SERIES: Imperfection, part 14
DISCLAIMER: None of the characters belong to me, sadly. They are owned by people with a lot more money
Author's Voice of Warning (aka Author's Note):
English is not my first language; it's German. This is the best I can do. Any mistakes you find in here, collect them and you might win a prize The spell-checker said everything's okay, but you know how trustworthy those thingies are...
It was raining. Not just a little bit. It was coming down like waterfalls. Water cascaded off buildings and onto sidewalks. People had long since fled inside and whoever had to drive was doing so carefully. Canals were flooding. The sky was dark and getting darker by the minute. Somewhere in the distance a storm was brewing.
Barricade knew it had been a stupid idea to be out and about in this weather. But here he was. His tires still found traction where normal Earth vehicles would start slipping, but the former Decepticon had to employ more power to his navigational skills than he wanted to. He was up to the middle of his hub caps in water and it was flowing by him at an amazing speed.
Rolling past locked down shops and parked cars, Barricade decided patrol was over. There was no one outside, and any criminal dumb enough to try something now would probably drown. Served him well.
Cybertron hadn't had weather. At least not like humans understood it. There had been no rain or snow or dry spells. There had been no deserts, no seas, no rock and no sand. It had been the same year-round. There had been differences in temperature from day to night or from the equator to the poles, but those difference had been negligible.
Sometimes Barricade missed this controlled environment with its ever-present metal and glass and plastic. Cybertron had held no surprises for him.
Earth still did.
The first day he had spent on this world he had been overwhelmed by the very nature everywhere. Mars had been barren, with just sand and rock. Earth had trees and organic life in a wide variety. It was a life that was everywhere, in every size and shape and form. It survived extremes of heat and cold. It developed and flourished where he would have believed it to die.
Jazz was fascinated by everything new. He was a born explorer. Barricade had at first been unnerved, then annoyed, then indifferent as long as nature didn't try to kill him.
Thunder rolled through the sky and Barricade felt an echoing rumble in his chest. This was just plain bad. Weather was terrible, be it sun that burned hot enough to peel the paint off his armor or sleeting rain that wanted to freeze his joints. Ceaselessly rained upon was rating next to getting stuck in muddy trenches.
Not something he wanted to repeat. Frenzy hadn't been helpful back then either. He had been suicidally gleeful.
A wave of water hit him and Barricade growled like a large, dangerous animal as the Pontiac Solstice stopped next to him.
"Hey, 'Cade! Headin' back?" Jazz called.
Hyper. Happy. Fully in his element.
Barricade wanted to mangle something. He hated weather.
Jazz accelerated, an impossible task for any Earth vehicle with the amount of water on the road, then braked hard and skidded sideways, narrowly missing a lamp post, and going over an empty intersection.
"This is like surfin', dude!" he laughed.
Barricade would have rolled his eyes if he had adopted any human traits at all so far.
"It's a hostile environment," he grumbled.
"Go with the flow, Cade. It's just water!"
One more flippant remark and he would really mangle something. Barricade rolled after the Solstice at a safe pace, shaking his head at the antics of his companion.
Somewhere in the distance lightning flashed over the now black sky. Barricade could feel the energy unload and his skin tingled. The reserves of this planet in natural powers were incredible and the humans harnessed so little of it.
Mud splattered on his windshield and Barricade snarled in annoyance. Jazz was fishtailing in front of him -- deliberately.
"Stop that, Autobot!"
"C'mon! A little mud harmed no one before!"
"I will harm you if you don't stop it!"
"You gotta catch me first, Cade!"
And with that the Solstice accelerated. Barricade felt energon race through his systems and the predator peeked out from under the cover of perfect control. He followed Jazz, the chase freeing something inside of him he rarely let out outside a battle, and he tore after the Pontiac with rising hunger.
°°° °°° °°° °°°
Jazz was in his element. The water-logged streets posed no problem, though he had less traction than normal, and the spray of water behind him doubled as a visibility shield. He shot out of the town and onto the highway, keeping an eye on his pursuer. Barricade was handling himself well and actually gaining on him.
The Autobot smirked and accelerated more. He hadn't reached top speed yet and he knew Barricade wouldn't be able to keep up with him if he did.
Veering off to the right he had to fight the loss of traction that threatened to throw him off the road, then he was speeding again.
Taking the empty road – the humans had sought shelter from the elements already – Jazz led the merry chase away from the human settlement and somewhere more secluded. It didn't stop the rain, which was just as merciless out here, but at least there was no danger of colliding with anyone.
But there was another danger, one he realized too late.
There was a dip in the road as it described a narrow curve, and suddenly Jazz found himself diving nose first into water. He gave a cry of alarm as he lost traction and was swept off the road and along what looked like a roaring river.
Flash flood! ran through his mind.
Where there had been only a dried out river bed there was now boiling water, foaming, hissing, out of control. Dark with sediment and filled with debris it had taken with it along the route, it was a death trap to humans and dangerous to one silver Autobot.
There was the roar of water, the tremble of the ground as the masses washed around him, tearing at the sandy walls, the bushes, the rocks. Jazz transformed and his four-fingered hands grabbed for something to hold him. For all his weight and size, he was nothing but a toy for the raging waters. Burying his fingers in the mud, he tried to find purchase for his feet, but the mud was slippery and eroded under his hands.
Cursing his stupidity, he kept scrambling for any kind of safety rope in whatever form. It came in the shape of a claw closing around his wrist, clamping down hard not to lose him, and a sudden heave. Jazz fought the water that tried to drag him back and a second claw grabbed his chest armor, lifting him up and throwing him over the edge of the washed out river bed.
He landed hard, optics and audio receptor ringing, and there was water, and mud, in places he didn't want to contemplate. Looking up he found himself meeting a pair of furious optics. Glowing red, set in a black face, the optics belonged to a very pissed of Barricade. The black sky was a rather appropriate setting and he looked like some hellish avenging demon.
"Are you okay?" he demanded, voice rough.
"Yeah, I guess so. Uh, thanks."
"I don't know how you managed to survive so far!" Barricade hissed furiously. "What in Cybertron's name were you thinking?!"
Jazz sighed and sat up, mud falling off his back. "We're not at war, Cade. This is the time we have for us, before the next, inevitable encounter with the Decepticons. It might be decades from now, but I'm sure Starscream will come back. Just for vengeance."
"Well, you won't be around then," was the dry remark. "Earth will kill you first."
"It was just water," Jazz grumbled and got up.
Barricade didn't say anything, just glared, and it was a frightening sight, backed up by the lightning dancing across the sky. Mud washed off the silver armor, streaking in broad rivulets down to trickle into exposed muscle cables. Barricade walked over to him and flicked more mud off one shoulder. He looked still pissed off.
"Humans say it's good for the skin," Jazz remarked with a small smile.
"You're not human."
"You noticed," came the tease.
Barricade glowered more.
The rain was unrelenting and the raging river next to them reminded Jazz of his stupid little game. He gazed at it, then shrugged and smiled slightly at his partner.
"Home?" he made a peace offering.
Barricade looked indecisive. He didn't like to be cooped up among the Autobots any more than before, but the close call and the weather gnawed at him.
"You think you can make it there without losing a limb?" he wanted to know, sarcasm bleeding into his rough voice.
"How about trying to keep with the speed limit?"
"You take the fun out of my life."
"At least you live."
Jazz transformed, shedding more mud in the process. "Spoilsport."
Barricade followed his example and they returned to the road, the pace docile.
When both pulled into the dry safety of the hangar, Ratchet looked up from whatever project he had been working on, his optics narrowing at the sight.
"What happened to you?" he demanded.
Jazz transformed, dripping water and mud. "Nothing. It's just raining outside, Ratchet, or haven't you noticed?"
The medic's sharp gaze felt on the scuff marks over the always smooth and otherwise unblemished armor. Jazz ignored the look. Barricade stayed back, successfully blending into the background, watching.
"I just need a good wash," Jazz declared and walked deeper into the hangar.
Ratchet's narrowed optics fell on Barricade, silently prompting him to say something, but the former Decepticon just followed his silver partner.
Deep down inside the hangar Jazz descended to the underground level and headed for what doubled as private quarters. Jazz took a quick shower and when he came out, gleaming and dry, Barricade was leaning against the wall, arms crossed, looking dark and foreboding.
"Would you just let it go? I was stupid. It happened. Thanks for saving me, Cade," Jazz said, walking up to the other.
"You were stupid," Barricade agreed. "I'm not your bodyguard."
They heard a loud rumble, even down underground, and Jazz tilted his head a little. "Still going strong. Want to go upstairs and watch?"
"It's water coming from the sky and electricity unloading within the atmosphere."
"And it's cool to watch."
Barricade pushed away from the wall, slightly exasperated. "This planet doesn't become you, Autobot."
But he followed Jazz upstairs again.
It was a rare sight, Ratchet mused as he looked past his work station and toward the open entrance of the hangar. Jazz was sitting on several metal crates that had contained materials delivered to the Autobots a few days ago by the Airforce. He was looking relaxed, like he enjoyed the raging storms outside. He was cast into the twilight created from the darkness outside and the lights from the base.
Next to him, almost invisible due to his black coloring, Barricade was leaning against the same crate, arms crossed, looking his usual dark self. Red optics glowed next to blue ones, but they didn't look dangerous. Actually, the whole picture looked… harmonic.
Ratchet almost shook his head. Those two looked so different, but they were also so much alike. At least underneath their façade that they wore like an armor.
Jazz was saying something, gesturing at the forces of nature outside. Ratchet couldn't hear it, nor could he hear the reply, but he could almost see Barricade smile.
It had been a year now. An Earth year. Jazz was back among them and Barricade had defected from the Decepticons. It had been an interesting year and Ratchet knew that the next ones would be even more interesting.
He was really looking forward to it.