Jazz's sleek Porsche sports car mode zipped smoothly through the rough desert landscape. The new coat of paint on his exostructure gleamed in the early morning sun. On his own he would have been deemed stunning, but as his luck would have it he was not alone. If the sun gleamed off of him, then it pretty much shone dazzlingly off of the sleek red and yellow Lamborghini forms of Sideswipe and Sunstreaker who drove equally smoothly on either side of him. Why were they driving through the desert at that hour of the morning? It was all part of Sideswipe's ingenious plan for the three of them to go overnight camping.
Cajoling Prowl and Ratchet into letting them go had been easy enough for Sideswipe. Prowl had just told him to get the scrap out of the room and not bother him for the rest of the day, while Ratchet, who had pretty much yelled out the same thing, had also added the threat that should any of them come back the next day needing repairs, he would not hesitate to rip off the injured part and beat them senseless with it before he repaired them and had them thrown in the brig for disobeying the Chief Medical Officer.
But convincing Sunstreaker to tag along had to have been nothing short of miraculous. It was either that or Sideswipe had blackmailed the yellow mech by threatening to reveal some secret or the other to the entire Autobot squad if he refused to come. Sideswipe hadn't told Jazz how he'd done it, but Jazz strongly suspected the latter possibility. The two were brothers after all and knew each other inside out.
As for the purpose of this little camping trip. All they'd told him was that they were taking him out for a holiday to help him recover from his recent batch of injuries. He'd also been depressed lately, which was quite unusual for someone like Jazz, so this trip was also supposed to cheer him up and get his mind off of whatever was bothering him. And truth be told, he was happy with the arrangements.
Word about Jazz's accident and recovery had spread through the Autobot grapevine aka Bluestreak, and when Jazz walked into the lounge earlier that morning, almost all the other Autobots had gathered there to welcome him back as if he'd been gone for months instead of just two days. While he appreciated all the attention, he was also a bit overwhelmed by it. Finally Ratchet had come in, and after threatening to report those on duty to Prowl if they didn't get their tailpipes to their posts in the next five minutes, at the same time hurling colorful abuse to the remainder, he managed to clear most of the lounge of its occupants.
At last, only Jazz and Blaster were left and he had used the opportunity to catch up with his friend.
"Hey man, I'm sorry for what happened the other day. I didn't mean to get you into trouble or anything", he said.
"What're you talking about man?" Blaster asked. "Wasn't your fault. I'm responsible for my own actions. I drank too much and I paid the price for it. If anything, I should be apologizing to you".
"Nothing to apologize for Blaster m'man. I just hope you didn't have to pay too high a price".
"Nah. Prowl had me on guard duty all day and banned me from listening to any music during that time".
"Oh man, I am sorry", Jazz said. He knew Blaster's greatest love was music. "That must have been rough".
"I managed. But nevermind me man, how about you? I heard what happened, you got hurt bad. You gonna be ok? Give me some assurance here".
"I'm just a bit sore, that's all. Ratchet did a bang up job of putting me back together. And just an hour ago Hoist gave me a paint job even Sunstreaker would be proud of".
"That's great man. But how about otherwise? I couldn't help noticing you've not been your usual shiny happy self this past week. Wanna talk about what's on your mind?"
"I'm that transparent huh?" Jazz looked up as the twins walked into the lounge at that point. "Its nothing man, I'm fine", he said to Blaster. "Hey, I gotta go right now, but we'll catch up when I get back? Maybe hit a club or something?"
"No problem dude. Just keep the high-grade stuff away. Have a great trip Jazz".
Jazz waved back as he followed the brothers out of the lounge. Blaster watched them go….
…." I have a scrapping imbecile for a brother !"
Sunstreaker's annoyed voice snapped Jazz out of his thoughts in time for him to screech to a halt in front of a looming rock face. Both twins had already transformed to their robot modes. Jazz transformed as well and assessed the situation. Sideswipe was staring up at the wall of rock in front of them and Sunstreaker was glaring missiles at Sideswipe. Jazz felt the tension between the two brothers and decided to try and ease it a bit.
"So….where are we?" he asked, then mentally slapped himself for the redundancy of the question.
"I don't know Jazz", Sunstreaker replied. "Let's ask our red proton-powered path-finder here". He smacked his brother on the back of the head.
"Primus! Are you still bitter about that?" Sideswipe asked. "Get over it already bro, stop living in the past".
"Well then, where the slag are we you moron?"
"We're right next to the valley where I plan to have us camp. Its just behind this rock-wall"
"And how can you be so sure?"
"I found it last week. Of course I had my jet-pack on and the wall didn't look so high from up there".
"Then how do you propose we get to the other side?" Sunstreaker glowered at him. "Maybe you'd like to get out your pile-drivers and dig us a way through?"
"Now where's the fun in that?" Sideswipe asked, giving his brother an angelic smile. "We'll just climb over".
Sunstreaker looked as if he wanted to pounce on his brother and beat the living circuits out of him.
"Sounds alright to me", Jazz said.
He felt around the wall for some hand- and foot-holds and began to pull himself up. Sideswipe followed soon after, then looked down at the yellow mech.
"Coming bro?" he asked ever so sweetly.
Sunstreaker muttered something dark and began to follow them up.
"I swear Sideswipe, if I'm forced to report in to Ratchet when this trip is over, I'm going to tell him its all your fault and then join him in beating the slag out of you", he grumbled.
"Will you quit yer gripin' and haul your useless, whiny skidplate up here! Jazz and I will be up and over by the time you get halfway up! Primus! I've seen half-scrapped 'Cons move faster than you!"
Sunstreaker took the bait and began hauling himself up the rocky surface, if for no other reason than to make Sideswipe eat his words. In five minutes he was almost level with them, and ten minutes later, the three of them reached the top together.
"Hey man, this is beautiful", Jazz said.
They had paused at the top, taking in the crisp mountain air to cool their internal systems, heated after the climb. Now their optics scanned out across a lush green valley, broken only by a ribbon of water that shone a dazzling silver and gold in the sunlight.
"Oh yes, definitely stunning", Sunstreaker agreed. "But how the slag are we supposed to get down there? Or haven't you noticed", he asked, slapping his brother on the back of the head again, "that climbing down isn't going to be as half as easy as it was climbing up?"
"Relax bro", Sideswipe said. "I think my jet-pack has just about enough juice in it for me to get down".
"Well yippee for you!" Sunstreaker snarled and then gestured to himself and Jazz. "How in the scragging pit are we supposed to get down?"
"Maybe I could find a rope or vine or something that I can throw to you guys".
"I've got a better idea, how about I just throw you?!"
"Now hold on, hold on", Jazz stepped in between the brothers. "Pour some coolant in those overheated systems of yours and let ol' Jazz take a look at the situation here".
While the brothers watched and reigned in their tempers, Jazz knelt down and examined the rocky surface they were standing on. Then he held up his left arm, slid his hand in at the wrist and replaced it with his hook and winch. He wedged the grappling hook securely into some rock, stood up, and let his length of rope unwind from the winch. He tugged at the rope a few times to make sure it was still secure, then looked up at the twins who stared back at him with puzzled looks on their faces. He grinned.
"What in Primus' name are you doing?" Sunstreaker finally asked.
"Humans call it rappelling", Jazz replied.
To the amazement of the brothers, Jazz stepped to the edge of the rock-face, turned to face them, and then pushed off, using the rope to slow his momentum every time he pushed off from the surface. In about two minutes he was standing at the bottom in ankle-deep grass. Looking up he saw the twins staring down at him.
"Well what are you lookin' at?" he called. "Do you wanna spend the rest of the day up there? C'mon Sunstreaker, this is your ride down!"
the yellow mech bent and picked up the rope, tugging on it a few times like Jazz had done to test its strength. Then he paused on the edge and looked down over his shoulder at Jazz.
"You are one crazy mech y'know that Jazz!" he yelled at the black and white 'Bot. "When we get back to the base, I'm having Ratchet scan your cranial circuits for any loose wires 'cos this is insane! Do you know what the risk is of denting myself on this thing? And how much paint I could scratch?"
"Primus! Can you just shut up and get down there already?" Sideswipe groaned. "I swear bro, one more whine form you and I'm throwing you off this thing. Prowl can put me in the brig as long as he likes when we get back".
Sunstreaker said something back to Sideswipe that Jazz couldn't hear, but it must have been something unpleasant because Sideswipe flipped him off just as he pushed off the edge. Once Sunstreaker got to the bottom, Sideswipe dislodged Jazz's grappling hook and floated down on his jet-pack to join them. Jazz wound back all the rope and replaced the winch with his left hand again.
"So what do we do now? Anymore dazzlingly brilliant ideas Sideswipe?" Sunstreaker sniped.
The red mech summoned a fishing rod from subspace.
"Yep. I'm going fishing', he said.
Sunstreaker stared at him incredulously as he set off on foot towards the river. Jazz grinned, un-subspaced his own rod and followed him.
"It's a holiday Sunny!" he called back. "Humans do this stuff all the time. They say its relaxing. Come ON!"
Sunstreaker scowled for a moment, then smiled evilly as a new thought came into his head. To hell with Ratchet's warning, he was going to get his brother good this time. He set off after the other two, hurrying a bit to catch up with them.
Five minutes later they reached the river and Sideswipe slowed his pace. Sunstreaker pounced, driving his shoulder into his brother's mid-section. Sideswipe had enough time to yell "What the slag – " before the two of them hit the water. The resulting splash drenched Jazz who was standing on the bank and smiling.
Sunstreaker held his brother under the water and smacked him a few times. Sideswipe flailed madly, trying to throw him off and resurface. Transformers couldn't drown, but being submerged underwater by three tons of Lamborghini wasn't exactly pleasant either. Sunstreaker released him enough for him to get his head up, then punched him in the face.
"That's for this scratch on my paint", the yellow mech said, pointing to a barely visible scrape on his left forearm. Then he punched him on the shoulder. "That's for this dent", he gestured to a small indentation on his shinguard. "And this", he shoved Sideswipe's head underwater again, "is for flipping me off just now".
But Sideswipe was mad. He managed to wrench his right leg free and kick Sunstreaker off. Sunstreaker fell back into the water and Sideswipe pounced with a few frame-denting punches of his own.
"Oh yeah?" he asked. "Well this is for rehashing the Bali incident and this is for whining worse than Tracks with a dented hood!" Sideswipe punctuated each word with a punch to his brother's face. "And THIS is for being just plain annoying". He finished off by driving a knee into Sunstreaker's side.
Jazz stood on the river bank pretty much laughing his skidplate off as the brothers continued to wrestle in the water, accumulating plenty of scratches, dents, and tearing open a bit of their exostructure now and then when they bounced off sharp-edged rocks. Eventually Jazz had to lie down on the grass, holding his sides and gasping air into his internal systems, while still listening to the brothers alternately trade blows and very colorful cuss words.
Finally he heard them stagger out of the water and sat up to get a good look at them. He fell onto his back again, guffawing. When he had at last gained some measure of composure, he propped himself onto his elbows and looked at the twins, who stared back at him, bemused.
"Hoo man!" he hooted. "Ratchet's not only gonna have you strung up in the brig, he's gonna cut off your heads and use them as bowling balls!"
"Very funny Jazz". Sunstreaker growled.
"Oh go throw yourself in a smelter Sunshine", Sideswipe retorted. "Its your slagging fault we look like this in the first place". He sat down beside Jazz and fingered a gash on his right shin that was leaking fluid from a ruptured fuel line
"Hey Sides-man, that could do with a bit o' welding there if ya ask me", Jazz said. "And it just so happens that Ratchet gave me a few souvenirs from the repair bay". He pulled an arc-welder from subspace and then knelt in front of Sideswipe.
Sunstreaker scowled. "How come he gets all the attention?" he grumbled. He sat down next to his brother, summoned his wax and a cloth, and began to try and buff off the scratches on his paint.
"Its not your fault bro. They just overlooked you when they dished out charm – OW!" Sideswipe yelped as Jazz's arc-welder came close to burning a sensitive wire.
"Sorry 'bout that man", Jazz said. "I'm still a bit shaky with these things".
Sunstreaker looked up. "In hindsight, I don't think I want you anywhere near me. I'd rather take my chances with Ratchet".
"Suit yourself Sunny", Jazz replied.
He finished welding shut the ruptured fuel line, subspaced the arc-welder, stood up and dusted his hands. "Well, that's about the best I can do for now".
Sideswipe looked down at his leg. "That's not half bad Jazz. What other little tricks have you picked up from Ratchet huh?"
Jazz chuckled. "Quite a few actually". He summoned a laser scalpel. "Here, let me show you".
By late afternoon Jazz had managed to patch the twins up as best he could. Sunstreaker had eventually relented after Sideswipe had nagged him about being a robot-chicken. Now the three of them lay on their backs on the grass, a few meters away from the river, looking up at the changing sky as afternoon passed and evening came on.
"Man, this is the life", Jazz sighed. "No duties, no tearing through the desert at insane speeds, and best of all, no stupid Decepticons trying to shoot lasers up your can. I might just stay here forever".
"Jazz, if we lose you, Autobot Headquarters will descend into a nuthouse", Sideswipe said. "Not that it isn't one already, but 'Bots might just start killing each other. Prime and Prowl'll probably quit their jobs if they didn't have you as mediator". He folded his hands behind his head. "But you're right, it is nice out here".
"As long as it doesn't rain" Sunstreaker added. "The last thing I need is water-stains on my paint job".
The three mechs were silent for a while. Then Sunstreaker spoke up again.
"So Jazz, what's been up with you these past three months?" he asked.
"Sunny", Sideswipe said.
"I mean, you don't seem to have been yourself".
"And hey, we're not the only ones who've noticed it, most of the Ark knows something's up with you".
"Sunstreaker! Shut it!" Sideswipe flung a clod of dirt at the yellow mech.
He ignored it. "So you wanna tell us what you've been upto?"
"Primus FRAGGIT Sunstreaker! Will you just shut your slagging mouth!" Sideswipe yelled.
"No you shut up Sideswipe!" Sunstreaker yelled back. "I wanna know what kinda robo-fly he has up his tailpipe".
Sideswipe sat up, ready to jump up and beat the living scrap out of his brother, but Jazz shot out an arm and held him back.
"Its alright Sides-man", he said. "Take it easy". He turned his head and looked the yellow mech in the optics.
"I want Jazz back", Sunstreaker said. "I want the Jazz that could make any Autobot spill his guts with a single word. The guy who could make even the worst situation tolerable. Part of him came back this morning, but I want all of him back".
"So spill", Sideswipe said, gently poking him in the chest. "What's eating you?"
Jazz sighed. "It's a long story guys".
"Yeah, well it's a long night", Sideswipe lay down once more and crossed his arms under his head.
"Well", Jazz began. "Like Sunny said, it all started about three months ago…."
XXX FLASHBACK XXX
Jazz rolled up to the entrance of the drive-in movie theatre and worked his horn once. A middle-aged man popped his head out of a window, in a booth he sat in by the side of the entrance. He smiled when he recognized Jazz's Porsche mode.
"Hey G-man!" Jazz greeted him. "Whatcha got for me tonight? It better be good".
'G-man', whose real name was Gregory Bishop, consulted a clipboard, brushing a few strands of his black hair away from his grey eyes, then looked back at Jazz.
"We got a classic tonight", he said. "Musical in fact. You ever heard of 'Annie'?"
"I've read some reviews here and there. Glad to be able to finally get to see it though".
"Well you've picked a good day. Hardly anyone comes in on a Thursday night. Hardly anyone ever came here at all before you showed up. I wont be surprised if half of these people come here just for the thrill of seeing real Autobots at a drive-in".
"I'm happy to be of service Greg. Besides, I enjoy the stuff you put on".
"Glad to hear it. Y'know, if there's anything in particular you'd like to see next week, you let me know. Now go on in, before someone takes up your usual spot".
Jazz chuckled and flashed his headlights once before heading in to his usual parking space, shutting off his engine and activating his audio and visual scanners to full power.
He had discovered the old drive-in during one of his wanderings in the countryside, a few miles away from the Ark, and had decided to give it a try. Jazz was a great lover of the Arts and after music, he loved to watch movies. Unfortunately, he rarely got to watch any because of his Autobot duties, and mainly because the local cinemas were still adapting to having a giant robot in their vicinity. So the drive-in came as a sort of blessing to him.
There he met Greg, the owner, and he learned that unless business picked up again, the place would have to close as the man didn't have enough money to pay off his lease. Upon his return back to the base, he'd told the other Autobots about is discovery and the owner's plight and all of them had pooled in some money to pay off the lease. Greg had been so grateful that he allowed Jazz, or any other Autobot, in free. And Jazz made it a point to keep coming back, not only for the movie, but because he knew that an Autobot in the area would be sure to draw a crowd.
Jazz smiled at the memory and then turned his attention to the screen as it flickered to life.
For the next hour and a half he forgot all about the war and the Decepticons as he watched the antics of the little red-haired girl, and once in a while hummed along with the songs as he committed them to his databanks so he could listen to them and play them back for Blaster when he got home.
As the movie drew to a close, Jazz revved up his engine again and checked his chronometer. He still had enough time to hit a club before it was time for him to head back. The problem was, which club should he drop by? He was so engrossed in trying to decide, that when the two huge speaker sets on either side of the screen exploded in fiery balls of flame, he nearly jumped out of his framework.
Quickly he transformed and scanned the area for any Decepticon presence. Surprisingly there was none. He wasted no time dwelling on that and instead turned to help the humans evacuate.
"Okay everyone, stay calm', he called. "Let's not panic. Drive outta here in an orderly manner".
No one listened to him. Several cars tried to drive out through the entrance at the same time and wound up causing a jam. Jazz headed over to where Greg was trying to unsuccessfully direct traffic; trying not to step on anyone as people who had left their cars scurried around under his feet.
"Jazz! What the hell happened out there?!" Greg shouted.
"I don't know man", Jazz replied. "One minute I was watching the credits roll up and the next – BOOM. No Decepticons either". He opened a comm. link. "I'm calling Inferno, Red Alert, Ratchet and Prowl. We could use some help".
"Don't worry about that, I've already put out a 911 call, the police and fire dept will get here before your friends do. But if you wanna help, go check out the front area, there were a couple of people parked there. And you might wanna get them out before the screen blows".
"I'm on it". Jazz turned to go as the first strains of a police siren reached his audios.
The destroyed speakers were still on fire and the flames had begun creeping to the screen. Jazz reached the front section and found three cars still there, one of them overturned. Rather than check them one by one, he activated a thermal scanner. The two upright cars were empty, but there was someone lying under the overturned one. Jazz quickly rushed over and found a teenaged girl lying on her stomach, trapped under it. Her upper body stuck out from a window, but she was pinned from the waist down. And she was conscious and trying to fruitlessly pull herself out from under the wreckage.
"Whoa there, don't move girl", he said, coming up to her.
She looked up at him with brown eyes, a bit fearful. "Please don't hurt me", she said in a small voice, as a tear rolled down her cheek.
He knelt beside her. "I'm not gonna hurt ya, I'm here to help ya. My name's Jazz and I'm an Autobot".
The girl rubbed the tear away. "M-my name's Anna and I'm… well I'm stuck". She flipped her dark brown ponytail over her shoulder and resumed trying to pull herself out.
"Hey girl don't do that! You might hurt yourself, that is if you're not hurt already, in which case you'll hurt yourself more. Now tell me where you feel the most pain".
"My back hurts, and I can feel my legs, but I cant move them. I think they're stuck under the steering wheel".
"Alright. Now hold still. I'm gonna try and cut part of this door off so I can get you out".
Jazz summoned his photon rifle and set it to a power low enough that it could cut through the metal without hurting the girl.
She lay still as he moved he beam around the metal frame and pulled off the lower part of the door. He found the steering wheel pinning her legs to the roof of the car. Using the photon beam again, he severed the wheel off.
"Jazz look out!" Anna screamed.
At that moment the screen exploded. Jazz threw himself over her, careful not to crush her with his weight, to shield her from the blast and the hot debris that began to rain down on them. He felt a searing pain in his right leg, but ignored it for the moment. When the debris shower was over he sat back and managed to carefully pull Anna out of the mangled car. He cradled her small body in his hands and stood up, then noticed some patches of blood on the front of her T-shirt.
"Man you maybe hurt worse than I thought", he said as he began to head to the entrance.
"W-well, you're hurt too", she replied. "You're limping".
"Now don't you worry your pretty little head about me. I'll be just fine, but I've gotta get you to a hospital and it looks like I'll have to take you myself, cos I don't see no ambulance out there".
He transformed carefully so that she was lying on the back seat of his Porsche mode.
"Wow", she whispered.
"You alright back there Anna?" he asked.
"I'm fine, its just that I've never been inside an Autobot before and it's a bit overwhelming".
"Not many people have. Now take it easy and we'll get you to help in no time".
Jazz gunned his engine and sped out from the entrance, which by now had been cleared by the authorities. He turned a corner and then spotted Greg sitting on the side of the pavement. The man looked up as Jazz slowed down and stopped in front of him.
"You gonna be alright G-man?"
"I'll be fine Jazz".
"You sure? I gotta get this young lady to a hospital, but I could come back if you need any help".
"Its ok Jazz, I don't think you can do anything more tonight. But I'll be grateful if you could send out Grapple, Hoist and Inferno tomorrow to help me clean up this mess".
"You got it G-man".
"And make sure you get Ratchet to check you out. I can see some fuel leaking out of you".
"I'll do that. Goodnight Greg".
Jazz sped off down the road again. He drove in silence for a while and then Anna spoke up.
"Hey Jazz, my head's starting to hurt so I'm just gonna sleep for a while. Will you wake me up when we get there?"
"That aint a good idea Anna. I'm no expert on the human anatomy, but I do know you might be having a concussion and sleepin' is the last thing you wanna do. You gotta stay awake girl. Just talk to me alright, tell me about yourself".
"What do you wanna know?"
"Well for starters, what's your last name?"
Jazz ran the name through his database. "Sounds Scottish".
"It is. Dad's from Scotland, but he was brought to the US when he was my age".
"And what is your age anyway?"
Jazz would have frowned suspiciously had he been in robot form.
"Again, I'm no expert on human laws either, but I've been around Prowl enough to know that you're far too young to drive, let alone own a car", he said.
"My Uncle Leo taught me how to drive when I was 12 and he lets me borrow his car sometimes to come to the drive-in".
"You sound like you got a really nice family". Jazz tried not to sound too wistful. Sure he loved all his fellow Autobots and some were like brothers to him, but he never had any real family, not like the humans did anyway. "Well we're here", he announced as he stopped right in front of the hospital.
XXX END OF FLASHBACK XXX
"I stayed with her after the docs brought her outta the ER, till her parents arrived", Jazz said. "Nice bunch of folks they are too. Anyways, they asked if I'd be willing to come by whenever I was able, to visit Anna. Turns out she'll be stuck in the hospital for a few months till she recovers and she don't have many friends. So I accepted. Besides, we both have a lot in common. I've never been able to talk about stuff the way I can with Anna".
"I remember you telling us about the drive-in and the explosion", Sideswipe said. "Why didn't you say anything about Anna?"
"We've involved enough innocent humans in our war as it is. And the more they know of us, the more they become targets. I don't want that for her man".
"So all those times you made us think you were going out to a club, you were really going to see Anna?" Sunstreaker asked. "What changed?"
When Jazz spoke again the brothers sensed the change in his voice.
"Her mom called last Sunday. Anna's liver failed and she went into a coma – kinda like stasis-lock to us – and unless they can get a replacement, she's gonna die".
"Is there anything we can do?" asked Sideswipe.
"Not unless you got part of a liver to donate Siders".
With a sigh, Jazz rose to his feet and looked up at the few stars that had already come out in the late evening sky.
"I couldn't lead a handful of humans outta something as simple as a drive-in, how could I lead Autobots against a group of Decepticons?"
Sunstreaker sat up. "You did the best you could in the circumstances. And you saved Anna".
"Only to have her fighting for her life now", Jazz turned back to look at him. "And you know that had Prowl or Prime been there, they would have handled the situation much better than I did".
One thing Jazz loved about Earth was the stars. He loved the way the tiny, silver dots of light twinkled against the black sky. Stars were rare in the Cybertronian sky and most of the time he was too busy fighting for his life and the Autobots to notice them. But here on Earth they were in abundance. On a clear night, like tonight, there would be millions of them. He knew humans sometimes had a custom of wishing on stars. He knew the constellations and had once pointed them out to Anna.
Anna. The thought of his little friend brought back to him another fond memory.
XXX FLASHBACK XXX
Jazz sat on the floor of the very large, spacious hospital room that Anna occupied. It was mid-evening and he was keeping her company till her parents got off work. Over the course of his visits, they had swapped stories about their lives, though Jazz had been the one doing most of the storytelling. After all, he was millions of years older than she was and had seen things she could only dream about.
She already knew about the war with the Decepticon and why the Transformers had come to Earth, so they rarely spoke about those things. Most of the time they spoke about music and movies because Jazz loved having someone to share his new-found Earth-culture interest with. Back at the Ark he'd talk to Blaster and Tracks sometimes, but Blaster favored mostly rock music, and Tracks – he only liked the culture that gave him attention.
"So what did you do before the war?" Anna asked.
Jazz blinked under his visor, a bit surprised.
"What makes you think I did anything?"
"C'mon Jazz, I seriously don't think they created you just for the war, especially with a name like 'Jazz'. You had to be doing something else before they called you up to fight".
"You're a smart li'l lady Anna. Well you're right. Before the war I was a singer. I was a young mech back then, rollin' around Cybertron with a group o' buddies. Eventually we decided to form a band and I was the lead singer. We'd go around the outskirts of Iacon playin' at clubs and bars to earn our energon".
Jazz sighed wistfully at the memory. "Then the war came and every young mech able to wield a rifle was sent to fight, my buddies and I included. We'd never seen a weapon before let alone knew how to shoot one, and if you didn't learn fast you were as good as dead. My guys didn't learn fast enough. I nearly followed 'em; I took a shot from a Seeker right in the chest, but Ironhide found me and brought me to the main Iacon HQ. Ratchet fixed me up and then I was introduced to Prowl and Prime. And as they say on Earth: the rest is history".
Anna cringed. "I'm sorry I asked".
"Its alright. I guess part of it turned out for the better. I mean, I got to come to Earth didn't I?"
"I guess… So, you were a singer? Why did you stop? And how many of your Auto-buddies know about your little talent anyways?"
"None of them actually. I never told them what I used to do and they never asked. An' there aint no time or place for singin' back at the Ark. Too busy fightin' the 'Cons and when we're not, well, we still have duties. Besides", he shrugged sheepishly. "Gotta have a bit o' music to sing to".
"You never played an instrument?"
"Nope. I just had the vocalizer. The other 'Bots did the fancy finger work".
Anna smiled. "Well, guess we'll have to fix that on your next visit, cos by golly, I wanna hear you sing".
XXX END OF FLASHBACK XXX
And fix it she had. Anna'd had her parents bring over her acoustic guitar and over the next two visits, had taught him how to play it. She'd even begged her uncle to get an Autobot-sized guitar made so that he could practice for himself. It was being made as he sat there.
He looked at Sideswipe and Sunstreaker who lay on the grass a few feet away in shut-down. He knew he should have been getting all the rest he could as well, but thinking about Anna and her current condition made him restless. So he cast his optics back to the stars again and made a wish on the brightest one. Then he too lay back and fell asleep in minutes.
The first thing the trio did when they got back to the Ark the next afternoon was to report to Ratchet. They stood in line to attention as the Chief Medic paced to and fro, scrutinizing every scrape and dent on their framework, focusing mainly on the twins.
"So", he asked, casting an optic at Sideswipe who stood in between Jazz and Sunstreaker. "Did you encounter any Decepticons on your little vacation to Primus knows where?"
"No Ratchet, there wasn't a single Decepticon within a 20 mile radius", Sideswipe replied, trying not to grin inspite of the situation.
"Am I to assume then, that all this is a result of self-infliction?" Ratchet frowned at Sunstreaker.
"Hey! I'm not gonna be blamed for this!" he snapped. "My idiot-brother over there was the one who made us climb a mountain".
"Is this true?" he shot Jazz a look. Jazz nodded slowly. "Well then, unless the two of you got it into your heads to repeatedly slam yourselves into the mountainside alternately using Sideswipe's jet-pack, I believe there is another explanation in order isn't there? There'd better be or I'm assigning you both to a day in the brig".
Reluctantly, the brothers told Ratchet about their little skirmish in the river.
"I knew it!" Ratchet cried when Sunstreaker ended. "I knew it was not beyond you two to do something astoundingly stupid! Get your collective tailpipes down to Maintenance and wait there till I discuss with Prowl how to deal with you".
"B-but, Jazz fixed us up", Sideswipe said.
"Oh he did, did he?" Ratchet shot back. "Well the last time I looked I didn't see 'Chief Medical Officer' stuck to his chestplate. So I suggest you get your spoilers out of here before you give me yet another reason to have you brigged. Dismissed".
The twins fled. Ratchet turned to Jazz.
"You fixed them up?" he asked.
"Hey man, you cant blame me if I picked up a few tricks from the finest medic of them all".
"And flattery will get you nowhere Jazz, I can promise you that".
"Cant blame a 'Bot for trying".
Ratchet snorted. "And how do you feel?"
"Fine I guess".
"Fine enough to tell me what's on your mind?" Jazz flinched and didn't answer. Ratchet gestured to a chair. "Sit". Jazz sat.
"I don't wanna rehash this again Ratchet. I already talked about it to the Lambo-twins last night and that hurt bad enough. I just wanna put it out of my mind and go back to being myself".
Ratchet sat down beside Jazz and placed a hand on the black and white mech's shoulder.
"I didn't ask you to tell me what happened. I asked you what's on your mind. I'll get the brothers to tell me what happened if it hurts you. But I want to know what's going through your cranial unit".
"I don't know Ratchet. I just feel like I've failed – in a lot of things. And I've let people down, humans and Autobots alike".
"Jazz, you do know that none of us are perfect. We're all prone to mistakes and we're all prone to emotions. No one expects you to succeed all the time and no one expects you to be shiny happy Jazz all the time either. You may be our motivator, but you're entitled to your off-days too".
"There's a little girl I've been visiting in the hospital. She's become a good friend of mine. I rescued her from the drive-in, and now she might die because I …I".
"Because you what? Listen to me son, I don't want you blaming yourself for things unforeseen that are beyond your control".
"I don't want her to die Ratchet. She's so young and there's so much she wants to do".
"She's not dead yet Jazz, don't give up hope on her. For all the practicality we medics insist upon, we still believe in miracles. I mean, look at Ironhide. I've lost count of the number of times I thought we'd lost him after each meeting he's had with Megatron's fusion cannon. But there he is, still alive and kicking and jumping into the line of fire all over again. And speak of the devil".
Jazz followed Ratchet's optics to the doorway of the repair bay. Ironhide was leaning against one side, arms crossed over his chest, one foot crossed over the other.
"Well now, if this aint a nice father-son moment", he drawled before breaking into a chuckle.
Ratchet flung a scalpel at him and the blade embedded in the wall a mere inches from the red mech's head. Ironhide barely flinched. Jazz suspected it had something to do with the millennia of throwing himself into fusion cannon fire. Ratchet too shook his head and then leveled Ironhide with a frown as sharp as the scalpel blade.
"What the slag do you want?" he asked.
"Much as I hate to break up this little heart-to-heart, I want Jazz".
"Why 'Hide, I didn't know ya fancied me that much. Unfortunately, I aint that type of mech man. You might wanna try Tracks though".
Ratchet burst into fits of laughter at Ironhide's look of disgust.
"Aw shut up ya bunch o' sickos. There's a man out there who wants to talk ta Jazz".
"Did he have a name? What did he want?"
"Said he was a Mr. Deloma or somethin' and would like to speak to ya personally. He's waiting outside".
"Get going then". Ratchet said and stood up. "I gotta go talk to Prowl about our favorite Lamborghinis".
"Ratchet, don't be too hard on 'em man", Jazz said as he followed Ironhide out.
Jazz and Ironhide walked most of the way in silence. Then as they neared the Ark's main entrance, Ironhide stopped and put a hand on Jazz's shoulder.
"I know I should have done this earlier, but I wanna apologize for running out there like a slagging fool that day".
"'Hide man, shut up! I never held nothin' against ya for that. If it makes you feel better though, apology accepted".
"Thanks. Now are you gonna be alright by yourself out there or would ya like me to come along?"
"I'll be fine 'Hide, don't worry".
"That's good ta hear. We only got one Jazz on the team and Primus forbid we ever lose you".
Jazz smiled and Ironhide headed back the way they came. Jazz strolled out through the entrance, spotted the man, then did a double take as the man walked up to him. He was dressed in grey pants and his shirt reflected the cool blue of Jazz's optics. His bandaged left arm hung in a sling.
"Primus above! You're supposed to be dead!" Jazz blurted out before he could stop himself as he promptly sat down on the ground. Then he remembered his manners and extended his right hand. "Pardon my little outburst Mr. Deloma, but I'm kinda in shock here".
"I understand. And I probably would have been dead if not for you. Please, call me Andrew", the man shook Jazz's hand.
"So what can I do for you Andrew? My name's Jazz by the way".
"I know. I came by yesterday, but you were not in. another black and white robot with the police car doorwings..uh..".
"Ah, yes, Prowl. He said I should come by today and talk to you. And this is more about what I can do for you. I owe you my life Jazz, so if there is anything you want, just name it".
"Just seein' you alive is good enough for me. But I'd like to know what happened to y'all that day, if you don't mind".
"I don't recall much after you saved us from the exploding fuel-tank. I remember my wife, Grace, and I running for our lives and this huge tank firing at us. The third blast knocked me off my feet and I landed about two meters away and passed out. When I came to, all you robots had disappeared and the authorities were everywhere. I came out with a broken arm and a few bruises. My wife died on the spot".
Jazz hung his head. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I couldn't help or protect you more".
"I don't hold you accountable for my wife's death Jazz. You were hurt bad yourself. There was nothing more you could have done. The doctors said she probably didn't even feel any pain. And I can take comfort in knowing that eventhough she's gone, parts of her will continue to live".
"I don't understand".
"Grace is an organ donor. If ever she was to die, but her internal organs were still intact, they could be donated to people in need of transplants".
Jazz looked up, feeling his entire laser core glowing with hope. He finally understood what Ratchet was trying to tell him earlier.
"Well, there may be somethin' you might be able to do for me", he said. "There's a little girl in the hospital right now, she's fifteen, and she needs a replacement liver – ".
"Done", Andrew said, before Jazz could even finish. "She wont even have to wait. Just give me her details and I'll see to it right away".
Jazz nodded. "Thanks so much. This means a lot to me".
"No Jazz, it is I who should thank you. I'm more than happy to help… and I know Grace would be happy too. She loved children".
Jazz strolled into the Control Room later that night. Andrew Deloma had talked to Anna's family and arranged for the transplant operation to take place in two days. All Jazz could do now was wait.
"Its late Jazz". Prowl said from his seat. "You should be resting. You're still not 100".
"I know man, but I just couldn't sleep till I came by and said Thanks".
"And you are thanking me for?"
"Everything. Mainly for asking Andrew to come by".
"I wanted to make it up to you. Because I was wrong in putting you in that kind of position in the first place. And I apologize for trying to force you to be something you are not".
"Man! What is it with you guys and apologizing today?! First Ironhide and now you! If it's Ratchet next then I'm moving out!"
Prowl let out an extremely rare laugh. "Firstly, in all the millennia I have known him, Ratchet has never apologized for anything in his life. Secondly, if you were to move out, you have nowhere to go".
"I could find a nice garage somewhere".
"You would never survive".
"What makes you think that?"
"You are what humans would call a 'people person'. You need to surround yourself with others at all times because isolation would drive you crazy. Even more, you need your friends. You love your friends and they mean a great deal to you; which is a comforting thought".
Jazz smiled and looked around the room, at Prowl's tired but rigid posture. A very sudden and highly unlikely thought entered his head at that moment.
"Prowl, when was the last time you got out of the Ark for a bit o' recreation?" he asked as innocently as he could. He was rewarded when Prowl remained silent. "I thought so". He went over to a panel on the wall and opened a comm. line.
"What do you think you're doing?" Prowl asked.
"Jazz to Tracks", he called sweetly over the line, ignoring Prowl's question.
"What do you want Jazz?" came Tracks' posh, accented voice, laced with a tinge of annoyance.
"I want you down in the Control Room for monitoring duty. Prowl's gonna take a little break".
"You will pay for this Jazz, do you know you're interrupting me right in the middle of – ".
"Don't ya delay now! Goodnight Tracks. The Jazzman loves ya!" Jazz closed the line before Tracks could reply.
"Jazz, I will simply not – " Prowl began.
" – stay in this room any longer when there are better things that I'd rather be doing", Jazz finished. "Now get your aft outta that chair and come with me. Or do I have to call Ratchet down to officially declare you on mandatory R'n'R?"
Rather than risk the wrath of the Chief Medic, Prowl grudgingly left his position and followed Jazz.
"This is the last time I am letting you talk me into something. Where are we going?"
"Somewhere you can relax and not think", Jazz said and transformed. "Greg's drive-in".
Prowl sighed as he transformed too, and the two black and white mechs drove off from the Ark into the night.
With the help of the Autobots, mainly Grapple, Hoist and Inferno, Greg had managed to get the drive-in up and running again in a week, complete with a new screen and speaker system, smaller, but much cleared than the previous one.
"I am surprised that Greg was willing to change his movie line-up at the last minute", Prowl said as he and Jazz drove back to the Ark around 1am.
"Eh, he owed me a movie. Did ya like it?"
"I see. Quite a bit in fact. Though I do conclude that it is close to impossible for one person to create clothes for seven children all in the time frame of one night".
"Aw Prowl!" Jazz groaned. "The reason I chose 'Sound Of Music' was so that you'd give that mind o' yours a rest. And there you go analyzing stuff again".
"I did not analyze anything Jazz, any simple-minded mechanism or human would have been able to come to that conclusion".
"Well, this simple-minded mechanism just didn't care. Glad you enjoyed it though".
"I did, and thank you. I know you would have rather gone to a club with Blaster".
"Naw man. I still aint that fit to go partying all night just yet. He ended up taking Hound, Beachcomber and Powerglide with him, and man, would I like to see the four o' them when they come stumbling in".
"Indeed. Thought it is to be hoped that they don't burn out before they even get back".
"Yeah. And hey man, what did you end up doing to the brothers?"
"Sideswipe and Sunstreaker? I assigned them to clean up the whole of Maintenance once Grapple and Hoist had finished their work. It was either that or clean up the lab once Wheeljack and Perceptor were through. Needless to say even the twins have some small measure of common sense in their CPUs".
The warm glow of the Ark's entrance came up ahead, along with the small forms of Huffer and Gears who were on sentry duty together.
"Who's idea was it to pair those two up?" Jazz asked.
"Contrary to rumors circling the Ark, I do have a sense of humor Jazz", Prowl replied.
Jazz laughed out as they drove in together. "Well it was a fun night Prowl. Now make sure you go right to sleep. Good night!"
Prowl transformed. "It is two in the morning Jazz. The night ended a couple of hours ago".
"Whatever man!" Jazz called as he continued to drive to his room.
Prowl's faceplate broke into a rare smile before he turned and headed to his own quarters.
Over the next two days, Jazz was as restless as a mech with shorting cranial circuits. When he was not on his assigned light duty, he was frequently calling up the hospital or Anna's parents to check on her condition. The brothers, Ratchet and Prowl understood his edginess, but it made the rest of the Autobots a bit uncomfortable.
On the evening of the second day, Jazz came into the lounge, lay down on a couch and closed his optics, shutting down some of his systems and ignoring the stares he got from the other 'Bots. He stayed that way for a good 20 minutes.
"Y'know man, sometimes I wish I knew what went on behind that visor of yours". Blaster's voice entered his audios and the red horned-head of his friend came into his field of vision.
"Hey Blast-man, what can I do for ya?" he asked.
Blaster gave Jazz's legs a nudge, making him bend his knees and pull them up so that the silver and red mech could seat himself in the space.
"You look like hell".
Jazz rubbed his temples with one hand. "I suppose I do. Couldn't sleep last night".
"Y'know, all this is not doing wonders for your health. You're still hurt Jazz and you're not giving yourself a chance to catch up and heal".
"You've been talking to Ratchet haven't you? I swear man, I've had nothing but light duty ever since Ratchet fixed me up".
"I'm not talkin' just physically Jazz. All the stuff that's been going on in your head these past two weeks. You can hide a lot of things behind that visor man, but you cant hide pain. I can see it in you plain as day".
"Blaster I – ".
"Nah, I don't want to know what's causing it. I just want you to stop hiding from it and face it. Every time something bad happens you cant keep running to Ratchet and Prowl and expect them to shield you from it by getting them to comfort and reassure you. What happens Jazz, the day they're gone and you cant run to them anymore? What will you do?"
"Blaster please don't talk like that", Jazz said, almost pleading. "They're… they're some of my best friends and I just couldn't imagine life without them".
"But what if it came to that? Would you just curl up and die too? Abandon the rest of the Autobots? You're a lot older than most of us, but I know you're the youngest outta the five of you. You need to grow up too Jazz, and be strong like them. There will come a time when we'll all look to you for guidance too".
"Dang Blaster, for once I dunno what to say. Maybe except Thanks buddy".
"Hey man, what're friends for?" Blaster slapped Jazz's knee lightly, then got up. "So I'm gonna leave you to get what sleep you can in the lounge and go bug Perceptor in the lab".
Jazz giggled and stretched out his legs again. "Go easy on him now Blast-man".
Blaster left and Jazz shut his optics again. He managed to shut down for another half an hour before he felt himself being shaken.
"Jazz. Jazz! Wake up!" It was Cliffjumper. "JAZZ!"
Reluctantly Jazz dragged himself back online. "Hey man, what's up?"
"Prowl and Ratchet want you in the Control Room on the double. They said its urgent".
Jazz lept off the couch, stumbled, ran to the door and then transformed and screeched down the hallway as fast as he could go. Seaspray and Bumblebee jumped out of the way as he rounded the corner and nearly jackknifed. He quickly transformed back and caught himself.
"Easy Jazz", Ratchet said as he steadied the white and black mech from behind.
"What is it? What's going on?" Jazz asked.
"Calm down Jazz", Prowl said in his calm voice. "Anna's mother is on the line and she would like to speak to you. Shall I open a line or would you like to speak privately?"
"Open a line".
"Hello Jazz", Anna's mother said. "I'm terribly sorry for disturbing you".
"No trouble at all ma'am, how can I help ya?"
"Actually I called to let you know about Anna".
Prowl and Ratchet saw Jazz's body visibly tense up and exchanged a look.
"What's the situation?" Jazz asked.
"The doctors brought her out of surgery half an hour ago. the operation was a success and she's going to be fine. She's not in a coma anymore, they said she's just sleeping normally and she should be able to wake up in a few days".
Jazz sat down and let out a sigh of relief. "Thank Primus", he said softly.
"I would like you to come by Jazz, but at the moment the doctors are only allowing her father and myself to see her. I'm sorry".
"I understand ma'am, its quite alright. Just let me know when she wakes up".
"It would be my pleasure". She was silent for a moment, then said, "I know you'll never accept a reward but I just want you to know how grateful we are for all you have done for Anna. God Bless you lad".
"Thank you ma'am. I'm personally honored to have met all of you".
The call ended a few moments later and Jazz turned his chair around to face Ratchet and Prowl who were standing a little way off and smiling.
"Jazz, take the rest of the night off and get some sleep", said Prowl. "I'll get Tracks to cover for you".
Jazz grinned and stood up. "Thanks Prowler, I'm sure he'll be more than happy to do it".
Ratchet chuckled. "Good night Jazz", he said and clapped the black and white mech on the shoulder. "I mean it. You had better get a good night's sleep because if I find you crashed out in the middle of the lounge again, I promise you I will thrash the living slag out of you".
"Why Ratchet, you do love me!" Jazz giggled.
He dashed out of the room as the white medic aimed a punch at him.
"So", Ratchet said turning to Prowl. "I hear Jazz took you out for a movie a couple of nights ago. what did you end up watching?"
"'The Sound of Music'".
"Ah, its one of Jazz's more tolerable favorites. But did you ever figure out how one person managed to sew clothes for seven children in the space of one night?"
"The logic escapes me on that one my friend".
For the first time in a good, long while, Jazz was able to power down peacefully. Anna would live, his Autobot friends were all alive and doing well. He was happy. He would probably have to do a bit of extra duty tomorrow to make up for what he had missed, but he didn't really mind. And maybe he'd finally get around to visiting that new club Blaster had spoken of. Jazz smiled to himself as he shut down. He was happy.
Two weeks later Jazz was on sentry duty at the Ark's entrance when a grey pick-up truck drove up and stopped a few meters away from him. His entire faceplate lit up with a beaming smile as a familiar person got out of the passenger side.
"Anna! Girl what are you doing here?! When did you wake up? Why didn't you tell me?"
He knelt down and gently scooped her up in his hands so she could give him a hug.
"Its nice to see you again too Jazz", she said, giving him a hug and then grinning up at him. "I came here to see you, you big oaf!"
"Not that I aint happy to see you either Anna-girl, cos this is a nice surprise".
"I figured you could use one, that's why I begged mom not to call you. The hospital released me last week and I woke up four days after the operation or so they said. Please don't be mad".
"Nah, 'course I'm not mad with ya li'l lady. So why are you really here?"
"Well I came here to talk to ya, and also to give you that". She pointed to the pick-up and for the first time Jazz noticed the large box, longer than the truck itself, tied to its roof.
"Man Anna, what is that?"
"What do you think?"
Jazz grinned. "Y'know, you're lucky you caught me on sentry duty today".
"Not really Jazz. Y'see I spoke to uh… Prowl, yeah, and he arranged for you to be here today".
"Dang girl! You spoke to Prowl? No wonder he insisted I go on sentry duty instead of help out at Communications. I never go on sentry duty! Anyways, what'd you wanna talk about?"
"We'd better sit down Jazz". Anna's smile faded a bit.
"Well what about your uncle? Wouldn't he like to, y'know go inside… or… something?"
"Nah, he'll be fine…. And I cant stay all that long either, I have to get home and start packing".
"Packing?" Jazz sat down on a ridge, still holding the girl in his hands. "You goin' on a holiday?"
"No Jazz". A pause. "My dad's being transferred to New Zealand by his company. Mom, Uncle Leo and I gotta go with him".
"For how long? A year or two maybe?"
"Damn Jazz! I wish I didn't have to go! I… I mean, you're my best friend! All that time I was in the hospital, you were the only one who even bothered to come by and see me… And… and now I have to go away and…". Tears began to flow from her brown eyes.
"Aw Anna-girl don't cry". Jazz tried to comfort her, even as he felt a strange sting behind his own optics. "Its gonna be alright. Who knows, it might be just for a little while. And we'll still keep in touch, send me a letter every day if you want to". The sting behind his optics increased as she looked up at him. "I'm always gonna be your friend Anna".
She rubbed a palm across her cheeks, wiping off the tears as the kept flowing. "I want you to promise me something Jazz".
"Of course, what is it?"
"I mean really promise me".
"Cross my laser core and hope to rust".
"Look me in the eyes". Jazz raised his hand and brought her up to level with his face. "I said eyes Jazz, not your dumb visor".
"Y'know, there aint a single Autobot who's ever seen me without my visor".
"But I'm not an Autobot".
"True. But you gotta promise me not to tell anyone I did this".
"I promise. Cross my heart".
With his free hand, Jazz flipped up his visor to reveal a pair of soft, glowing, pale blue optics.
Anna gasped. "Jazz you have such beautiful eyes! Why oh why do you insist on wearing that stupid visor?"
"Well, you said it yourself, I got beautiful eyes. Cant have a bunch o' femmes falling for me now can I? Being in the middle of a war and all". Jazz grinned as Anna rolled her own eyes. "Seriously though, I like to keep some things about me private, my optics are one. Plus, the visor helps to keep out the dust…. So, what did you want me to promise you?"
Anna pointed to the box. "Promise me you'll keep practicing till you get really really good. And hopefully if we meet again someday, you'll be able to sing for me. Promise me Jazz".
"I promise Anna".
The pick-up's horn sounded.
"I have to go. There's still a lot to do at home".
"When do you leave? I'll come see you off".
"In three days. Please don't Jazz, one goodbye is bad enough, I don't think I can handle another".
Anna put her arms around Jazz's neck and hugged him as best she could. "Goodbye Jazz".
A bit of clear fluid spilled from Jazz's optics and their glow dimmed a little. "Goodbye Anna".
He set her down, flipped down his visor and walked her back to the truck, nodding hello to Leo. Then he took down the box and waited till they drove out of sight. "Farewell". He turned and carried the box back to his quarters.
Jazz had not only been a good learner, he was fast too. Over the next two days, Jazz spent all the free time he could locked in his room practicing everything Anna had taught him and then some. The specially designed acoustic guitar was considerably light and comfortable to hold in his hands; and by the end of the first day he was already strumming out random melodies. Come the second day, he could play simple songs he'd heard and sing along with the music.
Of course he was careful not to let the other Autobots find out about his little talent, though most of them were curious about what he was doing in his room all the time. He didn't know why, but he just didn't want anyone to find out. Maybe because there had never been any musical Autobots before and he wasn't sure how it would go down. It was one thing to like music, but it was an entirely different thing when one had the ability to make it.
On the third day after Anna's visit, Ratchet was walking down the hallway that led through a section of the Autobot quarters, on his way back to the repair bay after a small chat with Prowl and Ironhide. Then he heard music that seemed to be coming from Jazz's quarters. Where as that in itself was no great surprise, it was the nature of the music itself that stopped the Chief Medic dead in his tracks.
It was not coming from Jazz's sound system, it was too soft for that. No, it seemed to be coming from the mech himself. Ratchet shook his head to clear his audios, making sure he was really hearing what he was hearing and that it was not some figment of his imagination playing tricks on him. Convinced it was no trick, he stepped softly over to Jazz's room door. He also expected to find the door locked and so was pleasantly surprised to see it halfway open. He carefully peered inside so as not to be seen or heard, and nearly fell over in pure shock. He caught himself just in time.
Jazz was seated at his desk, back to the door, leaning back in his chair with his feet on the table top, playing, what the humans called, an acoustic guitar and singing. Ratchet leaned on the doorframe and listened intently because it sounded genuinely pleasant.
Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.
Home, home on the range
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.
How often at night, when the heavens are bright
With the light from the glittering stars
Have I stood there amazed and asked as I gazed
If their glory exceeds that of ours.
Home, home on the range
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.
Where the air is so pure and the flowers so free
The breezes so balmy and light
That I would not exchange my home on the range
For all of the cities so bright.
Home, home on the range
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.
Ratchet couldn't help but applaud. Jazz jumped, swept his feet off the table and turned around, a deer-in-the-headlights look on his face.
"R-Ratchet! What are you doing here?!"
"The door was open, I heard the music".
"Yea, left it open cos all the other guys on this hallway are on duty. Wasn't expecting anyone to come by".
"That's a lovely talent you have there son". Ratchet came inside and sat down on Jazz's recharge bed, facing the white and black mech. "Where'd you learn to play like that?"
"Anna taught me. She's the one who gave me the guitar".
"You said she's leaving today. Aren't you going to see her off?"
"She told me not to come. One goodbye was hard enough as it is".
"I see. And what about you?"
"I'm gonna be fine Ratchet. I learned a lot over the past few weeks. I can handle it".
"Great to hear that Jazz. And where on Cybertron did you learn to sing like that?"
Jazz smiled. "Well Ratch, before the war started, while you were probably busy in med-school, I was cruisin' around Cybertron as lead singer in my very own band".
"So… those other Autobots, the ones Ironhide found you with, they were…".
"They were the rest of my band… yea. Electro worked the keyboards, Lightshow played bass, Slowmotion was our drummer and Strings was the lead guitarist. They were my best friends too".
"I'm sorry Jazz".
"They were already dead Ratchet. I've seen you work a lot of miracles since I've known you, but there was no way you could have got them functioning again. They were damaged beyond repair. At least I'm keeping the legacy going".
Ratchet nodded. "So is that the only song you know or do you have more up your sleeve?"
Jazz grinned, adjusted the knobs at the handle and ran his thumb across the strings. Then he began to strum
All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go,
I'm standing here outside your door,
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye.
But the dawn is breaking, it's early morn,
The taxi's waiting, he's blowing his horn,
Already I'm so lonesome I could cry. So
Kiss me and smile for me, tell me that you'll wait for me,
Hold me like you'll never let me go.
I'm leaving on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again.
Oh, babe, I hate to go.
Every place I go, I'll think of you,
Every song I sing, I'll sing for you;
When I come back, I'll wear your wedding ring.
Dream about the days to come
When I won't have to leave alone,
About the time I won't have to say:
Kiss me and smile for me, tell me that you'll wait for me,
Hold me like you'll never let me go.
I'm leaving on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again.
Oh, babe, I hate to go.
Jazz put down the guitar and looked back at Ratchet. "It kinda explains how Anna must feel right now. Well except for the wedding part".
"You've got natural talent Jazz and I think the other Autobots deserve to hear it".
"Ratchet no, I… I… I don't want it to seem like I'm showing off or anything. Besides, most o' them don't even like music and the Ark aint no place for – ".
"Nobody likes music when its coming out of Blaster's woofers at audio-splitting volume. This is different. I think this is just what the others could use to remind them that we have lives away from the war".
"But I'm not comfortable – ".
"If you even THINK of telling me you're not comfortable singing in front of people I will tear off my chevron and make you eat it! Especially after you just told me you were the lead singer in your band. You are doing this Jazz". He opened a comm. line. "Prowl, get down to Jazz's quarters, there's something you've got to hear".
Jazz groaned. "You're not going to let this go are you?"
"No chance in hell son".
xxxxx Dear Anna,
Hope you're doing alright where you are. Well guess what happened the day you left. Ratchet heard me playing my guitar and singing and insisted I perform for the other Autobots. So he pitched the idea to Prowl and he agreed! Man! Prowl don't even listen to music all that much! And Prowl was supposed to be my buddy. Traitor! Well he seemed to think it was a good idea, blah blah, for us to share our talents with each other, etc etc. So after a good amount of heckling from him and Ratchet, they suckered me into doing their bidding.
My grand performance was last night. No one had told the other 'Bots about it, Prowl had just ordered them to gather in the lounge, so there was quite a bit of talk going round as to what in the universe was going on. Needless to say there was a good deal of shock when Prowl turned the spotlight on me and a very loud "What the slag/frag?!" from Sunstreaker and Sideswipe respectively. Ironhide's jaw nearly hit the ground, followed by a "Well throw me in a smelter and call me scrap" from Bluestreak.
At least I had a week to practice my stuff. The other guys seemed to enjoy themselves, eh, that may be an understatement. I couldn't help noticing Brawn and Windcharger boogie-ing down at the back to my version of 'Jailhouse Rock'. Heck, even the Dinos decided to make an appearance. Swoop good-naturedly tried to teach Sludge how to dance. Don't know how that worked out though. Tracks and Red Alert are still nursing a few dents after being bowled over by the ol' bronto.
But I think the guy who enjoyed himself the most was Ratchet. He's dead serious when it comes to his work, but he can party as well as the next 'Bot. Poor guy. I know he'd like to relax more, but the whole war-thing. I understand why he gets so cranky sometimes, he's certainly fond of us all and hates to see any of us get hurt. His sniping is just a way of telling us how much he cares. Under that cranky exterior though, he's got a beautiful laser core.
And I'm glad he was able to convince Prowl to cut lose just for one night. Man it was cool to actually see the guy bopping along. Prowl never shows that emotion, so I guess I must have done something right.
The night ended with a bang – literally. One word: Wheeljack. Ol' 'Jack thought it'd be nice if the finale was something special, so he quickly rigged a couple of old smoke bombs to give off colored smoke during the end of my last song. But hey, if one of Wheeljack's gadgets actually worked it wouldn't be Wheeljack now would it? Nah. The smoke bombs did what bombs do best and exploded. Thank goodness for Inferno and Trailbreaker. 'Breaker's force-shield stopped the rest of the lounge from getting torched and Inferno put out the flames while the rest of us got the heck outta there.
I cant thank you enough for teaching me all the guitar-stuff Anna-girl. It felt good to get up there and perform for the others and make them happy. Ratchet was right. I think my li'l performance helped the other guys see that we're not just nameless warriors in a centuries-long war. We're mechs with our own unique personalities and talents, and we all have our worth no matter how small we may be in stature.
Cheers! Jazz xxxxx
Days became weeks, weeks became months and soon those months turned into years. For the first 10 years after moving to New Zealand, Anna finished high school and graduated from University with degrees in Music and Teaching, after which, she then moved to Scotland at the request of her father, to understand her ancestry. There she received a job at a local school. She stayed on in Scotland for the next 10 years.
For Jazz meanwhile, he never had time to play his guitar and entertain the others after that night. Soon after his one-night-only performance, Optimus Prime returned. The Autobot leader's return seemed to have an antagonizing effect on Megatron and soon, too soon for some of the Autobots, the Decepticon raids and attacks began again. New Decepticon combiner teams were created: the Stunticons and the Combaticons to which the Autobots countered with the gestalts of the Aerialbots and the Protectobots. When the Ark became too small to accommodate all the new Autobots, the construction of Autobot City began.
But the two friends still managed to keep in touch – first through letters and then through emails, though he never once saw her again. It was one of the few things that kept Jazz's hopes and spirits alive. Her letters were a constant reminder of why he put his existence on the line day in and day out. He simply did not want Earth to end up as another Cybertron – dead and stripped of all energy. Unlike Cybertron, there was so much on this planet that depended on that energy to live, not just two races of robots. Eventhough most humans did not see the beauty of their own planet, Jazz did, and he wanted to preserve and protect that beauty.
So he fought on, taking injury after brutal injury, only to have Ratchet and then First Aid – one of the Protectobots – patch him up so he could go out there and fight again. All the while he was dreaming, hoping, praying that one day this accursed war would end and that he could be alive to see it. But until then Jazz, along with every other Autobot, fought on day after day, week after week, month after month, year after long year.
One day, sometime in January of 2004, Jazz wrote the following email:
xxxxxx Dear Anna
Well girl, you know how I hate beating around the bush when things need to be told, so I'm just gonna go ahead and say that this may very well be the last letter you're ever gonna get from me. Don't get the wrong idea, its nothing you've done. Ah heck, I might as well tell ya.
You already know that one year ago most of us Autobots moved into our new home at Autobot City, leaving the Ark in the care of the Minibots. Later that year, sometime in June, the Deceps drove the last remaining Autobots from Cybertron. Under the leadership of Ultra Magnus they came down to Earth to join us here in the City. They're ok guys, I mean I've already gotten a gist of their personalities. Springer's the smart-mouth, Hot Rod's the eager young guy; we even got an old war veteran called Kup and a sweet young femme named Arcee. Bluestreak told me she and Hot Rod got the hots for each other.
But I'm straying off the point here. My point is that Prime's not about to just let Cybertron go without putting up a good fight. He wants to use the two Moon Bases as the first line of attack/defense or whatever you wanna call it. And he wants experienced 'Bots up there, especially on Moon Base One. With the exception of Magnus and Kup, many of the guys from Cybertron aint got that much experience fightin' 'Cons as much as we guys from the Ark have. We been fighting these guys for 20 years on Earth alone.
So I guess you're startin' to get what I'm sayin', I'm being sent to the Moon Base along with a lot o' the other guys. It wasn't pretty when Prime broke the news about who was going and who got to stay. There were murmurs of protest and outright yelling in Prime's face. I don't understand his logic in a lot of the decisions myself. Prime broke up a lot of friendships and relationships. Well Ironhide's going with Prime naturally, and myself as I already told ya. Ratchet and Prowl too. And Brawn, Cliffjumper, Hound, four Dinobots and Sunstreaker. I trust Prime with my life on most occasions, but I'm not so sure about this time Anna.
Ratchet's a great doc on his own, but he's even better with Wheeljack. They're best friends. Hoist and Grapple are excellent engineers, we could use Wheeljack on the Moonbase with Ratch…. Hound and Trailbreaker, man, Prime knows Hound loves Earth; he's better adapted here than up there on the Moonbase. Him and Trailbreaker are a good team too.
Bluestreak's always had issues with his past. Prowl was always like a big bro to him. Prowl had the patience to sit and listen to all of Blue's ramblings and pick out what was really bothering him. Prowl rebuilt all of Blue's confidence and Blue's always looked up to Prowl. Again, I know we need our tactician, and Cybertron holds too many bad memories for Bluestreak but….. I just hope Prime's doing the right thing.
Yea, I know I said four Dinobots. Snarl's staying back at Autobot City. 'Jack built him so that he gets maximum power from the sun. there aint no sun on Cybertron so they think he'd be better off here.
But the worst was the brothers. They're the best warriors we've got, so Prime thought it'd be best if one of them came with us to the Moonbase and the other stayed here. Sunstreaker was chosen to come with us. Prowl did protest splitting them up, but hey, Prime's the boss. When the brothers were told, it got ugly. Sunstreaker stopped just short of physically attacking Prime. There was a lot of name-calling and finger-pointing, most of it by Sideswipe, but in the end Prime got his way.
Don't get me wrong Anna, I have nothing but respect for the boss and he aint made a mistake yet. I do wish he could have handled things a little better though.
The shuttle to the Moonbase leaves in 3 hours. I've already said my goodbyes, then came in here to type this. Ratchet and Wheeljack shared one last cup of energon together before Ratch gave 'Jack a slap on the back and went into the shuttle. He hasn't come out since. Hound and 'Breaker went for one last drive together. Prowl's trying to talk to Bluestreak. Yea, 'trying' is the key word. I think Blue's trying not to cry, but his voice is kinda giving it away. Brawn and Cliffjumper are already on board too, with the Dinobots. Snarl's with Wheeljack now. I don't know where the twins are.
So I guess this is goodbye Anna. Thanks for all the friendship and the memories. I'll treasure each one. I hope that someday I'll get to come back and see you again if I don't bite the dust up there on the Moonbase. Wish me luck girl cos I know I'm gonna need it. Ironhide's calling me out to run over the flight plan so I guess I gotta wind down now. Been great knowing you.
Cheers! Jazz xxxxxx
Jazz clicked the 'send' button, then got up and went to talk to Ironhide, rubbing a bit of optic fluid off his face. Man, he was going to miss Earth: the trees, the water, the sun… the stars. And his friends. Damn this war, damn this never-ending quest for power, and damn this search for energy. Damn everything that drove both sides to war in the first place! Jazz rarely got angry, but all this was finally getting him steamed.
In his frustration he kicked out hard at a wrench that happened to be lying on the floor near him, sending it flying through the air. Ironhide ducked in time as it sailed over his head.
"Easy Jazz, now what did that poor wrench do to ya?" he asked. "Are you alright buddy?"
"Yea 'Hide, I'm just peachy. Now what did you need me for?"
half an hour before the shuttle launched, Jazz at in front of the computer again. Almost all of the others were already on board except for Prowl and himself. The twins had returned half an hour ago. they shared a long hug and then Sunstreaker had walked into the shuttle without a word to anyone. No one went too close to Sideswipe either, except for Bluestreak, and Sideswipe didn't protest because he probably knew how the silver gunner was feeling.
Jazz clicked on his inbox and found one message from Anna. Hastily he opened it, half afraid of what he was going to find. To his surprise he found the lyrics of a song that Anna had always liked, and somehow the words seemed to fit the situation.
May it be an evening star shines down upon you.
May it be when darkness falls your heart will be true
You walk a lonely road
Oh how far you are from home.
Mornië utulië (darkness is falling)
Believe and you will find your way
Mornië alantië (darkness has come)
A promise lives within you now
May it be the shadow's call will fly away
May it be you journey on to light the day.
When the night is overcome
You may rise to find the sun
Mornië utulië (darkness is falling)
Believe and you will find your way
Mornië alantië (darkness has come)
A promise lives within you now
A promise lives within you now.
Jazz couldn't help but crack a small smile. He knew the promise Anna was referring to of course.
"I always said you were a smart girl Anna", he said quietly to himself. "Now I'm gonna have to do my best to get out of there alive".
There was a knock and he turned to see Prowl standing at the open door.
"Its time to go Jazz. The engines are fired up, they're just waiting for us".
Jazz turned back to the computer screen, blinking back tears. Nothing he could have done could have prepared him for this day. He was created and lived on Cybertron for millions of years, sure, but he knew now, deep down in his core, it was Earth that had been his home. And he didn't want to leave.
"Jazz. It really is time to go", Prowl said. "If we wait any longer, I'm afraid it might be too dangerous. Jazz…. Jazz?" Prowl's voice softened. "I know this is hard for you, but if Megatron gets so much control over Cybertron and becomes too powerful, you know his next target will be Earth. You know that we are the only ones who can stop him. So fight for Earth".
Jazz hit the 'print' button and printed out Anna's last email, subspaced the sheets of paper, got up and joined Prowl. The tactician put his arm around Jazz's shoulders and they walked into the shuttle together.
The shuttle blasted off, but its occupants barely spoke a word to each other. Prime, Ironhide and Prowl were at the controls piloting the ship. The four Dinobots sat at the very back, quietly whispering to each other. Ratchet was idly fiddling with one of his tools while next to him, Hound was reading a book that he'd downloaded to a datapad. Brawn and Cliffjumper sat at another end, also whispering. Jazz was the only one who could sit next to Sunstreaker without being maimed. The yellow mech was in an extremely foul mood and wasn't talking to anyone, which was just fine with Jazz.
He was content to just sit in silence. He gazed out of a window at Earth as the planet began to fade away into space, and smiled a small, sad smile as he recalled a song he sang almost 20 years ago, the day Anna left. He hummed a verse to himself and then sang softly, ignoring the curious stare from Sunstreaker.
I'm leaving on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again.
Oh babe, I hate to go.
Jazz flinched and turned his head when Sunstreaker lightly touched his arm. He looked into the other mech's optics and saw the pain and hurt in them. Sunny was really missing his brother.
"Sideswipe asked me to sing you a song he chose, if you wanna hear it".
Sunstreaker cracked a small smile of his own. "Lay it on me maestro".
Jazz cleared his throat.
You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You'll never notice how much I love you
Please don't take my Sunshine away.
Sunstreaker snorted, but Jazz noticed him blinking back tears.
"When I get back to Earth, I'm going to kick his sorry red tailpipe".
"Yea Sunny, sure you will", Jazz replied.
The two mechs exchanged a half-amused look. Then Sunstreaker turned back to stare across the shuttle and Jazz turned to look out of the window again. He knew they both had promises to keep. Some how, some way, they would come back to Earth again.