“Relax,” said the night man, “we are programmed to receive. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” – Hotel California, The Eagles
“Slag! We've got another leak! Hand me that clamp!”
“Forget the clamps, just close them off and we'll fix them later!”
“No buts! Just do it! His spark will gutter if he loses any more fuel!”
“Frag! Where's it all coming from?!”
“Primus damn it! They've got his fuel and coolant lines switched! What the frag were they doing?!”
“The scouts … they found his legs, sir...”
“What is that? Is that glue?! Get me the solvent! NOW!”
Jazz floated in and out of consciousness as the medics worked on him. He was only half aware of them and what they were doing, but he was fully aware of the pain. An ache that managed to be both sharp and dull, far away and all encompassing. A part of him knew that the medics were going to help him, were going to take the pain away. But at the same time, he remembered that the Decepticons had promised the same. And they had, only to replace it with stark terror as he watched his body commit atrocity after atrocity, completely incapable to regaining control. Then a horrible thought came into his processor. This wouldn't be the first time he'd been “saved” by his fellow Autobots. This wouldn't be the first time the medics had worked feverishly on his broken body. But all those other times had been cruel psychological games designed to break his will and tear down his defences. Was he really in the brightly lit med bay of Iacon surrounded by friends and colleagues? Or was this still that cold, dark cell deep in the bowels of Darkmount? The frantic words of the Autobot medics morphed in his audios until all he could hear was insane laughter and that horrible, never ending clicking. With weak hands he reached up and batted at the nearest medic, trying to get him to go away.
“Slag it! He's online! Ratchet! What do we do?”
“Get out of the way and let me-”
Jazz continued to struggle feebly as he felt strong, gentle fingers move across his body. Then the voices and the noise and the sensations were suddenly cut off as he felt a sharp pinch and was forced into recharge.
Jazz came back online slowly, clawing his way back up from what felt like the bottom of a deep dark pit. The pain from before was now just a dull remembered ache, and for the first time in as long as he could remember, he felt whole. At least physically. Mentally was something else entirely.
“Jazz? You online?” The voice was soft, young, filled with concern. “Come on Jazz, online your optics. Please?”
After a moment of fishing though his fogged processor, Jazz pulled up a name to match the voice. Bumblebee. The small yellow minibot had just been made a full time member of Special Ops and had taken Smokescreen's place in the trine.
“... m'okay, Bee ...” Jazz's voice was hoarse and low, and his vocalizer fizzed and popped slightly as he spoke.
“Shh, Jazz. I'll go get a medic. Just don't talk, okay?” Bumblebee said, laying a hand on Jazz's arm and squeezing gently.
It was a simple movement intended to calm and reassure. But at the pressure something snapped in Jazz. This wasn't the first time the minibot had reassured him. It wasn't the first time he'd gone to fetch a medic. And those other times had ended in pain and horror.
“No ...,” Jazz whispered. “No, not again ...”
He pulled away sharply and scrabbled away from the yellow mech, but the berth ended before his exit, and he collapsed onto the floor in a heap. Sensors and cables snapped out of his body as he fell, spraying the floor and berth with energon and other fluids and setting the monitoring equipment to screaming out in distress, warning that the patient had guttered. Instantly Jazz lashed out at the machinery, silencing it with one well-placed strike.
“Jazz! Come on, Jazz, it's me! It's Bumblebee! We're not going to hurt you. You're safe now!” Bumblebee pleaded, coming around the berth, careful not to slip on the spilled fluids. He had his hands up and out in a submissive posture, entreating the saboteur to relax.
But Jazz would have none of it. It was too much! He'd been through this too many times and he wasn't going to fall for it again. With a sudden surge, he launched himself at the minibot and before Bumblebee could react, Jazz had rolled once and sent the tiny spy flying. Bumblebee hit the wall hard, but he had his feet under him in an instant and was crouching in defence.
“Jazz, I'm Bumblebee, remember? I'm your friend. I want to help you.” Bumblebee modulated his voice carefully so that he sounded innocent and harmless.
Jazz looked at him, optics wild with anger and fear, but for a moment it was as if Bumblebee was getting through to him. Silence descended over the med bay as the two Special Ops officers stared at each other in a stand-off of wills. Then the door to the back of the bay opened and the moment was lost.
“Bumblebee, what’s going-”
The medic’s question was cut off before it was out completely. Jazz spun and crouched low, his body stilling completely.
“Hoist, back up slowly and don’t do anything sudden,” Bumblebee intoned carefully, never taking his optics off Jazz. “Jazz, look at me. Come on mech, you’re in Iacon. You’re among friends here, remember?”
He took a step forward reaching out one slow hand toward the saboteur in an attempt to get his attention away from the medic.
Jazz’s head turned so fast in Bumblebee’s direction that the small spy had to fight the urge to step back.
“You’re safe, Jazz. I promise you.”
Jazz wasn't hearing his comrade, however. His optics were dark and wild and he didn't see the bright med bay, didn't hear Bumblebee or the medic. In his mind he was somewhere far darker and his audios were filled with insane, chittering laughter.
“Jazz, come on, you're safe here,” Bumblebee repeated in a slow, calming mantra. He recognized the look and knew that Jazz was at his most dangerous right now. A mech who had lost control like this was dangerous; one as skilled as Jazz was deadly.
He moved toward the door slowly, blocking Jazz's exit into the base proper. There was no telling what kind of damage he would do in this state, but Bumblebee knew exactly how security would respond, and it would be a slaughter.
“Jazz, I swear to you, you're safe,” he said calmly. “Ratchet and his staff’ve been working on you non-stop since we found you.”
“That’s right,” Hoist said, taking a step forward.
Bumblebee couldn’t help but notice that he was carefully keeping his left hand hidden. And if Bee had noticed then there was no way that Jazz hadn’t. Before the little spy could warn Hoist, Jazz struck. With almost unimaginable speed he grabbed the medic and sent him flying into a far table. Hoist struck with enough force to send pieces of his armour flying off in all directions. With a groan the medic collapsed, his optics flickering before going dim. From where he was standing Bumblebee could hear Hoist’s engines still working, but he wouldn’t be online much longer if Jazz continued to view him as a threat.
“Jazz, please,” Bumblebee said softly, doing what he could to distract his commander and stop any further attack on the fallen medic.
The saboteur spun, his optics still dark and wild, clearly not seeing the bright medbay. Bublebee stepped forward, hands outstretched at his sides to show he was unarmed. “Jazz, none of us are a threat. The medics will do everything they can to help you. We all will.”
He continued to approach Jazz with a slow, measured step. “We’ll have you right soon, you just need to trust us and let us help you.”
Unfortunately, this was the worst thing the young special ops agent could have said. Every time the Decepticons had allowed him to escape, they used that same line on him, convincing him that he was back at base and among friends. They’d always asked for his trust, and when he gave in, that was when the torture really started.
Without a sound Jazz struck. Moving fast as lightning, he grabbed Bumblebee’s arm and pulling him in close against him. The little spy grabbed hold of Jazz’s arm, trying to pull away as his fuel lines were compressed in a stranglehold.
“Jazz!” Bumblebee whispered, panic in his voice. “Please! We’re not a threat!”
The pleading words never penetrated the haze of anger and hate that flowed through his entire being. Never letting go of his victim, Jazz reached behind him and grabbed the first tool his hand landed on. With a quick upward thrust he impaled the scalpel into Bumblebee’s chest until he felt it connect with the fuel pump. A vicious twist of the blade cut off his victim mid-scream, and Jazz dropped him unceremoniously to the floor before making his way out of the medbay at a run.
He knew this session. He’d been through it more times than he could count and he knew exactly what he needed to do. On silent feet he moved through the base, whispering thanks to the maker that it was between shifts and the side halls were empty. He knew the base like the back of his hand, but even his intimate knowledge of every hallway, air duct, and crawlspace wouldn’t do any good if he was spotted. That had already happened once and it was an experience he would never go through again.
Admittedly, he could kill anyone who got in his way easily enough, but there was no point in alerting his quarry. He had already made a mistake by not hiding the ones in the med bay. The bodies would be found soon enough and then the warnings would sound.
He slipped into an empty office and logged into the system as Bumblebee.
“Access denied. Invalid password,” Teletraan Alpha intoned in the soft, neutral tone it always used.
A soft growl escaped Jazz’s throat as he started to hack the system, accessing a backdoor that he wasn’t supposed to know about. Moments later he was in the system and identifying the location of the rest of his targets. He’d be able to hit them one right after the other.
The first though had to be the most important. Just in case.
Logging out of the system, he left the office and headed to the command centre.