Title: Propery Things
Date: 15 January 2015
Summary: Hot Rod goes looking for Ratchet and Orion Pax. So does Prowl.
Orion Pax and his best friend Ratchet were spending their after hours at Maccadam's Old Oil House, their usual place to hang at the end of a solar cycle. Pax found that lately he had been extremely busy dealing with problems from the Senate, Decepticons, and now having to look after Shiftlock in preparation for his public revelation of Senator Ratbat's horrible crimes on her. Ratchet was equally busy what with Wheeljack and Torque moving into the Deltaran Facility. They were trying to create a better energy source .... it wasn't going that well. Nearly every day Ratchet had to repair a section of the hospital because Wheeljack blew it up. Still, it was good to have a team he could trust. Currently, the two mechs were watching the news on a large monitor above the bar, each drinking a cube of high-grade.
"You'd think they'd find something else to talk about besides this Forge business," Ratchet mumbled. "If they're complaining that much, why don't they get their lazy afts off their squeaky clean chairs and go take care of the Decepticons themselves?"
"Watch what you say here, Ratchet," Pax warned. "They are optics and audio receptors all around ... no doubt a bunch of them are Senate sympathizers. We're taking care of as many 'Cons as we can."
"Yeah, /you/ are," the medic continued lowly. "I'd like to see one of them hold a blaster and a pair of stasis cuffs ... /not/ that I condone violence or anything." Orion chuckled and they both fell quiet again to sip at their drinks and watch the newsfeed.
It's not often that Hot Rod goes /looking/ for The Man, but when The Man comes in the form of a cranky medic or a heroic supercop, chances increase. He idles on the street outside of Maccadam's a moment before transforming and stepping inside. He doesn't bother with the heroic pause and pose -- in no small part because he can all too well imagine Ratchet's laughter.
Hot Rod strides across the bar toward them with a brisk air of forced cheer. As he gets closer, he spreads his hands to indicate his visible lack of injury and calls to Ratchet, "I'm not bleeding, and I'm not dragging anyone behind me who is, either. You got a few? I need to talk to both of you." It's been a while since he has seen either of them. He's busy causing headaches for others, elsewhere. Whether or not he brings a headache with him now -- well, time will tell, won't it?
As soon as Ratchet saw that flashy, flame-colored mech walk into the bar, he immediately stood up. Before Hot Rod assured he was injury-free, Ratchet was ready to bolt and head home. It would have been the third time Hot Rod interrupted the medic during his happy hour. He calmed down a bit when Hot Rod assured him no surgeries were needed. ".... You need to talk to both of us?" he asked, exchanging glances with Pax. It was up to the officer.
Orion Pax stood and scooted down a seat so Hot Rod could join their little circle. "Of course," he said jovially, calling for another cube for the mech. "What do you need to talk about?" Maybe they should've taken their cubes to the back table.
"Hey, thanks!" Hot Rod accepts the offered order with the happy shamelessness of an eternally-poor speedster. Flashy as he is, there's little doubt he is the farthest thing from fuel-efficient. He has a very teenage boy enthusiasm when greeted with any kind of fuel. As he waits for the order to slide into his waiting hands, he gives Ratchet a crooked, knowing grin for immediately standing. He doesn't quite settle in. He remains poised, although he's a little too assured of himself to quite be called tense. "Uhm, a couple of things," he says, glancing to the side and then over his shoulder. He tilts his head. Back table! What a good idea. "Might be smarter to relocate for the one, I don't know. But the first thing -- Ratchet, you heard from Drift lately?"
"Yeah, let's migrate," Ratchet said before picking up his cube and heading to the back table. Orion waited for the bartender to hand the cube to Hot Rod before following. Once they were there, the medic finally answered Hot Rod. "No, I haven't seen him since that day you two /stole my berth/," he grumbled, brow ridges furrowed in concern. "Why...? Is he sitting out front in need of medical assistance again?"
Hot Rod gives Ratchet a /deeply betrayed look/. Oh my god don't embarrass him in front of ~Orion Pax~. He masters his response after a moment and summons dignity -- dignity/ish/, this is Hot Rod, after all -- with a careful straightening. He sits perched upright and dignified(ish) in their back table seat. "No. I wish he'd gone to you, but -- he ended up badly injured in Kaon. I mean really bad. Long story short, he's joined the Decepticons, going by Deadlock, and doesn't seem to remember me at all. So I don't think he'd remember you, either." Because obviously if he can't remember /Hot Rod/, there is no hope for anyone else. "So if you do see him, be careful."
That was a lot of information to unload on the medic at one time. It was like he was repeatedly getting shot and couldn't make sense of the mech behind the weapon. "Wait, slow down a bit ..." he said. "What happened to him? How did he ... I thought he was trying to turn his life around?" Ratchet felt incredibly guilty in that moment. If he had been in Drift's life more, maybe he could've-- His optics darkened and he sighed. "So he joined the Decepticons," he said. How could he have lost his memory? Unless the injury was that severe and if Decepticons were around to patch him up ... that was a dirty trick.
Orion didn't say anything to Hot Rod's information. Yeah, he saved Drift a while ago, but he always thought the mech would be a troublemaker. It didn't surprise him that Drift would join the Decepticons. He would need to check his list to see if this Deadlock was on there.
Yes, 'slow down a bit'. Hot Rod looks like he's really good at slowing down. With Pax right there, though, he /tries/. "Yeah. I don't really -- know. Why. Why he'd join. He's always hated the Autobots, though," he says, with a briefly guilty glance in Pax's direction before he looks back at Ratchet. With a flash of temper, he says, "It's all Starscream's fault." He fails to explain what the ruler of Vos might have to do with it all, however. He says it like it is self-explanatory. "He /was/ trying. We were going to do good things. Now he's one more for the amnesiac squad."
"Starscream's fault?" Orion asked. "What do you mean by that?" That was random. Hot Rod didn't care to explain, either. He would not make a good witness in anything ...
"Yeah, what does Starscream have to do with any of this?" Ratchet repeated. He remembered that Wheeljack was having some trouble with the ruler of Vos when he walked out of Wheeljack's lab and /blew it up/. Granted, it would've blown up eventually anyway, but that wasn't Starscream's job!
"Well." Hot Rod hesitates a moment -- but it's only a moment. "He was there, when I went to visit Drift. He wanted me to poison Blurr and he'd make sure that Drift repaired, only when I didn't, he said Drift died." There. Everything has now been explained perfectly, right?
NO IT MOST CERTAINLY HAS NOT.
"Starscream tried to have Blurr poisoned?" Orion asked, looking shocked. "He tried to get /you/ to poison him? Was Drift a hostage then?" He was growing even more confused. "Can you be more specific in your explanations? Tell us /everything/."
Hot Rod looks confused, too. "More specific like how," he says. Specifics are for chumps. And cops. And lawyers. And not REBELS. "It's not that important, is it? I mean, none of it worked, and Drift might not be dead, but-- well. Yeah, Starscream wanted Blurr weakened or slowed down or something. I don't know why. Oh! There was a tracker on it, too. Drift was out the whole time. No face, just a processor and frame on life support, really."
Orion stroked his chin, thinking it over. "Was Blurr preparing for a big race?" he asked. He didn't think Starscream would be involved in a rigged betting game, though. There had to be a reason. "Where is Blurr now?" he asked. "And where was the tracker? In the poison? On Drift?"
Ratchet covered his mouth at that last statement. Nothing but a processor and frame on life support? That wasn't living that was ... that was-- He vented out air quickly, his spark having plummeted to his tank now. That poor mech. He deserved more, really he did. Ratchet had to go see him regardless of who he was now.
It takes a lot to pull Hot Rod's attention away from Orion Pax, but Ratchet manages it with his reactions. "Hey -- Ratchet. Drift's okay now, mostly. I mean, except for forgetting -- everything, maybe. I don't know how much. But he's better, otherwise."
That /attempt/ to reassure made, he looks back at Pax. "Blurr's out arresting people and turning them over to be brainwashed as far as I know, which kind of brings me to point number two when you're ready for it. Tracker's gone. I didn't keep it. It was with the poison, and when I didn't use it--" He mimes tossing it out.
"Yeah, I know..." Ratchet said quietly, but he still looked extremely bothered by it. 'Okay' was a relative term. He may have been okay physically (probably not, but at least he wasn't dead on the ground or just a frame anymore), but there was a large chunk of his life and memory missing now. That needed to be remedied. Of course, thinking that brought up all sorts of ethical issues the medic really didn't want to get into.
Orion was shocked by what Hot Rod was saying. "So ... Blurr's the perpetrator here?" he asked. "Starscream was essentially trying to stop the brainwashing." He paused. "Blurr works for the Senate now, right?"
"/Why/ didn't you keep the tracker?" Ratchet asked. "We could have used that to keep an optic on Blurr!"
"Yeah, I guess. Senate, IAA, some weird mix of the two." Hot Rod shrugs broadly. Authority is authority, right? "I don't know what Starscream wanted, but Blurr's not a perpetrator of /anything/. He's being used, being controlled." Blurr's totally innocent!! "It's all legal." He spreads his hands wide with the words. He imbues the word 'legal' with profound disgust.
Hot Rod's tone flashes hotter as he says to Ratchet, "I wasn't going to betray Blurr's trust like that! For all the good it did. You want to keep an optic on him, you figure it out. He killed people in Nyon and arrested a friend of mine. I'm not putting any more of my people at risk." Not that he's taking responsibility for them or anything. "Jazz tells me she's been reprogrammed. He says she asked for it. /I/ say she'd go along with anything if someone just told her to do it in a firm enough voice. I wondered if you could keep an eye out for her, maybe tell me if you know anything. Her name's Shiftlock."
Orion rubbed his temples. "I'd like to know who /isn't/ brainwashed these days," he muttered. "Then the Senate's behind this and they need to be stopped. This is really getting out of servo quickly." He would need to talk to Jazz. Jazz would help him with the Senate. Meanwhile, he would speak with Prowl and Sentinel about springing the trap to capture the Decepticons.
Ratchet whistled lowly at the last comment. "Small world," he murmured under his breath.
Pax's optics widened slightly. "What would you do if you had information on her?" he asked. "Not everyone affiliated with her have bad intentions."
Hot Rod smirks as Orion rubs his temples. "Brainwashed /or/ amnesiac. I'm starting to feel like it's going to happen to everyone I know, so watch out." There's enough false levity in the joke to suggest, if not an actual fear, than pain. His expression flashes indignant at the question. "Make sure she's /okay/ for one. What do you think I'd do?" He looks hurt. How dare they assume he'd do something foolish. HOW. DARE. "Intentions or not, she hasn't had a whole lot of /choice/ in her life, between Ratbat and Mercury and everything. If she's being used again--." He breaks off. He looks like he's considering something foolish.
"I don't believe they're only targeting you and those you associate with," Orion replied. "But I do appreciate the heads-up." The Senate would /love/ to get their greasy fingers on /his/ processor and reprogram it. As if! His expression softened at Hot Rod's concern and he rested a servo on the mech's shoulder. "She's alright," he assured. It took him a long time to continue and admit what he was about to, but it was only right. Hot Rod was her friend, he deserved to know... "She's not at the Decagon anymore. For the moment, she's staying with me."
Hot Rod stares at Orion. He glances at Ratchet with a silent 'is he serious?' tilt of his head. Then he looks back. "Well. That's. Better than Ratbat," he finally says. Then he frowns. "I don't know if you know much about her, but she's really been through a lot. You can't let the Senate get their hands on her. Or /him/. Ratbat."
"Why do you think I took her away from that place? I'm offering her protection, shelter, and some normalcy. She's given me good information about what's been going on with Senator Ratbat. I plan to bring his crimes to light ... when I find the right way to do it," Orion said. "You're welcome to visit her. That is, if she remembers you. I'm not sure what happened with the reprogramming and if it works in the same amnesiac way."
Hesitating long enough that it is noticeable, Hot Rod says, "Yeah, maybe." For all his concern, he doesn't seem eager to visit. His shoulders slump a moment later in relief as he admits, "I'm glad she ended up with you. Ever since I heard she turned herself in, I've just been thinking she'd up under his control again. She was with the Decepticons for a while, you know," he adds with a glance. "The way I hear it, they really have it out for her for leaving. And she might not even know, now."
"She knows," Orion said. "Shiftlock told me all about her past and every hit list she's on. I told her to lay low at my apartment for now, though with me working all day I'm sure she gets lonely." He might have to buy her a pet or something ... And he needed to get Quickswitch to go visit her. Why Hot Rod didn't seem inclined to do so was beyond Pax.
Hot Rod's expression brightens. "Then -- she might remember!" His tone changes with this, and he says, "I'll stop by, then. She gets too lonely and it'll be terrible for everyone. Trust me." He sounds much more confident. It'll be great. "You think it's ever possible to undo what's been done to them?" he asks, as much of Ratchet as of Orion. "When Rung refused to try -- I don't know. How much can it really be their choice?"
"Their choice to be reprogrammed or brainwashed?" Ratchet asked I doubt Drift /chose/ to be reprogrammed, but I wasn't there to know for sure. You know Shiftlock better than any of us, so do you think she chose it? I'm not a mnemosurgeon, so I wouldn't be able to reverse it even if I knew they didn't choose that path."
"Why would anyone choose to be brainwashed?" Orion asked. "Shiftlock is a different story, but the rest of them were violated and /changed/ without their consent. Something needs to be done about that. Shiftlock told me about a mech named Cipher that reprogrammed her. If he's the one brainwashing the others, we need to get him."
Prowl doesn't typically frequent places like Maccaddam's, but this particular cycle he is looking for Pax. Because Pax is way out of line, -again-. The chief of security grumbles inwardly as he makes his way inside and finds Orion sitting with Ratchet and...-Hot Rod-. Good Primus, as if Pax himself weren't already bad enough, he had to go and encourage himself to be even worse by hanging out with -that- guy? Ugh.
He strides resolutely right up to their table. "Pax." he says sternly, regarding Ratchet with an equal amount and Hot Rod with the same plus a bit of raw contempt. "I need a word with you." He doesn't sound happy. Does he -ever-?
"What's the difference? Reprogramming, brainwashing: you're changing someone, changing who they /are/. What kind of say do you really think any of them got in what happened once they started? Shiftlock was ready to let -- this guy I know," Hot Rod OH-SO-SMOOTHLY COVERS after a hesitation, "drag her back to the Decepticons. You really think she was in a good place to choose /anything/?" His tone is fierce, although it's clear that edge is not aimed at Ratchet, or Orion Pax (of course, goodness no, never OP *_*), or Shiftlock. It's turned at some nebulous other, and from the way his gaze narrows, Cipher plants himself squarely in place. "They are being manipulated. Lied to. Whatever it takes--." Oops. There's a Prowl. He shuts up a little too late and returns contempt in kind, with an added helping of flagrant disrespect for the authority he embodies.
Orion had to agree with Hot Rod there. Even if they consented to a reprogramming, the reprogrammer could add, take away, or change anything they wnated and the 'bot would never even know the difference. Cipher clearly had taken that gift, that power he was granted and used it to defile what was natural and unique to his patients. He clenched his fist. Yeah, they definitely needed to get Cipher behind bars .. or maybe even give him a taste of his own medicine (the Senate would bail him out if he was imprisoned).
When Prowl entered the establishment, Orion let out a prolonged, loud sigh. He wasn't surprised when the officer came marching up right to their table and addressed him. Pax just leaned against the back of the booth seat, an arm draped across it. "Please, /do/ join us," he said. "Would you like a cube?"
Ratchet noticeably scooted closer to Pax to get as far away from Prowl as possible.
"No thank you." Prowl declines tersely. He also doesn't sit down. Instead, he fixes Pax with an annoyed glare. "What have you done with Shiftlock?" he demands. "Ratbat wants her back at the Decagon. She needs to finish her training. You were -not- authorized to remove her from the base." he rants. "Banzaitron was assigned as her supervising officer -not- you."
"Hey, arrested anyone for trying to help people lately?" Hot Rod irrita--asks Prowl. His expression grows markedly angrier. "/Wow/, Ratbat, huh? Now there's someone absolutely worth running errands for." What do you mean Prowl wasn't talking to him. LIKE THAT IS GOING TO STOP HIM.
Ratbat could shove his wants and needs right up his exhaust pipe, but of course Orion Pax didn't say that out loud. He looked up to Prowl with a calm and collected expression. "Actually, she /told/ you that she was going with me and you let her. You didn't intervene when we left, so why now? I can train her perfectly fine on my own and she won't have cold, unfeeling mechs breathing down her back." He frowned and crossed his arms. "Shiftlock is safe with me and she's /satisfied/. Think of it as an extended sleepover."
"I didn't -know- you were planning on keeping her away like this." Prowl looks even more exasperated. "Look, I'm not -doubting- your ability to train a cadet. But you didn't obtain proper authorization for her to be transferred to your supervision. Now you will take her back to the Decagon, and leave her there until you have passed through all of the proper channels for such transfers to be made. You will also owe Banzaitron an apology." he grouses, folding his arms.
He glares at Hot Rod. "I was -not- speaking to you." he quips. "Now stay out of this." As if Hot Rod listens to -anyone- but himself.
"Maybe you should start thinking more about what's best for her," Hot Rod says, definitely /not/ staying out of it.
"Look, Chief, Prowl, I have a lot of respect for you," Orion said. "I know it doesn't always seem that way, but I do. You obviously care a lot about your job and you clearly do it better than anyone else. I just think you might be a bit ... misguided when it comes to your superiors. Senator Ratbat performed illegal experimentations on that femme and now she's been reprogrammed? Don't you dare tell me that it doesn't feel wrong or at least /odd/ to you. I mean, there is a clear, /logical/ connection right there. Ratchet witnessed it, I was given a confession, and I'm sure Hot Rod's good for something in this investigation. You can't, in good conscience, take her back to that place. I'll fill out the paperwork, go through the channels, or whatever you want, but she stays with me regardless. The mechs at that Decagon can't be trusted." Maybe not even Prowl, but Orion was hoping that he wasn't in on their secret plans.
"It was for her own good, Pax. Do you know what she was doing out there in Nyon? Wandering aimlessly around with no -purpose- in life. No education, no job, nothing. We -gave- her a job, and a -purpose-. And according to my contacts in the Forge, the Decepticons had a -kill- order on her head. Ratbat may be many things, but at least he saved her from -that- hellhole." Prowl arches an optic ridge at Pax's lack of trust. "Oh, and I suppose that includes -me-." he folds his arms. "Well fine then, I guess there's no further point in continuing this conversation." He'll just have to drag her back to the Decagon -himself-, until the documentation was filed.
He starts to storm off angrily.
"/For her own good/. How many /countless/ mechs and femmes have you people--" Who people? You people. /Those people/. THE MAN. "--abused saying it was for their own good, or the greater good, or whatever reason you want to make up to justify--." No, wait. Storming off. Hot Rod is yelling at Prowl's back. This is not as satisfying. He slams his hands down on the table and rises. "You can't just rewrite people into whatever you want and say it was for their own good!" Is he making a scene? He's probably making a scene.
Prowl dutifully ignores any protests, accusations, or blatant disrespect coming from Hot Rod or Pax, and simply stalks out of the bar indignantly. He'll just have to take care of matters himself, hmph. As if -that- comes as a surprise.