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Battle of the Bars

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Blurr strolled along the sparsely populated early morning streets, sipping his warm caffeinated energon and humming one of Jazz’s tunes. He had a good crowd at Maccadam’s Old Oil House last night and tonight promised to be even better. Entering the plaza near his bar, Blurr smiled as he passed by one of the banners the Tankors had posted up advertising tonight’s special event, a meet and greet with none other than Optimus Prime himself.

It had taken forever to get their schedules to line up and, in the end, Blurr resorted to begging Jazz to ask Optimus personally. He took another sip, savoring the slight jolt of sweet caffeine. There was no way that new joint across the street could compete with Optimus Prime.

Just as he arrived at the door to his bar, he noticed the diminutive red and white proprietor of the self-titled “Swerve’s” waving cheerfully at him. Blurr rolled his optics. Gripping the edge of his thermos with his teeth, he fumbled with the lock, trying his best to ignore his new neighbor. Finally finessing the stubborn door open, Blurr looked up one more time and his jaw dropped. His thermos of glorious energon espresso dashed to the ground, spilling like his high hopes for this evening.

Across the way, Swerve beamed as his two usual helpers, both purple nautical bots, unfurled a banner advertising his special event for tonight, a poetry reading by none other than the ex-decepticon warlord, Megatron. Swerve offered another friendly wave but his face fell when Blurr just growled, slipping into his own bar and slamming the door behind him.

“I don’t believe it!” Blurr ground his teeth and slumped back against the closed door.

“Believe what, Boss?” Swindle popped up from behind the bar.

“AHHH!” Blurr yelped. “Swindle?! What are you doing in here already?”

“Ask yourself,” Swindle purred with a sly grin. “Do you really wanna know?”

“Nooo,” Blurr groaned from the depth of his spark.

“That’s what I thought,” Swindle replied, only half listening as he mixed himself a tall glass of premium energon.

Blurr mentally calculated the cost of the drink Swindle was painstakingly preparing for himself. At least he wasn’t adding any engex, but it was still early. “What do you even DO here anyway?”

“When my time comes, you’ll know it,” Swindle grinned, taking a swig of his drink.

Blurr opened his mouth to argue when then chime over the door rang.

“Hey, Boss!” Tall Tankor called, picking up Blurr’s cracked thermos and setting it on the counter. “You must’ve dropped this outside. Did you see the Megatron banners across the way?”

“Looks like your buddy is at it again!” Fat Tankor motioned for Swindle to pour him a drink as well.

“Oh, I’ve seen them,” Blurr growled. “And I’ve had about as much as I can take! What is with that bot anyways?” His engine raced and he felt a proper rant coming on. Might as well get on with it. He still had a lot to prepare for tonight's event but getting this out of his system now would make him feel better.

“I just don’t get it!” Blurr shouted, now rapidly pacing up and down the length of the bar. “Every time I come up with a good event, Swerve does the same exact thing. In fact, I think he’s trying to one up me! Remember Couples Night?”

Swindle and the Tankors nodded in agreement, before Blurr steamrolled ahead.

“We invited Windblade and Chromia, THE premier power couple on Cybertron. I mean, how do you top Cybertron’s charming president and her conjunx captain of the guard? He goes and invites the hottest couple ever, Rodimus and Thunderclash! I mean Thunderclash might not realize that he makes people weak in the knees, but Rodimus loves being the center of attention. Swerve had a huge crowd that night!”

“It was worth the cover charge to see them dance together,” Tall Tankor fanned himself. “Everyone knows Rodimus can work it, but I had no idea Thunderclash could move like that!”

“Traitor!” Blurr glared at him.

Tall Tankor just shrugged and took a sip of his drink.

“Or- Or- Or what about the time we had the Mad Science Theme Night? Wheeljack agreed to attend as our master of ceremonies. We had special drink recipes, a trivia contest, and everything! And what does Swerve do? Invites Brainstorm to host a Mad Science night of his own, ON THE SAME NIGHT!” Blurr’s engine was really revving now. He was already halfway down the track, might as well put the hammer down and burn off as much rage as possible. Then he could cool down and continue with preparations for tonight.

“I think we won that round,” Fat Tankor snickered. “Our drinks didn’t explode and catch the bar on fire.”

“Whatever!” Blurr dismissed his claim of victory with a wave of his hand when the door chime sounded again.

“How are we all doing this fine morning?” Skybite inquired with a polite nod, taking his usual seat.

“Blurr is in the middle of an epic rant,” Swindle grinned, casually pouring yet another drink, on the house. Blurr narrowed his optics. He needed to have a discussion with his crew about bringing their own breakfast to work.

“Is this about the red and white minibot across the street again?” Skybite took a dainty sip, savoring the complex flavor. “I told you a thousand times, just go talk to him. He is trying, desperately I might add, to impress you. Anyone with an ounce of artistry in their spark knows that imitation in the sincerest form of flattery.”

“No way!” Blurr’s engine revved higher, turbo chargers whining. “This is sabotage! Sabotage, I tell you! How else do you explain Open Mike Night? We had Jazz play an exclusive set. JAZZ! He’s charismatic, talented, and handsome as hell! The music he played that night was so beautiful it made the stars weep! People should have been talking about it for weeks. But were they? NO! All anyone could talk about was Swerve’s karaoke night that featured Ultra Magnus as a guest singer!”

“If you heard his rendition of “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys, you’d be talking about it too,” Fat Tankor elbowed Tall Tankor.

“Yeah,” Tall Tankor sighed. “I challenge you to listen to him sing “Chances” from their newest album and not get emotional.”

“Traitors!” Blurr glared at his crew before turning his back to them. “Traitors and double-crossers, the lot of you!”

“What’s your problem anyways?” Swindle shrugged. “Both bars are doing bang-up business. Not everything’s a race, so pump the brakes, Boss Bot. Besides, with Optimus Prime as our special guest tonight, we’re gonna really clean up!”

“There you go with that ‘we’ again,” Blurr rounded on Swindle. “You don’t actually DO anything around here. Other than just help yourself to my inventory.”

“Bozz!” Waspinator burst in and tripped over his own claws, knocking over a stack of extra chairs with a loud clatter. “Optimuz iz outzide!”

“Finally! A faithful reliable bot that I can count on! Good old Optimus!” Blurr felt his RPMs decrease. “He probably showed up early to review his notes for tonight.” Blurr peered put his huge front window and sure enough, Optimus had just settled into the central bench to review a data pad. He was just about to start delegating today’s tasks when a dark shadow fell across the plaza.

Entering the open area from the opposite direction with the rising sun at his back was none other than the reformed warlord himself.

“Look, Bozz! Look!” Waspinator pointed out the obvious with a great deal of enthusiasm. “It’z Megatron.”

“Thanks, Waspinator.” Blurr rolled his optics as a hush fell over the bar.

“You know,” Skybite whispered, joining Blurr at the window. “I don’t believe they’ve seen each other since Megatron returned from his quest with the Lost Light.”

“I hope this isn’t going to be trouble.” Blurr folded his arms, an unsettling dread began to creep into his spark with the sudden realization that all of his companions were decepticons during the war.

They huddled together at the window to watch Megatron stalk across the street, his long shadow darkening the way before him. Optimus continued reading his data pad, oblivious to his surroundings, until the shade engulfed him.

“Megatron.” Optimus narrowed his optics, setting his data pad aside and rising to his feet.

“Optimus.” Megatron replied, carefully sizing up the blue and red bot before him. “It has been a while.”

Optimus nodded slightly. He drew himself up to his full height, but Megatron still possessed a significant size advantage. They stood there, in the empty plaza, silently regarding each other for a few moments.

With a twinkle in his bright blue optics, Optimus sprang into action all at once. He retracted his face plate, placed one hand gently on the small of Megatron’s back and the used the other to cradle his helm. In one swift maneuver, he spun Megatron halfway around, dipped him back, and kissed him full on the lips. Megatron, trusting Optimus to support him, cupped Optimus’ face with his hands, caressing his cheeks with his thumbs and returned the kiss deeply, passionately, and with millions of years of longing.

Blurr’s jaw dropped and he could feel his spark leaving his body. His only consolation was that the few other bots in the plaza, including the minibot and his crew across the street, wore the exact same expression. Time stopped. Everyone was thrown into a state of shock, teetering somewhere between life and death. Everyone except for Skybite.

“It’s about damn time,” he muttered with a smug grin that showed the tips of his shark teeth.

After what felt like an eternity to Blurr, Optimus spun Megatron lightly back to his feet. They stood in each other’s arms, as the sun dawned on a glorious new day on Cybertron.

“Do- Do you have plans for today?” Megatron asked, breaking the reverent silence, keeping the warm glow of his crimson optics focused solely on Optimus.

“You know, I have no idea,” Optimus replied dreamily, early morning light glinting off his polished armor. “I think I did, but I cannot, for the life of me, recall what it was.”

“Strange-” Megatron smiled. “I feel exactly the same way. Why don’t we-” He pulled Optimus close and whispered something Blurr couldn’t hear over the loud, happy rumble of Optimus’ massive engine.

“There’s nothing that I would like more,” Optimus purred, draping his arms around Megatron’s neck.

Megatron looped one arm around Optimus’ shoulders, stooped slightly to place the other behind his knees and easily lifted the autobot commander like he was no more than a sparkling. Optimus nestled himself comfortably against Megatron’s broad scarred chest. Their engines purred with such resonant pleasure that they rattled the windows of all the shops in the plaza.

Just as the edges of Blurr’s vision began to darken, a burst of raucous applause snapped him back to reality. Swerve and his crew were whooping it up as Megatron literally carried Optimus away. The purple shark bot whistled and hollered, “Git it, boi!” Megatron actually blushed and cast a quick glance over his shoulder to wink at them. When Swerve doubled over in laughter, Blurr finally snapped.

“That is the last straw!” Blurr roared. He crashed out the front door and stormed across the plaza, not caring if his crew followed him. Blurr closed the distance in record time, skidding to a stop before Swerve and his crew.

“WHAT the HELL was THAT??” he bellowed, waving a hand towards where the brightness of the rising sun obscured the rapidly shrinking silhouettes of Megatron and Optimus.

“I have no idea!” Swerve giggled, still recovering from his outburst. “But if they got to it four million years ago, they could have saved the rest of us a lot of trouble.”

“What- You- I- Just-” Blurr sputtered, vocal processor struggling to keep up with his brain. He closed his optics, counted to three, and started his rant over. “YOUR guest literally just carried off MY guest for tonight!”

“Yeah he did!” Swerve laughed.

“Is everything a joke to you?!” Blurr shouted. His turbo chargers whined as his engine revved faster.

“Funny things are,” Swerve grinned.

“Ok, Ironman.” Blurr growled. “So that’s what this is? FUNNY! You think sabotaging all my special events is FUNNY!?”

“First of all, good reference catch. The first Avengers, a real classic! Second, sabotage?! No way! That’s not it at all.” Swerve slumped to the ground and hugged his knees to his chest. “Nautica!” he whined. “Thanks for the terrible advice! Now he hates me.”

“It should have worked,” Nautica shrugged. “We put on a display so obvious that any Camien with even the slightest hint of romance in their spark would be immensely flattered. It’s not my fault your crush can’t tell his elbow from his afterburner.”

“Like I said before, Blurr’s not Camien. I don’t want to say ‘I told you so’, but-” the purple shark boat interrupted.

“Not now, Riptide!” Swerve cut him off. With that last retort the three of them began a round of squabbling about who’s advice was best, what they should have done, and how everything was someone else’s fault. The absurdity of it all piqued Blurr’s curiosity, especially the part about Swerve’s crush. Maybe Skybite was right.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this,” Blurr shut his optics and pinched the bridge of his nose. “But could everyone just slow down. One at a time. You!” He pointed at Swerve. “Start from the beginning.”

“Well,” Swerve snickered, “I was forged at a very young age.”

Blurr narrowed his optics and shot him a withering glare.

“Kidding! Sorry!” Swerve threw his hands in the air in a gesture of surrender. “Using humor as a defense mechanism. Sorry! Trying to be better about that! The truth is,” Swerve dropped the veneer of jesting bravado. He focused his blue visor on the ground and somehow seemed smaller and more vulnerable than just a moment earlier. “You obviously don’t remember me, but we talked a long time ago. Before the war, we talked about opening a bar. Together.”

“I-” Blurr started, wracking his brain for any trace of that conversation. “I’m sorry, but I don’t remember. I don’t remember a lot actually. I run fast and maybe don’t pay attention to the finer details. I’ve been damaged and repaired so many times that I think I’ve forgotten a lot. I keep telling myself that it doesn’t matter but-” The words just tumbled out of his mouth before he could stop himself, and he sounded more apologetic than he had intended.

“Primus! No! I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to make you feel bad!” Swerve continued. “The war got in the way and you were an important part of everything and I was... Well, I’m just me. Then after the war, Rodimus announced his quest, and I love a good quest. When we got back, someone told me you had reopened Maccadam’s Old Oil House. I thought maybe there was still a chance for us to work together. Then I made the biggest mistake of my life. I asked my friends for advice.”

“Well excuse me for trying to help!” Nautica huffed. “The best way to impress someone on Caminus is to pay attention to something that they are passionate about. When Lotty and I started dating, she took a class in quantum mechanics for me. I found it adorably romantic.”

“And I tried to tell you that we don’t have that custom on Cybertron,” Riptide interrupted. “Of course, Blurr wouldn’t get it! He would just think that we were copying him.”

“That’s no excuse! Imitation in the sincerest form of flattery. Everyone knows that!”

Skybite cast a sideways glance at Blurr and elbowed him as he stepped forward with a flamboyant bow. “Your artistry was not lost on everyone. Unfortunately, these plebeians could not appreciate such glamorous pageantry.”

“At least my talents were not completely wasted!” Nautica grinned. “I’m Nautica by the way! It’s always nice to meet a fellow linguist.” She offered her hand in greeting.

“I am Skybite,” Skybite took her hand over his, brought it to his lips, and lightly kissed it. “Very pleased to make your acquaintance.” He turned towards Swerve’s other companion, “And you are?”

“Oh! I’m Riptide!” the purple shark boat grinned and offered his hand as well, expecting a handshake. “It’s a pleasure to meet you!”

“The pleasure,” Skybite purred, “is all mine.” He kissed Riptide’s hand as well, allowing his lips to linger gently on Riptide’s knuckles.

“Me-Me too!” Riptide stammered, blushing so brightly his entire frame glowed.

“If your buddy is finished seducing my friends,” Swerve chuckled, “I do want to sincerely apologize for this morning and for everything. I never meant to upset you. Quite the opposite actually. I guess my plan to impress you really backfired. And I swear, with my hand on the Matrix, I had no idea that Optimus would literally get carried away before tonight’s event. I severely underestimated Meg’s flair for the dramatic.”

“Yeah...” Blurr rubbed the back of his helm and offered a sheepish smile. “I should apologize too.”

“But you didn’t do anything wrong-” Swerve began.

“No. I should have at least come over to welcome you to the neighborhood when you first opened. I never even said hello. Then this morning I just came stomping over here, yelling like an idiot, throwing accusations around. Forgive me?”

“Oh! For sure!” Swerve brightened up immediately. “Unfortunately, this evening’s special events are a total bust. I feel terrible about ruining everything. Is there anything I can do to make it up to you?”

“Technically,” Blurr smiled, “You aren’t the one who carried off my guest, so it’s not really your fault. After all, your guest is gone too. I guess we’ll have to cancel both events.”

“Well, Boss,” Swindle cracked his knuckles. “THIS is what you keep me around for. I’m about to save the day.”

Blurr squinted warily. “What are you talking about?”

“What if, instead of your separate guest lecture series, you hold a joint party out here in the plaza? You know, work together, pool your resources, make it a bash to remember!”

“That’s not a bad idea,” Swerve nodded. “We need a good theme. Something exciting enough for everyone to forget we were supposed to have Optimus and Megatron.”

“How about we show a movie? Like movie night on the Lost Light,” Riptide suggested.

“I like where this is going.” Blurr felt his own excitement starting to build. He hadn’t realized how much the thought that Swerve was sabotaging him weighed on his spark, until it was lifted. Knowing the whole scheme was a disastrous attempt to impress him, boosted his ego and he smiled with smug satisfaction.

Swindle grinned, his gold tooth flashing in the slanted sunlight, “How about we screen Thundercracker’s latest blockbuster?”

“‘Age of Unicron: Endgame to Infinity’?” Swerve gasped. “It’s only the most highly anticipated film in all of history! I heard that it blends super bombastic action with achingly dramatic character bits to create the perfect movie. One that will make you laugh out loud, cry your optics out, and stand up and cheer all in due turns. The appropriately epic premise involves all Cybertronians banding together to stop a planet-sized menace and save the entire universe. I can’t wait to see that!”

“I’ve been dying to see it too! Literally!” Blurr winked. “Thundercracker held an open casting call for extras to film short, super dramatic death scenes. I hope mine makes the final cut,” Blurr preened. “I was very heroic!”

“Ahh! I couldn’t bear to watch you die, heroic or not!” Swerve shivered.

Blurr was taken aback by Swerve’s response and found it strangely endearing. “Well, you don’t have to worry about it.” Blurr laid a supportive hand on Swerve’s shoulder and felt him sway under his touch. “The movie’s not even out yet.”

“Do you want it in standard, 48 fps, or Imax 3D?” Swindle winked.

“Standard!” Swerve and Blurr answered at the same time, shocking each other.

“3D is a gimmick,” Swerve waved dismissively.

“And 48 fps is a fad that never really took off,” Blurr finished. “You into movies?”

“Pfft! That’s the understatement of the millennia. I love movies! All movies! So many movies!”

“I’d love to hear your opinion on the latest Star Wars. I have so many theories and feelings! This lot isn’t really into earth cinema,” Blurr gestured over his shoulder to the rest of his crew. “We should get together to watch it and discuss sometime.”

“I love you,” Swerve sighed, then lit up bright pink. “I MEAN- I'D LOVE TO! I’d love TO talk about movies with you. That’s exactly what I said the first time.”

Blurr laughed and let the subject go. Finally! Someone else whose mouth ran faster than his processor. “Sounds like a plan! We have a lot to do if we are going to make this movie night work!”

“No problem! If there’s one thing I learned aboard the Lost Light, it’s how to deal with unexpected situations on extremely short notice. We have a lot to figure out: seating arrangement, drink specials, snacks, public space permit, projection equipment, and probably a dozen other things that we haven’t even noticed yet. Luckily, I’ve got a few favors I can call in.”

Swerve’s high level of organization really impressed Blurr. He said he learned from Ultra Magnus and had spreadsheets for everything. Blurr tried to get organized but never quite had the patience to follow through. Maybe he could ask Swerve for help sometime. They quickly gave everyone their marching orders and got to work.

Blurr found himself genuinely enjoying working together with Swerve. It was nice to have a bot who could keep up with him. Sometimes other people moved so slow, Blurr found it difficult to stay engaged in normal conversations. Swerve never asked Blurr to slow down and he talked so fast that Blurr never lost focus.

The rest of the day passed like a whirlwind, which was just how Blurr liked it. He loved the flurry of frantic activity before a big event. Rushing around, making sure everything is in order. It reminded him of race days. They had just finalized the specialty drink menu when people started to arrive.

They attracted a huge crowd that filled the entire plaza. Judging from the boisterous cheers and lively atmosphere, no one even missed their originally advertised guests. The constant clamor for refreshments kept Blurr so busy that he didn’t have a free minute for go and check on Swerve, who had an equally long line at his bar. Blurr shook his head. Swindle had a point after all. There was plenty of business to go around.

When the movie ended, Swindle disappeared with the film muttering something about ‘getting it back before it’s missed.’ Awfully convenient that he just happened to miss the big clean-up effort. As everything got put away, his crew began to sneak away one at a time until Blurr was left to do the final washing up by himself. Placing the last clean glass back on the rack, he stifled a huge yawn.

He surveyed his empty establishment with a satisfied smile. Another successful event. Checking behind the bar one last time to make sure Swindle wasn’t hiding back there, he grabbed his keys and locked up. Shuffling across the deserted plaza towards home, he noticed the lights from Swerve’s casting a warm glow into the darkness. After a moment’s deliberation, he turned aside to investigate.

“Anyone home?” Blurr knocked once and let himself in. He heard faint humming of the latest Backstreet Boys tune, one of Ultra Magnus’ favorites, coming from the back room. Wandering towards the sound, Blurr called out again. “Hello?”

“Sorry, mate! We’re closed. No exceptions.”

“What about for potential business partners?” Blurr peeked around the corner with a grin.

“Oh Primus! I’m sorry!” Swerve fumbled the glass he was cleaning and Blurr snatched it out of the air before it crashed to the floor. “Wait... Partners??”

“I thought tonight’s joint event went over really well.” Blurr shrugged. “I’d love to do it again.”

“Really!? Don’t say your just kidding! My spark couldn’t take it.”

“No. I’m serious. You are really good at all of this. Although-” Blurr peered over Swerve to the stack of glasses yet to be cleaned and put away. “You still have a ton of cleaning up to do. What happened to your crew?”

“This is nothing,” Swerve washed another glass. “I didn’t have any employees on the Lost Light for a long time so I’m used to doing all the work myself. Nautica thought tonight would be over a lot sooner and already made plans with Lotty, and Skybite ran off with Riptide a while ago.”

Blurr laughed, picking up a glass. “Let me help you or you’ll be here until opening time.”

“Thanks, but I think it’s already tomorrow.”

Blurr was already cleaning his fifth glass. “Lucky for you, I work fast!”

“Yeah,” Swerve sighed, a dreamy smile spreading across his face. “Lucky me!”

“You know,” Blurr washed another glass. “My only regret for today was that I didn’t actually get to watch the movie. The constant line at the bar kept me too busy to see any of it.”

“Let me tell you a little secret.” Swerve’s visor sparkled with mischief. “I asked Rewind to project the movie for us and he makes copies of everything!”

“You have a copy?” Blurr gasped.

“Let’s call it a bootleg of a bootleg.” Swerve snickered.

“Awesome!” Blurr exclaimed, setting down the final clean glass. “We have to watch it! Right now because I can’t wait! You have a vid screen right? I still have some energon goodies left. Let me run across the street and grab them. I’ll be right back!”

Blurr rushed out the bar, leaving a stunned Swerve in his wake. He crossed the plaza in record time before he realized that he just invited himself to Swerve’s in the middle of the night. Gathering up the extra snacks, Blurr locked up again and hustled back.

“Hey.” Blurr focused on his armload of energon goodies with a sheepish grin. “Sorry about steamrolling you a few seconds ago. I just really excited about movies and I maybe had too much energon espresso today. It’s okay if you were planning on going home, I don’t want to impose. We can watch it another time.”

“Nah! You’re fine!” Swerve laughed. “Honestly, I was gonna watch it by myself cause the anticipation would probably kill me otherwise. You’re more than welcome to join me. Especially if you brought snacks!”

Blurr spread his bounty out on the table while Swerve set up the movie to play. They each settled in to an opposite corner of the couch in the break room. As the opening credits began to roll, Blurr stretched, propping his long legs on the end table.

“I bet you ten shanix that Thundercracker makes himself the hero.” Swerve popped a blue energon goodie into his mouth.

“I’ll take that bet!” Blurr laughed. “My money is on Starscream. I bet that he has the most dramatic role. Some type of superheroic self-sacrifice that no one sees coming.”

“Oh, you’re on! What about Optimus? Is it even worth betting that he dies?”

“No way. He always dies. That’s a wasted bet. What about Buster, you know, the dog?”

“Ahhh! The dog can’t die! There’s no way Thundercracker kills off Buster. If he does, I will never forgive him!”

Blurr burst into laughter. He was looking forward to riffing on this movie with Swerve. Especially now that they had money riding on important plot points. Today might have started out like a disaster, but things worked out pretty well. He made a new friend and potential business partner, and all it had taken to get them together was Megatron literally running off with Optimus Prime.