Title: Buggy Healthcare
Location: The Great Hive
Date: 21 April 2015
NPCs: Various drones (both)
Summary: Overclock returns to the Great Hive and is introduced to Insecticon medicine by Kickback. The psych therapy afterwards is complementary.
A quartet of mantis drones descend the lone tunnel which connects the brooding chambers to the rest of the hive. While not of Kickback's spark their appearance is eerily close to Scorn's - and rightly so as they're her clones. The two drones in the rear are clearly injured with one missing a bladed arm and the other scorched and cracked from plasma damage while the two in front have lesser, cosmetic damage. Their payload however is another matter entirely. Held across their combined shoulders is the super-hive's black sheep: the Insecticon-beastformer Overclock and from start to finish it's taken her less than a dozen cycles since leaving the hive to get here.
Burnt, sand-blasted of broad sections of paint, speckled with powdered rust inside and out, cracked, torn up, and crushed in places, the femme is in an almost scrap worthy shape. Her normally proud and bold systems are humming a weak, chugging whine as her optics fade on and off in slow cycles and the lights of her body run dimly. While not completely unconscious the young bug is close, holding herself in a half-sleep state out of caution and habit born from a past life scavenging off half-charges of energon.
[Wavespeech] Kickback says, "I can feel you. Stay put, I'll be down to tend you in a moment."
A cluster of swarmers moves with precise, unified movements past batches of hatching pods, across the floor, pouring like six-legged water towards the wounded pseudo-insecticon. One of them in the center tranforms, rising up, unfolding into the tall form of Kickback. He walks over to Overlock and kneels beside her, checking over her injuries with a gentle hand. "Hold on there, there is going to feel strange. Don't fight it, all right?"
The smaller drones, the size of minicons, crawl up and onto Overclock's body, and open their mouths.
There are plenty to check. The beastformer got into a fight with a Terrorcon Commander and looks the part. Scorn may yet need to teach her charge the value of a dignified retreat. Upon close inspection, it's clear that there's an almost pervasive thermal stress that's fatigued her joints beyond what even the splattered rust and crushes and tearing forces have done.
As Overclock feels another Self-Aware couple it's EM field to hers, instincts that were foreign to her a hundred vorns ago kick in and rouse the femme to a state of partial consciousness; the simple act of recognition and response is deeply engrained even in her altered CNA. Flickering as they come to light, her optics take in the familiar ceiling of the Great Hive through her cracked visor and then settle onto Kickback. There's no spark of recognition or even any words but in the crude, emotive wavespeech native to all Cybertronians she emits a dazed understanding. Overclock didn't catch every word but she's also in no condition to resist.
The drones begin chewing.
It's not consumption; the unique property of the swarmer and worker mouths is coming into play. Past the mandibles are thousands of tiny manipulator arms that function like the hands of dozens of microscopic surgeons; they are reshaping the damaged components on the fly. Other drones are delivering sealed, egg-shaped sacs of energon honey to Overclock, observing her; if she is too weak to eat, they'll feed her themselves, like worker bees with larva. Kickback continues to direct the repairs mentally, while reaching up to gently caress the side of Overclock's face and the top of her head. "There we are, nothing to worry about now. I know it doesn't look much like home, but you're safe here," he softly soothes.
It's not the most comfortable procedure to endure but with the level that Overclock's systems have been underclocked to, the manipulations are felt as a sort of squirming sensation across her frame. The femme's face is still a perversion of bestial and insect as Kickback's hand runs over it; having been crippled in her alt-mode she's now stuck in it until her frame is reshaped. Grateful for the nutrient-rich energy, Overclock's cavernous mouth merely opens to allow the enerhoney to be placed inside and then sucked down her throat for consumption.
As the energy reaches her systems, the young insect begins to brighten, slowly coming out of her hibernating mode to a more lucid but still partially-disabled state. The Seeder's assurance strikes a chord somewhere inside and despite the alien medicine crawling all over her frame, Overclock doesn't panic as her body recovers one piece at a time. A piece of a true queen, as small as it is, has given her a comfortable connection to the Insecticon ways, and perhaps there's something else at play as well.
"Hun-Grr," Overclock answers in a grainy voice, exhaling a small cloud of rust as she speaks. The femme brought a good amount of the desert back with her.
"He's a big Primordial with a two-headed dragon mode and leader of the "Terrorcons", five rowdy - *cough* - undisciplined mechs." As her frame recharges Overclock's speech begins to strengthen and with another orange cough, it clears up to more of its normal tone. The femme still sounds haggard by repressing the pain of her injuries, but with her vital fluids refreshed, her remaining damage is structural more than life-threatening.
"He tried to 'recruit' me, I told him to pound sand."
"Ah yes, Primordials. Did you know that they generally regard us as food?" Kickback educates, having a seat next to Overclock. "We may have to deal with them soon, but I would advise you next time to choose a less... difficult sparring partner. You need to keep close to home until your adjustments and training are complete." The drones are making rapid work of the repairs, and soon Overclock will have been 'chewed into shape'. Weirdest repair job ever.
That several of her injuries are internal thanks to the rust coating her inside and out makes it that much weirder. Overclock's bestial face contorts in a truly unique expression as she feels one of the minicons shove its mandibles somewhere they don't otherwise belong. "Ee-- Considering he spat his soldier's arm at me, I got that impression."
"No amount of training could have changed the outcome of that fight," she remarks sourly, her systems simmering with anger held beneath the surface.
"Welcome to being an Insecticon," Kickback smoothly states, sounding amused. "You see, I learned a long time ago that I was never going to win by strength. There's always someone stronger." By now the drones are finished - Overclock's body has been restored in the Insecticon way. Her plating will look just a bit more bug.
Once the swarmers back off of her, Overclock lets out a burst of warm exhaust as her systems vent and begin pulling in fresh air, rising from their half-off state as they heat up to their normal levels again. The Beastformer insect looks up to give Kickback a glare that's conveyed more through her EMF more than her blank red lenses. "With an attitude like that, you're right," she dismisses, clearly not holding the Seeder's opinion.
Kickback just smiles. "You're young, impatient. I was like you once. Even took a Hollow's form, tried out wheels, tried to be like the femme that I bonded to. I believed that, if we just loved each other enough - if we tried to understand each other - if we tried for real justice - we'd make a better world."
"Dear Doctor Pharma disabused me of that notion very quickly."
Overclock leans back onto her hind legs as her new and buggier paneling split and shift. The beastformer's jaw unhinges as what was her face becomes her chest and a bipedal form takes shape. Once she's transformed, the Insecticon mutt stands eye level with Kickback, perhaps even a little taller, and noticeably wider at the shoulders. The swarmer's improvements haven't been buried completely and in this form too she looks a little more like part of the family than she did before.
Pharma. It's a good thing for her facemask because the femme's expression contorts itself into a firm scowl at the mention of his name. Her EM signature betrays some of the emotion to the hive seeder as her optics dim in a much colder glare than she'd cast before. (What did he do to you?) she asks, finally showing the presence of mind to use wavespeech.
++ He vivisected me. Repeatedly. ++ Kickback maintains his calm and smile, but there is a certain poisonous undertone flashing through the thick black fog of his EMF. ++ He told me that if I was a good boy and obeyed him that I'd get to see my mother again. He wanted to know how my internals worked, because he believed that in my struts was the secret of creating energon, and he was willing to use me - and many others - as good little laboratory specimens for his workd. ++
"That... slag-sucking automaton jet!" Overclock growls, falling back to her native tongue. The young Insecticon was simmering before, now she's literally fuming as the last specs of rust in her systems are cooked off and waft from her vents as a yellowish haze.
Kickback holds up his hand, gesturing gently to Overclock. relax-calm-restraint says his field. "That time taught me everything I needed to know about the world I was hatched into. About where I ranked on their power plays and in the game they made of controlling the minds and lives of everyone around them as they dim-wittedly tried to ape the unity and peace of the hive that comes naturally to us." He steps closer to Overclock, the drones now moving away and filtering back into their daily tasks. "They can't help themselves, you know; they're frightened. Divided. Crying out 'till all are one' without having the slightest capacity to -be- one. Their food is running low and their time is running out. The only question for us, now, is 'what do we do with them'?"
Realizing the commotion she's making in the brooding chamber, Overclock exhausts hotly and then quiets herself. The black sheep of Scorn's hive has a bit of a temper but it's not beyond a measure of control.
++ If it were cheaper, get rid of them ++ she responds again in wavespeech. The courtesy of Cybertronian is appreciated but she's at least learned some degree of Insecticon manners. ++ Since it's not... help them clean up? Let them die off on their own? ++
++Now you undersand why the people here are so eagerly speaking of Mortilus, the death god. The sparkwaves have all but stopped and the planet is overburdened. It's time for the predators to rise up and thin the herd. Purge the excess, so that new life, and new cycle of civilization can begin,++ Kickback explains. ++That is our eternal job. We are the cleansers and maintainers of Primus, the antibodies against the corruption of his corporeal form.++
++ So what does that make me? ++ The chimeric femme can't help but ask in response to the brief history lesson.
++ One of us. ++ Kickback reassures. ++ Unlike the hollows, we are comfortable welcoming others into our midst. ++
++ I don't feel like one, ++ Overclock confesses as she looks down at her frame then back to Kickback. The gaze behind her visor is dejected as she takes in his all-bug form, the previous anger she'd held having been squashed and giving way to a feeling of inadequacy. ++ Not really... ++
++And what do you feel like, child?++ Kickback asks Overclock softly. Against his enemies he is an unrelenting tide of death, but to his own, a gentle shepherd caring for every individual. ++Is it because you are not born Insecticon, but rather made? I see no difference. Perhaps others might be a little hesistant to trust you - some have been badly mistreated by others - but you are not the enemy. You are not the pretender Primes pressing their heelstruts onto our thorax.++
Overclock looks aside. ++ I feel like I'm still incomplete. ++
Kickbacks antenna bob in attention. ++And what do you need to feel complete?++
The chimeric femme goes silent to search for an answer. ++ ...More than this, ++ she replies, giving up as her visor returns to Kickback's and her EM field modulates a response that starts laced with the same sullen emotions but grows emboldened by the return of a rising anger. ++ More than being this weak, fake Insecticon. More than being this *hiveless* bastard, this hollow queen. ++
++I know of someone who could possibly change that... but making deals with him is like taking your spark in your hands. His name is Tarantuluas. He is my progenitor.++ Kickback says.
++ I've got nothing to barter unless he wants a slave, and I'm not serving anyone, ++ Overclock growls. ++ I'll fight him to the death like I did Hun-Grr if it comes to that. ++
Kickback laughs softly. ++No, he'd probably try to size you up as a bride.++
The beastformer pauses again and tries to process what Kickback just said. ++ As a what? ++ She asks in genuine confusion. That one might be new to her vocabulary.
++A mate,++ Kickback chuckles. ++He's a dirty old man, you're a young femme ... it's not the first time he's tried to find himself a femme.++
Overclock vents smoke at the thought and files the new word into a rather negative memory bank. ++ Same idea, different word. ++
++You think mate is the same as slave? You are hatchling indeed.++ Kickback gestures for her to follow him. ++Come. Let the pods rest, and follow me.++
++ To some people yes, ++ Overclock affirms dismissively. ++ Hun-Grr didn't use the word 'slave' either. ++
Without a reason to stay any longer, she tucks in behind Kickback as the Seeder departs and tries out her freshly repaired joints.
++ Where to? ++ The lack of a proper address for the high-ranked Self-Aware might hint that the femme is suspicious if her EM field didn't do so already.
++Did Hun-Grr actually try to take you for a mate?++ Kickback's field ripples with incredulity and stiffled amusement. He can't help but find it a little funny - it would be less so if Overclock was not standing here in one piece.
++ His words were++ "special company," Overclock derides, switching back to her native tongue for an accurate quote.
++Mmn. I'll have to deal with him then. That won't stand,++ Kickback replies. "Nevertheless," he continues, switching back to standard Neocybex, "Tarantulas is largely harmless in that regard. A dirty old mech to be sure, but harmless." He walks to the throne and has a seat on it. "Mates are not taken by force; that is the anthithesis of a conjunx endura." Settling in he continues. "If you want to be an insecticon, whole and complete, then I can arrange for Tarantuluas to meet with you. I'm the product of his alterations myself."
Overclock follows with a growing uncertainty to her field and she stops before the throne, cognizant that she has no proper place in the seats about the room. ++ I want to deal with him myself, ++ she requests perhaps impertinently. ++ If you or My Queen takes revenge you'll just prove his point. ++
The question of Tarantulas is stickier and the hybrid Insecticon flinches as she considers the possibility. ++ I don't trust him, ++ she finally concludes and with added honesty, ++ I barely trust you... Seeder. ++ The formality is offered as an afterthought.
Kickback is unoffended and gives a charmng smile. ++You're already wiser than most.++
++ For all the good it's done me, ++ Overclock dismisses, persisting with wavespeech out of stubbornness if nothing else. It's still the young Insecticon's weaker language and comes out more slowly, but it's the language she's supposed to use. For all her faults, the young Self-Aware doesn't set herself low standards.
++You want to be a full insecticon yet you won't take the risk needed to achieve your goals. What are you then, Overlock? Who are you, and what do you want?++ Kickback questions, smiling.
++ I want to be complete. I want to be what I'm supposed to be already! ++ Overclock snaps as her engine booms with the final word and her pointed tail arches combatively over her back. Both pairs of optics glow an angry red at Kickback as his calm questioning once again brushes aside her presence of mind.
++Tell me what you're supposed to be.++ Kickback questions, staring back at her, unmoved by her anger or display of rage. His EMF is sharp and intense, never once losing that infuriating smile. Its as if he intends to peel back every layer of her psyche with distressing ease and force her to look at what lays beneath.
++ Complete! Whole! ++ Overclock repeats, limited perhaps not by her wavespeech vocabulary in expressing the idea. ++ Without all this *muddled* baggage holding me down! ++ The hybrid beastformer's systems are beginning to heat up again and her claws flex at the edge of a fight-or-flight instinct. The Swarmer might be playing a dangerous game now.
++You are the only thing holding you back.++
Kickback rises from the throne and stands tall, his wings flipped up over his shoulders. He's big. He's bigger than most expect. Shockwave would have to look up to meet his gaze.
++Long ago when I was in that cell I realized that I was never going to be able to win against those that would hold me down on strength alone. I was powerless and weak, held down by my own fear. That's their game - fear. Intimidation. Teaching you to hold back because you can't bear the thought of risk or pain. In the institute, I decided that I'm not going to fight them, I'm going to -frag- them. That's what I know, that's what I am, and only by admitting what we are can we get what we want.++
Overclock lets out a true bestial growl as she's challenged in simple, primal terms of size and intimidation by Kickback. The pure Insecticon towers over her enough to grab the half-breed's attention from its spiral of anger and distrust and somewhere among his words, a switch gets flipped. Her engines quiet, her hands slacken, her tail droops, but Overclock's gaze if anything intensifies. The surface rust of her anger has been worn off, exposing a seriousness and focus in the locust that's at odds with her earlier displays.
"Do you really want to know who I am? Do you really want to know whom Scorn say fit to impart a fragment of her spark and the signature of her hive?" Overclock asks in the first slow, deliberate, but completely even tone she's used yet. She's also switched back to Neocybex.
"What's more important is that -you- know who you are," Kickback smoothly replies. The extra limbs curled around his torso like ribs tense and flex. "I'm willing to risk -everything- to get what I want. Are you? Or are you content to merely sit back and whine over your situation without doing anything about it?"
"I have no -idea- who I am," Overclock laughs but only afterward is taken aback as she processes what she's just said. The beastformer blinks as her field betrays a rapid progression of emotions from surprise to confusion to bewilderment, annoyance, and finally incredulous resignation. "I have no idea who I am," she repeats, affirming the notion. "But I know what I am: I'm incomplete, and I'm going to fix that. I am -not- somebody's leverage or resource to call upon or spend, and I'm not going to be that ever again. I'm not some cog in someone else's hive that plays out the plans they orchestrate," as she continues, Overclock walks slowly up to Kickback and raises a hand in front of his face, baring her claws around his helmet - not touching but close. "I'm not your drone and I'm not Scorn's. I'm not a soldier in anyone's army and I'm not a worker beebot making someone else's enerhoney. I'm weak and I'm slow and I'm blind and I'm alone, but I'm going to fix all of that or die trying. I'm not the same femme I was when Scorn dropped my spark into a hatching pod - I can feel a piece of her spark now, tugging the rest of me towards her hive - and I'm not the same femme I'm going to be when I'm done."
"Please do me a favor - Seeder - between now and then: don't push me too hard. I seem to be in a volatile stage right now and I'd hate to make an enemy I don't need to, especially out of someone like you."
Kickback raises a hand and brings Overclock's hand to his face.
He kisses it.
"Take the truth you've just spoken to heart, Overclock. It's yours. No one can own it but you, and no one can own you but you, if you hold onto that strong sense of self. That is the journey of every hatchling, to struggle against the teeming mass of minds around them and become self-aware. I don't want you to be my pawn. I want you to become your own queen. That is our way."
Overclock smiles softly behind her facemask, even if watching Kickback talk around her hand offers a strange view. Her tail curves around her side and runs itself along his arm affectionately as she takes her hand back. "You know, I'd forgotten my real name until just now," she notes with amusement. "You just reminded me of it."
"I'm sorry if I pushed you, dear, but sometimes it requires just a little stress to jog the mind. It's only in crisis, it seems, that our true desires come to a head," Kickback muses. "If I bring anything more to your mind, I'll be glad for it."
"Just try not to enjoy pushing me too much, I might get the wrong idea," Overclock teases, taking a jab back at the locust how she can. "I'd hope not to tear one of your limbs off but you'd just replace it anyway."
"My name is 'I', or 'me'. 'Overclock' is just a placeholder for other people to call me," she adds. Kickback's earned that much.
"I like that. It's very 'aware'," Kickback compliments, and grins widely. "I cannot promise I might not enjoy pushing you just a little. I like seeing you so fierce and alive."
"Just don't push me too much," the black femme asks. "It's not home if it's as stressful as the outside world."
"I'll agree to your terms. Promise me that you won't be afraid to take a risk now and again," Kickback replies.
"I'd say I took a big one today when I didn't run as soon as I saw Hun-Grr and his friends," Overclock notes, but after her knee-jerk response she gives Kickback's request a moment of proper thought. "If I asked you to take a risk with Pharma now and again you'd hesitate to do it," she asserts.
"I'll try not to hold myself back."
"Oh, now that might surprise you. I'd play myself right into Pharma's bed or on his table, if I thought the outcome would get me what I want," Kickback muses easily.
"If," Overclock highlights. "With Pharma there are very, very few guarantees. The risk of a failed outcome and its cost, that would make you hesitate, wouldn't it?"
"I would have let Scorn's drones eat me one rivet at a time if I knew they would make me into this afterwards. I'm not afraid of a transient price like that."
"I place my wagers carefully, but the greater the reward, the more I am willing to take the risk," Kickback admits.
"It's easy to promise Luna-1," Overclock recalls. The young Insecticon allows herself a cleansing breath and regards Kickback anew. +" Thank you "+ she says in both languages, plus the more formal address in wavespeech.
"I should go now, I'm sure My Queen wants words."
Kickback leans down and places a small brief kiss on Overlock's forhead. "Take care then, Overclock. Be strong."
The red-eyed femme smiles again behind her mask, a warm expression that carries through her field. "I will, and maybe when I've got a hive of my own I'll show it to you."
Kickback returns the affection and positive emotion through his field. "I look forward to it."