"I will not tolerate too much more of this Prowl," Optimus Prime thundered, wrapping up his verbal lashing of the tactician.
Jazz shuddered at his tone.
Prime rarely yelled, but when he did...
"I can't believe this," Wheeljack flashed quietly as the commander strode out of the crowded common room.
"What did he do?" Jazz questioned in a whisper, looking round his table at his stunned companions.
For Prime to tear strips off Prowl was incredible enough, to do it in front of most of the Ark was unbelievable.
"Arrogant walking junkyard," Prowl spat clearly in the tense silence, and every jaw in the room but his dropped as he stalked out.
Every Autobot knew Prime hadn't been too pleased with the tactician lately.
Prowl had been showing up late for shifts, handing in sloppy duty reports, doing very little other than what was absolutely necessary of him...and those were the nicest of his recent indiscretions.
"Oh man, I'm going to bed," Jazz said dejectedly, pulling himself up, "Maybe I can dream up some miracle cure to bring the old Prowl back."
He left the subdued Wheeljack, Ratchet and Mirage staring at their receptacles of Energon and wandered to his quarters, lost in bleak thoughts.
A voice brought him back to reality in the hall.
He turned and looked up at the big Valkyrie.
"Hey man, you're back...are you OK?"
"Have you seen Prowl?" Skyfire asked sharply, ignoring the question.
"Yeah, he just left the common room...but I doubt he wants to talk anyone right now," Jazz understated.
"Prowl relayed a message to myself this afternoon, that I was to take the Aerialbots and scout an area in the Bahamas. He said Teletran had picked up some Decepticon activity in the vicinity,"
"Yeah...?" Jazz said warily.
He had a bad feeling about where this was heading, especially as Skyfire was plainly trying hard to keep his temper in check: unusual for the sweet-natured jet.
"We split up and patrolled for over four hours, without a hint of any Decepticons.
Silverbolt and Fireflight were furthest east, and picked up an incoming squall.
It was moving in at a fast clip, so we contacted headquarters to report and abandon patrol. It was Prowl who received us,"
"And what did he say?" Jazz dared to ask.
"He said, 'You're flyers, so fly above it,' and jammed communications. To the Ark, and between ourselves."
Jazz stared at the white mech in disbelief.
"You must be sorely mistaken Skyfire,"
Skyfire shook his head.
"I wish I was Jazz. The storm's electrical activity scrambled some of our circuits too, and long story short, we were lost and rapidly losing power. Thank Primus Optimus ordered Powerglide to New York this morning. He picked up our distress signals and guided us in,"
Skyfire sighed, anger apparently draining.
"You know the worst part Jazz?"
"There's a worse part?"
"When I went to report to Optimus Prime, he had no idea what was going on. Prowl had sent us out off his own back for some reason...and I'd even go so far as to say he knew there were no Decepticons out there."
Jazz sat on his bunk, shaken.
No wonder Prime had dragged the tactician over the coals.
Jazz felt lost.
There was no other way to describe it.
Prowl was becoming almost the complete opposite of his old self.
He was treating the other Autobots, Optimus Prime and Jazz included, and his personal responsibilities, with increasing contempt.
He seemed to be continually spoiling for a fight, and as unreal as it felt, the gentle, quiet tactician was becoming a frightening spectre in a lot of optics.
Tensions in the Ark were fast reaching breaking point, as most of the Autobots warily skirted Prowl, or avoided him altogether.
It was like a nightmare to Jazz, one he could not wake from.
Not in his wildest imagination had he ever thought they'd have to look over their shoulders for Prowl, of all Autobots.
The entire Ark was on a razor's edge.
The tactician continued to shrug off or ignore Jazz's every attempt to reach out to him.
He lashed out verbally, colourfully and indiscriminately, at every opportunity, until it reached the stage where Ironhide had seriously threatened to remove his vocalizer, without Ratchet's help.
Even then Prowl kept up his verbal abuse.
At one point Jazz had literally gotten down on his knees, begging him to open up and tell him what was wrong, to no avail.
Optimus Prime couldn't do a thing with him.
Prowl simply ignored any orders that didn't suit him, which was beginning to plainly tick off certain Autobots.
And he was going out of his way to rub his closest friends up the wrong way, Jazz finally forced himself to acknowledge.
"If I just knew what was going on with him..." Jazz whispered to himself.
He thought back over recent events, trying to pinpoint something that may have set off Prowl's abrupt about-face of character.
There was nothing.
Until recently, Prowl's strategies and analyses had been nearing perfection, and Prime had been more than satisfied with his second-in-command.
Nobody had said or done anything to the tactician to set off such behaviour; at least, nothing that Jazz was aware of.
Jazz sincerely hoped he himself wasn't the catalyst, but couldn't see any reason why he would be.
Prowl had simply gone to bed one end-cycle, and onlined the next day a completely different Autobot.
Jazz shoved off his bed and went to his open door.
He glanced warily up and down the corridor, then slipped into the tactician's quarters next to his, feeling like a common criminal as he glanced around.
Prowl's space looked just the way it always had, but there was a cold air about it.
Or maybe it was just because Prowl himself had become that way.
Jazz spotted a duty log on the tactician's bunk and hesitantly picked it up, wondering if Prime was justified in his complaints.
I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own optics, Jazz thought, shaking his head in disbelief at the pathetic duty log.
"Get out of my quarters,"
Jazz spun around at the icy tone, nearly dropping the datapadd.
"Prowl, sorry man, I was just-"
"Get out," the tactician repeated, "I won't tell you again."
Jazz stared at him, unable to believe what he was hearing.
The two black and white mechs spent more time in each other's quarters than they did in their own.
Or used to.
He wordlessly laid the datapadd on Prowl's desk and left the room, the door just about grazing his heels as the tactician forcefully closed it behind him.
Jazz leaned back on the wall of the corridor and buried his face in his hands.
He stayed that way for several astroticks, trying hard to regain his composure.
"Are you ok Jazz?" a quiet voice asked, and the saboteur raised his head.
Bluestreak was gazing at him with a mixture of sadness and concern.
"Uh, yeah man," Jazz said, straightening up.
"Who am I kidding. I'm not ok."
He didn't elaborate and Bluestreak didn't need to ask.
Prowl's behaviour was causing shockwaves right through the entire Ark, with those closest to him bearing the brunt.
"I'm going to talk to him," Bluestreak declared suddenly, sick of seeing the Porsche hurting, as much as he tried to hide it.
The silver Datsun was upset and confused by Prowl too.
It was hard for him to see a mech he'd always looked up to become so detestable.
"Bluestreak...don't," Jazz said softly, catching him by a forearm.
The gunner gently pulled free.
"I have to do something Jazz."
The saboteur watched him tap lightly on Prowl's door and hesitantly enter.
Jazz retreated to his own quarters, hoping the youngster that Prowl had such a soft spot for might be able to get through the barriers that he couldn't.
He threw himself onto his recharge bay and stared unseeing at the ceiling, until an even noisier door slam caused him to nearly leap out of his casing.
"Oh man," Jazz said to himself, any vague hopes he'd had for Bluestreak crushed.
The silver Datsun appeared in his doorway, a deeply hurt expression on his features.
Jazz went to him and put a hand on his shoulder.
"He told me I was nothing but a functionless liability, and...and that I do nothing in battle besides put you all in danger," Bluestreak said shakily to his feet.
"I can't believe this," Jazz said, half to himself, and wondering why he was so surprised.
Because it was so unlike the tactician was why.
Prowl had always kept Bluestreak protectively under his wing as much as possible, and seen to it the jibes about his slight klutziness were kept to a minimum.
His first impulse was to go and tell Prowl exactly what he thought of his treatment of the gunner, but common sense told him to leave it.
"Jazz...what's going on with him?" Bluestreak whispered, giving the saboteur a bewildered look, and reminding Jazz of how young he was.
"I don't know Bluestreak. I don't know," Jazz said defeatedly.