Jazz stood on the crest of the Alchemic Mountains, awed at the city of Praxus sprawled beneath him. Its tall greyscale buildings caught the dying sunlight, steels and platinums and marbles and obsidians all glowing as if phosphorescent. Ruddy rays reflected from embedded crystal chips with a thousand tiny twinkles. Even as the natural light died, tiny bits of artificial light were methodically switched on street by street until the whole place seemed just as bright before the sun sank below the horizon. Praxus was indeed the City of Lights. But there was something else. He couldn't put his digit on it but he could swear that he could hear the faint hum of living crystals resonating with the air itself. Jazz's spark leapt within him. He may be fiercely loyal to Polyhex but Praxus was giving her a run for her money. In any case, it was the prettiest city he had run across in his travels—
WARNING: FUEL TANK IS BELOW 20% CAPACITY.
Jazz shook his head, deleting the warning from his visor’s H.U.D. Trust his tanks to ruin a lovely view.
Setting his pack on a patch of cloudy prasiolite, Jazz sat on the bismuth ground with a sleepy groan. The Alchemic Mountains were the toughest obstacle to a city he had had to face yet. Kaon had bandits and Tarn had massive smelting pits to skirt. But climbing these rocky, steep peaks? He'd rather deal with the gladiator who almost tried to eat him in Kaon again! Jazz just sighed, propping himself up against the shimmering boulder beside him. When he'd taken this scouting mission from the Polyhexian Council, he didn't think it'd be this hard.
"Go b’yond de sea, dey said. Make sure de other cities’re good for 'hexians, dey said. Hmph," he grumbled, fiddling through his subspace to find his journaling datapad. "Tol' meh nuthin' 'bout climbin' giant mountains or fightin' gladiators."
But Jazz could feel the smile creeping over his lips. The Council was wise enough to appoint him as first contact to Cybertron. Ricochet always told him that he was a Polyhexian among Polyhexians, with the wanderlust to prove it. Even with all of the potential dangers, he loved the crazy, wonderful challenge of it all. To go up against things his people had never seen before and face them with both grin and fist filled his tubes with overwhelming energy and pride. He finally withdrew the datapad, along with a few strips of jellied oilfish energon, and began to type.
~Vorn 2, Cycle 53:
Ah've finally broken through to de top o' de crest. Still ain't no wildlife on de mountain which's really fraggin’ weird, if yah ask meh. Also haven't met any bots 'long de ridges which's even weirder. When Ah first got to Kaon, dere were a coupla' mechs dat walked by meh. But dis is empty. Maybe Ah'll find bots in de city.
~Jazz, First Contact of Polyhex~
Jazz powered down the datapad and put it back into his subspace. He wasn't quite nodding off yet, but any longer and he would be in complete recharge. It was time to set up camp. Gnawing on another chunk of energon, he pulled a sleeping pad from his pack and spread it over the smoothest patch of ground he could find. Tomorrow would be another long cycle if he couldn't find a road to help him descend down the mountains. Even if the sun had barely sunk below the surface, it was important that he got all the recharge he could. And besides, it had been three cycles since he had slept on a level surface.
Fishing out an old turbowolf hide, Jazz wrapped himself in the fluffy side before stuffing his pack under his helm. He could feel his entire frame unwind. Above him, the shy stars began to peep through the darkness, slowly revealing constellations unseen in Polyhex's night skies. Even if all of Cybertron was completely hostile to Polys and he had to return home empty-handed, Jazz knew he would never forget the glorious nights underneath the open sky. He lay awake as long as he could but soon slipped away into peaceful recharge.
"Thank Primus," Jazz muttered to himself as he sped down the makeshift crystal chip road. It had taken him hours of tentatively scaling down some terrifying cliff faces before he had stumbled across the rough road. While it wasn't guaranteed that the road would lead to Praxus, anything was better than trying to navigate these treacherous mountain, even if he could feel bits of crystal chewing through his tires.
The terrain changed the farther Jazz drove. The stubbly patches of crystals began to grow bigger and bigger, turning from clear to milky white to brighter and bolder colors. Some even gleamed appetizing purples and blues that were in rare supply back in Polyhex. He hoped that he would get the chance to smuggle a few chips back home to improve production—
A herd of silverback deer flitted across the road, scaring the oil out of Jazz. He swerved to a panicked stop and, blessed be Primus, missed the last one as they flocked to a lurid green octagonal crystal to graze. If he had servos, they'd be clutched at his chestplates! It had been a long time since he'd been scared like that! It seemed that the unnaturally dead mountain tops was not true of the lower levels. Even from where he had paused to ease his sparkpulse, he could see a flock of robigeons yakking away in the sky. The exotic meat was tempting to Jazz. It had been a long time since he had hunted and it seemed that Cybertronians did not eat living creatures and frowned upon bots who did. Pit, even a few gladiators (friendlier than cannibal mech) turned green when they had stumbled across a glitchmouse being devoured by a cybercat.
He sighed. As much as he longed for the warm, metal-rich energon of a fresh kill, it wasn't advisable. He didn't want to scare the locals off. Sparkpulse sufficiently curbed, Jazz took one last longing look at the silverbacks and sped off towards the ever growing city.
Within two minutes of the city gates, Jazz transformed into root mode. He didn't have any qualms about waltzing in as he was, but after causing a panic in Tarn's busiest market due to his foreign frame, he figured it was a better idea to get the ' what the frag kinda frame are ya?! ' panic out of the way first. As he walked to the window by the gate, he quickly noticed that Praxus was far more fortified than any of the other city-states he'd visited. Tarn had a cursory autoscan for contraband and Kaon had more holes than wall. These gates were pretty with bright crystals peeking out from the metal but they were also thick. Maybe even thick enough to stop a couple squadrons of tankformers. The wall was even thicker, maybe four or five times as wide as Jazz was. He quietly hoped this wasn’t a sign of xenophobia in the general population. That would make gathering information even more annoying. Jazz squared his shoulders and put on his "harmless tourist" smile on.
Thugs and officers alike were far more susceptible to a guileless persona than his usual mischievous self.
He waltzed up to the immigration counter, which came up to his chestplates, and pressed the buzzer.
"Just a moment, please!" A smooth soprano hummed. Jazz's horns flicked in interest. Carrier always said you could tell a good bot if their voice made your horns resonate and his horns were very pleased at the sound of the other femme. As she gathered herself together, Jazz fished out his travel docs. He'd skimmed them off some poor bastard who'd tried to rob him in Tarn. Hacking the datapad to alter the information had been a breeze as official docs were clearly not designed with sneaky Polyhexians in mind. He'd even managed to register himself in the official database of Cybertron as well as the insubstantial town that he temporarily claimed allegiance to. So even if they ran a check, he'd pop up sure as light. He hated to be so deceptive, but Polyhex came before Cybertron every single time.
"Sorry for the wait, sir. How may I help yooooooou?" The world ground to a halt as Jazz stared at the other femme. So far, Jazz had gotten a taste of the kinds of bots that existed in Cybertron. There were truckformers, minibots, military builds, flashy Seekers, slim artisans, etc, etc. He'd honestly thought that he'd seen the extent of frames from which Cybertronians came. But in all of his wildest dreams, Jazz never thought he'd see something like this. The Praxian femme sat stiff in chartreuse accented navy armor, white chevron crowning her helm and a demure black band encircling her upper arm. The picture of an attentive border guard. But Jazz stood transfixed by something far more enchanting. Sprouting from her back were two glorious doorwings, frozen into shock just like their owner. The ordinary femme now sat transformed into an angelic being, reminiscent of the legendary creatures said to be contained in the diary of Solus Prime herself. Yet even those did nothing to speak of how the elegant lines dignified the frame and ennobled the face and—Jazz internally slapped himself.
'Now ain't de time ta get flustered by a pretty face! Come to ya senses, mech!’ Taking two quick in-vents, Jazz pasted the guileless smile back onto his face. The border guard seemed just as shaken, thankfully, and appeared oblivious to Jazz's slip. "How ya doin', femme! Mah name's Jazz an' Ah'm here ta visit Praxus fo' 250 cycles."
Those lovely wings gave a rather confused flap before stiffening again. "I-I'm sorry, ser, but I've never seen a mech like you before."
Jazz faked a sweet laugh, optics scanning the premises around him. Bots were always scared of what they didn't know, so better to plan an escape now than risk being in a bad spot. He spied two rather burly mecha staring in his direction, both sporting the black armbands. Well, frag. That wasn't good. "Well, Ah come from a small town up de way, so Ah'm a bit different den a buncha mechs 'round here. Mah docs’re 'n order if ya wanna see 'em?"
The femme hesitantly took the pad, wings fluttering in adorable (if troubling) nervousness. She scanned them quickly into the database, eyeing Jazz's information as it sprang up. From the way that she dug blunt teeth into her lower lip-plate and furtive side glances, it was obvious that she couldn't find anything immediately wrong with his docs. Jazz let his smile fall into an embarrassed grimace. "Is everythang a'ight, mem? Ah kinda left inna hurry an' Ah hope they didn't mess wif mah docs...?"
Her blue optics widened and her cheeks gained an odd blue tinge, but her jaw set in a way that made dread pool in Jazz's tanks. "I'm afraid that I will need you to stay a bit longer, Ser Jazz. I have a few more questions that I need to ask."
'Fraggin' Pit!' Jazz snarled in his head. This was the worst possible situation! It clearly wasn't his docs that had worried the femme but that meant nothing with how nervous she was. Praxus seemed a bit too squeaky clean to have dangerously corrupt cops or government officials (not with such an earnest border guard), so he'd didn't have to worry about randomly disappearing. But Jazz knew better than anyone else that appearances meant slag. Still, he didn't have a better option. Anything other than cooperation would get him thrown out of Praxus or worse and he needed an in. Taking a slow, steady in and ex-vent, Jazz gave an appropriately harried smile.
"Naw, Ah get it. Y'all wanna make sure dat Ah'm who Ah say Ah am. Ah'll cooperate."
The femme looked apologetic— 'Yah should be,’ —but relieved. "Thank you for understanding, ser. If you'll just follow those mecha there?"
Jazz jumped internally at the two mecha staring down at him. He should have known something was off by the too tall counter. These bots, clearly chosen for intimidating size, towered over by two and a half heads! Jazz knew they built them big in Kaon, but at least the city was mixed enough to cater to all sizes. If this was considered big in Praxus, then what the frag was the average? He adjusted the strap on his pack and silently followed the guards. He'd figure something out.
"Major! We've got an emergency from the Border Offices!"
Prowl sighed, setting down his stylus before looking at his far too eager secretary. "Slicker, what did I say about knocking?"
Slicker scratched at his black helm, wings sinking with an embarrassed flitter. "Sorry, sir. Got a bit too excited again."
Prowl shook his head. The young mech had a good spark but he was far too excitable for his own good. "I appreciate enthusiasm, but remember that rash action leads to improper judgment. We Praxian Enforcers prize truth over all else. You would be wise not to forget that."
"Yes, sir." Slicker's wings were practically hanging limp at this point. Prowl winced internally. He didn't think he had been that harsh. Hm, he'd find a way to make Slicker feel better somehow. But for now, that call was more important.
"Slicker, what was the call about?" Prowl winced again as Slicker tried to pull himself together again.
"Wiretap says that they've detained a mech that has no frametype they've seen before. His docs came out clean but they aren't sure about what he is and if he's safe to let into the city. They want you to question him." Prowl paused. An unknown frametype? But that was practically impossible. All frametypes were well documented and it was rare for bots to have mixed relationships. Still, if his docs were valid, there was no real reason to detain him. Prowl groaned to himself. The paperwork from this bureaucratic nightmare was going to haunt him for decacycles. He just hoped that the foreign mech was going to be in a forgiving mood. Prowl powered down his hub and stood from his desk.
"Call the Border Office and tell them that I am on my way. Also, pull file 0110010-8365 and have it on my desk when I return. I may need to file for wrongful detainment reparations if this goes badly."
"Sir!" Slicker saluted.
As Prowl made his way through the pen, snippets of conversations filtered through his audials.
"Did you see his wings droop?"
"Prowl's so heartless...."
"Wonder how long Slicker will stay?"
"Twenty cred on five decacycles..."
"How many secretaries would that make?"
"Well, no one likes an emotionless tight aft..."
Prowl kept his gaze serene and his wings high. There was no need to let them know how much their words cut deep. Prowl knew he was strict, even severe, but he didn't know how to be anything else. This was how he racked up the most arrests in the precincts history, how he made major within the first ten vorns of his twenty vorn career. And if he had to choose duty over fraternization, he would do so every single time. It didn't matter how much his subordinates feared him or how much they talked about him behind his back. Prowl would rather them be alive to complain about him than to be dead due to his poor performance.
He tersely nodded at the receptionist before stepping out to the bustling streets of Praxus. The purr of a thriving city never failed to soothe his nerves. Carriers towed their sparklings with colorful hitches, bots sipped a veritable rainbow of energons in open cafes, traffic chugged along at a quick, if packed, pace. The sun gleamed bright, making the buildings shimmer a subtle spectrum. There were no cries of pain or anger and any wails from sparklings were quickly soothed by their creators. All was as it should be. Spark settled somewhat, Prowl transformed into his altmode in the appropriate lane before taking off, siren blaring. Even if the city rested, he still had a job to complete. Praxus waited for no bot.