Disclaimer: I, in no way, shape, or form, own the Transformers© franchise or the characters it contains. All publicly recognizable characters are copyrighted to Hasbro, and the respective artists/writers/et cetera. No infringement intended.

Continuity: Generation One (G1)

Characters: Jazz, Prowl

Warnings: None.

Author's Note: Criticism encouraged, technical points preferable. Trying to get back into my groove; apologies for sloppiness.

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"Decepticons took the twelfth sector, sniffed out the stock. There are still 'bots in there, sir."

Prowl leant back in his chair, fingers steepling beneath his chin. His optics scanned the presented information coolly, probabilities and scenarios and long-term short-term postulations flying rapid-fire through his mind. No doubt the common frequencies had been cracked – likely enough if the Decepticons already knew about the hidden stockpile. Couldn't coordinate with trapped soldiers without risk of further security breaches; passes will have to be changed, not enough time or safety measures to be implemented.

Their based forces were outnumbered and outgunned, frankly. Such a small bunker possessed little in the way of troop support. Five or six bodies at the most. The bunker had thicker walls than the standard; all stockpile sites were veritable miniature fortresses. Perhaps it could hold out, if those soldiers caught within were willing to seal the door permanently. Temporary solution, useless if the Decepticons didn't move, discarded as unrealistic. Not enough firepower to take it back.

"If'n we could ge' one 'a my 'bots in there…" Jazz proposed from Prowl's left, bending at the waist to come into view.

The plan had already been contemplated and rejected as unfeasible by the time the infiltrator's voice trailed off. Dangerous to risk special ops. Few good mechs in that vital service, and none by any means expendable for superfluous recoveries; those trapped within the bunker were just common soldiers, after all. The same machinations were no doubt going through Jazz's processor, expert as he in worst case scenarios and the standard last resort protocols.

Useful, to have him here from time to time, with his real-time field experience; not applicable for now. Though well-versed in deadlocks and counter maneuvers, Jazz's specialty didn't carry any significant weight in this particular tactical situation. His input was just white noise; better to order him to silence himself.

"Too risky," Prowl murmured to humor his fellow officer, his mind elsewhere, still working.

"Pull th' 'cons off with a big 'nough distraction—"

Prowl's mouth twitched. "Impractical. We don't possess the numbers to draw away a large enough portion of the enemy."

"Ol' tunnels?"

Consideration. "Negative. Unstable. Too many variables to risk."

"Air support?"

He paused, checking his memory banks. No flight-based alternate modes in his immediate command. None near enough to matter. Jazz already knew that. "Negative."

Jazz shifted again, glanced around, ill at ease. Doubtlessly coming to the same conclusion as Prowl had, from the start. A mental shift; exhaust all potential tactics first, as standard procedure dictated. Limited approaches; cost-benefit ratio unreasonable. Unexpected, but not quite unprepared.

Running out of options.

A rolling tap moved along the back of his chair, Jazz's fingertips making restless rhythms in the dead metal. He was edgy, awkward with the calculated situation at hand, with the officer-words 'collateral' and 'nonessential'. It likely did not often come up in his own personal command. He was close to his core squad, and the common troops; such was vital to his function, and his emotional state of being. Of course he would have to be socially inclined to observe his fellows – one among them despite his rank – gathering information with a genial smirk and friendly, easy-going manner. He couldn't hazard the damage the camaraderie with vocalizing the final logical step. He couldn't risk the inevitable backlash of issuing such a command.

Prowl was not moved by such concerns. He harbored no illusions with his popularity: he was not well-liked. It was unimportant to his post that he be so, and thus he had never troubled himself with the social networking of his fellow Autobots. He could take the fall without undue negative repercussions to his performance. His operations often ended in such, being the strawman to tear down whenever the exigent decision was made. Emotional impact was at a minimum in his mental list of concerns; it was always necessity before such an indulgence.

He examined the circumstances, the final call, once more, viewing it from all realistic angles. Nodded to himself. Came to the only reasonable course of action.

Acceptable losses.

Hesitantly, the circuitous confirmation of similar deductions, "Prowl?"

A flash of irritation; the same result. "Blow it."

The slightest exhalation of relief, the smallest release of tension, and Jazz slid back from him again, voice lifting slightly. Almost apologetically, "I'm not sure if—"

"If you have a better proposition, I suggest you put it forward now." Already opening a radio channel, he sent his false reassurances, ignoring the stuttering flow of thanks thereafter. Enemy units stirred on the satellite-fed map before him, moving forward eagerly, grown bold with the false promise of a foolhardy rescue mission.

"But there're mechs in there," Jazz continued stubbornly; argument for the sake of face; another flicker of irritation at the delay; the feeling easily set aside. Such sentiments would interfere with the command balance. Could be dealt with later.

"I have not heard a plan, Jazz," The long distance connection closed. Incendiary devices had already been activated, as a precaution; nothing too large or noticeable was required, with flammable material so near at hand.

Better to lose the resources then to let it fall into enemy hands. Better to burn their bridges rather than let them be taken.

Silence from above, the play of words over, reputation sustained, status quo upheld. Accusing glances flicked his way; resentment, horror, anger, useless frequencies permeating the air, making it thick with tension. They couldn't see the bigger picture, the long-term ramifications of every act. They weren't programmed to make the tough calls.

"Sir—?"

"Blow it."

And the screen went white.

Acceptable losses.