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Tangled in Red Tape

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They shouldn't have put his name on it if they didn't want him to steal it.

He'd noticed the report was askew—rare enough in Magnus' office—and then had zeroed in on his name . . . KNOCKOUT, in block letters, right down the scuffed binding.  So why shouldn’t he take it?  It served Ultra Magnus right, leaving it unattended (even if Knock Out did have to sneak into the office in the middle of the night to find it as such). 

He cracked the pages to steal one peek before leaving the office, and immediately turned back to rummage through the rest of the reports.  But there wasn't one for Breakdown.

Back to his quarters, then. He wiped a light furring of dust off the top of the report and cracked it open.

The first pages referred to him as “RED GROUNDER, affiliation unknown.”  There was a grainy photo of him standing in a marketplace, leaning on his staff as his pointed one sharp finger at a stall-keep.  He might have been threatening him or he might have been grilling him on the quality of his energon.  Breakdown stood behind him, arms crossed. 

A few pages later they’d upgraded him to “RED GROUNDER MEDIC, affiliation unknown.”  Not surprising that they'd made the connection.  He’d often bartered his skills for energon, supplies, or safe passage.  And he’d been upgrading Breakdown, too.  Constantly.  But Ultra Magnus had taken less notice of that.  “Reports of enhanced strength in Decepticon BREAKDOWN likely due to exaggeration on the part of Wrecker BULKHEAD and Wrecker SEASPRAY.” 

Several subsections later:  "Medic FIRST AID positively IDed subject as Decepticon medic KNOCKOUT." (And that was the thing about being a close-knit profession, Decepticon or Autobot, they all knew each other.)  "Reason for presence in Synsos system unknown. Consistently in company of Decepticon BREAKDOWN.”

Knock Out arched his optic ridges as he flipped through the Autobot report on the enemy.  Himself.  He was clearly an afterthought compared to Breakdown, an accessory.  Attack "Decepticon BREAKDOWN", get "Decepticon KNOCKOUT" free.  Still, they had compiled information on his weapons, uncovered some of his more unsavory wheeling and dealings, speculated on his origins and motives.

They were very often wrong, of course . . .

A slow smile curled across his cloud-white face.  Knock Out had an idea.


It took almost a week, but finally he was done.  He picked up the report—now bulging with sticky notes and clipped on annotations and corrections. Sometimes he'd just scribbled in the margins. "Actually, dear Commander, we were on our way to Vesof, not Tenalk," he'd put on one page, while on the next he'd written "Ah ah!  My buzzsaw is a class V112-B, not a V112-C.  Don't believe everything you read."  His notes were all excruciatingly accurate and all bitingly sarcastic.

As the coup de grace, he'd corrected every instance of his name from "Knockout" to "Knock Out".  In red ink. 

He snuck into Magnus' office that night and placed the report in the precise center of his desk.  He couldn't help but bite his lip and snicker as he crept out.


Knock Out rose late the next morning.  The first thing he saw, upon entering the med bay, was the report sitting on his desk, perfectly centered, with a sticky note on the front.

To:  KNOCK OUT
From:  ULTRA MAGNUS

Events as noted were based on the most accurate knowledge acquired at the time.

If corrections are to be finalized, please re-type and return in triplicate. Holopaper copies only, for security purposes.

 

Knock Out stared at the note. 

Gave a little snort.

Finally, began digging in his cabinets for that old typewriter.  He wasn't about to lose to Magnus.


 

He typed all day, and that night three thick reports were left on Magnus' desk, all in a stack.

The next morning they were back in the medbay, all in a stack.

 

To:  KNOCK OUT
From:  ULTRA MAGNUS

Your contribution is noted.  However, only A4 grade holopaper is acceptable for official usage, not A5.

If corrections are to be finalized, please re-type and return in triplicate. Holopaper copies only, for security purposes.

 

Knock Out's optics narrowed.  He pulled the typewriter over and began pounding the keys.


"Hey Knock Out, want to play lob-ball?"

"Not now, Bee.  Busy."


To:  KNOCK OUT
From:  ULTRA MAGNUS

Your contribution is noted.  However, footnotes are required on all new data to ensure accuracy.

If corrections are to be finalized, please re-type and return in triplicate. Holopaper copies only, for security purposes.


"Hey Knock Out, Smokescreen got some new car magazines from Earth.  Care to join us in the ogling?"

"No.  Go away."

"Go away?" the scout repeated, looking at the medic hunched over the typewriter.  "What's more important than Cabal business?"

"Open warfare."


To:  KNOCK OUT
From:  ULTRA MAGNUS

Your contribution is noted.  However, margins must be precisely 3 cyber-inches, not 2.8 cyber-inches, as submitted.

If corrections are to be finalized, please re-type and return in triplicate. Holopaper copies only, for security purposes.


"Knock Out, c'mon.  You've been cooped up for days.  Come out for a drive."

"Go away. Working."

"You're always working!  This isn't healthy!  I'm beginning to forget what you look like!"

Knock Out tore a picture of himself out of one of the rejected copies, threw it towards Bumblebee, and continued typing.


To:  KNOCK OUT
From:  ULTRA MAGNUS

Corrected personnel report has been filed. Thank you for your assistance.

 

Knock Out almost cried from happiness.

 

After taking into consideration your skillset and attention to detail, you are hereby assigned to type, update, and maintain further reports as needed—

 

Wait, what?

 

—a role which you will fill in addition to your position as CMO. See me for future assignments.   Good job, soldier.

 

Knock Out sat staring at the memo, but without really seeing it.  He was remembering Ultra Magnus' office, that first day.  Remembering how, in a room where everything was painfully straight, one report in that stack had been crooked.  Just waiting to be noticed.

Just one, pulled out ever so slightly, with a binding that clearly read KNOCKOUT.