Disclaimer: I do not own Transformers and any recognisable character.
Beta: Starfire201 - thank you for your help.
Also thanks to pjlover666, whose encouragement kept me writing.
Warnings: Slight slash
Ironhide didn't like this, and yet he knew what had to be done. He was a mech with clear principles and unshakeable loyalty to his Prime on whose orders he acted here. It was difficult to forget the pain in Optimus' optics as he had issued the order on behalf of the council, so that justice may be served and peace may be kept. It had to be done. It was just.
Still, it felt like betrayal.
"Sir?" asked an Enforcer behind him.
Ironhide looked at him. He was young, too young to remember the Great War, too young to truly understand why his superior looked as if walking to an execution.
"Sir, everyone is in place."
From a neutral point of view, it was ridiculous to bring a whole special unit with 38 trained Enforcers with him, just for two mechs. Ironhide wasn't neutral by any definition and he knew exactly what those two mechs were capable of. He wished he could have brought more.
While checking his weapons, he turned back to the house in front of him. It was small and beautiful, peaceful even, situated next to a crystal field that was slowly recovering. Praxus was raising such fields everywhere for public enjoyment, but this special one seemed to be a private garden, with a small wall around it to keep strangers away. His mechs had ignored the boundary, and were now crouching behind the crystals. It would be a pity to see this garden destroyed.
Far away, he could already see curious citizens watching the spectacle. It was time.
"Howlback, Stungun, follow me."
The white door seemed to be normal, no strange holes or cracks. He pushed the button for the bell. No sign of weapons. Maybe he was just paranoid? Promptly, the door slid open and revealed a slightly smaller black and white mech with a blue visor, who smiled as he saw Ironhide:
"Ah, long time no see, Ironhide. Who are ya friends?"
It could be worse. Really, he could have attacked them, he could have been away, he could... and yet, Ironhide had the feeling that his spark was torn apart.
"Hello, Jazz. These are Stungun and Howlback. Can we come in?"
"Sure." He turned and walked into the house. "Do you want Energon?"
The three Enforcers entered the house, the door sliding close behind them. It was light inside, full of friendly colours and a few pieces of furniture. Neither of them had ever liked sentimental things.
"No, thank you, Jazz. I'm on the job." And he wouldn't put it above Jazz to have the cubes poisoned.
His old friend just shrugged. "As ya wish. Let's all go to the living room, 'kay? Prowl is already there and Ah don't think that ya're visiting 'cause ya missed us."
As always perceptive, even though it was kind of obvious. He could feel how tense his two subordinates were as they walked towards the living room. Prowl was sitting indeed there in a comfy armchair, as calm and regal as ever, his gaze resting contemplatively on a game of Treck.
It reminded Ironhide so much of scenes in various rec rooms in the past that he was thrown off for a moment. A dangerous mistake, though Jazz ignored his guests, as he strolled past them and took the armchair across from Prowl.
"You're still searching for a way to keep those two pieces?" he asked seemingly amused.
"Of course." Prowl looked up, directly at Jazz. "It's just a matter of how many sacrifices are acceptable."
"You're too fixated on them."
"I can't help it." Prowl looked at them. "Ironhide, it's wonderful to see you again. I've heard that you've achieved the rank of the head of all Enforcers. Congratulations."
"Thank you." He loved his job, just not today. "These are two of my most trusted lieutenants. Howlback, she's in charge of the special units and Stungun, a very good detective."
"Nice to meet you." Prowl stood and shook of each of them the hand. "Make yourself comfortable on the couch. How can we help you?"
Ironhide hesitated, but then both Jazz and Prowl were sitting. Stungun copied him, while Howlback kept standing as he expected. She was too unwilling to give up any advantage.
Prowl's question still hand in the room like a spectre. Time, to speak the blunt truth:
"Ah, well, the United Council and Optimus Prime have both issued an order to capture you and bring you back to Iacon for trial. You both will have to come with us."
He prayed that they wouldn't get angry, wouldn't blame him, wouldn't fight. Howlback shifted a bit aside, her hand near her weapon, while Stungun had ceased all movement. The caution was appropriate. These two black and white mechs were excellently trained, dangerous and he simply knew that this house had hidden corners and chambers with weapons. They were too paranoid not to have them. All this could get ugly so very, very fast.
Jazz and Prowl both nodded without a hint of surprise.
"'kay," said Jazz. "Are we allowed to take something with us? Maybe the game?"
Prowl glanced at the game. "I would appreciate it if we could end the game before we go. But it's not necessary."
The Enforcers gaped, then Stungun relaxed, his vents giving a deep sigh, and Howlback stood there with an expression of puzzlement. Ironhide wanted to grin. He should have known it. They never did what was expected of them.
"Well, you can certainly take a few things with you, but they have to be checked by Howlback here."
Howlback frowned. "As long as it's not too much."
Jazz smiled. "Don't worry, it's just the game, right Prowl?"
"Don't you want to take the book file you're reading, too?"
"Ah, yes, that's a good idea." Jazz smiled as he looked questioningly at Howlback. "A few book files and the game then. That 'kay?"
Howlback nodded shortly. If it were up to her, she would probably take them with nothing but their protoform, but she couldn't refuse. They were harmless enough things.
Stungun stood up. "Where are these book files? I'll collect them."
Good idea. So they wouldn't lose sight of them for a second. And as a detective he would take every chance to get a view around the house.
"Corridor, third door to the left," answered Jazz, while moving a piece on the game board. "Just take all the books on the desk."
"I will." And he left the room.
They waited quietly while Prowl and Jazz played. Not one word was spoken, and Ironhide felt his optics following the game. Prowl was winning, of course, but they didn't seem to play after the normal rules. Some pieces they didn't sacrifice even though Ironhide could see the strategical advantage, some pieces died far too easily. It took a while until he understood, that they had modified the game so, that the pieces got stronger or weaker if they won or lost, and that these data was kept for the next game. No wonder that they wanted to keep this special Treck board.
Howlback informed the special units that the situation was under control and that the suspects weren't resisting.
Ironhide would bet his whole high-grade storage that at least Jazz had already hacked into every single communication line available, if not both of them. But they showed no sign of hearing her orders.
Shotgun came back with various book files and laid them onto the couch.
"Is that everything?" he asked.
"More than enough," answered Jazz and Ironhide wondered what he could mean. Didn't they expect to be in prison for long?
"You're taking all this better than I expected," he finally said.
"We do?" Prowl's wings fluttered, a sure sign that he was amused. "Why should we resist? We're just normal citizens, aren't we?"
Well, officially yes. They had a small architecture office together, a modest income and tried to live a quiet life. Tried to, because no one had really forgotten that these two had been Second and Third in Command on the Autobot side, and had been one of the most feared and respected bots in the war. The first time Ironhide had watched Decepticons talking about Jazz and Prowl with the same expression of amazed horror he had seen on Autobots talking about, say Starscream, he had been amused. But later he had felt shame, and no small amount of disquiet. The stories told rang far too true.
"Yes, you are," said Stungun with a hard voice. Maybe he remembered those stories, too.
But Prowl only nodded and glanced at the board, surprised at Jazz's next move. "That's a dangerous move."
"Maybe." And Jazz's smile was the same as for every dangerous mission, sharp, wicked, with a hint of exhilaration.
"You risk the two arms of the leader."
"The shield is still there, so are his followers. And ya forget, from this position he can't fight effectively."
Prowl nodded and then smiled. "So you risk them, to keep your whole side stable." He moved a few figures. "Too bad they're now surrounded and the shield is helpless. The leader will have to stand alone."
"He's a leader. Different rules, he's never alone." Jazz looked up after his next move of bringing the shield into a safer zone. "In the end the two arms are just pieces too, and they can be sacrificed."
"And so they are," agreed Prowl and attacked, obliterating first the two pieces, and then the whole board of Jazz's defence.
Jazz sighed and fell back into the chair. "I wish I could win once."
Prowl stood and started packing the game. "You would, if you ever fought seriously."
"I do fight seriously!"
Prowl only looked at him, completely relaxed. "You don't." He turned towards the watching Enforcers. "Stungun, was it? Shall I give you the game?"
Howlback stepped forward. "I'll take it."
Ironhide tensed for an astrosecond. She was far too close to Prowl whose Praxian form hid the vicious combat expert far too good. But nothing happened. The game changed hands and Jazz stepped next to his lover.
"Time to go," said the ex-spy, as if they were just visiting a party. "We've already been hanging around here too long."
Ironhide nodded and sent the message towards the unit. "Your hands, please."
Stungun and Howlback handcuffed their hands behind them, while they stood just there. Their calmness started to freak Ironhide a bit out. Shouldn't they be angry? Or sad? Anything?
"Do you know what you're charged with?"
"Sure," answered Jazz, ignoring the fact that the investigation had been done in secret with trying to keep them in the dark as best they could. Obviously, they had failed. "But ya can repeat it."
Ironhide nodded to Stungun, who took out a data pad:
"Prowl and Jazz, now both citizens of Praxus, formerly SIC and TIC of the Autobot army among various other positions and titles. You are hereby accused of direct murder in over a hundred cases and torture in over 50 cases of prisoners, mindwipes in six cases, the bombing of Vos and its neutral citizens, manipulating Prime with wrong information, systematically starving out the Decepticons, technology theft from allies, killing allies in 26 cases and the abandonment of allies in four cases."
All three enforcers were looking for a reaction. Anything. But they just stood there as if they had expected all this. As of all of this was old news. In a way to them it was.
Ironhide felt sick.
"Journalists have appeared," warned Howlback suddenly and looked uncertainly at her boss.
Stungun, his arms full with the book files, groaned.
That was the last thing they needed. Journalists meant publicity, meant attention and maybe protests from fanatical Autobots. Every further investigation would be so much more difficult. But to hide them was impossible now and against the new open information policy of Prime. He looked towards Prowl and Jazz. Should they go through the journalists or not? He wasn't sure.
Jazz gave him a reassuring look. "Just lead us through them, 'hide. Doesn't make a diff'rence. Not to us. Can't avoid the public forev'r."
Next to him Prowl nodded. "Do your job and they will see justice and a functional legal system."
And Ironhide remembered why he had followed these two mechs into bloody battles and hopeless situations, into war and death and horror and eventually into peace. Even now, shackled and bound as they were, they had the ability to let him do the right thing. Just why had they themselves done the wrong thing so often?
He took both of them by their arms, unsure if it was a gesture of force or reassurance.
Together they stepped outside the house into a flurry of camera flashes.