Another story that I must credit to Moonsheen, who has joked around with me about how Barricade is totally Bumblebee's creepy ex-boyfriend stalker (Wait for me, baby! Call me!) and about how Decepticons are better at being Robots In Disguise.

Playtime With Barricade (Take Number 23)

There was a lot to be said for driving on wide, empty highways, for wind in his radiator, smooth asphalt, and a clear sky, the only sound his revving engine, his choice of music, and the rush of air.

And the wail of sirens at his rear end …

"Baby, life is like a ride on a freeway! Dodging bullets while you're trying to find a way! Everyone's around but no one does a damn thing; it brings me down, but I won't let them!" Bumblebee blasted Offspring out of his speakers at a decibel level unachievable by normal Chevrolet Camaros, but then again the music was as much for the benefit of his pursuer's audio sensors as his own.

Barricade snarled and revved himself forward, coming within inches of Bumblebee's bumper before Bumblebee downshifted and accelerated away.

The scenario was an unfortunately familiar one. Since Barricade had made landfall sometime within the last year, he had hounded Bumblebee across the continent of North America, finding and running him down with increasing, alarming regularity in the last five months. Bumblebee hadn't had a proper recharge cycle in the past six weeks, not since Barricade had found him in the middle of a cycle and nearly wasted the Autobot right then and there. Jumpy, weary, and just this side of paranoid, 'Bee was down to making jokes (via song) about stalker boyfriends and chasing lost loves.

Barricade did not take well to the smartassery. Then again, he didn't seem to have yet figured out that Bumblebee couldn't talk, so he wasn't the smartest Decepticon in the fleet. But, Bumblebee had to admit, Barricade had been smart enough to pick an alt-form that resembled the vehicles of most law enforcement officers in this particular nation.

Hence, why three other police cars of a more legitimate nature currently flanked Barricade, all flashing their lights and sirens and making a valiant chase of the whole thing.

Bumblebee would have found the whole thing vaguely hysterical if he wasn't so fragging tired. He needed a proper-length recharge, he needed security, and he needed to have less high-speed chases down the American freeway system.

The police had obligingly had the road ahead closed off to all drivers not directly associated with the chase, which meant Bumblebee didn't have much, if any, humans to worry about. He poured on the speed, well and unfortunately aware of how he was already digging into his reserve power, and began to leave all the police cars other than Barricade in the dust.

Over the radio the humans were chattering about roadblocks. Bumblebee had avoided one already; he listened carefully for where the next one would be set up. Unfortunately, that meant as he drifted around the next corner his optics registered the strip of three-inch-long nails stretching across the road ahead of him too late to avoid them.

A normal vehicle's tires would have exploded. Bumblebee's tires resealed themselves in under a minute, but not before losing enough air that he had to slow to refill them and to resist the urge to transform to protoform, every rotation of his wheels a sting of pain. Slagging fraggers from the Pit! What in Primus' name could have inspired something that insidious!? He couldn't help the startled, broken sound that grated the remains of his voice capacitors together.

Behind him, Barricade jumped the same trap, bouncing and fishtailing as he roared up to continue the chase. Behind him, the other police vehicles came to screeching halts, unable to cross their own trap safely. Bumblebee consciously shut down the capacitors that registered the pain in his wheels and tore off, barely keeping his lead on Barricade.

The humans were now talking about getting helicopters involved. Bumblebee didn't know how he would go about escaping human attention on the ground and the air simultaneously, so on an overpass he jumped the jersey wall. The landing thirty feet below him on another, smaller road jarred him to the optics, and he swerved out of the way of a few human-occupied vehicles as he veered around a turn towards a road leading into the woods. Barricade, not to be outsmarted, completed the same move, slamming aside one SUV with reckless abandon.

Bumblebee took the curves of the two-lane road at the maximum speed his alt-mode would allow; behind him, Barricade came in and out of range of his optics as the woods hid one another from view from turn to turn. Finally, coming around one turn, Bumblebee abruptly transformed to his protoform, taking a flying leap off the road and into the tree line. He could barely believe it, but the circuits in his extremities were actually overheating. He couldn't go on being chased like this!

Barricade barreled around the same corner and drove past for another quarter mile before Bumblebee heard the screech of braking tires on asphalt. Bumblebee dared a quick scan; there were no approaching vehicles or sentient life forms within a few miles.

Perfect.

Barricade came back into view, still in his alt-mode. Bumblebee felt a brief moment of regret as he realized what he was about to do; while it followed the letter of Optimus' rule that Autobots never attacked first, he was certainly not following the spirit of it. He didn't move, pretending he wasn't aware of Barricade as the Decepticon swept his active sensors over Bumblebee's body.

Barricade unfolded in a series of whirrs and clicks into his protoform, revving the spinning blades on his hand, and leapt towards Bumblebee's hiding place. "Time to die, Autobot!"

Bumblebee made a passable attempt at looking startled. Then he met Barricade's attack with the blade in his forearm, ripping into the circuitry between plates of armor in Barricade's torso even as he collapsed under the larger Cybertron's body. Barricade howled in pain and aimed his rotary blades for Bumblebee's neck, but the Autobot threw up his other arm just in time to take the beating on armored plates. They scrambled for a moment, forced to an impasse by their choices of weapons, when Bumblebee prepped and ported out his shoulder-mounted missile launchers. Barricade punched Bumblebee across his faceplates; Bumblebee shoved his entire body upwards with a heave of overtaxed pistons and reversed their positions for a moment before Barricade's greater mass let him fling Bumblebee over his head and into a tree. Bumblebee fared better than the tree, which snapped in half under the weight of Bumblebee's body.

Barricade was leaking Energon; he seemed to realize this at the same time as Bumblebee began to struggle back to his feet. "You obnoxious little pile of slag," Barricade snarled. "You laid in wait for me! That's practically a Decepticon tactic!" He rasped out a laugh.

"A man who kills, he runs around free; this system sucks, it's screwing over me," Bumblebee played in answer. Barricade would have to retreat soon with a leak like that. Bumblebee would have pressed his advantage, but at this point that would have been overplaying his hand.

"Stop with the squishy music already," Barricade snapped, grasping a tree behind him before coming to a realization. "Wait … wait!" He started to laugh again, an unpleasant grating sound. "You're the one Swindle told us about! How did it feel, having your voice capacitors ripped out by our Lord Megatron? Of course, it's not as if you could actually tell me, I guess." Barricade sneered.

Bumblebee loaded his pulse cannon – pure bluff at this point. "And the Lord said, Do unto others as you would have done unto you!"

"Right, right." Barricade seemed to feel, somehow, that he had won this battle. He limped back towards the road. "And all this time I thought you were just being a slagger. Turns out you're reduced to using the words of meatbags. Pathetic." He jerkily transformed back into his alt-mode and drove off. "Until next time!"

Bumblebee regarded the clearing he was in for a moment, powering his pulse cannon down. Frustration gave him the sensation of static on his EM sensors. It wasn't as if he cared what a Decepticon thought of him … not exactly. But days like this, he really, really missed his voice.

Still … chalk up a victory for the Autobots. It was temporary and minor in the long run, but as Bumblebee settled back into his alt-mode, not caring that he was in the middle of the woods, he figured he had earned a good, long recharge cycle, uninterrupted by the injured Barricade.

'Next time' didn't come for over nine months.

fin

Song credits go to Offspring (Staring At the Sun) and Chronic Future (Obstruction). Please review!