What makes you tick

Written by Taipan Kiryu

Summary: TF Prime. One Autobot, one Decepticon, an unfortunate encounter with MECH and an entangled web none of them meant to happen. An Arcee and Knock Out story.

Okay, after finally catching up with the fifteen episodes of Transformers Prime aired so far I can say that I'm officially in love with the series, THE worthy successor of G1 in my opinion. So it didn't take long for me to write my first TF Prime fic.

Many thanks to iratepirate for beta reading this chapter in barely eight hours. I take it she liked it ;o)

By the way, this story happens after the episode 'Convoy'. There will be some small spoilers during the story, but nothing to trouble those ones who haven't seen all the aired episodes so far.

Chapter 1

An automobile enthusiast

Jasper, Nevada, the universal capital of dust.

Or at least that was a certainty that the yellow Lamborghini Murcielago LP670-4 had acquired after its humiliating, extremely humiliating, defeat.

'Superveloce' my shinny exhaust… Knock Out thought about returning and turning his shame of a rival into a wreck – it reminded him of the Autobot scout, after all, but he had just had his hood repaired after the encounter with the large, sharp finger of a certain soon to be Lord Starscream, and the last thing he was looking for was another session of that painful kind.

He veered elegantly to avoid a small boulder sprawled over the road. The accursed minerals were everywhere, turning the racetrack into a trap and a permanent threat to any mech who appreciated his finish as much as his spark, but there was nothing else in Jasper, Nevada, than irregular, dusty roads, so they would have to do if Knock Out wanted to continue his favorite hobby.

And racing was definitely something he was eager to do that night, especially now that his previous encounter had been rather a pathetic challenge. Victories of that kind were as annoying as dust itself, but Knock Out was learning quickly that worthy rivals were something he was not going to find on planet Earth, even less in Jasper, Nevada.

"Knock Out," a voice through his comm link said.

"Ah, Breakdown," he replied, lamenting for a moment that Breakdown's heavy structure didn't allow him to be a decent racing partner. "You are missing such a particularly starry night."

"Racing again?" Breakdown asked curtly. "Starscream's been asking for you."

The smallest tingle of annoyance in Breakdown's voice would have gone unnoticed to the rest of the Universe, perhaps even to Breakdown himself, but not to Knock Out. He certainly knew that his partner was not pleased by being left aside in whatever private agenda Knock Out was up to. They had a tacit agreement regarding the respect of each other's privacy, but still, Breakdown needed a constant reminder of his partner's presence, no matter the situation. Breakdown was very strong and cold, but he had a particular distaste for loneliness.

"I trust you told him I was doing some very important research in order to assure the total restoration of our leader… or to continue delaying it," Knock Out said, slightly chuckling to himself.

"Come back to the base," Breakdown's voice wasn't getting any more sympathetic. "You left without authorization."

"Authorization, mein freund, is another demagogic word that I conveniently tend to forget when I—whoa…"

"What is it? Do you need help?" Breakdown's annoyance was momentarily replaced by concern.

Knock Out smiled to himself, analyzing the possibilities of the sight before him. "Question, Breakdown. How high do you think I'll jump if I drive at two hundred miles per hour over a thirty foot dune?"

There was a pause, in which Breakdown was certainly doing the proper calculations.

"What's the length of the dune?"

"I'm just about to find out," Knock Out said, his excitement adding to the fuel in his combustion chamber. "I'll keep a recording of this for you, partner!"

Knock Out accelerated, reaching sixty miles per hour in less than two seconds. He wasn't very keen on performing stunts. Racing was his thing, not circus, but he knew how much Breakdown liked that kind of maneuver and he thought it wouldn't do any harm to add a little something to his friend's video file collection.

His speedometer was beyond two hundred when he reached his objective. It was more irregular than he had thought, but still it would be enough to execute a very decent jump.

His tires leaving the ground was never a welcome change, but Knock Out found the nocturnal air pleasant, as pleasant as it could be when caressing his frame with painless brutality. He repressed the cry of excitement because he considered it vulgar, but he enjoyed the little stunt nevertheless. Nothing compared to a good race, of course, but still it was almost as good as trying the resistance of an Autobot's spark chamber with his Energon prod.

He skidded as soon as he returned to the ground, arousing a cloud of dust that his paint job certainly wasn't grateful for. Still, the experience had been enjoyable, the kind that he would probably repeat. Probably.

"Are you done?" Breakdown asked right on time.

"You bet."

"How was it?"

"I give it a five on my scale. No, change that to a four. I don't know why some bots make such a fuss about this kind of thing, you amongst them… You would have been one hell of a Stunt Con, Breakdown, had you had a lighter chassis."

"Maybe you should start by explaining to me what the slag a Stunt Con is. But forget about that and get back here. I finished with the task you assigned me and Starscream will be here asking for you again any minute."

Knock Out's attention was caught by a sudden appearance on his radar. "If he does, tell him to wait. I may be a little late for dinner tonight."

"Knock Out…"

"Just give me five minutes, mein freund. Ten, tops."

Without waiting for an answer, Knock Out shut off his comm link. Breakdown was his partner and the one bot he called friend, but still there were times in which his absence was not unpleasant.

"So, it seems like I will have some fun tonight after all," Knock Out said as he headed toward the distant formation of lights. It was about time. Friday night on the outskirts of Jasper, Nevada, usually meant race night, and he would have been extremely disappointed in that forsaken place in Earth's geography if such habit stopped only for a couple of bad experiences – which he had caused, by the way. But then again, what was bad for the humans, was good for him.

This time, though, he waited for the race to start. He didn't want to attract too much attention from the very start; he preferred the satisfaction of making a dazzling entrance, not to mention that he didn't want any of those human creatures to scratch his paintjob again. It wouldn't be good for the competition if he slaughtered his rivals right at the beginning of the race.

Time went by so slow sometimes, especially when Knock Out was eager to race and he was forced to wait. He watched the cars gaining speed in seconds that felt like hours. How many accursed nano kliks did it take a human car to reach a decent two hundred miles per hour?

Engine roaring, Knock Out couldn't wait anymore and headed towards the turtle bots. It seemed like none of them would challenge his abilities that night. But then again, who could?

He came to an abrupt halt, though, before he could enter the cars' range of vision. Remembering his recent stunt, he realized that, perhaps, he could add some extra fun to the game. What was the point in wasting a Friday night in a race that had nothing to offer him, after all?

Perfect, he thought as he caught sight of a nearby boulder about the size of Breakdown in alt mode. Perhaps he would damage his tires a little, but a good entrance was worth the risk.

He turned off his lights and headed toward his objective, already calculating the best angle to jump. He had his glossy finish to consider, but his reputation also. If he was going to become a legend in those underground races, he had to make sure to state his superiority and good looks at the same.

Once again, no cry of excitement left his vocalizer when he became airborne again, and only felt a small amount of discomfort when he remembered that he had forgotten to record that stunt for Breakdown. But he quickly forgot about that, as he landed right between two cars and forced them to veer brusquely, one of them ending its shameful trip in the ravine to the side. Ah, poor human reflexes were such a delight to abuse…

He focused his attention on the black car leading the competition, which, much to Knock Out's amusement, increased its speed at the sight of the newcomer. Still, it wasn't enough for Knock Out's expectations. He was tempted to attack the car instead of passing it, but he was not going to blow an automobile into pieces from behind when he could do it from the front. Car and pilot had to feast their eyes on the perfection of his rear bumper right before meeting their doom. It was only fair.

So he passed the black car, taking a moment to enjoy the look of fear on the pale face of the driver. Once Knock Out reached the imaginary finish line he had marked for the race, he activated his missile launcher. It was going to be fun watching that car and its organic companion become one with the scrapheap.

But the fun went away the moment his missile flew upwards instead. Knock Out was so upset that he completely forgot the black car, which hurried to escape.

"Beacon?" Knock Out said moments before his missile exploded in the sky, making him brake.

Had he been in robot mode, he would have frowned. He hit his accelerator instead, instinct kicking in and proving him right, because one second later the empty space he left behind was impacted by a mild laser beam.

"Tss tss, attacking me from behind, Autobot? Not very honourable on your part, I'd say," he said, doing a frantic search with his radar until the concealed energy signature appeared. To his surprise, and disappointment, it wasn't the Autobot scout, but the two-wheeler female.

"You'd be being kicked out of the Well of Allsparks at this precise moment if my intention had been attacking you from behind, Decepticon. That was only a warning shot," the female said, her figure clear in his left rear view mirror.

"A failed warning shot, mein Frau, and regretfully for you, the last one as well." Knock Out loved how his voice sounded accompanied by a good dose of firepower – inflicted by himself, of course – so he wasted no time in greeting the Autobot intruder accordingly.

The femme avoided the attack and headed towards him, her speed arousing Knock Out's competitive spirit.

"Not bad… for a two wheeler," Knock Out said, momentarily shutting his weapon system down and concentrating on the potency of his engine. See if you can follow me, schöne Frau. In other words, see if you like my dust!

Promises of an entertaining Friday night were made when the Autobot closed the distance between them.

"Enjoying the view, Autobot? You wouldn't be the first female to fall into the charms of my exhaust."

"Oh, I have seen better," the femme curtly replied.

Knock Out had never been able to tell the difference between a scratch and an attack on his ego, and this time wasn't going to be the exception. He released a stream of oil at his pursuer, but the Autobot avoided it easily.

"You are going to have to try harder than that. Tricks intended for rookies are not going to work with me."

Knock Out's engine roared in anger, taking the hint. If that Autobot slut liked it rough, he would be happy to provide. And terrestrial nature would help, for once. The dune he had jumped earlier came into his sight, a perfect destination to state his superiority and crush an Autobot's spark. What could be better than two treats instead of one?

"The rookie, schöne Frau, is yet to be exposed. Care for a steam treatment?"

Arcee had seen Knock Out barely a couple of times, but she already knew that she couldn't stand him. He was worse than a Decepticon, he was a vain Decepticon. And utterly cruel, as she had read behind his pretentious smirk and arrogant pose. She knew the bots of his kind, remarkably good looking but equally fatuous, not the kind of enemy she preferred to fight.

Arcee veered to avoid the dark cloud of smoke that Knock Out directed at her. Trying to blind her was just another dirty trick, and justification enough for her to release some real firepower on him.

But she didn't. As much as the Decepticon's proximity made him a target difficult to miss, Arcee had her honour to respect. That was a fight she wasn't going to win by shooting the enemy from behind. That wasn't her style.

"Are you running out of dirty tricks, Decepticon?"

A snort could be heard. "Actually, not yet. I was just enjoying myself whilst I wait for your slow, second hand engine to give me a worthy challenge."

"If it's a challenge what you want…" Arcee increased her speed and executed a perfect jump, but her tires found the pavement again and not the intended hood of the Decepticon medic. How in the Universe that insufferable glitch could be a medic was something she would never be able to understand.

"And you failed!" he spat the evident. "What's the matter, schöne Frau? Am I a bit too fast for your lady engine? The finish line is just ahead and you are about to become the loser!"

Arcee increased her speed, momentarily being driven by anger. It had taken her a lot of effort to become a skilled warrior, and no Decepticon jerk was going to make fun of her.

It was in that moment of self-blindness in which she realized that the Decepticon was not driving anymore. He was in the air, propelled by a dune conveniently placed beside the road. For once, Arcee didn't think, her mind never processing if she could be getting into a trap or not. She just followed, her lighter form allowing her to fly higher than the Decepticon.

She transformed in mid air, ready to fall on him and give an end to his pathetic show, but suddenly he wasn't there anymore. Gravity did its thing and the next thing she faced was the two sharp edges of an Energon prod, ready to welcome her beneath. She tried to avoid the painful outcome but inertia was her enemy. Intense pain on her left side announced just where the blasted prod had pierced her, but that was nothing compared to the energy discharge that followed.

Arcee squirmed and managed to remove the Energon prod from her frame, but she fell backwards, still shaken by the thousands of volts that had just punished her.

"My, my," the equally piercing laugh came afterwards. "Now that was my bad. I targeted your spark chamber, Autobot. Apologies for the mistake, but pain, you'll see, is never unnecessary."

"The only mistake you make is thinking this is over, Deceptiscum" Arcee said between clenched dental plates, uselessly trying to regain strength enough to attempt getting on her feet.

She groaned when he straddled her, pinning her to the ground. His smell arrived clearly to Arcee's olfactory sensors; it was a mixture of perfumed wax and oil, strangely sweet and definitely not the kind of smell a Decepticon should have.

"The name is Knock Out, femme," he said, taking her out her trance by lifting his Energon prod above her head. "Remember it well, because it's the name of the one who terminated you. But consider yourself lucky, as you will be blessed with the sight of my face before your spark extinguishes. Not many bots face terminal shutdown with such a beautiful sight, with the exception of my victims, of course."

Quickly forgetting about his blasted, delicious smell, Arcee focused all her attention on saving her life. "Beautiful?" she said. "Even after a bird made a mess on your headlights, you mean?"

Instinctively, Knock Out looked to his chest. His good looks had turned into his weakness. It had taken a simple lie to distract him, and that distraction would be his doom. Seeing her opportunity, Arcee grabbed his Energon prod and managed to hit him on the chin, his entire body shaken by the energy discharge that followed.

His cry of pain was music to Arcee's audio receptors. In a second she kicked him away from her and was on her feet, her blaster pointed at the shaken Decepticon's face.

"Move and inch and history will only remember you because of your melted face. Now roll over… slowly."

Knock Out smirked weakly. "N-now that sounds kinky…"

She frowned, the metal restraints in her free hand trembling slightly. "Roll over, I said! I'm taking you into custody, Decepticreep, and you can be certain that I will do it no matter if you are in one or a hundred pieces."

Knock Out scowled but said nothing, out of words for perhaps the first time in his arrogant life. He was barely starting to move when his optics flickered, taken by surprise by the circle of light that suddenly engulfed both Cybertronians.

Arcee dropped the restraints and looked upwards, her blaster following the movement of her gaze. An ambush! The Decepticons were attacking her from the sky!

She saw a heavily armored helicopter above her, but no familiar energy signature came from it.

"Humans…" she said, recognizing the same kind of aircraft that had attacked them the day the Autobots had helped transport the D.N.G.S. at agent Fowler's request.

A strong kick to her knee took her out of her thoughts, sending her to the ground. She saw Knock Out reaching out to his Energon prod, only to be impacted by some sort of spike that was shot from the helicopter and plunged into his right shoulder plates. As soon as it hit its target, the spike released a very powerful amount of energy. The Decepticon's cry of pain hurt Arcee's audio receptors, and suddenly she found herself feeling sorry for him.

But sorry didn't mean careless. She realized she was going to be next when a rain of firepower fell over her, but she was faster. Gracefully avoiding the human manufactured bullets, she shot two rounds of laser bolts at the helicopter, intended not to destroy, but to incapacitate. Despite the intentions of those humans, she would never forget the absolute respect all Autobots had concerning life.

The helicopter lost altitude and began to smoke from the undercarriage. It crashed some feet away, but the energy punishing Knock Out didn't stop.

Keeping an optic on the fallen helicopter, Arcee headed towards Knock Out, who was on his knees and uselessly trying to remove the spike from his shoulder.

"Oh blast, and now I have to save you… Why doesn't the Autobot code of honour make an exception for arrogant jerks that smell like fresh wax?" she said ill-humoredly, kneeling beside him and carefully grabbing his shoulder.

Arcee jolted, something stinging her hand as soon as she removed the spike torturing the Decepticon, which turned to dust between her fingers. Knock Out fell heavily on the ground, his body still shaking. Arcee took a quick glance at the thin gash on the back of her hand before looking over her shoulder and returning her attention to the helicopter. It was still smoking but a quick scan revealed that there was no danger of explosion. She couldn't see any movement inside either.

Suddenly, a sharp figure beside her face reminded her of just what kind of company she was in.

"Great," she said, looking from the Energon prod to Knock Out, who seemed mildly recovered and was already sitting on the ground. "I save your life and you point that thing at my face. So much for Decepticon gratitude."

"An inexistent concept, as you are about to see." For the cocky tone of his voice, his recovery was a done thing. "And for the record, you didn't save me. I could have removed that thing myself."

She smirked. "Of course, you were just waiting for the perfect moment."

He scowled, but instead of attacking Arcee he stood up and directed his glance toward the helicopter. "You are lucky my hunting priorities have just changed. Step aside, Autobot."

Arcee stood up as fast as she could and jumped away from his reach, pointing at him with her blaster. "I won't let you harm these humans. Leave whilst I still feel generous, Decepticon."

Knock Out seemed confused. "These creatures attacked us… and you defend them?"

"Yes, but don't hurt your poor processor. You would never understand."

Knock Out tightened his grip on his Energon prod. "So we return to the starting line… Fine with me. I wonder if your head will look just as beautiful on my prod when I remove it from your body."

Arcee narrowed her optics, disturbed by the bizarre mixture of compliment and threat. She wasn't in the mood to continue fighting Knock Out, but in the end, there was no other thing an Autobot and a Decepticon could do.

She remained in a fighting stance, waiting for him to make the first move. Besides not wanting to fight him, it wasn't right to attack him when his shoulder plates were leaking vital fluid. He was visibly hurt and she was not going to take advantage of that. Knock Out seemed hesitant too, most likely because the loss of energy.

An unexpected intruder blinked on her radar. Knock Out certainly noticed it too because he looked to the right. One light appeared coming from the highway, followed soon by another dozen.

"We have company," Knock Out said. "And not of your kind, I can see."

"Not of yours either."

Knock Out subspaced his Energon prod. "Which means we just became someone else's hunting priority… Well, it was fun hanging out with you, schöne Frau, but I'm calling it off for the night. Have fun with your beloved humans!" he said, transforming and wasting no time in heading in the opposite direction of the lights.

"So much for Decepticon bravery!" she shouted, trying to reach his obnoxious audio receptors. "But I guess that's just another inexistent concept for you, isn't it?"

She didn't know if he had heard her, and she actually didn't care. She took a look at the gash on her hand before transforming into her motorcycle mode and starting the dishonorable labor of putting distance between her and the arriving humans. She was sure she had seen something shining in the wound, but she disregarded the thought. She had no doubt that the mysterious MECH organization was behind all that and she had to inform Optimus Prime immediately.

Arcee's radar showed that the humans were not interested in following her. She wondered if they were after Knock Out instead, but that was a thought she managed to disregard as well. She had priorities of her own, another reason why she was so disturbed when suddenly she couldn't think about anything else but that invading, blasted fragrance of wax and oil.

To be continued.

Did somebody else thought about the Stunticons when Knock Out and Breakdown appeared for the first time? Aside the obvious association because of Breakdown – a Stunticon in G1 – the fascination with cars, aesthetics and cocky attitude of Knock Out brought the Stunties right into my mind, so that 'Stunt Con' line was my little tribute to the coolest Decepticon Gestalt team ever.

It's wonderful what we can do with the characters at this early stage of the series. Knock Out spoke in German once, but I really liked when he did it and I decided to play with that a little more.

I hope you liked this first chapter. My beta reader hated me for leaving it there, but I promise a fast update. Please let me know your opinions, they are a big inspiration to continue :o)