"I bet you it was the big guy."
Jazz threw a sly, amused look towards the other side of the couch in the Ark's Rec Room. He'd been surprised –pleasantly so- to find company for his late nights in front of the TV, watching CSI in any of the show's many variations. His company had grown to include a rolling roster, and at the moment covered Hound, Mirage, Tracks and –of all people- Prowl. Jazz wasn't even sure quite what Prowl liked about the bottomless camp and technical make-believe of the show, but for all appearances the SIC was enjoying himself enough to wave a dismissive hand at Track's comment. Track's had an astonishing ability to pick the guilty party: he consistently failed. Jazz, who'd been about to render the same verdict, knew that he could now swear to Big Guy's innocence in front of Primus himself.
"Nah, it was the femme." Hound stretched lazily.
"It's always the femme with you." Mirage threw him a half-exasperated, half amused look.
"What d'ya think, Prowl?" Hound asked the SIC.
Prowl frowned. "It just started. I cannot render a verdict with so little evidence." He pointed at the screen. "The way in which this Horatio Caine person solves crimes makes no sense at all to begin with."
"He does get results, though", Jazz teased, rousing to the defense of his favorite character.
"In under an hour, too", Mirage added, grinning at Jazz.
"He does so because the show requires him to do so." Prowl leaned back. "Real crime-solving requires time, due process and, most of all, reason. Not…" He threw an amused look at Jazz. "Gut feeling."
"Can't be harder than kicking 'con aft day in and day out", Tracks remarked.
"Guys, guys, you're missing the point." Jazz pointed at the screen. "If you love your job, you get good at it. Do it long enough, you become the best. I mean, sure, the guy can't bust the criminals up –and you know he wants to- but he can bust them. Reason and time and experience are just… accessories."
Prowl leveled a very calm look on him. "The only reason he gets results without logic is because someone somewhere has written that he should do so. Surely you can see that."
Jazz spread his hands, saying nothing.
"You are telling me you agree with Tracks? You think real crime-solving is easy?"
"I'm just sayin' with the right attitude, gut feeling's just as good as logic."
"Oh?" Prowl lowered his head minutely. "Would you be willing to wager on that?"
The other three Autobots turned simultaneously, and the room was silent for a moment except for the TV. Jazz shrugged helplessly. "Well, it's not like it's rainin' dead bodies 'round here, Prowl. Can't solve a murder without someone bein' murdered an' all."
"Actually, you can." They all turned to look at Tracks, who shifted uncertainly. "There's this thing humans have, it's called Murder Mystery Theater. It's like… going to the show, being there. You know everyone's acting, but they're putting up the act for your benefit. And you have to solve… the murder. Of someone."
Prowl cocked his head and then, very slowly, turned to look at Jazz. For a brief moment, Jazz wondered if he was taking on more than he could deal with. Then he grinned crookedly at the SIC. "Bring it."
"I will." They could all but hear Prowl's CPU whirring. "But… I have conditions that must be met."
Jazz leaned back, the very picture of confidence. "Shoot."
"You will select a team of… CSIs. A small team."
"Even Caine has four, not counting the Examiner."
"Already with the concessions", Mirage teased, to a mock-glare from the Intelligence Officer.
"Four will be alright. You'll need all the help you can get." Prowl smiled thinly. "And I will know who they are tomorrow by the end of the first shift, at the latest, so that they might be kept entirely in the dark."
"Ahhh, clever mech."
"Second, this will in no way interfere with the normal operation of the Ark."
Jazz nodded. That was a given.
"Third, you will have exactly twenty-four hours to solve the crime from the moment it is discovered."
"Eeesh. Didn't you say you need time to solve real crimes?"
"Yes, I did. And I believe you countered that Caine's method, gut feeling and bluff, make such things as time and due process moot." Jazz muttered something unintelligible under his breath, much to the amusement of the other Autobots in the room. "Now, I believe wagers require stakes. If you cannot solve the crime, you will show up punctually for the last meeting of the day for the next… twenty-four days. And you will be on your best behavior during said meetings."
Jazz whined audibly. "Fine! But if I win, I'm excused from those meetings for a full twenty-four days."
Prowl didn't even hesitate. He offered his hand in time-honored fashion. "Agreed."
And Jazz began to feel just a teeny tiny bit worried. But what the heck, there was nothing else going on, he was bored out of his mind, and this promised to be much too much fun. "You're on!"
Jazz was up bright and early the next morning, and as he moved down the corridors of the Ark he got enough grins and nods that he realized word had spread like the literal wildfire. He poked his head into the Med Bay first. "Mornin', Ratchet."
Jazz paused. "No, what no?", he asked perplexed.
The CMO, at the moment digging at the underside of one of the medical berths, lifted his head just enough to glare at the Porsche. "I mean no, I am not joining your deranged idea of fun."
"I just came to see if First Aid was around."
"First Aid?" That was enough to get Ratchet to come out and sit down on the floor, looking perplexed.
"Yah. You've seen him?"
First Aid and Swoop were ferrying supplies to bring to Med Bay. Swoop smiled brightly when he saw Jazz come into the cargo bay, and Jazz grinned back. "Mornin', Swoop. You've heard, haven't you?"
"Oh yes. Me Swoop hear all about it." The Dinobot lifted another crate on top of his pile. "Him Mirage hiding outside", he said quietly with a conspiratorial grin.
"Ahhh, 'fraidy cat." Jazz grimaced; he'd hoped to get Mirage, among others, but then realized what Swoop had just said, and grinned. "Would you like to help, Swoop?"
The Dinobot looked startled. "Me Swoop help? Investigate, like CSI?"
Jazz' brows shot upwards. "You watch the show?"
"Oh, yes, we Dinobots all watch. Me Swoop like Vegas better. Him Slag like Miami, and him Grimlock like all shows." He set his crates down and thought about it for a moment before nodding. "Me Swoop happy to help."
They shook hands. "Glad t' have ya, Swoop. You wouldn't know where Hound is, would you?"
"Yes. Him Hound with him Prowl all morning."
"Ahhh, slag it. So he's probably with the enemy. Any thoughts?"
Swoop stared at the crates. "Me Swoop not sure. Need Autobots that think, but also need big police person." Suddenly they met each other's optics in shock and amusement.
"You talk to him, I'll go see if Perceptor and Blaster feel like havin' a bit o' fun."
Swoop grinned mischievously.
Jazz came to Prowl's office in time to see Sunstreaker step out. For once, however, the tall golden warrior didn't look like he'd just been verbally shot at – in fact, as he looked at Jazz and nodded a greeting, he looked decidedly… smug.
Slag, Jazz thought. This was one alliance he didn't want to even consider the possibility of. He stepped into Prowl's office, who looked up from a data slate. "Yes?"
"Got my team."
"Let's hear this." Prowl leaned his elbows on his desk, the very picture of attention.
"Perceptor…" When Prowl had no comment for that, he continued. "Trailbreaker… Since Hound mentioned he's going to be awfully 'busy' for a while now." He glowered at the SIC.
"Pity that", Prowl said mildly.
"And Sideswipe. But I figured we oughtta decide on a coupla people together."
"Oh? How so?"
"Well, Ratchet all but kicked me out of Med Bay, so we're short an Examiner –"
"First Aid will be filling that post", Prowl informed him smoothly.
Jazz felt once again on quicksand. As usual, he decided to leap forward. "And we need some police support."
Prowl frowned at him. "That would be my job, no?"
"No! You're the one plannin' this whole thing t' begin with!"
Prowl sighed in exasperation. "Fine. Who do you want?"
Jazz smiled. "Grimlock."
News of the upcoming battle of wits made the rounds, time and again, among the crew of the Ark. Most Autobots who hadn't watched the shows gave them a cursory glance at least, so they'd know what the grapevine buzz was about. Meanwhile, Jazz's team waited.
And waited some more.
"It's a stall tactic." Jazz tried to soothe Trailbreaker, who was getting almost as twitchy as Sideswipe. "Edgy mechs make mistakes. That's what Prowl's hopin' for."
Trailbreaker was easy enough to soothe, and Swoop was holding up remarkably well, keeping himself occupied by keeping Grimlock from charging up to Prowl's office and shaking the SIC. Perceptor apparently didn't care, and Jazz wouldn't have been surprised to find he didn't even remember he'd been included in this little exercise. Sideswipe, however, was threatening to throttle his twin on a twice-daily basis, and it didn't help that Sunstreaker looked unspeakably smug whenever he crossed the path of one of the would-be Autobot CSIs. For that matter, if Blaster decided to play the CSI: Miami theme one more time when Jazz walked by him on the Ark's corridors, the Porsche thought he might well forget all about his talks on patience and strangle him. Somehow, the Murder Mystery had managed to get almost every Autobot in location involved, with expected exceptions. Jazz knew Red Alert was still hysterically opposing the whole thing, and Ratchet had sworn he'd personally have choice 'words' for anyone who got hurt during this whole 'glitched scheme'. Prime had voiced no opinion on the matter, but he was the only one. The rest of the crew more or less seemed willing to go along, if not outrightly help Jazz and his crew. He kept monitoring the shift assignments, thinking that perhaps Prowl was waiting for a time when all the selected Autobots were free, but two more days went by with not so much as a peep from the SIC. On the third day, after having returned from patrol to more of the no-news-is-good-news quiet of the Ark, Jazz downed his energon, shrugged and went to sleep.
It was barely morning –he would make sure to murder Prowl eventually for that, Jazz promised himself later that day- when something crashed against the door to his quarters with a tremendous 'whoomp!'. "Jazz! JAZZ!" Bumblebee yelled from the hallway.
The Intelligence Officer nearly fell off his berth as he struggled to wake up and walk, more or less simultaneously. He found the door by touch, groaning tiredly, rubbing at his face as he opened it. "'Bee, what the hell –"
The young Autobot had apparently sprinted all the way from parts unknown to Jazz's quarters and he'd skid against the door instead of knocking on it. His optics were blazing and wide. "Hurry!"
Bumblebee shifted from foot to foot, and Jazz had to wonder how the younger Autobot managed to look both terrified and eager all in one go. "It's Bluestreak. In the Rec Room."
"With the candlestick?" Jazz added acidly.
"No. He's been shot."