So, it's been a long time since I saw "The Rebirth" aka Season 4 of G1, but if I recall it was hard to follow and I barely remember anything good from it aside from concepts. Speaking, I'm still pretty (really) fond of the whole Targetmaster Thing & Binary Bonding. I find it fascinating, and sort of wish I'd see it explored more in the fandom.
Second, I forgot that Hot Rod had a Targetmaster partner of his own: Firebolt! And since I love Hot Rod and all his relationships, I felt like playing around with them based on what I re-read on the TFWiki & some personal interpretation. Hope you like it. :)
He volunteered for this, Firebolt liked to remind himself. It was his conscious choice that came easily and eagerly when they called out for willing Nebulons. He just had no clue what came along with the Targetmaster package when he volunteered.
"Hot Rod, why are we here?" Firebolt asked, hanging close to Hot Rod's leg. He was a grown adult, but he often felt reduced to a child as he tagged along at Hot Rod's feet. His partner's confidence overwhelmed at times. Firebolt huffed. "This entire trip seems ill advised."
"You worry too much," Hot Rod answered, pushing a tree out of the way. His smooth stride was matched only by the grin on his face. Mischief. Hot Rod was in a mischievous mood, and there was nothing to be done about it now. Firebolt rubbed his face under his visor. Hot Rod hopped over a fallen tree, and reached over to pull Firebolt up and over. "This'll be great."
Firebolt sat in Hot Rod's palm as he was pulled over the obstacle, ignoring the way his guts squirmed from the sensation drawn from the contact. Whether transformed into his rifle alt-mode, or plain in his root armor—there really wasn't anything that felt more natural than being in Hot Rod's hand. When Firebolt had been told he'd be 'bonded' to a partner for the procedure, he had no idea how much he'd desperately want contact at all times. Being away from Hot Rod felt wrong in a way that twisted a knife into his gut.
He often wondered if Hot Rod felt the same.
Firebolt was set down in the grass, and the moment was over. He followed alongside Hot Rod, and at least attempted to curb the roadster's enthusiasm down to something more realistic. Firebolt loved adventure, but you had to have limits or it just turned to folly. "Traveling to Alpha 9 by ourselves to capture a bunch of Petro-Rabbits to surprise Kup doesn't seem like something that'll end in 'Great.' It seems more like something that'll have us running into a spark eater or something else that wants to kill us."
"You worry too much," Hot Rod said. He turned on his heel and started to walk backwards as he looked down at Firebolt. "You act like no one knows we're here."
"Springer and Arcee are just as bad as you, sometimes." Firebolt pushed into his knees and forced the hot-head to turn around and watch where he was going. "What if they forget when we're supposed to be back? This whole trip is reckless."
"Says the atomic physicist who jumped to volunteer for an experimental procedure that could have killed you," Hot Rod laughed. He stretched his arms high over his head and yawned. "Don't get me wrong, glad you guys helped save the day from the Decepticon Targetmasters, but it was still pretty reckless."
Firebolt sighed, and crossed his arms. "You always bring that one up."
"I just think it's funny that Nebulos' top atomic physicist is paired up with me." Hot Rod rubbed the back of his neck. "There's no way you can't miss that life a little. Sometimes I just wants to drop you off with Perceptor and watch you two compare notes."
"Trust me, trying to keep up with you is far more entertaining than being stuck in a lab." Firebolt ducked under a leaf as they trekked on. He climbed up a shorter log to walk a little higher alongside his partner. "It was beyond tedious."
"At least we agree on that much," Hot Rod said. "Still, there's—wait."
Firebolt was on alert when Hot Rod stopped and ducked behind a tree. He grabbed Hot Rod's arm and climbed up until he could see above the foliage from his perch on Hot Rod's shoulder. Just beyond the line of green was an open field much like on the other side of the forest where they landed. Firebolt followed his partner's gaze and gaped.
"You think Kup would have mentioned at some point in his story that Petro-Rabbits were bigger than Ultra Magnus," Hot Rod whispered. Firebolt agreed that they were denied some fairly important information in his Alpha 9 stories. Hot Rod's shoulders dropped, and Firebolt slid off to the ground. "I figured they'd be smaller than a Turbo-Fox, but apparently not."
"We should probably get out of here before we draw there attention," Firebolt said. He pushed aside a bush in his way and looked out over the field. His targeting system zeroed in on the nest of them, and counted ten or twenty targets. Their front teeth were larger than he was. His partner hadn't answered yet. Firebolt kept the targets in sight as he asked, "Hot Rod?"
"Yeah, this is a little reckless even for me," Hot Rod said, pouting and shoulders slumped. Firebolt could feel Hot Rod's disappointment in his own chest, and that was as weird as wanting to touch him all the time. Firebolt let go of the bushes, and placed a hand on Hot Rod's let. He'd never get used to this bonding thing, it would seem. Hot Rod backed up when Firebolt pushed. "Let's get back to the shuttle."
Neither of them expected to run into the sleeping Petro-Rabbit on the other side of the tree, hidden by the bushes. A quick touch was all it took to wake the giant, and have it turn its attention toward them.
"Scrap!" Hot Rod exclaimed, backing away quickly from the enraged animal.
Firebolt had transformed and was in Hot Rod's hand before it even registered in his mind that Hot Rod had mentally called for him.
"Okay, buddy! Time to back off!" Hot Rod yelled, pulling Firebolt's trigger. The warning shots smashed into the dirt before the Petro-Rabbit, causing it to back up but never leaving Firebolt's targeting system. The animal growled and hissed, oil dripping from its mouth like organic drool. But between the shots and the animal's racket, they gained the attention of the nest over the hill. Hot Rod's grip tightened, and Firebolt felt his frustration. "Just great."
Firebolt would never fail to be impressed with Hot Rod's speed, whether bi-pedal or in his alt-mode. Hot Rod leapt over the fallen log from earlier, sprinting full tilt toward their shuttle safely tucked away in a field just outside the forest. The crashing sound of snarling beasts were hot on their tails, and Hot Rod had to dodge to the side when one leapt up beside them.
"Frag! Kup and Autobots actually had a battle against Decpeticons here!?" Hot Rod exclaimed. A branch smacked him in the face, and he nearly dropped Firebolt. But he recovered in time to catch Firebolt, and use the butt of the grip to smash a snapping Petro-Rabbit in the tooth. Hot Rod kicked a second one in the face as he scrambled over leaves and branches. "Kup is going to need to finish that story one day!"
They ducked under another branch, with the animals still fast on their tail. Hot Rod fired Firebolt at a branch above their head, snapping the limb off. It crashed down, blocking the path of at least two Petro-Rabbits and giving them the opening needed. They slid down a hill and hit the open field transforming. Firebolt transformed twice—once to root, and again back to gun mode as he was secured to Hot Rod's hood going from handgun to on board weapon.
It all came as natural as breathing, and was the greatest feeling in the world.
The shuttle was in sight after mere seconds, and Hot Rod transformed inches from the door. Firebolt landed on his feet next to him, and was ushered in first when the door managed to open. Hot Rod said, "Go, go, go."
"You!" Firebolt said, reaching the shuttle controls first and starting the engine. Hot Rod smashed the face of a Petro-Rabbit in with his foot, shoving the monster out of their transport, and slammed the door shut. Firebolt hit the launch button, and they shot into the sky. The shuttle barely missed the nip of teeth as the Petro-Rabbits jumped for it.
Firebolt collected his barrings as Hot Rod collapsed into a passenger seat in the shuttle cabin.
"So much for Kup's surprise." Hot Rod slid down in his chair, and exhaled laughing.
Firerbolt smiled, setting the ship to autopilot on a course straight back to Cybertron. At least after all that they were in a good mood. Hot Rod tapped his knee absently, and Firebolt climbed up to sit. Firebolt leaned back, using Hot Rod's chest as a headrest. He hummed. "Well, that was fun."
"And you were worried," Hot Rod said. He flicked Firebolt in the side of the helm and chuckled. "Maybe next we should go to Chaar. Maybe we could hunt down a Spider to pay Kup back for misinformation."
"No!" Firebolt said, jumping up. He stood on Hot Rod's thighs and held his hands up. They had a Binary Bond, but there were times Firebolt just couldn't tell when Hot Rod was being serious or not. Having a bond didn't make him a mind reader! "No, no. I'm sure we can come up with something else less insane."
Hot Rod laughed, and poked his tiny partner in the shoulder. He smiled warmly. "Just a joke, Firebolt. Ultra Magnus would kill me if I went to Chaar alone."
Firebolt scowled, his chest aching. "You wouldn't be alone."
Hot Rod's optics flickered, and he sat up higher in his chair. Firebolt wobbled a bit from the movement but kept his balance. Hot Rod smiled, cupping Firebolt loosely between his hands. "My mistake. Sometimes I forget you're not going anywhere."
"Well, don't forget it." Firebolt placed his hand on the top of Rodimus' hand on the side of his finger. He smacked it once, and Firebolt nodded in confirmation. "Because I'm not. We're partners now, you know."
"Yeah, I guess we are." Hot Rod grinned and closed his hands together around Firebolt. He lifted, tossing the tiny Mech in the air and catching him. Firebolt flailed a little, but found himself laughing with Hot Rod. The happiness shone from Hot Rod's spark all the way through to Firebolt's soul. Hot Rod bumped their hems together. "You and me, buddy. What a team!"
The Targetmaster jumped free from Hot Rod's hands and settled on the armrest. He leaned against the larger bot, and felt his armor hum in satisfaction.
Firebolt was glad he volunteered for this.