Mirage crouched in the alcove, clutching his injured leader out of sight. He barely dared to cycle an intake as the thunder of Decepticon troops passed them by. And despite his injuries, Jazz kept silent as well. Mirage looked back at him and internally corrected himself. Jazz was blind as well as injured – his visor had been all but shattered and Mirage could glimpse the dead optics through the splinters and gaps.
He shivered in their moment of shelter and wondered just how this had all gone so terribly wrong. The operation had been simple enough – get in, get their officers from the POW bunker, get out. Between them, there wasn't a Decepticon stronghold Mirage and Jazz couldn't infiltrate. But when they got to the bunker, they found it empty - unused, almost - and an ambush lying in wait.
Nothing had indicated a trap. Mirage could spot those with ease, and so could Prowl – and if not, Jazz often proved his uncanny intuition true. No, this had Soundwave's mark all over it. And they could have even prepared for that, had not every single report of theirs indicated Megatron's third was in Kaon. Some of those had been his own reports! What had they missed?
"Raj," Jazz murmured, voice hoarse.
"Shouldn't shush yer superior," he muttered. Despite himself, Mirage smiled. "'Sides, they're gone."
Considering Jazz's audios were probably twice as sensitive as his own, Mirage took Jazz's word for it. "Then it seems my decoy worked."
"'Course it did," Jazz replied. "I taught ya that."
Shaking his head, Mirage leaned forward and pressed a brief kiss to Jazz's mouth. "We should make our escape now, then."
"Shouldn't be lettin' me slow ya down."
"You got hit in the head too many times," Mirage sniffed.
Jazz chuckled weakly. "Nah, just the once," he said.
"Let's go." Mirage tugged him up, letting his superior's weight rest against him when needed. He did another hurried scan of the hall before leading them down it. There had been other times, during games of trust, in which he'd lead Jazz – visor off, dead optics ghostly on his shoulder – through the comfort of his own quarters.
Now, of course, the tension was from pain and fear and confusion, not from anticipation and the slow burn of arousal. The loss of energon made them jittery, their plating knocking together and inspiring cold, not heat.
Mirage didn't allow himself to focus on these thoughts. The mission failed, but it wasn't a complete failure if only they could get out, get back to safety. Internally, he pawed through data and schematics, looking through every scrap he'd stored on this wretched place. It was almost awkward, leading them through the underbelly of this deathtrap and looking for an escape at the same time, but he knew Jazz listened intently and would alert him if he heard the first hint of a thing.
Every hall looked the same! Dim, blue with the lockdown lights, dreary. Like Jazz's dead optics. Mirage searched all the more desperately, correlating their projected location with cobbled together maps, searching... even the dark night outside would be far more welcome than this. And then... he saw something -- that wall looked strange. It wasn't anything big, but it was glossed over in the schematics and once he put his hand to it -- then through it -- he realized why this internal map hadn't made sense. Still, the hologram had been flimsy; even on his worst day, Hound could produce better.
What had looked like a solid wall was actually a passageway. One that he could clearly see once he filtered out the newer data on this place's structure. Of course. Soundwave was clever, for sure, which meant this could also be a trap. But did he really have a choice?
"Go on," Jazz said, and Mirage nearly jumped at the voice so close to his audio. "I'm feelin' a hologram, right?"
"Yes. It's probably a trap."
"Prob'ly. But if yer decoy was good enough, won't nobody be here to trap us."
"Well, yes, there's a chance..."
"So take it."
Mirage did as instructed, if only to get out from the middle of a not hidden hallway. The chance was slight, and that didn't help the cold feeling in his spark. Something was dreadfully wrong here. Something was telling him he didn't want to see on the other side of this corridor. But what were they to do? There was clearly a way out past the first destination -- a large chamber.
For some reason, that didn't make Mirage feel any better.
He lead them on in silence, not commenting about how much Jazz needed to lean on him, not thinking about the sound of energon leaking in drops behind them, not thinking about anything at all until he was faced with a large door. Mirage paused only a moment, before shifting Jazz's weight and hacking the door's lock. The hydraulics hissed and the doors slowly drew back, and Mirage again felt that dread. What waited here? Another ambush?
Blowing a harsh vent out, Mirage drew himself up and pulled Jazz along again. Whatever it was, he'd rather surprise it than the other way around. Only, he soon found out, there was nothing to surprise. His first impression was an abandoned battlefield. But that was absurd, and that sick feeling of dread grew into horror as his processors caught up with what his optics were feeding it.
"What is it?" Jazz said. No doubt he had heard the stalling cycle of his intakes.
"...Nothing," Mirage lied.
Every single one of the bots they had come here to retrieve, and more – Autobots, their own, that they had been trying to save – laid slaughtered about them. Obviously this room had been constructed as the true POW bunker, not the false one they had walked right into. The energy bars weren't active, as they no longer served any purpose, but Mirage could see the generators. The floor they walked on was slick, and he tried desperately not to think of that. It was bad enough seeing parts and limbs scattered, dead optics staring at the ceiling, or the wall, or at Mirage himself; here a hand, there a pede, even a few crumpled things he was sure were crushed sparkchambers.
"Don't lie to a blind mech." Even though Jazz's voice sounded lightly reprimanding, Mirage could detect the underlying tension. Not seeing what caused even these subtle reactions in Mirage obviously took its toll, but the spy had no intention of enlightening him.
"Lies are better sometimes," Mirage finally replied. Jazz was better off not seeing. He didn't have to know just how terribly they'd mishandled this operation just yet. Right? "Now come on. Just ahead there's a weak point..."
Talking didn't help the tension, and silence only made it worse, but they got across the grisly room. And they got to the weak point. It appeared that Jazz was right; Mirage's decoy had distracted the Decepticons long enough to allow their escape.
"I'm going to put you through first," Mirage said. And true to his word, he helped Jazz up and through the opening he'd made.
"You'd better fill me in later," Jazz said. Nothing was joking about the reprimand in his voice now.
Mirage smiled, optics dimming as he sighed. "I promise," he replied. Leaning forward, he kissed Jazz again. If this was the only way he could protect his superior – his lover – so be it.