"Every man dies, but not every man really lives."- William Ross Wallace
"Why do I bother?" Ratchet wondered solemnly into the heavy silence of the med bay.
There came no reply to the question. The medic remained unbothered that no answer came, for he hadn't been expecting an answer when he had asked the question. For all the times he had asked the question, he never received an answer for his troubles. His life, such as it was in the war, had come to a point where he did not expect answers for most things anymore. And many times, he did not want answers.
When he asked why he bothered anymore, he sometimes fancied that the silence was answer enough, because aside from silence there was no true answer.
There was such an endless pointlessness to the life of a medic who suffered in the middle of war. The most one could ever hope for was to make a temporary repair. The true wounds that afflicted the victims could never be repaired by the tools a medic had at his disposal. Maybe once, a medic's training might have been enough. But not anymore. By now, the wounds had migrated from the physical to a place much deeper where patches and repairs could not reach.
Ratchet did not ask his question lightly. He asked it only in private, giving it his full contemplation. He asked only when the door was locked and he was in the company of only unconscious patients. Nonetheless, he did ask the question because it needed to be asked, if only to fill the long silences in the night. When he worked alone through the lonely midnight, he needed some kind of mystery to ponder, even an answerless one, to keep himself from going mad.
Of course, he had a vague answer for what he did.
His love and faith in the Autobots kept him working through the late hours, working into the dark of twilight until the bleeding of dawn. For them, he did bother.
He set his talents to use, welding together gouged slates of armour and threading new neural circuits. He recalibrated disrupted weapons systems and replaced limbs that had been severed. For many, he held their lives in his hands and brought them back from the brink of death. Like a god, he could bring life back into lifeless frames. But unlike a god, his miracles were limited. No true salvation was ever found. He patched them up and sent them on their way, only to see them again not long after to begin the cycle again.
He worked in this thankless toil because he believed that a future possible when there would be no war. He believed that Optimus Prime could bring them through this darkness and restore Cybertron to the glory it had once known. The ideals of the Autobots were as noble as any great cause could be. If he could contribute in some small part to the war effort in hopes of future peace, then he did so unreservedly.
However, there were two Autobots who prompted him to ask his question more often than any other patient to come under his mercies.
The twins, for as long as they had existed, had always presented to the Cybertronian public the epitome of bizarre mystery. The act of joining two sparks into one was an accepted enough act between sparkmates that one did not raise an optic ridge at such an act. However, the nature of one spark splitting into two separate entities garnered more than its fair share of interest and incredulity. The phenomenon of split-split twins was so rare as to say that Sunstreaker and Sideswipe were the only ones of their kind.
Ratchet had had the pleasure of knowing them when they were young. They had been lively things. Like most young ones, they had been clumsy and curious, excited to be alive and experience life. Sideswipe had been headstrong and incorrigible, always rushing headfirst into things. Sunstreaker had been thoughtful and reserved, willing to think matters through before he made any move at all.
Such innocence they had once known, only to be contrasted so starkly against the creatures they had become.
Empty shells, as if their sparks had already been removed from the metal.
Ratchet's long-ago affection for them had dried up upon witnessing what they had become in the present. Their lives in Kaon as gladiators and merchants of death had left them twisted and cold. They were at times more Decepticon than Autobot. Sideswipe was the better liar of the two, often able to hide this darker side of himself behind smiles and mischievous pranks. One would almost think him a normal Cybertronian were it not for the moments when his true calculating nature was exposed on the battlefield. Sunstreaker came about his true nature more honestly; he was unable to hide the icy composure of his optics nor the disregard with which he treated his fellow Autobots. While many thought his vanity was a comical quirk contrasted against his glacial demeanour, Ratchet knew better than to mistake Sunstreaker's narcissism for anything other than a symptom of his sociopathy. The only moment when Sunstreaker showed any kind of lust at all when he was on the battlefield, fallen into a berserker rage whose thirst for battle could only be quenched in death.
The twins above all others made Ratchet ask the question, "Why bother?"
By all means, the twins should have been Decepticons. It was no secret among the Autobots that the twins had once been at the service of Megatron in Kaon. While there was no true confirmation of the fact, the behaviour of the twins was enough to sustain rumour.
However, no matter how the title did not suit them, and everything about them indicated otherwise, the twins bore the insignia of the Autobots. Their reasons for joining were nothing less than a ruthless desire for revenge, though the reasons for their revenge were their own. Revenge was not a unique reason among Autobots, many of whom had lost loved ones to the war. But the level of the twins' lust for death went beyond any healthy state.
Their hunger for revenge ran so deep they no longer cared if they lived.
Tonight was a perfect example of their carelessness for themselves in their self-torturing quest to visit death upon any Cybertronian who held their allegiance to Megatron.
An Autobot party had engaged with the Decepticons earlier in the day, and the twins had been among the party. They had rushed headfirst into battle without sparing a second glance to their so-called comrades. Even though their enemy happened to be several times their size and heavily armoured, it meant nothing to them. Sometimes it seemed as if they preferred the larger bots, as they proved to be more satisfying when they finally fell. Together, Sunstreaker and Sideswipe were formidable opponents. The reports of the engagement were nothing short of a massacre. The twins methods were brutal and un-Autobot-like when they dispatched their Decepticon challengers. Nothing short of agonizing torture before death. Throughout it all, they spared little concern for their own wellbeing.
Now they laid upon two separate berths, riddled with holes and gouges. They were taken apart like scattered, jagged puzzle pieces, and never a full puzzle could be constructed of them. There would always be pieces missing. Armour that had been completely destroyed was now removed, exposing their twitching, oozing innards to the air. Energon lines were sliced, and the energon that had bled out was now congealed throughout their internals in a slimy, dull blue mess.
Ratchet currently stood above Sideswipe, inspecting him for what felt like the thousandth time. The number of times the red warrior had been brought to him for repairs, Ratchet could no longer count. He knew Sideswipe's frame so well that he could probably make the repairs blindfolded.
A great amount of time had been spent throughout the day trying to stabilize him, and there were many touch-and-go moments when it looked like his spark would extinguish from the strain. His battlemask had been ripped from his faceplate, and much of his faceplate had been ripped from his head. One optic was shattered and the other had fallen out of its socket during transport back to Iacon. The contours of his head, once sleek and handsome, were now mangled into a deformed mass of barely-recognizable parts.
Of his frame, not much remained. It appeared as if he had let himself be ripped apart piece by piece, if only to allow himself a closer range to inflict pain on others. So much pain. His chest was ripped into the worst. Obviously there had been Decepticons trying to dig Sideswipe's spark out to kill him. Armour was torn upwards, to the sides, and downward; peeled away like the flesh of some organic fruit. His sparkcase had been cracked, and through that crack came the weak pulse of energy.
His foot had been severed, the leg completely mangled. His arms still retained their hands, and surprisingly all their fingers, but the red armour was stripped away. Blackness edged his sides where his jetpack had backfired from their damages and resulted in an explosion. The berth beneath him was stained with his energon.
It would have been smart to put the mech in one of the Cryogenic Regeneration chambers, but Ratchet didn't bother. Even at the request of others, he denied the act. It was not out of cruelty, but out of practicality. Neither Sideswipe nor Sunstreaker would have any appreciation for the CR chambers. If they came to consciousness within them, they would escape. They'd lay waste to the life-saving devices. Anything more than patching them up and letting them rot in their own misery would be a waste of efforts on Ratchet's part, because anything he did for them would only be undone moments later. They wanted to feel their own pain as readily as they wanted to inflict it on others.
Like many times before when he stood above them as the god of life and death, Ratchet wondered if the physical pain they felt relieved them from the inconceivable torture their sparks suffered? Did they feel relief now, in their unconsciousness? If either of the twins' expressions were any indication, there was no absolution in their oblivion.
Ratchet sighed, deciding that enough had been done for Sideswipe for one night. He turned to Sunstreaker, once again assessing the damages that had been wrought during the day. If it were at all possible, Sunstreaker was worse off than his brother. As a berserker, his rage was always greater, the damage he did to himself and others always more intense. It was only moments like this when he could find release, his vanity seemingly to no longer matter in comparison to the rage inside him.
Whatever tragedy had befallen the mech to drive him to this point, Ratchet could no more ponder the reason than he could count the stars in the sky.
Both fins, as well as his battlemask, had been ripped away. His faceplate fared better than Sideswipes's, but the back of his head was ripped open. A special brace held his head up so that the delicacies of his processor were not lying bare against the berth. It was damaged, but only in a minor sense. Burnt out circuits. Hot ash fusing parts together. Those matters were repairable.
One of his arms had truly been ripped from his shoulder. It was not a clean break at all. The armour was twisted around and around, following the motions it had taken to rend the limb from its frame. The metal endoskeleton within was twisted and snapped, its edges jagged and vulgar. Energon lines had not separated easily, instead being ripped out whole from the frame. Damage had been done to other parts as the energon lines that connected them all together were torn away. His other arm bore all the marks of a brutal fight. Although missing two fingers, the ones that remained were stained morbid blue with energon. Only a single slate of armour hung on by a hinge, and it too was stained blue.
His legs barely hung on by their joints. The knees were completely shattered, the joints damaged beyond repair. Wheeljack would have to build new ones. Like the arm, little armour remained on the legs. What stayed was barely golden anymore. It was all shades of a twilight rainbow; blacks, blues, greys, and rusty browns. There was not a single space there did not suffer some kind of hurt.
But it was his chest that was of sorriest condition of all. That poor, abused chest that was pummelled and mangled, dented, bent, and twisted. There was no evidence that Sunstreaker gave any care for defending the spark that kept him alive. In looking at the damage, one could almost say that it looked he tried to scratch his own spark out, as if its very existence was torture to him.
A large gouge down the centre of his sparkcase exposed the most intimate part of his anatomy. His spark was uncommonly bright. It looked very much like a miniature sun as it pulsed away in its sparkcase. Perhaps it was some kind of sick cosmic joke to give Sunstreaker such a bright, beautiful spark to contrast so brilliantly with the darkness of the monster he'd become.
It was nights like these when Ratchet was alone with the twins and he was able to see into their sparks that he wondered why those sparks kept beating.
Why did they bother when their owners did not seem to care whether they lived or died?
In staring down at Sunstreaker's wrecked form, Ratchet was forced yet again to ask his dreaded question, "Why bother?"
By some strange quirk, Sunstreaker stirred. It should have been impossible with the level of damages he suffered, but against every natural law of the universe, his optics lit up. For a very long moment, he stared up into Ratchet's optics. Ratchet stared back, mesmerized. A stare like that… it was impossible to look away.
A barely audibly sigh drifted from the mech, and then he turned his head and fell back into oblivion.
Ratchet sighed and looked the other way.
It was nights like these, above all others, that made him question why he bothered with the twins. What was the point of the repairs when the truth could be seen so clearly in their optics: they were already dead.