Title: It's Not Funny, chapter 4 of
Author: Koi Lungfish
Disclaimer: Based on characters and situations from The Transformers ((c) 1986 Hasbro, Ltd). Used without permission. Text (c) 2008, Koi Lung Fish (Mark of Lung. All Rights Reserved.)
Subject: A domestic abuse charity ask Jazz to help them reach out to Starscream.
Continuity: G1 cartoon, late season 2.
Chapter 4 of 4
WARNING: implicit slash, explicit violence
The drive back to the Ark was undertaken without speech, Jazz boxed in by the Lamborghinis, Sideswipe in the lead and Sunstreaker in the rear. It only took half a mile for Jazz to feel the first bump, a sharp nip at his tyres as Sunstreaker's front end crept under his back bumper and nudged him, oomph! He hunkered down on his shocks and tried to ignore it, a nasty feeling circling through his systems like a virus.
Oomph! Sunstreaker bumped him again.
He gonna do this all the way back to the Ark? Jazz wondered. A sensation of impending doom began to filter into his circuits. Most likely. Man, Prime's gonna grind my audios off for this ... I hope ...
There were flashing lights behind them. Jazz popped up on his shocks to try and see over Sunstreaker but the warrior's big engine funnels got in the way. He could just make out the cab of a fire engine approaching. Red Alert's sirens whooped behind Sunstreaker for a second in greeting. Inferno was following behind him, his engine sweating diesel from the strain of keeping up with the security chief.
Dunno how he stands the pace with ol' Red sometimes, Jazz thought, the first flickers of a smile beginning.
"Hey there, chief," Sideswipe called.
(Sideswipe,) Red Alert replied.
"Everything under control back there?"
(It is not under control. There is nothing left to be controlled. We are simply organizing the disaster. Inferno and I are heading for the city to help with the rescue operation. Optimus Prime is sending everyone out along the damage line to help, even the Dinobots.)
"Even the New York patrol?" Sideswipe asked.
Oomph! went Sunstreaker's bumper against his tyres. Jazz yelped.
(They're busy where they are,) Red Alert replied, his tone dark and guarded. (I understand Optimus has sent the Aerialbots out in support.)
(Red Alert?) Sunstreaker called, the first thing he'd said since they left the battleground. (You hear any update on Bluestreak?)
Jazz's tanks lurched and he wobbled on the road. I left Bluestreak outside when I went in to have my little coffee klatch with Starscream. Man, I hope nothing bad happened to him.
(The injuries aren't as bad as first feared, although he will need a new arm,) Red Alert said. (But Ratchet thinks it will be a day or two before the trauma loops in his main cortex break down enough for his higher cognitive functions to auto-restart.)
Jazz yelped as Sunstreaker rammed him in the back tyres. "Hey!"
"Shut up," Sunstreaker snapped. "If Bluestreak can't talk then neither can you."
The sun was idling down the evening sky as they approached the Ark, washing Mount Saint Hilary in deep orange light. The thick pine forest around the mountain was deep in shadow, filled with the scent of sap and the faint homely smell of the volcano itself.
The smoke-stained city was far behind, Red Alert and Inferno still digging for survivors. They expected to be out all night and the next couple of days too. Jazz had realized by the indecent haste with which he was shunted out of the damage zone that he wasn't being taken home to help; he was being taken home under guard.
Man oh man, this was not supposed to happen, Jazz thought.Who'da thought Starscuzzbucket would take so much offence?
That thought was interrupted by Sunstreaker's bumper against his raw tyres.
Ironhide was waiting for them at the entrance to the Ark, sad in the optics. He shook his head at Jazz when the three of them transformed and didn't answer the saboteur's hallo. Sideswipe excused himself with some urgent errand or other that just happened to need running to repair bay. Ironhide waved him off.
Jazz was quick-marched up to the main bridge with impending doom on one side of his core and nervous guilt on the other.
Optimus Prime had his back to them when they came in, leaning over Teletran-1 to look at scenes of destruction and flame on the many screens. Jazz heard him sigh.
His guards walked him up to Prime, stood him at their leader's right hand. Jazz had a feeling that he might not be on Prime's metaphorical right hand so much in the near future.
Optimus shook his head and turned to look at Jazz. He regarded the saboteur with a long, silent stare. Jazz saw pain in his commander's optics, real deep pain that went down to the laser core, the kind of pain that stayed for years. Prime's distress came off in him waves, big fuelpump-slow pulses of grief, with Ironhide like a repeater station on Jazz's left side and Sunstreaker like an interference tower broadcasting cold anger on Jazz's right, arms folded, glaring at Jazz out of the corner of his optics.
Jazz felt about six inches tall.
"Jazz," said the Autobot leader, and his tone was heavy, trying to hide the sadness. "I've been waiting for you to arrive."
"Seems I'm the man of the minute," Jazz said, trying levity in the face of gloom and watching it fall as flat as an Insecticon under a steamroller.
Optimus Prime shook his head. "I'm sorry, Jazz. This is going to be very hard for both of us."
Jazz looked away. It was hard to meet Prime's optics when they were full of such fresh grief and yet still had so much room for sympathy.
"Starscream has left a trail of devastation from one side of the United States to the other," Optimus Prime said, pointing to a map on one of Teletran-1's smaller screens. It showed a bright red line drawn, as if with a ruler, from the battle site in Idaho to the Decepticon underwater base south of New York. There were three large red spots on it. "The authorities are still tallying the casualties. He flew low, perhaps a hundred and fifty feet in the air, and shot everything he passed over. Cars, houses, office buildings, factories, schools, hospitals, anything with living people in it." Prime pointed to one of the spots, blooming over South Dakota. "This was a town. Parksburg. There were about four thousand people living in it." He looked at Jazz. "It's gone. It's a hole in the ground."
Jazz looked at the other two spots. They were bigger. The thought of how many deaths they represented came up in his mind like a wall and he cringed. In his tanks he felt the beginning of a turning sensation, like the death roll of a crashing starship, that made every one of his internal components ache.
The Autobot leader paused, optics dimmed in grief. Jazz heard the almost inaudible sigh of weariness from his leader.
"He made one small detour," the Prime said, "to attack and utterly destroy a single building - a refuge for abused women in New York City. The New York patrol tried to defend it. Tracks was badly injured. They're still looking for Seaspray." He stopped again, touching Teletran-1's keyboard with one hand. "I've been informed that the shelter was reduced to a twenty-foot-deep crater. It's still on fire. The rescue workers do not expect to find any survivors."
Jazz's fuel tanks turned to solid ice and plunged through his feet, leaving him faint and shaky. "I - I ... "
"Jazz," said Optimus Prime, and Jazz felt another lurch in his tanks because that tone of voice was the clarion of disciplinary doom. "I'd like to hear an explanation for this."
"Well ... " Jazz started, holding up his hands. "I - " and the words locked in his mouth. "I - " I can't say it. "I - " I can't. I have to. I can't just say "I thought it would be funny."
Sunstreaker's jaw clicked with tension. He had his arms folded in that rigid way that meant he was trying not to clench his fists. "Funny?" he said. "Bluestreak came home in the back of Ratchet with his shoulder missing. Is that funny?"
"Sunstreaker," Prime said, and the squad leader bowed his head in silence. "Jazz, your explanation, please."
Jazz waved his hands helplessly, the guilt settling around his throat like a shackle. "I just thought it'd be a laugh."
"This is no laughing matter," Optimus said, shaking his head.
"Yeah, yeah, I just didn't think -"
"Heard that before," said Sunstreaker, sotto voce.
Prime ignored him, holding Jazz in a gaze like a tractor beam, and Jazz could do nothing but explain.
"See, the ladies from that shelter came to me a couple'a weeks ago," he said, realizing as he spoke that all three of them were dead, reduced to wisps of carbon smoke. His voice dried up. "They - they said -"
Optimus Prime nodded. Jazz couldn't look at his face. "Go on."
"Said they thought Starscream was bein' domestically abused by Megatron," Jazz said. The words seemed so incongruous, so outright paradoxical that a bubble of laughter welled up into his voice and broke out in a hysterical little sob. "Said they wanted to help the ol' glitchbag. Let him get away from his bad relationship." He kept seeing Jeanette, sniffing and fiddling with her glasses, then suddenly her bones flashing black as the yellow brightness of plasma fire reduced her to nothingness. "Gave me a leaflet. I thought Starscream'd be embarrassed. Thought it would be funny. I - I jus' handed it over." He hung his head. Clarice appeared in his mind, melting into a pool of boiling flesh. "Thought it'd be funny," and his voice sounded as small as he felt as the memory of Emma budded in his mind, bloomed into a scream as a wave of flame swept over her, hair crisping, skin blackening, flesh bursting, limbs charring, dead, dead, dead!
Jazz put his hands over his face and shook.
"You saw humans trying to help a Decepticon," Optimus Prime said, and Jazz couldn't look at him because he was looking at their deaths again, "reaching out to an invader with compassion and kindness and you used them, just to make you laugh."
Jazz shook his head, trying to make it all un-happen just by wishing hard enough. In his mind he saw them die again. He saw Tracks bleeding out on a broken pavement. He saw Bluestreak having his arm torn from his body, sending his mind spirally down into old bad places. He saw towns go up in clustered explosions, each flash a thousand lives blasted away in a blink.
"Jazz, I'm sending you to New York," Prime said leadenly. "You're to go to the attack site and volunteer to help in any way you can."
"Yes, Prime," Jazz said in a tiny voice, lowering his hands to his sides, conscious of the disapproval of his comrades beside him, conscious of the weight of shame settling upon his shoulders.
"After that, you'll be spending some time with one of this charity's sister foundations, working with victims of domestic abuse." Prime's optics were spots of cold light. "When you understand why I'm so ashamed of what you've done, then you can come home."
"Yes, sir," Jazz said, not sure he'd spoken loud enough for Prime to hear.
Optimus Prime sighed again and just looked at him. Jazz wanted to ball up on the floor and bawl out how sorry he was but the people he needed to apologize to were dead, flashes of ash, smears of cinder, gone - burned up and consumed by Starscream's anger, all that needless rage over one little leaflet.
Prime turned back to Teletran-1 and carried on his work as if Jazz had become invisible. His guards fell out. Ironhide went over to Prime and put a supportive hand on their leader's shoulder. Sunstreaker stood to attention, waiting to be dismissed just to prove he didn't need to run off to repair bay.
Jazz stood and stewed in his own guilt, waiting to be sent away. And waited. And waited.
He ventured a look at Sunstreaker. The warrior was ignoring him, just leaning on the console waiting for Prime to find a use for him or send him off to get clean or just maybe go and see how that wounded member of his patrol was doing. Jazz realized he was going to be persona non grata with a lot of people for a long time.
Man, I've screwed up so bad, he thought, looking at his feet. Bad Jazz, bad. Bad, bad, bad Jazz. Where do I start makin' up for this ... ? He thought about Bluestreak, flat out on a repair plinth. Aw 'hex. How'm I gonna patch things up to him? How'm I gonna patch things up with Tracks and Seaspray and Sunstreaker and - and everyone
Teletran-1 beeped. Jazz's head snapped up in surprise. He realized he felt weak, and sick with himself.
Sunstreaker glanced at the console. "Incoming from Slimeball HQ," he said, sounding disgusted.
"What in tarnation do they want?" Ironhide said.
"Repair bill for Starscream busting up Megatron's face?" Sunstreaker suggested.
"Put it on," Prime said, nodding to Sunstreaker, who hit the button, fixing Jazz with a cold glare as he did.
Teletran-1's screen blinked, switched from flame and destruction to Megatron. He was smoke-stained, his face torn, his jaw twisted, his back cannon leaning at an angle that meant fractures and pain. There were long streaks on his chest and shoulders and face, the kind of finger-wide marks you'd get from struggling with someone who was trying to rip your optics out, someone with sky-blue hands. Red hydraulic fluid was dripping from his mouth, where his lower lip and part of his face had been ripped away. Jazz thought he saw bite-marks there.
"Prime," said Megatron, his voice hoarse, perhaps from the smoke pouring from the damaged walls around him, perhaps from whatever explosion had ripped holes in the ceiling above him, perhaps from whatever internal damage was causing molten metal to ooze from between the plates on his abdomen.
"What is it, Megatron?" Optimus Prime said. Jazz saw the Autobot leader's shoulders tighten, saw his hands clench, saw his optics narrow and brighten with target locks.
"What did your troops say or do to Starscream?" the Decepticon leader asked, resting his hands on his hips. Jazz saw he was missing fingers, the stumps crackling with green light.
Prime turned his head to look at Jazz; Jazz cringed, grinding his hands together. Prime looked about twenty seconds from taking a swing at someone, and in the absence of Megatron or Starscream, Jazz couldn't help but feel he ought to offer himself as target. Prime looked back at Megatron. "Nothing I authorized or approve of," he said.
"Then it will be understood that I did not authorize or approve of Starscream's ... enthusiastic response," Megatron said, his mauled face twisting.
Jazz realized that, through all that damage, the Decepticon was trying to smile.
"Nor," continued Megatron, and Jazz went cold with anticipation, "can I ignore the insult dealt to not only Starscream but also myself by the pathetic flesh-grubs of this planet." The remains of his mouth torqued into a sneer, the damaged dermaplating cracking and exposing the pale green glow of living circuits. "I will not be considered some petty dictator, keeping my lieutenant on his knees in terror as if I were a coward!" His upper lip rose a fraction, exposing sharp mandenta stained with someone else's fuel. Jazz realized that Megatron's glossa was gone from his mouth. "You may inform those groveling carbon sacks that you call your allies that, should one more word of this demeaning nonsense reach my hearing, I will allow Starscream to correct their warped perception at his absolute liberty!"
His optics flashed like flames burning through skin. Jazz looked away.
"Congratulate your warrior, Prime," Megatron said, his voice like honeyed gravel. "He has placed the fate of all humanity in Starscream's hands." He closed the communication.
Optimus Prime stared at the screen, aghast, shaking his head slightly. His shoulders sagged as another burden was laid upon him. Jazz opened his mouth to apologize and could find no words. Sunstreaker glared at him with optics like drillbits.
Jazz held his hands out pathetically as all three Autobots turned to stare at him. "I - I just thought it would be funny."
Author's notes & addenda: Feedback always welcomed.