Optimus glanced up as Barricade stalked in. The Autobot frowned at the human clutched in Barricade's claws. Ironhide trailed in behind, looking sheepish, with Bumblebee and Sam on his heels.
"What is going on here?" Optimus demanded, looking to Ironhide for an explanation. Ironhide just shrugged helplessly.
"This…" Barricade's gaze flicked to Ironhide for a split second. "…Human," he continued grudgingly," Has been following Bumblebee. Your men's stealth training needs a little work," he added snidely.
"Sam, do you know this person?" Optimus asked. "Put him down, Barricade. Gently."
"Yeah, we go to school together," Sam said, eyeing Trent with distaste. "His name is Trent.
Trent scrambled out of Barricade's claws, staring around wildly. "Oh my god… They're- You're-"
"Giant alien robots form the planet Cybertron," Ironhide supplied helpfully.
Trent gaped at him, mouth working.
"Trent," Optimus said gently, catching his attention again. "Why were you following Bumblebee and Sam?"
"I don't… B-bumblebee?" He swallowed. "I was… I mean, Sam's car-" Trent turned back to the bright yellow robot, realization dawning. "Oh, god…"
Barricade snorted. Trent jumped at the noise.
"The boy is obviously distraught, Optimus," a new voice broke in. Ratchet stepped into the room, frowning down at Trent. "According to my reading, prolonged exposure to stressful situations can cause permanent damage. W should allow the boy to calm down before questioning him further."
"Very well," said Optimus with a nod.
Trent backed away. He was having trouble focusing on what the new robot meant, but it involved him, and doing something to him… He squawked in surprise as a clawed hand caught him around the waist from behind and scooped him off the floor.
The robot carried him out of the room, opening another massive door and dumping him inside.
Trent sat on the floor for a long moment, staring at nothing. "Well, shit."
The Autobots waited for Barricade to re-enter the control room before turning to Sam.
"You said this boy went to school with you," Optimus prompted.
"Yeah. He was going out with Mikaela," Sam elaborated. "He's a real jerk. Egotistical, self-centered, bullying asshole."
"I like him already," Barricade commented to no one in particular. The Autobots ignored him.
"What do we do with him, Prime?" asked Ironhide. "We let him run around loose, and he could bring a whole lot of unwanted attention to our little operation out here."
"We will not harm him. We ask for his cooperation and silence," Optimus told them firmly.
Sam snorted. "Yeah, right."
"Our only other option is to vacate this complex. We cannot break our agreement with the human government," Optimus reminded him.
Sam sighed. "I know. But I don't have to like it."
"Sometimes we have to work with those we do not care for," Optimus said reproachfully, casting a significant look in Barricade's direction. "Perhaps you will find that there is more to him than you first suspected."
Trent stared across the table at Sam. "They really are aliens?"
"Yeah." Sam still didn't like this idea, no matter what Optimus said.
"And your car…"
Trent swore. "The conspiracy geeks were right about Mission City?!"
"For the most part."
Barricade made a rude noise. "Such scintillating conversational skills." Ironhide swatted the Decepticon casually upside the head. Barricade glared.
"So you see why you can't tell anyone about them, right?" Sam continued, trying to ignore Barricade.
Trent's eyes flickered to the side, focusing on Barricade's claws. He swallowed as the burning red eyes turned back to him. "Yeah. Don't tell anyone. Got it."
Johnny opened the door at his insistent knock, blinking blearily up at Trent. His eyes widened as he focused on his friend's scowling face.
Johnny grabbed him by the arm and pulled Trent inside, shutting the door behind him. "Dude! How did you get away? I though you were a goner!"
Trent yanked his arm out of Johnny's grasp. "What the hell are you talking about? And where the hell is my car?!"
Glancing quickly around, Johnny stepped closer. "The robots, man!" he whispered. "With the burning eyes and the claws…"
"Dude! What robots? You were so drunk last night, you flipped out and got me caught! Then you took off, screaming about them 'coming to get you,' in my truck!"
"But… but… they were right there!"
Trent scrubbed a hand over his face, looking irritated. "Just tell me where the hell my car is."
Johnny swallowed, giving him a nervous smile.
The front door slammed. Trent stormed down the sidewalk, ducking into the open door of the police interceptor waiting outside. "He crashed my car!"
"My fuel pump is just stuttering in sympathy, insect." Barricade snorted, pulling away from the curb.
"You're a bit of a jackass, you know that?" Trent glared at the hologram in the front seat.
"Do I care what you think?" Barricade didn't bother making the hologram's mouth mimic his speech.
That's just creepy. Trent gave the dashboard a thoughtful look. "You're one of those Decepticons, aren't you?" There was a moment of startled silence from the interceptor. "Everyone else has that symbol that looks kinda like a cat, but yours looks more like a fox."
"Congratulations, insect, you have the amazing power of sight."
"And hearing, too. Because that little conversation you and the truck had right before we left didn't sound exactly friendly. Besides, the others are all nicer than you are. What are you, a POW on parole or something?"
A smirk made its way across Trent's face. "Actually, that gives me an idea..."