It had been a week since the crash landing of the Ghost-2 and the attack of Soundwave. A week since the fragile peace of ten years had been disturbed. Reality had reared its ugly head and the humans, as well as the Autobots, had been shocked out of their complacency.
Barricade sneered a little.
They had been too trusting in their safety. No one had truly believed in the arrival of the enemy any time soon. They had been more concerned about how to reveal the presence of alien mechanoid life forms on Earth to the rest of the planet. As it was, this presence would probably be revealed sooner than later. Soundwave might come back, or another would take his place. Megatron's death didn't mean that Earth had fallen back into obscurity once more. The small planet would be known to all Decepticons as the place their leader had perished – and where the Allspark had apparently expired.
That Soundwave had targeted Lennox only showed what they could expect to happen again – or variations thereof. The Allspark, even a tiny shard of it, was valuable. More valuable than anything else. It could mean the rebirth of Cybertron.
Barricade doubted that the hybrid human had the power to do that, but he was always full of surprises, one way or another, and his abilities had not yet stopped evolving. He might not be the cosmic relic which symbols he bore, but he had power. No one could tell because no one could scan the hybrid in depth. Some kind of natural shield kept scans from penetrating that far – just like with the Allspark.
The former Decepticon knew he should be a lot more disturbed by the fact that Soundwave hadn't tried to erase his existence. He was a traitor to the Decepticon cause. He had betrayed Megatron – after the perished Decepticon leader had betrayed him. Barricade didn't know if Soundwave knew about his bond to Jazz, but he wouldn't put it past him to have that information. 'Communications officer' was just the official title for the most efficient spy master Megatron had ever employed.
He had proven that just now once more. If the humans had kept all information about Lennox in their data bases Soundwave would have succeeded. As it was, they hadn't and Lennox had been able to surprise Ravage. Barricade had to grudgingly confess that the hybrid was someone to be reckoned with. Ironhide had trained him well.
He looked up and met the curious blue optics of his bonded.
Jazz had somehow known his thoughts, despite the fact that the bond wasn't a telepathic connection, and where it had scared Barricade a few years ago, it now gave him a sense of security.
"I'm not brooding," he rumbled.
"Sure. You never do," was the easy reply and Jazz plopped down on a metal container. "Very hard and deep thinking then."
Red optics glowered at the silver Autobot, but all it got Barricade was that annoying smile. Jazz had been busy this last week. Like all of them. Barricade had tried not to dwell on the thought that he could have lost the Autobot yet once again because Soundwave's symbiotes had marooned the Ghost-2.
"Would you feel better if Soundwave had shot a leg off?" the specialist asked reasonably.
Strangely, yes. He would feel better and not like something even worse would happen soon. It had been so anti-climatic in the end. Soundwave had fled, the Autobots had gained another warrior, and everyone was picking up the pieces. Barricade had felt left out, like he wasn't worth Soundwave's time.
Maybe he wasn't.
He hadn't been that high up in the ranks. He had been a shock trooper, which meant he was the elite attack and assault force, an efficient killing machine, and still was. While he had been one of the best, he hadn't belonged to Megatron's most trusted lieutenants. Because Megatron didn't trust and if the term could be applied to anyone, it was Soundwave. Barricade still believed that the communications specialist had only been biding his time or using Megatron because the Decepticons wouldn't as easily follow someone else. Starscream could never replace him. Neither could Soundwave. One was a lunatic with an ego problem, the other unable to ignite the same feverish devotion to a now lost cause.
Jazz sighed. It was an electronic noise from deep inside him. He had adopted the habit from the humans, like he had so many things, and while Barricade liked to taunt him on his 'humanity', he wasn't opposed to some of the changes. Jazz was experimental, Jazz loved alien cultures, Jazz was… Jazz. This was him.
"Not to burst your bubble, but in the pecking order you didn't feature that much."
Barricade snorted at that. Those had been his very thoughts. It was scary sometimes, how much in tune they were, but not enough for him to even think of putting some distance between them. There had been millennia of distance; it had stopped when Barricade had surrendered and offered his alliance to the Autobots.
"And Soundwave had other, more important matters to take care of. His plan was to nap Will, not take out us or you. He could have done a lot more, left us crippled, but efficient bastard that he is, he did everything with Lennox's capture in mind. Not that I don't think he might have left a little gift somewhere to catch us unawares. Ratchet and Ironhide are going over every square inch of the base computer together with guys from the Department of Defense. They're running around like headless chickens anyway. Seems like Rumble got into the systems."
Barricade grinned. Rumble and Frenzy had been competing over who was the best hacker and while Frenzy had still been functional, he had held that title.
"And I'm kinda glad I didn't have to patch you back together again," Jazz added with his usual light tone, but the expression in his optics was serious.
Barricade let him come closer, not fighting the brush of spark against spark, and he didn't object to fingers brushing over his armor. Jazz knew he wasn't as sensitive when it came to something touching his outer armor as the specialist could be, but it had never stopped his bonded. Just as he used Earth colloquial terms, he also behaved like they were humans sometimes. It was new and strange, but not bad. Or unwanted.
He turned to the silver Autobot whose intense expression belied the sometimes flippant words and easy manner, and he didn't argue the wisdom of coming together in this, for him, exposed area. The moment was brief in human terms, but intimate and intense.
When he returned from the sharing, he and Jazz were close together, foreheads touching, holding on to each other. No words were lost, and Barricade knew that no words could describe what he felt. It was no longer new and the intensity was no longer scary, but it could never be understood by anyone. With the exception of the human Sam Witwicky maybe.
"Want to go back to the base?"
They were hardly two miles away, but it felt like light-years.
"Or go for a ride?" Jazz added.
Barricade smiled darkly. A ride sounded good. Racing along deserted roads and feeling the potholes jar his shocks. Jazz mirrored the grin, knowing exactly what his partner was thinking.
They transformed and tore off, chasing each other.
"I wonder why he's still alive."
Optimus Prime gave his weapons specialist and one of his oldest friends a surprised look.
"I'm just saying," Ironhide argued. "He's a traitor. He left the Cons. He turned his back on Megatron. Soundwave's first move should have been to off-line Barricade for good."
"It wasn't a priority, thank Cybertron," Optimus only said.
"It stinks, Prime. It's like he needs the Con for something. Who knows what Barricade's been telling him while we were busy fighting on all fronts."
The blue optics of the Autobot leader narrowed. "You believe Barricade would betray us?"
Ironhide shifted uneasily. He had stopped accusing the former Decepticon of all kinds of things a long time ago. He had accepted him, had come to finally see the truth of a spark-bond, and he had stopped checking up on him.
After Soundwave… things had changed.
"Barricade wouldn't risk Jazz's life," Prime reminded him.
"Jazz was never at risk. Stranding the Ghost-2 had been a diversion and to thin our ranks."
"The ship almost crashed."
"Almost. And the engine problems were due to the prior sabotage and the emergency repairs."
Prime turned fully to his friend. "Are you accusing Barricade of anything directly?"
Ironhide opened his mouth, then shut it again. "I'm just sayin'," he mumbled.
"Soundwave's attack surprised us all. We had let our guard down. We didn't expect it like this. Our preparations were insufficient."
The black mech rumbled uneasily. "We expected Starscream, not Soundwave."
"I trust Barricade, Ironhide. I trust him with the health and the life of my second in command's spark. I trust him with Sam. I trust him to fight with us against threats," Optimus told him firmly and with conviction.
Ironhide was silent for a long moment, then nodded. "I was just saying… it was suspicious."
Prime's words sounded final and the weapons specialist accepted them. Optimus walked away after another hard look and Ironhide gave a sigh.
Did he trust Barricade? No. It wasn't trust. Trust involved a lot more than what Ironhide was willing to give.
He had accepted the Con in their midst. Jazz might keep him as honest as a Con could be, he might tame him in a way, but a Con was a Con. No matter what had happened to Megatron. No matter that he had trained Sam and the technopath trusted him, knew him.
Nothing of that mattered.
Ironhide rumbled to himself.
Prime trusted him. Prime was responsible for the mechs under his command, which included Barricade. So the Con was Prime's problem.
Watching the arrival of two dust-covered cars – one silver, one black and white - Ironhide pushed his darker thoughts aside. He nodded at Jazz as the smaller mech walked past him, not reacting to Barricade's presence at all.
Maybe, just maybe, Optimus Prime was right. Soundwave's priority had been Lennox and Megatron's shell. And maybe, just maybe, should he have succeeded, he would have terminated Barricade.
Maybe. Just maybe.