Chapter Nine


It was, superficially, very similar to drones that he himself used, Ratchet mused as he watched it skitter about its jar.

The ones Ratchet used were created and programmed to get into and narrow areas or tight spots where Ratchet's fingers wouldn't reach, or could do more damage gaining entry, and carry out delicate repairs and reattachments, or even check for the presence or absence of damage. Medical drones were used to repair damage in awkward or sensitive places. The abomination he was now observing was a mockery of the benign medical drones, for its purpose was to destroy instead of to repair.

At least, he was assuming it was a drone, but Autobot ethics demanded that he be certain before proceeding any further. He stood before the jar and carried out a deep, probing scan, searching for a complicated processor core, a Spark chamber, or anything else that might indicate that this could be considered, by either Autobot or human standards, to be alive.

He was relieved when he found nothing of the sort, for if it had been living, he would have then had to assess it's sapience, its awareness of self, and that could have been complicated.

Satisfied that it was not alive, and surmising that there was little more he could learn by watching it scuttle and skitter around in its glass prison, he picked up the container and its occupant, and carefully placed it in a containment field. Then he connected up a few attachments from a machine integrated atop the field generator, and sent through an electromagnetic pulse that would be strong enough to permanently deactivate the drone.

He removed the now-inert drone to a table, for he could now inspect it without danger to either his systems, or other people's.

He noted the sharp, thin alloy cutting blades its pincers were fitted with, and the laser cutter on the tip of its tail. He looked at the hand that had been damaged-his auto repair had fixed it all, but he remembered the pain he had felt. Both claws and tail had been, he suspected, capable of slicing an entry hole. As he had found none, he had his suspicions confirmed that Barricade's change of attack mode had been for the purpose of ensuring that this nasty piece of mechanical mayhem was able to gain access to Bumblebee's most sensitive systems. Ratchet growled, wishing that his medical ethics didn't get in the way of him making some of his fantasies about making Barricade suffer for this into a reality.

Once again, Ratchet activated his anti-virus systems and firewalls, for Decepticon programmers had been known to leave nasty 'surprises' hidden in drone programming to infect any unwary Autobots: Ratchet had lost more than one colleague to dirty Decepticon tricks such as that.

Jacking into the drone, Ratchet accessed and began to study and unravel its programming. His caution had been well-advised, so he did manage to avoid the hidden trap that tried to download part of the drone's programming into his own processors and overwrite his own coding. After that, there were no more hidden viruses or Trojans, but Ratchet didn't relax his guard one bit, even running a systems scan on himself, set to run for 24 hours after disconnecting from the drone, just to make certain nothing had sneaked in.

Then he dismantled the drone's physical form.

Three hours later, he knew who had created the drone: only one Decepticon they knew had reached Earth, and had the knowledge to construct a drone both so complex physically, and with such complicated and thoroughly nasty programming, including an instruction to destroy the communications system of the one Autobot who would find that to be almost the worst part of the whole experience.

"Starscream, the Pit's too good a place for you when you cease to function." he muttered darkly.

Ratchet went back into the emergency medbay area, he found that Cliffjumper had finished his work, and a cursory glance told Ratchet that Cliffjumper's work was, as usual, impeccable; there was no sign that Bumblebee had been operated on.

Mirage had also gone out and brought Bumblebee's human friends in to see him: they were half-sat, half-slouched in Mirage's hands, well out of the way of anybody's feet. Ratchet approved, for he was sure that they would be the first thing Bumblebee would ask about upon waking if they were not there.

Ratchet brought Bumblebee back online, turning the younger mech's head so that when his optics unshuttered the first thing he would see would be his human companions, who, themselves, Ratchet noticed, were low on energy and had dark circles around their eyes. Accessing the Internet briefly, Ratchet found that this was often, in humans, a sign of great fatigue.

Bumblebee's optics flared briefly, then settled back to their normal intensity as he looked up. One hand moved to settle on the location of his vocal processor as his optics focused on his human companions.

"Sam, Mikaela." then his optics looked elsewhere. "Ratchet, Mirage, Cliffjumper!" he said as he spotted each of them. "My voice - Thank you!" He sat up, looked at his hands and shifted his feet.

"I can move, and speak, and probably transform, and it doesn't hurt any more! Thank you!" The level of emotion in Bumblebee's voice was enough to move Mikaela to tears first, but Sam was not long in following up by wiping his eyes.

Bumblebee reached out his hands towards Mikaela and Sam: they scrambled from Mirage's hands into Bumblebee's without hesitation. Bumblebee brought them up close to his face, where they put out hands and stroked their Autobot friend's smooth metal cheek, relieved that he was well again. Then they stood and each kissed his face, Sam almost overbalancing as he did so.

"Put them down on the table next to you, Bumblebee, before they fall out of your hands." Ratchet told him.

"I wouldn't drop them Ratch, don't you trust me?" said Bumblebee, sounding hurt. However, he did as Ratchet asked.

"I don't trust either you nor them when you are all low on energy." Ratchet explained, glowering at the humans and Bumblebee. "Bumblebee, you are going for an eight-hour recharge. Now." Ratchet told him, pointing a commanding finger in the direction of the recharge chambers. Bumblebee slid himself off the table, his legs almost giving way: Mirage helped hold him till he got steady again. Bumblebee gave Mirage a grateful nod before turning back to look up at Ratchet.

"No arguments there, Ratch, I never knew something like that could leave me so exhausted." he said.

"Systems trying to run without the right wiring or circuitry or connections still use energy, in fact they use more than working systems because they keep trying to perform the task even though they cannot." Ratchet explained. As Bumblebee walked through to the recharge room without any further protest, Ratchet turned his optics on Sam and Mikaela.

"As for you two, now that you know Bumblebee is safe and well, it is time you did your human equivalent of recharging. I believe it is a period of voluntary unconsciousness that you call 'sleep.'"

He picked them up gently, one in each hand, and took them to a curtained-off area of the medical bay they he had had made up just in case any humans ever needed his services. So far he had been lucky: the two small-mech rest berths made up with mattresses, pillows and covers for human use had not been needed yet.

"These are available for your use." Ratchet told them. "If you need to dispose of waste, the human waste disposal unit is in that cubicle." he said, pointing to a portaloo that had been donated. "I do not wish to see you two vertical again for between eight and ten hours otherwise, you are severely energy depleted." He glared at them. "Understood?"

"You're the doctor, Doctor." said Sam, flipping off a pretty sloppy impression of a salute. Mikaela didn't even waste the energy doing that: she merely gave a weary nod.

Ratchet walked out as the pair stripped down to their underwear and slipped under the covers together: a small-mech rest berth was bigger than a king-sized bed, one was more than big enough to hold them both. They snuggled up together, and both gave weary sighs.

Five minutes later, the pair were both fast asleep.

In the meantime, Ratchet was pondering just how he could get his own back on Starscream without compromising his medical ethics. He had several effective ideas, but none were what you would cal ethical. Then he had an idea, his face cracking an evil smile.

He'd 'just happen' to tell Sunstreaker and Sideswipe, the Lamborghini Twins, all about Starscream's little drone and how he'd used it on Bumblebee.

Then he'd let them deal with Starscream in their own, unique manner...