Transformers (Botosphere): You Are Not Forgotten
by Ironraven, edited by BabyBeaver, with insight and approval from the Botosphere (because I'm that good. :) ) If you haven't read their work, you should. You really should- it will help this make sense. This is set either between chapters six and seven or shortly after seven of Introductions: Sarah Lennox.
-Diego Garcia, NEST Hanger One
I look over at the source. A human- they all look the same to me, within two statistical standard deviations. But he shines like a beacon, having taken our mark, made it part of his flesh; even through the camouflage uniform I can see it. I have orders to treat this one with respect and courtesy due senior operation rank, on par with Ratchet or Iron Hide, but I respect anything that small who could kill Blackout at hand to hand ranges.
While the heat is well within tolerably operational parameters, he is venting metabolic waste fluids through his skin for cooling. Messy. "Yes, Major Lennox?"
"Could you come into my office?"
I reflect for one point two of the local time measurements called 'seconds'. I have no duties, I merely have no place else where I must be so I have stayed at the hanger to tend my blades. I know of no regulation I could be in violation of; if I were, Ironhide or Prime would be talking to me. I see only one way to avoid this. "I will not fit in your office."
His optical sensors roll upward. It makes my gears wobble queasily when I see that- no proper sentient should have optics that mobile. Primitive. Poorly designed. Squishy. "Use your holoform. That is why you have one."
It leaves me vaguely unclean, but I give in. The figure is based on a composite of what I have found the dominant human cultural grouping that inhabits this island to consider attractive in a male. How I hate their global network- it is slooooooow. I 'surf' it at the maximum possible speeds, and still I could split a 'Con in two in the time it takes to load a few thousand words of text. I put my blades away, then spin the figure of hardlight into being, running the continuity tests on the sensing and communications systems.
Lennox looks at it, and nods. "It looks good, but the eyes need work. I see you like Italian suits."
"They suit me." Almost. I am proud of my appearance. Even in the crude form of a human, I will be beautiful. My parents were designers. My brother was.. By Primus' gears, no! My brother IS an artist!
I flush my cooling systems, the vents and fans fluffing loudly, cooling my components.
I see Lennox look at me oddly for two point eight seconds, then blink. He had seen my fear. I am ashamed. I am ashamed he saw me weak. I am ashamed he saw me doubt my brother's continued light. I see... something I do not recognize, on his face. Or maybe I just don't want to.
Sunny is an artist. I am the black petrocat in the family, I worked mostly in the 'softer media' and martial arts, but my blades are precision tools and works of art. To the poor humans, they must look like dully gleaming metal, but they are engraved with figures the size of only a few cells of most of the life on this planet. I can see them clearly, we all can, they are the faces of those who have fallen in battle. My allies, my friends. So many of them.
The lines create a abrading/cutting surface at the molecular level, making my blades sharper than a sliver of monocrytaline boro-silica. Even energon, when given form, is too coarse to fill the grooves. Any one can work in the bigger shapes- even Sunny. But true art approaches the molecular scale. But I am not limited to the tiny- conceptual art, shaped sensations and dreams, were once how I earned my living. It was an art of pure being, true thought, without form or structure. Now, my medium is Decepticons- is by far the most satisfying one I've ever worked with.
"Come on." He gestures with two fingers as he turns to walk back to his office. I follow him. When we reach his office, he gestures for me to close the door as he sits on the edge of his desk.
"Why did you wish to speak to me in private, Major Lennox?"
"Relax. You aren't in trouble. I want to talk."
"You may do so."
He snorts. I was trying to irritate him; I always hit what I aim at.
"Your anger caused you to make a mistake. That is why I want to talk to you."
He is holding his arm away from his side, protecting the still healing ribs. I didn't see him get damaged, I was letting a 'Con assist me with an interesting variation on the performance piece I call 'death by Sideswipe'. It is always a crowd pleaser. But I know that the human designated Salani was offlined, and Major Lennox, Ironhide and Skids damaged. In analysis, I broke formation and attacked on my own. I left them unsupported.
I only fight with one at my side: my brother. Anyone else will slow me down. I told them. It isn't my fault. They aren't my brother. They aren't. They can't react fast enough to keep up with me. They aren't good enough to be safe with me.
Ratchet and Arcee both yelled at me. They showed me the recording of Spitfire threatening Ironhide. I can understand her at least at least as well I do her mate. If Major Lennox should fall in battle, I sense she would stand with us. The Decepticons would fear her. Her potential rage is beautiful. That is why I volunteered to get her and their sparkling. Six point seven billion humans, and there is only one whose mind operates like mine.
Prime threatened me with the brig, but he knows it doesn't matter. He can put me in a cage. He can encase me in molten lead or drown me in liquid methane. I can not be punished further without my brother being slain; his death scream would echo across our sparkbond, it would be the last thing I felt. Our spark split, we are quantum twins. We are one. If he is extinguished, so will I be.
I do not know where he is. I do not know if the 'Cons have captured him again. If they are torturing him again. If I knew... If I knew, I would conduct the rescue mission on my own if no one else would join me. And if I died in the attempt, at least he would be beyond suffering. I would free him, one way or the other, if only I knew. That is the terror that makes my spark scritch with static at times.
I know I wouldn't survive if he was offlined, but I... I have begun to doubt. I worry that I'll never see him again. There are cases were a twin was damaged, mentally, reduced to a pre-sentient state, barely aware of the universe around him, little more than servomechanism. Less than a drone. I want to hate myself for doubting, for my fears, but it has been many hundreds of local orbital cycles since he was last seen.
"'Hide and Ratchet told me about Sunstreaker- I don't think I can understand what it is like for you, but I've got friends who never came back." He looks bitter for a second. "Just like I can't fully understand what my wife went through when she was thinking I was dead. I remember seeing her, almost without spark, and then coming to life when I got out of 'Hide's cab.
"Look, I'll be blunt with you- man to mech. I need you to keep it together. NEST has a psychiatrist assigned to the support staff, he's cleared to know of your existence. I could arrange for you to talk to him if you want. But you need to get yourself together and work as part of the team, or you are a liability to the mission. I will have you sitting here, out of the fight, even if your duties are just to count the grains of sand on the beach."
As if a human mental health professional could understand me. "They should not have spoken of my twin."
"The Pit they shouldn't have." He is still relaxed, despite his words. Lennox looks at me with pity. "You are terrified that he'll come, and he'll be a ruin, his spark shattered and his mind gone. Or that he'll never find you, and you'll go to the Pit alone. Or he'll go to the Pit without you. Killing every 'Con in the universe won't bring him here any faster, but right now, you are almost as dangerous as a Decepticon. You know what Arcee calls you."
It is a statement, not a question. "The Silver Psychopath."
"Your problem is, you think you are alone. As a being with digital memory, you shouldn't forget that you aren't. Ironhide and Ratch' also told me you weren't always like this. That you've changed; they think that if your brother was here, you'd be more like your old self. That you'd be healthier. I can't put your spark at ease. But I can help you, help yourself."
He speaks our words properly when he uses them. Not just the sounds, translated into his language, but he feels them, he isn't simply repeating them back like a recording device. He also doesn't use them to prove something, uses them normally. He is one of us. I see that. There are two humans who understand. And the one the others call The Boy. Some of other warriors and technicians of NEST are getting there, slowly. There may soon be more humans who understand Autobots than there are Autobots.
That is not an emotionally satisfying observation.
"I'm going to email you information for a number of mental health groups, including a lot of self help exercises. Us squishies know a few things about combat stress. Ratchet has looked over all of it. And he approves. Optimus approves." He is holding something out in his hand. "This is from me. I thought... you'd appreciate the sentiment. Sometimes symbols help us remember why we are fighting. Hopefully it will help you remember who you are, and who you are fighting for."
I look at it. I have seen this image before in passing. Usually at about two hundred fifty miles an hour. I take the glossy film in my hand. I search, waiting almost a full half second for their network to tell me what I want to know. And I want to know more. I transfer resources from the normal Autobot communications signals, flying through their planetary datanet in a dozen different directions. In twenty-one point four seconds, I have gathered enough to know that like us they ache for those who share their spark, their brothers, lost and missing. I have to say the words aloud to be sure I properly understand them. "You are not forgotten."
I say it again in Cybertronian, using Bumblebee's translation matrix, and a second time using transliteration. It means the same thing all three ways. Sunny.
Sunny. The last time I saw my brother, we were escaping from a prison camp. We'd been disarmed, maimed, and experimented on by Soundwave. The Decepticons had few twins, and even before the war the bond of twins was a half understood, half mystic event, much less well explored than the sparkbond of mates. They had tortured us, to see if the other felt it. They had one of the poly-sculptures we had created together. There had been so few. And they slowly filed it to nothing, while they watched. While they watched me to "study" my reaction- they enjoyed it. Other times, they made us fight each other or other prisoners; there wasn't lie of science in that, they were betting on us openly. And when we escaped...
We were separated. We had been able to take two blades from a guard, Sunny had one, I the other, and we were at either end of the column of escapees. If I'd been watching... If I'd been paying attention... I wanted to escape, he wanted to escape, I thought he was with us when we reached the shuttles. I thought he was. I swear I thought he was. I would never leave my brother behind. I would never abandon him, Sunstreaker is my right hand and I his. I didn't know until we had blindly jumped through the star bridge. I didn't know. I left my brother behind.
I abandoned Sunstreaker. I didn't mean it. I didn't want to do it. I'd have held the shuttle, slag the others, if I'd known. I'd have stayed behind. I wanted out, but not like that, not without Sunny. They had to restrain me, to hold me down. In a few minutes, we were lightyears away. I didn't know it at that time, but we'd gone to a nexus of Decepticon star bridges. We jumped away again, going anywhere but there. They'd held me down, forced me into stasis before we jumped a third time. Away from Sunstreaker.
I've seen the others look at me. They don't say anything. They never let it show. There are those who think I left Sunstreaker behind to save myself. Those who had friends and mates and and siblings and younglings and mentors in that camp, who I left behind. What do they want from me? Primus! I knew they were with us. I used to wish one of them would say something to me. Yell at me. Hit me. For leaving the mechs they loved behind, to save my own pretty aft. So that it wouldn't sound like I was defending myself when I told them things starting with 'I didn't know' or 'I thought'. So well they hide their loathing and their fear of me. They can't trust me. They are afraid I'll leave them behind, that I"ll sacrifice them, to.
I look at the image. The wire, not unlike the one around our camp. The towers didn't have mechs in them, just sensors and heavy weapons and shield generators. There would have been mines outside that wall, just like outside my wall. I can see how our heads were bent in the image, with the pain and the fatigue that replaces fear and despair.
I look at the human commander. I've been still for more than three of their minutes. "Iron Will."
I have never called the human by his Autobot name. I wanted to scream the first time I learned he was considered one of us; I thought Prime had lost his mind. He smiles. The movement of his oddly motile face is not dissimilar to how a Cybertronian's facial plates would have shifted even before we tried to adopt forms more like them. We are different, but we are alike.
It is a gift. There is no requirement, only a silent expectation that I will appreciate it, even wear it when appropriate. It is something small, almost meaningless from a material perspective. This 'bumper sticker' cost more to send to the island than it did to print a hundred of them. But as a symbol, it has meaning. The humans would say 'it's nothing', meaning that it has more meaning than any physical value. It is the kind of thing the member of a clan might give to another.
I look at Major Lennox, seeing the energy echo of our mark thrum in my vision with his life beat. It is a small spark, but it is a spark. "Thank you, Iron Will."
"You're welcome, Sideswipe"
"You want me to wear this?"
"If you wish."
I study the design. In my mind, it shifts- changing the human silhouette to a Cybertronian one. To Sunstreaker in profile. I discard that notion- it would dishonor their warriors. I keep it the as it is, but with an addition.
I'm laying in the late afternoon sun, recharging and thinking, when Iron Hide approaches. I can feel the sweep of an active sensor along the aft of my altform. It is a rude of him, but Hide's form of battle is as crude as the energon he prefers. He squirts a message at me. '"I like it."
"Thank you." He undoubtedly knows what it means. He likes the human military.
A few moments later, I receive the communication from Prime. "Very fitting." I can guess what he says next. "Iron Will said he spoke to you. How do you feel?"
"I am well, Optimus." And it is not a lie. I do feel.. better. A little less glitchy. I can feel Sunny, closer to me. He's getting closer. My brother will come. I will not be alone. He will not be alone. We will not be lost. We will be ourselves again.
A bracelet of black metal decorates my wrist in my holoform now. With Sunny's name, and the date I last saw him. The small black banner is centered on my bumper in my altform. Where most are white, the one I wear for Sunny is golden. Below the silhouette of an imprisoned warrior and the message, 'You Are Not Forgotten', I have added a line in smaller text. 'Until All Come Home. Until All Are One.'
I look forward to the day I can remove them. But until then, I remember my missing brother.
I am Sideswipe. My twin is Sunstreaker. I can feel the quantum echo of his spark, bound to mine across the universe. Where one of us waits, the other will come. My brother lives. My brother will come.
My. Brother. Will. Come.
My thanks to Eowyn77 and the rest of the Botosphere team. (You still haven't gone to read? Go!) I think they've done an amazing job with characters and story, and while there have been some technical glitches (cell phones... working in a deployed carrier group...) they could make it work (the phone was rigged so it could work point-to-point in the Autobot's commnet). I can only hope Dark Side of the Moon can be half as good as what they do. This story was inspired by their original character Admiral Black, and his reaction to Sideswipe's words when it was slipped out that Sunstreaker was a POW.
Yes, I know I play a little fast and loose with some physics. SHHHH... *glares at SteinUlf*
If you know someone with PTSD, I am begging you, help them. If you can't help them yourself, help them get help. Sometimes they just need a friend who listens and tries to understand, a front porch, and a six pack. Sometimes they need a lot of help, to the point that an institution is needed. We forget those who serve- not just in the military, but police, fire fighters and emergency medical personnel. They stick their heads in the beartrap so we can have a life where we lie to ourselves about how safe we are. We owe it to them. What ever it takes. Not all those who are missing in action are dead bodies that couldn't be recovered; sometimes, we know where their living bodies are, but not all the parts of their souls. Until all come home, until all are whole, on our honor we must support them. Damn us if we fail them- they didn't fail us.