Chapter 9: The Downslide of Alien Meds
The trip back through Iacon was very different from the first. Aria was quiet and still as Orion Pax drove back through the crowded city streets. Instead of looking out at the honey colored city, she sat with her head leaning against the out of place window and occasionally gave a long, heavy sigh.
"What to do? What to do?" She kept thinking. It was like her mind was stuck in a mental rut, going through the same, unhelpful, words over and over again. Half finished, other thoughts kept trying to break through the mind numbing chant, but they just didn't have enough force to disrupt the flow.
"What to do? What to do?" She thought again, hating the rut even more than the lack of an answer, if that was possible.
Aria sighed again, her head rolling against the clear surface with the smooth motion of Orion Pax's turn onto a new street, this one no less crowded than before. To try and break up the monotony, Aria sat back against the wall behind her, vacantly staring out the window to try and preoccupy her mind. She felt so tired, so heavy, now. Walking must have taken more out of her than she had first thought.
"It's nap time when we get back." She told herself, momentarily relieved of her previous question.
Aria's mind emptied as they rolled down another block or two. Wearily she closed her eyes, taking in what she was sure would be a short lived moment of peace.
"I feel so heavy…" she found herself thinking slowly. Her hands might as well have been lead lumps where they rested against her knees and there was an unpleasant tingling sensation running through her suddenly weak legs. "They feel like their made of jell-o." Then she sighed again. "What to do? What to-oh yeah. Nap. That's what to do."
With a small snort of laughter at herself, Aria cracked open her eyes and started out hazily at the city creeping past the window. "We're going so slow," she muttered groggily to her driver. She waited quietly for a second, expecting Ariel's translation, but then she remembered that the female Cybertronian had left already, heading off to wherever it was she worked.
Aria didn't let her translator's absence stop her from speaking. "It'd probably be faster if we jus' walked," she pointed out, her words starting to blend together. Her eyelids drooped once, twice, before she snapped them open again and forced herself to stare out at the gleaming buildings passing slowly a few yards away. She propped an elbow against the portal and stubbornly propped her head up, determinedly staring at the view, not caring if any of the passerby saw her.
Her eyelids slowly started to close.
Aria snapped her head up, hitting it against the low roof. "Youch!" She shouted startled more than hurt as she rubbed at the top of her head. She must have surprised Orion Pax too because he jerked to a stop at her sudden yelp, nearly sending Aria flying forward. When they both realized that nothing was about to come out of nowhere and hit them, Orion Pax sent a somewhat irritated sounding blast at Aria.
"Out!" She yelled, not even bothering to guess at his question. "I need out!" then she flung the door open and clumsily hopped out. Orion Pax would have been considerably more annoyed if her foot hadn't crumpled under her and she hadn't crawled to the pedestrian's walkway. Somewhat alarmed, he pulled over and transformed, keeping a wary eye on the little organic as she regained her feet only to take a few steps and collapse into a sitting position under the nearest unlit streetlamp. Miraculously none of the passerby had paid her much attention. Those that did glance at her quickly went back to whatever they were doing, dismissing her as nothing more than a minicon or a drone, Orion Pax hoped.
"What is she doing?" Jazz hissed once he had transformed and joined Orion Pax.
The larger mech shrugged. "I don't know," he answered hurriedly, "she just got out when we stopped. I don't know why."
Jazz cursed low enough that even Orion Pax standing right next to him had difficulty understanding his precise words. It only made it that much harder to copy him.
"Well now what?" Jazz demanded, aggravated bordering on angry, "Are we just supposed to pick her up in the middle of all these bots?"
Orion Pax looked around at the milling crowds as covertly as he could. They were right in the thick of this sector's shift switch. Bots were coming and going all along the street, most stopping to talk with familiar faces before going on their way again. Retrieving Aria now, or just talking to her, would be noticed not just by someone, but lots of someones, and Orion Pax would bet that all of them would say something about an organic's presence on the street. If he was in someone else's place he knew he would. The High Council would be flooded with rumors of organic invasion before the orbit was out.
"Let's just wait a while. The crowds will thin in a few cycles and then we can grab her when no one's looking our way. Just try not to attract too much attention."
At that moment, Aria started giggling.
Jazz practically winced. "Yeah, well it's not me you need to tell that to." He grumbled as he watched the crowds to see if anyone had heard Aria's mad laughter. But thankfully it seemed that the dull roar of so many bots talking at once had drowned out the little being's amusement.
Jazz suddenly froze.
"What? What is it?" Orion Pax asked, searching the crowd for whoever had spotted the unsuspecting organic.
"No, it's not that, it's just" Jazz paused, thinking first, "we didn't tell her about Wheeljack's changes to her medicine, did we?"
Orion Pax thought about it, and then shook his head. "No, why? Do you think it will have an adverse affect on her?"
Jazz looked pointedly over at the madly giggling organic. "I'm going to go with yes on this one."
Orion Pax opened his mouth to speak, when Jazz started shoving him toward the pedestrian's walk. "She's getting up! Grab her, quick!"
But Orion Pax was blocked by the crowd. He could hardly see Aria much less pick her up through the mass of metal bodies.
"Where is she?" He hissed, trying hard not to shout.
He figured Jazz must have had better vision than he did, because the smaller mech started pushing him against the flow of traffic. "I see her! She's headed towards the corner."
The two mechs took off as fast as they dared through the dense crowd of bots. Occasionally, Orion Pax would catch sight of Aria's brown hair through the mass of metal gray bodies and brightly painted colors, but it was mostly Jazz that managed to keep tabs on her. If he hadn't been there Orion Pax was sure he would have lost the organic femme long ago.
"She's around the corner, quick! Go! Go! Go! We're gonna lose her!" Jazz whispered harshly as she shoved at his friend to hurry up.
Orion Pax rounded the corner and ran smack into another mech. He had just enough time to notice that the other mech was darkly painted and had several industrial scars along with two minicons sitting on his stiff shoulders before Orion Pax mumbled a quick apology and dashed on, spotting Aria through the thinning crowd. Dimly he wondered what a member of the industrial caste was doing in this more artistic sector of town, but then remembered seeing a few construction sights along their mad dash for Aria.
"That would explain the heavy alt-traffic too," Orion Pax thought as he muttered his apology.
Then Jazz hissed, "We're losing her!" And the chase was on again.
The two mechs took off after her, hurriedly enough to draw attention from confused passerby. Orion Pax was sure that someone would see the organic femme as she tripped and stumbled past their feet, but miraculously no one did.
"Ariah!" He whispered forcefully when a gap in the crowd appeared. "Ariah stop!"
But she only spun around and smiled at him, laughed, and nearly ran into a wall when she completed her circle. She laughed at that too as she dusted herself off, unwittingly stumbling through someone's legs as she headed farther down the street.
The little organic led them on a zigzagging chase that had Orion Pax marveling at the little creature's endurance. She looked like she was ready to just fall over, but she still went on despite her slow and clumsy feet. The only reason he and Jazz hadn't caught her yet was because of the crowd. Someone was always looking back at them when they bumped into them, or they were just plain in the way, coming between Orion Pax and the small, unnoticed Ariah.
They finally lost her when she slipped into a crowded square that sat between four slim, towering buildings that gleamed shiny new in the sunlight.
"Where is she?" Jazz asked, practically bending over to try and catch sight of the organic through the numerous moving feet. The Cybertronians passing him pretended not to notice.
"I don't know," Orion Pax said, using his height to look over the crowd to see if that helped. It didn't.
"Wait!" Jazz suddenly said, leaning closer to the ground. "I see her!"
Jazz pointed into the thick of the crowd. "There!"
Orion Pax stepped to the right.
"No, no, over there!" Jazz corrected him forcefully.
Orion Pax finally spotted Aria's small frame through a fleeting gap in the crowd. "I see her," he muttered, feeling beyond frustrated and more than a little freaked out. "Alright how about this? I'll go straight and you see if you can't get behind her so she can't get away again. Hopefully we can catch her without anyone else realizing an organic is running around their feet."
Jazz nodded, picturing the calamity that would cause. That, and with all the bots crammed into this little square, it would only be a matter of time before Aria got herself stepped on.
Orion Pax started wading through the thick press of metal frames. Jazz followed suite, shaking his head at the whole situation as he cut through the crowd at a diagonal where Aria couldn't see him. "How can she be this difficult? She doesn't even reach my knee joint. Where does she find the energy to make such a mess?" He wondered out loud, keeping the little organic mostly in sight through the haze of pedestrians.
Orion Pax was thinking mostly the same thing as he shoved as politely as he could through what felt like a never ending swarm of citizens. He was getting closer he saw, he could practically reach out and grab her if only he could get a clear shot.
"And if she would just stay still!" He thought with frustration as the little organic stumbled suddenly and fumbled to the left, away from his reach.
"Ariah!" he dared to whisper forcefully despite the crowd, "hold still!"
She spotted him through the mass of bodies and smiled shakily. Looking practically lopsided, Ariah waved at him before spinning around and walking in the opposite direction around the corner.
Orion Pax looked at Jazz over the heads of the masses. The other bot vented a sigh and threw up his arms. "After you," Jazz told him with a frustrated sigh as he gestured around the corner.
Orion Pax exhaled loudly and looked up in an attempt to stave off more irritation than he already felt before sharply turning the corner after Aria.
"Ariah!" He hissed again once he realized that they were now in a deserted back alley street. "What are you doing?"
Aria's head wobbled disconcertingly on her neck and she reached up a quivering hand to steady it. She wasn't giggling now, just pale and distracted looking, like she was waking up from some sort of daze.
"Ariah?" Orion Pax asked, a bit softer, as she leaned back against the nearest wall and slid down to the ground with a small groan.
"Oh great, now what's wrong with her?" Jazz asked when he caught sight of the little organic staring vaguely into space. There was a brief struggle between her weak fingers and the stiff fabric of the pants Wheeljack had given her to replace her old, tattered clothes before she managed to pull a small, white tube from her pocket. Puzzled, Jazz watched as the organic femme shook the rest of the flat tabs out onto the palm of her hand. She stared at them hard as she tried to count them before just tossing the lot of them into her mouth.
Orion Pax shrugged somewhat helplessly. "I don't know. Maybe this is what happens when she takes too much of…whatever she called it. We should probably take her back to Ratchet and Wheeljack, just in case."
Jazz sighed dramatically. "Oh man, not again." He griped.
"Well, if you've got a better idea I'd be glad to hear it," Orion Pax told him a little harshly as he carefully picked Aria up and tried to set her back on her feet.
Jazz opened his mouth to snap back at him, but before he could manage to make any kind of sound, the world exploded in a great fiery, concussive blast that rent the air, and the planet beneath their feet trembled with an explosive force that had nothing to do with the nearby construction.