"So you wanted to be a hero, eh?"
Dinobot turned on his optics. "Huh?"
"Going out in a blaze of glory..." The white and green mech shifted on the rock, currently making out for a chair.
Dinobot sat up, dazed, looking at the strange robot. Last he remembered, he was... he was... Dying?
"Yes!" Dinobot started, looking up on the other mech. "You're dead, Dinobot. Terminated. Shut down. Croaked. You have, as the humans say, kicked the bucket."
"Then why... how..."
"Why are you aware? How are you talking to me?"
The mech smiled, fluidly rising to his feet. "Did you believe in life after death, my friend?" A pair of green optics gleamed merrily at him.
Dinobot snorted, slowly regaining his haughty air. "Whether I believed or not is not important right now, as it obviously exists. I don't--"
"How do you know that?"
The small smirk on the mech's face grew to a maddening grin. "This could be your last thoughts, you know. A soothing illusion, created by your battle-weary mind, in that last fraction of a nanoclick where all life seizes, but the spark has yet to leave."
"If this was a soothing illusion," Dinobot hissed, rising to his feet, "a nuisance, such as yourself, would not be present!"
"Ah, touché," the mech admitted, pointing one green-striped finger at the warrior. "But then again, you like to quarrel, do you not?"
Enough of this slag! "Who are you?!"
The grin, if possible, widened. "I could be your dream. Or maybe I'm not. That is the nature of our discussion, after all. But for posterity's sake, you may call me Sagacicous."
Dinobot snarled deep in his throat. "Humble, aren't you?"
Sagacicous meekly folded his hands before him, tilting his head sagely, in some inane parody of an earthen monk. "I merely state the truth, my friend."
"Truth? You call these idiotic questions you insist on asking me truth?!" Dinobot demanded hoarsely.
"Yes. I do." The mech chuckled, pacing around Dinobot, keeping, the warrior noted, out of range. "But then, if I really am just a figment of your imagination, it's obviously thoughts you must have untangled, figured out, before truly passing away."
"Whether or not I believed, or still do, in life after death?"
"Ah, but those are just the preliminary questions. We haven't gotten to the tough ones yet." Sagacicous settled on another rock.
Dinobot noticed the starry sky above. For some reason he averted his eyes to the ground, only to look up into those cheerful, green optics. "And if you're not? A figment of my imagination, I mean. If you're real. Why should I answer then?"
"Then I would be the Gatekeeper, and the questions I must ask, necessary for your entrance to the Matrix!" Sagacicous crowed triumphantly.
Dinobot snorted in annoyance. "I see. So. Ask your questions."
"You've yet to answer," the mech countered. "Did you - or do you - believe in the afterlife?"
Dinobot decided to give him what he wanted. "Yes..."
"What does it matter why?!" Dinobot exploded. "I answered your question, now give me another!"
Sagacicous' grin faded to a smirk. "I just did. Why?"
"Because..." Dinobot groped for an answer. "Because I don't want to become oblivion," he finally said, repeating words he'd heard said one night, an eternity ago.
Himself, cold, demanding. How can you believe in such idiocy as Paradise in a simple device? That's all the Matrix is, after all.
Cheetor, softly, wistful. Because I don't want to become oblivion...
"And why would oblivion be so bad?"
Dinobot narrowed his optics at Sagacicous. "What do you mean?"
"If it is oblivion when you die, life simply ending, fading into nothingness, why is that considered bad?"
"Who wants to disappear?"
Sagacicous smiled mysteriously, and pushed away from the rock, starting to pace again. "I could name a few. Well?"
A snarl crossed Dinobot's features. "Well, I don't want to disappear!"
"Very well," the mech said quietly, tilting his head as if committing the answer to memory. "Next question, a simple one. Have you lived your life properly?"
A pause. "What?"
Sagacicious heaved a weary, yet amused sigh, and repeated, "Have you lived your--"
"I heard you the first time! What do you mean, properly?"
"I mean properly! Have you lived up to the full validity of your morals, your code of honour?"
"Yes!" Dinobot immediately snapped.
Sagacicous glanced at him askance, smirking. "Have you really...?" Before Dinobot could answer, the strange robot continued. "So you regret nothing?"
"We all have regrets."
"But over all, you've made no great decisions that went against your so called honour, or that you later regretted?"
About to snarl another negative, Dinobot caught himself. He had, hadn't he? "We," he began, faltering. "We all make mistakes. It is our nature."
"Ah! But is the very core of honour not to go against our primitive, brutal nature?"
"You can't expect people to be perfect!"
"I expect nothing of the sort. I simply asked a question. Kindly answer it, my friend."
Dinobot glared at Sagacicous before growling. "I suppose..."
"What?" the stranger asked mockingly. "What was that? Such an honourable creature as yourself, my friend. Surely you have a better answer!"
The warrior sighed. "Yes. Yes, that is the core of honour."
"Good boy!" Sagacicous beamed. "Repeating everything I say!"
Dinobot spun to snarl a warning, but the words died in his throat as he saw Sagacicous looking at him, a finger lifted in reprimand.
"Ah-ah, Dinobot," the strange mech told him. "Let's not resort to threats." He lowered his arm and started to pace again. "Have you ever loved, my friend?"
Sagacicous shrugged. "Loved. Doesn't matter how. Platonic, non-platonic, whatever. Have you loved?"
"I... There were always other things."
"And those were?"
Dinobot looked at the ground, feeling suddenly very bleak.
"The battle; the honour."
"So... honour got in the way of love?"
"Are you saying I should've had no honour at all?" Dinobot snapped before Sagacicous even finished the sentence.
"No, of course not! But there is such a thing as too much honour, my friend. Too much devotion. If you let one task overshadow your life, what life is that, then?"
"A good life," Dinobot snarled defiantly, desparatly trying to believe it himself. "I needn't be weakened by some cumbersome femme, hanging on my arm, who'd leave me for the next mech, any--"
"'Tis better to have loved and lost, than never loved at all," Sagacicous mildly cut off. "And I said, platonic and well as not. If not a female, then a friend?"
Dinobot silenced, mulling this over. Yes, he did have - or had had - friends. Megatron had been a friend once, but the desire for power... Dinobot swallowed. And there were others. But his cold, his fury, his distrust had shunned them. Except... except... But were those really friendships he'd shared with the Maximals? No...
You fought well, my friend...
There's gotta be something we can do...
... It's good to know where ya stand...
Yes. Yes, of course it was.
The warrior's head snapped up. "I-I have had friends. Few, but friends none the less. Yes, I've had friends. I've... loved."
Sagacicous smiled softly. "Very good. Next question."
Dinobot snorted. "What? No further expansions?"
The white robot didn't answer, only smiled. "Have you killed?"
"What a stupid question!"
"Of course I have! What worthwhile warrior hasn't?"
For the first time, Sagacicous seemed mournful. "And this is to you a matter of course?"
"Well - yes."
"And their lives? What they had yet to do? What they'd done? Who they left behind? This didn't bother you?"
Dinobot opened his mouth, only to close it abruptly. "If... if they had so much, they shouldn't have gotten in my way," he finally tried.
"And those who had no choice?"
Dinobot didn't answer.
"Now does it bother you? Or did you lie before? Did it always bother you?"
"Yes. Yes, it always... I just didn't want to think of it." The warrior lowered his head.
Sagacicous stood still, nearly whispering, "We never do, my friend. We never do." A deep breath, the voice stronger. "Do you regret these deaths? Do you often think over what could've been done differently, so that they may still have lived?"
Dinobot nodded silently.
A hand settled on the warrior's shoulder. "You hide it well." There was a note of saddended amusement in Sagacicous voice.
"Can we move on?" Dinobot demanded gruffly, brushing the other mech's hand away.
"Of course," said mech conceded. "Do you want to live again?"
Dinobot blinked, looking in wonder at Sagacicous. "I can? Live again?"
"I didn't say that," Sagacicous corrected. "I merely asked if you wanted to. Think well, my friend."
And Dinobot complied, silencing for a while. Sagacicous waited patiently. Finally the Predacon-turned-Maximal looked up. "I don't know."
Sagacicous raised what passed for his eyebrows. "You died with a clear conscience?"
"And... you still do not know?"
"No... but... But I don't think so."
The mech seemed pleased. "Very good. Last question, now."
Dinobot sighed in relief, and Sagacicous chuckled.
"Now, Dinobot. Were you a hero?"
Dinobot stared at him. "Huh?"
"I know you are a hero. As you said, you died giving your life for others. But were you a hero in life?"
"I... don't understand."
Sagacicous sighed tiredly. "What is the nature of heroism?"
"To-to help..." the Maximal tried hesitantly.
"Is that it?" Sagacicous asked in a tone that suggested that he was about to rip the answer to shreds. "Even the maniac Galvatron helped others at times. Does that make him a hero?"
"No!" Dinobot immediatly snapped.
"Then what else?"
"To defend to weak."
"To be willing to..." Dinobot faded for a second.
"To die so that others may live," he finally said. "To be willing to give your life for others."
"Wrong!" Sagacicous suddenly snapped, making Dinobot jump. "This, my friend, is one question I know the answer to, and you are wrong!"
"Well, what is it, then?"
"It is not to be willing to give your life for others; it is to have done so. A hero, my friend, has no life."
"What?" Dinobot stared at him like he was insane. And that, Dinobot suspected, could very well be the case.
"A hero must always be the one who is perfect, who can do everything. If someone cries, he must rush to their aid, giving no regard of himself. If someone bleeds, he must cover their wounds in his own bandages, regardless of his own hurts. If someone starves, he must die of hunger before letting them expire. A hero cannot choose his own life or destiny, my friend. It is not a blessing to be a hero, but a curse. Do you understand?" Sagacicous' voice had turned almost pleading, begging for Dinobot to see.
"Yes," the warrior answered, wondering. "I think I do."
"Were you then, now you know its nature, a hero in life?"
Sagacicous smiled, looking squarely into Dinobot's optics. "Do you wish to die?"
"Didn't you just--"
"Do you wish you were a hero in life?"
Dinobot took a deep breath and answered firmly, "No."
"Good. You see, Dinobot," Sagacicous told him, framing the warrior's face with his hands, "a hero cannot choose his own life, nor can he choose his own death. If others call for him to be alive, he cannot be otherwise." The strange mech smiled, as Dinobot's vision darkened. "And now, my friend, the rest really is silence..."