Ratchet passed Jazz’s quarters for the third time before finally reaching out to hit the call button. Before his hand reached its target the door slid open with a soft hiss, revealing a smiling Jazz. He was looking far too smug for Ratchet’s liking.
“I was wond’rin’ when you was gonna hit that, Doc,” Jazz chirped. “So, what’s got the mighty Hatchet all hot an’ bothered?”
“Don’t call me that!” Ratchet snapped and he shoved his way into Jazz’s quarters.
Jazz made no protest. He could have easily forced the large medic out, but where was the fun in that?
“I dunno, Doc. I think the handle fits just right. I mean, you are the only medic on staff who was able to get th’ Wreckers t’ heel. An’ I see just how much ‘Hide an’ Prime defer t’ ya. That either takes bearings of pure titanium or a mighty large hatchet. Or ya have some serious dirt on all of ‘em.”
Ratchet crossed his arms over his broad chest and glared at the saboteur.
“Are you done?” he demanded, but there was a hint of a smile pulling at his lips.
“Not nearly,” Jazz replied. “But since I know I can only push ya so far, an’ I really am curious as t’ what’s wrong, I’ll stop. For now.”
Jazz suddenly sobered and motioned to the berth. “So, you wanna tell me what’s wrong? You looked ‘bout ready t’ hand someone their platin’ and seem confused as t’ why.”
Ratchet sighed and sat at the edge of the berth. He was silent for a long moment before finally speaking.
“What can you tell me about this Cortano? I mean, I know that most of what you lot do is above my pay grade, but something about him is setting off warning notices in my HUD and I learned a long time ago not to ignore them.”
Jazz sat down in a chair across from Ratchet and rested his pedes casually on the berth next to the medic. He was the picture of calm relaxation, but Ratchet had known him long enough to know that this was all an act. Every move Jazz made was calculated and plotted. Sometimes the mech was more Praxian than any of the Praxians on the base.
“Cortano, hunh? I was wonderin’ when he was gonna get around t’ goin’ t’ see you and make all this officially official. Honestly, between you an’ me an’ the walls, I was kinda hopin’ he’d stay in a contractor status. Easier t’ claim deniability later on if needed.”
“Yeah, like Prowl was going to let that happen.”
Small doors bobbed slightly as Jazz shrugged. “I think he'd be just as happy if Cortano went away. Like far away.”
Ratchet’s chevron arched slightly. “Why's that? If he had issues with the mech he'd never let him within a klick of any Autobot base, let alone this one.”
“What makes ya think that I know his processor?” Jazz asked.
“Jazz, we have known each other for how long now? Certainly long enough for me to appreciate that you see and hear everything going on in this base. Now spill!” Ratchet demanded, though there wasn’t really any heat in it.
Again the doors bobbed as Jazz shrugged his shoulders.
“Swear on my T-Cog I ain’t got no idea what’s up Prowl’s tailpipe about Cortano. But, if I had t’ hazard a guess I’d say that it’s ‘cause Cort’s not properly Praxian-like, ya know? Plus there’s th’ fact that his history’s clearly been manufactured. I mean, you saw his records, right?”
Ratchet frowned at that. “I saw the medical file. I had assumed that it was redacted. I mean, there is no way that either you or Prowl would agree to bringing in someone so obviously sketchy.”
“Yeah, well I figured that he’d have t’ be the worst kind of ‘Con spy to try t’ infiltrate with that background. Plus there’s the fact that th’ Wreckers vouch for him. If he was crooked in a dangerous way he’d’ve never survived Whirl.”
“Yeah, I suppose so,” Ratchet said, but he still didn’t sound convinced.
Jazz was silent for a long moment but his optics never left Ratchet’s face as he ran the problem over in his processor. Finally he knocked his foot into Ratchet’s thigh to get his attention.
“Okay, enough. What’s really gotcha in a twist?”
Ratchet leaned forward, resting his elbows on his thighs and sighed almost imperceptibly.
“I already told you, I’m getting some warnings in my-”
“No,” Jazz said, cutting the medic off. “If ya really had concerns ‘bout the mech, you’d’ve gone t’ see Prowl about it, not me. Try again, Doc.”
“It made more sense to speak with you since you’re his CO,” Ratchet insisted. “Plus there’s the fact that Prowl’s been more suspicious than usual now that he and Red are together.”
“Okay, that’s try number two,” Jazz said casually, but there was an edge there, hidden just below the friendly demeanour. “Shall we make the third try the charm, doc?”
Ratchet sighed heavily before finally throwing up his hands in defeat.
“Fine! Fine! Tell me something, Jazz, why is it that you're not the Autobot’s interrogator?”
“Because Autobots don't interrogate,” Jazz said with a shrug. “And Cortano’s better at it. And you're still not answering the question, Ratch.”
Ratchet looked down at his hands for a long moment before speaking. “He reminds me of someone, a Praxian I knew a long time ago. Someone I cared about and it’s thrown me off. It was a little like seeing a ghost.”
Jazz’s visor brightened as he smiled cheekily. “He reminds you of a Praxian? Ya do remember that they all look alike, right? I mean, save for th’ colours.”
Ratchet glared at Jazz, slapping the side of the saboteur’s foot lightly.
“That’s not true and you know it. Cortano has wider hips and a thicker waist. His aft is rounder and his chest is a little flatter but fuller as well. Wider I guess. And his doors are a little shorter than Prowl’s are.”
“You been checkin’ out Cort’s aft, Ratch?” Jazz never bothered to suppress the chuckle as he teased the medic.
“No! No, I haven’t been checking out anyone’s aft,” Ratchet snapped, but his optics darkened in a blush.
Jazz made a noncommittal sound and poked Ratchet with his foot again, prompting more information.
“Look, he just really looks like Smokescreen did. The colours are all wrong but everything else is the same. Even his voice is similar. I think.” Ratchet shook his head slightly. “It’s been a long time.”
“What happened to him?” Jazz asked.
Ratchet shrugged. “Same thing that happened to everyone else. The war happened.”
Jazz remained silent but made a ‘go on’ motion with his hand.
“He was offlined when the Academy was destroyed. They never found his remains, but the room he was in was near the epicentre of the blast. The mechaforensic division said that everyone would have been vaporized.”
“I’m sorry,” Jazz murmured as he reached out to place a comforting hand on Ratchet’s knee.
“It’s fine. It was a long time ago.” Ratchet shook his head and scrubbed his face with his hands. “Look, I’m just tired and seeing slag that isn’t there. Like you said, all Praxians are similarly built and I-”
“Hey,” Jazz said, gently cutting Ratchet off with a light squeeze to his knee. “We all get those moments. It’s okay.”
“Thanks, mech.” Ratchet cleared his vents and stood slowly. “Thanks, I think I just needed to say all that out loud so I could hear how ridiculous the whole thing sounds.”
“Crazy’s pretty relative, mech. I fact, I seem t’ recall someone once sayin’ that you’d have t’ be crazy t’ work here,” Jazz said with a cheeky smile.
Ratchet chucked. “Yeah, that sounds like something I’d say.”
He sobered and placed a hand on Jazz’s shoulder. “Seriously though, thanks for the talk, mech. I needed it.”
“Anytime mech. And if ya need anythin’ else, maybe a little physical exertion t’ get yer mind offa things …?” Jazz left the thought unfinished as his optics darkened slightly in invitation.
Ratchet leaned in and placed a kiss on Jazz’s cheek. “I’ll keep that in mind. We both know how good you are at your version of P.E. But I need to get back to med bay. You off shift later?”
“Yeah, I think I can clear things up t’ make th’ time.”
With one last kiss, this time to the lips, Ratchet left Jazz’s quarters. As soon as the door slid shut behind the medic, Jazz turned to his console.
“Yo, Teletraan, do me a solid and gimme all ya got on Cortano. Authorization Alpha Prime Seven Zero Petrex.”
“Acknowledged,” the base systems intoned as it accepted the Black Ops level security code. Only the Prime had deeper clearance.