therizinosaur: (Default)
Nellasaur ([personal profile] therizinosaur) wrote2012-01-14 10:27 pm

[FANFICTION] Mercenary Medicine, ch 6/? [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 Elemental for beta-reading this for me, and special thanks to SixthClone/Dirge, without whom this story would have died miserably around chapter 4. You are my Breakdown, Dirge; I wouldn't be able to do this without you!


**

The slippery little medic’s ship was not an impressive vehicle, but it was at least responsive. When Blackout’s big fingers played over the manual controls of the pilot’s cradle, it reconfigured obediently to his proportions. When he settled into both the seat and the systems and asserted his control over the ship’s AI, he was met with minimal resistance. Bending the ship to his will took only a few moments; then he was free to start up its pre-flight protocols. He hesitated a moment over the routines, considering both the full and abbreviated sets, before finally settling on full. The Autobots were coming and he wanted to be well clear of here before they arrived, but he refused to take a ship in unknown repair into space. Better to risk the full pre-flight check than shake apart in the atmosphere.

The Autobots were coming, yes, but slowly. They were constrained to ground travel, and he’d collected enough data from his outer perimeter sensors to know that their whole unit was on the move concurrently. Clearly, they were planning a show of force to wipe out the last survivor of this emplacement.

Blackout didn’t intend to be around to see it. He also didn’t intend to leave anything of value behind in his base to be looted.

Leaving the ship to its routines, he exited to the hangar. He checked briefly on Breakdown, finding the last Stunticon still on-task, methodically collecting the things Blackout had told him to collect. He wasn’t going about it as quickly as Blackout would have liked, but he knew better than to exhort the other mech to a faster effort; this was the best he was going to be getting out of Breakdown. The fact that he was getting anything at all out of him right now was, frankly, a miracle.

So Blackout left him to it, and struck out into the base proper. He had his own little list of chores to do before they left, and a limited window of time in which to do it. He may not have needed to rush, but that didn’t mean he could linger.

First things first: the dangling spines depending from Blackout’s shoulders spread, exposing the sheltered mount that his Deployer was docked in. Scorponok sprang free, falling lightly to the ground with an electronic chirp. Its directives already uploaded into its processor, it spun and scurried off, disappearing quickly around a corner on its way to its first target. The drone’s behavioral programming was limited, but destruction was well within its parameters, and there were a few delicate and difficult to transport things that Blackout wanted to have thoroughly decimated before he pulled what was left of his command out of here.

With his drone employed in the indelicate tasks on his itinerary, Blackout was free to pursue the delicate ones. First and most important was taking care of the Teletraan unit attached to this base, and that involved making his way down. Though the computer could be accessed at any number of terminals in the upper level of the base, the Teletraan’s main processing core was stored below, coupled to the power plant that kept all the equipment running. Blackout descended into the crudely hewn lower level as quickly as his bulky frame allowed—there wasn’t a lot of room for maneuvering down here, not for a mech his size. If Dead End or Dragstrip were here—

He shut off that train of thought mercilessly. They weren’t. Only Breakdown was left to him, and Breakdown was all but useless now. Perhaps if he hadn’t dealt with the little medic… But that thought was as pointless as wishing after any of the dead Stunticons. Knock Out was of even less use to him currently than Breakdown, and Blackout wouldn’t have trusted him even if he was still functional.

No, this was on him. Heedless of the way his broad shoulders scraped, he forced himself into the room housing the Teletraan’s core processor. He input his emergency override codes, corroborated them with his personnel ident, and instructed the computer to hard-write its logs to its primary memory core for him. The process took long enough to make him impatient, but his hands were careful as he popped the overwritten core from its housing, tucking the ultra-dense data matrix securely into a storage compartment under his plating. From there, he had the computer wipe its whole system clean. He monitored the purge closely, waiting for the confirmation that all of the data in the Teletraan’s banks had been deleted before he evolved his sonic concussor and slagged the hardware.

He wasn’t going to leave any data here for the Autobots to mine. He’d bungled this command badly already; he couldn’t risk letting anything else go wrong. Following the proper protocol for clearing the Teletraan had used up a good chunk of his budget of time, but it was the task most important to do properly.

He squeezed himself back out of the room and moved to the larger chamber next door. The base’s power plant required more space than the Teletraan’s mainframe, so he was able to maneuver more freely as he set about collecting valuable fuel cells. Energon was hard enough to come by that it would be stupid to leave a scrap of it here. Even the half-consumed crystal currently powering the plant was disconnected roughly from the machinery and added to the pile, plunging the room around him into darkness as the plant crashed.

Unperturbed, Blackout brought up the running lights on his chassis and gathered the rods of refined energon. By the time he made it through the door, the power plant’s backup batteries had kicked in. The emergency lights were dim and widely-spaced, but provided more than enough illumination once he switched his optical system over to low-light optimization.

Cradling the rods of refined energon, he returned with them to the hangar. This task too delicate to leave to Breakdown, he packed away both the fuel rods and the memory core himself, stowing the container securely in the ship’s cargo hold. He took the opportunity to check the progress of the ship’s pre-flight routines, adjusted his mental time budget accordingly, and struck out again, this time towing a sledge and a stack of empty crates behind him.

His first stop this time was the medbay and the storage room next door. Everything in crates or containers had already been sent with Breakdown to the hangar for loading onto the ship, but valuable supplies remained in the messy rooms. Blackout packed them away haphazardly, dumping loose tools and equipment into empty crates as quickly as he could. He tried not to break anything, but time was of the essence here, and so everything that remained now was packed roughly away. The room summarily tidied, he moved on.

Next on his itinerary was the residential quarters—or, to be more specific, Wildrider’s workshop. The hyperaggressive Stunticon had been a compulsive tinkerer, obsessed with finding new and improved ways to blow his enemies to slag. He’d been damn good at it, too, and Blackout knew that leaving behind any of his stash of upgraded and experimental weaponry for the Autobots to find would be so negligent they’d probably call it treason. He’d already had Breakdown sweep the armory proper, where the more conventional armaments used by the whole team had been stored, but he knew he couldn’t ask him to clear Wildrider’s workshop.

The small room was cluttered enough that it should have felt unbearably cramped, were it not for Blackout’s familiarity with it. He had been in here often enough—consulting with Wildrider, offering advice or criticism, taking him to task when his experiments put the other Stunticons or the structural integrity of their base at risk—that he knew exactly how to twist and hunch his massive body to fit comfortably.

There was a half-assembled prototype spread across the main worktable, tools and loose components scattered haphazardly around it. Everything else was stuffed into place in a drawer or piled on a shelf; the rack of tools against the wall was so overburdened that Blackout knew well not to brush against it, lest he trigger a collapse. In all his long stellar cycles, Blackout had never met a mech so incapable of tidiness or organization within a workspace as Wildrider—nor a mech so prone to violent retribution when the disorder of his workspace was rearranged without his permission. He was so used to the mech’s tantrums that he almost expected to hear a yowl of protest now, as he started sweeping things into an empty container, but of course none came. Wildrider was far beyond objecting to the rough treatment of his things.

Still, it was with regret that Blackout hastily cleared out the workshop. Wildrider’s nasty and ingenious little innovations deserved more respect than he was able to give them right now.

After the sheer bulk of things in Wildrider’s quarters, Dead End’s room next door was almost overwhelming in how empty it was. Dead End had opined frequently that collecting material possessions was pointless, a futile exercise when they were all destined to die and leave anything they claimed behind anyway, and the sterility of his room was a testament to the sincerity of his beliefs. The only thing that gave the room any personality was the extra power jack on the floor that Wildrider had installed, so he could recharge beside his brother when the hookups in his own room were buried under his stuff.

Nothing in the room meant nothing he had to spend time taking, though, so he moved on. Drag Strip’s quarters were next, and almost as overfull as Wildrider’s. Unlike Wildrider’s workshop, though, everything in Drag Strip’s room was meticulously organized—and intensely personal. His room was cluttered with trophies. Ranks of racing awards, won before the start of the war, were carefully arranged on a tiered shelf with the most prestigious at the top. A row of prizes from beauty competitions was hung just so in a clear-fronted case on the wall. There was even a cabinet full of more grisly mementos, trophies of his victories since the war had begun—of rivals vanquished, of battles won, of actions successfully completed. Blackout had always found the proud and macabre display obscene.

There was only one other thing in the room, another tall cabinet with a mirrored front, stocked full of the vain little athlete’s cosmetic supplies. This was the only cabinet Blackout bothered to empty. He had no use for Drag Strip’s extensive collection of souvenirs, but the Stunticon had guarded his hoard of polish and wax so jealously that it had to be worth something. Blackout took it all.

Motormaster’s room, when he came to it next, was locked. It wasn’t a surprise, but it was an annoyance, and Blackout didn’t have time to override the encryptions. He blew open the door.

The room on the other side was bigger than Blackout had expected, bigger even than his own quarters elsewhere in their base. It didn’t surprise him that the leader of the Stunticons would claim the largest of the personal quarters for himself, but the fact that he’d somehow contrived to expand his allotment even beyond that, without Blackout knowing, was impressive.

Just as impressive was the number of screens hanging on the walls. Blackout had rarely seen so many of the translucent digital displays in one room place, and never for purely personal use. Even more astonishing was the realization that Motormaster must have transported these here as part of his personal cargo; all of the screens that had been a part of their construction allotment were accounted for elsewhere in the base, meaning he’d brought these along specifically for his own use. They must have comprised the bulk of his allotment—though not particularly fragile, display screens had to be carefully packed against damage. This many would have taken up a lot of space.

If the wealth of display screens wasn’t astonishing enough, the walls of Motormaster’s room were covered still further. The space between the screens was plastered with flimsies. Cognizant as he was of his meager budget of time, Blackout checked both his chronometer and his projections estimating the Autobots’ arrival to the base, and determined that he could spare at least a few moments to indulge his interest. He boosted the power to his running lights to better illuminate the images on the wall, taking a closer look.

The flimsies were hardcopies of schematic images, printed out on thin synthetic film and tacked directly to the surface of the wall. Blackout recognized diagrams of interstellar ships and ground transports, of power plants and broadcasting rigs and automated defense systems, of Vehicon labor drones and even the thirteen basic Cybertronian model types, plus the most common Autobot and Decepticon variations.

Every single image was marked. With a heavy hand on the stylus, Motormaster had circled weak points and flaws, and crowded the margins with notes on the most effective strategies for sabotage, assault, and destruction. Curious, Blackout booted up some of the screens, and found more of the same. There were tactical diagrams and strategic maps, rotating models with bright lines indicating the best places to attack. The biggest by far turned out to be an image of their gestalt form, Menasor, with all the weaknesses ruthlessly highlighted.

Blackout couldn’t help but wonder if it was one of these very weaknesses that the Autobots had exploited to topple the team.

That particular screen was the first to be detached and packed away, and Blackout took special care with the memory module storing the Menasor schematic. All the rest of the screens on the wall followed, and after them the stack of datapads containing military manuals and strategy handbooks that he found stored in a niche near the berth. He contemplated taking the flimsies, too, but knew the work too delicate for the time he had remaining. Instead he pulled them down, leaving the images in tattered scraps on the floor. The last of them, still settling, stirred in the wake of his departure as he exited through the slagged doorway.

That left Breakdown’s quarters. Breakdown had never had as much stuff to store or display as Wildrider and Drag Strip, which made his room seem bigger than it was. What possessions there were tended to be practical: there was a battered old simulation terminal in one corner; in the other, a rack of maintenance supplies. The terminal wasn’t worth taking, but Blackout picked up the cartridges, shuffling through them quickly. Combat training sims, old and well used—when he couldn’t get the others to spar with him, Blackout knew, he’d hone his skills mentally instead. Blackout hesitated over the cartridges for a moment before slotting them away in one of his containers; they didn’t take up much space, after all, and he thought awkwardly that Breakdown might like them as mementoes. He didn’t seem to have anything more personal to take instead.

There was ample evidence of the others, though. Half-empty bottles of polish and soiled cloths left behind by Drag Strip were heaped messily next to Breakdown’s makeshift maintenance array, and a smaller stack of sim cartridges in a niche—racing titles all of them—must have been his as well. Drag Strip had been an avid enthusiast, often bemoaning the loss of the sport and the fact that the only other Stunticon who’d race him was Wildrider.

Drag Strip had been the most frequent visitor to Breakdown’s room, but the others were not unaccounted for. A medical scanner of Dead End’s was sitting with Breakdown’s maintenance equipment on the rack, and a deactivated grenade that must have been one of Wildrider’s prototypes had rolled into a corner and been forgotten. Some of the tools on and around the maintenance array belonged to one or the other of his brothers.

Even Motormaster had left a mark, in a military history datapad that had been shoved nearly out of sight behind one of the fixtures in the room.

In fact, the only person on the base who hadn’t spent enough time in Breakdown’s room to leave something behind was Blackout himself. Unsurprising—the Stunticons occasionally seemed to have trouble getting along with each other; there hadn’t been room in their unsteady society for anyone else, not even their handler.

Thinking about it was enough to make him frown, but not enough to put him off his task. Blackout methodically stripped the corner maintenance rack, then carefully collected anything else left behind in the room that looked like it still had worth.

It didn’t take long, but there was still an alert beacon flashing in his vision as he stepped out of the room, warning him that his time here was starting to run short. He paused a moment to check on Scorponok’s progress, then turned his back on the Stunticons’ quarters and moved on. Another mech might have lingered, might have bid farewell to dead comrades in this place most touched by their presence, but not Blackout. He just secured the crates on his sledge and moved on.

He had more important things to do right now than mourn a team that had never chosen to include him.

Room by room, he swept the rest of the base, taking anything of value that he could and destroying what he couldn’t. By the time he made it back to the hangar, Scorponok had finished and rejoined him, docking to his bay and going quiescent under the spines hanging from Blackout’s back.

Breakdown had finished too. Blackout found him in the ship’s cargo bay, sitting on one of the crates, passing the datapad back and forth between his hands with a mindless, mechanical motion. He looked up when Blackout boarded the ship, his expression blank; when commanded, he helped distribute the rest of the cargo. Breakdown had never been a particularly talkative mech, but his utter silence now was disquieting, and Blackout hurried him along. The sooner they were done here, the better.

Together, they fetched the crumpled body of the medic and carried that, too, into the ship. There was a vindictive little part of Blackout that wanted to leave it behind for the Autobots to find, but he ignored it and strapped the inert form into place on the transport sledge docked against the wall. No resource, no matter how poorly Blackout regarded it personally, could be left behind for their enemy to take hold of. That was the entire point of this little race against time, after all.

Leaving Breakdown with an order to seal the cargo bay doors and then secure himself for takeoff, Blackout returned to the cockpit. He settled into the reconfigured pilot’s cradle, connecting the physical jacks and letting his mind sink into the ship’s systems. There was no resistance now, and the AI’s subprocessors responded to his succession of queries with affirmatives. The ship was more than airworthy, according to the diagnostics; it was in excellent repair.

Perversely, Blackout found himself annoyed. It would have been far more congruent with his personal opinion of the medic that the ship had been barely functional.

His irrational annoyance aside, though, it was a relief to feel the strong surge of the engines as he engaged them, loosing just enough thrust to lift the ship off the floor for the hangar. His hands twitched in the control cradles, sending the ship up—

The shriek of an alarm inside his head startled him enough that the ship bucked under his hands, the engines cutting out and dropping the whole craft hard to the floor of the hangar. The pilot’s seat was cushioned against turbulence but he felt the impact nonetheless, rattling through a body far bigger than even the sizeable one he inhabited. The crush of sensation was enough to fritz his processor, which set off a fresh wave of alarms in the systems that it was currently connected to. The cacophony seemed so much louder than his own HUD when it wasn’t augmented by the ship’s systems that Blackout yanked his hands out of the interfaces without thinking, scrabbling for the cranial cable and pulling that free too.

The abrupt disconnection was enough to make him reel, his engine roaring in his chassis. He levered himself upright and cycled his vents hard, trying to cool his overheated body. It had been so long since he’d piloted any type of vehicle that he’d forgotten how...immersive the experience could be.

He really could have done without a reminder this unpleasant. If there was someone else to pilot the ship…

But there wasn’t, of course, and Blackout wasn’t going to waste any time lamenting that fact. He settled his bulky body back into the chair, determination on his face as he reached for the control handles again. Neglecting for the moment to reattach the cortical jack, he activated the big display mounted on the bulkhead in front of him, spilling the data from the ship’s AI across the screen instead of his internal HUD. He minimized the damage reports from the ship’s proximal sensors, privileging the readouts from its distal systems instead, looking for the cause of the initial alarm.

It had been the proximity sensors. He’d attempted to lift the ship through a hatchway that hadn’t irised open to admit him.

Figuring out what had happened from there wasn’t difficult: the base’s auxiliary power network wasn’t equipped to handle the massive portal in the hangar roof. The automatic system that should have detected the incipient takeoff and accommodated it was dead. He’d have to open the door manually.

With enough time, he could have used the analog release to crank the door open, but that wasn’t an option with the enemy bearing down on them. No, if he wanted this ship out of here before the Autobots arrived, there was really only one solution. With only a brief rumble to a blank and incurious Breakdown to stay put, Blackout palmed open the passenger exit.

Unlike the cargo hatch, which allowed access from the floor when the ship was docked, the passenger airlock opened on open air. In a properly equipped facility there would have been a gangway or a catwalk at this level, but in this rough base with its tiny hangar, there was nothing. No wonder the ground-bound medic hadn’t been using this egress from the ship.

But the open air was no obstacle for a proper Decepticon like Blackout. He stepped out and transformed, arresting his fall as he took on the streamlined shape of his hover-carrier altmode and rising easily towards the roof of the hangar. He swung out from under the recessed doorway, positioning himself carefully out of the way, and then opened fire with his onboard artillery.

The hatch was reinforced against attack from above but not from below, and it didn’t take many salvos before it began to warp and crack. He switched from energy weapons to his sonic concussor, and within three shots the doorway—and the rock and mechanisms surrounding it—had collapsed inward.

He could do nothing but watch as the falling debris thundered against the ship below. It was a shame, having to intentionally damage a vehicle that had been in such good repair, but there was no viable alternative. The dents and scratches in the hull could always be repaired later.

Returning to the ship involved a tricky maneuver requiring him to carefully time his transformation back to root mode, catching the edge of the doorway and utilizing his momentum to swing himself into the airlock. It wasn’t his most graceful landing, but his only audience was Breakdown. He didn’t exactly expect the other mech to mock him for it.

Returning to the cockpit, he took his place in the pilot’s cradle once more. He took up the cranial cable and reconnected the cortical jack with more force than was strictly necessary for handling the delicate equipment, and sunk back into the ship’s systems with determination. The full, ethereal sensation of the ship settled around him, proximal sensor nets alight with pricks of pain half-felt where his clumsy actions had damaged the hull. He paid just enough attention to the damage reports to ascertain that nothing immediately vital to the ship’s handling had been affected, then minimized them, thrusting the sensations and the accompanying data away and focusing on takeoff.

The ship, much to his relief, was just as responsive as before, lifting away from the floor with only a minor tremor. He guided it up, edging it carefully through the ragged hole he had left in the hangar’s ceiling. Part of him expected attack as soon as he was in the open air, but it didn’t come. In fact, the ship’s powerful scanners weren’t reporting anyone in the immediate vicinity, although there Cybertronian signals over the ridge—the Autobot party, undoubtedly staging their operation under the cover of rock.

Blackout permitted himself a grim smile of satisfaction as he engaged the ship’s transformation protocols, its stubby wings reconfiguring to the proper alignment for slipping through the envelope of the planet’s atmosphere. Let the Autobots attack. They would find no one else to kill and nothing of use, and maybe squander some of their own resources in the action.

He pointed the obedient vessel to the stars and engaged the throttle.

Time to abandon this worthless planet, this botched command, this echoingly empty base, and see what he could salvage from this disaster.

**


Thank you for your patience while 'Mercenary Medicine' was on hiatus, and as always, thank you for reading!