The celebration on the Ark was to be a short-lived one. The Autobots, with help from the United Earth Government, had managed to clear the Earth from the invading forces of the Decepticons. When the news arrived that Megatron had conquered Cybertron filled Optimus Prime with dread.
“Prime!” Blaster, the Autobot Communications Officer, called to his leader. “We’ve got a transmission from the refugee convoy coming from Cybertron!”
“On screen,” ordered Optimus.
Teletran-1’s main screen came to life, showing an older looking robot with blue and gray features. His expression was one of sorrow, and the pain was evident on the old veteran’s optics.
Prime, expecting to see Ultra Magnus, recognized his old friend immediately.
“Kup, it is good to know that you’re alive.”
Kup silently nodded, then started to report.
“Well, Prime, we managed to escape the blasted Decepticons, but many of our ranks didn’t make it. Of over 60 shuttles launched from Cybertron, only fifteen survived.”
Prime answered back sharply, angered at the massacre. The Autobots present on the main bridge of the Ark were shocked at the news. Even the human, William “Sparkplug” Witwicky, was horrified by such grave news.
Having noticed Magnus’ absence, the Autobot leader started to ask Kup about it, but the old war horse gazed downwards with a sorrowful expression.
“Magnus is gravely wounded. We fear he will not make it even if we arrive there on time.”
Kup looked even more pained.
“He took some blasts that were meant for me!”
“Kup,” ordered Prime. “Bring the convoy directly to the Ark. I’ll have clearance from the United Earth Government shortly for you to land here. We will have medical help ready!”
“Understood,” Kup said, then the transmission ceased.
Optimus sent a call to Medical Chief Ratchet, whose image appeared on the same screen that Kup had been a few seconds ago.
Ratchet was in a festive mood, still celebrating their victory on Earth. The cacophony of music and laughter could be heard in the background.
“Hey, Prime!” The carefree Autobot doctor yelled. “You’re missing the party down here!”
“Ratchet, we have an emer…”
“What was that again?” asked Ratchet, while a huge crashing sound came through the speakers. “Hold on a sec, Prime.”
Ratchet disappeared for a while and the music was lowered, with some protest from Jazz, who had obviously been enjoying it. Ratchet appeared again laughing, but his expression changed to a look of concern when he saw the expression on the Autobot leader’s face.
Optimus knew that the news he was about to give were going to spoil the celebration. His troops had been fighting the Decepticons on Earth for almost ten years, ever since the fateful eruption of Mt. Saint Hilary that awoke them in 1984.
“Ratchet,” continued Prime. “We have received news that we’ve lost Cybertron to the Decepticon forces. There is a convoy of Autobots refugees arriving with a lot of wounded. At least one of them is in critical condition. I want your medical team ready for their arrival. They need all the help we can give them.”
The medical officer digested the news with a sour face. The sound of the party died and was replaced with the sound of tables and medical equipment being moved. Ratchet nodded in agreement with his leader.
“We will be ready by the time they get here,” was all the doctor could say. The screen went blank.
Sparkplug got up from his human sized chair and prepared to walk to the doors of the bridge. He knew that he would be needed in medical area. The old mechanic, along with his son Spike, was one of the few humans that could understand Cybertronian physiognomy. His skills could even rival Doc Ratchet. He would be of great help during this state of emergency.
“Well, Optimus, Ratchet is gonna need my help. I’m on my way there.”
“Thank you, Sparkplug,” Prime gratefully answered back to his human friend. “Like always your help goes highly appreciated.”
William smiled back at the giant Autobot and moved away. Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain in his chest but as quickly as it had started, the pain just stopped. He winced at his pain, shook his head, and took a couple of breaths.
Prime noticed what had happened and was concerned for his friend.
“Are you alright?”
Sparkplug, taking another breath, smiled at Prime again.
“I’m ok, really.”
And he went through the door that would take him to the Ark’s medical wing, where he was needed.
“Make way, lads!”
Kup was leading the group of Autobots, who were getting the wounded inside the medical wing. Once again, the place became a cacophony of sounds but instead of being filled with the sounds of music and laughter, it was the moans of pain and anguish that resonated through the hallways.
Ratchet was overwhelmed by this and knew that even with the help of the likes of Perceptor, Wheeljack and the human, Sparkplug, things were not going to be easy.
Then Ultra Magnus arrived, and all conversation ceased in shock.
The Autobot was huge, dwarfing the Autobot Leader. His blue, white and red body was horribly battered. Half his face was gone, burned away by a fusion cannon blast. Judging from the damage done to his left shoulder, the same weapon had been used more than once upon the brave warrior. His lower torso had a gaping wound, approximately half the width of a compact car, which passed right through his body.
Magnus’ body was resting in a stretcher which was carried by the strongest Autobots: Optimus Prime, Grimlock, Springer, who was one of the refugees, and Brawn.
Hot Rod, another refugee, helped them by opening the doors ahead of the stretcher party.
Sparkplug was almost finished repairing a minor wound that plagued a fast talking Autobot, Blurr, while Ratchet started running diagnostics on the fallen soldier.
“We are losing him fast,” Ratchet said nervously. Suddenly, he flicked his wrist and out of it came a laser scalpel. He started to frantically operate, determined to try and save this Autobot’s life.
“I’m gonna need help here!”
Ratchet’s desperate cry for help almost drowned out the moans of the injured.
“I can’t abandon what I’m doing yet!” Perceptor answered while amputating an Autobot’s leg, which was beyond any hope of repair.
“No can do!” Wheeljack cried back, working on another patient.
“I’m here,” Sparkplug appeared. He had just finished with Blurr and was ready to tackle another patient. For the first time, he looked at the battered soldier and paused in shock.
“C’mon, Sparky. You can’t tell me that you’ve never seen worse?” bantered Doc Ratchet.
“What’s the injury count?” asked the old mechanic.
“Massive injuries in 87% of his body. His laser core looks like it’s been breached. If I try to open him up to operate on that area, I might as well kill him.”
“We need more help,” muttered Sparkplug, while working to stop some of the bleeding.
“Hey, you!” William called desperately to one Autobot he never had seen before. His body was red and orange with a yellow spoiler on his back, set upwards as if they were wings.
“Huh? Me?” a surprised Hot Rod asked.
“Go look for my son, Spike,” instructed Sparkplug. “He should be on the Autobot City construction site with his wife Carly. You also need to get Dr. Jessie Riverstone, she is with them.”
“Right,” the young Autobot answered excitedly, eager to help. “Get Spike, get Carly, and get Dr. Riverstone, right!”
Hot Rod transformed into his futuristic race car mode and started to speed away. Suddenly, he hit the brakes, shifted into reverse and transformed back.
“Who are they?” Hot Rod asked incredulously. He only had been on Earth for a few minutes now and had no idea who these people were.
“Just do it!” Ratchet and Sparkplug cried in unison.
Shrugging, Hot Rod transformed and rolled out.
“Ok, here’s the plan, Perceptor.”
Perceptor, who had finished with his last patient, was patiently working on Ultra Magnus’ shoulder while listening to Ratchet’s words.
“We can’t take the risk of opening Magnus’ armor without causing further damage to his core.” Ratchet explained to the group standing around the operating table. The scientist nodded in agreement, still focused on his work.
Sparkplug took over the explanations from his friend.
“So, we’ll make an opening right here,” he pointed at the undamaged area that was right next to the very large hole on the lower torso. “We’ll make it large enough for a human to slip inside and repair enough of the damage to stabilize him. After that’s done, you can open his armor and continue with the operation without destroying what’s left of his core.”
Perceptor agreed with the plan.
“When Dr. Jessie gets here we’ll put the plan into action. She’s small enough to do this.”
Sparkplug took off his hard hat and put on a pair of safety goggles and a breathing mask.
“I know she’s smaller than I am and has a softer touch, but by the time she gets here, this fellow will be dead. We can’t wait for her, I’m going in now!”
The scientist couldn’t argue with that.
“Ready?” asked Ratchet
Sparkplug nodded, waiting for the Autobot physician to get to work.
With uncanny skill, Ratchet made the cut and gently took out some internal components that were soaked by the Cybertronian’s lifeblood. It was a small opening, but it was large enough for the human to get in. Sparkplug prepared his tools while he was lifted by Ratchet. He got his arms inside the hole first, quickly followed by his head and torso. Soon, the only thing that was visible of Sparkplug were his boots.
Sparkplug was greeted by the internal darkness of Magnus’ body. Even with his oxygen mask on, the smell of the blood was very strong. It was a substance not unlike gasoline. He knew that if he caused a spark in there they would both die. Wisely, he didn’t use an electrical flashlight. Instead he tore open a package containing a cyalume light stick, bent it, breaking the crystal capsule inside and mixing the chemicals. An eerie green light brightened the dark hole, making it much easier to work. Sparkplug looked at the damage and wondered is he was fighting a losing battle.
Hot Rod returned with the humans. As Spike helped his pregnant wife, Carly, out of the car, Dr. Jessie quickly climbed out of the transformed Autobot. After the humans had exited his vehicle form, Hot Rod returned to his robot form.
Prime was already with the group tending Ultra Magnus. He looked towards the humans and felt relief knowing that the extra help that was needed to save Magnus had arrived.
Carly was the first to say it.
“Oh, my God!”
Spike was the first one to notice the boots on the lower torso.
Dr. Jessie was the first of them to react positively to the emergency, her professionalism cutting through her shock..
“Ratchet,” said the female scientist in her English accent. “What is going on? How long has William been in there?”
Ratchet, still working furiously to keep Magnus vital functions working, looked at her with a frustrated expression.
“Core breach,” the Autobot doctor continued, trying to sound as professional as he could muster. “The only way to stabilize him is to operate from the inside.”
Dr. Jessie nodded, throwing her jacket into a corner of the room and rolling up her sleeves. She concentrated on Ratchet’s word’s and grabbed her tool kit, moving to help her friend with the patient.
Optimus Prime spoke at last, watching his human friend as she started the delicate work of repairing some of Magnus’ wounds.
“At least Sparkplug found the core. He is working on it now.”
Spike drew near to the hole where his father was.
“Dad, are you ok?”
“Fine” was the reply from inside. But there was a certain note in the voice that didn’t sound so sure. Spike noticed it but he kept quiet, trying not to disturb his father. “Son, why don’t you go and help Ratchet with the rest of the injuries? I’m sure he could use the extra help.”
Spike started to help the others, but he couldn’t dispel the feeling that there was something that didn’t seem right.
Sparkplug felt like he was all alone in the world. The place was so small, it felt like a coffin. The only thing that made him feel at ease was the light coming from where his boots were and the green eerie light from the light stick. He positioned himself under a humid panel. He managed to force it open and when he did, a splash of the Cybertronian lifeblood hit him on the face. Sparkplug was grateful that he was using the goggles. If had hadn’t put them on, he would be screaming in pain and would have lost his eyesight.
The old man shook his head, clearing the fluid from his face. In front of him was the damaged core.
“Good job,” Perceptor cried.
“How is the damage?” a concerned Ratchet asked.
“Bad, really bad. Going to start fixing it now!” answered the voice from inside the hole.
Suddenly, Sparkplug felt a sharper pain in his chest.
And again it was gone.
He started to breathe heavily and suddenly, he suspected that something was awfully wrong. But he couldn’t stop now when he was so desperately needed!
The mechanic managed to calm down for a few seconds and started to operate on the core. The damage was extensive, but he trusted his skills.
As more time passed, Sparkplug started to feel trapped in there. A feeling of claustrophobia started to nibble on the inner corners of his soul. He began to sweat heavily, and his hands were shaking. It had a long time since he had felt such terror in his heart.
If only the damned hole was bigger, he thought.
He closed his hands forcefully, concentrating on remaining calm. He was so intent on his thoughts that he was startled when he heard the voice of his son coming from outside.
“Dad? Dad, are you ok?”
“Fine,” Sparkplug lied to his son. He knew he didn’t sound convincing, but he didn’t have a choice. He took a long breath and talked again.
“Why don’t you go and help Ratchet with the rest of the injuries? I’m sure he could use the extra help.”
He heard his son again.
It broke his heart having to lie to his son. God, how he loved him. But the damage was still too extensive, and he simply could not leave the Autobot to die.
Ratchet set the medical instruments down, his thoughts dark and disturbed. He had done the best he could do to stabilize the patient. He knew that the only hope that Ultra Magnus had was a human named Sparkplug Witwicky. They had to wait until Sparkplug had patched the core then, and only then, Ratchet could operate safely on his patient.
Dr. Jessie looked up from where she was working on Ultra Magnus. Instead of allowing herself to worry about the warrior, she had dedicated herself to the repairs on Magnus’ face. Her small hands had been occupied with reconnecting the neuro-connectors that ran from optic to the neurocenter. Her hazel gaze met Ratchet’s, and a look of understanding passed between both of them.
It was only a matter of time now.
Breathing heavily, Sparkplug worked frantically on Ultra Magnus’ core. He finally noticed that the light was getting dimmer. He dared to look at the light stick, wondering why it was getting dimmer. It is supposed to last for six hours!
That’s when he understood.
He felt his whole body cramping as realization dawned on him. He had been working for six hours, not stopping to rest for a minute. Sparkplug cried for help.
“I’m here, Dad.”
“Get me another light stick, this one is almost out!”
Spike took another one out of its wrapper, bent it, and slipped it inside the hole. Once again, the interior of the hole was illuminated with the eerie green light and Sparkplug continued working.
Spike could see his father’s legs trembling hard, and he could hear his father’s heavy breathing. Carly and Dr. Jessie noticed the worried expression on the young man’s face.
“Dad, how is it going down there?”
Sparkplug answered in a raspy voice.
“A-almost done, my boy.”
“Sparkplug” Dr. Jessie cut in. “William, if you want I can finish it”
“No,” Sparkplug protested. “If I leave now, he could die!”
Dr. Jessie looked at Ratchet for confirmation to the problem that she already knew the outcome of. The Autobot nodded in answer. Sparkplug was right, he couldn’t abandon the patient at this critical time.
Suddenly, there was a cry of pain coming inside the hole. Panicked, Spike got closer to the entrance of the hole.
Sparkplug felt the pain in his chest and finally understood his predicament. If he stayed in there, he would surely die of a heart attack. If he got out, Ultra Magnus, an Autobot that he never met before, would die. There was no shame in that, he thought to himself. He could let the Autobot die and get help for his own problem.
It was such a tempting thing to do.
As his pain started to grow, he remembered something. It was an Autobot that had saved his son that fateful day on the oil rig ten years ago. Thanks to him, that young boy had a chance to live to become a good man and would soon be a father. And to that Autobot, the young boy was also a total stranger too.
How many young boys could this particular Autobot save?
Could this one save his own grandchild?
Would his life be a small price to pay for the sake of future generations?
Sparkplug’s choice was made.
Ratchet heard a stronger beeping sound come from the life support machine. When he looked at it, a huge grin appeared on his face! Dr. Jessie grinned at her friend, then started working with renewed effort, knowing there was more to be done, but her spirits were raised at Ratchet’s shout of triumph.
“He did it!”
Optimus Prime reacted at once as the others got ready to begin the next phase of Magnus’ operation.
“Spike, help your father out of there”
Spike was already helping him when he noticed that his father was not moving.
William “Sparkplug” Witwicky looked at his son and with a weak voice asked, “did I do it?”
With tears in his eyes, the son nodded to his father.
“Yeah, Dad. You did it.”
And he smiled for one last time.
The funeral was held with highest honors in a small cemetery of Oregon. At request of the surviving members of the Witwickys, the press was not allowed to attend. Several Autobots and Dr. Jessie Riverstone were there to express their grief over the lost of their friend. Optimus Prime gave a speech remembering Sparkplug. Spike soon followed with a small eulogy. It was obvious to all of the mourners that both of them felt a great loss.
The ceremony finished, and everyone quietly departed.
All except one.
Magnus stood there in silence. He was fully repaired thanks to the sacrifice made by the human.
He read the inscription on the marble tombstone.
William “Sparkplug” Witwicky
Father and Hero
May God rest his soul.
“Why?” Magnus finally asked out loud. “Why did you have to die just to save me?”
The Autobot veteran waited for an answer, but none came back.
“William… sir. I’m just a soldier fighting an endless war. I’m not important, I’m not a leader. You didn’t even know who I was! I was just a stranger to you!”
The silent was maddening, and Magnus felt his soul tear apart under the strain of all the emotions running through him. Suddenly, his sensors detected a movement at his side. He glanced and saw the young man whose father who had given his life to save his.
Spike looked at Magnus with compassion and sorrow etched in his eyes.
“Why?” Spike asked the tormented soul. “Come with me and let me tell you about how a stranger like you saved a young boy ten years ago.”
The veteran Autobot followed the human to find redemption.