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You Are Listening To

Chapter Text

It's a quiet day for Soundwave: less than a dozen users, below average amounts of traffic, and nothing interesting coming in over the datanet. The date is marked as the potential start in a trend, a signal to deploy Rumble and Frenzy so they can unbolt Soundwave from this corner and assist in relocation.

Buzzsaw leaves on its signal to survey the neighboring area - it won't do to be obvious about its potential intentions to others. Minute signals flash between them, and Laserbeak also takes to the air. They'll find perches and record the passage of traffic, shifting spots as necessary to get a full survey.

Ravage extends a question from its dormancy: Are we going on the offensive?

Ravage: bored?

A low chuckle, and Soundwave resolves the problem by deploying Ravage as well, sending it out so it can enjoy itself. Data from its previous ventures indicate that it will stalk individual mechs, listen at gathering places, and get friendly with other comm units. All of this is agreeable, and Ravage is utterly loyal to Soundwave as a dock: there is no reason to be suspicious of its cassetticons.

Cycles pass. Mechs come and go, often with trivial queries or the simple desire for face-to-face-plate conversation. Soundwave manages them all, scanning the datanet, occasionally communicating with its neighbors; sharing data freely, but not the mark that a new trend may be in play; it is only a guess.

Speculation and conversation is interrupted as a new mech stumbles into Soundwave's visual range. Soundwave is not a medical mech, but it is equipped with rudimentary medical equipment and scanners so that it can tend to its cassetticons and pass along medical information to experts in the event of an emergency. A brief scan reassures Soundwave: this mech will be able to restore itself within seven cycles, provided it allows itself time to run that function. Hopefully it will go directly to a haven and recharge.

Soundwave abstracts itself from the datanet and its ongoing conversations, its sense of time slowing down as it records every frame of this mech's movement, as it stumbles down the street, a hand against its side as energon and other liquids leak from still-open gashes. Its optics are bright, its audials turning this way and that.

Visual details: a large mech, a warrior-class frame with reinforced plating and a battle-mask deployed over its face-plate. Its chest has two shield emitters set into it, those surfaces catching the light in interesting ways; indicating that it is a newer frame, as that technology is relatively new according to the files Soundwave pulls as it gets closer and closer.

It makes its way to Soundwave's interface and reaches for a pad with energon-smeared fingers, at which point Soundwave beeps at it, startling it into stopping, optics fixed on Soundwave's surface.

"Suggestion: vocal commands," Soundwave says.

"... My apologies," says the mech. "I'm looking for the location of a medical clinic run by - "

The sound of engines revving echoes down the street, followed by a rumble that has Frenzy and Rumble waking up automatically, requesting deployment. Soundwave grants it, unfolding to release them as the mech turns, dropping its hand from its wound and into its subspace, pulling out a rifle that it braces in both hands.

"Your condition: unsuitable for fighting. Suggestion: move behind me." Soundwave says, already assisting Rumble and Frenzy in unbolting himself, calling the rest of its cassetticons in.

The roaring sound gets louder, and Soundwave transforms, noting a slight rustiness in several joints that will have to be tended after this; its systems function, which is enough for the given situation.

"No!" The mech catches Soundwave's shoulder, field flashing briefly with apology as energon touches Soundwave's otherwise clean finish. "I'm equipped for battle."

"Repeat: your condition, unsuitable for fighting," Soundwave says. "Objective: disguise, distraction, relocation. Sit there." It takes two more seconds than it should for Soundwave's finger to separate from its other digits and point, indicating a severe need to spend time in its rootmode.

The strange mech sits, because the noise of oncoming vehicles is too loud to ignore now, and they are out of time. Soundwave activates defensive mods, giving itself a new appearance and placing a hologram of its altmode where the strange mech is seated. Frenzy sends a warning ping from up the street, forced to throw itself against the wall as the first of the motorcycles screams into view - followed by a row of them eight vehicles wide.

Soundwave makes its new appearance display shock and fear as it presses itself up against the hologram, careful not to clip through it as it tries to be out of the way of the gang.

Behind the road-clearing row of vehicles is a massive convoy, covered in scarred modifications and gouting flame from one of its pipes. Angry.

Soundwave saves visuals of the entire gang as it roars through and sends those to the local authorities in a proper report of law-breaking activity - for what good it will do in this section of Iacon. One of the motorcycles circles back around to sniff along the various openings in the walls, checking alleys and even Soundwave, its optics flashing at him before it tears off.

"And beat it!" Rumble calls after it, as Frenzy jeers; Soundwave doesn't miss how they've waited until it's gone to pick a fight, and it's appreciated. The disguise and hologram are dropped, and a hand is offered to the strange mech, helping it stand.

"Medical clinic: this way," Soundwave says as Laserbeak swoops down to perch on its shoulder - then carefully jumps to the other shoulder, avoiding the energon.

"Thank you," says the mech. "I owe you."

"Yes," Soundwave confirms. "Clinic: run by Ratchet. Acceptable?"

"More than," says the mech, relief evident in its field. "Lead on - what is your designation?"

"Soundwave. Laserbeak. Rumble, Frenzy." An indication to each cassetticon.

"I am Optimus." The name is filed away and information is pulled from the datanet as they walk, taking alleys and shortcuts wherever they appear. This mech is a soldier in training, forged in an experimental facility in Iacon, a prototype. It owes everything it is to Alpha Trion, and Soundwave opts for the shortest path towards more information: conversation.

"Optimus: displaced."

Laserbeak rises from Soundwave's shoulder, vanishing above the walls. Optimus' audials flick, raising its helm to stare after Laserbeak before it looks at Soundwave.

"I got lost," Optimus confesses. "I was trying to visit Ratchet, and took a wrong turn."

"Ratchet: did not provide a map?"

"It was supposed to be a surprise visit."

Judgement has to wait. Information is pulled on Ratchet as well as Alpha Trion, reviewed before they stop at a juncture and Soundwave raises a hand, stepping forward to send a complicated series of messages to another communications unit.

No, there is no intent to abandon its location. No, this will not take long. Yes, it has set up contingencies for if it chooses to leave a portion of the city uncovered. Do not treat it as a threat, or a traitor.

However vicious the moves for location and territory become, there is a strict system of etiquette to follow, for mechs of Soundwave's function have a set of duties: maintain the integrity of the datanet. Allow its access to all mechs. Extend coverage where possible - and there is now a hole that will be claimed by others if it isn't reclaimed quickly.

Acknowledgement comes back, and Soundwave finishes the role of guide, bringing Optimus to the doors of Ratchet's clinic.

"Optimus: obtain a map next time."

"I'll remember that," Optimus says, field sheepish. "Thank you again, Soundwave. I hope that someday I can repay you."

"Noted," Soundwave says, and turns to go. Its own maintenance can be completed in its location.

"What's this, two patients?" A strange voice - Soundwave stops in its tracks, looking back as an obvious medic - Ratchet? - walks out. "Optimus! What the slag did you get up to? Why aren't you above-ground?"

Soundwave resumes walking, but that only draws the optic of the medic -

"You! I can see that rust from here. Get inside before I haul you in!"

Unwise, to argue with a medic.

"Regret: offered. My post: left unattended - "

"It can wait," Ratchet says, advancing; there's the soft tingle of a scan being performed. "Especially with this level of neglect! How long have you been in your altmode?"

A number is offered; Ratchet grabs its arm.

"Both of you! Inside!"