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Title: More Than He Bargained For

PCs: Backdrop, Overclock

Location: The Dead End, Polyhex

Date: 13 June 2015

Summary: Overclock is tired and doesn't want to play anymore. She wants to go home.


  Clank-Clank clank-clank... Clank-Clank clank-clank... Overclock limps her way down the streets of the Dead End in her bestial alt-mode with the slum's charity clinic a few blocks behind at her back. The femme seems to have run afoul of trouble again as her frame bears testament to quite a lot of damage. Most of her paint has been ground or cut away and her paneling is ripped open in several places, exposing internals that have only just been repaired to safe conditions. She's not leaking fluids now but it's almost certainly uncomfortable - and it's quite possible the beastformer is stuck in her current mode. One of the few spots on her frame spared of abrasion, the Decepticon brand on her forehead is still in one piece, shining with what purple glory it can muster against the backdrop of bare metal.


  Moving without any clear direction, Overclock seems to simply be moving, her red optics not focused on anything before her as she limps along.


  Along the way through Overclock's journey, there's the distant sound of blaster fire. Not a severe RAP-RAP-RAP of a battle, but... Single shots. One at a time. Spread out few and far between. 


  Eventually, she might come across a small, petite racer mech. A Decepticon symbol is slapped on his own chest as well and a rather small gun is in his hands. It fits his frame; it'd probably be pinkie-sized for anyone else. 


  Looks like he's having target practice. Some bits of debri are in a neat, single file a bit away. 


  He hasn't hit a single shot yet.


  Overclock's ears perk at the noise and though slowly, she wanders over. The sheer heft of her frame landing heavily to one side as she walks likely announces her presence before she gets too close. Stopping a bit away from the little mech, she lays down on a pile of scrap and watches him practice.


  Ends up, the little mech is a TERRIBLE shot. He keeps trying to change his stance, keeps trying to re-aim, but the only shots he seems to make appear to be entirely accidental. 


  He looks frustrated, but he isn't quitting. He also hasn't actually noticed Overclock nearby. 


  How he's survived up until now is probably nothing short of miraculous.


  Patience comes naturally to the empties of the Dead End as energon starvation deprives them of impulsiveness and teaches slow observation and action by force. It's more common to be silently stared at than accosted and Overclock blends in with the locals as she simply continues to watch, making no move to chastise or applaud the littler robot's shooting. Then again, as an Insecti-beast, she might not be any better of a shot.


  Somewhere in the femme's frame, a misaligned belt begins to slip and it squeals for several rotations before catching again.


  The light squealing sound actually manages to catch the little mech's attention. 


  He jumps, swivels, and turns. It takes him a moment to notice the Decepticon symbol. "...Hi. You look like you've had a day."


  Overclock doesn't bother lifting her head from her paws as Backdrop addresses her, instead laying still as a statue. "Yeah..." she replies dully, her voice tinged with static, no doubt from a damaged vocoder. "Don't stop on my account."


  Well, too late for that because now the little mech looks concerned. Big ol' optics stare for a few seconds. "...Are you okay? Do you need a medic or a doctor or something?"


  "I'll live. I just can't stand... waiting in medical rooms," Overclock assures. "Go back to your shooting."


  "...Are you able to stand at all?" The concern isn't going away. "No offense, but... But you kinda look like you've been through a grinder."


  Overclock chuckles dryly. "That's the most accurate guess so far. I walked here, didn't I?" Even saying that, the Insectibeast makes no effort to actually prove it.


  "Uh-huh..." Still, he's staring. He doesn't look quite sure about Overclock's claims. "If you say so..." 


  He hesitantly turns to go back to shooting, but he keeps glancing at Overclock every few seconds. Seems he's terrible at hiding worry, as well.


  Why, look at that, it's a little racer mech! A... Rather short one, but that is, indeed, a racer frame. All sleek likes and aerodynamics, this petite little racer gleams in a shimmering white paint job with just a touch of accents here and there in pale blue and bold fuchsia. As with most racers, this one even has a bold decal on his chest; flame patterns! Said flames are that same fuchsia that gradients off in to the powder blue and white. His optics are even the same shade of blue; color coordination all around!


  About the fourth time the fuchsia mech looks back at her, Overclock growls, the noise coming directly from her engine rather than by voice.


  "Aren't you the mech... who shot six-of-twelve in the face?" She asks, perhaps growing concerned for how much energon the little bot is wasting. At least it's a small weapon.


  The growl is what causes the jump; the question makes him blink and turn. "Y-yeah. That was me." Kind of. Sort of. Mostly! "Why?"


  "Your aim," Overclock explains tacitly. "Has no one trained you?"


  "...Not yet." A nervous shrug. "They wanted me to help organize the medical stuff but you ever know when I might have to be out there with a gun again, you know? So I thought I'd practice on my own."


  "Organize medical stuff?" That, if nothing else, seems to catch some of the femme's curiosity.


  "Yeah. Putting all the supplies in the right place. Cleaning 'em up. I mean, I get it's important and there's probably a lack of medical people, but... But I don't wanna be completely helpless." 


  One of the pieces of scrap is hit. It's knocked off of the stand.


  Overclock watches the lucky shot and smiles for a moment before her expression drops back to neutral. "Being weak is..." this time the femme trails off at length due to more than just her vocoder. "Painful, isn't it?"


  "...Yeah." Another concerned glance is spared at Overclock. "You SURE you're okay? I could probably call someone..."


  "Don't bother," Overclock dismisses and leaves it at that. She allows Backdrop to continue shooting for a little while before speaking up again, in no rush to converse.


  "You were... disposable?"


  "Does EVERYONE know about that, now?" A huff; a second piece of scrap is actually hit, though it isn't knocked over. It wobbles. "Yeah. Yeah... What about it?"


  "You mentioned a mass decommission... on the radio," Overclock explains, perhaps to mollify the little guy. "It was a guess."


  "...Oh. Yeah. I did say stuff. I was mad." A soft sigh. Still more shooting; no lucky shots this time. "I say too much when I get mad."


  Overclock doesn't respond this time, instead watching Backdrop's marksmanship - or lack thereof.


  A few more shots are taken at the bits of debris. After a solid dozen or so missed shots, the gun lets out a clicking noise. 


  With a sigh, a second round is taken out of subspace. The little mech fiddles with the ammo cartridge, but manages to actually change it out with only a little bit of difficulty. Not TOO slowly. 


  Then, he's back to shooting. And missing.


  "Why are you still... a Decepticon?" Overclock asks out of the blue.


  "What?" A surprised sputter; his shot goes way wide, heading no where close to the targets. He turns to stare at Overclock. "What do you mean why am I still a Decepticon?" Shock! Such shock!


  "The caste system is gone... you're not disposable anymore," the Insectibeast says as her belt begins to squeal again. The beastformer's tail raises back and then thumps itself against her side in an effort to silence it.


  "Yeah, and the Decepticons made most of that happen." The little mech still looks so shocked by the question. "And now there's Autobot jerks that want to kill us all, so there's that!"


  Overclock's optics flicker slowly. "Where did you hear that?" she asks sceptically.


  "E-Everyone's saying it. And a PRIME is in charge of them! A... A Prime! Nothing good ever comes from Primes!"


  The femme lapses into silence again but her red optics stare unwaveringly on the smaller robot. "Have you seen what Motormaster... or Overlord... or Shockwave... have been doing?" She asks coldly. "This latest fake prime... might be Megatron's second coming... if no one stops them."


  "...I like Overlord." And the little mech actually looks a little taken aback. "Overlord said he'd teach me stuff. Ruiner, too." He might be hanging out with all the wrong people. "Second coming? What do you mean?"


  "Overlord: forced gladiator matches... Motormaster: death races and beatings for fun... under the pretense of 'forced registration'," Overclock lists, her staticky voice dropping to a frigid tone that's at odds with the hot rumble of her engine. "Shockwave: vivisection, spark stressing, reprogramming."


  "Decepticons are committing every crime that drove us to kill Sentinel... and no Decepticon is stopping them. At this rate... the Autobots could become the new us... and we wouldn't have a single excuse."


  A frown crosses the little mechs' face. 


  "...Then why are YOU a Decepticon if you think all that stuff is true?"


  "It is... like it or not," Overclock corrects. "I have proof of all of it." Here again, the femme pauses at length and her vents squeal as she cycles a large gulp of air. "Because I believe in what Megatron said... and this is still better than before. We just need to get rid of the Decepticons... who are abusing their power and aren't Decepticons."


  "Well... Well, yeah, there's gonna be jerks everywhere." A sputter; looks like the little mech is going to try and defend the cause. "... Dammit, that dumb Prime said the same thing on the radio about good and bad being everywhere... But it's true, though! And... And bad stuff happened, and some people did bad things, but... But we're still right..."


  "Are doing, today, right now," Overclock emphasizes firmly, her optics brightening with force. "Every crime they commit while wearing our badge... reflects on us unless we stand up to them. Otherwise... we're no better than the Security Forces."


  The femme sighs heavily and groans as her painkillers are beginning to wear off. "The curse of weaklings like us is we can't do anything about them... but I guess being a martyr... might not be so bad," she considers thoughtfully.


  "...Martyr?" Well, the concern is back, now. The little mech makes his way towards Overclock, frowning deeply. "Wow, you really do look bad.."


  Up close, the damage hidden beneath her panels becomes easier to see. Not only has Overclock's armor been ground down and pried apart but her internals have been ravaged by the same damages, as well as crude cuts. Some boards are missing outright but everything vital at least seems to be present. Overclock's optics follow the little robot as he passes her head but doesn't bother turning to follow him.


  "When Motormaster crushed Torque's legs while 'registering' her and I got in the way... Megatron said he would deal personally with any Decepticon who attacked another. Somehow... I don't think that would save me... if I tried to stop any of those three."


  "Another Decepticon did this?!" A stunned sputter. "Motormaster, huh?" Bright optics narrow for a moment before the worry returns. "...I have no idea how to fix any of this. Should get you to a medic..." 


  He moves to try and pick up Overclock. 'Try' being the operative word; he's not having much luck.


  "No," Overclock corrects, looking back at the little robot out the corner of her optic. Her frame rocks to one side and it groans as Backdrop tries admirably but fails to heft the rather significant femme. Root-mode or alt-mode, she's got big struts.


  "But once I'm healed, I might call Motormaster somewhere public... and tell him what I think." The Insectibeast lets out a dry chuckle as she considers the possibility. "He seems like the kind who might... take his time killing me. But at least that's better than Shockwave."


  "...So you WANT him to kill you?!" My, this little mech sputters a LOT when he's stunned. "Why would you do that?! You can't do anything if you're dead! At least alive, you can figure out some sneaky way to make sure he gets what's coming...!" 


  Look at him, still trying to lift Overlock. After a little while, he stops, looks around, walks to a pile of scrap and gets out... A stick! Or a pipe. Who knows. 


  He tries to prop Overclock up with the stick.


  Overclock growls again as Backdrop returns with a makeshift pry bar and, with a pained grunt, pushes herself up onto all fours. "I told you I can stand... now please let me lay down again, it's more comfortable."


  At her full bestial height now, the size difference becomes more obvious between the two robots as Overclock's red optics glare heatedly at Backdrop's. "If I try to be sneaky and take too long... or nothing works... then as far as every other Decepticon, Autobot, and Cybertronian knows none of us care! If none of us show enough bearings... to deal with small technofries like them... after we killed two Primes... what does that say about the rest of us!?"


  "...But being dead doesn't get you anywhere." A deep frown crosses the little mech's face. The stick is held in front of his chest as Overclock peers down at him. "Once he kills you, what then? Nothing, that's what. Unless you're someone important, no one cares after you're dead. Staying alive's the most important thing..."


  Overclock's legs waver but the beastformer remains on her feet as she stares at Backdrop, holding her posture with conviction and little more. "If you heard that a nobody in the Sec.F. died trying to stop your decommissioning, would you hate them as much?... If two died, would you give them more of a chance?... If Autobots had died fighting the Decepticon Registration Act... do you think Megatron would have made them register?"


  Thoughtful confusion crosses the little mech's face. He goes silent for a long few minutes. 


  "I... I don't... I don't know. I don't know, 'cause those are all what-if stuff..." He looks confused.


  In the same time Backdrop spends to think, Overclock crashes back to the ground and pants to catch her breath. That's all the standing she wants to do at one time. "Exactly," the femme replies. The Insecticon groans as her belt begins to slip again but doesn't bother trying to fix it this time. Her optics begin to flicker on and off in a slow rhythm, resting along with the rest of her systems as she takes a moment to recharge in half-sleep. "You agree, don't you?" She asks simply. "That nothing done under the Primes... should be repeated by a Decepticon?"


  "...Yeah. But... But that's basic stuff. Sometimes... Sometimes stuff's a lot more complicated." A deep breath; the makeshift prop is tossed aside. "I mean, Autobots were really mad that I shot that Coucilmech, but I'm happy I did it. Sometimes, you HAVE to be shoot someone..."


  "I'm on your side," Overclock offers with a small smile to reassure the little mech. "Ignore the noisy ones... they're the soft ones. We need soft voices during peace like this... but the council had its trial... over the last two million years."


  "Simple stuff like mnemosurgery... vivisection... beating the weak for fun... abduction and slavery... those are simple ones, right? Do we agree on those?"


  "...Yeah..." A slow nod; Backdrop seems wary of where the conversation was going. "Yeah. Yeah, that stuff... Yeah."


  Overclock's smile remains as she raises her head enough to turn towards Backdrop and lick him with a proportionally large tongue. "Then that makes two of us... I hope Megatron is three or we're badly outgunned."


  "Not that I expect to live much longer," she admits off-hand.


  The lick catches Backdrop completely off guard. He stands there for a moment, stunned. Doesn't look like he knows quite how to react. 


  "D-don't say that. We could still get you to a medic...! You said you could walk, right?"


  Overclock laughs briefly, ending with a pained wince. "No, no, after this. I just don't expect... my attitude to be popular. If I get in Shockwave's way... I expect to disappear... and become one of his test subjects. Overlord... would probably kill me on the spot."


  "Primus makes me sick," she spits. "To make robots like *that* so strong."


  "Maybe I can talk to them." Backdrop actually looks serious about that. "Overlord likes me, maybe I can ask him to help you out..."


  "Hehe... then he'll kill me somewhere... out of the way by surprise," Overclock chuckles, showing as much optimism as ever. It could almost fill one of Backdrop's tiny pistol cartridges. "Don't ruin yourself for me," she requests gently. "But try if you think... it will help."


  "I'd rather recruit some Autobots... but with their new 'prime' they might be... fatally hard-headed."


  "You can't even talk straight." Backdrop frowns, concern practically leaking from his optics. "Can you even make it out of this scrapyard like this? What did that jerk DO to you?" 


  Watch out, Overclock, he's gonna try to pick you up again!


  "I told you Motormaster didn't do this to me," Overclock asserts in one of her longest sentences yet. "I'll be fine... I just have to make it back to the clinic... it's only three blocks."


  "Clinic?" Backdrop blinks. "There are clinics around here?" He shakes his head a bit. "Let me help! I can help!" 


  Aaand there he goes, trying to pick her up again.


  This time Overclock deigns to help, if only to avoid the little mech's stick, and uses Backdrop's push to rock back onto all four legs again. Her leg joints grind as she settles her weight onto them a second time and a hot hiss emanates from her exhausts. "Easy, easy!" She insists of the white and fuchsia robot. "Yeah... it's a volunteer clinic. One of the few... nice places here."


  "A volunteer clinic...?" This idea doesn't seem particularly novel to Backdrop, but he still seems surprised. "There's one of those around here? Let me help get you there, at least...!" 


  Now he's shadowing Overclock; he looks like he wants to carry her or at least nudge her along, twitching a little in the need to, but doesn't actually do so.


  "If you insist," Overclock laughs again, heartened by the mech's stubborn kindness. "Prop up my right side... just be careful for the wounds."


  Being told to actually do something seems to light up Backdrop's whole world. Look how happy he is! He moves to do just that, propping up Overclock's right side the best he could. He's missing the wounds, at least. 


  He's so happy just to help! "Let me know if I can do anything else, okay?"


  Aided by her new walking stick-bot, Overclock begins to limp back the way she came, walking slowly but comfortably on her left side while leaving Backdrop to support the weakness on her right. "Okay," the femme agrees easily, though now her voice is tinged with exertion from the simple effort of walking. "Make sure the Autobots know what happened... if another Decepticon gets rid of me."


  "...Okay." Backdrop doesn't look too sure about that. "...I think I can figure out a way to do that. What's your name?"


  "Overclock, lately," the femme answers as she limps along.


  "Lately?" For a moment, Backdrop looks amused. Then it fades away as he realizes what it probably means. "...Oh. You changed your name, too, huh?"


  "Sort of," Overclock agrees. "It's complicated... but nothing to worry about. You?"


  "Yeah..." Backdrop murmurs. "...Oh! I mean, I'm Backdrop."


  "Who did you used to be?" Overclock asks curiously.


  "It... It was more of a number." Backdrop frowns again, this time a little thoughtfully. "YX-939. ... Though my friends called me Spritz for a while..."


  On her next left-right step, Overclock stumbles hard enough that she might pin her fellow Decepticon if he doesn't brace enough. Falling or standing, she stops on the spot, her optics bright with shock. "You're one of the... YX series?"


  "I... I WAS, yeah." That frown grows deeper. "Why is everyone always so surprised by that? I mean, I know most of us didn't make it..."


  Overclock goes silent again and even her engine throttles back this time as her optics look away. Pushing herself back up, she tries to lean away from Backdrop and continue walking on her own. "Thanks for helping," she says somberly, not looking back. "I can walk the rest of the way... myself."


  For a moment, Backdrop looks taken aback by the sudden brushing off. Still, he isn't ENTIRELY a stupid mech. "W-wait. Wait, what aren't you saying? Why is me being a YX a big deal to you?"


  Overclock stops again and sighs as she lets herself fall to one side. She beckons Backdrop closer with a sweep of her tail and her optics meet his again with a regretful whine. "When I was an empty here... I killed one for the bounty."


  "You WHAT?" Backdrop sputters, shocked and horrified. "Wh... Who? Which one? Did... Do you even know which one?"


  "YX-885," Overclock answers simply, bowing her head as much in apology as to rest it again. "We didn't exchange names."


  There's a pause as Backdrop takes this in. His expressions change in a pretty quick succession from confused to stunned to confused again and then to realization. 


  "...I didn't think he even made it out of the sewers." A whisper.


  Overclock lets Backdrop process for as long as she needs, trying in what little ways she can to make her large frame less imposing before him. "He was two cycles from being picked off... by scavengers, at most," she mentions, "but he did."


  "...Th-thank you for telling me." Backdrop nods a little, but he certainly looks upset. 


  He goes quiet after that, still helping Overclock limp along.


  "It's all I can do now," Overclock replies. "If you want to know anything... just ask. I tried to make it gentle..."


  "It's okay." Backdrop seems to finally give up on moving Overclock along and slides down to sit next to her. "It's okay. It's not like it'd change anything to know the exact details." 


  He pauses for a moment. "...Though, he probably went out better than everyone that got 'recycled'."


  "I waited until he was sleeping," Overclock offers. "We talked beforehand... but it sounds like you... already knew him."


  "We all kind of knew each other a little." A small shrug. "There were about a couple hundred of us that lived together in our group. Some switched in and out sometimes, but you live with people all the time, you... You know them." 


  A deep, shaky breath. "They're all gone now, though. A few of us got out, but I don't know where they are now."


  "Probably using with a new identity... like you," Overclock guesses.


  "Yeah, a few of us got new frames and names together." Backdrop smiles shakily. "But then we went our own ways and... And I don't know what happened after that. I kept in touch with Shutter and Lens for a while, but we lost touch when things got nuts."


  "Maybe you could... organize a reunion," Overclock suggests. "As a Decepticon, I think you could... draw most of them out."


  "You think so?" Backdrop perks up at the idea. "But... But everything's all different, now. People are choosing sides. And a lot of people died, too..." He slumps.


  "All the more reason," Overclock disagrees as she curls her tail in front of the seated mech. "To the Pit with labels like 'Decepticon' or 'Autobot'... we're not /that/ immortal - they won't be around forever."


  A slow nod. "...How do I even find them, though? I can't exactly put an ad up going 'looking for surviving YX units'. That sounds fishy even to me!"


  "Except you are one and you're a Decepticon," the beastformer notes. "You just have to... make it believable."


  "...Maybe." Still, Backdrop doesn't look so sure. "...It'd be nice, but... Maybe. I'll think about it. Maybe a few of us are left..."


  "But what?" Overclock asks bluntly. "If you wait, it just means more are... likely to die for some stupid reason."


  "...Yeah. You're right. I know, I just..." A sigh. "...I don't know how."


  "Make advertisements," Overclock offers perhaps unhelpfully. "Even if only two show up... that's better than none."


  "...Yeah." Still, such hesitation! Backdrop seems so unsure of this decision. "...I'll think of something. I will." 


  He looks at Overclock. "Ready for more walking?"


  "I guess..." Overclock looks down the road towards the clinic and then heaves a heavy sigh as she draws her tail behind herself again and - straining - tries to rise back onto her feet. At this point staying upright might have been easier than going up and down over and over.


  Backdrop moves in to help Overclock walk again. Look at him, still being so helpful. 


  "...So why'd you change your name? You got MY life story." A shaky smile. 

  Overclock at least doesn't stumble this time, in fact the femme seems to ignore the question entirely for long enough that it might be possible her audios glitched over it.


  "Mine is... messy," she finally answers uncomfortably.


  "Messy?" Backdrop blinks at that. "A lot of stuff has been really messy, lately. Try me, I've got time."


  "I'd rather not," Overclock admits, showing hesitation for first time. Her face contorts in an uncomfortable, thoughtful grimace while her optics scan the street. Resigning herself, the femme leans Backdrop towards one of the shanties lining the road. "In here..."


  There's a long pause as Backdrop peers at the shanty. "...Are you sure?" Because he certainly isn't. "It... It looks kind of..." He clearly doesn't want to say anything TOO offensive. "...Down." 


  Still, he helps Overclock along, even as she heads towards the shanty.


  "It's the Dead End... for a reason," Overclock supplies as she stops before the doorway - a loose sheet of metal propped over a hole - and leaves Backdrop to open it for her.


  Once inside, the shack proves every bit as furnished and hospitable as it looked from the outside. Four rusty walls, a pitted roof, and the makeshift door are all there is, and the floor is littered with empty cans and syringes. Taking no acknowledgement of the decor, Overclock squeezes her way through the doorframe and lays down again, taking up a full half of the room as she curls her body into one corner and her tail provides accidental seating in another. Metal and glass creak and shatter beneath her frame as the room's detritus is flattened. "You didn't escape to the Dead End... like YX-885... did you?" She guesses at Backdrop's reaction.


  "...No. A solid few dozen were led out by... By a friend. We got to Nyon. You know, before it was.. The way it is now." 


  Backdrop stares at the syringes and empty cans. "...Are you SURE about this place?"


  "Never tried a speeder? You're missing out," Overclock jokes, giggles to herself for a moment before her expression flattens. "Seriously though, don't try those... they do no good and plenty... of harm."


  "...Speeders." Backdrop makes a disgusted face. "I know about those. Learned pretty early on to stay away from those." A huff. 


  After a pause, he sighs a little. "One of the others... When we were still YX... Got in to those. Was so out of it one cycle that he... Hallucinated, I think, we never really found out, but he either fell or jumped... Probably jumped... In to a disinfectant wash pipe. The industrial kind. He didn't scream, but it probably wasn't a nice way to go."


  "It's a stimulant and analgesic, I doubt he felt it," Overclock notes. "Disorientation from overheating or fouled timing -- maybe."


  "Hope so." A shrug. "I didn't KNOW him know him, but it really shook us all up. Don't think any of us ever tried a drug after that."


  The air is a few degrees cooler and staler inside the shack, though the Dead End's pungent musk of rust and spoiled oil is no less prevalent. With her paint job a patchwork, Overclock almost blends in with the wall behind her. "Good, few can help in street doses," she replies, groaning again as her optics flicker in the dimmer lighting before glancing forlorn at her front left leg. "And of course I'm fresh out..."


  "So..." Backdrop heads to Overclock's side, still giving the entire shanty a generally disgusted look. "...How long do you have to wait here? Because I'm holding myself from scrubbing everything in here right now." 


  Former cleaning bot, ladies and gentlemen.


  "You can scrub me all you want... just watch the wounds," Overclock offers readily. "I just wanted... somewhere quieter to talk."


  "...Oh." Backdrop blinks at that. "...I thought you were gonna tell me to leave, actually." 


  He shifts in place, giving the needles and empty cans another look.


  "You're nice company," Overclock replies to the tinier robot. She shifts in place and nestles her head on her front paws, viewing Backdrop mostly through her right optic. "I don't really have a name... but 'Overclock' is useful in conversation."


  A small smile spreads across Backdrop's face. "Nice to meet you, Overclock. Interesting name." 


  Hesitantly, he takes a seat next to the femme. He doesn't look comfortable.


  Overclock pauses as she notes Backdrop's discomfort. "Want me to clean up?"


  "...It's okay. You shouldn't be moving." Backdrop shifts in place. "I don't know who's in charge of this place, but it's very unsanitary."


  "...You really have no idea... how poverty works, do you?" Overclock asks, dumbfounded.


  Backdrop gives Overclock a look. "I'm not saying hire a team, I'm saying... Keep the used needles somewhere else." A look is given to a few of said needles. "Just... Shove them to the side, at least. Someone could get hurt with those."


  The tone of Overclock's engine changes as the quiet whoosh of her intakes is replaced by the throaty gasp of an overworked pipe. Sounding somewhere between a leaf blower and a vacuum, the femme's tail lurches as its stinger tip spreads apart and it begins to inhale nearby debris. Shards of metal and glass careen noisily up its length and into the Insecticon as one optic winks at Backdrop. "If you'll feed my intake, I won't have to move. Just try not to... get your arm stuck in me."


  The sudden intake of metal and debris has Backdrop jumping, startled by the noise and again by simply seeing it. 


  "Feed your intakes? What? How? Oh Primus." He stares nervously at Overclock. "How?"


  "Put the trash in front... of my tail," Overclock explains plainly, trying to speak over her own engine and the noisy clatter she's creating. "I'm an..." The femme pauses and fidgets uncomfortably for a moment. "I'll make it go away."


  "...Okay." Backdrop takes in a deep breath. Then, he gets up and moves around the little shack, carefully picking up every single needle he found. 


  Then, he stuff them all inside cans. As many as can fit per can. Only then does he set the cans in front of Overclock's tail. 


  "Now what?"


  Still running, Overclock's tail continues its task of cleaning the space in front of it of anything not nailed down or mech-sized. Each can is sucked inside, bounces and careens its way past each segmented bend, and then disappears somewhere inside Overclock's frame. Once the last can is gone, the noise subsides and her tail's end shrinks back down to its normal point - ironically turning into another needle.


  "Better?" the Insectibeast asks.


  For a long moment, Backdrop simply stares, slack jawed and wide-optics. 


  "...Did you just suck in metal through your aft and eat it?"


  "Tail," Overclock corrects, and that's her only correction.


  "...Okay, did you just suck in metal through your tail and eat it?" Backdrop continues to boggle.


  "Have you never seen a cleaner do that?" Overclock asks back, similarly surprised.


  "Not a living one!" Backdrop sputters. "None of us were ever able to do anything like that...!"


  "So is the room better?" Overclock repeats, returning to her earlier question in the hopes of steering Backdrop back to the topic at hand - as unwilling as she might be to discuss it.


  "...Yes. Marginally." Backdrop hesitantly admits. "At least a little."


  "Good. I needed the fuel anyway," the Insectibeast sighs, this time in relief. "Where was I?"


  A somewhat impish smile crosses Backdrop's face. "You were gonna tell me about your name."


  "Oh... right," Overclock acknowledges morosely as her optics hang downcast for a period while she gathers her thoughts again, then they flicker as the femme grunts again. "Right, that's what distracted me."


  "Do you need more fuel? Er, junk?" The smile vanished, and here comes the concern again! "Do you need to rest?"


  "Nothing you can help with," Overclock dismisses with a grumble as her gaze reignites.


  "...Okay." Backdrop accepts, though he still looks worried. "So... How DID you get your name?"


  "I picked it... maybe like you," Overclock explains simply. That's an easy one, at least.


  "...Oh." Backdrop nods a little. "You made it sound like it was a much more drastic story, though."


  "Like with you, the messy part is everything... before my new name," the beastformer reminds.


  There's another slow nod. Backdrop's full attention is on the femme, optics bright and interested. 


  He falls silent, though, waiting for Overclock to keep going.


  Seeing the audience she's apparently captive to, Overclock stares back and waits for a follow-on question. She's happy to make it a game of patience. It's a little bit like running the Ibex Cup against a toolformer.


  After a few seconds of silence, Backdrop simply... Pokes Overclock. 


  "Well? Come on." That impish smile again. "I'm all receptors."


  "I'd ask if you can keep a secret," Overclock considers dully, "but I guess... it doesn't matter if you get me... killed, anyway."

  "When I left technoversity..." this time the femme's pause is for a resigned sigh, "my name was Spectrum."


  The name doesn't appear to mean anything to Backdrop. He only nods slowly, listening. "That sounds like a pretty name, too."


  "How about 'Bloodhound'?" Overclock asks next.


  "...That is a less pretty name." Backdrop blinks; still no familiarity. "But sounds kind of fierce..."


  "That's about right," Overclock grants. "She was Vanguard, 4th Recon Batallion."


  "Oh... You were in the Vanguard?" Backdrop looks awed and amazed! "I only saw Vanguard once and it was by accident. They looked really fancy."


  The beastformer snorts disdainfully. Her engine growls an angry tone and what panels can on her damaged frame bristle. "It was a pretty lie... send us out as conquerers, tell us we're protectors, and ship the ones that spoke up back home in cages."


  Backdrop 's expression falls only a little. Maybe he's not entirely surprised. "...Oh. But you did good stuff, I bet."


  "Yeah, I helped subjugate plenty of Animatron 'rebels' and even killed some Combatronians," Overclock agrees sarcastically. "Life was great until they made me Patient-154."


  "Patient...?" Backdrop's optics brighten. "...What, like horrible mad science stuff?"


  Overclock stares back silently, her mouth not so much as twitching as she waits for the little robot to put the pieces together.


  "...You were experimented on?" Perhaps Backdrop isn't quite the brightest Decepticon in the ranks.


  "Yeah." Once again, Overclock leaves it at that. "And Primus has a sick love for irony... my first assignment as a Decepticon... was Shockwave's assistant."


  "I'm sorry." Backdrop says this softly, but genuinely seems to mean it. "...So you saw Shockwave experiment on other people...?" His face falls a little; perhaps he didn't want to believe it.


  "He ordered me to... abduct outliers for "study and indoctrination"," the beastformer explains. "I had reason to believe... he meant vivisection and forced reprogramming... he refused to deny it... so I quit and Megatron reassigned me."

  "I will never... ever help anyone do that again," she protests hotly. "I'd sooner fight half the Decepticon army and both dead primes... with my hands behind my back."


  A visible cringe goes along Backdrop's entire frame. "I'm... Wow. That's... Wow." Well, it summed it up pretty well, really. "...That's horrible."


  "From what I heard on the radio... an Autobot managed to escape recently," Overclock continues, venting hot air to check her temper. "I'm hoping to have her pictures soon... but I believe it in a spark-pulse. I warned him - I warned Megatron - but Shockwave would do that the instant he thinks it's worth the risk of being caught... Whatever's proportional to the value of the results," she quotes derisively. "He doesn't believe in our cause at all."


  Backdrop goes quiet as Overclock's story goes on. Possibly because he yelled on the radio about those pictures just the other day. 


  He looks pensive and thoughtful, though.


  Overclock allows silence to lapse, in no rush to continue on the topic. "Shanix for your thoughts?"


  "...I didn't want to believe that we'd be experimenting on people." Backdrop admits. He shifts in place, looking uncomfortable. "...But hearing it from you... I believe it."


  "We did nothing," Overclock asserts firmly. "I haven't done one pit-damned thing to help that mech... and once I've got proof I can show Megatron, I'll do... heh, oh right..." Here again the femme trails off with a dry laugh and hangs her optics on the floor, crestfallen. "I guess I'll show it to Megatron and martyr myself before his cannon... if he doesn't help."


  "No, see, this is a reason to NOT be a martyr." Backdrop looks at Overclock. "T-to get proof of what Shockwave is doing! See? You have a reason to keep going now!"


  "After I show Megatron the proof," Overclock clarifies. "Queens bless him if he helps... Shockwave might not listen to him, but power can force his attention."


  "...Sure." Backdrop hesitantly gives up. "Get proof first. Then... Then maybe find something new to live for. But... But keep your options open, maybe?" 


  Well, he's trying.


  "Why bother?" Overclock asks dully, the malaise of her earlier mood settling in again. "If Megatron doesn't help, my life would be worth more... trying to force him off his aft, then stepping in front of Shockwave's cannon alone."


  A saddened expression crosses Backdrop's face. 


  "You know, when I was a YX... When we all did the same thing all the time with no hope or anything... We found reasons to keep going. We found ways to make ourselves at least a little happy. Sometimes it was hard, especially when things happened and we died, but... We found ways."


  "How old are you?" the femme asks non-sequitur, peering aside at Backdrop through one dimly glowing optic.


  "What?" Backdrop blinks at the question. "...What do you mean how old am I?"


  "After the Vanguard and everything else that happened... I eked out a living here," Overclock elaborates. "I've probably been an empty longer than you've been alive... and I've found less reasons every cycle. I've finally run out."


  For a few seconds, Backdrop simply stares at Overclock. 


  "...But there's always reasons. There's... I just can't believe that there wouldn't be SOMEthing..."


  "Name one," Overclock invites dully.


  There's a long moment of silence. Backdrop seems to be struggling to answer this question. 


  "W-Well, I don't know what kind of hobbies you had once! But even if it's something really tiny, like... Like wanting to learn to play something or watch a movie or... Or something!" A pause. "...The guys, we watched a lot of movies..."


  "Pointless. I never had any hobbies," the beastformer dismisses. "Nothing I... want to do now."


  "...Hobbies can be good, though." Even Backdrop knows his argument is weak; there's not much conviction in his voice. "There's... There's stuff that can at least make you a LITTLE bit happy..."


  "I'm not a hedonist... I've stayed alive for a purpose," Overclock responds with a dry laugh. "If we lived for happiness... and enjoying life... we'd both be long dead."


  "...I enjoy life sometimes." Backdrop slumps a little, looking a little put off. "I try to, when I can. ...What's wrong with living for happiness, for a good day?"


  "They're rare, they're fleeting, and without a purpose... something will just get in the way," the femme answers.


  "Not all the time." Backdrop shrugs a little. "...And I remember the good days that I had even as a YX, sometimes, and they're good memories."


  "With Autobots demonizing us, our own comrades committing every crime they say, and robots like us too weak to fix anything... what's there to be happy about?" Overclock asks point blank. "Unless I bury my head in energox or OD on speeders... what is there?"


  "...There's friends." Another small shrug. "There's TRYING to make things better. There's... Little things and chances and stuff that happens that makes things better sometimes."


  The beastformer goes silent again as her optics flicker off and she cycles air. It'd be easy for the impulsive femme to lash out at Backdrop at this point, but she tries for restraint. When her gaze returns to the little mech, the red glow that faces him is hollow and the Insecticon's expression dead. Her engine holds its fatalistically low idle, offering a quiet reprieve.


  "What's your alt-mode, Backdrop, some kind of racer?"


  "...Yeah." Backdrop nods slowly, visibly confused by the sudden change in topic. "When we all got frame transplants, there wasn't a lot of options, and they said going to a too big of a frame might make our sparks sputter out, so... So I went for this one."


  "Imagine for a moment that one of your wheels always spun in the wrong direction and that it couldn't be repaired... that's just how you were," Overclock continues. "Or that as a YX, none of your cleaners worked."


  "...I have the feeling this line of questions is going somewhere, but I don't know where it's going." Backdrop frowns.


  "Just imagine it for a moment," Overclock requests.


  There's a moment of silence as Backdrop tries to do just that. 


  "...I guess i'd be pretty miserable."


  "Now imagine that same feeling in both modes... all the time," Overclock says. "That's me. Every. Waking. Nano-click."

  "Now imagine the Institute," she continues, not giving Backdrop more than a moment to process. "Vivisections, reprogrammings... mnemosurgery experiments... mind- and frame-altering drugs. I worked for those slag-encrusted scraplets, I was assigned to them fresh out of technoversity - I experimented on /myself/ for those Pit-spawns! Years of that... I finally get out and scrape by here, in hiding, living off quarter-rations for a million years before joining the Decepticons."

  "The only other member of my project is /dead/, I'm trapped in this crippled Insecticon frame, and now the Institute - of all crimes! - is back, its new name is 'Shockwave', and there is not one Pit-damned thing I can do about it but complain to someone stronger and /hope/ they do everything for me!" As Overclock speaks, her garbled voice manages a moment of stability while her engine returns to life with a violent roar. The former empty's optics blaze red as they lock onto the unlucky mech across from her and refuse to waver.

  "So you tell me, Backdrop: what in this Mortilus-cursed world do I have to be happy for!? What's worth sticking around?!"


  "...A frame change." Backdrop stares at Overclock. "W-why not get a frame change? If you hate what you have now, there's... I bet we can get something better for you..."


  The femme lets out a loud, barking laugh at that. "Hah! There's one mech on this whole planet who might - /might/ - be able to fix my design... and if he does then what? Then I'm a fully functioning Decepticon just in time for the Autobots to scrap us like we deserve. No amount of upgrades could beat behavior into those... rotten sparks."


  A few seconds of silence pass. 


  "...Then just let yourself waste away, then." Backdrop looks a little frustrated, but it's tinged with sadness as well. "Just give up. Let everybody else win. It doesn't matter who might actually care if you die or not, just... Just give up. Is that what you want?"


  Overclock's optics flicker as she stares at Backdrop. As weak as the little mech's conviction had grown, she hadn't expected that. Taken aback, she draws in a slow, shudder breath, and exhales deeply as her gaze drops to the floor between them. "No..." she admits almost inaudibly. "I just... there's nothing left." Her optics lift again to Backdrop as she looks over pleadingly, as if to impart her perspective to her fellow Decepticon by words alone. Somewhere in her spark casing... something's broke.

  "I've got one chance - just one chance for things to work. After that... I've got nothing."


  "Then you MAKE something." Backdrop still looks frustrated, but his expression has softened a bit. "I can't tell you what's gonna do it, but I KNOW there's something or someone that can make you happy. Even a little. I mean, I lost everything at least twice, but there's always something that's there..."


  "Bloodhound is dead and gone," Overclock replies, a cold edge briefly returning to her voice as she admits a truth that's no easier to say than the day it happened. "I've got nothing - I've got no one. This frame was supposed to help me, give me the power I needed and a body... like I used to have."

  Her optics flash as she snaps in a fit of anger. "Instead it's a wreck and just made me a bigger target!"


  "Then a new body, like I said...!" Backdrop frowns. He lets out a sigh. "...I don't think you even want to try to be happy. You've already made up your mind. We're just gonna keep arguing all day."


  "I'm going to make one last try," Overclock concedes quietly as her anger burns away to depression again. "I'll talk to Megatron... I guess... and see about one more round of upgrades. If that doesn't fix it... Pit I guess maybe I'll just sit somewhere pretty and starve."

  "Assuming no one has blown it up yet."


  "I'll go with you!" And Backdrop seems to think that this is the best idea ever. "I'll go with you and then Megatron will REALLY listen!"


  The Insecticon returns to staring, not addressing Backdrop's offer for a long period as she loses herself in thought. "How are you still so enthusiastic?"


  "What?" Backdrop blinks with visible confusion. "Enthusiastic? What'r you talking about?"


  "So ready and confident," Overclock clarifies. "You act like a protoform who doesn't know how sick and cruel this planet is yet."


  Backdrop stares at Overclock, optics blinking rapidly. "...I just know what I want to do, is all."


  "And you're sure of it without a nick's doubt," the femme fills in. She sighs heavily and winces, an uncharacteristically small and weak whimper coming from the large robot. "I haven't been like that... since I learned what I was really doing for the Institute."


  "...I just want to help you, is all." Backdrop shifts in place a little. "So that's what I'm gonna do."


  "Heh... I wish I could be that simple," Overclock laments. Slowly, she draws her tail back to herself and plants her paws on the floor before heaving her weight off of it, revealing the shattered and crushed debris she'd been laying upon. "Come on, we've talked enough... one of the medics should be ready to repair me now."

  The femme pauses and turns her head to Backdrop. "And everything I've said in here, you'll never repeat... right?"


  There's a blink of confusion as Overclock struggles back up. "Of course I would't -- THIS ISN'T THE CLINIC?" 


  Now he's up too, looking put off again. "I thought THIS was the dumb clinic! That's why I was worried about the needles! Where are we?!"


  "...This is an empty shack," Overclock explains in slow, simple words as she looks at the little mech incredulously. "I told you I wanted privacy... The clinic is two more blocks."


  Backdrop sputters, annoyed and confused, by these revelations. "...You could've told me before I made myself look like an idiot!" 


  He's following Overclock, though.


  "I thought it was obvious," the Insectibeast reasons in her defense.

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