Please note this is the sequel to Small Problems. You will need to read that first before reading this one.

Ghost in the Machine

By: Ghost of the Dawn


Crystal Carlyle stepped out of her apartment, skirt pressed and heels clacking on the sidewalk. It was just another day as she headed to her car to drive to her new job. She was a secretary at the law firm and couldn't be happier with it. She had been working there for a month now. Her apartment was slowly being refurnished and she was learning her way around the Portland area. Everything seemed to be settling back into normalcy.

Normal, that is, until the vehicle next to her began to talk.


Crystal jumped when the flashy yellow Lamborghini called out as she passed it. She clutched her purse and stared owlishly at it.

"What? You're not even going to say hi?" the Lamborgini grouched.

Crystal's eyes fell over the large red insignia painted on the hood.

"You're an Autobot?"

"Of course I'm an Autobot! What else would I be?"

Crystal took a step back. This was the surliest Autobot she had ever met.

"So uh... can I do anything for you?"

The Lamborghini paused. "You don't remember me, do you?"

She shook her head. "No. Should I have?"

There was a frustrated growl from the Lamborghini's engine. "But you said-- I got slagged to scrap for you! Gah!"

With one more loud roar of the engine, the Lamborghini sped off, tires squealing in offense.

Crystal watched it go, having no idea what just happened.

It was boring in the Ark. Boring for Jazz, anyway. Probably not boring for Prowl. Prowl had a knack for being enthraled with the mundane, so Jazz was sure he was doing just fine.

The Decepticons had been acting strange lately. They were active, but not doing anything conceivable that would warrant a response. To an untrained soldier, one might even think they were just minding their own business for once. But every seasoned Autobot knew that a Decepticon that was not up to something was not a true Decepticon. Thus Prowl had raised the alert in the base so they would, at least, not be caught unaware if something did happen.

Currently, Prowl and Optimus Prime were on the observation deck keeping an eye out. Jazz thought it was terribly cliche. The commander and his seconds keeping watch on the world. Being second in command should mean he got to make someone else do the boring jobs. Though he had to admit someone should be watching. The Decepticons were restless. They had to be up to something, but Jazz's instincts told him they weren't going to try anything tonight.

However, try telling Prowl that. Jazz was dying. He needed to find something else to help him pass the time.

Though he wasn't doing a thing out of the ordinary, Jazz knew he had been busted when Prowl's shoulders spiked up. But it was too late to stop him now, the phone was already ringing.

"Hello?" answered a female voice.

"Hey Crys! How you doing?" Jazz said out loud. The other Autobots in the room could hear him, but they could also tell he had an outbound frequency he was talking on. Prowl frowned at him.

There was a pause on the other line.

"It's me, Jazz."

Still no answer.

"Crys, you there?"

"Yeah, I'm here. Sorry, I was just really surprised you called me."

There was amusement in Jazz' voice. "Why wouldn't I call you?"

"I don't know. I thought maybe you would be too busy."

"Heh, not really. I'm actually a bit bored right now."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah, unless you don't want me to call you..."

Crystal laughed. "No, I love that you called. It's great to hear from you."

The two fell into silence.

"So," Crystal spoke up. "What are you wearing?"

Confused at the question, Jazz looked down at himself. "Uh, nothing."

"Oh la la Jazz! That's hot!"

Jazz grinned. "So does that mean I can take you out?"

"Where to?" Crystal teased. "Sonic and the drive-in?"

"Oh, harsh Crys. You're so mean."

Crystal laughed again. "Sure, I'd love to."

Jazz felt a hand on his shoulder: Prowl's. Jazz protested as the contact permitted Prowl to hack into his phone call.

"Hey, don't you need my permission to do that?" Jazz protested.

"Crystal," Prowl spoke.

"Hey Prowl! How's it going? Sounds like you guys are having a pretty slow night."

"So far, but it could change at any time. Where are you?"

"Just out for a walk."

Prowl frowned. "It's dark outside."

"It's fine. I've still got a little light left."

"I hope you're heading home."

"Yes, Mom."

"I'm not your mom."

"Exactly, Prowl."

Prowl glared at Jazz's smug grin.

"Is there something wrong with me worrying about your safety?" Prowl asked.

There was humor in Crystal's voice as she replied. "No, there's not. Thank you, Prowl," she sing-songed the last part.

Sideswipe, who was the fourth Autobot doing monitor duty that night, grabbed Jazz's other shoulder.

"Hey, are you talking to that girl Sunny hates?"

"Who's that?" Crystal asked. "He sounds cute!"

"Alright, you guys are crowding my personal space too much," Jazz announced. "Back off, both of you." He slapped them away.

"Okay Jazz, well I gotta go," Crystal said. "But feel free to call me again okay?"

"Sure! You can count on it!"

"Great! Okay Jazz, good night." She paused and then added. "I love you."

"Woo! Back atcha babe!"

"And tell Prowl I love him, too."

"Hey Prowl," Jazz called. "Crystal says she LOVES you!"

A momentary glimpse of horror crossed Prowl's face plate before he turned around and muttered something under his breath.

"Prowl says he loves you, too forever and ever."

Prowl's head snapped back sharply. His glare told that most certainly was not was he had said.

"Aww, that's sweet," Crystal responded. "Who else is there?"

"Prime's here, too," Jazz said in the quiet control room. He paused to listen. "Hey Prime, Crystal says she loves you too."

Their leader turned from the control panel. "Tell her thank you and it is reciprocated."

"Prime says ditto," Jazz relayed into the phone. "Okay, talk to you later, Crys. Bye." He hung up with a goofy grin on his face and leaned back to prop his feet on the control panel."

Sideswipe eyed him suspiciously. "What's up with you acting all stupid over some human? Yeah, she's female, but where would you two live?"

"Nah, it's not like that, man," Jazz insisted. "She saved my life. She's like my hero."

Sideswipe looked doubtful. "For real, Jazz?"

"Yeah. Well, not like how Prowl is my hero. But, you know, close to that."

"Prowl's my hero, too," Sideswipe confided. "I want to be just like him."

"You're definitely going to have to work harder then," Prowl monotoned.

Sideswipe sat up in his chair. "Did Prowl just make a joke?"

"No," Prowl insisted. "If you really do want to be like me, you're hardly making an effort."

Sideswipe slumped again.

Optimus chuckled.

The doors opened and Tracks walked in.

"You wanted to see me, Prowl?"

"Yes." Prowl led the blue Corvette out of the surveillance room. "I have a specific assignment for you."

There was a rhythmic tip-tip-tapping in the silent Decepticon control room. Megatron was tapping his finger on his metallic arm in a vain attempt to channel his restlessness. Near his feet lay Ravage with his head on his paws. The panther was nearly invisible in the dimly lit room, save for his glowing red optics.

He lifted his head when Megatron shifted and paced a few steps. When it was apparent nothing else was going on, Ravage put his head down again.

"Megatron." Soundwaved turned from his screens. "Decepticon signatures approaching."

Megatron stiffened. This was what he was waiting for.

"Soundwave, raise the tower," he ordered. And it was done.

A sharp spire rose from the chilled depths of the Pacific Ocean. It cut through the serene blue on blue of the sky and ocean like a dark, dripping blade. Seagulls squawked and floated around it curiously as the ramp folded out to look like a gaping mouth.

Megatron was there waiting as two Decepticons: Thundercracker and Blitzwing flew in and transformed. Thundercracker was in front and approached his leader without a word.

His silent report along with the regretful expression on his face was all Megatron needed to know. A deep, troubled frown marred the face plate of the Decepticon leader. This would not do.