therizinosaur: (Default)
Nellasaur ([personal profile] therizinosaur) wrote2013-06-03 09:03 pm

[FANFICTION] Stay Down [TF: Prime]

Title: Stay Down
Fandom: Transformers Prime
Rating: PG-13 for robot fighting and discussion of the atrocities of a brutal war
Summary: Breakdown gets creative when it comes to teaching troopers how to fight.
Notes: Set during season one, somewhere between "Out of his Head" and "Operation: Breakdown". Inspired by this post on Tumblr, which was itself inspired by a conversation I had with Dirgles while watching "Plus One".


**

Inventory datapad in hand, Knock Out was on his way to the storage holds towards the aft of the Nemesis when the first Vehicon ran by. The anonymous trooper gave him a wide berth, skirting to the other side of the main hall, and was gone before Knock Out thought to look up from the resupply list he was prioritizing. He spared the trooper’s retreating back a narrow-opticked glance, then shrugged and continued.

Not more than a couple of minutes later, he heard footsteps again. He looked up in time to see a pair of troopers duck out of one of the ship’s lateral hallways, just behind him and to his left, and scurry away in the same direction as the first.

Now that’s curious, he mused to himself, turning to watch the two retreating Vehicons. They were moving at a run, just like the first, and he couldn’t help but wonder what was so urgent. Oh, for the most part the troopers were efficient when it came to discharging their duties, but they usually only ran about like that when there was something wrong—and there was a conspicuous lack of alarm klaxons blaring or ship-wide alerts flashing in his HUD.

He was still looking after the departed pair when he heard a fourth one pounding up behind him. This one tried to avoid him as the others had but he didn’t let it, putting himself in its path. It skidded to a stop and managed a crisp salute, although the effect was somewhat diminished by the way it craned to see around him.

“Care to tell me where it is you’re all hurrying off to, soldier?”

“Ah—ah, sir—” The trooper started to fidget uneasily, and didn’t say anything further.

Knock Out, interest piqued, stepped deliberately into its personal space. “Well? Out with it!”

“Sir!” The trooper jolted back a step and for a moment Knock Out thought it was going to bolt, but instead it blurted it out all in a rush: “Officer Breakdown is taking on a whole squad of Vehicons by himself in the training arena!”

Though Knock Out had suspected the trooper might know something good, he certainly hadn’t expected that. It didn’t surprise him that Breakdown was down in the training arena, or even that he was there with some of the troopers—the ship’s complement of Vehicons and Eradicons had all received their combat training via uploads and simulators, and Breakdown always said that when it came to fighting, you learned best by actually doing it. He’d been affronted the first time he saw some of the Nemesis troopers fight, and had taken it upon himself to fill in the practical gaps left by theoretical training.

But an entire squad?

“What the scrap is he thinking?!” Knock Out demanded of the trooper, but he didn’t give it a chance to answer. He shoved past it and dove into alt, leaving the datapad clattering behind him as he floored it up the hall.

**

The halls had become so congested with converging troopers that he had to transform back to root before he even reached the arena. He joined the crowd pushing their way into the huge sparring space, elbowing aside chasses as he made his way into the room.

The noise in the arena was overwhelming; jostling spectators crowded the elevated observation stands that ringed the arena floor, with more packed into the aisles and interstices. Why, it looked like every trooper on the ship who wasn’t actively on duty was here, and in any other situation Knock Out would have hesitated to force his way into that mess. So many bodies packed into such a small space practically guaranteed damage to his finish.

But over the sound of the crowd he could hear the unmistakable crashes and cries of mechs in combat, and his concern for his partner outweighed his concern over his finish.

“Make way!” He started shoving in earnest, forcing his way down through the stands. “Officer coming through!” He found himself stuck behind one of the big, broad tanker-alts, a service class Vehicon who didn’t respond until he hammered on its shoulder and told it to move. It forced itself aside, into a jet-alt Eradicon who squawked a protest, but by then Knock Out had reached the barrier separating the audience from the pit and wasn’t paying attention.

Though the audience was Vehicons and Eradicons mingled, the squad on the floor with Breakdown was comprised solely of grounders—and very many of them were literally on the floor. In the time it had taken Knock Out and the rest of the audience to arrive, Breakdown had laid waste to the squad. The pit was littered with fallen bodies, some squirming and groaning fitfully, most still and silent.

The last few standing troopers had backed Breakdown against the wall, and looked like they didn’t know what to do with him now that they had him there. They looked nervous, rightly so given the carnage surrounding them, and kept darting glances at each other—and the throng in the stands.

Knock Out, who had done his fair share of combat training with Breakdown, knew a rookie mistake when he saw one. Prompted by the shouting of the crowd, one of the troopers started forward—but it had its optical band up and fixed on the audience, and not on Breakdown. The bigger mech lunged and the trooper went down hard.

There was so much noise in room that Knock Out couldn’t quite hear what Breakdown said as he trod on the fallen trooper, pressing the Vehicon into the floor. He did laugh, though, and turn to face the last two Vehicons as they rushed him. He waited until they were almost on him, then pivoted neatly to the side, letting the first run right past him and catching the other in the chest with one arm. Holding the Vehicon, he spun all the way around and released it—right into the other one.

Together they crashed to the floor. One of them fell limp instantly, and Knock Out frowned, leaning forward a little like that would afford him a better look. It didn’t, of course, he was too far away to see anything, but he had to wonder—

The other Vehicon rose to its feet, blaster leveled at the bigger mech. Breakdown rushed it so fast that it staggered backwards in surprise and tripped over the fallen body of one of its squadmates.

Breakdown caught it before it could fall all the way and lowered it firmly to the ground. He bent over it and Knock Out could see that he was saying something, but again it was too loud to make out what.

Straightening up with a self-satisfied nod, Breakdown glanced up at the stands and startled visibly as he took in the sheer size of the audience watching him. He turned a slow circle, staring at the troopers shouting and gesticulating down at him, and Knock Out decided that that was his cue. He rapped on the plating of the tanker-alt beside him, getting its attention once more, and ordered it to give him a lift. It stared at him for a moment before comprehending his meaning. Then it knelt, folding its hands together and offering him the resultant platform.

Knock Out stepped onto it, and found himself veritably flung to the top of the barrier separating the arena’s pit from the stands. He stepped lightly over the barrier and landed in a squeal of gravel on the pit floor below.

Vehicons lay scattered around him, collapsed like so much scrap metal on the ground. Knock Out’s first thought was that Megatron was going to have Breakdown’s plating for this. It was one thing to lose troopers by the squad on the battlefield, and another entirely to lose them in combat training. Earlier in the war, perhaps—back when troopers came rolling off the conveyor belts en masse, constructed cold in the Decepticon-controlled birth factories on Cybertron’s surface and brought to life with fragments of sparks, such losses could have been easily recouped.

But they didn’t have access to the factories anymore, nor the resources to build and activate troopers by the platoon, and so Knock Out’s second thought was that he couldn’t fathom what Breakdown had been thinking, laying waste like this.

And Knock Out’s third thought was that, for a floor full of dead and dying troopers, there was remarkably little energon spilled, and the Vehicons all had remarkably strong spark signals.

One of the soldiers he was stepping gingerly over stirred and peeked up at him out of one side of its optical band. “Sir?” it whispered. “Can we get up now?”

“I—ah—let’s just wait for Breakdown to give the signal, shall we?” Knock Out extemporized, forcing a grin and gesturing the Vehicon back down. It nodded once and then went very convincingly limp again.

Now that he was looking for it, he could see it everywhere around him—Vehicons not broken and dying but, rather, playing dead. Some were more convincing at it than others, but he’d certainly been fooled until he got down among them. Even as he approached his partner, the bigger mech reached down and hauled one of the fallen Vehicons to its feet, giving it a friendly slap on the back.

“All right, everybody,” he called, loud enough to make the crowd in the stands quiet a little. “Good job. You can all get up now, and, uh…” He trailed off again, looking around at the audience uncertainly. The noise level continued to recede as the squad picked itself up off the floor, some of the Vehicons staggering and visibly battered but all of them still functioning.

Knock Out stepped up to his side, touching Breakdown’s arm lightly to command his attention. “Care to tell me what you think you’re up to, partner?” he asked, glancing around at the recovering squad.

“Just, uh. Just teachin’ them a few things,” he said evasively, turning away to help another trooper back to its feet. He glanced up at the crowd again, then turned back to Knock Out. “They’re all lookin’ at me.”

“Probably wondering what you’re up to,” Knock Out said, folding his arms across his chassis and tapping one foot on the textured floor of the arena. “Certainly they’re not the only ones.”

Breakdown at least had the good grace to look discomfited. Confident and sure during combat, he tapped his fingers together uncertainly and looked beseechingly at Knock Out now. “Uh. What do I do?”

Knock Out shrugged. He might know his partner well, but he that didn’t mean he could read his mind all the time. He couldn’t get him out of this if he didn’t know what Breakdown had been up to in the first place. “Talk to them?”

“Right. Okay.” Breakdown nodded and turned away, taking in the sight of the mass of troopers once more. This time what he saw seemed to bolster his spark; he nodded again, and some of the confidence returned to his carriage.

“Hey,” he said, and the squad surrounding him went quiet, all of the Vehicons turning to look at him. The mass of troopers around them was still murmuring and calling to each other, though, so he raised his voice and said it again. “Hey!” He waited as the optical bands in the audience turned his way, until the noise fell from a dull roar to low susurrus.

“I think most of you know me by now, but if you don’t—I’m Breakdown, and I said I was gonna teach you all how to fight. Teach you for real, not just with sims and datapacks. But I gotta be honest—” He paused and looked around them, and offered a crooked smile. “Most of you pretty much suck bolts when it comes to fighting.”

There was some noise from the audience at that, calls of protest, and Breakdown put his hands up placatingly. “Listen, it’s not your fault. No one ever taught you anything real. As far as I’m concerned, anything worth learning you gotta learn with your own two hands, from a mech or a gyn who knows how to do it already.” Knock Out caught Breakdown peeking at him then, and couldn’t help a wide smile. Primus knew he’d taught Breakdown quite a few things with his own two hands over the years, and his big burly partner had shared some knowledge of his own, too. As far as Knock Out was concerned, it was a good philosophy.

Breakdown smiled back, a quick and intimate expression, then returned his attention to the troopers. “I’d teach you all if I could, but there’s just one of me and a whole lot of you, and the ‘Bots keep coming at us. There’s just not enough time. So I got to thinkin’, what’s the best way to make sure as many of you make it home after a battle as possible?”

For someone so reticent to speak to a large group, Breakdown had certainly managed to arrest their attention. He’d arrested Knock Out’s, too, although the doctor suspected he knew where Breakdown was going with this.

“So what I figure,” Breakdown continued, “is that when the Autobots hit you—?” He paused and whirled on the nearest Vehicon, grabbing it by the shoulders and hooking its legs out from under it with one foot. It yelled as it went down, but Breakdown controlled its fall, pushing it firmly to the ground. Once it was down, he gave it a look, and it went noticeably limp. Straightening up again, Breakdown pinned it gently with one foot and pointed to the prone trooper. “You stay down!”

He looked around at the audience, murmuring uncertainly now. They’d been told, one and all, that to die in service of the Decepticon ideal was the highest honor to which any of them could aspire. Knock Out suspected this was the first time an officer had said something like this to any of them. Voices started to kick up in protest, one anonymous ‘Con in the front tier of the stands calling out loudly, “But isn’t that kind of—cowardly?”

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t do your best out there,” Breakdown called back, reading the uneasiness in the room correctly (in Knock Out’s opinion). “And I’m not saying don’t fight. The Decepticons need you, each and every one of you, to do your part. If that means keepin’ the ‘Bots off a mine or whatever, then you do it. Right?

“But there’s something you gotta know about Autobots, and it’s that they don’t stop. And they don’t believe in mercy. If they hit you and you get back up, they’ll hit you again, and they’ll do it every time you get back up until you can’t any more. And sometimes you die on the battlefield and sometimes Knock Out’s gotta show you his mercy and you can’t be a hero if you’re dead!”

The arena had gone eerily silent, except for the collective thrumming of hundreds of engines. “You got that?” Breakdown repeated, his voice loud and intense now. “You’re not a hero if the ‘Bots kill you! You’re just—just—” He fell silent, gesturing helplessly with his hands.

Knock Out’s voice wasn’t as loud as Breakdown’s, but it carried in the silence regardless. “You’re just spare parts,” he said. He turned away from Breakdown finally, pivoting slowly as he swept the ranks of the assembled troopers with his optics. “I can rebuild a broken chassis, and I can repair severed tubing. I can replace fried circuitry and patch hull breaches and build you new appendages…”

He’d lifted his hands and he let them fall now. “But I can’t rekindle an extinguished spark. Spare parts may be valuable, but functioning warriors are even more so.”

“D’you remember what they said when we started making all of you?” Breakdown said into the continuing quiet. “How you’re not real because you don’t have your own sparks? Well we learned better, but the Autobots—they never did! And they think you’re all still just—just knock offs! Machines! But you’re not and you can’t let ‘em kill you just because someone told you die a hero! So what do you do, when the Autobots hit you?”

For a long moment, the silence stretched, profound. Breakdown seemed to shrink as it went on, the momentum of his impassioned speech flagging. Then one of the Vehicons in the squad offered in a quiet voice, “You stay down?”

Breakdown whirled on it. “Right!” He pointed eagerly at the trooper. “Say it again! What do you do when the Autobots hit you?”

“You stay down!” the trooper repeated, a couple of its squadmates echoing it an instant later.

Breakdown gestured affirmatively at them. “Again! What do you do when the Autobots hit you?”

This time the whole squad said it, almost in unison. “You stay down!

The next expansive gesture of Breakdown’s arm included the whole arena as he bellowed it one more time. “ What do you do when the Autobots hit you?!

They all came together in a ragged chorus, all the Vehicons and Eradicons present, all the laborers and techs and servants and guards and warriors. “YOU STAY DOWN!”

The room erupted into noise, cheering and calls and conversation springing up everywhere, and Breakdown looked so exultant that Knock Out couldn’t help but smile at him. He didn’t feel nearly so sanguine about this development—and the enthusiastic response of all the troopers and laborers—as Breakdown did, but now wasn’t exactly the time to take him to task for it.

What he was counseling didn’t have to generously interpreted to be considered treason, especially under the draconian martial law Megatron had outlined early in the war to govern the Decepticons. It wasn’t just Decepticon philosophy that dying for the cause was heroic, it was practically law. A stupid law, to be fair, and anywhere else Knock Out would have been in total agreement, but he couldn’t help but wonder: when word of this got to Megatron’s audials (and Soundwave’s presence on-ship virtually guaranteed that it would), how would he take it?

For Breakdown’s sake, he hoped the tyrant would be in one of his forgiving moods, but that didn’t mean Knock Out shouldn’t run a little damage control now. He stepped in front of Breakdown and waved his hands until the uproar subsisted.

“Now remember,” he said, projecting his rich voice with greater ease than Breakdown, “this only applies to close-range and hand-to-hand combat. That’s the hardest to learn without a competent instructor, and each one of the Autobots has had more practice at terminating with their bare hands than the lot of you put together. But you don’t need Breakdown to teach you how to shoot, and I know you’re all equipped with ranged weaponry.

“Spend time in the practice ranges. Up your scores. The better you are at taking out the Autobots at a distance, the harder it will be for them to take you out if you miss.”

The noise level started to pick up again at that, but before it could swell into a cacophony, Breakdown had lifted his voice over it.

“Everyone who still wants combat training with me is gonna get it,” he said, stepping up beside Knock Out. “I told you I’d help you and I will. But Knock Out’s gotta good point—all you need is you, your blaster, and a space in the range to get better at shootin’. You can keep an enemy off with some well-placed cover fire but if you’ve got a ‘Bot all up in your fender and you don’t know how to knock him down, you’ve got a problem. So let me hear it from you one more time—when a ‘Bot puts you down, what do you do?”

“Stay down!” they cried, but the chorus this time was ragged and distracted.

“Good,” Breakdown said, planting his hands on his hips and surveying the crowd with satisfaction. They looked back, the ones who weren’t engaging their neighbors, and after a moment he seemed to realized they were waited for something more. “That’s, uh, that’s all I got,” he said, slumping a little and waving his hands at them. “Class dismissed?”

That was the signal they’d been waiting for. The troopers in the audience and on the floor started to shift and move, clumping into groups and starting to talk earnestly amongst themselves.

Breakdown turned to Knock Out, his golden optics bright but the expression on his face anxious. “Did I do okay?” he asked.

Knock Out didn’t answer immediately, taking another look around the room instead. He thought about the troopers he’d already seen in the sickbay since Starscream had summoned them to the Nemesis, and the bodies stacked in a locked hold, waiting for dismantling. He thought about the injuries he’d had to treat, and the ones he hadn’t been able to, and the mercies he’d had to administer.

He thought about how many Cybertronians were left alive, and how they couldn’t afford to be picky about the source of a mech or a gyn’s spark with Cybertron dead and their options limited.

He thought about the Autobots, and battlefields littered with troopers executed en masse, and the sayings on old, old propaganda holos: We can kill them as fast as they make them.

He thought about how nobody deserved to die the way the Autobots liked to kill Decepticons—nor the way Decepticon law demanded.

“Yes,” he said finally, returning his optics to Breakdown’s worried ones. “You did very good, Breakdown.”

**