Wow, this is a rather strange piece that I'm not quite sure what to say about. It's one of the few pieces that has made me a bit iffy about posting it….
One of the themes in the current branch of the WE-verse I'm working on, As We Come Together, is that of racism between the Cybertronians and organic species. A very strong topic, and, for many, a very uncomfortable one, but for the WE-verse to have a better semblance of realism, I believe an address of the topic is necessary. It was the classical mindset of Cybertronians that they were "superior" to organic species, and those opinions have stayed with many of the bots, making their integration into life on Earth difficult. Ironhide and Ratchet were among prime examples of carrying baggage from Cybertron's obsolete opinions on organics, though they have worked through much of their issues already. In one of the most recent chapters, though, the issue came to a head between Mirage and a human character. The exchange, to say the least, has stayed with me since then. Those lingering thoughts really pushed me to create a one-shot that underlined Cybertron's opinions on organics to bring home some of the transformers' behaviour in the WE-verse stories. Those Bridges in Between is what became of it all.
I have been humbled in the past by readers' insight and thought-provoking responses to my work, and I hope that I can somehow inspire a similar response through this.
Those Bridges in Between
"To be loved for what one is, is the greatest exception." -Goethe
The greenery taking over the solarium Hound had insisted on being built was verging on a hostile invasion of all available floor, wall, and ceiling space.
Mirage, to say the least, was not pleased by this.
Hound's ridiculous insistence on bringing back organic samples from all the planets and alien colonies he studied had made it a necessity to build a place like this. Plants, as it turned out, did not like the freezing temperatures of Cybertron's moons, nor of Cybertron itself. They also did not like the dark so much, or being kept in stasis chambers for extended periods of time. They were such weak little life forms with such limited potential, disturbingly short life spans... It had taken architects and engineers orns to figure out how to build a place that suited organic needs. Hound had been there every step of the way trying to point them in the right directions, but, alas, like all beings from Cybertron, they were all composed of metal and had only the vaguest idea of what an organic thing needed.
The endeavour had taken nearly three vorns to puzzle over and construct, but eventually a solarium was built. The first solarium ever built on Monoluna. The truth of the matter was actually kind of sad, and somewhat embarrassing, considering towers, spires, and skyscrapers in city centres could easily be erected in a fraction of the time and be several times the size of Hound's tiny little hovel.
The walls and ceiling were built of crystal to let the weak light of their distant sun in; specially designed lights lined the top to make up for the light their star lacked. There was imported dirt from every organic world imaginable, which was wholly disgusting in every respect, and yet Hound seemed to like sitting in it. There was even a fluid-delivery system to supply the blasted plants with water, which was probably the most expensive part of the whole endeavour. No one knew of the sacrifice it was to import pure water in from the colonies. The amount of water the plants needed to survive was shameless. The solarium was even heated to temperatures similar to the planets the plants came from. There was even a special mixture of atmospheric gases pumped in for the smears of green carbon to "breathe".
Primus forbid, plants breathed. What a ridiculous concept.
Everything about the project had made Mirage the laughing stock of the Council. Imagine that- the respected Council Representative of the Planetary Treasury getting laughed at! It had made a fine joke for everyone to ask what mech in their right mind spent so much on something so ridiculous. They had asked if Mirage planned to further colonize the moon, to try and turn it green. In the cruel way that only highly-public figures could be, his fellow Counsellors would remark in thinly-veiled jokes that sparkless, ice-cold Mirage might have liked his little pet anthropologist a little too much. Maybe the Head of the Luna Society was getting a little too attached; maybe he was indulging a little too much to be normal.
If it had not made Hound so happy to keep his plants alive, Mirage never would have indulged in such insanity in the first place. He didn't even want to think about why it was so satisfying to make Hound happy.
But the solarium did make Hound happy.
It made him so happy that he lit up the entire estate with his excitement. He had moved into it upon its completion, making it his home and office. When he was not away on anthropological studies, he worked in there, recharged in there, obsessed in there. He was never happier than to be surrounded by the organic matter that fascinated him so much. Under his care, his plants flourished.
And now the plants were taking over.
"Hound?" Mirage called, pushing back a curtain of greenery that grew down from the ceiling. It was so thick that it blocked out most of the lights, leaving the solarium cast in a dappled green twilight. The distant clamouring he had heard when he first entered stopped for a moment, and then something Hound liked to call a "bush" was parted. Suddenly, Hound's handsome faceplate appeared through the leafy growth, his paint nearly matching the shade of green of the plant.
"Lord Mirage?" he chirped, his soft Centaurie Tetrax accent only adding to his natural charm.
Mirage made a noise of annoyance, staring down his olfactory sensor in the lordly way he was programmed to. "I've been trying to contact you for the last joor. Is your comm. broken?"
Hound tipped his head, habitually looking too innocent to be anywhere near a jaded spark like Mirage's. "Internal or external?"
"Oh…" There was an odd look on his faceplate, like a mixture of embarrassment and anxiousness. "My internal comm. is turned off." He pulled the greenery of the bush around his faceplate as if he were trying to hide whatever was on the other side. To Mirage's knowledge, the only thing on the other side of the solarium was Hound's desk, berth, and personal possessions. Nothing worth hiding.
Employing his best intimidating look as the austere and respected Council Representative of the Planetary Treasury and head of the Luna Society, Mirage tipped the mech a measuring stare. "And why would your internal comm. be off?"
Hound made a funny little noise, shrinking back even more. "I may have been talking to someone and didn't want to be interrupted…"
"A friend from the Youth Sector you were Guardian of?" Mirage enquired, optic ridge quirked.
"Not quite." He sounded nervous.
Mirage dared a step closer, his curiosity intensified when Hound braced himself against the bush as if he meant to keep the smaller mech away.
"Is this mysterious bot some kind of secret lover of yours?" the lordling teased sharply, watching as the green mech flinched. A hint of distant jealousy spurned him thinking he had to share his personal amusement with another bot. It was so much more fun to think Hound was his alone to play with and laugh at.
"She's not a bot," Hound admitted cautiously.
A wave of repulsion wrenched through Mirage as he heard the alien pronoun for an organic female be used. Incredulity did not even describe half the emotion flaring on the lord's faceplate. "Hound, by all the powers of Primus, please tell me that you are not in contact with one of your little organic study projects."
Again, Hound flinched, shrinking away even more. While he may have been taller and broader than Mirage, there was a presence about the lord that made the green mech always look smaller. "She's a good friend of mine…"
"No, Hound, anything but that," Mirage groaned painfully.
The green mech's optics dropped to the floor. "You weren't meant to find out."
"It's an organic."
"She can hear you," Hound protested stubbornly, continuing to use the alien pronoun even as Mirage turned his olfactory sensory up at it.
"Like it could ever understand what I'm saying," the ice-painted mech snorted, intentionally switching to a higher pitch that was beyond anything an organic could comprehend.
Nevertheless, Hound ducked out of the bush, allowing it to snap back in Mirage's faceplate. Low grunting, squeaking noises drifted into the solarium. One voice undoubtedly was Hound's, given away by its metallic twang. The other, though… Mirage was reluctant at first to step around the greenery into Hound's private space, but a morbid curiosity to see the little beast that had captured Hound's attention drew him in.
Hound's shoulder obscured the majority of the screen as he spoke in low squeaks and whistles that could have only been the organic's language. Interestingly enough, Hound also had to use his hands and arms to communicate, moving fluidly in a way that showed he was familiar and comfortable with the alien language. A flash of green-blue skin confirmed the alien as Minerallian. Mirage had seen several pictures of them attached to the invoices regarding imports from the planet.
By the sounds of the conversation, Hound was trying to assure the female of something, but as soon as she caught sight of Mirage looming in the background, she backed away from her screen and starting squeaking fretfully. With a tight-faced glance over his shoulder, Hound doubled his efforts in assuring his friend, but the speed at which he was trying to communicate made him mess up on a few key hand signs. There was a moment of confusion, and then the little alien giggled at her robotic friend's mistake. With one last fearful glance at Mirage, she crept forward, whispered a few whistles to Hound, and then closed the channel.
A few moments of strict silence passed between the two bots, one shifting uncomfortably in wake of being discovered, and the other as rigid as stone.
"What have you done, Hound?" Mirage snarled, optics flashing.
Hound straightened, turned around, but refused to meet Mirage's gaze. Mirage was relentless in his cold stare, a practiced trait he used on many as an intimidation technique.
"I haven't done anything wrong," the green mech said lowly.
"If you didn't think it was wrong, you wouldn't be hiding it," Mirage countered sharply.
"I wasn't hiding it, my lord… I just never saw it as important to tell you about having continued contact. But I guess now you know why you couldn't reach me on internal or external comm.," Hound sighed.
Mirage's mouthplates thinned to a line of pure displeasure. "The Council has strict rules about organic interaction, and you probably just broke all of them."
"She's my friend!" Hound retorted, indignant.
Mirage tossed a hand to the air. "That thing was an organic, Hound. It barely looked evolved enough to hold a proper conversation."
Hound's mood quickly soured. "Tash'arr is not an 'it'. Her species is sexually dimorphic; she is a she."
Mirage cast a look as if Hound had just said something truly disgusting. "Does it matter what that thing defines itself as? You are putting yourself, your studies, and my reputation at risk by continuing unmonitored contact with its species."
"We trade with them, though!" He motioned to the delightful rainbow of glittering stones mined and refined on Minerallia that hung from his front, strung together with braided metal thread, their magnetic ends stuck to Hound's metal. There was no doubt that they were beautiful works of alien art.
"We trade through the Council, and everything is monitored so we do not have to risk extended contact with them," Mirage countered. "Are you on the frtiz or have you simply deleted half of your common sense files? You were given strict instructions to break contact with the planet as soon as your studies were over! If anyone finds out you've remained in contact, they can take you away and reprogram you! They could even delete every memory of the species right out of your memory banks!"
Hound grimaced, his faceplate falling as the truth of the matter hit home. "I didn't think it was such a big deal. I stayed with Tash'arr and her family during the vorns I was on Minerallia. They let me watch as her grandparents grew, then her parents were born and had offspring of their own; I was present when Tash'arr was born and she has always known me as family. What harm could there possibly be in keeping in contact with someone who sees me as a brother? I am not affecting their evolution with what I am doing. I am careful about revealing too much of our technology. All we do is talk."
"Listen to yourself, Hound! Do you know how ridiculous you sound? That alien sees you as a brother? You are part of its family? That in itself is doing damage to them! Who knows what goes through their processors- urgh, or whatever they have for processors-,"
"They call them brains," Hound intoned darkly, mouthplates pursed.
"'Brains'," Mirage repeated scathingly, rolling his optics. "Who knows what thoughts run through them when they look at you! Maybe they see you as some kind of god, or a monster, or worst of all, they simply see you as some walking, talking metal toy. There's no way they could ever possibly comprehend what you are, where you come from, or even how long your lifespan will be compared theirs. They're absurdly primitive compared to us."
"That is where you're wrong," Hound said, fists clenched. "You never lived with them as I did; you never got to know them on an individual level. The Minerallians are a kind, smart, clever species! Yes, they may not have our life spans or our abilities, but they have gifts in other areas. They've discovered things we have never even dreamed of! They are different from us, but in no way are they inferior."
A disbelieving snort rattled from Mirage's vents. "I wonder what such an un-evolved species could have possibly discovered that we have not."
"Music, for one!" Hound shouted, spinning around to tap rapidly into the personal computer on his desk. In a matter of astroseconds, a strange series of notes floated over the speakers. Whistles and carrying tunes, matched with alien words Mirage couldn't begin to understand. "Jewellery, for another!" he waved his hand towards his chest, to the optic-catching jewels dripping from him. "They've developed medical treatments, a writing system, countless other things! There is so much about them that you're missing because all you see is that they are organic and nothing more!"
"Some pretty noises, shiny rocks, and the knowledge to keep themselves alive, and you think they're our equals?"
"You're missing the point! I would have thought after vorns of being my sponsor, you would have learned something from my anthropological studies! Just because a species is made of different base elements, doesn't mean they're less than us. Organics are not just amalgams of carbon; they have wonderful personalities, abilities to learn and grow and change with their environments. They may not be like us, but that's the beauty of it all; they don't have to be!"
Unable to help himself as he watched Hound rant and rave with the passion he threw into all his beloved projects, Mirage reached out to touch the green mech's faceplate. Hound stuttered into silence, taking in the chips of ice that had become of the lordling's optics. Mirage's words were scathingly bitter when he spoke. "You are so naïve."
Hound jerked away. "You are so narrow-minded."
Reluctant to admit any weakness, he wasn't programmed to swallow his lordly pride, it took a lot for Mirage to steady his spark and say, "Perhaps you're right." His optics did not waver, did not blink nor look away. No matter what others said of him, Mirage was forever going to be a formidable lord and Council member. "I was brought online aware of every major opinion of Cybertron, and it's hard to dismiss that core programming, even when my closest friend shows me evidence otherwise. I am programmed to be the way that I am."
The soft spark in Hound made his tense frame relax, his faceplate gentling into a sympathetic expression. "You know I'm right."
Mirage shook his head. "I said perhaps. That is not a definite answer."
"There is so much more to the universe than what we've seen on Cybertron. It may be messy and noisy and organic, but the worlds out there are alive and diverse and so much more interesting." He took Mirage's hand as a symbol of his hope. "When I leave for my next expedition, you could come with me. I'll show you how organics really are. They're not as primitive as you think. Give them a chance, and they can surprise you."
Mirage pulled his hand free, looking away. "I don't think it's that simple," he moderated.
"But it is!" Hound insisted.
"It's not." Ice-blue flashed under the special overhead lights as Mirage tried to turn away. "Everything about them is just so soft and disgusting and-."
"Look passed that!"
"To what? What else is there?"
Hound grasped both Mirage's hands between his own, appealing to the lord with pleading optics. "Look to their sparks."
"They have no sparks."
"They do, just not like ours. Every living creature has a spark inside them, no matter how differently it manifests. If you came with me, I could show you." He dared a tempting little smile, bringing Mirage's delicate hands to his forehead, rubbing the warm metal. "You could learn to see passed the fleshiness like I did. Maybe you could love them as I do."
"Love them?" Mirage repeated incredulously, jerking his hands away as if Hound had burned him.
"Yes, I- oh…" Hound fluttered with vague embarrassment. "I may have only been gone for two vorns to you, but to the Minerallians, I've been with them for generations. They love me as one of their own, and I love them. If you came with me, you could love them, too. There's nothing wrong with it."
Mirage matched Hound's gaze for nearly a full breem, trying to understand what he saw in the green mech's optics. When no epiphany of understanding came to him, Mirage's mouthplates curled into a disbelieving smile. "You really mean it, don't you?"
Hound's optics flashed, mouthplates parting slightly. "Mean what?"
"That you love them, these organics. You actually love them."
"Of course I do."
"Not like pets."
Hound made a flustered noise, shaking his head. "Never like pets. I care for organics as I would care for one of my own species."
"Enough to risk your function? Risk your own memory banks, to the Council?"
Hound shook his head. "I don't see it as a risk at all. The Minerallians are intelligent, sentient, loving beings; they saw me for what I was and still accepted me into their world and families. I don't see why I can't do the same thing."
"They can't love you like a Cybertronian can," Mirage countered quietly.
"How do you know if you've never given them a chance?"
A dangerous, possessive flash crossed Mirage's faceplate. He was a lord, a Council member. If ever one of his fellow Council members ever heard of this… He had spent every orn protecting Hound from the brunt of ridicule their world flung at him for his eccentricities in his field. He had taken the mech under his sponsorship because there had been something about his eagerness, his naivety. Chance after chance Mirage had given Hound, indulged him, played into fantasies… He did not wish to consider what would become of that enchanting smile, the glow in his optics, the happiness that always glimmered like an aura around him, if the Council stripped him of all his memories of organics and sent him back to Cybertron to be a Guardian at a Youth Sector once more.
He raised a hand as if to swipe Hound across the face, causing Hound to flinch away in fright. Mirage never hit him, though. He would never hit such a sweet spark as Hound. His touch was harder than he meant, but there was too much emotion pent up behind his lordly exterior to control it all. He dragged their frames together. Not just their faceplates, but their whole frames. They fit together perfectly, like two puzzle pieces. An embrace that was tight and demanding, yet utterly perfect between two Cybertronians, two beings of the same origin whom understood each other and could be all things the other could ever need.
Hound's metal was warm, slick from a thin sheen of condensation collected from the humidity in the air. Mirage was still ice cold from the frigid atmosphere of Monoluna. Long fingers slipped beneath Hound's plating, tangling in sensitive neural wires, petting, stroking, making it clear that their relationship was not just that of lord and subject.
Mirage owned Hound.
"How do you expect an organic to love you like this?"
Hound stood frozen for a long time, air rattling in his vents unsteadily. He had always held a fondness for Mirage, a strange understanding that had culminated from their professional relationship and transformed into something he could no longer pin down. The looks Mirage would sometimes shoot him after a fine game of hunting turbo-foxes…it was obvious the lord felt something as well. Hound's assumption that social status was enough to keep them from pursuing their personal feelings was clearly wrong.
Mirage's clever, sharp fingers felt good beneath his plating.
"Love is not merely a physical thing," the green mech stuttered, even as his arms came up to encircle the lord, bringing their frames even closer. "And it's not just for lovers, either. Family love each other; friends love. Lovers are not all there is to be."
Mirage shivered, finding he liked the way lovers sounded when Hound said it. "What difference does it make? It's all the same on principle. It might not be all physical, but you know damn well that it does play a part; how is family to greet each other, friends to hug, or lovers to interface, when they are from two radically different species? You could so easily crush an organic without even thinking about it." He moved his hand up, feeling Hound's insides heat up, an electric vibration passing through him. "They could never do for you what one of your own could."
"You're right. Pursuing any kind of relationship with an organic would be limited in some ways, but not in all ways. If someone were determined enough, they could find other ways to express their affections." Hound's arms tightening around Mirage. The heat radiating off him was warming the icy mech's cold exterior, but Primus only knew how much he could melt the ice of Mirage's interior. "How physical a love has to be all depends on the relationship itself. Love doesn't have to be physical at all to be felt by the spark."
"But they're or-."
"Organic. I know." Hound laid his faceplate to the top of Mirage's head, rubbing the smooth surface of the now-lukewarm metal. "What makes anyone's outward appearance more important then the spark inside?"
To this, Mirage had no reply, suddenly tired of repeating the same thing over and over.
For endless moments, they simply stood in each other's embrace. This was the turning point in their partnership, relationship, that would make it so that they would never quite be able to look at each other the same way. Temporary lust, deepening friendship, more…?
Eventually, an alert popped up before Mirage's optics to remind him of his busy itinerary. With a heavy sigh, he backed out of Hound's arms, looking around himself at the burgeoning organic world Hound was creating for himself. There was no more beauty to it now than there had been when Mirage first entered. To Hound himself, Mirage had no doubt the solarium was exquisite.
A thin finger reached out to touch a richly green leaf, the same colour as Hound's paintjob. Its small, weak presence held no wisdom for the lord to absorb. Mirage dropped his gaze to the leaf-scattered floor, and then peered up at Hound from under the ridge of his crests. "I will never see what you see in organics." It was almost like an apology.
"Maybe some orn…?"
Mirage shook his head sadly. "I don't think I'm capable of seeing otherwise. They're not like us, and never will be; we have nothing in common." He waved a hand in the air to show how insubstantial it all was. "There are no bridge in between."
Hound sighed, but not in defeat. His optics glowed warmly as his mouthplates curled up in a hopeful little smile. "There will never be any bridges if we don't build them first."