Vindicator No More

Who: Fusillade, Magma, Rampage, Razorclaw, Revenant, Soundwave
IC Year: 2028
Location: NCC Medical Ward, Earth
TP: Vindicator


Summary: (August 2028) Soundwave begins to install the spacetile that will allow Fusillade to become space capable, but claims that some of the other modifications have a tremendous price.

NCC Spinal Pathway

Aptly named, this corridor stretches down the length of the city-shark, straight down the middle and following what would be the neural pathways. Most areas of the city can be reached by following the arching way. Unlike a shark's structure, though, the pathway is frost blue metal, shining like mirrors, and columns like raised spikes punctuate it, stretching up to the sky as if to skewer any unwelcome visitors. The cut angles and sinuous curves catch bright sunlight and sparkling starlight alike and send prismatic light glancing through the structure like spears.

Soundwave is just walking along the pathway, minding his own business, when SUDDENLY...

Late evening brings the shadows of the city's aerial webwork over the thoroughfares below. Pacing along one set of breezeways, Fusillade flicks through her holofoil padd, humming lightly to herself, as she sizes up the latest request by MSE. "Huh. Springfield. At least it's not in CALIFORNIA." She huffs a bit to herself, before the ideep blue figure of Soundwave fills the periphery of her vision. Hm. She glances up, expression speculative. Aloud, she wonders in his direction, "So, how much space is being taken up in the warehouses by all of those tiles from the Palmdale Raid?"

Soundwave stops, faces Fusillade, and replies matter-of-factly, "The warehouse currently holds five pallets worth of tiles." Which is actually a considerable number, given that TF-scale pallets are really big. "The warehouse supervisor, Darkstocker, has complained of a reduction in space and expressed concern that some of the supplies may have to be stored outside if the tiles are not utilized."

Fusillade mmm hmms. "Well, I think I can help you out with that," she remarks, sly expression starting to cross her features. "I have been authorized for fits to make both my robot and alternate modes space capable. If you have the time, we could help them with that 'issue'. I've already had maneuvering thrusters installed, and fluid lines properly EMP hardened and pressure-sealed, but the main engine clip pods and the tiles need to be inserted."

Soundwave considers. He WAS going to work on a new episode of Decepticonz, but... well, that show can wait. Honestly, it's kind of a trainwreck already and he's only continuing the project because it has a small fanbase of losers following it. "Excellent. Follow me to the medical ward and we will begin the installation immediately."

NCC Medical Ward

Like its previous incarnation, this medical ward was designed with the medic in mind, with all the modern advances to make the dirty work of repairs a world easier. It is well lit, the blue and violet metal of the walls and decor is a shade paler here, and the ubiquitous filigree is missing, all to assist in ease of cleaning. Still, the place veritably sparkles. In the furniture, there is a subtle motif of blades and sharp edges, as if to evoke the scalpel of a surgeon, although it is all quite safe. Around two dozen beds, more comfortable than their sharp looks would suggest, fill the medical ward, laid out in a tidy grid, and more can be flipped out of the walls should emergency demand it. A set of tracks on the ceiling mirror the grid of beds, allowing advanced scanning equipment and tolls to be swiveled around to the various beds. Computer terminals and cabinets are molded right into the walls at intervals, and while there are the normal medical security cameras, it appears as if someone has set some of the cameras specifically to watch the cabinets.

As the medics finish the base repairs (The other stuff will take rest and healing) Razorclaw immediately transforms to his more comfortable mode and settles on the table in a very regal statuesque position and - watches TV with Rampage, aww... bonding time.

Soundwave stomps in, pressing his hand to the side of his head as he sends a transmission, then looks back at Fusillade, wondering if he can spot any of the upgrades that have already been done.

The screen of the "hospital-TV" is now showing the start of "It all happened in the '80s." Gawd, how Rampage loves his MuchMusic.

Slinking in after Soundwave, Fusillade does indeed show several of the steps already made. A cursory assessment would suggest that the recent, burnished black and glossy grey paintjob in an orca pattern over her is just another foray into avant-garde expressionism. However, the medical records will show Scrapper's stamp on it, and the use of several grades of paint -- one to diffuse EMP and radiation over the surfaces of sensitive equipment areas, such as her engines -- and the other, over less critical areas, to absorb any strikes against her. A few rondelles recesses into the surfaces of her legs and arms give away the location of panels for the vectoring rockets. Additional assessment of the medical record will show that she spoke the truth outside -- fluid handling systems had been cold-tempered and pressure-sealed. All of the work seemed to be required on her alternate form. She glances around, humming to herself as she sees the two large mechanical felines. "I hope those two can manage an unarmed HELICOPTER."

Darkstocker, the evil stocking gumby, eventually comes in with four of his co-workers. They're pushing pallets with ceramic tiles stacked on them. "Aright, use as many tiles as ya need. Hell, just fraggin' use all of 'em. I gotta clear more slag outta there, dammit," Darkstocker says.

"Place the tiles over there," Soundwave instructs, pointing at in a open corner of the ward. The gumbies nod and the pallets are soon in place. Soundwave stands there for a moment, thinking, then says to Fusillade, "Move to that location and transform."

The scuttle of the burly porters' feet on the floor pulls Fusillade's attention over to the corner. "Huh, and he was so interested when they first came in, with the different types and shapes..." She doesn't say anything about the distinct lack of engine pods just quite yet. She mentally sizes up the number of the TPS -- thermal protection system -- tiles that they bring in, and looks pleased. She sashays to the indicated turntable, and transforms. The classic sound echoes and ratchets throughout the air, filling the ward with its tell-tale sound. Suddenly, the entire fer left section of the ward is filled with bomber. Fusillade rocks back on her main landing carriages, locks them in place, and waits.

Razorclaw, whom had become strangely hypnotized by the music videos that Rampage is watching rather abruptly shakes himself, "Well, it's not difficult to understand why he enjoys them..." he mutters before taking stock of his surroundings, "Ahh, Soundwave..." he trails off, seeing that there's much going on, "Er... when you are finished, I wish to speak with you briefly about a matter." the Lion trails off and lays his head on his paws.

Soundwave steps up to Fusillade, mentally reviewing schematics and specifications. "It will be necessary, Fusillade, to remove sections of your armor plating and replace it with these tiles. However, it may cause some complications. It will not affect your alternate mode, however, the connection ports installed for your fellow gestalt members will have to be... removed. Is this acceptable?"

A glance over his shoulder. "Very well, Razorclaw, although I am capable of multitasking." But the lion's probably already asleep...

Fusillade leans forward, wingblades whipping out to their full span, even as her arms lock backward in place as the rear fuselage. Her torso folds out to the become the cockpit of a Terran B-1B Lancer, ready for flight!

B-1B Lancer flexes the bladed leading edges of her wings in an emphatic, "WHAT?" in response to Soundwave's declaration about decommissioning her status as gestalt leader -- and member. There's a long moment of silence from the bomber, the glassy reflection of overhead floodlights bouncing inscrutibly off her canopy. "I... that's..." There's another moment of silence -- at which point Soundwave could avail himself to the readout on Fusillade. The list of procedures and experimentation on her reads like an R&D wet dream, the large framed craft serving as a test platform for technologies ranging from Scrapper's Lazarus zombie technologies, to Autobot thin-atmosphere delivery of planet-busters, to Fulcrum's magnetic weapons recall, to the High Command commissioned gestalt technology. "There's not room enough for both?" she finally asks, nose canards drooping. Well, not enough for both AND the whole primary mission of, you know, dropping bombs. And then she thinks back to the difficulties for all the members involved, the rarity of merging, and the general post-merge weirdness. The copies of four personalities and memories buzz around in her EMUX, the secondary processor for her normal functions, and she thinks, just for a moment, about how nice it would be to get a proper night's defragmentation cycle. "I... think we should," she admits. What she doesn't admit, however, is just how used she had to the white noise in the back of her consciousness.

Unlike his commander, Rampage does not sleep. Not yet. No, there's an episode of Three's Company on Nick at Nite. "Come and knock on our door..." is such a catchy tune...

Soundwave nods, "Very well. It is a pity, but I will grant your wish." Just one little problem, though... Soundwave was lying. He could easily leave the ports right where they are. But he's afraid that, as a gestalt-leader, Fusillade would simply have too much power at her disposal. Far better to take her down a few notches.

Soundwave stares at some of the tiles for a moment, then states, "Let us begin." After activating a sensory nullification field over Fusillade, so she doesn't squirm too much, he wheels the cart full of Reinforced Carbon Carbon tiles towards Fusillade, then begins the work of stripping away the leading edges of her wings so that he can place the tiles there.

The Lion does indeed snooze peacefully, though his audials are always pricked up, and hearing of a removal of gestalt pieces is enough to rouse him back to wakefulness, though he seems vaguely grumpy. He says nothing for the moment, merely watching what was going on silently before he speaks softly, "I have a datacube from a diversionary strike for you Soundwave, I know not if anything of value resides in it, however it seemed sensible to pull a dump of the NASA Space and Rocketry Center since I was using it for other purposes. If there is anything of value in the considerable information database, consider it a gift from the Predacons."

The more cheeky members of the rank and file would insist that Shockwave's recent promotion of the bomber was just as much to vex Cyclonus and Scourge, as it was to get the troops in order. As the hum of the field snaps over her, there's a squeak from the aircraft, and several churns of generators inside the medical ward walls can be heard turning over as the anti-grav projectors go on standby for if/when the plane will need to be turned over. As the wing fairings are stripped off and clatter to the ground, she oohs quietly, "Hey, I can see my blades on the security monitor!" Well, she certainly couldn't turn around in this mode.

"Suckup," the aircraft unders unter her intakes.

Soundwave stops in the middle of his work. "NASA Space and Rocketry Center?" He lowers his arms, facing Razorclaw. "I will take the datacube now." He glances at Fusillade. "It may prove useful to see if the Terrans have made any innovations in aerospace design that we have not considered."

The Lion's head rotates around 180 degrees as it rises up on its hind legs, torso spinning 180 degrees as his arms extend from his body, leaving Razorclaw in robot mode.

Razorclaw transforms and slides off the table, he reaches into a chamber in his arm and pulls out the cube that he conducted the dump to and handed it over, "I wish to state for the record, all data on that cube has an underlying encoding, I expect proper credit once it's analysis is complete should any discoveries of import be made." he smirks a little, "We aim to please the Emperor, but we expect our just rewards as well."

B-1B Lancer rechecks the rosters, and then groans. "He's in Operations." She then lapses back into silence as Razorclaw and Soundwave speak, and mulls over the engines. There was the set that she asked Astrotrain to bring in that one time, but she worries about how dinged up they were after his crude treatment of the crates. "Soundwave?" she asks finally. "I do not mean to sound ungrateful, I know we just started with the tiles, but... where are the engines? Or will those be done in a different session?" She appears to be on the verge of calling Razorclaw out by his very arbitrary callsign, but refrains, as she mentally scrolls through the stockroom's manifest of the different types of tiles, trying to familiarize herself with what bits go where.

Soundwave takes the cube in his hands, and his optic band flickers. "I will crack this encoding with little difficulty. The humans cannot match our capacity for programming." Clutching the cube tightly, a port opens in his forearm, and little mechanical devices flip out and start to probe the cube. Soundwave's optic band flickers throughout the process for several minutes, then he announces, "I have downloaded the contents. I will crack the encryption as I continue her upgrades."

Soundwave turns around and steps back to the bomber. "Have patience," he says, as he begins to attach the Reinforced Carbon Carbon tiles to the leading edges of the wings. "We will perform these upgrades one step at a time."

Razorclaw starts to transform, his torso twisting and then the lion's head locking down as he drops onto all fours in Lion form.

Razorclaw returns to his preferred form and growls softly, "Ill advised pronouncements? Indeed..." he sounds entirely unimpressed by that as he moves back up onto his medtable with a carefully coordinated leap and settles back down, "I'm glad it was of value. The greater goal was to distract and injure, shadow boxing I believe it's called. Draw them thin and spread them out, then the real raids begin."

The fiberglass and ceramic insulation that forms the base of attachment for the tiles is rolled out along Fusillade's wings. By this point, a few of the techs have slid in to assist, lining the belly of the bomber with the Fibrous Refractory Composite Insulation that would encounter the most fierce plasma plumes from atmospheric re-entry. "Multiple steps, understood, Soundwave." No chances for Fusillade to be a hangar queen.

Soundwave fastens on the last of the Carbon Carbon (with extra Carbon) tiles, then activates the room's anti-grav drive, causing Fusillade to lift up into the air and point up at the ceiling. Soundwave hovers up above Fusillade, and begins removing plating from the upper portions of her armor plating. He positions his body horizontally, strangely parallel to his patient as he works. Of course, the local anti-grav field, which he is remotely controlling, makes the process a little easier. "I see...," Soundwave abruptly says. "The Terrans have devised a new type of thruster that utilizes Autobot technology. I believe I will be able to use this new design for you, Fusillade."

Razorclaw rumbles softly, "My intention is to use Predaking in the next two feints, and then split my team across two objectives, one in the US, and one in Europe, with the one in Europe being the true goal - Energon and Supplies both for our Congo Base and for the Empire." the lion's tail twitches a few times as he speaks, "They will be forced to focus on one, or split their forces."

As the world goes topsy-turvy, Fusillade finds herself glad that there's no landing at the end of it. Razorclaw's intentions are elaborated upon before she can demand it of him, each twist punctuated with the 'clack!' of armor striking the floor. "TERRANS? Autobots? They can't really be better than what we already have!" However, she lapses into silence, almost counting on Soundwave to correct -- and educate.

Razorclaw adds, after a thought, "I will probably send Rampage and Tantrum to the feint, they are too reckless to trust with serious Energon harvesting, and delight in creating havok and destruction."

Soundwave shakes his head. "Do not be concerned, Fusillade. It is like when a primitive human invented the wheel. His design was copied by another human, who built a better wheel. And we will do something similar in this case. I will take their design--and improve upon it, ridding it of unnecessary, redundant features--" Like safety features. Dun dun DUN! "--and utilizing more efficient materials in construction." A gumby hovers up next to him and begins handing him some white tiles, which Soundwave begins to apply delicately. "Your paint scheme will have to be redone, Fusillade, unfortunately. But that should be fairly simple for the workers to do--they will simply copy Scrapper's steps."

To Razorclaw, Soundwave comments, "Europe would be an ideal target to attack. Once the Autobots realize they have been fooled, they will scramble to Europe to stop you. Whether or not they arrive in time, they will be seperated from their EDC allies, many of whom will be in the United States, attempting to stop the Protectorate."

"Precisely, and it is a short distance from Europe to our Congo Base, making it easy to return a larger amount of Energon due to shorter travel times." Razorclaw replies, "It is doubtful that when they realized the real target they could arrive in time. Hopefully Divebomb is fortifying our jungle defenses as he was instructed..."

Razorclaw lays his head on his paws and his optics wink out, back into rest cycle he goes.

"I'm pretty sure that heat ablation was one of the paints' other features. It was applied after the talk of space was initiated." Fusillade remarks, her lawndart profile blotting out several of the overhead lamps. A few sharp clatters of dropped tiles ring out. They are immediately kicked aside, lest they be used, but otherwise, the bulk of the install goes without incident. She doesn't seem too interested in arguing or sassing, starting to lapse into a slumber like state due to the lack of sensation.

Soundwave has odd visions of jungle foliage transforming into machine gun emplacements and SAM sites before he snaps himself out of it. He's been too much time around Scrapper! Anyway, Soundwave mucks around in Fusillade's internal components for a moment while she's half out of, welding and cutting here and there. Soon, the Gestalt connections are removed, and Soundwave drops them below his feet. They clatter to the ground. Soundwave reattaches wiring, reinforces here and there, and seals up the wounds. Then, he seals up Fusillade's exterior, puts white tiles over it, and admires his work for a moment. He nods to himself--all done here. He hovers around to the other side, checking on the gumbies--good, all done with the black tiles. Hovering away, begins to slowly lower the sensory nullification field and asks, "How do you feel, Fusillade?"

As the locks are released, Fusillade transforms, and then drops down to the left of the field. She glances over to the PILE of fluid smeared couplings, and the locus points for subspace summoning of the maroon gestalt armor. Shoulders rise and fall briefly as she sizes it up. "Empty. But harder."

The sleek bomber rears up, wings collapsing onto hips even as the rear fuselage splits to form arms. The horizontal stabilizer slides up, the forward fuselage folds up accordian style, and Fusillade hops up on thrustered feet.

Soundwave nods, looking over her frame in a platonic, scientific sense. "Excellent. It will be interesting to see if the tiles increase your resistance to certain energy based attacks, as well. That may result in a revision of our guidelines in armor composition. But that can come at another time. If you must, go and rest. I will prepare the new engine thrusters."

Fusillade inclines her head. "I will report anything unusual, Soundwave. Rest... would be good." She slowly paces away, soreness starting to pulse through many of the tile attachment points along her frame.

Soundwave directs the gumbies to clean up the mess, and watches Fusillade leave. Good, she doesn't suspect a thing...

Act 2: Jumpjets most certainly can be installed, but at a price. Later, Fusillade flirts with space, but pulls out prematurely.

In order to make the best use of space tiles, one would typically have to be space-going. To whit, Fusillade has thus far gotten manuvering microrockets installed, had several systems hardened against EMP, and fluid lines pressure-sealed. Even more recently, as evidenced by the bold black and white orca pattern on her frame, the bomber has had radiation diffusing paint applied over the high-contrast pattern of swoops and ovals. Currently, she sits in bomber mode, on one of the larger turntables intended to service some of the smaller shuttles.

Soundwave stomps into the medical bay, a little olive-green tape-gumby in his wake, who grunts with effort as he pushes in a cart full of what looks like racks of rocket tubes.

Revenant is lying on his stomach on one of the med-berths, recovering from a Hunt from the previous night. The armoring on his back and wings seem to be newer than the rest of his body, and there are other earmarks of having had repairs completed recently. He seems to be fast asleep, or at least not paying any attention to what's going on in the med-bay around him. Likely the former.

There's a rustling by the eastward entrance of the Medical Ward and a lone figure 'peeks' around the door slowly, one glowing orange optic peeking into the room for a moment before vanishing. Several moments pass and that optic is peeking again, soon followed by the form of Magma, trying to be inconspicuous as he makes his way into the facility, and almost directly towards Fusillade.

B-1B Lancer rocks backward on her main landing carriages, possessed of a bit more mobility than her Terran template. From time to time, a wingflap or tail aileron pivots anxiously as she waits. At the sight of the incoming tape Commander and his assistant. An emphatic, "This is going to ROCK!" belts out from the bomber, before the flash of orange catches her attention. With a flick of nose canards, she silently signals the former co-Stratocon. She slips into somber silence.

Soundwave stares over at the Lancer. What--oh right, he was supposed to install those new engine pods on her. Well, those should be ready by now. "Mule, place the rocket racks in the corner. I will make use of them later." The olive-green tape grumbles as he pushes the cart off. Soundwave then walks over to a locked cabinet, types in his access codes, and pops open doors. And within, are the two rocket boosters that he designed for Fusillade. They're easily light enough for him to carry, so he takes one in each arm and begins to stomp over to the Lancer.

"Well, at least I don't have to worry about attaching all of those little things to me," Fusillade quips, trying to jumpstart her own good humor. The profile of the pods indicates that they are indeed modular, intended for both space and atmospheric flight, where aerodynamics do matter. The curved black and white patterns match the motif on her alternate mode, and it's clear that there's going to be some subspace trickery involved with her first transform cycle. "So, any special instructions that come along with these?"

Soundwave puts them down near Fusillade, goes for two more, then sets those down near Fusillade as well. He stares down at the prone bomber, saying, "Affirmative. I have installed subspace transponders inside of those boosters, keyed to the frequency of your subspace generator. You will be able to summon and dimiss them at will, and they will increase and decrease in size according to your current mode. However, they dramatically increase your alternate mode's maximum velocity. You may wish to utilize them even if you are not attempting to achieve escape velocity, or travelling through space."

The first two sentences utterly escape Fusillade, but she does understand the summon and dismiss part, and the size thing. As the pods are set down on either side of her, the aircraft strains a bit to catch a glimpse of Soundwave, curiosity starting to get the better of her. "And about the energon useage... how bad is it? Is it something I will have to pick and choose to use? I don't think I've ever heard anyone else complain about it, but they're... big, and I figured they'd have a larger energon reservoir." From time to time, she retrains sensors on the doorframe where she last saw Magma. "It's... unfortunate. Was there no way to have both?"

Magma is rather abruptly beside Fusillade, uttering, "I... I hope I'm not interrupting, ma'am..." his voice is soft and uncertain, though the British tang is still there, "I uh... read Soundwave's report... is it true? Vindicator is no more?" he seems uncertain as he speaks, resting one hand on Fusillade's nosecone for some odd reason.

Soundwave shakes his head. "Negative. It was... impossible." Heehee. Heeheehee. "Energon usage will increase substantially while you utilize the rocket boosters," Soundwave explains. "For this reason, during your standard patrols and in other non-critical situations, I recommend against their usage. Furthermore, they are extremely powerful, and you should trigger them somewhat gradually, otherwise they may rip themselves right off of your fuselage."

There's a sharp jump in the diagnostics of the aircraft at the appearance and physical contact of Magma. Another flicker of nose canards to emphasize her point, "Yes," she hisses out, and reminds, "He's right back there, you know..." Projecting her voice as she responds to the 75 foot distant Soundwave, "I see, yes, yes, not something to be used all the time. I've been doing some reading... well, a lot, on how to travel through the local systems. But nothing like experience, so I'll probably hit up Astrotrain for some training, or maybe the Sweeps, or..." She seems a tad haunted, "Maybe even Bandit."

Magma nods a little bit and withdraws rather abruptly at the admonition, "I guess I shall retire to Cybertron then and return to the Datacenter." he sounds almost forlorn - which is odd considering how he -started- with this mess. He starts to back away, looking a little uncertain, his wings twitching this way and that in their sockets.

Just how well does the hang-dog expression in the aircraft's windshields convey the notion of 'flee while you can'?

Soundwave pulls out a datapad and begins to type something into it. "I will forward you a copy of all known navigational information of this solar system. It is a large file and may require some time to download." He glances at Magma, and his mind revels with inner triumph. None of them suspect anything--they're merely disappointed they lost the big guy. How amusing. "Are you ready for the installation of the rocket boosters, Fusillade?"

Just how much are they showing, though? Is it a mask to match the many others that must be worn in the dog-eat-dog realm of the Decepticons? Would lingering regret just further target them? Difficult to say without any further invasive proping. "We are..." She trails off as the DCI XO speaks. He is, after all, a commanding officer, different division or no. "I have been ready," she quietly remarks, the looming swell of her wingbox and engines blocking any of the subtle conversation between her and Magma.

"I hope this wasn't a result of my poor performance." he bows once, then looks to his commanding officer, "I shall be in the Data Center of IHQ should you require me... there's quite a lot of analysis that needs doing." he calls to Soundwave before backing slowly towards the door, apparently feeling the need not to turn away.

Soundwave nods to Magma. "Very good. Also, consider my proposals for attaining information on the Protectorate. If you have any counter-proposals, inform me immediately." He returns his attention to Fusillade. "Excellent," he states, before typing in commands into a console, and the local anti-gravity field lifts Fusillade up, then flips her over onto her side. Soundwave steps up to her dorsal section, internally checking schematics, then he grabs his laser cutter and gets to work making small little notches in Fusillade's frame.

B-1B Lancer lists far to the side, before being suspended in a never-ending wind-up turn. "Later, Magma," she murmurs, not quite able to stir herself to say anything else in response to the dull throbbing ache on her psyche. There's a quiver of wingblade sheathes as the cutter bites into the armoring over her servos. The radio conversation piques her interest, but she doesn't interfere with the installation of the massive infrastructural changes needed to support the modular pods' masses and rated exerted forces.

A medical gumby hops up to Soundwave, holding several reinforced beams in his arms. "The, uh, beams you wanted, sir!" Soundwave nods, and without taking his eyes off his work, grabs some of the beams, gently sliding them into the slots he has created and welding them onto her existing superstructure. Eventually, the support structure he has built protrudes from Fusillade's body, with linkages for the thrusters. Soundwave nods his head at his work, and picks up the first rocket pod...

The bump and scrape of the work behind her eventually impinges upon Fusillade's forlorn stare upon the air that her former teammate had formerly occupied. The main junction is an easy enough fix, but some of the wiring and fluid lines might be a bear to thread.

You receive a radio message from Magma: ... it's my fault isn't it.

B-1B Lancer's normal engines tick upward from idle.

You send a radio message to Magma: No.

You receive a radio message from Magma: ... ... ... you're certain?

Soundwave gets to work on fastening the engines along Fusillade's dorsal section, on either side of the Lancer's spine. After pulling up the necessary wiring and lines, he fastens them to ports he had built into the new superstructure, to make it easier for the rocket pods to be installed and removed easily. Surprisingly, the engines themselves snap into place, and Soundwave triggers their internal circuitry, causing multiple metal slots to slide down and securely connect into the main body. "You can trigger the release mechanism yourself via a simple mental command. Try it yourself."

You send a radio message to Magma: Yes.

B-1B Lancer's responses seem erratic as she fields some radio traffic, before she sharply responds, "Yes sir." There's an involuntary shudder, unrelated to any actual engine work, as the jettison hearkens back to the demerging process of the extinct gestalt. "I see," she remarks. Torture to separate?

You receive a radio message from Magma: ... ... then you don't hate me?

B-1B Lancer's tailslabs snap up to full brake position.

Soundwave explains, "I have designed the fuel lines to automatically cut off in the event that one of your rocket pods is destroyed. You need not be concerned about an uncontrolled leak." The rocket pods, which hovered in mid-air after being expelled, are popped back on by Soundwave. "Now trigger the locking mechanism and secure them. After this, we will test the boosters to ensure that they do not damage your structural integrity, and that the exhaust gases do not burn your exterior systems."

You send a radio message to Magma: *gusty-sighs* No. Don't you have work you're supposed to be doing? You seemed like you were in a hurry to leave earlier.

You receive a radio message from Magma: ... yes, I suppose I was ...

Fusillade clenches upon command by Soundwave. The pods nestle flush against her upper wing fairings, the parabola footprints flowing and swelling complementary to her existing curves. "Oh, how thoughtful of you, Soundwave," Fusillade remarks. "That would be a good idea."

Soundwave rubs his chin for a moment. "Transform, and follow me out of the medical ward. That is... if you feel up to a live test of your new systems?" His head tilts as he asks the question.

The sleek bomber rears up, wings collapsing onto hips even as the rear fuselage splits to form arms. The horizontal stabilizer slides up, the forward fuselage folds up accordian style, and Fusillade hops up on thrustered feet.

Fusillade OWS as she smacks the back of her head with the top half of the pod connected to her left shoulder pauldron. "I... might need to take a break." However, there's a greedy glint in her optics as she looks toward one of the exits and the spaceport outside.

Soundwave makes a note of that. Well, she's just going to have to be more careful with all the extra "kibble" on her body. "I will be outside if you decide to conduct the tests." Without further ado, Soundwave turns around and begins to stomp off for the spaceport.

Soundwave takes a steel-spun tunnel, as reflective and color-shifting as energon, to the NCC Spinal Pathway to the south.

Fusillade half-lunges for the doors.

You take a sleek chute of polished, faceted metal that leads to a forest of filigree, and from there connects to the NCC Spaceport.

NCC Spaceport

Very large and flat, like the NCC spaceport always has been, there remains the room for spaceships and aircraft of all shapes and sizes to land and take off, whether they're equipped with VTOL or not. The large hangers, warehouses for incoming supplies, and maintenance stations are still there, although now they seem to mostly exist on the northwest edge of the area. Where once the runways were silver Cybertronian, an impurity has been added to give the whole area a frost-blue tint. Also new are the rows of sharp, jagged, upward pointing structures to the north and south that crowd together enough to make passage difficult without flight. Beyond the southern border that these provide is the sparkling ocean, and far behind the north edge, the distant peak of Mount R'Lyeh can be spied. Past the hangers and warehouses is the raised structure of the Command Center, set atop a maze of metallic supports that appear to the eye no sturdier than dandelion fluff, but in fact are more than sufficient to serve as support for the Empire's commanders while at the same time cushioning it from the vibrations caused by the activities of the spaceport. Several passages wind their way beneath the Command Center, allowing individuals access to the Spinal Pathway without having to first pass through the nerve center of the city.

With a bit of a wobble as internal gyros adjust to the additional weight on upper arms, Fusillade hmms as she turns around to try to get a look at the add-ons. "Hey, I have calves," she remarks with glee. Satisfied, she then paces toward the Commander, and waits for instruction.

Soundwave looks her over for a moment. A little heavier, it seems, and maybe a little less steady... No matter. This is what she wanted, and there's always a price to be paid for radical changes like this. "Transform, Fusillade, achieve an altitude of 10, 000 feet, then trigger your rocket pods. Apply thrust gradually."

"What? I was just in plane mode in there!" Fusillade objects, but then mmms as she recalls the comment about subspace packaging. She'll eventually adjust to the demands placed on her gyros. She transforms again, heaving skyward with a effort from her roaring atmospheric engines, before swinging wings back and sitting on her tail. It takes about two minutes for her to get to altitude, before she levels off. With initial ignition, the rockets buck to life, crushing against the reinforcements to her frame. The speeds are akin to full afterburner on her standard engines, and after a minute and a half of acceleration, a sonic boom echoes across the spaceport. The bomber throttles up, the atmosphere thinning. The fire in her belly from her normal engine chokes, asphyxiates, and dies, but is replaced in the full throaty roar of the pods as the craft creeps up to near escape velocity.

Soundwave places his hands over his audials for a moment to avoid most of the ill effects of the sonic boom. He watches dispassionately as Fusillade blazes upwards until she's little more than a speck, and it becomes difficult for him to track her audially since she is so far away. Nevertheless, everything seems to be going well so far.

Wait, wasn't the horizon starting to curve? At about 100,000 feet up, Fusillade gets cold feet -- and it has nothing to do with the frost rime forming on her forward flight surfaces. How was she supposed to go into re-entry? She recalled little more than just 'tilt up at about 30 degrees'. Thankfully, the angle of the climb is too shallow, and she soon begins to coast back to the Pacific, several hundred miles distant.

Soundwave sends a transmission, then turns, deciding to retire to DCI HQ for tonight. All in all, another satisfied customer... and another potential problem for him nixed quite expertly....

<Earth> A brief ping lances across several high-altitude early-warning systems over the Pacific. The object is moving at near escape velocity speeds, before dropping back out of detection over French Polynesia.


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