TITLE: In Plain Sight
SERIES: Imperfection Deviation
AUTHOR: Macx
RATING: R for sexual situations
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....
FEEDBACK: Loved
BETA: okami_myrrhibis

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It had been a miracle that they had scored tickets. It was another miracle that they were premium ones, including the pit lane and the paddock, as well as complete VIP access to all areas. Sam Witwicky fingered the multiple plastic cards around his neck, eyes shaded by sun glasses as they scanned the throng of people moving between the trucks. Many wore jackets of one of the various racing teams;, almost all had some kind of baseball hat that showed whose team they favored.

"Anything?" a voice asked.

He touched the com device stuck in his left ear. "No. Nothing. At least nothing specific. You?"

"Nothing here either."

Sam moved out of the way of two mechanics wheeling tires into one of the pits and let himself drift over to one of the tents where fans were trying to get glimpses of the drivers. He had been walking up and down the paddock all morning, but aside from the feeling in the back of his mind that something was here, something more than just a simple machine, he hadn't really hit jackpot.

::Bee?"::

::Nothing here either, Sam. None of us can pick up a blip. It's like he went off-line::

Sam started to move again, flashing his VIP pass at one of the security people and he entered the pit lane of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. It was several more hours to the race and there weren't any drivers in yet, aside from the small teams. All the stars were absent. But the pit crew was working on the cars, setting up their stations, looking over readouts. Stacks of tires rested in the shade of the canopy over each pit entrance, some already wrapped up in preparation for the race.

Sam hadn't followed yesterday's qualification laps. He had been too busy scanning. Throughout it all he had picked up the tell-tale pulses of a mechanoid, one he didn't know, but it was incredibly hard to find the machine the pulse belonged to. With over twenty race cars present, in addition to the trucks, personal cars, shuttles and all kinds of machines that could be a mechanoid, it was hell on his senses.

Yesterday he had wolfed down a family pack of chocolate bars, after drinking way too sweet soft drinks and trying to fight the headache that told him he had overdone it.

Exhaling softly, Sam chose an almost quiet place in the shade, at the end of the pit lane where not many fans and interested parties lingered, and he closed his eyes. Casting out his senses, he started once more.

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Sam hadn't thought he'd ever see Reginald Simmons again. At least not in the man's life time. Maybe an obituary. The last time he had seen the Sector Seven operative had been after the whole Mission City disaster and they had been rather civil with each other, though frosty. Now Sam was looking at the man, dressed in a suit and tie and looking older. Still, there was this gleam in the dark eyes that told him Simmons knew more than the engineer really wanted him to know.

Bumblebee wasn't very keen on the meeting either. He hadn't transformed yet, sitting behind Sam like a silent watchdog, and his mood was rather… lethal. As much as the mechs understood the humans' reactions to their presence, Simmons had struck a nerve. He was just one of many Sector Seven operatives, but one who had managed to get on their bad side quite fast. The intervening years hadn't changed that.

"Sam Witwicky," Simmons said, smiling. It was a smile that didn't reach his eyes.

"Mr. Simmons," he replied coolly.

"I hear you worked your way up the ranks."

Sam gritted his teeth and sent a soothing thought toward Bumblebee, who was about to explode and throttle the other man.

"And I haven't heard a peep from you."

Another smile. "It's how I work. How's the girl friend?"

Sam chose not to answer. Simmons probably knew more than Sam was comfortable with him knowing. He hadn't had the faintest idea that the man was still working for the government in some way. Then again, he hadn't asked. The past decade had been filled with too much stuff he had to deal with himself. He had never thought of Simmons.

Luckily Optimus Prime's arrival pre-empted all small talk. More greetings were exchanged, though there was no warmth in Prime's reception. Sam felt the Autobot leader's reaction more acutely than anyone ever could. Prime was very respectful on the outside, ever the diplomat, but there was a rather strong distaste present on the emotional level.

They walked into the conference room. Sam had been asked to attend the meeting and there had never been a doubt that all the Autobots, as well as Lennox, would also be there. Simmons' eyes rested on Will's face for a rather long time and while the exchange was pleasant, the expression in Will's eyes was hard and unyielding. The phrase 'No hard feelings' really didn't apply.

"Mr. Simmons has been working behind the scenes for several years," Banachek started, drawing Sam's attention to the man. "When we cleared out Sector Seven's labs and storage we transferred all the experiments, the data and the machinery to you."

Ratchet nodded.

"What we didn't know was the extensive research done on particular experiments that couldn't be retrieved in the labs or storage. We had no idea what had been done with them. They were presumed destroyed."

"They weren't?" Prime rumbled.

"Apparently not. Former Sector chiefs chose to test the experiments in the field."

Ratchet's optics flared with alarm.

"Not all survived the field tests. Not all machinery worked when put together with human technology. And not all had been brought to life by the Allspark. Some was technology derived from retro-engineering. The technology was too purely Cybertronian back then to be implanted into human technology, so this track was abandoned. A lot was destroyed, but some was left in the field."

"Which is where I come in," Simmons took over smoothly. He looked at the five mechs watching him, showing no fear of them at all. "I've spent the past five years hunting down what was left in some old barn or yard or in someone's basement. What I found was immediately secured."

"We compared lists," Banachek added, shooting Will a brief look.

Sam understood why. Will's 'tattoos' had given them a complete list of the inventory of Sector Seven for the very first time, showing them how much was missing. It had been long ago and Sam had never thought about it again. Banachek had. Apparently there were machinations going on behind the scenes that had gone by him completely.

"One particular file number caught our eyes. It's experiment 705. It was conducted in 1989, then abandoned. Scientists picked up signals from the machine they had treated with Allspark energy ten years later once again. They failed to locate it."

Sam felt a cold shiver run down his spine. "It was still alive?" he asked, fearing the answer.

"Yes, apparently. Someone took it out of the lab. Someone left it out there. We only know it was an unauthorized maneuver and the scientist was never found again. He disappeared."

"Well, shit," Lennox muttered.

"We found it," Simmons spoke up. "At least we know where it travels. Extracting it will be problematic, though."

"Why?" Ironhide simply asked.

"Because its signals are bouncing around its current habitat. We can't tell which one it is, only that it moves throughout the racing tracks of the world."

Prime leaned forward. "What do you mean?"

Banachek looked very unhappy all of a sudden. "We believe that between 1999 and today, the machine that was treated with Allspark energy came into the possession of a racing team, a Formula 1 racing team. We don't know which one, how it was inserted, who is using it, or whether it is sentient enough to have merged with a machine there, maybe even one of the race cars. We only know that it covers its tracks, is stealthy, and we need to extract it as soon as possible before we have another disaster on our hands."

"How do you believe we can track this machine if it can't be pinpointed?" Ratchet asked.

Sam cleared his throat. "I think that's where I'm supposed to come in."

Simmons nodded. "Exactly, kid."

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So they had worked out a plan, which had ended with Sam in Montreal, at the race track, with VIP access to all important places. Bumblebee worked as his anchor. Epps and his team were standing by as back-up, all in civilian clothes, all blending in as car or F1 fans who were awaiting the Grand Prix du Canada.

Lennox had been itching to accompany Sam in person, but he would stand out like a sore thumb. The runes were still a problem unless he could cover his face in the fire-proof ski-mask the pit crew wore throughout the race, and that was a no-go. The fact that he now had partially stationary runes didn't exactly mean that the rest didn't show. They were still rather active. So he sat with Jazz, unhappy but at least present.

Sideswipe had been moved in 'undercover', in an exhibit of new flashy concept cars, and he was constantly relaying scans and trying to pinpoint the signal. It was maddeningly active and all over the area.

Compared to the situation just four weeks ago this was almost normal, Sam mused. They were looking for an Allspark-creation from Earth. Not a Decepticon. Soundwave had rattled them, had shaken their confidence, and such a simple mission was something all had craved for. That so many mechs were either here or near was due to what Soundwave had almost managed: take one of their own and hurt others. Sam was important, so Bumblebee was always near. Jazz had taken over as team leader and Barricade had proclaimed he had nothing better to do.

Sam smiled.

He had noticed how close the former Decepticon kept to his spark-bonded, almost like right after he had joined the ranks of the Autobots – after he had discovered that Jazz was still alive. Barricade had been as rattled as all of them, but he refused to show it.

Will had insisted he would go along. He might be useful, so that meant Ironhide as his guardian. Of course there had been arguments; arguments that couldn't but be overheard, and anyone who didn't know about the relationship between the hybrid and the Autobot probably knew now. While neither spoke about what was between them, rarely ever showed it, the heated argument and Ironhide's insistence that he would go too were enough.

Sam was heading for the pit of a small racing team, eyes darting over the people moving around him. He felt Bumblebee's presence in his head as his partner tried to be as protective as he could be without being physically present. Someone who was physically present was a member of Epps' unit. Sergeant Tom Reese was in his civvies, carrying a back-pack like most of the fans around the track, but he kept more than just food and water and the race programme in there. Reese was responsible for Sam's well-being, to keep him from 'zoning' should Sam get into too deep contact with the suspected bot.

The sergeant was also a racing buff. He tried to hide it, but Sam had seen it now and then. A gleam in the blue eyes, the way his face lit up when they were so close to the drivers and cars. And when he had rattled off F1 facts, Sam had almost laughed. Reese had looked slightly embarrassed at that.

"I won't mention it," Sam told him with a grin.

"I appreciate it."

What Sam had learned from Reese was that Maxx Racing had been a newcomer last year and while they weren't sensational, they were a steady team, with hardly any accidents. If there was an accident, it involved minor scrapes. They had yet to gather any points and no one expected them to finish with even a single one, but miracles happened. Small teams profited from accidents among the bigger ones.

Sam stopped outside the pit and watched the mechanics work on the two cars. They were sleek looking racers, like all of them, kept in black and silver. There were sponsor names all over the sides and the wings. Letting his mind reach out, Sam brushed over the mechanical devices, felt electronics tingle his senses, but he ignored them all. Small fries, he called them, especially when compared to a mind like Bumblebee's.

There was a shiver, a twitch, then something like a curious warble.

::Hey:: he sent. ::I'm Sam::

The curiosity rose more. It was like something peeking out from behind a cover, wanting to see but too scared to take a step forward.

::Do you have a name?::

It felt more sentient than a mere machine. It was like touching the watered-down version of Bumblebee. Still, there was an edge, like Sam was only looking at the surface, and it made him cautious. Reese was next to him, giving him cover in more ways than one as he pretended to take pictures.

There was no reply from the car and when one of the mechanics walked up to the pit and pulled down the garage door, Sam and the others had to step back.

"It's there," Sam told Reese as they walked back.

"Which one?"

"No idea. I felt it, but I didn't have time to get close enough."

Reese nodded. "We need to leave," he gestured at the security ushering visitors outside. "Let's get back and talk to the others."

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They had set up camp outside Montreal, on a large campground of all places, but it made sense. None of the cars really stood out, not even Ironhide. They were in the group camping area, tents set up in very strategic places to insure less visibility for Lennox. Ironhide was parked to the left, Jazz and Bumblebee to the right. Barricade had foregone the police outfit, was just a black Mustang now, and he was parked in the small lot outside the campground. A campfire had been started and everyone was doing camping things, like reading, listening to music, talking, and two of Epps's men were handling the food. Steaks were already on the fire. As night fell and the campfire cast everything into dancing shadows, Will could move more freely.

Sam had relayed everything he had picked up and seen and the plan for the next day was to keep an eye on the racing team, watch their performance throughout the race – they were in the fourteenth and sixteenth place – and snoop around the machines to see where the signals were coming from.

"So he's not the most competitive mech," Epps remarked.

Lennox shrugged. "Deep cover? The top teams are in the spotlight all the time."

"So are the smaller ones. They have fans, too."

"But they haven't been in any serious collisions," Sam put in. "A few scrapes and bruises, but never a total loss, never an engine failure, never had to leave a race early."

"So no idea where the mech's hiding? Car? Equipment? Anything else?" Epps wanted to know.

"No. I can feel his presence, but I can't say where he is, or what."

"The car would be foolish," Ironhide rumbled. "He's always exposed. A mechanic could tell the difference. We can fool you on first sight, but these cars are regularly taken apart and set-ups are changed."

"So… equipment?"

"But why hide out with a racing team?" Reese asked.

"Stupidity," Ironhide replied.

Will patted one big wheel. "Down boy."

"We'll go in tomorrow," Epps decided. "After the race, after the hype is over. Press interest will be on the winner, not the rest of the teams."

Everyone nodded their agreement.

Sam went to bed early. His tent had been set up next to Bumblebee. It wasn't even a conscious decision that he linked up and let the mech's mind contact his own. It was a nice, warm feeling to have Bumblebee close. It was safe.

::Good night, Sam:: Bumblebee said softly.

::Night::

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Barricade sat in the darkness surrounding the campground. Here or there a camp fire flickered. People moved through the trees, coming or going from the washrooms, but no one stepped outside the campground. The main building had closed down and the roads were silent. No car headlights pierce the night. The midnight black Saleen blended in perfectly.

Keeping an eye on matters he stayed close to Jazz. His spark-bonded didn't protest his closeness. Barricade felt the perfect resonance of the other spark, the one that complimented him so completely.

::Cade?::

He rumbled uneasily, then let Jazz come closer. He would never be comfortable with the need and the weakness it meant in his warrior-mind, but it was part of him. Like this Autobot was part of him.

Barricade let the shields down, let his energies flow along the connection between their sparks, embracing his companion.

::Still here:: Jazz murmured.

Soundwave hadn't touched him. He had only stranded him on the Ark for a while. Nothing had happened.

Warmth flowed through him and Barricade could have laughed at the joy of Sharing with this spark, Jazz's spark, if it hadn't been such an undignified response. Jazz was still alive. His spark pulsed in his chest, feeling a resonance from its mate.

Jazz would never go down without a fight, he knew; nor would Barricade. This was their survival: together.

::Together:: Jazz echoed.

tbc