Pairings: Soundwave/Jazz, Prowl/Jazz, who knows what else
Rating: T for Teen
Warnings: a little bondage, some very trashy pulp fiction here and there, some mentions of force downloading
Summary: Surrounded by the torrid fiction of his fellow Autobots, Jazz uncovers a Decepticon plot hidden amidst their written fantasies. Can the Spec Ops commander turn this plot of high treason into a narrative…of love? OR Jazz is surrounded by a bunch of perverted writers, and wouldn’t you know it, one of them is a Decepticon.
His captor froze. The small sounds of his vents, even the faint, normal creaking of joints absolutely stopped. Jazz would've thought that Soundwave had shut down if he hadn't seen those traitorous golden optics widening, taking in every inch of Jazz writhing on the floor.
Oh, like that, do you? Jazz's struggling turned rhythmic, pushing up his hood, then his hips, pulling the chain taut between his wrists just so the rattle-clink could echo around them. And each time, unseen, he bent the welded section a little more, a little more.
"Please," Jazz groaned, straining his axles, letting his engines hum loudly...then slumping back with a deep vent. He closed is optics and bit his lip. "This chain's driving me crazy."
Soundwave watched him as if the rest of the world had disappeared and nothing else existed. His mouth parted, and Jazz had the feeling of a predator quietly creeping up on its prey.
Wincing as if the chains hurt, Jazz gave a sharp snap of the steel and whipped his head to one side, venting hard.
"Jazz," Soundwave whispered, almost inaudible. "Vehicle model...incapable of holding still for long."
That explained it, Jazz thought. The aft's trying to make me go nuts staying still.
Worse, his playacting would be real soon enough. Vehicles craved movement, roaring down the open road, pulling tight turns, breaking all the rules and slinging themselves through the air to land safely despite the laws of gravity. If he didn't find some way out soon, he'd break something in the trying.
"I can't take it," Jazz said, using that as an excuse to dial up his wriggling. "Please, Soundwave, please?"
Soundwave turned completely on his hands and knees and reached out, holding his hand just inches above Jazz. Hovering, but not touching.
You can torture mechs 'till they scream, Jazz thought, but can't grab what's offered you on a silver platter?
He craned his neck, revealing vulnerable cording all smooth and supple, visible in the spaces between his armor. He had more gaps than most, temptingly revealing at all times, and now as he lay still, venting as if he would melt...
"So cruel," Jazz whispered.
Soundwave trembled as he gave into his own desire, stroking his prisoner's cables, fingertips trembling in time with Jazz's engines. His vents were too short, too loud. And the keening whine of his coolant release surprised both of them.
Gotcha, Jazz thought. Now what do I do with you?
"I can't..." Jazz said, looking up with what he hoped seemed like wanton abandon. "I can't control myself."
Neither, apparently, could Soundwave, who grew more confident in handling him. He put his hands under Jazz's back and pulled him up into his lap, drawing the smaller mech back against himself. Jazz groaned in relief as he moved, hands tight on the chain so he didn't lose his grip, and with tiny movements he continued to work at the steel.
Their position was the perfect range for a force download, and Jazz first wondered if Soundwave would try to read his thoughts. Trussed up and held like this, Jazz posed little threat. To his relief, Soundwave seemed more interested in exploring his frame than interfacing.
As the Decepticon's hands wandered up beneath the edge of his hood, however, Jazz tensed, unprepared for the sudden rush of sensation. No one had ever had their hands in the places Soundwave was searching, not even Ratchet. The inner plating didn't even feel the wind when he was driving, and having it suddenly touched, lightly stroked up along the sides-
He bucked, throwing his hood forward as he bent his spine enough that his head lay back on Soundwave's shoulder. The feel of the mech's hands only paused for a moment, however, then spread as Jazz's movement lay bare so much more of his inner workings.
"Jazz, very flexible," Soundwave said. "Query, how is battle damage avoided?"
"Jazz, very quick," he said through his clenched jaw, then hissed as Soundwave fingered the edges of his engines. "Oh Primus...Primus..."
"Sensitive as well."
Forcing himself to maintain control, Jazz tried to lower his hood only to have Soundwave grab the rim and hold it, keeping him bent back. Rather than exploit that weakness, however, his other hand glided down to his hip joints where Jazz's thighs were both splayed and tensed to hold his weight.
If he moved, his hood was pushed up further, so Jazz could only bite back his embarrassing cries as Soundwave's hand slipped up into the space under his pelvic rim. With fingers together, he swept the inside plating, drawing a burst of static from Jazz.
"Some interrogation," Jazz groaned. "At least gimme questions so you stop."
Another sweep of those fingers along his center pelvic plating. The noise coming out of Jazz was feral and incomprehensible.
"Query," Soundwave whispered in his audio, "this treatment, Jazz finds pleasurable?"
"I...I..." Jazz had forgotten about the chain, gripping it only as some kind of anchor to ground himself as his engines revved harder.
The rush of sensation demanded more output from his servos, sending a flood of power and electricity to wherever Soundwave touched. He'd never felt such intensity, and he strained at the chains holding him, trembling with effort.
Jazz felt his servos begin to spark, felt innumerable hums of power along his cables. His fluids pounded through him in a heady rush that overwhelmed his audios. In a moment, he'd overload-
-which sent a spark of panic through him. Overload meant system reboot, and system reboot meant being helpless and unaware. Unacceptable.
Survival routines launched in his cortex, shunting off fuel to the engine and rerouting excess energy to his emergency batteries, then to his cortex. The world slowed down for several seconds as his thoughts sped, processing data faster than was safe. Several neural lines burned their insulation as he overclocked.
Somewhere in all that, he realized that he'd snapped the chain.
"Query," Soundwave whispered again. "Jazz, enjoys this?"
Even better. Soundwave hadn't noticed.
Venting in shaky bursts, chuckling weakly, Jazz felt the prickles of sensation die down. Soundwave's hands still made his plating oversensitive, but overload was no longer a threat.
"Not bad," Jazz said, biting his lip as a final current sparked somewhere inside. "But it takes more than that to bring me over."
Jazz paused. A Decepticon shouldn't be able to sound so spark-broken at failing to make his prisoner overload. Oh, this probably wasn't part of Spec-Ops Mission 98. This needed salvaging and their conversation needed redirection.
"Don't feel bad," Jazz smiled, laying his head back on Soundwave's shoulder again. "You got technique, but no Decepticon'll ever throw me into overload. Now, if you were an Autobot on the other hand..."
That comment earned him sudden dumping on the floor. He kept the broken pieces of the chain in one hand, grunting as his helm hit the ground. He was going to have a biting headache after all this.
"Soundwave's loyalty, unbreakable." The Decepticon walked away, standing at the door with one hand on the control switch.
"But are you unbreakable?" Jazz asked.
Soundwave didn't move.
"'Cause you're finally seeing it, ain't you?" Jazz said, leaning up on one elbow. "That Megatron ain't in this for Cybertron or even his Decepticons. Megatron is out for no one else but Megatron."
This time Soundwave's head tipped forward and his shoulders dropped. His hand curled into a fist and struck the wall, but without any real force. He didn't argue, but he didn't turn around, either.
Jazz watched him, gauging how far he could push. Everyone knew that Soundwave was the Decepticon's most loyal officer. He might not be second in command, but he was the one mech Megatron trusted at his back. Starscream stole any opportunity to try to usurp command, but Soundwave followed orders even if Megatron looked dead.
"What was it like?" Jazz asked, trying a different angle. "At the beginning, back on Cybertron?"
"Certainty of cause," Soundwave answered. "Senate, corrupt and diseased. Megatron..."
There was a hitch in his vocal processor that took a moment to self-repair.
"Megatron," he tried again, speaking despite his uneven vents, "brave and inspiring. Heroic."
Slowly, Soundwave tipped forward, leaning heavily on the door. He put one hand over his face, muffling the low static in his throat.
"Mad," Soundwave whispered. "Power hungry."
Jazz vented out for a moment, then took advantage of Soundwave's turned back and pushed himself up on his knees. One link at a time, he quietly slid the chain out of his axles.
"Then why don't you defect?"
Jazz froze in time as Soundwave whipped around, fists clenched. The golden optics blazed as he spoke, his voice mixing with static.
"Carrier models, programmed for loyalty! Once given, impossible to abandon."
Struck by how agitated Soundwave grew, Jazz could begin to see why the mech had caught him and begun this strange kind of confession. Harboring such intense doubts about Megatron was chewing Soundwave up inside, and now the enemy was the only one he could talk to. So this was the real reason for Spec Ops 98, and maybe all the other books, too. He'd tried to write away his fears and instead needed to act them out.
Which meant that Jazz would need to find out all the books he'd written and then read them. A hell of a reward for surviving interrogation.
Later. Right now he had a Decepticon to help defect.
"What happens," Jazz asked, "if the mech you gave that loyalty to...doesn't give it back?"
Soundwave looked away, his fists moving in front of himself as some kind of protection against what Jazz was saying. Jazz wiggled on his knees, doing a mental fist pump. Yes, got him on ropes, time to put him down.
"Or when the cause changes so much that it isn't the same cause anymore?" Jazz said. "Do you owe loyalty to the dream if it ain't the dream no more?"
"Stop," Soundwave said, choking on static, backing up until he hit the door. "Autobot, silence required."
"If this Megatron ain't the same mech you followed before," Jazz continued, "then what's keeping you here?"
"Loyalty, most basic core programming," Soundwave cried out, pressing his hands against his optics. Sparks crackled behind his finger and, somewhere inside his cortex, Soundwave's own neural processors began to burn with the strain. "Disloyal carrier model, worthless. Soundwave, superior, therefore cannot be disloyal."
"And yet you confessed all this to an Autobot," Jazz said. "Megatron's enemy."
A high pitched wail of static and groaning servos followed, and Soundwave collapsed to one knee. Sparks fired along his joints as he waged internal war against himself. Core programming was everything from Jazz's need to move and Soundwave's loyalty to basic functions of processing energon or sending fuel from one end of his body to the other. To fight against one aspect of programming was as disastrous as fighting the other. They might as well try to tell electricity to flow backwards.
"You've already betrayed him," Jazz said. "'Cause you didn't want me here just to play out your little fantasies-"
"Silence," Soundwave cried, trying to cover his main audios. "Autobot will be silent. Autobot-"
"'Autobot, welcome to experiment and find out'," Jazz reminded him. "You'd already decided to defect. You just needed me to repeat everything you already knew out loud."
Soundwave glitched. Hard. Jazz had seen it happen enough times to Prowl to recognize the signs. His frame jerked and went rigid, then trembled and finally slumped against the wall, with tiny sounds of servos grinding and falling silent. His optics dulled and went out, staring at nothing.
Jazz stood up and went over to him, waving his hand in front of Soundwave's optics. No reaction. Satisfied, he leaned down and wrapped the chain around the Decepticon's wrists. The welding torch still lay where Soundwave had left it, and in a moment, Jazz had him effectively bound.
"Let's see if we can't get a ride home," Jazz muttered, scanning the empty room.
It was heavily lead-lined to prevent signals in or out, but he guessed that Soundwave hadn't brought him somewhere around other Decepticons. Was this one of their outposts? Well, first things first-he retrieved his visor and snapped it back into place, then set about trying to escape.
When the door wouldn't open for him, he knelt down and grabbed the edge of Soundwave's chest plating, pulling it back with a loud screech of tortured steel. The sound made him wince but he didn't stop until he revealed a massive set of wires, processors and chips.
"I really hope you don't wake up for awhile," Jazz muttered, beginning to pull out a couple of cords and stripping their insulation, twisting the ends together. "'Cause this'll hurt a lot if you do."
As much as it hurt when Jazz did the same to his left hand. Patching himself into Soundwave's sytems would have been a lot easier, but no way was he hooking his cortex up to Megatron's communications officer. There was always the chance that all of this had been a trick, and it was safer to simply hijack Soundwave's hardware than isolate and wrestle his software.
"Anyone out there?" he called, broadcasting via Soundwave on the usual channel.
Long minutes passed as he tried to boost the signal without triggering Soundwave's higher functions. Jazz tapped his fingers on the other mech's thigh, looking him over as he waited for Blaster to hear him.
Crumpled up like this, Soundwave looked like a broken doll, and his overly expressive optics looked soft and empty. Jazz knew it was normal for a mech to gaze into the distance after a glitch, but he cupped Soundwave's face in his hand, idly running one thumb under his optics. All those vorns of fighting and Soundwave had kept his visor and faceplate as a shield.
Jazz wondered if he was the first one to see the mech's expressions in all that time.
Thin and full of static, Blaster's voice came through about as well as if they were using a cup and string to talk, but it sounded beautiful to Jazz.
"-Jazz? Jazz, that you?"
He grinned. "Yup, ten four, good buddy. I had a hot load but I'm good to go. Could use a pick up, though."
"Roger that," Blaster said with a laugh. "Tracking you down now. Man, you have no idea how nuts we've been going over here."
"Oh, it's been interesting on this side, too," Jazz said. "When you send my ride, make sure it's got room for two."
"You bringing company?"
Jazz's smile only spread, satisfied as he looked over his prize.
"Oh, you'll never guess who I'm bringing home for dinner."
When the door opened, three mechs came in, weapons drawn, securing the room. What they found was Jazz in a corner with Soundwave unconscious on his lap. Their commander turned down Madonna's Ray of Light and smiled up at his Spec Ops bots with a weary grin.
"Took y'all awhile," he said. "Are we a long way from the Ark?"
"You could say that." Mirage exchanged a look with Smokescreen and Bumblebee. "Why is...?"
"Long story," Jazz said, optics closed. "Real long story."
"So that's what he looks like." Smokescreen leaned closer, staring at Soundwave's uncovered face. "Huh. Always thought he'd have red optics."
Done clearing the room, Bumblebee went back to the door and waved at someone out of sight. "It's all clear! One wounded, one prisoner."
"'Bout time," a familiar voice grumbled, and Ratchet edged past him with First Aid at his side. "Who's the prisoner—whoa."
"No no, it's okay," Jazz said quickly, holding his hand out as the medics took a step back. "He's out. He ain't gonna wake back up until you reboot him."
"I trust you," Ratchet nodded, kneeling beside Soundwave and tilting the Decepticon's head to the side, popping one of his smaller panels and examining his analog switches. "But I'll feel better once I see for myself. First Aid, take care of Jazz."
"Yes sir," First Aid said, kneeling beside Jazz. "Tell me what hurts."
"All things considered, it ain't that bad," Jazz said, nodding at his hand. "I had to peel his armor back Same with my hand. He's glitched pretty bad. Other than that...not much to report."
"Maybe not to me, but everyone else is gonna be interested in this guy." First Aid pulled out a diagnostic kit and plugged it into Jazz's hand port, skimming the code flashing across the screen. "Hang on. I wanna make sure he didn't upload anything nasty into you."
"No rush," Jazz sighed. "It's been a hell of an orn."
"I can guess."
Jazz lay still, venting in relief as First Aid finally disengaged all of his pain receptors, and then watching as Ratchet completed a surface scan of Soundwave's systems. After several kliks and a shared look between the two medics, Ratchet nodded once, and the smaller bot went outside without a word.
"Okay," Ratchet said, turning and helping Jazz sit up completely. "We're gonna take you out on First Aid. I'd rather fix you up on the road. What about Soundwave?"
Jazz's smile faded. "Yeah, we're taking him, but don't let him wake up. Not yet."
"You sure you wanna keep him?" Ratchet asked. "He's not gonna be easy to hang onto. Do we really wanna risk bringing him back?"
"Yeah, we do," Jazz nodded. "It's part of that long story, but he's coming with us. If he don't glitch up again, he shouldn't give us any problem."
Ratchet looked skeptical, but he didn't argue. He ordered Jazz's mechs to carry both Soundwave and their commander into First Aid's alt mode, ignoring Jazz's grumble that he didn't need carrying. When eased inside the ambulance, Jazz insisted on sitting up, watching as Soundwave was unceremoniously slid onto the floor, and then Ratchet sat on Soundwave while working on Jazz's hand.
The place Soundwave had stashed him turned out to be little more than an outpost, but Jazz ordered Mirage and Smokescreen to stay and scout it properly. That left him with Bumblebee driving ahead of First Aid, keeping an eye out for any Decepticons. After several kliks, however, Jazz noticed another car behind them, then another.
"Hey, we picking up an entourage?" he asked.
"Just the twins for now," Ratchet said. "In a couple more miles, Hound'll join up with us."
"Not taking any chances with him, huh?"
"Prowl ordered it," Ratchet said, finally satisfied with Jazz's hand and closing the small access panel. "I think we'll have Tracks and Warpath by the time we finally reach the Ark."
Jazz chuckled. "Should'a told Prowl I didn't need a groupies."
"More like making sure you don't slip out of sight," Ratchet said, "and leave him alone with this mess."
Ratchet knocked his knuckles on Soundwave's case. Both of them glanced at his face to make sure he was still out, but Soundwave hadn't twitched. Even his optics had frozen in the middle of changing inner lenses.
"So now that we got some time, dish," Ratchet said. "How'd you take him out?"
Suddenly finding the window fascinating, Jazz stared at the flat desert road behind them for several seconds before he answered.
Ratchet laughed. "Cute. Like I'd ever believe that."
"Nothing but the truth," Jazz said. "And I just used Soundwave's own arguments. We'll have to check his code out completely, but if he's on the up and up, we may have ourselves our highest level defector."
Ratchet's smile faded into shock. "What?"
"Yup. That's what made him glitch up." Jazz shrugged. "Loyalty programming just couldn't take it."
"Whoa." Ratchet laughed once, disbelieving and faint. "Okay, you can't just lead in like that and not tell me everything."
"Cut me some slack, Jack." Jazz leaned back, helm thunking on First Aid's side, as he shut his optics. "You'll get to read the report anyway and-"
His fingers swept against something small, almost knocking it off the seat. He caught it just in time, then frowned. It was a datapad, and it was still set on the last file it had opened.
Mirage reclined in the comforting ring of Hound's arms, both brave mechs content to take their ease together after the terrible battle, watching the clouds drift by on azure breezes as the earth's golden orb sank, painting the sky in hues of lavender and fiery scarlet. The sapphire waters lapped at the sandy shore, bringing with the night wind the evening's cool wind and the sound of swans floating in idle repose and gently honking.
"That's it," he growled, tossing the datapad aside and crossing his arms, sinking down in his seat. "I'm going into recharge. Wake me up when we get there."
"Awww..." Ratchet groaned in disappointment, then snapped at his fellow medical bot. "First Aid!"
"Sorry," the ambulance said around them. "I forgot I it was in my compartment before we left."
By the time they arrived, Jazz was left with random slow downs and overclocks in his cortex, the effect of a light recharge while his chassis compensated for all the bumps in the road. As they came to a stop, Ratchet stepped out of the ambulance first, giving Jazz a hand so he didn't topple out in an undignified heap, and Jazz stretched the cords and wires that had grown crimped during transit.
Five mechs rolled up behind them, joining the seven or eight mechs standing with weapons drawn, all pointing at First Aid's hatch.
"For crying out loud..." the ambulance grumbled. "He's still unconscious. Get your rifles off my aft before someone gets twitchy."
Officially First Aid ranked below Ratchet, and several of the snipers around them had orders from Prowl himself to maintain the highest alert. However, no one disobeyed medical bots, and with some embarrassed coughs and sputters, everyone lowered their barrels toward the ground. From behind them, Optimus came forward, a noticeably grumpy Ironhide in tow.
"Good to see you back," Prime said, looking Jazz over. "When Soundwave made off with you, we feared the worst."
"You're sure he's unconscious?" Ironhide asked, making way as Ratchet pulled out First Aid's stretcher with Soundwave lying limp on top, still in chains. "Did you get all his weaponry?"
"Yes, mom," Ratchet snarked as he passed. "I just rode with the slag right under me. Of course I made sure he was out!"
"I think you offended him," First Aid said to Ironhide as he transformed, running after Ratchet and yelling over his shoulder. "I'll send you a report as soon as we're done!"
"Autobots," Prime said to the rest of the mechs standing guard. "Escort our prisoner along with Ratchet to the brig's medical bay. Red Alert is standing by with further orders."
Jazz looked up at Ironhide and Optimus, assuming that command didn't apply to him, and he walked with the two of them, rotating his shoulder to work out a kink in the line. As they walked through the Ark's wide main corridor, Ironhide gave Jazz a once over, tallying up the dents and scuff marks he'd accumulated.
"Not bad for an interrogation," Ironhide said. "Gotta admit, I knew you'd get outta there, but I thought you'd be a lot worse for wear."
"He wasn't out to torture me," Jazz said, yawning and leaning against the wall as they walked. "He wanted me to convince him to defect."
"First Aid mentioned that," Prime shook his head once. "I wish I could believe it so easily. Soundwave is Megatron's most loyal soldier."
"It's dangerous just having him here," Ironhide added. "He's gonna have to give us some pretty damn good reasons to keep him around instead of putting a round through his spark."
"Well, hold off on that option for a little while, 'kay?" Jazz said. "If Ratchet can get him online without glitching, I'd like to keep talking to him."
"You think he's legit?" Ironhide asked, a little surprised. "Really?"
Jazz nodded. "If Ratchet says he's lying, I'll be the first one to put him down, but...yeah. Yeah, I think this was for real."
"Well," Optimus said, "you'll have time. Prowl's only waiting on your debriefing before he heads down to interrogate Soundwave."
Groaning, Jazz turned and walked backward, staying a few steps ahead of the pair. Before he even began to speak, Ironhide started to smile, knowing exactly what Jazz was thinking.
"Prowl's gonna have to wait," Jazz said, giving a little apologetic nod to Optimus. "I just handed over Soundwave on a silver platter, and I am running on fumes. I need time in the racks, I need energon, and I need to recharge. Then I'm all yours, I promise!"
Optimus chuckled. "I told Prowl you might not be up to a debriefing."
"Really?" Jazz clasped his hands behind his back, dodging between two mechs that hadn't noticed him coming up behind them. "And what'd Prowl say?"
"That normally he'd understand," Optimus said, "but that this was clearly not normal circumstances. He expects you in his office immediately."
"Slaggin' taskmaster," Jazz muttered. He glanced around, spotted Blaster coming down the hall and deftly snagged the datapad out of his hand. "Thank you very much!"
"Whoa, no no no-" Blaster cried, hand out, reaching for it and missing. "Don't look-!"
"Hey, you knew it'd be confiscated!" Jazz snapped, barely glancing at the screen.
-"I'm scared," Red Alert whispered, pressing his fist to his mouth. "Will it hurt?"
Inferno chuckled and leaned close-
"Can't you stop reading these for five kliks?" Jazz grumbled, backtracking out of the story and into the main forum. A quick search later and he flipped the datapad to Ironhide, who caught it in one hand.
"There ya go," Jazz said. "Spec Ops Mission 98-my report, the short version, courtesy of one messed up Soundwave. Did you know that mech thinks he's a writer? Maybe our commo officer here can tell us what else he's written."
Jazz made his getaway as Optimus and Ironhide both stared at the datapad, with Blaster trying to sneak away. As soon as they cried out in unison "'Jazz's Interrogation at Soundwave's Pedes'?" Blaster was then trapped between the Prime and his bodyguard, suddenly the best bot to question and the best distraction Jazz could've asked for.
Once he'd rounded the corner, Jazz broke into a run. Prowl might be in his office, but when the reluctant third in command didn't show up in the next breem, the second in command would stalk every inch of the Ark for him. Prowl, true to his name, was one of the few mechs clever and tenacious enough to find Jazz when he didn't want to be found.
So he was heading for the one place Prowl wouldn't look, at least not for a full recharge cycle, and there would be a berth and a wash rack he could use. Jazz snuck down into the living quarters, heading along the officer's row. There were no other mechs in sight, but he still looked up and down the corridor before breaking into Prowl's cabin.
"Why do you keep changing the locks?" Jazz said to himself, taking only an extra moment to access the maintenance subroutine and overriding the passcode altogether. "You know I'm gonna get in anyway."
The door slid open, and Jazz took one step in before coming to a halt.
Prowl sat on his berth, a cube of energon beside him, facing Jazz with perfect calm.
"I know," Prowl said. "But it gives me a moment's warning when I hear you whispering to yourself."
Jazz's doorwings drooped and he started to backpedal.
"Spec Ops Commander Jazz," Prowl said, interrupting his flight. "I order you to come in here for your debriefing."
A whimper rose out of the back of Jazz's processor, and with his head hung low, Jazz shut the door behind himself and padded over to the berth, plopping down by Prowl.
"Prowler," Jazz groaned, putting his head in his hands, "you gotta believe me. I ain't got a debriefing in me. I'm gonna fall over any minute now."
"I understand," Prowl said. "You may give me the short version with the highlights, recharge, and then give me the rest of the details afterward."
"Uh huh," Jazz sighed, "sure. Your idea of highlights and my idea of-huh?"
Prowl held out the energon cube, not letting go when Jazz put his hands around it. Jazz only then noticed that his hands were shaking. Prowl had to hold the cube steady for him as he drank, and the sudden rush of energy made Jazz lightheaded. He started to tip to one side, resting gratefully on Prowl's offered shoulder.
"Oh wow," Jazz said, coughing once. "Wow. I'm more tired than I thought."
"So tell me what happened," Prowl said, "and then you can recharge."
Several breems later, Jazz sipped at the cube and relaxed more and more against Prowl, explaining what Soundwave had said, the physical interfacing-he squirmed at talking about that out loud, but Prowl said nothing except to prompt him to take another sip-and finally how he'd made Soundwave glitch.
By the time he reached the part about calling for help, Jazz found himself lying curled up on the berth, floating in an over-energized haze. Prowl leaned over him, saying something about resting and meeting him as soon as he woke up, and Jazz watched him leave, a dark silhouette in the doorway.
Much later, after a session in the wash racks and finishing off the last bit of energon left in the cube, Jazz felt up to facing his fellow officers. A few chips in his head were still out of synch, running a little too fast or too slow, but they were only a nanoklik off and would even out by the time he made it to the brig.
Halfway there, he heard Bumblebee's familiar pedes clunking up behind him, and he slowed his steps for the smaller bot.
"Boss!" Bumblebee caught up, leaning forward to see his face. "Where you headed?"
"Down to visit our guest," Jazz told him. "Maybe swing by Red Alert's, see if Megatron's noticed we got his boombox."
Darting in front, Bumblebee walked backwards, ducking to one side when Jazz motioned and avoiding knocking into two mechs.
"Is it true Soundwave defected?" Bumblebee asked. "Ratchet's been down there for ages. He only came up for energon and he said that Soundwave's been glitching ever since he came in."
"He has?" Jazz frowned. That wasn't good. A glitch could a mech into full system crash, and sometimes mechs didn't come back. "Ratchet say anything else?"
"Just that he sounds crazy, like when Red Alert glitched."
Bumblebee looked over his shoulder when they came to the stairs, using the railing to guide himself down, still backwards. Inconvenient, but no Spec Ops bot took the elevators if there were stairs or ramps nearby.
"You don't think that's why he defected, do you?" Bumblebee asked. "'Cause he glitched and blew all his logic circuits?"
Jazz shook his head once. "No, I don't think so. I got to talk to him for a good long while. I won't argue he's all messed up, but I think that's 'cause he wanted to defect, not why."
"Huh?" Bumblebee tilted his head. "Then how come he wrote all those Spec Ops books?"
Jazz came to a halt, looking up and down the staircase to make sure they were alone. A stairwell could echo voices for several floors, and this was a conversation he did not want anyone to listen in on.
"All right," he said, leaning in and whispering. "You tell anyone I asked for this and I will have you on perimeter duty for the next hundred vorns, you got that?"
Optics widening, Bumblebee nodded once without a sound.
"I'm serious," Jazz said. "I'm about to ask you something, and if I ever hear anything about it from anyone else, I will send you down to Ratchet for spare parts. And don't think he won't use 'em."
"I promise," Bumblebee said, nodding vigorously.
"Good." Jazz took another look around the stairwell, then switched to their internal com for good measure.
I need you send Spec Ops Mission 98 to my personal datapad, he said.
Ohhh, Jazz's Interrogation at Soundwave's Pedes, Bumblebee nodded once.
And then his jaw dropped.
"Oh Primus, no way," Bumblebee gasped.
Jazz grabbed his shoulders and shook him once, looking around again in a panic. Still no one around.
"Not a sound!" he snapped. "And 'Bee, you are way too into this if you knew that off the top of your head."
Sorry, Bumblebee answered internally. It's just that after you came back, all the stuff with you and Soundwave turned red hot. It wasn't that much before—I mean, you and Prowl were always more popular—
Bumblebee squeaked and backed up straight into the wall. It didn't help. Jazz didn't loom over him, but his visor burned white hot into his cortex. Other bots wondered what Jazz looked like under the visor. The Spec Ops bots all prayed they never found out.
—but now it's like everyone's pulling up all the old stories with Soundwave and there's a bunch of them in the Spec Ops Mission series.
Jazz scowled. "And you have all of them?"
Bumblebee shook his head. "No way. None of us touched anything with you in it. Well, except the Decepticon brothel one and I didn't realize it kinda mentioned you—uh, but that's not really important," he said in a rush, scrunching down as Jazz came closer. "Blaster! Blaster has all of them!"
"...Blaster, huh?" Jazz said slowly.
"Prime and Prowl are already talking to him," Bumblebee said. "I think they're sorting out which ones Soundwave might've written."
"Huh." Jazz crossed his arms, thinking, then sighed and clapped one hand on Bumblebee's shoulder. "Relax. Listen, send me that story and then get Mirage and anyone else to help figure out which ones Soundwave probably wrote. Send those to me, too."
"Gotcha, boss," Bumblebee said, watching him turn and head down the stairs. "Where are you going?"
"Brig," Jazz said. "I gotta stop a 'Con from glitching before I can ask him anything."
A nasty thought struck Jazz, a hypothetical title that would probably crop up on the hidden forum. Spec Ops Mission whatever: Soundwave, Prisoner of Jazz's Revenge. He grimaced and decided, Prime's order be damned, he was going to delete that whole forum.
The brig was not a pleasant place. The Ark had several cells, but the Autobots needed them so rarely that most of them had been converted into storage. Only three cells saw actual use. The first one was reserved for Sideswipe and Sunstreaker, usually only for overnight bouts so they could clear their hot heads. The second occasionally held various mechs who needed a firm scolding before being assigned punishment duty.
And the third one held the rare prisoner of war. Some of them defected. Most of them only left grayed out and dead.
Jazz hated shooting prisoners, but at the same time it was easier than shooting them on the battlefield where they could kill him in turn. After so long, better a quick bang and then he could overenergize with Blaster and his crew, and watch his bots dance, safe and sound.
"'Bout time you showed up," Ratchet said, not bothering to turn from his console as Jazz came in. "I'm this close to putting a round through his spark just to put him out of his misery."
Frowning, Jazz came up behind him and studied what he recognized as Soundwave's schematics on the screen. All of the Decepticon's processes lay bare, every weak spot and flawed system, the result of Ratchet's intense scan and analysis. From the warning lights around Soundwave's cortex, Jazz guessed at the problem.
"Can't stop glitching?" he asked, turning and leaning against the console, arms crossed.
"I can't figure it," Ratchet snapped, waving one hand uselessly at the screen. "I can bring him out of reboot just fine, but a couple breems into normal functioning, he just starts sparking and repeating himself and then he crashes."
"What's he repeating?"
"Carrier model, programming failure," Ratchet sighed. He leaned back in his chair, one hand over his optics. "I dunno, Jazz. I checked all his programming. Every damn line of code."
"Not a Primus damned thing," Ratchet said. He sighed and looked up at Jazz. "I'll be honest. I've seen this before. The war gets to be too much and mechs just start breaking. But I've never seen it in a war build."
"Well," Jazz said, pushing away from the console and heading for the cell. "Let's see if I can't work a little magic. Open 'er up, will ya?"
"You sure? Glitched or not, he's still dangerous."
Jazz leaned on the door and stood on the tips of his pedes, peering through the tiny window.
In the far corner of the cell, Soundwave sat slumped against the wall, legs curled against his chest, helm tipped forward and his optics empty. His chest armor had been peeled away completely, hopefully with his pain servos disengaged, and his inner circuits lay exposed for Ratchet's access. Jazz grimaced. They'd never come so close to holding such a high level prisoner, with all those juicy Decepticon secrets and protocols and plans in his cortex, but there was something pathetic in taking it out of a glitched mech.
The lock clicked, and Jazz went in and closed the door behind himself again. He knelt by Soundwave, spotting the stasis cuffs that had replaced the chains. With a rueful smile, he put his hand on Soundwave's shoulder, then reached for the exposed circuitry on his chest. Jazz wasn't a medical bot, but he'd restarted mechs on the battlefield under fire. He touched, and Soundwave responded.
Golden optics glowed, then blazed brightly. With his joints groaning in protest, Soundwave straightened out, putting his hand up to his eyes and fumbling for his visor before he realized he wasn't wearing it.
"Sorry," Jazz grinned, unrepentant. "Left it behind. Only one bot here's cool enough for a visor."
Soundwave stared at him for a moment, looking down at Jazz's red insignia, then at his own purple mark, or where it would have been if his panel hadn't been removed. The sight of his own inner workings seemed to stymie him so that he tried to cover himself with one hand.
That he was confused after coming out of reboot was not unusual. That the third ranking Decepticon looked at Jazz for some kind of confirmation startled both of them.
"You don't remember anything?" Jazz asked, looking at him askance. "About loyalty and defecting and that damn story of yours?"
Soundwave blinked, silent as he called up the memories. Jazz waited, studying him for the first sign of-
"Carrier model, program failure," Soundwave whispered, sitting rigidly straight. One hand slid against the wall, trying to find something to hold onto as his logic circuits began to spark. "Carrier model, program failure."
"Nope," Jazz said, grabbing Soundwave's helm and forcing him to meet his look. "Carrier model, program normal."
"Carrier model exhibiting extreme disloyalty," Soundwave said, hissing static. "Carrier malfunctioning."
"Carrier model not malfunctioning," Jazz insisted.
"Fatal error. Fatal error. Carrier mode-"
"You stubborn mech," Jazz said over him. "You say you're disloyal? To what?"
"Did you swear loyalty to Megatron?" Jazz demanded, leaning so close that their faces were only inches apart. "Dashing, heroic Megatron swearing to save Cybertron?"
"Megatron, object of this carrier's loyalty-"
"Is he?" Jazz said. "Or did you swear loyalty to what he said he wanted?"
Soundwave didn't answer, beginning to arch backward, shrieking digital noise as the glitching began to cycle in a vicious loop through his cortex. Jazz raised his voice, afraid that Soundwave couldn't hear him over his own pain.
"'Cause I think this carrier model is functioning properly," Jazz said. "You swore loyalty when Megatron said he wanted to save Cybertron. When you couldn't believe that anymore, you looked for a way out. Because you're loyal!"
"Keep it up!" From outside, Ratchet yelled over Soundwave's shrieks and the medical alerts sounding at his console. "He's right at the edge, but he's holding steady! Just keep it up!"
"You got stuck between a rock and a hard place," Jazz pressed. "You wanted to save the planet from the Senate and the evil Primes. Megatron was doing that, so you swore loyalty."
Soundwave had stopped struggling, grasping at the wall, seizing up so tightly that his internal frame began to groan and crack under the pressure.
"But then Megatron turned into something as nasty as the Senate he got rid of," Jazz said. "And the new Prime seemed okay. And your programming knew something was wrong."
Soundwave's static went back to a low hiss, but if that was because he was listening or because he'd simply run out of energy, Jazz couldn't tell. He couldn't ask Ratchet for help-if he stopped talking, Soundwave might stop fighting his own cortex.
"Your programming is working fine," Jazz said. "You can't be disloyal 'cause you're loyal to saving Cybertron. You couldn't keep lying to yourself anymore."
Soundwave's optics were already flickering. With a heavy vent, Jazz looked down in defeat. He didn't need Ratchet to tell him the mech was on the edge. Jazz had held Prowl while he slipped into a crash, and he knew what it looked like.
Jazz's head snapped up. "Yes, your programming's stable! Damn, mech, do you ever use your linking verbs?"
Soundwave's static faded. His vents came in short, sharp bursts. He barely moved, staring at the ceiling, trembling with the effort to somehow hold himself up out of a system crash.
"Carrier model, systems operational?"
"Yes," Jazz said, sliding his hand to Soundwave's arm, leaning over him and grabbing his other hand. "You got your loyalty for Cybertron mixed up with Megatron, that's all, and your programming had to readjust."
Soundwave relaxed enough to slowly relax into the corner again. His arm slipped down and lay on his lap. He sucked in a long, shaky vent.
"Soundwave, loyalty to Megatron false."
Jazz bit his lip. Soundwave was still staring at the ceiling, processing what Jazz had said, what he remembered, and what he knew now. If Jazz pushed, he could lose the gains he'd made, but how nerve-wracking it was to hear Soundwave sounding out his loyalties.
"Soundwave, desire to restore Cybertron. Decepticons, no longer working to that goal. Therefore...Soundwave's goals no longer align with Decepticons."
Waiting for Soundwave to continue, Jazz hesitated for several long seconds. When nothing else came, he eased close enough to hear Soundwave's low vents and the tiny servos in his chest whining with activity.
"Who does Soundwave align with, then?"
A long pause followed as Soundwave considered that. With slow blinks, Soundwave shook his head and faced him.
"...not known yet."
Jazz came out of the cell tired, sore and not a little twitchy. He plopped down on the floor next to Ratchet's chair, venting hard, and took the offered energon cube with a nod of thanks.
"You doing okay?" Ratchet asked. "You look beat."
"I just talked a Decepticon down from the edge," Jazz said, sighing after a long drink. "S'worse than watching to see if Prowl's gonna glitch. At least he just kind of slumps over a bit."
"Soundwave's kinda dramatic that way, huh?" Ratchet leaned back in his chair and flipped a few diagrams on his console. "He's doing okay in there. Holding steady."
"Think he'll crash again?" Jazz asked.
"Maybe," Ratchet said. "His logic circuits are still pulling overtime. But I think you did it. If he doesn't crash for the next hour, he should be outta danger."
"Good," Jazz said firmly. "'Cause I don't wanna do that again."
Jazz took another long drink, finishing the cube, and tossed it idly between his hands. He didn't like watching another mech crash. It felt like watching a long death. Worse was when the mech came out of a crash with missing chunks of himself. That Prowl was still Prowl was enough reason to believe in Primus. For crashes as violent as Soundwave suffered, Jazz was amazed he'd come back each time to the same mental spot.
"There's no doubt then," Ratchet said. "Soundwave's really defecting."
Jazz tilted his head. "Yeah."
"That'll make for an interesting report to Optimus," Ratchet said. He glanced down at Jazz, his tone overly casual. "So...how'd you talk him into it?"
Jazz tilted his head just enough to see him from the corner of his optic. "Now I know you ain't insinuating what I think you are."
"Hey, I don't think it was anything trashy," Ratchet defended himself. "That's First Aid. Found out he's one of the worst ones for that slag."
"And you let him live?" Jazz chuckled.
"Couldn't help it," Ratchet vented. "He said he doesn't read anything but fluffy romances and no hard interfacing. Said it helped with the stress of the job."
"And you believed him?" Jazz laughed. "You're getting soft in your old age."
"You know what he gets like," Ratchet grumbled. "It's not like I found out until his slip today. And...well, it's not really so bad. Not once you get over the shock of it, I mean."
A long hiss came from Jazz's filter as it cleared. First Ironhide, now Ratchet. And Red Alert had read enough to bother Ironhide. If things kept up this way, soon the whole officers cadre wouldn't mind the damn stories. Except for Jazz.
The sound of pedes on the steel floor came from the corridor. Jazz half smiled even as he stood up in one fluid movement. One of the few perks of his rank was that there were only a handful of bots he had to stand up for, and only the quietest one of them purposefully scuffed his pedes so that Jazz didn't startle.
"There you are," Jazz said. "Finished running Blaster over the coals?"
Prowl's face remained neutral. "Blaster has been quite useful in narrowing which stories Soundwave might have written. You seem to have featured quite prominently in all of them."
A snort of repressed laughter sort of snuck out of Ratchet, who squashed it with a quick cough of his intake.
"Soundwave was writing stories?"
Jazz crossed his arms and found the far wall suddenly fascinating.
"Quite a few," Prowl said, holding up his datapad. "All of them in the Spec Ops Mission series. Jazz's Raid on the Cloud Seeders' Hanger, Strict Discipline Between Officers, He Wouldn't Surrender, Soft Cables for Decepticon Desire-"
"Okay!" Jazz groaned. "We get it. Soundwave's got a thing for me."
He shot a look at Ratchet, who was no longer hiding his snickering. With an apologetic wave, the medibot sat back down and went back to monitoring Soundwave's processes.
"Not just a thing," Prowl said. "Yes, you feature heavily in them, but all of them involve you offering strong arguments to join the Autobot faction."
"Huh." Jazz pursed his lips, mulling that over. "You think he was working out his issues?"
"I think so," Prowl agreed. He tucked the datapad away again, looking over Ratchet's shoulder. "How is our prisoner doing?"
"Steady, now that Jazz stabilized him," Ratchet said with only the ghost of a smile at Jazz's expense. "He's still on the floor, though. Hasn't moved since."
"After all that flailing, I ain't surprised," Jazz said. "And why me? Why not write about Optimus? He's the one good with speeches."
"Serious?" Ratchet turned in his chair, rolling his optics at him. "You can't figure out why he chose you?"
"Hell, Blaster would make more sense," Jazz said.
Prowl lifted his head slightly, picking his words carefully.
"You're the one who would understand the Decepticons the most," he said, "since you're the one most often observing behind enemy lines. Your unconventional outlook would make you the most likely to listen and offer an argument."
"Nah," Ratchet said with a broad grin. "It's easier than that."
Jazz and Prowl both looked at him.
"He's shiny," Ratchet said with all the confidence of an official diagnosis. "Compact enough to be cute, dangerous enough to take seriously. And shiny. Look at that visor and tell me he ain't."
Heat flooded Jazz's face and throat cables as Prowl actually looked. And tipped his head in appreciation.
"Very true," Prowl said. "Jazz is...shiny."
Jazz cleared his intake with a sharp glare at the both of them. "Okay, you two, we're talking about Soundwave now."
"True," Prowl nodded, conceding the point. "Is Soundwave up to an interrogation? His information grows less viable the longer we wait."
"Mm, can't say," Jazz said. "He's not sure where his loyalties lie right now. I don't think he's gonna go back to Megatron, but now we need to give him a reason to join us."
Ratchet turned and keyed up another window on his console, setting it to play. "You need to watch this before you start asking any questions. It's from Jazz going into the cell to when Soundwave finally stopped glitching. It'll catch you up to speed."
"I'll be up to speed," Prowl said, giving Jazz a look, "when I have the rest of the Third's report."
Rolling his optics, Jazz waved his hand at him. "You'll get it, relax. I just wanted to check on Soundwave before I started downloading the whole mess."
"You knew he'd still be crashing?" Prowl asked.
"Call it a hunch," Jazz half-shruged. "Guess I got a thing for mechs that glitch."
If Prowl's armor could ruffle, it would have. Suddenly Ratchet had sat back down and toggled a few switches back and forth, his head down with one audio up.
"Perhaps I was hasty," Prowl said with narrowing optics, "in letting you give me only the short version. What happened in Soundwave's interrogation chamber clearly affected you more deeply than you let on."
"It ain't like that," Jazz said, frowning as he faced him. "And you know it. I ain't one for being tossed over another mech's shoulder, but that wasn't a normal interrogation-that was Soundwave with more screws loose than if he'd been in a fight."
"And he never interfaced with you?" Prowl said, stepping closer so that they were bumper to bumper. "No crossed wires?"
"No," Jazz snapped. "And you'll see that when you get my download. But he's the biggest catch we've had in vorns and...I've seen what glitching does to a mech."
Jazz's voice dropped in pitch, and he switched to their internal communication relay. It didn't matter that Ratchet was there. He would have done it if they were alone. Something so intimate was only intimately spoken of.
I hate seeing you glitch, Jazz said. And I know what has to happen to bring you to that point. So when it happened to him, it just...I dunno. Struck a chord.
Dipping his head, shying away from looking at Prowl, Jazz took the Second's hand, holding it and worrying at it.
Crashing looks like it hurts.
After a moment's hesitation, Prowl returned the hold.
"It does," Prowl said abruptly, cutting off his internal relay. It was not something he could talk about casually, no matter how sparkfelt Jazz's feelings were. He squeezed Jazz's hand, trying to offer an apology that way.
"His crash...was very painful, then?"
Jazz nodded once. "I made him crash the first time."
A moment passed. When Ratchet realized that Jazz wasn't going to continue, he picked up, displaying the sequence of Soundwave's crashes from his first time waking up in his cell to when Jazz finally talked him down.
"He ain't the type to come back online better than before," Ratchet said, obliquely referring to Prowl. "He starts where he left off, so he was caught in a loop. His code seems fine, but since I don't know what he started out with, Primus knows if he lost anything."
"Then I'll use a light touch," Prowl said, letting go of Jazz's hand. "But this can't wait. Jazz, if you've been key to his stability, perhaps you should accompany-"
An alert sounded on the brig computer, a low level signal that didn't start up anyone's main battle subroutine. Ratchet tapped the button that brought up the Ark's emergency communication system and homed in on the source, the main entrance.
"Bumblebee calling Jazz, Bumblebee calling Jazz," came the bot's voice. "Or any officer if you're there."
Jazz leaned over Ratchet's shoulder and answered, mainly so that Prowl could hear the conversation.
"I hear ya, 'Bee. What's up?"
"We got a bit of a situation," Bumblebee said. "Visitors, actually. Four of them."
"Soundwave's casseticons," Bumblebee said, and now he sounded almost embarrassed. "I think they're trying to surrender."
Jazz shared a look with Prowl. "'Trying'?"
"Well, Frenzy's in the 'on his knees, hands behind his head' pose, but Rumble's frame won't let him get his hands back there, and Ravage and Laserbeak...well, it'd be funny if wasn't those little slags."
"I'm on my way!" Jazz said, already running for the door. He turned, doing a half-step and waving at Prowl. "You coming or what?"
Shaking his head, Prowl sighed and set about the work of outlining the questions for Soundwave. Tacticians were not designed for the snap judgments of dealing with an emotional standoff or surrender, but he could trust Jazz to deal with that, later analyzing the Third's field work. Then Prowl could get down to the task of deciding what to do with Soundwave's unholy terrors if and when they actually did surrender.