TITLE: Outbreak, part 7
Imperfection Deviation
SERIES: Imperfection
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...


Jazz was sticking to Barricade like gum to a shoe, to use a human expression. He didn't let his partner out of his sight and while Barricade didn't look amused, he didn't try to dodge his attention or openly asked him to stop it.

Both mechs had left the base and driven around almost aimlessly until Barricade had stopped at an old overlook that had long since dropped off the tourist maps. It was quiet up here. He didn't transform and Jazz parked beside him, rolling slowly closer until their car shells were touching.

Reaching out for the other spark, Jazz found he didn't even have to convince his partner to let him in. Walls went down and Jazz flowed closer to the resonating spark, wrapping himself around Barricade in a tight hug.

::Idiot:: he murmured.

::It was necessary::

::He isn't your responsibility::

::No, he is Bumblebee's, but apparently you Autobots seem to be incapable of dealing with this::

Jazz smiled a little. ::Apparently::

Barricade rumbled softly, but he didn't move away from the intimate contact.

::You scared me, Cade: the silver Autobot said after a while. ::I didn't take you for the suicidal type::

::I'm not:: came the snarled reply. ::I was handling the situation quite well::

::Until you shut down::

::He wasn't about to terminate me, Jazz. I imprisoned his mind and I could have obliterated him as much as he could have obliterated me::

Jazz shivered again. He almost absent-mindedly stroked over the other presence, feeling echoes of how bruised and battered Barricade's systems had been.

::The human has powerful abilities:: Barricade continued. ::He needs to let go of his fears and confront himself. Otherwise someone else will use those fears to misguide him. For all his loyalty to your kind, he can still be manipulated::

Jazz was silent, letting those words sink in. They reminded him of so many young Cybertronians he had known, swayed to Megatron's cause because they had believed his promises. Naivety and the fervent wish for a better future, for one they shaped, not the old ones of the councils. Sam was very young for his kind, though he had seen more than many, but he was still shaping up to a future that was unsure.

::Still was extreme:: he murmured after a while.

::Granted, it was::

Jazz sighed and felt his spark pulse in synchrony with Barricade's, calming his still frazzled nerves. By the way Barricade was letting him stay this close, actually encouraging the closeness, he knew how badly it had rattled his partner, too.

That Barricade had done so much for Sam still surprised Jazz, but the last year among the Autobots had shown changes in the former Decepticon. He had accepted them, in a way, and also Sam. Why he had protected the young human so often, he had never told anyone. This last move had stunned them all, especially Ironhide, and Jazz was both proud and confused.

::He's part of you:: Barricade rumbled, answering the question floating between you.

Part of the Autobot team. An ally. Like Barricade was. So Sam was granted an extended alliance with Barricade in turn.

Jazz was amazed, then sent warmth and appreciation. Barricade remained silent. Jazz didn't need an answer. He already knew it. They merged, becoming one entity for a brief moment in human time, a very long moment for mechanoids, and Jazz held his partner close.


Optimus Prime didn't know how to take what had happened. Sam's change through the Allspark had been unexpected and shocking, and he felt guilty about it. He had entrusted the young human with the Allspark and he had told Sam to run with it, to be safe. Whether it had been the prolonged contact, the first flash of energy when Sam had tripped, or the final release of everything the Allspark possessed into Megatron's spark, it really didn't matter. All of it had played together to change something deep inside Sam, make him different.

The boy was afraid of himself, of his abilities, and his outbreak at Barricade's hands had only shown how strong he truly was.

But he had control, Optimus reminded himself. He hadn't killed Barricade. And Barricade had proven he was accomplished at warding off telepathic attacks of this kind, though it had nearly torn him apart as well.

Just another facet.

Walking into the base, Optimus let his optics roam around. There was no trace of Sam. He liked to hang out with the Autobots, but lately he had taken to keeping his distance. It wouldn't stop Prime, though.

°°° °°° °°° °°° °°°

Sam had found a nice spot on top of the old hangar, lying back and looking into the sky. It was peaceful. A few weeks ago he would have laughed at the notion of seeking such simple pleasure, but too much had changed for him by now. Too much was different. There was too much he could do.

He still felt remnants of Barricade's presence, of his powerful mind, of the spark with its strong bond, the memories of an ancient mind. Well, all Autobots were ancient compared to a human existence. Sam wasn't so much shocked by the violence and death, than by what lurked underneath the gruff exterior. Barricade… cared. In his own way. About specific things and one specific person. He would kill whatever threatened him – and to an extent Jazz – but he would also lay his life on the line to protect what he saw worthy protecting.

Sam sensed a presence and he almost smiled. For all his haywire abilities, one good thing had already come out of it. He was able to tell apart the Autobots by simply 'listening' to the echoes coming from their sparks.

Ironhide was really old. And tough. It was like a thick hide around his spark. Rough and hard and not so easy to get past, but underneath was warmth. He protected his emotions and his spark from loss. He had seen too much to easily open up. When he was with Will Lennox it was like he relaxed more, Sam mused. It was as if those two were like-minded and could be who they were around the other, differences of age and origin be damned.

Ratchet was old, too, but not Ironhide's age. He was just as scarred, but he had a deep core of caring and willingness to help. His spark reached out for others instead of shielding itself, and he would risk everything to help another.

Jazz was a reflection of Barricade, which was a bit disturbing, knowing that underneath the fun exterior lay a warrior who would just as easily kill his opponent than save your life. Sam had seen the shields drop only once before, and back then he hadn't had the ability, and Jazz had almost scared him. Now, months later, he understood more. He saw more.

Bumblebee was just as scarred as the others, but his spark was like a compact version between Ironhide, Ratchet and Jazz. He could enjoy himself when there was no life-threatening danger, he was dangerous in battle, he was old, he cared, and he seemed to reach out for Sam almost without conscious thought. Sam took the offer for a helping 'hand' so to speak. Bumblebee's mind was stability. He knew it, liked how it felt, and he could rely on him being there.

Optimus Prime stepped into his view and Sam gave him a smile. He had known that the presence he felt had been him. Prime was unique. Old, yes. Caring, very much so. But incredibly balanced and very much grounded. So much so, Sam suspected he was actually growing roots. He was almost literally a rock in a stormy sea, though behind all of that lurked guilt and self-doubt and the weight of responsibility. Still, touching his spark was like a power-shock, a rush. Only the Allspark had felt that energizing to Sam.

"May I?" Prime asked, the deep voice soft.

Sam sat up and shrugged. "Sure."

"How are you, Sam?" the giant Autobot asked as he lowered himself to sit on the ground. His head was now level with Sam's position.

"Okay, I guess," he answered vaguely.

It got him a raised eye-ridge and Sam grimaced. "As well as I can be, considering I nearly killed one of you."

"Barricade's take on the situation differs from yours. He claims he only triggered your abilities to prove to you that you can control them if you want to."

"And I almost pushed him into terminal stasis lock!" Sam hissed.

"You stopped, though."

"Because he held me down."

Blue optics studied him. "Do you really think so little of your own control of what you are?"
"Optimus… what I am now… I've never been before. I don't know how to control all of this. I fail, I stumble, I make mistakes…"

"Like everyone does when learning, Sam."

Sam sighed deeply. "Yeah. My mistakes hurt you."

"Humans have this saying: nobody is perfect."

Sam snorted. "Yeah."

"Neither are Cybertronians," Optimus added, smiling slightly.

The boy gave him a sharp look, wondering who was the technopath now. His thoughts had been along those lines. Optimus Prime and the others were robots, they had programs, they couldn't make such mistakes. Abilities were programmed into them and they knew how to use them.

"We aren't born perfect, Sam. We learn just like you do. Maybe we learn faster, but we make the same mistakes."

"Well, you don't have puberty," he muttered. "Which is a big plus, I can tell you."

A chuckle. "No, but we are young when we come online. We test the boundaries, as well as the patience of the elder ones. Even me."

Sam stared at him, surprised. "Huh?"

It got him an amused look, blue optics brightening briefly. "Sam, if I thought this power of yours would endanger us, I wouldn't let you be here," the Autobot leader stated matter-of-factly. "I protect my men just as you protect your family. I think you can control this."

He was silent, staring at the ground below. Everyone believed in him, but he kept making horrendous mistakes.

"Barricade said if I can't control myself, someone will come and do it for me," Sam finally said, voice soft.

"People will see the power you represent and they will want to use it." Optimus nodded slowly. "I have seen my own people fall to another's power over them because their will was weak. Their minds were open for manipulation."

Sam looked up, brows drawing down. "Megatron?" he hazarded a guess.

The reply was a grim nod. "Yes. He preyed on those easily manipulated to follow his… vision. He used and abused their trust, their innocence. Those who tried to turn around were forced back under control."

Sam didn't really want to know how. He had an inkling what could be done to such a mech and he shuddered at the mere thought.

"You can take control of yourself," Optimus went on. "You can become independent of what your abilities make you want to do. It's hard to resist temptation, but you can do it."

"Whenever I look at one of you guys, it's like looking at something incredibly beautiful. I want to see it, touch it, explore it," the young man confessed. "And then I get lost inside. Looking at Earth mechanics isn't really too bad. A DVD player is complicated compared to a toaster, but I can stop any time. With any of you… it's addictive."

"Then your aim is to stop while you can, to take control and use it."

Sam nodded. He could already feel Optimus' systems whisper to him and it was alluring and wonderful. It was like having a spark bond to them all… and it was what Barricade felt with Jazz. It was sheer and simple beauty.

Forcefully, he clamped down on the urge to slip along the pathways and look deeper. From the look he got, Prime had been aware of the temptation. Sam smiled apologetically.

"You are more in control of yourself than you think," Optimus remarked.

"It would be easier for me if you guys had some kind of firewall that would stop me."

"Yes, it would, but we don't. We have no defenses against what you can do. Use your power wisely, Sam."

"I'm not spying," he argued weakly.

"I know you're not. Ratchet told me he offered you to train with us. Use the offer. The better you know us, the easier it will be."

Sam nodded. "Yeah. Thanks."

"You should also talk to your parents."

He winced and ducked his head. "That's not so easy either."

Optimus chuckled a little. "I understand. But they are your parents. They are entitled to know, don't you think?"

In Sam's mind his mom and dad didn't need to know about him being a freak. His mom would become a mother-hen extraordinaire and his father… he might not do anything, he might demand he stop being with the Autobots. He might ban Bumblebee from staying with Sam. Sam felt something inside of him clench in pain. He didn't want to lose any of this. Not because of what he had become. He would rather hide somewhere forever, run and never turn back, and go with Bumblebee wherever he went.

"Sam? What are you afraid of?" the Autobot leader wanted to know.

"Everything. What if they tell me to stay away from you guys? What if they don't want me to be with Bee? What if they…" He stopped, feeling his throat constrict. He cursed his emotional side.

"You don't know how your parents will react unless you tell them," Optimus pointed out.
"I know."

And that was the problem of it all. If he told his parents, they might react badly. If he didn't, he felt like keeping a dark secret they had the right to know about. Whatever he did, it would be difficult.


Sam was getting better. Slowly but surely. He was mainly training with Bumblebee now, refusing to get close to the others, and it was enough what he sometimes touched in his friend's mind. He had only had an inkling of understanding when it came to the war on Cybertron, of what Autobots and Decepticons had done to one another, but his 'lessons' with Bumblebee gave him a whole new addition.

He saw the true war. He saw the pain and the death and the hopelessness. He witnessed Bumblebee's friends and comrades die, torn to pieces. He saw different worlds and was on giant ships, and he suffered with Bumblebee when Megatron destroyed his voice box, or ripped his arm out.

It was terrible.

And he learned to block it.

So much corresponded with the brief flashes from Barricade's mind.

Sitting on the Camaro's hood, letting his mind touch Bumblebee's, Sam wondered how any of the Autobots could ever feel peace again. This was so terrible. Everything he had read, heard or seen of wars on Earth paled beside those images.

But there was also happiness. The old Cybertron, of before, of days that would never come back. It was a world he wanted to see, but Sam knew that even should he ever have the privilege, he would never see Cybertron as it had been when Bumblebee had come online.

"You're doing great," Bumblebee said, breaking the comfortable silence between them.

"Yeah, well, I know you now."

Because they were all so much alike. Barricade hadn't felt all that much different and when they had swung by the base a few days ago, neither had Ratchet.

"Sometimes I get hit out of the blue, but it's getting better."

And it had to. He was due back to college next Monday. Sam wasn't looking forward to it, but he knew it had to be. Human equipment didn't really give him trouble, though more complicated machinery tended to let him zone briefly.

"This will take time."

"I know."

Sam leaned back and felt the warm windshield against his back. His muscles relaxed.

And one day he had to tell his parents. He had so far hidden it all perfectly well, though sometimes his mother gave him strange looks and his father seemed to suspect something, too. Sam knew he was a coward and he really wanted to talk to his parents, but every time he tried, he got scared and bailed out.

They had a right to know, yes, but he was afraid of their reaction. This was because of the Autobots and because he had been involved in this war. Sam didn't want Bumblebee to be blamed, nor anyone of the others. Optimus would most likely take the blame, without thinking about it, but there was no guilt or blame to place. This had been an accident.

Closing his eyes, Sam felt himself dozing off. His mind was aware of Bumblebee's close by, a known and warm presence. He didn't try to invade it or log onto the familiar signals. He was simply there and it felt good.

Just like Barricade and Jazz felt each other, took comfort of the other presence.

Sam smiled. His own spark bond, without even possessing a spark or being a mechanoid. In a way he was experiencing the same, just not with a specific individual. Optimus Prime's presence felt as comfortable as Ironhide's or Ratchet's. It was just that Bumblebee was always around him and a lot easier to read.

°°° °°° °°° °°° °°°

It was about an hour later that Sam slid off the hood and stretched. Bumblebee had been quiet the whole time, his mind very much at ease and in sync with Sam's.

"Can you feel this, too?" Sam asked softly.

"Yes. It's… unexpected."

The young man shrugged. "Does it bother you?"

"No, Sam. Not at all."

That got Bumblebee a smile. Sam climbed into the Camaro and let Bumblebee drive him home. He didn't mind either. His friend was his guardian and he really did feel protected.

It was a good feeling.

A really, really good feeling.

°°° °°° °°° °°°

Fin for this story.

Okay, okay, I can hear the outcries! Have I mentioned the sequel is in the works? No? Getting old :) Anyway, it's not yet done, scenes missing, the works... I'll post as soon as I'm ready. Promise!