Red Alert could hear voices. Quiet voices, whispering from across the room, muffled voices from somewhere outside. Then a loud voice, right beside him that would have made him jump if he'd been able to move.

"Inferno, I need to warn you - the damage to his memory chips was both severe and wide-spread. You need to be prepared to face the possibility that the corrupted files will cause large memory gaps."

A second voice answered the first, lower and drawling. "I get that, Ratch. But he's gonna be okay?"

The other sighed, a woosh of air through his exhaust. "I wish it were that simple. Most of the injuries have been repaired, but short of replacing the damaged memory banks, I've done all I can."

A medic? Red Alert wondered. The voice wasn't familiar, and neither was the engine sound, or uneven pitch of a mis-aligned fanblade when the unknown mech vented air. The medics in Iacon maintained the highest-quality facilities on Cybertron, and would not have let such a thing slide.

"And if you replace the banks, he ain't gonna remember any of us," the deep drawl said unhappily. The second mech's engine was heavier, and Red Alert expected he outmassed both Red Alert and the "medic." His systems seemed smoother and better maintained, and there was strange quality to the clickof the second mech's armor against the berth edge. Specialized armor, either heat or radiation protection, Red Alert guessed.

"He may not anyway. But at least there is a possibility this way that his internal repairs will be able to fix it enough to recover at least part of the lost data."

"A possibility's better'n none at all," the drawl said, grim. "When'll we know?"

"Soon as he's up and talking, we'll run a few tests. He should be coming out of it now. The program's designed to wake him up slowly, to prevent any panic or accidents."

The voices sounded friendly, but Red Alert wasn't quite ready to trust them simply because they said they were his friends. So when he found his motor functions had reactivated themselves, he stayed still until he was sure the effects of... whatever they had given him … had worn off. Then and only then did he let his optics online and turn to look at the mechs next to his berth. The larger, red one bounded to his feet at the movement, rushing to his side.

"Red! Yer awake!" he boomed. Red Alert jerked back instinctively, and the mech's expression fell slightly. "It's okay, Red, yer home," Inferno continued, soothingly.

Red Alert's expression said quite clearly that he wasn't so sure that was a good thing.

"Easy, Inferno, give him some space," the other mech said, extending a hand keep Inferno from reaching out to touch Red Alert. He smiled in a way that Red Alert guessed was supposed to be reassuring. "Can you tell me your designation?"

"Red Alert, which you already know," Red Alert said shortly.

The mech kept the reassuring smile in place. "Yes, I do, but there was some fairly extensive damage to your memory circuits, so I'm going to ask you a few basic questions to get an idea of how much and what was damaged or lost."

So was that it? Some sort of interrogation trick? Slip the information they needed to know in with a series of innocuous questions? Well, it wouldn't work. He was on to them, and they wouldn't get anything from him.

"Where was your first posting?" the mech asked.

That seemed fairly harmless. "Iacon," he answered grudgingly.

"What planet are we stationed on?"

A flat stony look was his answer. The medic sighed, clearly not surprised by his reticence. "Do you know who I am?" he asked.

"No. Should I?" Red Alert shifted uncomfortably.

"Aw, Red, it's Ratchet. Y'know, Ratch?" Inferno said, hopeful.

"It's alright," Ratchet said soothingly. "Some of it should come back to you as your systems repair themselves." He patted Inferno on the shoulder. "Do you know who this is?"

"You called him Inferno," Red Alert answered, voice flat. "And I've never seen him before in my life."

Inferno looked like he'd just taken a piledriver to the midsection.

"Yes, you have," Ratchet said. "But your memory banks have been damaged. I'm sure some of it will start coming back soon. What's the last thing you remember?"

Pain. Fire. Something falling, crashing down on him. A crushing weight. Sinister laughter.

"Nothing," he snapped, not ready to share that little flash of memory with these two strange mechs. "The files are corrupted."

"Perhaps that's for the best," Ratchet said, venting air in a sigh.

"It's gonna be alright, Red," Inferno said anxiously, sounding more like he was trying to convince himself than Red Alert. "You'll see-" He reached out, trying to lay a comforting hand on Red Alert's arm.

"Don't touch me!" Red Alert jerked away from him, scrambling off the other side of the berth to put its bulk between them. "I don't know you, I don't want to know you, so stop it! Leave me alone."


Ratchet grabbed Inferno to keep him from trying to follow Red Alert. "Whoa there, Inferno." He lowered his voice. "He's confused, give him time," he murmured, pushing the fire truck back. "He just needs some space."

Inferno shifted, but didn't try to move forward again, looking forlornly over the berth at Red Alert. Red Alert glared back.

"I would like to leave," Red Alert said flatly to Ratchet, his bright, suspicious optics never leaving Inferno.

"Alright," Ratchet said. "But if you feel any changes, have any problems at all, I want you to comm me immediately." He looked over to Inferno. "Why don't you take him back to-"

"No," Red Alert interrupted, with an agitated twitch of his doors. "I'm not going anywhere with him." He ignored the hurt expression the other was giving him. What did they think he was, some inexperienced new build?

Ratchet looked between them, expression uncomfortable. "I'm not sure how to tell you this, but he's - I mean, you two, well-"

His awkward explanation was interrupted by the door sliding open, a mud-splattered femme rushing in. "I came as fast as I could-" she began, then caught sight of Red Alert, staring back at her with wide optics. "Oh, Red! You're alright!" She strode forward, clearly intending on hugging Red Alert, but stopped at a gesture from Ratchet. "What is it?" she asked, faltering.

"He don't remember none of us," Inferno said slowly, clearly having troubles coming to terms with the idea.

"His memory chips were damaged," Ratchet told her quietly. "Hopefully, with time, some of the damage will repair itself. But until then..." he trailed off.

"Oh," she said quietly, cycling her optics as she absorbed this. The look she gave Red Alert was sympathetic. "This all must be so overwhelming," she said earnestly. "And since I guess we're meeting for the first time again..." She smiled and held out her hand. "I'm Firestar."

Red Alert looked at her hand suspiciously before taking it grudgingly and letting go almost immediately.

"It'll be okay, Red, you'll see," she said, optics bright and seeming so trustworthy.

Red Alert resolved to be especially on his guard around her. It would be too easy to trust her, which was undoubtedly the entire point of her being there. He had to give these strange mechs credit; the whole situation was brilliantly orchestrated. A less suspicious mech would be taken in, and fall prey to whatever nefarious schemes they had planned.

His gaze cut back to Ratchet and the big mech slumped behind him, a thought suddenly occurring to him - maybe he should play along, and find out exactly what these mechs' angle was. Since they brought in this femme to fool him, he'd let her think that he was fooled.

"Firestar," Ratchet said quietly. "Would you mind showing Red Alert to his quarters?"

"Sure," she answered, giving Red Alert another bright smile. "C'mon, it's this way."

Red Alert gave the other two mechs one last hard look before following Firestar out.