[G1 RPG] Terminus: The Chessmaster (Iacon)

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Aero Blade
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Post by Aero Blade » Tue Oct 29, 2013 5:41 pm

Autobase Hospital

Someone like Aero Blade normally would've rushed over to help someone showing trouble like Smokescreen had momentarily with standing, and though his optics showed an immediate change to concern, his body didn't move to assist him, indicating he had even greater concerns about approaching the form in front of him...

"As I understand it, you died a hero in Protihex," Aero Blade started after a moment, then hesitated briefly again. "But...it didn't make up for what had happened before..."

The mechanic looked down briefly. "They haven't been sure what to do with you. Most likely you will wind up going to trial for your actions prior to now."

His faceplate covered his expression, but the frown was still evident from his optics. He took a breath, seeming to give a single, brief shudder, before he looked back up again. "Smokescreen, why? Why did you go after all those people?"

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Post by Warcry » Mon Nov 11, 2013 6:34 am

Autobase Hospital

Smokescreen pulled himself up on the bed to sit, wincing as he did so.

"Oh, right. That. I was sort of hoping nobody would find out about that." He glanced over at Aero Blade and said, "Prowl isn't around, is he? No, of course he's not. You never would have made it in the door for all the assassins he would have sent to silence me."

The spymaster -- well, former one now -- shook his head. "Why did I do it? It was my job, Aero Blade. Government was a lot simpler in war-time. Everyone did what Optimus said, and if you saw a Decepticon you shot him. But peace required a subtler touch, especially once we'd actually built something and needed to protect it. I did what I did because if I didn't act, the alternative would have meant another war."

Though if he was being true to himself, he knew that wasn't exactly accurate. Some of the things he'd done could certainly be justified that way, but others? He'd taken on the job because Prowl and the senate had needed someone who could root the Space Mafia out of Autobot territories without needing to fire a cruise missile into their base in Polyhex, and that had seemed a noble enough goal. But then Megatron had returned and begun to consolidate his power, Gigatron had started trying to sway Autobot opinion into a war against the Cybertronian Empire and things just seemed to start slipping out of Smokescreen's grasp. He'd done the best he'd could to keep them under control, even resorting to outright evil acts to prevent even greater harm, but he'd failed. Would someone else have done better? He didn't know. But he did know that if they'd had a mirror in the room he wouldn't have wanted to look in it.

"My only mistake was taking the job in the first place," he finally said aloud. "The things I did...most of them had to be done, and if I didn't do them someone else would have. But you know what? It didn't have to be me pulling the strings. I should have known better than to get involved in that."

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Post by Aero Blade » Sun Nov 17, 2013 12:15 am

Autobase Hospital

Aero Blade took a few steps back, until he was leaning heavily against a wall, his expression sad and disappointed.

He didn't know why he'd expected a direct answer from Smokescreen, his entire career was built on being able to talk circles around people. Maybe he'd hopped the experience had changed him a bit for the better, but that didn't seem to be the case. He was still the same old Smokescreen. Perhaps, even worse...

Aero Blade's optic band was dark briefly before they lit back up again, not even looking at Smokescreen now. His expression was the same as before, but his voice remained calm.

"So when were you going to come after me..?"

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Post by Warcry » Mon Nov 18, 2013 4:56 am

Autobase Hospital

Smokescreen visibly recoiled from Aero Blade's question, and probably would have looked less shocked if the other Autobot had just shot him.

"How could you even ask me that?" he said, clearly hurt. "You're my friend. I know you and I know you're no threat to anyone, no matter what happened in the past. I didn't go after your friend Dirge either, and for the same reason -- I knew both of you just wanted to live out your lives in peace. I'll be the first to admit that some operations got out of hand, but our hearts were always in the right place. Or at least mine was. I was trying to protect people like you, Aero, not hurt you."

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Post by Aero Blade » Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:26 pm

Autobase Hospital

"You were targeting Decepticons, Smokescreen, ones who also just wanted peace instead of war," Aero Blade answered, looking back up at the other bot again, his own hurt expression starting to show through. "You didn't know if they were going to be any different from Dirge and I, they didn't get the chance. That's the only difference - we got a chance to show our intentions, they didn't."

Aero Blade was standing again, but he hadn't moved from the wall, almost like he couldn't. His behaviors were becoming more clear, though, why he was keeping his distance, why he hadn't approached Smokescreen when he might've needed help, as though there was an invisible wall there - he was too unsure of Smokescreen now, as though he didn't know if the other mech was dangerous now.

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Post by Warcry » Sun Dec 08, 2013 6:32 am

Autobase Hospital

"I was targeting dangerous Decepticons," Smokescreen told Aero Blade. "I can think of a lot of words to describe you, but 'dangerous' isn't one of them. And honestly, what would you have had me do? We can't let Decepticons move to the city without investigating them. The ones who behaved themselves, we left alone. We watched them, but we didn't bother them. The ones who caused trouble...well, they brought our attention on themselves."

Smokescreen shook his head. "Some of the stuff we did...it was uncalled for. Hiring Repugnus, for one. And letting some of the city's anti-Decepticon groups stay in business so we could use their activities as cover was a terrible idea." He glanced at Aero and said, "They should probably arrest Deftwing, by the way. I have a file on him so thick you could smash an Insecticon with it."

He sighed. "But we were trying to make Iacon a safer place for everyone, not just the Autobots but the neutrals and non-hostile Decepticons too. I wish we'd gone about it in a better way, but we were trying to do good work."

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Post by Aero Blade » Wed Dec 11, 2013 12:53 am

Autobase Hospital

Aero Blade seemed to almost wince a bit as Smokescreen next spoke, his optic band darkening as he turned his head slightly away from Smokescreen. Little else of what he said after that registered fully, but the meaning of those first few statements stuck hard with him.

You're not dangerous

"How can you say that?" Aero Blade spoke, almost acused, by his tone. "How can you say that after...Kalis..."

Aero Blade looked away from Smokescreen again. It was a bit of bitter irony - after the trouble with the Quintessons, Smokescreen had tried so hard, so many times, to get Aero to talk to him about the incident, and the tech had managed to evade or escape each time. Eventually Smokescreen had seemed to give up on it all together, and they had lost touch, until now...

It hurt to have the memory revived. The first, and the only time, that one of his allies here in this demention had managed to see that bit of him. It hurt worse to be the one to do it himself. Somewhere in the back of Aero's mind he realized there was some similarity between himself and Smokescreen, though the roles had now reversed - he had seen a bit of Smokescreen's darker side, and was now trying to come to understand it.


((ooc: Kalis incident))

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Post by Warcry » Mon Dec 23, 2013 7:48 pm

Autobase Hospital

Smokescreen hung his head slightly so that Aero Blade wouldn't see the flash of annoyance that crossed over it.

So now is when you're ready to talk about it? he thought peevishly to himself.

"Aero Blade, I would have told you this years ago if you'd been willing to listen. What I saw in Kalis wasn't a dangerous mech. It wasn't someone who was planning to betray us to Megatron, or a sleeper agent ready to snap and try to assassinate Hot Rod at a press conference. What I saw was someone ill, someone who knows they're sick but is too afraid to get help. As far as I'm concerned that's between you and me, and it certainly doesn't make you the kind of person who needs to be locked away in a cell for the protection of society. If you need to be locked up anywhere, it'd be a comfortable office with a psychiatrist who's willing to help you work through your issues. My credentials are a few million years out of date, but I'd be happy to recommend someone if you're willing to start helping yourself."

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Post by Aero Blade » Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:14 pm

Autobase Hospital

"Don't you think we didn't try?" Aero Blade would asked, not quite bitterly, looking up briefly at Smokescreen before looking down again. "What's wrong with me can't be fixed or talked away, or my own group of Autobots would've done it ages ago."

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Post by Warcry » Tue Jan 07, 2014 7:43 pm

Autobase Hospital

Smokescreen sighed.

"That isn't how therapy works, Aero Blade. It's not about 'fixing' you. It's about getting you to accept what is wrong with you, managing your symptoms and learning how to rely on the people around you for support. I can't just give you a pill and tell you everything will be alright, no more than I could have fixed Red Alert's paranoia or Whirl's bloodlust. Nobody can make your problems go away, but a good psychiatrist can help you minimize the impact that it has on your life."

The Autobot smiled slightly, but it was a melancholy expression. "And besides...Aero, your occasional berserker outburst isn't your problem. It's your excuse. Your trust and isolation issues, and your extreme phobia of doctors...those are what you need help with. Just because we might not be able to help you with that other thing doesn't justify you not seeking help for any of your more mundane problems."

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Post by Aero Blade » Thu Jan 09, 2014 10:21 pm

Autobase Hospital

Occasional....

"Not freaking out when a medic passes me in the hall might make life a bit easier, and I wish I could trust people without worrying what the might do to me later," Aero Blade admitted, "But isolating is the only real way to keep others safe from me. From...him..."

Aero Blade shook his head a bit, not really at Smokescreen, but a gesture of someone clearing their head slightly. "I got taken for the con experiment as a protoform, a fresh being, a blank canvas for them to work on, supposedly. When they rewired me, they stuck a box in my head, some little component that keeps me in check, tweaks my personality towards what they wanted. They even rerouted all my vital systems through it, so that if someone tried to take it out, it'd kill me," Aero Blade found himself explaining. "They weren't neat, and it goes off-line under the right conditions, sometimes randomly. Really I should just be comatose, blank, when it's not working, but...there was something left over. Something from what the protoform was before. It might have been new, but the spark already in it was old, and not friendly..."

He would finally look back up at the other bot again. "I could have all the help in the universe, Smokescreen, they could turn me into a model bot, and I'd still be a danger to everyone around me. Maybe even more-so, because no-one would be expecting it from me. You and the others, you went after the guys you thought were trouble, the ones making a lot of racket and drawing attention to themselves, but they're the ones people would be wary of, stay on the watch for. The ones that will cause the most harm? They're gonna be like me... If you were really that bent on trying to stop all the trouble before they could start up, you couldn't stop half way. Because once you cleared out all the noise, and everyone started to relax, they'd never be ready for when that nice quiet mech suddenly snapped."

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Post by Warcry » Fri Jan 17, 2014 4:03 am

Autobase Hospital

Smokescreen looked Aero Blade in the eyes as the other Autobot was talking, baring his soul to him in a way he'd never done before. But while he appreciated Aero Blade sharing his innermost fears, he couldn't shake the feeling that the other Autobot was still covering for something.

"I'm not going to minimize what you're feeling, Aero, I'm really not. But you can't go through life worrying about what might happen. It's been six years since Kalis. Have you had a relapse?" He paused and let that hang in the air for a moment. "If you have, it was so completely insubstantial that it didn't even make a blip on the Intelligence radar. And what about the eight years before that, the whole stretch of time since you arrived here? You've been here for fourteen years, Aero Blade, and in that whole time you've never seriously hurt a single Autobot as far as I know. So, yes. Occasional. I'm not going to worry about what might happen with you when we let the likes of the Dinobots run free."

Smokescreen broke off eye contact, going to stand by the room's barred window and stare out at the street below.

"And as much as I'm glad you came, Aero Blade, I don't think you just came here to say 'hi'. You knew about my death and my revival in this new body long before you got here. And whether you'll admit it or not, we both know that you connected the dots. My mind, my spark, made the jump from one body to another. There isn't a single piece of original hardware in me, now. As soon as you heard about that, you must have wondered...would it work for you, too? Could you kill the body you're in now, the one that he is tied to, and move to a new one without that baggage? Could you have a new body free from the curse that has dogged you your whole life?"

Smokescreen turned back to his friend and tried to re-establish eye contact before asking, "So the question I have to ask you is...if you could, would you? If you could cut out that part of yourself, if you could be free of it completely and eternally, would you? I don't want to hear a list of technical reasons why it won't work, either. Don't think about that. If it worked, would you do it?"

He narrowed his optics and added, "And while you're thinking of that, ask yourself one more thing. If he wasn't a part of you anymore...would you still be you?"

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Post by Aero Blade » Sat Jan 18, 2014 8:07 pm

Autobase Hospital

"Like I said, you guys only seem to care about noisy," Aero Blade would answer to Smokescreen about his outbursts, sounding tired and looking down. "I 'relapse' more than you realize, but if there's no-one around, I tend to stay mellow, as far as Stratus has been able to see. Partly why he stays around so much, keeping an eye on me. Even when I'm not myself, I've never gone off on him."

Then Smokescreen looked away from him, beginning to talk about the process that lead him to what he had become now, and Aero Blade found himself shaking his head slightly. "Smokescreen, I didn't think anything about that, aside from what little they told me to help understand why you were alive. What I thought about was that you were alive. When they made their offer for me to come, I thought I might have a chance to fix things, a chance to try to pull my friend out of the situation he found himself in now. A situation...that he might not have even been in, if I hadn't been too busy hiding to help him..."

Aero Blade wouldn't make optic contact with Smokescreen, his optic band dark and his head hung low. "In all the years I've known you, I'd seen you drifting, but I never thought you'd go this far. I wish you had contacted me. I wish I hadn't been so scared to contact you..."

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Post by Warcry » Mon Jan 27, 2014 4:45 am

Autobase Hospital

"In my line of work -- both of them actually -- we call that 'deflection', Aero Blade," Smokescreen said with a shrug. "And if you're going to accuse me of being evil so that you don't have to think about the uncomfortable questions I just asked, I'm going to assume I struck a nerve. But don't worry. You're...not wrong. And you're hardly the only one who saw what was happening and didn't try to stop it."

He narrowed his optics. "What are you trying to convince me of, here, Aero? So you have completely harmless 'relapses' all the time? So...what, exactly? That means you shouldn't try to deal with any of your other issues? That means that you deserve to be a self-loathing nervous wreck all the time, hiding your inner self from the people you pretend are your friends because you're afraid they'll judge you if they see the real you? Because that's what I did."

Smokescreen stepped closer to Aero then and rested a hand on his shoulder. "If you keep going down the path you're taking, it only ends one way. You end up like me, taking out your bottled up feelings on any convenient targets that the world presents you. And I won't let you go down that path, Aero, because you're better than that. You're better than me, dammit, and I've sat around watching you waste your life for too long now. So you're going to get help, even if I have to break out of here and move into your lab to make sure you get it."

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Post by Aero Blade » Sat Feb 08, 2014 12:25 am

Autobase Hospital

Aero Blade didn't answer Smokescreen as he spoke, still not able to look at him. But then when Smokescreen came over to him and put his hand on his shoulder, Aero Blade finally made full eye contact with him. Normally such kind of close contact would cause the young mech to shy away from someone with his insecurity, but this time he did no such thing, truly looking at Smokescreen for the first time since they had begun to talk. It looked as though he was starting to trust his old friend again.

But there was still something he was holding back, and it was plainly visible in his gaze as he turned his head away again. However this time it seemed as though he was ready to talk about it.

"Smokescreen, I don't belong here," Aero Blade told him, looking off to the side and at the floor again. "I've felt it for a very long time now, even before things started to calm down. Maybe I sensed it was headed that way," He explained. "As much as I say I want things peaceful, I always find myself winding up in fighting, I can't deny that. If I stay around here, sooner or later I'm gonna find trouble, or cause it."

Aero Blade looked back up again, a certain calm clarity in his expression, that of someone who had come to a decision long before now. "I've built a warpgate - technology from my dimension. It's capable of crossing dimensional barriers if set up right; an accident with one is what caused me to wind up here," he explained briefly. "I haven't told anyone, not Hound, not even Dirge, only Stratus and I know."

And then Aero Blade paused, as though hesitating with his own words, but it lasted only briefly. "Smokescreen...come with us."

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Post by Warcry » Fri Feb 21, 2014 5:33 am

Autobase Hospital

"I'm in jail, Aero. As polite as they're being about it, as soon as I'm discharged from the hospital they're going to throw me in a cell. As much as I'd like to take your offer -- if only to keep an eye on you -- I won't be going anywhere for a long time."

He winced. "Of course, the government is probably going to want to sweep everything I've done under the rug, so they'll probably be happy to parole me to another dimension as long as I promise to stay gone for a while. Not sure how I feel about that, honestly."

He shook his head. "But even if that happens, it's going to take a long time. Months for sure, maybe years. If you're willing to wait I'm willing to go with you, but only if you agree to one condition. While you're waiting for me to be released, you will go to regular sessions with a therapist friend of mine. Not with any expectations or goals in mind. Just see Rung once a week, and talk to him, and see if it helps you feel a bit better about yourself."

Smokescreen sat back down on the edge of his stasis pod and gave Aero Blade a smile, because if the other Autobot was building a gate that could span dimensions it meant he was going home (even if he didn't plan on it -- Smokescreen had been alive long enough to know that was how the universe worked). "Oh, and for what it's worth? Everyone else is going to tell you you're crazy. But don't listen to them. You're doing the right thing. You've spent your whole life trying to run from your problems or hide from them. It's about time that you stood up, looked them in the eyes and showed them who was boss. I'm proud of you."

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Post by Aero Blade » Mon May 12, 2014 2:27 pm

Autobase Hospital

Aero Blade looked no less than offended, and quite annoyed, as Smokescreen made mention of visiting a therapist. Aero Blade had someone been getting better of handling unfamiliar people over the years, but the idea of talking with someone unfamiliar about pretty personal stuff was more than the bot was willing to do.

Aero Blade moved and looked around for a moment, as though trying to find the right words to scold Smokescreen with, and unable to grasp them. When he did finally speak, it was with irritation and exasperation.

"A stranger!?"

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Post by zigzagger » Thu May 22, 2014 11:12 pm

(OOC: Turns out I have some extra time at the moment and I'm feeling up to wrapping up some dangling threads. Going to try anyway. Hope that's okay :))

----

The Decagon, Autobase

Their arrival came like a passing storm. Vessels of varying shapes, all bearing the Iaconian standard, slowly rumbled overhead and cast their collective shadow as they approached the core of the great city-state.

The Autobot army was making its victory in Protihex known to all below.

---

The Trion had settled down onto a tarmac just outside one of the Decagon's main hangars. Prowl made his way down the Autobot Command Ship's boarding ramp, accompanied by a small entourage of petty officers.

From the Trion's bay door, Optimus Prime watched as the Chief Strategist was greeted by the Decagon staff waiting on the runway below. They all saluted, as was custom. Such formalities usually made the Autobot Leader uncomfortable, but Prowl, in his own way, seemed to revel in it, even if it was impossible to tell.

One officer, Prime saw, approached Prowl and whispered into his audio receptor. Whether the news he was receiving distressed him or not, the generally stoic Autobot showed no evidence that it had. He simply nodded back to the other mechanoid and together they hastened off.

Optimus, who had witnessed this transaction from the top of the boarding ramp, narrowed his optics.

As he looked on, Ironhide approached from behind. He didn't make his presence immediately known to the Autobot Leader, though he sensed his friend's displeasure. Instead, Ironhide quietly stood next to the Prime and watched Prowl hurry away to some mysterious appointment.

Ironhide chuckled. "That Prowl," He eventually spoke up. "Been back for only a few kliks and already he's back to doin' whatever it is that Prowl does."

Optimus said nothing.

Ironhide turned his gaze to the Autobot Leader. "You're gonna have to tell him eventually, y'know."

"I know, old friend," he said. "I know."

________________________

Red Alert's Office, Iacon Security Service HQ

"I make no apologies for my methods," Deftwing told his captors. "If the likes of you had stood up and stopped this degeneracy from the get-go, I wouldn't have needed to resort to violence..."

Red Alert pressed his fingers together in a steeple pattern beneath his chin as he stared at the monitor across his desk. This was the second time he played through the once-prosecutor's confession and the ISS Security Director was still shocked by what he heard.

"You two shouldn't be angry with me -- you should be thanking me -- thanking Smokescreen, for having the guts to do what the rest of you were too afraid to do."

"Smokescreen." Red Alert scowled at the mention of the other Autobot's name.

"But it's not too late. Join me and we can still put a stop to this madness!"

The office door slid open and Hot Spot walked in. The once-Protectobot caught the last part of the recording, but it was more than enough to pique his curiosity.

He tilted his head. "Started without me, did you?" Hot Spot stepped forward and leaned over Red Alert's desk to get a better look at the screen. "Find anything incriminating, I hope?"

"Oh, you have noooo idea. No idea." The Security Director tapped the screen to pause the video. "If anything Deftwing has said is true, this is turning out to be quite the conspiracy. There's some... pretty frightening stuff in this confession."

"Frightening? Like what?"

"That the Secret Serv--" He shook his head. "Heh... Honestly, I'm not even sure I fully believe it myself. There's a lot to take in here. But anyway... " Red Alert paused and gave the Captain a rueful smile.

Hot Spot glanced at him sideways. "What? Is it really that bad?"

Red Alert pinched the bridge between his nose. "No--I mean, yes." He groaned. "I think -- I think you need to know everyone who was involved. Everyone. Which is part of the reason why I wanted you to come by. I thought it best that you hear it from me."

He looked Hot Spot squarely in the eyes and said solemnly, "We've ID'ed the gunmen." The Security Director glanced over to an empty chair. "You'd better have a seat."

-------

The Imperial Amphitheater, Quadrant Epsilon

Much of the chaos had settled when First Aid arrived at the Amphitheater.

The police had cordoned off the grand entrance into the stadium and were directing bystanders away from the theater. The CBC were on were on site speaking with witnesses and ISS spokespeople; none which were able to disclose the identities of the attackers from what First Aid was able to overhear. And presumably, most of the IMR -- his people -- were inside the theater, though he did espy several medical transports situated in the main lot.

First Aid opted to start with them. As he weaved his way through the crowd, he felt a hand pull on his shoulder. "Do you require assistance?" he was asked. "If you looking for your IMR colleagues, they are inside."

"Thank you, I--" When First Aid moved to acknowledge the officer, he was quickly taken aback by the other Transformer. He was plated in red instead of blue -- and he spoke rather peculiarly -- but the officer was of the exact same make as the medic's former-colleague Hot Spot, right down to the mouth plate.

"I-I-I'm sorry, I was just--"

"Wait a klik. Yer First Aid, ain'tcha?" Another officer chimed in, whose appearance disturbed the Chief Medical Officer more so than the first. A near-identical facsimile to First Aid himself, it was as if he was standing before a mirror. The resemblance was unsettling.

What's going on here
?

"I'm Safety," said the officer, extending out his hand. "Didn't mean to spook ya or anything."

First Aid unconsciously stepped back. "I, uh..."

"First Aid," a more familiar voice called out from behind. "Over here."

He turned to see Streetwise, sitting at the rear hatch of an IMR transport and looking rather worse for wear. A lithe-bodied medic fluttered over him, laser scalpel sparking away while tending to the detective's injuries.

"It was, uh, nice to meet you." First Aid politely nodded to Safety and Fire Chief before spinning away to meet his friend.

"Streetwise, thank Primus, you're still here," he said, sounding somewhat elated. He glanced back toward the pair of officers that had just accosted him. "That was... odd."

"You mean Guard City? That was my initial reaction too. New squadron that me and Hot Spot have been showing the ropes. The templates they're using... that wasn't my idea."

"I see." First Aid looked Streetwise up and down. "But never mind that, what happened to you? Or more importantly, what happened here?

Streetwise stared back at him, but did not answer.

"It's true then?"

The detective slowly nodded. "It's true. The assassination attempt, the shoot out -- this is what happened when I tried to stop him." He gestured to the damage along his body. "It took Clampdown and an ISS unit to take him down. We lost a couple of mechs in the process. I was out for most of it. "

"Where is Blades now?"

"You're too late," Streetwise told him. "Your people already carted his body back to the IMR. I'm told they have him on spark-support, but..."

First Aid looked on expectantly, dreading what he suspected to be the Protectobot's next words. "Please, just tell me."

Streetwise quietly sent away the medic that was tending to him. He waited until he and First Aid were alone before continuing. "It was a head shot," he said. "The brain module was shattered. You're a doctor, First Aid, I'm sure you know that means."

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Post by Warcry » Thu Jun 05, 2014 4:50 am

Autobase Hospital

Smokescreen held back a frustrated sigh. "I was a stranger once too, Aero," he told his friend. "You came to trust me. Look, I don't expect you to bare your spark to him right away. I know it'll take you some time to get comfortable with him, if you ever do. All I'm asking is that you meet him, talk to him and see where it goes from there. You and I both know it would be good for you to talk to someone other than your ever-loyal Minicon."

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Post by zigzagger » Thu Jun 19, 2014 4:26 am

A FEW DAYS LATER

Central Hall, High Council Pavilions

"This is CBC's Slamdance reporting live from the High Council Pavilions. In a few moments, history will be made. Here at the Central Hall, Optimus Prime, presiding Leader of the Autobots, will pass the Creation Matrix to Hot Rod -- a former Matrix-bearer himself -- and pronounce him as the new Prime. It is the first time in centuries, not since the era of Sentinel Prime, that there has been a proper inaugural ceremony of this kind..."

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A large assemblage had gathered in the central hall of the Grand Oratory. It wasn't everyday a new Prime was named, so a large turn out was to be expected. Elaborate lighting and decor matched the occasion, as did the highly ubiquitous security detail, with officers positioned at all points throughout the venue courtesy of Prowl and Hot Rod's people.

Side by side, Ironhide and Optimus Prime watched the crowd from the balcony of the main structure, awaiting their cue to make their way down to the platform.

Ironhide leaned over the balusterade, smiling. "You sure know how to draw out a crowd," said the old security officer. "After all these years, you've still got it. Helluva turn out."

He turned away from the railing. "Sure you still wanna go through with this?"

"Without a doubt," said Optimus. "I have faith in Hot Rod -- in Rodimus. As well as in the cabinet he has chosen. The next generation will be in good hands. The world belongs to them now."

"Okay. Had to check, y'know." The Security Officer shrugged. "Well I guess that settles it then -- I'm ready to leave when you are are."

"You are too kind, though you needn't do that on my account," Prime kindly insisted. "And what of Autobase Security? Can they manage without you?"

Ironhide swept the air. "Ah, it's all taken care of," he assured the Autobot Leader. "Nightbeat an' the others got it covered. And anyway -- you think I'm leavin' your side now, after all this time? Uh uh. Too much history. 'Sides, I've seen whose comin' along. All due respect to Cyclonus an' all, but you've got some pretty sketchy types along for the ride. You're gonna need me there to keep folks in check--

"Kinda hurt you didn't ask in the first place," he added, feigning insult.

Optimus chuckled. "My apologies." He placed his hand on Ironhide's shoulder. "I would be honored, old friend."

Prowl stepped out onto the balcony at that moment and addressed the Autobot Leader. "Everything is in order. When you are ready, you should--" The Chief Strategist glanced around the overhang, his brow furrowing. "Where... is Hot Rod?"

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