2018-02-03 Rotten in the Heart of Pipes

From Transformers: Lost and Found

Rotten in the Heart of Pipes
Date 2018/02/03
Location Lost Light - Docks and Storage
Participants Pipes, Starstruck
Summary It's hard out here for a Pipes resurrected by Unicron.

A steady hum of activity runs through the lower levels of the ship. Although never entirely quiet, there's a feeling of isolation that's impossible to entirely shake.

Cargo Bay 15 is where Pipes has kept his Earth stuff collection (the part of it that he brought along, anyway) since day one. What started as a non-descript collection of crates in one corner has, over time, unfolded into its own distinct ward. The boxes now form a ringed wall of varying height, with a narrow passageway admitting entrance to its inner sanctum. There, the boxes mostly open inward, their contents either piled neatly inside or stacked neatly nearby. It's all Earth stuff, a variety unseen beyond Earth itself.

In the middle sits Pipes, but he holds in his hands not an Earth artifact, but a gift from Arrow: a model ship with a tiny Pipes on the bridge. Adventuring is the intended meaning, but lately Pipes has had a different idea, especially when he's alone, away from the rest of the crew. "Off we go ... we'll go find him ... imagine the adventure ... we'll join him ..." His formerly red visor burns a deep purple as he carefully turns the ship in his hands.

Starstruck hasn't seen Pipes since the Combat meeting, and honestly that's a crime. He and Pipes have never been exceptionally close, but a friend is a friend and this friend has been in need of some support ever since he was...well. Resurrected. Starstruck's heard all the arguments, knows that there's something Fishy going on with Lieu and Pipes and their connection to Unicron. Doesn't mean he thinks they should be avoided.

It's a tight squeeze for the big bus to slip through that passageway of boxes, and when he does Starstruck's antennae twitch, legs folding automatically beneath him so that he ends up sitting cross-legged and closer to Pipes' eyeline.

"Hey, Pipes." Star grins, goes for his usual bright, friendly greeting. "Whatcha doing?"

There's a maroon swirl in Pipes's visor, which brightens as he hears Starstruck. It's a few awkward seconds before he seems to notice that he has a visitor, though. He lowers the ship and looks at him. "Oh, hi Starstruck! I ... I didn't hear you come in. Have you been working on your stealth or something? Anyway, um, yeah!" He looks around, having forgotten what he was just doing. "Welcome! To my little fort, eh heh. I bet you'll like it, it's all my Earth stuff." He looks down at the ship again, and with a hint of 'Why am I holding this anyway', he goes to put it down on top of a small box serving as a table.

"Something like that." Starstruck's grin doesn't slip, though his antennae flick back a few degrees. He is Not A Subtle Boy. "Yeah, it's fucking awesome, Pipes! You've got way more stuff than I do, I'm jealous." He laughs, resting his hands on his knees and looking around the wall of boxes. There really is a lot of cool stuff, and he has to hold back on the desire to go pawing through it. "I just wanted to come by and see how you were doing. Sorry I haven't visited in a while...that's a cool ship, by the way! Where'd you get it?"

"Oh, what, this?" It's as if Pipes didn't even realize the model was in his hands. "It was Arrow's Secret Santa gift to me! Isn't it great? It's like I'm off adventuring, finding my destiny ..." He puts the ship down with a quick, pert pat. "Don't worry about it, I usually come here alone anyway, my little escape from the hubbub on the ship, y'know? But don't get me wrong, having guests is super, especially guests that really appreciate my collection. Lemme see if I can find something cool to show you!" He paces past the open boxes, considering which one to dig into. There's a system, honestly.

Starstruck's fang digs into his lower lip, and he tries not to look worried. Good thing he's skilled in the art of burying negative feelings beneath constant party mood. "That is a pretty sweet gift! I'll have to ask Arrow where he got it, it's a really thoughtful one." The smile that curves his lips is more genuine when he adds, "I can definitely see you adventuring in a ship like that."

Watching Pipes pace, Star stays where he is, leaning forward with his elbows on his thighs. "No pressure, dude! Anything you could show me would be rad, you've got good taste."

"OK, thanks! I mean, feel free to look around yourself. I know you'll be careful." Pipes picks a crate and, after carefully placing his right foot at its lip among a couple of stacks of stuff, leans his whole torso inside. "Here they are! This'll just take a minute ..." His arms disappear into the box and he leans this way and that, apparently scooping up items.

"Nah, I wanna see what you pull out to show me. I can wait!" Starstruck watches Pipes a moment, then scoots forward to where he'd set that model ship. It doesn't look weird...Star's visor hides a glance Pipes' way. He only has rumors to go on right now, but in the moment, those rumors about Lieutenant and Pipes acting a bit odd are sounding more and more like truth. Straightening from his nosy lean, Star calls, "Whatcha got?"

Pipes slowly extracts his torso from the crate, and then slowly extracts his right leg from its carefully chosen location, and then finally, relaxed, turns around. In one hand he holds a chromed rectangle with a large, round black speaker on either end of its front face, and in the other, a small metal canister. "Check this out. This," and he holds out the rectangle, which is surprisingly almost too big for his grasp in one hand, "is what the humans used to call a boombox. It's a music player." He holds it out for Starstruck to assess. "And in here are a bunch of music cassettes that the boombox can play music from. The audio quality is, like, not that great, but that little player can really make up for it in volume."

Starstruck doesn't mean to be insulting, he really doesn't, but when Pipes comes out like that - presenting those objects like that - well. He loses it, laughing loud and heartily, pushing himself up from where he's sitting so he can pull the minibot into his arms, if Pipes allows it. "I know what a boombox is," he says, finally, once he's recovered, cradling Pipes close to his chest. He's careful not to squish the boombox. "What kind of music do you have? What Earth era? Do you have the Spice Girls?"

"Whoa! Heh heh." Pipes guesses Starstruck really likes his choice ... oh. "Oh that's right, you are a big Earth music fan. I didn't know you'd know about the hardware as much, but hey, that's great! Maybe you can tell me more about this thing!" The hug feels surprisingly comforting, vanquishing a loneliness that Pipes hadn't realized was there. Once it's done, he plops himself and the squarish canister on the decking and pops the latter open. "It's mostly 1970's, 1980's, and 1990's. I don't know if I have Spice Girls ... well, honestly I'm not all that sure what's in here. I just see these things for sale and I snap them up!"

"I don't know anything about how it works," Starstruck confesses, in that same eagerness. "I just know what it is and what it does. And it plays some fucking awesome music in just the right way." He's loathe to let Pipes down, in all honesty, but he does it anyway. Can't suffocate the guy! "I can help you go through your collection, if you like. You definitely picked the best eras." His visor flickers in a wink, and he curls a hand around Pipes' back in a loose hold. Clearly he's not afraid of touching a zombie. "I also came by to you're doing."

"Oh, that's OK! I know a little about how it works, from the vendors. You just slide one of these in and press a button. It should work. I made sure that it has batteries, I can't find that power converter thingy that Wheeljack made for me, oh, way back." Pipes carefully slides out each cassette from the canister, most in their plastic casing, some not, and starts to array them in front of them both. "How I'm doing? Oh ... hm, well, OK I guess. I mean, physically I'm fine, better than ever, but, well." He pauses his arranging. "I know that pretty much no one really, y'know, trusts me. I mean, they do, but not, like ... before."

"We'll just have to get you a new one." Starstruck leans, free arm propping him up as he watches Pipes set out the cassettes. He keeps his hand around the mech.

"That's gotta be hard." Star's fingers curl, pulling Pipes a bit closer. "I heard that you're influenced by Unicron, but...I don't know. That doesn't mean I don't trust you. You're still you, aren't you? Just like those mechs who got fucked up the Hand, they were still themselves, we just had to get rid of the coding that was fucking them up, right?"

"Yeah, that's true. But, I dunno. I'm not a medical expert," which is surprising given Pipes's frequent visits to medibay, "but what me and Lieutenant have, it's way different. Our spark energy is, like, inverted or something. It's the same code but ... well, they're working on a cure. Although sometimes, I dunno ..." He keeps laying the cassettes out. "Thanks for still trusting me, though. But maybe, if what they're all saying is right, maybe you shouldn't totally trust me. This is confusing."

Starstruck nods, having heard threads of this through the grapevine. "I think the big thing is that I shouldn't give you info on what we're gonna do with Unicron. At least, that's what I heard." He sprawls out on the floor, now, propping his face up with his free hand, and flickers his visor in another wink at Pipes. "Good thing I don't know anything about that stuff. So I can talk to you without it being a problem. Right? So there's no need to worry."

"They're keeping you in the dark, too, huh? It's so frustrating!" A flare of violet interrupts Pipe's red-purple visor. "I mean, I've been a good soldier, for years and years, and now it's like, they're just waiting for me to betray everybody, all my friends! And I can't even prove that I won't, because I'm pretty sure they won't let me leave the ship! I'm basically a prisoner. So I come here and dream about ... getting out." All the while he's been placing cassettes down with authority, but now he leans back, the flare of anger subsiding as it usually does, quickly. "Sorry, Starstruck. I don't mean to get all testy, after all, you're my guest." He sighs, and finally looks at the cassettes, whose placements form a ring with a half-crescent sticking out from either side.

"Pipes..." Starstruck knows that shape. He knows it and he's scooping Pipes again, sorry Pipes, curling his hand around the minibot and drawing him close. Star sits up to pull Pipes into his lap, to bend over him. "Hey, I get it. You're frustrated and you're trapped. You've got this...thing in your spark that brought you back to us, but also maybe is kind of influencing how you do things." A worried glance at the arrangement of those cassettes. "I know you won't betray us. You won't. You're our friend. Just...remember that Unicron's in there too, in your head fucking with you, and he doesn't care about us. And that's why we're worried."

Pipes is stunned at his cassette arrangement, so there's zero resistance to him getting scooped, and for a moment it seems that the towering boxes circling around him lean in, and sharpen, but he hears Starstruck, and the spinning in the room stops again. He looks up at the Decepticon, and his face is full of fear. "I'm ... I don't know who I am anymore, Starstruck. It's my spark signature, but it's not my energy. Maybe they're right, maybe I'm dead, and I'm not me anymore. I'm ... huuhhh. huhh." He's out of words. Should he have stayed dead? What if they never cure him? Should he get out and ... go out in a blaze of glory? But if what they say is true, when he gets out, he'll …

Starstruck curls tighter, pulls Pipes closer. The advantage to their height difference is that he can very easily become Pipes' world, become his entire universe, if that doesn't make things worse. "It's still you," he insists, the rumble of his voice carrying through his chest and into Pipes' back. "It's still you. They're going to find a way to fix this - we've got Brainstorm on this ship, and Wheeljack, and they're going to figure it out. I mean, the fact that you're worried about it, that you're scared, that means it's still Pipes in there. Like Unicron's powering what was already there, you know? And maybe he added some bad shit, but at the core it's still you."

Large black fingers come up to stroke the side of Pipes' helm as soothingly as Starstruck can. "Come on, you know about the other zombies, right? None of them are like you and Lieu. You're different. You're not completely his.”

At another time, some years ago, Pipes would have scoffed at the thought of huddling for protection within the arms of a Decepticon. But that's not this time, nor this situation, and it's perfectly fine that even his castle of stuff isn't his primary defense, for now. "You're right. You're right. I'm still me, I must be. I'm just upside down. You're right, Brainstorm and Wheeljack can totally fix this. They probably have, like, a zillion ideas. They are super smart." The words walk along the edge between being genuinely felt and being recited for self-assurance.

"They're ridiculously smart," Starstruck agrees, adding to the comfort, whatever form it takes. "They'll figure it out. They'll get you the right energy, instead of this Unicron energy, and everything will be back to normal." The stroking continues, the holding continues, until Pipes gives any indication that he wants out. "You know what? We should have another movie night. We haven't had one in a while! Do you like romantic comedies? Those always make me feel better. And we'll order a ton of ener-ice cream, in all your favorite flavors. Have you tried rocky road? It's fucking awesome."

<FS3> Pipes rolls Optimism: Success. (7 5 3 2 1 2 6 4 2 3 4 2)

The close contact is profoundly soothing to Pipes, like a boosted form of the hug earlier. Even at that strength, though, it's only enough to provide a glimmer of hope to Pipes. Even if it's forced, even if Pipes isn't Pipes anymore, it's what Pipes should feel, so he decides to, well, feel it. Mostly. But it's there. "A romantic comedy? Yeah. Yeah, why not. They are kind of dumb, but I think I would like dumb right now." Pipes hadn't realized how tensed he was, and he lets himself relax. His visor shines nearly magenta.

"That's why they're great. They're dumb but feel-good dumb." Starstruck slowly pushes himself up off the ground, cradling Pipes easily in the crook of an arm as he does so. "C'mon, we can go back to my room. I've got all sorts of romcoms there - a friend helped me download a bunch onto a dataslug, so I didn't have to worry about keeping the discs with me. And I think I've still got some ice cream, though we can swing by the mess hall on our way, too. Whatever you wanna do."

"Th-thanks. Thanks, Starstruck. I think ... sorry I'm imposing, but I think I could use some socializing. Just ... let me do one thing." He wriggles down from the otherwise quite comfortable and acceptable conveyance Starstruck is offering, and goes back to the cassettes. Quickly he scrambles them up, and then, with a glance at the Decepticon midway through, puts them all into new places, so at the end there are somewhat recognizable Autobot and Decepticon symbols traceable in their placement. "There. OK, now I'm ready to go. Oh, we'll need to pick up the guard outside. I, uh, heh heh, hope he likes romantic comedies."

"You're not imposing! I invited you." Starstruck bends to decrease the distance between Pipes and the floor, which is...considerable, when he's tucked into Star's arm like that. The repositioning of the cassettes is watched with interest, and when it's done Star's lip curls before he reaches to scoop Pipes right back up again. It seems clear that the mini isn't going to escape being held for very long. "We'll let him pick the first movie, that should help, right? Especially if we get ice cream. Nobody dislikes ice cream."

Thrice scooped Pipes, that's what they'll call him. But as otherwise embarrassing as it would be for him to be seen ferried around the ship by Starstruck, he's decided that he will simply roll with it, and try to make as many others jealous as possible. "I think that's true. No one in the universe could possibly dislike ice cream." Pipes is thinking of, oh, three scoops.

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