Earning the respect of his Enforcer colleagues in Praxus had been difficult, but Jazz had managed with the grace and adaptability that Polyhexians were known for. He’d come to Praxus on loan from the Polyhex Enforcers to help investigate the new illegal racing circuit that had spread through lower Praxus. Racing itself wasn’t illegal, but doing so outside the approved areas was dangerous and a lot of credits were exchanged under the table at such events.
To their credit, the Praxian Enforcers had had the problem mostly under control until a new drug had been introduced to the circuit. Noss, when injected into a bot’s systems, gave them both a high and exponentially increased their speed for a short time. It came with the unfortunate side effects of addiction, hyper-aggressiveness and hallucinations.
The Praxian Enforcers were simply not fast enough to capture a Nossed mech. That was where Jazz came in. Polyhex had a long, celebrated history of racing. As an Enforcer of Polyhex who’d participated in the legal races since he’d been old enough to enter, he was the fastest mech on their roster and he had a helm for racing. So when the call for assistance had come in, he’d been the obvious choice to send.
It didn’t hurt that he was disarmingly cheerful and easygoing. Those qualities helped him to win over the insular and sometimes uptight Praxians.
He was now quite good friends with his patrol partner, a no-nonsense femme named Crossfire. They were in charge of the illegal racing investigation and their personalities balanced each other well. The cyan and yellow femme was modded; the fastest Praxian on the force, he was just faster. It had irked her to be partnered with him at first. But after many light-cycles of patrols together, and long night-cycles spent discussing the investigation she’d slowly warmed up to him.
They were cruising their normal patrol route when the call came in.
:All available units, we have a Nossed racer heading inbound to Garden Square. Mech appears unstable and extremely dangerous. Immediate backup requested.:
Garden Square was the most influential and heavily populated area in Praxus. A Nossed mech there was going to cause unimaginable amounts of damage to property and bots alike.
Crossfire was quick to answer as they both sped up and turned on their sirens. :Dispatch, officers Crossfire and Jazz, heading to location.:
To him Crossfire said, “Jazz, go, don’t wait for me.”
Jazz revved his engine. “Ya got it. I’ll get ‘em cuffed fo’ ya.”
“Slagger.” she said good-naturedly as he roared away.
Jazz weaved expertly in and out of the ever increasing density of traffic towards the location of the racer. He caught sight of the drugged mech on a ground street as Jazz passed overhead on one of the lower aerial highway. The wailing sirens of the other pursuing Enforcers were too far away to be of any consequence. He was raging with angry snarls of his engine, sideswiping the mechs and femmes he was speeding past. He was careening directly for a crowded crosswalk. The bots had just seen the incoming danger and several were attempting to get out of the way in a panicky rush. Jazz saw a grey and red youngling get shoved and go down. He wasn’t going to make it in time to prevent damage if he didn’t change course.
With a determined rumble, Jazz gunned his engine and swerved to the edge of the highway. He transformed, vaulting himself off the structure and down onto the back of the Nossed mech. The drugged bot let out a howl. Jazz slammed his servos onto specific points on the mech’s frame and loosed a set of mag pulses into his T-cog causing him to yell in shock as his frame twisted into transforming without his permission.
While the bot was still trying to figure out the confusion of his own shifting parts, Jazz grabbed first one flailing arm and then the other, slapping stasis cuffs on the mech. The racer dropped insensate to the ground.
Jazz vented heavily, opticking the mech to make sure he was down for the count. He sent a comm. to the dispatch.
:Dispatch, this is Officer Jazz, suspect has been caught and restrained with stasis cuffs. Requesting transport.:
:Copy, Officer Jazz. We are sending the transport now.:
Jazz turned his attention to the bystanders and held back a wince at just how close the Nossed mech had come to hurting somebot. The crosswalk was not ten feet from where he stood. The grey youngling was still sprawled on the ground looking up at him with something like awe. It looked like the mech had just gotten some fresh detailing done, though he might need to get a rebuff after his run-in with the ground.
The Polyhexian walked forward and offered a servo.
“Ya alright, young mech?”
The mechling looked confused for a moment at his outstretched servo and then smiled brightly taking it and allowing Jazz to pull him upright.
“Yes! I’m alright. That was really scary. What’s wrong with him? Are you alright? Wow, I’ve never seen anyone move like that except in entertainment vids. How did you do that? Are you an Enforcer? What’s your name?”
“I’m Officer Jazz,” he said, amused by the youngling’s rambling. “Nice wing decals, by th’ way. An’ who do I have th’ pleasure of speakin’ t’?”
Again, there was that split second of confusion before the younglin beamed at him. “Thank you! I’m Bluestreak. I’m very pleased to make your acquaintance.” He tapped his fist lightly on his chestplates in a formal greeting complete with dipping doorwings.
Jazz smiled. The formalities that the Praxians practiced always entertained him. Especially when they came from younglings. He tapped his fist on his own plating in a returned greeting. The youngling looked delighted.
Jazz then heard Crossfire roar up behind him and transform. “Excuse me fo’ a moment.”
He turned to his partner with a small smile only for it to morph into a confused frown as he took in the almost panicky look the light blue femme was shooting the mechling. “Wha’s wrong ‘Fire?”
“Nothing!” She said too quickly. “We should get this mech to the station.”
“I already called fo’ a transport, it should be here… now it looks like.”
Sure enough, the transport hovered into view as several more officers finally made it to the scene. They cordoned off the area and began the task of bundling the unconscious mech into the transport.
In the bustling confusion Jazz glanced back over at the youngling to make sure he was alright only to see him being fussed over by two other mechs. They weren’t old enough to be the youngling’s creators. Older siblings, perhaps? No, he’d been in Praxus long enough to recognize that despite similar frames, those mechs were not related. The doorwing language was all off for that. Older friends, maybe.
Bluestreak caught his optics and waved cheerily. Jazz smiled and waved back. Then the three of them melted into the crowd.
“Jazz,” Crossfire said tightly, drawing his attention, “do you know that mechling?”
“Know him?” Jazz asked in bemusement, “Nah, jus’ met him. He was in th’ wrong place at th’ wrong time. Nearly got run over.”
Doorwings that had been tense nearly sagged a foot in relief. “Good thing you got here in time.” She said giving him a wan smile.
“Everythin’ okay?” Jazz asked.
“Yes! Yes, of course. Let’s just get this mech processed and start him on the detox program.”
Jazz wisely let the conversation drop.
The previously-Nossed-racer was still recharging off the effects of the system purge detox in a cell the next light-cycle as Jazz and Crossfire were working on the incident report.
A courier came to the front desk of the Enforcer headquarters with an elaborate arrangement of crystalline blooms. Some colored with streaks of opaqueness running through them, others clear as glass, set upon a lit base. It dazzled the optics.
“Huh, looks like somebot has an admirer.” Jazz commented offhandedly before returning his attention to the screen of his console. Crossfire just hummed noncommittally, her focus on her own work.
Jazz’s sensitive audials picked up the cessation of noise that followed the courier as they made their way to to whoever the bouquet was for. It seemed to be nearing... to... his... position…?
The Polyhexian looked up in surprise when the courier stopped by his desk with a smile.
“Delivery for you! These were hand picked today from the Helix Gardens. If you would just ping me with your ID, please.” The mech said offering the glittering arrangement.
So befuddled was he, that Jazz gave the courier his ID ping without realizing that he did so. The mech placed the arrangement on his desk and a fancy, high-end data pad engraved with a seal on the back in his servo.
“Have a wonderful cycle, Officer.” The courier said, and then was gone.
Jazz glanced from the crystals to the data pad and back again. “Th’ frag is this…?”
Crossfire had an uncharacteristic look of mischievous glee in her optics “Somebot has an admirer, huh?”
And the Praxian Enforcers, who had all tuned in to their favorite outsider, got the unbridled delight of seeing the normally smooth Jazz stutter like an academy-aged youngling. His EM field teeked with embarrassment.
“I-I don’t. Who would even-? What?!”
Kindly laughter filled the room.
“Well, go on!” Somebot said. “Don’t leave us in suspense. Who are they from?”
Jazz stuck his glossa out at them to more laughter. Immature, yes, but it made him feel better. He turned on the data pad, which then asked for his badge number as an extra security measure. Intrigued, he put it in.
It was an invitation.
“The Viscount Prowl of the Crystalspire family requests your presence for a private dinner in recognition of your brave actions regarding his ward. The dinner will be held at The Cobalt Lattice on the fifth cycle of the third orn at the beginning of the dark-cycle. This occasion is a wax and polish event. Your company is greatly anticipated. Please show this invitation to the maitre'd when you arrive.”
The fifth cycle of the third orn? That’s tomorrow. Jazz realized
The atmosphere of the room had turned from pleasant to tense. Jazz felt the change in the room and decided not to read aloud the postscript at the bottom that said: I do hope you enjoy the crystals. They are but a small token of my appreciation.
Jazz looked around the assembled Enforcers in confusion. “Um, somebot wanna clue me in t’ who this mech is?”
Several pairs of optics blinked off and on again. “You… really don’t know who he is?”
Jazz threw up his arms in an exaggerated shrug.
Crossfire sighed and grumbled as she stood and then bent over her console to look Jazz in the optics. “He’s the Lord of Praxus.”
Jazz tilted his helm. “...I thought Duke Bellicose was th’ Lord of Praxus?”
The other officers started to chime in.
“The Viscount is the head of the criminal underworld of Praxus. Everybot knows it, but noone can, or will, produce proof of it.”
“He runs basically everything, he’s more of the Lord of Praxus then the Duke is. And he knows it.”
“He’s extremely dangerous.”
Flabbergasted Jazz tried to ask. “Wha’? Then why would he even-?”
“His ward is the mechling you saved yesterday.” Crossfire cut him off.
“Bluestreak?” Jazz blurted incredulously.
“Yes. And now you’ve gotten his attention.”
“I can jus’... tell him I appreciate it, bu’ there’s no need t’ thank me.”
The room fell into shocked silence for a klik.
“You can’t just brush off the Lord of Praxus.” One of the beat cops said in a horrified whisper.
Jazz frowned. “I didn’ ask t’ be taken out t’ dinner. Especially not fo’ doin’ my job! B’sides The Cobalt Lattice is th’ most expensive restaurant in Praxus. It ain’t my scene. I’ll jus’ send him a message that says thanks, bu’ no thanks… In the nicest possible terms o’ course.”
He examined the invitation, only to realize that there was no rsvp comm number. Oh well, he’d just have to look it up later before he got off shift. He subspaced the invitation and settled back in to finish his report. The other officers slowly drifted away when they realized the show was over for now.
Though every now and then, a bot would wander by and offer unsolicited advice about a polish he should use or to regale him with a story they’d heard about a bot that had slighted the Viscount. Jazz had made a habit of keeping his olfactory out of the politics of Praxus; it wasn’t his business unless it pertained to the case. But the staggering amount of what looked like corruption was beginning to grate on him.
Just when he thought his cycle couldn’t get any weirder, the Chief Enforcer’s voice rang out over the room.
“Jazz, my office. Now.”
He saved the document he was working on and made his way to the Chief Scattershield’s office.
“Sir? Wha’ can I do fo’ ya?”
The older Praxian stood behind his desk. “Come in and sit down, Jazz.”
Perturbed, Jazz did as instructed. Scattershield was known for his yelling. This patient, subdual was putting Jazz on edge. The door shut remotely.
“You are quite the topic of gossip today.”
Jazz reset his vocalizer. “Yes, Sir.”
“Am I to understand that Viscount Prowl has invited you for dinner tomorrow?”
“Um, I don’ intend t’ accept the invitation, boss.”
“You most certainly will accept that invitation, officer.” Scattershield snapped.
Jazz jerked back physically from the near-order, his visor sharpening in annoyance and his EM field flaring with affront.
“Wha?” He deadpanned.
Scattershield sighed, reigning himself back in and held up a servo. “Apologies. I know what this must look like, but you must understand that the Viscount and the Enforcers have an understanding. He respects us and therefore will not stand in our way to dispense justice.”
“Except when it comes to his affairs, right?” Jazz said acidly, still radiating displeasure.
“Even then.” The chief said unexpectedly. At Jazz’s surprised look he added, “As I said, we have an understanding.”
“Humph. A mob boss with a sense o’ justice.”
“Please don’t call him that to his face.” Scattershield sighed.
“I still didn’ agree t’ go!”
“Jazz, I guarantee that all he is doing is thanking you for saving Bluestreak’s life.”
“Th’ crystals were enough!”
The visored mech said nothing for a while and then huffed out a vent. “Fine. I’ll go t’ th’ fancy dinner.”
Scattershield nodded. “Thank you. I’m sending you the name of a salon in the Resin District. Take tomorrow off and get a full repaint, polish and wax. Tell them it is for a state dinner and to charge it to the Enforcer account. I want you to represent the Enforcers in style.”
Jazz suppressed the urge to give his superior a rude Polyhexian gesture. And gritted out, “Yes, Sir.”
It was almost comical to see the scramble of officers that were pretending to be suddenly absorbed in other things as they scattered from the abruptly opened door. Gossipy slaggers.
Thankfully, Crossfire said nothing. Only gave him a sympathetic look.
Just as he stood to leave for the end of his shift she put a servo on his arm and murmured. “Be careful.”
He just nodded and left.
Annoyed as he was at being forced into the situation, he had to admit that the mechs at the salon had certainly known what they were doing. His plating shone; he hadn’t been this shiny even at his own graduation ceremony. He was pretty sure they’d covertly added glitter dust to his paint. They’d removed debris from under his armor that he hadn’t even realized were causing him discomfort. His cables felt wonderfully loose from the added message. He hadn’t dared look at the full bill, but maybe it would be worth it to schedule a spa day once an orn or so.
Mechs and femmes around him were certainly noticing the effect. He’d gotten more than one appreciative look accompanied by a flirty doorwing wiggle. He supposed that to most Praxians he must look quite exotic.
Earlier that cycle before his spa appointment had been quite productive, too. He’d run some errands that had been on his list and casually cruised by a known gathering spot for illegal racers. He’d been both relieved and disappointed when it proved empty. Citing a high speed chase would have been a good enough excuse to get out of the dinner, right? He had one more stop to make, back at his apartment, before he had to leave for this weird dinner date.
He offloaded the energon he’d bought from the market and the “new” data pads he’d bought from the second-hand store out of his subspace.
There was a single, small box on the vanity in his washracks and he reverently opened it. In it was a single audial horn adornment that his carrier had hand made for him. Delicate silver filigree interspersed tastefully with glittering blue gems. It was defiantly Polyhexian in design. “For luck,” his carrier had told him.
He’d certainly need the luck tonight.
Jazz carefully affixed the magnetic clasps and spared himself a glance in the mirror. He vented out a sigh.
“Alright, mech, let’s do this.”
He made it to The Cobalt Lattice just as the dark-cycle began. The maitre’d gave him a suspicious look when he entered, however the expression was quickly swept off the mech’s face when he presented the seal engraved data pad containing his invitation.
“Oh! You’re Officer Jazz. Yes, please come this way. The Viscount has reserved the balcony level for your dinner.”
“Um, thank ya.”
“Of course, Sir!”
Truly, Jazz didn’t know how to feel about the deference being shown to him, and he had a feeling that it was only going to get more confusing as the evening progressed.
The maitre’d led him past several rooms full of elegant furnishings and chandeliers. Each room hosted urbane occupants eating and drinking the most outlandish looking energon that Jazz had ever seen. And it occurred to him that he was possible about to be doing the same. Up a sparkling staircase, and through a mezzanine level, the mech finally stopped at a curtained doorway.
“Here you are, Sir.” The mech said. “Just up the stairs is the balcony level. Please enjoy!”
Then Jazz was ushered through the curtains that were then closed behind him. He slowly walked up another glittering staircase.
He didn’t really know what he was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t what he saw. The room was artistically dimmed and enclosed by a glass dome through which he could see a 360 degree view of Praxus, including the lit-from-within Helix Gardens. Once he wrenched his gaze away from the skyline, he took in the other details of the room.
In the center of the room was a flowing energon fountain. To one side was an orchestra pit complete with a full-sized synth, it was empty along with the scattered tables and chairs. It really brought home the point to Jazz in that moment just how much influence this mech had.
He had, on short notice, reserved an entire floor of the most expensive restaurant in Praxus to host what amounted to a thank-you dinner.
Jazz might have turned tail at that moment, but he finally spotted a table with a lit crystal lamp and a seated shadowed figure. He steeled his nerves and approached.
“Good evening.” A voice intoned from the darkness.
“Good evenin’. Thank ya fo’ th’ invitation.” Jazz remembered his manners.
“Please have a seat. I took the liberty of ordering for us. I hope you do not mind.”
Jazz sat. “I… I don’ mind. I’d probably get confused by th’ menu anyway.” He admitted a with a little self-depreciation.
The Viscount gave a soft humming laugh and Jazz’s visor finally adjusted to the dim lighting.
The mech was strangely normal-looking. Oh, he was definitely handsome, no doubt, but Jazz felt like he could have passed him on a patrol through Garden Square and not have given him a second look. He had a classically Praxian chevron in a ruby color (hadn’t that been the color of Bluestreak’s chevron?), and elegantly swept back doorwings. He was wearing a fashionable half-circle cape made out of a fine mesh clasped to his right shoulder pauldron. But then Jazz gotto his optics and stalled. Those optics were filled with a frightening intelligence. Piercing and searching.
Dangerous indeed as his co-worker had said.
There were already two glasses filled with a gently fizzing silvery-colored energon and after a moment of indecision Jazz took up his glass.
The Viscount gave him an amused look. “You are uncomfortable.”
Jazz took a very small sip of the fizzy drink. It was high grade. “Jus’ not used to th’ fancy digs. Tha’s all.”
The Praxian delicately picked up his own glass. “I see. It was not my intention to alienate you. But I knew not of another way to show my gratitude. My ward is the most important mech in my life; the creation I was never able to have.”
“I understand. I know my carrier woul’ ‘ave done everythin’ in his power t’ keep me safe. It’s jus’... um, th’ crystals woul’ ‘ave been enough.”
The mech quirked an inscrutable smile. “Did you like them?”
“Yes, I did.” Jazz admitted truthfully.
The smile warmed. The Viscount pressed a button on the edge of the table. At Jazz’s confused look he explained, “This lets the mechs in the kitchen know when we are ready for our next course.”
“Ah.” Jazz said intelligently. “An’ wha’ did ya order fo’ us?” And just how many courses am I going to have to get through?
“I chose the Spectrum Dinner. Seven courses of their finest fare.”
Fragging Pit. Okay, I can do this.
Two servers and another mech with a decal denoting his position as head chef on his chestplates appeared from curtained entryway tucked behind the main staircase.
“Good evening, Sirs.” The chef said brightly. “For your appetizer course, we have prepared a small array of rust sticks. Please enjoy.”
A plate of fanned rust stick was placed in front of each of them along with a small glass of ruby-colored energon. The servers and chef bowed and then left. Jazz had only ever seen the mass produced rust sticks that were sold in a box, these were far more fancy in varied shades of red. He covertly opticked the Viscount, relieved when the mech forwent any of the fancy cutlery and picked up a rust stick with his digits. Jazz followed his lead and had to offline his visor for a moment as delicate flavors danced across his glossa when he bit down. When his visual center came back online, he realized the Viscount was watching him. Jazz looked away quickly, pretending to be very interested in his food.
“So, tell me, Officer, how it is you came to be in Praxus.”
Jazz forced himself to make optic contact again quickly swallowing down the rust stick in his mouth. “Jus’ Jazz is fine.”
And that might have been a mistake. His name suddenly seemed alarmingly intimate as it rolled off the mech’s glossa in the Praxian lilt.
Jazz reset his vocalizer. “I’m on loan t’ the Praxus Enforcers t’ help crack down on th’ illegal racin’ rings.”
“Adding your speed and expertise, then?”
“I s’pose so. They didn’t need th’ help ‘til th’ drugs showed up.”
The Viscounts optics sharpened keenly. “I suppose those drugs are to blame for the actions taken by the mech that nearly ran my ward down.”
Jazz saw no reason to lie to him. After all, Noss has become something of common knowledge. “Yes, and th’ number of users is only increasin’.”
“I find the drug trade to be quite detestable. I do hope you are able to find the source of this vile infection that is plaguing my city.”
“We’re gettin’ closer. We ‘ave some solid leads, bu’ I’m not at liberty t’ discuss any more abou’ th’ case.”
That seemed to satisfy the Viscount and he called for the next course as they finished up the rust sticks and the lightly sweetened red energon. A soup course came next. They were served a light copper broth and an acidic energon colored a distressing neon orange.
“So, how is your ward? There was no lastin’ damage, I hope?” Jazz asked bringing a spoonful of the broth to his dermas (after subtly pinpointing the spoon the Viscount had chosen for the course).
The mech’s doorwings flared in what Jazz had come to recognize from several orns of being around Praxians as “proud creator preen”.
“Bluestreak is quite well. Just a few scrapes, but nothing a little polish couldn’t fix. His guardians were replaced, of course. Those other mechs were derelict in their duties to keep him safe, allowing him to walk about unsupervised while they visited the shops. Thankfully, you were there to keep him from coming to harm.”
Jazz could only wonder what he meant by “replaced”.
A salad course of chipped yellow sulfur accompanied by a glass of golden, sour energon came next. By now, Jazz had picked up on the theme of the dinner and was not surprised that the next course, a “palate cleanser” course, consisted of thin green jasper wafers and a base energon that had been colored a deep emerald. He tried to keep up polite small talk, but it sounded stilted even to his own audials.
The fifth course threw him for a loop. The chef presented each of them with a dark blue acid-dwelling aquatic creature that had been boiled until it’s outer shell had become hard and it’s innards had become gelatin-like. It had then been split down the middle and they were apparently supposed to eat the gel-like insides out of the shell like some sort of primitive bowl. It was a delicacy the upper class were all excited about. It was a delicacy that Jazz wanted no part of.
As he was looking down at his poor critter and attempting to figure out how to politely decline eating it, the Viscount spoke up unexpectedly,
“Your reactions tonight are stemming from more than just social awkwardness, are they not? I take it your co-workers may have, hum… warned you about me?”
Jazz froze for half a klik.
“I don’ know wha’ yar talkin’ abou’.”
Another one of those humming laughs floated across the table. “There’s no need to play coy.”
Jazz stalled for time by sipping the drink that came with the course, another acidic blend, this time in a light blue.
“I was told ya are very influential.” He settled on.
“Hmm, that is very diplomatic.” The Viscount said with a small almost-smirk. “I am surprised you had not heard of me before.”
And just how did he know that? His processor yelled silently about mech-moles in the department.
“Tha’s probably a good thing. The only names I know are other officers an’ mechs under investigation.”
Jazz bravely poked the gel in the shell on his plate with his fork.
“I take it you did not know who Bluestreak was either.” Those optics sharpened again, this time with a cold edge to them. “So my question for you is: Would you have saved him if you had known who he was?”
It suddenly felt like the temperature in the room dropped about 10 degrees.
“Yes.” Jazz said unhesitatingly, meeting the cold optics with his own.
The Praxian tilted his helm with a curiously penetrating stare, doorwings trained on him. “You are speaking the truth.”
“My job is t’ protect th’ people of this city. Tha’ includes you an’ your ward.” Even if I might not like what extracurricular activities you get up to.
The chilly atmosphere vanished as if it had never been and the Viscount relaxed back into his chair. Jazz suddenly felt as if he passed some sort of massive test.
“You really should try some of the sapphire crab. I promise that despite the off-putting presentation, it is quite delicious.”
Jazz vented softly and ventured a mouthful. Okay, so it was kinda tasty. He caught sight of a little dead crabby eye staring at him accusingly. Nope. Not his jam.
Thankfully the Viscount didn’t seem to mind his uncultured unappreciation of the dish. Merely sending off for the next course with something like an understanding smile.
The sixth course, and thank Primus they were finally getting towards the end, was a block of frozen purple fluorite that the chef brought and served at the table. He took a tiny hammer and struck certain points in the block with a musical ringing that seemed to echo against the glass roof. With one last strike the block broke in half to showcase the interior where they had somehow used some sort of acidic liquid to carve out a perfect replica of the Praxian seal.
Jazz couldn’t help himself and clapped gleefully at the end of the small show. For a moment he thought he might have made a breach of etiquette, but the chef just grinned and made a short bow.
As they tucked into the crystalline pieces with a glittering lavender drink, the Viscount surprised him again, by starting a conversation.
“Your audial adornment is quite stunning. Might I inquire as to where you purchased it and why you only wear one?”
Jazz smiled absently as he touched the adornment. “It’s a Polyhex tradition… well, technically two of ‘em. Yar creators make ya a charm t’ wear when ya leave home. For luck. My carrier made this fo’ me when I left home t’ become an official Enforcer. An’ Polyhexians wear one or two horn adornments dependin’ on their relationship status. I only wear one t’ signify tha’ I’m single. Ya wear two o’ ‘em t’ let the mechs ‘round ya know yar taken. Sometimes a mech tha' wants t' court ya will 'ave one made for ya.”
“Ah, that’s fascinating. And have you found any, shall we say, prospects in Praxus?”
Jazz shook his helm, “I’ve been too busy with th’ case t’ really be thinkin’ abou’ tha’.”
“That’s a shame. You’re very attractive. Any mech would be lucky to have your attention.”
A stuttered laugh escaped his dermas. “Oh, well, thank ya.”
Their conversation wandered from there. Uncomplicated small talk that wove itself effortlessly in the dim room with the lights of Praxus around them. It was easy to forget for a while that he was so out of his element he may as well have been on the second moon.
When they called for the dessert course they had begun talking about Jazz’s first love: music. They debated the pros and cons of the most recent musical movement that combined a classical style with a modern sound as they nibbled on glowing white phosphorous and drank sweetened white energon.
“If I hadn’ b’come an Enforcer, I’d probably be in an orchestra somewhere.” Jazz said.
“What made you wish to become an Enforcer?”
The visored mech smiled sadly. “When I was little, my sparker got killed fo’ bein’ in th’ wrong place at th’ wrong time. Th’ Enforcer tha’ got put in charge of his case made sure tha’ me an’ my carrier were taken care of. Came t’ check on us an’ kept us from losin’ hope when we thought his killer would get away with it. The mech inspired me. An’ I wanted t’ be that mech fo’ somebot else.”
“That is a very noble pursuit. And I am sorry for your loss.”
“It was a long time ago.”
Silence reigned for a few moments and then the Viscount asked softly,
“Do you still play?”
Jazz brightened. “Some, when I can get my servos on an instrument.”
The Praxian smiled, “Well, there is a synth right across the room. Would you indulge me?”
The visored mech shot a half giddy, half worried look at the synth. “Are we allowed?”
Jazz walked over to the magnificent instrument that had been catching his optics off and on the whole night. He reverently touched the rich material it was made of and seated himself at the keyboard. He began to play a lilting sonata his carrier had taught him long ago. It drifted like a fleck of shaved metal, caught in the wind, dancing gracefully. So fragile. Emotive. Sadness and hope. He turned off his visor. Lost himself to the music for a time.
When the song ended, it was like he came out of a trance. He looked over at the Viscount who seemed to be looking at him through his flute of energon.
“Exquisite.” The Viscount breathed.
And suddenly reality came crashing back.
He… he should leave.
Jazz checked his chronometer, relieved that it was late enough to use as an excuse.
“I beg yar pardon, Viscount Prowl, but it’s gotten late and I ‘ave an early shift tomorrow. I’m afraid I need t’ end our evening ‘ere.”
“... I understand.”
Jazz stood, ready to make his escape. “Thank ya for t’night. It was wonderful.” And confusing, and amazing, and uncomfortable, and incredible.
The Viscount was suddenly standing by his side. Jazz hadn’t even heard the mech move! He gently grasped Jazz’s servo and brought it to his dermas.
“Tonight was nothing more than what you deserved. Thank you for sharing my company. Perhaps we might cross paths again at a later date.”
“Perhaps…” Jazz echoed weakly.
And then the Viscount escorted him down and out through the building causing a stir of whispers in their wake.
Jazz drove away casually until the building and the Viscount were out of sight and then he sped home. After carefully putting away his horn adornment he flopped on his berth. Thank Primus that was over with.
A courier came to the Enforcer headquarters a few cycles later and presented him with a box that contained an audial horn adornment and a familiar, fancy engraved data pad. His whole department got to bemusedly witness his viciously verbose swear-cabulary.