“Everything that is, casts a shadow” ― Neil Gaiman, American Gods
"So I hear you're going to Vos."
Skyfire, who'd been going over a list of things he needed to get done before his trip, looked up at the speaker, smiling slightly when he saw who it was. Nodding his head, he replied, "Word travels fast, I see, Perceptor. I only just submitted my leave request a few breems ago."
The microscope-framed mech gave a small smile of his own as he sat at the commissary table across from his old friend. "I heard about it from Brainstorm." At Skyfire's puzzled expression, Perceptor continued, "He overheard you talking to the Dean. And you know how he can be when it comes to his home city-state. He and Pharma both."
"In other words, he couldn't resist spreading the gossip," Skyfire said dryly, setting the list down in front of him. He shook his head. "You know he and I have nothing to do with each other outside of staff meetings, Percy. We don't even meet in the lab, as our interests in projects differ. Why is he interested in whether or not I go to Vos?"
Perceptor shrugged as he replied, "You know he's been a citizen of Iacon for years and has long been aware that because of this, he wouldn't be allowed to return to his city-state of origin. Same goes for Pharma, only he found a way around that issue and reached out to a Perihexian mech he knew to ask him to visit and seek out any kin of his who might still be alive. The mech agreed, and Pharma is now in contact with some of his remaining family. This treaty has him making plans for his own visit in the near future now that the barriers to return have disappeared, from what I understand. Brainstorm seems to be hoping you'd be willing to check into something similar for him."
Skyfire raised a browridge. That certainly explained why Brainstorm was suddenly interested in his upcoming visit. Though he was definitely surprised that Brainstorm was considering him, due to their lack of interaction. "I see," he said finally. "In other words, he wishes me to act as an intermediary for a quasi-introduction."
It was now Perceptor's turn to raise a browridge. "A 'quasi-introduction'? What, may I ask, is that?"
Skyfire crossed his arms and set them on the table, pondering for a moment how best to put his explanation. Even with all the changes that had taken place since the wars end, particular frame-type or city-state customs could be hard to understand for those who were unfamiliar with them.
"It's a custom among flight-based frametypes," he replied finally. "Mostly among clans, though it's not unheard of among the clanless. A mech or femme from one clan who desire to have contact with someone in another clan and has no contact with anyone in said clan will seek out a mutual acquaintance and ask them if they would be willing to be intermediary to open the lines of communication. Among the clanless, the concept is similar. If they wish to meet with someone from either a clan or with another clanless of a higher social status, they too will seek out a mutual intermediary for establishing first contact."
Perceptor blinked now, bemused for one of the few times in his life. "That...seems rather an elaborate way of setting up a meeting with someone. Though it does explain Pharma's response when I asked him why he just couldn't contact his family himself once I'd heard about what he'd done. He looked at me sharply and snapped that it simply wasn't how things were handled. I didn't think much of it at the time besides Pharma simply being Pharma."
Skyfire had never met Pharma, though he'd heard enough about the Autobot Seeker's attitude from Ratchet when he complained about the other mech. From what he'd gleaned, it sounded as though this Seeker was far more arrogant than Starscream. But he wasn't interested in getting into a discussion about a mech he knew merely by reputation and responded only to the first part of Perceptor's statement. "I agree it does seem elaborate, but it has been part of flier culture for a very long time, Perceptor. Since before the Quintesson War, I believe, from stories my Beta-Creator has told me. In any case, it is simply a means of establishing trust with the intention of forming alliances, whether personal or business. A 'quasi-introduction' would be something along the lines of what you told me Pharma did; namely, seeking out someone who had business in Vos and making the request of them, with the hopes of opening lines of communication. Since he and Brainstorm are the only Seekers in Iacon, I'm not surprised he chose to handle it in that way. Brainstorm is probably thinking of attempting something similar and since he knows I'm going, he's probably considering asking me to look into someone for him."
"Ah. Explains that, then. I still think it's a bit too elaborate, but given I've come across stranger things regarding various cultures before, even here on Cybertron, I suppose I can't say much against it beyond that," Perceptor replied. "Do you wish me to let Brainstorm know you have declined to assist him?"
"No, I'll handle it myself if he does ask," Skyfire responded, feeling it would be rude to do otherwise even if he didn't really know the other flier. "Besides, he may not even end up asking me at all, so it may well be unnecessary to bring up the subject to him if he doesn't."
"Very well, then," Perceptor said with a nod. "So tell me, do you know the itinerary of the visit you'll be making?"
Skyfire nodded. His Co-Creator had transmitted the information to him a few evening cycles back. "It doesn't seem like it's going to be a long one overall. We're heading out from the Iaconian shipyard in about three orns to lodgings which have been arranged for us in the seventh ring of Vos, where we'll be allowed a few joors to get ready for the celebration. From there, we'll be transported to the Palace in the top level of Vos. Following the celebration, we're being allowed the option of staying for a few day cycles to become acquainted with the city-state, or if we don't wish to visit Vos itself, stay in the lodgings and recover from the earlier celebration. We'll be transported home about half an orn later."
"Doesn't sound like you'll be staying too long, then," Perceptor mused. "Though it also sounds like it will be just long enough to allow the citizens of Vos to begin to get accustomed to Iaconian visitors. Which isn't a bad thing, considering the new exchange program will be going into effect as soon as everything is arranged to everyone's satisfaction."
Skyfire took a sip of the energon cube sitting next to his datapad. "Will you be taking part in it?"
Perceptor shot him what could best be described as an incredulous look. "I have no interest in playing mechsitter, Skyfire. I'm patient, but not that patient. If I had to put up with all the complaints said mechsitters will likely be hearing, certain someones would find their voice-boxes and comm. systems disassembled before an orn had passed."
His optics became grim. "And as much as I think they would be best served by having that happen," he went on, rubbing his hand at the spot where his Autobot symbol had once been, "I have no great desire to deal with the fallout that would result. No, someone else can have the joy of handling them." The last words were said coldly.
Skyfire sipped once more at his energon before nodding in agreement. it wasn't a job he would much relish, either, though not for the same reasons as Perceptor. His only interest was reconnecting with his Conjunx, and he couldn't afford any distractions. It was why he hadn't put his own name in for the job.
"In any case," Perceptor was saying now, "I need to be getting back to class, and," he glanced at the datapad Skyfire had been looking at when he'd arrived about two breems before, "I can see you were involved in your own arrangements, so I will leave you to them."
Skyfire murmured a goodbye as the other scientist rose from his seat, and picked up the datapad containing his list.
But before he could continue figuring out what else he needed to get done before he left, he was interrupted by the sound of someone clearing their intakes.
He looked up to see that Percy hadn't left yet, and there seemed to be a pensive look on the mech's face.
The Valkyrie frowned. "Is something wrong?" he asked carefully.
"If you could," Perceptor began, somewhat hesitantly, "and if you get the chance..."
"Yes?" Skyfire was puzzled by his comrade's demeanor, which was normally so unflappable, but now seemed weighted with worry, judging by his expression.
Perceptor took a deep intake. "If you get the chance to see Starscream, and he lets you speak to him," he went on, now softly, "tell him...tell him I said I tried." Seeing the puzzlement on Skyfire's face, he looked away. "He'll know what I meant."
Before Skyfire could ask what the microscope meant by that enigmatic statement, he'd turned and strode away without a glance back.
Strange, Skyfire thought as he watched Perceptor disappear into the crowd. What did he mean by that?
It made no sense on the surface that Percy would send such a personal-seeming message along, he reflected, as Skyfire couldn't remember a time where he or Starscream had interacted with Perceptor directly prior to his accident, for very much the same reasons they'd not had any acquaintance with Wheeljack. Plus, Perceptor had been of a higher rank in the Academy back then, along with having had a reputation for being highly anti-social. He would have had no time or inclination to deal with anyone unless on a professional basis; not to mention his interests had laid in Xenobiology and Chemistry, not the Exploration fields most fliers gravitated to.
Certainly, the long war and peace that followed had brought about some strong changes in his personality, but even so, that wouldn't explain why he'd just asked Skyfire to send a message to a mech he'd never even met in his life.
Still, he had vouched for Starscream's academic past to Optimus when the old records were found, and not too long ago he'd asked Wheeljack to find out if Skyfire still communicated with the Seeker.
Just what was he missing here?
After a few kliks of consideration, he shook his head.
I suppose I'll just have to ask Starscream once I get permission from his clan head to approach him, Skyfire finally decided, dismissing the mystery for the time being.
He picked up his datapad and turned it back on.
Time to get back to work.
Perceptor stood in his office, staring unseeingly out the window at the streets below. His thoughts were in a turmoil as he considered the conversation he'd just had with Skyfire. He'd only gone down there with the intent to deliver a message from Brainstorm, nothing more, nothing less. He certainly hadn't expected to learn anything about flier culture, though it had given him a few insights into why they acted as they did towards each other now. As overly elaborate as he found it, Perceptor was aware that other races had such tribal behaviors, though not all of them were as refined...
He shook his head. Going off on tangents again wasn't what he needed right now. The microscope forced himself to re-focus, and put aside his considerations of flier culture for another orn.
He'd only gone down to find Skyfire with the intent to deliver a message from Brainstorm, and confirm for himself the information that his friend was going to Vos.
He certainly hadn't expected to feel that flare-up of conscience that he'd had. The one that had driven him to make that request of Skyfire.
Perhaps I should have told him why I asked that of him, the red scientist mused. He knew from Wheeljack that Skyfire had admitted he and Starscream had had no contact since his release from prison and departure for Vos. While he wasn't sure how much Skyfire and Starscream had spoken to each other during Skyfire's visits to the prison during Starscream's confinement, he was pretty certain that Starscream had never mentioned anything to his former partner about the aftermath of his accident.
After all, his friend hadn't asked any questions of Perceptor about what had happened at the Science Academy back then following Starscream's return to Cybertron, and while most other Autobots (Prime and Prowl were exceptions, of course, with Jazz and Red Alert having their own suspicions) might think Starscream and Skyfire had once been little more than colleagues, the microscope knew otherwise.
He might have had little to do with others back then, but he had heard things, even if he'd given no indications of what he'd heard.
But he'd still cataloged the rumors away, in case he would one orn have need of the information.
After all, knowledge is power, he thought, as a grim smile curled over his features.
The smile fell away as the memories of the immediate orns of Starscream's return to Iacon crept into his mind once more. Knowledge was power, indeed, but sometimes it seemed a heavy weight. As now.
After a few kliks of replaying the memories, Perceptor just shook his head, and released a heavy intake.
No, he decided finally. Telling Skyfire would have been a mistake. And besides, it wasn't his place to say anything if Starscream had not.
He could only hope that Starscream had enough mercy remaining in him to continue in his silence.
Perhaps one day, he could gain the courage to face the Seeker himself.
But for now he would just settle for delivering that message and hope for the best.
And may Primus forgive me.