“Roddy - hey, eight-bit!”
Rodimus Prime, about to step through the gate of his home city, paused and looked up. “Jazz!” he beamed brightly. “When’d you get back?”
Jazz, perched on the gatehouse tower, grinned and waved. “Last on-cycle. I hear you were on a vacation of your own.”
Rodimus shrugged, shifting his burden onto his other shoulder. “It turned out to be a working vacation.”
“Yeah, I know the feeling.” Jazz tilted his head. “Where’d you get the pole?”
“What, this?” Rodimus glanced casually at the pole slung over his shoulder. “Pulled it out of Magnus’s aft.”
Jazz laughed so hard he nearly fell off his perch. Rodimus grinned and sauntered smugly through the gate.
“How long were you waiting to use that line?” Starscream, staying sensibly invisible in a street thronging with Autobots and their supporters, sounded as amused as Jazz had been.
“These things just come to me, I don’t plan them,” Rodimus answered airily. “Flying by my skidplate, that’s me. I lead a charmed existence.”
“Hmph.” A cold, tingly nudge. “You’re an odd mechanism, even for a Prime.”
Then Starscream’s presence was gone, leaving Rodimus to wonder if that was as close as Starscream ever came to a declaration of friendship.
The news that the Prime had returned spread like lightning through Iacon. By the time Rodimus had reached the central business district, his inbox was flooded with welcome-homes, reports, updates, and invitations. Also a suspicious absence of messages from his second-in-command, and Rodimus made a mental note to buy Arcee a goodie basket for apparently doing the impossible. He paused for a goodie break and to deal with his inbox a bit, sorting them according to priority and promising everyone a more thorough reply later. Around him, Iacon bustled, workers traveling back and forth and rubbing shoulders with salesmechs and performers and sightseers. Here, too, there was music, and creativity, and joy.
Rodimus stood again, pole resting against his shoulder. The work of a Prime was waiting for him, but he had one last dance-related task to perform first.
Sirius and Celesti were absent from Sunset House when Rodimus showed up. There to greet him were La Lune himself, Polaris - who welcomed him with a shriek of delight and a tackle - and the mysterious fourth star, Centauri, whom Rodimus hadn’t had a chance to meet.
“Pol didn’t tell me you were hot,” the tall, lean red shuttle commented with a grin, leaning back to get a good long look at the Prime. “Hey there, tall drink of oil.”
Rodimus tried not to sputter like a freshpaint, and mostly succeeded. Vos had been excellent training for Centauri. “Hey there yourself,” he grinned. “Lesti mentioned you. Nice to put a face to the name.”
“Yeah? I’d be happy to quell any scurrilous rumors.” Centauri tilted a saucy hip, five-pointed star badge clearly displayed. “Or start some.”
“Centauri, please.” La Lune stirred from his shadowed watch near the wall: the broad-winged shuttle frame gave him a strange otherworldly aspect, like a legendary spirit of mythology emerging from the Underdark. “Prime, you are welcome here, but I admit to some wariness regarding that.” He nodded to the pole, still wrapped in its protective corrugated packing material, that Rodimus had leaned against the wall in the foyer.
“There’s no better facility to mount it,” Rodimus explained, “not in Iacon. It’s specifically designed to be adaptable to a variety of mountings - just give it a look? Please?”
“I have to admit I’m really curious,” Polaris grinned, clinging to Rodimus’s hand.
“Me too.” The flicker of Centauri’s optics made it clear the focus of his curiosity was Rodimus, not the pole. “Why don’t we at least take a peek? We’re always looking for new acts, right?”
Lune glanced from Centauri to Polaris, their near-identical hopeful looks, then searchingly to the sky - with Sirius and Celesti elsewhere, he had no backup from Team Sensible, it seemed. “Very well. Bring it to the stage.”
Polaris yelped with glee as Rodimus bent to shoulder the pole again.
The stage was much as Rodimus had seen it last, with the addition of wire-frame ‘flowers’ hung in a garland around it: “You missed the tiki party,” Centauri explained with a wink, and Rodimus snapped his fingers in disappointment. Steading the pole on the stage with one hand and a knee, he cut the security wire near the top and slowly divested the pole of its wrapper.
“Oh-” Polaris pressed his hands to his mouth. “Look at it, it’s beautiful.”
Rodimus grinned, shamelessly proud: the pole Skyquake had given him was a thing of beauty. The surface had been painted a deep bronze and coated with a polymer that gave it a faint velvety texture, lending just enough grip to the metal of Rodimus’s body that he would have no trouble staying on it. After nearly twenty cycles dancing on slippery Vosian poles, Rodimus knew he’d never take that texture for granted again.
While he and Polaris admired the pole’s surface, Lune’s analysis was all for the accompanying mounting apparatus. “I see,” he murmured as Rodimus glanced up. “Yes, I think we can adapt this with little difficulty.”
Polaris lit up. “You mean you’ll let him install it?”
“It will not be a permanent installation,” Lune warned, but Polaris was already leaping to hug him silly, and Lune’s arms automatically curved around him. “...very well,” he murmured, and the first smile Rodimus had ever seen from him touched Lune’s mouth.
“Thank you,” Rodimus said, moved. “I promise, I’ll make it worth your while.”
“You don’t mind dancing for a paying audience?” Lune glanced up him, lavender optics cool. “It seems contrary to the dignity of your office.”
To his own chagrin and Lune’s obvious shock, Rodimus started laughing. “Trust me,” he assured the proprietor, “I have never been attached to my dignity.”
“Lucky for us,” Centauri opined. “Seriously, this is so shiny. I can’t wait to see what you can do.”
Rodimus Prime’s Comeback Tour (limited engagement) was only advertised for eight cycles, but that was enough to bring Sunset House past the point of Standing Room Only and have eager guests spilling out into the front lot. Some bright spark got the idea of setting screens up outside to bring the dance to them, and someone else started selling goodies, and a miniature festival popped up among those waiting to see Rodimus Prime’s dance.
“This is kind of overwhelming,” Polaris admitted in a low voice, keeping Rodimus company in the green room while Sirius clucked over the state of his paint and polish.
Rodimus gave him a sheepish look. “I wasn’t expecting such a huge turnout. Who knew we had so many art lovers in this city?”
Sirius and Polaris exchanged a distinctly ‘sure, it’s the art they came to see’ sort of look, which Rodimus pretended not to notice. “Are you nervous?” Sirius asked, buffing Rodimus’s hands carefully.
“Slag, yes,” Rodimus replied without a trace of shame. “The expo audience wasn’t half the size of this one. But I’m ready to go.”
Sirius smiled, patted his shoulder as Polaris hugged him around the waist. “You’ll do great, Rodimus. Just get out there and have some fun.”
“Thanks.” Rodimus leaned briefly into Sirius’s warmth and solidity, Polaris cuddled up in his arms. “Both of you. For being here with me, I mean. It helps.”
“Aw, sweetspark.” Polaris hugged him again, tight as a little boat ever could. “We’re so happy you chose us to share your talent with! I’ll be cheering you on, we all will.”
“Thanks,” Rodimus answered, returning the hug, and added, “Thinking of you helped steady my nerves before the expo dance in Vos.”
He’d just thought it would please Polaris to know, and he wasn’t wrong: Polaris squeaked, covered his mouth with his hands, and squeaked again, optics glimmering with emotion. Rodimus laughed as Polaris flung his arms around him one more time.
“You are such a sweetspark,” Polaris proclaimed, his voice slightly muffled by Rodimus’s chestplate. “Such a sweetspark.”
“I just tell the truth,” Rodimus protested modestly, patting Polaris’s helm. He blinked and glanced up at nothing when a ping entered his comm system. “Oops, that’s Lesti. Better get in place.”
Polaris obligingly hopped off his lap, and he and Sirius helped Rodimus to his pedes. “Good luck, Prime,” Sirius said cheerily, taking Polaris’s hand. “Not that you need it.”
“I’ll take all I can get,” Rodimus grinned, and headed up to his place backstage, rereading the good-luck messages in his inbox as he went: from Magnus, Arcee, Kup, Springer. Jazz, his missive full of cheeky emoticons. The builders he’d met on countless reconstructions projects. The proprietor of his favorite goodie stall.
Darkwing. Boomer. Redwing. Comet. Skyquake.
I am truly blessed in my comrades, Optimus Prime had been fond of saying. Rodimus Prime’s thoughts ran closer to I am seriously the luckiest box of scrap metal alive.
“All right, darlings,” Celesti’s voice floated back to him. “I think you’ve all been patient long enough, don’t you? Let’s show you what you all came to see.”
//Ready,// Rodimus sent as the crowd outside roared its anticipation. //How’s the live feed to Vos?//
//By the grace of Primus and good engineering, we have a strong signal,// Celesti answered, a laugh in his comm-voice. //Now get your spoiler out here.//
//Yes sir.// Grinning, Rodimus cast aside the curtain and emerged into the spotlight on stage.
“Well, hello Iacon! Fancy meeting you here.”
Rodimus grinned wildly and spread his arms, basking in the enthusiasm of his audience. Over their heads, a single screen glowed; Rodimus waved at it. “And hey, Vos is here too! What do you think of Sunset House, your Excellency? Pretty cool, huh?”
Sterling, the red stripes of office freshly painted on her wings, smirked. “Despite their disreputable choice of entertainment, it’s an impressive venue. Vos salutes you, Sunset House.”
“Hi Roddy!” piped a familiar voice from behind her, all but drowned out by the approving cheers of the House’s crowd. Rodimus laughed and waved again as Redwing peeked under Sterling’s wing and grinned.
Celesti gave him a pointed look from stage left, though it was softened with a smile. “Yes, dear, you’re very pretty,” he drawled. “But I think these fine people were expecting something more?”
“Oh, right.” Rodimus grinned cheekily. “So, you all wanna see me dance?”
The crowd nearly deafened him with their approval. Laughing, Rodimus cued up the music and spun in place, letting the music move him in a prancing gait to the pole, guide his hips to rock against it. The polymer coating gripped at his hands, inviting him to climb, and as the singer proclaimed herself a fine-tuned supersonic speed machine, Rodimus turned to face the audience, set his shoulder to the pole, and hauled himself up. His knees locked around the pole and he arched his back to face the audience again, seeing their expressions of breathless awe and delight. He was doing that - not the Matrix, not the legacy of the Primes, just him and the pole and the music thumping through him.
He’d never have Hot Rod’s feather-light grace again, but Hot Rod could have only dreamed of an audience like this.
He threw himself into his dance, the fast spins and the music and the roaring of appreciative engines merging into one bright, joyous whole.
****Several months later***
The battlefield was veiled in blue-gray smoke so thick that Rodimus couldn’t locate the rest of his Autobots without thermal imaging, but one thing was clear: he’d been outmaneuvered. His backup had been herded into a ravine some distance away, and Rodimus himself was surrounded by the cooler, sharper heat-signatures of Scourge’s huntsmen. He was as trapped as his people.
“All right, fine,” he growled. “Bring it on!”
He lifted his rifle to his shoulder; someone gripped it from behind, and after a brief wrestling match succeeded in getting it away from him. “Cyclonus,” he spat, grabbing for it again as the spacejet lifted himself out of Rodimus’s reach.
“My orders are to capture you alive, but minor injuries are acceptable,” Cyclonus warned.
“Alive.” Rodimus grimaced, well aware of Scourge’s brood of clones - with Scourge himself among them, but slagged if Rodimus could tell which one was which without hearing them speak - closing in around him. “Why?”
A wry smirk showed itself on Cyclonus’s face. “Lord Galvatron requests a performance from Iacon’s premier pole artist.”
“How the frag did he-” Rodimus clamped down on his voice before it could hit an indignant shriek - he was spending way too much time with Starscream. “Never mind. If Galvatron wants to see me dance, he can buy a slagging ticket like everybody else, and you tell him that verbatim-” Cyclonus’s optics flicked away from him, toward where the Autobots were still pinned down, and Rodimus understood without the Decepticon having to say a word. “You slagger,” he growled, and held his arms out.
“Galvatron guarantees your safety, and your return after your performance,” Cyclonus said, as the Sweeps quickly gripped the Prime’s arms as if afraid he was only pretending to surrender.
“Yeah, yeah. If my people aren’t left in one piece, I will give the worst performance of my career.” Rodimus winced as his pedes left the ground, borne aloft by the enemy with Cyclonus flying ahead. Below he could see his Autobots and Cyclonus’s Decepticons alike pause, blue and red optics shining up at him through the haze. Rodimus squirmed with embarrassment.
//Autobots, your Prime is not a prisoner but an honored guest of Galvatron,// Cyclonus broadcasted on a wide frequency range, patching Rodimus in to be polite. //Refrain from further resistance, and he will not be harmed.//
//It’s okay, guys,// Rodimus added, when Cyclonus’s words - shockingly - proved less than reassuring and the Autobots’ guns didn’t lower. //Galvatron’s becoming a patron of the arts. Uh, kind of.//
//The Decepticons launched an attack on our outpost because Galvatron wanted to watch you dance?// Arcee’s outrage lanced across the open link, making even Cyclonus wince. //Why doesn’t he just buy a ticket?//
//That’s what I said!//
Truthfully, Rodimus thought Galvatron was most interested in the implications of a private performace. It would be just like him. Rodimus could picture it all too easily: having the Prime dance at his command, watching him expertly mingle the athletic and the erotic the way he’d become known for, all while the powerful Unicronian engine was revving higher in thwarted need-
One of the Sweeps holding him coughed, and Rodimus realized his own engine was running a little too loud for dignity. “Might be easier if you’d watch those sharp points,” he said, and his captor obligingly shifted his grip.
What the hell, he thought, directing his gaze to the stars as they lifted into the sky. If Galvatron wants to see me dance, I’ll give him a dance he’ll never forget.