Title: Attitude Adjustment
Author: Koi Lungfish
Disclaimer: Based on characters and situations from The Transformers (c) 1986 Hasbro, Ltd. Used without permission. Text (c) 2007, Koi Lung Fish Mark of Lung. All Rights Reserved.
Subject: Hot Rod meets the Dinobots for the first time.
Continuity: G1 cartoon.

Hot Rod had been on Earth for all of twenty minutes and wasn't in trouble yet, so it wasn't entirely to his surprise when he wandered around a random corner and ran into an argument.

The centre of the argument was a huge Autobot, a grey and golden giant as big as Ultra Magnus if not bigger, who was backed up against the corridor wall, surrounded by three Autobot jets barely half his size.

"It's easy, you big bolt-head!" one of the jets - a white Autobot with the best part of a big black aeroplane on his back - was saying. "Answer the question, Sludge!"

"Wuh?" went Sludge, optics wide with hopeless confusion.

"Aww, come on," the short one said, waving a hand at Sludge. "Are you having us on, or are you seriously this stupid?"

"Hey!" Hot Rod exclaimed, not liking what he was seeing. He ran up to the group, drawing the stares of the three jets. "Leave him alone. Can't you see you're upsetting him?"

"Who asked you, punk?" the short one asked, getting in his face.

"Who are you?" asked the third one, the red one with the big white wings.

"I'm Hot Rod. I just got off the shuttle," he said, giving him his best smile and open-handed chill-out-guys stance.

"Sheesh, just what we need. Another no-good punk car," the short one groaned, tossing his hands in the air in theatrical despair. "Come on guys, let's split before we get the big lecture on being nice." He barged past Hot Rod and swaggered off up the corridor, fellows in tow. The one with the red and white jet on his back shrugged to Hot Rod in passing.

Hot Rod could only stare blankly after them for a few moments, wondering what on Cybertron he'd just walked into. This is Optimus Prime's unit! What's a bunch of guys like that doing here? He turned to Sludge. "Hey there. You okay?"

The giant looked at him with a slow, blank stare. "Me Sludge not okay," he said, startling Hot Rod.

The inside of his mouth is yellow? Hot Rod wondered. "What's up, big guy?"

"Me Sludge not understand question."

"What question?"

"If two by two is four, why two by four is stick?"

"Eh?" Hot Rod asked, conscious of his ungraciousness.

Sludge looked pathetic. "Me Sludge not understand."

"That's okay, I don't get it either," Hot Rod admitted.

Sludge beamed. "Me Sludge like you!" he said, reaching out to pat Hot Rod on the shoulder with a colossal hand.

Hot Rod was bounced on his impact absorbers. "Whoa, nice to meet you too!"

Sludge's great hand clamped down on his shoulder. "Me Sludge take you to see all Dinobots. You Hot Rod like Dinobots!"

"You mean there are more like you?"

There were more like him. Four more, and they filled the tiny chamber off the control centre like humungous cannons in a very small arms-locker. Four more pairs of huge blue optics stared down at Hot Rod. Four more pairs of giant hands patted his head and shoulders.

"Me Sludge say him friend!" Sludge crowed, not letting go of Hot Rod's shoulders. Hot Rod was starting to feel rather squished amongst the huge bodies and the massive feet and the great hands that rubbed the top of his head and gave him static-squeals in his radio.

"Why you Sludge call him friend?" the yellow-chested giant with the faceplate asked. "Him just 'nother Autobot."

"Him Hot Rod nice!" Sludge protested, giving Hot Rod a jostling hug no doubt meant to reassure him of Sludge's kind feelings. "Him Hot Rod save me Sludge from Aerialbots."

"Hrrrm," growled the red-faced Dinobot. "Me Slag say Aerialbots no good." Beside him, the one with the red crest on his head chuckled, and the group's fifth nodded silently. "Me Slag say Aerialbots need taste of own medicine!"

"Me Grimlock say no stomp Aerialbots!" Grimlock ordered in a thunderous voice, shaking Hot Rod on the spot.

"What you do, Hot Rod?" the red-crested said, leaning over. "How you save Sludge?"

"I didn't really do anything," Hot Rod said, spreading his hands apologetically. "I just told them to lay off him."

"What they do to him Sludge?" Grimlock asked.

"They ask stupid question," Sludge said solemnly, patting Hot Rod. "Me Sludge not know answer." He hung his head, saying sadly, "Me Sludge so stupid."

There was a chorus-like bawl of outraged sympathy and Hot Rod was almost crushed as the Dinobots closed in to comfort their distraught comrade. Unable to move for fear of colliding with Swoop's spurred knees, he reached back and squeezed Sludge's hand.

All at once, the dark wall of bodies opened out. Five huge heads looked down at him.

"Why you hold him Sludge hand?" Grimlock asked, almost bristling. "Him Sludge Dinobot."

"Just because you're a different unit," not to mention a different world, "doesn't mean I don't think what the Aerialbots did was wrong."

"Me Sludge said him Hot Rod nice," his huge patron said quietly, patting him on the head so hard Hot Rod thought Sludge might've dislodged something.

Grimlock leaned down to look at him, optic to optic band. "Me Grimlock not know you. You new 'bot, come in space-ship with new commander."

"Err ... yup."

"Where you from?"

"Cybertron," Hot Rod said truthfully.

"Why you come here?"

"To fight the Decepticons."

"Why you not fight Decepticons on Cybertron?"

"Because the Decepticons are all on Earth."

"Hmm," Grimlock paused, musing. "Lot of Autobots want go back to Cybertron. You want go back to Cybertron?"

"Go back? I only just got here!" Hot Rod protested. "I want to have a look around first!"

"You fight Decepticons?" Slag asked suddenly.

"Sure," Hot Rod said, turning to face Slag.

"Fight Decepticons with Dinobots?" Swoop chimed in, favouring Hot Rod with a quirky half-smile.

"Sure, why not?"

"You fight Decepticons before?" Grimlock asked.

"Been fighting them since I was built," Hot Rod replied with a laugh.

"How old you?" Grimlock continued.

"Seven thousand five hundred," Hot Rod shrugged.

"Hmm. You mighty warrior!" Slag said approvingly. "Bash many Decepticons!"

"I lost count a while back," Hot Rod shrugged.

"Hnah! You smash Decepticons with Snarl?"

"Well -"

"You stomp Decepticons with Sludge?" Sludge interrupted.

"You melt Decepticons with Slag?"

"You explode Decepticons with Swoop?"

"You bash brains with Grimlock?"

"Sure!" Hot Rod shouted. "I'll bash Decepticons with the best of you!"

Grimlock chortled, grabbing Hot Rod by the waist and hoisting him up so he almost bashed his head on the ceiling, then perching him on his massive shoulders. "Me Grimlock like you Hot Rod! Make you honorary Dinobot!"

"Great!" Hot Rod said. "But could you put me down first? The ceiling's kinda low in here."

He was rather relieved that they all laughed, and was happy to laugh with them.

It took the Aerialbots four days to catch up with him, but they did in the end.

It was dawn, Hot Rod was just back from patrol and they appeared out of nowhere so quick he thought they must've teleported in.

"Hey, you!" Slingshot hollered, shoving him in the chest. "What did you think you were doing back there?"

"Just walking down the corridor," Hot Rod protested, backing up and colliding with Air Raid.

"Watch it!" the Aerialbot protested, brushing himself down as if Hot Rod was covered in mud.

"Not here, dim-diodes, three days ago," Slingshot sneered, shoving his face at Hot Rod's.

"What you were doing to Sludge was wrong," Hot Rod said, not backing down this time.

"The big lug-nut's a moron," Air Raid said, almost laughing. "He probably don't even remember by now."

"What is with you guys?" Hot Rod asked. "He's an Autobot."

"Wrong, Hot Wheels," Slingshot said, "he's a Dinobot. That's a new way of saying stupid."

"Look, I don't know what your problem with the Dinobots is, but -"

"Hey, we got a right to not like them!" Air Raid said. "All they do is take up space and hog the energon and they get treated like they're something special."

"And you don't, is that what you're saying?"

"We are the only flying jet-team gestalt in the entire army," Slingshot smirked, jabbing a thumb at his chest as if he were personally responsible for capturing a Decepticon warlord or two. "We're the latest, greatest thing."

Hot Rod decided against saying what he thought the Aerialbots were.

"Nobody pays any attention to us," Fireflight protested.

"And you gotta go taking their side again," Slingshot snapped, "like all the other dumb cars do."

"I'm not responsible for people not liking your attitude," Hot Rod said.

"Yeah?" said Slingshot, giving Hot Rod another shove. "Well, I ain't responsible for you having exhaust-breath."

"Enough!" Hot Rod said loudly, giving Slingshot a one-handed shove in return. "You just back off, okay? Go cool down." And Kup says I'm a hot-headed loud-mouth?

"Oh yeah?" Slingshot sneered, balling a fist. "You ain't fought the Decepticon big-shots! You ain't nothing!"

"Him Grimlock's friend," boomed the Dinobot commander, suddenly looming over them out of a side-corridor. Slingshot yelped, Fireflight yelled, Air Raid ducked. "Me Grimlock say you tell me what you doing."

"None of your business, you big dumb lizard," Slingshot yelled, backing rapidly out of reach.

"Me Grimlock say it my business," Grimlock said, laying a protective hand on Hot Rod's shoulder. "Me Grimlock say talk!"

"Me Air Raid say 'hex-nuts to Grimlock!' " Air Raid hollered, making to run.

Grimlock's huge paw snapped out, grabbing the Aerialbot by the nosecone and hauling him close. "Me Grimlock say you tell me what you doing."

"Hey! Let go! That's sensitive equipment!" Air Raid squalled. Down the corridor, Slingshot was yelling rude comments at them. Fireflight stood behind him, looking worried.

"Me Grimlock say you going to talk to me Grimlock," and the satisfaction in his tone couldn't have been thicker, "because me Grimlock outrank you. Me Grimlock order you to come with me Grimlock straight to Optimus Prime. You Aerialbots talk to him and me Grimlock and him Silverbolt too!"

"Aww, no!" the third Aerialbot whined. "No fair!"

"Guys?" Hot Rod interjected, waving at the Aerialbots to get their attention. "Don't you think what you did to Sludge wasn't fair?"

There was the rueful silence of three Aerialbots who couldn't deliver their standard response due to the presence of Grimlock.

"Me Grimlock thought not," the Dinobot commander said, lifting Air Raid bodily off the ground and tucking him under one arm. "Now, we go talk to him Prime and him Silverbolt!" He paused, looking down at Hot Rod. There was a faint glimmer in his optic band that made Hot Rod start smiling even before Grimlock spoke. "Me Grimlock hear there new commander, him Ultra Magnus. Him really not have time for Autobots who mean to others."

"No," Hot Rod said, sharing Grimlock's chuckle, "him really not."

Author's notes & addenda:

Feedback always welcomed.