Author's Note: My apologies for the delay, but I was once again stricken with that bane of all who write: writer's block. It took me this long to get (somewhat) past it and I'm not sure it's completely gone. So, again, my apologies.
Disclaimer: Ultra Rodimus and the planet he's visiting belong to me. Shadow, who makes her debut in this chapter, belongs to shadow goddess04. The rest of the Transformers belong to Hasbro.
Chapter 4: Arrival
Ultra Magnus walked down the corridor toward the rear of the shuttle, looking for his commander. The larger bot had been a rare sight for the past two days, usually to be found working through some idea with First Aid and Perceptor. Magnus suspected that the project they were working on was what to do about the vast amounts of energy Ultra Rodimus's weaponry used up, but he wasn't going to pry. He probably wouldn't be able to understand half the explanation anyway.
Reaching the shuttle's small repair bay, Magnus poked his head in. First Aid looked up from his work.
"You missed him by a few minutes," the Protectobot medic told him. "Last I saw he was heading toward the storage bays."
"Thanks." Magnus withdrew.
The storage bays were further down the corridor. Magnus walked toward the bay where the gifts from the native people of the ice world had been placed. He had a suspicion that he would find his leader there.
Sure enough, Ultra Rodimus was there, sitting cross-legged in the middle of the floor, sorting through the piles. Bales of different-colored furs stood against the wall behind him, making him almost invisible. Only the bold red and blue stripe pattern of his armor gave away his position.
"How's it going?" Magnus asked conversationally, making the younger bot jump.
"Fine. I think I've almost got it all sorted out." Ultra Rodimus waved at the piles of pelts behind him. "What I'm going to do with them, though, I have no idea."
"You could decorate your quarters with them, like human hunters do," Magnus suggested.
Ultra Rodimus shot him an odd look. Magnus returned it with a calm stare. After a moment the younger bot sighed and shook his head.
"So, what brings you down here?" he asked, lifting a decorated spear out of another heap of items and admiring it. It had a shaft made from some very hard wood, so hard he wasn't sure if even he could break it, and the spearhead was made from an iridescent crystal that his scans told him was harder than diamond. A strip of plush white fur had been wrapped around the spearshaft just below the blade. Long, thin leather strips, decorated with crystalline beads and feathers clicked together as Ultra Rodimus turned the spear to get a better look at it. The final adornment was a thick, pure white tail attached to the shaft under the fur.
"Looking for you, actually. Heave says we're only a couple of hours away from our destination."
"Ah. Then it's time for the final briefing, I take it."
The young Prime sighed and rose to his feet, placing the spear on top of a pile of pale blue furs. Then he followed his second-in-command to the briefing room.
"I take it Perceptor managed to dig up some more data on this planet and its people," he commented as he took his seat, resting his elbows on the table and scanning the other assembled Autobots.
"I did, yes," Perceptor confirmed, tapping the datapad on the table. "Quite a bit, especially about the culture of the natives."
"Their culture is that of a warrior race, but they have not participated in any wars for centuries. They respect skill in combat, courage, and strength more than intellect, and their leaders are those who are the strongest."
"I doubt I'll have much of a problem getting them to respect me." Ultra Rodimus grinned slightly.
There were murmurs of agreement from the others. Perceptor glanced at them.
"The data files indicate that these people practice what they call 'aggressive diplomacy'."
"Which is...?" Springer asked.
"Negotiations with blades," Ultra Rodimus clarified, leaning back and folding his arms across his chest. "So formal equals armed, eh?"
"More or less. Also, according to their traditions all visiting rulers- which includes you, Ultra Rodimus- must be accompanied by an honor guard."
"I don't need a bodyguard."
"I am aware of that. It is their tradition and we must abide by it. A leader who has no guards is seen as weak and becomes a target. The one who kills a weak leader takes over his position."
Ultra Rodimus considered that. Then he growled assent.
"Several Autobots have already come forward to volunteer," Magnus added. "I've been going through their files to pick out the best of the pack. A few have already been chosen, and I've got about a dozen more files to look through."
"Fine, then." Ultra Rodimus nodded to him, then looked back at Perceptor. "What else do you have?"
The briefing lasted four hours. Afterward, Ultra Rodimus followed Magnus down to one of the armories to meet his bodyguards.
There were seven of them, or eleven if Blaster's four cassettes were included. Blaster greeted his commander with a nod. Broadside looked neutral. Crosshairs and Smokescreen watched Ultra Rodimus calmly.
The young Prime stopped in front of Sideswipe. "You're here without your brother?"
Sideswipe grinned. "Sunstreaker told me he'd rather be painted neon green and pink than serve as one of your bodyguards."
"He hasn't been brought to heel yet," Ultra Rodimus snorted.
The response was a shrug. "Well, you know 'Streaker. He doesn't respect anyone unless they can outmatch him at anything. He'll learn eventually. Hopefully before he runs afoul of you and gets the slag beat out of him."
"That might do him some good," the next bot in line commented, and Ultra Rodimus looked at him in surprise. "If Sunstreaker is anything like me, then he will only respect those who are stronger than he is. He may not learn to respect you until you establish your dominance like you did with me."
"He's already got 'Streaker beat at one thing," Jazz commented from where he stood off to one side.
"Oh? And what would that be?"
"Looks. He's a lot handsomer than Sunstreaker is."
Ultra Rodimus chuckled. "Thanks for the compliment." He shot Jazz a sidelong look. "Didn't know you felt that way."
Jazz floundered for words until Ultra Rodimus burst out laughing, then figured out he was being teased and couldn't help a chuckle. "Nice one. I'll get you for that."
"You're welcome to try," was the comment as Ultra Rodimus moved to the next bot in line. "You're probably the last bot I'd expect to volunteer for this, especially after the outcome of our last encounter."
Twin Twist shrugged. "I can't hate anyone who's that good. Besides, I've had it coming for a long time. This is the first time I've ever encountered someone who's worthy of my respect."
Feeling oddly touched by that admission, Ultra Rodimus nodded to him. Twin Twist smiled slightly and saluted. Then the young Prime turned toward the last bot in line and blinked in surprise.
The last bot was a femme, one of the few he'd ever seen. She was a little smaller than the males, but not by much, which meant that she was just over half his size. Jet wings spread out behind her shoulders, stamped with the red Autobot faction insignia. There were also visible signs of at least two other alternate modes, giving her four forms in total. In color, she was most black with red highlights, and her optics were yellow.
Ultra Rodimus looked her over, then glanced back at Magnus. The city commander tilted his head.
"Don't let her appearance fool you. Shadow is more than a match for most of us mechs."
The tall bot looked back at Shadow. She was glaring at him. "Really."
The femme bristled, jabbing him in the midsection with a stiff index finger. "Don't judge me by my looks or my gender, buster! You of all people should know that looks can be deceiving!"
Everyone stared at the incredible sight of their leader being told off by a female half his height. Ultra Rodimus blinked down at her, then threw back his head and roared with laughter. He ended up leaning against the nearest wall, laughing too hard to stand. When he finally got his breath back, he grinned over at Magnus. "Her I like."
Jazz stared at him, then glanced up at Magnus. "How come she can tell him off and get away with it, but when we try he swats us?"
Magnus shrugged. "Some female secret, I guess."
"Either that or he really likes her."
Ultra Rodimus raised both hands. "Oh, no. I don't think so. She's not my type."
"Is that so?" Jazz shot him a look.
"Yes, that's so. She's half my size, and, besides, she's the wrong gender. My interests run the other way."
Jazz could only stand there doing his best impression of a fish on land, unable to come up with a reply to that statement. Ultra Rodimus smirked, giving him a look that clearly said 'so there'. Then he turned his attention back to his bodyguards.
"Now let's get this party started." He activated his comm unit. "Heave, take us in."
And there's another chapter down. The next one might be a while in coming, though. I have an essay to write, and who knows what else to plow through. Please bear with me on this. Now send me reviews and I'll do my best to get the next chapter up soon.