Jazz had been half-expecting something like this to happen since the Combaticons found their team leader dead from a shot to the back of the head a few days before. Frankly, he was surprised that it had taken them this long.
Vortex's visor flashed, and his grip on Jazz tightened. "I only got one question for you, Autobot. Who killed Onslaught?"
Jazz looked up at his captor, stunned. "You don't know?"
Vortex shook him hard enough to rattle parts knocked loose by the impact against the cliff side and subsequent fall. "Answer the fraggin' question!"
"I don't know," Jazz said, smiling mirthlessly up at him. "Ain't one of us, that's all I got"
His back impacted the rock face again, and his vision went to static for a moment. He hung limply from Vortex's grip as the Decepticon leaned in. "You're lyin'."
Groaning, Jazz shook his head. "Ain't. We didn't do it. We were surprised as you-"
Vortex flung him away, sending him crashing helplessly into a pile of rocks and rubble. "You're lying!"
Rolling over with a wince, Jazz gave Vortex a sharp-edged grin. "Don't gotta this time. I'm just not sure why you'd give a flyin' frag. Unhappy someone got him before you?"
Vortex laughed at that, a vicious, unpleasant sound the left crawling sensations going up his back strut. "Don't talk about things you don't understand, Autotrash."
Jazz coughed dirt out of his intakes, pushing himself up to all fours. "Why's it so hard for you to accept? Onslaught got himself shot by one o' you. Ain't exactly suprisin'."
"No," Vortex snarled furiously. "It was one of you. It's your fault he's dead."
Making it to painfully to his feet, Jazz limped around to face him. "Is that it? If it was us, it'd be our fault, nothin' you coulda done to prevent it, casualty of war - but if it was a Decepticon, well, that'd be your fault. After all, it's your job to know what other people are hidin', ain't-"
The blow caught him in the face, cracking his visor and sending him crashing back to the ground.
"Yeah, thought that might be it," Jazz wheezed when he could speak again. "But it wasn't us." He rolled, dodging the kick Vortex aimed at his midsection and desperately missing his weaponry. But the Decepticon had been thorough.
Hands caught him from behind, heaving him back to his feet and propelling him face-first into the rock face again. "Stop lying!" Vortex snarled.
"I ain't. Got it?" Jazz turned to face him, one hand clinging to the rocks for balance, his vision flickering and wavering. "We didn't do it. It's that simple. I can't tell you who because I don't know," he said, slumping back against the rock face. "Not for sure, at least."
Vortex grabbed him, lifting him clear of the ground and shoving him hard against the cliff face. "Tell me!"
Warnings flared across Jazz's vision, his cooling systems beginning to falter and fail. "Ain't nothin' solid, but man, think! Who would Onslaught trust at his back? Who would have a reason to resent him? And who fraggin' betrayed all of you before?"
Vortex jerked as he made the connection, taking a unsteady step back and dropping Jazz. The Autobot collapsed into an undignified heap, engine coughing raggedly. He could feel something warm and wet running down his leg and pooling under him, but couldn't get his optical sensors to focus enough to tell what it was. Wherever the fluid was coming from, the pool was growing at a frankly alarming rate.
"It can't be," Vortex growled, his shadow falling over Jazz.
It took a few tries before Jazz's vocalizer functioned enough to say anything. "Tryin' to convince me or you?" he whispered hoarsely.
Vortex snarled, and Jazz braced himself for a blow, knowing that another hard impact would likely knock him offline for good. But the blow never came. Jazz lifted his head a fraction just in time to see the Combaticon take off in a whirl of rotors, banking hard for his home base.
Jazz sighed, letting himself sag against the ground and his optics offline. Whatever else happened, rescue or no rescue, he could rest knowing he'd done his job. He'd turned the Combaticons off the trail, and his team was safe from reprisal. No one could ask for more.
That was the last thought in his processor as he fell into stasis lock.