therizinosaur: (Default)
Nellasaur ([personal profile] therizinosaur) wrote2013-10-31 03:03 pm

[FANFICTION] Mercenary Medicine, ch 12/? [TF: PRIME]

Title: Mercenary Medicine
Fandom: Transformers: Prime
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Knock Out is a freelance medic-- he works alone and he likes it that way. But when he finds a corpse that isn't as dead as it ought to be at the bottom of a pile of bodies, it puts his entire careful operation at risk.
Chapter: 01 || 02 || 03 || 04 || 05 || 06 || 07 || 08 || 09 || 10 || 11 || 12 || 13 || 14 || 15
Notes: Set way before what we see in the show and nowhere near Earth. Contains copious amounts of worldbuilding and headcanon. Thank you to my VIP screeners beta-readers, and special thanks to Dirge for letting me bounce ideas off her and helping keep my Breakdown in line. Mercenary Medicine wouldn’t be the story it is today without you, Dirge.

Please see the notes at the end of the chapter for some important stuff!


**

The difference that even a few days’ worth of work had made in the state of the cargo bay was astonishing. Knock Out knew that Blackout’s evacuation of their outpost had been rushed, but he hadn’t realized quite the full extent of it until he’d started his inventory project. Sure, the one container he’d been able to get into while he’d still been locked down here had been messy, but he’d assumed that was an exception.

Not so. While plenty of the containers brought on at the outpost had obviously been active storage and simply moved from the base to the ship, just as many had been packed with haste and without care. He was saving so much room repacking more efficiently after he was done cataloguing everything into his inventory that he was starting to think he might get some of the floorspace in his cargo hold back before they offloaded everything at—wherever it was that Blackout was taking them.

That was a thought that had begun to plague him. He suspected Blackout had a final destination in mind for them and he knew that the big flier was piloting them out-system and into the open space they needed to jump. What he didn’t know was what their final destination was. Another fringe base? A trading post? Blackout had been working with Vitalis’ nav-computer and had been sending transmissions on the sub-space comm, but he’d made a point of encrypting his work firmly. Knock Out had toyed with the thought of asking Vitalis to open it to him anyway, but had ultimately decided against it; he didn’t want to test the AI’s loyalty or Blackout’s patience with such a stunt. He was going to have to be a good little sparkling and wait to be told.

At least the inventory was keeping him too preoccupied to dwell on it. Between the sheer number of crates he was going to have to go through and the care he had to take in unpacking, sorting, and then repacking the disorganized ones, he sometimes didn’t get through more than four or five of them in a work period. It was the worst combination of tedious and exacting, requiring much of his attention and very little thought.

If he’d been learning about his captors while he did it, it would have been worth it, but Knock Out had been dismayed to realize that his opportunity to snoop wasn’t going to be as enlightening as he’d hoped. The first day, Blackout had made a point of removing all his personal cargo to the captain’s cabin and beyond Knock Out’s reach—the only exception to his open invitation to go through everything, apparently. And if Breakdown had personal goods down here, Knock Out hadn’t yet found the crate.

Even his ability to sneak away the best of the cargo for himself was severely compromised by the almost-constant surveillance of Blackout’s Deployer. The bug shadowed him constantly; his only reprieve from its unblinking optics was how easily it could be distracted by the occasional skittering emergence of vermin (or a loosed handful of ball bearings). It would go chasing off into the hold after its prey, and Knock Out would be able to operate freely for a few minutes. It was never gone very long, but then again, he rarely needed more than a moment or two to secret something away in a storage pocket or discreetly remove it to one of his own storage lockers.

There were even some perks to the thing’s presence. The drone’s surveillance meant that Blackout was no longer actively watching him on Vitalis’ cameras—and also that those cameras weren’t actively recording him, either. As long as he could set something rolling for the drone to chase after, he could pocket prizes without fear of reprisal.

He didn’t dare risk tricking the Deployer too often, though. There was no way Knock Out could be sure how closely Blackout was watching it watch him, so he was forced to a certain amount of circumspection. He kept his scavenging—or as he preferred to think of it, his proactive pursuit of adequate payment for the services he had been and would continue to render—to only the most valuable and necessary items he happened across. He secreted away a rare tool here, snagged a specialized scanner there, claimed the occasional packet or box of the pureforged biomechanical replacement parts that were becoming so very hard to come by, all without marking their original source on the inventory. He was gambling against Blackout’s assertion that he didn’t know what he’d brought on from the outpost, but Knock Out felt fairly safe in his pilfering; these were things that had incredible value to him, but that no one but a medic should be able to recognize their true worth.

He also allowed himself one indulgence, found in an entire crate full of treasure labeled with the name Drag Strip: an unopened packet of ultraplush microfiber polishing cloths and two— two!— sealed jars of Clearshine Nanoreactive Polymer Waxing Compound. A luxury even back before the war, Clearshine Polymer was all but impossible to find anymore. Sealed, viable jars commanded exorbitant prices on the cosmetics market—well, what remained of it, anyway. The Clearshine was such a prize that, once he had it secured where Blackout would never find it, he was able to dutifully log the rest of the polishes, waxes, and buffing compounds into the inventory as property of the outpost without even a twinge of longing.

After the first few days of the repetitive work, he even found himself falling into something of a routine. The inventorying required close attention, especially when he was unloading crates haphazardly packed and full of weaponry and ammo, but it was mindless work despite that. Unpack, catalogue, repack—it was almost pleasant to let the rhythm of it shape his days, especially if he imagined he was doing it for himself and not at the behest of a ship-hijacking interloper.

Really, the accident seemed, in retrospect, inevitable.

It was another box of weapons; there was a lot of them on-ship, more than even a well-stocked armory at an outpost of that size could account for. Knock Out knew enough to be cautious while he was handling them, of course, but even the attention of the most cautious cyb could lapse. That most cautious cyb’s attention was especially prone to lapsing after having had dealt with several crates full of minutiae, long cycles spent mechanically removing and sorting and recording nothing more interesting than basic maintenance supplies. Certainly that most cautious cyb could be tired and distracted by thoughts of recharge and could be, perhaps, a little overcareless as ey started laying weapons out on eir workmat.

The hum of a priming weapon registered in his processor before his brain, alarm subroutines slamming to active life and throwing his body into motion before he had even realized what was happening. The charge sizzled past his foot as he threw himself to one side. Accompanied by the skittering of the bug as it abandoned its post, he scuffed his length across the floor as he got out of the way. He fetched up against his stack of re-organized crates and huddled there with his arms over his head.

His whole body tensed for danger, he waited—for the ozone tang of another discharge, the concussion of an explosion, the crackle of flames, the shrieking whistle of decompression—

But he didn’t detect anything further out of the ordinary. Cautiously, Knock Out uncurled, sitting up against the bulk of the crates. “Vitalis?” he queried; the ship obligingly filled his HUD with a schematic overlay of hold around him. Everything was coming up blue, surprisingly blue.

“What happened?” he said, but this question Vitalis did not have an answer for. All it could tell him was that it had detected the discharge of an energy weapon of moderate ordnance in the cargo hold.

Once he climbed to his feet and ventured a little closer to the site of the shot, though, it was not hard to piece together what had happened. There was a long, dark gouge in the floor of the hold that had not been there a moment ago, reeking of cooked surfactants and warped metal. The blistered runnel served as mute testimony to the way the discharge had burned itself out along the floor. The mark was ugly even among the myriad scars of shifted cargo and deep enough to pose a tripping hazard, but Knock Out far preferred a minor inconvenience to, say, an explosion or a hull breach.

The mark also led straight as a pointer back to the culprit weapon, an…energon prod? Knock Out had expected, of course, some kind of handheld blaster—but then again, he wouldn’t have accidentally triggered a blaster, no matter how sloppy fatigue had made him. Energon prods, on the other hand, were not supposed to have triggers.

This one did.

Gingerly he picked it up off the mat, placing his fingers carefully so as to avoid a second shot. All of the usual power toggles were present on the control grip, but there was no mistaking the mechanism built into the handle next to the usual panel.

There was also no mistaking the unusual heft of the thing. It had been a long time since he’d had occasion to wield an energon prod, but he remembered the equipment well enough to know that this prod was heavy. Possibly to accommodate the kind of power core and focusing mechanisms you needed to make energon fire in a concerted bolt, instead of just sublimating into pure electricity?

A very small and impulsive part of him wanted to trigger it again, to see what it did when it wasn’t discharging its bolt against the heavily reinforced floor of a cargo hold. A larger but still very impulsive part wanted to crack open the casing and look at the workings inside. The largest part still decided that he needed to make this interesting little implement disappear, and quickly, so he could indulge the other two parts later.

Holding the prod with both hands well away from the control grip, he looked around for the bug. He hadn’t noticed it emerge, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t watching him from some sheltered cranny. There was no sign of the Deployer, not even the malevolent glint of spying optics—but he did see the indicator light on the control pad beside the lift go to orange as he turned.

When it descended from the ceiling, Breakdown was standing on it.

“Blackout wants to know what just happened,” he said, releasing the handrail and stepping off the lift—but not until it had locked in place against the floor. Though his steps were even and careful as he started forward, as soon as he swept his optics over Knock Out and the spread of materiel on the floor, he stumbled noticeably and stopped.

“That’s—that’s ‘Rider’s stuff,” he said. When he moved again, he was staggering, his steps become urgent and uncontrolled. Knock Out retreated as he approached, unconsciously shifting his grip on the prod to raise the business end between himself and the oncoming mech, but Breakdown stopped again at the edge of the workmat.

Ponderously, the big grounder sunk to one knee beside it, reaching down to brush the closest piece of weaponry with a fingertip. “This is that, uh, beam disperser thing he was working on,” he said. Shifting a little, he touched another of the items on the mat, then another. “And this is a charge for his stupid shrapnel cannon, and this is—”

He stopped and raised his head, and his yellow optics when they met Knock Out’s were gleaming bright. Knock Out couldn’t remember seeing so much luminosity in them before now. “What’re you doing with Wildrider’s stuff?” Breakdown asked.

There was enough of a dangerous rumble in the other mech’s voice it took an effort on Knock Out’s part to drop the tip of the prod towards the floor. He purged his vents and managed a smile, and sounded far more casual than he felt when he spoke. “I’m cataloguing it. Blackout’s orders.”

“…Huh.” Head drooping over his chest, Breakdown processed that for a moment. “D’you even know what this stuff is, though?” he asked finally.

Knock Out was intensely relieved to hear that distant promise of hostility gone as quick as it had come from Breakdown’s voice. The invocation of Blackout seemed to have defused the tension, just as Knock Out had hoped. Opting for continued candor, he said, “No. I’ve been taking my best guesses.”

“Huh,” Breakdown said again. He shifted his weight, attempting to sit back on his heels, but didn’t quite manage to get the balance of it right. He toppled back, landing with a grunt on his aftside. The fall didn’t seem to bother him, though; he just blinked up at Knock Out and returned to his initial question. “So what happened, anyway?”

Experience had taught Knock Out that even a mech sprawled on his rear bumper could still potentially pose a threat. Breakdown’s arms were long enough that his reach shouldn’t be underestimated, and Knock Out was leery of getting close. More recent observation, however, belied the danger; Knock Out had seen those long arms reaching to pick up something and missing it entirely. Breakdown’s persistent clumsiness and sluggishness had not escaped Knock Out’s notice, and that was what gave him enough confidence to approach the bigger mech. He offered him the prod.

“I wasn’t expecting this to have a trigger,” he said, his voice more naturally casual now. “I set it off by accident.”

Breakdown reached up and took the end of the prod, but before Knock Out could relinquish it to him, he used it to leverage himself up to his feet again. The unexpected yank would have sent Knock Out sprawling again—if it weren’t for the big arm that caught him before he fell. Breakdown tipped him back onto his feet and then released him, leaving Knock Out with the prod still in his hands.

Before he had even fully parsed what had just happened, Breakdown was already backing off. "That's his augmented long-range offensive prod," Breakdown said, eying the shaft for just a moment before turning his face away. "Wildrider... wasn't ever any good at names. I woulda called it the Assaultin' Battery."

It wasn’t until Knock Out had already laughed that he realized that it might not have been meant as a joke. Then he saw the sidelong smile on Breakdown’s face, and felt it safe enough to laugh again.

**


Notes: First off, HAPPY HALLOWEEN, Merc Med fans! I didn't expect this chapter to be done so soon, but I pushed to finish it up as a special treat for you all! Unfortunately, in return, I'm going to have to play a couple of little tricks on you.

First up, you might be wondering what's up with all the energon prods. Didn't Knock Out find and hide away another oversized prod in chapter 10? Well... yes, yes he did, and he's getting his hands on a prod like this for a reason, but I was never happy with the way that ended up happening in ch 10. So Knock Out finding this prod "again" is a retcon, I am afraid, and I hope you can bear with me on this. The one he found in chapter 10? Pretend that didn't happen.

In time I plan to go through and rewrite a bunch of the scenes in chapter 9 and 10 to be a lot stronger and better paced. When that happens, you'll be the first to know! But it's not going to happen any time soon. Why?

Well that leads me into trick number 2: there's not going to be another new chapter Merc Med probably until December. I'm sure you can guess why: it's NaNoWriMo season. (That's why I wanted to get this chapter up today, since NaNo kicks off, of couse, November 1st.) But it's not all bad! My NaNo project this year is Mercenary Medicine. I'm determined to get it finished up for you guys and I'm using NaNo as a way to get a lot of raw words poured into this story in a short period of time. Even if I don't make the full 50,000, I should be able to get Merc Med very close to done.

So those are my two little tricks. Hopefully they're not too bad! Have a happy Halloween, try not to get too sick on candy, and I'll see you again on the other side of November!

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