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2016-07-19 A Shoulder to Climb on

From Transformers: Lost and Found

2016-07-16 A Shoulder to Climb on
Date 2016/07/19
Location Lost Light: Recreation -- Swerve's
Participants Blackstorm, Skids, Starstruck
Summary Starstruck and Skids talk video games like nerds. Blackstorm climbs on everything while they do so.

Often referred to as the heart of the ship (by Swerve), the bar is rarely empty, rarely quiet. Central to the whole is the bar itself: just tall enough for a minibot to serve over the edge and lined with stools capable of accommodating bots of any height. Large, clear vessels stand behind the bar, containing the brews of the day. Behind the bar, an engex distillery assures there's always something new.

Round tables are scattered across the floor. Seats fold up from the floor beneath. Large booths along the sides of the room have room for a half-dozen or more, if they don't mind getting cozy, while monitors here and there find occasional use showing old vids.

A sign outside the door says:

                        No Guns, No Swords, No Bombs                         

Underneath is written: I MEAN IT!! LOCK YOUR WEAPON SYSTEMS DOWN AND DUMP EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE BIN BY THE DOOR. It is signed with a little frowning Swerve face.

On the other side of the door is a SHAME LIST. No, really, that's what it says. It has the number of days that various people are banned from Swerve's and counts down at the start of the morning shift.


Ever since his encounter with Lieutenant, Blackstorm has been nursing his half-filled glass of engex like some sort of baby. Considering his tab at Swerve's is maxed out, it might be the last time he gets to indulge for a couple days yet.... Actually, if he's being honest he can't quite remember how he managed to get the engex in the first place. If only he could remember the haze of last night. Ah well, likely swiped it from someone, but he'll likely never have that answer.

And he's not about to waste it either. Trying to sneak in with his engex to enjoy the social scene, Blackstorm plunks down in one of the booths. He has to stand on the seat in order to see over the table, but he doesn't seem overly concerned about it. Setting the cube down with a quiet clink, he withdraws something else and begins to pour it in. An additive of some sort. And probably an illegal one from the way he fumbles to hide it when he spots Starstruck coming out of the corner of his optic. He had said he was security, right? Not risking it.

"Huh." The first word that's came out of the superlearner in a long time. The light show that went off didn't provoke it. Skids walks up to the bar, politely, but silently, orders a drink and, once he gets it, he picks it up without looking away from a datapad he's holding. The flashes of light reflect off of the theoretician's face as numbers whizz past.

If Skids is having trouble coping... then he doesn't show it. Suddenly he says, to the pad, "Stop!" Skids then looks up from it, proudly beaming brightly, and he says, to the room in general "Ha! Got it." Then, re-engaging in reality he looks around to see if he knows anyone around. So far so good. He gives a wave to Blackstorm, along with a friendly smile, then keeps looking.

Starstruck makes his way into Swerve's, beaming at the spectacular light show his color scheme causes as he enters. He will literally never get tired of that. He's got the day off, and after having spent a good chunk of it playing Dragon Age (Qunari warrior Inquisitor who's gonna get it on with Dorian, oh yeah) he's decided it's time to do other things. Like drink and talk to people. He hits the bar first, ordering a Sixshot this time, and as he waits for it he leans on the counter and peers around the room to see who's all about. While his visor scans the bar, he sings softly under his breath - Swerve is playing one of his mixes again. "You hit me once, I hit you back, you gave a kick, I gave a slap--"

It's right as his drink arrives that Starstruck spots Blackstorm, and his face brightens, grabbing his glass and heading straight over. Even if he'd seen the additive, Blackstorm, he likely would have just said he liked that kind and had some of his own. He was a pirate, after all; he had plenty of illegal mixers and such. "Hey, Blackstorm! What's up?" Star slides into the booth opposite Blackstorm, all crooked grin. Skids' outburst gets a curious look, and he adds, "Huh. Wonder what that's about."

Blackstorm scoots the half-finished cube closer to his frame, curling a hand around it protectively. As Blackstorm does not yet know Starstruck doesn't give a wit about his habits, he is going to do his best to make sure no one take a sip of his engex. The taste of it will give it away instantly. Thankfully, most people don't make a habit of taking a gulp of other's engex without asking (so he's not so worried as to appear anxious). "Starstruck!" he roars in greeting. "Date night already? I thought it was a few days away."

At the mention of Skids' odd outburst, though, Blackstorm peeks around the edge of the booth in just enough time to see the other wave to him. The the pilot gives a cheeky grin and waves back. "Hey! Skids, am I right? Actually get the place where you wanted to go this time?"

Looking at the two good friends sitting down next-ish to each other Skids strides over, finds a nearby seat and sits down. After a moment to drain a signaificant portion of his glass he says, "Yeah. Look at this." The datapad's turned round and waved at the other two. To be fair, skids has highlighted to section he's so proud to have found, to be fairer... it's a section of a raw memory dump so, to pretty much anyone, it's incomprehensible nonsense. Putting the prize only he understands down Skids takes another deep draw from his drink, signals for another to come his way then asks the pair, "So, how's it going on the wonderful, joyous, fine day?"

Starstruck laughs. "Hey, so I can't see you in the meantime? That's hardly fair, 'specially when you're so easy on the eyes." An optic stutters beneath his visor in a wink. So smooth.

Looking up when Skids comes over, Starstruck takes a pull of his engex and smiles. "What's up, Skids?" This is that super learner guy, if he remembers correctly. And he's confident he does - he's been reviewing personnel files. Star leans forward to look at the datapad and....understands absolutely none of it. His visor narrows as he squints at it. "Whoa, uh, that's cool?" His tone is questioning, as he's not exactly sure how he's supposed to react to this. "It's going pretty good, dude!" For him anyway.

Blackstorm leans over the table to glance at the datapad. "... That's a whole lot of numbers," he remarks.

Cargo would have been seduced. Him? Less so. "What's it mean? I prefer to think one plus one equals three, but..." he trails off, shrugging. Primus, though, the mecha on this ship had odd hobbies. First it is Lieutenant with his 'reading' and now Skids with this odd jumble.

To answer Skids question, though, he adds, "Things are finally slowing down with the Dunia transports. I've finally got a little room to ex-vent. And we can't have that, can we? I'm working to clear that up."

It's only when asked by Blackstorm that Skids catches up to himself. He looks at Starstruck, then Blackstorm then the pad. Then he laughs. "Sorry! Sorry. My mistake. Sometimes I forget... the stuff I look at, after a while, looks translated to me. Didn't mean anything by it." He signals the bar again, "Can I get either of you something to say sorry there?"

After a pause to pass on any orders for drinks Skids explains, "One of the games I've been playing... there's been odd stuff going on. Glitches, but, not glitches. The game's AI is... sometimes a little too good. I've heard stories as well. So, I've been looking at the raw code, as it executed through my gear. The bit I highlighted is one of those glitches."

Starstruck is a pretty chill guy, and at this explanation he gives a laugh and claps Skids on the shoulder. "Don't worry, I didn't think you did!" He holds up his glass, still half full, and adds, "I'm good for now, but maybe I'll take ya up on that in a few." Star by no means needs bots to buy drinks for him - he's pretty loaded, honestly - though he obviously won't say no!

The mention of games has Starstruck's visor brightening in interest. "Oh yeah? Which game? Maybe I've played it, can give you more eyewitness reports." He hadn't really thought of Skids being the type who'd play games ('superlearner' kind of gave the impression of a stuffy academic) and he's pleased to find he was wrong.

Free drinks? Considering he is bankrupt, he is not going to turn that down. With a completely straight face, he turns to order one of the strongest drinks the bar has. On a regular sized mecha, that is enough to down them. For Blackstorm, well, the results were to be seen. Likely he'd ferret it away for later, though, as he is already facing a glass of engex topped off with circuit speeders. Speaking of which, he leans in to take his first sip, trying to hide the flare of his optics at the taste.

Foul, but the good stuff. "Thanks, mecha. That's generous of you, yeah?" he says to Skids, offering up a wide grin. He turns back to the topic at hand. Skids talking about this game is kind of cute, and he seems so happy to do so. The least he can do is play along (as long as he's getting a drink out of it). "Hyper-intelligent AI? Spooky," he remarks. "... Wait a second."

Yeah, he just realized the irony of that, considering what they are. He let out a short laugh. "Maybe you should give it the Ambus test?"

"Ambus test?" Skids asks Blackstorm. He can feel the setup to a joke and wants to hear the punchline. "It's not spooky... just wrong somehow. Play any game long enough and you can tell what the AI's going to do. You can predict it after a while, no matter what the programmers do. It's not a spark. It's not alive. Just cold code. This game hasn't been acting like that. Could be innocent but... like I said. I've heard stories."

Skids turns from Blackstorm, and his words of suspicion hanging in the air, then brightly says to Starstruck, "Wildside. A Core studious one. They're kinda new? This has been their big, and only, production and they've picked up a fair few subscribers already. It's a good game. Really real. Fresh idea but... it wasn't long before I started noticing... things."

Huh. Well that wasn't a weird moment or anything. Starstruck glances from Skids to Blackstorm and back again. Yeah he's just....not gonna touch that. Instead he focuses on Skids' answer to his own question.

"Wildside? Scrap, that came out already?" Star had heard of it what felt like not that long ago. How time flies. "What've you noticed? I wanted to get it, so it'll be good to know what to look for beforehand."

Blackstorm really has no idea why people are looking at him like that. Is it something he said? Start talking about AI in video games that is acting bizarre and unpredictable, and why shouldn't he make good sport about it? Shrugging, Blackstorm decides it is better to keep his mouth shut. Clearly these two know more about it than he does. Nodding, he goes into autopilot mode. "Things, huh?" he asks.

He takes another sip of his drink as he waits for Skids to continue.

Skids... shrugs. Since he outed himself as a learner he's less worried about talking about his outlier ability without vengeful cries of 'nerd!' in the night. Doesn't make it any easier to explain. "Okay. No secret that I learn fast. Real fast. I still make mistakes as I go, just happens so fast no one see it. Thing is my learning process isn't something I can switch on and off. I have to feed it all the time."

"So far, games have enough to keep my processes occupied..." As well as work out some of his aggressions and frustrations, "... but, fighting the PvE campaigns... like knows like. It's learning. Not like a game algorithm, like a person. Like I would. Just not superfast. Then there's those rumors of people core-jacking into the game..." Skids shrugs again, finishes his first drink and causes significant losses to his next.

The rest of Starstruck's drink disappears as he listens, and, forgetting Skids offered to get him another, Star waves for more. "That sounds kinda like a pain," Starstruck offers sympathetically. He's a bit flighty and needs to be entertained in some way, but that sounds like an extreme. He can imagine needing to occupy himself on that kind of level.

"So it's acting like a person, you said? That's kinda weird. You think somebody's messing with it? The code and stuff?" Star tilts his helm, frowning in thought. Don't try too hard to puzzle it out, bud, you'll only fry a circuit. "Core-jacking?"

... The nerd is strong in these ones. Blackstorm isn't totally ignorant of hacking, as he has needed it once or twice to slip out of touchy situations, but he has never tried to apply it to a video game. He really should just keep nodding and smiling, but as the moments wear on the urge to make a crack is getting stronger and stronger. Another sip, and Blackstorm's resolve breaks down.

"You're sure it's dead, Skids?" he asks. "Sounds to me like it's more creative than Ultra Magnus. That passes my Ambus test." There it is! He starts cracking up immediately. Much like blonde jokes among teenage human boys, Magnus jokes are rite of passage among lower-level Decepticon troops. The best way to face something you live in fear of is to make fun of it. That would have gotten a whole battalion laughing.

Skids looks at Blackstorm. He tries to keep a straight stony face like he used to be able to do. Failing really quickly he laughs hard at the gag, needing a drink to help soothe his vocalizer after the laughter subsides. That's when he looks down at the pad again. Like clicking the next link on wikipedia, learning can take you places you didn't want to go. Skids says, looking back up at the pair, "Cybernetic lifeforms have differing hardware, software and otherware for it, like we have sparks, but all cybernetic creations have a core system of some kind. Somebody found a way, as people do, to transmit from the core... thing that holds their personality as direct input for the more complex games. Almost always fatal as it's rarely compatible... but Wildside is. Where it gets worse is that a lot of people plugged into the game... haven't came back. Or, at least, that's what I've heard."

Blackstorm's joke has Starstruck losing it, and the bus lets out a booming hoot of laughter, throwing his head back and shaking with the force of it. It takes him a klik or so to recover, and when he does he's leaning across the table to high five Blackstorm. "Fuck, that was hilarious! Knew there was a reason I liked you." Starstruck leans back again against the booth, gulping down some of his drink to soothe his strained vocalizer. Taking a deep invent and letting loose a few last chuckles, Star turns his grin on Skids. "So, wait, they got like, trapped in there? Like in Tron?" It's a good thing Star hadn't gotten the game, because he would absolutely have had Trailhawk figure out how to do something like that for him.

<FS3> Blackstorm rolls Climbing: Failure. (2 1 5 2 4)

The minibot takes another drag of his engex; because of his spare frame and the strength of the stuff he poured in it, he can already feel the effects. His frame tenses with barely restrained energy. Circuit speeders always made him want to move, move, move until the crash came. As a result, when Starstruck offers out his hand for a high-five, Blackstorm doesn't even think before trying to leap onto the table and reciprocate the gesture at the same time.

Blackstorm finds the table with ease, as it would be difficult not to, but he misjudges his trajectory and nearly high-fives Starstruck's face with his foot instead of his intended target. When he comes down on the table with thunks, he throws Starstruck an apologetic look. "Whoops. Let me try that again," he says, trotting over to finish the high-five the good old fashioned way. In the meantime, he'll let the nerds keep talking. He's having more and more trouble focusing on the big words as the speeders do their work.

For someone who's absorbed so much knowledge over his time on board, Skids is nothing but shrugs today, "Dunno. No one's looking. The law won't care as jacking's illegal just about everywhere, the game designers aren't talking about it in case it hurts sales. And they wave the T's and C's about if anyone tries to ask..."

"... and you can't remove someone linked up like that without killing them outright. So the ones possibly trapped aren't telling either." Skids finishes his drink and stands, "I could be wrong... but there might be a way to find out." Curiosity overtaking his thirst by quite some way Skids says, "You two have fun and take it easy now. I've got not-work to do." With that Skids moves to go back to his hab and get another few rounds in game. Even if he can't get another clue... he'll at least hit a high score.

Whoa! Starstruck manages to pull back just in time to not get a mini to the face, though he can't help a chuckle at how badly Blackstorm just ate it. He tries to hide this behind a servo, though his optics brightening with mirth may give him away. "You okay, little guy?" he asks with genuine concern. "Guess the drink's hitting you kinda hard, huh?"

Skids gets a look that's nearing a pout. Getting stuck in a video game had sounded cool. Possibly dying if someone tried to get you out? Not as cool. "Well good luck, hope you figure it out!" Star sips his drink, which had arrived sometime in the last few kliks.

<FS3> Blackstorm rolls Climbing: Good Success. (4 3 8 1 8)

"Hitting me in all the best way," he chirps. "Speaking of which, I know it's just the first date, but I hope you don't mind if I get a little hands-on."

Move, move, move. The now-energetic mini always seems to be drawn to the highest places, and at that moment that just happens to be Starstruck. Not waiting for any confirmation, Blackstorm moves across the table and latches onto Starstruck's frame. In a matter of moments, he is perched precariously on one of Starstruck's shoulders. He turns to watch Skids's receding form. He had been distracted by his energy, but a few words had reached him. "Do you know what he meant by jacking into a game?" Apparently dangerous, but it sounds fun. Illegal things usually are. "I want to ask him. Onward, steed."

"... Please? Also, if you'd grab my drink before we leave I'd owe you big time."

<FS3> Starstruck rolls Flirting: Good Success. (5 4 7 6 8)

Starstruck is already opening his mouth to say, oh, he absolutely doesn't mind, but Blackstorm's already on him. He laughs as the mini clambors up his frame, shifting a bit to make it a more comfortable perch. "I think he meant people are plugging their processors into the game somehow? I dunno, his explanation wasn't super clear." Starstruck rose to his pedes carefully, picking up both of their drinks.

That made him chuckle again. "No problem, Blackstorm." Star turned his helm enough to nuzzle a bit against the mini. "You can ride me around anytime~"

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