23/10/2011 5:49 PM BST
The blue and yellow mech that had been working with Hot Spot on some sort of manuvers had dismissed him a breem ago, but then taken him aside to have some sort of discussion that First Aid couldn't hear them from his seat on a bench at the edge of the training ground. He'd settled down there with his datapad at the beginning of Spot's training session, spending most of the shift engrossed in reading the study guide for his next set of exams. (Combat practicals were definitely not as interesting as Groove's lessons on Crystal City's history and negotiation tactics, but First Aid had felt it was better not to annoy any one of his brothers' instructors too much by tagging along constantly, and he hadn't had a chance to spend much time with Spot since being released from the med bay.) The blue and yellow mech- First Aid had never gotten his name- claps Hot Spot on his shoulder and heads towards a door on the far side of the training ground- apparently they're done for the day. First Aid shuts down his datapad and stashes it in subspace, standing up to wait for his brother with a wave and a smile at the bigger mech.
Hot Spot 's grinning as he heads over to Aid. "Thanks for sticking around," he says. "I hope you didn't get too bored."
First Aid shakes his head. "No, I had plenty to read. Thanks for letting me tag along." He eyes his brother's grin- wider than his usual smile, even. "How was training?"
"Over!" Hot Spot says, throwing his arms up in an expansive gesture. "It's done, I've got to report to command for an assignment. I can't believe it."
"You're done? That's fantastic news, congratulations! Do you know what you'll be doing yet?" First Aid asks, grinning himself in return.
Hot Spot shakes his head. "No idea, but I'll find out soon. What're you reading?"
First Aid offers the datapad, pulling it back out of subspace. "Transformation cog theory and code integrations- Streetwise is hoping that Ratchet will have time to help us figure out why our alt modes don't work soon- he can't complete some section of whatever they've got him doing until he can, and I wanted to learn more, it's really interesting. Do you have time before you have to erport to get a cube?"
Hot Spot nods along with Aid's explanation. He's sure it's fascinating, and it's certainly potentially very useful, but a cube sounds even better. "Sure," he says, still grinning.
Hot Spot's outright joy at having completed his training is infectious, and First Aid can't help but continue to smile himself as they head into the refectory. "Do you know if they do anything special for you being 'official' or anything?" He asks, picking up a cube from the dispenser. "If they don't, we should."
"No idea," Hot Spot replies. He grabs himself a cube too and looks around for a table. "Well, I heard you used to have to go stand on the roof of the Red Guardian with a cube of high grade in each hand and spin around three times without dropping them, but I'm not sure that one's true."
First Aid laughs outright. "That does sound like someone was trying to wind you up a bit. Although I think Lifeline has a story about Shark doing something similar on the roof of the El Sleazo down in Cubicron, so who knows." The refectory is busy with the shift just over, but he spots one towards the back and points to it. "How about that one?"
"Looks good to me." Hot Spot wanders on over and sits himself down. He rubs self-consciously at his temporary insignia. The idea of getting a permanent one is just plain wonderful, if a little daunting. "I think I met Shark," he says. "In the Red Guardian of all places, back when I first came here."
First Aid sits down across the table and puts his cube down after taking a sip from it. "Maybe, he's over there a lot- he's got that fin on his helmet-" First Aid mimes with one hand the large, pointed (and distinctive) fin on Shark's helm with one hand. "And he was down in Cubicron a lot, too- he's a bit taken with Lifeline, I think, or was." He takes another sip of his energon. "I know you don't know what you're going to do, but surely you've at least got a guess? Or something you're hoping for?"
Hot Spot 's grin fades a little. He hides it by taking a swig of his energon. "I just want to be useful," he says, although there's obviously more.
"And?" First Aid coaxes. "I mean, there must be something, right?" He reaches over to lay a gentle hand on the hand that's not holding the energon. "I promise I won't laugh." His face is hopeful.
It's not laughter Hot Spot's worried about. His smile turns fond and slightly wry. "Really," he says. "I want to be useful. I don't expect to be sent off fighting 'cons or... going after their supply lines. Not if that's not where Prowl thinks it's best to put me." He goes for another swig of drink, to cover the fact that he realises he's said too much.
"You'll do well wherever you end up assigned." First Aid says. "I know you'll go wherever Prowl assigns you, I just... well, I wanted to know what you want. It's weird, sometimes- it's like I know you guys, but I don't /know/ you, sometimes." He frowns. "Prowl said that he'd try to take into account what we wanted, after the debriefing the other day- I just thought, maybe.. I don't know." He shrugs, but it's not an unhappy shrug, just a bit confused.
"I'm sorry," Hot Spot says. He puts down the cube to give Aid a quick hug. "I just... I know it isn't a good thing to want... what I want. So I'm trying not to... um, to want it?" he knows he's babbling, so he forges on in the hope he'll make some sense. "I want to get them back for what they did to you," he says. "I'm trying not to, because that's... revenge, it's destructive. It's not what we should stand for. "I really am sorry."
First Aid squeezes his brother back- more tightly, because really, he's not that fragile, honestly. "Don't be sorry. It's not- I don't blame you for wanting that. No one would." It's not what he wants for himself, but to say that might hurt Hot Spot's feelings, and he trusts his brother to know that. "That you know it's destructive and wrong is what's important, after all."
"Yeah," Hot Spot sighs. "I just wish I didn't feel like that. If they do assign me somewhere I'm likely to run into 'cons, especially /those/ 'cons, I don't know what I'd do." He manages a smile again. "I guess I'd like to run guard duty, like Hammerstrike." That little bit of hero worship Hot Spot picked up for Hammerstrike hasn't gone away. "Or go out on patrols, keep Iacon safe that way."
First Aid hugs his brother again before leaning back to pick up his own energon cube and taking another drink from it. "If it helps, from what Prowl said- I think that's what they're going to do. They're still concerned about us being outside the city at all, right now."
Hot Spot nods. "I can understand that." He pauses a moment, trying to work out whether his next question's a good idea or not, then asks anyway. "How did the debriefing go?"
First Aid sighs. "I'm glad it's over. It was hard, but I- Prowl needed to know. he had another mech there too that I hadn't met, although he's technically attached to medical- a psychologist named Smokescreen. I think they want me to be talking to him about what happened." FIrst Aid wraps his hands around his cube and looks at it before giving himself a mental shake and looking up to offer Hot Spot a smile. "He's really nice, it'll probably be good for me."
"As long as you think so," Hot Spot replies. "You know if you wanted to talk anything through with any of us, we'd be happy with that."
First Aid looks down again. "Maybe- maybe someday. Right now.. I don't know. I don't- it was bad enough that Groove had to feel it, too. I don't want-" He struggles to find exactly the right words. "I don't want you feeling sorry for me, or worrying that I'm broken, or anything. I'm okay, or I will be- really, I will! If you want to know more, I'll tell you, I just... I don't know if it's the right thing to do."
"OK," Hot Spot says. "I understand." He can't help feeling a little jealous of Smokescreen, but he figures that Aid will know what's best for himself. "Did Prowl say anything else about where he might want us to be and what we'll be doing?"
First Aid shakes his head, slowly. "Just that we've still got a lot to learn before we need to worry about where we're assigned. He wasn't talking about any of us specificaly, though- Groove and Streetwise are just getting started with training, too. And Blades." First Aid sighs. "I think they're hoping he'll join the rest of us, but don't want to say so." First Aid huffs a sigh. "I don't know why though- *I* want him to join us. I like it better when we're all together."
"Me too," Hot Spot admits. "He'd do well too, I'm sure of it. And even if he doesn't he'll stay in Iacon, won't he? We'll be together even if we're not all Autobots."
First Aid nods. "I just wish he'd /talk/ to me." He frowns, looking sad. "He hasn't. Not since I got back. I don't know if he's mad at me, or... what, exactly. He's just never around."
"Maybe he's scared," Hot Spot says. "I know I was when you first came back. I didn't want to say the wrong thing, but I didn't want you to think it was because of you. It might be similar for him. And now he could be embarrassed and just not know how to approach you."
First Aid nods. "I hope so." He leans against Hot Spot again, unashamedly seeking comfort from the other mech. "I know- it's silly, I don't want to talk to you, and he doesn't want to talk to me. Maybe it's the same, I don't know. I just don't want to hurt you all."
Hot Spot puts an arm around his team mate. "Could be," he says. "Might be worth getting any hurt over and done with. Could be worse if you leave it. But it might not." He gives First Aid a reassuring squeeze, his engine rumbling gently. "He might want to talk to you, and just not know how."
First Aid nods silently, obviously thinking hard. After a long pause, he finally asks the question that remains in his mind. "I- you know I told them things, right? In Polyhex?" His voice is quiet. He doesn't want to lie to his teammates. And for what he kept safe, he also gave up a lot- information that could endanger other mechs.
Hot Spot nods and shuffles around so that First Aid can lean more solidly on him if he needs to. "I remember," he says. There's no judgement in his tone, only acknowledgment.
"Not your name- not anyone's, except Groove- I didn't tell them that, it was in my datapad." His voice is low and a little strained. "But I told them who helped with the decryption and decoding. Ratchet, Wheeljack, and Perceptor. And people who knew more about us- our creators, Adroita- and Alpha."
"You're so strong," Hot Spot says. "You kept us safe." He tries to quiet his engine so that the vibrations are reassuring, but it isn't too loud. "And you came back to us, so now we know what they know."
"I hope so. I- there's stuff I don't remember. I'm just afraid - I'm afraid I told them more, and don't remember." First Aid looks down. "I hate being afraid like this. I just want everything back the way it was."
"Hey," Hot Spot says softly. "If you can't remember, you can't remember. It's not your fault."
"Smokescreen says it's a normal reaction to trauma." First Aid says. "I just wish- well, I wish things were different. I wish you could go on patrols with Hammerstrike like you want to, maybe, and we weren't all stuck in Iacon ilke this. I mean, I love it here, but well... to not be able to leave- there's more we could be doing." He sighs. "But it doesn't matter right now, anyway, I guess." He straightens up and manages a shaky but real smile.
"See what happens when I have too much time to think? Tomorrow is two orns- Ratchet might let me back on shifts soon."
"I hope he does," Hot Spot responds. "And that Smokescreen sounds like he knows what he's talking about. We'll be able to move forward from here. Together. And we won't be stuck in Iacon forever. When we learn to combine... Think how useful we'll be to the cause."
First Aid nods. "I know. It's one of the things I've been thinking about- but well.. Blades, and whatever's messed up in Streetwise's and my code to keep us from transforming, and Groove's transformation cog- did you know that's why lifeline was in Polyhex? She went for us." First Aid shakes his head, incredulous. "I can't believe she did that- but she stole a replacement cog for him from their medical stores."
"We have that now?" Hot Spot's smile returns - not full force, but it's there. "That's... wow. Is she OK?"
"She's fine- the team that got me out- they were originally going in for her." First Aid clasps Hot Spot's arm and squeezes it. "It needs to be retooled, but it's the right type of alloy, and she or Ratchet should be able to do it easily enough now that they have the raw material."
"That's great news." Hot Spot gives Aid a gentle squeeze. "How long do you think it'll take them?"
First Aid shakes his head. "I don't know- it depends on what else is going on, but when Lifeline recast Metro-X's cog, it only took her a few days once she got the process worked out. The alloy is unusual, I don't think Ratchet's worked with it much. Installing it should be pretty simple once they've cast the new cog, though, and that's Groove taken care of." He smiles.
"And after that, we need to work on unlocking your alts." Hot Spot's beginning to sound much more optimistic now. After all, they have a plan, and a small idea how to get there, and after they've done that: gestalt! he knows it won't really be that easy, but knowing that there's a road they can follow is immensely relieving. "And get Blades to come around to the team idea." First Aid nods. "Right." First Aid's smile warms considerably. "And I'm sure Ratchet and the others can figure it out with a little more time- especially since with Streetwise here instead of in Cubicron, that's two samples of whatever's not working instead of one. Assuming it's the same thing, anyway, which makes sense. Then it's jus Blades."
Hot Spot grins and downs the rest of his energon. "We'll get there," he says, and he sounds completely convinced. "Do you feel any better now? I mean, about the not talking thing..."
First Aid nods. "Yeah- I'll talk to him tomorrow, even if I have to set my recharge sequence to wake me up in the middle of the off-cycle. I think he's coming in after I'm recharging and then leaving really early." First Aid looks determined. "Even if he's mad at me- I'm sure I can make it up."
"I'm sure you can, although I don't think he will be," Hot Spot says. "Talking of people we don't see often, have you seen Alpha recently?"
First Aid shakes his head. "No- Not since Polyhex." There's a pause before Polyhex, but it's almost imperceptible. "I asked him to get me out, but he said he couldn't. I asked him to make sure you guys were okay, then, and that I loved you- but he never came back or anything."
This is a surprise to Hot Spot, and his grin again vanishes. "Alpha got into Polyhex?" he says.
First Aid nods. "After - it was after I'd been there for a while. He couldn't do anything- he just talked to me, and then left- he touched me, did something- it hurt less, for a little while. He- he said he would get in trouble, he shouldn't interfere. But he would tell you all where I was, and .. yeah."
Hot Spot 's jaw drops. "In trouble? What did he mean? I don't... If he touched you, why couldn't he get you out?" He forces himself to become calm again. "I'm sorry, I just... I don't understand why he couldn't have helped more."
First Aid shakes his head and looks down. "I don't know either. It.. it helped, but- I don't... I don't think he means us harm, but I don't really think he's... well, normal, either. The whole thing is very strange. I- if it hadn't stopped hurting, I would be pretty sure I'd imagined it, but it was the only time I was able to recharge while I was ... there."
"Not normal, yeah... He didn't come talk to me," Hot Spot says. "Did he talk to Groove or Streetwise?"
"I don't know- I forgot to ask, actually." First Aid says. "I haven't really talked about it with them, either." He frowns. "Do you think Alpha lied to me? He said he would deliver the message."
"I don't know," Hot Spot says. "I'm not sure he's even in his right mind."
"Maybe. I don't know- do you think... he seemed to know things before, though." First Aid is still puzzling through the times he's seen the odd old mech previously. "And the advice he gave me before- it helped. I don't think he wants to hurt us."
"Doesn't mean he's thinking straight," Hot Spot muses. "I agree that he wouldn't want to hurt us, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't be forgetful."
"No, I suppose not." First Aid says. "He said- he said something about Polyhex being someplace he was weaker. I think. I'm not sure I'm remembering it right."
"That's odd," Hot Spot says. He thinks of the time Alpha did something to his... his programming? His self? He's not sure. "But he certainly isn't a normal mech. He..." He shouldn't really say, but he considers his bond to First Aid to be far more important than his promises to a mech who might not even be a mech. "He told me things about myself once. He... unlocked something, I'm not sure exactly what he did. He said I'd be able to, um, to help make your alt mode work. Only I don't know how."
"What did he say, exactly?" First Aid says, in a hushed, excited voice. "I thought it was something with the way our memories were altered, but with the gestalt- there's almost nothing on triple changer cog theory, to say nothing of gestalts."
"He said," and here Hot Spot's voice registers his hope and a little touch of pride, "we have the potential to be like the legends. We need... I need to do everything I can to make sure we have trust and loyalty, all of us together." It isn't everything, but Hot Spot breaks off there, looking at his team mate.
First Aid frowns. "That... that doesn't sound very useful, I'm sorry. Maybe he /isn't/ all there." He sighs. "But just in case- I guess I should talk to Blades. Maybe you should too. I wish we knew if his alt mode worked or not, I've no idea- he's never let us so much as do a surface scan on him."
"That's not all he said." Hot Spot speaks low so that they won't be overheard. "He said patience is the key, and he told me... he told me I was meant to be the, um, leader? And then he did something. We shook hands, and he did something. It felt like a flow of energy, and something... different, like a door opening. It changed things." He shakes his head. Now he says it out loud it does sound a bit odd. "Yeah," he says, "I'll try to talk with Blades."
"Well, you being the leader makes sense, at least." First Aid smiles at Hot Spot. "You're the only one of us who /could/ do it, I think."
You say, "Maybe we should try," he says, brightening a little again. "I mean, just the two of us at first. And Ratchet or someone to oversee and make sure we don't hurt ourselves. We could see if we can... synchronise our systems." He isn't sure where the thought comes from, but he's pretty sure it has something to do with Alpha's door. "If we can access a little bit of the combiner programming. Maybe that's the key.""
First Aid smiles. "That sounds like a good idea. Ratchet, and maybe Perceptor- he's the code expert. That'd be great." He picks up his energon and swirls it around in a cube, then tips it up to drink the last little bit.
"Let's do it!" Hot Spot says. "We should go see when they're free."
First Aid says, "Alright," First Aid smiles- the enthusiasm, again, is contagious. He pushes back from the table and stands up. "Ready whenever you are.""