therizinosaur: (Default)
Nellasaur ([personal profile] therizinosaur) wrote2012-01-29 09:35 pm

[FANFICTION] Mercenary Medicine, ch 8/? [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!


**

It didn’t come as a surprise to Knock Out that he was being watched, though that first soft whirr of the camera focusing on him had startled him badly. They were keeping him captive down here, after all; it only made sense that they’d want to see how their prisoner reacted to his confinement. Maybe they were hoping he’d throw a tantrum, lobbing useless threats or trying to escape.

He’d have to disappoint them on that count. He was outnumbered and badly outclassed, and he wasn’t sure he could count on the ship to aid him. He’d heard all the stories, of course, the tales they used to tell about pilots grown so close to their vessels that their ships’ AIs would fight to defend them. Certainly career pilots were protective of their charges—not that there were all that many of them left anymore. They’d been too specialized, no good for anything more than piloting. It had proven easier to adapt a ship to a mediocre pilot than turn a pilot into a mediocre warrior, and so pilots who died had not been replaced.

Knock Out knew he was only a mediocre pilot, and tried to make it up to his ship by keeping it in excellent repair. He couldn’t help but wonder if the AI had resisted at all when the brutes who’d locked him down here had taken control of it.

He wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer. The ship’s AI didn’t have much a personality, but it was the only companion he’d had for a long time. If it had turned itself over to another mech without complaint, he wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

It was a surprisingly unpleasant thought, though Knock Out was careful not to let that show on his face now that he knew he was watched. In fact, the only thing he was showing right now was casual unconcern, forcing himself to move with his usual grace and ease down the aisle. Passing towers of unfamiliar cargo from the base, he reached his own things and started hunting through the containers, dropping them haphazardly until he found the one he was looking for. This one he dropped too, heavily, and fell to his knees in front of it. Struggling to conceal the desperate eagerness he felt for the contents, he popped the lid and started digging through.

Waxes, polish, clean chamois cloths as soft against his plating as the touch of sparklight. Only the finest tools in the trade of keeping himself handsome, and even these were just extras, spares in storage until he needed them. His main kit, of course, was on the upper deck, in his cabin.

His main kit was as unreachable as Cybertron right now. This would have to do.

Nudging one of the other crates into position, Knock Out sat and carefully selected a cloth and one of the polishes. He glanced over at the nearest camera, but looked away quickly. He knew how to make this a show for his unseen captors, if he wanted, but he didn’t. This was for him, not them.

As he’d hoped it would, as it always did, the ritual relaxed him. Most mechs, he knew, saw this as a chore or a frivolity—plenty of them had told him as much to his face, demanding to know why he wasted time and resources on his plating like this. Jealous types, Knock Out always thought, made too conscious of their scarred, dinged, dirty exteriors when he stood next to them. Undisciplined types, who didn’t have the patience a good, thorough buffing demanded, who couldn’t comprehend the sacrifices he had to make sometimes, or why it was so important to keep himself looking this good.

For the first time since he’d woken up, his servos loosened, finally, legitimately relaxing as he scrubbed the cloth over the familiar contours of his plating. If he kept his eyes closed, he could almost pretend he was in the back room of his shop, cleaning up after a long day with clients. Pretend he was in his residence, preparing to go out and watch the races—or perhaps to tool around himself in the informal amateur leagues, maybe not as fast as the others but certainly the prettiest one on the street. Pretend he was in some unfamiliar washrack, cleaning away the evidence of a night well spent with a friend or a lover or maybe just a chance-met stranger.

He could pretend he was home. Cybertron never seemed so painfully near and so unreachably distant as when his mind wandered during a buffing. Still, Knock Out refused to relinquish the reverie. These were badly needed right now, his memories of a time and a place where no one who didn’t have an explicit invitation touched his exoplate.

The light buffing was over sooner than he would have liked, but he wasn’t done yet. Knock Out tossed aside the soiled rag and rooted around in the container again, coming up with an old and well used dent remover. With care, he searched out every dimple in his plating, popping them out as he found them. It was an uncomfortable sensation, but brief, and the satisfaction of smoothing his chassis out overwhelmed the little pains. Just for the pleasure of it, he ran his hands over his abdominal plating when he was done, enjoying the feel of the unbroken contours under his hands.

Next was doctoring his scratches and scrapes. Oh, he could wait for his self-repair to fill them in on its own time, of course, just like he could have waited for his dents to pop themselves out. But why, when a little bit of immediate intervention could have him looking good again instantly?

There was even a canister of the appropriate stimulant buried in a corner of the crate. Knock Out drew it out and twisted off the cap, dabbing a bit on the tip of one sharp finger and watching critically. After a moment, the plating heated up slightly, smoothing and starting to gleam as even the most minute imperfections repaired themselves.

Good, it was still viable then. He applied the liquid—sparingly—to every scratch he could find on his plating, triggering dozens of little hot spots where the self-repair nanos that kept him healthy responded to the chemical signal and went into overdrive. It was a very temporary effect, but enough to heal every major scrape in his paint job.

The heat faded as soon as the nanos returned to their baseline activity levels, but Knock Out’s sense of satisfaction remained.

Taking up another clean cloth and a canister of wax, he started buffing again. He went slower this time, careful to make sure he ministered to every exposed bit of plating that he had. Time constraints occasionally required him to skip this step, and he was looking forward to pursuing it to completion right now—which was why it seemed almost inevitable that he was interrupted by the sound of the lift platform engaging and rising towards the ceiling.

So watching him wasn’t enough for his captors, then. Knock Out recapped the wax and dropped his rag aside, his whole body tensing where he sat on the crate. It felt like he was frozen, all his servos and joints locked into place, like he couldn’t look away from the now-descending lift and the hulking form standing on it.

A big form, but not Blackout’s huge one. The angular silhouette and blue and white paint job identified Breakdown, who looked even more tense and unhappy than Knock Out felt right now. Fists clenched tightly at his sides, he stepped off the lift and stalked down the aisle towards Knock Out, his tread heavy enough to be felt through the floor. The frown on his face was ugly and foreboding.

“You,” he growled, pointing as soon as he was close enough to level a blunt finger at Knock Out. “We gotta talk. Now.”

All too aware of the care he would need to take with this angry stranger, Knock Out rose smoothly to his feet and fixed his most polite smile on his face. “Of course,” he said, deliberately keeping his optics fixed on the other mech’s face instead of his huge, fisted hands. He indicated the scattered crates with a sweeping gesture. “Can I offer you a seat?”

“No.” The pointing finger dropped but the mech stomped closer. “And I oughta offer you a fist in the face. Where do you get off, doing this to me?”

The threat wiped the smile off Knock Out’s mouth, and he couldn’t help retreating, scrambling backwards and away from the other grounder. He didn’t even realize that he was being backed against a wall of crates until Breakdown had him cornered, and then he couldn’t believe he’d been so careless.

“I—I’m afraid I don’t really understand—ah—, ” What the big deal was? Why Breakdown and Blackout both insisted on treating him like he’d committed treason or cold murder or some other heinous crime, when all he’d done was save a life? He knew better than to phrase it quite like that, though, and instead spread his hands and tried to look as harmless as possible as he said, “—why you take such offense?”

Breakdown loomed close enough to poke a finger into Knock Out’s chest. He tried to flinch away, but there was nowhere to go and the sound of metal on newly-repaired-metal made him wince.

“’Course you don’t,” the bigger mech said. “You fragged around with something you didn’t understand and now I’m stuck like this!” He grabbed Knock Out’s shoulder hard enough to dimple the plating under his hand, pinning him back against the wall of crates.

Knock Out squirmed, pushing at his wrist and trying to wriggle away. “Stuck like what?” he demanded, hearing the thin edge of panicked static in his voice as he said it but unable to control it.

He didn’t even see the fist coming until it slammed against the crate beside his head, shattering the electronics of the label display. “Completely slagging useless!” Breakdown bellowed.

Knock Out flinched again, jerking futilely against the grip on his shoulder. Scowling, Breakdown flung him away, hard enough that he tripped when he stumbled into one of the crates on the floor. He fell heavily, sprawling gracelessly against a second container. “You’re functioning, aren’t you?” he pointed out desperately.

Breakdown pivoted slowly to face him, shaking shards of the label screen off his knuckles as he did. “Yeah. Sure. I’m functioning.” His deep voice was quiet, and surprisingly bitter. He loomed large over Knock Out, kicking the crate away; the medic crumpled to a heap at the bigger mech’s feet.

“But what good is that to anyone?” Breakdown continued, leering down at him. He nudged Knock Out with a toe. “We were made to work together—don’t you get that?” The foot lifted like he was going to stomp.

Fighting to keep his sudden surge of acute fear off his face, Knock Out shrugged helplessly. There were a lot of informational gambits he could make right now—bluff, lie, derail—but it seemed best to settle for the simplest. He told the truth. “No. I don’t suppose you’d be so good as to explain?”

It obviously wasn’t the answer the other mech expected. Breakdown hesitated, huffed, and then slowly put his foot back down. He crossed his arms, frowning again. “You know what a gestalt is?” he asked finally.

“Of course.” Gestalt technology had been hailed as the innovation that would win the Decepticons the war. He’d already been on his own, out here on the fringes of Cybertronian space, when they’d made the breakthrough, and he’d still gotten an audial full of the hype. Who didn’t know what gestalts were?

“Good. My team was one of them.” The bigger mech’s strange optics narrowed, their unusual yellow light seeming to intensify behind the shutters. “Got any idea what it’s like?”

Knock Out could only shrug. “I know you all combine. That’s about it.”

“Figures.” Breakdown huffed again, shaking his head. “I thought maybe you did this to look good for Blackout or somebody, but now I know you’re just stupid.”

“Hey!” The assertion was enough to prick Knock Out’s pride, damaged though it already was. He was tired of being called stupid by these mechs who didn’t even know him. He hurried back to his feet even as Breakdown was turning away, grabbing at his shoulder armor before he could think about what he was doing and trying to turn the other mech back towards him. In that single careless moment, all he wanted to do was defend his besmirched intelligence.

He realized just how rash he’d been when the other grounder’s giant hand came around and grabbed him by the throat. Immediately his vision was flooded with warnings—the components there were still delicate, barely healed from his last throttling, and his systems were screaming at him for letting this happen again. He scrabbled at Breakdown’s hand, fingertips gouging long scratches into the plating despite the fact that the other mech wasn’t actually holding very tightly. “Is the v-violence really necessary, my friend?” he rasped.

“Not your friend,” Breakdown growled. “And you’re a medic. You oughta know about this stuff!” He released him with a shove.

Knock Out laughed compulsively, nervous and maybe a little hysterical, and rapidly put some space between the two of them. “My training is a little…outdated,” he admitted, honest inasmuch as the statement was true. It was less his training and more his information, but what medical handbooks he had definitely predated gestalt technology.

The bigger mech only stared at him for a long, silent moment, before shaking his head. “By a couple of centuries, yeah.” Breakdown heaved a sigh that seemed to depressurize him, shoulders slumping and fists relaxing.

“We were bonded,” he said after a long pause, looking away. “All of us. That’s how gestalts can stay in tune with each other so well.”

Gestalt teams were bonded? The knowledge was like the shock of cold water in delicate mechanisms, like servos locking up and stripping gears—unexpected, unpleasant. Bonded? And Breakdown had lost all four of those bondmates, all at once.

Suddenly, Blackout’s dire comment about spark trauma came into crystal focus.

“I’m sorry,” Knock Out said, his voice small and helpless. The revelation had shocked him badly enough that his words were genuine. “I didn’t know.”

The big grounder’s hands balled into fists again. “Shoulda asked Blackout,” he said, his optics flashing as he swung his gaze back to Knock Out. “Because of you, I feel like I’m one wheel on a vehicle that needs five. How’m I supposed to go anywhere like that?”

“Is there… anything…I can do to help you, ah, acclimate…?” he asked awkwardly. Knock Out usually didn’t ascribe to any of that moralistic scrap about a medic’s duty to heal, but he couldn’t help but make the offer now. Losing just one bonded could be enough to incapacitate, even kill if the mech in question didn’t have a strong spark. Losing four simultaneously… It felt wrong, to leave Breakdown floundering now that he knew the full import of what he’d done.

“Y’know, I came down here to pound your face in,” Breakdown said slowly, and hesitated long enough that Knock Out began looking for signs that the other mech was about to take a swing. When he finally continued, though, his voice was nothing so much as tired. “But I don’t even care anymore.” Optics on the floor, he started forward, shouldering roughly past Knock Out. “Just leave me alone,” he muttered.

“As you wish,” Knock Out said immediately, stepping neatly out of the way and letting him pass.

Breakdown stalked back down the aisle towards the lift, pausing only once to look back. Knock Out met his gaze, unable to help but notice that a bit of the bright flash had returned to his optics. He lifted a big finger and pointed. “You missed a spot, by the way.”

The comment was so unexpected, so incongruous in the context of all the damages Breakdown had just caused with his own two hands, that Knock Out could only shake his head. “You’re kidding,” he muttered, but he turned to look where the other mech was pointing, and there it was, a rogue scuff on a spot he always missed, a cranny that was difficult to reach on his own.

Surprised, he looked back up at the other mech, but Breakdown was already at the other end of the aisle, attention on the lift controls. The big grounder didn’t look back again as the elevator engaged and bore him towards the opening hatch in the ceiling.

Knock Out stared until Breakdown was gone. Then, as soon as he was sure of his solitude, he reached for his discarded polishing cloth and attacked the offending scuff, his expression thoughtful as he rubbed the blight out of existence.

**

Thanks for reading!

I'm afraid there'll be a bit of a break before the next chapter goes up-- 09 is proving exceedingly difficult to write, and working on it has eaten the entirety of my buffer of finished chapters. But bear with me, and I hope to get it to you guys ASAP!
white_aster: (Default)

[personal profile] white_aster 2012-01-30 04:49 am (UTC)(link)
Whew! I was as worried as KO was that Breakdown was going to beat him down. Now I worry about both of them! How will Breakdown get better? How will they work out their issues? I can't wait to find out. :D