Chapter 1: Favours between friends
Request: At one point Prowl asked Jazz if anyone would bother to tell him if Jazz... didn't come back from a mission. Jazz said he would get Hound to do it.
Timing: part 4, chapter 5
Hound came out of recharge disoriented, his chronometer cheerfully telling him that he was only one third of the way through his charging period. A blinking symbol on his HUD indicated why he had woken: a message from Meister.
With a groan, he sat up and ran a quick reboot of his systems, trying to think why Meister would want him for a meeting now. Nothing obvious came to mind and he gave up trying: the mercurial saboteur was always hard to predict.
Mirage stirred as he rose, but Hound patted his arm and murmured for him to return to charge. No point both of them being disturbed.
At least the rendezvous point Meister had set was nearby. It only took half a breem to get to the briefing room, and he found Meister staring out the porthole into space.
"I need a favour done. Personal, not work."
"By me?" Hound was surprised.
Meister usually turned to Mirage for these things when they came up. They had known each other much longer than Hound had been part of the team, after all. On the other hand, there was no reason why he shouldn't help: Meister had certainly done enough to help him in the past, including encouraging Mirage to give him a chance.
"Sure. What do you need?"
"If I get killed out there, would you tell Prowl so he's not waitin' for me t'come back?"
Hound gaped. Ops agents generally avoided ties to non-ops personnel, and Meister was the epitome of an ops agent. In his on-ship role of "Jazz" he had had lovers, certainly, and had plenty of friends too, but none of them were special in any way.
"Does Curveball know you're committed?" he blurted without thinking.
"I ain't committed. Prowl's just... Never mind why: I'd like him to know, that's all."
"Well sure, I can do it. But won't he think that's strange, me just coming up to tell him?"
"Nah, he'll be expectin' it." Meister shook his head. "He knows we're friends, an' he knows you'll hear before anyone else."
Hound suddenly understood why he was doing this rather than Mirage. Everyone knew that Mirage worked for Curveball, but most assumed that Hound was just his sparkmate, not an agent too. It would be okay for Prowl to know "Jazz" was friends with Hound, but to know that he was friends with the notoriously unfriendly spy would raise questions.
More interesting, though, and far more worrying, was the thought that Meister might have fallen for someone. Would this make him more cautious for his lover's sake; or more reckless to get through his missions quicker?
"I'll do it." he confirmed. "But I don't want to. You make sure I don't have to, y'hear?"
Meister gave him a slow sardonic smile and headed for the door.
"I'll do my very best, an' y'know my best is very good. Give my regards t'Raj - Jazz's gotta do his exit scene now, headin' off in search o'supplies an' a bolthole t'hide in. I gotta get ready."
Chapter 2: Rewriting the job description
Request: when Tripwire and the others found out who the conspirators trying to kill Prowl were.
Timing: part 7, chapter 5
Tripwire sighed, glowering at the pile of work still to be done, then opened the next file and set in to it.
He had always been a mech who liked order. Before the war he had been an Enforcer based in Polyhex and his earliest impressions of the war had been of the chaos it created. Working his way up to his current position, he had approved of the rigid hierarchy. Mecha should know their jobs, and stick to them. Medics should concentrate on medical matters; supply staff on stores; soldiers on fighting; security staff on discipline.
The Ark's carefully structured order had been disrupted in recent vorns, and he did not like it.
It was not so much that he disapproved of how good Prowl was at maintaining discipline with the crew, he told himself. The mech was efficient and fair and remarkably good at identifying the culprits: these were all good things. No, the problem was firstly that it was not part of the strategy team's role, secondly that Prowl was too valuable in the strategy team to be transferred into security, and thirdly that when he went away - like he was now, on Kalisi - everything fell apart.
"I'm busy, Offcut, can it wait?"
"It's important, sir."
"Well hurry up, then." he frowned as his lieutenant closed the door. "What is it?"
"It's about the attacks on Chief Prowl, sir. It's Acetone."
"He's found who's involved?" Tripwire perked up at the thought of being able to recall the other mech and clearing his desk.
"No sir. He's involved."
Acetone? The squad leader in charge of Prowl's safety? The mech who had done all of the investigating to this point? Surely not.
"Who says so?"
A junior communications ensign? How would he know?
Accepting the datapad Offcut was holding out, he skimmed through the content. Apparently Blaster - a comms mech from Ovacalix, of all places - had traced some unusual signals back to a junior comms officer called Outcry and when he decrypted it he found sensitive information. He had passed it back to Signalfire who had been visiting Ovacalix, who had started his own investigation and made the link to Acetone.
It was tangled enough to make his processor ache, but the data was compelling and there was a lot of it.
"Who knows of this?" he asked, reading on.
"Just me, sir. I... well you see..."
Tripwire grunted, not looking up.
"I know about you moving in with Signalfire. Did you tell him about our investigation?"
"No, sir! I didn't mention a thing. He brought this to me because he didn't know what to do with it. It's not his area, you know. And he reports to Outcry. Well, his shift boss does. He couldn't show it to anyone else."
"Mm. Alright. Have Signalfire come here at the start of the next shift."
"I think he has courier duty..."
"Then someone can cover for him."
Acetone, Tripwire marvelled. It had never occurred to him to suspect him.
After Quickquadrant had been exposed, he had shuffled all of the staff assigned to the Tactical office just in case there were others involved. Acetone had previously been working in the brig. Had he already been a Decepticon agent then, or had he been converted later? Who was in charge here, and how did they get their orders?
He opened a communications channel to call Curveball in to tell him, then paused and closed it again.
He had no doubts of Curveball's loyalty, but this was a security matter. He would handle it. It was his job, after all.
And then he would get Prowl back to deal with the rest of this dross, whether he had found some adequate assistants or not!
Chapter 3: Naivete
Request: a scene where Prowl and Sunstreaker interact without Sideswipe as a buffer
Timing: part 9, chapter 3 (before Nolan's threats)
Sunstreaker leaned against the wall, arms folded, bored to distraction.
Sideswipe was off somewhere with Camber until tomorrow collecting resources so there was no chance of a reprieve: today he was utterly stuck with Prowl. And since the mech was basically just a drone the way he did nothing but work, that meant spending an entire orn being rusted into place just standing here.
Prowl had been sitting at that desk since before dawn and it was now nearly dusk. No-one had interrupted them for the past 1.72 joors - he had been keeping count - and once it got dark there would definitely be no more interruptions. Nolan's staff always clocked off shift at sunset. Prowl never did.
"You may sit down if you wish - you are not required to stand." Prowl offered unexpectedly, the first words spoken in groons.
"What makes you think I want to sit?"
"I've done longer duty shifts than this, standing."
"I'm sure. I'm simply pointing out that you need not do so this time."
"Why? Because you're going to keep working til I drop offline?"
Prowl did not answer.
"It won't make them respect you, you know." Sunstreaker offered after pause.
"I don't need their respect."
"Yeah you do. It'd make all this easier, for a start."
"It will get done either way."
"But it's not what you deserve."
Prowl actually stopped typing to look up at him.
"What I deserve." he echoed. "Surely respect is earned, not expected."
"You're the CTO. You've won us hundreds of battles. You shouldn't have to do any more."
"Clearly this is not enough."
"They just don't like you because you're bringing the war back to them. They've been hiding from it all this time. The whole lot of'em are cowards."
"They are Autobots." Prowl corrected him. "And as such, they must follow orders and do their duty as required."
"Never knew you were that naive."
Prowl continued to look at him for a long moment.
"What?" Sunstreaker asked eventually, irritated by the silent stare.
"Perhaps you are right." Prowl mused, the admission nearly startling Sunstreaker into falling.
"Nevertheless, I do not have time to cater to their insecurities." Prowl continued, returning to his work. "They will simply have to become accustomed to me, and I'm sure that that will come in time."
"What makes you so sure?"
"I was once told much the same about you and your brother."
Chapter 4: Something to savour
Request: a scene where Jazz is pretending to be someone else (either before he meets Prowl or on one of his trips while setting up his current job)
Timing: Jazz's first trip to Darkmount, pre-Part 1 but referred to in part 3, chapter 4
The new arrival was trying to be discreet, but was also clearly trying to get a good look at everyone and everything. The minicon Smokecloud, called Cloudy by most, exchanged an amused look with Rumble as they brought up the rear of the small group.
Frequency had reached Darkmount the previous orn, requesting transfer to the communications unti. The records claimed he had been fighting in one of the units near Vos, but a couple of groons' work had uncovered some inconsistencies in his documentation.
Much more likely he was an Autobot spy.
It was possible that he was what he said he was. Or at least mostly what he said he was; no-one's background was completely clean. Either way it worked in their favour: they had a new communications specialist, or they had a new source of information for Soundwave to analyse.
Communications was Soundwave's area, not even the guards came inside unless they were part of his unit. It kept everything secure. And if anyone was found to be wavering in their loyalty to Megatron, Soundwave dealt with them personally.
The thought made Cloudy's amusement fade. He was only here today because one of the other workers had caught a rust infection and Soundwave liked to use minibots as escorts. Probably made him feel superior... Cloudy clamped down on that thought hurriedly, ducking his head. Everyone knew Soundwave could read thoughts and it was not a good idea to annoy the boss.
"So you're from Perihex?" Rumble asked casually.
The new mech was startled to be addressed, having been staring at some crates being loaded into a shuttle.
"Yeah. I was a shipping coordinator."
"Nice job. You liked it?"
"Most civvies went Neutral or Autobot." Rumble continued casually. "Why'd you choose Megatron?"
"Well he's going to win, right? It's just a matter of time. No point fighting it."
"Smokecloud." Soundwave interrupted, not turning. "Remain."
Cloudy grimaced but did not complain and took up a guard post outside the building they had arrived at as Rumble followed Soundwave and the newbie in. He wished he were back in the barracks. He had a nice cube of midgrade that was just what he felt like right now.
A joor passed. If he had been on any other duty he would have wandered off by now - but not with Soundwave. No, he had to remain in place until he was given permission to leave. Everyone knew that.
The door finally opened, but it was the new mech and he was alone. Strange. Still, not Cloudy's place to question. The mech walked hurriedly - somewhat nervously - away from the building and disappeared around a corner.
A groon later, Rumble came rushing out.
"Where is he?"
"Who? Oh, the newbie? He left - went that way."
"Why didn't you stop him?"
"I wasn't told to. I followed my orders." he added defensively. "I was to stay here. Here. Right here."
Rumble cursed and raced off in the direction Cloudy had pointed, where the other mech had gone. Others swarmed in that direction, clearly alerted, and Cloudy sighed. Turned out he was right: the new mech was a spy after all. Not his problem, though. He stuck to his orders.
Later, when he was finally relieved of his post, he arrived back at his quarters and opened the cupboard containing the long-savoured cube of mid-grade. He never got this out when others were around or he would have to share. He did not want to share. He dared not even get it out if Soundwave was nearby in case he mentioned it to one of his cassettes. He definitely did not want to share with them.
Grinning to himself, he reached in to where it was stored, but his hand touched something else. A datapad? What was that doing in there? Pulling it out he found it contained a small number of music files. One of them seemed familiar and he absently selected it to play.
With the first notes, the fog disappeared from his mind. Meister glanced around the room at the signs that would tell him if anyone had intruded. No-one had. The cube of mid-grade that was the key to his cover, the item that dominated his role's thoughts, remained untouched.
Wasting no time, he opened his chest armour and then his spark chamber. A tiny data-recorder was stored there and he quickly stored the data he had gathered today before concealing it again. If anyone got so far as looking there, they would already know what he was and he would already be in a lot of trouble.
Of course, if the medics ever realised what he was doing, he would be in a different lot of trouble. He was careful, he knew what he was doing.
Moving across the room he pulled out an empty cube from the disposal - the same one he had been using for this purpose for over a vorn - and returned to kneeling in front of the cupboard. A final glance around the room for a sign that Mirage had come looking for him, to tell him it was time to leave, but no there was no signal. So he settled the datapad back into the cupboard and awkwardly triggered the first track on the datapad.
Cloudy shook off his daze and frowned down at the empty cube. Had he finished it already? A shame, he must make an effort to savour it more, his supply would run out fast if he didn't.
Closing the cupboard he threw the cube casually into the disposal and headed for the berth. He still felt undercharged, but not so much that he wanted to waste another cube. No, he would fuel up at the commissary tomorrow morning, and save his special brew for another time.
Chapter 5: Observation
Request: an interaction between Prowl and Prime, from Prime's point of view, i.e. what does Optimus think of his tactician right now (when his actual age is unknown)
Timing: between parts 7 and 8, after Prowl returns from Kalisi Station
Optimus stepped into the doorway, watching his Chief Tactical Officer work.
Prowl was so quiet and self-contained that it was easy to overlook all the things he did. But while the mech had beeen away he found himself turning to get Prowl's opinion, or opening a comm channel to ask a question, or looking for the latest report which should have been on his desk by this time of the orn.
None of the command team had ever really been close. Tripwire and Broadcast had their own interests, Quickquadrant had been standoffish, Ratchet fought acceptance of any responsibility beyond his medical bay and Curveball was not close to anyone.
At first, Optimus had thought that Prowl fitted into the group perfectly. He was restrained, respectful, more disposed to listen than to interrupt though he could certainly get a point across when needed.
But once he was off-ship, Optimus realised that the group dynamic had changed.
With Prowl around meetings were more productive, more efficient. He did not interfere in the other areas, but somehow his manner was contagious. It became almost competitive, having reports ready for discussion with all the details. Partly because if they did not, Prowl would always have a question that the others could not answer.
So perhaps it was not so much that Prowl fitted into the group, as that Prowl had fitted the group around himself.
Broadcast had been impressed by him, Tripwire approved, Ratchet was ecstatic that the casualty numbers had dropped. Even Curveball had the occasional good word to say about the CTO, and he was very hard to please.
Whatever it was, Optimus thanked Primus that he had Prowl working for him. And if anything ever happened to his Second or Third in command, he knew who he would be promoting.
"Did you need something, Optimus?" Prowl asked, noticing him at last.
That was another interesting aspect of Prowl's behaviour: he was ever-respectful, but never fawning. He was not awed by the role of Prime, he simply wanted to get on with the job.
"Some company over a cube of energon?"
Prowl cast an appraising look in his direction, making Optimus feel like a sparkling being assessed before a request was granted by his mentor. Then the Praxian nodded with a small smile and the moment passed.
"Allow me to save my work and I would be happy to join you."
Chapter 6: Necessity
Request: a scene involving those responsible for Prowl's creation (mentor, engineer, medic), pre or post activation, either would be excellent. It's fine if names are not named.
Timing: Approximately 30 vorns before part 1 chapter 1
He paced, frustrated. They were late. Where were they?
He had been very clear about the terms of this arrangement. He would supply the programming and the frame and ensure that an appropriate mentor was found to raise him, all they needed to do was supply the spark. A simple enough task, if a distasteful one.
If only there was another way. These made sparks were abominations and he hated being forced to use one for such an important purpose. Primus had never intended their race to behave like crude organics and create life: they had Vector Sigma and the priests to ensure the controlled and dignified and blessed continuation of their race.
Correction: they had had Vector Sigma and the priests.
He flushed his systems with cooler air, willing himself to calm down. It was the fault of this war. The war that had cost them almost their entire culture. Hundreds of thousands had died and not been replaced. Traditions had been lost, quite possibly forever. Millennia of careful development according to Primus's will had been shattered in just a few short centuries.
The war had to end. That was not just a wish or a desire, it was a fact. It had to end before they completely destroyed themselves. And if the wrong side finished it, then all was lost.
What the Autobots needed, more than anything, was someone who could counter the strategic planning of the Decepticons. But their ranks were made up of civilians, they did not have the programming or processing baselines to match the top military tacticians. Which was where he came in.
He did not have all these skills himself, but he saw the problem. That was enough. He gathered what he needed, made contacts, and now it all came down to this. One sparkling.
The roar of an engine caught his attention and he turned just in time to see a large jet stride into the room cradling a small casket in his hands.
"You extracted already?" he demanded before the jet could speak. "Why? You were to bring them here first! What if it had gone wrong?"
"They changed their minds." his colleague told him grimly. "They decided they didn't want to give up the sparkling. They had him extracted and tried to hide him."
Fools. What had they been planning to do? Without a frame and programming and the right equipment they could never have raised it on their own. They could even have killed it during the extraction - it was a delicate procedure. Were they crazy enough to prefer that their creation died rather than go through with the deal?
"Fine. Then give me that and you can go."
The casket was a small containment chamber. It would sustain the newspark for a short time. Long enough to ensure a safe transfer.
"What about the activation? I still haven't seen the base frame you're planning to use..."
"And you don't need to." he snapped. "I thought you said you didn't want to know the details?"
"I just want to be sure he makes it. Bad enough separating him from his carrier without even letting them see him activated - I want to be able to tell them everything went well."
"It will. Just go."
The jet looked unconvinced, but finally left. No doubt planning to come back in a few joors just to check on them.
"But we won't be here by then, will we?" he murmured as he opened the casket and stared down at the bared spark.
Strange, how a made spark looked just the same as a true blessed one from Vector Sigma. Not that it mattered. He knew of the difference, and that was enough.
"Alright." he muttered to himself, using a pair of quartz-headed tongs to lift it from the casing into the frame's core chamber, taking extra care not to touch it himself. "Lets see."
He closed the chamber, systems whirred as they started up, blue optics began to glow.
He smiled. Everything was going perfectly to plan.
Chapter 7: Logic
Request: Sometime way back (Part 3 Chapter 1, I went back to check) it was mentioned that Prowl got involved with someone after Deltaray, but before Jazz. Something about that? Who the mysterious individual was, if they're still on the flagship, etc.
Timing: After part 2, before part 3
It was a logical response to a complex problem.
His relationship with Deltaray had been the cause of a great deal of comment amongst the crew, something he had found utterly mortifying. Jazz had explained that it was because it was unusual for him to have such social contact, and that if it were less uncommon it would not have occasioned such a fuss.
So logically, he needed to have more... company.
A logical response, but not so simple to enact. He had tried approaching several others, cautiously, but they were either in existing relationships or simply not interested. And then Highjump had approached him.
The mech was certainly free with his compliments. And with his hands. Prowl did wish he were not quite so demonstrative in public, but on the other hand it did seem to have the desired effect: after awhile the gossip died down again.
Highjump did not rush him. They met after their shifts, they talked, they went to some of the off-duty entertainments.
Touching gradually shifted to include kissing, and Prowl found himself wavering between wanting more and wanting to stop. Highjump's slow approach put Deltaray's selfish rushing in stark relief, and he was grateful to have time to learn, but at the same time there was never quite the excitement he had felt with Deltaray. He just could not get enthusiastic about it.
Kissing in public then moved into kissing in private and more intimate touches. No sense of being rushed this time, but embarrassingly he found himself often waiting boredly while his lover roused out of overload. It was never that strong for him.
Perhaps he did not have the emotional programming to truly experience this? he wondered. Or perhaps it took longer to develop? That theory was dismissed the first time Highjump really paid attention to his doorwings. He had known those panels were sensitive, but had not thought of them in terms of intimacy.
Even so, it all felt like more of a chore than something he wanted.
He explained to Highjump that he wanted to end the relationship, and the other mech did not seem upset. In fact, within orns it appeared that he was sharing with someone else.
Pleased that it had ended so cleanly, he returned his focus to his work. Now that he knew about physical relationships, he could recognise the signs and avoid unfortunate entanglements. Just one more experience logged and stored. Nothing more was needed: he could function perfectly well without the support of a partner, and he would.
It was only logical.
Chapter 8: Seeing past the madness
Request: something about Quickquadrant? Like his thoughts on Prowl, Prime, Curveball, any of the other officers, or Autobots in general.
Timing: part 5
Quickquadrant accepted the datapad, noting the way Outcry held it. This was not an official communiqué, it must be handled with care.
Pacing slowly around the room, he knew his assistants thought he was keeping an optic on their work. In fact it was just a way to stop any of them chancing to see that this message was encrypted. Not that he did not receive encrypted messages from time to time, but still the less suspicion there was the safer he remained.
The content of the message soured his mood further: those he worked for wanted more detail about the upcoming run for supplies.
He turned the pad off, subspacing it, continuing to pace.
As a tactician, he knew the odds. The Autobots were losing. They had never really had a chance against the better armed, trained and resourced Decepticons. It was futile. He had realised that long before he had gotten entangled in any of this: the Autobots would lose, and helping them would only delay the inevitable.
And yet he had. Why? He did not recall. Converted by a stirring speech by the Prime, perhaps. Or more likely, a drunken declaration.
Well, it did not matter why he had done it, the fact was that he had. And another fact was that he actually liked some of his colleagues. Optimus was an inspiring leader; Ratchet and Tripwire and Broadcast were all experts; Curveball... well, Curveball was different. But all that mattered there was that the ex-Decepticon never guessed his own ambivalence.
To be fair, at first he had done what he could to turn the tide. There had been chances to turn things in favour of the Autobots, and sometimes those chances had been realised. Sometimes he began to hope.
But hope was foolish. The data did not lie. The Decepticons would win, and would annihilate anyone who stood in their way, it was only a matter of time.
His chance to survive had come by accident. A file left carelessly on his desk, and when he returned for it he found a junior security officer reading through it and making notes.
He could have turned him in to Tripwire. He should have. Instead...
His optics landed on a screen where a scenario was playing out. Predicted 92 percent success rate, nearly fifteen percent higher than any of the other suggestions.
He did not need to look at the detail to know whose work it was. Prowl.
The problem with that mech was that he truly was good at this. Not like these other idiots who Quickquadrant had carefully groomed, Prowl had a talent for strategy. He was a threat to Quickquadrant's safety and should be disposed of.
And yet, Quickquadrant was ambivalent. What if Prowl really could turn this around? What if this war truly could be won? He had made his choices long ago, on the evidence he had, but what if he had been wrong?
Shaking his head he rejected Prowl's proposal, deleting it and randomly selecting one of the others to consider.
He had to be right. Prowl was too idealistic to see the truth, that was all. And all those deaths he had... permitted... were merely an act of mercy, a way of reducing the number who would inevitably suffer Megatron's retribution when the cause was finally lost.
To believe anything else was to invite madness.
Chapter 9: Chameleon
Request: Anything PJ oriented.
Timing: before the argument about bonding in part 5
Movement roused him straight out of charge into full alertness. Where was he? Why was he so relaxed when there was someone else present?
Memory clicked in, and he stared down at the peacefully charging form beside him, one doorwing twitching faintly.
Tension draining away, he wondered idly if his lover had any idea how complicated all of this was. Or how risky, to start a relationship with an ops agent who was so often undercover.
It had happened before: accidents, innocents getting hurt because the agent briefly lost track of his situation. Not that he had ever gotten into that kind of a fix.
He never had trouble remembering who he was supposed to be.
"I'm Quartz." Background: miner.
"I'm Dustbuster." Background: maintenance worker.
"I'm Thinstripe." Background: junior medtech.
He had had a thousand names, a thousand physical appearances. On a mission he knew exactly who he was and what he was supposed to say.
"My name is Nox, I am a regulatory technician. Pleased to make your acquaintance."
"I'm Judder. Engineer. Mind where you're stepping - some of those lines're live."
"The name's Claptrap, who's asking?"
He had a goal, a purpose, something clearly defined. The few aliases he recycled had distinct personalities. None of them shared an accent or mannerisms. Endless joors in front of mirrors and around other agents trying to catch him out had assured him of that. Not that any of them knew all of his appearances.
"Excuse me, I'm new here, could you show me where I can find the administrator's office?"
"Look, I don't want to cause any trouble, I'm just here to have a good time."
"Sure I've been here before. Whaddaya mean you don't remember me? I'm hurt!"
The most difficult roles, though, were the ones he played most often. And recently, this had become the hardest one of of all.
"Jazz?" Prowl murmured, rousing. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing." he murmured, settling back down with his arm wrapped over his berthmate. "Go back into charge."
For the first time, he wished this was not just another role. He wanted this to be real, wanted to be Jazz, permanently. But all he had was the moment.
Foolish for someone such as him to want more, particularly with such an innocent as Prowl. It could never be more. He should in fact break this off now before it got any more serious.
But not tonight. Not right now. For now, he wanted to dream.
Chapter 10: Glitch
Request: early interactions between Prowl and Jazz - outtakes as it were. Perhaps daily life, or maybe moments when Prowl comes to realize what Jazz does for his work, or maybe just sweet fluffy stuff.
Timing: between Parts 4 and 5
"What's the problem?"
"I'm in trouble, I need..."
"You? Come on, you're never in trouble."
"Will you listen for a moment? I've got to talk to Ultra Helion in three groons and he's a Praxian."
"He wants to reminisce about Praxus!"
"And I've never been there!"
"Of course not, you know that. I've never even been to Cybertron, let alone a city that was destroyed at the start of the war - what am I going to say to him?"
"Tell him you forgot."
"Jazz, I came to you for help, not jokes."
"I'm serious. Tell'im your mem'ry centres got damaged an' y'don't remember. Primus knows it could even be true, the way you glitch so often."
"I dunno that this is such a great idea, Sparkles."
"I'm confident it will work. If I can learn to recognise the symptoms as they occur and divert myself before it becomes serious it will be a great improvement."
"Yeah but if you're wrong the medics're gonna convert me into a drone. It doesn't do ya any good, glitchin' all the time."
"Which is precisely why I need to practice this. Please? It's better that it happens under controlled circumstances than in a pressure situation."
"Okay. Okay, I'll try t'crash your logic centre. I'll bug ya til either y'crash or ya just can't take it no more. But remember, you started this."
"I know. So. How do we start?"
"How 'bout we go up to your office an' I frag you on your desk? Uh Prowler? Prowl? Slag. Great start."
Jazz raised his hands protectively as Clinker glared at him.
"Don't look at me, I didn't do anythin' this time!"
"This is the fifth time this decaorn!" Clinker growled.
"He just keeps freezin' up!"
"I see that. What did you do?"
"What did you do?"
"Look, all I did was ask him which he thought came first: tech or organic..."
Both waited nervously, then Prowl shook his head faintly.
"It ain't all that easy findin' things t'shock ya with, y'know."
"You've managed adequately thus far."
Jazz folded his arms, staring at him for a long moment before finally speaking.
"Blaster is fallin' for ya."
Prowl frowned, doorwings twitching.
"By which you mean he is attracted to me? No. That I don't believe."
"So why does he keep hangin' around when he says he's gotta get back to Ovacalix? Why did he ask ya t'spend more time wit'him an' his cassettes?"
Prowl struggled and Jazz watched him closely, but after a few clicks Prowl shook his head.
"Well, if he is," he said slowly, "I shall have to make him see that I am not interested."
"Well done, Sparkles. I thought for sure that one'd get ya."
"But was it true?"
"Nah, Blaster's just bein' friendly. It's just his way. Now if ya wanna know who really is gettin' a bit warm when ya come by..."
Prowl shook his head firmly, stepping forward to slip his arms around Jazz's waist.
"If it's anyone other than you, then I just don't care."
Chapter 11: Entrance exam
Request: more Jazz stuff with other crew members, perhaps even pre-Prowl
Timing: during the war, before Prowl
"Pretty, ain't he?"
Hound looked up to see a minibot leaning against some nearby ruins, then nodded, returning his gaze to the blue and white mech up on the rise.
"Sure is. I can't believe he's really a spy."
"Well he's obviously high ranked, for a start. Just look at that detailing."
"No-one's ranked anymore, 'cept for the faction ranks." the minibot opined.
"That's true. Still... he's too flashy. Surely that gives him away?"
"He's got his talents at bein' unnoticed."
"So have you."
The minibot cocked his head slightly.
"What's that supposed t'mean?"
"It means I think you're actually Meister." Hound said seriously, tearing his gaze reluctantly away from the handsome spy and focusing fully on his conversational partner.
The minibot frowned in confusion.
"I'm sure of it." Hound insisted. "I'm good at my job, and Curveball told me you were on this planet. You're him."
"I came here with Chief Curveball an' Mirage, but I'm just a pilot. Name's Blister."
"That might be the name you're using, but you are Meister."
"No, I'm right. I'm sure I'm right."
They stared at each other for a long moment, and Hound found his certainty starting to waver. He had been very sure: this minibot's tracks were slightly too heavy to be normal, the lack of attitude - either aggrieved or subservient - which was a base characteristic of all minibots talking to standard-size models, and the fact that Meister was known to be able to sorcel.
It had to be Blister. There were two others present who seemed slightly clumsy in their roles, but Meister's reputation preceded him: the clues were too obvious, they were decoys. And there were a handful more who were simply wrong for one reason or another.
"So." Curveball called, approaching flanked by the silent spy. "I need your answer, Hound. Get this right, you're coming with us. Get it wrong and I'll have to find someone else."
"It's him. He's Meister."
"Who's this 'Meister' character?" Blister complained. "What's this all about?"
"You're sure?" Curveball checked.
"Yes. So. Am I right?"
"No idea." Curveball shrugged casually. "I can't tell who Meister is until he lets me know. Half the time even he doesn't know. But if you're sure, then when I give the codeword he should convert. Ready? Blister: tetrahedron."
Hound watched the minibot closely, but there was not so much a flicker of his optic. Nothing changed.
"Well I guess that's that." Curveball sighed regretfully. "Only one chance and all that. Come on, we'd better get to the shuttle."
Shattered, Hound started to follow. After a moment he heard steps behind him as Blister caught up.
"So what gave it away?"
"What gave wha...?" he stopped in shock and stared at the black and white standard-sized mech now there.
"Always lookin' to improve, after all. Oh, an' the name's Jazz. Pleased t'meetcha, Hound. I think we're gonna work together just fine."
"So you're really not Meister, then?"
Jazz laughed, slinging an arm across his shoulder.
"Like CB says, sometimes even I don't know."
Chapter 12: Exemplar
Request: what would Megatron say/do when he finds out he missed the 2 medics? I'm kind of interested to know.
Timing: shortly after Echoes: The Medic
Megatron scowled at his soldiers, more to watch them flinch than because he was particularly annoyed with them.
Things were going well. Not ideally, not as planned, but acceptably well and he was savvy enough to know that a certain level of disappointment was inevitable. Not that he had to let anyone else know that.
Already his Decepticons controlled two thirds of Cybertron, the Enforcer ranks had been decimated, the High Council destroyed, the old military leaders executed.
His two strongest subordinates were impressively fearsome and unquestionably loyal. Soundwave was a communications expert with such powerfully sensitive equipment that he could sometimes parse the signals within a mech's own CPU, giving him the reputation of a telepath. Shockwave was a researcher and scientist whose disdain for his subjects - or rather, victims - was widely known.
The former wanted to serve a powerful leader; the latter wanted freedom to perform his experiments without the oversight of an ethics committee. Both were more than satisfied with the current arrangements.
Not that he relied on such flimsy proofs of loyalty: he had had Shockwave install loyalty programming in Soundwave, and he had Soundwave regularly test Shockwave's loyalties. They watched each other.
In fact, there was only one spot of rust to mar the perfection of his venture so far: the newly emergent Prime and his group of ex-civilians.
"Why?" he hissed at his commanders, flanked by his two lieutenants who glowered along with him, "Why have we not captured the Prime? Why has this little rebellion continued? There are only a handful of them, why are you all so incompetent?"
These Autobots could do him no real harm. They were an annoyance, a faulty line of code in a perfect program. One that simply needed to be erased. Still, the sooner they were gone the sooner all would accept his prowess. And he would rule forever.
"My lord," one of his soldiers whispered, grovelling, "we attack them, but they always return."
"Then continue attacking. They will soon run out of new recruits."
"But they're not all new, my lord. They are being repaired."
That caught his attention and he gestured for two of the guards to drag the speaker closer. Not to allow him to walk, oh no, that would show too much consideration.
"Can you prove this?" he demanded.
"Yes, my lord. We have... I have images of their medics. Here, my lord."
Muttering filled the room, and Megatron allowed it as he nodded to Soundwave to take the offered plassheets and analyse them.
"Two medics." Soundwave said after a moment. "One unidentified. The other: designation, Ratchet. Surgeon. Unaccounted for, to date."
So. The Prime had two medics. That was unfortunate, it would delay the takeover. It did explain, however, how so many civilians were inconveniently discovering how to turn off their security protocols and pick up weapons.
"What is your name?"
"Torsion, my lord."
He scanned the room, his humour of the morning gone.
"I want this Ratchet found and brought here, along with his friend. The one to do so will be rewarded. As for you, Torsion, you will go with Shockwave."
"M-my lord? But I..."
Megatron swooped down, grabbing him by the throat and lifting him high, snarling.
"You will be an example to others: to shoot with a laser, not with a camera!"
Chapter 13: Reunion 1
Request: Sunstreaker with his group finally finding out where Sideswipe is, due to Prowl's investigation. You could also show the scene where Sunstreaker and Sideswipe are in the brig.
Timing: part 5 chapter 4
"And then I says... I says to him... um, wait, where was I up to?"
Sunstreaker laughed along with the others as the newbie stammered his way through the story, already well-overcharged after just a few unwise gulps of the powerful high-grade he had been slipped. Given time, the rookie would either settle in or leave. Most did the latter.
This was a tough unit. A close one. They watched out for each other and kept each other alive.
The Decepticons hated them, hated the fact that they persisted. It was not so much about territory gained or battle successes, because those things were rare, but that they survived to fight on was a wrench in Megatron's cogs.
Most of Cybertron was in Decepticon control. Only Iacon held firm, and this outpost at what had once been Praxus was the outermost defence of that besieged city. The front line. Haven for anyone still caught out in Decepticon-held territory, first target of any land-based attack.
"Hey Sunstreaker! You in here?"
Looking up he saw Top Spin scanning the crowd from the doorway. The medtech spotted him at about the same moment and shoved his way through to him.
"It's just a scratch." Sunstreaker huffed. "It'll heal."
"Not that. Commander wants you."
Rasp wanted him? But they had just had their squad debriefing only a groon earlier - if there was anything to say why had it not been said then?
Knowing better than to argue, he heaved himself up and limped out of the room. His ankle would heal, in time, but perhaps he should have someone look at it anyway. He did not want to be pulled off duty. He hated being bored.
"You wanted me?" he demanded, entering the command room.
"You're a mess. Don't you ever clean yourself up anymore?"
"What's the point when we're back out there again so quick? Is that what you wanted?"
"No. We got a query from Ovacalix, you're being looked for. Some tactician called Prowl wants to find you."
"Never heard of him. Why's he interested in me?"
Rasp paused to look at his lieutenant who shrugged, and the commander sighed heavily.
"Apparently your brother is on the Ark and he..."
"Sides?" Sunstreaker gaped. "He's not on Cybertron? They've found him?"
"Seems like it. Now... Sunstreaker, wait! Where are you going?"
Two orns later...
The cell was four paces wide, six paces deep. He had measured it out several times, unable to be still.
Was this all another hoax? So many times there had been rumours that Sideswipe had been seen, but so far they had all proven false. If Sunstreaker had not known in his spark that his twin was still alive he would have despaired long ago.
On the other hand, all of those other sightings had been on Cybertron, that was what kept him there. This was different.
Clatter from the end of the corridor made him look up and he froze in place as a spark-achingly familiar form rushed forward to the humming bars.
"Sunny! You're here... whoa, Sunny, what've you been doing? You're a mess!"
He could not speak, barely able to process the fact that his brother was finally here in front of him after all this time of searching. And Sideswipe barely seemed to have changed. No scars to be seen, his armour was clean, his paint fresh, his optics bright with sufficient charge.
The guard opened the cell door and Sideswipe leapt inside to hug him tightly, barely noticing when the door was locked again behind him.
Sunstreaker squirmed away, acutely conscious of his poor physical state, and stared at his twin for a moment, then punched him in the face.
"Ow! What was that for?"
"Where the slag have you been? I've been searching for you!"
"I've been searching too!" Sideswipe countered, rising.
"Not as hard as me."
"You left Cybertron!"
"Shuddup!" the guard roared.
Sunstreaker grinned and found the expression reflected.
"Missed you." they both admitted simultaneously.
And with that, the vorns of worry and loneliness melted away.
"So." Sunstreaker broke the moment. "How long before I can get a proper wash?"
He was home.
Chapter 14: Reunion 2
Request: something about Jazz's true identity. Jazz is only a fake identity (I think?) and Meister sounds like a code name.
Timing: sometime before part 1
I know you.
If I could call out to you... ah, but I don't think I can right now. Besides, I'm not sure you would respond to the name I know. I've watched you, and you don't respond to the name you were activated with. Instead you are called Jazz.
It's not a bad name for you, really. You always did love music, and always were laid back. Those parts of your identity are still pretty well fixed.
Your accent has changed, though, and that's very strange. At first I thought you must actually be someone else, someone I didn't know. But I'm sure you're not. I'm sure you're the mech I know.
A lot of mecha reinvented themselves at the breakout of war. You, though... there's something about the way you changed. Something not right. I don't know what, but something's strange.
And maybe that's why I made the mistake. I hesitated in talking to you. Instead, I talked to one of your friends, mentioned the name I knew and asked if they knew it. And now I'm in trouble.
We're walking through the crowds on the way to the shuttle bay. Walking past you. Your gaze passes over me without recognition, and that seems to please the mechs who have trapped me.
I don't know what will happen next. They say that if I just disappear they won't cause me any trouble. They'll even help me disappear, will get me onto a ship to a Neutral colony. One of them is very important so maybe it's even the truth.
Or maybe they just want rid of me.
I don't know what you've gotten mixed up in, Rimshot, I just pray to Primus you can get yourself back out of it, because I can't help. Not anymore.