Chapter 22: Straight to Pit
Aria was aware of the bright, consistent pounding in her head long before she was aware of anything else. But then, with excruciating slowness, the distant creaks of un-oiled metal began to press itself against her limited, hazy consciousness.
"What…?" the half formed word drifted through her aching mind before she could stop it. A dark, pulsating red abruptly splashed across the back of her eyelids and began to beat in time with the ferocious pounding against her skull. She would have groaned if she hadn't thought it would hurt more than help. Just that stunted thought alone had hurt and she wasn't in any hurry to add to the mountain of pain and pressure squatting inside her dented skull.
Gradually the drum-like beating against the inside of her head lessened, at least from the incessant force of an angry herd of mad elephants to the deranged beating of a far too enthusiastic rock drummer, and she dared to open her eyes at least a little bit.
At first all she could see were large, blurred colors, mostly black and gray, but the longer she stared, the more different the colors became. Some turned darker, resolving into large swaths of blanketing shadows and sharp edged devices that looked nothing less than demonic, while others became lighter and brighter, eventually turning into the familiar forms of Wheeljack and Sunstreaker.
She was more than unnerved when her sight focused enough to make out that the large streaks barring her vision were, in fact, bars. Large, rough, iron, bars that she knew would cut her palms if she touched them. The creaking was coming from them.
Aria rolled her head back so that she could see the ceiling of whatever cage she had been locked in. The pounding at the back of her head spiked again. Now she did groan as the pain throbbed a few nauseating seconds more before moving to the back of her eyes and settling to become a dull, aching throb behind her blue orbs.
The others must have heard her because Wheeljack turned and saw her before leaning forward to whisper, "Aria? Are you online yet?"
Aria lightly moved her head, infinitely glad the throbbing didn't increase again this time, and squinted through her bars at the inventor. She was horrified to realize that they were all in cages, although part of her mind simply thought, "Well duh. What did you think the bars were for?"
She ignored that thought as she dragged herself upright, groaning softly as the world spun dizzyingly as if it had forgotten which way it was supposed to sit. "Yeah, I'm up." Aria managed to answer Wheeljack as she hung her head in her hands, palms pressed tight against her eyeballs to try and convince them to behave.
When she thought the action wouldn't make her sick, she looked up again, taking in their dismal accommodations. Despite the fact that she would barely be able to wrap both her hands around the thick bars, the cage itself was small, maybe twice Aria's arm span. Without measuring it, she knew it was a perfect cube, the sign of a sickly perfectionist mind no doubt. She also saw that each side held thirteen bars.
"Definitely a bad omen, but then I guess I knew what I was getting into anyway." She thought in a somewhat disjointed fashion as she looked around.
In all honestly, it was like being in a giant, square, bird cage, paper-like floor coverings and everything. When she turned back towards Wheeljack she saw that the only difference between her cage and the others was that it was smaller and somewhat dustier.
"They must have had to pull out the special, mini sized accommodations for me. Aren't I special?"
But now other things were beginning to grab her attention. "Wha-what happened?" She stammered, gently probing the back of her head. She flinched when she found the goose egg there, but the room didn't start spinning again so she decided that that was a good sign. "Wheeljack, where are we?" Aria asked, her voice taking on a terrified pitch.
Beyond the bars of her cage she could just barely make out the dim and haunting shadows of sharp edged objects too numerous to count where they lined the walls. She gasped in horror when she realized that most of them were covered with lubricants and other vital Cybertronian fluids. And then there were a dreaded few – most sitting by the large, slanted metal table, much like a human surgical table, complete with restraints – were covered with brightly colored energon, the life blood of any living being on Cybertron. Bile rising in her throat, Aria realized that some of it was still glowing faintly in the dark, the rough equivalent of blood that hadn't turned that dried, rust color yet.
"What in Hell is this place?" Aria whispered in horror, backing away from the side of her cage where she had gone to get a better look. A mistake she would not be repeating.
A rough rush of air, what Aria had come to realize was a sardonic snort, cut through the dank and dismal air on the other side of the room to her right. She crawled slightly closer to that side of her dangling cage and peered through the nonexistent light.
Dimly she could see a red painted mech sitting in a cage of his own on the other side of the room next to a bank of glowing, clouded over glass windows.
"Sideswipe?" She asked in mild surprise. It seemed too easy. She just woke up and there he was, the others sitting just beyond him she could see now, or on Sunstreaker's other side. Where was the difficulty? The hurdles they had to jump over to find them?
She took another look at her birdcage and decided to shut the heck up.
Sideswipe gave another snort as he crossed his arms over his chest. Even in the dark Aria could make out the fresh, roughly made scars that cut across his bright red paint. "Yeah, and nice rescue by the way. I'm feeling much better now that I know we have company." He shot, giving the newly filled cages another narrow look.
Aria ignored his pointed exasperation and pressed her face as close to the bars as she dared to try and see farther into the gloom. Treads was on Sideswipe's other side and beyond him was Cliffjumper and Hot Rod, who had been part of the party with Sunstreaker. She was more than relieved to see that they were still whole, for the most part. However Hound and Mirage were missing.
Aria hoped that Mirage's absence was a good thing, but she was still somewhat confused, possibly because of the concussion she felt sitting in her aching head. "But where-?" she tried to ask again.
Without warning a door suddenly opened with a hiss and a click. Immediately lights came on, bright and unforgiving, making the collective prisoners groan at the sudden whiteness of everything. It was painful after all that seeping darkness.
With the sunspots dancing in front of her eyes it took Aria a moment to see what was making that nasty, metal rasping sound that accompanied the footsteps as they marched into the room. Her mouth dropped open in a soundless gasp when her vision cleared enough to make out the motionless, camouflaged form of Hound being dragged in the wake of two mechs towards the empty cage with the door hanging open on the far side of the room.
A ringing clang echoed through the room when the threw him in, but Hound hardly even twitched as the door slammed shut behind him. Newly inflicted wounds glistened along with freshly made scars that showed with ugly relief in the harsh white light of the room.
A part of Aria's chest froze in horror at the sight, even as another went limp with relief when she saw Hound's hard blue optics follow the frames of his captors as they turned and left, going slightly faster then they had come.
"I don't even want to think about what it says when not even Megatron's subordinates want to be in Shockwave's house of horrors." Aria thought as she heard the door close again behind the two that had dragged Hound in.
The lights stayed on, even after they had left, so Aria and the others could see as Hound managed to drag himself up enough to rest his back against the far bars of his prison. She knew exactly when he saw her because his eyes went wide and he slid about a foot back down towards the floor.
"Aria! But-" he wordlessly stammered a second, "but what are you doing here?" He demanded, clearly horrified.
"For once an excellent question." A voice like a drone appeared behind them all.
Aria spun around, sending up paper thin shavings flying up in a small cloud. Behind her, standing silent as a ghost, was a tall, blocky sort of mech painted a purple with more red in it than blue. He didn't have eyes, just a strip like red visor where they would have bee. It glowed darker near the middle like a great, burning eye that saw through everything and it more then freaked Aria out. He didn't have hands either, just four flat fingers that closed in a claw like motion. His voice was more stereotypically robot, unlike any other bot Aria had met. Everyone else, even Megatron and Starscream (who were about as non-human as anything could get without being a feral animal) possessed inflection, enough to show their tyrannical madness and sniveling narcissism respectively. But Shockwave? He sounded like an old science fiction computer speaking.
Aria had no doubt that it was Shockwave staring at her now with his one red strip instead of eyes. No one else could have been so stoic yet so invasive with just a look. It was like he had just found a new toy he planned to take apart, piece by piece, to see how it worked.
"Why are you here, organic thing?" Shockwave asked, his deep voice devoid of any inflection, good or bad.
Aria couldn't find enough words to answer him. Inside she was a mix of anger at being face to face with the being that had held her sister in his demented grip for so long, and fear for all the rumors and cold hard facts she had heard about this mad scientist. She knew her knees were shaking, but there was nothing she could do to hide the tremors or the way her breath stuttered as she drew it in. He had probably already heard the way her heart had skipped a beat too, the jerk, but still Aria could do nothing but stare in shock and fear at the mech standing not ten feet away, his visor falling just even with her line of sight.
Before Aria could think of anything to say to her own personal demon, Sunstreaker vented a derisive snort. "Because she's a complete pain in the aft that can't keep her nose out of her masters' business to save her sorry life." He drawled, lying through his teeth, or whatever he might have had that equaled teeth.
Even through her sudden mild panic attack, Aria had enough cognitive power (not to mention affronted dignity) left in her to turn her head and give the gold painted mech a look of complete disbelief. Master? What was she, some kind of pet now? What was his problem that he had to go and twist the truth like that to make her sound like a complete and literal bi-
"Oh..." she thought, realization slowly dawning. He was helping her. Well, sort of. Out of all the mechs in this room, only Sunstreaker, Wheeljack, and Treads even knew she had a sister, much less that she was on Cybertron, in this very Horrors from Hell freak show. Given what Sunstreaker had seen before his escape, there was no question that Shockwave knew Sera, but had he known about Aria? Or that Aria knew her sister was so close?
No. He couldn't possibly. And now he still wouldn't know. Aria was just a pet, something to be looked after because she had no power of her own. She shouldn't even be here.
Deciding to play along, Aria let her legs shake more as she slowly, carefully, slid one large step back away from Shockwave.
The middle of Shockwave's visor darkened slightly, the same as a raised eyebrow possibly, and he stared harder at Aria, who froze as soon as his attention reaffixed itself on her small form. Not all of the tremors shaking her body were for show.
Shockwave turned back to Sunstreaker and stared at the other mech, faceplates giving away no emotion, if he felt anything at all that is. "And you give your pet a weapon?" He asked, holding up Aria's tiny pistol. In any other creature alive Shockwave's tone might have been incredulity, but now only sounded like someone asking about today's weather.
Sunstreaker smirked at Shockwave, not altogether a pleasant sight. "Even pets have teeth." He pointed out before nodding slightly at Aria. "This one's just smart enough to realize she needed something better before leaving home."
Shockwave's visor narrowed as he computed the chances that Sunstreaker was lying to him. As Aria watched she saw that he had arrived at the correct chance.
As Shockwave computed, Sunstreaker threw a look at his brother across the room. There was a split second moment of shared understanding, and Aria realized that Sunstreaker and Wheeljack weren't the only ones that knew about Sera. Somehow, Sideswipe knew what was going on too.
But she didn't have time to focus on that right now. She'd sort it out later when Shockwave wasn't breathing down her neck.
"It's not working!" She thought wildly as she looked at the thoughtful purple mech, eyes roving around as fear started to take hold. "I've got to do something to show him I'm just a stupid little know-nothing! But how-?"
An idea struck her. It was so easy. What did every animal in the world do when it felt threatened?
Shockwave turned back toward her as her low, angry, growl drifted out of the cage. He watched her, clearly intrigued, as Aria growled, low in her chest and throat, and fixed him with the most feral look she could manage. She yowled like a sick cat when he turned to fully face her, back arching up behind her as she leaned forward slightly on one hand, looking like she didn't want to get too close, but still wanted to keep him away from her territory as well.
"Come on," Aria thought, growling hard enough to make her throat hurt, "buy it you slag head!"
"Interesting," Shockwave finally muttered as he watched Aria put on her best impression of a mad cat, "it seems these creatures react with similar ferocity when challenged."
That almost made Aria stop her hissing cold. "Similar ferocity? Sera did this too?" She asked herself incredulously. But then she couldn't help but smile grimly at the mech. "I guess great minds think alike. That and she always did like to play at being a cat." It was true. One time Aria had taken Sera to visit a friend of hers who was a year older and already in college. Sera had meowed all across the dorm room floor, much to the amusement of Aria's friend and her sister's slight embarrassment.
"I must admit, I'm quite impressed," the mad scientist said as he marveled at Aria, peering at her like one would a spiny caterpillar pinned up in a display case, "how did you keep it from decaying? I'm afraid my specimen aged rather rapidly before I realized what was happening, and then the only way I could keep it in prime condition was by putting it in stasis, but this!" He exclaimed, leaning in closer to peer at Aria, "This is just remarkable."
Aria glared at the mech so fiercely it was a wonder he didn't just burst into flames. "My sister and I are not specimens!" She yelled inwardly as she stalked over to the side of the cage Shockwave was peering through and hissed at him, showing off white teeth.
For the first time, something like a smirk crept onto the scientist's face. "Feisty for something that's lived past its time, isn't it?" He asked, simply for the sake of inflicting harm.
"What is this slag head talking about now? Decaying and stasis and living past its time? Past what time? For a scientist he sure doesn't make much sense." She thought, her mind concentrating too much on the fact that he was only a yard away from her now rather then his words. She would just have to store them away to think on them later.
Aria quieted down once Shockwave turned away from her cage. She watched curiously as the purple mech carelessly threw her pistol on the control counter before pushing a button next to the door. Not two seconds later the two mechs that had brought Hound in reappeared in the doorway.
"Sir?" One asked from the doorway, although Aria noticed that neither stepped forward into Shockwave's domain quite yet.
"This one," Shockwave said blandly with a sharp gesture at Wheeljack, "and this one," he switched his pointing to Sunstreaker, "in rooms two and eight. I will be with them momentarily."
Aria's eyes went wide as all semblance of ferocity faded away. "No," she whispered, her voice hidden by the clang of opening doors as the two Decepticons hauled her friends out of their prisons and roughly shoved them towards the door, the shock locks pinned near their shoulders keeping both Autobots from fighting back.
Shockwave spared Aria one last penetrating glance before he followed them.
"I do not like specimens with fight in them. It drags the experimenting process out unnecessarily." He told her. And then he left, off to continue his perverted brand of 'science' on Wheeljack and Sunstreaker.
For a long, horrified, moment, Aria sat in her birdcage and stared at the door. "Why is he doing this?" She thought, but she was scared to death to discover the answer. Not everyone was meant to understand the mind of a psychopathic scientist.
In her stupefied state, it took her longer then it should have for her to realize that Sideswipe was staring at her, silently trying to catch her attention through the bars that separated them.
"Sideswipe-" she tried to ask him what was going on. Where was her sister? But he quickly cut her off.
"Don't worry too much about 'em pet. Sunstreaker can pound the lot of them with one hand tied behind his back." He said, maintaining the illusion of ownership as he looked at something outside of his cage. "Hear that Megatron? He's going to kick your aft!" He yelled downright cheerfully.
Confused, Aria looked over to see what he was yelling at. Her eyebrows rose when she caught sight of the camera mounted on the wall.
"Cameras," she thought with some surprise at herself for not noticing sooner, "I hadn't thought of that. So that means they're still watching us then. Great."
Sideswipe settled back against his cage, fully facing her. Aria frowned at him slightly. His grin was just too darn smug for someone that was supposed to be trapped in a mad scientist's laboratory.
Moving one hand up to his chest where it was hidden from the watchful eyes of the surveillance system by the overhang of his cage roof, he pointed out a second, third, fourth, and fifth spy eye, each clinging to the wall at different points around the room where they could get almost a complete panoramic view of the laboratory cages.
Aria's eyes went wide when she realized that the key word there was 'almost'.
There was indeed a camera pinned to the wall next to Aria's cage, pointed at her just like the others were pointed at her friends and comrades. Except for some reason, it was pointed at least two feet below where her cage hung. Judging from the placement of the camera, Aria realized that her cage must not have been here before. They really had moved it in especially for her. And moved one of the normal, Cybertronian sized ones out. And that meant…
Nobody could see her.
"Thank you birdcage!" Aria crowed just as the realization dawned on her that she was practically, miraculously, invisible to Shockwave's all seeing visor.
Sideswipe saw from the amazed, ecstatic look on her face that Aria had figured it out. His smirk grew into a full fledged fighter's grin as he gave her one slow, sure nod. Inwardly, he still wasn't sure how the little organic was going to get out of her cage – it was a good twenty feet off of the floor after all – but it was something anyway. And besides, he wasn't finished with his instructions yet.
Fortunately for him, Aria had the second part covered. She was already pulling out her hook and lasso. Thankfully Shockwave hadn't taken it away from her when he'd taken away her gun. "He must not be as creative as Wheeljack." She thought with pride in her friend which she quickly used to squish out the knot of worry that was twisting in her stomach as she wondered what was happening to her good friend trapped in Shockwave's experiment chambers.
But she quickly shook it off as she realized that Sideswipe was looking at her again.
She lowered her eyebrows at him in a questioning manner. He held up three fingers, which he raised slightly after a moment, and then he held up two, which he turned over sideways.
Aria tilted her head at him in silent questioning.
Sideswipe showed her the number three again, and again raised his fingers in unclear fashion.
This time Aria mouth, "What?"
Frustrated now, Sideswipe held up a finger and jerked it up.
"Oh," Aria thought as she looked up to see rows upon rows of clouded glass windows, "well why didn't you say so?"
"Oh," Aria murmured aloud as she realized what the red mech's numbers had meant. "Three up and two acr-"
Her breathe suddenly froze in her chest.
There, in the third row up and in the second window from the end, enshrouded by the frosty mist of condensation, was a face that was at once both strange and more familiar than Aria's own.
"But it can't be!" She thought in bewildered panic. "It just can't!"
But it was.
It was Sera's face; Sera's beautiful, childish face, partially hidden by the frost.
Suddenly Shockwave's earlier words started to make sense.
"…the only way I could keep it in prime condition was by putting it in stasis…"
"It's a stasis pod," Aria whispered to herself. "That's what he meant. He made her sleep so that he could preserve her for his little tests." She spat the word with fury.
Only Sideswipe's hissed whisper kept her from screaming for Shockwave's spark then and there, ruining everything.
"Aria," he hissed as low as he could across the room, "focus. Get her out. She knows the rest."
It was a struggle, but Aria nodded. Sunstreaker had said that he had seen Sera out and awake, which meant she wasn't always in stasis. Sera had always been a smart girl and much more mathematically minded than Aria. She probably knew the workings of this place better then some of Megatron's own forces. She could get the others out of their cages.
Aria aimed her hook and let it fly. There was a brief noise as metal and rope whistled through the air, and then a solid clang as the hook entangled itself around a low lying metal strut that hung about seven feet above the ledge that would take Aria to her sister's row of stasis cylinders.
"Here goes nothing." Aria thought with a deep breath as she made herself as skinny as possibly and sidled sideways through the bars. It was a tight squeeze, but not very difficult. Aria guessed that Shockwave must have thought the impressive height between her and the floor would have convinced her to stay in the relative safety of her cage.
"On any other day…" She thought as she flattened her back against the rough bar behind her and stiffly tried to keep from pitching over the thin lip of the birdcage base.
Then she made the mistake of looking down.
Aria felt every muscle in her body freeze as the monstrous gap of air between her and the floor loomed large and empty beneath her. Her vision started to swim dizzyingly as she realized that it would only take one misstep and splat, she'd be nothing but a pancake.
She leaned back and wrapped a shaking hand around the nearest bar, feeling the rough surface of the metal cut gouges into her skin.
"Oh boy," she muttered as she let out a slow, shaky breath.
"Aria! Get a grip!" Sideswipe hissed from across the room.
Aria's eyes snapped up from the floor at his words. With some difficulty, she forced herself to breathe in regularly. "Get a grip. Right." She thought, taking Sideswipe more literally then he had intended as she wrapped her other hand tighter around the end of her lifeline that connected her to the wall across from her.
She looked up once, her eyes going unerringly to her sister's still form in the mist shrouded stasis pod. She let out another deep breath.
There was a moment of freefall that nearly gave Aria a heart attack as she saw the gray floor coming up to greet her. But then there was a vicious yank against her arms as her slack disappeared and started the inevitable swing towards the wall underneath where her hook was secured.
Somehow she managed not to scream as she soared towards the flat wall. However she did end up squeezing her eyes shut. Not the wisest choice at the moment, but then at least this time she wasn't trying to fire a weapon.
She slammed into the wall with enough force that her rope was almost ripped bodily out of her hands, but she managed to cling to it with a very human tenacity as the stars finished dancing in front of her eyes. Around the time they were taking their curtain call she remembered how to breathe again.
She hung there for a moment - gasping and aching - and waited to see if her crash had attracted any unwanted attention. But after several long minutes of silence, she assumed that it hadn't and uncurled one finger just enough to press the retract button on the top of her grapple. Despite the strain her dead weight was putting on the motor, the cylinder in her hand began to pull the rope back into itself, dragging Aria towards the bar the hook was wrapped around in the process.
Every single mech in the room knew what was happening, but still they all tried very hard not to watch her, lest they give her away.
To much relief, not the least of which was her own, Aria made it to the end of her line and pulled herself up onto the ledge without any sirens or alarms going off. She rolled into a crouch, set look on her face as she stayed low and watched the door for movement, looking more feline now then she had when she was trying to throw off Shockwave, although she didn't know it. When still nothing moved, she quickly dashed across the row of stasis devices and just as quickly stopped at the second one to the end.
This was it.
"Sera…" Aria's mind whispered. Through the mist inside the cylinder, Aria could make out her sister's face, although it was so blurred and clouded that for a moment Aria wondered if maybe she was just imagining things; that her mind was so desperate for this to be Sera that it was lying to her.
She quickly shook that thought out of her head. This was her sister. She'd know that face anywhere, no matter how much it changed.
Turning away from the girl beyond the glass, Aria searched the edges of the pod, but there was no control panel that she could see.
"How do I open it?" She whispered at Sideswipe.
One dark gray hand appeared through the bars of his cage, dangling as if he just wanted to stretch his arm a little. Aria didn't miss the twitch towards the end of the row.
Obediently Aria passed the last pod sitting at Sera's right. The control panel was there, conveniently sized for minicon digits, which conveniently weren't much larger then human ones. Not so convenient was the key pad set squarely in the middle of the panel.
"There's a code!" She hissed down at Sideswipe.
His fingers started moving again, forming numbers quickly.
"Finally, a code I know." Aria thought as she just as quickly typed in the numbers. "8-7-2-9-3 spells op-en ses-a-me." She inwardly chanted.
A sudden hiss and a puff of frosty smoke had Aria holding her breath as her sister's pod opened.
Heart fluttering nervously, Aria rushed back to the now open cylinder. White gas and cold air still lingered, but enough of the air had cleared that Aria could make out the golden hue to her baby sister's hair. She had been jealous of those golden locks ever since Sera's hair had actually grown in.
"Sera?" Aria whispered, barely holding back her nervousness and excitement.
The golden haired girl moaned softly, and then fell forward with the strength of a rag doll.
"Sera!" Aria squeaked in fear, throwing out her arms to catch the other girl. She only half succeeded as Sera's weight threw her to the floor. "Sideswipe! Something's wrong with Sera. She won't wake up!" Aria hissed, borderline panicked, down at Sideswipe's cage.
"Just give her a klik." He hissed back.
"We don't have a klik." Cliffjumper forcibly muttered next to him.
Aria dimly heard Sideswipe's disgusted growl and the muted argument between the two mechs, but the majority of her attention was solely fixed on the young human face, the first she had seen in far too long, cradled in her lap.
"Come on Sera, wake up!" Aria pleaded as she gently tapped her sister's cheeks, hoping it would help. All it did was turn her cheeks red.
"Sera," Aria pleaded, her voice starting to turn thick. She was going to start crying soon if her sister didn't do something.
A soft whine came from Sera's nose.
Aria's heart nearly stopped, and then it quickly thundered on at a mad gallop. "Sera?" She squeaked.
Familiar blue eyes slowly blinked open, squinting up at Aria's panicked face. But much to Aria's surprise and disappointment, they did not light up in amazement and delight when they saw her.
Instead they closed and Sera groaned, a pitiful sound if ever Aria had heard one.
"Great," Sera grumbled, her voice rough with disuse, "I've finally gone round the bend. I've snapped. I'm delusional. Well I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later."
Aria blinked down at her sister, all thought of tears forgotten. "Eh?" She finally found enough voice to stutter. "Sera, what are you talking about? It's me. Aria. I've finally found you." She said, total shock setting in.
Sera slowly blinked before staring back up at Aria. "Prove it." She said.
Aria stared down at her sister in complete confusion. "What?" She asked. She must have heard wrong. After being held captive for years no one ever said 'prove it' when they were finally rescued in the story books.
Sera raised a fine, blonde eyebrow at her. "You heard me." She drawled.
Aria stared, open mouthed, for a long moment. "Prove it?" She finally stuttered in cartoon-like shock. "That's the thanks I get for getting up at the crack of dawn and driving you to choir every Tuesday morning? Prove it?" She squeaked, her voice reaching new pitches as she gawked at the ridiculousness of this nonsense. She had often thought long and hard about what she was going to do and say when she finally found her sister again. None of those scenarios had had the words 'prove it' anywhere in them.
Sera frowned lightly up at the girl leaning over her. "Aria?" She whispered, some disbelief finally creeping into her voice.
Aria's frown was anything but light. "I don't know, apparently I could be a delusion!" She snapped.
Fortunately they were interrupted before they could really get their argument going.
"You awake yet up there softie?" Sideswipe asked softly, but there was still an edge of urgency in his voice.
Sera gasped in recognition and she quickly rolled over so she could peer over the side of the ledge she and Aria were sitting on. "Sideswipe? Is that you?"
Both girls could hear the grin in the mech's voice. "You'd better believe it." He murmured back.
Sera's smile nearly split her face. "You're still alive!" She whispered joyously.
"Yep, now how about you get us out of this Pit before Shockwave comes back?" He suggested, his voice not quite as light as he had been striving for.
Sera nodded immediately and clumsily stumbled to her feet, her legs not very steady after who-knew-how-long in the stasis chamber.
Aria was slower to follow. "Oh sure, long lost sister's just a figment of her imagination, but the mech that's only been lost a few weeks? Why he's just got to be real!" She grumbled as she followed her sister down to the main control console several feet below them.
By the time she got there, Sera had already released the locks on the cage doors and they just snapped open, all at once. As Aria retrieved her miniature firearm, the mechs that still could got out of their prisons as fast as possible. Then they helped the ones that couldn't quite do it on their own power.
A sharp pinch on her arm made Aria yelp.
"Youch!" She cried and looked over at her attacker. Sera was staring at her, blue eyes bigger and more Bambi like than ever. "What did you do that for?" Aria demanded, rubbing at her arm.
Sera blinked at her, as if she was trying to decide if she was seeing a ghost or not. "You're real." She mumbled.
Aria frowned lightly. "Yeah, I told you that already." She said, somewhat hotly. She didn't like being pinched.
Large tears suddenly welled up in Sera's blue eyes. "Oh Aria!" She cried, throwing her arms around her sister's neck in a teary eyed tackle. "Aria I thought I'd never see you again! I thought you were dead and I was alone and I'd never get home and, and-" She cried, tears rolling hysterically down her face.
Aria's irritation evaporated and she wrapped her arms tight around her sister without a second thought. She held tight as a few of her own tears escaped to roll down her face. "I know, I missed you too Sera." She mumbled thickly into her sister's long, blonde-gold hair.
They were quiet for a moment. And then Sera drew back with a sudden, "Ow!"
Sera rubbed at her arm and stared in shock at her older sister. "You pinched me!" She accused.
Aria wiped her eyes dry and sniffed once before smiling. "Yep, now we're even."
"Ladies?" Sideswipe cut in, once again cutting off the sibling banter, "You ready to ditch this Pit yet or what?" He asked, smirking as he held out his hand to transport them to the floor.
Sera and Aria shared a look, the pinching war suddenly forgotten. They answered him as one.