Title: Clandestine and Labyrinthine
Date: 16 November 2014
Summary: Hot Rod takes some Camiens exploring. This is all against Chromia's better judgment.
The entrance of the Acroplex opens to a large space that -- even now, even fallen into ruin -- retains elements of grace. But it is quiet, empty, and dark. There are no signs of life here beneath the fallen pillars and worn murals. It's far beyond the shrines, beyond the chambers where the halls become simple storage rooms that one might find Hot Rod and Flareup standing over -- what else? -- a crate of explosives. The labyrinthine interior makes it difficult to find them without point of reference; comm contact with either would suffice. "--walk me through this again?" asks Hot Rod as he flips a detonator (wired to nothing, fear not) end over end in hand.
"Come on, it's /simple/," young and excitable Flareup insists. "You just do this, then that, make sure that's set to that--" She takes him through the process in a manner that perhaps provides a clue as to why she's had to explain multiple times now.
The comm contact from Chromia to Hot Rod is crotchety in the extreme. It goes: << We got lost. Shut up. We'll be there shortly. >>
It is followed, indeed, shortly by her arrival, on stalky strides rather than on the roar over a motorcycle's engine. She is carrying her axe, although using it more as a hiker's walking stick than as an axe. "Nautica was right, I was wrong, and there's nothing new in the universe," is how she greets the other two.
A submarine alt-mode is useful for a lot of things, but travel on land is not one of them; Nautica, too, is on foot -- with that ever-present wrench at her side -- when she makes her way into the Acroplex shortly behind the grumpier Camien. "'Nautica was right.' Could you repeat that for a moment for the recorder, Chromia," she notes brightly. "Those are not words I hear very often from you."
Suspiciously smiley at the crotchety comm, Hot Rod fails to kill the smile by the time Chromia wanders in. Finally. "Hey! Glad you could make it. Wasn't sure you would." Although he doesn't /exactly/ say anything about her getting lost, there's a lot to read in the span of his grin. Between the distraction of her comm and their arrival, he glances back at Flareup and admits, "I lost track around 'that set to that'. Maybe you could just write it down or something?"
"Hey guys!" Flareup's greeting makes no attempt to hide her excitement, because these are her colony comrades, after all. "Hot Rod's really terrible at explosives." Read: Hot Rod is really terrible at following Flareup's terrible directions.
"All of you shut up," Chromia says, democratic in her sharing of her scowl. She slants the haft of her axe against her torso, blade gleaming blue-bright near the winged angle of her helm. "Just stop. It's not my fault you decided to meet out here at the far corners of what is clearly designed as a maze to trap unwary travelers."
"Actually, I think this /particular/ building was made on some very precise mathematical principles. I mean, if you..." Nautica takes in Chromia's glare, and gestures a sort of 'nevermind' with one hand. "Shutting up," she notes cheerily. Perhaps getting out of the embassy has been good for her mindset. Instead, she turns to Hot Rod and Flareup, offering both a cheerful wave in greeting.
"Safety fir--ahaha okay sorry, I can't even say it with a straight face," Hot Rod /tries/ to say, but breaks up in a fit of laughter as he leans ... against ... the crate of explosives. Safety first, all right. "Pretty great maze, though, right?" He looks from Nautica to Chromia with the enthusiasm of a young boy who wants to share a favored toy. "Did you take a look on your way down? We actually usually hang out in the upper levels but I figure something like this--." He pats the crate. "We store that where no one's going to trip over it. Anyway, I'm /great/ with explosives, thanks," he adds as he turns to Flareup. "Or would be. If you told me better."
"Oh, come on, Chromia, it's totally a fun drive." Flareup sets her fists on her hips, looking super heroic. At -- traveling, I guess. She flashes a smug smile at Hot Rod. "You're great at directing other people to do the boom bits," she tells him.
Chromia scowls at Flareup. "How'd you get out here so fast, anyway? Never mind, I don't want to know." She widens her stance, cracking hard against the ground with her axe, fingers closing around it. She considers the almost stately elegance of some of the ruin retrospectively, and sighs away some of her scowl. "Windblade would love it," is how she classifies it. It's not the first time, either. She said the same thing about the library. "Just don't blow up /here/, unless it's under attack and it's your last resort."
"A leader doesn't have to do everything themselves," Nautica points out to Hot Rod. "In fact, they /shouldn't/ do everything themselves; they won't be able to focus on the big picture if they're too busy trying to do everything else. Besides, femmes are /way/ better at most things." But then she falls silent, letting Chromia take the lead in the conversation for the moment; she glances over their surroundings instead. The explosives. The building. Flareup's overall state of well-being. Little things like that.
Hot Rod considers this, then accepts it: "Yeah, okay. I'll leave the boom bits to you." He tosses the detonator back to Flareup, writing off his dreams of demolition. He gives Nautica a complicated kind of look, glancing back at the detonator. /Maybe/ if he grabs the detonator and /insists/ on learning how to blow things up -- then he won't have to be a leader! Right? RIGHT? Beyond the explosives there are a few other crates of rebel treasures: weapons, although they are basic ones. Hot Rod gives Chromia a scandalized look. "What? I would never blow this up! I'd rather blow up Nyon itself." And maybe that can be arranged one day.
"I drive faster and know the shortcuts." That is: she forces shortcuts to exist. Flareup kind of spins the detonator in hand in a way one hopes she /wouldn't/ if it were wired to something. "Isn't this /part/ of Nyon?" she asks, optics squinting.
Watching Flareup with a look like she might be about to say something, Chromia says: "Hrrf," instead, and shifts her weight a little with the shake of her head, frowning. "Stupidity knows no gender, Nautica," she says. "Mechs, femmes."
"Didn't you once call me the 'stupidest smart bot I know'?" Nautica points out to Chromia, a little wryly. Turning back to Hot Rod and Flareup, she asks curiously, "What exactly are you planning to /do/ with the explosives? I mean, are you planning an attack or something?"
Hot Rod waves off Flareup's logical, reasonable point. He straightens at Nautica's question. "Well--" He glances at Chromia. "I kind of wanted to collapse some of the tunnels. There are some paths into this place that -- well, maybe some people know about who shouldn't."
"What if we need the tunnels after?" Flareup wonders, tipping her head. "Don't tunnels hold -- strategic value or something?"
Chromia looks briefly puzzled, like she doesn't quite remember saying that, and then shrugs, and says, "Probably. That sounds like me." She winds her fingers tighter around her axe, narrowing her gaze at Hot Rod. "Really," she says. "Which ones? How are you going to blow them without accidentally collapsing--?" she starts asking, and then looks at Nautica and rolls a look upward as she reaches the immediate answer to her own question. "Oh," she says. Obviously. And then: "/Which/ people? You had an awful lot of people involved in that operation, not that it turned out badly."
"Oh." Nautica seems to realize the reason she might be here, and glances around at the structure thoughtfully. "If you close off the tunnels, you can secure the area better. Hold it. You have a little safe spot, for anyone who doesn't feel like falling in line with the Senate's policies, but doesn't feel like becoming a terrorist either." She glances over at Hot Rod in question. She have it right?
"There are other tunnels," Hot Rod promises Flareup. "Are you kidding? There are /so many/. Chromia saw them." He glances to her for a second on that. "And yeah, there's all kinds of strategic value -- but we want strategy that works /for/ us, not against us. Tunnels we know and they don't. That kind of thing." He doesn't immediately answer Chromia's question on who, for all that it is a perfectly reasonable question. He drums the fingers of one hand on the other arm and nods at Nautica. "More or less," he says with a grin. "Want to take a look?"
"If there are other tunnels, won't the bad guys try those ones if we leave them?" Flareup looks between the group, restless with energy.
"It's a whole warren," Chromia says grimly. "Some of them aren't very stable, and there could be weird things living in them." She narrows her gaze at Hot Rod, watching him like, don't think she didn't notice you not answering that.
"Weird things?" Nautica asks, with perhaps more interest than she should. "What sort of weird things do you mean? Have you seen weird things?" She glances between the other three bots curiously, and then nods to Hot Rod. "Of course!" Something new to see, to study? She's all in. Common sense be damned.
"So we set traps," Hot Rod says, then gives the explosives a longer, thoughtful look. "Or -- maybe we don't even take down the one they know. Maybe we just plant the explosives, and if they ever use it--." Well, boom, obviously. He starts heading out, leaving the explosives behind -- for now. "Well, we were scouting tunnels to hit the Institute but ended up running across this tiny ancient guy. Long story short, I guess some stuff followed us out and I've heard rumors that maybe they stuck around. We'll see if there are any signs or anything when we check out the entrances."
"Ooh, I like the traps idea," Flareup says, optics brightening. "I bet we could -- Nautica, you could code some sensors, right? To make it safe for friendlies, even?"
"Hmmm." Chromia falls in step, clanking across the floor of the ruin with a frown lingering in her expression. "There seemed to be a lot of stuff down there. Creepy noises. I don't know. The path caved in without any explosives and I had to climb my own way back up." Fingertips ticking in a long scrape of metallics down her opposite arm, Chromia grips her axe more fiercely and says, "Just so long as you make sure you know friend from foe," which she says while staring directly at Hot Rod like somebody with the subtlety of, you know, a glowing battle-axe.
"What kind of 'stuff' do you think followed you?" Nautica's definitely still curious, Hot Rod; 'stuff' is not very precise. More information is required. Flareup's query receives a nod, however. "Oh, sensors wouldn't be too hard. We'd probably need to run actual equipment down there, though; too far underground and it will be hard to get a signal back from most things. Well, unless you use quantum entanglement transmitters." Of course it's something involving the word 'quantum'.
Hot Rod looks slightly -- SLIGHTLY -- intimidated by Chromia's whole glowing battle-axe stare. "What?" WHAT? To Nautica, he freely admits, "No idea. I didn't really see it or hear it. But definitely a couple of somethings. Shiftlock says the deep tunnels are filled with all kinds of monsters." He sounds much too excited by that.
"What kinds of monsters?" Flareup wonders, looking equally intrigued. "We should go look. We could map out the entire system! Think how much intel we'd get."
"Just what I said," Chromia says, resituating her axe against the ground. The weapon eases outward in a slight relaxation of her grip. "Friend from foe. I guess I'm glad to learn you aren't as trusting as you act. I warned Nautica you might be an idiot." This is not something you tell someone you said, Chromia. She huffs. "Flareup, stay on target."
"Yes!" Nautica smiles enthusiastically at Flareup. Target? What target? "Besides, not all 'monsters' are really monsters. Many bots would think the insecticons I was with in the Institute were monsters, but we became friends." She learned to speak their language fluently, and none of them even tried to nibble on her! That's friendship, right?
Hot Rod pivots, walking backward two paces to face Chromia and ask all offended, "Hey! What do you mean, I might be an idiot?" That he smacks his spoiler into the edge of the door because he is not looking where he is going does nothing to give substance to his objection. He ... turns to face forward again. "Kickback even talked that one time, too. Man, that was weird." Hot Rod says this with excited fascination rather than trepidation or fear. "Wasn't Insecticons. She was talking about older, stranger things. We're going to go take a look some time. But in the meantime--." He tips the points of his helm toward Flareup. "Yeah, we need to get a better idea of the tunnels around here." Almost there!
"I'm on target," Flareup insists to her commander/mentor/babysitter. Poor Chromia. "There could be whole civilizations underground that we just don't /know/ about. Until we look. It's important, Chromia!"
"What--" Chromia starts to say, and then she snaps her mouth shut on that in high exasperation. "Up until the point where they all cave in on top of you and you're buried alive and I have to dig you out."
"But you might dig us out with new /allies/," Nautica points out to Chroia, oh-so-rationally. Because clearly that's so much more likely than some face-eating subterranean horror.
"What!" Chromia splutters at her so immediately there can be no waiting for pose order.
"Yeah! Allies!" Anyway, they are totally here now, and if they have taken a really twisty windy path to get here, it's okay, because Hot Rod totally knows where he's going. (They're doomed.) "This looks like where we came out, right, Chromia?"
"Allies or not, we're not going to caved in and buried," Flareup insists, like she will avoid this conclusion through sheer force of will.
Nautica sobers slightly, putting aside her cheery demeanor as she looks over at her amica endura. "Let me have my optimism a little longer," she says quietly, resting a hand on the blue femme's shoulder, just for a moment. "I don't have a lot of it left, not after that place. And the opportunity to explore somewhere new -- to believe that I can find something we don't know, something /good/, down there -- I need this, Chromia. We'll be careful."
"I didn't come out where you came out. There was a cave in." Chromia stares first pointedly at Flareup, and then looks around for a moment, angling the gentle glow of her axe head down toward the ground. She sideglances Nautica with a particularly dour aspect, shake of her head slight. Rather than say anything in particular to answer the quiet gravity of Nautica's words, she answers Hot Rod: "I'll take your word for it," she says, and then, "You could ask the weird little guy with the maps. But only if you trust him."
Hot Rod goes, "Nah, /he's/ okay," with a carelessness that is going to allow Chromia to narrow down his point of concern in a very few questions before the adventure is over. "Okay, this is it. Let's check it out!" Then he leads the way into the dark so that they can plan out some demolitions. They might not find any allies this time, but there's always the next time.