(Click to view the lineup in all its glory!)
Ever since I wrote that meta-essay on gender and female-ness in Transformers, the concept of model-types has been preying on my mind. If femme is only one model type out of thirteen, what are the other twelve? What sociocultural significance, if any, do they have? Physiologically speaking, what even is a model-type?
Despite having many, many better things to be thinking about and doing, I found myself absorbed by the problem. It was certainly a challenging one. After all, there is already a “canonical” system of model types in place for Transformers: Prime. The show has already introduced a version of the original Thirteen Primes as created by Primus to help battle the Fallen, and word of god would have us believe that extant Cybertronian model types are derived from the Thirteen. At first I thought my task would be as easy as examining the in-show art depicting the Thirteen, determining their model types, and naming them.
It wasn’t that easy.
Almost none of the scant few in-show images of the Thirteen show all thirteen of the Primes at once, and none of them offer a particularly good look. Researching the Thirteen further as they’ve been presented in other canons revealed a lot of Primes that I wasn’t interested in using as prototypical model types, mostly because it would conflict with things I’d already established (or planned to establish) as part of my fanon in “Mercenary Medicine”. (The best example of this is the gestalt Prime, Nexus. Gestalts are a result of Decepticon technological innovation during the course of the war in my fanon, and so using Nexus Prime as a prototype for a model was out of the question.)
In the end, I set aside the Thirteen and concentrated instead on developing a system based on the designs of characters in the show. I separated the characters out roughly by size and by alt-mode, ending up with eight little clusters corresponding to what I had been thinking of as model type. Using that as my foundation, I went to work putting together a system that satisfied my personal insistence on “biological” soundness while still remaining recognizably rooted in what we’ve seen over and over again in canon.
It’s taken a lot of effort—and a lot of input from other people—but I think I’ve finally got something I’m happy with. So without further ado, allow me to present my fanon on the thirteen Primeverse model-types.
First things first, a very basic primer on Cybertronian reproduction:
You need three things in my fanon to bring a new Cybertronian into being: a spark, a protoform, and basic programming.
The spark comes from the Allspark, via the catalyst/computer Vector Sigma. Every spark is unique, possessed of a certain intrinsic resonant frequency and an energy level. These two qualities sum into an individual’s spark signature, the intangible and totally unique imprint that identifies individual Cybertronians.
Protoforms, on the other hand, are uniform. They are small, very simply built mechs made of a specific composite of pureforged metal and adaptive nanomachines. They lack any of the identifying features associated with older Cybertronians, such as helms, exoplating, or altform kibble. Protoform bodies are capable of all the basic functions of Cybertronian life—energy consumption and conversion, motility, communication—but not much else.
It’s the basic programming that gives them even those abilities, and it’s the basic programming that determines their model type. Basic, or instinctual programming is the only aspect of producing a natal Cybertronian that its creator has any control over. Based on the spark signature of the new spark—which determines the size of the body that the natal Cybertronian will be able to support in adulthood—the creator chooses a model type of the appropriate size class.
The programming is then installed into the core processor in the protoform, the spark transferred into its chamber, and the protoform brought online. This process is time-consuming and expensive, requiring prospective Cybertronian parents to apply for access to Vector Sigma and a protoform, to compensate the technicians who extract and stabilize the new spark, and to hire a programmer to prepare the protoform for life—and these aren’t all of the expenses involved.
Sparkling Cybertronians are incredibly fragile. They’re smaller than most adult Cybertronians, and when they’re first brought online, they don’t have any exoplating to protect their protoforms. They have to be carefully supervised and handled delicately, although they are incredibly precocious and most outgrow the coddling of their creator(s) mentally long before their bodies are ready.
Most sparklings are voracious consumers of knowledge and novel experience—a large part of raising a young Cybertronian is feeding it raw information on the way the world around it works, seeing what it reacts to, and then giving it practical training in the fields that interest it most.
Or that’s how it works at the top, anyway. By the time the gladiator Megatronus styled himself a revolutionary, most of the mechs found themselves sparked into the lower classes on Cybertron and restrained into very specific professions due to their model type. The Golden Age of all mechs doing what pleased them was gone, buried under the greed and corruption of the elite ruling castes—elite ruling castes that could buy sparks from Vector Sigma and bodies from the programmers in bulk, separating out the most “superior” ones for their own children. The rest were sent to factory-like crèches, where they were raised to fill specific labor needs and expected to work upon maturity to pay back the ‘investments’ of the mechs who purchased their births. Lucky sparklings brought to life this way could get individually placed with parents who couldn’t afford to spark their own children, but the adoption process was convoluted, and in part designed to ensure that the families ‘gifted’ with a sparkling of their own would toe the line and raise “properly productive” members of society.
But history is not the focus of this essay, so let’s leave that aside and get back to the growth and development of young Cybertronians.
Young sparklings grow almost as quickly physically as they do mentally. They’re fed on a diet of pureforged alloy and energon to fuel their physical expansion, which is driven by the nanomachines that are part of their bodies. This is where the basic programming comes into play—without needing any conscious direction from the sparkling, the nanomachines work from day one to gradually shape the body into the somatotype appropriate for the model type the sparkling was programmed to be.
All right, all right, so what is a model type, then? Isn’t it just altmode?
Not exactly. In fact, part of the reason I puzzled over this for so long was because I was deliberately avoiding conflating specific altmodes with model types. It just didn’t make sense for me—for one thing, there isn’t a direct correlation between some of the Earth vehicles Cybertronians choose as altmodes and Cybertronian vehicles. Notice the pan-canon tendency for all the “cars” on Cybertron to be hover-vehicles without wheels?
So in my system, model type is a function of size and general transportation modus. Imagine a chart with two axes: size class and transportation modus. The different model types are broken down into six different size classes along one axis, and split into three categories—flight capable, grounder, and other—along the other.
Altmodes in my fanon are complicated things. A grounder needs a very different body plan and set of coding than a flier to function properly, and anything with a mobile altmode is going to have very different mental and physical requirements than a Cybertronian who’s stationary when transformed. There are different power requirements, different body plans, and different subroutines and algorithms necessary to ensure the proper adoption and function of any given alt, regardless of what its overall modus is.
Model type programming provides the framework a young Cybertronian needs to choose an altmode within his modus. It’s not the alt-mode itself, but rather a narrowing of the choices and an assurance that when you pick your first alt, your body will be able to format to it. You’ll have the right engines, the right frame, the right exostructure, and the right programming.
The thirteen model types are held by popular belief to have descended from the body plans of the original thirteen Primes created by Primus. Whether that’s true or just a religious myth has been lost to history, but nevertheless the thirteen model types have remained distinct, resisting either collapse or expansion into more varied basic Cybertronian forms.
The six grounder modus model types are, in ascending order of size, femme, volante, carozzi, troqus, panzere, and kriodox. Grounders are versatile models, with a number of different alt-mode options available to them: treads, tires, ambulatory, even hover-capability. (Hover-capable grounders differ from flight-models in the maximum output of the power-plants that support their anti-grav mods and in the programming that controls how they maneuver in the air. As a rule, grounders’ subroutines aren’t equipped to handle three-dimensional analyses of trajectory and vector the way flight-capable models can.)
- Femmes are the smallest of the ground models. Exceedingly slender and very lightly built, femmes are very commonly racers—they combine speed and agility in a way that maximizes both qualities, at the expense of much of the size and strength enjoyed by other Cybertronians.
- Volantes are optimized for performance. They’re compact and powerful, well-built machines with formidable power-plants inside to support their high-maintenance bodies.
- Carozzis are very utilitarian. Strongly built and efficient, they’re capable of adapting to almost any terrain they might need to operate in, from urban settings to the untamed wilderness.
- Troquae are very similar to carozzis, only bigger and more powerful. Their overall profile is much the same, but their increased size does mean they lose a little in the maneuverability and adaptability departments.
- Panzeres don’t mass much more than troquae, but they’re built completely differently. They’re massive and robust, built broadly and heavily and capable of supporting heavy-duty armor.
- Kriodox are real powerhouses, outclassing even panzere when it comes to sheer strength. They lack a certain amount of dexterity and finesse, but they’re unmatched on the ground for raw power.
The three flight-capable modus model-types are, in ascending order of size, peregrine, aquilus, and tyton. Flight capables trend bigger than grounders—peregrine fliers are the same size-class as volante grounders, and there’s no flight-capable option in the femme size class. Flight-capables differ from grounders primarily in the size of their onboard powerplants and the complexity of their vector-trajectory algorithms. The altmode options for flight-capable models are somewhat more limited than the options for grounders, but there’s still choice—they can pick between propulsive or anti grav altmodes, and rotary craft are a common alternative, especially as local camouflage on technologically primitive planets. A small number of flight-capables forgo the sky entirely and choose a watercraft or submersible altmode.
- Peregrines are the most high-performance of the three flight-capable models. Tall and slender and strong, they’re optimized for fast and furious aerial maneuvering. Energon Seekers are without exception peregrines.
- Aquilae are more heavily built than peregrines, sacrificing speed and maneuverability for heavier armor and more power. They’re still adept in the air, but less prone to (and capable of) showboating the way peregrines do.
- Tytons are by and away the biggest of the flight-capables. They can be clumsy and straightforward fliers, slower than all the rest; tytons, however, are the only ones who can easily reach orbit unassisted.
There are two non-mobile models: the tiny atrezzis and gargantuan supremes. The only thing these models really have in common is the fact that, though they are generally ambulatory in their root modes, their alts are stationary.
- Supremes weigh in as the most massive Cybertronians in existence. Slow to act, slow to move, and slow to mature, the altmodes chosen by supremes range from orbital space stations to fortresses to powerplants to data libraries. Sparks robust enough to support a supreme body are rare, and before the war it was common to find them stationed off-planet. After all, what could be more useful on a mining colony than an energon refinery that could pick itself up and walk from a dead mine to a productive one?
- Atrezzis, on the other hand, are among the smallest Cybertronians. At the outside, they reach the same mass as femmes, and their altmodes can be anything from microscopes to recording media to weaponry. Because they don’t have to dedicate processing power to the subroutines and algorithms controlling powered movement in an altform, there’s a lot of room for adaptability in the processors of atrezzis, which is why their altmodes can be so varied.
The last two model types are just as rare as supremes, although for somewhat different reasons.
- Triplechangers are capable of taking on two altmodes instead of one. This is a function of their programming—the coding required for a mech to be able to format for multiple altmodes is exponentially more complicated than that necessary to handle just one. As a result, coding and programming protoforms to be triplechangers is more time-consuming and expensive process than the other model types in the same size class, the kriodoxes and the tytons.
- Cambires are the rarest of the lot, and require both a special spark and a specially programmed body to support it. They’re possessed of uniquely unstable sparks, a trait they share with the peregrine subgroup the Seekers in my fanon. Unlike Seekers, though, they’re capable of controlling the fluctuations and resonance of their sparks. Couple this with particularly adaptive programming, and you have a mech capable of imitating other Cybertronians almost flawlessly. Before the war, cambires were prized as performers, particularly in live theater; after the war, they became invaluable spies and infiltrators.
For the most part, the model you’re sparked as is the model you’ll remain, even if your altmode changes. However, reformatting is possible—it’s just a time, resource, and money-intensive process, and one that is not comfortable to undergo.
See, the process of reformatting from one model type to another requires you to strip your body down to the protoform, wipe the basic programming out of your processor, and then upload appropriate coding for your new model in its place. That done, you then have to endure a protracted period of discomfort and vulnerability as your protoform gradually reshapes itself to the parameters of your new model-type. Only when that has been successfully completed will you be ready to don your new exoplating and assimilate an altmode suitable to your new model type.
It’s not a decision to undertake frivolously, although like many expensive and difficult-to-achieve things, reformatting became something of a status symbol among the elite classes on Cybertron at the close of the Golden Age preceding the war. In certain circles, in fact, it was in the vogue to reformat every few stellar cycles, as the process was (rightly) believed to have a uniquely rejuvenating effect on Cybertronian systems.
Ah, but that’s more history, and history is still not what this post is about.
So there it is, folks, my headcanon model-type system. As with all fanon, of course, your mileage may vary, but I’m quite pleased with how this turned out, and intend to start using it ASAP.
Thanks for reading!
Like I mentioned up at the beginning of this post, it was only with the input and assistance of a number of people that I was able to knock this particular bit of fanon together satisfactorily. So I’d like to thank saeru for listening to my first incoherent ramblings on this topic and helping me figure out exactly what it was I was looking for in a model type system. I’d like to thank 6thclone and sniperdusk for helping me come up with the last two model types I needed when I got stuck at 11.
And I owe particular thanks to obfuscobble, who not only let me rant and rave about Cybertronian culture and physiology and how Hasbro sucks at crafting sci-fi but actually encouraged me, who gave me ample food for thought, who helped me shape my final system, who let me pick his brain for names when I stalled out after ‘femme’ and ‘volante’, and last but not least, who provided the wonderful illustrations for this post. I couldn’t have done it without you, Scobble. Thank you so, so much!