Location: Hall of Records
Date: 16 October 2014
Summary: Hot Rod and Nautica swap memos.
Many things about Cybertron leave Nautica unsettled, but there are a few things that she can take great joy in; an enormous building full of history, information, and general knowledge definitely qualifies. In the wake of all the blows her naivety and innocence have taken of late, it's perhaps no surprise to find her back in Iacon and at the Hall of Records, immersing herself in raw knowledge. Raw knowledge, after all, so rarely makes unsettling demands or forces you to question its moral compass.
You know where you don't really expect to see Hot Rod in all of his ... Hot Rod-ness? Iacon. You know what's a place in Iacon that really doesn't seem his style? Hall of Records. So there has got to be a reason to finding Hot Rod here, in the heart of the Senate's power, surrounding by the most boring thing imaginable: knowledge. The reason does not, however, seem immediately evident. He's on his way out from deeper within when he spots Nautica alters course to intercept. Libraries being libraries, and this having some impact even on him, he lowers his volume to a civil-and-not-at-all-rowdy level when he says, "Hey! Gotten arrested lately?"
Having been lost in her own thoughts, Hot Rod's abrupt greeting startles Nautica enough that she drops the datadisk she was carrying. And it was such a nice day, up until this point. Still, she turns back to the flame-emblazoned mech and offers him a smile. "Hello, and no." The smile slips slightly. "Though that might change."
"Wups, careful." Hot Rod goes to retrieve the disk when she drops it, but he doesn't apologize for startling her. He gives her a more serious look as her smile slips. "Yeah, true enough, especially around here." And yet -- here he is! "Ran into your friend, actually. Uh -- are you guys actually friends? I know you had that whole science thing."
"Especially around here? You mean Cybertron in general, or something else?" Nautica takes the disk back with a nod of thanks, though seems distracted when the mech mentions her friend. "Oh? Which one?" Apparently, she has more than one science friend.
Hot Rod looks a little uncomfortable: "Well, just -- you know, Senate Central. But it's okay in here," he adds after a moment, the discomfort settling as he glances around at the shelves. "Alpha Trion said so, and apparently he knows just about everything, so he's probably right." Unless it's a trap. He glances at her sidelong. "Uh, the shuttle." Despite him saying it's okay in here, he still doesn't seem eager to give Blast Off's name.
"Oh." Nautica's mood is dampened slightly by this. "Then Prowl's probably going to take more of an interest in you soon, too." She doesn't elaborate on this. A different name that Hot Rod /does/ mention, however, earns her interest. "You know Alpha Trion? I've heard of him, but I've never met him."
Pfft, Prowl. PFFT. Hot Rod even says it: "Pfft." It's amazing how he makes that noise. "Has he been after you again, then?" She may not want to elaborate, but he is not shy about asking. He answers her interest, however, with more enthusiasm: "Yeah! He was like this weird old mech--" Sorry, bud. "--hanging around when Arcee and I were telling Pax about ... some stuff," Hot Rod says with sudden and obvious evasion. "Anyway, he suggested this place for us to meet to talk about stuff, so. He knows a lot. I bet you'd like him.
"I bet I would," Nautica agrees. And then Hot Rod mentions more names, one of whom is a friend, and one of whom she knows. "Arcee and Orion Pax? Is Arcee alright? I've only seen her the one time since we disarmed the bomb." Hopefully Hot Rod /knows/ about the bomb...
"The clinic bomb?" Hot Rod asks rather doubtfully. Since the clinic blew up, let's hope the doubt is because he has more faith in her skills than that. SOUNDS LIKE SOMEONE DIDN'T GET A MEMO.
"No, the bomb that Drift planted in Arcee through her subspace pocket," Nautica corrects. See? Arcee /didn't/ blow up, so that should speak better of the skills of those involved in the disarmament.
Someone didn't get two memos, because Hot Rod goes, "/Drift/?" in a voice that is loud enough that he gives a reflexive guilty flinch and glance around. Sorry, library. "Arcee's okay? Why would-- oh, probably because of the Institute scrap," he says, voice immediately dropping a growl. Which then clears into confusion. "But that doesn't make sense."
Apparently Hot Rod isn't the only one who has missed a memo or two, because Nautica seems fairly surprised in turn. "Wait... the /Institute/ is involved in the bombing? And Drift was the name Arcee gave as the one involved with her abduction and planting the bomb in her."
"Uh." Hot Rod pauses a moment, looks around, then tilts his head back with a roll of his shoulder to tip a spoiler deeper into the archives. "Let's go compare notes somewhere a little quieter," he suggests. "Starting to get the feeling someone walking in would be terrible for ... everyone. What do you know about the Institute?"
"Uhm. I know that some of the branches of it are behind new engine technologies, new weapons and defense systems, and new medical advances." Nautica leads Hot Rod deeper into the stacks, though gives him slightly worried glances as she does so. Somehow, recent events in her life have apparently led to her feeling slightly less trusting of random bots. Once they're slightly more secluded, however, she continues with a rather blunt, "And I just got a job there not long ago."
Hot Rod gives a sharp laugh as she lists off branches -- one of those laughs where the edges cut, and it isn't very funny. "Yeah, all kinds of new medical adv-- /what/?" Turning to face her, he gives her a Very Serious look (oh no, he's not only looking serious, but /very/) and asks, "Is that really all you know about the place?"
"It's all I knew at the time I started there; I'm certain anything else I could say is locked down under non-disclosure and security contracts," Nautica hedges. She doesn't sound /happy/, though, so quite possibly she has learned more about her employer and found it not to her liking.
Studying her, Hot Rod says, "Yeah, okay. I'm going to risk it." Because he's Hot Rod, so of course he's going to /risk it/. He draws nothing more sinister than a data slug and offers it to her. "It just so happens I saw some of the work that was being done there not too long ago. Got out with a ... patient, and some information on what they were doing. I don't give a single scrap about contracts, so why don't you take a quick look at that and then we can try again?"
Nautica looks at the data slug for a moment, and then slots it into her viewer. Fine, we'll see exactly what you know... and whether it lines up with anything she knows or not.
It turns out, in this particular instance, Hot Rod knows lots. Or -- the data he collected knows lots, to be more accurate. He probably doesn't get most of what Nautica receives: he doesn't understand, it's over his head. The information pulled from one particular outpost hidden away behind a bland-fronted clinic in the Dead End is full of all kinds of juicy projects. What was it she said? New medical advances? Well check out some forcible spark transfers! Some brainwashing! All kinds of horrors! (Also there's a list of suspected Decepticon sympathizers and troublemakers prioritized by who most needs some /work/ done.) Anyway, it's a lot, and Hot Rod gets swiftly bored as she parses through it. "Well?" he asks when she's only just gotten started.
Luckily, Nautica reads very, very quickly; it's enough to get the big picture. "Oh, Primus," she says quietly. "This is worse than I realized." She switches off the viewer, though doesn't yet hand the dataslug back. The look she gives Hot Rod is horrified. "I knew /something/ was going on, something beyond the clearance level new researchers have, and I'd started to see enough troubling things to make me wonder about it. But this..." She shakes her head.
"What was it you said? Non-disclosure and security contracts?" Hot Rod gives her an unhappy sort of smile. He glances from to her hand and back again, keeping a loose eye on that data, but doesn't immediately demand its return. "That's what we brought to Orion Pax. I think it all ties together, though. Arcee and I helped a femme get out of there. Turns out she knows Blurr. Turns out Blurr's had his memories messed with pretty intensely -- a lot like they were doing there. Turns out Arcee saw that. Turns out that apparently put her on a hit list. But what I don't get is why Drift would be the one trying to blow her up, since he seemed to hate that kind of stuff! So! That's what I know. Troubling things?"
"Oh, this is /not/ good," Nautica says, in what might be one of the most extreme understatements the Camien has yet made. "Because there are definitely others they have hidden away in there. Including a friend I knew was missing, and only just found in one of the labs there the other day." She looks down at the dataslug and then adds, "I've been trying to see what else I can learn for... someone else who thinks something needs to be done, but I've been a little distracted. Prowl keeps trying to get me to help him with a manhunt, though I think he may have given up now." Which means she may be free to focus her attention on the far bigger problem.
"Anyone I know?" A trace of worry crosses Hot Rod's expression as he adds, "There's this friend of mine -- I haven't seen her in a while, and I know she was in trouble the last time I saw her. And she's just the kind of thing they seem to be interested in." He holds his hand out for the dataslug, with only a single 'gimme' curl of his fingers. That's practically restrained for him. "That's actually something Orion Pax and Alpha Trion talked about. Wanting to get someone on our side, on the inside. They seem to think we need to get more information before shutting them down. /I/ think we need to just get people out of there." But, it seems, he is in this case following red and blue and shiny's lead. "Prowl's focused on the wrong problems, all because these are /legal/. That doesn't make them right."
"Just the kind of thing...?" Nautica sounds uneasy about what Hot Rod's saying. "But no, it wouldn't be; none of the ones I know are being held there are femmes. And... honestly, this planet has turned me around; I used to know what right and wrong were, but around here it seems like that's a much harder question." She looks at Hot Rod thoughtfully, and finally hands the dataslug back. "Maybe we should work together. I think the person I've been looking on behalf of, and the one you're working with, already trust each other anyway."
Hot Rod speaks with all the fiery conviction that's plastered all over his hood: "I don't think it's a harder question. I don't think you do, either. Not really. You know this is wrong. What's right isn't always what's legal, and the people in power don't always deserve to be." (THIS IS HOW YOU END UP ON LISTS, HOT ROD.) He takes the dataslug back to pocket it and all its deeply incriminating secrets. When he speaks again, he's a little easier, a little more laid-back, but the note of tension lingers: "So who's the friend of yours there?" he asks. "You know where? You're right: we should definitely work together, see if we can't learn enough to get them out."
"I'm afraid to tell you who the one I know being held there is," Nautica says after a moment, "Because if I do, you might tell someone else who cares, and then they'll do something rash. Move too early, too soon." Leaving aside the disconnect between 'legal' and 'right', she reiterates, "What did you mean by 'the sort of thing they're interested in'?"
Well, that only makes Hot Rod more curious. "What? I won't tell," he promises. Look at that face. LOOK AT THAT FACE. That face that ... smiles, briefly, teasing for all the dark of the subject: "I'll tell you what /I/ mean if you tell me who you mean. Trust for trust: I trust you. I trust you to want to do the right thing, too." NOT THE LEGAL THING.
Caution and curiosity clearly war for dominance in the Camien femme's expression. But then, finally, curiosity wins out. "Kickback. I found him there just the other day, after the last time I spoke to Arcee." Nautica pauses, and then adds firmly, "And you /cannot/ tell Arcee yet, because Elita One made me promise. If Arcee finds out before there's a plan, she'll try to rush off right away and then they'll have /her/ locked up." A pause. "Or me."
Hot Rod immediately validates all of Nautica's concern by going, "/You haven't told Arcee/?" He looks visibly torn, like he wants to go race off right now and tell her. He drags at his face and knuckles the side of his helm. "She is probably going to be really mad if we don't tell her, you know. She's already worried. Ugh, why'd I make you tell me. Fair's fair, though: I meant outliers." His secret is not as good as hers, but then he had credit banked on previous secrets, right?
Somehow, confirmation of what Hot Rod meant makes Nautica look /more/ worried, even if she doesn't seem remotely surprised. "Oh." And then she adds, "And no, I haven't! I haven't seen her since I found him there, and I went to see Elita One first and she made me promise not to tell her until someone has a plan, or else she'll get herself into a /lot/ of trouble!" And it was probably good Elita made her promise, because otherwise Nautica likely /would've/ run off straight after the meeting to tell Arcee.
Looking meditatively off into the distance, Hot Rod says, "I think I'm going to forgot I knew that. --but it does make it even more important. Arcee gave Elita a copy of the same data. I don't know if Elita and Orion have talked about it at all. I've been hoping to get the femme we broke out in on it, because she'd be great at helping map things out and find where people are. Especially if you can get information from inside. Right now, Blurr is her first priority, though, so she's going to Kaon to look for help getting his processor back in shape."
"I... can try to look for information inside the Institute, too, on undoing whatever they did to him," Nautica offers, albeit somewhat hesitantly. She wants to make a difference, but perhaps her hesitation comes from the fact that she's /not/ an action-bot. She's a scientist, an engineer... a scholar.
"Information on how to stop /all/ of it is probably more important," Hot Rod says a little reluctantly. "If it's a choice -- one or the other. Or too much of a risk. I just want to put a stop to the whole mess of it. It makes me a little crazy knowing that there are who knows how many down there even now and we can't do anything about it."
"I know," Nautica agrees, perhaps feeling a bit of kinship with the flame-painted mech for the first time. "I have to go walk in those doors and /work/ there, and pretend nothing's wrong, but still try to keep an eye on the ones I know are there..." She folds her arms in front of her, gazing down at the floor. "And I wonder... how many other outliers are there buried in facilities? How many outliers are there out around Cybertron who have kept a low profile, who would be grabbed if they were noticed?"
"And you have to put up with Officer No Fun dragging you in about Blast Off all the time, huh?" The extent of Hot Rod's sympathy extends to a heartfelt, "That sucks some major slag." Too bad, Nautica. Too bad! "Better you than me, though." Like he'd have any chance of walking through those doors as anything a) trouble or b) a project. "I don't think I could do it. And I don't mean the science. However many there are, it's too many. It's wrong that they have to keep low profiles like that."
"It's wrong that they have to, though maybe there are some who would keep low profiles /anyway/. Even if it wasn't necessary," Nautica admits. However, she evidently decides this isn't the conversational path she wants to follow; uncrossing her arms and trying to look more confident than she perhaps feels about engaging in espionage, she adds, "I should talk to Elita One. And maybe I should meet this Orion Pax everyone keeps talking about."
No, wait, let's go back: Hot Rod seems fascinated by the conversational path that Nautica is trying to abandon. "/Why/ would /anyone/ want to keep a low profile if they didn't have to?"
"If they were an outlier, and their abilities were something they could conceal? Maybe they just wouldn't want that kind of attention. After all, stranger things have happened," Nautica assures Hot Rod. And she's the one who knows about 'quantums', so she'd know if stranger things had happened. They probably do, on a regular basis, in the subatomic world!
This makes little more sense to Hot Rod. Not wanting attention. Does not compute. If he does not pursue it, it can only be out of a desire to not look quite so clueless. He just says, "Okay," in a broad 'you are totally wrong but whatever' kind of way. So okay. "Orion Pax was great." There: a subject on which everyone can agree. Ever. In the world. "I was kind of unsure at first, you know? Because he went right up to the Senate and told them what they needed to hear, but what if the Autobot thing meant he supported them, supported /this/, but he doesn't. He wants to put a stop to this as much as anyone."
"It sounds like I should meet him," Nautica answers. Because, frankly, she is /all/ for finding people who are better at this sort of thing than she is, and who can tell her precisely what to do. Of course, she already knows one, and is working for her; recalling this, the Camien femme amends her statement to, "Maybe I should talk to Elita about meeting him."
"Yeah. Definitely sounds like we need to be working together just to make sure we aren't tripping each other up, at least, so he and Elita ought to be on the same page," Hot Rod easily agrees. "Last thing we need to do is blow up bystanders or innocents when we take those places out." That'd just be terrible. Blowing up innocents. Man. "What's she like, Elita?"
"She's... sometimes she's very serious. But she can also be pleasant. I think..." Nautica pauses, considering her answer for a long moment, and then finally continues, "I think she considers herself closely tied to all the Camiens who came with the delegation, because she was in charge of it. She definitely wants to keep track of where all of the delegation end up, even though the Clampdown has scattered us a bit. I know she has my back, anyway."
Hot Rod inevitably makes a bit of a face when Nautica says 'serious', like it's a deadly, contagious disease. Terrible. "That's what people in charge /should/ be like. We seem to've mostly ended up with a bunch of mechs more concerned with preserving status quo. Especially since it means /they/ have all the power." He gives an intensely unhappy shrug then stirs restlessly. "It's terrible that you guys are stuck here, but having you here -- well, might be good for us. Keep me in the loop if you hear anything, huh? I'll do the same. We should all be able to get in touch if anything happens."
"Yeah. We should exchange comm frequencies..." Nautica is evidently either not thinking -- or not caring -- about the fact that if Hot Rod is a suspected dissident, having his comm information in her systems would not go well if Prowl or Magnus come to speak to her again.
What, who could suspect Hot Rod of being a dissident. That's crazy talk. "Yeah." He even offers first, because he is so trustworthy and etc., then waits patiently for hers. "Arcee seemed pretty serious about learning to take care of herself. So did Feint. You might want to make sure you can, too, especially since you're going in there every day."
Nautica nods once. "I already spoke to Elita about getting training," she admits, as she accepts Hot Rod's comm info and gives him her own in return. "I can't really keep pretending all of this doesn't affect me, that since I'm not a Cybertronian citizen it's not my place to involve myself."
"Good." Once he has Nautica's comm info, Hot Rod's restlessness becomes even more impossible to ignore: he rocks back on his heels and gives her a grin. "Thanks for getting involved. I guess I'll let you get back to whatever you were reading. Good luck getting back into it."
Nautica looks down at the datadisk still in her hand. "Somehow, historical surveys of the ecosystems found in the Mithril Sea don't seem quite as riveting anymore," she admits. Still, she'll give it a try...
Hot Rod wears amusement openly, easily. "Yeah," he says. "When they talk about needing to learn from history or risk repeating it -- well, probably not talking about ecosystems. There might be something else in the history, though. Alpha Trion said this isn't the first time there's been unrest like this. Happy reading!" On that note, he leaves, headed out to open skies and open roads to burn off the stench of nerd that comes from hanging around too many datadisks for too long.