Pairings/Characters: Jazz/Prowl, Optimus/Elita, Perceptor, Ratchet, Ironhide, ensemble
Summary: In which Elita refuses to file essential paperwork, Prowl is stubborn, Jazz is even more stubborn, and the future is fluid.
Author's Note: This fic, and my other updates tonight, have all been up on my writing LJ for awhile, but I finally decided to update them here. Sequel to 'Prologue'.
- Bridge -
Somehow, Prowl wasn't surprised when Jazz led him out of the underground tunnel system into the basement of the supply depot in the middle of the Autobot's Iacon base.
"I'm going to need to close this off after you leave," he told the silver mech matter-of-factly as he turned to him.
"Oh, I'm not leaving," Jazz said with a smile. "And I think you'll want to leave it. I can give you a run-down of the security measures I having protecting the tunnel system later, or you can trust me when I say it's safe." The silver mech gave Prowl a pointed look, and the tactician had to concede defeat - with the care Jazz had shown already to keeping the chamber of Sparks safe, Prowl doubted the tunnel system would be anything less than secure. That was probably why collapsing the tunnel with the artillery cannon while rescuing Prowl had been part of the plan.
"Wait, you're not leaving?" Prowl suddenly straightened, looking at Jazz in surprise.
"I told you - that isn't my destiny," Jazz said with a grin. "I figured I'd hook up with the Autobots now that I've got you to help."
"Wait just a moment - I'm not just some random squad leader, I can't go running off to take care of them in your place! I have duties and obligations that I cannot neglect!" Prowl snapped in reply.
"Didn't expect ya to. Just want you to add that little room to them. It doesn't need constant supervision - I've been kinda spoiling them lately, actually, while setting up the tunnel security. They'll survive with periodic visits from here on out," Jazz replied easily, then hesitated for a moment before adding, "'Sides, I'm getting a little glitched hanging out down there by myself. I'm a social mech at spark."
"I hadn't noticed," Prowl muttered to himself, though judging from Jazz's grin, the saboteur heard. Shaking his head, Prowl turned to the stairs for the supply depot's basement and headed for them, glancing over his shoulder at Jazz when the silver mech didn't immediately follow. "Well, come on, then. Might as well get this over with while it's still early. Ratchet hates to be woken up by Red Alert's glitches." Though he clearly didn't understand the reference - and Prowl was internally gleeful at having been able to confuse the silver mech for once - Jazz followed, slipping seamlessly into step beside Prowl, a position that already seemed far too comfortable. As they climbed the stairs, Prowl's processor drifted back to the comment Jazz had make in the chamber of Sparks, about the one that was...theirs. He felt his logic center glitch at the thought, and shook his head again as he pushed the memory away. He didn't have the time to glitch out right now.
"How -" Seaspray, the poor mech on supply duty this month, gaped at them as they emerged from the basement.
"Hello, Seaspray," Prowl said cordially, nodding to the minibot, and kept walking, Jazz at his side, quickly leaving the supply depot behind. Prowl was actually rather surprised that they made it as far as the medical center before security pounced on them - but then, as he looked around at the mechs now pointing guns at them, he realized Red Alert wasn't on duty. Ironhide was, however.
"Good day, Ironhide," Prowl said, nodding to the weapons specialist. "I'll be happy to answer all of the requisite security questions as soon as Ratchet has a look at us."
"Y'get an escort," Ironhide said after a beat, clearly surprised at how calmly Prowl was reacting. Honestly, Prowl himself was a little surprised at how calmly he was reacting. Somehow, however, despite how logic-breaking half of Jazz's comments were, Prowl wasn't finding it difficult to avoid crashing.
"Of course," Prowl said, then continued on his way, Jazz following along with Ironhide and a few security mechs. The rest, though they looked both confused and curious, peeled off and went back to their duties.
As usual when returning separate from his unit, Prowl heard Ratchet before the med bay came into sight.
"...and the next time you see a Seeker flying around carrying a block of rubble, maybe you'll think to find cover!" Ratchet was snarling to Highwire, his back to the door, when they entered the med bay. Most of the squad glanced over, most hopefully, as the door opened, and therefore Ratchet immediately lost their attention as they froze in shock. Prowl was surprised to find that his entire squad was there, and from the looks of them, they'd only recently returned. According to his chronometer, and his longest estimates about the length of the battle with the Decepticons that had separated them, they should have been back hours ago. Prowl frowned.
"I do hope you all didn't stay in Polyhex longer than required to look for me," he said as he canvassed his squad with a stern glare. "I ordered you to withdraw and get back to base." His comment brought Ratchet's attention to the new arrivals, the medic turning quickly, his brief look of surprise quickly followed by a scowl.
"Sit down and mute it. You can berate them later," the medic snapped. Prowl nodded agreeably - he knew as well as any officer about the unspoken rule that no one berated people in the med bay except for medics. Ratchet enforced it with sedatives when necessary, and had won more than a few 'abuse of power' cases related to it before he'd caught Optimus and Prowl's attention and ended up promoted.
Jazz, unsurprisingly, followed Prowl closely as he headed to the end of the med bay, actually hopping up on the same berth as him. Prowl gave him an arched look.
"Ratchet will make you move," the tactician said.
"Sure," Jazz replied pleasantly, but didn't move. Prowl couldn't really tell with the visor, but judging from the subtle shifts in posture he could see Jazz making, he suspected the silver mech was taking the opportunity to inspect the med bay, and the mechs inside. Then Jazz turned to look at him, a small grin on his face plate, and Prowl realized that his casual inspection of Jazz's subtle posture shifts had turned into him not-so-subtly checking the other mech out. Resolutely, he snapped his gaze forward, focusing on the members of his squad and cataloguing the injuries of theirs that he could see, setting his battle computer to work on figuring out how they had happened. It was a useful distraction, trying to reconstruct the battle from just the wounds and scant pieces of information he had, and lasted him up until Ratchet got to him and Jazz.
"Separate berths," Ratchet ordered with a scowl as he stalked over, glaring at Jazz, since he knew Prowl knew better.
"I'm fine here," Jazz responded, smiling.
"But I'm not fine with you there," Ratchet replied, and his hand darted out. Jazz actually looked surprised as his appendages went limp and he started slipping off the berth - then Ratchet caught him and carried him to the next berth over, setting him down in such a way that he could still see Prowl, before the medic turned his attention to the tactician. Prowl couldn't help but grin slightly at Jazz's shocked look. His squad knew how to behave, and Ratchet knew they knew how to behave, so they'd gotten off lightly. Jazz, however, was entirely new, and Ratchet knew he needed to be 'broken in', so to speak. So he was getting the harsh treatment. Maybe in the future Ratchet would let him stay on the berth with Prowl, but for now, he was moved. Prowl firmly pushed thoughts of Jazz on a berth with him out of his processor as he returned his attention to Ratchet, who was just finishing up running his basic scan.
"For all their concern, you seem perfectly fine to me. A few dings, but I know you can and will fix those yourself," Ratchet said with a frown, then turned his attention to Prowl's processor, running extra scans that he only bothered with for mechs and femmes with processor glitches. "Your processor seems a bit active. How does it feel?"
"Fine," Prowl said with a shrug, then frowned. "Though it really shouldn't be, all things considered."
"Hmm," Ratchet murmured, going over his scans, then leaned over and hit a button on the wall. "Lie down," he told Prowl as machines slowly unfolded from the ceiling. Prowl did so, waiting patiently as the more advanced scanner settled into position and began it's job. Ratchet, standing at the access terminal for the scanner, 'Hmm'ed again. "You have an unusual concentration of Spark energy in your systems. Why?" The medic glanced briefly over at Jazz, then gave Prowl a pointed look, the question clear.
"That information is classified," Prowl replied coolly, carefully not looking at Jazz. "So long as it is not damaging my systems, you do not need to know the source." Ratchet frowned, but knew Prowl well enough to accept that answer, and the medic hit the button to send the scanner back into the ceiling.
"It's probably what's preventing a crash, to be honest," Ratchet replied, then turned to Jazz. "Now - hey! How did you unlock your motor functions?" Ratchet demanded, and Prowl glanced over in surprise to find Jazz sitting up cheerily on his berth.
"Simple override protocols," Jazz said cheerfully. "Useful to have when you're on your own in a war zone."
"I'm sure they are. Give me their codes," Ratchet said, stalking over and looming over the silver mech on the berth.
"Mech, I don't even know your name. I ain't giving you my override codes," Jazz said with a snort. Ratchet glared down at him for a moment, and Jazz glared right back. Then the medic relaxed, settling back with an amused grin.
"Fair enough. I'm Ratchet, Chief Medical Officer for the Autobots. And you are?" Prowl actually caught an ident ping, a formality that was mostly lost these days.
"Jazz," the silver mech replied, seeming pleasantly surprised as he pinged back.
"Nice to meet you. Now lie down and mute it while I give you a thorough scan," Ratchet said, slipping back into his usual scowl.
"Yessir," Jazz said with a grin, doing as told, and with a small grin, Prowl realized they'd come to an agreement: Jazz didn't trust Ratchet, but was open to it, and Ratchet now knew that and wouldn't ask anything of Jazz beyond what he was willing to allow. Confident that things would be ok, but not really wanting to leave Jazz alone in the med bay for reasons he didn't want to look too closely at, Prowl took advantage of his rank and filched a datapad from Ratchet's office, ignoring the medic's glare as he sat back on a berth and started figuring out how to write a report without mentioning the chamber of sparks. He didn't even need to ask Jazz to know that he couldn't tell Optimus - it wasn't the Prime's burden to bear.
"And why did you bring him back to the base through secret tunnels?" Optimus seemed just a little bit incredulous of Prowl's report, and the tactician didn't blame him. He'd taken full responsibility for secret tunnels leading in and out of the base, and basically glossed over the entire tale, leaving out the entire reason Jazz had grabbed him. With all that removed, the report read sort of like 'Jazz saved me for no apparent reason, but I didn't really need saving because I was going to use these secret tunnels that I've never even mentioned before even though I tell you pretty much everything of strategic value to get back to the base without getting captured or injured'. There was no motive for Jazz to save him, no reason for him to bring Jazz back with him, and that, more than anything, seemed to be causing Optimus the most trouble, especially since the report was accompanied with a recommendation for recruitment for Jazz.
"Because he saved my life," Prowl replied smoothly, and Optimus just gave him a look. "I can't talk about it."
"Really," Optimus gave him an appraising look. "You're lucky I've known you as long as I have, Prowl. Otherwise I'd have both you and Jazz thrown in the brig while you underwent a full security check. I'm still tempted, actually, but I suspect I wouldn't find anything even if there was something there, anyways."
"Probably not," Prowl conceded, not bothering to deny there being something there - Optimus could read between the lines, he knew there was something more than what was in the report. His suspicions were very likely vastly different than the reality, but that was fine.
"As for this -" Optimus set down the report and picked up the recommendation for recruitment. "Are you sure? Ratchet's report says he's a bit...unstable."
"Ratchet's report also states that is because he's suffering from being in isolation so long with strong social protocols," Prowl pointed out. "He believes that instability will clear up with more time spent in social situations. I, personally, have already seen an improvement. Even if he doesn't completely recover, however, I would still recommend him. He is a capable mech. And I trust him." It was hard not to trust a mech who guarded a chamber of sparks so well, and who obviously held the trust of the tiny sparks inside.
"High praise coming from you, Prowl," Optimus said, leaning back in his chair with a thoughtful frown. "I'm leery, however, about the lack of background we have on this mech. You don't even know where he comes from."
"No, I don't. And yet, I still recommend him," Prowl said steadily, and Optimus met his gaze. "You know me, Optimus. I can be nearly as obsessive as Red Alert about ensuring the security of the Autobot ranks."
"And you're still recommending Jazz, despite our complete lack of information on him," Optimus said slowly, finally understanding, and Prowl relaxed.
"Precisely," he said.
"Very well. Get him to fill out the standard forms and find him a place to start," Optimus replied, signing off on the recommendation and handing the pad back to Prowl. "Someday, however, I'll get the full story about this mission out of you."
"Perhaps," Prowl replied as he stood. Optimus gave him an appraising look, but simply said goodbye, a farewell that Prowl returned before heading back to his office, gathering the appropriate paperwork before going to track down Jazz.
To say the Autobots were surprised that Prowl continued to maintain ties with Jazz after the mech was in the Autobots would be an understatement. It didn't take long for Jazz to get labeled as 'Prowl's opposite', especially since the two of them were seen together frequently enough for the comparison to be made. Jazz actually adopted a colour scheme identical, but opposite, to Prowl's for awhile as a joke, before returning to his usual silver. As surprised as they were, however, none of the Autobots could deny that the unlikely pair got along amazingly well. They had their fights - and usually they were spectacular, often spilling into physical violence, something that shocked even Ratchet - but they were quickly settled, and the rest of the time they spent together peacefully.
Considering their friendship, Prowl had, of course, signed off all responsibility for approving Jazz's promotions. Optimus had given him a knowing look when he'd read the datapad citing Prowl's 'personal bias' as the reason he was not to sign off on Jazz's promotions. Prowl had ignored the look, knowing that though Optimus, and a few other mechs suspected it, there was nothing between Jazz and him but friendship. Jazz had made hints about being interested in something more, but despite having seen the tiny spark, Prowl didn't want to cross that line just yet. He was more than busy with his duties as second-in-command and helping Jazz watch over the tiny sparks, and didn't want to add a relationship to that, even if the silver mech had told him dryly one day that he essentially had one anyways, he was just too stubborn to admit it.
Jazz didn't press the topic, however, especially as the war heated up and the silver mech found himself flying through promotions not only because of his aptitude, but because his superiors kept dying. Prowl was surprisingly unsurprised, in fact, when he walked into the weekly officer's meeting one morning and found Jazz waiting grimly with the rest. He was surprised that Prime had pushed Jazz above Ironhide, promoting the silver mech to third in command, but since Ironhide didn't seem surprised or troubled by this, Prowl didn't comment, instead finding himself enjoying the extra time he got to spend with Jazz.
"You know OP only gave me third in command because of you," Jazz said one day as they sat in Prowl's quarters, having their evening energon after Jazz had finally convinced Prowl to leave his office for the day.
"What do you mean?" Prowl asked, giving Jazz a puzzled look.
"In his own words, 'Ironhide and Prowl are a good team. You and Prowl would be a great team,'" Jazz replied with a laugh. "He was right, too. You and Ironhide get along well, but you don't have the synergy that we have. Ironhide had seen the advantages of having that synergy in a command team with Elita and Chromia, and actually brought the idea to OP's attention." Prowl stared in surprise, having actually wondered once or twice why Chromia had been promoted to second-in-command of the femme division over more qualified femmes.
"Oh," Prowl said.
"I've seen your confused look sometimes, so I figured I'd explain," Jazz said with a snicker.
"Er - thank you," Prowl said, returning his attention to his energon. Jazz just laughed, and turned to another topic.
A vorn passed, Prowl and Jazz remained friends, while their colleagues continued to think there was something more between them. The war heated up, and each side lost mechs and femmes in staggering numbers. Optimus, everyone could see, was getting more and more depressed with each major loss, for either side. The Prime, more so than his officers, was aware that with the way the war was going, they were fighting each other to extinction. He didn't consider surrender, however, knowing that his Autobots would rather their race fight to extinction than live in Megatron's ideal of a perfect Galactic Empire. Instead, Optimus decided to send the Allspark into space, in the hopes that with it gone, the fighting would cool.
Perhaps it would have, had Megatron not thrown himself into space after the Allspark. They'd known he was obsessed with the cube, of course, but they hadn't realized the depth of his desire for the ancient artifact before they watched him desert his troops and follow the Allspark into space. The Decepticons, as well, seemed shocked, before coming back with a vengeance. In their optics, the Autobots had cost them the Allspark and their leader, and they were out for revenge. The Autobots, in reply, drew back, their territory shrinking as they chose not to defend it, instead scrambling to get together search parties to follow Megatron and the Allspark, realizing now that they didn't need to send the Allspark away, they just needed to made it unreachable for Megatron.
"There's a problem with these plans," Jazz said at an officer's meeting, as they were finalizing the search parties plans.
"Oh?" Optimus asked curiously. "Where?"
"The members of the search teams. You have both Prowl and I on teams," Jazz responded, earning himself confused looks from all around the table.
"I've spoken with Elita, the femme division will merge with ours, and their command staff will take over, while we're off searching," Optimus said with a frown.
"Which is all very well and good, but either Prowl or I have to stay on Cybertron," Jazz said firmly, giving Prowl a pointed look, and for the first time since the Allspark troubles had started, Prowl remember the chamber of sparks.
"You can," he said.
"No, I told you, my destiny isn't here," Jazz retorted, and Prowl frowned.
"And yet you remembered when I didn't," he said.
"And Chromia will be taking your job shortly," Jazz replied. "It's my destiny to go. Yours is to stay." Prowl scowled.
"Very well. Hound will lead my team, and we'll give him Cliffjumper," the tactician said.
"Wait just a moment," Optimus said with a frown, stopping Prowl as the tactician went to change the assignments. "What in Primus' name are you two talking about? I want, need, you both out there leading your teams. With the femme division stepping in, your jobs will be filled anyways."
"All but the most important," Jazz replied solemnly.
"I have to stay, Optimus," Prowl said flatly.
"You will if you explain," Optimus said sternly.
"We can't," Prowl replied after exchanging a glance with Jazz, then turned to Optimus seriously. "Once before, you trusted me enough to let a mech we knew nothing about join the Autobots, and now he's sitting at this table, one of your trusted advisors. Trust me again in this - I have to stay." Optimus frowned, glancing between Prowl and Jazz, clearly understanding Prowl's silent message that this had to do with the reason he had trusted Jazz so totally after just meeting him.
"Very well," Optimus said finally. Prowl and Jazz nodded and left it at that, returning to the pads, ignoring the curious looks of their fellow officers as they brought up the next topic.
They were each approached individually by all the officers over the next few days, wanting to know the reason Prowl had to stay, but neither Prowl nor Jazz told them anything, in fact retreating more often than normal to the underground tunnels, and the chamber of sparks. It was, sadly, much less crowded now - Prowl had noticed some time ago that the ranks of sparks were thinning, often in proportion with the losses suffered in battle. In a few cases, whole clusters of sparks had disappeared after only one reported death, and Prowl and Jazz mourned those losses especially, even if they were Decepticon.
Eventually, the day came when the search teams were leaving, and Prowl stood with Elita, Chromia, and the rest of the femme command staff to watch the others take off. Elita and Optimus, and Ironhide and Chromia, had said their private goodbyes earlier. Prowl, however, had been avoiding Jazz, so he was unsurprised when the silver mech approached him.
"So, this is goodbye for awhile," Jazz said.
"Indeed," Prowl replied stoicly, and the silver mech stuck out his hand. Prowl stared at it for a moment - Jazz wasn't much for handshaking with mechs he knew. Usually he hugged. The last time Jazz had stuck out his hand to Prowl in this fashion, in fact, had been when they'd first met. Prowl smiled faintly, remembering their meeting, and looked up at Jazz, who was now looking confused. "I look forward to your return," Prowl said seriously, still ignoring Jazz's hand, instead stepping forward, cupping Jazz's face in his hands, and kissing the other mech soundly. He heard the whistles and cheers, including more than a few yelled 'finally!'s, but ignored them, especially since Jazz was responding very enthusiastically to the kiss.
When he stepped back, the cheers had turned into either embarrassment, pointed ignoring, or occasional 'get a berth!' mutters. Prowl ignored them as he had the initial reaction, amused by how wobbly Jazz seemed.
"Y'know, after all this time, I figured I'd scared ya off with that comment," the silver mech said when he finally regained coherency.
"You did. But not forever," Prowl replied pleasantly, then leaned in closely to whisper in Jazz's audio. "I'll look forward to ensuring that spark makes it out of the chamber and into a shell when you return."
Jazz was grinning from audio-to-audio when Prowl pulled away, and the tactician literally had to point Jazz in the right direction and give him a shove to get him going. Prowl shook his head and laughed as Jazz walked to his shuttle with a goofy grin on his face, almost walking into a few mechs before he finally shook himself out of it, turning around and grinning at Prowl as he walked backwards into the Ark I. Ironhide, following Jazz up, shook his head and gave Prowl a glare before closing the hatch.
"I doubt it was your intention, but thank you for adding a little levity to this," Elita said softly, suddenly at Prowl's side, and the tactician looked down in surprise before nodding.
"It wasn't my intention, but it was my pleasure," Prowl said, smirking faintly. Elita chuckled, then disappeared again to continue overseeing the departure. Prowl remained where he was, with the rest of the Autobots watching the half dozen ships take off. Once they were away, he went to return to the base, but found himself heading to the tunnels and the chamber of sparks instead. He was half-smiling the entire way, watching the sparks for several long moments before he reached up to put his hand on the barriers, receiving the initial rush of welcome before the other sparks drifted away, leaving the one he had really come to see.
But no spark remained after the initial rush. They all dispersed, returning to their playing and dancing, leaving Prowl with his palm against the repelling field, empty space on the other side.
Alarmed, Prowl withdrew his hand and then put it back, trying again, but no spark remained. Desperate, he searched the sparks with his optics, hoping to feel that familiar twinge as he looked over them, but nowhere did he see the familiar spark.
"No..." he whispered, horrified. He was out of the chamber in a flash, heading back to the base at full speed. He burst out of the supply depot without even trying to hide his arrival, making for the command center. He drew more than a few stares when he burst in, especially when his gaze immediately locked on Elita and Chromia, standing whole and healthy in the center of the action as they watched their mates fly off into space.
"Prowl, what -" Elita was just turning to Prowl, a frown in place, when his processor decided it had had enough, and the world went black as his systems locked up and crashed.
"What's this?" Elita asked with a frown as Prowl entered her office and tossed a pad onto her desk, two days after the ships had left and he had crashed in the command center.
"My resignation," Prowl replied monotonously.
"Your - Prowl, I can't accept this," Elita said with a frown.
"You have no choice. I'm leaving tonight," he said.
"And where will you go? After the ships?" Elita asked.
"No. My priorities are elsewhere," Prowl responded.
"Where? Because if I accept this, you'll be the only living neutral on Cybertron, and a target for every Decepticon patrol," Elita replied grimly.
"They won't find me," Prowl assured her.
"You're good at not being found, Prowl, but no one's that good," Elita retorted. "At least remain as an advisor. I can reduce your duties to almost nothing."
"No," Prowl replied simply, then turned and left. Elita didn't follow, but she sent mechs and femmes after him. Chromia threatened him, Perceptor appealed to his logic, Firestar tried to appeal to his newly revealed attraction to Jazz. None of them succeeded, and even though Elita hadn't signed off on his resignation, Prowl disappeared into the tunnels that night, collapsing the entrance into the Iacon base behind him. He made straight for the chamber of sparks, taking a basic travel-berth and a portable energon converter with him and setting them up on the balcony of the chamber. Then he began his work.
He made a complete map of the tunnels, first, adding it to the information Jazz had given him about the fortifications the silver mech had made during his solitary time in the tunnels. Then he began building new tunnels, working his way around the chamber of sparks, doing his best to get a thorough look at it. That was how he discovered that the chamber had shielding strong enough to protect it from everything from blaster fire to a supernova. If Cybertron was destroyed, the chamber would likely still remain. It also had an internal power source that Prowl couldn't access, but that was fine, because he needed to add more power to it, anyways.
Once he had an overall image of the chamber, he began making plans. He spent almost a week solid inside the chamber itself, coming up with schematics, the sparks a silent company. He tried not to notice when he saw one disappear, focusing instead on his work. When he'd checked and doubled checked it, he opened a secure line to Perceptor, knowing the scientist would stay quiet, and not mention have Prowl's new comm frequency, nor use it unless absolutely necessary. Perceptor, as anticipated, didn't asked questions, just confirming Prowl's math before quietly telling the tactician that he was missed, Prowl not managing to cut the connection quickly enough to avoid the comment. He pushed it from his processor, however, and instead headed out, exiting the tunnels for the first time since his resignation as he scavenged for parts.
It took a long time, gathering the parts he needed, but he found them eventually, and then began building, working carefully, double- and triple-checking his work, painfully aware that he should have someone down here checking his work, but knowing that he couldn't tell anyone. It was difficult, and a few times he had to start from scratch, re-scavenging parts that he'd destroyed. He was a tactician, after all, and not an engineer. He knew enough, however, and his battle simulator was surprisingly good at handling schematics when given a chance.
Despite how large a job it was, Prowl eventually finished it, and turned his attention to the little details, adjusting the balcony inside the chamber for comfort as well as function. He was just starting to run out of things to do when he received the ping he'd been expecting, without even realizing it.
"Hello, Perceptor," he said calmly as he opened the connection.
"Prowl - it's good to know you're still active," the scientist sounded both relieved and worried. "We received a transmission from Prime. I thought you might wish to hear it." With no further warning, Perceptor's voice was replaced with Optimus'.
"...we are here, we are waiting." As the Prime's message ended, Prowl turned to the newly installed control console, beginning to power things up.
"The message was accompanied with a data packet," Perceptor said a few beats after the message ended, when it became clear Prowl wasn't going to say anything. "I presume I don't need to tell you about the casualty Optimus' team took?"
"No, you don't," Prowl replied curtly.
"Prowl, is there anything we can do?" Perceptor asked in an unusual show of empathy for the normally oblivious scientist.
"Listen to Prime. Go to our new home," Prowl replied, then cut the connection, turning his full attention to the start-up procedures. Perceptor pinged him a few more times over the next day or so, but Prowl ignored him, concentrating on powering up his new additions to the chamber of sparks, making sure everything was in perfect working order before continuing. He knew it was time to be done with it and leave their dead world behind, though, when he received one last extremely faint ping from Perceptor. He sent an answering ping back, but didn't accept the connection, just letting Perceptor know he was still alive and aware. Less than a day later, he finally activated the last of his modifications - and with a rumble heard all around the nearly deserted world, the future of the Cybertronian race left its homeworld.
Years passed as Prowl travelled in solitude - even at the ship's maximum speed, it was at least half as slow as the Autobot's other interstellar crafts. Prowl fully expected to reach the co-ordinates Prime provided and find most of his comrades already there - a belief that was only aided by the way new sparks were appearing daily inside the chamber.
The tiny sparks seemed aware that they were going somewhere, and were much more active than they'd been before. It was dizzying to watch them for any length of time as they cavorted about. They were also very excited, and Prowl had learned not to touch the protective shielding unless he wanted to be knocked on his back for a few hours - they were exuberant, and ecstatic, and wanted to share.
Finally, after nearly a vorn, Prowl reached the co-ordinates provided. He received a stream of updated data packets as he entered the solar system, providing the current situation on the planet Prime had called their new home. Prowl was pleased to see that things had progressed smoothly, with the Autobots integrating into the indigenous society smoothly, aiding without giving their technology away, allowing the species - humans, they called themselves - to progress at their own rate, but helping them avoid the most deadly mistakes. In return, the humans had let the Autobots settle on their moon. Prowl wondered if they realized what a gigantic show of trust that was in galactic circles. Moons were integral parts of a planet - the misuse or abuse of one could cause ecological disasters on the planet below, not to mention how useful it could be as an attack platform should hostilities erupt.
Regardless, it was for the moon that Prowl plotted a course, maintaining radio silence for as long as possible. He had installed advanced shielding and cloaking, but the Autobots, gathered again in one spot and with resources at their disposal that didn't need to be used for war, had advanced their technology. He received a challenge to his approach as he passed the asteroid belt, and in response, he pinged Perceptor - he was too far away to make a connection, but close enough for the scientist to receive and identify. He then watched, oddly amused, as Red Alert's increasingly more irritated broadcast was interrupted by Perceptor stumbling into the camera area, pretty much shoving Red Alert out of the way in his excitement.
"Prowl, I was beginning to wonder if you had left Cybertron at all!" the scientist exclaimed, and Prowl activated his side of the communication, voice only.
"I left shortly after you, but I'm afraid my vessel is slower than most," he said. Red Alert appeared on the screen again just then, looking annoyed, and the connection was cut just as he started looming over Perceptor. Prowl was amused, even more so when Ironhide was the one to contact him again an hour later. Once again, Prowl only activated voice communication for his end.
"Prowl, it's good ta hear your voice," Ironhide said once they'd confirmed identities.
"And yours, Ironhide," Prowl replied. "It has been a long trip."
"Hmmph, I imagine - Blaster says yer moving at less than half of what a shuttle should be capable of. Not that he even knows if you're in a shuttle or not - whatever shielding you've got is confusing the frag out of our sensors. We've got enough data to know you're there, but not much else," Ironhide commented, clearly looking for information.
"Well you can assure him I most certainly am not in a shuttle, and that my speed has been limited by the design of my vessel," Prowl replied.
"An' would that design be why yer only giving us voice communication?" Ironhide asked.
"In a way," Prowl said with amusement, glancing behind him to the sparks that would have been clearly visible had he installed a video connection on his end.
"Alright, alright, I'll stop fishin'. Prime wants ya t'know that he expects a full explanation for your actions once you get here, though," Ironhide said. "Apparently he doesn't like his officers desertin' their posts."
"I handed in my resignation," Prowl said with annoyance, and Ironhide snorted.
"Yeah, and in what universe would Elita ever accept it?" he said.
"That's her fault, then," Prowl said tiredly. "I told her I had more pressing duties to attend to, and I believe when Optimus sees what I'm bringing with me, he will understand." Ironhide looked curious at that, but didn't press further.
"Alright then, I'll tell him to expect to be relieved of all his concerns. We'll see ya in a few days?" the black mech asked.
"Of course," Prowl said, and they said goodbye before severing the connection. Prowl, meanwhile, turned to the field of sparks behind him, aware that over the course of his conversation with Ironhide, the number inside had nearly doubled. The chamber, which once seemed so incredibly large and empty, was now full to bursting, seeming barely able to contain the sparks inside. Prowl smiled, glad to see the future of his race in front of him, even if he wouldn't be a part of it, and though he knew it would knock him out, he couldn't resist reaching out and resting his hand on the forceshield, wanting to feel the exuberance and joy of the sparks.
It didn't come. Instead of the rush of sparks, a bubble of sorts formed around his hand on the shield, and one spark drifted over. It was larger than the others, by quite a bit, and seemed almost familiar - and then it brushed up against the field opposite Prowl's hand, and joy and love washed through him. Prowl snatched his hand away, staring at the spark. It had conveyed much more coherency than any new spark should, and emotions that were far too mature. Prowl's logical mind being what it was, he drew the obvious connections, but like the comment Jazz had made so long ago about 'their' spark, Prowl actively refused to process the thought, instead turning his back to the chamber and running every diagnostic he had included on the ship, distracting himself.
Prowl was unsurprised when Ironhide contacted him a few minutes after he came within visual range of the moon, and dropped his shielding. The standard procedure, after all, would be for him to land...but that was clearly impractical.
"So, we're taking a shuttle out to meetcha. That cool?" Ironhide asked dryly.
"I had expected as much," Prowl said with a small smile, and debated adding that the meeting would be on their shuttle, but he knew they'd find out what was inside the sphere at some point, and it might as well be now.
It took him another few hours to get into position, settling into orbit behind and slightly above the moon. He was fairly surely that, relative sizes considered, his ship looked like the moon's own personal moon. Fortunately, however, he doubted he'd have the same gravitational effects as a real moon.
Once Prowl was in position, he signaled the all-clear to Ironhide, and shortly after, he watched as a shuttle rose from the surface of the moon. It wasn't lost on him that it was the Ark I's shuttle, upgraded and cleaned up, but still familiar. He watched silently as it came to dock with the door of his ship - which still didn't open, technically. Prowl debated crossing over to their ship first, and instructing them how to enter, but instead waited in silence, perversely amused as he ignored their comm pings and just watched them in the airlock of the shuttle, confused about how to get inside Prowl's ship.
It was Optimus who finally touched the door - the look of troubled curiosity on his faceplate was enough for Prowl to know he recognized the symbols, but he didn't have time to comment on them to the others before he touched the door and was transported inside.
"Welcome, Optimus Prime, to the future of our race," Prowl said, in the formal Old Cybertronian. Optimus, he was sure, didn't even hear him, his gaze fixed on the chamber in front of him, and the sparks now writhing and dancing ecstatically - they sensed a Prime, Prowl suspected. Or they were just happy to see someone new. Prowl just let Optimus stand and stare, but when the Prime moved to place his hand on the field, Prowl reached out and stopped him, finally catching the larger mech's attention.
"They project basic emotions through the field, and are a bit excited. You'll be out for a few hours if you touch it," Prowl said apologetically. "It's completely harmless, and you're free to touch the field later, but I suspect now would be a bad time." His smile was answered by Optimus' grin, who then unexpectedly hugged Prowl. The ex-tactician stiffened in surprise as he was actually lifted off the ground by Optimus' bear hug, and as shocked as he was, he was only vaguely aware of Ironhide and Ratchet appearing inside the ship. Their snickers caught Optimus' attention, however, and Prowl was hastily let go.
"Now that was worth the whole war just to see," Ironhide said with a grin, and Prowl glared at him, though he quickly lost Ironhide's attention, as the black mech noticed what was behind him. Ratchet's attention was already long gone, as he stood gaping at the sparks. Optimus, meanwhile, was reassuring the rest of the greeters on the other side that it was safe to touch the door, and after a query to Prowl, that it was, in fact, the only way to enter the ship. Soon enough, the small balcony was starting to seem crowded, as Elita, Chromia, Perceptor, and Bumblebee joined them. Prowl and Optimus had to stop a few of them from touching the field, but eventually the shock wore off enough for them to start asking questions. Prowl waited for them to quiet down before telling the story from the beginning.
They were a quiet audience, looks of understanding crossing their faces as Prowl's tale finally filled in pieces that they were missing about both Prowl and Jazz. At the end of it all, they were silent, most watching the sparks with wonder or thoughtfulness.
"It's a pity Jazz isn't here to see the end result of all his work," Ironhide finally said, regretfully. Prowl hesitated, then stepped over to the field.
"I'm not sure he isn't," Prowl said softly, though he knew they all heard, and he placed his hand on the field, Optimus aborting a move to stop him when Prowl didn't get knocked back. Instead, as he expected, the bubble formed again, and the single spark drifted towards his hand. Prowl smirked as he felt the familiar presence wash over him again, feelings of joy, mischievousness, and everything that was pure Jazz.
"Is that...?" Ratchet couldn't finish his disbelieving question as he stepped up next to Prowl.
"Jazz, yes. Don't ask me how he managed it. Perhaps it was his strength of will, coupled with the time he spent in this chamber before he found me. Perhaps it was a gift from Primus. I don't know," Prowl said, shaking his head and removing his hand from the field. Jazz's spark continued to dance there, seemingly waiting, and after a nod from Prowl, Ratchet reached out and touched the field. The other sparks quickly became much more excited, but the stayed back as a stunned look crossed Ratchet's faceplate, and he staggered back.
"That's..." the medic paused. "That should be impossible."
"And yet, because it's not, we now have a future," Optimus said softly, his happiness clearly audible in his voice. He glanced at Prowl, then, and he grinned mischievously before placing his hand on the field. Everyone tensed, but Elita was the one laughing as Optimus stayed right where he was, instead of being sent to the floor. The Prime was beaming happily as the sparks all rushed to greet him, and he seemed perfectly able to accept the rush.
"Y'know, you say they'll knock us on our afts if we touch the field, but I haven't seen it happen yet," Ironhide commented, stepping up beside Prowl.
"Feel free to try it if you don't believe me," Prowl said with a smirk, perfectly willing to let them learn the hard way now that the explanation was over. Ironhide eyed Prowl for a moment, then boldly placed his hand on the field. He was promptly out flat on the balcony...along with Chromia. Optimus drew his hand away from the field, looking concerned, as Ratchet scanned the two fallen Autobots.
"They're fine. Just data overload," Ratchet declared after a moment, shaking his head, then turned his scan on Optimus, much to the Prime's surprise. "And as for you - the matrix seems to be processing the data so you can handle it. Which makes you and Prowl the only ones effectively able to touch the field, and Prowl's immunity will end as soon as I cart Jazz's body up here and we figure out how to get his spark outta there." Ratchet turned to Prowl. "I'm guessing you don't know how to do that."
"No, but I suspect we'll find out," Prowl said with a shrug.
"I'm sure we will," Optimus replied, grinning broadly.