Disclaimer: I do not own Transformers, I am not making any profit off of this work of fiction.
Summary: Sam is angry and ashamed of humanity. Optimus shows him that despite humanities short-comings, he has a lot to be proud of.
He'd had enough. He couldn't listen to another word. He didn't care that the sun was going down, he didn't care that it was quickly getting dark and rather cool on the small island. He only knew that he couldn't listen to that man speak to Optimus in such a way for a moment more. He also knew that if he had spoken out, it would haven earned him a one-way ticket off the island... permanently.
Sam walked quickly across the darkening tarmac, not really knowing or looking where he was going, he didn't really care. He couldn't remember a time when he'd been so angry, not even when he'd discovered with his foot that Mojo had peed in his bed. 'Who does old Gallows think he is? Who does he think they are?'
He'd been more than able to deal with Galloway complaining about the destruction of the Pyramids, and he had sat silently as the liaison ranted about being thrown unceremoniously off a perfectly good airplane. But then he'd turned directly on Optimus.
Optimus Prime, who'd risked his life, who had DIED so humanity could continue it's meaningless existence! And Galloway was scolding him like a child, talking down to Optimus as though he were, in some way, inferior.
The lengthening shadows enveloped Sam as he continued his march away from the cause of his frustrations. Who were they to even speak to these beings? These alien people that were so much more advanced then they were? Who were humans, to even dare look upon them? So powerful, these beings, that they could destroy their entire planet in the blink of an eye with minimal effort. And yet, they didn't.
Optimus had stood stoically and let the man rant and rail without any attempt to defend himself. Why? What possible purpose could be served by letting this miniscule bug lecture him like a child?
Sam's flight finally ended when he ran out of land, and even then, he considered the water for a brief moment. He settled for a large rock jutting from the sand. He sat heavily and tried to catch his breath and his thoughts.
What were they to the Autobots? Optimus would often quote the Autobots' motto, 'Freedom is the right of all sentient beings', but was that it? Did they only put up with them to uphold that idealism? Why were they even sticking around?
Sam turned his gaze skyward, and that upward glanced revealed a blanket of stars slowly being uncovered by the approaching night. 'How many of those stars are suns? How many of them are warming a planet much like this one, or Cybertron? Which one is Cybertron?'
He suddenly felt uncomfortably small. It was a very disconcerting sensation. One that, as a human, he was quite unused to feeling. One felt small enough sometimes, standing next to Optimus or one of the other Autobots, but now he felt miniscule, microscopic... 'Insignificant'. He wrapped his arms around himself as he shivered, though the cold was not the only cause of his trembling.
A familiar diesel engine was approaching from behind, lights trained on his shivering back. He didn't turn around, he was too ashamed. Ashamed of his species and the way they behaved towards such beings. But Optimus would not be shut out, and Sam heard the sounds of a slow transformation. Optimus carefully strode the two steps until he was even with the young man, and slowly settled until he was sitting in the sand. Sam cringed at the thought of sand getting into the Prime's armor. That had to be uncomfortable, why would he do it?
He heard the gentle shifting of joints and the soft whirring of gears before feeling a large hand curl around his back. 'A hug...' He thought. But why? How could he stand to look at him, or any human for that matter?
Then Optimus Prime spoke with that thundering, god-like voice. "Are you alright?"
Sam didn't answer. What does one say to a god? He felt, more than heard Optimus shifting in the sand. "I know we haven't known each other for very long, but I can't remember ever seeing you in such a state."
Concern? Or duty? Which was it? He saw a flash of light before he was suddenly faced with Optimus' holoform kneeling in the sand in front of him, trying to catch his gaze. That wasn't right, Optimus shouldn't be kneeling before him, shouldn't he be kneeling before Optimus in gratitude? Shouldn't he, along with the rest of humanity, be on their knees begging this amazing creature for his forgiveness?
Optimus must have seen the torment and conflict in his eyes. He rose slowly and sat next to him. Sam almost jumped out of his skin when a warm knit blanket was draped over his shoulders. At this, he finally turned a questioning gaze at the faux human beside him, who shrugged a shoulder and said it was growing too chilly for a human to be exposed without extra cloth layers. Sam wordlessly drew the blanket tighter around him, still too stunned to speak.
Optimus leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, and looked skyward much as Sam had done only minutes earlier. "What are you thinking about, youngling? I've never seen such a conflicted expression on your face."
Sam lowered his eyes, and started tracing random nothings in the sand with his foot. "I'm sorry I took off, I'm a coward."
Optimus made a noise in his throat that sounded suspiciously like a scoff. "You have run head-first into danger for the sake of others on a couple different occasions, you have willingly entered Ratchet's lair and faced him in the worst of moods, Ironhide pulls his cannons and you tell him to stow it, beings almost ten times your height charge towards you and you stand your ground... You are most certainly not a coward."
Sam sighed and ran a hand through his hair, and realized that he was being utterly pathetic. But wasn't that what he was compared to Optimus? "I'm sorry. But Galloway has no right speaking to you like that, like he's superior to you in some way."
Optimus looked thoughtful. "Isn't he?"
Sam turned to him with wide eyes. "Of COURSE he isn't! None of us are! How could humans even hope to compare to you guys in any way?"
He turned and looked back down in the sand and let out a shaky breath. "We're inferior to you guys in every way, how can you even stand this place?"
Optimus huffed a bit, and mirrored Sam's lowered head. "Now, that wouldn't be fair. There are some things that humans are capable of that my kind will likely never be able to match." He glanced at the sulking human beside him, and thought for a moment. "Some humans are superior to others, but not in the way that most would immediately consider superior. For example, take a professional opera singer, is he your equal?"
Sam blinked, confused, before stuttering a quiet answer. "In what way?"
Optimus turned to him with a raised index finger. "There, that's the question! In what way? Let's say this: Would the opera singer be your equal in human/autobot relations?"
Sam shook his head. "No..."
"And would you be his equal in music?"
Optimus leveled a gaze at him. "Would the opera singer be your equal in human rights?"
Sam nodded. "Yes, because we're both human."
Optimus smiled and sat back. "There you go." He turned his gaze back to the stars, then to the ocean, watching the stars' reflections playing on the waves of water crashing into the shore. "Humans and cybertronians are equal, in some aspects. Each are superior in some way to the other, and in some ways inferior. It isn't fair to compare our technological abilities, as your people haven't had technology for very long at all. I can assure you, however, that there are some things that humanity does that my kind will never be able to compare to."
Sam thought about that for a moment. What could humanity possibly have on millennia-old autonomous robotic organisms? He took the bait and asked. "Like what?"
Optimus closed his holographic eyes for a moment, a small smile gracing his lips. "The arts."
Sam blinked. "Arts?"
Optimus opened his eyes and smiled. "Yes, humans are masters of the arts!" He sighed, and Sam felt warm air play with his hair as the breath was also exhaled from the autobot leader's actual body. "You humans make an art out of every single one of your senses. Then, when you grew tired of stimulating each sense separately, you sought to combine the senses in a cacophony of color, sound, smell, touch, and taste."
This made Sam pause. Painting? Sculpture? What kind of art...? Now Optimus had his undivided attention, and he stared at him as though seeing him for the first time. "You guys don't have art on Cybertron?"
Optimus shook his head. "We do have art in our culture. Sunstreaker himself is an accomplished artist, and many hallways and galleries on Cybertron were decorated with his paintings and sculptures. We also had something similar to television and theater, musicians composed symphonies that rang across our cities. However, we never thought to combine any of these things."
'Huh?' How did one combine... "Movies? Are you talking about film scores?"
Optimus looked thoughtful. "That is one example, yes. While Cybertron would partake in re-enactments of past events or stories, it never once occurred to us to enhance the emotion of a scene with music. Music was never as popular on my world as it is here. It wasn't necessarily an expression of self or feelings so much as 'how can I harmonize these sounds?'. When we first arrived on Earth, Bumblebee said to me, 'The music is enough to bring any being to its knees!'. Truer words were never spoken. Of all the ways your people express themselves, music is the one art form that will shame any other attempt in the universe."
Optimus again rose to kneel before him, and this time, Sam thought he saw an expression of near worship in his eyes when he spoke. "But it isn't just one art, Sam, it's the combination of those arts that we stand in awe of. Movies combine colors and dancing imagery with music that weaves effortlessly through the scene, gently carrying the viewer right into the story as though he were living it. That music, combined with the images and words so sincerely spoken, can and has brought millions to tears, to horror, to rage, or to overwhelming joy. There is nothing on my world like that."
Sam couldn't hold the smile back. And his smile was returned. "Do you know what we autobots usually do during down time?" Sam shook his head mutely.
"We watch movies. Any film we can get our hands on. Any genre, any quality, from any point in time. Some of the soldiers will say this or that movie is better than others. However, even the so-called bad movies are of better quality than what we had on Cybertron. The 'good' movies sweep us right off our peds, and usually leave us speechless regardless of the genre."
Sam was trying not to laugh as he pictured the bots all sitting around the rec room, staring at the large LCD TV on the wall, passing popcorn around. But Optimus was speaking again.
"Then there are the other forms of artistry your people produce. Gourmet cooking combines taste, smell, and sight. Gardening entices your eyes and nose, and even your hearing if local birds find it to their liking. There are even those of your kind that make an art out of mating, and seek to combine every one of your senses into the ultimate human experience."
Optimus stood and sat beside him again with a sigh. Then he pointed up. "Do you know why that constellation is called Orion?"
Sam blinked at the sudden change in topic, but looked up and saw he was pointing to the constellation. He did his best to dredge up what he'd learned about mythology in high school. "Well, he was a legendary warrior who was killed by the goddess Artemis when her brother dared her to hit a moving target in the water with her arrow. The target turned out to be Orion's head as he was swimming. Artemis was devastated as she'd loved Orion and intended to marry him. She raised Orion to the heavens as a constellation, so he would always be remembered."
He looked to his left to see that Optimus was hanging on his every word. He turned back to the stars as Optimus spoke again. "Cybertron has no such myths and legends, except our creation stories and tales of the first cybertronians. But, we all hold these to be true."
Sam stared at him. "You mean you guys don't make up stories just for the sake of telling them?"
Optimus shook his head thoughtfully. "We'll tell war stories, or retell the creation stories, or something humorous that happened to someone, but we don't tend to create stories for the experience. That is something unique among organics. The shows that I told you about were recreations of actual events, not fictional. Earth isn't the first planet we've encountered such story-telling on, but it is by far the best at it. Humans are master story-tellers."
Sam was speechless. Just that little bit of legend had Optimus reeling. Was humanity really that unique? The expression on Optimus' face was one of awe, as though he was seeing a sunrise for the first time.
"Your myths and legends come to life when you speak of them, poetry flows from your kind like rivers. You hear music and you move with it in dances that my people couldn't hope to reproduce. Your actors have an uncanny ability to become the heroes and villains they are representing. And you ask me, an alien to these things, how I can stand this place? I have been in awe of your people since I first encountered them. Earth is the most beautiful planet I have ever visited."
Sam thought about this for a while. How many times had he watched a movie and shrugged it off? What about the movies that had held him captive for hours, what would such a film mean to someone who'd never watched a movie before?
How would someone who had eaten nothing but rice and carrots react to gourmet cooking? How would someone raised in a desert feel when entering a flowering garden for the first time? What would a person who was born deaf feel if they could suddenly hear music?
Optimus was smiling, as though he could read his thoughts, and Sam couldn't help but stare at him. What was Earth really like to a species of robotic organisms? To go from a landscape of metal to stretches of forests, flowering fields, towering mountains... how did they feel when they saw it for the first time?
Optimus placed a hand on Sam's shoulder. "I refuse to allow people like Galloway to mar my opinion of Earth, because he and his ilk are so few. Most are like you... brave, creative, beautiful people."
Sam ducked his head, unable to stop the blush. "I never thought of that. You always hear about the bad things, I never thought..." He paused as something occurred to him, and he lifted confused eyes to Optimus. "Did you just call me beautiful?"
Optimus laughed. "Yes, yes I did. I know that isn't a word usually directed at males of your species. I'm not making a romantic advance, merely stating a fact. You are a beautiful person, both inside and out, and I don't like seeing you upset. Don't let the likes of Galloway get to you, he represents a very small group that just happen to get the most ratings for news stations. It's people like you, Mikaela, Will, Epps, and others that I believe represent not only what your people can be, but ultimately will be."
He glanced sideways at him with a small smile. "Before I was Optimus Prime, I was also called Orion. But, my story isn't nearly as exciting as Earth's Orion."
Sam's brow raised in thought. "I don't know about that, Cybertron's Orion turned out to be Optimus Prime, who valiantly sacrificed his life to save an innocent planet, and returned from the matrix so he could continue to protect all sentient life. Sounds like a pretty good story to me. In fact, I think it'd make an epic movie!"
Optimus laughed. The two sat in companionable silence for a while, watching the stars and listening to the waves, before Sam started shivering again. Optimus deactivated his holoform and stood up to transform back into his alt mode. Sam stood as he opened his cab door. "If Ratchet finds out I let you sit out here shivering in the cold, he'll reformat me into a toaster oven. Let's get you inside."
Sam climbed into Optimus' cab and sighed as warm air enveloped him from the vents. And for the first time in a long time, he was proud to be human.
Just a little something that bit me the other day.
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