Author's Notes: OMG, this epilogue is big enough to be its own story! ::facepalms:: Anyway, here you go... enjoy! I am done!
Also, I technobabble out my aft on this one. So if any of you have science backgrounds and are looking at this shaking your heads, I have one word for you: TRANS-FORMERS! *eg* Don't talk to me about physics!
Reasons Jazz Is A Lucky Mech, #248: Epilogue
Jazz nearly tripped as a small form barrelled past right over his foot.
"Marvel!" he yelled after his ballistic sparkling. "Watch where you're goin', bitlet!"
The saboteur hopped on one pede a few paces, waiting for the sting of tiny claws to fade. Prowl watched from the door to their shared quarters, barely suppressing his mirth.
"She takes after you, of course," he said, letting the unrepentant grin free when his bondmate finally looked up.
Marvel, the only femme to emerge from the Vosian and Praxian breeding cycle five vorns ago, took after both her creators in truth. She was viciously smart and an intuitive problem-solver. A natural leader, she was already bossing the other sparklings around with gleeful abandon.
Alright, maybe she took a little more after her carrier after all.
Prowl was unreasonably (rightfully) proud of her even as he cringed every time she discovered some new and 'interesting' kind of trouble to get into. Thankfully, between her smarts and the combined talents of the other sparklings, she also usually managed to get herself out of most situations before they became too dangerous.
Marvel's rise to infamy as the most reckless of the sparklings had come as a surprise to everyone. Most had feared that the newspark Bluestreak carried, with the twin prankster influences of Sideswipe and Sunstreaker, would be a total hellion that would drive all the Autobots crazy. But to the shock of everyone – including his own creators – Quicksnap was the most well behaved of all the little ones.
Bumblebee came trotting up to them. "Hey guys, is Marvel with you? She got away from me again."
While Jazz sighed, lamenting on the unruliness of his sparkling with her babysitter as if he couldn't fathom at all where her tendency to misbehave came from, Prowl was more pragmatic. He just pointed down the hall in the direction she'd run off to.
"Thanks Prowl." Bumblebee nodded. The minibot's maturity had grown by leaps and bounds since he'd been put in charge of looking after the cadre of newsparks, but his youth and ability to connect on their level still made him a favourite of the sparklings. They usually listened to him pretty well. "I'm trying to collect the kids for their playdate with the Decepticon sparklings, but I think they're up to something. Blazeward and Flameguard were snickering like mad in the background when I went by to check on arrangements with Smokescreen and Inferno earlier."
Jazz snorted, shaking his head in reluctant amusement. "That's not surprising with those two." It didn't matter whether he meant the sparklings or their creators, the sentiment was the same. "No doubt Marvel's in on whatever plot they're hatching too."
Blazeward, the newspark Smokescreen had carried, and his little brother Flameguard were almost as much trouble as Marvel. Much to the dismay of their third creator, Red Alert, who'd been surprised to find himself sparked up nearly an orn after Smokescreen's heat period was supposed to have ended. The two mechlings – with Red Alert's ability to spot trouble coming, Inferno's gusto for driving headlong into danger, and Smokescreen's knack for the con – were Marvel's usual partners-in-crime and were sparkfailure-inducingly good at it.
Today all of the sparklings were supposed to go outside and play in the specially-designed playground that was neutral ground for both factions. It was the anniversary of their conception, and Bumblebee and a couple of other volunteers had promised to keep the sparklings out from underfoot. Prowl and Jazz were not the only mechs looking forward to the break and the chance to reaffirm their bond – hopefully in a very satisfying recreation of the events that sparked the little ones in the first place.
"Well, she can't have got too far." Bumblebee mused. "She loves playing with the Decepticons. I'll check with Beachcomber next, he's waiting outside to help me escort the sparklings to the playground."
Any further discussion was put on hold when Wheeljack came running up to them. His headfins were flashing in alarm as he nervously wrung his grey hands.
"Wheeljack, what is it?" Prowl queried, ready to instantly call either the Prime or Ratchet – whichever was most needed depending on the nature of the inventor's distress. Quite possibly both, knowing him.
"Oh, ah," Wheeljack shifted nervously. "I can't be sure... I mean, I'm sure I locked the cabinet, but it's not there anymore... and I don't think I would have moved it anywhere because it's not quite done yet and everyone else who goes into my lab knows not to touch what's in the experimental cupboard because I'm not finished working on those projects and don't always know what might happen..."
"Wheeljack! You're babbling worse than Bluestreak. Take a moment and then explain, calmly, what it is that has you so worked up."
"You know those new electric propulsion ion thrusters I've been working on for the humans? Trying to adapt the weapons technology of some of our mechs' ion fusion cannons into a clean-energy spaceflight-capable propulsion system that'll be a lot more powerful than their current chemical-based combustion rockets?"
Both Prowl and Jazz nodded while Bumblebee just looked confused.
"Well, Marvel's been by my lab a few times over the last decacycle, asking questions about the different ways mechs get around..." Wheeljack twitched guiltily as he ducked his head to look up at the mated pair beseechingly. "And I didn't mean to, I swear! But it's just that there aren't many interested in listening to me talk about my work, and she was so attentive...!"
"I told her all about my project and even let her help a little bit. Nothing dangerous! Just holding parts still while I welded them on. She was just so curious, always asking why and how and fascinated by everything..." He seemed to steel himself, obviously anticipating the bad reaction his next revelation would cause. "Only I was just checking and now the ion thrusters are gone and I'm not sure, but think I caught her leaving my lab from the corner of my optics when I turned my back."
Everyone froze for an astrosecond as the implications hit, and then pandemonium broke loose.
Prowl was the first to leap into action. He was off running after his wayward sparkling even as he shouted orders behind him. "I'll call Optimus Prime. Bee, find the creators and have them check on their sparklings – get out to the playground if you must! Jazz, have Red check the security cameras. Wheeljack, get Ratchet on standby!"
The others scrambled to obey. Bumblebee bolted off back the way he'd come, hollering verbally to any mech that could hear him. Wheeljack did as told, then hesitated a moment before swiftly making his way back to his lab as another idea to help occurred.
Jazz was right behind his mate, already calling Red Alert for the camera sweep even as he sent out a Priority One alert code and organized his troops into a search pattern.
It didn't take long to discover that all of the sparklings had managed to slip past their caretakers and were nowhere to be found in the base. Every mech that could was now out combing the Earth for some sign of the little ones. Desperate, Optimus put in a call to the Decepticon base for help searching the grounds outside.
The ceasefire with the Decepticons had continued mostly unchallenged since the sparklings' creation. There had been a few squabbles, a few minor battles of ideological differences (namely that the Decepticons were still prone to stealing from and occasionally squishing the humans and the Autobots never had been) but for the most part, peace had reigned. It had been helped along enormously by the fact that both groups of sparklings quite enjoyed playing with each other and had formed fast friendships regardless of faction. For their sakes, the adults upheld the truce between them no matter how shaky their own relations.
Megatron looked nonplussed when he heard the news.
"Have you tried the valley yet? The Cassetticons already left to drop off our sparklings a few breems ago. They should be almost there."
"Bumblebee has taken a group out to check. We haven't heard back from them yet, though."
Megatron sighed, propping his chin on a fist. "I can send a Seeker trine to do a flyby of the area if you want, Prime. But I'm sure it's probably nothing, you know how these sparklings are..."
"Lord Megatron!" Soundwave's monotonous voice suddenly exclaimed in alarm. "Soundwave: receiving telepathic distress signal from Cassettes! Sparklings in danger! Assistance: requested immediately!"
Megatron shot up to his feet. "What! How can they have...?! STARSCREAM, GET IN HERE! We need to mobilize immediately!" He turned to lock optics with Optimus, the question not needing to be asked.
Optimus nodded anyway. "I heard. We're already on our way."
And the connection cut as both ran to find out what was going on with their sparklings.
Both the Decepticons and Autobots arrived just in time to see a bright, blinding flash flare out over the entire valley. The Seekers and Aerialbots had flown the distance in a fraction of the ground crawlers top speeds and should have already been there. But in the bright glare of the explosion, it was impossible to see a thing.
"Oh, no..." Who said the words was irrelevant; it fit what they were all thinking. A collective gasp of horror rose up from the combined forces of the Cybertronian army as each believed they watched the moment their precious sparklings were destroyed.
Then the glow faded, and the dust began to settle.
The first sign that all was not as dire as it appeared was the Decepticon Air Commander's distinctive screech echoing out over the high mountain-ringed valley.
"What in the name of Unicron's smelting pools have you brats done?!"
Slowly, the dust cleared and what had really happened became apparent.
Or maybe not.
"What in the...?"
The sparklings all appeared to be fine. As were the Seekers, Aerialbots, Cassettes and the Minibots whom had accompanied Bumblebee to check on them. They were also all fused together in a giant mech and sparkling pile like some freakish, highgrade-inspired abstract art sculpture.
"STARSCREAM!" Megatron bellowed impressively. "What is the meaning of this?!"
"I didn't do it!" The outraged Seeker protested. He was sitting near the centre of the pile, with one arm wrapped tight around his own sparkling's middle and holding him like a football. The other hand was clenched around a pouting Marvel's upraised arm, within which was just visible something long and dangerous looking. All three were squished close together, one solid point of contact all along their bodies.
They weren't the only ones. Plastered wings to wings against Starscream's back, Silverbolt was glowering over the squirming bundles of the Coneheads' three sparklings in his lap. One of whom – was that Bedlam? – was upside down and seemed to be poking him with his nosecone in a very sensitive spot. At his feet, Blazeward and Flameguard were laughing hysterically as they tried and failed repeatedly to pull themselves free of his legs.
The strangness didn't stop there, but continued to radiate outward in an ever-widening circle. Like a finely interwoven spiderweb, every mech and sparkling in the valley was tangled on the ground and glued to their neighbour's side.
Near the outer edge of the pile closest to the newly arrived 'Bots, Quicksnap was huddled in the small space between Cliffjumper and Rumble where they lay squished under Thundercracker's much larger body. Catching sight of his creators, he cried out for them to rescue him.
Given that almost everyone else was trying to shout over each other as well, no one should have heard the quiet little mechling. But Sideswipe did, and spotting his creation in such a precarious position, immediately broke from the stunned pack and ran toward him.
"I don't know what your reckless nitwit of a sparkling was trying to do," Starscream was explaining – berating – to Prowl and Jazz, when his head suddenly whipped around to turn wide-optics on the red Lamborghini racing closer. "No, don't!"
His shout was in vain, for it was already too late. Having crossed some invisible line, the concerned creator abruptly found himself no longer moving under his own power. Sideswipe frantically tried to slam on the breaks, digging his heels into the rock to stop his forward momentum. But it was useless. He was pulled inexorably onwards until he joined the pile with a smack! The force of his collision with Thundercracker's aft would have sent the Seeker sprawling if his chest hadn't been braced by the Mini-bots under him.
They, however, bore the brunt of the impact and yelled out pained recriminations.
"Sideswipe, you afthead! If I could move, I'd kick you!"
Thundercracker grimaced above them, chin propped forlornly on his elbows. "It's not that comfortable for me either, you know."
"As I was trying to say before you so idiotically demonstrated," Starscream cut in snootily, "no one can get close without being pulled into the mess as well. Whatever it is your damned menace," and there was no doubt he was referring to the sole femme in the group, "was up to, the result was the magnetization of our plating! Any mech who gets too close will be drawn in. And the more mechs there are, the stronger the magnetic force will get as the mass rises. So stay away!"
A flash of purple light heralded Skywarp's arrival. Clutching Soundwave's Radartron while two dark little winglets, his own Skylark and TC's Boomblast hung off his wings, the teleporter laughed as he surveyed the mech-pile in the valley.
"Aww, if I'd known you wanted to play with the sparklings so bad, 'Screamer, I'd have sent these two back down while I got Radar out of the cave they pushed him in."
Cocking his head at his carrier, Skylark chirped curiously and disappeared in a little puff of light. He reappeared a few feet over his Uncle Star's head a moment later. He was, of course, instantly sucked down to splay out across Starscream's helm like an octopus.
All of the sparklings started giggling uncontrollably. Skywarp included.
Starscream just glared as his trinemate absently made to put down the other two sparklings so he could retrieve his own.
"Don't. You. Dare."
Skywarp's intakes hitched in amusement. "It'll only take a second, and I'm sure I won't get caught..."
"I swear, 'Warp, if you never listen to another order again... SIT YOUR AFT DOWN AND DON'T MOVE!"
"As fascinating as this byplay is," Prowl spoke up dryly, "might I enquire as to what we are to do to untangle the lot of you from each other? Perhaps starting with what it is Marvel was trying to do in the first place."
Put in the spotlight, the little femme blinked huge optics at her creators and wibbled. "It's not my fault! I was just trying to help Rift' learn to fly so his carrier wouldn't be sad at him anymore!"
'Rift' was Riftraider, Starscream's sparkling who was currently imitating a very embarrassed football. Starscream had been the only Seeker to bear a non-flying sparkling, as his little one more closely resembled his other creators. With Megatron's strong build and a milder form of Soundwave's telepathic abilities, Starscream had been quite disappointed when he did not also develop tiny wings like all the other little Seekerlings.
It did not mean he loved his creation any less though, as he patiently informed the femme. Unable to do much more than squeeze his mechling in reassurance, the Seeker purred his turbines so Riftraider could feel the vibrations through his side. "Wings or no wings, sweetspark, you're mine and I will always love you no matter what."
"Well, now that we've cleared that up..." Jazz started, then trailed off. He threw his hands up and grinned blithely. "Yeah, I got nothin'."
Thankfully Wheeljack stepped forward. "Marvel, is that my ion fusion system, honey?"
"Uh huh! It wasn't finished though, so I got the baby combiners to fix it fer me."
The 'baby combiners' were the Rainmakers' triplets – Stormcast, Windformer, and Squallmaker – who fancied themselves great technicians like their Constructicon creators. Minus the intelligence or experience to actually make anything work properly, however.
"Ah!" Wheeljack nodded, headfins flashing in excitement. "I see. So instead of generating electric ion propulsion, somehow they seem to have turned it into a progressive electromagnetic wave that sensitizes and spreads to any metal it touches. Amazing!"
Ratchet kindly whacked him upside the helm before anybody else could. "How do we fix it, 'Jack?"
"Oh, that should be easy! We just need to reverse the polarity."
Everyone stared at the massive pile of magnetized mechs who could barely move and which no one could get close to without being sucked in.
"Okay, slight problem..."
In the end, it was Marvel herself who had to fix what she'd caused. Straining her little fingers to slide the few inches necessary, the femme sparkling successfully managed to find the right switch to flip the polarity. The moment she did, the magnetic properties in their plating subsided. Like a stack of dominoes, the mechs and sparklings collapsed and fell apart.
Relieved creators gratefully gathered up their creations. Jazz picked his way through the mess of bodies to scoop his little trouble-maker into his arms. He carried her back to his mate, who hugged them both.
Starting the long walk down the mountain pass with their sparkling holding hands between them, Jazz couldn't help but chuckle.
When Prowl looked curiously at him, he started to softly sing: "'Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.'"
Shaking his head, Prowl nevertheless indulged his mate and took up the song.
"'And I'm wondering what it is I should do,
It's so hard to keep this smile from my face,
Losing control, yeah, I'm all over the place!'"
Laughing, they ignored the incredulous stares cast their way and continued off home, raising their voices to echo through the canyons.
"'Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right!
Here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you!'"
(Thank Primus! XD)
Song Disclaimer: "Stuck in the Middle With You" © Stealers Wheel (1972)