A Touch of Human Kindness
by Lady Laran
Visit my website The Writer's Guild
Originally posted at: CrossRoads at the Outer Realms
When I was a child, the original Transformers came out, and I was caught in its thrall. I hardly missed an episode, and was bitterly disappointed when I wasn't allowed to see the movie. Optimus Prime was my hero, and I cried when on the cartoon, Rodimus Prime showed up. To me, the cartoon just wasn't the same. I learned to love Rodimus, but as we all get older, sometimes we forget childhood shows and dreams. Dreams are important to all of us, and when our dreams die, an essential part of us dies. In my lifetime, I have seen so many life altering changes, and have seen the dreams of innocent children dashed and destroyed. We've lost our innocence as humanity. Bigotry, the poison of all things, has corrupted all of us. We've seen incidents like the concentration camps of World War II, all the way up to Kosovo. I've seen the look in the eyes of the children, so bewildered, but what touched me the most was how some look so defeated, while others looked as if the challenge would be met, along with many more. Humanity destroys that which it can not understand. Whether it be ethnic, cultural, religious...bigotry has no bounds. Only when we see with our heart, and not with our eyes, can we truly fight the fear that has us so tightly bound. For we all are equal in one way....we all need a touch of human kindness.
Perceptor looked at Optimus Prime in shock. Surely his leader was not suggesting this? Maybe his audio circuitry was playing up, yes, maybe that was it. He asked a question, hoping he had heard his leader wrong.
"An orphanage? Prime, are you sure about this?"
Optimus Prime nodded. It was past time the brilliant scientist involved himself in rebuilding the confidence of the humans. Many of them were afraid of the Autobots because of the war, and it was a problem Prime meant to fix. All of the Autobots had been busy making new friends all over the country...well, almost all.
While Perceptor was a genius by all standards, the Autobot was a recluse. He avoided everyone and when he was with his comrades, it was easy to see that his mind was working on one theory or another. Most of the Autobots avoided him because they couldn't understand what he was talking about when he did speak.
"You'll go tomorrow. They're expecting you."
At the tone of Prime's voice, Perceptor knew that there would be no arguing with him. So the next morning, he stood near the orphanage in a state of near panic. The children were gathered in a clustered group at the far end of the yard, as far away from him as they possibly could get. They were pushed up against the fence, and no amount of cajoling could coax them from their refuge.
Mrs. Jacobson, the head of the orphanage, looked tired and stressed as she talked to Perceptor.
"I'm sorry. Most of these children were victims of the war. They lost their families in the battle, some were even wounded. Recently, I had noticed the group that had lost so much were bad mouthing Autobots as well as Decepticons. The others picked it up from them. I knew I had to do something to stop this. The Autobots have helped us through so much. That's why I contacted Optimus Prime, these children need to understand what's going on."
One child pushed his way through and placed hands on his hips.
"He's gonna kill us, Mrs. Jacobson. Why'd you let him come?"
"I am not going to hurt you."
Perceptor's voice was drowned out as the children started jeering at him, following the first child's example. Mrs. Jacobson moved to confront the children when Perceptor saw something and moved her out of harm's way.
A dirt clod hit him, which was followed by more rocks and refuse. Names were shouted, many of them bigoted and harsh, and by the time Perceptor managed to escape from the little demons, he was shaken by the whole ordeal.
Upon his return, Optimus Prime noted the scientist's filthy appearance and silent demeanor. He knew what had happened as Mrs. Jacobson had contacted him shortly after Perceptor's departure. Concern filled him and he spoke to the smaller Autobot, who stared at him blankly for a moment.
Perceptor answered Prime's questions vaguely and for the next few days, he avoided his fellow Autobots even more than usual, and when the leader walked by the science lab, he found the scientist staring vaguely into space, something that he never used to do.
"Perceptor, I'm concerned about you."
"Prime, I have never seen or been through anything like it. They were afraid of me and hated what we are. Why are we wasting our time and lives on these humans? They don't appreciate the sacrifices we've made."
"All life is worth saving, Perceptor."
"I am here to study, Prime, not to waste my life defending these creatures who will turn on you in a heartbeat."
Optimus was taken aback by the heated venom in the scientist's voice. This was unlike the Perceptor he knew. This Perceptor was bitter and hard, and Prime knew he didn't like the changes he was seeing.
Prime wandered outside and transformed into his truck mode, driving around while doing some heavy thinking. He was still lost in thought when he met with Dr. Riverstone, an engineer with whom he had been working for many years.
The small Englishwoman stared at him for a second and asked him the obvious question.
"What's on your mind, Optimus?"
Her familiar tone indicated that they had been friends for a very long time, and Prime responded in kind.
"Worried about Perceptor, Jessie. He ran into a horrible example of the human spirit at the orphanage. I had thought it might help him, but it did the exact opposite."
Prime went on to tell her the whole story and when he had finished, she shook her head.
"You'll find a lot of bigotry in this world, not only against your kind, but those of different races, beliefs, and cultural backgrounds. All because they hate what they don't understand, and they won't understand because they refuse to look with their hearts, not their eyes. Perceptor caught humanity at its worst, I'm afraid. Children can be very cruel to each other and to things they don't understand. Harsher reflections of their parents and the culture they've been brought up in."
"Something has to be done about this. I can't leave Perceptor like this when I leave for the moons of Cybertron. You two have to work together on the Autobot City project, and I really hate the way his thinking is going. Knowing your temper, you'd make him very upset, sometimes you two rub each other the wrong way. Anyway, before I get sidetracked by that problem, what can we do to help Perceptor? I don't want to leave him this way."
Jessie propped her elbow on the table and laid her chin on her palm.
"Bigotry has to be fought one person at a time. You're doing what you can to assist us in adapting to your presence, although we haven't done much to help you, have we?"
"I'm afraid I don't understand, Jessie."
She stared off into space for a moment, then smiled.
"I've got an idea. I know someone who can help us."
"My niece, Claire, has asked me several times if she can meet the Autobots. I've been reluctant to agree because it's a huge favor on my part to ask."
"Jessie, you know that I'm always here for you."
"I know, Optimus, but here's why I haven't."
Jessie explained the whole situation to Prime, who found himself in agreement with her, and knew that this child would be the perfect solution for the whole group, not just Perceptor.
The next afternoon, Prime had the whole group assembled in the main room. The others mumbled to each other as they wondered what their leader had planned.
"Our guests have just arrived. I wanted all of you to meet them."
Jessie walked in, and Hot Rod spoke up.
"We all know Dr. Jessie, Prime."
The others agreed, all of them welcoming the woman who had become very popular during her years of working and living with them. Her accent, warm heart, willingness to joke around, and sometimes no nonsense attitude had won the hearts of the Autobots.
"True, you know me, but I brought someone you lot don't know. I'll bring her in, but you have to promise to listen to her story first."
The others quieted down, and Jessie began her tale.
"During the war, my brother, his wife, and child came from London to visit me. They had arrived before it had started, but found themselves stuck here in the States, unable to get home. I had been asked to join a group of Autobots for repairs, and unknowingly left my family in great danger. Their hotel was in the path of destruction, and the Decepticons didn't leave much standing. I returned to find my brother and his wife dead and their little girl seriously wounded. She survived, although her life is now very seriously altered, and has been living with me ever since."
Kup spoke up from the group.
"You never told us this, Dr. Jessie. Why?"
"Well, there was no reason to burden you. The attack wasn't your fault, and I had my hands full with her. I wouldn't have brought it up now, except for one problem. Claire has been asking me, starting long before the war, to meet all of you. Although why she wants to meet such a motley looking crew is beyond my comprehension."
The familiar jibe made them laugh.
"She's been driving me daft lately, knowing that I've been meeting with Optimus a lot to help with the designs. I broke down and agreed to speak to him. She's very hard to refuse. Anyway, Optimus agreed that I could bring her here."
"Well, bring the lass in and let's meet her."
Jessie frowned, and Prime motioned for silence.
"There's a problem. You see, she wants to meet all of you."
Kup interrupted her again.
"That's not a problem, Dr. Jessie..."
"Yes, Kup, it is. You see, Claire lost her sight in that attack. In order for her to meet you, she needs to touch your faces so she can get an idea of what you look like. She and I will understand if any of you don't want to be touched."
Shouts of denial made her break off and, with a smile, she slipped out of the room, only to return a few minutes later with a small girl wearing a pair of jeans, white shirt, and a denim vest. Her long brown hair was bound into a tight french braid, and a backpack was slung over her shoulders. All of the Autobots remarked on how she looked like a tiny version of her aunt, who replied that Claire's father had been her twin brother. The only difference was that the warm hazel eyes stared blankly at them, not seeing their tall forms.
Claire was accompanied by a large seeing eye dog, who was introduced as Duke. The Golden Retriever was calm around the large Autobots as Claire was introduced to Optimus Prime first. Her aunt took her niece's backpack and made the introductions.
All the Autobots watched as the large Prime moved down so the tiny child could run her fingers over their leader's face. They could hear him talking to her softly and soon, he guided her around to each of the other Autobots.
Perceptor watched this, unaware that Jessie was watching him, and he was scared of the small girl. It was that fear that made him head towards the exit, and his fuel pump hammered as he heard Prime call his name.
"It's your turn Perceptor."
There was a note of steel in Prime's voice, and Perceptor dropped to his knees in front of the child.
"Claire, this is..."
"You're Perceptor. My aunt said you're the scientist that's so stubborn all the time. I've been wanting to meet you for such a long time."
The soft voice, with the lilting English accent he loved to hear from Jessie, made him pause. There wasn't any fear in her face, only happiness as she reached out for him.
He couldn't help but flinch as her fingers came near his face, and she seemed to sense his turmoil, drawing back her questing hands.
By Primus, why did I do that?! Now she'll be hurt, and the others will make things worse for me.
Perceptor shut down his optics momentarily, not wanting to see the hurt in her face, the anger in his compatriots' faces, and the disappointment on Prime's face. A soft voice startled him, and he listened quietly to the little girl.
"It's alright, I won't hurt you. I'd like to know what you look like, Perceptor, so I can picture you when Auntie Jessie tells me stories about all of you and how you saved us. I admire all of you very much, you've been my heroes since I can remember. Please?"
He reactivated his optics when he felt her tiny hands grope for his and hold it. He looked down into her small face and found no hatred, just admiration and compassion.
"I know it's hard, Perceptor, being blind isn't easy and most people feel uncomfortable around me. I won't make you do it, if you don't want to."
There was a note of uncertainty in her voice, and something inside of him made him react to it. He guided her small hands to his face and waited motionless as her sensitive fingers traced the lines and contours of his face.
A smile crossed her face as she retraced his face, obviously committing it to memory.
"Don't tell Springer this, but I think you've got a nicer face than he does."
Her words, obviously meant to torture the famous joker, surprised a laugh out of Perceptor and he chuckled merrily with the others.
"You're the last one, am I right?"
"Yes, Claire, I am."
"Actually, I like my friends to call me C.C.."
"Yes, my full name is Caroline Claire Riverstone. Awful, isn't it?"
The droll tone, so like her aunt's, made him laugh again. The next thing Prime and Jessie knew, C.C. was besieged by questions from the group, which she answered patiently. When she answered Perceptor's question about reading, it became known that she had just been to the library and had gotten some books.
Shouts broke out over the room, and Bumblebee grabbed her backpack from Jessie. Once she was told why they wanted her to do this, C.C. laughingly acquiesced to their pleas for a story and Springer offered to let the girl sit in his lap while she read, which started a fight that even Kup and Ultra Magnus got into.
Prime and Jessie watched in amazement as the usually quiet and reclusive Perceptor won that argument, and he carefully placed the little girl in his lap, holding the large braille book for her.
Silence filled the room as a soft, childish voice began to read with the thick accent that all of the Autobots had come to love.
"The Last of the Mohicans...."
Prime and Jessie settled down to listen to the story, and Jessie caught the leader staring at Perceptor. The scientist was wearing his usual look of absorbed fascination as he listened to the child and watched as her finger ran across the page, reading the braille.
"I think things are back to normal, wouldn't you agree, Optimus?"
He responded to his friend in a soft voice.
"Yes, Jessie, your niece seemed to have helped Perceptor. Though I'm not sure how she did it."
Jessie smiled as she leaned against her friend, listening to her niece as she held all of the Autobots in her thrall.
"Like all of us, Perceptor just needed a touch of human kindness."
**********Story and the character Dr. Jessie Riverstone and Claire ©2001 Rayna Santiago
Transformers © Hasbro