Author's Note: Hey guys! I'm alive. And I blame this nonsense on far too much A-Team viewing. I love Dwight Schultz. I really and truly do.
"That's really creepy." Sarah said for the fourth time during their fifteen minute drive. "It's like having a Stepford Husband."
Sideswipe snickered. "You want the clown back?"
"Oh please, no." She shivered a little in the passenger's seat. "But could you make him move or something?"
"It's a holoform, Boss Lady." He reminded her. "It's just a projection."
"Yes, but why does it have to be of Will?"
Sideswipe couldn't resist the smart-ass answer as he activated his left-turn signal and waited for the intersection to clear. "Oh, yeah. That'd be good. Someone other than your husband driving you around in a smoking hot Corvette? I can hear the biddies at the quilting circle clucking now."
"Biddies at the quilting circle?" Sarah repeated derisively. "You've been watching too much Little House on the Prairie."
"Hound likes it." Sideswipe replied as he pulled to a stop at a red light. "He says it reminds him of a simpler time."
Sarah shook her head and let it ride. "Aren't people in this town just a wee touch busy with their own lives to notice who's driving me around?"
Sideswipe snorted. "Please. There's nothing to do in Westead except get all up in everyone else's business."
"I guess I can't argue with that." Sarah was quiet for a second before she snickered. "The lady in the next car is looking at us like we're crazy. She sees me talking and Will's not responding. She probably thinks I'm a nagger."
"You are." Sideswipe responded as the light turned green.
Sarah didn't take the bait, continuing to scrutinize the holoform of her mate. "He looks stoned."
"That's because I scanned the image while he was watching the Army/Navy game."
"Huh, thought I recognized the football stupor." Sarah sat back. "I still don't get why I couldn't sit in the driver's seat, like every other time we've made a grocery run."
Sideswipe turned into the mega-center parking lot. It was a mad-house of bad drivers, distracted pedestrians, unattended children, and wild-roaming shopping carts. He got the same feeling he always did when entering a war zone. "This way I can drop you off right at the front of the store, find a place to catnap, and pick you up when you're ready to go."
"Or you could have picked a spot and I could have walked, just like we do at Miller's Market."
"Geez, c'mon Gramps." Sideswipe grumbled at an elderly man trying to park an Oldsmobile roughly the size of a Class 4 Star Cruiser. He turned his attention back to Sarah. "I'd sooner let you walk through the Pits of Kaon than across this lot. Primus, if you get waffled, I'll never hear the end of it."
"Sides, what do you think I did before you landed on this planet?" There was a smile in her voice. "I can negotiate a parking lot."
"Not without backup." He snorted. "Look, I'm trying to be nice. Would you let me be nice?"
"All right, all right." Sarah relented. "But so what if I just stepped out and you drove off without a driver? It's not like you're a government secret anymore and the people in Westead have seen you before."
Sideswipe put on a lofty tone as he pulled up to the store. "Yes, but I don't want to attract hoards of adoring admirers. Can you imagine the riot that would ensue, right here in this very parking lot?"
"Oh, forgive me, Mr. Rockefeller." Sarah quipped back. "But if you really are looking to avoid the Paparazzi, maybe you should consider a less flashy disguise. How about Corolla instead of Corvette?"
"Get out. I don't ferry crazy humans around." Sideswipe said jokingly as he opened his passenger's side door for Sarah.
Picking up her purse, Sarah gave a sigh. "I hate these big chain stores."
"Well, you're gonna have to make do until Mr. Miller gets back from Bermuda." Sideswipe chuckled evilly. "Unless you want to eat that sludge in the mess hall."
"Ugh, perish the thought." Sarah stepped out. "Wish me luck in there."
"Want my blaster?"
"Hm. Tempting but no." Sarah leaned back in. "I'll give you a call when I'm done."
"Copy that, Boss Lady."
Sarah gently closed the door and gave it a gentle pat before heading towards the store entrance. Sideswipe waited for a woman and her gaggle of offspring to clear the crosswalk before pulling away from the curb. Expertly avoiding a guy texting, the cart collection man, and a dog (really, a DOG?), Sideswipe found himself a quiet little parking space at the back of the lot away from the noise and anything that could potentially scratch his flashy silver paint job.
Feh, on Shopping Day, he thought as he powered down the holoform of Will and shut off his engine. I'm a warrior for Primus' sake! How'd I end up carting around a human woman on her domestic errands?
It was the same song and dance he did with himself every week when he offered to take Sarah shopping. He did it for the sake of his own ego, just to remind himself that the task was beneath a deadly and dangerous frontliner. . . even if he liked doing it.
If anyone asked, he'd deny it. He'd proclaim it as a duty, like any other mundane, needed-to-be-done task that he executed on a regular basis. If anyone razzed him about his "Grocery Runs" he'd simply roll his optics and sigh, hamming up the 'Life of a Grunt' routine that he had down cold at this point.
But it really wasn't that bad. It was time away from the base and an opportunity to hang with Sarah. It was also a chance to power down in a warm parking lot for a while without someone yelling at him to get off his lazy aft. And any hits to his ego could easily be soothed when they returned to base. He'd just blow the hell out of something on the firing range or pick a fight with one or all of the Wreckers upon his return.
The spring sun was warming his plates nicely, lulling him into a relaxed state. The noise from the parking lot was a steady drone that was easily ignored. He settled in on his tires, his olfactory sensors taking in the comfortable scent of the asphalt beneath him. He muted all but a few external sensors, and let his processor wind down.
He was very near a light stasis when one of his proximity sensors pinged him. Another car had pulled up beside him. For a nanosecond, Sideswipe thought nothing of it. It was after all a parking lot.
Of course, then he remembered that he was in the middle of fragging nowhere where no self-respecting lazy human would dare to park. It hit him that the other car's engine was still running. His processor started to perk up as warning alarms went off. Quickly, he brought up every sensor he had, instinct telling him to gather as much information as he could about this vehicle.
It was a late model sedan and inside there were two human males. Though he had no baseline for either of them, he could tell their heart-rates were elevated. They seemed agitated and nervous. Excited even. Sideswipe's suspicions rose even more, but he sat quietly. Whatcha up to there, fellas?
The passenger's side door of the sedan opened and one of the men stepped out. Sideswipe resisted the urge to gag and dialed back his olfactory sensors. Cripes, did the man bathe in cheap human cologne? The man looked around quickly before sidling up to Sideswipe's driver's side door, pulling on the handle as if to see if it was unlocked.
Sideswipe managed to click it together right before the thin metal tool slipped between the glass and the window gasket. He just managed not to flinch.
Right here? In broad daylight? This jackass was trying to STEAL him right here in the middle of the busiest parking lot Sideswipe had yet to experience. Pissed though he was, Sideswipe had to admire the audacity. The guy was either an extremely green amateur or an accomplished master. Either way, Sideswipe's door was giving him merry hell. Of course, the poor schlub had never tried to pick a Cybertronian door lock before.
So much for a boring old Shopping Day. The responsible thing to do here would have been to call the authorities and have them pick the guys up. Really, if he just turned this guy over to the cops he might learn his lesson. Then again, he might not. Sideswipe was pretty sure he could hammer home the point that crime didn't pay in a way that a little jail time never could. And, really, was he one to give serendipity the brush-off? How often did golden opportunities like this really present themselves?
With an audible and (at least to Sideswipe) an ominous click, Sideswipe deactivated his door locks.
The man turned to his partner still seated in the sedan, speaking through an open window. "I got it."
Heh, not quite there, Chief, Sideswipe thought as the man opened his door and slid in, I think I've got you.
The thief's hands had just ghosted Sideswipe's steering column when he let out the most energon-curdling scream he could muster, "Stranger Danger!" At the same time, he hit his engine and slammed into gear, spinning his wheels and trailing smoke as he tore from the parking lot.
The man in his driver's seat was thrown back into the leather, but quickly regained his senses enough to begin screaming his lungs out. He had a death-grip on the steering wheel, desperately yanking on it to regain control of his situation. There was a little part of Sideswipe that felt bad for the man. But the larger, meaner part proclaimed that the dirty thief was getting everything he deserved.
It took a few minutes for the other man in the sedan to process what had just happened. When his brain caught up, he started to follow the Corvette. Sideswipe let him get just close enough so that he could scan the digits on the out-of-state license plate. To keep the panicked human in the driver's seat bouncing off his interior, Sideswipe let loose another scream of distress and screeched tires around the local burger joint.
Losing his tail would be no problem at all. That one he would leave to the humans. But the unfortunate soul in his compartment was in for the ride of his life. Sideswipe picked up on the cellular phone signal coming from the man's pocket and initiated a jamming frequency to disrupt the service. This dude was all on his own.
However, Sideswipe was going to require a little backup. And he had just the mech in mind who would simply be delighted to hear all about his afternoon.
Chuckling merrily to himself, he hailed the com frequency.
Parked behind a rundown billboard along a lonely stretch of Highway 9, Prowl resigned himself to another long afternoon of waiting. It wasn't the first time. With any luck, it wouldn't be his last. It was what Enforcers did, after all.
Officer Blake, seated behind the steering wheel, shifted ever so slightly to take advantage of the warm breath of spring air that rolled through the downed window. Other than that, she sat quietly, patiently. Waiting. Because she was a police officer and that's what she did.
After two days of sitting along the road, they had pretty much exhausted any and all conversation topics. Not that either of them were particularly chatty, anyway. When each realized the other was making the effort for the sake of their partner, they had given up. Immediately, the whole operation became that much more comfortable.
The County Sheriffs' department had asked for Prowl's assistance with a problem. Highway 9 was seldom used, except by truckers and humans simply passing through. It was a sound road, but the traffic volume was light on most days, especially in the later morning and early afternoons. That made it a prime location for some of the local teens to race modified dirt bikes along the straight stretch of asphalt.
According to Blake, there had been a handful of near misses. The kids had apparently begun to indulge in a game called 'Chicken', wherein they drove straight at the oncoming semis to see who would veer from in front of them first. Trucks had been run off of the road in the course of this dangerous pastime.
The problem was, not a vehicle in the sheriff's fleet was equipped to chase down the bikes. Even on the asphalt, the cruisers were easily outstripped. If one of the officers even got close, the parties involved simply maneuvered their all-terrain vehicles across the desert, leaving the police cars stranded on the blacktop.
It was becoming a point of honor for a few of the teens who bragged constantly that they had outrun the cops. Their confidence had soared, leaving them unafraid to tear down the highway at breakneck speeds in the middle of the day. With local schools on 'Spring Break', as it was called, there was ample time for someone to get hurt.
So, the sheriffs turned to their new-found extraterrestrial friends for help. With Optimus's permission, Prowl had agreed to assist Officer Blake in apprehending these younglings. There wasn't an internal combustion built that could outpace a Cybertronian, and a determined one at that. Prowl was very much looking forward to demonstrating that to these human children who seemed to have no regard for the safety of others.
For the time being, though, the younglings seemed to have found other ways to pass their time. This was Blake and Prowl's third day of monitoring Highway 9, and they had yet to make an arrest.
Prowl was just finishing a routine sensor sweep when his com pinged. He sighed deeply when he identified the source. "This is Prowl. Go ahead, Sideswipe."
As soon as the other mech spoke, Prowl felt his battle computer hum quietly to life. Something in Sideswipe's tone put him on the alert. He sounded entirely too happy.
"Hey Prowl! You hanging with the County Mounties today?"
To be polite, Prowl had allowed the com to sound through his compartment. Blake was becoming a close colleague and Prowl held no reservations about making her privy to the communiques. She shifted slightly, probably to glare at the radio. "Hi, Sideswipe."
"Howdy, Sheriff." The mech drawled in a bad imitation of a human western.
Prowl cut him off before he could get his pede in the door. "What do you want, Sideswipe? Some of us are trying to be productive."
"Do me a favor. Holler up Hound and ask him to pick Sarah up at the grocery store, would ya?"
Oh, good. It was going to be one of those conversations with Sideswipe. The kind that ran around the point ten times before the bot made it. Over the com, Prowl was powerless to stop it. Had Sideswipe attempted this in person, Prowl would have been sorely tempted to just beat the point out of him.
"Why don't you 'holler him up'?" Prowl replied, ordering his annoyance in check. "Or, perhaps the better question, why don't you pick her up?"
"I'm a little busy."
Now concern blossomed through Prowl's circuits. Sideswipe had the capacity to be the most annoying life form in the universe. However, when it came to duty, he was without fault. One duty that Sideswipe held above all others was his commitment to the Lennox family. For him to leave Sarah at the grocery store meant that something significant had happened. "Are you all right? Where are you?"
"You aren't gonna believe this." Sideswipe laughed a little. "I got boosted from the store parking lot!"
Blake was quicker on the draw and sat bolt upright. "What?"
" 'mon, Sheriff, ya know what that means." Sideswipe replied. "Lifted, heisted, jacked-"
Prowl cut across him. "You let yourself get stolen?"
"No." Sideswipe replied in a tone that clearly meant 'Yes of course, stupid'. "I did what I was supposed to: I yelled for help and ran away." Prowl could hear the smirk over the com. "But in my unreasonable blind panic, I accidentally locked my doors and trapped the dink inside."
Prowl registered a sigh and Blake rubbing at her forehead as she spoke. "So you're riding around town with a criminal in your interior."
"Yup." Sideswipe said proudly. "He's screaming like a little girl. Wanna hear?"
Before Prowl or Blake could say 'no', Sideswipe patched them in to the com in his compartment. Blake flinched as the high pitched pleading of a near-hysterical man pledging to join the clergy if he were allowed to live, filled Prowl's interior.
"Sideswipe!" It took only a slight raise in volume from Prowl to get the mech to cut the connection. "Where are you?"
"Oh don't worry. I'll find you." Sideswipe assured him. "In the meantime, I left this guy's buddy driving in circles over on Clifford Avenue. Maybe Blake can send some of her deputies out to round 'im up."
Prowl processed the transmission. "We'll take care of it. And Sideswipe?"
"Please, show some restraint."
"No problem. See you in five minutes. Don't forget Sarah. Sideswipe out."
Prowl relayed the license plate numbers to Blake who immediately contacted the county dispatcher. After ending the transmission, she turned back to Prowl. "Are we going after him?"
"If you wish, we can." Prowl replied calmly, once again sending his sensors wide. "But it really would be burning good energon for naught. The best tactic for dealing with Sideswipe is to let him run himself out."
"He better not be tearing through my town like a hoodlum." Blake grumbled.
"He isn't." Prowl assured her. "I asked Ratchet to feed me Sideswipe's coordinates when I contacted the base to speak with Hound. He is currently sitting in the alleys behind the homes on Main Street."
"I refuse to spare processor space trying to reason out why Sideswipe does anything that he does."
"Technically, he's kidnapped a human." Blake pointed out. "I could arrest him."
"I believe this falls under the heading of 'self-defense'." Prowl countered the argument, knowing Blake was simply playing the Devil's Advocate. "Sideswipe will not hurt the human."
The officer was silent for a moment before she gave a short, breathy laugh. "Trying to steal Sideswipe. Couldn't ask for worse luck as a car thief, though, could you?"
Prowl settled down to wait some more. "Indeed."
Dark, dirty, smelly, cramped back alleys really were great for scenes like this. No wonder humans utilized them so often in their TV cop dramas. Not that the alleys in Westead were that dark. Or dirty. Or smelly. Or cramped. All right so he was sitting on fraggin' Sunnybrook Lane. Whatever. He could use his imagination.
The human in his interior had formulated a new strategy, it seemed. After trying his cell and finding it non-functional, he had become very quiet. He was sitting very still. Not touching anything but his butt to the seat. Frack, he seemed to be barely breathing. Well, no matter what, Sideswipe was still aware that the thief was there. And he was going to stay right where he was until Sideswipe was done with him.
Setting his vocalizer to its lowest register still within human hearing range, Sideswipe allowed his voice to boom through his cabin. "What do you want with me?"
The man jumped and screamed a little, but still seemed unable to answer.
The man panted. "Uh-"
"Cut me up for parts?"
He let his tone take on a darker edge. "Are you with the government?"
"Are. You. Sure?" Sideswipe punctuated every word. "Cause I HATE the government."
"No, no, no!" the man was near-hysteria again.
"I escaped from the government." Sideswipe hissed. "They did things to me, man. Screwed around in my head, man. All kinds of experiments . . . man."
"No, I'm not with the government!" The man was almost crying.
"Used me like a turbo-rat in a lab."
"I'm not. I swear. Please!"
"Ain't been right since." Sideswipe was impressing himself with his Dirty Harry imitation. "Swore if I ever saw one of those government types again, I'd waste him."
"I'm not. I swear." The man pleaded. "I'm just a car thief."
"Yes." The man panted, "Look. I'm sorry. Just let me go, okay?"
"Can't." Sideswipe replied. "You'll tell the government where I am."
"Ah, man." The thief scrubbed his face. "I promise. I won't say nothing."
"You won't say anything." Sideswipe had to bite down a laugh at the man's clear confusion before continuing in his sinister voice. "I'm a stickler for grammar."
"Okay." The man swallowed hard. "Okay. I won't say anything."
"Cross your heart?"
"It's not a real promise," Sideswipe whispered hoarsely, "if you don't cross your heart."
Sideswipe nearly lost it when the man recited shakily, using his forefinger to make an 'X' over his chest. "Cross my heart and hope to die."
"Okay." Sideswipe rasped. "Since you crossed your heart."
"You-you gonna let me out now?"
"I'll give you," Sideswipe paused for effect, "a ride to the bus stop."
"No, that's okay." The man was becoming agitated again. He tried the door handle. "I can walk."
Sideswipe turned over his engine and pulled off. "No trouble."
The man's fingernails were digging into Sideswipe's seat as he turned back on to the main street and headed south. He was still shaking hard, but the prospect of being released seemed to have calmed him enough to speak. "You're one of those Autobots, aren't you?"
"Was." Sideswipe replied. "But they cut me loose when I shot a man in Reno . . . just to watch him die."
The man's confusion was palpable and Sideswipe had to wonder if he had overplayed his hand. Oh well, he wasn't going to give his new friend time to think it over, anyway. "I'm on my own. A lone Cyber Wolf. Roaming from town to town. . . . kinda like you."
Sensing that events were about to shift in an unfavorable direction the man tried to distract Sideswipe. "Oh, look. The bus stop. Right there."
"It's lonely, on the run." Sideswipe eased past the bus stop, slowing down as the man pressed himself against the glass, apparently hoping to be teleported to the other side of it. "Always hoped I could find a kindred spirit, if you will."
The man was yanking on the door handle. "Good luck with that. This is my stop."
"No," Sideswipe said darkly as he sped up to just over the speed limit, "you and me, man. You and me. We're partners now. I can help you. I can lure unsuspecting Lincolns and Beamers from the confines of their nice, safe garages. Cars trust other cars."
"You're not a car!" The man yelled. "You're an alien robot."
"The cars won't know that." Sideswipe replied sinisterly. "Until it's too late."
"Cars are cars! They can't be 'lured'." The guy grabbed at his own hair. "I can't believe this is happening! Damn it! You're crazy!"
"I know." Sideswipe had reached the edge of town and the turn-off for Highway 9. "Too much heat in this little burg. We gotta get out of town."
"Please." The man pleaded. "Just turn me over to the cops or something."
Sideswipe ignored him, opening a private comm line to Prowl again. "I'm gonna be coming in hot. All clear down there?"
Prowl's tone was one of forced patience. "What are you doing?"
"Plausible deniability, my friend." Sideswipe responded. "Any native activity?"
"See you in a few seconds." Sideswipe cut off the com and tore out, tires squealing as he rocketed down the highway. The human in his driver's seat was screaming again.
"Here he comes." Prowl informed Blake as Sideswipe registered in his sensors. "Over the posted speed limit, I might add."
The Enforcer turned over his own engine, allowing his systems to warm up as Blake reached for her seat belt. He gave an exvent. "Shall we put an end to this nonsense?"
"Let's." she replied.
Sideswipe flashed by, going about eighty miles an hour, which was significantly slower than Prowl had expected. Almost lazily, Prowl pulled out behind him at a much more sedate pace.
Blake's tone was confused. "Aren't we going to run him down?"
"I suppose that's the climax of this grandiose scheme." Prowl replied dryly as he gently accelerated. "But we can't assume anything, can we?"
As expected, Sideswipe commed him. "What the frig, Prowl? I know you can do better than that!"
"Better than what?" Prowl snarked back. "I can't read your processor. Are Blake and I supposed to run you into the ground?"
"You're supposed to try!" Sideswipe yelled back. "Would you get with the program, please?"
"Could you inform me of the program, please?"
"Get your aft up here and give me a little nudge."
"Excellent strategy." Prowl replied sarcastically before cutting the comm and speaking to Blake. "Brace yourself.
With that, he activated the emergency lights mounted on his roof and shot forward, closing the distance between his grill and Sideswipe's taillights.
"Primus, friggit!" Sideswipe yelled over the comm. "I said a little nudge, you slagger."
" 'Little nudge' is a relative term." Prowl shot back. "May I suggest next time you tell me precisely how much force per square inch you would like applied to your quarter panel?"
Sideswipe snickered. Getting Prowl agitated was so a bonus. "I sense that you're less than impressed with my strategy."
"I can give you my full assessment of its shortcomings later. For now, can we simply finish this up?"
"All right. The dude's bouncing off my walls pretty good. Do it again."
Prowl didn't respond verbally. Instead, he accelerated and slammed into Sideswipe's bumper harder than the first time, jarring him and causing his rear end to skid. Sideswipe silently cursed the Enforcer but used the opportunity to run off of the road and into the sand. He turned his attention to the screaming, crying human in his compartment. "Don't worry. They won't take us alive."
"Oh, man. Please." The man sobbed. "Please, just stop."
"No can do." Sideswipe replied in dark sullenness as he skidded around to a stop. Prowl had halted at the edge of the blacktop and was now just waiting in a completely non-aggressive manner, his emergency lights spinning lazily. Why couldn't the fragger just play along? Oh well. "There's only one way out."
"What does that mean?"
"You ever see Thelma and Louise?"
The man began to scream again as Sideswipe gunned up for his big finish. As luck would have it, Prowl's post with the humans was along a section of Highway 9 that paralleled a ravine with a thirty-foot drop. It had been a part of Sideswipe's plan since the man laid a greasy digit on his door handle.
Spinning around, Sideswipe announced dramatically. "It's been nice knowing you, buddy."
He screamed towards the cliff, engine roaring. The thief's voice cracked to a higher octave as he yanked on the wheel and pounded the brake pedal with his foot. Sideswipe ignored him as he yelled, "The last ride is the greatest ride! Yeehaw!"
And with that, he slammed on his brakes, skidding to a stop a respectable distance from the cliff's edge. The thief jarred against the steering wheel and then sat shocked in the seat, shaking hard.
Sideswipe laughed and adopted his normal tone as he said. "Gotcha."
Sideswipe's chuckling stopped abruptly when he noted an unusual peristaltic rhythm originating from the man's gut. "Oh no. No!"
Before Sideswipe could react, the man vomited all over his interior.
"You smell funny, Sideswipe." Bluestreak declared. The youngling dangled his legs from the medical berth he was seated on, watching Ratchet knock the dents out of Prowl's bumper.
"Thanks for the assessment, kiddo." Sideswipe replied blandly.
Prowl winced slightly as Ratchet wielded the hammer a little more forcefully than was truly necessary. The medic had been less than pleased when he had been informed of Prowl and Sideswipe's afternoon activities. "At least it's simply disinfectant. The smell of human tank purge was infinitely worse."
"And you." Sideswipe narrowed his optics to glare at Prowl. "You made me drive all the way back to Westead with that slag dripping into my seats."
"I had nothing to do with it." Prowl replied. "That was Blake's decision. At least she had the CSI techs remove it and clean your interior."
"I'd say that was the least she could do." Sideswipe replied. "After all, I helped bring down a major crime ring."
As if on cue, the door to the main hangar opened and Blake stepped through. Behind her was Will Lennox. The look on his face could have cracked concrete.
Blake allowed him to lead, following the Colonel as he ascended the catwalk, his boots ringing heavily on the metal steps. He moved to the platform closest to all of the bots and stood, crossing his arms and glaring at Sideswipe.
The silver frontliner had tracked the human with his optics. When Will stopped, Sideswipe's head was already ducked as he turned to face the human. "Hey Boss. You're looking heartily peeved."
Will raised his hand, multiple slips of paper in it. "Do you know what this is?"
"My commendations for bravery above and beyond the call of duty?" Sideswipe replied with a hopeful smile.
"No." Will was not amused. "These are the traffic violations you accrued during your little jaunt this afternoon. And a bill for cleaning and sanitizing your interior. All told, it comes to about $500."
Sideswipe gave Blake a mock-indignant look. "After all I did for you."
"I took into account that you played a significant role in both arrests when I wrote those citations." Blake responded, placing a hand on her hip. "In reality, I had enough to throw you in the lockup for at least thirty days."
"The lockup?" Sideswipe repeated with a snort. "You don't have a Cybertronian lockup."
"No, but we've got an impound yard." Blake came back. "And I have been known to improvise."
"I'm not paying this, Sideswipe." Will shook the citations at the bot. "And the government isn't either."
"You have thirty days to pay up." Blake announced. "After that, I'm hauling you off."
"Where am I going to get human money?"
Prowl half-smirked as Ratchet gave his enamel a final swipe. "There's a taxi service in town that's offering employment."
Sideswipe scowled at him before turning back to Will. "May I just point out that Prowl was bad, too?"
"Excuse me." Prowl slowly cocked an eyebrow. "But thanks to you, I can claim plausible deniability."
"That's right." Blake smiled. "I witnessed that one."
"These are consequences for your actions, Sideswipe. Pay the fine or do the time." Will leaned in more closely, narrowing his eyes dangerously. Sideswipe's back struts tensed, holding him ramrod straight. "But either way, until further notice, when I yell, you better come running. You are on my Shit List, my friend"
It was rare that Sideswipe looked afraid, but he truly and genuinely did. "For how long?"
"Until I'm not mad anymore." Will ground out, just getting warmed up. "And let me tell you something else; I catch one complaint out of you about ANY of the fun little tasks I'm about to assign for you and I'll have Officer Blake lock you up in that impound lot until you rot. You understanding me, Sideswipe?"
"Yes, sir. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have left Sarah at the grocery store while I went off to torment a car thief." Sideswipe looked like a scolded youngling. He seemed to shrink in on himself as another thought occurred to him. "You know, I'd understand if you wanted someone else to help Sarah run errands in the future. Maybe Hound."
Lennox jolted a bit, surprised. He seemed to thaw, but only marginally. "As angry as I am with you right now, that thought never entered my mind. You screwed up. Royally. And you will pay. But, I'm not asking you to stop watching out for my family."
Sideswipe checked an exvent. "Thanks . . . sir."
"And just so you know, Sarah thinks the whole thing is hilarious."
"Does she?" Sideswipe's optics brightened.
"Yes." Lennox hardened again. "But I don't."
"Of course not, sir." Sideswipe immediately demurred. He was as sincere as Prowl had ever heard him when he spoke again. "I'll make this up to you, Will. Scout's honor."
"I know you will." With that, Will stood straight and walked back down the stairs with Blake in tow. He opened the door for her, but paused before following her through. "0500. Septic tanks. Be there."
And with that, the colonel was gone.
Sideswipe gave a faint exvent. The corners of Prowl's mouth quirked. "Was that a complaint I just heard?"
"Don't even go there, mech. I'll pound you where you stand." Prowl gave him a look that clearly invited him to try. Sideswipe growled. "I'm starting to understand why Batman has a secret identity."
"I don't think that's a viable option for you." Prowl leaned against a wall near Bluestreak. "A cape and cowl can do but so much."
"Yeah, but-hey!" Sideswipe immediately perked up. "You just understood an Earth pop culture reference. And you responded with a mediocre Earth pop culture joke!"
"This environment is fairly saturated with Earth pop culture. I can't help but absorb some of it." Prowl nudged the youngling and said to Sideswipe. "Better watch your aft."
"Wha- Oww!" His pain sensors registered as the sound of metal on metal resounded through the hangar. He spun around to find Ratchet standing behind him. "Damn, mech. Did you just kick me?"
"Yes." Ratchet growled back.
"Are you using your pede to get the dents out?"
Ratchet gave him a significant look. "No. I've just been waiting to put my foot up your aft all afternoon."
"Let this be a lesson, Bluestreak." Prowl leaned in closer to his charge as the angry medic closed in on Sideswipe. "Actions have consequences."
"Understood, Prowl." The youngling grinned as he turned his attention back to the show.