Date: 05 June 2015
Summary: Feint and Hot Rod meet to talk about a distress signal ... and find more than they expected!
-- Radio: Distress -- Optimus Prime does not transmit, but from somewhere - completely untraceable - is the ghost of a distress beacon. It's there for one second and is recognized as Orion Pax before it disappears again.
-- Radio: Global -- Feint says, "... Did anyone..."
-- Radio: Global -- Prowl says, "I did."
-- Radio: Global -- Backdrop says, "What WAS that?"
-- Radio: Global -- Hot Rod says, VERY LOUDLY, "PAX."
-- Radio: Global -- Backdrop says, "What? What?! Pax? What? What about Pax? What?"
-- Radio: Global -- Prowl says, "... dammit Hot Rod."
-- Radio: Global -- Hot Rod says, "WHAT"
-- Radio: Distress -- Another burst of static, just a couple of astroseconds long, marked as Orion Pax. And a word. "...Megatron." Triangulation fails for a lock outside of Iacon's hemisphere, Pax's last known location.
-- Radio: Distress -- Then silence again.
-- Radio: Global -- Prowl says, "Hot Rod, wait!"
-- Radio: Global -- Prowl says, "I know what you're thinking but we need to coordinate!"
-- Radio: Global -- Hot Rod says, "Are you kidding? Wait? Wait for what! Coordinate what!"
-- Radio: Global -- Prowl says, "There are -questions that need to be asked-."
-- Radio: Global -- Hot Rod says, "Yeah. Totally. I gotta question. Why wait?"
-- Radio: Global -- Prowl says, "Because -Decepticons-."
-- Radio: Global -- Hot Rod says, "Oh."
-- Radio: Global -- Hot Rod says, "Hey, Feint, what's up, how're things, we should catch up, just because."
-- Radio: Global -- Feint says, "You're absolutely right. I'll see about finding you."
-- Radio: Global -- Hot Rod says, "Okay. I'll ~wait~."
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Feint says, "Is anyone on this frequency?"
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Hot Rod says, "Oh, good. Yes. Feint! Uh -- wait, who else is on here."
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Feint says, "Apparently not Prowl."
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Feint says, "That's fine, I can find him at any time."
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Hot Rod says, "Yeah, well, speaking of FINDING people, can't you FIND people?"
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Feint says, "I'd have to circle the planet and see what I can see but that will take time. What's strange is that I should have seen him before."
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Feint says, "... and if he's alive..."
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Hot Rod says, "What could keep you from seeing him?"
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Feint says, "I don't know. Some kind of energy interference."
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Hot Rod says, "Areas with high energy, then? Energon mines?"
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Feint says, "I'm not sure, but there's always been something... dark, in Nyon."
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Feint says, "Just a bit black -something- I can't quite define."
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Hot Rod says, "In /Nyon/? There's like--"
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Hot Rod says, "Well, nothing."
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Hot Rod says, "Now."
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Feint says, "Then it's a good place to gather. The Decepticons aren't going to look in rubble."
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Hot Rod says, "Some parts of the rubble are more stable than others. The place we were held up okay, it's just--."
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Feint says, "Just what?"
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Hot Rod says, "..."
-- Radio: J-Team-Pax -- Hot Rod says, "Nothing, I guess. I can show you where it is."
Even someone near-blind won't have a lot of trouble spotting Hot Rod, so it takes next to no effort for Feint to find him. There are few enough sparks wandering the ruins of Nyon. There's little left even for the scavengers and the desperate. There's nothing to pick over. Nyon was a ruin long before its towers fell. Hot Rod is deep in the city, near the border of what was once the Rust Narrows. But now it's all rust. Or soot. Or ash. Or dust. And Hot Rod, standing in the middle, with a particularly complicated sort of expression.
Feint spots Hot Rod from high above and spirals down slowly, a snowy aerial form among all the gray. She transforms a short hop from the ground, unfolding and landing with a puff of ash as her feet make contact with the remains of the street.
"I'm sorry. I know this must be hard for you," she consoles. "But it was the only place I could think of that would be free of listening ears. Patrols stopped some time ago."
"If that really was Pax...." Trailing off, Hot Rod lifts his head with a squaring of his shoulders. It's been a while since he looked out across Nyon with hope, but it's there, now. "It's not that hard. And it's worth it. Just on the chance--." He breaks off to set into motion. "Come on. I'll show you the way. You have any idea what Prowl wants to wait for? Coordination. Come on! If it's Pax, who knows what kind of shape he's in! Even if it's not, someone could be hurt and in trouble and need help.!"
"I have no idea what Prowl wants, but my guess is that he wants to take a safe, tactical approach to the situation," Feint says, following behind Hot Rod. "Which... is not always the best solution. Sometimes the best direction lies inbetween."
"Of course if that is Pax, then you know what this means. Megatron lied to us."
"Yeah." Hot Rod's engines growl with a note of anger that harshes his words. "He sure did."
Even with the city's landmarks melted and shattered, Hot Rod picks his way through the rubble with a certain sense of direction. It could all be a lie. He could be getting them horribly lost /right now/. All because he won't stop for directions. "Waiting until it's safe might mean waiting until it's too late. Especially if Megatron lied. Especially if the Decepticons heard that. Especially if they go looking, too. But we don't know where to go yet, and I'm not sure of any other way to start looking except by asking you to.
"Even that will take time, but I'm already looking," Feint reassures. "Something happened, didn't it? Your attitude towards Megatron was usually more sympathetic."
Hot Rod laughs. "Yeah, right." He pauses to scramble over a wall that's broken into the street. He turns back to offer Feint a hand up. "Because it always surprises people I haven't already slapped a purple face on over my paint.
"You're right, of course. He called me in. Offered me the chance to inflict some quote-unquote justice on the people he said were responsible for Nyon." Hot Rod quiets again as they slip down the other side. "Some of the people responsible, anyway. Council functionaries. He wanted me to execute them. Just -- sitting there. In their cell. I couldn't. I said we didn't have the right. That's what /Zeta/ would've done. So he shot them. And this /registration/ act. I told Springer -- it's a mistake. Anyone who's signed up, anyone known to be an Autobot needs to get underground. I offered to help smuggle supplies. Just the same thing all over again, isn't it?"
Feint takes the offered hand up, fortunately she's pretty light in her new body. Hot Rod could practically throw her. Bracing herself, she slides up and over the wall in one movement, a jump up, swing of the hips, and landing on her feet. "Prowl, Wheeljack, they signed up. It's no wonder Prowl wanted to not speak on the open air. Who knows what Soundwave might have picked up."
She stops and looks around, the multiple cameras on her head and torso swiveling in all directions. "... It seems like it, doesn't it. But the only other option is to surrender to whatever 'tender mercies' our new overlords would decide for us."
As they enter the Rust Narrows, the Acropolex is visible ahead. It shows signs of damage, like the rest of Nyon, but it's somehow lesser. Clearly a) it was better built or b) Hot Rod couldn't quite bring himself to blow it up. c) is also an option: all of the above.
"I don't know what kind of stupid point Prowl was trying to make about law and order, but that was just--." He searches for the right word. "--stupid." It's certainly /a/ word. One can only imagine the incredulity with which Prowl would greet such a word from Hot Rod's lips when leveled at him.
"Surrender's not an option. I saw how Megatron treated his prisoners." Hot Rod's stride stretches, forcing Feint to hurry to keep up with him. "It's not going to be long before that list becomes a /checklist/. Watch. Always ends the same way."
"Oh I'm well aware. IAA, Institute, Mines, Senate, Megatron - I've always been on someone's checklist," Feint admits, breaking into a run to keep up with Hot Rod.
"That building must be made of something special. I still can't quite see through it, which ... is kind of relieving, really. It's nice to know that even my optics can be blinded from time to time."
Hot Rod startles when the racing patter of her feet breaks into his thoughts. "Oh, sorry." He slows down again, but he seems to have trouble keeping to her pace. He keeps checking himself when he gets too far ahead.
"What building? The /Acropolex/?" Tone bemused, Hot Rod says, "I guess it's old? Would that matter? And the interior would change sometimes. Probably the only reason Zeta didn't find us any sooner, really. Maybe that's part of it."
"That could very well be it. It's the original capital of Cybertron, when the Knights were in charge. They must have made it of sterner stuff," Feint muses, catching up to Hot Rod. Or maybe it's avoiding being seen. Because it's alive. Naaaaaaah.
"We're going to have to find everyone, get them here, and do it quickly. We need to find where that signal was coming from, because it was most -certainly- Pax, but we also need to look after our own."
"Ready to be a leader? I don't think Prowl is quite up to the task."
Don't be ridiculous. It's definitely not alive. That would just be -- totally preposterous. "You should see the entry hall." Hot Rod glows with enthusiasm as he describes it: "All of these Autobot -- First Face, I guess it was called -- symbols everywhere. That was actually kind of creepy. Like having Sentinel and Zeta's watching every time we went in or out. But there were all these statues of people that weren't even in the history vids! And these like -- Matrix shrines or something! It looked just like every storybook description of the Knight's halls that I've ever read. It was awesome."
Then she asks the thing. Hot Rod visibly hitches, stumbling in his next step. "Just kidding, right?"
Sorry, she's not. "It's something you'll have to consider. There may come a time when there is simply no one else to lead, and despite what you may have heard others say, I believe you have it in you. The potential is there, even if you do not wish to see it," Feint states. "I'm no leader, but I've had to do my share as well. When Zeta was attacking Nyon, he'd told us that Pax and everyone following him had been slain. I did what was necessary at the time, gathered the others and tried to give them courage and hope. It's what I believe Pax would have wanted me to do."
"You were a leader here and I don't think you even realized it at the time. You move to action when others don't. Sometimes... that's all it takes."
It's not an easy thing to consider. Evidence of Hot Rod's last go at (failure of??) leadership surrounds them. But her last words resonate, spark-deep, and he says, "I'm never going to hesitate to do what has to be done. And if that makes a leader, I guess that's what I am." He stands just a little straighter. Yes. That's him. Leader. Hero. And now he's gonna save Orion Pax, and that will fix /everything/.
"At least I know a thing or two about sneaking around past the authorities," Hot Rod adds with a grin. "That's something you Autobots will need to learn. Well -- maybe not you. But the rest of them -- /Prowl/ -- they're too used to /being/ in charge. Not running from the people in charge. Can you get in touch with the other Autobots? The ones who weren't on the frequency we used in Kaon? And get them here? I'll get in touch with Arcee and Springer, and ask them to get others and bring them here, too. I'd rather you spent time on trying to find Pax, not getting the Autobots together."
"I'll be able to find other Autobots as I search for Pax's spark," Feint reassures. "The Decepticons aren't keeping post higher up near the exosphere, they're focused almost entirely on the ground. There aren't as many fliers in the Autobot ranks than the Decepticons, I've noticed, so they believe they have an advantage in keeping you surveilled and pinned down."
"I can send transmissions to Autobots I spotted - oh, and that reminds me. Grimlock is very much alive. I've repaired him. Seems like he ran afoul of Overlord."
"Overlord sounds like a real piece of work." As they approach the Acropolex, the usual entrances are covered -- buried in the rubble of the rest of the city. Getting in looks like it might be easier for Feint on her own. Hot Rod? Well, first he has to move a few things. "I've noticed that about the fliers. If Grimlock's already gotten into a dust-up with the Cons, he could make a good addition for us." And while he might not be willing to slap a badge on just yet, he's clearly not far from aligning himself with the Autobots as he uses the word 'us'. "He's not exactly low-key, though. Are you familiar-- oh, you were a miner, right? Of course you're familiar with the tunnels. Those'll work for a lot of bots to get here, but probably not him. We might want to set up a secondary base. Where is he?"
Feint will feel a faint ping if she concentrates hard enough. It's deep underground, far deeper than Nyon. And the feeling that she gets is familiar at first - Pax, yes. But there's something else. Several. Many. Too many. Perhaps even overwhelming at first to sort out the number of sensors she suddenly hits. Too many to sort out, and then just as quickly they're closed off again. Someone or something is making for a very muddled signal. Enjoy the possible processor ache, Feint.
"A good many gladiators from Kaon are sadists. One almost has to be, in order to survive for more than a few rounds." Feint continues to follow along with Hot Rod, but now she can keep shoulder to shoulder with him. "He's gone to find the rest of his men. Grimlock never stays in one place for long, I'd have to actively hunt for him again--"
She suddenly stops, staggering as if she's been hit. Blinking, she touches the side of her head, and then straightens. "He's *here*. Pax is somewhere around here! We're in the right location. I only caught him for a moment and then there was something else. Something like... millions of others at once."
"He might be safer with his men, but we'll need to make sure that he can stay in touch with us in case they need back up." After a pause and a huff to shove aside another rock, Hot Rod laughs. "Or we do," he admits. The golden hall is visible just beyond another partially collapsed wall. Gesturing for Feint to go first, Hot Rod moves to follow. Only to see her stagger.
Reaching to steady her with a touch on the shoulder, Hot Rod watches her with concern that lightens with dawning hope. "He is? Here? /Here/? But what--." He breaks off, looking uneasy, verging on haunted. "You're not talking like, ghosts, right? Or something else weird? Not that they exist! Ha ha!" It's said, rather than a real laugh. HA HA HA.
Down. Pax is down, Feint. Far below. Out of the blast radius - yet within it. What lies beneath Nyon? Most of the ways to the underground from here were blasted out of existence - but Hot Rod's a resourceful mech, surely he'll know a way.
"No, more like... Well it would be like trying to absorb seeing millions of sparks moving through a heavily warped area. A bit overwhelming," Feint explains. She appreciates the gesture of Hot Rod's concern and thanks him. "Down," she says, pointing with one finger to the ashy street beneath her pedes. "He's somewhere deep down there, not far from here. Somewhere in the undergrid, but the further we get to the Acropolex the less I can see. I ... I wonder."
"Well that's ... weird." A master of the spoken word, Hot Rod shakes his head. He sets aside the weirdness of a million sparks to focus on more practical things: "Getting down there might not be easy. They just kept building and building, and it's all so old. A lot collapsed, I heard. Damage from the charges. But the Acropolex had exits into the deeper tunnels, and those might still be okay. But it can be kind of, I don't know, protective, almost. It seemed that way, anyway." Not to cyberpomorphize or anything.
The Acroplex is usually a confusing mess of tunnels and chambers, meant to confuse. Meant to protect. As the two bots go deeper though, they find that the chambers are level, leading them in fact. Down. Deeper. And finally, into an opening. And at the end of that opening, light flows around the sealed door before it opens as the two approach. And a familiar form is silhouetted in light as what appears to be Orion Pax - assembly line new - steps out. But when he speaks, his voice is no longer quiet or naive. It's deep and rich tone echoes forth. "Feint. Hot Rod. It is good to see you both well." the figure speaks.
"... is that... ?" Feint is at a loss for words, as she draws her hands to her torso, over her spark, in disbelief. She withholds any hope until there's confirmation. "... Pax?"
Hot Rod grows more confident, more certain with each step as the Acroplex guides them down. An anticipatory smile lights his features, and as the light reaches to meet them, it catches on a full grin. His pace moves from a walk, to a jog, to a run as he dashes up to him with all the enthusiasm of an overeager puppy.
At least he has the /slightest sliver of dignity/ that keeps him from leaping up on Pax. He draws to a sharp stop a few paces away. "Pax! It was your signal! You're -- different." It suddenly seems to occur to him how different, he draws back another step give Pax a once-over as he looks back at Feint. "That's him, right?"
"It is. But it is not." Pax-Not-Pax explains. "Orion Pax, sadly, has passed. But his memories, spark, everything that is him.. is me." he explains as he steps forward. As he tries to explain, the mech pauses and lets out a breath. Sometimes it is better to show than it is to tell.
Reaching up to his chestplate, he removes the locks that holds it in place and proceeds to bare his spark to both Hot Rod and Feint. Except it is no longer /just/ the green spark of the point one percenter that was Orion Pax.
Hot Rod will recognize the shape within the chest compartment immediately. It is just like the one he has in storage, except this one - this one immediately warms the area in bright light. A comforting feeling that washes over Feint - and touches her outlier abilities what seems a million times over with would-be recogntions.
"I am no longer Orion Pax."
"I am.. Optimus Prime."
"And it's time to set things right."
Feint recognizes that this... is not like the other Primes. She had been near Zeta, he had interrogated her - she had been near Sentinel, within scanning distance. Their "matrix" was nothing like this. It might as well have been a cosmetic implant. Wheels to give the appearance of functionality.
*This* matrix is very real, and what Feint is seeing is beyond what she could ever hope to describe. There are colors beyond known colors, patterns beyond description in complexity and simplicity. Were it not for the gentle emanation of Primus himself tied to this energy source, Feint would be losing sanity points at an alarming rate.
"I understand," she manages to say, just above a whisper.
Hot Rod looks confused. Yes but no. Pax but dead. Dead but alive. Is but not. But the baffled confusion is a lesser thing to the certainty of hope that lights his spark. It's a certainty that only grows as the light of the Matrix shines forth.
Hot Rod has a lot of feelings about Primes. His feelings are very /complicated/. (Actually, they are pretty simple. Primes suck.) But this--.
Although his words hesitate, Hot Rod's tone is sure: "That's -- that's /real/. That's the /Matrix/? Pax? Prime?" He shakes himself, almost as if snapping from a trance, and then asks the really important things: "Are you okay? Does it hurt? What happened? Do you know how long you've been gone? Do you know what's been happening?"
"Megatron must be stopped." It's a simple directive, a simple statement. "His intentions, no matter how pure they must have been once, no longer are. I have seen inside his spark - inside his thoughts. His retribution is terrible and without bounds." Optimus says as he steps down -- is he a little taller now? Perhaps just a smidge as he closes up his chest compartment, sparing the two from having to deal with the Matrix directly any longer. That is now his burden to bear. He places a hand on Hot Rod's shoulder. "You have beared witness to much. Tragedy. Deception. Lies. Fears. Truths. Responsibility. There is much about you that you fear, yet should be proud of at the same time."
He turns his attention towards Feint. "You have changed yet again, I see, my friend." he says to her, a warm undertone to his voice for a moment as he releases Rod's shoulder to touch Feint's in kind. "As terrible as the things that you have faced, Feint, you have always come back stronger - a trait that should be admired and not fled from. I am glad that you were the ones to seek me out. Now. Follow me within. We have much to plan before we move forward to retake Cybertron and give everyone what they should have truly."
"Freedom is the right of all sentient beings. And none shall beholdened to the name of Prime or tyrant ever again, so say I. Until all are one."
"This is why I have always believed, Hot Rod, that it is patience that breaks everything," Feint murmurs quietly. It would not be an understatement to say that moment touches on something almost sacred to Cybertronian kind. "Halogen had something like this - that the Matrix was only bestowed upon one Primus named worthy."
How could she refuse? She follows along after the newly minted Prime.
Hot Rod looks like he's about to unleash another flood of questions on Pax -- Prime -- but the words reach through to touch something that centers and steadies him. He settles under the touch to his shoulder. His gaze brightens: a darkening cloud, if not erased, at least eased.
But for all his pretense at dignity, the grin he splits at Feint before they turn to follow Optimus borders on the giddy. "Megatron's going to spit nails! This is going to be awesome!"
Hot Rod follows Optimus with a repeated murmur of, "'til all are one." Prepare to hear a looot of that.
As he starts up the steps, Optimus pauses at the entrance to the chamber. "But. There is one thing that needs to be done first." Now that he is outside of the chamber, his radio comes back to life, and he queues it to life.
-- Radio: Global -- A new voice comes on the radio. It sounds familiar to those closest to Orion Pax, but, it is not his. "Cybertronians. Hear me now. My name was Orion Pax. For a long time I followed the Senate and their cause.. only to realize that what they were and had done was wrong. I stood up to Sentinel and Zeta Prime. I alinged myself with Megatron to attemnpt to bring an end to their tyranny. Instead, a new tyrant has arisen. I have seen the darkness that dwells within his spark and that his sense of retribution is without bounds. Megatron, you succeeded in dampening the spark of Orion Pax. He is gone. My name is Optimus Prime. The rightful bearer of the Matrix of Leadership and the protector of the freedom of all sentient lifeforms. Your reign is over. Freedom will prevail. Rise up, Autobots, and stand with me now, in this dark hour."
Once his transmission has gone out, Optimus steps further into the room that he has been coalescing in since he discovered the Matrix was within. But there's something more here. It touches lightly at Feint without intruding. It slumbers.