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Under Two Moons

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Quicksilver kicked Prowl in the ped, getting his attention. When the pale optics flickered his way, he jerked his helm at the knot of commotion at the other end of the mess hall.

Any idea what that's about?

None. Shall I investigate?

No, let's just see what happens.

If you say so.

In the past orns, Prowl had moved quickly up Quicksilver's list of bots he actually liked. At first appearance the tactician was cold and calculated, but when he opened up he snarked like you wouldn't believe. His morbid, dry, deadpan sense of humor often had Quicksilver in stitches, and he had a way of silently punishing infractions that kept even the wildest of bots from crossing the line.

He was also slagging hilarious.

The two were engaging in one of their favorite shared past-times, taking advantage of Flickerflit's post-feeding nap and Prowl's conspicuous lack of paperwork (Quicksilver was still feeling smug about that).

Bot-watching.

Prowl observed for the information, logging tactics and interesting reactions to add to his internal database, and Quicksilver watched because it was fun, it was interesting, and it was something to slagging do.

And it was with Prowl, who provided color commentary.

Speak of the devil.

And here comes the Hatchet and the Walking Disaster Area, Prowl commed him, voice flat even over the secure line.

And the Fragging Moron and Sunshine the Berserker, added Quicksilver, enjoying his use of the nicknames, or rather, code names Prowl had attached to the personnel files of each of the unknowing and unsuspecting slaggers under his command.

As it turned out, Prowl was simply a very private mech. After Quicksilver's outburst and their subsequent bonding time, Prowl opened up more and more. A deliberate misunderstanding here, a complaint about general stupidity there, and Quicksilver was only finding more and more to like about him.

It helped that, in Prowl's very, very, very, very, very private opinion, he was in charge of all of the punishments for whatever stupid ideas the idiots on base came up with, and therefore was their very own version of Primus and Unicron rolled into one. (Humor eased the stress, and Quicksilver's laugh was contagious.)

Quicksilver especially liked to hide under Prowl's desk and listen to him tear mental holes in the idiots that caused him trouble.

In any case, the twins seemed to be arguing with the Hatchet, with Wheeljack trying desperately but inevitably failing to negotiate some kind of temporary cease fire, even for something as important as getting refueled.

Sideswipe laughed.

Ratchet brought out his wrench.

Sunstreaker snarled.

Wheeljack whimpered.

And Quicksilver started counting down.

Five, four, three, two, one...

The whole room stilled into silence as bright peals of laughter mixed with a low chuckle.

“Did Prowl just laugh?” Sideswipe asked disbelievingly. “The world is ending! The planet-eater has resurrected!” He flailed crazily as he scurried back and forth across the room. Red Alert shrieked and dove beneath a table, and Jazz almost fell out of his seat.

Blaster gawked, and several of the mechs sitting around choked on their Energon or spilled it down their fronts.

Prowl seemed uncomfortable, turning his helm away and averting his optics from the staring mechs that filled most of the room, and Quicksilver suddenly felt sorry for him.

So, in his immature, youngling way, he provided a distraction. “Oy! Welding Harpy!” he barked, getting Ratchet's undivided attention. “Sunshine the Berserker was glitching about your bedside manner!”

It was juvenile.

It was stupid.

And it certainly shouldn't have worked.

Ratchet roared like Unicron himself, and brought the wrench down on the yellow frontliner's helm.

With a clang and yelp, the room erupted into chaos again.

Taking Prowl by the servo and leading him through the mess of plasma bolts, spilled Energon, and flying wrenches, Quicksilver flashed the older mech a reassuring grin.

Prowl's mouth twitched up at the corners.

And, like all good times, it had to be ruined.

That was when they first met the Inspector.

The mech was a little too thick around the middle for Quicksilver to take seriously, and waddled a bit on his over-sized peds when he walked, but was tall, with broad shoulders and bulky limbs. He reminded Quicksilver of an aged soldier, past his prime and still trying to soak up the glory. He was painted a drab gray, had a face only a carrier could love, and sounded like a dying petro-frog.

Quicksilver knew from the nanoklik he'd spotted the Inspector in the hall that they were all in for a rough ride.

He was right.

“What kind of tomfoolery is going on here?” ground out The Idiot Jerkfaceplate Stupidhelm, as Quicksilver had mentally dubbed him in all his glorious, dubious maturity.

Prowl tensed behind Quicksilver, and the noise in the rec room ground to a sudden, dangerous silence.

“Excuse me?” Quicksilver blurted, startled.

The bot snorted. “Impudent little slagger,” he snorted, sounding like he was trying to gargle rocks. He was either trying to sound like a drill sergeant and only managing to sound like some kind of freakish amalgamation of the Unmaker and a vibro saw, or was just the Giant Alien Robot equivalent of a chainsmoker.

Quicksilver recoiled sharply. “Hey, what's with the name-calling?” he protested. “I've never seen you before in my lifestream, you just startled me! What's your problem, anyway?”

“My problem?” sneered the portly mech. “My problem is that clearly you- you- rookies,” he spat, looking disgusted, “-you rank and file grunts, are now under my command. Mine! I can't believe I was reassigned here,” he continued, faceplate scrunching strangely. “You're not even soldiers! Security guards, pets to a Prime! It makes me sick.”

Quicksilver wanted to snap back a retort, but Prowl's servo was brushing the back of one wing soothingly, and he eased back, frowning still.

“I apologize for the inconvenience,” Prowl uttered smoothly. “But none of us were made aware of any special arrangements being made for the management of the present retinue, let alone there being an alteration in the chain of command.”

“Hmph. In that case, I am Leadfoot,” the pretentious elder introduced. “You are Prowl, Chief Tactical Officer of Iacon, presumably a member of the Autobot party, creation of Wraith and Striker?”

Expression perfectly blankly, Prowl subtly improved his posture. “Yes.”

“In the future, I prefer yes, sir. This time I'll let it slide since none of you were informed.”

Prowl nodded slowly, something the mech seemed to interpret as thanks.

“I am Inspector Leadfoot, and I was reassigned to deal with disciplinary action in the absence of the Prime and his aides,” the mech informed them. “And rest assured, I will be cleaning this base up. Immediately. Someone take me to my office!” he barked suddenly.

Prowl maneuvered smoothly in front of Quicksilver, pushing the youngling back and away in a movement every Autobot behind him could see and every one of the inspector's lackeys couldn't.

Quicksilver followed the instructions, heeding the silent warning and disappearing back into the throng of silent, watching bots, who let him slip through easily. Prowl obviously didn't want him where his presence could be questioned. He was taking a mech he probably hated on a tour like a common servant so that Quicksilver could vanish himself in time to save his couch spot and Energon access.

He wasn't going to waste the opportunity.

When they rounded the corner, Quicksilver cursed aloud. “Slag it! We're so fragged.”

“No kidding,” groused Sideswipe. “And what was with Prowl?”

“He's playing decoy,” Quicksilver informed him blandly.

Several mechs just looked at him, faceplates totally blank as they clearly and obviously demanded more information.

Quicksilver frowned. “Uh... No, I'm not going to tell you why. It's none of your business. I just feel sorry for Prowl, getting stuck with that guy... Did any of you hear about there being an Inspector on base?”

Sunstreaker only scowled. “No.”

Red Alert gibbered to himself, cycling through a long series of increasingly ludicrous conspiracy theories to explain the sudden change in the chain of command. No matter how strange they were, Quicksilver did consider the possibility that maybe Red Alert had the right idea. The guy just screamed suspicious.

Jazz was already shimmying into a vent to go investigate, and a number of mechs simply skulked out of sight, quiet steps and furtive looks betrayed by the loud swoosh of the door as it automatically opened to let them into the maintenance halls.

Ratchet grumbled ominously, and Wheeljack just pouted. “No one tells me anything!” he whined plaintively.

Quicksilver nodded, slowly, and moved to the Energon dispenser. He poured a cube, slapped a seal on it, and stuffed it in his subspace, repeating the process twice more before knocking back the fourth cube.

“Okay,” he decided, whirling around. “Jazz is already headed out, but I'm gonna disappear while I have the chance. Don't wait up, and don't say a word about me to that Leadfoot guy, okay?”

“You're technically not supposed to be on base, are you?” inquired Ratchet gruffly, sounding amused.

He winced. “Uh, yeah, something like that. Out of sight, out of processor, right? I'm gonna go bother Starscream. Or something. I’ll see you later!”

Darting out of the Rec Room with his 'liberated' supplies, he scurried right past the Decepticon side of the base and out into the grounds, darting this way and that as he hurried through the mess of halls, equipment, and supply crates.

When he finally reached the outer edge of the base, he clambered up the wall, claws clinking softly as he wriggled up the smooth metal. Tiny scrapes and chinks, little soft spots, and even minuscule scuffs provided the slight amount of texture necessary for him to get an adequate grip and support his weight. Heaving himself up over the top of the wall and onto the ridged line of metal blocks, he straightened. Popping one more cube out of his subspace, he quaffed it, watching his energy levels rise to eighty-five percent. Grinning to himself, he set his wings out straight, feeling the thrusters kick on with a whine that built to a scream.

He was going to do this right. In the split-second encounter with Leadfoot, something ugly had crawled into his spark. The walls seemed to be closing in on him, every stare from a mech was hostile, and the warmth of the heated building was cloying to the point of suffocation.

Even without an alt mode, he was still more than capable of flight. His wings tipped out to the sides, rising and locking into place across the back of his shoulders, and he let the thrusters hum louder still, rising in power and volume. Fuel lines shifted, injecting Energon straight into the system, and the heat kicked up sharply.

Quicksilver ran a quick diagnostic program, running through all of the preflight checks that Starscream had introduced him to and promptly disregarding the few exercises the seeker had found time to do with him.

Intaking slowly, he vented at the same slow, almost torturous pace, waiting.

The wind picked up.

A warm draft wafted upwards.

Quicksilver jumped off the wall.