They were bringing in new bots. Whirl wasn't even looking at them, too busy trying to stop the energon bleeding. The main pump was stuttering, but at least the supplementary ones seemed to be picking up the slack. If Whirl patched up the energon lines and hooked up the bot with the medical system, his life would be soon out of danger. Easy. Just like in the med videos he's seen.
Velocity was rushing past him to sort out the new patients. The place was getting cramped by now. Whirl heard with half an ear that the attack was over, that the Decepticon ship had turned back and fled the system. The boarding party was dead or captured. What a shame, Whirl had almost hoped to be able to fix the poor suckers in the med-bay just in time to join in with the fun.
But he was needed here. The med-bay was severely out-staffed and Velocity needed all help she could get. Good old Velocity, never able to turn down a helping hand, even if a psychopathic murderous bot was attached to the other end of it. She sure taught him a lot in the last weeks, and even seemed to trust him.
Whirl stopped melding the energon lines and looked up at the readings. Much better now. Flicking open the panels, Whirl found the designated spot and screwed tight the energon hose. This will supply the bot with circulatory energon while they'll be fixing the main pump. Carefully, Whirl undid the screws and removed the mechanism from the body. It looked really messed up, energon leaking from the charred metal holes. Someone got this bugger real good.
"Whirl," called out Velocity. "Everything alright?"
"I got this one. He's all patched up." Whirl nodded towards the screens, in case she didn't believe him.
"Good to hear! Can you take another patient of my hands? I got two urgent care patients which need immediate surgery, and the third is slowly bleeding to death, which is why you need to take a look at him."
"Will do." Whirl jumped to his feet, feeling euphoric. This was the first time they let him do anything that did not involve stupid maintenance jobs. Even better, Whirl could finally prove his skill without having to check in Velocity every three second. Whirl was good at this, he just knew it. They only needed to see the him in action to finally understand it.
Velocity walked over to the patient, eyes fixed on the data pad with diagnostics. She did not see how Whirl was staring at the patient, nor notice anything wrong.
"One of the puncture wounds has hit something vital, the systems are failing to reboot and he's unresponsive. Apply stabilizer and run diagnostics again to figure out what exactly is killing him the most. You okay, Whirl? You heard what I said?"
Velocity's care was real touching. As was her naivety.
"Yes, it's all in here," Whirl tapped his head. "Just wondering where to take him, cause there's no room here and the diagnostics always act up when there is too many active devices in one place..." Whirl perked up, as if suddenly coming up with an idea. "Think the storage could do? We cleared out the room just last week, should work better than this madhouse..."
"Sure," said Velocity, eyes fixed already on her next patients. "Call me if something urgent happens. Or you need help."
A bot moaned in pain somewhere in the back and Velocity hurried to his side. Whirl took the opportunity to start rolling the bed towards storage. He picked up instruments on the way, and when the door locked behind him, Whirl finally breathed out.
He took a hard, cold look at the Decepticon lying before him. Hello, sleepy head. Who the frag brought you here? Who had the idea that you deserved medical care as much an Autobot did? Who in the galaxy looks at a Con and thinks "Yeah, a living Con is better than a dead one. Let's bring him to med-bay."
It made no sense to Whirl. But this was no trouble at all, not at all, Whirl was totally fine with fixing the mistakes of others, especially if it involved killing Cons.
As Velocity had said, the Con was unresponsive. Whirl changed that through the wonderful powers of high voltage electricity.
If the Con's vocal circuits were still working, he surely would have screamed. Instead, he was now forced to frantically trash on the table, tightly bound to the table.
"Now, now," said Whirl. "Nobody here is going to hurt you."
While Whirl waited for the scalpel to heat up, the Con had almost calmed down. It seems the idiot actually believed him.
"Or am I?" laughed Whirl and forced the scorching scalpel deep inside the shoulder wound. The hiss of evaporating energon and smell of burnt circuits followed short after. Whirl kinda regretted being forced to disable the vocal circuits. It was not the same if the Con wasn't screaming.
"How did that feel? Bad, I assume," said Whirl, putting away the scalpel. "Don't worry, the worst is still to come."
The Decepticon was trying to put on a stoic face, but failed horribly. With badly suppressed fear, he eyed the instruments that Whirl had prepared for him.
"I know what you're thinking. You must be thinking: 'Wait, isn't this guy an Autobot? Don't they usually not do torture?' and you'd be right. Usually I just kill Cons. Or you might think: 'Isn't this guy a doctor? Don't they have a moral code or something?', which is also true!"
"It's only too bad that I'm still a doctor in training," shrugged Whirl, while lacerating the Con's optics. The red liquid was now running down his face. "You see, nobody trusts me. Everyone thinks I'm gonna start hurting or killing my patients. But what's the point in hurting a bot? But a Con... now a Decepticon is a whole other story..."
So close to his face, Whirl could see that the Con was mouthing a single word: "Please."
"Don't think me needlessly cruel," added Whirl. "Yes, I'm a violent freak. But this has a greater purpose. What I just did? That was purely for fun. But what comes next is merely meant to further my medical training. There is so much I don't know about a mech's body! The knowledge you give might just give me the edge I need to save Autobot lives."
"Or I might be just a vindictive piece of slag that wants to see Decepticons suffer for what they did to me. I've not settled on the version that I'm gonna tell to myself. As for the story I tell the others, it's easy - I did my best to save you, but you spark just faded away. Very tragic. I am good at faking disappointment and anger. Don’t want to brag, but honestly, I am a terrific actor."
The Decepticon had somehow managed to reboot his systems and reactive the vocal circuits.
"Please," gasped the Con, "don't... I'm begging..."
Whirl hit him in the throat, and heard the crunch of breaking metal. The vocal circuit was a goner now. The Con wasn't go do anymore begging any soon.
"Now," mocked Whirl, "what are you gonna say about this?"
The Decepticon didn't even turn his head. Whirl finally noticed, that the Con had been knocked out cold. A shame. Maybe reuse the shockers to slap him awake?
Before Whirl had decided, the diagnostics flared up and beeped in alarm. The Con was dying. Not slowly, but dying right now, right here.
"Come on," growled Whirl, opening the chest panel. "We were getting along so well! Why did you have to go and pull this stunt on me?"
Whirl saw, the the spark casing was basically flowing in a pool of energon. He quickly lifted it up, before the energon could suffocate the spark, and carefully put it on an elevated panel. Whirl took a box with med supplies from the nearby shelves, simply dumped everything inside on the floor, and then began emptying the chest area from the energon. Whirl needed to see it in full, before he could locate the leakage.
Another alarmed beep. Vitals were dropping. Two minutes left at most, if Whirl didn't figure out what's wrong.
"Pal, I don't get one thing," said Whirl, feeling up the chest cavity, searching for holes. "What's the rush? Why am I trying to save you? Was gonna kill you a few moments ago, don't you remember it?"
Whirl found the hole and quickly applied soft metal to stop the bleeding. Then another. And another. This guy was just peppered with holes, what a fragging loser.
"Maybe I hate losing control. Maybe I hate failure. Can you imagine what will happen if I fail? They'll say 'Good old Whirl, he never amounted to much. What a fool Ratchet was to give him his hands. What an awful waste. Ratchet could have given them to literally anyone else, but he gave them to Whirl, that weirdo who's got no skills 'cept for killing.'"
Vitals still dropping. Pump was working. Temperature good, so can't be the coolants. What else? System failure? Brain?
Whirl began screwing open the head panel.
"But I'm good at this! I really am! But after you're dead, they won't believe them. They'll say: 'Let's take away his hands, for Primus's sake. We gave Whirl a chance, but he fragged it. Besides, he's too dangerous! Nobody wants Whirl for a doctor, because he's the worst scum in the galaxy. We can't kill him, but we can surely take away his hands, cause he ain't done nothing to deserve them.'"
Brain was fine, it wasn't the brain... what in the Pit could it else be?! The spark was flickering, the fragging spark was not gonna last much longer. What was wrong..?
Then Whirl found the killer inside the body. The wires that connected the spark to the brain were torn and Whirl moving the spark casing around had not help its state. Hands moving like lightning, Whirl picked up the wires from the shelves and began stitching it together. Electrolyte tape for outer covering, copper and gold for inner metal braiding, come on, come on, there was still time!
The vitals stopped beeping. The Con was gonna live.
Whirl lowered his hands and stepped away from the body. There he was. Unconscious, busted up and alive. All because of Whirl.
He stepped closer, looking at the Decepticon badge. He could still kill him. The Con couldn't fight back, couldn't say a thing and there were plenty of ways to make it look like an accident. Whirl was good at creating accidents, especially deadly ones. His talent for killing made Whirl whom he was.
The Decepticon's face was covered in red liquid, his optics were scarred, but even with the opened head panel he still looked peaceful. His vitals were blimping steady and slow, like a well-functioning clock.
Whirl kicked down the storage door and screamed:
"Cut them off!"
Velocity and other bots turned to look at him with shock. Whirl wanted to break every single of their oblivious faces.
"I said cut them off! Cut off my hands! I don't want them!"
Someone stepped closer toward Whirl and he punched the helper so hard, he flew across the room.
"CUT. THEM. OFF."
"What has happened?"
"He just freaked. I don't know why anyone let him inside the med-bay in first place."
Rung pushed himself past the crowd and knocked on the door. Velocity opened and with a relieved sigh, dragged him inside.
"It was so sudden, I didn't even have time to react. They said you know him best, so I hoped you'd be able to help."
Looking at the demolished med-bay, Rung found necessary to ask: "Are the patients alright?"
"Well, Whirl almost hit one when he flung Swiftrace across the room, but nobody was seriously hurt. After he realized nobody was gonna do anything, Whirl just went straight for the med saw and..."
Velocity rubbed her eyes.
"He was serious about cutting them off. But Whirl couldn't do it on his own. I don't know whether the saw malfunctioned or whether he couldn't take the pain, but Whirl stormed off back into storage. He pushed the patient out of it, and then locked himself up."
Velocity finally looked Rung in the eye.
"It was my fault. I gave him a patient who turned out to be one of those Decepticons and.. I think it set him off."
"Is Whirl's patient alive?"
"He is. Whirl did stabilize him, before flying of the handle. I'm sorry."
"Don't be," said Rung and pressed Velocity's hand. "Thank you for calling me."
Stepping over the broken tables and machinery pieces, Rung reached the storage door and knocked.
"Whirl, it's me. Rung. Please open the door."
There was a pause, then, with a hiss, the door slided open. Rung entered the dark room, taking a few moments to locate Whirl. He was sitting on the floor, not even raising his head to see the new-arrival. His left hand was hanging slack. It seems that even if Whirl did not manage to cut it off, he did seriously damage the nerve circuitry.
"Cut them off," said Whirl. "I'll kill you if you don't."
Rung said nothing, making a step forward and examining the room. There were pools of energon on floor, making this place seem like a crime scene.
"You heard me? I said, cut them..."
"How is rage working for you, Whirl?"
Whirl raised his head and snarled: "Good enough to rip of your head if you don't do what I told you..."
"I meant whether hatred still makes you feel whole."
Rung sat down and watched Whirl's body language. The anger was deflating, which was good.
"What if it stops? Did you ever stop to think what it might do to me?" said Whirl. He was doing small hand gestures, the same he did when he was nervously stuck inside the psychiatrist's office. Whirl was pressing together his thumbs and pointing finger, as if he still had his old claws. He didn't seem to notice it.
"I did think of the consequences," said Rung.
"What if I stop hating? What will happen to me?"
"What might happen?"
"I'll give up. Go crazy. Just... just pain and nothing. You know that I..."
"There is nothing! There is nothing more that could happen!"
Run cleaned his glasses, looking down on the floor.
"The 'What if?' is a dangerous, scary question. It works with possibilities and not certainties. But let's entertain the thought. What if you did keep fixing bodies and saving lives? What if you could turn back the clock and fix what is broken?"
"You should go," said Whirl, "before I frag you up and repaint the bay with your energon. You know I'll do it. You fully know what I'm capable of."
"It's scary question even to me, Whirl. I don't want to let you get close to any of the patients, since you're the most unstable and violent bot on this ship. There is no predicting what you could do. But the question won't let me go: "What if?" What if this is what you need? What if fixing others will help you fix yourself?"
"It won't," said Whirl.
"Most likely it won't," agreed Rung. "But even knowing that, the question does not lose its urgency. What if there was a chance, and I let it slip through my hands? What if this could have worked, but I chose to play safe and let Whirl slowly burn away?"
"I'm afraid of what you could do as a doctor, and what you would use that power for. But I can't help but keep asking myself the same thing over and over again... 'What if..?' 'What if..?' "
In the silence, Rung put on the glasses and stood up.
"I will leave now. Someone should be here to clean up the mess shortly. But before I go, one last thing... Velocity wanted to pass on, that you did a good job. You saved his life."
Rung left. Whirl turned off his optics, so he didn't have to see his hands anymore.
It didn't make him feel better. He still fantasized about turning up a knob, pushing the instruments a little further and destroying the fragile life under his hands. These thoughts were like a constant itch. Whirl wanted to destroy something, it didn't matter what.
Sometimes, there were no thoughts at all. Whirl would fix the complex error within an engine, a stutter that would have eventually resulted in malfunction and death, and watch the casing close and think of nothing. He wouldn't even feel the satisfaction of having solved a problem that was beyond the skills of most autobots. Whirl didn't feel powerful for having commanded someone else's life.
The job was becoming just that: A job. It was his duty to fix bots and Whirl's hands were moving almost on their own. He had a natural talent, he knew that Velocity wasn't lying. Even then, he couldn't save everyone. Some fragging bot always had the nerve to die on his table. Whirl had thrashed his habsuite the first time it happened, was picking fights for the next week, until Ultra Magnus threatened to lock him up for misdemeanor.
Whirl wasn't mourning the dead bot. He had come by the morgue to look at the corpse, to look at the bastard who was too weak to live. Whirl tried to hate the corpse, but instead only remembered the pathetic way the bot's fingers twitched, right before the spark gave out.
One could try hating yourself instead, but Whril didn't want to. The world hated him already, there was no point in making its job any easier. So Whirl went back to med-bay and starting fixing the poor losers that came to him, and tried to forget the ones he couldn't fix.
Being a doc didn't change Whirl. It changed nothing. It just gave him a distraction and an excuse to poke inside some clueless bots. Yeah, it was kinda fun. Just the same as solving a really hard problem, beating a tough Decepticon or adjusting a faulty chronometer. Whirl loved good challenges, and the work of a doc was just challenging enough.
Being a doctor didn't make him into somebody like Ratchet. It didn't make him care about people. Whirl still loved fighting and killing Cons. But it seems the medical work was turning into something like a drug habit, an addiction Whirl couldn't get himself rid of. He could forego sleep and energon, staying up for days and fixing bots until he fell over.
"Whirl, do you know what time it is?" would Velocity ask with incredulity. "Why are you still up here?"
Whirl didn't answer, although he did punch people in the past for the same question. But watches stopped being a sore topic sometime ago. Whirl had begun liking chronometers again, since they were just normal organs just like an engine or like energon coolers.
Sometimes, Whirl even opened his plating and listened to the ticking of his own clock. It was quiet and steady. The slight misstep, the small pause which signified the flaw within the rhythm - the flaw that had once turned Whirl insane with fury - seemed to be gone now. If it ever existed.
The clock was ticking steadily. It measured time, not progress, told the past and knew jackshit about the future. It was stuck with him, and Whirl was stuck with it. And for once in a long time, Whirl no longer felt like crushing it in his claws, to make it stop.