A/N Prowl is mad at me for not updating sooner. I'm sure you all are too.
Three days later and even more bots had been painted. Ratchet was still fuming about his missing paint supply. Red Alert was sure it was all a Decepticon plot, and Inferno spent a good lot of his time trying to calm his hysterical friend. Surely if the Decepticons were behind all this, they would have attacked by now, right?
Tracks had escaped to Portland the day before in a desperate attempt to stay blue and planned to stay there until the whole thing blew over. Huffer hadn't left his quarters in two days, and everybot was just dying to see what had become of him. Rumors circulated that he was in cheerleader's garb, fitting for such a sultry bot. Bluestreak seemed to be holed up in his quarters as well, but no one knew what had become of the gunner. And none of the Autobots had appeared in public the whole time. Bumblebee even refused to see Spike and Carly, who were still out of the loop on the why.
If anyone knew the mastermind behind it all, no one was saying anything, much to Prowl's consternation. He had thoroughly interrogated Jazz and Sideswipe, the former offering him sly half answers, and the latter complaining about being constantly mistaken for his brother. Prowl had a sneaking suspicion that Jazz knew the story behind it all, but the other black and white wasn't head of Special Ops because of his charm.
Well, he had been black and white. Jazz now sported a number of cartoony bandages and scrapes all up and down his arms and legs. There was a medical bandage painted around his torso and two of his denta had been painted black to look like they had been punched out. He also seemed to have a black eye, or black optic in this case. Jazz looked like he had been beat up in an alleyway and left for scrap. He wore it with pride.
"Two more days, two more days," Prowl whispered to himself as he walked down the halls one morning. Many a mech walked by and laughed at him, even those who were painted themselves. It was an odd thing to see the Second In Command looking so... not In Command.
Prowl walked deftly down the halls until he came to the Conference Room. He entered the 6 digit code before letting himself in. Optimus, still tuxedoed, Jazz, and Red Alert were already waiting for him. Red had been painted over to look like the Stunticon Breakdown, much like Sideswipe had been way back when the Autobots disguised themselves as the Decepticon cars. When Red had first seen his reflection in a window he had panicked, yelling about the presence of the Decepticon. It had taken Beachcomber and Perceptor ten minutes to calm him down and explain.
Prowl took his seat at Optimus Prime's right and pulled a datapad from subspace.
Immediately Red Alert began. "If we don't-"
Only to be cut off by the opening of the doors. Prowl's doorwings sagged slightly in relief, but came back up almost as quickly.
Ratchet stormed in as only the Medic from the Pit could and took a seat. He crossed his arms over his still-white chest and glanced around, daring someone to challenge him.
"Ratchet, you can't just barge in here like you own the place!" Red Alert challenged him. Ratchet raised an optic ridge. Red Alert looked pleadingly to Optimus, but the Prime only held his hands up.
"He owns the place."
Red Alert sank back down in his seat.
Prowl grabbed control of the situation with both servos before the Security Director had a chance to recuperate. "We are here to discuss the recent... pranks occurring all over the Ark. This needs to stop."
"Hear, hear!" Jazz said, looking a little sleep deprived himself.
Optimus ran a hand down his chest and looked at Red Alert. "Have you managed to recover any security footage?"
"No," the Lamborghini sighed. "Whoever is doing this is going into the quarters of various mechs and immediately disabling the security cameras. Do you know how long it takes me to hook them all back up?"
"But we do have one clue," Prowl began. "Three mechs a night. Sometimes six. Unfortunately that is about all we have. There is no pattern elsewhere, not in the mechs harassed or paint styling."
"Do you mean to say that we may be after more than just one bot?" Optimus said, hand still stroking down from his neck.
"I mean exactly that."
"Any idea on what the punishment's gonna be for these bots? It is all harmless fun, ya know. Don't take it too seriously." Jazz grinned his gap-toothed smile.
"And if the Decepticons attack?" Ratchet asked pointedly.
"Then we hope Reflector ain't there with 'em."
"If they do come," Ratchet shook his finger at Jazz. "We'll just put you on the front lines and see what you think then!"
Jazz shook his head, "Nah, that's Sides' and Sunny's job. Con's will just think they're the same as always, just a lil more..." He spun his finger around the side of his helm.
"Right. Worst comes to worst, we'll send out the unpainted bots and the Twins," Optimus said, closed fist held at the base of his neck. "We might just have to- what are you staring at?"
The last part was aimed at Jazz, who was wearing a confused sort of smile. "Are you... straightening... your tie?"
Optimus Prime's hand suddenly jerked back down into his lap. His optics got wide as he stuttered for an answer.
"Prime?" Prowl asked hesitantly.
"I've... grown accustomed to it."
Jazz waggled a finger at his leader. "Sparkplug wasn't kiddin'! We get more an' more human ev'ry day!" He cackled.
"Think Red will start acting like Breakdown?" Ratchet asked offhandedly.
That was clearly the wrong thing to say. Red Alert let out a screech and gripped the table. Ratchet grabbed the frantic mech's shoulder and shook it as though trying to shake sense into him. Red seemed to realize that the notion of his becoming a Decepticon was far-fetched even for him, but he still held onto the table as though for dear sanity. Optimus was still stammering for the right words, and Jazz was incoherent with laughter. Prowl shook his head. It was a good thing he was a bit ahead of the game. "Meeting adjourned."
"So you think they'll come after me next?" Anxiety could be heard clearly from Trailbreaker's voice. He, Mirage, and Hound sat at a table in the Rec Room, sipping on cubes of energon and discussing the current situation. How could they not? It was almost all anyone was talking about.
"I believe so," The refined sound of a Tower's mech answered him. "At the very least, you have yet to become repainted. It will happen soon enough."
"There are few of us left, I'll give you that."
"And if they choose you as their next victim, you can put a stop to it!" Hound said. Trailbreaker looked back and forth between him and Mirage. Hound was sporting a different color on each limb, and his face was a navy blue. His torso was black and his abdomen was red. Mirage, however, still looked normal.
"What about you? I don't see any new paint on your chassis!" Trailbreaker craned his neck to make sure he hadn't missed anything.
"Yes, but I am hoping these perpetrators will realize that my special abilities become nullified if I am painted over. As long as they have more sense than turbo-foxes, this should be obvious."
"So why're you all so adamant about stopping the pranks?" Trailbreaker questioned, one optic brow raised behind his visor. "I thought you would at least find it funny, Hound."
"True enough," Hound spread his servos out in front of him. "But I wanna know who did it. Anyone with the ball bearings to paint both Prime and Prowl is okay in my book."
"Indeed," There was a ghost of a smile on Mirage's lips, but no more. "And besides that, Bumblebee says that Spike and Carly are getting suspicious." Trailbreaker raised an optic ridge at that. Mirage sighed. "I owe Bumblebee a favor, and we will leave it at that."
"What, did he save your can in another Ops mission?" Hound asked.
"L-Let's keep our focus on the matter at hand, shall we?"
Trailbreaker laughed, finding the phrase oddly funny considering his lack of a left hand. "Sure, sure. And if Bumblebee wants you to polish his armor, will you do that too?" Hound snickered and Trailbreaker looked as though he was seriously waiting for an answer
Mirage sat with barely contained frustration, but offlined his optics and prayed to Primus for the strength to resist strangling someone. "Are you two satisfied with yourselves?" He asked, optics still dark.
"Not quite, but it's enough. So, what's the plan?"
"That, my friend, is the easy part."
It was true, what they said. Trailbreaker did snore.
And his engine rumbled constantly.
And he did not look at all dignified with one arm draped over his chest and one foot hanging off the side of his berth.
Mirage could only critique to keep his boredom at bay. He already knew he wouldn't drop into recharge, as his Special Ops training had shown him how to make his body obey him. He wouldn't fall asleep when it wasn't absolutely necessary, he could limit his energon flow to conserve energy, and he could drown out pain and fear with his thoughts. These were the things he used to stay alive, especially in hostage situations. Those were quite common when your job was to sneak behind enemy lines. Thankfully, Bumblebee had come to his rescue this time.
Um. Er. Enough about that.
What mattered now was that Trailbreaker was asleep and there were exactly four hours and twenty-two minutes until sunrise.
Mirage sat, invisible, in a corner of Trailbreaker's room, just under the security camera. Mirage had overheard Red Alert complaining to Inferno that whoever was behind this was taking out the cameras first and sabotaging paint jobs second. The bot would come to Mirage before going anywhere near Trailbreaker.
The current bait was still snoring louder than Blaster's latest mix tape. Honestly, would it kill him to put a little more thought into the arrangement of his furniture? And the decor was just pitiful. Really? An Oregon Ducks flag?
Okay, Mirage was officially bored. Critiquing only went so far.
Mirage's head snapped up at the soft slide of the door. A helm peeked in, blue optics only slightly lighting up the dark as they surveyed the room. When no danger was detected, the bot quietly stepped into the room. In the dim light of the room, Mirage could only make out the model type. Specifically because he could quite clearly make out the doorwings. For a brief, processor-overloading second, Mirage thought it was Prowl. His logic circuits quickly dismissed that as the bot moved along the wall towards the camera as expected. Mirage lunged.
Bluestreak sat in the hard-backed chair, awaiting his trial. He considered it a trial, though it was probably not as severe as the gunner imagined it was. Bluestreak got into trouble often, but it was usually involuntary or accidental. Like the time he shot Optimus Prime in the back instead of Dirge. Little things like that.
This? This was no accident.
The honored judge entered the room, followed by his trusted assistant and a small jury. The judge sat down at the large desk in front of the accused and threaded his fingers together. His assistant stood, hands on hips, at his side as the jury stood nearby with arms crossed. Judge turned to assistant and whispered something to him before turning back to the accused.
"You do realize-"
Prowl sat with his mouth open. Closed. Open again. "Are you alright, Bluestreak?"
Bluestreak shifted in his seat. "Not really." He turned hopeful optics to Jazz, but the saboteur seemed to find the ceiling very interesting at the moment.
Optimus, Ratchet, and Ironhide leaned back against one wall while Trailbreaker, Mirage, and Hound stood on the opposite side. Optimus looked slightly sympathetic towards his gunner, while Ratchet and Ironhide merely glared.
"Where are my paints?" Ratchet demanded. Prowl almost told him to hush, but Bluestreak answered.
"I don't have them."
"Then who, might I ask, does?" Ratchet soundly vaguely calm, like the calm before the storm. Bluestreak's mouth clamped shut as he turned back towards Prowl.
Ratchet's optics got wide and he took a dangerous step towards Bluestreak. "Primus-fraggit I'll-" but Optimus grabbed his elbow and tugged him back into place.
"Ratchet, please refrain from beating the youngling," Prowl admonished. Ratchet grumbled but reluctantly stood back.
"Now then," Prowl picked up a datapad. "Bluestreak, you do realize that you are going to be punished for what you have done, don't you? You and your accomplices?"
Bluestreak looked up at that, but not about the punishment. "B-But you don't know who they are, right?"
"We aren't exactly sure yet, but we will be soon enough," There was a warning in the tactician's voice.
"Pardon me Prowl, but may I ask a question?" Mirage held up a hand.
"I... suppose so."
"What, exactly, are you supposed to resemble, Bluestreak?"
Bluestreak's cheeks grew hot and the gray metal turned red. He mumbled something.
Indeed, Bluestreak's face and all his limbs were painted completely gray. His entire midsection was colored a light pink with little squares of a darker pink. Best of all, on each of his doorwings was a rainbow.
For a moment there was stunned silence. Then at once it hit Hound and Trailbreaker, each of whom doubled over in laughter. Jazz grinned, having already gotten it before hand. The others just looked confused. "Who?"
Trailbreaker and Hound began to sing the song over their hysterics, thought it wasn't really words so much as a high pitched repetitive noise. Prowl's processor gave off sparks for a few seconds before shutting down completely to reboot. His head fell forward and Jazz rapidly waved a hand in front of his face. Optimus looked to Mirage for an answer, but the spy merely gave him a long-suffering look and reached to pull Hound off the floor.
Prowl's optics lit up again and he looked to Jazz with confusion. "Neon... Cat?"
Jazz shook his head. "Nyan... Cat." He said slowly. Prowl and Jazz repeated it back and forth for a few seconds, then Prowl shook his head. "I'm going to pretend I know what that is."
"I wouldn't if I were you, Prowler. I'd be mighty concerned if ya'd ever seen it 'fore."
Bluestreak sat miserably in the wake of the confusion. Hound and Trailbreaker were standing again, though still leaning on each other for support. Prowl was back online and he turned his attention back to the 'trial'.
"Bluestreak, you shouldn't have done what you did."
"Tha's right,"Jazz interrupted. "I'm disappointed in ya, Blue."
Bluestreak's optics went wide and his mouth opened and closed as he struggled for words.
"Oh, I'm disappointed in you too, Jazz."
Jazz stiffened. He turned his head slowly towards the tactician. "How'd you know...?"
Prowl smirked, a rare, blessed thing. "I know everything. Pull up a seat next to Bluestreak."
Jazz pouted and grabbed a chair from the back of the room. He dropped into his chair, crossed his arms over his chest, and huffed.
Whispers rustled through the room, but Prowl paid them no mind. "So, will you tell me who else is involved? Your punishment might not be as severe if you do."
"We'll never give in!" Jazz proclaimed, fist held defiantly high.
"W-What he said!" Bluestreak said nervously.
"Somebody send for Sunstreaker."
Jazz's jaw almost hit the floor and Bluestreak gaped. Ratchet grinned deviously and left the room for the front-liner.
"Seriously, man? How?" Jazz pleaded with his friend.
"Simple. Sunstreaker is an artist. I would recognize his particular style anywhere. He has painted enough graffiti on my door these last few millenia." Prowl said with obvious disdain. "The question now is, Why?"
The door slid open and Ratchet shoved Sunstreaker through. "Watch the paint! I'm telling you, I don't have Track's stupid 'Diamond Grade Midas Touch Mirror Shine' polish or whatever. I don't even-" The sentence caught in his throat as he saw who was waiting for him.
Jazz waved cheerfully.
Sunstreaker rolled his eyes and strode into the room. He stood and stared at Bluestreak until the youngling meekly got up. Sunstreaker took his seat with a huff and Bluestreak moved to stand next to Jazz.
Prowl leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. "So, does anyone care to explain?"
Jazz, sensing a losing battle, shrugged. "We got bored."
"Where's my fragging paint?" Ratchet's optics were burning with a glare. Sunstreaker rolled his eyes, so Ratchet moved in front of the not-yellow-but-red warrior.
"Let me rephrase that. Where the frag is my slaggin' paint you glitch!"
Oh. Well that changed things.
Sunstreaker seemed to shrink, if only slightly, into his seat. "Rafters. My room."
Ratchet, having got what he came for, nodded and left with a lazy salute to Optimus. Sunstreaker figured Sideswipe would be in for a rude awakening from his nap.
"Seriously though Prowler, how'd ya figger it out?"
Prowl smiled. "Did you think I wouldn't notice Jazz? The way you laughed upon seeing Optimus and myself for the first time, and then showed little to no reaction when you came across Bumblebee? It was quite obvious. You painted Bumblebee, didn't you?"
Jazz grumbled incoherently. Prowl turned next to Sunstreaker. "I almost immediately recognized your artistic style upon seeing Ironhide. The detail on the clowns. No one else on the Ark is an artist, Sunstreaker. You paint too well for your own good." Prowl's head tilted to one side. "But besides that, it was also the way you blamed Jazz for your new paint job without any considerable proof. You attacked him without even suspecting anyone else, not even your brother."
"But I heard Jazz!" Red Alert spoke up. "In the Rec Room that day. He claimed he didn't do it."
"S'right. I didn't. Blue did. I painted Sideswipe."
"I don't see how that makes a difference." Red said quietly.
"Hey, when an angry Sunny is lookin' you between the optics, you'll say anythang to steer him away. I was hopin' he'd take that and go after Blue."
"Relax, man. You were out on patrol at th' time."
"And you Bluestreak." Bluestreak gulped at Prowl's pondering tone. "I didn't really suspect you at all."
Optimus stepped forward. "Wait Prowl. Do you remember when Bluestreak came into the med bay on that first day?"
"He looked so stiff when he left. But it wasn't from surprise. It was fear. Wasn't it?"
Bluestreak could only nod.
"Fear of being discovered," Optimus continued. "You didn't want to say anything that might make you look guilty. That's why he didn't say anything or ask questions."
Prowl was contemplating this, then nodded. It did make sense. One thing didn't quite add up though.
"Sunstreaker, if you had Ratchet's paints all along, why didn't you repaint yourself?"
Sunstreaker snorted. "You don't think anyone would've realized it if I suddenly looked like my handsome self again? If I had, you would've picked up on it, no doubt."
"True enough. You were so angry because you had the means to fix your paint job, but still could not."
"Exactly. You finally catch on."
Prowl decided to let that one slide, mostly because this was his favorite part. "Right. The three of you will spend the next four days enjoying each others company in the brig." The three bots in question all groaned. But Prowl was just getting started. "Once that time is over, you will all have double shifts for the next two weeks."
"Come on Prowl!" Jazz exclaimed. "Ain't that a bit harsh?"
"Hardly," Prowl grimaced. "Bluestreak did paint me neon green."
Bluestreak slumped over.
The three got up and Ironhide escorted them to the brig, glaring holes in Sunstreaker's back the whole way. Hound looked down at himself and came to the conclusion that Bluestreak must have painted him. Red Alert's makeover was the product of Sunstreaker's imagination, as was Optimus Prime's tux. Bluestreak and Jazz were also Sunny's doing. Various other bots had been targeted by Jazz and Bluestreak, including Huffer, Blaster, Gears, Wheeljack, Hound, and Sludge (and that one had been a challenge). Well, they had had their fun, but now they had to pay the price.
Hound was walking through the halls the next day when he passed Prowl's office. He heard something that made him stop in his tracks. He pressed his helm a little closer to Prowl's door. It was...music. But not just any music. High-pitched, repetitive music... and laughter...