Many Shades of Black

Chapter 7

The first time the Twins drive Ratchet to drink. Sort of.

Disclaimer: I don't own Transformers; I'm just prostituting it for my amusement.

Summary: NOT TEETH VERSE Jazz finds an Enforcer in the ruins of Praxus. Even though Enforcers are the lackeys of Megatron he stays with the mech so that he won't deactivate alone. Except the mech doesn't die.

Warning: M/M robot smut, war

Pairings: Jazz/ Prowl

Klik: One minute, 1.2 kliks

Joor: One Hour, not giving it a specific length, suffice it to say that Cybertron does not share the same orbit or rotation as Earth, an hour, a day would be different lengths from ours

Mega-cycle: One Day, 93 hours/ joors

Orn: One Week, 13 mega-cycles

Quartex: One Month, 4 orns

Stellar Cycle: One Year, 7.5 quartexes

Vorn: Length of Sparklinghood and Younglinghood: 83 stellar cycles.

Four mechs filled Ratchet's private office, waiting for the medic to finish his examination of the rescued split-sparks. Optimus leaned against the bare wall by the only door. His optics were offline, and his arms were crossed over his chassis. He knew Ironhide was close by, only a few steps away, by Ratchet's desk. Often, more often than not, Ironhide stood beside his Prime, nearly touching. It was easier to defend the leader of the Cybertron if he was close at all times. But Optimus needed space to mull over, to agonize over the events of the day. Knowing this, Ironhide kept his distance, as much as he was willing to, at least. This, despite Optimus had not demanded it, or even asked for it. Ironhide read him far too well despite not having been Optimus's personal guard for terribly long.

Megatron had deactivated his predecessor. Just as Megatron had deactivated the Prime's Second-in-Command. Optims felt spark deep grief for Intrigue's deactivation, but it was not the focused of the Prime's thoughts. Shockwave... It was impossible for Optimus to fathom that his Third-in-Command had been in league with Megatron. Had he been a spy for the Decepticons since before Orion Pax became Optimus Prime, or had Megatron offered Shockwave something worth turning his back on the Autobots. Optimus could not decide which was a worse prospect.

"We will need to search Shockwave's residence," Prowl said, deadpan as per usual, after more than an joor of silence. The Enforcer was standing with Jazz, next to the fold out berth Ratchet had installed in his office when he had first purchased the space. If he kept any other residence, it was rarely used. Ratchet more or less lived in his clinic.

"And his office," Jazz added, anger plain in his voice. "We need to know how much intel he got his servos on."

Optimus remained silent, though he had certainly heard them. Yes, it would be imperative to discover just what Shockwave had revealed to Megatron over the course of the war. Certainly everything related to tactical planning and the army. How much more had he managed to prune from other departments. Certainly the femmes had suffered heavy losses. Though Elita 1 had never appeared especially fond of Shockwave. His rank as TIC would have given him some leverage with garnering information in regards to missions not stamped the Prime's seal (missions only known to Optimus himself and specific division commanders, often Jazz). Intrigue had held the chain of command as sacred. Shockwave had always shown comrodery, towards him. He been endless open to sharing information, and working one on one with the former TIC in battle planning for the army. The thought was horrific, but it was likely that Intrigue had engaged Shockwave in organizing his "revised" plan against the prison.

"As soon as Ratchet reports on the condition of the younglings, we will organize a search of Shockwave's properties," Optimus finally applied. "I want mechs from your division, Jazz, involved in both the search of his office, and his home."

"Got it, Boss Bot," Jazz said. He immediately set his processor to considering who would search where.

"Pit-sparked slagtard fragged with the wrong part of his processor," Ratchet growled when he finally returned to his office. He snatched a cube of high grade from his stash and downed it in one gulp. "They wanted to make themselves obedient death machines. Yeah? Obedient, fragging likely. They fragged around, rerouting connections and rewriting coding governing impulse control. They might as well have rewired his emotion centre too.. A death machine, likely since he'll get angry, and homicidal at the drop of a hat."

"Is he dangerous?" Optimus asked, youngling or not, innocent or not, if he was dangerous the youngling would have to be held in containment if he was a danger to others.

"More to himself than anyone else," Ratchet said. "From what I managed to gleam from the pair, Sunstreaker has always been more impulsive than Sideswipe, and Sideswipe can be plenty impulsive. Normal enough for younglings. But Sunstreaker is now more impulsive than he ever would have been, and there is no growing out of it. I could go in and try and repair the rewiring but his processor has been fragged over that I'm more likely to cause his processor to go offline permanently; I'm assuming it is a given that this is not going to be done, and if you, any of you even dares to suggest it, I turn you into spare parts. He's going to get into trouble. A lot of trouble, with authority and just in general. If someone dared him to jump off the highest building in Iacon he'd likely do it given the right/wrong situation. The only blessing, the only solitary blessing is that he and Sideswipe are split-sparks. Sideswipe can reign Sunstreaker in, when he wants to."

"And his emotions?" Prowl asked.

"From what I can tell, he now feels them more strongly than normal," Ratchet explained. "I follow the theory that emotions are created in our sparks and they are acted on by our processors. His processor now magnifies what he feels. When he's happy, his ecstatic. When he's angry, he's enraged. Etc. This is actually why he attacked you, Prowl. When he came online your presence startled him. Surprise easy morphs into fear, and fear triggers his survival programming. Apparently, flight has rarely been his reaction. Fight was the way of the streets in Kaon. That's where they were sparked, and that's where they were kidnapped from. They'd been running with a street gang since they took their youngling upgrades. Carrier was a prostibot, Sire unknown. They didn't have a good start in life, and the 'Cons have made sure that it won't be any easier from here on out."

"Can we place them in a youngling home?" Optimus asked. "Once they have recovered from their torture and imprisonment?"

"Most likely," Ratchet replied. "The caretakers are going to need to understand thought that they are not like other younglings and they need to be handled with great patience. They like other younglings. They're more used to living with other younglings than they are living with adults. As a rule they distrust adults."

"Would it be helpful if I brought Blue to the clinic to visit with them?" Prowl asked. "The only younglings they have seen in how many quartexes were all tortured and deactivated in front of them."

"That's an excellent idea, Prowl!" Ratchet said, and smiled for the briefest of seconds. "It'll be a good for them to interact with a youngling other than each other. I'm asking Smokescreen to advised on the Twins' cases in any case. He can bring Blue with him when he comes."

"That sounds appropriate," Prowl replied. He and Bluestreak were after all staying with Smokescreen at the moment.

"We'll leave the Twins to you, Ratchet," Optimus said. "We need to return to the Palace..."

"Make sure you watch for traps," Ratchet warned. "I don want to see any of you back here for repairs because you went in guns blazing."

"Traps are my specialty, Hatchet," Jazz chirped. His smile went from mirthful to devious in the a nanosecond. Prowl had already learned that Jazz would likely need to be reigned in himself when that expression crossed his faceplates.

As their chronometers rolled to the third joor, two teams of mechs and femmes slip silent through the streets of Iacon, approaching their targets without alerting the recharging residents of the surrounding buildings that anything was amiss. One group, led by Elita 1, enter the Palace, the doors opened for them by Ironhide so no staff member was made aware, and made their way quietly down the halls and made entry to Shockwave's office. The other group, let by both Jazz and Prowl, broke into Shockwave's private residence. Jazz entered first, the saboteur ready to disable any trap the Autobot TIC turned Decepticon psychopath may have left behind.

Jazz found no traps, nothing more than your standard, high end alarm system. Certainly nothing that concerned the burglary expert that was Jazz. With Jazz's signal, Prowl and the rest of their team entered the former SIC's residence. It had been under close surveillance since less than a joor after Elita 1 had alerted Prime to Shockwave's duplicity. They knew Shockwave had attempted to return to his home. Prowl kept his doorwing sensors tuned to the highest setting. While Jazz was an expert had both setting and defusing traps, Prowl's doorwings allowed him to sense energy readings. If anyone was hiding in the house, if certain types of nefarious devices were installed in the walls, Prowl's doorwings would feel them.

A single private comm channel was kept open between the team. Echoes of "all clear" called over the channel as one by one each room was searched, and each room was cleared of any Cybertronians, or traps. Before long, every room was cleared and the team began pouring over every cubic centimetre of Shockwave's former home. Every item, no matter how small or insignificant was examined. Each time Prowl walked passed one particular datapad unit in Shockwave's ornate home office his doorwing sensor detected just the faintest blip of something... off. On closer inspection, Prowl found nothing to be amiss on the unit. He removed every datapad, and every decoration, and Prowl examined the bare shelves with all the care and attention his years of investigating crime had taught him. Still, there was no sign of just what was setting off his sensors. When he tuned his doorwings sensors down to medium, the normal level at which they were set, they detected nothing, but when he tuned the sensors back up to high they once again detected a faint blip of heat. Prowl ran a kick diagnostic on his sensor and they read as normal. Though his doorwings were still hyper sensitive to touch, they were no more sensitive to detecting heat, EM fields, etc than they had ever been. Finally, he attempted to physically move the unit, first side to side and then forward. The united moved away from the wall, just a small amount.

"Whatcha doin' Prowler?" Jazz asked when he noticed Prowl's odd focus on the datapad unit.

"Something is triggering my doorwing sensors," Prowl explained, not bother to turn and face Jazz. "They detect a small point of heat. I cannot find the source. And there is nothing on the other side of the united. Only the wall. No visible sign of a secret door."

"Your good at this," Jazz hummed. "I guess that makes sense. Let me help you move the unit outta the way."

Prowl gave Jazz a cursory nod and together they moved the unit well away from the wall. Jazz ran his servos over the wall, feeling for gaps, for cracks, for warmth. Feeling nothing, Jazz activated the electromagnets in his servos and once again, thoroughly ran his servos over the was. He felt more than he heard a hiss as something shorted and bookcase next to the now bare wall slid to the side, revealing a sealed door. The two mechs glanced at each other.

"Your doorwings must've felt the heat from the mechanism," Jazz said as he examined the lock on the door. It was not unlike the ones protecting Shockwave's lab in the prison. "Wicked."

"I don't believe they have ever detected anything quite so small," Prowl replied. Or perhaps he had ignored smaller blips during investigations, treating them as "background noise." His logic processor was already recalculating how it would handle any future minute readings. Nothing would ever be ignored again.

It took Jazz longer to crack this lock then it had to crack the lab's locks. It appeared that whatever Shockwave had locked away behind this door, he held it more valuable than he had the lab. Through the comm, Prowl alert their team to the door's discovery. In a klik, femmes called Chromia, and Lancer, a minibot with the designation Bumblebee, and four mechs of standard frames were waiting in the lavish space. Jazz stood after several kliks as the door slid open. Prowl peered over the saboteur's shoulder. The door opened to a flight of stairs.

"I'll go first," Jazz stated and he slowly began to descend the winding flight of stairs. Prowl flared back his door wings and followed immediately after. As they descended the first dozen steps, the smell of stale, dried energon hid them. Not the energon they consumed, but the energon the bled. Jazz glanced back at Prowl with a grim expression on his faceplates. Whatever was at the bottom of these stairs, it was not going to be pretty. When they rounded the last bend of the stairwell, Prowl's doorwings "sang."

"There's a spark pulsing down there," Prowl said, his surprise event in a brief hitch in his vocalizer.

"Primus," Jazz half prayed, and half swore. A bleep flashed over his visor, just after Prowl spoke. Slagging doorwings were more sensitive than his visor. Dread filled his own spark when he realized that the spark was weak. Perhaps weaker than Prowl's spark when Jazz had found him in the dead ruins of Praxus. Though it did seem to be pulsing at a steady rate. He ran down the remaining stairs, with Prowl close on his heels.

At the base of the stairs, they emerged in the Pit, the comparison was fiitting how deep down they had climbed. Immediately across the dimly lit basement, displayed on the wall, was a horrific array of torture devices. Whips whose handles were adorned with precious gems, electrobatons of various sizes, and more. So much more. Jazz had seen a collection like this when he had been held captive. Blind luck had saved him before more than whips and blades were used on his armour and protoform. Jazz look to the next wall, a well crafted berth and a collection of torture devices of a different sort. The saboteur's tank threatened to purge, but he held it down. There was a console parallel to the berth along the wall closest to Jazz. He heard Prowl walked to the other side of the room, his doorwings twitching with distress, and moved to follow him. Prowl raise his servo and shook his helm, without turning to Jazz.

Jazz had no doubt seen horrific things during the war. Praxus alone had been a horror. Prowl knew the other mech worked in Special Operations, he was a saboteur and a spy. He had been capture once, interrogated and tortured before Elita 1 and here femmes had rescued him. This was different a scene of a different type of horror. One Prowl was sadly familiar with. It was the sort of horror that occurred in peace time, as well as in war. The sickness that existed in the processors of some mechs and femme that led them to take pleasure it the sadistic sexual torture, and most always murder, of other Cybertronians. Thankfully, Prowl had only investigated two such cases in his career. Only one had involved a living victim. He reached the cell, it was a cage more than it was a cell. The metal of the bars shone like they were regularly polished. It reminded Prowl of the sort of cage, though much larger, that elite Cybertronians used to house lilleths, rare glass birds. There was a small form curled, deathly still, on the simple berth. This was the origin of the spark.

"Are you functional?" Prowl asked, crouching by the locked door of the berth. Even the lock itself was ornate. Ornate, and of antique style, requiring a key. The form slowly stirred, twisting on the berth to face Prowl.

"Who the slag are you," the minibot's voice crackled. Despite the voice's faintness, it sounded defiant. From what little plating still remained over his protoform, Prowl could see the small mech had primarily red colouring. Two small, badly dented audio horns topped a badly scratched helm.

"My designation is Prowl. I am with the Autobots. We are here to rescue you."

"Pit spawn's an 'Bot," the minibot growled. He shook his helm slowly as if clearing fog from his processor. "Not really though. No. He's a 'Con."

"That is correct," Prowl replied. "Shockwave's true allegiance has been uncovered. That is what led us here."

"Fragged if I do, fragged if I don't," the minibot vented. "Get me out of here."

With no real grace or ceremony, Prowl pulled his weapon and shot the lock. It was convenient that Shockwave preferred beauty to function. Prowl swung the cell door open with more care, and then he waited. The cell's occupant struggled onto his knees and servos, attempting to rise, and sagged back down to the berth. Seeing no other practical option, Prowl placed his weapon on the ground and entered the cell, staying low, keeping is doorwings angled back. When he knelt next to the berth, he removed a warming blanket from his subspace and draped it over the minibot. One dim optic focused on Prowl's faceplates. The other optic was absent, it's socket empty and encrusted with dry energon. The minibot feebly dragged the blanket around himself. He had no plating over his interface systems, not even over his spark.

"Do you have a cube?" The minibot asked. He tried to sit up again, and once again faltered.

"I do," Prowl replied, and took one out of his subspace. "Let me help you sit, and you can drink it."

"'Kay," the minibot agreed. Still he cringed a little when Prowl touched his shoulders and brought him upright. With all his strength, he held the blanket around himself. Prowl did not ask if the minibot could hold it, rather he held the cube to the small mech's lip plates and let him drink. It was evident that the minibot was suffering from energon starvation. This must not have been the first instant because the minibot did not try to gulp down the cube, and force Prowl to withdraw it for fear that he would purge the precious nutrients.

After the cube was drained, Prowl noted, thanks to his doorwings, that the minibot's spark was still pulsing slow. It was not an erratic pulse, often seen after extensive injuries. This slow pulse, at least as far as Prowl could theorize was the result of the minibot's severely depleted energon stores. There were grievous injuries to his frame, but they were old now. The minibot's spark was attempting to conserve energy in response to the lack of fuel, most likely the mech's self repair systems had gone offline. Stasis was not possible for this minibot, if his spark slowed much further, it would be deactivation, not emergency self repair, simply because stasis required energon stores.

"Jazz, summon Ratchet," Prowl ordered. "Everyone else, return to your search."

"A Praxian Enforcer," the minibot murmured. His remaining optic examined what he could see of Prowl's frame. He had only just been able to make out Prowl's insignia. It was impossible to see clearly as starvation made his vision fuzzy. "Are we in Praxus?"

"We are in Iacon," Prowl replied. The minibot frowned. He'd been taken far from his last home.

"I was in Crystal City," the minibot said. "That's where he got me. Took me all the way north?"

"Apparently so," Prowl replied. "What is your designation?"

"Cliffjumper," the minibot replied. No one had called him by his designation since his kidnapping. Shockwave liked nicknames.

"A medic will be here shortly, Cliffjumper," Prowl said. "I would prefer not to move you until he can assure your well-being."

"Won't slag me to stay here for a few more kliks," Cliffjumper replied with a hint of acidity to his muted, static filled voice. He actually felt safer in the cage than in that room. Shockwave had never "played" with him in the cell. Outside the cell was were Shockwave had tortured his spark, his ports, his valve... Cliffjumper shuddered violently, and his fuel tank threatened to purge. Don't think about it... Just don't. Mercifully, Prowl said nothing. He did not try to console Cliffjumper. His presence was quiet, and oddly calming.

"What're you doing in Iacon?" Cliffjumper asked. Ask questions, don't think about Shockwave. Don't let your processor wander. "Thought Praxians wanted to stay outta the war."

"Praxus was destroyed," Prowl explained. He was toneless. Cliffjumper had encountered more than a few Enforcers in his life, some had been drone-like, other's more emotive. Prowl didn't remind him of either. He sounded drone-like but what he said, and maybe even how he said it, gave Prowl the appearance of a thoughtful mech. His doorwings moved too. When he said Praxus was destroyed, the fell lower on his back and quivered. Cliffjumper's optic had barely caught the movement. The Enforcer put up a good front.

"Slag," Cliffjumper swore and slowly shook his helm. Praxus was south of Crystal City. Would the home of the Towers be next? No, Cliffjumper let the rage he had cultivated to give him focus on something other than Shockwave, banish any fears for that mech. Traitorous fop could got to the Pit.

"Doc-Bot's pulled up," Jazz, the only mech Prowl had not shooed away, announced. Cliffjumper hadn't seen this mech yet. He was keeping well away from the cell, giving Prowl and Cliffjumper a wide berth.

Cliffjumper shivered and shrank into himself, in spite of himself. Medical examination were invasive. They were always invasive. Medics plugged diagnostic cables into any number of ports available on a mech or femme's protoform. They read their patients own diagnostic and error reports, read their code. But the worst for Cliffjumper was the very idea of anything plugging in to any of his ports. Shockwave had used every one of them. Cables, thin shock batons, anything that he could force into a port, he had. More than a few of Cliffjumper's ports had shorted out. His interface ports surrounding his spark, were blackened, and the sensors and connectors dead from one especially horrific session.

The echo of peds running down the metal stairs only exacerbated Cliffjumper's dread. He didn't want to be prodded. He sure as slag didn't want to be examined. Realistically, Cliffjumper knew it was necessary; he was not so processor addled that he did not realize he needed extensive repairs. Of course he did. No part of Cliffjumper didn't hurt. It had been a mercy when energon depletion numbed his protoform, and his spark and Cliffjumper had finally received some relief from the pain overlapping even more pain. After almost an orn had passed, Cliffjumper had become certain that Shockwave had left him to deactivate, and he had curled into a ball on the berth, and waited. Was he strong enough to last or was energon depletion how he would deactivate, after all of this? It had tormented him that he had hoped for Shockwave's return. Despite everything, Cliffjumper wasn't ready to join the Well just yet. Rescue, rescue had not even come to mind. Who would have known he was even missing?

"Over there, Ratchet," Jazz directed when the medic stepped into Shockwave's play room. A string of curses, more creative than anything Cliffjumper had ever utter, came as his answer. Cliffjumper tried to brace himself against Prowl's servos, and against the bars of his cage. He wanted to shrink into the size of a sparkling, but pride demanded he face this next challenge helm on. His spark raced, and Cliffjumper tightened the blanket around himself as the medic ducked into the cell. Mostly white, with accents of red and black, Ratchet looked rather nondescript. Prowl moved to step aside, and leave Cliffjumper to the medic. Panic, unexpectedly, raced through Cliffjumper's taxed systems.

"Please," he said. He glanced almost frantically from Prowl to Ratchet. Thank Primus, Prowl understood.

"Would it be possible if I remained?" Prowl asked Ratchet as the medic came to sit in front of Cliffjumper. It infuriated a part of Cliffjumper, the part of him that remained defiant through this ordeal, that he needed to lean, emotional or physically on anyone.

"Sure," Ratchet replied. "I'm only doing a cursory examine."

It was hard not to shrink under the medic's penetrative optics, even has he seemed to try and soften his gaze. Cliffjumper kept a tight grip on the blanket, keeping every port, and his tired spark hidden. If this gesture exacerbated Ratchet, the medic made no sign of it. Instead of withdrawing a diagnostic cable, Ratchet removed an odd looking datapad from his subspace.

"I'm going to use this diagnostic pad to read your EM field," Ratchet explained. "It'll give me all the information I need before I decide if we can move you safely without immediate repairs."

That was a relief and Cliffjumper felt himself relax without his volition. He offlined his remaining optic, finding it to draining now to keep it online. His survival programs had kept him alert, and focused with the arrival of the Autobots. Keeping up that focus was too much for him now. The diagnostic bad made no sound, and Ratchet did not offer any commentary as he read Cliffjumper's field. After a few kliks, Ratchet returned the diagnostic pad to his subspace.

"You're in no danger of deactivating imminently," Ratchet announced. "I'd like to transport you to my clinic so I can begin repairs."

"Fine," Cliffjumper said, he gave up trying to clear the static from his voice. He was so drained.

"Let's move," Ratchet ordered. Cliffjumper didn't online his optic as Prowl carried him across the dungeon. He was never going to have to see this Pit ever again. Whatever he had to tolerate when it came to the repairs looming ahead of him, Cliffjumper would been it all helm on.

End Chapter 7

AN: This chapter should have been posted a few days ago but I've only just taken the time to edit it. And I can't say it was all that well edited. I have the Galvatron of sinus colds and the work week from hell combined into one tidy package. I am working on the various fics (if you are ready my other stories) just a little slow going since the only thing I want to do to characters when I am sick is torture the shit out of them.