Chapter Fifteen - Semantic Interoperability
The door ground open, gears unused for some time voicing their protest in a cacophony of grating sound. The mech sitting chained to the chair within shifted only slightly, head slowly raising up, pale white optics barely visible under the glare of the lamps mounted on the ceiling. He stepped inside the chamber, a strange disquiet washing over him at the lack of expression on the captured bot’s face. The gaze that followed him as he crossed the room to stand before the table was devoid of any discernible emotion. The dark mech’s frame did not tense nor give any other visible reaction to this new presence in the room.
Such lack of response was off-putting, for he was accustomed to prisoners that displayed their hatred for him outright, either visibly with a narrowed optic glare or verbally with every curse ever invented. This silence, this lack of animation was unexpected and more than a little disturbing.
The mech had the build of a seeker, one of the rarer framesets, with down swept wings and armor so dark a blue it was almost black. The paint was marred with scratches and scrapes from the recent battle. There was a large dent on the bot’s right shoulder plate, as if he had taken a direct blow from some other mech’s fist. He knew that were he to look closer at the dark seeker’s injuries, he would find black paint mixing with the blue, evidence of the bot’s attacker and perhaps the cause of the dent.
None of the wounds seemed to bother the mech at all, sitting there with a sharp gaze as if injury was the least thing to worry over.
"What is your true designation," he inquired calmly, trying to keep the disconcerting feeling now worming away at his internals from showing on his face.
There was a very brief silence in which the fins connected to the side of the dark seeker’s face twitched ever so slightly.
"You have already been told my name.
The bot spoke in a way that was, at the very best, disconnected.
There was no tone.
It was simply a voice that existed to fulfill its purpose as a sonic representation of information and nothing more.
"Driftside? The one you supplied to the team that found you?"
"Yet the mechs we met in battle today called you differently."
"Yes, they did," the dark seeker responded promptly, the passive non-expression upon his faceplates unchanging. "It was an unfortunate occurrence."
"For you, yes."
"I have not lied to you or anyone else here."
"You are a Decepticon."
"No I am not."
"Then how do you explain that those mechs knew who you were?"
"I was a Decepticon,” the dark seeker replied, a forced emphasis placed pointedly on the tense modifier, optics briefly flaring. “As of now I no longer follow that particular creed.”
Here he paused, staring at the chained bot in the chair before him, wishing for a moment that the dark seeker had, at the very least, lashed out in anger rather than plying deliberate intonement upon a single word. He would have been more inclined to believe an angry rebuttal than this cold and almost calculated approach to the matter that this bot seemed to be taking.
"So you wish to defect?"
"I have already defected."
"I know what you meant," the dark seeker said evenly, no increase in volume to accentuate the interruption. "I have no wish to join the Autobots. I will have no sigil etched in my armor ever again."
Only here did an inkling of emotion leak through, as the mech’s head raised up in an almost arrogant fashion, the faint hint of pride seeping into the voice as the last few words were spoken. Here was a free mech, perhaps not a true neutral but one he now felt would not bring any harm to those under his own command. He stood there for a moment, waiting for any more questions or other thoughts to drift into his processor to challenge the decision he was preparing to make concerning the captured seeker. None came and he turned back towards the door, keeping his own expression solemn as it creaked open, allowing him to ex
it the memory, though some slight disorientation remained for a moment afterwards. He watched silently as his brother detached the wires from their wrists, an expression of concern forming across his elder sibling’s face at his silence. Misinterpreting, not noticing that he’d held back his uncertainty from their bond when the physical connection had first been suggested, that he held it back even in the aftermath. He had wanted it, to see the memory his brother had to offer in the way they had used to share as younglings after spending orns apart on different training grounds. They had traded insulting nicknames for their respective mentors, laughed over incidents that others in their classes had caused, and banished the loneliness that had developed while they were separated.
Again he wished to be back in that time, his only worries whether or not their creator would approve of the marks he’d earned at the Academy.
"That was the only time that I ever spoke with him," Optimus said in a quiet, almost careful tone, breaking through his thoughts. "One of our scout patrols had picked him up a few dozen orns prior to then—fifteen thousand vorns ago by now. He had been injured attempting to reach what remained of the Archives in Iacon."
"The Archives were destroyed?"
"By those under your command."
"Decepticons," he murmured, recalling the term from the memory his brother had fed him. It felt odd as it passed over his vocalizers, strangely familiar, as if he had said it many, many times in the past. He felt his brother tense through their bond, a faint inkling of fear trickling through, nearly mirroring his own personal terror at what might happen if he fully regained his memories. He pushed it aside, focusing instead on other details the memory had supplied— His son was alive, with a seeker frameset so rare that its construction was usually reserved for those who were sparked as such. His spark mate had to have been a seeker then, to have carried a sparkling with such a unique build. A frown crept its way across his face, however, as his processor cycled through Optimus’s words "Why was he trying to get to the Archives?"
"I do not know," his brother answered, shaking his head slightly. "I was disinclined to believe the reasons that he supplied at the time. He had told us he was searching for information on a certain bot, but refused to even supply the designation of who he was looking for."
"It was his carrier."
The voice that cut through was Ratchet’s, surprising them both. His brother even gave an almost startled sort of twitch, as neither of them had even heard the door slide open again. This dissolved the medic’s grumpy expression for a scant few seconds, an almost amused glint appearing in the reflective green bot’s optics. It vanished the minute the mech saw him watching, replaced once more with the grouchy glare he’d become accustomed to.
"Care to tell me how the conversation turned to that slagger, Nightblade?" Ratchet inquired, turning to scowl at Optimus. "Thought we had an agreement, Prime."
"I know, Ratchet," his brother said quietly. "But I believe he has the right to know the fate of his own sparkling."
At this the medic let out a loud snort.
"Of all the stupidest—There’s no way in pit that Nightblade is his sparkling.”
"He fits the description—"
"Description? What description?"
"I remembered some things," he muttered, feeling some slight annoyance at the medic’s attitude. He very carefully pushed himself into a sitting position upon the table. The painkillers were still in effect, but he did feel some slight discomfiture at the motion. He saw, with a glance down at his frame, that the metal over his shoulder had melted ever further. The marks of the plasma round that had struck him were still evident and despite Ratchet having reattached his remaining arm he could feel the joint at the shoulder seizing up when he tried to place more weight on it. "I know that my sparkling was a mech, and that he had my optics. Not these—"
He flashed his own optics for emphasis.
"—but white ones. My optics were white once."
Ratchet glared at him, still looking defiantly skeptical.
"Even so, if Nightblade—"
"Why are you referring to him with that designation? I thought his name was Driftside."
He glanced at his brother, who sighed wearily.
"Driftside was the designation he supplied, true," Optimus said slowly. "But the Decepticons that we encountered upon attempting to assist him in reaching the archives referred to him as Nightblade. As this secondary designation is the only one that there is any record of—"
"It’s his only designation, Prime," Ratchet broke in angrily. "That other name was just a front, a lie to get what he wanted. Just like everything else he said."
"I do not believe that he lied."
"Doesn’t mean it wasn’t true."
"He did not openly attack anyone on our base or attempt to access any area or computer without permission. Yes, he defended himself when Ironhide attacked him, but—"
"And I’ll say what I said when it happened, you were an idiot to let him go after that—"
Both of them turned to look at him, the argument temporarily forgotten.
"What exactly did he lie to you about?" he inquired, looking pointedly at the medic. It seemed to him the reflective green mech had suffered personally from this incident, and it puzzled him.
"That’s none of your slagging business."
"No! You know damn well I don’t want to talk about that and you’re not going to make me just to soothe his nerves.”
With that the medic stormed out again, looking quite furious.
As the door slid shut once more, he heard his brother heave sigh and picked up what felt like guilt seeping through their connection. He frowned uncertainly, puzzled for a moment before realizing that Optimus was simply trying to express an apology over the medic’s attitude.
"There’s no need for that, brother."
"I’m fairly certain at this point that whatever has made him act so hostile towards me, it is because I did something to deserve it."
Optimus gave him a sad look and he knew that what he said was true.
"He used to work in Central Tower, you know," his brother said after a brief lull, glancing at the door leading out to the medical bay, voice kept low as if afraid the medic would hear. "He was the medic assigned to the bots in the underground levels."
His brother nodded, but he barely saw it, a sudden thought flashing across his processor. He could not say what made this particular musing arise right then, but recent recollections prompted him to speak up.
"He worked with the downcasts then, didn’t he?"
A strange tension struck him with that answer, the bond constricting quite noticeably. His brother’s voice barely echoed this, but he felt certain that he had hit upon something vital. He hesitated, uncertain as to whether or not pressing further would yield any more information.
"There was one that had been assigned as his part time assistant," Optimus said quietly, carefully avoiding his gaze. "But she was offlined."
It didn’t take much more than that to guess now why the medic did not like him.