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2018-10-24 Do You Ship?

From Transformers: Lost and Found

Do You Ship?
Date 2018/10/24
Location Fontcon
Participants Minimus Ambus, Prowl
Summary Fontcon part 2!

Fontcon, or the 407th Annual Exhibition of Typefacers and Font Design, is actually a pretty small convention as conventions go; a few thousand people tucked into a convention center, some organic, some mechanical, all united primarily by an interest in language and lettering powerful enough to travel to a space station in a somewhat remote corner of the galactic nexus.

The exhibition hall is populated by different artists and designers showing off their wares, with a large quadrant of the room holo-marked off so that vendors can sell datapads, inks, custom designs, fontsets, FONTCON Exclusive decorations, and so on, and so on.

Minimus's schedule is rigorous. He hurls himself into the panel schedule and essentially disappears into the community, leaving Prowl more or less to fend for himself and find what interests him for large portions of the day. The next time they intersect:

The panel room is small, and the panelists diverse: a humanoid with long tufted ears, a mechanoid with a square head, and an enormous living tree who pontificates slowly and gestures with his branches. It's not a crowded discussion, but the rustling leaves and sweeping branches have definitely dominated the conversation so far, and a couple of the people in the back of the panel room are conspicuously nodding off when Minimus Ambus lifts his hand to contribute to the discussion.

The mechanoid is the one to call on him, but everyone is paying an _alarming_ amount of attention to him when he makes an obscure point about the form versus functionality of a particular lettering design.

Prowl might say that he fended for himself pretty well. As dry as the entire subject of this convention is, there are interesting little gems that entice even Prowl. Naturally, he's interested in the law enforcement side of things, and spends the first part of the day engaged in his own little debates about efficiency. Eventually, he rejoins Minimus with a bunch of pamphlets and a bag of candy that's shaped like some obscure glyphs. He probably can't eat them.

Prowl's helm starts to tuck against the kibble of his collar. He jerks awake when Minimus joins the discussion, and blearily tries to follow along.

At first, it's pretty dry, and obscure and not that interesting. But the conversation turns quickly. Minimus says, "I merely insist that no matter the aesthetics of the problem, there is no need to sacrifice clarity or consistency."

Here then, the ponderous weight of the tree's head turns towards Minimus, and the tree speaker says, "It is curious to express an opinion so vehemently about clarity and consistency when one is known to have publicly committed a fraud upon the community."

Prowl feels a little zing of excitement that he probably shouldn't. It quickly turns to offense. Then confusion. He slowly turns his helm to Minimus and asks, in a low voice, "What fraud?"

There is definitely a matching ripple of interest in the Drama from the other people in the room, who also seem less likely to fall asleep.

Minimus, of course, has gone very still at the accusation. His chin lifts in a jerk of his helm and his eyes blaze in a scarlet glare across the distance of the panel room. He states, stiffly, "My position has hardly changed."

"Mmm," says the tree, and gestures dismissively in rippling branches. "Well, moving on from our adventures in Cybertronian identity politics, I believe we can return to the topic at hand. Mithwait, I believe you were discussing the advantage of strokes and radicals in transliteration--"

Minimus sits down again slowly, his jaw tightening, and glances sidelong at Prowl with a hint of a sardonic edge to his mouth. "Guess."

Prowl stands, against his better judgment. "Excuse me! The mantle was a service, a sacrifice, and you would use it to silence an opinion? I'd like to hear the rest of what this mech has to say." He looks to the rest of the room, maybe hoping for some support.

Prowl receives some mumbled sounds that may or may not be support. There seem to be a lot more people who don't actually want to engage in whatever this drama is. However, the tree seems delighted and fascinated to have a new target. Its branches ripple in a whispering shake of leaves, and it says, "Really? Oh, I see, the tangent must go on. Tell me, is pretending to be a dead war hero something about which we are supposed to be culturally sensitive?"

Minimus kind of sighs and goes, "Prowl, you really don't... need to do that," in a muttered undervoice.

Prowl grows incensed. Minimus' mutter plinks against his mental peripheral. "That is a shameless misinterpretation of the role of the Tyrest Accord Enforcer. I can gladly educate you on what it takes, following this tedious lecture of yours. A tip: ease up on moving your whispery leaves about, it's putting the back row to sleep."

It earns Prowl a tittering laugh from some of his audience. Minimus has leaned back in his seat and is pinching his thumb and middle finger against the bridge of his nose. The tree looks extremely offended, in so far as that may be read from a tree. "Your inability to pay attention is hardly anyone's concern but your own, Cybertronian!"

Prowl juts his jaw. He glares at the room, and finally notices Minimus' dismay. His brewing retort peters out, and he slumps back into his seat. "I had no idea that is what organics assumed," he asides through a growl. "Maybe I'll accidentally drop a match on him later."

Minimus Ambus gives Prowl a long look and then looks down at his hands without commentary. He does, however, turn over his datapad, and then carefully highlight a few activities on his schedule and change their color coding to indicate he will maaaaybe avoid them.

The panel discussion... hesitantly resumes.

"You could set them straight," Prowl continues through his denta. "Don't you want to be included in the conversation?" The answers are clear, at least Prowl thinks they are, but he still fidgets and bristles and glares. "Minimus..."

"Could I?" Minimus turns his gaze aside, over Prowl, but briefly. He looks back down at his datapad again. "I don't know that it's worth the attempt." His fingers are a neat lace over the surface of the screen, and his gaze is downcast, frown faint as the panel discussion continues, now in a somewhat heated aesthetics versus function argument that carries peculiar echoes to a debate that has existed in Cybertronian society for thousands of years.

"Perhaps it's just the twig that thinks that way," Prowl huffs, then forces himself to simmer when he spots the frown. "Maybe we need a summit that showcases our many galactic deeds, too. Just you and Thunderclash, I imagine... Maybe Rodimus. Maybe." That attempt at lightening the mood of the way, he nudges Minimus' hand to his datapad. "Write up something for me to dominate the conversation with. My voice can carry."

Minimus gives Prowl a blank look, and then, almost despite himself, he smiles very slightly. "No. Come on," he says, and he pats Prowl's hand. "I find I have more unassigned time this afternoon than I originally planned. Let's go walk through the exhibition hall."

Prowl is clearly okay with this resolution, though he's sure to send another invisible beam of frost at that tree as they leave the room. "Were the other panels halfway decent? The ones you went to solo, I mean," he asks as they move for the hall.

Minimus is tense, and he is still tense after they have made their escape, but as they wind their way through the relatively unbusy hall -- during the midst of panels, anyway -- he slows his pace and takes his sweet time about their amble towards the exhibition hall. He says, "Oh, it's not all been like that. Some of my old compatriots here were even happy to see me again. I had a rousing debate about comma placement in the panel before that one."

"Comma placement. I'd been... taught, that it was just wherever a natural pause was in a sentence. Am I wrong?" Prowl keeps his eyes on Minimus at the risk of colliding with something. Maybe he wants to see that rare smile again. It was really nice.

"Define a natural pause," Minimus Ambus suggests loftily. "And then the question comes of where the semi-colon fits, which I believe was actually the sub-header of the panel: 'Should it Be Abolished,' which I obviously don't believe." He passes a noisy bar full of laughing, talking people and moves on into the broad, open exhibition hall, where he slows his step even further to browse idly at the displays as he moves. "Have you learned anything about your handwriting yet?"

Prowl mulls over the actual use of a semi-colon for too long. When Minimus questions him, he pulls out a little card. It rates Prowl's handwriting as "unenthused". "Look at that. Funny, right?" He's forcing a smile, like he can totally take a joke, and definitely endure the light-hearted ribbing this little rating was supposed to inflict. "Unenthused. How about that. Just because I don't dot my "I"s with little stars. Unenthused. Good panel. Yeah. Great fun."

Minimus Ambus gives Prowl a narrow-eyed look, but it is humor that brightens his gaze. "I don't even know what that word means," he assures Prowl gently, and walks on between booths piled high with letters and characters. "Tell me," he says, in a thoughtful, musing tone, "why did you want to come to this with me?"

"...I can give you the answer you want," Prowl begins. "I wanted to learn about this hidden community and all of its wonderous quirks. And it's a pleasant break from everything else." He stops to thumb through pages of a porfolio atop a small desk. He has be very delicate with it, since not everything is conveniently scaled up.

"Mmhmm." Minimus's neutral noise suggests a remoteness, weighted with doubt. While the typographer behind the desk watches in anxious fascination as the Cybertronians peruse her work, Minimus says mildly, "In the entire time we've known each other, do you suppose I have ever asked you a question wanting an answer _I want_?"

"I remain drawn to you," Prowl murmurs quickly, dwelling on a page filled with neat and tidy typefaces. "I still... would like to be with you." This quiet admission is enough to make Prowl realize he's being a little rude to this typographer. He steps away. "It's really nice work," he tells her.

"Thank you!" she beams positivity up at him. It's early enough in the convention that she doesn't want to die from smiling yet.

Minimus drifts onward away from the booth without saying anything, looking at a display of different kinds of paper made out of different materials. He runs a fingertip over a long sheaf of fibrous paper, and then says, "You always were unswervingly persistent."

"Well, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't," Prowl says, coming around to scrutinize a few rolls of what looks like glittery bristol board. "I came because I wanted to see you in a setting you were comfortable in. Or at least, a setting that you might really enjoy."

"Do you ship?" Minimus asks the paper seller gravely, and then there's a brief and somewhat confusing back and forth about galactic shipping that permits him to stall awhile before answering Prowl. He is definitely buying weird paper. What is he going to do with that? Who knows. Then, finished with the transaction, he puts his back to the booth, turns to look up, and up, at Prowl, and says, "That _would_ be curious to see, wouldn't it? Me, comfortable," with particular, almost warm dryness.

"Oh, come on. You can't always be poised on the edge of everything, can you?" Prowl replies dryly, squinting through a fancy glass filled with ink, or what seems like ink. "...Don't give that twig's words a second thought. You're not a fraud. You were never pretending. The idiot's just ill-informed."

Now Minimus laughs, and it's never really a good sign when this happens, because it is a soft sound, edged bitterly but, as most blades he carries, aimed inward. "Prowl," he says, quietly, and then doesn't finish the thought out loud, surrounded as they are by the thronging crowd. He steps back from the booth and finds himself weirdly looming over an organic alien that finds even his diminutian to be enormous, and has to sidestep awkwardly to avoid stepping on them.

Prowl turns his full focus on Minimus, smudging the black ink that he'd accidentally dipped his fingers into. It leaves a streak on his cheek, where he holds his chin pensively. "You're proud of what you did, right? How you served?"

Minimus seems slightly baffled by this question. He tilts his head slightly to one side, and parts his lips like he is about to speak, and then closes his mouth and turns to look over the next display. He picks up a stuffed plush character and turns it over in his hands, staring down at it for a moment without actually appearing to process what he's looking at.

"Would you like one?" asks the hulkingly large mechanoid who has apparently painstakingly crafted these with his own hands. "10 creds!"

Minimus starts to put it back, and then looks at it, and says, "All right," and completes the transaction. Then he turns and hands it to Prowl and says, "It's a P," in case Prowl couldn't tell what a large stuffed P looks like.

Prowl finds himself far too charmed. He stares down at the plush character, and gently grasps it in both hands. "For Prowl." A blunt distraction, but it works. At least for a few minutes. Prowl peruses the rest of the handcrafted plush toys and ends up getting an M, for Minimus. It's not as arduous of an effort to compliment the vendor as it once might have been. He's on a roll.

The M plush is squeezed, carefully, in his free hand. He does this over and over. "So, you're not pleased with your accomplishments as the Tyrest Enforcer?"

"I was the Duly Appointed Enforcer of the Tyrest Accord for centuries. I accomplished a great deal in service of the Chief Justice. I served as a bastion for the Autobots for all that time and I was honored to do it." Minimus speaks a little distantly as he says this, his step measured as he drifts along past a couple of booths that he barely even glances at. He wanders the room, past stacks and stacks of stylized text, of design and lettering and ink and paper and plastic. He pauses at a turn in the landscape of the room, looking down an unexplored aisle, but instead of turning, he keeps moving, drifting towards the exit on the other side of the room and the promise of a quieter hallway beyond. "I was Ultra Magnus. The last Ultra Magnus, although I suppose there's a resurrected one again now and that's no longer the case."

"I'd like to meet Chase at some point. Size him up," Prowl says with mild humor. And if Minimus wants to head back into the hall, Prowl will follow. "I guess I expected that answer. Honored. Still kind of vague though, right?" he says as they slide back against the quiet wall outside, between some decorative plants.

The quiet is a relief after the mess of crowds that is the hall. It's not true privacy because anyone could walk by at any moment, but in the dull glare of the space station florescents, Minimus thunks his head back against the wall and says, "That's the thing, Prowl. I lied every day for thousands of years. I lied to everyone I knew. To everyone I didn't know. I was Ultra Magnus. I became Ultra Magnus. But the whole time I was also Minimus Ambus. I've always been Minimus Ambus. He's not escapable, Prowl. I did everything I could to become someone else but it doesn't become not a lie because Chief Justice Tyrest said so."

Prowl stands silent and watchful as he processes Minimus' admissions. Then, after a lull in the quiet ambiance around them, "I think you might be a little too caught up on the word "lie". I ran the Special Ops, as you know. I had agents that took on different identities for covert missions. It wasn't lies to them. It was merely duty."

Minimus gives Prowl a look of deep frustration. His arms fold in a loose cross over his chest, and he lets the wall take up his weight with a heavy clank of his lean as he turns his glare outward and elsewhere. "I don't permit you to escape your history," he says. "I'll thank you not to elide mine either."

Prowl ends up crushing the plush M, or at least one limb of it. Don't worry it's fine. But Prowl doesn't look happy. "Ah yes, I forgot, literally every command I issued throughout my life resulted in the mindless slaughter of innocents." He tries to temper the volume of his voice, and barely manages.

Minimus snorts at him and steps out from the wall, turning his head to look up at him as he braces his hands at his hips. "Do you mind?" he says. "I'm not attacking you. I'm saying I don't want to be coddled. You stepped over a number of lines in pursuit of the greater good. I lied about who I was for thousands of years. I'm not going to pretend away either of those things. That doesn't mean-- it doesn't mean we can't..." He flails for a moment-- not physically, because his stance is set and his posture steady, but by tone and expression, in the grips of frustration and uncertainty, "--Whatever," he finishes lamely. "Whatever it means. I require honesty, Prowl. From myself. From you. Whatever our friendship is or isn't, it will be that."

Prowl chokes on his own growing flame. He looks away from Minimus with a faint glare, but it's mostly from embarrassment. "I don't like that you feel bad about something like this. That you'd just agree with what that organic said about you."

"I find it very flattering that you continue to express... that you..." Minimus is helpless for a moment. God, words are the worst. Who invented this talking idea. He sets his fingertips against his temples and fumes in a little grumble of his engine, buried inside his frame. "But you-- your bias is really showing."

Prowl's doors wilt. "Is it too much? Is it... really coddling? I'm not trying to coddle. You know what, nevermind. Yeah, you lied to everyone. You're welcome to stew in that thought. I, on the other hand, am going to go stew in whatever oil pool I can find in this station. Done with panels. Have fun." He tosses the plushie M down to Minimus.

"Prowl--" Minimus says. He starts to reach out for him, kind of fumbles the M and spends a moment comically trying to juggle it into his grasp, then reaches out to put his hand up and -- well, that's Prowl's knee, but the intent is there. "I really appreciate that you wanted to do this with me," he says. "I know I'm not the easiest person to ... to get close to. And I really--" He fumbles about with his words and looks extremely frustrated and it's his turn to attempt to mash his plushie letter in his hand.

Prowl vents a soft sigh and looks down at the hand on his knee. "And you really what?" he asks, apparently pulling a little enjoyment out of Minimus' frustration with words. "You're so eloquent in text."

"It's not funny," Minimus says crossly. He draws back again and tries not to visibly sulk but he really isn't fooling anyone. "I just ... you can't just say things. Like this. It's absurd and ridiculous. But it ... it matters to me. It touches me. That you... kept trying even after every... thing."

Prowl... spends a few solid seconds wondering how Minimus even managed with Rodimus and Drift. Boy, he wants to ask. It sits there on the edge of his tongue. But Minimus eloquently pulls his attention, and Prowl brightens earnestly. "I'm glad to hear that. Thank you for telling me. Do you want me to stick around? I can probably do one more panel, assuming the speaker doesn't insult you again."

Minimus looks around the hallway in a blank way, and then pulls out his datapad to stare at it. There are a number of brightly colored panel boxes still on the schedule for the rest of the day, planned out with his earlier meticulous attention. He puts it away again, shakes his head, and says, "Let's see if we can find a kiosk that sells something we can consume and then head to the observation deck? I've never attended, but there's a light show at 1900 and if we get there early, we can have seats."

"Sure, sounds nice. I'd take your arm but you're too damn short. Assume I'm being polite and not demeaning," Prowl says as if it's common request. Hanging out with Minimus to be dazzled by laser-lit typeface displays does sound a lot better than brooding alone in oil.

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