Title: Stand and Wait
Location: Helix Gardens
Date: 17 October 2014
Summary: Nautica tells her friends the secrets. They react about how you'd expect.
Another day at the Institute, and it's taking a toll on Nautica; she's forcing herself to smile and pretend nothing more is wrong, even as it becomes crystal clear to her that the place is /anything/ but good. And so it's becoming habit that, when she finishes her shift, she makes her way to Helix Gardens; it's something of a mental purge, a way to try to put things behind her for the day. Sometimes, it even works. She had, of course, let her closest friends from the delegation know where she took a job as long as they're on Cybertron -- and mentioned the beauty of the Gardens to them -- but then she become uncharacteristically silent in terms of any correspondence. Still, surely this unusual silence from the chatterbot Camien isn't going to be grounds for /concern/ on the part of her friends, or anything...
In the peace and beauty of the gardens, Chromia does not come bearing the armament of nations. Then again, she also does not seem to spend a lot of time suffused by the artistic beauty of the crystalline structures. She clanks on steps driven by forward momentum, about two paces ahead of Windblade, keeping an eye out for trouble as though borne on the force of long habit. Although her military duties with the Autobots have kept her from dancing attendance on any of her close Camien friends with the inseparability she would prefer, when they are together, there is no power on Cybertron that could keep her from vigilance.
Windblade's marking mark her as strange on Cybertron, so familiar on Caminus. Perhaps, as well, her wide eyes and obvious interest in her surroundings, a soft intake of breath at a new crystal structure or another. She points out one to her companion, murmuring a question that likely contains the words "amazing" and "beautiful", as she lags behind Chromia to take in the sights. It doesn't seem as if she has gotten out much, at all, with Chromia and Nautica otherwise distracted with jobs. This Cityspeaker is yet to be employed.
Nautica would doubtless agree about the aesthetic beauty of the place, though perhaps some of her enjoyment comes from the scientific inspiration for the shapes. Either way, she seems to be enjoying watching the shifting colors through the crystalline material of one of the CNA sculptures. And then she hears the sound of bots behind her, and visibly tenses once more. Here, so close to work, she has to be ready to meet anyone. But when she turns around to see who approaches, her expression turns to one of joy. "Windy! Chromia! I didn't know you were here in Nova Cronum!"
"We weren't," Chromia says. She comes to a halt on a wide plant of her feet and meets Nautica's delight with a scowl, which would probably be more forbidding if it weren't so typical. She glances aside over her shoulder to make sure Windblade hasn't fallen /too/ far behind, straightening perceptibly as she turns the weight of her gaze back on Nautica again. "But you are, or at least, we /assumed/ you would still be here, since it's about where you were when you went /radio silent/. Windblade," she says, raising her voice as she glances back over her shoulder again, "we found her." (Helpful.)
"Nautica," Windblade greets, a smile spreading across her features in contrast to Chromia's frown as she catches up and then moves to move past her friend to gather Nautica's arm and drag her towards one of those benches. "Chromia was worried; she even started to miss you when we stopped hearing from you."
The submarine moves to try and embrace her friends -- Chromia included, if only briefly -- and then straightens, allowing Windblade to lead her over to one of the benches. "I'm fine, I'm fine. I've just been... busy, settling in at the new job. I'm sorry I didn't stay in touch." Unfortunately for Nautica, even if she's getting decent at hiding her unease from her co-workers, she can't really conceal it from her closest friends; it's clear that she's on-edge, far more so than she's likely ever been seen to be previously. But she doesn't elaborate; instead, she looks at each of them in turn. "How have you been?"
"Fine. Surrounded by morons, half the time, but that's pretty much everywhere I go." Chromia does not bother to identify to which bots she affixes this complaint, so it is probably just general principles. She is not the warmest of snugglers, but neither does she withdraw from physical contact; she paces the others to the bench but does not sit, standing sentinel at a self-appointed guard post in the path that does not, quite, block traffic. Her back is to the prettiest of the crystalline fixtures; her glow-bright eyes are for the other Camiens. "I /was/ worried. I expected regular chipper updates about a bunch of science I don't understand." She smiles, very slightly. "You two both speak other languages, I'm just here to hit stuff."
Windblade is never one to shy away from contact, not even drawing far away from Nautica as she hugs Chromia, right /there/ near them both before she can lead Nautica to that bench. Once she has drawn her friend onto the bench, she listens to the exchange between the two, quiet, until she finally murmurs quietly, worriedly, "What is wrong?" Her gaze is all for Nautica, as if she expects Chromia to just be near.
Nautica's mood seems to dampen, her posture drooping slightly. Her hands rest in her lap, and she stares down at them. "I'm bad at keeping things from you, but I'm not sure I should share this one," she admits, more hesitantly. "It could get you into a lot of trouble to know. You could both be in danger!" She glances up worriedly at one, then the other. Then, in a query which is probably /not/ going to reassure her friends, asks, "Could you help me learn to fight, Chromia? At least enough to defend myself better?"
"Of /course/," Chromia says without so much as a pause for thought. "Name the hour, I'll make the time for that." Her arms folding across her chassis, she lowers her head slightly, for all the world like a bull lowering to charge, if only Cybertron (or Caminus) had anything of the kind. She says firmly: "Nautica. What's gotten into you? If you're in trouble do you honestly think for a second I'd stand back and leave you to weather it yourself?"
"You have to tell us. We have to stick together, here, with everything that has happened--." Windblade doesn't press, but the way her weighted gaze falls on Nautica is expectant, only spared for a briefly grateful glance in Chromia's direction for the other Camien's words.
"It's not the sort of trouble you can punch or shoot. It's complicated and political, and I can't pull someone else in. But I can't /not/ face it. It's... important. Several people /need/ me to do it." Nautica looks between the others, clearly torn. Finally, she adds, "If you had to do something dangerous to protect us, Chromia, you would. This is like that, only with science." Except she /did/ ask to be taught to fight.
"I always knew all those test tubes and microscopes were shifty," Chromia says with particular dryness. Her hands bracing at the outward sweep of her hips, she strides forward a few paces closer to the bench so as to minimize any potential for their volume to creep past confidential height. "What about what /you/ need?"
"I am political and complicated, if it is not something that you can punch or shoot," murmurs Windblade in counterpoint to Nautica, her gaze weighted as she continues to study her friend. "If you cannot trust even us, then--."
"It's not that." Nautica glances around once, and then shifts to nonverbal communication on their private frequency. <<The place I work... it's bad. I thought it was just scientific research, building new engines and new medical technologies and things like that. But they're doing /things/ there, things that are bad. Wiping memories. Or /altering/ memories, so people act the way they want. And they've got bots they're holding, who they take apart and study while they're still alive. Outliers.>> Which clearly unsettles Nautica, for reasons perhaps only Windblade and Chromia are likely to understand. <<But it's hard to get inside, and the people who want to take it down, they /need/ someone on the inside to get information for them.>>
The weight of Chromia's arms across her chest tightens as she shifts more heavily onto one foot, the halved tires at the backs of her knees turning on their axles as she huffs a low noise past the set of her mouth. Her summary is sharp and hot, on the edge of an outburst that she barely keeps behind her teeth. << So they want you to be a spy. At a place where outliers get taken apart alive. >>
<< No. >> If their nonverbal communication could be firm and sharp and stubborn, that single word is even as Windblade follows it with a look towards Nautica that more clearly conveys this. << No, you cannot do this for them. We will take this to the Senate; we will speak to the law. You will not risk yourself when there are other ways. >>
<<You CAN'T! The Senate...>> Nautica's tone has turned frantic as her gaze slips to Windblade. <<The Senate are the ones /behind/ where I work! I want to believe they don't all know, but... I'm certain some of them /do/. They have to, because... too much of what's being done targets people who speak out against the Senate.>> She reaches out to rest a hand on Windblade's arm, as if this can convey her urgency. <<Please, you can't tell them. Besides... you're the only two who know I'm probably an outlier. So at least I'm not in danger from /that/.>>
<< We aren't going to betray anything you tell us in secret, to the Senate or anyone else, >> Chromia anchors as if sinking spokes into bedrock. She turns a look at Windblade, her frown deep-grooved into her expression. << But Windblade is right. You are risking much. It's not our job to keep Cybertron from eating itself. Help them, maybe, do what we can, but stay safe, stay in one piece, stay together, and then go /home/.>>
There is silence on Windblade's part for a long time at Nautica's answer for the Senate, as if the Cityspeaker perhaps is still processing that the Senate could possibly be bad guys. But, it's the government and the law. She meets Chromia's gaze with a little nod, but-- << There has to be other ways to help that does not put you at risk. Chromia is right. >>
Nautica regards Windblade with sympathy. She had a little longer to wrestle with that particular realization, after all, but found it equally troubling. << I told myself that, Chromia. That it wasn't my problem. That none of this was. But they tried to kill one of my friends for seeing something she shouldn't have, and another of my friends is being held in a /cage/ in that facility, and experimented on. And I've realized, as long as we're stuck here, it /is/ our fight. At least, if we want to survive long enough to go home. >> She straightens, looking at her friends. << I know you want to help, though I'm not sure how you can. And this is /important/. I'm going to get out as soon as I can, I promise. >>
"Ugh," Chromia says aloud, as if she can't help herself. She strides a few paces away, staring unseeing off into the middle distance with her hands again on her hips, thumbs curving hard against the line of darker blue that lends bulk to her root mode there. Her heels kick back against the path as she says, << There must be something we can do. What about Orion Pax and the Autobots? >>
Windblade doesn't press again; she let's Chromia press, but she does not. Instead, her gaze slides after Chromia as she paces away, worry buried in their bright blue depths, before they slide to Nautica again.
<< It's... >> Nautica's nonverbal communication trails off as she glances over at Chromia. Finally, she seems to come to a decision. << They're the ones who want to act against it. They're the ones I'm doing this for... at least, those of them who know about this. Elita was the one who asked me to stay there first, to try to help get someone out who's being held there. But Orion Pax's crew needs an inside agent as well. >>
Chromia's foot stamps down hard on the path as she turns. << So the great task force has a solution and their solution is you. /Perfect/. >> Her features are hard with frustration, impelled to action without direction; she folds her arms across her chassis again. New to the Autobots, she is not on anybody's 'need to know' list for this kind of intelligence; besides, there's a reason they put her where they did in the chain of command. << What kind of backup do you have? Contingencies? How can we pull you out if something goes wrong? >>
Windblade remains silent, though the look she gives to Chromia is meant to be calming, perhaps, or something of that nature. << How will we know, if something goes wrong? >> she adds to her questions, however.
The silence stretches out long enough to make it clear that Nautica doesn't actually have any answers to these questions. In the end, all she can offer is << I'm sure they have something in mind and just haven't put it in place yet. >> And even she seems to realize that's not going to be reassuring.
"Not good enough." Chromia gives Nautica a little smile. "Don't think I won't start stalking you at work."
Windblade pushes to her feet silently at the answer, almost a darker mimic of Chromia as she paces a little away on her own, quiet and inwardly focused for a moment. When she returns, she answers aloud, "What will change your mind, if we said it? And if you will not change your mind, what can we do?"
"You won't have clearance," Nautica notes to Chromia, giving up on the silent method. "But... we should probably talk to Elita. Maybe she can think of a way." Or be /really upset/ with Nautica for talking about the operation at all.
"Quite frankly," Chromia says with a certain crisp note in her voice, "if Elita One set you to this in the first place, I am disinclined to go to her for inspiration." She paces back toward Nautica and the bench, finally coming to rest to drop her hand on its back, leaning against it. "Enough talking. I will stay in the area whenever I am not on duty. If there is trouble, call me. It will have to be enough until we get a better idea, because I can do no more."
"And Elita and yourself and Chromia-- You have all involved yourselves with these Autobots. It is better if I did not as well, given my position," Windblade offers quietly for herself, simply.
"I'm only involved because all of the employees of the state-run scientific institute are Autobots by default. I don't think it's really quite the same thing," Nautica notes to Windblade. Then again, after she 'became' an Autobot, she's now spying on their behalf within the Institute, so maybe that qualifies nonetheless. Turning her attention to Chromia, she looks about to protest... and then thinks better of it. Instead, she reaches out to rest a hand on the other femme's arm, and nods once. "Thank you."
Chromia, for a moment, looks like she is tempted to explanation or excuse when Windblade points out her own affiliation; but then she simply nods, meeting her friend's gaze with a slight inclination of her head. Resting her hand over Nautica's only briefly, she says, "You don't need to thank me. Just stay safe. And I'll hope to Primus you don't get into trouble when I can't be there."
Windblade nods, repeating Chromia's words more firmly as if it will make a difference, "Stay safe."
Nautica leans over, giving Windblade a hug once more. "I promise I will. And I'll come back to the embassy more often, to check in with you."
"Good," Chromia says with another firm nod. She straightens, inhalation brief and mouth firming to a thin line. "Do that."
Windblade returns the hug briefly but tightly before she draws away, answering with sudden lightness, "Good, because we miss you. Though, we should return ourselves." Though the last is more question than statement, perhaps about 'we', as she casts a glance to Chromia to see whether the other bot will be staying near Nautica for now or returning with her. She does not seem to mind making her way back to the embassy, whatever Chromia decides.
"I'll come back with you," Nautica offers Windblade, with a glance towards Chromia as well. "I'm done my shift, so there's no reason to stay here any longer." At least not for the moment.
"All right, then," Chromia says, moving to fall in with the other two, since Nautica has rendered that question a non-question. "It will be good to spend some time together." It is usual to say things like this with less of a frown, but then, Chromia has a lot of new data to chew over.