Title: Black and White and Shades of Gray
Location: Rust Narrows
Date: 21 March 2015
Summary: Blast Off and Arcee were once friends. Then they parted ways, Arcee was ordered to get the Combaticon arrested (unknown to him at the time) and did just that, and now, at the dawn of war, the truth might finally come out.
The Rust Narrows doesn't really look good from the ground. And it probably doesn't look much better from the sky.
There is, however, something relatively eye-catching in the Narrows. A formerly abandoned and derelict mecha-soccer stadium is in the process of being renovated. The rust and debris have been removed from the field, lights have been replaced...there's definitely work here, but the purpose of the renovations is unknown.
No, the Rust Narrows do not look good to most anyone. And this is especially true to a certain former High Caste space shuttle Combaticon here to deliver more goods for Hot Rod's group of rebels. He's just finished delivering the cargo, and takes a moment to stretch his legs before flying away again. perhaps he'll even find a bar or something nearby for one small drink before he hits the road.
And so Blast Off happens to come by this stadium. Noticing the activity, the shuttleformer pauses and stares. Hmm, that's odd, especially in a place like this. Having a little time to kill, he strides closer to see if anything catches his optic.
As Blast Off descends into the stadium, he'll notice the carefully-cleaned pitch, and the bright stadium lights that hearken back to when games were actually played here (which wasn't actually THAT long ago in the relative scheme of things, but it's been long-enough abandoned to be every bit as dirty and unkempt as the rest of the Narrows).
Seated up on a platform alongside the scoreboard is Arcee, who is cleaning and testing each diode to see which ones in the sign require replacement. Most all of them do. She's so caught up in her project that she doesn't notice Blast Off's approach.
Blast Off comes into the stadium, violet optics taking this all in while looking as aloof and poised as ever, despite the circumstances and his recently repaired armor and systems. Despite everything that's happened to him, he still manages to carry himself like he's still High Caste, even though now he's technically Disposable: a criminal deserving only imprisonment or death. It's been a long, twisting road to get where he finds himself now, and as he turns and spots Arcee his optics widen in surprise. Arcee, someone from that past, and someone he still has unanswered questions about.
The shuttleformer pauses for a long moment, just watching Arcee work. He thinks to Megatron's recent orders: that any Autobots encountered should be met with attack and death. The time for playing around is over, the time to make a deadly point has arrived. And yet... Blast Off hesitates, remembering times that seem long ago, and yet really weren't so. Dates to the opera, running across rooftops to assist the femme, and discussions of a corrupt government. Blast Off looks around, seeing that they SEEM to be alone- but he takes his ionic blaster out of subspace... just in case. It remains held down at his side as he walks towards the pink femme, then he stops at a reasonable distance away.
Arcee turns and looks at Blast Off in sudden surprise. "Blast Off??" After the initial surprise, her immediate second reaction is to smile warmly...not a 'smiling to save my aftplate from getting burned up' type cagey smile, but a very genuine glad-to-see-you smile. "You're looking very well! How've you been??"
That warm smile catches the shuttle off gaurd, and Blast Off simply stares at Arcee a moment before regaining his composure. It also puts him in a more "gentlemech" mode as opposed to "battle ready" mode, so the gun remains hanging at his side. "I am... well. I have been keeping busy." Helping steal nanolathes and nearly getting torn in two, but Arcee already knows that- having been there. "Gaining my... stride among the..." He pauses to look at their surroundings and gestures towards it, ".. the rust and disrepair, and bringing some... class to it despite its recalcitrance." His violet optics fall on her once more. "....How have you been?"
Arcee chuckles. It doesn't appear that Arcee's making small talk in order to put Blast Off off-guard, because she knows he had drawn his blaster and she has some idea why he feels he needed to do that. She doesn't take it personally. "More or less okay. I've had some problems of the Starscream variety, but I'm fairly sure you don't want to hear about that. Welcome to my side project. You know how it's said that a mech needs to have a hobby to keep him same? Well, it's a similar case with femmes. I know that the problems are intensifying, and yet...here I am, doing a side project that has everything to do with a community mecha-soccer revival, and absolutely nothing to do with politics or class wars. When I'm done with this place, it's going to be a fun zone for everyone." She pauses, staring at the area of the field that still needs to be cleaned. "It's going to be my side project for a while, there's still a metric ton of work to be done."
Blast Off's optic ridge lifts up at the mention of Starscream. "...Starscream? Seems he makes trouble for everyone." He pauses, wondering if Arcee thinks he's not interested in that subject- or if it's one she doesn't wish to share. He offers, "...Be careful, he is not trustworthy." As the femme describes her side project, the shuttle gazes around once more, taking in the enormity of her project. "Indeed, it will be a lot of work." His head tilts, faceplate covering a lot of his expression, but he's a bit puzzled. "...Why? Are you being paid for this?"
"Yeah, it's a bit too late to, uh, 'fix' the Starscream problem now, because as you say, very little of what he says is based in truth. He's going to get what's coming to him; if not from me, then from someone else who wants him dead worse than I do right now," Arcee says, shaking her head as she pulls a broken diode out of the score board. "Nope, not getting paid anything for this. I'm just doing this so that mechs who have no other recourse can come in here and enjoy a little respite from the misery that's everywhere else. It's just something I've wanted to do, personally and on my own time. And why? Because..." She grins again. "Because mecha-soccer is a great game. I want to see it make a comeback. Yes, even in these times. It could conceivably happen."
Despite all his suspicions and doubts and Decepticon orders, Blast Off's optic ridges furrow down at the hint of her having problems with Starscream. HE is having problems with the Seeker, too... big ones involving blackmail to keep his relationship with Whirl secret. "I.... hope so," He admits quietly, ".... I'm having a problem or two myself with him. Then again, perhaps everyone he meets eventually does." There's a soft huff. He's talking ill of his Superior in the Decepticon Chain of Command, but the arrogant shuttle really doesn't care.
He then tries to understand what benefit Arcee is going to get from all this hard work. It's not monetary, and it's not really something super high-culture that he can easily get behind. Hmm. The amusement of the common masses. Those violet optics sweep around again. "I... suppose so, yes. But... here? Among the riffraff? They don't seem like they'd be the appreciative sort." Such a bucket of cheer HE is.
"You see? And then he can't understand why nobody likes him," Arcee exclaims with a wide-armed shrug. "He's going to get to the point where he's even pissed off his closest associates, and then you watch. He thinks he's just going to be amazing enough to walk away from it all and reinvent himself, I think...and just start his little games all over again. But he /seriously/ underestimates the power of an angry majority. If he can't even treat his colleagues with some modicum of respect, then it's going to backfire on him something fierce."
"Well, you see, back when there were active leagues," Arcee explains, more than happy to just drop the Starscream topic to discuss mecha-soccer, "The higher-caste cities tended to fare better, as you can imagine. I mean, I could go to Ibex's old stadium, or Iacon's, but the truth is, those just aren't in the same sad condition that this one is. And this area is just so miserable, don't you agree? Something is needed here to remind mechs of what sort of victories could be claimed once more."
She pulls her hand quickly away from the scoreboard, as one of the open contacts shocks her finger. "Ow."
"Indeed. Starscream's arrogance will be his downfall." So says the arrogant shuttle- but it applies to the Seeker. HE on the other hand is simply as amazing as he thinks he is! Blast Off continues, "Yes... an angry majority is nothing to take lightly. Even if they are far eblow one's station, they can still make their voice heard. Or their actions /felt/." And he'd love to be among them, though THAT is a dangerous thought for the Decepticon soldier.
The Combaticon listens to Arcee explain about soccer, then considers. "I suppose so." he thinks to the rough and tumble mechs he's met in rundown places like this- people like Rumble, who he wouldn't have given a second thought to before. People who, he has learned, have hopes and dreams just like he does. "...I can see that, actually. Some of those... ruffians and hardscrabble sorts.... still would benefit from the ocassional victory or two. I can..." He blinks, the statement one he wouldn't have made not long ago, "I can understand that. I surmise that... everyone could use that sort of ego-boost. That.... hope."
His optic ridges furrow again- he's not so sure about "hope". "I just... /hope/ that their hope is not shattered." Then Arcee shocks herself, and his focus returns to her- stepping towards her before he thinks better of it. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah, the only think that's hurt is my pride," Arcee laughs. "So, seriously. It's good to see you. We might not have another chance to talk like this for a while. You have any questions for me? I can't tell you anything classified, of course, but maybe there's some things we need to discuss, because we might not get the opportunity again for a while. My only concern is that you're satisfied with the decisions you've made, and if they've turned out to be the right ones for you."
Blast Off allows himself an /almost/ amused little huff at Arcee's first comments. That stills, however, as she continues and the shuttleformer quiets as he gazes towards her. He looks thoughtful- and a little ...apprehensive? The silence stretches out for a long time, the Combaticon pausing to interrupt it only with the ocassional glance askew or scratch at the back of his helmet. Then, finally, he straightens a little. His stance becomes a little more rigid, like he's bracing himself.
He maintains his standard calm demeanor, however. "...I wouldn't expect anything classified, no." He glances downwards, then back to her. "...I will live with them. There's no going back, anyway. And I am a Combaticon- we will survive, and we will live to have to last laugh in the end." He certainly hopes so. Then he seems to hesitate again.
"Oh, of course. I mean, you won't hear me asking you to turn back or anything. I think we've both made decisions that have led us in different directions...and while there's a part of me that really wishes things were different, it's mostly a selfish part. Because you seem to be doing very well with the decisions you've made, and you've returned to your team, the Combaticons...I don't think any less of you for making those choices, Blast Off. These are strange times we're in, where friends are supposed to forget their friendships and fight each other in some civil war of ideals."
"Yes. Well, we live in... interesting times, as they say. They also say "interesting times" are a bit of a curse, and I believe there is some truth to that." He sighs a little, gazing skyward and daydreaming of quieter times in his habsuite, music playing as he sips some fine wine and takes in a glorious view of Vos. Days long gone, now. "Things MUST change.... one way or another. I would HOPE we can all at least agree to that, if not to HOW that should occur."
The shuttleformer's free hand comes to idly scratch at the heat shield on his other arm, the one carrying the weapon still. "And yes... I have rejoined my old team, and..." He looks Arcee in the face and shares with her, "I am glad to be back with them. We have our... disagreements still, and I am FAR too sophisticated for most of them, but.... it really is good to be part of something again." He then adds a little smugly, "Besides, they NEED me."
He stands there for awhile longer, gazing around them at the arena, still delaying about something.
He thinks of something else to say. "What about you? Are you happy where you are?"
"...Yes and no," Arcee admits. "I don't really have many friends there, although that's slowly beginning to change and I'm finally beginning to connect with a few of them. I've definitely learned a whole lot -- if we ever get a chance to practice mock-combat someday, I'll show you what I've learned," she adds optimistically. Yes, mock-combat. "I'm not very happy right now, but a lot of that has to do with...well, YOU know who. Not the new career I've undertaken."
Blast Off nods, looking back at Arcee. Yes, /mock/ combat. "That would be... nice. I did try to teach you a thing or two... back then." His face turns skyward once more, taking in the highest seats and lights. "I would imagine finding friends among Autobots is difficult... aren't most of them brainwashed or something? But you were always very... engaging, and I imagine if anyone can do it, it would be you." There's a pause. "We did have some... pleasant times together."
"I don't know if most of them are, to be really honest.../some/ of it does go on, but many that I've met are there of their own choosing, not under duress or anything like that," Arcee notes. "I'm not really happy that any of it goes on, but...there isn't much I can do to stop it. I just try to avoid the ones who have very obviously been through it." She smiles again, thinking back on earlier days. "We really did, and now I'm really appreciating what a gentlemech you are," she admits. "Just because...I'm dealing with a creep right now, and he's nothing like you, so I can appreciate how nice you were to me."
Blast Off lifts an optic ridge at that, but realizes he is NEVER going to understand Arcee's reasoning joining the Autobots- anymore than he really understands Whirl's. Well, actually, Whirl was promised hands and head again...by none other than Starscream... but he's not sure of Arcee's reasons entirely. And before it would even cross his mind to try to persuade her to leave, there's a question he must ask.
At the mention of being a gentlemech, Blast Off can't help but preen just a bit, looking proud and standing there like he's the definition of culture and class. "Yes, well, I /am/. I do not take advantage of innocent young femmes." And he hasn't, despite having had the opportunity more than once, with both Arcee and then even moreso with Shiftlock. The Combaticon is definitely messed up in some ways- but there is a side that truly tries to do the right thing. The /classy/ thing. "I come from a very prestigious place, a high class, and it is important to me to always reflect that. No matter my life... situation. For that pride is something they can NEVER take from me, not if I don't let them." And that is one of the basic truths Blast Off lives by.
There is the matter of that question, though. Blast Off glances away once again, watching as some small turbo-sparrows flits up and over the arena and into the sky above. That bird is so... free. He can fly, too- and yet he doesn't feel anywhere near that light anymore. "Arcee, there is... soemthing I must ask you."
Oh, ugh. Arcee doesn't much care for Blast Off's SMUG MODE. But she deals with it, because despite his flaws, he really IS a gentlemech, especially in comparison to that damned lying Seeker. She even misses his bloviating brags...sort of. They make her smile.
"You have a question for me? If I can answer it, I'll do my best," she says. "So let's have it."
There's a final pause, a long look in the direction that bird flew away in- despite it having long since disappeared from view. Then Blast Off turns his head to look intently at Arcee.
"....Did you have anything to do with my recent incarceration?"
"Not with the incarceration itself, I don't have clearence to make those decisions," Arcee says, then adds: "But, I did have a pivotal role in your apprehension." She's going to let Blast Off take from that what he may.
Blast Off begins to relax at that first bit. Well... that's a relief, if true. And then that shatters, leaving the shuttleformer to stare hard at the femme. After a long, uncomfortable silence, he finally speaks, his voice sounding flat. "How so?"
"Well...well what's the use in knowing that now except to make you even angrier about it? Look, if I had any idea what they were going to put you through in that place, I wouldn't have done it. And I didn't know *exactly* how bad Kolkular was until I visited Ruiner/Gauge," Arcee says defensively. "But I won't lie, I assisted them to the point where they probably wouldn't have gotten you otherwise."
Blast Off's hard stare continues. "You saw how bad it was when you visited ME there." Now his voice contains a more dangerous edge. The shuttle's ventilation systems cycle a few times... purposefully, as if he's taking care to keep himself calm. After hearing what Rung told him, and trying to think how Arcee might possibly have been involved.... there's another question that must be asked.
"....Were you Shutterfly?" It fits. There weren't many involved in his apprehension- except her and her assistant, both of whom disappeared.
At some point in the past, Arcee swore that she would absolutely never, ever reveal her part in Blast Off's apprehension. She wasn't proud of it, and she really wished she never took part in it. Now that she's matured from that point in her life and her career, though, she feels like she can handle the fallout from this. Worst that can happen is Blast Off has a really severe rage reaction and attacks her, so Arcee just prepares for that possibility.
"When I visited you in Kolkular, I didn't see how bad it was because I didn't stay long enough to see what Feint ended up doing to you, I just heard about it later," Arcee notes. "And look, I know you're not dumb, of course that was me in Kaon, in an undercover guise."
And indeed, Blast Off IS angry. It shows in the way the shuttle's armor plates bristle and his expression turns to ice. It is also reflected in the fact that his gunhand twitches once, the weapon becoming a little more securely in his grip, though it remains pointed downward. Despite all this, he doesn't leap to attack her, or anything of the sort. Blast Off isn't really the *blind rage* type anyway... but he is quite capable of a cold fire that slowly gains power and causes freezer burn to all in its wake.
His voice is as iced over as his attitude. "....WHY. /Why/ did you do it? Was this enjoyable to you? Sitting up there on that rooftop, handing me wine? Was that some kind of /game/ to you?"
Arcee just sighs wearily, much like a repo mech when they're caught red-handed by the debtor and begin getting bitched out endlessly just for doing their job. "No, not enjoyable, not a game, none of that, I didn't /want/ to do it but I was under orders to do it," she explains. "Would I do it again, knowing everything I know now? I don't think I would. At the time, I felt like I had a lot to prove. Look, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you don't have the right to be mad. It's just that...I can't change any of it. It's already happened."
Blast Off is furious, though his comparitively subdued demeanor continues as he simply stares at Arcee and *twitches* a little. There's even an optic twitch at one point to add to the furious flavor. Now comes in cold, ice cold, and snowball's chance in you-know-where servings. "So to prove something to these... Autobots you just joined up with, you betrayed your friend."
His stare could pierce ships. "...I /should/ shoot you for that." His fingers remain tightly clenched around his gun, but don't move otherwise.
"Then bring it, what are you waiting for?" Arcee asks, folding her arms across her chestplate.
Blast Off's violet optics flash at that and after another moment his arm lifts up to point his ionic blaster right at Arcee. And then he stands there, weapon pointed right at her head... optics locked upon optics. The shuttleformer is nearly trembling with rage at this point in time.... and yet... his trigger finger doesn't move. He stares down his sights, down the barrel, to the femme staring right back at him between the pins.... and somehow no shot is fired. Seconds stretch to minutes.... and yet no harsh, discordant blast rings forth to interrupt the relative silence of the arena all around them. It's a moment frozen in time.
Arcee stares down the barrel of the gun, but doesn't even flinch. ...Perhaps she's had the needles-through-her-processor treatment? Either that, or her time with the Autobots has definitely given her a steel backbone. "A breem or two ago, you were totally agreeing with me that this entire matter of caste justice and societal upheaval is far more complicated than simple black-and-white assumptions. Now, you're back to the black-and-white assumptions. Either I did this because I hate you and I'm a terrible person, or...or nothing, right? Or MAYBE, it's a little more complicated than your anger-blinders are allowing you to see. But regardless, you wanted to know the truth, and I told you the truth."
Perhaps it is just that- Arcee's bravery staring down Blast Off's gun barrel- that causes the shuttleformer to hesitate. Perhaps it is a night at the opera long ago, or times spent attempting to teach a niave young femme to face down dangers much like the one he is now threatening her with- this time for real. His weapon is loaded and /very/ deadly, especially at this close range, from an expert marksmech. The moments seem to stretch to breems.
The moment is a long, uncomfortable one... a standoff between mech and femme, Decepticon and Autobot, sniper, spy and one-time friends. And then, slowly.... his blaster begins to lower. The Combaticon's arm drops down until eventually it hangs by his side once more. Blast Off stares at Arcee. She did admit the truth... even while facing death down in the business end of his barrel. Those violet optics pierce hers.... and then his head jerks back slightly as he lets out a sigh, optic contact briefly broken. Resuming that gaze and looking at least /slightly/ calmer now, he comments, ".... Yes. You did."
Arcee meets Blast Off's gaze with a calm and collected sort of regret. Did she think Blast Off was going to kill her? She knew there was a good chance of it happening, but an equally good chance that wouldn't. She has her way of dealing with the stress, she's learned from the greatest emotion-suppressor who's ever existed on Cybertron. "I know you don't believe me, but I really am sorry that I hurt you," she says quietly. "If you hold it against me, then...I accept that. Because it isn't something I can change. But it's never been anything personal."
Blast Off listens to all this as he returns once more to a more standard icy, aloof attitude. His hard stare breaks away as she apologizes once more. Once she has finished speaking, he seems to deliberate on this for awhile, then responds. "...I don't know what to believe anymore.... about you. About several things. About /people/." He rolls his shoulders and adjusts a crick in his neck. "I do know one thing, though." His gaze locks onto hers once more. "It /was/ personal to me."
Arcee doesn't want to make this worse than it already is, and it would seem that anything further she could add would do exactly that. So she just meets his gaze, saying nothing, just looking at him quietly.
Blast Off watches her for a reaction, but gains little for his efforts. The shuttleformer maintains that icy stare that reflects the chilly temperatues he's built for up in the great wide cosmos... but Arcee simply stares back. Finally, the Combaticon breaks his gaze again, letting out another long, soft *huffff* from his ventilation systems. Another roll of a shoulder, this time the one attached to the arm holding his weapon. "Well. I suppose I have taken enough of your... time." He takes another seemingly casual look around the arena before turning to leave. His face comes around to glance behind him. When he speaks, his cultured voice sounds relatively calm and aloof once more. "I will not seek you out for revenge, if that's what worries you. I do not pretend to understand why you did what you did, but... I have better things to concern myself with now. And despite what you may really think, or what your Autobot friends think.... I *am* a gentlemech when all is said and done." At least usually.
"However. You spoke of black and white versus shades of gray? Yes... the real world, and people... are usually shades of gray. But politics? Civil unrest? Oppression? That can turn black and white /really fast/. Especially when people become angry and have nothing left to lose. I didn't shoot you now, because I realize there are... shades of gray. There is... history. BUT."
Blast Off suddenly whips around, in one smooth, effortless movement raising his ionic blaster and aiming it at a light fixture far overhead- a very difficult shot for anyone, much less one performed this quickly. His shot is fired almost before the naked optic can even register his movement- and his shot is true. The light shatters, destroyed in an instant with the sniper's undeniable skill. Then he lowers his weapon again and resumes his aloof gaze. "The next time we meet, things may have become much more black and white. Even if WE haven't.... the world around us just /might/." Yes, war is coming, and they both probably know it.
Arcee knows very well that Blast Off is a very capable battlemech, and can back up his boasts. Even without the shooting demonstration, she would have known this to be true. She feels a slight amount of relief when Blast Off, by sheer coincidence, shoots out one of the stadium bulbs that still needed changing, but she decides not to bring this up. "If that's what happens, then so be it," she resolves. She'll definitely be ready for him, and whatever happens next.
Blast Off tilts his head, an acknowlegement to Arcee's statement. "Indeed." He remains standing there, a trace of... regret on his face? For many lost things, including a friendship. Then he turns and strides out of the arena, ignoring Megatron's orders to shoot any Autobot he sees. There will always be a next time, and then, as Arcee suggests... they will just have to see.