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In These Hands

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“And that’s a wrap. One, two, three, four, five sparklings all accounted for and thriving.” Ratchet was in the process of packing away his equipment. His smile a reflection of the carrier’s features. “At this rate we’ll be seeing the litter within the next meta-cycle. Senator Proteus should be proud.”

The femme carrier; she was beautiful. Her frame cascaded in various shades of emerald with accents of clean beige, and her optics a dazzling shade of cerulean. An individual most expected to find occupying a lord’s estate.

At Ratchet’s comment her smile seemed to dwindle. She sat up on the lounge bench where the medic had taken the opportunity to examine her in comfort, and didn’t do much to hide her bordering negativity.

“Yes, he should. It would be nice if he showed it by a few more visits than what I receive.” There was something that sounded like a sigh emitting from her vocal processors. She wasn’t the first forlorn carrier Ratchet has gotten to know.

“Well, with all his responsibilities, I wouldn’t blame him for being kept busy,” Ratchet reasoned. Even so he watched her optics roll.

“Held up at the Grand Imperium I can understand, but here? In his own home? It’s an absolute travesty.” Even as she pouted, she lost no aspect of her radiant beauty. “And I’m certainly not the only one who misses his presence.” She didn’t explain further because there was no need to. Ratchet knew of her position as well as the others in the concubinage. What he couldn’t work his internal processors around was why the Senators would collect so many and then leave the ‘bots starved of proper interaction. It just seemed like a waste to him, but not something he could currently oppose seeing as this concubinage’s need of a more attentive doctor is what landed him this coveted and high-ranking job in the first place.

The silence from the femme’s troubled position faded quickly, dispersed by her laugh as brighter optics shown on her medic. “There I go again, laying the weight of my menial troubles on you like you’re my psychotherapist. Oh, Ratchet, you’ve become such a dear companion I just can’t seem to stop myself.”

Ratchet’s smile returned with hers. He waved off her previous bout as he often did. “You know it’s no trouble by me, Mistress Greenlight.” At that the femme motioned a cringe.

“Would you drop the ‘mistress’ title? Primus, it sounds so scandalous at times. I mean, sure, I’m a senator’s lover currently living in his household and carrying his litter but ‘mistress’ just sounds so . . . so . . .” There was a pause for processing before Greenlight clapped her hands and threw her helm back in a laugh. “Yes, I guess that title about sums my entire predisposition up.”

Greenlight was always one to get herself in and out of moods quite fast. She was an absolute privilege to get to know.

Taking up his medical kit, Ratchet moved toward the door. “I best be going. Got to make sure the report finds its way to Senator Proteus’ desk by midday or else I’m out of a job.” Greenlight only tsked behind him, and when he turned to have one last glance at her, he watched the femme wave her hand dismissively. Standing then, coming toward him, mindful of each step with premediated balance for the protoforms developing inside her.

“You’re my doctor, not his,” she said. One hand patted his white shoulder while her other rubbed over her growing chassis. “You’re out a job when I say you are.” She chuckled, the fingers over her chassis dancing on shifting plates. “And that time isn’t going to be anytime soon by the looks of it.”

Ratchet nodded, easing into Greenlight’s assurances. “Well, then expect to see me next deca-cycle for our usual checkup. But, I’ll be running by tomorrow for Datazone’s examination. If you need me to mix a formula for erratic energon imbalances or further proto-nutrients at the facility it would be opportune to make the order.”

There was a silent process before inspiration lit Greenlight’s optics, and the smile on her face became more savvy than gentle. “How about you mix up some hydro-cod 3 and two bars of energon sod, and then deliver it to the parlor after your checkup with Datazone? Say a quarter before midday?”

Ratchet only took a moment to process her order before gawking at her with curiosity. “But that’s just a formula for—”

“Energon fizz,” Greenlight answered. “A harmless drink for a carrier, but a fun beverage to have with friends. How about I treat you to brunch?”

“Oh, no, I don’t think that’s necessary.” And it was very unprofessional. However, Ratchet’s response seemed to spark a stance in the femme standing before him. When her hands came to her hips, her optics in turn narrowed.

“Here I am, just wanting to dine with a friend, but you’re making yourself difficult. I could just order you to, you know? But I’d rather have frivolous conversation with a willing companion, not my doctor.”

Ratchet found himself laughing at her lofty endeavors. “Limiting my options, are we? You would have made an excellent tradesmech.”

“A procured talent,” she replied in dramatic manner. Her smile returned, she patted Ratchet’s arm on her motion to turn and move back into the concubinage wing. “A quarter to midday. Tomorrow!”

There was a contentment Ratchet felt in his services to Senator Proteus’ personal companions. Aside from Greenlight, the others were well-mannered and pleasant sparks. And after mingling with other senator medical officers on the few times that he could, found the troubles and strict custom protocols many had to deal with. Not one to complain, Ratchet enjoyed the simplicity within Senator Proteus’ household, the final duty of which remained basic: after checkups, key in a report, deliver said report to Senator Proteus’ office, and leave report on desk.

With or without the Senator present, Ratchet found no qualms with him. When present, the ‘bot was often too engrossed with take-home projects to acknowledge the medibot’s presence, and with Ratchet’s explicit instructions, he found no issues in succeeding in enacting the precise lay of orders.

Proteus was present today. A sight as often as his absence. Besides orientation as well as a few minor orders, Ratchet and he had not really exchanged proper verbal conversation. Not that Ratchet minded.

In his contentment with his job, so too was he content to ignore the silence. Intending to do just that as he laid down the report on Proteus’ desk and turned to leave.

“Already done for today, Ratchet?”

The medic turned and found the Senator staring at him over his work.

Ratchet nodded, turning back to give proper attention. “Yes sir. Mistress Greenlight showed balanced levels and the sparklings’ pulses were all strong and distinct. There was a minor worry about one last deca-cycle, the detail of which was recorded in the report I left, but recent examination provided enough information to prove that there’s no need to further worry. The full list of details are cataloged in the current report.”

Proteus laid down his work, folding his hands. He nodded. “Yes, yes, that does seem good. I can’t imagine what Greenlight must have felt in the wait.”

“I’m sure if you go to her, she would gladly let you know.”

The short-lived chuckle that sounded out of Proteus sounded light in all fairness, but Ratchet had studied long and hard to recognize abnormalities in vocal excursions, and he couldn’t dismiss the signal that ran through his processor. Proteus moved, shaking his helm with humorous features as he clasped his hands behind his back.

“I tend to keep myself away from all of that for a reason.” He stood before Ratchet, a larger frame with a friendly face, but a less-than friendly field. Unusual, but summed up to his high-ranking position and Ratchet’s much lower chain. “Imbalanced levels and all that.”

While that reasoning has been used to excuse interaction from various sires through the ages, Ratchet was still a firm believer in parental intimacy. After all it is scientifically proven to correct improper imbalances and dwindle stressed circuits much faster and easier than concocted artificial remedies. Not that Ratchet believed his employer would take any such advice though.

“She does seem to like you.”

Ratchet pulled himself out of his processing core and returned to the uncomfortable position of being underneath Proteus’ stare.

“They all do,” Proteus carried on. “I admit I was at first reluctant to find new help after all the time old Centas had served me and my house, but, well, his retirement couldn’t be helped. It was actually my own personal medic who suggested hiring one of the fresh faces that came out of the academy, and I’m very pleased I went along with his advice. You’re turning out to be a real hidden gem, Ratchet.”

Flattery, it never really got old. “I appreciate your approval, Senator Proteus. But I’m the one who’s honored to be serving your household.” Ratchet inclined his form politely.

“Honored? Come now, Ratchet. I think it should be the other way around. Top one percent in your class, some of the highest scores in physical, oratory, and logic exams the Dean’s ever recorded, and the accolades that your graduating thesis mounted is extraordinary.”

It’s really no wonder Proteus was one of the most influential Senators. He certainly had a way with words. Words that had Ratchet’s circuits twisting and preening.

“The way you handle my mistresses deserves commendation as well. Though, I suspect it’s because you can relate to them so well.” With his smile converting from prideful to one more bordering humor, Ratchet took a moment to process the meaning in his wording. Oh.

Ratchet nodded. “Ah, well, aside from the rigorous studies and EX hours we are put through, yes, you could say medibots have deeper connections to carriers. Kin only in that we have gestational chambers.”

Proteus’ smile was growing away from jesting humor. “A clever ploy on the academy’s part, no doubt.”

Ratchet expected no less an assumption. It’s many’s first guess to the odd reasoning. Of course he’d gladly correct the ignorance, as he done many times before. “Ploy? No, regulatory. Though I’m hard-pressed to call it that anymore. Tradition is what it is, and has been since the First War. The population was so decimated that medibots had to carry to repair the populace.” There was a pause, a moment of processing. “Say, do you ever think the Senate would take a look at that and possibly wave that old law? Given the times, it’s quite unnecessary.”

“Perhaps, but . . .” Proteus came to confuse Ratchet when he rose his hand and let his digits glide down the medic’s face. “You never know when you’ll need them.”

The immediate reaction was for Ratchet to flinch back, optics wide and bright. “Lord Proteus?” But he didn’t take another step back, even as the Senator pressed closer, all but overshadowing the smaller mech.

“With such young handsome faces, why, I think it’d be a shame to waste resources.” Proteus has had too long to practice his will in his words. Be it as it may that he is able to sway the masses, Ratchet didn’t find himself under the same influence. This fact coming to light as he took a further step back, trying to ease himself out of the Senator’s field.

“My lord!” Ratchet was gawking, at an absolute loss of any proper responses to the very improper suggestive intonations. Despite his reaction as well as cleared stance in the matter, Proteus didn’t look at all shamed, nor dissuaded for that matter.

“No? Too large a scale? Fine, let’s start with smaller.” There was absolutely no hesitation when Proteus pressed forward again, as well as a lack in concern for the smaller mech pushing against his chassis, wiggling within his grasp.

Eventually, Ratchet had to hold his offense from the Senator’s groping hands and focus on pushing his imposing helm. After a particularly hard push back, Ratchet managed to untangle himself from Proteus’ arms and back himself against the office door, ready to evade the entire room.

The way Proteus looked at him made the medic’s core hiccup. Confusion laced his moving features as if he were some child staring at a malfunctioning helio-hamster. There wasn’t an ounce of consideration for the affiliated.

“You’re resisting me?” Again, Proteus wore his confusion as if it was natural. As if Ratchet should feel the same.

“I . . .” Ratchet’s processor over-performed. What was he doing? What was Proteus doing? “I was hired as household medic, I . . .” His visual line met Proteus’, able to hold. “It’s not my duty.”

Proteus was still for a moment. Ratchet could sense his processors churning. Perhaps he’d come to realize just what he was doing, what he was asking for. There was also a need to examine the senator’s energon levels. Ratchet knew he could afford the stuff to set a ‘bot out of his processors.

“Oh.” Proteus rolled his optics, shaking his helm. His stance lacking any form of tension. “Is that what’s troubling you?” Ratchet’s optics faded a little. What’s troubling him? How could Proteus carry on so nonchalantly? “Most of my household were ‘bots serving other functions until I brought them in. There’s no need to worry.”

Proteus made to come closer again, but Ratchet pressed the door’s panel and the frame slid open, an exit ready. Proteus halted, glancing once at the opened doors and then back to the rigid medibot.

“I-I’m not . . . I’m a doctor,” Ratchet continually pressed. “I just want to perform my duties.”

“You can,” Proteus said as if reasoning with an opposing and indecisive opponent. “You can do whatever you want, have whatever you want. I can do that, Ratchet, I can get you anything you want. You want a clinic named after you? Done. You want the latest upgrades? I’ll secure them. You want a mansion in Crystal City? Just tell me where to buy.” He reached out, his arms long enough to brush down Ratchet’s. “Young, bright, opportunistic. As exceptional as you were in the academy so are you a beauty in your own. We could produce ideal sparklings.” Proteus’ hands wrapped around Ratchet’s, bringing them up he rubbed his lips against the rouge knuckle joints. An incentive.

“I . . .” Ratchet didn’t like looking into Proteus’ optics. He had a powerful gaze, more so now than ever. “I don’t want that, any of it.” He wasn’t that opportunistic contrary to belief.

“But I do.” Proteus’ vocal processors were soft, humming in hypnotic fashion. Almost comforting. “Isn’t that all that matters?”

Ratchet’s optics became brighter now. This time he met the senator’s swaying glow. “Just let me do my job.”

The tender hold was released. Proteus looked displeased. “Why are you rejecting me? Have I not offered you enough?”

Ratchet tried to steel himself. Despite it all he couldn’t help but feel inferior in the field of someone like Proteus’. For good reason.

“It’s not that. I don’t want anything you have to give. I . . . I’m fine with just being the house medic.”

“Such low standards, doctor,” Proteus chided. “You disappoint me.”

Inclining his helm, Ratchet tried to hold onto the fleeting respect for the mech before him, if only out of functional status. “I apologize. Perhaps you’ll desire another medibot.” And then Proteus laughed. Just laughed.

“You think it’s that easy? You think you can just run from me?” When the laughter died down, Ratchet thought he detected a shift in the color panel of Proteus’ optics. A darker shade. “Oh, doctor, you’ll find that assumption quite faulty, and an option you’ll come to regret.”

Ratchet kept his silence. He didn’t want to agitate things further.

“You are dismissed for the day,” Proteus finally commanded, turning. He returned to his desk and took a seat, taking up his work and forgetting about the lingering presence as he had before.

Ratchet didn’t waste another moment to make his departure.

. . .

“The frag?” Thunderclash; an honest spark, honest face, and honest mouth. After Ratchet had conferred the simplified and slightly edited version of the incident to his compatriots and colleagues, the largest of the group made his opinion on the matter known fast and first. “Is that even legal?”

Ratchet sounded a sigh. He rotated his shoulder cogs and found solace in the silence.  

“Hey, hey, what’s that old saying? If it’s illegal for us it’s legal for the Senate.” Despite Jazz’s obvious attempt to lighten the dampening atmosphere, Ratchet and the others remained unmoved and unlifted.

“No, can’t say that it’s illegal, per say,” Pharma spoke up, arms crossed, face scrunched. “It’s just rude. Sounds to me that ol’ Senator Proteus just wants to take advantage of medical resources.”

Ratchet’s groan was loud and he eagerly pushed his face into his hands. “What am I going to do? It’s just so uncomfortable returning to his estate for the checkups.” He felt a hand on his shoulder. It represented comfort and support, as well as pending protection if need be. It also represented his dear friend Orion Pax.

“Ratchet, have you thought about resigning?” Orion’s vocals were gentle and assuring, sounding himself as someone who would stand behind any decision Ratchet decided to make. And Ratchet knew he would.

“Of course I have,” Ratchet replied, moving his hands away and shaking his helm. “But it’s not like I’ve been discharged.” He hadn’t. If there were any further qualms, Ratchet was certain Senator Proteus wouldn’t hesitate to dishonorably discharge him, but that day never came, and seemed like it never would, which has left the medibot in stressed posture for deca-cycles. “Primus, I don’t know. This position was my chance to make a name for myself, as a doctor, but what I’m being asked for is just something I . . . I don’t know what to do. Believe me any suggestions will have been already processed and simulated.”

“Well, I don’t like it,” Thunderclash spoke up. “If it were me I’d resign in a spark pulse. Less exposure, sure, but less harassment.”

“Yeah, and if it were you, Thunderclash, Senator Proteus wouldn’t be making the moves. You ain’t as cute as Ratch.” With a sharp grin, Jazz reached out and pinched the medic’s cheek, snapping him out of his moping despair in time for him to swatch his hands away.

“All humor aside,” Orion gave Jazz a look before zoning in on his friend seated next to him. “If he tries anything else, don’t be afraid to report it.”

Jazz chuckled again. “That’ll be the day; when a senator gets locked behind bars.” He nudges his elbow into Orion’s chassis. “You gonna be the one to do the honors?”

Orion preened, keeping his posture strong and straight. “I would if given the chance.”

“Quite optimistic for a fledgling enforcer,” Thunderclash commented. He meant well, he was just blatantly honest, like Ratchet.

“Oh, I’m not afraid of him,” Ratchet said despite the tremors he could still phatomly feel at the thought of that mech overbearing him. “More so I’m afraid of what someone with that kind of power could do to the people I cherish most if I cross him again.”

His reasoning pulled a sobriety over his companions. And over himself too. A likely explanation why he stayed in employment of the senator when he shouldn’t have.

. . .

It had been four deca-cycles since Ratchet had confided his troubles in his friends when he began to notice something out of place. Greenlight began discreetly suffering from processor glitches, not necessarily uncommon for any regular ‘bot, carrying or not. She refused suggested remedies and persevered through them through sheer will. Something Ratchet expected no less of her.

It was the other ‘subtle’ changes that began to alert Ratchet. Nervous manuals began to shut off, and more than once Ratchet had caught objects Greenlight had been dropping during random intervals. Once more she brushed it off, but kindly accepted Ratchet’s repairs. After all, they didn’t take long to fix.

And then there was the discoloring. Ratchet wished he would have logged it as a priority sooner. But carriers were expected to lose some form of pigmentation if not properly in-taking nourishment. Given that Greenlight should have access to the most basic of fuel, Ratchet equated the rapid loss to the number of sparklings she was carrying. The larger the amount, the quicker the carrier was drained. Again, if not properly replacing lost reserves.

In the end, Ratchet summed it up to fatigue and alignment vertigo. More or less common ailments among carriers. And so Ratchet concocted a formula high on electrolytes for fuel, balanced with mid-energon to ease the processor upsets she had been experiencing.

“This one will definitely do the trick, Greenlight,” Ratchet announced as he moved through the estate and into the concubinage wing. Greenlight was lounging on the bench, looking the same as she had the previous day.

Upon coming closer Ratchet’s core began to slow. She was less pigmented by far than when he had previously scanned her. And her slow movement only called for reason to worry.

Putting down the formula, Ratchet raced to her side. Her optics were dim and her form shaking. She looked at him, a hand reaching out and grasping him as hard as she could, though, to the medibot it felt like faint squeezes.

“R-Ratch—et, Ratch . . .” There was static in her vocals and from the groans and moans, Ratchet estimated the heightened levels of her pain.

“I’ve got to get you to the facility!” Ratchet bent down to take her up into his arms, but she began crying out when he had and reluctantly he laid her bad down. Still, she clung to him, as if trying to garner his attention.

“P-Ple—ease, my . . . my chil—dren. Ratchet . . .” There was fear in her dimmed optics, and by the continual fading color, Ratchet shown it in his own. She was extinguishing.

It wasn’t the proper place nor time to examine the exact reason. And in that moment Greenlight was the one who remembered the priority. The sparklings.

Aside from Greenlight’s moans of pain, Ratchet didn’t have a hard time removing her chassis. The moment the last hinge was unlatched the groans and moans stopped. There wasn’t even so much as a tremor.

“Greenlight?” Ratchet turned back to her helm, his digits touching her faceplates. “Greenlight?” A full discoloration, no optic glow. She was offline.

Ratchet found himself in sudden shock as his internal processor tried to make sense of it all. When it couldn’t, when Ratchet forced himself to come to that conclusion he remembered his objective and quickly began searing through panel and circuitry to pull out the protoform pods.

“Primus!” Ratchet had pulled out four discolored pods, no signal of online activity whatsoever. It was the fifth pod that had any semblance of color, albeit nearing greys and blacks. Pressing his hands into the seams, Ratchet forced a transformation, and with his guidance the sparkling conceded. Ratchet was able to see its chassis rise up with a dim glow, and optics brighten only a fraction before the light dispersed and the sparkling lay limp in his hands.

Time seemed to stand still. Ratchet had already recorded the offline intervals, but his internal clock didn’t seem to want to move past those numbers. It wasn’t until his audials picked up on the sound of someone shouting that he realized the world still spun.

“Greenlight!” It was Senator Proteus. He looked mortified, his line of sight zoned in on the lifeless form of his concubine as well as the four pods and limp sparkling still cradled in Ratchet’s arms. He looked at Ratchet then, horror flashing over his features.

Ratchet didn’t recall Proteus hailing for his physician. It was only when the medic came and took the offline sparkling from Ratchet’s arms that he realized he was being pushed aside so the other could examine the shells.

“What happened?” Proteus’ question was more than demanding, and Ratchet wasn’t certain if he was speaking to him or his personal physician. So he kept his silence, hoping that the other medibot could succeed where he had failed to determine.

It was when the medibot answered, “Depleters,” that Ratchet’s proper functions began processing at regular capacity. Depleters? Those were used for addicts and anibots to purge their systems of the harmful chemicals taken in. They were harmless to others unless taken for a long time.

No.

Proteus’ optics were on Ratchet. Narrowed and zoned. A shade darker, like before. “Search him.”

It wasn’t just Proteus’ medic that had their hands on Ratchet, but three of his personal guards as well. They took his tools, his chemicals, and even the casings. It was from their protective custody that they examined the confiscated items. And it was there they charged him.

“Here.” Proteus’ medibot approached the senator and held out the container full of Greenlight’s formula Ratchet had mixed the night before. “There’s a lacing of depleters.”

“What?” That was when the guards closed in around him and made certain he wouldn’t move another inch. “No! There were no such things in there. Mid-energon and electrolytes is all that is in there.”

“Then why don’t you examine it for yourself, medic?” Proteus’ physician was waving the vile in front of Ratchet, and taking a quick scan, to Ratchet’s horror, detected an amount of depleters. It was a harmless amount, but in the current state an incriminating piece.

“No.” Ratchet shook his helm. “No, that wasn’t in there. I swear it!”

“Depleters, they’re harmless, but after occasional in-take can prove fatal, especially to carriers,” the medic informed Proteus.

Proteus was quiet, processing the situation and everything he’d been given. When he looked to Ratchet there was further silence. And then, “Why? Why would you do this to me, Ratchet?”

Ratchet’s optics brightened. “No, I didn’t, you have to believe me.” The silence remained, Proteus looked genuinely upset and grief-stricken, but then Ratchet began to recall his threat and warning. No, he wouldn’t. Not because of that. Would he?

“I don’t know what to believe right now.” Proteus turned away, moving toward Greenlight’s shell and those of their offspring. “Take him away.”

“What?” The guards dug their digits into Ratchet’s plating, and as they tugged and dragged, Ratchet found himself struggling to properly move. “No! I’m innocent, I didn’t—I didn’t do this. Please!”

No one turned to his cries except the walls of the cell he was thrown into.

. . .

Unless it was lawfully authorized, within the realm of gladiatorial guidelines, or during war, it was illegal to offline a Cybertronian. And on the account said Cybertronian was a sparkling, the crime would receive a more threatening punishment. On the account said sparkling was a senator’s offspring, well, the trial, the judging, and the sentence would be broadcast publically.

Not minding the hysteria of his situation, there was a curiosity in the back of Ratchet’s mainframe wondering which of his friends found out first. In the present, they were crowding the row of bars, kept at a distance at the insistence of the stationed guards.

“Primus, Ratchet! Did you really do it?” Jazz’s visor was bright and he was the one pacing and back and forth the most, maneuvering around his just as frantic friends.

“It’s all over the broadcast channels,” Pharma let out. “Every Primus-damned patient was tuned in. Oh, the things they began to say!”

“Damnit, Ratchet, if you would have just waited I would have helped.” One could laugh at Thunderclash’s honest words, but Ratchet just wanted to roll over with grief.

“Will you idiots shut up!?” Ratchet’s vocals had been acting up since he was locked inside the cell, but now seeing his friends, he couldn’t help but just want to scream. “This room is monitored. Primus knows what would happen if they think you’re accomplices!” That earned him only momentary silence.

“So, did you do it?” Jazz wasn’t the only one who wanted to know.

Ratchet wanted to rip his own helm off. “NO! I keep telling them the same as I’m telling you.” The grief was sizzling again and Ratchet felt the urge to hunch over, but he stood tall, for his friends.

“I’ve read the details; they’re blaming it on system poisoning” Pharma spoke. “That’s preposterous, because I know Ratchet. There are a lot more ways he’d be able to do it AND get away with it.”

“Pharma!” Ratchet groaned. The misplaced flattery was not appreciated.

“Thought you should know they’ve called in Remedy,” Thunderclash said. The announcement of which gave Ratchet’s frame an ethereal shake.

“Remedy, but why?” Ratchet couldn’t possibly understand why the old Dean of the Medical Ward was being summoned.

“A question of integrity, no doubt,” Thunderclash said.

“If that’s what they want, so be it.” Pharma didn’t look half as worried as Ratchet felt. “Remedy absolutely adored you, Ratchet. There isn’t a chance he could be used to defame you.”

The support was appreciated. But he was one face short.

“Where’s Orion?” Ratchet figured he’d fall in with the rest of them.

“Talking to the investigators,” Jazz answered. Ratchet nodded, he should have assumed so.

“The investigators.” Thunderclash’s voice was low, a pitch of irritation laced within the electronic frequency. “As ineffective as they oft are, I wouldn’t expect much from them.”

“Yes, but Orion is persistent, and where they lack he’ll pick up,” Pharma reasoned.

“Of course he would,” Thunderclash agreed. “I’m not questioning his ethic, but he’ll only be able to do so much. This case is governmental, I’m afraid. If we’re lucky, they’ll give the investigators enough time to properly analyze the evidence. But cases like these are infamous for getting haphazardly and prematurely pushed.” He let out heavy vocal sounds. “I, for one, don’t intend to just stand around. I’m going to speak with Remedy, see if I can ensure no one tampers with his statement.”

Even in the situation he was in, Ratchet found himself smiling at his friend and his resolve. “Thank you, Thunderclash.”

“You can thank me properly when you’re out of there.” Thunderclash motioned to the decrepit piece of architecture Ratchet was secured in.

“Well, if you’re going to be doing that then I’m going to run through the facility’s logs,” Pharma said. “I’ll be sure to look into every ‘bot who purchased depleter chemicals in the last vorn if I have to.”

“And I’ll be running by Orion for the investigative updates,” Jazz announced. “You just hang tight, Ratch, you’ll be out of there in no time.”

Ratchet truly was grateful for his friends, absolutely amongst the fortunate to call them such. He cherished their encouragement, perspectives, and loyalty. Their determination to hold on for him warmed his cooling core. However, the rest of the judicial branches did not share in their same passion for proper assessment.

The official trial took place but one mega-cycle since Ratchet’s incarceration. He was provided with a state lawyer, a rough preparation for what to expect in the trial, and allowed to provide a list of individuals to represent his character. Of course he was informed said list could be edited by the court if proven to be inadequate.

The last preparation made was a vocal module, one he was assured was common protocol for every representative.

“To keep libel at a constrained level,” the engineer had told Ratchet after testing its efficiently. A simple controlled panel press completely disabled Ratchet’s vocal processors. His mouth could be moving, but no frequencies would be heard. And another simple press returned it.

His nerves were shot when he entered the courtroom. The crowds that had gathered were enough to fill stadiums. Before him sat the judge, and behind the ‘bot sat the entirety of the Senate.

Ratchet could feel the monitor lenses on him, recording every movement, every astro-second that dragged on like stellar-cycles. But it wasn’t as bad as the optics, the array of multicolored lights zoning in on him, looking at him as if he were some war criminal, some planetary beast that had demolished the entire state of Polyhex. It all rattled his frame and cooled his core.

“Dean Remedy, how would you best describe your once-student?” All optics were on the medibot now. He stood in the questioning booth. He looked comfortable and in no part as stressed as Ratchet’s system messages warned.

“A bright young mech. He was always eager to learn. His innovations bordered creativity, but fell within the lines of ingenuity. A genius in his own right. I always assumed he would one day take over my office.” Remedy spoke. All kind words, and phrases Ratchet had heard from him before.

“Dean Remedy, could you elaborate on your ‘innovations’ statement?”

Remedy looked as confused as Ratchet. “Well, Ratchet at times sidestepped usual medical protocols to find a quicker and more effective solution. None of which were harmful. His endeavors were recorded and are being currently debated amongst the directors”

“And would you describe your past student as ambitious?”

Remedy nodded. “Why, of course. He often spoke about the opportunities to work within governmental factions. The CMO always being a goal the moment he graduated. Not much different from other students’ ambitions, but Ratchet was the only one to discredit our current CMO’s ethics.” Remedy’s laugh following was lighthearted, but the phrases quoted before, without background, were obviously and suspiciously incriminating.

“We thank you for your cooperation, Dean Remedy. You are dismissed.”

The only individual allowed to take the stand under Ratchet’s suggestion was Thunderclash, and even then the questions were redundant and shallow. Ratchet could see the frustration alighting his friend’s features over the lack of detail, but they knew who was really in charge of the procedure that day. And that there was nothing either of them could do to change the fixed outcome.

Among the last questioned were members of Senator Proteus’ household: a few of his staff, guards, and concubines. His medical physician was one of the last. But, it was Proteus’ statements that spurred Ratchet’s circuit coils.

“I was only following the advice of my physician. When I hired Ratchet I didn’t know much about him, and from the scores of his time at the Academy, I assumed I was getting what my concubinage needed. Greenlight . . .” He paused, rubbing his lips, pouring grief into his features and further words. “It was our first litter, and I wanted what was best for her and our sparklings. I can’t really tell you what went wrong, but since then I am struck with internal error, trying to understand what I did to have this done to me.” He then looked toward Ratchet. The grief floating in his optics looked genuine, even in the lenses of monitors. “Why, Ratchet? Couldn’t it have been me and not . . . not Greenlight . . .” He bowed his helm, the sympathy of the courtroom won.

Ratchet was the last on stand. There were no questions for him, but he was allowed a final statement. For some time he just stood there, unsure of what to say, what was right to say, or proper. Or what he was even allowed to voice.

His optics searched the room and found his friends, clutching the railing of the benches they were seated on. Orion, Pharma, Jazz, and Thunderclash. He wondered if he’d ever see them again after today.

“I . . .” Ratchet looked toward the judge, toward the present Senate, and then toward the population. “I was forged, predestined to become a medibot.” He was still a Junior Medic, fresh out of the academy. The flashes of his time there really were just cycles ago. “I studied long and hard to fulfill my role. I wanted . . .” He looks past the judge and toward the Senate. “I wanted to be that cog fitting properly in the grand machine. Ambitions? What young ‘bot doesn’t have them? After graduation I fell back in line. When I was hired under Senator Proteus’ household all I wanted to do was submit to my duties and serve to my best abilities.” He looked toward Proteus and right then found no sign of sympathy, no sign of grief. Ratchet only stared into oblivion. Something the senator wanted.

Turning his gaze down, Ratchet looked for further words. Further statements that wouldn’t bury him further than he was going to be, that would possibly spare him from the fate racked against him. He looked toward his friends one last time, and it was Orion’s stern and supportive stare that riled Ratchet’s core into a furnace.

“Fine.” Ratchet’s optics were brighter, zoned in toward the judge and those seated behind. “You want to make an example of me? So be it! But how many more can you do this to until the consequences come back? I did my part, I submitted to my function. It’s you, all of you that don’t adhere to the laws put down. It’s you—” Ratchet pointed toward Proteus. “You who’ve bended and twisted customs until they suit your tastes. It’s you who did this because I rejected you, and now I’m the one who has to feel the scorn of injustice so that you can continue to sit there and stare as I’m pushed back, down so far that I’ll become nothing but a memory, if even that. But you won’t stop at me, will you? You’ll do the same to unfortunate sparks in the future over and over and over again. If I’m to be an example, fine! Then let me be the last!” Ratchet felt his frame shaking. Logs of Greenlight’s kindness, beauty, and smile ran through his processor. He’d never see her again, all because he stepped on a senator’s pride. He couldn’t be more disgusted than he was then.

The silence wasn’t long. Murmurs from the crowds began to arise before the judge held up a familiar control, tapping it. “There is no place for libel in my courtroom.”

The only official sound Ratchet made after the vocal correction modules were switched back was a gasp. None of it? Had the courtroom heard none of what he said?

“After this long and tedious session, and the analysis of the evidence, I regret to inform you, Junior Medical Officer Ratchet, that you have been found guilty of everything you deny. You have been found guilty of offlining Senator Proteus’ concubine Mistress Greenlight via system poisoning, in consequence her entire litter extinguished. The punishment for an offline is mirrored. The court moves to enact justice.”

That’s when Ratchet’s resolve fell apart. The crowd’s banter rose, some in opposition, but most in support for the verdict. They were not silenced until Senator Proteus, himself, stood up.

“Wait!” All visuals zoned into him. Even the fellow Senators looked at him curiously. His features once again laced with grief. “I have experienced enough death and desire no more. Keep him online, let him suffer with the consequences and reparations of what he’s done.”

“Lord Proteus, is this truly your desire?” The judge, as well as the crowd, looked on with wide and bright optics.

“My desire?” Proteus shifted. Where grief overbore his frame one moment, elegance and finesse seeped out of him the next. “My desire is to hold my mistress again and watch our litter grow. It’s been my only desire, but now I’ll never get to experience that.” He looks to Ratchet. “You think you can run? You think that by offlining I’ll forget about you and what you’ve done, that Cybertron will forget?” He began shaking his helm. “No, I want everyone to remember. I want you to remember, but I never want to see you in my city again.”

“Then we move for empurata,” Senator Decimus motioned. The other Senators nodding in agreement.

“No.” It was Proteus again. “I want everyone to remember his face, his make and model. I want his titles stripped, his accolades redacted, his equipment confiscated, his home demolished, and his name stricken from every record. I want Iacon to forget him, but I want its people to remember.”

An enemy of Cybertron, that’s what Ratchet felt like as he was dragged from the court. Outside the crowds screamed for his extermination. They threw things at him, and spat words of hate. They called him a sparkling killer and shouted for the destruction of his own forger. Even in all that, it wasn’t what began to make Ratchet fall apart from the inside out.

In front of the Academy the screaming crowds and recording monitors watched as a remorseful looking Remedy took away Ratchet’s chevron and scraped off the medical office sigils on his shoulders. Remedy was kind in disassembling the surgical equipment. The only thing Ratchet was able to keep from the department was the gestational chamber, and that reason was no doubt because it would take a fully prepped surgery to remove, and the gathered crowds were pressing them for time.

There was a good-bye in Remedy’s gaze. There was disappointment as well, but Ratchet was in no position to try and dissuade it. Instead, he held his silence and let his escort move him along, toward Iacon’s borders.

At the border stood the Elite Guard, the senators, and the judge. Surrounded by avid ‘bots. But at least Ratchet could see his wide-opticed friends, their faces cast in wretched despair.

“You are hereby banished from the city of Iacon. If any attempts should be made to return, lethal action will be taken. Furthermore your designation, make, model, and serial number has been blacklisted, forbidding you from seeking employment in outside medical or scientific fields.”

After the sentence was stated, the guards pushed Ratchet, an order to march out of the borders on his own. He did, and it was a shame he couldn’t process the vocals of his friends over the voluminous waves of the ravenous crowds. But he didn’t look back at them no matter how much he wanted to, at least one last time. He didn’t want to feed the crowds with scapegoats for their fabricated and misguided aggressions.

The last ‘bot that he passed was Proteus himself. Ratchet wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of any sort of acknowledgement, and so he kept moving, that was until a low frequency came from the mech, just low enough for Ratchet’s sensors to pick up.

“I had warned you, Ratchet. Perhaps your time away will give you ample opportunities to reflect on your poor strategies.” There was a pause in movement, and Ratchet actually looked at the bastard. The grief was gone, the anguish nonexistent. He was smiling at Ratchet, his optics a dark glow. “I’m willing to wait. Until then.”

Medibots were programmed to do everything within their systemic capabilities to preserve life. Ratchet was no different. However, right then and there, even against the warning signals flashing across his processor, he wanted to wrap his hands around the senator’s vertebrae cables and cut the entire flow. This mech was the true monster there.

“Keep moving,” a guard voiced, even giving Ratchet a nudge with his lance.

“Yeah! Get out of our city, monster!”

“Leave! Never come back!”

“Get off Cybertron!”

The crowds riled again, and Ratchet forced himself to push the scenarios of executing Senator Proteus away. Besides, hearing the entire populace cheer the moment he stepped out of city bounds of a state he’d come to call home and cherish hurt him more than any threat that senator could say.