Why did I shoot at Prime?
Knock Out frowned, the sharp digits of one hand closing around a portable calibration device. He stood beside an occupied examination table in the Nemesis' sickbay, free hand delicately probing the exposed internals of Breakdown's outstretched forearm. The larger Decepticon didn't seem particularly comfortable as he hunched over on the very edge of the table – most likely due to his recent human encounter – faceplates locked in a rather grim formation. He stole brief glances at the white plains of his partner's face every now and then, expecting him to say something, but Knock Out remained inflexibly silent.
Despite attempting to focus on his work, the medic's memory overcame his processor for a nanoklik. The pulsing red light, the staccato of human gunfire and yelling – and those optics. Those crystal blue, eternally wise, undeniably betrayed optics that had blazed like fury through the half-light. Upon escaping the desert with his partner, Knock Out had realised that he needn't have pulled the trigger on Optimus. The threat of shooting him alone would have been more than enough to keep the Autobots at bay – Prime had been pinned in place, and his lackeys wouldn't have dared try to stop the Decepticons from leaving with the medic pointing a gun at their commander's faceplates. So the question remained… why did he? To prove his allegiance? To prove that he was a Decepticon – that he didn't need the Autobots' pity?
He narrowed his optics, ignoring the pressure that was quietly building at the back of his throat. Breakdown watched his partner's expression harden without speaking. It was unlike Knock Out to work in total silence; there was always some witty-but-casual remark or other to be made, no matter the state his patient was in – unless Lord Megatron himself was the one receiving treatment. Breakdown studied the medic's movements, able to sense that something was troubling him. He'd been strangely quiet ever since returning to the Nemesis – which was unusual, since they'd dodged a decidedly-irritated Starscream along the way. As Knock Out gave a small sigh and rather clumsily reattached the panelling of his partner's forearm, Breakdown cautiously toyed with the idea of requesting to know what was on his mind.
"Is somethin' up?" he asked lightly, gently massaging his freshly-repaired servo as the medic turned on his heel without a word.
"No," Knock Out replied at once, crossing the sickbay and stooping to return the calibrator to storage. After drawing himself up to full height again, the medic was surprised to find that he had to force himself to meet his partner's stare. "Why do you ask?"
Breakdown shrugged, attempting to appear casual. "You're pretty quiet," he muttered, watching as Knock Out gave a slightly more half-hearted shrug of his own. Dropping his gaze, the larger Decepticon eased himself down from the examination table and flexed his limbs. "It's not like you."
"I was concentrating," the medic half-invented. "Installing a signal dampener to fully-functional – not to mention in-use – systems isn't exactly something you can do in recharge, you know. It takes a lot of precision work, and I wanted to do it right. We don't want the Autobots on your case all the time, do we?"
There was silence in the sickbay for a cycle or two, pregnant and uncomfortable. Breakdown stared awkwardly over his repaired chassis, examining the flawless paint- and metalwork. His partner could be a first-class medic if he put his processor to it; the only trouble was that the processor in question had been decidedly elsewhere for the last couple of cycles. The silence deepened, darkening every corner of the room like an ominous shadow.
"Hey… Knock Out? Can I ask you somethin'?"
"I suppose that depends on what it is you want to ask me."
Breakdown hesitated for a moment on receiving his slightly clipped response, but cast aside uncertainty as he looked the medic straight in the optic. "Why'd you team up with the Autobots?" he began carefully. Knock Out averted his gaze at once, but Breakdown refused to give up on pursuing the matter. "Why'd you turn to them for help, instead of Megatron?"
The smaller Decepticon shook his head, tensing visibly, but knew better than to lie. "Megatron doesn't care what happens to us," he uttered, crossing his servos. Breakdown raised an eyebrow, which only seemed to irritate him further. "Don't look at me like that – you know it's true. To him, we're just lackeys… expendable pawns that can be flung into danger and replaced if we're taken by the opponent."
Breakdown forced a hissing sound through his vocal processors, glancing from side to side like a 'bot possessed. "Quiet down, will ya?" he urged, stepping forward. "Soundwave might be listening!"
"I don't care," Knock Out shot, scowling. "Let him listen. I couldn't give a scraplet's ASCII what he thinks – or what Lord Megatron thinks, for that matter. The chain of command around here could definitely use some work."
Frowning, Breakdown watched his partner fume. He let the medic seethe for a little while, waiting for him to regain some sort of grip on his composure, before gently pressing on. "What's gotten into you?" he asked.
Knock Out seemed to calm down some. He inclined his head to the side, eyebrows arched as though at a loss of understanding. "I'm just…confused," he replied with another subtle shrug. "The way the Autobots work is completely different to us. They're more than a team – they're like a family. After MECH… took you… they offered to help me get you back without asking anything in return. It was strange…"
Breakdown furrowed his brow, wondering if Knock Out had gone soft in his absence. Still… a part of him could sense that his partner was at a crossroads, of sorts, and that mocking him definitely wouldn't help the situation.
"They respect Prime like a father, but we respect Megatron like the tyrant that he is," the medic continued. "The Decepticons are an army, not a family. I think… maybe that's why – despite how blatantly we outnumber and out-power them – we can never achieve a substantial victory over them."
"What do you mean?" Breakdown asked, confused.
Knock Out thought for a second. "They know each other inside and out, chassis and spark," he said. "They can predict their teammates' every move, fighting as a single entity on the battlefield. We – independent, mistrustful soldiers that we are – fight on our own. In that sense, we are the ones who are out-powered."
"So…you're sayin' the Decepticons should become like a family?"
"I'm saying that we should all start to trust and get to know each other more," corrected Knock Out. He flinched, and then quickly shook his head. "I know that sounds very… Autobot of me, but… can you see my point?"
Breakdown rolled his optics, grinning nonetheless. "I think so," he said, forcing his expression back toward sincerity. "But, look. I trust you – and I know you enough to see that this is really gettin' on your last circuit. I'll always support anything you have to say, Knock Out, 'cause I owe you big-time. Whatever you do, I'll back you up."
Knock Out stared at him for a nanoklik, before the first faint trace of amusement crossed his faceplates. "Too right, you owe me," he sniffed loftily, turning on his heel and starting across the sickbay. He then gave a sigh, waving a hand as he headed toward the door. "Now… I suppose I'd better go and find Commander Starscream. No doubt he'll want a full report on our whereabouts for the last few solarcycles."
Breakdown let a dark chortle escape his vocal processors, vaguely wondering how much red paint the Seeker would dirty his claws with this time, as he watched the doorway slide mechanically open on his partner's approach.
"Oh – and, Breakdown… welcome home."
The larger Decepticon folded his arms, taken slightly unawares, before cocking his head to one side. "You too," he smirked.
Knock Out paused in the threshold for a moment, gave a single nod of the head, and strutted out into the corridor.