Okay, this is the product of watching far too much House over the last week. Yes, it is a very House-flavored Ratchet fic, mostly just because I wanted to see if I could do it. This may be a stand alone thing or I may expand it into a multichapter story because I do have ideas on how to continue it, but in any case I hope you like it. If nothing else that high school chemistry finally came in handy.
Disclaimer: I do not own Transformers, House, M.D. or any characters/situations related to either.
"You must be joking!" Ratchet growled at the screen, practically seething and doing his best to appear intimidating to his commanding officer despite the immense distances between them, protecting the Prime from the CMO's full wrath. The distracted leader of the Autobot forces sighed and pinched the bridge of his nasal plates.
"Ratchet, I'm sorry, but I don't know what else to do with him at this point. He cannot keep acting out like this." With the construction of Autobot City finally complete the Prime had permanently moved his base of operations to Cybertron's moon base as they worked feverishly to counterattack Megatron's takeover of the planet. He had enough headaches trying to juggle two moon bases as well as affairs on earth without reports on a certain red Lamborghini turning up on his desk every time he turned around. The Prime sighed again, shoulders sagging under the weight of all the stress he'd endured over the past few months.
"I understand that it is not easy for Sideswipe to be separated from his brother for such long periods of time but they both agreed to their separate posts. I'm just trying to keep him supervised with something structured to do. It's that, or chain him up in the brig and leave him there to rust." The Prime's voice held no hint of sarcasm or mirth. He was being completely serious.
"But assigning him to me—FOR FOUR WEEKS? What am I going to do with the little fragger for four weeks?!" Ratchet demanded.
"You're training a new medical team for Earth, aren't you?" Optimus suggested.
"Yes, a medical team, Prime. Emphasis on the medic. Sideswipe…he's…" For a moment the medic's anger overtook him and he had to reset his vocalize to keep it from fritzing. "Sideswipe," he continued more calmly, "bears about as much resemblance to a medic as he does to a duck, and frankly he has more of a chance of sprouting feathers than learning anything about the sanctity of life."
"Then consider this your opportunity to teach him," Optimus retorted. "Perhaps he will learn to be more careful on the battlefield. Now if that's all, I have other things to tend to."
Ratchet glared, crossing his arms before his broad chassis. "You're making a mistake," he tried one more appeal. "All Sideswipe can accomplish in the medbay is wasting my time and getting in the way. He's a warrior, not a medic, and that's basic programming. You can't change that."
"Well if you have any better ideas I'd love to hear them, because I'm fresh out," Optimus replied more curtly than he'd really meant to. "And I'm also out of time. Prime out." The screen went black and Ratchet growled as he hurled the nearest object within arm's reach—an empty energon cube as it happened—into the wall.
"That idiot!" he snarled. Wheeljack winced, standing from the seat he'd taken at the back of the room shortly before Prime's transmission.
"He's just overworked," he consoled gently. "And really, what could it hurt? Put Sideswipe in with 'Aid and Swoop. A fresh perspective could help. And who knows? Maybe Prime's right. Maybe the little devil might learn to be a bit more careful." Ratchet turned on him, optics narrowed to mere slits and the engineer took a step back. "Or maybe not, but you don't really have much choice in the matter, do ya?"
The medic just growled at him before stalking past him, out of the medbay proper to his private office and forcefully engaging the lock in such a way that it was as close to a slammed door as automated hydraulics could get. The engineer sighed, already knowing that the medic's stores of high grade were going to take a good hit tonight and wishing not for the first time that just once his friend would choose company over the cube.
The blue dune buggy bounced over the uneven terrain. Technically he had strayed a bit far from his predetermined patrol route, but the sunrise from a mountaintop was simply too good a sight to pass up. Besides, if anyone asked he could argue that the elevated position gave him a better vantage point for surveying the area.
As he rounded the final bend the dune buggy was forced to put on an extra burst of speed, combating the near vertical turn the mountain road had taken. He'd have to be ready to downshift fast once he broke free of gravity's hold and found himself on level ground again, but Beachcomber had spent enough time in adverse conditions to have confidence in his abilities to stop without careening off the mountain.
Just as his front tires hit horizontal ground, however, his awareness flickered. The glitch passed almost before he had registered it and the geologist paused, slipping backwards a bit as he reset his sensors. Another moment went by with all systems at normal and he shrugged it off, making a mental note to stop by and see Ratchet when he got back. He'd been meaning to check out the new facilities anyway. Apparently they were quite impressive compared to the Ark's rather cramped repair bay.
Revving his engine, Beachcomber put on a ferocious burst of speed to get him up over the top. His tires spun in the lose earth for several moments before finally catching and her lurched forward. Unfortunately, it was at precisely the moment of this rather violent jerk forward that his internal alarms went off, declaring a processor failure that would result in involuntary shut down in approximately fifteen seconds. He barely lasted five.
As he fell into blackness, the dune buggy's remaining momentum continued to carry him forward unchecked. Thankfully for Beachcomber he was already unconscious when he took a nosedive off the side of the mountain.
Sideswipe was due to arrive in the medbay for punishment detail under Ratchet's direction no later than promptly at 0900 hours East Coast Earth time. The orders had been issued by Prime himself and he had stressed this point repeatedly.
So, of course, it was only fitting that the red warrior entered the medbay no earlier than exactly five minutes past the hour.
The warrior stopped in his tracks, however, as he got his first good look around the new facilities. There hadn't been any battles lately, and yet the outer waiting room was nearly full with waiting patients. He frowned, belatedly realizing that with the size of Autobot City it made sense that there was enough maintenance work and bugs to keep the medbay busy, but he'd never really thought about it before. He'd expected the place to be empty…it always had been on the Ark between battles, granted they had been far fewer number back then.
Sideswipe shook away the old thoughts and looked up to catch Ratchet glaring at him from the window of his office. The red warrior grinned and waved before entering.
First Aid and Swoop were already in the office, seated at the table, and both of them looked at Sideswipe in surprise as he entered. Apparently Ratchet hadn't warned them. The CMO ignored the warrior entirely, focused on the screen behind him where he was busy scrawling out symptoms in his messy handwriting with a stylus.
"The patient experienced unexplained processor failure that resulted in emergency stasis. Every attempt to bring him back online since then has failed. Anyone want to tell me why?" Ratchet asked, turning back to the group.
"Um…sir…why is he here?" Fist Aid ventured to ask, glancing nervously at Sideswipe.
"He's not, not mentally anyway, isn't that right?" Ratchet shot back, addressing Sideswipe for the first time. The warrior was caught off guard by the abrupt attention.
"Uh…what?" he asked intelligently.
"See what I mean?" Ratchet retorted. "Ignore him. What's the diagnosis?"
Fist Aid let air whoosh out of his vents in a noisy sigh. "It's impossible to tell what damage is a result of the crash and what might have been pre-existing."
"Whoa, wait, crash? Who crashed?" Sideswipe perked.
"So we repair the damage from the crash and whatever symptoms remain have another source. Besides, the crash doesn't explain what caused the crash, which is what we're here to determine in case you forgot," Ratchet argued, ignoring Sideswipe.
"Not if he dies on the table before we can finish repairs," First Aid shot back. "And how exactly do we know the crash wasn't a result of his own carelessness, in which case the prolonged stasis is just his systems trying to cope with the shock?"
"Me Swoop want know why Him Sideswipe here," the pteranodon put in.
"What crash?" Sideswhipe repeated.
Ratchet threw a glance up at the ceiling, as if shooting an accusatory glare at Primus himself, before rounding on the three younger bots.
"Processor time stamps show that the patient received internal warnings and experienced shut down before his frame sustained any damage. Besides that, the patient is an expert at off-road travel, as it were. He may be an idiot, but he's not the kind of idiot that would drive off a cliff," he shot at First Aid, followed by, "Sideswipe is here because he is incapable of sitting still for five minutes, so much so that Prime felt the need to elect me babysitter," at Swoop and finally, "And, since you're suddenly so interested, Beachcomber never returned from patrol this morning. The Aerialbots found him after a graceful fall off a mountain following a sudden processor failure that we have yet to determine the cause of or reverse—which you'd have known if you'd bothered to show up on time. Any more inane questions?"
"No," all three of them replied together.
"Good," the medic glared. "First Aid, help Grapple and Hoist finish the major repairs on Beachcomber and give him a deep processor scan as soon as he's stable. Swoop, take Sideswipe and search the patient's quarters and see what the roommate knows."
Sideswipe frowned. "You want us to root though Beachcomber's stuff and interrogate Cliffjumper? Why? What are we looking for?"
Ratchet gave him a wry smile. "This is Beachcomber we're talking about. If he's not supplementing his energon with something not meant to be in his system then I'm cuddly," he retorted. "Speaking of which, First Aid, add a tox screen to your list of things to do."
"And what are you going to be doing while we're breaking and entering?" Sideswipe demanded.
"Clinic duty," the medic replied evenly. "I'd make you do it except that patients who feel the need to come to the clinic tend to actually require medical attention." Sideswipe had just enough time to marvel at how much bigger the new Autobot City facilities really were, with the separate clinic and operating theater he'd completely forgotten about until now, before Ratchet waved his hands at them impatiently.
"Well, go on. Shoo! We don't have all day!" he grumbled and the three Jr. medics (make that two Jr. medics and one deviant) were all too happy for an excuse to get out from under the disagreeable CMO for a few hours.
Sideswipe glanced sidelong at the Dinobot as they walked side-by-side down the hall to the living sector. Understandably most everyone they passed gave them a wide berth. Anyone who knew Sideswipe at all knew better than to get in his way, especially given his temper recently what with his brother several billion light years away. And as for Swoop…well the Dinobots were intimidating by nature and though Swoop was one of the smallest he still towered above any other bot, even somehow managing to make Sideswipe look small.
They made quite an interesting pair indeed as they walked silently towards the quarters of their patient.
When they finally reached Beachcomber's door Swoop stopped and looked around, obviously uncomfortable with the idea of breaking in, as Sideswipe had put it. Instead the nervous pteranodon raised one massive fist and knocked lightly on the door.
"Hello? You Cliffjumper in there?" he called. "It me Swoop." He neglected to mention Sideswipe's presence, which, the red twin reflected, was probably a fairly intelligent move on Swoop's part. "Hello?" he knocked again. Only silence answered him and Swoop looked at Sideswipe a little helplessly. "No one home…"
Sideswipe rolled his optics. "I'm sure if we go back and tell Ratchet that he'll understand," he muttered sarcastically. "Move." Pushing Swoop to the side Sideswipe easily overrode the access code. Apparently the living sectors hadn't received as much of an upgrade over the old Ark security codes as Red Alert had boasted they would. The red warrior was in the middle of the room before he realized Swoop wasn't following.
"Well?" he asked impatiently. Swoop glanced nervously up and down the hall, shifting his weight from one foot to the other in obvious distress. Sideswipe sighed. "Hey." He spoke far more gently then he had anticipated, a fact that surprised him as much as Swoop. "Relax. If we get caught then I'm the big bad delinquent and you tried to stop me, alright? Primus knows they'd believe it."
Swoop managed to duck his head guiltily even as his shoulders slumped in relief as he stepped into the room, jumping a bit as the door slid closed behind him. Sideswipe frowned at the reaction, noting how the flier's wings twitched under the close scrutiny.
"Uh…we should search…him Ratchet be mad if we don't do as he said," Swoop suggested, glancing around the room. He turned to look back at the door at an imagined noise, expecting Cliffjumper to barge in and demand to know what they were doing at any moment.
"Relax," Sideswipe said again. "Which side do you think is Beachcomber's?" Upon turning around, however, it was obvious which side of the room belonged to the easy going geologist. No way Cliffjumper would sleep on a berth surrounded by various types and sizes of rocks. No less than five potted plants were scattered around the floor as well as on the desk and pictures of various Earth landscapes littered the walls in no particular order.
"Come on," he sighed, moving to the cabinet against the wall to shift through the contents, most of which consisted of more rocks and datapads about—surprise, surprise—rocks. Primus…Sideswipe shook his head, jumping as Swoop suddenly gave a sharp squawk behind him.
"Frag! Swoop! Would you calm down?!" he turned to glare at the Dinobot.
"What that?" Swoop demanded by way of answer, pointing at something under the berth. Frowning, Sideswipe moved to crouch beside him, reaching under to pull out the absurdly small cage, which gave off a number of irritated squeaks as he moved it. For a moment all he saw was wood chips and shredded paper, but then his sensors caught movement, zooming in visually on the tiny, shivering figure. He let out a blast of air through his vents in a sharp sigh.
"Aww, Swoop, it's just a couple of rodents. Looks like Beachcomber's got some pets," he said, pushing the cage back under the berth. "Contraband pets," he added. "No wonder he keeps them under there. Red Alert would blow a gasket if he found out."
Swoop frowned. "Why would him Beachcomber want them as pets?" he said, sounding as much disgusted as confused.
Sideswipe just shrugged. "It's Beachcomber," he said dismissively, pushing himself up to go back to the cabinet. The door cycled opened, prompting Swoop to give another fearful squawk but Sideswipe ignored it.
"What the—What are you doing in here?" Cliffjumper demanded.
"Looking for Beachcomber's stash," Sideswipe said without turning around. The minibot stopped. He'd seen the Dinobot on the floor but missed Sideswipe completely as his position on the side of the room hid him from sight from the door. Cliffjumper glared.
"Get out," he growled.
"Sorry, can't leave without Beachy's pick-me-up," he replied, grinning over his shoulder at the minibot. "Ratchet's orders."
Cliffjumper glared and took a step towards Sideswipe, obviously undaunted by their size difference. Before he could demand again for Sideswipe to leave—most likely accompanied by a threat this time—Swoop's quiet voice interrupted him.
"Him Beachcomber sick," he informed Cliffjumper softly. "We here to try and find out why." He glanced at Sideswipe meaningfully. "So we need know if Him Beachcomber taking something." The red minibot glanced between them for a moment before staring at the ground. It didn't sit well with him to betray his roommate, his friend…but if it saved his life he could make his apologies later.
"Bottom drawer, under the National Geographic's," he said, not looking at either of them. Sideswipe moved to the appropriate drawer, pushing aside the mass of human magazines and retrieving a small glass vial. He carefully twisted the top off and took a whiff, wincing as it burned his olfactory senses. Acid of some kind.
"Will…will he be alright?" Cliffjumper asked gently. Sideswipe looked up in surprise, taken aback by the question and not sure how he was supposed to answer it. He was a warrior, a glorified murderer…he wasn't usually asked that kind of question. Luckily, Swoop saved him from answering.
"We make him better," the medic in training promised softly, putting a hand on Cliffjumper's shoulder, squeezing gently. "Ratchet make him better."
Sideswipe and Swoop found Ratchet again signing out of the clinic and it was hard to say who looked more annoyed, the CMO or the bot that stomped past the warrior and the Dinobot towards the doors, presumably Ratchet's last patient.
"Don't tell me, let me guess. He's an idiot, right?" Sideswipe grinned as they walked up. Ratchet shot him the darkest glare Sideswipe had seen since before Megatron left Earth.
"Don't make me hit you," he growled. "What did you find?"
"This," Sideswipe tossed him the vial. "Some kind of acid I think." Ratchet unscrewed the vial just as Sideswipe had done to analyze the contents via smell. His surprise at Sideswipe's correct conclusion was overridden by his fury at Beachcomber's stupidity, however.
"Sulfuric acid," Ratchet agreed with a snarl. Swoop tilted his head in timid interest.
"What that?" he asked, well aware that the question might invoke the medic's wrath.
"More commonly known as battery acid," Ratchet huffed. "Eats through damn near everything. When added to energon, which is basic," he explained for Swoop's benefit, "it loses some of its corrosive abilities and taints the energon with sulfates and water byproducts." He shook his head. "The result is less pure energon running through the system, causing everything from altered perceptions to hallucinations." He glared at the vial. "It's also incredibly stupid to ingest. The acid can eat right through the energon lines and corrode the hell out of everything." The medic stopped for a moment, shutting his optics off to rein in his rapidly growing temper.
"I think we have our culprit," he nodded to them. He glanced at Sideswipe, hesitating, before nodding again and muttering a quick. "Good job." Swoop grinned, wings perking happily at the praise while Sideswipe just stared utterly dumbstruck, waiting for the insult that would nullify the encouragement, but it didn't come. Instead, Ratchet handed the vial to swoop. "Get this to Perceptor for analysis and see if he's going to be finished with that tox screen sometime this vorn," he instructed. The eager Dinobot nodded and was gone.
Leaving Ratchet and Sideswipe alone.
Ratchet stared at the red warrior for a moment, eyeing him critically. "That was good work, identifying the acid," he forced himself to say after a moment. Might as well give Sideswipe the proverbial pat on the head. It might help to dissuade him next time he thought about letting two dozen snakes lose in the medbay to alleviate his boredom. Sideswipe stared back at him with an expression caught between surprise and suspicion.
"Thanks…" he eventually responded. The tension that followed didn't have much time to fester, however, as it was quickly shattered by the sounds of an alarm blaring. Ratchet didn't have to check to know who it pertained to. There was only one patient currently in the medbay in bad enough shape to require monitoring his vitals.
Swearing Ratchet spun and ran for Beachcomber's room, skidding in just as First Aid sent a strong pulse of electrical current through the geologist's still frame, watching the readout screen carefully.
"Hit him again," Ratchet instructed. Sideswipe lingered outside, feeling sick. He didn't want to see this. He didn't want to watch Beachcomber die like this. He didn't particularly like the minibot but…dying in battle was one thing. Dying on a berth in the medbay because you drank too much acid to catch a high…that just didn't sit right with him. Beachcomber's frame jerked and remained still.
"Frag it, no!" Ratchet growled, moving forward to take the paddles out of First Aid's hands. He charged them again, shocking the still body once more. "Come on! COME ON!"
First Aid winced and looked like he wanted to pull Ratchet away but knew better than to intervene. Sideswipe turned his head, just as the monitor's monotonous drone was broken by a single beep, the best sound Sideswipe had heard all day. He looked back to see First Aid's shoulders slump in relief. Ratchet, on the other hand, did not relax. His optics were trained on the monitor, following the irregular blips on the screen. His glare darkened.
"It's pumping but it's irregular," he muttered. "Get Grapple or Hoist to keep an eye on him. Meeting in my office in ten minutes."
First Aid looked up in surprise. "Sir…?"
"Whatever this is, there's more to it than just spiked energon."
"The sulfuric acid explains the stasis but not the irregular pump rhythm, which means there must be something else," Ratchet surmised, arms folded across his windshield as he stood by the screen of symptoms in his office once more.
"Not necessarily," First Aid piped up. "A build up of byproduct sulfates from the acid could lodge in the pump and create an arrhythmia." The CMO shook his head.
"For him to have that many sulfates in his systems his energon would have to be sludge. We couldn't have missed that." He glared at the ground. "No, a separate diagnosis makes more sense. Some underlying condition that we missed because we assumed he just ravaged his systems with acid. Never make assumptions." The last sentence was muttered to himself, almost too quiet for the three younger mechs to hear.
The senior officer's optics swept over the assembled mechs but it was clear none of them had anything to offer. He was just about to start reprimanding them for waiting for him to hand them the answer when there was a knock at the door and Perceptor stuck his head in.
"Finally," Ratchet growled. "What did you find?"
Perceptor stepped into the room, his gaze lingering on Sideswipe in momentary surprise, but he knew better than to keep Ratchet waiting any longer.
"My apologies for the wait," the microscope began. "I've been extraordinarily preoccupied, what with the construction of Autobot City in the final stages and—"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Ratchet interrupted. "What did you find?"
"There is no doubt that the substance in the vial is sulfuric acid," Perceptor reported, consulting the datapad in his hand.
"Care to tell us something we don't already know?" Ratchet retorted. The microscope continued with his report unaffected. He'd known Ratchet too long to be offended by the attitude, especially when the CMO was worried about a patient.
"The toxicology report showed high levels of numerous alien sulfates and elevated dihydrogen monoxide levels."
"Which can be explained by the reaction to the acid." Ratchet was growing impatient. "Don't you have anything new to tell us?" Sideswipe glanced at Swoop, somewhat relieved to see the look of quiet confusion in the Dinobot's optics. At least he wasn't the only one completely lost in this conversation.
"Yes, in fact," Perceptor replied coolly. "I also found a number of unexplained organic compounds."
Ratchet dropped his hands to place them on the table, leaning forward slightly. "Organic compounds?" he repeated.
"Proteins, carbon, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and a dozen others," Perceptor read off the list. "As well as a few compounds that, being unfamiliar with the specific biochemistry of this planet, I cannot yet identify."
"Well start figuring it out," Ratchet ordered. "And get Wheeljack to help you," he added. Perceptor nodded and turned to leave, only to find Grapple blocking his path.
"I assume you're here because you have an update on the patient," Ratchet asked, in a tone that clearly stated that he would have no tolerance for any other excuse. The architect nodded.
Cliffjumper was already by Beachcomber's side by the time they made it to his private room. Sideswipe made optic contact with the minibot, but true to their unspoken truce he made no comment.
"I was supposed to take Lilly to the veterinarian today," Beachcomber was murmuring to his roommate. "She's been acting off lately."
"Don't worry about it. I'll take your rat to the doctor for you," the minibot offered. Sideswipe took a moment to reflect how silly humans could be sometimes. What was the purpose of a doctor for rodents?
"If you're not a medic or a patient, get out," Ratchet ordered, looking at Cliffjumper.
"No," Sideswipe argued, surprising even himself. All optics turned on him and he met Cliffjumper's again for a moment. "Let him stay. He's not in the way or anything," he tried to reason. Ratchet's surprise quickly melted into a glare but he turned back to Beachcomber.
"Whatever. We don't have time to argue." That caught Beachcomber's attention.
"Why?" he asked, worry leaking into his voice. "What's wrong?"
"We need to know if you've been taking anything into your systems besides the sulfuric acid." The geologist tensed at that and Cliffjumper looked away guiltily. "Relax," Ratchet continued. "We're not interested in busting you, just in figuring out what's wrong before anything else fails. Now, you aren't taking anything else? Anything organic?"
"No," Beachcomber assured him, shaking his head. "There isn't anything else." He stopped suddenly, frowning. Ratchet immediately noticed the change in body language.
"What is it?"
The geologist tensed up again and Sideswipe was taken aback by the look of abject fear on his faceplates.
"I can't see," he whispered. Ratchet started at that, optics going wide, and moved forward to examine Beachcomber's optics, the tip of one finger opening to reveal a light that he shone in both reflective orbs.
"They appear to be functioning," he muttered. Beachcomber opened his mouth to answer but instead he suddenly slumped in the berth, optics going dark as he fell offline.
"Beachcomber? Beachcomber!" Ratchet ran a quick scan and swore. "He's gone into stasis again," he growled. Cliffjumper frowned worriedly.
"What's wrong with him?" he asked. First Aid jumped in before Ratchet could snarl at the minibot.
"We're working on it," the gestalt promised. "Don't worry. He's going to be fine."
"Why don't you Cliffjumper take him Beachcomber's pet to the doctor?" Swoop suggested gently to everyone's surprise. He smiled. "Take your mind off it."
Cliffjumper nodded numbly. "Yeah…yeah okay."
"And take Sideswipe with you," Ratchet added. Both Sideswipe and Cliffjumper turned to stare at him. "We could use the lesson on organics," he pointed out. The red warrior glared.
"And here I thought you were trying to get rid of me," he muttered sarcastically. Ratchet's reply was equally so, and venomous enough to make Cliffjumper think twice about arguing.
"No, that's just a fortunate side effect."
This was ridiculous, Sideswipe thought after an hour and a half of sitting in the veterinarian parking lot next to Cliffjumper. Both bots had been on their best behavior in light of the tense situation, but neither of them could last this uncomfortable silence much longer. What could be wrong with the rat that was taking this long?
Sideswipe growled to himself. Ratchet had some nerve sending him out here to waste time. Learn something about organics. Yeah right. What could he learn from a rat doctor that would possibly help them?
Finally he saw the woman he recognized as the receptionist come out of the building with Beachcomber's rat cage, heading for Cliffjumper.
"Um…hello?" she asked timidly, feeling awkward talking to a car. She glanced over her shoulder, trying not to think about how crazy she must look.
"What's wrong with the rodent?" Cliffjumper responded, making the woman jump, even though she should have expected it.
"Uh…she has a parasite, a tapeworm," she informed them. "I've got some pills here for you to give her to kill it. It's actually really common in rats." Cliffjumper opened his door and she gingerly set the cage and the pills down in his passenger seat. "Oh," she added, straightening, "and anyone who has handled their poop recently should be checked too."
"It's contagious?" Sideswipe asked, interest perking.
The woman nodded. "If anyone, say, cleaned their cage and then ate without washing their hands they could ingest some of its eggs and have it too." Cliffjumper thanked the woman and promised to warn any of the humans that frequented Autobot City, though he was sure none of them were even aware of Beachcomber's pets. Meanwhile the gears in Sideswipe's processor were already turning as he opened an internet connection and began searching.
"Vision impairment, arrhythmia, and an unstable state of consciousness. What do these things have in common—other than that they're currently killing our patient?"
Silence answered Ratchet and the CMO sighed. "That wasn't a rhetorical question, if either of you were confused." First Aid just shrugged helplessly.
"I can't even begin to try and explain the presence of the organic compounds. If we assume he's lying about ingesting anything it might make sense, but if that's the case we have no way of knowing what he could have taken. Swoop and Sideswipe searched his room and they didn't find anything." Swoop nodded his agreement eagerly.
"Something's clogging his systems," Ratchet replied. "And if we don't figure out what and get it out of there soon we're going to lose him." The two medics in training were saved further rebuke at a knock on the door.
"I've discovered the origin of the other unidentified organic compounds," Perceptor said without preamble as he entered, followed by Wheeljack.
"How you holding up?" Wheeljack spared a moment to address his old friend. Ratchet gave him a mild glare.
"I've been better. What is it, Perceptor?"
"Hemoglobin," Perceptor replied, "a compound found in red blood cells. Actually, more specifically it's sulfhemoglobin, or hemoglobin carrying sulfide instead of oxygen but it's impossible to say if that was true originally or as a result of contact with the sulfuric acid tainted energon."
"Where's Sideswipe?" Wheeljack wondered.
"Not here," Ratchet replied simply. "What the hell is a compound found in organic blood doing in Beachcomber's energon?" he asked Perceptor.
The scientist shrugged. "I haven't the slightest inkling, Ratchet. But, interestingly enough, sulfhemoglobin occurs naturally in the process of organic decay."
"So Beachcomber has a decaying organic in his systems? How? That doesn't make any sense," First Aid put in. "We would have seen it in the scans." The comm. on Ratchet's screen blinked to life with a beep but Ratchet pressed the ignore button.
"Who is that?" Wheeljack wondered.
"It's Sideswipe," Ratchet replied curtly. "Now, someone want to explain to me why Beachcomber has organic compounds congruent with a decaying animal in his systems?" The comm. beeped again and again Ratchet ignored it.
"Well, aren't you going to answer it?" Wheeljack asked.
"It's Sideswipe," Ratchet repeated.
Wheeljack rolled his optics and moved to answer the persistent comm. "Go ahead, Sideswipe."
Sideswipe paused for a moment in surprise at hearing Wheeljack's voice but quickly continued. "I think I know what he's got."
"Well don't keep us in suspense," Wheeljack urged him to continue despite Ratchet's skeptical look.
"It's a tapeworm. An organic parasite," he explained. "One of his rats is sick. He must have gotten it from her."
Ratchet pushed Wheeljack out of the way to lean in close to the built in microphone. "And how exactly do you explain how this parasite survived in his systems?" he growled.
"The acid," Sideswipe explained. "These things usually live in organic digestive tracts so their used to harsh chemical conditions. You said yourself, one of the byproducts of the acid was water." Ratchet was still glaring but Perceptor looked intrigued.
"An organic creature needs more than water to survive," he pointed out but it was more of an intellectual challenge than an argument against Sideswipe's theory.
"I've been doing some research on biochemistry," Sideswipe said and it was clear he had already prepared for just such an argument in how confident—and even excited—he sounded. "The thing's probably not in the best health but there's enough stuff in the reaction between the energon and the sulfuric acid to keep it alive, at least on basic terms."
Ratchet growled. "This is ludicrous. Every minute we waste is another step towards Beachcomber's deactivation!"
"Just hear me out, Ratchet!" Sideswipe argued and there was a hint of pleading in his voice. "If this thing laid eggs than it explains everything!"
"How's that?" First Aid asked, optics brightening in curiosity.
"If the eggs got into his circulating energon lines then they could have clogged his pump and caused the weird rhythms, gotten in his optics and caused the blindness, and lodged in his processor and caused the sudden stasis. Check his tanks! You'll find the worm! I'm not wrong!"
First Aid considered it, running the scenario through his logic processor before looking at Ratchet. "It fits…it's certainly unorthodox but he's right. It would explain everything."
There was a tense moment of silence as Ratchet considered what to do. It was insane to even suggest that an organic could be doing this, but he had no other explanation and when it got down to it he had to ask himself if he was rejecting the idea because it didn't fit or because Sideswipe had suggested it. In the end professionalism won out over pride, it had to.
"First Aid, prep Beachcomber for exploratory surgery. We're going to need a look at his tanks," he ordered. "Perceptor," he continued, "If this turns out to be a tapeworm as Sideswipe says we'll need to flush Beachcomber's systems with an organic poison to clear it out." The microscope considered for a moment.
"Arsenic would be most effective while causing minimal damage to Beachcomber's systems," he supplied.
Ratchet nodded. "Then get some." He sat heavily in a chair as First Aid and Perceptor left to accomplish their assigned tasks. Wheeljack grinned and turned to shut the comm. off.
"Thanks, Sideswipe," the engineer said because he knew Ratchet wouldn't. Sideswipe paused. He wasn't used to all this praise.
"Um…sure. Anytime. Sideswipe out."
Ratchet was just finishing the report on Beachcomber's successful tapeworm treatment and recovery when Wheeljack entered his office.
"You're working late," he observed quietly. Ratchet shot him a baleful look as he gave the report his final signature. Wheeljack sat and watched his old friend for a few moments. "Perceptor got a look at the worm. He says it was half dead as it was. It was breaking apart in segments, which explains the sulfhemoglobin we found. And of course Beachcomber was upset we had to kill it when he found out."
Ratchet snorted. "The idiot should just be glad he woke up," he muttered. Wheeljack laughed. "Yeah, but you know Beachcomber. All organics are sacred to him." He paused before continuing. "I guess it's a good thing Optimus assigned Sideswipe to you after all, huh?"
"That pain in my servos?" he growled darkly.
"Oh, come on, Ratchet. Admit it. He did a good job," Wheeljack argued. "He found the acid and he came up with the final diagnosis. What more do you want?"
"He got lucky," Ratchet corrected. "But see if it stops him from being the same reckless aft on the battlefield that he always is. See if it stops him from picking fights next with minibots next time he gets board."
Wheeljack just sighed and sat back. "He managed to be civil to Cliffjumper all day," he pointed out. "Not that that will last now that Beachcomber's out of danger, but it's a start. Besides, I think he liked the challenge of a medical mystery, might keep him occupied from his usual fights and practical jokes." Ratchet gave another doubtful snort and Wheeljack shook his head, headfins flashing in what equated to a smile for him.
"And just think, tomorrow we get to get up and do it all over again."
Ratchet shot his friend a glare but stood and head for the door with him. "So long as tomorrow doesn't involve anymore tapeworms," he muttered. Wheeljack's headfins brightened in a grin.
"Did you get a good look at that thing?" he teased.
"I don't want to talk about it 'Jack."
"It was so long! And that was a sickly one too. Imagine how big a healthy one would be."
"Shut up 'Jack!"
"Kinda reminds me of a snake really…"
Wheeljack had to duck the wrench that Ratchet suddenly unsubspaced and flung at him but he was laughing as he did.