Paper Statues

Murder, I do not. Sculpt, yes.

To think otherwise is to court madness.

No warrior, I - merely swift with a chisel. Court sculptor, until battle-worth proved in accident. Weapons and the bodymask and the others and the Other long ago they gave me, and still remain myself - merely Slog, merely an artist. To sculpt me they try, but who can sculpt a sculptor?

Not they.

Ask me to fight, and I will sculpt. Good that again started has the fighting; peace-times bad for my art are.

Despair of my gestaltmates; keep the better pieces, I. Still, useless art is unless experienced. Much work, much planning, and, finally, my own little exhibition. People have come; mostly Decepticon, some neutral, certainly Autobots but none who wear their sigils openly. Advertised in the usual places, and such places ignore faction.

They come, they look, but do any understand? Hear they the voice of the piece or only the screams of my victims? Their disgust, their interest, their curiousity - these all I see, but why? Sculpt horror, yes, but what horror do they feel? Do they feel only shock, or do they comprehend my message? Always the worry - speak, I, but is my language understood? Ask them, must I. No professional reviews, not in this time - drawback of war.

Cheat sometimes I do. Not all is pure battlefield work. One I scraped the paint from. One I poured corrosives on to age. One I fashioned a harness for, and carefully dipped into the smelting pools until he looked as I wished him to look. Lord Straxus allowed my use of his smelting pool, conditional on letting him watch. Comprehends he not, but likes the appearance of my work. A patron is a patron.

Sold out long ago, I.

There is another who walks among my statues, who holds my interest more than any of the others. Optics bright, but no emotion on his face. Critic, he does not feel like, despite his lack of expression. Observer, he is, as if on the outside looking in, yet fits he his surroundings. Seeks he something, something specific, as yet not found. Long disappointment and unmet expectations, him.

Delicate, he is. Slender. Fragile. He is unlovely, a creature of pure function, to be appreciated by an engineer and to be ignored by an artist. His colours are the colour of the streets and ruins - to visual senses nigh-invisible. His optics are the blue of stars, but cold as the space between them. Bears he more likeness to Autobot than Decepticon - his build suggests a hovercar alternate. No faction symbol adorns his plating, no weapons he wears, though no empty or poor neutral, him. His bearing too proud for a neutral in the den of a Decepticon ...

Kin artist, perhaps, though I know him not. Expect to, I do not - out of the loop for some time, I.

Approach him as he inspects Futility Sixteen - work thirty-thousand years in the making, from the last war; first to starve the ... the materials, then to allow his shell to age under specific conditions. His shell had a high copper content - lucky, I - and it aged a perfect green. "You I recognise not."

"No. Not yet." He fails to turn; still gazes at the sculpture. "I am Armature, for now a student."

How such a creature exists in this time of war, I do not ask. "Seek you what?"

Star-optics turn to me. White can mean many things, and here the colour is fury, the chill of starlight. Ice-white, ice-blue - something displeases his intellect, and he barely holds it in check, and such anger is his life. "I came," say he, "to see if you are worthy to be my teacher."

Brave and presumptuous - dangerous combination. "And?"

"That depends on whether you actually create anything or merely destroy it."

I, within, Decepticon and artist, shriek in rage. Still, I hold and match his chill - later, perhaps, see what death by pride looks like. "What know you of art, student?"

Conjuror's trick, he draws forth a small object and trusts it to my hands. Statuette it is, a dancer in miniature. To be truthful, the crafting is excellent. There is a looseness to it, a sketch in three dimensions. The joints are invisible, the finish smooth to my exacting fingers. Scarlet and gold add to the illusion - it is almost alive.

I return it to his hands. "Pretty, but pretty alone. Empty, this."

"What do you know?" Vanishes the statuette. "All you do is arrange dead body-shells."

"Arranged with purpose, they."

"Any poseur can put nonsense up and claim it means something."

Too tall, him; take his elbow instead of his shoulder to drag him along. True tactile, him - no anger at the touch, anger only in being steered. Sign of a sculptor; touch means more and less to him than to most. More - primary sense, used for all. Less - used for all, used to it, edge taken away. His aura felt from here; colder than his plating, fury of his optics given radiate form - all in him is anger. He fears not.

Others watch; some look disappointed - shall not carve this one up for your amusement. Skill he has, skill enough to gain a reprieve. Do not like to waste talent, I, but yet may that come.

Does not struggle, he. Just as well, stronger than he, I. Drag him to a back room; quieter there. Shove him in, follow, lock the door. He glares; wonder - possible to kill by hate? Visible marks would it leave? And would it be understood?

"Seek you a teacher," say I. "Learn what, you?"

"Skills. Techniques. Since my creation, I have travelled, learning what I can. However, my teachers have all been poseurs - people who create because they like to."

"Not because need to, they?"

Flickers he, his energy field - unexpected understanding realised. "Yes. Yes, exactly. These were not artists, merely dabblers. I have been seeking a true artist to learn from, but none meet my requirements. I need to find someone better than myself."

Shake my head, I. "Technical skill you have in abundance; little could I teach. Little could anyone teach." Look up at him; his need makes him vulnerable. "Seek you not that. Lack you meaning."

Optics frost over. Ice returns; closes, he. "Meaning is irrelevant. Beauty is all."

My optics frown; he feels my displeasure. "State your primary function."

At that, he cringes. "That would take too long to tell."


Uncomfortable, he shifts a bit. "My programming is very ... exact. I am told that most who go to Vector Sigma to spark their creations sum up the program in a sentence or two. Mine talked to Vector Sigma for over six hours. In short, I am to create beauty."

"Wished you to be an artist, he?"

"Yes. Very much so."

"Artist, him?"

"No. He was an engineer."

"Ugh! Thought not." Away turn in disgust, hands thrown up. "Blind fool! - to think art only pretty things and ornamentation, then to curse his creation with fantastic skill and a love of empty beauty!"

"And true art can only be ugly?"

"Miss you the point. Difference is between an empty datadisc and a full one." Heavy sigh. "Skills I cannot teach you. Meaning, I can. Time, I have none in this war, but for you will I make it. Teach you, will I, art. You, then, can prove art can be beautiful."

Star-optics flicker; internal war - programmed love of beauty alone versus desire for true greatness. The need is in him, the potential, but lacks he the understanding. His the choice, but knows not he the consequences. Say he yes, and I will teach him. Colour theory he knows, but not how to apply it. Shape he can, but not to any purpose but prettiness. Give his work a voice, will I. I will pound feeling into that empty, analytical head.

Say he no, and I will make him a monument to wasted potential.

The statuette appears with a flick of his wrist; considered, ground under one delicate foot. Touches my hand; gesture of respect. "I will accept your teachings, Master."

Not an apprentice - no skill to learn from me. Student, yes. Relax, I; chisel-claws remain hidden, and the touch on his back is friendly. "Come then, you, back to the gallery."

This time, no resistance at all. The anger has faded slightly; hope laces his fields now. Hope as well in me - him, perhaps, unsurrendered artist I lacked the will to be. No competition, him; our works too different. See, I shall, if he can go beyond his programming.

If not ... always need materials, I.

The End.


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