Chapter One Hundred Ninety Five: Seeking Support
Bumblebee couldn't have been more surprised if Ratchet had walked up to him and smacked him with a wet fish. The absurdity of the situation he suddenly found himself in had him at a complete loss with absolutely no idea as to what to do next. If Skywarp had shot at them, sure he would have known what to do; shoot back. Even if Skywarp had gone for Sam in order to kidnap him and take him to Starscream, 'Bee would have know what to do. Get Sam the slag out of there, then shoot him.
For Skywarp to suddenly appear on out of thin air, as was his wont to do, and attach himself like a limpet to Barricade was so far from what Bumblebee expected that his processor actually went blank for a moment as he stared at the pair. Ironhide and Jazz certainly never trained him for this. The irony of being caught unaware on a cliff named "Look Out Point" was also not lost on him and Bumblebee resigned himself to the coming teasing from both his trainers when they found out.
Not that they would know any better on how to deal with this type of situation. 'Bee also had a small inkling that even Optimus, for all his calm and collectedness in any situation, would find himself completely bamboozle by the situation. Oddly enough, it made him feel a little bit better as to his own uneasiness.
He shifted slightly as he tried to figure out his next move. His Autobot instincts said to heed the small plea of help that had been directed towards him and assist Barricade in untangling himself. His protective instincts however, said to get Sam as far away from the Decepticon flyer as possible and somewhere out of harm's way. His own childish instinct, and the one he was sorely tempted to follow, whispered spitefully in his audio to take as many pictures of Barricade's situation as possible.
Shaking himself somewhat, he glanced down at Sam wondering what the teenager thought would be the best course of action. The boy must have felt Bumblebee staring because he finally tore his gaze away from the bizarre scene to glance up at the Autobot, confusion evident in his own expression. As one, they both shrugged at each other and turned back towards the two Decepticons.
Sam for his part was clutching his box and staring wide-eyed at the keening seeker that Barricade was trying to pull away from. Somewhere in the back of his head, Sam had just always assumed that all the other flyers' personalities were exactly like Starscream in both callousness and arrogance. At least, that was the impression he had garnered from the older Autobots. To see a purple version of Starscream practically glued to Barricade as if he was the only friend left in the world… 'Wait… what did he say about being all alone?'
"'Warp! Leggo!" Barricade finally had enough trying to pull back out of the clinging embrace and at last just shoved the other 'Con in a bid to get away. Much to his frustration, it didn't work. Not that he had expected it to. Skywarp always did have some uncommonly powerful grip. Strange considering seekers were normally devoid of actual physical strength. He glared at Bumblebee again, furious that the yellow mech hadn't done anything yet to help him get away from the zany flyer.
'Bee finally seemed to shake himself out of whatever deep contemplation he had been caught in and took a step forward even as he made a small gesture towards Sam to back away. He tried to give Skywarp what Barricade could only assume was suppose to be a menacing look but came across as more uncertain. "Let him go." Unfortunately, 'Bee's voice cracked on the last word and it came out as a squeak.
Barricade wished at that moment for an earthquake to suddenly shake the edge of Look Out Point loose and for the ground beneath him to crumble away, whisking him out of the rather awkward situation. He sent 'Bee a piercing stare. "Really? That's the best you can do?" Bumblebee gave him a small, embarrassed shrug.
"Should we call Optimus and the others?" Sam called up hesitantly, his gaze darting from the two 'Cons to 'Bee and back again.
At the sound of the human's voice, Skywarp leapt away the other 'Con and whirled around, a fierce scowl on his face. "You!"
Bumblebee quickly stepped in front of the boy even as Barricade snagged the flyer's arm. "Sky-" he began, but the purple mech easily shook him off and stomped towards the boy, disregarding the Autobot who already had his arm cannon transformed and powered up at his approach.
Skywarp ignored Bumblebee completely and leaned around the mech, glaring down at the small being behind him. "Give him back!" he bit out.
Sam was mystified. Of all the things he expected the seeker to say to him, that had not been it. Before he could think better of it he automatically blurted out, "Who?"
"Thundercracker!" Skywarp bellowed. "You know where he is! Give him back to me!"
"What in the pit are you talking about?" Barricade inquired firmly. He finally was able to get a firm grip on Skywarp's arm and tried to turn him back around so he was no longer facing Sam. "What happened to Thundercracker?"
"He's gone!" the flyer bit back, shaking off the arm and continuing to glare at the boy. "Along with everyone else!"
"Wait! Who's gone?" 'Bee asked alarmed.
"Everyone!" Skywarp wailed, finally allowing himself to look away and be turned back around to face 'Cade. "They're all gone! I'm the only one left!"
Barricade's expression went from frustration to stricken in under a second. "Gone? As in-?"
"Primus no!" Skywarp yelped sharply before the tension drained from his shoulders and his wings drooped. "At least… I think…" His expression looked just as terrified as Barricade's as he finally turned to face the other Decepticon fully. "I don't know," he admitted softly.
Sam and Bumblebee were both taken aback by the small admission. "Just who is missing?" 'Bee managed to ask, his cannon still upraised slightly but no longer aimed directly at the Decepticon, unsure. "What happened?"
"We were attacked," Skywarp snarled as he moved towards the large oak tree. Sam watched as the mech caught one of the thicker branches in his hand, almost leaning against the native plant as if he needed the support. "They're all gone. The other Decepticons have been taken!"
"What?" both 'Cade and 'Bee yelped, astonished.
"What do you mean attacked?" Barricade instantly looked towards Bumblebee who held up his free hand as if to ward off the suspicion.
"There's no way! When would we have had the opportunity to plan an attack? You've been with us the whole time! And besides," he tilted his head towards the seeker while disengaging the gun and switching it back to his other hand. "We don't even know where they've been hiding!"
"Could some other Autobots arrive without us knowing and stumbled on the Decepticons?" Sam asked apprehensively, glancing at the figure still leaning against the tree.
Bumblebee was already shaking his head in answer to Sam's question. "Both Blaster and Red Alert have been manning the computer. We would have picked up any Autobot signals."
"Autobot signals," Barricade sneered. "I think we've already proven that you wouldn't recognize a Decepticon signal."
"So it was the other Decepticons," Bumblebee assumed. "What is this? A power struggle for Megatron's spot?"
"It wasn't Decepticons!" Skywarp suddenly shouted at the two arguing mechs. They turned towards the flyer stunned, as if they had completely forgotten about his presence. Skywarp grimaced, now leaning almost completely against the tree. His gaze flittered towards Bumblebee. "It wasn't Autobot's either…"
Sam looked up anxiously at that announcement and wasn't surprised to find his gaze caught by unfamiliar red optics. "That's why you told me to give them back!" Sam realized, stunned. "It was humans!"
Skywarp glowered at him but gave one sharp, curt nod. "Starscream said they were called Sector forty-eight, or something like that."
Sam blinked. "Forty-eight?"
"The group that had captured Megatron," Skywarp clarified before turning to Bumblebee, almost uncertain about speaking to an Autobot without shouting insulting at him. "And attacked you, from what I understand."
"Seven," Barricade let out a disdained snort.
"But Seven's been disbanded," Sam protested. "Simmons is even working for us now!"
"Unless they excluded the prick in the re-hiring," 'Cade countered. He placed his head in the palm of his hand and sighed though. "But I doubt it was Seven."
"Thirteen," Bumblebee groaned. It was rather obvious once he thought about it. "How in the world did they find the 'Cons though? Even Prowl couldn't find them!"
"That's because we were betrayed!" Skywarp hissed furiously.
Barricade looked startled for a moment before it went hard. "Start at the beginning," he ordered firmly.
Bumblebee found his gaze going to Barricade automatically, amazed at the tone. He had never heard the 'Con in full commander mode before and 'Bee was rather embarrassed to find that his mouth had dropped open automatically to give a full report before his processor caught up that he wasn't the one being given the order. Who knew Barricade could command everyone's attention like that just as Optimus could in full leader mode?
He couldn't help but glance down at Sam and winced to see that the human's attention was riveted to the black and white mech, awe clear in his expression. 'Bee instantly tried to quell the small voice that told him he shouldn't be surprised by the reaction and went back to focusing on the other Decepticon, forcing himself to concentrate on the more pressing matter rather than dwell on the awkward situation he found himself in with Sam and 'Cade.
Skywarp, meanwhile, had pushed himself away from the tree and started pacing, anger practically radiating off of his paneling. "A few weeks ago, Swindle showed up."
"Swindle!" Barricade yelped in astonishment. "The rest of his team-" Skywarp was already shaking his head before Barricade could finish the sentence and 'Cade instantly went off in a litany of curses in both English and Cybertronion.
Sam looked over at Bumblebee to gage his expression on how threatening this "Swindle" was only to see that 'Bee was just as perplexed as he was by the new name and Barricade's extreme reaction to it. They were both back to where they started when Skywarp first showed up and latched onto Barricade. Lost and utterly confused as to what was happening.
'Cade finally whirled around and pinned a furious gaze on his once friend. "And Starscream let him wander about unchecked?"
Skywarp raised one hand and let it fall limply. "Star was more concerned with getting a base built to worry much about everyone else. Spent most of the time arguing with Scrapper and avoiding Hook."
Barricade let out another curse. "Let me guess. Swindle lead Burgen, sector thirteen, right to your door."
"That's what it looked like to me," Skywarp growled, anger clear in his voice.
"I'm assuming with a name like 'Swindle', this isn't that much of a surprise?" Bumblebee dared interrupt the continual growling fest the two 'Cons were engaged in.
Barricade let out a bitter laugh. "It's really not," he admitted. "Swindle looks out for Swindle's best interest. Always has." He looked back at Skywarp pointedly. "Starscream knows that." Skywarp just looked back mutinous.
"And he sold out the other Decepticons without a second thought?" 'Bee continued, stunned at the notion.
"I can only assume Burgen offered Swindle a deal he couldn't refuse," Barricade confessed. "Swindle is always wheeling and dealing. He'd try to sell air in a jar if he could."
"And Swindle usually can," Skywarp reluctantly agreed. "He always had a way of making you believe that you couldn't live without whatever he's selling."
Bumblebee stared at the two Decepticons appalled. "And neither of you are surprised that he just sold you out to Burgen? That's…" he trailed off, revulsion evident in his voice. "Has he always been that cruel?"
Skywarp frowned at him but Barricade gave a small smirk. "His whole team was vicious. You should know. You took down his teammate Brawl back in Mission City."
The flyer jerked upright at this and turned towards Barricade in disbelief as he gestured towards Bumblebee wildly. "He took out Brawl?"
"Trust me. I'm just as surprised as you are." Barricade drawled. Bumblebee looked rather surprised at Skywarp's reaction as the flyer started at him in amazement and looked to Barricade for explanation. He didn't get it as Barricade shook his head in exasperation. "You could have knocked me over with a feather when I found out."
"What in the pit is a 'feather'?" Skywarp demanded.
"A soft piece of fluff," Barricade waved his hand distractedly before turning back to 'Bee. "Onslaught could always keep his team in line, being the squad leader but I assume he's not planet side?"
Skywarp shook his head. "Or any of the other Combaticons."
"Other what?" Sam asked puzzled.
"Combaticons. They're like the Constructicons. Combiners who can merge into one giant mech."
Sam's eyes widened in surprise at Barricade's explanation. "I thought the term 'Constructicon' was just a word that was given to mechs who were builders, like construction workers. I didn't know it was a specific group!" Sam's mind boggled at the influx of information. 'Mechs who can combine into one giant mech? How does that even work?'
"Ask Ratchet to explain it to you later," Bumblebee told him softly before focusing his gaze back on the two Decepticons. It was Barricade who was now pacing as Skywarp leaned forward and braced his hands on his knee joints.
"How and when Swindle got in touch with Burgen though, that's the question," Barricade brought Sam's attention back to the main problem. "If Starscream wasn't watching him, like he should have done as leader," he couldn't help but jibe, "then we have no idea when they met."
"It had to be before he met up with us," Skywarp admitted, his shoulders slumping once more. "Thundercracker actually was suspicious of Swindle. He tried to keep an optic on him but Star and I just assumed he was just anxious being on a new planet with Megatron gone and seeing conspiracies everywhere to be of much help." Red optics suddenly locked on red optics. "You and Soundwave's defection didn't really help."
Barricade's optics darkened as he glared at Skywarp. "We didn't defect we just don't like how Starscream was handling his newfound leadership role," he bit out.
"That's not the issue here," Bumblebee interrupted, grabbing Barricade's arm and pulling him back and away from the seeker slightly incase they decided to come to blows. "Just what exactly happened?" he asked directly. "How were humans able to incapacitate all of you? There were… eight of you, I believe. How did they get all of you at once?"
"Ten," Skywarp corrected reluctantly. "And it probably was because we've been at something called a 'quarry'. Closed space and all that."
"Not to mention that gives your enemies the high ground," Barricade sighed. "One would think Starscream would know better." His optics locked on Skywarp. "I assume Thundercracker's paranoia is the reason you were able to escape?"
"Him and my warp drive," Skywarp admitted. "I was in the cave when we got hit."
"Cave?" Sam asked bewildered.
Barricade latched on to the other part of the statement however, ignoring Sam's small question. "Hit? Hit with what?"
Skywarp turned away from glaring at Sam again to shrug. "Some sort of pulse beam or something. I didn't hear anything or know anything was wrong until I felt Thundercracker's pain through our Link and when I turned around, everyone was down on the ground."
'Bee and 'Cade glanced at one another. "Do you think it's the same weapon they used on me when we rescued Soundwave?" Bumblebee asked. "The one that knocked me out?"
"Most likely," Barricade agreed.
Skywarp was looking between them startled. "They weren't knocked out with the first beam," he explained. "The second one did however. The first one did something to their systems. Thundercracker was conscious but he told me he couldn't move and his audios were getting nothing but static." He glanced at Bumblebee, hesitant again. "Soundwave was captured? Do you think that's where they took Thundercracker and the others?"
"Doubt it," Barricade dashed his hopes. "Burgen probably has another base of operations somewhere else."
"It wouldn't surprise me," Bumblebee agreed with a frown as he tried to think of what Burgen could have used. "The machine used on me sent me straight into stasis lock, not incapacitate me. Some sort of microwave beam?"
"More like an EMP device, only more powerful," Barricade guessed.
"They were able to put you right in stasis lock?" Skywarp asked stunned. "How did you get out of it? Your medic?"
"Meh-" Bumblebee instantly cut himself off and Barricade took over.
"Frenzy was able to get him out while Ratchet was still en-rout."
"You can ask Soundwave for the full story later," Barricade told him. "You said Thundercracker was conscious and could talk to you through your Link? Did he give you any information about what he was seeing?"
Skywarp shook his head. "His optics were out along with his audios," he explained. "I was telling him what I was seeing. Or rather, what I could while hiding in our dug out shelter." Skywarp's expression became embarrassed. "He spent most of the time trying to convince me not to rush to his aid."
"Did you see which way they went when they left?" Barricade inquired.
Skywarp shuffled his feet slightly. "I didn't really stick around. The second I engaged my warp drive; they would have realized they missed someone from the sound of displaced air. Thundercracker told me to warp out and get as far as I could." He hesitated and Barricade gave him a pointed look, waiting for him to continue. Skywarp deflated. "He told me to find you."
Barricade's optics flickered in surprise. "What?"
"Thundercracker said you and Soundwave would help. He always figured that you had your reasons for leaving. Everyone knew neither of you got on with Star. He knew you'd help."
Barricade nodded. "Of course we're going to help. Maybe not for Starscream specifically but Thundercracker, Hook and the others defiantly don't deserve to be in Burgen's clutches."
Bumblebee looked at the two apprehensively. "Do you want to keep this from Optimus?" he finally ventured. "They could probably help with finding Burgen but…"
"You would do that?" Skywarp looked at the Autobot scout stunned. "Keep this from the other Autobots?"
"I don't think we should," 'Bee replied firmly. "But it's not really my decision, is it?" He looked between the two 'Cons.
"It would probably be best to get their assistance though," Barricade told Skywarp. "The human government is already involved and actively searching for Thirteen. Pooling our information would be our best bet."
"Especially if they can factor in where the other Decepticons were taken," 'Bee agreed. "Perceptor and Wheeljack could probably triangulate better and we'll at least know where to start."
Skywarp shifted again, still apprehensive and Barricade sighed. "Skywarp, I know you hate the Autobots but right now the only thing that matters is finding the other Decepticons. Getting the Autobots to use their resources will help us find them that much faster." Skywarp still looked as if he might disagree. "Thundercracker sent you to find us for a reason and I'm sure Soundwave will agree when we tell him that getting the Autobots involved is the best course of action right now in order to find them."
"I don't like it!" Skywarp protested.
"You don't have to but its kind of the only option we've got right now in order to find them in time," Bumblebee insisted.
Skywarp glared at him before he once more leaned over braced himself on his knees again. "I don't like any of this! I can't hear him!"
"It's more than likely they're keeping him and the others in stasis lock. That's why you can't hear Thundercracker on you Link."
"What would you know about it?" Skywarp snapped. "You're not Aligned with anyone! How could you even begin to understand how a Link even works?"
Barricade saw Sam flinch at that and he let out a huff of air in exasperation. "You're right. I don't know." He could see he surprised Skywarp with that admission. "But I can guess well enough."
Skywarp groaned and leaned over again, reaching up with has hand and catching one of the larger branches of the oak tree to balance himself. Bumblebee looked over at Barricade in surprise and finally moved closer to the other 'Con to whisper. "Is it really that painful for them to be separated like this?"
"How should I know?" Barricade hissed back. "Ask Prowl and Jazz. They would know better than anyone."
Sam completely missed the small conversation going on between his two companions however as he watched the flyer worriedly. "Are you okay?" he finally couldn't help but ask.
The other two mechs whirled around, astonished to see that Sam and Skywarp were rather closer together than they had before but Skywarp wasn't even looking at the boy. "No," he moaned in answer. "My slagging Spark just will not stop aching!"
"Your spark?" Barricade asked horrified. "Is it trying to reach out for Thundercracker?"
"Well what else could it be?" Skywarp demanded as his other arm left his knee and went around his chest, bracing himself fully on the branch. "It hasn't stopped since I left the quarry!" He grimace again and doubled over.
"Do you think he's hurt?" Bumblebee fretted. "Are you getting a feedback loop?"
Skywarp shook his head. "I don't know. It doesn't feel like anything we've gone through before." He broke off with wince. "Almost feels like something's trying to break out of me."
"WHAT?" all three screeched, startling Skywarp.
"What? What is it?" he demanded, alarmed.
Barricade and Bumblebee were just looking at one another however, stunned. "He's fully Aligned?" Bumblebee murmured.
"For as long as I've known them," Barricade nodded, stunned. "And, judging from the LAX incident, they've been on Earth a while."
"Probably as long as Sunstreaker and Sideswipe," Bumblebee mused.
"What? What's going on? What does this have to do with those two idiots?"
Bumblebee cringed slightly as he turned back to Skywarp. "You may not like it, but you kind of have to go with us to the Autobot base now. You need to see Ratchet."
"What? What for?" Skywarp looked between the two fretfully. "What's happening to me?"
"It's Primus' answer for the destroyed All Spark," Barricade sighed. "You're going into labor." Skywarp just looked at him blankly. "You have a sparkling inside you! We have to get it out!"
"I have a what?" Skywarp bellowed before looking down at his front in shock. "How in the pit did it get in there?"
"You and Thundercracker haven't exactly celibate while on Earth have you?" Barricade drawled.
"We're still not exactly sure how it works but your sparks together made a sparkling," Bumblebee shrugged. "And now it big enough to be out in the world."
"What?" Skywarp tipped forward as the branch under his hand finally gave way to the weight and snapped. Both Barricade and Bumblebee leapt forward to catch him, helping the shocked mech down to the ground.
"Look! It's a long story and if this sparkling is anything like Sunny's, we really don't have the time to explain!" Barricade snapped. He glanced at 'Bee. "Can you get in touch with them?"
Bumblebee hesitated. "If Thirteen is around and monitoring…"
"I have my cell phone!" Sam piped up. "It's a cheap burner one Will and Epps got for our trip to the Arctic. I can call Mikaela on it."
Barricade hesitated. "Make it as short as you can. Less likely to give them time to trace." Sam gave a sharp nod in understanding and Barricade turned back to Bumblebee. "So how in the pit do we get him to the base? I don't think he can transform and a purple jet overhead is bound to get noticed anyway."
"Well he can't just walk down the street as he is!" Bumblebee snapped back.
Sam tuned the small argument out as he set his box down and pulled out his phone, dialing Mikaela's number by memory. He glanced back over at the three mechs and winced as he saw that Skywarp had managed to get a grip on one of the panels on Barricade's helm and yanked the other Decepticon down, bellowing something in their native language just as the other end of the line was picked up and Mikaela's voice came down the line.
Her greeting startled Sam. With everything going on with Skywarp and the other Decepticons in the hands of Burgen, he had forgotten about the very reason why he and the others were at Look Out to begin with. He could feel his face flaming up and he knew that he was going to get grilled the moment they got back but it would have to wait until after the current emergency had been dealt with.
"Mikaela, listen. We have a bit of a situation. A seeker found us." He winced at the sudden screech in his ear. "Don't panic! It's not what you think! He's asking for help," he instantly tried to placate her as he glanced back at the mechs by the tree.
Skywarp had picked up the broken branch from the ground with his free hand and had started beating Bumblebee with it. 'Bee yelped as he darted out of the branch's reach while Barricade wrestled to get himself out of Skywarp's grasp. Sam inched further away. Honestly, Skywarp was acting worse than Sunstreaker had.
"The other Decepticons have been kidnapped," he continued on. He sighed as Mikaela's echoing shouts got louder down the line. "Listen, we'll explain everything when we figure out how to get Skywarp, the seeker, back to base."
Skywarp had given up trying to hit the out of reach Bumblebee and concentrated on smacking the already captured Barricade. Sam winced. "We have to bring him to the base," he pressed on. "He's got to see Ratchet. He's in labor."
Some sort of strangled sound echoed down the line and Sam glanced back at the mechs in time to see Skywarp had released Barricade and was struggling to get to his feet. Bumblebee grabbed the arm with the branch, whether to help Skywarp to his feet or just to keep him from smacking him again, Sam wasn't sure but it was apparent that they were getting ready to leave. "Mikaela, have Ratchet get set up! Hopefully we'll be there soon!" he got out in a rush before he hung up and shoved his phone in his pocket as he rushed towards the group.
"That did it!" Skywarp was snarling. Sam was startled as Skywarp jabbed a finger in his direction. "Grab him!" he ordered. Bumblebee was swift to obey and Sam quickly grabbed his discarded box and stepped up into the offered hand.
"'Warp! What are you doing?" Barricade demanded as the flyer dropped the branch and wrapped his arm around 'Cade's, leaning against him as he had the tree.
"Putting an end to the arguing," Skywarp growled before turning to Bumblebee and threading his other arm around 'Bee's free one. "Base coordinate!" he snapped.
Barricade recoiled in surprise but Skywarp's grip was still unnaturally firm. "Wait!" he shouted even as Bumblebee automatically rambled off the coordinate.
Sam wasn't sure what exactly was going on before it suddenly felt as if all the air was drastically sucked out of his lungs and he was jerked backwards and sideways all at once. There was a bang and Sam completely lost his balance, falling backwards. Thankfully 'Bee had curled his fingers to keep Sam from tumbling down to the far ground. He shook his head, trying to banish the stars from his eyes and the ringing in his ears.
When his vision cleared, he was greeted by the sight of Skywarp looking down in the direction of his feet with a fierce scowl.
"WHY AM I WET?"
A/N: I swear, that moat is the best accidental plot device I could have ever come up with! xD