Verse: Post 2007 Movie, AU
Rating: Mature for later chapters
Pairings: Jazz/Maggie Madsen, Ironhide/Sarah Lennox/Will Lennox, Prime/Ratchet, Bumblebee/Sam, Barricade/Mikaela
Summary: What is love? Is it an instinct? An emotion? Or an ability that can transcend species? After eons of conflict, the war-weary Autobots have a new home, a new life, and a chance for something more. And for a single Decepticon, a chance for salvation.
Warnings: Mech/human sexual situations and mech slash in later chapters.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, Hasbro has it all.
( Prologue )( Chapter One )( Chapter Two )( Chapter Three )( Chapter Four )( Chapter Five )( Chapter Six )( Chapter Seven )( Chapter Eight )( Chapter Nine )( Chapter Ten )( Chapter Eleven )( Chapter Twelve )
* ~*~*~*~*~ denotes break within a scene.
*:: denotes comms.
It was not the best plan he ever came up with, but overall it was working. The only possible way it could be improved was with anyone other than the human he had chosen.
He envied Blackout for a brief moment. Barricade needed his human to survive; Blackout only needed them for amusement.
It was Starscream who had finally put a stop to the taking of humans, too afraid of drawing attention to their presence. Before that, the enormous mech had kept several of them, amusing himself during the long hours of boredom waiting for word from Starscream to mobilize.
Barricade had observed him playing with his toys. The mech was huge and careless and the humans, tiny and fragile. They never lasted long.
Amateur, Barricade thought. There was an art to keeping prey alive for long lengths of time, and these humans were more useful as tools than toys.
They were also annoying, and a lot of work.
He watched the young female approach the machine, taking slow steps and quick glances around. He had already scanned the area and hacked the simple machine. The money was there and waiting.
Primus’s aft, did she want someone to take notice? Her posture practically begged for attention.
Barricade growled to himself. This one listened to nothing and no one. Why it hadn’t been strangled in its baby clothes was beyond his logic circuits to fathom. One of his cables extended slowly, quivering at the very thought. The female tested the very limits of his patience at times.
He had only himself to blame in the end. His scanners had failed to detect the human’s obvious instability and no wonder, its brain was constantly bathed in some bizarre hormone soup.
“Amethyst, continue.” Barricade’s engine rumbled a warning.
The teen finally made it all the way to the machine’s interface panel, snatched up the cash, and hurried back to the Saleen. “I told you, my name isn’t Amethyst. It’s Moonstone.”
Barricade muffled his snort behind an engine cough, his cable twitching once then retracting; better not tempt himself. If he hadn’t been so desperately in need...
“You specified ‘Amethyst’ last week, female.”
The slight teen plopped gracelessly into the seat and rolled her eyes. “That was last week. This week my name is ‘Moonstone’.” Her eyes narrowed at the dash. “I order you to comply.”
Dead silence greeted her statement. The girl whined.
“Why can’t you ever answer with, “Yes, Greatness’ or ‘Yes, Oh Divine Goddess’ or ‘I hear and obey, Exalted One’? What’s the use of my own talking car if I don’t get to have any fun with it? Stupid programming.”
Barricade huffed impatiently. It always started that whining sound when its fuel levels were low.
“I will take you to get food, then you will service this vehicle. Acknowledge.” The AI tone he mimicked was bland.
The teen scuffed a worn sandal along the car mat.
“Acknowledge.” The word repeated, tone still bland as a drone, but Barricade’s engine gave an ominous growl.
“Acnowledged, Master,” the girl muttered, and curled up on the seat to sulk. “I never get to have any fun.”
The Saleen’s engine revved, covering his laugh, and Barricade headed to one of the many food buildings that crowded the area, in a good humor once more.
He was still too amused that the female was so easily duped. Your name is ‘Master’? Ok, nice to meet you, Master. My name is…
Cassie, just plain Cassie with a skinny frame and plain brown hair and not even her green eyes were notable. But, it was young, a runaway from home, and hungry. And it could learn.
The Saleen exited the drivethrough and parked in the darkest area of the lot, scanning the surroundings while the human nourished itself.
“Cool. I made a milkcarton.” The female frowned, studying the small container. “’Brown hair, green eyes.’ Why can’t they say I have ‘flowing chestnut curls and emerald green eyes’?”
“Because then it would be a lie?” Barricade responded smoothly in AI voice, his engine huffing malicious humor.
“You’re mean.” The female pouted, dug into the bag of food and poked salted, starchy sticks into her mouth.
“Someday,” ‘Moonstone’ waved her handful of french-fries around, “someday I’ll be rich and famous and beautiful, I’ll go back home, and everyone will be my friend and do everything I tell them too.”
Barricade was pretty sure the female was living in an alternate reality. Or maybe the Disney Channel. Granted, the Decepticon didn’t have much to compare this human with, but clearly this one wasn’t functioning with a full set of processors.
The young female prattled on with her grandiose fantasies and fairy tale dreams until most of her food was finished. She was just starting on a bar of some dark sweet and her ‘I’ll live in a castle and be like a princess!’ monologue, when he cut her off with a dry engine cough and a faintly sneering AI voice.
“You may service me now… Moonbeam. Acknowledge.”
“… Oh, I forgot. Sorry, Master. I mean, Acknowledged, Master.”
Barricade smirked, engine purring. It really was the little things that brought the most joy.
Regardless of her delusions, he planned to keep this simple little princess for a long time to come. She was useful for fueling him and the small frame was remarkably good at keeping him warm. In return he kept her fed, and let her spend a little of the money buying trinkets and baubles and that suited Barricade perfectly. All the better to gild her metal cage. With a little more training up, she would be ideal.
The girl was wiping her hands when she stopped and beamed at the dash. “You said ‘Moonbeam!’ I love that name! I’m keeping it forever!”
… Mostly ideal. Smelters, but she was slow on the uptake. At least she knew how to operate a pump.
The door locks snapped shut. A seatbelt slid out and tightened around the thin frame.
The Saleen rolled out onto the road in search of fuel.
“There’s all kinds of ways, really. Standing, sitting, lying down, front to back, face to face.”
Maggie’s hand slipped from her explorations of a large finial down to the plating of his face. Jazz tilted his helm. “And where d’ya like it?”
“Anywhere. Everywhere.” Her hand palmed the warm metal of his face, fingers tracing tiny seams and crevices.
Jazz turned his head until her fingers were touching his mouthplates. “Wanna try?”
“Oh, umm.” Maggie blushed and lowered her eyes, but the wine had done its job. A coy little smile tugged at her lips. “Yeah, why not? I’ve come this far.”
“This far” was Maggie shedding most of her clothes down to tiny scraps of pink lace that clung lovingly to her curves.
“This far” was also a thong that left so little to the imagination, Jazz was torn between scolding her gently for throwing off his scans and utter delight at her boldness.
He was also going to disavow any and all knowledge of the heat being turned up in his quarters.
Maggie drained her wine and raised the glass. “More?”
There was a lot to be said for a glass or two of a nice red, Maggie decided. The lights were dim, the wine was sweet liquid courage, and Jazz’s presence had somehow condensed down from 15 feet and two tons of giant metal alien robot to a deep smooth chocolate-dipped voice somewhere over her head.
The glass was plucked from her fingers. “You,” the chocolate-covered voice told her, “are gonna sleep right through the show t’night.”
Definitely deep dark chocolate seduction, and instead of scolding her about falling asleep during a meteor shower, that chocolaty velvet voice should be licking her like a lollipop.
The large fingers nudging her to lie down didn’t raise more than an eyebrow. Maggie obliged, a little devil of mischief gleaming in her eyes. She stretched onto her belly, blonde hair in a tangle over her shoulders, all long smooth limbs and a pert ass framed with a slender pink thong string.
“Very.” Her hips rolled a luxurious wiggle into the memory foam padding.
Jazz chuckled and leaned down, olfactory sensors sorting and cataloguing. He inhaled the scents layered around her, a floral perfume with citrusy notes, fragrant shampoo and lotion-smoothed skin, wine sweet breath and underneath it all the deeper scent of pheromones, rich and heady.
The AI pinged complaints of scans fritzing and skewed observations and opportunity lost. Jazz waved it off.
Record it anyway. Add the data to established baseline for pressure gradients and galvanic skin responses. Mark any outliers as possible aberrations, but keep everything.
Fields were out but there was still a wealth of data to be collected, and with this opportunity laid out so invitingly on his berth, he couldn’t call himself a liaison if this evening was a complete waste of time.
Watch and learn.
His helm bent.
Maggie stilled at the touches that weren’t large metal fingers or an even larger hand. These were warmer, softer, flexible. They traced over her shoulders and back, moving down by slow degrees. She shivered when they plucked at the string of her thong. They felt like -
She drew in a quick breath.
Jazz smiled, mouthplates trailing a path over softly rounded twin curves, lingering and touching and tasting.
“You know,” Maggie was having a hard time not wiggling, and an equally hard time not purring out loud, “when you said you wanted to try kissing? This isn’t exactly what sprang to mind.”
“I’m bettin’ that’s not a complaint,” Jazz drawled. Not in the slightest, with that biofield a bright haze around her and those pheromones loading the air.
Maggie could thank all the wine for what happened next.
Her hips lifted in a shameless twitch up.
Jazz’s mouthplates planted a little more firmly and continued delicately exploring.
Maggie blushed and buried her head in her arms. A sound somewhere between a muffled giggle and a low moan emerged.
Jazz’s vocals weren’t muffled at all. They were embedded in a deep satisfied purr and a very masculine chuckle.
‘Morale Officer” was never really an official position. That didn’t stop Jazz from claiming it, and right now he was deeply concerned at how fast and far the two had fallen.
He blamed himself for not noticing sooner but in reality all the blame could be laid squarely at Prime’s feet. With a lot of help from Ratchet.
Prime and Ratchet. The two of them separately could cause enough turmoil to send an entire army into a state of panic. Together, they were an unholy chaos.
“I don’t get it, ‘Hide.” Jazz spoke in hushed tones, cradling a very drowsy Maggie against his armor. “I thought Ratchet had things under better control than this.”
Ironhide shifted position as another meteorite appeared in the sky, scanners tracking its progress.
“Got you,” he muttered. “That makes three,” he told the smaller mech, tones equally low, optics pinned on the flare of brightness overhead.
“Noted,” Jazz replied absently. The brightness wavered in its course, appeared to slow, then dropped out of the sky to vanish into the darkness of the foothills.
Ironhide gave a satisfied grunt, turning to give Jazz a look that was both wise and weary. “You didn’t know they were this close?”
Jazz had to admit he didn’t. “Been a little busy lately.”
He looked down at the femme he was holding, oblivious to the bright display taking place in the sky above her.
He touched her hair gently with a fingerpad. Maggie was a soft, warm bit of weight in his arms, and so small, yet every one of his processors felt filled up by her, pushing out every other thought and concern.
Ironhide’s huff was quietly amused. “Yes, I can see that. But still.” An alert pinged on his scanners. Ironhide’s gaze returned to the stars. “Ratchet’s been roaring like a charging gestalt. Listen to his intakes the next time you’re in the MedBay. Scan his spark. You’ll know how close he is then.”
“That’s personal info, mech. If he wanted us ta know-“
“That is intel, Jazz. Since when are you not all over that?”
When, indeed. “Hmm. How about Prime?”
Ironhide grumbled. “False alarm. A lot of metal in that one.” His helm tilted, optics narrowing, scanners searching the expanse of sky. “Prime. He’s a whole different problem. He’s stressed and irritable, but doubtful he’s aware of anything beyond that.”
“Ratchet won’t tell him?”
Ironhide vented a rough snort. “It’ll be a cold day in the Pit when Ratchet tells him anything. He’s convinced himself that Prime needs to make the decision. One of these vorns, he might just wake up and realize he can make one, too.”
Jazz hummed thoughtfully, letting his field curl around Maggie. None of this was new, but Jazz had hoped that a new home and a fresh start would shake things up and let the two mechs finally reach an agreement. Or at least an understanding they could both live with.
Tendrils of bright blue energy drifted in aimless whirls until they found their target and arrowed in, each contact sending them further and deeper into the white biofield. Maggie never woke, only shivered, nudging sleepily against his armor and snugging up closer, just over his spark.
“Recommendations? Suggestions? Or just ding the bell and let’em come out swingin’?”
Ironhide’s mouthplates twitched. “That fight would turn into fragging faster than you could transform, Jazz, but it still wouldn’t solve their problem. More distractions might help.”
Another ping to his scanners; the sky lit up with several glowing trails. One came in behind the rest, fast moving, lower in the sky. Ironhide’s optics pinned and tracked the newcomer.
“The training course is done. Ratchet has equipment nearly ready for the humans to test. No doubt the governing body Prime is dealing with will come up with some new objection as to why the 5,000th compromise we’ve offered isn’t good enough. We have 3 drones that need a systems check so they don’t dig their way through the planet’s core and out the other side. Two are wandering around lost somewhere. Start with all that and go from there.”
“Just might work. I’ll try ta keep a closer optic on them from here on.”
More pings hit their sensor grids almost in unison. Jazz whistle-clicked and dropped his vocalizer into subsonic tones. “This bunch is comin’ in low and fast. The other drones have been close ta zone, ‘Hide. Drop the next one in the ocean and a few more in random spots ta throw off any trackers.”
An hour came and went as drones were guided to distant landings, the mechs coordinating their movements and flagging locations, rumbling in low Cybertronian, tones so deep they barely registered on human audials.
The hums and clicks and whirrs and occasional deep purrs set up vibrations through armor. Maggie stretched, then squirmed pleasantly, humming appreciation. Jazz chuckled and sent another rolling purr to tease and tweak at the sleepy femme.
Another satisfied grunt as Ironhide watched a meteorite change course, drop out of the sky and disappear. “Make that 7 drones down and needing a systems check. They’re headed for the target zone--”
Ironhide broke off, helm swiveling, his gaze fixing on the house sitting dark and silent. A light switched on in an upstairs room, followed by another downstairs. The door opened and a small figure stepped out.
“There is also the not so small matter of Barricade,” Ironhide continued quietly, watching Sarah as she approached. “He’s still out there, and he’s leaving a trail of injured humans behind him.”
He pinged a warning and Jazz switched to comms. ::Might not have been him. None of those humans had a mark on ‘em, except for the last one.::
::I got close enough to that last human. It was Barricade. His smell was all over her. He’s too smart to leave a signal trail we can pick up. The only way he’s going to get caught is to throw out a net and catch him.::
Ironhide rumbled a greeting to the small femme as she joined them. “Can’t sleep?”
Sarah shook her head. “I keep worrying about Will.” She smiled up at Jazz and stared openly at Maggie who continued blissfully sound asleep, curled up against Jazz’s chest armor. “Did I miss the shower?”
“We have several hours before dawn. Should be able to spot a few more before then.”
Ironhide held out his hand, laying it flat in front of her. There was enough hesitation for Jazz to realize Ironhide was trying something new.
Almost a minute went by as the femme regarded the metal hand, then looked to Maggie, comfortably tucked up in his arms, then back at that huge grey hand before deciding to step into it.
Sarah settled, a little stiff, slightly awkward, but she was there and resting in the broad palm of her Guardian.
::He hasn’t harmed any of those humans, ‘Hide, just knocked ‘em out.::
::He doesn’t want to raise suspicion. You think he would leave any humans alive if given the choice?::
Ironhide lifted Sarah up, chest high and close to his spark. She reached for his plating to steady herself, gaze fixed on the heavens as more bright streaks lit up the sky.
::The plan is ta capture him.::
::We capture him, then we kill him. That’s my plan.::
The low growl of Ironhide’s engine was warning enough of the Guardian’s displeasure.
Sarah seemed not to notice, hugging her knees and looking up at the stars, the thin material of her nightgown pooled around her feet.
::Prime wants Barricade alive, Ironhide, he’s goin’ ta offer him amnesty.::
::Amnesty.:: Ironhide snorted. ::Barricade is a rabid turbofox. You don’t hold your hand out and expect it not to bite.::
The slight form stirred in his hand, stifling a yawn. Ironhide glanced down.
“You should sleep, Sarah” he rumbled to his charge. “I can take you back to the house. Your young one will be up early, and you have a full day tomorrow.”
“The walls were closing in, Ironhide, I don’t want to go back yet.”
“Then rest here, femme. I will listen for Annabelle.”
Sarah nodded, leaning against a large metal thumb, her eyes beginning the slow blink towards sleep. “He’s alright, isn’t he?” she asked softly.
“The Captain is fine. I monitor him continuously.”
His other hand curled around her, sheltering against the cool night air.
Jazz watched with some envy as Ironhide’s field hovered for an instant, then wrapped tightly around the human, sinking deep into Sarah’s biofield. His own field still took much too long. The Guardian made his appear effortless.
Ironhide’s hum was a steady croon, harmonies rose and fell in soothing rhythms, a lullaby for his small and troubled charge. His hand was gentle on her, and warm. Sarah was asleep within moments.
::Amnesty or no, if Barricade makes a move towards my charges, there won’t be enough left of him to salvage.::
::Metal’s always worth salvaging, my mech.::
A shiver ran through his circuits as the coldest optics Jazz had ever seen lifted to his.
::Not if it’s vaporized, Jazz.::
Jazz’s gaze dropped from those icy optics to the femme now sleeping in Ironhide’s hold, dwarfed by the huge grey hands that held and protected her. He lowered his helm in a respectful nod. ::Guardian.::
And having seen firsthand the carnage a vengeful Guardian could wreak, he wisely let the matter drop.
Cybertron – Distant Past
He paced down the large open street, nodding to a familiar mech here, a brief smile for a friend over there, and seemingly oblivious to the others who stopped and bowed low and murmured greetings.
The Prime was passing by.
Not just any Prime. This was a Prime who was young and powerful. A Prime who fought battles and won. A Prime who would restore order and peace and bring the rebels and malcontents to swift justice. Energon would flow through the streets and a new Golden Age would dawn for Cybertron.
A few bolder mecha pressed closer, calling out well wishes and casting covetous glances at the tall imposing figure. This was also a Prime who lacked a berthmate, and rumor had it he was open to a young and vigorous mech to fill that lack. A life of ease and pampered luxury awaited the one fortunate enough to catch the Prime’s optic.
The Prime continued on his way, trying not to roll his optics as he went. Optimus Prime was having a hard time ignoring the rumor mill these days.
A large warrior class mech followed the Prime in his walk, remaining the strict half step behind that protocol demanded. That didn’t stop him from snorting indecorously through large nasal plates. Warm air puffed out in a cloud around his helm.
“They’re out in force today, aren’t they.”
Optimus muffled a sigh and kept on walking. “If I ignore them, do you think they’ll just go away?”
“Hasn’t worked yet.”
The warrior pointedly stared at a mech attempting to maneuver into the Prime’s path, then casually shook out one large plasma cannon and let it charge with an ominous whine.
The mech blanched and hurriedly moved back. The warrior gave him an evil smirk as they passed, and the Prime tried desperately to keep his mouthplates straight.
“Remind me to raise your pay, Ironhide,” Prime murmured to his bodyguard.
Ironhide chuckled and retracted his cannon, patting it fondly. “The pleasure is all mine, Optimus.”
The past was not simply going to fade away as Ratchet had hoped. The past had been left hanging, and that loose end needed tying up. That was all it was, the medic was convinced, only half listening to the voices around him, drifting on a pleasant haze of highgrade and a single deep voice that set his audials buzzing and stroked his plating and rumbled right into his core.
He didn’t need predictive algorithms to know it was coming. He could see it in Prime’s optics, felt it in his own spark. This final dangling thread of their past tugged at them both. It needed to be done and finished and properly closed, then the Prime could move on and choose a berthmate, someone suitable, someone proper.
Someone not him.
Laughter erupted in the room. Ratchet joined in, a little late, looking up to see Prime’s gaze on him, intent, compelling. ::May we talk later?::
Tonight. It would be tonight. Then the past would finally be the past.
Ratchet nodded and reached for another highgrade with fingers that trembled slightly.
They might have been the only two mechs on Cybertron for all the activity around them. Prime walked the medic to his quarters through silent and deserted halls, stopping just short of entering as Ratchet turned to him, helm tilted, listening to the Matrix.
“It’s quieter, that’s a good sign.” The medic glanced away at the sound of lone footfalls to see Jazz at the end of the cross hallway, headed for his quarters. ‘You think he and Ironhide..?”
Prime gave an amused hum. “Possibly. Ironhide’s always worked up after a sparring session and some good highgrade.”
“While you are getting some much needed relief. The Matrix has settled considerably, Optimus, so why not take it a step further? The High Council won’t wait forever.” Ratchet placed a hand on the large chestplates. “You could do far worse than choose Ironhide. He cares nothing for power or position.”
“I’m not ready to choose anyone, I’ve told them that.” Prime’s hand covered Ratchet’s. “But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it.”
The medic’s hand on him was warm, and Prime felt a burn inside that wasn’t the Matrix. A finger lifted Ratchet’s chin until he could look into highgrade brightened optics.
“I never forgot that kiss you gave me,” Prime murmured. “My turn now, I think.”
Ratchet stroked a finger along the edge of the chest seam. “Is this the high grade talking or unfinished business?”
“Maybe a little of both,” Prime admitted.
“Those are terrible reasons.” Ratchet moved closer, a wry set to his mouthplates. “And this is a terrible idea, Optimus.”
“Probably. Stop me anytime.” Optimus smiled, and lowered his helm.
Ratchet didn’t even have time to snort before Prime’s lips met his, and whatever reason he had left vanished in a haze of heat and tangling fields and Prime’s mouth moving on his.
Unfinished business be fragged, Optimus was done calling himself a liar. Fingers were curling into his backplates, a warm frame was pressing urgently against him and the burn in Prime’s chest was now a blaze. He threw the last of caution to the winds of Cybertron and let his field flare out and engulf the friend in his arms who was now a lover, his lover.
Ratchet’s fingers dug into large armored backplates. Optimus pulled him into a hard embrace and harder kiss that sent waves of liquid heat swamping Ratchet’s core.
They hit resonance with a force that made them both shudder and groan. Fields merged and sank in deep, hot and writhing, driving them on, making them wild.
Prime’s grip tightened, his growl vibrated right up the medic’s backstruts. Ratchet moaned with it, processors staggering under the double onslaught of high grade and lust.
Another moment and Prime would have taken him, on the floor, against the wall, it hardly mattered.
A vocalizer cleared itself noisily. They froze.
Ratchet’s helm landed against his chestplates with a soft thunk. Prime muttered an oath.
He eased away from the medic and turned to find Ironhide standing in the hallway with his arms folded over his chest, giving them his best, “What the frag do you think you’re doing” look. Behind him, the door to the medic’s quarters opened with a soft hiss. The warm presence at his back vanished.
Prime sighed, frustrated, and began the long walk to his own quarters. “Don’t start. I already know the book of rules, Ironhide. Chapter and verse.”
Ironhide snorted and shook his helm, falling in beside him.
“Just be glad it was me who came along, instead of someone who can’t keep their vocalizer locked down. If you insist on making your berthmates public, at least pick someone who can defend themselves in a fight. A frontliner, maybe. Shards, pick me or Jazz. We stand a better chance of surviving assassination attempts than Ratchet. I give him a decacycle or two at most before a ‘Con off-lines him.”
“I’m not making anything public.”
“Right. And you weren’t about to frag him right there in the hallway either. Primus Below, you were only two steps from his quarters. How much did you have to drink?”
“I wasn’t overcharged. Ratchet - Ratchet probably was,” Prime conceded. “We were talking, I was remembering… probably more than I should. Sometimes old history dies hard.”
Ironhide raised an optic ridge, his look appraising. “Sometimes you need to leave the past in the past, Optimus. The ‘Cons will be gunning for anyone who’s important to you. If you care about Ratchet, don’t turn him into a target.”
Ironhide left him then, and Prime drained two cubes of highgrade that would never get him overcharged and sat in his own quarters, alone.
He’d been alone before, but not like this. Not for vorns had he been like this. Not since Ratchet.
But Orion was now Optimus, and Ratchet wasn’t called away to vanish into another city. He was just 3 hallways over, the last door on the right. Prime wasn’t sure if that made things better or worse, or even what the fallout of this night might be. He wanted the medic in his berth, but between the High Council and the Decepticons, the cost they were likely to pay was high.
Prime pinched his nasalplate and reached for another cube. Recharge wasn’t likely to come soon. His spark throbbed, his systems still churned with the burn and ache of frustrated passion, but the Matrix remained a calm and steady presence, and for that Optimus was utterly thankful.
How, how had they reached this point? Step by slow steady step, the not so gentle voice of reason was fond of pointing out.
Optimus sat in his office, pinching at nasalplating and schooling his tones to infinitely patient instead of the full-throated growl he was contemplating.
“General, I assure you…”--for the 150th time-- “the Shard is safe. The Decepticons will have to go through me to reach it.” In the most literal sense.
“Not good enough, Mr. Prime,” the tinny voice on the other end of the primitive communication device snapped at him.
“Just ‘Prime,’ General.”
The voice ignored him and continued on with a list of demands.
Optimus prayed to Primus for patience and reached for relief.
::Ratchet, are you free later?::
::Free for what?:: The medic sounded harried.
::High grade? Talk? Go for a drive? Anything.:: Anything to take his mind off these recalcitrant human leaders and their ridiculous demands.
A small figure hovered over the bright yellow Camaro parked in the medbay, overalls stained with coolant and hydraulic fluid doing nothing to hide rounded curves. “I’m doing it right, aren’t I?” Mikaela asked, fingers pushing back a lock of black hair fallen from its properly pinned back bun. She sounded a little worried and a lot interested.
Bumblebee revved his engine at her. She laughed and bent under his hood again. The Camaro’s radio crackled and sputtered out a snatched phrase. “Mission Accomplished!”
“Smart ass,” floated out from under the bright yellow hood.
Letting her work on him was both inspired on the Autobot’s part and very nearly the robotic equivalent of foreplay given Bumblebee’s intent. That intent was raising faint alarms in the medic, but still, they were both consenting adults of their two different species, and who was Ratchet to interfere? He was lending oversight, not chaperoning.
Ratchet spared them a brief glance before continuing his adjustments to several small devices lined up on the workbench, carefully considering his reply. Prime’s request was its own cause for concern. Thin extensions from metal fingertips probed at the inner workings. A multi-legged drone chirred and flitted from one to the next, sparks flying as it soldered on small dark panels.
::We’ll have company here,:: the medic finally replied. ::Bumblebee and Mikaela. But I have plenty of highgrade.::
“…Yes, General, I understand your concerns. It might be helpful for you to consider that our efforts are also on your behalf…” ::A drive then?:: Prime touched his chestplates, fingerpads rubbing at the aching pressure. Primus, had it really been that long? He paused, a little appalled at the number of vorns his processors were tallying.
::I don’t know why we haven’t done this sooner. Ratchet, bring the highgrade. We can meet at the training course, or head out into the desert somewhere, away from Base..::
Ratchet didn’t even hear the rest. He stood as though locked in stasis, optics narrowed, intakes hissing, systems snarled and tangling in on themselves. Not a berth. Never a berth. For too many vorns, for far too long, he’d had crates digging into his backplates and dirt grinding into his seams, and now his course crystallized before him, born out of resentment and pain and anger. One did not refuse the Prime, but Ratchet was already first in so many ways, one more hardly mattered. Optimus was not one to be pushed, but the medic was done.
Ratchet replied with icy calm tones and hands that trembled. ::I’m afraid I can’t, Optimus. I’ll leave the highgrade in your quarters. Good recharge to you.::
In the end it wasn’t the Autobots that flushed Barricade out, it was the humans. Too many reports of a suspicious vehicle seen near ATM robberies coupled with a sharp-eyed station attendant recognizing his slave as a runaway and he was finally forced into open flight.
Barricade snarled. A cable snapped ominously. They were closing in fast, he needed every scrap of energy to outrace them, and even the slight weight of his slave would slow him down.
He dumped her out onto the pavement without a second’s hesitation, warning her off, but the twit had the audacity to grab a hold of his door frame and snivel at him, trying to scramble back in.
“B- But, Master, please!” The slave couldn’t even beg prettily. That nasal whine set every one of his circuits on edge.
“Leave!” The order was punctuated by the smack of a thin cable across a skinny little aft, and if Barricade had any time to spare, he would have pinned the idiot over his seat and delivered the whipping she so richly deserved and should have had years ago.
The female howled and clutched at his door handle as the cable landed another stinging swat. Barricade followed it up with a shock from the metal handle that had her stumbling back. The door cracked open. Coins and paper spat out onto the pavement beside the whimpering femme. One of his probes extended from a headlight and feinted at her, sharp spikes gleaming a deadly threat. “NOW.”
She flinched from his probe and scrambled for the money, snuffling loudly. “What’s wrong with you? Why are you being so mean? You’re my car!”
Barricade sneered. “You are pathetic and weak, fleshling. Approach me again and I’ll kill you where you stand.”
“Master! Come back! Master! MASTER!”
The Saleen spun out onto the highway in a cloud of dust, not even the squeal of tires and the angry roar of the engine able to drown out that irritating shriek.
It would be the Autobot Second that had picked up the police transmissions.
Barricade snarled and swerved around another car. That was one mech he had given a wide and cautious berth, both on Cybertron and after being left stranded on this wretched mud ball. Jazz was older and more than matched him in skills and ability. Stealth, hacking, sabotage, reconnaissance, he did it all, and with an expertise that had earned him Barricade’s respect.
Barricade growled and swung around yet another slow-moving Earth vehicle, cursing as more warnings erupted. His joints were strained, he ached all over, parts of him were starting to wear out. Fluids were draining from worn joints and seams, his tires were losing pressure, his brakes all but nonexistent, and with no self-repair maintaining his frame, he didn’t want to think about what else was ready to fail. Dozens of points pulsed a deep angry red across his sensor web. He had to slow down soon or risk a system wide shutdown.
He snarled viciously as scanners picked up the Autobots again, much closer this time. Trapped in his alt-mode, he wouldn’t even be able to put up a fight.
A sudden crackle of static through his comm startled him and he swerved, tires squealing a protest as he skidded across the road.
::Barricade, I know you can hear me. Pull over and we’ll talk. Prime is offering you amnesty, if you come in with me now.::
The Autobot Second. Barricade ignored him. He’d had more than enough of the one tyrant, why should he believe the Prime would be any better?
A new warning sounded, another Autobot approaching from his left side and coming in fast. He was about to be cut off. Barricade rapidly scanned the road maps in his files, forcing down the sharp surge of panic and focusing on the road ahead. The shoulder was just wide enough and he was about to overtake a tractor-trailer. He could pass it on the right, use it as a shield, and after that the road branched again.
With luck, he could get past the Autobot on his left, turn off onto the other road and outrun his pursuit. It would take a great deal of luck, he acknowledged grimly. They looked to be in far better shape than he was. The gas pedal pressed to the floorboards, his engine roared, and the Saleen jumped ahead.
::Barricade! You don’t need to run! We won’t kill you!::
Of course you won’t, he sneered to himself. They were Autobots, he was a Decepticon. All they had done for millions of vorns was slaughter each other. They must think he was short a logic circuit or two -
::Look out!:: another voice shouted, and Barricade gave a hoarse cry and slammed on his brakes. Focused entirely on his pursuit, he had failed to notice the tractor-trailer slowing and pulling over onto the shoulder. Too late. His worn tires smoked and painted the pavement black. His brakes screeched, scraping down to bare metal in an instant. He spun his wheel desperately, slamming into the back of the truck at an angle and careened off again, spinning around and crashing into the guard rail on the shoulder. It crumpled at the impact and he was airborne for a moment before landing with a sickening thud and rolling down the embankment.
He screamed as joints snapped like twigs and his frame bent, forcing energon to spew violently from his tank. Not since Megatron had he felt such agony. Metal was rending and tearing, the ground kept smashing into him over and over as he rolled, fracturing worn metal plates and splitting them apart. Rocks and debris were forced inside with each impact, shredding wires and severing cables, tearing him up inside.
He impacted upside down on the final roll, screaming as his roof crushed down to the seats, and lay there, a hulking mass of ruined metal, spent and broken. His backups were failing. Every system was locking down into emergency stasis.
Barricade was conscious just long enough to hear Jazz’s voice calling for help before he was forced into shut down and everything went blessedly dark.
A/N: My thanks as always to my lovely beta, ladydragon76 and the equally lovely quidamling for batting ideas, helping with scene flow, and beta work. So very much appreciated, hun~ ♥♥♥
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