To say that Pharma hadn’t been happy when he found out about First Aid’s ‘condition’ was an understatement. The young medic and Ambulon had decided to tell him as soon as possible, as hiding it would have caused more problems than solutions. When they were done explaining the situation (minus the kinky details), they waited for his response.
Pharma, to his credit, kept quite calm through it all. He shuttered his optics, pinching the bridge of his prominent olfactory sensor as if warding off a processor-ache. That was probably exactly what he felt like he had. “We are the only three medics in a facility no one else wants to work at, let alone go to, in the aft-end of nowhere…” he grumbled. When he looked up at the sheepish mech, seeing him finally seemed to fray away the last reserves of his patience. “How did you manage to get knocked up by the only patient from off-planet we’ve had in literally millennia?!”
First Aid flinched at every emphasized word, feeling like he grew smaller the more he was berated. “I’m sorry…” was all he managed, looking at the desk instead of his boss.
Pharma either didn’t hear him or didn’t care. He leaned back in his seat and looked at the ceiling. “Alright. It’s done, there’s no going back. So… options. Sparkling termination…”
Pharma actually stopped and looked to First Aid again. He hadn’t expected how quickly the answer came, nor how sharp it was. He truly meant it. “It would be easier than the other options,” he reminded him.
“No termination,” First Aid repeated, now looking directly into Pharma’s optics. There was a fire there that he’d never seen before. Determination. Protectiveness.
“Alright, not termination,” Pharma ex-vented. “Carrying the sparkling to term here likely isn’t the best of them, but I don’t see how we have many choices.”
“What about sending him back to Cybertron?” Ambulon spoke up.
Pharma looked at him incredulously. “Do you realize how much paperwork will be involved for all of us if that happens? He’ll have to register his… condition and the sparkling with the government, I’ll have to put in for a new medic, and you’ll have to carry both of your work with only the two of us here. First Aid staying here may not be the best option, but it’s better than that.”
“I don’t want to leave,” First Aid insisted. “I want to stay here.”
Ambulon nodded to him. “If that’s what you want.”
Pharma looked between them. He then leaned forward again, lacing his servos together. “Fine then, but things will have to change.”
First Aid and Ambulon looked at each other, then back to the flier. They suspected such a thing, but they didn’t know exactly what would happen.
“First Aid, I’m going to have to finally go through with the demotion,” the Chief Medical Officer announced.
“What?!” the young medic yelped.
“I was already considering it,” Pharma explained, not giving him a chance to object. “With the recent evaluation you went through with Rung, I now have reason to think it best. He was concerned with your infatuation with the Wreckers, and obviously this is evidence he had every right to be. Besides that, if I don’t lessen your duties then I’ll have to fully let you go for creator leave. I can’t afford that. As I said before, we are the only three medics here.”
First Aid lowered his optics again, understanding. There’d been a time when there were more medics in Delphi. In fact, there was at least a dozen. But the unsafe location and increasingly strict hand of Pharma caused them to abandon the post one after one. Word spread fast on Cybertron, likely, because no one else volunteered to come to Messatine. No one blamed them. It left only First Aid and Ambulon, who both felt some modicum of loyalty to Pharma and refused to just up and leave him to man it on his own.
“We’ll have to keep an eye on your condition, of course,” Pharma continued. “Ambulon, do you have any experience with sparkbirth?”
“No,” the former Decepticon answered.
The CMO grunted in annoyance. “Very well, I suppose I’ll have to give you a crash-course in helping with a live sparkbirth.”
“You’ve done it?” First Aid couldn’t help but ask in surprise.
Pharma shrugged. “There was a time when all medics had to be trained in it. As they’ve become rarer, it became a specialized field instead of something any available medic could perform. I conducted a few in my day.” He picked up a datapad from the desk and held it out to First Aid. “I want you to take this to the front office and record everything you remember about your… encounter with Impactor. We may not be calling this into Cybertron but I still need a record here.”
The demoted medic nodded lightly, taking the datapad. He turned and left without another word, not sure what else there was to say anyway.
“You’re taking this a lot better than I thought you would,” Ambulon spoke up as soon as First Aid was gone. “Your initial reaction notwithstanding.”
“What’s done is done,” Pharma huffed. “Me complaining about it isn’t going to change anything. All we can do at this point is help with the sparkbirth and then hope whatever Pit-spawn is born from that unholy union doesn’t get in our way.” He pulled another datapad out and started tapping at it. “What do you think of this development?”
Ambulon looked to him, then looked thoughtful. “I think… First Aid is going to need our support. He’s scared, and unsure of what’s going to happen. He’s convinced Impactor will come back.”
The red, blue, and white flier actually snorted at that. “Oh, that’s rich,” he chuckled darkly. “That scrap-maker is long gone by now. Good riddance. I didn’t like having him here, anyway.”
The former Decepticon ex-vented and shook his helm. Pharma used to be so much more personable back when he came to Delphi. The stress of running such an obviously abandoned facility was probably getting to him. “I’m going to get back to the front desk in case any accidents happen at the mine or something.”
“You do that.”
First Aid cringed but didn’t stop. He kept walking down the hall, determined to deliver the samples he was carrying to the lab.
“You can’t ignore a patient! I need your help!”
The young medic stopped his stride, looking up at the ceiling and ex-venting. He turned around, looking at the miner who had been calling to him. It wasn’t just him, though. There were two sticking their helms out of the doorway of one of the rooms.
“Is there something you needed?” First Aid asked as patiently as possible.
“Primus, mech,” the one on the left ogled. “You weren’t kidding. One of the docs got himself knocked up.”
First Aid’s visor twitched. He glanced down at himself. It was now two weeks into his carrying, and it showed noticeably. It was the consequence of the sire of the sparkling growing inside of him being a tank much larger than himself. His midsection was bulging quite a bit, and he wasn’t even close to giving sparkbirth. He looked back at the miners. “Is there something you needed?” he repeated, a little more forcefully this time.
“Yeah, sorry,” the one on the right at least tried to sound sincere. “Uh… can you get us each a glass of low-grade? We need to top off a little.”
“I’ll bring that right down as soon as I’m done with this,” First Aid nodded, turning to return to his job.
As the medic walked away, though, he couldn’t help but overhear them whispering to each other. “You see how big that thing was?”
“Shut up, Axel, you’re gonna get us in trouble.”
First Aid ignored them as best he could, entering the lab and putting the samples down. He looked down at himself again, placing his hands on his carrying belly. He could feel the warmth of the developing sparkling inside of him. He couldn’t imagine what he was going to look like by the time it was done developing, though. If they were whispering down the halls now, wait until he was a week away.
“Hey, First Aid.”
The young medic looked up and saw Ambulon enter the room. “Oh, hi,” he said lightly.
“Something wrong?” the painted orange medic asked, walking over. “You look a bit down. You’re not feeling unwell, are you?” He walked over and put a hand on First Aid’s shoulder.
The younger mech stared at him a moment before breaking out into a light laugh.
“What?” Ambulon asked, pulling his hand back in confusion. “What’s so funny?”
“This is so weird,” First Aid chuckled. “Usually I’m asking you if you’re okay, because you always look so melancholy.”
Ambulon tilted his helm to the side indignantly, but then smiled just a bit. “Strange times, isn’t it?” he mused. He then went serious. “In more ways than one. Pharma locked himself in his office again. Every time we lose another patient he does that. I think he’s starting to get depressed by how many patients are dying in our care lately.”
First Aid looked thoughtful as well. “I’ve been thinking about that. Pharma is a professional. We all are, but he’s one of the best. We shouldn’t be losing so many patients.”
“You’re not suggesting there’s something fishy going on, are you?” Ambulon asked, lowering his vocals. “It has been a few more than usual, but they’ve all checked out on the post-mortem autopsies.”
“I know,” First Aid nodded, looking away from him. “I don’t know… maybe my carrying is making me paranoid.” He then shook his helm. “Sorry, I need to get back to work. The patients in room 24-C are asking for low-grade. Excuse me.”
When First Aid brought the tray of low-grade to 24-C, he found the two patients waiting on their repair berths. Both had been caught in a minor accident at the mines. Nothing serious, just some repair work that needed to be conducted and then monitored for the day before they could be sent back.
“Well, hey again, nurse!” the one who called him before – Axel – greeted. He grinned at the young medic.
“Ignore the idiot,” the other one grunted. First Aid glanced at his chart as he passed the berth. His name was apparently Circuit. “Thanks for the fuel.”
“Don’t worry about it,” First Aid said amicably, handing them both their drinks.
Axel put his back pretty immediately. He vented loudly afterwards, nodding to First Aid’s middle. “You got wrecked pretty good, didn’t you?”
“Axel!” Circuit snapped, glaring at him. He looked to First Aid apologetically. “Primus, please don’t mind him. He’s the reason we miners get a bad reputation.”
“Well, me and Megatron. Different reasons, though,” Axel joked.
First Aid actually chuckled at that. “It’s alright. I’ve been here long enough to be used to all of you,” he said. “I’m getting used to people staring at… well…” He placed his hands on his midsection again.
“Most of us probably never would have seen a carrier outside of this. We’re all pretty curious,” Circuit admitted, finishing off his fuel and setting the glass aside. “Uh… I know it’s probably rude, but… can I…?” For such a large, imposing mech, he was polite. Maybe even a little bit shy.
“As long as you’re careful,” First Aid nodded, stepping closer to him. He had been asked a few times, though he hadn’t said yes until now. Circuit seemed much gentler than the rest of the rough-and-tumble miners, though.
The miner slid off the berth and knelt on the floor in front of him. He placed his hands gently on First Aid’s swollen belly. “Whoa… that’s so…” he muttered, looking up at First Aid. “This is amazing. I can feel its warmth.”
The self-consciousness First Aid was feeling earlier began to melt at the words. It was strangely comforting, having Circuit be so much more courteous than most of the others had been about his carrying. Perhaps it was because Circuit was a miner, something he shared in common with Impactor at one point. While he was a different make of miner than Impactor, he was around the same build. Much friendlier, though.
“Hey, can I-?” Axel started.
“No,” First Aid answered before he could finish. Axel had been nothing but rude since he got there. He didn’t deserve to put his hands anywhere near First Aid, let alone on his developing sparkling.
“Axel,” Circuit hissed at him warningly. “Don’t be an aft.”
“Fine,” Axel grumbled, sitting back on his berth. After a moment, he asked, “Is it true it was the mech who crashed a couple weeks ago that did that to you?”
“Primus, Axel…” Circuit muttered, standing up. He sat back on his own berth.
“It’s okay,” First Aid raised a hand. “It’s true. He did.”
“Then it’s also true he just left you here,” Axel persisted.
This time First Aid didn’t answer. He looked at the ground. He hated how often he was reminded of that fact. “He’ll come back,” he said for what felt like the millionth time.
“I’m sure he will,” Circuit assured him.
First Aid looked at him in surprise. He looked so earnest about the statement, which the medic wasn’t used to. Everyone else either told him he was kidding himself, or kept humoring him but they didn’t really mean it. He smiled. “Thank you.”
Another two weeks and First Aid was starting to feel tired more often than usual. It was probably because he was carrying someone’s sparkling who was so much bigger than himself. His midsection was officially too large for some of his usual tasks at the medical facility, so he was assigned to the front desk. It was easy work. Monitor communications in case the mines sent an emergency call. Make sure all of their files were up-to-date. Accept any new patients, help, and instruct them best he could.
“Morning, First Aid!” Circuit’s cheery voice called as he walked through the doors. Axel followed close behind. First Aid rarely saw the two parted from each other. “How’re you doing today?”
“As well as can be expected,” First Aid replied, putting the files he was going through down. “You’re not checking in, are you? We just patched Axel up earlier this week. He’s more accident-prone than anyone I’ve ever met.”
“Nah, I’m fine,” Axel grinned, leaning on the counter. “Boss-bot gave us our requisite once-in-a-while day off. We just wanted to see how you were holding up. Got another couple’a weeks before you’ve got a new addition. Your sparkling gets any bigger before then, we’re not gonna find you under all that belly.”
“Ha-ha,” First Aid said dryly. “Try not to cut yourself on that wit, Axel.”
“The further into this carry, the more sarcastic you get,” Circuit laughed.
First Aid was about to answer, but Pharma’s vocals cut over them. “Is this what you call work, First Aid?” the head medic sneered. He walked over, but stopped a good distance from the trio. “Those two better be checking in. Because otherwise, this looks a bit unfortunately like you’re slacking.”
“Hey, we were just checking in on-” Axel started.
“Does this look like a social area?” Pharma cut him off. “If you two aren’t patients or visiting some, then you shouldn’t be here.”
Circuit put a hand on Axel’s shoulder before he could say something he’d regret. “I’m sorry, we’ll be going, then,” he reasoned. Before they did, though, he turned to First Aid. “Comm us when you’re off. We’ll sit down and talk all you want.”
First Aid nodded lightly. “Sure, I’ll do that,” he murmured. He watched them go, not looking at Pharma. Still, he said to him, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know they were coming.”
“I should hope not,” Pharma sniffed. “Despite your poor life choices, I expect better from you than to socialize during your work hours. I have patients to attend to. Don’t make me have to come back over here and make sure you’re still working.”
First Aid nodded again. “Yes, Pharma.”
The flier turned on his heelstrut and marched away.
The younger medic finally turned the direction he went, staring at the space he used to be in. Ambulon had been right those two weeks ago. Pharma was getting more and more moody and snippy. He was never the most casual of ‘bots, but he wasn’t usually that outright horrible to people. They were losing more patients lately, as well.
First Aid ex-vented and turned back to his work. He could discuss his concerns about it with Ambulon later.
The rest of the day passed without further incident, and First Aid commed Circuit and Axel like he said he would. They met him outside of the clinic and walked with him back to the dormitories where he stayed. He couldn’t transform in his condition, so he appreciated that they were patient with him.
The three settled down after he grabbed some fuel for them.
Axel wasted no time in proving his lack of filter. “So, is it just me, or has Pharma turned into the glitchiest little aft lately?”
“I’d usually yell at him for talking about your boss that way in front of you, but he’s not wrong,” Circuit added, turning to First Aid. “Is everything okay? He’s not overworking you or anything, is he?”
First Aid chuckled and shook his helm. “No, I’m fine. I think he’s just feeling overworked himself because of how little help we have. And with me on light duty…” He didn’t tell them about his suspicions. Being as the miners relied on them, he couldn’t risk word that Pharma may not be trustworthy.
“If you say so, ‘Aid,” Axel muttered, though he didn’t sound convinced. He had the foresight to change the subject, though. “So, what’ve you been doing to keep yourself occupied?”
“Oh, you know…” First Aid popped his mask open, taking a drink from the glass he held. He avoided their gazes. “This and that…” He didn’t want to admit he’d been staying up browsing the Autopedia and Wreckers forums for any sighting people could report of Impactor. So far no luck.
Circuit and Axel looked at each other, then back at him. Circuit stood up and moved over to sit back down next to First Aid. He put a hand on his shoulder. “You know you can talk to us, right? I know we’ve only been friends a couple of weeks, but we want to be here for you.”
First Aid reset his optics in surprise as the soft-spoken miner. “You… do?”
“Of course we do!” Axel grinned as he leaned back in his seat, crossing his arms over his chestplate. “You see the kinds of people around here? Mostly miners, supervisors, and inspectors. Pit, even the medics besides you are kind of hardafts. You’re something special on this aft-end of nowhere rock.”
The red and white medic looked between them. “I… I had no idea you guys felt like that about me.”
“He doesn’t say it very elegantly, but it’s true,” Circuit smiled. “You’re one of a kind, First Aid. You deserve better than to be stuck on Messatine with us miners and a boss that’s slowly getting so stressed he’s taking it out on you. Especially with a little one on the way.” He placed a gentle hand on First Aid’s expanding middle.
First Aid stared at him a moment before breaking into a smile as well. “Thank you. Both of you. Between you and Ambulon, I’m feeling a lot better about my decision to stay here instead of going back to Cybertron to have this sparkling.”
“Don’t worry about it,” the miner sitting next to him wrapped his arm around his shoulders, bringing him into a one-armed hug. “We’ll watch both of you until Impactor comes back. Everything’s going to be fine, you’ll see.”
“Why do you do that?”
Axel and Circuit walked back to the miners’ dormitories after their time with First Aid together. The medic said he needed to recharge more lately, so he asked to be left alone early.
“Encourage him,” Axel elaborated. “You’re usually the smart one between us, remember? You can’t actually believe Impactor of all ‘bots is actually going to come back.”
Circuit looked up at the sky above their home – the only home they were created for – and ex-vented. “I wanna believe it, Axel. And I want First Aid to believe it, too. I’m not just the smart one,” he grinned, punching his best friend in the arm. “I’m the optimist, too. I like to believe a little in everyone.”
“Soft-aft,” Axel laughed, shoving the slightly larger miner back. “Whatever happens, we meant it, right? We’re gonna take care of them.”
“Best we can,” Circuit nodded. “Much as I like Ambulon, it’s gonna take a lot more than the two of them to raise a sparkling.”
“You say that like we know anything about sparklings,” the other miner scoffed.
“It’ll only be a sparkling for three weeks,” Circuit reasoned. “How hard can it be?”
Ambulon knocked on First Aid’s door, knowing the younger medic would still be awake. He was aware the soon-to-be creator had been staying up far later than he should have been lately.
Sure enough, First Aid opened the door a few moments later and let him inside. “I was just about to hit the berth,” he said as he led Ambulon to the sitting area of his small living quarters.
“Mmhm,” Ambulon snorted. “First Aid, you recharge less than I do. And I have a chronic problem with it. Did I see those two miners you’ve been spending time with leave?”
“Yeah, they’ve been keeping me company when we haven’t been working,” the carrier affirmed, bringing some fuel over for Ambulon. He already was completely topped off after Axel and Circuit’s visit, so he didn’t need any. “I’ve been surprised. Most of the miners seem to ignore us over here unless they need something. Axel and Circuit are very nice.”
“You’re sure they don’t have unsavory intentions?”
“What?!” First Aid started at the question, staring at Ambulon. “What would even make you ask that?”
“You’ve only really known them a couple of weeks. I don’t want to see you or the bitlet you’re carrying get hurt by them,” Ambulon insisted.
“They don’t have any bad intentions,” First Aid huffed. “I appreciate your concern, but could you not be so suspicious? They’ve been super nice.”
“Alright, alright,” Ambulon backed off, not wanting to upset First Aid when he was so close to giving sparkbirth.
“I’m more worried about Pharma,” the younger medic said lightly, looking at the floor and playing with his servos. “I don’t want to think anything bad about him, either. But he’s getting worst, and we’re still losing patients. What if it’s all connected?”
“Not this again,” Ambulon ex-vented. “Why would Pharma be killing off patients? What purpose would he have for that?”
“I’m not saying he is!” First Aid said quickly, though even he didn’t sound completely sure of that. “I’m just saying… what if they’re connected?”
“These are some serious accusations,” Ambulon warned him. “If you’re going to suspect him of anything, I suggest you find some proof, first. If you can find something solid, even I’ll have to believe you. But until then, I’m going to keep doing my job. Seriously, what’s with all of these things between us that seem so… backwards?”
“I don’t know,” First Aid admitted. He leaned on the arm of the chair he sat in, thinking. He then shook his helm. “I really don’t know. I think I really should get some recharge, though.”
“Alright,” Ambulon conceded, though he’d wanted to stay and talk longer. He was worried about First Aid, though it was hard for him to admit it out loud. Instead, he finished off his fuel and placed the glass to the side, standing up. “I’ll get out of your way, then. But you promise you’re actually going to berth and not staying up on the Wrecker forums? And don’t think I don’t know that’s what you’ve been doing.”
First Aid cringed a bit, but nodded. “I promise. As soon as you’re gone it’s straight to berth for me. I’m going to need as much recharge as I can get with this little one on the way.” He placed his hands on his midsection.
“Definitely,” Ambulon nodded, placing a hand on his helm. “I have a feeling things are going to be getting a lot more hectic around here.”