Blaster is playing 'Call Me Maybe' again. Jazz can see Ironhide's already looking annoyed about it, but then Ironhide's music tastes reside firmly in the 'Southern twang' section. At the same time, fifteen times in one day is probably a bit much over the airwaves. Jazz hits the comm-link in between signing off on mission reports from Hound.
"Yo, Blaster," he calls, "try mixing it up, old Ironhide's looking like he wants to introducepoor Miss Carly Rae Jepsen to a squishy end."
"Again?" Blaster answers, "man, he needs to chill out."
Then Blaster puts on AC/DC. Jazz bobs his head to the beat, reading over a report from Bumblebee about Decepticon movements in Seattle, and hides a smile when he sees Ironhide start tapping his fingers along, too.
Maybe Ironhide has expanded his musical horizons lately. Jazz is glad for that.
"Hey, Prowl," Jazz calls over his shoulder, and Prowl answers over Jazz's comm link.
"Yes, Jazz," he says, sounding distracted.
"D'you see this report from Bee about 'Cons in Seattle?"
"Yes," Prowl says, after a moment, "do you have anything to add?"
"Just that it sounds like that attack on Chicago," Jazz says, remembering it, "the one with Soundwave and his cassettes?"
When Prowl answers this time, he sounds more focused. "I'd noticed that," he admits, "but it looks like the early stages od their activities. I was hoping to send Mirage and Smokescreen to patrol."
"I'd like to do it instead," Jazz says, "if it's Soundwave I think this could use a more--personal touch, from me."
"...and," Prowl says.
"And there's a music fest in Seattle this weekend," Jazz admits.
Silence from Prowl for a moment. Then Jazz's comm crackles back to life--he's going to have to get that fixed, his left audial is really tinny all of a sudden. "Take someone with you."
"Anyone?" Jazz asks.
"I'm going to regret this," Prowl says, "yes. Anyone. Provided they're not going to lay waste to half of Seattle."
"Would I do that to you?" Jazz asks.
"Jazz," Prowl says, and hangs up.
When Jazz reports to medbay to get his audial looked at, he's greeted by Sideswipe lying over a medbay berth. His left leg is still shorn off at the knee after an accident with Seeker Surfing (Jazz is fairly sure Ratchet is holding off re-installing his leg as punishment, though as for who he can't tell). "Jazz!" Sideswipe says, posing.
"Sideswipe," Jazz greets, and they launch into their twenty-five part, minute-and-a-half long secret handshake. They're finishing off the last part of finger wiggles when Ratchet re-enters the medbay, looking harried, and spots them.
"What do you want," Ratchet demands.
"Left audial's acting up," Jazz says, reaching up and tapping, "it's crackling all my comms and I'm headed out to track Soundwave, so can you take a look, Doc?"
"Stop calling me that," Ratchet says, and motions for Jazz to sit down on an empty bay. Ratchet works briskly to detach Jazz's helm and begins to fiddle with the wires. Three wire replacements later, Ratchet motions at Sideswipe. "Test his comms."
"Sideswipe to Jazz, over," Sideswipe intones dutifully.
"Hearing you loud and clear, Sideswipe, over," Jazz answers, and points a thumbs up at Ratchet. Ratchet's optics flicker in irritation, and then he sets about closing Jazz's head back up.
"That's a temp fix, I need you back in here in a week to replace the tympanic mechanism," Ratchet says, when he's done, "I don't have a spare on hand. Don't get your head wet, it'll zap the mechanism and you'll be deaf in that audial." Ratchet taps the left side of his head, hard.
Jazz winces, and nods. "Shouldn't be a problem, Ratchet," he says, and hops up off the berth. "Sideswipe, ol' buddy, don't drive Ratchet to murder, we've got Criminal Minds to catch up on."
Sideswipe laughs, and offers Jazz a mocking salute. "Good luck in Seattle," he says.
"Oh, I will," Jazz says.
Blaster is nestled in Jazz's front seat. They're jamming to the Avengers soundtrack because Eject apparently 'wouldn't shut up about it', and by the time they get to Seattle Jazz is more pumped for the music festival than ever.
"Blaster, my man, we gotta catch Soundwave and company quick, y'dig?"
"I dig," Blaster calls back, and that's really all Jazz needs to hear.
"All right," Jazz says, "we're gonna start at the center of Bee's report and circle out."
"Sounds good," Blaster says, and Jazz turns abruptly to get toward the center of town, which Bumblebee's report had been particular about mentioning.
They're two blocks out from their planned epicenter when the EMP blasts through the area. Jazz manages to send out half a distress call before everything goes black.
When Jazz comes to (half an hour later by his internal chronometer), he's alone. Blaster is very, very gone, and when Jazz tries to reach him there's no response. After a short moment of panic, Jazz tries HQ.
Red Alert picks up. "Jazz," he says, "we recieved a strange signal from you, and it's been impossible to raise you or Blaster. What's going on?"
"Woah, Red, slow down, I can barely understand you. Blaster's gone," Jazz says, "we got hit by a small-scale EMP and went offline. I'm getting no answer from the Blast-man at all. Can you raise him?"
There's a pause. Then Red Alert comes back over the comm. "Nothing," he says. He sounds more nervous now. "Jazz, is there any indication of where he could be? Any evidence at all?"
"I'm looking," Jazz says, in the middle of scans. "No--wait. There's a small energon sample, it looks fresh. Can't tell who it's from, but it doesn't look like a strain we get at base."
"It's likely a Decepticon strain, then," Red Alert says, "they have about fifteen different kinds and growing, I still don't have samples of everything, since they bother leaving evidence around anywhere helpful. I'm sending out Hound."
Jazz's private email pings. "Wait a sec, Red," Jazz says, already reading it.
Subject: Your friend
You have three hours.
"I have three hours," Jazz says, "Soundwave sent a message to my personal email."
"What?!" And then Red Alert is off again, in a rant that starts at Soundwave kidnapping Blaster, and ends somewhere around Jazz even having a private email.
"I need somewhere to keep my etsy alerts," Jazz says defensively. "Anyway, I don't have time to wait for Hound. I'm going ahead."
Jazz widens his scanner ranger, and realizes the strange energon trails back toward the theater district. "I'm going into the theater district," he says, and turns around, driving down the block at a snail's pace as he follows the trail. "I bet there's some awful trap at the end of this," he grumbles.
"There is always an awful trap at the end," Prowl says, suddenly.
"Prowl!" Jazz says, "good to hear someone who doesn't make me wanna launch into spontaneous circuit failure outta panic."
"Jazz, please," Prowl says, "I believe we have been duped."
"Me too," Jazz agrees, "all those prep steps were a ruse so they could do this. Bet Soundwave could guess I'd handle this myself."
"That seems likely," Prowl agrees, "is there any deviance from the trail yet?"
"No," Jazz reports, "looks like he wants me to follow him straight back."
"I can't imagine this is going to end well," Prowl says.
"Yeah, me neither," Jazz admits, "but I'm not leavin' Blaster to Soundwave's tender mercies, y'know? I'll be in contact."
"All right. The cavalry is on its way, Jazz," Prowl says, "please attempt not to reach deactivation before they arrive."
"I hear you loud and clear, Prowl ol' buddy," Jazz says, feeling a wave of affect for the Autobot tactician.
The trail is obnoxiously linear, like Soundwave thinks Jazz is an idiot. Jazz would be insulted if he weren't relieved that he doesn't have to wander around looking for Blaster. It leads Jazz straight through the busy theater district and out of the city, into the sparsely populated area north of the city, and putters out on farmland so barren it looks like it's been abandoned for years.
Jazz transforms, and peers around the farmhouse at the end of the field seems like the most likely candidate, and Jazz trudges over the grass. "Soundwave," he calls, between attempting to raise Blaster on the comm unsuccessfully. "Anybody there?"
"Yo," says a voice near his feet, and Jazz looks down to see Rumble looking up at him. The Cassetticon looks simultaneously puffed up with attitude and nervous, his hands set firmly on his hips and his shoulder high.
"Rumble," Jazz says, "where's my buddy Blaster?"
"Inside, Autobot," Rumble says, "and no funny business, or we'll take him apart piece by piece."
Jazz ducks into the farm house. Blaster is in robot mode, tucked up against one wall with dark optics, which explains the dead comms. Soundwave is across from him, his Cassettes gathered around his feet and and a rifle laid across his thighs. Soundwave glances up at him, and his visor flickers in recognition.
Jazz's email dings.
I require assistance.
"Can't you talk?" Jazz asks, confused.
I am unable to hear you.
Jazz types out a reply.
Are you trying to tell me you're deaf?
That appears to be the case.
You will replace my tympanic mechanism with
one of your Communications Officer's, or
I will detonate another short-range EMP,
this time within his spark casing.
Jazz ducks to fiddle open Blaster's chest casing, and sure enough, there's a device wired to Blaster's outer spark casing.
That's what the timer's for.
That is correct.
Jazz groans. "All right," he says, "all right, fine. Let me hail Ratchet."
He opens his commlink. "Ratchet," he says, and apparently the urgency he's feeling makes its way into his voice, because Ratchet answers immediately.
"Jazz," he says, "what's wrong?"
"Soundwave's got an EMP device attached to Blaster's outer spark casing and wants me to do some amateur surgery to replace one of his tympanic mechanisms with Blaster's."
Ratchet says a couple of words that makes Jazz wince by proxy, and then he appears to calm down. "All right, Jazz," Ratchet says, "are you ready to gain your surgery wings?"
"I guess so," Jazz says, rolling his shoulders consideringly. "Where do I start?"
"Let me fetch the one of Blaster's I just replaced--he has a specialized mechanism, which is probably why Soundwave kidnapped him in the first place. You can begin by disassembling Blaster's helm."
Jazz ducks down to kneel over Blaster, and presses the release for his visor. Next is the latch for his audial covers, which comes open after a moment of wiggling, and then Blaster's helm is open, the audial's inner workings displayed. Jazz turns on his night vision, upping the contrast to catch the details.
"I'm open," he reports to Ratchet, and there's a moment of silence before Ratchet answers.
"Wait a minute, I'm changing channels," Ratchet answers.
"Hi, Jazz," Sideswipe says.
"Sideswipe," Jazz answers, "are you gonna help me replace this mechanism, too?"
"No, I'm gonna tell you to smash his head in, obviously," Sideswipe says, and Jazz can hear him scowling.
"Not until Blaster's safe, Sideswipe," Jazz chides. "All right, Ratch, what now?"
"All right," Ratchet says, his voice gaining that edge it gets when he's taking First Aid to task for something. "First you need to grab the wire connected to the bottom of the mechanism."
Jazz swallows the urge to ask if that's the red one of the blue one, and locates the one Ratchet's talking about. "All right," he says.
"Disconnect," Ratchet says.
It's a tedious process of detaching wires and peeling away layers of more wires, and Jazz thinks he knows more than any singular 'Bot should ever know about tympanic mechanisms by the time he's got it free. Soundwave's Cassettes are watching him carefully, and Jazz thinks they're probably keeping Soundwave abreast of what's going on by email or whatever it is they run on, since he doesn't get any more emails.
I need to get into your helm to replace this, you know.
Soundwave doesn't answer him, but his visor tilts forward and his helm pops open automatically.
Will that be sufficient?
That'll work. Hold still.
Jazz finds that replacing the mechanism isn't as difficult as removing the initial one, since he's already done it once, and he only needs to check with Ratchet once, about what is apparently a Decepticon-Autobot design difference rather than Jazz being an idiot, and then it's done.
"There," Jazz says, holding the ruined mechanism between his fingertips.
"Your assistance is appreciated, Autobot," Soundwave says, and Jazz doesn't think he imagines actual gratitude.
"Now, about that EMP," Jazz says.
"The device is deactivated," Soundwave says.
Jazz resiste the urge to punch Soundwave in the face. "Was it ever activated?" he asks.
"One year ago," Soundwave says, and he sounds smug for a guy whose vocal patterns are as mechanical as possible.
"Oh get outta here," Jazz says, "I oughta shoot you, but if you're asking an Autobot for help clearing up your head you're in more trouble than I can give you."
"That is perhaps an understatement," Soundwave says, and then he and the Cassetticons are leaving.
Jazz hits his comm. "Hound, are you here?"
"I'm two minutes out, Jazz, Soundwave's been blocking your locator. Are you okay?"
"Never better," Jazz says, "Blaster's out, though, we need to haul him back."
"Of course we do," Hound deadpans. "And it's raining out near base."
"Oh, god," Jazz groans. "I'm gonna have to keep out of that, or Ratchet'll have my head."
Needless to say, Jazz does not actually manage to keep out of the rain. In his defense, he's helping Hound get Blaster under the roof, so when he experiences the disorienting feeling of going suddenly deaf in one audial he's got an excuse for Ratchet.
That doesn't mean Ratchet doesn't scowl at both him and Blaster (once he's conscious and deactivated-EMP-free) and threaten to remove their vocoders in return for replacing their audials.
Blaster plays Call Me Maybe for three days straight as revenge; Jazz doesn't think anyone can begrudge him that. (Except, maybe, Prowl, whom he catches humming it at all hours of the night, and looking put out about it.)