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no god to a non-believer

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“Like shuttleslag he is,” Ratchet says. “Push the other one, it lights up. I know cold-construct frame types better than you know how to finger your own ports and this mech is blatantly in violation of the construction standards.”

Piledriver slowly cycles his optics at Ratchet with all the apathy baked into that brand of jaded low level government flunkie.

“You’re not here to run your vocalizer, medic,” he says, and fingers his disruptor pointedly. “Can you fix him or what.”

Please. Like he had the brass bearings.

“I could slap together a basic plating patch before you figured out how to oil your own joints,” Ratchet says. “Did you even bother to check my credentials before snagging me out of the Senate hallway and ordering me to come down to the aftend of Cybertron, or did you just grab the first mech you saw sporting medic markings and hope for the best?”

Piledriver stands there like a lump of lead for a long few kliks before finally giving up on dredging a clever response to that out of the sludge that apparently made up his processor.

“If you’re so good then, fix him,” he says. “I’m on a schedule.”

He waves a hand a what is clearly a hastily slapped together medical slab. An oversized hunk of inert mech lies on top, half the poor slagger’s helm bashed in to expose delicate circuity that no one between whatever hellpit he’d been injured in and the dubious shack they’re in now had bothered to cover with a temporary patch. It’s going to take Ratchet half a breem just to debride and flush the wound, before he can even start on repairing the damage.

“Oh well if you’re on a schedule,” Ratchet says. “I’ll be sure to rush right through putting his processor back together.”

Unfortunately the sarcasm sails completely over the idiot’s helm and he nods with a great deal of misplaced satisfaction. Ratchet mutters imprecations upon the whole of Piledriver’s sparkline, and fishes around in his subspace for his portable med kit. Because of course they hadn’t the thought to outfit this makeshift setup with even a few sterile pads or a water pan.

Once he starts his initial assessment though, the outlook for the mystery mech looks a tad more promising. The primary damage is to the plating, easily fixed with what he has on him. Thank the stars and shady factories for the triple-layered plating on that helm.

Although the fact the mech hasn’t come online yet… hmm. Maybe whatever had done the damage had also jarred something loose enough his processor is keeping him in protective shutdown.

Ratchet manages to drag a dust-coated desk over to the bedside, and after a thorough spray down has a space big enough he can spread out a medical pad and at least attempt to make a clean space for his tools. The grubby ash grey block of a building they’d decided that his repair absolutely had to happen in, instead of a nice, sterile, clinic, had clearly never been designed for this sort of thing. From the sparseness of it, Ratchet would be hard pressed to guess what it had been used for. Besides the jerry-rigged medical berth, there was only the now repurposed desk, some kind of giant safe that looked locked up tighter than Primus’ ports, and a single control console that unlike everything else in the room was suspiciously free of grime.

“Right,” Ratchet says grimly, and pulls out his irrigator.


“Augh,” the mech says, in the tone of someone who has just realized that he's just onlined in the middle of what is going to be a really bad day and before Ratchet can stop him he jack-knifes up on the table.

“Aw, don’t move, fraggit,” Ratchet says, one hand jerking the flame of his sealer away from the edge of the plating patch as he shoves at the mech’s shoulder with the other. The mech scowls in bewilderment, and rather than lay back down sits there like a bag of particularly uncooperative bricks.

Ratchet shoves at his shoulder more insistently.

“Look,” he says, “unless you particularly want to walk around with half your processor exposed I suggest you lay the frag back down and let me finish.”

The mech cycles his optics, then cycles them again almost like he can’t figure out how to adjust them to the light.

Ugh. Maybe if Ratchet uses smaller words.

“Lay. Down,” Ratchet sets the sealer down and uses both hands to try and push the mech back flat on the slab. Not that two hands work any better than one.  The mech is practically twice his mass, if not more. What in the Pits is going on down here that they needed someone built with these kind of specs?

Finally, with a last flickering cycle of his optics the mech collapses back down onto the slab with a rattling exhalation. Ratchet waits a beat, just to make sure the capitulation is genuine, before picking up his sealer. Thank the stars there’s only one edge left to finish.

A klik later and Ratchet sets his sealer next to the pile of dirty tools, and gives the patch job a last critical once-over. It isn’t pretty, but at least the mech isn’t in danger of severing half his internal wiring when he runs into a doorframe.

“Right, let’s sit you up again,” Ratchet says, slipping a hand under one massive pauldron and gently urging the mech back to sitting. He slowly creaks upright, sounding for all the world like he’s never met an oilcan in his life. For that matter, given the condition of the rest of him, he probably hasn’t.

“Can you tell me your designation?” Ratchet says, and holds up a single digit. “Focus your optics on my digit, yes, good like that. Now track it.”

The mech doesn’t answer, still keeps the aperature of his optics cycled down narrow like the dingy light of the room is all but blinding to him. He’s staring at Ratchet’s tools, the markings on Ratchet’s frame, the blinking display of the console like he can’t decide what he wants to look at first. He stares at everything like a just onlined newspark, even tracing the pitted plane of the walls like he’s never seen anything like them before.

Ratchet’s jaw clenches. Not right. There’s more than one thing not right about this whole situation, and damned if he’s leaving until he gets to the bottom of it.

“You, let’s hurry it up,” Piledriver barks from the corner he’s been sulking in.

Ratchet glares.

“Excuse you,” he says, unsubspacing his multitool. “At very least I need to finish my neuro functioning check on him to make sure nothing inside his processor got smashed when he decided to play robochicken with a rock wall.”

“I don’t need him to think, I need him to work. Can he walk?” Piledriver says, and without waiting for an answer transforms his disruptor fully out of his arm and oh great, that also doesn’t look factory spec.

Who are these mecha?

“For Primus’ sake I haven’t even heard him say his own name, much less figured out if he knows where he is and what time it is,” Ratchet says, and shakes his multitool at Piledriver.

“I don’t need him to say his name, medic,” Piledriver says, like it’s Ratchet that’s painfully underclocked. “I need him to get back to work. The others are waiting for him, and they can’t start until he gets there.”

“Right now the last place he needs to be is working,” Ratchet lets his field snap out in annoyance. “Right now he is my patient and I say he needs to be here.”

Piledriver puffs his plating out in an overblown display of dominance.

“Don’t think you can get mouthy with me just because you have a fancy degree and a pretty paint job,” Piledriver says. “Now D-16, get off that bed, we’re going back down.”

Oh, so the mystery mech had a number for a designation. That wasn’t fragged up at all.

D-16 tilts his helm, and then for the first time in this slagpit of an encounter seems to experience an opinion about the whole debacle.

“I…” his vocalizer fuzzing with static, “…I don’t want to.”

Looks like someone found his vocalizer. Well then. Good for him.

“Oh you don’t want to?” Piledriver says high and incredulous. “You don’t get to have an opinion on this. Get. Up.”

What a slagging jackspike. Damn all of this to the pits, Ratchet is not going to just stand here while his patient gets bullied around.

“You don’t have to go with him,” Ratchet says low, and lays a hand gently on a heavily armored pauldron. “If doesn’t matter what he says. You don’t.”

“Like slag he doesn’t,” Piledriver says, and waves his disruptor in the direction of the door. “Now get out there... or else.”

D-16 cocks his newly repaired helm, and doesn’t move.

“Or else… what?” he says, the flat tone of his vocalizer starting to color with curiosity, the barest hint of emotions blooming and feathering like something inside him is slowly coming alive.

The way a vocalizer sounds when initializing for the first time.

Ratchet flares his plating, plants his pedes wide and glares down that scrawny little jumped-up excuse for a mech. ‘Or else’ indeed. That better have been an empty threat. Who gave a turborat’s aft what underworld slimeball is responsible for this. Ratchet has contacts in the Senate, strings he can pull if this third rate pile of scrap tries to stick this obviously black-market mech back down in the dark. He’s certainly done enough favors for Pharma, it’d be about time he called one in of his own.

From the ugly twist of Piledriver’s faceplates, he doesn’t like his charge talking back to him in the least and he stalks right up to the berth and fires a low pulse into D-16’s arm. Nothing more than a warning, just enough to light up all the pain circuitry in the area without doing any external damage, but before Ratchet can move a servo D-16 growls and just.

Brings his arm, right down on Piledriver.

Well. Brings his arm down might be a slight understatement.

Bringing an arm down might imply a simple impact. But no. D-16’s arm hits Piledriver’s helm and just keeps going. Through his processor, his neck cabling, half his chassis gone with a screech of metal that echoes in Ratchet’s audials.

“Oh Primus,” Ratchet says, and stares at D-16, who after a moment of peering in confusion at what used to be a mech begins to poke in a vaguely baffled manner at the crumpled remains.

“Oh Primus,” Ratchet says again, like maybe if he just repeats it enough times then this oversized hulk of completely illegal mech sitting on his makeshift med berth will not have just murdered someone right in front of him.

D-16 turns to look at him, puzzled.

“I don’t want to go back down,” he says, firmer this time, and then he tilts his helm. “Who are you?”

Ratchet pushes down the burst of hysterical static that threatens to escape his vocalizer.

“I’m Ratchet,” he says. “And don’t worry. He’s never going to make you do anything ever again.”

“Good,” D-16 says. “Am I going with you?”

Right. Of course he'd wonder that. Ratchet resists the urge to plant his overheating helm against the wall and bang it there until he felt better.

“If you want to,” he says. It’s certainly a better option for D-16 than wandering out into the slagheap of Dead End looking and acting like that.

D-16 processes this, optics flickering thoughtfully.

“I want to,” he finally says, seemingly just as committed to this opinion as he was to his first one. “You’re not going down to the dark?”

“No,” Ratchet says, because whatever else is happening today it’s definitely not that. “That’s definitely not the plan.”

He can feel the alarm still determinedly shrieking away in the back of his processor, slowly chipping away at his medic protocols and okay - his emergency routines can kick in anytime now.

“What is the plan?” D-16 says, still as calmly curious as if they were discussing local weather patterns.

 “Alright, so here’s the plan,” Ratchet says and stops. Runs the probabilities through his processor for how the hell they're getting out of this situation with both their plating intact.

"Here's the plan," he says again. “We need to leave.”

Whatever. It's a start. Ratchet scoops the rest of his equipment into his subspace in a jumbled mess, and ugh that’d be a processor ache to sort out later but needs must. He turns back to D-16, and jerks his head briskly in the direction of the door.

“That’s it,” Ratchet says, when D-16 looks at him expectantly. “That’s the plan. Us. Leave. Now.”

D-16 gives one last bemused poke at Piledriver’s crumpled frame, and starshelp him. Ratchet hadn’t even thought about what he should do with the body. Just leave it there? Hope it took a good few cycles before anyone came down to find it, and even if they did hope against hope that whoever commissioned D-16 didn’t want Enforcers involved.

And what in Primus holy ports is he going to do with D-16? A mech like that, sporting that kind of mass and external kibble, would be anything but inconspicuous and if it got back to whoever was operating the motherboard on the operation he’d been part of…

Ratchet firmly shunts the alarm trying to take over his emotional subsystems aside. At least he hadn’t been the actual Senate clinic medic on call. It might give him a few more days to hammer out his cover story. Make sure someone with enough credibility would vouch to anyone making inquiries that Ratchet had been thoroughly occupied in a completely different sector of the planet on this particular day.

That way, even if mecha had seen Piledriver drag him down here, it would only be their word against his. And with his fairly generic medic paint job, plus the dubious credibility of the mecha down here in the eyes of the thin-plated surface slaggers… it wasn’t a kind though, but a realistic one.

D-16 makes his way to Ratchet, still unsteady on his pedes like his gyroscopes haven’t quite settled. At some point Ratchet will have to get him to an actual medical clinic so he can have a thorough examination, and make sure that nothing important isknocking around loose in that over-armored helm of his.

“Where are we going?” D-16 asks, staring at the door with something that’s beginning to look like hunger. He flexes his hands, shifts from one pede to the other, movements slowly steadying.

“To my habsuite,” Ratchet says, “where I live. But there might be people looking for you, so we’ll need to be careful.”

Although hopefully not yet. Hopefully.

D-16’s forehead crinkles. “Looking for me?”

Ratchet’s lips twist. “To take you back down to the dark.”

D-16 balls his fists, field echoing his scowl with exactly how much he is still determinedly against that idea.

“No,” he says. “I’m not going there. No.”

He says it with a certain implacable obstinacy that gives Ratchet a foreboding sort of feeling. Seems whatever else he is, this one’s a stubborn one.

“Good,” Ratchet says. “Then let’s leave.”

He starts towards the door, pushing it open and poking his helm out for a cautious look. No one but the usual denizens, thankfully, so Ratchet reaches behind him to wave D-16 forward.

“We can take the back streets to the tram on the other side of Dead End,” he says, not that D-16 will have any clue what he’s talking about. “We can take it up-level and it’ll put us out minutes from my hab.”

He strides briskly away from the ash-grey building, and the mangled remains of Piledriver, D-16’s heavy steps echoing off the stone as he follows. This is probably a terrible idea, but until he's fixed up properly D-16 is still Ratchet's patient, and under Ratchet's duty of care. Besides, as Orion continually pokes at him for, since when has something being a terrible idea ever stopped him before?

“Oh, and remind me when we get there,” Ratchet says, D-16 trailing steady behind him. “We need to get you a name.”