The darkness didn't last long this time. The world only vanished for a moment, then everything was normal again–
If you could call curling up in a ditch to protect your sister from giant alien killer robots 'normal'. Jace reminded himself, trying not to flinch as a familiar voice started shouting. That's... Epps? What is he doing here?
"Jace–" A familiar voice prodded him, "Jace, are you OK?"
Danielle's face swam into view as he turned his head to see that she was still next to him. It had been instinct that had made him protect her. His sister, his only living relative–
"Just a little bump on the head. Nothing to worry about–" Jace tried to smile, tried to relieve the worry that had suddenly started to wrinkle her face again. "How about you?"
"I'm–" Dark eyes filled with tears, as Danielle suddenly threw an arm around him. "I'm sorry."
The sounds of battle dimmed. Perhaps Epps and his friends had helped 'persuade' Thunderwing to take Swindle and leave. Perhaps they were smoking heaps of mechanical parts now. It didn't matter to Jace. He wasn't a part of it anymore.
Jace was ordinary.
He wasn't one of these fantastic creatures– the soul of a living machine trapped within a fragile human body. Not special in any way, other than having survived when he should not have. And carried the delusional memories for such a brief time.
It wasn't so bad, was it?
"If Jace Hunt isn't special, why did Danielle work so hard to protect him?" An almost amused tone asked quietly. He recognized the voice as his own, and yet– "And why did Donna look thrilled to see him?"
Perhaps Jace wasn't as ordinary as he'd let himself believe. Even if the memories of being Jazz faded, he'd still have something.
They hadn't been fading, however. They'd been getting stronger, even though Jace's own memories had begun to resurface. It contradicted what Optimus Prime had told Thunderwing.
"...You said yourself that there is a more than likely possibility that this is just the remnants of memory. A ghost in the system..."
If Ratchet knew that he was– Jazz was just a ghost, why had he--
"I'm sorry." Danni was letting go. "I shouldn't have kept it all from you. From the moment you– he ran away, I think I knew I was going to lose my brother."
"What? Jace sat up, noting the absence of Decepticon presence in the artificial clearing. "But I'm–"
"I don't know." Danni said. "You– he was determined to help. He tried–"
The vibrations of the ground told Jace that they were no longer alone.
"Ms. Hunt." Simmons' voice– the man was standing next to Optimus– and as far away from Bumblebee as he could get. Jace didn't blame him for that– not after the night his friend had so crudely expressed his disdain for the man. "Are you injured?"
"I'm fine, Director Simmons." Danni rose, "The agents–"
"Idiot one and two are out of a job," the man said with an air of satisfaction, "I wish we could have kept it just a little quieter–"
"Is Ratchet all right?" Jace asked quietly. The big robot hadn't appeared with Optimus and Bumblebee.
"He will be fine." Optimus knelt to study him. Jace was being scanned again, with the leader's limited capabilities. He always did that when he was uncertain about a being he needed to negotiate with. The information came just as easily as the knowledge that Danni was anxious about something– she always twisted her hands like that when she was anxious.
He remembered both– the concepts touching each other– overlapping in places.
"You are injured."
"Nothing a little rest and a little more time won't take care of," Jace would've shrugged, but those bruises were starting to remind him of their presence."Thank you. You just saved my life."
"I could not let them harm you, Jazz." Optimus Prime rumbled quietly, "Not again."
Jace froze at the name. The implication was clear.
"But you said that he– I was just–"
"Would you rather have been taken prisoner?" Simmons interrupted, "The truth would have probably gotten you killed, and us back to square one."
"The truth?" Jace frowned, "But I remember– I'm Jason Hunt. An ordinary guy who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"Then you don't remember what you said," A familiar voice spoke. One that he remembered from long ago, and yet– "What was it... 'I'm not gonna let you face him alone again. You're my friend–'"
Bumblebee's voice trailed away. But he spoke out loud. Jace bit back a sudden welling of emotion. His voice had returned–
"'And I'm gonna protect you.'" Jazz found the words in his memory. "'Even if I have to take him on myself. You're not gonna go through that again–' but I'm– "
"What do you remember about that day, Jace?" Danni asked him quietly, "We were taking cover– you'd been hit by debris, but then you saw him land in the street."
"He was hurt," Jace said slowly, "He'd diverted attention long enough for us to get out of the street– and then he was thrown down. Discarded , like some broken toy– dying. "
"Most likely his spark was fading. The field that protected it was damaged." Optimus sighed heavily, "Ratchet could not get to him, and protect the one carrying the Allspark."
"It was beautiful," Jace murmured. "Like the heart of a star, colors dancing– there was something broken. I could see something– I thought, maybe I could help–"
Memory flooded him.
The orb was pulsating weakly, trapped in a frame that could no longer sustain it. Maybe if he could stop the flow of fluids– piece something back together... He had to try something
Jace reached for it, ignoring the rough pain-saturated voice warning him of danger.
His fingers brushed the white-hot surface of the orb, and –
"You touched his spark," there was no accusation in the voice, "Ratchet recognized the pattern to the scars as one he had seen in Council records. It is not the first time such an accident has occurred."
"I don't understand. What does that have to do with me having memories of both?"
"The light. When you touched it," Danni was shaking as Jace looked at her– as though she was trying not to cry– as though she were afraid he were going to vanish, "It got brighter– surrounded you for a few minutes, and then vanished. You fell. I thought you were dead for a minute– "
"The light was the essence of the being whose designation was, in this language 'Jazz'.It was absorbed into your body." Optimus still spoke quietly. "Ratchet was concerned. The few examples that he remembered ended the same way. Death."
"Not precisely," Ratchet's voice broke in. "There were a few who went mad from the electrical patterns being overlaid on their neural systems, memories being overwritten, changed. Loyalties– they eventually died from the stress, or killed themselves."
They all looked to where Ratchet was standing. Somehow he'd managed to pull himself together. The expression on his face was one of concern, yes, however, curiosity– as though the medic had just found something that confounded his sensors, and wanted to study it further.
He was watching Jace.
"So the dead ones were the lucky ones?" Jace couldn't help wondering. "Insanity doesn't sound like much fun to me."
"In a word, yes." Ratchet stared down at Jace with the peculiar scanning gaze. "The ones who did not die were trapped, not knowing what memory was real, and what was false for the body that they were in. The memory problems were just the beginning. Hallucinations, involuntary actions. I believe the humans would call it 'being possessed'."
"So I'm possessed."
"This has never happened with an organic being before. Humans have untapped potential, and wasted storage capacity–"
"Ratchet." Jace sighed. "Just get to it already. Who am I?"
"You are both." Ratchet said solemnly. "And neither."
"Both?" More than one voice queried in a variety of timbres and pitches, human and other. All with the same note of incredulous inquiry.
"To use a metaphor, the two of you are like rivers. Lives that might have come from different directions. Swift current. Slow current. It doesn't matter– at the moment that you met, the moment that the two of you came in contact, those waters merged and mingled. Initially it would have been a rough crash– especially if the personalities were different. But in time, they mingle, and the waters become as one."
"So I'm going to go nuts–"
"Untapped and wasted storage capacity. There may be things lost, overlapping, or reinforced, but from the scans that I took... the deterioration is just not happening. Your energy signature has been altered, and adapted."
"I was always good at adapting, wasn't I?" Jazz mused, feeling the anxiety lighten. He wasn't crazy. He wasn't strange. He wasn't alone. "So, doc– there's no way back from this, is there?"
"I'm afraid not."
"Then what is going to happen to him?" Danni's voice was strong now, and from the look that Jazz/Jace caught as he turned to her... she wasn't going to back down. "
"He will come with us. We can protect him that way." Optimus told her.
Danni's hands went to her hips as she glared upwards.
"He's also my brother." She said. "I thought I lost him once. I'm not going to let him go that easily..."
"I'm still here." Jazz said, "And I can hear you."
"He's my lieutenant as well. We need to keep him out of enemy hands." Optimus had a similar stern and stubborn expression.
Jazz looked around, wondering if they were going to listen to his opinion on the matter.
Epps was watching Danni with a look of awed fear. Bumblebee already off to help Sam and Mikaela.
Ratchet was looking happier than he had in quite some time.
Sighing, Jazz waited for the discussion to end. No matter what either of these two decided, he would make his own way. After all, Optimus had said it best;
'Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.'