Jazz’s optics followed the black and white doorwinger as he crossed the rec. room toward the energon dispenser. The mech seemed oblivious to the world around him, which, Jazz knew, was untrue as the Second in Command was very much alert. His doorwings would subtly move in different angles, getting a feel of his surroundings.
Bluestreak came up to speak to Prowl, the tactician gave the sniper a small barely there smile, excusing himself with the usual dismissal, he was busy and had to get back to work.
Two things surprised Jazz about the encounter.
One, was the small smile he had given the gunner. A smile he had rarely seen and never received. It was quick in appearing, and even faster in disappearing. Most thought Prowl incapable of smiling, of showing emotions, and half the time, it was as if Prowl was doing everything in his power to prove them right.
That was the second thing that surprised him. Prowl did smile; a small polite turn of the lips, and nothing more. Be it in a meeting with high officials, a passing noble, or even him, Jazz had been witness to a few smiles.
But they had been fake, forced, empty of any real emotion.
This one, had shown a strange warmth.
It had seemed almost...innocent.
The battle had been fierce, countless casualties on both sides.
The medical team was trying their hardest to stabilize as many mechs as they could, many dying before they could even be reached. Still, Ratchet and his aids didn't give up, and fought to save as many as possible.
Jazz walked into the med bay limping, his right leg half blown off courtesy of a stray missile, visor cracked. But all in all in a good condition. His injuries, while painful and ugly were not life-threatening, and the saboteur chose to stay out of the way for the moment.
He let his gaze sweep over the medical berths, identifying friends and good mechs fighting for their lives. The screaming and painful wails had diminished some, the bots that were left all stable if not completely repaired and resting. In a corner, fourteen grayed frames laid side by side, fingers intertwined on their chestplates, faceplates covered with stained cloths.
As he turned his optics from the painful sight, he realized Ratchet had disappeared into one of the private rooms, door closing as soon as his frame was clear.
It wouldn't have bothered him all that much had Bluestreak not entered at that precise moment, optics frantically searching the berths, and for a moment, frightfully checking over the grayed frames.
His body relaxed as he didn't find who he was looking for.
Before Jazz could ask if he was alright, Ratchet's voice came from the opened door to the private room he had entered not long ago.
"Blue, over here." He called, voice unusually serious and tired.
It didn't take the saboteur long to realize just who was inside that room; there was only one mech Bluestreak would be looking for.
As the realization hit him, the visored mech struggled to his feet, desperate to see if his friend was okay.
It didn't matter that the tactician might not even consider him a friend, heck sometimes Jazz wondered if the mech even saw him as an equal. But something about Prowl made Jazz care, and stick to him like glue. Call it a sixth sense, but something made Jazz's programs overflow with protectiveness when it came to the tactician, allowing him just enough of a peek under the stoic mask Prowl wore that led to a deeper understanding of the mech others might not have.
Knowing he was in critical caused a surge of fear to spear through his spark.
The door was locked, and while it wasn’t strange at all, his spark demanded to see the form of the tactician, to have visual proof that he was alive. Overriding the code he stepped inside, unaware of how his perception of the world was going to change.
He froze at what he saw.
Ratchet cursed as the door behind him hissed open.
There was no way whoever had entered hand’t seen the body he was leaning over. All he could do was try to throw a wrench so hard, the bots' memory circuits would be scrambled.
He didn't get the chance.
"What the frag!?" Came the TIC’s voice.
"Jazz, why did you come in here?" Ratchet growled, unsubtly trying to cover the body. Beside him, Bluestreak tensed, looking fearfully up at Jazz.
"Forget that! Who is- what is- why is there a youngling in here!?" He demanded.
On the berth, surrounded by large pieces of plating, was a small black and white youngling, faceplates peaceful in stasis, cables attached to his helm and chassis, over his sparkchamber. The small body looked so fragile and vulnerable it left Jazz uneasy, with an urge to make sure no harm came to him.
"And where is Prowl? Ah thought he was here!?"
Both medic and sniper stayed silent, the mechs' optics looking anywhere but at him, something that unnerved the saboteur.
"What is going on." His voice was cold, threatening.
Sighing, Ratchet ran a servo over his faceplates.
"Sit Jazz, get off that leg. This is not going to be a pretty story."
"This youngling is Prowl." Ratchet started without preamble. Jazz opened his mouth in outrage at the sudden words, but a look from Ratchet shut him up.
"Don't speak, just listen." The medic ordered, then turned to look at a sorrowful Bluestreak. "This story is as much Bluestreak's as it is Prowl’s."
Jazz threw the younger mech an inquiring look.
The gunner shifted nervously, glossa running over his lips. "Jazz, Prowl is- he… he's my little brother."
The saboteur stared, quick processor suddenly sluggish, the data not making sense.
"This is the Praxian enforcer's doing." Ratchet snarled. "Crime too high, the rebels had started to agitate their city's criminal world, and an edge was needed."
He sighed turning back to the youngling.
"Prowl was that edge."
Jazz stared uncomprehending, insides twisting in an unpleasant way, dreading what else the medic was going to reveal.
“They didn't have the credits nor resources to request for a pre-programmed mech, something I don't approve of either way. So they went with a second option. Scheme," The name was hissed with such venom, it made Jazz wince. "… used his own sparkling for their plan. Illegally obtaining parts and highly dangerous systems and softwares, they made a large frame, and put a then still sparkling Prowl in it."
Blue stepped forward, doorwings low as he recounted his part in the story.
"By that time, I was already almost out of youngling hood and my presence was well known, so my sudden disappearance would have been suspicious. Prowl though, had only been online for a few orns." He sighed, doorwings dropping even lower. "Scheme told every one his sparkling had died, even held a burial for him, but behind the scenes, he was hooking up Prowl's processor to that.. that cursed battle computer and logic center!" He choked out the last words, the saboteur opening his arms in a silent invitation upon seeing the conflicted and pained expressions on the younger mech's faceplate, an invitation Bluestreak accepted without hesitation and let Jazz embrace him comfortingly.
"They wired his whole nervous circuits into that frame, and poured so much data into his processor he almost offlined."
Ratchet turned back from Prowl's still form and took a few steps toward them.
"I don't know how they managed to pull something like this off, but Prowl was submitted to very painful tests to accelerate his processor’s maturity. In the end, they managed to bring Prowl to a state similar to an adult’s. While his still very young processor didn't understand what was happening, his battle and logic computer took over, showing him the right things to do, helped him process information. But his emotions where still that of a youngling. And he was scared, confused, and hurt. So they…" Ratchet trailed off, denta grinding.
Jazz stared as disgust and rage passed through the medic's faceplates, optic covers tightly shut as if trying to ward off his next words.
"They cut off any access his processor had with his emotional cortex."
"Primus." Jazz breathed in pure horror. Now he understood a lot of things. Why Prowl kept to himself; he probably didn't understand what was happening. Why he refused to talk with anyone; he had no idea how to deal with mechs - no, with adults - outside work.
"What happened then? How did he become an Autobot?"
Blue looked up at him from between his arms.
"Me. I knew what they were doing. Scheme thought I was a loyal creation to him and wouldn't tell a soul. But I was so angry! I knew as a youngling I couldn't do anything. So I planned. During the vorns, I recovered as much evidence of what the enforcers had done as I could. Then, the joor of my adult upgrades, I left Praxus, telling my sire I wanted to take a small vacation trip in celebration. He allowed it easily. I went to Iacon, to seek audience with the Prime."
"That's where we met." Ratchet put in. "Prime was outraged by the cruelty of the enforcers. I'm sure you heard of the sudden disbandment of Praxus’ Enforcers, their headquarters were overtaken by Prime's mechs."
"Yeah, Ah heard. Something about corruptiong. Guess it was somewhat true then.” Jazz shook his head in disbelief. “What happened to Scheme and the others?"
Both mechs sighed.
"Many were caught and sent to the stockades, but Scheme and a few others escaped."
"Scheme is alive?" Growled Jazz, already planning on what to do with the mech if he ever found him.
"Oh he is very much alive." Ratchet smiled mirthlessly. "He goes by another name though. You probably know him as Shockwave."
Shockwave. That one-optic sparkless fragger was Prowl and Blue's sire. The information was enough to make Jazz's processor ache.
"Slagging glitch." He snarled. "When Ah get mah servos on 'im…"
Ratchet snorted. "Get in line, right behind Prime, me and Blue."
"So what's wrong with Prowl? He's not attached ta that frame now is he?" The saboteur asked instead, gesturing to the small form on the berth.
"No he's not. We got him out of there and for a few vorns before the war broke out, we managed to reconnect his emotional cortex and lowered the settings on the battle computer and logic center. They were too ingrained to remove completely."
Jazz frowned. "So what happened?"
Blue chuckled mirthlessly. "Prowl was too smart for us. Said the only way for him to survive the war was for us to put him back in that frame, at least until he could get his natural adult upgrades. Every vorn or so Ratchet removes enough armor so he can grow naturally. He's still a long way to go before we can remove it all. But every time he gets hurt we have to extract him from the second frame to assess the damage."
The visored mech ran a servo over his helm. This was so messed up.
"So he’s okay now?" He asked, concern on his faceplates as he glanced at the small frame.
"Yeah, he's fine, just some burned plating. I'll have to put him back again soon, before others get suspicious." Ratchet said, turning back to his work.
Jazz and Bluestreak stared as the medic worked in silence for a while. The saboteur was unable to tear his optics from the youngling.
"What are you going to tell him?" Blue's sudden question caught him off-guard.
"You can't exactly pretend not to know his true origin now."
Jazz let out a small chuckle. "Ah’ll tell ‘im the truth, and be there fer him. Mech needs as many friends knowing what he went through as possible. At least ta help with his emotions. Now Ah understand why Ah felt so protective of him."
Ratchet stopped his work to shoot the saboteur a questioning look.
"Mah carrier was a Polihexian, but mah sire was a seeker. Seems like seeker programming got transferred over ta meh, alway did have a soft spot for youngling."" He grinned as Ratchet dropped his wrench in shock, and Blue gaped at him.
"Looks like Prowl isn't the only one with a surprising origin." Muttered Ratchet, shooting Jazz his ‘this is something I should have known about you glitch’ look.
Prowl stood uneasily in front of the saboteur’s quarters. Blue had told him that Jazz knew about his true self. While his brother and Ratchet had assured him that Jazz was not disgusted ("Why the frag would he be!?" had been Ratchet's growled response), nor in anyway freaked out, he still felt apprehensive about talking to the visored mech.
Gathering his courage, the doorwinger knocked on the door.
The metallic plates slid with a hiss to reveal a smiling white and black mech.
"Prowl." The Praxian corrected automatically, doorwings twitching in frustration.
The grin on the mech's faceplates grew.
"Well come on in Prowler!"
Sighing in defeat, and feeling very much free, being with a mech that knew his true self but didn’t look like he was going to treat him any differently, Prowl entered Jazz's quarters, giving him a small smile.
A real one.
Jazz smiled back warmly.
Everything was going to be alright.