Title: Law & Order
Location: Helix Gardens
Date: 15 October 2014
Summary: Prowl and Ultra Magnus lecture Nautica. Poor Nautica...
++ Nova Cronum ++
The cradle of Cybertronian philosophy, education and research, Nova Cronum boasts the largest population of the Intellectual Class of any polity on the planet. Dome shaped buildings are networked together by a webbing of roadways and bridges. Bronzes, coppers, purples and blue-violet are the major color scheme of the area, with the architectural structures rising up in corkscrews and clusters of bubble-shapes stuck to spires. Parks, theaters, universities and oratoriums fill the main blocks of the city.
Nova Cronum is host to the impressive Helix gardens, a popular spot for friends to meet and enjoy the scenery. The Stellar Galleries are a central feature, heavily guarded so that its thinkers and philosophers can contemplate in peace. Museums such as the Code Archives and Hall of Ancients can be found here, as well as the best educational facility on the planet: Ultirexx Technoversity.
It's been a strange megacycle or two for Nautica, but the Camien is doing her best to look untroubled as she makes her way towards the Helix Gardens. She's mostly managing; the only sign of her inner tensions is the way one hand keeps twitching towards her ever-present wrench, as if reassuring herself that her trusted tool is still there, still close to hand. As if it were a soothing totem, something that reassures her.
And who should be waiting for Nautica at the Helix Gardens but the Law itself? Yes, Prowl is wanting an update from her. At this point, it's more of a test than anything else. So there he is, standing at the entry to the park when the Camien arrives. Looking up from a datapad, he greets her with slight nod. "Nautica."
If Law is waiting for her there, it is Order who approaches from the other direction (cue musical sting). It is possible that Ultra Magnus, too, finds something here to reassure him, assuage doubts; but for that possibility to be real, he would have to admit he has any. Time is at a premium for him; so it is that when he looms up on their mutual periphery, it is with the Code Archives at his back, on clanking steps. His expression is remote, but not unalert.
The Camien comes to a brief halt as if having to shift mental gears. Recent events at the Institute have weighed heavily enough on her mind that she has to remind herself that 'oh, yes, /this/ thing is still happening, isn't it?' But it's only a moment's context shift, and then she offers the lawmech a respectful nod in greeting. At least she seems more calm this time than before. "Prowl."
Prowl glances over at Magnus. There's a chance he asked the other Autobot to meet him here. "Good cycle to you. This is my colleague, Ultra Magnus." he says, gesturing toward the taller mech with a nod. "Magnus, this is Nautica. She has been...assisting me in bringing Blast Off in. Speaking of which, have you made any progress with him, Nautica?"
"Prowl. Nautica." Ultra Magnus has a very slight nod offered to each in turn. Anything warmer seems absent even in potentia, as if it would not even occur to him. Coming to a halt on the wide brace of his feet, he stands solid and correct with his hands together in a composed, uncommunicative restraint. "Thank you for your service," he says to the Camien, which is assumptive by leaps and bounds, but also, in its way, efficient. "I trust you are taking all reasonable precautionary measures in dealing with a dangerous fugitive. Civilian aid is not against protocol but is not without risk." (He's so nice.)
"I've only run into him once," Nautica replies to Prowl, with a nod. "And that just briefly. But I tried to convince him to go surrender himself, or at /least/ make a statement to send you about his claims that someone's been trying to frame or kill him for having seen something he shouldn't have." She taps her fingers on her wrench, mulling this encounter over for a long moment, and then admits, "I don't know if he will. Still, he /was/ at least thinking about it when I had to go. And that's better than nothing, right?"
Prowl shakes his head. "I didn't ask you to convince him to send us a -statement-. I asked you to convince him to turn himself in, and barring that, to lure him to a place where we can arrest him with minimal chances of escape." He nods at Ultra Magnus' comment that Blast Off is dangerous. "Look, we need you to understand that this is -serious-. Blast Off is a criminal, and he is quite dangerous, as Magnus has warned. He is currently suspected of at least 1 count of unauthorized space travel, 3 counts of murder, and as of very recently, an additional count of assault and attempted murder. He -isn't- just some petty thief, drug dealer, or graffiti artist. Which is precisely why you--why -we- can't afford to let him be at large while you decide if he's going to do as you've requested or not. The longer he's out there, the more danger you're putting the citizenry in. Do you understand that?"
Gaze narrowing faintly, Ultra Magnus's mouth shows signs of tightening pressure. "I agree. I am not particularly interested in such a ... statement." The cadence of his voice carries a low rumble, controlled and contained, as if on something lurks buried in his reserve. But well-buried. "It is predictable with little statistical variance to a percentage of 84%," and he'll explain the numbers to you if you give him the chance, "--that an accused suspect will explain himself the subject of a conspiracy or 'frame,'" at which point the tall blue mech goes so far in his bland explanatory delicacy as to lift two fingertips in what could be air quotes, except he doesn't quite air quote correctly, because colloquially, two fingers is more usual. "I am not here to interfere with Prowl's operation," he says firmly to Nautica, with a deepening frown across his aspect, "but what you describe is classic manipulation of a criminal order. Are you permitting this fugitive to sway your judgment?"
"I would be more skeptical of his claims," Nautica answers the two lawmechs more quietly, "if I hadn't witnessed at least one attempt on another target's life myself. And been called in to disarm a bomb in another attempt." She shakes her head, trailing off. "I'm not a combat mech; I'm not /good/ at this. Give me an engine that's melting down, a bomb to disarm, a rift in the fabric of spacetime to deal with, and I can keep my cool. But this..." She gestures, frustrated. "I'm not very good at handling it."
"Magnus has a very good point." Prowl nods at his colleague's words. "It is highly likely that Blast Off is manipulating you. He's trying to convince you that he's been framed, by coming up with all of these intricate conspiracy theories that have absolutely no hard evidence behind them." He sighs at the mention of other targets. "And what do those individuals exactly have to do with Blast Off?" He is starting to think this wasn't such a great idea, after all. Fail, Nautica, you are failing this test. "I know you aren't trained for combat, but this doesn't even involve combat. It's intellect, and you have plenty of that. But, since you don't seem to be having any success in convincing him to turn himself in, as I predicted would occur, I need you to move on to simply luring him to a suitable location, as we discussed beforehand."
"Unless, of course," Ultra Magnus says with a distant air, his glance never leaving its steady weight on Nautica, "you are not prepared to continue as a civilian aid to my colleague's investigation, in which case I believe regulations require that you be held for questioning regarding the suspect's last known location, your contact with him, and any evidence you may possess about the suspect and other persons of interest to whom you, now, relate him." His position does not change, nor his body language, nor the mild evenness of his tone; there is nothing about him that reflects a threat. He is matter-of-fact. "Your diplomatic status protects you from local authority only to an extent proscribed by law."
"Primus, I don't /know/ where he is!" The Camien savant glances to Prowl, and then Ultra Magnus, and then back again. "I've seen him twice at Maccadam's, once in Vos, and bumped into him in Stanix where I tried to convince him to turn himself in. I have only met him /four/ times, total; that's not enough data even for me to extrapolate any sort of meaningful pattern from, especially since I doubt he'll go back to the bar anytime soon!" Come on, Magnus, you were talking statistics earlier; you can see the sense in that argument, surely. "And I don't know him well enough yet to convince him to meet me anywhere. Besides..." But she trails off, evidently having trouble finding the words to express her next thought.
"Really?" Prowl doesn't seem convinced. "Have you -tried- asking him to meet you somewhere?" Excuses, most likely. But then he shakes his head, glancing at Ultra Magnus when the other Autobot mentions her not being prepared to aid him. "Maybe you're right, she -isn't- prepared." He says flatly. "Nautica, you do know that you aren't -obligated- to assist us in this way. There is no law saying you have to, so if you don't think it's possible for you to do, or if you simply don't feel it is right, then why did you even agree to this in the first place? Of course, if you fail to deliver, I do have -alternatives- in place."
Bombshell has disconnected.
"Mm." Ultra Magnus makes a neutral noise. He meets Prowl's glance only briefly before returning the weight of his attention to Nautica. "Evidence, not expertise," he says, his tone of correction almost gentle. "Experts are not typically detained for questioning. Witnesses, however, may be. You have made contact with this fugitive on four separate occasions. Clearly you have formed enough of a connection for him to attempt to manipulate you." He leaves off the more direct weight of his look at this point, glancing off toward the garden with his frown largely etched into the ridges above his optics. "Besides?" he prompts. As if past experience has led him to suspect he might be mildly less intimidating if not staring directly at someone's face. There are probably mandated trainings about this in some manual somewhere.
"Only one of those four times was after I learned he was a fugitive," Nautica notes to Magnus. "And I want to do the right thing, but... something about Blast Off's situation doesn't add up for me. There's something I'm not seeing, in all this talk of altered memories and assassins. I mean, maybe I'm an idealist. Maybe I'm naive. Maybe he /has/ misled me. Maybe it's just that he was the first one who actually ever said something to me when I ventured out of the Embassy. But I don't think so. I can't yet say /why/, but it makes me uneasy. I don't like to /act/ until I understand things." She pauses, and then adds ruefully, "I suppose that doesn't make much sense to you." Because law-mechs have to be able to make split-second decisions on little information, she apparently figures.
Oh, it makes sense all right. But clearly Nautica just doesn't understand the system Prowl has to work with. "Unfortunately, in a world like this one, waiting until you understand everything will get you nowhere and furthermore, it places you and others in unnecessary danger." He pauses, folding his arms across his chassis. "So what are you saying, then? Are you -sympathizing- with this criminal? As I've already told you, he is suspected in multiple counts of serious criminal acts."
"Indeed. His violation of the interdict on space travel /alone/ is sufficient cause to bring him in," Ultra Magnus intones with the reawakening of that ursine rumble beneath the depths of his smooth, bland surface. It is possible that bots not Ultra Magnus might be less offended by the violation of the said interdict -- after all, it's what's keeping Nautica and the other Camiens trapped here; then again, maybe he thinks she'd be offended that someone else would casually break a law that has had such an impact on her life. Or, you know, Ultra Magnus isn't considering that other points of view exist.
"What is it that you need to understand? His place in his ... /conspiracy theory/?" Ultra Magnus huffs, a sound as of mystified (or sarcastic) air escaping him. "Do you believe that the law is in the habit of permitting suspects in custody, awaiting trial, to be ... simply murdered out of hand?" One of the more common emotions that escapes Magnus's control to seep across his surface is disgust; here it puts in an appearance. He is repulsed at the very idea. "Blast Off is a fugitive from justice. He is confusing you deliberately, taking advantage of your -- good nature--" Look! Tact! Sort of. "--so that you will abet him in escaping punishment. As countless criminals have before him."
Prowl nods in agreement with Ultra Magnus, sighing. "Look, just make up your mind. Are you going to betray him before he betrays you, or not?"
"If I /knew/ what felt wrong, I'd already have sorted it out," Nautica admits. (You know, if she wasn't also simultaneously wrestling with the realization that her employer might be evil, or at least seriously morally challenged.) "I'm sorry. I /do/ want to do the right thing, even if that's hard to see what it is sometimes. I mean, maybe you're right, and he can't be trusted. But even so, you said to befriend him, Prowl... and if I'm going to do that, /that takes time/. And I have duties at the Institute /and/ at the Camien embassy; I don't know where to find him, and I only bump into him periodically through chance." She shakes her head, glancing to each of the law-bots. "If it has to happen right away, if there's no time, if you need him /immediately/ -- then I probably really am the wrong choice."
"Befriending was only for the purpose of attempting to convince him to turn himself in. However, since that seems to be a lost cause, I see no point in it. And really, it was difficult for you to see what the right thing to do was? I thought I already very clearly explained what that was to you." But it seems Nautica has completely failed this test, so Prowl is basically done here. "But, as I said before, I have alternatives." Alternatives that are far less merciful to Blast Off. "He -will- be brought to justice, with or without your help." She had neither denied nor admitted sympathizing with the criminal, after all. Prowl sighs with disappointment again, and turns to leave.
"Very well." Ultra Magnus lets the words fall on the end of a sigh: mild disappointment evinced, his frown shades back to neutral after only a brief window into gloom. He glances at Prowl. "She definitely appears confused," he says, a little like Nautica isn't standing right there. His feet shift against the ground, scraping a little against the street as he turns, about face, saying: "The more we delay, the more risk to the general populace."
"Okay," Nautica says finally, as the others turn to leave. "Putting aside /anything/ else, if I do happen to encounter him again and ask him to meet me somewhere, and he says 'no', what am I supposed to do after that?" She frowns. "Because if he /is/ guilty, there's no rational reason he would say 'yes'." And she hasn't gotten a good answer to that.
On the plus side, the Camien at least seems to have realized what has been bothering her; from her point of view, the only reason Blast Off would agree to meet her somewhere would be if he were /innocent/.
Prowl nods. "Agreed. She's proven herself unreliable, but I believe I have a more...definite alternative." Someone else who -is- actually obligated to obey his orders, but who might also be just as reluctant...if not more so.
He starts to walk away, but turns around briefly to answer Nautica. "Oh, you might be surprised. Didn't we just finish explaining to you that he is likely attempting to manipulate you? Convince you to side with him? So if you asked him to meet you, he might think you were beginning to sway in his direction. Additionally, you yourself said that he seems to enjoy your company. Perhaps he trusts you." The officer pauses, shrugging slightly. "Regardless, it's irrelevant, now. Your efforts are simply not predictable enough to rely on." He then transforms into crusier mode and joins traffic away from the Gardens.