“And you believe this could help him?” Ultra Magnus crossed his arms on top his immaculate desk. “Rung, his sanity is—”
Rung raised his servo to interject. “Fortress Maximus’ sanity is fine, what is wrong is his post traumatic stress and anxiety, the flashbacks and night terrors, the psychosis.”
Ultra Magnus scoffed. “And what do I have to do with any of that?”
“You, Magnus, are one of the largest mechs on the Lost Light, closest to Max’s size.”
Leaning forward, on the edge of his seat, Rung removed his glasses. It was unnerving, the way his optics peered into the spark, finding everything you tried so desperately to hide. “Fortress Maximus needs your help, sir. I have seen traumatized patients rehabilitated through physical contact and constant assurance, although I have never put it into practice. There is little else I know that may be able to help him.”
There was a knock at the door and Drift poked his helm in. “Sorry to interrupt, but there’s been an incident in the engine room.” The mechs’ optics darted between Rung and Magnus, who was already standing up. “If this isn’t a good tim—”
Ultra Magnus waved a dismissive servo. “No, no, now is fine.” To Rung, he grumbled, “I’ll get back to you.” He followed Drift out of his office and down the hall.
“What was that all about?” Drift asked.
“Nothing. Brief me on this ‘incident’ you mentioned.”
Incident, it turned out, was very loose terminology. Especially when Whirl and Cyclonus were having a training session of sorts that ended with forty-three broken pipes, one crushed liquid nitrogen tank, and energon all over the place. When Magnus and Drift arrived, Megatron and Kup were dragging a screaming, kicking Whirl away, and Ratchet was in the corner with Cyclonus, talking him down. Ultra Magnus pinched the bridge of his nose. It was going to be a long cycle.
With as much paperwork as there was on his desk, Ultra Magnus was excited that he would be able to focus. No Rodimus, no Rung; nothing distracting him from his work. Tapping his pen on the desk, Magnus lost himself in a damage report. It wasn’t long before the communicator attached to his desk started ringing. Scratching the back of his neck, he picked up.
“Ultra Magnus?” The words were laid out meticulously and cautiously. “I need you to come to my suite. Immediately.”
“Rung,” Magnus muttered. “I am busy.”
There was a pause on the other line, some muffled static as the communicator was moved around.
Magnus sat straighter in his chair. “Fortress Maximus. How. . . how are you?”
“I’m. . . Rung says you want to help me.”
Damning the psychotherapist, Magnus sank back into his chair. It creaked with the extra strain. “Tell Rung I will be over in a few clicks.”
How was he supposed to help a tortured, broken soul like Fortress Maximus when he knew nothing of healing? Hiding was his speciality, such as masking his distress over Rung’s tactics when he was sat across from Max.
The suite felt cramped, although there was more than enough space for all three mechs to move freely. Magnus shot a glare in Rung’s direction, but he was duly ignored. On the couch, Fortress Maximus was all but crumbled into himself; it was shocking, how small the once intimidating mech seemed. Ultra Magnus sighed, knowing too well what war could do to some mechs, but seeing it right in front of him always knotted his tanks. Would he end up like that, one day? Cowering on a psychotherapist’s couch, waiting for the inevitable, being tossed into the brig because he endangered others. Pathetic wasn’t the right word.
Rung cleared his throat and Magnus adjusted his attention. “Ultra Magnus, I would like to start our first session here.”
Leaning forward, tension riveting his torso, Magnus frowned. “Right now? It’s late, don’t you think?” His internal chronometer flashed reassurance, reminding him to recharge. He ignored the warning.
“Yes, right now.” Rung turned to Fortress Maximus. “Max, can you look up, please?”
It was painful to watch, to lock optics with those fading reds, but Magnus couldn’t look away. So much desperation, so much pain for one mech to carry.
“I’m sure you remember Ultra Magnus, Max.”
The withering mech nodded.
Rung forced a smile. “Good. How do you feel about him sitting in on our next few sessions, so that he can start to better understand you? I believe that would be the perfect transition into upcoming sessions.”
Ultra Magnus didn’t have time for that, but he bit his glossa, refusing to drop that on Maximus. After everything. . . he could make more than enough time to help his old allie. ‘Til all are one, after all.
Max sighed, more like a wheeze, and nodded. “Anything to fix my head,” he mumbled.
Rung crossed his legs. “I told you, Max, that the contact treatment may not change anything, so please, don—”
“I know,” Fortress Maximus snapped.
Ultra Magnus squinted at the blue mech. “And what if it doesn’t work?” he asked.
“Now, now,” Rung interrupted. “No need to think ahead. I have hope, and as long as you both apply yourselves to this method, the outcome looks positive.”
“Shall we continue, then?”
Ultra Magnus tossed in his sleep all night, plagued by Fortress Maximus’ words. The descriptions he muttered, the way his optics glazed over, how he cringed and twitched, as if he were still strapped to that table.
“The energon, it comes out warm and sticky, but it dries into the seams of your armor. . .”
“. . . just wanted it to stop. . .”
“Three years, ten months, two days. . .”
It was impossible to imagine the torture, the sheer agony, that Max endured those three years. Yet Magnus’ processor pieced together scenes from the war, from rescue missions, and threw the gore and the stench at him in his sleep. Mechs and femmes he cared about, strewn across the ground, coughing up their sparks, so much energon and rust.
Magnus stayed awake the next time the nightmares came. There were six hours left till his shift started, but he headed to his office to get some paperwork done and clear his head. He didn’t know what else to do to distract himself.