Title: Innocent Until Proven Guilty
Pairings: Autobot Ensemble
Summary: Written for competition_fun’s April HodgePodge Contest, and originally posted over here.
Notes: Kinda made myself laugh with this one. Hope y’all get a giggle too.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
“I want that fragger in the brig! I more than pull my weight around here, and I’m not the one breaking into other mechs’ quarters just to frag up their stuff! I don’t deserve this slag, and I’m not putting up with it!”
Prowl gave Cliffjumper a bland look, then gestured to the seat across his desk. “Start over from the beginning. Less volume and swearing. More details on precisely what the issue is.”
Cliffjumper huffed into the seat, growling as he had to hop a little to get into it. “Sideswipe,” he growled. “He broke into my quarters and changed all my furniture so it’s higher. My desk. My chair. My berth!”
Prowl held up his hand to forestall the coming rant. “You saw him do this?”
Cliffjumper’s teeth ground together audibly. “No.”
“Then I cannot put him into the brig. What was the time you last saw your quarters in proper form?”
“Just before twenty-three hundred last night,” Cliffjumper bit out. “But I know it was him! He was bullying me just yesterday about being too short for the furniture around here!”
“I understand, and I will look into it. First, I need to know when you noticed the change.” Prowl pulled out his datapad for filing incident reports, and began notating what Cliffjumper had relayed so far in neat script.
Cliffjumper cycled his vents noisily, still very angry. “Ten minutes ago.”
“You were assigned the night patrol and had just returned to your quarters at approximately seven, forty-five.” Prowl marked the time, and glanced up to Cliffjumper for verification. He received a curt nod.
“Thank you, Cliffjumper. I will look into this. However, I must say, Sideswipe is not likely to be the guilty party.” Prowl swiveled his monitor around, pointing to the shift schedule and logs. “I had Sideswipe on monitors last night. I will verify that he did not sneak out at any point, but I will ask you not to escalate this issue by retaliating on a possibly innocent mech.”
“That fragger is not innocent!”
“Cliffjumper, if you seek vengeance, I will have to punish you accordingly. Regardless of my findings on Sideswipe.”
Clearly displeased, Cliffjumper snapped out a, “Fine!” then stomped away without waiting for dismissal. Prowl chose not to correct him on it. He was lacking recharge and upset. The minor infraction could be overlooked this once.
Prowl’s morning was disturbed again only twenty minutes later.
“//Prowl, Ironhide here.//”
“//Need your help. Sunstreaker’s supposed ta go on patrol with me, an’ I ain’t seen ‘im, an’ I can’t get ‘im on the comms. I’d come in myself an’ check the security feeds, but the other patrol’s already checked in, an’ I sent ‘em off for energon an’ recharge.//”
“//Understood, Ironhide. One moment.//” Prowl did not question why Ironhide had contacted him instead of Red Alert, and quickly logged into the security videos. It took him only a moment to see a rather bright pink mech of Sunstreaker’s build gesturing wildly while towing Sideswipe along to the washracks. “//It seems he is in the washracks. I have video time-stamped only six minutes ago, and nothing showing he has exited.//”
Prowl chose not to process the curse Ironhide uttered, and shut down the system. “//I will go and hurry Sunstreaker out to you.//”
“//You are welcome. Prowl out.//”
Prowl could hear the shouting before he even opened the washracks door. He pressed his lips together, and entered, neither of the twins noticing him right away.
“Sunny, I’m telling you, I was on monitor duty all last night with him. He couldn’t possibly have come in and painted you pink.”
“I heard Cliffjumper ranting up the hall! Maybe Tracks broke into our room while you were busy messing with the glitch!”
“Hey! I didn’t do anything to that slagger! My aft was in a chair with Tracks all farking night!”
“Why are you defending him?!”
“Maybe because I don’t want another war on my damn hands!”
“Sunstreaker,” Prowl said, voice just carrying over the running water and into the momentary quiet.
Both twins jumped hard, facing Prowl. Sideswipe’s optics paled. “I didn’t-“
Prowl held up a hand. “Sunstreaker, leave now. Ironhide is waiting to begin the patrol with you.”
“I can’t go out looking like this!”
“Now,” he ordered, then turned to Sideswipe. “I will be reviewing the security footage from last night. I would consider being more lenient were you to confess and agree to apologize to Cliffjumper before I do so.”
Sideswipe’s mouth dropped open, genuine shock on his face. “Me and Tracks were in the monitor room all night. I’m not covering for him. He’s not covering for me. We were there! You can look into whatever the slag you want, but-“
“-we were there our whole shift!”
Prowl looked back at Sunstreaker where he was desperately scouring the hot pink paint from his plating. It was not coming free easily. Lips pressing into a flat line again, Prowl walked over and turned off the water. “You have a duty to attend. See to it, or I will become creative in my reprimand. Perhaps binding you to the support column in the common room for one and all to see?”
“That’s not fair!” Sunstreaker yelled.
“Volume please. Might I suggest that it is not… fair to leave your duties to another, or to allow Ironhide to risk his life without backup.” Prowl held Sunstreaker’s glower for a moment. “Go now.”
Sunstreaker roared, and flung the scrub brush aside as he stormed out. Sideswipe scurried after the brush, babbling a hurried, “I got it! I got it. He’s just mad.”
“Indeed.” Prowl gazed after Sunstreaker for a moment, then opened a comm line to Ironhide. “//Sunstreaker is on his way. Please let me know if he does not arrive in the next two minutes.//”
“//Thanks again, Prowl! Iro- Oooh sweet Primus below my rustin’ feet! No wonder the glitch didn’t want ta show up.//” Ironhide’s raucous laughter was heard over the comm. “//Must’ve been in a hurry to get out of there,//” he said, then cut the comm.
Prowl did not worry. Ironhide could handle one torqued twin just fine. It was why Prowl generally assigned the shifts that way. He stopped by the common room on his way back to his office to pick up a cube of energon for later. It was already a long morning, and it wasn’t even eight-thirty.
The common room was no more peaceful than the washracks had been. Prowl entered and took in the chaotic scene. Mirage... Mirage was yelling, and as he waved his arms, or shifted his weight, there was a soft jingling sound. Red Alert was leaning in, optics pale in his rage.
“How dare you accuse me of such a thing!” Red Alert snapped.
“You have been threatening to put a bell on me for quite some time!” Mirage shouted back.
“And might I say it’s about slagging damn time someone did! How many times do I have to ask you, order you not to roam the Ark with your electro-disruptor engaged? Hm?!”
“So you admit it.” Mirage’s optics narrowed, fists clenching.
“I admit nothing except my gratitude to whomever it was that jammed those bells under your plating!”
“What is with today?” Optimus Prime asked, stepping up next to Prowl.
Prowl looked up, and paused with his mouth partly open. “Your battlemask,” he said after a moment.
Prime waved a hand. “Not the worst of the pranks I’ve been hearing about.”
“Doncha know?” Jazz asked as he bounced up. “It’s April Fools Day.”
Prime and Prowl both turned blank looks onto the saboteur, and Jazz held up his hands. “Don’ look at me, bossbots. I was kinda hopin’ none these guys would know or remember the date today.”
Prime shook his head, staring out over the shouting and bickering. Beachcomber was giving his version of a stern lecture to Hound, who just looked very confused. Perceptor had Skyfire looking as though he was ready to flee. Of course the loudest was still Mirage and Red Alert directly in front of them.
“This is a zoo. I’m running a zoo,” Prime muttered.
“A zoo implies that they are contained,” Prowl said. Jazz giggled.
“I can show you the damn video feed of me working late, then entering my quarters!”
“Yes, because you certainly do not have the knowledge to tamper with a video recording,” Mirage huffed.
Red Alert threw his hands in the air, and uttered a short, frustrated shriek. “Believe whatever you want! Primus! They say I’m glitched!”
Prowl stepped out of the infuriated Security Director’s path, then turned back to Mirage. “I shall look into this to see if I may uncover the culprit.”
For a moment Mirage looked like he might cry, but he brought himself back under control quickly. “Thank you, Prowl. Excuse me, please. I need to see Ratchet about getting these bells out.”
Jazz managed to hold back his snickering until Mirage was out of the common room. “Need some help figurin’ all this out, Prowler?”
“No, thank you. And please do not call me that.” Prowl nodded to Prime, and excused himself.
When Prowl reached his office, it was only to find two enraged, one annoyed, one helpless and tired-looking, and one chipper Aerialbot standing in the hall waiting for him. “Yes?”
Air Raid and Slingshot burst into loud shouts that Prowl only managed to catch every fourth word from. Silverbolt threw out his arms, and leaned back against the wall to rub at his temples, optics squeezed shut. Skydive offered a shrug and head shake.
“-but I really like them,” Fireflight’s voice was finally heard as Prowl held up a hand to stop all the noise.
“Like them?” Prowl asked.
“The paintings!” Fireflight smiled, rocking back and forth on his feet. “They’re good work, and they’re colorful, and I like them. Raid and Slinger want to beat whoever put them there to scrap, but I really want to keep the ones with the Old Woman with the shoe-shaped house and the cow that’s jumping over the moon. Pleeeeease, Prowl? Pleeeeease say I can?”
Prowl stared, nonplussed for a moment longer. “That is your prerogative, Fireflight.” The Aerialbot did a little bounce and fist pump combo, and ran off down the hall with a whoop. Prowl looked to Silverbolt, and waited until he turned back from watching Fireflight run off.
“It seems, sir, that someone broke into our hanger when we were recharging and painted a whole bunch of pictures from human sparkling tales on our walls,” Skydive informed him.
Prowl nodded. “Jazz just mentioned it being April Fools Day. I believe that explains, but does not excuse, all these pranks. I will add this incident to my investigation.”
“And what happens when the slagger’s caught?” Slingshot demanded.
“I will confer with Prime, and we shall decide on a proper punishment. Now, I do believe the five of you are due to meet Skyfire for aerial maneuver training in ten minutes. Perhaps you should collect Fireflight before you are late.” Prowl left off that he was not sure that Skyfire would be on time, but that was no excuse for the Aerialbots to be tardy as well.
With two of their number still grumbling, the Aerialbots turned and left, and Prowl entered his blessedly silent office. He leaned back against the door, hand finding the controls, and locking it. He got as far as his desk before he had to mute his vocalizer. It just would not do for anyone walking by to hear him laughing so hard.
Prowl dropped into the chair in front of his desk, coolant streaming down his cheeks as he nearly laughed himself sick.
“//Bells, Prowl?//” Ratchet’s voice crackled over a private comm channel. “//How the frag did you get that many bells up under a spy’s plating?!//”
Prowl gasped as he tried to calm down. “//I assure you, Ratchet, I do not know what you mean.//”
There was a snort. “//My pretty crimson ass you don’t know.//” There was a moment of silence, and when Ratchet spoke again, the laughter in his tone was even clearer. “//One of these years, they’re going to wise up.//”
Ratchet laughed outright this time. “//Uh huh. High grade at midnight as usual?//”
~ | ~