Hot Shot was trapped.

He could barely see anything that was happening around him, the fire was so bright. He couldn't really move very much, or as freely as he would have liked, but at least he was safe over here at the side of the room. If he took one misstep here on the second floor, there was more than a good chance that he would fall and hurt himself somehow. Whoever made the Warehouse obviously had no idea how to make the floor heat resistant. He was lucky that he was created with superior fire-resistant armor, so he'd probably last the longest in this, but still his survival programming kicked in, and he was tempted to search through the flames for an elevator to get him the slag out of here. But he had one last thing to do.

He was going to find the rest of his fellow Homeless sheltered in the Warehouse, to be with them when they inevitably died. At least, he wanted to find Inferno, their 'captain' (so to speak), and tell him everything he knew about this fire. And he wanted to tell him soon, otherwise either the fire would go out of control, or he died before he told him, or some Autotrooper would come around and question him instead. He hoped to the AllSpark that the latter would NOT happen. If he was going to survive long enough to spill his guts to anyone, he wanted it to be Inferno.

It was showing to be harder than he initially thought, what with these flames surrounding him getting closer by the mechanometer. He kept on sliding from one spot to the other, more shuffling that actually walking; he had tried simply running through the room straight to the door a bit earlier, but a large dent in the metal floor dominated the space where he had stepped a bit too strongly, and he didn't want to die of falling through a hole. Like he said, the guy that made the Warehouse had no idea what 'fire-proofing' meant.

One solid cycle later and he had finally reached a door. Smiling a bit to himself, he slid a bit faster and expected it to slide open like it usually did. It didn't. Slag. Now what was he going to do! He wasn't strong enough to open the door of his own strength, and he wasn't going to use his flamethrowers to break it down, it would make more fire. If he had his way, he would never use these blasted flamethrowers again… But this wasn't going to get the door open, so he had to figure out some way to get out, and fast.

He began pressing around the door for some kind of weak spot, seeing if there was some way to get the door out of auto-lock before it got too hot in here. His armor may have been fire-resistant, but that didn't mean he was fire-proof. That was Inferno, whom he was trying his hardest to get to before he died of his inner workings overheating. It was already taking its toll on him, he could tell; he couldn't really focus right now on anything without automatically feeling the urge to panic. He turned his helm over to look at the side of the door, hoping to see if there was some kind of emergency open-the-door switch. He looked around for what felt like hours, but was truly only a few nano-kliks, and then something caught his eye… there!

Forgetting to be properly careful of his surroundings and the weakening floor, he immediately went over and punched an emergency block thingy next to the door. Some kind of alarm went off, and a red light ended up washing over the bright yellow fire. Luckily it ended up being some sort of failsafe, just like he had hoped, and the door automatically opened to let him out.

He ran straight out of the room, and ran down the hallway fast as he could, happier now than he ever was to get away from fire. Unfortunately this happiness, and some panic creeping into his processor, ended up making him just a bit disoriented. He could still tell what he was doing and where he was going, but he felt a bit more like he wasn't a part of his own body. Like this was in some sort of virtual training chambers, not that he had ever been in one.

He hoped he would get to Inferno and out of the Warehouse before he passed out. The elevator was getting closer by the second, and he very nearly jumped towards it. He was going to get out! He was going to live! Once he had reached the elevator, he had gained a new sense of confidence and optimism, and he just knew everything was going to be okay. But he probably should have paid more attention to the weakening floor.

That last step he took ended up causing a large dent on the ground, and he tripped over it, he helm bonking against the metal shell of the elevator and cracking his protective visor. Searing pain shot up from his stabilizing servo and helm, and he just leaned over the elevator for a moment. He couldn't feel his end stabilizer, and he now had a searing processor-ache that he could barely stand. If he was going to get out of the Warehouse, he was going to have to either fix the problem with his stabilizer now or try his best to act in spite of it.

Looking behind him, he was astonished to find that his end stabilizer was not only stuck to the floor now, but it was also all but torn off of his main stabilizing servo. There were definite wires protruding from it, and he could barely feel it. Testing out to see if it still responded to movement from his stabilizing servo, he felt a quick jolt of pain and squealed a little. He was going to have to figure out another way to get it out.

Painfully, he ended up getting himself onto his knees just in front of the elevator, but he forgot most of the details on how. Panic was definitely settling in now… Or maybe it was the fire overheating his processor. Either way, there wasn't much left to do; he had to get his stabilizer out of the floor before something bad happened and the situation got worse. He wasn't quick enough, though.

He wasn't sure if the floor had given him any warning before it collapsed under his weight, but he did know that he landed on his shoulders and helm. He passed out for who knows how long, but the next thing he knew, someone was yelling at him and his shoulders wouldn't stop hurting.

"There he is! I told you we'd find him!" He couldn't really recognize the voice off-the-bat, but he did know that it was not someone he wanted to be around at the moment. He felt someone grab onto his shoulders, and he screamed out in pain. They immediately came off, and he turned over to look at who touched him in such a sensitive area. It was Inferno.

"Inferno!" Hot Shot screamed, his face widening in disbelief. He had found him! How?

"You're in huge-o trouble Hot Shot!" Oh slag. Windcharger's here? Now that was going to mess everything up! How was he supposed to tell Inferno what happened if stupid 'I'm a superhero' Windcharger was going to be around to demonize Hot Shot's part in it!

"I didn't mean to! They dared me!"

"We did not!" Overhaul was here too? Slag slag slag! Both the 'bots that caused the whole freaking fire in the first place were there! They probably already told their warped view of what happened! Inferno probably hated him now! He didn't want Inferno to hate him…!

"I 'aven't got a clue what yer blatherin' on about, but we ain't got tahm for this, you three! If we don't fahnd a way out of here soon everyone will die!"

At that, a collection of voices that belonged to the rest of his fellow Homeless began either murmuring, snickering, or panicking. Oh great. He had landed right in the middle of the Meeting Room! Now there was definitely a good chance that they all hated him. Stupid Windcharger and Overhaul!

"Whaddaya mean 'we'? I say we leave Hot Shot in here to die!" Oh great. Cue old fart Mudslinger screaming out his protests. He was slagged now.

"Yeah! I say we impale his helm on a stick!" Moonracer was here too?

"No! I got it! Lets toss him in the dumpster and let 'im suffocate!" Oh, of course Powerglide opted for the most brutal of punishments.

"Ah've got mah pick-axe! I'll poke all 'is lim's off!" Chromia! Okay, this was getting out of servo.

"But I didn't do anything!"

"Yeah ya did, ya liar!" Windcharger piped up, "If it weren't for you I wouldn't have all these burns on my servo!" With that, Windcharger lifted up his red-hot servo, with a few fingers burned off.

Hot Shot was struck dumb at this; the fire did that to him! Granted, he had suffered his own injuries on his stabilizer (the fact that it made this incessant ringing noise meant that it was still having difficulty receiving signals from his processor), and his shoulders wouldn't stop hurting, but an entire servo? Guilt probably would have begun to well up inside him, but that's when a beacon of light began to shine in his proverbial bleak tunnel.

"Hot Shot doesn't deserve to die!" The Warehouse went quiet, and soon enough they all focused on the one 'bot that had the gall and nerve to go against the entire crowd consensus. This brave 'bot just so happened to be Hot Shot's best friend since the moment he was protoformed, even if he did have a Decepticon alt-mode. Jolt.

"Whaddaya talking about, kid! He caused this fire!" Powerglide protested.

"But it wasn't his fault! Windcharger and Overhaul dared him to!"

"We did not!" They protested.

"Yeah you did! I saw you guys!"

"But how can we trust a Decepticon like you?" Mudslinger asked.

"He's telling the truth, Mudslinger!" Firestar! She was here too! "I was there! We were practicing our special powers and Windcharger and Overhaul said—"

"ENOUGH!" Inferno yelled at the loudest volume he could muster without damaging his vocalizer. Everyone went deathly silent, the only sound coming straight from the crackling fire. "Now if you guys want to survive the fact that the Warehouse is on fire, I suggest we find the nearest exit as fast as we can!"

Hot Shot, who had been struck dumb by all the arguing, gained a glimmer of hope from Inferno's yelling. For a moment, it seemed that Hot Shot was in the clear. He would manage to get out of the Warehouse with the his fellow Homeless, and maybe once they got out of the fire they could all manage to think straight and listen to both sides of the story. Hot Shot was already running out of ideas, and he was extremely thankful that Inferno was completely impervious to the effects of heat and fire; he was convinced that if it weren't the case, Inferno would have overreacted just like the others. For a while, it seemed like everything was going to be fine, just fine…

And then the roof caved over.

Darkness was the last thing he remembered seeing for quite some time.

Every few cycles, some kind of light would show up beyond his vision; he didn't know what it was, but he took its existence as a sign that he was alive. He didn't remember what had happened, though. He knew that whatever it was had been spark-threatening and dangerous. Maybe he had gotten too careless and went a bit too fast through the underground mines of Iacon. He had always been told not to go in there, but something about it just screamed 'challenge'. He liked a good challenge.

That was the first thing he had told the mysterious light, the first time he realized that it existed. Better than just laying here and doing nothing. He told the light whatever came to mind, like about how sometimes things felt like a locked door that he needed to open but didn't know how (something about that felt particularly real). He had no idea how he managed to talk to the light, but he did.

He would also talk about what he had for lunch the other day; about how he got his Energon from dumpsters and that sometimes a Prime came over and would give him and his fellow Homeless some fresh Energon. Sometimes he thought that the light responded every so often, whenever it had something to say. Sometimes Hot Shot wondered if the light would ever come closer so that he could actually see what was around him. Apparently the light heard, because one day the light grew brightest, and he managed to onlined his optics to meet the face of a green 'bot with a strange, fat pole in his mouth. They paused for a moment, then the green 'bot spoke.

"Well, nice t'see yer finally conscious." He said, and then moved (with some difficulty) away from wherever Hot Shot was laying to press buttons on some… thing. Hot Shot blinked a few times, staring at the green 'bot. Hot Shot had never seen him before, but he had the same voice as that odd light he spoke to.

He began to focus his line of vision around his surrounding area. He soon realized he was in a medical room, because there were several monitors detailing specific things about his chassis. He could tell, because a simple caricature of him was being used to show where something was wrong. He decided to try and decipher what it meant. Have something to think about… you know, other than the obvious panicking over the fact that he wasn't in the Warehouse anymore and his comrades were nowhere to be seen.

From what he could tell, there were large, red circles indicating where he had suffered the most damage, and smaller, orange-to-yellow circles indicating more minor issues. There was one disconnected bubble indicating that Hot Shot had overheated, and the two biggest circles were on his shoulders and left end stabilizer. Right next to that monitor was another, with the same caricature of him, only this time the circles were green. Taking a moment to read it, he managed to get the point; he had made a full recovery from whatever mysterious ailments he had suffered. Well, except for the shoulders. Those seemed to have been permanently damaged for some reason. Hot Shot was about to test his shoulders to see if there was something he needed to worry about, but that's when he heard the green 'bot pipe up.

"Kup to Rodimus Prime, come in Rodimus." The green mech said to his right. Hot Shot stiffened, and did not direct his attention to him, simply listening. He knew what Rodimus looked like anyway; in all honesty, he was the last 'bot he wanted to see.

"Rodimus Prime here. What's the news?" He heard the Prime say over the monitor.

"Hot Shot's awake now. I believe you wanted to speak to him as soon as he was conscious?"

"Yes, yes I did. Thanks, Kup. I'll be there momentarily." Then the monitor produced only a bit of light static and with a small beep of some button or something, Kup turned it off. He wasn't entirely sure what to do now, but he had to think fast. He was good at thinking fast though, and he had decided that—since he did not know this bot—that bot probably didn't know very much about him. He wouldn't know about how slippery he could be or how manipulative, so Hot Shot decided to play dumb.

"Who was that?"

"Rodimus? Oh, you should know him. He's the one that comes to give you fresh Energon."

"How did you know that?" Hot Shot asked, lifting himself up onto his elbows and turning to get a good look at him so he could glare. He knew it! Rodimus was a liar! He had promised he wouldn't tell anyone of authority about his illegal smuggling! He knew it was illegal; it was one of the many details Hot Shot managed to squeeze out of Autotroopers and the general public.

"You told me, young 'bot." Hot Shot paused, his anger simmering down. He didn't like Rodimus, yes, but he understood that what Rodimus did not only put the Prime in danger, but also his entire Homeless comrades. The Prime would be sent away to the stockades and all of the Homeless—who had chosen not to serve a function—would be forced into Rehab. He had the sense not to rat him out because of that. This bot had to be lying.

"I did? When?"

"Around midnight last night." Hot Shot blinked. What had he been doing last night? He didn't remember anything about telling an old green 'bot about such classified information! Just the light… Oh slag. That light! He internally cursed himself, knowing that either the light was the bot or whoever had posed as it was working for the bot.

"Who are you, anyway?"

"Me?" The green bot gestured towards himself subtly, but then chuckled heartedly, "I'm Kup, young 'bot. I'm the medic for Rodimus' team."

"Rodimus has a team?"

"Why yes, he does. You didn't know?" Hot Shot shook his helm.

"I just thought he was some sort of glorified pretty-boy." Kup laughed in response to his analysis, and Hot Shot was tempted to crack a smile, himself.

"Nobles. Whaddaya gonna do?"

"WOAH! Rodimus is a Noble?" Kup did not respond. This was confusing him; from what he could tell, Rodimus had just been arrogant or convoluting. But this… didn't make sense. Nobles rarely went out into battle for anything, and it was almost completely unheard of for them to seek out Homeless and show them charity. It explained how Rodimus apparently 'mastered nearly every combat form in the universe', but otherwise it completely threw his helm into a cooling unit, to be poetic.

What else didn't he know about Rodimus? Hot Shot contorted his faceplate into a frown, but said no more. He decided to stare at the ceiling instead, focusing on one small light that was just above his helm. Maybe that was he had been seeing this whole time, talking to and sharing secrets like it was Jolt or something. He was probably worried about him now, trying to find him somewhere in the skies, and inadvertently scaring the slag out of everyone that saw him. Having a helicopter alt-mode can do that, even if he did proudly bear the Autobot insignia. Hot Shot began to reminisce on all the slag they had to put up with when Rodimus walked in with two other 'bots he didn't pay attention to.

Rodimus looked just about the same as he ever did; he stood up high, yet somehow looked humble at the same time. He started to lift himself off the berth he was on to sit up straight, trying to get himself to look presentable in front of the apparent Noble. He may be a Homeless, but he was most definitely not a rude and grimy pit-spawn like so many of those insufferable higher-ups thought. Rodimus crossed his servos, and Hot Shot put his servos on his kneecaps, and they stared at each other; Hot Shot with a simple glare, and Rodimus with that same proud gleam in his optic. At least now he knew why he had that look in his optic.

"Hello, Hot Shot."

"Whaddaya want and why am I here?" The shorter of the two 'bots Rodimus walked in with scoffed a little and caught his attention. He was green and very short, perhaps even shorter than a Scout. He also looked pretty old—not too old, but old enough that he deserved some respect for being an elder.

"Wow, what a nice 'bot ya got here, Rodimus."

"And who are you supposed to be?" Hot Shot asked as menacingly as he could. He wasn't sure if he was truly menacing when he was only about one mechanometer taller than the Scouts and had such an odd color scheme, though he was a considerable bit shorter. The 'bot glared at him with fiery intensity, and Hot Shot felt something hit him. He couldn't explain it properly, but Hot Shot somehow knew that he could trust this 'bot. He nodded at him, and the 'bot nodded back.

"I'm Brawn." He said tartly.

"Hot Shot." He lifted up his chin a bit, and looked back to Rodimus, "So, back to my question; why am I here?" Rodimus gave a short, lighthearted chuckle.

"You should be thanking Ironhide for that," Rodimus pointed to the second 'bot he came in with, and orange bot with a wide upper body and cleft chin, "If it weren't for him you'd have been fried to a crisp back there." Ironhide's blue-ish face started gaining a red tint.

"Aw, it was nuthin'." He lifted up his servo to his neck and focused his optics away from them. Hot Shot blinked. Fried to a crisp? That couldn't happen to him. Sure he wasn't exactly fire-proof, but he was fire-resistant. If he was in a fire, he would probably survive longest to get out of his own accord. Hot Shot began to contract a processor-ache from not getting all the details.

"What are you talking about?" All three of the 'bots in front of him began to stare at him, blank expressions on their faceplates. After a while of silence, Kup sighed began to shake his helm. Hot Shot focused on Kup, and watched him take out the pole he had in his mouth. Apparently it had some sort of furnace inside it, because he tapped it a few times and ashes came out.

"Kup, are you keeping something from us?" Rodimus asked, placing his servos on his hips and leering at the medi-bot. Hot Shot knew full well that only Nobles would be petty enough to put their servos on their hips, as a cultural sign of being displeased. He hadn't the foggiest idea on how to respond to this situation, though. Kup sighed, and then proceeded with his explanation.

"Ironhide, you remember what happened to Hot Shot when you found him, yes?" Kup asked. Hot Shot's attention shot to Ironhide, who stiffened a bit and began to twiddle his thumbs.

"Well, yeah. He was a li'l… erm… not all there in th' processor, y'know?" Ironhide said, spinning his finger around in a circle near his helm. Hot Shot felt sick after hearing that. 'Not all there in the processor'? He went crazy? Since when!

"W-What does that have to do with anything?" He half-yelled, turning to face Kup. He just averted his eyes to the ceiling and continued with his explanation.

"Hot Shot had suffered some misplaced and torn wires in the root of his helm. Part of the way I had to repair him involved having to remove a bit of his memory, so that I wouldn't alter them. More than likely, he doesn't remember anything about what had happened four solar-cycles ago."

"FOUR SOLAR-CYCLES? I was asleep for four solar-cycles!" Hot Shot felt something lodge itself in his throat, and almost wanted to spill it out. What had happened! Did it have something to do with him 'not being all there in the processor'? He had no idea what this meant for him, and didn't really clear up anything. Then, one thing popped up in his mind.

"Inferno's gonna kill me!" Hot Shot buried his helm into his servos, trying to keep his best from leaking coolant. He was not going to live with the guilt of crying, especially with mister 'I'm actually a noble ha ha' right in front of him. Knowing Hot Shot, he'd confess to it almost immediately after he got back to the Warehouse. After all, he was raised never to tell a lie, and to him, keeping secrets was just another, sleazier way to lie.

That was yet another misconception on Homeless bots; that they lied to people all the time. The only people in his Homeless group that lied was Windcharger, but even then he was just trying not to get in trouble. Usually he was just trying his best to be some kind of hero. In the midst of all his thinking, he heard footsteps coming closer to him.

"Hot Shot…" he looked up to look at Rodimus, now a significant distance closer to him than he was before, "I don't know how to tell you this, but…" Hot Shot was afraid now. Adults only used phrases like that to mean that something really, really bad happened.

"Inferno is… gone."

He couldn't move, couldn't think, couldn't focus on anything. He just stared at the ground, his servos on his fore-helm, shocked. Inferno was gone? Inferno couldn't be gone! He was the strongest of all of his fellow Homeless, and he was never one to go down without a fight. Inferno had taught him everything he knew… well, except the cheat-words and phrases adults used. Those he figured out on his own. But when he told Inferno he had gotten a great pat on the helm and a snarky warning not to use it against him. And now, some stupid Prime was telling him that Inferno was gone! Oh, he knew perfectly well what gone meant.

Gone = Dead.

"Hot Shot, are you oka-?"

"NO I'M NOT OKAY!" Hot Shot exploded. He usually didn't like it when he blew up, but this was a special case, "How am I supposed to be okay! I wake up in some random medical room, find the guy that's been doing things I know he shouldn't be doing talking to me, and then having that same guy tell me that Inferno is offline!"

"I never said Inferno was offline!"

"You said 'gone', you oaf! When bots like you say gone, it always means offline! I don't want Inferno to be offline…!" He choked on that odd thing that showed up in his throat earlier. If he kept this up he'd be leaking coolant all over the place! He couldn't do that! Not now! Not ever! Trying to avoid any of their gazes, the door to his left caught his optics. He had to get out of here.

Jumping off the berth as fast he could, he ran straight for his one and only ticket to the outside. Wherever he was, he didn't want to be here anymore. He wanted to get out of this ship, base, whatever it was he was in! He wanted to get back to the Warehouse, back to his home, back to Inferno.

Something caught his servo, and he was jerked back violently. His stabilizers lost contact with the ground, and he flew up with all of the momentum he had gained, landing on his back. It hurt quite a bit, but he managed to online his optics immediately after to stare down the bot that caught him. Brawn had a very good hold on him, and he didn't look like he was going to let go anytime soon. Still, Hot Shot immediately stood up and started pulling his servo away. But no matter what he tried, Brawn simply would not let go.

"Yer not gonna get anywhere with all ya squirmin'." Brawn spat out.

"I'd rather try than just stay here in this stupid spaceship base whatever thing!" Hot Shot replied.

"Well, too bad. You're going to stay here, and that's final." Rodimus piped in.


"I wouldn't do that if I were you." Rodimus retorted, crossing his servos once again. For what felt like the millionth time he leered at him, now with a new gleam in his eyes. He was disappointed. Spark knows what in the Pits he was disappointed with, but Hot Shot didn't care. He just wanted to get out.

"Oh yeah? Why not!" He grit his dental plates, having absolutely no idea where this conversation was going. Though from what he could tell, it wasn't going to a place that he would like.

"You really wanna know?"

"YEAH I wanna know! Why are you taking me hostage! You're supposed to protect the people, not enslave them!"

"I am NOT enslaving you!"

"Then what are you doing?"

"Saving you from going to the Stockade!"

Okay, now Hot Shot was willing to listen. The Stockade! What did he do to deserve to go to the Stockade? He hadn't done anything wrong… Okay, he did steal Energon from dumpsters, but that was purely out of necessity! It wasn't his fault that the government didn't give Homeless 'bots any proper rights! And besides, who cares about getting rid of some 'garbage'… if they consider Energon garbage. Sure it was stale, but it was better than nothing.

"Why would I go to the Stockade?" Hot Shot thought he heard his voice waver a little. He hoped that was just an illusion in his processor.

"Cuz you set a building on fire." Brawn answered him from below.


"Hot Shot, calm down. Please." Kup asked, lifting up his servos defensively and trying to calm him down. Oh, Hot Shot was not going to calm down, but he wasn't exploding anymore either. Something had drained him in that sentence. He felt like he had to explode, like it was something he should do, but he was too weak to. In all honesty, he hadn't the faintest idea what the slag was happening anymore, and he was tempted to stop caring. He didn't.

"Look, Hot Shot. You know the Warehouse, right?" Rodimus piped up, catching Hot Shot's interest.

"Of course I know the Warehouse. I live there." Hot Shot said, his vocalizer's volume lowering down considerably. Why the heck was Rodimus treating him like he didn't even know where he lived? He was scared now, but he lost track of what he was afraid of. For now, he just settled on being afraid, because Rodimus shook his helm.

"Well, not anymore you don't."

"That's because you're kidnapping me, right?" Hot Shot spat, leering at him. Rodimus' face contorted a bit into an angry frown, and he stiffened and straightened. Hot Shot's gaze did not falter. Letting out some trapped oxygen, Rodimus continued.

"Hot Shot, I'm not kidnapping you. I'm giving you a place to live." Hot Shot tried to keep glaring at Rodimus, but he averted his eyes to look at the stout servo of Brawn holding him in place, directing his anger and fear towards it instead. He didn't believe any of this pit-slag. Rodimus was probably deluded. He wasn't going to live with him, no matter what he thought. Rodimus sighed, and Hot Shot shot a peripheral glance to him.

"Four Solar Cycles ago, a fire began and sprouted across the Warehouse you lived in. You can't go back, Hot Shot." Hot Shot still didn't respond, now staring directly at the ground, tilting his helm a bit to the left. So he was right. He really wasn't able to live in the Warehouse anymore, unless he wanted to trust a large pile of burnt lumber to protect him from the elements. The silence that followed was very uncomfortable, and after only a few minutes he couldn't take it anymore, and asked a question.

"How are you so sure that I started the fire?"

"It was part of the memories I had to delete, Hot Shot." Kup joined in the conversation, and bowed his helm a little, "I watched the playback feed of them, and I still have them on a chip, if you want your memories back. But be assured you did start the fire. Though, that's not a very 'assuring' thought, I'll admit." Kup drifted a bit off topic for a moment, before shutting up and placing his servo on his chin, thinking to himself for a bit.

In the midst of all this exposition, Hot Shot's curiosity grew considerably. From what he could tell, what happened in the Warehouse was pretty bleak. He started a fire, burned the house down, and went temporarily crazy somewhere in the midst of it all. But there was still one detail that he wasn't sure if he got. If Inferno was offline, then… did that mean…

"Did anyone, uh, else… survive the fire?" Hot Shot managed to question the group of older 'bots in front of him. "You know, besides me?"

No one made a sound. Hot Shot waited a bit, and put a questioning look on his faceplate. Still nothing. Then, almost imperceptibly, Ironhide, who had been in the background this entire time, shook his helm. Hot Shot's optics widened, and his knees suddenly felt weak. His chassis started shaking and he knew full well his inner workings were overheating. He couldn't stand properly anymore, and collapsed onto the floor, once again burying his helm into his servos. Brawn just let him fall, leaving Hot Shot to simmer in his own realizations.

He was a murderer. A mass murderer. He completely destroyed everyone in the universe that he ever cared about in a large, violent fire, and he wasn't even sure exactly how. Was it an accident? No. Hot Shot had more control than that. His flamethrowers never activated unless he completely willed them to. If there was even the tiniest doubt in his processor he wouldn't have done it. A failsafe in his programming.

But he did. He started the fire, and from what Ironhide said he had gone crazy. That must have been it. He destroyed everything and everyone that was ever important to him because he had gone crazy. He didn't deserve to live anymore if he killed that many people. He should be locked up forever and a solar cycle, never to be released.

"I'm a monster…!" Hot Shot lifted his servos and pounded against the hard metal floor. He slammed harder than he had intended and yelled, contracting in pain and cracks showing up on his servos. Kup took a tentative step forward, and Hot Shot merely turned his shaking, violent servos around so that he could see the palms of his servos. Then he turned them around again, and saw his built-in flamethrowers, completely and utterly intact.

"I wish I had never been created with these stupid flamethrowers!" He yelled out at the sky, and slammed his servos on the ground again, this time prompting Kup to order him to stop before he dealt permanent damage.

Hot Shot complied, staring at the ground and his now Energon-leaking servos that hurt every time he twitched. He felt Rodimus walk up to his side, stopping, but not doing anything else. He just stood there, and did nothing that Hot Shot could discern from his position. His legs were perfectly still, and Rodimus didn't make a sound for quite some time.

"Hot Shot, from this point forward, I am adopting you as a Solo. I am your mentor now, and as soon as you are ready and willing, I am going to teach you everything I know. If you have any questions, you can always ask me, or if I am not available, Ironhide."

Then Rodimus walked out of the room, Brawn following him. Kup and Ironhide were the only ones that stayed, though. Kup immediately lifted Hot Shot up to his standing position, but Hot Shot just didn't feel like standing. He felt really heavy, actually, and actually thought a stasis nap would be a pretty good idea. But Kup was persistent, even if he didn't say a word, and he eventually shoved Hot Shot onto the medical berth.

Hot Shot sat still, staring at his servos and wishing he would just cut the flamethrowers off now and get it over with. Ironhide coughed, but Hot Shot didn't respond. He coughed again, and this time he slowly lifted up his helm so that he could just see Ironhide out of his peripherals. He was sitting on a simple chair, staring at him and giving him a somber smile. Ironhide did a bit more than Rodimus to comfort him, for sure. With lack of anything else to do, Hot Shot asked his first question.

"What's a Solo?"

Hot Shot hated to admit it, but he got used to being with Rodimus.

Ironhide said that a Solo was one young 'bot assigned to a Mentor, instead of a group of 'bots being sent to a Minor. Both were pretty different from being a Homeless, where you were given shelter and care from a large group of other Homeless but otherwise fended for yourself. His new life as a Solo instead of a Homeless was… strained at the beginning. He felt really vulnerable being in the middle of nowhere and being brutally attacked by the guy that was supposedly teaching him.

Hot Shot had refused to fight and before he even began the sessions with Rodimus. He just wanted to be left alone. The way he acted at first really ashamed him now, actually; for the longest time he had no will to do anything, and thought that maybe if he just kept standing still and letting Rodimus beat him to a pulp, he would give up on him and let him go. That plan kind of sucked, considering it involved a lot of limping over to the med-bay, so he eventually stopped playing dead and defended himself.

After defending himself for about three Solar Cycles (though he didn't really do very much, he just lifted his arms in front of his helm), Rodimus actually told him he was improving. Apparently choosing defense was a good thing, because Rodimus left that fateful training session with a smile on his face. Hot Shot hated to admit it, but seeing Rodimus smile made him feel… accomplished? Yeah, that was it. He had made Rodimus proud.

Rodimus explained to him why a few mega-cycles later that same day. Instead of just standing there or running away, like he usually did, he had 'solidified his stature and hardened his position to resemble the strength of a rock', as Rodimus put it. In other words, he did what Brawn did; widen his legs and lift up his servos to cushion the blow. After that Solar Cycle passed, something in him either snapped or fell into place, because he gradually ended up trying harder and harder each time, even though he still didn't want to.

He still had quite a bit to learn from Rodimus, since those rumors about him mastering almost all forms of combat weren't too far off the bat. But after the first Stellar Cycle, he had gotten used to it, and had come to be intermediate in at least one form of combat; the defensive metallikato. Rodimus had given him a celebratory pat on his helm after that, and for the first time since that incident at the Warehouse, Hot Shot had cracked a genuine, happy grin, and not for the last time.

He stopped grinning after Rodimus brought up the subject of built-in weapons and power-ups for combat. Rodimus had no built-in weapons, since he was a Noble, but he had mastered several weapons over the years, ranging from his favorite modified bow and arrows, to a simple pick-axe or lightsaber. And, yes, he had experience with flamethrowers too. But before Hot Shot even had time to think about what that entailed, Rodimus had up and given him a lecture, presuming his reluctance to use his flamethrowers after what happened at the Warehouse, saying that even something as destructive as fire could be used for 'good'.

Even though Rodimus had tried his best to convince him the first time around, Hot Shot still refused to learn how to use weapons or power-ups for combat. In fact, he had even begun considering becoming a pacifist. He had already been more than destructive with flamethrowers—who wasn't to say that, once he got another, more powerful weapon, he wouldn't go berserk and kill a large group of 'bots like last time? Rodimus had tried to tell him several points of view to get him to believe otherwise, but Hot Shot refused to listen to them. Many an afternoon were spent with Rodimus vainly trying to talk to a noncompliant Hot Shot covering his audio receptors and making loud noises to drown out the sound as best he could.

Eventually, Rodimus had cracked, and slammed his bow onto the Energon Table and yelling obscenities at Hot Shot for being such a 'whiny little noncompliant heap of lowlife slag'. Hot Shot didn't dare recount the precise words he had said, but he knew that Rodimus had left in a huff and denied Hot Shot food for the rest of the Deca-Cycle. He didn't really get affected much by that, though; he had been a Homeless, after all. He had an increased metabolism after half-starving for the majority of his lifecycle.

Thinking about that now, in the last day of the Deca-Cycle, he wondered if Rodimus was going to deny him proper sustenance for an entire Orbital Cycle at this rate. Knowing him, he would probably deny it from him for half a Stellar Cycle until guilt overtook him. Hot Shot was getting tired of being noncompliant and refusing to use his flamethrowers. They both had their reasons, and they wouldn't budge. Sooner or later, one of them would have to crack. Hot Shot tried his best not to be the one that cracked.

He sighed, nodding his helm up to the ceiling and staring at the fluorescent light. For a moment he was deciding whether he should take a stasis-nap or continue thinking. There wasn't very much else to do here in his room; it wasn't exactly decorated much, seeing as the only thing in it was a punching bag he didn't feel like punching and a window with a view of the bright, sun-replacing lights of Iacon.

Sometimes Hot Shot wished that the lights would all be turned off, just for a moment, so that he could look at the nighttime sky and find that it was covered in luminescent clouds that shouldn't be there. He had to admit, light pollution may be a good thing, since it was still a form of pollution, but it was still very pretty. At least, he assumed it was pretty, as he had never seen it for himself; at the very least, the pollution-detection prerequisites in his processor said so.

Tired, Hot Shot had just laid there, floating in half-stasis. And then, to his complete astonishment, his wish came true, and the lights went out. And it wasn't just his lights in his bedroom; it was every light in the city. They all just suddenly went out, in an enormous cascading failure. Hot Shot sat up straight as an arrow, using his servos to balance him.

For a while, he just sat there, staring in front of him and blinking, trying to adjust his optics to the sudden darkness. He took one look outside his window and saw that there were no luminescent clouds outside at the moment. Whoever granted his wish must have taken too many liberties. Or the prerequisites in his processor were out-dated. He studied the window and outside world with narrowed optics, gathering his thoughts on what to do in this situation.

He jumped off his berth and moved around a bit, grabbing onto whatever he could to keep his balance while his optics adjusted to movement in the dark. Eventually he managed to get from his small closet of replacement limbs (he was currently using his second right leg) to the punching bag, and then finally to the door. It wouldn't slide open, though. He wasn't strong enough to open the door of his own strength, and he wasn't going to use his flamethrowers to break it down. If he had his way, he would never use these blasted flamethrowers again…

Thinking quickly, he searched toward the side of the door, trying to see if there was some kind of emergency open-the-door switch. After a few nano-kliks, he found a small pad specifically for emergencies. Hopeful, he shifted over to get closer to it and analyzed it. It was some kind of servo-scanner sort of thing with a glass box around it. He managed to pull the box off with a little difficulty, and placed his servo onto the scanner. Nothing happened.

He probably should have expected that. After all, a lot of the things that the Cybertronians made ran on electricity from sunlight, so if there was a power outage there was no way this system would work. Still, he began to panic a little, and it became apparent that he wasn't going to go anywhere, so he began to bang on the door instead. Make as much noise as possible, let someone know he was here.

"HEY! IS ANYONE OUT THERE!" He managed to yell at full volume, banging on the door hard enough that some adrenaline managed to shoot through his chassis, "HELLOOOOO!" He cupped his had around his vocalizer, trying to see if that would help any acoustics or whatever to get someone to hear him. Then he stopped, and listened for a moment. For a while there was nothing…Then there was a loud crash beyond his door, somewhere to his left.


"I hear ya just fine, Hot Head!" Brawn! Oh, duh, of course he'd get out first.

"I can't get my door open! Could ya give me a servo here?" He asked, this time lowering his vocalizer's volume to a bit above his normal tone (which was actually kind of loud to begin with).

"Sure, fine, whatever! Just stand back and try not to get hurt!" Hot Shot nodded, though he knew Brawn couldn't see him, and took several steps backwards, all the way to the middle of his berth. After a short pause, Brawn's fist punched straight through the thick metal of the door, and slipped back out. Using that hole for leverage, Brown shoved both his servos into the hole and pushed them both out at the same time, standing spread-eagle in the door frame.

"Woah…!" Hot Shot had known Brawn was strong, but not that strong. He spent a few cycles gawking at his silhouetted frame before Brawn snapped him back to reality and dragged him out of the room and into the hallway.

"Woah-wa-HEY! Ow! Not so hard! What are you trying to do, rip my servo out?" Hot Shot asked, his servo practically being torn out of his shoulder from the force.

"You talk too much!" Brawn retorted back, still not stopping.

"A simple 'please be quiet' would have sufficed." Hot Shot huffed under his breath, looking away. He then tripped over Brawn's short stature, but didn't get too far over his helm before being pushed back upright by his servos. He shook a little bit, wavering and holding his helm. His stabilizing servos hurt a bit, but otherwise he was okay.

"Fine; please, be quiet." Brawn spat out, obviously becoming frustrated. He paused, then quietly continued, "and if it ain't too much t' ask, wouldja mind not lollygagging through the hallways, so's we can get to the meeting room and figger out what the SLAG is going on?" Brawn managed to bring up his face to Hot Shot's by the last part, pushing him back a bit. Mostly because Brawn somehow looked a bit taller and stretchier at that point.

Brawn then reverted back to his regular stature; the top of his helm now level with the beginning of Hot Shot's stabilizing servos. Hot Shot's initial catatonia from the yell was quickly replaced by a wide grin, and he regained a spring in his step that he had lost from a bit earlier. Perhaps he had just been tired; he was always a lot lazier when tiredness set in.

"Well then what're we waiting for? Last one down's a rotten engine block!" With that, Hot Shot transformed into his speed-built alt-mode and thrust himself through the hallways as fast he could. A loud protest of Brawn was lost on him, so he just kept going forward. Adrenaline flashed through his chassis again, and for a moment it tasted like coconut. And metal. But it was over pretty soon, since he had made it to the elevator very quickly after that.

He had to drift and transform back into robot mode to lose enough momentum so as not to crash into it. He ended up completely changing the direction he was facing, what with him placing his legs sideways to his body and placing a servo onto the ground to twist him around. He had a bit of a fancy pose by the time he stopped, one arm in the air whilst the other was on the ground with widely spread out legs. He chuckled a little, and cracked a toothier grin before looking back up.

"Didja see that, Brawn! …uh, Brawn?" Hot Shot stood up straighter now, completely perplexed as to Brawn's whereabouts. No one else was in the hallway now, which was odd seeing as it was still the same hallway.

"Where'd ya go?" He turned his helm a bit to see if Brawn was hiding somewhere or something, but it was clear Hot Shot was the only thing in the hallway at the moment. At least, until something poked him on the shoulder.

Not only did it hurt because of how sensitive his shoulders had become, but it sent a very noticeable chill down his backhoe. He had no way of determining what it was, and it was really dark in here! His mind began to race, and suddenly managed to scrounge up some convoluted idea that some spark of a person he had killed in the Warehouse fire must have been haunting him this whole time and was now about to exact its revenge. But why would it be interested in him! He suddenly had a very good idea that said ghost was Windcharger, somehow.

"What are you so jumpy about?" Brawn! Hot Shot twisted his helm to look at the source of the voice, and sure enough it was indeed Brawn, through and through, and solid as a rock. He sighed and wiped some coolant from his helm, completely relieved that it was not a homicidal ghost come to wreak havoc and revenge upon him.

"BRAWN! Ah, I'm glad it's just you. I thought you were a ghost or something!" Hot Shot said. Brawn didn't reply for a while, just staring at him with his Autobot blue eyes. After a very short while, Brawn shifted a bit.

"C'mere Hot Shot. I wanna show ya something." Hot Shot blinked, but lowered his body anyway to see what it was Brawn had that he supposedly wanted to show him. He received a very swift punch to the face, though obviously not at Brawn's full strength. If it was at full strength, his helm might have blown off entirely instead of just his body being blown back a considerable amount.

Landing smack onto the wall, he stuck there for a second before gravity took over and he fell to the floor. Luckily, his fall was cushioned by a heap of random boxes filled with blank data-pads there for notes and/or reports. But it still hurt a bit, with several of the data-pads poking at him uncomfortably. Hot Shot pushed some boxes out of the way and immediately sat up as best he could while he was meshed between the disorganized collections of data-pads, his arms angrily keeping him upright.

"What was that for? You could have killed me!" Hot Shot had begun to point angrily at him at the word 'me', but a searing pain in his shoulder stopped him. He groaned a bit in pain and a small popping noise could be heard from it, so he retracted his arm and clutched his large shoulder in pain.

"Yeah, I could've. But I didn't. Now gimme yer servo and stop bein' so arrogant." Hot Shot made a face at the servo Brawn was offering him, shifting his mouth more to the side of his face than anything. After a second, he took his servo with his good one, and was lifted out of the boxes without getting his arm torn off (which was a bit of a feat, considering Brawn). Aching a bit, he stretched a little and resolved to get over the pain as quickly as he could.

By the time Hot Shot had stretched enough to feel like he could move without his limbs falling off, Brawn had already pushed the elevator doors open, and beckoned for him to follow. He nodded, and ran into the elevator quickly enough. Since he was the taller of the two, he pushed the emergency power button placed at the top of the button selection (which Brawn mumbled was a stupid idea) to get it started. It took a moment of whirring and analyzing what the heck was going on, but soon enough it was raring to go and managed to lower them down to ground-level.

As soon as it opened, Hot Shot raced out and started looking around to see if anyone else was there.

"Hey Rodimus! Are you in here?" He called out for his Mentor. He wasn't around as far as he could see. After his first sweep through the floor-level with his optics, he still hadn't found anyone.

"Rodimus?" Maybe it was just too dark. If he looked a bit more thoroughly, he would probably find someone. He started with the kitchen. No one in the kitchen… No one near the door… No one on the couch… it didn't seem like anyone was here save for him and Brawn.

Hot Shot crossed his servos and frowned. What, was everyone else back upstairs? Great. That meant that they had to go all the way back up to the second floor! That was great. Just GREAT!

"SO, WHAT! WE COME ALL THE WAY DOWN HERE AND NO ONE'S AROUND?" Hot Shot yelled out, throwing up his arms and frustration. Brawn tossed something at the back of his helm and once again tipped him over, this time right onto the couch cushions.

"Quit yer whining! Rodimus' probably just somewhere else, getting the backup generators tuh work er something." Brawn retorted. His words were moderately muffled to Hot Shot's audio receptors, what with them being right next to the material of the couch, but he heard all the same. He grumbled in response, but didn't say anything. He let the rest of his chassis fall forward, flipping him onto his back in between the couch and the video screen. His backhoe and shoulders started hurting again, but he managed to ignore them.

Then the fluorescent lights came back on, and Hot Shot had to keep his optics offlined to manage the sudden bright lights. He lifted up his servos to help block the light enough so that he could grow accustomed to them properly. Then he heard the whoosh of a door opening, and he turned his helm.

Rodimus and Kup were walking in now, Rodimus looking moderately flustered, and Kup a little tired. Kup held his servo up to his helm, soothing a processor-ache he must have had. Hot Shot hadn't the foggiest idea why, but it was probably either because it had taken a few chin-scratching moments to get the generator to work, or Rodimus had gone and done something 'for the greater good' again. Rodimus, however, was completely alert, quickly saw Hot Shot on the floor and immediately stood above him to help him up.

"Hot Shot! Are you okay?" Rodimus reached out a servo to offer Hot Shot.

"No! The magical robot unicorn has lost its best friend Dolphin and has to destroy stars in order to make his dreams come true! Of course I'm okay!" Hot Shot said sarcastically, while he was being lifted up. Rodimus stared at him for a moment, and Hot Shot stared back. Then Rodimus shook his helm.

"Ugh, Hot Shot, we don't have time for this! A Police Ship with a captured Decepticon was on its way to this Space Bridge, and the Decepticon has escaped its ship while it was docked nearby! We need to keep the Space Bridge safe!" Rodimus said, albeit a bit more like a theatrical speech than an actual reprimand or order. Hot Shot simply stared nonchalantly back at his Mentor, prompting Rodimus to twitch a little and pucker his lips.

"Do ya think maybe the 'con was the one who started the blackout?" Brawn asked, trying to keep Rodimus from bursting. At least someone was on Hot Shot's side. Rodimus looked away, and Hot Shot began to scoot a little farther away…

"I don't know, maybe. I had a feeling it was intended for more brutal force and destruction, though. It didn't have any weapons when it left, so that's good. It was a big con, though. It could probably be strong enough to cut an average Autobot in half with its foot! Best to stay on your toes, men. You don't know where it might be out there." Rodimus spoke.

"Hey! I've got an idea!" Hot Shot bellowed from the door to the outside at the other end of the room, "Why don't we go outside, find the Decepticon, and actually deal with the problem?" Hot Shot asked.

The other 'bots on his team here just stood there, staring at him, most likely wondering how the heck Hot Shot got there so quickly. Hot Shot just stood there, waiting for their response. It took a moment before Rodimus realized that Hot Shot had opened up the door to the alleyways of the city, and that there was about enough reason to start a nuclear battle with ants.


"Why should I?" Hot Shot asked with a large grin plastered over his face.

"Because yer an idiot!" Brawn threw in.

"You'd get yourself seriously hurt!" Kup added.

"Plus you only know metallikato! You're not trained enough to fight a Decepticon yet!"

"Then it's your fault I don't know anything else, isn't it?" Hot Shot threw back at him, "And yes, Kup, I know it's dangerous. Also, thanks Brawn, I'm glad you noticed." Hot Shot smiled at him, and Brawn shot him a look that just promised him that he'd get some sort of switching once this whole ordeal was over.

"I believe there is a misunderstanding here. I'm not suggesting I go out there alone. Like Brawn said, that would be completely stupid. I specifically remember using the word 'we' in my initial sentence, and I do sincerely hope none of you old coots are retracting any hearing issues in your audio receptors?" Even Kup's usually friendly demeanor seemed a little ruffled after hearing that. Rodimus simmered a little, but then managed to growl out a reply.

"What are you getting at, Hot Shot?"

"Look, we're a team, aren't we? And it's only one Decepticon. How hard could it be?"

"Harder than ya think, kid." Brawn piped up.

"Alright, I get that. But I know that it's a million times harder if you fight one alone. What if we put all of our strengths together?"

"I'm listening…" Rodimus relaxed his stature, his expression becoming one of curiosity rather than malice. He still had his arms at the ready for a fight though. Hot Shot smiled a bit wider.

"All I'm saying is that we go out there, find the Decepticon, and detain him long enough for the Autotroopers and Elite Guard to come and send him away. It's that simple!" Brawn growled in protest, but that should be expected from him by now. Rodimus was silent, mulling the plan over. Kup, however, audibly sighed.

"Well, count me out." Kup spoke out, sitting down on the couch for a much needed rest. "I ain't a fighter, Hot Shot. You guys can go and fight the con without me. I'm just gonna take a stasis-nap and hope there's enough left of you for me to patch over before I wake back up." Hot Shot felt a little hurt at Kup's last statement, but didn't really hold it against him. He was a kind old medic, and he had never denied him medical care when he needed it.

"I suppose it might not hurt to try." Rodimus spoke up. Brawn's mouth hung agape for a moment, before he managed to bellow something out of it.

"What are you, crazy? Of course it will hurt to try! We could go offline out there!" Brawn said, now angered.

"Brawn, you've got plenty of strength to match his, maybe even to best him if the situation calls for it! Coupled with Ironhide's strength he gets when he goes full metal, you guys could be unstoppable to one Decepticon, at least!" Hot Shot enthusiastically urged him. Brawn stared at him for a moment, then responded.

"Oh yeah? And where do you think Ironhide is? Hmm?"

"Yeah… where is Ironhide?" Rodimus queried himself. Hot Shot shrugged, and Kup simply waved his servo and went back to his stasis-nap on the couch. Then Ironhide yelled out from somewhere conspicuous.

"Ah'm over 'ere, sir!" Ironhide called out, lifting out an arm and waving at them from the kitchen. Rodimus walked over to the kitchen, and Hot Shot and Brawn followed him. It wasn't a very large kitchen, so Hot Shot had to stay out of it whilst Brawn stood inside. He could poke his head in though, and saw everything he needed to see. This was mostly just Ironhide tumbling out of an antiquated pulley system onto the ground, surrounded by a bunch of Energon.

"What were you doing in there, Ironhide?" Rodimus asked the young 'bot. Ironhide lifted himself up and saluted, straight as an arrow. Rodimus was taken of guard for a moment, but then assumed a Prime's stance.

"Sir! Ah was at the Energon Storage Chamber earlier today, plannin' tuh restock the kitchen, when the blackout occurred. Ah decided that, since this ol' pulley system ain't usin' 'lectric paers to work it, it'd be a good ahdea tuh use it tuh get back up to the main floor. Sir!" Ironhide explained. Rodimus took in the information, and nodded.

"Good work soldier. Now then, if you and Brawn would kindly follow me into the meeting room, I have something to say. You too Hot Shot." He stated, craning his neck to address Hot Shot, before walking out of the kitchen and back into the meeting room. Hot Shot wasn't very happy at all to have heard that directed to him, since he didn't like being considered a soldier instead of a person. A regular soldier never survived in any of those War Vids he saw. But Ironhide seemed to like it, so he kept quiet about it when he lined up between him and Brawn.

"Now then, where to start…" Rodimus stood in front of a line of him, Brawn and Ironhide, all there as subjects to command. Hot Shot didn't like being a subject either, but this was a dislike he was generally losing at the moment; after all, he was a Solo. He would have to follow Rodimus' orders for what would probably be the rest of his lifecycle. He couldn't really get out of being a Solo, so he would have to get used to it anyway.

"Alright, look men. I know this might sound crazy, but Hot Shot is right." Brawn quickly opened his mouth to protest, but Rodimus lifted a hand to silence him. Brawn begrudgingly complied and Rodimus continued,

"This Space Bridge is our first and foremost priority while we are here on Iacon. But, our other priority is to protect the city and citizens of Iacon from threat. We are the ones who must serve as an addition to the Autotroopers stationed here. For all we know, the main police forces could very well be trapped in their homes and offices right this very moment! We are the only ones here who have our own individual generator for power, and as such we are the most capable of going out and doing what's right." Rodimus paused to let his men sink in his lecture.

"I know of the dangers," he continued, "I know full well at how much is at stake here. If we don't do anything, we are safe, and we can handle ourselves and the Space Bridge just fine. But we are not the only important people here on Iacon; there are Police Officers, Autotroopers, Geologists, Spies, and Decoders among the ranks of a regular Iacon Citizen. And that is only covering the tip of the ice berg.

" These bots may seem completely different, but all of these 'bots have one thing in common. They are all Autobots, and they are all part of the Great Autobot Machine. That, is what I would say, if I were one of those stuck-up Primes who spent their entire life sucking up to the Magnus. But the fact is, I'm not, so I'm going to sum up my obligatory long-winded leader speech into this;

"If we don't defend Iacon, then who will?" Rodimus concluded. Brawn crossed his servos, and seemed a bit impressed by Rodimus' humbleness. Ironhide saluted with a simple 'sir, yes sir!', and assumed a fighting stance. Hot Shot, on the other hand, began jumping around, completely pumped by Rodimus practically saying they were going to go out and beat the Decepticon to scrap because they could.

"Well then, what are we waiting for? Let's get out there and fight the guy!" Hot Shot eagerly shouted out, excited beyond belief that he was going to be able to fight a real Decepticon! Transforming quickly, he drove straight through the door, blindly driving forward.

He wondered what it was like to fight a Decepticon, or what they usually looked like. Did they wear enormous amounts of armor or weaponry? Were they mostly just muscle and no brain? Were they all really as big as bot's said they were? These thoughts flew by his processor so fast he could barely register that he had just collided with someone.

His helm hurt a lot now, and he groaned in pain. Transforming back, he grabbed at the rocky ground of the asteroid and managed to lift up his servo to rub the area of his helm that collided. It hurt the first time he made contact, and he flinched, but he pushed onward and touched the wound. He also managed to lift himself up to a sitting position. His helm ached so much! Wary, he onlined his optics and retracted his servo to look at the damage. There was fresh Energon marking the pattern on his servo.

He didn't have much time to worry about that though, because right above him was the Decepticon, ready to step on him.

Hot Shot did a dodge roll as soon as he could manage, and sprung back up onto his stabilizing servos quickly as he could. He ran back the way he came as fast as possible. Transforming back into car-mode wasn't an option, as his injury would probably hurt him in the process. How could he have been so stupid!

Hot Shot took a quick look behind him, and saw the weirdest thing. The con quickly drew up its arms and slammed them down, causing an odd rift in the pavement on top of the rocks, and leading a bit of a wave in Hot Shot's direction. He didn't get out of the way fast enough.

It hit him hard, and he stuck to it pretty well. It pushed him farther and farther along the road, until finally he collided with a building and was pushed into a room inside it. He didn't know what it was he landed on, but it was enough to break his fall and keep him from being thrown through the entire building. He lifted himself up a little, only to be unceremoniously cut off by an orange femme.

"HEY! WHADDAYA THINK YA DOIN' IN MAH HOTEL ROOM!" She bellowed, with a noticeable southern accent and obviously very angry, "GET YA NASTY SELF OUTTA MAH ROOM!" Hot Shot immediately began scrambling out of whatever pile he was in (it seemed to be a collection of random objects in a box), planning to get out of the room. He didn't need to be told twice; especially after she began whacking him with a long pole that she had gotten from said box.

He ran straight out of the hole he came in through, which was on the second floor. He had expected a longer jump, but apparently the pavement that threw him into her room in the first place was still a little bit lifted, since it was higher than it should have been. After he stepped on it though, it began to sag back down to its proper position, disorienting him a little bit. He just hoped beyond hope that the Decepticon wasn't there anymore.

It was.

By the time he had gotten used to the saggy pavement he heard a loud whistle echo throughout the dark, empty street, and suddenly a bright, white light was shining straight at him. He looked up and found a large, wheeled Cybertronian Train charging straight for him. No wonder the 'con was so big! It turned into a train!

He collided once again with the Decepticon, only this time he had gotten stuck to its bullet-like front cabin and windshield. Then the Decepticon began to transform, and he could see now that the con was only a two-cabin train, with the second cabin becoming the majority of the con's kibble on its back. He was also now being held out at servo-length, like some sort of toy, by said Decepticon. Whom he now realized was female.

"Ooh, you're quite a durable little Autobot, aren't you? I've hit you three times and all you've got is a leaky forehead." The Decepticon smiled, her pale face scaring Hot Shot more than he would have thought a face would. There was some odd crack along one of her cheeks, and there was an old helm ornament surrounding the strange face. He chuckled oddly, and nervously opened his mouth.

"I guess I'm not as hard-headed as I thought." He sewed an odd sort of smile on his face, once that seemed to wiggle and waver as much as it split his faceplate.

Apparently he said something wrong, though, since the Decepti-femme tossed him up into the air with a roar. While he was up there, he screamed and flailed, crying for his life. What was the femme thinking? He was an Autobot! He couldn't fly! The landing at the bottom would surely kill him from this height!

Oh, duh, she was a Decepticon. She was trying to kill him. Well, this fall certainly would. Or it would haveif Ironhide hadn't shown up from nowhere to catch him. Hot was disoriented for a moment, but thanked him all the same. It still hurt him quite a bit, but Ironhide wasn't much affected because he had gone into his armored state. That was good; Ironhide was a great soldier.

"You okay?" Ironhide asked Hot Shot.

"If you count being tossed around like a ragdoll by a crazy Decepti-femme 'okay', then yeah, I'm peachy-keen."

"Ha ha, very funny Hot Shot." Rodimus replied from behind the two. Ironhide turned to look at the Prime, and Hot Shot only managed a quick view of Rodimus behind the newly-made hill in the pavement with his bow and arrows pointed straight at them.

"Get down!" Brawn yelled out from next to him. Ironhide complied, quickly ducking down and lying Hot Shot on the ground, whilst the two arrows Rodimus was aiming shot above them and exploded on contact with the Decepti-femme, tossing her over onto the ground. One of them hit her head, and then the weirdest thing happened.

Inside her helmet, her faceplate visibly rolled to the side, and was replaced by a more violent-looking face with a visor instead. She had now a much longer chin, and her mouth was twisted in a very angry frown. She yelled out at nothing, then transformed back into her train alt-mode, charging as fast as she could at the three 'bots. Hot Shot braced for impact, knowing full well there was a good chance he wouldn't survive being hit a fourth time.

He heard the train stop coming closer after a certain point, though. His servos were in front of his offlined optics, so he wasn't certain if it had actually stopped in its tracks or if there was something else that was going on. Warily, he removed his servos from in front of his helm, and onlined his optics. In front of him, Ironhide and Brawn were both actively pushing back the train form of the Decepti-femme, who was apparently forgetting that she had a robot mode.

At least until the femme he disturbed earlier came back with a gun. Said femme shot a large, powerful laser at the side of the femme's front car, marking a large hole where it hit and blowing the Decepti-femme to the side quite a ways. Ironhide and Brawn had no idea who she was or why she was helping, but it seemed that they didn't mind, since they went right back to defending themselves against the Decepti-femme.

Hot Shot really just sat there, badly dented and bleeding in his forehead, doing nothing. He dabbed at the major injury for a moment, wincing at the pain it shot through him, but still feeling at it like it was some sort of interesting object he didn't know the function of.

Maybe he should be trying to do something to help the war scene playing out before him. Or maybe he should just stay out of trouble; he had caused enough. There were plenty of things he could do to make the situation worse, but he didn't want to focus on those. He was certain that the rest would do well without him. Yeah, that was a better way to look at it.

"Hot Shot!" He turned at the sound of his name, looking straight up at Rodimus.

"I know what you're going to say, and I just wanna say that I already know, and that you don't have to rub it in!" Hot Shot retorted quickly. He knew full well that he was stupid. He knew full well that what he did was reckless and arrogant. He knew full well that he could have died at the deadly femme's hands (both of them, actually, if he counted the femme from the apartment). He also knew that he had caused plenty of trouble and that he should probably just go back to the base, wake up Kup and-

"I don't think you actually knew what I was going to say, Hot Shot." Rodimus retorted.

"I did to! You were going to say something like 'you caused a lot of trouble, you should go home'. That is what you always say!"

"I've never said that to you, Hot Shot."

"Well I know you would say that in this situation!"

"I want you to use your flamethrowers on the Decepticon, Hot Shot." Rodimus pressed forward, and Hot Shot stared wide-eyed at Rodimus, completely perplexed at the notion. He thought now was a good time to talk about this! His helm was injured, a Decepti-femme was tearing up the street, 3/5 of their team was fighting said Decepticon, and he was going to bring up that?


"Hot Shot, listen to me!" Rodimus the grabbed Hot Shot by the base of his neck, and lifted him up so that they were staring at each other straight in the eye. Hot Shot stared with an odd look on his face, mostly shock at Rodimus actually touching him. Rodimus, however, was dead-set and angrier than Hot Shot had ever seen him.

"I know you're feeling guilty about what happened in the Warehouse, but you have got to let it go! You're going to have to learn that rules and regulations are NOT the basis for what a good person is! You may have started that fire, but it wasn't meant with the intent to kill off your entire community!"

"How do you know!" Hot Shot threw back at him, "How do you know I didn't start that fire because I wanted to kill someone? You heard what Ironhide said; he said that when he found me I was completely out of it and had gone insane!"

"Are you out of it now?" Rodimus asked. His face loosened up a bit, but stayed stern, and he held Hot Shot at arm's length instead. He dropped Hot Shot onto his feet, but their eyes stayed locked onto each other's. Then Hot Shot looked away, and lifted his servo to rub his neck, thinking.

"Well… no." Hot Shot mumbled.

"Look Hot Shot," Rodimus said, placing a hand onto his shoulder and making him wince, "I know this is hard for you, but you've got to get over it and help us." Hot Shot shut his optics and groaned, before looking back up.

"Can't I help some other way?" Hot Shot's voice wavered, sounding a bit desperate. He didn't want to do this. He really didn't want to do this. He just wanted the con to go away so that he could get on with his life. He wished he didn't have to make a choice like this. Rodimus shook his head, then directed their attention to the fight their teammates (and the miscellaneous femme) were having against the con.

Right now, it seemed that everyone in the city had gotten out of their shelter and joined in the fight. A green Scout was distracting the Decepticon while a white bot with an odd, cone-shaped helmet busted out some swords and began slashing away at the 'con. Some other Autobots joined in the fight as well, most of them working together in a small mob, pressing at the femme's legs to get her to topple over. If she wasn't moving, she would be easier to hit. They quickly realized their haphazard goal, and cheered for a moment before realizing the femme was still alive.

It seemed the orange femme had shown up once again, and was leading Brawn and Ironhide through the battle. Ironhide seemed to be doing exactly what she said, and since he and Brawn had actively lifted the femme up from her heap on the side of the pavement to throw her somewhere else, it said volumes for how good the femme's tactics were. However, when they threw the con upwards, towards the top of a building, the con transformed yet again, only instead of into her train mode she transformed into a third alt-mode; a small space vehicle.

A collective gasp shot through the crowd, but they stopped gaping once they realized the con was shooting from its high altitude straight downwards. Quickly enough, the Decepti-femme made her way back down to ground-level and restarted her quarrel with the mob. Hot Shot had not expected to see anything like that, had never thought something like that could even exist.

Suddenly things seemed to be getting more and more dangerous by the second. This Decepticon had three alt-modes. This Decepticon was really big. This Decepticon was tearing up a new parking lot in the middle of an alleyway, and already there was probably a body count of random 'bots that didn't make it out online. Rodimus spoke up.

"I know you can do it Hot Shot."

"Do what?" Hot Shot asked, having forgotten their earlier conversation.

"Use your flamethrowers against that Decepticon, just this once! I promise never to bring it up again!"

"Aha! I knew it! You just wanted to see me for my powers! That's the only reason you adopted me! I'm just a prize to you!" Hot Shot said.

"You're jumping to conclusions, Hot Shot!"

"Then why did you adopt me! WHY!" Hot Shot bellowed at him, angered. They had a stare-down, Rodimus looking somber and guilty. Hot Shot stared angrily at him, his gaze unwavering, yet also felt guilty. He was letting Rodimus down. Putting Rodimus down…

"What if I lose control!" Hot Shot said, softly this time, "What if I start using my flamethrowers to do something good, then go crazy and set another building on fire? What if I end up setting the whole city on fire! What if I-?"

"Hot Shot!" Rodimus now grabbed Hot Shot by both of his sensitive shoulders, and shook him. Hard. His processor rattled around in his helm, his shoulder now ached more than they should, and he felt very disoriented. When he stopped being shaken, Rodimus slapped him right across the face, and then forcibly straightened Hot Shot's form to look straight at him.

"Now look. This isn't a matter of what you might hurt. Thinking like that is never going to get you anywhere with your studies, or in surviving this Decepticon attack! What you need to do is stop thinking about the things that you could hurt with your flames, and start thinking about the things you could help. That's what I did." Rodimus paused, stared at Hot Shot for a moment, and then continued.

"Think about it Hot Shot. What are arrows good for? Killing, that's what. They kill beast machines so that they can be reformatted for Energon. Arrows hurt beast machines. But what do arrows do to help? Arrows help Autobots so that they have Energon to eat. Arrows can kill Decepticons so that Autobots can sleep soundly at night. Arrows break down debris so Autobot miners can get out of a cave-in. Arrows help Autobots."

Rodimus finished his short ramblings, and loosened his grip on Hot Shot's shoulders. He stood up tall and proud once more, and stood back a couple of mechanometers. Hot Shot saw him differently now, though. Rodimus looked like a wise, powerful, and caring Mentor now. Not the arrogant, in-over-his-head, and stubborn Noble he had saw him as for who knows how long.

"What can fire do to help?" Rodimus asked him.

Hot Shot lifted up his servos and stared at them. He knew what they looked like. He knew perfectly well that his servos were for the most part black, with a blue-ish metal sheen, and hands that were black in the center, yet had brown finger components. And on his servos were two large, accurate flamethrowers outwards to the bend of his elbow joint. The very flamethrowers he vowed never to use again.

"I have no idea." Hot Shot whispered.

"Then let me give you a hint." Hot Shot looked up at Rodimus, and he smiled in response, "Fire burns metal. Burn metal in a secluded area and you get a bonfire. Bonfires can be a source of light. What can you burn that can be used as a source of light?"

…Yeah, that didn't help at all. What could he burn for a source of light? Try everything. There was metal everywhere! Beneath their stabilizers, to the left, to the right, a few malfunctioning street lights above them, and a ton around the mob and Decepti-femme. If he set any part of the surroundings on fire, he would be a vandal. If he set the mob on fire, he would be a murderer, not that he wasn't one already. It was just that more people would be concerned about it this time. If he burned any of the Autobots, then he would be a murderer.

But if he burned the Decepticon…?

Hot Shot lifted up his head to look at his Mentor, now smiling down happily. Hot Shot smiled too, and looked at his servos one last time. He had heard tons of War Veterans in his group of Homeless that had gotten rid of plenty of Decepticons. They would detail the rigorous fights they went through, and they always came out on top. Sometimes, they didn't even have to do much of anything; all they had to do was wait for the right moment, and then hit them in the right spot. The con was usually long gone by then.

Hot Shot turned to face the battle, and he could tell that the Decepti-femme was getting tired of all the fighting she was going through. The mob had stayed at its sparse and far-spaced quota, no one else being brave enough to come out and fight, but it was becoming clear that the Decepti-femme was tiring significantly. The fact that she didn't have any weapons must have made it harder. Right now she seemed preoccupied with having a stare-down against the white cone-headed 'bot from earlier. Now was the perfect chance to take her by surprise.

Hot Shot lifted his servo and, not for the last time, activated his flamethrower.

This was not happening.

He must have had some sort of glitch in his audio receptors. He couldn't have just heard that come out of Rodimus' vocalizer. Why in the world would Rodimus even do something like that? No sensible 'bot in the universe would do something so stupid! So what if they got rid of the weapons before anything could happen? It was still a downright stupid thing to do! But the truth was, it was something Rodimus would do…

Hot Shot stared at him, now unsure whether he should be afraid for his life or angry as all pits. Rodimus just stood there, his face stone cold, staring right back at him. His eyes were widened as well, and he seemed to be holding his breath. How the heck was Hot Shot supposed to react to this! He didn't even know who Rodimus was anymore! There was just no one way to look at him…

On the one hand, he was his Mentor, he knew what Hot Shot needed, and he was the only guy that cared about him enough to give him a place to live and stuff to eat. On the other hand, he was mean at times, and sometimes Hot Shot could just tell that Rodimus didn't like him. And yet, throughout their entire relationship, he had wanted Rodimus to be proud of him. That was all he asked of Rodimus.

But did he really deserve the praise of someone who released a Decepticon from their cell?

Hot Shot began to shiver, and tried to cradle his helm in his servos again. What was he going to do now! What did Rodimus want from him? What could he possibly have in mind for him that included unleashing a Decepticon into the same city he was supposed to protect! What, was he trying to kill him? This was all just happening too fast!

"Hot Shot…" Rodimus said, shifting a bit closer to him. No. No, he would not let him do this to him! He was not going to let this guy mess with him anymore! He could go ahead and do his weird plans and secrets and lying, just leave him out of it! He wasn't going to take it anymore.

Yelling out a battle-cry, he lunged for Rodimus without any warning, grabbing at his servos and trying to move him up, down, forward, anywhere was good. Rodimus wasn't going to budge though, and he kept them at a standstill for quite a bit. Hot Shot looked around—what could he do? There was a big rock right over there to his left… it would strain him a bit, but he was going to get the upper hand somehow!

With a barely-formed battle plan in mind, he defined the direction he was trying to pull Rodimus in, and tossed him right into the boulder. Rodimus didn't fly far enough to hit it, though, he just plopped face first into the ground on the way towards it, rolling in an awkward somersault. Hot Shot didn't waste any time waiting for him to get back up, though. He picked up a large rock from the gravel around the secluded part of the asteroid Rodimus called their 'training arena'.

Hot Shot tossed the rock straight at the back of Rodimus' helm while he was starting to get back up. Rodimus turned, and Hot Shot threw another, larger one that landed right on his face. Hot Shot bent down to pick up another rock, but then he looked back at his target. The rock had stuck on Rodimus' faceplate for a moment, before it cut in half and Rodimus, so angry you could practically see him heat up from it, busted out his bow and arrows and aimed them right at Hot Shot.

Hot Shot stood alarmed for less than half a second, screamed, and transformed. He was faster in his alt-mode, and knowing Rodimus, he was going to need as much distance between him and those arrows as he could muster. It wasn't even a cycle before the first arrow landed right behind him, following him and blowing up as soon as they made contact with something solid.

Hot Shot was too preoccupied getting away to comment on Rodimus' aiming. He was a terrible judge of velocity; if he actually pointed his arrows far enough in front of him he'd probably get a hit. Or he could get homing missiles, as another option. So why didn't his ever-so-wise Mentor bother to do something as simple as go somewhere to get homing missiles?

Rodimus was stupid, that was why. He wasn't the wise, powerful, and caring Mentor he had come to know him as. He was a stupid, quiet, and cryptic nutcase and he couldn't understand anything the guy did. He thought it was weird enough that he was a Noble that actually cared about people that were at a lower social status than he was. He could have just stopped his weirdness there, but nooo. He had to go and give Energon to Homeless, and then take one under his wing instead of send them off to the stockades for a crime he committed. And now he was saying that he had freed the Decepticon they had fought all those stellar cycles ago?

Suddenly, there was a large rock in his way that he couldn't drive on. Hot Shot thought quickly; he had two choices, and he had to choose quickly. Should he go right, and hide until this whole thing blew over, or turn left, jump off the mountain, and tackle Rodimus from the air? He chose the latter.

He had plenty of reason to jump off the cliff. One for the adrenaline rush he got flying through the air at full speed, his engine revving and him pretty much feeling on top of the world. The second was to see the look on Rodimus' face when Hot Shot's alt-mode hood came straight towards him, unceremoniously landing on his upper torso.

Of course, that gave him a really bad processor-ache along the way. After the dust settled, Hot Shot actually took note of what was happening. Hot Shot's car alt-mode stayed idle on top of Rodimus' frame for a moment, but Rodimus was not idle. After only a few small moments, Rodimus had managed to lift up Hot Shot's alt-mode completely, his transformed body held above Rodimus' helm.

Tossing him as hard as he could, Hot Shot screamed out involuntarily. He hit the same rock he had tried to toss Rodimus at, and he made a very crackly dent into its surface that hurt. Hot Shot was stuck there, moaning and groaning for a nano-klick, trying to get his bearings. Rodimus did not continue the fight, but other than that, Hot Shot wasn't interested in what was going on.

Finally, after a solid cycle of being completely idle, Hot Shot transformed into robot mode and fell down to the base of the rock, injured. His processor ached, and he was certain he was going to need to go to see the medic again. Hot Shot was far too injured to bother with remembering if the medic was Kup, Gearbox, or Silverbolt at the moment. He just stared at the ground for what felt like a cycle or two, when Rodimus' shadow came over his chassis.

"What." Hot Shot spat at Rodimus, angrily staring at his form, unsure what it was he was looking at. It was probably his lower torso.

"Threw you pretty hard…" Rodimus piped up after staying quiet for a nano-klick, "Are you okay, Hot Shot?"

Hot Shot was going to say something complicated and snarky, but really, he just wasn't in the mood to talk. Instead, he made a 'tch' sound, but otherwise he remained silent. Rodimus remained silent as well, looking away from Hot Shot and just standing there. The silence was completely bearable, actually, and Hot Shot wished it would stay that way. But of course, Rodimus would not have it.

"Hot Shot, I released that Decepticon to help train you."

Hot Shot's interest was piqued. Rodimus? Explaining why he did something? This was a rare sight, folks. Hot Shot had been following this specific specimen of Rodimuses (Rodimii?) for about 100 stellar cycles since his adoption, and yet he had never seen any of them actually reveal any of their secret, maniacal and flat-out impossible to follow gambits of trickery! What a nice thing to know they were capable of!

"Still not talking, huh? Well, I guess I deserve it…" Rodimus trailed off, but Hot Shot still remained silent, "Hot Shot, you being quiet is really unnerving me. Are you sure there isn't anything you'd like to say? Anything at all?" Rodimus asked.

"Yeah. You're a loony."

"Hot Shot…" Rodimus sighed, and began to expose his reasoning.

"I knew you were stubborn, Hot Shot. I knew it would take a whole fragging lot to get you to do anything. I'd been trying to force you to go against your will, but I quickly found out that… well, let's just say that when it comes to following orders, you're about as compliant as Ironhide on Opposite Day." Hot Shot snickered; Rodimus was actually employing his sense of humor! Boy he was being out of character today.

"Hm. I'm glad you think that's funny," A beat, "You know Hot Shot, if you never had to use your flamethrowers on the Decepticon, I'm pretty sure you and I would probably have a terrible relationship."

"Who's to say we do?"

"Hot Shot."

"I'm shutting up now."

"Good. Now listen Hot Shot; I know you're mad at me for practically saying that I sent out a giant killing machine to get you to use your flamethrowers, but that's pretty much what I did. I sent out a killing machine to get you to use your flamethrowers. But that's only because I knew that you needed to get over that phobia you had of fire!"

"I didn't have a phobia!" Hot Shot yelled in retaliation, trying to change the subject.

"Call it what you want, but you were afraid of using your special power, Hot Shot." No response, "See what I mean, Hot Shot? What I did was help you overcome your fear, not only of your power, but of yourself."

"Yeah, and you only had to turn into a manipulative slagger to do it."

"Hot Shot, Hot Shot, Hot Shot. Don't you understand? Who better to teach you how to defeat your enemy, than the enemy you are trying to defeat? I was your enemy in the beginning, Hot Shot. I was the one you were trying to defeat." Rodimus trailed off, leaving Hot Shot to think. He drew a blank.

"Who am I now, to you, Hot Shot?" Rodimus lifted Hot Shot up by the servo, standing him up and hurting his ever-sensitive, over-sized shoulders.

"I've got to be honest with you, Rodimus, I have no idea." Hot Shot revealed, looking down and offlining his optics.

Rodimus said no more, and simply led the quiet Hot Shot back to their base for repairs.