Title: Old Friends and New Friends
Date: 02 January 2015
Summary: Blast Off makes sure Hot Rod is caught up on the gossip, then they meet a new and totally trustworthy friend!
A lot has happened in Nyon in the last several cycles. Arrests, battles, even bounty hunters.... it hasn't been DULL, to say the least. And still, there are always more things afoot in this town. "Team Trouble" works as a band of rebels, transporting goods to the needy and struggling of the town- and there are many. And speaking of transports, certain Combaticon space shuttles have been busy bringing that precious cargo to them- as part of a trade with his teammate Swindle. However, a wanted criminal like Blast Off hasn't exactly gone unnoticed in the town- and it's possible that this transport of goods hasn't gone entirely unnoticed, either. There are many optics and many *needs* here, after all.
For right now, though, Blast Off sits in shuttle mode in one of the cargo bays in town, being unloaded of said cargo. He has some news he'd like to share with Hot Rod- but where IS he, anyway? He hasn't seen him for cycles. This has made the Combaticon quite... miffed, for the news he has is not good news.
Into the shuttle-sized bay drives a less than shuttle-sized speeder: red and gold and fast, Hot Rod zips in and transforms with a stretch of limbs as he settles in. Miss him? Here he is.
There's no excuse for his absence in his appearance or in his expression. He strolls casual and can be, flipping a datapad over and over in his hands. He's easy and carefree, like nothing is out of place. "Hey, aren't you late?" Ha ha irony.
The icy cold silence that greets Hot Rod is frigid even by Blast Off's standards, and he's not exactly known as a warm, friendly people person as it is. The shuttle just sits there for awhile as the cargo gets unloaded, and you could almost be forgiven for doing a double-take and wondering if somehow *this* non-sentient purple and brown space shuttle got confused with the sentient one.
But no, eventually, there is the faintest hint of a rumble in those engines, and Blast Off's cultured-sounding voice comes over his loudspeakers at last. He doesn't answer, instead he asks his own question. << Where have you *been*? >> His voice sounds even more annoyed than usual.
"Busy." It's criminal that Hot Rod doesn't have a juice box right now so he can sip at it like he hasn't a worry in the world. Bite the corner of his datapad? Nope. He pockets it with a gesture before temptation can strike, then poses, hands on his hips as he faces Blast Off's shuttled form. "What? /I'm/ not late."
Now there is a definite and very LOUD rumble of Blast Off's engines. And in his massive shuttle mode, when he lets out an annoyed sound... it reverberates *everywhere*. Cargo crates rattle and even some of the dockworkers stumble once or twice as they carry items out. << //Busy//. I see. Well, I've got a question for you. Seen Shiftlock lately? >>
Hot Rod ... looks less happy. "No." There's a lot he could say -- a lot his expression says for him, expressive and mobile when maybe he'd prefer to look a little more guarded -- but in the end, he says nothing. It's just the flicker of guilt, frustration, anger that flashes across his features to speak for him. He shifts his weight on his heels and folds his arms across his chest.
Blast Off lets out a huff- and once again, in shuttle mode his *hufffs* are much more... impressive. The cargo bay workers finish up unloading, the last one finally exiting his cargo door and looking rather glad to be doing so. Being inside giant, huffy, seemingly temperamental space shuttles does NOT a good time make. << Then you know what /happened/ to her, I take it? And WHO did it?! >>
"Yes." Hot Rod looks away. The cross of his arms tightens before he throws his arms wide in an exasperated gesture. "I told people to be careful! I told them something was wrong with him! I was trying to /fix/ it, so don't give me that /where have you been/ like I wasn't-- like I haven't--." Breaking off twice, he drops his hands in clenched fists at his sides. "I haven't been able to find out anything about what happened to her. You?"
<< You sent him HERE! You *welcomed* him, despite knowing what he IS! >> There's a final growl of engines, then Blast Off transforms. Much smaller now, but every bit as peeved, the shuttleformer comes striding over towards Hot Rod, pointing an accusatory finger. "YOU let this happen!"
Then he stops as Hot Rod's question. His own gaze falters as he responds. "Yes I /have/. She's..." The aloof Combaticon's voice cracks before he is able to continue on, "...She's /GONE/. For good. I *talked* to Blurr. She's been.... *reconditioned*. You know what that *means*, right?!"
Hot Rod waves his hand sharply to the side as if to knock Blast Off's pointy finger away. "I sent him somewhere I thought it would be safe. Somewhere he couldn't find /everyone/. Somewhere -- isolated. I didn't send him where he could /find us/. He needed help." He stops, gaze lowering, and considers the rest of Blast Off's words. His jaw sets. His words are low and fierce. "Needs help. Maybe same way she'll need help. How do you know she's really gone? You're really going to believe him? Probably not even his own words!"
If Blast Off were more demonstrative, he'd have started punching and yelling by now- or at least tried kicking over a few crates in a fit of temper. Of course, given his paper-thin armor and strength, that wouldn't have gone over very well... so perhaps it's just as well. Instead, the shuttle glowers, glancing uncomfortably off to a random spot on the wall.
Wing elevons twitch occasionally as he explains, "I... I don't know for *sure*, but... I found him when he was delirious... was able to convince him I was a superior officer and he told me what he'd done. It *could* be a trick, yes, but... I don't think it is. And now she is likely in Iacon, brainwashed, in the hands of the enemy and ... what are we supposed to do? I sure as slag can't waltz into Iacon to fetch her, and even if I somehow did, she'd backstab me- /you/- /anyone/ who attempted to help her now. And she wouldn't even know anything was wrong."
"Delirious?" Despite everything, Hot Rod can't help but sound a little -- concerned. Or maybe annoyed. They are like the same, right? He scrubs his hands down across his face and makes a noise that's best described as mrmrgmghf. "First we have to find someone who can help them, then we make sure they /will/ help, because the last mech I tried -- he just refused. So." Dropping his hands, he folds his arms. It's a little less defensive now and he looks out past Blast Off. He doesn't look carefree. Without the gloss, he looks almost grim. "You think you know someone who can help? Hear something, whatever? Pursue it. That's what we need first."
Blast Off's ventilation systems cycle strongly a few times, then return to a more normal rhythm. "Yes... delirious. He was wounded. I don't know how, nor did I care. I wanted information. Of course, everyone *around* me seemed more determined to help him than find out where Shiftlock was...." (The NERVE of those people!!!) "But as they were rushing him to a medic, I was able to convince him I was a superior, and he obeyed me as he is programmed to. As... *she* is *programmed* to, now, as well." The shuttle's optics darken and his face drops down slightly.
Armor plates flatten and Blast Off looks almost... defeated. "I... *don't* know. I don't know anyone who could help. The only ones I know who could help are the ones who likely DID this to her in the first place!" Another huff, this time of frustration. His thoughts do flicker briefly to *one* person.... but Feint tormented him... why would he ever trust her? There's a brief flash of a memory about how she wished to help Blurr, and maybe... but no, he can't bring himself to continue that line of thought. He follows another path, instead. "I... don't know a lot about these... reprogramings, but... empurata, shadowplay, reconditioning.... I think they're all permenant, aren't they? I know there are those who seek to help Blurr- but have never been able to. Rung, for instance."
"I don't believe that," Hot Rod says with zero evidence and a lot of passion. Who cares if Blast Off might be right about the changes being permanent: he doesn't /want them to be/, so he discards this evident truth with absolute refusal. "There's something left. There's something good in them. The Senate can't just wipe away everything in their spark. It's just figuring out how to /reach/ them."
Blast Off looks at Hot Rod, and the shuttleformer's optics carry a lot more doubt and cynicism... but flicker for a moment with something else at the other mech's words. It seems even *he* wants to believe, too... but believing and hoping just make you all the more disappointed when you fail. "How? Reprogram them... back?" He looks skyward. "No... all I ever wanted for her was ...*choice*. Choice is everything. To have that taken away..." He shakes his head. "... You..." He starts angrily, then stops, looks up again and continues a little more quietly, "...We failed her."
The Combaticon's gaze then hardens. Enough sentiment. Time to get real. He decides to bring up Feint after all. HE doesn't want anything to do with her now, not after his prison experience- but perhaps Hot Rod would. "Blurr's conjunx endura, did you ever meet her?"
For half a second, Hot Rod looks gutted -- then he just looks mad. His stance shifts to combative defensiveness and he meets Blast Off's totally reasonable question with a sharp, "What's it to you?"
Blast Off wasn't quite expecting *that* response. The shuttleformer blinks at Hot Rod as the mech's attitude changes in an instant. "..." His optics dart across the other mech's frame, reading that new posture and tensing a bit himself. "...What? Why so... defensive?"
"I'm not defensive," Hot Rod says defensively.
Now Blast Off, paranoid as he is (for some good reasons, at least)... is beginning to get suspicious. "Alright, what's going on? You have some relationship with her or something?" Blink. Um. "Well, I don't mean *that* kind of relationship, but..." He decides to quit while he's /behind/ and just wait for an answer, his own frame growing rather tense.
Hot Rod boggles at Blast Off and goes, "No!" in a way that actually kind of sounds suspicious for something that's the truth. "Look, whatever," he says, clearly, obviously, /aggressively/ trying to shrug off the defensiveness provoked by Blast Off's prior words. "What do you want with her, anyway? She's not in on it. She actually hates it just as much as anyone." He might be wrong. Don't tell him.
Blast Off studies Hot Rod warily, hands twitching every so often. Leaning slightly away now, his optics narrow as he replies, ".... I think you are... probably correct. On that part, at least. I... met her once. It wasn't... pleasant." Understatment of the century. HELLO NEVER-ENDING MENTAL TRAUMA. Blast Off is going to need some serious therapy for that. SERIOUS.
"I just thought... that she might have certain... /persuasive/ techniques... or know someone who does. ...That's all." He still looks halfway suspicious, with an extra order of nauseated and haunted on the side and a dash of dubiousness on the wisdom of even continuing this conversation. "You... know how... /persuasive/ she can be?"
"Uh." Hot Rod looks unflattering blank, particularly as he attempts to look cool and knowing. "Why don't you tell me what /you/ know about that."
"/No./" Blast Off's response is *very* quick. Like words blurted out before he can even think to TRY and look "cool and knowing". His nerves are accentuated with more wing elevon twitches, and now he takes a step back.
His experience with Feint made an impression... one he'll never forget. Even though he'd like to. In fact, just the other cycle, during a scuffle with Deadlock he discovered it may have left him with a weakness... a certain panic whenever he is faced with similar situations to ones Feint made him see in his head. He can't afford this weakness, but he's not sure what to do about it yet. Except what he always does. DENY EVERYTHING. "There's nothing to say. I just heard she ...is." Yeah.
The quickness of Blast Off's response combined with the unease of his body language is enough to punch past Hot Rod's defensive guilt and tug out a thread of curiosity. His posture eases and he leans forward, closing as Blast Off steps back. "I asked her to help before but not like -- I just had her bring Blurr to Rung. You think /she/ could?" He looks skeptical: less persuaded of her persuasiveness.
Blast Off fights appearing as nervous as he *feels*, though it may not be wholly successful. Violet optics glance back and forth until he centers himself enough to stop and try to find calm. He brings his head up, trying to regain that haughty aloofness (again with questionable success). "I.. well, I just know that she is... very... persuasive. She can... make you THINK... anything, and SEE... any..." His voice trails off, haunted, before he suddenly snaps out of it. "I MEAN THAT's what I've /HEARD/. From OTHER people."
Then the rest of that registers and he glances to Hot Rod, still standing stiffly. "...You.... already tried to use Rung to fight Blurr's programming, then?" That's disappointing to hear.
Hot Rod's fascination with Blast Off's completely convincing (this is sarcasm) evasion is aborted by the shrug of disappointed that rolls broad from his shoulders. "Yeah. Yeah, I did, and he refused. He had a bunch of slag about -- I don't know, he just wouldn't even try," he says, proving that he 100% totally listened. "Next time I see her I guess I'll ask if she's up to trying or something. But if she really could, I bet she would've suggested it. So. But there has to be something. Maybe in the archives. Or -- or Nautica can figure it out! Or maybe we just set the whole Senate, the IAA on fire, light it all up and when nothing's left they'll come back to their senses." Probably that last one.
The Combaticon listens, looking slightly disappointed himself. "I see. I know Rung used to work with Blurr, helped him regain focus when he was a far *worse* mess than he already is..." There's a little sourness there at the end. "And... yes, you.. you are probably right. She probably would." He glances away. "Well... I don't know. Maybe if she can't persuade *them*... she could... persuade... others?" He looks to Hot Rod. "Maybe... I wonder." Head tilting, he considers something. "Could she simply persuade those who did this to them to UNDO it? Persaude... someone to do *something* or look somewhere for answers?" Then his optic ridges furrow down. "Then again, if she could, surely she *would* have by now?... "
Hot Rod's last comment gets an arched optic ridge. "Sounds good to me." And no, that's NOT sarcasm.
Hot Rod flashes a quick smile: it's bright, but also cramped, tight, and more than a little tense. "Probably be a lot more satisfying, too, than winding Feint up and turning her loose."
Blast Off's optics narrow in deadly earnestness. "Yes. You have no idea how much I wish I had my orbital bombardment attack still. A few well-placed shots in the Senate..." He sighs and rubs a few fingers together. "Well... it would certainly get their attention, and certainly make me feel better." Then his hand comes down. "However, until that day returns... it may be wiser to operate on a... smaller scale. Use thought and planning and NOT do anything rash." Because Hot Rod would never do anything rash.
So of course Hot Rod makes a loud scoffing noise and goes, "Yeah. Smaller scale. Sounds a lot like not doing anything to me." He lifts his chin and squares his shoulders, spoiler all pointy-angled and hands on his hips like a hero. A HERO. --like he thinks a hero should stand, anyway, posing for a poster. "You do that. I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing." (Which isn't actually blowing the Senate.)
Blast Off gives Hot Rod a pointed look. "And *what* have you been doing, exactly?"
Hot Rod says, "Stuff. Really important stuff!" He waves his hands in a broad gesture. "Look, blowing things up is important, sure, but you can't just knock off the top without making sure the base is okay. And Nyon's all base. Doesn't get much more base than here. Maybe you've noticed."
"MY thoughts exactly!" A new voice interjects into the two mechs' conversation.
Blast Off turns to look, his hand instinctively drawing down and ready to draw out his weapon. /New/ isn't usually good in his world.
The last worker is just hefting the last crate and preparing to transform and be on his way, when there is the sound of some footsteps approaching the cargo bay they are all in. The worker looks up, sees who is coming- and his optics widen. "You!" He steps back nervously, balancing the crate as figures step through the doorway. Blocked in shadow, five figures appraise the situation before them. One figure mutters to the worker to stay where he is... while the central figure steps towards Hot Rod and Blast Off. This figure walks with a certain... sashay to her. Well, it seems to be a *her*. This isn't a femme like Arcee, no. This is a femme who looks built for ... tougher things. She waves a hand into the air. "Hot Rod, am I right? I've heard a lot about you!"
Although Hot Rod is hardly slower to turn than Blast Off, he lacks the reflexive reach for a weapon. He greets the new voice with curiosity rather than concern and rocks forward to look. He glances at the worker and then back toward the shadowed femme...? Femme. Probably femme. Yes, femme, okay. "Hey, yeah," he says with zero expected wariness for someone who was talking about minor acts of playful terrorism only moments ago. Wise? No. "Good things, right?" He preemptively preens, just a little, lifting his head and grinning.
The femme continues walking forward with the ease and confidence of someone used to taking control of a situation. She waves to one of the mechs, who crosses his arms and glares at the remaining dockworker. He cringes and remains standing, still holding that heavy crate. The other mechs flank her, appearing to be the muscle of the situation... not that she looks like she may even NEED that. She's black, red and gold and looks thoroughly in her element.
"I hear you're fielding some ...items in town. Sort of a ... ground movement, there to help the people. Make the base here in town *strong* again. Nyon USED to be strong. I want it to be strong again. Seems like... so do you!" She smiles.
Blast Off does not look like he lieks this. One bit. Something's off her, as far as he can tell, and he's waiting for the "other shoe to drop".
Hot Rod, on the other hand, looks like he loves this. He basks in the attention. "Yeah. Maybe it's been a while, but so what? Nyon's got good people. If Iacon weren't sucking all the energon and shanix out of her and leaving her dry we'd be in a lot better shape." Blast Off who?
The femme's optics darken a bit at the mention of Iacon. "Yes, Iacon. Home of meddling busy-bodies." She approaches Hot Rod until she has come... dangerously close, leaning in with another smile. "And such a handsome mech, too." Straightening, she extends a hand. "You may call me... Dystopia." She glances to the worker, still standing there holding that crate. "I am working for a... base, too. It's perhaps a little... rough around the edges, but we've been hit hard lately by just the kinds of mechs you mentioned. Meddling fools in Iacon who interfere with... business. Leaving my... family... high and dry." She tsks at that, shaking her head. "We need some more supplies of our own. And I... hear you have some to spare?"
Blast Off continues to watch, but this seems to be about Hot Rod and her, and when you're a wanted fugitive you don't bring unwanted attention to yourself.
"Well that's a name," says /Hot Rod/, like he is any position to go 'wow that name sounds really kind of not super great'. He clasps her offered hand without concern. He's once again all easy confidence, begging the question of how genuine it can be given his prior prickle at Blast Off. "What are you looking for? And for how many?" His gaze passes over her entourage again before returning to her with a wider smile.
Dystopia smiles again. "It's just a code name, you know? In my line of work, we have to be careful." She gives a firm handshake, her strength apparent in the grip of her hand. "But don't worry, I want to build society, too. Make Nyon strong again. Make it's people and businesses strong. If business is strong, then the people are strong, after all. Don't you agree?"
She stops and turns to look at the worker and the crate. "I need that. It's fuel, right? I've got... hungry mouths to feed. The Autobot enforcers interferred with business and now the mechs and femmes I look out for are in /need/." Then she taps her chin, looking up. "I'd like to arrange for more food, too." A glance to Hot Rod. "Do you... have anything else in there?"
"Not this shipment," Hot Rod says with a look back over his shoulder that totally isn't shifty at all. He glances back with a tip of his shoulder and says, "Sometimes, though, I manage to get some stuff in that can help people look after themselves." Wink wink nudge nudge say no more. (He doesn't actually wink or nudge. The words do it well enough.) "Way it works out is that we help each other. You've got mouths to feed? Cool, I can tell you where to get fuel, or you can help us, then we'll help you. Believe me, I know how much of a problem you've got. Enforcers are nothing but trouble."
A little of Dsytopia's pleasant expression falls as Hot Rod rejects her request. She seems to be considering how to respond, and the assembled mechs all seem to be waiting on her slightest move or word. There's a tremor of her lip plates and then.... she waves a hand and smiles once more. "Ah, too bad. Then yes, please let my mechs here know where they can find some fuel." She snaps her fingers, and one of the mechs strides forward with a datapad, ready for directions. Then she nods. "Oh, aren't they though? Enforcers are one giant cerebro ache." There's a pause. "Well, if you had something to help us... look after ourselves, that might help. Simply for /protection/ purposes, you understand. Times are getting a little... crazy, you know?"
"Sure." Hot Rod gives directions to an engex distillery, of all places, and admits, "We've only just started checking it out but it seems like the kind of place where you can lighten their load without them much feeling it. They've got /way/ too much, and I'm pretty sure it all goes straight into some senator's engex fountains or something ridiculous like that. Sell it, water it down, either way it'll get you through. Let me know if you run dry again and we can see if we can figure something else out." He makes no promises on protection, but nods totally understandingly. Yeah wow things are crazy it's terrible.
Dystopia LAUGHS! It's pleasant enough, a good belly laugh. No delicate "flower" here. "Ahhh... I like you, mech." The mech with the datapad takes directions, then subspaces it away and returns to the "line" behind her. "It will be my pleasure, then." Another wave, and the mechs follow her as she begins to move off towards the doorway again. "I'll be seeing you around~!"
"Good hunting!" Hot Rod calls after her in a cheerful tone, then settles back to see her out with a smile that lingers so long as she's there to watch. He maybe forgot Blast Off is even around, because he's just standing there, staring off into the distance.
Blast Off watches them go, too, then turns to look incredulously at Hot Rod. "Are you really that *niave*? Something was very... off there. There is no WAY you should be trusting her. Then again, you still insist on trusting *Blurr*, so...." He HUFFFS in annoyance and shakes his head.
"One second," Hot Rod tells Blast Off with a distracted gesture as he continues staring off into space. A moment later he smiles in a self-satisfied manner. Turning to Blast Off, he says, "I asked one of my faster friends to keep an eye on her, see where she goes, the others to ask around about her. Also, I told people to be careful around Blurr even before what happened to Shiftlock. But just because I don't trust him doesn't mean I don't still want to help him."
Blast Off blinks, suddenly a little more impressed with the other mech. Well... maybe Hot Rod isn't the hopeless preening, parading idiot he thought he was, after all. "I... see." He turns his head and joins Hot Rod in staring into the distance, though not because he's actually radioing anyone. He's just letting himself feel a tiny bit impressed and thus, perhaps, a tiny *tiny* bit hopeful. Despite the /dangers/ of hope.
"That was actually a ... reasonable thing, then." At the mention of helping, Blast Off glances away, looking a bit uncomfortable. He's not the most *helping* sort of mech himself, obviously. However, "I did just learn... that Blurr is extremely young. Even younger than ...Shiftlock." He stares off at some random section of the doorway. "I... did not know that. If... if he hurts Shiftlock... permenantly, I don't think that I can... forgive him easily. I'm not sure I can forgive him for the things he's already done. But..." His gaze returns to Hot Rod. "Still. I will wish you luck, anyway. As someone reminded me recently, I should reserve my greatest anger for the ones who did this TO her. To him, to... all of them."
He sighs a little, twitching a wing, then adds, "...I should probably be going. Be careful. I don't trust that femme." Maybe it's because it takes a criminal to know one. Or then again, maybe he's just paranoid. ...Maybe it's both.
That's right. Hot Rod /isn't/ a hopeless preening parading idiot. He's a /hopeful/ preening parading idiot. He's dreadfully earnest about swiftly agreeing: "Yeah. Whoever told you that has their head on straight. They are being used and mislead. It's the people taking advantage of them that are the real monsters. I'm not going to say you have to forgive Blurr, either. Rung seemed to think he was responsible for his own actions, and while I might not agree -- I don't know. It's complicated." He shrugs. And thus, because it is complicated, he won't be thinking about it. "Thanks for the update, I guess. If you hear anything else, let me know, huh? Especially if you run across someone who might actually be able to help get them out. What you said about choice? That's important. Freedom is /important/."
For once, Blast Off seems to be looking at Hot Rod not with annoyance, nor haughtiness, but in... agreement. He actually appears thoughtful and perhaps just a bit somber when all the usual pretense has faded away, if only for a moment. He has much to think about these days. The shuttle nods to the other mech. "...Yes. It is... *life* is... complicated. And I think it will only get moreso." He also agrees, "And yes, if I hear anything I shall inform you. I would like you to extend the same courtesy. Just, of course... be careful contacting me. I want Shiftlock to be free once more. Most Decepticons want her... dead." This only adds to that somber mood.
Turning to leave, he looks back one last time. "...Yes. Choice... freedom... is /everything/. Without choice, I... wouldn't want to /live/." There's a flicker of.. something across his face (what can be seen of it, at least), as if he LOST that choice, once, and spent millenia suffering in limbo because of it. But he says nothing of that of course, simply turning towards the door, transforming and rocketing up into the sky.