Series Title: Patronus
Chapter Title: Activation
Fandom: Bayverse, DotM
Author: femme4jack & merfilly
Characters: Ironhide, Optimus Prime, Ratchet
Rating: PG (this chapter, may go up in other chapters)
WARNINGS: Spoilers for DotM, mentions non-Allspark reproduction method (not mechpreg)
Summary: After constructing a new shell for the spark that was known as Ironhide, Ratchet and Prime are ready to bring him online
Notes: A continuation of Iron Hope & The Velveteen Robot, both found in the series A New Moon by femme4jack. Thanks to Merfilly for joining me (femme4jack) on this endeavor! Merfilly is a wonderful writer who posts her work on An Archive of our Own - look her up at archiveofourown . org / users / Merfilly / pseuds / Merfilly (remove spaces). Ironhide's initial reboot is adapted from Red Alert's sparking in Part 2 of Calming Fire by Femme4jack and Gatekat. It is posted on Gatekat's ff . net profile and works too well not to recycle.

Systems initialized ... stand-by

Core coding initialization ... Completed.

Running stability check. ... completed. Stabilized.

Running capacity check. ... completed. Capacity 98.582%

Systems check ... Connecting ... Completed.

Analyzing Systems:
Motor Function disabled.
Sensor net and navigation disabled.
Communications disabled.
HUD online.
Self repair online.
Energon pump and lines at optimal functioning.
Hydraulics online.
Cooling systems online.
Interface systems set to standard early functioning protocols
Self-defense systems online and set to standard early functioning protocols.

Running Systems Check. Running ... Completed.

Analyzing function files...
Affiliation: To be determined
Designation: To be determined.
Function: To be determined

Initializing sensor net, navigation, motor function, and communications systems...please wait...Completed.

His first conscious thought was of needing to get up, to be somewhere. There was someone he needed to warn, to defend...

"Easy, mech," a voice said as his optics onlined for the first time and he attempted to sit. "Give yourself a few kliks to settle into your frame before you attempt to move. I need to run some scans. Welcome to functioning."

He automatically scanned the neon-green mech for a spark resonance signature, and his HUD supplied the designation and function, Ratchet, Chief Medical Officer for the Autobots. Coding strongly urged his compliance with the CMO's order.

Another mech was present, standing back, well out of the way, watching the proceedings. The HUD scrolled information indicating the potential threat status was relatively high, based on weapon energy traces and shielding capability, but all the military systems seemed to be in low power standby.

After a moment, the HUD supplied him with mech's designation: Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots and rightful ruler to all of Cybertron, if there had not been a war in progress. The taller mech remained silent, but his optics were following the new mech's every move.

The new mech's emotional protocols were clearly online, and very active in response to the spark resonance signatures of those in the room. Glyphs scrolled across his HUD to help him identify the range of feelings. 'Familiarity'. 'Comfort'. 'Well-being'. But also a strong sense of duty and a need to defend. It was...confusing. There was nothing in his function protocols instructing such emotions. The emotions were autonomic. He wondered if it was a coded reaction to such high ranking individuals.

"You are unusually silent for a newly functioning mech," the CMO commented, while transmitting a glyph instructing him to open a port for a deeper medical scan, which the new mech complied with immediately. "Your CPU has likely supplied you with my designation, and Optimus Prime's. Do you have one?"

The tone was relaxed, intended to provoke a sense of trust, his emotional protocols informed him. But there was something else underneath, in the mech's energy field, or even deeper, that contradicted it. It again elicited a strong urge to care for the mech...both mechs, who were distressed.

The larger mech, who had been so quiet, moved at last, coming closer but still out of Ratchet's way. He inspected the new mech with optics and deeper sensor scans, causing the new mech's armor to tingle in reaction.

"Your designation is important to us, new mech, that we may welcome you properly." The words came with complete neutrality, yet the undercurrent in the new mech's processor tried to identify the emotive index of 'grief' being present along with 'hope'. Optimus Prime felt both emotions, and yet he was attempting to block both of them from being present in his voice. It was as if he did not wish to influence any part of how the new mech responded.

The new mech regarded both of those who watched him so guardedly with curiosity and growing confusion. He examined a datafile on designations, explaining that many mechs came online with an immediate and strong association with a particular set of glyphs that would be their primary designation for as long as they desired it to be so, and that changes in primary designation were unusual, though not unheard of. Secondary designations were added to indicate ones cohort, to mark significant experiences, and to indicate the formation of bonds.

"I do not seem to have a designation," were the first words to emerge from his vocal processors. "Is there another means by which I may be assigned one?"

Prime inclined his head, trying desperately into not to read hope into that status, that it was not a function of the new genesis his old friend had experienced when his old spark-casing transferred to a blank frame-build. "You could wait, and determine if a designation comes later. Or you can allow one of us to temporarily grant you a designation."

Despite his words, the leader had to look at his medic with a brief burst of complete cluelessness on how to choose a name when this was clearly not Ironhide.

"I would prefer to be granted a temporary designation until one becomes clear, " the new mech stated resolutely, feeling a sense of rightness, both in his emotional protocols and within his chest...his spark, at the decision.

At the urging of the medic, who had now disconnected from his thoracic port, he sat up and scanned around himself with curiosity, though his attention continued to be drawn back to the two mechs even as his HUD supplied him with information regarding the atmosphere, solar radiation, and environmental contaminants that indicated they were on an organic world. It was a world on which they were aliens, yet his datafiles also designated it as 'home'.

"Is it normal for your verbal expressions to be so at odds with your emotional protocols?" he asked with a tone of genuine confusion and all the innocence of one newly created.

The question caught both Prime and Ratchet off their guard as each one had been trying to determine how best to grant this mech a designation that did not goad him toward a path he had not chosen.

Optimus Prime then favored the new mech with a quiet, patient look. "There have been many problems in recent planetary cycles, leading us each to carry heavy burdens. But you need not suffer that, when the addition of a new mech to the world at large is an occasion for joy."

None of his words were lies. They were all true. Yet they omitted so much, that pain choked deep within.

The new mech considered the words, as well as what had not been said, but was still felt, and considered how strongly he seemed to be able to sense what they felt but did not say. He knew, without their saying so, that they were uncomfortable choosing a designation for him. He also knew, clearly, he was not yet ready to pick a primary designation of his own, but the desire to shield them from the discomfort of the former was strong enough to offset the later.

"Assigning me a temporary designation is adding to the burdens you already carry," he conceded, a statement of fact and not judgment. He examined the glyphs associated with the myriad of emotions he felt in response to his first experiences, primarily those desiring to shield, guard and protect. "You may list my temporary designation as this," he transmitted a glyph to the mechs that seemed most in line with what he sensed in his spark.

The emotional reaction, carefully suppressed by both of the other mechs was immediate, and as obvious to the new mech as their spark signatures. Hope, relief, and joy were most apparent. They were pleased with his choice.

"That will be an interesting one to translate into the dominant language of the native sentients of this world," the medic stated wryly. "So many possibilities, though we need to take care that it does not inadvertently assign you to particular function in others' processors."

"Patronus," Optimus Prime suggested, transmitting the human cultural reference, a favorite one of his, along with the modifiers to the initial glyph that fit such a translation.

The glyph settled in among their unspoken communications, and the new mech noted that it felt as if he sat on the edge of a greater sea of ideas that was just out of reach, similar to the way the emotions were so clear and yet not his to parse.

"Ratchet will finish confirming your status, Patronus, and then you will have access to educational materials, to determine your specialization upgrades," Optimus Prime told him when he continued. "You were not designed with a specific function in mind, so please take your time in choosing how to proceed from this point."

"Is a lack of specific function the norm?" Patronus asked, noting that it was the second time that they had brought up the importance of his not yet having an assigned function.

"To be honest, Patronus," Ratchet explained, "it has been so long since we have welcomed a new mech into our midst, that there is nothing normal here. And you are unique, even among sparklings."

Ratchet looked toward Prime, and Patronus felt the buzz of hastily transmitted comms between the two, though he politely did not attempt to tune in.

::He will need to have some guidance, to understand why others are wary, Ratchet. I fully doubt our human allies and their families will fully be able to process that this is a new individual, even as basic as you designed the frame.:: One thing that was beginning to be promising, even with Prime beating back any hopes he dared have, were the colors starting to settle into place.

Colors, however, did not mean the same personality would emerge.

::I agree,:: Ratchet responded. ::Protecting him from undue influence does not mean keeping him in the dark. He is picking up on our emotionally complex responses very early in this. I'll not speculate on what that means. Now yet.::

"Unique?" Patronus asked, politely encouraging them to continue when the buzz of the comm signal had ended.

"Most of the Cybertronians you will meet were sparked by the Allspark," Optimus began, settling his large frame to sit on the berth across from Patronus's. "Whether their frames were full sized and already coded for a function, or were simple sparkling shells, they were brought by the creators to the Allspark Temple. One of my functions was to call new sparks from the Allspark. If you examine your historical data files, you will find that the Allspark was destroyed as part of our war, after having been missing for countless vorns."

"Which," Ratchet continued, "meant reverting to what is considered a more primitive, by some, method of procreation. Budding is one term used, but it is merely a means of causing the creative sparks to expand and create a secondary source, that is then coded, either by the creators involved through a mixing of their own code, or by the delivery of a code packet from an outside source," he told Patronus. "This method means our race will survive, as it could not have without the Allspark."

"You, however, are a cypher to those outside, due to unique circumstances around your creation," Optimus said gravely. "You will remind others of a mech who fell in battle, as you are quite similar to him."

He paused, trying to determine how to phrase that Patronus's spark was from the fallen mech, and yet not outright say he was the fallen friend they had all lost.

"Your spark is not a newly created one, Patronus," Optimus continued, leaning earnestly forward toward the new mech. "The mech that your spark animated was hit by a weapon that destroyed his frame and processors, but left the spark and its casing intact and in stasis. You have the same spark as our fallen comrade, but you are not the same person. Who we are is a complex interaction of our sparks, coding, memories and choices. You are a new creation, despite being a spark who is older than either Ratchet or myself. You deserve the opportunity to decide who you wish to be, apart from whom Ironhide was, as tempting as it may be for all who grieve his death to wish you to be just as he was."

Patronus evaluated those words; the glyphs that came to his own processor related to 'justice', 'fairness', and 'chance' were influencing both of the mechs in this chamber with him. He did not wish to upset either one, and if they said this was how he should be, a blank data chip in some ways, then he would endeavor to live up to their wishes. It felt right, in accordance with his emotive responses, to try and please them.

"I will take the time you wish me to, and evaluate all options." He then looked at each one in slow, steady consideration before looking nowhere but Optimus Prime. "But my place, I know deep within me, is here and nowhere else."

Patronus watched as Optimus Prime's faceplates physically reacted to his words, and found that the relief and joy his declaration elicited in the larger mech were pleasurable to his spark. The flame-patterned mech stood and crossed the distance between the two berths. Patronus, stood as well, looking up at the blue optics of his Prime. As Optimus placed his hands on Patronus's shoulders and leaned down to touch his helm to the new mech's own, the black mech's data files informed him that such a greeting was the ritual welcome and blessing of the Prime to a new creation. Yet, it was also something much more than a ritual. He could feel his spark surging in response to the rightness of the contact.

"Patronus," the flame-patterned mech stated, "I welcome you home. Ratchet and I are both here to support you in any manner possible as you adjust to functioning."

Patronus felt a deep reluctance for the physical contact to end and resisted the urge to follow as Prime pulled away and took a step back, though still close enough for the black mech to feel the comfortable sensation of the other's field.

"Do you have any questions for us?" Ratchet asked, placing a hand on his shoulder in a gesture that once again, felt completely comfortable and right to the black mech.

"None that I have enough reference framing to ask," Patronus told them. "I will once I begin to work, I am certain."

Prime kept his faceplates from forming the smile they wished to; of course there would be questions, for some of Ironhide was definitely still within this mech. He resisted the desire to reach out across the cohort bond he now was certain still existed in some form. He would wait, in hope, that Patronus would reach out to him if he desired to do so.