Chapter 3: Stinted Introductions
Now that she had used up all her courage just getting out of her hideaway, Aria wasn't sure what to do. So she just stood there, staring up at the alien robot sitting in front of her, watching her with the same intensity of a child watching a bug it had never seen before.
"Well I guess the proportions are about right." Aria thought, her brain too stunned to realize she had just compared herself to a bug.
"Well now what?" She thought next, cocking her head.
Maybe the robot was thinking the same thing, because it tilted its head at her too.
Aria's mouth twitched in a smile, some of her bravery gradually returning along with it. So she swallowed hard and used it before it deserted her again. "I-I don't suppose you talk?" She asked, her voice cracking slightly.
The alien stared at her harder, its eyebrows – which oddly enough reminded Aria of windshield wipers – drawing together thoughtfully.
Thinking it just might not have heard her with the height difference, Aria cleared her throat and tried again. "I-," she swallowed to steady her voice, "I asked if you could talk?" She yelled up at the creature.
It frowned slightly at her. Then it said something that sounded more like a trash compactor than words to Aria's ears.
"Well that's a yes," Aria muttered, "I guess."
The robot creature frowned deeper at Aria and said something else. Or maybe it was the same thing. Aria couldn't tell.
"Sorry, still don't understand." Aria said.
The robot sighed, and rubbed its brow. Aria smiled at the familiar gesture. It was like he was just another person. A large, metallic, gibberish speaking, robotic person, but still.
The robot thought for a moment. Then it lit upon some sort of idea because it lifted its hand in an 'Ah-ha!' gesture. Then it put its hand on its chest and said something slow enough that Aria caught a familiar vowel or two.
"Oh wion axe?" She tried, but the robot just said the word again, enunciating carefully enough that Aria heard two words this time instead of one.
He said it again.
Aria listened hard. "Ori onpax, Ori-" suddenly it hit her, "Orion Pax!" She shouted, her whole face lighting up. "Your name is Orion Pax!" She added, pointing up at the robot.
The robot clapped his hands twice and nodded.
Aria smiled, proud of herself. Then she noticed it, he, she amended (despite all the female Taylors, Devons, and the one Chuck Aria had seen in her high school yearbook, she still had never heard of a girl named Orion before) seemed to be waiting expectantly for something.
"Oh!" Aria finally realized. "Sorry my name's Aria Rhapsody Johnson. Lots of music terms I know, but Mom was going through her classical stage before I was born." She said quickly.
Orion Pax didn't say anything.
Aria laughed nervously. "Sorry," she muttered again, "I talk fast when I'm nervous." Then she steadied her somewhat frazzled mind before gesturing to herself and, speaking as clearly as she could, said, "Aria."
Orion made a hesitant 'er' sound, but Aria wasn't sure if he was trying to say her name or if he was just verbally stumbling.
"Are ree uh." She said slowly.
"Ah reah," he tried.
"Aria," she said again.
"Ahriah," he managed.
Aria smiled. "Close enough."
Orion Pax nodded. "Ariah," he said again.
Aria smiled and nodded back. "Yep, that's me. And you are Orion, like the Greek hero, and Pax, like the, eh, actually I've never heard of a Pax before so I don't know what it's like."
Orion Pax nodded slowly as if he was wondering if he should.
Aria looked around, feeling much more at ease now that she knew the robot wasn't about to grab her like King Kong or anything. "So is this where you live then?" She asked curiously as she took in the sparse metal room that sort of reminded her of an abandoned car garage with very large furniture, although it was much cleaner than any garage Aria had ever seen.
Orion Pax stared at her again, obviously unsure of what she was saying.
Aria sighed. "This is going to be a lot harder then the movies make you think." She muttered. Then louder she added, "You don't have some kind of translating machine or something by any chance?"
Orion Pax didn't answer.
Aria got a sinking feeling in her stomach again, although, she thought, that might have been partly her sinking blood sugar's fault. "Friendly nanobots or, or a Babel Fish?" She asked, reflexively pulling at her right ear.
But Orion Pax just shook his head and shrugged as if he didn't know what to say because he couldn't understand her.
Aria sighed again and hung her head thoughtfully. "Okay, well let's try this, where am I?" She asked, speaking louder near the end as she pointed at the ground beneath her feet.
Miraculously, Orion Pax seemed to understand what she meant. He pointed at the ground too and said something in a language Aria was pretty sure didn't exist on Earth.
Orion Pax pointed again. "Cybertron." He said, slowly and precisely, like he had said his name.
"Hmm, interesting name for a place," Aria said as she looked around her again. "I mean, I've heard of people naming places before, like old houses and stuff, but usually they make a little more sense, like Northanger Abbey or the White House."
She stopped talking when Orion Pax held out a large hand palm up in front of her as if inviting her to step up.
Aria looked up at Orion Pax like he was insane. "Excuse me?" She asked nervously.
The large robot gestured at her again and pointed at the palm of his hand.
Aria's jaw dropped as she gasped. "Oh, no! No way! Nuh-uh, no how, no way. Not. At. All. I don't do heights. Nuh-uh." She flatly refused, moving her hands wildly in front of her.
But Orion Pax insisted, urgently gesturing her towards his open hand.
Just to make herself clear Aria crossed her arms over her chest and turned away like she was trying to train a dog to quit jumping on her. Not that she thought Orion Pax was a dog. But she did hope that body language would work where words failed.
An odd whirring noise made Aria look over at Orion Pax. She wasn't sure if she was right, but she thought that it was the robot equivalent of a worried noise.
Guilt crept up on Aria without warning. She didn't think he would purposefully hurt her. Aria just didn't like heights. Hadn't ever since she had fallen out of her second story bedroom window when she was seven. Her leg had been in a cast all summer after that.
Seeing her hesitation Orion Pax offered his hand again. He said something Aria didn't catch, but sounded reassuring anyway.
Aria wavered for a moment, not wanting to be higher than a foot off the ground, but she didn't want to upset Orion Pax either. Aside from being frighteningly tall and made entirely of metal, Aria rather liked the bot already.
Aria finally caved. "Oh alright," she grouched, stomping her foot once to show how she felt about this before carefully climbing onto the robot's hand.
She nearly shrieked when he lifted her up, but somehow she clamped her lips together and clung tight to Orion's thumb. Her legs caved almost instantly and she sat there trembling, literally in the palm of his hand, as he carried her across the room towards a window she hadn't noticed before.
"I think I'm going to hurl." Aria murmured, daring to let go of his thumb long enough to clap a hand over her mouth as her stomach threatened to revolt against the sudden movement.
Actually, Orion Pax saw her suddenly pale complexion and moved so slow that if he had crawled he would have gone faster, but Aria didn't notice.
He put her down as gently as he possibly could, but Aria didn't move for a long time, just sat there shivering. It wasn't until he carefully slanted his hand that she even noticed he had stopped moving.
Aria somehow managed to find enough strength in her wobbly legs to touch her feet to the ground. But it took Orion Pax moving his hand so that Aria slid right off for her to get back on her feet.
"Oooo…" Aria groaned once she was back on a solid, non-moving, surface, "I don't feel so good." She moaned as she stuck her head between her knees.
Orion Pax made a concerned noise and knelt down so that he was eye level with her.
"I-I'll be alright," Aria said weakly, "just give me a minute…" she said, lifting her head high enough to give Orion Pax a small smile.
The large robot pointed behind her when she did. Curiously, and still slowly, Aria turned to see what he was pointing at.
She forgot her nausea as soon as she saw the window behind her. With a gasp of amazement, she twisted around to face the view full on. Beyond the window stretched a city the likes of which Aria had never seen before in her life. It was like a giant honeycomb seen from the inside. Even in the science fiction art contest she had entered last year she had never seen anything so, so, so alien before.
"Wow…" Aria gasped.
"Cybertron," Orion Pax said again pointing outside.
It finally dawned on Aria. "I'm on a different planet." She murmured, looking over her shoulder at the robot Orion Pax. "I'm on your planet." She realized. Then she gave a breathless laugh. "I guess that technically makes me the alien." She kept talking, shock overriding her usual brain-to-mouth skills.
A thousand half formed thoughts rushed through Aria's head, none really sticking as she tried to take in what this really meant. But there was really only one thought that her brain could actually finish.
"Huh," she muttered, "well paint me green and call me an alien would you look at that?"