From Transformers: Lost and Found
|Plot||Trobble Yall, Artifacts of the Knights of Cybertron|
|Summary||Fortress Maximus gets his artifact! And a very unexpected solution to those troublesome trobbles.|
The trobble problem on Rigard has only grown worse in the days since Fortress Maximus brought the fateful Tuft back home. Though he-who-will-not-be-named's plan to use the furry things as bait for Unicron's heralds was a good one, it's not really enough to stem the tide of creatures filling the Lost Light, the Rigardian colony, and the surrounding areas. The Great Plains especially must be looking worse for wear by now, with grass eaten to nubs in great patches as the trobbles settle in to their new home.
Amidst all this, another artifact signal has popped up. Coincidentally, it just so happens to be on PR-138, the very same station where Fortress Maximus bought Tuft. No time is wasted in sending him through the spacebridge to take a look around; no time can be afforded to spend on keeping the spacebridge open when the trobbles may escape through it and infect other worlds with their adorable scourge. Fortress Maximus will find himself in the very same area he'd last left, between the unopened Swivel's and the pet shop. He'll find that the latter looks about the same as when he'd last visited, with the same amount of trobbles as before in the window display. Hm.
Fortress Maximus was planning on heading right to this station, and sometimes reality just lines up nicely. Once in a while. This has happened to him...rarely, really. For instance, the whole Trobbles thing was not a good case of reality lining up for him nicely at all.
He's made sure Bob is sleeping soundly on his slab, as taking Bob into a space station with a pet shop is probably a bad idea. Once he's arrived he marches right to the pet shop, stomping loudly and not caring, glancing from time to time at his scanner. But considering how this place is not overrun by trobbles, that's a bit...suspicious, isn't it?
Inside the pet shop, things, again, seem more or less the same. The fire bird doesn't stare at Fortress Maximus; clearly it prefers smaller, redder mechs. The signal from the artifact, strong on Fortress Maximus' scanner, seems to be coming from inside the shop itself - or maybe that's the navy-and-red mech at the counter, hoisting himself up by the forearms with his feet dangling off the ground as he looks over the countertop. Beside him in the air appears to be a floating datapad, though he pays no attention to it, completely absorbed in whatever he's looking at behind the counter. Pr'ra is nowhere to be seen.
"You've got to be kidding me," Max mutters to himself as he stares down at the scanner, then looks around the store. He vents in, places a heavy hand on the counter and clears his vocalizer, scowling. "I have two questions for you. One, do you have anything unusual-" Wait no, he should rephrase that "Anything particularly...odd and old here? I need to find something that may be here. And two, why the hell did the owner of this shop sell me a self-replicating thing that's about to overrrun a colony?!"
Kick-Off was the one who usually handled PR at Garrus-9.
The mech at the counter startles, and both he and the datapad drop to the floor with two thuds and a loud "Oof!" A second later he pops back up, blue optics wide as they stare up (and up) at Fortress Maximus. He grins sheepishly, and gives a weak laugh. "Uh, well, for one, I have no idea why she sold you that, or why she sold me one, too." He points out of the storefront window, toward the body shop across the way. "I've been spacing trobbles for the past few days, and I still keep finding them crawling out of the vents! How'm I supposed to open shop like this? Do you know how long it took me to get enough shanix to even rent a lot here? Way too much, it's highway robbery." Resetting his vocalizer, he straightens completely, though even standing at his tallest he doesn't even come to Fortress Maximus' hip. "And for two, the only odd thing I can tell is that the furball herself ran off before we could catch her and get her to fix this. Um. I'm Swivel, by the way! Of Swivel's? In case that wasn't, you know, obvious." Beat. "You know you look really familiar. Have we met?"
"...So she just sold them off and left. Great." Fortress Maximus glowers in the general direction of the shop window, since he can't really be mad at Trobbles themselves. "Wait, you've been spacing them?" That sounds cruel, sure, but...then again, he has been looking the other way when Bob eats them. "Fortress Maximus," he adds, "and I don't think we have." He crosses his arms across his chassis and looks around.
"Well, Swivel, you and I are going to solve ths problem once and for all. According to this device I have, there's something of importance here. In this...store, somehow." He knows how ridiculous it sounds. "We need to find it. And I need to figure out how to fix the Trobble...trouble."
"Not all of them," Swivel corrects, pointing toward the display window. He can't help himself; one trobble levitates a few feet up before, with a quiet cackle, he lets it plop back to the floor. "It was either that or poisoning them. I know it sounds cruel but - look, they were gonna overrun the station at this rate, I had to do something!" C'mon Max, you understand that, right? Swivel starts a little when the very familiar name is spoken, which, of course that's who that is, just his fragging luck, and goes sheepish again as he says, "Well, uh, nice to meet you then!" A hand unconsciously rubs at the bare spot on his chassis.
"Something of importance, huh?" Swivel spins on his heel, looking around the entire shop. "I don't know, mech, I don't see anything but organics, but if your device says so then it must be right. Right?" He snorts immediately at Fortress Maximus' pun before making an awkward noise as he tries to swallow it mid-snort. "Yeah, uh, yeah, definitely something we've got to do. Any ideas on where to start looking?"
The scanner will show the original artifact signal, somewhat hidden by Swivel's much stronger one, is definitely somewhere in this shop. It's weak, and faint, but looks to be in the general area of the counter.
"I...I get it. Yeah." Max sighs. "Organics can't exceed a population amount. I read about this. They run out of food, unless something else is using them for food. ANd obviously we're not going to do that." He blinks his optics at Swivel's trick. An Outlier, maybe? He does miss Swivel bringing attention to his lack of a badge.
"I'm not really sure where to start," Max confesses. "This would be, believe it or not, an artifact of the Knights of Cybertron." In a pet store, yes. "Around the counter, actually. And it wouldn't be an organic; there's no way they live that long." If Swivel allows, he'll peer over the counter, using his massive height advantage to do it while standing.
Swivel makes a comically disgusted face. "No, we're totally not gonna use them for food. Can you imagine?" He shudders theatrically at the thought. "Even if we blended them up...yuck!" Plodding after Max, Swivel of course allows the much larger mech to peer over the counter. Even if he had anything to do with this store other than being another disgruntled customer, he wouldn't try to stop Fortress Maximus. "The Knights of Cybertron? You serious?" He laughs, at first, thinking this must be some kind of joke, except. Fortress Maximus doesn't joke like that. ...He thinks. "Uh, wow! That's--wow, okay, something from the Knights!" Since he's not tall enough to loom, Swivel just walks right around the counter to the other side, mostly disappearing behind it but for the top of his helm. What? Pr'ra isn't here to scold him! "Hmm...okay, so it's not organic. I wonder.."
With Max this close to the counter, the signal is a bit stronger due to proximity. Both he and Swivel will see several metal lock boxes, which look almost identical, but not much else.
<FS3> Fortress_Maximus rolls Mind+mind: Good Success. (7 4 1 7)
Fortress Maximus will notice that one of the boxes, while outwardly no different than the others, is vibrating slightly. As if there were something inside that was moving...
"It's a very long story," Max says in all honesty, cupping his chinplate armor as he squints and examines those boxes. He checks the signal again and frowns, and then spots the vibration. "Hey, Swivel," he says, deciding he ought to be a LITTLE more polite if he's going to intrude on a guy's shop and all. It wasn't Swivel who sold him the dangerous pet, right? "Those boxes over there. That one." He points to it. "IT's...do you see that? Can we get it open?" A pause. "I mean, can you unlock it? Because I know I can get it open, but..."
Swivel can believe that, considering how surreal it is to see Fortress Maximus in his little corner of the galaxy. I mean, what are the odds?! Much closer to the lock boxes than his companion, Swivel squints at the one Max is pointing to, before his optics go wide again. "Oh! It's--it's moving! Sla--I mean, neat!" He mentally kicks himself for almost swearing in front of a war hero. "Uh, well, I don't have a key, 'cause I don't work here..." He's starting to get the impression that Max still thinks he does. "I can try to pick it, though." Grabbing the box in question, Swivel can definitely feel it vibrating in his hands. It's a little heavier than he expected, so as he heaves it up he also uses his ability, finally just levitating the box onto the counter in front of Fort Max before climbing up on the stool Pr'ra left behind so that he can reach. "There! Now let's see..."
With the box right in front of him, the signal's about as strong as it's going to get. It almost seems like the box is blocking the signal, somehow, though the lid is open just a sliver; maybe that's why the signal wasn't there last time they came. Whatever the reason, a few moments and some mumbling to himself later, Swivel, with tongue poking out between his teeth, finally manages to pop the lid of the box. He opens it, unmasked glee spreading across his face as he anticipates seeing this amazing artifact from the Knights of Cybertron. The lid of the box comes up, revealing its contents, and--!
It's another trobble.
Right, so Swivel is definitely an outlier, Fort Max observes. Interesting. He steps back to let Swivel handle the box-opening, as his method involves bashing it open and possibly damaging an artifact. "We've found them in some very unusual places," he explains as he watches Swivel. "You'd be surprised. Maybe the Knights had a sense of humor of their own? Or just really wanted to test our resolve," he adds through gritted dentals. Once the box is open, he peers in it, expecting to see some kind of shining, shimmering treasure...
Stares at the Trobble...
Back at the signal...
This goes on for a minute or so. "But it's...but it's another...but they're organic..”
"Or things got passed around," Swivel says absently as he peers down at the fuzzy creature in the box. It's dark brown in color, more natural than some of the blues and greens and purples seen in most of the trobbles. Still, it looks, absolutely, like any other trobble. "This doesn't make any sense, unless the Knights made trobbles. But how? Why?" The trobble doesn't answer, instead continuing its wiggling inside the box. Swivel huffs and takes pity on it, lifting it out to set on the countertop. "Ugh, this one's heavier than the others, too. What was it doing in the box...?"
Swivel trails off as the trobble stills, turning toward Max. It's then that both will see another difference between this particular fuzzball and the others. Around its neck, the cord apparently buried in its fur, is a pendant of some sort. It looks like a teardrop, translucent for the most part, yet glowing softly with cracks of white and blue light following the crystal grain. Max's scanner will show the signal as being very strong, now - this is it, bub.
<FS3> Fortress_Maximus rolls Weak To Cute: Success. (8 6 5 6)
Max stares down at the Trobble, then at the beautiful jewel around its neck. Somehow that makes it look even cuter, as if it's wearing jewelry. The big bot kneels down to put himself at eye level, studying the quiet Trobble, and very hesitantly reaches out a digit to pet it.
Then he holds out his hands to invite it in. "You'd...better not have any babies," he sighs. It's so focused and...serious for a Trobble!
"I can throw 'em out the airlock if it does!" Swivel offers, optics glued on the scene before him. Good thing Max isn't paying attention, so he doesn't notice the pink tinge to Swivel's silver cheeks. This is....so fragging adorable....
The trobble seems to watch Max, though again, no discernable eyes. And yet...when Max holds out his hands, the trobble shuffles forward across the counter, making a noise like it is sniffing at him. Then, two thick tufts of fur near the middle of its 'face' begin to lift. They do so quite quickly and suddenly, revealing two round, beetle-black eyes that shine as they peer at Fortress Maximus. These eyes do not leave his face as the creature moves forward onto his open hands.
"What," Swivel says.
Max, who would insist this is NOT CUTE, there is NOTHING CUTE ABOUT THIS SITUATION, stares right back at the big (cute) eyes of the (cute) Maybe a Trobble, even as he stands up and holds the creature up to eye level. "It has...eyes." He blinks. "None of them had visible optics. Eyes, I mean, since they're organics. And why is this one wearing an Artifact? Are we sure this is a Trobble, Swivel?" He shows the creature to Swivel to demonstrate the eyes and...eyebrows.
"Your name is Eyebrows," he solemnly informs the creature. Well, now he's named it...
Oh Primus, he's named it. "I hate to tell you," for the fourth time, "But I don't work here and don't have any idea whether or not this is really a trobble." That said, he does lean over the counter and squint at 'Eyebrows', staring right back into those black eyes. Eerie. "I think I'm going to say it's not, though, if it's got eyes and those don't. And believe me, I'd know if those things had eyes."
As Swivel speaks, Eyebrows turns in Max's hands, toward the window display of trobbles. The cooing and purring that has been the backdrop of this entire conversation has quieted, a strange, as-of-yet unnoticed silence taking its place. Eyebrows begins to hum, a low, deep note, seemingly too deep for such a creature to make. And yet it is, and Eyebrows vibrates harder with it, the sound released in steady pulses of volume, loud then soft, loud then soft. If they look, after a few moments they'll see a trobble plop over the edge of the pen, followed by another, and another, until all of them are quietly shuffling across the floor toward the counter, and Eyebrows.
"Uh." Swivel forces fluid down his intake. "Maybe you should put that thing down."
"Wait, you don't work here?" Max frowns. "I'm...not going to be stealing from this place, am I?"
Before the tank can get his lawful priorities mixed up, h's silenced by the odd, frankly kind of disturbing effect Eyebrows has on the trobbles. And the way the Trobbles are lurching like tiny, adorable zombies towards Eyebrows.
Max has read about organics that have a sort of 'queen,' a colony leader of sorts that can command the others. In fact, Insecticons are said to think that way; Bob may consider the Lost Light his hive. And he can only imagine what would happen if someone came between Bob and someone he wanted to protect.
But..."Wait. I want to see what it does..."
Swivel works very hard not to facepalm. "Nope, I don't. And honestly it probably doesn't matter, since the owner disappeared and all." He puts on his best innocent expression, so that Max hopefully won't ask why Swivel therefore was behind the counter when he came in. He'd gotten curious when Pr'ra hadn't shown up no matter how long he waited, so sue him!
Chewing his lip, Swivel's optics dart between Eyebrows and the trobbles on the floor. "Alright..." Your funeral, mate.
With Eyebrows high above them like this, if Fortress Maximus doesn't set it down, when the trobbles reach the large mech's frame they will begin climbing him, scrabbling up his plating like big fuzzy ants. The first one to reach Fortress Maximus' hands is a bit larger than the others, and a dusky red in color. It moves toward Eyebrows, yes, not much unlike a zombie.
When it is within range, Eyebrows....opens. It rises to twice its own height, some great maw appearing between the beautiful gem pendant and its beady eyes. There is a sort of sucking sound as the trobble is suddenly pulled into that great blackness, and just like that, Eyebrows closes its mouth and the trobble is gone.
IT JUST ATE A TROBBLE.
Fort Max gets a chill over his frame as he realizes they're all crawling over him and places Eyebrows down on the counter as soon as possible, stepping aside to make sure they can get to the...creature. The predator? "THat's right, I guess they do have something that eats them, but..." It was cute? And now it's kind of horrific?! But still cute?!
"...So it can lure them and eat them. I-interesting..."
Swivel claps a hand over his mouth when the first trobble is eaten. He tries to sidle away from the counter as Eyebrows is set there, forgetting that he's standing on a stool, and instead comes crashing to the ground again. He lies there groaning, though the sound of his pain doesn't override the low pulse Eyebrows is still sending out.
With Eyebrows no longer being held by Max, the other trobbles stop climbing him, instead moving back to the floor and up the counter. They parade along in their terrible death march, each meeting the same fate as the first. As they approach, Eyebrows opens its maw and swallows the trobble whole. When more than one comes near, the mouth grows wider, accomodating the extra mass. And yet with each trobble consumed, it doesn't grow at all in size, returning to what it originally looked like.
"This," Swivel says from the floor, picking himself up slowly, "Is the scariest thing I've seen, like, all week." He's getting to his feet when the last trobble is done being eaten, and then Eyebrows settles, even purring a little. Swivel shakes his helm. "Are you sure we're not dreaming right now? Am I drunk?"
Max bends to help poor Swivel stand back up, looking about as stunned as Swivel is. "Then we're both drunk and dreaming the same thing," he says, marveling and staring at the strange creature. "I think it just...ate them. All of them. At once." Well, it took a minute or two, but still.
"Organics are kind of terrifying," he decides, even as he reaches over to pet the purring Eyebrows again. "But...well, I guess this guy might be the very strange solution to our problems after all. And he's somehow wearing an Artifact." He holds Eyebrows up as if he's forgotten how scary the creature was a moment ago, looking into its eyes again. "Aren't you? You're hungry, aren't you?"
Swivel bites his lip and quickly turns away when Fortress Maximus helps him up. He's absolutely not noticing how big Fortress Maximus' hands are, or how nice he is for helping Swivel off the floor. "Yeah, I think. I think it did." Swivel shakes his helm again, as if he can dislodge the memory of those organics marching straight into their demise.
Eyebrows lets its eyebrows fall back down when Max pets it, its purring intensifying. It doesn't look at all like the eldritch creature that just devoured some of its brethren. Or cousins, maybe. "Looks like he might be...say, you wanna bring him over to my shop quick, before you head back to wherever it is you came from? It seems to like you, and I really need to get rid of those trobbles before doing any more construction." Swivel claps his hands together in front of his face, optics going big and pleading. Please?
Oblivious to the impression he's made on Swivel, Fort Max lets Eyebrows rest on his shoulder plate, which means yes he is absolutely taking the creature back and is going to keep him forever and ever and the fact that his collar is an artifact is nice too but LOOK AT THE FRIEND--
Ahem. "I suppose he didn't have that artifact collar for no reason. Well, you were able to help me, and I was...less than polite earlier. Alright, Swivel, let's...clean this up."
In retrospect he's glad he secretly gave Tuft out to the Unicron mission, where the little guy might have a chance to keep going. Somewhere else.