therizinosaur: (Default)
Nellasaur ([personal profile] therizinosaur) wrote2011-12-23 06:03 pm

[FANFICTION] Mercenary Medicine, ch 5/? [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. Thanks are due to Elemental for beta-reading this for me, and SixthClone for helping me write Breakdown, even when he's not doing much.


**

Blackout had said leave, and by the time Knock Out got back to the hangar he'd decided to do just that. His ship was still badly under-stocked, but he didn't relish his chances of bargaining anything good out of Blackout or Breakdown now.

At least he’d taken the liberty of refueling while he had been the only conscious being in the base. It was going to be a tight trip to the next Decepticon-inhabited system, but he'd be able to make it.

It was a relief to find that the Teletraan AI in charge of the base's systems still seemed to think he had some kind of legitimate authority. He used it to lock down the hangar, against the very likely chance that one or the other surviving member of this unit would come looking for him. His little encounter with Blackout had been alarming, to say the least, and he didn't want to see what Breakdown would be like after the affective block had worn off.

It wasn't until the Teletraan terminal had confirmed the lock that Knock Out was able to relax, and even then it wasn't by much. He still had a lot of work to do before he could take off, and he wasn't going to count on his locks to hold out the others indefinitely. He didn't know how much time he was going to have until Blackout and Breakdown came knocking, but he was sure it wouldn't be as much as he needed.

Getting his untidy bounty of scrap organized and packed away was the most pressing task. The mess in his cargo bay had been acceptable for the short jump from battlefield to base, but there was no way he was going to attempt interstellar transit with a disarrayed hold. That was just asking for trouble.

He trotted up into his ship and started.

The hold was a disaster. Though he'd started processing his stockpile of scrap after he'd finished examining Breakdown, he hadn’t been able to get very far with it. Instead he’d spent his time fueling his ship and operating on Blackout—the latter of which he was now regretting, if only because the massive Decepticon would be far less threatening if he were still crippled by his wounds. Knock Out had hoped to use the 'free' repair job as leverage to get some good materiel out of the other mech; so much for that. He would have regretted coming to this planet at all, except the load of spare-parts-to-be that he was currently packing away was well worth the stress of dealing with both of these glitches.

So he kept telling himself, anyway. The heavy metal of each successive piece in his hands was a reassuring weight, but it seemed a thin comfort when he remembered Blackout looming and the way the threat of the massive Decepticon had sent his systems into a panic he'd barely been able to control.

Finally, he lifted the last of the crates up to one of the cargo braces and locked it into place, thumping the crest of his helm against the side of the box an instant later. “Get a hold of yourself, Knock Out,” he snapped, angry and willing to give voice to it only because he was alone. He closed his eyes against the tangle of readouts on his internal HUD, evidence of the panic he was still having trouble controlling. Scrap, he hadn't been this spooked since his first days as a no-rank recruit in the army.

A clatter outside in the hangar made him jump, and he grumbled at himself an instant later. The hangar had obviously been partially repurposed for storage a long time ago, with cargo crates and equipment stacked haphazardly in the corners and all around the edges of the room. Of course some of the gear might shift and settle, especially since his landing here had surely disturbed things. And yet here he was, jumping at some little, harmless noise like it was the approaching tread of an assailant.

This was embarrassing.

Pivoting on one heel, he stalked down the ramp and out of the ship, letting his over-sensitive systems sweep the hangar. The door was closed, the keypad beside it blinking a reassurance that it was still locked. He was alone. He still had time to get his ship secured and get out of here.

“Calm down,” he instructed himself firmly, finishing his scan and turning back towards his ship. “There’s nothing—”

Another rattle made him jump and whirl again, the battle routines in his processor taking sudden control of his body. His blaster was leveled in front of him and he didn’t even remember sending his hand the command to transform, but it meant he had a ranged weapon to train on the source of the sounds and he was okay with that. He certainly didn’t regret the reflex when something that was all angles and dun-colored metal leaped into view from behind an untidy stack of crates, screeching wordlessly.

He loosed two wild shots at the thing and then his brain caught up with his processor and he realized what he was firing at. He was suddenly glad for his atrocious aim; the faceless shape was a Deployer, a squat little ground-surveillance unit, and it had to be Blackout’s. Members of a combiner team couldn’t simultaneously jockey a drone, at least not as far as Knock Out knew, and anyway, he’d marked the empty docks on Blackout while he’d been working on him.

The little drone had scrambled back under cover as soon as the first shot had seared past it, and Knock Out could hear it scolding furiously from its hiding place. It sounded distressed—his targeting systems had reported both shots as missed, but his targeting systems weren’t flawless. Could he have hit it?

“Scrap,” he muttered hotly, kneeling and trying to peer into the drone’s refuge. Their one-to-one controller-to-drone ratio meant that Deployer jockeys tended to be protective of their charges, certainly moreso than the mechs who monitored the legions of the larger Vehicon drones that served in support of the sparked officers of the Decepticon army. Knock Out had no doubt that if this one was in here, its master wouldn’t be far behind, and that he’d definitely be seeing Blackout that much sooner if he’d actually damaged the little thing with either of his salvos.

“Come on out, will you?” he crooned, slipping into a lilting, sing-songy vocalization pattern. Knock Out hadn’t had many chances to work on Deployers—their hosts preferred to maintain them whenever possible—but this had worked to calm them the few times he’d had the opportunity; he hoped it would work again now. “Little thing, little thing, I know I scared you. I won’t hurt you. Come let papa Knock Out take a look, hm?”

The frantic chattering calmed gradually, and Knock Out kept up the patter. When he saw its round, eyeless face start to edge into the light, he carefully extended a hand, his fingers crooked invitingly. “Almost there,” he said. “Come on, come on—”

The Deployer crept cautiously forward, out of the shelter of its hiding place in the crack between two of the crates. Knock Out waited until it was poking tentatively at his fingers, then twisted his hand lightning-fast and grabbed it behind its blunt little head.

“Hah! Gotcha!”

Squalling, the much smaller mechanoid thrashed desperately, flailing around its heavy, clawed forearms and long tail as it tried to escape. Knock Out growled as it gouged slivers out of the paint job on his arm and hand, but maintained his grip, examining the drone from as many angles as possible.

He lifted the drone over his head to look at its underside, provoking a particularly vehement squall, and of course it was then that Blackout walked in.

Startled, Knock Out dropped the drone, which scored a long swipe down his chest with its tail as it fell. It hit the ground and fled towards its host, but Knock Out ignored it; his attention was fixed on Blackout.

“How did you get in here?” he asked, too surprised to make the demand properly imperious. His hand, which had reverted while he was trying to wrangle the drone, transformed into the blaster again, and he leveled it at the larger mech.

“Emergency override,” Blackout said. He stepped out of the doorway and took a look around the hangar, apparently unconcerned by the threat of Knock Out’s weapon. Breakdown came through behind him, towing a cargo sledge; their combined presence sent Knock Out stumbling back, defensive subroutines booting in an automatic riot in his processor.

“I was just leaving,” he said, knowing he sounded desperate and not even caring at this point. “There’s no need for this—”

“There’s been a change of plans,” Blackout said, interrupting him. “We’re going with you.” He was serious enough that there was no way it was a joke; he seemed to mean it.

Knock Out laughed incredulously. “Come again?”

“I’m not repeating myself.” Blackout turned to Breakdown, shoving a datapad into the other mech’s hands. “You have a decicycle,” he told the other mech. “Start loading.”

Real alarm sizzled through Knock Out’s systems. He watched Breakdown wade into the untidy stacks of crates, marking the slow and clumsy movement of the surviving Stunticon as unthreatening. Blackout was obviously the real danger, and his attention snapped back to the massive Decepticon.

There was a part of Knock Out that wanted nothing more than to flee into the ship, where he could lock out these nightmares and pretend he was safe. That was an admission of vulnerability he refused to make, though; he still had some slagging dignity. He forced himself to stomp towards Blackout, letting his panic fuel a bravado he absolutely did not feel. “What is the meaning of this?” he demanded, stabbing a sharp fingertip at the other mech’s broad chest.

As Knock Out had done to him before, so Blackout swatted him away now. The difference was that when Blackout hit Knock Out, the impact was enough to send him reeling into the curved hull of the docked ship, his processor fritzing. By the time Knock Out’s perceptive systems stabilized, Blackout had stalked past him, deeper into the hangar.

Pushing away from the hull of the ship, he hurried to put himself in front of Blackout again. “If you’re going to use my ship, I think I have a right to know what’s going on,” he said, trying to make himself appear as tall and imposing as possible. Even at full extension, though, he barely came up to the other mech’s chest, and when Blackout took a long stride directly at him, he jumped quickly back.

To Knock Out’s surprise, though, Blackout paused and answered him instead of walking right by, his voice a terse rumble. “The Autobots found us. We’re pulling out, and your ship will be taking us.”

“Of course,” he said quickly, spreading his hands ingratiatingly. “Always happy to do what I can to further the Decepticon cause. But—” He paused, realizing suddenly the bargaining power this gave him. “—But it’s not going to be a comfortable trip. My ship is low on certain, ah, necessities, and if there are going to be three of us…” He trailed off suggestively, trusting Blackout to be able to fill in the blanks. Most of the Decepticons stationed in the fringe systems like this had served or travelled on improperly provisioned ships. He had to know how much more stress it could add to an already perilous journey.

“What do you need?” Blackout asked slowly. His face was guarded and there was obvious reluctance in his voice. Knock Out tried not to beam too victoriously at him.

“Let me get the list,” he said, and turned away to the ship before the other mech had a chance to respond.

He took a moment to scan the hold with critical optics as soon as he was inside, ensuring that he hadn’t overlooked anything when he’d been packing his cargo of new parts. It was no secret that those few medics remaining with the army stripped dead soldiers for spares, but that didn’t mean survivors wanted to see their terminated teammates in dismembered hunks while the loss was still fresh. Knock Out wanted even less to risk Breakdown stumbling across what was left of his gestaltmates, especially if they were going to be sharing the close quarters of Knock Out’s ship for any extended period of time.

He’d packed well, though. There were no loose or overlooked parts lurking; everything had been sealed away in opaque crates. It should be safe enough to let Breakdown in here.

Grabbing the datapad containing the ship’s manifest from its niche, Knock Out returned to the hangar. His stride was relaxed and his smile easy as he returned to Blackout’s side, but there were attentive subroutines monitoring both of the other Decepticons scrolling in his HUD and he wasn’t shutting that particular program down any time soon. Just because he had some leverage here didn’t mean he could let his guard down. Blackout was still a very dangerous mech, and the dented plating of his shoulder from where he’d been slapped aside like a Vehicon stood as testament to that.

Silently, Blackout held out a hand for the datapad. Knock Out handed it over, trying to keep his attention evenly divided between both Blackout and Breakdown—who was still moving slowly among the heaped storage crates, comparing labels to the list in his hand and occasionally adding one to the sledge he still tugged behind him—while the former perused his own list.

Blackout was silent for a long time, his mouth pursed thoughtfully. Occasionally his blunt fingertips would dance over the screen. Finally, the hand holding the datapad dropped, and Blackout’s eyes sought Breakdown. “Come here,” he said, reinforcing the command with a crook of a finger.

The Stunticon paused with another crate in his hands, blinking dully at Blackout. He carefully placed his burden on the cargo sledge, picked his datapad back up, and made his way back out of the stacks. “Yeah?” he asked, his voice flat and uninterested.

Blackout took Breakdown’s pad from him and connected the two devices, making changes on both with swift strokes of his big fingers. Quickly done, he handed Breakdown’s back. “Make sure you get everything on this,” he said. “I changed it.”

Breakdown glanced down at the updated list, then nodded silently and turned back to his work.

Knock Out reached to take his own datapad back just as Blackout offered it and scrutinized the modified manifest closely. Far fewer items than he’d expected had been selected. “What about the rest of this?” he asked, waving the pad.

“Unnecessary frivolities,” Blackout said.

Unnecessary frivolities that would make a long-term trip in close quarters far more bearable, and long-term was what a trip to any another Decepticon emplacement would be in Knock Out’s ship. It wasn’t exactly optimized for speed. In fact, Knock Out had chosen this particular vessel specifically for how unremarkable it was. It couldn’t flit rapidly between star systems, it couldn’t carry more than four or five mechs without things getting uncomfortable, and the amount of space it had for cargo was meager when it was carrying its proper crew complement. It had pathetic specs compared to most of the other ships in the fleet, and he liked it that way. Who would bother to try and take it from him?

There were plenty of things on his list that weren’t necessary for survival, but sure were for comfort. Decepticons had enough trouble sharing quarters on the massive battleships and troop transports that roamed the stars, ships that had recreation decks and training space and room. The prospect of being crammed in his ship with these two with nothing to distract or entertain them was unpleasant.

No, more than that, it was trouble. Decepticons had a knack for entertaining themselves, after all.

He waved the pad at Blackout again, scowling. “I promise you, this trip isn’t going to be easy for any of us if we don’t get some of this stuff on-ship before we leave. You don’t even have to pack it yourself, just tell me where to—”

“No.” Blackout smacked him again—or would have, if Knock Out hadn’t seen the blow coming and ducked out of the way. “No time.”

“No time?” Knock Out snorted. “Even if I started up its pre-flight procedures this nanoclick, I’d still have enough time to toss your base for some of these supplies before the ship was cleared for take-off. There may not be a lot of time, but there’s enough.”

“I said no.” Blackout’s eyes were blazing dangerously bright in his face. “Soldier, I expect you to fall in line and start prepping our ship for departure. Do I make myself clear?”

Knock Out laughed sharply. “Oh, that’s cute. You think you can command me.”

“I’m commanding officer of this unit,” Blackout said. His deep voice was starting to sound strained. “And that gives me rank over you, medic.”

“Ah ah.” Knock Out would have waved his finger in Blackout’s face if it hadn’t involved getting in arm’s reach of the mech. “I’m not actually part of this unit, remember? If we’re going to be leaving together, it’s going to have to be on my terms.”

The huge Decepticon growled, but didn’t look particularly surprised by Knock Out’s ultimatum. “So you don’t intend to cooperate?”

“Cooperate?” Knock Out grinned predatorily. “My friend, you’re the one who needs to cooperate with me. My ship, my rules.”

Blackout’s vents cycled in a sigh. “So be it,” he muttered. He held out a hand to Knock Out. “Let me see that list again?”

Elated by Blackout’s unexpected capitulation, Knock Out had to resist the urge to laugh again. He suspected that if he did, the sound would be just a bit hysterical with relief. “Of course.” He toned his triumphant grin down into tamer smile and closed the gap that had opened between them, holding the datapad out to the bigger mech. Blackout reached for it—and locked his big fingers around Knock Out’s wrist instead. A brutal yank unbalanced him, making him stumble right into Blackout’s other outstretched hand.

The big fingers closed tight around his throat. Knock Out had one brief moment to be surprised and angry, and then Blackout lifted him straight off his feet and there was only panic. He struggled, thrashing and kicking, scratching frantically at the hand choking him in an attempt to get the grip to loosen.

In response, there was only a confused impression of movement and then Blackout slammed him painfully against the hull of the ship. Knock Out tried to get enough purchase with his hands and his feet to push off, but the curved metal exterior of the vehicle sloped sharply back and away and Blackout had better leverage anyway. Between his longer arms and his significant weight advantage, Blackout had him very well pinned.

Panic set Knock Out’s systems to rioting, crowding the digital overlay on his vision with readouts warning him direly that he was in trouble. If anything, his HUD was only adding insult to injury, as if the pain in his throat and the absence of solid ground under his desperately kicking feet didn’t make his predicament clear enough. A blinking icon warned him that the fluid lines and hydraulic struts in his neck were being crushed—a column of constantly updating numbers showed calculations indicating the very low probability that he would be able to bring any of his weapons to bear effectively— a timer in one corner of his optical display counted down how many nanoclicks he had left before the energon deprivation to his brain forced him into stasis lock— And there was more, a coruscating shimmer of data that threatened to overwhelm his optical field.

Usually he was grateful for the constant stream of info from the battle sub-computer in his processor, but right now, it all only served to highlight how very scrapped he was.

He went limp, hands clutched on Blackout’s wrist but no longer scrabbling and scratching. “Stop,” he said, or tried—the single word was badly garbled by static. “Nng, please— Do whatever you want—”

It had been a long time since he’d had to beg for his life, and he counted it as a personal failure that he was reduced to it now, but it would get him through this. He could figure out what went wrong here and adjust his modus operandi appropriately later. The important thing right now was to survive, by any means necessary.

Only something was wrong. Blackout’s fingers hadn’t loosened their grip; he hadn’t eased his weight off the delicate mechanisms of Knock Out’s throat; the promise of ‘whatever you want’ hadn’t made his optics light up greedily. If anything, the servos hitched tighter, and through the swarm of readouts on his HUD, he thought he saw the bigger mech sneer.

Choking, he started to struggle again, but it was already too late. His optical readout was warning him of systems failures in his brain and his processor both. What little physical resistance he could still command was weak and uncoordinated, and he could barely see now for the digital display over his vision, telling him just how badly he’d misjudged this mech here, just how badly he’d failed…

And this was going to be the failure he wouldn’t bounce back from, wasn’t it?

It was the last coherent thought he managed before his vision went black and stasis lock claimed him.

**


Notes: And that's all for now~. "Mercenary Medicine" is going to be going on a little hiatus while I work on building up my buffer of finished chapters again. Thank you so much to everyone who's been reading so far, and I'll work hard on getting the next chapters out as soon as I can!

(Anonymous) 2012-01-02 09:55 pm (UTC)(link)
fascinating, realistic, immersion; i can't wait for your next updates!! Adoring the unpredictability but believability of all their thoughts/actions.