This is an AU, one of the many that can happen as a result of mixing G1 and TFP in a blender.
It's unavoidable to compare characters of different universes, especially recurrent names such as Optimus Prime, Megatron or Starscream. But in the case of characters that didn't have an important amount of screen time, even though their personalities were so fascinating, the issue acquires a very different magic.
Transformers Prime has brought me many happy times, one of the most remarkable the moment in which Breakdown showed up for the first time and made me wonder just how many steroids he had had since the last time I saw him in G1… Okay, we are not talking about the same Breaks, but as I said, those associations are meant to be made, and so the ones regarding Breakdown's teammates…
Anyway, please continue reading to see what I'm talking about. This was one story that touched me deeply. You'll see why.
Story beta read by QoS. Many thanks for your priceless help and support, Reina Stunticon. I'm in debt :o)
My happy ending…
or the next best thing
Written by Taipan Kiryu
The slim yet strong red-and-silver frame seemed to wither beneath the flickering light. Irregular shadows and an intricate web of wires and cables darkened his wounds, hiding their depth.
One astroklik. That was all it had taken for the missile to hit Knock Out point-blank on the chest. One single astroklik in which Breakdown hadn't been there to protect his partner.
"Keep them alive…"
It had been the most difficult thing he had done in his life, but Breakdown had finally managed to control the burning sensation of others staring at him. Gazes fixed on his frame still made him feel uncomfortable, of course, but he didn't cower anymore, or turn around, or hunch, or avert his gaze. Whenever others dared to stare at him, he stared back, and every single time they were the ones turning away.
They feared him.
Every time he stepped into a room, he knew what others thought. He was imposing, Megatron's toughest and most brutal enforcer. He had extinguished more Autobot sparks than any other Decepticon, crushed their heads beneath his feet, made sure their optics would never see, stare, again. Allies and enemies feared him equally, and his legend was as terrifying as his presence.
If they only knew…
Shreds of his former weakness went hand in hand with the secrets of his past. Had an eternity already passed, really? Thousands of vorns, entire life spans, hundreds of planets conquered in a war that remained as endless as the day in which Breakdown had been created…
"Keep them alive, Breakdown."
Yeah, easier said than done, but back then he had been unable to appreciate the irony. Back then, all he had been able to focus on was the tragedy surrounding him, his worst nightmare came true. The most powerful spark he had ever known extinguishing right before his optics, purple fuel staining the gray paintjob of the one mech that was supposed to live forever, blood and death intertwined in a way he knew was irreversible…
A sound returned him to the present. Knock Out groaned, his life signals on the screen increasing in erratic peaks that signaled danger. Breakdown held the edges of the repair berth and bowed his head, denta plates gritting in frustration. He was no medic. He had done everything he could, everything that Knock Out had taught him to do in situations like that, but he was no medic.
He hadn't been a medic back then either, when the vital fuel of his leader had run through his fingers as he had made a last attempt to save his Commander's life.
"So, is he going to live?"
The voice took him by surprise, but his body remained motionless. Eons had passed since the last time he had allowed someone the luxury of startling him.
He turned around slowly, his murderous glare fixed on the smirking Seeker. How he hated Starscream, how he had hated him before, how he hated him now. He was one of the few Decepticons who knew the truth about Breakdown's past.
Starscream approached the berth, shaking his head with mock concern. "That was an ugly shot Knock Out took. I'm surprised he didn't offline at that moment. But I was even more surprised you were not there to cover his back, Breakdown, as you always are."
Breakdown felt rage boiling. Starscream had never had a good effect on him. In the past, Breakdown used to avoid those cruel optics, but now he only felt like tearing them out of their sockets.
"I had my orders," he replied curtly. And he had had them indeed. Megatron had ordered him to break the Autobots' formation, and the one thing he had never been able to do was disobey a direct order from Megatron.
"I know, Breakdown, I know… It would be unfair to blame you for Knock Out's bad luck. Being at the wrong place and at the wrong time… you and I know perfectly well how that is the only thing that can take the life of a mech away."
Breakdown didn't reply. Was it so simple? Bad timing, bad luck? That day, it had been that way: bad timing, bad luck. They had won the battle, they had brought down the Aerialbots like paper planes, and yet…
"Of course," Starscream said again, "nobody could blame you either if Knock Out dies."
"He won't die," Breakdown said only to himself, but that was the bad thing about having others around when you spoke your thoughts aloud. They could hear too.
"That's what we all want, of course… but you can never tell what will happen. Death is something we can cheat once, but eventually it comes and collects. And you, Breakdown, you are in debt to death… you took away what was already hers."
Breakdown turned to Starscream, his massive frame towering over the smaller Seeker. Second-in-Command the slagger may have been, but Breakdown was sure Megatron wouldn't have a problem if a sudden, fatal outbreak of insubordination happened in the very core of his High Command.
Starscream seemed to perceive the danger because he stepped back, fear permeating his features. He hesitated, then cowered. Where were the times when his stare alone used to make Breakdown flinch?
"Uh… of course such a collection won't happen today," the Seeker mumbled, stepping back. He was perfectly aware that Breakdown could kill him with one single arm. Breakdown was aware of that too.
"If you need anything, don't hesitate to comm me," Starscream said, already at the exit. "Knock Out is a valuable asset to the Decepticon Empire and we can't afford to lose him."
One second later, Breakdown's glare only met the closed door of the Repair Bay. He knew he should have felt satisfied, but that had never been the case. Ever since he had stepped out from a brutal reformatting session that had almost killed him, with twice his size and ten times his strength, he knew he was fooling no one. He had turned himself into a masquerade, a joke of what he was used to be.
Thousands of vorns before, he had hid behind his teammates. Now, he hid behind an illusion. Yes, he had transformed his body, enhanced his potential and turned himself into a killing machine…
But he would never be him.
Breakdown looked at his colossal frame, at the hands that had crushed Autobot skulls as a human would have crushed eggs. He had rebuilt himself. He was strong now. No other Decepticon could equal him in power and bravery.
But he would never be Motormaster.
"Keep them alive, Breakdown!"
Often, Breakdown found himself wondering how it had really been, how Motormaster had said his last words. Sometimes he remembered the rough voice faltering, choking as it spat its last traces of life. Others he heard it like a plea. Motormaster was dying, but even during the last burning of his spark he thought only about the safety of his team.
But most of the time Breakdown heard the voice as cold and authoritarian as it had always been. That was what Motormaster had always been: steel on eighteen wheels. Weakness and hesitation had never been allowed into his personality component.
Perhaps if Breakdown hadn't been under the worst nervous collapse of his life, he would have been able to keep a more accurate memory of that moment. But it was impossible. All his circuits were frenetic as he watched the massacre around him, as he watched his team die…
"KEEP THEM ALIVE."
It was too late for Motormaster. His spark had extinguished on the battlefield, even before he stopped talking. His last words were pronounced by his will rather than his life-force. He had lived for his team; he had died the same way.
Drag Strip would have mocked him for it, but Breakdown had mourned Motormaster's death. There hadn't been a day in the millions that followed in which Breakdown hadn't mourned his leader.
Motormaster had never had high hopes of Breakdown, had never had any kind of hopes of him. Breakdown had always been the weak link, the coward, the disappointment. He had known he was inferior since the first moment of his creation, and constant interaction with his team had only reinforced the feeling.
But he had tried, every moment of his life he had tried. He never admitted it to anyone – not even to Dead End – but everything he had done, every single effort he had taken in order to become braver, had been done with the sole purpose of making his leader proud of him. Motormaster never acknowledged any of his achievements, though, never gave him a kind word or a look that showed anything else than disappointment or disdain.
Breakdown's failures were another matter. Motormaster had punished him for every single one, making pain and fear two additional teammates for him.
Breakdown had never had Dead End's intelligence, Wildrider's audacity, or Drag Strip's competitiveness. He had always been the glitch-ridden and paranoid weakling, the one who mispronounced words, the one who couldn't stand the simple act of being stared at.
"Keep them alive, Breakdown."
And yet, he had been the one who witnessed Motormaster's last moment. He had held the powerful hand that, for once, didn't reject him or hit him. He knew that Motormaster had only spoken those words to him because he was the only one left standing, because Motormaster knew he was dying. Motormaster had been guided by desperation, not trust. He could have never trusted Breakdown. He could have never trusted weakness.
A buzzing sound coming from the life-support machine made Breakdown move. Despite his fear, his hands didn't hesitate. That was something he was very used to doing, even since his other life. His mind could be a living hell, but his actions were composed and logical.
He typed the commands Knock Out had taught him and soon the medic's life signals stabilized, once again keeping him away from terminal shutdown.
Breakdown dropped himself into a nearby chair, his optics fixed on his partner. His right hand found a familiar object leaning on the wall, Knock Out's Energon prod.
A small, sad smile formed on Breakdown's features. He grabbed the weapon and slowly started to rotate it. His movements were clumsy, especially because he was remembering how agile and deadly his partner could be with that same prod, one which had harvested a numerous number of Autobot sparks.
"What are you doing?" Breakdown had asked an eternity ago, amazed to find Drag Strip and Wildrider fighting with what appeared to be two spears.
"No, I'm a ninja. Wildrider is just fooling around."
Breakdown chuckled. He wondered what Knock Out would say if he knew that his ability with his Energon prod had been born from a childish game.
"Keep them alive."
Breakdown's grip on the Energon prod tightened. That's what he had done, hadn't he? He had done much more.
"They are dead."
"No, they're still functioning!"
"They're not. What you see is only the last glow of their sparks, but their life-forces have already been terminated. See? Wildrider was the first to die."
"No, they're still alive! Their personality components remain functional. You have to save them, Hook!"
"Nothing can be done."
"There has to be something you haven't tried!"
"This is futile, Breakdown. Nothing can be salvaged from their sparks, at least not enough to power them up again. They were dead before you brought them here."
"But their sparks are still—"
"Hardly what I would call alive. As I said, there is not enough life-force to power them again."
"Not the three of them, you mean?"
"There's not enough life force to power the three of them again… but what about one? You could make one… out of the three."
"Are you insane?"
"They're still alive. Slightly perhaps, but they still live. If you merge the remainder of their sparks and personality components into a single being, with a single life-force… Would that be possible?"
"That kind of procedure has never been attempted."
"WOULD THAT BE POSSIBLE, HOOK?"
"Technically yes, but—"
"Then do it."
"You have to understand that what you are asking me to do is insane. Your teammates are dead. If I create this… monster, he will be another being. The processors of your teammates are damaged beyond any possibility of repair, their memories are lost—"
"But not their personalities, am I right? Their personalities would remain?"
"Then do it. We're losing precious time, Hook. Do it now!"
"I always considered you above the madness of your team, Breakdown. Don't you understand the risks of the kind of merge you're suggesting?"
"We are a gestalt—merging is what we do!"
"If you want to play Primus, do it somewhere else. Why should I lower myself to create this kind of aberration?"
"Because you lost your teammates too. If you could have saved them, if you had had the slightest chance to save the Constructicons… wouldn't you have taken it?"
It was hard to see Knock Out so marred, the number of wires and cables attached to his body violating his normally pristine frame. Surprisingly, though, his face remained undamaged. Not even war dared to mess with his handsome features. Wildrider had never bothered about his physical appearance, but what Dead End and Drag Strip saw in mirrors had been their favorite sight.
"Is this it? My teammates… are they this single sphere of energy?"
"Your teammates are dead. This is someone else. Do you have any requirements for his frame?"
"You said… you said Wildrider's personality component was the most damaged."
"Very little of him will remain in this new spark, yes. Dead End and Drag Strip will be the dominant personalities."
"Then can you make him beautiful?"
And beautiful he was. Knock Out was the most attractive Transformer who had ever been built, even beyond the highest standards of Dead End or Drag Strip. And Knock Out himself was very aware of that; every moment of his free time was dedicated to enhancing the perfection of his appearance. Even when he was deadly, he was beautiful.
His alt mode hadn't been a difficult decision either. Most Decepticons were fliers, and took a dim view of those who weren't, but still, Breakdown knew that Dead End, Drag Strip and Wildrider had loved their ground modes as they had loved their team. Their new self had to be a car, the most beautiful and fastest car ever created.
"He's going to need a name."
"Can you please stop looking at him? You asked for beautiful, you got beautiful. But he's going to need a name."
"They already have names."
"He's an entirely different individual, Breakdown, understand that once and for all! His spark may have been created from the remains of your teammates', but he's NOT your teammates! Now, a name."
A memory had came to his mind, a memory of a distant, already destroyed planet… alien for others, but home for himself and his team.
"Knock Out… his name will be Knock Out."
It hadn't been hard to choose. Drag Strip used to say that he was such a knockout, and Breakdown was sure that Dead End had applied that alien term to himself more than once, at least inwardly.
Breakdown passed one rough finger over Knock Out's face. His caress wasn't delicate—it could never be—but the touch brought him back to other times when the physical proximity of his teammates had been the only thing that made his life bearable. Was that why he had honoured Motormaster's last order? Because he couldn't endure being left alone?
"Why are you staring at me?"
"You stare at me, Breakdown! All the fragging time. Did you think that I hadn't noticed?"
"I don't stare at you."
"Pfft, whatever. Now, are you going to stand there the rest of the cycle, or could you make yourself useful and give me that laser scalpel?"
Breakdown could distinguish every kind of laser scalpel and medical tool of Cybertronian manufacture. Over the vorns, he had become a very decent assistant—the best assistant a medic could have, in the words of Knock Out himself.
He knew that many mechs wondered why the slag the most powerful Decepticon warrior was content being the simple assistant of a medic. Even Megatron had raised an optic ridge when Breakdown had informed him about what he wanted to do during every bit of time in which he wasn't slaughtering Autobots. Megatron had barely exchanged a word with him in the past, but he had granted him his desire.
They never talked about it, but Breakdown knew that the Decepticon Commander had valued the Stunticons and lamented their loss. They had been his Gestalt team, after all.
Now that startled him, and there was no need at all to pretend it hadn't happened.
He almost jumped off his chair and approached the berth. Knock Out frowned at the lights above him before turning to stare at Breakdown.
"What… happened?" the medic asked weakly. There it was again, the elegant accent that reminded him of Dead End. Sometimes Breakdown mispronounced words intentionally just to hear Knock Out correct him, like Dead End used to do.
Breakdown didn't repress the smile of relief. There would have been no point; he had always expressed his feelings in front of Dead End, Drag Strip and Wildrider. That hadn't changed, even if they could no longer remember his ancient, scarce smiles.
"So?" Knock Out said again, this time more vigorously. "What happened?"
The Aerialbots made their last stand. We killed them, but they killed us too.
"That Autobot scout hit you with a missile, but you're okay now," he said simply, taking a tray of medical tools from the table beside the berth and placing it on the cabinet behind him. He was relieved all right, but he didn't want Knock Out to realize exactly how much.
"Do you call this okay?"
Breakdown smiled as he carefully placed the tools in their respective spots.
"You are alive, aren't you?"
"My current status can be hardly qualified as alive. And what exactly did you do to my grille, Breakdown?"
"That wasn't me, it was the missile," Breakdown said as he prepared another tray with tools, the kind that would take care of his partner's cosmetic priorities.
"You, the missile, difficult to tell the difference," Knock Out spat. "You could never be a decent physician even if your life depended on it." He disconnected himself from the life-support machine, perfectly aware that his life was not endangered anymore. But even if that had been the case, the medic would have never spent another single astroklik without attending to his finish.
Breakdown put the tray on the table in silence, anticipating Knock Out's desires and giving him every tool he required in the precise moment. That was going to be a long repair session, but he would not only endure it, he'd enjoy it. Knock Out lived, and that was all that mattered.
And there, within his gestures, his actions, the elegant timbre of his voice… there, Dead End, Wildrider and Drag Strip lived.
They would always live.
Hours later, when Breakdown entered his quarters, he didn't go directly to his recharge berth as his tired body was urging him to do. He sat before the computer console instead, opening a small hidden hatch on his right wrist.
The hologram illuminated the darkness of the room with soft blue light. The image flickering before him was only that, a lifeless image, but it had same effect as if he faced the mech himself. The fierce purple optics, the face full of resolution and courage, the hands that had punished as effectively as they had protected, the broad shoulders that had been strong enough to sustain the weight of the universe and more.
Breakdown wondered what Motormaster would say if he could see what Breakdown had become. Would Motormaster be proud of him, finally?
Breakdown's tech specs said that he was stronger than Motormaster had ever been, but he knew those were only details. He could surpass the abilities of his leader, but he would never be better. He could always enhance his strength, his size, even his courage, but he would never equal the one teammate he hadn't managed to save.
"Keep them alive, Breakdown."
And keeping them alive was what he had done, certainly not as Motormaster would have wanted it, but he had done it. Day after day, Dead End, Drag Strip and Wildrider lived, their personalities surfacing in every word, every gesture and every action of the perfect Knock Out. Perhaps because that was his team had always been: perfect. Dysfunctional and insane, but perfect.
He never knew if Motormaster had heard him. It was almost certain that he hadn't, but Breakdown liked to believe that he had… that at the last moment of his life, Motormaster had known Breakdown would do whatever it took to keep their teammates alive.
Breakdown stood up and made the best, most honest military salute he had ever made, hoping that, wherever he was, Motormaster at least would feel satisfied.
I think it's needless to say that I was at the edge of tears whilst writing this story… strange thing, because I barely cry.
Please review if you liked.