Reloaded: The Death and Life of Grimlock
by Philip S.
Summary: Ratchet and Wheeljack have built the most powerful Transformers yet, the Dinobots. But without Vector Sigma, how can they be given life? Optimus Prime knows a way, a secret he has kept carefully hidden from Autobots and Decepticons alike.
Earth year 1984
"Wheeljack, I need to talk to you."
The Autobot scientist looks up, seeing his leader approach. He is busy putting the finishing touches on the new warriors they have constructed, the ones modelled after the ancient beasts whose remains they found near the Ark. The Dinobots.
"What can I do for you, Optimus?"
The towering commander of the Autobot forces takes a moment to regard the three new Transformers. Well, not really Transformers. Wheeljack has put his best work into them, but he is not a miracle worker. They will be strong and tough, they'll be able to transform, but they won't be aware. Warrior drones, not really alive. After all, there is but one way to bring a new Transformer to life. A way not open to those stranded on planet Earth, far away from home and the fabled Vector Sigma computer.
"The Dinobots are almost finished?" Optimus asks, something about him troubling Wheeljack. The red Autobot seems ... conflicted.
"Yes. We can put them through their first paces tomorrow. I have considered various methods of remote control. I think the best bet is for Teletran-1 to ..."
"That is what I wanted to talk about," Optimus interrupts him.
"Yes. You are, I think, well aware that the concept of drone soldiers ... it reminds me a bit too much of the Decepticons."
Wheeljack nods. He still remembers the endless hordes of tank drones Megatron deployed in his initial assault on Iacon at the beginning of the civil war. He lost ten of them for every Autobot they killed, but that was an exchange rate he could afford. Later on the energy shortages forced him to change his strategy, but energy rationing is not a problem here on Earth.
The moral implications of building mindless machines for the sole purpose of killing your enemies are another matter, though.
"I know, Optimus. Believe me, I wish there was another way, but without Vector Sigma ..." He doesn't finish the sentence. He doesn't have to. Every Transformer knows that Vector Sigma is the only thing that can bestow life. And this most sacred of Cybertronian artefacts is very much out of their reach.
Optimus nods, turning back to regard the three warriors. His gaze lingers on the central one.
"I see you built this one in the image of your one-time field commander."
Wheeljack is thankful that he's not human, for he would probably blush right now if he were.
"Well, yeah. I mean ... I know old Grimlock was a brute, but ..."
"I remember Grimlock well. He was stubborn as a mule, more violent than any other Autobot, but one hell of a fighter. The day we lost him was a truly dark day for our side."
The day they lost him. Yes, Wheeljack remembers that day, too. The day some no-name Decepticon got lucky and took an exhausted and battered Grimlock down from behind. His death had sent ripples of anger through the ranks of the Autobots, leading to a fresh Autobot offensive that nearly managed to drive the Decepticons out of Nova Cronum.
"I was thinking of him when I made this one," Wheeljack admits. "I thought ... well, maybe the Decepticons still remember him, too, and if they think even for an astrosecond that he might be back it would really give us an advantage in battle."
"It would," Optimus nods. Wheeljack can almost see the wheels turning behind his leader's brow. Optimus is up to something, but what?
"There is something you need to know, Wheeljack," he finally says. "I am sure you have heard the stories that Grimlock still lives, that he was too stubborn to die. Right?"
"Everyone heard those stories, Optimus, but I don't think anyone really believes ..."
"They are true!"
For a long moment Wheeljack is too stunned to speak. This has to be a joke, right? Yes, because Optimus is so well known as a prankster.
"Optimus, I... I'm not sure I heard you correctly."
The Autobot commander turns away, his hands clasped behind his back.
"When Grimlock was 'killed', we brought him back to Iacon to see whether he could be brought back online in any way. The damage to his shell was too severe, but his spark hadn't expired yet. Too stubborn to die, indeed." He gave a small chuckle.
"Unfortunately the spark had been ... damaged. The medics I consulted with told me that, even implanted in a new shell, he would, at best, be a shadow of his old self. He would probably retain no memories. With energy rationing in full effect we judged that ... well, it was better to let everyone believe he had died than to waste precious energy in a doomed attempt to rebuild him."
Optimus takes something from inside his subspace pocket, something Wheeljack has no trouble recognizing.
"But his spark was preserved."
The small box is an emergency spark container, the last-ditch method of preserving a life from being snuffed. Inside it Wheeljack sees the white-blue radiance of a Transformer life force.
"I think we owe him another chance at life, don't you think?"
"But ... but you said he would be a shadow ... if his spark is damaged ..."
Optimus does his best impression of a smile.
"Even a shadow of Grimlock is better than a mindless drone, wouldn't you say? And if anyone can beat the odds, it is our old friend."
Optimus takes two additional spark containers from his subspace pocket.
"These are two more sparks that were preserved the same way. Another two warriors who deserve a second chance at life."
Wheeljack's mind is abuzz with everything he has just been told. Grimlock is alive? They can give actual life to their three new warriors rather than make them simple automations? It is almost too good to be true.
He can't help but question this good fortune. He has never heard of damaged sparks being preserved in this way. And even if they were, why store them on the Ark? And why did Optimus never say anything before?
Chiding himself, he concentrates on the present. He has three sparks to install. This complicated things a bit, of course. The Dinobots will need better cerebral circuitry. Their processing speed needs to be upgraded for the much more complex thought patterns of a living mind. All these things can be done, though.
And he will do them gladly for his old field commander, even if said commander might not even remember him.
Wheeljack is too enthralled by his work to notice the sad expression in Optimus' optics.
(From the mind of Optimus Prime)
We need new troops.
That was the main thought behind this entire project, wasn't it? Fresh bodies to put into the field against the Decepticons. Yes, we outnumber them here on Earth, but Megatron has access to the space bridge. He can bring fresh troops from Cybertron whenever he needs them. For the moment the energy requirements of the transit limit the numbers he can bring to bear, but I'm certain that is only a temporary setback for him.
We Autobots are not so lucky. We have no way of knowing whether any Autobots even survive on Cybertron. No, that is defeatist thinking. I know that some of my comrades are still alive. Ultra Magnus is too smart to be defeated by Shockwave. Kup has lived much too long to go offline in a measly four million years. Blaster has outsmarted Decepticon trackers for as long as he's been online. No, they and the others are still alive. But we have no way of contacting them, much less bringing them here.
Wheeljack was the first to approach me with this idea. We can build new troops right here on Earth. The Ark offers enough raw materials. Energy is in abundance on this planet. Without Vector Sigma we can only build smart drones, of course, but the Decepticons have more than demonstrated that mindless automations can tip the balance of a battle almost as well as a fully sentient Transformer. So why not build drones of our own?
There is another way, of course. One that avoids the very Decepticon-like concept of building mindless machines of war, yet one I was very hesitant to approach. Every Transformer knows that Vector Sigma is the only one who can bestow life to one of our kind. Only a small number of us, those chosen to wear the title of Prime, know that there is another way. Know that the most sacred of Autobot artefacts, the Matrix of Leadership, is also known by another name.
The Creation Matrix.
Alpha Trion once theorized that the Matrix is an extension of Vector Sigma. A remote unit capable of accessing the same mysterious source of life, that well where all sparks are born. He told me of the change I underwent the day the Matrix was bestowed upon me. The day a grievously wounded Autobot gladiator called Orion Pax was transformed into the next Autobot leader, Optimus Prime.
The Matrix can bestow life. It is the best-kept secret of our kind. Vector Sigma is stationary and well-protected. Few remember how to activate it, the key needed to do so has been hidden long ago to keep the Decepticons from creating more warriors for their armies. If they were to learn that an alternative exists ... it is unthinkable.
Which is the main reason I have decided to go through with this... deception. If these new warriors Wheeljack and Ratchet constructed, these Dinobots, were to come to life, everyone would wonder how this could be. Megatron would move heaven and earth to find out. If I am to give them life, I need to lay down a false trail.
Wheeljack created the leader of the Dinobots in the image of his one-time field commander Grimlock. He was a legend of the battle fields. To this day there are those who refuse to believe any Decepticon could really kill him, that he is still alive and functioning somewhere.
I have decided to encourage this myth. I am going to lie to my own troops, tell them that Grimlock's spark was somehow preserved until the day sufficient energy was available to restore him. I will create tales of two other warriors who were preserved in similar ways (or maybe more than two, who knows how many other warriors we will build here on Earth). The Decepticons will believe the ruse, because there is no alternate explanation that makes sense.
Sadness fills me. I will burden a newly born Autobot with the responsibility of living up to the name of a legend. I will run the risk of destroying said legend if the newly born Autobot shouldn't be up to the challenge.
We need new troops, so I will lie. And no one will ever learn of my shame.