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A friend in need is a friend indeed

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Knock Out stared at his map. The battle had cooled down about a cycle ago, and he had been able to stock up. Pedes, tanks, processors, servos- he had one in nearly every size. Besides protoform parts, he had it all.

"Now where are you going now..." It wasn't too hard to follow in the wake of the Decepticon army. They left a trail of bodies wherever they went, sometimes theatrically nailed to walls or impalen on spikes, letting the energon flow unused into the ground. Completely wasteful! That wasn't to say the Autobots were any better, they took their dead from the field as much as they could and then simply scrapped perfectly good parts!

Knock Out squinted and zoomed in on his map. The war had moved through a choke-point in between two completely collapsed city parts, and the Autobots had been retreating to the next battle-worthy location - which could pretty much be anywhere from Kaon to Tarn. Knock Out studied the map intensely. He had to be there during the next battle, even if just to avoid the hassle of cleaning clogged energon from the scavenged parts.
There were only a few defendable positions Knock Out could think of, and he tapped thoughtfully on the map. It could be that ridge, or... Hmm. Maybe they were going to clash there, at the side of the-

A knocking at his shuttle door had him jumping out of his dermal plating, and he had his servos on his energy prod before he even realised he had grabbed for it. The knocking sounded again, but there was no sound of genuine violence to his shuttle door. Decepticons usually didn't extend that courtesy. Hesitantly, Knock Out stepped over to the door controls and opened it.

"Please! Don't shoot- we have wounded, wounded civilians, we need a Medic... W-we can pay!" The most pathetic group of bots stood swaying on the ramp of his ship, two civilian bots and a single heavily singed Autobot. A pathetic looking femme was holding onto the prototype of what was probably her son, and the Autobot soldier held a servo to a wound in his side. They had a thin trail of energon following in their wake, and their optics were dull with lack of power. Knock Out hesitated.

"Yees-... yes. I am a medic. Come in." He stepped aside to let them stumble in, and mentally berated himself. He should have hidden his shuttle better- if the Decepticons had found him he probably would have been one with the allspark by now! The femme carefully laid her sparkling on the medical berth and Knock Out leaned over it with an uninterested hum.

The small thing had a case of fluid-malnutrition and processor shock. Easy enough to fix. He had plenty of spare fluids, he siphoned them from every fresh corpse he could find -or from living mech's that were destined to become corpses anyway. Those resulted in the best materials.

"Alright, just some fluid malnutrition. He'll be fixed in no time, as will you." He gestured to the Autobot. "Do not go into my supply storage. I'll go grab you something to top off your systems." They looked so thankful that it made his dermal plating crawl, and he quickly shot into his supply room to grab his cheapest selection of lubricants, transfluids and energon. The bots were sitting against the wall of his medical room when he got back, their frames relaxed and slack. Oh, they thought themselves sooo safe. If they weren't Tower-brats, Knock Out would eat his finish. Knock Out smiled and handed them the fluids.

"Sorry they're not top notch. It's a bit difficult to find the right quality in these times. You three had me startled, I thought the Decepticons had found me! What are you doing so far into the war zone?"

The femme civilian flinched, and pulled her son closer to her frame. "We... My Conjux promised he would come back to our apartment, so when the Autobot started evacuating we opted to stay at home and wait just a bit longer... I didn't think the war could catch up so fast! We hid in the basement of the apartment building and Boltwrench found us there when he was hiding from the Decepticons."

"Wasn't hiding." Boltwrench said defensively. "Tactical retreat."

The femme didn't react. "He helped us to find a better place to hide, but I had to wait just a few moments longer.... my Conjux-...." She looked away.

Knock Out smiled wryly, and hoped that it came across as a sympathetic grimace. What a sentimental moron. "Must've been stressful."

"It was horrible... Little Mash wasn't responding to anything, he looked like he had crashed- and I could hear the fighting, and I was so afraid" She trailed off, and the Autobot, Boltwrench, rested a heavy servo on her shoulder. Knock Out suppressed a roll of his optics, and forced a smile.

"Well, your moments of peril are over. You will all be tip top in no time! I topped off your oils and fluids and all that, but you'll have to find some more on your own. Supplies are scarce, and their price is rising."

His patients reacted immediately, and Knock Out's smile turned real when the femme handed him a handful of credit chips. For the meagre supplies it was almost an unfair amount, but that was just the way Knock Out liked it. He had to be a millionaire by now with all the credits he got for his services! It was a good thing too that these mecha were too busy with the trauma of war to ask about the origin of the parts.

Some bots just wouldn't accept a tank if they knew it was from an unregistered donor. Knock Out would never understand those kind of morals, or as he liked to call them 'Impracticalities'. A new tank was a new tank- no matter how it got into the medbay-supplyroom!

"Doctor, why are you in the warzone? I thought all medics were already taken by the war, or off planet..."

Knock Out smiled amiably. "I'm the odd one out, I'm sorry to say. I'm staying behind the Decepticon lines to find anyone that might have survived. I honestly can't stand the idea of innocent sparks withering away in the remnants of a battlefield. I try to do my part." Knock Out was pretty sure that Primus was rolling in his grave at the sugary sweet lies he was spouting.

The femme gave him a warm smile that dripped with gratitude and wonder, and Knock Out flashed her a smile in return. "Doctor Knock Out, you are amazing. I wish I'd be able to say that I would do the same, but I wouldn't be able to. The battlefield is such a horrid place!" She shuddered, and rubber the armour on her upper arms. "Even if it was to save others-... I think I would lose my processor in all that destruction."

The Autobot soldier kept quiet, but he sent a tired smile Knock Out's way, raising his cube in a small toast. Knock Out was slowly reaching his limits of never-ending-gratitude, and quite honestly it was bothering him that nobody had complemented his paintjob yet. It was really quite hard to keep it so polished during a war, and it deserved to be noted! Some of the soldiers he scavenged had this annoying habit of trying to fight him off as he was working to siphon their energon, and it was nearly impossible to find a supply of GOOD paint.
"Well, I do what I can." He drawled, and he shrugged. The femme was still smiling at him, and her prototype gurgled obnoxiously.

Knock Out wanted them all out of his shuttle as soon as possible. "I try to keep as many sparks alive as I can. It's the least I can do." Well, he kind of lived by that philosophy, when it paid. Paid in thick thick wads of credits and owed favours.

The Autobot was the one that saved Knock Out his ' I gotta kick you out now' speech.

"Thank you doc, but we can't hang around for much longer. Need to rejoin the Autobot troops and bring these two to safety, yanno?."

"Oh yes," Knock Out said quickly. "My line of work keeps me terribly close to danger. It would be best if I dropped you off at a safe point." There was a decent spot nearby, and Knock Out was one hundred percent ready to dump his patients. As nice as it was to be admired and gushed over, his operation would suffer if they stuck around too long. He hated to think of all the good parts rusting away on the battlefield. "I will drop you off near the leftmost ridge of the platform tomorrow- it should provide some good cover for returning to the Autobots." They agreed, and Knock Out got out the fold up berth for the femme and her son, the soldier taking place on the medical berth. As they each said their goodnights - the little prototype almost blowing out his audials - Knock Out was increasingly looking forward to dumping them. It was obnoxious to keep up his goody-goody-I-have-morals-act for longer than a day.

He retreated to his own little recharge station at the back of the shuttle, and cycled into recharge.

--

Knock Out was shaken from his recharge in the middle of the night, and he sat up on his berth. The ship was silent, and there was no sign of a sound that could have woken him, but Knock Out knew better than to depend on faith. He quickly jumped off his berth and quietly walked into the main room of his ship. The femme stood next to the berth of her son, and both bots were wide awake. They were deadly quiet and Knock Out strained to hear any sign of a Decepticon attack. There was nothing, not even the sound of their vents. He looked at the femme. "Did you hear anything?"

The femme shook her head, but her servos were clenched to fists and her optics shone bright. Her son was motionless and silent and Knock Out felt his plating crawl. Something was off. He stalked past the medical berth, and his optics fell on the door to his storage. It was wide open, and the berth that had held the Autobot was empty.

"Where is-?"

There was a sharp scrape of metal on metal behind his back, and a moment later a hot blaster was pressed firmly against his helm. Knock Out had his hands in the air in a klik, his entire frame frozen in place. "Don't move, Doctor ." The voice was gruff and nearly unrecognisable with static. Knock Out dared to turn his head only the slightest bit, and spotted the Autobot soldier aiming the barrel of his blaster at his temple.

"W-what is this about? Not happy with your treatment? Please put that thing away- we're all friends here..." His voice was wavering, and he inched his helm away from the barrel. His energy prod seemed lightyears away, leaning casually against the doorpost of his personal room. Stupid stupid stupid, always keep a hold on your weapon, always keep it close!

The femme was standing in front of her son, her entire frame quivering and a startlingly recognizable box standing at her pedes."Friends?!" The femme's tone held a spite that he had never expected from her voicebox, her smooth voice sounding raspy with interference. "You're a corpse-cutter." She tipped the box over and a coiled mess of glistening tubes slipped onto the floor. Spare lubricant-lines, spare fuel-lines, extra wiring, all still covered in the dried energon of their previous owners. Knock Out's mouth ran dry, and his optics flickered to his energy prod before he could stop himself.

"Oh- No you have it all wrong!" His processor was running at topmost efficiency to create a convincing lie, something that would get that blaster away from his face. "Oh- wh-! I bought those! From this vendor at a neutral settlement, I couldn't possibly have known-" The blaster was knocked roughly against his helm and a servo grabbed him by the helm, forcing him to his knees.

The Autobot was long done with being friendly, and he jabbed the blaster firmly against Knock Out's head. "Don't play cute with me, you fragging knew. Nobody fabricates this quality wiring any more. You scavenged them!" Knock Out's vents cycled air quickly and shallowly. He needed more time.

"No- you're wrong. I- the tubes, the wires-all garbage. I was going to throw them out as soon as possible!" The femme stepped over the spilled wiring, and held out a shaking arm. In her servo she held a neatly severed and cleaned limb. Ready for reattachment, and still showing a 'Decepticons forever' decal at the wrist.

"You're... you're supposed to be a doctor! You're supposed to help, to heal! How could you-?" She seemed lost for words, and threw the limb down. It landed in the spilled wiring with a squelch. Knock Out scowled, still trying to carefully move his head away from the barrel pressing against his temple.

"What else am I supposed to do?! I am not a soldier, and Medics are only useful as long as they're able keep bots tip top in shape. You might note that this is impossible to do if you don't have supplies! This is a war, not an esthetics clinic, and I'm surviving!" The soldier holding his head tightened his grip and Knock Out felt his plating dent. He winced.

"You spineless son of a glitch!" The soldier growled. "I'd like to see your frame in little bits all over the floor! Do you wanna see that?!" The protoform on the berth finally burst out crying, and the femme turned to her son.

"Oh, no sweety... It's okay sweetspark, we're safe...Don't cry, we're safe." The femme pulled her son into an embrace and the unstable little youngling curled into her touch like it wanted to merge with her. The soldier turned to watch.

Knock Out felt the grip of his captor slackening at the sad little display, and he took his chance. He jerked his head free. The blaster went off and he felt the shot searing past his cheek. He twisted, his servo turning into his drill, and dug the equipment straight into the Autobot's abdomen. The mech screamed and his balled servo slammed into Knock Out's head, knocking him backwards and dislodging his drill. Knock Out fell against the medical berth and tumbled to the floor, the messy wiring and slick tubes cushioning his fall with a sickly squelch. The femme screamed and the young mech's crying had turned hysterical.

The energy prod, he had to get to his energy prod! Knock Out scrambled to his feet and dove for his weapon, the whining charge of a blaster sounding behind him.

"Foul Decepticon murderer!" Knock Out got behind the medical bersth just in time, a searing shot pinging off the metal. The Autobot was venting heavily, and Knock Out could hear energon splattering to the ground. That meant he had hit a main fuel line, maybe even the tank. The Autobot was a dead mech walking. Knock Out activated his prod, and waited behind his cover. A few more shots grazed the medical berth, and Knock Out curled up behind the safe metal. He could hear the Autobot fall to his knees, and the femme rushing forward.

"No! Boltwrench!" The soldier's voicebox was shorting out, and the rush of spilling energon was starting to slow. Knock Out carefully looked out from over the medical berth, and held his energy prod at the ready.

The Autobot was nearing the last kliks of his life. In a moment of desperation and insane luck Knock Out had managed to hit both the mech's tank and his a fuel line with his drill. A hit of one in a million. He got up from behind his shield and chuckled. He refused to acknowledge the trembling in his hands.

"Looks like you ran out of luck and energon at the same time- what a pity!" The soldier's optics were darkening, and his systems were offlining one by one even as he tried to steep his wound. The femme started shaking when Knock Out approached, and she dove for the table with medical tools, grabbing a thin drill from the plate. Her son sat screaming and crying against the side of the ship, his servos clenched around the wound Knock Out had welded shut just one cycle earlier. The femme brandished the small tool at him, flaring her civilian plating and showing her blunt dentae.

"S-stay away from us, or I swear I'll drill your optics out!"

"None can do, Autobot. I don't take well to being threatened." Knock Out replied. He jabbed the energy prod into her and she convulsed, her chosen weapon clattering to the ground with her following right after. The young mech was at the ship's locked doors, pounding his servos against the unrelenting metal. Knock Out sighed and checked his chronometer. The sun would come up soon, and with it would come new patients. He took a good look around his med-room. The Autobot had left a thick pool of energon all over the floor, the femme was leaking foamed lubricant from her mouth, and there were scorchmarks on his medical berth. Not to mention the pathetically crying prototype losing the contents of its waste tanks right by the door. Knock Out just observed the carnage for a momet, and wished he had had the insight to buy some high grade at the previous station. He looked at the crying prototype, and brought out his saw.

There weren't a lot of prototypes to scavenge anymore, let alone alive protoframes. He'd have to remove the spark manually, and maybe he'd find a buyer for a good-as-new protoframe. He dragged the crying youngling over to the medical berth and strapped it in. Barely three in the morning and he was already cleaning energon off the walls, but he was alive. He had more parts that could buy his way out of Decepticon imprisonment, and he had survived another day.

One of many days to come, if it was up to him!

EINDE