Jazz lounged on the floor, absently watching the TV with Bulkhead; the whole week had been weird in the worst possible way. Silently, Jazz swore to himself that he’d make sure he was posted to the other side of the planet next time Wheeljack demonstrated a new toy. The thingamajig had exploded spectacularly and when the smoke had cleared, he and Prowl had found themselves here. Here had turned out to be Detroit, years in what for them was the future, and sure, it was still Earth but in a ‘not as we know it Jim’ kind of way.
He rolled his neck and caught sight of what for him was the biggest, weirdest bit about this whole thing. Sat calmly meditating in the middle of the warehouse floor, was Prowl. Not his Prowl. His Prowl was, well, prowling about the city with Prime, which was another big flip out point. Jazz knew intellectually that Prime must have been a youngling at some point in his life but he was so conditioned to think of Prime as the mature, courageous, competent warrior and leader that this younger, inexperienced, green mech was giving him trouble. Sighing deeply, Jazz returned his attention to the TV, trying not to think to hard about how they were going to get home. His audios picked up the faint rumble of Prime’s engine approaching the base.
“Primes back.” Jazz announced to the room.
“How’d you know?” Bulkhead asked, staring at the slight mech sprawled on the ground.
“He may be Vorns younger than my Prime,” Jazz replied, grinning “but his engine is just as unmistakable.”
“You have good audios.” Prowl remarked suddenly, breaking his silence.
“In ma job if ya can’t hear death comin’ for ya, he’s gonna take ya.” Jazz shrugged.
Prowl smiled slightly; yes, this Jazz reminded him of his Jazz. Outgoing, likable, friendly and utterly deadly and ruthless when necessary. Perhaps there might be a chance for them to develop more than a friendship, if they ever meet again and if he could clear his name and regain his honour. The sound of Prime’s transformation sequence echoed in the room but under it, Prowl thought he caught the faint sound of movement in the rafters. He sank back into his meditation trance, extending his sense outwards, aware of Jazz straining his audios and visor to track the same thing, all the while apparently totally absorbed in his conversation with Prime.
“So, ah, what’d ya do with Prowler?” Jazz asked, noticing that the tactician was conspicuous by his absence from Prime’s side.
“He found the chess games in the park,” Optimus replied “he said he’d catch up later.”
Jazz grinned and got to his feet. Just as he opened his mouth to speak, Prowl felt a shape drop out of the rafters directly above him.
Throwing himself into a sideways roll he tossed a couple of stars up at the intruder, who twisted nimbly out of their path to land in a crouch, with almost no sound. The head rose and two optics fixed him with a piercing, challenging stare before the mech launched himself across the space that separated them. Prowl gained his feet and struck at the mech’s shoulder as he came within reach, spun round out of the way and made a grab at a wing, to be foiled by his assailant, twisting so that both wings were out of grabbing reach and instead clamped a firm hand around Prowl’s upper arm. Prowl fell backwards, dragging the other mech off balance and threw him over as he rolled back to his feet, getting a good look at his opponent.
The mech rolled gracefully across both black and white wings and came up into stance facing Prowl, optics glowing with laughter and a superior smile tugging his lips up.
“Prowler!” Jazz exclaimed, stunned by his friend’s unexpected behaviour “What the glitch are you playing at?”
“A different type of chess.” The Datsun responded, not breaking optic contact with his counterpart
“Indeed.” Prowl added, settling into a stance of his own.
Prime and co looked at Jazz, who smacked the palm of his hand to his helmet. He’d forgotten that his Prowler was a master of Diffusion, a side effect of the tactician not being allowed into many close-quarter fights by other mechs, who mistook lack of physical strength for vulnerability on the battlefield.
The two Prowls’s were circling each other warily, exhibiting a deadly grace and infinite patience, looking for the tactical edge. The black and gold motorcycle flipped his extended hand over so the palm faced up and made a ‘come and get it’ motion at the police car.
Prowler’s smile got wider and he feinted forward and left, whipping his right door wing across Prowl’s face, catching the edge of his optics and forcing him to turn his head and spin round, but a black leg snaked out and tangled itself in a white ankle, tripping both of them to the floor. They grappled for a few moments, neither gaining the upper hand before they came to rest at Prime’s feet.
“Uh don’t you think you’re a little, old, to be rolling round the floor like sparklings?” Optimus asked, amused and impressed that the other Prowl had not only got the drop on his team mate but had given as good as he’d got.
The Datsun who was on top leaned back and propped himself up on a door wing, a speculative look on his face and mused “A formal fight? I suppose we could.” He looked down at the motorcycle, who was flat on his back questioningly.
“Why not.” Was the ninja’s response, “It’s been a long time since I had a formal duel.”
Rolling backwards onto his feet, the black and white considered the warehouse “We need a marked arena, and two judges.”
A gold and black hand was extended and waved at Jazz and Optimus “One from each camp. We can use the empty drums and some string for a boundary.” The ninja paused and then said “Forgive the question but can you use a blade?”
“Yes.” The 2IC responded, “Although no one aboard the Ark is of a sufficient standard to give me a challenging match.”
Whatever response Prowl would have made was lost under the crash and rattle of Bulkhead setting down four drums in a square that covered a large portion of the free space in the warehouse and Bee looping some brightly coloured tape around them. Job complete, they joined Ratchet and Sari in the middle of one of the long sides and looked at both Prowls expectantly.
The motorcycle bowed at the waist and gestured for the other to lead. The Datsun bowed in return and walked with a fluid grace into the arena, the two judges followed behind.
//Um, Jazz, // Optimus broadcast over a private line //I don’t actually know anything about judging this kind of contest. //
//Don’t sweat lubricant over it Prime, // Jazz responded //all we really need ta do is start the fight and call a kill when we see it. //
//Oh. Will it come to that? // Optimus asked.
//They’re not actually gonna kill each other, // Jazz reassured him //but the fight isn’t over till one of ‘em strikes what would be a killing blow, if they followed it through. //
Optimus looked sideways at Jazz and then dubiously at the two mechs who were stretching at opposite ends of the arena. As if divining his hesitation at allowing the fight, both mechs came and stood side by side, facing him and Jazz. The Datsun brought his right fist into the upraised palm of his left hand, brought both hands to his left shoulder and stepped back with the left foot bowing low from the waist as he did so, optics never leaving the two mechs who stood before him. The motorcycle crossed both hands in front of his spark chamber, hands upright, palms facing away from each other, dropped his right shoulder and bowed, his optics also remaining fixed on the judges.
Stepping back and apart they faced each other and repeated their bows and stood waiting. Jazz walked round the arena until he was the opposite side from Optimus, running an optic over the scene he privately started to record events.
“Stance.” Jazz barked sharply.
Both mechs snapped into their starting stances, optics locked. The rest of the world faded from existence. All there was, all that mattered, was the other mech. A stillness descended on the room; the deep breath before the plunge.
“Fight!” Jazz cried.
It was impossible to tell who moved first; blows where struck and blocked so fast that the combatants’ limbs seemed almost to blur. The Datsun feinted right and then spun left, catching a black wrist and pulling the motorcycle off balance, but the mech countered by simply spinning all the way round, breaking the grip and upsetting the others balance in the process. The ninja leapt and aimed a roundhouse kick at the nearest door wing, which somehow was swung up to be horizontal to the floor, allowing his feet to pass harmlessly beneath.
The fight continued in the same eerie silence, the only sound the clash of armour on armour and the impact of body parts on the floor as the two twisted and turned, struck and blocked.
Then suddenly, Prowler bent backwards, passing under a blow and supported by both wings, brought his legs up and lashed out at his opponent’s waist, sending the lighter mech flying. Prowl engaged his jet pack to hover for a moment, considering. It had been a very long time since he’d had a match that was this even and it would be a shame not to see just how good his other self really was. Powering back to the floor, hard and fast he engaged his hologram, projecting it to land just behind the Datsun, who’d rolled over his wings to his feet while he actually came down in front of the mech.
Prowler instantly noticed the discrepancy in the other’s flight path and grinned to himself; he was having the time of his existence. The last mech who’d been at his level had been his old friend and sparing partner, Wave, way back before the war had started; time to see just how good this mech was in comparison. Leaping forward he caught the ninja around the waist and sent him rolling across the floor.
The bout continued like this for a few more minutes. Each trick and hologram the ninja tried was countered blisteringly fast by the Datsun, who in turn found each move he pulled reacted to with a speed no other mech he’d ever sparred with had come close to approaching.
Jazz was fighting down his grin as the bout progressed. His Prowler hadn’t had such fun in vorns. He wasn’t a slouch at hand to hand but he always wound up face down with one of Prowler’s hands in a killing position very quickly. Sari cried out, drawing Jazz’s attention back to the arena. A flash of metal betrayed a weapon and as the two came to a stop, he saw that the ninja had drawn two long curved swords. In response, his Prowler had unsheathed his long knives and all four blades were locked together at the guard.
A tenser silence crept around the watchers as both fighters spun away and danced back together, blades slicing the air and glinting in the light. Jazz gazed on admiringly as the pair spun and stepped around, lunge and retreat, parry and riposte, slice and block, in a beautiful deadly dance that stretched for ten minutes before….
“Kill!” both Jazz and Optimus called at the same time.
At the call both fighters stilled abruptly, neither moving, allowing the rest of the company to see the result. Prowler had one long knife pressed into the ninja’s throat, over his main energon lines, while one of Prowl’s swords was wedged point up underneath the Datsun’s grill, just where his spark case rested higher in his chest.
Prowl studied the tactician and then asked “You left yourself open to my blade, why?”
Stepping back, Prowler smiled softly and replied “Purposely throwing away your life in a fight is a bad idea, and one I discourage amongst the ranks as much as possible. Sometimes, however, you’ll come up against an opponent who you can’t take down except by disregarding your own survival and giving it everything. If we were truly on opposing sides, I’d count you as foe worth sacrificing myself to take down.”
Prowl said nothing, then flipped his swords in a complicated salute and bowed low. Prowler made his own salute with his knives and returned the bow before standing up and flexing his door wings, a grimace of pain crossing his face.
“Did ya damage yourself, Prowler?” Jazz asked concerned as he stepped up to his friend.
“No,” the Datsun reassured him “it’s just that my wings aren’t used to supporting my weight in a fight anymore, I’m badly out of practise.”
“If you wish we can spar regularly while you’re here.” Prowl offered quietly.
“I’d like that. Thank you.” Prowler replied just as quietly, their conversation drowned under Bee’s enthusiastic rambling.
“OK, calm down, Bumblebee.” Optimus called out, “I think we could all do with some energon after that.”
The three mechs in the arena began to move over to the seating area, when a static hiss sounded and a voice strange to everyone but Jazz and Prowler boomed out.
“Jazz, Prowl, report.”
“Prime.” Jazz sighed in relief.
“Prime, this is Prowl, we are unharmed and safe.” Prowler stated, casting his optics about trying to locate the source of the voice.
“Thank Primus; we’ve spent the last three months looking for you.” Prime’s voice betrayed just how badly he’d been worried in that time frame.
Jazz and Prowler exchanged a look, they’d only been here a week.
“Can ya get us home?” Jazz asked the ceiling.
A heated muffled off-mic discussion could be heard before Prime’s voice overrode the debate and suddenly, in mid air above Bee’s head, Sideswipe’s head and shoulders appeared.
“Whoa!” Sideswipe exclaimed, getting a good look at the other occupants on the room.
“Who’s this?” Prowl asked, staring intently at the red and black mech.
“Half of the bane of my existence.” Prowler muttered before introducing Sideswipe to the other Autobots.
Sideswipe stared at Prowl and Prowler before shuddering convulsively.
“What’s wrong Sides?” Sunstreaker’s voice called out.
“Two Prowls.” Sideswipe replied before a grin split his face “Twice the amount of trouble to get into.”
Prowler groaned and glared at the unrepentant mech. Jazz laughed as Prowl subjected Sideswipe to a very similar glare.
“Optimus, Bee, Bulkhead, Ratchet, Sari, Prowl, it’s been fun but we’ve gotta go.” Jazz said, walking over to stand underneath Sideswipe head. “That a hole we need ta jump though Sides?”
“Yep.” The twin replied, “better make it quick, ‘Jacks not sure how long it’s gonna stay open once I step out of it.”
Prowler faced his counterpart and pulled a knife out of subspace, twirled it and presented it hilt first over his crossed wrists “As a token of my respect for a fellow warrior and for remembrance of another life you might have lived.”
Prowl respectfully took the knife and tucking it away, drew one of his swords and saluted the black and white with it before offering it to him over his outstretched palms.
With as much respect and ceremony the Datsun lifted the blade; both saluted the other with the exchanged weapons before Prowler walked to stand next to Jazz.
Looking up at Optimus, Prowler said “My duty and honour to have served with you, Prime and my pleasure and privilege to have known you.”
Optimus bowed his head and blushed slightly at the compliment and replied “And all of ours to have know both of you. Good luck in your fight.”
“Hey Prowl,” Jazz called “if I ever show up, tell me I said hi and that if he ever makes it to ma universe, he should look me up.”
Prowl nodded and smiled. He wasn’t sure the universe was ready for two Jazz’s working together. Sideswipe pulled his head out of the breach and Jazz and Prowler leapt through, seconds later a corona of energy marked the closing of the rift. Prowl looked down at the knife he held and saw that one side of the blade had words engraved on it.
Holding it so it caught the light, he read: “He has honour if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct, though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so.”
Smiling at the aptness of the quote to his own situation, he walked back to his room, where he carefully slotted the knife into a display stand before he settled down to meditate under the spreading braches of his tree.