"What're we doing way out here again, Knock Out?"
A red-and-white Aston Martin and a navy-blue armoured van drove side by side down a narrow, unmarked road; their tyres kicking up dust and dirt that had blown onto the tarmac from the dried-up scrubland on all sides.
"I already told you, Breakdown," drawled the sports car, over the fiery growl of his engine. The sky above was a cloudless stretch of pure cobalt – the desert sun caught his polished chassis spectacularly, its glare almost blinding his partner. "Now that Lord Megatron is back on his feet, there's not too much for us to do back at home base. I thought that we could cut loose for a while; have some fun."
"…You mean 'have a race'," Breakdown translated, reading his partner like a text document.
"Well I'm not allowed to race humans anymore, am I?" sniffed Knock Out. He took a shuddery breath, as though reliving a memory he'd much rather forget. "I'm still buffing out the scars from last time…"
They followed the road without speaking for a while, the only sounds those of their tyres on the cracked tarmac and the continual rumbling of their engines. The scenery became even more desolate as the vegetation receded and mounds of dirt and rock began to rise up in its place. There were no signs of civilisation anywhere, human or otherwise. Breakdown suddenly understood why Knock Out had brought him here; the road had levelled and straightened out, and there were no annoying pedestrians to get in their way. This place was almost perfect for a good race, and the scrubland didn't look too bad for off-roading either – but Knock Out wasn't fond of that. He'd rather lick Starscream's skidplates than risk scratching his paintjob on the uneven terrain.
"Hey, Breakdown…" Knock Out began abruptly. His voice sounded cautious somehow, almost apprehensive. "Can you hear something?"
Surprised, Breakdown strained his audio receptors to listen. Over the sound of their engines, he picked up the unmistakable whirr of a human-made machine in flight. Adjusting their rear-views, the Decepticons scanned the skies – and all of a sudden, with a rush of wind that blasted sand in all directions, a blocky-looking helicopter rose over the mound of earth and rock to their left. It was painted army green, windshield blacked-out. As it strafed low above the road, following them, Knock Out found his attention drawn to its underbelly – where a not-so-civilian-looking turret was mounted.
"Enemy Seeker?" Breakdown growled.
"Don't be ridiculous," snapped Knock Out. "Autobots can't fly – but…I'm not picking up a 'Con energy signature, either. Odd…must be a glitch in my scanners."
Automatically, Breakdown returned his gaze to the road – and gasped. A row of lime-green muscle cars were parked across the tarmac ahead, bumper to bumper, barring their path. "Roadblock!" he shouted, slamming on his brakes. Knock Out similarly screeched to a halt, fuming, as the helicopter began to lazily circle overhead like a vulture above a carcass.
"Oh, please," Knock Out grumbled, as several humans clambered quickly out of the cars. They were identically dressed in bizarre full-body suits, each carrying a strange rifle of some sort. He watched them prop their weapons – quite advanced-looking for humans in terms of technology – against the car doors, thoroughly irritated. "You have got to be kidding me."
Breakdown ignored the humans, and watched the helicopter instead. As it circled, he noticed that the turret was rotating in place – tracking their position. If that wasn't a battle invitation, he didn't know what was. "Fight?" he asked, glancing at his partner.
"What are we – Autobots?" sneered the medic. Without warning, Knock Out cut his engine and flipped upright into robot mode – slipping rapidly between forms to tower over the humans and their petty vehicles. The humans faltered, staring up at the giant Decepticon with mouths agape behind their masks. Breakdown followed his partner's lead and transformed, grinning the instant his faceplates emerged from the depths of his chassis. "Crush them!"
Breakdown charged – he ran straight for the blockade, drawing back one servo as the humans scattered. He punched the closest car clean off the road as though it weighed nothing, not pausing to watch it spiral away through the air as he seized a second with both hands. The humans ran in all directions as he lifted the car high above their heads – slamming it down onto the tarmac with force enough to leave a shallow crater in the road.
Knock Out made to join the fray, but paused as the helicopter began to rise further into the sky above the two Decepticons. He peered through the blackened windshield, optics just able to perceive the angular contours of a male human face behind the glass. The face was marked with a single scar that ran across the bridge of its nose, jaw in motion as though speaking. Suspiciously, the medic adjusted his scanners and detected the faint signature of an unknown radio frequency.
"Gentlemen," said a smooth voice, slightly garbled by the quality of human audio-transmission systems. "Begin the operation."
Breakdown glanced across at his immobile partner after totalling a fifth bright-green car, wondering why he wasn't helping cause some damage, but something caught his attention in the corner of his optic. Two of the humans who had fled their vehicles earlier were wielding some sort of cannon between them, aiming it directly at the oblivious Knock Out. Breakdown panicked as a third human began jabbing buttons at the cannon's rear – forcing life into his servos as the weapon's barrel started to spark and crackle with electricity.
"Look out!" he shouted, ramming Knock Out hard in the back.
Thrown off his feet, the medic crashed to the ground several metres away – stunned for a nanoklik as he tried to work out what had happened – but rolled onto his back as he heard his partner suddenly bellow in pain somewhere behind him. It looked like he was having some kind of seizure; Breakdown's servos were shaking violently, his head twisted unnaturally to one side, but he didn't seem to be able to move from where he stood. Knock Out spotted something small and metallic embedded in his partner's shoulder, sparking and shorting like circuitry that had been ravaged by a swarm of scraplets. Breakdown began to stagger all of a sudden, unsteady on his feet, and let out a dull groan before collapsing flat on his front with a crash that shook the ground like thunder.
Knock Out stared at his fallen partner for what felt like an eternity, too surprised to move. It was only when the humans approached Breakdown's body, carrying reams of what looked like chains, that he managed to force himself upright. Knock Out roared as he sprinted to defend his partner, unsheathing his energon prod – but never got the chance to use it. Flecks of hot pain suddenly peppered his back and shoulders, as the helicopter's turret opened fire without warning. Attempting unsuccessfully to swipe away the oncoming bullets, he abandoned the charge and shielded his head; snarling as droplets of his still-warm energon speckled the tarmac like rain. Out of the corner of his optic, like a scene from a nightmare, he saw a small convoy of green trucks pull up at the side of the road, pulling between them a flat trailer long enough to comfortably lay a Transformer flat. The helicopter blocked his view of it a moment later, still unleashing a flurry of gunfire into his chassis, preventing him from approaching.
"I wouldn't want to seriously harm as fine a piece of technology as yourself," stated the same silky human voice as before. Knock Out cracked open an optic as the stream of bullets abruptly ceased. The turret was aimed directly toward his head; an open threat. In spite of it, however, he found his attention diverted as the sound of the trucks' rhythmic engines met his audio receptors. The humans had loaded Breakdown's unconscious body onto the trailer and fastened him down, covering most of his chassis with a huge sheet of opaque material. The medic growled and returned his glare to the helicopter, through the windshield of which he saw the scarred human flash a smug grin. "If you want your friend back, I suggest you have a chat with one agent Fowler. Tell him that Silas would be delighted to negotiate your friend's release."
The trucks pulled away, hauling Breakdown with them, but the helicopter continued to circle the medic; allowing his soldiers time to climb into the remaining cars and depart. Knock Out saw the human named Silas give him one final smug look through the windshield, before the helicopter pulled away to follow the convoy.
Knock Out stood there for a second, not even attempting to stem the flow of energon from the tiny holes that riddled his exostructure. His wounds were superficial – not life-threatening in the slightest – but they stung like the Pit. Pain aside, he couldn't rid the image of Breakdown's body from his processor; the sight of that blunt hand just poking out from beneath the sheet. Reaching.
He started after the convoy in a short sprint, diving into vehicle mode to begin pursuit. Gunning his snarling engine, Knock Out raced after convoy – after his partner. He caught up to the formation of green vehicles in no time, tailgating them on the desert road, and slid open the weapons compartments above his rear wheels. With a single shot, he took out one tyre of the car in front – sending it veering to the side and granting him a path further up through the convoy. Knock Out advanced, already aiming his next shot for one of the chains securing Breakdown – but never got the chance to take it.
"Persistent, isn't he?" Silas' voice sneered over the radio. "Disable him."
Two humans emerged from the sliding roof of the car in front, wielding between them another of those strange weapons from before. Knock Out slammed on his brakes, tyres squealing, but too late – with the sound of a cannon-blast, he felt something sharp embed itself into the front of his bumper. An electric current like nothing he had felt before suddenly ripped through his circuits, jamming every system in his body. Wheels locking in place, Knock Out found himself forced into robot mode – he crashed against the tarmac and bounced heavily away, senses reeling, momentum carrying him for several metres before he finally scraped to a halt in the dirt.
Knock Out lay there at the side of the road, unable to move as a steady fire pulsed through his circuits, the numbness impeding his ability to think. Vision wavering, he watched the convoy disappear into the shimmering horizon – before his consciousness slipped.