(posted January 1, 2011) Happy Binary New Year!

Thanks so much to the fantabulous REVIEWERS of Ch. 62 (a long 3.25-page thank you AN, so you can skip down to the clearly marked start of the 11-page chapter if you'd like):

Quacked Lurker: Yay for action! I'm glad the flashback repetition helped the flow of the chapter/story. Thanks for the banana bread *takes a bite* BB is still young and can definitely be impulsive, which this whole thing with going after Barricade is an impulsive decision he didn't think through very well. BB is definitely being irrational and I like to write this younger side of him. He's a being that has experienced war and very real-life stuff, but he's still young. I'm glad you are loving these plays on emotion and familial tangles. I didn't minor in psychology, but I do have a natural grasp *smile* I suppose BB felt Chromia could have room in her spark for him and the sparkling she lost, but when the new one comes into the picture, it changes his perception. It's harder when there's a new life and maybe he feels there's a competition there. He needs some reassurance, poor bot. Hide and Mia won't like having Barricade around, that's for sure. If BB had asked them, they would prefer him not going after the Con. This is definitely more a curse for them than BB knows or understands. Taking spare parts may have been sacrilegious when the war started, but then it became a necessity as the war completely ravaged their planet and themselves. I know where the part in question came from, but I may not mention it in the story, as some people might not like it. The attachment cable won't be a recycled part, though. Sunshadow's body is gone and BB's was reused in his second frame as another part. It's glossed over because Ratchet isn't sure if he should install it. As far as the theory for an alternate creation of a sparkling: that is why Ratchet was so concerned about it. The implications of that possibility would mean that a new war could be started (have you read chapter 61? I think you missed that one...). Oh, and you are so perceptive on the 'news' of BB being the last sparkling and the way I stated that! Read on in chapter 63! *big grin* Ratchet did, indeed, help save them all by 'saving' Nightfire. Optimus and Elita spent some time together, yes, but she was never told of the plan to create a sparkling. I will be explaining Ratchet's missing memories *smile* BB didn't cover his tracks well *wink* A common link! Yes! Yea, they didn't go through anything similar to BB when they were his age. That is a good point! They also don't fully understand human culture and phases of live. The misunderstandings kinda go both ways between the humans and Cybertronians there. BB needs some answers, but isn't asking the right questions. As far as Barricade? Go on to ch. 63 *big grin* Though, I can't promise that there isn't another cliffhanger, EEKS! *runs away* Thank you so much!

Flameshield: Hey! I'm glad you were able to review *hugs* Bee is chasing Cade because he has it in his mind that he'll gain approval from Chromia. Poor bot thinks he needs approval to be accepted, but he really doesn't, of course. I hope I'm getting that across, but I might be falling short. Ah, the missing memories; I can't wait to get to the events surrounding that! Thank you!

Emosugarcube: Yea, feeling out of place can make folks do foolish things, indeed. That's what I was trying to get across with BB doing this. That's funny that you thought Barricade's slow migration towards the Autobots is funny, LOL. Awesome *smile* I imagine that someone like him would be feeling a little homesick and wanting to be close to his own kind, even if they are 'enemies.'

Shizuka Taiyou: I'm so glad! Thank you *smile* You might be close with what happened to Ratchet, though there's more to it, of course *smile*

LadyJet2: *evil laughter* LOL! Love your review *smiles* I'm so glad you're addicted to my writing! I tried to update sooner, but we flew home for Christmas and no one had working Internet. It was both maddening and a good break from Internet life. Thank you!

Ria Everwood: EEKS! Read on to see how fast Prime gets to BB...Oh man, the humans finding out about Ironhide and Chromia's sparkling may not be a good thing at all. Whatever happens, they will protect her with everything they have.

Faecat: Yup! I knew you'd like the deleted memories part! And I may have a surprise or two left somewhere *wink* I'm glad you liked Ratchet's flashback. I love the dynamic of those two...heartbreaking yet sweet is a good way to describe them *smile* Things are about to get more complicated for Ratchet; he's about to get stretched a bit thin.

jazzgirl84: Yea, the bonds can be sad. I love writing about them because they encompass such a wide range of emotion. Hehe, glad you like Ratchet's 'lightbulb' moments. I'm trying to bring Optimus and Bumblebee closer, but they aren't cooperating. Both of them are full of such doubt. BB is so young in many ways and he feels he doesn't know what Ironhide and Chromia would think of him. Learning of them losing a sparkling and now them having another makes him confused of what his place with them is. His fears are unwarranted, but he doesn't know it yet. And Optimus deserves as much happiness as he can find, poor mech. As far as the little bond thing between OP and Nightfire: do you mean the sparkling or the Decepticon femme? ^^; He has a bond with the sparkling Nightfire because he incubated her near his spark. As far as the Decepticon Nightfire, you'll have to wait and see *smile* (I will give you a slight hint that may or may not be of any help: Optimus never had a bond with her, but Bumblebee did). Sorry for the longer wait on this next chapter than I first anticipated, but here it is! *hugs* Thank you!

plenoptic: BB is being a silly little bug here, indeed. He thinks bringing in Barricade will gain Chromia's love. He isn't thinking rationally at all. Thank you so much for the compliments! I am working on something original, but I need to prioritize it more. LOL on the response space. You leave long reviews! Thank you! *hugs* Ironhide doesn't realize Bumblebee is putting himself through these doubts. He ought to have gotten the hint by now, though. Optimus isn't as calm as he seems, but it will take someone with a bond to notice, as he is keeping it seriously internalized. He doesn't know for sure if she's gone because the distance has inhibited his ability to feel if she is even alive for so long. Ironhide was sure Chromia had died when her spark was shut out during terminal lock because they were both still on Cybertron. They were far away from each other, but they were still on the same planet. Oh goodness, I'm trying to get to the answers. It's a bit irritating to me that there is still so much more to get through too, LOL. An 'Impetus' is an impelling force, an impulse or something that incites, a stimulus. Bumblebee is acting on impulse and there are several other 'impetus' possibilities in this next chapter with Ironhide, Chromia, and even Optimus. Barricade could also be considered an 'impetus' by the end of this next chapter. Little Nightfire is going to bring joy to all of them *smile* Optimus will get his adorable moments. Ratchet wishes for a lot of things, but he has made his peace with Nightfire's fate. He is very happy to see Hide and Mia happy and expecting. I'm not sure I'm going to go very much into Barricade's past. He's very very lonely, which is why he's been getting closer to the Autobots, but he won't admit that. I'm glad that you like that I added him in, though. You'll love this next chapter (hopefully). As far as the deleted memories: I'll be explaining that soon *smile* As far as Nightfire carrying BB: she can't carry someone else's sparkling unless she had one of her own already, since the carrying hold doesn't form unless a bonded pair mates XDDDD Elita will perhaps have lots of questions on her own, or just be so happy to be reunited that BB's origins will no longer matter in light of everything else. I don't know how the story remains intriguing, but I'm ecstatic that you're still so engaged in it! Thank you! XDDD

FunkyMonkey19: They sure are! Things are about to heat up even more *wink* You'll find out whether you're wrong or not with this next chapter *smile* Thank you!

Borath: I hope you like Barricade's role here. He doesn't play a huge part, or maybe it is a big part, but he isn't in the story much after this...at least I don't think he will be. More actually, I won't be focusing on his past experiences, but something has happened to him that is very important (which is in this next chapter). There will be a really in-depth look at those missing bits of Ratchet's/Nightfire's memory (and the whole story behind Optimus and Bumblebee). I also have the story of Optimus and Elita I'm trying to vector in. I'm going to take a little time after this chapter to get all that more straight (I have several notebooks full of notes and outlines and parts of future chapters that suddenly became jumbled at this point ^^;) Thank you!

flamingmarsh: Yes, Optimus does need to explain everything to Bee. Going after Barricade may not be a good idea, but maybe Bee unknowingly sets things in motion that will help Optimus out *wink*

Anasazi Darkmoon: Yea, it's an up and down ride for them all. As soon as they get good news, something else comes up. They all went through a lot through the long war. It will take some time to find peace and keep it. As far as Optimus tracking Barricade but not wanting to hurt him: Barricade is still a Cybertronian in Optimus's mind. There are so few of them left that Optimus is willing for any of them to redeem themselves if they want. He is tracking him to make sure he doesn't harm anyone and as long as he doesn't, Optimus is content to let him be. I hope I got that down more in this next chapter.

Thanks so much for adding me and my story to your:

[Favorite Story]: AutobotJena, Metallikato, Quacked Lurker

[Story Alert]: DarkRains824, Hot Rod's Girl, Roxygirl87

[Favorite Author]: vfnfvne

CREDITS: (At the end of the chapter this time so as not to give something away XDD)

I had no Internet access during Christmas, as both my parents' and my husband's parents' Internet was down. I just got back to DC, back to the land of lots of Internet access, so here's that chapter I promised for you guys!

Bold print is transmissions through bonds and/or comlinks.

Enjoy!

Night Fire

Impetus

Part II

Chapter 63

by Litahatchee

888

WASHINGTON COUNTY INTERSTATE AUTO AUCTION

Southwest's LARGEST Repossessed Automobile Auction

Repossessed, Impounded, and Government-seized vehicles of all kinds

Retired and decommissioned police cars...

888

Bumblebee sat facing the sign in his alt mode. He was at the right place. Under the cover of darkness of the night sky, he looked out across the darkened lot.

According to the datapad, Barricade had been hiding out as dilapidated and over-used police cars that no one in their right mind would want to buy. He always scanned the worst jalopies he could find, preferably ones that had been wrecked.

People weren't allowed to test drive cars at these sort of auctions, so a purchase was based on sight alone. If he was the worst looking, most warn out, most wrecked car out there, then he didn't have to worry about being bought. If someone did buy him, he easily got out of it by simply scanning another vehicle. If he felt that something might become too suspicious, he simply moved to another auction as another type of warn down police car. There were so many years and models to choose from, it was easy.

This was a great way for the Con to continue to hide out. No humans would think to look for him in a place like this and, quite frankly, Bumblebee never would have thought of it either. It was safe to say that none of his comrades would suspect Barricade would be hiding out here.

Optimus obviously knew, though. Bumblebee was starting to realize that Prime left out a lot of important information. However, he wasn't currently concerned about Optimus's reasoning for not informing them of what he knew about Barricade.

Bumblebee began scanning the cars in the lot, driving up slowly, trying to figure out which dilapidated car could be Barricade.

Bumblebee wanted to know what Barricade did to Chromia. He remembered her startled shock upon learning the Decepticon was on Earth. If he could trap Barricade for her, maybe she would forgive him for being related to Megatron. Maybe he could win over her spark.

Bumblebee paused, realizing he didn't really know how he was going to trap Barricade. He wasn't about to kill the mech; he just didn't want to. However, he doubted Barricade was going to happily agree to accompany him back to the Ark. Bumblebee didn't really have much of a plan here and it was beginning to sink in how much it was an impulsive decision to come here to begin with.

"I see that Optimus has sent, oh, how would those disgusting humans you protect say it?" Barricade's voice suddenly boomed out from across the car lot. His voice took on a sneering tone, "I see that Optimus has sent his lap dog to sniff me out."

The voice came from a 1988 Dodge Diplomat Salon. It was a sled of a car, a jalopy to the fullest. If Bumblebee wasn't so insulted, he would have laughed.

Instead of being amused, though, Bumblebee was mad, angered by the insult to the humans and to himself. As Barricade transformed, Bumblebee charged him, his sudden anger and frustrations severely clouding his judgement.

Barricade sneered at the charging Autobot. The dumb youngling played right into his taunt, but Barricade wasn't strong enough for an extensive fight. He'd have to take him down fast.

The first thing Barricade noticed was that Bumblebee didn't bring out his weapon. Barricade himself didn't have enough energon in his system to even form one plasma bolt, so he didn't bother with his own weapons either. Even bringing out his blades would have been pointless at that moment. By his next thought, Bumblebee was upon him.

Bumblebee rammed head on into Barricade's form, intending to tackle the Decepticon to the ground.

Barricade stood his ground, taking the hit but then twisting around to the side, using Bumblebee's momentum against him. He grabbed the sides of Bumblebee's shoulders with the intent to throw the bot to the ground, but Bumblebee also had a firm grip on him.

They both went down. Fortunately for Barricade, however, he fell on top of Bumblebee.

Not giving Bumblebee an astrosecond to clear his mind of what just happened, Barricade unsubspaced his whirling blades. Now was the right time to expend the energy to use them.

He brought the blades down in a swift motion, cutting Bumblebee's helm. The sound was deafening and if anyone were around to witness it, they would have thought it sounded like a saw cutting through metal.

Sparks flew everywhere.

Sobered by the pain and the situation, Bumblebee threw a punch that made its mark on Barricade's faceplates. He then quickly unsubspaced his plasma canon and took an aimless shot. He didn't really need to aim in such close proximity, but the shot didn't hit the mech point blank either.

It went over Barricade's right shoulder, but grazed him enough that he pulled back and snarled in pain.

Taking advantage of the momentary distraction, Bumblebee punched Barricade in the face again. The Con listed slightly to the side and then Bumblebee bucked his body upwards, throwing the mech off.

Barricade landed on his injured shoulder and was quickly shoved onto his back as Bumblebee jumped on top of him. Bumblebee hauled his fist back for another punch...

...and suddenly found himself being pulled through the air away from Barricade and unceremoniously dumped on his aft.

What the frag? How did Barricade do that?

"That's quite enough!" Optimus's voice suddenly boomed through the night.

Ah, now Bumblebee understood what happened. Optimus obviously grabbed him and pulled him off of Barricade. His next thought was wondering how the frag Optimus knew he was there and wondering why Optimus was there too.

Barricade recovered quickly, bringing himself up to his full height. He knew better than to try and take on a mech as big as Prime, but he could take whatever was coming with dignity.

Bumblebee stood up as well, wiping energon from his face as it leaked down from the cut above his ridge-plating.

Optimus looked at each of them in turn, standing between them. Barricade looked seriously energy deprived and he had a scorch mark on his shoulder where Bumblebee nicked him, but it didn't look near as bad as his deprivation. The mech hardly looked like he could stand on his own power, but he stood tall anyway, appearing proud and prepared for anything, no matter what it was.

Bumblebee had a deep gash above his optical ridges. That would need to be attended to as soon as possible. Optimus had no idea what the young bot was thinking, but he'd have to address that later.

"What do you want, Prime?" Barricade intoned darkly. "Come to finally kill me?"

"No," Optimus started...

"I'm not an idiot," Barricade interrupted before Prime could say anything else. "The humans have been calling for my death for years. Or maybe you're here to capture me. They probably want a subject they can experiment on without having whatever serves as a guilty conscience for them. Is that why you're here? To turn me over to them for experimentation?"

Air sighed from Optimus's vents, "It was not my intention to be here at all."

Optimus then looked pointedly at Bumblebee, who at least looked guilty, though Barricade missed the exchange.

"Ha!" Barricade continued. "Like I would believe that you would simply leave me alone all this time." He staggered a little bit, clearly in a far more weakened state than he'd exhibited towards Bumblebee.

"I have, haven't I?" Optimus said rhetorically, indicating to Barricade that he had known where he was and had, indeed, left him alone.

Barricade sagged a little, but still managed to look as intimidating as possible. Optimus watched him a moment and then reached into his subspace.

Barricade took a step back, preparing for the worst. However, instead of pulling out a gun or some other means to kill him with, Optimus pulled out a small cube of energon.

Barricade's optics widened at the sight of the shimmering cube of liquid. He had been living off of gasoline and whatever other fuel he could steal from the humans, but it was grossly substandard stuff, not to mention gross period. He was virtually starving. The prospects of having just one small cube of energon seemed too good to be true. When Optimus handed it to him, he stared at the Autobot leader in disbelief.

"Optimus?" Bumblebee protested. "What are you..."

"Stand down, Bumblebee," Optimus interrupted in that tone that demanded no further questioning.

Barricade didn't take his optics off of the Prime as he quickly downed the precious sustenance. Prime looked too...kindly, and it was throwing him off.

"Where are the others?" Optimus asked Barricade, not at all demanding.

Barricade wasn't sure what to think. He wished Optimus was being demanding instead of nice. However, he also figured right then and there that Prime gave him what he obviously desperately needed only because he wanted something in return. At that moment, however, Barricade was too weak to care, so he answered honestly.

"Hrmph, dead for all I care," Barricade said. "Starscream left. I thought he'd return for me, but he hasn't. They left me to rot on this stinking dirtball world with the human filth you somehow found so worthwhile to save."

Bumblebee started forward at the insult and all it took to stop him was a pointed glare from Optimus.

"We have more energon on our ship," Optimus said. "You may return with us..."

Optimus began extending the start of an offer that Barricade found insulting. An insult for an insult, the Decepticon figured.

"And be your prisoner?" Barricade sneered. "I think I'll take my chances with the puny humans. You think you can give me a cube of energon and expect me to just follow you back to your ship?"

Instead of giving Barricade an answer, Optimus just stood there patiently. Barricade was weak and Optimus could see it. If the diminutive Decepticon wanted to live, he didn't have many choices.

Barricade paused, looking around the dark car lot and thinking on his options. "You said you have more?"

Optimus merely nodded his head, waiting for the Decepticon's decision. He didn't give him an alternative, but the alternative would have been that Optimus would simply take him by force. Decepticon or not, he wasn't about to let the mech starve himself to death. Now that Optimus could actually see the condition he was in, he took it upon himself to do something about it. He was still Prime of their kind, even if they were on opposite sides.

Optimus also noted that Bumblebee seemed satisfied that they were taking Barricade back to the Ark. However, he didn't know what Bumblebee's motives were.

"What's the catch?" Barricade asked warily.

"There is no catch," Optimus answered. "You will stay in the brig, but you can have as much energon as you need."

Optimus hoped that, eventually, Barricade wouldn't have to stay in the brig. His hope was that they could all live as Cybertronians again and move forward as one. As far as the energon, there were only six of their kind on this world and the Ark was fully stocked. It would eventually run out, but they'd find a way to produce more before that happened; they always did.

"Right now, I just want to save every Cybertronian that I can," Optimus said. "There are so few of us left."

Bumblebee hung his head in guilt and shame. He wasn't there to kill the Decepticon, but his intentions weren't that honorable either, even if winning the spark of Chromia was the most honorable thing he could hope for. However, he was glad Barricade was still going to end up back at the Ark. That was still gift enough for Chromia in his optics.

Barricade shunted air from his vents in disgust of the Autobot do-gooder ways. "And whose fault is that? If you would have surrendered a long time ago, this endless war could have been prevented."

At that ultimate insult, Bumblebee charged at the Con in anger. Optimus jumped in his path and pushed him out of the way.

"Return to the Ark immediately, Bumblebee!" Optimus demanded. "Report to Ratchet and then report back to me."

Bumblebee bowed his head again, guilty as ever. He briefly looked up at Barricade, who glared at him with unconstrained hatred before Bumblebee transformed and moved out at Optimus's bidding.

Optimus comm-ed Ratchet, "Ratchet, Bumblebee is incoming with an injury to his helm. When you are done with him, bring a med kit and some energon to the brig."

Barricade was not injured enough to need to go to the med bay and the energon would help him on his way to gaining good health again. He didn't need to be in the med bay for that, though Optimus was sure Ratchet would give him a complete check up to make sure there wasn't something that needed fixing. He would leave that part up to Ratchet. For now, he just wanted to make sure Barricade would remain a good mech and not cause any trouble.

Optimus turned back to Barricade. "There are many ways that this war could have been prevented, but it is what it is, Barricade. All we can do now is move forward."

888888888888888

Ratchet was checking up on the very happy and sated-looking Ironhide and Chromia when Bumblebee entered the med bay. As soon as Chromia saw the deep gash and energon dripping down Bumblebee's face, her femme-youngling protective programming kicked in with a vengeance. She jumped off of the berth she was sharing with Ironhide and ran right over to him.

"Primus, what happened?" she asked worriedly as Ratchet began cleaning off the energon to see how bad the cut was, which turned out not to be as bad as it looked.

Chromia felt Bumblebee's spark soar with happiness that she was worried about him. Something about that felt odd. Wouldn't he know that she would, of course, be worried about him? She loved him.

Ironhide came up behind her and Bumblebee strangely withdrew from the bond.

Bumblebee hesitated. "Well, I kinda went after...I sorta went looking for...I, um, got in a fight...and, well, Barricade got me good." He smiled sheepishly with the final revelation, stuttering through a half-explanation because he had no idea how to say what he did.

Ratchet slapped the back of the youngling's helm with his hand, "What were you thinking?"

Chromia's energon froze upon hearing Barricade's name. She felt Ironhide's puzzlement in their bond, but the last thing on her mind at that moment was an explanation to him about Barricade's role at Floatilla.

"Where is Barricade now?" Chromia asked calmly.

Bumblebee seemed more than eager to tell her. "Optimus is taking him to the brig."

Without another word and seemingly serene on the surface, Chromia walked out of the med bay. However, there was murder in her spark and Ironhide felt it like a knife.

888

Barricade stood silently by as Optimus typed in the access code to one of the cells in the brig. So far, he didn't bother trying to attack the Autobot leader. He was so weak that Prime didn't even bind his hands. He figured he might as well not betray that trust. The prospect of having as much energon as he could consume was a huge motivator. He felt like he had just struck high-grade and he wasn't about to ruin it for himself.

Optimus had barely turned back towards Barricade when a dusky, light blue, blur streaked passed him, running straight at Barricade. He heard the sounds of transformation and then several plasma shots were fired.

Barricade fell to the ground as several well-placed plasma shots hit him in his legs. He was writhing on the ground in pain when the last femme he ever wanted to see again in the multi-verse was upon him. She snarled unintelligibly, her fists suddenly pounding his face.

Chromia's ferocity caught Optimus completely off guard. He could feel her spark through the bond he had developed with her sparkling. She meant to kill Barricade, but she wanted to make him suffer first. The absolute, unadulterated, abject hatred he felt pouring from the femme was staggering.

Chromia knew Optimus was there, but she didn't care. Damn the consequences. The repercussions were probably going to be swift and harsh, but Chromia didn't care at that moment. Barricade, the very Decepticon that recognized her at Floatilla, the very mech that delivered her right into Megatron's arms, was within her grasp and she wasn't going to stand for him living another moment.

Optimus quickly snapped out of the knife-sharp vengeance cutting through the new bond. The newspark did not seem to be reacting to it. It was almost as if the sparkling had gone into a sort of dormant, recharge-like state when Chromia began fighting, a defense mechanism to keep it safe from extreme emotions its creators could be prone to.

Optimus stepped in to pull Chromia away from Barricade when a large black blur raced passed him, Ironhide having arrived and beating him to it.

"Chromia, stop!" Ironhide yelled as he tried to grab her away.

Ironhide didn't give a frag about Barricade, but Chromia's emotions were intense and he was very concerned for the sparkling, even though little Nightfire didn't seem to be harmed in the least. He then appealed to Chromia through their bond, "What's wrong? What's going on? Think of the sparkling!"

At that, Chromia allowed Ironhide to pull her away and Barricade just remained on the ground, several groans escaping him that sounded halfway between pain and relief.

Now that Ironhide had her in his arms, he pulled her against his chest in a vice grip, not intending to let her go no matter how much she might start kicking to get back at the unlucky Decepticon. Optimus gave him a grateful glance and Ironhide nodded at him that he had things under control.

Since Chromia could no longer throw physical punches, she started yelling, "It was your fault! Megatron never would have known I was there!"

The sudden saddened pain in Chromia's spark, the void from their lost sparkling flaring out, causing the newspark to stir slightly, overwhelmed Ironhide as the words she had just spoken sank into his CPU...

It was Barricade's fault? Megatron never would have known Chromia was there if it weren't for Barricade?

Megatron never would have known Chromia was in the Floatilla plaza if it weren't for Barricade...

The truth hit Ironhide like a plasma canon.

Ironhide's own fiery vengeance flared to life. He had no idea that Barricade had even been at Floatilla, but now he knew that the mech had something to do with Sunshadow's death.

Ironhide released Chromia and was upon the Decepticon in an astrosecond. He vaguely heard Optimus yelling for him to stand down. He only had one thought on his mind; he was going to rip Barricade's spark out. He felt someone strong trying to pull him back as red and blue painted arms came around him from behind, wrapping under his arms, the hands coming around the back of his neck, trying to wrench him free of Barricade's prone form.

It was not enough, as Ironhide still managed to rip open the mech's chesplating in his rage. He looked down at Barricade's exposed spark chamber, intent to watch the Con's spark as he crushed it between his fingers...

Ironhide paused when he saw it, his surprise and another's permeating throughout the bond...

It was a carrying hold...

Barricade had a carrying hold. The Decepticon that recognized his sparkmate at the plaza at Floatilla, which ultimately led to the death of his sparkling, had a carrying hold.

His rage newly fueled by the thought of his sparkling's death, Ironhide didn't hesitate any longer and went for the mech's exposed spark. Wherever Barricade's sparkling was, it was irrelevant when compared to Ironhide's own loss.

Suddenly, in less than a blink of an optic, Ironhide felt the presence of the other in his spark. He recognized it immediately...

It was the one with the flame of hope.

It dove in so strongly, the strength behind it so overpowering, stirring a compulsion driven by an immense impulse for Ironhide to stop his actions, that Ironhide complied, standing down and just staring at the frightened Con.

At that moment, Ironhide realized who had a grip on him, who was just as surprised as he was to find that Barricade had a carrying hold, who held onto that flame of hope as readily as if it were life itself, who just appealed to his spark as if the other was an extension of himself...

It was Optimus.

Ironhide looked at him, truly seeing him for the first time. He could feel Optimus Prime's spark. It was...tremendous, along with everything he had felt before he knew who this other in their bond was.

This had to be a result of Optimus having incubated his sparkling. Ratchet said that a bond could form between the sparkling and Optimus, but Ironhide didn't realize that he would be able to feel Optimus too. He just didn't think about that.

He looked over at Chromia, who had her hands over her spark, obviously getting the same impressions from Optimus that he was.

Ironhide looked at Barricade and he felt Optimus's spark flare in concern of what Ironhide's next action would be against the Decepticon, but he was ready to stop it, whatever it would be. He sent another impulse to Ironhide to not act, to just move away.

Ironhide's optics widened in surprise of Optimus's capability to manipulate his spark through this new bond. He shouldn't have been surprised, because it wasn't anything someone with a spark bond with another couldn't do already. However, the fact that it was coming from Optimus, that it was so new and strange and powerful, was astounding to him.

Ironhide moved back and Optimus let go of him as he stood up. That hope that Optimus clinged to flowed through the bond. Optimus wanted Barricade to live. He may have done many awful things, but they all had. Any Cybertronian that Optimus could keep alive added fuel to his flame of hope, adding hope that their kind could be saved, from themselves, from their past actions and, ultimately, from extinction.

In addition to his hope to keep Barricade, another Cybertronian, a Cybertronian who was obviously bonded and had a sparkling somewhere, alive, Ironhide felt Optimus's anger. He was reminded of the vengeance of his two trigger-happy warriors and he was angered by it. Ironhide could feel his immediate forgiveness, but he was no less angry at the impulsive decisions of his Autobots.

"Please leave," Optimus intoned, the authority behind his voice giving no doubt that it wasn't a request.

Ironhide and Chromia complied, leaving the brig and heading back to the med bay. They wordlessly walked passed Bumblebee and Ratchet, who had obviously come to see what the commotion was about.

Bumblebee watched them go. He didn't exactly know what Chromia would do with her 'gift' when he was on the Ark, but he hadn't expected that. He almost felt bad for Barricade, but the thing that concerned him the most was the hatred Ironhide and Chromia exhibited through their sparks just moments before. If they had such intense feelings against someone that helped lead to their sparkling's death, then how did they really feel about someone related to the one that dealt the killing blow? Bumblebee didn't want that hatred to be turned towards him.

Ratchet pushed passed Bumblebee to attend to Barricade, focusing on the injuries to his legs.

"We need to get him to the med bay," Ratchet said.

Optimus nodded and then Bumblebee helped him and Ratchet carry the stricken mech.

Ratchet comm-ed Ironhide, "I think it might be best if you two go to your quarters instead of the med bay for now. No thanks to you, I'm going to be busy for awhile." A couple of astroseconds passed, and then Ratchet added, "Don't neglect my prescriptions. Just because I have a new patient doesn't mean I can't find time to monitor you." Ratchet didn't mention how worried he was about Ironhide and Chromia and their newspark, but he would get back to them as soon as this new emergency abated.

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Optimus stayed in the med bay as Ratchet worked on Barricade's injuries. The Decepticon remained online and didn't say a word the entire time. It appeared that he had been suffering from more than just deprivation of energon. His sparkmate was obviously nowhere nearby, so he was suffering from separation too. He was quiet, but he glanced in

Optimus's direction several times as if he wanted to say something.

Optimus used the opportunity to try talking to him about more personal things. He didn't expect the Decepticon to answer, but he tried anyway.

"Where is your sparkling?" Optimus asked.

Barricade said nothing for a moment and Optimus was beginning to think he had overstepped the boundaries.

"I left him with her," Barricade finally answered. "He should be halfway to adulthood by now." His voice was somewhere between pride and sadness.

Barricade didn't really know why he answered. Maybe it was something about Optimus's soothing voice and his undying compassion no matter if Barricade was an enemy or not. Barricade wasn't sure what he thought about that, but he was responsive to it.

"Where is your sparkmate?" Optimus asked next, not sure if he was pushing it or not, but he got a response to his first question, so maybe Barricade was in a talking mood.

Barricade hesitated again and turned his head away. He did what Decepticons were not allowed to do. He bonded. Not only did he bond, he created a sparkling. He was not about to go into how it all happened or the reasoning. He knew that Optimus wasn't asking that of him, but even speaking of his family could put them in danger in his faction. Though, that probably didn't matter now...

"I think she's dead," Barricade said. "I haven't been able to feel her in my spark for so long, but 7.5 orns ago...I felt the bond being ripped from me. All I have felt ever since is a...a..." Barricade stalled, unsure how to describe it.

Ratchet just stared at him, his spark breaking for the mech while he simultaneously wondered how this mech could have been involved in so much of the Decepticon atrocities.

"...Void," Optimus finished for him, his expression that of complete shock. "You said you felt her, um, 'death' 7.5 orns ago?"

"Yes," Barricade said. "7.5 orns, 6 joors.."

"...2.56 breems and 15.7 astroseconds ago," Optimus finished.

Barricade's optics widened, "How did you know that?"

Optimus felt the 'death' of his own sparkmate at exactly the same moment, right down to the same astrosecond, that Barricade felt the loss of his sparkmate. Whatever had happened with their mates, the two femmes were in it together.

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AN CREDITS: The name 'Nightfire' belongs to lady tecuma from her story 'Sparks and Plasma.' I also want to credit Faecat for giving Barricade a carrying hold. She asked permission to use my idea and then did something with it that played perfectly into this chapter. You should go check out her story, 'Science and Fiction.' It is so awesome!

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