Chapter 7: The Interpreter
The medication was ready quicker than Orion Pax had thought possible and after some slight arguing on how to actually give it to the organic, Ariah managed to wake up enough to do it herself, pulling a syringe so small out of her pocket that Ratchet wondered out loud how it didn't snap in two at just a touch. Then she promptly fell back into recharge.
"How long until it kicks in?" Jazz asked a few joors later after he had finished sending off his request for assistance to his friend.
Wheeljack just shrugged, so Ratchet answered instead. "Not long, but it'll still take awhile for her frame to return to a healthy state. Other than that I don't know when she'll regain consciousness."
"Um, how about right now?" Jazz asked pointing at the stirring organic. Ratchet and Wheeljack immediately came closer, still very intrigued by the little creature's presence.
Their large shadows fell over the small organic as her optic lids opened uncertainly. For a long cycle she just lay there, feeling confused and miserable, although not as inwardly sugar coated as she had felt before. Dismally Aria found herself wondering if she cut herself now would she start bleeding high intensity, Vermont dense, maple syrup.
The thought made her laugh sleepily. "That would be funny. Then Orion Pax would think humans bleed syrup instead of blood." She thought as she rolled over on her back to see if she felt well enough to dare sitting up.
Then she bolted upright so fast her head spun, which was actually a welcome improvement over the feeling of sugar grating against the inside of her veins.
There were two aliens staring down at her now, and neither of them were Orion Pax.
"I've been abducted by aliens!" She shouted. "I mean, uh, different aliens," she amended, and then in a much softer voice added, "I wonder if I should panic this time?"
But when neither unrecognizable robot made a move towards her, Aria decided to put off panicking for later when she felt better. Her stomach still felt too rebellious for any more alarming emotions. So instead of trying to escape, she decided to sit there, at the very least outwardly calm, and hope that a familiar face would appear eventually.
"Well speak of the devil," Aria thought as Orion Pax appeared to her right, a smaller bot following him. Feeling a bit unnerved by all four staring at her so intently, Aria smiled nervously and gave them a little wave of hello.
"What's she doing?" Wheeljack quietly asked Orion Pax from where he had crouched down so that his optics were level with the table, his curious optics never leaving Ariah.
"Waving," Orion Pax gave the obvious answer, "I think it's how they greet one another."
"Why don't they just say hello?" The inventor asked.
Orion Pax shrugged. "How am I to know?" He asked back.
Jazz slanted his large friend a look. "Because it lives with you?" He suggested.
Orion Pax decided not to reply to that as Wheeljack experimentally copied Ariah's gesture.
Aria grinned as one of the new robots twitched its digits at her. "I'm guessing you guys don't wave a lot do you?" She asked just because she had the chance to talk. Not even three hours ago she had thought she was going to die. It felt so nice to be wrong. She was honestly amazed at how much better she felt, and so quickly too.
"It's not like I'm going to go run a marathon or anything, but at least I don't feel like I'm going to die in the immediate future anymore. I guess there's just no beating alien meds." She murmured as she watched the robots talking amongst themselves above her.
"Do you understand what she's saying?" Ratchet asked now.
Orion Pax shook his head.
"I've got that one covered," Jazz spoke up, "my translator friend'll be here in a few orbital cycles to help us out."
"Good," Wheeljack said, "but my question is what do we do with her in the meantime?"
Ratchet hmphed. "Let her rest," the older medic said somewhat sharply, "just look at her. Her internal systems are still malfunctioning from her previous over saturation. I would give it a few orbits before you bring her back."
Orion Pax looked over at the mechasurgeon in surprise. "Bring her back?" He asked.
Ratchet nodded, slightly self conscious now. "Well, yes, I have to make sure she's back in working order don't I?" He asked almost defensively.
Wheeljack smirked at the older med worker. "C'mon Ratchet, admit it, you just want to see the little organic again."
The medic fidgeted surreptitiously. "Well," he tried, "yes, but I still want to make sure she'll be alright." He protested.
"Mm-hm," Wheeljack muttered.
Ratchet skewered the other mech with a sour look. "Like you're one to talk?" He pointed out.
The inventor just turned back to his guests. "Just feel free to bring her around any time." He said.
Orion Pax made no promises.
Meanwhile, Aria was still looking up at them, trying to puzzle out there conversation. She had no luck of course and, even if she had tried to guess at what they were saying, she would have been as far from the truth as she was from home.
Over the next few days Aria felt more and more like her normal, not-overdosed-on-sugar, self much to everybody's, especially her own, relief. However, the calm pattern that had existed before was gone with her introduction to Jazz, Wheeljack, and Ratchet. (She knew their names along with their faces now. They had made her understand that much before Orion Pax had taken her back to her lovely little hole in the wall for some much wanted sleep.) She had been completely well for the past four days and this was the first time she hadn't seen any one of them. Not that she was complaining, she rather liked them actually, but it felt nice to be left alone in the quiet for once.
If only she could find something to do.
"Figures," Aria said to herself where she sat on the counter outside of the tunnel mouth she still slept in, "the first time I have to myself in days and I don't know what to do with myself. No books, no computer, well, not that I can use anyway. I don't even have a pack of cards." She muttered with a sigh.
She sat there a moment longer before getting up and making her way down to the floor. Maybe a change in view would give her an idea at least.
Not really, she found. At a complete loss of what else to do, she flopped down on the floor, staring up at the thick beams that striped the high ceiling far above her.
An idea popped into her head.
She sat upright, a large smile spreading across her face. "That's it!" she exclaimed.
She scrambled to her feet and made a beeline to the far side of the room where a large pile of miscellaneous odds and ends had been thrown together haphazardly.
"Now where did I see that…" she muttered as she peeked around some empty bins as wide as she was tall. "Aha! Found you!" She yelled as she pulled the long black rope from the heap.
She laughed gleefully once it was free. Just to be sure, she picked up a length of rope and pulled at it experimentally. It stretched like elastic just like she'd hoped.
"Excellent," she muttered like a cartoon villain gone wrong, "Oh! It's even got a hook at the end. Sweet!" Then she hopped up on her feet and ran to the middle of the room, her improvised bungee cord dragging in her wake.
She stopped abruptly in what she thought was the rough center of the room. Then she looked up at the ceiling and took two large steps to the right so that she was directly under one of the metal girders that ran along the ceiling.
Nodding to herself and humming approvingly, she pulled the rest of the makeshift bungee up next to her feet. She kept a good length in her other hand before picking up the hefty metal clasp that was hooked to one end of the rope. She let the hook dangle down near her ankle for a minute as she sized up the height between her and the rafter. Then, nodding her head approvingly again, she started swinging the hook end of the rope until it was nothing more than a blackish blur, the way she had learned from her Uncle Charles, who always wore cowboy hats and had a lasso around because he was a cattle wrangler. Then when she was ready, she flung it up towards the ceiling.
The hook caught in the struts lining the thicker girder with a satisfying clank.
"Very nice," Aria murmured, pleased with herself. She wasn't exactly an unordinary girl, but she was exceptionally curious about practically everything. When she was younger especially she had always liked trying new things. She had spent summers with horses, with falcons, with circus people. She had taken lessons in calligraphy, porcelain painting, calf wrangling (also from Uncle Charles), and flying. She knew how to shoot with a bow and arrows, how to professionally groom a miniature schnauzer, and how to hide a dove in a hat so the audience wouldn't see it. She knew a little bit about a lot of things and it always made for creative and interesting solutions to everyday problems, especially boredom.
Aria tugged at the elastic rope to test how solidly the hook was stuck. "That should do it," she said as she put her headphones in her ears. She found Tchaikovsky's Arabian Dance before pressing play and shoving her Ipod deep into her pocket for safekeeping. Then, with a deep breath and a practiced jump, she leapt up and caught the rope in her hands. Legs held straight out in front of her, she pulled herself up hand over hand, just like Jamie Chan, the circus acrobat from Barnum and Bailey's and her very good friend, had shown her when she was eight.
When there was a good deal of space between her and the floor, Aria let go of her air somewhat shakily. "I must not fear," Aria thought to herself when she was about ten feet off the floor, "Fear is the mind-killer. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." She told herself. Then with a deep breath, Aria let go of the rope with one hand and started what Jamie had called dancing in midair.
Aria and her parents had met the teenaged acrobatic performer the summer before Sera was born, when Barnum and Bailey had come to town for their annual show. The girls had bonded fast over rainbow snow cones and mid air flips. Aria's parents had said Jamie Chan was a miracle worker when they found Aria clinging to a rope, her feet three feet off the ground. So they had encouraged their daughter's interest in rope acrobatics, hoping it would help her get over her fear of heights. It had worked, to some extent. She didn't curl into the fetal position and have a panic attack whenever they so much as talked about flying to her grandmother's house anymore at least.
Slowly, not so fast to freak herself out, Aria looped the rope around her feet for a split to match a smooth rise in the music. Then when the clarinet solo started its ascent, she twined the rope around one leg to steady herself for a ballet move she couldn't remember the name of, although she thought the name was undoubtedly French. Most of them were.
She took a deep breath, gathering up the daring to climb higher that was hiding somewhat pitifully in the back of her chest behind her already racing heart. "Relax," she mentally intoned, "relax, now open your eyes and just let go-OWOAH!"
Aria didn't just scream in her head as the large metal shoulder rose up to fill her field of vision. Quickly she threw herself backwards, hoping to escape into a flip as she griped the rope hard, giving herself rope burns from the sudden friction. But she didn't stop falling until she jammed her foot through a sudden loop in the slack and held on tight.
She jerked to a stop hard enough to wrench her knee, and she yelped at the sudden twist in pain, but she imagined it was nothing compared to if she had actually crashed into Jazz's shoulder.
For a sudden heart pounding moment, she just hung there, swinging slightly back and forth, looking at the upside down room, company included. Orion Pax and Jazz stared back, showing the same shock Aria felt pounding through her blood. From the looks on their faces, Aria could easily imagine that their hearts were running rampant as well, or at least, whatever the equivalent was for Cybertronians.
Aria had just about regained her breath when Jazz pointed up at her and said something she would have sworn meant, "Found her."
A blast of Russian dance music burst into her ears, making Aria jump. Her grip loosened on the rope just enough for her leg to fall out of her safety loop and send her sliding towards the floor. She landed hard and fell over, hitting her already aching knee on the hard floor.
Aria glared up at the two robots standing over her. Vaguely she saw they had tried to catch her, but had missed. Suddenly, knowing that they couldn't understand her was a blessing.
"What the heck was that?" Aria yelled up at them, "Where'd you two even come from anyway?" She demanded, half hoping for an honest to goodness argument.
But even though they could probably tell she was angry, they could only guess at what.
Feeling tears in her eyes, Aria gave a frustrated growl, flung up an arm, and then stalked away, up the cabinets and back to her hole as a week's worth of frustrations began to burn in her stomach.
She ripped the piece of opaque mesh she had been using as a screen closed behind her, cutting off most of the light in her tunnel.
She sat down heavily, bringing her knees up to her chest as the tears coursed down her face. It was all just too overwhelming all of a sudden. Everything she knew, everything she had known, was millions, maybe even billions, of light years away. She couldn't even talk with the beings that had taken her in, only at them. She had no way to talk with her family or friends, not even to her sister who was supposedly somewhere on this foreign planet with her.
Aria felt a rock lodge itself in her throat. "Oh God, Sera, where are you?"
Before the answer's absence could start eating away at her again, a short series of clanging thumps echoed through the mesh from the room beyond. Aria looked up, glad for a distraction as she wiped her face with a dirty sleeve and sniffed one last time. Almost shyly, she pulled away the mesh curtain and peered out to see what was going on.
Orion Pax was already at the door. He snuck a look behind him to make sure nothing out of place was still in view, mainly Aria herself, before opening the door.
The figure standing in the doorway was no one Aria recognized. Neither did Orion Pax apparently because for a long moment all he did was stare at the visitor. But then Aria realized with some surprise that the new robot was a girl. Maybe not in the same sense Aria understood as girl, but somehow female nonetheless.
And that gave Aria a whole new set of reasons why Orion Pax was staring.
Despite her sudden bout of loneliness, Aria found herself grinning around the edge of the mesh curtain.
"I guess romance is romance, no matter what planet you're on," Aria thought, than rolled her eyes bashfully at the thought, "Lord, I'm such a girl." she thought. Not that the thought bothered her.
Jazz finally stepped forward, saying something Aria couldn't understand, even if she could comprehend the general meaning. This was that slightly awkward moment in movies where boy meets girl and best friend (his or hers) has to give one a shove to get the conversation (and sometimes the movie) back on track.
Orion Pax jumped out of whatever thought he had been stuck on and quickly got out of the way of the door, hurriedly waving the female robot inside.
Aria slapped a hand over her mouth to hide her smile.
There was a brief burst of loud (and possibly awkward) conversation that had Aria covering her ears. So far, Orion Pax and the others had been considerate around her – with one or two shouting exceptions – but it still amazed Aria how loud their normal speech was to her. She could hear every word they said even if they were whispering, now if only she could understand it…
Aria jumped when Orion Pax suddenly pointed at her of all things.
"What in the world is he doing?" Aria thought bewildered, "What ever happened to stay inside so no one else sees you? I mean, I can understand Jazz and Ratchet, even Wheeljack, but who in the world is this?"
Orion Pax was gesturing at her now, waving her out of her makeshift habitat. "Ariah," he waved again, looking nervously between her and the new guest. Then when Aria did not come out he stepped closer and asked in a softer tone, "Ariah?"
Aria folded her arms over her stomach, ashamed of herself now for yelling at them. Here she was, who-knew-how-many miles from home, and she went and yelled at the beings that had not only watched out for her, but had saved her life. And for no good reason either. It wasn't their fault her headphones could drown out a jet engine.
Ashamed of her earlier outburst, Aria carefully stepped out from the tunnel mouth and into view.
Orion Pax leaned in closer when he saw her, eyebrows furrowed worriedly as he looked down at the squirming human girl.
Aria fidgeted fretfully. "I-" she tried once and had to swallow past her embarrassment, "I just wanted to say that, I'm sorry," she apologized, not quite meeting Orion Pax's glowing blue eyes, "about earlier. I know that doesn't mean much, since you don't understand a word I'm saying, but, well, I am."
Even though Aria knew that the robotic being didn't know English, she still had a moment of doubt when Orion Pax gave her a tiny nod, as if he understood exactly what she was trying to say.
"Maybe love isn't the only thing that's universal," she thought slowly to herself.
Orion Pax's mouth twitched up slightly in a smile and Aria somehow managed to find an answering one before looking down bashfully at her feet.
Orion Pax must have taken this as some sort of answer to move on, because he straightened up somewhat and gestured over to the lady bot to come over. Jazz followed her without needing to be asked.
Aria stood still for the by now customary moment of staring at her in shock and awe. Fortunately, the new lady didn't seem inclined to poke at her like Wheeljack had once she had recovered enough from her illness to kindly gawk at their presence. She didn't even stare that long, taking Aria's presence in stride almost easily.
"They forewarned you then?" Aria muttered more than asked.
Her question attracted the new lady's attention more than her physical presence had. The slimmer robot leaned down and peered at Aria intently, saying something to her that Aria could only shake her head at.
"I guess they left out the part where I don't know what any of you are saying." Aria told her.
The lady made a thoughtful whirring noise before she spoke again, only now the words sounded different, smoother somehow.
Aria cocked her head. "Was that a different dialect or something?" She asked.
The lady said something again and this time the words sounded more like an angry person typing on a computer keyboard than anything else.
When Aria still didn't understand, the lady murmured something to the other watching robots. Jazz answered in his offhanded sounding way, making the lady nod thoughtfully.
Orion Pax's head suddenly shot up with an idea and he started speaking to the new female briefly, but excitedly before turning back to Aria and pointing at the side of his head.
Aria sighed. "So we're back to charades than huh? Alright then, uh hear? Sound? Um?"
Orion Pax paused and thought quickly, hands hanging in the air in front of him. Then he snapped his large metal digits and traced a line between his ear and his hip, then pointed at Aria before pantomiming again.
Confused, Aria pulled her Ipod out of her pocket. She wasn't sure if that's what he meant, but it was the only thing in her pocket, so she held it up for the three of them to see.
Orion Pax nodded approvingly and then pointed at the female standing next to him.
Obligingly, Aria handed it over to the newest robot being. As she watched, a line of blue light crawled up, then down, her pink covered music player, like a scanner. Funny enough, that's what the lady was doing.
"Oh," she suddenly said in a voice that was low and sweet like a southern belle mother, "well that is remarkably simple."
Aria blinked as her jaw fell open.
"WHAT?" She shrieked, her mind stalling on this new impossibility. "Oh sure, living robots, different planets, completely lost in the galaxy, but a lady robot speaking English and my mouth stops like a dog eating peanut butter." She found herself thinking as she stared, mouth wide open, up at the lady robot.
The lady was smiling at her now, holding back her laughter, Aria was sure. "I am sorry for startling you." She apologized in a smooth, feminine voice.
Aria managed a squeak.
The lady placed a hand on her chest. "I am called Ariel. And your designation is Ariah yes?"
Aria nodded. "Yeah," she finally managed, "yeah, I'm Aria, Aria Rhapsody, very nice to meet you. How, uh, how did you do that?" She asked, pointing at the Ipod still in Ariel's hand.
The lady glanced down at the small device. "I scanned the speech patterns stored on your music device to learn your method of speaking." She explained.
Aria nodded dumbly. "O-okay then, that's, eh, that's very helpful. So you can understand me now? No more waving my arms in the air like a loony?"
Ariel's smile threatened to grow as she shook her head. "No, not unless you prefer too."
"No, not really thank you." Aria mumbled. Then a question crossed her mind. "Wait, why couldn't they do that? Learn English from my Ipod?" She asked, pointing at Jazz and Orion Pax.
"That is not their caste," Ariel told her simply, "it is mine."
Aria nodded, partially understanding. "So, you're a linguist then?"
Ariel thought about that, trying to pinpoint the exact definition of the word within the small dictionary of song lyrics she had just run through. "Yes, I suppose that is what you would call me. Jazz asked me here to help overcome the communication gap between you and us so that we could discover your purpose in being here."
That made Aria blink. "You want to know why I'm here?" She asked slowly as she pointed a finger at herself. "Well, I don't know. I don't know why I'm here, or even how I got here at all. All I doknow is that I was driving to the movies with my sister Sera when suddenly we're blindsided by this impossibly bright light, that hurt like a sledgehammer to the kidneys by the way, and suddenly, I'm here. On this alien world filled with living robots, wondering what the heck happened." Aria was ranting by the end.
Ariel blinked curiously at Aria's words. She turned and said something to Orion Pax, who answered, sounding a bit flustered, before Ariel refocused her attention on Aria.
"Perhaps you should tell us your tale from the beginning," she suggested as she and the two males settled more comfortably around the counter.
"This must have been what the narrator from the first show of Romeo and Juliet felt like." Aria thought, fidgeting uncomfortably on her makeshift stage. Then she took a deep breath and told them everything.