"He'll live," were First Aid's first words to Anodyne, several hours later, when he emerged from surgery.
Anodyne let his shoulders slump with relief. He didn't think he'd ever forget the awful sight of his mentor and amica careening off the road and slamming into the side of a concrete culvert at well over a hundred miles an hour. Though he feared he knew the answer he asked anyway, "... What caused it?"
"The obvious, probably," First Aid looked -- and felt, to the empath -- exhausted. He leaned back against a wall, optics shuttering. "It wasn't another arc-out."
"Resonance?" Anodyne asked, fearfully. He had feared the worst since Ratchet had unexpectedly passed out en route to the explosion. He'd hit that wall with so much force that his structural injuries had been devastating. He'd been at the top of the list for immediate reconstructive surgery, both because he was needed as a surgeon and because they weren't certain his spark chamber would maintain integrity if they stored him in stasis for later repairs.
First Aid said, to Anodyne's relief, "Resonance not dead. You know we can detect the bond on a scan, so we know his spark still lives. But Resonance is probably critically injured, and when he went into stasis lock, he took Ratchet down with him. Those two have a Pit of a strong bond."
"Slag." That was both good and bad news. Not dead meant there was still hope, but he was frightened for his friend.
"That's what I said," First Aid slumped a little heavier against the wall.
Anodyne could sense the exhaustion in the medic's field, even without his empathy. He said, "'Aid, if he's no longer critical, I can sit with Ratchet tonight. I'm off shift."
First Aid frowned at him, field clearly broadcasting a negative and emotions twisting towards anxiety and suspicion.
Anodyne had not even really considered that 'Aid would say no, but it seemed he was about to. Hastily, finding he desperately wanted to be there for the elder medic, he added, "He's my Amica!"
First Aid considered him for a long moment in silence, emotions suddenly heavy with mistrust and caution. 'Aid's optics narrowed over his blast mask before he finally asked, a bit sharply, "Ratchet's file does say you're his Amica. When did that happen?"
"Recently?" Anodyne said, then bit his lip when he realized his attempt at a guileless response sounded a bit too flippant.
"You've only known him a few months. You were -- are -- his student." First Aid's words were blunt, and his field flared with real irritation.
"We hit it off. However, Ratchet can't exactly reassign my training to another mech," Anodyne pointed out, as mildly as he could. He tried to modulate his field to be as unassuming as possible. This was dangerous territory to discuss; he had been made aware -- by Jazz -- that some mecha were accusing him of using telepathy to control Ratchet. Jazz had also added that, while Ratchet would be a relatively easy target to 'path, Resonance was not and Resonance would know if anyone messed with his bondmate's mind.
Jazz seemed to think that Resonance would be nearly impossible to permanently control with telepathy, and would be highly resistant to telepathic suggestion.
"There are other medics who could take your training on." First Aid's optics were still narrow with suspicion.
"You're on Cybertron most of the time, and all of the other medical personnel opposed my training in the first place." He shrugged. That was true.
"How did you know about that?" First Aid demanded. "That meeting should have been held in confidence!"
The unspoken implication was that he'd read somebody's mind.
Anodyne shrugged. "I drew a logical conclusion. I can sense everyone's opinion of me and I'm not exactly stupid. They don't trust me. You don't trust me."
"I ... also opposed your selection." First Aid admitted. His field softened and he looked away. "Though since I've seen how quickly you learn, and how hard you work and ... that demonstration of your skill in the med bay ... I do understand Ratchet's choice in choosing you to train. It still seems a conflict of interest for you to be amica and apprentice and mentor, however."
Anodyne wasn't surprised by this revelation. He had simply been trying to save First Aid some face. Now, he held his hands out, palm up. "I ... understand. It is a recent development and perhaps as soon as things settle down I can be reassigned to someone. I just don't know who -- all are suspicious of me except for Ratchet. That includes you."
First Aid started to object, perhaps to the implication that he had unwarranted fear of telepaths. Anodyne added, voice rising a bit, as sudden anger surged in his spark, "I have practiced and perfected my skills only with willing volunteers, 'Aid. I've never done anything morally questionable with my skills, and never will. I've practiced with symbionts of my clan and my own carrier and sire, and with Blaster and his symbionts! I vowed, even as a child, to do nothing which would harm another mech. Yesterday was the very first time I ever used my gift on an unwilling subject and it was to save his life and ours!"
"The tank --" FIrst Aid's field was unreadable, but he added, "He's a good mech, you know."
Anodyne sighed, deeply, and informed First Aid, "He's actually been an aft to me my whole life. We're within a solar year of each other in age, grew up together. His sire -- Brawl -- never liked my sire, and encouraged Mortar to bully me and my siblings. But I couldn't let him die. Or hurt someone else!"
First Aid blinked. "I was unaware that you were being bullied. Somebody should have done something ..."
Anodyne replied, "... and done what? Changed the way mecha feel? Soundwave was hated and feared as a Decepticon, and likely for good reason. We are his children, and both I and my younger siblings have psionic spark gifts, augmented by processor mods."
"You should not be punished for the sins of your carrier! Allowing others, encouraging others, to bully you ... that's wrong!" And there was the idealistic mech that Anodyne knew First Aid to be. He sounded genuinely indignant on Anodyne's behalf.
Anodyne smiled faintly. "Is bullying me more or less wrong than denying me opportunities because of my spark gifts, and my mods? In truth, denying me the opportunities that others would easily be granted were to have my intelligence and work ethic is no better than bullying."
First Aid's field flared like he wanted to object, but he said nothing. He was looking at Anodyne very warily, however.
"'Aid, I have the best test scores, best grades, and the highest processor rating of any of the younglings of my generation. Were I anyone else, there would be no question of granting me my chosen course of study."
First Aid's spark was filling with sudden, dawning, dismay.
"And, as far as my telepathic abilities are concerned -- I suspect my ethics are similar to yours, First Aid, in that I chose not to cause any mecha harm, regardless of the circumstances. I feel it's wrong to take any action that harms another. I could have stopped Music from assaulting me in a few nanoclicks. I didn't, because I categorically refuse to use my gifts in such a way."
The dismay in First Aid's spark changed to something near horror, along with a deep sense of embarrassment. Anodyne suspected First Aid had just realized how much he'd betrayed his own beliefs about the equality of all mecha. "I'm ... sorry," the young physician said, "You are correct. You were the most qualified."
Anodyne replied, meeting First Aid's gaze firmly, "And thus, you understand why I am Amica with Ratchet. Ratchet -- and Resonance -- have never doubted me. Ratchet singled me out to become his apprentice based on my test scores and aptitude. I've never felt one bit of fear or mistrust from him. He sees me for who I am, and he calls me Amica, and First Aid, I'd simply like to sit with him until he regains consciousness. I am off shift for the next twenty-four hours."
First Aid reached out, suddenly, and drew a rather startled Anodyne into a hug. "I'm sorry, kid," he said, voice very soft. "It's just that Ratchet is my mentor, too, and someone I care deeply about, and I love him."
"And ... and ... Wheeljack raised me, which means Resonance is effectively my little brother. I was also Res's primary physician when he was little. I'm protective of both of them, I can't help it."
"You thought I would hurt them?"
"I ... didn't know what to think. I know that two of them didn't actually chose to be bonded, and you're the sort of mech that Res is attracted to. He likes big boys. So did Optimus. And Ratchet, for that matter." First Aid said, with a low chuckle. "And just so you know, among the senior staff, it's not just your telepathy that makes people hesitate. You remind more than a few mecha of Megatron, believe it or not, and everyone knew Optimus and Megatron were involved, at one point, before the war."
"... Me?" It was Anodyne's turn to laugh, in rapid and surprised denial. How had it been so obvious? And Optimus and Megatron had been involved? He'd missed that juicy tidbit in his history lessons! That shed a whole new light on their easy friendship -- it was said that sparks knew one another, regardless of memories storied in the processor. Hastily, he added, "I'm a pacifist! I'm nothing like Megatron."
"Megatron," First Aid said, with a roll of his optics, "was an idealistic slagger who refused to compromise on his beliefs. And you move like him when you're sparring with Res. That much is obvious even to me."
"Megatron wasn't a host. Or an empath!"
First Aid gave him a long, measuring, look. His spark was clearly full of conflict, and no small amount of irritation, but his words were steady when he said, "Megatron could have been many things besides warlord, gladiator and miner, if fate had allowed it. Be glad you were created in this time, kid. You have many luxuries that mecha of his generation never did -- including the luxury of being able to dream idealistic dreams."
He did n't know what to say to that.
"Go, sit with Ratchet. Comm me -- and Jazz -- if he wakes up."
Anodyne sat in a too-small chair beside Ratchet's medical berth, and tried to focus on the datapad in his hand rather than his dual worries about Ratchet and about his own secret identity. The datapad, from Perceptor, was actually fairly interesting and he attempted to put his full attention on it.
Most of what Perceptor had rescued from the flames of Iacon were esoteric, complicated treatises on rare specialties or forgotten information from the golden age's most cutting edge research. Much of it was beyond him. Some was written in glyphs he couldn't even read.
Among the files, however, had been a few volumes aimed at first responders. They were training texts aimed at the Cybertronian equivalent of paramedics, and he was finding the information in the first volume invaluable.
He needed every byte of data he could memorize if he wanted to be useful to the medical staff.
Despite the size of the medical center, they still didn't have enough room to give Ratchet a truly private room. They had hung up curtains between berths, but the curtains were open at the end facing the aisle. Repeatedly, he was distracted from his study by passing people: patients, the handful of Cybertronian medical staff, and swarms of humans zipping about on float bikes or hurrying past on foot or lumbering in bulky exoskeleltons.
Too, there was the oppressive atmosphere of the facility. Anodyne's psionic gifts were so powerful that he could not block the awareness of others entirely. There was pain in the air, and anxiety, and grief; anger, fear, and desolation.
When Wheeljack padded by, he exuded an air of absolute black depression.
Anodyne, startled by the level of Wheeljack's foul mood, said, "Jacky."
The engineer turned sharply at his name, spotted Anodyne, then lowered his gaze to Ratchet in the berth. Wheeljack was silent, and gloomy.
"Res is still alive, you know." Anodyne said this tentatively. Where there was life, there was hope, Anodyne figured, but Wheeljack knew this as well as anyone else.
Wheeljack entered the cubicle, and regarded Anodyne with a flat gaze for a long moment. "Quints have him."
"... oh." He figured there was still hope, but that confirmation of their worst fears explained Wheeljack's bleak mood.
"That explosion was a suicide bomber, trying to take out the gate. Didn't work," Wheeljack explained, "because we had blast baffles up between the event horizon and the mechanical works. Killed a bunch of mecha and a few hundred humans, didn't destroy the gate."
"The bomber was coded."
Wheeljack grunted, "Yeah."
He'd just untangled a slave-coded mecha's processor. If Res was slave coded, Anodyne figured they could fix him. They just needed to capture him, and hold him still long enough for Anodyne to work. Wheeljack surely understood that, so Anodyne didn't say anything.
Wheeljack just stood there, arms folded across his chest, and staring at Ratchet's still form. "Doc looks like slag."
"He'll live," Anodyne said, softly.
"Res told me you were their Amica."
He nodded. It still felt unreal to Anodyne, but he was determined to live up to the responsibility. An outsider all of his life, he had resigned himself to never having that kind of a relationship with anyone. To have Ratchet and Resonance as his Amicas was beyond anything he'd ever dreamed of.
"Hnh. Doc's an independent old glitch. Hope he lives up to your expectations."
Anodyne was surprised by that sentiment. "He's Ratchet. Why wouldn't he?"
Wheeljack just grunted again, spark flaring with horribly bleak distress. Anodyne rose, and padded across the room, and pulled the old engineer into a hug.
Jacky was of the old school of mecha, the ones who had worked with psionically gifted soldiers (including Blaster) during the war. He'd never been afraid of Anodyne; now, he returned the hug tightly for a brief moment. Then he stepped back, and said, "Whatever happens, take care of Ratch, will you?"
"Of course I will."
Wheeljack nodded, then sighed, shoulders slumping. "Talk to you later, kid."
He left, and Anodyne tried without much success to return to his studies.