Fandom: Transformers: Prime
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. Many thanks are due SixthClone and Elemental for beta-reading this for me!
The battle had been joined in a canyon, a long craggy gash in the raw rock of this barren world. The evidence of it was ample-- stone walls charred by weapons fire, the smell of spilled energon, the faint tang of electrochemical discharge that was characteristic of Cybertronian bodies under stress. This was a new planet and a new battlefield. It was also numbingly familiar.
Knock Out made his way cautiously along the top of the cleft in the rock, his distal perceptive systems tuned to the highest sensitivity his processor could handle as he scanned for traps. All of the signs of the fighting were recent, but he wasn't picking up anything that indicated things left behind. It seemed as if both sides had quit the field entirely in their retreat.
It wasn't that surprising. It didn't look like there was anything here worth fighting over at all, much less worth leaving behind traps to foil scavengers. As far he could tell, there wasn't anything worth fighting over on the whole damn planet. It was a lifeless hunk of rock.
Ah well. It certainly didn't matter to him what brought the war here. He was sure he'd get the whole sordid story as soon as he checked in with the local combat unit, whether he cared to hear it or not.
He wouldn't be checking in there until he was done here, though, and once he'd ascertained that there wasn't anything defensive and nasty waiting for him, he descended from the cliffs. He took his time picking his way down the steep slope of cracked gravel that bounded one end of the canyon, treading carefully. Gravel could wreak havoc on the paintjobs of the unwary, and Knock Out wasn't in the mood to get his feet dinged right now.
Besides, it wasn't like he was urgently needed below. There was only scrap and spilled energon down there.
And speaking of scrap, what a lode he'd found here. Accustomed to scrounging for the least handfuls of torn-away plating and loose gears in the dirt, the multiple corpses he'd tagged down here promised to be quite the find.
Despite his excitement, though, Knock Out still approached slowly, and he still sifted up his handfuls of torn scrap as he came. Corpses were rare, and they were rare for a reason. There weren't nearly as many Cybertronians left to fight this war as there once had been, and those who still survived tended to be canny warriors. Old soldiers were hard to kill, hard enough that the sprawling battlefields covered in scores of the honorable dead were very much a thing of the past. It was hard to loot corpses for parts when corpses had become so rare, and even the Autobots had started to resign themselves of late to the necessity of reclaiming their dead as a vital source of scrap.
So why had both sides left so many bodies here? It was suspicious to say the least.
His sensors weren't turning up anything particularly noteworthy, though. No matches to known cybertoxins, no evidence of plague, still no hint of a hidden trap to sabotage an unwary scavenger. Just five sizable piles of scrap, to all appearances ready for the stripping.
Knock Out paced cautiously back and forth, giving the bodies a wide berth while he scanned and analyzed, but still didn't turn up anything. He knew he should remain wary, but it was hard in the face of so much nothing. Down that road lay paranoia. After all, if he couldn't trust his sensors, what could he trust?
Caching the meager handfuls of scrap he'd already scrounged up, Knock Out finally walked over to the nearest of the corpses.
The slender form was crumpled on its side, dust and damage from the fight dulling a bright yellow-and-chrome paintjob. There was a Decepticon sigil stamped on one upturned shoulder, important only because it meant he'd have to tread cautiously when he checked in with the local combat unit. Allegiance didn't matter one way or the other to Knock Out once he started collecting parts, but it was generally for the best not to aggravate survivors if he could help it. The teams out here were always tough, but it didn't mean they weren't close-knit. Decepticon grief, Knock Out knew well, rarely manifested openly, and losing one member could render the whole group unpredictable.
Knock Out sunk his fingers into the mech's open shoulder joint and rolled it over, critical optics noting the significant chunk of missing chest and shoulder. That explained that, didn't it? It was an unfortunate wound, but there was still plenty of good raw material here to work with.
He wanted a look at all of them before he started on any of them, though, so he straightened up and moved on. The next two mechs, one red and the other black, lay tangled together. There was a neat, cauterized hole through the center of the black chassis, right over the spark chamber; the hole through the red one was larger, messier, and had taken out a lot more than just the spark.
Both of these were Decepticons too; it seemed his side hadn't fared too well in this particular engagement. He was definitely going to have to tread carefully when he checked in at the base, after a defeat like this.
The next mech was another Decepticon, the largest of the lot, black and purple and wholly intact-- well, except for his head, anyway. Knock Out wasn't going to be able to salvage any usable parts from that mess.
The big body had fallen across the fifth mech of the group. It wasn't until Knock Out had managed to lever the black and purple body off the blue and white one underneath it that he realized there was something profoundly different about this particular corpse.
It wasn't a corpse.
The mech's energy signature was weak enough that just having another body on top of it was enough to mask the signal, but it was unmistakably present. Whoever he was, this mech was still alive, and if that wasn't remarkable enough, he seemed to be mostly intact. Knock Out had to shove the big corpse the rest of the way off and turn the blue and white mech to confirm that he didn't have any external injuries, but he seemed whole. A little dented, but whole.
Just because he couldn't see the damage didn't mean it wasn't there, though. The mech was totally unresponsive, even when Knock Out used his nimble fingers to pry into his cranial interface and attempted to trigger a hard reboot.
Processor damage then, in all probability, and he wouldn't be able to do anything about it out here. Knock Out clicked the panel closed and sat back, monitoring for a few long moments. The signature of the other mech's spark remained faint but steady-- not a good sign, but not a bad one, either. His spark wasn't beating, which indicated that all of his core systems were dormant, and that was a Very Bad sign, but he didn't seem to be actively deteriorating either.
"Sorry, big guy," Knock Out said cheerily, patting the unconscious mech on the shoulder and rising to his feet. "You're going to have to wait a little longer."
An Autobot medic probably would have tended the patient first, but Knock Out was more pragmatic than that. The other four bodies here were too tempting a lure to pass up. If he took the time to haul the survivor back to his ship and wake him up, he ran the risk of the bodies getting claimed by someone else before he could strip them. Letting valuable resources potentially fall into the hands of the enemy was unconscionable, and letting his allies get to them before he had a chance was just bad business. Spare parts and his ability to install them were the most valuable commodity he had to bargain with, and he'd be an idiot to pass up this much loot.
With hardly a regret, Knock Out turned away and set to work breaking down the bodies of dead mechs into piles of scrap metal and spare parts.
Knock Out had long ago perfected the art of hauling scrap on his own, and an art it really was. Bringing in his ship low and slow under radar cover, finding suitable ground to park it on, maneuvering the freight sledge from ship to site-- all tasks geared to a team of mechs working in tandem, all tasks that he had to handle on his own. His ship carried a crew of one, and Knock Out liked it that way. Better to deal with the hassle of operating independently than the danger of letting himself be tied down with a combat unit.
It took multiple trips to load up the entire haul, even with the scrap heaped to the maximum tolerance of the lifters on his sledge. Knock Out certainly didn’t resent the labor, though; this stuff was going to serve him well. Spare parts were getting harder and harder to come by with each stellar cycle that passed, especially since the manufacturing facilities that had once supplied them had been left behind on Cybertron. He knew all too well that the only person he could rely on for medical supplies was himself, and that his supplies were his best bargaining chips.
After all, his medical skills might be useful, but there was only so much he could do without a sufficient supply of replacement parts to work with. He was only as valuable as the materiel he brought with him in his travels.
It was only after his untidy stacks of parts from the bodies of the dead Decepticons were stashed in the hold on his ship that he went back for the survivor. Again, an Autobot probably would have transferred the living mech before the dead ones, but not Knock Out. If he had to cut and run before he'd finished loading, he'd much rather run with a ship full of parts and leave behind a mech than be stuck with someone who was potentially terminal and sacrifice his heaps of new parts.
Getting the unresponsive mech up onto the sledge alone proved to be an ordeal. Knock Out managed it, but only after a clever maneuver with a makeshift lever and a very unfortunate gouge to the plating of his hip. Quietly muttering some very creative imprecations and favoring the injured hip, he hauled the mech back up the slope of scree to his ship. The sledge's lifters, taxed beyond their usual output by the day's labor, whined as he dragged it up into the hold. It was starting to shudder under the weight of the mech and Knock Out had to hurry to dock it against the wall before the electromagnetics gave out.
He didn't bother to offload his erstwhile passenger. He was much more interested in getting his ship to some cover, or at the very least up into the atmosphere-- he'd been at this for a long time, and knew his time had to be running out. The fact that he'd managed to go undetected this long was nothing short of a--
A warning popped into the wireless uplink HUD he was running with the ship. Simultaneously, up in the cockpit, an audible alarm started blare.
"So much for that," he muttered. And so much for securing his survivor, too; the straps holding him to the sledge were going to have to suffice. Knock Out locked it into its dock and rushed himself up through the hatch to the upper deck of the ship, his injured hip forgotten as he keyed open the cockpit and threw himself down into the pilot's seat. Opening the port in the back of his helm, he jacked in the cranial cable, then leaned back in the seat and slid his hands into the control interfaces. Docking in was by now a familiar feeling, but bypassing the usual interface confirmation routine and plunging himself straight into the ship's systems made him shiver. He had not been programmed for this, but that didn't change the fact that right now he had to manage it anyway.
The alarm cut as soon as he'd connected in, but the warning was still flashing, alerting him that the ship's systems had been queried by enemy frequencies. Autobots, then, and Knock Out swore again, initiating flight systems and activating the engines. He didn’t bother to respond; he knew the non-response would paint him Decepticon as surely as any transmission, and didn't much feel like bantering with the enemy, especially not when the enemy was apparently capable of taking down five mechs at once. Banter wasted time, and he didn't dare run the risk of them catching him on his own.
Reaching over into the ship’s electronic communications systems, he activated the scramblers instead.
He checked the engines—still warming up and just starting to run preflight tests. Knock Out hesitated for an instant, just long enough for another Autobot ping to register on his systems. He overrode the tests.
“Come on,” he muttered uselessly, hands twitching in the cabling of the control cradles. A full crew could get this ship prepped and off the ground in a fraction of a cycle but Knock Out, operating it on his own, had never been able to manage. The systems were just too big for one mech to handle efficiently.
There was really no time to dwell on it now, then. He brought up the ship’s distal scanners, the display blossoming across his vision. They'd been running automatically, casting their perceptive nets as they tried to localize the Autobot signals, but nothing was turning up. There weren't even interference spots. Either they were far enough away that he didn’t need to be this worried, or they had scramblers of their own to keep him blind.
No way was he going to bet on the former.
He checked the engines again and swore. He knew there was nothing wrong with them but it seemed like they were taking long, too damn long, to clear for take-off. His communications module was conspicuously empty-- the Autobots had stopped trying to contact him. A naïve mech might hope that meant that they’d gone away, but Knock Out knew better.
“Come on,” he said again, this time pleading, and took down more of the failsafes meant to keep the ship on the ground until its pilots were certain nothing was going to error out around them in the air.
There was no time for failsafes, and the only certainty that mattered was the certainty that the enemy was coming and he couldn’t be caught here alone.
Mentally, he toggled the ignition, but only two of the three engines caught. He swore again as a new display started flashing: Autobot signatures approaching the other side of the canyon.
“Come on!” he snapped, and this time the ship responded, the final engine igniting. The whole vehicle bucked as it switched immediately into take-off mode, and then there was the unnerving sensation of wind and pressure experienced through proximal tactors that weren’t his own. He was moving.
Thank Primus, he was moving.
Weapons-fire erupted beneath him as he banked his ship away from the canyon, but his scanners reported none of the tell-tale signatures of ground-to-air capable weaponry. They might be shooting at him, but they weren’t carrying the artillery they needed to shoot him down, so after the initial flare of alarm he realized he didn’t have to be worried. The Autobots hadn’t gotten him yet.
Pointing the nose of his ship towards the upper atmosphere, he kicked in the thrusters and got his aft out of there.
He was running, yeah. But he always ran, and they never got him.
He wasn't a mech to mess with a system that worked.
Chapter two coming soon!
Originally posted on Dreamwidth. Head over there and follow the tags to find more!