The Gremlin
By Sinead

Author's Note: This is what happens when I'm working maintenance on a building that I know how to clean in two hours . . . but am required to spend four hours in. I daydream. And random Transformers characters pop into my head. Today was definitely out of the ordinary . . . since I never have Decepticons taking up residence in my brainspace. I think that they're overwhelmed by the way I'm wired to be good.

.o.

I heard voices long before I actually was able to see what was going on. Of course, a door separated me from the odd hushed yells. They were in my closet, and they weren't the voices of my fellow maintenance workers. Two voices were too young, and two were too brusque and almost military-like.

Huffing, I opened the door into the L-shaped room, looking to my right to see that the kids were there. I couldn't see to the other side of the room, thanks to the shape, but they were standing, staring in horror down the foot of the "L," the boy standing in front of the girl. I put the bag of garbage I had been collecting from the various offices down, walked up to them, got past them, and blinked at what they had been beholding with such horror upon their faces. I sighed, walking forward and up to the hissing little thing, leaning closer to look directly into his two main beady little optics, and snorted. "Haven't we had this chat about scaring the humans, Frenzy?"

My phone came to life in my back pocket with a line of curses from Frenzy's partner-in-crime, which ended with "—and tell them to keep their pet Autobot from harming you or Frenzy!"

"Chill, 'Cade, or you'll blow a gasket. Again." Pulling the phone out, I put it on a shelf. "Your little gremlin is fine." I looked up and into the business end of a sidearm. "Me, on the other hand . . ."

"If they harm you . . ."

"You know who you're associating with?" The man said in a very low, forced-calm tone.

"Do you happen to know the circumstances of my partnership with these two?" I countered in the same tone of voice, feeling Frenzy clamber up to perch on my back like a four-year-old, peeking around my head at the man with the gun.

I saw his gaze waver, and the larger black man behind him visibly cringed at what he saw. I didn't blame him. My car was nothing if not bluntly truthful about the circumstances that surrounded him. Finally, the first man lowered his gun. "No."

"I go to get a used car off of a lot. I find a really Mustang that looks like it's in need of a lot of cosmetic repair. Engine was fine, but the soundsystem was a little screwed up." I glared up at Frenzy. "Still is." Grinning at hearing Barricade's snicker and Frenzy's protest, I looked back at the man with the gun. "I took on the project, got my titles, registration, you name it. I get home, and wake up the next morning with this little gremlin snarling down at me."

"Were you hurt?" the boy asked, still standing close to the exit.

I chuckled, looking over my shoulder. "No, but I had to sacrifice my spare iPod for the little cretin."

"N-n-n-not cretin!"

"That's right, it's just a speech impediment," I teased.

"Fleshbag!"

"Love you, too, Frenz."

"So . . . they're . . ." The kid shook his head, unable to comprehend what he was seeing. I didn't blame him.

"Yeah," I said with a smile. "They're kinda my buddies, and I'm kinda learning how to fix their kind up. I had to reattach parts of Frenzy's face."

"Not f-f-fun," the small mech griped into my ear, pressing the bad side of his head against the back of my neck, watching the soldiers. I felt him shudder. So he'd been in direct contact with more than one of these people before. Interesting.

Another Cybertronian curse lit the air. "That Autobrat is slaggin' me off! Call him off or I'll undo all the work you've done on me!"

I glared to the man. "I've been working on rebuilding his frame for seven months and it's cost me thirteen hundred dollars. If he undoes all that work and money I've spent on him, you are not going to be happy with what I'll demand."

"Bumblebee's not my Guardian."

Guardian? Huh. I looked to the black man, who shook his head. Turning my gaze back to the kid and his girlfriend, I saw him nod once. "Barricade can't transform correctly. I've had him for eight months, I've gotten only bruises from his impatience. He's my car. I can't afford another car right now."

"M-m-my car, t-t-t-to!" Frenzy jabbered before cursing in Cybertronian.

I glared at him. "I know that one."

He giggled before settling back along my spine.

Turning to look at the kid again, I watched the conflict on his face before he pulled a cell phone out and opened it up, pressing a speed-dial button. "Bumblebee . . . leave him alone. He apparently means no harm." He paused, making a face. "I know you don't like it, but I'm looking at Frenzy and a girl . . . you're twisted . . . look, she owns Barricade, like I own you. . . . That's not what I meant you, sick bastard. Sounds like it was the same circumstances where you came to be my Guardian." Another pause, and he looked up at me. "Did you get him from a place called Bobby Bolivia's?"

I blinked, then nodded twice. "Yeah. His mother cussed him out in sign-language, too."

"Yeah, same place, Bee. Leave Barricade alone."

Once the phone was hung up, I asked the boy, "So . . . your car makes a sexual reference out of everything you say, too, huh?"

"Yeap."

"Fun. Barricade, I can hear your engine revving all the way in here. You can pay for your next tank of gas." I shoved my phone into my back pocket again, feeling Frenzy climb up my shoulder and onto one of the shelves, perching upon a box and watching me move towards more supplies. "Look, I don't care if you're in here or not, but don't touch Frenzy. That's a death-wish, because you know that he's a package deal."

They reluctantly nodded.

.o.

"So . . . Caders actually batted you into a windshield?"

"Caders?" three of the now-seven people chorused. I heard Frenzy snickering from my backpack.

I grinned at the group, and then guffawed softly. "Yeah. I called him that once and he actually shut up. He was speechless in his anger."

Sam sat back, answering my question. "Yeah. He batted me. Hurt like hell."
"It's supposed to," I replied, poking at my fries. We had gathered in the McDonald's beside my college campus, and I had a great time getting to know this group. One wasn't real. It was a holographic projection used by Bumblebee.

There was Maggie, who was still eyeballing my backpack and looking like she wanted to take a good shot at it with those killer stilettos, and her probably-boyfriend Glenn, who was a total dweeb. The guy was a hacker and a complete nerd. He was awesome. Sam was beside Glenn, with Mikaela beside him. We were all in the corner booth. In the booth behind me was Lennox and Epps, the two military men who were currently keeping tabs on the Sam kid. It seemed kinda redundant. Three people guarding this one teenage boy.

Glenn belched and reached for another fry.

Frenzy poked my ankle.

I released the trucker-belch I'd been holding in for the last three minutes.

Customers stared from across the restaurant.

I sat back, grinning.

"Sexy!" I heard, and looked up to see my roommate giving me a thumbs-up from her booth, where she sat on a date. That's right. Pity the poor college kids who can only afford McDonald's dates.

I grinned back at her, and turned back to the conversation. "Sorry about that, but I had to one-up you, Glenn."

"Actually," he said slowly, "I think you should join the beer-belching crew."

"Beer is yak pee. No thanks." I drank more Dr. Pepper and looked out the window at the three cars parked outside. There was a rig and an emergency vehicle on the other side of the establishment, and I knew that Barricade was getting intimidated by the Autobots that were around him. Sighing, I saw his mirror swivel, keeping my face in sight. "I gotta get going. I need to get some fluids to replace some that he's lost. There's a few leaks in his coolant and fuel lines, and I need to put some fluids in there again."

Standing, I picked my trash up, and heard Bumblebee's voice for the first time. "You really care for him."

Hefting my bag up over my shoulder, I looked down at the impossibly-blonde man, taking my time to answer. "Yeah. He's my car, you know? I kinda gotta take care of him. Because it's the right thing to do."

"How do you mean, 'it's the right thing to do'?" came the replying query.

I sighed and then looked directly into the ice-blue fake eyes. "I got him in crappy condition. Once I knew he was sentient, it would be wrong of me to deny him comfort and what repairs I can do. It would be neglect. Barricade has done nothing to prove himself to be this killer that you speak of. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt."

I walked to the disposal, dumped my trash, and left. I heard someone running up behind me, and, upon turning, saw Mikaela catching up. Her words came out in a rush "Ratchet wants you to have Cybertronian supplies and fluids. Says that if you're that determined, you'd might as well do the job right."

"Sounds like that ol' codger all right," came a dark, disembodied voice. I blinked at the black pickup that was on the driver's side of Barricade, then shook my head. That would be Ironhide, Lennox's Guardian.

"Slag. I wanted to rip you apart, Decepticon."

"I hardly agree," was the answer from the car on Cade's other side. Bumblebee. "I think that Prime made the right decision to let these two stay together."

"Like Prime could slotting make me leave her." Barricade's engine started with a snarl, and he backed up, the driver's side door opening. "In. Ratchet can follow us and drop the fluids off at our garage."

I shrugged, getting in. "Not gonna argue with the big robot right now." The door closed, I took the wheel, and pulled out.

The gremlin in the backseat began to chitter with glee.

I let myself relax in the front seat, gripping the wheel with a smile.

"Kid."

"Yeah, ol' man?"

"Did you just manipulate them into giving us those fluids?"

"Nope."

"Then why are they giving them to us?"

I turned the steering wheel and pulled down a street, enjoying the sound of the Saleen engine that thrummed under Barricade's hood. "Because they, like me, are wired to do good deeds. C'mon. Let's drive for a while."

He took over, and we sped through the uninhabited streets.