Epilogue: ...The More Things Stay the Same

"Alright!" Jazz stepped back to admire the paneling he and a few other Autobots had just spent the better part of a joor repairing. "Looks like we've done all we can here. Catch ya later!" He sauntered off, whistling tunelessly as he looked for another project to join in on.

The Arkwas in a flurry of activity. Few were willing to believe the Decepticon Air Commander had turned over a new leaf, but none could deny the Autobots' current vulnerability to attack. Every mech able to wield a tool kit—not to mention plenty who couldn't—was working to make the Ark more defensible.

On a whim, Jazz turned into the residential area of the base and ducked into the room being used by Skyfire. "How's it goin'?" he called out cheerfully as the flier looked up from his work.

"Very well." Skyfire turned back to the computer isolated from the Ark's mainframe at Red Alert's hysterical insistence. "It's taken a while, but I'm almost done."

"It'd go faster if ya'd let someone help ya," Jazz pointed out, but Skyfire shook his head.

"The files are heavily encrypted," he explained with the weariness of one who has already done so numerous times. "We created the code when it became apparent that some scientists were trying to steal our work."

"An' he still uses it? Who knew Starscream was so sentimental."

"I doubt it." Skyfire sounded almost disappointed. "This code has baffled some of the most brilliant minds on Cybertron. It's very secure."

"Anything new?" Jazz asked, steering clear of the topic Skyfire so obviously did not wish to discuss.

"Nothing useful. He thinks someone named Shockwave may show up if Megatron wants to be especially certain to crush us but we shouldn't worry about him because he 'can't shoot for slag.'"

Jazz laughed. "Ain't that the truth. Int'restin' thing about this info is a lot of it we already know—he just puts an unusual spin on it."

"This is useful, then?"

"Very. S'always good to get an insider's point of view."

"But if you already had this information…"

"Not all of it. Not even most of it. Plus we might know of a technique or ability but not all the ways it can be used against us. Trust me, that disk's a gold mine."

Skyfire stopped and looked back at Jazz. "You believe this information is accurate then?" he asked in a voice as emotionless as stone.

"Ya don't have much faith in your old partner, I see," he said, carefully jovial.

"We did not part on the best of terms."

Jazz nodded, thoughtful, sympathetic. "The info correlates with our intel. It seems legit. Don't know why he'd bother sabotagin' us when we were already slagged half to the Pit anyway. You know, Skyfire, maybe he didn't say goodbye 'cause he plans to keep in touch."

"Maybe," Skyfire said, but he didn't sound convinced.

"Almost done?" Jazz asked, abruptly changing the subject.

"Just a few more lines…"

Jazz watched Skyfire's fingers falter on the keyboard and looked back to the screen. The text, translated into understandable Cybertronian, was simple: a set of coordinates and the words 'For Emergencies Only.'

"What a perfect hiding place," Skyfire murmured. Jazz listened closely, bursting with curiosity. "We stumbled upon it by accident on the expedition here. A dead asteroid in the middle of a belt with a core of pure energon. We landed there to make repairs after part of the ship was eaten and he went exploring. The scanners didn't register the energon—the asteroid was made of a strange mineral compound that blocked it. We were going to analyze samples of it when we had proper equipment back on Cybertron. It's not far from here…" He trailed off, hopeful, then an anxious expression crossed his face as he turned to the saboteur.

Jazz made a quick decision. "Ya know," he said slowly, "That's not really all that pertinent right now. Whadda ya say we keep this to ourselves? Wouldn't wanna bother Prowl with irrelevant info, what with all the preparations an' such."

Skyfire's expression cleared. "That sounds reasonable to me," he said gratefully, deleting that information and copying the rest of it for Prowl. "Jazz?" he said after a moment. "Do you think we'll ever win this war?"

Jazz chuckled. "What, a couple dozen orns an' you're sick of it already? Not that I blame ya. Might not've said yes those couple dozen orns ago," he said thoughtfully. "Might not say yes now, but after all that's happened since you popped up, I gotta say I'm more hopeful. An' really, what more can ya ask for?"

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The End

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A/N: That's all, folks.

The final count is 18,834 words, by far the longest thing I've ever written. It was fun, too, and I'm very proud of it. I know the ending sort of leaves you hanging, but as of right now, I have no plans for a sequel.

I went back and touched up some of the previous chapters, mostly formatting errors, though I discovered a few sins against the God of Spelling.

And now, thanks are in order.

Thank you to Supermoose for her diligent editing work and for beating me over the head with the stick of characterization and comma usage even when she knew I'd ignore her. Best. Sister. Ever.

Thank you to all of you who reviewed. I know I'm terrible about responding and that may make it seem that I don't care about your comments, but this could not be further from the truth. I hog the computer for hours after I post just so I can check for reviews (and yes, I do realize that's a bit pathetic).

Special thanks to Meirelle and especially Starfire201 for reviewing practically every chapter (it seems like Starfire201 reviewed about three seconds after I posted each chapter). I'm amazed people can bear to stand in your presence through the sheer amounts of awesome you exude.

And finally, thank you to all of you who bothered to read this fic. There's a whole lot of good stuff out there, but you took the time to read this. Unless you also write, I doubt you understand quite how much that means to me.

Now to fulfill my end of a deal. My dear sister Supermoose, with whom I share my profile, has written a story. I enjoyed her story greatly, but she took freakin' forever to write it. A few days ago, we reached an agreement: if she would hurry up and finish it by the time I was ready to post this, I would plug it shamelessly in my author's note (hurrah for mutual bribery). She finished it (yay!), so I'm shamelessly plugging. It's about Beast Wars II, of which I know nothing except that Starscream is hilariously flamboyant, and I think you should read it. Go to our profile—it's called "Sometimes Words Are Not Enough."

Thanks for sticking around this long. I've got some vague story ideas floating around in my head, so we might be seeing each other again soon.

Until then,

--BlackMarketTrombones