AUTHOR'S NOTE: Just in case some of you guys might be scratching heads, trying to figure this piece out, lemme explain it a little. In this world, all Transformers toys are living things. Some kind of microprocessor, macro multi-tasking programing thing-a-majig allows these toys to interact, react/respond and do all kinds of things none of the other toys can. I don't have the ability to go into the nitty gritty, that would most likely ruin the story anyway. So, enjoy-oh, and the usual warning: some language and violence, not recommended for children under 14 years. Transformers is a Trademark and is copyrighted by Hasbro/ Takara, way back in 1984. This story is written purely for entertainment purposes, not done for a dime of profit, though a lot of love goes into it. Nuff said! T.L. Arens TOY Light and a cry of joy. She hugged the box, more closely than the precious book her sister gave. She clutched the box tightly in one hand and gave her mother a kiss. "I thought it might be a good going-away gift. Something to look to and remind you why you're going to college." The older woman voiced. "Thank you!" She opened the box with the greatest of care and undid each little tie just so and very gently she lifted him out of the cardboard and Styrofoam. He blinked, his little optics not quite adjusted to the light. He looked at his hands, glancing all around him. She set him on a desktop and stared, her eyes sparkled with a joy inexpressible by words. "Finally!" She gasped. "Finally, my collection is complete and you, my luv, you are the prize of all I own." He glanced at his little body, the well-defined shapes of his arms and metal legs. His epidermal layer was a complex net of electro-neural nets and microscopic sensors. "And all mine!" Her smile just wouldn't fade. "Optimus." She kissed him on the head and he found a warmth of soul came with the kiss. Her joy radiated over him and he realized he belonged to her. He touched his chest, a mixture of metal and complex circuitry. "I belong to you?" He asked, his voice, seeming so small compared to hers. "Oh, yes! Oh, what a wonderful year this will be!" She flew from the desk and hung her winter coat in the closet. She swept up Christmas packaging from the floor and swiftly made her bed. "I'm taking you with me to school and you'll sit at my computer while I do homework and we'll have wonderful conversations!" "I do not know conversations." He answered. "You will. All toys learn, all toys eventually learn." "Is there a name you wish me to call you? Or do you wish a title?" "No. Just call me Bre." She tucked a pile of dirty clothes into a hamper and put away three CD's. "Bre. Bre. A simple name, easily remembered." "I know." She came back to him, her eyes shining with the light of Christmas happiness. "This is going to be the most wonderful of things, Optimus. You and me will learn calculus and physics and bio-mechanics together. We'll study quantum dimensional theory and bio-mechanical DNA! It'll be wonderful!" School commenced, bringing with it days and nights of hard study, computer work and some physical activity to keep down the 20-pound blues. Optimus was stationed right between the desk lamp and the computer while Bre did her term papers, worked out her thesis and played games over the Internet when she knew she should be studying for a test. The desktop soon became crowded with empty pizza boxes, a pile of plates containing left-over sandwiches and glasses long since drained of their contents. Music cassette tapes lay scattered all over and in between books and papers. Pens and pencils constantly disappeared and Bre would teasingly accuse Optimus of snitching them while she slept. And then there was Kaleb, Bre's study partner in chemistry for the quarter. He was a tall, slender fellow who reminded Optimus very much of a toothpick. He had a problem with his eyes, staring at everything from where he sat in the room. She didn't like him much at all and seemed quite upset every time he'd stop for a visit. "He's so slimy.' Bre complained while she brushed her hair one Thursday morning. "I wasn't aware he was wet at all." Optimus answered matter of factly. She grinned at his innocent remark, her whole nature lighted. "It's just a figure of speech, Optimus. I mean his behavior. I feel uncomfortable when he's around me. Have you noticed how he stares at me?" "He does seem to find you more than of casual interest." "Exactly. I think I'm going to restrict his visits to the library tomorrow. I don't like him here in the dorm." "Didn't he mention how much he doesn't like to study in the library?" Optimus sat on the base of the desk lamp and watched while Bre dusted her face with powder and slipped on her tennis shoes. "Yup. But that's too bad. I'm paying rent here, not he. I'm just going to inform him we study elsewhere. The dorm is just too messy anymore." Optimus mutely nodded. "Okay!" Bre announced. "I'm off!" Her plan worked fine for a few days. Kaleb would come to the dorm and she insisted they go to the library rather than stay at her apartment. But after a week of it, Kaleb began to whine about their new study situation. "I-I don't' get it. Can't we just stay here at your place? We don't' have to be so quiet here." "No. I don't want to study here. Besides, we don't have the accessability of books and charts we can get there." "But, you have your computer." He whined again. "But my computer doesn't have all the ready information the library does. We'd have to search hours and hours through the net for one stupid answer." "Well, that's okay. I mean, searching doesn't bother me." "The answer, Kaleb, is NO." Optimus watched, half amused as Bre stoutly pushed Kaleb out the threshold and with her backpack over her shoulder, she firmly closed the door behind her. Optimus 'awoke' several hours later when Bre came home. She dropped her pack on the floor and collapsed over her bed. "That settles everything." She wearily announced. "I'm talking to the teacher tomorrow about a new partner." "Isn't it a bit late in the quarter for a new partner?" Optimus inquired. She turned to him, her dark eyes sparkled with the hint of a smile. But the rest of her face remained care-worn and tired. "Well, if I can't have my way about a new partner, I will simply go through the rest of the quarter myself." "You did say it was hard to go through this kind of class without a partner." "Ffffp! Better alone than with someone who has octopus hands!" "I don't follow you.' "It's okay, Optimus. Forget it." Someone knocked on the door the very next day. Bre had been studying history all afternoon for a test and the knock startled her. She left her reading glasses on the desktop and answered the door. Optimus watched from the desk lamp and shook his head when the visitor turned out to be Kaleb. "Hi.' Bre greeted a bit coldly. "Yeah. I-I was just wondering if we could talk for a moment." She undid the chain holding the door and stood in the way, preventing him from coming in. "Yeah. I-I'm a little upset that you decided not to study with me anymore." "I'm sorry, Kaleb. I . . . I think I'd feel a lot more comfortable studying alone, that's all." "Don't you like me?" "Well . . . it's not that, it's just that I feel more confident when I can do it on my own, that's all." Pause. "Look, I-I don't want to stand out here and talk like this. Can't I come in?" And with that, he pushed his way inside and closed the door after him. "No!" Bre shouted. "I want you to leave, right now! Get out of my house!" There was a slap, hard and cold and Bre fell. And in a moment, he was all over her and she cried and screamed. The tearing of fabric commenced and he ordered her to be quiet and slapped her several times until she was a sobbing mess. Optimus tried to plea with him to stop hurting his Bre. But Kaleb wouldn't get off her and she kept struggeling to get away and she wept and begged her voice a pitiful sobbing plean. Finally, Optimus swept up a table knife and shot Kaleb straight in the eye with it. The man screamed and pulled himself off the floor, off the girl and fled. Bre remained where she lay, a sobbing, trembling creature. After several moments, she managed to sit up, but she crawled to a corner and huddled like an abused animal. "Bre?" Optimus kept calling to her. "Bre? Bre, he's gone now. Bre? Bre?" The hours ticked away, one horrible minute at a time. Bre locked the door and pulled her chair in front of it, the TV in front of the only window leading in. She turned on all the lights and the radio and the TV and gathered her comforter about her and huddled in the corner and cried bitterly. She rocked and somehow managed to fall asleep, only to wake later and sob again. The day came and with it, a glaring sun. Bre tried to hide from it. She tried to hide from it all. She trembled and had sobbed herself into a state of dehydration. Optimus remained on the desk, watching her, worrying intensely. "Bre, he hurt you. Shouldn't you call for help? Isn't there someone who can help you?" "I-I can't." Her voice was a whisper, a tiny sound amidst the noise of the TV and radio. "Someone must be able to help you. You need to go to school." "I will never go back. Never." "But what about bio-mechanics and mechanical DNA? Didn't you want to study that?" "I-I can't study, Optimus. I'll never be . . .I can't. I can't." And she started to cry again. The day passed into afternoon. Bre had slept much of it away until she woke with a start. She wept more until her swollen eyes met with Optimus. "Help me." She begged in a tiny, barely audible voice. "I don't know what to do." "Someone must know." Optimus answered with a shake of his head. "Oh, Bre! Someone must know what to do!" "Y-you're right. I think." She pushed her shaking body away from the corner and she crawled on all fours across the room. She pulled her telephone down from the bed stand and she dialed, trying to recall each number in between heaving sighs. "H-hi." Her voice wavered. "I-I need help. I-I think I've just been raped-" and she broke out crying again. "No! No! I can't leave my dorm! Please! Please help me!" And she dropped the phone and rocked herself back and forth, pleading; "please help me! Please help me! Help me!" Not more than ten minutes had passed when someone knocked at the door. Bre screamed, backing against the other wall, staring at the door with terrible fear. "Who is it? Kaleb, go away!" "It's the Crisis Center, Ma'am. Brendi Meyers? It's okay. We're here to here to help." Bre glanced from one part of her little dorm to the other and with comforter about her, she quickly pattered across the room and pushed the chair aside. She unlocked the door and stepped back, her eyes wide with fear. A police officer and a plump woman in a dark purple outfit entered the dorm. They took a look around the place then finally at Bre. The woman's shoulder fell in sympathy. "Oh, honey." She moaned sadly. Bre started weeping again. She knew they found the smeared blood on floor. The poor girl had never felt so humiliated in all her life. They ran tests and gave her a physical exam and took photographs of her cut and bruised face. All the while she clutched Optimus tightly to her. He asked questions about everything from the stethoscope to the forms the case worker filled for Bre. "That's quite a Transformer you got there, Miss." one doctor remarked. "He's my lifesaver." Bre answered quietly. She was allowed to put on a fresher gown after they cleaned her up and gave her ten stitches. "Oh yeah?" The fellow remarked. "Is that an original Optimus Prime?" "It was a good-luck gift my mom gave me before leaving for school." "Well, he certainly seems to have given you some kind of luck. How did you escape?" Bre brought Optimus into both her hands and smiled when his little optics lighted at her loving caress across his chest. "Optimus saved me by poking the asshole in the eye with a table knife." The doctor gave Optimus a closer look and nodded. "Unusual behavior for a Transformer." Bre shuddered and shook her head. "Not my Optimus." Three days passed in silence. The phone would ring, but Bre only listened to the answering machine. She sat on her bed, channel surfing. It had been almost a week since the attack. Her books and papers lay neglected. Her whole dorm lay in the same kind of shambles as her psyche. She cried often, her face dry and tight from tears. She ate very little, turning to hot tea and chocolate for some measure of comfort. The over-weight woman who introduced herself as Jakki came in once a day to make sure Bre ate something and had tried to take a shower. Bre moved slowly, deliberately. She hardly talked to anybody but always begged Optimus to talk her to sleep. She never slept at night, staying up as late as possible until the sun came up. The door remained locked, the window blocked of all light. She slept sitting up, crying herself to sleep while the TV remained on all hours of the day and night. She never let Optimus out of her sight. A few days later, an attorney came for a visit. Jakki stayed a little longer, explaining what she had seen and gave the attorney copies of the photos taken at the hospital. Bre quietly agreed to persecuting her attacker, refusing to say his name in anything other than four-letter words. "Now,' the lawyer tried to sit more comfortably in the folding chair. "You'll have to understand that in persecuting Kaleb, you'll have to go to court. And this could take months. You understand that, don't you? The evidence certainly suggests you were attacked. They do have a record of his DNA found on your body. But he may counter your argument and say it was by adult consent." A bitter tear fell over her bruised cheek. "As if I wanted this to happen?" "Hmm?" He could hardly hear her, but it still annoyed Optimus that the lawyer should sound so unsympathetic. "I was just going to school. I didn't want to study with him and he broke in without my permission and he hit me-" she sobbed again. "Look, I know it's hard. But maybe it wasn't him. Maybe you got him confused with his brother." "She did not." Optimus intervened. "I was here. I saw it." The lawyer glanced from Jakki to the toy and back. "Well, that might make some difference. Do you have audio and video playback capabilities?" "I store all events in my memory. The memory is processed and used for later references. It's how we learn." "Yes. I suppose it is." The lawyer stood and sighed. "Well! I'd say off hand we have a case!" Two days. Three. Four. They all came and went at a pace that could never go fast enough. Healing came so slow. Bre trusted no one but Jakki and Optimus. She didn't want to be around any man. She didn't like how they'd look at her, how they would seem to walk around just looking for someone to 'knock up'. They were all evil, she decided. They cared for no one. They had no feelings. They only thought about one thing. The days turned into weeks. Three weeks, actually. Midterms came and went. Bre refused to go back to class. Her folks called her once a week, just to be sure she was still there, still alive. She sobbed, but they were powerless to help. She was a whole state away from them. "Perhaps I made a mistake." She confessed one night on a call to her mom. "Maybe I should just come home." "Sweety, I know it's hard. And I wish with all my heart I could just go there right now and rock you to sleep. I know it's hard. I know you hurt. Baby, I know it hurts. Dad and I want you to just hang in there. If you need to take the rest of the semester off, okay. We can muddle through this. But hon, don't quit school altogether. Something's bound to change yet." "I don't know, Mom. The lawyer said the courts will take months." "Brendi?" "Hi, Dad." She greeted with a soft voice. "Sweety, you gotta be strong. School is a wonderful opportunity for you and we really want you to stick it out. We know this is a horrible, horrible thing that happened. But stick it out, hon. If you have to, take the rest of the semester off. Go back next semester. Take just two or three classes, if that's all you can do. There's no shame in that at all." "Okay." She started to sob again. "It's okay, Sweety. Mom and me are here pulling for ya." "Okay." her voice fell to a whisper. "Brendi?" Mom's voice came again. "Hon, you hang in there. Optimus will take good care of you. Okay?" "Okay." Optimus watched as a few more encouraging words were passed back and forth between parent, parent and child. He thought it all very touching. But after the hang up, Bre still wept more, feeling very much alone, very much afraid. But after a few minutes, she managed to pull herself together and made herself a cup of chamomile tea, kindly supplied by Jakki. Bre curled up in her usual sitting position with Optimus, the tea and her remote control all next to her right hand. And miraculously that night, bit by bit, she actually laid down on the bed, Optimus curled in her arms, and she fell asleep. "You shouldn't be afraid to go out, Dear." Jakki reasoned two Saturday mornings later. "People will stare at me." Bre answered quietly. "Nonsense. No one will know a thing. It would do you some good to look at the sun and see what's new in stores. Just try it. For half an hour. I think it will help you rebuild your self confidence." Bre turned away from her. "I can't. What if I get into an accident along the way, or if I should run into . . . him." "Now, you're not going to run into him. He's in jail right now." Jakki tried to smile for both of them and she rounded the sad young woman and lifted her chin so that their eyes met. "It really would do you some good to go out. Do something you haven't done before or in a long time. I have to go, now. Paperwork calls. But I'll check in on you later." And the door closed. Bre stood there, a statue encased with fear and dread and self despisement. She wrapped her arms about herself and paced her little place nervously. She was a caged animal who would sooner stay than to go out there. "I've never been outside." Optimus piped. "You could take me with you." A smile swept over the young woman's face, the bruises and cuts now all but a memory. She had a jacket with a top front pocket she could wear. Optimus could easily ride in that. The mall was a simple single-story place filled with gourmet restaurants, shoe and clothing stores. The smells of coffee drifted from a little café nestled in the corner next to a bookstore. Bre treated herself to a single-shot mocha while Optimus sat on the table and glanced all around. He eagerly took in all the sights and sounds, listening to fragments of every conversation he could pick up. He pointed to strollers and asked his friend what was inside. "It's a baby, Optimus." Bre explained. "Oh. An underdeveloped Human." Bre chuckled. "Yeah. Something like that." A pair of ten year-old boys dashed up to the table and one aimed to swipe up Optimus. Bre about jumped right out of her clothes. "Excuse me, little pig-head! What do you think you're doing?" "I just want to see! My mom said she won't get me a Transformer." The toe-head whined. "Well, they're not for children, you oaf!" Bre swept her little luv from the table and held him close. "They make great pets." The other little brat spat. "You never have to feed them and they move and talk all by themselves." "They also have feelings, you neo-paleolithic neanderthal." Bre snapped. "Go home and grow up a little!" The toe-head examined Bre up and down, his face a twist of insult and puzzlement. "Just wanted to see the damn thing, lady. Don't have kittens over it." "Get away from me you little creep." She snarled. The two boys departed, the toe-head turned and flipped her off. Bre sent him as dirty a look as she could give. "I don't understand why nobody teaches their kids respect anymore." She moaned. She looked down at her little treasure and collapsed into her chair, setting Optimus back on the table. "I should never have come. And I should never have brought you." Optimus sat on the napkin box, his legs dangling over its side. "I'm sorry for bringing you such grief, Bre. I didn't mean to be any trouble." "No. It's not you, Optimus. It's just that you're my only friend and if I were to ever loose you, I'd be devastated." A shadow crossed the table and Bre's first reaction was to swipe Optimus and run. But it wasn't the two boys who came. A gentleman with a slight over-weight build bent over and smiled at Optimus. His eyes were covered with a pair of reading glasses, his dark hair came in waves. He was nice enough a guy, Bre supposed. But she shied away from him, turning her face to the wall in fear. "A first-year Optimus Prime model!" He marveled. "I'll be hitched. Hello, little fellow! Out on a day in the town?" "Yes." Optimus answered enthusiastically. "Miss Bre needed to leave the dorm for about half an hour and I offered to go with her." "Remarkable!" The man shook his head. "What a treasure! You know, the Bumblebee and Jazz series are very friendly. But neither of them have quite the genteel programing the Optimus model has. I have a Mirage and Soundwave models, myself. I've opted to get a Megatron someday. But ol' Megs is as costly as Optimus. Where did you get this one?" Bre finally forced herself to look at the man who crouched at the table, his eyes safely on Optimus, his face, a surprisingly gentle face, smiled. "My folks gave him to me as a going-away present." "Ah!" And he looked at her, his eyes not at all assuming or staring at her body. He made eye contact. "A college student?" "Sorta." She smiled again. "I'd say, Optimus that your lady miss here is a shy one. Could you transform for me? Just once?" Optimus looked to her. "May I?" "Sure." She permitted. He slid off the napkin holder and transformed, the trailer snapped out of subspace and connected with a click. The guy chuckled softly and abruptly turned to Bre, his hand held out for a shake. "My name is Sam-you know, as in Samwise Gamgee?" He waited for something to click in Bre's mind. "As in The Lord of the Rings?" "Oh." Bre forced a smile, unsure whether or not it was supposed to be a joke. "I'm Bre. I never read the story." "Well, I own a comic book shop just a block from here. I'd love for you to come and visit me sometime. I have all kinds of stuff-toys, videos . . ." here his voice lowered a little. " . . .even the naughty Japanese stuff." And he winked. But it made Bre uncomfortable. It's all men ever thought about. He straightened. "Anyway, I have a wonderful selection and I fix toys on the side, so . . . feel free to stop and say hi. I make a killer cup of coffee." His honest friendliness sent a bubble of a smile inside Bre. She felt . . . comfortable with him and graciously smiled. "Thank you, Sam." "I gotta go." He waved and departed. They went home and Bre peeled off two layers of clothes. She set Optimus on the desk and scrounged about her filthy kitchen. Optimus sat on the desk lamp and plucked up a polish cloth and cleaned the bottoms of his feet. "That one guy seemed taken with you." He commented. Bre stared at the contents of her refrigerator, wishing to the Almighty for a quart of milk. "I think it was you he was interested in, Optimus." "But he talked to you." She finally decided on a simple meal of toasted hoagi and sandwich meat. "Yeah. But he was more interested in you. That's an okay thing. Better you than me, anyway." She set the hoagi halves into the toaster-oven and watched while the unit warmed up. At least the guy paid her little mind. She felt empty, cold. All inside. At one time she looked forward to falling in love. She looked forward to laughing and making love to the man of her choosing. But now her whole body choked, as though cut off from happiness and laughter. She started to cry, her frame trembled in grief. "I'll never be able to fall in love, Optimus! That asshole ruined my life!" She embraced herself and wiped tears as they cascaded over her neck and chest. "He . . . had no right to take that part of me! That bastard!" She slid down the counter and sat on the floor, shaking. "He stole my soul! Bastard! Bastard! Bastard!" She sobbed long after the toaster oven shut itself off, the toasted hoagi began to cool. Optimus watched the Human as she sat in a crumpled form. He never knew what grief was, but he understood pain and Bre seemed to be in a lot of pain. He knew Humans cried when they hurt. He had heard they cried when they were happy too. But that, he thought to himself, could not be true. He continued to watch as Bre wept herself to sleep. She finally woke in the long hours of the night. She washed her tear-stricken face and made herself another sandwich and sat on the bed and watched a little TV. She drank hot cocoa and tea off and on until she finally started to drift off to sleep. The clock called for three A.M. Bre sat up, finding she had fallen asleep with the lights and TV on again. She sighed in resignation and turned out all the lights, leaving only the TV on and brought Optimus to bed with her, cradling his tiny self close to her face. She wondered if any of her friends would ever talk to her again. It had been about three weeks since the attack and she just couldn't talk to anybody. She felt so open, so vulnerable. She couldn't trust anybody to so much as look at her right. She felt so cut off from everything; so alone. Bre wondered if she'd ever laugh again. Someone knocked on the door. They knocked again and Bre moaned and forced herself to sit up. Optimus had long since snuggled under the pillow. He was so cute sometimes. She smiled through a dry, tight face. The knock called her again and she stood, glad she slept in her clothes. She opened the door and Faith and Kamay stood with careful smiles crossing their faces. "Hi." Faith greeted. She held up a Micky-D's bag, her right foot slipped on its side in nervousness. "Breakfast?" Bre had to toss clothes and books and dishes in every direction in order to make a clearing for their little feast. Faith and Kammay said nothing of the condition of her little dorm. They made the best of it by washing off a few utensils and made a fresh pot of coffee. Faith poured an extra glass of orange juice for Bre and the three of them sat in a circle, Optimus perched atop Bre's shoulder like a pet. The two other ladies marveled at him from time to time, laughing as he watched them eat, asking questions during their gossip session. "You know, Bre," Kamay shook a tater tot at Optimus. "He's damn cute." "You're really lucky to have him." Faith added. "I know." Bre smiled, but kept her eyes on the hash browns. "So," Kammay came back. "Are you going to press charges against that creep?" "Yeah. But the lawyer said it would take months for things to move. Paperwork, I guess. I dunno." "We really miss you in class." Faith piped. "You know, I'm taking chemistry this next semester. I could use a real partner." Bre shot her a look, unsure whether or not to react. Faith licked a drop of ketchup from her finger. "What . . . did I say something wrong?" She sent a smile, wanting to reach out and lay a comforting hand on her friend. "Hon, I'm sorry." "It's okay." Bre finally accepted. "I guess it's . . . you know, going to take time." She shrugged while a space of silence passed between them. "I-I did go to the mall a couple of days ago. I took Optimus with me." Faith's dark complexion lighted with a broad smile. "That's great! It means you're slowly healing! Hon, I'm proud of you!" Those words meant all the world to Bre. A warm feeling filled her and she clung to it. Finally! Finally she did something good! Kammay licked the last of the jelly from her fork and glanced around the shambled dorm. "How about . . . we clean the ol' place up a bit and play a game of Monopoly?" They played Monopoly until the wee hours of the night. Faith fell asleep long after she had gone bankrupt, curling up on the messy bed. Kammay and Bre kept pouring the Mountain Dew and ordered a pizza. Seven o'clock in the morning found all three girls passed out in the little dorm. Optimus activated and watched in dead silence for a far longer time than that. He was proud of his Bre. She had come out of her fear enough to let other people into her life again. And a week later, Bre decided to go to summer school and take an English class. She wasn't thrilled over learning sentence structures and grammar. But it came easily enough to her and she didn't have to overdo in her studies. Her mom praised her decision and immediately sent her a check for the class and books. "Have you thought about visiting Sam?" Optimus asked her one night as she washed dishes in the tiny one-person kitchen. "Who?" She asked. "Sam. The comic shop owner." "Ffffp. No. Why should I?" "He seemed eager to meet you." "Oh, Optimus, Sam wasn't interested in me. He was interested in you. Besides, there's more important things in life besides men. Who'd want a man, anyway? All they think about is one thing." "But I'm male. It's not what I think about." "You're . . . you're different. It's not the same thing, Optimus." "Okay." He accepted. She smirked. "You really want to see him again, don't you?" "He mentioned owning others like me." "Yeah. Yeah, he did say that, didn't he? Crazy fool. Imagine never growing up enough to leave the comic books under the bed!" "I don't follow." Bre set the last of her dishes in the drain and emptied the sink. She wiped her hands dry with a towel and left the little kitchen. "Comics are just a kid's thing, Optimus. They don't really get anybody anywhere." "Sam didn't look like an underdeveloped Human to me." She smiled sweetly at his innocence. "Not all underdevelopments occur physically, Optimus." "I see." The Transformer leaned back against the desk lamp, still confused. "But, he pays his bills, doesn't he?" "Well, he'd have to if he owned his own business." "And he works for a living." "I suppose. So what are you saying?" "Well, I thought that the difference between an adult and a child was that adults had to handle more responsibilities. They have to work and pay bills. Why can't adults enjoy the same things as children after they reach a certain age? Are they forbidden to read comic books and play with toys after they leave high school?" Bre approached the desk and sat down, supporting her chin with her hands. "What a wonderful way of looking at things, Optimus! How I sometimes envy the way you see the world. Black and white, so very simple." She brought her hands down into her lap and gazed at them. "There's something in life called 'social codes'. Usually a social code is something everybody does; like dressing up real nice when you go out on a date. Everybody does it because it's just the thing to do." "And an adult reading a comic is not part of the social codes." Optimus assumed. "Well, in some circles." "I don't understand." "There are some groups of people, some types of people who do things others wouldn't even give a moment to consider. Like joining a Star Trek club. Some kinds of people would never do such a thing. Other kinds of people would. So, in the circle of Star Trek fans, reading a comic is okay. It's the norm. But in, say something like a group of people who frequent business parties, it's a bad sign. It means you're mind is on something other than business." "That's very confusing." Optimus admitted. "What circle or group do you belong to, Bre?" She shook her head. "None." She turned away, unable to just say 'I don't belong anywhere.' Bre counted three more weeks before her summer class began. She was actually looking forward to it, to getting her mind off the past and pressing forward. She felt, for the first time in months, a new sense of purpose in her life. And she found herself holding her head high, her pace determined as she walked past the many stores in the mall. Optimus rode in her jacket pocket, glancing everywhere, taking in everything at once. She loved his company, his little curious questions. It was such a comfort to have him there 24-7. Her folks could never have given her a better gift! "Bre!" The voice carried over the heads of several other shoppers. "Bre!" She turned and there came Sam, running up to greet her. "Hi!" he smiled warmly. "I've been hoping I'd meet you again." She rolled her eyes and turned away. The guy was actually looking for her. Another pervert that should be locked away. "I don't mean I've been hunting you down. I-I was just hoping to meet you again, that's all. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be pushy." She turned back and glanced at her toy. "Well, Optimus has actually been asking for you." "Has he?" Sam wiggled his fingers in greeting. He grinned broadly when Optimus responded with a little wave of his own. Sam turned from the toy to the girl. "There's a uh, a Star Trek play presented in two weeks. I was wondering if you'd go with me. Uh, we could 'do dutch' or I could pay for it; whichever is more comfortable for you." "You're asking me out on a date?" Worry lines creased her face. She could never go on a date! She wasn't ready for that! "Oh, no! I-I'm not good on dates-heh" he suddenly seemed very nervous. "I know I seem a bit geeky, but I've not been really good on, you know, that kind of thing. I-I just love these Star Trek plays and I'd like to go with someone." Her defenses were still on red alert. She didn't know whether or not to trust this fellow. Still, he really didn't seem so . . . slimy. But then, she couldn't trust her instincts. Look what she had done to herself before! Sam shrugged. "Look, if it's any consolation, you bring Optimus, and I can bring Mirage. We can kinda go as a pair." She frowned, still fearful of the eventual outcome; he'd be tagging her like a lost puppy, calling all hours of the day and night and want to . . . Eewwwe, kiss her. She glanced down then stared directly at him. "I'll give it some thought, Sam." He smiled warmly, simplistically. His eyes couldn't stay away from Optimus for long, though and his smile turned into a grin. Bre wondered if in fact Sam wasn't trying to romance her out of her beloved Optimus Prime. "I'm still holding a good couple of scoops of coffee for you, Bre. I hope you'll take me up on the offer." He gave her another trying smile. "Well, I gotta go. Don't forget, my shop is just around the corner!" She watched him leave, a coldness swept over her then guilt followed. She supposed she didn't have to be quite so defensive. He seemed honest about his intentions. But, frankly, she couldn't trust anybody. She turned away to return to her dorm. A cloudburst met them on the way back to campus. Bre laughed as her feet touched the doorstep and she quickly unlocked her door and slipped in. She peeled her coat, allowing Optimus to get out himself and she slipped into a warm shower and changed her clothes. She spent the rest of the evening pondering over what classes and how many she should take in the fall. Suddenly she had a need to do things, to leave all the fear and loneliness behind. She needed to be around people, although, she didn't think she'd ever really trust men again. But that could be handled. Extra clothes were the thing. And that's all she slept in, now, as silly as that might seem to someone else. She felt far more in control since . . . the incident. Two nights later, she turned in her sleep and heard something crash. Well, it wasn't exactly a crash, more like a tiny clinking. Someone whimpered. Was it outside? She turned over and faced her door, almost expecting someone to try to break in. The silence killed her. Another soft whimper and she had the crazy notion it came from the floor. Was it a mouse? She sat half up and turned on the lamp. Optimus sat on the floor, covering his face. "Optimus, what are you doing down the-" her eyes spotted his right arm laying a few inches away from him. Little drops of lubricant and other fluids seeped from the arm socket, forming a puddle beside him. "Oh gawd!" She cried and she leapt from the bed and rummaged her bathroom, grateful her mom had sent her a first-aid kit. But it wasn't designed for Transformers. She swept up the damaged arm and her luv and set them on the desktop and tried to wipe away the spilt fluids enough to patch the hole with the bandage. "What happened?" She tried to keep from crying. "I don't understand!" "I fell." Opitmus replied simplistically. "Bre, I can feel it all bleed away from me." He looked at her, really looked at her and she could see the pain in his eyes. She started to cry. There was no way she knew how to repair him. If he lost the fluids, the organic chips in his tiny macro processors would die; and so would he! "Sam." Optimus' little voice came softly to her ears. "Sam said he fixes toys. He can fix me." She lifted her head and sniffed. "But you're more than a toy, Optimus. You're far more complex than steel and plastic." "Please, Bre. Sam can save me. I know he can." He crossed his legs, bent over and buried his little face in his remaining hand. Her luv was in pain and Bre felt so helpless to do anything about it! She glanced at the VCR atop the TV and her heart raced. It was 8:30 A.M. Perhaps Sam was an early-bird and maybe he'd be at his shop early, too. She dashed about the apartment, swiftly showering, changing clothes and searched for a box wherein she could lay Optimus safely. She could hear him whimper just softly and after pulling her shoes on, she carefully lifted him and cradled him lovingly. She wasn't going to let him die! Not without a fight! She kissed his little head as tenderly as she could and laid him in the box, placing his arm in there next to him. She taped the box with masking tape and searched the whole area in front of her bed for any missing parts, anything that looked or resembled a Transformer piece. She found three pieces and set them in a plastic Zip-lock and tucked them into her coat pocket. She swept her purse, her keys and her beloved toy and abandoned her apartment, weeping fearfully the entire way toward the mall. Bre made it to the shop in twenty minutes. But Sam wasn't there. She paced the wooden porch, tromped up and down the wooden stairs leading to the door and peered into the window. The shop displayed paintings of heros and villains, of sales and new games. The shop itself was filled with colors, bright and bold. Several tables stood along the center of the shop and the back was furnished with a smaller table complete with a large overhead lamp and several tackle and parts boxes. Optimus whimpered again and Bre embraced the box, almost willing the pain to leave him. Her heart raced, her body trembled with urgency. A car drove up and a gentle, slightly over-weight fellow with a kind face disembarked. "Bre!" Sam seemed pleased and surprised to find her there. "Hey!" Tears choked her and she had no alternative than to start crying again. He traversed the steps and set one arm carefully across her shoulders. "Hon, what's wrong?" "It's Optimus!" She wept. "He fell and broke an arm and he's bleeding!" "Ohmigod." Sam undid the shop door and ushered her in, switching on the lights. He raced to the back of the room and flipped on the huge overhead light, peeling off his jacket. He beckoned her to approach with the wiggle of his hand and she obeyed, trying so to control her fearful weeping. She gave him the box and the bag and he brought down a little bed and an egg carton-sized tank with three tiny tube snaking out from one side. Sam opened the box and tried not to cringe at the amount of fluids leaking from the little toy. He laid Optimus gently on the bed and with a tiny screw driver, pried open the plating along the side of his body. Optimus sadly whimpered and Sam plucked a tissue for Optimus' owner, and a second one for the toy and gently wiped some of the spilt fluids off the little fellow. "There, there, now, Optimus. We'll take really good care of you. Don'tcha worry. Everything will be just fine." But it was Bre who wept uncontrollably. She leaned against the wall and slid to the floor, unable to stop crying and shaking. Sam connected the three tiny tubes to the toy and activated three different switches then adjusted the flow. He left the table for the moment and knelt before the crumpled, frightened woman. "Don't cry." He spoke softly. "We can save him. You got here in time." "I know." She lied between sobs. "It's just that, he's been with me everyday, all the time since the attack. He saved me from . . . that bastard. I-I'd just die if anything were to happen!" And she wept more bitterly. "Awe." Sam whispered sympathetically. He gathered the trembling woman into his arms and held her tightly. "I don't know what horrible monster would attack someone so kind and loving, but I hope they fry his ass for it." He held her until her sobbing quieted and then he withdrew and wiped a tear from her cheek. He smiled kindly at her. "Optimus isn't in so much pain now. I've connected him to life support. I have to wait until the fluids have been replenished before I reattach his arm. In the meantime, how about I order out breakfast and make that cup of coffee I've promised?" She gave him a trembling smile, though her face hurt to do so. They waited for the order-out to arrive while Sam cleaned Optimus off with a cotton swab and special cleaners. "Why not just alcohol?" Bre asked holding a wonderful cup of coffee between hands. "Oh no, you never use alcohol with a Transformer. See, they have special skin alloys that protect the delicate circuitry in their bodies. The alloys act as a nervous system. That's how they touch. They're very special little fellows." Something dropped down from above, frightening Bre. She startled, but Sam didn't make a single move. "Hello, Mirage." He greeted. "How are you today?" Bre peeked round Sam's other side and spotted a Transformer, slightly smaller than her beloved Optimus Prime. The little Autobot also peered round Sam's body and smiled at her. "Just fine, Chief." He answered quickly. "That's good." Sam still didn't look at the toy. "Mirage, I'd like you to meet a new friend of mine, Bre. Bre, this is Mirage, one of my Transformers. Say hello Mirage." "Hello, Mirage." The toy replied. Sam finally looked up from his cleaning job and smiled at Bre. "I taught him to say that." He winked. Bre smiled graciously and glanced around the shop. "Didn't you say you had two Transformers?" "Hmm? Oh, yeah. There's Soundwave. But he's the shy guy." Sam glanced up from his work and scanned the room, looking for the other Transformer. "Ah, there he is, by the cash register." Bre peered round about the cash register, finding only boxes filled with old trading cards, little Kooshballs and Penny Pinchers. Stickers plated the register with sayings such as: "My other car is an Autobot" and "Old doesn't mean boring!" She found a credit card registration machine and several pens and pencils lying around. But no sign of a Transformer. Until the small cassette radio transformed and backed away. She stood straight and stared into the bright red eyes of a Decepticon. Soundwave said not a word and ambled his way round about other boxes of bubblegum cards and *Rifts* action figures. Bre finished her coffee and made her way back to the table. She didn't want to wander too far from her luv. Sam sat up from his labor and smiled. "He's in excellent condition. I'll have him back together in no time." She smiled gratefully and Sam eyed her empty cup. "More coffee, Ma'am? I'd, uh, I'd like to give you a personal tour round my little shop." She smiled more brightly now, very grateful for his kindness and courtesy. "I'd like that." She accepted. EPILOG: Six years later, Bre earned her doctorate's in genetic engineering. She married Sam and gave him two daughters: Hope and Opal. End.