Title: Chop Shop
Date: 05 February 2015
Summary: Flatline gets a patient and a pest. (No one tell Flatline what I called this log!!)
Flatline's old clinic was constructed in an older area of Protihex, lacking much of the grandeur and elegance of the main thoroughfares of the city. In its day this street had been the center of an economic boom, but in Nova's day everything had been flourishing. The clinic was lucky to have escaped the decay of some of the other structures, only Flatline's odd loyalty keeping it acceptably in repair.
The old medic was inside the building, straightening up and scrubbing down the equipment that had become caked with dust since his visit last week. He may no longer actively practice, but for some reason he could not bring himself to sell the old, closed clinic. Once a week he came down from his apartment to perform this odd ritual of scrubbing down scalpels that hadn't been used in decades.
But of late the old clinic had seen a bit of life, and the locals had learned at a certain time of week for a couple of hours they could knock and inquire about a certain sort of procedure, the name of which they did not mutter aloud for fear the wrong audios might overhear. For now, the night had been quiet enough, but Flatline kept a close optic on the empty lobby to see if anyone was waiting at the doors.
The rev of a high-performance engine rumbling away in good health is not the usual warning of approach that Flatline probably receives, but there you have it. Hot Rod is just visible outside as a gleam of red and yellow before he transforms back to root mode. A small figure hops out with the transition and hits the ground at his side.
"--sure this is the place?" asks Hot Rod as he studies the door with the femme next to him.
"I'm sure." She has the slim build of a laser pointer and the determined gaze of a rebel.
Flatline is stooping to scrub a lower shelf in an examination room when he thinks he hears a noise near the lobby. Rocking to his pedes, he shifts into the hallway and moves a few steps into the lobby. Now that he is closer he recognizes the sound of a well-tuned engine and his spark drops, wondering if he has finally attracted the notice of the Protihexan Authorities.
The most he could do, at the moment, is pretend nothing is amiss and that he is simply upkeeping his old property. Shifting to the doorway, he soon spots a flashy mecha standing there with a smaller companion through the window and wavers. If this is a sting the authorities would mostly likely not be loitering about. Making a split second decision, he inputs the code that causes the clinic's doors to slide open and urges them inside with a gesture. "Don't loiter. Come on, then."
Surely no self-respecting authority would hire someone who thinks it is a good idea to go around with flames painted across their chest, right? Or maybe Hot Rod is suspiciously flashy. How many levels deep does it go?? At least his companion is reassuringly mundane. Other than the violet of her eyes, she's quite unremarkable.
"So ... chop shop?" asks Hot Rod with all the delicacy and discretion one might expect.
He earns an elbow in the knees for it from his friend who says, "I hear you do upgrades." She clearly possesses slightly more tact. "Name's Flashpoint."
This reminds him to go, "Hot Rod." There. Now he's polite. He sidesteps away from any further knee whacks.
Flatline's red optics brightens and he holds a digit up to his lip components to sush his guests. With another gesture he urges them to follow him into the hallway and around the corner until the lobby is out of sight. Only then does his frame relax slightly. "I apologize for the rude greeting, but I prefer not to talk in the lobby where anyone passing by can look through the window and see us speaking," he explains, glancing sidelong at Hot Rod with a scowl. Especially when his guests seemed to beg attention.
"Hot Rod, Flashpoint. It's a pleasure. My designation is Flatline," he adds, holding out his hand to shake if one is inclined. "Welcome to my clinic." Emphasis on clinic, not chop shot.
"Also, you may have heard correctly or incorrectly. It depends on what kind of upgrades you're looking for."
"You're not, like, dragging us back here to take us apart for spares, I hope," says Hot Rod, who nonetheless follows in apparent perfect confidence that, if such is Flatline's devious plan, he can handle it. Since he's still showing signs of having been on a losing fight relatively recently, his confidence /may be misplaced/. He meets the scowl with a sunny smile, and the offered hand with a firm clasp. "Right. Clinic. That's what I meant."
Flashpoint is right behind in offering her hand. She does not smile. He is doing enough of that for both -- well, all /three/ of them, really. "I want to change my alt mode," she says with flat boldness and a challenging gaze.
"Actually, I was just cleaning if you have a mind to know," Flatline responds, not at all sounding amused with the joke. The cleaning cloth is still clenched in his free hand.
"Speaking of which, you have a spot on your shoulder there," he adds, arm lifting as if he is resisting the urge to scrub it away himself, but instead he sighs heavily and tosses the cloth at Hot Rod to do so himself as he pulls out of the handshake. "And that's not the only part of you that's a mess. No one followed you here, correct?"
His optics dance down to Flashpoint. "You know I can't legally perform that unless you have been deemed alt mode exempt. Why should I and what are you looking for?" he mutters. The first part is just in case this is being recorded, out of caution. If the why is good enough, he'll do it. He meets her challenging gaze with one as equally stubborn.
The cloth hits Hot Rod, and he only thinks to catch it when it is already falling to the ground. He blinks in surprise. He looks down at his shoulder and then at the cloth. "Well, mess builds character, right?" In which case he has /so much character/. He rubs at the spot, but it's like he's doing a bad job on purpose: the gunk just smears into an even broader smudge. Terrible. "Anyway, I don't think anyone followed us."
"That's actually why he brought me," Flashpoint admits, glancing up at Hot Rod and then back to Flatline. "Transit system's monitored, and it's the only way I could get here, otherwise." She puts her hands on her hips and says, "Let's not mess around: I don't care if it is legal. In fact, there are actually Enforcers who'd love to see me taken apart because I'm on a list for -- what's the word, decommissioning? Nice and innocuous. Because of what I saw. This is my last chance."
"No, mess contaminates my clinic. This is a medical facility, Hot Rod, and I don't work out of the back of a closet like some other mecha you'll find in the streets. And what do you mean you don't think? You'd better be certain of that."
He glances back at Flashpoint, his faceplates blank as he evaluates her words. Finally he relents with a quiet sigh. "I'm not playing. One wrong word and this is the last time I could be doing this for anyone. You are not the first or last who has come into my clinic for those reasons and I need to be here when the next mecha comes, too. You'll excuse me a little 'playing' for that, I hope."
"Now, I'm not saying I will, but you are aware of the risks of this procedure, correct? Not only if the authorities find out, mind you, but the medical ones."
Hot Rod gives Flatline a grin that he's sure to fail to appreciate. "Come on. I know a thing or two about dodging the Enforcers. /And/ the sky spies. And -- you're fine, mech. Honest." His manner is casual and his words easy -- neither of which is likely to reassure Flatline, but what can you do. He has an image to maintain.
Flashpoint gives Hot Rod an irritated glance, then addresses Flatline with the sobriety he's probably looking for: "He's not entirely wrong. We weren't followed. And I find it hard to imagine how the medical risks could be worse than death."
"That does sound pretty risky," Hot Rod unhelpfully adds.
"I believe you," Flatline responds, making sure to look at Flashpoint as he says it. She sounds assured they were not followed, and her demeanor is much more tolerable than the one named Hot Rod.
He glances at the flashy one just long enough to rub his nasal bridge, barely visible under his face mask, and gestures towards the exam room he had been scrubbing down when the two interrupted. "There is a sink in there and sterile cloths in the drawer to the left of it. Go finish washing up because you can't be in the exam room like that when we go through with this," he snaps. And it is a way to get him out of the room for a fleeting moment so he can have a reasonable conversation.
He glances back at Flashpoint. "Worse or not, as a physician I am required to inform you, and you are lucky I do. There are some who wouldn't even bother and are just in it for the money. Depending on what mode you wish to shift to, it may require me to build a completely new frame. If it's a more minor shift and not far from your current alt mode, I may be able to manage with upgrades to your current frame. You should know there is the chance your spark will not take to a new frame or be able to sustain the strain required for powering new upgrades, though. I will do my best to ensure you are strong enough, but it is a common problem among the lower castes. The fuel you are fed has long-term impacts on your spark strength, and there is always the chance I may find I cannot perform the procedure on you at all."
"Just like the intellectual class to discriminate against the common laborer," Hot Rod protests on his way off to follow Flatline's instructions. More or less. While complaining.
"He thinks he's funny," Flashpoint tells Flatline when the door closes behind Hot Rod, leaving only the adults in the room. She listens to him seriously as he sets out the risks. She nods here, pauses there, but in the end, she continues to look determined. "I'll trust your judgment on what's possible as it's better than mine. You're the expert. I've been getting better fuel than others of my caste lately," she admits, glancing after Hot Rod and then back again. "He's actually helped. But I don't know if it's helped. I accept the risks. I just don't have any real options."
"Better not be taking her apart!" Hot Rod calls back. Because that's reasonable. With him in the exam room and those two in the hallway, where all of the surgical instruments /aren't/. Maybe he thinks he's being funny again.
The only thing he wants to take apart is Hot Rod's vocoder, but best not to enable the little twerp by acknowledging his behavior. His optics narrow visibly at the now-tired joke, but his gaze stubbornly remains on Flashpoint.
"In that case, there is a few tests I will need to perform in order to ensure you are capable of surviving the procedure. If everything is in order, I can perform a series of upgrades tonight but constructing you a new frame would require some time. If that is the choice you make, I will perform the tests tonight and you will have to return next week at the same time for the final step in the process. If it is not possible, well I am sorry. There is little I can do. I used to know mecha who smuggled disposables off world but since the space ports shut down they are difficult to find and I know none personally. Still, it is another path to consider. Oh yes, and there is the matter of price to discuss. Sadly the parts for the procedure do not come free and I go through some trouble and danger to acquire them."
"Okay I'm done." Cleaned of the grime and smoke residue, Hot Rod ... still looks kind of a mess. He needs to fix his paint. Soon! Totally. He'll get on that. Any day now. "And good, everyone's in one piece." He glances past Flatline to Flashpoint with a question in his eyes.
Flashpoint returns Hot Rod's look with a nod which seems to settle him, and then addresses Flatline: "I know it's not cheap, but it's my last answer."
"Don't tell him that. He'll charge you twice what he otherwise would," says Hot Rod as he comes to stand next to Flashpoint with a hand on her shoulder. He frowns at Flatline, just in case he was thinking about ripping off Flashpoint. "And what she can't cover, I bet we can work something out with getting you parts."
Okay, he's reached the end of his rope with this one. When he sees him walk out of the exam room, his digits twitch slightly when he sees that the mecha missed one speck. It is a small crime to everyone else, but to the particular Flatline it might as well have been the crime of the century. "Give me a moment," he says.
He shifts into the exam room and returns with one of the final sterile towels. "Now, Hot Rod, I do not pride myself in being rude but do well to remember this is my domain. I do not do this because I need the money. I could make a completely respectable living consulting at relinquishment clinics, but I'm here anyways. If you would cease with the insinuations, I would be pleased," He doesn't even stop to try and give the cloth to Hot Rod, leaning forwards to wipe off the final speck of grime himself.
As he does, he turns to Flashpoint and adds, "The average price is usually between four and six thousand credits, but it can be negotiated lower if you do provide parts."
Hot Rod looks bewildered by Flatline's 'give me a moment'. What? He did what he was asked!! He has the grace to look a little sheepish when Flatline returns and twists his foot (his big, stompy foot) against the hallway floor. "Yeah, I know. And I--."
Hot Rod breaks off, surprised at first as Flatline attacks the speck. He begins to lean back only to still himself. He looks sullen but tolerant: like someone /used/ to missing spots, and being chased after. "Okay, I was /mostly/ done," he defends his cleaning job. "Anyway, I know what you're doing is dangerous, but you /know/ there are people out there who'd just take advantage of her really needing it. I respect that you're taking the risk. I do, honest. We were careful that we weren't followed." He sounds deeply earnest -- at last! -- and a far cry from his earlier carefree attitude.
Flashpoint looks briefly dismayed by the price. "I -- maybe we better go over the parts," she says with a glance at Hot Rod to confirm that he'll help.
The nod comes readily, of course. Hot Rod is still in earnest puppy mode.
There is a flicker of guilt as he saw the dismay that flashes across the disposable's, and he's glad his face mask prevents anyone from seeing him bite his lower lip component; however, he reminds himself it is simply not practical for him to do the procedures for free. Even if he could out of the goodness of his spark, it would only take performing a handful before he could no longer afford to continue upkeeping the clinic or meeting his own needs. Practicality wins over guilt in this instance; he can afford to help more the longer he stays in business.
"To get a comprehensive list of what I will need for your particular case, I will need to perform those tests and you will need to settle on your preferred alt mode. That much I can provide at no cost. If you will?" he pauses, nodding down the hallway towards another exam room, NOT the one Hot Rod had scrubbed down in.
He glances back at Hot Rod as an afterthought. "Thank you, sir, for understanding. Do you wish him to be in the room with you? I do try to uphold some semblance of patient confidentiality so the choice is yours."
Hot Rod exchanges a glance with Flashpoint that ends in an easy going shrug. He leaves it entirely in her hands.
"Yes," says Flashpoint after a second to think about it. "He'll need to know the parts anyway. And he won't sit in the hall and yell about how you'd better not be taking me apart," she adds with an impish touch of humor.
"I wouldn't!" The speed with which Hot Rod denies it suggests that he most certainly would. "But -- yeah, if I can. I mean, I know some others who would probably be interested, too. I'll be quiet," he promises.
"I believe you on that, too," Flatline responds, giving Hot Rod a look that suggest he didn't at all believe that he would behave.
Still, if he does start to misbehave he can always boot him from the exam room. He leads the pair to the back to perform the proper testing and asking Flashpoint the prudent questions regarding her medical history. Once all is said and done, he scans over the gathered information before giving a satisfied nod. "Everything seems to be in order. I've drawn up a list of necessary parts you'll need to gather, but if you return with them next week we should be set for the procedure."
He pauses, glancing up at her, and his expression finally softens a little. He may even be smiling under that face mask, but who knows. Life is full of mystery. "Good luck. I'll be waiting for when you return."