Title: A World of Troubles
Date: 12 October 2014
Summary: The whole world's got problems. Four bots -- and their respective problems -- encounter each other in Stanix.
Though as an offworlder, Nautica doesn't know Stanix well at all, she's still heard tell of Hive City. And so it's natural that, here on a rise out in the unsettled parts of Stanix -- an area they aren't too likely to be interrupted -- with the skyline dimly visible in the distance, it would be that city which would draw her attention. Still, it's clear to anyone who might observe her as she waits that the quantum mechanic is troubled by something; her arms are folded in front of her, one hand tapping against the opposite elbow, and her expression is an unhappy one as she stares at the city in the distance.
Arcee emerges from a nearby building, carrying a large firearm, which she places into subspace as soon as she begins heading away from the door. Apparently, the building is a popular firing range. Arcee herself seems fairly content, not at all distraught or worried like someone might be if their world fell apart and they had homicidal killers after them.
She happens to spot Nautica, and when she does, Arcee strolls over toward the Camien. "Hey! Not sure if you remember me...I was at Maccadam's that one night, not too long ago? And you helped me out!"
Nautica tears her attention from Hive City, turning to Arcee. At the sight of the other femme, her mood seems to brighten slightly; she uncrosses her arms, and offers a smile. "Of course. And we met again the other day, though you weren't really in a state to recognize me." What with having been in a stasis-lock and all that. "But Brainstorm and I were the ones who disarmed the bomb."
"You DID...?" Arcee's door-wings quiver a bit, then her expression turns from surprise to warmth. "...I don't remember it," she admits, "But I'm very grateful you took on that dangerous task. You very literally saved my life."
"I'm glad I could! It would have been awful, otherwise. And it would have made a mutual friend of ours very sad." Though Nautica's expression turns troubled at that, and she glances towards Hive City once again, arms folded in front of her once more. It's an almost defensive posture, as if the Camien femme were trying to ward off her own thoughts. After a moment, she turns her attention back to Arcee and adds, "But I hope you've been alright since then?"
"Well, I'm still here. I'm counting that as a success," Arcee says. "I think it's...beyond unfortunate what happened to Rung. But apparently, things are destabilizing very quickly. Whatever you do, don't become a victim. Be really careful and watch your own back. I don't want you getting hurt because you came to my aid at a critical time."
"I've been noticing more and more little things that seem... wrong, somehow." Nautica's tone has turned troubled once more, though her gaze remains on Arcee rather than returning to the cityscape visible along the horizon. "And I think I've already come to someone's attention; I've been asked in for questioning, because I was seen talking to Blast Off. They seem to think he /murdered/ someone."
"I've heard that one, too...I'm not sure I believe it, but I've never actually heard him deny those rumors, either. So you know him, too..." Arcee ponders for a moment; how many contacts does Blast Off HAVE around here, she wonders? "I don't know what's gotten into the police lately. I've always had a good rapport with them, but lately I've had all kinds of run-ins with them, too."
"I've always tried to be law-abiding. Now they want me to convince him to turn himself in if I see him again." Nautica shakes her head once more. "And I saw..." She trails off, and then shakes her head once again. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't bring you down with this! You seemed... happy, at least, back there when you came out of the shooting range."
"Only because I plan on killing Drift as soon as I can master the art of crackshooting," Arcee admits to Nautica. "Call it a motivational goal." She shakes her head slowly. "Blast Off isn't going to turn himself in, especially if police have something on him. I saw him recently, he's doing well, but...he has such an independent spark, he's just going to do whatever he feels to be the proper thing, in this case. And how else is he going to be when he thinks the police are in on this entire corrupt system along with the Senate...and he may not be wrong?"
Nautica glances over at Arcee and frowns. "Drift?" she asks, clearly curious about what bot could drive Arcee to contemplate assassination. "And I know. I know Blast Off won't turn himself in. And I don't think the police will like that." Which, doubtless, means Nautica will be called in for another chat at some point. "I keep trying to convince myself that the things that bother me are just because I'm not used to Cybertronian culture compared to Camien, but it still seems /wrong/. Bots being declared non-sentient even when they clearly are, things like that."
"Yeah, the mech who 'napped me off the street, took me to his ship, strapped me down to a chair and wired a bomb into my chest. His name's 'Drift'. Ever heard of him? Because I'm not putting up with that nonsense anymore; I'm dealing with it myself if I have to do it," Arcee mentions. "It bothers you, Nautica, because it IS very wrong. Things are not working. The system is going corrupt. The system's supposed to be working *for* us, but that isn't happening."
Something about what Arcee says hits a nerve for Nautica. "There was a bot who wanted Brainstorm and I to take a look at a ship he had. Very advanced... stealth tech, ability to reconfigure itself. He didn't give me a name, just hurried me onto the ship as Brainstorm dashed aboard to look at it, and once there he stuck me in a chair and just about bound me there with restraints for 'safety'." She pauses, and allows, "The ship /did/ crash, though." So maybe there was some merit to that claim.
"Advanced tech? -- That was him, I'm almost 100% sure of it. His ship is really advanced," Arcee notes. "Yeah, he has a massive vendetta. He was probably trying to arm YOU up with a bomb, before his ship crashed."
This doesn't improve Nautica's outlook, clearly; she shudders once at the thought. "I really need to stop being so trusting, I suppose." She falls silent, gazing over at Hive City. The reason why becomes clear soon enough, for she asks Arcee, "Have you met any insecticons other than Kickback?" It's a bit of an odd topic shift, no doubt, but apparently it makes sense to the Camien.
"No...he was one of a kind. He was my little mech," Arcee says with strange, almost maternal fondness. Then, she suddenly looks at Nautica with great interest. "...You know Kickback. Have you SEEN Kickback lately??"
"No," Nautica replies, shaking her head. "I had gathered some books for him -- he wanted to read -- but before I could bring them to him, he got taken away somewhere; I don't know where." She hesitates, and then adds, "But I met another insecticon, recently. He couldn't speak the way Kickback could, but he /could/ transform. And I'm fairly certain he was sentient."
"You know...these sentient insecticons have an alternative mode of speaking to one another," Arcee says with some hope. "It's an alternate form of communicating by transmitting waves or something. I don't quite understand what it is, but perhaps this other insecticon could...could find out in that way whether or not Kickback is still alive. Kickback was taken away in a police transport. I was forced to surrender him."
"EMF field modulation, what Kickback called wavespeech," Nautica replies brightly, with a nod; this was a puzzle to solve, a scientific conundrum to work through, and clearly had caught her attention. "I was going to work on a translator for it, but he vanished. Though apparently someone else has already made one, I've been told." The Camien femme trails off, and then adds somewhat more somberly, "I'm not certain how willing to help this insecticon would be, though. I don't think he's where he is by choice." And that, it seems, is the root of her unease as she looks over at Hive City.
Arcee doesn't seem to know very much, if anything, about Hive City. It's just out of her realm of knowledge and expertise. But she nods in agreement when Nautica mentions EMF field modulation. "Kickback used to ask me why I couldn't wavespeak to him, that must be exactly what he meant. So...what do you mean about this other insecticon, that he isn't where he is by choice?"
"He was at a research facility, and I don't believe it's by any choice of his; he seemed rather... agitated," Nautica explains, looking even more troubled at this line of thought. "And I think he might be an outlier, Arcee. He seemed to have the ability to generate electrical energy."
"...Well, that's a very useful power, maybe...maybe the Institute kept him alive. I'm going to continue looking for answers. I didn't want to give up Kickback, I was forced to do it," Arcee says tersely.
"Wait." Nautica freezes, turning back to Arcee, optics wide with a sort of dawning horror. "/What/ did you just say?"
"I told you, I was forced to give him up," Arcee says. "The police told me they were going to arrest me if I didn't surrender him, and at the time, I was still working for Senator Proteus, and I thought I'd lose my job and have to go to jail if I didn't do it."
"No, not that part," Nautica replies, unfolding her arms to make a short, dismissive gesture. "Did you say an Institute took him? Or did I misunderstand that?"
About a block or two down, the two fems might hear a commotion that interrupts their epic conversation.. It looks like a bunch of Empties are swarming something or someone. And they're all carrying... buckets? Now, what on Cybertron could be going on over there?
"No, the police *told* me they were going to rehome him. When I asked them later where Kickback had been taken...they had no answer for me, they just told me to 'trust the process'. Yeah, like *that's* going to happen..." Arcee's attention gets pulled toward...something weird coming their way. "Oh...what NOW."
"Oh. Your comment about 'the Institute might keep him alive', I thought you meant Kickback had been taken there." Nautica seems reassured slightly to realize she might have misunderstood. "Because I..." And then she trails off, staring down the street. "What /is/ going on over there?"
"I'm hoping that's what happened, but...they won't *tell* me," Arcee answers.
Wow, whatever is going on it must be a party for the Empties, because they're all crawling out of the woodwork, carrying buckets and practically climbing over each other to get to the source of whatever's causing the commotion. They may now hear the sound of a muffled and desperate cry of someone who is perhaps being assaulted...
Though it seems Nautica was about to say something more on the topic to Arcee, the desperate cry snaps her attention back that way. "Oh, /that/ doesn't sound good; someone may need help." The Camien glances to Arcee. Perhaps the quantum mechanic has learned her lesson about charging off into things alone, after that night at Maccadam's.
Arcee draws her pistol, gets up, and begins walking over to see what's going on. She doesn't aim her weapon, but she keeps it ready in case there's trouble. "Okay, let's go check it out."
Alas, Nautica has no pistol to draw, but she pulls her wrench from its holder and sets off with Arcee towards the noise.
Well, not too long after Arcee and Nautica start approach, the Empties scatter, noticing Arcee's Autobot badge. They scamper into the dark alleys, their buckets clanging against their legs as they run off.
And there, sitting on the side of the street, is that weird shark who barged into the police station that other time they were there. He's been chained to a post and is sobbing pitifully, a waterfall of energon leaking out of his optics. So /that's/ what the Empties were collecting.
"...." Arcee just stares for a long moment. Then, she shakes her head. "This doesn't surprise me," she admits. "I don't even know the details, and it doesn't surprise me one bit."
"What in Primus' name..." Clearly, Nautica still has a capacity to be surprised by some of Cybertron's darker edges. The Camien savant takes a few steps closer, kneeling down to examine the hapless bot. "What /happened/ here?"
Sky-Byte suddenly realizes that he is sobbing like a child in front of two fems and that is not very, uh, flattering for some mech such as himself. He quickly wipes away any energon remaining on his faceplates and tries to look dignified. "N-nothing!" He stammers. "Nothing at all, I'm PERFECTLY fine!"
Arcee sighs, and raises her pistol, then FIRES...
...and the main chains holding Sky-Byte to the pole disintigrate and free him from the awkward predicament. "Of course you are. I'll bet you pissed off no one, too."
"So you simply enjoy chaining yourself yourself to posts?" Nautica asks curiously. When Arcee fires at the chains, the Camien femme flinches once; perhaps she's not used to gunshots. (Perhaps she should start learning.) "If so, that's a rather odd pastime."
"No! No why would I enjoy doing that!" He says, flailing his fins unhappily. "Eek!" He cries as Arcee fires at the chains and frees him. He covers his optics. Then, when he realizes that the chains are no longer binding him, he peeks. Seeing that he has not been harmed, he heaves a sigh of relief. "Ah, thank you," he says to Arcee. "You are a fine damsel for rescuing me like that." He pauses. "Well... it seems I'm rather famous among the Empties for... ahem, well... let's just say they think I'm an inexhaustible source of free energon!" he hmphs.
Blast Off makes his way towards the shooting range. After a long time without his weapon, he finally got his ionic blaster back. It took a lot of persistance... but finally. A sniper and his gun *belong* together. He's felt almost... naked without it. He got to keep the pistols, too, and a sharpshooter's not going to complain about more weapons. But his blaster is his fine instrument... and he needs to make sure it's sighted in.
So he returns to the shooting range, walking towards it while trying to bring as little attention to himself as possible. He casts a wary optic all around... for he is a hunted mech. Looking up, he spots the group in the street in front of him... and face it, Arcee is hard to miss. He stops, unsure if he should approach. He knows the others, though... that shark again?! Ugh. And the other femme... Nautica. Fellow space worthy individual! Still, he pauses, unsure.
"I can't imagine why they would think that," Arcee remarks to Sky-Byte with a slight grin, returning her pistol to subspace. When she turns to look at Nautica, suddenly she catches sight of Blast Off, and she looks rather surprised. "Oh, hi!" she calls, motioning him over.
"Then you're not hurt, at least?" Nautica asks Sky-Byte. She glances up at Arcee, the turns to follow the other femme's line of sight as she calls out to someone. Upon seeing Blast Off, her expression goes through an odd mixture of reactions; pleasure to see a familiar face, sudden realization of something, and then... wariness? Resignation? Still, she stands up straight once more and offers him a wave in greeting.
"...Well...well me either!" Sky-Byte says, quickly wiping a last stray tear that's leaked from his optic away. "No, I'm alright." He arches a brow ridge at Blast Off, floating slowly towards the shuttle former.
Blast Off hesitates one moment more, glancing about him as if making sure the coast is clear, but at Arcee's beckoning, he strides towards the others. If he notices Nautica's chain reaction of emotions, he doesn't say anything... but then again, he's not the most socially adept mech anyway. He nods a greeting in return. "I hope you are all well," he says politely, then turns to look at Sky-Byte. "And I trust you haven't lodged any more guns in your mouth?"
"NO." He says quickly. A little too quickly. Maybe he has but Blast Off didn't see it. Who knows. He floats closer to Blast Off. "Why do I feel like you remind me of someone I know?!" The shark says, peering closely at him.
"Oh, we're going great. Apparently, though..." Arcee looks from Blast Off back over to Sky-Byte, "Well, I'll let HIM tell you if he wants to..." She smirks, glancing over at Nautica with a shrug.
"Guns in his mouth?" Nautica looks over at Blast Off curiously. Slipping her wrench back into place in its holder, she moves over closer to the shuttleformer. "Have you been alright? You seemed upset when I saw you last."
Blast Off blinks and steps back as the shark just comes over at *hovers* in his face. "..." He looks to the two femmes, then back to Sky-Byte. "That would be because I dislodged a *gun* from where it was stuck in your jaw? Like... just recently? How could you have forgotten *that*?"
He looks to Arcee and nods, then turns to gaze at Nautica. "Yes. He came flopping around, begging us to dislodge a rifle in his mouth... HOW he did that I do not even know." He shakes his head, then pauses at her question. "I am... fine. Simply dealing with some unexpected changes is all." He gives her a polite nod. "But I do appreciate the help back there. You were quite a whiz with repairs."
"Excuse me!" Sky-Byte interrupts unhappily. "But where are your MANNERS? No one speaks about things like that in PUBLIC! After all, how would YOU like it if I went around and told everyone about how your tinfoil armor is the reason why NO FEMALES pay attention to you! HMPH!" He waves his fins about dramatically. "Don't be foolish of course I remember that! I was speaking about something else." He frowns. Then it appears to dawn on him. "OH MY! Why you look just like..." He suddenly starts trembling and acting twitchy, his optics widening into saucers and his pupils becoming tiny dots again. "WOULD YOU MIND BEING A STUNT DOUBLE?!" he bursts out loudly, leaning in towards Blast Off, a little too close for comfort.
"Blast Off..." Nautica wrings her hands in front of her as she watches the shuttleformer. "We need to talk." She glances down, seeming to /realize/ what she's doing; with a murmured, "Oh," she clasps them together to stop the fidgeting. "We should talk, soon. The other day, I was called to Rodion by Prowl, to..." And then the femme trails off as Sky-Byte suddenly leans in with his loudly proclaimed query. Once again, the shark receives an odd look.
"It's a wonder they *don't* have a bar in this town," Arcee murmurs to no one in particular.
Blast Off blinks and stares at Sky-Byte. WUT. "EXCUSEME? I am perfectly MANNERED. I am the PICTURE of mamnners and sophistication!" He bristles at the shark, "And WHAT?! My armor's not THAT thin... it's...it's..." He suddenly looks nervously over at the two femmes, then to his armor. They might even notice a slight repair on his shoulder.. looks recently patched up. As the shark looms closer, the shuttle steps back again. "NO! Stunt...what? Slag no..."
He hufffs in irritation, then realizes Nautica is addressing him. "..Uh, what?" his voice shifts from irritation to an attempt at sounding calm and civilized again. Then he sees her wringing her hands and mentioning... "Prowl? What about him?" His optics narrow and he seems to be frowning under the faceplate. "Is he still snooping around?" He mutters. Finally, to Arcee, he notes, "Actually there is one three streets down." Count on a wine-lover to know that.
"Tch," The shark scoffs. "Denial means you lack self-confidence," Sky-Byte admonishes.
"NO! Don't refuse me!" the shark pesters. "You're that CRIMINAL on the news, the one they've supposedly FRAMED for the clinic bombing, aren't you?! Don't deny it, they even showed your picture! Tragic, really, but..THE SHOW MUST GO ON. This is a perfect way to hide. IN PLAIN SIGHT. Everyone will be expecting you to be in some dark corner far away from civilization. But if you do the OPPOSITE, they'll NEVER see it coming! Besides, stunt doubles are relative nobodies. Everyone SEES them but no one knows who they really are. And if anybody starts to wonder, you could just say, 'Oh, that's not me, that's my stunt double.' THEY'LL NEVER KNOW THE DIFFERENCE." Excited shark is excited.
"Excuse me? Um...sir?" Arcee suddenly pipes up, addressing Sky-Byte. "I was there when the clinic was bombed. I'm really, really sure that Blast Off was NOT there when it happened."
"We can talk about what Prowl wanted from me later," Nautica answers Blast Off. Glancing over at the shark, she adds, "After all, I don't know that you want me talking about all that in the open, do you?" But then Sky-Byte starts going on about how Blast Off is a criminal, and she covers her optics with one hand. Well, alright, maybe the shuttleformer /won't/ care, at this point.
Blast Off freezes the second Sky-Byte calls him a criminal. Violet optics stare at the shark, then he snaps out of it to glance nervously around him again. The shuttleformer begins taking a step back and muttering, "I...I should go." Arcee's defense stops him, though, and he looks to her. ".... Yes. She was, and she knows the truth." Nautica gets a wary look. He's debating whether he should slip away or stick around, and if he can trust anyone now. "Yes... sure, we should talk... at some point..."
"It doesn't matter," The shark huffs at Arcee. "After all, it doesn't matter what anyone thinks these days HUMPH! It only matters what the media and the government wants to think. Whether he's guilty or not is a moot point. Nobody can really prove anything right, or anything wrong, not these days, anyway. If I really thought you did it, I wouldn't even MENTION this to you." He sighs. "I could help you, REALLY. And you could help me. I don't give two hoots about what the government thinks, everything we hear on the news these days is a lie. If you want a job, and to stay out of sight," The odd shark comments, "well, I won't be far away."
"/Soon/," Nautica insists to Blast Off, watching his reaction with clear concern. "Please, Blast Off." She seems genuinely upset, fidgeting with her hands once more.
Arcee doesn't put any undue pressure on Blast Off; he seems to be getting enough already. And...something in her mind can't possibly believe he was involved in the bombing at Rung's clinic. That absolutely couldn't have happened.
Blast Off continues to watch Sky-Byte warily, then ever-so-slowly he relaxes... a tiny bit. As a wanted fugitive, he does NOT want that drawn attention to QUITE SO LOUDLY. However, at least it sounds as if the shark isn't running off to turn him in. Yet, at least. "No... that's fine. I'll... keep it in mind." He waves a hand distractedly. He keeps looking around, worried that might have drawn some unwanted attention... but it seems that no bypassers are staring. Yet.
There's a slight growl of his engines. "And yes... the government simply spins everything to suit their needs. The truth gets trampled underfoot these days... I know that all too well." He's off balance now, working to regain it. "...I guess it's all over the news, then. *I'm*... all over the news." His voice is flat and he doesn't look them in the optics until Nautica addresses him. His gaze meets hers and keeps it a long moment before nodding. "...Very well."
When the shark has left, Nautica apparently decides she'll speak on the matter /now/. Turning back to Blast off, the Camien femme simply charges right in. "Prowl said you were suspected in two crimes, a murder and the bombing. He knows that I had met you, so I was brought in for questioning. When I insisted I didn't think you were a murderer -- that I didn't think you had killed anyone, and that you'd implied someone was trying to kill or frame /you/ -- he said that if that was true, I had to convince you to come in. To tell your side of things and get a fair trial." She leaves unspoken what the consequence may be if she /can't/ convince him.
Arcee is standing nearby, listening curiously because she, too, is very interested in how Blast Off is going to respond.
Blast Off watches the shark leave, then turns to Nautica- and it's like a bomb dropped. He blinks, leaning back a bit as Nautica lays on Prowl's accusations.... and she wants him to...*what*?!? At the mention of "come in", his demeanor changes from wariness to outright incredulity. "...Come ...IN? Talk... at a .. a..." his voice trails off in disbelief. "Fair TRIAL?!"
The shuttle braces himself, taking a step back, optics shining bright and pale. "You really think I'd ever get a FAIR TRIAL?!? These are the same people who have been trying to KILL us! I would never receive a fair trial... I'd be wisked away and never seen again! Or if you DID see me... well..." He shakes his head from side to side in horror, "I would not be /me/ anymore. I'd be some mindless puppet." he turns to look at Arcee. "YOU know that all too well.... remember our... racing "friend"?" The shuttle's ventilation systems are cycling more rapidly now. "Did Prowl talk to YOU too, Arcee?"
"Prowl doesn't like me very much," Arcee says. "I don't think you had anything to do with the clinic bombings, and I was THERE."
"I don't /know/ what to think," Nautica says, clearly frustrated and upset. "I've always been a law-abiding bot! I'm not used to being called in for questioning by the law for having talked to someone! I'm not used to being uncertain whether the law can be /trusted/ or not!" She punctuates each sentence with a gesture.
Then the Camien femme sobers, letting her hands fall to her sides, and adds more quietly, "I just know that I'm going to be in a lot of trouble if I don't try." Finally, Nautica shakes her head. "When I spoke in your defense, I pointed out a bit of a weakness in their evidence, and that's when he said he wanted your side of the story. Maybe you could record a statement and have it delivered, something explaining whatever you meant about 'wiped again', why you've been targeted, all of those things?"
Blast Off gives Arcee a sharp look. "You didn't answer my question. ...Though to answer *yours*... No, I had nothing to do with the bombing. I tried to *save* Rung...and that just made me into a convenient scapegoat."
He stops to listen to Nautica. Every gesture, every punctuation. He can at least understand. "...I was... the same way. I did not want to... see. I wanted to live the comfortable life I had been living, and was content to live and let live. But that's not how it turned out. I found out that NO ONE high up can be trusted anymore. We're all just pawns in their power games."
His guard is still up, but he does relax just a tiny bit, straightening once more. "Then... thank you for standing up for a fellow spacecraft." He blinks and considers her offer. "I... I'm not sure. I'd... have to think of just exactly what I want to say. Words have power, and words can be used against you."
"I heard what you said. There's a place to talk about that, just...not here. Anyhow, remember...I wasn't even the one accusing you," Arcee says sadly, and then she just...wanders away, down the street, not wanting to aggravate Blast Off any further than he already is.
"There was at least one thing Prowl said that wasn't wrong: you can't just keep running and hiding, Blast Off," Nautica replies quietly. "It will make it easier for them to convince others you're guilty. Words might be able to be used against you, but silence -- or running -- can be too."
Letting her hands drop to her sides, Nautica watches the shuttleformer for a long moment. "You have my comm codes; you know how to reach me. If you decide to, let me know, and I can take it to him for you." And then she, too, turns to depart.
Blast Off watches Arcee depart and feels a tinge of sadness himself. His mood continues to be somber as he turns to Nautica. A winf elevon twitches uncomfortably at her assertion... but there's no way he's turning himself in. He was a prisoner before... never again. He will NEVER go back to that hell. Or whatever horrors await him now.
He nods to the femme. "I will... keep it in mind. And... let you know." The he watches her depart as well. Finally, mood quiet and dampened, he leaves as well. He'll sight in his rifle somewhere else... some where less conspicuous.