A/N: Wow. I'm so sorry this took so long. I am a grad student slave, and with the semester starting back up, I haven't had a lot of time to work on this. My thesis has to come first. ^.^;; Hopefully I haven't lost too many people.
Special thanks to Elric24 for beta-ing this chapter and catching some glaring mistakes. She's the best! 3
Disclaimer: I do not own Transformers. Only my OC's belong to me.
Chapter 6 - Repercussions
Ratchet had begun sterilizing and prepping the human portion of the medbay the moment he had received Sergeant Epps' transmission. The medic turned abruptly when he heard Crystal rush out of her quarters, through her office, and into the medbay. His internal scanners were locked onto the young woman the astrosecond she entered the room. He started and his optic ridges furrowed in worry at what the scans revealed. The skin on her chest where the energy flare had hit her was severely burned, bruised, and inflamed. He adjusted his scanners to penetrate beneath the dermis and found that the subdermal tissue also showed signs of trauma.
"Crystal…" He took a step toward her, but halted his approach when she held up a finger. She had put her earpiece in and was now dialing the number that would connect her to the human soldiers. She reattached her phone at her hip before turning and walking over to the cabinets on the far side of the room. As much as Ratchet wanted to ignore her protests, scoop her up and take her into his office to examine her, he wouldn't. He respected her as a fellow doctor and was not about to distract her from preparing to take care of the soldiers entrusted to her. If someone tried to take him away from a patient he'd knock them on their aft. The worried medic kept his scanners locked onto her, continuing to analyze the wound on her chest and monitor her bodily systems. He'd keep a close optic on her, and as soon as she was through with the injured soldiers he'd take her in and examine her more closely.
"What happened, Sergeant? I thought this was just a supply run!" All traces of formality and protocol disappeared as the worried doctor's voice came over the soldiers' newly improved communication system.
"It's alright, Doc. Don't worry. One of the frag grenades went off on the way here. Carter took some shrapnel to the shoulder and Lennox…" Robert Epps laughed. "Lennox got bit in the ass. But everyone's conscious and stable."
"What?! A frag grenade?! How the hell did that happen?" The sergeant could tell that Crystal was beyond upset.
"Uh, we might have stopped along the way to test out some of our new… supplies." The line fell silent as the doctor fumed on the other end. Epps cringed. He knew they were in for it the moment they got back to the Ark.
"Sergeant, do you want to tell me how a fragmentation grenade detonated by accident and only injured two people?"
"Listen, Doc. Secretary Keller gave us-"
"Nevermind! Tell me when you get here. What about Carter and Lennox?"
"I told ya they're stable. We got the bleedin' stopped and the wounds bandaged up. It doesn't look like the shrapnel penetrated too deep. They're in a whole lotta pain, but they 'aint in any danger. We'll be there in less than twenty minutes."
She took a long measured breath to clear the anger from her voice. "Thank you, Sergeant."
Crystal sighed in relief and rubbed at the bridge of her nose with her thumb and forefinger as she closed the line with Epps. When Ratchet had told her the men had been involved in an accident her heart had leapt into her throat. The first thing that had come to her mind was a Decepticon attack. The Autobot CMO had only just begun working with her to develop procedures for dealing with injuries caused by alien weaponry. This combined with the fact that Keller had yet to send her the medical staff she'd requested meant that she would not have been fully prepared to deal with multiple severe injuries.
She gasped softly when a sudden wave of pain, stronger than the constant throb that currently resided there, swept across her chest. She steadied herself on the cabinet behind her and let the pain pass before taking a deep breath and briskly crossing the medbay over to where Ratchet stood.
The medic, who was busy programming the newly installed sterilization unit to perform a thorough sweep on the human O.R., had chuckled softly to himself when he heard Crystal yelling at the sergeant over the communication line. He was no stranger to that type of a conversation. He turned his attention away from the sterilizer and looked down when his scanners detected the young woman approaching him.
"Only two of them were hit. Sounds like only minor injuries. I'll still need your help though." Crystal stood hipshot at his feet, one hand resting on her hip, and the fingers of the other tapping restlessly on her thigh.
"I could have told you that if you had given me the chance."
She frowned up at him. "You could have told me when you called me."
The worried medic didn't answer her right away. He had returned his attention to monitoring his scans on her body. He frowned and knelt down before her, pointing at her chest where tendrils of purplish red were just visible above the collar of her shirt. "And you could have told me about that." He rested his forearm on his knee and met her gaze with steady optics. "I thought I told you to call me if you felt like something was wrong. Don't you think this qualifies?" Had it not been for the concern evident in the medic's sapphire blue optics, the sternness in his voice would have irritated her.
"I didn't know about it until this morning. Just a few minutes before you called me."
"I want to take a look at it." Without waiting for her permission he reached over to her collar and gently pulled open the top part of her blouse. His optic ridges furrowed even more deeply in worry as he surveyed the skin on her chest.
Crystal suddenly felt her knees grow weak, and she quickly reached up to grab onto the top of his hand for support. The CMO's concerned optics flicked up to meet her gaze.
"What's wrong? Did I hurt you?"
"N-no." She cleared her throat and mentally scolded herself for her reaction to the medic's touch.
Steady blue optics remained fixed on her gaze for a few moments more before returning to the examination of her wound.
Crystal kept her arm curled around his hand, afraid to let go for fear of her legs giving out. She felt her heart beating faster than normal and cringed, knowing that his keen senses would immediately pick up on it. She took a few slow, deep breaths in a feeble attempt to calm herself, but her body refused to respond. He was so close to her…his optics fixed on her injury…his face etched with a mixture of concern and concentration. His internal systems hummed gently, and that strangely familiar soft thrumming sound from within his massive chest seemed to charge the very air between them. She squeezed her eyes shut, forcing herself to come to her senses. "N- Not now, Ratchet. I have to take care of my guys."
He reluctantly took his optics off her wound and placed his heavy hand softly across her shoulders. "I know. As soon as we're through treating their injuries I want to examine you more closely."
She nodded and weakly patted his large hand with her own.
The spacious area that was the human operating room was unoccupied save for one wounded soldier and one quiet doctor. The silence that surrounded them was occasionally broken by a soft 'clink' as Crystal methodically picked out the jagged pieces of shrapnel left behind by an 'accidentally detonated' fragmentation grenade and dropped them into a stainless steel surgical pan.
Captain William Lennox heaved a sigh and drummed his fingers on the hard surface of the operating table he was currently lying on.
"Way to put your best side forward, Will." Crystal sighed and shook her head before extracting another fragment from the captain's backside. Thankfully neither he nor Sergeant Carter had been seriously injured. The shrapnel had not penetrated very deep into either man and after making quick work of Carter's shoulder she had moved on to Lennox's derriere.
Lennox looked over his shoulder back at the doctor, an amused grin spreading across his face. "Is that your way of sayin' you think my ass is fine, Doc?"
She scoffed. "Don't flatter yourself, Will. I've seen more naked male bodies than a regular at Chippendales."
The Army Ranger laughed out loud and turned his head to face forward again, resting his chin on his forearms. "You know, Crys…" He chuckled. "…you're the only woman in the world who knows my body better than my wife."
She snorted, the sarcastic smirk she sent his way hidden behind her surgical mask. "Yea, well if you keep ending up on my operating table people are gonna start to talk." He laughed again causing his entire body to shake on the table. "Hold still!"
Will smiled and let out a soft sigh as his thoughts turned to his family. His own mention of his wife had reminded him of just how much he missed her and their baby girl. He wondered when he'd get a chance to get home and hold his daughter again. His wife might find his most recent battle scar amusing to say the least. He wouldn't be telling her how it had happened though…
He turned his head again to look at the doctor, still smiling. Though most of her face was obscured by her surgical mask, her eyes displayed pure concentration as her steady hands worked to extract all of the foreign objects from his exposed buttocks.
"Hey, how come you're not married, Doc?"
"Huh?" She turned her head to look at him and cocked an eyebrow, a bit taken aback by his abrupt question.
"How come you're not married? Never found the right guy?"
Crystal paused in a rare moment of speechlessness; forceps poised over Will's wound. "Well…I..." She stuttered for a moment before frowning and returning her attention to the shrapnel. "I am married, Will." She lifted her eyes again briefly to meet his gaze before glancing back down at her work, ignoring the look of surprised confusion he gave her.
The captain frowned as he continued to study what was visible of her face. "What?"
"I'm married to the military." Clink. "I'm married to my profession." Clink. "I'm married to my patients." Clink. "Where is there room in my life for a husband?"
"Oh, come on, Doc. Don't give me that." The captain propped his head up on one hand and sent her a mischievous grin. "Doctors get married all the time! You'd love it. You could find some handsome fella' somewhere...settle down…pop out a couple of kids…and then ditch him on the weekends to spend a few steamy nights with one of your male nurses." He smirked as he began to chuckle at his own witty remark.
Crystal laughed softly as well and rolled her eyes at the man. "Yea, well, I already have enough men in my life. You guys drive me up the wall as it is. I don't think I could handle any more testosterone."
"Okay, a female nurse then. That'd be hot." He grinned as she rewarded him with a warning glare.
She knew he wouldn't understand. Few people did. Truth be told, she would have loved to have a man in her life. Someone to confide in. Someone to comfort her in the middle of the night when the mental and emotional scars opened up and the faces of the soldiers she'd lost on the operating table refused to be ignored. But she was in too deep now. Too committed. The level of responsibility that her duties required were not taken lightly by the doctor. Especially now…being the CMO of band of Special Ops troops training with a race of giant alien mechanoids...
Her hand froze over Will's wound and she briefly squeezed her eyes shut, chasing away the panic that threatened to creep in whenever she actually sat and thought about her current situation. She had learned long ago how to quickly grab a hold of those kinds of emotions and shut them away under lock and key within the depths of her subconscious. She had built herself a nice little wall in there, strong enough to hold back the stress, fear, pain, and anxiety of being a combat surgeon. She hoped it was strong enough to keep the terror and disbelief of the existence of massive robotic beings at bay as well.
"Doc…you okay?" The distant sound of Will's voice startled her back into the present. She blinked her eyes a few times and shook her head slightly to clear away her thoughts. "Hey, I'm sorry about what I said…if it upset ya."
She met the captain's worried gaze. "No, it's alright, Will. I was...thinking about something else. Sorry…"
Ratchet was waiting for Crystal outside the human OR. He wasn't exactly waiting patiently. He had kept a weary optic on her the entire time she was treating the wounded men, growing more and more concerned as her internal temperature rose and the skin on her chest became more inflamed with each passing moment. He watched silently as the doctor finished with Captain Lennox and got him situated into a bed in the post-op ward. The only time he left his silent vigil was when Bumblebee had brought Sam and Mikaela in so that the CMO could run the same scans on them as he had on Crystal. The scans had returned nothing, but he'd logged them for further analysis anyway just in case. Both teens had come in close contact with the whole Allspark, and that worried him given what the fragment alone had done to Crystal.
The young woman sighed when she caught sight of the medic through one of the large observation windows that had been built between the human and Autobot sections of the medbay. He had been appearing in that spot on and off for the past few hours. She knew exactly what he wanted and she hurried a little, eager to see if he could do something, anything, about the blinding pain that seared her chest. It had been getting harder and harder for her to concentrate and she was grateful that only two of the men had been mildly injured. She frowned and made a mental note to severely chew out whoever had the bright idea to 'test out' the 'supplies' on their way back from Nellis.
She passed through the newly built sterilization chamber and strode over to the Autobot CMO. He opened his mouth to speak to her but was cut short by the sound of the medbay doors sliding open. The two doctors glanced over to see the massive frame of Optimus Prime crossing the threshold. Secretary John Keller and General Clifton Schaefer entered briskly behind him.
"Good afternoon, Crystal. Ratchet." The Autobot commander acknowledged the medical officers with a slight nod and kind optics. "I have just given Secretary Keller and General Schaefer a brief tour of the Ark. I decided to end the tour here so you could show them the medbay and anything else you deem important." He exchanged a meaningful glance with his CMO who nodded back at him.
Crystal, who had missed the exchange between the two autonomous mechs standing over her, smirked at the general. "You didn't say anything about coming today."
He smiled kindly at her. "I told you I'd be stopping by to check on you." He stepped forward and embraced her firmly, but pulled back quickly when Crystal let out a sharp gasp. "What? What's wrong?" As soon as he let her go she stumbled backwards and fell against the wall, breathing heavily. "Crystal?"
The panicked general took a step towards her but was intercepted by the Autobot medic, who immediately knelt down and placed a hand softly across the young woman's shoulders. Ratchet frowned at the results his scanners were returning to him. He placed a finger under Crystal's chin and tilted her head up. With gentle fingers he removed her other hand from its spot on her collar bone.
"Alright. It's okay…just let me take a look…" He pulled apart the material on her blouse and frowned at what he saw. It didn't look any better than it had earlier that morning. In fact, it looked even worse.
Crystal squeezed her eyes shut, fighting back the tears evoked by the searing pain that had struck her. Her body trembled as she struggled to slow her breathing.
Optimus frowned down at her in worry, and the two men standing next to the massive medic and the stricken doctor shot each other looks of horror as the wound on her chest was exposed.
"What's…what's wrong with her?" Schaefer didn't bother to try and mask the fear evident in his voice. It was bad enough that he had to leave her with a race of aliens, but now she was suffering from some type of injury? His mind raced. She hadn't looked injured after the battle at Mission City…
Ratchet shook his head slightly. "We're not exactly sure yet." He glanced back down at the two men; briefly taking his optics away from Crystal's wound. "There are a few things I think you gentlemen should know."
Secretary Keller was frowning, his eyes locked on the floor, as he shifted uncomfortably on his feet. General Schaefer was leaning heavily against the wall next to him, staring a hole through the Autobot CMO's back, which was blocking his view of Crystal.
The young woman sat on the edge of a mech sized berth on the other side of the large room that was Ratchet's office. The red and white medic was currently examining and treating her wound while relaying to the two men what had happened the night before. Also present were Optimus, Perceptor and Wheeljack. The Autobot leader simply stood off to the side, in front of the door, gazing over the shoulders of the scientist and engineer, who were busy examining scans of both Crystal's body and the Allspark fragment on the small Teletraan One screen above Ratchet's desk.
"As of right now we're not sure why the Allspark flared up at her like that. We don't even completely know what effects it's had on her body. This wound didn't show up until this morning." Ratchet finished his explanation and turned his head to look briefly at the two men. "General Schaefer, are you alright?"
Schaefer's face was ashen. He met the CMO's concerned gaze with barely focused eyes. "Yea…I, uh…" He swallowed hard. "…Just worried, that's all."
Ratchet frowned and studied the man for a moment. "Why don't you sit down, General. Wheeljack, can you get the general some water, please?"
The engineer reluctantly tore his optics away from the screen. "Sure thing." He slid past Perceptor and Optimus and headed out into the medbay.
Crystal frowned when she heard Ratchet address the general. She tried to peer around him to look for herself but Ratchet continued to block her view, which was probably for the best considering she was undressed from the waist up.
"He's alright." He spoke softly to her as his gentle fingers wound a dressing around her upper torso. After he'd scanned her thoroughly, he had given her a mild pain killer and had her apply a cooling antibiotic salve to the injury. The dressing would help to keep her safe from infection. He silently thanked Primus that he had had the time to study everything he could about human anatomy and medicine before arriving to the organic based world. He finished applying the dressing before reaching over and picking up Crystal's blouse, holding it open for her to slide her arms inside.
She carefully slipped her arms into the sleeves and slowly buttoned it up over her chest. "Thank you."
She couldn't look at him. She had no idea why she would be embarrassed about exposing her chest to him. She had been examined by male doctors numerous times, and since she was also a physician, had no qualms about it, so long as they were professional. And this was an alien! He wasn't even a male of her species. He definitely had no interest in human mammary glands. Nevertheless, she had felt her face heat up as soon as he had asked her to remove the clothes on her upper body.
Only when she was completely dressed did the medic step to the side and allow her to look at the general. Wheeljack had since come back with the water and now Schaefer was sitting down, sipping at the cool liquid. She sent Ratchet a glance and he nodded, holding out his hand to her. She carefully stepped into his awaiting palm and grasped onto his index finger as he transferred her to his workbench next to the general. The doctor knelt down next to the man and placed a hand on his forehead. "Cliff, are you ok?"
He lifted his head and nodded. "Yea. Yea, I'm fine." Trembling hands set his cup down next to him. "What about you?"
She faked a reassuring smile. "I'll be fine. Ratchet's taking good care of me."
An odd expression crossed the general's features as he looked up at the medic standing over them. Emerald green human eyes locked onto sapphire blue optics, and the medic tilted his head a little in curiosity.
Schaefer suddenly shot a glance at Keller, who returned his unreadable expression, and Crystal frowned as she studied the silent exchange between the two men.
Optimus, concerned with the humans' apparent alarm at the condition of the doctor, spoke from his place near the scientists. "I assure you we are doing everything in our power to make sure Crystal and every other human on this base is safe."
Keller broke eye contact with the general to meet his gaze and nodded. "Very good. I presume you'll keep us informed of Doctor Greene's condition? And that that fragment will stay locked away?"
Optimus bowed his head, "Of course, Mister Secretary. We do not wish for anyone else to be injured."
Schaefer turned his head slowly to look at Optimus, staring at the Autobot commander for a few moments, before moving his gaze methodically over both Perceptor and Wheeljack. He gaped at the group of large mechs as if seeing them for the first time…
Crystal placed a gentle hand on the side of Schaefer's face and directed his attention back toward her. "Cliff, are you okay? Talk to me."
Schaefer cleared his throat and swallowed hard before forcing a grin to his lips. "I'm alright, honey. Just…you know, still tryin' to get used to all this." He let out a nervous chuckle.
Crystal smiled softly at him. "I know. Me too." She glanced around at the four beings towering over them before looking back at the general and the Secretary of Defense. "Hey, are you guys hungry? How about I show you around the medbay and then we can go and grab something to eat?" She stood and offered a hand to the shaken general, who took it gratefully and allowed the doctor to pull him to his feet.
Keller nodded. "That sounds like a fine idea to me, Captain. "
The three humans looked expectantly up at the red and white CMO. The corner of Ratchet's mouth twisted up into something of slightly amused grin as he held out his hands, allowing the humans to step onto them so he could set them gently down on the floor. He caught Crystal's shoulder before she could follow the men out of his office and into the main area of the medbay. "Crystal, how does it feel now?"
The doctor turned and looked up into the mech's concerned optics. "It still stings. But it feels a lot better than it did. Thank you."
Ratchet continued to frown as he seemed to stare right through her, his powerful scanning software methodically searching the tissue in and around the strange wound on her chest yet again. "Please call me if you feel the slightest change."
A slight smile graced her lips as she felt her cheeks heat up at his concern. "I will. Don't worry, Ratch."
Ratchet stood and watched the young woman exit his office before frowning and turning his attention to the other three mechs in the room.
"A rec room?" Secretary Keller, was incredulous. "Giant alien robots…need a rec room?" He stood next to Crystal and General Schaefer in the doorway of the spacious area that was, indeed, the Autobot recreation room.
Crystal chuckled and led the way into the large room, which was currently devoid of giant autonomous mechs, and crossed to the far corner where the 'bots had graciously installed a small area suitable for human use. There was a living area complete with chairs and couches and a large television, as well as a full kitchen and mess area. The Autobots had been fascinated by the amount of 'equipment' humans needed in order to prepare their various sources of nutrition and she had been stuck explaining to Perceptor and Wheeljack exactly how each appliance worked and what its function was.
The doctor showed the two men to a table before walking over to the refrigerator. "I hope you don't mind leftovers," she called back to them as she pulled out the remnants of yesterday's dinner. "If I'd known you two were coming I could have thawed something out." When she received no response, a glance in their direction revealed the two of them ignoring her, clearly engrossed in a conversation. After a few moments, Keller glanced up. "Doctor, I was sorry to see that two of the men were injured this morning. I think they were all a bit excited about their new firing range. "
Crystal placed the leftovers in the microwave to warm them up before turning her attention back to the Secretary of Defense. "They're lucky no one was seriously injured. I have yet to see any of the medical staff I requested, Mister Keller. If any of them had been seriously hurt, I may not have been able to treat them properly." She placed one hand on her hip and the other on the counter, still a bit peeved about the whole incident.
Keller heaved a sigh and rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "Doctor Greene, assigning you your medical staff is not as simple as having them pack their bags and head out here. They have to be carefully selected, screened, and briefed on exactly what to expect."
"I gave you a list of the people I trust, Sir." She leveled her gaze at him
"I know that, Doctor, but they still need to be prepared for this."
"Nothing is going to prepare them for what they see here, Sir." She let her arms fall to her sides and slowly walked over to the table. "The best thing to do is just bring them out here and let me introduce them to our…friends."
Keller nodded. "I understand. I will send them soon, Doctor. " He paused briefly before adding, "But I don't want them living here."
"A few of them may have to, and I understand that. But besides you, a few members of the medical staff, and Lennox's team, any military personnel involved with this special operations branch will be assigned to Nellis Airforce base. The less people we have interacting with the aliens on a daily basis, the better. "At the apprehensive look on the doctor's face he added, " They will be ready to deploy at a moment's notice, of course. And they will train here regularly."
Crystal began to cross her arms over her chest, but winced and stopped herself as she touched her wound. She opted to place her hands on her hips instead. "I'll need the full medical staff here for at least two weeks to start off, Sir. They need to be fully trained on the new equipment. I don't want to get caught off guard again."
"I'll see what I can do, Doctor." The man leveled his piercing blue gaze at her. The microwave beeped and Crystal sighed as she turned and walked back toward the appliance to dish up the leftovers for the two shaken officials.
He had better see what he could do. That morning's 'accident' had been too close a call for the doctor. If anything happened to any of those men because she was shorthanded, there would be hell to pay. She reached up and tapped her earpiece before she began to spoon the food out onto each of three plates she'd retrieved from the cupboard.
"Is everything alright, Crystal? How are you feeling?" Ratchet's gruff voice came over her comm line, laced with worry.
"I'm alright, Ratchet. I just wanted to find out how my patients are doing."
"I just checked on them. All their vitals are stable and they're resting comfortably."
"Thank you, Ratchet. I appreciate it." She closed the line with him and a slight smile graced her lips. Maybe she wasn't as understaffed as she'd thought.
Thanks so much for reading chapter six! Hopefully you'll take the time to write a review. No flames please.
Stay tuned for chapter seven. :-)