I saw DOTM last night, and something that's been bothering me came up again. In all three movies at least on of the Autobots gets killed- and there seems to be almost no emotional repercussions on the rest of the team. I mean, Jazz, then Optimus, then Ironhide! I wrote this to clear it up. By the way, if you are way into Transformers and know a ton about the old show and comics etc, please know I mostly know the movie stuff and based almost everything off of that universe. So if there are things that aren't cannon in the show, they were simply made up to fit the movies. Thanks!
The smell of burnt metal, oils, and leaking energon filled the room and Sam's nostrils as he entered the base. It had been a good month since the disasters in D.C., and the city was just getting back on its feet. Bumblebee had been with Sam since the end of the fight, and now on military detail the young autobot was to stay with Sam at all times for the foreseeable future. Since the chaos, Sam hadn't had time to go back to base and check on the rest of the autobot team, though he was assured by Bumblebee that Optimus would survive his massive wounds from the fight with Sentinel. Now, Sam wanted to see for himself.
The room set up for autobot medical emergency was the exact same room that Sentinel had been revived in, and the memory still chilled Sam to the bone. It made it worse that the results of those actions now lay in that same operating chair, his arm still not repaired and a great deal of damage evident to his other shoulder.
"Greetings Sam, we have not seen you around for a long time." Optimus said, tilting his massive head to look down at Sam, his optics dilating and blinking with a soft whirr.
"Yeah, I've been busy." Sam said, climbing the stairs by Optimus' feet up to the catwalk that held him on level with the autobot's head.
"As we all have been." Optimus nodded, sparks flying up from his shoulder where Ratchet was working on it. Sam could see what was left of Optimus' arm laying nearby on a table, crawling with tiny repair bots.
"How come it's taken you so long to get your arm fixed?" Sam asked, nodding to his limbless shoulder.
"There were other things more important to attend to first." Optimus said resolutely, ignoring Ratchet's snort.
"He wouldn't let me touch him until we made sure everything else was taken care of. Only thing he'd let me do was patch him up so he wouldn't leak energon until he shut down." Ratchet said testily, going back to work on Optimus' shoulder.
Sam shook his head, hiding a smile. Typical Prime. He watched Ratchet for a bit longer, his eyes straying around the medical facility and over the wounded and heavily scraped Autobot leader. Optimus was in bad shape. There was a clear, gelatinous looking substance encasing the shoulder that still had an arm attached, and under the protective tourniquet Sam could see makeshift energon and mech fluid lines still transporting the vital liquid energy to Optimus's still functioning arm. The other shoulder was bared to the open air, but Sam assumed that was because Ratchet was prepping the shoulder for the arm to be re-attached. The Autobot medic was focused intently on his work, Optimus seemingly unaffected by the welding, cutting, and prying going on. Maybe he was under local anesthetic? Or maybe he could simply turn off pain sensors. Did they even feel pain?
"Doesn't that hurt?" Sam said, nodding to the wound. Optimus turned his head to watch Ratchet's work for a moment, completely nonchalant.
"No. We do not feel pain as you do. We know when we are damaged, but once the damage has been registered the sense of alarm goes away. This takes years of training and practice however, and can be a dangerous but nessesary option for a soldier. Right now Ratchet has shut down the part of my data core that allows me to feel on the right side of my body. I will have full awareness again once he completes his work."
"Isn't that a bit unsettling though, seeing part of your body just laying there?" Sam asked, glancing back at the slowly re-building arm.
"No. We are used to being in pieces." His tone was serious, but Sam could almost see a spark of humor in the leader's optics. He wasn't sure if he was kidding or not.
Sam fell silent, considering the information, finally looking up at Optimus, studying him, a question that'd been bothering him for a long time evident on his face.
Optimus looked confused. "What is on your mind Sam? Are you angry with me?"
Sam shook his head, answering slowly. "I just don't understand how you guys do it. Can you shut down your emotional pain sensors too? You've lost so many and I don't see a hint of sadness, or pain, or anything even close. I mean, I understand you're soldiers and you can't stop to mourn for very long, but mourn in some way!"
Optimus shifted slightly in his chair, looking down and heaving a deep sigh. "I wondered if that was your trouble. You're thinking of Ironhide."
"Yeah, and Jazz, and you for a while there!" Sam said. "When Jazz died you seemed disappointed. When you died, everyone seemed a bit down, but no one really stopped to deal. And now Ironhide- he's been gone for over a month, and even though you guys haven't been under immediate attack I haven't seen a second of any kind of memorial or anything! You guys seemed so like us, but when it comes to life and death of your own kind it's almost like you don't care."
Optimus fell silent for a while, and Ratchet lay down his instrument, glancing up at a monitor before laying a thick layer of the jelly over Optimus' shoulder. He bent over the arm, working on it with the other medical bots. Sam could tell he was trying to be unobtrusive. This was something between Optimus and Sam.
"Sam- everyone grieves in their own way. I miss our fallen more than you can imagine, but I know they are part of the allspark and away from the war now that they are at rest. You died, Sam. You know there is something after for us. It is difficult to mourn those who are in a better place. We miss them, but to mourn them would do them a disservice. They've gotten their reward for their sacrifices, and we should be happy for them."
Sam bit his lip, trying to take in the Prime's logic. "I guess I just don't understand not feeling pain." Sam said. "I mean, I believe in heaven but I still was a mess when my grandpa died. And these are your fellow soldiers, your best friends. You don't hurt at all when they're gone?"
"Emotional pain is the most dangerous kind for any leader. Because of this, the matrix of leadership is given to the leader to bear. The matrix is much more than just a symbol and a powerful source of energon." He explained, his chest panels sliding open and revealing the dual light of his spark and the matrix. He removed the matrix, the metal plates remaining open, his spark still exposed. Sam felt somewhat hypnotized by the gently pulsing ball of light. It was hard to imagine that such a small ball of energy powered a creature as big as Optimus- for who knew how many years. "The matrix is the conduit between this world and our heaven. When a spark goes out, the transformer's spirit, as you would probably call it, passes through the matrix gates and into the next life. As such, when a transformer dies I can feel his passing through the matrix and in my spark. Because the matrix is linked so closely with my spark, I can feel the transformer's last thoughts, feelings, and emotions as he dies. I know for a moment his joy at being free at last. Knowing where Ironhide is now, it is very difficult for me to mourn him." He explained, optics fixed on the matrix glowing softly in his palm. Ratchet returned with Optimus' arm, still very damaged.
"What about the others? What about before you had the matrix?" Sam asked. "You didn't have the matrix when Jazz died, and no-one had the matrix when you died."
"Jazz was mourned for. As was I, I am certain. We just do not have the customs that humans do of burial and grief. We miss Jazz, but we all knew where he went, and we all hold a part of him in our sparks."
Sam nodded, realizing he'd just have to accept the reality of what Optimus was saying. They were a different species, with different cultures. "Do not let it worry you Sam. We are nothing like the machines that you are used to."
Sam looked almost startled. "I wasn't saying you were!"
"No, but it was in your thoughts. Without emotions and feelings, we would be little more than the machines that you use and interact with on a daily basis. We could simply be programmed not to feel, or not to care. But that is not the case. We are living creatures Sam, with feelings, and pain, and grief, and souls. We just handle it differently than your species, because we know and believe that there are better things for those who are gone. All humans do not hold these beliefs, so it is only natural for you to mourn."
Sam fell silent, watching the matrix swirl with a blue light. "May I?" Sam asked, holding out his hand. Optimus gave him the matrix.
Holding the intricate object in his hands, Sam felt a flare of something familiar. He felt a wave of emotions pass through him, first an uncrushable, unquenchable joy and mischievousness. Then the pride and accomplished feelings of a soldier. And finally, the resolute and almost regal air of a leader. Sam shivered, in awe. "You're in here!" He suddenly blurted.
"Yes. Any transformer who has died passes through the gates of the matrix, and part of them stays with the matrix to power it. That is the other reason for the matrix to exist. All of the wisdom of every transformer to have passed on is collected in the fragment of their soul that stays behind. In this way, they never truly leave us."
Sam held the matrix reverently, and for a moment he understood how Optimus and the others could stand loosing so many of their own. He held it back out to the leader, and Optimus raised his palm, calling the matrix to him. The light hovered for a moment before he brought his hand to his exposed chest, encasing the matrix inside it again.
"Do not be afraid to mourn those we have lost, Sam. But know they are in a better place." Optimus said, his chest locking closed protectively over his spark and the matrix both.
"I guess faith goes a long way." Sam said thoughtfully, his eyes straying to the monitor that, he assumed, showed Optimus' vitals. The lines and graphs and readings were alien to him- but they spoke a universal language none-the less. Optimus was a living creature. Sam's eyes strayed back to the autobot leader, who was now leaning back in the chair, his optics screwed shut... he almost looked like he was in pain. Sam felt bad for what he'd said. As he thought about it, he realized how cruel some of his words must have sounded. Though he hadn't meant to, he'd been questioning the reality of the sentience and life of another species, just because they were another species.
In truth, the autobots were more alive than some humans who had no faith and no hope at all. After all, how could you be alive without pain and feeling, and truly alive without hope for something better? A sympathetic smile crossed Sam's face as he watched Ratchet turn the right side of Optimus' body back to feeling. The autobot moved slightly, but held his arm as though it still hurt him. Tiny repair bots continued to swarm the limb, patching up insane amounts of remaining damage- damage the autobot had sustained while protecting him and his kind.
Sam started to walk down the steps, stopping by the Prime's shoulder. He reached over the railing, just able to touch part of the plating on Optimus' shoulder. It was warm. Optimus' optics opened at the contact, and he looked down at Sam in question.
"Get some rest." Sam said, smiling. "We can't have you in pieces anymore, what good is half a semi?"
Optimus smiled. "I will."