Author's NotesThree months between updates. Blech. I wish I could say it wouldn't happen again, but with Star-crossed eating heart and soul it will. Fortunately, I am slowly drawing to completion on that particular project. Not to mention the one shots I need to finish, suchas my one-shot that's become a monster in its own right, Three Small Words.
Column after column of data flickered through his processor, a seemingly endless drone of reports, and transmissions, and statistics, and requests, and how the slag did Prowl keep up with all this and still remain sane? Every byte of information the other officers transmitted to him, he autosorted and then transferred onto the appropriate datapad. After that. he went over the information: approving where needed, declining as necessary, correcting any error found, suggesting ways to improve when the productivity or numbers fell short. Finally, he compiled the reports and sent them to the appropriate department.
He worked throughout a long megacycle, determined to keep his desk clear of datapads. After all, Prowl could leave his desk without a single datapad after a full megacycle of work, even with interruptions. He barred entry into his office, and delegated any calls to Smokescreen, and still only barely managed to keep up. So little by little the datapads had stacked up next to his arm.
"Ratchet to Jazz."
Jazz started, slamming the datapad in his hands down to the desk. The unexpected voice had shocked him out of his focused state. He blanched as he noticed the dent left in the datapad, and smoothed his finger over the dented metal. "Whassup? Somethin' wrong with Prowl?"
Static filtered through the officer's channel, a huff of annoyance. "No. He's online and asking for you."
"Know what he needs?" It felt like energon knives drove their way into his optical relays. Jazz reached under his visor, touching the lens over his optical sensors. The pain reached through the wires, all the way up to his processors. He had tried to refocus on his surroundings too fast, stressing the tiny motors of his optics. His processor ached, overclocking to absorb sensory feed that had been held in his databanks while he kept on his task.
"He wants more reports to look at. Do you have any ready?"
Jazz glared down at the datapad in his hand, and then tossed it, unfinished, onto the stack near his arm. "Gotta bunch 'a them. Sounds like he's bored."He gathered the completed datapads, and copied them onto blanks he had in his desk. He wouldn't have been able to do anymore work even if he tried. Once he lost his groove, he had a difficult time getting it back.
"I could amuse him with your disregard of protocol, if you'd like. Get your aft down here before he steers me into a wall."
Laughter filtered through the officer's channel, and Frequency spoke above the snickers. "Better do what he says, before the cat starts drinkin'. We all know what happens then."
Jazz smirked. Frequency would of course protest anything that might cause Ratchet to drink, because inevitably, with his systems overcharged by high grade, the medic would begin to sing. The mech couldn't carry a tune if it was shut in his subspace.
"Give me a tic, an' I'll copy 'em for for him t' look at."
He stood, glancing around the room to make sure he'd not forgotten anything. Prowl used to complain about the clutter in the saboteur's office, but Jazz liked it. Trinkets lay in disorganized piles and clusters, covering the tables and shelves in the room. Musicpads decorated the table just behind him, within easy reach of his chair, should he need a distraction from the tedium of work, or from the long wait of one of his operatives on a mission. Even a few solid energon cubes made their home in his office, ready to be refilled from the dispenser in the back corner. A few deactivated solar grenades also spotted the room, resting on top of sheaths of musical scores.
Jazz loved his office the way it was, he knew where every item belonged, and knew when someone had meddled with them. Once, he had reported the theft of a datapad that held key information about the movements of troops. Prowl challenged Jazz's surety in the matter, dragging the saboteur back to the office to look again.
Jazz seized Prowl's wrist before the commander had a chance to shove the trinkets off a shelf. Prowl scowled at the saboteur, optics burning bright under his chevron. He tried to wrench his arm free.
Jazz didn't relinquish his hold, dragging his superior to another table, one with a solar grenade and sheaths of plastic. "It won't over there."
Dental plates ground together behind Jazz. "You are so certain of that? Have you even looked?" Blue optics glared about the room, glancing at the clean floor pointedly.
"Yes, I'm certain." He held his hand out over a handful of baubles weighted to always remained in place, despite their round shape. He pointed out each one as he named them. "These are in the wrong order. Viridian Highs should be facin' south an' in the lower row. Rackets and Riches should be completely face down. Nuts 'n Bolts should have the picture facin' the ceilin'. Femme Gri La is supposed to be in the far upper right hand corner, and..." Jazz looked over at his Commander and stopped. "Somethin' wrong, Prowl?"
Prowl stared down at the baubles blankly. "You name your souvenirs?"
Jazz looked back down at the spheres and laughed. "What, no!" He picked one up and turned it so Prowl could see the picture imprinted on it. "They're band names, man." He tapped the tiny words at the top of the Viridian Highs bauble. "Souvenirs I got from when they still had concerts. 'Fore the war." Jazz's grin dimmed a little, and he sighed.
Prowl didn't say anything, turning to examine the rest of the office. Jazz could almost hear his processor humming with his thoughts. He turned his attention back to the desk. "There's a system to your madness?" He reached for the solar grenade. "What-"
Jazz grabbed his arm, fingers clanging harshly around his commander's wrist. "Don't wanna do that."
Prowl looked askance at Jazz. His doorwings lifted and his optics flashed. "You said these things were deactivated." He yanked his hand out of Jazz's hold.
"Chill man. They ain't the problem." Jazz pinged a specific channel, at a very specific frequency, and then moved one of the stacksof sheaths.
Prowl stared at the innocuous-looking device hidden behind the stacks, and attached to the grenade by a wire so thin that it blended into the clear plastic. "A paint bomb?"
"Nah, glue. It hardens in the air. Takes just long enough to cover a mech 'fore they know it." Jazz grinned at Prowl's gaping expression."Fraggin' hard to get off, too." He blanched, and tilted his head toward the baubles. "Too bad they only went for that."
Prowl straightened. "Red Alert has been notified. Is there any other way to trace the culprit?"
Jazz looked around the office, and then crouched to peer more closely at the table. He touched a finger to the edge. "Purple paint, hopefully not just an accent." He also pinged over a frequency. "Low frequency, short range homin' device."
Prowl nodded sharply, turning on his heel. "I will arrange an immediate role call, and have Red Alert sweep the base." He took one more look at the office, before striding out, already comming every mech off duty to the rec room for role call.
Prowl's requests for Jazz to clean up his office had lessened in frequency, and only mentioned as a matter of protocol, or as a jibe.
Jazz once again memorized the position of each item in his office, storing the images in a triple-coded file on his harddrive. He picked up a small green figurine that had fallen over, and set it upright. Black fingers brushed over the dancer's outstretched leg, hovering over the datapad it guarded. Then he wiped his finger over a spot of grease on the datapad, making the spot smear over the activated screen.. 'Evacuation Routes' the pad read. He turned it off, then walked out of the office.
Datapads in hand, Jazz entered the medbay through the main doors. The berths lay in their normal spots, the spares once again hidden within the walls. In a base this size, finding the medbay empty would only be possible if prearranged. So it did not surprise Jazz to find Ratchet hovering over Whirlidervish, working with Array to set a large disc on the helo's shoulder. Ratchet kept the medbay pristine. He used clean-up as a form of punishment for slacking in his team, and he always had a volunteer to clean the medbay. Currently, Hardwire scrubbed at the noxiously orange walls, his jaw set at a displeased angle. Another of the medics, Wake, sorted through the cabinets, his optics flickering as he took inventory.
Jazz took everything in one glance and then continued toward the back.
"One tic, Jazz," Ratchet called over his shoulder.
"Just goin' t' see Prowl, y' said he's online, right?" Jazz waved at the medic, not stopping his forward motion.
Wake glanced away from the cupboard,arms still buried amongst the items. Hardwire sent Jazz a tilted smirk.
"And I said one tic, Jazz. So wait one slagging tic while I finish attaching this."
Array glanced up at Jazz, her optics wide in shock at the CMO berating the acting Commander so openly. Wake and Hardwired chortled. Whirlidervish was offline and couldn't make any comment.
Jazz pinched his lips against the frown pulling at the motors of his face. The simple request shouldn't have irritated him so badly, and he didn't embarrass so easily normally. "If it's about the datapad, I can weld the ports for ya before I take it in t'-"
Ratchet gunned his engine, cutting the acting commander off. "One tic, Jazz."
Jazz sat back on his heels at the force in the medic's tone. He waited as Ratchet finished attaching the gravity lift to the mech's shoulder. A second lift waited to the side, but Ratchet directed Array to ensure the lift functioned, and then attach the first set of blades.
The white and red mech straightened and turned. He frowned at the datapad in Jazz's hand, and then stalked past the acting Commander. "Office," he barked.
Array lifted another wide-opticked gaze to the black and white officer before returning to her work. The other two mechs grinned broadly at Jazz's expense.
Jazz flashed an affable grin, not wanting to appear as rattled by Ratchet's sudden vehemence as he actually was.
He followed the larger mech into the little office that was Ratchet's haven from the hectic confines of the medbay. Jazz could cover the room in only five paces, a few shelves lined the wall, holding personal tools and a few souvenirs. Ratchet didn't give Jazz much of a chance to look around. He leaned against his desk, red fingers rapping the screen of a datapad that looked…
The perceptive blue optics narrowed. "This is yours then? I had asked everyone who visited Prowl if they knew where this came from; you were the only one left." Ratchet leaned forward, tapping a finger against the datapad. "What the slag were you thinking?"
Jazz quirked a sheepish grin, stunned that he'd been so careless. "Sorry man, I kinda broke the one ya fixed. You guys were swamped, so I left it there. Meant ta tell ya, but then got caught up in doin' reports. No one else was infected were they?" He pulled up the reports he had archived on the status of the crew, but nothing mentioned any others suffering from Prowl's ailments.
"Thank the Matrix Prowl has more sense than that. He uploaded your files and then completely wiped the harddrive with an EM pulse." Ratchet stepped over to Jazz, looming over the smaller mech. "This time we were fortunate, but slag all knows where this came from and next time someone may be too nosey for their own good and we'll have it running unstopped through the unit. Fragging delightful prospect." Ratchet leaned down, his scowl deepening to an outright glare. "Which brings me to my other point, out there," he gestured vaguely to the side, "you're in charge, on the battlefield and on your missions. But here, in this medbay, and in any temporary unit we set up on the field, it's myturf. I expect you to obey my orders, direct or not, no argument, no fuss. Which means, right now when you're visiting Prowl no datapads with working ports, no attempts to override the jam in the Silent Room, no exanging of data chits, and absolutely no uplinking until Ideclare him clean." Ratchet punctuated each taboo with a jab at Jazz's white chestplate. "I am not going to take any chance on this viral worm spreading amongst the crew. Is that clear?"
Jazz lifted his palms up, fingers spread in supplication. "Hey man, like I said, ya were really busy."
Ratchet scowled fiercely, his optics blazing under his chevron. "I don't care how busy we are, if slag like that happens again you get me, or one of my senior medics and you let us know before you set one foot out of those bay doors." He straightened and tossed the datapad into his office incinerator.
Jazz blanched at the wasted datapad. Normally they recycled datapads for parts if they were beyond any other use. He didn't want to consider just how dire the consequences would have been had that datapad simply been wiped and reused. "Sorry man, that was just plain dumb. Ya wanna get these welded shut for me then?" He held the datapads out to the medic.
Ratchet eyed the proffered datapads before huffing and taking them one by one to weld their ports shut. "If you were any other mech, I'd take one of these upside your head."
Jazz grinned. "Right-o, Ratch!" He watched the welder touch the sides of each datapad. "Prowl's gonna hate that we're wastin' so many datapads."
"Not completely. We can recycle some of the parts. Jack's trying to cook up a reusable pad for you two. Prowl would appreciate it." Ratchet clicked his welder off and handed the stack back to Jazz. "Come on, he's waiting on you." He swept past the black and white mech and went through the doors of his office.
Jazz followed him out, shifting the stack of datapads into one arm.
Ratchet headed straight for Prowl's room, tossing a few more instructions in Array's direction. Cold air rushed out of the room as they stepped inside.
Prowl's optics flashed on to look at them. He smiled briefly, before shifting his doorwings up into a more authoritative mien.
"Good t' see ya online, Prowler. Kept missin' ya."
"You have been kept busy, no doubt." His optics turned to the stack of datapads in Jazz's hand. "More reports?" He held out his hand when Jazz nodded. "Wonderful. I was beginning to think I'd have to actually activate this... thing that Frequency left for me." He waved his waiting hand toward the shelf next to his berth.
Jazz grinned upon seeing the virtual simulator sitting on the shelf. Prowl abhorred such things as a waste of his precious time. "Aww, ain'tcha gonna use it at all? Frequency was just thinkin' about ya!" Frequency also knew Prowl's distaste for such entertainment.
The white fingers flexed expectantly. "I'm certain he was."
Jazz snickered as he carefully handed the datapads to Prowl.
Rather than immediately going through them, Prowl set them to the side. He composed his hands in his lap, glancing toward Ratchet wordlessly. Jazz had no doubt that they communicated across their bond, and he briefly wondered if the virus affecting Prowl would latch onto Ratchet.
Direct download would be necessary; spread the infection more rapidly.
Jazz shuddered internally at the thought of an unknown virus running rampant through the ranks.
Ratchet looked through the logs on the monitors, by all appearances ignoring their conversation.
"How are things going, Jazz? Are the others offering assistance where they can?"
Jazz relaxed, leaning against the foot of Prowl's berth. "Yeah, things are goin' smooth as can be expected with this lot. Smokey's been a big help. Ironhide's already headed back ta Iacon with Bumblebee's infected memory." Jazz paused, blanching slightly. "I haven't checked on Blue, recently, though."
Prowl tilted his head. "He came to see me last time I was online. If you could speak to him, I'd appreciate it. He's blaming himself for what happened."
"Sure thing, Prowler."
Prowl lay his head back on the berth as though he were too tired to hold it up. "You mentioned in your report that Ironhide and Wheeljack were delinquent in their duties. Care to elaborate?"
Jazz turned a grin on his friend. "Don't think I really have ta."
"Yeah. Cause it's the same way you and Ratch have been 'delinquent in yer duties' before, too." His servomotors tightened in his cheek as his grin widened.
"Oh." Prowl pursed his lips, sending Jazz a narrow-eyed glance. "Ratchet and I are never delinquent in our duties, Jazz. That is a misinterpretation of the situation."
Ratchet frowned, narrowing his optics at Prowl. He turned away from the monitors, walking over to the cabinets to rifle through them. It didn't conceal the aggravated growl of his engine, though.
"Tell that to poor Blue."
"Bluestreak should learn to ping before walking into someone's closed offiice."
Jazz did laugh then. "Office? It was a store room."
Prowl lifted his chin, optics bright in his face. "And the doors were closed, and I was... working in it. Therefore it was my temporary office."
Jazz paused as a thought occurred to him. "Slag. That's why you're always assignin' yourself inventory." Jazz batted at the white leg behind him. "'Mind me never ta volunteer t' assist ya when yer doin' that."
Prowl shrugged a doorwing. "I never require another's assistance. Ratchet is usually available to help."
Ratchet suddenly whirled around to face them. "All right you two! Enough about our personal lives. Slaggit, Prowl why is it always a joke to you? Makes me slagging uncomfortable, and you know it."
Prowl's optics widened innocently, sending Jazz into another fit of laughter. "I do not consider it a joke, Ratchet. I am simply correcting an assumption."
Ratchet huffed through his vents. "Slagging well know what you're doing, aft."
"Just gettin' ya back for all the pickin' on me y've been doin'. Ratch."
"You're getting me back? Prowl seems to be doing all the work," Ratchet huffed, crossing his arms over his chest.
Prowl lifted his brow ridge at the saboteur. "In what way is Ratchet picking on you?"
"He keeps findin' reasons to jump on me soon's I walk in the bay, Prowl. I ain't doin' nothin' to deserve it either."
"What is this? 'Annoy the mech that has to put you back together' cycle?"
The corners of Prowl's mouth twitched. "You really shouldn't pester your acting commander so much, Ratchet."
Ratchet's vocalizer blitzed with static and he tossed up his arms before stalking out of the bay, cursing the whole time.
Prowl gave a low chuckle, his engine humming pleasantly. "He does have a point though," he said suddenly serious. "I do expect you to respect his authority where it applies." He gestured to the datapads. "Do not come in without seeing that these are welded."
Jazz bowed his head, accepting the reprimand. "Didja know Sides didn't get an orientation?"
Prowl reset his optics, doorwings lifting. "No, I hadn't. Should I assume that Sunstreaker hasn't either, or have you asked him?"
Jazz grimaced, malleable metal pulling tight across his face. "I haven't talked t' him much, really. Prob'ly safe t' assume."
"Hmm. He's been spending a lot of time in the brig." Prowl commented, glancing toward the datapads. "I see that you two have had a rocky first meeting, as well. I'd like you to try a little harder if you could find the time. Would you recommend that someone else try? Smokescreen, perhaps?" The Commander frowned at the cart that held the datapads he hadn't geten to. "If he keeps this up, and you can't get through to him, we'll have to transfer him to another unit." Prowl shifted again, his gaze returning to Jazz again. "In the meantime, how is Sideswipe settling in? I know you've been keeping tabs; staying online when you should be recharging to talk to him. I haven't had the chance to speak to him again."
"Yer reprimand don't count?" Jazz pushed himself onto the berth a little more, trying to make himself comfortable. "He seems ta be doin' fine."
"You don't sound very certain."
Jazz shrugged. "Well, he's hidin' somethin', but slag all if I know what."
Prowl's doorwings dipped down, though the emotion did not come through his vocalizer. "We all have secrets, Jazz."
A buzz vibrated through Jazz's throat. "This ain't one'a them kinda secrets. What do we know about him? Anythin' salvaged from Doldrum's records? Or any other units he served with?"
Prowl sighed. "The only information we have on them is what they have provided us with." The Commanding Officer hesitated, glancing toward the door to his room. "That information cannot be trusted either. Their medical records have been altered."
Jazz leaned back, jaw slack before he thought to actually use his voice. "What?"
"Ratchet can't tell who did it, but someone has altered Sideswipe's personal records. Sunstreaker, as well. He couldn't even find a fragment of data from the original file."
"Does Red Alert know?"
Prowl frowned at Jazz. "Ratchet does follow protocol, Jazz."
Jazz didn't recall receiving a warrant request from the security officer. Not unless it was waiting for him to step out of the Silent Room.
As though linked directly to Jazz's cortex, Prowl continued, "Red Alert is looking into it, right now. He's coordinating with Top Gear's scavenging detail for any information they can retrieve from the base computers. They are not turning up much on those two. He is suspicious; their arrival and your recent mission's failure... the timing is too circumspect."
Jazz laughed. "I'm surprised he ain't demandin' they be confined t' quarters."
Prowl tilted his head. "He mentioned a concern that you might be biased about Sideswipe, and refuse the request."
"I ain't biased 'bout no one," Jazz huffed, "but I still would'a refused. He is right about that part."
"Oh, come on Prowl! Bee was the leak here. They ain't even touched the information. Slag, I don't think they had any idea about what was going on."
Prowl's crossed his arms under his bumper, and he arched an optic ridge at the saboteur.
"And y' would'a confined them to quarters, just on that?"
Prowl dropped his arms to his sides, though he didn't look the least apologetic. "No, I wouldn't. I would want more evidence." Prowl's jaw clenched. "Though if it comes up..."
"Hey, man, I do actually care about the safety of the unit."
Prowl leaned back, with a sigh. "I know." He glanced at the stack awaiting his attention. "Thank you for bringing me the reports. I look forward to going through them. I only wish I could help you sort them."
Jazz shrugged. "I can deal with it fer now, just don' be surprised if ya have t' play catch up." scooted his frame off the bed, the plastic squeaking against his finish. "Don't stress your systems, rest when ya need to."
A smile tugged Prowl's mouth up for a moment. "Even without your prompting. Ratchet."
Jazz knocked his hand against the white toe joint sticking out from the tarp. "He'd just remotely shut ya down, anyways, what're ya talkin about?"
Prowl paused in reaching for one of the datapads to flash a frown at Jazz. "He would never. He doesn't do that to me."
Jazz smirked at his commander. "Sure he don't."
Prowl picked one of the pads up by the corner, drawing it and the one under it to him. "He wouldn't, Jazz. Simple as that."
"Like he didn't back at the camp, right?"
Prowl's optics glanced up again, optics flicking over the saboteur's frame critically. "No, he didn't. Jazz, if you keep this up, I would suggest you receive a tune-up at your earlier convenience. I was severely depleted and badly damaged, I went offline on my own."
Jazz returned his Commander's regard, clenching his jaw against any further words.
Prowl didn't normally drop offline mid-sentence. That he thought he had done so on his own sent a chill through Jazz's systems. One that had nothing to do with the cold of the room.
Prowl turned his attention to the datapad, effectively ending the conversation.
If he brought it up to Ratchet, would the medic simply dismiss it as the initial symptoms of the bug in his programming? Considering the timing, Jazz decided that this would be the case.
Exiting the Silent Room, Jazz waved at the medics.
Ratchet didn't look up from his work on Whirlidervish's second gravity lift, but Array waved back jauntily. Hardwire didn't even turn, intent on his scrubbing. Wake lifted a hand from the cabinet, giving Jazz an absent-minded farewell.
Jazz grinned at the femme, as she was the only one to look his way, and left the medbay, heading for the rec room and much needed energon.
"Well, this is a turn-around."
A red mech plopped himself down on the couch next to Jazz, sprawling out on the otherwise empty furniture. His feet smacked down on the short table just in front of the couch. Sideswipe clasped his hands behind his head, grinning unabashedly at Jazz's startled frown.
Jazz leaned back, grinning back as he assumed the same lackadaisical position as his friend.
Sideswipe tilted his head, leaning further back in his corner of the couch. "What are you doing here by yourself? One might almost think you don't have any friends."
Jazz swirled the energon in his cube, glancing toward the fine red mech. "Hey now, you're the one I've been catchin' by himself all the time."
"Yeah, but you usually sit at the bar, I don't see you here on the couches with the rest of us." Sideswipe popped up like a jack-in-the-box and grabbed up the energon cube Jazz hadn't even seen him set down.
"You're right. Sometimes I like a little quiet though."
Sideswipe paused, the cube halfway to his lips. He cast a skeptical look at the surrounding seats. His gaze returned to Jazz, and he sat up straighter. "Ah frag!"
Jazz tilted his head, cube at his lips, but untouched. "What's wrong?"
"Fraggit! This is one of those things, isn't it?"
Jazz narrowed his optics. "Things?"
"Yeah, you know, 'things'? Slag I don't know about and all. This is your 'do not disturb' spot, isn't it?"
Jazz put his cube on the table, leaning toward the mech and setting his mouth to one side.. "Ya might wanna start makin' some sense there, Swipe."
"This is where you sit when you want to be left alone, right?"
"Nah, man, you're fine." Jazz quirked a grin. "My 'do not disturb' spot, eh?" He poked a finger at the magplate set in Sideswipe's shoulder. "So does that mean you've got one somewhere?"
"Yeah…" Sideswipe finally took a drink from his mostly full cube. He pulled the cube away, and he grinned fit to split his face open. "But I'm not saying where it is."
Jazz lifted both of his hands, his own grin tugging at his motors. "Hey, d'ya see me askin'?"
Sideswipe sat back again, taking his cube with him. He nudged Jazz's ankle with his foot. "Sure don't, and that's what I like about you."
Jazz smirked, and scooted closer. "But ya know what I do see?" He braced his hand on the back of the couch, just behind Sideswipe's shoulder. He leaned closer until he could see the mechanisms within Sideswipe's optics twirl and change without even increasing the magnification on his vision.
Sideswipe didn't quite shrink into his seat, before he lifted his chin defiantly, and shoved himself back up. His chestplate rubbed against Jazz's prominent grill, his ventilators running softly. He turned his head, until his nasal ridge hovered only micrometers away from Jazz's face. "What do you see?" he asked, his voice quavering slightly despite his bravado. His entire frame quivered with tension.
Jazz grinned, and lifted his head. His lips grazed the edges of Sideswipe's tactile sensor range, his own ventilations puffing out from between his dental plates. Jazz chuckled, a deep rumble in his engine.
He did not, however, miss the hand that balled into a fist at his friend's thigh.
"I see ya ain't talkin t' anyone yerself," he murmured into the mech's audio receiver.
Sideswipe pursed his lips in a frown. "That's a lie!"
Jazz leaned back at the mech's vehemence. "Oh, really?"
Sideswipe shoved Jazz away with a hand to the officer's chest. "Slag yeah." He gestured to an area behind Jazz. "I was over there, with, ah... the talkative guy."
Jazz glanced over his shoulder. "Bluestreak?"
"That's his name!" Sideswipe's gears ground with embarrassment. "I have no idea why I can't remember that mech's name. You'd think I could remember a name like that." He grinned, downing the rest of his energon. "But I saw you over here by yourself, and thought you could use some company."
Jazz snorted. "Sure. You jus' wanted t' pick on th' fact that I was all alone for once."
Sideswipe lifted his empty cube. "Guilty as charged." He dispersed the cube, and leaned forward onto his elbows. "I did want to ask you about one of the mechs here. I think he's on your team."
"Wha's his name?"
"Ah, that I don't remember."
Jazz looked askew at the other mech. "Gotta problem with names, Swipe?"
"Little bit. What's your name again?" The red mech smirked, revealing the question for the joke it was.
Jazz laughed quietly. "Then, what's he look like?"
Sideswipe's optics dimmed as he stayed silent a moment, no doubt pulling up a capture from his memory drive. "He's slimmer than a femme and blue and white, and..." Sideswipe paused again, frowning. "Hang on, you only have two members in your team. And one's offline in the medbay, right? The one that Sunslag beat up?"
Jazz laughed aloud at the name. "I don't think you should call Sunshine that to his face."
Sideswipe grinned, though his dental plates clenched in a grimace. "You don't think I have?"
Jazz stared at the mech for nearly a breem. "Slag. Ya gotta death wish or somethin'?"
Sideswipe didn't answer, except to shrug the comment off. He looked down at his hands, expression pensive.
Jazz shifted, suddenly and inexplicably uncomfortable in the soft couch. "So... Whatcha wanna know about Raj?"
"Is that his name? 'Raj'?"
"Y' should prob'ly call him Mirage. He don't know ya, yet."
Sideswipe turned his head, expression inscrutable. "I just wanted to know why the slag he's hanging around with that gearhead roomate of mine. Has he gotta death wish or something?"
Jazz shrugged. "You know, he's an autonomous mech. I ain't his keeper. He can make his own decisions without my input. Why? Got a problem with your roommate havin' a friend?"
Sideswipe shook his head, meeting Jazz's gaze through the visor. "That's not an issue. I just don't want to walk in on them with their cables tangled."
Jazz grinned knowingly. "I see now. Well, don' worry. Raj ain't th' type t' just jump in the berth without preamble. And who's to say Sunshine's even interested?"
Sideswipe clenched his jaw shut, optics brightening and he hastily turned his face away, jumping to his feet. "Who knows what's going through that mech's processors? I'm gonna grab another cube and let you have your quiet. Talk to you later."
Jazz stared after the mech's hasty retreat, wondering if the subject of Sunstreaker was actually such a touch topic.
Jazz took another sip from his cube, leaning back and propping his feet up on the table. He settled the cube in his lap, hand wrapped firmly around it.
He shuttered his optics, letting out a deep sigh. He could just about fall into recharge right there.
"Who the slag do you think you're talking to, ya little rustbucket?"
Jazz jerked upright, turning in the direction of the sudden uproar.
Furniture shrieked aside, pushed by two frames locked together.
Jazz leapt to his feet, even before he registered who and how many were involved in the brawl. "Red, you got this situation here?"
Red Alert's voice came over the line, calm and unhurried. "Naturally, Jazz. You're there, do you require security?"
A circle surrounded the two (Jazz was relieved more weren't involved), some watching, wearing varied expressions, and a few who looked on the verge of pulling the mechs off each other. They stepped aside for Jazz, and the officer froze.
Vitran snatched his opponent off the floor, one hand fisted around the much smaller mech's neck. The Convoy's fingers dug into the red mech's cables, tightening his grip on the struggling Tougline. "You need to cool your little jets, slagger."
With a start, Jazz recognized the conformation of the other mech. Sideswipe? What the slag was Sideswipe thinking?
Jazz took a step forward, intending to intervene.
Suddenly, Sideswipe roared and kicked out, his foot slamming into Vitran's chest. The Convoy barely budged, even though the warrior's foot smashed through his sensor shield.
Vitran laughed however, as Sideswipe's foot twisted and got caught within his framework. "That was smart, little slagger," he rumbled , glancing toward Jazz. "Ya might wanna get him before he damages hisself. Know how Ratch can be."
"I'm gonna break every joint in your hand," Sideswipe, roared. He grabbed Vitran's hand, twisting his body in an odd contortion. Jazz caught a glimpse of the mech's pale optics, just before he ripped his foot free of the Convoy's chest. Vitran staggered as plating tore, his optics going white with pain.
Sideswipe snarled, pale optics suddenly blazing white, and pried the fingers off his neck, joints audibly snapping under his grip.
Vitran bellowed, tossing the smaller mech away, and into one of the bystanders.
Jazz paused on his second step, everything had happened so fast he hadn't even had a chance to intervene.
And then Sideswipe came up, with his gun unfolded and charged. He aimed the barrel right at the hole torn through the sensory shield and Jazz realized that the tear left only a small amount of armor between the shot and Vitran's spark.
"Oh, slag! Someone grab him!" someone shouted, but Jazz didn't have time to register who that voice belonged to.
He bolted forward, his feet slamming into the metal flooring. Everything seemed to slow down as his processor raced forward. He still had five steps to go before he intercepted Sideswipe's line of fire ('would 'Swipe fire on me?') and another seven to get to the raging mech.
Sideswipe sneered, at the Convoy, leveling his gun for an even shot. His optics narrowed behind the bulky butt of his laser gun, and his finger twitched on the trigger.
Jazz's left foot pounded into the floor, and he shifted his weight, hydraulics hissing and moving his right foot up to take the impact of the next step. Three steps.
Sideswipe deepened his stance, bracing himself for the recoil of his powerful gun. His finger tightened on the trigger.
Two steps. Jazz calculated the distance, and threw himself at Vitran. Jazz collided with the Convoy's torso, and shoved forward.
Vitran staggered, under Jazz's sudden weight, stumbling to the side.
The laser bolt seared right past Vitran's shoulder plate, crisping the paint black.
Sideswipe's turned his gun on Vitran again, his face twisted into a mockery of what Jazz normally saw.
The gun didn't waver, and the finger twitched again.
Jazz barely had a moment to process, 'He's really going to shoot me!'
Sideswipe seemed to hesitate, his optics brightening from white to a pale hue.
Then one of the mechs behind Sideswipe tackled him, knocking the warrior off his feet. A brief struggle ensued; the two mechs wrestled on the floor, both fighting for possession of the gun. More of the bystanders dropped in, pinning Sideswipe's arms and legs until they wrenched the gun from the black hands.
Vitran cursed and swore, shoving Jazz off to stand on shaky legs.
Jazz rose to his feet and stormed over to the mech currently dogpiled by half the room.
Two security guardss burst into the room, rifles out, and optics bright. They didn't even pause to look around the room, but headed straight for the center of the commotion.
Jazz stood over Sideswipe and the mechs on top of him, engine revving high. "Let 'im up."
Skeptical optics turned up to Jazz, but the mechs obeyed, standing one by one.
Sideswipe shoved the last few up, stumbling to his feet. He glared at everyone in the room.
At least until Jazz stepped forward and reached up. He yanked the Toughline's head down with a firm grip on his audio horns.
"What the fragging slag was that all about? Come on!" He pulled, and moved forward, keeping his fingers wrapped around the sensor in his hands.
Sideswipe's hands came up and wrapped around Jazz's wrist. "Hey, hey hey! Don't do this! Ow! Leggo of me, Jazz!" The fingers squeezed Jazz's arm, but did no worse damage than scrape the officer's paint.
The two security personnel intercepted Jazz, bright optics on the red mech.
"Want us to take him?" Siren asked, after glancing at Vitran. "Don't want him to cause ya any more trouble."
Jazz frowned, an unusual motion for his motors. He glanced at the mech in his grip, narrowing his optics behind the visor.
Sideswipe bent over, his arms twisted in an amusing tangle to keep Jazz from pulling too hard on his horns. He grimaced quite painfully, optics squinting nearly shut as he grit his teeth, gently batting at Jazz's hand. His vocalizer still whined with muted pleas for Jazz to 'leggo, please, oh please, I won't do anything like that again, so could you please let go, cause that kinda smarts, ow~!'
The frown dissolved into a smirk. "Y' ain't gonna cause any trouble, are ya?" Jazz dragged the mech forward, listening to the uneven poundings of the mech following him.
"No! Promise! Gonna let me go,now?"
"Nope. You guys comin'? Just wanna be left alone for a li'l spark to spark at the cell."
Sideswipe stopped, optics widening. "Cell?"
Revolver laughed. "Whar'd yah thank yah were goin'?"
Jazz dragged Sideswipe along, but froze when he encountered a goldenframe.
Jazz backed up, still gripping the audio receiver. He looked up, power surging through his systems as he caught sight of the mech he least wanted to see. Sideswipe shifted in his grip, but Jazz couldn't spare him a glance.
"Wanna move, Sunshine?"
The golden warrior, leaned against the threshold, arms crossed over his gleaming chest. His torso leaned against one side, but his foot sat halfway across the doorway.
His glare shifted, thoughts flitting across his face in waves Jazz couldn't interpret. Finally he pushed himself off the doorway and stormed past them and into the rec room.
Sideswipe sighed, metal squealing as he squirmed in Jazz's hand.
The acting commander glanced sharply at the red mech.
Sideswipe's helmet hid most of his face, but Jazz could see the pained grimace of his mouth.
"Yup!" Jazz dragged the mech forward, taking him through the hallways without regard for the poor mech's rather substantial pride.
Siren and Revolver laughed heartily behind Jazz, rifles folded and stowed in their leg compartments.
Clankclank. Clankclankclankclankclankclank. Clank. Clank. Screeeee.
Jazz pressed his lips together against a smirk as he listened to the uneven rhythm of his friends' steps.
Guffaws met them as they passed mechs in the hallway. Sideswipe staggered along, one hand still on Jazz's wrist, but he didn't even try to pry the acting commander's fingers off. They reached the brig, and went into an empty block. Jazz yanked Sideswipe into a cell releasing the warrior as he threw him forward.
Sideswipe staggered across the stained floor, catching himself on the berth before he toppled over face first.
Jazz glanced back, waving Revolver and Siren away. The two security mechs exited the small block. The officer stepped into the cell with the frontliner. "Do ya wanna tell me what happened back there?"
Sideswipe glared at Jazz, rubbing at his abused audio horn. "Vitran's a slagging aft."
"That ain't what I'm talkin' about, Swipe." Jazz stood before Sideswipe and snapped his hand back, pointing a finger in the general direction of the rec room. "I'm talkin' about pullin' yer fragging gun on another Autobot. What the frag was that about?"
Sideswipe's hand dropped from his audio horn, and he pressed his shoulder against the wall. "He should have kept his slagging hands off my neck cables."
"So ya pulled a gun on him? Ya fraggin' shot him? Just cause ya don't like havin' your neck cables pulled."
Sideswipe's engine growled. "So this is how it is? I thought you were supposed to be my friend, but I guess that's just slag you feed all the new recruits. The moment they screw up you show your true colors. Is this how it's going-"
Jazz interrupted the mech, grabbing his chin and forcing his head to look up. "I amyour friend, but I ain't gonna pat yer back when you're bein' an aft. I'm gonna tell ya stupid yer actin'. I'll even beat ya over the head if that'll help." He let go of Sideswipe's jaw and smacked the mech upside the head. "An' that in there was stupid," he emphasized the word with a few more hits across the other's crown.
Sideswipe's brow furrowed and he glared down at Jazz. "What kinda friend are you, anyways?"
"Hey, I'm a good friend. But I still gotta job t' do. An' that was still really stupid." Jazz sat back on his heels. "Someone rip out some'a your neck cables before?"
Sideswipe scowled at the floor, and flopped down on the berth, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his thighs. He templed his hands, resting his chin on his thumbs. "I just don't like anyone messing with them, is all." He bared his dental plates, grinding them together like he had a goodie between them. "I... hate it."
Jazz tilted his head, taking in the dented plating, the scratched and dirtied paint job. "I could tell." He turned to leave.
Sideswipe sighed. "How long am I stuck in here?"
Jazz paused, looking the mech over one more time. "Just till ya chill yer jets." He pressed his lips together. "One joor, and y'll be out."
The red mech leaned back against the wall. "Thanks."
Jazz smirked. "'S what ya say now. Wait till ya hear the part about talkin' to' Ratchet."
Sideswipe jerked upright. "You're fragging kidding, this isn't enough?"
Jazz grinned. "Prowl's in the medbay, too, don't forget."
Sideswipe threw himself back on the berth. "Ah, Primus in the slagging pits!"
Jazz walked out of the cell, quietly snickering.
"Hey," Sideswipe's voice halted Jazz's step, and he turned to look back at the cell. Sideswipe didn't appear at the bars, but his voice still carried clearly around the corner. "I'm sorry about shooting at you. I didn't mean it."
Jazz hesitated. "Don' do it again, man. Ya won't like it."
Array came in just as he was getting ready to leave his office. She bounced up to his desk, arms tucked behind her back.
"Whassup honey, lookin' for a quick fix. I could use a break." He tilted his head, grinning with his normal charm and charisma.
Array rolled her head. "I'd love to take up that offer, Jazz, really I would, but I just don't think that you and I would fit. You're a gear, I'm a shoulder ball, there's no way we two would work."
Jazz snapped his fingers, and buzzed his vocalizer. "Well slag, there's my plans all wrecked for the recharge cycle. So whatcha need?"
Array bounced on her toe joints, smile never having left her face. "Bumblebee is online, and mobile. He's disoriented, and confused from the memory loss. We were hoping you could talk to him, help him through this a little better."
"Sure thing. Where's he at? Still in medbay?" Jazz stood, coming around the desk.
Array walked in front of him toward the door. "He's right outside. Want him to come in?"
"Nope. I was about to head out." Jazz hit the button to open the door.. He didn't even hesitate a sparkpulse. "Bee! Good t' see ya up an' about. I thought y' would be in there fer the entire vorn."
A smile tugged at the minibot's lips. "You know Ratchet, always makes it a pleasant stay."
Jazz looked down at the mech's dim optics. "Need t' refuel, 'Bee?"
Bumblebee shrugged. "I'm a little low."
Array pulled two cubes from her subspace. "You wanted to come straight here." She turned to hand Jazz the containers. "Ratchet wants him to drink one now, and the next in about a joor and a half."
Bumblebee rolled his optics. "'He's' right here, ya know."
Jazz grinned. "Yeah, well, 'he' still needs to catch up on current events before 'he's' completely here." He took the cubes from Array, and handed one back to Bumblebee. "Any other instructions from the doc?"
Array shook her head. "That's it." She gave Bumblebee another look over. "You gonna be okay from here?"
Bumblebee looked up at Jazz and grinned confidently. "I'll be fine."
One side of her mouth lifted in a smile, and she nodded, optics winking at the two of them. "I'll leave you to it then." Array waved her fingers and bounced on down the hall.
Jazz squeezed Bumblebee's shoulder, and shook his smaller team member. "Let's go t' my quarters an' I'll catch ya up on watch yer missin'."
Air rushed out of Bumblebee's vents. "I'd like that." Jazz started them down the hall. "My chronometer still reads four decacycles ago."
"Jazz we need you to come to control room."
Jazz booted up on full alert, his entire frame jolting him upright. Bumblebee still lay offline next to him. The temperature registered as a pleasant coolness on his plating. His second berth lay against his main berth, and Bumblebee lay across the both of them. Jazz blinked at the tableau, trying to reconcile the image with the informationin his databanks.
"Yeah? I'm receivin'."
He swiveled his legs off the berth, trying to shake the fragments of his processor together.
"We got a situation."
Bumblebee came online, pushing himself onto his elbows. He looked around in confusion at first, then turned an inquisitive look on Jazz.
Jazz smiled at the mech, and leaned down to press a kiss on a yellow horn. "What's up?"
Frequency came on then, his words emotionless, sterile, indicating an alarm that he despised showing. "Ironhide's convoy's under attack."