"So is it me, or did we hand the 'cons their afts harder than we usually do?" Jazz leaned back on his chair, looking about the Main Briefing Room. He knew he was making an understatement: the Autobots had fallen on their enemies like the wrath of the proverbial gods.
"It would seem we were unusually fortunate, yes." Prowl was still going over the section reports.
"You think?" Ratchet came through the door and sat down with his own data slate, rolling his shoulders before leveling a look at the SIC. "When was the last time I joined you in one of these post-battle little chats?"
Prowl made a non-committal sound.
"Aw, you're just sore 'cuz you lost, Prowl." Jazz crossed his arms behind his head.
"I beg your pardon?" The black-and-white Datsun gave him a surprised glance. "By whose definition?"
"I dropped a T-Rex on him!", Jazz protested, letting his chair thump forward. "What more do you want?"
"I believe the terms of our agreement specified that you had to produce suspect and evidence within twenty-four hours -"
"We got called into battle!" Jazz stared at him in disbelief.
Prowl shrugged. "Crime, as I have pointed out before, is hardly ever convenient -"
"And I did too had the evidence –"
"You're the one who requested someone other than me as final judge -"
"Please." Prime set the data slate he was working on down and placed his hands on the table, his optics and his tone smiling at them. He could see Ratchet grinning as he watched the rapid-fire back-and-forth. It was a nice change, to have the CMO smiling, relaxed and not planning anyone's murder, in jest or otherwise. In fact, he'd had a pretty damn good last few days himself, Prime realized. Both his second and third officers stared at him. "May I suggest that you put the issue to an objective party?"
"You don't count", Jazz protested immediately, startling his CO.
"It's not logical at all to submit judgment to the criminal."
Prowl and Jazz stared at one another.
"Let me record this moment for posterity", Ratchet broke in. "August 27. Not only did we send Megatron and his baboons packing with minimal injuries to our forces, but Prowl and Jazz agreed on something."
"Why not Ratchet?", Prime gave the startled CMO a look. "He was not involved until the very end. How did you get involved?", he asked curiously.
"I bribed him", Jazz smirked impishly at his CO.
"With my desk", Prime suddenly realized, mock-glaring at the Porsche.
"Well, it shouldn't be where it's at to begin with." Ratchet's tone was tart. "Commanding Officer or not, your room is for resting!" He waved a finger at Prime.
"How did you figure out that Mirage was hiding in Optimus' quarters?", Prowl asked of Jazz suddenly.
"He was where?!" Prime started at that.
"Last place he'd go lookin'. I figured you'd have told him."
"Too much preplanning on my part would have kept the case from progressing along natural lines." Prowl shrugged. "I merely told him to keep Optimus from catching him. He did the rest."
"What, you left it all to chance?" Jazz stare at the SIC in consternation. "You?"
"You sound so surprised. Just because I had all the details in place does not mean that they all came together whenever convenient." Prowl set his data slate down and cocked his head at Jazz. "Blue knew that he was supposed to argue with Optimus, but do you realize how fortunate it was that he happened into the Rec Room with Mirage already there and Sunstreaker on patrol?"
"Why'd you want him on patrol?"
"So he could decoy Red Alert away from the cameras, of course." Prowl returned to his slate.
"Agh." Jazz rubbed at his forehead. "He's the one who reported the funky sensor, isn't he?"
"You should have asked Red that." A small smile graced the SIC's face. "Or Sideswipe."
"What about him?" Jazz stabbed his thumb towards his CO, who looked bemused at being spoken of, not at.
"I pretty much ran all the way down to the Rec Room when I got Prowl's signal – at least as fast as I could without making it obvious to the cameras." Prime leaned back. "I was waiting for it, but I didn't know when it was going to come. I don't think Hound did, either, did he?" He looked inquiringly at Prowl who shook his head.
"And that's another thing, how the Pit do you avoid the cameras like you do?" Jazz glared accusingly at his CO.
Prime simply cocked his head. "Practice. Lots of practice."
"Oh, now you think to get nervous around him." Ratchet threatened to throw his data slate at Jazz when he saw the Porsche's expression. "Now you think to be glad he's on our side."
"Well, I am", Jazz muttered. "You're a tough bad guy to beat."
Prime considered that for a moment. "Thank you?", he ventured with mock uncertainty.
"We could've gotten you with Red's logs, y'know."
"Of course I know, why do you think I locked them?" Prime stared at his senior officers over the slate – they were all gawking at him. "What?"
"You locked them?"
"I activated Red's protocol, yes. Who do you think authorized him to install it to begin with?"
Jazz made a rude sound at him. "And then you locked him in. How'd you that?"
"Ah…" Prime hesitated, throwing a quick look in Ratchet's direction. The CMO caught that, and his keen optics narrowed for a moment before his expression filled with surprise. He burst out laughing. "It seems someone has installed a small protocol within the mainframe to allow him to lock any one mech in his quarters for some… enforced recovery time. I merely activated the sub-routine for Red Alert's lock from my office and called Sunstreaker over to meet me by Red's door as a decoy."
The other two mechs stared at Ratchet in disbelief. The CMO looked completely unapologetic. "What? Would you rather I weld you to your bunks? Besides, it releases in an emergency."
They worked in companionable silence for a while before Jazz threw a data slate down with a clatter. "Well?", he asked pointedly of Ratchet.
"Well, what?" The CMO didn't even look up.
Ratchet seemed immersed in the slate. In truth, his thoughts were wondering down the same ways that Prime's already had: it had been nice to have those few days of peace and quiet, of not having to hammer dents out of the twins, not having to deal with the aftermath of a prank war, not having to cope with yet another consequence of putting together itchy young mechs and lack of entertainment. "I haven't decided yet", he announced portentously. "You could always…"
"What?" Jazz asked as Prowl finally lowered his slate to pay full attention to the damnably smug CMO.
"Try again?" Ratchet shrugged as if it were the most casual thing to suggest in the world.
Porsche and Datsun crossed a glance that quickly turned into a challenging glare. "Hmph." Prowl pointedly resumed his study of the slate, but they could all but hear his CPU whirring.
A brief silence followed in which Ratchet and Prime crossed a covert, hopeful look. Eventually, Jazz broke it. "Same odds?"
"As long as they're not open to interpretation this time." Prowl was unflappably calm. "Same rules?"
"Unless we get an attack. We get… six hours' reprieve if we do."
Prowl seemed to consider, optics still on the slate. "Agreed."
CMO and CO crossed a grin. Another long, amicable moment of quiet, only the data slates beeping as information was sifted, archived, logged, added. It was Prime who finally asked, his voice full of perplexity. "Why, in Primus' name, Bluestreak?"
Jazz and Ratchet started chortling. "That was Sunstreaker's idea", Prowl admitted. "It was his observation that most everyone in the Ark has wanted to kill Blue at some point."