Just off the Repair Bay and behind heavily reinforced doors is a crowded but carefully organized lab complex. Jackknife and Crackshot have their own labs here, as well as the larger main lab shared by the Autobots' most notable (or notorious) scientists, Wheeljack and Perceptor. Both of them are in the lab today, working on projects and talking quietly but excitedly about something on the workbench in front of them.
<Autobot> Shark 's comm clicks a few times.
<Autobot> "(Wheeljack's voice) Is someone's comm malfunctioning again?"
<Autobot> Shark's comm goes click click friiiitzzz squeal
<Autobot> "(Perceptor's voice) Oh, my. Yes, malfunctioning indeed."
<Autobot> Shark's comm goes ssszzzzztttt squeak squeal hiss. Then you here a 'slaggit' in the static.
<Autobot> "(Wheeljack) Whoever that is, get your aft to the lab so we can fix it. It's probably a software patch glitch with the latest encryption series."
<Autobot> Shark makes a few acknowledging pings then the comm squeals loudly and dies.
Perceptor pulls a few jumper wires from the sides of the nondescript, cube-like device he's been testing to this point. He tosses the wires back into a collecting bin with some disgust over the inelegant procedure he's just used. He sighs. "We now have... a prototype," he says, holding the box aloft. "It should be ready for deployment and functional testing now."
Shark walks into the repair bay totally covered in his crazy Cubricon which is comprised of dust, rust, oil, and temporarily attached armor pieces to alter his overall look. "Bad time for my comm to die on me." he notes as he nods to the mechs assembled.
Wheeljack holds out his hands for the box Perceptor is holding , head fins flashing happily. "Well, give it to me and let me start it up!"
"Of course, of course..." Perceptor says, handing over the device. "You'll be careful to mind the proprietary power-transfer system, however. It's quite ticklish."
Shark peeks around the med bay, then steps into the lab. "Gee where's Jackknife, then we'd have a trio of engineering genius in here." he notes with a smirk.
Jazz walks into the lab -- not cautiously, not that you can see -- and waves a cheery hello to the resident Mad Scientists. "Hey, Shark! What're you doin' here? Trouble?"
Wheeljack looks up as the others enter, prototype still in hand. "Hello! Just a moment, Shark, I'm betting that last encryption patch didn't integrate fully- it's more complicated than the last batch."
"Hello, Jazz," Perceptor says as Wheeljack begins busying himself with Shark's encryption. "What can we do for you?"
Shark glances back at the mech, "Jazz, glad to see you back from where ever Prime sent you. Yeah I have comm issues. Not good when I'm doing undercover duty in Cubicron." a pause, then a grin, "Say, would you want to slip into a disguise and join me down there?" he asks. "I should learn from the best." a nod to Wheeljack, "No to hurry you both, but every moment I'm here is a moment Lifeline doesn't her back covered."
Ratchet's voice can be heard shouting profanity in the Med bay.
Jazz says, "Jus' droppin' by to say hi, and see what you're workin' on."
"Uh oh. Wonder what that's about?" Wheeljack says as he sets the prototype on the back of the workbench and steps over to sit in front of a terminal. He plugs a data key into the port and quickly pulls up the encryption program, downloading a copy of the latest keys onto the portable storage and pulling it free from the drive after it blinks. "Here you are, Shark-" he hands him the data key. "Upload that, reboot your comm, and see if that fixes the problem."
Jazz says, "Encryption goin' out can be bad -- you got out okay, right?"
Shark shrugs about the cussing, "I've heard worse out of him." then a nod to Jack as he takes the drive, inserting it into systems to upload it and tries a reboot once it’s done. He tests the comm as he hands the drive over. "Thanks." A nod to Jazz, "I got out fine. No one suspects as of yet. But doesn't hurt to have the expert in disguises help me improve the look." he points out.
Jazz says, "Looks pretty good to me -- the 'Cons aren't really too observant. Y'might wanna think about talkin' to 'Jack here about developing paint that changes color. Bin meanin' to have a word with him about that, myself."
"We have been making some progress in that direction ourselves," Perceptor says guardedly. "However, we do not have a currently safe prototype. The power supply necessary to operate the color-changing mechanism was... unhealthy," he says with a pointed look at Wheeljack.
Wheeljack just grins. "I'm telling you, Percy, being able to make the paint light up in addition to just changing colors totally makes it more flexible for disguise purposes. We just hafta find a way to power it that doesn't draw a bot's power levels down quite so fast."
Jazz says, "You get that power thing under control, I'll test it out for ya, how's that, Perceptor?"
Shark mms softly, "I think I'll stick to finding bits of armor to magnetize to my own armor and paint it up then adjust it with rust and grime to complete the look, but thanks for the suggestion." he states.
Jazz says, "Whatever works for ya, jus' as long as ya don't need rescuin'. Okay?"
The scientist smiles. "Of course," he tells Jazz. "We will, of course, be careful not to pass a vampiric circuit to the third in command of the Autobots."
"It's not vampiric," Wheeljack defends his project. "It just caused a bit of a sudden drain to my power levels and knocked me offline temporarily. I would have recovered on my own just fine if you'd just let me be."
Jazz rolls his eyes and grins good-naturedly.
Shark smirks to Jazz, "Not planning on being rescued. Still though do you or do you not want to join me down there? Two mechs looking around would be beneficial and Prime did say I could bring anyone I wanted." he notes.
Jazz says, "Sure, I'm game! Gonna get me a fresh paintjob first though -- as Perceptor says, I'm a little too noticeable."
Jazz says, "Maybe something in black and purple ..?"
Wheeljack points at the booth in the corner of the room. "You're welcome to use it, although the automated settings are for my stripes-" he notes. "Easier to repaint myself than admit to certain cranky medics that I got myself a little burnt again. How did that key integrate, Shark?"
Shark says, "Hate to tell you Jazz but Hot Rod has the corner on black and purple right now. How about green and yellow?" then he looks over to Wheeljack, "Just fine, thanks. I should head back down there, don't like leaving the doc alone too long."
Jazz wonders how he'd look in Wheeljack's colors? Or if 'Jack would mind if he reset the same pattern to black and purple for a while?
Jazz says, "Okay, maybe Magenta an' Turquoise?" Jazz says, "Or maybe lime and silver? Anyone done that yet?"
Shark offers a wave to the group then heads on out.
Perceptor hmms in thought. "I should think dull rust colors would be more suitable for operations in Cubicron," he says. "Bright colors would draw undue attention, would they not?"
"The Scorponoks are pretty bright, really, but it depends on what he wants to blend in /as/, right Jazz?" Wheeljack says.
Jazz grins broadly. "Nothin' like hiding in plain sight. But yeah, I should prolly scuzz-up for that place."
Ratchet's voice rises in pitch and volume.
Jazz listens to Ratchet's annoyed monologue getting louder, and goes over to check out the setttings on the paint booth.
"I can change the settings for you from here, Jazz- magenta, you said?" Wheeljack brings up a new program on the console.
Jazz says, "Sure! Let's see how it looks -- we can always repaint if it's too nasty!"
Jazz steps into the paint booth and turns to watch Wheeljack at the controls.
"Painting alone is generally safe, at any rate," Perceptor mutters, peering around at the power conduit running to the paint booth.
"Stripes, spots... flames?" Wheeljack asks
Jazz says, "Hold the Flames, don't wanna look like Roddy. How's about stripes?"
"Are you sure you don't want the color changing paint? It'd be good to test it out. Maybe it's just a problem with my power system-" Wheeljack muses.
Jazz says, "Whaddaya say, Perceptor? Gettin' a second opinion, here. Don't wanna upset Ratchet when he's already chewin' on somethin' ..."
Perceptor sighs. "It... may be feasible, yes, with preventative fuses attached to the power system on the mech wearing the device, and data loggers installed to monitor any anomalies in the mech's power systems, and an automatic disengage to activate in the event of errors found in the mech's power systems, and..." The scientist prattles on, riffing on the hazard control theme.
Jazz nods, listening. "That sounds like all that stuff hung offa me would help disguise me anyway. Sounds like it might be worth tryin'.
Wheeljack claps his hands together happily. "Right! Let me just go get it!" He stands up and walks over to begin digging through a cabinet to look for the container with the remainder of the multiphasic chromataphore paint....
Perceptor winces. "It's in the blast proof cabinet, Wheeljack," he says.
Jazz says, "Hey, it'll be cool, Perceptor! If it works, it's a great tool for me. If it gets weird, you already know what to watch for, right?"
"Why'd you put it there?" Wheeljack asks. "It's not nearly as explosive as those heat-dispersing missiles, or that prototype decrystallizer gun we bought off that neutral to reverse engineer."
Jazz hopes all the safety doo-hickeys will still allow him to transform easily.
"It proved highly reactive in the presence of energon," Perceptor replies. "How can we guarantee it won't be exposed?"
Wheeljack opens the blast cabinet with a shrug. "Well, you know there's no guarantees," He says. "It's still experimental. But still, some fuses should keep it from doing anything to your own power systems. Sit on that table there, and I'll give you the software for it, and then we can apply the paint."
Jazz hops up on the table, hoping that Perceptor has the gadgets he was talking about as handy as Wheeljack has the software and paint.
Putting the container of paint on the table next to Jazz, Wheeljack sits down at the console again, plugging another data key into the console and downloading some code onto it. "Here's the control code- just plug that into a port and load the folder, it's an autorun and should self-integrate just fine. Now... fuses." He goes back to the supply cabinet, returning with a box of fuses and two data keys, one from the console that he just put the control code on and another from a basket in the supply cabinet.
Jazz obligingly plugs in and starts downloading. "Jus don't blow me up, okay? Prime an' Ratchet might get grumpy at all o' us."
Perceptor roots around in his desk drawers, then holds aloft a data logger -- a small box, approximately the size of a tape measure, with a ribbon cable hanging out of it. He hands it to Wheeljack and mutters something about "Not like the last one."
Wheeljack glances at Perceptor. "You want to install the fuses while I get the paint in the machine?" He takes the data logger and hands it and the data key to Jazz. "Plug the data logger in first so we can pull the code if we need to," he says. "A wrist data port should work, the cable should be long enough to let you slot it in under your armor there. Then load the control code."
Jazz does as instructed, carefully slotting the data logger into his left wrist.
Jazz says, "So, how many pick-up points you guys installin' on me fer this?"
Perceptor swabs the connectors to the fuses and gestures to Jazz to present his shoulders for him to swab those connections and attach the fuses. "Four would be the most effective," he says, "Unless you want only half of your paintjob to change."
Jazz chuckles, "Great for costume parties, not so good for infiltration. Four it is!
Wheeljack carries the container of paint over to the paint machine and begins emptying one of the reservoirs of green paint. "Four should do it," he agrees. The green paint is poured into another container, the reservoir washed out, and the experimental paint poured in and then loaded into the machine.
Jazz says, "So what color’s the default? Ya using a starter tone o' somethin' then changing it later?"
Perceptor carefully places the fuses and pulls free the connecting wires so Wheeljack can fasten them to the saboteur's new disguise system.
Wheeljack says, "It should default to whatever the current color scheme on your armor is- goes on primer-white, and effectively dries clear. It's not as durable as I'd like, really- if this works well, we'll see about using it in combination with a gloss coat and see if that increases the durability. I'll program in the color scheme we discussed into the paint booth via the console, and you can try to change it with the control code on that data key."
Jazz says, "Sounds good. How soon before we know whether it's shortin' me out? An' what should I watch for?"
"Oh, the usual. Burning. Smoke. The smell of scorched circuits." Wheeljack says breezily. "You ready to try it out?" His head fins flash bright turquoise blue.
Jazz grins jauntily, "You bet, 'Jack! Do yer worst!"
"Just step into the booth, then." Wheeljack finishes programming the console, and leans back in his chair, waving at the booth.
Jazz hops down off the table and re-enters the paint booth, wishing in passing that he'd brought along a mini-smoke bomb, just to shake things up a bit.
"Now, any trouble at all, anything whatsoever... disconnect those power cables and hurry back over here." Perceptor winces as Ratchet yowls and something crashes in the med bay. "And you might want to steer clear of the Chief Medical Officer."
Wheeljack hits the button. The booth begins spraying paint on Jazz, accentuator arms carefully avoiding his visor.
Jackknife wanders in to check on the lab mechs, "Good cycle you two, need any help in here?" she asks.
Jazz stands very still, paying close attention to the paint ...
From the main area of the med bay, a loud "Ow!" is heard.
"Hello, Jackknife," Wheeljack says, watching the paint spray. "Jazz is field testing my multiphasic hyperchromatophore paint for us!"
Jazz suddenly leans heavily on the side of the spray booth, shaking his head groggily.
"Uh oh." Wheeljack looks for a fire extinguisher. Just in case.
"We should abort," Perceptor says nervously. "That's not a healthy response."
"Probably not," Wheeljack hits the stop button on the paint booth. "It's almost done, though." Jazz is mostly covered with paint- his lower legs and feet are still black.
Jazz sinks to his knees, sparks starting to sizzle from the fuses on his shoulders.
Jackknife hurries over to the paint booth to assist Jazz, "Guess you do need my help." she notes safely.
Jazz says, "Thanks ... 'Knife. I was kinda lookin' forward to walkin' in on Prime, wearin' his colors." Jazz staggers out of the booth. "Perceptor, you got any paint remover handy?"
Jackknife is stronger than she looks, luckily for Jazz. She looks him over and says, "Nothing wrong with your paint scheme dear." she assures him. Assisting the mech out of the booth just to be sure he's steady on his feet.
"Here," Wheeljack has the paint remover already out of the cabinet and into a sprayer. "Jazz, can you stand up? I don't think Jackknife is quite ready for a new paint job yet."
Perceptor tuts. "His paint scheme may be fine, although it may not be once it gets a splash of energon from anywhere," he says.
Jackknife got paint on herself already, silly Wheeljack. "Too slow there Jack." she notes.
"Well, stand still, then," Wheeljack commences with the paint spraying. The paint remover makes paint drip, stripping armor down to plain grey metal and making a messy puddle on the lab floor.
Jazz stands as still and straight as he can, feeling better slowly as the paint is stripped off to the bare metal.
Jackknife sticks next to Jazz, helping him stand there. She gets a bit of the stripper on herself as well. "Well I was overdue for a paint job I suppose."
"I'll put the standard paint back in, but you should probably get checked over by Ratchet at some point before you go back out. The fuses should have prevented any damage, I expect." Wheeljack says, handing cleaning rags and solvent to take off any remaining paint residue to Jackknife and Jazz...
Perceptor sighs. "That may be advisable, even with our physician's current mood. You appear to be recovering well from the paint's effects; however, we have very little data from extended deployment."
Jazz wipes down everywhere he can reach, now feeling much more steady on his feet. With a lopsided grin, he hands a rag to Jackknife and asks, "Get my back for me?"
Jackknife takes the rag and nods, "Sure." she says, moving it over the mechs back to wipe the residue of paint off as well as any remaining stripper.
Jazz says, "Make sure ya keep taking readin's from me, Perceptor -- any data's good data, if ya can use it." Jazz says, "Thanks, 'Knife!"
Jackknife says, "No problem Jazz."
Wheeljack removes the remaining experimental paint from the machine and returns it to the storage container with a crestfallen expression. "Ah well. Maybe it still needs more refining. Data burst me those results when you get a moment, Jazz?"
Jazz says, "You bet, 'Jack, comin' atcha. Say, ya got any good old-fashioned white and black paint handy? Runnin' around in bare metal ain't very classy."
"The data will be more useful after we've removed the logger," Perceptor notes, "Although by then it won't be recording any longer."
"Comin' right up, Jazz, no problem. Sorry about that." Wheeljack reloads the machine. "What colors you want, Jackknife?"
Jazz says, "Well, paint me up, then I'll give ya back yer 'logger -- that'll include any after-effects to the logical end, won't it?"
Jackknife smiles to the question, "My current colors are fine, thank you. White, creme, and light yellow."
Wheeljack nods, but says nothing as he focuses on cleaning up the mess, then moves to the console to program in the new parameters. "All set when you two are- who wants to go first?"
Jazz says, "After you, 'Knife. I'm likely still gatherin' data."
Jackknife smiles, "How gentlemechly of you Jazz." she notes and enters the paint booth.
Wheeljack watches Jackknife. "You ready?"
"The data would be useful until you reach your full power and distribution levels," Perceptor says with a nod toward Jazz. "After that, without the paint, there's little need to track aftereffects."
Jackknife inclines her head, "Ready Jack." she smiles to him.
Jazz nods, looking almost back to normal aside from his lack of paint.
Wheeljack activates the paint booth. "I love this thing," he says happily. "Sure, it's no substitute for a real clear coat job with all the layers, but it sure is fast."
Jackknife mms softly to that, "It'll do the job I'm sure Jack."
Jazz watches the process, waiting his turn. "Nothin' wrong with the effect, 'Knife. 'Jack's doin' a good job."
Wheeljack's head fins flash blue again, and his optics narrow slightly- he's probably smiling behind the mask. "No problem, Jackknife, Jazz- least I can do. That should be you done-" the booth finishes replacing Jackknife's yellow, cream, and white color scheme.
Jackknife steps out once the machine is done and steps over to the mechanism that can do a quick 'bake on' dry. "Well I'll surely will be surprising my mech with the new paint job, that is once he's back from his mission off world." she notes with a smile. "Makes a femme feel young again."
In the Med bay, Ratchet's ravings are starting to become more distinct. "...washracks...slagger...damnable...contagious!" and a cabinet door slams.
Jazz steps back into the spray booth, trying not to think of the last time, a few minutes ago. "He's a lucky mech, fer sure, 'Knife."
"Say when, Jazz," Wheeljack says.
Jazz says, "Any time, 'Jack. Jus' don't paint me yellow, 'kay?""
"Not yellow, got it." Wheeljack hits the start button. "Here you go, regular old color scheme."
Jackknife smiles to Jazz and then sighs softly at the venting coming from the medical bay, "He's been going off a bit too long, must be really serious." she states.
Jazz stands very still, but comments (hardly moving his mouth), "The word 'contagious' is never a good thing to hear from a doc."
"There, that's you done. No, it's really not," Wheeljack says. "Maybe you should just get the doc to look at you later," he adds.
Jazz says, "Sounds like a plan, m'man! Don't wanna disturb him when he's havin' a day like that."
Jackknife nods about the contagious and states, "Best to let him release it and check on him later. I fear for anyone that walks in on him right now."
Perceptor makes a small sound in his throat and goes to pull a blast curtain from the wall, revealing a door. "We have made liberal use of this when the med bay is not safely traversable," he says.
"Yeah, that door has saved our afts more than once." Wheeljack's head fins flash again. "I'll see if I can get the bugs worked out of that paint for you, Jazz- did you take off the data logger?"
Jazz says, "Oops, right -- here ya go, 'Jack. Good luck with the data -- lookin' forward to wearin' that paint!"
Jackknife nods to Perceptor thankfully and heads out the door to get back to her own lab!
First Aid passes Jackknife on his way into the med bay and waves. Jazz nods to Perceptor and Wheeljack, then heads out the door into the night.