A/N: Bam. Here it is, the final chapter in No More Mr. Nice Guy. Thanks everyone for a fun (and long) ride! Special thanks to Purajo who made me finish this thing, and for Mariashadow who kept kicking me to do it as well. It's been a blast!
Part Seven: Son of the Revenge of the Return of What I Know You Did, Annihilation
19 blissful, silent, boring hours.
He'd forgotten what boring was. He needed boring more often. He made a mental note to pencil in more boring into his schedule.
From 0300 to 2200, the only thing Prowl had to worry about was catching up on his work and taking care of administrative errands. He'd even had time to do a walk-through of the base to see how everything was. It was something he never got around to as much as he liked. It allowed the soldiers to see him and make him more accessible, and it allowed him to see things first-hand. Datapads couldn't compare to actually going out and seeing it yourself.
The Lambo twins were both fully accounted for thankfully. Both had been released from medical before morning ration, each bug-free and painted their proper colors. The red was under current orders from the yellow to clean up and de-bugify their room under threat of some sort of cause of death. Prowl hadn't been paying attention. Sunstreaker decided to bunk with Bluestreak until said task was complete. Sideswipe, meanwhile, took to this job reluctantly, though with full effort. He emerged only once to make a run into town for bug fog before returning to work.
All in all, it had been a most pleasant day.
Prowl was not fool enough to think it would last; especially after ruining what should have been a rare day of off-duty time for Sideswipe. So he savored this day of peace, and consoled himself with the knowledge that it was merely a brief taste of what he would experience for a month. He didn't care what it took anymore. Save the limits demanded by the contract, Prowl would do whatever it took to win this war.
It was with this assurance in mind that he sank down onto the yielding padding of his berth, sans skidplate cemented deck chair, and shut down into recharge.
He didn't know how brief that peace would be.
It started around 2330, just long enough for all of Prowl's systems to begin their defrag and restorations. It started quietly, and then gradually increased in volume until he could no longer ignore it. Prowl woke to the sound of an alarm clock playing "La Cucaracha" quite obnoxiously. With an unhappy and knowing sigh, Prowl onlined his optics and leaned over to peer under the berth where a large human alarm clock sat, seemingly set for 2330.
He reached in and picked it up, deactivating it quickly. He had a bad feeling about this, but for now could only imagine where this would lead. Prowl placed the clock on the nightstand beside his berth and rolled back over.
At 2340, the second alarm clock sang out "La Cucaracha." This one was placed further back under the berth, so he had missed it the first time. Just for good measure, the tired 2IC checked the rest of the area beneath the berth and found two more, though they weren't set to go off at all. What could that mean?
Unhappily realizing that he would probably find out in good time, Prowl set the three new alarm clocks beside the first and slipped back into recharge.
At 2350, as "La Cucaracha" sang out from under the nightstand, he knew exactly where this was going.
Prowl mentally cursed Sideswipe as he retrieved this clock and deactivated it, and he knew even as he did so, that he had yet to truly dislike what was to come. These clocks were small, and the wiring of them were too similar to the wiring within and surrounding his quarters, making a scan nearly useless.
He lay back down, unable to do anything else, waiting for 2400. Except this next alarm, and he knew there would be a next, came after 5 minutes this time instead of 10. This one was located under his desk. So he thought he was clever, huh?
Prowl refused to take this insult lying down, literally, any longer. He activated his lights and began the search. Alarm clocks started going off at shorter and shorter intervals now, until any time between 1 minute and 10, the room would be filled with the merry Spanish tune. There was no end to them!
They were on, under, and in his desk. Around his shelving, between datapads, in the small storage cabinet still locked and protected by his own person code, which he then had to change. As quickly as he could find and deactivate the small alarm clocks, more went off in another location. Now they started going off two or three at a time, from every corner of his room.
By 0215, he had at last exhausted every conceivable hiding spot in his room. A minimalist by nature, Prowl was still impressed at how many spots there were where one could hide the tiny devices.
All was quiet. 53 alarm clocks of varying shapes, sizes, and colors were lined up on his nightstand in perfect formation.
5 minutes went by. Then 10. Then 15.
He'd found them all.
With a sigh, Prowl returned to his berth and lay back down, looking forward to a restful, if a little shorter, night's sleep.
At 0237, the next alarm went off.
It was thanks only to the unshakeable self-control that Prowl had been created with that he did not roar out his rage at this new interruption. Instead, he rose from the berth and slapped on the lights, scanning the room with a pair of dangerously slitted optics.
Where had he hidden it? Where had that miserable, Unicron-spawned, blight upon the Universe, crimson carnation of carnage, eternal torment of his soul hidden this one, when all hiding spots had been uncovered? There was no possible, logical way that there was another alarm clock in his room.
Unfortunately for his ever-suffering battle computer, Sideswipe did not exist on a plane that accepted logic or any other natural laws of the Universe. There was no clock in his room.
Under it, however, was another story.
By the time he was able to pull up the loose panel in his floor, "La Cucaracha" was well into its third verse. Prowl didn't bother to shut this one off, merely squashing it with a hand as he imagined it to be his nemesis' head.
There would be no sleep for him tonight, he accepted with grim fury. One by one, he started pulling up his floor. While he found no more alarm clocks in the floor, he didn't dare trust that he'd gotten them all.
After he was confident that there were no more clocks beneath the floor, his attention shifted to the walls. The ceiling. The plating that made up his personal desk and berth and nightstand and shelving.
So focused was he on locating and destroying every Primus-forsaken alarm clock, that he failed to notice that he hadn't actually located any more after number 54, the one in the floor.
At 0550, Prowl had about half of all the room paneling removed and piled neatly according to where he'd gotten it from. No new alarm clocks had been found, but at least now he knew. And with less than 10 minutes before his own alarm would go off, Prowl decided to cut his losses. Hearing one more alarm, even his soothing Iaconian classical recording, ran the serious risk of making him snap. He'd done all-nighters before, and he'd do more. With his job, he did them at least once a week. Yet one such as this… well… thankfully for the red one's sake, this would come to a brutal close. Much more of this, and everyone, Prowl included, would find out what happened when his calm finally ran out.
A few minutes later found him at the lounge for his morning cube of energon. Though after the previous evening, he'd needed two more than usual. Taking his precious cubes, he made his way over to where Jazz was already seated, ignoring the pair of primary colored brothers seated not far away. He could feel Sideswipe's optics on him as he walked, but didn't give so much as a haughty flick of his doorwings. His time would come soon enough.
"Long night?" asked Jazz when his friend sat down. He knew Prowl's habits well enough to know he only had this much energon in the morning after not getting any rest the night before, and he knew for a fact that Prowl had turned in early. Yet if Prowl had an explanation to give, he wasn't offering it up. He only gave a slight shrug of his shoulders and started on his first cube.
"So whaddya think, Prowler?" he tried again for conversation. Prowl's blank face made him grin lopsidedly. Had he really not noticed? One would think Prowl would be the first to have an opinion. And a medal ready.
"What do I think about what?" Prowl asked, not really in the mood for guessing games.
"Sideswipe, man," Jazz answered. "And whoever's been after him."
A doorwing twitched, but Jazz misinterpreted it as curiosity. "I beg your pardon?" the XO asked. "Someone is 'after' Sideswipe?"
He could feel the red Pit-rejected hellion's optics on him again.
"You can't tell me you haven't noticed," Jazz scoffed. "Someone's been pranking him and his brother real good. You gotta have an idea as to who's behind it."
Prowl covered his smirk by taking a sip from his second cube. "Yes, well," he said, "I do have a few theories."
"Oh yeah?" the Special Ops officer leaned forward conspiratorially. "Who is it? I know you know."
Prowl wondered how best to proceed. Jazz knew a liar when he saw one, and he could read Prowl almost as good as his own creator. However, in keeping with the spirit and rules of the game, Prowl merely shrugged again. "As long as no one is harmed and no base rules are broken or duties disrupted, I see no harm in a little… recreation from time to time."
Jazz smirked and sipped from his own cube. "Yeah right. You're just glad to see that li'l devil gettin' a taste of his own medicine for a change."
Another wing flick, this time interpreted correctly as affirmation. "I do not know what you are talking about," he replied like a good XO, both knowing it for a lie.
Jazz only laughed. "Sure y' don't, man. Anyway, I'm off."
"You are training today, are you not?"
"Yep. First Wednesday of the month as always." Jazz stood and took the empty energon cubes. Prowl was currently on his third.
"Enjoy yourself," Prowl replied with a small smile. He knew his friend hated being cooped up for too long, and these monthly trainings he held with his team was a healthy outlet for extra energy. Plus he had a few credits on when young Streetwise would finally be able to sneak up on the elder black and white.
After Jazz exited, Prowl was left to his own thoughts. He was in a slightly better mood than he had been, though not enough to dampen his determination to destroy his enemy completely. He needed to land one final blow strong enough to dissuade all further resistance. Sideswipe surrounded to no foe, on or off the battlefield, and Prowl needed him to do just that. It would be easier to convince Sunstreaker to roll around in a mud puddle.
Yet he was not the Vice Commander for nothing. He lived to do the impossible, from organizing a rag tag group of soldiers to breaking the will of the unbreakable.
The loud popping and sparks took him completely off guard. In his tired daze, Prowl didn't notice the cherry bombs until they were exploding all around him. Startled, he jumped back from his seat, dropping his empty energon cube which shattered on the ground. He didn't cry out, but the reaction of the otherwise stoic 2IC, with his optics wide and doorwings fully flared out, it was enough to bring everyone in the room to laughter. Both twins were on the other side of the room, too far away to make an accusation, but the slag-eating grin on Sideswipe's face said all Prowl needed to know. As if there was any doubt.
Prowl forced his spark back down his throat and gathered what little dignity remained, and strode out the door. "Sideswipe," he said on the way out. "I must be on my way. If you would collect the broken glass for me, I would greatly appreciate it."
For once, Sideswipe didn't argue, still laughing. "Whatever you say, copper."
Prowl tried to ignore the new bout of laughter that erupted after he exited the room.
The walk to his office took far longer than Prowl would have liked. At this point, all he wanted to do was retreat to the safety of his office and get to work. If he never saw a Lambo again, it would be too soon. Surely this was punishment for some heinous crime of his past.
By the time he reached his office door, Prowl's overtired nerves had finally calmed back down. His inner calm had been re-established. Sideswipe be slagged, all was going to be alright. Barring an influx of diplomats from the Republic of Molossia, he was going to be productive!
At some moment, he didn't know exactly when, Prowl considered defeat. It was a moment somewhere between opening the door to his office, taking in the sight before him, and being knocked down by a herd of no less than a dozen squealing pigs as they raced to the freedom that was the vast hallway system of the Ark. Whenever that moment happened exactly, Prowl had considered the possibility that he was outmatched. Surely accepting defeat was much safer than dealing with this.
From his position on the ground, Prowl watched the last sow dash her way around the corner. His aft hurt from where he'd landed on it, and he could feel his tired battle computer threaten to seize on him. Yet he set his jaw and narrowed his optics into dangerous pale blue slits. The moment of defeat passed, and he vowed to bring Sideswipe to his knees.
For the time being, however, he had a few pigs to collect. Surely it wouldn't be too hard. It was just a some organics, right?
Prowl stood back up and walked into his office, pressing the comm button on the desk to alert the entire base. [Attention everyone,] he announced. [This is Prowl. It appears we have some… loose animals running around the base. I require assistance in collecting them so that they may be returned to their rightful owners. Please bring any of the animals that you find directly to Conference Room 1.] Already he knew Red Alert would be going into conniptions, and Groove would be trying to adopt all of the wandering creatures and hide them in his room.
He thought for a moment, and then it dawned on him. [Jazz,] he radioed privately.
[Jazz here. What's up, Prowler?]
[I am in need of your assistance and that of your team. If you would not mind, please return to base.]
The disappointment in his friend's voice was clear. [Aw, man… we only get t' go out once a month for this.]
He did know that and he truly regretted having to cut the training session short. [I will make it up to you, I promise. I'll make time for you all to continue later this week.]
[Alright, whatchu need doin'?]
[…Someone let a herd of pigs into my office, and now they are roaming throughout the base.]
A few minutes later, after allowing Jazz to compose himself, Prowl was reassured that the team was on their way, and not to worry. Pigs couldn't be that hard to catch, right?
Such musings were merely the dreams of the delusional. Not only was it hard to catch a pig, but there were surprisingly few volunteers for the job. Suddenly everyone had something to do that was much more important than chasing after the wayward livestock like "Primus forsaken backwater hicks" as Ironhide had so eloquently described before needing to see Red Alert about something crucial that just couldn't wait. What few mechs he had been able to wrangle together for the job were less than enthusiastic and weren't very good at it besides.
Perhaps the only blessing was that each pig had a number painted to their back denoting which one it was. Probably done by the Unicron-spat imp so he could keep track of them before and after the deed. Said imp had been recruited into pig-catching detail, but wasn't trying very hard. Why should he? It was much more fun watching the half-asleep Prowl try to scoop the little creatures up in his hands without hurting them. They were so wriggly and against the idea of being caught, that it made for a very entertaining show indeed.
By noon, through the grace of whatever gods still smiled upon him, Prowl had 11 of the 12 pigs in custody. Number 7, however, seemed to be ever elusive and no one had seen hide nor hair of him.
"It wasn't me!" Groove insisted after being asked the tenth time. "I already gave you the three I got. Should still let me keep them…they'll just get shipped off to be made into grandma's pot roast or something!"
"Pot roast is made with cow," Prowl replied patiently. "Now are you sure…"
Again he looked over the small herd. One through six… then eight through twelve. They were all here except that one.
One, two, three hours later, and still no sign of the missing creature. Prowl double-checked with local police trying to determine just where these pigs had come from. It was slow work, but eventually a farmer came forward, though he was claiming the wrong number taken. He said he was missing 11 of his best show pigs, taken late in the night by an unknown thief.
Prowl was about to dismiss this claim, when Jazz tapped him on the shoulder. "Uh, Prowler," he said, in that hesitant voice that told the XO he wouldn't like this. "I think those are his pigs."
"How can they?" Prowl asked. "We have 12 pigs here, and as soon as we find the last one…"
"That's just it, man. I don't think there is a last one."
"What do you mean? Of course there is. We have one through six and eight through twelve. I counted them mys…"
"We'll deliver the pigs as soon as we can get them loaded up!" Jazz said merrily to the farmer on the phone. Prowl, meanwhile, had leaned forward to gently rest his brow on the wall and deactivated his optics. He needed a moment.
"Uh, boss," Streetwise's voice chimed in from the back. "We have the pigs tethered up. You want us to take them somewhere?"
Prowl needed another moment, so Jazz easily fell into the command role on this one. "Yeah, Prime said he'd offer up his trailer for us to use. Get Mirage and Bee to help you load them up. I'll be out in a minute."
The young Protectobot tilted his head as he shifted his gaze to the 2IC who remained motionless against the wall. "…is he alright?"
"Jazz," Prowl requested softly. "Please excuse me for a few minutes. I require a moment of privacy."
His friend waved the younger mech off and patted Prowl on the shoulder. He winced at the sight of both doorwings held painfully taut. This was going to be a bad one. "I'll be right outside, buddy," he promised. "But look on the bright side. It's only 1700 and we did manage to catch them all."
"Please leave. Right now."
In the end, it turned out to be a great exercise day for the special ops team after all. As pigs weren't known to be the easiest of Earth's organics to catch, they got plenty of maneuvering practice in. They had to be stealthy, smart, one step ahead from a very skittish and unpredictable (and in Bumblebee's case sometimes dangerous) beast. That, perhaps, was the only good thing to come from this day brought on by the Pit-spawn Seeker reject.
Prowl had never felt so tired before in his many million years of life. His joints ached. His door hinges ached. His battle computer was one cherry bomb away from complete and utter meltdown. During his few minutes of blissful solitude, the black and white tried desperately to compose himself. He could not give in. He could not show just how much of a toll this ill-conceived prank war had taken on him.
He could not fail to win it either.
This was it. The final straw to break this Datsun's back. His next move was going to win this once and for all and with such devastating results that Sideswipe could not and would not retaliate. The month of victory would be his!
At 1704, Prowl finally exited the room and nodded to both Jazz and Streetwise. "Are the animals safely loaded?"
"Yep," Jazz grinned in that crooked way he did. "All done."
"And Prime knows where to drop them off?"
"So we are done here."
"Yep." The grin wavered a little and turned a bit more indulgent. That careful smile you gave a mech completely unhinged. Was he truly that obvious? Streetwise backed up a step and he just shrugged it off. The young one would learn in time.
"Then have a good evening."
Now Jazz's smile failed completely. Something was seriously wrong here. "Wait…you're going to bed? I mean, it's been a long day and you do work a lot, but…"
"Not at all," the smile on Prowl's face was foreign and unsettling. Jazz and Streetwise both stepped back again. "I am giving you and your team the rest of the night off. I appreciate the hard work you have all given me today, especially considering this was your special day of training. So please, enjoy your free evening."
The pair sputtered a thank you and retreated while the retreating was good. Yet it wasn't those two that needed to do the retreating.
The moment both bystanders were out of sight, the smile faded from Prowl's face. He turned and stalked back toward his office where a day's worth of paperwork awaited him, untouched as of yet due to the day's events. It was fine. A few cubes of mid-grade and sheer will would help him get them done before the dawn. What he needed before that, though, was a plan. Red Alert's newest security measures could wait a moment. He had a Lamborghini to flay.
"Why are you leaving so soon?" Did his brother actually sound upset?
"I told you, Sunny," Sideswipe replied as he packed, personal weapons and datapads disappearing into subspace as soon as he touched them. "I need a vacation."
"Is it because I gave you slag about the bugs?" The yellow twin sighed and tried to stop his brother's frantic moving about the room. Part of his cold shriveled black spark felt a little guilty. He'd given his twin a lot of grief since all of this started up a couple weeks ago. It wasn't Sideswipe's fault that someone was clearly out to get one or both of them.
No wait. Scratch that. It was probably 100% his fault.
Yet they were still brothers. Twins. Sparked as one and split into existence. They lived, fought, and would die together. You couldn't have one without the other; that was a basic fact. So why did his brother want to leave so suddenly?
"I could go with you," Sunstreaker tried again. "I have leave saved up too."
Sideswipe looked back at his twin and paused from his packing. He'd put in for leave secretly through Jazz, knowing that Prowl would never approve it. Rules or no rules, Prowl wanted his victim nearby, and after what he did today, nearby is definitely the last place he wanted to be. Yet his brother looked like a kicked puppy standing there like that. A big golden puppy.
"Aw, Sunny…" he sighed. "It's just for a little bit. Two weeks isn't that long. When I come back we'll find something else to do. Besides, you'll be glad I'm gone. This is really so whoever is after me will leave both of us alone. You'd like that, right?"
Sunstreaker couldn't deny that and he didn't. "You promise? Just for two weeks?"
"Yeah," he grinned weakly. "Just till this dies down. What, you need a nightlight? Big red carebear to cuddle?"
The teasing did it. His brother snorted and gave him a playful shove. "It'll be nice not having to deal with your snoring or hogging the playstation all to yourself. Get out of here, aftwipe, before I toss you out."
Sideswipe tossed him a playful salute and opened the door. "Don't miss me too much!"
"Don't die before I get the chance to kill you!" was the cheerful retort.
Skyfire was waiting out front as he said he would be, fueled up and ready to go. It had taken a few cubes of home-brewed high grade to convince him, but the large jet had finally agreed to take him where he needed to go. Someplace far away, he wasn't too picky on where. Somewhere with nice waves. A beach perhaps. As Skyfire was needed off continent anyway, it would be nothing to drop him off somewhere along the way and pick him up when it was time to go home.
"Ready, Sideswipe?" he was asked as he walked onboard. Enough comic books to keep a mech happy forever. Three weeks worth of rations just in case. His aft in one piece as he had safely evaded Prowl's unholy wrath. Yep, he was ready.
"Let's hit it, big guy," he patted the hull and sat down in what he hoped was a good spot. Jets were notoriously whiny about moving about too much inside them. Wimps.
Satisfied that his passenger was content where he was and wouldn't fidget, well too much anyway, Skyfire fired up his jets and taxied out. Before long, the unknown getaway plane had taken off and was headed up into the atmosphere, and the danger of dead Lambo seemed to be a faraway dream.
He was untouchable now. He'd won by default, as Prowl had no way to get him back. No rule ever said that Sideswipe couldn't break and run. The last move had been his…so really he wasn't running away from his duty, real or contracted. The days of leave had been approved. He'd gotten Prowl, and he'd gotten him good. Only a coward would run, especially from a stuffy snooty Praxian, and he was no coward. He was merely performing evasive maneuvers, that's all.
All was going well five hours into the flight. Skyfire had only had to threaten fuselage eviction three times in light of Sideswipe's physical incapability to hold still. They were both mostly silent otherwise. They had very little in common, though they got on well enough. There just wasn't much a melee warrior and scientist could talk about without sounding contrived, and if there was one thing both of them hated, it was pretending just for the sake of it.
Somewhere over the New England coast, as Skyfire was preparing to enter the Atlantic airspace, a call came in from HQ. [Skyfire here,] he answered on his personal comm.
[Ah, Skyfire. This is Prowl…]
While puzzled, Skyfire certainly wasn't alarmed that he'd called, Prowl noted. So that meant that Sideswipe was still playing by the rules and was keeping the others ignorant. Good, he would hate to get innocents involved any more than he had to. For a moment, he'd been concerned that Skyfire had become an accomplice in this game when time came to check on where his favorite scarlet pet had scampered off to.
He'd have to speak with Jazz later on the protocol in approving leave without Prowl's knowledge. Perhaps it might seem redundant, but there shouldn't be any personnel changes made behind his back, unintentional though Jazz's part may have been in the matter. Though knowing his old friend, Prowl wondered just how unintentional it really was.
[I understand you have Sideswipe on board?] he asked Skyfire, knowing the answer.
[Yes, sir,] was the dutiful reply, edged with uncertainty. [Did you need him back for something? I could turn around…]
[Oh no, not at all. He has been approved leave, and as he takes so very little of it, I see no reason for him to carry on as expected. I was merely curious as to his destination.]
[Not quite sure yet, Sir. He said he wanted to be by the ocean, and there's a couple spots along the way to where I'm needed in Italy…]
Prowl's doorwings flicked in amusement. [Oh…? I do believe our new friends in Sealand are on the way, are they not?]
[Yes, they are, sir.] There was confusion in his voice.
[Sideswipe is the one who invited them over to us. Perhaps he would like to visit them?]
Skyfire was still unsure. [Are you saying I should bring him there, sir?]
[Not at all. I cannot order anyone where to go for leave.] There…the idea was planted, now just a little more…
[I'm not overly fond of small patches of land, sir.]
Prowl purred deep in his engine. [He is less fond of it, I believe.]
Skyfire considered this for a moment just at the same time as Sideswipe fidgeted in his cargo bay again, that minute movement enough to make him compensate for the shift. He'd told him to keep still, after all.
[Sealand, you say?]
[It is completely your choice,] Prowl assured him. [I am merely pointing out a place he has been very interested in as of late.]
There was a long pause as the scientist considered this more. [I'll see you in two weeks, sir.]
[Have a safe journey.]
Prowl shut off his comm and leaned back in his chair, resting his hands behind his head. Two weeks of peace… that was even better than 19 hours of boredom. The rules of the contract may have been bent a little with this last one, but as the red warrior so often loved to do the same with any regulation that he came across, Prowl only felt it appropriate to do the same. Besides, if Sideswipe didn't like it, he could always forfeit and give him a free month of angelic behavior.
That is, if this didn't defeat him entirely already.
Oh yes, sometimes it was good to be bad. He may have to try it more often.
A/N: There we have it, our final winner! And really, was there any doubt as to who would in? With as much time as I spent on Sideswipe's very last prank on Prowl, I was stressing over what exactly I would do for Prowl to match and top it. I was over halfway done with the chapter and still hadn't fully committed to one prank over another. At first it was going to be just locking Sides in his room for a month. Then it was going to be a combination of every prank previously done. Then it was going to be changing Sides' alt to something ridiculous. Each one had its merits and drawbacks and I finally decided to go with what Prowl wanted most, which was getting Sideswipe out of his hair for an extended period of time. Anyway, what do you think? Should I have gone with a different prank? Let me know how I did!
Whew! And now off to try and wrap up some other fics…what should I work on next?