Disclaimer: I do not own Transformers. All recognizable characters are the property of HasTak. All unrecognizable ones are the intellectual property of yours truly; their theft is punishable by severe voodoo-induced pain in any and all sensitive organs of the body, followed by eternal damnation.
you know, stealing is wrong.
Summary: G1/Jux compliant. Jazz backstory. Redline's hands were brilliantly, flawlessly white, at odds with the deep blue and silver of the rest of his paintjob. Jazz remembered those hands very well. They had been the last things he had seen.
Warnings: non-graphic torture (sort of)
Author Notes: Cafei insisted I finish it. X3 A second part may be forthcoming if the bunnies don't cease gnawing on my brain.
Set near the beginning of the Autobot/Decepticon war. Jazz is (relatively) new to the world of war at this point.
the beauty of music. They can't take that away from you.
- Andy, The Shawshank Redemption
'Cons, Jazz reflected, were far better designed than most Autobots to cause damage.
Incidentally, they were very good at it, and some performed their duties with far, far, far more gusto than Jazz would have believed had he not been granted the chance to witness it firsthand.
The mech's name was Redline, and the short glimpse the saboteur had gotten of him before everything had gone plummeting to the Pit was of a mech taller than most Seekers and easily as broad, red optics glowing brightly, and a smile that had sent Jazz's systems surging with unease. Even with his extensive training for just this kind of situation (surviving on minimal resources, basic self-repair, resisting interrogation, withstanding torture), something within his very spark told him that this was going to be a mission he remembered for the rest of his life... whether he wanted to or not.
And the hands, of course. Redline's hands were brilliantly, flawlessly white, at odds with the deep blue and silver of the rest of his paintjob. Jazz remembered those hands very well.
They had been the last things he had seen.
He'd heard of this technique before. Sensory deprivation, just one step above spark isolation. Each was deadly in its own way, but spark isolation was used only when cruelty, not results, was the objective. One could repair disabled or damaged sensors. Returning an extracted spark to its shell after being trapped in a sensorless containment cell? The damage done to the spark would have been irreparable, madness or complete catatonia in the best case scenario, spark extinguishment in the worst.
He ran one hand along the floor. Smooth, he thought. Most likely metal. A brig? The fine-tuned sensors in his fingers had either been disabled or set at their lowest sensitivity. He could feel, but it was distant, a shadow of what he should have been able to sense.
But that was all that was left to him.
Internal sensors -radar, communications, everything- had been disabled. Audio receptors? Disabled or removed. And his optics...
Pain was a constant, an agonized scream running through his systems, and therein lay the beauty of this technique. Even as he hated the very thought, the darker part of his mind could appreciate the artistic touch of disabling or inhibiting all sensors except for those in damaged areas. And blocking his system-controls to prevent him from offlining the pain receptors? Redline was a master of his art.
His face was afire, as was his side where the Seeker's shot had caught him during the return trip from his mission. His legs were useless, but where was the use of walking when he could not see where to walk? He could have been sitting in the very entranceway of the Decepticon base for all he knew, and again that dark corner of his mind could see and appreciate the irony of that thought.
Scouting out Decepticon raiding parties... He wanted to pummel the mech who had thought up that mission. Retrograde really was not ready to lead his own unit. Raiding parties? What kind of threat were scattered, unsettled raiding parties when the Decepticons had managed to create an entire underground base right under the Autobots' collective sensor grids?
Oh, if only he could get back to HQ with that little energon goodie.
There was the faintest hint of vibration beneath his fingertips, and then pressure against the side of his helm and a spike in the throbbing pain of the severed wires behind his faceplate.
An uplink. Another presence, harsh and foreign, grating against his firewalls.
Do you miss your optics, little one?
Jazz laughed. Or rather, he thought that he did. His processor sent the appropriate signals, and he felt a change in the non-audible thrum of his systems, but whether or not any actual sound emerged was unknown to him.
Hello, Redline, he said, mouth moving and appropriate signals transmitting to his vocal processors. Whether or not he was heard was up to the 'Con.
Had his vocal systems been damaged before he'd been cut off? He didn't think so, but he could not remember how long he'd been sitting here, either -a chronometer was a kind of sensor, too, after all,- and any medic would say that too long without proper recharge, maintenance, and fuel or even too long a period of stress could damage lesser, unecessary systems while one's shell focused its resources on keeping primary systems running efficiently.
It really was such a beautiful sight.
I almost wish you could have seen it.
Nice sunset? Jazz knew little about the planet that was not tactically relevant, but he did remember that it was a rugged, harsh lump of lifeless rock. The energon veins deep beneath its crust were all that made Bernabier's second moon of any interest to the Cybertronian factions. It was not, in Jazz's opinion, beautiful.
Seeing those worthless shells of your fellows burning so brightly in the night.
Quite careless, you Autobots are.
The pressure at the side of his helm vanished as did the presence within his systems, and the saboteur held himself tensely, waiting, and though he did not know how much time had passed -kliks? breems?- when the expected pain came, it came with a vengeance, and even if he could not hear, Jazz knew that he was screaming.
The tune was going to drive him insane.
He could remember the first several measures of the song, a rather old one of the days before there were such things as Autobots or Decepticons and instead all were simply Cybertronians. He turned the notes over in his mind, replaying them over and over again, and though his vorns as a musician had lent him something of a supernatural ability to remember and analyze music, the rest of the song eluded him.
It was simple -elegant in its simplicity, actually- and one of the first songs he had ever learned because of that. It was also looping constantly through his hazy consciousness, and if he did not remember the rest of the tune soon, he was certain that something important within his systems was going to fizzle and pop out of sheer frustration.
He felt adrift, as though he were hovering in the middle of a vast darkness, and his fingers continued to make unsteady circles upon the fuzzy presence that he assumed was the floor. It was as though his entire being had been wrapped in the soft, shredded insulation used to ship the smallest, most delicate of cargo -'packing fluff', he'd heard one supply officer call it, and the name brought a flicker of amusement even trapped as he was within this strange mix of nothingness and searing pain.
His energy levels, worryingly low, had not dropped so far as to force him into stasis, but he harbored a suspicion that stasis was not what awaited him should he ever reach that point; torture was hideously ineffective if the subject dropped into stasis just when it seemed one was getting results.
What had they told him at the Academy about lowering stasis requirements? It had not seemed like something important at the time, but he hunted through his memory files for the information anyway...
His shell would do its best to continue running on what was available, cutting off all extraneous systems not immediately connected to survival or manually rewritten in his programming as a necessary system. The difference would be his processing systems; they would continue to operate as best they could, draining his energy away when stasis would have withheld it to preserve his life until a medic could find and tend him.
And as he watched, his levels were not dropping at all. Was he actually hooked up to an energy source?
How thoughtful of them.
Even as his attention, fleeting as it was, wandered back to that same ridiculous snippet of music, there was pressure upon the side of his helm once more, and the data exchange link was reopened.
Do you miss your optics, little one?
Jazz did not laugh. He did not reply. This was but the latest of many such visits, all with the same greeting.
But the song... Was the next note a flat or a sharp? Up the scale or down? It was so close but hovering just beyond his grasp, like some phantom bit of code in his systems that he could not track down to delete.
Fire exploded all along his side, and his processor conjured up grisly images of what sort of damage the 'Con could possibly be causing now. He did not know whether he cried out or not. He doubted that his systems were capable of producing more than a garbled moan at this point.
Will you speak with me now?
Or will you simply scream?
The pain surged again, and Jazz was hazily aware of the slow drain upon his energy reserves. He watched as the numbers fell and dropped far past the normal stasis point and continued to fall.
The pain faded.
Tell me what I want to know, and perhaps I'll be generous in return.
Would you like to hear again, perhaps?
Jazz focused, really focused, and made certain that his processor sent all the appropriate signals to his vocal systems as clearly as possible.
The Decepticon's retaliation should not have surprised him, but pain of any kind was always a shock.
There was no stasis. There was no recharge.
There was no time.
He barely felt the pressure upon his helm, and when the link was established, the other presence did not grate against his firewalls, sitting quiety beyond them.
Your designation is Jazz, correct?
He thought about the question, trying to push the song out of his thought processes while he considered. He decided on a compromise: a reply but not an answer.
Who are you?
I'm here to help. Is your designation Jazz?
How did you find me?
What matters is that I have.
I can help, but you must drop your firewalls.
Let me in.
Who sent you?
Lower your firewalls.
Who? A flash of alarm, muted and unfocused, rushed through his systems. His energy levels, restored to their previous low but not dangerously low levels, dropped as systems tried to respond to the shock. A Prime?
I cannot aid you with your firewalls in place.
What is a Prime doing here?
Will you comply?
I have information for him.
I will see that it gets passed along.
Again, I ask, lower your firewalls.
I have to talk to the Prime.
What was the code? 425? 483? His memory logs did not want to cooperate with him, but gamma-level security issues should have been enough to get him the Prime on the next transport to speak with him and a guard complement to insure no forced data-interfaces.
... gamma-level security information.
I have to speak with him.
Tell me, and I will tell him.
Lower your firewalls.
Hope was such a fickle thing. What had been a growing swell of purpose within him disintegrated into ash.
You first, Redline.
That became the new routine. No more 'little one's and no more queries about his missing optics. Periods of agony swirled and mingled with moments of almost-peace when the quiet presence would come and sit and coax that he give his trust, lower his firewalls, give encryption codes, and as the not-time passed, the lines of reality blurred.
He had given up on remembering the true tune of the song that still plagued him. He conjured up scales and trills and dances of sound so complicated that he wondered if anyone could reproduce them outside of his mind. Sometimes the tune was quick and simple, sometimes epic and grand. Sometimes it was bright and jaunty, sometimes slow and somber.
The song became a companion even more than that other presence could hope to be.
There was a time that came when the faint tremors beneath his fingers were stronger than ever, but the presence did not appear to chip away at his sanity and there was no pain beyond what had become a constant within his systems. Faint hints of pressure at his neck came and went, but that was all, and the hum in the floor faded and vanished.
It was then that his energy levels began to drop, and there was no mysterious outside source to replenish them now.
His systems began to slow.
"Poor slagger. Think he's the missing agent?"
"Look at this place. More computer systems in here than the rest of the base combined."
"Probably for deciphering spark encryptions."
"You think... they broke his firewalls?"
"Slag. You'd better hope they didn't."
"Someone call the higher-ups. They'll want to look at this."
The packing fluff that surrounded him seemed to have leaked into his mind. His thoughts were slow and stupid, his energy levels low enough that he knew he should be terrified... but he lacked the energy to feel more than a vague sort of disappointment.
Vibrations beneath his fingers.
Was that important?
The vibrations were not important. What had he just been thinking...?
He had felt something.
He hadn't felt more than pain for so very long, but there was something, a hum, a tingle, the feeling of something light and ethereal touching something that should not have been able to feel touch, like a breeze upon his very thoughts, like the music that was his only companion.
... what had he been thinking about again?
"What are you staring-- Primus, leave him. Cleanup crews will get him when they come through."
"Did they send down the equipment? They'd better hope those encryption keys are worth what it took to get them... Hey. Hey! Stop gawking."
"Can't you hear that?"
"There's nothing to hear. Get your aft over here."
"It's like... humming."
Pressure upon his arm. Fleeting and soon gone.
Against his neck.
Upon his hand.
His fingers twitched beneath the pressure, and the touch vanished as quickly as it had come.
It returned almost as soon as it had left, pressing against his helm and then his neck, resting there for longer than his disjointed thoughts could account for. The song ran through his mind in scattered ribbons of sound, and he was torn between which to devote his very limited attention to. The song won.
"What the frag are you doing? Stop that, you're going to damage yourse--"
"He's still alive. He needs an energon transfusion."
"Call a medic. Now!"
"Are you out of your proce--"
"I said now!"
His energy levels were stable.
The realization was accompanied by an odd mix of surprise and resignation, and when the data exchange link was opened, he waited dully for the presence to come and begin its siren song of trust and salvation.
Autobot, do you read me?
He replied with a disinterested hum, uncaring whether any sound actually emerged, more focused upon his melody.
I need you to lower your firewalls.
Your systems have been altered to dangerous settings.
Forced repair will take too long.
Let me in.
I've told you before.
You go first.
There was a pause, and his attention drifted to the arpeggio that was forming with slow surety at the tail end of his most recent composition.
The presence outside of his mind shifted.
I am designation Prowl of the Autobot faction.