Chapter 23: Escape
After the rest of their team had been captured by Shockwave's experiments, the halls of the mad scientist's base had become much more crowded. No doubt every mech on site had been alerted to the new Autobot threat. It was making it very hard for Optimus Prime and Mirage to navigate their way unnoticed through the labyrinth of hallways and rooms, although so far they had managed.
"How's it look?" Optimus muttered as quietly as he could so as not to attract unwanted attention. He found it more than slightly ironic. They could communicate silently through highly compacted pulse waves, but that could easily be picked up by the Decepticons surrounding them, so currently the best option they had was whispering and hoping no one else heard them.
It was little things like this that made Optimus hate irony.
Mirage ducked back around the corner after peeking to see how crowded the hallway beyond looked. "Still too many 'cons." He muttered. "If they don't leave soon we'll have to find another way to the vault."
'The vault' was what most of the mechs around here called Shockwave's lab, seeing as it was where he had locked away his most crucial, or most volatile, experiments. It was also where the captured Autobots were currently being held.
Subtly, Optimus let his head lean back against the wall behind him, eliciting a small metallic sound that barely registered amid the dim chaos coming from around the corner. There might indeed be a clear path down to the vault somewhere else, however they had lost so much time already. Shockwave was not known for his patience. Optimus had no doubt that if the Decepticon scientist hadn't gotten an Autobot on his table already, then he would soon. They simply did not have enough time to find another way. They needed to get through the crowd of Decepticons now.
And suddenly, almost as if it had been planned by some higher power, or possibly Fate had just decided in her arbitrary way to step in and grant then a mercy, their way in was literally dragged into view.
The two hidden Autobots were standing pressed tight against the walls of one of the numerous four way intersections, doing their best to remain undetected behind the invisibility Mirage's cloak created around them. Before and around them, mercifully unaware of their presence, hovered the numerous Decepticons that worked under Shockwave, mainly other scientist types along with a healthy mix of brawn for safety precautions that involved mad experiments just as much as the Autobot threat. The noise that drifted through the intersection was what could be expected from any large group of purpose driven mechs.
But then a shift occurred in the noise, a sudden rise quickly followed by a silence that had a fearful tinge to it. Optimus looked up when his mind registered the shift to see that the disturbance was coming from the hallway opposite from where he and Mirage stood. It approached them like a wave, a series of gasps immediately followed by jaws snapping shut as bots moved out of the way.
Soon enough the source of the wave became clear as two large mechs appeared through the parting throng, a couple of Megatron's ex-gladiators lent to Shockwave, Optimus had no doubt. They were dragging a third mech behind them, beaten and bruised from the latest pursuit of information. As the small group passed by the place Optimus Prime and Mirage stood, they saw that it was Hound being led back down to the vault.
Shockwave was at the front of the small party, staring straight ahead of him as if the mindless rabble around him wasn't even worth his attention.
There was a brief moment of stillness as the four mechs left the intersection before the background noise reappeared, slightly louder than before.
"Follow them." Optimus murmured as quietly as he could to Mirage, his voice partially covered by the reappearing noise.
The other bot nodded before pushing away from the diminutive shelter of the wall and joining the wake left behind by Shockwave's guards. Quietly, they followed the four mechs, remaining just inside the bubble of stillness that they left behind, their very presence clearing the way for Optimus and Mirage.
Optimus allowed himself a slight smirk. Now that was irony he could grow to enjoy.
As they followed Hound and his guards, the hallways gradually became less and less populated as they went deeper into Shockwave's nauseating house of horrors until finally they were the only ones present. Optimus could only assume that even the Decepticons didn't want to be lurking around down here where growls of fury and shrieks of agony could be heard through almost every closed door. No one was off limits for experiment fodder in Shockwave's eye it seemed.
They had just passed through a hallway that, besides the horrible, animal like screams, had been coated in a smell that Optimus could only liken to that of decay and death, when they lost sight of their guides. The two thickheaded Decepticons following Shockwave, along with the silent Hound, just turned the corner and were gone, leaving behind an empty round room with five different, locked, doors in their place.
"Blast." Mirage muttered as he looked between the doors. Unlike many of the Autobots, Mirage had come from the higher class of society, one with privilege and status. And even now when the caste system had been leveled by the great equalizer of war, his previous station still showed in his speech, which had stayed refined even when he swore it seemed, despite the rough times.
Still, looking around at the motionless, identical doors, Optimus couldn't help but agree with him.
"Now what?" Mirage asked quietly.
Optimus thought quickly, but thoroughly, as he inspected the different portals. "We'll be able to cover more ground if we split up." He pointed out.
Mirage must have temporarily forgotten his etiquette because he vented an irreverent sigh. "Much good it'll do us if we can't find each other again."
"True," Optimus admitted. If they had still had some way to communicate without alerting the Decepticons to their presence that didn't require whispering and hoping the other mech heard him, this wouldn't have been such a worry; but they didn't, so it was.
"We could just pick one." Mirage said with a shrug that showed he didn't really take that option in compete seriousness.
Optimus inwardly agreed. It left too much to chance. "We'll go through each one and double back after the first corridor if we don't find anything." He said instead. "At least then we'll have some idea of where each one goes." Hopefully.
The first revealed nothing beyond more experiment rooms, the second and third even less then that. The fourth just led to more twisted hallways that they didn't have time to get lost in. But the fifth led to a series of cell like rooms, the kind that prisoners were usually kept in.
"Figures," Mirage muttered. "It just had to be the last door possible."
Optimus motioned for silence and they surveyed the windows to each room without another sound. Most were empty, but a few held the remnants of extinguished prisoners, their remains wasted away into almost nothingness.
But there was nothing still living. At least, not until they were about halfway down the hall.
Movement at the far end of the hallway had both Autobots freezing in place. They waited in stillness as the two guards from before appeared at the end of the hall. Only now instead of Hound, two new prisoners were in tow.
As the unseen Optimus and Mirage watched, the guards shoved Sunstreaker into one room and Wheeljack into another on the other side of the hall and a little farther down. Then each Decepticon took up their position outside of each door.
"Finally, something straight forward." Optimus thought as he looked over at Mirage and gave silent orders. The other Autobot gave a nod of understanding and quickly and quietly the two of them got into position next to the two guards.
They attacked almost at the same instant, or at least certainly close enough that the Decepticons didn't have time to realize what had happened before they fell lifeless to the floor.
Mirage dropped his shielding at Optimus signal. There wasn't much point to it now. The pervasive security would have caught their actions even if they hadn't seen them. And besides, it might be wise to let Wheeljack and Sunstreaker know that they were being rescued and not being dragged deeper into Shockwave's twisted tests.
"You have no idea how glad I am to see you two." Wheeljack said when Optimus broke open the interrogation room door.
"I think I've got a pretty good idea." Optimus answered, immensely glad at the lack of alarm sirens. "Now where are the others?"
"Still in Shockwave's madhouse." Sunstreaker rumbled as he stepped out of his own cell.
"Show us." Optimus said simply.
Sunstreaker nodded sharply and quickly led them in the direction they had first come from. Fortunately Shockwave's moving maze hadn't been implemented this deep in his fortress, probably to keep his own subordinates from getting lost during their usual work.
At the edge of one hallway that looked much like the others, Sunstreaker stopped and signaled that this was it.
Optimus motioned Mirage and Sunstreaker to the far wall. And then he waited, listening for any tell tale signs of movement outside the vault door.
At first there was nothing, and then the sharp snap-hiss of the door opening, and someone coming out.
"Make that several someones." Optimus clarified as the sounds of more then one set of footsteps reached his auditory receptors.
He waited a klik more, waiting for the door to close to make it harder for the Decepticons to get out of the line of fire and so that no one else still inside the vault would see what was happening right away.
The door slid shut to the sound of moving air.
And the four Autobots moved.
Weapons on both sides raised accompanied to the sound of metal clicking against itself as targets were found without conscious thought. Then-
Several bots blinked in confusion as they realized that the mechs in front of them weren't Decepticons, but their own comrades.
Sunstreaker lowered his gun away from the bots he had come to help rescue. "Sideswipe." He said in recognition and relief. Well, as much relief as anyone had heard him admit to in any case.
The twins clapped each other in a one armed embrace as Optimus did a head count. It was a miracle, but they were all here. "And then some even," he thought when he saw Ariah sticking close to a second organic that shared her azure eye color, although her skin was paler from lack of natural light making it easier for the dark discolorations of abuse and neglect to show themselves.
He quickly put aside his natural anger and revulsion at what Shockwave and Megatron had done to the organic child and concentrated on the matter at hand. "Right then," he said, getting even the twins' attention as he looked around the group of roughed up Autobots, "let's get out of here. Sunstreaker, you're on point. Lead us out of this Pit."
Sunstreaker nodded and turned back the way they had come, his sharp memory leading them through the twists and turns back towards the surface. The others kept wary optics out for the Decepticons they were sure to run across eventually, Optimus among them, while Hound, who was still having trouble walking straight, was helped by Mirage at the center of the group, Aria and her sister hurrying along at their feet.
The silence stretched on longer then Optimus had thought possible, Sunstreaker leading them around the more populated areas they had seen on the way down here rather then trying to go through them. It was so quiet in fact, that Optimus allowed himself to think that things had so far gone rather smoothly.
Of course, as soon as he had, a bright, flashing, warning light painted the white walls red and alarms started going off, filling the condensed hallway with their obnoxious clanging.
"Why am I not surprised?" He thought to himself as he tightened his grip on his gun.
The Decepticons appeared to the sound of tromping feet, coming in small groups at first, but quickly coming out in numbers. After the third encounter with what felt like an entire squadron of them, Optimus actually felt thankful that there had been so many down in Shockwave's vault. True, getting out such a large number was as difficult as he had imagined – it was so much easier to remain unnoticed when there were fewer, and having none down there would definitely have been the best choice – but now they at least had a fighting chance against the Decepticons coming at them from around practically every corner.
Treads took a shot to the shoulder before Optimus took out the Decepticon that had marked him. That left only five standing now.
"Better make that twelve." Optimus thought as another seven ran up, taking up positions that hid them from sight.
"Mostly." Optimus thought grimly as he shot down another Decepticon.
The firefight progressed with the Autobots continuing to hold their own with, so far, no fatalities as they kept the Decepticons at arm's length, not giving them a chance to use their well known brawn to crush the intruders.
The problem was that what the Decepticons lacked in marksmanship, they made up for in numbers. If more kept arriving, like they had steadily for the last few cycles, it would only be a matter of time before they overwhelmed the Autobots.
"Which means it's time to break out the unexpected," Optimus thought before shouting above the battle noise, "Wheeljack!" Across the way and farther down, the inventor looked up from behind the hallway debris he had been taking cover behind to see what Optimus wanted.
"Use it!" The Autobot leader yelled, trusting the other bot to know what he was talking about.
Wheeljack broke into a smile. He understood alright. And he was more then thrilled with the chance to test his new idea under battle circumstances.
Ducking down so that Sideswipe could take on the mottled green Decepticon Wheeljack had been shooting at, the inventor pulled a canister out of a storage compartment and with a press of his thumb, activated it.
Not bothering to waste any time, he hauled back and threw the capsule with as much force as he could. Aria looked up to see the silver metal object arc over her head, a high pitched whine following it. Her eyes stopped with Wheeljack's untested weapon when it clattered to the floor, solidly in the middle of the loosely clustered Decepticons.
She didn't know what it was, and even though she was about to find out in the very immediate future, Aria thought she didn't really want to know. And she certainly knew she didn't want to be anywhere near it when it went off.
"Hit the deck!" She screamed as she threw her sister bodily to the floor, covering Sera's golden head with her arms as she followed her to the floor. Around her, Aria could hear the gap in the gunfire that said most of the Autobots had done the same.
The whine of the canister rose higher, stringing out Aria's nerves.
And then the device met with the fate of most of Wheeljack's creations: it exploded.
But that was okay because this one was supposed to.
The whine rose so high that it barely registered on Aria's hearing. And then with a sharp POP sound, almost like a firecracker at New Years, the capsule exploded amongst the Decepticons, sending out jagged bits of shrapnel that impaled wall, armor, and sensitive wiring with equal prejudice. Aria dared to look from where she had pressed her face next to her sister's just in time to see a white shock of air follow close at the heels of the flying debris. It shot across the Decepticons almost like a paint bomb, painting the ones closest to it completely white. The ones standing on the outside of the canister's circle had only their sides or limbs that were closest to the explosion covered by the white cloud.
Except it wasn't paint, Aria saw as the opaque white color faded into a more translucent gray. If anything it looked like frost, or condensation. And as soon as it touched them, the Deceptions stopped moving. Unless it only covered part of them, then they started screaming as their limbs abruptly froze from Wheeljack's exploding cloud.
The sudden lack of weapons fire was almost a sound in and of itself, making plenty of way for the ringing to fill Aria's ears over the sound of shouting Decepticons and the pounding of her own heart. Distantly she could hear Sera's labored breathing too.
"Y-you all right?" Aria managed to ask, propping herself up on her elbows so Sera could move.
The younger girl lifted her head and stared at the frozen Decepticons down the hallway. "U-uh-huh," she whispered, staring wide eyed, "I," she swallowed, "I think so."
Aria nodded, the same sense of awe and shock clouding her mind as she caught sight of the frozen Decepticons too. They looked like statues.
"Are," Sera hesitated as she and Aria climbed to their feet, "Are they dead?" She asked sounding scared, although Aria wasn't sure if that was because there were dead things now standing a few yards away or at the fact that they might not be dead, only frozen.
Wheeljack shook his head as he and the other Autobots recovered their feet and quickly took stock of the damage done to them.
"Then what did you do to them?" Aria added as she looked at her old friend in shock. She had seen plenty of things go wrong with Wheeljack's creations, but the part that scared her a little was that she didn't think this one had gone wrong at all; it had done exactly what it was supposed to.
"I froze them," Wheeljack said, sounding as if it should be obvious.
Aria rolled her eyes as Sera swallowed hard and gave Wheeljack another, nervous look. "Well I can see that." Aria snapped lightly. "But with what?"
"Liquid nitrogen," he answered calmly, as if it was a perfectly reasonable response. "Although I guess technically by the time it was released it was nitrogen gas. Activation of the capsule quickly heats the liquid form, turning it into gas and building up enough pressure to explode the outer shell and releasing the gas which then coats everything around it and-"
Aria's waving hands cut Wheeljack off. "We know the rest!" She said quickly before he went into just as much detail on what the gas did to living things.
Wheeljack shrugged, not taking her abrupt words personally as Optimus Prime gave the order to move forward.
As they passed the frozen Decepticons, Wheeljack ran as many scans as he possibly could in the few seconds he had so he could study the effects his bomb had caused. "I wonder if they've frozen all the way through?" He idly muttered as he turned the corner after the bots ahead of him.
"Let's find out." Cliffjumper said, grinning predatorily. Then in what might have looked like an accident if he hadn't said anything, his foot bumped into the nearest Decepticon statue and sent it careening over. It hit the floor with the sound like a mirror smashing into stone. The Decepticon abruptly shattered into thousands of frosted chunks.
"Hey watch it!" Aria shouted up at Cliffjumper as one of the 3-D puzzle pieces bounced dangerously close to running into her with the force of a misshapen bowling bowl. "You nearly ran us over!"
The brick red mech gave her a pointed look. "'Us?'" he asked as he pointed a finger over Aria's shoulder.
Confused, Aria turned to see that Sera was no longer right behind her. Worried, she followed Cliffjumper's finger up above her head and then blinked in startled confusion.
"Sera?" She asked. "How'd you get up there?"
She was in Sideswipe's hand, kneeling quite comfortable as she peered back down at her sister. "He picked me up." She said simply.
Sideswipe finally noticed that Aria was staring at them. "Well it's not like I could leave her there to get smashed by that." He said giving another bit of Decepticon a kick.
The piece came to rest a few feet to Aria's right. She stared at it, then back up at Sideswipe.
"Seriously? What am I chopped liver?" She wanted to say.
But Hound's harsh whisper of, "Sideswipe, take out their optics," cut her off. It was probably for the best. It wasn't like any of the mechs in hearing distance would know what liver was or why it was chopped up anyway.
Sideswipe nodded and set Sera back down next to her sister before pulling what looked like an oversized needle out of his frame. As Aria watched, Sera sticking close to her side, he took the needle, which had to be as wide as her four fingers pressed together, and shoved it handle deep into the nearest security camera.
Aria and Sera flinched as more then the necessary amount of sparks flew from the camera. Smoke curled up delicately from the spy eye, but then, strangely enough, the wires leading away from the camera were charred black as something traveled down their lengths accompanied by a hissing sound, scorching the rest of the feed lines as it went.
"I take it that wasn't just a knife." Aria said as her eyes flicked from the moving scorch marks back to a smugly smirking Sideswipe.
"Nope," he answered, "it's a virus, cripples the cameras themselves so we don't have to worry about hitting the heart of the security system. Saves us a lot of trouble."
"Sweet," Aria said in appreciation as she gave the curdling wires another look.
"Much good it'll do us if we can't find the door and get through it," Cliffjumper added before gesturing at the surrounding hallways they were quickly running through, "I mean just look at this place. Empty. I'd bet my last ration of Energon that they're all heading out to block our exit."
It was true, Aria saw as they hurried down quiet hallways and empty corridors, most of the Decepticons were gone. When they arrived at the catwalk that overlooked the main hanger leading out of the complex, she saw why.
"Have I ever told you I really, greatly, and extremely hate it when you're right?" She whispered to Cliffjumper from where they hunkered down behind a stack of supply crates pressed up against the railing, one of many that lined the metal walk.
Cliffjumper's mouth twitched in a terribly small smirk, but he didn't say anything. Just watched the Decepticons standing in ranks in front of the door, and waited for orders.
Farther down, Wheeljack surreptitiously pointed down at the far left corner of the bay where a large pane of clear plastic separated a small room from the main hanger. "The controls for the door should be in there." He muttered, keeping his voice low.
Optimus nodded from where he knelt next to him, taking in the hanging walkway that passed over the boxy room and then eyed the twenty or so Decepticons blocking the door. "We can cut in from above. Wheeljack, you're with me. The rest of you, draw their attention."
Cliffjumper's savage grin almost made Aria feel sorry for the Decepticon. "Excellent." He muttered before running out from behind the crates and leaping over the rail down to the floor, the others following him. Battle cries suddenly filled the spacious, metal hanger bay.
"Aria, you and Sera stay with Hound." Optimus told her above the growing sound of the battle happening not ten feet from them when he saw she was following him.
"What?" Aria shouted in surprise.
But Optimus and Wheeljack were already leaving, crouching low to avoid the stray blasts from the bots below. "Just stay put Aria, there isn't time to argue." Hound said to her, his voice low and slower then usual.
Aria quickly turned between Hound leaning against the back wall with Sera standing close to his feet and Optimus and Wheeljack's retreating backs. For a moment she felt torn between wanting to help Optimus and the others and wanting to stay with her sister.
But her tearing indecision was cut short when she caught sight of the red dripping from her little sister's hand down to the floor.
"Sera!" She cried quietly, quickly crossing the small distance between them before gently grabbing her arm and turning it over to see the source of the bleeding. Her eyes went wide, then immediately narrowed when she saw the cut that slashed from the inside of Sera's elbow down to the middle of her palm. It was bleeding slowly, the blood bright red against Sera's stark white skin, but the part that really worried Aria was that just at the edges of the wound her skin was tinted green.
"What happened?" Aria asked, looking up at Sera. Her face was pale, but Aria couldn't tell if that was from blood loss or being kept underground for who knew how long.
Sera's blonde eyebrows twitched together in a wince as Aria turned her forearm to get a better look at the discoloration. "Shockwave was using one of his drones to give me some kind of medicine." Tight lines that had no business on the face of a young girl appeared at the corners of Sera's storm blue eyes as her mouth thinned. "I guess I moved too much."
Aria stared at her sister. She suddenly felt like crying. Or maybe screaming. Both sounded nice, however impractical with the rest of the Autobots fighting to get the door open and cleared.
"That sick, depraved, heartless monster," Aria thought as she swallowed back her tears, "doing this to a little girl."
"What?" Sera asked when she caught her sister staring at her in some mix of confusion and bewilderment.
"You look different." Aria murmured, too afraid to speak loudly, and not just because of the fighting beneath them.
Almost subconsciously, Sera reached up her other hand to touch her face, as if she could feel the aging that had taken place. "I know," she said softly, not meeting Aria's eyes for a moment.
But then she looked up and gave an empty half smile. "You've hardly changed at all." She said.
Aria swallowed hard and nodded. The burning behind her eyes was getting worse. She took a deep, shaky breath in through her mouth and then quickly looked up at Hound, although she didn't let go of Sera's injured hand. "H-how you holding up there Hound?" She asked, desperately seeking a distraction from a half realized truth she wasn't ready to face yet.
Hound's optics flashed down to meet hers before watching the area around them again. "Fine," he told her, and then he grinned crookedly, "'tis only a flesh wound." He said in what might have been an alien impersonation of a British accent. It was absolutely horrible.
But Aria laughed weakly. Hound had been insatiably curious about her home planet and her culture and, somehow, Monty Python had made its way into their conversations more then once. It had given them a good laugh when everything around them had been lacking in humor, although Aria may have abused their white rabbit and its nasty pointy teeth. Not that she was admitting anything.
Aria's watery laugh had just settled into an even weaker smile when the catwalk suddenly rocked beneath them, accompanied by the sound of something heavy landing nearby.
Aria spun, eyes going wide as Hound reached for his gun. But before either could finish their motion, a shot rang out, loud enough that Aria's ears started ringing.
Aria froze when she saw the mech crouching on the catwalk behind her. It was on its hands and knees and built like a ten foot thick brick wall. But strangely enough, though it smirked as though it knew it had them, it didn't move towards them. Instead a glowing, green fluid started spilling out between its chest armor.
Slowly, as if it was just as confused by the green fluid as Aria and Hound were, it reached a hand up and touched the semi-viscous liquid. It stared at it, trying to focus on it, and then the mech toppled over the rail and crashed to the floor. It did not get back up.
Heart thundering in her chest, Aria slowly turned around, still unsure of what had just happened. She gave a little shriek when she saw the pistol almost leveled at her nose.
"Nice shot." Hound told Sera, most of his surprise evaporating.
Stiffly, Sera lowered the gun, her hands shaking. The shaking in her hand traveled up her arm and spread through the rest of her body, threatening to make her knees give out from under her.
Aria carefully took her pistol back and put it back in her holster where it couldn't accidentally hurt anyone. Then she put her hands on Sera's upper arms as if to hold her up in one place.
"It's alright Sera," she murmured quickly, "it's alright. Since when did you get so fast anyway?" Aria asked, her plastered-on smile doing nothing to hide the shake in her voice. She hadn't even felt her gun leave its holster.
Sera reached a trembling hand up to her face, covering one eye as she stared at something Aria couldn't see. "I-I don't know," she said, voice cracking as the shaking grew worse, "I-I d-don't know."
Sera met Aria's eyes for what felt like the first time since they had found each other. Aria felt a shiver of fear shoot through her when she saw the pain, the unknowing, the terror, living in her sister's eyes. That cut on her arm was in no way the last of her wounds, but it was the least of them.
"Aria." Sera cried, her voice breaking into a thousand pieces.
Aria wrapped her arms around her sister and held her tight. She didn't know what to say. She didn't know what to do. God, what could she do?
Below them, a new sound suddenly appeared above the fray, making Aria focus on the present once again.
"Come on," she told Sera softly, gently moving blonde hair out of her face, "they've got the door open. Let's get out of here."
After a slight hesitation, Sera nodded once, a small bob of her head more then anything.
Optimus and Wheeljack appeared seconds later and between the two of them they got Hound and the two humans down to the main floor in one piece. Down there the sound of battle was overwhelming. The noise of gun and missile fire, mixed with the ever present shouting, bounced off the metal walls until it was a smothering din that nearly deafened Aria altogether.
As soon as the door opened, the fight spilled out into the open yard beyond. More Decepticons appeared, but the addition of Optimus, Hound, and Wheeljack to the Autobots helped to level the odds, especially once Optimus drew his sword and Wheeljack broke out the rest of his flash-freezing bombs.
But still, they had no hope of outnumbering the enemy on their own soil. Overall, things were going better then Optimus had dared to hope, but they still needed to get out of here, and soon. Prowl and his team were on their way and, through a handful of strategic retreats, the Autobots had managed to reach the edge of Kaon city, with all of the emptiness of the badlands stretching behind them and the potential for maneuverability it offered. Off in the near distance, Optimus caught sight of the dust clouds that meant Prowl and the others were almost there.
"Now," Optimus thought before half turning and shouting above the roar of the firefight, "Go! Get them out of here!"
Not needing to be told twice, Sideswipe reached out and grabbed the terrified Sera quaking at his feet and transformed, the little human girl appearing in his alt form's cab not two kliks later.
Even above the roar of weapons fire, Aria heard Sunstreaker's half cry of surprise at his brother's action, quickly followed by an irritated growl at leaving a fight unfinished.
"Come on!" He shouted.
Then before Aria could even realize he was shouting at her, he had grabbed her round the middle and nearly flattened her against his chest. Then there was a cacophony of shifting metal and Aria found herself sitting in a surprisingly comfortable alt-form.
"I don't even want to think about what just happened." She would barely remember thinking later after she had recovered enough from the sudden g-forces throwing her back against Sunstreaker's interior to think anything at all.
But by then they were nothing but a cloud of dust hightailing it across the pitted surface of Cybertron after Sideswipe and Sera.