Chapter 1: Silent Night
:...: comm. link
‘....’ bonded speech
Astrosecond- 2.5 earth Seconds
Klik- 150 earth seconds/ 2.5 earth Minutes
Orn- 150 earth minutes/ 2.5 earth Hours
Joor- 60 earth hours/2.5 earth Days
Metacycle- 17.5 earth days/2.5 earth Weeks
Vorn- 10 earth weeks/2.5 earth months
Stellercycle-30 earth months/2.5 years
Breem-slang for a moment/minute.
Night Cycle: star down to star up
Day Cycle: Star up to star down
Disclaimer: I do not own Transformers, that right belongs to other people. Hasbro and IWD. Oh sadness.
The base was quiet that night cycle. Well, as quiet as the Iacon base could be with so many young mechs around. Fits of giggles, amateur pranks and fights were a common sight within the base. It was the last way for the Autobots to cling to what was left of their past lives as civilians. That was why, the commanding officers were sure, Optimus Prime allowed these goings-on to occur so often.
But that night cycle, all was quiet. No giggling. No pranks. No fights. Nothing. Just... silence.
That was the reason, Ratchet was sure, why he couldn't concentrate on his reports. The silence stretched out into the dark night, disturbing the old medic deeply. He was not used to this kind of deep, dark silence. Not any more, anyways. This kind of silence only ever occurred after something bad happened, usually a battle with heavy casualties. So to have such a silence and nothing wrong, put Ratchet on high alert.
The mostly white mech vented air through his intakes, and leaned back into his grey chair. He crossed his thick arms over his chest plates and glared at the incomplete data pad. Crimson digits drummed on white plating in a small attempt to make some sort of noise to distract himself.
The action only served to aggravate Ratchet more. This kind of silence never occurred back in Tarn, not near him in any case. Not with them following him everywhere like a pair of turbo pups. They would have never allowed this kind of silence to go on for so long. They would have aggravated him to the point of throwing wrenches, and calmed him enough to complete his reports. They, however, were still back in Tarn.
Ratchet gritted his dental plates, when he thought of Tarn. It was once a proud military stronghold that had since been twisted and tainted for Shockwave's, Tarn's leader, enjoyment. The deadly gladiator pits were still a major attraction to the citizens of Cyberton, and no other city was more proud of its pits than Tarn. Despite the fact that a war was looming between Tarn and Vos, Cybertronians sill flocked to the city nightly to watch.
Ratchet had hated Tarn on sight; the entire city was made up of long, low buildings that were grey and void of life. The only beauty that existed in the city was the appearance of the high walled coliseums, which Ratchet found to be overly ironic. The most beautiful buildings, with their decorative gems and crystals, were the venue of some of the most horrific events in Cybertronian history. The coliseums, at least to Ratchet, were a constant reminder that the deadly gladiator fights were still alive and well.
Having only gone to a gladiator match once, and that had been more out of curiosity then anything, Ratchet had despised the pits right from the start. He had been disgusted by the show of unnecessary violence, and the crowd's joyful reaction to watching one mech rip apart another. It went against his core programming to just sit there and watch the horrendous display.
The only reason that Ratchet had ever stepped a pede in Tarn was because Optimus Prime had sent him to the Autobot base there to help prepare the base for evacuation. Optimus knew that it was only a matter of time before Shockwave would join Megatron, and the Prime had wanted as many of his people out of there as possible by the time that occurred.
So the medic, who had been needed onsite to prepare sensitive medical equipment for a move to Iacon, had been transferred to Tarn. Optimus had done this as discreetly as possible, so as to not draw attention to the Autobot's sudden departure and keep the Deceptions in the dark as long as possible. But just because he had to be there, didn't mean that Ratchet had to like it.
His only indulgence had become the pit spawned, slagging, hellion twins that Optimus had assigned to him as guards - Sunstreaker and Sideswipe.
The ex-gladiators had hated him on sight, had hated that they had to guard such a 'weak' mech. The first few metacycles had been like going through the pit with them, and they had fought him at every turn. At moments Sunsreaker had literally tried to fight Ratchet, and only Ratchet's medical knowledge had saved him from the scrap heap.
But after Sideswipe had been injured during a major riot in the main streets of Tarn, Ratchet had repaired him to a better state then he had been in before. After that the twins had come around, and an odd, delicate sort of friendship had formed.
After the twins decided that Ratchet was 'theirs', the medic never had to deal with the silence. No one could laugh like the twins could when they really got going. Well, maybe not Sunstreaker, but Sideswipe could laugh until the walls shook. And the pranks. Oh the pranks that Sideswipe could come up with would put the mechs in Iacon to shame. The only one that might have been able to keep up with Sideswipe's pranks was Jazz...
Ratchet would still put his creds on the crimson mech though.
Then, of course, there were the fights. Every other night cycle Sunstreaker came limping into the med bay, hissing and spitting about a mech that had damaged his paint job in some way. No mech could fight quite like Sunstreaker could. More graceful and deadly than his older brother, Sunstreaker had become a fierce killing machine during his time in the pits. Some even called him battle crazed and said that he lusted for spilt energon, and that this was only proven by just how easily it was for him to take down an enemy twice his size and weight. But Ratchet had also seen the aftermath of such rages and acts of violence, and a few times had found Sunstreaker having a breakdown in a hidden part of the base. All the white and red mech could do was hold the golden one until the shaking stopped.
But it still had taken time for the younger twin to come to Ratchet for help that first time, much longer than Sideswipe. However, once the proverbial dam broke, Ratchet couldn't get rid of the little glitch. For everything from heavy artillery damage to imaginary scratches in his paint, Sunstreaker would come to Ratchet and only Ratchet. No one else even dared approach the younger twin.
The medic shook his head; none of that mattered anymore. Ratchet had finally been transferred back to Iacon once the medical equipment had been prepared, which had been a delicate process in itself, and shipped to the Autobot stronghold.
The twins had been upset by his departure, Ratchet was sure. Neither would look him in the optic and the crimson twin had mumbled a half sparked 'good bye', while a snide 'good riddance' was all he got from Sunstreaker, though it really didn't have his usual bite. But it had been the sad look in Sideswipe's optics and the completely blank look in Sunstreaker's that had bothered Ratchet the most. He couldn't explain why this upset him, just that it had.
Those looks alone seemed to sum up his awful time in Tarn and had prompted Ratchet to do something he had never done for a frontliner; he gave both twins the frequency of his external communications link in Iacon. They could reach him there from Tarn, but it was only to be used in emergencies. With that, Ratchet had said 'good bye and see you soon'. The twins were part of the second to last crew to leave Tarn, making them a larger target to the Decepticons. That had been almost eight metacycles ago, and in another six the twins would be on their way to Iacon.
Suddenly feeling cramped in his seat, Ratchet stood and stretched. Older gears popped with stress, and the red and white medic vented. A sudden and unexplained pang of loneliness hit Ratchet then, and he wished the twins were already there.
The medic shook his head and rubbed his chevron, trying to release the stress from the long cycle and not really accomplishing that. "They'll be in Iacon soon enough." Ratchet grumbled to himself as he dropped back into his seat. "And then I'll never get these blasted reports done."
He glowered at the data pad, as if to blame it for his unfortunate mood and loneliness, then looked at the external communicator on his desk. Ratchet knew he had told the twins only to contact him in case of an emergency, but he really hadn't expected them to listen to him. They never had in the past, not really, and he didn't think they would start now.
But since he'd left Tarn? Not a peep. Nothing from either of them, and the red and white had been so sure that they would at least call once. The red twin had been so cheered by attaining such private information from Ratchet that it had made the medic feel better about leaving them behind.
Sunstreaker had taken the information in his usual cold, indifferent way. But Ratchet had caught the slight twitch in his lip plates before he turned away.
A sudden, high pitched noise startled Ratchet from his musings, causing the medic to jump. Narrowing his optics, the medic scowled at the external communicator on his desk. He made a mental note to change the alert when he was having an incoming call as that was not the kind of noise he wanted to hear instead of the silence.
Giving his helm a hard shake to dislodge his distracting thoughts from his processor, Ratchet activated the communicator.
Prowl's tired face filled the screen, his door wings hanging unusually low. Ratchet could see Jazz still in recharge in the corner of the room behind Prowl's low door wing.
Ignoring the recharging saboteur, Ratchet narrowed his optics at Prowl. White lip plates pulled down hard into a frown, Ratchet said "Prowl, I thought I told you to get a good recharge tonight. Or else I would force you into the medbay." His tone was hard and irritated.
The SIC suddenly snapped upright; his wings coming high and blocking Ratchet's view of Jazz. A mask of cold indifference easily slid into place on his grey faceplates. "I was recharging Ratchet." Prowl said firmly, an air of irritation surrounded him. "But Red Alert intercepted an incoming call from Tarn to your communicator, and since you blocked all calls going to Prime, Red Alert commed me to check the call. As you know, all incoming communications must be checked if they are coming from outside the base to ensure the safety of all here." Ratchet opened his mouth to say something, but Prowl continued his little rant, keeping his voice low, professional and even. "Now, since you have blocked all incoming calls to Optimus, so that he may continue his recharge, I had no choice but to deal with it."
Ratchet sighed and scowled at the SIC. Prowl, unfazed, kept his emotionless mask on, not backing down from Ratchet, not when he was doing his duty.
Worry gnawed at Ratchet, but now he was also irritated at Prowl. Not just for being right, but for not just letting someone else deal with the incoming calls for a single night cycle. The SIC and the CMO would have spent the rest of the night cycle glaring at each other, neither willing to back down, if it had not been for a soft voice calling for Prowl.
"Prowler, what are ya doing? Come back to the berth." Jazz's sleepy voice came across the communicator.
Prowl glanced over his shoulder plate at his half awake mate, and his grey lip plates twitched ever so slightly. His icy optics shifted back to Ratchet, and the medic could see the subtle relaxation in the tactician's stance. "The mech trying to reach you has assured me that you gave him your communication extension. Although he is not on your safe list," at this the monotone mech frowned at Ratchet. "However I do believe that he was one of the two guards Optimus assigned to you while you were in Tarn."
The worry quickly bloomed to fear in Ratchet's chest plates, but years of experience kept if from his face. "Which one?" he grunted.
"The red one, Sideswipe."
Red seemed like such a plain word to describe the usually exuberant mech, but Ratchet let it pass. "Yeah, that sounds like him. Patch him through." Ratchet said, keeping his voice calm.
Prowl nodded briskly, and Ratchet's external comm. went blank for a moment while Prowl sent the feed through to him. The comm. blinked after a few astroseconds and Sideswipe's worried face filled the screen.
"It's about slagging time! The amount of time that it took you to answerer, Primus could have returned!" Sideswipe snarled, his worry turning to anger.
Ratchet scowled at the older twin, but kept a lid on his own anger. Taking in Sideswipe's dirty, grimy, dull armor and the droop in his usual proud shoulders, Ratchet knew something was wrong. "Watch your tone glitchling, I am still your superior officer."
The frontliner seemed to wilt under Ratchet's tone. This action had the medic worrying more so, neither twin gave up a fight so easily. "I thought I told you to only call if it was an emergency." Ratchet said firmly, sitting back into his seat and crossing his arms.
Sideswipe glanced around nervously before focusing back onto Ratchet. "Have you been keeping tabs on us since you left...you said you were going to." His voice was oddly low and quiet, and Ratchet took it as another sign that something was amiss.
But keeping his angry front up, Ratchet narrowed his optics and scowled at the crimson mech. "Of course I have, I just haven't received any reports on either of you!"
Ratchet didn't think it was possible, but Sideswipe actually sunk even lower into himself and grief marred his handsome face.
"You need to look at those files now Ratchet." Sideswipe said, desperation creeping into his tone.
Ratchet furrowed his brows and looked confused. "Why Sideswipe? I should have been informed if anything happened to either of you the moment any medic in Tarn entered the report."
"Just do it Ratch!"
"Just tell me what happened." Ratchet growled, as he reached for another data pad that would access medical files from all over Cyberton. If either of the twin's files had been updated, he would have been alerted immediately.
Should have been any ways.
Ratchet opened the appropriate program and easily pulled up the twins files, and froze at the message flashing in bright orange at him.
LOCKED FILE blinked angrily up at him and Ratchet felt his tanks drop. Only Ops mechs could have locked files to ensure their safety and only the medic that had tended to them could gain access to those files. Even if another medic had put an alert out on a particular mech, once that file was locked down, no alert would be sent.
Ratchet stared stunned at the screen of the data pad and the blinking message with a numb sort of detachment. There was no reason that Ratchet could see to lock down the medical files of two frontliners... unless something had happened and the medic treating them didn't want such information to be passed along.
Still staring at the data pad, Ratchet asked "What happened Sideswipe?"
"Open the file."
"I can't." Came Ratchet's bewildered reply.
"Both yours and Sunstreaker's have been locked down."
"Hack it then!" This time, there was no denying the desperation in Sideswipe's voice.
Using his glossa to moisten his lips plates, Ratchet turned back to Sideswipe and calmly said "If I do that, I will attract the attention of whoever locked the file. What happened Sideswipe?"
Worried blue optics darted around again and Ratchet realized he was making sure no one was around. This meant that the frontliner was hiding.
"It was Shockwave." Sideswipe said suddenly, re-focusing on Ratchet.
Ratchet made an impatient noise and motion with his hand for Sideswipe to continue. "He figured out what Optimus was planning, and approached me and Sunny about it. Wanted us to abandon the Autobots and join him and Megatron." The crimson mech blurted out. "He didn't take it well when we refused."
Sideswipe stopped and looked around nervously again. "So he blackmailed Sunny into going back to the pits."
A panic that Ratchet didn't know was possible ran through him at those words. Sunstreaker had despised the gladiator pits and had vowed to never go back there. He had spoken that vow with such venom and ferocity that Ratchet had never doubted it. So for Sunstreaker to agree to fight... the blackmail must have been powerful.
"What was it?"
"The information that Shockwave used as blackmail. What was it?"
"Ratchet, we don't have ti-" Sideswipe was interrupted when Ratchet slammed his crimson servos on his metal desk.
"Don't you give me that Sideswipe! What could be so important that Sunstreaker would actually go back to the pits? You know he would not have done that for just anything."
Sideswipe looked down and murmured "Shockwave told the crowd that he had come out of retirement. Wanted just one more shot at being the best..."
"They cheered Ratchet. They actually cheered when he went back to the pits...they all cheered even louder when he...he lost." Sideswipe’s voice actually wavered a little at the end of the sentence.
"Sideswipe, focus! What did Shockwave use as blackmail?"
The frontliner shook his head from side to side. "I can't tell. I promised." His voice was now so quiet and brittle, so un-Sideswipe like.
Ratchet let the blackmail information go... for now.
"How badly hurt is he?" Ratchet asked, his voice firmer as the need to do something welled within him.
"That's just it Ratchet, it wasn't that bad. Not life threatening...minor scrapes for the most part. Some abdominal plating and internal mechanisms damaged. Left audiofin ripped off, but nothing the medics here shouldn't have been able to fix."
"But..." Ratchet prompted.
Sideswipe looked back at Ratchet, his optics becoming sharper, harder. "They didn't do anything."
Dumbfounded, all Ratchet could say was "What..."
"They did nothing. Things changed here Ratch. Once you left Shockwave took over everything, and he knew that Sunny didn't fight as hard as he could have...should have. Shockwave took that as a direct defiance to his order...so he punished Sunny by commanding all the medical staff not to touch him."
Ratchets optics widened, and all the medic could say was, once again, "What..."
Sideswipe, now on a roll, nodded. "I...I tried to help Ratch. I did. But Shockwave had me dragged down to the brig. I've been there for four slagging joors! I didn't even receive my energon ration, so I can't even carry Sunny out of here now! A-and worst, the wounds have been left to fester. Rust has seeped into his abdominal armour and eaten away a lot of his circuitry. He can barely stay online now...he's in so much pain Ratch. I can feel it."
Sideswipe's optics unfocused again and Ratchet knew he was feeling what Sunstreaker was feeling through the twin bond.
"Sideswipe I need you to focus a little while longer." Ratchet said with an unusual amount of gentleness in his voice.
Optics sharpening once again, Sideswipe focused back on Ratchet. "Good mech. Are they giving Sunny anything? Anything at all?"
Sideswipe shook his helm. "No nothing...not even pain killing programs so that he can at least rest."
Ratchet cursed as rage thawed his previously freezing tanks. "Is there anything else?"
Much to Ratchet's dread, the older twin nodded. "Shockwave developed a virus that he deployed into Sunny's systems. From what I've been able to gather it's causing his systems to overheat and prevent his self-repair systems from working properly because they are attempting to cool his fragging systems!"
Worry and anger warred on Sideswipe's face as Ratchet leaned back into his seat, stunned by what he was just told.
In a voice that was far too weak, Sideswipe muttered "I didn't know who else to call Ratchet. No one else would have... would have cared enough about us. I didn't know what else to do."
The medic studied Sideswipe more closely again, keeping his own worries and fears hidden from the frontliner. The crimson mech's optics were dim and downcast making the usually powerful Sideswipe look young and vulnerable. How he managed to look so small and weak, Ratchet didn't know.
But what Ratchet did know was that the twins needed his help. And they needed it now.
Being as professional as he could, despite his spark feeling like it was being ripped in two, Ratchet said "It's alright Sides. It's going to be fine." His words did little to assure the other mech "I'm going to come for the pair of you. One way or another, I'm coming. Which medical center do they have him at?"
Still looking down, Sideswipe said "The main medical center by the Mohera coliseum."
Ratchet nodded with a grimace. Mohera was the worst coliseum by far, the fights there more brutal and almost always death matches. No doubt Sunstreaker was forced to kill another mech in order to survive the battle... but then how had he lost? "Go back to your brother Sideswipe. Stay with him. I need to speak with Optimus and Prowl."
The crimson mech nodded, finally bringing his optics back up to meet Ratchet’s. "But what if they don't let you come get us?"
"They will." Ratchet said firmly, and any other mech would have taken the medic's no nonsense tone and done as they were told. But not Sideswipe, not when his brother was slowly wasting away in a cold medbay and he himself was so close to stasis lock from the lack of energon.
"But Ratchet, what if they don't let you!" The red mech keened.
"Listen to me Sideswipe. They will let me come for you. But if they don't, I'm coming for you anyways. So be ready to leave quickly. Understand?"
Looking surprised, Sideswipe quietly said "But if you disobey an order-"
"Sideswipe! Get your aft back to your brother and be ready to leave within the orn. Contact me again if anything changes."
Looking worried, Sideswipe nodded and disconnected the feed. Venting a puff of air through his intakes Ratchet growled. He suddenly realized that his servos were clamped his desk, and he'd left two servo shaped impressions in the metal.
Ignoring the dents, Ratchet knew he had to move fast. The twins would not have much time left now, and Primus knows if Sideswipe managed to get a secure line to call out on. Ratchet doubted it, and the call could have been traced. If that had occurred, Shockwave would know that Ratchet was coming for the twins.
Pinging Prowl, Jazz, Ironhide and Optimus, Ratchet waited for a response. Four sleepy variations of "What do you want!" filled Ratchets comm. The medic simply ignored the responses from his fellow commanders and snapped :I need the four of you in the meeting chamber now!:
Not one of them questioned him, and Ratchet knew that his worry and anger had seeped into his tone.
:We are on our way Ratchet:
:I'll be there in a breem Ratch!:
:I'm on my way old friend.:
With a firm nod, knowing that the four top commanders were on their way to talk to him, Ratchet all but ran to the meeting chamber, knowing it would be the safest place to voice his opinions and worries about the twins.
By the time Ratchet arrived at the meeting chamber, Prowl and Jazz were already there waiting and Ironhide and Optimus were coming down the wide hall.
“What is going on Ratchet?" Came Prowl's calm voice as the other two joined the group.
"Inside." The medic said gruffly, pulling the door wide open.
Prowl gave a sharp nod and walked into the room, followed closely by Jazz. Ratchet saw the saboteur brush his servo against Prowl's and he wondered how much longer it would be before Prowl talked Jazz into bonding.
The medic shook his head and focused again on the twins.
Once the commanders were all inside, Ratchet locked the door and wasted no time, telling them everything. From the moment Prowl patched Sideswipe through to Ratchet, to Sunstreaker's damage, Sideswipe's worry and lack of energon, everything. The more information they had, the better the plan they could come up with. He finished his story with "We have to move them. The sooner the better. It's only a matter of time before Shockwave finds out that Sideswipe has contacted me and he may just deactivate the pair of them immediately if he thinks we are coming for them."
He was met with silence as his fellow officers considered, and a new worry settled in his tanks. Perhaps Sideswipe was right, maybe they would not want to go for the twins and claim they didn't have the resources to do it... not that it was untrue...
It was Prowl who spoke first, his blue optics unfocused and staring at the ground. "No." Was all he said, startling both Jazz and Optimus. Ironhide cast a dark scowl at the tactician, thinking along the same lines as Ratchet.
Ratchet, having kept a firm leash on his anger, finally snapped. "WHAT DO YOU MEAN NO! We are not going to leave those two poor fraggers in Shockwave's clutches! He'll rip them apart!"
Prowl, ever calm, cool and collected, simply stated "I did not mean no, as in no we will not be going after them. I mean no, I doubt Shockwave knows we are coming. Even if Sideswipe did not use a communicator that was secure, yours is. Shockwave would not have been able to track the call to us. He may know that a call was made, but I highly doubt it. Shockwave believes that he has beaten the twins, and he does not keep tabs on mechs he believes he has beaten."
Prowl's door wings twitched then, ignoring Ratchet's disbelieving look. "Red Alert has also stated that it was odd for his brother to call Iacon, and even odder that he would be trying to reach you. Thinking logically, if reaching out for aid is something that shocks Sideswipe's own brother, I doubt that Shockwave will be expecting it."
"True." Jazz said suddenly, his azure visor glowing brightly. "But tha' being said, we don't want ole Shocky to know we're comin'."
"We also need to think of the other Autobots that are still in Tarn. We... may be able to pull everyone out this night cycle. We may have to. But they will need to be alerted now."
"I can get the minibots out of the city within the night cycle. Cliffjumper has a close knit crew and he has been keeping his reports updated." Ironhide offered, glancing around the room.
Optimus nodded. "Good. But we need to keep this quiet. Any kind of disturbance could cause a riot." The matrix barer said gently. "We need to get our mechs out tonight. It is far too dangerous to leave them any longer."
Ratchet sagged with relief then. He was going to get the twins, and he was actually going to have help to do it.
"Prowl, I would like you to contact Mirage and Hound. Have them gather up the remaining ops mechs and trackers in the area. I will contact Kup and Elita One to get the wreckers, femmes and any other Autobots out of there." Optimus said firmly before turning to Jazz.
"Jazz, I would like you to go with Ratchet and help him with the twins. We shall rendezvous in the borderlands north of Tarn once you have all achieved your goals. Our mechs there have been in a battle ready state since we began the pull-out, they should be ready to move rather quickly. You all have three kliks to assemble your teams, then we leave."
The other officers nodded and quickly left the room to gather supplies and mechs. But as Ratchet moved to leave, Optimus dropped a large blue servo on his shoulder plate, causing the medic to pause and look up at his old friend. "We will get them back Ratchet." The leader said in a gentle tone. But Ratchet could hear the determination in it as well. The medic nodded, and pitied anyone who got in their way that cycle.
Authors Note: Phew! Well there you go! Chapter one is finally done! (Haha that rhymed.) I was originally going to do this as a one shot, but I liked how this chapter ended so I’m going to do this as a two shot. Hope you enjoyed it!
Chapter 2: Silent Dawn
Here it is guys, chapter two. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as the first chapter.
I would like to thank the amazingly, fantastic Shantastic who edited both chapter one and two for me. She’s just a super cool person who wanted to help out. Without her help neither chapter would have come out as well as they have. So, yet again, thank you so much for all you help!!
Astrosecond- 2.5 earth Seconds
Klik- 150 earth seconds/ 2.5 earth Minutes
Orn- 150 earth minutes/ 2.5 earth Hours
Joor- 60 earth hours/2.5 earth Days
Metacycle- 17.5 earth days/2.5 earth Weeks
Vorn- 10 earth weeks/2.5 earth months
Stellercycle-30 earth months/2.5 years
Breem-slang for a moment/minute.
Night Cycle- star down to star up
Day Cycle- Star up to star down
Disclaimer: I do not own Transformers, that right belongs to other people. Hasbro and IWD. Oh sadness.
Three sleek drop-ships sliced silently through the black night sky, before dropping gracefully into the dark, deserted clearing. The landing was bumpy and rough,but a typical landing none-the-less. They were not far from the city and had flown a wide circle around it to avoid suspicion. Ratchet looked out of one of the enforced glass window with a dark scowl. He could see the outline of Tarn and its high-walled coliseums, and it reminded him of how much he hated the city.
Kup and Elita One met the landing ships in silence, both sported worried looks on their faceplates and Ratchet knew something was wrong.
‘Like anything would go right this cycle.’ Ratchet snarled to himself as he walked down the exit ramp of one of the ships.
Optimus Prime stepped off the ship behind him and smiled at his mate, before letting his battle mask slide into place. “Status?”
Elita One, who had not returned her mate’s smile, shared an uneasy glance with Kup. “It’s not good Prime.” Kup said slowly. “There has been... an incident in Tarn.”
Then, as if to illustrate his point, there was a loud bang that had everyone ducking for cover as a large orange fireball lit up the night sky. Even from his distance, Ratchet could easily see it mushroom over the city with a whoosh of hot air that the Autobots could feel.
“What in the slagging pit was that?” Ratchet snarled, his tone low and dangerous.
“An explosion.” Prowl answered monotonously. “It looks as though it come from somewhere deep within the city.” He caught the deadpan look that Ratchet was giving him, and frowned slightly in confusion.
Jazz lay a gentle hand on his mates shoulder. His face was serious, but he managed to keep his tone light. “It was ah rhetorical question, sweet. We know what that was. We need ‘ta know why it occurred.”
Prowl blinked at him then. “Oh... Then why ask what it was and not why it occurred? In any case I have no idea why the explosion occurred or enough data to accumulate a proper theory.”
“I do.” Elita One said then, stepping up to stand beside her bond mate. “Approximately one orn ago a riot broke out in the Mohera district. It has since spread to all of the main avenues and even most of the smaller side roads.”
Ratchet rolled his optics and cursed Primus right then and there. “We don’t have time to deal with a slagging riot! We have more pressing matters.”
Elita One turned her blue optics to the medic‘s and they softened for a moment. But they hardened again when she spoke. “We are going to have to deal with it Ratchet. The streets are clogged with rioters and we will be unable to come back here once we have completed our objectives.”
Beside her Kup nodded. “From what I was able see on our way here, once we are in the city we will have to continue heading south instead of coming back north. It may be faster to come back north normally, but in this case heading south will be far easier.” Looking down, the old wrecker muttered “Haven’t seen a riot this big since I was a mechling.”
Ratchet sighed in aggravation, ignoring Kup’s attempt to start one of his ‘when I was a mechling’ stories. “Of course it had to start in the Mohera district. Why wouldn’t it?” The old medic grumbled.
Kup turned to his optics to Ratchet and calmly said “It’s not a surprise that a riot has broken out in that district. Tensions have been running high there for the past few joors, it was only a matter of time before this happened. Death matches have an unfortunate tendency to cause mechs to become angry.”
“How did it start?” Optimus asked before Ratchet could rip into Kup, clearly not impressed with his use of sarcasm.
Unfortunately, it brought the medic’s anger towards him instead. “WHO SLAGGING CARES HOW IT STARTED! We just have to work our way through it now!”
Optimus kept his tone calm as he explained “We are about to enter a war zone Ratchet. We will be sending our mechs and femmes, all of whom rely on us to make the proper decisions in regards to their safety, into a hostile environment. Should I make these decisions with only half the information?”
“I suppose.” Ratchet grumbled through gritted dental plates.
Giving his friend a firm nod, Optimus continued. “We need to know if the rioters are focusing on Autobots, angered by our presence and dislike of the Pits. Or are they just angry and violent for the sake of being angry and violent.”
“They are not focusing on Autobots specifically, not that I can gather.” Elita One offered. “According to our sources, a minibot was killed in a gladiator fight, one that was supposed to be fixed. A lot of the working class lost a lot of creds this night cycle, and they are not happy about it.”
“Then aside from the challenge it presents in getting our mechs out safely, it changes nothing. We must still go into Tarn to mobilise our mechs.” Optimus said gently, looking at the city again. “Ironhide, will you still be able to find Cliffjumper?”
“Yeah, I should be able ‘ta. Cliffjumper may enjoy a good scrap as much as the next mech, but he wouldn’t be so foolish as to head into a riot... well not when he knows we’re comin’ for him. He wouldn’t risk his mechs.” The red mech said gruffly, scratching at his chin plates. “He’ll be at ‘ta pick up zone.”
Optimus nodded. “Good. Elita, Kup, how are your units faring?”
Elita One spoke up first. “The femme unit is ready to move. When I heard the first warning bell for the riot I contacted Chromia immediately and instructed her to gather all the femmes to the safe house. They should all be there already, and awaiting my return.”
Kup gave a little nod to the rose coloured femme before addressing his Prime. “The wreckers are ready to roll as well Prime. All were ordered to stay put once they arrived at the safe house. And, despite the grumblin’, they will do as they’re told. None of my younglings are foolish enough to disobey a direct order.”
Optimus nodded and turned to his tactician. “Prowl were you able to contact Mirage and Hound?”
Prowl gave a sharp nod. “Yes sir, I did. They are both aware of the situation as it stands and should have collected the mechs that serve under them prior to the riot. I am to first collect Hound and his trackers, then Mirage and the special ops mechs.”
“’Ah can’t speak for Hound, but ‘Raj will get our mechs and be ready ‘ta go by the time ‘ya get thur. He’s ‘ah good second, that’s why ‘ah appointed him.” Jazz said as he went over his equipment for the fourth time.
Optimus nodded. “Good. We shall all continue as we had planned. Only, instead of returning to the ships, we will have the ships meet us in the southern borders of Tarn. That way, there will be no backtracking.”
Everyone nodded as Prowl lifted up a small data pad that he pulled from subspace; clicking it on, a small holographic map of the area and city appeared above its small screen. The hologram cast soft blue light onto the armour of everyone present. The light gave a serene feel to the atmosphere that just didn’t fit with the situation.
“We are here.” Prowl said calmly as he used a white digit to point out where the clearing that had served as their landing pad was on the hologram. He tapped the area and the light changed from blue to orange. Using nimble digits, Prowl zoomed into the southern borders of Tarn which was full of scrap buildings that had once been part of the city. Their twisted frames were so full of rust that they could fall to dust at any moment.
“From my calculations, this area here,” Prowl then tapped a much smaller clearing that was surrounded by crippled buildings so that it too glowed orange, “is the safest place to have the shuttle meet us for retrieval. We will have an eighty-five percent chance of success if we rendezvous within this circle of damaged buildings.”
“Only an eighty-five percent chance of success?” Elita One asked, keeping her voice neutral.
Prowl nodded. “Every other location has a much lower chance of success, the lowest being only eighteen percent. I cannot guarantee that there will not be unforeseen issues that will arise in our mission. So eighty-five percent is the best chance I can give.”
Ratchet quickly downloaded the map and the location of the new landing zone and firmly said “Eighty-
five percent is good enough for me. Let’s get moving – the longer we stand here, the worst it will get.”
Optimus nodded. “Ratchet’s right and I trust Prowl’s calculations. That will be the new rendezvous point. Autobots, roll out.”
With firm nods from all the commanders, they turned, folded down into their alt forms, and headed towards the city, each with his or her own mission to complete and a group of mechs counting on them.
Ratchet spotted Jazz and Prowl in his peripheral vision as the rest of the commanders drove off, and turned his helm when he saw their servos brush. He heard soft, quick words exchanged between the two, which sounded suspiciously like ‘be careful’ from both mechs. Ratchet heard Prowl transform into his alt form and drive into the night, leaving the medic alone with Jazz.
The saboteur sauntered to the medic, standing beside him. Looking up at the medic, Jazz said “Don’t worry Ratch’ we’ll get them back.”
Ratchet sighed as he turned his gaze skyward. Optimus and Prowl understood why Ratchet had been so desperate to get to Tarn, but Jazz did not. “Jazz...what do you know about split-spark twins?”
“Eh....that they’re ‘ah rare thing?” The white and black mech answered.
Ratchet began walking towards the city. His only reason for the slow start was to ensure that Jazz understood what was at stake here. “They are,” the medic started, keeping a swift pace. “But they have one thing that is both a blessing and a curse.”
Jazz stayed silent, but felt a sudden need to get to the twins that much faster.
“They are bonded in every sense of the way, two halves of the same spark. They can share thoughts and feelings through that bond, making communication and planning that much easier. They will also feel both pleasure...and pain through the bond.”
The medic glanced at the smaller mech, hoping that he understood what he was getting at. Although Ratchet couldn’t see Jazz’s optics, the lower half of his face was scrunched up in concentration. “Ratchet... if one dies will the other one follow?”
Ratchet spoke plainly. “Yes. That is part of the reason that Sideswipe couldn’t carry Sunstreaker from the medbay himself. On top of being weak from the lack of energon, Sideswipe is also feeling Sunstreaker’s pain and it’s draining him.”
Jazz growled and scratched the back of his helm. “Well then. We had better get ‘ah move on then.”
With that, Jazz dropped down into his alt form and took off towards the city. Ratchet quickly followed suit, thanking Primus that Jazz was assigned to aid him in his endeavours, he doubted that there were many other mechs who would have taken that kind of information with a shrug.
Ratchet had thought Tarn was bad before the riot; now it was completely ruined. Random hunks of garbage had been lit on fire in the middle of the street and left to burn as over charged mechs and femmes danced around the far too tall flames.
The dancers had been the first thing Ratchet had seen when he and Jazz entered the city and despite their distance, he could still feel the intense heat from the flames. The dancers didn’t seem to notice that their paint was beginning to blister.
Jazz grabbed Ratchet’s wrist and tugged him away from the dancers and down the slightly quieter side streets and away from the flames. However the side streets were no better than the main street at the moment; looters were smashing the shop windows and taking everything they could get their servos on.
A small blue minibot was purging his tanks behind a light pole while his fellow minibots laughed and chuckled drunkenly at him. Fights and scuffles broke out all around them, forcing the two Autobots to avoid the fighters and looters.
A large black and purple mech ran through the crowd yelling “DOWN WITH SHOCKWAVE! WHOOO!”
Those in the crowd who were not busy purging, fighting or looting, all shouted back a whooping call to the large mech. This only encouraged him and he ran away from the Autobots, yelling ‘down with Shockwave’ again and again.
“This way Ratch’. If we head downtown, through the poorer district, it will take less time to get to the Mohera district.”
Ratchet sighed and watched as a femme pulled full energon cubes from a shop window and handed them to the small youngling by her leg. The youngling looked nervously at the two Autobots with large amber optics and shifted from pede to pede. The femme, sensing that her youngling was upset at something new, cast her glance to them. She froze when she saw Ratchet watching her, shoving the youngling behind her.
Ratchet huffed air again and turned away. He heard her sigh with relief and continue her needed pillaging. “This is only the outskirts of the city. I hate to see what the poorer districts look like.”
Leading Ratchet deeper into the city, and while trying to stay within the shadows of the riot, Jazz said “It’ll be bad, that’s for sure. ‘Ah suspect that the poorer districts will be the worst ‘o the city.”
“They usually are during a riot.” Ratchet grumbled but followed Jazz none the less.
They passed by more dancing mechs and femmes, one group had actually set an entire store on fire and cheered as the grey building burned. Not even the coliseums were spared; their decorative gems and crystals had been pulled from the side of the buildings. The larger white crystals that adorned the entrances had been too large to remove completely, and large chunks of the crystals had been broken off.
Enforcers ran through the throngs of mechs and femmes, pulling the wilder ones down, handcuffing them and dragging them away. Ratchet had a bad feeling that those poor mechs wouldn’t see the starlight again, not as free mechs, anyway.
As the two Autobots moved through the city and slipped into the poorer districts, the rioters became denser. Ratchet was not surprised though; the grey buildings were closer together and dirtier, with puddles of unknown liquid on the ground.
There were no fires in this area, but there was a higher presence of enforcers there and many more fights. But Jazz, used to moving quietly through a chaotic environment, easily manoeuvred through the horde of mechs. Ratchet followed him without fail, staying close to the saboteur. Most of the mechs in the crowd didn’t even notice the two Autobots in their midst, and the few that did had such a fleeting glance that they discounted the red symbol.
The pair made it all the way to the river, that ran through the center of the city, with little real issues. The river separated the poorest districts from the more wealthy ones, and the guard houses on the wealthy side could raise the bridges in case of any emergency.
The two Autobots had been relieved to see the bridges, although badly damaged with deep potholes, were down.
It wasn’t until the pair made it past the river that they encountered a real problem. Thus far Jazz had been able to lead Ratchet around any issue that had occurred, but when he saw a line of heavily built enforcers marching down the street carrying laser rifles at the ready, he cursed.
The much smaller Autobot dragged Ratchet down another street, only to be blocked off by another line of enforcers. Jazz hissed in aggravation and snarled “’O course they sweep the poorer district fist.”
He swept his gaze around, looking for a place to hide. He spotted it in the form of a small parts shop that had been looted, the front window already shattered. “Come on.” Jazz snapped, dragging the medic across the dirty street and making a bee line for the broken window. Jazz practically tossed Ratchet through the window before diving in himself.
“Jazz, we don’t have time to do this. We need to get to that medbay.” Ratchet hissed as he righted himself.
Jazz glanced out the broken window, the jagged shards of glass reflecting the blue light from his visor back onto his armour, and he made a deep noise in his vocal processor. “We won’t do the twins much good if we’re all shot up.” Jazz said. “We just let them pass an’ then we make ‘ah hard run for the medbay.” Ratchet sighed and muttered “fine.” Ducking his helm down, Jazz grinned at the medic. “Don’t worry Ratch’. We’re almost there, few more blocks and we’re home free.” The saboteur’s grin grew into a smile when he said “An’ we haven’t met with that many problems. Considering this is a riot, I thought it would be much worse.”
Ratchet rolled his optics and shook his helm. “Jazz, you could walk into the pit with that insufferable grin.”
“Awe, Ratch’ ‘ya know meh so we-“ the saboteur stopped what he was saying and the smile slid from his faceplates when they heard “DOWN WITH SHOCKWAVE” from the other end of the street.
The two Autobots shared a glance before poking their helms up to investigate. The two lines of enforcers HAD to come together to make a large crowd, and they were facing the horde of angry rioters marching towards them. The same black and purple mech from earlier was leading the group towards the enforcers.
The enforcers let out a growl of aggression and lined themselves to prepare to attack.
“They’ve been reprogrammed.” Ratchet whispered to Jazz as they watched the enforcers.
Jazz, no doubt thinking of Prowl, asked “How can ‘ya tell?”
“The optics. The lack of personality causes the optics to become dim and unfocused when outside of battle or duty. For just a moment, the optics of most of the enforcers did just that.” The medic explained.
Jazz cursed as they watched the enforcers and the rioters march towards each other. The saboteur’s spark twisted in an awful way when he saw the first line of enforcers lift up their rifles and take aim at the rioters. The laser rifles began charging with energy when the enforcers’ captain stepped up.
He was a wide, short mech with a plan dark grey paint job. In a lifeless, emotionless voice that sounded nothing like Prowl, the grey mech rumbled “Return to your dwellings. Repeat. Return to your dwellings. Deactivation will be the result of disobeying this order. Repeat, deactivation will occur for disobeying this order.”
The rioters didn’t move, and instead began shouting louder. “DOWN WITH SHOCKWAVE!” they chanted.
Scowling, Ratchet glanced at Jazz. “Those enforcers are going to deactivate the civilians! We need to do something.”
The white medic made to climb through the window when Jazz grabbed him and pulled him back down hard. “Jazz, let go! We need to help them.”
The saboteur again pulled Ratchet back down when he again tried to climb over the wall. “Ratchet there are ‘ah dozen ‘o them and two ‘o us. We do anything, and we’ll end up being deactivated along with them.”
Ratchet turned to rip into the smaller mech but stopped when he saw the look of anger, pain and regret that marred Jazz’s face. “Those mechs that are rioting will not leave even if we tell them ‘ta. I...I’m sorry Ratch, but there is noth’en we can do.” Ratchet could see the grief on his faceplates and feel it in the air around him.
“Last chance.” Came the emotionless voice of the enforcer.
Ratchet had turned his attention back to the open window when he heard the rioters’ chants get louder. But when Jazz clamped his black servos into his white forearms, Ratchet turned back to the worried and sad looking saboteur. Said saboteur squeezed Ratchet’s forearms tightly causing Ratchet to sigh; they both knew what was about to happen and both were unable to do anything to stop it.
Knowing that Jazz was a social mech and craved touch at stressful times, Ratchet shook one of his arms loose and clamped his servo onto Jazz’s shoulder. The black and white mech gave Ratchet a grateful look as they clung to each other. There was a sudden loud bang as over a dozen laser blasts went off, causing both Autobots to flinch; a flash of purple light filled the dark room they hid in and the terrified screams of rioters filled the area. Their voices bounced off the grey, dark buildings and echoed throughout the city. But their death cry was lost to the noises of the riot.
Then silence filled the area, the kind of silence that is only achieved when something bad has occurred.
“Enforcers move out.” Came the emotionless voice of the commander.
The two Autobots risked a glance over their protective wall; they continued to cling to each other and purposely didn’t look towards the rioters. The enforcers lumbered forward, heading to the outskirts of the city. But painted onto the chest of each one was the purple Decepticon decal.
Jazz hissed suddenly and dragged Ratchet down to the ground. “Do ‘ya have ‘yer spark dampener activated?”
“Of course, wh-ah!” Ratchet was suddenly pulled towards the back of the store by Jazz. The pair of them managed to scuttle across the dirty, glass covered floor where they ducked behind the counter.
“Jazz, what are you do-“ Ratchet was cut off when a black servo clamped over his lip plates and Jazz held a digit to his mouth.
If looks could kill, Jazz would have been melted down to scrap metal with the look that Ratchet had given him. But the medic stiffened under Jazz’s servo when he heard glass cracking and heavy intakes working hard.
A growl was released by the unseen mech and the heavy intakes worked a little harder.
“4725, do you see anything.” Came the emotionless voice of the enforcers’ commander.
There was a pause from ‘4725’ before an equally emotionless voice replied “Negative commander. I had thought I had seen something in this window. I was incorrect.”
“Affirmative. Come we shall move on to the outer rim of the city.”
The two Autobots could hear the two enforcers move away from the broken window and begin lumbering down the street, catching up with their brethren. Still, Jazz didn’t move a strut for a full klik, not until he was sure they were gone.
The black and white mech uncoiled himself from Ratchet and slowly stood. He motioned with his servo for Ratchet to stay put as he crept to the window. Moving slowly, Jazz poked his head out into the deserted street. Glancing first left, and then right, he climbed through the building and out into the street. He did another quick sweep of the street and motioned for Ratchet to come forward.
Ratchet moved through the destroyed building more quickly than Jazz had, knowing that the saboteur would not have beckoned him if it was unsafe. Climbing through the window, Ratchet avoided looking down the street as long as he could.
He looked at Jazz first, and the black and white mech was focusing his attention down the street. Ratchet didn’t need to see Jazz’s optics to know they were blank and detached.
Venting air, Ratchet turned and cringed at what he witnessed; what had once been a pack of angry femmes and mechs was now a smear of energon and twisted bodies in the street. In the shadows of the city Ratchet couldn’t make out individual looks of the mechs and femmes, just the mass of bodies with limbs sticking out in odd directions.
Jazz made a move as if to walk to the dead mechs, but a servo from Ratchet stopped him. “There are no survivors Jazz.” The medic said gently.
“Yer sure?” Jazz asked quietly.
“No spark signatures left. I doubt civilians would have spark dampeners. Not in this city anyways.”
Jazz stayed silent and stared at the massacre for a few astroseconds longer, before turning and saying “Let’s go Ratchet. Let’s get to mechs we can help.”
The small mech weaved around Ratchet and headed in the opposite direction. Although Ratchet could never prove it, he suspected that Jazz had captured the image and saved it to memory. Making sure to bring that up with Prowl (after all, saving images of such a slaughter was not good for one’s mental health), Ratchet took one last look before he too turned and left.
The rest of the journey through Tarn was the worst part of all, and not because of the fires or fights. But because of its lack of life; the fires had extinguished, leaving the buildings nothing but burnt husks. They found more slaughtered civilians, shot down by the ever moving enforcers. The closer they got to the Mohera coliseum the more minibot bodies they found and Ratchet had a true fear that they would find Cliffjumper or one of their other minibot associates laying in the street. Thankfully, they had not found any of their comrades amongst the dead.
Since the encounter with the enforcers, Jazz had not made another joke or cracked a smile. He kept a straight face and his visor darkened from its bright azure to a dark navy blue that was almost black. Much like Prowl and his door wings, Jazz’s mood could be judged by the shade of his visor, and Ratchet could easily tell that the slaughter of the civilians was bothering Jazz deeply.
But knowing that a war zone was neither the time nor the place to discuss one’s feelings, Ratchet said nothing and just followed the determined saboteur. Jazz, as he had said in the shop, was going to make a bee line for the medbay and kept their pace brisk until they saw it.
When the small grey building with the glyph that read ‘medbay’ came into view, Ratchet felt a relief that he didn’t know was possible. The building was dirty and the windows broken, but the building itself was undamaged, giving Ratchet hope.
The saboteur and the medic didn’t even bother looking at each other as they charged into the medbay. The large, exterior double doors had been kicked in by some assailant, forcing the two Autobots to crawl over the damaged doors to get into the building.
The reception area was savagely damaged; the reception desk was smashed in two, the lights had been blown out and plasma burns adorned the walls.
Ratchet ignored it all as he headed to the back of the medbay, towards the ICU. As he passed an examination room, Ratchet spotted a body slumped over the table and a splash of energon on the far wall.
Ratchet ignored it and started running to the back of the medbay, Jazz right on his heels. Fear made the medic quick and anxiety made him want to slow. He ignored his anxiety as he burst through the ICU doors, ripping the door from its track as he did. What Ratchet saw made his tanks drop in fear; Sunstreaker was where he should have been, laying unconscious on a med berth. But his intakes and fans were working far too hard in an attempt to cool his firing inner circuitries. His automatic systems had kicked on forcing his lower jaw open to drag more air into his heated body to try to help cool it. His armour was so heated that Ratchet could see that moisture had actually accumulated on its dented golden surface.
Sideswipe, on the other hand, was slumped against a supply closet door and unconscious. Ratchet headed for Sunstreaker, the more critical twin, and barked an order to Jazz. “Get him onto a berth then set up two energon lines.”
Jazz, with his visor still dark, nodded and quickly got Sideswipe off the ground and onto a berth. He then set about tracking down the needed items for the lines.
Ratchet, meanwhile, turned his attention back to Sunstreaker; he temporarily ignored the external damage. He knew he needed to get the frontliner’s core temperature down so that it would not fry his CPU. Needing to scan how badly the virus had affected his system, Ratchet pulled a portable scanner from his subspace. Gently pulling the cover from the unconscious frontliner’s data port, Ratchet plugged in.
A scroll of data burst onto the scanner that Ratchet easily read. Sideswipe’s description had been accurate and his own speculation on how to treat it was correct. Ratchet was grateful for not having any more surprises.
“Here’s the energon lines Ratchet.” Jazz said, offering the medic one.
Ratchet took the line and the bag and asked “Do you remember how to place a line?”
The black and white mech nodded. “Good.” Ratchet said. “Get that one into Sideswipe.”
The saboteur nodded again and went to his appointed task, still not coming out of his depressed stupor. Ratchet went back to Sunstreaker and with quick, precise digits inserted the line into an energon line in the golden mech’s arm. Turning it on, Ratchet went back to the scanner. Pulling a virus hunter/killer program from the scanner, he deployed it into Sunstreaker’s systems. It wouldn’t be enough to stop the virus that was running rampant, but it would fight it long enough that Ratchet could get him back to Iacon.
Setting the scanner down to do its work, Ratchet turned and began searching for a temporary plate to put over the gaping hole in Sunstreaker’s side, there would be nothing he could do about the audio fin until they got back to Iacon.
But his search was interrupted when Sunstreaker made a noise and began to shift on the berth. Ratchet quickly turned to the damaged mech and took Sunstreaker’s servo in his own, in a gesture of gentleness that was uncommon to the medic.
Giving the golden servo a hard squeeze, Ratchet lay his other servo onto Sunstreaker’s forehelm. “Sunstreaker, can you hear me?”
The golden mech made a low pitched noise and scrunched his face plates up. “Come on Sunstreaker, wake up.” Ratchet encouraged.
Making another deep noise, the frontliner onlined his ice blue optics, and promptly off-lined them again. Still panting hard, Sunstreaker onlined his optics again and stared up at Ratchet.
And for a moment, there was nothing but Sunstreaker for Ratchet.
Clearing his throat plating, Ratchet quietly asked “How are you feeling?”
Sunstreaker made an annoyed noise and off-lined his optics. In a voice that was full of static, the frontliner muttered “Must be slagged...t-....pits if you...re being ni...ce.”
Ratchet managed a bitter chuckle as he removed his servo from his heated forehelm. “You could say that Sunny.”
“Do...n’t call me Sun....ny....pai...nt....ok?” The golden mech managed to get out, sparks jutted from where his helm fin used to be.
Ratchet rolled his optics and let go of the golden servo to continue his search of a temporary plate. “No Sunstreaker, your paint job is done. We’ll have to do a full repaint when we get out of here.”
The medic managed to find an appropriately sized plate that would cover the hole in his side and quickly prepped the area for welding.
“...frag..”Sunstreaker muttered and went quiet for a breem. But he snapped his optics online suddenly and grabbed Ratchet’s forearm in a weak grasp. “....closet. Ch...e...ck the c...oset.”
His voice was still full of static and getting weaker by the astrosecond. But Ratchet rolled his optics as he placed the temporary plating to Sunstreaker’s side. “I’m not painting you until you have permanent plating on your side.”
For a moment Sunstreaker just stared up at Ratchet, giving the medic time to pull his arm away and transform his hand into a small welding torch. But before Ratchet could weld the patch in place, Sunstreaker grabbed his arm again.
Now looking angry, Sunstreaker snapped “N...ot pain...t! Sl...a..ging m...oron!....in cl...oset.” then the golden mech passed out again, too drained to stay online.
Anger and irritation flittered across Ratchet’s face as he glared at the frontliner. Ratchet leaned over to weld the patch in place, then paused for a moment. He glanced behind him and towards the closet that Sideswipe had been leaning against, then back to Sunstreaker.
Growling, Ratchet muttered “Jazz, can you please check that closet?”
Looking up in surprise, Jazz muttered “Sure.”
Ratchet again ignored the dark visor and went to work to weld the patch. Or at least Ratchet attempted to. A strangled battle cry had the medic whipping back around to the saboteur. A small yellow blur had launched itself at Jazz, but quick skills from the saboteur had the yellow blur flipping through the air and into the wall.
Snarling, Jazz leapt at the yellow mech, an energon blade at the ready.
“Wait, wait, Jazz it’s me!” the mech on the floor yelled.
Panting hard, the minibot got to his pedes. “I came to help the twins. Cliffjumper didn’t want to, but I figured they could use the help.”
Jazz just started at him, his visor now black with anger. “What in the pit were you doing in the supply closet?” His voice was low and angry.
“Oh! Well...umm. When the enforcers came through this district, they were only shooting minibots. Sideswipe shoved me into the closet so they wouldn’t find me.” The minibot dropped his gaze and muttered “Sorry Jazz.”
The color of his visor went back to the deep navy blue. “It’s fine Bumblebee. Just be ready to move.” The visored mech then turned and went back to his post by Sideswipe’s side. Looking worriedly at Jazz, Bumblebee went to stand beside Ratchet.
The medic ignored the minibot and set to work welding the plate to Sunstreaker’s side. Once done he checked the strength of the welds to ensure that it was to his standards. Once satisfied with the welding job, Ratchet patted Bumblebee on the shoulder and turned to check on Sideswipe.
A small voice made Ratchet stop. “Ratchet, is Jazz alright?”
Ratchet turned to Bumblebee and vented. “He’s had a tough night ‘Bee. Just leave him alone for now.”
“Alright Ratch’ I will.” The small mech said, his optics down cast.
Knowing that Bumblebee would do far better if given a task, Ratchet said “Do me a favour ‘Bee. Keep an eye on Sunstreaker, and let me know if he wakes again.”
Perking up, the small ‘bot said “Of course Ratchet!” He then settled in beside the younger twin.
Ratchet headed to the berth that Sideswipe was laying on and stood beside Jazz. Giving the saboteur a sideways look, Ratchet asked “Are you alright Jazz?”
“I’m fine.” Jazz said, his voice low and quiet.
Ratchet gave him another look before turning his attention back to the crimson twin. “He just started twitching a breem ago.” Jazz said lowly.
“Good. He should be coming online soon.”
“Will you scan him as well?”
“Not until we’re on the drop-ship. I want to get them out of here.”
Jazz nodded and stepped away from the berth. “’Ah’ll go scout the area and find us ‘ah way out of here.”
Ratchet nodded. “Be careful.”
Not responding to the medic, Jazz left. Sighing, Ratchet mumbled “I’m telling Prowl on you Jazz, first chance I get.”
“That mech won’t like that.” Sideswipe muttered from his position on the berth.
Looking down at the weakened mech, Ratchet almost smiled. “Welcome back glitch, how are you feeling?”
“Hmmm, you’re not yelling at me. That means that Sunstreaker must have been pretty banged up or else you would be yelling...and you’d be hitting me with a wrench.”
“Don’t give me any ideas glitchling.” Ratchet growled, causing Sideswipe to chuckle. “How are you feeling?”
“Weak.” Sideswipe muttered, hating the word.
“Not surprising. Think you can walk?”
Sideswipe snorted. “It was the first thing I learned as a youngling.”
Ratchet stared un-amusedly at the crimson Autobot, which only made him laugh. “Yeah, I should be able to walk with some help.”
“Good. I’m going to go check on your brother.” Ratchet said, turning to leave. But an onyx servo grabbed at his wrist, and tugged the medic back to the frontliner.
“Listen Ratch...” Sideswipe squirmed uncomfortably a little and mumbled “thanks for coming for us. I don’t think that any other mech would have come for us.”
Using his free servo, Ratchet wrapped it around Sideswipe’s, squeezing hard. “Anytime Sides. I’d come for you two glitches anytime.”
Sideswipe dropped his blue optics and squirmed with the awkwardness of the situation. But another squeeze from Ratchet’s servo brought his optics back up. The frontliner gave a firm nod and let go of Ratchet’s wrist. Patting a crimson shoulder, Ratchet turned to check on the younger twin.
Checking the integrity of the welds one more time, Ratchet detached the scanner from Sunstreaker’s system and put it away in his sub space.
“He’s still really hot.” Bumblebee noted, earning a snort from Sideswipe.
“I’ll be sure to pass on that message ‘Bee.” Sideswipe called from the other berth.
Bumblebee blanched. “Wait, what! That’s not what I meant!”
“Oh, so you think Sunny is unattractive!”
Horrified and practically fearing for his safety, ‘Bee gave a strangled “Well, no.”
Sounding far too gleeful, Sideswipe said “So you do find him attractive.”
Giving Ratchet a pleading look, Bumblebee whimpered a little. Sighing Ratchet growled, “Sideswipe, I’m glad that the energon has given you more energy and put you back to your glitch self. But stop bothering ‘Bee or I’ll leave your aft here.”
In a sing-song voice, Sideswipe said “Nooo you wouldn’t. If anything happened to me, Sunny would be affected too. And he’s far too weak right now to deal with that.”
Shooting the older twin a dirty look, Ratchet snarled “I swear to Primus if you don’t stop, I’m going force you into recharge and rebuild you into something useless.”
“But then you’d have to carry my aft out of here. And you’ll have your hands full with Sunstreaker.” Sideswipe said, in that irritating sing-song voice of his.
“Yes” Ratchet said, looking down at the golden twin “but then you’ll be small and light and easy to carry.”
Sideswipe pouted at the medic, but said no more. He wouldn’t put it past the medic to do just as he had threatened. Bumblebee, meanwhile, started at Ratchet with wide, shocked optics.
Noticing that the scout was staring, Ratchet asked “What?”
“I...it’s just...” Bumblebee tried, and failed to explain. “You know what Ratch’, never mind.” The small minibot shook his yellow helm. Something’s were better left unsaid.
Jazz returned not long after that, but still had not retrieved the usual bounce to his step and his visor was still dark. “We need to leave now Ratchet. The enforcers are, from what ‘ah’ve seen, in the other end of the city. If we don’t go now, we may not get out.”
Ratchet nodded. “Alright Jazz, you lead us out of here. Bumblebee, help Sideswipe.”
The minibot nodded and rushed to the frontliner’s side. Sideswipe pushed himself to sit up and Bumblebee removed the energon line from his arm. The crimson mech got shakily to his pedes, using Bumblebee for support.
The yellow minibot wrapped his arm around Sideswipe’s side, causing the frontliner to huff. “Don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to have Sunny unconscious as I am now. He’d never let me live this down.”
Bumblebee chuckled and Ratchet snorted. “I doubt it Sideswipe.” The medic said as he picked up Sunstreaker; he slipped one arm under the frontliner’s knee joints and the other under his arms. He lifted the taller mech up, and pulled him against his chest. As Sunstreaker’s head lolled into the crook of the medic’s neck, Ratchet grabbed the bag of energon and lay it on his other shoulder.
Sideswipe snorted then and muttered “But I suppose it could be worse.”
“Come on.” Jazz snapped. “Let’s just get out ‘o here.”
The saboteur turned then, and left the medbay. Sideswipe looked a little taken aback, but brushed it of easily enough. “What crawled up Jazz’s aft?” the red mech asked.
Bumblebee shrugged. “I don’t know. He hasn’t been right since he got here.”
Ratchet knew how right the minibot was, but kept his comment to himself. “Come one you two, let’s not leave Jazz waiting.”
With that, the Autobots left the medbay to follow Jazz.
Despite Jazz finding the quickest route out of the city, it had taken them twice the amount of time that it should have. Between Sideswipe not able to get a full stride and quickly weakening, and Ratchet carrying Sunstreaker the going had been slow.
But they had made it. The broken, rusting buildings that Prowl hand used as cover for the drop-ships were finally in view. It had brought relief to all the Autobots except Jazz, and Ratchet was starting to worry about the ops mech now that the majority of the danger had passed. He had not spoken a word since they left the city and his visor had not lightened.
Sunstreaker squirmed in Ratchet’s arms, making the medic look down. Blue optics finally came on again and looked hazily up at Ratchet. “W..hy are you...carrying..m.e like...this?” The golden mech demanded, and failed to sound like his usual self.
Smirking, Ratchet said “You needed to be taken down a couple of pegs.”
The younger twin scowled at the medic and let his optics power down again.
“You can pretend you’re in recharge, but I know the truth.”
“Just because we are out of the city, doesn’t mean we’re out of danger. Keep quiet.” Jazz snapped from the front of the group.
“W...hat c.r...awled up his...aft?”
Ratchet hushed the frontliner, and followed Jazz the rest of the way in silence. They picked their way around the husks of the buildings, moving as carefully as they could. They tried to make sure they didn’t cause a disturbance in the area and force one of the rust infested buildings to collapse.
There had been one moment of spark wrenching fear when Sideswipe, in a weakening state, had stumbled into one of those rusting buildings. The whole building shook and trembled, causing long pieces of rust to fall off the building and crash to the ground. Ratchet had thanked Primus right then and there when the rust piece fell from the other side of the building and the husk had stayed up.
After that, Jazz had come to help Bumblebee with Sideswipe. Despite both being much smaller than the frontliner, with each of them acting like a crutch, Sideswipe hadn’t stumbled again.
Finally, finally, the drop-ship came into view, causing all the mechs to sigh in relief. The other two ships were missing, and Ratchet assumed they had gone ahead to Iacon. Two mechs were waiting outside of the ship; Optimus was sitting on the ramp with one pede propped up on the black steel and the other dangled down. Prowl stood, arms crossed, beside his Prime. The two seemed to be discussing something but stopped when Optimus saw his mechs.
The Autobot leader jumped up from the ramp, and ran for them. Prowl’s head shot to the direction that Optimus was running in, and spotted his mate. That was all it took for Prowl to run after Optimus, and towards Jazz.
Optimus reached them first, going straight to Jazz and Bumblebee. He easily took Sideswipe’s weight from the two smaller mechs, leaning the frontliner against his side. Providing a better crutch then the smaller two mechs, Optimus easily led the crimson mech to the drop-ship.
Once free from his charge, Jazz marched to the ship without saying a word to Prowl or Optimus. Both seeing the color of his visor, they let him go.
While Bumblebee, who was walking beside his leader, chatted happily with Optimus, Prowl fell in line with Ratchet. “I gather that everything went well?”
“As well as it could have gone. Did everyone else get out?” Ratchet asked, being mindful that Sunstreaker was awake.
“Yes, everyone else made it out and Optimus sent them ahead.” Prowl answered, his door wings twitching. “Ratchet, what is wrong with Jazz?”
Ratchet paused for a moment before answering. “We witnessed a group of enforcers slaughtering civilians. Jazz hasn’t been quite himself since then....I also believe that he saved an image of the dead in his memory banks.”
Prowl looked back at the ship and watched his mate march up the ramp and disappear inside. Nodding, the door winger said “I’ll speak to him when we get back to Iacon.”
Ratchet nodded. “Good. We can’t have him sulking too long. Wouldn’t want to have to throw a wrench at him.”
Prowl nodded and picked up his pace to catch up with his mate. Shaking his helm, Ratchet muttered “Don’t know who keeps who in line in that relationship.”
Sunstreaker snorted. “P...rowl.”
“You’re supposed to be in recharge.” Ratchet growled as he climbed the drop-ship’s ramp, climbing up just behind Optimus and Sideswipe.
Ratchet dropped into the first available seat and activated his internal magnets to keep him in place once the ship took off. He then repositioned Sunstreaker on his lap, and curled the large frontliner into his chest plates.
He could feel the younger twin grit his dental plates. “I...can..si..t on..my own...Ratchet!” He snarled quietly, still too weak to push the medic away.
Ratchet smirked, enjoying the shift of power. It wasn’t often that Ratchet was physically stronger then both twins at the same time. “You’re in recharge, remember. Can’t let you sit on your own, you could fall over.” Ratchet said quietly to the younger twin.
Ratchet could actually feel Sunstreaker grit his dental plates, he ground them together so hard. “Oh for the pit Sunny. Just enjoy the moment for once.”
Sunstreaker huffed in irritation. “Gue...ss it... wo.n’t ruin my p.....aint job an..y worst than it already is.” He then curled a little deeper into the medic’s embrace, settling down for an actual recharge.
Optimus eased Sideswipe down beside Ratchet and nodded to his oldest friend. Ratchet nodded back and pinged his commander.
:Thank you Optimus.:
Optimus merely chuckled. :You would have come alone. At least this way you had backup.:
Ratchet smirked and looked over at Jazz and Prowl. The SIC was sitting close to the TIC, but they didn’t touch. Jazz, no doubt was itching to jump his mate, but needed to deal with whatever was bothering him in his head. Ratchet was sure that Prowl would talk the saboteur out of his slump. Bumblebee had dropped onto the bench on Prowl’s other side, sensing that the medic and the twins needed some time to themselves.
“We’ll be leaving any moment.” Optimus said, drawing Ratchet’s attention to his leader. Ratchet gave a nod and Optimus headed to the cockpit. When their commander was gone, Sideswipe leaned against the medic’s side.
Giving the crimson twin an odd look, Ratchet asked “Since when do you want to be touched?”
Sunstreaker hissed in pain as his wounds were bumped, and kicked his brother as hard as he could in his weakened state.
Ratchet rolled his optics as the twins fought over the limited space between the benches and Ratchet. Normally this would have upset Ratchet and he would have banged their helms together, but seeing as both twins were still hurting and weak he let it pass.
They finally seemed to come to an agreement and settled as close to Ratchet’s frame as physically possible. Sideswipe curled into Ratchet’s side with the medics arm around his wide shoulders and his faceplates in the medic’s neck. Sunstreaker was on Ratchet’s lap with his legs stretched over onto his brother’s thighs and his helm on the medic’s chest plates.
Then, a code of thought popped into the medics CPU. “Sunstreaker.”
“What did Shockwave use as blackmail?”
“Shockwave. What did he use as blackmail?” The older mech asked again.
Sunstreaker shifted his helm to scowl at Ratchet. “Do...t matter.” He managed to get out.
Ratchet scowled when Sideswipe laughed into his neck. “If you don’t tell me, I’m not repainting you. And with your wounds, you won’t be doing it yourself any time soon.”
Hardening his glare, before looking away Sunstreaker muttered “You.”
Confused Ratchet asked. “Me? What do you mean me?”
Growling into Ratchet’s chest plates, Sunstreaker muttered “Shockwa...ve threatened to... h.unt you down... a..nd kill you... if I refus.ed to fight.”
Ratchet stared down at Sunstreaker in shock as Sideswipe was killing himself laughing into Ratchet’s neck. Suddenly seething, Ratchet snarled “You are so lucky you’re hurt Sunstreaker. Or I’d hit you so hard, you’d see stars!”
The younger twin shrugged and made a non-committal noise while his brother continued to laugh. “It’s not funny Sideswipe!” Ratchet snarled. “What makes you...either of you, think that my life is more important than yours?”
Sideswipe stopped laughing and Sunstreaker muttered “We’re...your.g.uards.....we...ouldn’t...be.doing our..job if......you got hurt.”
Ratchet huffed in irritation. “My life is not more important than yours. Guards or no guards, you two are just as important as I am.”
“I’snot true.” Sideswipe muttered. “You’re a medic. We’re just frontliners. The army needs you more than us.”
“That’s not true.” Ratchet snapped, wishing he could beat sense into their helms. “I would be deactivated without you two glitches. Don’t forget about that.”
The twins remained silent, so Ratchet continued. “The army needs frontliners like you two. No one can do what you do, quite like you do it. And...I...need the two of you.”
It had taken a lot to admit that, but after spending most of the night cycle fighting to get the...no ...
His glitches back, he really didn’t want to let them go again. But the surprise caused both twins’ helms to shoot up and they stared at Ratchet in shock.
“Honest?” Sideswipe asked, his voice low.
Ratchet, gruff old Ratchet, nodded in response. Then, only to hammer the point home, he pressed his lip plates to first Sunstreaker’s forehelm, which was still worryingly hot and then Sideswipe’s. “Get some recharge. It’s been a long cycle.” The twins’ shocked faceplates dropped to stare at each other for a moment before doing as they were told, and dropping their helms to Ratchet’s frame.
“We need you too, Ratchet.” Sideswipe muttered as his systems settled him into recharge.
Sunstreaker was silent, but the fact that he allowed Ratchet to hold him was enough for the medic to understand.
The ship flew away from Tarn and back to the safety of Iacon. Ratchet was finally going home with the twins. Turning to watch their planet’s star rise and bathe the planet in light, Ratchet smiled. The light chased away the shadows of the night, just as the twins chased away the silence. For the first time since joining the Autobots, Ratchet had hope.