Ghost in the Machine
Crystal Carlisle stepped out of her apartment, skirt pressed and heels clacking on the sidewalk. Life was better than it had been for a while. Her new job working as a secretary for a law firm earned a good deal more than her last job in New York. Her apartment was slowly being refurnished and she was learning her way around the Portland area.
Everything was going well and seemed to be settling back into normalcy. All the robots in her life, both small and large, began to feel like a thing of the past. She told herself this was what she wanted. She needed stable, she needed normal. No more transforming robots, no more talking machines.
Crystal jumped when the flashy yellow Lamborghini barked at her as she passed by. Clutching her purse, she stared owlishly at the vehicle, heart racing.
"What? You're not even going to say hi?" the Lamborghini grouched.
Crystal's eyes fell over the large red insignia painted on the hood.
"Oh, you're an Autobot," she sighed with relief.
"Of course I'm an Autobot! What else would I be?"
Crystal rapidly blinked at the machine. This was the surliest Autobot she had ever met. What did he want from her?
"Is there ... any particular reason you're here?"
The Lamborghini paused. "You don't remember me, do you?"
She shook her head. "No. Should I have?"
There was a growl from the Lamborghini's engine. “But you said- I got slagged to scrap for you! Gah! This is why I don't like humans!"
With one more loud roar, the Lamborghini sped off, tires squealing in offense.
Crystal watched it go, having no idea what just happened.
It was boring in the Ark surveillance room. Boring, mostly, for Jazz. Probably not boring for Prowl. Prowl had a knack for being enthralled with the mundane, so Jazz was sure he was doing just fine. Optimus was probably okay, too. The bot was infused with the patience of Primus himself. Both would have told Jazz that it wasn't the job that was boring, it was merely that Jazz wasn't working hard enough to keep himself busy.
The problem was that there really wasn't much to do. There had been odd Decepticon activity popping up here and there, but none doing anything conceivable that would warrant a response. As a result, the Autobots remained vigilant about their surveillance. Though in Jazz's opinion, the Decepticons' master plan seemed to be forcing him into full time duty without any activity to monitor.
They were diabolical! He couldn't let the Decepticons win! Time for a plan of action.
Prowl's shoulders stiffened, despite the fact that Jazz hadn't physically moved or said anything. Still, he was already busted, but Jazz didn't care. It was too late to stop him now, the phone was already ringing.
"Hello?" answered a female voice on the other end.
"Hey Crys! How you doing?" Jazz said out loud. The other Autobots in the room could hear him. Now they were all aware he was speaking on an outbound frequency. Prowl frowned at him.
There was a pause on the other line.
"It's me, Jazz."
Still no answer.
"Crys, you there?"
"Yeah, I'm here. Sorry, I was just really surprised you called me."
There was amusement in Jazz's voice. "Why wouldn't I call you?"
"I don't know. I thought maybe you would be too busy."
"Not busy right now. A bit bored, actually."
"Yeah, unless you don't want me to call you..."
Crystal laughed. "No, I love that you called. It's great to hear from you."
“Yeah, you too.”
The two fell into silence, suddenly unsure how to continue the conversation.
"So," Crystal spoke up, “what are you wearing?"
Confused at the question, Jazz looked down at himself. "Uh, nothing."
"Ooh-la-la Jazz! That's hot!"
He grinned. "So does that mean I can take you out?"
"Where to?" Crystal teased. "Sonic and the drive-in?"
"Oh, harsh, Crys. You're so mean."
Crystal laughed again. "You know I'd always love to go out with you."
Jazz felt a hand on his shoulder: Prowl's. Jazz protested as the contact permitted Prowl to hack into his phone call.
"Hey, don't you need my permission to do that?" Jazz protested.
"Crystal," Prowl spoke.
"Hey, Prowl! How's it going? Sounds like you guys are having a pretty slow night."
"So far, but it could change at any time. Where are you?"
"Just out for a walk."
Prowl frowned. "It's dark outside."
"It's fine. I've still got a little light left."
"I hope you're heading home."
"I'm not your mom."
Prowl glared at Jazz's smug grin. "Is there something wrong with me worrying about your safety?"
There was humor in Crystal's voice as she replied. "No, there's not. Thank you, Prowl," she sing-songed the last part.
Sideswipe, who was the fourth Autobot doing monitor duty that night, grabbed Jazz's other shoulder.
"Hey, are you talking to that girl Sunny hates?"
"Who's that?" Crystal asked. "He sounds cute!"
“Alright, you guys are crowding my personal space,” Jazz announced. “Back off, both of you.” He slapped them away.
“Okay, Jazz, well I gotta go,” Crystal said. “But feel free to call me again okay?”
“Sure! You can count on it!”
“Great! Okay, Jazz, good night.” She paused and then added, “I love you.”
“Woo! Back atcha babe!”
“And tell Prowl I love him, too.”
“Hey, Prowl,” Jazz called. “Crystal says she loves you!”
A momentary glimpse of horror crossed Prowl’s face plate before he turned around and muttered something under his breath.
“Prowl says he loves you, too, forever and ever.”
Prowl’s head snapped back sharply. His glare told that it most certainly was not what he said.
“Aww, that’s sweet,” Crystal responded. “Who else is there?”
“Prime’s here, too,” Jazz said in the quiet control room. He paused to listen. “Hey, Prime, Crystal says she loves you, too.”
Their leader turned from the control panel. “Tell her thank you and it is reciprocated.”
“Prime says ditto,” Jazz relayed into the phone. “Okay, talk to you later, Crys. Bye.” He hung up with a goofy grin on his face and leaned back to prop his feet on the control panel.
Sideswipe eyed him suspiciously. “What’s up with you acting all stupid over some human? Yeah, she’s female, but where would you two live?”
“Nah, it’s not like that, man,” Jazz insisted. “She saved my life. She’s like my hero.”
Sideswipe looked doubtful. “For real, Jazz?”
“Yeah. Well, not like how Prowl is my hero. But, you know, close to that.”
“Prowl’s my hero, too,” Sideswipe confided. “I want to be just like him.”
“You’re definitely going to have to work harder then,” Prowl monotoned.
Sideswipe sat up in his chair. “Did Prowl just make a joke?”
“No,” Prowl insisted. “If you really do want to be like me, you’re hardly making an effort.”
Sideswipe slumped again.
The doors opened and Tracks walked in.
“You wanted to see me, Prowl?”
“Yes.” Prowl led the blue Corvette out of the surveillance room. “I have a specific assignment for you.”
There was a rhythmic tap-tap-tapping in the silent Decepticon control room as Megatron tapped his finger in a vain attempt to channel his restlessness. Near his feet lay Ravage with his head on his paws. The panther was nearly invisible in the dimly lit room, save for his glowing red optics.
He lifted his head when Megatron shifted and paced a few steps. When it was apparent nothing else was going on, Ravage put his head down again.
“Megatron,” Soundwave turned from his screens, “Decepticon signatures approaching.”
Megatron stiffened. This was what he was waiting for.
“Soundwave, raise the tower,” he ordered.
The surveillance room lurched as it began to ascend. A sharp spire rose from the chilled depths of the Pacific Ocean. It cut through the serene blue on blue of the sky and ocean like a dark, dripping blade. Seagulls squawked and floated around it curiously as the ramp folded out like a gaping mouth.
Megatron stood there waiting as two Decepticons, Thundercracker and Blitzwing, flew in and transformed. Thundercracker was in front, wings hunched as he approached his leader without a word.
His silent report along with the regretful expression on his face was all Megatron needed to know. A deep, troubled frown marred the face plate of the Decepticon leader. Something was very wrong and someone needed to pay.