"You," Sideswipe jabbed a finger at his superior officer, "are trying to get rid of me."
Prowl didn't even dignify Sideswipe with a response and instead opted to frown at him warily.
"Trying to snuff me out," Sideswipe continued animatedly. "I'm deeply hurt, Prowl. I know we don't always see optic to optic but I never knew you wanted me dead."
"Sideswipe," Prowl began tiredly, "I don't want you dead."
"Yes you do!" Sideswipe railed. "Dead. Gone. Finite. Checked out. One with the Allspark. But come on, Prowl. If you wanted me out of the picture so badly couldn't you just do it in a more military fashion? I demand to be put in front of a firing squad."
"Sideswipe. " Prowl's voice was laced with agitation. "For the last time. I do not. Want you. Dead."
"Yes you do."
"No I do not."
"Yeah. I'm pretty sure you do."
"No I don't, although I am getting to the point where I am seriously reconsidering that fact."
"Ha! You admit to it!" Sideswipe accused.
"Sideswipe. I am assigning you as Wheeljack's lab assistant for a day. That's hardly a death sentence."
"See, you're saying these thing in plainly spoken, quite sophisticate English, and yet you are making no sense at all. So I'll go ahead and offer some sense of my own. Wheeljack's lab. I'll be lucky if I don't implode walking through the door."
"You are over reacting," Prowl insipidly declared.
"Considering the fact that one of my superior officers is plotting my tragic demise I think I'm taking this rather well. Seriously, I had so much to live for. And who's going to remember to take Sunstreaker on walks? Who's going to keep him from chewing on the other bots when I'm gone? Have fun dealing with that without me around."
"You know as far as punishments go I think you are getting off rather easy."
"See that? That right there is how I know you're plotting my murder. You say this is some kind of punishment but I haven't done anything wrong."
"So you are telling me it was not you who happened to borrow from the science wing's supply store for undisclosed purposes?" Prowl laced his fingers on his desk.
"That is exactly what I'm saying." Sideswipe threw his arms wide and looked skyward in exasperation.
"So you are telling me that you did not in fact take this particular crate, this crate that happened to be stocked with Potassium Nitrate and Sulfur. Two of the main components of fireworks which I know for a fact you have taken in the past," Prowl interrogated.
"Yeah, ok." Sideswipe helplessly shrugged. "So it's true. Last Fourth of July our fireworks showing was lacking and I decided to spruce it up a bit with some homemade M-80s and Roman candles. You gotta admit they were awesome."
Prowl continued to glare.
"But I actually came clean about that," Sideswipe reasoned. "I always do. I know when I've been caught but I seriously had nothing to with whatever's missing now. I didn't even know we were missing supplies until you dragged me down here."
"Well sorry if I do not seem inclined to believe you. The precedent is there and you do not have an alibi for the time the aforementioned items went missing. Since you will not fess up about what you have done with the items in question from the Science Department, then you will make up for it by working in the science department."
Sideswipe aggressively sighed, making it a whole body event before he slumped into the chair behind him. "Well since you seem so hell-bent on administering the stern hand of justice on an innocent bot why can't I just have a normal punishment? Like scrubbing the halls until either my hands bleed or the paint comes off?"
"That is enough. Report to Wheeljack's lab within the next five minutes or I'm shipping you to Siberia to dig trenches in the permafrost."
Sideswipe made no effort to move and looked to be seriously considering this new alternative.
Prowl sighed in exasperation. "Sideswipe. You'll be fine. Report to Wheeljack's lab."
"I'm telling Jazz on you," the younger bot pouted.
Well Sideswipe didn't implode walking through the door. The day was still young though.
Wheeljack's work shop was a weirdly chaotically ordered area. Bits of metal, wiring and odd looking devices were strewn through the space. Shelves were cluttered with parts, and chemicals. The arrangement of everything made zero sense to Sideswipe yet somehow Wheeljack managed to find everything he needed in it.
He picked through the chaos and made sure to give anything that looked suspect a wide breadth of space.
"Oh hey, Sideswipe," Wheeljack cheerily greeted from his work bench from where he appeared to be reassembling something that was in pieces. "Prowl said you would be helping me today."
"Indeed I am. So whatcha working on?" Sideswipe masked his unease with nonchalance. "Flame thrower? Torpedoes? Catapults? Catapults that build other catapults?
"Coffee maker," was the somewhat distracted response.
That sounded… not dangerous. "Oh. Why? We can't drink coffee."
"I know," Wheeljack said brightly. "But the other day I fixed the one Spark Plug keeps around the base and got to thinking about coffee. This little caffeine infused beverage that humans drink to get a little extra jolt of energy."
"Still not seeing how this relates to us."
"See it's not the drink itself that was cool. It's how much humans customize it! I mean taste varies from person to person but they can add all kinds of extra things to their drink, like the crystallized structure C6H12O6 for sweetness, or shots of other flavor additives like hazel nut and vanilla. And I thought why don't we do that? We used to on Cybertron before the war after all. Military grade energon rations get old after a while and back on Cybertron we used to be more creative with our fuel. So I'm making this. It processes the energon into a liquid form like our normal dispensers but eventually I'm going to work out a flavoring function that infuses minerals and elements for taste."
Sideswipe blinked. "That sounds awesome actually."
"Yeah." Wheeljack tweaked a wire then looked up. "Oh! Sorry there, Sides. I got so excited about this I completely forgot why you're here. I guess you need something to do right?"
Sideswipe shrugged noncommittally.
"Well, uh, let's see," Wheeljack scanned the lab and finally settled on a massive pile of tools. "Oh! Right. Those. There's nothing dangerous in there. Just spanners and wrenches and stuff. Sometimes I forget to put them back. They all have a place on the wall over there. I guess you can sort them out?"
"Yeah. Sure." Sideswipe actually smiled in relief. That was a pleasantly mundane task actually. Here he was worrying that he was going to be a lab rat or would be forced to ferry around dangerous chemicals and hazardous weaponry. But organizing a bunch of tools? He wasn't as OCD as Sunstreaker was but that was something he was capable of doing.
So he got to work sifting through the pile.
Maybe he had been rather melodramatic in Prowl's office. This wasn't so bad. Better then scrubbing floors.
He was still a little pissed that he was being punished for something he didn't even do but what was new?
So Wheeljack tinkered away on his "coffee machine" and Sideswipe methodically put the tools back to their rightful places, even wiping them down first with a shammy he found. It took about an hour but he got through them all. Wheeljack was pretty engrossed in his little project so Sideswipe found other ways to keep busy.
He steered clear of anything blatantly dangerous. That included anything remotely weapon shaped or alien enough looking that he wasn't entirely sure, and actually began to organize bits and pieces of the chaotic lab. Sometimes he'd call over to ask Wheeljack where things were supposed to go and the engineer would absently point him over to wherever he wanted the things to be.
Some of the stuff Wheeljack made was cool. Some things were questionable. Some things were terrifying but it was all kind of neat and occasionally Sideswipe would ask about something he came across to which Wheeljack would happily explain, "Oh! That's a solar electrical socket." Or "That's a titanium utility ring." Or "That's… huh. I don't remember what that is. You uh…might wanna put that down."
And Sideswipe did. Carefully.
"Does any of this ever worry you?" Sideswipe eventually blurted out. "Look, I know most of your stuff works but what about when it doesn't and it blows up in your face? I mean after just getting blown to kingdom come you just truck on. Having a bomb explode in most bots' faces would probably scare them away from stuff like this."
"Yeah I guess." Wheeljack looked up from his project that was actually starting to look like something other than a pile of scrap and parts. "But if you have to go out you might as well go out doing something you love! Besides I never get hurt that bad. Most of the time. Ok, once or twice it was kind of awful but it doesn't really happen as much as everyone thinks. There's a certain thrill though I guess. I mean, I could say the same thing about you. What sane mech essentially base jumps from cliff tops for the off chance of tackling a seeker out of the sky?"
"Okay you have me there." Sideswipe continued to dust some shelves.
"Besides most of the time I just do run of the mill maintenance. But when I get to do the really fun stuff, when I get to make things better or get to create things to fill the gaps in our lives that no one knew were there, so what if I get a little injured on the way? These are the things we suffer for scientific progress."
"You also get to build things to royally screw over the Decepticons." Sideswipe grinned.
"The job has its perks," Wheeljack answered happily. "But sometimes it's nice to just build something kind of civilian. Just to make sure I can still do it," he added softly.
So from that point on the two conversed as Sideswipe organized and Wheeljack continued to construct. They talked about a variety of things, maintenance projects Wheeljack had worked on, neat things the humans were able to come up with, and just general gossip from around the Ark. Sideswipe eventually even asked Wheeljack if he would be able to make a Cybertronian sized guitar, something the engineer nodded vigorously over in excitement and apparently added onto his list of human things to convert for Cybertronian use.
Over time Sideswipe felt more at ease and less like he was traipsing around a mine field as he had previously believed the workshop would be like.
Naw, the land mines were tucked safely in a reinforced shelf with a blast glass door in the corner, not strewn about the floor.
Sideswipe actually really liked Wheeljack but it always did seem like the mech was more prone to accidents (of the explosive variety) then the average bot, but it was clear the engineer knew what he was doing. If Sideswipe really thought about it, it wasn't like Wheeljack blew slag up most of the time. Usually it only happened when the Decepticons were doing something stupid and they needed to immediately counter with some slapdash piece of technology that Wheeljack had to magic together in time. No wonder crap like that blew up with how much the engineer usually got rushed.
But on a project where Wheeljack got to take his time? It seemed like there weren't any problems at.
"I think it's done!" Wheeljack said excitedly and took a second to admire the little device he had brought into existence.
Sideswipe stopped what he was doing and jogged over to see the invention.
It did sort of look like a slightly modified, Cybertronian coffee maker.
"Just got to see if it works." Wheeljack lifted the lid, put in an unrefined energon crystal in the device, closed said lid and pressed a button. The machine began to whir. "So what're you feeling, Sideswipe? Feeling like a little Magnesium or Barium in your energon?"
"Magnesium I guess," Sideswipe shrugged.
Wheeljack pushed another button and placed a cube under the dispenser nozzle. The machine clicked and suddenly a charged, pink liquid was filling the container.
Wheeljack whipped a pipette out of seemingly nowhere and sucked up a tiny drop of the liquid. He placed it on a flat metal device that broke down the composition of the substance just to be sure it was harmless.
He read the readings gleefully. "97 percent pure high grade, 3 percent mineral infusion. Totally safe. Here try a bit?"
Sideswipe eyed it for a second warily. But then he thought about it. He was Sideswipe, a mech known for throwing himself into the worst of life threatening situations. It wasn't like Wheeljack was forcing him to test out explosives, just a harmless drink.
"Oh what the hell. Nothing ventured nothing gained right? For science." He held up the cube in a 'cheers' motion and with that Sideswipe bravely took a swig. It definitely was the refreshing charge of normal high grade but there was a pleasant tang to it that reminded Sideswipe of a very brief period of time before war and rations. It was good. "This is actually kind of awesome."
"Great! See? I'm going to load up these little capsules with mineral particulates." He held up one of the empty glass, pill shaped containers. "Then a mech can just push the button for the flavor he wants and ta-dah! Instant flavored energon!"
"How many do you have set up?" Sideswipe downed the rest of the cube before setting the empty container on Wheeljack's desk. "There was this little place, a total dive really, back on Cybertron I used to like and they had this one energon mix that was infused with four percent cadmium and .003 of silver. Tasted really clean. Kind of miss it."
"I have sixteen. I only filled two of them with enough minerals to make for one drink each. That was all the magnesium I had ready for use. I wonder what it would taste like if I burned it first. Oxidized Magnesium might taste interesting and I know we can't really absorb the carbon that would end up because of the reaction but what the heck! It might be good! It might be awful! But that's what experimentation is all about!"
"I have no idea what you said but go for it man!" Sideswipe cheerily encouraged.
"And I probably have some cadmium lying around somewhere. Wanna try making that combination you mentioned?"
"We still have fourteen empty capsules. Hey, Sideswipe, it looks like on that shelf over there's a tray with a bunch of jars filled with metal and mineral dust. Go grab it and bring it here, kay? Maybe we'll find somethin' we can use!"
This is about where things unknowingly began to go south. Because Sideswipe had been lulled into a false sense of security. He was a warrior, his guard should have been up, but Wheeljack's excitement for his new, benign invention was contagious. That and Sideswipe couldn't remember the last time he could taste energon with any flavoring in it beyond how refined (or unrefined) it was.
"Sure thing." Sideswipe, actually having fun being part of Wheeljack's harmless mad science, crossed the room to grab the tray. There were three jars of metal dust on it, their formulas written in scrawled Cybertronian glyphs across the glass. Slag if he knew what any of them actually were though.
As he did that Wheeljack got to work on burning three ribbons of magnesium in a little, high-sided tray on his desk. The metal sputtered with extreme temperatures and crackled white sparks as it slowly turned into a fine powder.
Sideswipe returned with the tray and stood idly with it in hand as Wheeljack continued to tweak his machine.
"I got the jars," Sideswipe eventually said.
This is where things really went wrong.
You see as Wheeljack got more excited, this was reflected more and more in his body language. His motions became more sweeping, more energetic and less focused and attentive to his surroundings. He completely misjudged how close Sideswipe was to him. So when he whirled around he collided with the tray Sideswipe was holding and the jars were launched at the red warrior.
The velocity in which they were launched, combined with the general toughness of Sideswipe's dense, battle grade armor, pretty much meant that the delicate glass jars stood no chance and basically shattered on impact. The tray was dropped. Three puffs of dust, one red, one silver and white, exploded around Sideswipe momentarily blocking the warrior from view.
Instinctively Wheeljack was able to jump back to avoid the cloud of particulate matter.
Sideswipe on the other hand coughed and hacked after some of the fine red dust found its way into his intakes. The cloud eventually settled and he was visible again but, well, it clung to him. He was completely covered. The worst of it was on his chest plate and shoulders but you pretty much couldn't see Sideswipe's paintjob under the thin layer of grime.
"Oh, wow, I am so sorry!" Wheeljack immediately apologized as Sideswipe continued to gasp. "I totally just had a spatially stupid moment. Are you alright there, Sides?"
"I'm fine," Sideswipe wheezed as he tried to dislodge more of the dust from his intakes. It was bitter and unpleasant. "What -cough- what is this? Should I be worried?" he asked in mock concern.
Mostly mock. There may have been a little real concern buried in there somewhere.
"Good question actually." Wheeljack carefully leaned forward and peered closely at the red dust. "Oh. Fe2O3. It's iron oxide. No big loss there I guess. That would've tasted awful."
"Rust?" Sideswipe was actually surprised and relieved by how non-threatening that was. "What do you do with rust?"
"Sometimes it's an agent in reactions." Wheeljack shrugged as way of reply. "That's not the only thing you got on yourself though. There are little gray bits but that could be a lot of things."
Sideswipe picked up one of the partly shattered jar and read the label. "This says Al. Aluminum flakes, right?"
So he was covered in rust and aluminum. To Sideswipe that didn't really sound like much of a big deal but for some reason Wheeljack absolutely froze, horror in his optics.
That made Sideswipe a little uneasy.
"Uh, Sides. You need to back up slowly and get into the decontamination shower. Like now."
"Decontamination? Because of aluminum and rust?" Sideswipe paused and suddenly recoiled away from the jar he was holding. It shattered spectacularly on the floor. "What did you do to these? Primus, is this like cosmic rust or something?" Sideswipe reeled in horror.
"No! No it's normal rust." Wheeljack assured voice strained. "That's not the problem. Just… the decontamination shower is right over there so just get in that ok?"
Sideswipe took a hesitant step back ready to heed the engineer's words.
And that's when the molten magnesium reaction sitting on Wheeljack's desk popped rather violently. A fiery ember of white hot metal streaked through the air before landing rather harmlessly on Sideswipe's metal dusted arm.
Well harmless until it lit the Iron oxide and Aluminum particles on his armor. White sparks popped and crackled across Sideswipe's dense plating before ultimately becoming a full blown, horrific, exothermic reaction.
Because Iron Oxide, plus Aluminum, plus a hot enough igniting factor leads to a thermite reaction.
For a split fraction of a second, Sideswipe (armor suddenly ablaze with a spark spewing, white hot conflagration) and Wheeljack (who despite having a mask that covered most of his face managed to look absolutely horrified) stared at each other.
At least until the pain registered and Sideswipe shrieked.
And luckily passed out on the floor.
Good thing they weren't built like humans. Being awake for that would've sucked.
Two Protectobots, neither of who were Hotspot unfortunately, and Trailbreaker came barreling into the lab.
"Wheeljack, what's going on? We heard scre- sweet Rossum's Trinity!" First Aid recoiled after having almost run straight into an inferno that was situated in the middle of the floor.
Wheeljack was jumping, and flailing spastically around the perimeter of the said horrific ball of spark spitting, red fire and smoke. He'd try to claw out at it and immediately would be driven back as a wad of white hot fire would be spat at him.
"It's Sideswipe!" Wheeljack screeched. "IT'S SIDESWIPE!"
Sideswipe? What? Where?
"Primus! THAT'S SIDESWIPE! Help me put it out!" First Aid squawked as he ripped a fire blanket from subspace. Groove streaked past him, circumvented the burning Autobot and went in search for something that would help control the flames.
The blanket was thrown over Sideswipe and quickly was consumed on contact with a pop and sizzle.
Oh. Fire blankets didn't usually fail that spectacularly.
Ok that was pretty much all the medic had in his arsenal for dealing with infernos.
Any semblance he had of calm pretty much disintegrated with the blanket.
"Whatdowedo? Whatdowedo?"First Aid then began to hop and trip in panicked, arm wheeling circles much as Wheeljack had been doing in the face of pretty much all his ideas ending with the fire blanket. He may have been a member of the Autobot's resident emergency and rescue squad but his role pretty much ended at repairing injuries. Not dealing with the injuries as they were being created.
Just then Groove came bolting back having found a large enough container among Wheeljack's beakers and tanks to fill with an adequate amount of water (which he got from the unused decontamination shower).
"I've got this!" Groove declared and made to toss the water onto the smoldering reaction that had once been an Autobot, but Wheeljack latched onto his arms stopping the action mid swing. Some of the water sloshed from the container but none of it landed on the violent, hot reaction, crawling across Sideswipe's armor.
"NO!" Wheeljack shrieked. "It's thermite! Water will cause a phreatomagmatic explosion!"
"What?" Groove yelled back in panic and confusion.
"It'll make molten iron spit everywhere!"
"Primus-whatdowedo? Whatdowedo!" First Aid continued to flail about the perimeter of the burning reaction, dancing around the sparks that were being tossed about the room. Some of which were coming dangerously close to a few dangerous looking devices and chemical concoctions.
"Don't worry! I'll suffocate the fire!" Trailbreaker finally got over the shock and panic of the situation to offer some sort of aid.
So he threw up a very small force field around Sideswipe's combusting form with the intention of starving the fire of air, but even without oxygen the fire continued to burn.
Trailbreaker was horrified. "It's not stopping!"
Wheeljack smacked himself on the forehead with both hands. "It has its own oxygen supply. It can burn in a vacuum!"
"Then how do we stop it?" First Aid shrieked in helpless frustration
"You can't!" Wheeljack wailed as he grabbed his head fins in despair. "The reaction is irreversible!"
And because sometimes the cosmos has strangely prudent timing, Sideswipe's combusting armor slowly stopped spitting molten clumps of iron and the smoke began to clear. Suddenly in a rather anticlimactic fashion the reaction simply burned itself out and stopped.
Just to be sure, after a beat, Groove still went ahead and doused Sideswipe with the bucket of water he had been uselessly holding on to. The water crackled and steamed on contact with the smoldering armor but seemed to do the job of cooling the metal down.
Every one stared, somewhat reeling from what would probably later be seen as the most traumatic 30 seconds of time any of them had endured in a very long while.
First Aid, the only true medic of the group of shell shocked and distressed mechs, immediately rushed to Sideswipe's side. See? This is where his skill set could actually be helpful!
Sideswipe was lying in a puddle of rapidly cooling molten metal. There were large expanses of the warrior's plating where the metal had been completely or mostly burned off. He definitely was missing several layers of dermal plating in places. Fortunately for Sideswipe his armor, though not quite to the extent of his brother's, was a very dense military grade alloy with some resistance to heat. That had prevented the thermite from completely eating through his entire body.
He was still a mess. Maybe not exactly a puddle of molten slag (entirely anyway) but what was left of his external plating was still red hot in places. He was still very, very hurt. But he was alive.
First Aid's hands fluttered unhelpfully around Sideswipe's form for a moment before he finally softly poked at one of the cooler, lesser damaged spots on Sideswipe's armor. "Sideswipe?"
For a moment nothing. Then there was a strangled groan from the prone mech.
"He's alive!" First Aid nearly collapsed in relief that yes, the frontliner had survived being essentially burned alive.
Everyone released a relieved intake of air they hadn't been aware they had been holding in.
"But this is bad you guys. We need to get him down to medical immediately. His plating all but melted off and I'm not sure what happened to his internals." First Aid began the process of taking swaths of sterile bandages from subspace and began frantically covering the more exposed regions on Sideswipe's body. "Just…What on Earth happened?"
"We were making coffee," Wheeljack explained gloomily. Not that that statement really made sense to anyone.
"No worries," Groove's usually mellow voice cracked a bit since he was still somewhat shaken up. "I sent Ratchet a message. He'll be here in no time."
Wheeljack sighed in relief at that. Sideswipe would be ok, he told himself. The soldier was tough and Ratchet worked wonders. He'd make sure Sideswipe would be fine. Old Siders would survive. Because Ratchet… was coming.
His processor stalled a beat.
Ratchet. Ratchet was coming.
To Wheeljack's lab.
Where Wheeljack had pretty much unintentionally ignited Sideswipe with a devastating exothermic reaction.
Sideswipe who for unfathomable reasons Ratchet really liked. Who Ratchet was really attached to. More so then most of the Autobots.
All of the Autobots actually.
Sideswipe was probably unchallenged in being Ratchet's favorite mech, Primus knew why.
They could hear sirens wailing from down the hall. Before they knew it an ambulance came careening into sight. Ratchet decelerated, the weight of this vehicle form was thrown to his front wheels, and he actually managed to achieve an inertia drift as he rounded the corner to get in the lab.
Impressive for a clunky ambulance.
The medic transformed and bolted forward before his processor could really absorb was he was looking at, but you could pin point the exact second he took in and actually comprehended the situation.
He locked up mid step and wordlessly gaped at the scorched lump of ruined metal that was Sideswipe. He staggered forward, dropped to his knees whilst avoiding the re-hardened and cooled puddle of melted armor plating, and his hands ghosted over the unconscious Autobot's form.
Slowly the medic's face tilted up. Optics that were rapidly darkening and clouding with an unfathomable fury despite his blank face locked onto Wheeljack's own terrified pair.
Well, Sideswipe's chances of survival had just gone up significantly.
Wheeljack's current prospects at surviving the day however…
Back in the command center, away from the pandemonium occurring in Wheeljack's lab, every mech paused for a second to open the message they had collectively received.
"Did anyone else just get somethin' from Wheeljack?" Blaster suddenly asked.
The question was affirmed by a few perplexed yeses and yups.
"Kay. Why did he just mass text us his last will and testament?" he queried in puzzlement.
No answers were had.
For the next fifteen minutes Ratchet did minor repairs and ran extensive diagnostics on Sideswipe as the remaining four shuffled uncertainly and offered snippets of information regarding what happened. Wheeljack did most of the talking, often falling into scientific jargon as his nervousness grew, but still continuously stressed how much of an accident the whole situation was.
It had been a series of unfortunate events really.
Ratchet remained eerily quiet during the explanations and that made everything so much worse.
"His armor was just dense enough to stave off a thirty second long thermite reaction from burning into anything important it looks." Ratchet finally explained, voice steely calm. "As far as I can tell most of his internals are still ok and no important fuel lines were breached. Lucky for him otherwise the energon would've ignited. We need to repair his dermal plating and armor to avoid any corrosion or damage to his systems. Also there's a chance that some of his more delicate wiring near his surface plates were overwhelmed by the heat."
He turned to First Aid and Groove.
"Get him to medical. Put him on some neural buffers and begin removing as much of the corroded metal as you can. Keep him stable. Radio me if you find anything life threatening or if his condition changes for the worse. I'll be there shortly," he ordered, voice the epitome of calm.
"Yes, Ratchet." Heeding the command First Aid transformed, and Groove and Trailbreaker loaded Sideswipe on top of him. After the warrior was secure they left the lab leaving the Medic, the Engineer and the scorched floor behind.
Ratchet slowly got up from where he had been kneeling, and slowly stretched to his full height one metal vertebrate at a time. He wasn't exactly taller than Wheeljack but the creeping wrath that was starting to finally spread from his optics to the rest of his face was sure giving the mech the illusion of height.
"You lit Sideswipe on fire," he finally stated voice accusatory and acidic.
Wheeljack always got stupidly smart (or smartly stupid) when he was scared. All logic and reason fled from his mind and all he was left with was science. This was probably why he moronically decided to correct the white and red wall of anger standing before him. "Well, uh, no. No external oxygen was really involved so it technically wasn't fire. It was a thermite reaction."
He let out an unmechly screech of terror as Ratchet essentially bull rushed him.
Prowl had just finished approving the supply requisition forms that had been sitting on his desk since the morning when he received a notice from Silverbolt.
"Hey, Prowl, remember how we were missing some supplies from the science department? Potassium Nitrate and Sulfur right?" was what the Aerielbot team leader started with.
"Yes, I remember it quite well," Prowl hazarded not sure he liked where this was going. Had they stumbled upon whatever devious monstrosity Sideswipe, no doubt, had planned?
"We found it," Silverbolt declared with no fanfare. "No one took it."
That actually sent Prowl for a loop. "It was missing. Where did you find it?"
"Ok." It sounded like Silverbolt then inhaled a deep gulp of cool air in his intakes in preparation for what he was about to say. "Fireflight and Tracks were unloading the new gear to the Science Wing the other day and apparently Fireflight got distracted by Beachcomber's order of mineral's from Australia. The lid apparently had been off the box and the rocks were shiny, Prowl." Silverbolt sounded both annoyed and fatigued.
"Alright?" Prowl wasn't entirely sure what that had to do with the missing-oh.
"He got distracted by the rocks and misplaced one of the cargo bins didn't he?" was the deduction.
"Yeah. Bluestreak rediscovered it in the E hall a couple minutes ago after tripping over it. Want us to go ahead and just deliver it to the Sci-Win's supply closest?"
"That would be appreciated."
"Got it. And don't worry. Fireflight and I are going to have a chat about his focus problems on duty. Sorry 'bout all this. Silverbolt out." The flyer signed off the airwave.
Prowl sat back in his chair and mulled over this new information.
So it really hadn't been Sideswipe.
Well everyone was prone to mistakes. Prowl was no exception. At least the punishment he had doled out hadn't been one if his more severe solutions. Helping Wheeljack tinker about his workshop couldn't be nearly as Earth shatteringly bad as Sideswipe seemed to think. Still he supposed he owed the warrior an apology. Better sooner than later. He could almost see the smug look and the frontliner's face for having been in the right for once.
Just as he made to call the aforementioned bot on the comm both to tell him he could leave his shift with Wheeljack and to summon him for an apology in person it was disrupted by an oncoming hail. The second one in minutes.
"Prowl," a calm, regal lilt greeted over the line.
"Mirage," Prowl acknowledged. "Is there an issue?"
"Mmm, yes, I'd say so," Mirage said evenly. "I am currently on monitor duty. Specifically monitor duty for the science wing and from what I'm observing Ratchet's currently in the process of killing Wheeljack. I figured you'd want to know. So… I suppose you have fun with that."
The comm line went dead. For a moment Prowl stoically remained in his chair.
Before he all but collided with his desk from standing too fast and almost tripped from getting his legs entangled in his chair. It had been turned over in his haste to bolt toward Wheeljack's lab.
Launching into the open hall, and transforming into his vehicle mode mid air (Jazz would be proud); his sirens came alive as he screeched down toward the science wing.
It took less than two minutes for him to get from his office to Wheeljack's workshop. He slammed on his breaks, transformed and immediately found Ratchet and Wheeljack. The former was situated on top of the later and wad pretty much throttling the poor mech who was trying to curl into a defensive ball to avoid the worst of the mauling.
"Ratchet, have you lost your mind? Stop it!" Prowl surged forward and did his best to drag the frothing medic away from the cowering engineer. Ratchet fought him for all his worth, mind clouded with rage but Prowl managed to get him in a full nelson.
"What are you doing?" Prowl demanded through grit denta, even as Ratchet managed to kind of elbow him in the side of his head in his efforts to break free.
Ratchet snarled something unintelligible in reply.
"I cannot understand you like this. Calm down and explain to me what is going on!" Prowl ordered, voice booming with an uncharacteristic volume.
Ratchet found his words and raged, "HE LIT SIDESWIPE ON FIRE!"
Prowl completely let go of the medic in surprise causing the white medic to trip forward.
"He what?" he asked in abject horror.
"He lit. Sideswipe. On FIRE!" Ratchet screeched hands clawed as if they were itching to lay back into the engineer.
"Accidentally," Wheeljack hiccupped from the floor, still covering his head despite the fact that the assault had ended.
"Is Sideswipe ok?" Prowl asked urgently.
"What part of LIT HIM ON FIRE DO YOU NOT COMPREHEND!?" Ratchet snarled, mind one tracked.
"Wasn't…wasn't fire," Wheeljack wheezed from the floor. "Thermite. Accident."
Prowl snatched the medic's shoulders before the white and red bot could propel himself forward to further mutilate their chief engineer, and whirled him around so they could see optic to optic.
"Ratchet!"Prowl barked. "Is Sideswipe ok?"
Primus, this was partly his fault after all. He did not know exactly what had transpired but he was the reason Sideswipe had been in the lab. All because Prowl had punished the warrior for something he didn't even do.
Sideswipe had commented that Prowl was trying to get him killed. The mech probably hadn't been serious when he threw around those accusations but still, if the warrior had been hurt bad enough and he had been…
"He's alive," Ratchet finally grit out, seeming to calm down a bit. "No thanks to him!" he wheeled on Wheeljack again.
Despite the way it looked at the moment Ratchet actually really liked Wheeljack. He liked him a lot. The two were best friends actually so you knew whatever Wheeljack had managed to do to Sideswipe must've been pretty horrible.
"Accident," Wheeljack meekly offered for the hundredth time. "We were making coffee?"
"That's another thing! Why the sopping, blistered hell was that idiot Lamborghini anywhere near this Primus damned nuclear wasteland you have the gall to call a laboratory!" Ratchet roared at Wheeljack who was just picking himself off the floor.
"It's not my fault!" Wheeljack sputtered, still somewhat shaken from the beginnings of a spectacular beat down he was not convinced was over yet. "Well, I mean it kinda was, but not on purpose! It was a domino effect. We were just making flavored energon and the machine worked perfectly but we spilt some metal dust that just happened to be the components for a thermite reaction on him and a spark just happened to catch on it and the only reason he was here was because Prowl assigned him to me! It's not like I requested to have him here!" With that Wheeljack ended his fearful Bluestreak impersonation.
Ratchet and Prowl both froze up for completely different reasons.
Prowl suddenly felt an unfamiliar terror crawl up his spinal infrastructure. He gently let go of the Medic's shoulders and smoothly, quietly, began to back up a step.
Wow, Wheeljack. Way to throw someone under the bus.
"Prowl," Ratchet called voice devoid of emotion.
Prowl halted in his tracks.
This did not bode well.
"Why did you assign Sideswipe to Wheeljack?" he questioned almost sweetly.
"I thought it was a fitting punishment," Prowl began carefully, betraying no levity.
"Punishment for what?" Ratchet asked flatly.
"The science wing was missing certain supplies and I had thought Sideswipe had been the one to acquire them."
"You thought," Ratchet parroted. "Past tense. As in you no longer think so. Am I right?"
"I have just attained new information regarding the situation and as it turns out Sideswipe was not in fact responsible."
Ratchet stared at Prowl ominously.
Optimus Prime had just settled back at his desk, a fresh cube of energon in hand. He sighed and thought about how dull military grade energon rations got after millennia of the same thing. He missed when energon was more creative and flavored. What he wouldn't give for a six percent Erbium infusion in his fuel.Oh well. Whatever to keep you going.
He unlatched his battle mask and was about to take a swig when he was hailed over his comm line.
He paused, mid sip. "Yes, Mirage?"
"I'm watching the monitors right now and there's something you probably ought to know."
He set his cube down gently. Despite not really wanting to know he asked, "What is it?"
"Ratchet's in the process of murdering Wheeljack and Prowl. So unless you feel like restructuring your command element you might want to do something about that."
A moment was spared to let that statement fully percolate into his processer.
Prime's cube of energon was knocked off the desk and ended up shattering on the floor in his haste to get out the door.
He doubled back to reattach his battle mask and then proceeded to sprint for the Ark's Science Wing.
Optimus managed to get there in time to break up the embarrassingly one sided fight just before Ratchet was able to relieve Prowl of his door wings so he could continue to beat Wheeljack with them.
Ramshackle was a good word to describe Sideswipe at the moment. His chest armor, his left audio horn, shoulder guards, part of his helmet, most of his arm plating, and the metal from the back of his legs had been pretty much incinerated. Big, temporary sheets of metal were sort of hammered into place around important otherwise, exposed areas (such as his chest) while sterile synthetically woven bandages were wrapped around every exposed, and raw inch of his body. The little strips of cloth were wrapped around his face (covering one damaged optic), his arms, his joints, and pretty much everywhere burnt and melted armor had been painstakingly removed. This kept his delicate internals protected from the outside world while allowing him some freer movement. Not that he felt like moving really.
Repairs took about five hours from what he had been told. In that time his face (save for the one optic) was pretty much fixed as were his internals which thankfully suffered very minimal damage, but it would take a while for his new armor to be done.
Honestly he didn't remember much about what happened. He had been in Wheeljack's lab. Suddenly there was a bright light, he was in the middle of an exothermic reaction (not fire everyone stressed for some reason), and eventually he just blacked out from pain.
Now he was nestled on a medical berth, wrapped head to toe in the Cybertronian equivalent of gauze as self repair worked around his injuries. This while new external armor was crafted to replace what was lost.
Oh and he was all snuggled up in a blanket. Eventually Sunstreaker had come in with it and wordlessly threw the comically huge quilt onto his injured brother. Sideswipe happily nestled it around his body like a snuggly cape.
The quilt had been a gift from when he saved some people at the Montavilla Sewing Center in Portland from having their building demolished by Combaticons. They were so grateful that fifty or so of them apparently collaborated on making Sideswipe the thirty by thirty foot blanket. It was a block pattern quilt sort of set up like a checker board. It alternated little white squares with hand embroidered Autobot symbols on them with blocks of a variety of red patterned cloth. It was pretty damn awesome actually. Not something he actually needed since he didn't really get cold but it was kind of comforting in a weird way.
After Sideswipe got situated in his blanket Sunstreaker sat at his side on the berth.
"So, how're you feeling I guess?" Sunstreaker eventually asked. It was the first thing his brother had said to him since he got out of surgery. They were not facing each other and instead were focused intensely on to something happening across the room.
"Well, I lost 60 percent of my armor's mass today, and if it weren't for the heavy duty neural buffer in my neck right now keeping me from feeling most of my body I'd probably be in excruciating pain."
"You look pretty horrible too," Sunstreaker commented without actually looking at his sibling. "Absolutely wretched. Like one of those wrapped up, dry, crumbly dead human things from Jazz's stupid horror movies."
"Yeah I guess I do," Sideswipe mused. "And somehow despite that all in all it's been a good day. Wheeljack was pretty cool before the thermite thing. And then there's this if nothing else." One bandage wrapped arm snaked out from under his blanket and his gestured listlessly toward the far, opposite side of the Med Bay.
Where Ratchet was in truly spectacular form as he absolutely reamed a dented, and scuffed Prowl and Wheeljack for their roles in the almost murder of his favorite stupid, red Autobot.
Prime forbade Ratchet from actually killing the two (since restructuring the command element this late in the game would be a colossal pain in the aft) but said nothing about screaming at the two with all the creativity the English language permitted. He hadn't been particularly thrilled with what had happened to one of his most vital frontline warriors.
"Heh. Yeah," Sunstreaker agreed heartily.
"Before the yelling started they were apologizing to me. Seriously, Sunny. Prowl was sucking up to me. It was glorious, and not only do I get sick leave for however long repairs take, we apparently get to take a week and a half sabbatical. Prime's orders. You know, for mental health. You and I've suffered a rather harrowing ordeal I'll have you know."
"We?" Sunstreaker inquired.
"Duh. I mean clearly you've been traumatized by seeing your beloved brother in such a horrible state. And I was living torch. We were both so obviously mentally scarred by these events and are in dire need of some time off. To recover," Sideswipe declared solemnly.
"Indeed." Sunstreaker nodded.
Sideswipe's serious façade began to crack up a bit when he heard Ratchet's pitch reach new decibels and the ghost of a smile began to creep across his face.
"Besides," the red twin continued, "What fun would time off be if it was just me? 'Sides I'm thinking Europe. We can check out Florence or whatever if you want but we have to go to Germany. BMW's."
"I think I can get behind that," Sunstreaker offered the barest hint of a smile.
They watched Ratchet as he continued to scream at Prowl and Wheeljack. The medic seemed torn between repairing their minor injuries (which he himself caused) and the desire to add more. He refrained but he certainly wasn't gentle with the repairs. Wheeljack looked like a deflated balloon of gloom. Prowl on the other hand was somehow managing to hold onto his dignity and sat there and took the abuse with no complaints.
"I feel particularly bad about Wheeljack. He just invented something really cool and now he's getting yelled at by Ratchet. He really didn't mean for this to happen." Sideswipe frowned.
His brother made no comment.
"Actually with that said, just to make sure," Sideswipe queried, "You're not gonna like, murder Wheeljack or Prowl in their sleep right? It was an accident."
Sunstreaker went oddly quiet as if he were contemplating something.
"Sunny," Sideswipe hissed out mildly worried.
"Nah," Sunstreaker eventually relented. He snorted in amusement. "Would seem kinda redundant after Ratchet gets through with them anyway."
"Yeah," Sideswipe nodded. "Primus, I still have no idea how it happened, but I'm seriously glad Ratchet likes me this much."
"Yup." Sunstreaker mirrored his twin and nodded in agreement. "This is pretty awesome when it's not happening to us."
"Yeah. It's been a pretty good day," Sideswipe decided.
Sideswipe's bandaged arm ventured out of his quilt cocoon to paw at the little table next to his berth. Eventually he found the cube of energon that had mysteriously appeared at his berth side while he had been unconscious and took a sip. He sighed happily at the warmth spreading from the clean, charged taste. Almost 96 percent pure high grade infused with four percent cadmium and .003 of silver was seriously the best.
"The things we suffer for scientific progress," he grinned.