Long Unwieldy Disclaimer(TM): This story is a complete labour of love. The author neither claims nor (intentionally) implies ownership of the 'Transformers' brand, or any other character or concept herein, who are copyright 1984-present Hasbro/etc and used with much love and respect to their creators. The story itself is © 2008 A 'Keaalu' Scott, as are the original characters who invited themselves along for the ride along the way (all of which she guesses no-one else would want anyway! ;) ) Bla bla bla, etc.
A/N: This little bit of nothing follows on from "Screaming Blue Murder"; I'd say 'newcomers should read that first' but it's a bit of a slog to get through that whole thing. :hrms:
I should apologise that this is not going to be anywhere near as good as my previous braindoodle, and probably a whole lot more fangirly, but I'm going to try and at least do it a little bit of justice. And give my own, nicely-twisted take on the idea... :bwahaha etc:
Incidentally, the prologue/teaser is supposed to be a little bit incomprehensible. If you don't get it, please bear with me... ;) And "Button" is just a nickname.
"Wow," Jazz observed, not entirely necessarily, standing between the main gates to Dave's Scrapyard and surveying the heaps of Decepticon-induced damage. "What a mess."
Great laser-gouges marred the dirt, and what had probably once been several carefully-stacked piles of carefully-sorted scrap-material now lay strewn like windblown leaves across the entire yard. Of course, Dave's hadn't been the focus of Megatron's attention – it was just unfortunate collateral damage from when the tyrant attacked the leafy science park a quarter of a mile away. Bumblebee and Mirage had been dispatched to keep tabs on the tyrant while Optimus and crew reviewed Sky Spy's footage and tried to work out exactly what Megatron was after, and all had gone well until a patrolling Ramjet spotted the Minibot's brightly-coloured chassis and engaged them in a firefight, pursuing them into the scrap-yard.
In all, it was a pretty normal day for the planet's long-suffering residents, Jazz mused. At least, it was normal now – barely a week went past without the Decepticons being in the news somewhere or another, and they were becoming 'OLD MEME,' as the human internet shrieked, indignantly. 'Take your metal asses to some other planet, already!'
It was the aftermath of the Decepticon attack that was unusual – it had brought a very strange report from one of the human residents. They left one behind. I think it's lost. It's hiding out in my scrapyard. Could you come deal with it? So off Jazz had gone, to deal with it.
The scrap merchant stood in the doorway of his tumbledown office/shack, his arms defensively folded across his chest. "You sure took your time, Autobot."
Great. It's one of those really friendly humans, annoyed at the Decepticons and happy to take it out on the first machine to present itself, Jazz grumbled, inwardly. "Sorry, it's a fair way to travel from my base! I got here as quick as I could," he greeted, trying to at least make the effort to be friendly, offering a large hand in a handshake. "What's the problem?"
"Those crazy jets were buzzing around near here," the scrap merchant replied, irritably, not bothering to accept the invitation. "I think it was just overspill from when they hit the science park a block over, you know? Shot my place all to hell when they thought one of your guys was hiding out here!"
Jazz nodded, only half-listening as the man rambled on. He'd personally been busy in the Ark when Megatron and his group hit the science complex, but had heard they'd raised the Pit pretty comprehensively before finally being forced to flee by a small team led by Optimus and Ironhide. "…and?" he prompted, in a lull in the tirade. "You said they'd left one behind?"
"Oh! Yeah, that's right," the scrap merchant confirmed, almost sounding surprised that the Autobot should actually want to do what he'd been asked to do. "Little one, 'bout yay high." He waved a hand in the air roughly level with his head, by way of explanation. "I think it's been camping out here ever since. Waiting for them to come back for it, I figured?"
"Hm. Maybe," Jazz agreed, non-committally. "So where exactly are we looking?" He eased his pistol from his subspace.
"I saw it over there," the man replied, softly, pointing towards the distant corner of the yard. Two large heaps of scrap formed a sort of avenue, but it curved away and it was impossible to see what might be lurking a few yards in. "I don't think it's gone anywhere, and I've not seen it go past the gates – but then I haven't really wanted to get too close to check!"
"I can understand that," Jazz agreed, dryly. "Little Decepticons are as much trouble as big ones, half the time. All right. You stay put, I'll see if I can find it."
The man was content to remain by the office/shack. "Is there a reward for finding it?" he wondered, after Jazz's departing back.
The Autobot resisted the urge to roll his optics, and pretended to have not heard, moving down the little avenue. "All right, Decepticon. Show yourself!" he instructed, advancing between the piles of scrap. "Rumble? Frenzy! If either of you two little pains-in-the-aft are lurking in here, I'm gonna give you one chance to give yourselves up peacefully, and then I'm coming in to get you!"
From behind and to one side came a rustle and the clattery sound of dislodged metal sliding over metal. Jazz checked his grip on his weapon, and prepared himself for a firefight-
"Hello? Who you?" a little voice wondered, from behind him.
His first thought was Oh. That's not Rumble or Frenzy.
Even as the first thought was still being processed, he was spinning startledly to face the voice, caught off-guard by the thought that had immediately followed. Primus, that's a sparkling.
Behind him, a tiny machine – smaller even than the average human and looking a little like a jumble of loosely-attached spare parts – stood between the two slumping heaps of broken metal, inspecting him. It showed absolutely no fear, the fingers of one small black hand up in its mouth, and flickered its greenish-blue optics quizzically at him.
"Well hello there," Jazz greeted, with a lopsided smile, settling to one knee at a respectful distance. He didn't think it'd spook, but then there was no point in taking risks. "Where did you spring from, little one?"
One charcoal-coloured arm swung to point up at the leftmost heap of garbage, but the bright little optics never once strayed from his own.
"What were you doing in there?" he wondered, offering his hand.
"Hiding," the same soft, feminine voice mumbled, shyly, around the fingers.
"Hiding from who? Those mean old Decepticons?"
Unexpectedly, the sparkling shook her head. "From Suishies."
From the Squishies? Aside from the strange concept of feeling the need to hide from the humans – most Autobots knew the humans to be friendly to their kind – it was an unnervingly Decepticonly bit of vernacular. Jazz forced himself to maintain his smile, although the first little needlings of concern had started to prickle up his arms.
"Oh, those humans are nothing to worry about," he reassured, keeping his hand out to her. "They're friendly, so long as we're friendly to them."
Reassuringly, she finally came forwards and inserted her tiny hand into his. "Hoomings?"
"Humans. Squishies." Jazz picked her up, carefully; he didn't imagine for one minute that she'd actually disintegrate, but there was something about her that gave her an aura of fragility. Perhaps it was how small she was – sparklings and wars did not go well together, especially sparklings of this sort of age. "What brings you all the way out here on your own if they're so scary, huh?"
She flickered her optics, thoughtfully. "Lost," she explained, quietly, as he carried her away from the heaps of garbage. "Tol' must fine Dacker, but got los'. Suishie hoomings took, say sell! I'scape, but now don'no where am. No fix! Want to know where am!"
Her English wasn't fantastic, but at least the point was getting through. Sounded like she'd been abducted by humans who wanted to sell her, and had escaped, but now had no positional fix on her location.
"We've got some maps, back home," Jazz reassured, amused that a machine so small could be so obsessive over where it was. "We'll soon be able to get you some data on where you are, um-…" Shoot, what was her name? "Say, we've not been properly introduced, have we? My name is Jazz. What's yours?"
"Name Oosie," she said, and patted a hand against her chest. "And Button."
She nodded, and clapped her hands.
"Come on, then, Button. We'll get you somewhere safe." He set her down on the small patch of clear ground just inside the main gates, next to the office. "There's all kinds of nasties out here."
"Nasty Suishies?" She'd already shied back against his legs, seeing the sour-faced scrap merchant watching them.
"Well, nasty anythings. All sorts of things can be dangerous if you don't know what they are, right?" Have to make sure she gets to meet Spike sooner rather than later, Jazz promised himself, inwardly, nudging her gently to one side so he could transform, ensuring he was between her and the 'nasty hooming'. I figure I'll only bother giving up if she thinks he's threatening.
He popped his front door open and let the grimy youngster crawl hesitantly onto his front passenger seat. "All settled in?"
She nodded, inspecting his dashboard from a distance. "Jas Autobot," she pointed out, dabbing a finger down on the red emblem on his controls.
"That's right," he agreed, cautiously, starting his engine. "Not scared of Autobots, then?" It stood to reason that an infant Decepticon would be brought up to dislike Autobots, right? But she'd only been scared of the humans. Another oddity.
"No. Ama Autobot," she explained, unexpectedly.
"You're an Autobot? Kinda small, ain't you?" he wondered, amusedly, peeling gracefully out of the yard and away onto the twilit streets.
Her brow creased in effort. "No, Ama is Autobot," she corrected. "Ama. Maker." She frowned in concentration. "Sweeky."
Jazz tried to ignore the alarm bell that were ringing in earnest in the back of his mind. Sweeky? Ah, nuts. This is getting more awkward by the second. 'Sweeky' was probably a corruption of 'Squeaky', and he only knew of one Autobot with that derogatorily affectionate nickname. Which would make the other parent… Primus. "So if Ama is an Autobot, who's Da?" he asked, anyway.
"Day Skawar!" She bubbled, excitedly. "Big, fast!"
Jazz paused at a set of traffic lights, trying to ignore the curious glances that turned his way, and mulled over the unspoken facts he now knew he'd interpreted correctly. "Well, you probably ought to keep quiet about that for now," he counselled, warily.
She pouted, but nodded, watching the humans out of Jazz's side window. "Day say same about Ama. We keep hid, be safe."
"Keep hid?" Stay safe? Parental responsibility from that particular individual seemed pretty absurd, but then so had working together. And 'we'? What was that all about? There'd been jokes about Skywarp keeping Pulsar in a cupboard somewhere back on Nemesis, but they hadn't actually imagined he'd go ahead and do it… "Keep hid from…?" Jazz coaxed, carefully. He could get to the bottom of the whole 'we' business later.
"From Meg'ton." She wrinkled her nose. "Buckethead."
Jazz chuckled, dryly. "Well, no worries about running into him, where we're going…"
Button remained curled up and quiet for the remainder of the journey, watching the world flash past outside. There wasn't a lot of traffic about, but there was enough to keep her attention, particularly when the road and the railway ran in parallel for a few miles and Jazz raced a train for her.
Eventually, they slipped away from the main route onto a minor road, winding away through the trees, and finally onto what was little more than a dirt track. The Ark loomed up ahead, a welcoming golden glow like firelight between the tree-trunks.
"This Jas home?" Button wondered, gazing up through her guardian's windscreen at the space-ship's immense, long-dead engines as they drew to a graceful halt in front. "Big. It fly?"
"Used to, a very long time ago," he confirmed, allowing her to slide out to the dusty ground before transforming back to his root mode. "It'll take years of work to get this bird flight-capable again."
She put her arms up to him, which was as clear a request as he needed. Carry please. "We get maps, fine Dacker now?" she asked, hopefully, looking sidelong at him, settling into his arms.
Jazz patted the dark head and smiled, reassuringly. "Yeah, probably," he agreed, even though he still had no idea exactly what the youngster had just asked. "Once I've made sure you're okay after your little adventure. And got you a bath, because you're all kinds of filthy."
"No bath," she grumbled, sourly, folding her little arms over her chest.
Inside the Ark it was thankfully quite dim, and quiet. A muted glow spread from beneath the curtain hanging in the door of the surveillance room, and he could hear someone moving about inside, but Jazz figured it couldn't possibly be Red Alert. The security officer would never have let him march on in with this sort of new resident without blocking his path and grilling him for information. Ordinarily, probably a good thing, Jazz reasoned, but in this case he wanted to keep the little one a secret, until they'd worked out what to do with her – he knew there were a lot of Autobots who'd instantly decide it was "in the sparkling's best interest!" to bring her up the Autobot way, and indoctrinate her against the Decepticons. Again, probably not a bad thing, in any normal situation, but given that one parent probably was a Decepticon… What was it humans said, something about letting worms out of cans?
"All right, maybe no bath just yet. We'll go see Ratchet, first," he told her, and boosted her up a little. "Maybe we'll be able to sort out where you belong in the morning."
"He's our doctor. He fixes us."
"Fixer?" She brightened, very slightly. "Like Ausep?"
"Er, probably, whatever an Ausep is."
"Aunnie Ausep is fixer," she explained, earnestly. "Makes better!" Something indescribable flickered through her expression. "Need make Sta'zim better." Her optics got big and her lip wobbled. "Wan' fine Dacker," she said, quietly, and rubbed at her face. "All los'. Jas help fine?"
He gave her a sad smile; interpreting her words took a little work but he was slowly working out her wavelength. "Yeah, I figure it wouldn't hurt," he reassured. "We've got a couple of good turns to repay, anyway…"
Ratchet glanced up from a textbook as the pair entered the repair bay. "Hello, Jazz," he greeted, absently… Then double-taked. "Jazz?" For a moment he just stared at the tiny body in the saboteur's arms. "Where on Earth-…"
"This is Ratchet," Jazz introduced, calmly, as the medic staggered over. "Ratch, this is Button. Think you could give her the once-over, check everything's functioning properly?"
"Well, of course-… But where did-…" Ratchet carefully extracted the sparkling from Jazz's arms, and carried her to an examination bench. She looked even smaller than she had at the junkyard, sitting in that pool of bright light while Ratchet fetched his analytical tools. "Where did you find her, Jazz? Come on, little one, lay down-… that's a good girl."
"In the scrap yard," Jazz replied, standing and watching as the medic worked. "She was what the merchant thought was a Decepticon."
Ratchet gave him a look. "Am I right in imagining he wasn't too far off the ball?" he wondered, quietly, touching a crimson finger to one of the small, blunt, triangular structures just off the sparkling's shoulders. Winglets.
"I couldn't possibly comment," Jazz replied, evasively, and gave his best disarming smile. "At least, not until Optimus has been told, and given us his opinion."
Ratchet grumbled, and got back to work. "Well?" he challenged again, once he was finally satisfied that apart from being filthy and low on energy, the sparkling was in perfect health. "Was she alone? Because there is no way a sparkling of that developmental age should be out on her own."
"That's just it! She was. She was blending in with a big old pile of junk, and just… appeared." Jazz glanced to one side at the infant, which had now settled down on the sideboard – speaking of which, how the heck had she got right up there? – to watch Perceptor's tank of alien uulu-fish next to the doorway. "It was almost as if someone had thrown her away with the rest of the garbage."
"Is that what happened, little one?" Ratchet crouched down next to where she was sitting, head level with hers. "Someone put you there because they didn't want you any more?"
She looked sideways at him, and shook her head; those little black fingers had gone back into her mouth. She seemed shy, and more than a little bit overwhelmed. "Mus' fine Dacker," she repeated, softly. "Hoomings say help. Jas say help, also." She glanced up at him, warily. "All jus' take Oosie places. No fix. No help. Lost." She studied her fingers, and added, quietly; "Want Ama."
Ratchet gave Jazz his best I-hope-this-won't-come-back-to-bite-us look. "I tell you what," the medic offered. "Would you like to get some rest first, Button? Then we'll help you do whatever it is you want to do."
She thought for a long time, then finally nodded, holding out her arms so he could pick her up. "Then we fine Dacker," she repeated, firmly, as he carried her over to one of the smaller berths, but didn't seem overly inclined to elaborate about what it meant.
Jazz watched as Ratchet got her settled; even the smallest berth completely dwarfed the sparkling. "Optimus?" He opened a channel to the Autobot's leader, quietly. "I need to talk to you."
"Of course, Jazz." Optimus sounded distracted, but had probably just been roused out of recharge. "What about?"
"Umm… in person would probably be better."
It was easy to imagine the frown on the Autobot leader's face as he processed the request. "All right," Optimus confirmed, after a moment. "Where are you?"
"Down in the repair bay, with Ratchet."
There was another pause. "I hope not because you're hurt."
"No, no, not hurt. Just… well, I don't want to discuss it over the air."
After a moment or two, the low thud of heavy footfalls sounded briefly from the corridor before the door opened and admitted one very large, drowsy-looking Autobot. "So what seems to be the problem, Jazz?" Optimus wondered, going to the saboteur's side.
Jazz met his gaze for an instant, then pointed behind him. "That is."
Optimus followed the finger… and his optics visibly widened. "By Vector Sigma," he murmured, quietly. "Tell me you've roped Hound in on the joke and that's one of his holograms, and you didn't go follow up that lead from that human and come back with a sparkling."
"I'd love to be able to tell you that, Prime, but I know you hate it when we lie to you."
Optimus watched as Ratchet carefully hooked the charging prongs into the pickup under the infant's arm, and arranged the temperature regulators around her in the appropriate places; Button – or whatever her name was – murmured a quiet little confirmation of something, and settled, obediently. "In this case I think I'd prefer it if you were lying," he admitted, grimly. "Where in Primus did it come from?"
"Still trying to work it out," Jazz admitted, following Optimus to Ratchet's side. "I, ah… have some… worrying suspicions."
"If they're suspicions that'll have an impact on base security, I'd like to know about them, Jazz," Optimus warned.
"You don't think she's a threat, do you? I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure she's not a miniature suicide bomber-"
"No, she's probably not a threat, herself," Optimus accepted, interrupting him. "I'm thinking rather along the lines of what'll happen if her parents come looking for her. I don't want several angry Decepticons trying to drill their way through our defences to get her back." He narrowed his optics and gave Jazz a long hard stare. "Assuming that's who you think she belongs to."
"Well, I've not got it from her in so many words, but she doesn't seem to have any particular fear of the Decepticons," Jazz confirmed, reluctantly. "When I found her, she was hiding – but not from the Coneheads. She said she was hiding from 'the Squishies'."
Optimus rubbed the back of his neck, tiredly. "Wonderful. I'll call a briefing. We should be making contingency plans for what'll happen when Megatron comes to fetch his little girl back-"
"That's just it," Jazz interrupted, catching Optimus' arm before the big mech could leave. "I'm not so sure Megs knows about her. She said someone told them – whoever 'they' ultimately turn out to be – to stay hidden. That if they 'kept hid', they'd be safe."
Optimus stared down at the optics that were sleepily studying him. "Is that right, little one?" he asked, gesturing an open hand to her. "You were to hide from the Decepticons?"
Button grasped one large finger, sleepily. "Jus' hide from Meg'ton," she corrected, tiredly. "Skawar say no safe. Keep hid, and we okay."
Optimus sighed, and watched her optics finally dim out into recharge. "I think," he decided, slowly, taking his hand back, "that it would be best if we were to keep her parentage under wraps – for now, at least."
Jazz made a face. "I think I agree."