“A medic who graduated with honors from Protihex Medical Mechanics University, a renowned publisher of various papers that earned him the praise of his colleagues, a war decorated war hero…”
Ultra Magnus took a casual step to the side to avoid the chunk of… whatever it was that got thrown his way. Eyeing it fall and clatter on the floor, he made a mental note to put some funds on the side to update the security in all Enforcers station, starting by replacing the old fashioned electrified bars by more modern and secure force fields walls.
It wasn’t the only reason he eyed the debris, though. What got to him more than the fact a mech reeling from the effects of being overcharged had tried to nail him with whatever he could throw at him was… that mech had missed him. And by a very wide margin, at that. And if that wasn’t the most glaring clue something was really wrong with the medic, then the Magnus didn’t know what it was; Ratchet never missed his mark.
Silently, he eyed the scruffy looking mech who was slouching against a wall, glaring up at him with unfocused optics. The stellar cycles hadn’t been keen to him, Ultra Magnus thought. It was obvious the mech hadn’t indulged in much self-care since the end of the Great War and he looked far older than Ultra himself, despite being roughly the same age. And that was without mentioning all the suspicious stains that marred the medic’s paintjob – old processed energon and oil and who knew what else. And the smell… ugh. If he had been a lesser mech, he would have offlined those systems already.
The Ratchet the Magnus had met before the war and even in the midst of it had never been in such a poor state.
He sighed. “Look at you, Ratchet. What a sorry state you’re in.”
“Yeah? And whose fault is that?” The medic slurred, face breaking into a scowl.
“Yours for drinking too much, I’d wager,” the Magnus replied flatly, ignoring the heated glare he got in return. But there was so much more to it than a night of drinking, and he knew that. That was the fifth time in as many deca-cycle Ultra Magnus received a call from the Enforcers or from Special Ops about a specific member of Project: Omega landing himself in trouble with the law after taking one cube too many at the bar.
And that wasn’t even touching the hundreds, no, the thousands of war veterans who showed signs of PTSD and, like Ratchet, indulged into substances to try and forget for a moment what they had seen and lived through. He refused to feel guilty for them all, though. He pitied them and he understood where they were coming from, for Autobots hadn’t originally built to withstand and participate in wars and the Decepticons had pulled no punch, but Ultra Magnus wouldn’t shoulder the blame. If anything, it laid with Megatron, who had thrown the first stone and started the escalation of the conflict past the boundary of conventional warfare.
Did Ultra Magnus regret the consequences? Privately, he could admit so; things had escalated much farther than he had wished and planned for. There had been losses they could have avoided, battles they could have easily won if they had diverted more troops and resources to the fighters,... Ultra Magnus didn't lie awake all in his berth replaying them in his CPU, of course. But if he often thought about them and regretted some of the choices made, well, no one was the wiser. He couldn’t afford to show it, though. Hypothetical regrets or not, he was still the ruler of Cybertron. Countless lives depended on him and to protect them, he would do what he had to do.
Which was why he had come here to see a drunk mech who was slowly wasting himself away.
At least the medic was only getting intoxicated on fuel, he thought dispassionately. Things would have been much harder if Ratchet had also been on drugs. The medic at least had had enough sense left to let that can closed and rusting in a corner.
“I got a proposition for you, Ratchet,” he said calmly after making sign to his bodyguards to leave and take the remaining Enforcers with them.
The medic looked up sharply, the haze of overcharging decreasing from his optics. Good. He was attentive. “I don’t think you’re going to like what I’m going to tell you to do with your proposition, Magnus.”
“It concerns Omega Supreme,” Ultra Magnus replied simply and the curse that Ratchet had started to hither died a quick death. The medic stared at him long and hard before scoffing. Still, he went to his feet and took a few steps toward the bars, which Ultra counted as positive.
“Have you brass finally decided to bring him back online?” the medic asked briskly and even if he hide it well, Ultra heard the vague hopeful note under the bitterness. It was regretful he'd have to crush it.
“No. We don’t have presently the means to do so, as you already know.”
“So you say,” Ratchet replied, optic ridges furrowed.
“The energon consummation of such a process is too important as things stand,” Ultra replied, and it was true. “Maybe when the planet is better recovered.” But unlikely as well, unless the Decepticons became a threat once again. The Supremes power had frightened too many people, even among the higher ranks of the Autobots, for the decision to bring them back online to be well greeted and accepted for the foreseeable future. Ultra smashed down any guilt he felt about Sigma Supreme and the trust the giant had had in him. Later. Later he’d allow himself to shake and feel bitter too.
“Then we have nothing to say to each other,” Ratchet groused, starting to turn away.
“We’re going to recondition him as part of the fleet,” Ultra stated and Ratchet froze. “It is the most logical use for him while he remains in stasis. We don’t have enough ships yet to afford to pass up the occasion to make him useful to the cause again, even if only as a transport for a crew of spacebridge technicians.”
“You… you’re going to put him in the hands of perfect strangers?” Ratchet asked in indignation, and his frame shook minutely. In rage or in fright, it was hard to say; Ultra thought both, but with rage being the dominant emotion. If the medic hadn't been locked up, the Magnus had no doubt he would have taken a punch to the face already. “People who won’t know who and what he is, who won’t care for him…?”
“We must,” Ultra said, trying to sound sympathetic – and he was. Ratchet wasn't the only one who had mentored a Supreme, after all. He couldn’t imagine doing the same to Sigma – and indeed he had plan to make him become his flagship once the dust had settled enough. “But it doesn’t have to be. You could easily join the crew…”
“And sign up to become a soldier again? I think not!” the medic snapped and Ultra gave him an annoyed look.
“Spacebridge technicians aren’t part of the army; they are technically civilians and have no business in a combat zone. The crew won’t see fight. And that’s your only chance to remain close to your mentored.” He stressed the last word, knowing he had won already when Ratchet stayed quiet and immobile for a long moment.
“… I suppose there are conditions?” the medic asked bitterly.
“That you clean up your act,” Ultra nodded, trying not to smile smugly. “Your Fuel Intake Moderation chip has to be turned on. You must go through a full health check-up and flush your systems of any and all contaminants. I won’t insult you by asking you to go through Auto Bootcamp again – but I insist you repass your qualification on the shooting range; that was sloppy,” he nodded toward the chunk of metal the medic had thrown earlier. “On the whole, I expect you to take good care of your frame as well as of the ship – and of course, you will not utter a word about the true nature of the Orion to anyone not involved into Project Omega already.”
“That’s it? That’s all you ask?” Ratchet asked, looking both suspicious and hopeful.
Ultra Magnus just looked at him serenely. “That’s all. You’re a good medic, Ratchet, and I can’t stand the waste.” And if he could offer someone, anyone, a small measure of peace by allowing them to continue to serve with friends, well…
He wasn’t completely Sparkless, after all.