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2016-10-04 Laughter in the Dark

From Transformers: Lost and Found

Laughter in the Dark
Date 2016/10/04
Location Derelict Autobot Cruiser
Participants Rodimus, Skystalker, Penchant, Soundwave, Jumpstart, Wheeljack
Plot Radio Silence
Scene GM Sao
Summary The scattered group is gathered together at last, with an unwelcome addition making itself known.

There is no light. There is no air. There are a few dead bodies still floating aimlessly through the broad open space of the engineering room. More or less camped beneath the platform where there are sturdy supports around with which to control their lift, the Lost Light crew more or less hover together over the injured. Soundwave and Penchant have made their slow progress down the ventilation shaft while Wheeljack has spent the last hour or so looking at the desperate mess somebody has made out of these engines. Now, finally, the injured Rodimus starts to stir to his surroundings near Skystalker and Jumpstart.

"Remember what I told you." Jumpstart murmurs as an aside to Skystalker. "The shooting accelerated a bit of debris and that struck him enough to exacerbate his pre-existing injuries." The beastform lays it all out from where she is tending to Rodimus, being an ex-medical professional. She borrowed a few of Wheeljack's tools, or what tools could be found, to try and patch Rodimus up as best she could.

And so Rodimus comes to in Jumpstart's loving care and couldn't possibly immediately blame her for putting him under in the first place: as soon as he's conscious, he's sitting up, a hand to his helm as he grinds out, "What happened?" He takes immediate tally of who is here of the away team.

"It's... well, it's difficult to say, but 'not good' is my estimate right now," Wheeljack is saying, most of his attention still focused on the engines, or at least the part of it currently illuminated by his headlights. The gathered group may or may not be listening. That doesn't seem like much of a problem to him. "It looks like whoever was working on these was trying to use prayers and tape to hold them together for just a little while longer." He breaks off, though, at the sound of Rodimus's voice, turning to lean in and look at Jumpstart's repairs. "Welcome back, Captain. Couldn't say what happened. I've been trying to work on the engines since the power died."

"Then it sounds like it's my fault..." Skystalker mutters in answer to Jumpstart when she is sure to get his story straight. He is sitting beside Rodimus as she tends to him, almost as if he does feel responsible regardless. Sky watches him stir awake, and lets Wheeljack take the floor first, amber optics watching both the engineer and the captain. "You got knocked out. You must have been weaker than you told me you were." That works.

Soundwave decided that if his Cassettes so chose to traverse the vents, they may. But as far as he is concerned, he would like to avoid it in the future. "I hear them," he says in the quiet of the vents, hurrying forward. Yes, he could hear voices other than the scream and Penchant- familiar voices. Eventually, he comes to a vent cover, definitly hearing the signs of life just beyond. It takes little effort to open that panel and push into the room. He takes a moment to right his currently minibot-sized body in the zero-gravity space and scan for pinpricks of light- optic light, head finial light, any sort of headlights like Pench's- to head towards. His greeting is filled with tact: "I told you to cease communications. You did not listen." Thanks for the headache.

Penchant doesn't want to complain. So he tailors his complaint until it's a useless comment. "This is a... very long vent. But I guess we're in a giant war cruiser." He continues to drift down after Soundwave, optics dim. "Haunted war cruiser," he appends.

As soon as they're free of the narrow passage, he's scrambles for the gathered glowing optics, glad to see life beyond the eerie swirling dust in darkness. "Woo! Hey guys! ...What happened to Rodimus?"

A puff of particulates and dust escapes the vent along with Penchant and Soundwave, but not as much as if no one else had used the vent in thousands of years. The engineering room is still eerily quiet, but Soundwave can still hear the distant weird Dopplering of the scream.

"Ok, ok." Jumpstart replies in low tones to Skystalker, trying not to look at him. The key is to keep talking. "Yes, you lost a good bit of energon through the chest wound, captain." The beastform helpfully informs Rodimus, gesturing towards a quick patch. "But we should be good to go now, as long as you don't try anything too strenuous." She floats away, then, bracing against a wall with one foot. Zero g you gotta spread out. When Soundwave and Penchant arrive Jumpstart tenses briefly, then relaxes. "I was being shot..." The bird trails off, optics narrowing at tiny Soundwave. "...at." She glances at Skystalker and speaks as if Soundwave isn't there. "He's not supposed to be that small, right? Wheeljack, is the ship doing things to us? Are we normal sized?" The question about Rodimus goes unanswered.

"I am not weak!" Rodimus bristles, puffing up and standing -- perhaps a little too quickly, but STANDING. Because he's STRONG. LIKE MOUNTAIN. Anyway, it's hardly strenuous when there's no gravity.

"Soundwave!" Never in the history of anything ever has Rodimus sounded happy to see Soundwave, and yet -- here we are. He sounds not displeased, and happier yet as he adds, "Penchant! What, no, I'm fine. What about the rest of you? Is everyone okay? What was with that weird feedback? It's not like I could even understand you through it, Soundwave, so it's not my fault I kept trying to communicate. It was important to know that everyone's okay. And now I know!"

The sound of clattering in the vents has Wheeljack's helm jerking up. It's the first sound of something moving in this wreck that he's heard since Skystalker and Jumpstart returned, bringing Rodimus with him, and only the knowledge that some of their party is still missing keeps him from flinching completely. Still, when they emerge from the vents, Wheeljack slumps in relief...

Then stares. "What happened to you two?" That is a lot of dust! Also, Soundwave is tiny. "And what do you mean about the comms? We could barely hear you... and we stopped. I thought?" Wheeljack glances around at the rest of the group. He was good, clearly it was the rest of you that caused the problems. Except he's being distracted by Jumpstart. "Yes, we're normal sized, yes Soundwave is small. Mass displacement?" he asks Soundwave. "Or do I need to try and put together a mass converter too?"

Skystalker's optics practically bug out of his head when Soundwave and Penchant arrive, in that order. Only Jumpstart seems to draw his attention from the pair. "We're fine," A pause. "I think." It's puzzling, but at least he seems to recognize Soundwave's presence. As a ...tiny mech.

"Hey, take it easy--" Skystalker reaches out to steady Rodimus when he starts puffing and jostling around in the zero-gravity. Skystalker is made for this sort of atmosphere. The only one of them, really. Jumpstart a close second.

Soundwave pauses, glancing down. Ah, right. "Mass converter, unnecessary. Average size, inadequate for travelling within ventillation systems," he confirms with Wheeljack before mass displacing once more, this time returning to his full size- which is being the biggest in the room. "There is interference within every frequency range and I cannot clear it. Trying to communicate through it results in a... Psychic backlash. Penchant and I expirience it with every comm made. A painful scream." He approaches the group further, casually taking Penchant in one arm as he settles beside the Captain. "The scream does not stop. It has not stopped since I have awoken. But it matters not. We have regrouped, we should take our leave." No point in sticking around now.

When Soundwave returns to full size, Rodimus straightens, and pushes himself just that little bit up in the air -- which he can, because no gravity -- to try to appear taller. It's not really conscious. "No, we should find out what it is. Besides, how are we going to leave? The engines are dead, we don't know where we are, and Skystalker can't carry us all. We need to kill the interference to get in touch with the Lost Light. Also, I can't believe you'd just walk away from a mystery like that. Come on."

"Leaving would be a great plan, except... I don't know where our shuttle is," Wheeljack says. "Unless anyone else remembers where we left it, which would be great, because it might take a lot of work to get the power running again, if it does at all, and if there's that much interference I don't know about comming the Lost Light for help." He's gesturing back to the engine, helm fins flashing as he does, lighting up the darkness of the engine room. "And no, I didn't kill the power, the engines just died. Like I was saying before you got here, it's amazing the repairs even worked as long as they did." He's pointing somewhere off toward the engines. His point would probably be better made if there was light, but just trust him, it looks ridiculous.

When Wheeljack once more talks about the state of the engines, Sky watches him by his lights.

"We were outside, I was blasting my way back in. We're--" Skystalker's explanation hangs at Penchant, his expression troubled in what light comes from his optics, voice quiet as he looks between all of them. "I don't know where we are. The Lost Light is-- it's not out there. Anywhere that I could see."

Jumpstart must have some anti-gravity property in her wings, because merely by splaying them she can remain stable, albeit half-perched against the wall. "That sounds awful." She notes after hearing what Soundwave said about the comms. She makes a point of looking at Penchant. "Sorry you had to, or still are, going through that." She lets the others talk for now, arms folded across her chest.

Soundwave looks down at Rodimus, gaze lifting as the Captain kinda floats up. He looks rather foolish. "Our resources are limited, the priority of finding answers is far below that of returning to the Lost Light. Finding the source of interference, however... An adequate suggestion. But difficult. I cannot pinpoint exact location of the screaming." He hesitates just a moment. "It laughed just as the engines died..."

"Oh." Penchant offers a confused thumbs-up. Way to... blast your way back in, Sky! "I only heard bits and pieces," he assures Jumpstart with an easy smile. "Soundwave's about a hundred times more receptive." Hand-wave. "It's... creepy as hell. Glad we found you guys, finally," he admits with a small puff of his vents. "Even if we're all lost still."

"Maybe it'd help if we tried comming more," Rodimus suggests. He obviously likes causing Soundwave headaches. Ob-vi-ous-ly.

The screaming Dopplers suddenly closer. It cuts off for a few beats, and then resumes, and seems to be directly above them. It comes with a malevolent presence that Soundwave gets a clear echo of, Penchant a dim reflection. It is vicious. It is hungry. It is ... unhinged. The others only get a faint, grinding unpleasantness in the back of their awareness ... but all can briefly hear a scratching sound from the vents.

"Wait-- gone? As in..." Wheeljack trails off, immensely troubled. He can hardly remember passing any windows, and much of his travel has been through the belly of the ship, but if the Lost Light isn't outside, then this has become even more troubling. "That complicates things," he mutters, his arms crossing over his chassis.

And things certainly don't improve from there. Some screaming, laughing thing, and a mystery. In most cases, Wheeljack might let his curiosity take over, and if he's honest his lost memories don't make him any less curious about what has happened on this ship, but it's tempered by the hours spent wandering the ship alone, finding nothing but empty rooms and dead bodies. The thought makes him shiver, before sudden, unexpected sound has him jumping. "What--"

"I'm all for getting home, but...I don't really want to drift around the void." Jumpstart notes. The scratching gets her to look up, hands falling to a free position. "...What is that?" She drifts down, getting her feet back on the floor. "Skystalker, do you want to ventilate that ventilation shaft?"

Skystalker's silence says a lot as he listens, remaining troubled and a little distant. The sensation on the edge of his awareness has his wings quivering in a note of displeasure. The sound in the vents pulls his gaze towards it, mouth a firm line under a widened look. A startled glance gets shot at Jumpstart. That would be a No.

Soundwave's visor flickers while looking at Rodimus flatly, annoyed as the scream intensifies and at the Captain. But then it's nothing- His shoulders straighten, head lifting in full alertness as his head clears. The slurry of apprehension he gathers from others tastes bitter. His helm jerks and he looks up. Its instantaneous. His arms wraps around Penchant and he grabs Rodimus, forcibly dragging him away from the ceiling and no longer floating upward. "It is antagonistic," he intones, armor actually bristling. His cool resolve grates against that... thing. If there was a thing. He's still skeptical. Fear does things, after all. But just to be sure, and relax his protective instincts. "Let's move on, to a different room..." He doesn't look away from where he swears he can almost feel it.

"Rodimus's idea isn't bad, honestly. It's the only thing we can potentially use-" Penchant trails off as that screaming nears, overhead. It's the presence, however, that has him wriggling out of Soundwave's grasp and unsheathing his spurs again, green optics burning. Then Soundwave grabs him again. He doesn't protest. "Yeah l-let's go."

"What? No, let's confront it!" Rodimus pivots, turning to face the direction of the scratching and scrabbling in Soundwave's hold. NO. HE WANTS TO PLAY. The unpleasantness only sharpens his readiness to engage, because when there's something he doesn't know how to deal with, he's going to want to punch it. "Come on, I'm not going to be pushed around by whatevers, and no whatever is going to threaten my crew. You hear that?" he shouts at the vents.

Now the laughter rolls out: low, scratchy, nasty, a scraping, metallic sound echoing from the vents. Except that it is not sound. It is oppressive, a dark and nasty pressure settling over Soundwave's telepathy, and Penchant's, like a cloak. But the psychic laugh bleeds all their processors now, like it is coming in through their audials or their radios but it's not.

Jumpstart looks back at Skystalker, her own optics wide at his. She's mostly still, but her headfeathers flair, and her feathers rattle with a subtle tremor following that laugh. "Whatever it is, Skystalker, it can't even laugh. It's laughing in my /circuits/. Don't look at me like I'm gun crazy!" She almost hisses, before optics dart around for something sword or mop related.

"Stop..." Skystalker gets more uneasy about the situation the more people fuss about it, and finally speaks a word when Rodimus tries to get up and fight whatever it is. Of course he does.

When it's threatened, the laughter comes, and Skystalker's wingtips flare, his thrusters puffing at back and boots, hands going up to his audials. He doesn't respond to Jumpstart save for a darting look once more. "We have to go--"

It feels like something is scraping down his sensory net when Wheeljack hears/feels that laughter. It is distinctly unnerving, and he has to keep himself from taking a step back, or reaching for equipment that he doesn't have. "I don't know, somewhere a bit less open might be, um, strategically advisable," he says. "It's a big room, and we can't see most of it." Though the next option, the brig, is just as distasteful. It is still full of floating corpses, after all.

It's definitely coming from the vents. Where he Penchant had just been. Had this thing followed them? Soundwave's protection protocols ramp up to an eleven. If only everyone here could fold up and slot into his chest. His vents gasp and gutter as something presses in on him. With his hold on Rodimus, he turns and tries to push him away from the thing. Its his way of saying 'don't shoot it'. Hand now free, he holds his head with it. "Everyone out of the room, now," he grates out of his monotone.

Penchant is a little too drawn up in his own head now, but at least it seems like everyone else can hear it. He merely goes still, watching as Rodimus challenges the darkness. It's actually somewhat encouraging.

Pushed two steps back, Rodimus growls, then jerks his head to the side and gestures for the others to begin filing out and away from the whatever. "Jumpstart, Skystalker, you're the most maneuverable: lead the way." He doesn't object to the rest of his crew getting to safety, but he's not going to get pushed into a hole. He stands his ground, making sure that the others are able to get away rather than argue TOO MUCH at THIS SECOND with Soundwave. "C'mon, think you're tough? I've had drinks that went down nastier than you!"

For a moment there is total stillness. Then, a scratch, scratch, scratch against the metal. Then the shriek begins again at renewed and terrible volume, lancing pain through Soundwave -- and unfortunately, Penchant -- before it Dopplers rapidly away again until it is only a faint noise at the edge of Soundwave's awareness. Clearly, Rodimus scared it away.

Skystalker doesn't need to be told again-- Once Soundwave decides, and Rodimus tells him and Jumpstart to go first, he nods an affirmative to them before pulling away and to the nearest doorway, ready to start navigating the corridors he doesn't know.

Jumpstart nods towards Rodimus, the Autobot within her coming to the fore. She pushes off of the floor and transforms, flipping into bird mode and gliding along to catch up with Skystalker. Jumpstart looks up at the vents as the scratching goes away. "It's playing with us." She notes, mostly to Skystalker.

Wheeljack follows, not particularly reluctant to move away. "There're some double doors, over there," he points out, letting his fins light up and help direct them as he points the way. "And there's cells beyond it, with another door. "Just be careful, there's a lot of bodies." And they're all floating around now, which makes the scene much worse, in his opinion.

Soundwave gives himself a shake, turning towards the exit to head that way. He is sure to keep an optic on Rodimus- not going to let the Captiain stay behind. Not for a second. But before he can make it to the exit, his helm jerks and ticks to the side, shoulders curling forward as the pain lashes at the inside of his mind. When it fades, he gasps and vents heavily, body loosening. "It's gone..." he confirms, looking down at- "Penchant, are you alright?"

Penchant chokes out a whimper he's unable to bite down on, burying his face in his hands as Soundwave drags him along. Once it fades, he slumps miserably. "We gotta' get off this ship, this thing is... c-can't someone just blast us out," he moans with little thought to the logistics of it all. There's your answer Soundwave.

"Yes." Sky answers Jumpstart with a murmur over his shoulder to her. It takes some effort on his part, but soon, up ahead, to where Wheeljack directs them, Skystalker's biolights flourish in a welling of light, a mix of blanched gold and cool blues that contrast to any of the emergency lighting that catches against his frame. The fires in his thrusters add to his beacon, and hopefully this makes him a firefly to follow in the dark.

Rodimus's posturing fades into a troubled look at Penchant's reaction. He reaches to clasp his shoulder, metal warm as though he could somehow make it better with a pat. PAT PAT? He doesn't offer Soundwave the same, but he does give him the same troubled look. "Would distance help you and Penchant? I don't like the idea of splitting us up, but Skystalker can get you away from the ship," he says to Soundwave quietly.

"It left, just like that? Skystalker, wait just a moment," Wheeljack calls from his place by the doors. He tuns back from following Skystalker to survey Penchant and Soundwave worriedly. He's had practice at being a stand-in medic, but there's not much he can do for this problem, considering the lack of physical damage. "What is it, exactly? Do we even know that?"

Soundwave just about moves Penchant away from Rodimus's PAT PAT. Instinct to shield remain unanswered because he can't. He vents lowly, servo moving to cup Penchant's helm, thumb brushing the back of Penchant's helm. "I will not leave you," he says evenly back to Rodimus. "We do not know the range of interference... And we do no know if we have the fuel to maintain that journey. We need to pool our resources, check our energy reserves, and make a plan..." A quick glance down at Penchant before Wheeljack.

"Unknown. It is able to operate on a broad range of frequencies- possibly as much as I am able." Or more, but he won't say that. Soundwave superior and all that. "It is of malicious and probable violent intent. But I could get nothing more from it... Let's continue, we should all stay close together."

Penchant shakes his helm once, then twice, and tries to rally some resolve. "No, no... I'm not leaving without the rest of you. It's fine," he affirms, albeit wearily, to Wheeljack and Rodimus. There's nothing more out of him, however, as he goes back to slumping against Soundwave's arm. That idea to test comms again doesn't sound so appealing now. At least Skystalker is a pretty firefly.

Skystalker holds where he is in the room ahead, looking back to watch, lights still fluxing in a subtle beat of life while most of the others confer.

Jumpstart perches on a dead, but floating Decepticon's head and turns back towards the others. She doesn't emit much if any light in this form, but she may reflect the light of optics thrown her way. "It could be anywhere." She notes to Skystalker, wings folded.

The pitch black of the brig is relieved only partially by optics and biolighting. Gleams and flashes on the periphery reflect off of the shells of the corpses that drift through the air. The deep grooves bitten into the floor underfoot are primarily noticeable as a change of texture, without the benefit of light. The ghost of screams shivers on the edges of perception, clear only to Soundwave, almost, almost perceptible to Penchant. To the others, it is merely a subsonic teeth-grinding edginess, and the sensation that they are being ... listened to.

"I know." There is nowhere safe, if you get technical. Skystalker just needs some reassurance. His eyes follow the drifting shape of the mech that Jumpstart has vultured on, and then he finally turns back to inspect the spanse of the Brig on the warship. The feeling of it, even without the feeling of eyes and death, brings an uneasiness to his spark. It is all the horror that he missed.

"I never exactly got the chance to move on from here," Wheeljack says, glancing uneasily around the brig and everything floating in it. "So I don't know what's after this. Jumpstart, did you see any of the next rooms?" he asks. He's grabbed onto a wall, rather than risk floating into the room the way Jumpstart seems content to. He's assuming that they aren't staying here, but then again, it's not a room that encourages lingering.

"The rest of the ship." Jumpstart replies to Wheeljack. "If we want to get out, into space, there's a hatch not too far away, past some...a lot...of storage closets." The beastform notes. "Otherwise...we're just running blind. I haven't been much further than that." She looks around the brig, waiting for the others to catch up. "It doesn't seem to watch to fight us. Yet. Though I guess we know how all these Cons died..."

"Leaving this ship, priority. But it is more difficult than simply finding an exit to space." Soundwave does his best to ignore the sounds that might not even be there. As for the brig it... He remains impassive at all the corpses. Then again, he's seen a lot of corpses. He does find himself trying to inspect them as they go by- did they all die in similar fashions? Was it that... thing? He looks around, feeling not even a bit secure or safe no matter what position he faces. "... Does anyone remember anything?" he asks at last. Just in case. He's got that one scrap of memory to hold onto. And then, after a pause: "If we gather in close, I can attempt to provide a close-range jamming signal over several frequencies." That paranoid feeling of being listened to doesn't escape him. And no guarantee it'll do anything.

Penchant eventually pushes enough of the psychic sensations aside to catch sight of the grooves in the ground. Possibly the same ones on the first deck? He slips out of Soundwave's hold and alights on the floor to run his fingers over the clawed metal. "Wonder if this is organic or not," he murmurs, doing his damnedest to ignore the bodies. "Jamming? You think it's just through our radios?"

It's difficult to determine anything for sure from the grooves by touch. They do seem to be bitten deep into the metal. It would be hard for something non-metal to do this. There are signs of battle -- different kinds of deaths on each of the corpses -- although of note, a mnemosurgeon's needle is sticking out of the head of one of the fallen Decepticons now floating aimlessly through the brig.

"I don't remember anything after leaving to come here." Skystalker answers Soundwave, glancing over his shoulder at floating bodies as he moves closer to where Penchant looks at the floor. His frame gives the minibot a little more light to inspect by, and it puts Sky nearer to Soundwave.

"It's worth a try," Wheeljack agrees, moving closer. Soundwave is still Soundwave, but right now, there's a more immediate problem to face, and considering that whatever they're facing seems to have the most effect on Soundwave and Penchant, it's not like the Decepticon would have much motive to double-cross them. And this room is still more than enough to give him the creeps. Anything that helps with that, he doesn't mind. "Same with me," He adds belatedly. "We were leaving the Lost Light, then nothing. I woke up in this ship's Medibay."

Jumpstart isn't leaving this dead Decepticon. At least, she's not leaving it to get closer to Soundwave. "I don't remember anything else." Jumpstart shakes her head, crest flared. "One klik we were getting ready to leave, the next I was waking up by the engine, where I'd been tossed." She looks around. "Seems to me we either need to hole up somewhere or keep moving until we find...whatever it is."

"Well, assuming something inorganic did this," Penchant begins, pushing up from the ground with a small 'thanks Sky', "What has claws... Eukarians?" He glances at Jumpstart, more specifically her talons. "Kalisians? Sparkeaters? I guess some Decepticons find it stylish. This doesn't really narrow it down, does it..."

"Nothing organic could do what it is doing." And to that, Soundwave sounds assured. Then again, organics were beneath them, simply animals. "I do not claim to know how it operates but it does not... To try..." As Skystalker moves, his biolights catch and reflect on a needle. He moves closer to the body, silent. Touching the corpse doesn't bother him a bit, and he takes the body to bring it's head closer. "I remember running. Running from something angry as it screamed. I ran to an airlock and then awoke in the observation deck with Penchant." His fingers pinch and he pulls the needle out of the head, bringing it closer to his visor to examine. "We should keep moving until we find a way off the ship. Sitting around waiting for fuel levels to drop and the thing to return may be unwise..." He glances at Penchant. "Mnemosurgeons," he adds to the list of claws. Technically needles. But, thematics.

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