Kup's Half Empty; Kup's Half Full by ExVee ********************************************"Thank you all for coming. I've called this meeting because there is a matter of the utmost importance that we must address." Ultra Magnus greeted the assembled Autobots before him. Each leaders in their fields, Magnus had carefully chosen his advisors for this conference. He was joined by Perceptor, foremost scientific mind of the Autobots, Wheeljack, chief of engineering, Red Alert, director of security, Ratchet, head of the medical division, Jazz, special operations commander, Bumblebee, the best intelligence and espionage agent available, and Grimlock, who throws a tantrum whenever he's left out. Seated around the conference table in one of the numerous briefing rooms within the towers of Autobot City, the atmosphere was one of tension and uncertainty. And also slightly cramped, as Magnus felt the need for secrecy was so paramount this morning that he had opted to convene in one of the smaller rooms normally assigned to the city's maintenance drones. Magnus stood at the head of the table, but was forced to slouch slightly as the ceiling in the room was a bit on the low side. "There is a problem within Autobot City, and indeed within our very own ranks. Every moment that this remains unresolved puts us all at grave risk," Magnus began, the tone of his voice underscoring the seriousness of the situation. "Kup." The room was quickly filled with groaning, mumbled comments, and the sound of rending metal, as Grimlock had begun to gnaw at his chair. "As you know, Kup is the oldest Autobot still in active service. Most 'Bots have the sense to retire after a certain point, but the last time I suggested it to Kup, he hit me in the skidplate with a stick for 'sassing' him," Magnus explained as he demonstrated the dents. "Come see me after the meeting, I can pound those right out for you!" Ratchet said. "Unfortunately, it's not just minor inconveniences. Grapple is not here today because he's still working on repairs to the human monument Kup crashed into last week. Uh..." Magnus reviewed his notes, "the ...Statue of Liberty?" "...but, that's surrounded by water! How did Kup even GET there?" Wheeljack asked incredulously. "I DON'T KNOW! He doesn't even remember being near it!" "He probably went offline while driving again," Bumblebee spoke up. "Ah, yes. I assigned Bumblebee to keep a discreet watch over Kup after I first heard there might be a problem. Why don't you share some of your findings?" Magnus motioned to the monitor on the facing wall as he sat down. "For several days I tracked Kup's movements within the city and out in the field. To be honest, for as aware as Kup is half the time, you probably could have had Warpath tail him and he still wouldn't have caught on," Bumblebee noted sarcastically, drawing quiet chuckles from the other Autobots. Except for Grimlock, who having finished his own chair was now eyeing the nearest table leg. "The human 'rules of the road' seem to be especially difficult for Kup, as several times I observed him defying traffic signals, driving in the wrong lane - sometimes in several wrong lanes at once, and having trouble with following posted speed limits," Bumblebee explained as he cycled through a series of images he had recorded during the investigation. "Don't tell me Kup was speeding?" Ratchet asked. "If only. I saw Kup stopped by police twice for driving too slowly on major highways. A third time Kup didn't stop; I had to blow out two of his tires to stop it from turning into a major police chase. But then he just transformed and wandered off into the woods before the police could do anything with him. "It's not much better in Autobot City, although at least he's not a danger to human lives here ...usually...." Bumblebee trailed off. "Ultra Magnus, I still have no idea how Kup was able to activate our orbital defense ballistic missile system. My security protocols must have been sabotaged! I bet we have a Decepticon spy within the city, and--" "THANK YOU, Red Alert." Magnus cut him off before he could get a full head of steam going. "We should all just be thankful that Jetfire just happened to be close enough to shoot down our own missiles before they managed to hit that city... uhm..." "Buenos Aires," Jazz said. "Right. Anyway, please continue, Bumblebee." "Mostly during his time in the city," Bumblebee began as he called up an image of a closed door at the end of a corridor "Kup managed to get himself locked into several closets - two of which were low security and didn't even HAVE locks - got lost on level five in tower three..." "Isn't that an auditorium? A huge empty room with stairway exits on two walls and elevators on the other two?" Wheeljack asked as he drew out a square with his fingers in the air. "Yes. Part of that time he was trying to figure out how to get out of one of the corners." "Thank you, Bumblebee. I think we can all see that we have a problem with Kup. He's not just a danger to those around him, but to himself as well.," Magnus said as he started to stand back up, but dropped back to his seat after rethinking the room's low clearance. "True 'nuff. Y'know, last time I was on an op with Kup, he almost shot himself in the face trying to clear a jam in his rifle. Lucky for him, really - the gun wasn't even jammed, he just forgot to load it in the first place," Jazz noted. "Ultra Magnus, do you know Kup actually let a Decepticon spy into the city?" Red Alert asked as he stood up and slammed his hands on the table. "He nearly allowed Ravage to compromise the entire city's security!" "Ah, right, the great cat chase incident..." Magnus recalled. "But we did manage to stop Ravage escaping with any secret information." "But you wouldn't have had to order the entire city to track down Ravage if Kup hadn't mistaken him for a real cat and tried to bring him home as a pet!" Red's oil pressure was nearing critical. "Aw, come on. Everybody's accidentally let Ravage or Laserbeak into an Autobot facility at one time or another. It's not Kup's fault they manage to sneak one through now and then," Wheeljack tried to settle Red Alert down. "But Ravage was nowhere near Autobot City! Kup found him in the desert 500 miles away and drove him all the way back here! That's no accident, that's a deliberate act of treason! Kup must be a Decepticon double agent! Look at how he has us tied up here instead of attending to our duties in the city! We must apprehend him at once!" Red demanded, as his lights and siren involuntarily activated. "Sit down, Red Alert," Magnus ordered. "Now look, Kup's no Decepticon agent. Most of us have even served under him at one point or another. His loyalty is not in question, period. "The purpose of this meeting is so we can decide the best course of action. Kup refuses to even consider retirement, and trying to force the issue is probably only going to result in more body work for Ratchet. Give me some options." "I could build a machine to--" "No, Wheeljack." "Aw..." "Can we even be certain that Kup is aware and responsible for his own actions anymore? Inevitable circuit degradation may have resulted in a critical signal failure between regions of his of his neurologic system, resulting in an inabilty to discern his own behaviors," Perceptor suggested. "We know Kup has a problem, we don't need to belabor the point," Magnus dismissed. "No, Perceptor may be on to something," Wheeljack said as he smacked Grimlock on the nose with a wrench to make him back away from eating any more of the table, now conspiculously missing a leg and full corner. "If the problem is a mechanical break down, we might be able to repair it." "Good luck," Ratchet said. "Just recently Kup suffered an electrical system overload by getting too close to one of the energon convertors, and I had to get Windcharger to come and magnetically restrain him before I could administer repairs. After that he's been really on guard. You know he walked around with his head on fire for two days because he refused to even let anyone near him with an extinguisher?" "Wait, how did he..." Magnus began. "Actually, nevermind. I don't even want to know." "The point is, I doubt we'd even be able to get any equipment close enough to be able to track down a mechanical failure in the first place, nevermind doing any work on it," Ratchet sighed. "What if Ratchet and I shrink to microscopic size and go inside of--" "No, Wheeljack." "Aw..." "In human culture, when the elderly become unable to care for themselves, they're often taken to facilities where trained professionals can offer constant monitoring and assistance," Perceptor said. "That's right! Remember when Sparkplug caught Spike and Carly trying to combine? Spike told me that it caused Sparkplug's mind to break down and he had to go under something called 'nursing care.' It didn't even seem like that effective of a combination anyway, I mean, it was still small enough to fit in my back seat..." Bumblebee added, as Ratchet sat facepalming. "Hm, maybe we could assign someone to look after Kup full time," Magnus considered. "But who'd take a job like that?!" Jazz asked, voicing the thought in everyone's mind. "Me think Kup great! Love his war stories! Me, Grimlock watch Kup!" "Thank you for your, er, enthusiasm, Grimlock. But I don't think this job would fit your, uh, skillset," Magnus treaded carefully. "Me no understand?" "He means that you need a babysitter almost as much as Kup does, big guy," Jazz explained. "Awwww..." Grimlock whined as he sat down in the corner of the room and started chewing a spare chair. "I don't think Kup would take kindly to any of us trying to take care of him," Jazz said. "Even if we presented it to him some way he'd accept, it's gonna start looking suspicious when Kup's new buddy won't ever let him out of sight. Kup might be old, but stupid he ain't." "Jazz is correct. If we wish to pursue this course of action, we must make Kup believe that it is to his benefit," Perceptor said. "We should also think about the well being of whoever would have to be taking care of Kup. It's no small thing, especially over the long term. Kup's not exactly easy to get along with all the time, either," Ratchet added. "I may have an idea, but I'll have to make a few calls. Thank you all for your ti--" Magnus was interrupted as a small tremor shook the room, quickly followed by the city's emergency alarms sounding. "Control room, report!" "We lost part of the hydroelectric dam. It looks like one of our perimeter defense batteries may have fired into it!" "I'm on my way up there, go to defense status three!" Magnus closed the comm channel. Red Alert and Ratchet had left as soon as they heard the location of the incident, while Perceptor, Wheeljack, and Jazz remained awaiting orders. Bumblebee was busy trying to pull office furniture out of Grimlock's mouth. "You're all dismissed. Report to emergency stations in case this is part of an attack," Magnus ordered. "And STOP EATING THE FURNITURE, GRIMLOCK!" **** Several days had passed since the dam explosion. Red Alert's investigation was concluded quickly upon determining that Kup had decided to go skeet shooting using one of the city's anti-air particle cannons. Ordinarily something like that would be punished with some period of performing labors normally carried out by a maintenance drone, but Ultra Magnus was too afraid that Kup might damage himself or more of the city in the process. It seemed to suit all concerned when Kup managed to accidentally lock himself in a room the next day and he was left to serve out his time there. **** "I have to admit that I'm just not sure how to deal with this anymore," Magnus said. "I never thought that it would go this far, that Kup's judgement could be impaired to such a degree." "This is troubling. If I had known of his condition, I would never have assigned him to Autobot City," Optimus Prime replied over the comm channel. "The problem is that when he actually has something to do, Kup is his old self. All of his experience and skill are still right there. But his mind tends to wander when he's not engaged. He gets bored and then he gets in trouble. He's very valuable to us here, but he's also posing a greater and greater risk to the city's safety." "Yes, I can see that from your reports. How long will the city be on energy restriction?" "Grapple and Wheeljack project at least a few more weeks until the dam is repaired and operational again." "Maybe we need to give Kup a new job." "I've tried busywork, Prime. That was how the missile incident got started. That he cracked through Red Alert's convoluted authorization system twice at least demonstrates that somewhere his mind is still in the game." "Exactly, which is why I think Kup should be using his time to pass his skills and abilities on to others." "With respect, Prime, do you really think it'd be a good idea to have Kup teaching?" "Why not? You yourself mentioned his value to the Autobots, part of which is his wealth of experience. It will also give him something to focus on between Decepticon attacks. I'm also thinking of a way for Kup himself to learn a few new things as well." "So, what do you have in mind?" "Remember the special project I've had Hot Rod working on? I think it may be time to roll it out..." **** "What's that punk doing here?" "Ah, Kup. Good, I see you remember Hot Rod," Magnus said, turning to face Kup. "How can I forget? He waited around one night until I went offline and then took me joy riding all over Cybertron! My axles were bent for a month!" Kup snarled in Hot Rod's general direction. "Now now, Kup. Hot Rod isn't the same irresponsible young 'Bot he was back then. In fact, Optimus Prime has had him overseeing a new project, which is why he's here," Magnus explained. "Him? He couldn't oversee his own exhaust port..." "In any case..." Magnus continued, "you have new orders, Kup - straight from Optimus Prime. You're to take charge of training the new squadron that Hot Rod brought with him." "Heh. Get me a switch. I'll whip 'em into shape real good!" Kup said with an evil grin. Hot Rod took a few steps backward, trying to edge behind Ultra Magnus. "Uh, this is going to be a special forces unit, not a typical boot camp job..." Magnus attempted to clarify. "Maybe Hot Rod can explain better." "Ah, well, er..." Hot Rod tried to speak while avoiding Kup's cutting gaze. "I've been on a planet where the natives have a lot of cybernetics technology. Optimus Prime thought we'd be able to help each other, and we've been figuring out ways to apply their technology, and... well, just come to the lab." *** As Magnus, Kup and Hot Rod enter one of the science laboratories, they're met with an impressive scene; The lab is filled with alien materials and machinery that Hot Rod brought with him. Then Kup notices it's not just equipment. Several small aliens are working on the equipment as well. He can see that they're basically similar to humans, though maybe with an odd tint to their skin? Kup couldn't quite tell, but his optics weren't as sharp as they used to be. Ratchet and Wheeljack are working on some of the machinery, while Perceptor is discussing something with one of the aliens, using words too complicated for any of the other Transformers to follow. "What is all this?" Kup asks, trying to conceal an almost child-like sense of wonder. "I've never seen anything like it..." "They call it Binary Bonding," Hot Rod explains. "It's a method they developed to connect themselves to electronics and machinery. On their homeworld, I've seen them work construction vehicles, computers, all kinds of things just using their minds." "The theory is that when applied to Cybertronians, it will create a two way connection between Autobot and Nebulan," Perceptor added. "A true bonding process allowing both to work together more effectively." "We've got several volunteers already, including me," Hot Rod said. We want you to undergo the process as well and take charge of the new unit the bonded Autobots and Nebulans are going to form." "I'd like to introduce you to Recoil," Ultra Magnus said, indicating one of the aliens standing on a platform next to one of the larger pieces of machinery. "It is a pleasure to meet you," Recoil said as he bowed slightly. "When we first spoke of bonding to Autobots, I agreed to be the first to go through the process, on the condition that I be paired with the most experienced of your people. I have been told that is you." "Uh, well, I've been around the galaxy a few times..." Kup replied, a bit flustered. "I'm not too sure about this bonding-controlling thing, though..." "Perhaps we have not explained clearly," Recoil began. "We want to use your weapons. We'll use your advanced weapons systems to create armed exoskeletons that I and other Nebulan volunteers will wear and operate through the Binary Bonding process. In return, the exoframes will be constructed to themselves transform into weapons you and the other Autobots can carry into battle. "The Decepticons threaten my world just as they threaten your homeworld and Earth. The prototypes we develop here will eventually go on to aid my people in defending themselves. In time we may even learn enough about Cybertronians to construct full Transformer bodies to allow a Nebulan to fight on even footing with the Decepticons." Kup said nothing to Recoil, and after a moment turned to Ultra Magnus and Hot Rod. "So you want to put a chewy filling in my rifle and have me haul that around? This is supposed to sound like a good idea why...?" "I can guarantee not only an increase in your weapon's power, but once synchronization between Nebulan and Autobot is fine-tuned, its accuracy as well," Recoil said, speaking a bit louder to try to regain Kup's attention. "And surely a gun that can aim itself must sound appealing, no?" "Now that you mention it..." **** "How are things shaping up?" Optimus Prime asked from the video screen. "Better than I expected, to be honest. It wasn't easy to convince Kup that the Binary Bonding would be a good idea, but he seems very pleased with the results," Magnus said. "At the very least, we haven't had any more skeet shooting accidents." At that, Optimus let out a laugh, and said, "Glad to hear it. I assume the others took well to the bonding also?" "Indeed. Our new 'Targetmaster' team is shaping up well. If they keep on like they have been, it shouldn't be long before we can ship them out to wherever they're needed. Hot Rod is already chomping at the bit to get out in real combat with his partner." "Very good. Do you forsee any problems once the trainees are transferred away from Autobot City?" "Only that we'll probably have a hard time keeping Kup from going with them. The bonding with Recoil seems to have helped Kup quite a bit, whether it affected something mechanically or otherwise, he's much more like the 'Bot we all remember." **** Magnus stepped out onto one of the city's many observation platforms, this one overlooking the training field north of Autobot City. Kup, Hot Rod and the other Targetmasters had been working almost non-stop to develop tactics and maneuvers to make best use of their new partners. Magnus reflected to himself that he couldn't remember a time when Kup looked so energetic. Jazz walked up next to Ultra Magnus. "Looks like problem solved, eh boss?" "Let's hope so, Jazz." "Well, Kup's had his slips, but he's actually listening when Recoil tries to stop him, so it's keeping the property damage down." "I'm sure Grapple was getting tired of going around rebuilding statues and dams, anyway." "...oh, yeah, that's why I came looking for you." "What is it? "Turns out Grapple got a little carried away when he repaired the Statue of Liberty." "How?" "I don't think he really got what it was all about. He turned it into a robot." "..." "Yeah. Then the Decepticons noticed and took it to Seattle." "...why?" "Beats me, but I just heard that it climbed up the Space Needle and is shooting at stuff with its torch. We probably oughta go..." "Fine. Remind me to call a meeting about Grapple when we come back." "Already on the books, boss." ******************************************** Notes: The actual inspiration for this story is way too convoluted to really detail properly. On the other hand, who doesn't want to write a Senile Kup story? Obviously this takes from everywhere and screws with everything besides, so it's not really gonna fit in anyplace, especially with my introduction of Nebulan partners. But it's more fun that way. Many thanks to RAC for consulting and proofing!