Note: This is a movieverse fic. I just read H.G. Wells' The Time Machine and its ending sparked a little inspiration. It's pretty dark, so be warned.
Following the Sun
Dust stirred as a metallic object landed on desolate granite. The comet that wasn't a comet transformed into a silver, bipedal figure standing twenty eight feet tall.
Optimus Prime turned his blue optics to the sky. It was black and airless, the only illumination coming from the occasional flickers of red from the planetary nebula surrounding this system and the distant, white point of the central star sitting on the horizon. Its harsh glow was no brighter than the remembered full moon. The star did not rise or set because the planet's synchronous orbit left one side facing it at all times. Shadows were absolute. Everything stood perfectly still and silent.
The year was 8,000,002,007 A.D. The planet he now stood upon was Earth. The white dwarf used to be the Sun.
He did not know what became of the humans. When the Sun's energy output began to increase a mere million years after he came to Earth, making the planet uninhabitable, his people helped the humans advance to colonize Mars. After that, they started to build undersea colonies under the icy seas of Europa. Then he and his men left to allow humanity to evolve.
After leaving the humans behind, Optimus shed the red and blue of his Earthly form and reclaimed his Cybertronian heritage. Partly because he didn't need it anymore, and partly because some memories were too heavy. So there he stood, just as colorless as the dead world around him.
Once in awhile, he swung back this way to see how humanity was evolving. The last time he'd seen a human, it was a creature standing eight feet tall, all due to longer limbs than he remembered. Its ears were smaller, or maybe they remained the same size and it was the slight increase in head circumference that made them seem tiny, but he recalled how the evolved human he'd seen had brilliant blue eyes.
Blue eyes just like the human girl he still loved.
He touched his chest plates, behind which he stored the urn containing her ashes. Mikaela often said she wanted to be with him wherever he went. Those ashes, a tiny box of photographs and videos he recorded were all he had left of her. Sometimes it hurt, but mostly he could look back on the time they had and smile. Over the years he'd been able to keep track of her descendants. Scanning DNA was no different than scanning a vehicle, save he could not use the data to achieve a new form. And even millions of years after Mikaela's life ended, her genes remained present in a long line of descendants.
Immortality still had its price.
Having such a long lifespan meant Optimus also had to watch the slow death of Earth's Sun. From a beautiful golden star to a swollen red giant that swallowed Mercury and Venus--it's gravity weakened just enough to leave behind the molten husk of Earth--before its outer layers broke free and became a glorious red and yellow planetary nebula visible from thousands of light years away. In dying, the Sun scorched Mars and scoured away the atmosphere of the jovial planets before releasing them into the void. Europa was lost to the stars, and with no Sun to sustain it, the once-moon became a solid ball of ice.
Now, the Sun's naked core shone across Optimus, its light cold and cheerless like the ghost of the world it betrayed in its death throes.
Optimus knew this was the last time he'd visit this dead world. Earth had nothing more to offer. It was time to let it go.
He opened his chest plates and pulled out the tiny box of photographs. To protect them, he'd had them preserved inside plastic sleeves that made them easier to pick up in his huge fingers. In the pile, he found one of Mikaela's senior portrait. She was wearing a white tank top and, according to her, wasn't meaning it much when she'd smiled for the camera.
Kneeling, Optimus set the picture down. The image was bright and colorful against the dull gray all around. He retracted the mask covering his nose and mouth, touched two fingers to his metallic lip plates and then brushed them against the photograph.
The white dwarf's ultraviolet light was dim, but harsh without an atmosphere to lessen its radiation. He knew the image would fade in a few months, yet somehow that didn't matter to him. The love and memories would stay.
Optimus walked a mile away and launched himself into space. No course, no real destination, he just flew. He transformed mid-flight and slipped into stasis, letting the hand of fate guide him where it wanted.
Another million years passed.
Optimus might have drifted forever had a faint signal not tripped his sensors. He was floating past a main sequence star just like the Sun. The signal came from the fourth planet, a blue world larger than the Earth, bearing three small, inhabited moons and a space station. An artificial ring system was being built around the smallest moon.
Tropical rainforests stood untouched on the landmasses near the equator. Its large, white polar ice caps gleamed in the sun. Vast blue oceans sparkled with promise and life. One land mass was all desert, a brown and arid place broken only by a river trickling near its lower edge. Everything else appeared in varying shades of green and soil-brown. As he got closer, he detected more forms of vegetation than he'd ever read about on Earth.
Optimus scanned the signals he received, learning everything he could. Languages, the people, the music--
They were human. Or what humans had become. His readings told him they'd evolved into a techno-organic species with life spans thrice as long as the tiny humans he first met. They still sported human characteristics, minor things like five digits on each hand and foot and breasts on the females, but they had remarkably long, nimble limbs. The average height was around nine feet. Internally these people were a mix of man and machine and able to interface with computers rather than type on keyboards. They had large eyes--at least twice the size of normal humans, while their ears and mouths remained disproportionately small. There was little gender dimorphism, though some females still wore makeup and jewelry while males did not. Optimus noticed their clothing fashion had decidedly unisex characteristics, particularly in the complete lack of dresses, low-cut tops and high heels. Everyone wore tight pants-suits of varying, jagged cuts and knee-high boots. Metallic jewel tone fabrics and matching leather footwear seemed to be "in vogue" right now.
They called this world Terra Secundus and referred to themselves as Hominis. The predominant language seemed to be Latin.
What history Optimus was able to read indicated wars involving weapons were exceedingly rare. These people learned to solve their problems diplomatically rather than with force.
And they still drove vehicles on roads. Some shockingly identical to the cars, trucks and motorcycles he remembered--except these were electric rather than requiring gasoline. Others preferred vehicles that could fly, though laws regulated when and where such vehicles were allowed to zip about within the cities.
The cities themselves were fantastic. Hominis chose to build upward rather than sprawling about the mossy ground, so buildings tens of thousands of feet high jutted like colossal gold and silver pillars against the bright azure sky. It left a great deal of the planet to flourish with little interference.
There was no pollution anywhere. None!
Optimus set a course for an unpopulated, flat area and landed next to a calm lake that shone beautifully under the Sun--or Sol Secundus as the people called it. As soon as he landed, he saw an exact replica of the truck he'd scanned on Earth go barreling down the dirt road. De ja vu, as humans once called it, flashed over his mind.
He scanned the truck. Internally it was different, but he had no trouble learning its components. Transforming would still require the same subroutines he remembered, so he didn't have to write new ones. It felt wonderful, returning to the red and blue being he once left behind.
Optimus transformed and drove west into another city, parking himself in a lot full of various trucks. Some were capable of hovering, some had wings, but most had wheels.
For weeks, he stayed alone in that lot. It rained. It got windy. It got warm. It rained again. Then the clouds broke and he relished the golden warmth of a new sunrise.
He was just beginning to think the lot had been abandoned when he heard voices in the distance. It was a dealer naming prices to a young, fair-haired female dressed in a smart red pants suit. The left lapel of her jacket was twice the length of the other, something Optimus learned was an indication of wealth. From the conversation, he guessed her name was named Vixi Amo and she came from a very rich family, but she wasn't spoiled. Optimus heard her say she drove trucks for a living.
Vixi broke away from the dealer. She came right up to Optimus and traced the backswept flames on his hood. Her long fingers and disproportionately huge blue eyes looked so alien, yet her thick eyelashes, her blonde ponytail and the red lipstick on her thin lips seemed so human. The harried dealer went on and on until he noticed where she'd gone and realized he never priced vehicle holding her interest.
Optimus felt her lanky form climb into his cab. She was heavier than the old human race, close to five hundred pounds because of her larger size and the metallic components inside her body. She thumbed some dust off the Autobot symbol on his steering wheel. Optimus found himself scanning her when she scooted over to his passenger side. She seemed to feel it, and rubbed her arms as if cold.
Then she opened the glove compartment. Out fell the pile of photos.
Vixi picked them up and looked at them, slowly, one image at a time. Her large eyes narrowed in curiosity. They contained pictures of Optimus, his fellow Autobots, Sam, Mikaela and scores of other humans, but most of the photos had Mikaela in them.
Then Vixi slipped the little gold urn free and turned it over in her hands. She appeared to recognize the contents, because as soon as she touched them she jerked her hand back as if burned and respectfully closed the lid, stroking it once before setting it down on top of the photographs.
Optimus' Spark shivered in its chamber. For a moment, he playfully envied Mikaela. As memories, she was more immortal than he could ever be as a physical being.
"I'll pay ten thousand credits for this truck," Vixi said out the window. She reached into her pocket and tossed a metallic card to the dealer before he could protest. The dealer swiped it over a slit beside his ear, nodded and handed it back. Vixi scooted back over into the driver's side.
"Command--new ownership voice print. My name is Vixi Amo. I.D. number seven-zero-four-two-zero-zero-seven. Manual control preferred."
Optimus stayed silent for a moment. He scanned the world wide web for the proper response.
"Data accepted," he rumbled, and he barely controlled his amusement when his voice startled her.
Her surprised expression quickly became a smile. She patted his dashboard and settled into the seat. "Ooh, your voice is nice. I like you already."
Optimus remained silent. The vehicles on this world didn't talk back unless given commands, and he wanted to maintain his illusion for just a little longer.
Vixi fastened her safety belt and a verbal command started Optimus' engine. The way she handled Optimus' controls was so magical that he relaxed completely and let her take charge. She shifted the gear stick into drive and pressed slowly on the gas pedal. Her hands were very gentle and warm against his steering wheel.
Warmth...he'd missed it terribly.
As they pulled onto the open road, Optimus wondered whether or not he should reveal himself to Vixi. Her quick decision to buy him suggested she at least suspected something odd about him.
Two miles into nowhere, Vixi pressed on the break pedal, shut off his engine and shocked the life out of him.
"I know you're a robot." She said as if it was fact. "You look just like the truck printed on those papers. You were on Old Earth."
For a moment Optimus didn't reply. He knew he shouldn't have been surprised by her intelligence--she was much smarter than normal humans--but still, for her to figure all of this out in less than an hour...he could barely comprehend it.
Vixi gathered the photos and urn and slid out of his cab.
Well, no time like the present...
Optimus transformed slowly, so as not to frighten the girl, and knelt to regard her. Already, he was growing accustomed to her odd features and long limbs.
"My name is Optimus Prime," he said in her language, smiling gently.
"How did you learn to talk? Oh, wait..." She leaned her weight on one leg and rested a fist on her hip. "You learned our languages from the world wide web, right?"
Vixi straightened and smiled, flashing small front teeth. "Then you can probably interface with me and share info. Wireless or data port, which is more comfortable for you?"
"Uh..." Optimus scratched the side of his head and sat down in the grass. "Wireless, for now."
Vixi moved to his side and sat cross-legged, her long limbs vaguely reminding him of a grasshopper. She stared up into his eyes. He felt her nudging against his protective firewalls, seeking desperately for information. She wanted to know who he was, where he came from and what he'd seen. He let it down just enough for her to see over the top.
"Who is that girl you're dancing with?"
"Her name was Mikaela Banes, and I loved her. I still do, actually." His gaze drifted briefly to the urn in Vixi's hands.
"Oh. Hey! That's the name of a girl in a really old fairy tale around here. Spark to Heart, I think it's called. So..." And she blinked, losing the mental link for a moment, "Wait, it was real? But how did she have children? The story doesn't say."
Optimus slapped his knee and laughed out loud. "With another human male, a boy named Samuel Witwicky."
"Wit wicky," he sounded it out for her. She still had an organic tongue, and they were prone to mispronunciation. That amused him for some reason.
"Yeah. It's such a weird name. Anyway," she turned the urn over in her hands, "How did the story really go?"
Optimus' loneliness began to melt away in the familiar blue of her eyes. Closing his mouth, he slowly transmitted the story through their shared data stream. It was a long tale spanning decades and centuries and lasting until dusk turned the sky orange.
Vixi's half of the link weakened and finally disappeared just after the stars came out. Concerned, Optimus looked over to find her curled up on her side, sound asleep. He smiled and moved away from her so he could transform. The six and a half foot tall hologram he used to use for Mikaela was now pathetically out of date. He rewrote it to be ten feet tall--to keep the height proportions the same--and climbed out of his own cab to scoop up Vixi's sleeping form. Her hair was coarse, more like fine copper wire than keratin.
It would be easy to love her, Optimus realized, but he knew he'd never love anyone like he did Mikaela.
But having a friend? That was nice.
Optimus carried Vixi to the bed in the back of his cab. The mattress and sleeping spaces were longer to accommodate her height. He laid her down and stepped back out to collect the urn and photos. Tomorrow, he'd finish the story. Then he'd tell her that her own existence was proof of the tale's truth; the urn she was holding contained the remains of her distant great-great-great-great-grandmother.
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