Sheer Dumb Luck
By Dreaming of Everything
Winner of the May 2008 tficcontest!
Warnings: multiple-partner scenes and themes, plug-and-play, technically slash.
Many thanks to my beta, mmouse15! Further thanks to Rebeccahb at LJ for pointing out that I was spelling Long Haul's name wrong! (Edited 9/15/08 to correct this.)
Edited 7/4/09: this fic is and will not be canon-compliant with Revenge of the Fallen. These are different Constructicons.
It had been very, very easy to figure out who the Autobot medic was.
After all, there were only four Autobots on earth, and after they'd gone public, you could find a fair bit of basic information about each one online. Their roles within the pathetic remains of the Autobot 'army' were certainly easy to find out.
The medic had a stable location. He was cut off from the mostly-deserted Autobot base. And he wasn't built to fight.
It took Ratchet too long to realize that they were there, and what they were. Decepticons. They were at the edges of all the accidents he'd been called to, over the past—three months, possibly longer. They were regularly in town. As far as he could tell, they had never been the ones responsible for the damage, but he was… suspicious.
By the time he did realize, it was too late.
Was it coincidence that had led them to the same stretch of almost-deserted rural California? He was there because the area needed a second ambulance, something more up-to-date than their old one, and because it was a poor area that couldn't afford to buy a new one. Most of them thought he was an inanimate gift from the benevolent AutoTech corporation: the core staff at the emergency response department knew otherwise, to give him freedom of mobility.
He hadn't bothered to correct the general misconception. If he'd been openly himself, he would never have had a moment's rest. Five years since Mission City, three years since they'd gone public, and the hubbub and hullabaloo still hadn't died down. It was, quite frankly, ridiculous.
Now, driving along the lonely, remote stretch of desert road, visual scans barely picking up the plume of dust behind him and to the right that was proof he was being followed but energy-readings painfully aware of the three bright spots that each meant 'Decepticon,' he'd finally started connecting the dots. Or found the puzzle at all.
Had the Decepticons—all construction vehicles for some bizarre reason, and not even flashy ones at that—tracked him here? Was it somehow a strategic location for them? Had they simply been trying to stay out of sight?
Clearly, they knew where he was now. They were following him, and had been for months, although less aggressively, invasively, obviously.
It was… More than worrying. Where had this come from?
He'd tried sending a message to Optimus Prime, this afternoon, when it had finally clicked, once he'd realized what had been going on, right under his nose, as the humans put it. He'd discovered that he was now in the middle of a dead-signal zone when his message had been blocked. He'd waited until it was safe for him to sneak away, and tried to make a break for it.
It hadn't worked. The three Decepticons were still after him.
There was a good chance there was upwards of five of them, but there were definitely at least the three. There had been five construction vehicles he'd seen around the town, all the same shade of dirty khaki, and all utilizing the same holodriver, a blank-faced female with sunglasses and, sometimes, a light scarf. It looked out-of-place attached to the dusty, rough vehicles, but he supposed the Decepticons didn't care much about cultural expectations. It wasn't like it was a good rendering of the human face, anyways.
He'd seen five different vehicle forms, looking back through his databanks, but he'd only ever seen three together at one time, in differing combinations. It was possible they were regularly switching out their alt modes to confuse him, or to create the illusion of there being more than there actually was, although it seemed unlikely. It was energy-absorbing and uncomfortable to take on a new vehicle mode, and triple chargers almost inevitably took a ground vehicle and an airborne vehicle.
Only three were out there now, though—unless he was missing two because of a really high-quality scanning program. Or possibly more: there was nothing to say that they'd kept a handful of other 'cons out of the way.
At least he didn't have a human driver with him. That was the only upside to the situation that he could see.
It had turned into a dark night, with a new moon and light cloud cover, and out here in the empty Mojave Desert, there weren't any cities to spread light pollution. That hadn't slowed Ratchet down: the light ranges humans could see in were only one out of several available to him. The roads were empty, which was good, although they were also steadily worsening, as he was driven further and further away from human civilization. They were herding him exactly where they wanted to go.
Up ahead, the stretch of paving petered out to nothing but dust and rocks. And then, a few feet beyond that, there was a crescent of deep trench. The Decepticons were pulling up behind him: he was trapped. This had been planned.
He stopped. There was nothing else to do. The three were surrounding him now, weapons trained on him—it was too late for him to even transform, now.
"Ratchet," said one of them calmly. "Chief Autobot medic."
Slag, Ratchet thought. It was always bad when Decepticons decided that taking out the medic was a good battle plan. He'd always managed to get out before, but things were looking bad, and he'd seen what had happened to others, or read the reports, or been forced to simply guess—
"The best known Cybertronian medic," added another.
The third remained silent.
"We need you to do something for us," said the first plainly. "Our… Sixth needs repairs."
"Sixth what?" Ratchet asked, furious enough with the situation to risk baiting them.
"Gestalt member," said the third shortly, deep voice rumbling, breaking his silence.
"No," responded Ratchet automatically, without thought. Not that there was anything to think through. So he'd die: that was a risk. And there was always the chance he'd escape. A completed gestalt—the kind of destruction one could cause…
"Please," said the first, sounding slightly reluctant. "Just—hear us through." Ratchet was plainly aware of the two Decepticons flanking him, not just the one facing him—the one who seemed to be in charge. Appeared to be, at least—you never knew, with Decepticons.
"You're a gestalt," said Ratchet flatly, not waiting at all. "A Decepticon gestalt. A threat to earth, the Autobots and humanity. I will die before I will assist you."
"We don't need you dead," said the first, voice still careful, words obviously painstakingly measured and weighed. "It would bring the rest of your team down on us, for one, and you would be useless to us. We don't want you dead."
"At least, most of us don't," muttered the second one darkly.
"You don't seriously think I'd repair a Decepticon with just a nice request to spur me on?" Ratchet was derisive.
"We won't harm any humans or Autobots, before or after the repairs are finished—unless, of course, you decide not to help," said the first. "I'll submit to a full scan as proof."
"You'd let me run a full scan," repeated Ratchet, dumbstruck. That was—
With permission, it was possible to tie yourself into another mech's consciousness. It gave a complete view of intentions, likely actions, personality, history—everything. It was inarguable, absolute proof.
It was incredibly invasive.
Nobody made an offer to go through with a full scan lightly. Especially not when it was for a medic on the opposite side.
"Yes," confirmed the less-talkative third mech, voice oddly—proud, not of his actions but simply of who he was, or something like that. Prideful. "If you require verification, I'll undergo one as well."
"We need the repairs, Autobot," spat the second.
"Here," said the first, producing a hardline cable. Slag, they really were serious—
Hesitantly—as ridiculous as the idea was, it had to be a trick, even though that was impossible—Ratchet accepted, transforming to grasp the cord, fit it into one of his ports.
Everything except the rush of foreign data was emptied from his processor as he plugged in. He'd done this before, but he always forgot how—disabling, how crushing, the inrush of information was. It left him weak and trembling, after the flood had retreated.
Once it was over, Ratchet carefully disconnected the cord from his systems, fingers trembling visibly, letting it drop. The Decepticon's condition was almost as bad as his, he noticed distractedly before forcing his concentration inwards to sort through the data.
Most of it was useless, even though the true basics—basic processing programs—had already been filtered out. Other information was stored for later reference. The immediately relevant he absorbed, picked through carefully.
It was true. A gestalt of six, their final member hovering on the brink of death. Names and faces, alt modes for the others, and a vague sense of personality—that was all he had about them. He'd stored anything further, standard procedure. That was… personal. What mattered was that all of them were, to a greater or lesser extent, willing to play nice if it meant completing their team. All five were willing to do almost anything for that.
No current ties to the Decepticons, and no interest in making new ones. A deep, loathing hatred of Megatron—he had separated them, over the course of the war, and hated him for that, and blamed him for the death of Bonecrusher for the same reason.
No good reason not to help. And he was a medic.
When he returned to reality, the three were watching him closely. Scrapper, Hook and Long Haul, he could identify now. Long Haul was the violent one of the three; he'd taken Scrapper's memories; Hook was the stand-offish one. The other stand-offish one—that description fit the violent one, fit Long Haul, just as well.
Ratchet pulled himself to his feet—how had he ended up kneeling, anyways?—and turned to Hook. He'd also offered a scan.
"I'd like to verify," said Ratchet thinly, face and voice as impassive as he could manage.
Hook nodded, either understanding or accepting or something else or a mixture of the three.
It took longer to recover, the second time: no mech—not even a medic—was built to handle so much extra data.
Everything seemed to match up. The only real differences were when it came to their perceptions of the other team members, and those were still—minor.
"Well?" said Long Haul, voice tense with a mix of expectations, hope, anger, distrust.
And need. They needed their sixth to balance them.
"I… Don't know."
Hook stiffened. Scrapper half-shrugged, an unsurprised but still disappointed motion.
They let him go. Long Haul had whispered a threat, but they'd let him go.
End Part 1
This was originally written as a oneshot, but it ended up ridiculously huge, so I'm dividing it into pieces and editing it part-by-part, to be posted on . Because it's just editing at this point, and relatively short parts to boot, I should update weekly or biweekly. (Radical, I know! This makes sense if you know my usual update schedule. Or lack of one.)