2016-05-25 Fountain of Ideas

From Transformers: Lost and Found

Fountain of Ideas
Date 2016/05/25
Location Lost Light: Engineering -- Engine Room
Participants Nautica, Gearstrip
Summary Nautica is trying to find new ways of figuring out what her engines are doing.

The continued degradation of the Lost Light's engines has driven Nautica to increasing distraction; she's dismantled nearly every system twice, run more diagnostics than should technically be possible in that timeframe, and even invented an entire new field of theoretical physics in hopes of explaining the energy drain. Thus far, all her efforts have turned up nothing. And so the Camien engineer has finally decided to take a break, on the grounds that literally nothing else so far has worked, so she might as well try something new.

Now Nautica is seated at her workstation, a partly-empty bottle of oddly iridescent liquid in one hand. She tilts the bottle back and forth, letting the liquid inside slosh back and forth in a manner that doesn't quite seem quite /right/ somehow. It's as if the liquid didn't quite adhere to physical laws, accepting them more as optional guidelines than actual rules. The Camien places the bottle on her workstation once again, and then looks over at the engines thoughtfully.

When Gearstrip turns up in engineering rather than haunting her usual haunt in the machine shop, she comes bearing something vaguely gun-shaped that has been cobbled together out of pieces of literal garbage, a data stick, her goggles snapped firmly atop the crown of her helm, and a thoughtful frown upon her face. She has spent a solid hour of her ostensibly off-duty time sitting in the machine shop going over the contents of both, resisting the possibility to take the garbage gun apart and turn it into simple garbage. As she paces toward Nautica and her actual workstation, she frowns a little more deeply and then vanishes the datastick at least into a subspace pocket, lowering the piece of basically trash she's carting around to a loose grasp behind her back. She says: "Hey. You still busy? I mean, I know you're always super busy. Wow, what's your bottle doing?"

Lost in her own thoughts, Nautica nearly drops the bottle when Gearstrip suddenly speaks. There's a moment of frantic fumbling to regain her grip, and then she puts it down on the workstation carefully, before turning to offer Gearstrip a tired smile. "Hi! And... I honestly don't know? I can't think of what else to try on the engines next, so I'm taking a break." She rests a finger atop the bottle, tilting it one way and then the other before letting it settle back upright. It still doesn't slosh right. "This is... half of a bottle of quantum-filtered six-dimensional engex."

(As if that explains everything.)

"Yeah." Gearstrip tips her head up to peer, narrow-gazed, toward the nearest of the vent accesses that lead her into the ductwork. "I definitely would've reported it if I saw anything that looked like it would have any kind of adverse effect on engine charge. Everything looks normal except for the part where it isn't. Super weird." She scuffs a foot against the floor beneath and shifts her weight a little with the cant of her head. "Maybe the engines need a drink! Er. I've never heard of-- I mean, I've never seen anything like that at Swerve's! What's ... how do you have a drink in six dimensions?"

"They don't just /look/ normal! If I take them offline and run them through simulations, they /should/ be running at a little more than 118% of efficiency." There's a touch of frustration to Nautica's tone. Usually she loves having a Project to engage with or a Problem to solve -- capital letters and all -- but usually she has a solution well before this point. Or at least some hint of what to investigate next. The continual degradation of the engines not only doesn't make sense by any set of laws that Nautica cares to apply, but it's starting to feel a little like a personal affront. As if her engines are /mocking/ her.

With a sigh, the Camien engineer shakes her head and turns her attention to the bottle instead. "This? A while back, one of the quantum pods died, and when I replaced it I found the lattice was still intact. So I decided to try filtering some cheap engex through a couple alternate dimensions. I was able to get two bottles out of it before the lattice degraded; those are the only two bottles of quantum engex in this universe, as far as I know." She pauses, and then corrects, "The only one and a half bottles."

<FS3> Gearstrip rolls Quantum Theory: Failure. (3 4 5)

The slighter Camien tech sidles forward to tilt into a lean against the back of the seat, peering intently at the bottle and then tipping her head to turn the puzzled crook of her smile back towards the much larger Camien engineer. The noise she makes is suspiciously chortlish. She says, "So it like, cooked and distilled itself? Through the power grid? Or-- wait. Is it time hopping? Is it time hoppy liquor?" Gearstrip's struggling to follow but it's also clear that she's a few nuts and bolts short of the hardware drawer on this one.

"No, no, it's engex," Nautica explains firmly. Because she's clearly considering drinking this, and she only drinks engex. "It's just... engex in more dimensions than usual, because it was filtered on other levels of reality and that changes its shape." She pauses, and then adds, "Also, it gets you anti-drunk."

"Is that like--" Gearstrip's brow creases a little harder. She remembers making a joke about being an anti-party recently and it leads her to ask this immediate question: "If you tried to get drunk and anti-drunk at the same time, would you explode?"

"You'd just get sober at first." Nautica pauses, then adds, "I /think/. Anyway, there's only a very tiny chance of multidimensional implosion. Usually, you just get... more." Seemingly realizing this doesn't help, she gestures as she tries to elaborate. "When Ultra Magnus drank some, he got /really/ focused. He could spot tiny details in things no one else would, and was able to work incredibly efficiently. If Chromia drank some, while she was anti-drunk she'd probably be an even better fighter. I'm thinking I might drink some and see if it helps me solve the engine problem. Besides, I could use a drink."

Notably, she doesn't theorize what might happen if someone got Rodimus anti-drunk; perhaps some things are too terrifying to consider.

Gearstrip looks absolutely fascinated. She scoots a little closer in, shadowing just beneath Nautica's elbow mostly, and peers intently at the bottle. "What would happen to me?" she wonders. "What does more Gearstrip even mean? This is like ... existential philosophy in a bottle, and there's only a bottle and a half in the whole universe?" She puffs out her freckled cheeks and looks up at Nautica with a wide-eyed expression. "How did you get the idea to do that?" she wonders.

"'Existential philosophy in a bottle'. I should put that on the label," Nautica muses. Then she uncorks the bottle, removing two glasses from a drawer beneath the workstation. "As for why I tried it? I had a bunch of cheap engex someone had left around the engine room, and an intact quantum lattice. And I did the math, and thought the resulting engex would taste really smooth. Better than triple-filtered."

Nautica places the glasses on the workstation, one in front of each, and pours a dram of the glimmering quantum booze into each. "I don't know what more Gearstrip would be," she admits. "Honestly, I'm not entirely sure what more Nautica would be! I just think maybe anti-drunk Nautica will do better at problem-solving the engine situation than sober Nautica has."

"Ooh." Gearstrip bites at the curve of her lower lip and sways back onto her heels, standing straighter. "You don't have to share, I mean, there's literally only two bottles of that in the whole universe," she says.

"Then all the more reason it shouldn't be drunk alone," Nautica replies. "Good engex deserves to be shared, and drinking alone is no fun anyway. Besides..." She gestures towards the engines. "...two anti-drunk heads might be better than one, when it comes to thinking of new things to try."

"Well," Gearstrip says, "all right." She sidles a pace or two forward again, turning aside to lean her hip in towards the console as she reaches to pick up the small glass Nautica has poured her in the frame of her hands. She pockets the garbage gun in subspace, perhaps to be asked about later. "I'm happy to help you brainstorm. I mean-- I mean in the idea throwing sense, not in the weapons genius sense. I'm not sure how to verb him. Er, I mean."

"I don't think anyone can verb capital-b Brainstorm," Nautica assures Gearstrip. "Plus, I suspect if I gave him quantum booze and asked for his help, he'd end up trying to turn the engines into a gun that shot backwards in time and used stars for ammunition." She raises the glass of her own six-dimensional engex in toast, then downs it.

Gearstrip toasts Nautica with it, and laughs aloud on her way to drinking it. "--Sounds accurate, except he'd probably find a way not just to try but also succeed, and we'd end up with a gaping time hole in reality." (Her faith in Brainstorm is so touching, right.) She mimics Nautica in the lift of the glass, knocking back the shot, and then somewhat hesitatingly lowers the glass. She makes a little "Brrr!" of aftermath, although the noise could be the result of a psychosomatic frisson of impact rather than anything that has actually happened to her systems.

The first thing to notice about six-dimensional engex is that it certainly is smooth; the bite is all in the aftertaste. It's got rich notes of fresh ice, concentrated energon, and... quantum strings? Then it hits, but not in the manner most engex does; instead of a kick that leaves you bleary, it's as if your brain has been covered in cobwebs and they're suddenly removed. You don't feel different, just... more /awake/. Perhaps it takes more than one dram to really kick in?

Nautica puts her glass back on the workstation, looking over at the engines. "I wonder," she muses. "Maybe there's something to shooting through time." Because that's a promising start to any thought.

"Hmmm," hums Gearstrip with a slight widening of her eyes. She studies her emptied glass thoughtfully, and then looks up. "You think there's some kind of time-space workaround for the charging issue?" she asks, apparently trying to charge ahead up the train tracks before the thought can get that far past the station. "Like ... but ... except what if the engines aren't charging right because in the future we tried to fix the charging issue with a time-space workaround and future us are stealing our power?"

"Well, what I actually meant was that I could do a full engine diagnostic simultaneously in multiple times." Nautica stands up, pacing towards the engines as she looks over the diagnostic ports thoughtfully. "Then I could compare them, and find what differed. I've been keeping records of every diagnostic, but since these are /quantum/ engines, the records can't really capture every state."

She pauses, considering this for a long moment. "But actually, you might be on to something. Not siphoning power from a different time; that'd just end up delaying the problem at best. But maybe I could look /ahead/ to after we've /already/ solved the engine problem, and see what I did." Because trying to examine the future /never/ goes wrong. Clearly, anti-drunk Nautica is somewhat more concerned with the feasibility of ideas than their advisability.

"Huh." Gearstrip scratches at the side of her head. She sits perched, now, with little memory of how she ended up sitting down, one leg folded beneath her as she leans back toward the console and watches as Nautica lopes along her engines and their ports. "But how would you be sure to catch the right set of possibilities for our section of the universe? Aren't there a million possible futures? What if some alt version of Nautica did something to solve a totally similar but different problem? What if we got the wrong Nautica back? Or two Nauticas trying to simultaneously coexist in the same space across the time hole?" While Nautica finds wild new ideas to find feasible, Gearstrip theorizes wild new iterations of Murphy's law to problem-solve. None of them are going to help her fix the engine problem. Or build Getaway's gun, for that matter.

"There are a few hiccups to work through," Nautica admits, turning back to regard Gearstrip thoughtfully. "But I said I needed to look at this problem from another angle. And what can be more 'a different angle' to look at the issue from than multidimensional movement along the timeline?" Then something occurs to her. "Wait... the shuttles! Oh! I have an idea. I'm sorry, I need to go!" She's already heading towards the exit, all enthusiasm and energy that may not bode well for the survival of any smaller craft remaining aboard.

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