Title: PuzzlePieces

PCs: Barricade, Shiftlock, Soundwave

Location: Forge

Date: 25 November 2014

Summary: Soundwave has been ordered to kill Shiftlock, who is currently studying with Barricade. It's time to start piecing puzzles together.

++ Warrior's Hall <Forge> ++

Soundwave makes his way through the Forge, red visor gleaming in the shadows. The dark corners- that seems to be where the outlier is most comfortable. From there he can watch and wait, listen and gather information. There's a particular piece of information he has obtained recently- and now he has to decide what to do about it. He has been ordered by Senator Ratbat to kill Shiftlock... and he knows she is here at the Forge. He also knows she is currently under the tutelage of a former police officer named Barricade. Further, he knows that he doesn't really want to kill the femme- but he can't exactly turn up empty-handed to Ratbat, either.

As he turns each piece of information over in his mind and considers just how to make the puzzle pieces fit, he decides to go looking for Shiftlock again. Perhaps he will see- or hear- something that will give him a clue on how to proceed.

Barricade is sitting across the table from Shiftlock. "Not bad, rookie, not bad. You've finished all the reading and did ... /acceptable/ on the tests. I'd say you're almost ready for your assessment."

Shift beams with pride, and has apparently learned how to sit still for more than five minutes at a time. PROGRESS. "Awesome. So... if I get a really crappy assessment, what do I do?"

Barricade smirks a bit playfully. "Rebel."

Soundwave finds the two of them together, not surprisingly. The boxy, blue mech simply stands there in the shadows for a moment, watching them. Then, slowly (and surpringly quietly for a mech of his size- he just has a unobstrusive manner to his movements and demeanor)- Soundwave approaches them.

They may know him as someone often spotted with Megatron himself. "Query: testing proceeding as planned?"

Shiftlock brightens at Soundwave's approach. "Oh hey Soundwave! Yeah, it's going great! I'm actually going to know what I am and what I can do!"

Barricade looks up. "Training's going right along, as I expected. She's not bad. Not the brightest thing on four wheels, but she has potential."

Shiftlock eyes Barricade. "Seriously mech? You barely speak Neocybex straight."

Soundwave glances towards Shiftlock, and reaches his mind out towards hers- out of habit and out of need. He wants all the information he can get, after all. He hasn't seen or spoken much to her since their time working together at Ratbat's offices, though he has pieced together some things- he's good at that, after all. "Greetings, Shiftlock. That is good news."

His crimson gaze turns to Barricade next, and his mind reaches for his thoughts and experiences in turn. "Indeed. She is full of... surprises. Megatron will be pleased."

Shiftlock is a veritable blank slate. Any bit of Mercury is gone - the self confidence, wisdom, poise and savvy of the shifter is now only a fading memory in her brain module. She herself might as well be a brand new forged recruit. All she wants to do is know who she really is, and what she's really capable of.

"Yeah, he assigned me to play drill instructor. Can't say I don't like it, it's been awhile since I did this," Barricade muses. He reaches over and lightly cuffs Shiftlock's helm. "The amount of sass over here is too slaggin' high," he teases.

Soundwave falters a moment as he senses the missing chunk in Shiftlock's psyche. It's a BIG missing chunk. Confused, he sifts through her memories, trying to understand what happened. But it seems her outlier capability is /gone/- she's... not a shifter anymore? Well. This is certainly news. "How... are you feeling, Shiftlock?"

Soundwave turns his focus momentarily to Barricade. "Sass: acceptible. Provided there is work ethic- and results- behind it." He peers at the test, then back to the former cop. There might be the faintest trace of amusement. "You seem to be enjoying yourself anyway."

Shiftlock says, "Better. I'm adjusting to Mercury being gone, trying to find out who and what I am. Here, I remember what you can do, I'll just share it all with you if you want." She makes her mind completely open and remembers everything she can - from being stolen away straight out of nurturing to being lured into Ratbat's confidence to waking up as Mercury was leaving her body.

"Work ethic, yeaaah," Barricade muses, rubbing his chin and looking at Shiftlock. "That's gonna take awhile. Just getting her to /sit still/ was a challenge."

Soundwave takes that all in, sorting through every memory and revelation in turn. The outlier's optics flicker. "No longer... a shapeshifter?" Well, the joke's on Ratbat then. The Senator's worried about something that doesn't even exist anymore. of course- her knowledge is still there, even if the wisdom is not. Soundwave feels a brief surge of pity for the femme... pity mixed with something else. He is so used to his own abilities he can't imagine not having them.... but what *would* it be like, to suddenly NOT deal with the voices in his head? There would be loss- but there would also be relief. "It would take time. Imagining having such gifts- then losing them- is difficult. I... am not sure how I would handle that. However... there could be benefits, too."

He nods to Barricade. "Her work- progressing? She has a lot to deal with." He tilts his head slightly. "But she will have more. Patience /will/ be required. Ability to handle... complex situations will be required." He looks at Barricade again. "How is she in battle? Can she handle an attempt on her life?"

"Not sure," Barricade says with a shrug. "We haven't tested that yet. The assessment will give an idea of what she's capable of, from there it goes to the arena."

Shiftlock shrugs. "So I'm not a shifter, so what. I never was. I admit it's a little, well, /lonely/ without that person inside me, I kind of miss the connection - but what can I do? NOthing. Might as well learn to get along without it.:

Soundwave gives Barricade one of the impassive stares he's known for. "She will need to be capable- soon. Her situation is more... urgent than perhaps you realize." He gives Shiftlock a nod. "I cannot imagine losing my own... gifts. It would take ...getting used to. I think it would be... lonely as well." Fortunately for Soundwave, he DOES have his gifts, and his friends, and thus loneliness is NOT usually a problem for the mech. Nor does he ever want it to be.

His attenton focuses once more on Barricade. Exactly how should he approach this? He debates challenging her to a match, but if she's not ready... "She needs to be able to defend herself as soon as possible."

Barricade is picking up what Soundwave is putting down. "... How soon soon are we talkin', and from who?" His plates raise like the hackles on a junkyard dog.

"Pfff, I'm fine, I can kick anyone's aft." Suuure you can, Shift. "I mean, Drift already tried to kill me."

Soundwave looks at Barricade, then his optics lock directly onto Shiftlock's. "What about me? I've been sent to kill you, Shiftlock. Senator Ratbat's direct orders."

That stiffles Shift's bravado. She frowns and looks up at Soundwave, a little pensive. "... So, what, you gonna do it? Right here in front of Primus and everyone?" she challenges, doorwings over her shoulders.

Soundwave looks down at the femme, his impassive gaze giving nothing away. "What if I did? What would you do about it? What exactly do you bring to the Decepticons, Shiftlock?"

Barricade is uneasy about all this; his hands have clenched, but he's keeping a poker face as Soundwave questions his charge. He wants to see where this is going before he acts.

"First of all I don't believe you'll do it because you hate working for Ratbat as much as I did. If you honestly came in here to kill me because your /master/ ordered you to, you'd be a coward, and the question would be what do -you- bring to the Decepticon cause if you're gonna sit up and beg every time Ratbat tosses you a treat. As for what /I/ bring? -Numbers-. I'm another fighter that's willing to -do- something instead of sit in the shadows and mutely accept whatever the guilds and the Senate say I should. A willing -corpse- is better than a live -coward-!"

Soundwave listens to Shiftlock's response and soon there is a grin curling on the corner of his lip plates... not that anyone can see it under his faceplate. When she is finished, the outlier gives her a nod of approval, then simply sits down at the table across from them. His hands fold in front of him, clearly not a threat.

"That is an acceptible answer. For the record, no, I do not intend to help Ratbat. I do not serve him. However, I must pretend to, which brings the question of what I should do about this situation. For if I come back empty-handed... he will simply keep sending more assassins until the job is completed. Drift might have even been another assassin sent by the senator. Ratbat wants you dead- and he wants a body brought back to him as proof."

"Faking a body isn't going to do it, is it?" Barricade asks, relaxing.

Soundwave looks at Barricade. "If it was faked... it would have to be done with far more skill and access to raw materials than I believe we currently have here. And Ratbat *will* be thorough. No, must likely faking it will only cause failure."

"So... what do we do? Do I just beat you up or something so you can say that it was a failure and you can't do it?" Shiftlock asks, sounding a little desperate. "I don't care if people keep trying to kill me!"

"Or you could give up your body," Barricade suggests. "Get an upgrade."

Soundwave considers the options. Even the thought of HER beating HIM up, if that would actually work. He is more committed to the Decepticon cause than his own comfort levels. However- he's not into sado-masochism, either, and he doesn't see how that scenario would help.

Barricade's suggestion gets a glance. "Affirmative. Upgrades: possible." Soundwave's gaze takes in the other carrier, and that gives him a thought. He looks back to Shiftlock. "Have you considered a cassette body?"

Shiftlock looks horrified. "No! Absolutely not, I'd rather -die- than give up my body! Haven't I had enough tampering with already? I'm not gonna be a /data slug/ and get locked inside someone else! That'a fate worse than smelting! How am I supposed to know what I can do if I have to toss aside everything I am?!"

Soundwave gives Shiftlock a long stare. "Your concern... understandable. However... do you have something against data slugs? Beyond societal prejudices? You *felt* that once, *became one once*, and you seemed to... enjoy yourself then. Has something changed?" He considers for a moment, then presses the button on the top of his chest, releasing Laserbeak. The bird arcs around and comes to rest on his shoulder. Giving the bird a brief caress, he returns his attention to Shiftlock.

"You want to find out who you are. Sometimes in order to do that, you must lose everything- break yourself, and build from the ground up- in order to find yourself. Some would say it is only through adversity that one truly comes to know oneself- and what one is capable of. So again I ask- what is your true fear? Losing your body- or something else?"

"Okay Soundwave, if giving up your body is so great why don't you become a data slug? Solidarity with your friends, I'm sure you won't mind at all," Shiftlock smartly retorts. "Of COURSE something has changed! I'm not that person, Soundwave, I'm not Mercury! I was used as a /medical experiment/ to contain a mutacon, and she's not -me- even if she was using my body!" She'd be on the verge of tears if Cybertronians could cry. "The only thing I know about myself, that I have in this life, is speed and my wheels. You take my altmode and you take the only thing I know about myself! How is taking away the one SURE thing in my life going to help me 'find myself'?!" she shouts.

"Whoa, whoa, settle down," Barricade admonishes, placing a hand on Shift's shoulder, trying to offer some physical support.

Soundwave simply listens and remains calm through Shiftlock's protestations. If he's at all stirred up, or moved, it's hard to tell. But then- it usually is. He replies, voice monotone and calm, "If I believed I could best serve my friends by becoming a data slug, I would. I have no sentimentality towards my body, or much of anything else." He looks at Laserbeak, who returns his gaze. "I merely wish to be.... useful. To a cause I believe in. The Decepticon cause." His visor turns once more to Shiftlock. "However, if you wish to keep your body, no one is forcing you to give it up- or take a new alt mode you do not want. We are not Autobots, after all."

Now he looks to Barricade. "But we do have a problem. All of us. And Shiftlock must make a choice. I can pretend to fight her, lose, and return to Ratbat empty-handed. Or we can attempt to build a fake corpse and see if that works... but I will be *perfectionistic* about it before I take it to the senator, for if that fails *I* lose my cover. OR.." He looks at Shiftlock once more. "You can choose to upgrade, run away... or simply do nothing and await your next assassin. What decision makes you feel most ...useful?" He turns to Barricade. "You are her instructor- how ready is she for this?"

"She might as well be straight out of nurturing," Barricade sighs. "She's basically havin' t' catch up on primary programming school. S'far as her development goes, it was arrested after they put the mutacon in her, and she wasn't more than a couple of days old when that happened. She ain't ready for anything. It's dumb luck and raw talent that's kept her from bein' slagged already."

Shiftlock draws her knees up to her chest, hugging them. "I don't want to make things hard on you, Soundwave, but... this is all I have. If I lose my altmode... I'd rather you just kill me."

Soundwave nods to Barricade. "Understood. Senator Ratbat does not understand that- he believes she is a dangerous spy." His optics narrow. "I do wonder if we can use that fact to our advantage... make him believe he must devote more resources to taking down this "dangerous threat"... resources that could, conveniently, wind up here in the end."

He looks to Shiftlock. "I do not wish to kill a fellow Decepticon. You can keep your alt mode... but I might ask you to help me put on a show for Ratbat."

"Anything!" Shiftlock exclaims, perking up.

Skywarp teleports to an out-of-character location.

Soundwave looks thoughtful, his hand lifting up to stroke Laserbeak's wing. "Possibility: use Ratbat's fear of you to request more weapons and other resources to bring you down. I can stock up Decepticon resources this way. I may need to "film" a battle with you, using holomatter naturally, to showcase your dangerous nature."

He tilts his head at her. "That is, if you *want* that reputation. There are benefits- and negatives. Benefit: you unnerve your enemies before the fight has even begun, and can use fear to guide their actions and thoughts. Negative: If your actual physical state gets out... revenge will be sought, most likely. However... revenge is *already* being sought. This is simply your opportunity to decide how you would best like to shape that to YOUR advantage, not theirs."

"I... I'll do whatever you suggest!" Shiftlock exclaims, hopeful. "I mean, I don't know what to do... I... I hate to think of giving up my body, it's what I was forged in... but I need your help, you know more than I do."

Barricade smiles at that. "And that, kiddo, is the first step to bein' a real warrior. Knowing your limits."

Soundwave gives Shiftlock another nod. "I will think about this. Plan: formulating. Using Ratbat's paranoia and scheming against him..." It's quite possible there's a smirk under that faceplate. "...Priceless."

Again Soundwave thinks to himself that he's playing a bit of a dangerous game... but there is something quite satisfying about helping the Decepticons, bringing weapons and supplies to them right under Ratbat's nose. Soundwave is in a unique position to manipulate and orchestrate pieces of a puzzle- one he finds he enjoys.

The carrier agrees with Barricade. "Affirmative. There is potential." He gives the femme an appraising look. "You are not the same as you were before, but you will find your gifts."

Shiftlock gets up and walks over to the boxy blue carrier. "Soundwave?" she asks, looking up at him.

Soundwave looks calmly at her. "Yes?"

She puts her arms around him and hugs the carrier. "Thank you. Thank you for giving me this chance."

Barricade just smiles faintly.

Soundwave's optics go wide under that visor, and the normally stoic mech freezes for a second as Laserbeak, still on his shoulder, ruffles his wings and stares. The outlier then relaxes enough to bring a hand up and place it on her shoulder briefly before bringing it down again. He glances away, not used to getting *hugs* obviously, then resumes his calm and unflappable demeanor. Looking back to her, he says, "Thanks: accepted. And returned."

Laserbeak just keeps staring from one to the other, then shuffles closer to Soundwave's head and nestles in closer while glaring at Shift, with an expression like: MINE.

She chuckles at Laserbeak. "Don't worry, I just wanted to say thanks," she reassures the jealous bird, before going back to sitting with Barricade.

"Gonna take some work," Barricade admits. "But it'll be nice to get some profit outta him for a change."

Laserbeak gazes at Shiftlock, then turns his head haughtily and ruffles his metal plates, shaking his wings. Soundwave nods to Barricade. "Affirmative. It would ...almost be amusing, if circumstances were different. The more he tries to control things, the easier /he/ is to manipulate. One simply needs to know what motivates him." The outlier folds his hands in front of him once more. "He has been... useful. I hope he continues to be."

Barricade nods. "She's ready for her assessment soon. Feel free to join us - you might not get another chance to see a /guild master/ and /functionist/ that agrees with our movement."

Soundwave tilts his head. "Oh? Who will be evaluating her?"

"Forge, in Tesarus," Barricade says. "She's got something against the Senate too."

Soundwave nods. "I shall put that on my schedule." He looks to Shiftlock. "Good luck." Then back to his fellow carrier. "Good luck to you, as well." With that, the boxy blue mech gets up (still with Laserbeak on his shoulder) and heads off to conduct other business. There are always other puzzle pieces to fit together.

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