2 - Crazy
Sam… are you sure? Are you certain?
Are you crazy?
Sam once thought Captain Lennox to be out of his mind when the soldier had thrust the Cube at him and ordered him to run. Only a crazy person made mad from battle could look at Sam and see hope, after all. Now, however, Sam is reassessing that initial assumption made while pelting madly through a battle zone and is considering that quite possibly he is the crazier of the two of them. Running to his almost certified death with a giant metal devil hot on his heels? That is a light sedative kind of crazy compared to the thirty-thousand therapists and white-padded rooms his current madness has hiding in its shadows.
Sam wonders, not for the first time, whether he is about to do the right thing.
Sam is nervous. He feels himself sweating despite the damp cool of the grey late morning. He rubs his damp palms against his thighs, but his jeans are already wet from the light shower three minutes ago so his actions don’t make much of a difference. His throat is dry again, as it has been each time that he’s allowed himself to dwell upon the issues that spin around unchecked and unrestrained in the back of his mind. His body knows that what he’s thinking is dangerous. It tries to warn him, but Sam chooses not to listen. His body doesn’t know all the facts, anyway. It only knows what it feels. Sam’s mind understands what his body cannot and Sam’s mind has made the choice for the both of them.
Inhale… exhale… inhale…
His mother’s car stands cold and silent beside him. It turned itself off ten minutes ago, only idling for so long before the man-made computer inside of it said that its driver wasn’t going to need it immediately. It had rained off and on while he was driving here, and there are streaks of miniscule rivers running down the windscreen from where the wipers reached their limits of push.
There’s mud on the tyres too, from where Sam has pulled off the road in a hurry.
Stop panicking, Sam… Just breathe…
He stares out from the road towards the gunmetal grey structures in the distance. From here they look innocuous, an old service station and auto repair shop, abandoned and left to die along the rotting length of an old highway. One of those ones the motorways severed like a gangrenous limb when new straight roads became all the rage. Sam knows that upon a closer look the buildings won’t appear quite so dilapidated. He knows that despite them looking empty, there have been more people passing through them in the last two months than there has been in the previous ten years.
As he watches, he thinks he catches a glimpse of something moving in the shadows between the station and the shop. Just a flash of motion; quickly there and quickly gone, but it’s enough to make Sam’s breath catch.
He questions his motives for doing this again. He plows through his thoughts, his reasoning’s, his each and every concern about this decision he has taken on and run with. It’s like walking into his bedroom over and over again. The familiarity, the certainty of what he’d find. He’s already considered everything, has had weeks, no, months to go over the wrongs and rights of his decision; over his moral obligations and the intrinsic laws he would be breaking if he were to take that last two minute drive down the road and start a conversation.
He reaches the same decision he did yesterday.
Inhale… pause… exhale…
His mother’s car turns over easy. It feels alien to Sam; it shudders more than it needs to and is unnecessarily bulky. He supposes it’s because he’s become so used to being inside of Bumblebee that other vehicles feel like he’s wielding someone else’s arm rather than his own.
That Bumblebee feels like an extension of himself doesn’t surprise Sam in the least.
It takes just under two minutes to get down to the front of the service station. He hasn’t been here in weeks, and it looks just the same. The old paint is still peeling in bark-like curls from the window frames. The ancient pumps sit there empty and rusting. The courtyard is covered with inch-thick layers of loose soil, and Sam gives it wide berth as he steers the car in between the station and the shop, deep into the shadows between them and under the shelter of two wide trees.
There’s another vehicle parked beneath them, but Sam doesn’t recognise it. He parks beside it, engaging the hand break before exiting the car. He doesn’t bother to turn it off. He knows it will do it itself in a few minutes.
Inhale… exhale… inhale… exhale…
It’s been raining all night and the ground beneath his sneakers is wet and spongy. Sam wishes that the clouds would part just enough to let some sunlight through. He’s sick of the dreary days and the endless rainy nights. They only seem to feed his neurosis and dwindle his seedling confidence.
The confidence he needs now more than he ever has before.
Someone once told him that the first step is always the hardest one to take. After that all the others are easy because the momentum from the first step helps push you into the second. Sam hopes that this is true, because this first step is so damn hard to take, and he knows that he won’t have the energy to take the second if he has to do it all again from scratch. It’s taken all of his determination to bring himself this far. He shakes with it. All his strength and soul is aimed at this one little thing. If he fails Sam fears that he won’t have anything left.
If he succeeds, Sam thinks in a second of weakness, maybe it will be the same.
He shakes it off, tells himself to get over it. Fear is normal but it is a hindrance. He has no reason to fear…
No reason to fear…
Sam knows that it’s easy to be selfish; to give up at the first sign of difficulty. He’s done it many times in his life already, over many different things that he’s wanted. But this is the reason why Sam will not allow himself to fail this time. After all, he’s not doing this for himself.
One… little… step.
It’s cool inside the dim shadows of the auto repair shop, and the far wall makes a soft squeak as a small section of it slides aside in response to his biometrics. He never sees the scanners, or knows just when he’s being scanned. They’re just another couple of things in his life that Sam doesn’t fully understand.
A small cloud of dust falls in front of the slim gap just wide enough for Sam to slip through and he coughs as some of it gets into his throat. The entranceway is well taken care of, but there’s no helping that the façade is old. Dust and rust is predominant. Sam wonders how long it will be before they need to do an overhaul of the interior to prevent further decay.
He glances around before he steps through the small gap.
Probably not long.
It’s dimly lit on the other side as well, though as soon as the small gap closes behind him the tiny room grows brighter. Sam nods to the two guards on duty, then steps onto the small platform that will take him down to the lower levels.
His skin begins to crawl about half way down, and Sam feels the trepidation coming upon him again. He attempts to shrug it off, but fear is a sticky thing, and clings to him wherever it can gain hold. It whispers things to him, but Sam closes his ears to its sibilant voice. It’s not saying anything new.
The platform shudders a little just before it reaches its destination, and Sam reaches out to hold on to the safety bar.
The hall he finds himself in is huge, a behemoth of a room so colossal that it dwarfs even Sam’s fear, which dwindles away into nothing. Sound bounces ecstatically in the wide confines, like a ball that has escaped the clutches of a punishing child, spinning and exultant without any clear sense of direction.
There are dividers all over the place, cordoning off areas, making the space seem like a maze made for giants. People are walking with purpose around this maze, and Sam nods to a few of them that he recognises.
He turns at the voice, cranes his head up to meet the visage, smiles a strained smile and says: “Hey, Ratchet.”
The medic nods and gestures to an isolated corner. Sam follows behind him, feeling like the nervous puppy he probably looks like. He has to jog to keep up, but it seems that Ratchet has become used to being around Humans because his walking speed is more the Autobot equivalent of an elderly person’s than his usual stride. Sam has to rub his palms against his thighs once they stop; they’re sweating again, and his heart is beating so loud he can hear it in his ears. Sam's body’s giving him another warning, but he’s not going to listen this time, either.
“You wanted to see me about something, Sam?” Ratchet’s voice rumbles with a depth that Sam can feel through the soles of his shoes.
He clears his throat with a cough. His mouth is dry again.
“Yes,” he says. Then he gathers his courage, inhales, and takes that step. That small, tiny step. It yawns like a gaping maw, and Sam, for a moment, is terrified, but he falls into it anyway.
He asks the question.
Everything after that is like ice. Cool, sharp, numbing and so brutally honest that Sam cries like his soul is breaking as he opens up like a flower to Ratchet’s questions.
“You’re crazy!” Ratchet tells him, rumbling like distant thunder.
Sam hasn’t the will to disagree. He knows it’s true.
Ratchet sounds desperate, almost frightened himself. “Are you sure, Sam? Absolutely certain?”
Yes… oh, God, yes…
He nods. Words escape him now.
“I’m not sure how.” Uncertain. Worried.
You’ll find a way, Ratchet. I know you will.
“It’s going to take time. A lot of time. Years, maybe.”
I can wait.
“Are you certain, Sam? This is… Are you sure that you want this? Are you resolute? This is what you want?”
Sam tells him that it is.
Then Sam tells him why.
And Ratchet can understand Sam’s tears now. He nods solemnly, the seconds ticking by like minutes. “You’re crazy,” he says quietly, “But I will do my best, Sam. I promise you.”
“That’s all I ask, Ratchet,” Sam answers as he wipes the trails of tears from his cheeks. Finally he’s stopped shaking. He doesn’t have to think to breathe anymore. The pressure’s gone, the stress… it’s all leaked away like floodwater into soft soil. Sam feels full. Swollen like the clouds outside. His gratitude to Ratchet right now is so large he wishes that there were a way to express it. Sam settles for leaning against the medic’s warm leg, a hand patting the metal and his cheek resting against it.
“Thank you,” he says.
Ratchet only hums. After all, he knows that Sam is not doing this for himself.
Inhale… a soft, gentle sigh…
He’s doing this for Bumblebee.