He'd suspected from the beginning that it hadn't been real. Being human had been far too easy to get used to.
It was different, yes – he remembered feeling smaller, slower, more breakable, a feeling he could only describe as locked – but not different enough. When he stepped outside for the first time he'd taken off one of his gloves, and felt friction but not the fluid motion he'd expected from organic material.
Even the snow was wrong (though for all he knew, it might have been right). Human skin was more sensitive to extreme temperatures than his own metal; the snow that fell on his hand should have felt colder.
And yet it still turned to water in his palm, sliding out of its crystalline structure into something smooth and uniform, and he'd been too preoccupied to pursue the thought beyond that.
No surprise that the simulation wasn't accurate. Soundwave wouldn't know how a human perceived the world. He had the same template to work from as any of them did; all he could do was modify it, make it less or smaller or sharper and call that human. And yet for a while, that was sufficient.
Prowl looked up to the ceiling; the tree's branches had long since gone bare, forming black gridlines against the grey sky. He recognized the shape of wires and circuits; maybe a human would see branches in a circuit board.
Would it be possible, he wondered, to really experience what humans saw and thought? A human brain had nothing in common with his own processor save its function. They filtered data through different instruments, using senses he might not even possess or lacking those he did.
If he knew how they saw the world around them, maybe, if he knew how they worked…perhaps the receptors could be trained to receive only what he wanted them to receive.
"Someone forgot to open their Christmas present."
"Hmm?" He turned to face the door; Sari peeked out from behind the door frame.
"Your present?" she replied, dragging something slightly smaller than she was (and clumsily wrapped) along with her as she came in. "Y'know, things you give each other on Christmas? I kind of thought we had this part down by now."
"Right," he answered, as she left the door open behind her. "I'm afraid I was lost in thought."
"Thinking later. Presents now," she said, shoving the package in front of her, where its bow fluttered half-heartedly for a bit. "Well? Open it!"
He complied, and the paper fell away to reveal a thin, overbalanced tree, with a cluster of leaves at the top.
"I got you a ficus," Sari explained, rocking back and forth on her heels. "Dad says it lives for a really long time, plus it's good for birds. And you don't even have to water it every day."
He nodded, catching one of the trees leaves between his digits; it was smooth, and cooled by the air coming in through the roof, and so very small. One of the first things he'd noticed about Earth was its scale. Even compared to humans there were so many infinitesimal parts.
He wanted to ask her what the tree looked like to her, what patterns she saw in its trunk and leaves, how the bark felt on human skin. How a human understood this planet, at once so much larger and so much smaller than they were.
But how would she explain what she saw? She'd simply seen it, all her life. It would be like describing transformation to her; if she asked, he probably couldn't. And though they didn't talk about it much the fact remained that her perspective wasn't entirely human, so perhaps she didn't know either.
So instead he thanked her, and began clearing a spot to plant it.