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Jazz was enjoying a leisurely stroll through the Internet, keeping his presence as damped down as he could, so that he could surprise Prime on arrival. Learning that Mikaela and Ratchet had hidden his survival all this time was going to play out nicely for him. Nearby, Mikaela was catching a nap, surrounded by the Hatchlings who were recharging. Not much of Mikaela was visible, and Jazz actually wondered how the human was tolerating the weight of the brood, until he realized her armor actually had some rigidity to it, giving her breathing room from the press.

The calm and peace was shattered as the high, shrill whistle of a jet engine in sudden deceleration cut through the quiet of the base, followed by belated klaxons of warning. The hatchlings all screeched to alertness, huddling in on their nurturer, at the noise, while Jazz moved to look out the windows to find out what was going on. He made it just in time to hear blaster fire, and the sound of asphalt being ground up by answering shots.

"Sparky, make them chill out," Mikaela said in desperation, leading to a sharp chirp, and the hatchlings melting from Mikaela in chastened, but still frightened, cheeps.

"Well, Mikki, looks like me surprising Prime's gonna go a bit different," Jazz said with a sigh. "Sideswipe and Starscream are out there tryin' to kill each other."

"Starscream?!" Mikaela queried, settling a hand on Sparky's head as she walked toward the window more at her level.

"All by his lonesome self," Jazz confirmed.

They could both see the furious firefight as Starscream seemed intent on advancing… toward Medical. Jazz shook his helm and got ready to go out, seeing Mirage trying to stop Sideswipe and Hound just waiting nearby, looking for clearer orders.

"He's after the hatchlings," Mikaela said, worried for her charges.

"Probably. Be right back." Jazz strode out of Medical, taking up a defensive position in front of the doors. "Sideswipe, don't make me pull rank on you this fast! Starscream, stop shooting and set down! You aren't here with a raiding party, so something's on your cracked processor!"

While the frame design was not a perfect replica of the one Jazz had possessed before, it looked similar enough that the voice was more than enough to provide the identity of the speaker. Sideswipe lowered his weapon more from ingrained habit to listen to that voice than anything else. Starscream did not land, but his optics did widen in shock.

"Jazz?" came from all the Cybertronian throats at once, in varied degrees of surprise, warmth, or loathing.

"Been a while, 'Raj. Hound. And yes, Sideswipe, I see you thinking about the shot. Knock it off long enough to find out why we're shooting mister chicken legs?" Jazz said firmly.

"You and your native colloquialisms," Mirage said, while Starscream glared at the silver Autobot senior officer.

"I have every right to come here and take back what is mine!" Starscream shrieked, his voice gone up an octave in his righteous indignation. "Even Prime cannot justify stealing someone's clutch of hatchlings!"

Mikaela had edged out the door with Sparky on her back and shoulders again, the rest of them just inside the doorway, but those words made her reach up and hold onto the biggest of the brood. He chirruped at her, then turned very baleful, crimson optics toward the Seeker demanding his return.

"Get your thrusters unhitched from your aft, Screamer. I'm granting this is a truce moment, for discussion, long as you keep from tryin' to murder Sides there."

"He shot first!" Starscream swiftly pointed out in retaliation for Jazz's jibe his way.

"Do you even have the authority for that?" Sideswipe demanded. "I mean, you were dead!"

"Think Prime's going to say I don't?" Jazz asked, voice lazy and confident.

The rumble of engines from the far side of the island said this was all about to be a moot point for discussion, and the humans who had responded seemed relieved to recognize the basso note of their robot commander's engine. Mikaela sent up a thought of gratitude too; she was not looking forward to explaining why Jazz had gotten himself injured, if this went bad like she felt it had to.

Starscream, hearing that rumble, gave a momentary thought to retreat. He was vastly outnumbered… but he could see the one hatchling clinging to one of the local sentients. It made him steadfast in his desire to not let his heritage be so completely corrupted, no matter if Prime was coming.

"Glad to see I don't always have to be the voice of reason now," Mirage said, moving closer to Hound, while keeping an unimpeded firing line on Starscream, just in case.

"Don't even claim you are, mister 'maybe Megatron's seen the effect of his course'," Sideswipe sniped at the mech.

Jazz just kept his optics on Starscream, all too aware no negotiations could happen without Prime, and sorely upset that he wasn't going to get to see Prime's faceplates at this angle.

`~`~`~`~`

Optimus Prime had received the alarm of 'incoming' from the base while already en route there from having assisted Bumblebee and Ironhide. He sent a summons to the pair to return at all speed, while he and Ratchet increased their pace to arrive in time to be helpful. That he could not hear any firing as he rushed past the checkpoint, held open for them both based on visual and transponder identification, did nothing to alleviate his concerns that he had stupidly left the base open to attack so soon after nearly losing Mikaela.

He was not prepared for the sight near Medical, of Starscream standing in the middle of four… four?! Mechs on the broken asphalt that still steamed from high-energy laser blasts. Despite the threat, Prime could not tear his optics from that mech closest to Medical, protective of the entry way and the small human with her burden there.

Jazz.

::Slagger! Always so impatient! Couldn't let his systems take the full time to integrate!:: Ratchet was cursing beside him on the cadre-level band, which brought Jazz's easy chuckle. Optimus and Ratchet both took mech form to join the tableaux, but Optimus had to hold himself right where he'd entered this street from. Damn Starscream for being involved when all he wanted was to go touch the apparition of his lover.

::Explanations later,:: Prime finally managed to say, absolutely stunned, but his full scan said that was Jazz. ::Right now, I have to deal with an irate Seeker.:: Optimus tore his optics from that beautiful new frame and actively took in Starscream's displeased, stressed frame language. The wings were high and tense, the stance was defensive, and he kept fidgeting with his arms, as if he wanted to bring weapons to bear any moment now and was only barely repressing it.

"Starscream," Optimus said, voice gone as carefully neutral as he could. He did not listen to the outraged part of himself that wanted to strike down this consort-killer where he stood. He did not listen to the part that demanded the take down of the Decepticon's highest ranking aerial combatant. Right now was for negotiation, no matter how many wrongs would be avenged by killing the Seeker.

"Prime. You have something of mine!" Starscream snapped at the large mech.

"I have taken nothing but what was offered by your leader," Optimus said firmly, wishing Mikaela would quit moving away from Jazz's protective shadow.

"Mine no longer!" Starscream shrieked.

The various Autobots heard that denouncement and wondered, but Starscream and Megatron had been strained for vorns even before the Protector's disappearance. Optimus shifted his weight thoughtfully, optics fully fixed on that irritable flicker of wingtips, the way Starscream's attention kept going to Mikaela, to the door of Medical.

"I am not leaving without those hatchlings, Prime! They are mine!" Starscream continued.

There was a short silence but before Optimus could raise logical arguments against such an action, a small, clear voice rang out with a single word. "No."

Everyone followed the sound back… to Sparky, who was the center of his nurturer's incredulous gaze. "Ratchet, you said they typically didn't get verbal until first framing," Mikaela said, still looking at the hatchling's mouth, trying hard to ignore that Starscream was staring right at them.

"Proof, of course, that they are mine, with such brilliance," Starscream crooned, hiding his irritation at being balked with pride for the stubbornly smart thing.

Optimus could already feel a processor ache coming on from this encounter.

`~`~`~`~`

There were only three more shots fired before Prime hammered out details of just how illogical Starscream was being before giving creator concessions to the now-neutral (or, as everyone said, Starscream-oriented) Seeker. One shot was when Sideswipe decided he didn't like Starscream's tone of voice toward Prime, finding it far too flirty. The second was a retaliation strike from Starscream that singed Sideswipe's pede. The third, though was Prime himself, preempting Starscream's attack on Sideswipe who had popped his sword. The reminder of such strength and speed seemed to be enough to make the Seeker settle down.

Mirage decided that the one building across from Medical should just be called Former-Decepticon-Haven, as he got the task of showing Starscream where to stay. The Seeker was quick to sniff at the accommodations, but Mirage could see his wings relax somewhat as he was treated with dignity over his surprising defection.

"How likely is it that Megatron will come after you, Starscream? We want to be certain the hatchlings are safe after all," Mirage told the former second.

"Highly doubtful," Starscream growled. "Soundwave is active after all."

To any other Autobot, that might not have had relevance. Everyone knew Megatron had a trio of lieutenants he purposefully kept at odds. Mirage, though, knew just what Soundwave was capable of, and stiffened. For Starscream to say it like that, on the eve of defection, meant things were going to get troublesome very soon.

"The hatchlings will be safe, under my care," Starscream said, pointedly glaring at Mirage.

"Mikaela will bring them soon," Mirage said in a low voice, already planning to go back to Jazz for coordination of counter measures against Soundwave.

Then again, if he intruded on the reunion… Maybe he could just sit and talk out his fears with Sideswipe, who also remembered the life of the palace, and that dangerous communications mech.

"Must the organic be involved?" Starscream whined.

Mirage smiled, just a little, at that tone. "I thought you would enjoy the chance to study the new scientific curiosity that she has presented us," Mirage countered, diplomatically.

Starscream's optics flared in interest, but he merely turned to settle into quarters, effectively dismissing Mirage.

`~`~`~`~`