Chapter 4: Examination
"Is this really necessary?" Starscream asked dryly. A few hours had passed since the Autobots' convergence and they had since made themselves scarce from the main room. Only Ratchet remained behind with the seeker, though Starscream swore he once heard the big one's lumbering footsteps failing to do any sort of sneaking just outside his range of sight. Even so, the Autobot medic seemed surprisingly at ease with the former Decepticon as he continued entering figures on a screen to the side of the table where Starscream sat eyeing him.
Ratchet finished submitting a string of model numbers and turned back to his patient, motioning for the seeker's slender forearm to be extended. "This is just a routine maintenance checkup. We need to make sure that all your systems are up to par with our current health standards here at base. If you're carrying any foreign viruses I might need to perform some routine scans on your internal hard-drive."
"What?" Starscream jerked his arm away from Ratchet's grip. "My systems are working just fine, thank you very much. I checked them myself." He said haughtily. "I hardly appreciate your treating me as if were some scraplet-ridden maintenance drone."
"Appreciated or not, I'm afraid I can't let you remain at base without first examining you. If your systems are as in working order as you claim, then I will gladly shorten our engagement, but until then..." He motioned again for the arm.
Being a Decepticon inside the Autobot base was one thing, but to be at the mercy of the one Autobot who knew more about the Cybertronian body than most others ever cared to was one position Starscream did not enjoy being in. If Decepticon surgeons were anything to go by, Ratchet would know just the wrong settings to tweak in order to completely debilitate him. Starscream hesitated a moment, but letting out a small defeated breath he finally held out his arm once more. Ratchet nodded and carefully hooked up his monitoring equipment.
"Now, let's take a look at that wing of yours first. That's a pretty recent injury by the looks of it. Did you patch it up yourself?"
Starscream drew in a sharp breath. "Don't touch it!"
"I'm just scanning it
"Hmph. The ship's resident
doctor, did that. If you ask me he didn't spend near enough time sautering the inner components before sealing it up. My internal repair systems have been working on it for over a solar-cycle now."
"Well actually, I was going to say it's not such a bad job. The trauma around the area makes it look like something took a bite out of it. And here I thought I'd have to redo some of it. I'd never have thought that a Decepticon could-"
Starscream made a small scoffing noise. "That a Decepticon could be a competent physician? By the sound of things, you'd be surprised at what we're capable of."
Ratchet paused, expecting Starscream to go on, but the seeker chose instead to fall into an uncomfortable silence as though realizing he'd said too much. Ratchet finished examining the area and tapped a few notes into his computer.
"If you don't mind me asking, what are all these dings and scratches? Old battle scars?"
"Heh, hardly. If I'd had them that long, Knockout would have gotten at them by now." He shook his head slightly. "No, Megatron is not so keen on forgiveness." At this, the Autobot medic finally opted to drop his attempts at conversation and resume his examination. He was never much good at idle chatter anyway. A few silent minutes passed while Ratchet ran through several more of his inspections.
"I need to fetch an electro-pulse monitor from the back room, sit tight while I'm gone."
Starscream watched the red and white mech retreat down one of the side hallways, leaving him alone in the great room. Alone, in the Autobot base. The Autobots must all have a glitch to leave him unsupervised like this. Why, even without the majority of his weapons he could scrap the main computer and be out of here in less than 30 nanoclicks, delivering the location of the Autobot base to Megatron as a gift to regain his standing.
His optics scanned around, no one was in sight. To regain his former position of second in command
For how long though? Even an offering of such magnitude wouldn't change Megatron's rampant distrust of him. It was doubtful that he would even get his old position of second in command back with that arachnid scuttling about. And the first mistake he made again would land him right back on the wrong end of the fusion cannon where he started. Nothing would have changed whatsoever. He sighed and settled himself more comfortably on the examination table. He would do as the doctor had said, sit tight and wait. It was certainly better than the alternative. Although having his wings folded back on themselves was undoubtedly less than ideal. It was really starting to put a kink in his sensory array.
A few cycles passed and Starscream's audio receptor's perked at the sound of returning footsteps as Ratchet reentered the room, electro-pulse monitor in hand.
"Are you sure there's no way you could get this clamp off me, even for a moment? At this rate my wings will be stuck in this humiliating position even after I'm free to use them!" Starscream griped, rolling his shoulders in an attempt to get some energon flow to the tied appendages. He flinched briefly as the Autobot medic now began closing in on the base of his neck, working to interface a set of wires with remarkably steady hands.
"The clamp stays on until Optimus says otherwise," Ratchet spoke as he worked. "Honestly I'm surprised you even got the cuffs taken off. By all accounts many considered you to be one of the more dangerous Decepticons one could encounter back on Cybertron," he threw out casually.
"Is that so?" Starscream smirked a bit to himself, secretly pleased at this bit of information. "And yet here we are. Air Commander Starscream is inside the Autobot base and no one's shooting anyone. Who would have thought?"
The doctor flipped a switch on his machine, sending a minute jolt into the connecting point on Starscream's neck. He shook his head a bit. "I can't say I always know what's going on in Optimus' mind. Actually, I don't think I'd even want to sometimes. But I trust his judgment in matters such as this. Besides, so far you've done nothing of note except snark at me and make everyone else uncomfortable."
Starscream deflated a bit sheepishly at this and let out a small sigh. The room was quiet save for the steady thrum of his sparkbeat over the monitor. He found his gaze wandering over the assembly of machines around them.
"A lot of this equipment looks different from what we had on Cybertron. Did you assemble it yourself?"
Ratchet seemed a bit taken aback at this and a small smile spread across his faceplate. "Why yes, I did. Much of it I had to build up from human scrapmetal. It took quite a while, but it functions."
"I can't imagine having to work with such primitive resources."
"It can be a bit of a bother from time to time, but by and large it runs smoothly enough." Without precedent, there was a sudden tug and the remaining monitor cords were pulled from their ports. "Much like yourself. Everything looks to meet basic health code."
"So that's it?"
"Well your internal systems seem to be working properly, and aside from some wear and the still healing area on your wing you're clear to go." Starscream slid off the examination table to the floor. "Although, I couldn't help but notice that a few of your systems could stand an upgrade." Ratchet added.
"You said yourself everything was functional," the seeker huffed. "I don't see why you'd feel the need to fix what isn't broken."
He shrugged. "I'm just saying. They're not vital components or anything, so whether you choose to or not is by your own volition."
"Yes, I suppose I would have a choice in the matter wouldn't I?" Starscream mused a bit fretfully.
"Either way, we're done for the night. I suggest you find Bulkhead to show you where you can power down. I think you'll find him lurking just down one of those halls." He motioned off to the side and moved to start cleaning up his tools.
Sharp, polished fingers dashed across the symbol pad on the wall, a quick series of tones sounding in time to each button as they were smoothly selected in the correct order. With a small hiss the steel-belted door slid out of place revealing one of several equipment bays on the Nemesis. Knockout took a few steps inside before looking up from his data pad, giving a small start as he found himself not as alone as he had previously expected.
"Breakdown! What are you doing here?" he asked.
The large blue mech glanced up with his one good eye before continuing his task of cleaning one of his cannons. "Just swabbing out the main shoulder gun. Seemed as good a place as any. Nice and quiet here."
"I guess it is." Dark red eyes scanned the room. "Say, have you happened to see Starscream lately?"
"Can't say I have. I heard tell that he left a day ago with Airachnid on some sort of special mission. She came back without him. Megatron's been furious ever since." He spoke as he methodically scrubbed the inside the barrel. "I've been waiting it out here until the whole thing blows over."
"Hmm. I'd noticed our leader's seemed a bit more murderous than usual lately," the Decepticon medic mused.
Wait, you don't think he'd-" Breakdown looked at his partner with alarm.
"Don't worry. I'm sure your little spider-bot will be fine," Knockout waved him off.
"Though I'm not entirely sure what you see in her. Prissy little thing," he added as he flicked a bit of gravel off his shoulder plate. "Well, I'd best be getting back to the med bay-"
"Airachnid, Soundwave, report to the bridge!" Megaton's thunderous reverberated through the ship's intercom making both the red and blue bots flinch.
"On second thought, maybe I'll stay here for a while." The medic added hastily as he found a seat next to his partner."It couldn't hurt to sharpen my saw blades again anyway."
Arcee drove at a steady pace, her sleek blue form racing past the desert plains, red and gold flecks from the setting sun shimmering off her paint job. She didn't bother with her hologram Sadie at the moment. There was no one to witness her distinct lack of a driver. By now even her thoughts had calmed, leaving her mind clear to enjoy the wind cooling the heat of her engine.
After miles of silence a familiar drone met her audio receptors and she slowed slightly to allow the yellow muscle car catch up to her. "Hey, Bee." Arcee greeted her mute friend morosely as he pulled up next to her, easily matching her steady cruising speed. "What're you doing out here?"
Her teammate beeped out a few tones in reply, to which Arcee gave a small laugh.
"The scenery, huh? Yeah, me too. Nice to get away from the roads around base sometimes."
The two rode in silence for a short moment before Bumblebee let out another string of beeps over their shared comlink.
"No, I just didn't want to be around him anymore. I don't suppose that Optimus would have had a change of spark since I stormed out of there?"
Bumblebee answered with a few downturned blurbs.
"I wouldn't think so. Once the big bot makes up his mind, there's no stopping him. I just don't see his reasoning behind trusting anything that turncoat Decepticon has to say."
Another pause as Bumblebee interjected something.
"Yeah yeah, without redemption there can't be lasting peace. I remember." She verbally waved him off. "I guess as a heroic Autobot I'm obligated to give him one more chance," she said a bit cynically.
A string of amused tones followed
"For all of our sakes though, I hope Optimus is right," she added somewhat to herself before addressing her companion again. "Before we head back, I just wanted to say thanks for bringing me back to my senses back there."
Arcee waited for her friend to finish expressing himself through a somewhat longer string of beeps before continuing. "I'm not sure if I would have." She admitted truthfully. "All I could think about was avenging Cliffjumper. I thought that maybe by snuffing the spark of the con who killed him there'd be some sort of solace in it. A closing of sorts." She gave a small half-hearted laugh. "I know, pretty silly right? I was so mad at him though, so hurt
Sorry you had to see me like that."
The young scout answered quickly, as if to dismiss her apologetics. There was nothing to forgive in his mind.
Arcee laughed at this, this time genuinely. "You're good to talk to, you know that? Come on, let's get back to base."