Disclaimer: Transformer belongs Hasbro, not me.
Beta: The wonderful Starfire201, as always.
Warnings: Rape (or at least Dub-Con)
He was floating in pain and nothingness, just waiting for the last light to extinguish. He was so near to peace, to the end... something touched his wings near his abused ports and horror wrenched him out of oblivion. But he was too weak to even activate his optics, or to struggle as the touches returned.
"Slag, he looks bad."
"At least now we know that he didn't work for them."
"Maybe this is the Decepticons' 'thank you'."
Quiet laughter. "Then I really don't want to see their punishments."
"Considering Starscream keeps living..."
"Right. We should hurry up, he's greying."
They moved his body, pain flared up in his mind, and with relief Prowl sank back into stasis. Hoping to never awake again.
"So, finally you're waking up again," was the first thing Prowl heard as his cognitive functions took over their duties again.
Data pooled together, his logic chips gave him back the first impressions without any connection: His movements were limited, he didn't get any information from his doorwings and the voice was well-known. But it couldn't be Jazz. Impossible. Not in Soundwave's cell. Still... what did he have to lose? What if Jazz had been captured as well?
"Jazz?" he tried to ask, but the mouthplates were too stiff and he only managed something garbled and alien.
Luckily, the mech seemed to have understood him anyway, because he answered: "Yours truly. Primus' white knight for justice."
"Oh." He was coming far slower online than he should. Whole systems and databanks were missing, many worked with reduced efficiency and above everything his own processor was running at a far slower pace than normal. Thoughts floated tenaciously along, barely managing to stay coherent.
He managed to activate his optics, and remembered only afterwards that he was only supposed to have one. Hastily, he pushed the memories behind this fact away, far down, and concentrated on the nice realisation that he wasn't in pain and instead in a small, dark room, that he had never seen before.
Which meant it wasn't Soundwave's cell. Relief crashed over him so hard that it hurt for a moment and his optics blurred. It took some time until he got himself under control, but nothing happened during the long seconds in which only his wheezing vents broke the silence. No pain came.
As he finally managed to calm down, his sight cleared. On his right was a completely collapsed wall, having been partly melted away and he involuntarily asked himself how stable the whole building still was. The floor was cluttered with broken pieces that had once been part of a nice apartment, but were now barely recognizable beneath the dust and soot. Mechs had been living here, but the charred walls were evidence of good reasons to move out fast. Windows were non-existent and the only light that penetrated the room came through a rectangular hole in the crumbled wall, which might have been a door long ago. Behind the hole, Prowl spotted the sad remains of a staircase.
Just a few feet away from him was Jazz, sitting on a debris heap, leaning on the wall behind it, an unlocked laserpistol casually in his servo. The blue visor flashed up for a moment as he returned the spy's intense gaze.
"What happened?" asked Prowl, and hated how very weak his voice sounded. His voice box was damaged. He shouldn't have been surprised by this fact, and yet he was. He scrutinized Jazz and noticed that the armour of the spy wasn't dark because of the shadows, but because of scorched plates, camouflage and plain dirt. It was this, coupled with Jazz's words earlier that let him blurt out with frail, disbelieving hope: "You saved me?"
He hadn't thought for a second that someone would come for him. That had been a dream, a naive wish for which he had chastised himself in the beginning. Later, the lie had given him much needed comfort.
Jazz gripped his weapon tighter, otherwise changing nothing of his expression. "Maybe."
What kind of answer was that? Wasn't Jazz his colleague, an Autobot? Confused, Prowl tried to stand up, just to ascertain that his arms were chained to a pipe on the right side and a steel post on the left. Memories threatened to overwhelm his thoughts and he tugged violently on his shackles, but they didn't yield. Limited movement. Not again! Maybe he could break them open, or destroy those pipes somehow...
"Calm down, Prowl." Jazz hadn't moved one inch. "Those chains are necessary."
Prowl vented, once, then twice deeply, logic winning the battle. Frustrated and uneasy he let himself fall back to the floor. "Why?"
The saboteur didn't answer. The astroseconds turned into klicks in which the quiet got heavier and heavier. Jazz's silence seemed impenetrable, while behind the visor he dissected every stirring of the tactician.
Prowl broke the optic contact first, staring on the grey floor. He was so tired and simply wanted it to end. Maybe he was saved, maybe not. Were the chains necessary, because the Autobots wanted him on trial as a traitor? After all, he let all those mechs die. Didn't he? But it was nice not to be in pain for once. To be away from Soundwave. How did he come to be here, anyway?
"Prowl," said Jazz finally and if the tactician hadn't known better, he would have thought that the tone of his voice was... gentle. "Soundwave has hacked you."
"I know." As if he could forget this.
Jazz nodded. "Good. He had you for over fifty orns." He looked straight at Prowl. "It's a miracle that we're even having this conversation."
Even if they weren't friends, Prowl knew Jazz. And he knew when Jazz was trying to avoid telling something. But rarely was it useful to call him out on it. Most of the time Jazz simply needed a bit of banter, then he would tell the bad news anyway. So the tactician only said:
"Fifty orns is...very long." He couldn't say if it was longer than he had estimated. Torture had turned everything into an eternity. Was it really over?
"For these kind of things, yes." Jazz stood up, took a step towards Prowl and crouched down. "It means that Soundwave had time not only to hack your systems, but to change them as well." He pressed his lips together for a moment. When he spoke again, he kept all and every emotion from his voice: "It also means that I can't be sure if you're Prowl or just a puppet. If not, somewhere within you is a sweet little program that will turn you into a traitor."
Prowl froze. Cold fear gripped his spark. "Jazz..."
"Because of this, I wanted to say sorry, Prowl." Jazz smiled bitterly. "Sorry that I have to hack you." He raised a hand as if to touch the tactician's arm.
Though Prowl flinched violently back. "No!"
"It's necessary, Prowl. And you know it."
For once in his life, Prowl was not approachable through logic. Memories swarmed him and let every other consideration vanish in a heavy drum beat of fear, remembered pain and conditioned response. He kicked with his legs, bit, and cursed Jazz in the worst way possible.
Nothing of all of this fazed the trained spy. With cold, professional hands he searched for one battered, barely repaired medical port and held that upper arm still through superior strength. The last orns had left Prowl too weak to be a true danger, especially bound as he was. And Prowl knew this. But he didn't care.
"Sorry," whispered Jazz once more as he ripped the port open.
The pain didn't even let Prowl hesitate for a second. Instead he tried to kick Jazz again, but to no avail. The spy was now sitting next to his shoulder and too far away. But Prowl tried again and again.
With swift movements, a single thin cable struck the port and forced itself inside. Prowl howled. Not because of the pain, but because it happened again and it was Jazz. Whom he had trusted. Had liked, even had wanted as a friend. Jazz, who now betrayed him in an inconceivable way.
Data poured into his cortex, stopped by nothing at all. Soundwave had worked hard not only to destroy every single defense, but in the end he had even destroyed the programs that had built the firewalls and created anti-viruses and changed the codes. What Jazz found wasn't an open door into Prowl's very processor, but a burned and broken battlefield, harboring not even the slightest remains of the razed code structures.
Prowl shuddered, fighting against the memories and trying to fight against the invader. Who had no right! But he had lost so much. All he could do was to weave his core programming even tighter around the Autobot data and wait, trembling in horror, anticipating the worst. There was nothing else left.
Though... this was different. Inside of slowly, ever advancing program lines that shattered everything, he felt feathery light touches. Just asking for little pings, not changing one sign of the few programs that still resembled their original version. Mostly they were programs necessary for survival and the movement of the body. Slowly, methodically, the presence flitted from one to one, never closing in, never becoming the storm of 'too much' that Soundwave had been. In fact, it reminded Prowl of a medic, simply checking if his patient was healthy.
Prowl was far from anything that was in the same realm as healthy. But... the memories of medics, of Ratchet, and the stark differences to Soundwave let his terror abide a bit, until his body wasn't screaming anymore. Only shaking and curling into a very tight ball.
His fear spiked again as the presence neared his core programming.
::Will you let me inspect your core programming?:: asked the presence and Prowl suddenly remembered that this was Jazz. Jazz, who was hacking him. Jazz, the Autobot.
::No!:: he shot back. But this closely intertwined, his following thought was near impossible to keep hidden. It was this intimacy that was sought during interfacing. ::But I can't stop you anyway.::
::True.:: Jazz had never been one for sugarcoating things. ::But I would like to have your permission. So far you're clean.:: The presence inched closer, crossing the first very personal programms. ::Did Soundwave enter your core programming?::
::Yes.:: He had. Dozens of times.
::Will you let me enter it?::
'Never' should have been the only right answer. But Prowl was slowly calming down the longer Jazz waited for the permission. He wanted to end as a puppet of Soundwave even less. But was his trust into this spy and saboteur, this liar and killer, this being that he had wanted to call friend, great enough for this? Still, Jazz was waiting, even though Prowl couldn't stop him. He was waiting and asking. Suddenly, Prowl was reminded of Typhern and the fate of its politicians. Jazz had asked him there as well, but had it been a true question or just a trick? What was it now?
::I let you in, if you answer one question truthfully.::
Jazz was surprised. And a tiny slither of data betrayed relief. This close it was difficult to hide such things. To hide the truth. ::Really? Well, ask.::
::When we were both racing to the borders of Typhern and you let me choose whether or not to kill the politicians... if I had said 'no', would you still have destroyed the tower?::
For a long moment, Jazz's presence completely stopped. It was as if watching a deep and dark lead sea. Then, Jazz moved closer still, came far too near for comfort and Prowl tensed, prepared for a hopeless battle – but then the saboteur stopped again.
::No. I wouldn't have and I wouldn't have given the command.:: Suddenly something like regret floated across them. ::I hadn't realised this has bothered you so much.::
Had it bothered him? Yes. And Jazz's answer only brought bittersweet relief and sharp guilt. The saboteur had trusted him, but all those deaths were really on him. He had killed Autobot politicians deliberately. No wonder he had failed later in the battle...
::You know, Prowl, I never thought you of all people would feel this deeply...:: Wonder accompanied these words and Jazz had moved even closer. Before Prowl could answer, Jazz was touching him. Gentle, carefully, but oh so intimate.
And it was all so very very wrong. Prowl sobbed in despair as everything came back with a flare of his spark. It was too much. Far too much. And he was so very helpless. Vulnerable. Laid open to be taken.
This time, Jazz didn't stop. Just like Soundwave he walked on, touching, entering what was not supposed to be touched and entered. Prowl's thin control that had really been his distrusting, violated sanity shattered amongst the memories and reality, the fact that Soundwave and Jazz, Decepticon and Autobot, made no difference. It shattered, and Prowl fought – uselessly, endlessly, only suffering more for the fact that he didn't give up.
And yet, Jazz, the intruder, the attacker, the enemy, didn't stop. Went deeper and deeper, a spear that knew no mercy.
It tore Prowl apart, and somewhere in his spark, it also burned a belief, leaving only another wound.
Then, for a moment the false-wrong presence stopped, touching something, isolating, raping it. No. No. No. Leave! Without a warning core lines were sliced apart and he screamed as his whole existence disappeared in endless, white pain.
Far away, a sharp command reached at his processor, which shut down its own awareness with resigned eagerness to retread and escape. For ever.
When Prowl came back to reality, he found himself in the destroyed cellar again. This time, his thoughts were clearer and, if possible, his spark hurt even more. In fear he searched for his assailant – whether Jazz or Soundwave he couldn't have said in this moment – and found the saboteur humming at the hole in the wall, cleaning his weapon in the meagre light.
The agent must have noticed Prowl's minimal movements, because he looked up and smiled. "Good morning, recharging beauty."
Panic surged up within Prowl's processor, and before he could do anything else, he was pressing his back against the wall, trying to control his shaking. Jazz didn't behave as if that reaction to him was abnormal. Maybe it wasn't. Prowl didn't know.
Suddenly he realised with surprise that he was able to hold his hands over his spark; there were no shackles around his wrists anymore. Great. For the first time in far too long he wasn't bound. It felt strange. Like a foreign concept or a dream. Obviously he was now considered trustworthy. Funny that it happened only after he had acquired the urge to hurt Jazz as much as he had been hurt.
Jazz was still smiling and slowly standing up. "Don't move too fast yet, your systems are still very tender. My mechs worked for nearly an orn on you just to get you up and moving again. Didn't even touch the damage in your programs."
The word 'programs' was enough to make the tactician flinch. But Prowl refused to show more weakness than that and growled: "No, that was your job, right? To hack me."
"Yes." Jazz walked a few steps closer, but stopped before he was anywhere near Prowl. "To hack you, to check if you're compromised or somehow a true traitor. Luckily, the small programs that Soundwave installed in you were mainly for surveillance and ensuring your weakness. Or you would now be talking to Primus."
That was... a surprise. After what happened to the tactician, there should have been dozens of programs, one worse than the other. But later he could ask himself why. He was too busy fighting the fear that Jazz would hack him anew. After all, could he be sure that Jazz had found all of the programs? That once was enough?
"By the way," continued Jazz. "To put the databanks behind your own core programming is a crazy move. I can respect you for it."
Which said much and nothing at all. "It's not as if I had much choice."
He slowly tried to stand up, using the wall to keep his balance, which was seriously compromised. Still no data from his doorwings, a sick feeling entered his tanks. He tried to move them, to see them, to touch them. Nothing. He had no doorwings anymore. It should've surprised him more, but instead it was only the last horrible thing on a long list. He supposed one could get used to anything. Instead he focused on the fact that standing made him feel better, less vulnerable. It cleared is processor and let him push the matter of his non-existent doorwings down and away. "How did you get me out? And where are we?"
Jazz made a sweeping gesture. "This noble abode is north of Tarn, the city state in which you've been held in a high security cell. And to how we got you out..." He shrugged. "Let's just say that at the moment, every single surviving deep cover agent in Tarn is travelling directly to Iacon, because their covers have been blown spectacularly."
Of course Jazz would be scarce with information. What had he expected of the master of secrecy? Jazz was allowed to hack him, to see the very codes that made up Prowl, but the tactician wasn't even allowed to hear the details of his own rescue? The sudden anger felt refreshing, like a shower after working near a forge for too long.
"Right." He looked at Jazz coldly. "I wanted to hear how and how many died."
Jazz stilled. "Many have died, Prowl. You know this already."
"Yes, I do." If his balance hadn't been so precarious, he would have taken one very aggressive step towards the spy. "I also know that you're trying to keep something from me."
Jazz sighed. "Seems that at least your stubbornness hasn't changed."
For a long moment the saboteur was silent, then he made a handvade as if it all didn't matter much. "Alright. I saw how Soundwave took you on that shuttle. Could do nothing alone against all those Cons, so I put a tracker on that flyer. Since then, we've been trying to get you out of Tarn. In the end, we waited until Soundwave left you alone for once and then... we blew up every single energon facility in the city."
Prowl blinked. "Every single one? Shouldn't they be protected?"
"They were. It took a lot of work, but we did it." Jazz shrugged. "In the following commotion, my two highest ranked spies entered your cell to guard you against Autobot rescuers... they got you out of that cell and replaced your body with a grey puppet which looks very realistic."
It was a very simplified version of the plan, but it sounded logical. Most Autobots would've accepted the version without hesitation, but then Prowl was the Head Tactician. "That's not all," he said. "Tarn should've had far too many soldiers to make this work. And there is no reason that Soundwave has to leave me for an extended period of time. What did you do?"
"Me? Nothing." Jazz allowed himself a curt smile. "But the Autobots might have retaliated after Typhern and might have attacked Tesarus, while simultaneously bombarding Vos, Tarn and Helex."
Prowl stared. "They've started a large-scale offensive?"
"Yes." Jazz took two measured steps towards him, but Prowl only shuddered, too busy trying to compute the information.
"Why?" The word sounded far more helplessly that the tactician had intended.
"Ever heard about this bloody concept of revenge? The High Council deemed the offensive to have many advantages." The spy's visor got darker. "You were one of the advantages."
Revenge. Of course. The dead of Typhern certainly deserved it, even though they had greyed through his failure. And this was all it came down to in the end – his failure.
"I see." He straightened. "I'm not an advantage, I was a possible information leak. This is what we have assassins for – so that they go in and eliminate a threat. Instead you've blown the cover of every spy we had in Tarn, and only Primus knows how many more, and started an offensive that will lead to only more war and death!" He gritted his dentals, trying to swallow the sudden guilt that he had caused that. Instead he let his anger take over and glared at Jazz. "You especially should have known that rescuing me is a dangerous and stupid move! So, what in Primus' name were you thinking?! Why did you sacrifice all those mechs?"
It was rare to see Jazz startled, but he caught himself fast. Anything slow and considerate in his movements vanished, and only left the deadly mech Prowl knew. "Because I'm not you. Because I don't let any Autobots be tortured if I can rescue them. Because I think that the Autobot philosophy is worth sacrifice," spat the saboteur. "And this is the only reason, got it?"
Prowl froze for a moment, remembering their past arguments, their past differences - and now knowing that he was alive because of that difference only. It hurt. With the realisation, the anger vanished and only left a spark-deep tiredness, a desire to let all these be over and a detached wondering if Jazz had truly saved him because he was an Autobot... or just because he had wanted to prove to Prowl that he was the better mech.
"You shouldn't have," he repeated, resigned.
"Good thing then, that this wasn't your call to make, right?" was the cold answer. Jazz turned and walked back to his weapons. "Let's go. Better not to stay in one place for too long." With precise and practised movements, he began to pack.
Prowl followed the mech with his optics, seeing the wisdom in these words. They would be hunted. Gathering his determination, he dared to step away from the wall, his only pitiful security so far. Nothing happened. His balance was still bad, but he could walk without his doorwings. Good.
"We're going back to Iacon?" he asked with slight hope.
"Nope, far too obvious." Jazz grinned. "We're going to Kaon."
Thankfully this was the last hacking scene. Because I was already asked, yes, from here on, Prowl and Jazz will truly develop their friendship... or perish behind the frontlines. ;) I haven't forgotten this. Also in the next few chapters we discover a few more things about their past.