Author's Note: This piece was written in conjunction with a series of Gen.1-based fanart pictures that I drew for some inexplicable reason. Don't ask what inspired the series to begin with, it's beyond even my skills to explain. However, if you'd like to see the pictures, they're in my deviantART gallery- follow the link in my profile.

Once again, a million thanks to my friend Robert, my primary beta-reader who offered me so much help and advice with certain parts of this story that I should credit him as my co-author. Also, thanks to my co-worker John S. who was willing to beta-read from the perspective of someone who barely knows Transformers at all.

Disclaimer: Transformers, GI Joe, and Jem and the Holograms are all copyright Hasbro. I am not making any money or gaining any form of compensation from this story beyond the satisfaction of having written it. I do not own ANY of the properties mentioned anywhere in this story. Not even Burgerville, though I do like to have lunch there every now and then.


Dancing With The Autobots

Chapter 1: A Premise


Twenty years ago, this had all been the barren, volcanic landscape of eastern Oregon's high desert.

Now, where once there had been nothing but miles of reddish sand dotted with dry sagebrush, a sparkling blue lake shimmered beneath the early spring sun, its deep waters nourishing a wide expanse of healthy, green grasses and young, sturdy evergreens that spread out from its calm shores. A towering city, unlike anything seen before on Earth, rose as an otherworldly backdrop to this idyllic scene. The peaceful banks of the reservoir had become the preferred place for many of the locals, whether human or giant alien robot, to relax and unwind after a long duty shift, or to enjoy a few simple hours spent with friends and family.

At the top of a gentle rise that overlooked the lake, beneath a small copse of sturdy young pine trees, two laughing mechs from the nearby city sat in their favorite places on the grassy slope. One was tall, lean and trim, with a youthful charm, clean-cut lines, and a flame-motif paint job that clearly declared his sporty alt-mode. The other was all green, large and bulky along the lines of a robotic Arnold Schwarzenegger, but with a jovial demeanor that seemed a bit at odds with his powerhouse appearance. Between these two mechs sat a third Autobot: small and petite in comparison, decidedly feminine, and very, very pink. As she told the story that had the two mechs roaring with laughter, she relaxed comfortably in the circle of the green mech's large, sturdy arm, even as she seemed to flirt openly with the flame-colored 'Bot.

Neither mech took issue with this. It was a rather odd relationship. Most of the other Autobots hadn't quite figured it out just yet.

"So, I ran to the nearest comm panel and put in an emergency call to Med-bay," the femme was explaining, talking animatedly with her hands almost as much as her voice. "I mean, seriously, Swoop may be smaller than the rest of them, but when a Dinobot grabs anybody, you know someone's going to wind up in a world of pain. Then we took off and followed them as fast as we could. Of course, Sideswipe was off like a shot after them before anyone else really even knew what had even happened."

"Well, Sunstreaker IS his brother," the flame-emblazoned 'Bot said thoughtfully, without the slightest hint of the mild irritation that usually crept into an Autobot's voice at the mere mention of the hell-raising Lamborghini twins. This was quite possibly because he was just as adept at raising said hell, so he looked upon the brothers as kindred spirits. "Whatever else people say about those two, they're absolutely devoted to each other."

"I know, Hot Rod," the femme agreed, "and as much as I want to pour a can of purple enamel all over Sunny's head sometimes, I don't want to see anyone actually get hurt, not even him. Swoop was too far ahead of us, so we couldn't stop him, but he just flew straight to the Lair. We knew that because we could hear Sunstreaker screaming the whole way. I managed to get stuck behind Ultra Magnus and I couldn't get around him, but we were able to catch up with Swoop after just a minute anyway. And that's when things really got crazy." Here she paused, covering her mouthplates with a hand servo, clearly fighting back a bad case of the giggles.

"You mean, a giant pterodactyl grabbing Sunstreaker and flying him off, kicking and screaming, to the Dinobot Lair wasn't the crazy part?" asked the grinning green mech in amused disbelief. The question only made the femme shake her head and giggle even harder.

"Worse!" the pink Autobot burst out between choked laughter, waving her free hand in the air. Unfortunately for her audience, she couldn't say anything beyond that.

"Arcee!" Hot Rod practically shouted after a full minute had passed with no sign of the storyteller pulling herself together. "Calm down and spill it before Springer and I turn inside out from all the suspense!"

"He was ... Swoop, he ..." Finally, with a visible effort, Arcee got a grip on herself enough to stop laughing, though her bright blue optics still twinkled with mirth. "Like I said, I got there right behind Ultra Magnus. And pretty much all we could do was stare, because there was Swoop, very determined to stuff Sunstreaker and that new chrome detailing of his into his sparkly junk collection!" The two mechs roared with merriment as the femme made the forceful gesture of the Dinobot trying to shove a wriggling something into a spot where it wasn't supposed to fit in the first place.

"That's our Swoop," Springer laughed heartily. "Easily distracted by bright, shiny objects!"

"I told Sunstreaker that new chrome package was a bad idea," Hot Rod managed around his laughter. "But nnnoo-ooo, he insisted on getting it anyway!"

"That's because somebody," Arcee answered, leaning forward to poke Hot Rod squarely in the flame-emblazoned chestplate for emphasis, "has a flashier paint job than he does, and our friendly neighborhood sociopath still hasn't figured out how to deal with that. So, you can guess, Sunstreaker just isn't having any part of this. He's yelling at Swoop all sorts of things that I'm not going to repeat to you guys ..."

"Oh, my virgin audio receptors," Springer interrupted with cheerful sarcasm.

Arcee immediately swatted the green mech's leg and continued her story without missing a beat. "...but every time he tried to climb out of the junk pile, Swoop just shoved him right back in!"

"Poor Sunny, his super-sized ego must have really taken a beating," Hot Rod grinned, this time not sounding the least bit sympathetic. The yellow Lamborghini's overinflated vanity was the stuff of legend amongst the Autobots, and as much as he liked the twins, Hot Rod personally thought that a lesson in how to deal gracefully with a few paint scratches would do Sunstreaker a world of good.

"You'd better believe it," Arcee agreed. "I mean, just picture it. There's sparkly garbage flying everywhere, poor Swoop isn't quite comprehending why his new trinket is fighting back and not cooperating, Sunstreaker's swearing in languages I didn't know he ever bothered to learn, and Sideswipe ... oh, you should have seen Sides! He's trying to help his brother, and he's swearing at least as much as Sunny is, but Sludge had just picked him right up and was holding him off the ground and shaking him, and he was saying ..." here Arcee dropped her light voice as much as possible into a thick, dim rumble to mimic the Dinobot in question, "'You no be mean! You leave him Swoop alone! You no take him Swoop's shiny new toy away!' I'm sorry you guys missed all this, but there wasn't any time to call you," she added in her normal voice. "I swear, I was about ready to just drop to the ground and laugh my aft off as it was, but right then, Sunny got away."

"How'd he manage that?" Hot Rod asked. Once the Dinobots decided they wanted something, it was next to impossible to get them to let go. The manufactured "cavern" that comprised the Dinobot's Lair was full of all sorts of items, from trash to treasures, that the legitimate owners were not about to retrieve because no one felt the ensuing fight would be worth it.

"Rocket pack," Arcee explained. "Good thing he was wearing it. He managed to get out of the junk pile long enough to blast straight out Swoop's flight hole in the ceiling, cussing the whole way. Of course, Swoop let out a screech and was right on his tail, and as soon as Sideswipe saw all this, he blasted off with his own rocket pack, and that's the last we saw of any of them. And so there we were, Sides chasing Swoop chasing Sunny, with Sludge standing there all covered in rocket soot, with that really lost expression he gets when he can't quite figure out what just happened, and Grimlock gets this very confused look on his face and asks Kup ..." in a slightly different throaty growl, she intoned, "'Why him Swoop's sparkly toy fly away?'"

The two mechs howled again. The mental picture their favorite femme was painting for them was vivid and priceless beyond all expression. "And you won't believe what happened then!" she added.

"It got worse?" Springer asked hopefully.

"Ultra Magnus ... started laughing," Arcee answered in a tone of dramatic awe.

"Magnus?" Hot Rod asked in pure disbelief.

"Started laughing?" Springer finished the question.

"I know," Arcee agreed, as if she almost didn't believe it herself, despite personally witnessing the monumental event. "Cybertron's most famous straight mech. It was that funny. Well, he wasn't laughing like you guys do. He was trying to hold it in and pretend this is a very serious situation, and that just made it worse. He's fighting it as hard as he can, so he's got this crazy expression on his face, and he's just twitching all over, and maybe a couple, you know, half-muffled snickers sort of sneak out. We're all standing there staring like a bunch of idiots because none of us had any idea how to handle this one. I mean, Ultra Magnus. Laughing. And that's when Ratchet comes running in with a full med-kit."

"Oh, that's right, you'd called Medical," Springer remembered with an anticipatory grin. The story was just getting better and better, and it was obvious the cheerful mech loved every syllable of how Arcee was telling it. (Everyone knew that he would have loved it just as much if she had been sitting there reading a human phone book out loud, just so long as she was leaning against him like that, but that was entirely beside the point.)

"Right, but Ratchet didn't know what was going on other than there was an emergency in the Lair," Arcee admitted. "He got there too late to see the whole Swoop/Sunstreaker thing, so when he runs in, the first thing he sees Ultra Magnus twitching like that. Before anyone can say a word, he shouts, 'Everyone stand back! Magnus is having a seizure!'"

Two sets of mandible gears whined in protest as the shocked mechs' jaws dropped farther than they should have. "A seizure?" Hot Rod repeated faintly.

"I swear to you, that's exactly what he said!"Arcee nodded. "He never in a million vorns would have guessed that Magnus was laughing! And Ratchet can move when he thinks there's a medical emergency. We couldn't have stopped him if we tried. He pulls out an external cortico-neuro stimulator and sets the charge high enough to reset the neural net of someone the size of Ultra Magnus. You know what that means."

"A big slagging shock," Springer translated.

Arcee lightly swatted Springer's thigh again, this time to reprimand his crude language. "Magnus went from trying not to laugh to letting out this bellow that I thought was going to knock the roof down. I think Ratchet was more surprised than anyone, but Grimlock just looked completely ecstatic, and actually started bouncing around saying, 'Good one! Good one! You Magnus teach Dinobots how to roar like that!' Then all the Dinobots started roaring and stomping, so I couldn't hear what Ratchet said, but then I definitely could hear Magnus shouting back at him, 'WHO TOLD YOU THERE WAS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY IN THE DINOBOT LAIR?!'"

Hot Rod and Springer looked at each other in alarm. "Uh, oh," they both said at the same time.

"That's pretty much what I thought," Arcee agreed. "Then Kup looked at me and said very quietly, 'You know, it's been said that discretion is the better part of valor.' Well, he didn't have to tell me twice. I transformed and discretely got the slag out of there."

Turnabout being fair play, Springer promptly swatted Arcee's aft for her own use of colorful language. She immediately made a face at him, but he just grinned right back in that disarming manner of his that made it impossible to stay mad at him.

"So that's why you went tearing through the Command Center at 125 miles an hour, yelling something about saving your neck servos," Hot Rod reasoned. That unexpected sight had been what brought the three of them out here to the reservoir in the first place: the terrified Arcee screaming and seemingly driving for her life, and the very alarmed Springer and Hot Rod tearing after her to make sure she was all right and to help her if she needed it.

"148 miles an hour, actually," Arcee smiled at Hot Rod, "but who's counting?"

"Well, either way, I think even Blurr was impressed," Hot Rod teased, then easily dodged the pine cone that the femme threw at his head.

Once Arcee had gotten to what she deemed the safe distance of the lake, she'd calmed down a bit, especially when her two favorite mechs came running heroically to her side. Springer had arrived here mere seconds after Arcee. He'd known right where she was going to go, where she always went when she was upset, so by transforming into flight mode, he avoided being slowed down by the rocky, winding roads altogether. Hot Rod, not having the airborne alt-mode options of his Triple-Changing best friend, pushed his sporty tires to the limit and made it less than thirty seconds later. With their safe and supportive presences on the scene, Arcee finally settled down and the story came out.

Though maybe, just maybe, she'd played up her fright a bit for the benefit of her rescuers. Everyone knew that Ultra Magnus was a towering package of bluster who wouldn't actually hurt anyone under his command, and the truth was, Arcee wasn't afraid of him at all. What she admitted she really was afraid of was being embarrassed in front of her friends. And of getting stuck with a triple shift of monitor duty. And of being thrown in the brig. And of being assigned to garbage detail for a month. And having Ratchet remember he was mad at her for instigating a false alarm the next time she needed a checkup. And whatever other humiliating punishment she could imagine if Ultra Magnus ever found out who called in the Doctor and his overcharged neuro-stimulator. Especially since she hadn't meant for any of it to happen in the first place.

In other words, she just hated the thought of getting in trouble. That was Hot Rod's area of expertise.

"Well, I can see why you ran," Springer agreed, "but really, Cee, I'm betting you're fine. Magnus probably won't let anybody leave until he questions absolutely everyone in the Lair, but you know Kup completely adores you and I can guarantee you that his 'discretion' comment means he's going to conveniently forget all the details, what with that amazingly spotty selective memory of his."

Hot Rod gave an audible snort at this. Kup never forgot the details. And, as the young mech had learned through painful firsthand experience, the old warhorse would happily spend hours regaling his (very bored) listeners with said details.

"I don't think Ratchet's going to rat on you, either," Springer continued calmly, "because even Optimus can't get a peep out of our Chief Medical Officer if he thinks he's protecting the confidentiality of his patients. Magnus can pry all he wants, but I'm going to bet your secret is safe."

"But what if Ratchet thinks this was all a big prank?" Arcee asked, and this time her smile seemed a bit nervous. "He doesn't like troublemakers any more than Magnus does. If he thinks I did this to him on purpose, he'd probably see it as his duty to report everything."

"Well, then we'll make sure your epitaph says, 'I Regret Nothing,' won't we, Rod?" Springer offered reasonably.

There was a metallic clank as Arcee immediately gave him yet another harmless swat, but Hot Rod just laughed, so she leaned forward and swatted him, too. "You're not helping," the irritated femme informed them both.

"I know, I know," Springer agreed, sounding rather proud of that fact. "Okay, look at it this way. If Ratchet was going to spill it, he would have done it right away. Magnus knows you come out here when you need to calm down or when you want to get away from the city for a little while, right?"

"Ri-ight," Arcee agreed slowly, unsure of where Springer was going with this.

"Well, if he was as mad as you think he is, and if he knew you were the one who called Medical, he would have come storming out here shouting, 'There you are!' by now, right? But he hasn't, so he's probably not looking for you at all. Take that to mean Ratchet didn't tell him anything."

Looking skeptical, Arcee glanced at Hot Rod for confirmation. The sporty mech just shrugged, unwilling to commit to anything. He knew there was something wrong with Springer's logic, but he couldn't quite put a finger servo on it.

"I... suppose," Arcee agreed hesitantly, getting no help from Hot Rod. "I'm pretty sure no one else heard me call Medical, and I know I can trust you guys completely, so I-"

"There you are!" interrupted a new voice.

There was a high-pitched shriek of "OhholyPrimusI'mdead!" corresponding with a pink streak vacating the area so fast that it left both mechs thinking, once again, that even Blurr would have been impressed.

"Uh, now what was that all about?" the new voice continued uncertainly, as a stylish white racing Porsche pulled into the meadow. A red and yellow boom box popped out of the front seat, and both transformed into equally stylish mechs.

"Oh, nothing, Jazz," Hot Rod said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "She just thought you were Ultra Magnus. Hey, Blaster."

"Oookaaayyy," Jazz said, looking down at himself dubiously. On a good day, if Jazz stretched to his full height while standing on a box, he might, if he was lucky, come to somewhere in the vicinity of Ultra Magnus's armpit. His gravelly yet cheerful tenor didn't sound the least bit like Magnus's rich, resonant baritone, and Jazz, at least, knew how to rock a paint job. All that blue, white, and red armor made Ultra Magnus look like the flag of at least half a dozen different sovereign nations. Furthermore, Ultra Magnus had the alt-mode of an oversized automotive transport rig. Jazz, on the other hand, had style.

In other words, Optimus Prime's First Lieutenant had absolutely no idea how anyone could possibly mistake him for the City Commander.

"Well, uh, is she coming back?" Blaster asked, having already lost track of the retreating femme. This was one of the very rare times in which he and Jazz were equally at a loss. As they'd both been up to their optics in a very special project, neither of them had gotten word of the Dinobot Lair incident just yet. They simply had no idea what had gotten into the normally level-headed Arcee all of the sudden.

"Are you kidding?" Springer asked lightly, turning back to the newcomers after watching Arcee speeding off just long enough to make sure she wasn't going to accidentally hurt herself. "The rate she took off at, she's probably in Portland by now!"

Hot Rod shook his head. "Seattle, at least," he countered with a grin.

"Well, that's too bad," Jazz said, shrugging off his consternation and getting down to the business at hand. "Me an' Blaster got somethin' special in the works, an' we really wanted to talk to her about it."

"Anything we can help with?" Springer immediately asked. This earned him a dirty look from Hot Rod, who famously didn't like getting 'volunteered' for extra work unless he knew exactly what he was getting into.

"Well, we really want to get the gals on board," Jazz explained. He was probably one of the few Autobots who had adopted that distinctly human word when referring to their own females. "But you guys are probably gonna want to hear this one out 'cause I know you're gonna get involved anyway."

"Do tell," Springer grinned as Jazz and Blaster found seats on the grass. Even Hot Rod was leaning forward with interest, in spite of himself.

"Well, y'know how the Chief always wants us to put our best foot servos forward when it comes to public relations," Jazz began.

"Sure, all in all we've had a pretty positive relationship with the humans so far," Springer agreed, sounding a little more serious than was usual for him. "But these things can be pretty fragile. They've turned on us before."

"Tell me about it, man," Jazz nodded reflectively. "'Decepticon Day' had to be the stupidest thing them humans ever did. Anyway, me an' Blaster here, we were sittin' around in the rec room watchin' TV when we came up with a brilliant idea for polishin' the ol' image. Are you ready for this? We're gonna get in contact with a network and round up some sponsors, an' see if we can do a reality show!"

Hot Rod and Springer looked at each other warily, which was simply not the excited reaction that Jazz had been hoping for. "A ... reality show?" Hot Rod asked carefully. "Like ... Big Brother or something? Camera crews are going to follow us around twenty-four/seven and barge in on us when we're recharging and stuff?"

"No way," Blaster interrupted, clearly unfazed by Hot Rod's initial reluctance. He, at least, sounded as excited about the idea as Jazz. "This won't be some corny, Big Autobots, Little World scrap. Besides, that many cameras would make Red Alert glitch so hard, he'd be in Med-bay for a week. We were thinking about something flashier, and making it a competition, so the viewers can root for their favorites and see us performing at our best, but with lots of backstage drama and fancy numbers and heartbreaking eliminations and a great big shiny trophy for the winners!" His fancy phrases and emphatic gestures were getting more and more exaggerated by the second. "Can't you just see it?"

Springer suddenly had a very good idea what show these two had been watching when they came up with their plan. He almost laughed, but visibly held it in, and with far more grace than Ultra Magnus. At least no misinformed Medics came running up to shock his neural net.

"Ladies and gentlemen!" Blaster continued in his best announcer's voice, pretending to hold an invisible microphone. "Let's have a round of applause for the first contestants in ... Dancing With The Autobots!"

This time, Springer did laugh. In fact, he laughed hard enough to make himself flop onto his back from the sheer mirth. On the other hand, Hot Rod gaped like a fish for a moment, then apparently decided he couldn't possibly take any of this seriously, and fell over laughing, too.

"What?" Jazz asked a little defensively. "It's a win-win all the way! We get a boost in popularity, we get to have a little fun an' show off, we make some of our suppliers happy by lettin' them sponsor the show, plus we put the profits towards buildin' that airfield that Magnus wants behind Metroplex, which will make plenty of jobs for a lot of humans, so everyone's happy!"

"And all this by teaching ourselves how to dance?" a clearly disbelieving Hot Rod choked out between laughs.

"We're planning on hiring, you know, professional instructors," Blaster answered reasonably. "It's a nice little way to show off us Autobots and humans working together, and all. Besides, how hard can it be, really?"

"And Prime is okay with this idea?" Springer asked, mostly pulling himself together even though he wasn't quite able to smother his grin.

"Prime's totally down with it!" Jazz agreed enthusiastically. "He thinks it's great! He even wants to compete!"

This brought an abrupt moment of complete and stunned silence, a major accomplishment considering the four usually talkative mechs involved. Even the birds in the trees seemed to stop chirping in suspense as Hot Rod and Springer just stared in disbelief.

"Optimus Prime," the Triple-Changer finally asked slowly, as if he couldn't possibly believe he'd heard correctly, "wants to dance?"

Casting conspiratorial glances at each other, Blaster and Jazz just grinned and shrugged. "Well," Jazz finally drawled, "actually, Elita wants to dance. Y'know how it is."

"Ohhh," Springer agreed sagely. "That makes a whole lot more sense."

Nodding in vigorous assent, Hot Rod held up his left fist and cheerfully explained as if he were narrating a puppet show, "This is Elita One. This is Elita One's little finger," he added, sticking out the digit in question. "And this is Optimus Prime," he finished, using his right hand to pantomime wrapping something around his pinky servo. "She is the keeper of a fantastic power that Megatron only wishes he could wield."

"Exactly right, my man," Blaster acquiesced nonchalantly. "I'm sure you guys would know all about that."

A mechanical frown crossed Hot Rod's faceplate. "Huh? What do you mean?"

Again, Jazz and Blaster glanced at each other and grinned. Old friends that they were, each seemed to know exactly what the other was thinking. Jazz's left fist suddenly popped up into the air. "See, it's like this. This is Arcee," he informed Hot Rod. "This is Arcee's li'l finger."

"And this here's Arcee's little finger on her other hand," Blaster continued, holding up his right fist accordingly. Wrapping something imaginary around his extended pinky, he added, "And this is Hot Rod..."

"...An' this is Springer," Jazz finished, mirroring the gesture.

Hot Rod looked a little miffed that his joke had been turned back on him, especially with such astute accuracy, but Springer laughed just as loudly as the others. "Trust me, guys, there are far worse places to be," the green mech said with honest good humor.

"Which," Jazz surmised, trying to bring the conversation back to the reason they'd come out here in the first place, "I'm gonna hope is your way of sayin' that if we ever manage to catch up to the Pink Lady, wherever she went, an' she says she'll dance, then you'll be her partner?"

"It's like you said," Springer just smiled. Holding up his little finger, he symbolically wrapped himself around it. "If she's in, I'm in."

"Wait, hang on," Hot Rod finally asked. He didn't seem all that put out by the automatic assumption that Springer was the one who would dance with Arcee. Jazz, one of the few Autobots who actually had figured out this odd relationship, was not the least bit surprised by that. "Is it going to be just mechs dancing with femmes? Because we've only got, what, five femmes on Earth right now? Lancer and Greenlight are stationed on Moon Base Two at the moment, and I don't think anyone can convince those two to shirk their duty for a dance show. So even if the rest of the ladies agree to it, you're not going to have enough contestants to really make a good competition."

Jazz elected not to point out that Hot Rod was clearly warming up to the idea of his reality show, even if the younger mech had been laughing at it just minutes before. "A lot of them talent shows feature solos an' all-male dance squads, so we're gonna allow 'em, too," the Specialist explained, showing that he and Blaster had already put a great deal of thought into this crazy plan. "That'll open the game up to everyone. If we have the time in between tryin' to get this show on the road, me an' Blaster are even gonna put together a team of our own. But we really want to showcase the gals. Y'know how humans are with their TV shows. Purty ladies mean higher ratings."

"And just how many of the pretty ladies have signed up so far?" Springer asked, failing to disguise that he was clearly wondering if he and Optimus were the first to get suckered in to this crazy scheme or not.

"Well, Firestar and Inferno are all hot for the idea," Blaster answered, drawing a few pained groans with his bad pun. "And Chromia called us a bunch of crazy slaggers, so you know she's on board too."

"It's true!" Jazz agreed enthusiastically. "The more she insults ya, the more she likes ya. An' since she's all for the idea, that means Ironhide's signed up too, whether he knows it yet or not. So that just leaves Moonracer, can't forget her, even if the poor kid is a hazard to herself an' everyone around her. So if you guys can track down Arcee..."

"That's assuming she didn't achieve escape velocity and isn't somewhere orbiting Saturn right now," Hot Rod interrupted.

"Uh, yeah, that was a pretty fast exit she pulled, wasn't it?" Jazz agreed slowly, though he still had no idea why his sudden appearance had caused it. The Specialist knew he was fairly well-liked, so usually everyone was a lot happier to see him than that. "But really, d'ya know where she went?"

"Honestly?" Springer said, which, knowing the Triple-Changer's wry sense of humor, was not necessarily to be taken as an indication that he was being serious at all. "I saw her dive in the lake."

"Ooooh," Hot Rod crowed approvingly. "Magnus will never think to look for her there!"

Shaking his head, Jazz gingerly pinched the bridge of his olfactory housing. If he were human, he was sure a whanging headache would be forming behind his optics right about now. "Oh, man. Can I ask what's goin' on here?"

"No," Springer said with finality. "You really can't."

Jazz let out a perfect imitation of a long-suffering sigh, a mannerism he'd picked up from humans despite the fact that Autobots did not actually draw breath. Springer technically held the same rank as Jazz, even though their fields of command were vastly different, so the First Lieutenant knew he couldn't pull rank to force an answer out of the commander of the Wreckers. But Jazz didn't mind. He'd already gotten the distinct impression there was a very wacky story behind Arcee's equally wacky behavior, and whatever it was, Ultra Magnus had something to do with it. That meant gossip. Jazz was, unofficially, The Keeper Of The Gossip, so he knew that he'd find out, and sooner rather than later. So, filing the thought away for future reference, he again brought the topic around to his new pet project. "Anyway," he said, standing up and brushing away a few stray pine needles, "we need a few weeks to sign up some sponsors an' get a network an' a venue an' the whole shebang. We figure we'll start filmin' in the beginnin' of August, so that oughta give everyone plenty of time to start practicin'. Cool?"

"Works for me," Springer agreed casually. "I'm sure it will work for Arcee once we get all the water out of her servos."

"Cool!" Jazz said again, honestly pleased that his plan was one step closer to fruition. "C'mon, Blaster my man, let's go make some calls. See you at rehearsal, Hot Rod!" he called out as he transformed, speeding away with the colorful boom box blasting MeatLoaf's Bat Out Of Hell from his front seat.

Hot Rod and Springer sat on the grass for a few moments longer, staring at each other in amused disbelief before bursting out laughing again. Leave it to Jazz to come up with such a crazy, entertaining, so very human idea ... an idea, they eventually realized, that had its merits despite its endearing oddness. Or, perhaps, because of it.

"Hey!" Hot Rod suddenly exclaimed, sobering abruptly and looking at Springer with real alarm in his optics. "Did I just get recruited onto Jazz's dance squad?"


Though The Keeper Of The Gossip managed to glean all the juicy details in less than fifteen minutes, in the end, Ultra Magnus never did find out who put in that call to Medical.

Which was too bad, really. Even though the misunderstanding had been a bit shocking for him, the City Commander had ultimately wanted to commend whoever it was for thinking quickly and clearly enough to alert Medical to a potentially hazardous situation before anyone had the chance to be seriously injured.


Continued in Chapter 2 ...