Chapter 4

House approached the ambulance cautiously, well aware that Ratchet could be following close behind. Still, given the other doctor's insufferably compassionate nature, he was probably going to hang out in Sam's room for hours and make with the warm-fuzzies.

The ambulance was lime green.

He blinked at it.

He could have sworn it was neon yellow, earlier.

Well, maybe his mind was playing tricks on him. It was in the same spot.

After a quick glance over his shoulder, he slid the slim piece of metal in between the window and the door, on the driver's side. He was quite pleased when he managed to catch the latch on only the third try and pop it. He reached for the door handle.

With a distinct thunk the door locked again.

Security system? House wondered, when this happened a second and third time.

Muttering, he limped around to the passenger side of the door, and tried again. This time, the he managed to unlock it, open it, and then ... the door pulled free of his hand with surprising force and slammed shut.

He jumped. And stared. "That was different."

Well, maybe he'd have better luck with the rear doors. He started to climb up onto the bumper to reach them, and the ambullance whooped at him with the loudest car-alarm sound he'd ever heard. Startled, he fell backwards and landed on his butt on the concrete. And then, to his surprise, the ambulance rolled backwards towards him.

He scrambled frantically out of the vehicle's way. It stopped after a couple of feet, just enough to have scared him.

"Idiot forgot to set his parking brake," House mumbled. Then, brighter, he said, "That means I have to set it or this could be a hazard!"

Grinning at an excuse to cause some damage, he dug a wrench out of his pocket. He hadn't foreseen needing to break a window, oh no, he'd just brought the wrench along on a whim ... House walked around to the driver's window and whacked it, hard.

Instead of the glass breaking, the wrench simply bounced off it, and vibrated like a tuning fork. House shook his stinging fingers and glared at the vehicle. The vehicle's radio promptly clicked on, and started playing Lisa Marie Presley's 'Idiot'.

"Remote control," House realized, with some anger. "Okay, Ratchet, where are you?"

The ambulance flung the driver's side door open, hitting him just hard enough to knock him on his butt again. House said a rude word, picked himself up, and whacked the vehicle back with the wrench. He was annoyed to see his blow didn't even leave a scratch.

Something clicked and hummed inside the ambulance. It sounded ominously threatening. There were a few chock chock chock noises, and a metallic scrape. The vehicle shifted in place, making him take a step backwards. Then it seemed to settle back down on its shocks and a voice with metallic reverb, but sounding a good bit like Dr. Ratchet, growled, "You are just not worth it. Try anything more and I'll just call the police ... oh, slag, Dr. House, you need to get out of here now!"

The voice had gone from annoyed to alarmed in one breath.

"Why?" he demanded.

"Slag, no time ... get in." The rear door popped open.

House was pretty sure it was a trap. House was also pretty sure that Dr. Ratchet sounded genuinely worried. Instincts for self preservation warred with instincts for self preservation. His curiosity took a vote, and propelled him up into the back of the vehicle. The door slammed. The windows tinted dark. And everything went very quiet.

"What is it?"

"Unidentified alien, in the parking garage, coming this way." Ratchet's voice was very low now. "Be quiet. Do not move. I'm powering down everything I can and hoping he won't notice me until backup arrives. I'd really rather not go mano-a-mano with a 'con when there's civilians around, I don't know who it is, and my backup is three floors above me and stuck behind an old lady who can't figure out how to park her Buick."

"Aliens," House said. "You fight them?"

"Shut up."

"Why would aliens be interested in me?"

"House," Ratchet said, "you could piss off Primus himself and they have zero patience with squishies. Shut up."

"What do they look like?" He tried to see out the glass.

"Shut up and be still." A pause. "If I tell you to run, run. Head for the stairwell. I'll be a sufficient distraction that they probably won't bother with you."

He didn't like that probably. "If you haven't noticed, track and field is not my best sport."

"I'm sure you'll manage. Shut the slag up before I gas you."

"Wouldn't be able to run if I was gassed, now would I?"

Something hissed within the cabin of the ambulance.

"Okay, okay!" He shut up. After a second, the hissing stopped.

Then he heard it: A distinctive ka-thump, ka-thump, ka-thump, ka-thump noise. He wasn't sure what it was. The air inside the ambulance grew electric with tension. Surely, he didn't imagine that the vehicle itself seemed to be holding its breath ...

Lisa Cuddy frowned at the fiften foot high copper sculpture of a robot in the main lobby. She didn't remember hearing anything about an art exhibit. The robot was sleek, elegant, with chiseled humanoid features and a slender build. It stood tall, proud, and was quite a beautiful thing ... if one liked pop culture sci-fi art.

Clearly, some of the patients and their families did. She walked past a little boy in a wheelchair and his mother, both admiring the statue. She was halfway between the statue of the robot and the door when she heard a chock chock chock noise behind her, and the little boy said, "Cool!" and his mother screamed.

She half turned. Then darted out of the way.

The statue of a robot, eyes glowing blue, launched himself forward. With astounding speed and grace, in a spectacular display of mechanical engineering, the robot transformed into a small copper-colored sports car. The automatic doors opened. She didn't think he'd fit through them, but somehow he did with scant fractions of an inch to spare on either side of his tires.

And then he peeled out, spun his tires, and ... disappeared.

"That was ..." Cuddy stared after him. "That was probably an alien."

Ratchet paced restlessly. "How far are you away now?"

"A quarter mile. Mirage is on his way." Optimus bared his teeth in something that might have been a grin, but was too threatening for that. "Cuddy got an up-close look at him, by the way."

"Lovely. And here I wanted to be the one to scare her witless the first time." He paused. "I'm betting she didn't scare much."

Ratchet, in the garage, monitored Dr. House's vitals with an absent scanner. The annoying doctor's pulse was rapid, his breathing sharp, and the air was rich with cortisol, humanity's stress hormone.

He could hear the 'con coming, a steady cha-chunk cha-chunk cha-chunk noise. He was operating under the assumption that it was a Decepticon until proven otherwise. An Autobot should have responded to his terse comm'd demands to identify itself by now.

And how the slag had it gotten past their perimeter?

Optimus, over the comm, said, :Ironhide's about ready to ram that old lady in the Buick who's blocking their way. Do you have a visual on your 'con ...?:

:No.: He waited a second, because it was very close now. Then, to his astonishment, his delight, and his everlasting relief, the yellow nose of a familiar Camaro rolled around the corner. :Primus, it's Bee.:

:Why didn't he answer our hails?:

:Because he's beat to slag and back. And I couldn't scan him through all the concrete in this structure.: Ratchet sagged on his shocks in relief that Bee was alive and free. Bee was moving slowly, and the thumping noise was a shredded tire. His entire side was caved in. The glass was broken out of all of his windows, which said something about the fight he'd been in -- Cybertronian glass was stern stuff.

Bee, who had almost certainly been homing in on Ratchet's comm signals, pulled into the empty parking space beside him, transformed with a desperate groan ... and stopped. His engine quit, his electrical system powered down, the lights in his eyes died. Without a word, he let himself go limp and slipped into stasis lock. Energon and coolant dripping from damaged lines was the only sound he made.

"Get out." Ratchet needed to see to Bee right now. He was scanning Bee even as he spoke, and it was immediately clear that the young Autobot was critical. Bee's decision to transform before before powering down, despite his exposed position in the middle of a public parking garage, might allow Ratchet to save his life. At least he could reach Bee's vitals easier.

"You want me to run?" House was frightened. Clearly, he'd heard Bee transform right next to them and was drawing some nervous conclusions.

"There's no threat to you. It was a friend, not an enemy. However, you may run now, if you wish." Ratchet popped his back doors open. "Get out."

House scrambled down, saw Bee, and stopped short. "Well, that's certainly different."

Ratchet ignored him, assuming that the human doctor would scram when he started to transform. House did retreat, with a startled oath, when the ambulance unfolded himself into a giant robot who was so large that he couldn't stand upright in the tight confines of the garage.

"Ah ... hello." House stared up at him. "When Dr. Ratchet said the aliens were robots, he didn't say they were fucking giant alien robots that turn into vehicles, but that's ... kinda cool, actually."

"Get lost. I'm busy." Ratchet produced a tool kit from subspace, and crouched on his hands and knees over Bee. Bee was not leaking energon at a frightening rate only because he'd lost a frightening amount of energon already. He needed an emergency transfusion, immediately. Ratchet checked his own energon levels, determined that they were reasonably high, and that he could spare several gallons without impairing his performance. Bee was going to need a lot more than that, though.

:Optimus, I'm going to need energon donors here. Bee's scrapped.:

:On my way.:

:There's no way you'll fit in here safely. If we get attacked, you'll be pinned down. At least us short 'bots can scramble about on our hands and knees. You'd have to belly crawl.:

:I've got more energon to spare than all of the rest of you combined.: Optimus pointed out.

:And I'll send someone down to get it from you.:

:That will mean completely breaking our cover.: Optimus fretted.

Ratchet challenged him. :I'm not letting Bee die because the human government's made up of a bunch of weenies who don't have the bearings to tell their own people aliens are real.:

Optimus, perhaps wisely, didn't argue with the CMO on this. Optimus was their leader. Ratchet respected him immensely. Ratchet valued saving Bee's life just a little bit more than any oath he'd taken to follow Optimus, however, and Optimus fragging well knew it.

Meanwhile, House had not run away. Indeed, he was staring at Ratchet open fascination as Ratchet flared the armor open on his own arm. Ratchet decided to ignore him unless House got in his way.

Ratchet, with a hiss of pain, sank a giant-sized transfusion needle into the largest fuel line in his own arm that he could readily reach. Working swiftly, well aware that Bee was nearly dead and only the scout's pluck and blasted stubbornness had gotten him this far, he taped the needle down with a wad of duct tape, then manually cracked open Bee's chest with desperate, clawing fingers. Bee's spark shone brilliant. He'd fix Bee's hinges later.

"What's that? Is it radioactive?"

"His spark -- you would say, his soul. And yes." Ratchet didn't bother to clarify that 'radioactive' meant 'UV radiation' -- which could be harmful to humans, though not without massive amounts of exposure. "Get back."

House scrambled backwards, muttering something about 'cherenkov radiation' that made Ratchet smirk despite the situation when he devoted a tiny portion of his processor to looking that term up. Ratchet sighed, and honesty compelled him to explain, "UV. It'll just give you a sunburn if you stand in front of it for an hour."

"Oh." House drew closer, fascinated, as Ratchet found a primary energon line, jammed a needle as thick around as a human finger directly into it, taped the needle in place, attached tubing between the one in his forearm and the one in Bee's chest, flicked a valve on the transfusion line open, and started the flow of fuel.

"You're giving him a transfusion," House recognized. "Uh. Right?"

Ratchet snapped, "I don't have time to answer dumb questions."

"What about good ones?" House shot back. "Like, do you need some help?"

Ratchet very nearly told him to scram. However, the guy was of above average intelligence, and either too brave or too stubborn to run screaming in terror from him. Ratchet, after only a half second's consideration, unsubspaced two gallon-sized energon containers and two giant-size IV sets. He thrust the materials at House with one impatient hand. House only flinched away a little before reaching up to take them. "There's another giant alien robot outside. He's too big to fit in the garage. He's got lots of energon in his lines. That's our blood. You think you can figure out how to fill those containers up?"

House snapped back, "Put a needle in a vein, draw a bunch of blood. I think that is within the scope of my medical training."

"Good." Ratchet upped his own fuel pressure to speed the energon flow to Bee's nearly empty lines. Simultaneously, he started prying off crumpled armor to get at the damage underneath.

"Will he squish me?"


"Good." House hurried off towards the elevator, cane ticking on concrete.

A very slow moving Buick rolled past, the driver apparently oblivious to the two giant alien robots, one near death and the other crouched under what was (to the robot) a very low ceiling. Ironhide, Prowl, and Bluestreak were all on her tail, and transformed as soon as they reached Ratchet's position.

:Was that wise?: Ironhide said, having overheard the discussion. :You said the man can't be trusted.:

:It gets him out of my way. Get your aft over here, old soldier. I need your energon.: Ratchet grabbed him by the arm, and roughly jammed his fingers under a plate of armor on Ironhide's forearm when Ironhide was slow to lift it out of the way. Prowl, simultaneously, started a line on Bluestreak. They all knew the basics of battlefield medicine, and energon was critical to life.

And I refuse to let Bee die. I've lost too many friends, and I'm not losing this one. Ratchet started patching leaks, even as Prowl began hooking the other two mechs up to Bee's system. His world narrowed in focus to the immediate task of saving a life. Everything else was inconsequential.