therizinosaur: (Default)
Nellasaur ([personal profile] therizinosaur) wrote2012-04-24 08:47 pm

[FANFICTION] Mercenary Medicine, ch 10/? [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!


Knock Out was elbow deep in a disorganized container of weapons when Vitalis warned him that Blackout was coming back online. He hurried to clean up the evidence of his snooping, piling everything back into the crate haphazardly and hoping as he did that the rough treatment didn’t activate something. He’d been exquisitely careful in unpacking it in the first place, intrigued despite his habitual disinterest in firepower by the unusual weaponry inside, but he couldn’t afford that care now.

By the time Vitalis informed him that Blackout was awake and accessing its systems, Knock Out had slapped on the top, resealed the container, and heaved it back into place among the others. Satisfied that Blackout wouldn’t find anything incriminating if he decided to start his day with a little spying, Knock Out made one last, hasty survey of the aisle as he retreated towards the niche he’d woken up in.

His attention was on his uplink with the ship more than his optical sensors as he did it; he almost missed the prod.

It had fallen behind one of the other crates still on the floor, and he’d managed to overlook it as he was scrambling to pack the rest of the weapons away. He snatched it up now, but there was no time to get it into the crate with the rest, so he tucked it out of sight against his forearm and scurried into the shelter of the alcove.

The dock holding the transport sledge was normally in full view of the cameras monitoring the cargo bay, but the towers of containers stacked around it now shielded him from Blackout’s surveillance. He peeked quickly at the security feeds to reassure himself that he couldn’t be seen, then withdrew from the ship’s systems before Blackout picked up on the fact that he wasn’t alone with Vitalis’ AI. Out of sight and now out of immediate danger, he was able to relax.

Secure in the privacy of the alcove, Knock Out sat on the edge of the sledge and examined the weapon in his hands. He’d worked with energon prods before—wielded with skill, there was no better tool for convincing the recalcitrant that cooperation would be in their best interests—but he’d never seen one like this. The instrument was heavy, the shaft thick and the two-pronged tip and energon crystal at the business end oversized in comparison to the instruments he’d once handled on a regular basis.

Curious, but not curious enough that he wanted to risk being caught with it; he tucked it out of sight between the sledge and the dock. He would have to remember to replace it later. He was sure he would have another chance to snoop—he hoped he would have another chance to snoop—

He was trying not to count on getting another chance to snoop, but he badly needed it. Rifling through the containers from the base had turned up plenty to interest him, and more than a few things he could potentially take advantage of if relations with his captors deteriorated, but nothing of immediate use. More than weapons or supplies, he’d hoped to uncover information he could use to anticipate what Blackout and Breakdown were going to do with him. Personal effects could tell you a lot about a mech if you knew how to read them, and it was a language that Knock Out considered himself proficient in.

But he hadn’t found any personal effects. Most of the crates he’d been able to get into had contained weapons.

He wasn’t sure he liked what that told him about the mechs currently holding him captive.

There was nothing further he could do now, though, not with Blackout awake and active on the deck overhead. He’d just about started to wonder what he was going to do to pass the time when a chime sounded softly through the room, a warning from his ship that something wicked his way came. He was on his feet by the time the lift platform had risen towards the deck above, and wasn’t in the slightest surprised when it descended bearing the massive form of Blackout.

The platform docked to the floor, but Blackout didn’t step off. He waited until Knock Out stepped out into the aisle, and then flicked his fingers in a negligent, curling movement.

Knock Out had to fight the urge to bristle or sneer. What did he look like, some Vehicon drone compelled to respond to pre-programmed gestures? Instead, he leaned against the nearest wall of crates, crossing his arms over his chassis and arching his orbital ridges. You want me to come, big mech, you’d better use your words, he thought, though he at least had sense enough to keep the impertinent quip in his mouth.

Blackout watched him expectantly for a moment and then with a frown a moment longer. When he stepped down off the lift, his optics were narrowed and his fists clenched. He still didn’t say a word as he stalked down the aisle, just glared.

Knock Out had just long enough to wonder if he should have played the obedient drone after all before Blackout’s massive hand wrapped around his arm and he was being hauled bodily towards the lift.

After the first few stumbling, off-balance steps, Knock Out managed to get his feet back under him and trotted along at the silent tyton’s side, his feet hitting the floor two or three times for every one stride of Blackout’s. He clamped down even harder on his vocalizer, clearing his mental queue of all the impatient and unhappy questions he wanted to ask. He didn’t dare, though; he really didn’t care to try the much bigger mech’s patience any further than he obviously already had.

He kept his silence, expecting Blackout to fill him in at some point, but by the time the lift had docked on the upper deck and Knock Out had been hustled off, it became apparent that the tyton wasn’t going to speak first. Knock Out had no idea where he was being taken or why, and it had been a very long time since he’d been treated like he was of so little accord. Damn it, he deserved a little respect, and while he knew he wasn’t going to get it out of this surly, irrational mech, at the very least he wanted answers.

He planted his feet and yanked his arm out of Blackout’s grip, doing his best to ignore the new set of scuffs that earned his much-abused finish. The tyton seemed to swell as he turned and loomed over Knock Out, annoyance clear on his pale gray face, but Knock Out refused to back down.

“Were you planning on saying something, or were you just going to herd me around like a Vehicon?” he snapped, tossing his head back and meeting the bigger mech’s gaze optic to optic.

Blackout’s sneer exposed dentals—an unbroken grey plate in his mouth, baseline model. Of course. But Knock Out had better things to notice than the subtle indicators of a total lack of style, like the way the bigger mech hesitated before answering.

“Breakdown’s memory banks are glitching,” he said finally, and there was no mistaking the way he looked away now. Uncomfortable? Embarrassed? Either way, it was curious.

“Oh?” Knock Out folded his arms again, his own optics narrowing. “So why don’t you take care of it? You were their repair-mech, weren’t you?”

“No!” Blackout said, his response immediate and defensive—and a surprise.

It had seemed pretty straightforward to Knock Out. Mechs who could maintain themselves competently weren’t nearly as valuable as trained doctors and medics, but they could still be useful, and Knock Out had seen enough of Blackout’s internals to know that he was more than competent. Why wouldn’t he have acted as medic for their team, in absence of a trained one?

But apparently he hadn’t—yet another miscalculation on Knock Out’s part. He’d really been racking them up lately.

He put his hands up and offered a gently ingratiating smile. “My mistake,” he said quietly. He glanced over at the closed door to the maintenance bay. “Is he in there?”

Mouth thinned into an unhappy line, Blackout nodded.

“Then let’s have a look, shall we?” Knock Out hurried into the maintenance bay before the other mech could crowd him along. Very deliberately, he put the slab and the inert panzere on top of it between himself and Blackout as the tyton crowded into the room.

The maintenance bay was no medbay—a ship of this size-class, despite being an interstellar cruiser, didn’t warrant one—but Knock Out had made some modifications since Vitalis had come into his possession. It wasn’t a professional setup by any means, but he’d installed enough salvaged medical equipment to be able to draw out a diagnostic array now, prying into Breakdown’s cranial port and attaching the primary cabling with a click. Secondary cables found their homes in ports on the patient’s chassis, where they could interface directly with his processor; the last plugged into major sensory relays. Once everything was connected and secured, Knock Out activated the array and made sure to position the screen so Blackout could see the readouts, then turned to look up at the bigger mech.

“So tell me what’s wrong,” he prompted, knowing better now that to wait for Blackout to supply the information voluntarily.

“He was hallucinating,” the bigger mech said, after another curious hesitation.

“Hm.” That wasn’t very useful; hallucinations were symptomatic of a number of different malfunctions. “I can only presume they weren’t novel stimuli, or you wouldn’t have told me the problem was this his memory banks. How recent were the memories he was—” The diagnostic array beeped loudly, distracting him from his question before he could finish it. He turned to face the screen and frowned at what he saw there.

“Hello, what’s this?” he murmured. “All of his cognitive functions are blocked?” He poked at the screen, bringing up the pertinent readouts, and couldn’t help a low hiss of surprise and alarm. “No, everything that’s not autonomic is blocked! How long has he been like this?”

Behind him, Blackout made a noise that Knock Out could only characterize as uncomfortable. “It’s an external override,” he said. “He wasn’t cooperating; I had to put him under.”

“An override,” Knock Out repeated flatly. Overrides were tricky business—field techs and emergency medics were provided with universal override codes to help them deal with panicking and irrational patients in the field, but they were never able to do more than incapacitate certain, very specific subsystems. Medics could take out a mech’s motor subroutines to keep him from fighting, or deactivate any onboard weaponry so she didn’t hurt the people trying to help her, but that was about the extent of it. Taking direct control of another mech’s mind was generally frowned upon.

Of course, just about everyone had heard the whispers and mutters about the existence of cognitive overrides. The rumors of them were so widespread that most mechs treated them as fact, Autobots and Decepticons alike. What was really surprising about Blackout’s admission wasn’t that he was admitting to shutting down Breakdown’s mind, but that he was making it so baldly, and the massive flier only surprised him further by continuing.

“All gestalt handlers are furnished with total override codes for their teams.” He crossed his arms and met Knock Out’s gaze; the uncertainty and hesitation was gone and now there was only challenge. “It’s a failsafe measure.”

“I see,” Knock Out said carefully. It seemed pretty clear that the big flier was expecting censure or disbelief out of him, and the last thing he wanted to do was risk provoking Blackout by making a big deal out of this. “Well, I’m going to have to, ah, have you wake him back up for me if I’m going to do anything for him. His processor’s no use to me when it’s locked down like this.”

Whatever it was that Blackout was expecting out of him, it obviously wasn’t cooperation. He paused, regarding Knock Out through narrowed eyes; Knock Out looked back at him evenly, radiating as much professional composure as he could manage. After that moment, the bigger mech merely nodded and reached for the cable currently occupying Breakdown’s cranial port, leaving Knock Out no choice but to swat his hand away.

“Let me block him first!” he said. “He was stuck in a memory loop, wasn’t he? Who knows how he’ll come out of it!”

Blackout pulled his hand back with a grunt, looking away. Schooling his expression back into a mask of professional competency, Knock Out disconnected the scanner’s primary line and set about uploading the affective block.

Picking his way through a totally inert mind was usually difficult, but he’d been here before. Knock Out was able to set up the block and withdraw much quicker than the first time he’d mucked around in Breakdown’s head, and when he was done he stood back to make room for Blackout. “Have at,” he invited, “and I’d recommend standing back once you’re done—ah, if there’s room, anyway.”

The annoyed look Blackout shot him very clearly read ‘I don’t need you to tell me that’, but it only lasted until the tyton stepped up to the slab. Connecting in through the panzere’s cranial port, his shutters drew low over his optics; the quiet, contemplative expression of concentration that settled over his features made his otherwise craggy face almost handsome. Not for the first time, Knock Out found his thoughts drifting towards what a statement the bigger mech could be making with his plating, his finish. Oh, if Blackout only tweaked a few things—but Knock Out had more than a suspicion that this utilitarian monster would be hostile to such a suggestion, especially if it came from him.

He banished the idle speculation and returned his attention to his patient just in time for Blackout to disconnect. No sooner had he withdrawn his hand and edged backwards than Breakdown shuddered, his engine kicking up in his chest and those strange, bright optics flickering open. He sat up slowly, cabling dragging at him and his eyes swinging back and forth between Blackout and Knock Out.

“Blackout? What… Drag Strip? That you…?” Breakdown blinked and leaned closer to Knock Out, his expression almost comically befuddled. “What happened t’ the yellow? And when did you—?” Big, blunt fingers reached for Knock Out’s shoulder, sluggishly enough that he was able to duck in under them and push the panzere firmly back down to the slab.

“Close your eyes,” he commanded, putting on his very best authoritative medic voice, “and lie still. I’m not Drag Strip, I’m a doctor, and Blackout tells me you’re not feeling well.”

“…Uh. Yeah, that’s right.” Breakdown lay back against the slab, hands clasping together over his chest. “Think there might be somethin’ wrong with my spark. But I was gonna… have Dead End look at it…”

“Dead End’s not here right now, I’m afraid,” Knock Out said briskly, reaching under the slab to reconnect the cranial cabling. “I hope you don’t mind me taking a look?”

He’d hoped Breakdown would simply comply, but the bigger grounder shook his head and tried to sit up again. “I want Dead End,” he insisted, with the peculiar flat affect characteristic of a mech with an affective block. “I needta— need—”

Knock Out leveled a very significant look at Blackout, who—to his surprise—got the hint and moved to pin Breakdown in place on the slab. “Let the doctor work, Breakdown,” he commanded, his voice a rough rumble. “You’re overcharged and unwell and he needs to make sure you’re not in danger.”

Breakdown struggled under Blackout’s hold for a moment, but the tyton was bigger and had better leverage, and he wasn’t going anywhere. Satisfied, Knock Out returned his attention to his diagnostic array, swiveling the screen around enough that he could monitor both the equipment and his patient at the same time.

“Where’s Dead End?” Breakdown asked plaintively, his attention on Blackout. He still twisted under the bigger mech’s hands, but the motion was uncoordinated—fretful more than an actual struggle for freedom. “’Swith ‘Rider, right?” He scratched at his chest uncertainly, alarm stealing slowly across his face. “Did somethin’ happen…?”

Knock Out glanced up just in time to see Blackout poorly control the sorrowful expression on his face, hiding away something that looked uncomfortably close to naked regret behind an emotionless façade. “Yes,” he said quietly, but offered nothing more. It was the big tyton’s turn to shoot Knock Out a significant look, this one easily enough read as ‘get on with it, Doctor’.

He turned back his equipment, fingers dancing across the screen as the results of the preliminary scans started to pop up. The machinery was only confirming what his own experience had already suggested was the problem.

“Breakdown.” Knock Out clicked his fingers in front of the panzere’s face, interrupting the question the other grounder was trying to ask Blackout and bringing the unfocused optics back to him. “You’re badly overcharged. Your memory banks are misfiring—you’re not where you think you are, and you’re reliving things that have already happened. I’m going to put you into stasis, shut down the rogue recall loop manually, and then let you sleep off the high grade. Understand?”

“Uh. Yeah, I guess,” Breakdown said slowly. He didn’t look like he actually understood, but that was all right. Knock Out wasn’t really looking for comprehension; he just wanted to give the other mech some warning before he shut him down.

He took a moment to boot up the stasis deck and draw it into place beside the medical slab. Where the diagnostic array utilized a plethora of trailing cables, the stasis deck needed only one, and he attached it carefully to one of the primary ports on Breakdown’s chassis. Unlike Blackout’s cognitive override codes, which had put Breakdown into stasis by literally switching off his conscious mind via his brain, the stasis deck would operate through the other mech’s processor and put his body functions to sleep. It was a slower, gentler process—but also one that was medically sound and didn’t involve tampering directly with another mech’s mind, something that Knock Out tried to avoid.

Activating the stasis deck, Knock Out offered a thin smile to Breakdown as the other mech’s systems started to shut down. “Things will make sense again when you wake up,” he said, patting the other mech’s arm. “Don’t worry.”

Hollow words, when Breakdown would wake up to the knowledge that his teammates were all dead, but Knock Out preferred that to the awkward charade that they were alive and simply not present for the moment.

As soon as the other grounder was under, Knock Out queued up another round of diagnostics. He was aware of the weight of Blackout’s silence and the tyton’s eyes fixed on him, but he ignored the other mech in favor of watching the data aggregate on the screen. It seemed pretty clear that Breakdown’s memory glitch was just a symptom of his overcharge, but he wanted to double-check before he went mucking around in the other mech’s head. He was not nearly as comfortable with the mental side of medicine as he liked to pretend he was—his forte was body work, and had been long before he’d ever downloaded a medical manual. Oh, he’d learned how to do basic troubleshooting and repair, of course, enough to be able to fake competency, but just about the only thing he liked less than processor or brain work was sparkwork.

All things considered, though, this looked to be a fairly straightforward problem to deal with. Overcharging on high grade very commonly caused sensory glitches—that was half the reason mechs drank it recreationally. Sure, energon could be stimulating on its own, but high-grade lacked the stabilizers and additives that stretched out the lifespan of fuel-grade energon. It delivered its energetic payload fast and hard, and when the power influxed into a system that wasn’t making demands for it, it had to go somewhere. A moderate high-grade buzz usually resulted in nothing more than increased energy and perceptive sensitivity; overcharge, on the other hand, triggered systems to fire in the absence of real stimuli. Novel sensory hallucinations were common. Mnemonic hallucinations like the one Breakdown had been experiencing were a little more rare, but this wasn’t the first time Knock Out had needed to deal with an overcharged mech trapped in a memory loop, and it wouldn’t be the last.

He pushed the screen back and hopped up on the slab beside Breakdown, reaching for his wrist and the dataport that would be concealed under the plating there. On the other side of the patient, Blackout drew himself up as tall as the height of the ceiling would allow and purged his vents so vehemently something rattled. Startled, Knock Out yanked his hand back and stared up at the much bigger mech with wide optics.

Blackout loomed over him silently for a long moment, his own eyes virulently red in the shadow of his crest. “Well?” he prompted, in a portentous rumble of a voice.

“Ah…” The request seemed so inane after the show the tyton was putting on that Knock Out wondered briefly if his own systems were on the fritz. But no, it really did seem like the bigger mech was trying to scare out of him information that he’d intended to offer freely.

Primus, what kind of mech did Blackout think he was, to be worth this much aggression?

“Right. He’s going to be fine,” Knock Out said, deliberately affecting a nonchalant shrug. He refused to acknowledge that Blackout’s unsubtle scare tactics were worrying him—despite the ticker running constantly in the corner of his vision, attempting to evaluate the probability that the bigger mech would snap and assault him again. “Nothing’s wrong with him that can’t be attributed to his overcharge.”

He reached for Breakdown’s arm again, watching Blackout carefully in case the other mech took offense to this, too. Encouraged by the tyton’s lack of reaction, he lifted and turned the heavy limb, exposing the data port with a fingertip.

“Honestly, the memory glitch would probably take care of itself the next time he wakes up, but it’ll make things easier on him if I shut it down now,” he explained, uncovering a similar interface patch on his arm and coupling their wrists together. His optics flicked as he established the connection, his medic’s ident codes getting him through the pertinent layers of the unconscious mech’s firewalls. From there, accessing the active memory was a fairly straightforward thing, and Knock Out was able to close it out without complication.

He maintained the connection, monitoring what functions of the other mech’s processor he could observe for a few moments further. There was always a chance that his interference had destabilized something—processors were vast and complicated and it was easier to glitch them than fix them, especially for a medic who had little experience and less training.

He wasn’t picking up on anything starting to go haywire, though, so he withdrew from the other mech’s systems and disconnected their wrists. “There,” he said, coaxing the shielding back into place over Breakdown’s wrist port. “He should be fine when he wakes up.”

Blackout scoffed, but when Knock Out glanced up at him, he was looking away.

“What?” he asked, regretting the sharp tone in his voice as soon as he’d spoken.

“He’s not going to be fine,” the bigger mech answered, his own words just as sharp as Knock Out’s had been. “Not that I expect you to understand.” He spat it like an epithet.

Knock Out was getting very, very tired of the way the bigger mech was treating him, and in any other situation his annoyance would have flared into hot anger. But in any other situation, he would have a modicum of power to wield, or at the very least choice—he’d been stuck in bad places before, but at least then he’d always been able to take Vitalis and run. Here, he had no such recourse, not when it was his own ship he was trying to escape from and nowhere for him to go but the emptiness of space. He had no power here, no influence, nothing.

It was imperative that he keep his temper in check.

Keeping his temper in check, however, did not necessarily equate to falling to his knees and exposing his spark chamber to his captors. He refused to relinquish his pride. Folding his arms over his chassis, tilting his head and hips just so, he scowled up at the bigger mech.

“You mean,” he said slowly, keeping the words as even as he could, “you wouldn’t expect me to understand that even though his memory banks won’t be glitching anymore, he still won’t have the four bondmates he lost, right? Because—and no thanks to you, I might add—I do know.”

“If you knew,” Blackout asked, “why did you bother waking him up at all?”

“Ah, did I say I knew?” Knock Out corrected delicately. He spread his hands, palms up—conciliatory. “I will admit that I, ah, perhaps made… the wrong choice in resuscitating Breakdown after his trauma.” And medical shortcomings were never something he never admitted lightly, so he made sure to meet Blackout’s skeptical gaze with all the sincerity he could muster. “But at the time, I didn’t know any better. If I had…”

He shrugged. He didn’t know if he would have done anything differently, and it really didn’t matter much either way right now.

Leaning up on the stabilizing tips of his feet, he drew a hand over the geometry of Breakdown’s chest, the tips of his claws probing at the latches keeping it closed. “If you want, I could open his chassis and let you extinguish his spark right here. You seem rather convinced that it’s the inevitable outcome, so why don’t we spare poor Breakdown any further suffering, hm?” He glanced up, watching the other mech’s reaction to his bald offer with critical eyes.

Blackout lurched backwards, his back impacting the wall with a clang. “What, you mean execute him?!” he snapped, somewhere between incredulous and angry.

“I seem to recall you suggesting that very thing not too long ago,” Knock Out said. He straightened up, withdrawing his hand from the other mech’s chest with a pat. “But I see you’re not too keen on it now.” He offered a smile, but it was a strained and crooked one. “That’s fine; neither am I.”

Turning—although not quite enough to put his back to massive mech—Knock Out hopped down off the slab and set about disconnecting the stasis deck. “What’s done is done, Blackout,” he said as he fingers worked the controls, keying in the command sequence that would ensure Breakdown a long recharge and a gentle awakening at the end of it. “Breakdown’s alive.

“Don’t you think our time would be better spent helping him come to terms with that, rather than punishing me for a mistake I made in ignorance?”

A note on terminology: ‘Panzere’, and ‘tyton’ are all names for various headcanon model types that I’ve developed for TFP ‘verse. Panzere (Breakdown) is a grounder model, 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!

I'm sorry for the delay between the last chapter and this one, and the delay to come between this and the next. I've been quite busy recently preparing convention stock, which eats severely into my writing time. Hopefully after Botcon I'll be able to make time again in my days for writing.

Speaking of, I'M GOING TO BOTCON! And if you're there too, feel free to look for me in the Dealer's Room-- I'll be behind the booth with the costume wings and the jewelry and the pillows and the Seeker t-shirts and other awesome handmade TF things.

Mention "Mercenary Medicine" and get a free pin as a thank you for reading!!

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