As many other fans, I wondered about Knock Out's whereabouts during 'Operation Breakdown'. We all have our theories, and here is mine, although this story will focus more on the encounter between both partners after Breakdown returned to the Nemesis.
Many thanks to my friend and beta reader iratepirate for correcting my grammar and for all those inspiring chats about Transformers we share very weekend.
An eye for an eye
Written by Taipan Kiryu
Summary: TF Prime. Where was Knock Out during the events of 'Operation: Breakdown'? Sometimes, when your partner abandons you to be dissected at the hands of an inferior race, there are some things that need to be said.
Being a medic was not a vocation, but a circumstance, and one to be adjusted to one's purposes, just as everything else. It had been many vorns ago when Knock Out had decided that staying out of the front lines better suited his paintjob. That, and the fact that he had discovered the endless enjoyment of destroying things from a very young age. Of course, being a medic was kind of doing the opposite, but still, ways could always be twisted as much as his fun required it.
Having patients was also contra to having chosen a function that secured his place in an army in which being promoted was related to stabbing backs and literally blowing away your superior officer's face plates. Knock Out was fine with patients when it meant having frames on his repair berth to dissect – stripping them of their vital components was an art he highly valued. But when said patients were still functional and had hope of salvation, then fun turned into a boring, not at all encouraging, activity, the kind that reminded him that he could be piercing Autobot heads with his Energon prod or showing off his amazing speed in underground races instead of wasting time on some idiot that had managed to get himself injured.
It would have been unfair to say that the comfort of his patients had never been amongst his priorities, though. He went by the book using pain killers and avoided inflicting unnecessary excessive pain – if pain could ever be considered unnecessary – but the truth was that he had never had neither the patience nor the compassion that a medic was supposed to have.
That's why it was proving to be an entirely new experience to him being so careful as he welded a circuit in the empty socket of Breakdown's right eye, for once not giving any importance to the sparks flying towards him and threatening the perfection of his beautiful face plates.
"Enable my pain receptors."
Knock Out startled, instinctively turning off the laser scalpel in his hand. Those were the first words that Breakdown had said to him since he had returned from his nasty adventure with the humans, with one optic less, countless wounds over his frame and his pride beneath the ground.
"I'm not finished here," the medic replied after his moment of doubt.
Breakdown frowned with his only functional optic. "I don't care. Do it anyway. I've had enough of not feeling a thing."
It didn't escape Knock Out's attention that not even in that moment had Breakdown looked at him. That wasn't strange, because Breakdown had never liked to be stared at or lock optics with anybody at all, but Knock Out knew perfectly well that there was something else behind that sudden abyss between him and his partner. Breakdown never would have demanded any explanation from him, even less confronted him for his cowardice and lack of interest in a moment in which his assistance would have been not only helpful, but expected.
But said assistance had never come. It had been an Autobot who had saved his partner from his human captors, not him.
Pain receptors enabled, Knock Out continued working on Breakdown's eye. For once, witnessing the pain of the patient under his care didn't give him any satisfaction.
"Don't squirm, or I'll be forced to disable your pain receptors again."
An unnecessary request. Breakdown didn't move at all, barely flinched at pain that could be nothing but intense, but Knock Out didn't dare to deny his friend that small piece of dignity.
Breakdown had always been very reserved, but that had never been a problem. His curt personality, on the contrary, fitted perfectly with Knock Out and his obsession with himself. But not that day, as the dense silence pending between both Decepticons was getting heavier as the repair session progressed.
"You will need extra work on your helm," Knock Out said casually, looking at the numerous dents on his friend's head. He just wished that every time he spoke his voice didn't sound like an apology. He was certain that that attitude wouldn't satisfy Breakdown.
"I'm not a femmebot," Breakdown spat. "Just get the basic repairs over with and leave the rest to me."
Knock Out didn't reply, but continued working. Many Decepticons had never understood why Breakdown, with his massive frame and strength, was comfortable being the assistant of a medic. Cleaning tubes and polishing tools was nothing a mech could be respected for, but still Breakdown always did it without any complaint or shame, with the same efficiency that he slagged Autobots in battle with. Knock Out knew that his partner's strength was the only reason why he had been summoned to Earth, and yet Breakdown had been willing to continue his second class labor as Knock Out's assistant.
Knock Out understood the reasons, the same reasons that Starscream had called a weakness, the same reasons why Breakdown wouldn't have hesitated in giving his life to rescue his only friend, if Knock Out had been the one to be captured by humans…
"Breakdown, I…" he finally said, unable to keep going with the charade of silence.
"Do you have something to replace my optic with?" Breakdown brusquely interrupted him.
All right… Breakdown didn't want to hear anything about the matter. As much as he was quite tolerant of whatever Knock Out could come up with, apologies were completely beyond the boundaries of their friendship. Breakdown would never allow him to fall to such weakness.
"I… might find something in storage."
Breakdown nodded. "Good. I'll disconnect my primary systems as you go and look for it."
Quite a moment to take a stasis nap, Knock Out thought as his partner's only optic turned gray, but then again, tact had never been Breakdown's biggest asset.
Knock Out sighed and made his way toward the storage room.
Ten hours ago.
"Tic tic," Knock Out said, leaning comfortably on the wall of the Repair Bay and folding his arms across his wide, polished chest. "The clock is ticking, Commander Starscream, and yet your actions are not precisely going forward, but quite the opposite."
Starscream's brows seemed to merge with his optics, anger and embarrassment displayed perfectly over his face plates. "That would seem to be the case, Knock Out, but this period of exercising caution has a reason. Patience, of course, is nothing I'm counting on you to understand; it doesn't fit with your kind."
Knock Out smirked. "Always the flattering type, Herr Kommandant. You seem to know how sensitive I am towards compliments."
Starscream shot a disdainful look towards Knock Out's wheels before pointing a large finger at him. "And you seem to forget where disobeying my orders can take you, doctor."
Knock Out stared at the sharp finger before shrugging his shoulders. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm under the direct orders of our supreme leader, Lord Megatron."
"Yes, for now… But times change, Knock Out, and evolution will take place. Now tell me, where will you be when the time to choose sides comes?"
Knock Out's smirk stretched before he replied. "Easy. With the winner, of course. Who would choose the side of a loser, don't you agree, Commander?"
Starscream sneered as he ran his finger over Knock Out's grill, causing a screechy sound. "For your sake, I hope you will make the right choice. Realizing that I was wrong about you all this time is something I would hate and you would regret."
It wasn't the latent threat – nor the tacit promise of glory he had never really dreamed of – that made Knock Out flinch.
Starscream frowned. As much as he would have liked to believe he had so much power over Knock Out, the truth was that the arrogant medic was still far beyond his dominion, as he had proved when he had been punished for taking part in underground human races and had stood it like a Decepticon. Knock Out had screamed of course, but that was to be expected when having his finish scratched, one of the worst tortures Knock Out could ever conceive.
"What is it?" Starscream hissed, annoyed by whatever was distracting Knock Out's attention from him.
Knock Out clicked the button of his comm link on his helm. "I'm counting on nothing… Has Breakdown contacted you regarding his current mission?"
Starscream scowled. "Why would he do that? I sent him to track an Energon signal, a simple task that even one of the Vehicons could perform."
Knock Out activated his comm link again but the result was the same, nothing but silence at the other side. "It's strange… I cannot reach his frequency."
Starscream narrowed his optics as Knock Out made his way towards the door.
"And just where do you think you are you going, Knock Out?"
Knock Out stopped and turned around. "To the communications room. I need access to a more powerful transmitter."
Starscream stepped forward. "Only to contact a soldier who hasn't reported from a mission he is yet to conclude? What is your malfunction?"
"Call it a hunch," Knock Out with a voice that lacked of his usual arrogance. "I think that Breakdown may be in trouble."
"Oh, he may be in trouble," Starscream gestured dramatically with his long arms. "Do you realize how pathetic you sound?"
Knock Out frowned, giving Starscream the satisfaction of his anger and thus an important clue towards the domination of his snobbish spark. "If you had sent us together as I requested, you would already have results. Breakdown and I are experts at tracking Energon signals."
"If you really want to take the step to ultimate power you will have to leave your comfort zone and learn to understand the importance of division and conquest, Knock Out. I expect more from my future Second in Command."
Knock Out remained in silence a moment before folding his arms again and lowering his head. "If we could track an Energon signal, so could the Autobots."
"And your point would be…?" Starscream said, smirking. "If Breakdown found opposition he should be able to handle it himself. He's a Decepticon soldier."
The tense line between Second in Command and medic seemed to stretch as the door hissed open and Soundwave walked in.
He didn't seem to acknowledge his two fellow Decepticon's presence as he walked right between them and stopped. His face plates illuminated and a holographic image was displayed. It was blurry and had obviously been taken from one of the humans satellites, but it was clear enough to distinguish Breakdown and the Autobot Bulkhead lying on their backs with their optics offlined.
Knock Out stepped forward, but Soundwave contained him by simply clicking a button on his waist.
"Sir, we only have the resources to transport one."
"Take the victor."
Soundwave ended the sound file by clicking on his waist again and stared directly at Starscream. A silent confrontation took place between both lieutenants; a challenge had been made and Soundwave would wait with endless patience for an answer.
Only Knock Out seemed to be many mechano miles away from whatever was happening between his two superior officers; he remained staring agape at the still displayed image of his partner surrounded by armed humans. When he made another move towards Soundwave, Starscream stopped him by placing a hand on his chest.
"Are you willing to keep surrendering to your cheap sentimentalism, Knock Out?" the Seeker hissed as Soundwave made the image disappear and left the room with his calm pace. "You insist on disappointing me."
"You'd do well in removing your hand, Starscream."
Starscream laughed sinisterly. Knock Out's arrogance and irony had been removed in unexpected ways, but removed nevertheless. Now all that remained was anger and anxiety, strings that Starscream was eager to pull.
"Are you threatening your Commanding Officer? Now that would be a mistake, don't you agree?"
Knock Out glared at him. "I'm proceeding to aid a fellow Decepticon, Sir."
"You seem to forget that there are proper channels to follow. What are you going to do now? Open a Ground Bridge towards Breakdown's last known coordinates?"
"And what if I do?"
"Walk into the Command Centre and see what Megatron thinks about your heroic idea, you fool! As I said, I expected better from you. This weakness of yours will be your doom."
Knock Out hesitated, pondering the truth in Starscream's words. Without anything left to hide, his weaknesses were openly exposed.
"There may be, of course, a way to help your partner without risking your life as uselessly as you are so willing to do," Starscream said with a mischievous smirk. "Generosity, Knock Out, is not as foreign to my programming as you would like to believe."
Knock Out raised an optic brow with suspicion. "Would you help me?"
Starscream sighed. "Why wouldn't I? You said it yourself, there is a fellow Decepticon who requires assistance and I may have the proper words, and rank, to convince Megatron… Of course, your gratitude would be expected, the same as your loyalty."
Starscream's hypocrisy didn't go unnoticed, but the Seeker wasn't expecting that to happen. When he had the key to control a very important element of his future glory, the last thing that mattered was honesty, not that it had ever mattered anyway.
"Do what you must," Knock Out said in low voice, defeated. "I guess I'll do the same…"
Breakdown's systems rebooted and soon he was greeted with the sight of the purplish ceiling of the Repair Bay. Then he noticed it, the strange sensation of familiarity. The image was arriving clearly to his eyes, to his two eyes.
He did a quick revision of his status and confirmed that his right optic had been replaced, and not with some cheap spare part found at the bottom of the storage room. His right optic was a perfect copy of his left one, no lack of symmetry would disrupt his face plates, as much as Breakdown didn't really care about his looks.
The sound of a welder made him turn his head to his left, where Knock Out was sitting before a workbench working on a big piece of blue steel.
"How long was I offline?" Breakdown asked.
Knock Out startled a little, but continued welding and didn't turn around to look at his partner. "Four hours. I hope you don't mind, but I forced you into stasis lock. Pain receptors enabled or not, I needed your complete immobility in order to replace your optic. There is some sensitive circuitry there, as you know."
Breakdown frowned and assumed a sitting position, allowing his equilibrium chips to regain some balance. "Where did you find a replacement?"
"Not in the storage room, of course. I, um, have my own private collection."
Breakdown raised his arms, clenching and unclenching his fists. All his joints there seemed to be in perfectly functional condition, as well as the rest of his body. It seemed that Knock Out had also repaired all the injuries that the saws of the humans had inflicted on his frame.
"I took the liberty of repairing those," Knock Out said, as if he could read his thoughts as always. "But don't worry, I didn't touch your helm. You are no femmebot, I know."
Knock Out was rarely ironic with him, but that was not the reason for Breakdown's current annoyance with his partner. As a matter of fact, all he wanted was to forget about said reason and move on. It had rarely happened in the past, but he was feeling the tingling desire to punch his partner's pretty face for a breem or two, only to feel anything other than the confusion that had made him his prey since Bulkhead had released him from his human captors. His life had never been more complicated, especially now that he had entered the rank of Starscream's puppets. He wished he knew how to salvage his honor after all that had happened in one single, miserable, terrestrial day, how to act now that everything had changed so drastically.
He got up and headed towards the exit. He wanted to be anywhere but there.
"You may want to try this before you go," Knock Out told him. "Your chest plates looked like slag and merely welding them would talk very poorly about my abilities as a physician."
Breakdown stopped, frowning at what he could see of the blue metal between Knock Out's wheels.
"It still needs to be polished, of course," Knock Out continued, turning off the welder and lifting the metal plate up to take a better look at it.
Breakdown frowned. He had always disliked it when Knock Out addressed him with his back turned on him. Breakdown hated being stared at, of course, but Knock Out was the only exception to the rule, and the slagger perfectly knew it.
"I'll do that myself," Breakdown said; polishing was, indeed, one of the things he did a lot as part of his role as medic assistant. "Besides, it's racing night." His last words hadn't been exempt of rancor.
It was indeed, the cycle known as Friday in terrestrial language, and every Friday night since their arrival on Earth, Knock Out hadn't lost any opportunity to win every single race he had been able to track in the human underground circuits. He had been punished in the past because of that, but Knock Out was in love with speed and competition as much as he was with his finish, and only termination would keep him away from his beloved vice.
"There are more important things than racing," Knock Out said, finally turning around and showing Breakdown's new chest plates.
But that's not what Breakdown saw. All his eyes could see was the empty socket in the place where Knock Out's right optic should have been, poorly covered by a small metal plate.
"I think they will fit just fine," Knock Out said, ignoring Breakdown and focusing all his attention on the piece of metal in his hands.
You crazy slagger, Breakdown thought, thankful because Knock Out spared him from additional awkwardness by turning around again and starting to polish what was to be Breakdown's new chest plates.
Breakdown ran another, much more precise scan of his status. His right optic – or should he say Knock Out's optic – had been carefully adapted to fit on his frame, an exact replica of his former eye. That hadn't been the labor of a medic, but one of a friend.
He remained motionless between the door and Knock Out, feeling more out of place than ever.
"Say, Breakdown, in how many pieces do you think a human body can be dissected?"
Breakdown smirked, for once not being disturbed by having his partner's back turned on him.
"Is that a bet?" he said, reading between Knock Out's lines.
Knock Out turned to face him again. "It's a promise," he said seriously.
Breakdown nodded slowly, discomfort vanishing like a bad dream.
When he walked towards the workbench beside Knock Out's and started to clean up the tools his partner had used to repair him, he did it with peace in his spark, the kind of peace that only the image of Silas dismembered could bring. He was still trapped in Starscream's game and it would take him a while to overcome the humiliation of having been tortured by humans and saved by the one Autobot he hated the most, but he would enjoy that moment, he would enjoy the peace that cleaning up tools and tubes provided him, but most of all, he would enjoy the company.
The silence that followed was everything but uncomfortable. Sometimes there was no need for words between him and Knock Out. They knew each other perfectly well and they were all right again, now that apologies – and optics – were in order.
Energon goodies for you if you noticed the hints to the G1 version of Breakdown. Yeah, Breaks didn't like to be stared at.
There will be another story following this one, 'Hammer time'. Expect it here shortly.
In the meantime please let me know your opinions.