"He's coming round." A voice announced, cutting through the fuzzy haze clouding Prowl's mind. Still groggy from the effects of Ratchet's sedatives, the normally well spoken tactician could only manage a wordless grunt in reply to the jabber of voices coming from somewhere above his head.
Grainy images fed from his optic sensors to his CPU slowly coalesced into the unmistakable faces of Ratchet and Wheeljack watching him with expressions of grave concern that gave way to relief as they realised their comrade was on line again.
"It's good to see you awake." Ratchet smiled as he straightened up. "You gave us quite a scare."
"What happened?" Prowl asked, still trying to process all the sensory information his body was suddenly feeding him.
"You don't remember?" Wheeljack queried, then looked over at Ratchet for an explanation.
"Forced stasis trauma." Ratchet answered as he turned to Prowl. "You got caught by Scrapper after that blast from Starscream knocked you out." He explained. "All I can say is that you're lucky the Arialbots distracted him before he was done mauling you."
Prowl nodded slightly in acknowledgment, still sifting through the reports scrolling across the right side of his field of view. That's when he realised what was wrong. "Ratchet," he asked, "why can't I move?"
The two medics exchanged a worried look. "Prowl," Ratchet sighed, "there's no easy way to say this, so I'll tell you straight. Your spinal array was shredded during the attack, and several major components were damaged, components that I can't replace with the equipment and supplies that I have here. Until I can get replacements from Cybertron, you're paralysed from the neck down."
Prowl was stunned. Paralysed? From the neck down? He could barely move his head as it was, how could he continue in his duties if he couldn't even stand?
Ratchet began speaking again. "I may be able to rig something that will allow for some movement of one, or even both of your arms, but no fine manipulation."
"How long?" Prowl asked quietly.
The white medic frowned in thought. "I can have the system rig done in half an hour…"
"No." Prowl interrupted as he looked Ratchet straight in the optic. "How long until the replacements get here?"
"I sent the request to Ultra Magnus this morning. If we're lucky, he'll have the parts ready for us in a month. After that, it's just a matter of picking them up."
One month. Four weeks. 30 days. Prowl couldn't imagine not being able to move, to walk, even transform for that long.
Ratchet had been able to get his right arm and first two fingers working to a degree, and now Prowl was in a corner of the post op ward, his body supported in a partial sitting position by the raised backboard, and small computer placed within easy reach of his semi mobile arm.
A steady flow of visitors had come in throughout the day, but Prowl didn't really feel like talking to anyone. As of this moment, he was laboriously typing up a report with one finger and deliberately trying not to think of how much faster he could have been doing it had he been able to use both hands. Jazz had brought down the stacks of paperwork from his desk that still needed to be finished, and Prowl was working on them now. The black and white warrior had offered to do them for him, but Prowl refused the gesture. He had to keep busy, keep his mind occupied and away from the issue at hand.
"I heard about what happened."
Prowl looked around for the source of the voice, to see Chip Chase.
"Good evening Chip." He greeted the small human. Chip craned his neck to look up at the Autobot. "Hi Prowl." He replied. "I'm not going to ask you how you feel, because I know you aren't going to tell me the truth."
"I guess you're right." Prowl answered, then changed the subject. "How have you been doing? We've missed seeing you here at the Ark."
"I've kept busy." Chip shrugged. "The military's had me working on afew things, some computer systems and stuff. Can't be specific though, top secret and all that."
"I understand." Prowl replied.
"Hey Prowl, remember when we first met?" Chip asked suddenly.
Prowl smiled in spite of himself. "Do I ever. Those were some pretty fancy moves you put me through. To be honest, I was quite worried when you said you were taking control, I had no idea of what to expect."
"I can understand that." Chip laughed.
The two talked for quite a while, but after three hours Chip had to leave and return to the air force base in Colorado where he was currently working; leaving Prowl feeling more isolated than he ever had before. Chip could leave, he had the use of his upper body and he had a wheelchair for mobility. Prowl couldn't. Plus the human had been paralysed from birth; he had never known what it was like to walk, unlike the Autobot.
It was about a week later when an unexpected visitor entered the ward in the dead of the night.
"Hey Prowl, wake up!" The urgent whisper belonged to Sideswipe, who was crouched beside the head of the tactician's berth.
"What is it?" Prowl whispered back as he came online. Sideswipe grinned mischievously.
"I'm getting you out of here, that's what. Staring at these walls for too long will drive a mech loco. Now keep it down, or Ratchet will come in here and bust both our skidplates."
Before Prowl could offer a single word of protest, Sideswipe had quickly transferred him from the berth to a waiting wheelchair, pushed him through the maze of equipment and gotten him outside.
"You seem fairly proficient at this Sideswipe." Prowl observed when the red mech had signalled it was safe to speak.
"Yeah well, me and Sunny do it for each other all the time." Sideswipe replied as he guided them through the darkened halls. "We hate being cooped up for too long, so we worked out this system so we can have a change of scenery."
"Haven't you gotten caught yet?"
"Nah. We only do it when Wheeljack's on night shift, and we get the OK from him first. It works pretty well. Sunny and me don't get cabin fever, so in return we don't drive Ratch insane." Sideswipe let out a small chuckle. "It was Wheeljack who suggested it to us an' built the wheelchair. Just don't let Ratchet know, ok Prowl? He'd skin us alive if he did."
"Not a word." Prowl promised.
To Prowl's surprise, Sideswipe steered them towards the quarters he shared with his twin. "Why are you taking me here?" he asked as Sideswipe keyed open the door.
"It's the safest place." The red Lamborghini shrugged. "Ratchet has the habit of wandering around late at night when he can't shut down properly, usually because he's worried about someone. It's also why he's cranky so often. Anyway, Sunny and me thought you'd like to watch a movie with us, get your mind off things."
Prowl chose not to disagree; even though as a senior officer he shouldn't have been doing this, he appreciated what they were doing for him. So it was he spent the next two hours watching 'Speed' with the twins. When the movie was over, Sunstreaker took him back to the repair bay, and Ratchet was none the wiser of the nocturnal excursion of his patient. This happened every fourth night until the 2IC was released from the repair bay.
When the parts arrived three weeks later, Ratchet began the four and a half hour operation to delicately remove and replace the damaged sections of the spinal array and graft the new sections to the rest of Prowl's nervous system. Once Prowl had recovered from the operation, the real test would begin to see if the new parts would be accepted by the existing systems.
Ever so gently, Ratchet and Wheeljack helped Prowl to stand up. He stood there for a moment, one hand holding onto the edge of the berth for support as his systems adjusted to being fully vertical after having been supine for so long.
"Take afew steps Prowl." Ratchet instructed. "But try not to overdo it, your body's been through a lot recently."
"Alright." Prowl agreed. The simple act of standing up was taking a little getting used to, so when he was ready he shuffled forward a little, then took larger steps as his body began to settle into his usual gait.
"How do you feel?" Wheeljack called out when Prowl had crossed half the ward. For a moment Prowl wanted to reply with 'Great', but some of the twin's impulsiveness had rubbed off on him during their movie nights. So with a slight grin, Prowl turned, took two running steps, and somersaulted across the tiled floor back to where the two medics were standing.
"That answer your question?" He asked.
"I think he's gonna be just fine." Wheeljack grinned.