It took all the doors of the room to close at the same time with a snap of finality for the gathered Decepticons to realize they had walked straight into a trap.
Truth to be told, Soundwave knew it was a trap from the get-go; it was kinda obvious when you thought about. Starscream and a couple other mechs had realized it as well and had discreetly absented himself from the premises (though all they had gained for their trouble was to get yelled at by Megatron and pursued in the corridors by a determinate Security Team before being dragged to their ‘doom’, so it wasn’t as if they had truly escaped).
Why did Soundwave agree to get caught in it, though? Well, mostly because he knew he had little to fear from the aforementioned trap.
Impassible, he watched as one door opened briefly and Optimus Prime’s Chief Medical Officer strolled in, shoulders squared and a confident expression on his face. Soundwave watched him make his way to the stage, unbothered by the yells directed at him or by the hands trying to grab him and shake him down for answers. Ratchet simply ducked them easily – and, in one occasion, showed that he knew Diffusion by properly lifting and throwing a mech over his shoulder and straight into an agitated group.
From the edge of his vision, Soundwave saw also a few of the most aggressive mechs fall down, as if struck by an invisible force – or, more convenient, an invisible sniper armed with stun munitions. Obviously, confident medic or not, Prime hadn’t thrown his CMO to the wolves and Mirage was taking potshots at whoever he deemed a threat to Ratchet’s well-being. Sensible, that.
“Quiet,” the medic said, and his voice was frosty enough to give all mechs surrounding him pause. They knew that voice. It was the voice of a mech who was within an inch close to lost what remaining patience he had left and go over the edge. And when someone went over the edge… well, the results were rarely pretty. “You have questions. I have answers. Now you shut up and listen, got it?”
Megatron would have been jealous, Soundwave thought. His leader often had to use his fusion cannon to quiet things down in meetings, while the medic managed it by voice alone.
His eyes watched Ratchet’s every move as the medic settled on the stage. Prime’s CMO had a reputation, and not only because of his wide skills in the medical field and the number of miracles he had pulled in saving mechs everyone else had sworn off as lost. Crack shot with a gun, deadly with a well-aimed wrench, wrestler of unruly frontliners, handler of flame-breathing Dinobots, survivor of vorns of cohabitation with Engineer Wheeljack and its ensuing explosions,…
Soundwave didn’t outwardly react, but he felt like his Spark flared briefly when the medic’s gaze fell upon him as he swept it across the room. Ratchet had an expression Soundwave had often seen on Lord Megatron’s face: the expression of a mech who was at the top and who knew it and, as such, had nothing to prove to anyone, but you were welcome to try anyway; just don’t be surprised if you got your aft handed to you.
It was an expression that screamed ‘I’m in charge so square up and listen’.
The expression of a true dominant mech. For some reason and despite knowing he was in no danger, Soundwave swallowed – and promptly ignored the interrogative pings his Cassettes sent at him.
The medic coughed, then his voice literally boomed across the room.
“Welcome, gentlemechs. I’m sure all of you have questions…”
“You bet we have!” a Seeker screamed – one of the Rainmakers, judging by his colors. “What the hell is going on?! Why are we locked up with you?!” He stumbled forward, suddenly mute, and Soundwave got a good view of the stun bullet lodged squarely between his wings. The mechs closest to the downed Seeker shrieked and backpedaled quickly.
“… questions that I’ll have the pleasure to answer in short order,” Ratchet continued as if he hadn’t been interrupted. The medic had bolts, that was for sure. He clasped his hands with a big, edgy smile. “As you are aware, the threat the Quintessons are representing for our home world and our continued existence has forced our dear and esteemed leaders to stop punching each other in the face to try and punch the outsiders poaching on their territory instead.”
This earned him a few nervous or amused chuckles.
“We are now formally in an Alliance to Protect Cybertron; huzzah.” Interesting; Soundwave could even hear the capitals. The medic really had an impressive way to modulate his voice – and a good way with sarcasm, apparently. He certainly sounded anything but happy.
“Now, we’re all aware that despite the cease-fire, the treaties and the long, long hours of negotiations between Prime and Lord Megatron and their respective staff, we aren’t all buddy-buddy. Fair enough,” he bowed his head in acknowledgment. “Too much time taking potshots at each other, too many backstabbing and too many explosions and dead friends to just chalk it up and pretend you don’t want your fist to get friendly with that other guy’s face. I understand and I respect it, even if I don’t approve. Newsflash for everyone here, medics don’t like to fix up cracked optics and broken nasal ridges due to fistfights; if you come to the Medbay with one, you’ll be on your own. Consider that your first and final warning,” Ratchet waved a finger in the direction of the crowd. “Got it?”
Soundwave prudently nodded, imitated by other sensible mechs, though he was aware of a lot of grumbling. Obviously, the medic’s warning was falling into deaf audials. It wouldn’t last, Soundwave assumed.
“Excuse me, doctor?” Thundercracker raised his hand. He looked unhappy, but not aggressive. “May I respectfully ask why we’re here?”
Ratchet nodded pleasantly. “I was getting to it. You see, among the treaties drafted among our two factions, Megatron and Prime came to a quick agreement over medical care for the troops. Namely, that all medical personnel would repair injured soldier, no matter that soldier’s affiliation OR the medic’s own faction. And,” he added, leaning forward, “to simplify the treatment of the injured, agreements were made to share ALL medical files. I repeat: ALL,” he stressed out, optics shining almost white with pent-up rage.
Some mechs fidgeted and took a few steps back; the smartest had already realized what this was all about. Soundwave just staying calm and impassible, like a rock in the storm.
“I was actually very happy about this decision, you know,” Ratchet commented offhandedly, briefly turning his back to the crowd, showing he didn’t fear them. “My job is already complicated enough without having to deal with an influx of patients for whom I don’t have a medical history. Do you mechs know how hard it is to correctly jumpstart a Spark back into functioning if you don’t know its type? Or how damaging transfusing the wrong kind of energon can be for someone’s systems? I’ll pass you the grisly details about the spread of rust if you don’t receive the right kind of supplements, just because your frame refuses to absorb them naturally – or what trace elements deficiency can do to your processors.” Somewhere in the back, Soundwave was certain he heard Breakdown whimper.
“Yes, I was happy, or at least I was until the Constructicons were kind enough to send me their files for all the patients they had treated so far on the Nemesis,” Ratchet repeated in a middle voice – but when he turned back to the crowd, his expression was thunderous. “So,” he said, and his voice gradually took in force and anger, “imagine my surprise and displeasure when, upon opening them, I realized that there was almost no files and medical history to speak off because a bunch of dunderheads decided to play ‘skip the medical checkups’ with their medics and refused to answer the most basic questions on their health! Seriously, are you grown mechs or Sparklings?! You can’t tell me you’re all afraid of needles?!”
Decepticons weren’t coward by nature, and Megatron’s rages and speeches had hammered them into strong mechs. Despite this, Soundwave swore all of them cowered when Ratchet’s started screaming. Strong, dominant mech indeed, he thought faintly.
“This,” the medic snarled, “is completely unacceptable. Never in all my career I have been so incensed, and trust me, I had many cause to lost my nerves and scream at my patients and my superiors for their terminal case of stupidity. Well, no more. I refuse to let this travesty stand any longer. So, with the generous go-ahead of Megatron, it was decided that I would give every. Single. Mech. In. This. Room. A complete checkup and systems overhaul if needed. Oh, I know I won’t have my work cut for me,” he commented, watching his digits in a disinterested way. “I know I’ll have to upgrade firewalls and put in antivirus patches, give complete system flushes and potentially treat Interface Transmissible Diseases – yes, I know some of you have them, don’t bother deny it. So be aware that any and all medical exams I’ll give you will be very thorough. But that’s okay! My schedule has been cleared to take care of you for the next few days if needed. Aren’t you lucky?”
“And if we refuse to go through it?” Someone hazarded. Was he brave or was he stupid? Soundwave felt it could be one or both.
Ratchet smiled widely. “Oh, I’m glad someone asked! Well, you see, in agreement with Prime AND Megatron, any soldier I will not have personally handed a clean bill of health will NOT be allowed on the battlefield. No cutting the enemy to pieces, how sad,” he drawled. “AND, because I know some of you will probably try to make a run for it, I received special permission from our dear leaders to put exceptional measures in place. Red Alert, you can open the doors,” he said aloud.
Soundwave turned his head toward the closest one. A big, lumbering shape stood in the doorway, blocking the passage. Swoop wasn’t the most aggressive of the Dinobots, but he was no pushover either. Without weapons (because of course, they hadn’t been allowed to come to this meeting armed) and with only hand-to-hand skills to rely on, he would be hard to budge out of the way and pass. A quick glance toward the other openings revealed the other Dinobots had also taken stands, blocking all exits. For some reason, all of them wore a badge of some-sort on their chest – a black Autobot badge with crossed wrench behind, a bit like those human pirates flags.
“Gentlemechs, meet the newly formed Medbay Security Corps,” Ratchet said lightly. “They’re here to ensure you don’t’ leave this room before you’re called for your turn and to escort you to the Medbay when called. You may try to escape them, but be aware that they have all latitude to drag your reluctant afts to me by any way necessary, including violence if needed. After all, what’s one repair more to do?” he asked philosophically. “More questions?”
A deep silence followed.
“No? Good,” Ratchet nodded. He clasped his hands again and his smile turned predatory. “Congratulations, gentlemechs; I’m now officially your medic, and your afts are now officially mine!”
He bowed mockingly to the crowd.
“Now, who would like to be the first?” he smiled, showing too much teeth.
Soundwave glanced around, then shrugged and made his way to the stage. Ratchet watched him come with a raised optic ridge. “Well, aren’t you the courageous one. And… what is it?” he asked, frowning as Soundwave handed him a datapad.
He had spent time compiling the data insides and he was pleased he had had the foresight to bring it with me (though, to be fair, that foresight had been greatly helped by Laserbeak and Ratbat sneaking around and spying on Megatron’s meeting with the medic a few days ago. It had given him time to prepare.
“Datapad: contains all medical information for Soundwave and Cassettes. Health bilan: as up to date as possible. Contains: date of latest checkup and system overhaul; state of current firewalls; list of antivirus installed; list of vaccines undertaken already; list of infectious diseases already caught; list of previous repairs made in the last vorn; date of…” Soundwave listed off, only to be interrupted.
“Seriously? How come the Constructicons didn’t have that?”
Soundwave gave the medic a wry look behind his visor. “Constructicons: engineers. Soundwave: rather not share but with real medics.” Plus, no way he was letting his Cassettes’ safety in the hands of mechs who could use it against them. Ratchet was a true medic; he had sworn vows – and intel about him was consistent enough for Soundwave to take a calculated risk. Ratchet never used your medical history against you and yours.
“Smart aft,” Ratchet drawled, turning on the pad and scanning the content. “I’ll have to check all of you to make sure it’s real and as up-to-date as your claim, but the data is very much appreciated.” He gave Soundwave a considering look. “... it’s good to know there are some smart ‘Cons here.”
The grudging admittance made Soundwave smile behind his facemask. Good to know he still knew how to take on a dominant mech. “Soundwave: aims to please.”