A/N: I'm so sorry about how long it's taken me to write this, Ironhide and my muse have been trying to kill each other and my brain had been chasing off after the shiny at every opportunity. Hopefully it's not going to happen again. A thousand million thanks to all my reviewers and readers for sticking with this, as requested by Bluebird Soaring Ironhide gets to do guard duty and tell stories, and the 'Free Prowl' campaign is born!
The author would like to point out that no innocent (or otherwise) mechs were harmed in the making of the film mentioned below; some mech should remember that not every vehicle they come across is sentient.
Ironhide stood watching as Xantium gracefully slid to a stop by her docking tube. Behind him he could hear the shuffling and low pitched conversation of the security detail Red had assigned to this duty. He grinned, keeping his face forward so that no one would see it; the bare bones of what had happened had run through the Hub in less than a joor and every mech in the security force had been scrambling for a place of this prisoner escort job ever since. The hiss of breaking airlock seals brought his attention back to business. He'd read the details of Prowl's many and mostly successful escapes carefully and had prepared counter plans accordingly; no way was he going to loose such an important prisoner and certainly not before he could be safely delivered to Ratchet's tender mercies.
The sound of a constant staggering scuffle drifted down the boarding tube; Prowl, it seemed, was not going to go with quiet dignity. Ironhide braced himself to deal with a struggle but as the group staggered out of the tube it was all he could do to maintain his stance. Roadbuster and Whirl came first with Springer and Twin Twist bringing up the rear, carrying between them Prowl, bound on top of two metal poles. In his alt mode. Ironhide knew the Prowl's alt mode had wheels, but those wheels where currently invisible behind squares of metal that folded around the tires and locked in place at the back of the wheels, rendering them immobile. The tactician however was rocking on his suspension violently trying to win free of his restraints, causing the whole group to stagger around like a group of overcharged mechs trying to get back to their quarters.
A particularly violent twist on Prowl's part sent Springer to his knees, causing the whole group to overbalance and go crashing to the ground with Prowl on top, revving his engine and struggling to win free of the metal clamps that held him to the poles. Ironhide beckoned to the detail behind him as they rushed over to remove the tactician from the heap of Wreckers. The instant Prowl felt himself lift into the air he began flinging his weight around again, trying to topple this new collection of bearers. More of the security detail crowded round, reaching a hand to steady the poles or bracing colleagues who had a hand on them.
"What the Pit is going on here?" Prime's voice brought order to chaos.
The tactician sagged on his suspension, all the fight draining out of him. With a few gestures and quiet commands Ironhide gave orders to the pile of guards- four to carry the tactician and the rest in a neat square around to prevent Prowl escaping or for anyone to take advantage of his inability to defend himself.
"Prowl, what is the meaning of this behaviour?" Prime demanded, marching over to the now orderly group.
Prowl's response was a high-pitched whining of his engine.
Prime raised an optic ridge and in a voice that was frigid with disapproval said "I asked you a question."
A more desperate revving of the engine was the answer; Prime squared his shoulders and looked as though, to Ironhide's experienced optics, he was about to launch into a long lecture. Subtly widening his stance and settling more comfortably on the pistons in his ankles Ironhide mental prepared himself to have his audios melted by boredom, when a new voice interrupted the impending speech.
"He can't answer you," Jazz informed Prime as he exited the tube "we all got so fragged off with him cursing and raving that we deactivated his vocaliser."
Prime studied the carefully blank face of the head of special ops, flicked his optics to the visibly drooping tactician, taking in a quick survey of the attentive audios and optics of the guards.
"Jazz, Springer, my office now," Prime commanded "Ironhide, take Prowl to the brig and stay there, I'll be down shortly."
Ironhide drew himself to attention, saluted and led the procession out, choosing the roads less travelled to avoid humiliating Prowl further.
Ironhide lounged against the wall, watching the dropping tactician through the bars; it had been a shift and a half since he'd dismissed the security detail and settled in to wait for Prime. He was getting well and truly bored of the enforced silence, talking to a mech who couldn't answer had gone stale fast. In fact, if pressed, Ironhide would have had to admit to dozing off on duty when from the depths of his memories the image of long dry lectures given by old mechs who'd never held a weapon, let alone fired one, surfaced, dragging with it a possible answer to his communication problems.
Carefully hunting down the relevant sub routines, Ironhide began establishing a carrier wave with Prowl's CPU. The tactician started and shuddered in his bonds at the unexpected broadcast but quickly recognised what Ironhide was trying to do and after a few seconds handshaking they were connected.
/And old Cipher reckoned that text based communication was never going to be a useful skill/ Ironhide sent a wide grin twisting his lips.
/Where did you learn it? / Prowl hesitantly transmitted back.
/Getting bored in class/ Ironhide confessed / Where the pit did Jazz come up with this method of restraining ya? /
Prowl shuddered and his engine whined in distress, static flooding the channel. Ironhide's compassionate streak leapt into the control seat and he switched off the bars and knelt by the whimpering shivering mech running a calming hand over his roof and murmuring soft nonsense until the fit passed.
/Not Jazz, Sandstorm. He, he has some rather, ruthless, associates/ even in the medium of plain text, Prowl's distress was plain.
Ironhide raised both optic ridges and silently invited the other mech to continue.
/He was a 'guest' of some gang in the back side of Ahsma and to 'amuse themselves' they/ Prowl shuddered and static spat and hissed across the line /they showed him an 'educational' film. /
"An educational film?" Ironhide asked aloud "I always thought you were all for education."
/This wasn't education! /Prowl sent, a low shuddering growl from his engine filling the cell /this group captured a defenceless mech, trapped in his alt from and, and/
Prowl ceased transmitting and rocked against his restraints, static flooding the line, his lights flashing in distress. Ironhide silently worried; it took a lot to unsettle Prowl, even slightly. Whatever this film was had really done a number on him.
/They bound him like this so he couldn't escape, deactivated his vocaliser and then stripped him alive. / Prowl's transmission was so faint that Ironhide had to parse it three times before he had all the words.
The security officer stared at Prowl in horror, his imagination running wild with images of torture.
/They ripped out his seats, dismantled his engine, acid stripped his shell and/ Prowl was shuddering uncontrollably, his engine spluttering irregularly /then when they were done, they, compacted him/
The last three words rocked Ironhide to his spark; of all the ways to go, crushed to death was the one that regularly hauled him out of recharge in fear. Shock and fear were fast replaced by anger.
"They threatened you with torture?" Ironhide demanded, his voice hard with fury.
/No./ Prowl transmitted hurriedly, rocking from side to side /Whirl took considerable delight in telling me all the gruesome details, but that's all. /
Ironhide decided that things had gone far enough; he pulled a laser welder out of his subspace and began burning through the metal bars holding Prowl. As the last of the restraining bars fell away, Prowl slowly transformed, stretching each joint and servo to check for damage.
/Thank you, but aren't you afraid I'll run for it? / Prowl queried.
"Kinda," Ironhide replied "but I figure you were tryin' ta get ta Prime."
Prowl nodded a resigned look on his face, rose to his feet and began to pace.
Prowl stopped pacing to face Ironhide, looking him in the optics, /I know Jazz stripped me of my rank but if I gave you my word as an officer and a gentlemech that I won't attempt to escape your custody, will you allow me the freedom of this cell? /
"Ya'll always be an officer and a gentlemech ta me Prowl, no need ta ask." Ironhide responded
The relief on Prowl's face was spark-felt. /Thank you. /
Ironhide made himself comfortable against the wall of the cell and watched as Prowl paced and stretched, relief at being able to move radiating from him in almost solid waves.
/Talk to me? / Prowl's sudden transmission after almost half a groon of silence took Ironhide by surprise.
"Uh?" was the only sound Ironhide could produce. Prowl after all was not known for indulging in idle talk.
/I've endured cycles of solitary, unable to communicate in any way, with anyone. A friendly voice is something I'd welcome. / Prowl sent, setting himself down beside Ironhide.
Ironhide processed the statement and found himself growing angry at Jazz for permitting such abuse of a mech that had defended him more times than Ironhide could track.
"Well," Ironhide drawled "with the twins out of the way life's been less interesting than usual."
Prime stood in the open door of the cell, staring at the sight before him. Ironhide was sat on the floor with Prowl slumped against him deeply in recharge.
"Strange way of keeping guard." Prime said softly so as not to wake Prowl.
"More compassionate and effective than anything those slaggers tried." Ironhide growled back.
Prime raised both optic ridges at the anger in Ironhide's voice. Jazz and Springer had been very careful with their report and he needed Prowl's version of events before he decided what to do next.
"How long's he been in recharge?" Prime asked.
"A couple of groons," Ironhide told him "not long enough ta make up for all the recharge he lost on Xantium."
"Take him down to Ratchet and get his vocaliser fixed and the rest of him checked out." Prime ordered, "I'll talk to him when Ratchet clears it."
With the utmost care, Ironhide slid out from under Prowl and lifted him off the floor. Carefully he traversed the back halls, shielding Prowl from other mechs and femmes. The less used door to the repair bay came into view and Ironhide let a deep chamber full of air cycle through his vents, the sound causing Prowl to stir and online.
"Prime's orders; I'm taking you to Hatchet ta get that vocaliser back online and anything the kid might have missed, fixed." Ironhide reassured the mech in his arms.
Prowl nodded drowsily and slipped back into recharge, a trusting action that tugged on Ironhide's spark and strengthened his resolve to help the tactician in anyway he could. Walking into the bay he caught Ratchet's optics immediately, walking over to the bunk, the medic indicated he set Prowl down and relayed Prime's orders before leaving in search of a mech he knew he could count on in his Support Prowl campaign.
"Ya got five?" Ironhide asked the mech sitting at the bank of monitors.
"You want to talk about Prowl?" the mech replied.
"Yep." Ironhide confirmed, moving into the room, allowing the doors to close behind him.
"Take a seat." The other instructed as he reached out a hand to activate the security lock and Primus only knew what other anti-intrusion measures.
Ironhide sat waiting for the mech to give him his full attention.
"So, what did he tell you that's eating your CPU?" Red Alert asked.