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The Cityformer and the Triplechanger

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Scamper cornered First Aid in the supply closet. "The big guy wants a word," he whispered.

"Of course," First Aid replied. He set his box of capacitors neatly a shelf, and waited.

"I mean... not here." Scamper leaned back into the hallway, glancing this way and that. "Somewhere private."

"But we are somewhere private?" First Aid said. Where could be more private for a conversation with Metroplex than inside of Metroplex?

Scamper frowned. "Somewhere more private," he whispered. "The control room. Please, this is... sort of a personal issue. He doesn't want it on the security logs."

"Oh!"

First Aid trailed Scamper to the control room. It was empty, save for a pleasant wash of electromagnetic radiation: communications, broadcasts, signals to Metroplex's drones and his guardian, all of them coming from the machinery around him. And beneath it all, the hum of life and the warm - if slightly disturbed - presence of Metroplex's energy field.

Scamper fidgeted by the firmly locked door. "He's a bit... Can you connect? He doesn't want to talk about it out loud."

First Aid nodded and plugged himself into the main console. "What's wrong?" he asked, using the connection to transmit his query.

The response came slow and wordless, a sensation of confused and slightly anxious frustration, an itch it was impossible to scratch.

"All right," First Aid replied. He sent a pulse of soothing calm along the connection. "Do you know what the cause might be?"

"Yes," Metroplex admitted, and the word came with an avalanche of sound and image: a flier leaning against a wall, ailerons flicking; suggestive words in a corridor; a figure sprawled over the podium in the conference room, openly inviting. The theme was grey and purple, and a wicked warm smile: Octane. Metroplex coughed static. "His fluctuations are rather disruptive."

"Uh-huh?" First Aid said, as a choice selection of recordings of Octane's ever-shifting energy field caught him right in the interface components. "That... ah, that's quite intense."

"I believed," Metroplex continued, "that it would cease were he to find a partner. But he has secured five different partners and been active with them all in various combinations, and the situation has not improved."

"Is that so?" First Aid asked weakly. He waved off Scamper's offer of a hand, and leant against the edge of the input console. "I take it you haven't mentioned it to him?"

"No," Metroplex replied. "I made an attempt... He... propositioned me."

"Goodness," First Aid said, while his mind provided him with a lively and inappropriate vision of exactly how that might be accomplished. "How, um... What happened?"

This time he was ready. Almost. The memory wasn't completely immersive. Metroplex held back from him the most alien data, the everyday experience of what it was to be a cityformer, and gave him the bare details. Octane's swagger as he approached one of the tertiary control panels; the insistent tingle of his energy field; his teasing, charismatic banter.

His invitation had been simple, and he took the rejection well. A shrug, an easy-going smile. He seemed a little disappointed, but he didn't press his case. He did proposition each one of the drones separately, though, and he bounced back from each new denial without so much as a dent to his happy-go-lucky horny enthusiasm.

"It was awkward," Metroplex commented.

"But it went smoothly," First Aid said. "You handled it very well."

"Perhaps. But he is... distracting. Still."

First Aid nodded. He sent those calm, soothing impulses along the connection, letting Metroplex know that he needed a while to think. Over by the door, Scamper folded his arms across his chest and waited.

"I..." Metroplex bagan; the syllable hung. First Aid lifted his head, cut off mid-thought.

"Yes?" he prompted.

"I may have been too hasty in my assessment of him."

"What makes you think that?"

Now it was Metroplex's turn to pause. Scamper tapped his foot. "His former involvement with Trypticon," Metroplex admitted after a while. "It concerns me. But..."

"But you'd like to try anyway?" First Aid asked. Confirmation came as a series of instructions to his sensor net - the sensation of being hugged. First Aid smiled. "I say this as your friend," he said, "as well as your physician: there's no harm in trying. It will likely make his presence less distracting, and assist with your peace of mind."

"It would not be selfish?" From anyone else the question would have seemed disingenuous, less a genuine query than a demand for reassurance. But from Metroplex it was simply an innocent request for an honest answer.

And an honest answer was all First Aid was capable of giving. "No more so than any other exchange which benefits both parties," he said softly. "You know your limitations, and you know how to interface safely. You'll be fine."

"Thankyou," Metroplex said, then, "How do I raise this with him?"

First Aid thought of Octane's wanton flirting, and his obvious interest in everything and anything with a laser core. "Um," he said, "Directly? I really don't think that will be a problem."