. Though, I might suggest we utilize the VR program we created for training Jetstorm and Jetfire rather than allowing Doppler to simply languish alone with his thoughts.”

That calmed Red Alert very slightly, though she still gave Cliffjumper and Perceptor a hard look and refused to fully back down. “I suppose that would allow us to continue keeping an optic on him while offering him a semblance of freedom to deal with the information he’s about to be handed.”

That sounded promising no matter what tone it was said with. Gathering information was what Blurr was best at, and he had been denied it every step of the way since waking up in this body.

“I came here with orders from the Magnus, if it helps at all to hear that.” Cliffjumper said. Blurr felt hope swell through him. It was the first time someone other than a scientist had mentioned Sentinel Magnus’s interest in him, so the fear that they had been saying that just to shut him up abated, if only a little.

“Marginally.” Red Alert replied, her hand closing into a fist. She backed up so that Cliff could close and lock the door. She stared at them through the window before Cliffjumper polarized it to give them more privacy.

The deafening silence that followed rendered his surroundings dim. The soft noise of his internals were the only steady input allowing Blurr to see beyond the berth, and Cliffjumper was so still he might as well have been invisible. The ex-vent that the other mech let out after a moment was enough to illuminate Cliffjumper and how he had his back to him.

“Hello Doppler.” Cliffjumper said, his deep voice sounding curiously small. Granted, everything about the other mech seemed small right now. “What do you think of the name? The science team came up with it, but Sentinel Magnus said you could keep it so long as no one tried to explain to him what it meant.”

Opening his mouth to speak, Blurr hesitated. “I… hate it.” He admitted after a few more seconds of silence, and Cliffjumper turned to look at him in surprise. “My name is Blurr, I don’t see any reason to have changed it unless all of this is just grooming for a new mission I haven’t been briefed on yet.”

Shoulders slumping, Cliffjumper moved a little closer to the berth. “Let’s just start with your report.” He said, and when his field finally relaxed enough that Blurr could teek it, it seemed to carry equal amounts of dread and relief.

Venting inward, Blurr drew himself upright on the berth and forced his frame to relax as he ex-vented. “My report was to be delivered directly to Longarm Prime, as per his orders as the head of Autobot Intelligence,” he said.

“I am the head of Autobot Intelligence now. Your report can and will be delivered directly to me.” Cliffjumper said in reply.

“Yes sir, Cliffjumper sir.” His wings swung up behind him and Cliffjumper startled, but Blurr pressed on without pausing. “I uncovered an encrypted transmission between Megatron and his loyal agent Shockwave. It proved that Shockwave was the traitor lurking in the midst of the Elite Guard, the one who had been passing classified information back to the Decepticons and thus thwarting our efforts to root out the Decepticons and bring them to justice. I suspect that Shockwave was also the one who dispatched the previous Director of Intelligence, Highbrow. Unfortunately, the vocalizer pattern of Shockwave didn’t match that of suspected traitor Wasp, but I took a recording that could be used to match the voice to all those listed in our databanks. Unfortunately, in the midst of apprehending a clone of Starscream, I was thrown through a space bridge into the middle of nowhere. I managed to escape and ran back to Cybertron where I am almost ninety percent certain I delivered my report to Longarm Prime… I don’t remember anything after that, sir. And all of my memory files up to that point are backups.”

He paused there and waited, half expecting Cliffjumper to ask him to repeat himself. The other mech was very still, and the feeling of guilt in his field had grown to the point where Blurr began to experience alarm.

“Did I deliver my message? Did Longarm Prime receive it, sir?” He asked, hoping more questions might prompt Cliffjumper to say something, anything. “Why isn’t he here anyway? Is he busy trying to help with the end of the war? Was he hurt by the traitor-”

“One thing at a time.” Cliffjumper’s voice was too weak to be demanding, but an order was an order and Blurr fell silent. Reaching up a trembling hand, Cliffjumper pinched the bridge of his nasal-guard and ex-vented. He was giving off the aura of a mech who wanted to be anywhere but here doing anything but this, and Blurr was familiar with the sentiment as it was often how Cliffjumper reacted to taking reports. “I don’t even know where to start.”

The mutter made Blurr’s wings droop a little. He had waited this long and he would continue waiting if he had to, but the end was at least in sight now.

Lowering his hand, Cliffjumper looked at Blurr with his mouth pulled into a thin line, his optics darkening as if in pain. “If your message was delivered, it was lost in the chaos of what happened at headquarters shortly after your return,” he said, hands clenching into fists. “I know it was shortly after your return because… well, there was evidence of you having returned.” He turned his gaze away for a second. “Since you hadn’t reported in, I figure you hadn’t been back long enough for that. We didn’t know you had returned, not until it was too late.”

“Too late for what? Too late for whom?” Blurr asked, blurting out the questions before he could stop himself.

“Too late to stop the traitor from trying to kill you and Ultra Magnus. You got too close to the truth, Blurr, too close to bringing Shockwave out into the open. You asked too many of the right questions and it got you… made you…” Cliffjumper stammered into silence, gesturing wildly at Blurr’s frame.

“What happened to me, sir?” Blurr asked, leaning forward and pressing his field into Cliffjumper’s. The other mech reacted by closing his optics and turning his helm away, face screwing up in a blatant display of discomfort.

“You tried to run. Shockwave had rigged the security doors in the halls and used them to trap you. When you had nowhere else to go, he used them to crush you.” Cliffjumper’s voice was once again so quiet that it became difficult to make out clear details.

“So Shockwave overheard what I said to Longarm Prime, then?” Blurr asked, frame feeling suddenly hot and engine beginning to thrum. The sound and vibration of it combined with Cliffjumper’s trembling made the smaller mech’s image distort in his vision.

“You don’t get it yet, do you? I thought you were supposed to be a quick learner!” Cliffjumper said sharply. “Think! Use your damn processor, Blurr! Don’t make me say it!”

“I don’t understand, sir.” Blurr said, shaking his head. “I don’t understand…” There was a dread welling up in him. The familiar fear that plagued him every time he woke from a memory purge was bubbling to the surface once more, but he just didn’t understand what it meant or what Cliffjumper was trying to tell him.

It had something to do with Longarm Prime, he’d gathered that much. But if Longarm Prime had been killed, then Cliffjumper would just say it. Jazz would have said it. Someone would have said it!

His spark was spinning so fast behind the crimson glass of his cockpit, Blurr thought it was trying to escape. He was dizzy and lightheaded from the heat and the unease that flowed through him.

‘What do you remember?’ Red Alert had asked him, again and again...

He thought back on the memory purges he kept having of running home to deliver his message, the desperation to get to Longarm, to get… get away…

Cliffjumper was staring at him, but anything he might have said was lost in the rush of sound in Blurr’s audio receptors as the pieces of that terrible puzzle he had been working on since he first woke began to finally snap into place. The light of his optics shrunk to panicked pinpricks.

He had kept waking with his legs hammering against the berth, filled with the urge to run. He had to run, had to get away!

He had to get away from Longarm Prime!

After he had delivered his message, Longarm had asked him. . . had asked him if anyone else knew about what he had reported. And when Blurr had confirmed he had done what Longarm had asked, and delivered the message directly to him, Longarm had. . .

“Primus.” He hardly recognized the voice as his own, and it seemed so loud that he flinched. “Oh Primus, no. No, not Longarm, no no no no no-”

“Blurr.”

“Primus, what have I done? All of that information I gave him!”

“Blurr!”

“I didn’t see it. B-but I trusted him! I didn’t see what he was and he… he...”

“None of us saw it, Blurr, not even me!”

“How many people died because of everything we told him? How long ago could we have ended the war if we had known sooner?! I trusted him. I trusted him!”

“Agent Blurr! Pull yourself together!” Cliffjumper’s voice cut through the panic and Blurr forced himself to focus on him, obeying the order. “No one in the Elite Guard saw this coming. Shockwave was careful to cover all of his tracks! You backed him into a corner and that forced his hand. You did well, agent.”

“I did?” Blurr asked. “How did I do well, I didn’t stop him and he almost killed me and he almost killed Ultra Magnus!” He squeezed his optics closed and began struggling.

A hand took hold of his chin and turned his head leaving him no choice but to face the new head of Autobot Intelligence.

“You discovered the identity of the traitor and you very nearly died in the line of duty. You served the Autobots proudly, Blurr.” Cliffjumper held optic contact with him. “Shockwave was apprehended and is currently being held in Trypticon with the rest of the Decepticons there. Your assignment is done. Your mission is over, agent.”

“M-my message-”

“Was delivered.” Cliffjumper’s tone was firm, insistent. “Your mission is over, agent. Your report is complete.”

“C-can’t offer you the full report, sir, my memory banks must have been too damaged-” Blurr began. Cliffjumper shook his head and made a soft noise to silence him.

“The picture from the point you remember is pretty clear, so you don’t have to worry about that. If you need me to, I can fill in the blanks for you,” he said. Blurr’s optics widened as the smaller mech opened a panel on his arm and drew out a data cable.

In this line of business, bots were a lot more cautious about offering to swap cables for any reason. Blurr had no firewalls anymore, none of his defenses in place, but Cliffjumper was paranoid and had plenty of his own installed. They had linked up in the past, but only once, and that had been when Longarm was in the midst of a senate meeting that couldn’t be missed.

Opening the corresponding port on his own arm, Blurr acquiesced. At least he could be sure that Cliffjumper would make this quick. In spite of his defenses, the mech didn’t like this part of the job.

“You’re not going to like this.” Cliffjumper muttered, lowering his optics. “And I’m sorry.”

“Occupational hazard.” Blurr said, his mouth twitching ever so slightly. “I’ve been so desperate for answers, I don’t care if they’re unpleasant.”

Without more than a nod, Cliffjumper plugged the cable into the port in Blurr’s wrist. The stream began almost immediately.

It hurt more than he would have ever imagined to see Longarm striding into the chamber where Cliffjumper worked, carrying a crushed cube of pale blue metal. He handed it casually to Cliffjumper, asked him to dispose of it, and Blurr felt a shudder run through him when Cliffjumper did little more than shrug before turning to dump the cube into the incinerator shoot.

‘Sensitive material’ indeed. Now Blurr understood what Cliffjumper had meant when he said there was evidence of him having returned. Cliffjumper had been holding it.

According to the time stamp, Ironhide discovered Ultra Magnus very shortly after Cliffjumper disposed of Blurr’s crushed body. At that point, Cliffjumper had his suspicions, but was too late to catch or stop Shockwave before he fled, taking the Magnus Hammer with him.

The datastream cut off abruptly and Blurr’s optics focused on Cliffjumper again with difficulty. He realized he was holding something in his hand, looking down and seeing that it was the data cable that Cliff had offered him. He had torn it out of his own arm.

“I told you so.” Cliffjumper said softly, his digits closing over Blurr’s and encouraging them to release the data cable. His hand was shaking, the vibrations making it easy to see Cliffjumper’s anguished expression. “I’m so sorry, Blurr.”

“You didn’t know.” His voice sounded flat to his own audio receptors.

“I should have.” Cliffjumper countered.

“We all should have.” Blurr admitted, but he let go of the data cable and let Cliffjumper retract it. Silence fell again. Blurr sunk into it willingly and found himself glad that it dulled so many of his other senses. He was trying very hard not to panic, not to lash out.

None of his training could have possibly prepared him to deal with the person he trusted most betraying him so completely. There was nothing in all of the manuals or on any of the tests regarding how to deal with your direct superior being a murderous traitor.

Blurr had wanted answers so badly, and now that he had them all he wanted to do was forget.

Chapter Text

The expression of remorse that Cliffjumper wore as he waited for Blurr to fully absorb the information smoothed into something harder and more determined after a moment. “If you need time to-” He said, then grit his dentae.

To what, Blurr thought. To mourn? To rage? To cry? If he sat here and thought too hard about what he had been told, what he had been too blind to see himself, Blurr thought he might go crazy.

“No.” He said and shook his helm. “No. I don’t want-”

“No one would blame you, Blurr.” Cliffjumper said quietly.

“No.” Blurr repeated. His voice wavered and he shook his helm again.

“I can find someone to come and talk to you, someone who knows how to deal with this sort of thing.” Cliffjumper offered. He no doubt meant one of the mechs on the small list of therapists and psychiatrists Intel had on file for the times when a handler wouldn’t cut it after a difficult mission. Blurr had never met any of them. He hadn’t needed them before.

“Right now I just need a distraction.” Blurr said numbly. “Thank you sir.”

“Don’t hesitate to let the science team know if you change your mind. Or tell Jazz. Or maybe call me directly, if they’ll let you use a comm.” Cliffjumper said, the hardened edge to his voice not quite enough to hide the grief and guilt that filled it.

He moved to the door and opened it. He gestured for Red Alert and Perceptor to come in and addressed them heatedly. “At least let him have a firewall.” He said. “I don’t care if he’s not currently an active agent, he shouldn’t be defenseless! Also, any of the memory files you and the other scientists have viewed might be classified, so I’ll be having a batch of NDA’s delivered for you to sign. If you neglect to do so, I really don’t need to tell you what I’ll have to do to you.”

“Of course, sir.” Red Alert said, frowning.

Perceptor wheeled in a machine like a large reclining chair with a visor that fit over one’s optics. Cables that hooked to the main body of the machine streamed from the visor and draped over the back of the seat. Blurr recognized it as one of the advanced VR systems they had used to train Jetfire and Jetstorm.

“Doppler, I know it’s not the same as actually being up and about, but some time in the VR program will help.” Red Alert said as she moved to the side of the berth. She had a data pad clutched in her multi-tool and was prodding at it with sharp movements of her hand. Her field registered frustration and unease. “I’m going to download some things into your processor at the request of Cliffjumper. Just a basic firewall to start with, but maybe it’ll help keep you calm, Doppler.”

Blurr tightened his hands into fists but couldn’t bring himself to protest out loud. He didn’t have the energy or the drive to right now. After he verbally agreed to allow her to plug the data pad in, Red Alert made short work of getting the firewall downloaded. Blurr made sure it was installed correctly by running a thorough check on his new system ports to ensure they were secure from outside interference. He settled back, unsurprised that having the bare minimum of protection against invasion to his systems made some of the lingering paranoia fade.

“Thank you” he said.

“We’ve had him off the drugs for too long,” Red Alert said to Cliffjumper, her voice pitched low but Blurr still able to hear her clearly. “His systems, if they become active-”

“You dealt with it before.” Cliffjumper said gruffly. “He’s still in there despite all of your fears.”

“That might change.” Red Alert murmured.

“And if it does, because I agree that it might and it’s easier to err on the side of caution, then you and the other scientists will figure out a way to deal with it. The Magnus didn’t give you all of this time and all of these resources for you to panic at the first sign of a setback.” Cliffjumper said, glancing over at Blurr.

“We have various failsafes put in place, Red Alert.” Perceptor said as he straightened with the headset in his hands. “Thus far, everything has been going mostly according to plan. There is no reason it won’t continue to do so.”

“I’m going to go.” Cliffjumper said. He was frowning, but his field was once again out of Blurr’s reach. “I’ll inform Sentinel Magnus about everything that happened today personally. I imagine he’ll be by to see for himself soon enough.”

Red Alert and Perceptor exchanged a guarded glance behind Cliffjumper’s back as he turned to the door. “I’ll handle this.” Red Alert said, following Cliffjumper.

Perceptor leaned over Blurr and began attaching cables and cords to him. He offered the headset to Blurr, who took it and fiddled with it until he felt it was fitting him comfortably.

“We would normally put you into the pod but you’re too big.” Perceptor said, tugging the machine closer so that he could ensure none of the cables would get unplugged if Blurr moved. “Let me know if you feel any discomfort, Doppler.”

“Seems okay so far.” Blurr muttered.

“We can’t spare an entire solar cycle, but we can give you a megacycle or so,” Perceptor said. Blurr nodded at him.

A megacycle to defrag from a mission that had lasted many orbital cycles, that was all they were willing to give him. Blurr knew he should be upset, but he was grateful they were at least offering him that much. It was always jarring to go from a long mission to no mission at all. There had been a disturbing air of finality to Cliffjumper’s words in regards to his report, and Blurr had a feeling he would be waiting a long, long time without a new mission to undertake.

Maybe it would be in his best interest not to wait at all. They would be monitoring him in the virtual reality he was about to enter, of course, but there was no reason he couldn’t explore his own systems and coding while he was in there. That could be his new mission… figure out just what was going on inside this new frame of his.

“Lean back and power down your optics,” Perceptor said, and Blurr tried to force his frame to relax. “The program will start in ten… nine… eight… seven…”

Perceptor hadn’t even hit the last number before the program executed. Color faded from the world as Blurr’s vision went white. Sound became muted, all feeling fled from his limbs and he sank into a state of recharge.

 

...

 

For a long moment, Blurr didn’t feel like he had a frame at all. His systems booted one at a time, showing him nothing in his surroundings but emptiness. Solid ground rose up beneath his feet, atmosphere seemed to bloom around his limbs and his wings, directionless light swelled to reveal the bare space he stood in, and Blurr saw for the first time since waking in the lab that his HUD was fully functional.

Operating system, firewalls, visual cortex, equilibrium sensors, proximity sensors, weapons systems, flight systems…

Blurr drew in a deep vent and stretched his arms above his head. He felt the thick cabling in his shoulders, his back, his hips, and he couldn’t help the shiver that ran through him. This frame wasn’t just bigger, it was stronger. Heavier too. He didn’t realize just how heavy he was while he was stuck in a berth, but standing up he could feel it.

It took a few seconds to get used to the equilibrium and balance caused by his new wings. It was also strange taking his first steps with thrusters on his heels; Blurr found them to be surprisingly sensitive.

There was a readiness burning through him, almost as if he were waiting at the starting line of a race. This was the first chance he had been given to move, so wouldn’t it make sense to run? Even if his body was actually still back in the lab and this wasn’t reality, it was close enough.

Focusing on his frame and his systems made it easier for Blurr to not think about Longarm Prime, to not think about all the terrible things he might have helped Shockwave put into motion with his unquestioning loyalty to a mech he had seen as a leader, even a friend.

With that thought in mind, Blurr began to move. There seemed to be no beginning or end to the room he was in, but there was always ground beneath his feet as he pushed himself forward.

The first few steps were awkward. The thrusters were heavy, not made for running. Blurr fell down, rolled awkwardly, but pushed himself back up and kept going. As he was tripping along, his HUD lit up with a proximity warning and he froze.

His weapons systems came online before he realized he was triggering them. Blurr spun to face the direction of the threat his sensors were telling him about. There was nothing there, but whatever it was had moved just behind him.

Blurr whipped around with both his blasters up. His frame heated and his vents heaved. The roar of his engines filled his audio receptors again, painfully loud.

The threat moved again and again; Blurr followed it but it felt like he was always a few seconds too late. He never saw it, not even a glimpse, and when the proximity warnings stopped, he didn’t stand down. Whatever it was could still be there after all, and if this was the same battle program that they had used to test the Jet Twins, letting his guard down wasn’t advisable.

The ground beneath him was vibrating, he could feel it through his feet. The reverberations moved through his frame, but since the floor was the same blank white as the walls, Blurr saw no change. He had no more warning before there was suddenly nothing beneath him and he was falling through empty space.

Panic ripped through him, his equilibrium sensors went haywire as he tumbled in a free fall. Blurr let out a shrill sound, arms flailing as he tried to find something to grab hold of.

Charge erupted over his frame, his spark spun wildly in his chest, then with a deafening roar his thrusters fired.

Now he wasn’t falling down, he was moving diagonally upwards, and Blurr let out another noise of alarm as he held his arms out to try and stop himself. His momentum put pressure on his wings and their instinctual fluttering and shifting to alleviate it made him flip end over end.

If the intent of this program was to allow him to get the hang of his flight systems, there was a good chance this empty space had no walls and no true bottom. Blurr forced the thought to the front of his processor to keep the panic at bay, focusing on getting himself stabilized so he could stop the dizzying spin he had fallen into.

Too many moving limbs were throwing him off balance like this. If Blurr was going to master this new flight frame, he was going to have to do it in stages. Activating his t-cog, he took on his altmode and found himself diving nosecone first into the blank space beneath him.

Down was up, up was down, and Blurr had no idea what to do. This was nothing at all like running, nothing at all like anything he had ever done in his life. Even the still spotty memories of running through space, bouncing off the rings of planets, off of whatever heavenly bodies he had come across was nothing like this.

It was terrifying.

All of his instincts were to hit the brakes, but he didn’t know if he even HAD brakes to apply, just the thrusters that were pushing him faster and faster towards what should have been the ground.

Afraid to move his wings lest he be sent into another uncontrollable spiral, Blurr made a pained noise. He realized there was nothing else he could do at this point but take a chance and move them anyway.

He had flight coding, he needed to listen to it and not fight it. That was his mission! Figure out the coding! This was new and frightening, yes, but it wasn’t anything he hadn’t dealt with before. This was just like the first time he had broken into an enemy base to extract information from a console. Just like the first time he had gone undercover in enemy ranks or on an alien planet. Just like the first time he had interrogated a prisoner. Just like the first time he had willingly let a target plug into him so that he could slip a virus into their systems.

As he expected, he went into a spin as soon as he shifted his wings, but this time he didn’t fight. This time, he let his coding prod him in the right direction and was rewarded by a somewhat lazy and wobbling turn that ended with him upright and flying straight ahead instead of straight down.

Letting out a triumphant laugh, Blurr swung from side to side before leading himself into another aileron roll, this one far more controlled than the last.

There was nothing above him, nothing beneath him, and the thrill was beginning to set in, swallowing up the fear.

Calling up the memory file of his ‘flight’ home, Blurr wished he had been able to properly appreciate the view back them. Planets and stars passed beneath his pedes as he pushed himself back to Cybertron through what seemed like sheer force of will, he had mustered momentum when there was nothing around him to push him forward but his skinny frame and his glitchy spark.

That had been amazing. Incredible. Impossible.

The remembered joy of movement in that moment paled in comparison to what he felt right now. Jetfire had been correct. Flying was amazing.

Now that he had managed to figure out how to fly straight, Blurr wondered how fast he could go. Speed was his thing, moving was passion, and now there was nothing to stop him from pushing himself to his limits.

Accessing his coding, Blurr set his thrusters to full and found himself leaping forward with a jarring shudder. The resistance of the air around his frame was momentary, and there was a sharp crack as he broke the sound barrier and sped into the nothingness.

Laughter erupted from him and Blurr felt charge crackle across his frame. He was burning hot, his engine and his fans were screaming, but he was moving faster than he could have possibly dreamed. If there had been anyone at all to see him, he would have likely looked very much as his name suggested right now. Maybe they wouldn’t even be able to see him at all… Faster than a blink, faster than a-

“Oh frag oh frag oh frag!!!” There was a building in front of him. There had been nothing at all there before! Blurr pulled up sharply to avoid it, the pressure increasing around him as he tried desperately to slow down.

He was in a city! Obviously the VR program thought he had a good enough handle on his flight systems to throw a curveball at him. Blurr let out a frantic cry as he moved through shining spires. He narrowly missed them, then forced himself to embrace the coding that had by now fully awoken in his processor.

He felt the shifts in air pressure and adjusted to avoid crashing straight into structures as he flew towards them. Slowing down was a lot harder than speeding up, and the drag on his frame was making him quickly tire. The surface of the spires became more mirrored and Blurr found himself relying less and less on his optics since his own reflection was throwing him off so much. It helped him sift through the sensors that were screaming for his attention.

He accelerated once again as he got the hang of it, expecting at any moment that the program would introduce some new obstacle into the mix to throw him off.

As Blurr skimmed past the side of a building, he wobbled ever so slightly and clipped his wing against the frame of a window. At the speed he was traveling, that was all it took.

Spinning wildly out of control, Blurr fell heavily on top of a building nearby, then tumbled off the edge as momentum dragged him forward. Catching his other wing on a tower rising off the roof just as he went over the side, Blurr let out a cry of alarm.

His vision became a sickening whirl of colors, and all of his sensors were blaring alarms at him. He had no idea how to stop or how to correct himself, but none of it mattered. After a few harrowing seconds of falling, he crashed nose cone first into the side of a skyscraper.

The world around him went white once again and all the sounds around him fell silent, then Blurr was jolting awake on the berth in the lab once more.

It was hardly his first crash. Being a racer and embracing a life of speed meant one was always at risk of making a mistake and losing control of one’s frame. Instead of waking up in the med bay with a battered frame and having to endure a lecture from a furious medic however, Blurr just found himself lying still with his vents heaving, his spark spinning in his chest and frustration bubbling up inside him.

He glanced at the chronometer on the wall and scowled at Perceptor, who was looking at his vitals on the monitors with interest. “My time’s not up yet, I still have time, put me back in!” He demanded. Perceptor looked at him with a glint of approval in his optics. “I was just starting to really get the hang of it and I want to go back!”

“Let me just recalibrate the system and you can try again.” Perceptor said in a pleased tone, nodding at him. “You did very well, Doppler. Good work.”

 

Euphoria like this lingered. Once his megacycle was up, Blurr spent the rest of the day coming down from the high. He couldn’t help grinning, no matter who he was talking to or what they were doing to him. It was the first time in ages he had felt truly alive.

“Cliff had the right idea by havin’ us give you some time in the VR chamber. You’re a quick learner, Doppler!” Wheeljack said as he moved to the side of the berth. “Not ta mention, you’re in a great mood now, too!”

His frame was charged up on his elation, zapping everyone who touched him and prompting Wheeljack to tweak the device on his ankle.

“There we go.” He said, optics turning up at the corners as he smiled. “That oughta do it!”

“As long as it doesn’t explode.” One of the lab techs muttered after Wheeljack departed, snickering under their breath. Blurr grinned up at them, and received a friendly pat to his shoulder in return.

“His spark is spinning too fast. Doppler, do you feel any dizziness? Are you at all light headed?” Red Alert asked, frowning as she ran her scanner over his frame.

“I wanna do that again.” Blurr murmured. He dragged static across the berth as he stretched. “When can I do it again?”

There was another round of soft snickering from the lab techs, and Blurr felt an appreciative field brush against his own, though he was unsure of which one of the techs it belonged to. Sitting up, he waited for Red Alert to give him a clean bill of health so he could start relaxing in anticipation of recharge.

The lab techs carried an energy in their fields he couldn’t really decipher, but it didn’t matter at all right now.

 

 

The euphoria continued for the rest of the day and for most of his recharge cycle. Blurr dreamed that he was weightless, moving through the empty air with ease, racing himself across the cloudless sky.

His engine rumbling loudly woke him, and Blurr found that his still-bound feet were straining to get free. Another smile stole across his face and Blurr ex-vented slowly. Maybe in the morning, the science team would see fit to put him back in the VR program for more practice.

What was it going to be like when they finally let him up? When he was finally allowed to fly for real? Was it going to be just as good as the VR, or better?

When he eventually coaxed his processor back into power down, Blurr found himself once again soaring above Saturn. He wasn’t flying, though… he was running. He had to get home, had to give Longarm Prime his message. He had to get back, no matter the cost. He had to get there, had to tell them...

He knew who the traitor was, and it wasn’t Wasp. He knew who the traitor was… he knew who the traitor was now.

It had been in front of him the whole time and he hadn’t seen it. Couldn’t see it. Hadn’t wanted to. It couldn’t possibly be true, it couldn’t possibly be Longarm.

The truth was there, though, the evidence of it was undeniable. It hurt too much to fathom and he felt like there were steel bars wrapped around his chest, constricting him, crushing his vents, squeezing his spark-

Someone was screaming. These weren’t screams of terror he was hearing though, they were screams of rage. Screams of betrayal.

His systems were all fully booting and while he was partially strapped down he was far from defenseless. Proximity sensors were screaming, his weapons systems were online but something was keeping him from firing them.

Pain was registering on his sensors, but it wasn’t actually his own. He was teeking the field of someone else, someone near him, some unknown intruder who had dared to touch him. The hurt was likely brought on by the fact that he was gripping the intruder’s hand in one of his own, squeezing it hard enough to break struts. The hand was twitching, but it didn’t seem to be doing so in an effort to break free.

The foreign EM Field pushed insistently against his own, and under the pain was. . . reassurance? Comfort? What in the name of Unicron was going on here? What was this intruder up to? What were they trying to prove?

Over the sound of his own heaving vents and roaring engine, he could hear a voice speaking. He couldn’t make out the words clearly, didn’t want to focus on them too closely in case it was some sort of a distraction.

That small hand was still twitching in his own and he wanted to squeeze harder to stop it. The last of the fog of recharge fading, he was starting make out the shape of the figure in front of him.

“C’mon Blurr, get it together.” A pained voice said, and Blurr’s optics fixed on the familiar full mouth plates, blue optical band, dark complexion framed by a pale paint job of the mech speaking. He knew this mech, it wasn’t an intruder at all. “Kinda need that hand back, you mind lettin’ me go?”

Slowly blinking, Blurr clung to the coding that was telling him to defend himself for a few seconds longer. If he knew this mech, why had his systems prompted him to attack? He was giving off a threat display to ward off the intruder, sitting fully upright, wings and plating flared to make him look bigger.

“Look, m’sorry for touchin’ you while you were sleepin’. Figured with you bein’ strapped down, at least you wouldn’t go shootin’ up the wall backwards like you always did when we were workin’ together. Heh, that was always pretty funny. This, not so much. I truly and honestly wasn’t expectin’ you to attack me.”

It wasn’t an intruder at all. It was an ally. A friend! His battle systems powered down and his proximity sensors stopped warning him that he was in danger.

“Jazz?” Blurr mumbled, blinking again before releasing his hold on the hand he was gripping as if it were some sort of armed explosive. “Oh Primus! Jazz?!”

“The one an’ only.” Jazz murmured, pulling his hand against his own frame and managing a smile. “You with me, Blurr?”

“Y-yes, I am! I attacked you?! Jazz, I’m so sorry!” Blurr stared with optics wide in horror. “W-what happened?!”

“You were havin’ a bad memory purge. I was tryin’ to get close enough to let my field reach yours and you just sort of lashed out and grabbed me.” Jazz sounded surprised, but not hurt.

“I was dreaming about Longarm.” Blurr said, the rasp in his voice thickening as his intake did. “Primus… Jazz, I’m so so sorry, I never meant to hurt you. I would never hurt you on purpose, but you really should have known better than to try and touch a sleeping agent, even one that’s no longer on active duty.”

The longer he talked, the harder it got. He was choking up, his optics were burning, but he hadn’t made it this far just to break down now.

“I’m sorry.” Jazz said with a soft, almost relieved sounding laugh. “I wasn’t thinkin’ about my own safety. Just yours.”

“You’re not supposed to be in here.” Blurr observed, seeing that the lights in the lab outside were dimmed. “You snuck in to see me?”

“Heard you had a good day. Wanted to see for myself.” Jazz was gingerly inspecting his hand, and Blurr could see that while his digits were a little dented, none of them seemed to be out of place.

“It was. It was a good day. Despite everything, it was a good day. I got to fly for the first time and I crashed but I’ve crashed before so it wasn’t like I wasn’t prepared to handle that sort of thing.” Blurr said, static causing his voice to crack. “It was a good day, a great day until I remembered-”

He couldn’t finish, and Jazz didn’t ask him to. In fact, Jazz didn’t say anything at all. The mech reached out to him, first with his field, then with his arms, and Blurr pressed himself into them, muffling the soft wail that escaped him by burying his face in his friend’s shoulder.

“I’ve got you.” Jazz murmured, his unharmed digits stroking the back of Blurr’s neck and his arms folding around the Seeker like his EMF already had. “No one here but us, Blurr. Let it all out.”

Chapter Text

Ending a war was tricky business, that’s what everyone kept telling him. Blurr understood that it made people in certain positions in a government busy, but he still felt a little put out that Sentinel Magnus still hadn’t bothered coming to see him.

It had been a week since his first flight, a week since the awful news about Longarm Prime, and now that the science team wasn’t drugging him there seemed to be a great deal of new hurdles to leap over as his recovery progressed.

Blurr’s coding was complicated to say the least. Not only did it change the way he saw the world, it also made him even more twitchy than he used to be. Instead of general restlessness caused by his overactive spark, now his coding was informing him every few minutes that he was surrounded by aggressors.

If he was aware that there was someone else in the room, he wouldn’t lash out at them. If they surprised him however, he reacted like an angry cybercat with its tail closed in a door.

So far, there hadn’t been any injuries, but a few of the lab techs were too frightened to be in the same room with him alone. Blurr’s tanks churned if he thought about that for too long.

Using some of the tricks he had learned while working under Highbrow and Longarm, Blurr managed to bolster his firewall and give himself a bit more security. The science team was still conducting regular but often unscheduled scans of his systems, but if any of them had noticed his secure partitions and the encryptions he had put on some of his more sensitive memory files, they hadn’t mentioned it to him.

During the quiet periods where he was expected to be recharging, Blurr had spent time pouring through the coding. He had tried to tweak it while in the VR chamber, but he found it made Red Alert and Perceptor suspicious. He had taken to feigning power down, spending several hours a night sifting through the lines of code and trying to figure out how to reprogram it to stop flagging his colleagues as enemies.

Blurr was forced to miserably conclude that there was nothing he could do right now with what he had to work with. There seemed to be a gap between his new systems and his old ones that he had no way to bridge. His own systems weren’t giving him proper access to them.

He wasn’t the only one becoming frustrated with the compatibility issues. Red Alert tried bullying Perceptor into figuring out how to fix the problems, stating that it was going to start having a negative effect on Doppler’s quality of life. She also let slip that the Magnus would ‘never come down here unless they figured this out.’

Blurr had never been more thankful for Red Alert’s medic coding. The science side of her was cold and detached, but that medic coding meant some part of her actually had to give a damn about him.

When he thanked her, however, Red Alert ex-vented in frustration and shook her helm. “It was either this or turn off your battle suite. Since we’re still trying to test your capabilities, we couldn’t do that,” She said, excusing herself from the room.

The science team let him spend some time in the VR program that morning and even gave him a change of scenery. Instead of the normal, rather non-descript cityscape he had become accustomed to, he found himself flying over the gleaming spires of Vos in its prime. Blurr took the time to try flying for a bit in root mode. He still found it easier to fly as a jet, but he took great pride in his ability to be adaptable.

When his proximity alarms went off, Blurr slowed his flight but didn’t immediately stop. Most of the time, the program used data phantoms while trying to test his reflexes, so he moved away from the source and kept his sensors on high.

Every other time this had happened, the phantoms were perceptible only with sensors, but today, Blurr caught sight of something out of the corner of his optic.

It could have been a glitch. It could have been nerves. Either way, his sensors told him something was there and this time his optics agreed.

Another alert popped up, informing him that he was being flanked, and Blurr brought himself in for a landing. If he was going to be fighting something, he didn’t want to be doing it in the air when he wasn’t entirely certain of his movements.

When the first drone came at him, Blurr more sensed than saw its’ approached. His spark began to rapidly spin, his servos twitched into fists and he felt his weapons power up. There was an alien sense of anticipation burning through his lines and Blurr felt his mouth twist into a smile that showed off his new fangs.

He spun with one of his weapons raised, blasting the advancing drone out of the sky. The second drone dodged the first blast but not the second, the falling debris forcing Blurr to look away. His averted gaze gave a third drone the opportunity to fly in and knock Blurr off his pedes. Still unused to the height and kibble of his new frame, he could do little more than flail as he toppled.

He activated his wheels once he had finished falling, trying to put some distance between himself and the drones, completely forgetting that he no longer had them. He watched in horror as flames jetted from his thrusters and he shot backwards like a stray rocket.

Rolling awkwardly and putting brief but uncomfortable pressure on his wings, Blurr got his pedes beneath him and shoved to his feet. He jumped into the air, thrusters still burning, trying to get the higher ground. As he oriented himself, his weapon programing pinged him about an imminent threat.

The drone lifted its own weapons and fired at him. Blurr let out a startled, hoarse gasp as he felt three shots burn through his armor.

This VR program was incredibly realistic. Infrequent though it was, he had been shot enough in the real world to know that it felt exactly the same outside the simulation.

Hearing the sound of transformation behind him, Blurr directed his attention over his shoulder. His wings, predictably, blocked his view, but he didn’t dare stop or twist fully to face the drone. He had to rely on the sensors that he was still getting used to to determine where the drone was and what it was doing.

The last thing he expected was to be hit by some sort of stunning weapon, then immediately blindsided by another drone. Blurr was driven through the side of a building, letting out a high noise of panic.

Normally, such a thing would count as fatal and he would be kicked out of the simulation. Instead, the program kept running. Now, lying on the floor of the building whose window he had just crashed through, surrounded by broken glass and unable to move beyond desperate twitching, Blurr forced himself to be still and sift through the extensive list of errors presented on his HUD.

Blurr’s panic caused his errant charge to crackle loudly over his frame. He managed to shake off the effects of the shot that had stunned him enough to drag himself away from the drone. Static leapt where he touched the floor, the energy seeming to crawl from his shifting joints and seams with every motion.

He had almost reached the broken window when the shadow of the third drone fell over him. Blurr looked up with wide optics. The drone raised its weapons again, Blurr felt the pull of his foreign coding and let it take hold.

His blaster began to power up with a steady whine and the tip began to glow, but then electricity danced over his forearm. The weapon clicked but didn’t fire. Blurr paused, staring at it. It began powering up again, but right before firing, more static burst over his limb and the weapon once again clicked without discharging. The excess charge was crackling now, and Blurr looked from his hands to the drone in front of him. An idea began to form in his processor.

The other drone was getting up. Blurr had to act now. Keeping his weapon powered, he reached out and grabbed hold of the drone before him, watching with hopeful optics as the flickering charge moved from him to his target.

It wasn’t enough to stun, but it was enough to surprise the drone and cause its blaster to fizzle out as Blurr’s own had. Taking the opportunity that its pause presented, Blurr powered up his thrusters again and dove straight into it.

Just as he cleared the broken window with the third drone in hand, digits wrapped around his leg, halted his flight and caused him to flail awkwardly if he hoped to remain in the sky. Blurr let go of the drone he was holding, watching as it fell a short distance before it managed to steady itself. All the while, Blurr pushed his thrusters harder to try and break the grip on his leg.

There was a buildup of energy that resulted in an explosion behind him, and Blurr was propelled forward. Tumbling through the air with a squawk, Blurr crashed through another window and landed on his face.

It was tempting just to remain like that, but his proximity sensors informed him that the third drone was still out there and he would likely die from embarrassment if he was shot while lying with his face on the floor, his wings askew, and his aft sticking up in the air.

Shaking arms pushing him up, Blurr flared his plating and expelled the hot air from his vents in a sigh. He could still feel phantom digits on his leg and shuffled around to see if the drone that had grabbed him had done any damage.

As it turned out, the touch wasn’t phantom at all. The drone’s hand was still attached to his leg, its arm ending in a burned stump, apparently all that was left after the explosion. Blurr let out a squeak of horror and he began kicking his leg to try and dislodge it.

The silver paint on the arm had bubbled and cracked from the heat of his thrusters, and the metal was brittle enough to break from the force of his awkward flailing. Once free of the disembodied appendage, Blurr scrambled to his feet and flared his plating aggressively as if attempting to further ward off the offending arm.

Hissing in fury, fangs bared, Blurr leapt out of the building again and transformed. If he could get some distance between himself and the drone, he could possibly get the upper hand.

“Feh. Should have figured you were a coward. Especially after that performance,” a voice said suddenly. Blurr startled and began to wobble through the air. “You’ve got to be the sorriest excuse for a Seeker I’ve ever seen.”

There was nothing at all on his sensors, but all at once a familiar burgundy and silver jet was cutting him off from below. Identical to his own frame in everything but color, Starscream was unmistakeable.

Blurr banked hard to the right, skimming along the surface of another simulated skyscraper. Once he was clear of it, he began to climb, trying to get above the buildings. He wouldn’t be taken by surprise again.

The still-functioning drone chose this moment to pursue, firing upon Blurr once again. He tried twisting through the air to dodge, only to have the jet, that could be no one but Starscream, once again move directly into his path. Blurr dove to avoid him.

“You’re still running? You’ve got blasters, haven’t you? Use them!” Starscream taunted, chasing after Blurr without hesitation. “Don’t tell me you need a demonstration!”

The other Seeker opened fire on him and Blurr hissed a soft curse. “I didn’t come here to fight!” He called to Starscream.

“I don’t believe you. You wouldn’t have been brought here otherwise!” Starscream shouted back, and Blurr pushed himself back above the buildings again as the gunfire from behind him continued. “They only bring outsiders here to fight! You have no other reason to be here!” Once clear of the building tops, Blurr pushed his thrusters as hard as they could go, just like the first time he had flown, back in that room without walls or a floor.

“Fine, if you want to fight, catch me if you can!” Blurr said, then with a sharp crack, he was surging forward once more.

“You’re just going to die tired this way!” Starscream screeched behind him as he moved to follow him. It seemed like no matter how hard Blurr pushed himself, he couldn’t properly outpace the other Seeker.

It had to be because of the simulation. Blurr knew he was faster than this, faster than him! Blurr was faster than everyone!

So focused on the Seeker in pursuit of him, Blurr almost didn’t see the wall. He had no idea where it had even come from, but he managed to bank hard at the last second to avoid colliding with it. He managed to get only a short distance before another wall forced him to turn again. Blurr got the sinking feeling that the program was boxing him him.

Either that, or the AI chasing him was.

“I don’t know who taught you how to defend yourself, but you’re doing it wrong! Now you have nowhere to go!” Starscream snarled. Blurr veered away on a diagonal path so that he wasn’t backed into a corner. “You have no choice now! I’ve caught you, now fight me!”

Moving to one of the buildings within the walled area, Blurr transformed and immediately brought his blasters up. As Starscream came around and moved into his range, he opened fire. Swift and graceful, Starscream dodged almost every shot, taking no more than surface damage. He straightened up, then began firing upon Blurr himself. Blurr danced awkwardly backwards to avoid being hit.

Waiting for Starscream to stop firing, Blurr activated his thrusters and closed the distance between himself and Starscream, throwing himself at the Seeker and latching onto him.

“Ah! Unhand me! What, were you a Lamborghini in another life?” Starscream yelped, now trying valiantly to remain airborne and on course while Blurr used his thrusters to keep him from doing just that.

Blurr hung on for dear life, claws digging into burgundy plates.

“You idiot! You’re going to get us both killed!” Starscream protested, now moving diagonally downward.

“At least I’m not running away anymore,” Blurr informed the other Seeker cheerfully. Starscream transformed and he lost his grip.

“No, but you have certainly brought yourself into convenient punching range, haven’t you?” Starscream said with a smirk, planting his fist into Blurr’s face and making him yelp in surprise and discomfort. “You’re making me look bad. You look like me, but you have no idea what you’re doing! That makes you the sorriest excuse for a clone of me I’ve ever seen.”

“I’m of the opinion that I’m a step up from the original!” Blurr shot back, grappling with Starscream. “At least my first instinct wasn’t to attack you!”

“I was made to test the battle systems of anyone put in here with me, of course I attacked you! Like I said, they wouldn’t have put you in here if they weren’t expecting you to fight!” Starscream hissed, teeth bared. “But noooo, the first thing you decided to do was run away.”

They hovered with difficulty while alternately clinging to one another and exchanging slaps, punches, and scratches, each aiming for the other’s optics or mouth plates, before moving onto wings, lashing out with dentae and kicking at stabilizers.

“You may wear a warframe, but you don’t have a clue how to even use it!” Starscream chided. “Good thing they put you in here with me. You’ve got a lot to learn.”

“New to the frame, not to the concept of fighting.” Blurr said, curling his lip back to expose sharp fangs. “What exactly would you expect to be able to teach me?”

“Everything you obviously don’t know about being a Seeker,” was Starscream’s dry reply. “Lesson number one, close quarters combat isn’t exactly our strong point.”

Blurr opened his mouth to speak only to have it shoved shut again, as Starscream jammed one of his nullrays up underneath his jaw.

“Lesson number two. Never present a cornered Seeker with an opening. Maybe you’ll remember these lessons for next time.” Starscream said . The nullray discharged. Blurr jerked awake on the slab.

Chapter Text

No mission was easy, but there were some that were rougher than others. This was one of the rough ones. The mission report was delivered, signed, encrypted and sent away to command to be read by those who needed to know the information contained within. Blurr was debriefed and dismissed, free to take whatever break was offered him before the next mission began.

He immediately headed to the washracks. He had lost track of how long he had been standing under the hot spray of the solvent. It was taking longer than usual to wash away the ghosts of the servos that clawed at his armor.

Intel had uncovered heavily encrypted patient files belonging to a junior medic. Blurr had been called in to decrypt them. After decryption process was completed, Blurr was sent to find him.

The junior medic in question was trained by Fixit, so Blurr started his investigation there. Fixit was concerned by the topic of Blurr’s line of questioning but in the spirit of cooperation helped him track the target down.

While the intel gathered had indicated the target may have been assisting Decepticons in procuring medical supplies and offering them first aid after battles, that wasn’t the entire truth of the situation. Blurr learned this the hard way when he entered the target’s med bay and caught him red servo’d fraternizing with a large warframe.

Blurr was in the process of reading the two their rights in preparation of their arrest when Fixit burst in to stop Blurr. His protests incensed the warframe, who in a moment of panic opened fire upon Blurr.

It wasn’t hard for Blurr to avoid the attacks, but Fixit was neither as fast nor as dextrous as he was. As a result, he took a shot to the chassis and was blown straight across the bay and into the wall on the far side.

There was a moment of stunned silence, then Blurr swiftly placed the target and his associate in stasis cuffs and called for backup.

He could still see the expression that had twisted the target’s face when he realized what was happening. Blurr’s armor began to rattle as he shook beneath the steady stream of solvent.

Despite him having locked it behind him, the door opened. He didn’t need to look up; he knew well who was approaching him even before he felt the familiar brush of an EM field against his own.

“Blurr.” Longarm’s voice was gentle, soft. The hesitant touch of his servo on Blurr’s back was even more so.

There was no formality in his tone. There were no titles in front of his name when Longarm said it. There were no demands, nothing but silent support that Blurr readily accepted without hesitation.

He turned and looked at Longarm with heavy, tired optics. Broad servos came to rest against his sides as his legs buckled. Longarm guided him to the floor, knelt down next to him and offered his sturdy frame as an anchor.

“Oh no, no. Shh, it’s alright, it’s over.” Longarm whispered. His expression and tone both gave him an awkward air.

Unconsciously, Blurr was letting out a pained, high pitched noise. When he realized the sound was coming from him, it got louder. Longarm once again hushed him gently, then pulled Blurr’s frame against his own. He wrapped his arms around him so firmly Blurr could barely move.

Blurr shuddered, let the tension bleed from him and muffled that terrible noise he was still making against the tread on Longarm’s shoulder. For a long moment, all he could hear was his own whimpering and Longarm’s steady ventilations.

Longarm patted his helm hesitantly with one servo. He took in a breath, steadied his field and made a soft thoughtful noise at the back of his intake.

“You did well, Blurr. I’m sorry you had to go through that. You made it back in one piece. It’s okay, it’s over now.” Longarm said. His grip grew more firm and unrelenting.

Pinned, unable to move, Blurr experienced a brief flash of panic before he realized he didn’t feel trapped. He felt secure. He felt safe.

Gasping air in through every available vent, he wailed, mouth pressed against the tread of Longarm’s left shoulder.

“I know.” Longarm said close to his audial. His words seemed more sure now, the awkwardness melting away. “You did so well.”

Blurr cried until his intake was raw. He sobbed until his vocalizer was full of static. His armor rattled from the force of his shaking, his field lashed out in every direction, but through it all Longarm held him without letting go.

...

Blurr woke up feeling wrung out and wretched. It didn’t feel fair that even his memories couldn’t find any evidence of Longarm’s deception. Looking back, all Blurr saw was another awkward, lonely bot.

It went on like this for several weeks. Even if it was only an AI, the Starscream in the simulation was a cruel and arrogant teacher. For every lesson that Blurr proved he had learned successfully, there was something new he managed to do wrong, some mistake he’d make to get himself ejected from the simulation.

He was used to going incredibly fast, but running along the ground and flying through the air were two entirely different things. Blurr found he had to keep himself from trying to fly as fast as he used to run, because his control dwindled and he was more prone to crashing.

Experiencing flight for the first time had been a life changing event, something that Blurr often found himself thinking of as he drifted off into recharge at night. He would dream about it too, on the nights that the memory purges were pleasant.

However the bad dreams didn’t just include the random nightmares of his escape back to Cybertron. They also included being pinned face down and having his wings ripped off, having his throat torn out by wickedly sharp Seeker fangs, not to mention the countless times he had found himself suddenly staring into the business end of a blaster. There would be a blinding flash and he woke up with his battle systems primed and his vitals setting off obnoxiously high- pitched alarms.

It was after one of these dreams that Blurr woke with an unfamiliar EMF in the room with him, one that made him feel annoyed rather than ready to fight. Still, he responded to the unknown presence with a deep growl, his armor plates flared and rattling.

Startled blue optics peered at him from the end of his berth, their owner blinking rapidly before grinning in a roguish manner.

“Wow, that you Zippy?”

Bumblebee’s voice pushed the last of the disorientation of his sudden awakening up away. Blurr ex-vented shortly.

“Good thing Optimus gave me the news before I came lookin’ for you, otherwise I woulda thought you were a Con!” Said Bumblebee from near his thrusters. He advanced up the side of the berth. “You look just like Starscream!”

“I thought all this was classified.” Blurr muttered.

“Guess we oughta be callin’ you ‘Zappy’ now though.” Bumblebee snickered and prodded his thigh with one playful finger. “Musta been havin’ a pretty good dream seein’ as you’re all charged up.”

“For your information, it was actually a really awful dream and my name is still not Zippy or Zappy or anything of the sort because I’m fairly sure there still aren’t any Cybertronians with those names.” Blurr said, narrowing his optics a little. He wasn’t much in the mood for visitors, especially Bumblebee-shaped ones.

“Whoa, I actually understood all of that!” Bumblebee chirped, his grin widening. “Maybe I should catch you half asleep more often.”

“What are you doing in here, anyway?” Blurr gingerly pinched the bridge of his nose and then pressed his knuckles against his optics. His helm felt like it was about to split open.

“As previously stated, I came lookin’ for you!” Bumblebee gave him a fond pat on the flank. Had the little mech been this handsy before? Come to think of it, everyone had been a little more handsy since Blurr woke up in here. Always touching, always poking… Did they think he needed comforting?

“I’m getting the distinct impression no one else knows you’re here.” Blurr said.

“Hearin’ you talk is one of the creepiest things I’ve experienced since comin’ home, y’know.” Bumblebee leaned his elbows on Blurr’s leg and blinked up at him. “But yeah, those nerd bots have been doin’ everything in their power to keep Optimus from gettin’ in here. Don’t know why… they’re bein’ all polite and slag about it but that just made me more suspicious. I wanted to see what the fuss was all about.”

“And now you know.”

“Now I know they stuck you in a big flyin’ frame that looks an awful lot like Starscream. I wasn’t payin’ that much attention when they were talkin’ about ‘the procedure,’ but I’m sure all the details are fascinating.” Bumblebee said with a smirk, his optics taking in Blurr’s new frame. “Sorta weird bein’ this close to a frame this big without it tryin’ to kill me.”

Blurr jammed his knuckles against his optics again and rubbed them firmly. The irritation he was feeling right now shouldn’t have been directed at Bumblebee, it honestly wasn’t his fault that Blurr had had a nightmare. Again.

To calm himself, Blurr took in a deep vent and released it slowly. He lowered his hands and focused on them for a long moment before looking back at his guest. Bumblebee had been silent for a few seconds, and he couldn’t quite manage to smooth over the guilty expression on his face before plastering on another small smirk.

“Kind of a shame about Longarm, huh?” Bumblebee asked in a much quieter voice. “Guess we all caught onto it a little late. Never woulda realized it back in our academy days… he was the only one who was halfway nice to me. Of course, that was only because he was tryin’ to throw me off his scent!” He said as he leaned his elbows on the berth next to Blurr’s thigh.

Since he didn’t know what to say, Blurr chose not to speak at all. He stared at Bumblebee with a wounded expression.

“And then there’s the fact that he totally set up Wasp, had me frame him for treason. Can you believe that?! That low down dirty Decepticreep made me an accomplice to a crime I didn’t even realize I was committing!” Bumblebee continued.

Blurr’s chest was starting to feel rather tight, his spark was pounding, his servos trembling. Fresh shame and guilt welled up and he lowered his optics. How many crimes had he unwittingly helped Longarm commit? How much of the sensitive information he had gathered had been passed along to Decepticon High Command? How many Autobots had been killed or captured thanks to the missions he had completed?

Someone was approaching the room, their hurried footsteps in the hall outside drawing Blurr’s attention. He was never really happy to see the science team these days, but if it meant someone was coming to make Bumblebee stop talking, he would change his tune.

“Considerin’ the circumstances, I totally don’t blame Wasp for wantin’ revenge when he finally managed to escape prison. Poor bastard-”

“There you are!” a voice exclaimed in a stage whisper as the door opened. It hadn’t been fully closed, Blurr realized, no doubt to give Bumblebee the option of a quick exit. “Why did you go running off like that, I told you that if you wanted to come with me, you had to stay close!”

If Blurr’s time on Earth was anything to go by, Optimus Prime seemed to wear ‘flustered’ as a default expression. Right now, flustered and paranoid seemed to be mixing together. The red and blue mech kept glancing over his shoulder while he approached the berth.

“I wanted to know why those science bots wouldn’t let us in to see ‘Doppler’ here.” Bumblebee said, jerking his thumb at Blurr.

“You’re not even supposed to know about him.” Optimus reached up and rubbed his hand over his face, full lip plates turned down in disapproval. “Come on, we need to get out of here before we all get in trouble.”

“Weren’t you sent here to see him? By the acting Magnus?” Bumblebee folded his arms across his skinny chest and raised a brow.

Sitting up a little straighter, Blurr looked hopefully at the tall mech. Optimus hesitated, glancing between Blurr and Bumblebee before ex-venting and shaking his helm sadly.

“Yes. I was. But the science team was concerned that having too many faces from his old life might interrupt Doppler’s progress-”

“I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t talk about me like I’m not here,” Blurr interrupted, narrowing his optics at Optimus. “The Magnus sent you here to see me. Does he have some sort of mission for me?”

Bumblebee shifted to stand next to Optimus, leaning on him heavily and grinning up at him in a smug, ‘I told you so’ sort of fashion. “Looks like Doppler here is progressin’ just fine.” He said in a sarcastic tone. “Those nerd bots were worried for nothin’.”

Straightening where he stood, Optimus sighed and looked down at Bumblebee in a long-suffering sort of way. “I suppose, as long as we’re here,” he murmured, lowering his optics for a few seconds. His expression hardened before he looked up at Blurr. “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”

Hesitating, Blurr met his optics and let himself frown ever so slightly. “Sure, you can ask me some questions.” He said. “But do me a favor and don’t call me Doppler. If it makes you feel more comfortable, you can call me Agent, or you can call me Blurr. Just don’t call me Doppler, and definitely don’t call me Zappy. Or Zippy.” He said heatedly, giving Bumblebee a pointed look.

“Whatever you say, Sass Master.” Bumblebee straightened and hopped closer to the berth again. He reached up and dragged a finger over the middle of Blurr’s lip plates, tugging them down a little. “Maybe we ought to call ya Lippy.”

Blurr let his mouth pull into a silent snarl. Bumblebee’s hand retracted as if he’d been burned, and the tiny mech stared at him with wide optics.

“On second thought, we came at a bad time, Boss Bot.” Bumblebee said, glancing at Optimus. “Maybe we should go and just let the big guy get back to his beauty sleep.”

For a time, it looked like Optimus might agree, but after regarding Blurr with a guarded expression, he shook his helm. “No. Not yet,” he murmured. “We’re here, we might as well do what we came to do. Besides, I’ve stared at far more frightening teeth than these ones and so have you.”

“Yeah, but those teeth didn’t belong to a guy on our side.” Bumblebee said with a soft huff, falling back a few steps and folding his arms over his chest.

Rolling his optics, Optimus turned his attention to Blurr. “As far as questions go, you’ve already answered a few of them. I was going to ask you if you remembered who you were before all this, but since you’ve asked us to use your real name, I’m not going to bother with that one.” Blurr nodded. “That one was answered in your favor… the second one, not so much.”

“And what was the second question?” Blurr asked, frowning.

“It was in regards to how much of the Decepticon programming present in your new frame is active.” Optimus kept his tone even, not even a hint or a flicker of uncertainty in it. There was no fear in those bright optics. “Sentinel Magnus has expressed his worries that it may have altered your processor. I’m supposed to assess whether or not it’s safe to allow you to rejoin society.”

“You’ve either heard or read the reports then? There have been a few speed bumps along the way while I’ve been getting used to the battle suite and the new instincts, but I am hardly some slavering monster that needs to be restrained. I am still an Autobot. Still an agent.” Blurr insisted.

“Those reports say you’ve been attacking people.” Optimus’ expression fell a little. “The first ones that crossed my desk were really worrying, Blurr. The ones after mention that you’re starting to get a handle on it, but that’s in a closed environment. I’m… not sure you’d do well on a crowded street, surrounded by strangers.”

“Optimus.” Bumblebee said in a small voice. Blurr stared hard at the Prime.

“What does the Magnus expect? They took an overactive spark whose frame had experienced unspeakable trauma and damage, they stuffed that spark into a warframe and then they decided to give the resulting mech a new name, poked and prodded at him trying to glean what he remembered of his old life while also actively trying to remove any influence from said old life so as not to taint their sad, immoral science experiment!” Blurr spat, his wings rising slowly and his armor lifting in a far more obvious threat display. “What do any of you expect? How did you think I would react, waking up strapped to a table wearing a body that wasn’t my own? Being held prisoner?! Being denied proper answers for ages! Finding out that the person I trusted most was a traitor who tried to kill me?! Why wouldn’t I lash out?! Why wouldn’t I be angry?!”

“He’s got a pretty good point there.” Bumblebee observed. Optimus shot him a look to silence him.

“And now you’re telling me that I have a chance to go back to being an Autobot? Like I stopped being one when I was mutilated? Crushed by a fragging Decepticon spy?!” Blurr’s engine roared and fresh charge flickered over him.

He didn’t need this right now. He really didn’t. And he didn’t need Bumblebee there looking so nervous. He didn’t need Optimus there looking so determined.

“That isn’t what I was saying at all, Blurr.” Optimus Prime said, his field reaching out in an attempt to soothe.

“It is what you said! Maybe it wasn’t what you meant to say, but you still said it; those words still came out of your mouth!” Blurr reached down to claw at the shackles on his ankles. He hadn’t been able to break them yet; they had been designed specifically to hold him.

“No wonder the science team was tryin’ to keep us out.” Bumblebee muttered.

“You aren’t helping! Just keep your thoughts to yourself for once!” Optimus snapped, reaching up to pinch his nasal ridge. “Blurr, listen to me. There are a lot of factors to take into account in regards to this entire situation! I know you’re still an Autobot! But you have to keep in mind that you don’t look like an Autobot anymore!”

“Of course I don’t, and whose fault is that?! It’s not mine! It’s Sentinel Magnus’, he told the science team they could do this to me! He didn’t think this through very well, now did he?” Blurr snarled, vents heaving as he continued struggling to get free.

“Yes, he did. And yes, it is his fault,” Optimus said. Blurr went still and looked over at him with wide optics. “Sentinel Magnus okayed this experiment. He didn’t think it through. He has a list of hangups a few miles long and he reacted according to what he thought was right, but not what was necessarily good.”

His claws slid slowly from the scratched shackles around his ankles. Blurr sat back and blinked at the Prime. His wings lowered as he forced himself to release some of the tension he held in his frame.

“I’m going to let Sentinel Magnus know what’s going on here.” Optimus’s voice was quieter now, but no less sure. The young Prime was like a rock, though Blurr was now able to see the subtle signs of his stony exterior beginning to crack. “You really are being held prisoner. You’re obviously of sound mind but understandably distressed by your captivity. Sentinel Magnus didn’t give the science team permission to treat you like a drone, to strap you to a berth and hold you hostage.”

“Does he actually listen to you? I was under the impression that the two of you didn’t really get along.” Blurr asked.

“We don’t, but being given the chance to properly lord himself over me has done wonders for Sentinel’s leniency. You just have to know how to talk to him, that’s all.” Optimus said.

“And you think you can convince him to let me out of here?” Blurr clenched his hands into fists.

“I was sent to make an assessment. If that assessment says you need to be let out, Sentinel Magnus will consider it the correct course of action.” Optimus lowered his optics a fraction.

“I’m sensing there’s a but in there somewhere.” Blurr said, ignoring Bumblebee’s snicker.

“I just don’t want to give the Magnus any reason to discard you after all the work that was done to see you survived your ordeal.” Optimus said, the tension in his shoulders and his EMF now very clear. “But I also don’t want to sentence you to this glorified prison longer than you’ve already been here. So I’m going to ask you this… do you feel like you can get the battle suite and your new instincts under control? Do you feel like you could reintegrate?”

“Of course. I am an agent, I’m adaptable. I can reintegrate.” Blurr said, wings held high in eagerness.

Bumblebee tugged on Optimus’ arm, then murmured something into his audio receptor after pulling him down to his level. Blurr couldn’t make out what they were saying over the sound of his own engine.

Straightening and looking a little embarrassed, Optimus reset his vocalizer. “Agent Blurr?” he asked, drawing Blurr’s attention once more. “I think it would be in all of our interests that you make it your mission to harness the power granted to you by the warframe you now wear. Learn to use it to your advantage, but not necessarily for war.”

It was incredible how much those words made Blurr’s spirits soar. This was definitely something he could do, something he could work with.

“Yes sir, I can do that,” he breathed, wings fluttering a little in his excitement.

Bumblebee gave Optimus a thumb’s up and a grin. Optimus rolled his optics again but offered a tentative thumb’s up back.

Chapter Text

It took some time, but the day came when Starscream no longer despised the mech who came here wearing his skin. In the beginning, the clone had been a convenient target upon which he could vent his frustrations. Nothing helped ease the aggression caused by entrapment like beating the stuffing out of an imposter. Especially when the imposter was as bad at pretending to be him as this one was.

It was satisfying, beating that clone up one side of the simulation and down the other. Under the guise of teaching, because that was what his programming dictated he was supposed to be doing, Starscream used the clone as his whipping boy. Everything the clone did wrong earned him a swift and brutal punishment. There was no reason to hold back when he knew the clone would return the next day for more.

However, the pull to seek and destroy lessened to the point where he was able to sit back and watch rather than rushing to engage.

There were a lot of questions he didn’t have answers to yet. Starscream wanted to know who had captured this clone, who was holding him, who was putting him into the program. It was obvious he wasn’t free, there were times before the program properly executed where he’d get an unfocused look in his optics like he was being spoken to by someone outside. Starscream suspected Autobots, a likely guess considering they had previously used this simulation to train their rare flying soldiers. Starscream wondered why it was a clone he was facing rather than his other self, his physical shell.

The clone was cautious, direct questions would likely glean false answers, so Starscream was going to have to be patient.

He started small. Giving chase (because the fool clone was still remaining adamantly on the defense, never choosing to be the aggressor) one morning, Starscream called out. “What’s your name?”

“What does the program say my name is?” The clone asked in return.

“Doppler,” Starscream replied after a moment.

“Then we’ll go with that,” the clone said.

There was a point where the fear that accompanied the chase dissolved and Doppler began enjoying himself. He enjoyed flying, if his antics when he first entered the program were any indication. He just wasn’t very good at it. Starscream’s ‘handlers’ prodded him to teach Doppler, so he took it upon himself to encourage him to use a bit more aerial maneuverability.

Doppler learned well by watching. The times that Starscream was able to goad him into attacking, he would launch into a series of aileron rolls, or else spin and wheel away from the weapons fire. The next time they met, Doppler managed to execute a similar maneuver, but tragically crashed directly into a wall and ended the simulation prematurely.

A work in progress. But it was still progress.

Other days, Doppler barely paid him any attention. Starscream would be left in his dust as he pushed himself to fly as fast as possible. Around and around the edges of the simulation where the invisible walls rose up to keep them from stretching the program too far, Doppler would fly. Starscream figured these days that were particularly bad for his clone. It was sad, he was acting like a caged turbofox. On these days, Starscream let Doppler vent for a little while before engaging again.

While not particularly acrobatic, Doppler was fast. His engines were particularly powerful. But prolonged bouts of flying at his absolute limit left him dragging sparks across everything he touched. If Starscream got too close, Doppler would use that charge as a weapon. Once it stopped stinging, Starscream had to admit he was impressed.

Doppler also got much better at anticipating sneak attacks. Instead of finding himself bored and annoyed, which led to him being ‘unnecessarily brutal’ in the words of the scientist who ran the VR program, Starscream was beginning to enjoy himself.

He wanted to talk to him. To know more. But it wasn’t safe or wise to carry on a conversation when their every move was being monitored. Luckily, Starscream had been in the program long enough to know there were places they could go where the handlers couldn’t see them. He couldn’t just chase Doppler into one of these places though. His clone had to earn the right to know the secret.

“Do we really have to fight?” Doppler asked him during one of their sessions, in the middle of a close quarters combat situation. “We can’t just fly around? That’s still teaching, right? You’re obviously a better flyer than me and I’m way more interested in flying than I am in fighting. I’ve always been the type to outrun the enemy rather than engage because not every situation needs to be solved with violence. Why fight when you can just grab the information you need and get out before the enemy even knows you’re there?”

“You talk too much,” Starscream replied. His clone said so much without saying nearly enough. He was learning things from the rapidfire stream of words. Either Doppler was a racer or he was a coward. Worst case scenario, he was an agent, which meant that there was a good chance he was trying to learn from Starscream in return.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Doppler taunted with a quick grin.

“That’s something you’re going to have to earn,” Starscream said in response. It was satisfying to see the grin disappear from Doppler’s face and to have him blink in confusion. “And the only way to earn it is to stop running away from me.”

“Hm,” Doppler murmured, his brows furrowed thoughtfully and lips pulled into a tight line. “Okay then.”

It was like dangling a servo in front of a starving scraplet. Starscream found himself increasingly on the defensive with each new session. It made him feel a smug sense of pride. It could very well be that the clone wanted information as much as Starscream did himself, but he liked to think it also had something to do with him executing his teaching protocols successfully.

That being said, Doppler wasn’t nearly as bad at fighting as he was at flying. When he got close enough to engage, he did show considerable skill, but he never went for the killing blow. All of his attacks seemed designed for incapacitation rather than extermination.

“If you want to learn anything from me, you’re going to need to try harder than that!” Starscream snapped as he darted out of the cloud left behind from a missile’s explosion, singed but otherwise unharmed.

“Give me a minute!” Doppler called out behind him. Starscream looked back and was surprised to find he had closed the distance between them in alt mode and was much closer than he’d realized. Doppler transformed into root mode, planted his foot between Starscream’s wings and fired his thruster.

Smashed face first into a nearby building, Starscream let out a squawk of indignation. Doppler had the audacity to laugh in a taunting manner.

“How was that, Starscream? Any better?” Doppler mocked.

“A bit,” Starscream growled back. His wing was bent. That was definite progress, but it still wasn’t a killing blow. “I’m grounded. Are you going to fly around out there or come down here and finish the job?”

“This is just my pre-victory lap!” Doppler said cheerfully.

Oh, that smug little glitch. Starscream was going to kick his aft the second he landed. Teach him not to gloat unless he was absolutely sure he had the upper hand. And if Doppler took too long to get down here, Starscream was going to clip his wings.

He raised his arm, prepared a missile and watched for an opening. Doppler was indeed doing laps around the building, and he made himself a convenient target as he slowed down in front of Starscream so he could give him a taunting wing waggle.

“At least you’re arrogant enough to be a real Seeker,” Starscream muttered. He fired the missile, watched it hit its mark and sighed as the program was terminated. At least the shrill, pained scream Doppler let out just before their session ended was satisfying.

 

It didn’t take him long to realize he was actually going to miss this.

Unfortunately, as Blurr and Starscream were doing just as much talking as scrapping today, Blurr wasn’t on the top of his game. After three hard cuffs upside the back of his helm and one particularly well aimed kick to the small of the back that made him tumble off the edge of a building, Blurr engaged his anti gravs and found himself hovering face to face with the AI.

Narrowing his optics, Starscream huffed and folded his arms. “Wanna tell me why you’re suddenly pulling your punches?” he asked, arching a brow and lifting his chin.

“I’m not,” Blurr smirked, taking a swing that was easily avoided.

“Something’s distracting you,” Starscream observed, grabbing Blurr’s wrist and twisting his arm around. Driving him face-first into the wall, Starscream pressed a thruster against his back and used him as a launching pad, obviously meaning for Blurr to give chase.

“Just trying to have a good time,” Blurr replied, thrusters firing as he did just that. They engaged in an elaborate aerial game of tag, but while Starscream’s blows increased in strength and ferocity, Blurr remained playful and aloof.

“Why aren’t you taking this seriously?” Starscream demanded. “Have you learned nothing at all? You’ve got a long way to go yet!”

“I’ve learned plenty, I just didn’t want our last session to be all about brutality,” Blurr said, transforming into altmode and darting away.

The AI didn’t really hesitate, but he was much slower to chase after the other Seeker than usual. Not quite in pursuit, almost matching him for speed, and for once completely silent.

“I’m being retired, aren’t I?” Starscream called out. Blurr let out a startled laugh and made the mistake of stopping.

The AI slammed into him from behind, knocking him off balance and sending him into a wobbling, barely controlled roll.

“Of course not. They’re just finally letting me go home,” Blurr replied with a pained grunt, getting himself righted and swerving to avoid another rush from the AI.

“You and I have unfinished business,” Starscream stated, sounding bitter and hurt. It seemed strange to hear so many emotions being generated by the AI’s vocalizer. “You still haven’t beaten me. You need to keep coming to me for lessons until you manage it.”

“It might not be up to me,” Blurr said, accelerating to avoid Starscream’s guns as he opened fire.

“You’re more charismatic than you give yourself credit for!” Starscream called after him. “Surely you can sweet talk your way into more time.”

“Star, I want to go home,” EMF flickering with discontent and possibly a little guilt, Blurr pulled into a sharp upward curve to get behind his opponent. “I’ve been strapped to a table in a lab for months, I just want to be able to walk. To run. To actually fly.”

“You can do all that here!” Starscream snapped, banking to the right and disappearing between two buildings. “Your processor is the one dictating movement and perception. Your frame doesn’t need the stimulation, really, so this should be more than enough for you!”

“That really shows you don’t know as much as you like to claim,” Blurr taunted, reaching out his sensors to try and find the AI. It was hiding in the buildings now, and with all the reflective surfaces displaying the distorted image of Starscream as it moved, the sensory input wasn’t accurate. “Ever heard of form fatigue?”

“I understand the theory,” Starscream admitted, and Blurr turned towards the sound of the AI’s voice, his weapons ripping through the building in front of him. Glass shattered and he caught a fleeting glimpse of his opponent before losing track of him again.

Cannons weren’t cutting it. Blurr engaged his missiles and opened fire.

The explosion that ripped through the building he was fairly sure he had seen Starscream dart behind was rather spectacular, but it also gave Starscream an advantage.

Starscream roared out of the smoke left behind by the explosion, guns blazing, and Blurr had to dive to avoid being ripped to shreds.

Twisting and weaving, Blurr tried to use the cramped buildings as cover, keeping as close an optic as he could on his pursuer.

“Someday you’re going to learn not to run,” The AI informed him, heat and pain blossoming when the weapon fire actually hit its target. “Come on. Not every fight takes place in a city.”

Blurr hesitated, his sensors telling him that Starscream was climbing straight up into the air. He shifted his trajectory and followed, sending a curious ping to the other Seeker.

“I think this will be a better test for you. No tricks, no obstacles, no games. Just you and I and our final battlefield,” the AI said.

They ascended until Blurr was sure they had either cleared whatever constituted an atmosphere in the simulation, or had at least come close to doing so. There was nothing but empty space around them, and they hovered facing one another for a silent moment.

“Are you waiting for me to make the first move?” Starscream asked testily. “You do realize that real enemies aren’t going to just sit there, right?”

“It’s beginning to dawn on me that you care a little too much for an AI,” Blurr observed. “If I start flying, is the world going to wall itself off again? Or are you going to let me push myself as fast and as far as I can?”

“No tricks. No obstacles,” the AI repeated.

“To be perfectly clear, this isn’t me running away from you,” Blurr said before turning and engaging his thrusters on full.

If he shut off his optical sensors, it was reminiscent of running across a planet's rings on his mad dash home. And yet it also felt like more. His thrusters roared behind him and he was heavier, larger, yet he’d never felt faster and more free.

He sensed rather than saw the AI pull up next to him, felt the flick of a wing against his own before he was suddenly choking on Starscream’s afterburn.

Heeding the challenge, Blurr pushed himself just a little harder. Focusing on the AI’s tail fins waggling in front of him, he shifted his wings, fighting drag as he ducked his nose cone under Starscream’s thrusters and shoving him off balance.

It was a game of tag, albeit a very fast, very dangerous one. Each brush past one another, each touch that barely connected would have normally run the risk crashing, but up here there was nothing to crash into. It would just be a free fall.

Blurr was glad they weren’t mindlessly trying to kill one another, but it was still rather unpleasant to be sent into an end-over-end roll with the AI smacking him to keep him off balance. He felt a little like a petro rabbit cornered by a cybercat.

They lost track of time, or at least Blurr did, and it wasn’t until he got the alert from Perceptor that he had fifteen minutes left that he started feeling the sense of loss in his spark. He was going to miss this. He had learned a lot; it had been his only freedom for so long. But he was going home!

The AI wasn’t just a program, it was a sapient thing that had taught him, and in a way nurtured him while he was stuck in this hell. But despite considering this fellow Seeker, this false Starscream a friend, Blurr knew he couldn’t stay here forever.

He didn’t want to let him down.

He let the other Seeker pull ahead, engaged his weapons once again and opened fire. His guns were loud, so Starscream was given enough time to dodge the first barrage. The AI deployed flares but Blurr banked around them, speeding up enough to ram him. He damaged his own armor doing it, but he knocked the AI off balance enough to pull away from him and fire again.

The first time that Blurr had played the part of aggressor in this scenario, the AI had begged for him to stop, begged for Blurr not to hurt him. Blurr had stopped, and Starscream had unloaded all of his missiles on him. The second time, the AI had tricked Blurr into crashing straight into a building. The third time, the AI had transformed, latched onto Blurr’s belly and torn him apart midair.

These were all hard lessons on what to expect when fighting an aerial battle, whether it be with another Seeker or just any flight frame in general. This time, Blurr was ready. This time, he was fighting to win.

He was relentless in his attack, and no amount of spinning and dodging could help the AI. Successive hits made smoke billow from beneath the armor near Starscream’s left wing, he became unbalanced and couldn’t properly turn. That made it easier for Blurr to shoot a missile that took out one of the AI’s thrusters.

Sparks sputtered out of the thruster. Starscream let out a grunt of discomfort and transformed as he began losing altitude.

It would have been faster to take him out here and now, but Blurr wasn’t ready yet. He wasn’t ready to say goodbye.

With only a few minutes left on his chronometer, he dove straight towards his opponent. He transformed again, his root mode collided heavily with Starscream’s, and he dug his claws into transformation seams as their combined weight made them plummet more sharply.

“Please don’t tell me you let me win,” Blurr said.

Starscream’s derisive laugh made him smile. “Oh please, I don’t play petty games like that,” the AI retorted. “I hate losing, I would never stoop to doing it on purpose.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Blurr’s chronometer was now counting down seconds. He moved one of his hands and placed it on Starscream’s cockpit. “I hope it was worth it.”

“Just get it over with already,” Starscream grumbled, “And you better not forget everything I’ve taught you!”

“You literally beat it into my processor, Starscream. I’m not going to forget,” Blurr said with a short laugh of disbelief as he drew back his fist.

“Good. Get on with it. There are places you need to be and people’s lives you need to make miserable,” the AI hadn’t bothered trying to dislodge him. Blurr drew in a slow vent as he prepared himself for what came next.

With ten seconds left to go, he slammed his fist through the cockpit glass, tore through internals, until he caught a glimpse of the AI’s fabricated spark. He paused very briefly, sparklight dancing over his plating before he went in for the kill.

The radiance of Starscream’s spark swelled as Blurr wrapped his servo around it and squeezed. Starscream’s EMF tangled briefly with his own as his spark was extinguished, then everything around them faded with the light.

The program aborted after offering him congratulations on the successful completion of his training. The expression of mild surprise on Perceptor’s face made Blurr’s ‘victory’ rather bittersweet.

Chapter Text

It was hard for Blurr not to swing his legs off the slab that had served as his berth for the last few months. He moved to stand the second the shackles around his ankles were removed, but Red Alert stopped him with a gentle hand on his knee. It had become a familiar gesture, so he fell still and gave her his full attention.

“Doppler,” she said, as they were all still insisting on him using his new alias much to his chagrin, “I need to ask that you take it easy, alright? No running or flying, not for the first few hours, not until your form is used to moving again.”

“It’s me,” he insisted. “It’s never taken me long to warm up. I’ll know when it’s time for me to really move.”

She smiled tolerantly, but reiterated her request before removing her hand from his leg. Then she stepped back to give him space.

Spark hammering in excitement, Blurr shifted and put his thrusters on the floor for the first time in reality. His struts creaked ominously as he pushed himself upright, a little alarmed at how much effort it took.

His frame immediately arched into a long overdue stretch. A sound of pleasure escaped Blurr without him making any attempt to stop it. Straightening to his full height, Blurr let out a soft, triumphant laugh and looked at Red Alert.

The smile fell from his face. There was a flicker of something deeper than surprise on her faceplates, something that looked a lot like fear, and the fact that he was looking so far down at her made him feel suddenly self conscious.

“Primus,” he blurted, faceplates warming. “This will take some getting used to.”

“If you feel dizzy, don’t hesitate to sit and rest,” Red Alert said, her voice steady and her expression smoothing over to hide any lingering unease. “If you need me to support you while you move around, just ask. I’ll stay close, just in case.”

“I can do this,” Blurr said confidently. He took a hesitant step and froze in place as he was forced to compensate for the change in equilibrium and the shift of his wings. The pressure on the thrusters in his heels was almost uncomfortable, so Blurr had to accommodate that as well. It was lurching more than walking at first, but he managed to make it to the door.

“Good! Very good, Doppler!” Red Alert encouraged. “Why don’t you head back to-”

“No,” Blurr interrupted. “I’m not going back. I’m never going back.”

She said nothing in response, but he could feel the hesitant and slightly nervous flick of her EMF against his.

He braced himself against the door frame for a moment before taking a step out into the hallway, shuffling sideways to make sure his wings made it through the doorway.

A lab tech dropped a tray when they saw him and took a hasty step back. When Red Alert moved out of the room behind Blurr, the tech muttered an apology for making a mess and began to clean up. They kept glancing up at Blurr as they meticulously arranged their tools on the tray.

“You must be new here,” Blurr said with a hint of impatience. His wings twitched and he tapped his pede a few times. “I’ve been rusting in that berth for so long I would have thought all you science bots knew I was here. Look up footage in the archives, it’ll last longer.”

The lab tech apologized again, scooped the rest of their tools into their arms and scurried down the hallway.

“Once you’re in the lobby, we’ll call for your escort,” Red Alert said dryly as she observed Blurr’s posture and took readings on his EM field and spark rate. “I advised against it, but they’ve decided to put you in lodgings on the military base.”

Tilting his head, Blurr looked over his shoulder at her in disdain. With a snort, he turned ahead again and began striding up the hallway, muttering under his breath. “Me Doppler science bot, not need burly military bots to escort me.”

If she heard him, Red Alert said nothing in response to Blurr’s sass.

“Why’d you advise against it?” he asked in a louder voice.

Red Alert looked up at him with a guarded expression. “There are a lot of reasons, most of them having to do with sensitive classified information and others to do with security,” she explained unhelpfully. “The Magnus feels that returning you to the base rather than putting you into a city would be safer. It also makes it easier for him to come and see you there without drawing too much extra attention. The Magnus visiting the military base isn’t out of the ordinary, after all.”

“Understandable,” Blurr murmured in response, though he couldn’t help feeling irritated with the lack of details.

Once he got to the end of the hallway, Blurr realized wasn’t sure what the direction to freedom was. He had only ever been moved while sedated or shut down.

A hand on his elbow made him turn to the left, the Seeker picking up speed now that he had gotten the hang of movement in real time. He halted at a flight of stairs, gazed up the length of them and took in a slow vent.

“I’m not sure you’re going to fit in the stairwell,” Red Alert said. “The ceilings down here are tall for the sake of the lab equipment. You’ll probably be fine in the lift, though, since we use it for equipment as well.”

“Too bad,” Blurr said. “I’m sure my knees would have appreciated the exercise.”

“I agree,” Red Alert’s voice held amusement, and there were no more flickers of fear or anything like it in her field or her face. “But there will be plenty of time for that, Doppler.”

There was just enough room for them in the lift. Blurr raised an orbital ridge at Red Alert as she squeezed in next to him. She ducked to avoid the blaster that ran the length of his arm, so he brought his arms up to give her more room. This made his wings droop and nearly strike her. Red Alert huffed in mild irritation and frowned up at him.

“Not doing that on purpose, I swear,” Blurr said quickly. “There’s just a lot more of me to mind.”

Red Alert’s expression softened after a moment. “Yes, there certainly is.” The lift reached the lobby with a slight lurch and a ping, the doors swept open in front of them. “You’re doing well, though. Considering everything you went through-”

“It’s not like this body was the one that was crushed. My old frame was, this one was relatively new though I never did get the chance to ask what happened to the clone that was using it before you gave it to me.” Blurr said, turning to look at her and smacking his wing against the side of the lift.

Glancing up at him, Red Alert frowned once more. She opened her mouth to speak, but Blurr was already moving on, heading across the reflective floor of the lobby. She hurried after him, once again reaching up to touch his elbow.

“Listen, your escort will properly brief you on what you need to know before you leave, but I wanted to-” she began.

Blurr turned to look at her and once again almost hit her with his blaster. “I appreciate everything you’ve done for me,” he said, stopping Red Alert in her tracks. “If it seems like I’m in a hurry to get out of here, it’s because I am. I need to see the sky and I feel like if I spend even a single second more under this roof, I might go crazy.”

“If I seem to be trying to stop you from leaving too soon, it’s because I am,” she countered with a burst of concern in her field. “There is still a lot that needs to be explained to you and I just want to make sure it’s done properly.”

There were others in the lobby, people that were staring with wide optics and disbelief on their faces. A few of them backed away as Red Alert raised her voice, and Blurr tried to make himself look as unthreatening as he possibly could.

“Maybe I ought to take it from here,” Optimus’s voice called out, followed by hasty footsteps as he made his way through a handful of bots gathered near the doors. “Thank you for seeing him here safely, Red Alert.”

“I… yes, of course,” Red Alert’s finials drooped and she looked up at the Prime with her mouth pressed into a thin line. “Doppler has been well behaved. Please, take care of him, Optimus Prime.”

Nodding, Optimus waited until she left before looking up at Blurr. He was taller than Red Alert, but still only came up to about Blurr’s chest.

“Good to see you on your feet,” there was nothing fake about the cheerful tone of Optimus’s voice, and Blurr felt a surge of gratefulness move through him. “I’m acting as your escort, but there’s also a few things I need to fill you in on before you’re officially ‘released,’ for lack of a better word.”

“Alright,” Blurr nodded, then fell into step beside the Prime as he began to walk towards the door. Blurr didn’t look back. What he wanted was ahead, after all.

“First off, you’re not going to be able to just take off as soon as you’re outside. They’ve felt it’s best to keep your thrusters and engine throttled for the time being, just until you’re situated on the base and your official cover is in place,” a jolt of something ugly filled Blurr, and he stared at Optimus with an indignant expression. “It’s a precaution too. The last thing we need is for you to crash into something on your first flight. It’s something we’re going to ease you into. We have some facilities at the base you can use for that.”

Optimus moved briskly to the door and held it open for him, waving him in with his free hand. Pedes feeling curiously heavy, Blurr swallowed and headed forward, once again shifting to make sure his wings could make it out the door with the rest of him.

“What is my cover story?” he asked, field flaring with irritation as he got a blaster snagged on the door handle and banged both his wing tips on his exit.

This place wasn’t built for a warframe. Especially not a warframe with an impressive wingspan.

“That will be explained,” Optimus said patiently, watching as Blurr turned his gaze to the sky. He began twitching, his wings lifting and lowering, his fangs worrying at his bottom lip and his hands clenching in and out of fists. “After asking some deeper questions about all this, I was informed that the program used to… create you, so to speak, was designed with better Cybertronian security in mind.”

When he looked down at Optimus with curious optics, the Prime’s faceplates developed a slight flush as his composure cracked.

“So… am I meant to be a new type of drone then?” Blurr asked, arching a brow.

“I was really hoping that’s not what you’d assume, but I should have known better,” Optimus muttered. “A lot of it is classified and we shouldn’t talk about it here.”

A large shuttle pulled up as they reached the sidewalk, and Blurr stepped back when the door on the side opened to admit them.

“Compliments of the Magnus,” Optimus said, a bitter edge to his voice as he gestured for Blurr to get in. “We’ll talk inside.”

Getting settled in the shuttle was a chore, seeing as Blurr couldn’t figure out how to hold his wings in a position that wasn’t incredibly uncomfortable in the confined space. He ended up hunching to make room for them, giving himself the impression of a space vulture as he loomed over Optimus.

“Sentinel Magnus sent the largest transport he had on hand. I’m sorry for the inconvenience but seeing as your alt mode is a jet, we couldn’t just drive to the base under our own power,” Optimus explained, as if it were supposed to make him feel better. “The trip won’t be long, Doppler.”

When he opened his mouth to protest, Blurr found himself being hushed by a subtle hand gesture from the Prime. On the heels of said gesture, Optimus reached over and pressed a button that sealed the cabin they sat in so that no one could overhear their conversation, not even whoever was driving the shuttle.

“The way I understand it, they’ve come up with a story to keep from causing more of a panic,” Optimus said, voice hushed despite the security measures taken. “No one knows what really happened to you outside the science team, Autobot Command, a handful of members of the Elite Guard, the acting Magnus and of course Bumblebee, who shouldn’t have been eavesdropping on my conversations.”

“They covered up what happened,” Blurr observed. “That makes a lot of sense, actually… finding out that not only did a member of Megatron’s close inner circle infiltrate the Autobots but managed to situate himself as the Head of Intel would probably do a number on morale and likely cause widespread panic and riots in the best case scenario.”

“The public didn’t know the whole story, but the Council pushed for the truth about Longarm Prime to get out there. They know enough that they’re fearful and disquieted,” Optimus looked rather uncomfortable as he spoke. “Especially now that Sentinel Magnus is insisting that the only reason Shockwave got so close to Ultra Magnus was because the Autobots are too trusting.”

Ex-venting irritably, Blurr scraped his hand down his faceplates. Now was definitely not the time to be sowing the seeds of distrust among the Autobots. Not that there ever was a good time, but especially now when the populace was already afraid. “He always was a skittery glitch head. Always working for the greater good but quick to panic and cut corners if things start getting out of control.”

“The official story they’re telling about you, Blurr, is that you’re indefinitely MIA. Transwarp paths are notoriously tricky to navigate even with a ship capable of doing so, and you’re presumed either dead or otherwise lost. Doppler is a revolutionary new super soldier, one that, if successfully tested, will be mass produced as a means to keep any future Decepticon insurgency under control. Consider yourself the newest brand of Autotrooper,” Optimus said with a bit of a grim expression on his face. “A shiny flying 256-OZU-004.”

Even while the agent side of him understood this, another side of Blurr was beginning to grow hot with frustration and grief. He knew it was for the best, that the populace never be told the truth because it was a dark truth, a very un-Autobot truth.

It made Blurr ache deep down. He had been erased, would be mourned, he no longer existed. No one outside the very small circle of friends he had left knew who he really was.

“That’s why the science team was fighting so hard to keep us away,” Optimus explained. “They thought it would be easier for you to transition if you didn’t have outside influence, people from your past reminding you of who you were before.”

“Yeah. I get that,” Blurr said simply, shifting again and wincing when his wing scraped the window. “What about Lon- What about Shockwave?”

“... Sentinel had him tried as an Autobot,” Optimus murmured. “His reasoning was that Shockwave had spent so much time as Longarm, as an Autobot, that he might as well be tried like one too. He would have put him in an Autobot prison, but it never would have held him. Just because we captured him didn’t mean we defeated him, so in the end he went to Trypticon with the rest of them.”

There wasn’t much sympathy inside him for Shockwave, but Blurr couldn’t imagine any warframe being stuffed into an Autobot prison cell. He felt himself unconsciously hunching his shoulders, a touch of nervous charge dancing over his frame.

The pain of Longarm Prime’s betrayal was starting to well up again. Blurr drew in a deep vent and tried to focus on something else. It wasn’t something he wanted to deal with, not in present company and certainly not in this cramped shuttle.

Of course, thinking about how cramped the shuttle was just made him think again about large Decepticons being stuffed into prison cells. Blurr startled himself as his armor rattled and his engine revved loudly in an unconscious effort to shake off his miserable revery.

Optimus Prime was observing him with a nervous air, mostly casting a wary optic at the increasing charge and the way Blurr’s talons tapped in agitation against his knees.

“So my mission is to be Doppler then?” Blurr suddenly asked, looking at Optimus with a guarded expression.

“Yes. Your mission is to be Doppler. To reintegrate into Autobot society as an Autobot warframe,” Optimus sat up a little straighter, servos clenching into fists on his knees.

“And when they start ‘mass producing’ Autobot flight frames like this, are they going to be asking the ones being reformatted their permission first?”

As the question left his mouth, Blurr watched Optimus flinch like he’d been punched in the faceplates. Damn it, he hadn’t meant to lash out like that, not at Optimus. It wasn’t Optimus Prime’s fault, it hadn’t been his idea to do this.

“They did what they had to in order to save you, Blurr,” Optimus said, very gently and with a calmness that Blurr was beginning to truly admire. “If they had been able to get your permission, they would have.”

“Like they did with the twins?” Damn it damn it damn it all Blurr.

“They… I don’t-” Optimus spluttered, looking away with flushed cheeks. “I can’t excuse what they did then or what they did now, to you, but it was better than letting you die, wasn’t it?!”

“Ask me that again when I’m no longer wearing shackles,” Blurr said bitterly, slumping in his seat.

Optimus said nothing in response, though not for lack of trying. The other mech opened and closed his mouth several times before ex-venting in frustration and folding his arms across his broad chest.

It was then that the shuttle came to a lurching stop. Both mechs in the cabin regarded one another in tense silence before Optimus pointedly jabbed the button to lower the defenses and moved to get out.

Blurr reached out to catch his wrist, making the the other mech’s field flare a little in surprise. “I’m sorry,” he said.

Optimus’s expression softened a little and his field smoothed. “So am I,” Optimus lowered his optics. Blurr released his wrist and the Prime got out of the shuttle, gesturing for him to follow. “Follow me, Doppler. I’ll show you to your new accommodations.”