September 14, 2011
(Intelligence Compound, Polyhex)
Alpha had done... something, when he was there- if that hadn't been just the product of First Aid's exhausted processor giving up and throwing up random defrag hallucinations, and First Aid had been able to slip into a real recharge for the first time in days, the pain slipping into the background to a level he could block it out enough to shut down, even knowing he might be jolted awake at any moment. It had lasted through being awakened by Robustus for a hurried conversation with Lifeline (Lifeline! Safe! The relief had felt good, too, even tinged with worry about why she was in Polyhex to begin with.), but after the two older medics had left, it had begun to wear off, the pain of his injuries going from a distant ache to an annoying buzz to real discomfort and finally on past what he could pretend wasn't agonizing. He'd managed to work the handless arm free again from the tightened strap, and tucked it against his thoracic plating to protect it, not that it seemed to help- but it made him feel better. The wires and circuitry scratched by the engineering team were mostly irritants, although he suspected they would have hurt worse if he'd tried to- been able to- transform and access the gestalt form they controlled.
He couldn't manage to recharge again, and while he was low on energon, his energy levels were higher than they had been in several days. He tried to focus on anything but what Lifeline had said or the things he was still holding safe- his brothers' identities and locations- and think of nothing instead, head tilted back against the back of the chair and optic dimmed almost to nothing.
Vortex wanders in and slams both hands down on the backrest. "Wakey wakey!" he says very loudly, as the door clicks shut to the corridor outside. He leans over Aid's shoulder. "Who's a bad little Autobot then? Trying to escape, are we?" He knows that isn't the case, but he says it for its value as a taunt.
First Aid startles forward as the headrest jumps under Vortex's hand, a surprised huff of air escaping his vents as he onlines his optic to focus on the grey heliformer. Lifeline's safe and promised to get him out. His brothers are safe, and Alpha's told them where he is. All he has to do is hold on. Be small, don't antagonize him- just hold on. He gazes at Vortex with a mostly neutral really-I'm-not-scared-of-you expression and says nothing.
Vortex looms over Aid's shoulder and tugs on his injured arm. "Painful?" he asks. First Aid winces with a sharp intake of breath. "What do you /think/?" He asks, tucking the arm closer against him.
"I think you shouldn't be holding it against your chest like that," Vortex says with an air of false concern. "I think it looks as though you're trying to wiggle all the way out of your restraints, and if someone should see you, they'll have no choice but to ask me to cut the cables at the shoulder."
There's a long moment of silence while First Aid thinks about what Vortex said. "You're not hurting me because someone's asking you to," He finally replies. He's very proud that his voice barely shakes. "You're doing it because something's wrong with you and you want to."
"So very close," Vortex grins. He starts to feel around First Aid's shoulder, digging his fingers in as though searching for just the right set of cables to snip. "But no energon treat for you. I have my orders, although I wouldn't expect anyone as young and inexperienced as you to understand."
First Aid sucks in a deep gulp of air. "I'm sure you do. Because everyone else- they're not interested in me, they just want to know how the gestalt components in my systems work." He grits his denta. The shoulder hurts, but it's a trashfire against a smelting pit compared to his hand.
Vortex stops probing, and pats First Aid on the arm in a mock-conciliatory way instead, and very close to the wrist. "Don't worry," he says. "They might not be interested in you, but I really am. Now, how about you tell me a little bit more about your involvement with Lifeline?" It's a subject that's far enough from his brothers that Vortex hopes First Aid will just open up on it, although he's prepared if he doesn't.
First Aid shakes his head. No. Even if Lifeline is really a Decepticon now- and he's not sure Robustus would have trusted her enough to let her see him if she wasn't- First Aid won't talk about her. She still helped her- and why would the Decepticons want information on one of their own if it wasn't for some sort of twisted power political game?
This is interesting. First Aid was relatively free about his relationship with Lifeline before, and Vortex wonders if he's clammed up for a reason. "That's a shame," he says. "Don't you want to talk about Cubicron?"
"To you? No. Not really." First Aid says. "I don't think there's anything I want to talk to you about at all." He knows as soon as he says the words that they're probably a mistake- when the helicopter is talking, he's usually not hurting Aid.
"That's hurtful," Vortex says. He pulls a chair over and sits as he did on a previous occasion, leaning on the now-empty armrest. He doesn't allow First Aid to keep his arm where it is, however, and attempts to tug it over and hold it in place with the elbow bent and the wrist in the air.
Vortex picks up the dicebag and rolls 2+(its strength) against First Aid's strength. Vortex's roll succeeds CRITICALLY!
First Aid struggles not to let Vortex get a grip on his arm, but it's a very short struggle- he doesn't have quite as much energy as it felt like a breem earlier, and the Decepticon is larger, stronger, well-fueled, not restrained, and obviously practiced at manhandling resistant prisoners. "If it's hurtful, you probably like it better anyway." He tries to remember Ratchet's best steely expression, the one he used on Swivel when she showed up in Iacon.
"Likely," Vortex says, holding the arm up to look at the stump. His helm vents emit a stream of warm air, not entirely unconsciously, over the clamped lines. "Heh, for a 'bot that doesn't like to talk, you really got a think about talking about me, haven't you?"
First Aid grits his denta. "I like to talk plenty. Just not to Decepticons. Or crazy, sadistic helicopters." (Blades is arguably crazy, but he's not a sadist, and he's safe in Iacon. First Aid just has to make sure he stays that way.)
"Ah," Vortex says, "You're one of /those/."
"One of those /what/?" First Aid eyes Vortex suspiciously as he inspects the stump of his wrist.
"Oh, you know," Vortex says. "The kind who thinks all Decepticons are the same. What if one of your friends became a Decepticon? Would you treat them the same way?"
"Lifeline-" First Aid SLAMS his mouth shut after the single word escapes, and although he frantically schools his features back to stillness, he knows that Vortex is nothing if not observant. He didn't mean to say that.
"What about her?" Vortex says, and starts to fiddle with the clamps on the ends of Aid' severed lines.
First Aid's thoughts race. "I know she's not a prisoner. I know you lied to me about her." He says quickly. "About the optic."
"Clever 'bot," Vortex comments. He pings one of the lines, then lets First Aid's arm go. If he's going to mess with anything else, it'll be amusing to allow the Autobot to flail a little with his stump. "What else do you know?"
First Aid vents nervously and can't help a flinch as Vortex touches the stump, and his fans cycle up- it /can/ hurt more, even if his mind doesn't want to remember that. He tries to bring his arm down, away from Vortex's hands. "You think you're stronger than I am because you hurt people."
"And you think you're more intelligent than I am, otherwise you wouldn't have tried to go off on a tangent like that," Vortex replies. "You think you're stronger than me?" He feels around the edge of First Aid's face mask, getting as good a purchase as he can, and tugs gently. "How strong are your connections?" he muses. "Let's find out." This time, he wrenches in an attempt to tear the mask right off.
Vortex picks up the dicebag and rolls against its strength. Vortex's roll succeeds!
First Aid flinches and sucks in air, hard, stifling a yelp of pain as the attachment points on the mask are yanked free from the side of his faceplates- it stings terribly, and he offlines his optic for a second to reset his HUD from the damage warnings. "I don't think that," He grits out. "But I don't hurt people."
"Oh hey! You got a face under there after all!" Vortex sounds jubilant. He tucks the mask away in one of his compartments - that can join the optic, hand and Prowl's chevron later on - and taps on First Aid's undamaged optic. "So," he says, settling down again in his chair. "You were telling me about Lifeline." First Aid shakes his head. "No. I wasn't."
"Yes, you were," Vortex says. "I said something about friends joining the Decepticons, and you were about to start talking about Lifeline."
First Aid clamps his mouth shut stubbornly and stares past Vortex.
Vortex ignores that First Aid has averted his gaze, and continues to tap. "I don't think any friend of yours would make a good Decepticon," he says. It's clear by now that First Aid knows for sure about Lifeline being with them. "I mean, unless they weren't the friend you thought they were."
"Lifeline /is/ my friend. Just because she's a Decepticon doesn't mean she'd hurt anyone." The tapping is annoying, and it's making him nervous. Even trying to ignore it, he can't stop the focusing unit behind his optic lens from locking automatically onto Vortex's finger as it descends on his optic, sending safety warnings to his HUD about the dangers of direct contact with lenses.
"Stop yankin' my rotors," Vortex says. "If she can't get her hands dirty when it's needed, she'll die in a fusion cannon pulse just like the rest of 'em." That nasty grin returns, as Vortex has an equally nasty idea. He fetches a scalpel - not the laser kind, just a regular blade, and uses it to tap on First Aid's optic. "I think you need etching," he says.
First Aid tries to turn his head away from Vortex. "Lifeline can take care of herself. And she /is/ my friend."
"Wrong on both counts," Vortex says, although he sounds a little distracted. Leaning a little awkwardly over the interrogation platform, he starts to etch glyphs onto First Aid's remaining optic. What he's aiming for is the phrase 'No-one cares, and no-one's coming to get you,' written in mirror-writing so that Aid will see it whenever his optic is online.
Vortex picks up the dicebag and rolls against 3+(its dexterity). Vortex's roll succeeds!
First Aid vents hard again, trying not to scream, mouth open in silence as he fights with his own vocalizer and eventually fails, onlining in a sharp cry. He brings his free arm up, trying to shove Vortex away with the stump, optic flickering furiously as his optical subprocessor tries to compensate for the damage to the lens and fails, the lettering becoming visible as the pain subsides from searing to burning.
"There," Vortex says. "A little reminder for you." He dims the lights in the room, so that the light generated by First Aid's optic shows up the network of tiny scratches. "I'll leave you to have a think about that." He turns to go, then pauses. "One more thing," he says. "I intercepted a transmission a while back, I think it was from Iacon. They know you're gone, but you've been classified... Frag, what was it... Irrelevant to the war effort. Low priority's same as no priority, right? You'd better have thought of something interesting to tell me by the time I get back." And with that, he leaves.