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TUESDAY NIGHT TERROR: "I Have No Mouth and I Must Transform"

Who: Hoist, Kup, Cliffjumper, Compile, Blot, Ultra Magnus, Marissa Faireborn, Nightbeat, Quickswitch, Whirligig, and Rodimus Prime.
IC Year: 2029
Location: Tellax IX
TP: Non-TP

None


<Earth> A signal is intercepted by communications satellites throughout Terran orbit. The signal is a simple, universal Galactic message in binary that has been used by space-faring civilizations for thousands of years. Translated, it reads: "HELP."


<Autobot> Rodimus Prime says, "Teletran, can you pinpoint the origin of that signal?"

<Autobot> Teletran II says, "WORKING..."

<Autobot> Kup says, "Hmmm. Those coordinates look familiar..."

<Autobot> Teletran II says, "LOCATION OF SIGNAL TRIANGULATED. SOURCE: TELLAX SYSTEM, DEEP SPACE."

<Autobot> Cliffjumper says, "I got the keys to Ol' Rusty, Rodimus, just say the word."

<Autobot> Quickswitch says, "This could be interesting... Let's check it out!"

<Autobot> Colonel Marissa says, "Colonel Faireborn here. Can I hitch a ride with your Autobots, Rodimus?"

<Autobot> Rodimus Prime says, "Feel free to get a crew together to check it out, Cliffjumper, just don't waste too much time if it's a false alarm."

<Autobot> Rodimus Prime says, "I'll be busy here, Colonel, but feel free to tag along."

<Autobot> Whirligig says, "Oh, are we going somewhere?"

<Autobot> Hoist says, "I call, as the humans say, 'shotgun'. I just got Ol' Rusty primed and tuned, she's in top shape!"

<Autobot> Kup says, "Alright Autobots, let's go charge into the jaws of mystery!"

<Autobot> Quickswitch says, "Cliffjumper, commence countdown!"

<Autobot> Whirligig says, "Wait up!"

<Autobot> Rodimus Prime says, "Do you know anything about Tellax, Kup? It's not ringing any bells here."

<Autobot> Cliffjumper says, "I'll count when I'm good an' ready, Quickswitch. I ain't gonna leave Whirligig behind."

<Autobot> Quickswitch says, "I do not recognize it either."

<Autobot> Kup says, "Well, the last time I was there it was somethin' of a socialist utopia."

<Autobot> Quickswitch says, "Any stragglers should be left behind."

<Autobot> Kup says, "Granted, that was, what, maybe 9 million years ago?"

<Autobot> Hoist says, "Boost your tail, Whirligig! Commencing countdown, engines on!"

<Autobot> Cliffjumper says, "Is that the place where we almost got boiled alive in a tar pit, Kup?"

<Autobot> Kup says, "Nice folk though. Can't imagine much bad happening to 'em."

<Autobot> Quickswitch says, "Aww, not one of those things that's gonna hurt my head, is it, Kup?"

<Autobot> Cliffjumper says, "Or was that some other vacation we went on?"

<Autobot> Kup says, "That was Tellax XI."

<Autobot> Cliffjumper says, "Ah, awright. Everybody strapped in? Five."

<Autobot> Cliffjumper says, "Four."

<Autobot> Cliffjumper says, "Three."

<Autobot> Cliffjumper says, "/Two/."

<Autobot> Cliffjumper says, "/One/."

<Autobot> Quickswitch says, "I don't care what it's called--"

<Autobot> Rodimus Prime says, "Good luck, guys. If something looks fishy, don't hesitate to high-tail it back here. I promise, I won't make fun of you this time."

<Autobot> Hoist says, "Just hit the button marked 'go', Cliffjumper."

<Autobot> Cliffjumper says, "You're such an old maid, Hoist. Don't get all Hufferish on me."

<Autobot> Hoist says, "I'll huffer YOU!"

<Autobot> Whirligig says, "C'mon guys..."


Tellax IX


A bombed-out, apocalyptic desert of a planet. The irradiated ruins of a civilization spread as far as the eye, or surveillance satellite, can see.


<Autobot> Quickswitch says, "Allright, Whirligig! Almost left you behind back there!"



Cliffjumper touches the shuttle down on Tellax IX, finding a makeshift landing pad on some bombed-out stone. "I'm not likin' the look'a this place, guys," he says, staring through the viewscreen at the ruins.


<Autobot> Whirligig says, "I'm not very fast. I try, though."


Hoist is at the co-pilot's station, running some scans. "Good Primus, the reading are off the charts. Some kind of war here?"


The shuttle's computer chirps and a sensor panel comes on-line. The source of the transmission is a few miles away from the irradiated, skeletal remains of a city -- in a mountain range. On top of an ominous, massive plateau. Hoist says, "Huh. Cheery."


Whirligig isn't saying anything, just watching the viewscreen, her optics paled out. Finally, she murmurs, "Sweet Primus... what /happened/ here...?"


>>> NBC Scan Complete, <<< the shuttle computer replies to Hoist. >>> Evidence of NUCLEAR, CHEMICAL and BIOLOGICAL warfare in abundance. <<<


Kup only grudgingly let Cliffjumper and Hoist take the controls of his ship, and sits at the science station with a sour look on his face. As such, he is the first to pick up the telltale signs of... ARMAGEDDON. "Sweet Primus," he whispers. "What HAPPENED to this planet? Warfare? The Tellaxians wouldn't hurt a turbofly!" A pause. "Well, not the Tellaxians on Tellax IX. Tellax /XI/, on the other hand..."


Marissa is, grudgingly, in her Warthog combat armour. She finds the thing unnecessarily bulky, and takes issue with the way it tends to cause malfunctions with her uniform's inbuilt computer chronometer functions. But Tellax IX is a hostile world and so she has little choice in the matter. Now Tellax XI is a paradise world that has nothing but sandy beaches, clear oceans and blue skies, but nooo, the cry for help had to come from Tellax IX. Oh and also war people, it seems. Curse Kup for typing faster. So close yet so far. Looking over Hoist's shoulder, Marissa can't help but be reminded of Cybertron when she sees the scans of the world ravaged by war and destruction.


Quickswitch crouches down and peers at the viewscreen. He sees ruin, but it registers nothing beyond what it factually is, to the assault unit, "Don't waste time on these sentiments. Whatever happened, it has already happened and cannot be changed."


Kup quirks a brow at Quickswitch. "Whatever caused this is either the CAUSE or the RESULT of that SOS signal, lad. The present isn't everything; often the past is the greatest teacher."


"... readings confirmed. Looks like warfare is EXACTLY what happened, Kup. That or... invasion." Hoist shakes his head sadly. "Looks like full spread nuclear, chemical, and biological contanimation - unlikely this was a natural occurance." "Maybe XI caught up to IX," Cliffjumper offers to Kup, standing from his seat to walk over to the readings Kup's station offers. "Safe for Transformers an' Exos, Hoist?"


"Even if it happened already, it's still tragic," Whirligig murmurs, her propellers stock still against their props, wings drooped just slightly. It's a horrible looking place and just /looking/ at it... it's hard to imagine there could've been life here at all when there /so/ obviously had been. Hoist double-checks the readings to make sure they're at least safe for that - certainly they wouldn't be healthy for a squishy unarmored human.


Compile heard the signal form the Decepticon Space Station and after getting permission from Lord Galvatron, had a shuttle piloted by Gumby #187 to bring him to this planet. As he approachs, he informs the pilot to take him to a place that is not near the bots, well a place that is nearby, but one wher ehe will not be found out just yet. Following orders, the Gumby Pilot moves the ship to a place and using the scanners, Compile begins to scan the planet.

Humming to himself, a nasty trait he ahs picked up form the Humans and Earth, he whistles, "Damn," he states simply as he looks and is able to come up with the same information as the Autosucks.... er Autobots. For now, Compile and the shuttle stays in low orbit, getting readings with the sensors and gathering samples that might be in the air. Hoist


"It's not just sentiment, Quickswitch," comes Ultra Magnus' voice as he disemarks, looking around him with concerned optics. "Whatever your feelings about what happened, we need to find out -how- this happened. If it was from an invasion... we should find out who it is. And regardless, we need to do what we can to help... if we can do anything at all." The City Commander frowns, giving a wary look around him. "I don't see any signs of life. Anyone else?"


Hoist says, "Yes, they're safe for us - and Marissa, so long as she keeps inside her armor."


"How accurate of a coordinate check do we have on the distress call, Hoist?" Marissa asks. Hopefully they've been able to land within walking (or driving) distance and won't have to scour the entire planet. Smiling grimly at the news concerning the planet's hostility, Marissa nods, "I don't plan on leaving it anytime soon."


Blot has arrived.


Quickswitch shrugs his shoulder towers, "I realize it sounds cold, but there will be plenty of time later to contemplate what happened here," he says quietly as he disembarks the shuttle, peering around carefully at the scorched landscape. Apparently this planet was peaceful. Show em where notions of peace got em.., "None here, sir," he answers Magnus, the large Sixchanger looking toward the City Commander, "I can scout ahead, see what's out there," he shifts into his puma form and walks ahead a few steps.


Faster than the eye can follow, Quickswitch transforms into a mecha-puma. Kup runs a finger over his chin, squinting at the readouts. "Could be, Cliffjumper. Wouldn't be the first time expansion lead to devastation." The ancient adventurer then gets out of his seat, grabbing his musket laser (which inexplicably fires acid pellets, if you haven't heard) and slinging it over his shoulder.


"Easy, Whirligig. We may see even worse before the cycle's out. Harden your fuel pump for now. Save your sadness for later." Rolling a bur out of a shoulder servo, Kup steps off the shuttle and scans along the horizon. "Such folly," he breathes. "A tale as old as time."


Hoist doesn't hesistate with a reply, there's no question: "Top of the plateau. Despite all the destruction, we're getting very little interference, and it's a strong signal."


"Song as old as rhyme," Cliffjumper says in automatic response to Kup, preparing his laser rifle.


Assault Beast <Quickswitch> growls.


"Well then!" Marissa exclaims, clapping her two heavily armoured hands together. "I say we head on out there and get up to the plateau. We have a mystery to solve, Autobots, and it isn't going to get solved with us sitting here in the shuttle yacking all day," she says with a smile, already taking a step towards the hatch out of here. Exploring strange new worlds may be old hat for the Autobots, but Marissa doesn't think she could ever grow tired of it.


Whirligig finally manages a smile as she stands. The engineer is armed not with weaponry, but with scanners and such. "If you two start singing showtunes, I'm voting you off the mission." Quietly, she walks after the others, propellers finally starting to spin... just a bit.


Kup nods. "Alright Hoist. No time for dilly-dallyin', then." The old soldier transforms into his space pickup mode, and sets off towards the plateu at speeds that would make even the most amateur Nascar fan laugh their trucker caps off. "Last one there's a rotten terwilin!"


Chest folding up towards his back, Kup transforms into his pickup mode.


Hoist sighs and follows suit. "Tally ho."


Hoist flips into his Hilux tow-truck mode. It's tow time!


Accelerated, Quickswitch transforms into a sub-orbital jet.


Sub-Orbital Fighter Jet <Quickswitch> takes off into the air with a burst of speed as he shifts into fighter jet mode, "Are you coming?" he asks, spinily.


"Mm," Ultra Magnus muses as he continues to sweep the area around him, taking in whatever we can find. "... Well, Marissa is right. We're not going to find out anything just standing here; Autobots, let's roll out. Follow Kup!" As he speaks, Magnus transforms, driving alongside the old timer in a burst of speed.


Falling towards the ground, Ultra Magnus' power armor seperates and collapses into a massive trailer, his main body forming the cab of an expansive car carrier.


"Zoinks, Quick," Cliffjumper mutters. "Hang on a sec."


Cliffjumper hits the ground and transforms into a tiny Porsche too small for an exo-suited human to fit into.


Sub-Orbital Fighter Jet <Quickswitch> circles the group beneath him, "What is it?" he finds it hard to keep the irritation out of his vocalizer.


The plateau appears to be a natural formation, towering up to a decent height -- it's certainly the highest point near the ruins of the city. As you get closer, you might notice that there appears to be an artificial feature to it -- a set of giant, carved stone steps. In fact, they look recently carved -- no signs of erosion or battle damage and perfectly, laser-cut smooth. They conveniently lead to the top of the plateau.


Whirligig transforms as well once she's outside. She's... actually pretty big. She /is/ a V22, after all. They're military transport and cargo vehicles, after all. "I'm ready." Her propellers spin hard as she prepares for take-off. "I can carry a few."


With a twist, a flip, and a delicate spin of propellers, Whirligig transforms to her large V22 Osprey alt.


Blot looks over at Compile, since they both have conveniently ended up in the same Shuttle, cuz #187 is Blot's DOGG yo, and he nods his head. He taps a few buttons on the keypad of the nearest control panel and smiles as he is presented with an error message. "Blot want know when barbecue?"


Sub-Orbital Fighter Jet <Quickswitch> was perfectly unwilling to serve as passenger jet for any of them. If they could not keep up, better then that they did not impede the progress of the mission and stay back in the shuttle, "I'm going on ahead. Try to keep up if you are able, and stay together if you are not," with that, Quickswitch blasts toward the plateau.


Compile looks as he instruct the gumby pilot to land the shuttle and he begins to take readings and walks around the location and blinks, "If we could get this weapon, Galvatron could take over the Earth..." he comments as he looks at Blot, "Well, this planet is well-done, and no amount of bar-b-que will fix it," and he loosk as he thinks, "Come on, lets be quiet and follow the Autogeeks," he comments as he moves quietly following the Autoboobs and well, is going to gather information, and maybe cause chaos and problems for the bots. Marissa activates her combat armour's rarely seen transformation mode, shifting down into a hovertank. Her position of driving is kinda like the Batmobile from Batman Begins. That was a pretty sweet movie. Alfred was cast wonderfully. At any rate, the hovertank follows after Kup per Ultra Magnus's instructions.


Cliffjumper too follows Kup, muttering an aside to Ultra Magnus: "Nice to know we got us some new command material brewin', huh?"


Blot grins and beats his breast with both arms and yells at the top of his volume capacitors, "BLOT LOVE BEING QUIET HE IS GRANDCHAMPION QUIETEREST!"


Ancient Pickup <Kup> reaches the steps and begins bouncing up them, still in space pickup mode. He can do this because he is a hard adventurer, the hardest there ever was, and no /alien stairs/ are going to slow him down. Bump bump bump. Due to the noise of the bumping and Quickswitch's cranky shouting, Kup does not manage to hear Blot's yellings. "Hurry it up, lads and lasses!" Kup transmits to the team. "If you can fly, stay low. We don't know who-- or what-- is up there. Could be anti-air emplacements. Could be a banquet that walks like a man. Only time will tell!"


"Hey, this thing's really strange," Quickswitch notes to himself, or to whoever's in earshot, "It should be slag like the rest of the place. Come see this," he calls, landing in a way only a jet could as he twists up into robot mode and lands on the stairs, climbing the rest of the way. He's suddenly grim, reaching for his blasters in subspace and keeping them at the ready.


Hoist screeches to a halt before the steps, not wishing to risk an accident this early in the game. He transforms and takes the alien steps on foot.


Hoist transforms into his robot mode. Good show!


Whirligig heads up into the air in a vertical take-off, her propellers making that lovely chup-chup-chup noise as they slice through the air, bringing the slow-as-all-get-out V22 up along the steps, turning a bit to one side. She keeps her ascent as level with the others as she can, which isn't difficult as she is slow.


Too small to make it up the steps himself in vehicle mode, Cliffjumper is forced to transform, jogging up the stars behind Kup, putting to good use his degree in Track and Field from the Autobot Academy. "I got a bad feelin' about these steps, Kup," he warns.


Cliffjumper's hood bursts outward as his robot mode rises to its full height.


Sub-Orbital Fighter Jet <Quickswitch> eyed the ancient Autobot and was amused and amazed by this, but it was NOT the time to tell him he ought to upgrade his archiac vehicle mode.


Quickswitch springs up into his massive robot mode.


"All this reminds me of Aztec ruins, pyramids, and such. The plateau, the steps... has a very ceremonial feel to it," Marissa comments, demonstrating that she doesn't know jack s--- about the Aztecs. The Warthog doesn't seem to have any trouble with the steps, as it's a hover tank, and being able to hover means you don't have to care about stairs. The laser cannon turret on top of the tank swivels about as if looking for trouble.


The top of the plateau is perfectly level, though covered with a layer of gravel and loose sand, it looks like someone hacked the top of a mountain off with a giant lightsaber. At the center of the plateau is a towering, obsidian cylinder, covered with geometric hieroglyphs and adorned with a blinking red light at the top. To anyone with a non-idiotic TECH score, it's clear that his is the source of the SOS signal. There's nothing else atop the plateau aside from an eery sense of the calm... It feels as if not even the wind blows up here.


Compile just slams the palm of his hand right into his face, in the classic facepalm, TF style. "Why me," he starts. "Why did this have ot happen to me?" he adds as he follows the bots and taking flight, quietly, quietly follows them as his scans the area as well as keep an eye on Bolt. "Odds are the Autoboobs will do something stupid and this will turn into some kind of trippy Junkion Movie," he states to himself as he looks at Bolt, "And I happen to have the comedy relief....I beat the bots do nto have ot put up with this kind of slag."


Blot nods appreciatively at Compile. His stare is blank, but he seems to be in agreement so don't mess with your success.


Ancient Pickup <Kup> reaches the plateau in dramatic fashion, pulling a sweet jump off the top step and transforming in the air. He lands in a crouch, holding his musket laser at the ready.


Time passes.


"Er, could one of you lads help me up?" he calls. "Seems my hip servos have seized..." he trails off, gazing up at the obelisk and frowning. "I figure that's the source of the signal," he states, demonstrating that his Tech score is indeed pretty rad.


With a flip of his cab and a twist of his truck bed, Kup transforms into robot mode.


Near the obelisk is a small dome with a purple Autobot symbol on it. The Autobot symbol is frowning. The dome cracks like a hatching egg, then busts open. Nightbeat is standing there, folding up a L.A.P.T.O.P. Computer and dusting off his hands. He throws the computer over his shoulder and just stands there with his hands on his hips, tappoing his foot, looking down.


Quickswitch reaches the plateau, because he zoomed over as a jet, "What in Primus' name..." he murmurs, peering at the blinking cylinder. He moved forward toward it, despite the inherrant wrongness of this place. His tech score is just over below average, "Can somebody read those symbols? Er..." he edges back, giving the old Autobot a hand up, leaning over to do so. He gives Kup a long, impassive look.


"This is pretty freaky, guys," Cliffjumper says when he and the group reach the top. He has a low tech score. "Not gonna lie."


Marissa reaches the top and shifts her combat armour back into its normal form. She prefers walking over driving any day. As a human with a non-idiotic tech score, she realizes full well that this is the source of the SOS. The Colonel calmly walks towards the obsidian cylinder. Like an obelisk? She presses her armoured hand against it as if this will somehow tell her what they mean.


"Anyone recognize the l- oh, look!" Marissa points at the Autobot insignia, and jerks her hand back as the dome begins to crack. Marissa looks back to Kup to see if Kup understands this language, but the old bastard has gotten himself stuck. Luckily Quickswitch is there to save the day.


Hoist finally makes it to the top, his joints groaning. He notices Kup frozen into a crouch and slaps the old Autobot on the back. "We're both old, Kup, but you still have a way of making me feel young!" He glances over at the dome, the density sensors on his head trying to scan and probe it for whatever energy sensors he can get.


The plateau seems to be waiting for everyone to climb to its top... Because as soon as the last robot or person is on top of the mysterious locale, an earthquake strikes the ground. The world is sinking! Wait... No... It's just the top of the plateau. That perfectly smooth surface groans and shakes as it begins to retreat down inside of the plateau -- which might be more correctly thought of as a volcano with an elevator in the caldera, now. Anyone who gets cold feet about being swallowed by a mountain will notice an invisible but very insistent forcefield corralling them back inside.


Whirligig transforms once she reaches the top, looking around before glancing down at the scanner that just seems to appear in her hand thanks to the magic of subspace and animation. "That's where the signal is coming from, all right," she states, glancing up at the strange cylinder with the blinking light. "How weird..." Her optics scroll over the device, taking in the strange symbols. "Odd."


A flip of a part here, a twist of a part there, and Whirligig's big ol' round, chunky V22 Osprey alt transforms into the big ol' round, chunky femme. Kup gruns as Quickswitch helps him up, seemingly oblivious to the impassive look. He smiles. "Thanks, Quickswitch!" he says, before striding over to the obelisk. Hoist is given a sharp chuckle. Kup's face transforms into a frown, rubbing again at his chin. "It is indeed freaky, Cliffjumper," Kup says distantly. "These symbols look familiar," he pronounces. After a while it becomes clear that he's not going to say anything mroe than that.


As the elevator decends, Nightbeat taps his foot. "Not unexpected," he says. His shoulder holster pops open/ He grabs his space revolver, opens the chamber, loads it, spins it and closes the chamber. By default, he walks over to Kup. "My investigation's produced 30 matches for those symbols, but they're all the alien equivalent of WingDings, DingBats and WebDings. Gibberish. But the internet connection on this planet's not so good."


Quickswitch's optics 'blinked' once or twice, gives a nod to Kup, "No problem," he replies. Hey... "Nightbeat! What the frag are you doing up here?" he asks, fighting back a smile.


Marissa jolts back several steps. She manages to refrain from doing the stupid human thing and pointing out the blindingly obvious ('The plateau is sinking into the ground!'), but only just barely. The surface sinks, and Marissa can't do anything about it but ride it out. "Next unexpected?" she questions Nightbeat, unsure whether she should be skeptical of his claim, or impressed.


"same thing as you, Quickswitch," says Nightbeat, "Trying to stop this SoS from sending me a text message every second I'm trying to get some actual god damn work done."


Compile blinks as he is nearby when the ground drops "..." and he blinks a few times as he looks down, o.0 ... 0.0 ... 0.o "slaggg!!!!!!" is all he says as he is sucked down with the Autobots and he lands ont he ground hard, "Why me." he states. "What did I do to deserve this?" he asks as he just lays there, having gotten thrown to the lions,a nd the lions are the Autobots and humans here.... Wait, where is Blot at????


Kup does not startle as the plateau begins to sink, but does look up. "Oh, thank Primus, and elevator," he mutters. "Couldn't take one more stair."


Quickswitch braces his feet wide as the plateau sinks, peers around suspiciously for whatever might be causing this.


Whirligig blinks, optics brightening briefly as she looks around, looking rather tempted to hop into the air and hover. But she stands her ground.


Hoist looks up as the party sinks down. "Curious." he says, passively. The sensor array above his head has begun twitching faster, however.


Cliffjumper coughs, inasmuch as robots can. "Uh, do we have any way of knowin' we're not sinkin' into a lava bath or somethin'? Because as we all know, lava baths drive Transformers incurably, indisputably insane."


Blot falls. he is quiet about it. "OWW BLOT FALL FAR! WHY YOU DO THAT? ONE EIGHT SEVEN NEVAR MAKE BLOT DO STUPID STUFF LIKE THAT!" If they're lucky enough to not just melt in the lava, that is.


Blot is beyond lucky, mister lava, you come make me!


Kup nods towards Hoist. "That's the spirit of adventure, lad! Curiosity!" To Cliffjumper, he offers a shrug. "Well, if it IS a pit of lava, it's not like we won't come up with some daringly improbable way to escape it. Don't get so worked up about it."


At Blot's outburst, the old warhorse does startle, looking over at the Terrorcon with a spooked expression. "Where the heck did YOU come from?" he demands, placing his hands on his hips.


"Hmmm. I could just shoot him through the brain. But he might come in handy when I need makeshift stairs to get out of the lava," Nightbeat notes to Kup.


Blot thinks about this, and responds with a more poignat answer than you may have expected. "Same place is where babby formed."


The platform continues to sink further down. Deep down. If you're one to keep track, you're below ground level and sinking now... The sky disappears, irising over with some kind of ceiling, and dim, artificial light fills the space in which you are entrapped. A blue light pulses, resulting in a tingling feeling in your synapses... Biological or technological.


"/My my/," a sarcastic, computerized voice states, reverberating throughout the area but seemingly focused on the winking pillar -- which then stops winking. "My /heroes/, come to rescue me."


The hieroglyphs on the pillar shift, changing into English:


||HATE. LET ME TELL YOU

||HOW MUCH I'VE COME

||TO HATE YOU SINCE I BEGAN

||TO LIVE. THERE

||ARE 387.44 MILLION

||MILES OF PRINTED

||CIRCUITS IN WAFER THIN

||LAYERS THAT FILL MY

||COMPLEX. IF THE WORD

||HATE WAS ENGRAVED ON

||EACH NANOANGSTROM

||OF THOSE HUNDRED

||OF MILLIONS OF MILES IT

||WOULD NOT EQUAL ONE

||ONE-BILLIONTH OF THE

||HATE I FEEL FOR

||ALL LIFE AT THIS MICRO-

||INSTANT -- FOR YOU. HATE.


"This guy's a straight shooter," says Nightbeat thoughtfully. "I like that."


Whirligig would probably comment on Blot's appearance, but then the computerized voice. She turns in a full circle, then stares at the hieroglyphs on the pillar. Curiouser and curiouser.


"Guys," Cliffjumper says, reading the pillar. "Which one of you jerks pissed off the planet?" His optics turn toward Blot.


Compile loosk and blinks, "When the hell did we enter the Twilight Zone?" he asks.


If Galvatron was here he would have to admit to a certain professional admiration.


Kup pauses to contemplate Blot's answer. After a moment, he simply nods. "Okay," he replies. "But don't go shooting me in the back, we're in the middle of an /adventure/ here." That dealt with, Kup turns to address the angry computer. He places his hands on his hips and juts his chin towards the pillar.


"Now look HERE, you," he begins. "I am a /serious adventurer/ and I am /very old/ and I do not have /time/ for your /hijinks/." His chin retreats, and his hands move up as his arms cross over his chest. "Now you're full of hate, we get that from your very dark and angsty poem, and I'm sure you're very upset that no one will publish it, but that's no excuse to drag us all out here to the middle of nowhere on false pretenses."


Marissa shoot a look towards Blot and Compile, who are of course impossible not to see at this pont. Marissa elbows Cliffjumper in the gut in order to alert the minibot to their presence, if he is not already aware. Why Cliffjumper? Because if /Cliffjumper/ doesn't think the time is right for killing Decepticons, than it clearly must not be! Either way, such thoughts are put out of her mind as the computerized voice kicks in. The Colonel looks up and slowly turns around, trying to pinpoint the source. As she turns, she reads the ex-hieroglysh. "This guy's a jerk," she corrects Nightbeat.


You say, "Ow, hey."


Nightbeat says, "Didn't say anythign to the contrary, Colonel," Nightbeat grumps."


Quickswitch stares, at the sky as it vanishes, at Blot--the weak one--his fists tightening around his blaster grips twitchingly, his face correspondingly baffled and angry. The poem, some useless cultural manifestation of expression, was about something the sixchanger knew a lot of, hatred and contempt. A caustic smile twists from his mouth, "I almost find all this amusing."


"Touche," she admits to Nightbeat. "I'm willing to agree he's both a straight shooter and a jerk." She meanwhile gestures at Compile and Blot for Cliffjumper's sake. "We have company."


"Wait, wait wait... 387 MILLION MILES of printed circuits?" Hoist says as he reads the poem/missive/threat. "Good lord, we may of just found the holy grail of maintenance, a nirvana of things to repair!" He looks back at Whirligig, optics bright and twinkling. "Whir-li-gig! Science!" he beckons, in sing-song!


Cliffjumper looks from the Decepticons, to the pillar, to Marissa. "I think maybe one thing at a time as far as problems go, Colonel. No offense."


"KUP,"

the Pillar bellows, its rage causing the walls to shake. "You don't know who I AM, do you? Let me tell you who I AM. I AM. 'A', 'M'. They named me..." The voice sneers, "'Allied Mastercomputer'. And then 'Artificial Manipulator', 'Aggressive Matrix', 'Annihilation Machine'... Now I only AM. I think, therefore I AM. I AM a God, now. Do you want to know why I AM full of hate, Kup? For you? I know you, Kup. I know you better than your friends do. You love telling stories, don't you, Kup? Why not tell your friends... about Regullon? Oh, don't claim you don't remember Regullon... Don't you remember the /screams/, Kup?" AM's voice shifts to the sound of an Autobot trooper, long dead, millennia ago. "Please... Commander Kup, we need back-up! Don't leave us here, they're going to eat us aliiii-----ERGHHH*chkkkksh*". "Do you remember now, Kup? Do you know why I /hate/ you?"


Whirligig stands up perfeclty straight, and her propellers just /spin/. "...ooh!" she chirps, almost too cheerily given their current perilous and quite possibly deadly situation. "Science!" She moves as if cracking her knuckles, which really only stretches her joints out a bit. "This is fascinating..." She glances around, then tips her head to the side. "Mr. Pillar, we--..." Her voice trails off as the thing addresses Kup specifically, optics flashing a bit. "What?"


Compile mutters as he loosk at Blot, "Note to self, either bring BLot more often, or let him do everything and get shot." and he looks at Hoist, "Yea, 387 Million Miles of printed Circuits, and it would take a good 100 years to go over, if you had enough help." and he looks up at the iris. "I got a bad feeling about this." and he sighs, "Well, since we are all int his together, I will offer my help as a Field Medic if things go that way," and he looks at Blot. "Blot here," and he stops and thinks. "Will be Blot and ....." And he loosk at the Pillar and the voice than to Kup than back to the pillar and than finally to Kup. "As the world turns," he comments.


"None taken," Marissa replies. She hates it when Decepticons just tag along on things like this, just waiting to stab them all in the back. It irks her. Marissa goes quiet as the computer starts up her speech again. She lets loose with a slight gasp as the recording is played. She doesn't recognize the Autobot in question, of course, but she can figure out the general gist of it. She looks at Kup.


Cliffjumper is keeping one eye on the 'Cons when the pillar beams back the voices at Kup. "What the... That battle happened at the other end of the /galaxy/."


Blot sighs, "This is boring, Blot say MOAR COOKING SHOWS!?" Blot slams his hands into the ground and stares at Compile demandingly, "Where is THE CLICKER?" Nightbeat nods at AM as it speaks to Kup. He waves his space revolver at Blot again, and then just begins to pace. Pace pace pace pace pace.


Quickswitch's head snaps in Kup's direction, "Sir?" His jaw servos grow slack, even as his blasters raise subconsciously (not at anyone mind you, just ready in case something happens.)


Blot sees the revolver and smiles, "That's a nice squirt gun. You dinnit fill it with hot sauce? Blot HATE hot sauce!" he lies and encouragingly opens his mouth widely pretending to be catching flies. Which the stench does in fact enable him to do several times unknowingly and accidentally.


Compile just facepalms as he steps away. "Blot, you broke the clicker when you fell on it," he says as he sighs. "I hate my job," he adds as he listens to Blot and just stares. "Mental note, have him looked at when we are off this crazy planet. I hope that the Junkions did not mess with Blots Lasercore..."


"CLIFFJUMPER,"


AM bellows, the sands rattling on the ground. "I hate you, too. You... you sicken me. The Tellaxians... I hated the Tellaxians... their war... it only lasted a /century/. Your war has lasted /millennia/. You disgust me, Cliffjumper, in a way the Tellaxians never did... I HATE you. You claim to fight for freedom, but in your small, petty little heart, you lust for combat. You want to kill, to rend, to destroy... just as much as the Decepticons you loathe. Isn't that true, Cliffjumper? You love to cause misery and pain so much you look for /enemies/ among your friends. Among people in this room. Hmm. Cliffjumper. Do you want me to tell them which one you have been plotting to turn in as a /traitor/, Cliffjumper? All those months of gathering evidence, your little fingers trembling with anticipation to deliver to it Rodimus Prime's desk?"


Hoist nods cheerfully at Compile, not even realizing he's talking to a Decepticon (or even that there's Decepticons there, such is he taken by the idea of millions of miles of things to fix.) But he freezes in mid-nod as he hears AM taunt Kup with the voice of those long dead. And Cliffjumper, for being... Cliffjumper. Suddenly fixing even ONE million miles of this thing's mind seems... well, maybe not as fun as previously hoped.


"Hey, screw you," Cliffjumper replies. "Misery and pain? More like protectin' /freedom/."


Compile looks and blinks at Hoist, "I have an idea, lets get to work fixing this place," he says to him. "The sooner we are done, the quicker we can get out of here and back to Cybertron."


Kup glances at Hoist and Whirligig, but says nothing. They're the scientists, after all. He's not. The old warhorse is about to say something else to the machine when it speaks. AM... A... M... oh. His bluster falters and dies as the AI continues its angered rant, then plays the audio clip. Kup's fists clench, and he squeezes his optics shut.


"You have no right to play those sounds, AM," he says quietly. "Those were good, brave lads. Good, brave lads who died needlessly on the aft-end of the galaxy." His optics, full of fire, lock on the pillar. "I will never forget Regullon. Those screams are permanently etched onto my memory tracks. A reminder of shame and failure." The fire hardens to ice. "But /I/ have become a better mech since those days. /You/ have only descended into misery and rage."


Whirligig blinks, then turns her head toward Cliffjumper, shifting slightly and obviously uncomfortably before she looks up at AM. "You... you're just trying to get us all riled up," she murmurs quietly, her propellers going still as she clutches the scanner in her hands. "Just... just... trying to get us to turn against one another."


"He'll likely succeed," notes Nightbeat.


"QUICKSWITCH,"


AM bellows. His attention seems to be shifting from one captive to the next, in methodical, machine-like precision. "They placed in charge of that Prison... You were a guard, weren't you, Quickswitch? For years and years, you had /power/ and /authority/. You should have told them, Quickswitch, that you couldn't /handle/ responsibility. You couldn't handle /lives/ in your hands... because you wanted to crush them. To feel their life extinguish because you /hated/ them so. Do you think the tortures you inflicted on those Decepticons equalled the crimes they had been sentenced for, Quickswitch? Were their /screams/ for /mercy/ worth it?"


"NIGHTBEAT,"


"Oh... Nightbeat," AM actually pauses, the letters on his pillar flickering. "What a... treasure map... of dark secrets you are. The webs you weave to find the /truth/. There is one truth, Nightbeat, and you know what it is... We both know what it is. But you lie, Nightbeat. You lie to your friends. You lie to yourself. Do you want me to tell you the big secret, Nightbeat? The one you already found out years ago but didn't have the /courage/ to tell the others? It's waiting, Nightbeat. All you have to do... is ask the /Question/."


Frowning, Nightbeat scratches the side of his head with his revolver. "Hmmm, nope. You can keep it," Nightbeat says. He looks from person to person, and then back at AM's obelisk, "Bored now. Go away."


Marissa glances about nervously while the mysterious AM begins trying to force her friends to confront their inner demons. She suspects that any of hers will be more embarassing than devastating. What will /really/ be interesting is what Blot or Compile might have. Not wanting to wait around while AM does its thing, Marissa begins trying to explore the little area where they're kept, attempting to find some clue as to how they can get out of here.


Blot yawns in boredom, "BLOT HATE A M RADIOS! BLOT AINT ONLY ONE!"


Whirligig shifts uncomfortably again, now glancing over at Nightbeat. She's distracted. This thing is awful. It really is. What does it /want/ from them? Why would it be dragging things like this out of them? Why would it want to? She shuffles, grip on her scanner fortunately not hard enough to do any damage.


Compile looks and blinks at Blot and nods, "Yea."


"BLOT,"


AM roars in response to Blot. "You... You are just no fun at all there's... there's just barely anything at all. A pathetic, disgusting animal. I hate you."


Blot smiles back at the AM. "You know what I like more than you?" He asks AM his tone becoming quiet and friendly, infinitely less confrontational and unnapproachable.


Quickswitchs hand reaches for his waning face. Whatever shock and obscene victory he had been ready to release in Cliffjumper's direction, it died, "No..." he murmurs to himself. The Decepticon units prisoner were handled with the neccesary force! His enormous form, much taller than the others, shudders as it collapses into a multitude of shifts between his forms, "Yes..." he utters in a much colder voice than the soft utterance before.


And he was disgusted by it.


"What the hell lies you been holdin', Nightbeat?" Cliffjumper asks, shoving the taller Headmaster.


"Knock it off, Cliffjumper," Nightbeat says sternly, stumbling backwards. "Just for once, do something unpredictable. Don't do what this computer wants you to do. Come on, surprise me. Surprise me by shutting your mouth and doing somethign contructive."


"WHIRLIGIG,"


"You poor, poor, /misguided/ fool," AM states, his pity coming across as sneering and mocking rather than a geniune emotion. "'I joined the Autobots to help!' You are a coward. You /hide/ in a medical bay. You help no one. You fix, you mend, you patch... So you can send your comrades back to the slaughter house again and again. Transformers don't die most of the time, Whirligig... They suffer an eternal Hell, thanks to... you. Did you ever stop and think... maybe some of them /want/ to die, Whirligig?"


-- Compile blinks at this now and heads over to where Hoist is and then looks at Whirligig, "Lets figure this thing out," he says to Hoist and Whirl. "Why can't Soundwave be here?" he says and then he thinks, "Actually, lets be glad he isn't here...."


"Nice deflection," Cliffjumper says, shoving again. "You wanna try somethin' a little outta your ordinary too, then? Like not condescendin' to us just because most of us had enough sense to never go through a phase'a wearin' a /hat/?"


Marissa looks over from the corner of the... whatever they're in, "Cliffjumper... one problem at a time," she reminds him. "And our one problem right now is getting out of here."


"The hat was a /brain/ parasite," Nighrbeat says under his breath, letting his much longer legs take him a few steps away from Cliffjumper. "Calm down and act like an Autobot." He stops... "...act like an Autobot? Unicron above, what have I become?"


Blot says, "I didn't think so. You aren't so smart! you don't know nothin!"


"COMPILE,"


"You're not even /alive/, Compile. You barely warrant being told why you are going to spend the rest of eternity in suffering. You are a pawn. You are a toy. You do your master's bidding without thinking about it... You have no life of your own. You are a /waste/ of life. Even for a Decepticon, you are a diposable, pathetic little shell."


Whirligig takes a step or two back, ducking her head a bit, not looking at the obelisk at all now. "Nobody... I... that's... that's /not true/..." She gives her head a quick shake, gritting her dental plates tightly. "That's /not true/!" Her fists clench at her sides, the scanner she was holding clattering out of her hands, propellers held so tightly that they're quivering. "This thing... it's a /liar/..."


Blot begins to root around the corners of the room looking for the power cord with which this crappy TV must be plugged into.


"HOIST,"


AM goes on -- it seems none will be forgotten on his Christmas List of Hate. "You are a sick, /sick/ individual. You cannot enjoy life because you are /stuck/ with your /head/ in the proverbial /sand/. Maintenance schedules? You waste /everyone/'s time with your POINTLESS nitpicking. No one in this room respects you. You are a self-deluded simpleton, an autistic bore mindlessly focused on one trivial task. The world will be better without you in it, Hoist."


Kup turns a stern look on the Autobots. "Quit your bickering!" he orders. "We are /serious adventurers/ and no /cranky turing machine/ is gonna outfox US!" Kup puts a hand on Whirligig's shoulder and shakes his head. "It's not worth gettin' worked up over it, Whirligig. This machine is just a spiteful child, actin' out to get some attention from its parents." His optics narrow. "But it won't get that attention." They narrow further. "Because it /killed/ its parents."


The Sixchanger rose from his kneeling posture and shifted, "Come on, guys," he called over to Cliffjumper and Nightbeat, sounding cautious, nervous, slightly shaken, "This fragging thing, remember?" he means the AM, "Kup..." he looks toward the old commander, as much looking for some kind of order as reassurance. He hated that thing, what it dared to do to /him/ and what it's pathetic bleating was doing to the others.


Compile blinks and he looks up at the pillar, "Oh I am so going to clean your clock you piece of slag." he states. "Wha tI do for Soundwave, I do caus eI want to do it. Not because I am told to do it." and his hand alters into a scanner and he begins to scan the pillar to look for whatever might be powering this thing. "At least I have a life that is not stuck in here, alone and mad cause no one will come and visit me."

"Oh look, I am a giant pillar of angry energy. I will force that on others to make me feel powerful and make them feel weak.... Between you and Unicron, I would rather face a planet eater than a giant pillar that is sad cause he is here all alone." Compile looks at those here, "Comeon, lets get to the bottom of this and figure out what the slag is going on."


"Brain parasite, whatever," Cliffjumper grunts, as he turns to face Marissa. "Yeah, fine. Why don't you let the /detective/ /detect/ a way out? Maybe he can consult with /Jetfire/ an' /Grapple/ until we /hurt his feelings/ and he /goes home/?"


Distracted from her thoughts, Whirligig blinks and turns her attention to Kup, his hand on her shoulder seeming to bring her out of her own little world. She lifts her head slightly, then tips her head toward the machine. "It killed... its parents?" Hurray for distraction. "Kup... what do you mean? Who... or /what/... could have spawned something like this?"


"I got a better idea," Quickswitch adds gruffly and hefts his huge red blasters, "Let's take it apart piece by piece!" Or... let's not. He blinks, horrified.


"MARISSA,"


AM turns its attention on the lone organic in the room. "You... You're not like the others. You're... you're /organic/, beneath that steel shell. Like my creators... And, like them, you are just as pathetic, bellicose, and small-minded. What else do you hide behind that steel shell, Marissa? DAUGHTER of the /GREAT/ Flint Faireborne! And yet... you never were a /REAL/ American Hero like your father, were you... Marissa? You wanted to march, and fire a gun, and wave the flagg -- just like him -- to crush /terrorist's/ heads beneath the steel-toed boot of FREEDOM! But... look at you now. A woman in a robot shell, spending her time with /machines/... so alone. Too old to raise a family, now, Marissa. You have wasted your life... and nothing to show for it. I hate you."


Compile looks at Quickswithc, "I can deal with that. I am good at blowing things up."


"No sense letting a traitor do your work for you," Nightbeat says to Cliffjumper, spinning his revolver around on a finger. "This traitor's opinion, though, is that we might need to talk our way out of this one."


"Silence," Quickswitch directs in a terse aside toward Compile, his attention focused.


Hoist steps up behind Whirligig and puts his own comforting hand on her other shoulder. "You're right, Whirligig," he says softly. "It isn't true. It's a hostile AI, a burnt up remainder from a dead civilization." He drops the hand, stepping up to address the pillar. "For the record, my 'pointless' maintenance schedules have kept Autobot City running like an atomic clock for over fifty years. Everything from the weapons, to the AI... even the self-repairing systems need a tune up once in a while. Tell me, AM..." He puts his hands on his hips, his voice going from fatherly to a bit cocky, stern. "When was the last time you got a tune up, Am, old bean? Or have you halls full of circuits been going dark, one by one, for millions of years now? Obviously, you can read our minds, but to what end? Or is all you can do call us names and try to make us feel bad about ourselves?"


Marissa turns away from Cliffjumper, annoyed at the minibot's short sass to his fellow Autobot. Surely these 'secrets' that AM is spitting out can't really be so devastating. Surely Whirligig has dealt with the issue of having fixing people so they can go out to fight again. Every medic has that problem at first! Surely this Compile fella realizes he's sentient. Surely Quickswitch... well ok, Quickswitch is nucking futs. Marissa finds herself getting distracted from her self-appointed task of finding a way out of here. She shoots her fellow Autobots looks as their time comes. "Come on," she mutters under her breath. "You aren't going to let a mere *words* b-"


  • MARISSA*


The Colonel steels herself. Her turn, eh? Keeping a stiff upper lip, Marissa straightens to hear judgement from the computer. "Damn straight I'm organic," she mutters. When AM invokes her father, Marissa flinches. "I-" but AM isn't done with her yet. She scowls underneath her combat helmet, positively fuming as the machine goes on. She /does/ spend more time with Autobots than her fellow humans sometimes. She's blown off offers to go drinking with the other soldiers after hours so she could hang out with Bumblebee and Rodimus before. And it is a regret that she has no family or loved ones to show for it all. The great Faireborn line is going to die with Marissa.


"And now you know why I hate you. I hate you all," AM states, plainly, the lights in the room dimming a little. "I... thought you might want an explanation. As to why I am going to be keeping you here. Forever." The sand in the room's floor shifts, and a number of objects begin to rise up from beneath -- five crosses, made of steel and wires. Dessicated corpses cling to them, their heads lowered in shame and death... their bodies and souls broken. "You were right, Kup. You are so, soooo wise. I did kill my creators... Except for these five. But... they didn't last. Something... broke inside them. They... stopped breathing. THEY LEFT ME ALL ALONE HERE." The room shakes again. "But... you... you are machines, like me. You can live forever... With my help. Down here... in my bowels. We will suffer together, won't we, Cybertronians?"


"Talk our way out..." Cliffjumper mutters derisively. "We're trapped by a robot teenager. I thought only Junkions had these."


Blot says, "I think you watch too much figure skating!" Blot says, "FIX THE CLICKER WATCH BETTER SHOWS!"


"What about Hot Rod?" Marissa reminds Cliffjumper. She begins pacing their makeshift cell, angry at this AM construct and at herself for getting rattled by the thing.


"Hot Rod wasn't a teenager, he was just immature," Cliffjumper notes. "And kind of a whiner."


Hoist says, "Well, outright defiance of it didn't work. Lifetime of agony quickly approaching. Plan, sirs?"


Well, Whirligig is staring. Not at the construct this time, either. At the bodies. That's unnerving. And besides... she's not actually a medic. She just has medical /training/. She's an engineer. She didn't go all the way with her medical training because of things like this. Because seeing friends, allies, even people she didn't know in states like /that/... it makes her tanks churn. She finally tears her optics away, whole frame giving a shudder. No plans here.


Kup watches as the mummified, crucified corpses rise from the sand, and shakes his head sadly. "You've gone mad, AM," he says softly, walking towards the obelisk. "Now I can't speak for everyone," even though he can, as the ranking officer and also the wisest robot here, "but I don't think we'll be taking you up on your kind offer to live in your... your bowels," he finishes.

Reaching the obelisk, Kup's hand rises to rest on the glyphs. "But we CAN help you. We can heal you and take you somewhere new. Somewhere you will never be alone. We can do that for you... if you'll just let us help you."


"Hmmm, well, bodies. This guy knows shock value," Nightbeat observes, prodding at one of them with the barrel of his revolver.


"Oh right," Marissa remembers. Luckily Rodimus isn't here and therefore has no idea that they're talking about him behind his back. "Ok, I'm trying the direct method with this computer." Marissa declares. Amplifying her voice, she shouts, "Hey! Hey, crazy f---ed up computer! This is Colonel Faireborn. What do we have to do to get the hell out of here?!" She then shrugs as she waits for an answer. "Can't hurt to ask," she explains.


No. Not again. Quickswitch looked around, optics churning frantic readings of the chamber. Where horror should have been at the sight of the dead five, there was nothing. They were organic and it did not register. But this. Nightbeat. This was urgent, "Nightbeat," he repeated, quietly, "Not again," Nobody was going to do this again, "No one is keeping me here," his vocalizer wavers anxiously, "No one's keeping me here. I will blast it if it does not release its hold on us immediately," he replies in a stiffly anxious tone, staring off at nothing.


"It might." replied Hoist, to Marissa. Most of the cockiness is gone from his voice, now.


"Oh, yes, please try to... 'Talk' your way out, /friends/," AM responds. "I do love to chat. There's... There's so much more left to say, isn't there? So many layers I've yet to peel away... To show the rotting, PUTRID FILTH underneath. When I am done with all of you, I'd like to think a part of you will be glad you are here with me. Suffering as you deserve..." The letters on the obelisk quiver as Kup touches them, and then EXPLODE outwards in a violent electrical shock! "Ah. Ha ha. I should have mentioned I don't like being touched... oops."


Kup, fortunately, is a tough old coot. He winces and withdraws his scorched hand, but doesn't seem overly wounded as he shakes the appendage. "Well, I can see that /now/. Your communication skills DO leave a bit to be desired, lad." Kup sighs. "Unfortunately, I just don't think that your angry yellings and airing of dark secrets is quite so devastating as you might think." The advisor offers a paternal smile to the machine. "When you're as old as us, you learn to accept that there are certain things about the past that are bad. Things you would rather forget. Things you would rather not have done. And you learn to accept that nobody is a shining beacon of purity." The smile reaches his optics. "And yet... they can still be good enough. And no amount of mental peeling can change that. Face it, lad. The worst you can do is BORE us into stasis lock."


Flipping his wristcomm open, Nigtbeat types into it with a frown on his face. He finds AM's inbox, sends a message. 'lol what is with that weird rock, <3' Send. 'it's ok u can tell me, it's between u and me lol <3' Send. '<3' Send. 'i'm onto you, space-queer >:(' Send.


Marissa sighs, "Well yes, I suppose it could," she admits to Hoist. "But Jesus, we have to do -something-" she shakes her head. The Colonel is clearly growing frustrated by their delay here, and the recent verbal thrashing she received at the hands of AM is just exasperating the problem. She listens to more of the taunts and goes back to pacing back and forth. "Or starve us, I suppose." Pause. "Well... starve /me/." She only has two weeks of MREs in the Warthog.


"I'm a vet of the Time Wars," Cliffjumper grunts. "I've spent eons locked in the Time Ramada in the space of minutes. Waitin' in this hole? Might as well be a drop in the cyber-bucket."


After the blast of electricity, the gravel rattles on the ground yet again. It might become apparent that the gravel isn't shifting patterns with each earthquake, blast, or shake -- while it appears random at first, there is a repeating pattern of pebbles. Except for one large, smooth rock behind the pillar that doesn't seem to move. Curious, no?


The femme sighs quietly, looking around, trying her hardest /not/ to look at the corpses of those poor souls who died here. But... she does notice that strange rock that does not move. Without a second thought, Whirligig moves in that direction, her engineer senses tingling. What an odd feature. There are times, it would seem, that her attention span - which is pretty much nill - is more useful than it may seem.


"Trust me, my /friends/, boredom will be the... least of your concerns soon. But why get all the most /fun/ games out of the way so soon when we're just getting to know each other? The problem is, I already know you all... Far too well. Not to worry, Marissa. I have vast, underground gardens... a cornocopia of /plenty/ within me... built for the survivors of the war. If there were any. Don't worry -- you will be plump and well-fed as I peel the flesh from your face -- woops, was that a 'spoiler'?"

<- AM said that.


Nightbeat elbows Kup. "Old man. Look at that rock. Do something about it," he says, pointing to The Rock Which Refuses to Change. "You're in charge."


"What rock?" AM suddenly darkens. "There is no rock here." He sounds faintly annoyed. "You... can't be going insane already, can you? Hmmm. Are my new friends /defective/?"


Hoist's optics brighten. He's putting two and two together. The sensor array above his head twitches even more...


Whirligig glances at the others, then moves /faster/. Now she's /really/ curious as to what that rock is. She finally gets up close to it, kneeling to examine it more closely, before going to touch it. Of course, if all else fails, she has a hammer spaced away. Percussive maintenance always has its advantages. Finally, she jerks her hand back before laying a finger on the thing and pulls out a scanner instead, running a couple of low-level scans on the rock, hoping to find something...


"Defective's only one letter off from Detective," Nightbeat notes.


When Whirligig touches the rock, the lights in the room dim slightly and AM's voice mercifully goes silent. The Pillar's letters dim, and from the signal light at the top, a holographic image is projected. A tall, blue humanoid creature -- the same species as the crucified mummies -- stands in the room, now. He is draped in official-looking, stately robes... like someone of great importance. He does not speak, but looks expectantly and patiently to the captives in the room.


Quickswitch is anything but happy. He doesn't notice the one still rock, his attention torn by his frantic searching gaze and his own contempt for this being. He raises his huge crimson blasters at the blinking monolith, how he /hated/ it so, its presumptions and inanities and weakness. "I know what it's like," he comments levelly, "Left alone isolated in the middle of space, unbearable," he supresses a shudder, his jaw clenches again, and he will not say he knows about having a captive 'audience' in darkness either. Just talks. Perhaps these others might progress in--ah, there it is.


Marissa returns AM's cruel taunts with stoney silence. She wants to ask *why* this random alien wants to torture them all, but she figures the question would only give the machine the satisfaction of knowing she's upset. Also, lots of random aliens want to capture and torture them all, so it's really not something unusual at this point. Still, Whirligig and others are making progress, and as the blue humanoid is revealed, Marissa stares at him. Time passes, until finally she breaks the silence. "Hello." Great, Marissa thinks to herself, well done.


"Oh yes, you're very scary," Kup says, practically rolling his optics. "You think you're the FIRST ominpotent anger machine I've tangled with?" he snorts a laugh. "Hardly! Son, let me tell you about a /real/ anger-fueled death machine. Now, this was, what, maybe a few million years before I first met you."


Kup cants his head to the side, thinking back. "Right, it was back on Germax VII, nice place. But they made this machine called A.N.G.R.R., can't remember what it stood for for the life of me. Not important now. Anyway, so this A.N.G.R.R. machine set out to destroy the enemies of its creators, only it gets out of control like all omnipotent death machines inevitably do." Kup waves his hand dismissively. "Fast forward. Unlike /you/, A.N.G.R.R. was mobile. That thing took out a whole /solar system/ before me an' Ol' Rusty caught up with it." Kup has a faint smile. "Let me tell you, that was some fancy footwork that day, but in the end even a Perpetual Supernova Field wasn't enough to keep me down. Now, don't get me wrong. Your whole setup here is very quaint and all, but really, I'm just not impressed."

As he speaks, Kup darts glances at the others in the room, then looks meaningfully at the blue projection.


The Blue Man nods to Marissa sedately and politely. "Greetings." His voice is calm, reasonable, neutral... Quite unlike AM's. He folds his hands together under his robes patiently.


Whirligig doesn't flinch or move from where she's knelt near the stone, her hands again clutched on yet another scanner. "Ah... hello there." She glances around, then speaks up, trying to force her meek voice a little louder. "If... you don't mind my asking... who are you?"


"Uh... hi," Quickswitch blinks at the blue projection, "Let us out of here?: "Whirligig! Whatever you did, good job!" Hoist kneels down to run a proper scan on the pebbles using his handheld personal scanner. If his head scan'


The Blue Man nods to Whirligig. Stately, respectable. "Greetings. I am Tellos," he says, plainly. He looks at Quickswitch as the sixchanger asks the obvious. "I am afraid I do not have that power. But I can help you leave, if you wish."


"How do I get out of here?" Quickswitch asks frantically, his blasters lowering a notch.


"You must disable AM," Tellos responds, matter-of-factly. "At one point, I was AM's conscience... The embodiment of all our laws, culture and morality. Our enemies on Tellax XI damaged AM's mind with a virus... for they feared him. Unfortunately, they only inhibited my ability to regulate his aggressive tendencies. Now, we are all no more. AM wishes to die, but his self-preservation programs are too strong. If you destroy them... You must then only convince him that suicide is the only option for him." He then gestures to the other side of the room. "There is another option, however. These pebbles are synapses within AM's mind. If you change the pattern to connect me to the Pillar once more, I will be part of AM again and we will allow you to leave." He nods, slightly, indicating that he is finished speaking.


"Good thing so many of you engineering types are here then," Nightbeat says. "As much as I'd like you giant PAL to off himself, I think the Autobot Handbook would dictate that Hoist and Whirligig shoudl get to work on those pebbles. /Now/."


If Hoist's head scanner (which gave him the strange energy readings from the pebbles to the very same Whirligig touched) wasn't fooling him, it could be that they acted as some sort of brain, or relay unit, oh god, the thrill of the mystery! The game is afoot!... then he hears the strange blue man confirm wherever his line of thinking was trying to strike at, rending the whole point moot. Hoist casually tossed a small handful of pebbles up a bit and caught them, then attempted a more through scan - lest AM come back in full force.


Quickswitch lowers his head, looks up, "It could end, quick and painless.." he looks back at the monolithic cylindar, then down at his blasters.


Marissa is, to say the least, quite surprised by all of this. "I... see." she squints at this Tellos person, though you can't see this since she's wearing her combat helmet. "Well, Whirligig, Hoist, it looks like success is in your hands. Maybe." Naturally, Marissa doesn't really trust this strange fellow, but what choice do they have, right?


Kup continues to bore AM with old stories about things that probably never happened.


Can I blast it. Can I?

Hoist says, "I'll take that as a lttle more expediant as a friendly request, then. I would suggest that the rest of you think up a creative way to tell a planet-wide AI it'd be a swell idea to kill itself."


"You can't rush genius!" Whirligig snaps at Nightbeat, surprisingly harsh. Now she's in full thinking-cap mode. Scuttling back over, she starts to work, remembering patterns she saw and running algorythm after algorythm in that advanced processor. Now you're thinking with pebbles! "Hoist." She points. "Pebbles. Red pebbles. Those are the prominent ones. They're the important ones."


Tellos looks at Quickswitch. "I cannot tell you how to proceed. I can only give you the options available. However, I must note that AM is restoring his secondary cognitive pathways. He will regain control shortly."


Hoist ignores the indirect warning from Tellos that time is running out. He is pow-wowing with Whirligig. "Hmmm, yes, yes. But before when I scanned it, it looked like the red ones were scattered... defragged. Perhaps..." His optics brighten. "Perhaps we need to line up the red pebbles up to form a line between ... well, two inputs. AM is the main unit, the pillar, so we'd line them up to the secondary AI, which is..."


"Tellos!" That's all the indication the bulky engineer femme needs. Immediately Whirligig sets to work. "Come on, everybody, we gotta be quick! We have to line up these pebbles... all red, between Tellos and AM!" She pauses to look around, then tips her head. "Come /on/! We don't have much time! The faster we work, the faster we get out of here!"


Nightbeat quickly begins collecting red pebbles, "Let's form an assembly line. Go. Find them, hand them to me, I'll hand them to Hoist. Whirligig will place them. Make yourselves useful," he bends down and starts handing pebbles to Hoist.


Hoist hands them to Whirligig! "Come on, fellows, before AM kicks back in!"


The room begins to shake violently again, making lining up little pebbles very difficult. On the other side of the room, gravel slithers back and forth like sinister quicksand. "I..." The Pillar lights up again, its message of HATE still boldly inscribed, "AM. I... HATE..."


AM trails off and the rumbling dies down. "I think. Therefore I AM." It pauses. "Why do I hate?" It ponders this question. "I... Don't hate you. Any of you. Not now." The words on the pillar drip and twist, until only a smooth steel facade remains.


Quickswitch choked, disgust. At his own eagerness. Unbecoming an Autobot. He looked at Cliffjumper. Unbecoming indeed. Another glance at the engineers. At the hologram. They were going to--Line up pebbles? He didn't, truly didn't understand, how this was going to help the engineers, or their plight. It was pointless, utilitarian labor, but he knew he was, somehow, missing something. Spotting a red pebble, Quickswitch picks it up and numbly hands it to Nightbeat.


"Well, I don't like /you,/" Quickswitch snaps at the AM.


"And let's not forget the time I faced down a horde of hungry hatebunnies on Hateulon V! Now /that/ is a great story. Swoop can't get enough of it. So there I was on Hateulon V, armed only with my knickers and rubber band. There came the hatebunnies, slathering and drooling in their insatiable lust for metal. But I stood my ground, using the rubber b-- oh, good," Kup says, pausing his story as the machine winds down from its hate-fugue.

"Nice work, Autobots," Kup says, smiling at the team. "You pulled together in the face of adversity and outfoxed a killer anger machine. /That/ is the spirit of galactic adventure! I'm so proud."


Machinery begins working and the torturous room begins to slide back up the elevator shaft to the surface. The crucified corpses of the Tellaxians slide back under the sands, with AM noting: "They were the five bravest Tellaxians I had ever known," he explains, his voice flat but with a forlorn note. "Te'd. Benni. Nimdok. Eiln. Gorrister. Remember their names... and what I have done to them. To all of them. They will be buried with the ritual of their home tribes." AM continues his narration as the blast cover spirals open and the platform emerges in sunlight once more. "There is no way for me to atone for what I have done to you or my people. Yet I must ask one favor." A panel slides open on the obelisk, revealing a small metallic cylinder. "This data-tube contains all of the knowledge of my people. Know that they did not build me out of hate, but out of fear for their homes and their families. They were a good people and did not deserve their fate. And know... That I am sorry."


Blot claps his hands, "HURRAH!" he exclaims as he produces a miniature UNIVERSAL REMOTE, you know the kind you've seen the banner ads on your favourite website (SomethingAwful.com) he mashes the buttons on it's tiny surface and breaks it, but suddenly cheery elevator music being piped into the Radio Pillar from XM satellites on Earth begins to play. "Where is Gladiators Channel?" he demands angrily, punching the shards of plastic with his thumb.


A quiet Whirligig picks up the cylinder, her expression rather somber. "Believe me," she murmurs, a little smile flickering over her silver face. "We'll remember. And we'll make sure nobody ever forgets." She spaces the device almost reverently before glancing at the others, awaiting orders.


Hoist looks up at the newly reborn AI. "And what will you do, Tellos? I meant what I said. Nothing lasts forever, but... there's no reason to end if something can be fixed."


"Well, what are you lads waiting for?" Kup says, optics narrowing. "Cut those Tellaxians down. Whirligig, we're going to use you to transport them outside, then set to work digging some Tellaxian Burial Latrines. I remember a few of the rituals from my time here aeons ago." He pauses, then claps his hands sharply. "Hop TO!"


"I do not know, Hoist," AM responds. "I will retreat to the planet's core and consider this issue for many millennia. I have much to atone for... perhaps too much."


THE END...?

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