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"Smile, smile

and do the deed,

smile, smile

and leave them dead,

smile,

and it won't be bad,

smile,

no one wants to see you sad."

 

 

 

"Hey, Jazz, what’s so funny?” A mech called after him, his name echoing in the corridor.

The visored mech gave a couple of more chuckles, this time stronger as he turned to look at Blaster with mirth. "Nah, mech, just having a good laugh down at Ops.” 

"Oh?” Blaster asked as he fell in step with him.

Jazz pressed a hand to his mouth to repress his giggles. "Oh yes. Though I’ll have to kill ya if I tell ya ‘bout what.” 

That made Blaster laugh as well. "Right, right.” 

"I’m serious.” Jazz snickered as he finally saw his room ahead.

"Gonna crash in the rec room later?” Blaster asked him, smiling.

"Probably, yeah. But first I wanna crash on my berth.” Jazz typed in his code, hand shaking. Looking past Blaster, the visored mech saw a familiar black and white mech, helm down and reading a data pad as he walked. 

Jazz chuckled and entered his room. Once the door slid shut behind his back, he leaned on it as his body started to shake and he could no longer repress the laughter. He had to turn off his vocalizer or someone might think he was under tickle torture…

Torture…?

On the ground, Jazz had to clutch his sides from the sheer force of his mute laughs. His vents worked hard, but still his core temperature rose. And Jazz couldn’t stop laughing. He could still hear the screams of the mech he had ruthlessly tortured mere breems ago, could still feel the warmth of his energon on his plating. And he had been smiling the entire time.

Lightly, his helm hit the floor as the visored mech clutched himself in a vain attempt to calm down his amusement. When that didn’t help, he tried a little harder. And harder.

Soon, he was banging his helm on the floor until he felt the first trickle of energon sip down his forehead.

For a blissful moment, Jazz stopped laughing, just staring at the little drops of energon that fell on the ground. And suddenly, as if seeing the most amusing thing in the universe, his laughter returned. 

~

Prowl had an exceptional bad orn. First, the tactical simulation computer crashed for no reason, then they got some news that made nearly all work from his last decaorn obsolete and then some junior tactician had decided that Prowl was so serious because he simply hadn’t heard a good joke yet. He tried to change that, but all he succeeded in was that Prowl got annoyed and his overheating logical center caused a minor processor ache.

No, he didn’t have a good orn. And the agent sitting across from him with a fixed smile was not helping. At all. Especially because that fake smile just made his headache worse. When Jazz’s smile widened yet again on some death count within the report, and his ache spiked again, Prowl’s patience run out with a sharp snap.

"Stop that program,” he snarled. "It gives me a headache."

For a single moment, surprise flitted across Jazz’s face, before the smile returned with a sharp "Screw you."

Prowl felt is own temper flare. "I really don't care why you have that program,” he pointed out. And he didn’t. "But it caused me to write a reverse program vorns ago. So it does not matter to me if you keep it on or not, beside me having more or less of a headache."

And he really wanted to settle for less. But when he turned up in the med bay Ratchet would have his helmet.

Jazz leaned back in his chair, smirking. "And I should care because...?" 

"Because you will do this mission. And I talking with you might keep you alive." Might. The survival rate wasn’t that great to begin with.

A chuckle. "Me not turning off that program is what is keeping me alive." 

Was that mech stupid or just suicidal? Prowl’s frown deepened, as he realized that Jazz probably simply enjoyed to knowingly cause a processor ache to him. Well, Prowl would win. One way, or another. He was not above underhanded tactics as well. "Not in this office, Jazz. I already have a reverse program, remember?" Prowl leaned back in his chair, the picture of confidence. "And either you turn it off - or I make sure that everyone has that little reverse program. Ratchet, your boss, Prime..."

Jazz laughed, even as his fist clenched. "I'd like to see ya try. You do like your head attached to your body, so let's just not do that, okay? Cuz if you do that, then I'll have to get dirty, and I just had a really nice wash. So, yeah." 

If there had been any playfulness within Prowl, it died a sudden and abrupt death. Determination pushed even his processor ache into the background as he contemplated that Jazz had just threatened him to kill him over a simple program. For a long moment, he scrutinized the agent, applying all of his indeed considerable processor space to the current agent and problem. Then took a datapad, wrote something and held it out to Jazz. "Here."

Looking at the data pad confused Jazz couldn’t help but chuckle, "What the frag is this?" 

"A psych recommendation with Rung. As your responsible tactician I am deeply concerned over your irrational behavior." Prowl shrugged. "Don't bother destroying or killing me, this datapad is automatically uploaded into the server. And if you try anyway, I will add the reason. All the reasons. Including threatening to kill an officer." 

Jazz's smile was nothing but sweet. Yet the data pad cracked in his hold. "You are such a fragger, you know that? You can't force me to go to a fragging shrink!" 

"Of course I can't force you," said Prowl, trying to imitate Jazz's tone, but lacking the sweetness. "I simply will refuse to give you this mission. And the next one. And the one after that...."

Jazz laughed as if he had just heard the funniest joke on base. "Mech, I am this close to jumping over the desk and beating the slag out of ya. Ya really are a pain in the aft." 

Prowl nodded. "You are not he first to say this. Indeed, I think the last one was Prime himself, though he commented on my insistence on signing the last few tactical changes..." 

Jazz smiled politely. "Cancel the meeting with Rung... if you please." 

Prowl gave him a near bored look. "And what do I get as a return? After all, you just said you wanted to beat the slag out of me."

"What do ya get?" Jazz snickered. "Why, I don’t beat the slag out of ya! Ain’t that a great deal?" 

Prowl actually calculated the merits of the deal. "No. I do not think that is a good deal. But I am open to negotiations."

Jazz didn't even know he was shaking, until he pulled the chair in front of Prowls desk and sat on it. For anyone who just happened to walk into the room, it would seem as if Jazz was quite happy and pleased with the conversation. His real emotion were more closely described by the adjective ‘murderous’. "Negotiations? What do ya have in mind?" 

Prowl hadn't expected such a reasonable reaction. For a moment his own emotional center was off-equilibrium and then returned to his usual, a generic feeling of calm. "I want a stable agent that does not see the need to threaten me. While your program does not mean anything usually to me, I have now reasons to believe that you are not stable. My usual recommendation would be to visit Rung and his team as they are experts in the emotional cases, but you do not want that, is that correct?"

"Yeah,"  Jazz said slowly, feeling already weary of where this was going. Fragging tacticians, and their fragging plans.

"As such alternative measures are to be taken." Prowl rubbed his chevron, his headaches blazing through his processor. "Calculations show, that you would also react poorly to medics and to peer help. They also to show that while your program may exacerbate your emotional misbalance, it probably is not the root of it." He sighed, the rubbing was not helping. "My offer is this: I will take you off the active roster as an agent. You will still be available in emergency cases, but besides that you will work a normal support job for the time being. I heard the energon plant can need help. See it as a vacation that is supposed to quieten your normal emotions. Additionally, once a decaorn you come to me, and together we will go through your emotional program and tweak it so that it is no longer damaging to you."

Jazz couldn’t help it, no, he couldn’t believe this! He actually started laughing, and this time it had nothing to do with his program. Jazz was laughing at how absurd the tactician sounded. "...W-what? Haha, have you gone mad?! I can't be taken off the active roster!" 

"You wish to remain an active agent despite the clearly detrimental effect on you?"

Jazz threw his arms in the air, laughing, and asked, "Mech, why the frag do ya CARE?!" 

"I told you, I want a stable agent." Prowl tabbed his desk with his claws. "Okay. I will not take you off the roster. I will instead give you a vorn long mission in one of our energon plants that had some very suspicious accidents in the last few decaorns. Which is why they need help."

"Not unless ya want me to snap and start killing anything that moves." Jazz shook his head, amused. "I need to vent the energy or whatever. There’s no helping me, mech, so just give it a rest..." Jazz chuckled. "This is getting annoying." 

Prowl gave the agent a tiny smile. "I believe in doing the impossible. I think that is something we share. Something to vent, can you please clarify that need? What do you like to do to vent?"

"I need to move," Jazz said, leaning forward on the desk. "If I stay too still for too long, it's not good." Being still meant more time to think, to contemplate... to replay and remember everything he had ever done. Being still hurts.

"A reasonable request." Prowl nodded, and called up several dozen statistics and maps. "Do you have any noticeable skills besides what being an agent entails?"

"Uhh... I can interface really well?" The agent asked. "Does that count?" 

"Currently we have no lack of pleasure mechs, former or still active ones," said Prowl seriously, while scrolling through the various statistics. "Also I have been led to believe, that they form a rather close community, so a new mech would mean attention."

Jazz stared dumbly as his joke went straight over the tactician’s head.

"No matter, your agent skills make you ideal for this." Prowl called up a map at the wall, on which where over two dozen orange glowing points. "These are the suspicious accidents I have mentioned earlier. Other plants have had also accidents, but none as noticeable. Still, I am suspecting a highly skilled infiltrator of the Decepticons might be responsible. I need a mech trained in sabotage, poison recognition and arranging accidents to check up on every single accident, while acquiring the trust of all the colleagues. So far, there are seven plants involved, but to make sure that our target does not suspect anything it would be better to visit all fourteen plants within the sector regularly. It means a lot of travelling. Of course, you would receive all the necessary credentials."

"Ya need me to neutralize the threat?" Jazz grinned, looking at the map, starting to finally like the mission.

"Yes. Find him, neutralize him. Even better if you can find anyone else that compromises our energon supply as well." Prowl gave a displeased growl. "They are not malicious, but some are stealing energon. This mission will probably take around one vorn to complete, especially if you keep up your new persona as an inspector of Autobot High Command. In between, you will have enough time to come to me, and to cover up our sessions."

Jazz smile would've fallen if it weren’t for the program. Instead, it only grew along with his displeasure, "Wait... sessions?" 

"Don’t I just gotta update ya like I always do on long term missions?"

"Of course not. As Prime's inspector you would return here regularly. Why wouldn't I want a personal report if I can have one? The usual accuracy increase is 22.59 percent!" It was clear he would haul every agent into his office if he could.

"Right. What sessions?" Jazz asked, defensive all of a sudden. "You mean reports?" 

"No. You will visit me to give me the report. And then we will go together through your emotional reprogramming and determine ways to improve it," Prowl said. "At the moment, it looks quite crude to me."

"Oh frag no!" Jazz said suddenly, shaking his helm with a for once wavering smirk. "I never agreed to that!" 

"Why wouldn't you agree to it?” asked Prowl genuinely curious. "I am offering you free knowledge. I am not forcing to do anything." A thought made him sit straighter, doorwings stretching out. "Are you doubting my ability to teach?"

"Frag doubting.” Jazz snarled, no muttered like it was the beginning of a grand joke. "I wanna know, if you are gonna poke around in my head?"

"Of course not!" Prowl snapped, doorwings high, incredulous at the mere idea. Who wanted to interface with a potentially unstable agent, skilled in the arts of malicious hacking? Suicidal ones, that was. Certainly not Prowl. "You will download the program lines on a datapad and we will talk and after each session you can erase the datapad."

"Okay, just answer me this: WHY?" Jazz asked, optics narrowing behind the visor. "I don't get it. What do ya get from all of this?"

"A stable agent, of course. Stability would probably improve your success rate rather considerable. Also a valuable mech with your abilities would be a great loss to the Autobots if he died, even worse if you decided to join the Decepticons. Furthermore, I do not see why not. It is a minor change for me, with a possible great reward," pointed Prowl out. "I have done more for far less." 

This was the mech who planned his missions, who made sure he survived yet... "I don't trust you."

"As expected. I do not trust you as well. That might change when we have more contact with each other."

When he was on a mission, even if things went wrong, he could always improvise, always count on himself. This? This was breaching the walls he had created around himself, and he did not like it one bit.... "You are very blunt mech." 

Prowl nodded. "I admit that my own emotional programming has led me to believe that bluntness and truth is preferable to all these silly hints and half-truths most mechs engage in."

"That reminds me... how did you figure it out?" Jazz looked at him suspiciously, "How did you figure out I had a program. It was flawless. So how?"

A reasonable request, Prowl thought. However, his raging processor ache made him shorten his answer to the bare essentials. They would have enough time to talk about the finer details of coding in the sessions to come. "Your program is flawless in recreating a smile, but some reactions of your frames still reflected your true emotional state. For example, you clench occasionally a fist when angry. Additionally, your average reaction to extreme stimuli was off. Not something most would notice, but then I was created with an over active logic center. If I see something illogical, I will obsess over it. My emotional reprogramming helped me with reducing the effects of my logic center and the later upgrade of my tactical network. But I still noticed the discrepancies within your behavior, analyzed them and concluded that it was an emotional reprogramming. As said reprogramming taxed my logical center, I began to write a small program that translated your reactions into the normal spectrum of emotions - a reverse program," Prowl explained. "Before you say anything, I will be the first to admit that the reverse program is not perfect and more of an approximation than anything else. Still, it helped to reduce the stress on my logic center considerably."

Very slowly, Jazz nodded before directing his sharp visor at the Praxian. "During these... ’sessions', the program stays. You will not turn it off." 

"Agreed.” Who would have thought that beneath all these threats and insanity was a reasonable mech? Prowl moved his opinion of Jazz a bit more towards the positive. As a result, he felt a warning of his own might be warranted. "Though I might turn my own emotional programming off for demonstrations. Are you alright with that?"

"What does that mean?" Jazz asked, before he agreed to anything this scheming mech offered.

"It means that my own emotional reaction in that time span will differ from what you are used to. While there are not big changes to be expected in my regard towards you, some mechs in the past have..." Prowl stopped, clearly not happy, "have reacted distressed."

"Distressed?"  Jazz laughed. "What did ya do? Insult their carrier or something?"

"Worse, in a way," admitted Prowl, nearly embarrassed. "I became obsessed over the few comments two mechs had made during the last vorn. I analyzed them and their behavior out loud in front of a whole group and claimed that they were cheating with each other on their respective lovers. It did not help, I was right."

Jazz blinked a couple of times before he burst out laughing, again not prompted by the program. Finally he clapped his hands a couple of times, "Bravo! Now that sounds like fun! You sure you're in the right field? Seems like Rung may have found his match the psychology field." 

Even though Prowl's emotional range as restricted by his own programming, he answered the laughter with a smile. "Rung commented, that I am too much in love with the truth to become a good psychologist. For some unexplainable reason, most mechs do not like bluntness."

Jazz smirked, "That’s cuz some things, when not said out loud, one can pretend they don't exist. Mechs don't take kindly to others proving them wrong." He then stood from his seat and looked down at Prowl, "I better get going then. Have to prep and all that slag. But so far, you are the only one who knows about my little program. I will know if you open your mouth." 

"I haven't told anyone in 32 vorns, I see no reason anymore why to change that now," said Prowl. "The recommendation to Rung has been deleted, I will take care of any subsequent questions." Prowl flicked his doorwings down. "The mission details will appear in your inbox in six joors, feel free do contact me for any questions afterwards. And would you do me a favor...?"

"Favor?" Jazz asked, curious.

"Yes." Prowl ducked down behind his desk, and came up holding a square. "When you go out, please put that on my door." He held out a shield that read 'Tactical meeting in progress. Do not disturb or suffer the consequences.' "All this has not helped my headache and I require a break right now."

Jazz couldn't help it. He laughed again. He should cause this mech headache more often if it brought out this side of him out. The program stayed dormant for the rest of the night, the smile real on Jazz's face as he happily placed the sign on the door, whistling to himself as he headed for his quarters.