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2017-11-25 THIS IS REALLY BAD

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THIS IS REALLY BAD
Date 2017/11/25
Location Lost Light - Command: Rodimus's Office
Participants Nautica, Rodimus
Summary EVERYTHING IS AWFUL. But Nautica has a plan.

A small plaque outside the scrupulously, regulation-clean door reads 'Captain's Office -- Rodimus of Nyon'.

The room is fairly regulation. On the wall opposite the desk, where Rodimus can see it -- if he ever sat there -- is a framed Autobot badge that's hug just slightly askew in the frame. A new desk has replaced the doodle-covered desk that carried the Matrix map. More often than not, the desk is covered by datapads he hasn't quite gotten to yet. There's another, smaller desk near the door that's partitioned to make almost it's own space. Closer to the main desk sits furniture suitable for a bot of Ultra Magnus's class -- or, with some adjustment, a much, much smaller minibot.


Nautica of Caminus is many things, but 'prone to panic' is not usually one. So it's perhaps a bit unusual that she bursts through the door of Rodimus' office without even knocking, looking on the verge of tears. "It's all lies!" she says, without any background explanation. "It's all lies, and it's going to /spread/." She doesn't take a seat; she just slams her hands down on the edge of the desk, leaning forward as much to support herself -- to stay upright -- as any attempt at looming. "The prayer circle... it's going to spread! It's /in the spark/."

Rodimus, half-buried under his desk reaching for something he dropped, slams upright at the sound of Nautica's voice without first checking for clearance. He whacks his head against the desk and falls back, stunned only a moment before he scrambles to his feet. He might look a little dented on the back of his helm, but whatever!! She can't see that!! Abandoning the datapad to be forgotten forever (or until Fritz finds it), he moves around the desk to grasp her by the shoulder. "What's going on? Are you okay?" His concern is honed to the edge of action, anticipating a threat he can immediately solve.

"The Hand," Nautica says, staring wide-eyed at Rodimus. He understands, right? "You have to keep it from spreading. I just..." She visibly tries to settle herself, but she's still all but physically shaking. She wraps her arms around herself for a moment, as if to steady her frame. "We think we know what's happened. And it's contagious. Windy... her prayer circle... some are going to leave infected. I left... I came right here." She looks down at the desk for a moment, and then adds reluctantly, "You have to cut them off comms. The afflicted. That's /really/ important. Otherwise the colonies might be in danger."

As she wraps her arms around herself, Rodimus's hand on her shoulder becomes a quick squeeze, arm wrapping around her too. "Okay. Come here, let's take a seat." He draws her to the side, where there are two seats -- not nearly as comfortable as Windblade's couch, but what can you do -- facing each other. He takes one, and guides her to the next. There's a tension between his concern for her and the seriousness with which he takes her words, and it's the seriousness that wins out -- although concern informs his actions. He pauses to route a comm through to the bridge: "Blaster, all outgoing comms need to be run by me for approval. --yes, I know that's a giant headache. I'm totally aware that the rest of the command crew is out. No, they don't do everything! Come on, mech! Look just -- summaries, tell me, I'll authorize. We've flown in black out before. We'll be fine."

There! That done, Rodimus opens his hands to Nautica: "Tell me what's happening and how we can stop it. How does it spread?"

Nautica settles in, resting her hands in her lap as she stares down at them. Gathering her thoughts, trying to summarize them in some sort of sane and intelligible manner. It's a long moment of silence before she finally speaks again. "It's code, in the oldest sparks. Those ten million years old -- all the colonies -- are particularly vulnerable. Younger sparks, some of it has been patched. You..." And here the mechanic finally looks up at Rodimus again. "...you had even more extensive security holes, but something patched them. Rewrote the code of your spark. Our working theory is either the Matrix, or Vector Sigma."

And then Nautica frowns. "I don't know for sure how it spreads, but we saw the sparks react when people think about the Hand. I think that's one of the keys. Focusing on the Hand -- thinking about it, praying to it -- something like that, that opens the backdoor wide. But it might be able to spread anyway to the more vulnerable sparks. If Windblade called home, and convinced the Mistress of Flame to at least /think/ about the Hand..." She trails off, letting Rodimus imagine the results for himself.

Rodimus winces. Then he winces again as he realizes, "I'll need to talk to the Rigardian council about shutting down comms on their side, too, or she can just -- go around us. And the Rigardians worship the Hand." He drags his hand down his face and sinks back in his seat with a vaguely calculating expression, like he's thinking of bad ideas. Before he can go too far down that road, he asks, "What do you have that I can take to them to convince them?"

A datapad is produced, handed over to Rodimus. "This is what we found," Nautica offers him. "There's a lot there, but it's all laid out. But opening yourself to the Hand -- it means your spark code gets rewritten. You accept remote commands from... well, we think it's the Quintessons. I don't know if it's two-way. If they might find out. Maybe you should claim it's because we think someone aboard the ship is talking to the Harbingers? That way, it's separate from anything to deal with the Hand."

As for the datapad? It's probably not terribly helpful; it appears to be an examination of spark coding that is far beyond what Rodimus understands -- indeed, beyond what most researchers can decipher. The only part that seems relatively straightforward is the big, blinking red text at the bottom that says 'THIS IS _REALLY_ BAD.'

Apparently someone preparing the report thought that part needed to be underscored.

Rodimus gets a glazed expression as he studies the datapad, but when he gets to the end -- despite himself -- a smile quirks his lips. "Thank you for the summary," he says, passing it back to her. He hesitates slightly and then nods. "Sure, that will work. Actually, considering the recent attack, it might not even be a lie. Not sure how they found us or who their friend is." He sits back a moment more, then stands to pop over to his desk and grab a datapad to begin drafting a note to Rigard's Council to get comms shut down ASAP. "You know, it's funny that they still identify with Rigard even after leaving. Okay. I'll get that taken care of. What about fixing this?"

"We need to get to Vector Sigma. I think /that's/ how your code was patched," Nautica explains. "And then maybe we can..." But she trails off. "I don't know. Maybe we can make a security patch? The problem is that no one actually /understands/ spark code. We're creating a whole new field of science just to study this, and a lot of it is guesswork. How do you patch a spark if you're _not_ Vector Sigma? We need to see how it happens -- take readings of someone's spark being re-coded, the vulnerabilities removed -- in order to even know where to /begin/."

A funny sort of wobble in his voice, Rodimus says, "My code was patched?" He doesn't seem to know if he likes this, and his hand curls a moment over his badgeless chest as if to protect the spark buried beneath. No touchie!! They already got invasive enough!! "Ergh. Right. Okay -- well, good news there, Starscream lost enough face with the council because of the attack on the inaugurating gala that he just rolled over -- I mean, screechily, but rolled over -- when I asked. We're good to visit."

"Really?" Nautica brightens; this is the first /good/ news she's had in a while. "I'll speak to the Science and Engineering team and put together a group to go. And maybe one of the afflicted, if we can convince someone to come along. To see if they're cured by exposure." Then she slumps slightly. "But it's going to keep spreading through the ship. Windy's /really/ charismatic when she starts preaching; she'll keep converting people until we cure her."

"I consider Windblade, Prowl, and Soundwave all high-priority for anything that works," Rodimus says, a sharper, fierce edge to his serious tone. Protective. Aggressively protective. "Prowl and Soundwave might not have her charisma, but they set the tone for Autobots and Decepticons everywhere. Start with Windblade and we'll see what happens, maybe?"

"I don't know if she'll want to come." Nautica sounds saddened by this, as her gaze returns to her hands once more. Her attitude is troubled, almost... guilty? "She seems /happy/ with what she's found, not struggling against it like some of them are. She needed meaning, I think, after she learned the Primes aren't divine. And I think she'll probably be angry with me for running out of her prayer circle instead of praying."

Rodimus is silent a beat, considering his words -- but may not considering them very much. "I don't care if she wants to come. I don't care if any of them want to come. And I take responsibility for the decision ordering them to go." He adds, "If it works."

"Maybe we need to have a different reason for the trip, in what we tell them," Nautica suggests. "Say that we think that studying Vector Sigma will help us fight Unicron -- Windy still wants very much to do that, so she might be willing to come then." The mechanic sounds even more miserable as she suggests this; lying to one of her oldest friends is not something that comes naturally, nor is it a comfortable thought.

"No." Rodimus's answer is firm, but his express is touched with rue and regret as he says, "I've lied enough to this crew. I promised myself to give them honesty wherever I could -- and anyway, there's no lying to Soundwave. I'd rather be up front with them, and if they argue, or if they say no--." He breaks off. "That's a problem for Tomorrow Rodimus."

Nautica seems greatly relieved by the lack of lying, even though she was the one who suggested it in the first place. Though the mention of 'that's a problem for Tomorrow Rodimus' earns a look that suggests she thinks Tomorrow Rodimus might not thank Today Rodimus for kicking his problems down the road. "Alright. Then I'll talk to Windblade sometime soon. After some rest." Because she still seems shaky and upset from the prayer meeting and her realization that Windblade's charisma is only going to spread the infection -- the /virus/ -- further through the crew.

In response to that Look, Rodimus tries out a smile, though it slips crooked and sheepish. Sorry, Tomorrow Rodimus! He sobers as he says, "I'm sorry. I know it's not easy to watch someone you care get caught up in this." His understanding shares the rough certainty of shared experience, rather than any abstract compassion. "You are doing everything that you can to help her, even if it might not always feel like it, and even if she might not always be happy about it."

"I'm actually a bit scared," Nautica confesses finally. "I know my own spark is vulnerable. If I think about this stuff too much -- if I let Windy talk to me -- I worry it might be enough to trip that code. I don't really /know/ what sets it off, not for certain. But I want... I want her to be able to /choose/ what she believes in, for herself."

Reaching over to clasp her arm, Rodimus says, "You've told me what you think will fix it. I promise, if anything does happen, and you do slip over whatever edge to trip it, I'll do whatever I can to make sure that you have that choice, too. You're not diving off the edge alone here. We'll make sure that they all have that choice. That freedom."

At this, Nautica offers Rodimus a smile. "Thanks. I... I should go back and look over this a little more. Try to pull the data together a bit. Perceptor and Brainstorm have copies of it all too -- we all worked on this together -- so if something /does/ happen to me, they should be able to help too."

"I'll be here. Waiting for the rest of your big, blinking underlined red text summaries." Rodimus sits back, then stands. Looking down at Nautica, he looks -- hopeful, if cautiously so. "As awful as this feels, don't forget that you've also brought the start of a cure, Nautica. We can fix this. Thank you. Let me know what else you find, okay?"

"I will." Nautica moves to stand again, and offers Rodimus a slightly more genuine -- if still slightly shaky -- smile. "Thanks. It's... I suppose watching people fall to it, it's hard to remember that this could be the beginnings of a cure." She doesn't sound entirely convinced -- after all, bringing every single afflicted person to see Vector Sigma is hardly feasible, and duplicating a patch to the code of someone's spark itself is beyond current science. There's still a long way to go, and Nautica knows that. But she's clearly willing to take the hope where she can find it.

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