I Lost a World!

Chapter 26: Death's Doors

"Ratchet!" Optimus yelled as soon as he reached the Autobot medical facility. "RATCHET!"

The medic ran into the room at the panic in Optimus Prime's voice. He had never heard this much outright fear before from the cool Autobot leader. "What? What is it?" He asked quickly as he reached them.

Optimus knelt down and discharged his cargo. Ratchet gasped when he saw the red splattered Bumblebee and the unconscious Aria.

"Dear Primus," the older medic murmured in shock. "What happened to her?" he asked, already working to learn the full extent of what Ariah was experiencing and what he could do to help her.

"Megatron." Optimus answered simply.

Ratchet nodded but Optimus wasn't sure if he had really heard him. "Bumblebee, move your hands." He told the youngling sharply.

"But-" Bumblebee started to protest, remembering clearly Optimus' instructions not to let go of Aria.

"Now!" Ratchet barked.

Bumblebee jumped, startled by Ratchet's sudden shout.

"It's alright Bumblebee," Optimus told him as he carefully pulled the youngling back so that Ratchet could see the hole in Aria's chest. But Bumblebee didn't say anything, or make any sound, as he watched Ratchet inspect his sister with wide optics.

It wasn't long before the old medic started talking to himself, like he always did when he needed to sort through his thoughts as quickly as possible. "It looks like the shot cauterized most of the wound so how is she still losing fluid-?"

He suddenly stopped in mid thought, optics going wide as he realized what was missing from Aria's chest, and what its purpose had been.

"Ratchet?" Optimus tried to ask.

"Get her into the med bay." The medic suddenly ordered. "Quickly!"

Hearing enough urgency in Ratchet's voice to match his own, Optimus immediately scooped Aria up and ran for the inner workings of the med bay, Ratchet right next to him, opening doors and shouting orders as other bots appeared to see what was going on.

"Put her there," Ratchet told Prime, pointing at an empty bed that could have fit at least ten Arias. Optimus did so without questions.

"I knew I should have gone with you. I just knew it!" Ratchet muttered to himself as he worked frantically, shoving machines set on wheels just for this purpose away and dragging new ones closer as he muttered to himself. Optimus watched as the medic carefully connected Aria to the handful of machines that were now clustered around her bed.

Wheeljack suddenly appeared, limping slightly from a cut running down most of one leg from a Decepticon that had tried to tangle with him at theSpaceBridge. "The others are just behind me," he quickly told Optimus before hurriedly limping over to the bed Aria was on, "How is sh-?" He started to ask, but never got a chance to finish his question.

"Spare pumps, do we have any?" Ratchet abruptly asked, not sparing enough time to speak a full sentence.

Wheeljack gasped when he saw why Ratchet needed a pump. "Y-yes," he managed to say, "but none that are small enough to fit her."

Ratchet shook his head sharply, never taking his optics off of Aria where he was pressing two large fingers down to halt the flow of blood from her chest. "Doesn't need too right now, we just need something to keep her internal fluids circulating until we find a better solution." Ratchet told him.

Wheeljack was nodding halfway through, understanding perfectly. By the time Ratchet finished speaking, the inventor had disappeared only to reappear nanokliks later with a pump larger then Aria's head in his hands.

Optimus watched as the two mechs hooked the spare part up to Aria's internal workings through the gaping hole in her frame. They had gotten the thing working enough to keep the air and fluid she needed circling through her when Optimus heard the unmistakable noise of more bots arriving outside the med bay. Giving Aria one more fearful look, he left to see who was still functional and who else needed Ratchet's attention.

Organized chaos greeted him outside the medical wing's doors. Not only were most of the mechs that had been with Optimus at Kaon and the Space Bridge there, but Ariel had arrived as well, no doubt drawn by Bumblebee's terrified crying.

Leaving the youngling to Ariel for the moment, Optimus made his way over to Prowl standing on the other side of the room. Mechs helping the injured Hound and Hot Rod passed him on their way into the hospital facility. Optimus had joined Prowl in time to hear him send a runner off to tell Alpha Trion that Decepticons had been encountered by theSpaceBridge. Hopefully the older mech could help them discern if this was just because Megatron had realized that that was were the Autobots had been heading or if he had other plans for the bridge they should be aware of.

"All but Treads are still with us." Prowl reported stoically, doing what he could to keep the loss from affecting his head, "but what bothers me even more is that Megatron saw Bumblebee."

"Yes," Optimus said. His mind felt fragmented – too many things demanding too much of his attention – and he couldn't help but feel as if he was missing some consequence he would have ordinarily seen.

Prowl must have noticed his leader's shifting state of mind. "How do we keep him safe from Megatron?" He asked.

Optimus was saved from having to wrestle his mind back into something resembling focus as Ratchet suddenly stepped out of the medical bay. All motion abruptly stopped as most heads turned toward theCMO.

It was Chromia that found the courage to ask, "How is she?"

Ratchet looked wearier then Optimus had seen him in a long time. "She's alive, but just barely," the old medic clarified before the relief could kick in, but Optimus noticed that he wouldn't look up at anyone, especially Bumblebee or Bluestreak, as if that was only half of the news.

"But?" Optimus softly pressed when the yellow surgeon didn't go on.

The old mech vented a sorrowful sigh. "But Megatron shredded half of her pump and even if I knew what I was doing I couldn't rebuild it. We don't even have anything small enough to build a substitute. The only thing keeping her alive is the spare pump we've hooked her up to, but that can only last so long. It's a temporary measure."

Optimus nodded, spark shrinking. "How long?" He asked into the deathly silence of the room.

Ratchet shook his head heavily. "I don't know." He told them softly. "But not long."

A pitiful sound caught everyone's attention. Clinging to Ariel, a sob stuck in the back of Bumblebee's throat as his small frame started shaking. "No!" He sobbed, little voice squeaking slightly. "No she can't go! You've got to do something Ratchet, you've got to!" The youngling pleaded, rushing over to pull at Ratchet's much larger hand.

Ratchet looked like his own spark was breaking as he knelt down to be on optic level with the youngling. "But there's nothing I can do little one. Her pump, part of her organic spark, is broken beyond repair." The old medic explained gently to the youngling.

Bumblebee looked up at him with large, frightened optics. "Then I'll give her part of mine! You keep saying it's too big anyway and there're no more parts for a bigger frame. Let her have the extra." He pleaded, grasping for any kind of idea that might save his organic sister.

Ratchet didn't know what else to say. How was he supposed to tell the youngling that there was no hope when he so desperately clung to the notion that there was?

"I will too!" Bluestreak suddenly piped up readily from where he had been sitting, unnaturally quiet, on the other side of the room since he had heard that Aria was going to die. "If it'll help Aria then I'll give her a piece of my spark too. It's the same as bonding with family yeah? And Aria's already family. We can't just sit and do nothing if there's still something we can do. She'll be extinguished anyway if we don't at least try something." The older mech joined in, eager to still believe that his organic friend still had a chance.

"No." Ratchet said firmly. "I'm not about to risk both of your lives on something that probably won't work." He told them, but he had slipped up already.

"Probably?" Bluestreak picked up instantly. "Then that means it could work right?"

Ratchet eyed the young mech warily, but Wheeljack spoke up before he could continue to insist that this was not a good idea. "Technically it could." The inventor said, and then seeing the glare Ratchet was giving him added, "But it would be very dangerous of course. Removing pieces of sparks is nothing to sneeze at. You all could die."

"I don't care!" Bumblebee suddenly shouted. "I don't care! I don't care! I don't care! I want my sister back!" He yelled, completely breaking down. And then before anyone could stop him, he dashed forward and into the med bay. Optimus and Ratchet shared one startled look before running after him, some of the others following them. They arrived just in time to see Bumblebee, scrambling to sit on top of Aria's bed, rip away the wires that connected the spare pump to Aria's frame.

"Bumblebee! Stop!" Ariel shouted next to Optimus; Chromia, Ironhide, and Bluestreak on her other side.

But Bumblebee ignored her. Instead he put both of his hands on Aria's red painted chest, nearly hiding her from sight. Then he squeezed his optics shut, concentrated hard, and then gave a surprised shriek as a blinding flash of light encompassed them both.

"Bumblebee!" Several voices shouted, the loudest Optimus and Ratchet's. Quick, before he could do it again, Optimus leapt forward and grabbed the yellow youngling and pulled him away from the dying Aria.


Aria's eyes flew open, and she opened her mouth and breathed in a deep, ragged, gasp. As they watched, the light from Bumblebee folded in on itself as it settled more compactly into the hole in her chest. As the intense, yellow, light dimmed, her eyes slid shut again and her body relaxed. Only now her bleeding had slowed and she was breathing on her own again.

"I don't believe it…" Jazz muttered from somewhere behind Optimus.

Ratchet was by Aria's side in an instant, scanning and re-determining her condition. "It-" but words failed him a moment, "it worked." He said looking up at Bumblebee in absolute shock and awe.

He quickly shook himself out of it. "Bluestreak," the old medic called beckoning the other mech over.

Bluestreak took the approval before Ratchet remembered that this might be too dangerous to attempt. Quickly he went down on one knee in between Bumblebee and the still Aria. "'Bee, how did you do that?" He asked.

Bumblebee looked up, his blue optics slightly unfocused. "I-I just gave it to her. She needs it," was all he could think to say. He felt a little funny now; lighter then he had a minute ago and kinda stretched out.

It was little enough to go on, Bluestreak knew, but he still had to try. "She's already family," he muttered to himself again, and then placed his hands over Aria just as Bumblebee had done.

There was another flash of light, only this time, Aria's fingertips twitched as the piece of Bluestreak's spark gathered into her wound.

Ratchet was quiet a moment, running every scan on Aria at every level he could think of. Then he gave a downright giddy laugh. "I can't believe it. It's actually working!" he all but shouted in equal parts joy and amazement.

Bluestreak chose that moment to fall over on his backside.

Ratchet's thoughtful frown was back as he did a preliminary scan on the fallen mech. Bluestreak hardly noticed with the way the room was suddenly spinning out of control.

"I-I'm fuh-erk-fine." He managed dizzily.

Ratchet humphed, but didn't move from Aria's side. "Barely," he corrected, "you gave her too much too fast. If this is going to work without killing anyone else she'll need multiple donors, the more the better so we can divide the necessary amount into smaller pieces." He muttered, thinking quickly, hardly even aware that he was saying this out loud where everyone could hear him.

"I'll do it." Optimus spoke up before anyone else.

But Ratchet shook his head. "No, we don't know what kind of repercussions this'll have on the rest of you. I'd prefer to keep the only mech standing between us and Cybertron's utter demolition in one, complete, piece."

Optimus stared solidly at his long time ally. "Prefer?" He pointed out, latching onto the word with the same tenacity Bluestreak had done earlier.

Ratchet didn't waver. "No." He said with the air of finality.

Optimus was about to defy him anyway, but a strong yet gentle hand on his arm stopped him. He turned to see Ariel standing next to him, the same steely determination he felt burning in her optics.

"I'll give her a piece of my spark." She volunteered instead.

"But-" Optimus said quietly, solely to her.

She gently pressed his arm. "Ratchet's right." She said. And that was the end.

"I will too." Wheeljack said into the silence that followed.

"And I." Said Chromia with her usual determination, although Ariel could hear the fear in her sister's voice, either for her sake or Aria's was harder to discern.

"Not alone you don't," Ironhide added gruffly, but Optimus could see the way his optics kept sliding over to Aria where she lay prone on the oversized bed. The little human had grown on the gruff old mech over the years since they had met in the ruins of Primahex, especially once she had let him in on the not so little secret that a certain silver femme thought that he was hot. It had taken much longer to explain what that meant then if she had just said she found him attractive in the first place, but he supposed that was part of her innate, organic charm; being indecipherable.

Ratchet thought quick and thoroughly. "I suppose that could be enough-" he murmured to himself.

"If you count me out of this Ratchet I swear you will live to regret it!" Hound's voice suddenly came across the easily movable curtains that sectioned off the medical bay. The rest of Hound appeared a moment later, leaning heavily on a makeshift cane.

"More like I'll never hear the end of it." Ratchet growled as he shot the other mech a dirty look. "How many times does it take to get it through your thick head that stay put means stop getting up and walking on that leg?"

"I don't know, try it again and we'll see." Hound shot back, only he was too distracted by Aria's small unmoving form to put much force behind it. "Besides, aren't the more the merrier in a situation like this?" He asked pointedly.

Ratchet just glared at him. Vaguely he wondered what it was about his patients that made them all want to ignore him the instant he said anything at all. "Get back in bed Hound."

"Like Hell." He said. Optimus wasn't the only one that noticed the distinctly human term. Hound probably knew more about Aria's culture then anyone else, except possibly Ariel. He had spent enough time with the little organic to have learned not just her language, but her mannerisms and her quirks as well. Like most of the others that had gotten to know her, he cared for Aria deeply, as if she was his own flesh and blood, as the little human would say.

Ratchet growled, realizing that it was just a pointless waste of time to try and argue with him any longer. "Fine. Fine! Have it your way. Just know that once your done here I'm going to strap you to the bed frame if that's what it takes to keep you from permanently going lame!" He practically shouted, frustrated now as well as afraid for Aria's sake. She was his friend too after all. Had been for a long time.

"Now everybody else needs to get out," Ratchet told the small crowd around Aria's bed, "we don't need an audience for something like this."

"Come on Bumblebee," Optimus leaned down towards the still shaking youngling, "let's go wait outside."

Optimus hated waiting. Over the long vorns since he had become Prime and the war had started, Optimus had learned to dread it, even more then the constant fighting with Megatron and his Decepticons.


Optimus gathered his focus to find Prowl standing next to him. Optimus almost gave a small, humorless laugh. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately depending on how you looked at it, Prowl was too focused to let anyone sit around and languish in misery for long.

"Yes, what is it Prowl?" He asked with a heavy voice instead.

Prowl hesitated for only a nanoklik. Optimus was a little surprised to see that Aria's condition had even him uneasy. "I wanted to discuss battle with you. There is something that does not sit well with me."

"And what is that Prowl?" Optimus asked slowly.

Prowl's face didn't show anything of what he was feeling. "How did they find us so fast?" He asked, keeping his voice low. "Not even we knew we were going to the Space Bridge until we had regrouped in the wastelands. How did Megatron know where we were going?"

Optimus stared out at the room in front of him. The doors to the med bay were still closed, and probably would be for some time. Apart from him and Prowl, the room was empty except for Bumblebee and Preceptor where they sat on the floor. With no one else to check up on the little mech, the scientist Preceptor had gotten stuck with the job.

"'Bee just-no wait now," the scientist said quickly as he tried to make Bumblebee sit still. "Stop squirming."

But the youngling wasn't having any of it. "No!" He said stubbornly, taking his small arm away from the mech trying to ensure his health. "Where's Aria? I want Aria!" Bumblebee started to cry.

Preceptor looked like the floor had just opened up in front of him to reveal a chimera with ten heads, each one a different color of the spectrum. "Ah, w-wait a cycle Bumblebee. Don't do that now," he tried.

Optimus just shook his head. He knew Bumblebee was fine if he had the energy to cry like that, just like he knew the reason why Megatron had found them so fast. He had told him as much during their fight. But he also knew what Prowl was getting at.

"You think they're might be a spy?"

Prowl sharply shook his head. "No, not really. However the matter does deserve looking into." He said.

At any other time Optimus would have let himself feel amused that Aria had this affect on Prowl. There were only a few times the Autobot could remember where Prowl had to distract himself with simplistic details like this.

Unfortunately, Aria bleeding out in the next room mangled any humor there might have been.

Optimus vented a mournful sigh. "We'll talk to the mechs that were being held by Shockwave, just to be sure."

Spies were not something Optimus liked to dwell on, but he had to admit that the threat was very real at all times. Megatron wanted to know what Optimus Prime was doing just like Optimus Prime wanted to know what Megatron was doing.

It still posed a troubling question. Just to be sure they went to Alpha Trion once they were finished talking with the rescued mechs. He was observant and surprisingly cunning behind his old man's outer shell that if anyone had been acting strange, he would have noticed.

Prowl only spoke of the battle at theSpaceBridgeonce, surprising Optimus because he hadn't expected the black and white mech to bring it up at all. They were approaching Alpha Trion's door when the former police officer turned sharply and said, "Blaming yourself doesn't solve anything. This has been her war just as long as it's been ours. She threw her lot in with us almost from the very start, maybe even before that. Certainly at least as long as I've known her. You could no more stop her from taking a bullet for Bumblebee then she could stop you. Ratchet will take care of her now."

Optimus had stopped, surprised by Prowl's words. He hadn't known what to say, so he had just nodded to show he understood, even if he still thought, somewhere near the back of his mind, that he should have been able to do something.

Alpha Trion had no bright light to shine on the question of any espionage involved with the attack on Hound's patrol, however he did say he would monitor the situation closely regarding other patrols. Then they left after informing him of the most recent matters.

By the time they got back, Preceptor had disappeared back into the med bay. Ariel and Bluestreak had taken his place. They were sitting outside those impassable doors, Bumblebee and Arcee sandwiched between them. The two younglings were leaning on each other like Optimus had seen them do when one of them had had a nightmare. On Bluestreak's other side, Chromia and Ironhide were propping each other up a little farther down, looking like they had both just lost some sort of drinking game the way they wobbled slightly and threatened to fall over every so often. The only thing that kept their image from being funny was little Val shivering as he clung to the adults as if he thought he would drown if he let go.

If it was possible, Optimus' spark felt even heavier then before as he went and sat beside Ariel. Bumblebee crawled into his lap without a word. Little Arcee looked to see who had her friend now and, seeing it was Optimus, went and climbed into Chromia's lap to try and comfort Val.

"How are you feeling?" Optimus asked Ariel softly, vaguely wondering how giving a piece of one's spark away to an organic who had no way to reciprocate affected a bot.

Ariel stirred slightly, as if she had been dozing off, and met his optics. She looked tired, as if she hadn't rested in orbits.

"Fine," she told him automatically, then added with a subdued smile, "stretched a little thin, but I can feel Aria at the other end, like I can Chromia and Arcee. It's working."

Optimus felt a small wave of relief wash over him. There was that much good news at least.

But the bad still outweighed the good. "Treads was extinguished in the fight," Optimus told Ariel numbly as he watched Val, the biggest and strongest of the younglings, start to cry as Arcee leaned her head against his shoulder.

Ariel nodded solemnly. "I know," she answered softly, "Val started screaming shortly before you arrived. We couldn't think of anything else that would make him hurt like that."

Optimus nodded before leaning his head back against the wall behind him. He was silent a moment before spitting out the even worse news. "Megatron saw Bumblebee."

Ariel sat up in surprise, weariness temporarily erased by shock as she stared over at him with wide optics. "What?" She asked, praying she had heard wrong.

Optimus simply nodded again.

Ariel stared at the floor for a moment as she tried to think straight through the horror Optimus' news brought on. "But," she finally managed, looking up at him again, "but the others. Sparksnever come out of the Well alone." She said in fear. It was common knowledge. Everybody knew that.

Optimus nodded. Then pointedly looked down at the unnaturally quiet Bumblebee sitting in his lap. He was still staring, unblinking, at the doors to the medical bay.

Ariel looked at the boy as well, then gave a nod of understanding. They could talk about this later, once the younglings were taken care of. Looking over at the former linguist and the way she was looking apprehensively between the three children in the room, Optimus thought they probably had the same idea of what must be done to keep the little ones safe.

He was kept from dwelling on his sorrowing solution by Ratchet suddenly coming out of the hospital, supporting Wheeljack. Or maybe Wheeljack was supporting him. They both looked as unbalanced as Chromia and Ironhide sitting beside the door.

Nobody spoke as the medical officer helped Wheeljack into a chair before he fell and dragged them both to the floor. Between the two of them Ratchet was definitely the steadier of the two, although Optimus noticed that he swayed slightly as he straightened up from helping Wheeljack.

Ratchet looked back at the others gathered in front of the hospital doors, taking what passed for a deep breath before speaking.

"She's still with us." He eventually said, his voice wobbling slightly. "The transfers appear to have worked."

The 'but' hung unspoken in the air a moment, painfully obvious in Ratchet's voice.

"However," he finally went one, "she hasn't come back online yet. More," he stuttered although Optimus wasn't sure if it was because his feelings were getting in the way or because of his apparent dizziness, "More like she can't wake up. I've done what I can to stabilize her, but I just don't know enough about her frame to know what else to do." He said, shrugging helplessly, his gaze sliding over to the med bay doors that had closed behind him, although he stumbled slightly as if the room continued to turn even after he stopped moving his head.

"You alright there Ratchet?" Ironhide asked, his words mostly understandable.

Wheeljack gave a breathless gust of laughter. "'Bout as right as the rest of us." He slurred. "Aria was still fading after Hound and I were done, so what do you think he does?" He asked, waving a hand in Ratchet's general direction although it could have just as easily been pointing at the wall next to him. "He tells her 'oh no you don't' and zap! Gives her a piece of his own spark. Mighty dangerous of you Ra-chet," Wheeljack prodded somewhat deliriously, drawing Ratchet's name out into two words.

Ratchet pointedly ignored his old friend. He highly doubted Wheeljack would even remember this after some much needed rest. His state probably hadn't been much helped by the pain inhibitors Ratchet had given him earlier anyway.

"Do you know how long until she might come back online?" Optimus asked, getting back to Aria's condition.

Ratchet shook his head heavily. "No, it could be cycles or it could be vorns. I just don't know." He stressed, clearly aggravated by his own lack of knowledge. It was always the ones he couldn't help that plagued him. "I'm not even sure if she will ever wake up." He admitted.

Jazz's out of place burst of sharp laughter broke the suffocating silence. "Go figure," he said, trying to joke even though his spark wasn't in it, "you all save her life just so she can sleep it away. Just watch, she'll wake up a vorn or two and say, 'hey, what'd I miss?' as if no time had passed at all."

Of course the joke fell flatter then a year old balloon left in the sun. But there was still a moment of silent anticipation as everyone in the room turned and stared at the med bay doors. This was the ironic moment, when the last thing you expected, but still so desperately wanted, should happen, where it would seem Aria would wake up just to prove Jazz wrong.

The silence stretched on.

Ratchet shook his head and vented a sigh as he turned back to them, breaking the silence.

"I'll tell you if anything changes."

Then he went back into the med bay to tend to the rest of the injured.

So they waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Gradually over the next few orbits, things settled down into a forced sense of normalcy. There were other matters to attend to after all. More battles to prepare for, more lines to defend, more bots to worry about. They couldn't afford to sit around and wait for Aria to wake up.

But she was always near the forefront of their minds. She, along with the battle at theSpaceBridgein general, had been pulling incessantly at Optimus' head for orbits now. He just couldn't get away from them.

When he could he went to his old workstation in the Hall of Records and stared out the nearby window at the city ofIaconas he tried to sort himself out, but those times were few and far between. Still he managed.

It was about an orn after theSpaceBridgebattle that Ariel found him there, standing in front of the chipped and dirtied window, hands clasped behind his back, thinking hard. He knew the moment she had joined him, but he couldn't bring himself to look away from the memory of Treads falling and of little Val crying to face her right away.

She gave him time, seeing the far away look even in his reflection on the window's clear surface.

Finally the memory ended and Optimus' optics flickered away from the view outside the window towards Ariel's reflected image.

"You're looking better." He said as he turned to look at the reflection's source.

Ariel nodded as she stepped closer to him. "It was not as hard as Ratchet first thought to adjust to her presence. Bluestreak was right when he said that it was just like bonding with family. Although since Aria does not have anything to give back I felt like I had stretched myself thin at first and she felt very far away." She told him.

"You can actually feel her?" Optimus asked, curious. He understood Ratchet's concern, but there were times, like now, when he wondered how he had let himself be talked out of helping one of his oldest friends.

Ariel nodded, unaware of his internal question. "Yes, but it is faint, probably because she is still sleeping. I can tell she is still alive, and in no danger of extinguishing in the near future, but otherwise, nothing. No emotion or feeling, as if she's not even dreaming. It worries me." She admitted softly.

Optimus placed a comforting hand somewhere between her shoulders and back. "I know," he told her before letting his hand fall away a klik later.

Ariel nodded and looked away from him, arms crossed in front of her torso. For a cycle her gaze seemed very far away, but eventually she wrestled it back into the present moment. "I wanted to speak with you about the younglings," she said as she turned her attention towards him again, forcibly putting Aria out of her head for the moment.

Optimus nodded. He had been expecting this sooner, but this was the first chance they had had to return to their previous conversation. But even prepared as he was, he was still shocked by Ariel's next words.

"We need to split them up."

Optimus stared at her an endless klik. "What?" He asked in evident surprise.

"You said yourself that Megatron saw Bumblebee and everybody functioning, including him, knows that sparklings never leave the Well of Allsparks alone. He'll also have figured out that they are here. Optimus," Ariel said almost pleadingly after her first clear, logical sentences, "he will come looking for them."

Optimus had reasoned as much, but still, separate them? They had been together since they had first been brought online. Could they handle that?

Could they afford not to handle it?

"But the Decepticons control most of the planet. We're already spread so thin Ariel. Iacon is our most fortified base." Optimus said, testing her logic but not dismissing it.

Ariel took a calculated step forward, wishing to make herself very clear. "Megatron does not suffer things he is afraid of Optimus, and for some reason that has probably very little to do with rational thought, he is afraid of the younglings. He will not stop until he is sure that every last one of them is dead." Ariel insisted, meeting Optimus' gaze full on despite the almost uncomfortable closeness between them. "We must," she said with careful force, "protect them." She loved them too much not to.

"We will," Optimus told her, "I promise."

Then he thought through their other options, if there were any.

But if there was a better way to handle this, Optimus was hard put to see it. At the very least Megatron would be slowed by having to actually search for the younglings and if the Autobots could distract him from that even more, the better.

"We should discuss this with the other guardians before coming to any hard decisions, however I believe you are right. The only problem I foresee is Val. I don't think it would be wise to take him away from the only home he's ever known just after his guardian's death. He's already lost so much."

Ariel nodded and thought, her optics slightly glazed as she stared at something that wasn't there. Optimus waited. Ariel always got that look when she received one of her premonitions.

"What about the Wreckers?" She asked, sounding only mildly unsure of what she was saying.

"What about them?"

"Do you think Val would do well with them?" She asked as if it should be obvious. This was what they were talking about after all.

Optimus draw back slightly. "He's a child!" he said loudly in his shock.

Ariel rolled her optics at him. "Well not right this instant. I mean when he is older."

Optimus thought about it. Even now it was easy to see that Val had the same never-say-die attitude that most of the Autobot elite force did. With a little – alright, a lot – of training, he could very well become a part of Ultra Magnus' force.

"Possibly…" Optimus said thoughtfully.

"Good," Ariel said glad he was seeing things as she did, "introduce them. See what Ultra Magnus thinks. See how Val reacts. I think they could be good for him."

That startled a short laugh from Optimus. The Wreckers, while effective and dedicated, did not exactly fall under the 'good influence for children' column most adults kept.

Before Ariel could ask what he found so funny, something Optimus didn't hear grabbed her attention and she looked back towards the door. At first he thought she was having another premonition, which was slightly odd. They usually weren't grouped so close together, but that wasn't it. She started smiling as she stared at the air near the door.

Before she could tell him what she had just heard, he received an incoming message from Wheeljack.

"Yes, wha-" Optimus started, idly wondering what had exploded this time.

"She's awake!" Wheeljack shouted excitedly before Optimus could finish. "She's finally awake!"

Optimus looked over at Ariel, optics wide. She was smiling even more now, undoubtedly feeling the same news through her new bond with Aria.

"Let's go say hello." Ariel said, unable to stop grinning, before quickly walking out the door, Optimus following right behind her.

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