Title: Zeta's a Dirty Little Siphonist
Date: 20 April 2015
Summary: See log title.
t's been a good day for Nyon's band of rebel heroes. Thanks to information from a shadowy, mysterious anonymous source -- Whirl. We're talking about Whirl. -- they scored a hit on a batch of highly refined and incredibly potent engex. News stories will read all about hoodlums smashing up distilleries like a bunch of drunken vandals, but the high-energy fuel can be downgraded into something a little less ridiculous with some work and some science, which is where Nautica comes in.
The nice thing about engex is that it's more portable, which suits Hot Rod's hit and run, small group style just fine. He and Backdrop are headed back to the Acropolex by yet another varying path. As the years of Zeta's reign roll on, it becomes more and more important to avoid being tailed. Thus: a new path, a new door, and then a transformation out of alt-mode to stride down unfamiliar halls until the Acropolex itself leads them somewhere familiar. "Don't tell Jackpot or Flareup that we're back until Nautica's managed to downgrade it, okay? I don't want them to try to drink the engex." It's a real danger.
There's an audible "pffft" at Hot Rod's orders. Backdrop practically struts, optics giving a roll "After the last, oh, twelve times? I'm surprised we let them near any energon at all without a test right then and there. How much was the damage last time, anyway?" Oh, Backdrop. This is why people don't let him do important raid stuff; he just SAYS STUFF without thinking it all the way through. "Don't worry, though. I got this."
The Acropolex as large as it is, it isn't so unusual that they pass through unfamiliar halls. It's a city in and of itself -- literally -- and navigating its changing halls is a guess, at best. But nothing's changing, not yet, and it's still unfamiliar. Stranger still, there are signs that these halls have been in use recently: faint, but there.
"I don't think she thinks of anything as damage," Hot Rod says with a laugh. "More like a signature. And the bigger the signature, the happier Flareup is." It's another slight pause before he looks to the (dust-free, well-traveled) metal beneath their feet and ask, "This look like someone's been using it to you?"
"I was talking more about Jackpot, but Flareup, too." Then, Hot Rod's question actually filters through. "... Yeah. There's usually more dust around here, isn't there? And not even turborat prints or anything." A pause as Backdrop gazes around the tunnel. "I don't see any nesting signs, so it isn't turborats..."
"Kickback hasn't said anything about Insecticons back in the area, either." Hot Rod should possibly be unnerved, wary. He is neither of these things, to no one's particular surprise. He looks excited. "One time, I totally saw a sparkeater in the tunnels under us," he adds, pace picking up in his eagerness. As they continue, there's a far and distant glow that spills from a room on the left. It's just barely visible as they turn the corner.
Backdrop is still gazing around, looking for any familiar signs. "...No turbofox molting, either..." It's mumbled more than said. "A sparkeater? Really? I didn't think those existed!" Oh, Backdrop. He believes every word. "What'd it look like, was it... Really... Like."
Glow. There is a thing that is glowing. Backdrop stares at the direction of the glow dumbly. "...Uhm."
Hot Rod regards the glow with a trace of confusion. "Not like that." Although he hardly slows, and certainly shows no caution, he does /quiet/. Slightly. Okay, maybe that's almost like caution, but come on, is he really supposed to shout out 'Come out, come out, whoever you are?' (Not wherever, because they already know where, right? Glow.) He heads for the light. That's never a bad idea. "I don't hear anything," he says, just as the faint whoosh and thump of pumps and the gentle humming of live machinery and electronics becomes audible. It sounds like nothing so much as the engex distillery they just raided.
For a few seconds, Backdrop doesn't follow Hot Rod. He seems hesitant, squinting as if trying to remember something.
When he does follow, it's slow and awkward. He's bracing. "Is this a good idea?" Almost a whisper. "This seems like not a good idea."
"A worse idea than leaving it alone? Having no idea what's going on in our territory?" Hot Rod shoots back at Backdrop. He doesn't quite match the other bot's hush, but his voice is lower than his usual. "Come on, we have a /responsibility/ to check this out." Good excuse, right? As they get closer, there are very faint sounds of movement. With a gesture, Hot Rod pauses, and then activates the weapons on his arms. He draws up just to the side of the door. The red glow from within spills to paint the hallway with lurid light and creeping shadow. "Okay, ready?"
A faint whimper lets out from Backdrop. The squinting, though, stops once he remembers what was bothering him. "It's like 'The Wireroom'. It was haunted with ghosts of dead mechs!" How many movies has he SEEN?! "Oh, Pit, let's do this." He's still whispering, though.
Hot Rod pauses a moment to stare at Backdrop. Some variation on 'how many movies has he SEEN?!' plays in his head and across his features. He grins reassurance, and then without further warning comes around the corner of the door with weapons raised and--
And nothing, actually. He's silent.
The red light comes from energon tanks -- larger than either of them, larger than both of them combined. There's enough energon in just one tank to hold them over for a long, long time, and there are a dozen tanks. More. It looks for a moment like some sort of bizarre, Primus-sent miracle: never-ending fuel for the righteous.
Then the eye is drawn down into the shadows that cluster at the bank of the tanks. Empties, disposables, and low caste workers lie in a tangled clump of limbs, like dolls thrown into a pile and ignored. Pipes run from each bot to the tanks above, but they're not feeding. The flow of energon runs /to/ the tanks, not away. The sounds of movement belong to them, to the slow, sluggish stir of limbs of those whose sparks have not yet quite extinguished.
There's a long moment of silence as Backdrop stares, optics wide and stunned.
"...Oh. So it's 'The Feeding of The Phantom', then." Another pause. "...I have no idea how to respond to this situation."
Backdrop's voice is flat and with only startled effect. He might be in some shock.
"No," Hot Rod agrees, and then indulges in some more silence. It must be bad if he doesn't know what to say, either. How /does/ one respond to walking onto the set of 'The Feeding of The Phantom' and discovering it is all horribly real?
Hot Rod deactivates the weapons and reaches for Backdrop. He pulls him protectively against his side, one hand on his shoulder, and looks up. He sweeps the room, looking for any indicate who has done this (like that wasn't obvious) or when they might be back (who knows) or where they've gone (probably Iacon). Closer study might reveal some kind of answer, but he's not particularly in the mood go up and look real hard right now. His expression is torn between horror and grief.
There's no struggling as Backdrop is pulled in to the protective half hug. He's shocked, himself, unsure what to do or what's even appropriate to do.
After a few seconds, though, he tries to tug away from Hot Rod. It's a slow sort of tug, as if he doesn't really want to leave the vague protection of Hot Rod's super impressive presence.
He slowly walks to the nearest tank to REALLY look close.
Hot Rod lets him go, but he follows after in a protective hover. He glances back at the door. He's a lot less enthused about mysteries to discover once he's discovered them, and that they are awful.
The tanks have Zeta's stamp all over them. Literally. The tanks have been pulled from Iacon, from Autobot facilities. It doesn't take a lot of detective work to figure that one out. One of the empties slumped up against the side of the tank shifts as Backdrop walks closer and turns to stare at him with a gaze emptied of all but the last flicker of light.
"...I have a terrible idea." Backdrop is staring at the empty. Right in the optics. "Can we... Disconnect them? Smash the tanks, feed them so they aren't starving? Just like 'The Feeding of the Phantom'..."
"Yes. Yes, we can." Hot Rod's voice firms as he talks, agreeing with Backdrop's terrible idea 100%. 110%! He kneels, crouching down next to the empty who is staring at Backdrop, first. Even as they watch, however, the last trace of energon is siphoned from his lines, and the tube that runs between empty and tank goes dark. A moment later, so does his gaze.
Anger enters Hot Rod's words as he moves away, striding to the other side of the room. "Anyone you find who's still alive, pull the lines. We'll take them inside."
Of the dozens in the room, however, there are no more than a handful with a spark of life left in them, and they'll have to work quick to save even those few. The tanks gurgle and slosh, comfortably full. It's almost harvest time.
First priority was finding those that were still alive and unplugging them. Most of them were corpses; after all that's happened, Backdrop isn't nearly as hesitant about the whole 'dead body' thing as he once was.
He doesn't even know what plugs are for what, but once he finds someone with lights still in their optics, he pulls at all the wires. All of them. Then he grabs one of the cubes they had been transporting through the tunnels in the first place and shoves it in the poor mech's face.
It's like drinking on an empty stomach. ONLY MORE SO. The mech barely responds. When the first splash of fuel hits his tank, he weakly reaches for he cube. Then he gets greedy, sloppy, sucking with animal thirst on the fuel. How much of his unsteadiness is due to the engex and how much is due to the shaking of his limbs remains an open question.
On the other side of the room, Hot Rod does much the same. They are only able to reclaim a pair each from the machinery. The rest are too far gone, eyes dark. To each, Hot Rod says, "You're safe. Go sit by the door and finish that, okay? Then we'll take you to a medic and make sure you're okay. You're safe."
They listen, but it's doubtfully that they believe.
The entire cube is shoved in that mech's hand. And the next. One cube each. Backdrop doesn't give them more than that. "I don't think an empty tank is supposed to take too much in one shot..." He probably heard that from a whole bunch of movies. "...I think we should go. I mean, take them with us. I don't like it here. Can we carry them all?"
"Me either." Hot Rod does one last sweep of the room, afraid of missing some poor, forgotten spark at the bottom of a pile, then sags when it becomes clear that everyone else really is dead. "You mean these four? Yeah. Yeah, we can carry them. Let's get going. I don't want to run into whoever set this up." He heads to the door to help his pair up and looks back over the room. "Even for Zeta, this is hard to believe. Even for Zeta--." He considers the tanks a moment and then glances at the discarded, now empty cubes. "You don't suppose they take that and then--." He breaks off rather than speaking it, but he looks suddenly like he might purge his tanks. What've they been drinking when they steal Autobot supplies, anyway.
"Dunno." Backdrop doesn't look nearly as sickened. Concerned, yet, but doesn't look like he might throw up. "It... Doesn't even make sense. The tanks are bigger than they are, how is it getting so much from ONE PER --" A pause. "...Oh. Multiple people rotated out." Another pause. ".. This STILL doesn't make sense."
Backdrop looks like he's still trying just to make sense of the whole thing as he moves to carry one of the weak mechs.
Getting the others moving requires feats of encouragement that really ought to land Hot Rod in a record book somewhere. "No, it's horrible," he agrees as they head back down the halls in the hopes of hitting more familiar territory soon. Hopefully without the horror show! "No one /sane/ could come up with a scheme like that. There's no reason -- it's just irrational." Or practical! "Or -- is that not what you mean?"
"No, I mean..." Backdrop sputters for a moment. "I'm no medic or anything, but don't we... Use up the good stuff when we drink? That's why no one really drinks what's on the floor after a fight, it's just not GOOD anymore. It doesn't make SENSE."
Somehow, itty bitty Backdrop manages to carry his two finds; they each lean on one shoulder. Balance from either side! Cancels each other out!
Hot Rod is silent just long enough that Backdrop might wonder if he's not going to answer. Just when the silence stretches to the point it must snap, he says, "Energon is energon is energon, I guess."
Still, it's visibly bothering Backdrop that this situation isn't matching what he thought he knew. He's stumbling along with the new mechs on either side.
"Should we... Come back in a few days in case they bring in more people?"
"Where there's one, there's more. This can't be the only place," says Hot Rod with a fierce frown. "We're going to post people to keep an eye on this hallway, follow them, and find the others. That's what we do first. They've got to be back soon. It looked like they were -- about done," he says with a slight hesitation.
"Yeah..." Backdrop takes a last glance back as he stumbles along. "Yeah, the tanks are all full."
How he isn't falling over under two bodies is anyone's guess. The brave little toaster that could.
The farther they get from the room, the more familiar the halls look, and soon enough they are able to radio ahead for others to come and take the injured (drunk and injured) from them. Hot Rod's slow to straighten even after the burden is lifted. He leans against the wall and watches the others retreat back toward the makeshift medibay. "You ever wonder where this is going to end?"
"...End?" Backdrop gives Hot Rod a look as if he had suddenly decided that flames were no longer in fashion. "I'm happy if I wake up in the morning. I don't really... Think about the long term."
Hot Rod laughs. It's a bit forced, but it's a laugh. "Yeah, okay. Fair enough. Maybe I won't try the big questions on you, huh? You ever think Arsenal is right? That we should be working more with--" See also: join. "--the Decepticons?"
This time, Backdrop shifts in place. He looks uneasy. "...I don't know. Right now, it feels like EVERYBODY is doing terrible stuff. I heard good stuff AND bad stuff from the Decepticons." A shrug. "I don't know. Maybe one day we'll do the whole 'pick a side' thing, but... I dunno."
"Picking a side feels too much like turning away from them," says Hot Rod with a nod in the direction of the medibay. They are saved from unending questions for a little while longer, yet, but it'll be coming soon. "But I don't know--." He breaks off suddenly, looking down at Backdrop, and smiles. "I don't know. But we'll figure it out, right?"
Backdrop looks up at Hot Rod with the biggest optics he could likely make. "Yeah." A smile. "Yeah, we'll figure it out. You're the smartest guy I know. You'll know what to do."
Rebellion equals brain damage. That's the only reasonable explanation. There's no way that Backdrop could possibly call Hot Rod 'smart' if not for some kind of deep, lasting damage deep in his processor. "Scrap yeah I am," he agrees with a laugh. "And I've got smart people all around me. We're smarter than Zeta, we're braver than Zeta, we're better than Zeta, and we'll /beat/ him yet." Hope will yet overcome entropy.