therizinosaur: (Lines!)
Nellasaur ([personal profile] therizinosaur) wrote2012-03-29 08:06 pm

[FANFICTION] Mercenary Medicine, ch 9/? [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!


**

“You missed a spot, by the way.” Though Breakdown’s voice was bland as he pointed out the scuff, the naked look of shocked indignation on the other mech’s face was enough to turn up the corners of his mouth. Only slightly, and immediately he remembered saying the same thing to Drag Strip, the same expression on the smallest Stunticon’s face, and he had to turn away.

The comparison was too easy to make. This Knock Out was small like Drag Strip, his plating shined the same way, the same smooth grace imbued every line and movement of his body. Drag Strip was beautiful and protective of his beauty and so was the medic and a cycle ago, just thinking that thought would have made Breakdown’s hands itch to do a little dirty work. He’d been so damn ready to beat the bolts out of the other mech when he’d come down here, and now the urge was gone.

The aching void in his chest had smothered it, like it felt like it was smothering everything.

He’d even tried. Damn it, he’d tried! He’d had the volante pinned and scared and he’d taken the first swing and then he’d missed. As if it wasn’t bad enough that he could barely think straight, now he couldn’t even punch straight? It hadn’t mattered when he’d been assaulting the stationary furnishings in his room—lashing out at the berth, the energon dispenser, the walls, just to feel metal buckle under his knuckles, just to feel anything—but as soon as he’d tried to hit a moving target he’d missed.

And it was a moving target he’d been holding in place.

Embarrassment shuffled him across the room as fast as he could place his feet and not trip over them. He stepped up onto the lift platform and with carefully deliberate movements activated it, gripping the control plinth tightly to keep himself from swaying as it headed for the ceiling. He didn’t turn to look back; if Knock Out was anything like Drag Strip, he’d be scrambling to fix the scuff, and Breakdown didn’t want to be reminded any further of Drag Strip right now.

Once it was through the hatch, the platform docked into place with a bing. Breakdown stepped down off it, through a doorway, and into the common room. There were a few seats scattered around and he sunk heavily into the nearest one, closing his eyes and bringing up his diagnostics.

They didn’t find anything. His body had been malfunctioning since he’d first woken up with a hole in his spark, but every time he ran internal diagnostics, they came up clean. He stumbled if he walked without attention, his gyros glitched if he stood or turned too quickly, it could take him more than one try to grasp something he was reaching for, yet his diagnostics kept coming up clean.

He knew he ought to be worried, but it was hard. It was like everything he wanted to feel had to come up through the big freezing hole in his chest before he could experience it. Most of it never made it, and what did was weak and fleeting, just like his desire to pound Knock Out into scrap.

Purging his vents in a sigh, Breakdown opened his eyes and sat up in his seat. He glanced around the empty room disinterestedly, not seeing anything that was worth looking at until his optics reached the door to the big cabin. That was where Blackout had disappeared to, he realized slowly. It was the only cabin on-ship big enough to fit him—and the only door off the main room that was locked.

Blackout had locked him out.

He hadn’t really been surprised that the massive flight-capable hadn’t been waiting for him when he’d returned from the cargo bay. If anything, it had been a relief; Blackout’s absence meant Breakdown didn’t have to explain why he was back so soon and why he hadn’t done what he’d said he would.

But that relief was short-lived. Breakdown might not have wanted to have to explain himself to Blackout, but that didn’t mean he wanted to be ignored by him.

He knew he could get into that room if he wanted to, and part of him definitely wanted to. Blackout had never liked him very much, but he was supposed to be responsible for the Stunticons. Breakdown might have been the only one left, but that didn’t mean Blackout could shirk his duty as handler. He figured all he’d have to do was start pounding, and either Blackout would unlock it and let him in or he’d break through and be inside anyway. Blackout wouldn’t be able to ignore him then, would he?

It was an appealing thought, but only for the moment it took him to remember Blackout remaining aloof from all of them—except for when his hand was on Wildrider’s shoulder and Wildrider was grinning up at him like he was the sixth Stunticon. Blackout had always acted like he was better than them, just because he was older, because he could fly, because he was bigger and stronger, because he’d been some kind of scientist once. He’d decided very early on that Wildrider was the only one who could keep up with him and dismissed Breakdown and the others.

Blackout wasn’t the only one in their unit who’d had a superiority complex, of course, but it was different with Motormaster or Drag Strip than it was with their handler. Blackout wasn’t part of the team; there’d been no way to touch his spark and see that he had insecurities like the rest of them. There had been no way to remind him that he wasn’t so great but to tell him, and Blackout never believed it when they did, not even when it came from Wildrider. They could usually bring Drag Strip or Motormaster back down when their egos got out of control, but Blackout had always been beyond them, indifferent.

Breakdown knew he wasn’t the smartest mech ever sparked, but he wasn’t so thick that he didn’t realize Blackout thought he was dumb. He had just never realized how damn little Blackout thought of him. That had to be why this mech who was supposed to be in charge of him had shut himself into a cabin and locked Breakdown out when he needed him the most.

He wouldn’t have thought he could feel more alone than he had when he’d first realized what the cold emptiness in his spark meant, but somehow, Blackout had managed to make it happen.

He turned away from the door fast enough to make himself sway, and found himself looking at the hatch that led to energon storage. He stared blankly at the door for a moment, then with slightly more interest as exactly what he was looking at penetrated the numbing blanket smothering him.

Energon? That sounded like a pretty good idea.

Walking carefully so he didn’t stumble, he crossed the room to the door in question and palmed it open. Inside, most of the space was taken up by the reservoir of liquid energon that fed the dispensers in the individual cabins and the machinery that controlled it, but on the other side of the room there were cabinets, and inside the cabinets were cubes.

According to the labels, most of them were medical grade, and he knew well enough to stay away from those. He found what he was looking for on the bottom-most shelf of one of the cabinets: high-grade energon, glowing intensely blue-white in cubes smaller than all the rest. He knew from experience that size was deceptive, and it wouldn’t take many of them to get his systems running hot, no matter how little they were.

He gathered as many as he could safely hold, clearing out most of a shelf. Maybe with enough high-grade, he couldn’t help thinking, the cold place in his spark might burn away. Maybe he could fill it with the fuzzy fire of overcharging.

Maybe he’d able to forget, at least for a little while, how damn alone he was now.

**

All things considered, the brute had not injured him too badly. Dents and scrapes Knock Out could of course take care of, and as soon as Breakdown was gone, he did, tending to the new blemishes with his usual precise attention. He resumed buffing himself once his finish had been restored, but the interruption had ruined the magic of the ritual. Even though he lingered over it, it didn’t calm him down the way it usually did.

In fact, it felt like his systems were crawling with excess power, an illusory overcharge that made it impossible for him to be still. He supposed he should be glad for this evidence that his defensive subroutines were still functioning, but he couldn’t help but wish they’d kicked on a bit earlier, or that they’d stopped functioning once the danger had passed. Breakdown had already been stomping away by the time his body had dumped all this energy, and now he was spoiling for action even after the time he’d spent buffing himself.

He packed away his things with jerky motions and stacked aside the haphazard tumble of crates on the floor so he could pace restlessly up and down the aisle between the rest of the cargo containers. The mindless physical motion served to burn off some of the delayed energy crackling along his circuits, but it couldn’t rein in his racing mind.

That had been too damn close, and the fact that he wasn’t beaten to scrap right now was cold comfort. After all, it wasn’t any intervention on Knock Out’s part that had given Breakdown pause, but only the other mech’s own issues. Knock Out counted on being able to get a read on the mechs around him, on being able to determine what mental buttons to push and levers to pull to influence the outcomes of precarious situations in his favor, but Breakdown—and the absent Blackout as well—were still mysteries to him. He had no idea what made them tick, and it put him as much at a disadvantage with the pair as his inferior size. Breakdown could lumber right back down into the cargo bay in the next moment, to pick up where he’d left off, and it wouldn’t matter then how much raw energy his self-defense subroutines pumped into his body. Knock Out wouldn’t bet on himself in that confrontation.

What he needed was something to even the playing field. He needed to know more about his captors.

The frantic staccato of his footsteps slowed as he gazed thoughtfully at the stacked containers towering over him. He had no doubt that the crates from the base contained a wealth of information about his tormentors, but getting at it was not without risk. If he was still under observation, he doubted he’d get the chance to learn anything before they were descending on him.

So the first step, then, was to find out if he was still being watched. It wasn’t very likely that Breakdown had installed himself at a terminal to spy as soon as he’d returned to the upper decks, but the absent Blackout was still unaccounted for. He had no way of knowing what the massive flight-capable was up to up there.

But he knew how he could find out. The wireless uplink to his ship still beckoned, a constant presence in the corner of his HUD that he hadn’t yet dared acknowledge. If Blackout was jacked into the Vitalis’ systems—

If, if, if. If he let himself be paralyzed into passivity by ‘ifs’, he deserved anything his captors dealt him.

He engaged the uplink.

Before he could even request anything, his HUD was flooded with information—current location and trajectory vectors, an alarming number of damage notifications, and security feeds on both Blackout and Breakdown, among other things. It was enough to make him reel, shuttering his optics and catching his helm in his hands as he tried to make sense of the crush of data. “Enough, enough, stop—!” he said, and just as immediately as it hard started, the flow of information halted.

He found a suitable crate among those still stacked randomly up against the wall of cargo and sat, fingers moving in little flicks as he sorted through the glyphs crowding his vision. He prioritized the security feeds monitoring his captors, minimizing everything else for the moment and concentrating on them. Neither mech seemed to be currently accessing the ship’s systems, for which he was profoundly grateful.

More than that, neither mech seemed to be conscious. Blackout was arranged in careful repose on the berth in what Knock Out realized was his own cabin. He indulged a flash of anger and violation, but only a brief one—after all, he could always reconfigure the berth back to his specifications later, and the room didn’t appear to have been disordered otherwise.

Breakdown, it appeared, had found Knock Out’s store of high-grade energon. He was slumped on the floor in the common room, one arm thrown awkwardly against the interface for the sim terminal, his face hidden against the plinth. A glowing cube was cupped in his other hand and there were empties scattered on the floor around him. He wasn’t moving. If he wasn’t in stasis lock yet, he probably would be soon.

Good. That meant Knock Out had some time.

“All right,” he murmured, one slender hand to his helm like he was sending a comm. He wasn’t, though; there was no need to comm Vitalis. It could pick him up from anywhere inside it, unless he specifically disabled its audio sensors in a given room. “Show me what’s wrong.”

Immediately the damage readouts bloomed big and bright across his HUD, and Knock Out perused them with an increasing sense of despair. He made a point of taking exquisite care of his vessel, but his captors didn’t seem to share his preoccupation. In the short time they’d had control of the ship, they’d managed to wreak havoc. There were damages internal and external, and while nothing was enough to seriously impact the performance of Vitalis, the AI that controlled it was still distressed. Knock Out’s hands itched to soothe its hurts, but there was nothing he could do from down here.

Instead, he offered the only balm he could: he tapped into the ship’s perceptive nets and minimized its physical awareness of the injuries. It wasn’t a real solution—Vitalis knew it was still damaged, it just couldn’t feel the injuries anymore—but it was better than letting the ship suffer.

It was all he could do for now. He had to secure his own safety before he could do anything further for his ship.

Sure now that he had some time in which to work undisturbed, Knock Out returned to his feet and glanced around again. There were an overwhelming number of containers that weren’t his, but he knew already exactly where he wanted to start—with the one Breakdown had damaged.

A close examination of the smashed label revealed that, as he’d hoped, it wasn’t just the display that had been broken but the adjoined micro-computer as well. When Knock Out pulled the crate out of its braces and set it on the floor, he was able to pry the lid loose with minimum effort.

The rest of the containers were sure to be locked, but he would deal with them when he got to them. For now, he would concentrate on this windfall and hope that it contained something, anything he could use to improve his situation.

**

Though Blackout was sure he could have remained in recharge for just as long as he’d spent awake, he didn’t grant himself the leisure; an internal alarm brought him out of stasis as soon as he’d rested long enough to ensure adequate function. His mind was clear as he woke up, which was what really mattered, but he couldn’t help wincing at the way his servos groaned as he levered himself upright on the berth.

His processor, it seemed, had slept better than his body.

Fuel would probably help with that. His vigil in the cockpit of the ship had drained him, and though recharge hadn’t depleted his levels any further, neither had it replenished them. He disengaged the hookups connecting him to the berth and got carefully to his feet, hunching his head and shoulders to keep from knocking them into the ceiling. Ridiculous, that even the biggest cabin on the ship would be this cramped, but grumbling about it wasn’t going to change the room’s dimensions.

Instead he knelt before the energon dispenser in the wall and pulled himself a cube. He’d need to check later how much energon they had onboard—it would almost certainly need to be carefully rationed between the three of them if it was going to last—but right now he didn’t care to restrict his intake. He needed the fuel, and he would have it.

Settling himself to a seat against the berth, Blackout accessed his uplink to the ship’s computers while he sipped his cube. The AI was slow to respond, transferring the information he requested to him sluggishly over the wireless connection. The delay was enough to make him frown, but the ship was reporting no major glitches, malfunctions, or changes while he’d been recharging, and that mattered more than how slowly it was providing him with the data.

Finished with his cube and his check on the status of the ship, Blackout fed the empty back into the dispenser and left the cabin. He straightened back to his full height as he stepped into the common room, stabilizing spines rustling and resettling with the movement of their mount on his shoulders. A brief survey of the room—which he’d expected to be empty and unchanged from when he passed through it on his way to recharge—revealed that the ship had perhaps been mistaken in reporting that all was well.

Breakdown was sprawled in the doorway to the maintenance bay. Even across the room, Blackout could hear the erratic rise and fall of his engine, and smell the lightning tang of spilled energon. Another, more attentive assessment of the room revealed a welter of tiny empty cubes, scattered in erratic clumps across the floor in an uneven trail from energon storage to maintenance bay. High-grade?

Scrap, even a mech with an exceptional tolerance wouldn’t be able to handle this much high-grade. And Breakdown had always had a strangely delicate disposition when it came to holding his energon.

Alarm making his plating prickle, Blackout hurried across the room and crouched at Breakdown’s side. To his utter surprise, the last Stunticon was awake, groaning wordlessly when Blackout’s hands touched his armor. His eyes even tracked over to Blackout’s looming form, although the tell-tale whirr of the optical mechanisms focusing was absent.

Using his hold on Breakdown’s armor, Blackout attempted maneuver to the mech to a somewhat more comfortable seat against the wall. Breakdown resisted clumsily, his feet kicking against the floor and his hands clutching at Blackout’s arms hard enough to leave dents. He protested, but the words were slurred almost to incomprehensibility.

“Hold still,” Blackout commanded once he was sure the other mech wouldn’t pitch over as soon as he was released. “And let me in.” He reached for Breakdown’s helm, the paneling over his wrist port already sliding open.

Breakdown grabbed Blackout’s wrist and forced his hand away with surprising strength for how incapacitated he seemed to be otherwise. “Not you,” he mumbled, a little clearer than before. “Dead End. Where’s Dead End? Saw ‘im in the medbay but I can’t…can’t find ‘im…” He trailed off, craning his head like he was trying to see around the bulk of Blackout’s body.

“…When did you see him?” Blackout asked slowly.

Breakdown looked back at him, then away again. “Jus’ a minute ago!” He struggled to rise to his feet, but was so uncoordinated that it was easy for Blackout to push him back down.

“He’s not here,” he said, still frowning but some of the cold bite leeched out of his voice. It was a worrying sign, if Breakdown really thought he’d seen Dead End.

“Saw him!” Breakdown insisted. “Went into the medbay, with ‘Rider.” He sat up a little straighter, the words coming easier suddenly. “He asked me to go get ‘Rider’s arm so he could put it back on, but…” He trailed off, like he’d lost the thread of his story, and Blackout reached for him again. Now he was claiming to have seen two of his dead teammates?

Breakdown batted Blackout’s hands away, then covered the very center of his chassis with his own. “Somethin’ don’t feel right. Want him t’ look at me, and—and there isn’t even any of ‘Rider’s arm left anyway. That stupid grenade blew the whole thing to shrapnel.”

The words prompted an unmistakable sense of déjà vu, enough that Blackout sat back, his own optics unfocusing slightly as his processor raced through memory files, trying to find the triggered conversation. He went cold as it came up. Unless he was badly mistaken, Breakdown wasn’t just hallucinating or delusional. Some of what he’d just muttered matched perfectly with Blackout’s memory of a recent incident involving one of Wildrider’s prototypes. At the time, though, Breakdown hadn’t claimed anything was wrong or that he needed to see Dead End himself—he’d just had a brief conversation with Blackout and hurried off to salvage what he could of the limb at Dead End’s behest.

He blinked away the memory file and focused back down on Breakdown. “His targeted fragmentation grenade prototype?” he asked carefully.

“Yeah. He didn’t even get to test the glitching stupid thing. It just blew up.” That was a line straight out of the remembered conversation, although Breakdown’s expression hadn’t been quite so muddled then. The way he curled forward over his chest now was also novel. “He c’n wait. Need Dead End. But he disappeared.” His eyes were still unfocused as he lunged at Blackout suddenly, fixing clumsy fingers around a ridge in his armor and hauling him close with wild strength. “You gotta help me!”

“I will,” Blackout promised with a nod. He took Breakdown’s arms like he was going to help him to his feet and yanked him forward instead, unbalancing him, his own strength more than a match for Breakdown’s uncontrolled power. The last of the Stunticons overbalanced, slamming face first to the floor with an incoherent cry. Blackout was on him immediately, holding him down and prying into the plating covering the cranial port at the back of his head.

Ignoring Breakdown’s ineffectual resistance, he made the connection, uploading the override codes that he’d been given when he’d been assigned to handle this particular gestalt. Breakdown shut obediently down into stasis lock beneath him.

This wasn’t the help that Breakdown meant, but it was the best Blackout could do. Disengaging, he closed the panel with a click and turned the big grounder over. He scooped Breakdown into his arms—the other mech’s panzere frame was a challenge even for a tyton like himself, but he could manage long enough to deposit Breakdown on the one slab in the maintenance bay.

Once he had Breakdown settled, he headed for the lift down to the cargo hold.

He hoped Breakdown mech had left the medic in a state fit to work.

**


A note on terminology: ‘Volante’, ‘panzere’, and ‘tyton’ are all names for various headcanon model types that I’ve developed for TFP ‘verse. Volante and panzere (Knock Out and Breakdown respectively) are both grounder models, and tyton (Blackout) is a massive flight-capable model. I did my best to include sufficient context clues to indicate who was what in the body of the story.

If you’d like more information on the model types in my system, please feel free to check out this post here!

Additionally, as you may have noticed, Knock Out’s ship has finally received a name and that name is Vitalis. Remind me at some point to go back and tweak earlier chapters to include this info, haha.

Thank you for your patience during the long delay between the last chapter and this one, and as always, thanks for reading!

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