The war came to Wheeljack before he even knew one existed. He'd been working, deep in the laboratories beneath Crystal City, when the Constructicons came to demolish the beautiful city. There had been nothing but confusion that cycle, but many survivors told the same tale over and again, of a rescuer with flashing finials guiding them into the evacuation tunnels leading away from the laboratories. They all agreed that the engineer had made multiple trips, and one who had been in the city as the last tower fell above admitted he'd been carried by that same engineer to safety.
After, with a group of civilians, scientists, and a few of the defense forces, that engineer had turned to look across the plains to the dust cloud obscuring what had been a thriving art and science city, mostly untouched by the power struggles between Tarn, Vos, and Iacon. He hadn't said a word, but all the survivors who could see him noted that the finials were vividly red, as if determination had solidified on that image of total destruction. He had then started moving silently toward the nearest city, his refugees falling in behind him for lack of any other clear leader.
The mech in charge of recruitment didn't look as bored and disgusted as some of the others to have that answer, but he did quickly wave the would-be recruit to the side.
"Med-corp is full enough. We need fighters," the head mech said.
The engineer refused to move, pulling a small device out of his subspace and sending it to hover high enough up to be of no harm to anyone. It then exploded, unleashing a heat wave they could feel even below the blast, as its energy pulse flicked against protective fields.
"Not that kind of engineer," the engineer said in an even, almost friendly tone.
"Report to room tetra alpha," the recruiter said, giving the engineer full credit for being that demonstrative of his usefulness. An entry was made on the data pad, and handed over. "Welcome to the Autobot army, Wheeljack."
"Let's see if I can make the need for it short, now," Wheeljack muttered as he walked in the direction of the assigned briefing room.
To say the battle at Dexychron was won because of an engineer might have been an exaggeration. Ultra Magnus, however, would consider it to be close to the truth and no one argued with that commander. He was too valued, too dedicated to the cause.
In short, his modifications to our weaponry made us more than a match for the unit of enemies dispatched to take the small outpost city. I recommend his work, and feel he should be attached to a more centralized unit than my own frontier forces. Please consider reassigning him to Cybertron post-haste.
One after another, the command staff nodded; an asset like this needed to be brought back home, and allowed to work for the whole army's benefit.
Wheeljack entered the lab, finials flashing in a hyper-mode that others would one day learn was unease, to see an analyzer and a true medic in there. They stopped what they were doing to look at him, before the analyzer moved and reached out a hand to clasp Wheeljack's shoulder.
"Greetings, Engineer Wheeljack, I am Perceptor, and this is Ratchet. Perhaps, once you settle in, you could give us an engineer's opinion of a recent mutation in a strain of nanites?"
All unease vanished, as Wheeljack smiled. He could easily settle in among peers, no matter the memories of Crystal City.
Wheeljack watched with the rest of the Autobots as the struggle between the Decepticon leader and this unknown, large mech continued within Iacon itself. There were systems and abilities in the new mech that had Wheeljack's scans dancing over the spectra, filing it away for continued improvements to his friends and allies. His servos were itching to actually explore, tactically, the unknown mech with his power reserves and new-design energy blaster.
The melee axe was also an intriguing improvement for self-protection.
His musings and studies were thrown off as Commander Prowl ordered another assault on the Decepticon line, to take advantage of the fact Megatron was actually losing the grappling fight with the stranger.
That made him flash his finials with delight, though, because he had one more surprise planned, and it was going to be a big one. A quick command, and the drone device he'd managed to keep from being shot suddenly flew into tens of pieces, each flinging itself out as they homed in on the specific frequencies used by Decepticons for communication. As Wheeljack had pointed out, they might not have broken 'Con encryption yet, but there was no reason why the frequencies couldn't be used against them.
As each little device found its target, they started exploding, doing minimal damage, but no mech ignored a flash-bang near its optics and helm. Thoroughly distracted by the devices, the Decepticons became easier targets for the lighter firepower of the Autobots.
Wheeljack decided he had a new favorite phrase, as the battle came to a quick end soon after. He'd never get tired of hearing ' Decepticons, retreat!' so long as the war continued.
Optimus Prime, now the overall commander of the Autobot forces by an overwhelming wave of anarchist will, submitted to the scans of Ratchet and Wheeljack working in tandem. The medic was ensuring that the mech was not subject to any maliciously hidden coding while Wheeljack made certain the systems did not harbor any hidden explosives or remote hacks.
"This might tickle," Wheeljack warned, his sense of humor asserting itself. Optimus Prime chuckled warmly, endearing him yet more to both mechs assigned to this duty.
How could the Autobots ask for more, when this mech was a miracle from Primus himself!
Wheeljack tuned his scans in, discovering state of the art design in every system, with a purity of lines and function that made Wheeljack's spark ache with the beauty of it all. He continued, rising from pedes up, and nearly overwhelmed by such pure mathematical equations written in the proportions and construction… until his scan of the thoracic chambers made him doubt his scanners' accuracy.
Optimus tilted his head to one side, just as Ratchet muttered an expletive that did not belong in the audials of their supreme commander, if the Army had its way.
"Wheeljack?" Ratchet moved to compare readouts, showing his own, and then they looked at the strange mech under their scrutiny.
"You've got an anomaly where your spark belongs," Wheeljack said bluntly.
"I… do not know how to explain it, but…" With little hesitation, the mech folded back his chest plates, baring the spark chamber…and then causing it to shunt to one side and reveal the anomaly.
Wheeljack's processors tripped over themselves. In some of his most ancient textbooks he had seen diagrams, but like all other aspects of the science attributed to Primus, he had believed it to be lost to the ages. Now his scans made more sense. He looked to Ratchet, to see if the medic understood what they were seeing, even as his digits were gravitating upward to touch.
Ratchet did know, and hastily slapped Wheeljack's servo down. "You lost your processor?" Ratchet hissed, forgetting their patient for a minute. "That's a piece of living history right there!"
"It's science in its purest form!" Wheeljack whined, finials flashing indignantly.
"You know what it is?" Optimus asked them both, almost apologetically for intruding.
They both had to stare at him, optics gone wide, and, in Wheeljack's case, finials muted entirely.
"I am sorry," Optimus immediately apologized in the face of their silent wonder and shock.
"That's the Matrix of Leadership, historically granted to the Prime in charge of desperate times," Ratchet said reverently.
"It's a generator of untold ability, with an energy displacement cost that is so minuscule as to be non-statistically impactive." Wheeljack feasted his optics on it, since Ratchet would not let him touch.
"It talks to me," Optimus confided, soft and low, afraid he would be seen as defective if he let it slip out too loudly. "Advice, scenarios that look as if they are from the past, names of mechs I meet…"
Ratchet let a burst of static show his incredulity, but it was Wheeljack who shifted his reaching hand up to Optimus's shoulder. "Prime…" and as he said the title, he imparted the full glyph of leadership… "it is a direct tie to our earliest, purest forms of creative ability and true science. Listen to it, and weigh what it says, but in the end, it is merely an artifact."
"That sounds wise, Wheeljack." Optimus nodded, then folded everything back into place to disguise and protect the artifact.
"Well, I'll add one more piece, Prime," Ratchet said. "Only your core command should know, just to be on the safe side."
"Then I suppose you are both now officers in my command council," Optimus Prime said without missing a beat.
"Wowzers," Wheeljack responded, finials flashing in surprise, and pride.
"What we need is new energy sources, the likes of which they've never heard of!" Wheeljack declared enthusiastically. "I could build wave modulators all day long, but there's only so many resonances I can achieve with native supplies that are, in all honesty, shorting out as we speak!"
"Granted, Wheeljack, but where do you propose to find new sources? The moons are both too well guarded by Decepticons for us to reach them, and Lithone has chosen to stay completely out of our war," Prowl pointed out
Wheeljack flicked up a display, showing a space chart. "Here! There's an unpopulated system with a double primary and asteroids and satellite bodies and plenty for us to harvest. It's not too far, and it's just far enough off Nebulon's claimed territory that we ought to not have any interference in scavenging."
The matter was debated, with Wheeljack's finials showing his avid participation and faith in his idea, until Optimus Prime finally stood to end the debate portion of the meeting.
"We have no choice." He looked directly at Wheeljack. "Engineer Wheeljack, as this is your proposal, I leave plans and construction of a ship to you. I will meet with the various commanders of the army, and prepare them for the fact we will be sending an off-world expedition, one that must be launched at any cost, for I see nothing but the loss of us all due to starvation in too few years."
"I'll do it as quickly as I can, Prime!"
That first nocturnal cycle on the foreign world under a true, young primary made it clear how far off course the Ark had been thrown to Wheeljack. He stood on the upper part of the silent volcano, staring at stars that were unfamiliar to his optics, and wondered if his foolishness had led to the doom of his entire species.
"I made the final choice," Optimus's voice told him, making Wheeljack turn. "Just as you led out from Crystal City into an unknown future, so I have led us here, no matter how accidental it was."
"Who told you that story?" Wheeljack asked, rather than accept that his Commander had made the decision on his bad data.
"Beachcomber. He was one of the ones you saved, if you didn't know it."
Wheeljack let his finials answer that he had not, showing surprise. Beachcomber was a brave fighter, for all that he preferred the life sciences.
"I think, Wheeljack, that your ship you designed, may have brought us into a new, unexplored future that none of us could have imagined. Accept that, and then let your talents loose once more," Optimus encouraged.
"I will, Prime. I will." Wheeljack turned to look back at the unfamiliar skies. He could do this, could find a way to end the war that had gone too long. All it would take would be science, in some application he hadn't yet figured out.