Difference between revisions of "2018-08-15 No Going Back"

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Latest revision as of 02:50, 16 August 2018

No Going Back
Date 2018/08/15
Location Tarantulas' Citadel - Noisemaze
Participants Minimus Ambus, Prowl
Summary Funtimes in spider cell. Prowl admits everything, Minimus endures.

There's only so much a Cybertronian sensory suite can endure before it trips off and knocks its owner unconscious. When Minimus and Prowl awaken, it's not to the pounding, screaming, blitzing psychedelic horror of a swirling wasteland, but the interior of... something. It's hard to see much detail through the green forcefields that surround them, beyond the spider silk stretched across the ceiling.

Prowl remains prone, tonguing the spot on his lip he'd apparently bitten into.

Minimus, first, sees the ground because he is lying face down. At first all he is really aware of is the dull throb of lingering pain. He stares without comprehension down at the floor beneath him. What is this? What is happening?

The low rumble he emits comes as he forces himself up to his hands and knees, a long groan that almost seems to seep out of him without deference to his will.

Prowl twists to sit upright, wobbling slightly. There's no wall to lean against, in their floor-to-ceiling cell squarely in the center of the room. "I don't understand. Why would he bring you along? Ugh. Are you alright?"

"I punched through his abdomen, Prowl, my company was not optional." Minimus winces, grunts, and clatters back to the ground again but at least he is seated upright now. He looks doleful and scowlish at the same time.

"Oh. I see." Prowl sets his hands on his knees to steady himself. "We're... inside one of Tarantulas experiments. He wasn't supposed to finish it. It was for prisoner containment. I don't... know of a way out. So."

Minimus gives Prowl a long look. He considers for a moment, and then lies back down on the floor, this time on his back. He squints up at the ceiling of spidersilk. It takes him a long moment to marshal any words.

Prowl sits in the painful silence. He almost misses the sensory onslaught. Eventually, he shimmies over on his hip and looks down. "You want explanations, or do you just... want to lie there."

“I was just wondering about your taste, Prowl.” Minimus is extremely dry as he says this.

Prowl glares, but his anger fizzles out before he can snap. With a heavy sigh, "I had different objectives a long time ago. I'd provide ideas, he'd bring them to life. I had an an ethical dilemma, but he didn't want to stop. So I had him disposed of. In this place. All of it was wrong... but he's psychotic, alright? I want him dead. Sincerely. We are not a thing."

“I see. So I am participating in your comeuppance.” Minimus sighs a little: a cycling weight of air that hisses through his fans. He looks up at the ceiling again and says, “He doesn’t appear to be taking your independence well.”

"Well... Soundwave and Rodimus had an idea for a trap. You know that Ostaros he keeps gushing about? It's Springer. Another one of his experiments. We had planned to use him as bait. With his permission. I got the information I needed out of Tarantulas, and I had planned to just... send him back. Drop him off somewhere. He wasn't supposed to break out. But he did, and here we are." Prowl hesitates. "Rodimus advised that I be honest with you."

Minimus rubs his thumb and middle finger over the bridge of his nose, and then levers himself up sitting so that he can look at Prowl. His hands fallen to his lap, he says, “Rodimus learned from the experience of lying to me.”

"I don't want to lie to you," Prowl says, sounding pained. "I mean- I didn't... want to."

Minimus Ambus scrapes his fingertips over his helm. His shoulders slump somewhat. “If it takes being trapped in an inescapable prison to get the truth out of you, I don’t know that I want it,” he says quietly. “Prowl… what do you want from me?”

"It- It's not the damn prison. I made the wrong decision, and it hurt you, and I'm sorry. I have no excuse. I wasn't thinking. I was afraid. I still am, but it's not worth... losing you as a friend." Prowl's turn to slump. "You mean a lot to me. I wasn't lying about that."

Minimus frowns for a long moment without saying anything, and then shifts, bracing his hands against his lap. Shifting forward, he scoots a few inches towards Prowl over the floor. The furrow has etched deep into the edge of his helm. “Thank you for the apology,” he says. “Start with the worst thing. The thing you think I am going to hate you for. Start there and work backwards.”

Prowl endures a mixture of relief and great apprehension. It manifests in a furrowed look, and flexing fingers. "There are two things that have always stayed with me. One of which I'll need to take care of very soon. I'll start with Kup. I was frustrated with Autobot Command failing to follow through on missions that didn't involve heroically saving innocents, or beating up the Bad Guy. My tactics were subtle, but no one cared if they didn't result in immediate, blatant victories. I needed someone to speak through, someone to rally the ranks, someone with charisma. I chose Kup. I had... a scientist alter Kup's brain module during repairs. Shadowplay. That's one."

Minimus watches him with a stare gone remote and thoughtful, his gaze a brilliant glitter of scarlet. “So you brainwashed him,” he says, “into being a mouthpiece for you. Essentially.”

"Essentially. And he's still out there with that alteration, so I have to... get that handled. Before this summit. If we ever get out of here," Prowl says. "I'll probably let him deck me a few times. It's therapeutic for a lot of mechs."

Minimus snorts. “I assume you are aware that getting punched in the face hardly constitutes justice for that,” he says in a flat, neutral voice. His hands lace together in a tight, contained press, across his thigh.

"How would you sentence me for something like that?" Prowl asks, slow and cautious.

“For willful violation of that nature?” Minimus looks back at him with a visible tightening of his jaw. “Harshly.”

Prowl shrinks under that scarlet stare. He ends up looking away, focusing on a scrape on his forearm. "...The second incident involved Tarantulas. We had developed a type of bomb, together. Something that could only be traced back to Decepticons. Just Decepticons. We needed more Autobots to enlist. So I focused on Carpessa. Neutral city, fourteen hundred mechs. Nearly wiped it out. It was counted as a Decepticon war crime. I think about it every day."

The immediacy of Minimus's reaction to this is a hot blast that he cannot entirely contain the way he held himself for the more intimate abuse Prowl just confessed. In a way this one is more personal because of his own tasks throughout the war. His vents sputter with the force of the explosion of air. "You--." He breaks off the snarl. This is a confession. His knuckles can't change color but his fists are extremely tight.

"Very well," he says in a thin, remote voice. "I congratulate you on an extremely successful long term deception."

Prowl turns his palms out, where they rest against his knees. "That's all? You should get the ball rolling here, Minimus. I have a lot more war crimes to work through, and it looks like we have nothing but time. I'm an Autobot. An Autobot leader that murdered innocents, for my own warped vision of victory. Every single survivor enlisted with the Autobots, because they thought that Decepticons killed their friends and loved ones."

Minimus stares at him for a moment, and then pushes himself up to his feet. Tension drives him to motion, a restless, back-and-forth pacing. "Does it occur to you to wonder whether we "'should have won the war, Prowl?"

For all of Prowl's submission, he stands rigid against Minimus' question. "No. Megatron's defeat was necessary. It's why his Third in Command will also be confessing. We had to stop him." He watches Minimus pace, from his cross-legged position on the floor.

Minimus's motion reaches an apparently arbitrary point at the center of the domed spiderwebbed room and then he reverses, turning about and circling back. He is going nowhere, but it seems to do something to spend some of his frenetic energy. His teeth are set and hard, but he does speak again after an extended pause. "I think you miss my point," he says. "What did your victories cost you?" After a beat, he shakes his head vehemently and holds his hand up, palm up. He gestures between himself and Prowl with that hand, and then says, "What did our victories cost us?"

Prowl had hoped for something he could just endure, like a long lecture or a heated string of curses. But Minimus engages him, and his features twist as he's forced to think. "At the time, they didn't cost me anything. I thought I was doing the hard work. The work that no one else wanted to do. So I felt justified. I don't know what you mean by "us". The Autobots? I guess we'll see, won't we?"

"You really think that didn't cost you anything?" Minimus asks him, very quietly. "Is that really what you think?"

Prowl winces. "I- ...No, of course it... had an effect on me. I'd been obsessed with a perfect future, and to me it was absolutely attainable, if everyone just listened. If they just did what I told them to do. It was right there, right there." He holds a hand out to pluck some invisible fruit. "But Orion frequently ignored my advise. I was always at odds with Hot Rod and Bumblebee. With you. I wanted to stop, but it felt like there was no coming back. I stopped caring after a while. My cost is apathy. If I had turned to face all of this, it would break me."

Minimus's mouth crimps in a tight, flat way, and he tilts his head. He stands for a moment, and then settles his weight on his heels. He starts to fold his arms over his chest and then lets them drop instead, forcing himself not to block with his body just as much as he forces himself not to stop listening with his audials. "You brought us all down with you when you did those things," he says. "You caused us to do horrors, Prowl, but more than that, you kept them from us. We participated in your victories. We share their cost. When there is blood on your hands, there is blood on Orion's. On mine. But you didn't tell us. You obfuscated. You lied."

His voice drops into a deep rasp. "What's next on your list? I know this isn't over."

Prowl wills himself to look squarely at Minimus' face. He's not blind to Minimus' own efforts here. The least he can do is look at his confessional priest. And how it hurts. Prowl begins to tremble from the pain of it all, but he presses onward when Minimus prompts him. There's a lot of tales of terrible coercion and exploitation of various neutral alien races. Promises that are never honored. Manipulation of POWs, carelessly risked and used as leverage. Supply contamination. Slaughter of surrendered Decepticon bases, expediting creation and dispatching of MTOs, more and more secrets within secrets.

Minimus Ambus does not throw a tantrum.

He doesn't scream. He doesn't shout. He doesn't run out into the swirling chaos of the Noisemaze. He does pace, and twitch, and snarl occasionally. He meets no individuated confession with any words that alleviate guilt or relieve responsibility in any way. Time and again, Prowl speaks, and Minimus listens, hears, accepts, and fails to refrain from twisting the knife. It is personal. It is difficult. By the end of it, he has become almost completely inscrutable because his efforts at self-control are requiring him to shut down.

When it is done, Minimus is standing. He permits the silence between them to stretch, weighted and taut. Then he bows his head and says, "I know that this will harrow your nerves," in a low, tense, growl. "But I need to think."

Then he turns around, clasps his hands behind his back, and walks as far across the room as he can to create a brief illusion of privacy with which to stare into the wall.

Prowl finally stands, and harrowing doesn't begin describe Minimus' pending judgment. He parts his lips, and they stay that way for a while. Is it right to defend himself? Voice his own merits? Is it right to even try? "Minimus, if you don't think this haunts me... If you don't think I regret it, that I'd give everything to start over..." His optics dim, his fingertips curl into his palm, and he vents inward. "I know what this means for our faction. I know what it means for you. I was wrong about everything. I'm sorry."

Minimus glances aside and chuffs. He shakes his head, and then resumes pacing without saying anything. His brow is deeply furrowed, his jaw set. He keeps coming back to this fixed point on the wall.

Prowl, as usual, has zero reference for Minimus' various sounds and what they mean. But he can only tolerate so much of this silent pacing. He turns back towards the nearest glowing green barrier, sizes it up, and abruptly hurls his shoulder into it. It's zappy, of course, but with a smarting heat element that promptly blackens his armor. He pulls away with a hiss, and glares up at the webs. "You're loving this, aren't you?" he shouts. "It's what I deserve, right?" He gears up for another lunge. It shaves off half of his pauldron, which clatters to the ground, smoking and sizzling.

Minimus startles and turns. For a moment it is possible that he permitted himself to forget that they are captives, caught in the web of a sadistic spider with an overwhelming thirst for vengeance. His lip curls back from his teeth in a sneer, and then he restores his composure by effort.

"Please stop trying to fry yourself alive. I did say I needed to think."

Prowl continues to throw himself against the field until most of his hood has charred, and his metal dances with sparks. Then he claws at it. It burns off a finger or two. He turns to Minimus. "Green... alert. Code Green. Whatever the hell we called it. You can break through this! Nothing can contain you. You can... think later."

Minimus narrows his scarlet gaze and, very deliberately, sits down on the floor. He folds his legs beneath himself and clasps his hands neatly in his lap. He says nothing, but his body language is practically skywriting.

Prowl stops, smooths his hands over his chevron, and slumps back down to the ground. It's torture, and it's supposed to be. But he'll wait, damnit. He'll wait, and he won't rock or fidget or mutter, however sorely tempted he is. It's abject misery. Uncomfortable, insufferable quiet time for Minimus to think.

"There is no moral difference," Minimus Ambus says quietly, carefully, as his low, rumbling voice speaks the resounding words, "between an atrocity committed upon a Decepticon, an Autobot, or any other Cybertronian. The principles of justice are clear about this. Even the Autobot credo is clear. The freedoms we fought to guarantee were the freedoms of all sentient beings. That was the basis for everything." He studies Prowl for a long moment in his no-longer-thrashing misery, and then turns his gaze away to stare at nothing. "No one can forgive on behalf of the murdered. By opening the door to restorative justice, we have recognized that we as a people have gone past the point of no return. There can be no going back. There can be no restitution or retribution. There was atrocity, there was tragedy, and now there must be progress, because otherwise, we simply cannot continue. There is no clean hand. There is no just arbiter. There is only ... us."

"I don't know what "going back" would entail. No one is asking to erase the tragedies, or be absolved of their crimes. I'd... I'd be asking for the freedom to continue to help. To continue to shape our race's future for the better. I'd be asking for mercy, so I can serve. Serve the right way," Prowl says. "I don't know how Soundwave will represent the Decepticons. I'd planned on collaborating."

Minimus frowns and hesitates for a long moment, and then shakes his head slightly. The deep furrow creases the edge of his helm. "What service do you have in mind?" he asks, lowly.

"...The service I've been attempting to provide since I joined this crew. I'd like to think I've played a role in ensuring Unicron didn't consume the rest of the galaxy..." Prowl looks unsure now. "Are you asking for me to sentence myself?"

"I am not your judge, Prowl. I am neither jury not executioner. I am one mech standing here, asking another one, how do you intend to go forward?" Minimus lifts his chin. "There is a common scheme here. They wouldn't listen. They didn't agree. It wasn't going your way, so you made it happen anyway."

He paces across the room, drawing closer. Each step is a slow slide, measured and restrained. When he stops he is within reach, looking up the long, long distance between the absurd height differential. He looks puntable.

He says, "I hear that you were wrong. I hear that you're sorry. And I have seen you actively work to make amends. I do not reject the evidence of my own experience. I only ask you this. What happens the next time you think I'm wrong?"

Prowl wilts visibly. "You think I'd go behind you. Behind Command." He doesn't reply right away, gazing distantly at the green-white armor of Minimus' chest. He looks tired. "If I disagree, I'll deal. I'm not going to jeopardize the only ties I have left. Orion didn't deserve how I treated him. Neither did Kup. Neither did Bee. You least of all."

"I don't know what you would do," Minimus answers him very softly. "That's why I asked."

"I wouldn't subvert you," Prowl says with low urgency. "Let me work to fix all of this. I don't know if I can, but I need to try."

Minimus stares up at him with intense thoughtfulness. He is quiet and still. His chin lifts with a slow acceptance. "Very well." Then he says, lifting his palm: "You are too large. Come down here and shake my hand."

Prowl does not hesitate. He shifts to kneel, and takes Minimus' smaller hand in his own to shake firmly. "Thank you." A bland gesture, but the emotion is there, beneath ablated armor. His grasp lingers. He doesn't care if it's awkward.

Is it awkward? There is no one to observe, except maybe Tarantulas. Minimus grips his hand sturdily in the aftermath of confession. It isn't absolution, but perhaps it is acceptance. Small and grave, he looks into Prowl's face and says, "It is a long road, Prowl, but I will not deny you the right to walk it. I've given it to others whose crimes were no less horrible, merely less ... meditated."

"Well. We'll see how far I walk it before our audience elects the traditional form of punishment instead." Prowl's smile is hollow as his hand finally falls away. "Are you going to... submit anything?"

Minimus Ambus frowns, and then shrugs. "I don't believe I was the author of anything that qualifies." A beat passes and then he says, "There are choices I would unmake, but I don't believe criminality has been my flaw. Unless you count impersonating an officer for several centuries, I suppose."

"Heh." Prowl just looks a little suspicious as he stares sidelong at Minimus.

Minimus returns the stare without any change in his expression, as though it literally does not occur to him that this would be hard to believe.

"I'm sure I saw you jaywalking in Tempo at some point," Prowl says, then waits to see if Minimus will take him seriously.

Minimus studies him with a remarkably blank expression for a long moment while somewhere behind the flat look in his scarlet gaze he attempts to determine if he is ready, at his time of life, for jokes. He says, "I don't recall you issuing a citation for the infraction. So either you are mistaken or you were derelict at the time."

A beat passes and then Minimus adds, "Tsk."

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