Artistic Merit
By Dreaming of Everything, for Mmouse15, my wonderful beta!

Edited 8/11/09 to replace linebreaks that got stripped out--sorry to my very earliest readers!

Sam wandered into the newly-built Autobot rec. room (it still smelled like plastic and glue, it was so new—and the vastness made all of the newness a little lonely, he thought; Bumblebee wouldn't admit to it, but Sam wasn't sure he believed him, and he absolutely hadn't at the very beginning of it all, when the base had been so huge and empty and echoing, with only the four Autobots and the memories of Jazz and Megatron and everyone else and the war to fill it) with no real purpose in mind. Looking across the room showed Bumblebee and—Cliffjumper, he was pretty sure, although enough new mechs had arrived (he'd had no idea there were so Autobots many out there; it was scary to think of those number applied to the Decepticons) that he was starting to have trouble keeping them straight. Trailbreaker was seated with them, with Wheeljack a little ways away, tinkering with something.

It took him a while to cross the room, built to an Autobot's scale. A big Autobot's scale. Sam hadn't understood why the rooms and doors and hallways were so large (some of them dwarfed even Optimus Prime) until Skyfire had shown up, asking to defect. He still scared Sam—they hadn't talked yet (maybe—maybe—because he was avoiding him) and he was a Decepticon and really, really freaking huge. And apparently they got bigger, but Sam really honestly couldn't imagine a city built to house Autobots getting up and walking. It really, really defied human imagination.

As he got closer, he realized the TV (or TV-like thing, as he was pretty sure that Wheeljack had been pretty heavily involved in its installation, and considering what he'd done to the toaster that had been in the human kitchen, and even his own altmode, which Prowl kept on arguing with him about, because it really did not look like a human vehicle anymore, even though it was based off one, technically) was on, and the sounds of—explosions? And singing? And static?

Curious now, Sam sped up his pace a little. He tapped politely on Bumblebee's leg as he drew closer, and the mech chirped a friendly greeting and bent down to pick him up, placing him on the metal arm of the not-quite-couch (a chair for a larger mech, or a stool for one of the really huge ones, which pretty much meant the not-a-Decepticon-anymore-probably Skyfire, at the moment) he was sharing with Cliffjumper.

"What are you watching?" Sam asked, settling in and looking at the screen. Having a visual didn't help. It was still really confusing.

"Cybertronian movies," Cliffjumper said.

"Although I think they're a little different, culturally, from what you humans watch," Trailbreaker said. "They're considered an art form. This is a classic."

Sam turned to watch the screen. A giant purple mech sliced through a little red one with a sword, only to be stabbed from behind by an identical little red one with a sword that matched the big purple one's, making it ridiculously large for his frame.

"This is from just after the war broke out," Bumblebee added after a second, voice still slurred and blurry from the damage he'd taken to his slowly-healing vocal processor (which he wasn't supposed to be using, Sam noted with a measure of annoyance and concern—it was tempered somewhat by memories of how irritating it had been to have his wisdom teeth out, and how the doctor had told him to be quiet and not speak but he'd been able to speak just fine—well, pretty much—so why shouldn't he? Of course, it had hurt really really badly the next day because of the talking) and eyes still fixed to the screen.

"The red ones are Autobots," added Cliffjumper. "Using the sword—that's war—against the Decepticons, who own it, since they're the fighters, traditionally."

"Huh," Sam said, reminded rather unfortunately of the textual analysis he'd been forced through in English. Admittedly, his English class hadn't featured a bunch of little purple robots joining together to form a sword that cut through a building, and then grew even larger, so it cut down the whole city. And then everything crumbled into dust, except the sword, which was now a sort of steel gray and bending in on itself.

After a while (okay, so it was after the sword started an epic adventure through space and Sam had gotten utterly confused and literally had no idea what the hell was going on) Sam made some excuses and left. His head kind of hurt.

Ratchet held his hand out so Sam and Mikaela could step down onto the table, then turned to watch the TV screen still playing with a slight frown. "[incomprehensible]," he said, in Cybertronian.

"What?" asked Mikaela.

"It's a—movie, of sorts. From Cybertron. It's considered a classic, one of the pioneers of the genre, even if it's not very subtle or technologically advanced by today's standards."

Sam peered at the distant screen. There was a giant sword pressing into a planet, which ricocheted and hit another planet, and another, then a sun, then a planet, on and on. Sometime after it got too fast for Sam's human eyes to follow it got thrown into what looked like empty space, and then it blew up. The pieces turned into another little red symbolic Autobot, which started to hit itself. The energon that spattered out turned into stars.

"I believe you saw some of this yesterday, Sam," Ratchet said, sounding happy. "I'll have to put together a package of Cybertronian cultural media—it's a really good idea, I should have thought of it before! Mirage would be a good person to talk to about it, he was quite the patron of the arts before the war hit—"

"Uh, thanks," Sam said, not sounding quiet enthusiastic enough (although Ratchet didn't seem to notice) and Mikaela shot him a sideways look before she was preoccupied by the Autobot transforming into a car that pulled in on itself until it disappeared into nothing.

The next day, Sam almost recognized the movie playing. He definitely recognized the red and purple mechs, who were now pulling each other apart and then tacking bits of the limbs and etcetera that they'd removed onto their own bodies. The medic was acid green and seemed to be melting. It gave Ratchet's color scheme a whole new and highly unpleasant dimension of meaning.

"What's going on?" he asked the nearest mech—Perceptor?—quietly. Another mech a little ways over shushed him loudly, and Perceptor shrugged a little by way of apology, miming quiet. Sam gave up and watched.

When Ratchet sat down next to him, replacing Perceptor—it was his turn on duty—Sam risked asking another question. He was shushed again, but Ratchet ignored the shusher, which was Ratchet all over, really.

"How long is this?" he asked.

"About four days," Ratchet whispered back. "Give or take. In the original. Exposure—the director—got shot, though, so all the sequels aren't very good. They follow the rest of the war."

"Oh," Sam said. Four days of this?

"Did you catch any of that movie the Autobots were watching?" Epps asked Sam as the two of them took a break—Epps was showing him how to shoot.

"Yeah," Sam said, shaking his head. "It was weird."

"Are you kidding? It was fucking fantastic! I can't wait to see more!"

Sam stared at him in amazement for a full twenty seconds before he burst into laughter.

"What?" Epps asked, a little defensive.

"Wait, you're serious?"

"Yeah! It's art!"