Title: Wheels Training
Date: 02 December 2014
Summary: Kickback tries out some new wheels.
Kickback is enjoying it again, having won it thanks to the combined efforts of Bot, Con and Neutral came together to free him from the Institute. He's been more cautious since then, moving underground rather than in the open, exploring and going wandering after Tarantulas gave him a lot to think about. This grasshopper's walkabout has taken him by pure chance to Nyon, where he meanders through the rust narrows, avoided even by the other low castes, who aren't sure what to make of an Insecticon not on a proverbial 'leash'.
"Pretty sure that Arcee would actually murder me if someone jumped you," Hot Rod says by way of hello. He rumbles up from behind Kickback and transforms into root mode to fall in next to him on the crowded streets. He's as brightly painted as ever, which makes him a notable figure in Nyon -- if not so singular as he once was. It's like he collects people with matching paint jobs or something. Or maybe it just rubs off on others. "Kickback, right?" The times they've met have been few and far between, but 'AHHH TALKING BUG' does tend to leave an impression, even beyond the following Institute breakouts.
The Insecticon brightens in expression. "Ah yes! That's me. I will be all right, I've learned who to obey and who not to obey. I've been reading more," he explains casually to Hot Rod, as if books somehow held the answer to every problem. "You know Arcee?" He's also smart enough not to call her 'the Queen' again. A little more caution has been infused into him since his incarceration.
Hot Rod /immediately/ looks skeptical. "Obey, huh?" He speaks the word like he's handling a mouthful of trash -- and they don't eat trash, unlike Insecticons. Who probably STILL prefer tastier things. REGARDLESS, he speaks the word 'obey' as though he'd rather say anything -- anything! -- else. "Just who are you learning to obey, and who're you supposed to ignore?"
Some of the prickle fades from his manner as Hot Rod warms into a smile. "Yeah, sure I know Arcee. Haven't seen her in a bit -- we've both been busy. But I know her well enough to know murder's on the table if I let anything bad happen to you."
"Likewise, I would not tolerate anything being done to her," Kickback assures with a hint of steely determination. He's pretty serious. "If someone harmed her... I would do to them what Pharma did to me - only I would not put them back together."
The question of obedience will not go unanswered. "I will always obey Arcee. I do not know how it is for you hollows, but it is... an Insecticon thing. We regard our queens as both our ancestor and ruler; we respect and obey them, because they cared for us when we were helpless and mindless. I attempted to obey the officer Prowl because was an authority of this planet, but it was to my harm. He put me in a transport that took me to that awful medical lab."
Hot Rod visibly relaxes, which is maybe a little weird since Kickback just mentioned vivisecting someone and leaving them, but -- hey. He still relaxes. His shoulders dip and his spoiler settles; his tone evens as he laughs. "Well, at least you've got your priorities straight with her. Arcee's got a good spark. She's worth listening to, and I might not like calling it obeying someone -- but that's your thing. I can recognize that." He might not /like/ it, but it isn't like /he/ has to obey. Just Kicky. HOT ROD IS FREE.
Hot Rod sobers as he says, "At least you've learned that just because someone is in charge that doesn't mean you should listen to them. It's going to be really important for you to remember that. Arcee isn't the type who would take your loyalty and abuse it, but a lot of people who call themselves 'authorities' would."
"Hot Rod, you are older and wiser than me." HAHAHAHAHA. Sorry, continuing. "I don't want to kill anyone, but the other Insecticons do. They're angry and hurt, and they've had it much worse than I have, I cannot blame them for their anger.... I feel as if I must help my kindred, but how can I do this when their intentions are murderous? They won't listen to me, I'm just a hatchling in their eyes."
Oh, how Hot Rod /glows/ at being called old(er) and wise(r). He puffs up: shoulders back, chin high, and if he could -- if it were at all possible -- he'd suddenly manifest some Alpha Trion level old-sage-beard-plates just to better embody the ideal. Then he almost immediately deflates. "Scrap, Kickback, I wish I knew." He sounds honestly regretful, and from the twist of his expression, he's not thinking about Kickback's Insecticon buddies when he talks. "Sometimes someone is so angry that you can't get through to them. And when you know that they have a right to be angry -- what can you do with that? Give them constructive things to do, maybe, ways to help -- but you can't watch them all the time, you can't control what they do. All you can do is try to help, give them options. It's up to them to listen. Or not." He vents heavily.
"... Tarantulas says it's time for us to return death to the order of Cybertron," Kickback naively shares. "He said that the loss of Mortilus is what put this entire planet on the wrong course - that Nova Prime caused an overpopulation to Cybertron, that this is the reason we have energon shortages, and that death is necessary to restore balance. Is this true?"
"What," says-slash-asks Hot Rod. His step stutters and he glances at Kickback.
Kickback seems puzzled by this reaction, but his experience is so low he might as well be a level 2 baby pokemon in the grass outside the first town. "Tarantulas told me that he is my ancestor, that he altered my CNA, and the CNA of the other insecticons, so that we could fulfill a great purpose. He intends to return the concept of Mortilus to Cybertron, so that there will be enough energon for all that remain. He says that I need to learn to kill - I did not want to - but he explained to me that I need only kill the evil and the cruel and the corrupt instead of the innocent, to make this world better for everyone."
Aw, look at that little level 2 baby pokemon. Surely it won't grow up into anything terrifying. "That creepy -- creep?" Hot Rod says with a wide gesture of his arms, which is maybe a little racist if he is trying to encompass Tarantulas's limbs in a gesture. At least he didn't come up with some kind of anti-Insecticon slur for him. That would be totally insensitive. "Well, that's a little -- that's crazy. Kind of thing you'd expect from someone who keeps a sparkeater as a pet or something. Listen to that voice in your spark that tells you that killing is bad, Kicky." It is no shorter than saying 'Kickback', but here we are. "Sounds like you've got your head on better than he does. I mean -- look, energon shortage? Maybe. But there are better answers than /death/."
Kickback nods. "That is what I thought as well. That is the reason Pharma wanted to take me apart. He believed that the solution to the problem was inside the Insecticon body; we can convert matter into energon by eating it. He wanted to discover the mechanism by which we do that, so as to create energon from matter. Unfortunately, it was to be done by killing Insecticons in large numbers to take us apart and study our bodies." Kickback frowns, thoughtful. "One of the books I found said that long ago Insecticons worked harmoniously with other tribes, that we provided energon stores in exchange for protection and care. I wonder." He taps his chin. Aww, lookit him, he's like baby Perceptor or something. If Perceptor had wings and antennae.
"That's not any better," says Hot Rod with a fierce frown. "I'm sure there's an answer--" He says with conviction of someone who hasn't studied the problem at all, but has instead intensely studied the kinds of stories where the brave hero always wins. "--and I'm just as sure that it doesn't involve killing /anyone/. Working together sounds a lot more like what we should be doing. We shouldn't be killing Insecticons. We should be working with you. Hey, you ever want a place, we'll make one for you." Nyon won't mind, right? Right.
"That would be wonderful. I'm not comfortable being around Bombshell... he has terrible things in mind for the others," Kickback grins. And then his antennae perk up. Idea! "Oh! You're exactly who I needed to find as well. Your alt-mode -- may I scan it?"
"Really? Cool!" Hot Rod looks just as enthused by Kickback's agreement. "Then -- yeah, there's definitely room for you. Away from terrible ideas," he adds with emphasis. "There's always room." He spreads his arms in an expansive gesture of the city, as much possessive of it as he is displaying Nyon. Like it is his.
He pivots, come back around to face Kickback as he transitions that slight step to full-on smug. "My alt-mode is great, right?" He brags. Oh, dear, but does he brag. He's a step or two from transforming before he pauses, curious, and then says, "I don't mind or anything, but why?"
"If I am to blend in and learn more about the world around me, it will have to be with an altmode that is not Insecticon. I will be treated with less suspicion if I am a speeder than if I am a swarmer," Kickback states.
"Hey, smart, kid." Hot Rod, it must be admitted, accompanies this with a finger-gun point of his hand at Kickback. "Good thinking. And you've got /great/ taste." He needs no further convincing to show off. (He didn't exactly need convincing in the first place. He was just curious.) So without any further pause, he checks that room is clear on the crowded, dirty streets he calls home before transforming with a showman's flair and a rev of his engines all 'look at me, i have a giant spoiler and flames on my hood, i'm totally low key and subtle'. "You ever raced much? You should try it! It's so much fun."
"I've never raced at all. I'm afraid that being in the institute was the first time I had been apart from Arcee or not living in a pet's enclosure," Kickback confesses. "I'm only three lunations since hatching."
What Kickback does next is entirely illegal by functionist decree - one cannot change one's altmode without permission - but Kickback neither knows this, nor cares. He studies Hot Rod's altmode with the greatest of care, initiating a function in his t-cog that, like speaking, was not thought to be a part of the Insecticon subtype. Either Tarantulas included this in his makeup, or the Insecticons have always been Cybertronian. The latter is likely true.
Plates all over his body begin to break apart into smaller and smaller pieces, reassembling themselves into a new configuration as he drops down to the ground, not with legs but with wheels. It itches and everything feels a little out of place, as if he'd been startled out of a deep sleep and isn't quite sure where he is, and his body isn't quite working with him. On the road next to Hot Rod is a glossy black vehicle with purple and gold accents - and yes, even purple and gold flames on the hood, he -did- copy Rod -- but there are insect traits that simply did not disappear. The spoiler looks like grasshopper wings, there are claw like features to the wheelwells and spines at the back. Mattel would have a field day with a Hot Wheels 'Bug Racer' in his design.
His wheels are turning in opposite directions, independent of one another, squealing against the ground. "H-how do you move like this?!"
"Get ready to, then!" Hot Rod is all revved up and ready to go. RACE, RACE, RACE. He all but /wiggles/ on his wheels: rocking back and forth, twisting this way and that, a sparkbeat from 'ready, set, go' as Kickback reconfigures himself. (PS: DOWN WITH FUNCTIONISTS.)
Then Kickback ... fails. And Hot Rod retains just enough expressiveness in alt-mode to droop and settle in place in obvious disappointment. He is clearly not getting his race any time soon. "Oh -- wow. Uh, you just kind of do. Okay, this is going to be easier if--" He reverses and comes around to pull up next to Kickback. "It's actually easier if you're moving. Getting your wheels both pointed in the same direction -- forward, by the way. Then gently go forward." Between illegal actions and newbie at the wheels, the street is probably clearing rather rapidly ahead of them. No one wants to be victim of law enforcement OR a bad driver.
"Oh. OH. I have to move these round feet all at the same time. Oh this is going to take some getting used to." Kickback inches forward and then stops. And then inches forward and then stops. It's like first day at driving school and the student hasn't even seen a car, let alone been behind the wheel of one."
"Yeah, of course," says Hot Rod with the oblivious impatience of someone who hasn't had to think about this for -- well, a very, very long time. "Well, I guess it'd be weird to adjust to having more limbs," he admits. "Make sure they all point the same way, too. For now."
"All right, I think I've got it. I have to /keep turning them/. Walking on six legs is so much easier, I keep feeling as if these wheels are going to twist right off if I turn them over and over!" Kickback is now driving at a very reasonable pace, going straight forward for the most part and trying not to wobble back and forth.
Hot Rod, all oblivious to the weirdness Kickback is experiencing, can only laugh: "What? Why would they do that? Of course they aren't going to twist off! They are part of you, right?" He inches ahead as Kickback finds his feet (wheels, whatever) and eagerly asks, "So, you feel the itch to really open up and go for it?"
"This altmode flies, right?" Kickback asks, picking up a little speed and a little confidence as his servos readjust to new sensor data.
"Nah," Hot Rod says with a carefully careless lack of concern. "Unless you mean /flies across the ground/, because wow, does it."
"No, I meant actual aerial flight. I could do that as a swarmer. I could outpace a seeker," Kickback says. Deciding to see how fast he can 'run', he guns it and goes off down the rust narrows - at top speed.
Oh no. Hot Rod, rather than call warning or anything sensible, speeds up to match Kickback. It's close quarters -- streets small and crowded and there are probably some unexpected twists that are gonna come up pretty fast at top speed. But that's the fun of it, right? "This is way better!" he calls with the perfect confidence of one who has never experienced anything else.
Kickback has to make a turn. At ungodly-miles-per-hour. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG.
Attempting to turn all four wheels at once he begins to slide and skid out of control, back end threatening to spin out and twist him into reverse, right into the side of a large building. Things look incredibly bad, and he starts to tip onto two wheels -- and then he transforms in mid-accident, leaping up into the air, and kick-flipping off the building and landing on his feet in the street instead.
"HOLY SLAG!" he exclaims in shock.
This is the part where you are probably /supposed/ to go 'oh no, are you okay' or something like that. What Hot Rod does is laugh, and he keeps laughing through his own transformation as he pulls up next to Kickback. "Awesome," he says when he catches his breath, and he faces the newly-made speeder with a brilliant grin. "Right? How cool was that. And the way you--" He gestures with his hand, pinging off the wall of his other arm to hand on his finger-feet mid-air. "/Awesome/. Yeah, you'll be great in a race, good reflexes, smart head on your shoulders."
"I don't even... how do you do that without -feet-. Or /wings/. It's -- it's /unnatural/!" Kickback exclaims, waving his arms over his head in exasperation. It's not meant as an insult, and the good natured laughter that follows that outburst should be a good indication. He leans forward, resting his hands on his knees, cycling his vents. "I will never think less of hollows and their skills in movement again!"
"It's awesome!" Hot Rod retorts, with laughter that suggests he could never dream of taking offense at something awesome. He gives Kickback a slap-slash-pat on the shoulder, grin lingering. "Really gets you sharp, though, doesn't it? Makes you focus?" He barely pauses before inevitably asking, "Want to do it again? Best way to learn to walk is to run." (Ofc.)
The grasshopper-car stands up and bounces on his feet, looking down at the wheels that are now jutting out. "Okay, I almost have this figured out. The back wheels are like back legs, I can change their speed and direction as if I were trying to run... lack of having six wheels makes it a bit odd, but I think I can manage." He's taking an analytical approach, something that's becoming more pronounced as he ages. The bug is smart. There's some kind of scientist in there. "Okay, ready to try again!" He's dropped right back down into vehicle mode again.
Hot Rod fairly cackles as he follows after Kickback with an easy flow of machinery. He settles on his wheels, engine warm and just waiting for an open stretch to really let loose. "Okay, follow me. There's a race track nearby. Well -- there are some streets nearby that get used as a track sometimes," he clarifies. Don't start imagining a /real/ track, here. "It's pretty twisty. It's great. You'll love it. Great place to learn," he adds, proving that he is not incapable of picking up on important traits in those around him.
"I would love that. I give you my deepest thanks, Hot Rod - I have not been able to enjoy myself like this since my first flight," Kickback says with sincerity, expressing his gratitude as he follows along behind the other speeder.
"Hey, anytime." When it is fun, anyway. And this? This is fun. Of course Hot Rod is easy and generous when it is /fun/. "This is great." He leads the way through Nyon's streets with the habitual ease of deep familiarity. There are twists enough to keep Kickback on his toes even before they reach the promised track. Nyon is an old city, and like many old cities, the streets are a chaotic mess of disorder even excepting those portions which have fallen into disrepair. The track is wild in a way that promises skinned knees and scuffed paint -- and an awful lot of fun. Great place to learn? Maybe. There's certainly a lot to be learned there.