I don't think I'll ever lose my fascination for setting the story of Jazz' and Prowl's first meeting in unlikely times and places ...
A "solar-appearance zenith-nadir midpoint" goes by the nickname "dawn." Now you can figure out what a "solar-disappearance zenith-nadir midpoint" is all by yourself.
A "generation" in the middle ages and forward was defined at thirty years, and that was often also life expectancy. In humankind's beginnings, it would have been much shorter, probably under twenty-five years, possibly under 20; human women, after all, become fertile in their middle teens.
If you are interested in what set Jazz' pedes a-tap, go to You Tube and look up Ali Farka Touré.
Not mine, not for profit.
Prowl suddenly had Issues.
He wasn't, quite, willing to describe himself as "going to crash" or even "not functioning perfectly." He simply felt ... odd.
It was, he thought, mostly likely the temperature. He'd be picked up in three more planetary rotations, so that was only temporary. It wouldn't fritz him, not in such a short period.
In the Rift Valley of Africa, where North Africa is packing its bags to go visit Europe, it was approximately 140 Fahrenheit, or about 60 Celsius. Some of the high temperature was due to the proximity of magma, some of it was due to the dryness of the area (there was no liquid water in sight anywhere, and precious little available underground: no trees, no grass, no shade), some of it was due to the fact that it was summer. The Rift Valley might lie close to the equator, but still the planet ruthlessly tilted it toward the sun for part of the year.
It all added up to being too fraggin' hot for optimal functioning, or indeed comfort. So Prowl kicked his fans up a bit, and although that didn't seem to help, went back to what he was doing.
Skyfire's survey of this area had shown energon at the surface, or very close to it, in the area of the Rift itself, that narrow, deep chasm caused by tectonic plates separating from one another. Prowl was as close to the volcanically-active part of the Rift as he could get, trying for samples.
That in itself was proving to be a daunting challenge. The crust over active lava flows in the area wasn't thick enough to take Prowl's weight; not even Cybertronian metallurgy was up to coping with magma, neither Cybertron's nor this planet's.
"This planet" didn't have a designation yet, and was called X-14-39617.823 by the scientists. (The inhabitants would eventually give it a name which meant, in two languages, "dirt." Unimaginative sods.)
The danger from magma was why he was presently hovering, mother hen-like, over a minuscule vent which looked a bit like a tiny upside-down energon cream cone with its bottom point chewed out. The magma inside was a cheerful cherry red, the color which meant that the lava was, comparatively speaking, cool, but still capable of causing serious harm to those who come into contact with it. Prowl had a sample bottle that could cope, however. He lowered it into the little pimple of hell.
He thought his sensors had indicated energon. But he couldn't get a confirmation of it.
He suddenly felt very odd indeed, and almost passed out face-first into the magma.
He backed away from the little cone, stashed his gear and samples in subspace, transformed, and lit out for the nearest shade, a cluster of trees around a small spring about ten miles distant.
LATER THAT SAME ROTATION PERIOD
Jazz suddenly had Issues.
Ordinarily, he was not a conflicted mech. That is, if conflict was present, Jazz resolutely experienced it as external, not internal. External issues could be resolved. Internal issues caused nothing but suffering.
These Issues, however, had manifested themselves on both sides of the Jazz/not-Jazz boundary because they arrived with a beat.
Animal noises lack one quality of music: they are not rhythmically organized. So while Jazz might enjoy the complex utterances of one of those big waterborne creatures on this planet, or the shorter and more melodic speech of one of the flighted creatures, he was not prepared to call either one "song."
This, though: it was rhythmic, it was complex, and you sure as the Pit could dance to it. In fact, the Decepticon officer found his pedes responding to it even before his mind, which was diligently taking and recording samples, did.
So, what the Pit? Jazz terminated his scientific enquiries, stood up, and went in the direction of thump, thump, thum-ba, thump, set in counterpoint to da-da-da-ruuump, ba.
He wasn't, of course, a science mech. But Soundwave, one of the few mecha on board the Nemesis Jazz experienced as other than a complete pain in the aft, had said to him quietly in the halls one day, "Megatron: finding fault with every aspect of your performance lately."
"What?" Jazz said, startled. "Why?"
"Why: not known. Good idea: accept a lengthy science posting outside the Nemesis: this one, in fact." And Soundwave had dropped that knowledge straight into Jazz' processor. That was sort of why, Jazz thought, that even though he and Soundwave 'faced each other once in a while, the relationship was never going farther than "occasional facings." Soundwave's expressed willingness to proceed in the direction of longer/oftener/forever notwithstanding, Jazz needed a lover who had at least a few boundaries.
Besides, in that moment of overcharge when they almost touched sparks, Jazz knew that the cassettes enjoyed his ... ah, his presence in Soundwave's berth ... almost as much as Soundwave himself did. No. One lover at a time, and that one somebody who stayed out of Jazz' processor unless invited, thanks.
So far, Soundwave had proven correct regarding Megatron. Jazz received terse, if not rude, messages from Megatron every day, then every other day, then about twice a week, and now not for two weeks. Whatever had gotten under the Big Guy's plating in regard to himself, it had apparently worked its way out.
He had received orders from Starscream to extend his sample-taking. Soundwave, commed on a (frankly illegal) private frequency, confirmed that there was no hidden agenda behind this request, so Jazz stayed put in the northeast section of Africa, and had enjoyed fall, winter, and spring there.
His temporary digs were in summer now, so he performed his sample-taking in the relative cool of early morning or late evening, recharged during the heat, and investigated this new world during the dark rotation.
While he missed the giraffe, zebra, elephant, apes of various size and colors of bottom, wild donkeys, wild horses, and various antelope he'd observed in the cooler months, he had new experience with lions, hippopotami, and hyenas, and other denizens of the African dark to keep him company now.
The only thing he had not had during his "vacation," as he thought of it, was new music. This music, coming as it did from the darkness, was very welcome, and more than that, somehow welcoming. So Jazz stopped doing what he was supposed to be doing, and let his pedes carry him in its direction.
They danced as they went.
NEARING SOLAR-APPEARANCE ZENITH-NADIR MIDPOINT
Prowl onlined. He felt as if he'd had a long, long sojourn in the Pit, and then been recalled to life as further punishment ...
When he felt up to it, he unshuttered his optics. What greeted this heroic effort was the underside of an acacia tree, and a panoply of stars, including that clouded, misty band which seemed to rotate around this planet (and would later be called the "Milky Way" by those very same unimaginative sods who named the place "dirt").
He ran through his HUD, and found he was very short on fuel.
He had one last cube in subspace. He raised one servo to wipe his face, and the other came with it.
"So ye're online," said a voice to his left.
Prowl turned his helm, which showed him that his servos were cuffed together, and that there was a Decepticon sitting next to him, though cautiously beyond his reach. "Yes," Prowl said, with no great enthusiasm. "Who are you?"
"Designation 'Jazz,'" said the mech. "Ye're Prowl."
"No. Painted to look like him."
"Another Praxian doorwing model," drawled Jazz, "painted in Prowl's colors. 'Magine that. What's yer designation, then, Autobot?"
"Equation. Science 'bot." He sat up, unsubspaced his fuel, and took it. It made him feel a little better, but didn't have the effect he'd hoped for.
"Mm. Well, 'Equation,' seems as if you ran into a problem. Cesium poisoning."
"Cesium ... poisoning?" And Prowl didn't like those quote marks around his nom de guerre, not one little bit.
"You being a science 'bot an' all, I'd think you'd know about that."
"Science. Not medicine."
"Welllll ... okay, 'Equation.' Anyway, th' cesium - it's actually airborne 'round one a' the vents, and I'd guess you were workin' there - got into your air intakes and made you pass out."
"I thought it was the heat."
A small creature ran up to Jazz in the gathering light. Prowl noted that it was an upright featherless biped, which was unusual; bipedalism wasn't much favored among this planet's fauna, having mostly occurred among those whose forelimbs were evolved for flight or swimming. Jazz smiled and put his hand down, whereupon the small creature stepped up into his palm. Jazz said, "Th' heat prob'ly di'n't help much. – Why're you here?"
When he raised his hand, Prowl saw that the creature had a pouch on a fiber encircling its waist, but wore or carried nothing else. "Can't tell you that."
Jazz, who had been exchanging smiles with the small one, snorted. The small creature looked alarmed, and made noises at him. He lowered his hand, and it got down, then cautiously approached Prowl, staring at him with awe.
Jazz said, "I can guess. Ye're takin' samples in the tectonically active area, ain'cha?"
"Not telling you that, either."
Jazz grinned at him. "Fair enough. Let me tell you a thing'r six, then. Thing one: I'm here 'cause Soundwave found some traces o'energon near th' surface here. Thing two: I found some native life here that might be developin' intelligence. Kra, there, is one of 'em: there's eight total. Thing three: Megatron ain't particularly kind ta native life-forms; you might'a noticed that."
Prowl had, in fact. The pretty, dainty horse-things with the horns in the center of their foreheads? They were gone now because Megatron had caught the largest herd in a blast, deliberately from what Prowl could see, and the surviving gene pool wasn't sufficiently diverse to support them. Result: fatal inbreeding. He nodded.
"Thing four," continued Jazz, watching him closely, "th' natives are beginnin' ta make music, which happens t' be a passion of mine."
Prowl nodded again. This was well-known about the Decepticon Spec Ops head.
"Thing five, I'm gonna doctor my samples so that the energon seems t'be contaminated, an' not worth harvestin'. I don't want Megatron around any o' my new friends." He paused. "Your Optimus, he seems t'care about th' natives. I don't mind if you report accurately."
Prowl came very close to fritzing. "You'll do that because ... they make music."
"Nah. I'll do that 'cause they might, someday. They ain't even got much in th' way o' language yet. But they might get there, if you 'bots harvest the energon. They won't, if us 'cons do."
Prowl scanned the australopithecus, and saved the scan for Ratchet, who was known to be interested in such things; Cybertronians lived long enough to witness evolution in biological creatures.
The femme, though neither Cybertronian knew that, squeaked, and jumped backward. Living as she did in pure air, drinking pure water, eating food never less than perfectly organic (if sometimes disgusting), and living in an utterly unsafe environment, she took the warnings of her nervous system quite seriously, and it hadn't liked that tingle-feather touch one little bit, thank you very much.
"What didja do?" Jazz said, putting his servo down between Prowl and the small creature. As she was not quite four and a half feet tall, this provided a head-high barrier, and the little one relaxed, looking back to Jazz and making a chirring sound. Jazz smiled down at her.
"Scanned. Ratchet is interested in the native life, as well as Hound and Trailbreaker. If these are developing intelligence, he'll want to know, and so will Optimus Prime, of course." He paused. "You got to five things."
"So I did. Thing six's that you can't hurt these critters, okay? Tonight, when they have another session o' music-makin', I want you ta come watch."
"Mm. When will that be?"
"Four or five breem. Why?"
"I was going to try to chelate the cesium out of my system, but if I do it now, I'll be ... incapacitated ... during the music. It takes a full planetary rotation to work." He paused. "I'm also out of energon."
"You don't do it now, you'll run th' risk o' excess cesium compromisin' yer battle computer." Prowl didn't correct this, and also missed the swift grin that crossed Jazz' faceplates; he really did feel lousy. Jazz continued, "Lemme ask Kra, here, if they're gonna do it tomorrow as well." He paused. "An' don't worry about th' energon, I got extra."
Prowl made no protest, and shuttered his optics.
APPROACHING SOLAR-DISAPPEARANCE ZENITH-NADIR MIDPOINT, NEXT PLANETARY ROTATION
"Prowl? You awake?"
"Designation's Equation," he said, and yawned. "Yeah."
"Oh, right." The sick-green cloud of sarcasm which accompanied this pronouncement dissipated quickly in the warm night air. "Forgot that for a second, you lookin' so much like him. Feel any better?"
"Quite a lot, actually," Prowl said, and sat up. His wrists still shackled, he did what he could to stretch his arms and shoulders.
It was not quite full dark. There was still a line of light along the western horizon.
Jazz unsubspaced two fuel cubes, and set them within Prowl's grasp. "Have some energon," he said. "Then we oughta get goin' to the party."
"The party?" Prowl chose a cube, spared a thought for the fact that both could have been dosed with something Jazz had previously taken the antidote for, shrugged because he had no choice, and knocked it back. "Oh, the natives' music-making."
"Yep." Jazz held out his servo for the empty cube, and Prowl tossed it over. "Can you walk a little way?"
"Yes, I think so." Prowl wobbled on his way to standing, and found Jazz' servo under one elbow.
They both felt the current that flowed between them at this first contact.
The Decepticon stepped back immediately, dropping his servo, and said only, "'S not too far."
PARTY TIME MINUS TWENTY BREEM
Jazz had a little time to think as they crossed the grasses of the savannah. They skirted a herd of elephants, which were about the only fauna large enough to really trouble a Cybertronian.
He'd had quite a lot of trouble convincing some part of himself that it was not okay to curl up next to an unconscious Autobot who was undergoing chelation, and sleep in the radiance of that spark with his chestplates open. No matter how much that part of himself wanted it ...
He was, to the core of his being, not a rapist, so taking that kind of advantage was never on the cards, but Pit ... if this wasn't Prowl, then he was quite sorely mistaken.
And if this wasn't Prowl, then any Praxian doorwing model could rev his engine unmercifully, until his carburetor roared.
This mech's faceplates, though, made his little fuel pump go hoppy-skip, and that had not happened with any other Praxian doorwing. The phenomenon had first established itself with battlefield recordings of Prowl. The passage of several vorn hadn't weakened that reaction: see Prowl, experience fuel-pump arrhythmia.
And then he had touched Prowl, or "Equation," and gotten the surprise of his life: the mech was equally affected by him. Of all mecha, him!
Jazz had not been a happy Decepticon almost since he joined the faction. Megatron's recent scunner against him had little to do with that. He'd joined to protest a powerful Senate's uncaring actions toward the Cybertronian populace, and found that Megatron cared even less for the powerless.
To admit that error would be a second error, this new one likely to be fatal. And if he simply left the faction, where could he go? He would have to find, and be able to defend, a source of energon for himself.
Jazz began to wonder if he could, in fact, find safety, as well as commonality of cause and the love of his life to boot, with the Autobots.
PARTY TIME MINUS TEN BREEM
Prowl took in a walk through the savannah with wide-open sensors.
In the Rift Valley, there was no visible wildlife. There was nothing there for herbivores to eat in the dry season, and that being so, there was nothing there for the carnivores either.
Here he waded through hyenas and prides of lions, spooked a sleeping herd of zebra, startled birds out of the trees, scared a few leopards out of other trees, lost his balance when he stepped into a termite mound, and finally saw the small brown creatures collected into a clearing at least treble his own height across.
The Decepticon stopped. Jazz turned to Prowl and the stasis cuffs popped open.
"Thanks," he said, rubbing his wrists. "Why?"
"Because these're truly innocent bein's," Jazz said, subspacing the cuffs. "I don't wanna teach 'em any bad habits. Not of mind, and not of body."
"You're a very strange Decepticon," Prowl said.
"Yeah, maybe. Here we are. –You hurt any of these creatures intentionally, and I'll kill ya."
Jazz wasn't smiling, and Prowl believed him.
Kra (Prowl thought) came to greet them. She made noises at Jazz, who made some noises back, and then she made some noises at Prowl.
Jazz commed him with the noises to make, and he fumbled his way through it. But at the end, Kra gave him a wide smile, and then, one by one, the other seven came forward to greet him, and Jazz commed him with their designation-noises. By the end of this process, his greeting noises were much better articulated.
Two of the eight were obviously pre-adults, only about half-height. The adults had two frame types among them, one with kibble at the center front of the lower end of the torso (two individuals), one without, but with more noticeable kibble on the chestplates than the torso-kibbled mode (four individuals). One of the chest-kibbled models had a very large belly.
Two of the adults moved to two dead trees, and picked up other, smaller dead tree-parts. The dead trees left lying on the ground, Prowl noted, were hollow.
The adults began to strike the hollow trees with the smaller tree-parts.
One created a rhythm, and the other created a second rhythm that ... Prowl didn't know how to put it, even to himself ... danced with the first. In and out, round and about.
The other adults each took the hand of someone else, and they shuffled about in a circle.
Jazz danced with the music, with both of its strands, one, then the other, then neither. Open-mouthed, the smallest two brown creatures watched him, and then one of them began to follow him, mimicking his large steps with tiny ones.
Then the other small one joined in.
The chest-kibbler with the large belly came to check on the small ones, and began to follow Jazz' dance.
The belly-kibbler who was dancing joined in as well. He shouted something cheerful-sounding across to the other chest-kibblers, and they came too.
Jazz carefully danced around the drummers, again and again, circling warily, keeping a distance between the tail end of the line of dancers, and watching the placement of his feet: stepping daintily among beings a quarter his own height in such a way as to safeguard them all.
Fifty or so breem later, the drummers caught one another's eyes, and the rhythm ended.
Prowl had sat immobile on the sidelines, watching the most graceful Cybertronian he had ever seen completely dance away with his own fuel pump.
He wasn't quite sure that that was a reaction to be relied upon, however. He wasn't up to speed yet after poisoning and chelation, and he was quite aware that he shouldn't have had the energon so soon after those two experiences. It lay in his fuel pump like a lump of lead.
Being Prowl, he also performed frequent sensor sweeps of the area. He carefully watched a large animal come to crouch in the underbrush close to him, watching the dancers.
When Jazz stopped exchanging grunts with his new friends and came back his way, Prowl said, "What's this thing?" as he picked up a full-grown quarter-ton adult female lion by the scruff of her neck, and held her up to view.
The small brown creatures screamed, and ran off into the brush in several different directions.
The lioness snarled and thrashed in his grip, and got in some good score marks on his servo and wrist.
"I dunno what they are," Jazz said. "They look kinda like Ravage or Steeljaw, don't they? Th' ones with belly-kibble have a ruff like Steeljaw's. My friends're afraid of 'em. I'm afraid these things eat 'em if they can catch one."
"They eat them? Goodness." Prowl turned the struggling cat to face him, which caused her to make a spirited attempt to claw or chew his faceplates off, and said, "Don't eat our friends. Bad – thing! Go!"
He put the lioness down on the ground, and patted her butt. She crouched and snarled at him until he clapped his servos at her, whereupon she promptly got out of Dodge, and very likely several outlying communities as well.
Complete silence except for a diminuendo of snarls reigned in the velvet-black night. Then the insect noises came back, and the small brown creatures began to come out of the trees.
They brought with them large leaves with fruits and berries and nuts on them, and one on which several small dead things lay.
Kra took the leaves, one by one, and laid them in front of Prowl with looks of awe on her face. The others stayed behind her, looking equally awed.
Jazz snickered. "Looks like you gaw'cherself a gaggle of worshipers, Equation," he said.
"Worshipers? Oh, Primus, no!" Prowl carefully gave the leaves back to Kra, saying to Jazz, "Do you have another cube of energon? I think if we show them what we eat, they'll understand that we can't eat their food."
Jazz unsubspaced a cube, and passed it over. Prowl opened it, took a sip, and held it so that Kra could see what was in it too.
She looked in at the sparkling iridescent liquid, and smiled. (And thereby was born humankind's love of gemstones.) She dipped a finger in, and tasted it –
And spat several times, probably swearing in grunts. One of the chest-kibblers ran to her with a leaf full of water, or some fluid, anyway, and she rinsed her mouth and spat several more times.
Prowl took a single small bite of a single small fruit, spat extravagantly afterward, and rinsed his own mouth with energon he didn't want to spit on the dusty ground but did anyway, for educational purposes.
It's always fun to watch the synapses connect in somebody else's processor. Kra stared at him for several moments, then her eyes changed and she smiled like the sun coming up. She grunted extensively at her tribe.
During which Prowl ran a scan on the foods offered. The small dead bodies, although cleaned of their innards, were lousy with bacteria, and had begun to rot in the heat. "Jazz," he said, "can you make a small open flame? That meat's poisonous. They need to cook it."
The Decepticon shot him a sideways glance. "I don' think they've discovered fire yet," he said.
"Then let's help them do that," Prowl said. "You've already taught them to dance. Might as well corrupt them the rest of the way."
Jazz grinned and, as would Bugs Bunny some millennia later, struck his thumb like a match. A small flame appeared at the end of it. His little friends drew back and said "Ooooo," the vowel rising and falling over a range of amazement.
Prowl and Jazz cleared an area of dry grass and stacked a few pieces of fallen wood (not the drums and drumsticks, though) in the middle, and Jazz lit them. Prowl took the small bodies and arranged them on wooden skewers over the flames (thereby introducing the concept of tools, a not-self thing that could perform actions the self-thing couldn't without pain).
It was Jazz who kept one of the small ones from running into the pretty flames. Prowl wasn't quite in time to stop one of the torso-kibblers from grabbing a brand, releasing it suddenly, roaring with pain, and sucking his burned hand.
Kra gabbled at the burned one, and took some leaves out of her pouch, crumpling them and pressing them onto the wound.
The small skewered bodies began to undergo that chemical change called "cooking." The scent drifted through the circle, and Jazz' friends' stomachs began to rumble.
Prowl chuckled, and pulled one of the small bodies off the flames, as his sensors told him it was no longer dangerous. It was too hot to eat, but the little brown people discovered this for themselves by trying it.
They waited as it cooled, and he pulled the rest off the fire.
END OF THE PARTY
After the cooked food was consumed, the embers cooled, and Kra pushed a leaf-wrapped group of fat, white larva into them. (Hey, there ain't no 7-11 for 5000 miles and thirty thousand years.) She fetched them out with a stick a few minutes later, then tried one.
And broke into a grin about the size of Kenya. She grabbed a passing child, and gave it one.
The roasted grubs were pre-paleolithic popcorn: everyone got some, but no one got enough.
"Well, you sure give 'em the idea, Equation," Jazz said, "but how they gonna make fire on their own?"
And at that moment, Prowl's comms hummed to life. ::Prowl, Skyfire here. Pickup in about ninety breem. Are you ready?
::Almost. Look, do you know how to create fire? Make an open flame?::
::Ummm ... strike iron to flint near tinder, that's one way, Hound says. He says you can rub two sticks together too, but that's harder.:: He sent instructions.
::Any flint or iron near my location?::
::There's a deposit of flint about twenty feet from you, and two feet down. There's a deposit of iron about twenty breems' travel from that.:: Skyfire sent him the maps, and Prowl stood up, said, "Come on," to Jazz, "we're going to get our friends some firemaking material."
Fifty breem later, they returned to find their friends asleep around the fire, which was rapidly dying. Jazz woke Kra, and Prowl showed her how to strike iron rock and flint together, catching the spark in dry grass. Jazz showed one of the belly-kibblers how to rub two Boy Scouts - er, sticks - together until friction caught one afire.
By the time her eyes changed, and she got it, and the belly-kibbler had also been able to do the magic trick, Skyfire had landed out of sight on the veldt.
Prowl and Jazz watched her teach the other belly-kibbler her new skill, and Prowl reached out for the fire-making tools, breaking each one in half. Presto, two sets of fire-making tools.
Then he looked at Jazz. "My pickup's here," Prowl said. "I don't feel like taking you captive."
"Yeah, I heard Skyfire arrive. Look ... can I come witcha anyway? I been considerin' defectin', and now seems like it's as good o' time as any."
Prowl looked at him like the sun was coming up out of his eyes. But what he said was, practically enough, "Protocol is that any Decepticon flies inside a winged carrier in stasis cuffs. Are you comfortable with that?"
Jazz snorted, and clicked his own cuffs on around his wrists. (Prowl would find out shortly that he could just as easily get out of them, but it was the thought that counted.) "Let's go," he said.
The tactician stood. "By the way, my designation really is Prowl."
"Oh? Thought so, but thanks for tellin' me. Mine's still Jazz."
The two Cybertronians never did learn that Kra's "name" meant simply "Oldest woman." They flew off in Skyfire, and Kra's group sought them fruitlessly for a few days.
Soundwave became quite depressed when he learned of Jazz' defection, and even moreso when he learned that the saboteur had chosen a mate on the Ark.
FIVE GENERATIONS LATER
"And that is how," said the great-great-granddaughter of Kra, "the Two Gods brought us fire."
Eighteen children around the camp's central blaze laughed and clapped their hands, and thirty adults, who had heard the story many times before, smiled as well.
Fire brought with it not only cooked food, but safety from large predators through the night. In its light and heat, Kra's clan, and that clan's descendants, multiplied.
Much, much later this storyteller would be given the title "The African Eve," the woman from whom all humanity is descended.
And, to Jazz' delight, they carried her habit of making music with them all over the world.