therizinosaur: (Angrysaur)
Nellasaur ([personal profile] therizinosaur) wrote2012-01-22 09:49 pm

[FANFICTION] Mercenary Medicine, ch 7/? [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 woke up with a jerk, his cortical subprocessor coming online all at once and pulling him violently out of his heavy stasis. Immediately he started to thrash, only an instant after that realized he was bound. His first impulse was to fight, to struggle until he was free again, but he wasn’t so panicked that he couldn’t acknowledge the rashness of the instinct.

His processor, far ahead of his brain as it usually was, was already racing; it took a tremendous mental effort to calm himself enough to lie still. He was bound, yes, and that was bad, but he was also awake, and that latter was an excellent sign. Being awake meant he was still alive, a condition he honestly hadn’t expected to continue after he’d been choked into unconsciousness.

All right, so he was still alive. That was a good start.

What next?

Laying back in his restraints, Knock Out took stock of his situation. He was on his ship, that much was obvious. He had recognized the contours of his cargo bay even through the frenzy of his awakening, even despite the unfamiliar press of containers stacked and secured in towers around him. That his ship was in motion was just as obvious—he was so familiar by now with the thrum of the engines operating that he had to deliberately filter the sound out of his perceptions to confirm it was there.

Where the ship was and where it was going, though, he had no idea. Oh, he could open his wireless link to the ship’s computers—the icon sat, small and unobtrusive, in the corner of his vision—but if he did that, anyone else actively connected to the systems would know he was online again. And while that discovery was inevitable, he preferred not to reveal the fact before he was ready.

Shuttering his optics, he brought up his diagnostics instead. His processor fed the information neatly to his brain, angular neon glyphs tracing out a list of hurts on his internal optical display. The tally of injured components in his throat was enough to make him wince, but it seemed to be the worst of his damages, and for that he was grateful. Prolonged energon deprivation could do nasty things to a mech’s brain, damage to sensory and perceptive systems chief among them. Knock Out was perfectly willing to operate on his injured throat, a notoriously difficult region to have to work on alone, if it meant he didn’t have to worry about how to perform solo surgery on his cognitive subprocessor.

The rest of the diagnostics scrolled quickly by, at the bottom just a list of dents and cosmetic damages. In any other situation, he would have been furious to have had his plating so besmirched; right now, it was too much of a relief to find no evidence that he’d been abused further while he was unconscious. That bode well, almost as well as the fact that he’d woken up at all, but he wasn’t foolish enough to relax.

They’d left him alive for a reason, after all, and he didn’t know either of them nearly well enough to begin to guess at what that might be.

Letting his eyes open, Knock Out began to shift in his restraints, testing their hold on him. It wasn’t as bad as he’d feared—the straps across his body held him against the makeshift berth of the transport sledge, but didn’t constrain him any further than that. He’d used this same arrangement himself to secure Breakdown’s inert form to this very sledge earlier, in fact, and it was an easy thing to release himself now. His nimble fingers found first one catch, then the next and the next, and the straps fell obligingly away as he sat up and looked around.

It had been a very long time since he’d seen his cargo bay this full. Containers towered up over his head, the stacks taller than he was even after he gingerly climbed off the sledge and stood. He reached out to the nearest, playing his fingers over the label. The robust little display activated, but there wasn’t much information on it: just a name, Wildrider, and Blackout’s ident marking him as the one who’d input the label.

Knock Out checked more crates, but none of the labels offered him any more information than the first. They had to contain effects from the base, that much seemed obvious, and Knock Out had to admit he was a bit curious. Were they full of the possessions of dead mechs, or the living ones who currently possessed his ship? Or were there supplies or equipment in here that he could be taking advantage of?

He wondered if they had been locked, and how complex the encryptions might be. He wondered if he could get them open. He wondered if what he found inside would be useful to him.

It wasn’t until he reached for one of the containers with every intention of prying his way inside that he realized what he was doing. Yes, it was true that he needed to take stock of his situation if he was going to successfully make it through, but not quite like this.

This impulse was just a distraction.

Knock Out dropped his hands and turned away. There was really only one direction to go, and that was out—out of the little alcove formed by the containers stacked around the transport sledge and into the aisle that ran between the cargo hatch and the lift to the upper deck. It was the only open space left in the hold, and that was enough to make even Knock Out feel cramped, a discomfort that his diminutive stature usually spared him.

He couldn’t help a shiver as he walked with measured steps towards the lift at the end of the hold. Paranoia kept his sensory nets cast wide—the absence of any other energy signature meant he was alone in the hold, but alone didn’t mean safe, especially not with a Deployer on ship.

Still, the hold was quiet; he was the only thing moving, and the only sounds were the familiar operations of his own body and the equally familiar ambient noise of his ship in motion. It appeared he really was alone (although that didn’t mean he was unobserved).

Well. If they were watching him, they’d know already that he was awake; if they weren’t, they were about to find out. Knock Out stepped onto the lift platform and hit the ascend button without looking, his optics already on the hatch in the hold’s ceiling. He braced himself for movement without even having to consciously think about it.

Nothing happened, except for the control panel for the lift beeping twice. Startled, Knock Out dropped his gaze to the simple panel. It was flashing at him, a single glyph in a bright field.

A single glyph, but it was enough to make him shiver again, his systems jolting in shock.



The immersion of piloting a ship like this one, one with its full complement of AI systems and no other bridge crew to buffer the strain, proved too much for Blackout. He’d expected it would—he was used to jockeying a drone, not interfacing mind-to-mind with something almost as intelligent as he was, and drone jockeys were notoriously bad pilots for just that reason—but he was still disappointed in himself.

He refused to disconnect until they were safely out of the planetary system, though. It wasn’t until he triggered the ship’s transformation to its optimum interstellar configuration that he was willing to admit defeat, unplugging the cortical jack and releasing the control handles. Disconnected from the vast mind of the ship, he slumped back in the pilot’s cradle. What he really wanted was to seek a berth and go down for a recharge just as long as he’d spent getting this ship into empty space, but he knew that if he tried to stand right now, he’d stumble. Better to sit and wait for his systems to re-equilibrate to single function.

There was more space for him if he sat anyway. Though it was built to adequately accommodate a bridge crew of three, he was big enough to really stretch the ship’s design specs. The pilot’s cradle fit him—barely—but he knew that if he stood his helm would scrape the ceiling. He couldn’t imagine what a hell it would be in here if he had the other two crew members this ship was built for. Blackout may not have been plagued by the stifling claustrophobia that tended to afflict high-performance fliers like Seekers, but that didn’t mean he liked to be cramped or crowded.

Admittedly, the ship would be easier to fly with crew-mates to take some of the load off his processor, but only if he had a crew he’d be willing to trust. The medic was out of the question, and while he would trust Breakdown with the task, Breakdown wasn’t going to be useful again for a long time—if ever.

Blackout had seen first-hand the way a gestalt team could unravel with the loss of only one or two members. He’d been a handler for literally as long as the technology had been innovated—though not directly involved with the project, Blackout had been working at the scientific installation that had made the breakthrough on combiner technology. His massive size had gotten him recruited into the testing phases, not as a subject but as an assistant; there hadn’t been many other mechs in the complex capable of standing their ground against the tottering, uncoordinated beasts that were the first gestalts. Among scientists, even among Decepticon scientists, Blackout’s massive size and all its attendant power had been anomalous.

He’d been handling gestalts since then, to his very quiet dismay. He had enjoyed his primary function as an electrical engineer, and that had been an exceptionally good lab group; he hadn’t wanted to be reposted. Many of Lord Megatron’s brightest technological innovators had been stationed there, and they’d enjoyed very few restrictions on their methods (as long as they got results, anyway).

As far as he was concerned, he could serve the cause best doing what he’d been built and programmed to do—his massive size wasn’t a result of military innovations, as most mechs assumed, but rather an experiment in alternative power systems designed by his creator, an electrical engineer of some renown before the war. He had been happy to follow in Powerarc’s footsteps, to continue her work in Lord Megatron’s name, and it had always rankled that he’d been unceremoniously yanked out of the lab to shepherd gestalt teams around battlefields.

His discontent was a closely-kept secret, though. Blackout took his duty as a Decepticon soldier too seriously to complain about his reassignment. If this was where his superiors thought he was best deployed, then so be it. He’d done his duty with pride and well—

Until now.

A soft chime sounded, drawing him from a reverie that had been about to turn unpleasant. Blackout was happy to leave off contemplation of his failure with the Stunticons and turn his attention to the alert blinking in the corner of the screen. He’d have to confront it eventually—he had to send a report, after all, and to do that he had to figure out what the frag the Autobots had done to his team—but not right now.

His guest in the cargo hold was awake.

Blackout acknowledged the alert and brought up the security feeds, picking the camera with the best view and enlarging the image across the giant screen in front of him. To his surprise—he’d instructed the system to alert him as soon as Knock Out had come back online—the medic was already as far as the elevator platform, fingers flying across the control panel. His back was to the camera, his face not visible, but the tension obvious in his hunched shoulders was still enough to make Blackout smirk. The freelancer had found the encryptions on the lift controls, then; the alarm he’d heard was the secondary one he’d programmed into the lock.

If this ship had been large enough to boast a brig, Blackout probably would have locked the medic in that. Failing one, he’d made do with the cargo bay. It wasn’t an ideal situation, not with the hold full of weapons and supplies he might choose to utilize, but Blackout had to admit that the mech hadn’t actually done anything to warrant his imprisonment. Blackout just didn’t like him, and didn’t want to have to deal with him until he so chose. He’d been more than willing to shut him away, but reluctant to restrain him further than that.

He watched until the medic gave up on the lift and slunk off, toggling between the cameras to keep him in view as he moved down the aisle. The little grounder was clearly nervous, moving with quick, tight steps and looking around with darting, restless optics. Blackout zoomed in and was rewarded with a jump—and those restless optics staring straight at the current camera.

The change that came over the other mech was immediate. He squared his shoulders and straightened up, looking away from the camera with a toss of his head. His stride when he started walking again was loose and easy. Everything about him oozed unconcern and confidence as he sauntered down the aisle between towers of cargo, even his precise, controlled movements as he started releasing the restraint braces and pulling down containers.

Blackout zoomed in again—not even a flinch this time?—watching closely as the medic seem to locate what he was looking for. The container that he thunked definitively down on the floor was one of his own, not one of the ones Breakdown had loaded. When he popped the lid, Blackout could see that it was full of—

Cosmetic supplies. Really?

Really. As Blackout watched, the medic pulled out a bottle of polish and a clean length of cloth from the crate. He sat primly on one of the other cases that he’d pulled down, afforded the camera a cool sidelong glance, and then began to polish himself.

It was a ruse. It had to be. The mech knew he was under observation, so surely the mundane task of seeing to his hygiene was a ploy to get Blackout to stop paying attention to him. And what would he do when he thought Blackout had grown bored of him and looked away? Try to decrypt the lock on the lift controls? Attempt to rifle through the containers from the base?

Blackout wasn’t going to be fooled. He settled back in the pilot’s cradle and watched with critical eyes. He watched as the medic buffed every undamaged bit of plating on his body. He watched him unpack a tool from the crate and start popping out dents, even the little ones that his self-repair would have handled eventually. He watched him carefully fill in scratches on his paint and scrub away scuffs.

When the medic started up another round of buffing, Blackout gave up in disgust. Either the little mech was ridiculously dedicated to the charade, or he was legitimately sitting there buffing himself instead of doing anything to improve his situation. Whichever it was, Blackout was tired of watching it.

He closed the view from the security feeds, although he left functional the alert that would let him know every time the medic tried the control panel for lift. He filled the now-empty space on the screen with instrument displays and readouts from the AI’s main subprocessors, checking the ship’s functions cursorily. Everything seemed to be operating as it should. Satisfied that the vessel wasn’t going to skew out of control and self-destruct if he took a break, Blackout finally levered himself up out of the pilot’s cradle. Hunching his head and shoulders, he stepped through the doorway.

The short corridor without soon opened into the common room, the biggest free space on this deck of the ship. Resettling his spines against his back with a rattle, Blackout straightened to his full height, glancing around. There wasn’t much to see—the room was empty, and there wasn’t much in it anyway. A couple of work terminals with big screens mounted over them, a simulator, and some seating comprised the furnishings; the room was obviously meant to function as a rec room. On a ship in this size class, he supposed it was better than nothing, but as rec rooms went, it wasn’t impressive.

Doorways inset into the walls around the room opened onto other, smaller chambers—the medical and maintenance suite, energon storage, residential cabins with recharge hookups and dispensary lines. The biggest room would be the one at the other end of this one, tucked up under the bulkheads at the bow of the ship. That was the captain’s cabin. He knew, thanks to schematics the AI had provided from the vessel’s databanks, that the only full size, reclining recharge berth on the ship was in there, and he intended to claim it for his own use when he finally let himself go down for recharge

But before he could let himself go to the rest his systems yearned for, he still had one last duty to discharge. He had to check on Breakdown.

The last Stunticon had claimed one of the smaller crew cabins early in the flight out of the planetary system, shutting himself inside. Blackout had only been able to check on him periodically, but every time he had, Breakdown had been there. A wireless ping to the ship’s systems returned Breakdown’s present location—still inside, where he’d apparently stayed for the entire flight so far. Blackout crossed to the appropriate doorway and pressed the chime, requesting entry.

There was no immediate response, although within he could hear desultory cursing and the occasional rattle. There was a loud crunch, and then the door shuddered and started to open. It stuck at half-aperture, opening the rest of the way only when Breakdown forced it. Blackout knew without having to examine the now-damaged mechanism that it wasn’t likely to close again without repairs.

Breakdown’s only greeting was a grunted, “Energon dispenser is broken.”

Blackout frowned faintly. The ship’s computers had of course made him aware of the damage that Breakdown had been dealing his chosen room, but he’d ignored it at the time, and he wasn’t impressed now. Damages could always be fixed, and there were other cabins on the ship anyway.

“More than just the dispenser,” he remarked, optics flicking to the doorway.

Breakdown shrugged disinterestedly and backed out of the threshold to admit Blackout. “It was an accident.”

“I’m sure it was.” Blackout stepped inside, his optics roving as he took stock of the damages. Breakdown had always had a tendency to exorcise his frustrations with action, and he’d dealt more than a little violence in here while Blackout had been shut away in the bridge. Dents dimpled the walls liberally, and even the floor and the ceiling boasted their share of impacts. The berth—a compact upright model, not one of the bigger reclining ones—was overturned in the corner; an impressive feat, given that upright berths were built for sturdiness. There was a smear of energon on the wall, under the damaged dispenser, and a pool of it on the floor. The fresh-spilt tang of it was overpowering.

“Something of a mess you’ve made in here,” Blackout remarked.

“Yeah.” Breakdown watched Blackout dully, his sullen optics half-shuttered. “You need something, or what?”

“Well, one of us should probably stop the energon leak.” The damage to the dispenser was fresh—possibly the crunch he’d heard before the door had opened—and it was still dripping sluggishly.

Breakdown’s shoulders slumped and he looked away. “You do it,” he ground out, his voice rough. “I’m useless.”

“If you were useless, you wouldn’t have done nearly this much damage in here,” Blackout said carefully.

“So? What good is a buncha dents?” Breakdown grimaced and turned away from Blackout. “I’ve lost everything. What’s the point in staying online?” He sighed and looked down at his hands, flexing the thick fingers slowly. “You know what? I got half a mind to go give that medic a talkin’ to. With my fists. What right has he got to do this to me, huh?” His voice had risen by the end to a gruff shout, and he shook a fist that vibrated like it was about to transform.

Blackout had to admit, the thought of Breakdown bringing his hammers to bear on the smarmy little medic was appealing. He knew he should probably be intervening, talking the mech down from his rage and doing what he could to help him come to terms with his loss. Gestalt teams that lost a member, even two, could typically bear the upset and carry on. They might no longer be capable of combining, but they could still fight, still contribute to the cause in some capacity.

The problem was that Blackout wasn’t sure Breakdown could be pulled through this, not alone. Losing all four bondmates was a very different thing from losing one or two. The gestalt team that survived a trauma like this was the one where the members could help each other, providing the intimate support necessary to get past the broken bonds. Breakdown didn’t have that support. Blackout would do what he could, of course, and if there was any handler equipped to deal with this it was him, but he didn’t think it would be enough. He wasn’t part of Breakdown’s team. He didn’t even like Breakdown all that much personally—the Stunticons had been a fractious and quarrelsome group, all of them difficult to get along with. While it was to his credit that Breakdown had been generally obedient—which was more than could be said of Motormaster or Wildrider—he had always seemed dull and uninteresting to Blackout. He’d never bothered trying to get close.

And now, because of that, he didn’t know what it would take to get Breakdown through this alive. So why not let him have a go at the medic? Breakdown had always been better at talking with his hands than with words, and if it would help him, it was worth doing. And if it wouldn’t…

Well, the medic would be hurting, and there was a petty little part of Blackout—the part still infuriated by his violation at Knock Out’s hands—that was all right with that.

“Shall I unlock the lift controls for you?”

Whatever response Breakdown had been expecting, it obviously wasn’t that one. “What? R-really?” he asked, obviously startled.

“Really. Just don’t deactivate him—hn, or injure him too grievously. I don’t want to have to waste my time fixing him up.”

For a moment, Breakdown hesitated, clearly uncertain what to make of this permission. Blackout knew that it was out of character with his tendency to preach self-restraint, especially when it came to unnecessary physical violence, but this was a special case. He stepped aside and indicated the doorway with a hand.

A hint of a smile appeared on Breakdown’s face, and he left the room without another word. Blackout followed him decorously, lifting the encryptions on the elevator control and watching Breakdown step onto the platform and descend through the floor to the deck below. It was only after the hatchway irised closed that he turned, finally seeking the berth that was waiting for him in the biggest cabin.

A thin smirk, hard and cruel, touched his mouth for a moment as he walked.


Blackout's being a bit of a fragger in this one, isn't he? As always, thanks for reading!
sister_dear: Image: Okami's Amaterasu (TFP Soundwave)

[personal profile] sister_dear 2012-01-25 08:41 pm (UTC)(link)
I am loving this story so, so much. I love how you've fit Blackout into this universe. His motivations, likes and fears are wonderfully done. I'm looking forward to seeing how Breakdown transitions from where he now towards how he is in the show, and how Knock Out will manage to wriggle his way out of this fine little mess.