As soon as he plugged into his recharge station and went to initialize his VR sequence, Prowl knew there was something wrong. Normally the response from the system was instantaneous; tonight, however, it took over five seconds for the server to reply at all and when the avatar he selected finally began to load it was much slower than usual.
I wonder what the problem is, he thought, already irritated as he waited for the render to finish. Some mechs said that he was hypersensitive about things like connection speed and other performance issues, but it had been over a minute now and he was still waiting on several more terabytes. Surely this was more than a case of his specialized processors making it seem impossibly slow - even the most patient and laid-back of mechs would be frustrated by this!
He was about to break off the connection and forego recharge to draft a complaint to the administrators about it when a message popped up on his HUD. That took 37 seconds to arrive, he thought, automatically checking the time stamp. Looking at the sender's ID he sighed mentally before opening the chat window. There was no way he would put up with lag like this for anyone but Jazz.
 JMMJ: hey ru having trouble logging in?
 Prowl: Yes. I was considering leaving to send a message and waiting until they fix whatever is wrong before trying to log in again.
 JMMJ: no don't go I wanted to show u something
 Prowl: I would prefer to wait until they have fixed whatever problem they are currently experiencing
 JMMJ: promise just one thing! please?
 Prowl: If it takes more than another minute to finish loading the homeworld, no.
He never saw Jazz's reply to that, which would likely have only been more pleading. If he sent a response at all it either became a victim of packet loss or the lag prevented it from coming through before the system finally finished configuring its settings and Prowl found his avatar standing in a field.
A field that consisted of nothing more than a flat matte painting of grass surrounded by untextured mountains repeating around the boundaries of the environment, their low poly count resulting in sharp, cartoonish edges rather than resembling natural rock. He could see several other lo-res shapes milling about jerkily, text markers hovering over the avatars of several of his friends indicating who else was available to interact with for the evening and who did not wish to be disturbed by their color. Those tags were usually only visible up close and faded a moment after appearing to keep the visual field clear, but even the avatars at the edges of the mountains had text above them right now. The ones nearest him were gathered so close together that the tags all overlapped and none of them could be read.
One of the figures at the edge of that knot noticed him and separated from the crowd, appearing to move by teleporting in short jumps as the avatar blinked across the field in increments rather than executing a proper walk cycle. “pRRRowl?” it said, volume increasing painfully on the artificially extended syllable. “I thhhkk you…ight idea about that message.”
The ID above its head read JMMJ(Jazz), which Prowl was grateful for. He wasn’t sure if what Jazz had wanted to show him was a new avatar and this was supposed to be it or if it was just a glitch causing a known avatar to appear unrecognizable, but either way he would not have known the speaker without that aid as nothing about the strange blue bi-pedal creature was familiar. Prowl didn’t even try to get a better look at his own avatar. He was fairly certain based on the perspective he was at that the server had loaded the wrong one entirely – unless the reason he felt too tall for the felinoid form he’d chosen was because he was standing solidly on empty air instead of the ground.
“Hello Jazz. It definitely appears to be a server issue; everyone’s avatars and even the environment are being affected.” He didn’t notice any distortion as he spoke, though that didn’t mean what he’d said came through clearly to Jazz. It was entirely possible his friend didn’t realize how badly his own speech was being mangled. Prowl tried to run a diagnostic to determine where the errors were being generated, but like everything else its progress was glacial.
He watched as Jazz shook his head, the eyes of his avatar tracking behind the movement of the head and floating outside it for a moment before snapping back into place. “sssss….dn’t get t-t-th-a-aa-aaa-t.”
Well. At least now he knew he hadn’t been intelligible either. What he couldn’t tell was whether the connection problem was on the upload or the download. Once again it was something many of the others would tell him not to fixate on, that it wasn’t important and didn’t make a difference, but he preferred to send helpful feedback in his comments rather than the strings of expletives in caps lock that they favored. His messages saw actual results while theirs didn’t, which said it all in his processor, really.
Jazz was probably expecting a reply, so he tried again even though he expected he would get completely garbled a second time. “I said the server is clearly experiencing problems. Whatever you were going to show me will just have to wait until they have resolved it.”
“Youuuuow, maybe we sh…log out and try—” Jazz started to say before his avatar froze mid-sentence. Prowl waited, but when he didn’t resume talking after almost a minute he concluded he’d been dropped.
The single syllable registered clearly, and Prowl turned around to see who was hailing him only to find his visual field completely obscured by the words ERROR_SUCCESS in vibrant red text. There’s an accurate assessment of this whole scenario, Prowl thought, stepping back until he could see Wheeljack’s avatar under his username.
“You. Guys. Stay. Wait?” He continued in single syllables, possibly in a deliberate attempt to get around the problem with the distorted audio. “Sys. Glitch. Est. Fix. One. Hour.”
Oh no! Prowl shook his head, immediately sending a logout request. There was no way he was putting up with this for a whole hour, especially since it could very well be longer than that! Just in case Wheeljack had uncovered a valid workaround Prowl followed his example and told him, “No. Leave. Now. Thanks.”
It took almost as long to disconnect as it had to connect in the first place, the world continuing to glitch around him until suddenly he was back in his own frame. Hurriedly he pulled himself free of the recharge berth before heading more calmly to his desk. Wheeljack had mentioned an estimated wait time to patch the problem, which meant the administrators knew about it and he didn’t really need to send them a message, but he still felt the need to do so.
There was a message waiting on his terminal as he booted it up from sleep mode, which it did blissfully fast. He accessed the chat window, unsurprised to see Jazz’s name in the sender ID.
[So that was a bust. Damn thing kicked me and I can’t even get back in to log out properly, it’s got my account all locked up. Anyway, show you the new avatar another time?]
[Of course.] Prowl replied, opening a blank document. [Perhaps tomorrow, if they are not still experiencing technical difficulties.]