Title: Exposing Kolkular

PCs: Orion Pax, Hot Rod, Feint

Location: Kolkular - Various

Date: 28 April 2015

TP1: Autocracy

NPCs: Various

Summary: What starts off with Hot Rod asking Orion what his plans were turn into Feint exposing the seedy underbelly of the Decepticon base.

Thanks to Feint, Orion has a newly updated schematic of Iacon and the two bases. Having uploaded to the Decepticon server, the mech is studying the updated defensive positions, though he frowns as even Feint couldn't get the clearance to show what was under a big REDACTED mark in the middle of the Decagon. That wasn't there before - it had always been a hangar for Sky Lynx and others to use in Aerospace. Now with the map up, he's making notes as he prepares a briefing for the general Decepticons to understand what his Bots will be doing and how to divide up the seperated Bots and Decepticon forces as joint teams for the attack, lessening the chance of 'friendly fire' incidents.

As crowded as the base is, it's probably hard for Orion to get a quiet moment to sit down and plan strategy or organize his thoughts by himself. Here to make it harder, Hot Rod trails along after him. He finds Orion by employing advanced recon techniques (he asks; it's not like red-white-and-blue is exactly common in Kolkular) and knocks at the frame of the door before entering.

Hot Rod usually announces himself by throwing open the door and posing in the threshold. A knock is uncharacteristic of him for many reasons, but as much as he might be one of nature's born extroverts, these days he's a little harder to find. When he can be found, he's usually with the last of Nyon's citizens, shoveling every last responsibility that he possibly can on the poor sucker foolish enough to take it -- Slinger.

He's alone now, however, and relatively subdued as he makes his way forward. And what would he have done if Orion's answer to knocking was 'go away', then? --no, you're right. Hot Rod would've come in anyway. "Hey. Got a minute?"

There's lists on the side of Orion's desk, set up as fire teams:

Front gates: Bumblebee (Leader), Ironhide, Blitzwing.

Autobase Surpression: Onslaught (Leader), Whirl, Road Rage.

Iacon Suppression: Springer (Leader), Arcee, Ariel, Pursuit.

Evacuation and Medical: Wheeljack (Leader), Torque.

As the door opens, the mech looks up, acknowledging Hot Rod. Orion Pax has not been on his feet for long since the massive repair he had to do after Zeta nearly ripped him to shreds. Hot Rod's question brings a questioning lift to Orion's optics. This is where Hot Rod admits that the Decepticons have done more than the Autobots ever had and I'm throwing my lot in with them. Not that Orion would blame the mech at all for the decision.

"Few and far between, Hot Rod. If you don't mind me working while we talk, grab a chair and you can take a few breems of my time."

"Nah, fine with me." Somewhat inevitably, Hot Rod's shameless about tilting his head to try to get a look at the list. A better spy would just read it upside-down. Hot Rod is not a spy. He grabs a chair, flips it around, and settles in it backward because in the end, he's still a rebel. He crosses his arms over the back and studies the repairs to Orion's frame, then glances again at the list.

"Arsenal made it out. She's joining the Decepticons. Badge and everything. And it looks like you're mixing things up," Hot Rod adds with a tip of his thumb toward the lists. "But -- you're not. Are you?"

"Joining the Decepticons? No." Orion says rather firmly as he continues to make notes. "Nor are any of the other Autobots that have chosen to defect from Zeta to come under my commander. I am not a traitor to my cause or Cybertron - I just do not believe it's current leader is acceptable for the future that is needed. Once this battle is over, I have already spoken with Megatron - allegiance will be set aside. Rebuilding will be done. We can move forward. I have to have faith in that."

"Because the other option is to allow this to descend further into madness, and the planet to spiral further into the abyss. It all has to end.. somehow." the mech admits as he makes another note and places it up on the board.

Zeta Prime's Inner Sanctum: Megatron, Orion Pax, Blast Off (Transport)

When Orion delivers such a firm no, Hot Rod very nearly breaks in with a 'why not' -- but then Orion is answering it, anyway, so he settles back to listen. "So this is just temporary." He wavers somewhere between relieved and disappointed. Both his voice and his expression seem unable to pick one or the other.

"You don't really think all the Decepticons are traitors to Cybertron, do you?" The Hot Rod adds 'all' in there is a bit telling. In their time in Kaon, he's seen enough of the rougher edges that he adds that without prompting, where otherwise he might granted the faction as a whole a blanket pardon, all their sins exaggerations. "So when you say allegiance will be set aside -- they disband? The Autobots disband, too?"

"Megatron had the right message in Towards Peace, Hot Rod. But he has forgotten that message in his thirst for vengeance against those that wronged him, real or percieved. I am hoping that as Zeta Prime is removed, the last vestages of that thirst are finally placated and both sides can set aside their weapons to work on rebuilding and mourning our losses." Orion explains. "That we form a new government with both former Autobots and Decepticons and elect a new leader. That we can finally bring this war to a close and start a new chapter for Cybertron."

"I am sorry to hear that Arsenal has made her choice, but I suppose I cannot find fault with her thought process. Zeta Prime and Sentinel Prime before him did not treat Nyon well. And I regret that things have had to happen as they did. Had I known what Zeta's plans were, I would had shut him down sooner, even if it had cost me my own spark in the process. All we can do now is accept what has occured and press forward."

Hot Rod rests his chin on his arms where they are folded on the back of the chair. "Decepticons are looking pretty attractive to a lot of us right now." Wistful words bittered by regret, he says, "I wish you'd listened. I wish I'd showed you sooner. But how are we even going to take those things down?" He says 'we', even though he's not on any lists. Watch out for tagalongs.

"...easy." Orion says as he looks up to Hot Rod and meets his optics with his own.

"Zeta Prime dies. We shut down the operation." At the addition of we, he makes no comment. They can use all the help they can get their hands on.

Hot Rod leans back with a troubled expression. The regret lingers and deepens. His eyes darken, and a frown carves itself into the metal of his features. 'Easy' lingers in the air. "Better hope he doesn't burn Iacon, trying to stop you."

"You had to make a hard choice, Hot Rod." Orion offers, the hard tone to his voice softening, just a hint. "And that choice came with a price. Lonliness, self-doubt, the guilt of it all. We can dwell on it all and let it eat you up on the inside. But you give it your all, but sometimes it seems like the world just gets darker. You faced an impossible and unenviable situation. And you did what you had to do. You had the strength to make the choice. Just as I do now that I lead those that wish to stand against Zeta to what could be their deaths if we should fail."

The door to the War Room swooshes open, and standing just outside it of is the lean white flier frame of Feint. She steps inside, the sounds of her motion systems repressed; the *tak tak tak* of her heelstruts is the announcement of her arrival.

"Ah, Commander Pax, I was hoping to see you -- Hot Rod, I'm glad to see you as well. I need to have words with the both of you outside of the presence of Decepticon high command."

Hot Rod drops his gaze, eyes narrowing to no more than a thin glow. The frown eases to something wearier, and he vents an uneven exhalation. He nods. His expression is a touch less troubled when he looks up again -- just a touch, maybe, but a definite shift. That he takes Orion's words deeply to spark is obvious. (So obvious. WAY more obvious than he'd like.) "I know. And I know it has to be done. He won't stop. And no other city should suffer Nyon's fate."

His quiet words scarcely carry as Feint arrives. Hot Rod gives her a slightly puzzled glance as she steps into the room, then glances a question back at Orion even as he answers her, "Uh, you too?"

Orion starts to add something more. Maybe some nugget of wisdom that will help with that bitter pill he just forced upon Hot Rod. But instead, Feint struts in, oozing femmliness and 'look what you gave up, Blurr' sexiness. At Hot Rod's confusion, Orion shows the first hint of amusement that he has since this talk began.

"I'm not the only one that has recieved an upgrade and return, Hot Rod. You remember Feint, don't you? This is Feint Mark Two." Electric Boogaloo.

Feint's visor displays a TFP Soundwave-esque smiley face. "It's been a long time, Hot Rod."

Blank surprise gives way to delight. Hot Rod doesn't quite throw himself out of his chair and race over to her, but he does sit bolt upright. It seems as though avoiding ambush was a near thing. "Feint! It's -- what /happened/?" Forget important words outside of the presence of Decepticon command: this is much more important.

Orion allows the moment to catch up as he finalizes the plans for the attack, at least as far as the Bots are concerned. Springer is moved to the front gate attack, Ariel is moved to the Autobase Suppression. After a few sparkbeats, the Bot commander finally asks, "Considering that there is no telling how many listening devices in this base, we may have to actually leave in order to have the ability to talk freely, Feint. Unless your fancy new body comes with a suppression kit for such things."

"Oh, it's no secret what became of me here, Megatron damn well knows," Feint dismisses with ease. She turns her focus to Hot Rod. "I was positioned to bring the entire Senate under my influence under Senator Halogen's orders; he intended to have me... /suggest/ that they all unanimously vote to do away with the caste system. The unfortunate timing of it all was that he chose the moment that the Decepticons stormed the Senate and slaughtered them to act."

"I blacked out, and awoke here in Kaon. Megatron gave me the offer to join him and surrender my abilities to the cause, and I refused, preferring to die instead. He... did not allow me to die."

She continues. This is going to be somewhat damning evidence against Megatron. "He had Shockwave place me in a makeshift body and put an inhibitor chip in my head to lock away my abilities. For the last twenty thousand years I have been made to serve as a medic and frame engineer under Shockwave's direction far below."

"Megatron did make a deal with me; I could complete a project for him, I could walk free. I did. He kept his word. When I was freed I returned to Autobot headquarters -- just days before Zeta decided to make his big push."

She turns her visor to Orion. "I can actually facilitate, if you are both amenable to it."

It's a lot to take in, and Hot Rod's not quite sure what to make of it all. There are questions! Lots of questions! But Feint's talking about facilitating and if there is important business stuff, maybe it can wait. "Uh -- facilitate how? You need me to--?" He hitches his thumb toward the door.

"She means directly linking into our heads." Pax responds simply, looking to Feint. "That may be the best option otherwise we risk having to leave the base proper." the large bot comments before he looks to Feint to finish her earlier explanation to Hot Rod.

@ Actually I was talking about using my abilites. @

The words are hanging in the air over Feint like some kind of comic book dialogue box. Hello yellow boxes, how we've missed you.

@ Soundwave has been listening to your every word since you arrived, and he monitors any and all radio transmissions. Apart from cabling up there is no safe place to speak while he is around. He can read your thoughts and your emotions. This is the only way I can speak with the both of you, and even then, it will be limited. The more I do this, the more resistant your minds will become to the illusion, until it stops altogether. @

"Yes, and I think I know just the place to take you both, if you'd follow me. Would you like a tour of the base?" Feint offers.

@ Agree with me, we're going to the most quiet place we can get. Be prepared for what you see. It will not be pretty. @

"Of course, Feint. You have far more experience in the layout of here than I do." Orion admits as he shuts down the monitors for now, looking towards the femme for guidance.

Hot Rod's a little awkward turtle about it as he gets out of his chair. He has a tough time not just outright gawking, or -- worse! -- asking questions about the words. He stares over her head as though she's grown another. "Yes, Feint," he says in a robotic (ha ha) sort of voice. "That sounds like a good idea." He's the worst.

Well so much for acting natural. "We need something in the basement first, I left some of my old equipment there, and I'll need it to deal with Zeta," Feint helpfull explains, trying to cover up Hot Rod's terrible acting as she gestures to them to follow her out the door.

That old urge to smack Hot Rod in the back of the head returns with a vengance as he gets out of his seat to gather his supplies. "Come on, genius." Orion says with a heavy sigh as he goes to follow Feint down to the basement.

Deception juuuust doesn't come naturally to Hot Rod. He's such a honest sort. Really, it's totally a mark in his favor. Right. ...right? (No one answer.) As they go, he gives in in to the urge to ask Feint all about what she's been up to, what Shockwave had her doing, what rejoining the Autobots has been like -- et cetera. He asks all those questions which means he doesn't have to say a thing about Nyon.

The further down they go, they begin to see more of the dark, seemy underbelly of the Decepticon war effort. Corpses are being hauled into the harvesting facilities and... there sure are a lot of black muscle car altmodes here. Ones that look like they should have blue flames and be teasing Hot Rod about how their flames are better than his. 

@ There. We're far enough down that we are out of Soundwave's range. @ 

The words hang in the air (literally) around Feint as she turns around and stops them on one of the main floors. Insecticon swarmers are creeping along the walls, in and out of smaller tunnels that they can fit into.

"Welcome to my home."

"You should really complain to management about the arrangements, Feint." Pax comments as he looks around. As they past by the first muscle car that is cleaning, Pax pays it no mind. The second, that was tending to cleaning up some Insecticon carcasses causes Pax pause. "Wow. He's quick." he says to himself.

The third, carrying supplies somewhere. "What the.. sparkmates?"

Fourth? Corpse carrying. Possibly a poor dead Nyon that was recovered. "Feint, what is this?" he finally asks quietly as he starts to lose count on the number of black muscle cars that are wandering around down here.

"Nice place." Hot Rod twists, following the first not-Ruiner they pass with a glance and a nod of tentative recognition. The second, third, and so forth as it goes on leads to less recognition, and more unease. "I know that guy. Or -- I thought I did." Without the flames, who could really say? They /are/ the most identifying feature.

"Vehicons," Feint explains. "Cloned, drone soldiers. Do you remember that I said Megatron would not release me until I completed a project for him." She continues on, not missing a beat, as if none of the Vehicons moving past them mattered. "Now we may speak freely. What do the both of you intend to do, concerning Megatron? Do you wish to join him?"

"I see." Orion should have known that Feint's freedom would have a very large price tag. A personal army? Sounds about right for the price of one's freedom. Pax's question causes him to stare directly at the femme. "You should know better. I'm not, nor are any of the Autobots that have come with me, as far as I know. We are still Autobots, and that we will remain until peace is re-established and both sides set aside their arms mutually." the mech comments flatly and strongly. "I may be a traitor to Zeta Prime, I am not a traitor to my own beliefs and convictions."

"That's just weird." Hot Rod keeps trying to catch one of the Vehicons eye -- or visor, whatever -- as they move, seeking a spark of recognition. Failing that, just a spark of /life/. He gives an uncomfortable shrug to her question in Pax's shadow, and in the shadow of that response.

"I'm very happy to hear that, Orion," Feint replies, sounding relieved. "I wasn't certain if I was going to have to set up a resistance movement to counter this resistance movement by myself. As it is, I've managed to evacuate any Autobots who still have a shred of moral fiber left in their struts from Iacon. The remaining forces are those who either side with Zeta or have been reprogrammed and lobotomized to do nothing but obey."

She notices Hot Rod paying attention to the Vehicons, and decides to explain... if only a little. She's not certain how they would take the truth. "Megatron had a particular soldier that he heavily favored, one that had suffered terrible neurological damage thanks to my old mentor, Trepan. I spent a good long while working to repair the damage, but his memories were so fragmented that he could not muster a stream of consciousness. Thus," she says, gesturing to the Vehicons with long, delicate black fingers, "I engineered these drones on his spark frequency. The sensory data that they gather from daily routine life is fed back through the spark network into that soldier, stimulating the brain module to reform connections. ... With luck, someday he'll finally wake back back up. It was the best I could do."

"Oh Feint, Ariel would have my interface on the wall as a personal trophy if I tried to turn Decepticon." Orion says in mild amusement as he looks towards the femme. "And I am certain that those that were with me in Nyon will not turn either. Ironhide, in fact, is more interested in seeing how far he can push a Decepticon than joining them. Once we have Zeta stopped, I will take command of the Autobot troops and with joint discussion with Megatron, order a stand down. The Decepticons will withdrawl and we'll call a cease fire to discuss the future of Cybertron." At least.. that's what Orion hopes happens.

"/Autobots/." Uh, no offense, OP. Hot Rod glances over at him with a guilty startle, and then says, "Not you, just -- those ones. Who'd do something like that. I mean, seeing this has to be a constant reminder to the other Decepticons, too. What Zeta--" Sentinel, but who's counting. "--did to them. But if anyone could make them see something else, it's probably you."

Feint nods. "Shockwave was good on his word, the inhibitor chip in my head is no longer a problem, which means that I can ... /distract/, Zeta, and allow you and your allied forces a means in. I'm still working to get any further information on how to deal with the Omega Destructors, as they are still stationed around Iacon." She turns her visor to Hot Rod. "He's planning on marching them into the next five Decepticon-leaning cities before coming to Kaon. Do you remember the Institute, where you found me? They're -all over the planet-, and they are gearing up for a mass mental alteration of anyone who disagrees with Zeta. I'm telling you this because you deserve to know, considering what happened to Nyon. ... I am sorry, Hot Rod, I truly am. I don't know what caused that explosion, but it was the only thing that bought us enough time to act."

"Hot Rod set off the charges around the city." Pax says simply. "It's really the only conclusion, considering that they were right on top of us and everything that we were throwing at them wasn't scratching them, Feint. He has to make a hard decision, and it was better for them to die on their feet than feeding Zeta's war machine." Orion does not judge the young mech, placing a hand on his shoulder. "As for Zeta - let me know when the next Senatorial meeting is. That's when we'll know he'll be in the Decagon and will strike then." Pax points out. "That way you may not even need to have to provide a distraction."

Feint is remarkably sympathetic. "... I understand, Hot Rod. Believe me, I understand. Sometimes... our choices are taken from us," she says softly.

Rising up a little straighter, she continues. "Zeta is simply ignoring the New Senate, Commander. They have been demanding to see him since he acted against Nyon and he has simply put most of them under house arrest. He's holed up in the Citadel at the moment, and he is anticipating an ambush or attack. Maybe he will cool his heels, maybe he won't - but he's been on high alert since he returned."

"I see." Orion says, not exactly chomping at the bit to send Feint into the fire once again. The mech's shoulders seem to raise and then sag with the weight of it all. "There is too many things that can go terribly wrong. If you have goodbyes to say, I suggest you do them. If there's things you want to confess, absolve your spark of them. Clear your slates, my friends. May your deeds be big enough to never be forgotten."

Hot Rod's eyes widen slightly with the weight of Orion's words. After a moment, he nods, but he adds nothing. He's been briefly silenced. Someone tell Blaster.

"Well that's a terribly defeatist attitude."

Feint places her hands on her hips. "Yes, there's plenty of things that could go wrong but focusing on them as if you are marching straight into your grave isn't going to do anything for you, let alone for those that are looking up to you right now Orion." Gasp, she's using his first name. Gasp, she's 'looking' right at Hot Rod.

"This isn't the time to write your eulogies and wait for some impending death as if you'd contracted cybercrosis. This is the time to keep your optics open, your sensors sharp and to begin to look at every possible way to win. If there is one thing that I have been taught in all my suffering - from being buried alive in cave-ins in this very city, to being strapped to a table with my spark being extracted, to being torn apart by bullets from Blurr's own creator to laboring night and day over the damaged brain of a hopeless stasis case and waiting for the day I'd walk free - it's that it is -patience- and -determination- that will see us through all this."

Feint gestures to the Vehicons, the tunnels, the workers. "Megatron brough all of this about because he was one forgotten, nameless low-caste miner who dug in his treads and refused to give up. -One mech- moved all of -this-."

Her visor parts and slides back into the sides of her helm, her face revealed, optics full of hope and strength, as she flashes them a determined smile. "If just one mech can move all this with thought and willpower... how much more can we move with just the three of us? Just those who are with us? How many worlds can we move if we refuse to surrender even when we are down to the very last mech?"

"Lift your heads, set your jaw and -damn the odds-. We have work to do."

Every once in a while, Orion needs that kick in the aft to get him going again. He offers the femme a brief smile in gratitude. Walking by Feint on the way out, he gives her shoulder a brief pat. "Blurr is an idiot." he says with a wink towards her. "Now I probably should get back up topside. I'm sort of hard to miss."

What. What is Feint implying about people looking up to Orion. WHAT. HOT ROD DEFINITELY ISN'T. It's just that he's taller, okay. There's definitely no--

Oh, forget it.

With a return of his usual grin, Hot Rod sidesteps and nudges Feint. "You know, I've missed you," he says. That's /his/ way of saying 'good speech'. "Pax is right. Let's get out of here. The whole clone-zombie--" Is that insensitive? That's totally insensitive. "--aesthetic is not my thing."

"I can't say I blame you. That's why I wanted you to see it before you made any purple-based decisions," Feint replies. She sighs softly. "Oh, and a warning: Blurr is not trustworthy. He sides completely with Zeta, right down to the pre-emptive killings. Right down to shutting me out of his life for standing up to the Prime."

"I figured as much. How much of that is Blurr and how much of this is the IAA, you think?" Pax asks Feint for an honest answer as they start on their way back up out of the underground.

"I used to think he could've been a friend, you know?" Hot Rod complains to Blurr's /conjunx/. "The IAA, the Institute -- all of it. It's all just a mess. I can't believe we ever came to that. That's the kind of thing that almost makes Zeta's madness seem clean." Somewhat belatedly, he adds, "I'm sorry about Blurr. Orion's right. Shutting you out for that -- I just would've thought better of him."

"I did everything I could to help him. There was a time when he was... more himself? -- if I can use that analogy," Feint sighs, following them out towards one of the lifts leading upwards. "The IAA corrupted a good deal of his memories. Cipher had him injecting neurotoxin on a daily basis to keep his willpower low and let the mind control code they stuffed into him take over. That's the reason I bluffed my way into medical training. I was desperate to learn how the mind works so I could undo the damage. ... I never wanted to kill, but that entire situation... forced my hand. All of that just to try to free his mind."

"And what did he do? He crawled right back to them, eager to be made a docile and obedient newspark under a new handler."

"You can't save those who don't want to be saved."

"Forget him, then. Let's go save the ones that need to be saved." Pax says firmly as he steps back on the lift to head back up to Kolkular proper.

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