Bumblebee did a double-take. He had always known Smokescreen as a cheery fighter. A little bit of a liability and a gambler, perhaps, but he had never pegged Smokescreen to be... someone like Prowl. Worse, according to what Deep Cover had told him, worse than Prowl.
The news of Smokescreen's death was dropped on top of Bumblebee moments later.
"What?" Bumblebee said, blue optics wide. "How?"
Bumblebee shook his head, trying to absorb the information. Smokescreen is evil? Smokescreen is dead? Bumblebee slunk back onto his seat. Did anyone else die while he was away? "How did he die? What had he done?"
Doubledealer glided high above North Iacon in his avian form, moving his head left to right as he scoured the apartment district below.
Here was where many of the enlisted lived, a fact the mercenary was well aware of as he brazenly flew overhead. It would make this little scavenger hunt of his go by easier.
Or so Dealer assumed. So far, he was unable to locate a single Aerialbot.
Double-checking his whereabouts on his in-built GPS, the teal-armored mercenary slowed himself down to a hover over a tall tower block. He then transformed midair, using the wings of his alt-mode to slow his descent.
As he dropped, Doubledealer activated his optic camouflage and dissolved into the evening sky as his DLD coated armor bent the light around him. The mercenary was gone before he touched down on the roof of the building.
Making his way over to the edge, Dealer perched himself on top of the wall ledge. He leaned forward, bringing his gaze to another apartment house across from him....
(OOC: @ Warcry -- Where is Silverbolt, by the way? Is he tracking down Fizzle and the others?)
Magnifucs looked up thoughtfully. "Mm, no, I think I have everything covered on my end, thanks," he told Firecracker. "I'm pretty sure I'll be able to book the venue. Sundor is a well publicized candidate, after all, and The Imperial Amphitheater holds political events and fundraisers all the time, so it shouldn't be a problem.
"Other than that, I'll keep you guys updated and let you know if there's any changes."
Neurosurgery Unit, Iacon Medical and Research Institute
First Aid looked back at Trailbreaker and scowled, not at all appreciating that he was being cornered.
He then looked up to Quick Switch and winced. "I - I did what I could under the given conditions. I'm - I'm sorry, but no neurosurgeon in their right mind would ever operate on a patient while they were still online." The former-Protectobot nervously shrunk back as he forced himself to continue. "Along with the highly advanced cooling system that you are now equipped with, I installed several ICs that are designed to regulate your processing power and functionalities more evenly. There's little else that can be done -- especially in the time frame you have given me."
First Aid gave the six-changer a firm look. "Haven't you activated the changes I've made as I instructed?"
(OOC: Please take a hint, LQS. Leave the poor doctor alone. He's finished -- and frankly so am I.)
Deep Cover smiled weakly. "It all started with good intentions," he told Bumblebee. "Smokescreen was devious and brilliant, as I'm sure you know. He was also a good mech at heart, once. The Senate approached him because they thought they could trust him to watch out for Iacon's best interests...and because they wanted someone who could run his organization without Autobase knowing. What he was up to. Smokescreen took the job because he wanted to help, but I don't think he really understood what he was signing up for."
He paused to glance down at Clampdown's note. He frowned slightly, then typed out a response.
"Thanks, Maggy. Don't be a stranger." Firecracker switched off the comm, then grumbled to himself, "Stupid arrogant Magnificus. You're not walking away from this either."
He took a minute to collect himself, then walked over to Deftwing and said, "Our 'ally' has things well in hand."
"Good, good," Deftwing said. "Our two recruits are busy playing with their new toys, but they should be ready in time for their supposed guard assignments at the fundraiser." He smiled. "Everything's coming together nicely, isn't it?"
Firecracker returned the smile. "It sure is. I didn't really think we'd pull it off, you know? But in a couple days' time...it's going to be all over, one way or another."
Clampdown read Deep Cover's message, decoded it in his head, and smiled.
Three breems, Chez Magnetron's. I'll see you there, brother.
(OOC: So apparently, I managed not to paste in the tail-end of my last post with Silverbolt. So it's no surprise you don't know where he is, ziggy.)
Silverbolt set down outside a run-down apartment block, climbed up the stairs and started looking for Lionizer's suite. He knocked on the door, then frowned when no one answered. He knocked again, then waited for a minute. Finally, frustrated, he remembered the ID that Red Alert had given him. Shrugging, he knocked for a third time and punctuated it with a shout of "ISS! Open up!"
That got a reaction, but not the one he'd been hoping for. He heard the sound of a window scraping open, then a small frame running down the fire escape on the back side of the building.
"It's never easy, is it?"
He transformed to jet mode and shot straight up in the air, accumulating a static charge in his nosecone capacitor before reversing and dropping straight back down. When he picked up the fleeing Targetmaster, he banked and adjusted his flight path to intercept him.
"Come on now, Lionizer. You're not getting away. Make it easier on both of us and give yourself up."
The cat didn't answer, which was far from unexpected...so Silverbolt loosed his built-up electric charge and lanced the other Autobot with a lightning bolt that dropped him to the ground, twitching and moaning.
Transforming to robot mode, he landed beside the fallen Minicon, grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and lifted him up to eye level. "Are you going to cooperate now?"
Lionizer just nodded weakly, oil dripping from the corners of his feline mouth.
"Started with good intentions." Bumblebee muttered, suddenly losing interest in his drink. Setting it on the armrest of his seat, he shook his head. It all sounded so familiar... if he died, would others remember him that way too? "I can relate to that."
Bumblebee sighed, wanting to get angry at Smokescreen, at the Senate, at everything around him, but really not having the energy to do so. "Tell me more, Deep Cover. What did Smokescreen do, actually? I want to know what my friend- my late friend- did that destroyed this organization so."
Deep Cover nodded. "The parallel didn't pass me by, I have to admit," he told Bumblebee. "And Smokescreen didn't miss it either. The moment his last-rites transponder went off, it triggered a whole bunch of emergency protocols in our computer system. Some of them were outright nefarious, like erasing his personal files and a whole bunch of operations records. We managed to stop most of them before they did too much damage, though not before it kept us from finding out exactly what he was up to. Others were more...obscure, and we're not really sure what they're meant to accomplish. One of them issued orders with Smokescreen's authorization releasing you from custody and having you transferred here."
He chuckled, then said, "So here we are. You're curious about what he was doing, but there's only so much I can tell you. The thing is...if I do, that means you're staying. You can walk away now, ignorant and safe, or stay here and try to figure out what designs our sadly misguided friend had on you. I can't promise, though, that you'll like what we find out."
Bumblebee nodded, raising his fingers to his lips, mulling it over. So, Smokescreen.... shrouded in mysterious machinations.
One thing's certain, though... it wasn't Prowl's goodwill that released him. And Deep Cover was offering him a chance to walk away from this mess, clean and free... a retirement, quiet, somewhere, reminiscing the good old days... it would be stupid not to take it.
"You know how this kind of 'red pill blue pill' choice goes, Deep Cover... obviously I won't decline, or else you would have someone other than me sitting here."
Deep Cover shrugged. "Honestly? No, I don't know. I'm just seizing an opportunity, and hoping that you haven't been secretly working for Smokescreen all this time." He smiled at Bumblebee and said, "But I'd like to think I'm a pretty good judge of character, and you seem like a good mech. I have another meeting to attend to, so I'm going to have to step out. If you don't mind, though, I'm going to leave you in the care of a couple friends of mine."
He tapped the communication terminal on the table and said, "Pathfinder and Powertrain, could you come in please?"
A moment later the door slid open and an orange and blue Micromaster walked in. "Already here, boss."
"So you're gambling that I'm not secretly working for Smokescreen, Deep Cover? Looks like Smokey's gambling habits have been passed down to members of his department." Bumblebee shrugged, "Oh, okay. Just, well, just keep me informed if you want me to do... something. Anything."
Bumblebee turned to see Powertrain, recognizing him as one of the Off-Road Patrol, but he didn't know which one exactly 'Powertrain' is, what he's like or anything.
Pathfinder entered behind Powertrain, looking all the world like a blue-coloured version of Cosmos, albeit a female. Pathfinder gave Deep Cover a half-salute. "Here, boss."
Doubledealer remained perched atop the ledge of a highrise tower, concealed behind optic camouflage. The mercenary's gaze was fixed on a flat in the apartment block across from him, his optics switched to infrared as he scanned the floor. It belonged to an Autobot flightmech.
Dealer sighed. "Of course. Looks like no one's home either."
His investigation had thus far proved fruitless. Much of the military quarters in the North Iacon apartment district were empty. This was, of course, due in no small part to the recent call to arms.
Fortunately, this was not the mercenary's last stop. He had acquired several more names - as well as addresses - from the Autobot Military Registry. The night was far from over.
Dealer disengaged his stealth camo and splayed his wings. He then lept off the building ledge, assumed his avian form and soared off, this time bound for the southwest corner of Iacon -- toward the Suborbital District...
The Southwestern district was not far from the Border Regions, Doubledealer's home. While similar in a lot of ways, the Suborbital District was less...anarchic. And unlike the Border Regions, it still adhered to inner-city law, if somewhat loosely, and had a much larger Autobot concentration.
Still, Dealer felt more at home in place like this. The residents didn't hide behind any pretenses as the folks in the city-state center did.
As he drew upon the Suborbital District, over a neighborhood of run-down down apartment blocks, less than a mile off the mercenary espied a white military grade jet lowering itself down outside one of them.
Finally, an Aerialbot.
"Heh. What're the chances? And at one of the addresses on my list, too."
Dealer once again activated his optic camouflage and in usual fashion made his descent -- he transformed midair, deployed his wings and glided down to the street below. This warranted a closer look.
Deep Cover shrugged. "Like I said," he told Bumblebee, "you're a good mech."
With Powertrain and Pathfinder in the room, the secret agent reclined a little bit in his chair.
"Besides...when I gamble, I like to hedge my bets. That's what these two are for."
He tapped a few commands into his datapad, and a holographic street map leaped to life between the four of them. Three different addresses glowed in red.
"I know of a few locations throughout Iacon where Smokescreen had special, off-books safehouses that he didn't think we knew about. Since he's no longer alive to object, I'd very much like to know what's in them." He smiled. "Since he had designs on you, Bumblebee, I'm gambling that the security systems will be programmed not to frag you on sight. Powertrain is going to accompany you, and Pathfinder will keep an eye on you from the sky."
Silverbolt looked Lionizer squarely in the optics and asked, "Where's Slingshot?"
"How would I know?" the Minicon asked defiantly.
Silverbolt shook him a little, then narrowed his optics. "Do you really want to play this game with someone eighty times your size, housecat?"
Lionizer bared his teeth...but quickly realized that assuming a threat position wouldn't get him anywhere. "Look, Silverbolt, honestly...I don't know."
"You expect me to believe that he'd break out of prison and lie low? Our Slingshot? Seriously?"
"I know, it sounds nuts...but trust me! Once word hit the street I went to all his usual haunts, but no one's seen him or that idiotic golden paint job he gave himself anywhere. It's like he's just...disappeared."
Silverbolt cocked his head to one side. "Have you tried contacting him?"
"Yeah, of course. But he's not answering. Or he can't."
That last bit set Silverbolt on edge. Assuming the beast was telling the truth, it was starting to look like someone was holding Slingshot...either against his will, or with the promise of revenge and glory.
"Get out of my sight," he said at last, dropping the Minicon to the ground. "If it turns out you lied, we'll be seeing each other again soon."
After the humiliated Lionizer slinked off, Silverbolt started to walk aimlessly down the street.
Bumblebee tilted his head to one side at Deep Cover calling him a good mech... it's just what he is, really. It was who he is.
A good mech.
"Smokescreen likes to raise his bets too. Well, he likes to cheat, but let's not be picky. Evidently you've never seen him in Monaco, or whatever that gambler's planet is called." Bumblebee told Deep Cover, smiling a little.
Bumblebee leaned forward, taking in the holographic display of the map. He nodded. "For my sake, I do hope I haven't pissed off Smokescreen quite as much." Bumblebee muttered. "Yeah, I'll do it, Deep Cover. I'm just as curious to see to what depths Smokescreen's rabbit hole goes."
Pathfinder merely stood, face neutral, glancing from Bumblebee to Deep Cover to Powertrain.
Doubledealer stood underneath the awning of a building adjacent from the apartment block where Silverbolt and Lionizer spoke. He felt little need to take extra measures to conceal his presence from the two Autobots; his stealth camouflage was sufficient cover.
Dealer looked on and listened in on their conversation. It revealed little of importance or interest to him. Fortunately, it was Silverbolt himself -- Slingshot's former-CO, as the military registry listed him -- that interested the mercenary.
When their brief exchange came to an end, Silverbolt started down the street and headed in Dealer's direction. His optics followed the Aerialbot as he unknowingly ambled past the cloaked mercenary hiding underneath the awning.
When Silverbolt's back was to him, Doubledealer, still invisible, said out loud, "So you're looking for Slingshot too, eh?"
"Believe me," Deep Cover told Bumblebee, "so am I. But I've got somewhere to be, so I'm afraid I'll have to leave you to it."
After Deep Cover had left, Powertrain turned to the former scout and said, "Are you ready to go, or do you need some equipment first? We've got a remarkably well-stocked armoury...though you probably figured that out on your own."
He looked over at Pathfinder, tempted to say something to her but thinking better of it. He knew she'd been a part of the same disastrous Kaon operation that had culminated in Mudslinger's death, just like he had, but as much as he'd like to ask her about it now simply wasn't the time.
Silverbolt had gotten past his earlier jumpiness, thankfully, so he was able to resist his first impulse upon hearing an unfamiliar voice coming up behind him -- namely, to switch into vehicle mode and fill the entire alleyway with chain lightning. Instead he went with his second choice of reaction -- namely, snark.
"Well, I guess that answers that," he said. "If invisible lurkers are sneaking up on me in alleys to ask about Slingshot, he's gotten himself into another mess." Narrowing his optics, he added, "But if you expect me to compare notes with someone I can't even see, you're hopelessly optimistic."
Bumblebee nodded at Deep Cover, watching as the Sideswipe-esque Autobot left... and wondered whether it was good to so quickly trust the other Autobot, then chuckled to himself.
It's just like him. Ever so trusting.
Bumblebee turned from the silent Pathfinder and looked down at Powertrain. "I... think I've got what I need in this new body. First Aid was quite kind to provide it with weapons, if not quite Ironhide-grade weapons. Shall we go?"
Pathfinder, face expressionless behind the visor and the face plate, glanced from Bumblebee to Powertrain and back again, not saying anything.
"Might as well get this over with," Powertrain agreed with Bumblebee. He gestured at the map. "This is your show, so lead on. Any of these look like a good first choice to you?"
"Did he?" Silverbolt chuckled. "I was too bust trying to cave Prowl's face in to keep up with the news, I'm afraid."
He gave Dealer a once-over when he decloaked, but couldn't place the face or the name.
"I am," he admitted when the unfamiliar mech asked his name. "I'm Slingshot's former commander, but more to the point I've been assigned to track him down for the ISS."
He have the other Transformer a wry half-smile.
"Considering your earlier lurking, I'm going to assume that you're interested in him because this trouble he's found is...less than legal?"
Clampdown sat down at his usual table, accepting a menu from the waiter and ordering a glass of energon to tide him over until Deep Cover arrived.
Doubledealer snorted. "Oh-ho yeah, I'm pretty sure he is," he told Silverbolt.
"But before I get into that, I should probably be up front with you," said Dealer. "You see, it isn't your Slingshot specifically I'm looking for. I have good reason to believe he's with a friend of mine. I had hoped to find a lead, namely through you or one of his old buddies, to point me in the right direction...
"Hopefully before it's too late."
The mercenary paused while he glanced around the neighborhood. "I know we met, like, 30 kliks ago and all, but how would you feel about carrying on this conversation somewhere less open? Like a bar or something?" He said. "I'll even let you pick the location."
An impish grin worked at corner at of Dealer's mouth. "I mean, if someone like me was eavesdropping, who knows who else might be out there listening in. "
Powertrain squinted at the map, then nodded when he saw Bumblebee's choice.
"Is that just a guess," he asked, "or do you figure Smokescreen was killing his time cheating at card games on his way to his secret hideaway?"
Powertrain chuckled. "Actually, put it like that and it makes a whole lot of sense, doesn't it?"
Silverbolt chuckled. "Anywhere other than a dark back alley would be preferable," he told Dealer. I can't think of another place that's more suspicious grounds for a conversation."
He shrugged. "I'm not big on eating out," he admitted. "Don't really know the nightlife in this part of the city. Wherever is fine by me."
Clampdown looked up from his menu to see that Deep Cover had arrived, seated himself and placed a drink order without Clampdown noticing.
"Still sneaking around in the shadows?"
"Yep. Still wasting time doing thinks the legal way?"
You know it." Clampdown grinned. "It's good to see you, brother."
Deep Cover smiled back. "It sure is. But I don't think you called for a secret meeting just so we could insult each other's career choices."
"I wish I could say that I had," Clampdown admitted, "but you'd know that was a lie. My boss has a problem, and I'm hoping you could help us solve it."
Deep Cover's optics narrowed. "A problem named Prowl?"
Clampdown sighed. "You just love to sidetrack my dramatic narration, don't you?" he said peevishly. "Yeah, Prowl. Apparently people are finally starting to notice that he's...well, a bit evil."
"A bit late on the uptake, these people." Deep Cover sipped his drink. "Well, as it happens, I think I'll be able to help you out. I've actually got an investigation going on that'll probably unearth a lot of dirt on the guy." He smiled a little bit. "Of course, it's going to cost you."
Clampdown sighed. "Cost me what?"
Deep Cover leaned in across the table. "Smokescreen is dead," he said. "I'm in charge now, and I'm trying to clean up his mess. But I need good people around me to make it work." He narrowed his optics. "I want you to be one of those people, brother."
Doubledealer thoughtfully looked up. "Wellll, we are near the Border Regions," he told Silverbolt. "I spend a lot of time around those parts, so I know my way around. There's a joint I know called The Vertigo. Humble little tavern, just outside from the glitz and shame of the Little Sheol strip."
Dealer extended his wings outward, splaying them to their full length. "It's not too far from here. C'mon..."
The mercenary sprung high up into air, converted into his avian form and flew off toward the Border Regions.