I have read several stories that explore the history of either Jazz or Prowl and how those histories intersect and how both became the 'Bots we all know and love. Many such stories involve one or the other starting off the war as Decepticon and then changing sides primarily due to some interaction with the other. This is my take on that history and, as usual, it will have some notable differences to those that have inspired it. It takes place early in the war, within the first decavorn.
Lieutenant Prowl stared hard at the data flicking across the terminal in front of him, his red optics not missing a single line of data as he reviewed the latest intelligence from their spies in Praxus and Iacon. Around him the other mechs staffing the Decepticon Command Center worked silently, each intent on their own jobs, each determined not to attract the usually cruel attention of the large silver Lord Protector sitting in the centralized, throne-like command chair.
Prowl, for his part, was truly more interested in his duties. Megatron despised incompetence, but rewarded competence. Prowl was nothing if not competent. For that reason if he kept his opinions to himself and did his job, he was usually safe from the Decepticon leader's infamous temper. Therefore, it was only logical to take the course that most ensured survival.
For the same reason, it was the most logical choice for him to serve Megatron.
While Prowl detested war, his tactical computer – once used by the enforcers of Praxus – made him almost a tangible asset to whichever side he chose to aid. That same tactical computer had calculated that the Decepticons – with the Seekers and most of the militia siding with them – was the most likely to win the war.
Therefore, the most logical decision was to join the Decepticons and use his considerable ability in tactical planning to help end the war as quickly a possible. That was critical because, that same tactical computer had also predicted that if the war was not ended quickly the results for Cybertron would be catastrophic.
Some of the most recent orders given by Megatron were… abhorrent, to say the least: designed to instill horror in the populous rather than to strictly defeat the Autobots.
However, Prowl was able to satisfy his ethical subroutines by the knowledge that he, at least as a central command tactician, did not have to wet his hands with the energon of innocents. Not directly. And he was able to plan attacks that would decimate the enemy while sparing what civilians he could.
Oh, he would probably still rust in the pit for what he had done – what he made possible for others to do – but the end of the war was his primary goal and, for the sake of Cybertron, any means to that end was a necessary evil.
At least that was what he told himself each time before he powered down for recharge.
Nothing in Prowl's outside demeanor gave anything of his internal contemplation away. Nor did his personal introspection distract him from his rapid perusal, computation and analysis of the information racing across his screen.
"Lieutenant Prowl." Megatron's voice suddenly growled.
Prowl straightened, his doorwings carefully stiff not giving evidence to the sudden nervousness he felt. He turned to face the towering Lord Protector. His voice was also carefully void of inflection. "Yes, Lord Megatron?"
"Come with me."
The Decepticon leader stood, spinning around to leave the command center. Prowl had no choice but to follow. Seldom was it a good thing to be called into a private audience with Megatron. Regardless, Prowl kept his tension to himself, following with stiff spinal struts and flared doorwings.
Megatron walked into his office and Prowl followed. He did not dare flinch as the door hissed closed behind him.
"You have been serving me for nearly a decavorn now, yes?" The towering silver mech stood with his back to Prowl, but the tactician was not deceived: Megatron knew exactly what he was doing and where he was.
"Indeed, Lord Megatron."
"Do not think that it has escaped my notice that you are less than enthused about the more aggressive measures I have taken over the last few vorns." Megatron paused, but Prowl was not going to volunteer anything.
After a moment, Megatron turned, his ruby optics glinting dangerously in the low light. "Should I begin to doubt your dedication to the Decepticon cause, Prowl?"
Prowls doorwings twitched barely a fraction of a centimeter, despite his best efforts to prevent it. "My dedication is as it has always been." He said carefully. It was true. True enough to not tip off Soundwave if the telepathic communications expert was listing in at least.
"And yet your plans continue to be too pacifistic." The Lord Protector snarled, leaning in closer to Prowl, towering menacingly over him.
Prowl hesitated, knowing he had to tread carefully, though he was careful to keep his expression and posture that of neutrality. "My plans are 98% effective, ensuring the highest probability of Autobot losses and the lowest probability of losses to our own forces. When followed, the Decepticons have won every engagement with undeniable superiority."
"You do nothing to engage the rest of the population!" Megatron snapped, his optics flashing.
Prowl simply returned his commander's angry glare with a cool, dispassionate stare of his own, through he quietly began turning off his neural relays and pain receptors, just in case Megatron decided to get violent.
Instead, after a long moment, Megatron seemed to regain control of his temper. "By not engaging the neutral element of the population, you are prolonging the war."
Prowl's doorwings twitched minutely again. Everything in his tactical and logic systems screamed at him of the falsity of that statement. But he could not say that. He opted for the only thing that was usually safe to say whatever the situation; a perfectly inflectionless, "Sir."
Suddenly a large silver hand darted out to circle his throat and squeezed. Prowl's optics flashed with alarm involuntarily, though he did not try to defend himself knowing that with Megatron, that would just incur greater wrath.
Those fingers tightened dangerously over the delicate armor seams, compressing the engergon lines beneath. It was and act of will and determination that Prowl did not reveal his mounting concern, now bordering on fear.
Suddenly he was released, staggering slightly in his sudden freedom, though Megatron's angry growl was enough to reinforce that he was not out of danger yet. "For now you are lucky I have need of you."
A data chip was flicked at him, which Prowl caught easily, while simultaneously pulling a datapad out of subspace. Some mechs might have simply plugged the chip into their own wrist ports, but Prowl did not trust Megatron not to put some kind of horrid virus on it just for his own amusement.
Sliding the chip into the datapad, Prowl reviewed the contents as rapidly as his processors could handle. "We are assaulting Praxus?"
"Yes. Attacking such a prominent neutral city will force other neutral strongholds to choose a side when they see they are not immune from assault. They will be forced to choose sides and, as it will be clear the Autobots," that was said with a derisive hiss and accompanying sneer, "cannot protect them, they will be more willing to grovel to me out of self-preservation."
Prowl diligently stamped down his initial horror and professional revulsion at that idea. It would do him no good to have Soundwave pick up on him thinking something like, 'that is foolishly short-sighted,' let alone something like, 'that is totally insane!'
"I see." He said instead, pleased with how unaffected his voice sounded. "I will begin planning…"
That snapped Prowl's gaze back up to the still fuming Decepticon leader. "Sir?"
A long, sharp-clawed finger was pointed at his face. "You, along with Sharpclaw and Diamondgear are going into Praxus on a final information gathering mission."
Prowls processor almost stalled. "I am not special operations, sir. Neither are Sharpclaw and Diamondgear."
"No. But you are Praxian." Megatron's lip-plates quirked in a smile that was definitely not pleasant. "And for this mission, that fact is far more important."
That statement made no more sense than did Megatron's claim that attacking Praxus would encourage the other neutral strongholds to declare allegiance to the Decepticons.
Even so, long vorns as an enforcer and then his time as a Decepticon and taught Prowl to be very, very careful in a situation like this, where there was spoken as well as unspoken threat in every line of his superior. He was walking a tight-wire, strung between the top floors of the Iacan Towers and he knew it.
Modulating his voice to have a very precise blend of respect, submission and confusion he spoke. "May I ask for clarification, sir?"
Megatron's sneer grew into a snarl. "You are Praxian! Therefore you belong in Praxus. No one there will even bat an optic shutter to see you striding through the streets. You would not even need to be covert."
Prowl quickly jerked a nod of understanding, though he did not agree with the reasoning. Megatron continued, clawed hand balling into a fist that could easily vent the Lord Protector's clearly growing anger on Prowl's plating. "You will go and you will confirm and then you will mark the residencies of the individuals on that datapad to ensure they are eliminated during the attack."
Prowl nodded again, refraining from pointing out that the destruction of an individual's residence did not ensure the permanent off-lining of the individual in question.
"You leave in three joors." Megatron leaned closer, his voice lowering dangerously, though he turned away, pointing briefly to his office door. "This is your opportunity to prove your loyalty, Lieutenant Prowl. Do not waste it."
Prowl recognized a dismissal when he heard it and, deeming discretion the better part of valor, did not hesitate to depart. He bowed to the Lord Protector's broad back and hastily retreated.
… … …
Three joors later saw Prowl, Diamondgear and Sharpclaw situated in a small transport ship headed toward Praxus. None of the mechs spoke, primarily because Prowl had no desire to and for the other two it was likely a mixture of the inherent trepidation frontline grunt soldiers typically had when in the presence of a member of the command staff and the fact that both were previously rather notorious black-market smugglers before the war and Prowl had been an enforcer.
Roughly three quarters of a joor after their departure, Diamond gear broke the tense silence. "Entering Praxian airspace. They are requesting identity codes and asking us to state our purpose."
Prowl nodded and transmitted the falsified codes Decepticon intelligence had procured, then triggered the communication signal. Thanks to a clever interface Soundwave had developed, Prowl knew the city official on the other side would be seeing a mech with the frame-type of an acolyte on the temple in Simfur, a neutral.
"Acolyte Nightwatch from Simfur, in route on pilgrimage to the High Crystal Gardens." The lie sat heavy on Prowl's glossa, but he smoke smoothly, without so much as a hint of his internal discomfort.
A moment later, the controller responded. "Acolyte Nightwatch, identity and codes validated. Proceed to docking area Alpha, alpha gamma 526 alpha. Welcome to Praxus."
The communication channel clicked off.
"They make this too easy." Sharpclaw spat derisively. "Idiot 'bots as dumb as these deserve whatever they get."
Diamondgear revved loudly in agreement.
Prowl said nothing; not in agreement and not to reprimand the two other Praxians in the ship with him. Instead, he simply took the ship to the assigned docking area.
Once moored, he turned t o his temporary squad-mates. "You have your orders. You know the designations of the mechs you are to locate?"
Sharpclaw nodded sharply, Diamondgear lifted a lip plate in a barely controlled sneer, "Yeah, we got it. Sir."
"Then proceed." Prowl led the procession town the ship's short boarding ramp.
The dock-master walked up to them, eyeing them nervously. "Hey, your stats say you are Simfur acolytes, not Decepticons."
"Must be a mistake. We are simply here to visit our creators." Prowl said smoothly, a part of him disgusted at how easily he could lie, though he shoved that aside for the practical necessity of completing his mission. "We were notified just earlier this orn that his spark-pulse was fading."
Diamondgear gave a solemn nod while Sharpclaw made and amazingly sincere noise of sparkfelt grief.
"Hmn." The white-optic administrator looked between the three of them. "And here I didn't think you 'Cons maintained any family ties outside your own ranks."
No family ties at all. Prowl corrected internally, but all he said was. "Perhaps there is a lot you don't understand."
"Yeah, I'll buy that. But don't think I'm not going to report your presence here."
Prowl nodded once and brushed past the bulkier mech. Once they were out of audio range, Diamondgear growled lowly. "Before we leave, I'm killing that half-bit."
Prowl frowned minutely to himself, but said nothing. "Progress-report every joor. If you run into any trouble, notify me immediately."
Diamondgear nodded curtly while Sharpclaw settled for a clipped "Yes, sir."
He was not going to get more than that out of either of them and pressing the issue right now would only highlight how little authority he had at the moment and make him appear weak. He nodded and gestured sharply in an indication for them to stop wasting time and move out.
… … …
Prowl had completed one of his assigned targets when a faint noise caught his attention. An out of place noise, not necessarily a frightening or threatening noise, merely something that was out of place in a location such as Praxus. But he barely had time to register it before it grew into the unmistakable thunder of Seeker engines. Squadrons of Seeker engines.
Scarcely had he cataloged that fact than the ground shook beneath his pedes. Screams filled his audios. His first thought was that the Autobots had gotten wind of their mission and had attacked either Diamondgear or Sharpclaw, but the deafening concussions continued, without a vent's pause. He shot his optics to the sky just in time to catch the sight of a trine of Seekers.
A shrill whistle suddenly split the air, heralding an incoming missile. With a snarl, Prowl threw himself to the ground and cringed as a building less than half a klick behind him splintered, metal shards flying in all directions and a large, gaping hole replacing everything above the fifth level.
More furious than he had been in a very, very long time, Prowl activated his comm. /Decepticon Lead Tactician Prowl to Decepticon Seekers, what is the meaning of your attack?/
The answering whine of Starscream's voice grated across his audios. /Prowl… we have our orders. We wouldn't want to disappoint Lord Megatron now would we?"
/What orders?/ More screaming threatened to distract Prowl as he scrambled to find more suitable shelter as yet more missiles rained down from above. But he was in a residential district. Reinforced bunkers were not exactly easy to come by.
That grating voice purred sickly in his audios again. /Hm, you are Praxian, yes? You, Diamondgear and Sharpclaw?/ The Air commander did not give Prowl a chance to respond. /Our orders are to make sure no Praxian makes it out alive!/
Prowl's processor stalled as Starscream's cackle was superimposed on the sight of another building exploding into metal shrapnel and debris. He ducked reflexively as shards of metal and rebar rained down on him. Even long astroseconds after his comm. link with the Air Commander was severed, he continued to hear that laugh as more missiles and plasma discharges slammed into the ground and into buildings.
Still on his knees, he looked around as if in a daze and watched as structures splintered and were otherwise shredded before his gaze. He struggled to process what was happening around him, just what it meant that Megatron would order such an attack with three of his own still in the city. What it meant that the former Lord Protector wanted him dead simply because he was a Praxian.
He snapped back to the present as a chunk of a building slammed into his shoulder as the world literally collapsed around him.
With a barely-breathed curse, Prowl dashed for the nearest cover he could find, shutting off as many pain relays as he could to the damaged area. But this was a residential area and he was tempted to curse that fact as he took shelter in the only thing he could. He sprinted for a collection of low-slung civilian housing, their thicker walls and lower profile – at least theoretically – offering more protection than the open street.
Another explosion rocked the ground, just as he reached for the door, throwing him from his pedes. He scrambled up and thrust his non-injured shoulder against the door. It opened without fuss and he stumbled into a room that might have once been a comfortable sitting area, except one wall was entirely caved in, the ceiling hanging in tatters.
He rolled to his pedes and cast his optics around for something he could use for further protection. Anything. What he saw almost made his energon lines back up, primarily because he knew they were not the enemy. Two frames were buried halfway beneath the rubble of the wall, already gray in death. Civilians. Killed because they were Praxians and nothing more.
Prowl shuttered his optics and glanced away. Then he heard a muffled squeak and spun around. Hiding behind another doorframe was a small youngling, possibly even a sparkling.
Large blue optics blinked up at him, terror clear to see. The little one looked past Prowl at the gray frames of his creators and keened miserably, trembling.
Prowl stared, taking in the pathetic, spark-wrenching sight as the innocent youngling processed the death of his creators. The little one probably would have crawled to the gray frames if it weren't more terrified of Prowl standing between them.
Though the little one was obviously sparked by either Autobots or Autobot leaning Neutrals, all Prowl could see was innocence smashed to bits and suffering that one so young should never have to face. It had been two vorns since Megatron ordered all Sparklings to be killed on sight. Prowl had only flinched internally when the order came, but continued with his job because he himself had not been asked to take the life of any sparkling.
Nor had he said anything in protest, only hiding his disquiet at such tactics and biting his glossa to keep from getting into trouble and to save himself from the beating that would have followed.
He had kept his helm down and kept on doing his job. How many other such harmless and hurting innocent younglings had been killed in those two vorns? Was there something he could have done to prevent such a slaughter?
Old, long suppressed core-Enforcer programming – or at least portions of said programming – began to reassert themselves as he stared into those pained, frightened optics. This was no longer an Autobot youngling, he was just a youngling; one of the most valuable resources in existence and to be protected at all costs.
He was the future of Cybertron.
For a brief moment Prowl was sickened with what he had become, what he had helped to perpetrate. He had joined the Decepticons to help end the war quickly so as to preserve the future of Cybertron but had instead been doing the exact opposite.
Then the ground shook violently beneath him again, throwing the youngling to the floor with a startled shriek and a pained gasp. The walls groaned threateningly and Prowl only had an astrosecond to act.
Unwilling that any more younglings should come to harm when he had a chance to prevent it, Prowl threw himself forward, snatching the youngling up and tucking him close as he rolled, just barely clearing the doorframe before the wall came down where the youngling had been standing.
Those large optics stared, even wider than before, at the crumbling wall, then up into Prowl's face.
Then Prowl was running again as the sound of Seeker engines filled his audios anew. But there was still nowhere to go and so he just kept moving.
They had just made it to an intersection leading to the scientific district, Prowl hoping to find some type of protection in the reinforced buildings, when a barrage of plasma blasts tore into ground in front of them, creating a veritable wall of energy and destruction.
Prowl skidded to a halt, holding the sparkling close to his chassis as the little one whistled in fear.
Suddenly the wall of the building to their right started to collapse.
There was not enough time. This time, there was no escape.
Doing the only thing he could in order to try and safeguard the precious life in his arms, Prowl curled his frame around the much smaller one. The ex-Enforcer shielded him with the only thing he had: himself.
Well… different yes? Good? Not? Please let me know one way or another.