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Dream of Life- Escapism

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The Hack-

 

Jazz's fingers danced over his holo guitar, sending a melodic wave of lovely music wafting into the air. He watched Soundwave from where he was sitting on the berth, curious what his new lover was up to.

Staring intently at his screen, Soundwave's fingers were moving just as gracefully over the keys while lines of code scrolled past.

Footfall drew Jazz's attention toward the door. Rumble tromped into the berth room and folded his arms over his chest.

Pausing his playing, Jazz only lightly strummed his guitar as he waited for Soundwave to address his cassette.

Soundwave didn't even look over at Rumble, though.

"A-hem," Rumble said.

Jazz glanced from the cassette to Soundwave, but still no pause in his keystrokes.

"Hey, Big Guy! I got a problem!" Rumble practically yelled.

"Not right now. Ask Jazz for assistance," Soundwave intoned.

Ask Jazz? What the frag? Frowning, his and Rumble's gazes locked. "What's the problem? Too short to reach somethin'?" Jazz asked with a smirk.

"Shut the frag up and come and see for yourself." Rumble stomped off.

Sighing, Jazz got up to put his holo guitar away.

"Antagonizing cassettes will return negative results," Soundwave said, pausing for a moment to look at Jazz.

"I carry no authority in this place. I dunno what you expect me to do," Jazz replied, frowning.

"Cassettes have more respect for you now that you share my berth," Soundwave replied.

Jazz didn't agree with Soundwave's assessment but he wasn't going to try and argue the point. He closed the cabinet with his holo guitar safely locked inside. "I'll deal as best as I can with 'em."

Out in the main living area, Jazz was greeted by the almost comical sight of the room in shambles. The vid screen was hanging by one peg on the wall, the couches askew, the floor mat pushed up against the wall and pieces of various old board games strewn everywhere. Frenzy was on the third shelf up of a large shelving unit throwing anything he found down to the ground below.

"What the frag?" Jazz asked as he surveyed the scene.

"Frenzy got mad I didn't wanna fr-ah-'face and now he’s having a tantrum!" Rumble explained as he gestured to the mess.

Jazz spied Laserbeak perched up in the corner away from the chaos, and Ravage lounging on one of the askew couches, seemingly unbothered by the mess or noise.

“You’re the biggest fragger ever sparked!” Frenzy threw a small metallic statue at Rumble, which he ducked.

“Just because I said I thought the Autobrat is hot doesn’t mean–” Rumble ducked another flying object. “–that’s why I’m not in the mood!”

“I’m hot, huh?” Jazz asked, glancing at Rumble.

“Ever since we saw you and the Big Guy it’s all he fragging talks about!” Frenzy yelled this time throwing a datapad at Jazz’s head, which he narrowly avoided with a quick side step.

“Hold up, Frenzy!” Jazz held his hands up in a submissive gesture.

Poised to throw another small metallic statute, Frenzy’s visor narrowed. “What? What could you possibly say to me to make Rumble stop being such a glitch and liking you!”

“I never said I liked him! He’s a stinky Autobrat!” Rumble said with genuine outrage at such an accusation.

“Like, don’t like, not really the point,” Jazz said. “I dunno how it works between you two, but you all have been together a long time, right?”

“Yeah,” they replied in annoyed unison.

“So maybe spice things up a bit? Do something different?” Jazz offered. Primus, was he really giving these little obnoxious monsters relationship advice?

“Different?” Frenzy asked.

“Like how?” Rumble asked.

“Why not role-play? You, ah, you could pretend to be me and Sounders maybe?” Jazz offered, really not sure where he was going with it, but hoping they were buying into it anyway.

The two exchanged looks, and then Frenzy hopped down off the shelf and walked up to Rumble. He crossed his arms over his chest and frowned. “Apologize for sayin’ Jazz is the hottest mech in this apartment.”

Surprised Rumble would ever say anything like that about him, Jazz half-smiled.

“Sorry. He’s not. He’s second to you,” Rumble replied with a sheepish look.

“I think we’ve got some paints in the bottom cabinet. Paint you up blue and add some white to me and we can do that thing Jazz just said. If you wanted,” Frenzy said with a shrug.

Paint? Jazz shook his head. “That wasn’t exactly what I meant–”

“Okay sure!” Rumble said with a grin.

Jazz looked between them. “You just pretend, you don’t need to actually paint–”

“Thanks Autobrat!” the two said in unison before dashing off to their room.

Jazz sighed and rubbed the back of his neck as he looked around at the mess. “Not playin’ bot sitter and maid,” he grumbled as he stalked back to the berthroom.

Walking in he slowed as he caught sight of a grid up on Soundwave’s monitor. Squinting he saw along the left side names of his fellow Autobots. “What is that?”

“Swindle’s monitoring system,” Soundwave replied without pausing his typing.

Stepping closer, Jazz frowned. “You hacked his system? Why?”

Soundwave had a secondary window open within the monitoring code, and was putting an override in for Prowl. “For testing purposes.”

“You’re testing on Prowl?” Jazz asked becoming highly concerned.

“One moment and I will explain,” Soundwave replied. His blue fingers continued to fly over the keys and Jazz read the overriding code. His years as Special Ops suddenly being put to use again, he was able to decypher the code and soon understood what Soundwave was doing.

“I get it,” Jazz said, visor brightening. “You’re circumventing the system to make it look like Prowl’s still being tracked when in reality he could be anywhere.”

Soundwave nodded as he finished and executed the new coding. “This deception will only work for stationary Autobots.”

“So it won’t work for someone like me? ‘Cause they see me moving around all the time?” Jazz asked.

“Affirmative,” Soundwave replied.

“But, why are you doing this?” Jazz asked.

“Shockwave’s request to protect Prowl for the test,” Soundwave replied.

“What test?” Jazz asked, focusing on Soundwave and not the screen.

Soundwave looked up at him. “Testing a device to deactivate trackers and emergency signal in collars.”

Jazz stared at Soundwave for a moment. “You all are gonna take his collar off?”

“Affirmative,” Soundwave replied, pulling Jazz to sit in his lap.

Settling against his new lover, Jazz gazed at the monitor reading the list of names. It made his spark ache with a deep resonating pain to see so many of his former friends and comrades enslaved.

Soundwave’s mask retracted and Jazz felt light kisses to his helm horn. “What did the cassettes need assistance with?”

“Frenzy was mad at Rumble, I got them to make up, but the living area is in shambles,” Jazz replied. “When is the test?”

“In a few minutes.” Soundwave slid a hand over Jazz’s middle slowly. “I must monitor Prowl’s signal until Shockwave sends in a confirmation ping.”

“And grope me in the meantime?” Jazz asked, half-smiling as that hand moved lower to draw circles over his interface over.

“Affirmative,” Soundwave replied. He then mouthed one of Jazz’s helm horns, while cupping his interface cover.

Jazz’s body heated to the touches, but he kept his focus on Prowl’s signal. “You can ‘face me into oblivion after. I wanna be sure Prowl is safe first.”

“Of course,” Soundwave replied, though he continued to rub the closed panel.

Playfully swatting the hand away, Jazz shook his head. “Insatiable, aren’t you?”

“You are a beautiful temptation,” Soundwave replied.

Breaking his gaze on the monitor, Jazz twisted his head to look up at Soundwave, feeling a strong twinge in his spark. “And you’re gorgeous, too. But right now Prowl is the most important thing.”

Soundwave kissed him sweetly and nodded before his focus returned to the monitor and his wandering hands came to rest over Jazz’s middle. Jazz settled in and waited, praying to Primus Soundwave’s hack had worked. Prowl was one of his oldest, dearest friends, and he would be beside himself if anything happened to him.

The Test-

 

The day before, Prowl had happily shared the news of the hidden starship, and taken everyone down to see it. Ironfist was already drafting plans on how to reroute power to it. While it wasn’t habitable quite yet, it was only a matter of time and it had buoyed everyone’s moods, including Prowl’s.

Standing in the foyer of the compound, Prowl waited with Shockwave and Ironfist for word from Soundwave to start the test run of the collar disabling device.

“The device needs to be up against the collar then press this button to send a pulse that should disable the trackers and emergency signal,” Ironfist said, demonstrating for Shockwave.

Should?” Shockwave replied, fingering the device in his one hand as Ironfist handed it off.

“Well, yeah. In theory, it’ll send a pulse wave of electromagnetic energy that disrupts and subsequently shorts the internal components,” Ironfist replied.

“Will it disrupt more than the collar’s workings?” Prowl asked, suddenly feeling unsure about using it so close to his processor and major energon lines in his neck.

“It’s tuned to the collar’s energy levels, which are very low. It won’t hurt you, Prowl,” Ironfist replied in a cheery tone.

Shockwave’s singular optic sharply focused on Ironfist. “How low a level?”

“About one hundred nano-waves,” Ironfist replied.

Nodding, Shockwave looked convinced. Prowl had no idea what ‘nano-waves’ were, but by the nod given, he felt it must be safe enough to be exposed to.

“The ping from Soundwave just came over my internal comm.” Shockwave looked at Prowl. “Are you ready?”

“As I’ll ever be,” Prowl replied.

Shockwave stepped up to Prowl and the glow of his golden optic seem to soften as he pressed the device against the collar. Prowl canted his head, giving better access and then felt the slight zap of the device being used. Pulling back, Shockwave looked at the device in hand, then back up at Prowl. “Try removing the collar.”

Prowl reached up and fumbled to find the latch area. Ironfist quickly pitched in and helped him locate the well-hidden catches. Pinching them, the collar parted and fell away from Prowl’s neck.

It felt like a lead weight had been removed from his body. One step closer to the freedom they all deserved, he rubbed at his neck with one hand while holding the collar with the other.

“How does it feel?” Shockwave asked, warmth entering his voice.

“Wonderful,” Prowl replied.

“Any word from Soundwave about setting off any alarms?” Ironfist asked.

Shockwave’s optic dimmed for a moment, then brightened as he looked at them again. “No change in Prowl’s signal on Swindle’s board, and the hack he put in place is now being created for each of you. He’ll comm. when he’s done and I’ll get these unseemly collars off each of you.”

“That’s great!” Ironfist replied.

“Thank you, Shockwave,” Prowl said, lightly touching the larger mech’s arm. “This means a great deal to me. I know it will to the others as well.”

Shockwave placed his hand over Prowl’s. “Just doing the right thing.”

The Disguise-

 

It had been days since Bumblebee arrived. He remained offline, deep in recharge. Mirage and Bluestreak had moved him to the middle of their berth and they’d been recharging curled around his prone form each night.

Bluestreak was diligent in caring for the minibot, fueling Bumblebee twice a day and even wiping his plating down with a damp cloth once a day. It gave him someone to focus on and helped ease the pain of losing Jazz.

“I need to go help Thundercracker for a little while. Do you need anything before I go?” Mirage asked, petting the center of Bluestreak’s back.

He glanced at his friend and shook his head. “Nah. Just gonna sit with Bee and maybe read to him a little.”

The shift in Mirage’s mood hadn’t gone unnoticed. Bluestreak suspected his friend was finally moving past his issues and that he and Thundercracker were finally acting on their unspoken attraction to one another. Not that Mirage had told him that, it was just the impression he got. He didn’t mind, though. It was nice to see Mirage look more like his old self again, even if it was also highlighting his own loss.

Mirage kissed Bluestreak’s cheek, then left with a definite bounce in his walk.

Bluestreak grabbed a datapad from the side table and settled on the berth next to Bumblebee. He paged through several stories before choosing one and then began to read aloud. After finishing a few paragraphs, he paused and looked over at Bumblebee’s face. His broken horns and lack of expression hurt to look at, but he kept forcing himself to look anyway. Unlike Mirage or even Jazz, he’d not been violated or beaten. He’d been living in this gilded cage with Thundercracker since that day at the auction, oblivious to the pain his friends suffered for the most part. With Bumblebee here, it helped him remember and keep a more grounded perspective when it came to how hard life was for most of his friends beyond these locked walls.

He frowned as he looked back at the datapad, wondering if he was wasting his time trying to read out loud like this.

“Then what?”

Nearly jumping right out of plating, Bluestreak actually yelped in surprise as he looked back over at Bumblebee gazing up at him with barely lit optics. “Bee?”

“The mech traded his cog and then what?” Bumblebee asked, voice full of static.

“Uh, he, ah…” Bluestreak stammered as he glanced at the datapad and quickly read the next line. “He traded his cog for a special one called a t-cog.”

“Myths,” Bumblebee said with a smile. “You’re reading me myths.”

Bluestreak looked back at Bumblebee. “Primus, I can’t believe you’re online. What do you need? Maybe I should go get help? You’re definitely gonna need to see the medic again, but Thundercracker and Mirage are busy…” He trailed off, frowning.

“Blue,” Bumblebee chuckled a little and his optics dim glow got brighter. “Just like you always were.”

Bluestreak put the datapad aside and then turned to face Bumblebee better. “Yeah. I’m pretty much the same, I guess.”

Bumblebee lifted an arm up and flexed his fingers. “I’m really stiff.”

Taking hold of Bumblebee’s hand, Bluestreak gently massaged the joints. “That happens when you don’t move for a long time while not in a stasis pod or regen tank.”

“That feels nice,” Bumblebee replied with a sigh. The crackle of static started to clear from his voice, which was encouraging. Bumblebee glanced down at his body and frowned. “Can’t move my legs, though.”

“Really?” Bluestreak let go of his hand and scooted down to start massaging one of Bumblebee’s pedes hoping it might help his sensory net to kick into gear.

Gazing at Bluestreak, Bumblebee sadly smiled. “You’ve been taking care of me, haven’t you? Talking to me?”

Sheepishly smiling, Bluestreak nodded. “Been reading to you and talking to you. I didn’t know if you could hear me, though.”

“Part of me heard you,” Bumblebee replied, fondness coloring his voice.

“I’m glad.” Bluestreak gazed at Bumblebee with his dented plating and broken horns. He often didn’t think much about age since they all lived such long lifetimes, but he could see just how much older Bumblebee was than him. He looked so tired and worn, and it wasn’t just his injuries giving that impression. “I should go get Thundercracker. He needs that medic to look you over.”

“Thundercracker. So he owns me now?” Bumblebee asked, looking vaguely concerned.

“He rescued you. You were left for dead on the refinery floor,” Bluestreak replied.

“Yeah. My attempt to lead a rebellion didn’t go so well,” Bumblebee said with a shrug. “What kind of owner is he? Thundercracker?”

Bluestreak moved his hands up Bumblebee’s leg, working his knee joint with nimble fingers. “He’s trying to free us. Him and a few other Decepticons. They don’t like this world how it is. They’ve been helping us. He’s not really our owner, more like our guardian for the moment.”

Bumblebee seemed surprised. “Huh.”

“Can you feel any of this?” Bluestreak asked, concerned about the lack of sensation in Bumblebee’s lower body.

“I can feel that a little,” Bumblebee replied. "Around my knee joint, but nothing much below that."

With a sigh, Bluestreak’s hands stopped moving over the small leg. “I’m gonna go get Thundercracker. I’ll be right back, okay?”

Bumblebee weakly grabbed hold of Bluestreak’s wrist. “Wait, not yet. I just… I just want to sit here with you a little while first, and you can tell me what’s been going on, okay? Please? I only know what I saw at the refinery.”

How could he say no? Bluestreak nodded and then moved over to start massaging Bumblebee’s other leg. “What do you want to know?”

Everything,” Bumblebee replied.

In Thundercracker’s private washrack, Mirage prepared for his task of making the seeker before him look completely different.

“Place this at the base of each wing,” Thundercracker said, handing Mirage two inhibitors.

“You know, these can be used in naughty ways,” Mirage said with a wicked smile.

Thundercracker ducked his head a little as shyly smiled. “Yes, but right now it’s the only way I’ll hold still while you to apply the temporary paint to my wings.”

Mirage walked around and then carefully placed the inhibitors at the base of each wing and turned them on.

Thundercracker grimaced at the sudden lack of sensation. “Let’s get this over with.”

Mirage crouched down next to the largest paint pot, and twisted off the lid. “Going with all red, I see?”

“Seemed like a good enough color,” Thundercracker replied. “You don’t approve?”

“I prefer my handsome seeker in his lovely blue,” Mirage replied, dipping the wide foam brush into the paint before standing. He did a twirl with his finger in the air. “Turn around now.”

“As you wish,” Thundercracker replied, obliging the request.

Applying the paint in even strokes, Mirage stayed sharply focused. Silence reigned, but it was a comfortable sort of quiet. When Mirage first arrived he was terrified of silences, which was part of what made Bluestreak such a good companion for him. But he was starting to finally recover somewhat from the abuse he endured at Skywarp's hands, and his trust in Thundercracker had grown exponentially in his time here.

"Wings done," Mirage announced as he set the brush down on a cloth. He then removed the inhibitors and handed them back to Thundercracker.

Stuffing them into his subspace, Thundercracker gazed at Mirage, warmly smiling. "Now for the rest." Thundercracker held his arms out.

Re-wetting his brush with the paint, Mirage stood facing Thundercracker as he carefully painted blue to red over one arm then moved onto the other.

“You think this will work to disguise you?” Mirage asked. “I’d hate for someone to recognize your face and have this whole plan backfire.”

Thundercracker’s black fingers gently cupped Mirage’s chin, turning his head up to look up. “There’s no predicting what might happen, but I promise that you will be safe one way or another.”

“What does that mean?” Mirage asked.

“Should something happen to me while attempting this rescue, you all will be cared for and moved to a safe place,” Thundercracker replied.

“And what about you?” Mirage frowned. “I’ve finally gotten stable enough in my own mind to open up more with you. Last thing I want is for us to be ripped apart over all this.”

Crimson optics dimmed slightly and Thundercracker gently trailed his fingers down the side of Mirage’s face. “Then I’ll add to my promise that I will do everything in my power to return to you.”

Reaching up, Mirage covered his hand over Thundercracker’s against his cheek. “I do believe you’ve captured my spark,” he admitted in a hushed voice.

Leaning in closer, Thundercracker kissed Mirage sweetly. “And you have mine,” he said with their lips lingering against one another.

Heat flared through Mirage’s frame with newly awakened desire. “How dare you distract me like this,” Mirage chided. “I can’t be expected to focus now.”

Thundercracker chuckled. “You might get some red paint on you.”

“It’ll come off,” Mirage replied before initiating another, deep kiss. Their glossae tangled between their linked mouths, intensifying the arousal taking hold of Mirage.

It had been so long since he’d felt this for anyone. As the kiss broke, Mirage stepped back and deposited the brush into the paint pot. Turning to face Thundercracker again, he took hold of one of his hands.

“What do you feel up to?” Thundercracker asked as he pulled Mirage in close enough to hug. It was a good thing the paint dried quickly, Mirage thought as large arms enveloped his lithe frame.

“I’m willing to try interfacing if you are, but with one stipulation: no berth,” Mirage replied. Being near the berth with Thundercracker was a trigger, bringing up painful memories. Other locations didn’t have the same effect on him, though.

“No berth…” Thundercracker glanced around the washrack. “Could shove me up against the wall and have your way, but that means touching up my paint job after.”

Mirage knew Thundercracker was teasing, but he decided that’s exactly what he wanted to do. Thundercracker was no doubt larger, but the idea of being spiked held no appeal for Mirage right now. He still needed control over how they interacted. “Sounds like a perfect plan,” he replied, hands flattening against Thundercracker’s chest as he pushed him toward the wall. Thundercracker’s wings fluttered slightly. Unsure if that was a nervous or approving gesture, Mirage stopped cold. “Unless you’d rather not?”

Taking hold of one of Mirage’s hands, Thundercracker kissed the backs of his fingers. “I’ll do whatever you want.”

“I just... I can’t be on the receiving end just yet,” Mirage replied, his moment of confidence faltering. Sabotaged by self-doubt and insecurities, his desire started to slip away.

Seeming to sense the shift, Thundercracker cupped his face in his hands and gazed deeply into his optics. “I would love to have you buried inside me.”

That wasn’t the sort of thing a noble would ever say, but it held enough shock value to knock Mirage free of his of sudden flurry of doubts. “You’re very naughty.”

“I am,” Thundercracker replied with a playful smile. “What will you do about it, hm?”

“Give you what you want,” Mirage replied, pushing Thundercracker the last few steps until his back hit the wall.

Mouths met once again in a kiss as Mirage groped the closed cover between Thundercracker’s legs. It opened in response to his probing fingers and Mirage broke the kiss with a soft gasp. “May I?”

“Primus, yes,” Thundercracker breathed, parting his legs a little more for Mirage.

Not wasting a moment, Mirage skimmed past the semi-onlined spike to reach lower and circle Thundercracker’s valve rim slowly before dipping inside with his fingertips. He was pleased to find the mesh walls already slicked, and smiled brightly when Thundercracker softly moaned in response to his touches. Even painted mostly red, Thundercracker’s handsome features were his alone, and enthralling to watch as he indulged in the pleasure being offered.

Opening his own cover, Mirage squeezed his eager spike with his free hand and moved in close enough to trade his fingers for the head of his spike. Being shorter he was going to have to get on his toes in order to fully penetrate, and frowned as he mentally cursed their differing stature.

“Here.” Thundercracker slid down the wall, bending his legs just enough to give Mirage better access.

Mirage shyly looked down. “I don’t believe a ground-bound mech and a flier were ever meant for this.”

Turning Mirage’s face back up, Thundercracker gazed at him with so much adoration it actually made his spark flutter. “Love knows no boundaries or heights.”

Overwhelmed with emotion, Mirage shook his head. He was sure he’d never be able to say it out loud, but he did love this mech. Pressing in close, Mirage rested their forehelms together then rolled his hips upward, spike spreading Thundercracker’s quivering valve as it filled it.

Both of Thundercracker’s hands lifted and cupped Mirage’s helm, thumbs gently caressing the thin lined vents on either side. “Make me yours, please.”

Mirage nodded as his hands found Thundercracker’s hips as he withdrew only to thrust up again. A motion he repeated over and over, until they were both shivering and moaning, linked together. He drew on his noble training, twisting his hips slightly to rub along differing sets of internal nodes to bring his lover the most pleasure he could. Thundercracker’s arms moved to flatten against the wall, helping hold his weight as he trembled and groaned.

It didn’t take long before they were both coming undone at the seams. Mirage did his best to please, impaling him in an upward motion as he clung tightly to black hips. Thundercracker’s wings clattered against the stall wall and he arched his body slightly just before he overloaded with a sharp cry. His optics went dark and his whole body shuddered with the wave of pleasure that rolled through him. It was a beautiful sight to behold.

Thrusting through the tight grasp of his new lover’s valve, Mirage found himself quickly following suit. Overloading with a roar, he pushed up and stood on his toes, sinking to the hilt as he exploded deep inside this mech that had taken hold of his spark. He stayed there for several beats, relishing the heat and thrill of enjoying something so intimate with Thundercracker.

“Can’t hold myself up…” Thundercracker’s words came too late as his grip gave way and his balancing act was toppled, taking them both down at once.

Mirage laughed a little as he carefully righted himself in Thundercracker’s lap and kissed his cheek. “More warning would have been helpful.”

“My apologies, but I thought I could hold up longer than I did.” Thundercracker gently trailed his fingers down the side of Mirage’s helm. “That was wonderful.”

“I wasn’t too rusty?” Mirage asked, leaning into the touch.

“Not at all.” Thundercracker leaned forward and gently kissed Mirage.

The flutter in his spark returned full-force, and Mirage gazed dreamily at Thundercracker. As much as he resented his collar and the abuse that so deeply scarred him, he knew he would never have ended up in this mech’s arms if not for those events. It was hard to imagine a future of any substance in this fragged up world, but a part of him dared to hope at some point they’d be free to properly court one another without any barriers in their way.

“As much as I’d like to sit here with you in my arms, plotting other things we might try, I still need my disguise of paint touched up and finished,” Thundercracker said as he gently rubbed the middle of Mirage’s back.

Curling up against Thundercracker’s chest, Mirage dimmed his optics. “I just want a moment or two more to enjoy this. If that’s alright?”

Holding Mirage closer, Thundercracker kissed the top of his helm with a sated sigh. “I see no harm in that at all.”

The Set Up-

 

Mostly cleaned up after another intense romp in the berth, Jazz followed Soundwave out of the berth room.

“Your part in this scenario will be dangerous,” Soundwave intoned as they walked into the main living area, which was still in shambles.

“I’ll be fine,” Jazz assured him.

Soundwave came to a stop, looked around the living area, then turned to face Jazz. Expecting to be lectured about the messy living room, Jazz frowned a little as he readied himself to point out that he wasn’t a maid.

“Inside the detailing parlour my ability to protect you will be decreased drastically. I do not want you harmed. If something does not go according to the plan, then abort immediately and find me. Is that clear?” Soundwave said, visibly concerned for Jazz.

“Got it.” Jazz smiled a little. “I’m pretty good at running these kinda Ops, though. Collared or not, I’m still me.”

Soundwave’s fingers slid down over the collar. “If things go well, this will not be something you will be required to wear too much longer.”

“Doesn’t much matter to me, but I appreciate the gesture of gettin’ it removed.” Jazz took hold of Soundwave’s hand and kissed the palm. “Thing is, at your side, I feel free.”

Rumble groaned. “That was beyond horrible.”

Looking over, Jazz stifled a laugh. Rumble was messily painted in dark blue and Frenzy had white paint on his chest and arms. They looked ridiculous.

“Rumble, Frenzy, explain the purpose of paint on your plating,” Soundwave demanded.

Jazz sobered a little at that and shook his head. “I don’t think you really want to–”

“We were role-playing, like Jazz said to,” Frenzy said.

“I’m you and Frenzy is Jazz,” Rumble explained, grinning. “And frag, did we just have a good time.” They both snickered at that.

Soundwave looked at Jazz, then back at the painted pair. “Clean up your plating and the living area by the time we return.”

“Awww!” They both protested at once.

“This state of disarray is unacceptable,” Soundwave said, managing to sound stern despite his monotone.

“Fine. We’ll clean it up,” Rumble said as he scowled.

Soundwave and Jazz exited the apartment and took the lift up a level. When they arrived at Thundercracker’s apartment, Jazz tensed a little, wondering if Bluestreak was still upset with him or not. He’d been understanding about the whole thing, but Jazz suspected he’d hurt him pretty badly.

The door opened to a red seeker, and Jazz was confused as they walked inside. After a moment of staring at the seeker’s face, he realized it was Thundercracker. He hardly looked like himself at all.

“Your disguise should be sufficient,” Soundwave said as he looked Thundercracker up and down.

“I should hope so,” Thundercracker replied as he handed off a small device. “I’m told you hold this to the collar and press the button. It will short out the workings.”

Soundwave nodded and then turned to Jazz, pressing the item into his hand. “I realize your sub-space is disabled, but hold this close and conceal as much as possible.”

“Got it,” Jazz replied, fingering the small item as he looked at it.

“Oh, you have a visitor. Hello there Commander Soundwave,” Tremorwave said as he appeared from an adjoining hallway.

Soundwave nodded a polite hello.

“How is Bumblebee? Will you be taking him back for further repairs?” Thundercracker asked as the medic walked up.

“Bee? Bee is here?” Jazz asked. When had he gotten here? Where had he been before? Jazz had a million questions running all at once through his processor.

“I can’t take him back with me right now. I have a patient in bad shape back at the compound taking up most of my time. And for now, since he’s unable to use his legs, it’s best he stay here where he’ll be better looked after,” Tremorwave explained.

“I see. When your time frees up, please let me know,” Thundercracker replied.

“I will,” Tremorwave replied.

Soundwave glanced at Jazz, and they exchanged looks. As if reading his mind, Soundwave turned his attention to Thundercracker. “May Jazz visit with your new Autobot for a few minutes?”

Regarding Jazz for a moment, Thundercracker shrugged a shoulder. “Not too long. We need to get going.”

Jazz took off down the corridor. He jogged into the private area where Mirage and Bluestreak lived, finding them on a couch with Bumblebee sitting between them. “Holy slag, Bee!”

“Jazz?” Bluestreak sounded confused.

“Hey, Jazz. You look good,” Bumblebee said, smiling.

Jazz wished he could say the same for his old friend, but Bumblebee was a mess. Broken helm horns, dented and scarred plating and he looked so worn and tired. “I’m so glad to see you’re still around.” Jazz crouched down in front of him and took hold of one of his hands, squeezing it.

“Why are you here?” Mirage asked. “This isn’t your visiting day.”

“I’m helpin’ out with rescuing Skyfire,” Jazz replied.

“Helping? How?” Bluestreak asked.

“Well, the plan is Soundwave will keep Screamer occupied while we’re at the detailing parlour and I’ll sneak in and disable Skyfire’s collar with this thing.” Jazz held up the small device. “Then I’ll help him slip away and hand him off to Thundercracker.”

“Jazz…” Bluestreak shook his head. “You could be caught. There’s no telling what they’d do to you if that happened. You can’t help them like that!”

Sadness fluttered inside Jazz’s spark at Bluestreak’s reaction. “I’ll be fine.”

“It is risky. And I honestly don’t like the idea of any of you putting yourselves in so much danger,” Mirage said with a frown.

“But, they want to save Skyfire. That’s worth it, isn’t it? To make sure another one of us is saved?” Bumblebee asked, gaze pinging between all of them.

Jazz smiled. “It is to me.”

Bluestreak frowned and looked away, doorwings low against his back.

“Well, I just had to stop by and see you, Bee.” Jazz got back to his feet, reluctantly letting go of the smaller black hand.

“You come by and visit a lot?” Bumblebee asked.

“Yeah, I normally come by ‘bout twice a week,” Jazz replied.

The intercom crackled on. “We need to go. Jazz please return to the front entrance,” Thundercracker said.

“Gotta go. I promise I’ll be safe. See you all soon,” Jazz said, half-smiling.

“You better be,” Mirage said with a raised optic ridge.

“See you,” Bumblebee said as he waved.

Bluestreak didn’t look up.

Jazz frowned a little as he finally walked out. He glanced over his shoulder from the hallway, seeing Bluestreak start to sob and Mirage and Bumblebee move in to comfort him. He knew he’d hurt Bluestreak, but had no concept of how badly until now. Sobered by the consequences of his actions, Jazz sadly frowned as he returned to Soundwave and Thundercracker.

Soundwave canted his head. “Jazz, are you alright?”

Jazz quickly slipped on a smile and nodded. “I’m good to go. Let’s do this thing.”

The Rescue-

 

It was humiliating being dragged around on leads through the merchant district. Skyfire kept catching mechs they passed staring at the three of them as they made their way to the detailing parlour. Starscream seemed to like the gawking, holding his head high. Red Alert just sort of stared off into nothingness, which was a skill Skyfire envied. Maybe in time he’d be able to do the same.

Stepping into the front area of the parlour, Skyfire was momentarily distracted from his embarrassing situation when he caught sight of Jazz standing just next to Soundwave. Jazz glanced at him and flashed a bright smile. Skyfire smiled a little in response, surprised to see how well kept Jazz looked.

“Soundwave, what are you doing here?” Starscream asked, sounding annoyed.

“Detailing requested for Autobot and arrangement for a soak in the oil baths for myself,” Soundwave intoned.

“Same for me,” Starscream replied, flicking his wings. “I have a meeting with Megatron later and he wants to meet my newest slave. You know how he likes a shine on them.”

“Affirmative,” Soundwave replied.

“And indulging in a nice oil bath will get my joints nice and loosened up,” Starscream added.

Soundwave nodded in reply.

“We can take all your slaves into the special detailing area,” said the host as he gestured to one of the doorways. “If it’s alright, we’d like to put them all together. Unless you’d prefer they remain separated?”

Starscream scowled as he glanced at Jazz.

“I see no issue with sharing a room,” Soundwave replied.

“Keh, fine. Put them together. All that really matters is that they’re shining when you’re done,” Starscream said as he handed the leads to the host.

“Of course. They’ll look pristine,” the host replied.

Skyfire walked beside Red Alert while Jazz trailed along behind them. They were taken into a room with five detailing chairs. The host removed the leads and gestured to the chairs. “Take a seat.”

They each sat down in one, but Skyfire shifted uncomfortably in his due to his wings being pinched in from the chair arms.

“Hm, never had a flier quite so large,” the host said. “Just make do by turning sort of sideways, hm?”

Shifting at an angle, Skyfire fit a little better. It wasn’t exactly comfortable, though, with one leg not quite on the seat.

The host exited, and Skyfire looked past Red Alert to Jazz in the next chair over. “Glad to see you alive,” Skyfire said in a hushed voice.

“Same goes for you, big guy,” Jazz replied.

“Shouldn’t talk yet,” Red Alert warned. “Wait until after.”

Three detailers came into the room, one for each. They wasted no time opening the cabinets and setting up the bottles of waxes and getting out their tools. Soon the hum of buffers filled the air, and Skyfire winced at every touch to his plating. The drug in his morning energon was starting to kick in, and despite the businesslike touches and uses of inhibitors on his wings, his array was starting to burn. By how much Red Alert was squirming, it was clear they were both suffering the effects. Jazz by contrast seemed relaxed and calm. A part of Skyfire deeply envied him.

Once the buffing was done, they were each carefully touched up with chamois cloths until they practically glowed.

“Both your owners are still in the oil baths. Wait here until they are ready to pick you up,” one of the detailers said as they cleaned up and put all the supplies away.

Once the last one disappeared out the door, Skyfire sagged against the uncomfortable chair.

“We can talk now,” Red Alert said, slipping off his chair and moving over to sit in Skyfire’s lap. “Mine’s burning. Is yours?”

Skyfire gently traced his fingers down Red Alert’s face as he nodded.

Red Alert whined a little, not caring that Jazz being here with them. “Maybe we can just touch a little, to make it stop? But be careful of our finish?”

“Red, we shouldn’t,” Skyfire quietly replied.

“Hope you’re ready to get the frag outta here, Skyfire,” Jazz said as he got off his chair and pulled a small black, hand-held item out from under the cushion.

Glancing over, Skyfire frowned. “What are you talking about?”

Jazz walked over and pressed the device in his hand to Skyfire’s collar. There was a zap of energy then nothing. “This thing just disabled the collar. Now it’s time to escape.”

Staring at Jazz with bright optics, Skyfire shook his head. “What are you talking about?”

“We don’t have much time, so let’s get going.” Jazz gestured toward the door.

“Wait– You’re the one rescuing me?” Skyfire asked.

“Sort of. I’m first in the chain. Gotta hand you off to the next mech, then he’ll get you to the compound,” Jazz explained quickly. “We don’t have much time. Come on!”

“You’re leaving me alone?” Red Alert asked.

Looking at the smaller mech still in his lap, Skyfire shook his head. “No, I’m not going to leave you alone.” He looked back at Jazz. “Use that thing on his collar, too. We’re both going.”

“Uh...” Jazz looked between them and frowned. “That wasn’t part of the plan.”

Red Alert curled against Skyfire and grasped at his chest. “Don’t leave me alone. Please. Please…

“It’s part of ‘the plan’ now. Do it, or I’ll stay right here,” Skyfire replied.

Jazz wavered then gave in, using the device on Red Alert’s collar, too. “This is not the plan, and if the next mech in the chain refuses, I can’t do anything ‘bout it.”

“That’s fine,” Skyfire replied. “Either way, we’re leaving. My wings work.” Skyfire got up, and Red Alert held his hand tightly as Jazz led them out of the room and partway down the hall.

A red-colored seeker stepped out of one of the other detailing rooms and frowned. “Skyfire only,” he hissed in a whisper.

“Too late. Already used this thing on Red,” Jazz said as he pressed the device into the red seeker’s hand. “Skyfire won’t go without him.”

“For Pit’s sake,” the red seeker glared at Skyfire. “You better be the amazing mind he thinks you are. Come with me.”

They were ushered down the hallway and out a back door into the alleyway. The red seeker lifted a cover for a run off tunnel and pointed. “Down into the tunnel. We need some distance from this place.”

Skyfire nodded and went down first. He then helped Red Alert down, and the mysterious rescuer came down last, putting the cover back in place.

“It’s burning so much,” Red Alert whimpered.

Skyfire sympathized, his own array was in desperate need of release, but he pushed the discomfort aside in favor of regaining their freedom. “Mine, too. But we need to get out of here first.”

“Are you unwell?” the red seeker asked, glancing between them. “Should I have a medic on hand at the compound?”

“It’s a drug to keep our interface arrays online at all times. The only relief comes from overloading,” Skyfire explained, faceplates heating a little with shame.

“I’m sorry,” the red seeker replied with a frown. “You’ll be able to detox in peace when I get you to safety. Follow me.” The red seeker then led the way through tunnel system with Skyfire and Red Alert in tow.

“Megatron won’t like us being dirty,” Red Alert said as the sludge splashed up on their legs.

“You won’t need to worry about him anymore,” the red seeker said as they came to split in the tunnels and he took them to the right. “Only a little further and we’ll come out in another alley. Then we can fly to the compound. Your wings work, right?”

“Yes. And I can carry Red Alert,” Skyfire replied.

“Good,” the red seeker replied.

At the end of the tunnel was another cover. The red seeker pushed it aside, and flew up and out. Skyfire grasped Red Alert tightly and initiated his jets for the first time since he’d been at the medic’s and gently lifted them up and out of the tunnel. Landing next to the opening, he looked around. They were in a back alley, but the buildings here were bombed out and looked uninhabited.

“This is the tricky part,” the red seeker said. “I need a confirmation ping that the camera system is shifted elsewhere, then we’re going to have to take off and fly at top speed before it sweeps back around.”

Skyfire nodded as Red Alert clung tightly to him, burying his face in his chest. Staring at their rescuer’s face, Skyfire narrowed his optics. “Is that you, Thundercracker?” he suddenly asked. He’d known the seeker before the war, briefly crossing paths with him in civilian life in Vos.

“Recognized me, hm?” Thundercracker asked with a small smile.

“Not until now,” Skyfire replied, gently caressing Red Alert’s back to comfort him.

Thundercracker glanced at the smaller mech. “Taking him along wasn’t part of our plan.”

“Will he be unwelcome?” Skyfire asked.

“No, it’s not that. Starscream is attached to him. Losing one of you will be bad, but both–” Thundercracker shook his head. “I don’t know how he might react.”

“He’s a twisted shadow of who I once knew.” Skyfire hugged Red Alert in his arms. “And Red has suffered more than enough. He deserves better than a life trapped with Starscream.”

Thundercracker sadly frowned as he nodded. Suddenly his optics brightened. “I have the go ahead. We have to go as fast as possible. The cameras will only be turned away for ten minutes.”

Skyfire nodded. “Red, you hold tight to me, don’t let go.”

“Okay,” Red Alert replied.

Folding his arms around the smaller mech, Skyfire took to the air when Thundercracker did. They flew as fast as possible over an open, desolate area which had once been a thriving area of Iacon. In the distance a walled in compound came into view. As they got closer, Skyfire could see a domed forcefield that protected the buildings inside the walls. On approach, the dome dissipated and Thundercracker flew them right to the front entrance of the compound.

Feet touching down, Skyfire looked up just in time to see the forcefield go back up. Whose home was this? Who had been so desperate to free him that he’d risked so much?

“Where are we?” Red Alert asked, looking around while still clutching at Skyfire.

“Let’s go in,” Thundercracker said with a small smile.

The double doors opened and they were led into the foyer of the compound where Shockwave and Prowl both stood waiting.

“Welcome to my home, Skyfire.” Shockwave stepped forward and canted his head as he looked at Red Alert. “And Red.”

This was who had orchestrated his rescue? Skyfire wondered why, but he knew answers would come soon enough. “I have you to thank?”

“Myself, Thundercracker, Soundwave and Jazz all played their parts in freeing you from Starscream. I’m sure you are both exhausted from the ordeal. Prowl will show you to a private room and fill you in on the situation here,” Shockwave replied.

Hugging Red Alert against his side, Skyfire bowed his head respectfully. “Thank you for helping us.”

“You are both very welcome,” Shockwave replied.

Giving Red a funny look, Prowl stepped forward. “We have a space set up for you, but you’ll need to share for now.”

“That’s fine,” Skyfire replied, glad to see yet another of his comrades in such good condition.

Prowl warmly smiled. “Follow me.”