Author's note: Yikes, this was a LONG time coming. Work and my personal life both became so busy that I had to put ALL hobbies on hold. Hopefully, the wait was worth it. Now, the conclusion of "Monty Python and the Twins!"
Prowl was not surprised to find himself in Optimus Prime's office early the next morning. He was well aware of the Twins' activities over the last several days and was relieved that Prime finally reached the end of even his immense patience for his troops. What did surprise Prowl was the embarrassed mien in those commanding blue optics, the nervous twitch behind that featureless facemask, as he read off the list of transgressions. Even for the Twins, the list was impressive, spanning everything from falsifying official documents, through harassment, and finally ending with aggravated assault (though that last one was a technicality as Wheeljack was famous for blowing himself up).
Optimus Prime paused in the recitation to regard his second-in-command. He dropped his gaze to the datapad listing the stunning array of violations, then laughed softly, wryly, "I wasn't sure if Sideswipe was just kidding when he said in response to my orders this morning, and I quote, 'You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because some cubic zirconium is lodged in your torso! I mean, if I went around saying I was commander just because some shards of glass got stuck in my chestplate, they'd put me away!'" He placed the datapad on his desk, leaned forward and met Prowl's optics. "By itself, that outburst, while insubordinate, is nothing to worry about. Even hacking into Teletran-1 to plant a phony mission was somewhat amusing, in hindsight. However, since Wheeljack was severely injured in the course of these pranks, things have taken a more serious turn. Normally, I would not ask you to intervene, but I believe Sideswipe and Sunstreaker are computationally unable to stop. They've become immersed in whatever fantasy they've created and I need someone who can stay one step ahead of their next prank to neutralize them…without causing any further harm if at all possible." Prime pushed the datapad across the desk and into Prowl's waiting fingers. "You have my full authority to stop these pranks however you see fit."
Prowl lifted the datapad and perused its contents for a moment before answering. Each listed incident had a title, general description, timestamp, and attached reports from the victims involved. Tapping his fingers against the coded reports, he looked up at the Autobot leader. "You can count on me, Prime."
Bluestreak was waiting in the hallway outside of Prime's office. The young gunner looked stressed, wringing his fingers with little metallic creaks as he paced back and forth across the hallway. When Prowl emerged, still studying the datapad, Bluestreak broke into a relieved smile and all but inundated the tactician with a flood of verbosity.
"Prowl, oh I'm so glad you're here. We've got a problem. Well, I mean, they have a problem since obviously I'm here and I'm okay; but they're there and they're not…at least that's what I think. I don't know, though. How do you actually tell if someone is okay or not? Only you can tell if you're okay. But I don't know if they're okay or not since they're there and I'm here…"
The stream of words would have continued in the same vein for some time had Prowl not held up a hand to stop his fellow Datsun's babbling. In a soothing tone, he said, "Bluestreak, take a moment to process. Tell me what's wrong in three sentences or fewer."
The young gunner screwed up his facial planes in concentration, and then carefully recited, counting off each sentence with his fingers. "Sideswipe and Sunstreaker are in Wheeljack's lab." One. "One of Wheeljack's new inventions has gone berserk right outside the entrance." Two. "I'm worried that they might be hurt inside, but I can't get to the door and I need extra help." Three. Bluestreak clamped his lip components shut, his whole face showing the effort in stemming the inevitable gush of words. He tilted his helm down, pointing his optics to the floor at Prowl's right.
Prowl, about to automatically reassure the apparently-reformed Bluestreak, narrowed his optics ever so slightly at that last motion. A flash of processing zinged through his battle computer to lodge the results at the forefront of his main processor. He's lying. Bluestreak could never bluff effectively and he's not telling me everything…which I encouraged by limiting him to three sentences. He doesn't know that I know, and I think I can turn that to my advantage. Keeping an outwardly neutral expression, Prowl smiled inwardly as he replied, "We won't take any chances. Let's get some help."
It was a small group that lined up a fair distance from the door to Wheeljack's lab. Prowl wasn't surprised to find few volunteers to help "rescue" Sunstreaker and Sideswipe. He kept Bluestreak near him, not wanting to let the gunner out of his sight. Warpath, Windcharger, Skyfire, Mirage, Ironhide (who most likely had a very liberal definition of the word "rescue"), and Trailbreaker rounded out the team lined up behind a loose collection of small boulders. All the Autobots focused their attention toward the cluttered, flat, packed-down area extending in front of Wheeljack's front door.
"There he is!" whispered Bluestreak, pointing dramatically. A roundly compact white vehicle sat motionless a few steps away from the front door, surrounded by scrap metal, old car frames, and the crushed chassis of an unfortunate Yugo. It looked to be the same general shape of Bumblebee's Volkswagen alt mode, but only half the size of their courageous spy. Behind Prowl, Trailbreaker muffled a guffaw behind his hand. Prowl studied the situation carefully. While the white vehicle appeared intact, it scanned clean to Prowl's sensors. No projectile muzzles protruded from his petite headlights, no emissions blipped his perusal. Prowl decided to verify the identity of the threat.
"Where?" asked Prowl.
"There!" gestured Bluestreak.
"What, behind the Rabbit?" Dredging up the automobile model from his memory banks, Prowl wanted to make absolutely sure he knew exactly which vehicle was the trap- the half-sized Volkswagen Rabbit or the dilapidated Yugo.
"It is the Rabbit," Bluestreak insisted urgently, but quietly.
Prowl gave Bluestreak a sharp look, catching the dubious grins being bandied about by the rest of the "rescue" team. He's being too succinct, and that's out of character for him. I've got him now. The cruiser swiftly changed tactics and verbally challenged the young gunner. "You cannot be serious, Bluestreak. That vehicle is barely large enough to be more than an elaborate human toy. It also scans weaponless. I don't believe you would waste the time of an entire team…"
Bluestreak, predictably, interrupted. "That's no ordinary Rabbit! That's the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered turbo-rodent you ever set optics on! It's got a vicious streak a mile wide!" The passionate ranting would have gone on for some time had Ironhide not stepped in.
"All right, you young punk, that's enough!" The red warrior silenced Bluestreak's babbling with a vicious wave of his arm. "Prowl sees nothing wrong here and I'm not putting up with this nonsense any longer!" Ironhide was livid. It showed in his carriage, the flash of his faded blue optics, and the subtle squeak of rubbing metal from his clenched fists. Before Prowl could stop him, Ironhide took the initiative, ordering, "Warpath, take him out!"
"Bang, zoooom!" was the reply as Warpath gleefully transformed into tank mode and rolled forward, sighting on the small white car. Prowl mentally shook his head as the situation proceeded into the obvious (to him) trap. While his battle computer was still reconfiguring the change in situation, Bluestreak flung out an arm, directing attention to the Rabbit.
"Look!" he cried. Before everyone's optics, the half-size car transformed, exchanging tires for clawed feet, extending floppy protrusions on its hood and gaping a grill full of razor-sharp teeth. Warpath reacted with a yelp of surprise as the creature bounded towards him, aiming unerringly for the junction between vehicle and turret. A frantic energy blast distracted the Rabbit long enough for the Tourette's-inspired Autobot to transform and beat a hasty retreat back to the dubious safety of the boulders. Bluestreak couldn't quite hide his smirk at the stunned expressions of his fellow Autobots.
Prowl calculated swiftly, coordinating a frontal attack through the private channel he had with each of the Autobots present. Bare astroseconds passed as he laid out the marching orders to each member of the team, excluding the young gunner. Risking a speculative glance at Bluestreak, he verbally called the order to…
Six Autobots rushed forward, leaving Bluestreak behind to deal with the unexpected pinning of his arms by an invisible Mirage. Skyfire laid down distracting fire while Windcharger powered up his magnetic field, attracting various bits of metal chassis lying on the ground to the Rabbit, slowing the maniacal white mini-car. Trailbreaker surrounded the vehicle with his force field while Ironhide bathed it in liquid nitrogen, gritting his dental plates at Prowl's messaged orders to "immobilize but not destroy" Wheeljack's invention. Warpath and Prowl charged the entrance of Wheeljack's lab, passing safely by the frozen white demon. Warpath skidded to a stop, turning suddenly, and Prowl was a fraction too slow to avoid a servo-popping crack to his cranial helm, courtesy of the tank's chest barrel.
Blue optics faded momentarily while the cruiser's systems struggled to repair delicate circuitry viciously jostled in the collision. Prowl's battle computer rerouted the plan to his main processor in the time it took Warpath to sheepishly offer the black-and-white a hand up. Visual receptors uploaded the scene as he scanned for his teammates. All seemed to be in order. Prowl gave the next set of orders for his plan.
"Mirage, I want you to take Bluestreak back to my office and keep him there. Do not let him make contact with anyone until I return to question him. Skyfire, I want you to take charge of the Rabbit. Keep it in cold stasis until I can detail to you what to do next." Affirmative replies drifted across the flat expanse as the assigned mechs went into action. Turning to the remaining members of the team, he outlined the rest of his plan. Of course, by now the word "rescue" was re-defined. "Okay. That went better than anticipated. With the Rabbit out of commission, I think we can still 'rescue' the Twins even with the team five members down."
"Three," corrected Trailbreaker.
"Three," affirmed Prowl after an infinitesimal pause. "What needs to happen now is for us to break into two groups and split up. Ironhide and Warpath, you take the lead while the five of us in the second team…"
"Three," repeated Trailbreaker, glancing at Prowl oddly.
Prowl continued. "Three of us in the second team follow at a discreet distance, keeping to the shadows. They're likely to make a break for it, since they're both much faster than the two of you in alt-mode. With the five of us…"
"Three, Prowl," interjected Trailbreaker, again.
Prowl paused for a microsecond. "Three of us a good distance back, we'll have a much better chance of catching them before they reach the entrance, especially with Trailbreakers force field and Windcharger's magnetic ability. Any questions? On my count then. One, two, five!"
Ironhide and Warpath enthusiastically shouldered the doors open, charging down the hallway. Prowl, Windcharger, and Trailbreaker followed at a more sedate pace, spacing themselves at reasonable intervals to catch a speeding Lamborghini. Ironhide's threats echoed down the main hallway, accompanied by Warpath's interjections and the heavy tromp of armored feet.
"When I find you two, your chassis won't be worth scrap in a Cybertronian junk heap!"
"Bam! Don't bother hiding; we'll just force you out! Zowie!"
The sounds of tramping feet separated and faded into the distance of Wheeljack's back lab rooms. Prowl signaled for his group to stop at the first junction in the hallway. All three Autobots strained their sensors to the limit to try and pick up the fading sounds coming from Ironhide and Warpath. Shortly, the steady footsteps came to a halt. Silence descended in the lab. Prowl kept his optics trained forward, scanning for any hint of the Lamborghini twins. They're up to something, I just know—
"Aaah!" Twin voices rang out in simulated terror from deep in the lab. Windcharger and Trailbreaker stepped into the passages on either side of the main hallway in preparation to use their unique talents. Prowl stood firmly in the main hallway, feet braced, ready for the Twins to make their break. Two sets of bright headlights speared the dimness, bathing the front of the cruiser's chestplate in harsh white light.
"Look out!" cried Warpath, appearing in a doorway further down the hall. He pointed past the headlights to a lumpy shape lumbering heavily after the speeding race cars. Prowl paused, calculating this new, unknown threat into his engagement plans. Did Wheeljack have another invention inside the lab? The distraction was enough for him to miss both Lamborghinis as they sped by, nearly flattening Prowl with the wind of their passage. He sensed that both Windcharger and Trailbreaker were taken aback by both the near mach-speed of their flight as well as their chanting, and neither managed to slow, much less stop, the Twins from their escape.
"Run away! Run away!" echoed from the front doorway, drifting like the receding cloud of dust in the sunlight.
Prowl turned his attention to the dark, lumpy shape, growling incoherently as it lumbered closer. Warpath, Windcharger, and Trailbreaker closed ranks beside him as the four warriors braced themselves to face…
Ironhide…infuriated and covered in sticky green-black paint with dozens of Autobot-sized round googly-eyes piled over his helm. A large sign hastily plastered to the front of his chestplate read: "Legendary Black Beast of 'Aaaah.'" Prowl stood dumbfounded, his battle computer frantically trying to compute a logical path for the absurdity of this tableau. The tactician slowly sank to his knees in programming shock, one thought foremost in his personality cortex: I will beat them at their own game.
Jazz was waiting for Prowl outside the tactician's office the next morning. The saboteur's quizzical look quickly shifted to an open grin in response to the smile on Prowl's face. "You smilin', Prowl? This is gonna be good, and I'm glad you invited me along!" Prowl merely nodded in response, the wry smile on his face twitching ever so slightly.
There were those in the faction who claimed that Prowl never smiled. In fact, that the logical, rule-straight tactician was incapable of smiling. They couldn't be more wrong. Underneath that logic-focused façade laid a dryly wicked sense of humor, and the ability to (eventually) cope with nearly any situation given. Prowl wielded this attribute like a finely honed rapier, his rare humor striking swiftly in deadly jabs. Jazz was one of the few Autobots who was aware of the cruiser's humor, and Prowl especially needed him to play witness to his latest plan.
When Prowl returned to his office after a quick stop in the medbay, he spent the next several hours questioning Bluestreak very, very closely, picking out every detail of each and every incident that he, Sunstreaker, Sideswipe, and Wheeljack had planned. He confiscated "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" from the dayroom, ostensibly to place it on the restricted list; but in actuality he watched and studied every motion, costume, line, and joke in the film….and rather enjoyed himself while doing so. He plotted out the pranks the Twins played, using the datapad Prime gave him to wrangle out every possible conclusion. He reconfigured the data, carefully utilizing his battle computer to plot the Twins' next likely course of action. He messaged Jazz, Ratchet, Trailbreaker, Prime and Skyfire with his plans for the next confrontation.
Prowl was ready. He couldn't help but smile. The Twins would have no idea what hit them.
Prowl and Jazz made their way to the main bay and Optimus Prime's office. Jazz was mostly in the dark as to what was planned, all Prowl had told him was to be waiting outside his office at the start of first shift. As the two entered the main bay and approached the stairs, Prowl was greeted with the sight he had figured most likely to happen next. His smile deepened just a fraction before disappearing completely as his professional mien took over. Jazz chuckled softly and gestured to the set up. "What is all this?"
The walkway outside of Prime's office was draped in flimsy cloth. Frayed ropes dangled halfway down to the main floor. A well-concealed, yet still somewhat noticeable panel lay directly across the walkway, wafted with a fine mist. Sideswipe stood slightly hunched at the stairway end of the mess, a wicked grin on his face as he waited, facing away from them.
Prowl didn't answer Jazz, turning to address Ratchet and Trailbreaker, who leaned up against the wall under the drifting mist-shrouded walkway. "Ready?" he asked in a murmured voice.
Nods answered his quiet query: amused from Trailbreaker, and murderous from Ratchet. Good, Prowl thought, Ratchet has worked himself into a vindictive mood. All the better.
Optimus Prime entered Teletran-1's main bay, casting a long-suffering optic over the the scene. He joined Prowl and Jazz in their corner. "Ironhide is still in a steam-shower getting the last of that substance off," he announced quietly. "Prowl, are you sure you have this under control?"
Prowl nodded. "As I figure it, all you have to do, Prime, is answer Sideswipe's questions the way I outlined them. Once you're in your office, call for..." and here Prowl scanned his internal data files "Perceptor."
Prime studied his second-in-command for a long moment. "All right." With a significant glance to Jazz, who shrugged in reply, the Autobot leader turned, and walked away. He climbed the stairs to the walkway in front of his office. Huffer walked up to Prowl and Jazz while Prime approached the contraption, looking intently after their leader.
"Stop!" called Sideswipe. When Prime stopped a few paces away, the red Twin continued. "Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, 'ere the other side he see."
Prime replied steadily, if a tad woodenly, "Ask me the questions, Sideswipe…I'm not afraid."
"What is your name?" Sideswipe asked with a maniacal, lopsided grin.
"My name is Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots," was the reply.
"What is your quest?" sounded the second question, intoned in a scratchy voice.
"To seek my office," Prime answered calmly, casting a wary optic over the "Bridge of Death."
Sideswipe asked his final question. "What is your favorite color?"
Prime didn't hesitate a beat. "Blue."
"Right, off you go then." Sideswipe stepped aside and gestured grandly to the mist-shrouded walkway.
Prime cast one more glance at Sideswipe before shrugging and walking across the "Bridge" to his office. The door hissed shut.
Prowl allowed the ghost of a smirk to cross his face. Jazz turned to his friend and pointed up to the smug red Lamborghini. "That's it? That's your plan? You've got to be kidding me!"
"Ha! That's easy!" exclaimed Huffer, and he traipsed up the stairs to confront Sideswipe. Prowl merely shook his head, gesturing for Jazz to watch.
"Stop!" commanded Sideswipe, grinning hugely. "Who approacheth the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, 'ere before the Prime he see."
"Get on with it, Sideswipe! I have to talk to Prime!" demanded Huffer, crossing his arms, a look of irritation crossing his facial planes.
"What is your name?" intoned Sideswipe.
"Huffer of the Autobots."
"What is your quest?"
"To talk to Prime!" Huffer sounded annoyed at having to repeat this information.
"What…is the capital of Assyria?" said with an evil grin.
Huffer paused. "I don't know that! Aaaaah!!"
The floor beneath Huffer moved as Sunstreaker sprang up, mercilessly tackling the source of the "I don't know" and viciously launching the Minibot over the side of the railing to the floor below. With a nasty, satisfied smirk, the yellow warrior reset himself under the walkway panel.
Prowl watched impassively as Trailbreaker's force field broke Huffer's fall. Ratchet gave the shaken 'bot a cursory examination before releasing him. Jazz audibly snapped his mouth shut. Prowl nodded to Jazz confidently, everything was going according to plan. Now if Perceptor…
Following orders, if not on cue, Perceptor entered the main bay at a jog, hastily climbing the stairs in single-minded intensity. He skidded in surprise at Sideswipe's "Stop!" Gaping at the scene just now registering to his processor, Perceptor barely listened to Sideswipe's growled litany as he craned his head around to catch a glimpse of Prime's door.
"What is your name?"
"Perceptor of the Autobots."
"What is your quest?"
"To speak with Optimus Prime," said in an urgent tone.
"What …is your favorite color?"
"Blue," came the distracted reply. "No…Yel—aaaaaaaah!"
Perceptor yelped and jumped, startled, as Sunstreaker erupted from the floor panel, aiming unerringly for the hesitant answering voice. The poor scientist inadvertently assisted in his own launching from the "Bridge of Death" topping gracelessly over the side of the walkway to be caught by Trailbreaker's force field.
Prowl stepped forward and into Sideswipe's line of sight. Jazz paced alongside, muttering, "You are insane!" for only Prowl's sensors to pick up. "Sideswipe and Sunstreaker have gone off the deep end and you're voluntarily walking into it?" Prowl nodded ever so slightly in reply before he calmly ascended the steps to face Sideswipe. The red Twin was grinning maliciously. Prowl figured Sideswipe was delighted at the chance to prank the second-in-command twice in a row. Facial planes passive, the cruiser stopped at Sideswipe's gravely command. Jazz paused a step behind, watching.
"What…is your name?"
"It is Prowl, Autobot tactician."
"What is your quest?"
"To speak with Optimus Prime."
Sideswipe paused a moment, his grin widening wickedly. "What…is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?"
Prowl smiled back and watched in smug satisfaction as Sideswipe's grin froze on his face. "What do you mean? African or European swallow?"
Caught up in the script as Prowl had concluded he'd be, Sideswipe stammered out the next line in the movie. "I- I- I don't know that. Aaaaaaaaugh!"
Prowl nimbly stepped aside as Sunstreaker unerringly launched up towards Sideswipe at the trigger phrase "I don't know." Sideswipe fought back, briefly wrestling into a lock-hold with his twin, but both warriors overbalanced, yelling and falling to the floor below and Ratchet's tender mercies. He couldn't help but snort at Jazz's astonished expression and motioned for them to proceed to Prime's office. "I don't think we'll have any further trouble from them."
Jazz finally found his voice. "Prowl, how did you know all that was going to happen? How did you know what to say?"
Prowl grinned openly at the dumbfounded saboteur and a preciously rare chuckle escaped his vocalizer. "It's called 'research,' Jazz."
"So, by turning the scene back around on them, I believe that Sideswipe and Sunstreaker will break out of their "Monty Python" induced program loop." Prowl sat in Optimus Prime's office, finishing up his report to the Autobot leader. "I also recommend they be assigned extra duty equal to the duty time missed by the Autobots who were the victims of these pranks, plus the time spent cleaning up their messes, added to the time spent in medbay under Ratchet's laser scalpel. By my calculations, they should be on extra duty for approximately four months, unless our CMO is feeling particularly vengeful. I returned the film, and placed all "Monty Python" titles on the "banned" list. All of the mechanical swallows ran out of power, and have been disassembled."
Optimus Prime scanned the contents of Prowl's datapad report. He ticked off each point with a stylus, added a few notes, and then fixed his second-in-command with a steady gaze. "Good work, Prowl, but there's still the matter of that berserk Rabbit. It's dangerous. Wheeljack is still in stasis-lock, so we can't find out how to shut it down." Prime paused.
Prowl allowed a smug smile to light his facial planes, the second one that day. "Oh, I asked Skyfire to run a little errand for me." He crossed his arms under his chestplate, still smiling. This has been a very, very good day.
"Megatron, there's a vehicle out there! It's too small to be an Autobot, but there are no humans around it either." Rumble looked up from the scope that peered out from their temporary espionage base in the desert far south of Autobot headquarters. "What should we do?"
"Idiot!" snapped Megatron, striding over to loom behind Rumble. "Scan for weapons."
"Negative, Megatron. It appears to be frozen, actually"
Starscream sneered, pulling the scan up for display on the main computer screen. "It's hardly a threat, then!" He pointed to the visual image detailing the small size of the white vehicle. "Mighty Megatron is afraid of a toy! A tiny sitting target!"
"Megatron is afraid of nothing!" snapped the silver-white Decepticon leader. He strode over to the main console, viciously slamming Starscream aside. Punching the door control, he ordered, "Thrust, bring it inside. Maybe we can make some use of it."
"As you command, Megatron."
The screams recorded from the transmitter placed on the Rabbit's dashboard were music to the Autobots' audios.