Author's Note: *eye twitch* Sorry, y'all. I realize it's been more than four months since my last update. My vibes with this story have been seriously out of whack lately. After this chapter, I have nothing else waiting in the wings as of yet. But rest assured, it is not in my plans to discontinue the story. Should it get to that point, I'd sooner adopt it out than just leave you all hanging. Unfortunately, this chapter has not been proof-read very thoroughly, so feel free to point out any glaring errors should you find them. Anyway, hopefully this satisfies for now! As always, feedback is a welcome encouragement. Onward!
When Mikaela came to, she immediately knew something was wrong without having to remember the events that had led up to her loss of consciousness. Her first indication was the tightness around her chest and waist, an intense pressure creating a line of dull pain across her skin and ribs. The second indicator was the groggy, heavy feeling in her head that could only come from the prolonged rush of blood to her brain. She cracked her eyes open with a pained groan, hardly able to breathe through the pressure across her chest and found that she was hanging upside down, her body in a V-shaped arch, suspended by her seatbelt in Ratchet's wrecked cab.
"Shit," she cursed, coughing harshly as her lungs protested. She looked over at Charli to see that the guide was in a similar predicament, still unconscious. Mikaela reached over to her side slowly, wincing as her muscles screamed in protest at the movement, and fumbled for the seatbelt catch. After finally being able to push the button she dropped heavily onto the severely dented roof of Ratchet's cab, wincing as shattered glass from the windshield cut into the palms of her hands and her knees.
"Ratch," she rasped, her mind fuzzy and her head throbbing from her friend-making with the window. "Ratchet?"
When she didn't receive a response, she crawled slowly over to Charli's still form, trying unsuccessfully to avoid the glass that covered the whole ceiling. Mikaela shook her head at the thought… She was crawling on the ceiling. Why did that seem suddenly hilarious?
'Get a grip, Mikaela,' she chided herself. 'Gheezus, what a mess.'
She reached a hand out to touch one of Charli's dangling arms, nervous that she might feel cold to the touch, but was relieved when she found the skin warm and obviously alive, though slightly scratched and bloodied from the glass that had undoubtedly been floating around the cabin during the fall. She sighed, dragging herself closer and using one arm to press against the guide's chest as a support while she undid the seatbelt with the other, allowing the blonde to slide on her back slowly until she was laying right-side-up.
"Hey," Mikaela said, patting her cheek roughly. "Charli. Hey!"
The guide jerked awake with a gasp of surprise and when she looked at Mikaela, her eyes were unfocussed and disoriented. Mikaela saw, with a wince, that the left side of Charli's face was beginning to turn purple with bruising and there was a sizeable gashed knot over her left eyebrow. The blonde blinked a few times, bringing a hand up to prod gingerly at her face and wincing when it came in contact with the bump on her forehead. She looked at Mikaela, clearly confused.
"We got hit," Mikaela said, "Ratchet's unconscious or something, he's not responding… I think we're at the bottom of the canyon."
Charli winced and nodded in understanding, sitting up slowly with a grunt and taking in her surroundings with too-bright eyes. "Let's get out and have a look," she said, her words slurring slightly. Mikaela nodded and crawled out of the cab behind her. Charli stumbled immediately upon standing and decided it was clearly a better idea to sit as she lowered herself to the grass a few feet from where they landed and stuck her head rather forcefully between her knees.
"Are you okay?" Mikaela asked, concerned.
Charli waved her off with a slightly bloodied hand. "Fine, fine. Just give me a minute."
Mikaela sighed, turning immediately to assess the damage that Ratchet had sustained and had to stifle a pained gasp as she took in his vehicle mode. His windshield was all but shattered and most of the glass had clearly been lost on the way down. The entirety of his exterior was peppered with dents ranging in size from a human fist to craters the size of a standard tire. Bits of vegetation and weeds stuck out from almost every perceivable gap in the Hummer's form and Mikaela was dismayed to see the bright colored liquid that was Cybertronian energon bleeding slowly from the gaps in the medic's armor.
"Fuck, Ratch," Mikaela said quietly, placing a gentle hand on the ruined metal of the Hummer's door.
Mikaela winced. There was no way she could access all of Ratchet's internals without having him in his bipedal form… especially since he was upside down. She wouldn't even be able to access what little was under his hood without having him turned over.
She bit her lip, weighing her options. Looking up the steep incline of the canyon, she decided that there was no way she would be able to climb all the way back up to the road to go for help, especially if it meant leaving Ratchet and Charli, neither of whom were in any condition to go anywhere, alone. On top of that, there was the matter of the vehicle that hit them. Mikaela was almost certain it had been one of the Dreads, even though she hadn't been able to get a good look at it, and the probability was enough to send chills up her spine. What if it came down after them to finish the job? She looked up the incline again, wincing as she followed their crashing path down, clearly cut through trees and shrubbery. She knew they couldn't stay here, but was at a loss as to what a usable alternative might be.
Optimus and Ironhide were still up there somewhere, she remembered with a sudden jolt. They had stayed behind to take care of the other two Decepticons, while Ratchet had tried to get the humans to safety (Mikaela snorted slightly at this). She pulled her blessedly undamaged cell phone out of her back pocket and quickly punched in a pre-programmed code that would connect her directly with Optimus' comlink.
"Come on, come on, come on," she urged quietly. And then there was a sudden click, and a deep baritone voice filled the line.
"Oh, thank God. Optimus," Mikaela all but sobbed in relief. "Are you guys okay?"
"We are fine but for a few minor injuries, Mikaela. We are coming to meet your party now."
"We need help," Mikaela breathed urgently, running a stressed hand through her hair and wincing when she applied too much pressure to the damaged side of her skull.
"What happened?" Optimus demanded, a bit of alarm seeping into his steady voice.
"I d-don't know," Mikaela answered unsteadily. "We got T-Boned by a… by a big vehicle. I think it was one of those black Suburbans, but I didn't get a good look… We went over the guard rail and ended up at the bottom of the canyon."
"Is everyone alright?"
Mikaela shook her head for a moment before remembering that they couldn't see her. "No. Charli hit her head pretty hard, I think she's got at least a mild concussion," she supplied, glancing over at their guide, who sat on the grass with her head in her hands. "Ratchet's unconscious… or something. He's not responding to me at all. He looks pretty bad…"
"We are tracing your cell phone signal, Mikaela. We will be there shortly, just stay where you are," Optimus reassured her. A click on the line signaled the end of the call and Mikaela closed her phone and shoved it back in her pocket.
She walked over and crouched next to Charli, who looked up at her through parted fingers. "You doing okay?" she asked.
Charli nodded, blinking a few times. "I think I'm knocked a bit silly, but I'll live. Have had worse," she laughed, and Mikaela believed it. "How are you holding up? You look like you hit your head pretty good, too."
Mikaela lightly prodded the bump on the right side of her skull, just past the hairline and winced a little, nodding. "Yeah, I got knocked out there for a minute, but it's not too bad. Maybe a concussion. My face isn't turning black and blue, is it?" When Charli shook her head, Mikaela smiled ruefully. "Yours is."
"Yeah," Charli said, grinning. "Good thing I like purple, huh?"
"I guess," Mikaela mumbled under her breath as she stood back up, hands on her hips as she continued to survey where they had ended up. "Optimus and Ironhide are on their way."
"Dunno how we're gonna manage to get out of here," Charli sighed. "I'm not completely familiar with this particular area down here, pretty sure it's private property, and I'm not sure if there are any walls less steep than these further down the canyon. You and I might be able to climb out at some point, but how are we going to haul several tons of unconscious alien robot up a cliff?"
Mikaela sighed, walking over and sitting down with her back against Ratchet, wishing that they could at least roll him over onto his wheels to make him more comfortable. "Hopefully he won't be out for much longer."
The two sat in silence for a few moments before they heard a grating sound, followed by a series of clicking sounds. Mikaela's head snapped around to see that Optimus was sliding down the slope in his bipedal mode in a shower of small rocks and dirt.
The Autobot leader landed gracefully on his feet at the bottom, his optics immediately scanning and assessing the situation. After taking in Charli, who stared blearily up at him, and Ratchet's still overturned vehicle mode, he turned to Mikaela, who jerked her head toward the Hummer as if to say 'do something about him.'
She was rewarded with a fraction of a nod before Optimus knelt slowly beside the Hummer, resting a hand on the door.
"Ratchet, can you hear me?"
"Where's Ironhide?" Mikaela asked worriedly.
"I required him to stay up on the road to keep watch," Optimus said, directing his gaze down at her. "This was indeed a Decepticon's doing. No normal human vehicle could have hit with such force and still have been able to drive away."
Mikaela winced, imagining that the Weapons Specialist probably did not take kindly to the order to stay behind while Ratchet was down, injured, in the canyon. Ratchet stirred, then. Mikaela heard the hum of all of his systems powering back up. "Ratchet?" she asked, stepping forward to lay her hand on his side.
The CMO groaned low in response, and Optimus stood up to his full height.
"I'm going to roll you over, Ratchet. See if you are able to transform."
With a mighty, yet gentle push, Optimus had Ratchet right way up on his wheels again. There was silence for a moment before Mikaela heard the hiss-click-whirr signaling the CMO's transformation.
It was slow going, Ratchet's injuries to his armor plating clearly hindering him from transforming at his normal speed. As the last of the sequence was completed, his knee struts buckled with a pained gasp and he fell forward into the waiting arms of Optimus.
"Easy, old friend," Optimus said softly, attempting to lower the CMO to the ground. "You took quite a hit."
"I'm alright," Ratchet grunted. "My processors are just a bit addled."
"The hell you are," Mikaela growled suddenly from where she stood, hands on her hips, a dark scowl on her face as she regarded the medic's form. "Sit your ass down and let me have a look, Ratchet. You're leaking energon everywhere."
Optimus tilted an optic ridge in amusement but wisely kept silent as the flustered CMO sat heavily, as he was told, glaring at Optimus in a fashion that clearly said 'Say anything, and your next visit to the medbay will be the Pit.'
The moment Ratchet had settled into a seated position, Mikaela was scrambling up the front of his frame to stand on his shoulder armor. She bent low, squinting at the gashes in the metal from where the 'Con had latched on during their fight.
"These don't look too bad," she said. "You'll probably need some welding work when we get back, because my welder is too small. But your self repair has sealed off your energon lines around the area, so no danger here."
Mikaela bent over and tapped his chest plates.
"Open," she instructed. Ratchet did so without argument, groaning a bit as his armor shifted to reveal the delicate wiring and plating over his spark. Mikaela lowered herself gently, routing through the complex network of wires and metal before saying "All clear here, Ratchet. Your self repair seems to have taken care of most of the major leaks over your spark casing, too."
From Ratchet's chassis, she lowered herself onto the solid metal of his thigh to look at a sparking gash over his left hip. She poked at it gently, careful to avoid the energon bleeding slowly from several severed lines, patting Ratchet's leg as he hissed slightly.
"This is going to take a little more work," she said, narrowing her eyes at the wound. "Got my gloves on you?"
Ratchet nodded, fishing a small box out of his subspace and handing it to her. Mikaela flipped the lid open, pulling the two flexible, arm-length metallic looking gloves from inside. She looked down to see Charli watching them questioningly.
"Energon is harmful if it comes into contact with human skin," Mikaela explained. "Ratchet and Wheeljack made these gloves for me several months ago so that I could get into Autobot internals without worrying about melting my hands. They're made of a Cybertronian alloy."
As she divulged this information, she routed around under Ratchet's armor, seeking out the leaking lines. Ratchet pulled a human sized welder and several small clamps from his subspace and handed them off to her as she worked, and she sealed and cauterized the ruptured lines with military precision within seconds.
"That'll have to do for now, Ratch," Mikaela said, placing the gloves back in their box and wiping her hands on her jeans as she hopped down. "How does it feel?"
"Much better," Ratchet sighed, hauling himself to stand. "Thank you, Mikaela."
"No worries, Ratch," Mikaela said cheerfully, stretching and pulling her hair back into a messy ponytail. "When we get back to the hangar we can-"
"Mikaela," Ratchet said suddenly, cutting the mechanic off and staring at her. "Your face."
Mikaela winced. She had hoped he wouldn't notice just yet. "It's nothing, Ratchet."
"That's not nothing, youngling," he insisted.
"It is. You should have a look at Charli's. Hers is even more colorful."
Charli glared at her in such a way that clearly said 'traitor,' looking past the advancing CMO at Mikaela with pursed lips and dangerously narrowed eyes and the mechanic winced again, mouthing 'Sorry' at their guide as the Ratchet turned his attention on her instead.
When Charli finally refocused on Ratchet, she jumped to her feet and stumbled back in surprise, stifling a startled shout as she was confronted with the figure of an unfamiliar man.
"Wha-" she stuttered, teetering dangerously as her head spun from the sudden movement. The man grabbed her wrist with long, thin fingers in quick reflex to steady her, and she wrenched her arm from his grasp. "What the hell?"
"Calm yourself, Charlotte, this is my hard light form," a familiar, lightly accented voice said, and she squinted at the figure hard.
"Well?" Ratchet said expectantly, when she didn't move. "Sit down before you fall down and let me have a look."
"It's really not necessary, Ratchet. It's just-"
"Sit," Ratchet ordered in a tone that left no room for argument. "Now."
"I can see where Mikaela gets it from," the blonde mumbled sourly.
"Turn your head for me," the CMO said distractedly, running surprisingly gentle fingers over the bruise forming on the side of Charli's face. Charli complied. "Your cheekbone is intact. Any pain in your neck?"
"Nothing significant yet."
"Follow my forefinger, please," Ratchet said, eyebrows drawing inward in focus as he moved his finger back and forth. Charli blinked at him slowly, and followed his instructions for a moment before closing her eyes.
"Makes me dizzy."
Ratchet pulled a small flashlight out of his pocket and clicked it on before putting a hand to the guide's forehead to tilt it back, "Open your eyes, please."
Charli did as she was told, but was none too happy about finding the bright light boring into her skull.
"I need you to tell me exactly how you feel, this particular moment," Ratchet said, shining the small light into one eye, then the other.
Charli winced. "Like I'm going to projectile vomit on you any time now if you keep shining that light in my eyes."
The guide was sure she heard Mikaela snort in quiet laughter at that particular threat, but couldn't bring herself to turn her head and look.
"Your pupils are dilated," Ratchet frowned at her, but clicked the light off. "What else?"
"Uhh… One hell of a headache. Some dizziness, lightheadedness, disorientation, sore ribs. Concussion, most likely – moderate, not severe. Bruised ribs and shoulder, nothing broken though. Nothing that a couple days of ibuprofen and some peppermint won't fix."
Charli chuckled when Ratchet stared at her with a raised eyebrow. "Sorry. Lots of first aid classes, certification whatnot. This is the part where you tell me to refrain from self-diagnosis, right?"
"As your diagnosis is likely correct, it would be foolish of me to do so, just to repeat it back to you in a few moments," Ratchet said, rubbing his forehead with two fingers. "However, I would like to keep an eye on you for a couple days, just in case."
Charli didn't look happy with the last bit, but she shrugged. "Am I bleeding?" She asked, frowning.
"You are," Ratchet sighed. "Above your left eyebrow ridge."
"I will take care of that for you in a moment," Ratchet said, "Let me see to Mikaela first."
Mikaela flinched, backing away toward the huge feet of Optimus as Ratchet turned from Charli to her with an appraising look. The mechanic scrambled halfway up one of the Autobot leader's feet with a scowl as Charli stuck her tongue out at her. Optimus shifted somewhat uncomfortably, looking from Ratchet's advancing holoform to the human girl attempting to scuttle away from it. Ratchet's holo came to a stop at the base of the foot Mikaela was currently perched on and he crossed his arms firmly, his eyebrows lifting closer to his hairline.
"Mikaela," he said evenly, tapping his foot slowly.
"Yes?" she responded meekly.
Sweetly; "Come down here."
Mikaela's eyes widened at the unfamiliar, sugary tone. "Uh, no thanks. I'll just... uh-"
"Now!" Ratchet said sharply, making Mikaela jump and go rigid. She slid, stiffly and slowly over the red and blue plating over to her mentor, shuffling her feet when she stood before him and looking more like a young child than a young woman.
"Look at me, please," Ratchet said, reverting to a gentle tone and tilting Mikaela's head so that he could shine the same little light into her eyes.
Mikaela squinted and squirmed a bit. "Ow, Ratch."
"I know, I apologize," Ratchet mumbled, rubbing a slender thumb in circles over the mechanic's undamaged temple. "I need to get a look at your pupils, Mikaela. Try to keep your eyes open for just a moment."
Mikaela obeyed, slightly soothed by Ratchet's hands. Ratchet, seeming satisfied, clicked the light off and put it back into his pocket. He tilted Mikaela's head to the side with gentle pressure and smoothed back her hair to get a better look at the knot on the side of her head.
"Same goes for you, Mikaela," Ratchet said in a strict tone. "Observation. You both need to take it slow for a couple of days."
Mikaela sighed in defeat. "Fine."
Ratchet nodded once, in a final kind of way, before his holoform flickered and dissipated. His bipedal form stretched slightly, and everyone winced at the sound of metal grinding on metal.
'How do they look?' Optimus' voice suddenly filled the private comlink he shared with Ratchet.
Ratchet sighed. 'They're both remarkably unharmed for what could have been. Banged up and both will be sore for a while, but nothing serious.'
'I'm glad,' Optimus said, some of the worry leaving his voice. 'And you? That was quite a tumble.'
'I'll be alright as well. Nothing I can't take care of when I have access to the proper tools back at the hangar,' Ratchet responded, rolling his shoulder experimentally and looking up the steep incline toward the road. 'Now we just need to get out of this blasted rut.'