Title: Birds of a Feather
Date: 22 October 2014
Summary: Soundwave's ability to pick up thoughts leads to an interesting discovery.
Ratbat's Offices, Polyhex, In the Not-so-distant Past.
The offices of a Senator are a cascading cacophony of not only footsteps and voices but of need, greed, ambition, and the power to make change... for good or ill. And all those emotions, those voices, those strong feelings... have a powerful affect on one who can feel them... taste them... almost literally.
Soundwave can hear all, sense all, and the chorus inside his head makes picking just one voice difficult. It has taken a long time to learn to control the chaos- to focus, as Ravage instructed, and pick and choose what he wants to listen to. He is finally beginning to learn the skill. He has yet to master it, but... he is vastly better than the confused, nearly incoherent wanderer he once was. Thanks to a little help from his friends...
The boxy blue mech walks down one of the building's many hallways, focusing both on some trivial task the Senator gave him and the formulations of more important plans of his own. He tries to sift away all the extraneous voices echoing so very LOUDly at him from passing mechs nearby.
Among those voices is something completely different from all the others. The mind is fluid and is a like a tree with one central trunk of thought from which multiple memories of others hang like leaves and fruit. It's not too far away, and seems to be coming from the orange and black femme a short distance away.
Soundwave's face is turned slightly downwards as he works to block out the voices... and then... his face lifts up as a burst of heat flashes forth from the otherwise cold blue ocean he wades in. It's like fire... tastes... earthy, scorched, like burnt wiring caused from racing and pushing one's limits too hard. The reds of passion and... and an extraordinary complexity he does not often encounter in another mind.
For within that mind lies so many others... /HE/ listens to a sea of voices outside.... /this/ person self-contains a chorus all their own. In a way, they both... collect voices. He catches sight of the femme and stops, gazing at her a moment, his mind reaching out to hers- deliberately now.
Further in that mind is focused, surprisingly, on compassion. Empties that need energon she'll bring them. Miners and low-castes that suffer. Innocents that are being manipulated, and her distaste for the inequality all around, and beneath this bubbles a strong yearning for freedom. She feels trapped and fustrated, but is also patient and focused, waiting for the opportunity to strike and take that freedom. A coiled spring ready to be unleashed, but only when the timing is right.
Soundwave senses... a kindred spirit, then. Or at least enough of one to become very intrigued. The shared desire for equality resonates with his spark at the deepest levels. He, too, has compassion for the the castaways of society. He himself /was/ one, once. And if most people knew just what he still /is/... an outlier... still hunted down and treated like refuse... he might be a castaway again. Ironically, though, he is now in the employ of one who both looks down his nose at those he considers inferior... and isn't above using them as resources for his own ends.
Which, come to think of it... might be a rather pragmatic approach. One to consider.
So Soundwave turns and begins to follow this femme from a discreet distance. Though there is one difference... he does not see himself as the coiled spring. More... the one who helps guide it into position, so that it may do its function when the time is right. He isn't a mech of action, he gathers information so that he may *direct* it. This is information he wants to... gather.
//So tired of working for Ratbat//
//Don't want to do this//
//Taking me away from Drift, he might be in danger//
Surface thoughts bubble easily out of Shiftlock's unusual mind, giving Soundwave something to focus on. She's on her way through the building at a leisurely pace.
Soundwave picks these thoughts up as he follows, not gaining or losing ground as he does so. Works for Ratbat, too, does she? He sorts through a database of employees and it doesn't take long to find the name that matches what he senses from her own mind: Shiftlock. Yes, her name is Shiftlock. And she is... special.
That is when he adjusts his pace, quickening his step until he is not far behind her. "Shiftlock? A word?" Of course, he might just be some guy from the office who just happens to know her name... or perhaps sent by Ratbat himself? She may well know he's Ratbat's personal "assistant". He gestures very slightly with his head to a small, private alcove nearby.
She seems surprised, but not disagreeable to the suggestion. Nodding in agreement, she follows where Soundwave leads. She has little to fear from him - or so she believes.
Soundwave heads to the more private alcove, turning to face her when she follows him inside. He stands fairly straight and stiff, like he is somehow... containing himself. Or is it something else? And every now and then he seems to glance off to some distant noise or movement. But here it is quieter, and that means he can focus. His one-piece visor gazes down at Shiftlock as he says in a quiet, almost monotone voice, "Query. You... collect voices?"
Shiftlock's form becomes silvery and fluid and alters into a direct duplicate of Soundwave.
"Correction:" she says in his voice, "I collect forms."
Soundwave thought /he/ was going to surprise Shiftlock, possibly put her a bit off-gaurd. instead, it is he who is taken aback. He doesn't move, other than a subtle brightening of his optical visor. Immediately he accesses his database. He's no Rewind, but information is something he considers his specialty- especially gathering it, which means trying to be ready for whatever one may encounter. And he has always had an interest in the outcasts and the useful. Finally, he speaks, the faintest trace of surprise now present: "You are... a shifter?"
"Response: Correct," Soundlock replies. Seconds after the Soundwave duplicate returns to her original state. "Far as I know, the last one. Nice to meet you boxy'n'blue. You're a carrier."
Soundwave is definitely feeling quite pleased right now. This is an extraordinary find. The big blue mech stands there a moment longer, considering, then nods. "My designation is Soundwave. I am Senator Ratbat's personal assistant." His head tilts slightly to the side, and his hand comes up to press a button near the top of his chest. "And you are correct. Laserbeak, eject."
At the command, the hinge of his chest opens and a cassette flies up from within. Transforming, a red and black condor Cybertronian arcs around to land on Soundwave's shoulder. Soundwave watches Shiftlock's reaction... not only to the little display, but how she reacts to Laserbeak himself, sitting there and staring silently at her.
Shiftlock's form shrinks down to the size of Laserbeak - the smallest compression she can manage for her mass - and she duplicates Laserbeak only so far as shape - where he's red, she's copper. She perches on the other shoulder. "Nice to meet your friends. I was wondering if you were packing some partners; if you're working for Ratbat that means we'll probably have assignments together." She tilts her head towards Laserbeak. "So how long have you been working with Soundwave?" She addresses the minicon as if he's his own person, and not a thing. Her fluid nature has erased a good deal of any classism she might have had working for someone like a Senator.
And with that, she passes the test. Laserbeak remains silent, glancing at Soundwave, who gives the condor a reassuring nod. The bird looks to the "other" perched on Soundwave's opposite shoulder and answers in a voice that sounds slightly scratchy from disuse. "Long enough to trust him." The minicon does not give trust lightly, either.
Soundwave turns to look at this new "bird". "You understand, then. They are not beasts. They are Cybertonians, who deserve equal treatment in the eye of the law." His optics flicker, and he suggests something rather dangerous in this day and age, "And you desire this equality as well."
"Nova Prime tried to make my frametype extinct. I'm aware of oppression, and I don't give it in return," Birdlock explains. She chirps with amusement. "I think I'm classified as a self-directing collection fluid."
Soundwave finds himself cracking the faintest of smiles under his faceplate, and has to refrain from a sudden crazy urge to take "Birdlock" and try to convince her to fly into his chest and become one of his tapes. The form just triggers... an instinct within him. That carrier instinct, most likely. He does not succumb, however, and merely nods.
His mind reaches for hers again, this time searching for emotions and intent. What *is* intent exactly? What does it matter? Is it more important than actions, or are the results the greater determination of one's spark, one's place in things? As a being of emotions and voices and inner worlds, and a quiet observer of such things, he feels intent is probably the greater of the two qualities. Actions can be unpredictable, and mistakes can be made while trying to do what is needed, but intent is the guage by which to judge a situation- or a person. And HER intent is good.
So he divulges a secret of his own. They will probably be working together, she ought to know. "I am more than this, however." He tilts his head very slightly again. "Who is Drift?"
"An empty, living in the Dead End. He's addicted to pretty much anything he can inject," Birdlock says with a whistling sigh. "He's got a good spark and I've been looking after him. WHatever I earn here, I share with the Empties. I try to keep them going, find them better lives." And then it dawns on her and she flutters her wings with a squawk. "Hey, wait a minute, how did you--?"
Soundwave's faint smile turns to a bit more of a self-satisfied smirk. But even that is subtle and quickly gone, replaced by his usual quiet seriousness. He cannot allow himself too many strong emotions of his own- he has enough trouble controlling the entry of the emotions of others swirling all around him.
"I am an outlier. I collect voices, too... in my own way. And I also know the bite, the foul odor of of discrimination." He glances back to Laserbeak. "My friends and I have all experienced what it's like to be on the streets. We know what it is like to be... lost."
"Wish I'd found you before Ratbat," Birdlock whistles sadly. "Because now we're -all- slaves."
Soundwave's reply is immediate. "No. Slaves hold no power. Look at me, look at you. Do you see a lack of power? Of skill? Of worth?" His visor dims slightly, then flares. "They believe we are powerless. They are wrong. And in time, we will prove it." He glances off towards the doorway, then back to Birdlock.
"Our suffering is not over. We shall still need to endure. But our numbers are growing, and we are finding one another. Today, I found you. Tomorrow, who knows? Keep your optics open, Shiftlock, and believe... because one day all Cybertronians *will* be equal. It is a growing tide, it is our planet's destiny."
"I know what you're talking about," Birdlock replies. "Because I've being among the numbers you're talking about. I've been everywhere and nowhere. I think I get what you tried to show me there, so... even more, I understand both why Ratbat decided to elevate you out of the slums, and why you feel the way you do." She hops off his shoulder and hits the ground as a puddle of living mercury, gathering itself up into a twisting spiral of fluid that expands, solidifies, colors. "I want that too. I just don't see the right path to get there yet."
Soundwave nods. "Yes. Ratbat is selfish, greedy, vain. He sees me as just a tool he can use... as he does you or anyone like us. But information is key and at a place like this I can obtain news of not only what goes on in public but private behind-the-scenes data as well. People's innermost, most closely guarded secrets. What I have been learning is encouraging. There are stirrings, Shiftlock..."
He looks off into the distance as if sorting through some of those memories, "There are forces in motion. There is great suffering... but there is also great resolution to act, to change things. And I think some key players are about to show themselves. Soon. I can... taste it. It simply requires some patience."
"Sounds like what I read in Megatron's book." Birdlock looks over at Soundwave, waiting to see what sort of reaction that statement will get. He already sounds like a Decepticon, but she wants to be certain of it. She may not be entirely sold on how they plan to get things done, but at least Soundwave would be treated like a free mech if he were one of them.
Soundwave is at his very spark and core a Decepticon. A Decepticon the way he understands it: one who fights for equality against an oppressive regime; one who understands that the cosmic rust must be completely stripped and wiped clean from every crack and crevice before one can build again. And he knows how dangerous it can be to reveal one is such a thing, especially in these halls. But he can also read Shiftlock's intent, and he knows at last *some* secrets are safe to reveal.
Soundwave's optics betray a subtle gleam and he quotes straight from the book. "We're all works in progress. We're the sum of our experiences. From Chapter 5, Paragraph 3.... And Megatron is correct." He brings his arm up to lightly touch Laserbeak as he continues, "All of us have something to bring to the table... from Laserbeak to tallest Cybertonian. And some of us will /make/ those who refuse to see that open their optics and finally SEE."
Birdlock can't really smile with a beak, but her mental state is smiling. "Yeah, I read the same book. It changed my way of seeing things." She is thinking of fighting back against Ratbat, and thinking that Soundwave would be better off with Megatron. It's only after she thinks this, that she immediately realizes Soundwave is reading her thoughts, too -- instead of being upset, she's terribly amsued by the fact that she can simply think straight to him rather than speak.
Soundwave gives Birdlock a slow, meaningful nod. Yes, he is quite glad to find this one. A rare gift, indeed, in these wretched halls he must walk through every day. "Mine as well." He picks up her thoughts and this leads to another trace of a smile under that faceplate. "...I agree. I believe our paths will converge soon. It is simply the way fate works."
Having picked up her plan to fight against Ratbat, he adds, "And remember that when fate isn't working quite fast enough, it can be... manipulated. But caution: advised. People like us are gathering strength but not all of us have found our footing... such as your friends still on the street. And we would be back on the street- or far worse- if most people knew about us.... the ...*special* ones."
Taking advantage of Soundwave's telepathy, Birdlock mentally shows Soundwave everything she knows about the Institute: Waking up on a table as a 'gift' from Tarantulas to Ratbat; names of Decepticon sympathizers on a list; searching for information to be used against others. There's shame in that last one, but she is trying to give Soundwave every scrap of data in one mental info dump.
An outside observer wouldn't think that much was going on as Soundwave stood looking at the "bird" on his shoulder. But inside there is a swirl of not only technical information but the emotions and raw experience of the memories as well.
Soundwave finds some of it taxing, and this does finally draw a slight shake of the head. He reaches a hand up to his face, optics dim, voice almost staccato. "Memories: unpleasant. Stuggles: Many." He has gained far more control of his mental abilities than he had in the past, but he hasn't mastered it...yet. But he gets better at it all the time. The hand comes down and he looks to Shiftlock once more. "...Thank you. The information: useful.... Appreciated."
Reflecting on the memory of Tarantulas, he asks, "Is that your first memory?"
Birdlock nods her head in agreement. "I don't remember anything before that time. Maybe I will, or maybe that's simply where I was forged."
Soundwave nods. "Perhaps in time. Memories, thoughts, emotions: in a state of flux. A simple sight or sound can trigger them. I hope they return to you." He studies the bird on his shoulder. Well, the not-Laserbeak one. "I think we will work well together. If you require assistance, you may contact me here." He transmits his radio frequency. "We should stay in touch."
Birdlock leaps from Soundwave's shoulder and returns to her regular self. "I will. Things might... happen, with me, Soundwave. But I'm very happy to have met you."
Soundwave watches as she transforms... but not in the usual manner. It's a rainbow of colors, drawing in the fresh scent of newmade life combined with ancient stardust... not the more oily and earthy smells he senses from normal transformations. He agrees in kind, "Indeed."
The outlier sorts through his memories... her memories. Shiftlock seems on the chaotic edge of violence and peace, and he has a question. "If it became... required... would you be willing to do *whatever* it took to be free?"
"... I have my limits. I won't kill if I can help it," Shiftlock confesses firmly. "But... apart from that... " She looks back up at him, serious. "I would. I'd push as far as my sense of right and wrong would allow."
Soundwave listens and files that answer away as well. "That is all one can ask." At this point in time, at least, he believes it, too. "I should get back to my duties. It was a ...pleasure, Shiftlock." He looks at Laserbeak and opens the compartment on his chest. The condor takes one last look at Shiftlock before soaring up, around, transforming into cassette mode and nestling back inside. With that, he begins to make his way out.
"Take care. You -and- your friends."
Shiftlock, true to her function, is already out of sight.