I need to start another fanfic like a hole in the head. But it just wouldn't let me be. *glares at Ultra Magnus and Hot Rod* They're out to get me. I swear it.

In any case. Thank-you for reading & reviewing. Enjoy!

The Stalwart

Chapter 1

Ultra Magnus was a quiet bot. He valued loyalty and his duty as a soldier above all. The only thing that he could possibly care about further were the mechs and femmes that fell directly under his command. His brother Prime had given him a good team, even if the Wreckers did fall under his forces. They were a good bunch, but rowdy and often undisciplined.

At least today he had a somewhat simple mission for them. He hoped they could handle it without getting into too much trouble.

Ultra Magnus pushed up from his desk, data pad in hand, to report for the briefing. Thankfully he wouldn't be going with them this time. A small blessing considering the mission. It wasn't that he didn't like helping others, but something so, people friendly just didn't seem like something a soldier would be responsible for.

But it was a good mission for the three going out. Springer needed the chance to be more interactive with other people. His gruff attitude made social interaction difficult. Arcee of course, adored hanging out with the humans. And Hot Rod would love the chance to spend the day next to the water. Ultra Magnus smiled at the thought of the red, flame painted mech. He was a good boy and Magnus could see him going far if he put his mind to it. But first he had to give him a mission.

However, when he reached the designated meeting spot, he noticed something was amiss.

"Springer, Arcee."

"Ultra Magnus, sir!" Springer saluted before relaxing. "We're ready for our briefing."

The older bot scanned the area. "Where is Hot Rod?"

"We're not quite sure." Arcee muttered. "We tried comming him but he didn't answer."

Ultra Magnus sighed. Not even an easy mission could go smoothly it seems. "I suppose I should contact Kup to go find him."

"Really, Grimlock." Hot Rod sighed. "I can walk on my own."

"No. Me Grimlock say him Hot Rod injured. Me Carry." Grimlock huffed and readjusted the tiny 'bot over his shoulder in his potato sack hold. It was odd walking around in his robot mode, but his tiny rex arms didn't allow for a good grip and he didn't think Hot Rod would appreciate being carried by mouth. Though, from the way the other bots scurried out of the way he must be more intimidating in robot mode. Grimlock smirked. "Leg hurt."

Hot Rod chuckled and pat the big guy on the back. "Seriously, buddy. I've gotten worse damage from rough housing with Springer and Arcee. This is nothing." Hot Rod squirmed a bit in Grimlock's hold without budging an inch. This guy was monster strong; even Springer would have trouble going toe to toe. It almost made Hot Rod wonder where it was all coming from. Wheeljack and Ratchet had really outdone themselves. "There's no need to drag me to the med bay."

"No drag. Me Grimlock carry."

Leave it to a Dinobot to argue semantics. Hot Rod sighed and let himself be hauled off to Ratchet's loving care. He watched the hallway passing by him by a bit before thinking a bit. "Hey Grimlock?"

"Yes?" The larger bot grunted.

"Did I say thank-you yet?"

Grimlock snorted and paused at the hallway intersection before looking left and then right. What time of day did Ratchet hang out with Wheeljack again? Best to take Hot Rod straight to Ratchet or else the smaller bot would be stuck with First Aid. First Aid wasn't a bad bot; Grimlock just liked Ratchet more. "For what?"

"Stepping in." Hot Rod winced a little as he remembered almost being trapped under the rubble of the warehouse. Target practice was only good if you check to make sure your target is strong enough to take the hit. Sadly, the entire building toppled over him. Or would have, anyway. Hot Rod was just glad the structure was vacant. "If you hadn't shown up when you did I think I'd have more of a problem than a few broken leg struts."

"Just doing Grimlock's job." The big guy shrugged and settled in turning towards Wheeljack's lab. The halls were empty and the base was quiet which could only mean the med bay was probably empty. A good sign that Ratchet was visiting Wheeljack since he would have free time. "Saw building come down and me Grimlock pull out of way. Not hard. Sorry not pull fast enough."

Hot Rod chuckled. A metal beam had caught his leg when Grimlock pulled him out of the debris' path which resulted in said minor injury. "It's my own fault for shooting at the building. So don't worry about it."

"No. Target practice good." Grimlock nodded to himself. He had been impressed by what he saw from the boy from the clearing. The tiny race car had been shooting a pattern into the wall of the Autobot symbol. Waste of ammo but lots of enthusiasm that reminded him of his own Dinobot group. "Him Hot Rod good shot."

"Thanks." Hot Rod chuckled. "But apparently not good enough." The young bot crossed his arms across Grimlock's back to rest his head in the nook. "Hey, what were you doing out there anyway?"

"Me Grimlock Thinking."

"About what?" Hot Rod asked over his shoulder. It wasn't completely hard to picture the Dinobot thinking, but he just couldn't picture what about. "And all alone?"

"Different things. And me Grimlock's team good." Grimlock paused as he stood outside of Wheeljack's lab. He could hear laughter inside and smiled. He was right; Ratchet was definitely here. "But me like to think alone sometimes."

"Yeah, sometimes it is good to get out by yourself isn't it?" Hot Rod chuckled noticing that Grimlock dodged the question. "Even a big guy like you too, huh?"

"Yes." Grimlock pushed open the lab door and walked in with his burden. Wheeljack and Ratchet were drinking their energon. Grimlock was satisfied that the two weren't busy. "Him Ratchet help him Hot Rod." The dinobot dumped Hot Rod on the table roughly, but still careful of the sparking leg. "Him hurt leg."

"Well how did he do that?" Wheeljack walked over to the table to look at the young bot. Of the shipment of new mechs landing on Earth, Hot Rod and his two buddies tended to cause the most trouble. Unlike the twins it was accidentally, however, but that's what happened when you were young and full of energy. "Looks pretty nasty."

"Really, guys it's nothing." Hot Rod chuckled and poked his leg. "I was going to just have Springer or Arcee look at it. But Grimlock over here thought I should see the medic."

"And he was right." Ratchet scowled as he put down his cube of energon. "Your leg's a mess, kiddo." The doctor looked in closer at the wreckage. Casing was cracked, wires were everywhere, and of course there were dents littering the metal. Leave it to young bots to think they're indestructible. Have his friends look at it indeed. "What'd you do? Drop a building on it?"

Hot Rod couldn't help but laugh.

"Is it too much to ask to show up on time? I'm tellin' ya Magnus, that boy gets distracted too easily." Kup grumbled as he walked along the corridor. That little punk Hot Rod was supposed to meet Springer and Arcee for a mission aiding some humans with some clean up of a beach or something. Good 'PR' that Prowl guy called it. Bit of wasted time if you asked Kup, but he didn't make the assignments. But he did have to make sure bots showed up to do them. And since Hot Rod was a no-show, they had to send Blurr instead.

Springer was going to kill his best friend.

"I'm sure he had a good reason for being held up." Ultra Magnus interjected as he walked alongside his old friend. "It's not like he was avoiding real work this time. This mission was practically an assignment to go play at the beach with Daniel." Magnus chuckled. Despite Kup's parental ire he couldn't help but be slightly amused at the situation. He'd save the anger for a real mission. "And you know how Hot Rod loves fishing."

"Yeah, I guess so." Kup muttered. He'd known Hot Rod since he was a tiny little bot that barely reached his knees. He really should have figured him out by this point. Not showing up for a 'play-date' made no sense. Work? Sure. He'd skip out on that. "Still don't excuse him from missing his post." A grunt. "And he'll have to apologize to the kid, too."

"Yes, but I'm sure Daniel will have fun with the others regardless so it shouldn't be too bad."

"Whatever you say Magnus, but right now I just want to know where he went." Kup muttered and started to rub the back of his head. "Because he sure isn't answering his Comm." Kup did his best to keep the worry out of his voice. It was too soon to start assuming the worst.

"Perhaps it is broken? For all we know he's in the medbay."

"But then wouldn'a First Aid or Ratchet sent us a message? Surely they've got a copy of everyone's schedule."

"They might have been too busy to check if it was serious enough." Magnus offered. Kup twitched and he grimaced a bit. Probably not best to make the old bot worry. "Or he was unable to tell them he needed to be somewhere at the very least."

"I doubt his voice box was broken, too."

Ultra Magnus huffed as they turned a corner. "He could have just forgotten."

"That's the one I'd put my credits on."

"And probably the best option all things considering."

"Still need to think up a good punishment for him though." Kup grinned. "He's got to know he can skip out on responsibility."

"Very true. I'm sure we'll think of something." Magnus offered. "But first I think we should concentrate on finding him."

"Right." Kup nodded and headed down the next corridor. "Now if only we knew where to look."

Magnus smiled and pat his friend on the shoulder. "Why don't we assume the best of him and check the Med Bay?"

"How would him being hurt be the best?"

"It means that he didn't skip out on his duties by choice or negligence."

"Right." Kup laughed heartily and playfully punched Magnus in the shoulder. "Unless of course negligence is what got him in the Med Bay in the first place."

Magnus frowned slightly as they reached the lair of their resident CMO, Ratchet. He knocked once for posterity and then opened the door. "Excuse us."

"Ultra Magnus, sir!" First Aid chirped, hands still deep inside Trailbreaker's hip joint. The bigger bot waved as well when their commanding officer entered, Kup following. "What can I do for you? Joints acting up again?"

"No," Magnus coughed into his hand. Kup was chuckling off to the side. Like he was one to talk. His joints creaked louder than his did any day! "We were actually looking for Hod Rod. Has he been by here?"

"Not that I've seen." First Aid pulled his hands out of Trailbreaker and closed the panel. "You're good to go."

"Thanks, First Aid." Trailbreaker nodded and headed out. He had some things to deal with and it sounded like a certain young bot was in trouble. "I'll leave you all to it then."

"See-you later." First Aid waved and turned back to Ultra Magnus and Kup. "But no, if Hot Rod was here it was when Ratchet was on shift."

"When was that?"

"Earlier this morning."

"Thank-you, then, First Aid." Magnus nodded and tapped Kup on the shoulder to leave. Hanging around aimlessly in the Medical Bay was usually not a wise decision in case of emergency. "Shall we?"

"Yup. Now we know he ain't hurt." Kup almost grinned. "So, what do you think is a good punishment?"

Ultra Magnus shook his head. "I'm sure you'll think of something."

"Now dont' be like that." The older bot laughed. "He reports directly to you, so the least you can do is dish out his punishment."

"I suppose that's true."

"It is. Now let's go find the little runt!"

Hot Rod bent his knee back and forth from his seat on the table and then jumped down with a grin. "Good as new. Thanks, Ratchet."

"No problem." Ratchet hummed and started to put Wheeljack's first aid kit back in its proper place. "Next time stay away from shooting things bigger than you."

"Will do." Hot Rod saluted. "Or at the very least I'll stand farther away."

"That, too." Ratchet chuckled. "Now get out of here. I'm sure you're supposed to be on shift somewhere."

"Shift?" Hot Rod paused. When did his next shift start again... "Dannny!"


"I was going to the beach today with Danny, Springer and Arcee! We were cleaning up a beach with a human group." Hot Rod groaned. "And they left over an hour ago. I totally missed it! Kup's going to be so mad!"

"I'm surprised they didn't comm you to ask where you were." Wheeljack offered. "Usually when a bot goes awol or doesn't show they at least try and find out where he is."

"Yeah. They comm us dinobots all the time when we decide not to go to assignments." Grimlock added from his spot next to Ratchet.

"The Comm?" Hot Rod stopped. "Yeah, Springer at the very least would have called to yell at me..." Hot Rod trailed off. "I wonder if it's not working."

Ratchet snorted and opened up a comm line. Can ya' here this kid? When Hot Rod gave no response to even hearing a 'ping' letting him know there was a message he nodded. Guess not. "Your comm's definitely not receiving. Try to send a message and see if you get an answer."

"Okay. I might as well call Ultra Magnus since he arranged the trip with Prowl. If anyone was looking for me it'd be him." Hot Rod neglected to mention he had no desire to speak to Kup right now. Who was also probably looking for him. Kup would be more likely to yell. Ultra Magnus?

Hot Rod? Ultra Magnus stopped in the middle of the hallway and caused Kup to run into him. Where are you? You missed your mission brief. We had to send Blurr in your place.

Hot Rod had the decency to wince. He liked Bluur; he was a fun bot when he wasn't complaining. But Springer had no patience for the guy. I'm in Wheeljack's lab with Ratchet and Grimlock.

Why are you there?

I uh, broke my leg during target practice?

Stay where you are. I'll be right there.

Yes, sir. Hot Rod turned off his comm with a sigh. "Well, I got a message out. Ultra Magnus doesn't sound too happy. He's on his way here now."

"Well, you can tell him your comm isn't receiving. Let's get you down to the med bay and take a look. I'd rather not crack your head open in the lab." Ratchet muttered and started to push the boy out.

"But Ultra Magnus is coming here to pick me up." His protest went unheeded as he was shoved out of the room.

Ratchet smirked. "I'm sure we'll see him in the hallway on his way here. This boat isn't that big. Grimlock, you stay here with Wheeljack. You're too big to go crashing about in the med bay."

"Okay Ratchet. Me Grimlock stay here. See you later you Hot Rod!" Grimlock waved a bit before turning to Wheeljack who had somehow gotten a hold of some energon goodies.

Hot Rod waved as they were pushed out into the hall. Sure enough, they did run into Ultra Magnus and Kup heading towards the lab. "Hi Ultra Magnus!"

"Hello, Hot Rod." Ultra Magnus put his hands behind his back as he greeted the youngster. He smiled a little bit seeing that confident face. "What's this about a broken leg?"

"Yeah, what the heck you do to yourself this time?" Kup huffed. "I swear you can't go a full day without breaking yourself somehow."

"That's not true. I once went a whole week without any accidents."

"Yeah, because you were offline, ya' punk."

"Love you too, Kup."

Ultra Magnus turned to Ratchet who had started to keep pushing them down the hallway. "A broken leg?" He inquired.

"Building fell on him. It apparently screwed up his comm system as well. He can call out but not answer in."

"I see. Well that explains quite a bit. But," Magnus paused. "A building?"


"I see." Magnus watched as Kup began to harass the younger bot. He smiled a bit. Magnus always did have a soft spot for the boy. He was reckless, but well meaning. His enthusiasm and attitude did wonders to lift the mood. He even got the grumpy Springer to lighten up once in a while and take the lad under his blades. "Well, I trust you'll take care of him."

"I always do."

"Hey Magnus!" Hot Rod ducked away from Kup for a minute. "What time are they all getting back from the beach? I want to know when I should hide from Springer."

Magnus chuckled. Yes, he was quite fond of that boy.