Countdown to Looking Glass by Briwd

The Cold War continues into the 21st century and is on the verge of going hot: as all-out nuclear war lurks in the background, Gibbs and his team investigate the death of Director Jenny Shepard, and the questions raised by her successor's actions.

Categories: General > Sci-Fi/Supernatural/Fantasy, General, General > Action/Adventure, General > Drama Characters: Abby Sciuto, Anthony "Tony" DiNozzo, Any NCIS Character(s), Brent Langer, Caitlin "Kate" Todd, Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard, Eli David, Hollis Mann, Jenny Shepard, Jimmy Palmer, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, Mike Franks, Mrs. Mallard, T. C. Fornell, Timothy McGee, Ziva David
Genre: Action, Alternate Universe, Drama, Hurt/Comfort, SciFi/Supernatural/Fantasy
Warnings: Character Death, Language
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 47 Completed: No Word count: 113543 Read: 7152 Published: 02/01/2017 Updated: 06/10/2018

1. Chapter 1 by Briwd

2. Chapter 2 by Briwd

3. Chapter 3 by Briwd

4. Chapter 4 by Briwd

5. Chapter 5 by Briwd

6. Chapter 6 by Briwd

7. Chapter 7 by Briwd

8. Chapter 8 by Briwd

9. Chapter 9 by Briwd

10. Chapter 10 by Briwd

11. Chapter 11 by Briwd

12. Chapter 12 by Briwd

13. Chapter 13 by Briwd

14. Chapter 14 by Briwd

15. Chapter 15 by Briwd

16. Chapter 16 by Briwd

17. Chapter 17 by Briwd

18. Chapter 18 by Briwd

19. Chapter 19 by Briwd

20. Chapter 20 (REVISED) by Briwd

21. Chapter 21 by Briwd

22. Chapter 22 by Briwd

23. Chapter 23 by Briwd

24. Chapter 24 by Briwd

25. Chapter 25 by Briwd

26. Chapter 26 by Briwd

27. Chapter 27 by Briwd

28. Chapter 28 by Briwd

29. Chapter 29 by Briwd

30. Chapter 30 by Briwd

31. Chapter 31 by Briwd

32. Chapter 32 (REVISED) by Briwd

33. Chapter 33 by Briwd

34. Chapter 34 by Briwd

35. Chapter 35 by Briwd

36. Chapter 36 by Briwd

37. Chapter 37 by Briwd

38. Chapter 38 by Briwd

39. Chapter 39 by Briwd

40. Chapter 40 by Briwd

41. Chapter 41 by Briwd

42. Chapter 42 by Briwd

43. Chapter 43 by Briwd

44. Chapter 44 by Briwd

45. Chapter 45 by Briwd

46. Chapter 46 by Briwd

47. Chapter 47 by Briwd

Chapter 1 by Briwd

Washington, D.C.

Leroy Jethro Gibbs's basement


Gibbs sat the glass down next to the bottle of bourbon and read the note for the hundredth time:


mommy told me about two men named mikky and boris.they would have done good. the bad people killed them before they could do good. now the bad men are trying to take over the world including america and fairfax.


mommy used to tell me when she was home and on the computer everything will be okay. people like her are fighting to save the world from the bad people so kids like me can grow up in a world of peace.


i know shes serving but i miss mommy.


Gibbs then, for the twentieth time, poured himself a shot of bourbon and emptied the glass with a single drink.


He followed up by opening the file on his team's most recent case.


Lieutenant Commander Joanna Newsom, US Navy, fought hard to attain her position, harder to prove women could serve their country as well as men, and hardest against her country's enemies. She earned commendation after commendation, most notably in the Saudi War. Newsom had returned home, to Fairfax, Virginia, to see her only daughter on a short furlough before shipping out to Panama.


Gibbs and his team arrived at her home and came upon a near riot. After pushing through the crowd of angry neighbors and protestors, the team found the house a complete shamble. Newsom was executed, as was the neighbor watching her daughter and the house, and the scene had Spetsnaz written all over it.


After it was discovered the girl was missing, Gibbs drove his team to the limit, finally finding her outside a fast food restaurant. Apparently these Spetsnaz had a heart.


Gibbs thought back to what Fornell told him the bastards did at the Army/Air Force Command D facility near New York City. He wondered if Ari was still working with them; Gibbs had a bullet should that particular bastard show up anywhere near his team.


As he went to pick the note up again, Gibbs noted light coming through one of the basement windows. He looked at his watch, and figured he had enough time to make a pot of coffee before heading to the Navy Yard.


Upstairs, as he'd done the past few months, he turned on the kitchen radio while his coffee brewed.


--U.N. General Secretary Chen called upon all nations to come together and resolve their differences ahead of this week's summit in Geneva.


The White House has just released a short statement from President Boehner, quote, I second General Secretary Chen's call for peace but not at any cost. We will not compromise on Berlin, the Panama Canal, Iraq nor Indonesia. Our offer to the Soviets to help rebuild the Siberian oil fields and share research on alternate fuels still stands, end quote.


There has been no official comment out of Moscow--



Good luck with that, thought Gibbs, as he headed upstairs to get dressed. He thought he'd get to work on time, even with all the checkpoints and added security to deal with.



Rock Creek Park


Tim McGee loved coffee, craved it even.


He thought it was due more to the demands of his job and the long hours -- including all the checkpoints and extra security and other associated nuisances -- than the tastes of his boss, Gibbs. But McGee also took his coffee black, just like his boss. McGee couldn't remember what he drank during those all-night gaming sessions; it had been so long ago since he had time for gaming.


The drive down 16th Street Northwest was normal for an early morning weekday. Normal for a road headed into the capital of a country in a cold war threatening to turn hot. That meant tons of added security measures, from random checkpoints to surveillance cameras to military helicopters and jets patrolling the skies over the District.


McGee took it in stride and settled in for what he thought was a routine drive to the Yard, and NCIS.


Traffic was a little heavier nowadays, the drivers having the same idea McGee did about when to leave for work, but flowed. Any slowdowns or stops were due to jams, or the occasional fender-bender.


Just past Alaska Avenue NW, traffic slowed to a crawl. McGee noticed there were a lot of flashing lights ahead, which generally meant a multi-car wreck or someone who was wanted by the cops or feds got caught.


As he sat in his car, McGee tried to identify the vehicles. There were a ton of Metro cruisers, an ambulance, some SUVs, all with more flashing lights than one of those nightclubs DiNozzo was fond of.


There also was another vehicle, no lights, that looked familiar. His gut suggested it might be a certain medical examiner's van.


Ducky? Did we catch a case? McGee checked his cell phone; there were no messages, no records of any calls from Gibbs, DiNozzo, Kate or even Ziva. The phone also was set to ring, so he would've heard any call.


McGee couldn't tell from his seat if it was NCIS. Given that no one was moving, and the police officer was telling drivers to stay put, they weren't going anywhere soon. He turned the engine off, then got out of the car, locked the door, and started walking. After he showed the officer his badge, McGee headed for the scene, pushing aside the feeling that something was wrong.


He got to the medical examiner's van, and it was in fact NCIS. But the men in the cab weren't Ducky or Palmer, and in fact he had never seen either of them before. McGee headed to the van to find out who they were.


Something familiar caught the corner of McGee's eye. He turned, and saw a dozen feds around a black Town Car.


That's Director Shepard's car.


McGee ran towards the car, flashing his badge to the cops holding the crime scene, and approached the vehicle. He saw that the windshield had a bullet hole, and her driver Stanley dead, slumped against the steering wheel and missing most of the back of his head.


After taking a deep breath and exhaling, McGee made himself look in the back seat.


The back window on the driver's side was broken. The director was slumped against the passenger door, with a bullet hole in her temple; her blood was all over the back seat and door, and she had bits of Stanley's remains on her jacket, blouse and face.


McGee felt his coffee coming back up his esophagus, but swallowed it back down. Right now, he had to call Gibbs or Tony, then take control of the scene until they and Ducky could get there.


"What in hell are you doing?!?" a man said to McGee, forcefully grabbing his arm and almost screaming into his face.


"I-I-I'm Agent McGee. NCIS," McGee replied, thrown off guard by the man's demeanor. He reached into his pocket with his free hand and took out his badge and ID. In turn, the man took out his own badge and ID, letting go of McGee's arm and giving him a close look at the credentials:


Assistant Director Riley McAllister.


"Sir. How long have you been here? Who called this in? Where's Dr. Mallard?" McGee asked.


"First off, it's Director McAllister, and I've been here long enough," McAllister told him. "I'm personally overseeing this case. This M.E. is here at my request and will handle the examination."


McGee's gut was in overdrive. This scene, as Abby might say, is really hinky.


"Agent McGee. I have this in hand," McAllister said. "You should go on to work."


"Sir--Director. Shouldn't I call Agent Gibbs and Dr. Mallard? They would normally handle--"


"Listen to me, son," McAllister interjected. "I'm in charge now. Go to your car, drive to the Yard. I'll have police wave you through. Don't say a word about this; I don't want this leaking out before I'm ready to announce it."


"Yes sir," McGee said. "May I ask. Director Shepard. How long has she been...dead?"


"The M.E. has yet to get here," McAllister said. "This was called in a half-hour ago. Unofficially, and I'm no doctor, I'd guess an hour, hour and a team and I will handle things from here. With all the increased Communist activity around here I'm sure your team will be busy enough."


"Yes sir," McGee replied, heading back to his car. He pulled away from the growing line of now-parked cars, the cops waved him through, and he was quickly on his way.


Near the tail end of the jam in the lane headed away from D.C., and out of sight of the crime scene, McGee pulled his car to a stop. He took out his cell phone, only to find it wouldn't work. McGee uttered an expletive, realizing he hadn't charged the battery overnight. It ran out of juice after he parked.



He restarted the engine, then drove as fast as he could towards the Navy Yard.

Chapter 2 by Briwd


Navy Yard

NCIS Headquarters


Kate Todd sat forlornly at her desk in the Major Case Response Team's bullpen.


She pat the head of her pet terrier, Toni, whose presence in the building went against agency regulations. The mug of coffee on her desk, on the other hand was allowed, and she was on her 12th refill in the past 11 hours.


Kate knew neither Ducky nor her personal care physician would approve of that much caffeine in her body. Both would be concerned over her lack of sleep, fueled by an irrational but nagging premonition that she would never see her family again.


Shortly after she left work yesterday, the power grid in Indianapolis went down. At the moment, much of the city and its suburbs were still dark; therefore, Kate was unable to reach family there by email or phone. And she tried to contact her sister Rachel in Miami, but her calls went right to voicemail and her emails were unanswered.


Kate realized they all probably were just fine, but couldn't shake the feeling that they weren't. With the workday about to begin, she opened her browser and went to the ZNN website to check the latest news.














Scratching Toni behind the ears with her free hand, Kate read the article, then clicked on the link to the national news section.




"This is new," she muttered, as she began reading. The expatriate Cuban community objected to peace activists holding vigils in downtown Miami and Little Havana. Arguments flared into fights here and there but Miami-Dade County police were keeping both groups under control.


Not seeing anything pertinent to Rachel, Kate looked at the clock on her monitor. It read 7:01 AM, so she closed the browser and opened her inbox to begin the workday.


Kate heard Toni growling, then looked up and saw Tony Dinozzo and Officer Ziva David walking to their desks.


"You look like hell, Kate," Tony joked. Aside from not having slept in over a day, Kate was her usual well-dressed, well-groomed self. All she needed was to freshen up and take a 12-hour nap.


"I couldn't sleep, DiNozzo," Kate said, instantly regretting she had said anything to the nosy senior agent. After all this time and even with partially preoccupied with Ziva, he still couldn't keep his nose out of Kate's business.


"Couldn't sleep? Why not? Get some action last night?" DiNozzo said with a grin. Kate was too tired to argue with him, but her eye roll only encouraged him. "Party hard? Who's the lucky fella? What's his name?"


"You interested in a date, Tony?"


"So our former Secret Service agent DID get her groove on."


"No, DiNozzo, I did NOT 'get my groove on'. I couldn't sleep."


"I bet you couldn't," he said, walking to Kate's desk.


"There wasn't any guy."


"'There wasn't any'...oooooooohhhh. There was a GIRL...was it Abby?"


Tony now was sitting on her desk, further annoying Kate. He saw a piece of paper and reached out to grab it, stopping only when hearing Toni's low and long growl.


Tony withdrew his hand and quickly moved away from the desk, causing Kate to smile for the first time in hours. Keeping a wary eye on Kate's terrier, Tony slowly backed away and into Ziva.


Surprised to bump into her, Tony turned around.


"You know, Officer David, in America when someone's about to bump into someone else, they say 'excuse me'," Tony said.


"We also do the same in Israel," Ziva replied. "Would you like me to tell you what we do in Mossad?"


Tony chuckled. "You--"


Ziva grabbed Tony, threw him to the ground to where she was sitting behind him, then 'lightly' put Tony in a rear naked choke. A second-year jiu-jitsu student would've been able to escape the hold, but not DiNozzo.


"I...see my...head's still on my shoulders," Tony whispered, as Kate (holding Toni) stood wide-eyed. She had come to accept Ziva as a teammate and a friend, but still was somewhat wary of the Mossad officer in her.


"This is when we want the hostile to remain alive," Ziva said in a low voice in Tony's ear.


"What do you do if you want to...take the hostile out?" Kate asked. Even with her Secret Service training, and her work with Gibbs, some things Ziva had shared with her regarding Mossad still unnerved Kate.


"There are 37 ways from this position in which to 'take the hostile out', Kate," Ziva replied. "Would you like me to demonstrate one of those methods?"


"No thank you Ziva," Kate said. "I don't think Tony could survive."


"What she said," Tony followed, catching his breath as Ziva released him from the hold. Ziva went to pet Toni, who growled at Tony when he stood up.


The elevator dinged, and McGee ran out the open door towards the bullpen, stopping at Gibbs' desk.


"Where--where's Gibbs?!?!?" yelled McGee, frantically looking around for his and his team's boss.


"He--he--he's not here yet, Probie," cracked Tony, still rubbing his neck from Ziva's 'light' chokehold. "Since when do you come in here looking for Gibbs? And you're late."


"So was Tony," Kate added, as McGee pulled out his cell phone, then remembered its battery was drained.


"Quiet Miss Smartypants," Tony replied. "Gibbs as you should be able to tell Probie isn't here yet, but as senior field agent and acting boss in the boss's absence you can tell me whatever you want to tell the boss."


"I absolutely can't tell you," McGee said as Tony picked up the dead phone and fooled with it. "I'm not even sure I can tell Gibbs--"


"What happened to your phone, Probie?" Tony said, putting his nose right on McGee's in mock indignation.


"Dead battery. I forgot to charge it last night. It died on me on my way to work."


"You forgot to charge it. Ladies, McForgetful McForgot to McCharge his phone. Rule Three."




"Rule Three, Probie: Never be unreachable. You were unreachable on your way here--"


"As opposed to when you left yours at home, Tony?" interjected Ziva. "Gibbs tried to call you on the other end of Rock Creek Park. He was not happy to hear your excuse."


"Or, my first year here at NCIS, when Tony was at a club and had his phone turned off," Kate added. "What was it you told those co-eds before Gibbs grabbed you by your shirt collar and pulled you out of there...'here comes my angry grandpa, he's off his meds'? That made him madder."


"Had to keep my cover Kate, and Ziva, it was two in the morning when we caught that case," Tony shot back, before placing his full attention back on McGee. "Probie. Have you not memorized Gibbs's rules--"


"Dammit, Tony, I don't have time for your crap!!!" McGee yelled at the older agent. "I need to find Gibbs."


Tony was momentarily taken aback, then allowed himself the slightest hint of a smile: Probie just stood up to me.


McGee looked over Tony's shoulder and addressed both women. "Ziva, Kate, do either of you know Gibbs's cell number? I have to talk to him and it can't wait -- and I'm sorry, Tony, but this isn't something I can talk to you or anyone else here about."


"No time like the present, McGee," said Gibbs, coming around the corner into the bullpen with a fresh cup of black coffee in hand.


McGee sidestepped Tony and met Gibbs before he could get to his seat. "Boss, I need to talk to you."


"About what, McGee?"


"Not here."


Gibbs nodded. "My office," he said, taking his coffee and going back in the direction of the elevator, McGee following.


Four minutes later, Gibbs ran out of the elevator and into the bullpen, McGee sprinting behind. "DiNozzo. Kate. Ziva. Where's Ducky?"


"He and the autopsy gremlin ought to be in the morgue, boss," Tony said.


"McGee. Head for the lab, get Abby and bring her to the morgue," Gibbs said just enough for he and the other four to hear. "The rest of you. With me."


McGee headed for the back elevator. "Boss, this have anything to do with what Probie said he couldn't tell me?" Tony asked.



"On my six," Gibbs said, halfway to the elevator. Tony, Kate (dog in arm) and Ziva ran to catch up.

Chapter 3 by Briwd

--talks in Johannesburg between the Luanda Pact and the African Community have broken down over Zaire--


--pleas for a ban on Morticoccus are falling on deaf ears. So are the pleas for a cure to be made available to the public--


--Soviet warships amassing off the coast of Cape Town in conjunction with the 'friendship treaty' signed between the USSR, Israel, the African Union and the Arab Republic brought the world the closest to Armageddon it has ever been. This signalled the commencement of the Twenty Day War on 9 October 1986--



The team gathered downstairs in the morgue, and McGee filled everyone else in on what he had told Gibbs in the elevator.


After a few moments of stunned silence, McGee had questions thrown at him by everyone other than Gibbs. After answering them all, McGee -- with a nod from Gibbs -- stood down, giving everyone a moment to process Jenny's death.


That's all Gibbs would allow them.


"Duck," he said. "You have any idea who that examiner might be?"


"I know several persons who could have been called upon on short notice, Jethro," Ducky said. "But without Timothy being able to give me a description, I cannot begin to narrow down the candidates so quickly."


Gibbs took another look at his team. Judging the best thing for them at present was to stay busy, he began barking orders.


"Start making up a list, Duck, and coordinate with McGee; McGee, you'll be working in the lab with Abby," Gibbs said. "Abs, any other labs besides the FBI's at Marine Base Quantico McAllister could use?"


"Mine, which he'd have to use--"


"Rule Eight," Gibbs interjected. Never take anything for granted.


"If he's really the new director, he could go anywhere he wanted," Kate said. "If he wanted to leave us out of the loop."


"Which appears to be what Director McCallister is doing, at least in my case," Ducky said. "The question is why would he do this?"


"Why would he not use you," Tony added. "What's he trying to hide?"


"Is NCIS policy not to use its medical examiner in the event of the death of one of its own people? Would that not apply to its forensics laboratory?" Ziva asked.


Gibbs liked how his agents were thinking. Now he needed to get them looking for answers.


"I not only want to know the answers to those questions, I want to know everything about McCallister including how he can claim to be the director of the agency," Gibbs said. "Most of all right now, I want to know how Jenny died and where did they take her."


Neither Gibbs nor anyone else said a word for several moments. They barely had time to process her death but it was beginning to hit home for all of them.


McGee was the first to speak. "Boss, since McCallister, uh, the new director saw me, I should work down here so he doesn't easily see me upstairs," he said. "I can run footage of surveillance cams from the scene."


"Do that," Gibbs said. "DiNozzo, Kate. Go upstairs. If and when he shows up I want my two senior agents here. I want you both to get me everything on McCallister you can find: service records, commendations, how he rose up the chain of command."


"Where are YOU going, boss?" Tony asked.


Gibbs nodded towards the elevator. "Gonna check out the scene."


Palmer raised his hand in the back. "Uh, uh, Agent Gibbs, aren't you, um, you, um--"


Everyone else turned to glare at him. "Spit it out, Palmer," Gibbs said, as Palmer continued to stammer, stopping only when Ducky gave him a head slap. "Uh, there's no crime scene there anymore," Palmer finally replied.


"Yeah," Gibbs said. "Officer David, come with me and grab your gear. We're going to where the crime scene WAS." With that, Gibbs headed out the door, Ziva rushing to catch up.


"Boss!" "Gibbs!"


Tony and Kate rushed out of the morgue into the hallway, but by the time they got to the elevator the door had closed. Ducky, Abby, McGee, Palmer and Toni the dog (who had been resting next to Ducky's desk) made their way into the hallway.


"I know it's Gibbs, but do you think he'll really find anything?" Kate asked Tony. "We don't know what this guy may have done."


"Gibbs will find something because he's Gibbs," Tony said. "The one I'm concerned about right now is Ziva. She and the director were really close."


The parking lot


Ziva and Gibbs left in his car for Rock Creek Park. The guards at the entrance waved them through; moments later, one of them reached for her phone and placed a call.


"Agent Gibbs and Officer David have just left the Navy Yard, sir," she said.


"The others?" asked the man on the other line.


"Still here, sir."



"Place them under surveillance," said Director McCallister. "I'll deal with Gibbs."

Chapter 4 by Briwd

--East German advisors reportedly have been imbedded with Thai forces --


--peace rallies in front of the American and Soviet embassies in London attracted thousands of participants and netted at least a dozen arrests--


--an e-mail sent to George Washington University students, faculty and employees states there is no reason to close the main campus at this time--


Rock Creek Park


When Gibbs and Ziva arrived, traffic was moving and no sign of the crime scene was anywhere to be found.


"They have cleaned up the scene," Ziva said as Gibbs parked along the opposite side of the street. "This is where found the director, yes?"


"Yep," Gibbs said, holding his arms out and hands up to stop traffic so they could cross. "Cameras should verify the location, IF someone hasn't already erased them."


"In Israel since the Soviets were evicted, incidents such as this are quickly scrubbed from video as not to fall into the wrong hands," Ziva said. "The videos are kept in a secured location so they may be accessed only by those who need to see them."


"Not givin' away any state secrets, are you, Officer David?"


"This information was released directly by our government," she replied. "Unlike similar information here in the United States released by two of your newspapers without government authorization."


"First Amendment's still in effect here, Ziva," Gibbs said, holding his hand up to stop a car as it came to the spot where Director Shepard's vehicle had been earlier. "Put it in park!!!" Gibbs shouted to the driver while holding up his badge and identification. "Crime scene."


As traffic began backing up behind them, Gibbs waved over a park patrolwoman. He explained the situation and had her and her partner stop traffic both ways while he and Ziva processed the scene. They looked for anything that would shed light on the incident and how it was previously processed.


--the State Department warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Mexico and strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Mexico depart immediately. This Travel Warning supersedes all previous Travel Warnings, to remind U.S. citizens that the security situation remains dangerous and unpredictable as violent conflict between government and armed cartel groups continues throughout the country, along with an increased risk of kidnappings, bombings, murder, and terrorism.--




He looked back at the beach house overlooking the Pacific and took one last swig of beer before climbing in the SUV.


The federales in front were to drive him and the two NCIS agents to the border at Tijuana; from there, the Americans would drive straight to the NCIS field office in San Diego.


"What a waste," muttered retired NIS Agent Mike Franks. He sat in the back between the two NCIS agents he judged to be in their late twenties. "It was a damn good place to retire to."


"Your house will be watched while you are gone, Señor Franks," the driver said. "On behalf of the Mexican government, your home and property will be protected. You will be fully reimbursed for any and all damages."


"That ain't what I'm worried about," Mike replied.


The man to Mike's right stared straight ahead, keeping a wary eye outside the moving vehicle for any sign of cartels, Spetsnaz, Soviet-backed terrorists and any other potential threat.


"What IS worrying you, sir?" asked the woman on Mike's left.


"My gut's churnin' worse than Montezuma's revenge," he said.


"Things can always be replaced," she replied. "Considering the situation, for now you'll be safer in the States."


"Will I," Mike said. No one had a good answer to that question.


--the Eagle Act was one of many Acts of Congress intended to bolster the Patriot Act in regards to Soviet- and Cuban-backed terrorism after the October Purge of 20--



Forensics Lab


Abby Sciuto's gut was churning worse than usual.


With nothing to do at the moment, she squeezed her Bert the Farting Hippo doll while hanging by McGee a little more closely.


She wanted to get her mind off Jenny by turning her stereo up full-blast; because McGee was looking for footage of Jenny's accident, she had to settle for the sounds of foot traffic outside in the courtyard.


The usual banter between the two teammates-friends-former lovers was absent. Neither felt like talking, and only spoke when they had to.


"Come on," McGee said in frustration. He kept running into obstacles while attempting to hack into the D.C. SecureNet to retrieve the park security camera footage. A formal request requiring the NCIS director's electronic signature led to McGee's attempts to retrieve the footage by other, unauthorized methods approved only by Leroy Jethro Gibbs.


McGee had managed to keep his hacking efforts hidden this long, or so he thought.


Within moments, his screen went from lines of coding to red letters against a black background which read:






"Oh boy," McGee said with a groan.


"McGee," Abby said. "Is that--"


"A violation of the Eagle Act."


"How?!? There's no way you getting caught should've resulted in THAT," Abby said.


"There's a first time for everything, Abby," replied McGee.


Director Shepard's office


Tony and Kate's first stop after leaving the morgue was the bullpen. Seeing nothing unusual on the floor, Tony decided to begin looking for background on McCallister in his predecessor's office.


He and Kate didn't need to talk the agent guarding the door into letting them in.


"I don't know anymore than you do," said the agent, George. "I know you guys. I trust you and Gibbs. Do what you gotta do. Just make it quick."


Kate went in ahead of Tony, both wearing gloves since the visit was part of their investigation. The first thing both noticed was the box on the desk of Cynthia Sumner, Jenny's secretary, filled with Cynthia's personal effects. Communicating through gestures, they checked out the waiting area quickly but as thoroughly as possible.


After looking through the waiting area, they entered Jenny's office, starting at the door and working their way around to her desk. They began searching through desk drawers and the drawers in the cabinet behind the desk.


Rock Creek Park


"Hey man, I gotta delivery to make! Let me outta here!"


The driver of the lead car in a now quite lengthy line of vehicles was testy, as was just about every other driver and passenger.


None of it mattered to Gibbs, intent on finding any evidence of the crime scene. Although the scene long had been contaminated by passing traffic, he wanted to reconstruct it as best he could.


He looked again at the tire marks on the road where McGee said he saw Jenny's Town Car.


The treads indicated a sudden stop to Gibbs. Having looked at them for the fifth time, Gibbs turned his attention to the grass nearby: Did somebody stop the car in the road? Did that person shoot the driver, then Jenny?


His gut told him that was possible, but not likely. Jenny, he surmised, would have been seen the shooter and taken him or her out first, even if the shooter managed to take out the driver.


But if the shooter was further away, using a scope to aim at the driver and his passenger, Jenny would've seen the back of Stanley's head explode. McGee said he hadn't seen a gun in Jenny's hand nor near her, so she wouldn't have had time to get to it before she was killed.


Hence, Ziva went down the street, looking for a sniper's nest.


As Gibbs looked for footprints, his cell phone rang.


"Find me something, Ziva?"


"Yes, Gibbs, I have found something of interest in a tree just off the road."


"Be there in a minute."


She showed him where someone had built a nest among two heavy tree branches, hidden behind leaves. The nest wasn't the only evidence.


"Shooter didn't police his brass," Gibbs said, picking up one of the spent casings off the ground to put it in an evidence bag.


"The angle is right for the line of sight into a vehicle stopped where McGee said it was," Ziva replied.


"Finish taking pictures, and bag the evidence he best you can," Gibbs said.


Seconds later they both heard police sirens, and looked outwards to see several unmarked vehicles -- with flashing lights -- surrounding them and the tree.


He and Ziva saw four men step out of a darkly-tinted SUV. Three of them formed a semi-circle behind a tall, mustached man who to Ziva reeked of pride and arrogance.


Gibbs wasn't impressed with him, either.



"Agent Gibbs. Officer David," Director McCallister said. "What in hell are you doing involving yourselves in my investigation?"

Chapter 5 by Briwd

--Lokomotiv Leningrad officials have requested for added security arrangements ahead of the first leg of its Champions League semifinal with Real Madrid in Spain--


--Conservative News Channel has learned that KGB agents were seen on the grounds of the French Embassy in Moscow. The agents were asked to leave immediately, which they did--


--Soviet-built Vietnamese cruisers passed close to British Royal Navy ships in the Taiwan Strait earlier today--





The bullpen


"I'll get started on this guy; you start on the director," Tony said to Kate as they stepped off the stairs and headed towards their desks. Both kept an eye out for unwanted interlopers while working, Tony uncovering McCallister's history and Kate tracking Jenny's driver's traveling habits.


Minutes later they debriefed in the elevator.


"He's a career NIS/NCIS guy," Tony said. "Worked out of Washington as an expert on the Soviets, later became Special Agent in Charge in the San Diego field office before moving on to something called Special Projects."


"No record of him being in the chain of command?" Kate asked.


"Not so far. You?"


"Jenny had her driver vary his routes but she lived in Georgetown, which is roughly south-southwest of the park. The street she was found on wasn't one of those routes. In fact, she never took that route on business."


"Until today. What did her itinerary show for today?"


"10:30 a.m. brunch with the Homeland director in her office and a 3:30 p.m. visit with Representative Sneed at HIS office," Kate said. "In between? Working here."


"Maybe she had business elsewhere?" Tony mused.


"She would've had to enter it in her itinerary."


The elevator shaft abruptly began moving upwards. Moments later, the door opened with two men and two women, all in dark suits and ties, standing outside the doorway. "Agents DiNozzo and Todd. Please come with us," said the lead agent. "Now."


The lab


"We're going to Guantanamo," McGee said, blankly staring at the monitor which still showed the message announcing his violation of a major federal surveillance act.


"Stop saying that McGee," Abby replied. The computer was locked; she had given up trying to unlocked it and resigned herself to staring at the red Bank Gothic font on black background.


"If we're lucky when we get there the Cubans will drop a bomb on us."


"Stop saying that TOO, McGee!!!"


Both slowly turned around to acknowledge the two men and two women -- also in dark suits and ties -- who had just walked into the lab. "Agent McGee, Ms. Sciuto. Please come with us, immediately."


The morgue


Ducky was on the phone at his desk, unable to get through to any of his fellow medical examiners who may have field.


"Mr. Palmer, this is most unusual, even considering the current situation," he said, putting down the receiver on his landline and thumbing through his rolodex. "Every call I have placed, the line is either busy or I'm told the person I'm trying to reach isn't available. Interestingly enough, it's as if they're reading from a script. Now, I could marvel at the remarkable coincidence this presents, but we both know what Jethro thinks of coincidences, don't we, Mr. Palmer?...Mr. Palmer?"


Ducky swiveled in his chair to see two men and two women -- all in dark suits and ties -- surrounding Palmer.


"Dr. Mallard?" said one of the women, holding a clipboard.


"Yes. How may I help you?"


The men and the other woman began walking backwards out the sliding door, while Palmer watched them.


"I need you to sign here, please," she said, giving him the clipboard.


"What, may I ask, am I signing for and more importantly, who are you?!?" he replied. A moment later, the other suits returned, wheeling in two gurneys with body bags.


They unzipped both bags, and Ducky and Palmer saw the bodies of Jenny and her driver.


Somewhere in Washington, en route to the Navy Yard


"You sure you're the director of NCIS," Gibbs said, "and not the President of the United States...Riley?"


Gibbs sat in the back of an armored SUV, across from McCallister, with two agents in the front seat. Their vehicle was towards the back of a fleet of armored SUVs headed towards NCIS; Ziva was in one of those vehicles, along with evidence from the sniper's nest.


"They're calling this the 'Year of Four Presidents'," McCallister said. "Only one of whom was assassinated. One couldn't keep it in his pants, one cracked under the pressure. The fourth, and current, holder of the office within the last 11 months has much, much more security than I do."


"Jenny had her piece, her driver and her Town Car plus armed agents in at least two unmarked cars following her wherever she went," Gibbs replied. "Riley, you're going out of your way to make yourself a target."


"You were on a first-name basis with my predecessor, Agent Gibbs. When you address ME, you won't do so by my first name, you'll do so as director'."


Gibbs smirked. "Okay, 'director'. How's your case going?"


"My case?"


"The one you told McGee you were running. The one where Director Shepard and her driver were found dead on a busy street in an area she normally wouldn't have been in that time of day. The one my team, including my medical examiner, should've been called in on."


"I had my reasons," McCallister said. "But don't worry. As of now, your team's handing the case. Dr. Mallard has the bodies. As soon as we debrief your team they'll be free to work the case, and you free to lead them."




"Two of your agents accessed restricted material without proper authorization. Another not only spoke of this incident to you against my direct orders, he also just violated a federal security act attempting to access classified information. On your orders, making you an accessory, just like the agency's chief forensic scientist. However, I've made all those violations null and void."


"'Null and void'???"


"I just saved your all of your asses, Gibbs."


"Gee thanks...'director'."


"I figured you'd be more appreciative than that, Gibbs."


"What I want, 'director', is to know how Director Shepard died."


McCallister's poker face couldn't fully hide his annoyance at the agent he had been warned was a guile maverick. He looked away from Gibbs's hard stare, then took a sip of coffee and glared at the man who was starting to piss him off.


Gibbs already was pissed off at the new director.


"That shouldn't surprise me," McCallister replied. "Alright. Before I set you loose, we're going to have a conversation in my office. About who's in charge and how the chain of command works now. And, how I expect my agents and employees to conduct themselves on the job."


"Conduct ourselves."


"Your agents conduct themselves like high schoolers. The lab technician dresses like a liberal pinko rock and roller. You yourself?"




"You don't bother to wear a damn tie to work," McCallister continued. "Franks wore one every day. You did, too. What the hell happened to you, Gibbs? How'd you get so lax?"


Gibbs pondered, for a moment, what to say that the new director might want to hear. The next moment he mentally headslapped himself.


"I'm not lax," he said, "and neither is my team. They're the best in the business. We're too busy chasin' down bastards and bringin' them in--"


"--but not too busy for horseplay," McCallister interjected. "We're in a cold war with the Soviets that's getting real warm, real quick and can turn hot in an instant. I don't have time for crap and I don't suffer fools."


"If you say so...'director'."


The group of vehicles slowed briefly as they approached the Navy Yard. Seconds later, the caravan resumed until it stopped in the back of the NCIS building.



Gibbs and McCallister got out of their SUV and were joined by Ziva, and met the rest of the team in the garage.

Chapter 6 by Briwd

--across the U.S., real estate sales in rural areas are going through the roof. Speculators are driving prices upwards, but there are buyers with very real fears that the international political situation might quickly descend into chaos--


--self-professed 'patriotic' bikers went on an Oregon radio station overnight, claiming they have killed two armed men who were en route to the Hoover Dam to destroy the facility. The bikers are being interrogated by FBI and Homeland Security agents--


--AAA expects the average price of gas to rise a nickel, to $4.05, by Memorial Day weekend. Last year the price was $3.50 per gallon--


Navy Yard


McCallister conducted his debrief in the garage, with the entire team surrounded by the suited men and women whom DiNozzo had coined 'the men in black'. The new director said nothing about why he started the investigation over Director Shepard's death. He did emphasize he was in charge, and NCIS would be "on the front line in the war against communism".


While Gibbs went upstairs to talk with McCallister, the rest of the team split to work on their ends of the case.


The bullpen


McCallister's men and women in black stayed silent and in the background, unmoving and unreacting, to the agents and employees unnerved by their presence. Nothing -- including the hushed whispers that something bad had happened to Director Shepard -- fazed them.


Ziva wasn't fazed by them, either. She couldn't say the same for Tony, Kate and McGee. The three sent each other and Ziva short texts and chat room messages between looking over their shoulders for unwanted observers. McGee had started squinting at his monitor, Kate was glaring at someone in the distance and Tony was lightly banging his forehead against his keyboard.


Of the three, Ziva thought Tony was most in need of immediate intervention and she didn't want to wait for Gibbs to provide it. So she got up, found the remote for the two large flat-screen monitors in the bullpen, and hit the button that put Director Shepard's photo on screen.


She got Tony's attention instantly.


He jumped from his seat, ran to Ziva and grabbed the remote from her hand, then turned both screens off and glared.


"Are. You. Crazy," he said in a hoarse whisper.


"I did not want you to break your head," she replied in a low voice. "Are you alright?"


"With Mustache in charge upstairs and Agents A through Z watching us down here? Oh yeah, I'm doing great."


"I disagree. You, McGee and Kate are on ice."




"On ice."


"On edge, Ziva," Tony said, looking at Kate and McGee, then around the floor. "Campfire." He went back to his desk, grabbed his chair and pushed it into the aisle, then called the others to join him and Ziva.


"That woman by the window is creeping me out," Kate said. "She keeps looking over here, at me."


"They're all looking at us," Tony said.


"Not like she is," Kate replied. "I've got a bad feeling about her, them, this whole thing."


The lab


"Hi guy. Hi gal," Abby said to the suited man and woman who accompanied her from the garage and followed her around her lab when they weren't standing near her.


"I hope you're not hungry because there's no eating in my lab, and that you're not thirsty because this Caf-Pow!'s mine," she told them. Neither of the suits reacted to that, nor to her waving her hand in their faces.


Abby had just begun her work on the brass and other evidence found at the crime scene, but something was off to her. Not hinky, just off. It wasn't the suits, either.




She walked over to her stereo, put in a CD and turned the volume all the way up. As Black Rose's gothic metal filled the room, the suits briefly looked at each other. Abby snuck a glance at them and smiled to herself, then went back to work.


The morgue


The suits shadowing Ducky and Palmer moved only when the M.E. and his assistant did and had faces of stone like their counterparts.


Since he couldn't get rid of them, Ducky decided to have a little fun.


"When we perform an autopsy, the first thing we do is to conduct an external examination," Ducky said, noting photographs and x-rays are taken as well as fingerprints, and clothing is closely inspected.


"Are there any distinguishing marks on the body, such as a birthmark or a tattoo? How tall is the deceased, and how much does he or she weigh? You've already witnessed this, of course, and I'll trust you both to keep the director's weight between the four of us."


Neither Mr. nor Ms. Suit, who had been there from the time the bodies were rolled in, reacted.


Palmer brought over a tray filled with medical tools. "Thank you, Mr. Palmer."


"You're welcome, doctor."


"As I was saying to our new friends, Mr. Palmer, we begin the autopsy with an external examination of the body. The next step is to begin the internal examination. Before I resume, my friends, I'd like to point out the large trash can behind you. I often show new agents the first stages of an autopsy, and some of them unfortunately tend to lose the contents of the last meal they ate. Usually this is when I begin removing the organs, but on occasion this has happened as soon as I make the first cut."


Again, there was no reaction from either suit.


"Well, the can is there, behind you, if either of you need to use it. Mr. Palmer, if you would pull back the skin as I make what we call a 'Y' incision."


"Of course."


Ducky made two cuts at both shoulder blades, curving under Jenny's breasts; he made sure to explain the procedure for a female is different than one for a male. His dual cuts met mid-chest, then continued as a single cut to the pubic bone.


"We continue the examination by peeling back the skin, like so, exposing the rib cage and the organs underneath."


Ms. Suit didn't flinch. Mr. Suit did.


"Mr. Palmer, hand me the rib cutters, please," Ducky said to his assistant, then began cutting away the rib cage. Ms. Suit didn't flinch; Mr. Suit bit his lip. "After we remove the rib cage, we are able to remove the organs, starting with the lungs, and heart--"


Mr. Suit made it to the trash can before throwing up. Ms. Suit didn't flinch.


Ducky and Palmer chuckled.


"I suppose, Mr. Palmer, this may not be the right time to explain to our guests how we can learn about what happened to the deceased by talking to them," Ducky said. "Director Shepard, I imagine you must have quite a bit to say."


Ms. Suit raised her eyebrow and left it there.


The director's office


Gibbs ignored the cup of coffee offered him and, instead, read through McCallister's file, given to him by the new director himself.


"Special Agent in Charge, Moscow; transferred to Naples, then Bahrain, Okinawa, San Diego. Then the Department of Special Operations, and Assistant Director," Gibbs said. "Not sure of what; haven't seen you around for years, haven't heard much about you."


"What have you heard, Gibbs?"


Gibbs glanced back through the file, which had numerous blacked out or nearly blacked out pages. "That you did quite a bit of intelligence work on Soviet activity, both sides of the Iron Curtain," he said. "Last few years, you were doing special ops work."


"NCIS started its special ops program on Director Morrow's watch," McCallister said. "He was a good director, a good man and a loyal American. Damn shame how he died."


"Yeah, it is," Gibbs replied. "Looks like you entered special ops on Jenny's watch."


"She made me Assistant Director, in charge of the DSO. Between us, and only us, I'm half surprised she didn't give it to some woman. She's been -- was -- promoting them left and right. They seem to know what they're doing...most of them, anyway."


"Jenny knew what she was doing."


"And she did a good job. But she lost her way," McCallister said as he reached for the remote to the monitor on the far wall. He pressed a button, and a surveillance photo of a man appeared.


"Rene Benoit, also known as La Grenouille. International arms dealer," McCallister said. "We were working with him. He had contacts that led us to Soviet and Soviet-sponsored activity in the Middle East and Asia. Director Shepard took a more personal interest in him."




"She thought he killed her father, decided to hunt him down, without regard for his value to the agency and to national security--"


"Quite the accusation...Riley," Gibbs said. "What's your evidence?"


McCallister got up, turned and faced his window, looking outside where Black Hawk helicopters, F-15 fighter jets and drones ruled the skies. "Not enough for me to go to DoD or SecNav and make a bona fide case for an investigation. I had enough to go to her directly, asking why we cut off Benoit, and if she had some kind of involvement the agency might need to be made aware of."




"In so many words, she told me to mind my damn business, which happened to be special ops," he added. "Russians started stirring up crap from Berlin to Bangkok. That took up all my time, she stayed out of my way and she didn't do anything to wreck the agency. When she died--"


"Been meaning to ask you about that," Gibbs interjected. "Why not call my team in from the start? Why order McGee back here and to keep his mouth shut?"


"I was the assistant director, right behind her on the food chain and it was my job to know what happened to her and how, as quickly as possible," McCallister said.


"You figure it out yet?"


"That's where you come in, Gibbs. Once I saw the scene for myself and ran background on your team AND was satisfied you were on the right side, I planned to hand the case off to you."


"And when were you going to announce her death?"


"Need-to-know basis, Gibbs."


Gibbs finally took a sip of his now-lukewarm coffee and promptly put the cup on the meeting table. "Might want to tell your agency, Riley. People are talking."


McCallister groaned. "That's not your concern, Gibbs. Now go find how my predecessor died...and tell DiNozzo his part in the La Grenouille op is done; his full-time job now, like you and the rest of your team, is finding Shepard's killer."


For just a moment or two, Gibbs was stunned. "'DiNozzo's part'?"


"She didn't tell you?...Apparently not...She had DiNozzo sleeping with the man's daughter as a way of spying on him. Your agent got REAL close to her. I'm sure DiNozzo'll find other women, though he won't have time for anything but your case for the time being. You make sure he stays the hell away from Jeanne Benoit."


The bullpen


While Ziva, Kate and McGee were busy working on the case (and looking over their shoulders), Tony alternated between looking at pictures of shell casings and making calls on a burner phone.


He got through to voicemail, started to leave a message, then flipped the phone shut. He looked up and saw Kate staring at him, looked to his right and saw McGee trying not to look at him, then over his right, then left shoulder to see Ziva peering at the burner phone.


"Are you pursuing a lead, Tony?" Ziva asked in a low voice.


Tony glanced at his monitor and turned back to Ziva. "Trying to nail down the casing model."


"Are you calling the manufacturer?" Ziva asked. "You are using the same phone you have been using for some time. It is different from the one issued to all NCIS--"


She reached for the phone but Tony grabbed it and held it tight. "It's a different phone."


"I see that. Does it have anything to do with the calls you have been making to the hospital lately? Or with the woman you are seeing?"


Tony pursed his lips, then burst out into laughter. "THAT'S a good one, Mossad ninja. You keep going to that well. You'll be a regular Lucille Ball in no time. Now if you'll excuse me--"


He turned around and caught Kate's eye. She was standing over his desk, holding a folder with a two-word label on the binding:




Kate's forefinger pointed to the label as she leaned into Tony's wide-eyed face. He snapped out of his momentary daze and head-slapped himself.


"Campfire. Elevator," he said in a whisper. Kate and Ziva looked at him then at each other. "NOW. Before Agents J, K and the rest of the alphabet decide to join us."


He shot up from his desk and headed for the main elevator; McGee saw them, locked his monitor and ran to catch up.


"Back to your desk, Probie, in case Gibbs shows up before we get back," Tony said as he hit the elevator button.


"Where are you three going? And why leave me out?" McGee protested.


"Need to know," Tony shot back. "Come ON damnit!"


"McGee's right," Kate said. "No secrets, remember?"


"You're pulling that one on me, Kate?"


"I agree and you will need to tell Gibbs," Ziva said as her phone rang with a tone slightly different from the default ones on phones NCIS personnel, and herself, used. It was a tone designated for high-alert calls directly from Mossad. "Excuse me. I must take this."


Ziva headed right for the back elevator, to the others' confusion. Moments later, the main elevator door opened up, showing FBI Special Agent Tobias Fornell.



Chapter 7 by Briwd

--all radio and television broadcasting throughout the USSR have been playing somber classical music for the past hour. Moscow is now under some sort of curfew; we here at the ZNN bureau, located in the city close to the Kremlin, are unable to leave the building even for a smoke. We can tell from looking outside the window that military vehicles have been the only traffic on the road since--


The bullpen


"Where the hell is Gibbs?" Fornell said.


"He's upstairs, ah, in a meeting," Kate replied.


"One of you go up there and get him," Fornell said. "I caught a case and I need his help."


"So did we, and ours is pretty damn big," Tony said in a low voice. "And keep that to yourself if you don't mind."


"Mine's bigger."


"Can't be bigger than ours."


"Trust me. It's big."


"Omigod," Kate said, rolling her eyes. "Are you talking jurisdiction, shoe size or something else--"


"Probie," Tony interjected, hitting the elevator button again. "Sit with Fornell till the boss gets back."


The door opened, and Tony went in. "Probie. Wait with Fornell -- hell, you two in here, with me and Kate--"


Never had any of the four agents seen people converge on them as quickly as the suits.


Four of them were at the elevator seemingly instantaneously; they said nothing but placed themselves among the agents, while in the distance one of the suits placed a phone call on her cell.


"I'll wait with Fornell for Gibbs to get back," McGee said, "while you two talk shop--"


"--in the bullpen," Kate said. "Very quietly...right, Tony?"


Tony looked at each suit, whom backed off of him as he slowly moved away from the elevator. He now hated all of them, wishing they and McCallister would go back to whatever spook farm they came from. But he judged this wasn't the time nor place to challenge them.


"Let's get back to work, people," Tony said in a sharp tone.


Minutes later, Gibbs made his way down the stairs, into the bullpen. Fornell stood up from Gibbs's chair, clearly impatient, while Tony, Kate and McGee looked tense.


"Where's Ziva?" Gibbs asked.


"She, uh, took a phone call and headed to the other elevator," McGee said.


"McGee. Find her, get her back here," Gibbs replied, and McGee headed towards the back elevator. Tony got up to join McGee, but Gibbs held his hand up, looked his senior agent in the eye and gestured with a nod at Tony's desk. Tony got the message and sat down, so Gibbs turned his attention to Fornell.


"What'cha doin' here, Tobias? Making yourself at home?"


Fornell looked around the floor, especially at the suits looking back at him. "Diane wants to talk to us both about something--"


"Tobias, I'm in the middle of a damn important case."


"And she's got Rebecca and Stephanie involved somehow. Thing's called 'Devil's Head'."


Gibbs paused for a few moments; 'Devil's Head' was a code word he and Fornell came up with whenever they needed to discuss something very, very important away from their respective agencies.. "You sure?"


"You know her as well as I do. Once that woman gets an idea in her head--"


"Hell," Gibbs muttered, then looked at Tony and Kate. "You two. DiNozzo, you're in charge till I get back; Kate, help Tony. McGee, find Ziva, get her back here and all of you keep working."


Gibbs and Fornell headed towards the elevator. "Where're you going, boss?!?" Tony yelled, but the two senior agents ignored him and stepped into the elevator. The door shut before he and Kate could catch them.


The lab


Ziva ran off the elevator, into the lab, and told Abby she was going to commandeer the ballistics area for a 'cynical' conversation. The door was shut from the inside before either Abby or the suits could follow her in.


"Father. I am alone and in a relatively secure area. I do not know for how long," Ziva said.


"Then I will get to the point," said the man on the other line: the new director of Mossad, Eli David. "There has been a regime change in Moscow."


"General Secretary Zhukov is dead."


"Yes, replaced by Khalinin. There has been a putsch inside the Soviet Union; the new regime is preparing for war."


"Are you certain?"


"Yes," Eli said. "We know there has been increased military activity at Soviet bases worldwide, including Syria. Satellites have detected Syrian, Polish and Soviet forces mobilizing along the Lebanese borders and the Golan Heights. The Prime Minister is to meet with the Knesset within the next two hours."


"So if that is happening there--"


"Then other areas around the world are seeing the beginnings of Soviet build-ups. Central America, Africa, southeast Asia, central Europe. Many here, including the Prime Minister and the Ramatkal, believe that Khalinin is willing, even eager, to go where Putin and Zhukov were not."


Ziva glanced towards the door for any sign of interlopers in suits or even in pigtails. "All out."




"Are you recalling me back to Israel?"


"Ziva," Eli said after a pause, "you are not in a safe environment. Your advocate there is dead. You will be of far more benefit to Israel and to Mossad back home--"


"How did you know about Jen--Director Shepard?"


"Ziva," Eli said. "ARE you in a secure area?"


At Gibbs's urging, the ballistics area had been wiped free of bugs so the team had somewhere to go to 'talk shop' securely if and when the occasion warranted. So far, the suits had stayed in the main area of the lab and Abby seemed to be playing dumb. But the Mossad liaison officer didn't want to push things; she already had been on the phone longer than she was comfortable with.


"Yes, as much as possible," she answered. "How do you know about this? The...she died only a few hours ago."


"Mossad has monitored NCIS since your arrival," Eli said. "Its overt and particularly its covert divisions. What Mossad has learned tells us Director Shepard's death was no accident--"


"NO accident?!? You are suggesting--"


"The man who took her place is dangerous," Eli said. "He is not above killing his own to advance his greater, professional aims--"


"--suggesting he murdered Jenny for her job?"


"If not for Khalinin, the Americans should have already began pursuing him. I would," Eli said. "I will make arrangements for you to return to Israel within the day."



Chapter 8 by Briwd

--leaders within the Russian emigre community say they will fight any attempt to separate American citizens of Russian descent into camps--


--the former evangelist is selling thousands of his pre-mixed 'great disaster' food buckets per day--


--increased security and surveillance at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for tomorrow's qualifying which had been postponed due to a city-wide blackout. Visitors will see an increased presence of Army personnel along with expanded restrictions on personal items brought into--


--Global Peace Agency officials, in Moscow to meet with General Secretary Zhukov, have not been heard from in the past 20 hours. The eleven people from the Geneva-based organization were in the USSR to urge Soviet leaders to pursue peace--



Quantico, Virginia


The Ford Taurus sedan was doing everything Tobias Fornell asked it to.


He didn't care if it was the tires, the powerful engine the FBI had installed into it and all other vehicles in the Bureau's fleet, or pixie dust. The thing, along with his colleagues running interference, helped him evade some unknown men in a chase that began just outside the Navy Yard.


Only after Fornell arrived at the safe place -- the FBI Academy in this town 40 miles south of Washington -- did he notice his heart pounding in his chest. The sedan skidded to a stop in a parking lot near the main entrance, and Fornell shouted a few choice expletives.


"Should've let me drive, Tobias," deadpanned Gibbs, who was calm and relaxed.


"You?!?" said Fornell, who was agitated and frazzled. "My luck? They'd have shot you dead and taken care of me in the wreck. IF you didn't kill me before by giving me a heart attack."


"They wouldn't have gotten me," Gibbs said, nodding towards the Sig Sauer handgun at his waist. "And you had your seatbelt on."


"Now I remember why Diane never rode with you," Fornell said. "Or did she? Would that be why she hit you with the bat?"


"Not her," Gibbs replied, looking down at his nearly-empty coffee cup. "We goin' in, or sittin' here all day? I'd like to find out who those bastards following us were."


"You're guessing McCallister?"


"Not a guess," Gibbs said, pointing to his gut. "We're not going to find out who sittin' in this car."


"In a bit. You have to promise me what we say here doesn't go beyond this car."


"What are you talkin' about, Tobias?"


Fornell reached to the back seat and grabbed a leather briefcase, opened it and took out a folder. He found a flash drive in a pocket within the folder and gave the drive to Gibbs. "Put this on you and do not let it go. Have McGee decrypt it, away from the Navy Yard, preferably in your basement."


Gibbs looked at the thumb-sized drive, then put it in his inside jacket pocket. "What's with the cloak-and-dagger?"


Fornell looked out the front and side windows and in the rearview and both side mirrors for hostiles and unknowns. Satisfied he saw only friendlies -- his fellow, and trusted, FBI agents -- he turned to Gibbs.


"The international situation's worse than you hear on the news," Fornell said. "Far worse. The Soviet military's been covertly putting plans into place for a multi-front attack against the West for months. When the Kremlin screwed the pooch by mangling the Siberian oil fields, the military decided to look elsewhere to get their resources. The West."


"Where and how are you getting this info, Tobias? How do you know it's on the level?"


"My own director knows this, and so does every other agency director, including Shepard and probably McCallister. I found out from a friend high up in the Bureau."


Gibbs took a gulp of his coffee. He had so many questions for Fornell, and his mind told him something was hinky about what he had just been told.


His gut told him his friend was on the level.


"So the Soviets are planning to start World War III. Just like '86."


"'86 was fought over the Arabian oil and the Israeli coup. This time the Soviets and their allies are in Korea, Africa, Central America, Europe. Plus the Middle East. In '86 they only nuked Cairo and Wuhan. Now? Those might be the only places NOT nuked."


"How bad?" Gibbs wanted to know. "Didn't Zhukov tell Nichols and Boehner he wanted to talk détente?"


"Zhukov's not in power anymore. Military staged a putsch, put one of their own in the big chair. Bureau's gonna be gearing up for war real soon."


Fornell turned off the running engine and air conditioner. "I can't tell you anything more, especially military-wise," he said. "You might be able to find out something with your Navy and Marine contacts. Let's go inside. That thing with Diane is for real and your other ex-wives are involved."


The agents got out and headed towards the nearby building. Fortunately for Gibbs, he indeed knew someone in the military.


Navy Yard

The elevator


Kate followed Tony through the doors. Once he hit the button for another floor, she beat him to the button stopping the elevator. Tony smiled to himself. Kate had gotten very good at a lot of things in her three-plus years as an NCIS agent; he was surprised Jenny hadn't offered her the Rota job...or maybe she had. Jenny hid a lot of things from a lot of people.


"La Grenouille," she said. "When were you going to say something?"


"How much of that folder did you read? And I hope you knew what you were doing when you 'borrowed' it from the director's office."


"Enough. My gut told me to grab that thing while I could, and before you ask, I hid it in a place they can't find."


"You haven't left this floor, Kate. They might be up there going through your, our, desks right now!"


"Tell you what: you tell me how you got mixed up in this, and if your girlfriend's part of it. And I'll tell you what Abby set up in case I had a file and needed to get rid of it when I wasn't around."


"Sorry 007, I can't talk about it, other than Jenny had me on that assignment. What I do outside of work? My business."


Kate laughed. "Says the guy who can't help himself FROM butting into everyone else's business."


"Part of this job, Kate, is going undercover and it's not always like the hotel," Tony shot back. "Undercover work means secrets. Something you're familar with."


"That's not fair, Tony! That's not the same as the hotel, and whatever Jenny has, had, you wrapped up in--"


"Going undercover sometimes means keeping secrets you don't want to keep from your teammates," Tony interjected. "Your secret? We almost blew that case last year because you couldn't fake it enough to make the killer think we were for real--"


Kate slapped Tony, so hard his first thought was the damn suits had to have heard that.


"I don't give a damn if you ARE senior field agent," she said, right in his face. "Some things in MY life stay private. It was hard enough for me to get here as a woman. If these people we investigate know I'm gay? My career is ruined."


Tony paused for a few moments.


"You're absolutely right, Kate," he said, rubbing his jaw. "And I was out of line just now. I'm sorry."


She half-believed him, but decided she would take the high road. "I accept your apology."


"Her name is Jeanne," Tony said.




"You and Ziva are right. I do have a girlfriend. Jeanne. We've been dating for months. She's La Grenouille's daughter, and Jenny had me spying on her as part of the investigation of her father."


Kate, her arms folded, softened a little bit.


"And I've fallen in love with her," Tony said. "That's a secret of my own I hid from everybody, including Jenny. You're the first to know."


Kate wanted to hug and slap Tony, to comfort and yell at him, all at the same time. She had so many questions about this op of his, but realized they had to be tabled on account of Jenny's death.


"We better get back," she said, hitting the button that got the elevator moving. "We need to find McGee, and Ziva."


"They'll know to head back to the bullpen," Tony reminded her. "You're right. We better head back there, too."


The lab


McGee quickly made his way around the NCIS building, looking for any signs of unusual activity that could be traced to the new director, as well as the usual suspects like KGB. He noted suits tailing him from a distance, though no one approached him.


He made his last stop Abby's lab, aware Ziva probably would have gone to the building 'safe place' to talk business. He saw two suits banging on the sliding door into Abby's office area, which led to ballistics and was locked. Abby ran to him as he walked through the lab entrance.


"McGee those people are going to knock down my door," Abby whispered. "They're staring holes through me when they're not looking over my shoulder--"


"Excuse me," McGee said, walking past Abby towards the doorway, where the suits were impatiently standing. "Is there a problem?"


"Mossad Officer David went back there without declaring her intentions," the woman said. "We want to know what those intentions are--"


"And if she is alright," added the man.


"And if she is alright," she repeated while turning momentarily to glare at her partner. "Agent McGee, please open this door that your forensics specialist -- who has worked here for YEARS -- apparently is unable to open on her own."


McGee looked back at Abby, whose eyes were shooting daggers at the woman. "Uh, ma'am, it'll take a few moments," he said, pointing to the recently-installed panel designed to keep out anyone who wasn't supposed to be there.


"Please, as quickly as possible," the woman said.


In the ballistics room, Ziva saw McGee. Realizing he wouldn't be able to stall them very long, she decided to bring the conversation to a quick end.


"Segev will meet you," Eli David said. "We will send you the--"


"I am not leaving," Ziva said.


"You have no choice," Eli replied a few moments later. "You are Mossad--"


"--and Jenny was my friend. It is my duty to help find her--"




"I can do more by staying here, helping Gibbs and my teammates find the murderer, or murderers, and bring them to justice."


Ziva looked out, and saw McGee still working on the panel. She guessed she had run out of time. "Father. I have to go now."


"I will send Segev to you--"


"Do not waste his time." She hung up, and hit a sequence of buttons, wiping any record of the call from the phone. Moments later, the sliding door opened, and the suits, followed by McGee, sprinted in.


The female suit's look of annoyance spoke louder than her words of concern.



--somber classical music on all Soviet television and radio stations led to this announcement, just minutes ago:


Anatoly Vladimirovich Zhukov, general secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, president of the Presidium of the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet, died at 13 hours 25 minutes on May 21 2007. Mikhail Alexandrovich Khalinin, General of the Peoples and Peasants Red Army, has been appointed general secretary."


The message also was carried by Radio Havana, in Spanish and English...--





Chapter 9 by Briwd

--in wake of Zhukov's death, security in Geneva is being tightened ahead of this week's summit--


--President Moore will speak on the general secretary's death within the hour--


--last year's incident with the Siberian oil fields was the greatest ecological disaster in the Soviet Union since the 100-megaton nuclear bomb test in 2000--


Navy Yard


The bullpen


The team members returned to their desks, each wary of the suits whom, by Kate's observation, getting on the nerves of everyone else who worked on the floor.


She took a few moments to profile the men and women in black around her. Except for the incident at the elevator, they seemed content to hang back and let people work. When the other employees went to the head or left the floor to go to lunch, the suits let them alone -- although Kate figured they were being watched anyway.


The only suit who unnerved Kate was the woman watching her from past the staircase, barely trying to conceal herself. Kate wondered why that woman was acting the way she was, and grateful for her teammates, and friends, being there with her.


Kate briefly checked on the others in the bullpen.


Ziva seemed to be the only one not at least a little unnerved by the suits' presence. She too had noticed the woman in the back and, with a nod, let Kate know she had her back. That relaxed Kate, who had gone from being wary of to considering the Mossad officer as a close friend.


It didn't hurt that Ziva could take out half of them by herself.


McGee was a little more relaxed after returning from the lab. He wasn't letting himself being affected by the situation; he focused on doing his job. Although he would always be Tony's 'probie', McGee had become a competent and dependable agent in just a few years. The suits wouldn't easily faze him.


She was most concerned about Tony. The suits -- along with, of course, Jenny's death -- had knocked DiNozzo off his game. The Senior Field Agent's terse responses to everyone, along with the absence of his usual innuendos and jokes, were conspicuous. Part of that undoubtedly was due to Jenny's death. However, Kate could tell the suits' presence had a troubling effect on him as well.


One positive in all of this was that no one had lost sight of focusing on the case, nor of looking out for one another. Kate and Ziva looked out for Tony and McGee, and they the same for them. And when Gibbs got back, he'd make sure they stayed focused on the case AND look out for them.




Having ordered Gibbs and his team NOT to disclose Jenny's death to anyone, McCallister briefly went to his new office. After speaking with Gibbs, he retreated to the safety of his armored SUV.


He knew full well they couldn't keep something as significant as his predecessor's death a secret forever. Already, his people at the Navy Yard had told him scuttlebutt was running wild. Only the suits (who were part of McCallister's 'people'), and the fear of god they had put on the rank-and-file, kept the gossip in check. An announcement would have to be made at the end of the day.


McCallister wasn't yet ready to formally announce himself as the new director. He had to contact the regional directors in Okinawa and Panama City and the head of Cyber Crimes; he already had spent too much time explaining the situation to the regional heads in Subic Bay and Naples.


"We're wasting too much $#@%!~& time," McCallister muttered to himself. His phone rang just as he was about to call Okinawa; he kept the string of profanities in his head as he answered. "McCallister."


The agent on the other line informed him the tail on Gibbs and Fornell had gotten 'out of hand'.


This time, McCallister let the cuss words fly loudly and often.




Fornell and Gibbs talked the Diane part of 'devil's head' inside, then called her. Diane, working as an agent for the IRS, said the ex-wives wanted to know from Gibbs if they could stay with him, should things get FUBAR. Gibbs tried to tell Diane he was staying put in D.C., but she was convinced he had an escape bunker up in Pennsylvania.


Gibbs finally hung up on her.


"You know she's headed straight to your house," Fornell said. "She'll probably bring the others with her, wait for you downstairs. I hope that boat of yours isn't finished; tell them 'no' again, they might tear it apart in front of you and toss the lumber all over your yard."


"That's one way to get the boat out of the basement, Tobias," Gibbs quipped. "Better head back. This time, I'll drive."


Once they left the academy, they resumed their discussion of McCallister. "I'll look into those guys, try to find out what in hell they intended to do," Fornell said.


"Appreciate it. Got a lot on my plate right now," Gibbs replied.


"How far along have you gotten?" Fornell asked.


"Not far enough."


"Jethro, what if you or your people find out McCallister was involved in Jenny's death?"


"Then we'll bring him in, Tobias."


"You got enough to take him on?"


Gibbs, a man of few words, had none to give his friend.


San Diego


Naval Base San Diego


The SUV pulled up to the entrance of the building that the San Diego field office was located in; when it stopped, two agents and Mike Franks got out.


The first thing Franks did was pull out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from his jacket.


"I'm sorry, sir, but it's against regulations to smoke inside," said one of the young agents, Ashley.


"Then I'll smoke out here," he told her.


As a couple of guards took his bags inside, Franks puffed away, accompanied by Agent Ashley. He watched a drone fly overhead while armed Marines made their way down the street.


"I'm sure you have a lot of questions, sir," Ashley said.


"You can call me Mike, and yeah, I do have one," he said. "Why am I so damn important that the federales stop along the highway and put us on a copter that doesn't stop 'till it hits San Diego?"


"The DoD mandated that all retired federal agents in Mexico be recalled back to the United States for their own protection," she said. "You would've been a target for the cartels, or Soviet-aligned agents."


"Like I wasn't already. I was doing just fine on my own. You brought me all the way up here but nobody's told me where I'm gonna live."


"Special Agent in Charge Carter will go over that with you," Ashley said, as Pete -- the other agent who met Franks in Mexico and accompanied him here -- burst through the front entrance.


Their team had just caught a case and they both had to get to the scene ASAP. As both left, Franks watched them go, and saw a sedan tear out of the parking lot a couple of minutes later.


Franks finished his cigarette, then went inside looking for the head. Finishing his business there, he looked around until he spotted his luggage by a desk, and the baby-faced probationary agent sitting there.



Chapter 10 by Briwd

--we're getting word of increased Soviet and East German military activity near the U.N. checkpoints in and out of West Berlin--


--contradictory reports regarding a possible KGB raid on the BBC's bureau office in Moscow--


--all cars racing this week here in Charlotte leading into Saturday's Grand National 300 and Sunday's NASCAR 600 races will have Old Glory on their hoods. There also will be a special anti-Communist decal on the #3 car of none other than--




Fornell and Gibbs headed back to the Navy Yard, taking note of the unmarked FBI cars following them, and the cars that weren't.


"McCallister's men got made so he called 'em off," Gibbs said, as Fornell's car got in the line going into the Navy Yard complex. "If the Bureau thinks he's Jenny's killer, why hasn't it brought him in by now?"


"I can't talk about some Bureau business, Jethro."




"He's been on our radar for awhile now."


"'Awhile'?!? How long is 'awhile', Tobias?"


"At least a few months, going back before his job in your agency's special ops program," Fornell said. "The guy's slippery, Jethro. You've never met him before?"


"Yeah, briefly, after I joined NCIS. The man was real proud of himself for being right about the Russians, let everyone know about it. Never thought he was more than an ass, though."


The line began moving suddenly, and Fornell and Gibbs could see the shack, guards and dogs.


"What do you think about the man now?" Fornell asked.


"That he found a hell of a way to get a promotion."


" REAL careful. You and your people. This guy's making Ari look like Santa Claus."


After the guards did a cursory search of the car, Gibbs got out of the car in the parking lot. He entered the NCIS building, walking onto and off the elevator with a pair of suits who didn't say a word to him. He quickly looked around the floor, counting the number of suits on the floor and looking for anything else out of place.


Gibbs headed to his desk, which got his team's attention. He went to McGee and had him pull up Jenny's mugshot and put it up on both monitors -- which got everyone else's attention.


"You have anything to give me?" Gibbs barked.


"Uh, boss--"


"No, Gibbs."


"Not yet, Gibbs."


"Abby's still working--"




Everyone turned towards the woman from accounting standing in the aisle of the row of desks alongside the bullpen. A crowd of NCIS personnel had gathered around her, all looking at Jenny's photo.


And, each of the suits were moving in towards the bullpen.


"Is it true? That Director Shepard died?" asked another man. Everyone around him began asking questions, and within moments those questions descended into a frantic cacophony. The team was taken aback by their intensity.


Gibbs calmly got onto his desk and twice made an ear-shattering whistle. The second one -- and his well-known and much-feared glare -- got the crowd's attention.


"We are pursuing a murder investigation and the subject is Director Shepard," Gibbs shouted, so that everyone on the floor would have no doubt what he was saying. "My team's investigation is ongoing and we are to be left alone to conduct it. This includes myself. Any and all updates will come through the proper channels. For now, this is all that will be said on the subject."


Gibbs stepped down from his chair and turned towards the monitor, then quickly turned back to the crowd. With another glare, the crowd scattered back to their work areas.


As Gibbs turned back to his team, he noticed the suits moving back to their positions, and that one of them was on her phone. "You have ANYthing for me?" he said.


Kate was the first to speak up. "Abby's still tracking the brass found at the scene."


McGee was next. "I'm waiting on all of the footage from the park and the street."


Ziva spoke up. "Ducky and Palmer are still conducting the autopsy."


Gibbs turned to Tony, who looked around at the various suits, all staring at them. Then Tony felt one of his boss's headslaps.




"Car's in the garage," Tony said, then resumed looking at the suits.


"DiNozzo, you got something else for me?"


Tony turned back to Gibbs. "Look around. Dozens of them downstairs when McCallister debriefed us, dozens up here now. One's been staring a hole through Kate since you left. Abby's got two, Ducky's got two more. They haven't gone to the head with us -- YET -- but it's almost like we're prisoners in our own building."


Gibbs looked around, noting that almost every suit was looking their way. The one who wasn't -- the woman with the phone -- had moved closer, and seemed to be staring at Kate. When he caught the woman's eye, she began backing away, taking out her phone to make another call.


"Watch her," Gibbs said to his team after glancing at Kate. As he headed towards the woman, Tony yelled for him.


An exasperated Gibbs turned around. "Boss. The director wants to talk to you."


The former Marine gave the woman one last glare -- she returned it with a smirk -- before turning back towards the bullpen, where he picked up his phone.




"Your damn file suggested you were a pain in the ass, Gibbs," said McCallister on the other line. "It confirms what I suspected that time we met when this agency was still NIS."


"I can be," Gibbs replied, "especially when my people and I are being watched."


"Security, Gibbs. They're for your protection."


"Protection, Director? Since when do federal agents need to be protected while doing their jobs?"


Kate moved a little closer to Gibbs as the woman began to approach them, again.


"You'll need them. There are things in play you have no idea about."


"Have an idea about one of your people and a potential threat to my team, and one of my agents in particular," Gibbs said as he glared at the woman. "I don't take well to threats from anyone."


"Or so I hear. I've read up on you, Gibbs. Last year, when Haswari abducted Officer David and assaulted Agent Todd and nearly killed Agent DiNozzo. You left him a present."


"ATTEMPTED assault...and yeah, Director, I left him a 'present'. I'm sure he remembers it every time it rains, or he goes jogging."


"Are you about to do something that's gonna cost me a ton of paperwork and my agency's best agent, Gibbs?"


"Don't like predators, Director," Gibbs said, causing the woman to freeze in her tracks. "Ask Ari how I handle predators. Or Kyle Boone."


Tony jumped right in front of her, pistol in hand, and Ziva, McGee and Kate had their own weapons drawn. The other suits, looking on, had their hands on their weapons, while the regular workers were frozen in their chairs or hiding under their desks.


"One of them defected to the Soviets and the other's dead," McCallister said. "I really don't want to see a shootout downstairs, Gibbs."


"Downstairs?" Gibbs said, before listening to McCallister talk to someone else. Gibbs didn't understand the mumble, but he quickly saw for himself what the new director must have said.


Two suits sprinted towards the woman, grabbing her arms and handcuffing her. Moments later, Gibbs looked up and saw McCallister himself at the top of the stairs, looking down at them all before he announced himself.



Chapter 11 by Briwd

--Border Patrol agents arrested the leader of the Mexican Reynosa Cartel this morning. Paloma Reynosa was captured after a shootout in Yuma, Arizona involving gang members associated with the Reynosa cartel. She is being charged not only with setting up and supplying a cocaine pipeline into the United States, but collusion with Nicaraguan--


--lines lasting for hours at U.S. Customs facilities along the entire Mexican border, from California to Texas. Every vehicle is subject to an extensive physical and electronic search, every person subject to the same--


--U.S. Air Force personnel are now a common sight at San Diego International Airport. The Air Force put some of its C-12 and C-130 transport and F-15 fighter jets at the airport last month. The F-15s fly regularly over downtown and up and down the coast--


San Diego


Franks sat in a folding chair across from the earnest, bright-eyed, very young man whose badge identified him as NCIS probationary agent Mitchell Conley.


"Shouldn't you be chasing cheerleaders at the prom?" Franks asked. "You don't look anything close to 23."


"I have a criminal justice degree from UCLA and was fortunate enough to do extremely well at FLET-C," said the mild-mannered and eager high school-aged Clark Kent lookalike. "I was hired three months ago and assigned to San Diego. It's a very challenging and interesting job."


Franks kept his opinion on that to himself; he'd ask Conley's boss why NCIS was hiring kids.


"So why aren't you out with your team, son?" he asked. "They're out on a case."


"Agent Carter knew you would be here, and she doesn't want the office empty during daytime," Conley said. "In case someone comes by with a tip. She doesn't give out our phone numbers."


The two talked shop, Franks about his career at the agency when it was known as the Naval Investigative Service, and Conley about his teammates. They were a young group, assigned to one of the Navy's most important bases; Hayley Carter was the oldest at 31, the other three agents in their twenties.


"San Diego's damn important to the Navy, son," Franks said, deciding to speak his reservations. "Russians, Islamists, cartels, and other bastards looking to attack. And the bastards supposedly on our side. Nothing against you kids, but San Diego needs a veteran team."


Nothing the probationary agent said -- including his mentions of his team's high closure rate -- reassured Franks.


Neither did Agent Carter, who returned to the office earlier than expected. The athletic, confident woman said very little about her team's case, and declined Franks's offer to help them.


Instead, she wanted to talk about where he would stay. After a nearly 40-minute-long conversation, Franks judged that she wanted to get rid of him. After learning their case wasn't serious enough for him to pull rank, he decided to listen to his gut: it was time to get out of there.


"Now there are safe houses set up at a number of places here in southern California," Carter said. She opened the top folder of a stack of four on her desk, switching into the persona of a realtor, which unnerved Franks a little. "These are nice places, too. You won't live like an NBA player, but you'll be comfortable. I'm sure someone with as many years of experience as you have can appreciate that."


Franks leaned back and raised his eyebrows, wishing he had a cigarette and a shot of bourbon right then. "How old do you think I am, kid? I retired to a beach and a cantina, not to some old folks home."


Carter knew she had committed some kind of faux pas right then. Instead of apologizing, she opened another folder. "We have a place right in Santa Ana, in a good neighborhood. You'd be on the same street as a retired FBI agent who's a pastor at a--"


"No." Franks shook his head emphatically.


"Excuse me, sir?"


"I'm not gonna go live there."


She spread out the folders on her desk. "Then look through these folders and take as long as you like. I'm sure you'll find something you like--"


"I already know where I want to go," he replied, "besides back to Baja."




"How soon can you get me on a C-130?"




Director McCallister's office


Gibbs politely declined McCallister's offer of a drink from the wet bar, then watched as the new director picked up, then put away, a bottle of gin.


"I ought to have this thing ripped out and a java bar put in," McCallister said, eyeing Gibbs's cup of coffee. "That caffeine goes a long way sometimes in keeping yourself alert and awake. And, as you yourself may be aware, sleep's overrated."


"So I've heard, Director," Gibbs replied. He looked around the room again; other than the alcohol on the bar, every trace of Jenny Shepard had been wiped clean. Even her secretary, Cynthia Sumner, was gone, replaced by a young man who Gibbs couldn't quite get a read on.


And, there were the armed guards at the doors to the reception area and to McCallister's office. There was no sign of the two agents who normally stood outside reception.


McCallister gestured for Gibbs to sit at the conference table.


"I'm not happy with how the word got out Gibbs," McCallister said. "I'm not blaming you. The leak came from one of the special agents downstairs."


"That what you call them? 'Special agents'?"


"The people in the suits? Yeah, and they're all NCIS. Some are from special ops, some from other field offices around the world."


"They're making my people nervous, Director," Gibbs replied.


"Understand, Gibbs, they're there for security," McCallister said. "When my top field team is investigating the death of the Director of NCIS, I want them protected as best as possible. I trust people, Gibbs, not drones and electronics."


And my ex-wives only wanted the furniture, thought Gibbs. "One of them made a move toward one of my people just now. THAT I won't stand for."


McCallister pondered for a few moments. "Is that agent tall, lean, short blond hair, and female?"




"Clair," the new director said in exasperation. "She was my SSA when I headed up San Diego, joined me when Morrow set up special ops and became Special Agent in Charge when Shepard promoted me. Damn good agent. Daughter of a cop, had a great mind for this line of work..."




"We caught a case. Remember the Bremerton attacks? We were in the middle of that insanity. One of the terrorists got into a pickup and drove it towards a family; she pushed them out the way, tried to twist away at the last second but got caught, and fell and slammed her head to the pavement. She was in the hospital for weeks but she was never the same."


"She must've gotten better. She's down there."


"Yeah. She's gained back most of her skills, but that brain injury did something to her. She's cleared to work, though I wouldn't put her in the field."


Gibbs took a sip of coffee. "But you put her downstairs, Director. Why?"


McCallister looked hard at Gibbs. "Because I owe her my life, Gibbs. She's saved my ass a couple of times. Her father's dead, she doesn't really have any family other than the team we were on. There aren't a lot of us left."


The director paused, and his countenance softened a little.


"In fact, that brings me to my next point. I wanted to update you on some people you've worked with. Agent G Callen. You two worked together undercover in the Soviet Union, with Shepard."


Gibbs bristled just a tad at hearing reference Jenny and not as director.


"He worked for me in special ops. We worked around the globe mainly undercover. We had a case in Iraq involving Spetsnaz imbedded with a particularly nasty group of insurgents. Our base was bombed; Callen survived only because he wasn't there, but they hunted him down and killed him. I'm sorry, Gibbs. I couldn't tell you until now because being read in required approval from Director Shepard."


Callen. Betts, Blackadder, Pacci, Balboa, Jackson, Yates, Lee, Blye, Callen. Damn it, it never ends. "That it, Director?" Gibbs asked.


"I have better news regarding a couple of people you've worked with," McCallister continued. "Agent Stan Burley is Agent Aboard on the USS Gretsch in the Persian Gulf. Agent Paula Cassidy heads the NCIS field office in Panama City."


"Heard from Stan a couple of months ago, and DiNozzo talked to Cassidy last month. You have any word on Mike Franks?"


"Mike Franks...your old boss? Probably either back in the States or on his way, due to that DoD directive. He would be sent to--"


"San Diego."


"Yeah, San Diego. I'm sure Agent Carter can tell you where he is. Now, while I'm enjoying our talk, I'm busy as hell and I know you are, too. Just one more thing."


McCallister walked over to a file cabinet behind his desk, pulled out a drawer and took it back to the conference table, dumping it in front of Gibbs. "I'm missing a folder, Gibbs. Rene Benoit. La Grenouille."


This surprised Gibbs. "Don't know anything about that."


"Maybe not, but DiNozzo and Todd do, and I know they were up here snooping around," McCallister said. "I have every right to bust their asses over this, but I won't. Because I trust you, Gibbs. With that folder, and with this case."


McCallister got up, walked over to his office door and opened it. "Whatever you need to find Shepard's killer, you'll have it. But I do want that folder back...first thing tomorrow. Take it home, read it. And bring it BACK."


Gibbs got the message, taking his coffee with him to the door. He stopped and turned around. "Your woman, Clair. She stays the hell away from ALL of my people." Then Gibbs headed back towards the bullpen, and McCallister was both respectful and leery of the man.


The bullpen


Gibbs looked around for Clair; not seeing her anywhere, he walked over to McGee and leaned over his shoulder.


"Take this," Gibbs said in his ear while handing him Fornell's flash drive. "Do NOT look at it here or in the lab. When you get home, go through it with a fine-tooth comb, find whatever's on the damn thing and bring it to me at the house."


"What's on this drive--"


"And whatever you do, do NOT get caught," Gibbs said before pulling away. "Ziva, get with Abby and start on that car. DiNozzo, Kate -- with me."


After confirming that Kate had the folder (and telling Kate to give it to him and asking what else they found), Gibbs made his rounds, meeting with Ducky in the morgue, and lingering over the body of his former comrade, lover and boss. He then met with Abby in the garage and in the lab.



When Gibbs got back, he found Clair back on the floor, not moving an inch for the rest of the afternoon, and Kate's dog standing watch in front of her desk. That made him smile, and gave him the lightest moment of what had so far been a very dreary day.

Chapter 12 by Briwd

--As dawn nears here in Moscow, the streets are still void of civilian traffic. Curfew remains in effect throughout the city with only military vehicles on the road. Western media bureaus, including ours of the BBC, continue to be held under a sort of house arrest by agents of the KGB -- or so we have been told.


For the time being, we are able to freely file reports from within our location--


--the U.S., the U.K., France and Japan were the first of a host of Western nations condemning the Soviets' detainment of their journalists.--


--"East of the Rockies, you're on the air, hi."


"I can't tell you my name and location but trust me when I say that what I'm about to tell you and your listeners is the most important thing you've ever heard in your life."


"The most important thing any of us have heard in our lives."


"Yes sir."


"Then don't keep us in suspense, sir. The floor is yours."


"I hear you every night talking to these crazy people. Sasquatch and UFOs and aliens and time travelers. But I'm telling you, the government really is hiding something that people need to know about. It's hidden things from the public all along, but what I'm about to tell you is the big one."


"What is the nature of this information, caller?"


"It's a method of escape should the nukes start flying. Not everybody'll get away but enough of us--"


"...Hello? Caller, hello?...are you there, caller?..."--




Gibbs's basement


A long day had turned into the start of a long night for Gibbs, who had so far gone throughout his house searching for bugs.


He didn't trust McCallister nor his people, and Gibbs's gut was screaming at him that McCallister was somehow involved with Jenny's death. How involved he was Gibbs couldn't answer, not this early in the investigation, but he was certain of a connection.


Gibbs's gut also was telling him to look for bugs in his house; he always left it unlocked, and his foes had made their way inside before. So far, he hadn't found anything upstairs, nor in his garage and shed. He then went through his basement, going so far as to dismantle his boat.


Satisfied that he had swept the house, Gibbs poured himself a glass jar full of bourbon, and sat down at his bench to go through the La Grenouille file.


McCallister said he trusted Gibbs and lent him the file as proof. In turn, Gibbs was trying to figure out the man's angle. The only thing Gibbs was certain of was that the new director was trying to earn his trust -- but why? What was McCallister's angle, and why did he look the other way regarding Kate and Tony?


By all rights, he could bust both of them for snooping around and taking that file. Any other director, even Jenny, would've taken their badges at the very least. Instead of trying to figure out how to get them out of their predicament, Gibbs was learning about an op that Tony was an integral part of.


The subject of the op was Rene Benoit, also known as La Grenouille, a French term that translated to The Frog in English. Benoit was an international arms dealer, and Jenny had Tony dating the man's daughter Jeanne to gain intel.


NCIS's interest in pursuing the man wasn't made clear in the file, but Jenny had marked the man as a high-level potential threat to national security. Gibbs suspected a personal vendetta on Jenny's part, but her true motivations had died with her. He knew for certain that Tony's part in the op had come to an abrupt end.


Gibbs got up from his stool to stretch his legs. Standing at his bench, sipping his bourbon, he heard someone upstairs heading towards the basement. He reached for his handgun and took off the safety.


He was relieved to see Army Lieutenant Colonel Hollis Mann walking down the stairs, and she in turn was glad to see him. Hollis and Gibbs had began seeing one another several months ago. She decided to break off their relationship when she discovered that he hadn't fully moved on from the death of his first wife and their daughter.


After learning about the string of deaths in his life, including that of his father, Hollis decided to give Gibbs another chance. Their first 'date' afterwards was in this basement, he telling her a little about Shannon and Kelly.


She wished this second visit was for pleasure.


"Is this how you get that boat in your basement -- or out?" she asked, nodding towards the big pile of wood on the floor.


Gibbs smiled, then walked over to empty a nail jar and pour some bourbon for her. "Bugs."


"Termite 'bugs'?"


"Other kind. And the house is clean," he replied. "Didn't know tonight was date night."


"None for me, thanks. You're certain your house is clean?" she asked in a more serious tone, taking a sip of her coffee.


"Went through it myself."


Hollis eyed the folder on his workbench. "That part of your cleaning?"


"Working on a pretty big case," Gibbs said. "Director Shepard's death."


"I heard about it. I'm sorry, Jethro. She was damn good at her job. It's not easy, being a woman, in the military world."


"Can't speak from experience. I believe those who do."


"I know you do," Hollis replied, pulling up a stool. "I need to borrow you for a little while...there's something you need to see."


Gibbs took a sip of his bourbon. "The death of the director of NCIS isn't something I can walk away from, even here."


"This may have something to do with McCallister," Hollis said. Gibbs took a hard look at her. "Scuttlebutt makes its way around, Jethro. Even to the Army."


"WHAT kind of 'scuttlebutt'?"


"The kind that might explain why he's in that office right now instead of Jenny Shepard."




"Not here," she said. "In my car. It's clean."


"Cleaner than my basement?"


"My people are out there, too, Jethro, making sure it stays that way. Can't say the same about those people four houses down...suits, ties. Dark glasses."


Gibbs stood up. Damn that sonofabitch is good. "If that's true, it'll have to wait. Not gonna leave now."


"I have people outside watching for agents of Communist aggression in this neighborhood who have no problem watching the home of a federal agent while he leaves for a period of time," Hollis said. "Whether he's pursuing a lead or looking for an open Chinese place...and take that folder. Reading material."


Gibbs practically ran up the stairs. When he got out to the sidewalk, he scanned the area.


He saw three pairs of Army CID agents, plainclothed, in unmarked vehicles up and down the street. And in another unmarked car, two bastards in suits.


"You're not alone, Jethro," Hollis whispered. "We need to get away from here."


As he got in the passenger seat, Gibbs's gut told him the case was about to take a wild left turn.


He told Hollis to drive slowly, past the suits. He squinted, focusing on the one in the passenger seat.


Blonde. Square jawed. Athletic.





Gibbs's long day was not about to get any better.

Chapter 13 by Briwd

Author's note: The story line's science fiction element, which is a critical part of the story line, is introduced at the end of this chapter and explored in depth in the next chapter.




Hollis got out of Gibbs's neighborhood fast and headed for Interstate 395.


From the time she pulled off Gibbs's street, Hollis constantly switched between keeping her eyes on the road and looking in her rear and side mirrors, at adjacent buildings and up at the sky. Gibbs did the same and both looked for hostiles, drones and other potential threats.


"You gonna tell me what this is about?" Gibbs said as she pulled onto New York Avenue.


"Wait," Hollis replied, speeding up after noting the clear road ahead of her. She pulled onto I-395 South. Once in the tunnel, she began to talk.


"McCallister's done some very shady things, Gibbs, all the way back to when he got into the spy game," she said. "There was an incident in California when he was SAC of their West Coast division. Army CID worked with him on a case involving some squids and grunts. All from the same small town in east Texas, all signed up during President Broome's recruitment drive.


"They all got leave and went out drinking in Huntington Beach, went back to the hotel with some women who were undercover Stasi and Cuban DI. The next day was the attack on Camp Pendleton."


"Hundreds dead," Gibbs said, checking his phone for text messages.


"As the joint investigation proceeded," she continued, "McCallister became convinced two of the men had sold out their country and the others were covering for him, and they all had been paid off by the Stasi agent. We had come to another conclusion: they were set up to take the fall."


"I remember hearing something about an investigation, that San Diego ran it, and both sailors and the three infantry were killed in an accident," Gibbs said. "Happened the same time Ari tried to kill us in Norfolk."


Hollis looked in her side mirror, then took a sharp turn past a bank. "They were to meet the Stasi agent in Escondido. Their SUV blew up, killing them all; the Stasi was shot while running. Our man was the last to talk to her alive. Her last words were 'sie eingerichtet wurden'."


"'They were set up'," Gibbs said. "You suspect they were, by McCallister."


"The remains of the SUV -- and of the men -- were supposed to be taken to a Navy facility. They were collected by NCIS, and lost en route."




"Afterwards, the NCO heading our end of the investigation began looking into McCallister, but he died in a car accident a few days later, and the case was reassigned. The remains were never found -- take that for what you will. Some CID personnel refused to let the case go, and continued looking into McCallister."


"I suppose you found something."


"Nothing concrete to take up the chain of command, but lots of allegations," Hollis replied. "Kidnappings. Torture. Blackmail. More mysterious 'accidents'. Rumors he would set up suspects to be killed by the likes of KGB and Al-Qaeda. Using fronts for drug running to entrap suspects, then killing them and taking the money for himself."


"You got proof for this, Hollis?"


"Whatever we could find -- again, on our own time -- was enough to make one suspicious but not enough to charge. There were more disturbing rumors, one involving NCIS. McCallister allegedly intentionally killed a young agent in Amsterdam during an op in the early '90s, as part of a cover-up."




Even though he was convinced McCallister was a bastard, Gibbs knew better than to rely solely on scuttlebutt to build a case. An agent in McCallister's position doing things by the book would've made plenty of enemies, some who would've tried to frame him.


But there were a lot of unknowns about this special ops division that he knew virtually nothing about. He couldn't keep tabs on the whole agency, but he didn't expect he would've been unaware of something like special ops.


He never pried into Director Morrow's business, but he did so somewhat with Jenny. He knew her well enough to know she liked her secrets -- although what he had just found out about her was an eye-opener for the ex-Marine.


In any case, neither director ever read Gibbs in on special ops' existence and purpose.


Gibbs told himself he should've known more, at least what that division was and its main players. If he had, maybe he could've somehow prevented Jenny and her driver from dying.




Hearing the loud slap, Hollis swiftly turned her head towards Gibbs, whose hand was hovering over the back of his head as he muttered profanities to himself. "Jethro?!?"


"Damn it, Hollis. How in the HELL did I miss all of this--"


"Listen to me," she said. "They kept that thing a secret. You had no reason to be aware of them and your directors weren't going to read you in. I hadn't heard of them until I was contacted after her death."


She looked into her rearview mirror for the fifth time in the past minute before turning off Columbia Pike, heading for Army-Navy Drive. "You know about him and that division NOW. You're in position to find out how deep he's involved in her death and bring him in if necessary."


Gibbs flashed back to Fornell, what the FBI agent told him, and the flash drive.


"McGee," he muttered. How much danger was he in, being in possession of that thing? How much danger was the entire team in? Gibbs dialed McGee's cell.


"McGee. Sitrep."


"I'm hitting a brick wall, Boss," McGee said as he looked out his apartment window. "The algorithm generating the key that encrypts the data is the most complex I've ever seen--"


"English, McGee."


"Um, okay. Encrypted information has a key that unlocks it and makes it accessible. If you don't have the key, it's possible to pick the lock, so to speak, and get in. Thing is, every time I think I've picked the lock, I get thrown back to the front gate and I have to start from scratch."


"Keep at it, McGee. I need to know what's on that thing."


"There's something else, Boss," McGee said. "Suits. They're in a sedan, a Sable or Taurus, on the street outside my apartment. I noticed them an hour ago."


"Why didn't you call me, McGee?"


"Thought the flash drive took precedence, and I didn't see anyone snooping around my front door. Boss, what if they knock?"


"Stay there, stop doing what you've been doing. I'll call DiNozzo and tell him to go to you."


"Tony??? Boss--"


"Rule 40, McGee." After hanging up, he called Tony, who had his own set of suits watching his apartment. Gibbs told him to go to McGee's apartment, then called Kate (who had been followed to Abby's apartment) and Ziva (at Ducky's house with Ducky, Palmer, Mrs. Mallard and her legion of Corgis).


Then Gibbs cursed himself, because he didn't want Hollis to know about the flash drive, nor did he want to lie to her. Before he could say something, she pulled off Army-Navy Drive into a fenced-off complex marked US ARMY PERSONNEL ONLY. She punched in a code and flashed a badge at the gate, then drove to and stopped behind a row of trailers.


"I heard enough of your conversation that I assume he's got the rest of your team under surveillance," Hollis said as she shut off the engine. "Are they alright?"


"For now," Gibbs said. "I'll need to touch base with my people."


Hollis pulled out her cell phone and placed a call to a colleague. "Army CID's investigating suspicious Communist activity in the very areas your people happen to live. What a coincidence," she deadpanned.


"Rule 39."


"I'm sorry?"


"'There's no such thing as a coincidence'," he said. "No coincidence we're here, either."


"You're right, Jethro," she said. "There is something else, and I'm asking you to trust me on what I'm about to tell -- and show -- you. And to keep it confidential."


Gibbs raised his eyebrows.


"Khalinin's coup set off a multitude of chain reactions, including within the Army," she said. "This afternoon Army CID worldwide were told to begin preparations."


"Preparations for what?"


"Transition to war."


Neither had anything to add to that.


"Why are we here, Lieutenant Colonel?"


She checked out their surroundings for the third time, then turned to face him.


"Agent Gibbs. Do you remember the case at the golf course. Not the Marine Colonel."


"Sergeant Grayle. Army."


"We cleared him of the murder of a petty officer found near a sandtrap."


"Made a point of saying he was an average guy in the wrong place at the wrong time," Gibbs said. "Drove DiNozzo nuts. Hope you've got me in the right place at the right time."


"I do, and I'm going to show you for yourself," she replied. "This is big, the most important thing you've ever seen, something...when I saw it for myself and was told what it represented, I, I...come on. We're going for a walk."


Hollis opened her car door and stepped outside, with Gibbs following her lead. She led him to a garbage container that actually was the entrance to a tunnel.


They hurried down the dimly-lit tunnel for a city block, until they came to an elevator. "Get in," Hollis told Gibbs. It went down and opened into a large, musty room just slightly better lit than the tunnel. From there, they walked past a series of boxes and crates to an elevator on the other side of the room. The elevator took them up, into a small, equally dimly-lit supply room.


"Wherever the hell it is you're taking me better have lights," Gibbs grumbled. "Where are we now?"


She waited until they stopped walking to reply. As she took out a pocket flashlight, Gibbs focused on his surroundings. It took him just a few moments to realize--


"We're in the lobby of the old Drug Enforcement Administration museum," Hollis said, aiming the light at the DEA logo on a dusty marble wall. "It closed down in '03 when the government began buying up property around the Pentagon."


"Lots of property; government wanted to protect the Pentagon, figured civilians being so close played into the Soviets' hands," Gibbs added. "Something tells me we're not done."


"You mean as in this mission or 'we'? Because I think 'we're' just getting started," Hollis replied, with a wink that Gibbs rolled his eyes at. "Come on. A little longer and you'll see what I brought you here for."


"DEA know that you broke into their property, Lieutenant Colonel?"


"Let's just say the Army and the DEA have an friendly arrangement; that's why the tunnel starts on our property. It's not the only tunnel around here, either."


"Not the only tunnel, Hollis?"


Hollis put her finger to his lips, then started jogging down a hallway, to yet another elevator. Gibbs jogged after her and started to say something, but she put her finger on his lips yet again; he got the message to shut up, and the elevator went down what Gibbs thought was six floors.


This time, the doors opened to a sleeker, better lit and cleaner hallway, one Gibbs would expect to see in a federal building. "Now we go down the rabbit hole," she whispered. "Stay to the right and hurry. My people can't keep us blind forever."


Gibbs swore to himself and briefly considered stopping her to get some answers to his growing pile of questions. His gut, however, told him not to do that, but to trust her and follow her down the hallway. And, whatever questions the end of the hallway answered would lead to a mountain of more questions.


The walk was very quick for such a long hallway for Gibbs. He tried to read Hollis's face as he walked alongside her; she was focused on the door at the end of the hallway, her eyes and body language indicated she was keeping her emotions at bay, and that she had been here before, more than once.


The door itself was made of metal and circular, with a brightly lit touch screen panel to its right. Hollis swiftly pulled a couple of cards out of her inside jacket pocket; she passed the first card over the panel, and they heard a short beep. She held the second card over the panel for five seconds, at which Gibbs heard another beep.


A numeric keypad, shaded in navy blue, then appeared on the panel. She punched in a combination of 21 numbers, at which point the panel beeped three times -- long, short, long.


"You ready, Jethro?" Hollis asked him as she unexpectedly and suddenly grabbed his hand.


"Didn't come all this way for nothing," he said, his smirk putting her more at ease. She then reached in her jacket for what Gibbs thought was some kind of crystal, a shade of blue he later determined was azure. It was just over six inches long, as thick as a cigar, and pointed on both ends.


Hollis put one of the ends onto the 5 on the keypad, and held it there for five seconds. "Stand back," she said, pulling him backwards by the hand. The door opened onto yet another hallway. She took Gibbs through the doorway inside and to the left, and down about 50 feet, where there were a series of windows.


After going into the hallway and as they got closer to the row of windows, Gibbs could hear and feel a persistent humming.


He had no frame of reference for what he saw once he got to those windows.


He and Hollis looked down at what appeared to be a large auditorium, with dozens of people milling around amidst tables and workstations all surrounding a single object. Neither he nor Hollis couldn't help but gawk at the gigantic greyish metal ring, attached to a larger, greyish polygon base, in the middle of the auditorium.


"What in the hell is that thing, Hollis?"


"They call it the Exodus Device, Jethro, only to be used in the event of an unavoidable, all-out nuclear war. The federal government and the military has been preparing for it for some time--"


"'Some time'?!? Since when? How long?"


"At least when Khalinin put himself in charge of the Soviet Red Army," she replied. "The hope is that this week in Geneva, Khalinin will see reason and pull back his country's own preparation for war. If not, that Exodus Device is our last hope."


"'s not a bomb, is it?"


Hollis shook her head. "It's an escape device."


"Escape, to where?"


"I'm still not sure...but as insane as this sounds, it's to take people to another planet, another dimension, another universe when the missiles start flying."


Hollis turned and grabbed Gibbs by the shoulders. "I didn't bring you here for the hell of it, not just to read you in, and NOT to bullshit you. That device is very real, and it may be the reason Riley McCallister is the Director of NCIS today."



Chapter 14 by Briwd

--Eminent Domain Act gave the federal government a major discount on buying up property around the Pentagon. This included Reagan International Airport, which was turned into the new Andrews Air Force Base in 2006. At the same time, the old Andrews base was expanded and reopened as the new Reagan airport--


Gibbs turned his gaze from Hollis back towards the ring down in the auditorium, and then he couldn't tear himself away.


He guessed the ring itself was roughly five stories high and equally as wide, the base two stories thick and roughly 60 yards long by 60 yards wide. From his angle, Gibbs noted steps going up two of the four sides visible from his angle and people on both sides of the ring; they were standing or walking on, or by, ramps arching up towards the ring and meeting in the middle.


An alarm then sounded in the auditorium, spooking Gibbs. "It's alright, that's not for us," Hollis said. "Watch."


As the white-coated people hurried down to the floor, Gibbs looked around the auditorium. He noticed more people in the white coats, some in civilian attire, and others in military uniform or military gear. He was way too distant from them to see details, and his eyesight wasn't that great anyway.


The next best thing for Gibbs was to ask someone with better eyesight who had been here before. "Civilians AND military down there?"


"Yeah," Hollis answered. "Scientists, computer techs, military officers, nurses, Marines, you name it, all culled from dozens of civilian and government agencies from NASA to Microsoft."


"How often do they test that thing?"


"I've been told daily."


"Is that another test going on, down there?"


"Yeah, and we won't have long to wait to see it in action. You'll hear a loud 'whirr' and the ring itself will to glow green. As long as you don't stare directly at the light in the middle for too long, you'll be fine."


Hollis and Gibbs saw the pace pick up all across the auditorium, especially around the ring and its base. As people moved to their workstations and to other areas, a group of civilians, scientists and military personnel gathered around a large station roughly 40 feet from the front of the ring.


A couple of minutes later, the side of the ring began to glow as another alarm sounded. Shortly afterwards, rays of light emanated from inside the ring towards its middle, into a disc. Within minutes, the disc had filled the rim.


"Watch," Hollis said.


Gibbs saw the air vibrate at the base of the right side, then watched in astonishment as two beige military humvees slowly came through the disc. The vehicles stopped, then turned towards, and down, the steps on the far side.


"Did I just see what I thought I saw?" Gibbs asked.


"I had the same reaction the first time I saw that for myself," Hollis said. "And by the way it was four Army humvees, an entire company on foot, an SUV filled with Congresspeople and a K-9 unit."

"You could tell this how?"


"The vehicles, soldiers and dogs were obvious. I was told about the Congresspeople on my second visit."


Hollis expected the side of the ring to dim, and for the disc of light to slowly shrink until it disappeared. However, the side continued to glow, and they saw the air vibrating on the other side.


To her surprise, three Black Hawk helicopters flew out that side and went towards the rear of the auditorium, where each landed. Only then did the disc shrink and the side of the ring dim until it returned to the state it was when Gibbs first saw it.


Afterwards, as business proceeded throughout the auditorium, Gibbs squatted down and tried to collect his thoughts. Hollis gave him a few minutes, then put her hand on his arm. "Jethro, we need to leave. I'll debrief you in the car."


He got up, looked at the scene and tried to memorize as much of it as he could in 30 seconds, then followed Hollis out of the hallway, and all the way back to her car. As she placed calls to her fellow CID agents, Gibbs reflected on what he had just seen.


Although he grew up watching Gunsmoke and reading Jack London, Gibbs in fact did have some working knowledge of science fiction. He had read Asimov, Bradbury and Wells and -- despite what he had hinted to Abby -- had watched a few Star Trek episodes. And he had watched a handful of sci-fi movies with DiNozzo ranging from the classic (2001) to the absurd (Plan 9 from Outer Space).


Gibbs had no more than a bare-bones familiarity with the genre, however. His world was filled with boats, bastards, military and a fierce devotion to the family and friends he had built for himself to make up for the loss of those he couldn't protect. Despite their brief separation, Hollis was among those whom Gibbs considered family. He trusted and loved her greatly, and if she said something was serious he was going to pay attention.


What he had just seen, he realized, was as big and serious as it might get in this world.


"How many people know about this, besides us?" he asked.


"I'm not exactly sure. Tens of thousands--"


"How many!?!?!"


"--the President, the Joint Chiefs, Congress, the Supreme Court," Hollis said. "I know all five branches of the military are involved but Army and Air Force are taking the lead. The CIA's involved in some way, how I can't tell you yet. NASA and FEMA's involved for certain, and from what we've been able to dig up, anyone from any agency you would expect to be involved in an operation to rebuild civilization elsewhere."


From there, Gibbs threw question after question at her. Hollis said this particular ring was the only one she knew for certain existed, but there were strong rumors of more rings. Large rings in Area 51 in Nevada, upstate New York, west Texas, Montana, Alaska and the Appalachians, and smaller rings in 52 of the top 75 cities. Britain, Japan, China, Israel, France and Germany had their own rings; Hollis had even heard rumors that the Communist Bloc had their own devices, either copied from the Americans or developed independently.


"You said this had to do with McCallister," Gibbs said. "How many people in the government know about this? Does this extend to directors?"


"Jethro, yes. We think from every federal agency. Again, think of who you would need to rebuild the government--"


"So Jenny would have known most likely."


"She would have, and her family if she had one."


"But not assistant directors."


"If there were time, perhaps."


"Would someone kill for that kind of access, assuming they thought the world was coming to an end and they themselves weren't on the short list?"


"Theoretically, yes," Hollis said. "In actuality, you'd have to answer that for yourself."


"I suppose I'll have to, now."


The drive home was quiet, although they both kept an eye out for unexpected and unwanted guests. Hollis had told Gibbs everything she could, and Gibbs took advantage of the ride to reflect on what he'd seen and been told.


As he did so, he asked himself where his investigation was heading. Would finding Jenny's killer be the easy part of it? And, would uncovering the reasons behind the murder be what put himself, and his family, in the crosshairs?



Chapter 15 by Briwd



Outside Director McCallister's office, the entire Navy Yard was crawling with activity, with the goal being remaking the facility into an armed and wired camp in one night.


When Gibbs, his team and the other day shift employees arrived for work around 0700, they'd see a few dozen extra suits on campus and be observed by a few hundred unseen surveillance cameras.


McCallister of course knew every last detail, as he helped draw up the new security measures being implemented in all NCIS stations worldwide. They were part of the security protocols McCallister first proposed to Morrow and later got conditional approval for by Shepard.


He'd leave the details to his trusted lieutenants. As the new director of the agency, McCallister had bigger fish to fry. While four of the suits stood guard outside his door, McCallister leaned back in his chair and began reading the fact sheet in his hands.


It confirmed what he suspected for weeks: the geopolitical situation was on the proverbial tightrope, teetering between the status quo and total war, and could fall in either direction at any time.


Between certain media outlets' patriotism, the Conway Act and aggressive disinformation campaigns, the public was kept ignorant of the true global situation. The last thing the federal government and military wanted was to have deal with mass panic on American streets.


Until recently, the feds had managed the flow of information to their favor; however, the facts were very slowly getting out to the Western public, primarily through the internet.


As a result, a small percentage of people had begun preparing for doomsday.


Land prices in the rural western U.S. and Canada had skyrocketed over the last week. Sales of weapons on the domestic black market had doubled in frequency and tripled in price. Wealthy individuals and some corporations had begun transferring assets to countries that were thought to be safe havens in the event of a global war.


Spot shortages of anything thought to be useful to survival in the event of such a war had also begun to be reported in the west: rubbing alcohol in Lethbridge, aspirin in Durango, and propane in Baker City were just the tip of the iceberg.


Domestic surveillance also suggested that around 15,000 people had left urban areas for perceived safer rural areas. McCallister knew of three NCIS employees here in Washington, including a CyberCrimes agent, who had suddenly taken sick days for the remainder of the week.


Since last fall, all five branches of the military had conducted exercises that the public was told were intended to "increase military effectiveness in the ongoing war on terror". In reality, they had been preparing for conventional war.


Military planners identified four regions where war was most likely to break out between west and east:


* The Middle East was the most obvious flashpoint. Though neutral Saudi Arabia sold its oil to everyone, the Soviets had repeatedly sought more exclusive access especially after the mess in the Siberian oil fields. Since the death of Saddam Hussein, NATO forces had stared at their World Pact counterparts across the Iraqi-Iranian border. And the KGB and Stasi were always eager to fund anti-U.S./Israeli groups in the region.


* Africa had become a second flashpoint for one reason: minerals. The Americans, Chinese and Europeans and their African allies had 85% of the coveted rare earth minerals. The Luanda Pact nations -- propped up by their Soviet "comrades" -- had the other 15%.


* Asia was a third flashpoint and Taipei likely to provide the spark. While the Nationalist government and Beijing were finally at peace, the Soviets, East Germans and their Hanoi Pact allies were actively supporting "people's revolution" among workers and college students in the island nation. Of course, that spark also could also be lit along the Korean DMZ; in Thailand between the People's Republic and the CIA-backed resistance; or over Indonesian oil. Intel suggested "significant military movement in far eastern Siberia, which posed possible threats to China, Japan or even South Korea.


* The other flashpoint was right on America's doorstep, from the Mexican border down to Panama. The Soviets had funded the cartels since the early 1990s to keep the Yanquis busy, while the KGB and Cubans established friendly governments in the region from Guatemala to the Dominican Republic. Havana Pact countries were covertly supporting revolución in Belize and Panama, the latter to gain access to the Panama Canal.


In the hours since Khalinin's coup, Soviet military activity in all four areas had increased. In contrast, Red Army/Warsaw Pact activity in Europe and along the Chinese border hadn't increased; of course, buildup in both areas had been high for months. If the Soviets wanted to invade West Germany or Tibet, they were ready.


Thinking of the Soviets and their allies being ready on SIX fronts scared McCallister to death, because he saw it as the prelude to the unthinkable. If the Geneva talks failed, war was certain. It would initially be fought in the air and sea and on the ground -- the conventional phase -- with everyone realizing any event could cause one side to launch a nuke at the other.


The other side would instantly retaliate by launching a nuke of their own. Conventional fighting would continue until someone decided to use the nukes in a tactical manner, against enemy troops or ships or to cut off supply routes. The entire globe would be engulfed in war, and it'd be almost impossible to keep it conventional. When the missiles flew, that'd be it for humanity on this planet.


As much as he dreaded it, McCallister expected total nuclear war. Accordingly, he wanted NCIS as prepared as possible.



No matter who got in his way.

Chapter 16 by Briwd



As soon as they left the Army lot, Hollis and Gibbs picked up on a dark Crown Victoria tailing them. Hollis drove 11 blocks trying to ditch the car and was about to place a call to a colleague when she saw red and blue flashing lights in her rearview mirror.


The lights were off in the distance and closing around the vehicle tailing them. She didn't wait around, speeding away after guessing seven or eight Metro police vehicles to have surrounded the car.


"Glad I won't need Javy," Hollis said of her colleague, who she told Gibbs was a fellow CID officer which patrolled the area when CID made "visits" to the property they had just left. She also explained that she and Javy were part of a small group of CID personnel who knew about the Exodus Project and with that knowledge came danger.


"There aren't a lot of us within CID who've seen it for ourselves," she explained. "I know a handful of agents from other agencies who've seen it for themselves: DEA, FBI, CIA and before you ask, Fornell's not one of them. The group of people who know about this who aren't supposed to is small; you were vetted heavily by our group before I got the go ahead to bring you there."


"Figured that, Hollis. Forgot to tell me that little detail, by the way."


"I'm telling you, now."


"Anything else you forgot to tell me?"


Hollis exhaled in frustration. "Yeah. I'm flying you to Area 51 to meet the green men from Mars who built that thing."


Gibbs smirked.


"Jethro, we've had to draw our little circle tight," she continued. "I only found out three weeks ago from a fellow NCO I know from Fort Bragg. He told me I'd been vetted for weeks; you only got in because you've been thoroughly checked out and the people responsible for that busted their asses to do it in days, not the usual three to six weeks. Being my boyfriend wasn't good enough; the people leading this group wanted to know that you'd keep the secret and not blab it all over town -- not even to your own people."


"Not that I was gonna 'blab it all over town', but there's more to this than finding Jen's killer, unless someone knew weeks ago she was gonna get killed."


"No one saw that coming, Jethro."


"So you were already planning this."


"Jethro," she said, "if things bad as they could, I'm on a secondary list to go through that thing and over to whatever planet or dimension they have designated for the evacuees to--"




"There's a primary list, for basically anyone you'd expect to be necessary to rebuild civilization. The secondary list is for anyone else they can find on the streets when the sirens go off."


"Anyone they can find, Hollis...doesn't make sense," Gibbs said. "In that scenario, the city'd be depopulated or there'd be mass panic. What in hell would YOU do then -- get as far out of town as you could as quick as you could or run IN town and look for some giant magic ring to save your ass?"


"That's the plan, as far as we can determine. This is Washington, remember?"


They chuckled, and Hollis's demeanor turned serious again.


"I was able to call in some favors and watch over your team tonight. I won't be able to do that again," she said. "At 2034, we received a call from Metro about a shootout. Army Ranger assigned to the Pentagon we believe was looking to buy coke was shot dead. The shooter refused to give ID. We found he is Petty Officer Miguel Romero, and is AWOL from the USS Rutherford, which is currently in the Gulf of Mexico."


"Normally I'd have gotten that call and had my team on the scene by now."


"I was able to keep a lid on it for a little while. Within the next hour you'll get a call informing you about the shooting. You'll need to hand it off to another agent, or two; we think Romero's involved with the Reynosa cartel."


"Russians who took over shed a lot of blood down there doing so," Gibbs said. "I can pass it off to Patterson, get Strickland to help any ideas how I find out more about that thing you showed me? Besides you handing over your files?"


Hollis smiled. "I'll see what I can get you in the next 48 hours. In the meantime, open the glove department and grab the white envelope."


Gibbs did so.


"Thumb drive. That's where our group's techies began. Have McGee search QUIETLY and under no circumstances from your computers at NCIS. And tell him NOT to get caught -- the information that drive unlocks is cleared for the highest levels only."


"How high?"


"You're dead if you're found out level. Literally."


They saw both CID and suits sitting in their vehicles, watching them as she pulled up in front of his house. They both got out and searched the back yard, then both floors of the house and the basement. Gibbs watched from his porch as she and the other CID agents drove away, then gave the suits a withering look before he went inside.


Gibbs then did something he almost never did -- lock his front door -- and began calling the rest of his team. He told everyone to stay put for the night and to be at work by 0700. He'd have to wait to talk with McGee about the thumb drives until the morning, although he didn't like it.


He went to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee, watching the street while the pot brewed. Afterwards, Gibbs went downstairs and began looking for bugs; he got the call about Romero, then called Patterson and ordered him to take the case, before going upstairs for a quick shower.


0600 didn't come soon enough for Gibbs. Locking his front door, after having made sure his back door and windows were secure, he got in his sedan and headed for the Navy Yard. Even with two pots of coffee in him and a large thermos full beside him in the passenger seat, it was shaping up to be another long day.



He hoped his people would cut him some slack for being a little more cranky than usual.

Chapter 17 by Briwd

--This is the BBC News at Twelve.


Members of British and other Western media outlets within the Soviet Union continue to be held within their places of employment or in their homes.


The British government has filed a formal protest--


--there has been no response as of yet from Moscow on the treatment of Western journalists. CBS News has learned that Anatoly Dashkov, the Soviet ambassador to the U.S., has ignored repeated requests from the White House to meet with President Boehner--


--member nations of the World Pact are following the Soviet embassy's lead here in Canberra. No one has left any of the embassies since Khalinin was announced as Soviet general secretary--


--tells ZNN the investigation of the death of Naval Criminal Investigative Service director Jennifer Shepard is ongoing and there is no news to report at this time--




Gibbs walked off the elevator and headed right for the bullpen, where he saw his three agents and Mossad officer David at their desks. He also saw a brand new single-serve coffee maker on a table next to the monitor closest to Tony's desk.


Cranky Gibbs decided to let it slide, especially since he had -- to everyone else's surprise -- an automatic-drip coffee maker boxed up behind his desk. After wordlessly setting it up to make himself a pot, Gibbs grabbed the remote off McGee's desk and pointed it at both monitors.


Jenny's mugshot appeared, and his demeanor turned steely.


"Director Shepard's killer is out there, somewhere, and we're NOT going to stop until we FIND that person," Gibbs said. "THAT for the foreseeable future is our only objective. We don't rest. We don't SLACK. We work EVERY angle. We check out every POSSIBLE lead until we're certain where it goes. ANYTHING that leads us to the answer of who killed the director we follow through. Have I made myself clear?"


"Yes boss!" "Yes Gibbs!" He left them in the bullpen as he headed toward the back elevator. Only then did he notice more suits on the floor than there were the previous day, and there was one waiting for him in the elevator.




His mood wasn't improved by his unwanted companion, nor by the suits standing guard outside the sliding door into the morgue and definitely not by the half-dozen suits inside, one of whom peered over Ducky's shoulder wherever he went.


"Agent Gibbs," Palmer said before heading out with blood samples. Gibbs looked over at Ducky, who was visibly perturbed at the woman following him around. She met Gibbs's glare with one of her own, but she backed away to give Ducky and him some privacy.


"How long she been on your ass, Duck?"


"From the time Mr. Palmer, Mother and I arrived here. I was going to have Mother sit with us instead of leaving her alone back at the mansion, but I was informed she did not have 'proper clearance'." Ducky glanced toward the woman who had backed off and was staring at them next to the door. "I haven't had the opportunity to see where they took her--"


"Don't worry, Duck. I'll find her," Gibbs said. "Got anything more for me on Jenny and the driver?"


Gibbs followed Ducky to the morgue's refrigerated drawers. "Abigail believes she will verify your initial suspicions regarding the murder weapon," Ducky said as he pointed to the entrance and exit wounds on Jenny and the driver's bodies.


"Same ones we saw on the Admiral."


"Consistent with other victims we've encountered or heard about, beginning with the Senator nearly three years ago. These weapons are not easily acquired here in the States, Jethro."


"But they are in the Soviet Union," Gibbs said. "The Pact countries use East German weapons. Spetsnaz use their own. KGB's been known to use this type of weapon on occasion."


"I hope this gets us closer to finding their murderer, Jethro."


"So do I, Duck."


Gibbs turned and headed for the door, stopping briefly to glare at the woman who resumed following Ducky around the morgue after the agent left.




Gibbs then went up one floor to forensics, which he noted had two agents at the entrance. Two more were in the lab with Abby, and two others slowly walking between Abby's office and ballistics.


Abby looked a little stressed and very much frustrated; her Caf!-Pow was nowhere to be found and her stereo was off.


"Gibbs," she said quietly, her eyes darting between him and the suits wandering around her lab as she stood at the workstation in the middle of the main area.


"Abs, you okay?"


"I'm fine," she lied. "Just working."


Gibbs gave each of the three suits nearby a hard glare; all three stood their ground but didn't approach him. He gently put his hand on Abby's arm to comfort her; Gibbs was glad that gesture relaxed her, even if just a little.


Abby turned back to the casings lying on the table behind her workstation. "Casings match that of a Soviet-made nine-by-thirty-nine millimeter bullet, most commonly found in--"


"A VSS Vintorez silencer sniper rifle," Gibbs said. "They're not even trying to hide it."


The suits in the room turned their attention completely to Gibbs, who, unlike Abby, didn't acknowledge their stares. "M.O. used in certain deaths over the past four years. The admiral. Congresswoman from Texas. That computer billionaire."


"Director Morrow," Abby whispered.


"Yeah." Gibbs didn't like how down Abby was. He couldn't do anything about the suits but that didn't mean he had to leave her alone. So he dialed Kate's phone and told her to get to the lab.


"Gibbs, I'll be alright," Abby protested, weakly. "Really, I'm fine--"


"Rule 28, Abs. If you need help, ask."


"I don't need any help, Gibbs. They're not really bothering me. It's just like a scene from one of Tony's movies that Kate and I talked about last night and this morning that come to think of it probably weren't even made even the Men in--"


"Abs." She stopped talking. "Abs, the Marines have a motto: 'never leave a man behind'."


He gave her a few moments to let that sink in.


"Gibbs! I'm right here and I'm not hurt--"


"And you're not yourself either," he said. "I need all of us at our best right now."


He heard Kate enter the lab and turned to her. "Agent Todd. Said you got something for me?"


"Yeah. A kid's in the conference room who wants to talk to you. ohs-nay ome-say ing-thay. Suits offered to escort him up. Tony declined their kind offer, took the kid up there himself."


Gibbs glanced at Abby and at the suits before turning to Kate. "Anything else I need to know?"


"Nothing new on my end. We're all spinning our wheels."



"Keep spinning 'til you get traction, Kate. You'll work down here with Abby for the time being. When I need you, Palmer'll be here with her." He turned and sprinted to the door, and Kate realized her question about how long she was to work in the lab was beside the point.

Chapter 18 by Briwd

--again, ZNN's Moscow bureau was allowed to send a brief email message to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and to ZNN headquarters here in Washington. This is the message:


For their own protection against reactionary elements, all persons of Western citizenship are being detained temporarily by the People's Red Army. Food, medicine, electricity and other necessary provisions are being made available to the guests of the Soviet Union. When the emergency has passed, all Westerners in the Soviet Union will be allowed to resume their normal activities or leave as they wish."--


--"Are you there?"


"Yes. To whom am I speaking?"


"This is the BBC here in London. You are with the Embassy?"


"I am Sir Patrick MacGregor, the British Ambassador to the Soviet Union."


"Well, Ambassador, we wish we were speaking with you under better circumstances. Would you briefly describe the situation outside the embassy for our listeners and viewers?"


"The situation is the Red Army has surrounded the British Embassy. I can see the Italian Embassy from my vantage point and they're doing the same thing there."--




Ziva returned from the head with news for McGee, via the portable television some staffers (and suits) were watching: the Red Army had surrounded the British, Italian, Japanese and Croatian embassies 'for their own protection'.


"That's the last thing anybody needs right now," McGee told her. "Then again, they did it after Putin was killed and it only lasted a day."


"I do not believe Khalinin will allow this for much longer," she said. "He is sending a message to the West: 'I am in control'."


"No one doubts that he's running the show," McGee replied. "He's making people nervous. When Zhukov took over, the Soviets weren't nearly as aggressive as they've been lately."


McGee then showed Ziva one of the numerous 'leads' he was following up on. He pulled up two mugshots, one male and one female, then told Ziva where to look on the floor. She saw the man standing under the NCIS Most Wanted wall, and the woman by the stairwell.


He told Ziva he got their info from two sources: the main NCIS database which is available to all agents, and another database for special ops requiring director-level permission for access.


"McGee!" she whispered. "This is not the best place to be...conducting such a search. Please tell me you have capped your butt!"


McGee's eyes widened. Then he figured out what she meant.


"Ziva, I've covered my tracks," he said. "I DO know a little about this stuff."


"I realize that, McGee. With HIS people all around us, I believe that exercising extreme caution in such matters is wise."


"So do I. And by the way, it's 'covered your butt'. 'Capped your butt' would mean I shot myself in the foot."


"Why would you shoot yourself in the foot?" she asked, confused at his reference.


"I wouldn't. It's a figure of speech."


He then pulled up several surveillance camera shots of the shooter's nest, ranging in time from an hour before Jenny was killed to after McGee arrived at the crime scene.


"Somehow, the shooter managed to avoid being in the direct line of sight of the cameras," McGee said.


"Which indicates he knew where the cameras were," Ziva added.


McGee then pulled up four shots he had just been able to access from the civilian firm which operated one of the surveillance networks servicing Rock Creek Park. Unlike the government and military networks, the civilian network's cameras had the best view of the shooter.


"I see the side of his face," Ziva said. "Zoom a little closer. There. He has brown hair and glasses but the picture is too blurry. Do you have a better picture, McGee?"


"This is as good it gets," McGee replied. "It's not much but better than nothing. Hopefully we can get some kind of lead off facial recognition."


Conference Room


"My name's James McIntosh," said the teenager sitting at the head of the conference table, flanked by Gibbs and DiNozzo. "I'm a sophomore at Columbia Country Day, I'm an only child, my mom works at the State Department and my dad at the--"


"Kid, we don't need your life history," DiNozzo said. He looked at the kid and saw McGee in high school, with glasses. "You came to us and said you had something we needed to see."


"That it?" Gibbs asked, pointing to the bag in the seat next to James. The boy nodded and pulled out a video camera he said was high-definition and worth $1,200.


"I plan to study ornithology at Cornell University," he explained. "I wasn't at school because I got some kind of stomach bug the day before. I felt well enough to take the camera and take pictures of the birds outside."


"That's when you saw something," Gibbs said.


"Yes, a man running up to one of the trees I normally observe. I'm certain I was able to briefly capture his face."


As it turned out, James did in fact get a good look at the shooter's face. The usable footage was just two-and-a-half seconds long but it was enough for Abby to begin running facial recognition on. Gibbs decided to put James and his parents in protective custody; before he called the mother, he stopped at McGee's desk.


"What's this?" Gibbs asked, looking at the younger agent's screen.


"I think I know where all these men and women in black came from, Boss," McGee said in a low voice. "Most of them worked with McCallister in San Diego, ranging from seven years to as little as a month."


"People he knew."


"If I can nail down where the, ah, new director worked at I'll probably find the others worked with him at one of those places."


"Good work McGee. Now what about what I TOLD you to work on?" Gibbs growled.


McGee headslapped himself. "Uh, sorry Boss," he said as Gibbs looked at him. "Uh, I saw an opportunity to follow up on a hunch, but I also was working on the camera angles from the crime scene. I sent a few dozen frames from the civilian surveillance network to Abby--"


"Why'd ya' headslap yourself, McGee?"


"...sorry Boss?"


"Rule 18, McGee: 'Better to seek forgiveness than ask permission'," Gibbs said, continuing to stare at the junior agent.


"Yes, Boss, that's right," McGee said. "And I didn't forget anything."


Gibbs leaned over and looked at some of the frames. Something about the shooter's face looked familiar but he couldn't put his finger on what it was. "You went over EVERYTHING, McGee?"


"Yeah, Boss. Nothing more than what you see here."


"Keep looking, at everything," Gibbs said as he reached in his pocket and handed McGee an envelope. "Triple-check, McGee. Everything. Call FBI on the federal network and Army about the military network if you have to."


After watching Gibbs turn and head towards the back elevator, McGee looked at the envelope. He saw FBI and Army written on the front, then noticed something in the envelope itself.


Another flash drive.



Chapter 19 by Briwd

--ZNN's This Date in History: May 23, 2003. President Broome and his party were attacked by the Fighters of God near Army Base Delta outside Kabul, Afghanistan. Five people, including ZNN correspondent Jasmine Carmine, were killed in the ambush. The President's vehicle was able to escape to safety at the base, and the insurgents were killed during the Army's counterattack.--


--The Communist bloc supported Islamist insurgents and terrorists for the same reasons the West supported anti-Communist insurgents: to disrupt enemy operations and ultimately to destabilize governments sympathetic to the other side. Since former President Reagan's death, this covert front of the Cold War is where the two power blocs have been playing their game of geopolitical chess. The alternative is nuclear. God help us if one side chooses the alternative thinking it can win.--


--"The Cold War's staying just cool enough to keep from going hot." -- President Broome, January 26, 2007, the day before his assassination--


The Lab


Ziva picked up an evidence bag and pulled out a shell casing, then looked at it from all angles. Her gut told her she had missed something the first time she went through evidence from the scene, and whatever it was had to be in plain sight.


"Kate," she whispered so the suits wouldn't easily overhear her. "Do you remember the Afghanistan case from your Secret Service days?"


Yeah, she thought. That's when I broke Tim's heart.


Marine Corps Major Timothy Kerry pursued Kate and told her how he felt about her after a razor-thin close call: both narrowly escaped being killed by Stasi-backed Islamists when President Broome's caravan was attacked near Kabul. She then told him her truth, and he was hurt but took it about as well as she hoped. Kate last saw Kerry at a Georgetown restaurant, where he told her about his fiancee.


Then Gibbs shook her up after informing her of Kerry's death and accusing her of the murder. The agent took her shock (and pallor) as evidence of her innocence; after he apprehended the killer, Gibbs offered her a job working for him at NCIS. Kate had no idea at the time exactly how he knew she wanted out of the Secret Service, but she trusted him enough to take him up on the offer.


NCIS had given her some of the best years of her life -- in spite of certain aggravations -- and the team was her second family. That included Ziva, who had become a close friend. A tiny part of Kate wished it were more than that.


Perhaps that's why Kate wasn't triggered by the reference to that incident, like she would've if someone else had brought it up.


"Of course. Not easy to forget finding yourself in the middle of an action movie," Kate joked.


"Look at this," Ziva replied, holding a magnifying glass up to the casing. "The inscription near the base." Kate took a closer look and saw just what had caught Ziva's eye: three Cyrillic letters and a line crossing through closely to the bottom of the lettering.


"His signature?" asked Kate; Ziva nodded. "If I remember my Russian alphabet that reads--"


"SDM. I've seen this, before."


"Is his where Afghanistan comes into the picture?"


"Yes," Ziva said. "Your President was there to visit one of your military facilities."


"Army base Delta," Kate replied. "I was with the President in his vehicle when they ambushed us. We were lucky to be so close to the base; I don't think we would've made it what is it about Afghanistan?"


Ziva pointed to the letters on the casing. "This inscription was seen on casings at a sniper's nest near the caravan's route. The same--"


Kate put her hand on Ziva's arm, which surprised -- and silenced -- the Mossad officer. "How do YOU know about that?"


"Mossad knows many things," Ziva replied as she looked around at the suits, none of whom were looking back. Ziva double-checked on Abby's whereabouts -- the goth scientist was at her desk -- and turned back to Kate. "I need to speak with Gibbs. And the director."


Multiple Threat Assessment Center


Ziva held the bag with the casing as she stood in front of MTAC's main viewscreen, flanked by Gibbs and McCallister. On the screen was her father Eli, the director of Mossad.


"When my country's Prime Minister, Gadot, was assassinated, Mossad found these casings with this inscription at the sniper's nest," she said. "You have been read in on two assassinations in which I helped investigate. This inscription was found on the sniper's brass in both instances."


"Shooter didn't bother to police his brass," Gibbs said. "Wanted you to know he did it."


"That's not unusual," McCallister added, "IF you're an elite Spetsnaz or Stasi sniper."


"We know in the past six years Soviet and Soviet-aligned special forces and intelligence have committed killings in a variety of ways, including the use of snipers," Director David said. "Many of them police their brass, including 'elite' operatives. Some do not."


"They're sending a message," Gibbs said. "Letting you know WHO they are."


"I've heard of these shooters," McCallister said. "They're not telling us Spetsnaz is killing our people. Not Stasi nor DGI nor any other group. Individuals, working with or for some government agency, building themselves a reputation."


McCallister nodded to a technician, who put photos of murdered Western government, military and civilian personnel on the viewscreen. "What they're doing is telling us it's not just KGB or whatever killing you, it's ME killing you."


The photos were replaced by mugshots of Communist-aligned operatives. "There's a bastard named Hang, works for the North Koreans. Killed a Japanese software executive and his family. That woman in the corner is known as Svetlana; she had several kills in the Baltic War. Denisov we know to be on loan from the KGB to the Luanda Pact; that bastard nearly got Mandela twice."


That left the head shot of the shooter from the teenager's camera.


Gibbs took the bag with the casing from Ziva and held it up to the viewscreen. "This and that" -- he gestured towards the screen -- "are related, aren't they, Director?"


Director David looked down and to his left; those in MTAC heard ruffling of papers. "I have some new information to share with you, Director McCallister. Agent Gibbs and Officer David should hear this as well."


McCallister stepped forward and, in Ziva's estimation, clearly reining in his temper. Ziva wasn't certain if the man was doing it for show, or if his rumored volcanic temper was about to manifest itself. "Director David. I suppose you're about to tell us you know who this man is."


"That is correct, Director McCallister."


"Alright." McCallister took a deep breath. "How long has Mossad had this information?"


"Since early March."


McCallister took TWO slow, deep breaths. "Tabling for the moment the question why Mossad waited so long to inform us about someone who tried to kill our President, just who IS this man?"


Director David gave the camera a hard look. "He is my son-in-law."



Chapter 20 (REVISED) by Briwd





Ziva thought her father had told her everything about their family.


He hadn't.


"Yes, Ziva."


Eli David let that bomb drop on his daughter. McCallister was the one who asked who the son-in-law was.


"His name is Sergei Mishnev,” Eli said. “My son Ari’s mother, and a Soviet officer, are his parents."


Gibbs glanced over to Ziva to see her reaction; she was putting on her best poker face. Then he glanced at McCallister, who wasn't trying to hide his disgust at the Mossad director. “Director David, now would be an excellent time to start talking."


As Director David explained, he met the mother -- Dr. Hasmia Haswari -- after the Saudi Arabian national had met a Soviet diplomat, had relations with him, got pregnant and later gave birth to a boy. Eli married Hasmia Haswari and, together, they had Ari, Ziva and younger sister Tali.


“Mossad helped Hasmia rescue her other son, whom the father had named Sergei, and hide him in safety here in Israel,” Eli explained. “Ziva, we felt it best to keep him away from you three children. Even the knowledge of him might tip off the KGB and result in the boy’s capture, and possibly your kidnapping.”


Ziva stood, silently, pondering what her father had just told her for the first time.


“I began training Sergei at age 12, to be an undercover agent in the Soviet Union which by then had begun to build an alliance with the Israeli government. Four years later, we lost him.”


“’Lost’ him?” Gibbs said.


“Sergei’s father used diplomatic channels to regain custody of his son and bring him back to the Soviet Union,” Eli said. “A regrettable occurrence. Sergei’s mother and I had not communicated for quite some time other than on matters involving Sergei himself. We ceased contact after that.”


Ziva winced at her father’s matter-of-fact recounting of the matter like reciting days-old stock market results.


“How did Sergei come into contact with Ari?” Gibbs said.


“After Mossad…lost control of Ari, Sergei, now going by his last name of Mishnev, contacted Ari through a mutual acquaintance working for the KGB, which had an agent embedded within Hezbollah,” Eli said. “Ari accepted the KGB’s offer to come work with Sergei inside the Soviet Union. The Soviets felt they could use Ari, and they did. Sergei played on Ari’s anger towards me, and towards the United States. For my part, I…I failed Ari, and I failed Sergei by not helping him. I wanted...the very best for him. I could not keep him from the KGB. While it is true he was not my progeny, I fell that Sergei was no less of a son to me than Ari."


Ziva calmly took a step towards the screen. "Your son?"


Eli remained silent.


"And yet you did not tell me this?" Ziva said.


"There were...many reasons, Ziva. Reasons I was not at liberty to discuss with my other family as a father and as Mossad."


Ziva looked for an instant as if she was going to let her father have it before glancing at McCallister. She then stepped back, put her hands behind her back and her poker face back on.


While Gibbs noted that Ziva appeared calm, he couldn't say the same for McCallister, whose face was turning red with anger. "Apparently, you also thought you weren't at liberty to inform the United States that the man who tried to assassinate President Broome was Mishnev. Care to explain that, Director?"


"It is regrettable, Director McCallister but my hands were tied by my government--"


"BULLSHIT!" McCallister screamed, startling Ziva, and went on a rant that finally ended when Gibbs stepped in front of the man and shouted him down. As McCallister glared at him, Gibbs turned to the screen. "Director David, your people can confirm that the Cyrillic lettering and the placement of the line is Mishnev's signature?"




"Then what does the middle initial stand for?"


"David...Director McCallister, again I regret--"


McCallister abruptly turned to one of the techs and gave him a 'shut-off' hand signal. The screen then went blank, leaving Ziva staring at the screen now showing the NCIS logo, and McCallister fuming at Gibbs.


"Gibbs. With me," McCallister growled. "Agent David. Back to your desk." Ziva turned and headed for the exit, glancing briefly at Gibbs, who couldn't care less that McCallister was shooting daggers at him.


McCallister's office


"Since you know so much, Gibbs, you care to let me in on the reason you interrupted me back there?"


"For starters, his hands really may have been tied," Gibbs replied. "Every government does that sort of thing including us, and especially now. And while I would've wanted to rip him a new one myself, we need them as much as they need us."


"You need them."


"I need them?"


"I know Mossad helped you break a case last summer, and that you and the agency have benefitted from the ties Shepard's built with them," McCallister said. "I also know Mossad is notorious for putting its own interests first, even at the expense of Israeli allies. And, you're fond of David's daughter. A little too fond."


"Fond, director?"


"Officer David's brother tried to murder two of your people if you haven't forgotten. Have you?"


"No," Gibbs said, evenly.


"Officer David came here out of a friendship with someone who's no longer alive and here to advocate for her. That's rare. Any other Mossad officer would be here only on orders."


"Your point?"


"How long do you expect her to stay here, Gibbs? She's Israeli. She's Mossad. She's loyal to her daddy and she's probably on the next plane to Tel Aviv."


You don't know jack shit about that woman, thought Gibbs. He bristled at the director's glare and matched it with one of his own.


"And I have doubts about her loyalty, not to mention my predecessor's decision to force her on you. The presence of a foreign intelligence agent in an Ameri--"


With his glare still on McCallister, Gibbs slammed his fists on the director's mahogany desk. Satisfied he had the man's attention, Gibbs leaned in for emphasis.


"Officer David would never betray this team nor this agency and her record here speaks for itself," Gibbs said, slowly and deliberately. "If she was anything like her brother or her 'daddy's' pawn she wouldn't be here and definitely not on my team. I don't tolerate fools, Director, and I sure as hell don't let 'em infiltrate my team."


"Your hand was forced," McCallister replied, leaning over his desktop to meet Gibbs's glare. "I'm aware of her record here including how she performed the last time Haswari was in town -- and the time before that."


That last time nearly cost Gibbs the lives of Kate, Tony and, indirectly, Fornell. Ari's previous appearance in the States brought Ziva to Washington obstensibly to defend him. She actually was there to verify that Ari had become a Soviet operative -- which he had -- and found herself in the position of having to choose between saving Kate and Gibbs or looking the other way while Ari completed his personal mission to kill them both.


Ziva's decision -- to directly engage her brother in hand-to-hand combat -- gave both NCIS agents time to escape. Gibbs's house got wrecked in the fight and Ziva took a stab wound to her bicep. Ari got away with the help of KGB, but not before taking a bullet in his rear from Fornell. From there, Jenny got approval from her superiors for Ziva to work with NCIS as a Mossad liaison.


Ziva was quickly accepted by Gibbs and his team, and in his mind she had long since proven her worth and loyalty. Now he had to convince Jenny's replacement of that.


"You send her back to Mossad, Director, you're making a serious mistake," Gibbs said.


"Whatever reason Shepard had for making that arrangement is under review," McCallister replied, "as are many of her decisions. Gibbs, I'd like to think keeping you and your team around were one of the things she got right. I'd hate to have to rethink that."


"Then don't. Just like you don't have to think anything other than the best about Ziva."


The director picked a folder up from his desk and waved it at the agent. "I realize you have a lot on your plate, Gibbs. Just so you know, I'm not the only person...of influence...who's rethinking how things have worked in this agency the past couple of years."


Here we go, thought Gibbs. McCallister put the folder down. "As long as you and your people do the fine job you've been doing, you won't have to worry about a thing."


Gibbs picked up the folder and teased opening it. "That include Ziva?"


"That includes any and every American employee of this American federal agency," McCallister said, taking the folder out of Gibbs's hands. "Did you do this shit to Morrow or Shepard?"


"If you mean standing up for my people? Every day."






Chapter 21 by Briwd

--Welcome to ZNN's continuing coverage of two separate but intertwined events. One is the confinement of Western media and embassy personnel in Moscow, Havana and now other capitol cities in the Eastern Bloc. The second of course is the Geneva summit, scheduled to begin just under three hours from now at 8 a.m. Geneva time, 2 a.m. on the East Coast and 11 p.m. on the West Coast.


The British embassy in Moscow has been surrounded by Red Army forces for several hours now according to the BBC. ZNN has not been able to independently confirm this, as our reporters in Moscow are still confined to bureau headquarters. ZNN can report that our reporters in Havana, East Berlin, Luanda and Hanoi are under similar confinements from military forces. Other Western media outlets are reporting--


Gibbs went to McCallister's office and watched how the man conducted his business. The new director appeared quite competent at hiding his rage when contacting the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Navy about Eli David's revelations. After hanging up the phone, McCallister said he was heading to the White House to discuss Mishnev with the President, and that Gibbs and his team had done their jobs.


Gibbs begged to differ, although he kept that opinion to himself. He realized the task of finding Mishnev was now out of his hands; however, he didn't take that to mean the case was closed. Tonight and tomorrow, he'd have his team look for signs of Mishnev being in the area. After learning the Russian was Ari's half-brother, Gibbs thought he AND his team might be next on the bastard's kill list.


When McCallister returned from the White House, he told Gibbs every federal agency had put Mishnev at the top of their most wanted lists. Britain, France, West Germany, Israel and China had pledged to help track down the Spetsnaz sniper.


Then, McCallister ordered Gibbs to send his team and himself home. And yes, the suits would be near their residences again to watch over them.


Gibbs's basement


The front door to his house remained unlocked, but Gibbs almost changed his mind when he got home as to discourage the suits from walking right in. Instead, he figured they'd find their way in regardless, and he settled for the familarity of his basement and his ritual of building his boat.


Gibbs had already showered and brought down a change of clothes, and he had the boat to keep him company while he thought things through. The rest of his team were split between Ducky's house (Ziva, Palmer) and Abby's (Kate, Toni the dog) and McGee's (Tony the agent) apartments.


His watch read 11 o'clock, prompting him to turn the TV in the basement on. The CBS station's newscast led with the Geneva summit, then addressed peaceful but tense protests outside the Soviet embassy here in Washington. Eli David's own bit of news wasn't remotely hinted at, although Gibbs suspected it'd be Topic One in Geneva.


As the sound from the newscast continued playing in the background, Gibbs walked over to his bench and emptied a nail jar. He reached for the bottle of bourbon when it hit him:


They're really gonna do it.


In his mind, Geneva failed on the first day. The military buildup escalated quickly worldwide and just as quickly led to missiles and bombs detonating all over the planet.


When that happens, there's no escape. Everyone's dead.


Gibbs grabbed the bottle and poured the bourbon to the rim of the jar. He took a drink, saw someone next to the stairwell, and turned.


"Things sure would be a hell of a lot easier right now if you hadn't gotten yourself shot," Gibbs said. Jenny stood at the foot of the stairs, dressed in the same outfit she was found dead in, and looking so real Gibbs almost could walk over and touch her.




"I didn't exactly ask to BE killed, Jethro," Head Jenny replied. "You need to thank Ziva's father for the tip."


"Don't I also need to 'thank Ziva's father' for the bastard who killed you?" Gibbs shot back.


Head Jenny walked over to the boat, causing Gibbs to sniff his jar and put it back down. "I'm really dead, Jethro."


"I know, Jen. Saw the body and worked the case."


"The case is done, Agent Gibbs. Now walk away and move on to the next one," she said, standing -- and sounding -- much like she did that one night in Paris.


His mind then flashed back to their missions in Moscow and Paris, and flew through her time as NCIS director before ending with her on a slab in Ducky's morgue. And then he looked back at the boat and still saw her standing there.


"I'm in your head, Jethro," Head Jenny said. "I don't think you're going to need to call Ducky...and I'm pretty sure no one's spiked your bourbon."


Gibbs chuckled. "Why are you here, Jen?"


Head Jenny folded her arms, now looking like she did when they learned Ari had come back to Washington. "Rule 11. It's too late for me, not too late for yourself and your team. And, if they'll listen, your team's families."


The TV set behind the frame of the boat got Gibbs's attention. He walked past Head Jenny, eyes fixed on the Special Report graphic on the screen.


--British and Omani fighter jets have engaged one another over the Arabian Sea. That's all we know right now and that information comes from the BBC via the British Ministry of Defence--


Gibbs turned around and found himself alone. Then he heard noises upstairs. He quickly went to his workbench, grabbed his handgun, and slowly moved towards the stairwell. The door shut and items dropped on the floor, and someone walked towards the basement.


"Where the hell are ya, Gibbs?" The man walked through the doorway and made his way down the steps. "I need somewhere to stay till this mess with the Russians blows over."


"Should've called ahead, Mike," Gibbs replied, realizing he was grinning for the first time in days.



Chapter 22 by Briwd

(BBC breaking news report, broadcast on all BBC national, regional and local television channels throughout the United Kingdom, 5:38 a.m. Greenwich time)


--...what we know only comes to us from the Ministry of Defence, and that is British and Omani fighters have engaged one another over the Arabian Sea. More information is expected shortly--


(news programme abruptly cuts out. Seven seconds later, an animated rendering of a mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion appears onscreen, followed by a text graphic which reads






An announcer then speaks.


"Nuclear explosions are caused by weapons such as H-bombs or atom bombs. They are like ordinary explosions only more powerful. They cause great heat and blasts."


The text graphic is replaced by a model of a two-story house. Waves of light intended to simulate heat eminating from ground zero of the explosion pass over the house. Damage to the roof and chimney is shown.


"They also make a cloud of deadly dust which falls slowly to the ground. This is called fallout."


Ash is seen falling from the sky, and the house is abruptly replaced by another text graphic which reads





"So these are the two dangers. First, heat and blast"



heat and blast


"which is followed by fallout."





The graphic of the house returns briefly, then cuts to black for 11 seconds, followed by the image of the BBC News presenter.


--Defence will release further information shortly. The BBC has learned that Prime Minister...--


With a grin, Mike Franks stuck out his hand and Gibbs shook it.


"I'm at my home on the ocean and next thing I know they're throwing me in an SUV and in a helicopter," Franks said. "Then I'm at the San Diego field office talking to kids and I eventually talk myself onto a transport. Couldn't get a seat till this morning."


"Mike, you could've called me--"


"You were too damn busy with the director's death, Probie. I didn't want to bother you with something I could handle myself."


"Yeah," Gibbs replied as he walked back to his bench. He poured Franks a jar full of bourbon and motioned for him to pull up a seat. Neither man could ignore the television.


"You think we're going to war, Probie?"


Gibbs paused. "I don't know, Mike. What about you?"


Franks snorted as he took a drink. "Ever since the Twenty Days War every time there's been a skirmish, they've pulled back. I think we go to war, it'll escalate real quick. That happens? You're better off staying in the city."


Both men drank, watched the news report on the TV, and talked shop. Ziva's progress, Director Shephard's tenure and death, and McCallister's arrival were discussed extensively.


"I met him once, right before you joined," Franks said. "Full of himself cause he was proven right about the Commies. Had the ear of Director Donald and a bunch of other people here. He was introduced to me and acted like he was more important than a mere navy cop like me...betcha he ain't gotten any better since then."


Gibbs smirked. "I wouldn't say he thinks he's better than me and my team. Maybe a bit overprotective."


The two unmarked SUVs outside on the street hadn't escaped Franks' notice. "He protecting you or spying on you?"


Gibbs's smirk turned into a frown. "Bastard's doing whatever the hell he wants to, Mike."


"You figure out exactly what all that is, Gunny?"


"Not yet."


McGee's apartment


Tony grinned as he watched The Life of Brian on McGee's bedroom TV set.


The new high-definition screen was the only good thing about staying at McGee's apartment. After spending the first night in McGee's bed -- as close to the edge as he could get without falling on the floor -- he 'borrowed' a cot from NCIS and brought it over. Tony put it next to McGee's computer setup in the main room and took some pleasure in the incovenience it posed to "Probie". That, in Tony's mind, made up for the inconvenience of cramming his clothes into McGee's closet and for the food options in the kitchen.


While the younger agent did whatever Gibbs was having him do on the computer, Tony laid back on the bed, grateful he had been able to bring his DVD player and a box full of movies with him. Maybe, just maybe, I can pull rank and make Probie sleep on the cot and I get the bed--


Tony faintly heard a knock on the door, which he ignored. Then he ignored the second and third slightly louder knocks. The banging on the door got him off the bed.


"McDeaf! You gonna answer your door?" Tony looked over and saw McGee typing furiously on one of his keyboards, unable to hear due to the headphones in his ears.


Hearing a second round of banging on the door, Tony went to open it as he grumbled at the suits he expected on the other side. He was momentarily taken aback by the sight of the raven-haired woman in her pajamas; the brown-haired woman beside her, giving him the evil eye; and the tiny-but-scary terrier at their feet.


"Are you two deaf, DiNozzo?" said Kate, pointing to the bags behind Abby and her. "Why don't you be a gentleman and bring those in for us?"


Tony watched the two women walk in and looked out at the eight suitcases in the hallway. "PROBIE! UNPLUG YOUR EARS AND BRING THOSE BAGS IN!" he yelled at McGee, who was focused on his monitor.


Kate glared at Tony, Toni the terrier growled at him and Abby gave him a very Gibbs-like response.




"Don't talk to McGee like that!" Abby said after slapping Tony hard on the back of his head. "Can't you see he's busy?" She and Kate pointed to the hallway, and Tony began bringing in the bags, dumping them in the bedroom.


McGee didn't notice Abby looking over his shoulder, nor Kate going through his refrigerator, but couldn't ignore Tony's headslap. "That's for being a poor host, McRude," Tony said right before Kate elbowed him in his gut.


While Tony recovered, Kate joined Abby in looking over McGee's shoulder.


"So this is what Gibbs is having you work on," Abby said as she poured over his monitor. "Unless you're going through FBI files for the heck of it."


McGee's eyes grew wide. "How did you know about Gibbs?"


"I know EVERYTHING, McGee," Abby replied. "Now what are you looking at?"


"This is NEED TO KNOW ONLY Abs!" McGee shot back, more scared of Gibbs than angry at Abby, as he turned his monitor off. "Yes, this is for Gibbs. And none of you three know anything about this!"


All three started to say something, then stopped when they saw a look in McGee's eyes they'd never seen before. "I'd tell you if I could," McGee said softly. "This isn't me catching poison ivy again. It's way bigger than that and way above any of our pay grades."






"You got a problem with this TELL GIBBS!" McGee snapped.


Startled by the outburst, Tony stared in shock at the younger agent. Abby started to say something to McGee but froze when she noticed Kate in front of her.


"He's right. If Gibbs told him to do something and not share it with us, it's not our place to demand he read us in," Kate said, glancing between Abby and Tony. "We all know that's part of our job. Police, NCIS, Secret Service, sometimes you're told to do something you can't talk about with your teammates. It's PART of the JOB."


Several moments of silence passed. Tony opened his mouth to speak to McGee, saw Kate's glare, and turned to Abby. "So," he said, grinning, "what brings you two here? Moving in?...ah, there really isn't any room--"


"Yeah, I kinda noticed that from the last time I was here," Abby said. "Those people in the suits were creeping us out, big time."


"They've been keeping their distance," Tony replied, noticing Abby's nervous complexion, "haven't they?"


She opened and shut her mouth and looked at Kate, who nodded and rubbed Abby's shoulder. "We found one of them in my bathroom. The creepy blond Amazon who was staring at me."


Abby picked up her Bert the Farting Hippo doll and held it tight. Tony and McGee ignored the sound the doll emitted and noticed the look of fear in Abby's eyes.


And, the look of anger in Kate.


"Take us through what happened in your apartment, Kate," Tony said.


Clair -- the suit -- was discovered in the bathroom after Kate and Abby arrived and began going through the apartment to check for intruders. Clair refused to answer Kate but finally left without incident. Kate and Abby both said they tried to call Gibbs but got a busy signal.


"We looked outside and she was on the sidewalk, standing next to her car," Kate said. "I told Abby we were going to pack our stuff and leave. We got to my car but as soon as I pulled onto the street she got in her SUV and started to follow us. You were the closest to us."


"Did you ditch her?" asked McGee.


"She's still out there," Abby said, and McGee and Tony went to the windows. They spotted Clair behind the SUV that had been there since the previous night.


None of them were able to contact Gibbs nor Ducky. McGee then did a quick search of local news websites and found reports of phone outages across the city. That was confirmed by a text crawl on all four network affiliates, each carrying coverage of the British-Omani clash over the Arabian Sea.


"'Intermittent, random outages across the District'...'DC Bell, Ringular and Horizon representatives tell the Star they are working to restore full service within the next four to six hours'," McGee read.


McGee stood up, walked to a nearby drawer and pulled out a headset, then attached it to the headphone jack on his laptop. He then pulled up a program on the screen, and turned to the others. "Fortunately, I know another way to get ahold of Gibbs."


Gibbs's basement/Ducky's mother's home


"You tried to call them too, Duck?" Gibbs said into his cell phone, still in the basement with Franks.


"Without any success, I'm afraid," Ducky replied, Ziva standing next to him in the grand room. "I was fortunate to contact you."


"You okay there, Duck?" Gibbs said as he headed up the stairs, Mike taking the hint to follow him up.


"We are all fine. Our 'friends' seem content to remain in their vehicles. Mr. Palmer has his hands full helping Mother and her Corgis. Ziva is doing a wonderful job watching over us, Jethro."


The Mossad officer smiled. "Put her on the phone, Duck."


"Before I do, Jethro," Ducky continued, "I received a disturbing phone call from a colleague in London a short time ago. Dr. Arthur Bratcher, the M.E. for the City of Edinburgh in Scotland. I knew him from my studies at the University of Edinburgh, and you may remember him from his working with me on a most interesting case during, I believe, your first year--"




"Ah, of course. Dr. Bratcher informed me that on one of the BBC television channels carrying coverage of the skirmish over the Arabian Sea, the feed cut out. For a half-minute, it was replaced by one of the Protect and Survive videos."




"Jethro, those videos are intended to be played only during Transition to War."


Gibbs paused. "Don't think they're going to war quite yet, Duck."


"I hope not, Jethro, but that video playing is a clear sign that London has the matter in view--"


"Let's cross that bridge when we get to it, Duck. Give me Ziva."


Ziva took the handset on the landline phone from Ducky. "There have been no problems here so far, Gibbs," she said. "But you are concerned about the others."


"Yeah," Gibbs said, now standing in his living room with Franks next to him. "You stay with Duck, his mother and Palmer." Gibbs then heard a beep. "Stay on the line!"


He switched to the other line and got McGee who, along with Kate, Abby and Tony explained their situation. Hearing what Clair had done to the two women angered Gibbs, who looked at Franks and gestured towards the front door.


"You four stay there and don't let anyone in who isn't friendly," Gibbs told McGee. "I'm coming to you."



Chapter 23 by Briwd

Gibbs sped out of his neighborhood faster than a bat out of hell.


"Call Mike's phone!" he yelled, switching to Ducky on the other line. Seconds later, Franks's phone rang; as the retired agent struggled to put the call on speaker, Gibbs weighed whether to send everyone to Ducky's house or not.


The drive up Georgia Avenue into Silver Spring was too damn slow for Gibbs's comfort. He hoped he'd arrive at McGee's building before things got out of hand.


God help Clair and her colleagues if he didn't.


At McGee's apartment, he kept an eye out the peephole while Tony and Kate looked out the windows. Abby stood guard in the kitchen with a rolling pin and Toni the dog at her feet.


"Take my backup, Abs," Tony said, his primary pistol in hand. "Crazy Clair's not gonna stand there waiting for you to tenderize her."


Abby ran over and took the backup gun, then went back to the kitchen.


"Do you really think we'll need to..." Abby's voice trailed off.


"Need to do what, Abby?" McGee asked, as he looked through the peephole.


"Yeah Abs," Tony said. "Eat some of that frou-frou food in McJuliaChild's fridge?"


Kate poked her head out McGee's bedroom door. "We've got movement," she said. "That woman's talking to her buddies."


Tony peeked through the closed blinds behind McGee's writing desk. "I see her too Kate. I knew I should've stopped off for pizza."


"That woman might run in here and do God knows what and you're thinking about PIZZA, DiNozzo?" Kate yelled.


"I'm hungry, alright?" Tony protested. "I haven't been to the grocery since last Sunday."


He and Kate watched Clair argue with the suits in their parked Camry as Abby peeked in the fridge and the kitchen cupboards.


"Veggies. Fresh fruit. Lean meats. Yogurt. Wouldn't call that 'frou-frou food', Tony," McGee said. "Somebody let me know if that lady makes a run--"


Kate's eyes grew wide as Clair took off in a dead heat for the apartment building. "Okay. She's making a run. Right now!"


Nearby, Gibbs closed in on the complex. Less than a minute later his car skidded to a stop near the Camry.


"And that would be the boss," Tony said, standing between Kate and Tony in front of the door. All three, and Abby, had their weapons drawn.


"I don't think he's going to get to us in time," said McGee, standing in front of Abby. "We're not going to shoot her, right?...she IS an NCIS agent."


"You weren't at Kate's apartment, McGee," Abby replied. "You didn't see that look in her eyes."


"I survived Ari; I can take this bitch down if I have to," Kate said.


"She WILL knock, right?" McGee said, as he and the others heard footsteps outside. "Right?"


McGee was wrong. Clair kicked his door down on her second try; she hurried in, saw Kate, and took a few steps in her direction before stopping. Clair noticed four guns aimed at her, then heard footsteps in the hallway. She turned around and saw the barrel of Gibbs's gun aimed at her forehead.


"Hands up!" Gibbs shouted as two wide-eyed suits ran in, trailed by Franks. Clair didn't resist as Gibbs removed her pistol from its holster and ordered McGee to take it. She did lock eyes with the senior agent, though, and met his angry glare with a half-smile.


When he gestured for her to turn around, she saw Kate, winked at her, and smiled.


"You worry about ME!" Gibbs yelled after seeing the mixture of shock and disgust in Kate's face and roughly turning the suit around to face him. "DiNozzo. You and Mike keep an eye on those bastards behind me. Outside in the hallway."


"Sir. We're not going to do anything," said one of the suits, a very young blonde woman.


"What she said," said the other suit, a very young bald-headed man.


Tony guessed neither of them could've been more than weeks out of FLET-C. He kept his weapon drawn while pointing towards the hallway, where Franks was waiting. "Go on, probies," Tony said. "I have questions."


"Questions?" the bald suit asked. "Questions about wha--"


"Don't talk unless you're spoken TO, Kojak," Tony said. "I ask the questions. YOU give the answers!"


As Tony shepherded the suits outside, McGee looked at Gibbs. "Boss, what do you want us to do?"


Gibbs nodded towards McGee's bedroom. "You keep working. Get Abby to help you. Kate's with me." He pointed to the room's doorway and leaned into Clair's ear. "We're going in there now to talk," he growled.


McGee and Abby watched as Clair stopped to lick her lips at Kate, then got shoved into the room by Gibbs, then saw Kate walk in before Gibbs slammed the door.


"Are you going to call the super? I'm sure the agency will reimburse them for the door," Abby said as McGee quickly made his way back to his laptop.


He wasn't paying attention to Abby, however. The program on the laptop screen had his complete attention.


Outside, Tony and Franks 'questioned' -- no, grilled -- the suits.


"You kids have names, right?" Franks asked; both nodded and said no more, irritating the older man. "Well? What are they?"


"Ashley Winter, sir." "Malik Hensley, sir."


Both of them spoke over the other, causing Tony to order them to repeat themselves one at a time. Once they had done so, Tony ordered them to state how long they had been NCIS agents and why they joined the agency.


"Two months," they both said. Their stories were similar enough -- they wanted to work in law enforcement, and they had been recruited within the last year as college seniors earning their bachelor's degrees in criminal justice.


Franks walked up to Hensley, not believing what he had heard. "You mean to tell me you got your degree in December, went to FLET-C, got out in March and joined NCIS with zero experience, not even as a security guard?"


Hensley nodded, and Franks turned to Winter. "That's my story too, but I worked a semester for campus police."


"Who recruited you?" Tony asked. "C'mon, probies! Speak up!"


"The director," Hensley replied, and Tony and Franks gave each other a look. "You mean Director Shepard," Franks said.


Winter shook her head. "No, sir. Director McCallister."


Inside the apartment, McGee typed furiously while Abby looked over his shoulder. "Now THAT could get you sent to Guatanamo," she whispered. "That's what Gibbs is having you do? Break into FBI files?"


"A lot more than that."




"Meaning sit down and help me crack this," McGee said as Abby went over to one of McGee's PCs. "I'm THIS close to breaking the encryption...and don't worry. I've covered our tracks."


"I know you're good at this, McGee," Abby replied as her computer was patched into his laptop. "You do NOT want to...WHOA. What IS Gibbs having you work on?"


McGee turned around and gave her a hard look. "Make sure if anyone else comes in, give me a heads-up and for God's sake hit control-alt-delete quick."


Abby was about to ask McGee why when they heard a very loud noise coming from inside the bedroom. They looked at each other and turned as Tony ran in.


"What was that?" Abby asked.


McGee's mouth flew open. "Gibbs shot her?"


"Not a gunshot," Tony said. "Your TV set must've fell...holy crap! My DVD player!"


Inside the bedroom, the flat-screen set laid on top of the DVD player, having fallen off its mount. Gibbs could care less about that, although he grew even more angry when he saw Clair watch Kate's backside as she went to balance the set.


"Eyes on me," Gibbs said deliberately. When she refused to get her eyes off Kate, he got in Clair's face.




Everyone in the apartment, the hallway and the adjacent apartment heard Gibbs. Clair smiled then after winking at Kate -- again -- and seeing the smirk on her face looked at Gibbs.


"We're very much alike, you and I," she said, eyes focused on the former Marine.


"How is that?"


"I'm not talking to you."


"You SHOULD be."


"Then you don't get a damn thing out of me, which is why she's here."


Kate fell back on everything Gibbs had taught her about controlling her emotions in interrogation when a suspect was openly trying to rile her. That was enough for Kate to keep her composure.


She also didn't want to disappoint Gibbs. She wouldn't.


"I don't think we're anything alike, lady," Kate coolly said. "I don't leer at other people at work. I don't hide in my coworkers' bathrooms. I DO tend to go to HR when those things are done to me and if you're lucky, that's where it ends."


Kate leaned in and was literally eye-to-eye with Clair. "But you screwed yourself, because not only did you get HIS attention, you pissed ME off."


"You got my attention and you pissed my entire team off," Gibbs added. "Here's where you get to explain your side of the story."


Clair glanced at Gibbs and then gave Kate a piercing stare.


"We're a lot alike," Clair said. "We're both women who fought for everything we've attained in this line of work. We're women who've fought to be ourselves in a culture that is just now starting to accept our kind. We're--"


"I'm nothing like you," Kate shot back.


"Oh yeah. You lived in the closet. I NEVER denied who I we're not totally alike."


While Kate gave Clair her best 'Gibbs glare', Gibbs himself moved to block Kate from Clair's view to where Clair could only see him.


Clair wasn't intimidated by Gibbs's stare and allowed him a smile that didn't match her stolid gaze. Then she told him about her supposed fixation on Kate and why she had been, in Kate's words, 'so creepy':




"You know why I'm not in the field," Clair said. "I'm functional enough to at least keep watch. Some days are better, some worse. Right now, I'm having a good night."


"That include kicking in my agent's door?"


"Yeah...sorry about that."


"Are you?"


"I've...put on a little bit of a performance to get here," Clair said. "To get to YOU."


"To me?"


"We're not supposed to approach you unless you're in danger. Going to your house to talk to you was out of the question; the director assigned me to watch over Agents Todd and DiNozzo. The director knows I'm lesbian, so he would've made me if I 'hit' on you or Agent DiNozzo. Hitting on your...more attractive agent over there wouldn't put me in as compromising of a spot."


Clair leaned her body right and left to address Kate, but Gibbs blocked her view. "Sorry, Kate, for the creepiness."


Kate didn't say a word.


"If you want me to hear you out instead of making a call that will make everyone -- including the director -- very unhappy, then you better be on the level," Gibbs said.


"I am," Clair replied. "Really!" she added, responding to Gibbs's raised eyebrow.




"When he was in charge of Special Operations, Director McCallister stayed on top of things pertaining to enemy activity including potential individual threats to American security."


"Define 'American security'."


"Terrorists, Spetsnaz, Stasi, Communist-sponsored lone wolves out of anywhere from North Korea to Romania to Cuba. Killers, Agent Gibbs. Men and women who've murdered high-level Western government and military officials, even civilians."


"All that tells me is that the director was doing his job."


"Yes, and he did it well, and quietly. The very nature of his position demanded he -- and the department -- operate in the shadows. It also allowed him to learn things which he could keep to himself if he deemed it necessary without sharing that knowledge with others."


Gibbs's blank expression masked the sinking feeling in his gut on what McCallister had hid.


"He would've had to share information vital to national security with his superiors, right?"


"In theory," Clair replied.


She relaxed a bit when Gibbs sat down on the bed and gave her some breathing room, and glanced at Kate before turning her attention back to the senior agent. This time, Kate didn't get the creepy impression she previously had of Clair.


"So he could have hidden something he should've taken up the chain of command the moment he learned it," Gibbs said.


"Could...and did," Clair said.


"What did he hide?" Kate asked as she stepped forward to stand next to Gibbs. "Did it have anything to do with Director Sheppard or the President."


Clair didn't speak, but her pained look said it all.


"McCallister knew about Mishnev, including his assassination attempt on the President," Gibbs said; Clair nodded. "How do YOU know this?"


"I was there when he uncovered it," she replied. "He swore me to silence and promised me he would do his job and inform the President and everyone else. After my accident he put me through...some test my recollection of the incident."


Kate was the one this time to get in Clair's face and the younger agent was glowering at her.


"I was in the Secret Service then; in fact, I was with the President's party when Mishnev tried to kill him. Lady, I could've DIED that day," Kate said, her voice gradually raising from a whisper to a near-shout. "Three Marines, a civilian reporter and a good friend who worked on Broome's detail for three years DIED. He left behind a wife and two children. NOW you're telling us McCallister HID the killer's IDENTITY from HIS, OUR own GOVERNMENT? Did--"


Gibbs gently but firmly grabbed Kate's arm; his look signalled to her she needed to stop and calm down. Reluctantly she complied, fixing her glare on the window.


"I led him to think what he wanted to think, that the accident that removed me from field work made me forget," Clair said. "I haven't told anyone else until now. Yes, I had second-hand knowledge of who tried to kill Broome. If I had gone forward, I suspect the director would've retired me...permanently."


Gibbs shot Clair a hard look. "Define 'permanently'."




Outside in the hallway, the building super arrived and found Tony, Franks and the two rookie suits standing near McGee's door. Then, he saw the kicked-in door, and screamed in frustration.


"Rough neighborhood," Tony joked.


"My ass," the super replied as he headed inside the apartment, stopping when Franks grabbed his arm. "Hey! What the hell you doing?"


Franks showed his badge with his other hand. "Let's wait out here sonny. Get some fresh air."


Tony produced his badge to the fuming super. "We're having a debate," he said, grinning. "Would Tom Cruise have become one of the greatest actors of our time? I say yes. Mike doesn't say anything because he doesn't watch movies and the probies, uh, are too probie to have a differing opinion from my own. So, I'm hoping you disagree, because I've been out here quite a while and I'm itching for a good debate. Comprehende?"


The super looked at Tony incredulously.


A half-hour later, Gibbs led Clair and Kate out the bedroom, and the super's eyes bugged out of his head. "What the hell?"


"Not what you think," Tony said. "He's too pissed off, the brunette in the rear is too prudish, and Brigitte Nielsen in the middle is crazy."


"I'll say," Mike added. "She's the one who kicked down the door."


"But the one you need to worry about is Gibbs," Tony said with a grin. "I wouldn't piss him off."


Gibbs spotted the stranger in the hallway, and ordered him to fix the door after learning who he was. After the super returned to repair the damage, Gibbs sent Clair outside and had Kate watch the super; Gibbs watched McGee and Abby crack the flash drives.



After the door was fixed, Gibbs told everyone to head for his house.

Chapter 24 by Briwd

Thursday morning


--this just in to ZNN. Panic is growing throughout Great Britain over the airing, a short while ago, of a brief portion of the 'Protect and Survive' program on all BBC television and radio stations. The program is intended to inform the public of steps they need to take in the event of a nuclear attack, and is only supposed to air in the event of such an attack--


--the White House will issue a statement to the media shortly regarding the skirmish in the Arabian Sea and the BBC snafu--



Gibbs' house


Tony swore under his breath as he looked under the bed in the spare bedroom.


"The FOURTH time!" he complained as he scooted out from under the bed, making eye contact with the suit watching him. "Now THIS is a job for a probie. YOU oughta be doing this!"


"If these were 'bug' bugs you could just hire an exterminator," said the polite young man who offered Tony a hand up. The older agent took it but held the grip after standing up.


"If it weren't for your buddies, Carlos, we wouldn't be going over the boss's house with a fine tooth comb," Tony shot back.


"Amigo! We're on the same team," Carlos replied, holding his free hand up in mock surrender. "Three weeks ago I'm a probationary agent in Bremerton. Now I'm helping guard you--"


"Very creepily, I might add," Tony said, letting go of Carlos's hand.


"--guard you as if you guys were President Boehner and his family."


"Kate used to be Secret Service, and she'll be the first to tell you their job was to protect the President, not spy on him like the KGB."


Carlos held both hands up. "That's NOT why we're here, amigo. We're to make sure none of you get killed, not act like prison guards, comprende? We're just doing our jobs."


Tony folded his arms and glared at the younger man. "I've heard that one quite a few times, kid."


In the basement, Gibbs frisked Clair for the second time since they arrived. Satisfied there were no bugs on her person, he nodded towards the four small fingernail-sized devices on the floor nearby. They stepped on the bugs and crushed them.


"Six bugs. There better not be any more than that," Gibbs said to Clair after he took a drink of coffee, while Mike sat nearby at the workbench next to McGee.  


Clair smirked. "Or you'll spank me? Relax. We've got them all."


Gibbs shot Clair a hard, 'don't screw with me' look.


He had already decided to seek Ducky's opinion on the woman. Although Kate had become one of the top young profilers in D.C., Gibbs wanted a second opinion in addition to her own, from someone whom Clair hadn't taken a strange interest in.


Ducky had decades of life experience on Kate to add to the masters in psychological profiling he recently earned. Given Clair's mental issues, Gibbs thought Ducky's medical expertise might be useful as well.


Right now, however, Gibbs wanted any listening devices out of his house so he could address his major concern: what was on the flash drives he got from Fornell and Hollis.


"Gibbs?" Kate yelled out from the basement entrance. "Kitchen's clear."


Tony popped into view next to Kate. "Upstairs is bug free, boss. Um, you mind if a certain someone makes himself McUseful? I really, REALLY--OW!"


Kate's elbow to his gut shut Tony up momentarily. He winced as he glared briefly at her. Gibbs didn't give him a chance to finish speaking.


"Food's in the fridge, DiNozzo; you two start on breakfast, for all of us," Gibbs answered. "Clair. Upstairs. Stay out of Kate's hair. I don't want to have to come up there."


Clair shot up and saluted Gibbs. "Sir yes SIR!" She ran towards and up the stairs, stopping in the doorway to address Tony.


"May I have some eggs benedict?"


Tony found himself alone with the tall woman, as Kate had headed back into the dining room with Mike Franks. Clair scared him more than anything else, especially with her smile.


"We'll have to make do with whatever's in the kitchen," he replied, and Clair followed him from the doorway.


Gibbs turned his attention to the other two people in the basement. Abby and McGee each had a laptop, staring at their and the other's screens.


Abby looked up at Gibbs with just a hint of apprehension.


"Gibbs, what is this?" she said in a near whisper. "There's...stuff on here about the director...the guy who took over for Jenny."


Abby's laptop had the contents of Fornell's flash drive. Gibbs looked through the documents on the drive and learned more about McAllister and his special ops unit than he expected.


The new director of NCIS, Gibbs decided, was one of the shadiest people he'd ever come across.


Gibbs then turned to McGee, who calmly decrypted the other flash drive, his eyes divulging his shock at its contents.


"Boss? Is this for real?" McGee turned to Gibbs, who motioned for the younger man to go through the drive's contents.


What they (and Abby, peering over McGee's shoulder) saw and read was unbelievable to them. McGee told Gibbs it came out of a science fiction novel. Gibbs's assurance that this was real convinced McGee and Abby of its authenticity -- but just a little bit.


"I'd believe this more if it had ghosts," Abby said apologetically. "Or Bigfoot."


"You two have more experience with this kind of thing than anyone on our team," Gibbs said after turning to face McGee and Abby. "In your opinion, is there ANY validity to this?"


Abby and McGee glanced at each other.


"I don't know," she said. "Some of the science seems sound. Gibbs, most of this stuff is way out of my league. You'd need to talk to experts in--"


"IF this was true--" interjected McGee before he noted Gibbs's glare, "assuming this is true, the technology it would take to achieve this...boss, I'm not sure this is anything we could do ourselves."


"Anything WE could do," Gibbs mused.


"Aliens?" Abby wondered aloud. "Military-level clearance, stuff we -- Americans -- are supposed to be working on. This really IS science fiction territory. And Art Bell, too."


"And 'retire and die in prison' territory," McGee replied. "Boss, what do you want us to do with this?"


Gibbs stared at the document on McGee's screen; the information on it was one more thing Gibbs would have to ask Hollis about. "This stays here, and between us."


He suddenly got an onimous feeling in his gut, along with a thought:


We're running out of time.



Chapter 25 by Briwd

 --the Pentagon has said nothing further about the incident in the Arabian Sea--


--security remains airtight around the Palais des Nations where the summit continues--


--scattered reports throughout the U.K. of runs on petrol stations and supermarkets after the inadvertent brief snippet of the Protect and Survive programme aired--


Thursday afternoon

Washington, NCIS


Gibbs stifled a yawn.


All the caffeine in the world couldn't make up for lack of sleep forever, and Gibbs saw it more in his team than in himself.


They all could use some extra rest and a day off, but the job wouldn't allow for it. Even with the Cold War having turned extremely warm, there were still crimes to investigate and murders to solve.


Mysteries, too.


Not just the one involving McCallister, but the big one Hollis sprang on him that he ended up breaking Rule Four over:


If you have a secret, the best thing is to keep it to yourself. The second-best is to tell one other person if you must. There is no third best.


Abby and McGee weren't about to tell anyone what they had learned from the thumb drives. Gibbs didn't want to burden them with that knowledge, as he had in the back of his mind the worst-case scenario:


The people involved with this ring discovering and silencing Hollis and her allies, then coming to silence Gibbs through his team and associates.


Gibbs wondered if that was his paranoia or the lack of sleep talking. He ordered his team to put in a full day before retiring to Gibbs's house through at least the weekend. He still didn't trust McCallister nor the suits.


The special agent-in-charge stifled another yawn, leaning back in his chair as he turned to watch ZNN on the big monitor nearest his desk.


--The first day of the Geneva Summit has ended. President Boehner reportedly will arrive around noon Geneva time for a meeting with General Secretary Khalinin--


Gibbs hit mute on the remote, then tossed it onto the floor. He stifled yet another yawn as his eyes grew heavy. His head slowly dropped and he was about to fall asleep.


That's when he felt the scalding-hot cup along his cheek, which snapped him from his near-slumber. Gibbs's eyes popped wide, as he saw Kate pull a steaming cup of coffee from his cheek.


"I thought you liked hot coffee?" she joked.


Gibbs pointed at his desk where Kate put the cup while trying to hold back a chuckle. "You working on your Spetsnaz defense training, Agent Todd?"


Kate gave up trying to keep a straight face, and Gibbs smiled as he took a sip of the very hot java.


Gibbs decided then it had been too long since a little levity lightened up the bullpen.


Friday afternoon



"Stay safe, Stan...Stan, I knew your name all along," Gibbs said with a chuckle. "When you get back, stop by the office...McGee needs some advice. Seriously, friend, stay safe."


Gibbs hung up the phone to see Tony looking at him and chuckling. "Talkin' with Stan Burley, Boss? How's he doing?"


"Got switched over to the USS Sequoyah," Gibbs said of his former probationary agent, now Agent Afloat on board one of the Navy ships in the Persian Gulf/Arabian Sea region. "The former agent went home."


"I thought leave was cancelled indefinitely," Tony replied.


"The agent's brother was an Air Force pilot."




"The brother died a week ago when his plane was shot down near the Canal Zone by insurgents. The agent is the last surviving son."




"Middle brother died in a wreck four years ago."


"Geez," Tony said as he stood up from his chair. "I talked with Paula Cassidy. She's at the Canal Zone office. Says it's kind of a weird place. Sort of like home, and a world all its own. Paula made it sound like she was gonna be there quite a while."


"Helluva lot going on down there," Gibbs said as Tony stood in front of his desk. "You need somethin', DiNozzo?"


"Yeah. I need to talk about a case." Gibbs picked up on Tony's tell and got up to walk to the elevator, Tony following him.


In the elevator, Gibbs flipped the switch stopping it, and the lights darkened. "DiNozzo."


"Jenny had me working undercover as part of this case--"


"La Grenouille," Gibbs interjected. "McCallister read me in yesterday. He said he talked to you."


"He called me in yesterday morning, told me I'm done," Tony replied. After several moments of silence -- and an impatient look by Gibbs -- Tony resumed speaking. "I got too close."


"The daughter."


"I fell in love with her, Boss. Jeanne. Ziva saw something was going on and so did Kate, and I couldn't say a thing. Not to you or anyone else."


"You were under orders from Director Shepard, Tony. You had to follow them."


"McCallister ordered me to break it off with Jeanne."


"You didn't."


"I didn't have to," Tony replied. "I went to her house last night to talk -- that's why I didn't get back to Ducky's house until after midnight."


"She wasn't there," Gibbs guessed.


"I went to the hospital she worked at. The head nurse told me Jeanne's father -- La Grenouille -- bought her a ticket for France. When I asked when she was going to come back from vacation, the nurse said Jeanne had resigned."


"You think she made you?"


"Doesn't matter now, does it?" Tony reached over and flipped the switch causing the elevator to move.


Gibbs flipped the switch again, and the lights darkened as the elevator stopped. "You got too close, Tony."


"Yeah, Boss. I screwed up, got too damn close, pissed off the director--"




Gibbs looked hard at Tony after slapping him on the back of his head. "Tony. You got too close. You're not the first agent to do that and you won't be the last. Okay."


"Okay," Tony replied as Gibbs flipped the switch, the lights turned back on and the elevator resumed. "Boss, I would have told you--"


"If you could've. Don't apologize for following orders, DiNozzo. That op's over for you. Now move on."


The elevator opened onto the ground floor. Gibbs stepped out, leaving Tony inside. "What's that crap you get from the cafe?"


"...Oh! It's a latte, Boss, black coffee with cream and sugar--"


The door shut, and Tony realized the La Grenouille op really was over, and there was plenty to do as part of Gibbs's team.


Friday night

Ducky's house


Everyone but Gibbs were staying with Dr. Mallard, his mother and her dozen corgi dogs at their mansion. Ducky was happy for the company, as was his mother, Victoria.


"Mother! These people aren't our servants. They're our GUESTS," Ducky said after she grabbed Ziva's wrist.


"I know that, Donald," Victoria replied. "You know, you're not getting any younger--"




"--and this deLIGHTful young lady would make a good wife for you."


Ducky gave Ziva an apologetic look; Ziva chuckled. "Mother, let go of Miss David's wrist, and come with me to the kitchen. Mr. Palmer is helping me make dinner."


"Listen to your mother, Donald," Victoria whispered, loud enough for Ziva to hear. "Check her knickers."


A mortified Ducky gently pulled his mother towards the kitchen. Moments later, Ziva heard Victoria's voice from the hallway. "OH MATTHEW, you're here! I thought you were dead."


Ziva smiled hearing Victoria, Ducky and Palmer in the kitchen. She continued walking and made her way to the living room, where Tony, Kate, Abby and McGee were trying to round up the corgis.


"Get in here, Ziva!" Kate said, handing over one of the dogs to the Mossad officer.


"What are we doing?" Ziva asked as Kate chased after another corgi.


"Herding cats!" Tony shouted, holding dogs in both arms.


"I am confused," Ziva replied as Kate ran back into the living room and nearly tripped over a dog McGee had let go of. "I see no cats around, only dogs. Dogs whose hair you three are combing. Israel has many sheep herders--"


"It's a figure of speech, Ziva!" Kate said after picking up the dog. "Why don't you help us?"


Ziva's corgi squirmed in her arms. She enjoyed caring for the animals the brief time she had stayed at Ducky's and it looked like everyone could use her help.


Less than ten minutes later, Ziva's phone rang. She excused herself and took it on the porch.


"This is Officer David."


"Ziva. This is Officer Michael Rivkin."


"Michael? are you--"


"We need to meet. Immediately."


She looked out at the three SUVs on the street, each containing two or three suits assigned to watch Ducky's house.


"Michael, can this wait until the morning?"


"No. It cannot. This is about preparation for war."


Ziva nearly dropped her phone in shock.



Chapter 26 by Briwd

--post by Brendan Halsey on World Rugby Union Supporters message board, 1:01 am GMT 25.05.07


To everyone who's concerned, thanks for your support. Unfortunately there won't be a match Sunday. I've been home since Friday morning. Everyone on the team has.


They called a meeting Thursday night, told us the Wales match was cancelled. We all were told to go home and spend time with our families and get somewhere safe. So Harry asked the bloke in the black suit what in hell was going on, are we going to war? Then the bloke said the meeting was over and got away before we even knew who he was.


I got home yesterday afternoon, and told Sara we were taking Davey up to her parents' home in the highlands. I laid down with Sara to get some rest when I get a knock on the door, right at midnight. Two blokes from the Territorial Army, hand me a letter, tell me I'm getting called up to active duty.


Not even eight more hours with my wife and son before I have to report to York castle. Well the wankers can kiss my arse. Don't believe Radio 5 or the Mail or any of those bastards. It's not business as usual. We're transitioning to war.


They can fight it without me.


how the aforementioned post appeared at 1:03 am GMT




and at 1:05 am GMT


I'm happy to represent England in tomorrow's friendly against Wales. England supporters, be sure to show up early at Twickenham! Thanks for your support!


Edited by Moderator, one time total, 1:04 am GMT, 25 May 2007




Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C.

1:01 a.m.


Gibbs waited in his truck in a near-empty parking lot, keeping one eye on his surroundings and the other on two people in the distance.


His coffee turned lukewarm as he watched them, but he drank it anyway for the caffeine. One of the people walked away into the woods, and when the other turned to go to her car, Gibbs got out of his truck.


She saw him and walked past her car towards Gibbs, meeting him in the middle of the lot.


"Old friend, Officer David?" Gibbs asked as Ziva pursed her lips. "Nice evening for a walk. Wouldn't have picked this place myself."


"I was a colleague," she said. "He asked me to meet him, here, tonight."


"Mossad," Gibbs said. Ziva nodded, looking around for unwanted interlopers. "This wasn't about catching up."


Ziva looked around two more times before she faced Gibbs. "This is...not something our governments wish to kick out right now."


"'Kick out', Ziva? You mean 'leak out'?"


"Yes, of course. I meant 'leak out'."


Gibbs picked up on the tell in Ziva's voice; there was a hint of fear in the tone that she had hidden in her face.


"What did he tell you, Ziver?"


"We never had THIS conversation in THIS place, Gibbs."


"What 'conversation', Ziva? I've been working on my boat all night but I decided to go out for a drive and get some fresh air," he said with a chuckle. "I figure oh, five minutes before somebody checks up on me."


"That should suffice," Ziva said, as Gibbs noticed the tell in her voice spread to her eyes. "I may be called into duty."








Again, Ziva looked around to make certain no one else was around.


"The meeting today between Boehner and Khalinin, I'm told, was a failure," she said in a near whisper. "Khalinin will not budge and asked for concessions that would place the United States and NATO in a compromising position."


"Such as?"


"Removal of American bases from West Germany and Turkey. Neutrality for both countries plus Norway and Sweden. A fifty percent reduction of American, British and French nuclear missiles. All within the year. The USSR offered in return withdrawal of its own bases in eastern Europe, Cuba and Central America within five years, and a ten percent reduction in its own nuclear arsenal."


"There's more," Gibbs said.


"Yes. Both sides are quietly as possible moving military into position for a ground and air war in central Europe, Central America, southern Africa, Asia and the Middle East, simultaneously. Trying to get one step ahead of the other."


"What about Israel?"


"Unofficially, transitioning to war, like Britain, France and South Korea. Boehner and Khalinin are to meet with Powers, Malveaux and Lee in the next few hours. If the Allies are not able to convince Khalinin to back down, any further discussions will only be about keeping the war at a conventional level."


Gibbs sighed. "Your father's going to recall you, then."


"Probably within the day," she replied. "I have my duty, Gibbs, to my country. And your own."


Ziva hung her head. Gibbs noticed a tear or two in her eye, then embraced her while looking around the area. A minute later, two SUVs pulled into the lot, waiting to escort Gibbs and Ziva back to their 'safe houses'.



Navy Yard/NCIS

8:15 a.m.


"That's what they're calling it now? Safe houses?" Kate complained to McGee as she looked upstairs, in the direction of Director McCallister's office. "Why hasn't Gibbs said something yet?"


"Why hasn't Gibbs said what?" McGee replied.


"To the director, McGee. Who are we being protected from? We can't go back to our apartments right now, although the dangers haven't changed."


"Maybe they have, and they haven't told us yet," McGee said doubtfully.


"Maybe...or there's no additional danger and something else is going on. I'd rather they put us under surveillance while we're at home. I appreciate Ducky's hospitality, but we all might as well be under house arrest."


"I'm sure the director has a good reason, Kate...probably."


"I'd like to know what the hell that reason is, McGee," she said, looking at a couple of suits near the Most Wanted board. "Why we're really being 'protected'...or watched."


Parking lot


Gibbs hoped the device Clair gave him earlier that morning worked as promised. She said it would jam any listening device NCIS -- or anything else -- might have outside. She confirmed dozens of listening devices had been installed across the building, making use inside impossible.


That's why Gibbs was in his car instead of at his desk, or in the elevator. He intended to find out what the director's intentions and motives were regarding he and his team; Gibbs was tired of being watched by his own agency, at the behest of a man who he didn't really know and definitely didn't trust.


Gibbs pulled out the burner phone and dialed the number Fornell gave him.


"I'm outside in my car. Where are you?"


"Saturday drive, Jethro," Fornell said as he drove on Interstate 495 near Alexandria. "Being followed by an SUV."


"Welcome to the party, Tobias. Guessing you don't have all day to 'chat', either."


"No. I found a few things out. He's been keeping tabs on every member of your team, even Dr. Mallard's assistants including the guy Ari shot, and he's vetted all of you plus people you've worked with. Stan Burley, Paula Cassidy, every agent who's worked for you, like Vivian Blackadder. And the guy you worked under when you got there."


"Mike Franks. Blackadder? Burley? Why, Tobias?"


"Paranoia. Remember that chase the other day? They're undercover agents in NCIS who worked for him in California. They went a little above the call of duty."


"He's got his undercover people vetting us? For what?"


"McCallister's paranoia drives just about everything he does. The guy doesn't trust anyone easily. He thinks the Communists are everywhere, and he's not alone."


Gibbs cleared his throat before putting his free hand back over his mouth, in case someone was watching him in the truck and trying to read his lips. "So all this protection is his way of vetting me and my team."


"Pretty much."


"Anything else?"


"At some point, nearly every federal agency who's worked with McCallister or his team has vetted him," Fornell said. "He's done some things, nothing's stuck, which means he hasn't been as shady as scuttlebutt paints him, or he's managed to slip his way out of trouble--"


"Or both."


"There is the one incident. About 15 years ago in Amsterdam, a young NIS agent died. The current director of Mossad was tied up somehow in an op McCallister ran. The agent was found dead before two KGB agents were captured and charged with espionage."


"The Bureau think he might have been behind that agent's death?"


"No. Probably."


"Probably, Tobias?"


"Nothing stuck."


"What about Jenny's death?"


"No. Definitely an outside job. McCallister may have his motivations but none of my, uh, sources think he'd kill her or anyone else in NCIS. His responsibilities kept him out of sight of just about everyone in your agency, Jethro. But he HAS been there a long time and all of the directors, including Jenny, trusted him enough to keep him around."


"Good to know. Something bugs me about this guy. If he didn't kill Jenny to get her job--" Gibbs wondered aloud.


"Your best bet might be to ask him yourself," Fornell said. "What's that gut of yours telling you?"



Gibbs realized what he needed to do. "Thanks, Tobias," he said before ending the call. He took his regular cellphone out and made two calls: one to Mike Franks, the other to Hollis Mann.

Chapter 27 by Briwd

The United States and the United Kingdom joined forces with the Soviet Union to end World War II with the knowledge that they potentially may have to prepare for a post-war confrontation with the USSR.


Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's post-war ambitions were no secret: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan, along with the countries they had conquered, would be liberated by Communism, and Stalin himself would lead the way. The West wasn't about to tolerate Stalin's vision, especially since bringing revolution to their borders was part of his long-term plan.


The Soviet Union could have eastern Europe and its portion of Nazi Germany and no more, in the view of the West. Stalin disagreed and nearly went to war with the West in 1948 over Berlin. In 1951 he threatened a full invasion of western Europe and use of his nation's nuclear weapons. Tensions were eased after a coup led by two of Stalin's closest associates, Laverntiy Beria and Georgy Malenkov, deposed Stalin.


Beria's moves to liberalize the Soviet economy and open relations with the West backfired. In 1953 he was deposed himself, charged with treason; terrorism (during World War II); counter-revolutionary activities; and dozens of sexual assaults on women. Beria's replacement, former KGB head Ivan Serov, reversed Beria's policies and turned the USSR into a police state while increasing both its military and its nuclear arsenal. Under Serov, the USSR supported Communist insurgencies in Cuba, Angola and Vietnam and ensured cooperative governments among the nations in its sphere of influence (including Yugoslavia, which joined the Pact in 1958 after Marshal Tito died in a mysterious train accident).


The West would not allow Serov's aggressiveness to go unchallenged, especially after the death of American pilot Gary Powers, shot down during a U.S. Air Force spy mission in 1960. A year later, the Cuban Missile Crisis put East and West on the brink of war. When Serov became convinced the Soviets would handily lose in a nuclear exchange with the West -- the Allies still had a 4-1 advantage in nukes -- the crisis de-escalated.


America and her British and French allies had quietly built up their own nuclear arsenal since the Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Kyoto bombs drove Japan to surrender in 1945. American, British and French foreign policy mandated they oppose Soviet aggression anywhere in the world and beyond; that led not just to the race to establish a presence in orbit and the moon, but also to covert and overt funding of anti-Soviet forces in countries the USSR had targeted for "liberation". U.S. domestic policy led to the banning of the American Communist Party and of extreme crackdowns on anti-government and anti-military movements on university campuses in the '60s and '70s (President Carter and a Democrat-controlled Congress undid many of the laws allowing for such drastic measures in 1978; the Patriot Act of 2002 restored them in the event of war).


The 1970s, however, saw a series of diplomatic and military defeats by the West that set the stage for future regional and global conflicts.


1970 saw the establishment of the African Confederation of Nations, obstensibly neutral, with some members eagerly participating and others "recently liberated from aggressive Western powers"; by the mid-1980s, the Confederation considered itself a "dear friend of the workers and peasants of the world". Centered in Angola, the 19-nation confederation was complicit in the series of assassinations that led to Israel's diplomatic split from the U.S. in 1979. With American withdrawal from Vietnam in 1976 and British/South African withdrawal from Rhodesia in 1978, the Soviets stepped in and entrenched themselves, doing the same in Cambodia (1977) and Nicaragua (1979). In 1982, Israel and Soviet ally Egypt signed a 50-year peace treaty in Moscow, and a year later coups in Yemen and Oman led to the establishment of the Arabian People's Republic. The establishment of the World Pact in 1984 between the USSR and its various allies put the West on edge; the Soviets' actions in 1986 put the world teetering on the edge of Armageddon.


In late September, pro-Moscow governments were installed in 15 nations including Venezuela; Iran; Thailand; Guatemala; and Nepal. On October 4, India declared itself neutral, while sending aid to pro-Moscow governments across the world. Soviet military buildups began that day worldwide from the Persian Gulf to the Caribbean to the border between East and West Germany. Soviet leader Grigory Romanov decried "American aggression" in an October 22 radio address, which was followed by the detonation of a 100-megaton nuclear bomb in Siberia. The USSR's first naval supercarrier, the Leningrad, made port at the P.A.R. naval base outside Aden hours later.


After tensions along the Korean demilitarized zone and the Austrian-Chechoslovakian border nearly led to armed conflict, United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar called for an emergency meeting October 22. China seconded Cuellar's call for a peaceful resolution of the conflict and offered its capital Beijing as a site for a summit between Romanov and U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Instead -- at Moscow's insistence -- every Soviet-allied nation withdrew from the U.N. that afternoon.


However, five Yugoslavian delegates remained, and declared themselves as representative of the "free peoples of Bosnia, Croatia, Herzegovina, Macedonia and Slovenia". Within the hour armed uprisings had began in those Yugoslavian socialist republics, and also in Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo. Moscow's response was intensive conventional bombing of the entire country plus an ultimatum to Reagan and U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that was immediately rejected.


The list of demands signed by Romanov included Allied withdrawal from Germany, South Korea and complete U.S. withdrawal from Guatanamo Bay in Cuba, Subic Bay in the Philippines, Okinawa in Japan and the Panama Canal Zone. The Allies were also to allow for "complete African and Middle Eastern neutrality...shared usage of Saudi Arabian oil fields...and a 25 percent reduction in strategic nuclear weapons within 12 months". The Soviets, in turn, offered to not build bombs of 25 megatons and more and joint jurisdiction of a future moon base with the U.S.


The offer was said to have been turned down by Reagan on Air Force One as it landed at Joint Base Knox in Kentucky. He then took a phone call from Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, offering his nation's assistance to the West "against Soviet aggression".


Washington, London and the rest of the world prepared for war.


On October 26, the U.S. detonated a 100-megaton bomb ("Fat Albert") two-and-a-half miles above the Arctic Ocean. Simultaneously the British detonated a 100-megaton device over the Pitcairn Islands, its last Pacific Ocean-based territory. And China detonated its own 100 MT weapon over sparsely-populated Xinjiang Province. The triple explosions were followed by the unveiling of America's sub-orbital missile defense system, the product of 35 years of research.


That got Moscow's attention, but Romanov and much of the core group around him were not deterred; to them, conflict with the West was not only inevitable but winnable.


Mikhail Gorbachev, one of Romanov's core advisors, had a very different point of view.


With the help of sympathizers in the Kremlin, the military and the KGB, Gorbachev saw for himself Romanov dragged out of his office. Gorbachev walked inside and, upon getting confirmation from co-conspirators that all important military, government and intelligence centers were secured, ordered an emergency meeting of the Politburo. With himself and two other members in the room and the others under arrest, Gorbachev was selected General Secretary. He then contacted Reagan, informed him of the coup, and offered to pull his forces "back into sanity". Reagan and Gorbachev agreed on terms; Gorbachev explained November 1 in a TV and radio address that "because the Soviet Union brought us all to the edge of annihilation, it is incumbent upon the Soviet Union to show the rest of the world it is serious about seeking peace". All World Pact members followed Gorbachev's lead, despite their own misgivings.


Yugoslavia's eight nations were allowed to begin a five-year transition to independence upon confirmation by popular vote: Kosovo, Serbia and Macedonia governments, riding on the coattails of Gorbachev's immense popularity, chose to remain in the Soviet bloc. The other five republics chose complete independence. Gorbachev also denounced "the forces of evil" that, along with bringing the world to the brink of extinction, "had overthrown the peaceful, lawfully-established governments of Venezuela, Israel, Egypt and Yemen". The leaders of the governments-in-exile -- all hosted within the U.S. -- returned to their homelands to rebuild their Western-friendly countries.


Gorbachev also encouraged the "evolution" of the African Confederation into the African Community of Nations, and assented to the dismantling of the hegemony's limited nuclear arsenal. Oman, the remaining nation of the Arabian People's Republic, also had its nuclear weapons removed. In return, Israel and South Africa were to officially be free of nuclear weapons


By 1988 Gorbachev's policies of perestroika and glasnost had been implemented within the USSR and many of its allied nations. He talked openly of joint, peaceful interactions between Communist and capitalist nations and became the first Soviet leader to visit New York, Washington, London, Paris, Bonn, Beijing and Tokyo. His visit to West Berlin gave hope to those who wanted the Berlin Wall torn down and free movement allowed once more between both halves of the city. He spoke of joint exploration of the solar system with the Americans and Chinese.


Behind the scenes, however, political opposition slowly built and, in 1991, Radio Moscow announced the death of Gorbachev and the ascension of his replacement, hard-liner Gennady Yanayev. Almost overnight, the Berlin Wall -- which had come down four months earlier -- arose again, initially as a line of barbed-wire and trigger-happy East German guards, by year's end as a literal wall with East German guards patrolling on top, separated every four meters.


Yanayev's first actions were to send Soviet military into the former Yugoslavia, which had been split into eight separate republics with Gorbachev's approval. While the Soviets were able to hold Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia, the presence of NATO troops in the other five Baltic republics prevented Moscow from reunifying the Baltic nations. While the other five republics strengthened ties with the West, the three Communist republics joined the Warsaw Pact. In 1997, the USSR announced it had willingly accepted invitations from the member countries of the recently-established Hanoi, Havana and Luanda Pacts. The West responded with the expansion of the NATO and ANZUS treaties plus the establishment of Western-friendly alliances in the Americas, the Middle East and Africa, and Asia.


By 2002, Syria and Iran were in the Warsaw Pact. The Havana Pact established a foothold in central America, threatening Belize, Costa Rica and Panama. The Hanoi Pact ruled over much of southeast Asia. The Luanda Pact -- which professed itself to be the ideological successor to the African Confederation -- threatened not just the Western-friendly governments of South Africa and the Boer Republic but the neutrally-aligned regional powers, including Kenya and Nigeria.


Largely to dispel international tensions and stave off potential Soviet incursions, a sizeable group of countries make up the Non-Aligned Movement. Each associated nation is neutral in the dispute between East and West, and their neutrality is backed by the military and economic power of China. Since the Sino-Soviet split in the 1960s and China's last-minute support of the U.S. in 1986, the Chinese had thrown its support behind the neutral countries, strengthening India's position in Asia (and replacing the USSR as its primary trading partner), "Free Africa"'s economic standing and Saudi Arabia's ability to freely sell oil to all comers.


As a result, China is seen almost as another Western power by those in charge in Moscow. Vladimir Putin was the last Soviet leader to advocate closer ties with China, and was likely deposed for it. The current General Secretary, Red Army Marshal Mikhail Khalinin, sees the Chinese to be as much of a threat as the Americans. Under Putin and his predecessors, Khalinin oversaw the rebuilding of the Soviet military into a force that could fight, and win, a global, multi-front conventional war.


In 2007, the Soviet Union has built up its forces in several key areas -- Cuba, Nicaragua and Honduras and off the coasts of Columbia and Venezuela; within and offshore of Omani territory, as well as within Syria and Iran; within easy striking distance of northern, western and southern Africa; along the Hanoi Pact nations' borders with China; in the north Pacific near Japan and Alaska; and near the West German, Austrian, Croatian and Turkish borders in Europe. Khalinin would not have signed off on this unless he and his compatriots were confident that the Soviet military and those of her allies together were now the better of the Western nations and of the Chinese. The Red Rain orbital missile system, hiding in plain sight as oversized telecommunications satellites, went online in 2006 and, say its designers, negates the West's Star Wars system.


The West, in turn, has continued to build up its military since Gorbachev's death. There's at least one Western ship, troop, tank and plane for every Communist ship, troop, tank and plane near Western territory. If the Communists can fight and win a global war, so can the Allies (even without China's help). And both sides have an equal number of nuclear weapons, including the 100-megaton "province killers". Then there's China's smaller, but significant arsenal, as well as the nukes unofficially kept by the Israelis, Boers, South Africans, North and South Koreans, Saudis, Cubans, Croats, and 23 other countries.


The USSR is confident it can win the war should it go nuclear, but many within the Kremlin and military privately acknowledge an all-out exchange would spell the end of civilization. While there is said to be a city-sized complex somewhere in Siberia as a safe zone for Soviet officials, Britain and France are resigned to complete destruction. China is said to have a retreat complex somewhere in its mountains. The U.S. is rumored to have "doomsday vaults" in the Rocky Mountains, upstate New York, the caves of Kentucky and even under the New America theme park/entertainment complex in southern Illinois.


While conventional forces prepare for conflict, the Soviets and the Allies are meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, in one last attempt to resolve their differences. The Allies, particularly the British, are all but convinced Khalinin wants war, not to be destroyed but to, at the least, force a ceasefire with terms very agreeable to his side.


Many people around the world, expect that conventional fighting will not spill over into all-out atomic war because the effects of such a war itself serves as a deterrent to the rational person. What they don't know is the confidence among leaders on both sides of surviving such a war -- and why.


In 1999, farmers in Soviet Georgia, and a hunter in U.S. Wyoming, came across what can best be described as a local wormhole. Government and military investigators soon discovered one could step through the circular phenomenon into a parallel universe. Similar wormholes appeared in China, and scientists in all three countries discovered how to safely replicate the phenomena and control it. In a top-secret, high-level summit in Beijing, Chinese Premier Li convinced President Powell and General Secretary Putin to use the technology for peaceful purposes -- or, at least, to allow for the survival of some people in the event of a total atomic exchange. The existence of the wormholes, the technology that opens them, and the parallel realities on the other side of them are known only to top government and military officials and certain economic and business leaders in all major countries. Disclosure to the general public is punishable by anywhere from life imprisonment to the death penalty, although word is beginning to leak out.



No one hopes things will get to the point where an all-out nuclear exchange is necessary (as are the use of the wormholes). Everyone is preparing as if it will.

Chapter 28 by Briwd

--This is the BBC World Service. Time for the news.


British Prime Minister Powers is in Geneva at this hour speaking with U.S. President Boehner, Soviet General Secretary Khalinin, French President Malveaux and Chinese General Secretary Lee, as the world leaders attempt to resolve the--


(four seconds of silence)


--The booklet contains the same information provided on the television and radio broadcasts. If you find yourself without access to a working television or radio, you can consult the booklet and all of the necessary information will be there for you to read at any time. This booklet should arrive at your home no later than today. If you still do not have a book--


(six seconds of silence)


The BBC World Service has been suspended. All news and information programmes for the time being have been suspended. The BBC's domestic service will continue. Listeners outside the U.K. should monitor stations in their region for the latest news and information. The BBC World Service has been suspended. All news--


(two seconds of someone adjusting a microphone)


This is Virginia Public Radio broadcasting from Richmond. We'll replay the 11 a.m. news from National Public Radio, then join NPR for its ongoing news coverage of the international summit in Geneva...ah, contrary to what you may have just heard, relations between the Allies and Pact powers remain, ah, no worse than before--


as heard over Virginia Public Radio, 11:01 a.m. EDT/4:01 p.m. GMT


Navy Yard

NCIS bullpen


Tony laid back in his desk chair, losing the battle to stay awake that he wasn't really bothering to fight. Just a cat nap, he told himself.


In seconds his snoring caught the tired ears of his teammates, who looked over at him almost simultaneously.


"Not fair Tony gets to sleep while we don't," a drowsy McGee said.


"I agree," Kate added, stifling a yawn. "He knows he's not allowed to do that at work. We should wake him up."


"Or let Gibbs do it for us," McGee said.


"I have an idea," Ziva chimed in, putting a finger to her lips. She strode over to his desk and quietly opened a drawer from his desk. As Kate and McGee looked on from their desks, Ziva gingerly went through the drawer until she found what she was looking for: a hand-held air horn.


Ziva pulled the air horn out of the desk and held it until it was barely touching Tony's ear. From the corner of her eye she saw Kate frantically waving her arms and shaking her head, mouthing "NO NO NO NO NO!" Ziva then glanced back at McGee, also shaking his head, and appearing as if his eyes were about to fall out of their sockets.


Hmph. Why not throw a candle to the wind? THIS will be worth censure from Gibbs, she thought.


When she pushed the button, a frighteningly loud shriek came from the row behind Kate and Gibbs' desk. Kate covered her ears, as Ziva barely heard the horn above the woman screaming from about 40 feet away.


Neither Ziva nor Kate nor McGee failed to notice Tony's shooting up from his chair, and the half-full bottled water that tipped over and spilled some of its contents onto his crotch. No one, including himself, noticed his mishap; everyone's eyes, and ears, were on the woman screaming her head off.


Kate rushed over and, with the help of two other coworkers, calmed her down as a bewildered Tony stared at the scene. Ziva held the air horn behind her back as she crept backwards towards McGee's desk.


"Oh God, they've done it! THEY'VE DONE IT!" cried the hysterical woman. The website on her computer screen caught Kate's eye, and after scanning the headline atop the browser she turned back towards Tony, Ziva and McGee with a look of fear.




McGee stood up to see if he could help. One moment he saw Ziva reaching behind herself to put the air horn on the corner of his desk; the next moment he saw Abby blocking his view of Kate and the woman.


"Is this about the announcement?" Abby said with a slight tremble. "One of the nuns I bowl with just called me. She listens to NPR. She said the BBC suspended broadcasting. She asked me if that's what happens when they declare war."


McGee didn't have an answer for the Goth-garbed forensic scientist.


The Morgue


"Mother! Mother! Please, listen to me!" Ducky said emphatically to his frantic mother on the other end of the phone line.


The British-born medical examiner had the BBC's website up on his computer monitor at his desk, attempting to calm her down enough to read the website's brief note to her. "Mother! Please! Pay no mind--"


Palmer, standing several feet away near one of the autopsy tables, heard the barely audible prattle from the earpiece on Ducky's desk phone. He left the tools he had been told to clean on the table and walked over towards the desk to see what was on the monitor.


"Mother, I am CONFIDENT there has been a mistake," Ducky said. "I have the BBC's website on -- I have information from the BBC that indicates they erred -- Mother, I can read it to you if you will only let me."


With the help of Mrs. Mallard's caretaker (who had taken the phone from the older woman), Ducky calmed his mother enough for him to read aloud the note on his monitor. Palmer looked over Ducky's shoulder as he spoke.


At 4:01 p.m. Greenwich time across the BBC's domestic and world services, a brief portion of a British government programme, Protect and Survive, aired, followed by an announcement that the BBC was suspending all normal programming. This was the result of a technical error. The U.K. government has not declared war on any other nation. The BBC apologises to its listeners for the error. We take our responsibility to accurately inform our audience of current events seriously, and regret the confusion this mishap has brought to our listeners.


"Mother, the BBC has admitted they made an error," Ducky said calmly. "Don't worry. If the global situation worsens, the first you hear of it will be from me. When I get home this evening, I will tell you everything I know."


After he calmed down Mrs. Mallard, Ducky ended the call. He opened the briefcase on his desk, pulled out a cellphone, and got up to leave. "Mr. Palmer, if anyone asks, I am going for a...stroll."


"How long will you be gone, Dr. Mallard?"


"As long as necessary."


Director McCallister's Office


"This is a snafu that's gone fubar," McCallister said to Gibbs while picking up a styrofoam cup next to his coffee maker at the bar in the office. "Our people are talking with the British now."


"Saying what?"


"'Get your act together', would be my guess. Someone in London's trigger-happy. Last damn thing we need now is someone going off-script."


"There's five places on Earth you could start a world war with a single shot."


"And you don't fire a shot on your own damn initiative, especially not now," McCallister said as he poured Gibbs a cup of coffee. "I don't suppose you're here to talk about the British screwing things up."


"No, Director," Gibbs said, taking the cup, and a drink from it. "I want to know about Amsterdam, 1991. And Leon Vance."


McCallister forgot about the cup in his hand, and he didn't notice that he had dropped it nor that his right shoe was drenched in coffee.


The Yards Park, east of the Navy Yard


In another time, this modest park may have been surrounded by office buildings and retail establishments. Perhaps the Redskins or Nationals would play in a stadium nearby instead of decrepit Robert F. Kennedy Stadium on the east side of the District of Columbia.


Perhaps, thought Ducky as he sat on a bench overlooking the Anacostia River, this block and the next 20 blocks west wouldn't be all government and military buildings that you need high-level clearance to get into. At least you have a nice view of the river...and of the Marine installation taking up most of Anacostia Park.


After taking another moment to look at the blue sky reflecting off the river, Ducky reached into his jacket and flipped open the cell phone he took with him from the Navy Yard. He put a hand over the keypad, dialed a number, and cupped his hand over his mouth as he leaned forward and placed his elbows on his knees.


"It's me, 'Quacky'," Ducky said after the man in Edinburgh that he called picked up. "I need to know what the issue is with those biscuits. The queen is quite upset about them."


"Ah, I'm quite sorry about all that, chap," said the man. "As they say in the States, 'too many cooks in the kitchen', all vying to be the head chef."


"One would think what the chef desires would suffice."


"One would think that, wouldn't they? But no, someone had to throw a spanner in the works...quite a few someones, as a matter of fact."


"The important thing is if the chef has control of the kitchen. As you well know, whether you're preparing biscuits, rice pudding or fish and chips, even the novice knows that if there are too many cooks arguing pretending they're the chef, there's going to be a cock-up."


"Bob's your uncle, old chap. Tell the queen there's nothing to worry about. The head chef has things under control. A couple of the lesser cooks had to be made redundant, unfortunately. When you run a kitchen, you can't have your cooks disobeying your orders."


"Of course not. Is the old chap at the bar still putting the telly on what he wants?"


"Chef made him redundant, too. Telly's playing what it's supposed to and when, and the radio's playing that wonderful music it always is supposed to play. Anyhow, neither you nor the queen have anything more to be concerned about regarding the biscuits."


"I hope that's true."


"It's as true as can be right now. If you'll excuse me, I have the rubbish to take out...if we don't speak again, my friend, good luck."


Ducky heard the line go dead. So, someone in the cabinet or military went over the Prime Minister's head, forcing him to relieve them of their duties. Powers fought his way up the political ladder into 10 Downing Street and was known not to tolerate dissent from his underlings. Hopefully, Ducky thought, that would be enough to keep the Brits in line.



He knew what Washington would do if it wasn't.

Chapter 29 by Briwd

Author’s note: A map explaining the main players and history of this world and how things got to the point they're at can be read at


Director McCallister's Office


"You get to the point, don't you?" McCallister replied seconds after he dropped his coffee. "Maybe I need to set you straight."


Ignoring the stain on the director's shoe and pants, Gibbs locked eyes with McCallister who walked to the front of his desk and leaned against it.


"Go ahead," Gibbs said, keeping his glare on McCallister, who looked to his left, then sighed.


"1991," McCallister said. "Amsterdam."


Gibbs sat down at the conference table expecting an answer, offending McCallister's sense of status. The director walked over to the table and sat opposite Gibbs before he began explaining.


"Young man from Chicago recruited out of the Naval War College. Had some ideas the agency was interested in--"


"What ideas?"


"CLASSIFIED," McCallister emphasized. "I led a team investigating a Soviet-backed arms dealer working out of the Netherlands. Vance was part of my team. He was killed during the operation. One more promising agent killed before his time."




"Why are you asking, Gibbs? If you have something to say, say it."


"Say what...Director?"


"DAMNIT--" McCallister caught himself, then looked away before shooting Gibbs a silent stare. Gibbs in turn cocked his head and gave McCallister a blank look.


"I know you don't trust me, Gibbs. I know you looked into me while investigating Director Shepard's murder. I know you think I'm into something."


Gibbs maintained his poker face.


"Over the course of my career I've been involved in hundreds of cases, a lot of them directly or indirectly involving the Communists. Muslim extremists, domestic extremists, and a few assholes crossed my path too. I've done things that were necessary to get the job done."


McCallister then stood up and leaned across the table. "I NEVER would kill one of our own," he said in a low growl, giving Gibbs a look that would peel paint. "I NEVER would kill someone to get their job, and that someone includes Jenny Shepard. I'm an American, Gibbs. There are enough bastards out there trying to kill our own."


Gibbs maintained his impassive demeanor as McCallister leaned into his face.


"Don't question my patriotism, my integrity, my loyalty to my country and this agency," the director said. "In fact, there's plenty of threats to take up you and your team's time...or do you have more on your plate than you can handle? You do realize as director of this agency, that I can relieve you, and your team, of any extra burden that prevents you from doing your jobs. Additional agents, reassignments. Do you have a little too much on your plate, Agent Gibbs?"


McCallister bristled a tad when Gibbs shot him a glare that, as Tony once said, 'turned hardened men into weeping children'.


"My 'plate' is just fine, Director. My people are fine where they're at and how they're doing their jobs."


"Are you including Officer David in that assessment, Gibbs?"




"Notwithstanding the...history between her and my predecessor, Officer David's performance record since she arrived here has been outstanding," McCallister said as he sat back down. "I did have some questions, specifically her being the sister of a known Soviet Spetsnaz officer, and the daughter of a man who once worked with the Soviets."


"Eli was a double agent."


McCallister leaned back in his chair. "He was in Mossad when the Israeli government fell in '80 and high up in the Communist regime's State Security Institute in '86 when Romanov nearly ended the world. He was brought back into Mossad when it was reinstated by the new government in '87, there ever since, having trained his kids to follow in his footsteps."


"Eli's a lot of things, Director, but he's definitely not working for the Communists."


"He trained someone who is, Gibbs. You may not know this, but there are people here in Washington who trust and verify and verify again and again. Especially with Officer David's family--"


"Jenny told me she had to call in some favors to get Ziva in here."


"And bend a few elbows of people who don't like their elbows bent by someone as inexperienced and ambitious as Jennifer Shepard. People who don't trust anyone who worked for the other side...even if it was at our request."


"What's your point? Riley?"


McCallister stood up and walked towards his desk. "I was asked by one of those 'people' to revoke the Mossad liaison position, and I pissed that person off when I said no. Just like I was pissed off at first that you considered me a suspect in Shepard's murder."


The director picked up his phone, calling one of his agents to come to his office. "Then I realized that my reputation preceded myself. You were doing your job. You and your people are highly regarded around town. I'd like to keep it that way."


The door opened, and one of the suits walked in, clasping his hands behind his back as he stood next to the door. "Now if you'll excuse me, Gibbs, I have other important matters I have to attend to," McCallister said, "as I'm sure you do."


Gibbs got the hint, and left. With only cold cases for his team to work on, he sent them to their assigned safe house at Ducky's; Gibbs went to the place he always thought through ongoing cases, or things such as murky agency directors: his basement.



--there has been no mention in the British media of the South China Morning Post article. However, news of the resignation of two of Prime Minister Powers' cabinet members, the opposition leader in Parliament and the second-highest ranking military official are spreading throughout Britain through the internet and by word of mouth--


--WHEN the missiles FLY-ah, if you're RIGHT-ah with the LORD-ah and He keeps YOU-ah ALIVE-ah, and you haven't PURCHASED-ah your TEN GALLON TUBS OF NOURISHING FOOD-ah, you're-ah gonna WISH-ah you HAD. Because-ah your XBoxes-ah and DVD-ah and Cadillacs and designer CLOTHES won't feed you in the world-ah to come--


--Charlotte Motor Speedway was packed tonight as an overwhelmingly patriotic crowd watched qualifying for Sunday's NASCAR World 600. Not only were fans waving the Stars and Stripes while watching their favorite drivers, there were plenty of anti-Soviet signs in the stands--


--from the home office in a top-secret location, a TOP-SECRET LOCATION, Paul. So secret even the home office doesn't know where it's at. (studio audience laughter) The top 10 places our Congresspeople will hide from...not the missiles...angry voters.--


--here at the Shopping Channel, we're selling you a deal you canNOT pass up: THREE YEARS of iodine tablets for six low payments of 19.99--


--New America theme park in southern Illinois is seeing a surge of visitors. More than a few are here not to see the Ben Franklin Coaster or the replica of Mount Rushmore but, as a biker from North Dakota put it, a place to live long-term--


--the peace vigil was moved to the National Mall, as the White House and Capitol area remain off-limits to everyone other than officially approved personnel--


--the facility in the former Catskills Park is known only as 'Command D', and like every other military installation, it's locked down tight. If you belong there, you'll know it; anybody that makes their way there 'to check it out' like that dumbass from Kentucky finds out for himself real quick a place where they DO belong, right there and then: jail, Homeland, Guatanamo--



Sitting in Gibbs's basement with a remote in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other, Mike Franks kept hitting the channel button for the television in Gibbs's basement. He settled on a movie, The Magnificent Seven, and watched and waited while he leaned back against the basement's long workbench.


Mike heard the door open upstairs, made sure his handgun was close by just in case he needed to use it, and took the last drink from his glass.


"Took you long enough, Probie," Mike said to Gibbs, who walked down the stairs into the basement with two bags of Chinese takeout food and two bottles of beer. "You could've called ahead. I'd have made dinner."


"Nothin' stopping ya," Gibbs replied as he put the food and beer on the bench next to Mike.


"Sometimes you don't answer your phone. I prefer my food hot."


"Takeout's warm, Mike. Golden Dragon. McGee's recommendation."


"Hope it tastes as good as it smells."


As they ate, Gibbs debriefed his mentor on the day's events, including his meeting with McCallister. "You're convinced he had nothing to do with Shepard," Mike said between bites. "What changed your mind?"


"Lack of evidence. Everything points to Mishnev."


"Ari's, and Ziva's brother."




"But you're convinced Riley's been into a lot of crap."


Gibbs got up, walked past the half-built boat in the middle of the room, to the opposite wall. He pushed aside a metal footlocker that was hiding a panel, then opened the panel so he could pull out a large folder. He handed the folder to Mike, who then began reading through it.


Gibbs took the next hour to explain in detail what Hollis Mann had told him about the portal near the Pentagon, and their trip where they snuck in so he could see it for himself.


Mike's response when Gibbs finished was succinct.




Chapter 30 by Briwd

As Mike studied his protege's reaction, the retired NIS agent realized that Gibbs wasn't joking. He asked anyway: "You're not screwing with me, are you?"


"No, Mike. This is on the level. Saw it myself."


Mike silently read through the folder mainly out of respect for Gibbs the man, agent and friend. "Let's put this aside for the time being," he said to Gibbs after finishing. "You changed your mind about Riley?"


Gibbs took a drink of beer. "Nope."


"From what I remember of him, I'm surprised he didn't get there sooner. Director seemed like the level he was aiming for. If they had something on him regarding Shepard, he'd be in a cell now. The question that you need to ask isn't do you trust him like you trusted Morrow and like you trusted her? It's knowing what you know about the man, can you work for him?"


Silence filled the basement as both men left the other to his thoughts. Mike soon got up from his chair, quietly, to head upstairs and outside for a late smoke break.


"Got no choice," Gibbs said as Mike ascended the stairs.


"You always have a choice," Mike replied, stopping and turning towards the NCIS agent.


"Got people depending on me. I won't leave them behind."


"Then you've made your choice."




--You're watching ZNN's live coverage of the Geneva Summit. I'm John Kirby. It's 6 p.m. here in Geneva, Noon in Washington and 8 p.m. in Moscow. World leaders from the A-7 nations, the Soviet Union and the non-aligned movement still are in session here in Geneva. U.N. Secretary-General Rajapaksa seeks to broker a peace agreement that would deescalate tensions between the Allies and the World Pact--


--Baltimore police broke up a skirmish between Army veterans and a group of pro-peace college students--


--can't tell you exactly where we are for security reasons. What we can tell you is that the men and women aboard the Philadelphia are performing their duties in a manner its skipper says should make their country proud--


--Texas A&M students and other civilians are locking arms this hour with military veterans in an impromptu march from the university's football stadium to the--


--overflowing crowds at many churches here in Los Angeles County and, we understand, across the nation--


--demonstrators marching in support of French and NATO military coexist peacefully with peace demonstrators in Paris just four blocks away from the famed Roland Garros complex, where spectators are watching the first round matches of the French Open--


--increased security at all sporting venues, including today's 15 scheduled Major League Baseball games, plus the Indy 500 and World 600 races, the NBA playoff game in Cleveland--


--an overwhelmingly patriotic crowd here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to watch the Indianapolis 500--


Ducky's house


While appreciative of her host's hospitality and happy to be there with her NCIS family, Kate wanted to be somewhere besides Dr. Mallard's spacious home.


As the clock in the great room neared noon, Kate's thoughts turned towards her own family in Indiana. The Todds had planned a family reunion this Memorial Day weekend for months; everyone who was able to attend had arrived in the Indianapolis area by the morning.


Kate herself hadn't even been able to attend Mass, thanks to the de facto house arrest she, like the rest of her teammates, had been under for the past several days.


As Kate passed the kitchen, she saw Ziva and Ducky putting the finishing touches on Ziva's sumac-spiced eggplant schnitzel dish. Ziva shared Kate's love of healthy food and, as Kate and everyone else on the team would attest, was an excellent cook. Through the bullet-resistant window over the dishwasher, Kate saw Abby walking Mrs. Mallard and her corgis under the watch of two of the six suits in and around the backyard.


Kate heard the gong of the grandfather clock in the great room, which reminded her of a certain automobile race. The Todds would by now be inside the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- Kate's father's job as attorney had its perks -- to watch the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500.


She made her way to the recreation room, where Tony -- flanked by McGee and a suit named Curtis -- was flipping through the channels on the 40-inch high-definition flatscreen television set. Kate sat down on the opposite edge of the couch next to McGee; Tony laid back from his edge of the couch, with Curtis standing to his side.


"Hey Kate," Tony said while he lazily pressed the remote's channel button every few seconds. "Tryin' to find a movie this time of day I haven't seen a dozen times."


"No matter whether or not Curtis and I have seen it once," McGee quipped.


"What have I told you, Prob-prentice, many times before including the day we got here?" Tony replied. "Trust me to show you which movies are worth your while and a waste of your time."


"We passed 2010. A movie I've never seen in its entirety in one sitting--"


"But you've seen parts of it four times, enough that you've seen the whole movie which doesn't hold a candle to the Kubrick classic 2001. Besides, you have too much McGeekery in your life. You need more culture."


"If that's what you really want to show him, DiNozzo, you could start with the art here in this house...or join us whenever McGee, Abby, Ziva and I visit a museum," Kate said kiddingly; her jabs to Tony were more friendly now, and no longer had the biting edge as in her first two years with the team.


"When all this blows over, I'll take you and McGee and Curtis here to a real bastion of culture," Tony said. "Next time WWE's in town, we're there."


Kate rolled her eyes in mock exasperation while the others chuckled with her. "Is THAT what you're looking for on TV, DiNozzo?", she answered with a chuckle of her own.


"All I've found other than news are infomercials, TV preachers and reruns," Tony said. "Ducky really needs to get HBO."


"Hey," McGee said, "isn't the Indy 500 today?"


"Yes," Kate interjected before Tony could answer. "For the thousandth time, I haven't been to it since my senior year in high school. Probably would've been there this year, except for our present offense."


"None taken, Miss Todd," replied Curtis with a smile. His good-natured and sympathetic disposition quickly endeared the tall, beefy suit to the NCIS team, and his broad grin raised the Hoosier native's spirits.


McGee tapped Kate's arm as Tony turned the channel to the one carrying the race, which hadn't started yet. "Why don't you call home and talk to them?" McGee said. "Show them you're there in spirit."


"They already know that," she said.


"Then TELL them," Tony said, pointing towards the doorway. "When you get back, you can watch the race with us...go. GO." Kate didn't argue the point; she was going to call home later that afternoon but knew her family wouldn't turn down a call.


Kate went to the house study, which was in clear view of one of the suits in the backyard. Looking over Ducky's bookshelves she called her parents, only to get a busy signal. She next called her three brothers, her sister, an aunt, an uncle, and a few cousins, getting busy signals each and every time.


Her next call, to her cousin Maureen Ingalls, went through.


"Finally," Kate said after Ingalls picked up. "I can't get ahold of anyone up there."


"Me neither," said the woman Tony compared to Tina Fey when Kate's family visited Washington the year before. "Last one I talked to was Aunt Melissa just over an hour ago...she said she wished you were here with us."


"That's Mom for you. Why aren't you there with them?"


"Oh, I'm in Bloomington. Hailey's starting at IU this summer, so Alec and his brothers and I are down here helping her move in. We're going to head to your mom and dad's house afterwards for the picnic. We may have to have it inside; it's supposed to rain."


"If it's going to rain, why are they racing?"


"Too big of a party at the Speedway," Ingalls said with a laugh that Kate joined in on. "I'm sure they're all fine. I heard something on the radio about problems with some of the cell phone towers in town; maybe it's 200,000 people using the phone at once."


"Hope that's all it is," Kate replied. "If...when you reach one of them, ask them to give me a call."


"I will, cuz--OH MY GOD!"


Kate heard the screeching of car brakes and what she thought was a car colliding with something in the background from Ingalls' end. She screamed her cousin's name and stopped after she noticed a very concerned group of people inside the study, speaking when hearing Ingalls call her name.


"Maureen. I'm here. What happened?" Kate said in a shaky voice.


"Oh my God, oh my God...a truck ran into a minivan...oh my God."


"Are you--"


"I saw it."


"Sounds like an accident," Kate told the others. "Maureen, you weren't involved?"


"I saw the flash."


"You saw the wreck."


"I saw the FLASH, Kate! The flash...oh God, it's in the direction of, the direction..." Ingalls' voice trailed off as Kate heard sirens in the background.


"Maureen! Maureen! Talk to me, please!" Abby grabbed the phone out of Kate's hand, and put the call on speaker. Everyone heard a loud police siren and someone ask Ingalls if she was alright.


Kate repeated Maureen's name until she answered. "Maureen, what did you see?"


"Oh God, Kate. A flash from...from the north...that truck hit...oh no, no no no NO NO--"


"What, Maureen? What is it?"


"A...a mushroom cloud..."


Tony turned and ran back into the rec room; he saw the Technical Difficulties graphic on the TV and grabbed the remote off the couch to turn to a news channel. As Ziva entered the room, and before Tony could switch channels, the on-screen graphic was replaced by another, foreboding graphic.


--This is a special report from ABC News.



I'm Charles Gibson from ABC News headquarters here in New York. We're on the air because we're learning of a massive explosion in the Indianapolis area, possibly centered at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This information is coming to us from our local affiliate WRTV via email and via a short, one-sentence release from the Associated Press's Indianapolis bureau--

Chapter 31 by Briwd

Author's note: The explosion in Indianapolis will later be estimated to be from a 30 kiloton dirty bomb detonated west of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, on Georgetown Road parallel to the facility or in an adjacent field. The following link shows the effects of the surface explosion, including the fallout:


Readers should note the casualty estimates in the link are inaccurate. Fatalities from the Indianapolis blast will be estimated to be over 300,000, injuries in the 20,000-50,000 range. This is due to the large crowd present for the Indianapolis 500 race. 


Georgetown, District of Columbia

NCIS Director Riley McCallister's home


As the Director of NCIS, every day was a work day for Riley McCallister. He didn't mind. He'd been a workaholic all of his life.


As an NCIS agent, then head of its special ops division, and as its director, McCallister gave everything to his life's work. Total dedication most accurately described his approach to work and to life, but observers sometimes questioned if his approach was more religious, perhaps borderline fanatical, in nature.


America was his first, last and ultimate priority. Even rest and recreation were a means to an end, to recharge him so he could get back to the important work of protecting the United States. McCallister's knowledge of popular culture ended with the disco era, but he knew the latest Soviet military movements near Indonesia and how many Spetsnaz agents were likely to attack U.S. Naval and Marine installations worldwide.  Whenever he slept or used his treadmill, his phone was on and by his side; on the rare occasions he went hunting or on a safari, McCallister was connected to work via satellite phone and his mind was ALWAYS on work.


The Communists never took a moment off, he reasoned, and neither should he.


His single-mindedness left no room for a wife and family. He had slept with his share of attractive women, preferring those who understood the demands of his line of work and wouldn't ask anything of him besides an enjoyable evening -- interrupted so often by a text or phone call.


The 50-year old Federal-style East Village house that was McCallister's legal residence was his office away from the Navy Yard. The three-story, four-bedroom building was much larger than his needs and preferences demanded. However, McCallister didn't dare turn down the generosity of a benefactor who was aware of the abrupt circumstances in which he came into his job. 


McCallister quickly filled the empty space with two dozen agents and employees watching the neighborhood, guarding the property, or manning the basement: the director's personal mini-Multiple Threat Assessment Centre with an adjacent office, where he was presently holed up.


The "bunker", as McCallister's agents had nicknamed the basement, had one wall taken up entirely by a movie theater-style screen. Computers and other equipment connected the bunker to the rest of the world via secured satellite feeds and fiber-optic lines. The bunker was manned every minute, every hour of the day, with McCallister's trusted lieutenants running it in his absence.


Today, he drank his coffee while reading a report on Soviet naval movements in southeast Asia on his laptop. His desktop computer's monitor showed a world map with real-time Allied and Pact naval positions. The flat-screen television monitors atop the wall to the left of his desk showed live feeds from American and other Western networks.


McCallister demanded intelligence come to him through proper channels, from his own people, long before it ever reached the media. The idea of learning important information from ZNN angered him.




The shout from a trembling young aide outside the office got McCallister's attention. One of the aides working in the bunker, a young woman who had recently transferred from the Norfolk office, stood at her station with her hand over her mouth. By her watching the ABC feed of the Indianapolis 500 race, she was the first person in the bunker to learn of the blast.


McCallister's head jerked towards the monitors in his office. Moments after the last channel -- Fox -- interrupted normal programming, McCallister received a text on his secured iPhone:


NUDET CONUS UNDOR UNKYD: nuclear detonation, continential United States, undetermined origin, unknown yield.


That text from the Department of Defense was quickly followed by a second: LOCATION INDIANAPOLIS INDIANA. As a controlled pandemonium broke outside in the bunker, McCallister's desk phone rang: line three, for Secretary of the Navy Bates. 


"Give me the room," McCallister said to the lead suit, who then shut the door behind him. McCallister then picked up the phone. "Director McCallister."


"Riley. We're on a secured line."


"What's our sitrep, Mister Secretary?"


"We're not shooting at the Russians -- YET -- but this has Diensteinheit written all over it."


"East Germans? I don't recall ANY intel about them smuggling a dirty bomb into the U.S. Or the Russians, or anyone else."


"I know, Riley. We got blindsided."


"What now?"


"Boehner found out from STRATCOM right after the race broadcast went dark in Geneva. He's trying to talk to Khalinin while the rest of us find out how in the hell a dirty bomb detonated underneath our nose."


"What else do we know about the detonation?"


"Small yield, but the damn mushroom cloud's visible outside the county. Power's out through part of the city; obviously it's all over the news now."


"Sir. Is there anything else I need to be aware of?"


"It's going to get real hairy real quick. Things are gonna escalate mighty quick. I need you to stay on top of things from your end."


"Of course, sir. I'll do my duty. So will my people."


"Good, because SecDef's a known dove and he's gonna push the President to hold off. We both know if the East Germans are involved Moscow gave the go-ahead. I need to know you'll do your duty."


"Of course."


"I know you will, Riley. You're where you are for a reason."




"I hope that house suits you just fine. Stepped on some toes on the Hill to get it for you."




"You know what I mean. Same people who want your hide in Guantanamo. Bottom line--"


"Mister Secretary--"


"BOTTOM LINE, soldier, is I KNOW you'll do your duty. That is what our country will need going forward, by people like us who have our best interests at heart. Don't worry about the doves. Do your duty and you'll be fine as the rest of us. I'll get back to you after I talk with SecDef."


SecNav hung up, and McCallister placed another call.


--"you're watching ZNN. This is a still of the ABC network feed of a shot of the massive mushroom cloud over downtown Indianapolis...excuse me? Okay. Okay...put it up...I'm seeing this for the first time, my director...oh? Go ahead, Angie.

"Smith, this is a picture taken by a Ball State University student atop a campus residential building there, in Muncie, Indiana, about 60 miles northeast of Indianapolis and you clearly see the head of the mushroom cloud and the stem, and the cloud beginning to disperse due east"--



Leroy Jethro Gibbs's house


Back at his Baja California beach house, Mike Franks could smoke wherever and whenever he wanted.


At Gibbs's home, Mike could smoke whenever he wanted, but not usually in the house.


Having found little to watch on Gibbs's basement television other than news, infomercials and sitcoms, Mike walked upstairs and out to the front porch for a smoke break. Less than two minutes later, he saw a window shatter from the upper floor of a house across the street.




Another suitcase flew out the broken window, followed by several articles of clothing, accompanied by expletives coming from upstairs. A woman planting flowers below in the front yard stopped what she was doing, backing up to see what was going on.


"Randy! RANDY!" she shouted as a couple pairs of socks flew out the window, followed by the man sticking his head out.


"SHARON! IT'S OVER! THEY'RE ATTACKING!" Randy screamed as he threw a brassiere out the window. "IT'S OOOOOOOOO-VEEEERRRR!"


"WHAT are you talking about, Randy??? Why on EARTH are you throwing out our clothing and...oh my God! MY BRA!"


Sharon dropped her hand trowel and ran inside, while Randy threw some undergarments and shoes onto his front lawn. He stopped, noticing Mike across the street.


"AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!" Randy yelled. Mike heard Sharon screaming in the background, then took one final puff from his cigarette before tossing it on the porch and stomping it out with his heel. 


Remembering there was a half-full bottle of bourbon downstairs, Mike headed to the basement. Gibbs was sanding the frame of the boat, while ZNN played on the silent TV set. 


"Probie," Mike said as he looked for an empty jar on the workbench. "Remember that cartoon I told you about I saw the other night with those foul-mouthed kids and their crazy parents out in Colorado? I think one of the families moved in across the street."


"That so, Mike?"


"You know Randy and Sharon?" 


"Barely. He's a geologist, she's a housewife. Two kids, 10 and 13."


"That cartoon's based on them."


"Why do you say that?"


"The fellow threw a suitcase and a bunch of clothing out his window and is screaming like a crazy man," Mike said as he poured himself some bourbon. "Just like the cartoon."


"Don't think the cartoon is based on reality," Gibbs said with a chuckle. He picked up his cell phone on the first ring, answered it, then ran to the TV and turned up the volume.


--news sources are reporting a massive, loud explosion in the Indianapolis area, possibly near the Indianapolis Motor--


"Turn it on ABC?" Gibbs said, quickly changing the channel on the cable box.


--this is the only photo we have so far from Indianapolis after the explosion. This shows what looks like smoke from an explosion east of the studios of WRTV, our affiliate there in Indianapolis. It's a mushroom shape -- and we don't want to get ahead of ourselves as we're just now learning of this explosion--


"A nuke? Where are you getting this, DiNozzo?...they're reporting it? do you KNOW then?...KATE. is she, DiNozzo?...STAY WITH HER, Tony. I'm on my way."


Gibbs took off towards the stairs, while Mike looked at the TV. "Has to be a dirty bomb, Jethro...hey! Where the hell are you off to?"


"Kate's family lives in Indianapolis," Gibbs said as he ran up the door. "They were at the Speedway."


"Holy shit," Mike muttered as Gibbs sprinted up the stairs and out to his sedan as quickly as he had run in years.


Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard's house


"It's all over TV, boss...not as a nuke...well, looks like a duck, walks like a duck, boss...she's with everyone else in the other you could imagine, a wreck..."


Tony heard Gibbs hang up, then hurried back to the study where a crowd of people were trying to comfort Kate. She was sobbing loudly on the floor, wrapped in the arms of Abby Sciuto who kneeled alongside her.


"Gibbs is on his way," Tony quietly said to Ziva, McGee and Ducky.


"What does Jethro know about...the explosion?" Ducky said in a near-whisper.


"Same as we and the rest of the world."


The 'bunker'


With his office door shut, McCallister began his conference call with each of NCIS's assistant directors and worldwide field office lead agents. He summarized what was known about the blast, which wasn't much: 


* A low-yield nuclear device in the 20- to 30-kiloton range was detonated on the ground just outside the speedway. The working theory is that the bomb was likely of East German origin based on Soviet and East German military doctrine but that Islamist terrorist groups could not be completely ruled out.


* U.S. armed forces worldwide remain at Defense Readiness Condition (DEFCON) 3 on order of the Secretary of Defense.


* Casualty estimates: 300,000-plus dead, 50- to 75,000 injured from the blast, including hundreds aboard a TWA 747 flight from St. Louis that crashed after the pilots were blinded by the flash from the blast. Conservative estimates put fatalities from the fallout over residential areas at 30,000.


* President Boehner has had no luck thus far in establishing contact with Soviet General Secretary Khalinin despite the fact that both men are currently in Geneva, Switzerland. Vice-President O'Neil remains in Washington, while presidential cabinet members not in Geneva are being moved to safe locations. Similar measures are being taken for members of Congress and the Supreme Court.


* Radioactive fallout likely would go east all the way to the Ohio-Indiana state border. 


* The worst of the fallout will impact a nine-block area of the White River, one of the city's primary water sources. A lesser dosage will impact the White River Water Treatment Plant. 


* Most essential local and state politicians -- Indiana Governor Kelsey, Indianapolis Mayor Hudnall, the Indianapolis-Marion County Council, much of the state legislature -- were at the speedway. At present, one councilwoman had been secured by National Guardsmen and taken to a secure location. The gubernatorial 'designated survivor', State Superintendent of Public Instruction Charles Todd, also was being rushed to a secure location by a team of Army Rangers.


* Power was out in much of Marion County, and firefighters were attempting to contain fires around the speedway blast area. 


* The 465 loop, Interstates 65, 70 and 74, and "any road going out of town" were becoming crowded and, according to the Indiana National Guard, getting worse by the minute. 


"Indianapolis isn't a part of the country we work in but this thing will affect us in every way imaginable," McCallister told his subordinates. "You'll be updated as fully as possible as reliable intelligence comes in on the situation. For now, we remain at Alert Level Two worldwide."


After ending the conference call, McCallister stood to go back out into the bunker when he saw a line of blinking lights on his desk phone. I gotta get me another secretary, he thought, as he prepared to walk out; the buzz from the secured flip phone in his pocket made him stop.


McCallister pulled it out, saw Gibbs's ID, and remembered who on Gibbs's team had family in Indianapolis. 




"Director," Gibbs said from his car, which was speeding toward Ducky's house. "What in hell happened?"


"Nuclear detonation, low yield, casualties at least 300,000," McCallister replied. "Everything's about to hit the fan."




"Too early to say for certain. I wanted to convey my condolescences to Agent Todd. Have you spoken with her yet?"


"Headed there now. I'll have DiNozzo, McGee--"


"McGee there with you?"


"He's there at the house with the rest of the team."


"I'll have my aides send you a secured file. Have McGee open it for you and be ready. Everyone's on the clock until further notice except for Todd. Give her at least 24 hours. Keep your phone charged, Gibbs. I'll contact you in the next hour or two."


The line went dead. At least 24? he thought. How generous of you, Riley--




His reflexes were still sharp enough to see the speeding SUV that made an unexpected turn right into his path, and to hit the brakes just soon enough to stop four inches from its passenger side. 


After feeling his heart resume its beat, Gibbs wondered if he'd make it to Ducky's in one piece.

Chapter 32 (REVISED) by Briwd


--EVERY road out of Indianapolis is gridlocked--


--Franklin and Boone County police are handling the massive influx of traffic from Indianapolis well, so far--


--"'re on I-70 now."

"Yeah. We can't go anywhere."


"Yeah, and you wanna know why?"

"In fact, we would. Have you been told something we haven't?"

"State police's got the interstate blocked all the way to Richmond."

"Have you been told this by a police officer--"

"State police ain't sayin' jack to anybody except 'remain in your vehicles'. I heard that from a guy on a motorcycle driving west along the interstate. Said FEMA ordered it, and they're setting up a refugee camp there."

"Well, 'Bob', that's one thing we haven't heard. We'll have our newsroom check on that. We've heard people are being ordered to stay in their vehicles with the air conditioner turned off. Can you verify that for us?"

"I'm sure some are, there's a lot of people outside. I'm walking."

"Walking?...away from town?"

"South. Where they say the fallout isn't going."--


Ducky's house


Gibbs sped through the neighborhood and skid to a stop on the street, right behind one of the SUVs and their suited passengers keeping watching over Dr. Mallard's home and its occupants. Ignoring the dull throbbing in his knee, Gibbs ran right for the house's front door. He didn't break stride as a suit opened the door for him.


He heard Kate's anguished cries as he ran into the house, and stopped when he reached the rec room. He saw the back of Abby's head and heard her whispering words of comfort to her friend, whom she was rocking in her arms.


A suit in the room opened her mouth to speak and stopped when Gibbs put his finger to his lips. He moved that finger outwards towards the dark-suited woman, then went down the hallway into the study. McGee, Tony, Ziva and Palmer were huddled around McGee's laptop watching ZNN's online coverage of the bombing; George, the head suit, and Ducky were talking in another corner of the room. 


Everyone stopped what they were doing when Ziva saw Gibbs. He acknowledged his people with a nod and went right to Ducky as the others quickly surrounded them. 


"How are things outside, Jethro?" Ducky asked.


"I almost got into three accidents and saw a dozen more on the way over. Saw a few people en route throwing things into their vehicles, like they're trying to get outta town. Police are everywhere--"


"How bad IS it out there, Agent Gibbs?" Palmer asked. "The news station on the radio said things were starting to get hairy."


"Not too far. It hasn't been very long, though. What about here?"


"We haven't seen anyone outside their homes," George replied. "A few people looked outside their windows. Some of the neighbors we'd expect to arrive around now from church or the country club haven't come home yet."


"Might be watching the news from where they're at," Gibbs said. "Kate?"


"Inconsolable, Boss," Tony said. "She heard about it from her cousin who was outside the city when the bomb went off. Kate dropped her phone and hasn't said a word since, just sobbing. Abby's the only one who's been able to calm her down at all."


"Are you going to try to speak with her, Gibbs?" Ziva asked. "I would not do so yet if I were you--"


Gibbs paused, then reached into his pocket and handed a flash drive to McGee. "Tim. Take this with your laptop. You and George go into the room, find out what's on it, and notify me when you're finished. Agent Wells, I trust you've spoken with the director's office?" 


"I spoke with the director himself, Agent Gibbs," George answered. "Don't worry about leaks. The room is secure."


"Boss?" McGee said. "What's on this--"


"That's for you, AND Agent Wells, and ONLY you two to find out," Gibbs said as he walked through the group towards the hallway, stopping when Ziva called out his name.


"Gibbs, it is not the best time to even speak with her," Ziva said more quietly. "She is in no--"


"I do have some experience with this kind of thing, Ziva," Gibbs replied quietly after a moment, less with the authoritative tone he normally used on the job and more as a loving father. 


Ziva, as did Ducky, Tony and McGee, knew what Gibbs was referring to. As he left the room, Tony turned to McGee. "Probie. He called you Tim. Something's wrong."


"Something IS wrong," McGee replied. "It's the world. Not Gibbs. He's a rock."


Gibbs quietly walked into the rec room, acknowledged the two suits with a nod, and sat down on the couch next to Abby. Kate cried into Abby's shoulder as she sat on Abby's lap. Using sign language, he asked Abby about Kate's condition, then sat with them in silence.


Time froze as Gibbs and Abby sat together, hurting for their friend and not being able to do anything to alleviate her anguish. 


Gibbs reached out and lightly touched Kate's shoulder. She looked up from the crook of Abby's neck and saw him, then pushed off Abby's lap and reached out to Gibbs.


Kate's tears were the only sound in the room as she hugged him tight, softly crying into his shoulder. His presence was the calm in her stormy nightmare, and Kate gripped Gibbs tightly, as not to lose him, too.


"Katie?" Gibbs whispered. "I have something to tell you. Would you like to hear it?"


"No," she whimpered. 




Kate raised her face from Gibbs's shoulder and looked him in the eye. His gut pushed him to tell her what he needed to say. As much as he wanted to do nothing but hold her and remove her pain, Gibbs knew the world wouldn't wait on them. 


"Director McCallister told me that your uncle Charles is alive. He and his family."


"Ch-Ch-Charles...Charlie? Carolyn? And the kids?"


"Yeah. All the kids. They're in a secure location outside the city. He's the acting mayor. And Bloomington police found your cousin and her niece at the university."


Kate's countenance brightened just a little bit, encouraging Gibbs and Abby. "And, you have Toni, your terrier, in the back yard. She's right here with us."


"Yeah," Kate whispered. "She is. They survived, Gibbs. I survived...I'm here, I survived, I'm here, I'm alive...oh, God."


Before Kate could break down, Gibbs reached out and softly cupped her cheeks in his hands. 


"I have something else I need to tell you, and I need you to listen to me," he said. "Can you listen to me? Would you?"


She nodded. 


"Remember that night you visited me, in the basement? I showed you how to sand with the grain just right." That had happened several times since she joined NCIS. "There's something you told me that I want to tell you."


She looked into Gibbs's eyes, while he himself hoped he wouldn't blow it.


"You reminded me that I have a family, here, at NCIS. Not the family I was born into, not the family I once had, and maybe not the people I would've chosen." The small twinkle in her eyes and just barely noticable smile in the corner of her mouth encouraged him to continue. "YOU are not alone. You're surrounded by family, right here, right now."


He wasn't losing Kate; he had her attention. That's good...I think. "However we can be individually, good, bad, in-between, we've become a tight unit. The last few years have taught us both we're not alone. Good, bad, in-between, we live by the Marine motto."


"Leave no one behind." Gibbs smiled at her twist on the old military saying. 


"That's right. And you haven't been left behind. YOU are surrounded by family. Not the one you were born into, but no less than the ones back home. You are loved just as strongly by us as you have been by your parents and brothers and sister and cousins, aunts, uncles. This family has been here for me, for ME, and it is here for you and will BE here for you no matter what happens. Kate, you will move forward and we'll be right by your side."


Kate silently looked at Gibbs, tears streaming down her cheeks, then looked over at Abby and Ducky in the doorway and Palmer, Ziva and Tony behind them. She was still as Abby ran over and grabbed her in a tight hug, and only then did she, again, sob.


Minutes passed, and Gibbs whispered in Kate's ear that he needed to take care of something and that he'd be back shortly. When Gibbs stepped out of the room, Tony -- standing outside the study -- frantically waved him over.


"Make it quick, DiNozzo," Gibbs growled. 


"There's something you need to see before you talk to Probie," Tony replied. He joined Palmer, Ziva and one of the suits were huddled around an old portable television that was taken from Ducky's attic. 


The TV, tuned to Washington's CBS affiliate, showed the network's well-known anchorwoman looking calm but frightened as she prepared to repeat the wire story thrust into her lap a couple of minutes before.


--For those of you just joining us, CBS has learned from unnamed government sources that there has been a major explosion in the East German city of Leipzig...this note I've just been handed says that the West German network RTL is reporting a large mushroom cloud seen along the border with East Germany in the direction of Leipzig. 

No one from either the Soviet Pact nor the Allied Eight is commenting on that nor any other matter.--


Chapter 33 by Briwd
Author's Notes:

Author's note: after some helpful constructive criticism from the folks at NFA, I've revised the previous chapter (32). Please go back and re-read that before continuing with this chapter. Thanks -- BD

5:17 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time U.S.A., 9:17 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time, 10:17 p.m. in Geneva


--as we await Secretary-General Singh address in Geneva, there's no word from any of the world leaders on the rumored breakdown in talks. In Moscow, official television and radio continue to play patriotic music between past Communist Party speeches, some dating back to the time of Nikita Khrushchev...--


Ducky's house


Agent George Wells's hand reflexively went towards his pistol when the door in the secure room abruptly opened. He recognized Gibbs just quickly enough to stop himself before he could pull the weapon out of its holster. Wells reminded himself to ask McGee later on why his supervisor looked so damned impatient all the time, as he did at that moment.


McGee merely acknowledged Gibbs with a nod, then turned the screen of the laptop he was using towards his boss. Gibbs saw a prompt for a password in a small gray box over a black background and looked up at the other two men. "Boss, this is as far as I've been able to get," McGee said. "The first four layers of firewalls, the coding--"


"English, McGee," Gibbs barked. 


"I can't get past this prompt."


"Yeah," Gibbs sighed, then pulled a folded sheet of paper from his pocket and handed it to McGee.


"The Baltimore Orioles' 2006 statistical leaders?!?" McGee groaned. "What do I DO with this, Boss? Do I have to key all that--"


"Order them by jersey number from zero, batters first, type in the jersey number and the fourth letter of the first player's last name, then move on to the next," Gibbs said. "After all that, the Director's favorite theme park."


"Director Shepard or Director McCallister?"


"McCallister," Gibbs said, his patience wearing thin.


"I didn't know he liked theme parks, Boss. We, uh, Tony and I, had been wondering if he ever did anything for fun. Tony said McCallister must like to--"




McGee promptly began keying in the sequence numbers and letters. Wells's stare of astonishment caught Gibbs's eye, and Gibbs returned the stare with a glare of heightened irritation. Wells turned his eyes back to the laptop, and relaxed only when Gibbs's attention turned towards McGee seconds later.


After he typed his last jersey number and letter, McGee looked up at Gibbs. "What's the Director's favorite theme park?"


"Disneyland. And tell DiNozzo not to bother askin' him about it."


"Okay," McGee said, typing the word into the prompt. Another prompt quickly appeared, requesting an iris scan for approved NCIS personnel. Gibbs grabbed the laptop and turned its screen towards himself, and leaned in until his eyes were inches from the laptop's camera.


"Wow," McGee said as the screen unveiled a series of manila folder icons, each labeled with a random series of numbers and letters. "I didn't know those iris scanners were built into laptop cameras. Is this laptop from--"


"McGee," Gibbs said in a tone that suggested to McGee that he shut up. The senior agent moved the cursor onto the folder in the upper left corner of the screen and clicked. The folder opened and showed three dozen files in a list, all prefaced with an acronym: S.H.A.D.E.


"Uh, Boss, should I leave?" McGee asked.


"You two are cleared, but we all WILL be debriefed by the Director himself," Gibbs replied as he opened the first file in the list. 

There were more folders with their own dozens of files, and Gibbs clicked on the ones which looked especially important. Even so, it took him nearly an hour to skim through his selected files. What he uncovered was progressively more unbelievable by the folder, and none of the men spoke as they read the files' contents.


McGee wondered what it all meant, and decided he'd keep his skepticism to himself for now and defer to Gibbs regarding whatever they found. He had countless questions about the files for McCallister, but his greatest concern at the moment was how to avoid tipping off the other team members -- especially Tony -- on what he had seen. 


Wells, a man accustomed to undercover investigations and security details, couldn't keep his silence. "Gibbs, I'm sure the director told you the same thing he told me, but this is all crazy talk."


"I wouldn't say that," McGee interjected. "Animal experimentation definitely sounds realistic."


"Dalmatians as big as horses?" Wells whispered. "What about the Army stuff -- 'one man corps'? Or 'European Union Hercules project'? Dimensional travel. This must be code. You can't take this at face value."


Gibbs's glance suggested that he was.


"You ARE?" Wells continued. "Our briefing on you said you were the definition of no-nonsense. If anybody could see through B.S., it'd be you. So...this is code for, say, military actions, right? Spy stuff?"


"He told me 'what you see is literally what you get'," Gibbs replied, all but certain this was one of McCallister's 'loyalty' tests. Wells was about to find out how loyal Gibbs was.


"Without going into details of a conversation with the director that I'm not allowed to divulge without permission, I did as much due dilligence as I was able to," Gibbs said, pointing to the screen. "He says all this is legitimate."


"So you take his word on this without checking it out? That's unlike you, Gibbs."


"That's not what I said I did, or weren't you listening, Agent Wells?" Gibbs replied in a calm and deliberate tone. McGee asked himself what side of Gibbs he'd show next. "Besides, I can't tell you how or what I'm checking out and you wouldn't believe me anyway."


"You take this as something more than code, then?"


"Yep. You still wanna keep talking about this?"


Gibbs shot Wells his infamous glare, a look that made Wells freeze in place and cringe a bit. Wells remained quiet while pondering what Gibbs had just told him and if he should give the older man more benefit of the doubt.


His, Gibbs's and McGee's thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. Agent Katherine England walked in with a look of urgency. "Agent Gibbs, Agent Franks is being held at our roadblock along with your pickup truck."


"Roadblock?" Gibbs said. "Why didn't you let him through?"


"Agent Gibbs, he's not on the authorized list," she answered. "He's authorized to stay with you at your home, not to come here, not without clearance."


She froze momentarily when he shot her a look of annoyance, and with great relief followed his turn towards Wells. "Mike Franks isn't a threat to anyone or anything except the enemy and the air on my front porch," Gibbs grumbled.


"Let the man through and have him park behind that fancy car McGemcity drives," Wells told her.


"The, uh, Porsche," McGee said in response to her look of confusion.


Franks drove up to the house and parked behind McGee's Boxster. "I understand security, son; I worked it myself when I worked at NIS," he complained to the two men walking with him up to the house. "Do you really have to not let me into Ducky's house because somebody says I'm supposed to be staying with Gibbs? That's a bit overkill, don't you think?"


Neither suit said a word as Gibbs met them at the front door, and walked away at Gibbs's nod. 


"They got roadblocks set up a mile from this place, Jethro. I didn't take ol' Riley to be that paranoid," Franks said.


"Yep," Gibbs said. "Walk with me."


They stopped behind the house, within view of the suits patrolling the backyard but, Gibbs hoped, outside of their clear earshot.


"How's Kate?" Franks asked. 


"Hurtin'," Gibbs said as he pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number six times. Franks noticed Gibbs looking more and more concerned as he placed his calls and, finally, slapped the phone shut in frustration.


"What's going on, Jethro? Who are you trying to get ahold of?"


"Hollis," Gibbs said. "She's not picking up."


Chapter 34 by Briwd

Chapter 34


--the report of a nuclear explosion in Leipzig, East Germany by the West German network RTL is incorrect, I repeat, incorrect. A brief release sent to media outlets, including ZNN says, I quote, 'RTL was given false information from an unknown source who claimed to be imbedded with NATO forces in Eschwege, near the East German border, having seen a flash followed by a large mushroom cloud in the direction of Leipzig.


'A producer immediately ordered a presenter onto the air to report the information without first verifying it. RTL quickly consulted sources who told us there was no flash nor mushroom cloud anywhere in East Germany. RTL quickly reported a retraction and continues to report as such.--


After checking on Kate and leaving her with Gibbs and the others in the crowded rec room, Ducky went upstairs to check on his mother.


Mrs. Mallard slept soundly while one of her caretakers, LaWanda, checked her vitals and two female suits quietly stood guard nearby. They smiled at Ducky as he walked in; he smiled back and briefly talked with the caretaker about Kate's and his mother's conditions before Wanda abruptly changed the topic.


"Have you heard about the explosion in East Germany?" she asked. "Good Lord, you don't think it's the end, do you?"


"I saw the retraction five minutes after the initial, and false, report," he replied. "As best anyone knows, someone there in West Germany jumped the gun and put something on the air before confirming it. In these times, that was not a wise thing to do...but, if I may ask you, LaWanda, what would this be the end of?"


"The end times."


Ducky had grown to like LaWanda in the two years she worked as Mrs. Mallard's caretaker, albeit in a platonic manner (despite his mother's occasional attempts to set them up). He could do without LaWanda's connections of current events and biblical prophecy, though.


LaWanda's explanation of how the Soviets, Syrians and Iranians were going to invade Israel was interrupted by another 'SPECIAL REPORT' graphic on the screen of the television at the foot of Mrs. Mallard's bed. Ducky reached for the remote and turned up the volume.


--inaccurate reports of a nuclear explosion in East Germany, combined with the very real explosion of a nuclear device earlier today in Indianapolis, have had very real consequences throughout the country. Since the explosion, martial law has been declared in dozens of cities. We told you about rioting in Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles, and with reports of people jamming any and every road headed away from a potential target.


In Kentucky, State Police officers and National Guardsmen have their hands full with thousands of motorists traveling into small towns thought to be safe havens. This is happening in every other state.--


"Good Lord," LaWanda muttered. Ducky changed the channel.


--ignoring orders to shelter in place, nearly 100,000 people are here in Central Park for an impromptu peace rally led by legendary musician and activist John Lennon--


--Governor Cobb says the Virginia state government will invoke price controls and will punish gas station owners who reportedly are charging as much as $6.50 for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in Richmond and the Norfolk area--


--people in cities under martial law and not under martial law are making their way towards the nearest church, synagogue or mosque-- 


--Charles Todd was sworn in as the new Indiana governor in an undisclosed location. A spokeswoman said Todd's first official action was to invoke Emergency Powers Act giving him complete power until the General Assembly can recovene and the Supreme Court is seated. He then declared martial law throughout Marion County and ordered the evacuation of the three-mile area around the speedway plus a five-mile-wide area stretching on either side of a straight line from the speedway to the U.S. 36 along the Ohio state border--


Ducky continued clicking through the channels. As was the case on September 11, 2001, nearly every television station carried news coverage. The few that weren't had hosts discussing the news. Two stations carried children's programming.


--every sporting event across the country cancelled in the wake of the Indianapolis attack--


--ALL U.S. military installations throughout the U.S. and the world are reportedly on lockdown: no one in, no one out, unless you have business there or you need to leave--


--frenzied activity here at Geneva International Airport, as if the various delegations were preparing to leave the city. No one is commenting--


"When was the last time you've had something to eat, LaWanda?" Ducky asked, the TV showing security clearing the course at a professional golf event. "You've been here quite a while."


"This morning, before I left for church. But don't worry about me, Donald. I'll be fine--"


"I insist you go downstairs and fix yourself some dinner," Ducky said. "Eat, and rest for a little bit. I'll stay up here with Mother while you do so."


Satisfied that Ducky would stay upstairs, the caretaker -- at his insistence -- went downstairs to eat dinner and catch up on the day's events. He went through the channels, stopping at one of the network affiliates, and turned up the volume.


--Katie? Are you there?


Desmond, I'm here. What about the Secretary-General's address--


Katie, I've just spoken with a source very high up within the U.S. delegation. That person tells me that after the Leipzig explosion, there was a terse two-minute telephone conversation between President Boehner and General Secretary Khalinin. The source didn't go into details but told me after the conversation, the President ordered everyone back on Air Force One, that they're going home a-sap.


The President and his delegation are heading back to the U.S.?


Yes. The only other thing the source told me besides what I just told you was, and I quote, 'if we're going home, you can bet the Russians and everybody else are, too'.


Desmond, have you seen any sign of that happening, the American delegation, the Soviets, or the British, French--


I haven't seen anyone from the Allied Eight or the Pact in the last hour. I have seen U.N. officials as well as Swiss, Indian, Chinese officials, and of course a sea of Peacekeepers separating them from us in the media.


Desmond, you mentioned the word 'terse' regarding the conversation between President Boehner and Secretary Khalinin. Did your source go into any detail about the conversation itself?


No, Katie. The source didn't say a whole, excuse me, it appears the U.N. Secretary-General Singh has arrived at the podium...(Desmond listens into his earpiece) the network's not using the U.N. feed?...WE'RE the feed, okay...(Desmond looks back up, into the camera) This is CBS News, live from Geneva, I'm Desmond Littner, and we go now to Secretary-General Singh as he addresses the media.--


The United Nations Secretary-General confirmed what the reporter had said: leaders of the Allied Eight nations, along with the Soviet, East German, Cuban and Angolan contingents, had left or were in the process of leaving Geneva.


Ducky looked at both suits in the room. Seeing the fear and dread in their expressions, he briefly tried to console them and realized he himself needed quite a bit of consolation. He pondered the implications of the Secretary-General's speech for himself and his loved ones.


He likely would be drafted into some branch of the U.S. military as a doctor; his obligations as NCIS medical examiner would be overshadowed by the need for trained physicians near one of the fronts. Gibbs would likely stay, his experience and talents making him too valuable for the agency to lose. Perhaps he would draft Mike Franks into service, making for an intriguing dynamic with Boss and Probie switching roles.


Ducky thought of Tony, Abby, Kate, McGee, Ziva and Palmer. What would happen to them if war broke out?


Ziva certainly would return to Mossad. Tony, Kate and McGee might stay where they currently were, get sent undercover, or drafted into domestic security work -- or sent to one of the fronts. Due to her forensic skills, Abby had been on a short list of essential personnel called to federal government service in the event of war.


Palmer's prospects were the most uncertain to Ducky. Palmer could stay on as the assistant to a new (and likely inexperienced) M.E. Since NCIS was low on the list of federal agencies to get qualified replacement examiners, Palmer might take over for Ducky on an 'interim' basis. Or, Palmer could be sent to one of the fronts as a medic.


If things got bad enough, Ducky thought, Mr. Palmer might be ordered to put down his scalpel and pick up a gun.


Ducky sighed, glancing at the TV screen before turning to his still-sleeping mother. "Who will take care of you?" he said softly as he lightly stroked one of her hands. He then had a stroke of inspiration.


"Perhaps Mr. Palmer can perform double duty in the event of my absence," he said to himself with a lift in his voice. "He will be quite busy for certain, but it may keep him off the battlefield. Perhaps a word with Director McCallister will suffice--"


Ducky's train of thought was interrupted by the buzzing of his cell phone in his pocket. With the knowledge that the suits would carefully watch over his mother, Ducky excused himself and stepped into the hallway to take the call.


"Dr. Mallard."


"The hawks are about to fly, old friend."


Ducky recognized the caller's voice, a colleague from the British Army Secret Air Service special forces unit. "You, and your colleagues, find the ring."


" this you, Mon--"


"Don't say my name. It's me."


"How are you doing?"


"Listen. It's going to at the least turn as bad as one can imagine, probably much worse. So find the ring, and save yourself."


Ducky lowered his voice into a whisper while he looked for any eavesdroppers. "What do you mean, the ring?"


"Ask Gibbs, away from your guardians. And find it quickly before you realize you've run out of time. This will likely be the last time we talk, so Godspeed, my friend, to you and your family."


Ducky heard the click in his earpiece, and made a minute for himself to ponder the conversation.



Before he realized it, he was headed downstairs towards the kitchen, first to have LaWanda return to his mother's side, and then to find Gibbs. There was an urgent conversation to be had between he and Gibbs, and anywhere the suits were at was not the place to have it.

Chapter 35 by Briwd

--President Moore will address the nation at 9 p.m. Eastern time--

With the sun lowering on the horizon, Ducky began his search for Gibbs in the backyard.

He saw Abby and one of the suits walking with Kate. He briefly rebuked himself for not having her up and about earlier, and for not checking on her more than he had.

Nonsense, he chided himself. Caitlin's outside, willingly so it appears. Everything has been so frenzied since...since the explosion.

Abby looked back and saw Ducky looking on. She mouthed 'Kate's gonna be okay' to him before turning back to her friend. Realizing that Kate was in good hands, he resumed his pursuit of Gibbs, and found him in the front yard with Mike Franks.

"Ah. Jethro," Ducky said as he walked up to both men. "There you are. Mike, I would have expected you to stay at Jethro's house, especially given the current circumstances."

Mike took a draw from his cigarette. "The house will be just fine, Ducky. Nobody's gonna think about waltzin' inside with all that security the director's providing for us, free of charge. Locked the front door, though, just in case." That drew a chuckle from Ducky and Gibbs, who briefly looked back to where Mike parked the truck. "Figured I'd be of better use here than back there. Ducky, how's Kate?"

Ducky summarized Kate's current condition and groaned when Gibbs said McCallister had given her 24 hours to recover while the rest of the team was on indefinite active duty. "It should be obvious to the director, as it is to the rest of us, that Caitlin won't be in any condition to work for quite some time. Psychiatric care is just the beginning; everything she needs will take time--"

"Time we may or may not have much of," Gibbs interjected. "You know I'm not gonna let McCallister do anything to her. You won't, either."

"He'll have to go through all of us, Jethro. I do need to speak with you privately, and I'm afraid it can't wait."

"Ducky, if you wanna get rid of me, just say so. Somebody once told me I didn't have any feelings to hurt," Mike quipped.

"Nonsense, Mike. You're always welcome here," Ducky said. "But please don't litter mother's yard with those cigarette butts. I know ordering you not to smoke is a futile endeavor, but I'll have to ask you to do so in the back--"

"Say no more, Duck," Mike replied as he headed to the back yard. Ducky quickly looked around for any unwelcomed interlopers, suited or otherwise. Satisfied he and Gibbs couldn't be overheard, he whispered "We need to talk."

"Talk," Gibbs said.

"Not here. Not in the house, either," Ducky continued whispering. "I spoke with a friend earlier whom you've never met and told me to ask you about the 'ring'. And I don't mean a wedding ring, either."

Gibbs understood exactly what Ducky was referring to. "How'd you find out--"

"I don't want to discuss this here. We need privacy, away from listening ears."

Gibbs told Ducky to follow him to his truck that Mike had driven to the house. Gibbs looked over the vehicle for bugs, which drew the attention of three of the suits.

"Sir?" one asked in a friendly manner. "Is everything alright with your truck?"

"Everything's good," Gibbs said in a polite tone. "Mike Franks drives like a crazy man sometimes. So I wanted to look her over, make sure he didn't tear anything up." Ducky chuckled as Gibbs tossed him the keys. "Duck, go ahead and get in, unlock my door for me."

"Of course, Je--"

"Dr. Mallard, are you supposed to go somewhere?" said another of the suits, who put his hand on the passenger door above the handle.

"I need some fresh air, and to make a grocery run if one's open. We're running low on fresh eggs and milk," Ducky lied as he deftly removed the suit's hand from the door. The suit, briefly taken aback, quickly placed her hand over the lock.

"Is there a problem?" Gibbs said as he shot her a glare that caused her to move her hand off the lock.

The third suit, a towering giant of a man whom Tony had nicknamed 'Tiny', nervously stepped in between his colleague and the doctor. "Ah, Agent Gibbs, no problem. We can get those things, or try to, I'm not sure if anything's open--"

Gibbs looked at Tiny, who became even more nervous under the older man's withering gaze. "I'm gonna go for a drive, in my own truck. Ducky's gonna go with me. That a problem."

"Ah, sir, uh, I'm not sure--"

"We haven't heard the director give his approval for unauthorized trips from the secured facility," interrupted the suit who had tried to keep Ducky from unlocking the door. "We will have to--"

"DON'T interrupt me, Sheila," Tiny whispered. "We can go with you. We can take you in one of our secured vehicles--"

Tiny then shut up, swearing that Gibbs was glaring a hole through his soul. That was something he thought was merely apocryphal. Then he thought it would be good to try to get back on the man's good side. "Agent Gibbs, uh, please keep your phone on, and let us know if you run into a problem."

"Yeah," Gibbs dismissed the giant man. "Duck. Unlock the door."

"With pleasure." Ducky got in, unlocked the driver's door and handed Gibbs the keys as he got in. After Gibbs drove away, Tiny and his colleagues jumped into their SUVs to follow them.


--as the nation awaits the President's address, FEMA has moved into Indianapolis, setting up operations at the airport which is now closed to the public. Evacuation continues at this hour of areas in the city and in Marion County affected by blast and fire damage and fallout--

--the President is expected to address who the government believes was behind the bombing--

--Fox News has learned, from a source in the Pentagon, that it's currently believed that either Al-Qaeda or one of the Mexican cartels planted the bomb--

--the District itself is under total lockdown--

--travel is still allowed in the suburbs, although drivers are having to deal with checkpoints, and many stores are open. The Army is assisting National Guardsmen and local police protect and maintain order at supermarkets, gas stations and drug stores--

"Sure you don't want some eggs," Gibbs said to Ducky as they drove past a Giant supermarket. Military vehicles outnumbered civilian vehicles four to one.

"Jethro, are those missile launchers on top of those vehicles?" Ducky asked.

"TOWs: tube-launched, optically tracked, wireless anti-tank missiles," Gibbs replied. "You're not supposed to see them around here unless--"

"Unless there's a severe threat to the homeland," Ducky added. "Terrorists shouldn't warrant that much firepower."

"You're right, they don't." Gibbs turned into the lot, glancing in the rear view mirrors. The SUVs stayed at the same 20- to 30-yard distance they had maintained since they left Ducky's home. "See those vehicles lined up near the door? Marine Growlers."

A National Guardsman waved Gibbs into a parking space about 40 yards from the front door. It was the closest open space alloted to public use, and next to a green Marine light assault vehicle with a single occupant: a Marine gunnery specialist armed with a weapon who appeared to be looking for potential threats.

Gibbs and Ducky got out of the truck and saw two Homeland Security agents coming their way. One led a German Shepherd and held a handheld scanner and the other a metal detector. "Security," they said when Gibbs asked them what they were doing.

He and Ducky looked around the lot as they headed towards the supermarket. They both saw the suits' SUVs parked, 30 yards away, and one suit exiting each vehicle. Ducky looked back towards the truck, where he saw one of the officers give the others a thumbs-up.

He then noticed Gibbs looking at the LAV parked in the next space. "Something wrong, Jethro?" he asked. "I must admit, all of this appears to be overkill--"

"His weapon, Duck."

"The scanners?"

"The Marine on the LAV. His weapon. Looked like an M27, not an M249. And...yeah. A bit much for a supermarket," Gibbs said as they approached the entrance. Four Guardsmen apiece covered the entrance and exit; in between them hung a large yellow sheet of paper with a message written in marker:


Ducky glanced at the Guardsmen, none of whom seemed inclined towards conversation of any kind. They were stopped by two Homeland agents standing by a set of 12-foot-high body-scanners.

"Weapons?" asked one of the officers. Gibbs pulled out his NCIS badge, Ducky his NCIS identification.

"Handgun, SIG Sauer P229 in its holster, backup Smith & Wesson Model 37," said Gibbs.

"None," Ducky told the officers, one of whom raised her eyebrow. "I have all the weaponry I need by my side," Ducky replied; Gibbs smiled at the mention, while the Homeland officers did not.

Four minutes later -- with the suits standing outside looking right at them -- Gibbs and Ducky stepped away from the scanners, with Gibbs allowed to keep his weapons.

There were a handful of customers inside the store; like themselves, the other customers were shadowed by police or security. Ducky made quick observations of both groups: some of the customers were calm, anxious or in some kind of hurry, or a combination of the three. None of them appeared to pose any type of threat.

If someone had pulled a gun or exposed a bomb vest, the person would have been quickly surrounded by the police who were well-trained in fighting threats from potential cartel and Islamist terrorists and Soviet-backed special forces. Security personnel -- all of whom were in top shape, trained primarily to handle civilian threats -- were able to backup police and federal agents in such a case.

Unlike the store employees who made every effort to appear approachable and friendly, Ducky noted police and security weren't. Go about your business -- if it isn't creating mayhem -- and you'll be fine, Ducky thought as he glanced over one of the heavily armed police officers. If you dare to attempt something you shouldn't, God help you.

The aisles were mostly empty, although the men managed to pick up a carton of eggs, two gallons of almond milk, a box of saltine crackers and a frozen pepperoni and sausage pizza. Every aisle with anything one could eat, drink or use as medicine was sparse, including the candy and pet sections. On the other hand, if someone wanted one of their five alloted items to be a magazine or a bestselling paperback, they were in luck.

"Five items per customer?" Ducky asked the cashier as they checked out. "That isn't very much."

"Nope, but we're pretty sure we're going to get restocked tomorrow night," the cashier replied. "Then you'll be able to buy five non-essential items, ten essential. Once they secure distribution, we'll go up to 20 or, maybe, 25."

Ducky and Gibbs went through the scanners exiting the store and walked to the truck. The suits kept their distance and began heading back to their SUVs, watching the men as intently as the men were watching them. Gibbs looked over his truck, then nodded at Ducky.

"I believe we're better off getting our groceries from our friends inside the agency," Ducky said as he got inside the truck. "Something is nagging at me. A nuclear explosion occurs inside the United States. The U.S. is obviously showing restraint although it and the Soviets walked away from Geneva. War has not been declared by either side."

Gibbs nodded for Ducky to continue. "So why the excess security at the supermarket?"

"The 'excess' security could be needed to handle the crowds," Gibbs said. "You saw the shelves in there. People showed up before we got there, started buying everything in sight."

"Yes. And the store severely limited the number of purchases one could make."

"Yeah. So what bothers you?"

Gibbs drove past an Exxon gas station. There appeared to be no customers, but there was a beige Humvee parked on the side of the building and four armed, black-garbed security personnel roaming the parking lot and fuel pumps. He slowed slightly to get a better look; in response, the closest of the four men waved his M4A1 carbine assault at him, then stopped after looking behind the truck.

Ducky looked in the side mirror and saw an arm sticking out of the closest of the suits' SUVs, the hand holding a badge. "Our 'friends' seem to be of some good use," Ducky quipped.

"They're private contractors," Gibbs said of the security at the gas station. "Darkmirror. Recognize the uniform and the weapons."

"Civilian military contractors?" Ducky asked. "They aren't allowed to conduct operations domestically by law except in..."

"World war," Gibbs replied.

"What aren't we being told, Jethro?"

"Probably a lot, Duck."

Ducky looked in his side mirror at the SUVs following Gibbs's truck. "I need to revisit our previous discussion."


"Is there anything you haven't already told me?"

"Duck, I already told you everything I know about the ring."

"And you believe what you saw."

"Believe it, yeah, Duck. I was there, saw it myself along with Hollis. Understand it? I can't begin to explain how it does what it does."

"It's just that...the story is so fantastic," Ducky said. "I would more easily dismiss it coming from just about anyone else, even a respectable authority like President Moore. But you, someone I've known for years, who is not given to telling tall tales...Jethro, can you get me there to see this for myself?"

Gibbs glanced in his rear-view mirror. "Not gonna be as easy getting you out anywhere, Duck. On top of that, I haven't been able to contact Hollis."

"Jethro, perhaps she is on assignment."

"Yeah." Or found out, Gibbs thought.

"Jethro, if things were to turn for the worse, whom have you--"

"Everyone on the team, Duck. Everyone I can."

"And how do you plan to do so?"

Gibbs had been thinking about that since he and Hollis visited the ring. He still hadn't come up with a plan that didn't involve arrests or shootouts.


--we go live to the Brady Briefing Room at the White House. Press Secretary Brent Hobard is at the podium:

"I know you have a lot of questions. I can answer some of them now, although I can't disclose anything the President plans to discuss tonight. I'll start by telling you that President Moore is safe and in an undisclosed location discussing the Indianapolis, bombing, and the situation in Geneva with his advisors, the Joint Chiefs, Congressional leaders--

--Vice-President Mitch McConnell's call for calm seems to have resonated with most of the nation even as unrest continues in several cities--

--Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on CNN:
"President Boehner's absence at this time is inexcusable. Hours after the greatest tragedy in our nation's history he is nowhere to be publicly seen. I understand the need for his security but now is the time when our country needs not just to hear from its Commander-in-Chief, but also to have already heard from him."--

Gibbs and Ducky arrived safely in Ducky's neighborhood, and Gibbbs parked in front of McGee's car. Neither Gibbs nor Ducky stopped when one of the suits called out for them, walking straight into the house.

Gibbs headed for the first empty room but stopped momentarily when he saw Kate and Ziva in the kitchen. Kate had a cup of coffee in her hands, and Ziva was preparing a Hebrew dish for her. Kate locked eyes with Gibbs, who gave a sympathetic look in response, then nodded to Ziva before resuming his search.

The rec room had just two suits inside watching the news. Gibbs told them he wanted the room, and both women walked out quietly. He then pulled out his cell phone and placed a call.

At the Navy Yard, a cell phone buzzed in Director McCallister's pocket as he read some intel on his laptop. He ignored it, and again, and a third and fourth time.

The fifth time, McCallister finally pulled the phone out of his pocket and picked up. "McCallister."

"Director. You're a busy man," Gibbs replied.

"Very, Gibbs. You're a persistent bastard, aren't you?"

"Very," Gibbs said. "Got a question for you."

"Let me guess. It's about that thing."

"Yeah. You wanna verify it or tell me it's a bunch of bull?"

McCallister sighed. Damnit, he thought. Why did Shepard talk Gibbs out of retiring to Mexico? Things would be easier with one of my men in charge down there. "I'll verify it. Now. You be in my office tomorrow, 0800, to debrief. Any case you catch, DiNozzo can lead."


"That's right, and if you're not there it better be because you're dead. And if you call me tonight, it better be something big."


"You have no idea what the hell's going on behind the scenes, Gibbs. There's stuff I don't know about, and what I DO know about I can't openly divulge without clearance. We can talk about that thing tomorrow morning, and as I said, you call me before then better be for something big."

Gibbs heard the click in his earpiece, snapped his flip phone shut, and pondered what McCallister had told him. A knock on the door shook him from his thoughts. He opened the door and saw the two suits standing behind Tony.

"Sorry, Boss," Tony said. "They" -- Tony held his fist up with his thumb pointing behind him -- "and the rest of us wanted to make sure you're okay."

"I'm fine, DiNozzo."

"That's good to hear, Boss. People want to get in here, too. The President's about to speak."

"Yeah. Kinda want to hear him myself."

The room quickly filled up, and Kate made her way to Gibbs, leaning into him as he put his arm around her shoulders. The TV picture cut from the CBS newsanchors to a picture of the Presidential Seal, then to President Boehner sitting behind his desk in the Oval Office.


--"My fellow Americans. Today, May 27, 2007, is perhaps the worst day in the history of our great nation. It is a day we will never forget...--

Chapter 36 by Briwd

Chapter 36


(TL;DR for the reader -- the President addresses the nation on events in Indianapolis and Geneva and what America's response will be. There's a lot about what's being done on the ground in Indy, and nothing about military response, possibly because the powers that be don't want to tip their hand and prematurely open Pandora's Box)


--"...President Boehner will, at any moment, speak publicly for the first time since the Allied Eight leaders spoke in Geneva and since the explosion in Indianapolis. We do not know where he'll be--excuse me. We're going live in moments--"


"Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States."


"My fellow Americans. Today, May 27, 2007, is perhaps the worst day in the history of our great nation. It is a day we will never forget.


Today, a nuclear device exploded in Indianapolis, Indiana, outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, before the scheduled start of one of America's great sporting events, the Indianapolis 500. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, Americans and non-Americans alike, perished and tens of thousands more were injured. We believe the device detonated with a yield of around 30 kilotons just outside the Speedway. Because the device exploded on the ground, it produced fallout that is expected to extend into Ohio, although the worst of it will impact northern Indianapolis and Marion County.


For comparison's sake, the bomb that destroyed Nagasaki at the end of World War II was a yield of 20 kilotons, the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima 15 kilotons. The four bombs detonated by the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom and China during the crisis of 1986 were 100 megatons each. The bomb detonated by the U.S. approximately 90 miles north of Barrow, Alaska was 3,333 times as powerful as the one that detonated in Indianapolis today.


At that time, I and the other Allied Eight leaders were in the midst of the peace talks with Soviet General Secretary Khalinin at the summit in Geneva, Switzerland. Unfortunately, Mr. Khalinin walked out of the talks and returned to Moscow, and ordered his subordinates to return to their respective countries. The leaders of the Allied Eight nations, including myself, thought it useless to remain in Geneva given the absence of the representatives of the nations we need to reach an accord with. Although these specific talks have broken down, I remain committed to finding a peaceful solution to our ongoing disagreements with the Soviet Union. America and her allies, the nations of the free world, want peace, but not at any cost, and not at the cost of freedom and liberty and the right to live and prosper within a free and open democratic society.


I learned of the devastation in Indianapolis earlier today while I was in a discussion with Soviet General Secretary Khalinin on how to resolve the growing tension between our two sides. I was, like all of you, shocked and heartbroken upon hearing the news. In any other scenario I would have immediately departed for the U.S. homeland; this was the exception. These talks in Geneva were vital to the United States and the entire world. Unfortunately, there was a breakdown in the talks. After a brief discussion I subsequently made the decision to return here to the States.


My sympathies and condolences go out to each and every person who had a parent, a child, a sibling, a family member, a friend, an acquaintance die today in Indianapolis. Your anguish is shared not just by myself, but by every American and every free person on Earth, in body and in spirit. We lost not just race car drivers and celebrities, we lost people from across the great spectrum of society: business people, factory workers, parents and children, those who were independently wealthy and those who worked two, three or four jobs to provide for their families. We lost people of faith. We lost young people with their entire lives ahead of them who could contribute greatly to our free society. We lost people who worked hard, every single day, to contribute to the common good.


We also lost a great number of public servants, including Governor Kelley and Mayor Hudnall. However, because of the state constitution's amendment providing for continuity of government, Charles Todd was sworn in as the new governor. He is working to help keep the state government moving forward during this emergency, as are most of the members of the General Assembly. The Indianapolis/Marion County government is under the emergency management of the state government. All agencies are working hand in hand with federal agencies, agencies from other states, private relief organizations like the Red Cross, and private businesses to bring order to the chaos and aid and comfort to those who are suffering.


I am heartened at the response of civic leaders in unaffected cities and towns throughout the midwest. Injured survivors are being treated in hospitals from Chicago to Nashville, Tennessee, from Pittsburgh to St. Louis. This has reaffirmed my faith in America as a land that rallies to its broken in times of great need. Even now, members of the New York City Fire and Police Departments are traveling to Indianapolis to help with relief efforts, just as their brothers and sisters journeyed to New York City in the wake of 9/11.


To those left behind: we will not abandon you in your time of need. I have implemented our government's emergency response plans in dealing with this type of tragic event. These are plans we prayed never to use, which will guide us through the coming days, weeks, months and years.


FEMA and other federal emergency teams are in the city coordinating rescue efforts, operating out its central headquarters at the Indianapolis International Airport which is well within the city's safe zone. Those agencies are also operating out of secured satellite locations throughout Marion County as well as areas of the states of Indiana and Ohio potentially affected by fallout.


FEMA will coordinate one of the largest civil service projects in our nation's history, one we hoped never to have to implement anywhere. This is the evacuation of all of Indianapolis and Marion County and of the areas outside Marion County impacted by the fallout, including the towns of New Castle; Carmel; Plainfield; Brownsburg; Greenwood; Avon; Zionsville; New Palestine; and Greenfield.


Refugees will be relocated to FEMA camps currently being set up in Anderson; Lebanon; Martinsville; Shelbyville; Muncie; Bloomington; Lafayette; Richmond; Terre Haute; Seymour; Bedford; and Columbus. We are discussing the addition of several more camps with city and county leaders in the rest of the state as well as in Louisville, Kentucky and Dayton, Ohio. This decision is solely mine, and it is one I made without hesitation once I understood the reasons presented to me.


One major reason involves the city and county's water supply. Two major riverways -- the White River and Fall Creek -- cross through the fallout zone. Four of the major well fields providing clean water to Marion County lie within the fallout zone. The Speedway wellfield, I'm told, will be unusable for the foreseeable future. The Riverside; Fall Creek; and Geist/Lawrence well fields will not be usable any time soon. The South wellfield in southeastern Marion County is outside the fallout zone but intersects in two places with the White River. Our experts in the U.S. Geological Survey and the Environmental Protection Agency consider those five wellfields currently unsafe for use of any kind.


The Ford wellfield in extreme northwestern Marion County, north of the detonation site and the fallout zone, is considered safe for public use. It cannot possibly provide for the drinking, cooking and bathing needs of all of Indianapolis, so I have authorized emergency measures put into place to safeguard the and the South wellfield As those watching this address via television or the internet can see on your screen (reader: see above links), the fallout covers a roughly 32-block area north to south from where Interstate 65 crosses the river by Lake Sullivan south to where West Michigan Street crosses the river before intersecting with North White River Parkway.


Fall Creek also falls into the fallout zone, beginning near East 79th Street and ending near West 12th Street.


Food can be shipped into the region and electricity restored. However, because people need water to live, and because the vast majority of the water supply is now or expected to be contaminated, I have authorized the evacuation of all of Marion County, and of the areas of Indiana and Ohio expected to be impacted by fallout. As I said, we will place all displaced people in FEMA camps in safe zones throughout the region. These camps will be as comfortable and safe as humanly possible for people to live in. Our emergency teams are in Indianapolis helping ordered every federal agency to devote all available resources to Indianapolis. In conjunction with Indiana state agencies and the National Guard, I am confident we will be able to tackle the great challenge that lies ahead of us.


I know many of you are angry at those who perpetrated this atrocity; so am I. I know all of you want justice, even vengeance. So do I. Intelligence is coming in literally by the moment that brings us closer to finding out for certain who was behind this attack. Before we do anything we will know who that was, and we will then give you, the American people, as much information as we are able.


Allow me to turn for the moment to Geneva and to the talks with the Soviet Union we hoped would be fruitful. I am no friend of Communism nor of the Soviet regime's desire to spread its philosophy of Stalinist revolution across the entire world. But I had hoped to reach a rapport with General Secretary Khalinin. He believes in his country and his way of life as sure as I do in America and our way of life. He is human, and he knows the damage a conflict between our two countries would inflict on our peoples and on the rest of the world. I was saddened when Mr. Khalinin decided to break off talks and return to Moscow. All other members of the Soviet and World Pact party departed Geneva with him. After a brief discussion with my fellow leaders in the Allied Eight, and because of the ongoing situation in Indianapolis, I decided to return to the U.S.


I am currently in an undisclosed location but rest assured, I will not hide in a cave nor in a bunker. Tomorrow is Memorial Day, a day in which we remember those who gave their lives so that others might be free. I had planned to commemorate Memorial Day in Geneva, hopefully having reached an accord with the Soviets and their World Pact allies. My thoughts, at some point, would be with those gathered at Arlington National Ceremony where we intern many of our nation's honored dead.


My thoughts will be with those at Arlington tomorrow, as I visit Indianapolis and speak with the injured, with those working to heal them, those working to assist in recovery efforts, and those working to manage this crisis in whatever capacity they have been placed in. Later that day I will be back in Washington, at the White House, visibly leading this nation.


To those who are suffering, our wings will shelter, feed, clothe and protect you until you are back on your own two feet. In America, we care for our wounded. We do not discard them, we do not punish them, we do not use them as collateral. For we too are wounded, and together we will walk forward, the stronger brother helping the weaker until he can stand, and walk, and return to life. Then, they walk together and help another who cannot stand on his own.


To those who are behind this devious attack upon this country and our way of life: we know more about you than you think, we will find you more quickly than you anticipate, and we will bring you to justice without hesitation and with full resolve. Do not think because great tragedy has befallen us that we are weak. I have every confidence that our great nation will fall back on the principles that guided it from the time of the Founding Fathers, those written by Almighty God. As Jesus said in the Gospel of Luke: 'He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.'


America, overall, remains deeply rooted in solid ground. Although it is wounded and although it mourns, America stands steadfast with faith in God. America also stands ready to wield the sword of justice on behalf of those who have been taken from us, for those who are left to carry on, and for those who suffer under the heavy yolk of ideological and terroristic oppression.


Now, as we did yesterday and today and as we will tomorrow, we stand as one nation under God, indivisible, standing for justice for all. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America."


"You've just heard President John Boehner address the nation, hours after the devastating nuclear explosion in Indianapolis and World Bloc leaders walked out of the Geneva summit talks. This is ZNN, the Satellite News Network..."

Chapter 37 by Briwd

Chapter 37

Sunday evening



Gibbs wasn't surprised in the least to see two suits waiting for him on the front porch of his house, just as he wasn't surprised about the NCIS SUVs parked nearby down the street.


He was surprised that only a few houses on the street appeared to be empty. The others had their lights on, their occupants staying put for the time being. Gibbs heard the faint sound of a television from his next door neighbor's living room, and saw the neighbor's 11-year-old daughter Erica peeking out from behind the blinds in the front window.


From his sidewalk, Gibbs smiled at the young girl, who reminded him of his daughter Kelly. I hope YOU get a chance to grow up, he thought, before turning towards his guests on the porch.


"Pretty rough day, Agent Gibbs," said Ronald, a 42-year-old agent who worked a case in Norfolk with Mike Franks when Gibbs was a probationary agent. "Good to see you got home safely. Mr. Franks stayed behind at Dr. Mallard's, then?"


"Yeah," Gibbs replied as he walked past Ronald and Carey, a young woman Gibbs thought couldn't be more than a month out of FLET-C. "Gonna get some rest."


Ronald and Carey saw Gibbs grab a beer from the refrigerator before heading to his basement. A minute later, Carey's eyes widened at the sound from below of nails being hammered into wood. "Does this guy ever sleep?" she whispered.


Ronald grinned. "Yeah. Once in a blue moon."


Downstairs, Gibbs settled into his routine of sanding, hammering and varnishing as the minutes ticked down towards midnight, and Memorial Day. As he often did in his basement, Gibbs went over the most recent events in his life and that of his team. He pushed aside Indianapolis and its implications to ponder the things that directly affected his team.


His heart ached for Kate, for the unimaginable loss she would endure probably for the rest of her life. He would never get over the loss of Shannon and Kelly, and missed his own late father greatly despite their estrangement; but Gibbs would be damned if he didn't do everything he could to keep Kate from spiraling downwards into the same dark places -- or worse -- that the loss of his wife and daughter had dragged him.


Gibbs smiled as he reminisced over Kate's confronting Jenny after the Dempsey case nearly went south. He realized he hadn't thought about Jenny in days and cursed himself for it; had she died a few months earlier, before Broome's assassination, he'd have been working through his grief by growling at his team and tearing apart his boat. Instead, he had to investigate her death while dealing with her successor.


McCallister was there when McGee found Jenny and her driver dead at Rock Creek Park. Gibbs didn't like him years before when he briefly talked with the man in Washington; although McCallister's claims on the director's chair were legitimate, and the investigation into Jenny's death exonerated him, Gibbs still didn't fully trust him. He wanted more time to vet his new boss.


All of a sudden, his gut told him he wouldn't get that time. And that made him think of Hollis.


Would she, as DiNozzo once remarked (without realizing Gibbs overheard him), become 'wife number five'? The relationship between he and the Army CID Colonel had grown to the point that he was considering their future together. He found her intelligence, her competence and her willingness to challenge him attractive. She had earned his respect and trust, neither of which he easily gave. 


Still, when Hollis told Gibbs the story about the ring, she realized he needed to see it for himself. He had, and he didn't know what to do with that information any more now than he did then, but the ring wasn't a priority right now. 


Finding Hollis was. 


Gibbs heard something loud hit his basement floor, then realized it was the hammer he threw. Before the hammer stopped moving, one of the suits was in the doorway of the basement and headed down the stairs. "Agent Gibbs! Are you alright?"


"Yeah," he said in an angry tone, although he was angry at himself and not at the young agent slightly trembling before him. She was new on the rotation of agents assigned to his hourse, but there was something familiar about her demeanor. "Accident."


"Oh," she said. "Would you like me to stay--"


"Nope," he said, then kicked himself for his tone; she was doing her job, not intentionally pissing him off. "Sorry. Tough day."


"Yes sir, it has of my friends from college. She and her husband lived -- live -- in Indianapolis. I...I haven't had time to try to call."


"Lines are down there," he said more gently. "Maybe they can't call anyone. Or they might be at one of those emergency camps outside town. Leave me their names and address and I'll have my people make some calls for you."


"Oh, Agent Gibbs, thank you so much," she said as he handed her a pencil and notepad. "I don't want to be a burden, any more than I already am."


"You're not a burden. You're an NCIS agent, doing your job, Agent...sorry. I forgot your name."


"Agent Carter, sir. Kelly Carter."


Gibbs looked at her and realized who the suited agent reminded him of.


11:59 p.m. EDT


--this feed is coming off of TASS's website and is airing over Radio Moscow's shortwave English service. ZNN has decided to air it for our viewers and listeners from the beginning, with our English translator speaking over the live feed which is about 25 seconds ahead. Here is Soviet General Secretary Khalinin's response to President Boehner's address:

'Relations between the Soviet Union and the United States of America have been strained for some time now. It has been the hope of the people of the Soviet Union and our allies in the World Pact that all nations can peacefully resolve their differences and come together in a spirit of global brotherhood. This is why I traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss peace. We have only one planet and it is imperative all of our peoples learn to live together as one.

Upon learning of the devastation and great loss of life in the American city of Indianapolis, I had hoped that what was intended to provoke terror and war might yet bring our nations closer together. Unfortunately, America and her closest allies seem ready to put the blame for the Indianapolis attack on us in the Soviet Union.

Without solid proof and out of great anguish, President Boehner angrily accused me and my country of planting the bomb. I saw all of the hard work our sides had put in before and during the Geneva summit burn in the fires of rage. Sadly, I realized the man who is the leader of his nation and the devout follower of another man who long ago preached peace and brotherhood was not interested in anything other than revenge. Therefore, I decided to return to Moscow, fearful for what may come next and obligated to ensure my own country is properly prepared for all potential outcomes from this event.

I want to emphasize to the American people that the Soviet Union and our allies unequivocally condemn the perpetrators of this vicious attack and offer our assistance to the survivors of those who were killed and those who were wounded. Your government, sadly, will not allow us to assist in aiding your wounded nor in finding the attackers. I fear the anger of President Boehner and the hawks in his cabinet, military and government will lead to unprovoked and unwarranted aggression against Soviet military personnel aiding our socialist brothers around the world. Therefore, I have directed our military leaders to prepare accordingly. Our forces worldwide are now at increased combat readiness. President Boehner, make no mistake: if you, as your American saying goes, 'poke the bear', do not be shocked if the bear pokes back. Do not be surprised if you were to persist, that the bear pushes back, and more.

I hope that things would not reach that point. I appeal to the peace-loving peoples of the so-called free world, to ask their governments to freely and honestly explain why they are so quick to place blame on the Soviet Union. I appeal to the those same people to have their governments and leaders seek a quick and peaceful resolution to our disagreement. We do not want war, only peace. I know you do too. Ask your leaders if they want the same, and if not, ask them why.'

And that was Soviet General Secretary Khalinin, apparently speaking to the American people, claiming his country was not behind the Indianapolis bombings and that President Boehner was accusing the Soviet Union of doing so. The President, in his speech tonight, did not name the USSR nor any other country...--



Chapter 38 by Briwd

Chapter 38

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day in the United States


--This is ZNN Mornings. I'm Bryant Gumbel, with Carol Costello and Major Garrett, on a somber day for the United States, and for the world.

We're about 17 hours from the explosion of a nuclear device, according to President Boehner, that took the lives of a now-estimated 300,000 people yesterday in Indianapolis. Later that day the Geneva summit talks ended abruptly, and just a few hours after the President addressed the country last night, Soviet Premier Khalinin gave his response--


Navy Yard, NCIS headquarters


Ducky pulled his 1954 Morgan 4-4 Series V automobile into one of the few empty spots in the parking lot. Kate, who rode with him into town, got out from the passenger side of the two-seater vintage British roadster and walked around to the driver's door on the right side.


"It is I who should be opening the door for you, Caitlin," Ducky said after she opened his door for him. "I was certain you would've allowed that for a man whose mother raised him to mind his manners around ladies."


Kate smiled, for the first time since they heard the terrible news from Indianapolis. Ducky had hoped for an additional word or two from her, but she hadn't spoken to anyone since the previous night. 


That was the least of his worries for her at the moment, however. Ducky was most concerned about her short- and long-term mental and psychological state. Could she ever recover from yesterday's tragedy enough to move forward? That topped the numerous concerns he had for Kate, and any of them, at almost any other time, would be good enough for him to bench her until she could sufficiently heal. But McCallister gave her 24 hours from the time of the detonation before ordering her to return to field work, citing an obscure agency rule meant to prevent agents from abandoning their posts in the event of an impending nuclear war. 


After former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev's coup d'etat in 1986 kept World War III from breaking out, the agency added a rule allowing for the director to compel agents to work in the event of a pending global conflict that was likely to go nuclear and involve enemy attacks on the homeland. The director needed only the Secretary of the Navy's approval, and McCallister had, according to what Gibbs told Ducky an hour before, invoked the rule after Geneva broke down. 


Therefore, Kate was reporting for work. Ducky mused that even under the present circumstances, Jenny Shepard and Tom Morrow would've given Kate as much time off as they could afford, more than 24 hours for certain. McCallister? Gibbs told Ducky the director didn't hesitate to order her ready; in fact, he wouldn't even allow her to go back to Indiana, citing 'chaos' in the area.


Gibbs told Ducky he wasn't about to give up on getting Kate as much time as he could, at least for whatever memorial service the Todd family survivors wanted to have. For his part, Ducky had gone through the agency rulebook to find something that would allow him to pull rank on McCallister. He had come up empty so far, he told Gibbs, but Riley's 24 hours weren't yet exhausted.


Lost in his thoughts, he was jostled back into the moment when Kate pulled him away from walking into a guard standing right outside the main south entrance into the NCIS building. "Thank you very much, Caitlin, for saving me from being the center of a most embarassing scene," he told her. Kate smiled in response, and looked around the area while the guard waved a portable metal detector over she and Ducky. 


Kate's smile vanished when she saw the American flag at half-mast on a nearby pole, and Ducky gently put his hand on her shoulder in sympathy and as a gesture of comfort. He caught her eye and saw her countenance change almost instantly; she bit her lip and her visage turned steely. The tear falling down her cheek hinted at the pain she was bearing.


--every overnight talk show on radio has had nothing but callers wondering why we're not attacking the damn Russians--

--talk shows, even Internet message boards are on fire over this administration's lack of response to the clear Soviet attack on an American city!!! We ought to be banging on Khalinin's door, demanding he answer for this--

--Matt, the President is doing exactly what he ought to do: wait for all of the facts before he takes us into war, especially with the stakes as high as they are--


Ducky elected to go with Kate to the bullpen and, as they walked off the elevator, saw the rest of the team waiting for them. Abby took off in a sprint from the moment she saw Kate and, just as Ducky stepped out of the way, wrapped her up in a hug. "Abs," Gibbs said seconds later, nodding towards the bullpen when Abby turned to look at him. She reluctantly let Kate go, following closely behind as Kate went straight to her desk.


"Kate, we're here for you," McGee said.


"Always," Ziva added. "We have your back."


"We're here to help," Palmer said.


"Anything you need or want, just say the word," DiNozzo said. 


All four, along with Abby and Ducky, kept a respectful distance as Kate silently put her belongings in her desk. Gibbs got up from behind his desk and walked into Kate's space, seeing her in the moment as a daughter whose anguish broke his heart, again and again. "Not goin' anywhere," he told her in a low, soft tone, and for a moment her eyes softened. 


When she noticed McCallister looking down at them from atop the stairs, her eyes hardened like steel. So did Gibbs's.


McCallister, flanked by suits on all sides, quickly made his way down the stairs and to the bullpen, stopping just shy of Kate's desk. He abruptly launched into a speech thanking the team for going and beyond the call of duty, reminding them they were the best team in the entire agency, and going on and on and on. Neither they -- nor other employees working nearby, the suits nor the director himself -- could miss Gibbs glaring directly at McCallister.


McCallister no-sold Gibbs's icy scowl and turned to Kate. "In nearly four years since joining NCIS you've become one of our most versatile agents," he said. "Your profiling skills are second to none. You've scored in the top two percentile in shooting. You've become an excellent interrogator. Your undercover work helped us crack the Rainier case. Your..." 


Kate looked at Tony's monitor across from her desk the entire time McCallister spoke, finally making eye contact with the man when he brought up Indianapolis. "Under normal circumstances, I would not hesitate to give you as much time as you needed," he said. "The world we live in, right now, does not allow for our best people to do what civilized people do, expect. The barbarians would, and will, take advantage of our humanity to conquer us and destroy our way of life..."


She never broke eye contact as McCallister droned on before ending with a statement that made just about everyone bite their tongues: "I noticed you were, are, a good soldier. The best thing for you is to be here with your second family, focusing on the job. That's why you're here, and why I expect you to continue upholding the high standards Agent Gibbs has set for you, that you have set for yourself."


Kate paused a few moments before responding. "I'm ready to serve my country, sir," she said coolly. 


"Good girl," he replied, looking at her and everyone else before turning to leave. He took a few steps, stopped to turn around, and told Gibbs, "five minutes." Then he and his suited entourage proceeded up the stairs, Gibbs glaring at him until he went out of sight.


DiNozzo let out a long, loud whistle which opened the door for almost all of the others to voice their complaints. 


"'Good girl'?" Abby shouted. "Of all the condescending things--"


"What an ass!" McGee blurted. 


"Jenny would never have conducted herself in such a manner," Ziva said angrily. 


"Boss, you gonna let this go on--" DiNozzo said.


Ducky caught Gibbs's eye and glanced over towards the elevator, leading Gibbs to put his fingers to his mouth and let out an ear-piercing whistle that got his team's attention, along with every other person on the floor. Even Kate looked up in response before turning her attention back to her computer screen.


"Duck," Gibbs said as he headed briskly towards the elevator. Ducky caught up with him just as the doors opened, and both men went inside to Gibbs's unofficial office.


--evacuation efforts continue at this hour in Marion County. Residents are being placed in shelters as far south as Nashville, Tennessee and east as Pittsburgh--

--Governor Todd has ordered for anyone without official and authorized business in Marion County to stay out; thousands of men and women have traveled to the area to assist in rescue operations, as they did in Manhattan on 9/11--


Gibbs hit the switch on the panel, dimming the lights and stopping the elevator. Ducky took Gibbs's stare as his cue to speak first. "Jethro, Director McCallister's hubris is--"


"Duck. Is she ready to work?"


"Jethro, no one would nor should go back to work immediately in the aftermath of such a tragedy as Caitlin has suffered," Ducky replied. "No one. That includes you."


"Is she ready?" Gibbs asked without missing a beat.


Ducky took a deep breath and pondered his answer for a few moments. "No, she isn't, despite Director McCallister's insistence to the contrary. If the decision was mine to make, Caitlin would be with her remaining family--"


"Which is here with us," Gibbs said.


"Caitlin's uncle and his family, her cousin and her immediate family can not give her the attention she needs, but surely the director would arrange for her at least a brief visit with them in person."


Gibbs shook his head. "Too chaotic there right now."


"It would do her well, emotionally and mentally, as would some time off to mourn, to receive counseling--"


"What did Riley ask you about?"


"How did you know...of course you knew."




"The director asked me my professional and personal opinion on her condition, if I thought she was able to work, if she should work. And, to observe her for the time being. I wonder if he was paying me the courtesy of consulting me as chief medical examiner."


"Yeah. He had his mind made up."


"I see that you do as well. careful."


"Of what?"


"Be careful of what you say to the man and more careful about how you say it. You don't have the informal relationship with McCallister that you had with Jenny. He won't tolerate your barging into his office forever. He expects obedience. He's the general, we and the others, Caitlin included, are soldiers. You need to handle this matter more like you interacted with Thomas Morrow."


"Morrow was reasonable."


"And you respected and trusted Tom Morrow, to a degree that you clearly don't have for McCallister."


"More like trust," Gibbs said.


"You and I agree that trust is earned, especially in our line of work," Ducky replied. "But McCallister is the director. He has the power to open doors, or make one's life miserable...or remove someone, even you."


"My job's not just about following orders, Duck. If the director does anything I find questionable or wrong, my obligation's to call him or her out."


"I agree with you. With this man, Jethro, do so differently, more respectfully, with the professional welfare of your agents, of Abby, of Mr. Palmer and myself."


"Think he'd take out his frustrations at me on them?"


"I do, given sufficient provocation," Ducky said. "There is much about Riley McCallister that remains a mystery, but what I do know of him tells me he is a formidable man to be wary of."


Gibbs didn't respond, staying silent for several moments, before flipping the switch on the elevator panel that caused it to resume moving. When it reached the first floor, Gibbs stepped off to head for a walk and to think.


--ABC News has learned that Congress will be called into special session to address issues related to Indianapolis and Geneva and Khalinin's response--

--heightened security across the nation for today's Memorial Day ceremonies--

--Marines standing between protestors and the grounds of the Soviet consulate here in Chicago--

--rumors of a split between moderate and far-right elements within the Boehneradministration--


Navy Yard, along the Anacostia River


Fuming over McCallister's handling of Kate, Gibbs stalked through the outside parking lot down to the riverfront. 


The numerous security guards scattered around the complex noticed his scowl and gave him as wide a berth as they could. Gibbs's routines were well-known to security, and he knew where he could and couldn't go on one of his walks. 


Gibbs went down to the observation plaza on the riverfront, right in front of the yard's Taylor building. Because of military concerns over potential snipers from Anacostia Park across the river, only those with prior approval or official business were allowed access. Years ago, former director Morrow gave approval for Gibbs and his "people" -- the team and selected outsiders of his choosing -- to visit.


The plaza had armed Marines at all entrance gates, including the Taylor building which Gibbs came from. There were ten armed Marines, spread out 10 to 15 feet apart, along the railings overseeing the Anacostia.  Gibbs also was aware of the sniper stationed atop the roof of the Taylor building near its front entrance. The Navy sniper crouching somewhere on that roof (Gibbs couldn't see him from his vantage point) was one of a dozen scattered among all of the roofs of the buildings within the complex. The risk to the Yard from potential terrorists on the publicly-used 11th Street Bridges and Interstate 695 and Section D of Anacostia Park east of those bridges, as well as private yachts sailing the river out of the nearby District Yacht Club, was considered too high to not have those snipers. 


Gibbs briefly looked around the plaza, wondering what it would be like without the shadow of Armageddon currently hanging over the world. He imagined tourists watching the river and walking along the riverfront, or looking at exhibits and informational plaques. The portion of Anacostia Park across the river from the Yard that belonged to Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling would instead be a public park, a place of peace and not of war.


The light breeze coming from the southeast was refreshing to Gibbs, who walked up to one of the Marines at the railings. 


"Regulations state plaza visitors must wear protective head and chest gear at all times, sir," Lance Corporal Hansen told him after he flashed his badge. "Fortunately for you, we happen to have an extra helmet and vest."


Setting himself six feet from her left, Gibbs smiled at the comment. "Don't call me sir, Lance Corporal," he replied as he picked up the gear and began putting it on. 


"Just following orders...sir," Hansen said, looking back over her left shoulder at the Sergeant in charge of her unit.


"Like any good Marine does, Lance Corporal."


--dozens of churches throughout the area will hold special services today in remembrance of the victims of Indianapolis and in prayer for relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union--


The fresh air, and the walk, calmed Gibbs down enough to where he could walk into the NCIS building without wanting to kick McCallister in the posterior or in a more sensitive body part. He decided to try to heed Ducky's advice, although he was sure he couldn't fully hide his anger from McCallister. 


DiNozzo was the first person in the bullpen to see Gibbs step off the elevator and, with a brisk stride, head in his direction. 


"Boss! Fornell called looking for you and said it was--"


"I'll call him back," Gibbs said, walking past DiNozzo towards the stairs.




DiNozzo, Kate, McGee and Ziva watched Gibbs sprint up the stairs and out of sight. "Exercise must've done wonders for the old man's knee," DiNozzo quipped.


Gibbs was stopped by two suits about 30 feet shy of McCallister's office door, and his mood turned a little more sour when he was told that the director was busy. Ducky's advice came back to Gibbs, who kept his response to himself and turned back towards the stairs, and the bullpen.


DiNozzo waited until Gibbs turned the corner towards the bullpen before speaking to him. "Uh, Boss, Fornell called and said he needed to talk to you ASAP."


DiNozzo and the others in the bullpen watched Gibbs as he silently walked to his desk, sat down and began leafing through a stack of folders. 


"Uh, Boss, is everything okay?" McGee said gingerly. He didn't answer Gibbs's half-glare, opting to turn his full attention back to his monitor.


"I have just spoken with the College Park police, Gibbs," Ziva said. "They have no further leads on the whereabouts of Marine Corporal Higgs."


"Gotta wait 'till he resurfaces," Gibbs answered. He picked the stack of folders a few inches off his desk and dropped them. "Everyone. Take one, or three or four."


"Cold cases, Gibbs?" Kate said emotionlessly.


"Yeah." The three agents, and Mossad Officer Ziva, split the folders amongst themselves. 


Two hours passed, and Gibbs's numerous phone calls upstairs to McCallister's office went unanswered. By now, his irritation had become a simmering displeasure threatening to boil over into some act that wouldn't do himself nor his team any good. He instead got up and went for another walk, this time straight to his truck in the parking lot. He drove out of the lot north onto 11th Street, and 10 seconds later a black SUV followed behind him.


--no ban on public gatherings for now. The New York Stock Exchange is closed for Memorial Day, but plans to open as scheduled tomorrow--

--NASCAR says it will run this weekend at Dover International Speedway. Major League Baseball plans to resume play tomorrow, the NBA and NHL on Wednesday-- 


East Capitol Street NE, Washington


Gibbs parked his truck on the street and walked across directly to a Chinese restaurant. The girl at the counter took him to a table in the back where Fornell was impatiently waiting, both on Gibbs and for his lunch to cool down. The SUV parked behind his truck, and the two suits walked across to the restaurant, only to be greeted by four FBI agents.


"Couldn't wait for lunch, Tobias?" Gibbs said as he sat down at the table.


"Damn Kung Pao chicken's hot," Fornell said as he waved a menu over his plate to cool down his food. "You must be on Gibbs Time today."


"'Gibbs Time', Tobias?"


"Means when I need to talk to you, you call back on your own schedule...I guess your people met mine?"


"You see them back here?"


Fornell chuckled. "One of my people fought in the UFC, two played NCAA Division I football and the other's a black belt. Unless your people are Navy SEALs, mine's got yours beat."


"Yup," Gibbs said with a laugh. "Can't stay long, Tobias, I'm working on something--"


"I'm sure you are, just like me." Fornell looked around the room next to the kitchen, whose occupants had been sent on an extended break by the owner, who was a 'friend' of the Bureau. "Figured you'd want to know...and God knows how much I owe you."


"You paid me fair and square at the poker game last month."


"Not what I mean," Fornell said with a smile. "I'm not about to divulge national secrets--"


"That's good to know."


"--but this is an open secret that's spreading like wildfire across all the agencies, hell, half of D.C.'s gonna hear it by tonight."


"Hear what, Tobias?"


"Congress is going into special session tomorrow. They're finally going to pass the Rock Act, and Boehner will sign it into law."


"Control the media, control the flow of information."


"It'll probably cover the internet, too, something old Jesse and Strom never imagined 20 years ago. There's already a shitstorm at the Post and Dispatch and the local TV stations. The White House reporters are royally pissed."


"Hadn't heard that from the grapevine -- yet."


"I heard that last part from a TV reporter you worked with a few years back. Diane Fontaine, CW 19. She found out, somehow, that I knew you and said she didn't want to go to you directly because she didn't trust ol' Riley."


"I don't trust him either, but I don't think he'd kill her."


"Anyway, she says her station and some of the others already are abiding by the Rock Act. Gibbs, they aren't doing that out of patriotic duty or the kindness of their hearts. That means--"


"The government and the military are getting their ducks in a row and getting ready."


Fornell blew on the chicken and chili pepper on his fork. "You think it's gonna happen?" he asked before putting the food in his mouth.  


"Hope not," Gibbs answered. "But most of our pieces are in place just like the Russians. Doctrine's been to be ready to fight on a moment's notice for 20 years. If they pass the Rock Act, we won't hear anything about fighting in Europe or the Gulf or Panama until the censors approve it."


"If missiles head towards D.C., we might get a half-hour notice if we're lucky."


"That's not what scares me."


"Trying to run from 50 nuclear bombs isn't what scares you?!?"


"It's Spetsnaz." 


--"I work for the power company, so I have to work today. Got a family to take care of, you know? Other guys I work with are the same way. Doesn't mean what's going on ain't affecting us. Since '86, it's always been in the back of my mind that it might all be over one day. You go on, worry about today, let tomorrow take care of itself, plan for the future and hope for the best, take care of the things you can take care of. And focus on the ones you love.

Whatever it takes to get through the day, you know?"--





Chapter 39 by Briwd

Chapter 39

Tuesday, May 29

At dawn, the skies over Washington contained more military jets, helicopters and drones than at any time previous to Indianapolis. For some of those who looked up, it was quite noticable how the swarm of flying objects had greatly thickened, a harbinger of worse days to come. For everyone else, it wasn't anything they hadn't seen before; just another day in the nation's capital.

The increase of drones and military aircraft was more noticable in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and 47 other cities. Not only were commuters shocked by the checkpoints being set up along major roadways, airline travelers were surprised by the longer screening lines and more so by the long waits once they finally got onboard their planes.

Drones flew over airports, Interstates, power plants, bridges and places of industry. They also flew over military bases and government buildings. And they flew over any other location deemed vital to national security.

Overnight, 52 satellites were switched on by the U.S. Air Force and began their mission of monitoring the American homeland.

The best and brightest poached by Washington from Silicon Valley and Seattle began to patrol the World Wide Web for threats domestic and foreign.

Governors in 29 states quietly called up their respective National Guards, while governors from the other 21 states planned to do so by the end of the day.

Officers and enlisted military personnel on leave were recalled and told to report to duty ASAP. Civilian police officers suddenly found their vacation time taken away; their superiors wouldn't, or couldn't, explain why.

America was being watched by its own government, for its own safety. The drones, the Guardsmen, and the growing number of security cameras at highway, city and suburban intersections were intended to convey one message to the people: You Are Safe.

And yet, all these extra measures and the efforts of the federal government and military and their civilian government and law enforcement partners were not enough.

The enemy sprang up from its hiding places and created havoc anyway.

Navy Yard 
NCIS Headquarters

Ziva's neck was stiff from having spent the last half-hour reading through folders containing a dozen cold cases that NCIS hadn't solved dating back to 1994. Feeling the stiffness in her neck, Ziva froze momentarily when she heard a click as she looked upwards from her desk.

As Ziva massaged the back of her neck she heard several random sounds, all close by, in quick succession. She looked around the bullpen to find the source of the noises.

McGee, across from her desk was busily typing away at his desk, looking back and forth between his monitor and the top of a pile of folders on his own desk. Ziva looked to her right, over Gibbs's desk towards Kate. Less than 48 hours after the explosion in Indianapolis, Kate seemed oblivious to everything other than her own stack of folders.

Ziva's heart ached for her teammate, and friend. Kate had been the last of the team to warm up to the Mossad officer, given how badly she'd been taken advantage of by Ziva's brother Ari. But Ziva had finally earned her trust after months of patience -- and a nudge or two from Gibbs.

Speaking of the team leader, Gibbs was nowhere to be seen. He hadn't exempted himself from the cold case load, although the stack on his desk hadn't been touched. Ziva noticed the older man trying to hide the concern on his face when he met her and the other team members earlier in the bullpen.

She last saw Gibbs thumbing through a card file sitting in one of his desk drawers; the next time she looked up, he was gone and so was the card file. It piqued her curiosity a bit, but she was more concerned about Gibbs's whereabouts. Ziva decided a short walk to stretch her legs was in order; perhaps Gibbs was with Abby or Ducky.

Before Ziva could get up from her chair, the noises she had just heard again invaded her thoughts. She quickly looked around the bullpen and just as quickly found the source of her annoyance:




--trading fell sharply Monday in Asia and the London FTSE 100 is down 45 points. That's not what the business community here in the U.S. wanted to hear as trading opens in New York in under an hour --



--hundreds of Marion County residents are refusing to vacate their homes and are having to be evacuated by force by local police and state National Guardsmen--



--West German Chancellor Schröder called for calm this morning, as thousands of citizens living along the borders with East Germany and Czechoslovakia head west searching for safety--



--Diane, the Capitol building has been closed off to all non-essential personnel according to this release. That doesn't include the media, but does includes the public as security on the Hill is further tightened ahead of the special session expected to begin this morning--




Within seconds, Ziva was away from her desk and at DiNozzo's side, having grabbed the remote control for the bullpen's television monitor from the senior field agent. His thumb went through the motions of pressing the channel button for a few more seconds before he realized the remote was gone.

Ziva wiggled the remote in front of his face, then moved it out of his reach.

"Uh uh uh," she said, glancing at the pile of folders on DiNozzo's desk while sticking the TV remote in her back pocket. "Gibbs said we are here to work."

"Those case files aren't going anywhere, Mossad Ninja," he replied. "Besides. I wanted an update on the latest news."

"This is 'news'," she said dryly, pointing to the cartoon channel he had landed on when she grabbed the remote. "Perhaps the hunter will finally kiss the rabbit this time."

"'KILL the wabbit', Zee-vah. Which never happens because Bugs Bunny always wins," Tony said. He instinctively reached for the remote, then stopped himself. It was secure in the pocket hugging Ziva's left buttock, and Tony didn't want to chance her jabbing him in the throat.

"Looking for something, Tony?" Ziva asked with hint of suggestiveness in her voice.

"Yeah. The remote. Give it back."

"I think I'll keep it," she said, taking a step away from DiNozzo. "Gibbs told us to work on cold cases, anyway."

"Ziva. For real, I gotta know what's going on, since the Mustache upstairs cut off the internet. I can't even go to Stars and Stripes much less check my email...I might have to spring for a second phone, like McGemcity over there."

McGee didn't take DiNozzo's bait, rapidly typing while looking at the contents of one of the folders from his stack.

"You should follow McGee's example, and that of Kate," Ziva said, nodding in the direction of Kate's desk. "Surely there is something in one of your folders that can occupy your time."

"Ziva. There's an old NIS file over there from when Carter was in the White House. It might have predated Mike Franks. Navy Commander, three years removed from 'Nam, becomes a minor cocaine dealer in D.C. Disappears one day, found a week later frozen to death across the river in Anacostia Park."

"That," she said, pointing to the folders on DiNozzo's desk. "That sounds like an interesting case. I wish I had that case."

"I can give that, and the rest of my pile, to you."

"No thank you, Tony. I have one interesting case of my own. It is 30 years old and involves a gong."

"A gong?"

"Two Marines went on a game show in Los Angeles to sing a duet. They were eliminated by a gong, and one ended up dead, the other missing to this--"

"You got the 'Gong Show' file?" DiNozzo said as he suddenly brightened up. "I remember that case, now! They tried to sing 'Your Momma Don't Dance' and the dead Marine couldn't hold a note to save his life. Dead guy gets gonged by Arte Williams and the other guy, who actually had a pretty good voice, was pissed. They get into a fight with Chuck Farris in the middle before security breaks it up and drags them off the stage. Two days later, dead guy's found near the Hollywood sign--"

"Tony. Is there a point to all of this?"

"Ziva. I'll trade you my NIS file for your Gong Show Marines. I'll even have McGee do your case load for the next month."

"Never promise something you cannot deliver, Tony."

"...GIMMEMYREMOTE!" DiNozzo pled to no avail as Ziva went back to her desk, putting the remote in a drawer. He headed towards Ziva's station but stopped upon hearing the slamming of folders behind him.

He turned around at the sound and saw Kate storming away from her station, towards the elevator. With nearly everyone on the floor watching her, she punched the down button. Ziva, DiNozzo and McGee called after Kate as she went into the elevator; the doors were shut when her teammates reached the elevator door.

Outside, Gibbs was visibly frustrated to all who crossed his path, though he didn't need to defer to his 'trademark' glare to warn them off. No one had bothered him from the time he left the bullpen to now, where he was pacing the sidewalk in front of the NCIS building's main entrance.

For the 20th time, he got a busy signal when calling Hollis Mann's cell phone. Snapping his phone shut, he growled to himself and considered taking off to look for her.

He glanced at a couple of suits in the distance pretending not to look in his direction and smirked; maybe, he thought, I should go to McCallister and offer to train his rookies in undercover tactics. Riley obviously hadn't had the time to train them.

The noise nearby from one of the entrance doors being thrown open jostled Gibbs out of his thoughts. He looked over and saw Kate walking at a brisk pace with an icy glare that caused an approaching security guard to jump out of her way.

"Kate!" Gibbs yelled to her; she ignored him and continued on her way eastwards, towards the main parking lot and one of the Navy Yard's heavily-guarded entrances. Gibbs decided to catch up with her and began jogging, hoping the HeatRub on his knee would dull the pain that would come with the hopefully-short run.

In the distance, Gibbs saw a suit running from the parking lot's guard shack towards Kate. He groaned when he squinted and realized who was about to rendezvous with his agent: Carol. The pain in Gibbs's knee throbbed a little more than he expected, and he gritted his teeth as he picked up the pace. Whatever was going on in Kate's head at the moment, Gibbs wanted to keep within his NCIS family, not entrust to one of Riley's people.

Gibbs abruptly stopped his run when he saw a glint off in the distance at his right. He pulled his SIG-Sauer P228 sidearm from its holster and took a knee, looking for the source of the glint.

There it is again, across the river.

He squinted to get a better look, ignoring the voices of Ducky and Kate in his head, chiding him for not wearing his eyeglasses. The glint returned, and he judged it couldn't possibly come from the base. Security would be too tight for a shooter.

The glint disappeared for a few moments before reappearing, and Gibbs guessed the source had to be on the water. He quickly pulled his phone out of his pocket and dialed security. "Possible shooter on the river off the piers," he said. In moments, a low-pitched siren sounded, signaling an imminent attack; Gibbs saw Kate and Carol pull their sidearms and others in the open either pull weapons or scramble to get inside the nearest building.

"KATE! CAROL!" Gibbs shouted their names three times, but neither seemed to hear them over the siren. He decided to run towards them, hoping to reach them and get out of the open back into the safety of the NCIS building.

Kate finally saw him running towards her and Carol, gesturing for them to come his way with his left hand. She elbowed Carol's bicep, and they both ran towards Gibbs.

All three hit the ground seconds later when the nearby guard shack exploded.




Chapter 40 by Briwd

Chapter 40

Tuesday, continued


The moment the guard shack at the entrance of the Navy Yard exploded, Kate dove for the ground. 


When she hit the sidewalk, her chin barely missed scraping the concrete and she lost a jacket button from the impact. Her immediate priorities were to assess the situation and make herself as low profile of a target as possible. 


Reaching for her SIG sidearm handgun, Kate heard the burning shack nearby, and police sirens in the distance to her left towards the city and gunfire off to her right towards the river. 




Probably Spetsnaz, she thought, or Stasi or maybe Cubans. Doesn’t matter. They all work for the same bastards.


Kate looked to her right and saw Carol two feet away laying low, then looked over Carol’s waist and saw Gibbs 20 yards away, crouching behind a park bench. Carol noticed Gibbs motioning to them with his left hand at his calf and turned her head back towards Kate. “We go on three,” Carol whispered loudly, as she stuck three fingers out at her side and withdrew one in a silent count. 


When Carol withdrew her forefinger, she and Kate ran like hell, weapons drawn, towards Gibbs’s position. About three yards from him, Kate saw her boss jabbing a finger on the ground; she got his message and began crawling, as did Carol. The sound of gunfire, both from the river and from the adjacent buildings within the Navy Yard, picked up as they reached him.


“Oh god,” Kate said, scanning the area in front of her, and behind Gibbs and Carol, for hostiles. The three took a ‘Y’ position relative to each other, two people at each person’s shoulder, all looking for hostiles near and far. “Never expected the Russians to attack from the river—“


“Not the Russians,” Carol interjected. “Intel suggests Thais doing Moscow’s dirty work for them.” Ever since the so-called People’s Revolution put Soviet-backed stooges in control of Thailand, the former U.S. ally had been a thorn in the side of the Allies. But Gibbs hadn’t heard any intelligence on People’s Thai Army special forces being active inside the homeland.


“You sure about that?” Gibbs asked Carol, as the attack sirens across the Navy Yard began to drone.


“If anybody has the balls to try something like this, it’s the Thais,” she replied. 


“How on Earth is this happening in the first place?” Kate said. “The Yard and the base across the river are armed camps. Nothing short of a missile—“


“Did Morrow or Shepard ever brief you on Soviet terror doctrine?” Carol snapped. “When — not if — they attack inside the District, they and their allies will attack anyone and anywhere.”


“Both directors made sure we were up to speed, Carol,” Kate said. “A car bomb is one thing. Enemy coming from the river in front of a hundred Marines? Both sides? That’s ano—“


“STOP!” Gibbs shouted at them, loudly enough to be easily heard over the shooting and sirens and, now, the military jets and helicopters flying over the area. “Argue about who and why later. Right now, we need to get to shelter fast.” 


He looked towards the main NCIS building, rebuilt eight years before to withstand the impact of a bomb inside a vehicle next to the building, or of a rocket from a portable missile launcher. Facility doctrine in case of an attack was for everyone to evacuate to hardened shelters built underneath the varied buildings; NCIS headquarters was the closest to their position.


The challenge would be to get to one of the auxiliary entrances. The main front entrance might as well have a giant bullseye hanging over it, Gibbs realized. Their other options were by the garage in the back of the building, the side entrance on the opposite end of the building or a secret entrance Gibbs had Shepard build near the ballistics lab. The entrance near the lab was closer, but less secure than the rear, which would be guarded by four Marines.


“We’ll go for the garage,” Gibbs said. “We move on three. One, two—“


Ignoring the searing pain in his knee, Gibbs ran as fast as he could towards HQ, looking out for hostiles and friendlies, knowing Kate and Carol were doing the same. The closer they got to the building, the more Gibbs dared to hope they’d make it to shelter alive.


Less than twenty yards from the building, Gibbs heard a loud noise off his right shoulder and felt warm splatter on his neck. He stopped and quickly turned around.


He saw Carol falling towards him, her face simply gone.


Gibbs barely had time to notice the gore on the ground when Kate grabbed his bicep and yelled at him to keep going. Their best and probable only feasible option was to head to the secret entrance, and hope whoever killed Carol didn’t have another bullet or two left for them both.


The designers of that entrance built it out of sight of the guard shack at the main entrance, anticipating a potential attack on the Yard from that area. Gibbs and Kate would have to enter via a trap door, reinforced to withstand direct impact from a grenade, hidden by a series of decorative hedges alongside the wall. The door would open onto a ladder that led to a narrow passageway that would take them right to ballistics.


They both sprinted for safety, reaching the hedges without being shot at, and Kate stood guard while Gibbs tore away the shrubbery. He tore off a panel on the trap door hiding a small scanner that identified friendlies via an optical scan, similar to how approved personnel entered the Multiple Threat Assessment Centre inside the building. 


The three seconds it took for the scanner to recognize Gibbs’s retinas and approve him for entry felt like an eternity to him. He then motioned for Kate to look into the scanner, and once it approved her, he ordered her to enter the doorway, waiting until she had climbed down the ladder and was safely inside. Only then did he follow her, sealing the trap door above him before climbing down the ladder. 


Gibbs and Kate ran through the narrow passageway for the safety of the ballistics lab sixty yards away, on the opposite side of the building. As they reached the door going into the lab, Gibbs stopped to open a footlocker next to the entrance and pulled out a couple of armored vests, handing one to Kate while he put the other on. 


“Why am I not surprised that thing is there—“ Kate said of the footlocker, shutting up when Gibbs shot his forefinger up to his closed lips. Then, he motioned for her to get behind him, reasoning that she had a better chance that way of surviving an attack from potential hostiles. With his weapon in hand, he punched in a 12-digit code on a keypad next to the door and slowly pushed it open.


Awaiting them on the other side were two Marines in full tactical gear, armed with M4 rifles pointing right at Gibbs’s chest. 


Both Marines already knew who both agents were and seen them make their way in via closed-circuit cameras hidden along the passageway. However, protocol for a terrorist/enemy attack on the Yard mandated another step before the agents could enter ballistics.


“What’s the weather?”, the lead Marine said loudly to Gibbs.




“You both dirty?”


“Clean as a whistle,” Gibbs responded as Kate caught on.


“What’s the frequency, Kenneth?”




“Can you verify?”, the other Marine said to Kate.


“Delta-Six-Juliet-Four-Niner-November-Tango-Alpha-Zero-Quebec,” she rattled off, hoping she remembered the right code.


“Authenticity verified,” the lead Marine said, and Kate let out a deep breath she hadn’t realized she was holding in. “We’re in lockdown, Agents Gibbs and Todd. Most everyone in the building has made it to shelter.”


“Anyone else caught outside?” Gibbs asked him.


“We’re missing five — but the rest of your team’s accounted for,” the Marine said. “Lab windows are secured, so we should be able to move you to them without a problem.”


Gibbs and Kate nodded, and they both ran from ballistics through the lab towards the two security guards standing guard at the doorway. Like the Marines, the guards were dressed head-to-toe in tactical gear, including helmets. Gibbs and Kate each took a helmet from a small stack outside the lab entrance, then followed the guards down two flights of stairs towards their assigned shelter.


Once there, Gibbs limped in, finally feeling some of the pain in his knee from the activity outside. He got four feet in before being nearly tackled by Abby, whose flap jacket was under her lab coat and pigtails were sticking out of her helmet.


“Gibbs Gibbs Gibbs Gibbs ohmigod you’re okay!”, proclaimed Abby as she squeezed Gibbs so tightly that he struggled to catch his breath. Before he could say anything, she broke the bear hug and grabbed Kate into another tight embrace. “Oh god Kate you’re okay too! I’m so glad you’re both okay—“


Abby noticed a little blood splatter on Kate’s sleeve, then looked at Gibbs and saw the blood and grey matter on his neck and shoulder. She put her hands up to her mouth to hide her shock. “Oh no...Ducky!” she shouted.


Ducky had just arrived from the rear of the room along with the rest of the team — DiNozzo, Ziva, McGee and Palmer — and saw what Abby was reacting to. “Mr. Palmer, fetch my medical bag immediately,” he told Palmer, who turned to get the doctor’s medical gear. “Jethro, Caitlin, were you—“


“We’re both fine, Ducky,” Kate interjected. “Physically.”


“‘Physically’”? Abby said. “What are you saying?”


Gibbs put up a hand to silence them and anyone else in the large room of nearly 50 people. “We’re both uninjured, Duck, Abs. But there was a casualty.”


He and Kate then told everyone about Carol, and their view of the attack.



Chapter 41 by Briwd

Chapter 41


Author’s note: I have changed the name of the President referenced in earlier chapters to John Boehner.


—we know little about what’s going on in Washington other than what’s already been reported. The Washington Navy Yard was attacked two hours ago. The entrance to the facility was destroyed by a bomb, and CNN has multiple-sourced reports of ‘massive’ gunfire within and near the facility.


At this hour, Anderson, the facility has been secured according to the same, single source you and I have: the White House. The District is still under martial law, in effect, as civilians have been ordered to shelter in place at their places of work, or their homes, or-


-Excuse me, Jim. I need to break in with a couple of news items we’ve just learned about. The first is a car bomb has exploded outside the New York Stock Exchange, where trading had continued despite the Navy Yard attack. This happened literally seconds ago…we can’t contact Alison, who normally would be covering the day’s trading for us. The second item concerns some sort of attempted attack on Andersen Air Force Base in Guam about 15 minutes ago.—


—footage from NBC affiliate KUAM, as you see, shows a massive fire at one of the entrances to Andersen Air Force Base, which is an important staging ground for Allied forces in any potential conflict—


—we can see large plumes of smoke coming from the area of the Stock Exchange all the way here at ZNN’s offices here in Manhattan—


—(a reporter from WABC-TV in New York is speaking with a woman in her late twenties who’s slightly shaking despite it being 82 degrees and humid in the area. They’re standing outside a Starbucks in Lower Manhattan)


(Reporter) Ma’am, can you tell me what you heard and saw?


(Woman) I was walking to, uh, to work, I was in Duane Reade filling a prescription when I heard this ‘BOOM’ (she spreads her hands wide) and everything froze for I don’t know how long. I was here on 9-11. I saw the second plane hit the tower. So next thing I know I’m close to the checkout register near the entrance, and I see one of the windows has this giant crack on it. I hear noise outside, me and a few other people walk out and see people running and I hear cop and fire sirens and see haze on Broadway, on the other side of Exchange-


(Reporter) You were at a Duane Reade on Broadway just north of Morris?


(Woman) Yeah. Anyway, I look up and I start to see smoke above the buildings across the street, and this guy comes out of nowhere, he’s wearing a security guard uniform, and yells at the crowd that they blew up the Stock Exchange and we need to get out of here now. So everybody starts running, or going as fast as they can, we all start running south away from the explosion. I ran, I don’t know, five blocks before I ran out of breath. I realize I’m in front of Battery Park, and see police telling people to get inside. That’s all they said, ‘get inside’, so I walk fast to a Starbucks nearby, and I go in and it’s packed and people are saying the Russians bombed the Stock Exchange.


(Reporter) And you’ve been here since.  


(Woman) Uh-huh. I live in the Bronx and they’re saying the trains are shut down and you can’t walk anywhere on the island?


(The Reporter realizes she’s asking him a question, and puts his finger on his earpiece to make sure he can hear the anchors at the WABC studios) That’s news to me.—



NCIS Headquarters


As Gibbs walked off walked off the elevator onto the floor where he and his team worked each day, everything appeared to be normal.


The clocks along the left and back walls were undisturbed, as were the portraits of the NCIS most wanted criminals on the left wall. To his right, the hallway leading to his team’s bullpen, the stairs and the head was empty, undisturbed by debris. Other than the floor being almost completely empty, it seemed undisturbed by the chaos caused by the attackers who detonated a bomb at the Navy Yard’s main entrance and began shooting towards the complex at anything in sight.


The six Marines with him weren’t the only persons authorized to be on the floor at the moment. Procedure in case of an attack on the Navy Yard required the Marine contingent on site to secure the buildings before NCIS personnel were allowed to return to their work stations. Two other Marines were already there, near the back elevator, and four of their comrades would arrive in short order. The Marines, plus Gibbs, would proceed to sweep the floor for insurgents and other unauthorized persons and unwanted surprises.


Everyone else — including Gibbs’s four agents, and all of McCallister’s ‘suits’ — were ordered to remain in their shelters until given the all-clear by Marine Colonel Smith, who was in charge of Navy Yard security. Gibbs got clearance mainly because Colonel Smith trusted that Gibbs could take care of himself; the Colonel also knew Gibbs, a fellow Marine, would find his way there one way or another.


As four of the Marines split off, Gibbs and a Marine the size of a professional football linebacker headed towards the stairs to check the men’s and women’s heads. Gibbs stopped at his team’s bullpen to see if any damage had been done, and that’s when he noticed the numerous divots in the windows overlooking the Yard and the Anacostia River. The windows were installed a year ago and said to be all but impossible to be penetrated by weapons used by local criminals and insurgents and most military forces. Of course, the Soviets and their World Pact partners — as was the U.S. military and its allies — were constantly working on bullets that would break through such windows, along with much more destructive projectiles.


None of the windows were broken, but Gibbs noticed a couple of holes in one of the upper windows. He squinted at the window, then began walking to his desk.


“Sir?” his Marine partner asked, as Gibbs opened a drawer. He took out a pair of glasses and put them on, then grabbed a Nikon digital single-lens camera, walked back to the windows and began taking pictures.


“Two of the bullets made it through,” Gibbs explained. “I’m guessing MTAC was the target.”


“‘Made it through’? And how can you tell who was targeting what from those two holes you’re looking at?”


Gibbs lowered his camera and turned to the Marine. “We know the ‘who’, Sergeant. The location of those ‘holes’ tells me someone was trying to shoot at someone, or something, above floor level. There are two things on this floor that a shooter, or sniper, can see from outside this building: the stairs, and MTAC.”


“There were a lot of people on the floor when the attack began,” the Marine said. “Someone could’ve been shooting at people running up the stairs.”


“All personnel working in this building have been told not to take those stairs because they’d be easy targets for a shooter,” Gibbs replied, having resumed taking photos of the bullet holes in the window. “Everyone on this floor, including my people, got away from these windows as fast as they could when the attack began. They either ran, or crawled.”




“My agents’ desk right behind us are in clear view of anyone outside. DiNozzo, McGee and Ziva hit the ground the moment they heard gunfire outside. They crawled to the back wall, then ran like hell for the back stairs.”


“Ah, okay. So, if there was no one on the floor to be a target, then why shoot ‘up’?” the Marine said, pointing upwards. “If you wanted to take out MTAC, wouldn’t you use a man-portable missile launcher?”


“Not if you were shooting at someone upstairs,” Gibbs said. “Like someone you thought might be the Director.”


When Gibbs finished taking his photos, he and the Marine went up the stairs and found confirmation of his theory: there was a hole just above the ‘M’ of the MTAC sign, and another just above a panel to its left, next to an elevator door. Neither bullet had entered MTAC itself, but the casings were found embedded in the wall.


Gibbs, Colonel Smith and Director McAllister — who arrived at the Navy Yard shortly after Gibbs began taking photos of the bullet holes in the wall — watched the Marines extract the damaged casings, then closely examined them.


“Point three-zero caliber,” the Colonel said as he, Gibbs and McAllister looked at the two casings atop the seat of a folding chair. “Also known as a 7.62 millimeter Russian caliber.”


“I’d like Abby to look at them in the lab to be sure,” Gibbs said.


“You’ll get her, Gibbs,” McAllister said. “I’m sure she’ll verify what Colonel Smith just said. There’s one weapon that comes to mind that can hit those targets” — he pointed at the wall — “from distance: an SVD.”


“Dragunov sniper rifle,” Gibbs added. “Better be glad you were working from home when all this went down.”


McAllister ignored the Colonel’s glare. “If we’re done here, we need to talk. Navy Yard wasn’t the only place hit.”


“I’ve heard about the New York Stock Exchange and Guam,” the Colonel said.


“It gets worse,” McAllister said.


A few minutes later in McAllister’s office, he, Gibbs and the Colonel looked at a map of the United States superimposed on the large flat-screen monitor on the wall opposite the director’s desk. The map was marked with numerous red, yellow and orange dots.


“A power plant in rural Kentucky southeast of Cincinnati was attacked; dozens dead, more injured,” McAllister said. “Someone detonated a car bomb on the Bridge of the Americas just outside El Paso. The car came from the Mexico side and sped towards the American side at up to 95 miles an hour. A stolen truck made a run towards the Hoover Dam and was destroyed by Marines when it refused to stop. And a woman pulled out a machine gun inside a shopping mall in Montana and shot three people before getting her head blasted off by a local. All of that, gentlemen, within the last two hours.”


“Spetsnaz here on the ground committing acts of terrorism against the United States, and I’d bet they’ve done a good job covering their tracks,” the Colonel said. “We know the Soviets are behind this, but there’s no hard evidence yet. Of course, when the gloves come off…” The Colonel’s voice trailed off.


None of the three men spoke the obvious: in the event of impending war with the West, Soviet doctrine dictated terrorist operations would be conducted within the U.S. and its allied countries, the intention being to destabilize those countries and create as much chaos as possible. The CIA and similar Western government agencies would do the same within the USSR and its World Pact allies. The purpose is to create so much domestic instability that the enemy can’t act when war breaks out.


Gibbs remembered that from his past anti-terrorist training exercises, and he also remembered what a retired Naval Admiral once told him: “Spetsnaz blowing up stuff in New York, Peoria and everywhere else means one thing: War is coming and nothing short of an act of God Himself will stop it.”


The morgue


Ducky and Palmer had been among the first NCIS employees to be allowed back to their regular workplaces, because their expertise was needed to examine the bodies of the 11 killed during the attack on the Navy Yard.


With Marines standing guard inside and outside the morgue, Ducky and Palmer put their surgical gowns over their flap jackets, and helmets over their surgical caps before starting on the first victim: a 26-year-old Marine on his first assignment.


Kate stood nearby, giving Ducky and Palmer plenty of room to work while close enough to see what they were doing. She was there because Ducky had convinced the guards she would be handy as an extra assistant. He really wanted to keep an eye on her and monitor her emotional and psychological health. Too much had gone on in the past few days for Ducky to make a detailed profile of Kate after the Indianapolis explosion. After her breakdown, Kate’s demeanor abruptly changed, stoic like stone, locking up whatever she felt or thought deeply inside.


Looking at Kate standing with her arms folded, her face as unreadable at stone, he found himself angry at McAllister for ordering her to stay on the job. Ducky knew she needed time to properly grieve, and to be around those who loved and cared for her. Neither putting her back to work nor putting her with friends who had to concentrate on work much of the time wasn’t what she needed.


What surprised Ducky was Kate going along with the director’s directives without complaint. He expected her to walk off the job, or demand to return home to see her surviving relatives. Instead, she wanted to stay in Washington. He wondered if going back to Indiana right now was too much for her to bear, and if that was the real reason she had decided to stay in Washington.


Ducky decided to resume his work. Upon looking down at the cadaver on the table, the concept of death suddenly imprinted itself on Ducky’s mind: the victims in the morgue, those killed in Indianapolis, the murder of Jenny Shepard, and the potential deaths of billions more in the not-too-distant future.


He shivered and nearly dropped his scalpel.


“Are you all right, Dr. Mallard?” Palmer asked from the other side of the table.


“Yes, I’m quite alright, Mr. Palmer,” Ducky replied. “I merely felt a sudden chill. Shall we continue?”


Palmer, thankfully, didn’t prattle on in response as he usually did, silently making a Y-incision on the cadaver instead. Ducky looked over to Kate, still looking on silently, and cursed himself for not being able to stop what he was doing to give her his undivided attention.


The door into the morgue suddenly opened, and Ducky looked up to see Gibbs enter. The team leader glanced first at Ducky and Palmer, then at Kate. She began to approach him but stopped with a raised hand from Gibbs, who walked towards the autopsy table where the medical examiners were working.


“Long day, Duck,” Gibbs said when he stood next to Ducky.


“Indeed, Jethro,” Ducky said as he examined a gunshot wound on the chest of the corpse on the autopsy table. “Meet Samantha Mathis, a mailroom clerk out for a walk when we were attacked. This poor woman’s heart exploded instantly when she was shot by her killer. This wound in her bicep came before or after she was shot, but it didn’t bring about her demise. Also, she didn’t suffer, unlike two of our other guests.” Ducky turned his head back towards the drawers in the corner of the room. “They were shot in such a manner that, from what I’ve been told by a couple of the Marines I spoke with earlier, they bled out, probably aware of their fate and unable to do anything about it.”


“Wish I could tell you different, Duck.”






Ducky laid his scalpel down on the table and turned to Gibbs. “One of the Marines informed me he saw one of the attackers. A boy, probably no older than 13 or 14. The regime that rules Thailand with brutality takes its boys and turns them into violent killers. Murderers, who did this.” Ducky gestured around the morgue. “The Congressman Daniel Inouye once said it was ‘one of the horrors of war, that you can train a person, train them to hate, train them to kill’.”


“’It’s a terrible thought’,” Gibbs replied, finishing the quotation. “On my way here, someone had a TV set on. Someone detonated a bomb on the Golden Gate Bridge. Thirteen police officers were killed by unknown assailants trying to attack an elementary school in Nebraska. Straight out of the Russians’ playbook.”


“It’s begun,” Ducky said. “Jethro, Mr. Palmer, a myriad of choices out of our hands have led us here. Ms. Mathis,” – Ducky looked at the corpse’s face – “I cannot stop the madness, any more than I can turn back the clock and prevent you from meeting your fate the way you had. What I can do, my dear, is ensure that, as long as you are in my care, that you are treated with dignity and respect. My assistant, Mr. Palmer, will lightly swab the wound on your shoulder for residue. Jimmy, please.”


Gibbs nodded at both men. “Do your jobs. I’ll be back later. Duck, I’m going to take Kate for a walk.”


“Of course,” Ducky replied, and Gibbs turned towards Kate, who had moved over near the refrigerated slabs. He gestured his head towards the door, and she followed him into the hall, and into the elevator. After they entered the elevator, Gibbs hit the switch stopping its movement and turned to Kate as the lights dimmed.


“How are you doing?” he asked her.


“Fine,” she said without emotion.


“How are you really doing?” he asked her again, this time more gently. “It’ll stay between us, and Duck.”


“Really, Gibbs, I’m fine,” Kate replied, trying to maintain a stoic façade in front of Gibbs while she looked away towards the door. Even so, she couldn’t hide a tear leaking from the corner of her eye.


“You’re not,” Gibbs said. “I’m not. No one here isn’t ‘fine’—”


“We were attacked, Gibbs. So, yes, you’re right. I’m not ‘fine’.”


Gibbs put a hand on her arm, a simple gesture the usually reserved woman didn’t allow many people to perform. Kate met his gaze, and moments later she reached out to hug him, and the tears began to flow as she wept.


Soon afterwards, after her eyes had dried and she had regained enough of her composure, Kate broke the embrace of the man who had become her second father, and spoke Carol’s name.


“Carol?” Gibbs replied.


“She had a…thing for me from the beginning, and it freaked me out. I…we…didn’t know if she was one of McAllister’s creeps, or brain damaged, or what. When...when Indianapolis happened, I forgot about her. But she didn’t forget about me, and to her credit, she didn’t take advantage of me. She never really took advantage of me.”


Kate paused, and at Gibbs’s demeanor, continued.


“Today, she found me and said she wanted to tell me something she thought could actually help me. First, though, she apologized for her actions, although she did say that ‘in another time and place, we might not only be good friends, but more’, that she knew I wouldn’t act on feelings for a coworker and that she respected me for it. Then she told me why she wanted to talk. She read my file, with the director’s permission, just like she read yours and all our files, so she knew my background. She used that to remind me of the crap I fought through just to get here, and that I was…strong.”


Kate paused, her voice weakening, and regained her composure.


“Carol reminded me I still had family, back home and here. You, Abby, Ducky, Tony, McGee, Ziva, Palmer. She told me I was strong, Gibbs, and had people who loved me, and that I still have my faith, and because of all of those things that I would survive.”


Kate looked at Gibbs, wondering if anything she just told him was true.


“She’s right, Kate,” he said, embracing her as she broke down in tears once again.




--This is ZNN Tonight, with John King, live from Washington.


‘Terror Grips the West’. I’m John King, from an undisclosed location somewhere in the nation’s capital.


It’s been more than 24 hours since the terror attack on the Washington Navy Yard opened the floodgates for dozens of incidents in the United States and its major allies. The Chicago subway system was shut down this morning after a mustard gas attack at a station inside the city’s famed Loop. Later, a bomb inside a stolen FedEx truck exploded when it was rammed by a Denver police cruiser before it could reach its intended target: the terminal at Denver International Airport.


Saboteurs managed to disrupt power to millions along the west coast after attacks on several power stations. Three people died after a woman randomly shot targets at the entrance to Fort Hood before she was killed by base security personnel. In London, the British History Museum was shut down when a bomb exploded in the facility; 33 adults and 17 children are dead, dozens more injured. An explosion in the Golden Mile entertainment district of Sydney, Australia killed at least 24 people. A soccer match between two of Italy’s premier clubs was called off by threats of shooters lying in wait at Milan’s main stadium.



The questions authorities are trying to answer at this hour are who is behind the bombings and why. No one, including any of the known Islamist terrorist organizations or the Mexican cartels, is taking credit for the attacks. However, within the last hour, the Soviet Ambassador to Canada claims weapons found at the scenes of the various attacks can be traced back to Al-Qaeda and the Mexican-based Reynosa Cartel. Mikhail Vorontsov’s allegations to the Canadian Broadcasting Network are being denied by multiple government and military sources…---

Chapter 42 by Briwd

Chapter 42


Wednesday night, in and around Washington, D.C.


At Ducky’s house, McCallister’s suits kept a close eye on its occupants, generally taking a hands-off, eyes-on approach.


Sometimes, the suits had to get their hands dirty.


When DiNozzo inadvertently let all of Mrs. Mallard’s corgis out of the house, everyone was needed to corral the cute, vicious dogs. All the corgis were quickly found and returned to their home, and a few of the agents returned to their stations with some extra scratches. DiNozzo was met at the front door with a stare from Ducky that froze the younger man in his tracks (and almost made him drop the animals on the concrete porch).


With the corgis safely back inside, Ducky went to the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea. He heard the others talking down the hall as they made their way into the rec room to watch a movie: it was Kate’s turn to pick the film, and she chose Something’s Gotta Give from a few years before.


The kettle on the stove whistled, and Ducky walked over to turn the stove off and pick up the kettle. Putting down the kettle on a nearby countertop, he turned to grab a bag of Yorkshire Tea to put in his mug. His cell phone buzzed in his pocket as he poured the hot water in the mug; waiting for the tea to properly brew, Ducky pulled out the phone and hit the red button, declining the call.


McCallister’s people weren’t monitoring his calls as they had after the new director took over as head of NCIS, but Ducky still didn’t trust his phone to be secure. Like the others on ‘Team Gibbs’, Ducky had taken care to watch what he said when he thought McCallister or his people were listening.


Ducky was tired of their constant presence in his life, especially his home. He deferred to Gibbs’ strategy of waiting out the director, but Ducky thought he soon would speak out and confront McAllister on the overt presence of the suits, and the more covert surveillance he thought McAllister had approved. The killers of Jenny Shepard no longer presented a threat to the team – unless, as darker rumors persisted, McAllister was the one behind her murder. Ducky never quite believed that, though; he thought the man wouldn’t go that far, to kill Americans and fellow NCIS personnel.


He wouldn’t. Right?


The tea was ready, and Ducky pulled out the teabag and put it in the garbage. Turning back to get his mug, his cell phone buzzed again. He stopped, looking around for anyone else in the vicinity, and then looked at the phone’s screen.


There wasn’t a number, but the phone kept buzzing. Ducky decided to answer it. “Donald Mallard.”


For a few seconds, the caller said nothing. “Who is this?” Ducky said, deciding to give the caller five more seconds before ending the call.


“Donald,” the caller said, three seconds later. Ducky recognized the voice of a former colleague from his days in the British Army’s Secret Air Service, someone he hadn’t spoken to in years.


“Are you trying to sell me something?” Ducky remembered using the phrase from his time in the SAS to speak with colleagues when out in public; the phrase meant ‘how can I help you’.


“No, my friend. Jimmy and Ruth have headed off to elope. They’re heading for the countryside, but the balloon has left. God be with us all.”


The call concluded with a recording of a short electronic musical phrase played at the end of a series of videos meant to be broadcast in Ducky’s homeland of the United Kingdom only when nuclear war was unavoidable.


Ducky stood frozen in place as the other line went silent and a chill shot up his spine.


It was 12:40 a.m. Thursday morning Greenwich time in Britain, 7:40 Wednesday night in Washington. If Ducky had been in the UK and in front of a television watching any of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s channels, he would have seen the BBC logo abruptly appear onscreen, followed moments later by the voice of a woman reading from a script:


--This is the BBC.


We have interrupted our regular programming. The BBC will be bringing you news on the developing geopolitical situation, and important information which may be vital to you in the coming days. Stay tuned to the BBC for announcements from the Queen, the Prime Minister, government ministries and the military.—


After a few seconds of a pitch-black screen, Ducky would have seen the animated image of the mushroom cloud from an atomic bomb against a blue background. Seconds later, the screen would change to a red background, with three words in white starkly explaining just what the viewer was watching.






A male voice would begin reading “Nuclear explosions are caused by weapons such as H-bombs or atom bombs…”


This time, the airing of the first of the 20 Protect and Survive videos was no mistake.


Elsewhere, Gibbs was in his basement, working on yet another of his boats, with a television set playing nearby. The set was over 20 years old, and still working in near-perfect condition, set to the local CBS affiliate. The sound was loud enough for Gibbs to know the news anchors were making light conversation, probably a transition between stories. He turned back to his boat.


He put down his brush and jar of varnish when he noticed one of the anchors stuttering while reading from a script. He saw her coanchor gently take the paper, then saw the man’s face grow chalky white almost in a single instant. Gibbs walked towards the TV.


“A college friend of one of our staffers who is from the United Kingdom directly confirms the Reuters and United Press wire reports, that the UK has taken over all commercial broadcasting within its country. All stations, radio and television, are broadcasting BBC news coverage and a program intended to be aired over British television when a nuclear war was bel—“


The screen went dark. An icy pulse went down Gibbs’ spine as he remembered a conversation he and Ducky had about British preparations for a conflict with the Soviet Union and the World Pact. A television program officially named Protect and Survive, after a set of pamphlets intended to be distributed to the British public, fit the description of what the anchor said before he was cut off. Gibbs also knew if war was imminent, the government would begin media censorship, First Amendment be damned.


Gibbs waited a few seconds, lightly hit the side of the set twice, and looked in the back of the set to make sure all of the cables and wires were as they should be. He then went through the other area channels his set could pick up from the large antenna he had installed after President Broome’s assassination in February.


The Baltimore and Washington network affiliates on the UHF band (channels 2 through 13) were on the air, carrying local news or weather. The stations from Baltimore, Washington and further out in Virginia and Maryland either carried news, sitcoms, dramas or infomercials. None of the news programs said anything about war or a declaration of war.


Gibbs hit 9 on his remote and saw a WUSA Technical Difficulties graphic. From the anchors’ reactions to the script, he figured something had happened, somewhere, that either was a precursor to or the signal to the beginning of war with the Soviets. He went to his radio on the workbench and scanned up and down the AM and FM dials, but there was nothing about war and certainly nothing about Britain gearing up for it.


He considered getting in his truck and driving out to Ducky’s to discuss the situation. But too many of Riley’s suits were around the mansion, and Gibbs wanted to keep as many cards to his vest as possible when it came to the director. Plus, Ducky had told him to stay home after he hurt his knee the day before, and Gibbs didn’t want to aggravate the joint any further right now unless he absolutely had to.


Gibbs then heard his front door slam, and he reached for his handgun in its holster along the right hip. Though the steps sounded familiar, Gibbs wouldn’t let his guard down, just in case, and he aimed his gun towards the doorway connecting the basement steps with the annex.


Seconds later, Gibbs lowered his aim and put his weapon back in the holster.


“Damn, Jethro. I’d have driven into Virginia to get something else if I had thought Chinese would’ve made you draw your weapon,” Mike Franks said, carrying two boxes of Chinese food in each hand as he descended the stairs. “Chinese and gas stations were all I could find open around here and I knew you wouldn’t want warmed-over cold pizza from the 7 Eleven.”


“Mike,” Gibbs said, his voice trailing off. What was wrong with him, that he drew a gun on an ally? Or that he wasn’t sure who it was coming into his house in the first place. “You didn’t have to do that,” he finally said as Franks made his way towards the work bench, where Gibbs had pulled up another stool, and had begun pouring bourbon into a emptied-out nail jar.


“Nonsense. Save them cowboy steaks for another time,” Franks said. “Let me treat you to dinner for a change.”


“Will I like it?”


“Of course, you’ll like it,” Franks protested. “Kung po chicken, plenty of veggies, two large for six bucks and tax. It’s a great deal. It’s that place five blocks over I went to last time I was here.”


Both men began digging into their meal, and Franks noticed the graphic on the TV screen. “Isn’t there something else on? I know you’re working on that boat, but you usually have something on in the background.”


“I’m waiting to see what comes on afterwards,” Gibbs said, explaining what aired before the station briefly went dark. “Something’s happening, Mike.”


“Something else’s happening, too,” Franks said. “Before I explain my…theory…did you do any cleaning down here. And don’t tell me ‘no because Ducky’. I’ve known you too long, Jethro. You ain’t gonna let a little knee-ache keep you in a chair. Hell, look at that thing over there.” Franks nodded towards the boat frame. “You’ll have that done by the end of the week.”


Gibbs smiled. “No bugs, Mike. Did find a couple when I got here, but I squashed them. So you can talk freely here.”


“Good,” Franks said between bites. “Before I tell you about who I met at that bar you sent me to, I wanna tell you about the first part of my ‘theory’.”




“Just eat and listen, Probie. First part has to do with those kids Riley’s got guarding you and your team. And me. Some of them were at Paulie’s, too.”




“I said, ‘just eat and listen’,” Franks said in a semi-agitated tone. “Guess I’ll tell ya the second part first. So I’m there for happy hour, and it’s the same people this afternoon who’ve been there every single day since you sent me there. Nobody new, nobody absent, TV sets set to ZNN, ESPN and Channel 7. I order a Córdoba Light, in a bottle.


“This time, though, someone new walks in. Very attractive woman, slender, kinda tall in her heels, blonde. Sexy, too, though she called herself Jack. Has to be in her thir—“




I’m the one tellin’ the story, Probie. Anyway, she sits down next to me, orders a Rolling Rock, and we start talkin’. Tells me she’s a psychologist, works for DIA, transferred here from Afghanistan. I tell her I’m an ol’ bastard who’s trying to get back home to Mexico but if that ain’t gonna happen, I’m gonna start looking at beach property down in Florida…just so you know.”


“I trust you’re going somewhere with this,” Gibbs said, with one eye on the TV set.


“She chuckles, then reaches into her bag and pulls out this thick folder. And shows me a dossier on me, and says ‘now, let’s reintroduce ourselves. Former Special Agent Mike Franks, NIS, retired, I’m Special Agent and Forensic Psychhologist Jack Sloane, DIA’. She takes out a few more dossiers from that folder, on you, Ducky, DiNozzo, Kate, Abby, Ziva, McGee, even Ducky’s last two assistants, and on a couple other agents you worked with, Stan Hurley and Paula Cassidy.”


Gibbs kept his countenance neutral but Franks realized his former probationary agent and second-in-command was greatly concerned. “What happened, Mike?”


“She nodded towards the front and back entrances, and a couple of big guys up front, and scary-looking biker types in back, covered them both. So I couldn’t just get up and walk out. I took a drink and asked her politely ‘what in the f*** is going on?’”


“I wouldn’t have been polite, Mike.”


“I wasn’t either, Jethro. The barkeeper came over and said ‘you can trust Jack, Mike, just like you can trust all of us. Sit down, and listen to what she has to say’. Then he walks away, and she says ‘now that we’ve been introduced, let’s talk. I have some things you’ll want to know about’.”


“What did you talk about with her?”


“She told me about the ring, Jethro, same things you told me. I told her I believe in facts, not science fiction. Said she’d show me if she got clearance. And she told me she could show me something — someone — else you’d been looking for the past few days.”




“Pulled out her cell phone, placed a call, and I spoke with someone who said she was Hollis Mann. Sounded like the woman on the cassette you played for me—“


“What did she say, Mike?”


“Said she knew you’d been looking for her but you needed to back off a little. Let her come to you, and it sounds like she wants to come by later tonight.”


“You didn’t tell her ‘yes’?”


“No, but my gut told me she’s coming by tonight whether you like it or not.”


Gibbs sighed and wondered what in the hell he’d gotten himself into and if the bad guys, whomever they were, had somehow gotten the jump on him. Paranoia or not, his gut had been telling him things were beginning to spin out of control, not just between the superpowers but in regards to matters closer to home.


Franks sensed Gibbs’ discomfort, and what he said next threw Gibbs a curveball.


“Jack said you were right to be suspicious, but you’ve been suspicious of the wrong people,” Franks said. “She says McAllister’s not your enemy, that he’s trying to protect you and your people and NCIS. The real enemy is some of the people connected with these rings who are almost as bad as the Russians, are the ones you need to worry about.”


“What people?”


“Jack said Hollis would explain, tonight, but they were ‘bad seeds’,” Franks said. “Willing to let billions of people die to save their asses.”


Gibbs drank the last of his bourbon and refilled his jar, took another drink and got up and paced the basement, then turned to Franks. “What’s your gut telling you…hell, why didn’t you come to me as soon as you got out of there?” Gibbs said. “You should’ve gotten back here—“


“Jack and the bartender and ‘Hollis’ told me it might draw suspicions,” Franks replied. “We’re supposedly on the ‘bad seeds’ radar, but me stopping off for Chinese would’ve drawn a lot less attention than heading straight here.”


Gibbs paced some more, then stopped in front of the TV. WUSA had returned to the air and now carried CBS News coverage. Gibbs’s earlier interest in what the TV stations were and weren’t saying had gone by the wayside, and he was zeroed in on Hollis and her whereabouts and whether he and his people had just made a new set of enemies.


“I’m going to Duck’s, have McGee do some computer stuff, get ZIva to see what her Mossad contacts might now,” Gibbs said. “Mike, you stay here and don’t let anyone in other than me or my people—“


“I think you’re stuck here, Jethro. One of those SUVs are parked behind your truck—“


“The hell with them!” Gibbs snapped as he began walking towards the stairs. “I’m going—“


“You’re going to stay put, Probie!” Franks yelled back, in a tone he hadn’t used since a time years ago when Gibbs, as a stubborn and too-confident probationary agent, had nearly screwed up a case and severely angered Franks in the process. “Think with your head!”


Gibbs stopped, then turned and shot Franks the look he reserved when one of his people got too off track or babbled too much. The older, retired agent didn’t flinch.


“Jethro. I taught you to use your head, and go with your gut and what made sense, not your emotions,” Franks said calmly, and firmly. “You’re upset about Hollis, and worried about her. That’s on top of being worried about your own people, including the ones you can’t protect. And you’re afraid the ones you thought you could protect, you can’t.


“That’s not when the case starts getting away from you. The case starts getting away from you when you get too distracted and upset to think with a clear head, to be able to hear what your gut’s tellin’ you, and not have it muddied up by your fears—“


“My ‘fears’,” Gibbs said, still standing in place.


“You need to ask yourself right now, Jethro, if you’re in control of what you can be in control of or if you’re starting to lose focus. If you’re losing focus, that’s when you’ll start to lose control, and that’s when you veer off track and put yourself and your people in real danger. Before you do anything, Probie, think. Think about what’s going on, and what your next steps need to be. Then take those steps. Use your mind and your common sense, and listen to your gut, but don’t let your fears or anxiety talk you into doing something you know deep down you shouldn’t.”


Gibbs stood in place for a minute, sighed, and walked back to the workbench. He sat down on a stool, pulled his phone out, and looked at it. “You’re sure those people at the bar were on the level.”


“I wasn’t sure about anything the first day I went there, on Monday,” Franks said. “Now? My gut’s tellin’ me they’re on the level. Whatever’s going on with that thing, whatever threat there really is to you and your team—“


“To you too, Mike. You’re as much a part of this as anyone.”


“Well, whatever’s going on, those people are in the know.”


Gibbs took a bite of his Kung po chicken, now growing cold. “So we wait…but if I don’t hear from her by midnight, I’m going after her.”


“And I’ll go with ya’,” Franks said as he took a drink of bourbon. “I’m thinking, though, we’re gonna learn more about whatever is going on real soon.”


11:04 p.m. Eastern Time USA


—the Pentagon has just announced that U.S. Navy ships off the coast of the Turks and Caicos Islands were closely approached by Cuban naval vessels earlier tonight. A military spokesman at The Pentagon told CNN that two Cuban destroyers came within 500 feet of the USS Grand Canyon, a Spruance-class destroyer, just 12 miles south-southwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands, where some U.S. Navy and British Royal Navy ships are currently stationed. According to the spokesman, the Cubans backed away after being challenged by the Grand Canyon’s captain, and headed away towards Cuba—


“Jesus. Wonder what really happened?” Franks said, turning up the volume on the TV with the remote, as both men sat at the workbench. “Think there was some shooting?”


“If there was, they’re not telling us,” Gibbs replied. “There’s going to be a lot of things that we’re not going to get told.”


“Makes sense, if you’re trying to keep people from panicking,” Franks said. “Damn good thing Boehner went on TV last night to talk about those attacks, tell people the government’s on top of things, that the ‘terrorists’ won’t prevail. I’m thinking some of it’s true.”


“You that cynical, Mike?” Gibbs said with a chuckle.


“I don’t think if the Russians bombed Chicago or whatever, the feds would put a lid on it. You’d hear about it somehow.”


“I think yesterday was just the start, Mike. The Soviets have a scary team in place to destabilized the West, as much as possible before they move into Western Europe, or the Middle East, or wherever.”


“How many Spetsnaz?” Franks referenced the Soviet Union’s version of the U.S. Navy SEALs and the Army Rangers, elite special forces typically run by the USSR’s KGB intelligence service.


“Thousands, tasked with attacking government, military and civilian places. Power plants, airports, government agencies, churches, neighborhoods. Put as much fear into the public as possible. If they can completely destabilize the country ahead of military action, they’ll do it.”


“And when they start trying to destabilize the country is when you know things are about to go to hell,” Franks said. “If they do that to us, we’re going to try doing it to them. When you let that genie out you can’t quickly put him back in his bottle. He’s gonna do what he was let out to do, and you have to hope the bastards who have the genies with the nukes bottled up decide not to let them out.”


Gibbs’ phone rang, and both men looked at the ID screen. Unknown Caller.


“You gonna get that?” Franks said.




His countenance lifted just a bit when he heard Hollis Mann’s voice on the other end. “Heard you been looking for me, Jethro.


“You didn’t pick up your phone,” he said. “Where in the hell have you been?”


I’ll tell you in a few. Your door’s still unlocked, right?


“I’ll meet you, Hollis. Too many ears around here. Give me a secure address—.”


No, Jethro, I’ll meet you, in a few. Don’t worry about the ears, the ones that can listen are friendly. And speaking of, I’m bringing friends.


Gibbs got up from his stool, phone in hand, ready to run up the stairs and out to his truck. “The hell you are, Colonel. Like I said, too many ears—“


Your truck’s blocked off and your basement is as secure a place as any to talk.


“I don’t like it.”


“You don’t have to like it. Just stay there. There’s too much you need to know. You should hear my and my team’s footsteps in five.” >click<


Gibbs growled. “Guess she’s coming here, Mike. Five minutes. With ‘friends’.”


Franks looked at the bottle of Jim Beam, now less than a quarter full. “Guess it’s not a social call, because between this and the four bottles of beer in the fridge, there’s barely enough for the two of us.”


“My gut’s telling me we’re both going to want to be sober,” Gibbs replied, “for whatever she’s about to tell us.”


True to her word, Hollis arrived within five minutes of ending the phone call. Gibbs and Franks heard the door open, then heard several sets of footsteps going across the living room and kitchen floors, before seeing a familiar silhouette at the entrance to the basement.


Hollis didn’t break stride, and neither did the four people with her, until Hollis stopped in front of Gibbs and embraced him tightly. “Sorry for the cloak and dagger, Jethro,” she told him. “The people I work with, and for, had to do their due diligence on you and your people before agreeing to let you all in.”


Gibbs pulled back and looked at the other people in the room. Two of them he knew, one of which was Brent Langer, an FBI agent, was one of Gibbs’s agents years ago, before his current agents joined NCIS. The other, Roger Cooke, was with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and had worked with Gibbs on a case a few years before.


Two of the three women in the room were strangers to Gibbs, but one was very familiar to Franks. “Jacqueline Sloane,” the slender blonde said with a firm handshake. “You can call me ‘Jack’. Good to see you again, Mike.”


“A pleasure,” Franks said, shooting Gibbs a wink.   


“And who are you?” Gibbs said to the slightly taller brunette standing between Sloane and Hollis.


“Joanna Teague,” she replied, also giving a firm handshake. “I’m with the Agency.”




“Indeed,” she said, pulling a laptop from her bag. “May I borrow your workbench?”


With a nod from Hollis, Gibbs assented, and Teague opened the laptop. “The information here explains the history of, and the science behind, the ring as close to layman’s terms as possible,” she said. “There’s a lot to take in. Be patient. We’ll answer any questions you have as best we can.”


Gibbs and Franks watched an advanced presentation program describe the ring and the science behind it, much of which went over both men’s heads. They more easily grasped the historical data, beginning with parallel events in 1999 in the American state of Wyoming; the Soviet republic of Georgia; and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of China. Three separate portals – one in each country – connecting Earth with another universe. Specifically, a fixed point in an identical region on another universe’s Earth.


Although scientists struggled to understand how these portals worked, they managed – with the approval of their respective countries’ governments – to keep the portals stable and to replicate and control the phenomena. A secret summit in November 1999 in Shanghai saw Chinese Premier Li Xeng convince U.S. President Colin Powell and Soviet General Secretary Vladimir Putin to keep the existence of the portals a secret and to use them for peaceful purposes.


Seven and a half years later, the portals had become an open secret among the top government and military leadership of the major countries, and to certain powerful figures in the civilian world. What Li feared could come to pass – nations using the technology as an escape route in the event of total nuclear war – was coming closer each day to becoming reality. And those in the know were dividing into two distinct and contrary groups: one group wanted to use the technology to save as many people as possible, the other group to preserve its own influencers’ interests and lives.


“All that’s a hell of a story, but what the hell are Gibbs and I supposed to do with it?” Franks asked after the presentation ended.



“Knowledge is power,” Teague told him. “More people by the day are finding out about this. The group that’s out for itself already is lashing out, trying to eliminate any threats to its interests. That includes us…and you.”

Chapter 43 by Briwd

Chapter 43


Wednesday, May 30, evening Eastern Standard Time

Ducky’s home


Something’s really hinky with the internet, McGee thought.


The young agent sat at a table in the guest room he was sleeping in, staring at the error message on his laptop screen. Within the last hour, several websites that he had been asked to visit had gone, and stayed, offline.


All the affected websites had gone down after the time that Ducky said the British government had taken over its domestic media outlets. No official announcement had been made yet by any British government or military agency, but McGee considered Ducky’s word to be as authoritative as any news outlet.


Ducky told him the BBC’s own website would still be online. He was right, and the news articles that were accessible didn’t appear to contradict the organization’s reputation for independent, nonbiased reporting. However, most non-news content had apparently been taken down, although the sports section was still online.


McGee learned the Wimbledon tennis tournament, scheduled to begin next month in London, had been postponed ‘indefinitely’, as had the rugby league Super League competition that included British and French clubs. There was also a story about the English Football Association’s request for its clubs to suspend competition, with no reason given. The two Formula 1 auto racing events scheduled for Montreal, Canada and Indianapolis next month were cancelled.


Other than news, sport and weather, the BBC’s website had been stripped bare. McGee was about to visit another website when he came across a link in the BBC’s UK section. The link took him to a subsection titled Protect and Survive. A quick scan of the subsection showed information on how to survive a nuclear exchange, including sealing up one’s house, how long to stay inside and how to dispose of the dead.


He was reading about conserving batteries for radio usage when the BBC site went blank for a few seconds. It was replaced with a graphic, white text on blue background, which read







The other U.K.-based media websites – Sky News, Channel 4, The Times of London, Daily Mail and other outlets in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – showed the same graphic.


“Todd,” McGee shouted to the suit standing outside in the hallway, “get Ducky up here, now.”


“Tim, I’m supposed to stay here—”


“Get him here NOW!” McGee heard himself shout with more determination than he had ever used on the job. Todd stared at him, then looked toward a colleague down the hall, unseen from McGee’s seat, and took off for the stairs.


A couple of minutes later, Ducky and Ziva made their way into McGee’s room, with Todd standing in the doorway.


“I am sorry,” Ziva said to Todd.


“What?” Todd replied, just before the door shut on him. Ziva locked it, then walked over to the table, where Ducky was looking over McGee’s shoulder. In a near-whisper, McGee explained to them what he had discovered, then showed them the graphic that appeared when he typed in the BBC’s web address.


At Ducky’s urging, McGee typed in addresses for other British-based organizations, including the Church of England; the Liverpool football club; the Sainsbury’s supermarket chain; and a U.K.-based email provider. Every website showed the same graphic.


McGee turned to look at Ducky and saw a look of anguish on the doctor’s face. He saw the concern in Ziva’s eyes and got up from his chair to offer it to the older man. Ducky sat down and took a handkerchief from his jacket to wipe his eyes, twice. As the significance of the graphics and the inaccessible websites dawned on him, Ducky masked his emotions the best he could, as not to upset the younger people with him.


McGee and Ziva saw right through it. At first, they were concerned something had happened to Ducky, then understood what he was doing, and why.


“Timothy, Ziva,” he said, quietly. “Britain is very much an American ally, but when she is threatened she will not hesitate to act in her own interest, particularly when faced with an enemy who can destroy her in minutes. What you see there” – Ducky pointed to the laptop – “is one of the first visible signs of a programme that has probably been going on for days, if not weeks.”


“A programme,” McGee said, in confusion.


“A programme of transitioning to war.”


Gibbs’s basement


Franks’ response to Teague was his reaching over the laptop on the workbench for his cigarette lighter and, without saying a word to anybody, taking it – and himself – up the stairs and out to the front porch.


As he exited the top of the stairs and walked into the foyer between the entrance to the basement and the upstairs kitchen, Gibbs decided to go up there and bring him back downstairs. Hollis shook her head at the others, told them to stay there, then ran to catch up with Gibbs.


Outside on the front porch, Franks had lit a cigarette. He looked up and down the street at the houses he could see from his vantage point, then at the night sky. He saw and heard four helicopters in the distance, and noted they probably were SuperCobras.


Gibbs opened the front door, Hollis a step behind him, and both walked out onto the porch.


“Marine copters on patrol. Here, in America,” Franks said to them. “Nobody here gives it a second thought, anymore. Damn shame.”


Hollis saw the suits in their vehicles on the street, in front of the house and further up the street, as well as another suit standing in front of the house on the sidewalk. She walked right up to Franks. “Mike, we want you to see the Pentagon ring for yourself,” Hollis told him, lowering her voice so only they, and Gibbs, could hear. “We’d like all of your people to see it, but that’s not possible yet.”


“You might as well be telling me ‘we’re gonna jump in a space ship and go to Mars’,” Franks said. “They told me all that at that bar, and I even halfway believe it, but…”


Franks shook his head and took another draw on his cigarette.


“But what, Mike?” Gibbs said.


Franks exhaled away from the other two people with him, so the smoke wouldn’t blow on them. “What you’re talking about?” he said to Hollis. “Fantasy.”


“Fantasy?” she said. “We’ll get you there and you’ll see it for yourself—”


“It may be as real as those helicopters up in the sky, but it’s a fantasy,” Franks said. “Both sides—”


“We need to finish this conversation downstairs,” Hollis interjected, her tone suggesting that Franks not argue her point. He put his hands up, then dropped his cigarette in the ashtray next to the door that Gibbs had one of the suits put on the porch a few days before.


Downstairs in the basement, Franks sat himself back at the workbench, and took a sip from his jar of bourbon. “What I was saying before you dragged me down here, Colonel Mann, was that both sides need to sit back down at the table and work out their differences. That’s the way to save lives. Not by sending people through some magical escape route that everyone was hellbent on hiding from the whole damn world.”


“They’re not going to sit down at the table, Mike,” Gibbs said. “Geneva was the last chance. There’s going to be a war, soon. I’m not leaving my people here to wait to be blown up – and that includes you. We’re going through.”


“You gonna pile everyone in the van and just drive into a restricted area, Jethro?” Franks said. “Who else on your team knows?”


Gibbs was silent, but his reaction gave Franks his answer.


“You better start talkin’ to them, then,” Franks said. “Better do it quick, too. Colonel” – Franks looked at Hollis – “if you can get me and Jethro away from Riley’s ‘protection detail’, then I’m up for a field trip.”


“There’s a risk,” Teague said, “that we’ll run into the wrong people and get caught.”


“You do know what I did for a living, right?” Franks said, prompting a half-smile from Gibbs. “Risk comes with the territory. I may be retired, but I can still take care of myself.”


“That work for you, Jethro?” Hollis said to Gibbs.


“Works for me,” Gibbs replied.


“Tomorrow night,” Hollis told both men. “It’s becoming more and more difficult for the powers that be to keep a tight lid on this thing, especially now that they’re preparing for a world war. Knowledge of this thing keeps leaking out. It’s possible we may run into others, like you, who want to see the ring for themselves. Or, someone who sees us as competition for the last seats on the plane and would try to eliminate us.”


“What about security?”


“Security measures have changed in the past few days,” Cooke said. “The people running this thing here in the States realize that knowledge of this thing is getting out and they’re trying to eliminate the leak. So, there’s a good chance we’ll run into hostiles, likely former military personnel, including ex-SEALs, ex-Green Berets, ex-Rangers working for contractors, looking to eliminate threats like us.”


“But they’re much more of a threat if you’re there to get onto the main floor and go through the portal,” Langer said. “If you’re there to observe, from the vantage point Gibbs and Colonel Mann were at before? The odds of confronting those guys drops significantly.”


“But there’s still a risk,” Gibbs said.


“Yes, there is,” Teague said. “And if the risk is too high for you three to go is for you to decide yourselves.”


“We’re going,” Franks said.


Thursday, May 31

1 a.m. EST


--Satellite News Network. You give us 30 minutes, we’ll give you the world. Here are the headlines at this hour.


Al-Qaeda has taken credit for the attack on the Arabian Hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia two hours ago that has reportedly left at least 300 people dead. That number reportedly includes embassy personnel from the Soviet Union and East Germany. The Soviet news agency TASS reported a response from Soviet General Secretary Ogarkov, who condemned the attacks as ‘butchery’ and offered the USSR’s help to Saudi authorities. The Saudi government has not yet commented on the USSR offer.


Shots were fired between Costa Rican and Nicaraguan forces along their countries’ border, just outside the Costa Rican town of Los Chiles. No deaths were reported, although two Costa Rican soldiers were shot.


Virginia State Police and Virginia National Guard helped Greene County and Stanardsville, Virginia police turn back eight busloads of people from Baltimore. A spokesman for Stanardsville mayor Franklin Glasberg said the leaders of the caravan told the mayor and sheriff they were coming to ‘establish camp’ in Stanardsville as refugees and that the town should expect thousands more refugees in the days to come. The caravan left peacefully with a National Guard escort back the way they came into the state.



Riley McAlister’s home

2:09 a.m.


An aide burst through the door to McAllister’s office in the basement, waking the NCIS director from his hour-long nap.


“Sir,” the nervous young man said, “there-th-there, uh, there’s been, ah—”


“Spit it out son,” McAllister said, wiping his eyes. “I said don’t wake me until 0500 unless something happened. So tell me what happened.”


The aide handed McAllister a note that was sent to NCIS from the Department of Defense two minutes before.











“Shit,” McAllister muttered, as he got up from the cot in his office and ordered the aide to bring him a cup of coffee. The director wouldn’t get any sleep anytime soon.

Chapter 44 by Briwd

Chapter 44

Thursday, May 31, 2007

6 a.m. EDT



Contrary to the legends about Leroy Jethro Gibbs, the man did sleep.


He hadn’t gotten much sleep overnight, however. After Colonel Mann and her associates left his house, Gibbs decided to get some shut-eye on the cot in his basement, while Franks took the couch upstairs. Sleep came quickly to both men, who, despite the presence of a dozen suits inside and near the house, nevertheless slept with loaded handguns underneath their pillows.


Gibbs forgot about the very loud alarm clock on his workbench. It did its job, and woke him up right at 5:45. He stretched, then trudged upstairs to make breakfast and coffee. Seeing Franks snoozing on the couch, he turned on the TV in the kitchen and lowered the volume as not to wake up his friend and mentor.


--This is ZNN, the Satellite News Network, simulcasting on our sister channel, HNC. Here’s the headlines at this hour:


Allied and Pact forces worldwide remain on high alert, following skirmishes over the Persian Gulf and the border between the two Germanies in the past few hours.


ZNN has learned from its bureau in New Delhi that India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, also the Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement, has spoken with the American and Soviet Ambassadors to India, hoping to use them to reach their countries’ leaders so he could speak to them directly about brokering a peace treaty.


Back home in the U.S., both the House and Senate reconvened at 5:15 a.m. to vote on two items: approving the Rock Act, which effectively would turn the media over to government control, and reinstituting the draft. As you see in this live shot, Capitol Hill is swarming with military guards. The White House, the Pentagon and other federal government buildings also are under heavy guard at this hour.


Police presence has as much as tripled around the Soviet Embassy in Washington and Soviet consulates around the country. Five people were arrested in San Francisco after attempting to rush past police and engaged armed guards in front of the local Soviet consulate.


Coming up next: Carol Costello will talk with Katharine Weymouth, the publisher of the Washington Post, about the Rock Act


Gibbs took the TV remote and clicked through the channels until he found a black-and-white episode of The Andy Griffith Show. With Andy, Opie and Aunt Bee talking in the background, Gibbs cracked open some eggs over the skillet.


A short while later, Franks woke up to the smell of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and coffee. He sat up on the couch and saw Gibbs staring at him.


“Probie, why don’t you just tell me ‘Mike, get your ass over here. Breakfast’s gettin’ cold’?” Franks grumbled, without complaint. Gibbs smiled, and went over to the refrigerator to get some butter and molasses. The men had time to eat, and almost finish their coffee before Gibbs’s phone rang.


“Gibbs,” he said, and the person on the other line told him about a dead Navy SEAL discovered by a Metro police officer on foot patrol. Always prepared for any situation, Gibbs got up, grabbed his NCIS cap and jacket from a coat rack next to the dryer, and told Franks he was coming along.


On the way to the crime scene, Gibbs got a call from an unknown caller. “Who is this?”, he asked.




“Hollis? Are you—“


“Listen. Meet me and others at the park near the old Pentagon Centre, take the back way in.”


“‘Back way in’? Tell me—“


“Sneak in, don’t be seen. Get there by 10:30. We’re going in, early.”




“Early. We go tonight, there’s a good chance we get caught by the wrong people. We go now, we probably don’t get seen at all. You in or out?”


Gibbs looked at Franks. “You said 10:30. I just caught a case.”


“You have three agents, one who should have his own team now, two who probably will lead their own teams in time, and a Mossad agent who can probably protect them all by herself. Again, Jethro. In? Or out?”


Gibbs paused. “In. But I go to my crime scene first, check it out, hand it off. Then Mike and I head out.”


“Good enough. See you then, and stay safe,” she said before hanging up.


Franks had watched Gibbs throughout the entirety of the call. “Hollis?”


“Looks like the ‘field trip’s happening a lot earlier than tonight, Mike,” Gibbs said.


Rock Creek Park

7:16 a.m.


Gibbs’s truck — followed as discreetly as possible by two of the suits, in a very conspicuous shiny jet black Ford Expedition SUV — pulled in front of a Metro DC police cruiser. He and Franks got out of the truck and began looking for whichever police officer was in charge, and found their man about 50 feet away.


A middle-aged man in a light blue shirt and dark blue tie stood next to a woman who was squatting over what looked like the victim. Gibbs barely recognized the woman from having visited the NCIS morgue as a guest of Ducky’s a few years ago, but didn’t know the man.  Time to take care of that, thought the NCIS agent as he briskly walked their way, ignoring the dull ache in his knee while putting on a pair of the gloves he and his team always wore at crime scenes.


“You must be Gibbs,” the man said, reaching into his right pants pocket to pull out his badge and ID. “Detective Sportelli, Metro PD.”


Sportelli glanced at Franks. “You the new director? This guy must be a pretty big deal if you’re showing up—“


“Hell no,” Franks growled. “Retired NIS agent Mike Franks.”


“My mistake. Saw the news on TV about that woman Shepard getting killed; they showed the picture of the guy who replaced her — McAndrews? — okay. Well, he’s not here, so I guess this is a run of the mill case.”


“There’s never a ‘run of the mill’ case, and this man’s a pretty big deal to someone, maybe including the killer,” Gibbs said, taking a few moments to look at the victim. The deceased laid face-up, dressed in civilian clothing, and a very prominent wound in his chest. The African-American looked to be in his early 30s and, Gibbs thought, was big enough to play linebacker for the Redskins and, as a SEAL, wouldn’t be an easy kill.


Was he a SEAL, though? “You find ID on him?”, he asked Sportelli. The detective shouted at an officer, who went to his squad car and came back with a clear bag that contained a leather wallet. Gibbs took the wallet out of the bag and quickly found what he was looking for. The body now had a name: Chief Wendell Sears.


“Figured this guy would be overseas, if he were Navy,” Sportelli said. “Could be fake.”


“That’ll be for my people to determine,” Gibbs said firmly, to remind the detective that this was an NCIS case — his case — now.


Gibbs handed Franks the bag to hold onto and told him to give DiNozzo and Ducky a call to see where the rest of the team were at, and took a look around the body. Ignoring Sportelli and the woman, Gibbs looked at the small blood pool under the chest. He really wanted his people there to take over the scene, and Ducky’s initial thoughts on the timeframe and method of death.


Instead, he had to make do for the moment with the people around him. He knew Sportelli wouldn’t give up the scene until Gibbs’s team arrived, so Gibbs turned to someone who he didn’t know, but gambled on trusting on account of Ducky’s brief mention of her as a friend and colleague years ago.


“So you worked with Dr. Mallard?”, Gibbs asked the woman, who was momentarily confused as to who he was talking about. Then he saw the recognition, and a broad smile, on her face.


“Ducky,” she said. “He certainly is a friend, and a colleague. We’ve known each other quite awhile. You must be Gibbs.”


“Yep. And you?”


“Oh. Jordan Hampton. Doctor Jordan Hampton. The new Medical Examiner of the District of Columbia. The man who had the job before quit. I was told he took his family out west, to some place in Oregon, he thought would be safe.” If the worst came to pass, she didn’t say, although Gibbs read it in her eyes. “I’m surprised Dr. Mallard’s not here.”


Gibbs looked over at Franks, who held up one finger on his right hand. “Less than five minutes away, Dr. Hamilton,” he said, glancing at her and then down at the body. “You got anything I can use right now?”


“Whoever did this to him had to have some kind of advantage on him, or maybe knew him pretty well,” she said, as a couple of more vehicles arrived and pulled off to the side of the road nearby. Gibbs saw the NCIS examiner’s van, and a blue Chevrolet SUV. Ducky and Palmer got out of the van, and the rest of Gibbs’s team out of the SUV.


“Guess I’ll take over, now,” Gibbs said to Sportelli.


“You can have it,” the detective replied.


The rest of Gibbs’s team arrived, and after catching them up on the victim, Gibbs had Kate, McGee and Ziva wait with Ducky and Palmer, and pulled DiNozzo off to the side.


“This is your case, DiNozzo. Call me if something goes haywire, but otherwise I’ll be off the grid for a few days.”


“What’s going on, Boss?” DiNozzo said, knowing Gibbs wouldn’t hand over control of a case unless he were under orders, or working another case. “The mustache pull you off?”


“Me and Mike’s working something,” Gibbs said. “I’ll let you and the rest of the team know as soon as I can. For now, you’re in charge.“




“They’ll listen to you, Tony. This is something I’ve got to get taken care of.”


DiNozzo saw the concern, fear and gravity in his mentor’s eyes. “This thing. How serious is it?”


“Big. Bigger than you imagine,” he said. “Gotta go.”


Gibbs was closer to his truck than to his team, but walked out of his way to go to them. “DiNozzo’s running point on this one,” he told them. “Got something that Mike and I gotta take care of.”


“Gibbs?” Kate said. “Take care of what?”


“DiNozzo’s in charge,” Gibbs replied, and said nothing else despite her and the others’ pleas. When DiNozzo arrived to take charge of the scene, Gibbs and Franks were on the road, heading towards their destination.


Arlington, Virginia

The former Virginia Highlands Park

11:00 a.m.



--lots going on here in the District and throughout the nation, and the world. This is WTOP 103.5 FM and WTWP 1500 AM, Washington, D.C. We’ll go now to CBS News at the top of the hour.


(CBS News Radio sounder airs)


This is CBS News. I’m Christopher Glenn.


Police in New York City have arrested 47 protestors at an impromptu peace gathering in Times Square that started peacefully but soon turned rowdy. Chris Silber reports:


“A crowd estimated at 3,000 began gathering in Times Square just after 7 a.m. Eastern, in time for the start of the television network morning shows. Six men and women in green T-shirts with peace signs, guarded by a dozen men and women in black T-shirts, also with peace signs, stood in the intersection of Broadway and 47th as the crowd grew. By 9 a.m., New York City police had shut down Times Square both to foot and vehicle traffic; cameras and reporters from local stations and national networks, including CBS, were recording the leaders calling for the United States and Soviet Union to cease hostilities and agree to live in peace.


Nearly 40 minutes later, a few dozen protestors began arguing with NYPD officers, and minutes later several protestors appeared to attack four officers standing in front of a squad car two blocks away on 45th Street. Within minutes, over a hundred police officers, including members of the NYPD’s SWAT Unit, descended on Times Square to restore order. New York Police Commissioner Frank Reagan:


            We live in troubling times, and although we enjoy the rights to assemble and to protest, right now we must exercise those rights in an appropriate manner, at appropriate times, in appropriate venues. I do not doubt the organizers meant well, but these impromptu protests are hotbeds for those who would mean them, and all of us, harm. I wholeheartedly commend and support our officers who did an extraordinary job of keeping the peace in a situation that could have quickly turned into tragedy.


At this hour, the NYPD is being assisted by New York National Guardsmen in clearing Times Square, which remains closed to all traffic. Chris Silber, CBS News, Times Square in New York City.”


The British Army was called in to break up a similar protest in London’s Hyde Park that turned violent. The BBC reported three deaths and dozens more injured after the mood of the protest, organized by musicians John Lennon, Freddie Mercury and Pete Townsend, turned rowdy when members of the banned leftist political organization One Earth, One Government clashed with British military veterans.


Indiana National Guardsmen were called in to break up rioting this morning at FEMA camps around Indianapolis. The camps have seen protests the past few days over food and medicine distribution and from residents who want to go back home. A five-mile area around the site of the bomb that destroyed the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Memorial Day remains closed to civilians; portions of surrounding Marion County are being reopened to residents pending federal and state inspections and other factors. This is CBS News.


President Boehner signed the controversial Rock Act into law this morning…--


“Turn that crap off, Jethro,” Franks grumbled, reaching to push the power button on the truck radio before Gibbs could react.


“Got something against the news, Mike?” Gibbs said as he looked out towards the large complex of buildings where they would go, once Hollis and her people arrived. With his truck parked just south of the intersection of the former Hayes and 15th Streets, on the southbound lane right next to the park, Gibbs kept an eye out for them and for anyone else.


“If I wanted to hear propaganda I’d listen to Radio Moscow,” Franks said. “When’s the last time you heard anything about Indianapolis? It ought to be the lead story on every newscast and in the newspaper. You hardly hear much about anything going on there. That’s the Rock Act for ya.”


“Kate called me last night, before Hollis and her people showed up,” Gibbs said. “Her uncle, the governor, said nobody’s going into the city anytime soon because of the water supply. Much of it’s contaminated and not all of it by the bomb.”




“Or their friends. FEMA thinks some of the reservoirs were ‘spiked’ right before the explosion—”


“Which no one is saying was a nuke. If that wasn’t a nuke, then these things burnin’ a hole in my pocket aren’t cigarettes, either. Whatever it was, it was an act of war, and why in hell the President’s not already declared war makes no damn sense.”


“War on who, Mike?”


“The Soviets. No way the Islamists or the cartels could’ve built a nuke that powerful.”


“Maybe, Mike, it’s because once we go to war with the Soviets, it’s over.”


Franks conceded Gibbs’ point, and decided to change the subject. “If we’re gonna listen to the radio, then the least you could do is let me see if there’s some decent music to listen to—”


“They’re late.”


Franks started to speak, paused a moment, then spoke. “Maybe they’re taking their time gettin’ here, Probie. Wasn’t easy to sneak in past those Arlington cops back there, near that old Exxon station. Hell, whoever’s running that thing up there” – Franks pointed to the nearby complex – “probably already knows we’re here.”


“Hollis told us how to come in here, Mike.”


“She said the park, Jethro. Not on the street. Hidin’ under a couple of trees ain’t gonna cover us.”


“Wanna go out and look around, Mike? You’ve been complaining about not being able to go out and smoke since we left Rock Creek Park.”


“Not my damn fault you don’t want any smoke inside your truck, Probie,” Franks said, with a smile. “And I didn’t survive all those years working for NIS by being a fool; I’ll light up after they show up and we get out of this thing.”


Franks settled for the moment for chewing a piece of gum, scanning the area for any sign of anyone else besides them. “They’ll show up, Jethro. Don’t worry. My gut tells me they’ll be here before you know it.”


“Probably,” Gibbs said. “Something’s wrong.”


“What do you see?”


“Nothing, yet.”


“What’s your gut telling ya?”


“I know what she said about tonight, Mike. Something doesn’t seem right about—”


“Jethro.” Franks pointed behind them. Gibbs looked in his rear-view mirror and saw a plain-looking black van pulling up behind them, slowing down about 20 feet away.


“I see it,” Gibbs said.


“Your girlfriend own a black van, Probie?”


Gibbs reached for his SiG-Sauer, pushing the growing sense of dread out of his mind. “On my six, Mike, but keep your eye on the facility.”


Both men got out of the truck and headed towards the van. Gibbs was relieved to see Sloane behind the steering wheel and Langer besides her, but kept an eye out for any sign of unexpected company.


“I don’t like this, Jethro,” Franks said as the pair slowly made their way to the van. “This whole area’s restricted, or it’s supposed to be, but nobody’s around.”


“You’re wrong—“


“The damn Pentagon less than a mile away is swarmin’ with security and soldiers. This place, if it’s what she says it is, oughta have a whole damn Army division here protecting it.”


The side door of the van opened, and Gibbs saw Hollis waving him in; as he approached the van, he saw Teague and Cooke both holding semi-automatic weapons, looking ready to fire at will. Both men got in, sitting on buckets set out for them.


“Jethro, I hope you’re not married to that truck out there,” Hollis said.


“Hollis…” Gibbs said with a groan.


“We’re going to have to abort,” she replied. “We got intel on the way over suggesting we’re running into a trap.”


“It’s reliable, Boss,” Langer said to Gibbs. “Contact within the Bureau who knows about the ring said there’s a civil war of sorts between those who want to open it up to the public and those who want to keep it a secret.”


“When did your contact reach you?” Gibbs asked.


“Not long after I called you when you were at Rock Creek Park,” Hollis said, apologetically.


“Jesus, lady,” Franks interjected. “You ever hear of a cell phone!?!”




“Don’t ‘Mike’ me, Jethro! For all we know we might be walking into a trap—“


“Which is why we need to leave,” Sloane said, looking outwards towards the complex. “This van’s sturdier and more powerful than she looks. Zero to 60 in two seconds, we’ll be out of the line of sight in sec—“


Gibbs’s hand was on Sloane’s wrist before she or anyone else knew it, keeping her from being able to take the van out of park and into reverse. Gibbs barely saw Hollis chop down on his arm above his wrist, hard enough that he loosened his grip on Sloane’s wrist long enough for her to slip her wrist out of his grasp.


“You do that again and I’ll chop your head off, Jethro,” Hollis said in a menacing tone. “Literally.”


Gibbs glared at her, she at him. Franks saw Cooke and Teague with their handguns pointed downwards and their fingers on the trigger, and reached over to put himself between Gibbs and Hollis. “Colonel,” Franks said to Hollis, “does the situation warrant not investigating this ring that you and your people spent half of last night trying to convince me to visit?”


“It does, former Agent Franks, and in my opinion it also warrants us withdrawing imm—“




Franks found himself knocked down to the van floor by Sloane, who was trying to cover him. In the corner of his eye, he saw Langer dragging Gibbs downwards and Hollis diving between Langer and himself.


A second later, he heard an ear-splitting explosion that cracked the front window of the van and caused it to shudder for a few, long seconds. That was followed by another explosion that Franks figured wasn’t too much further ahead, and probably aimed at Gibbs’s truck.


Hollis was the first of them to look up, and she glanced at Gibbs, then her team and then Franks. She — and the others — saw flames about five feet in front of the van, through the cracked front window, and flames not far away, near the truck.


Then she noticed the old Cadillac in the intersection that wasn’t there before, and a glint from inside the vehicle.




Her training kicked in almost before she could think of what she needed to do.


“HIT THE DECK!”, she yelled, and seconds later the windshield and front grille of the van were peppered with gunfire. “Cooke! Give me the key,” she barked, while crawling towards the back of the van, and a locker. She took the key, used it to open the locker, then pulled out a couple of semi-automatics. After handing them to Gibbs and Franks, she took another semi-automatic for herself.


“We’re gonna have to fight our way out of this one,” she said, checking the ammunition in her weapon. “Question is, are they with the General or are they garden-variety Spetsnaz?”


“Doesn’t really matter at this point, does it, Hollis?” Langer said.


“Nope,” she replied. “Jack, you get out of here. I’ll get out and draw fire while you—“


Gibbs reached and grabbed her by the arm, with more force than he wanted and with far more fear than he wished. “You.”


“I won’t ask my team to do something I won’t do myself,” she said, turning away from Gibbs to head for the back door. He stopped her before she could turn the handle.


“I’ll go,” he said. “You take Mike and your people—“


My turn to play hero, Jethro…I love you, you bastard.”


He stared at her, speechless, as she turned the handle. “Do me a favor. Don’t name that boat in your basement after me…Jack. You heard my orders.”


She got out, and he leapt out of the van behind her, both to cover her and to shoot at whomever was trying to kill them.


As they ran back towards a large tree to use for cover, he saw one of the assailants, dressed in all-black garb that he had seen somewhere before, during one of Jenny’s mandatory intelligence sessions. North Korean Special Guards, he though; North Korea had lent use of its military and intelligence resources to the Soviets over the past ten years, and these special forces were probably doing the equivalent of contract work for the KGB. Whoever they were, they were bad news, at least for Hollis and himself and the five friendlies stuck in the van.


Gibbs reached in his pocket for his cell phone; he was going to have to call in McAllister on this one, and deal with the consequences later. But he only felt his wallet and keys, and cursed. It must’ve slipped out of his pocket in the truck, he thought. Damn these pants DiNozzo told me I had to buy.


Looking over at Hollis, Gibbs saw a flash of anger and surprise in her eyes as she shot at the enemy. He remembered her telling Sloane to get the hell out of here, and winced when he noticed the van was still there. Is it drivable? Gibbs ducked to see if there was any fluid leaking from below the engine, but couldn’t tell from his distance.


Out in the intersection, one of the vehicles moved further east, and Gibbs knew the assailants were trying to get a clear line of sight on them. If they had a missile to fire at the van…


“We’re going to have to ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ it to draw their fire, Jethro,” Hollis said, breaking Gibbs’s train of thought. Her comment clarified in his mind that he wasn’t likely to make it out alive.


“We’re not going to make it,” Gibbs replied.


“Maybe not us, but they can,” she said. “Bonnie and Clyde.”


“You mean Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”


“Yeah. Got my movies mixed up. All this time and I had no idea you were a movie aficionado.”


“Nope. I saw it when I was in basic training, and again when DiNozzo brought his DVD player over to watch with me.”


“You remember how that movie ended?”


“Yeah. Freeze-frame.”


“I’m taking a few of them with me,” she said, running out from behind the tree before Gibbs could say or do anything to stop her.


Law enforcement personnel are trained to run to the battle, trained to overcome a human’s natural tendency to do whatever it takes to survive. As an officer in the United States Army, Hollis Mann had undergone hours of training to become a soldier. Yes, she was an investigator — unlike NCIS, the Army’s Criminal Investigative Command (often referred to as CID) pulled its agents from the ranks of active or reserve Army personnel — but at heart she was a soldier. Especially in light of the ever-present and growing Soviet threat, which had manifested itself in front of her.


As she ran towards the three vehicles and those firing at her from behind and within them, the ring came to Hollis’ mind. She pushed it aside to think of her teammates, and of Gibbs, who she heard yelling and firing behind her. She put his face in her mind’s eye.


Then she felt a sharp pain in her stomach, and felt herself falling, and thought it was strange that she didn’t feel herself hitting the street.


Her mind began to drift, even as she saw the backs of her teammates — her friends, her comrades-in-arm — run towards the battle, then stop. Had they been hit? No…they’re turning around? Fight! Or run like I order – ord —


Hollis screamed in agony at the intense pain that abruptly manifested itself back into her stomach, and sensed that her strength was quickly ebbing. The pain subsided a little, but enough that she could retain her concentration for one more thing.


She saw Jethro to her left, and saw the blood splatter on his pants and shirt, and for the first time figured out why her stomach was hurting so goddamned much.


Only then did it dawn on Hollis that it was now or never to say her last words. This man, this enigma, this bastard, this man of honor would hear them, and she wanted no one other than him with her, now.


“Hollis. Stay with me. Cooke’s calling for backup.” She could see the fear that he was losing her in Gibbs’s eyes, and she mustered her best smile to try to reassure him.


“Is alright, Gibbs,” she said in a near-whisper. Her energy was running low and about to run out, and the sky began to turn dark. “Come closer.”


He put his ear next to her lips. “In my jacket. Pack-et. Yours. Give the letter to Jo. Says you’re on the team.”


“Hollis, you can tell her yourself,” he whispered, as Franks and Sloane made their way over to them. “Stay with us. Backup’s comin’.”


“Je-throoo,” she said, drawing out his name. “Do me a favor.”




“Your next ex-wife. Don’t be…be ass. Tell her…why my name’s on…boat…tell…her…you love her…”


The light went out in her eyes as she exhaled her last breath.


Gibbs shut his eyes tight for several long moments. When he opened them, they were more moist than he wanted, and he noticed the others around him. Hollis’s eyes were closed.


“Probie. She’s gone,” Franks whispered.


“Did we get the bastards?” Gibbs said in a low roar.




“DID WE GET THE BASTARDS?” Gibbs screamed, the full force of his fury being directed at, but not to, his mentor. “DID WE GET THE ASSHOLES WHO DID THIS???”


Franks grabbed his mentee’s shoulders firmly and looked him right in the eye. “Ever last goddamned one of ‘em, Probie. They won’t hurt anyone else ever again.”


“That’ll do,” Gibbs whispered, then looked at Franks and Langer, the two still-living people there whom he trusted the most. “Help me get her into the van. We’re going to Ducky’s.”


“That’s impossi—“ Teague said, shutting up at a glance from Langer.


“Joanna, let me,” Langer said. “Boss. We can’t. That’ll draw attention we don’t want right now. There’s a safe house in Manassas. We can bring Ducky there a helluva lot easier than we can take you to him right now. Trust me.”


“Ducky’s,” Gibbs repeated.


“Probie,” Franks interjected, with a soft, but firm, voice. “The man’s right. We gotta go to their safe house. We sure as hell can’t stay here. This place’ll be swarmin’ with God knows who in minutes. If you don’t trust them, if you don’t trust Langer, trust me.”


Gibbs pondered Franks’s advice, while Langer, Cooke and Teague picked up Hollis’s body and carried it to the van.


“I trust you, Mike,” was all Gibbs said from the time they walked to the van, during the ride to the safe house, and while Teague and Cooke cleaned up Hollis’s body the best they could.


Gibbs stayed silent even as flashing red and blue lights lit the darkened living room and kitchen of the safe house, and during the subsequent knock on the door.


Langer opened the door after consulting with Teague.


McAllister was there.


Gibbs had so, so many things to say, but squelched all of them deep inside his soul for the moment.



Chapter 45 by Briwd

Chapter 45


Manassas, Virginia

Thursday, May 31, 2007

5:32 p.m.


“You going to let me in, Gibbs?”


The safe house that Hollis’s team took shelter was is located in a quiet, middle-class neighborhood.


The area was quiet not just due to its residents – many of whom were either retired seniors, or young couples with families – but also due to the regular Manassas police presence protecting its residents from suspected drug-related and general criminal activity going on at the apartment complexes less than a mile away.


Those who lived in the neighborhood were used to law-enforcement vehicles flashing blue-and-red lights every so often. Those cars and SUVs belonged to the Manassas police, responding to the occasional break-in, robbery or drug-related activity.


On rare occasions, the vehicles with the blue-and-red lights represented another agency. In front of this one-story brick house, there sat ten SUVs and one sedan, all with flashing lights, all from NCIS, whose director stood on the front porch impatiently waiting to be let in.


“Gibbs,” Teague said. “Let the man in. Let’s hear what the man has to say.”


Gibbs heard her but didn’t budge. A thousand thoughts were rampaging through his mind, all suggesting Riley McAllister, the director of NCIS, was behind the ambush at the complex, the deaths of Hollis Mann and Jenny Shepard, and God knew what else. Rage, not logic, dominated his thoughts.


“Jethro,” Franks said firmly. “Let the man in. Hear him out.”


Mike Franks, on the other hand, was one of the few people who could break through the fog of animosity that clouded Gibbs’s mind. This time, Gibbs listened, stepping back far enough for McAllister to step inside and go to the center of the living room.


“Special Agent Gibbs, Retired Special Agent Franks,” McAllister began. “CIA Agent Teague. FBI Agent and former NCIS Agent Langer. ATF Agent Cooke. DIA Forensic Psychologist Sloane. The shooting incident with Lieutenant Colonel Mann is officially gang-related,” McAllister said. “Major General Binder – the Commanding General of Army CID – wants to know what the hell happened up there today.”


“He wants to know ‘what’ about what?”, Teague asked.


“Why are you here?”, Cooke interjected.


“Why are you here?”, asked McAllister. “Agent Gibbs?”


McAllister was peeved, but not surprised, that his agent kept silent.


“Maybe we’re gettin’ ready to play a game of poker, Riley,” Franks said. “Invited players only.”


“Which I might halfway believe if I saw a poker table in here,” McAllister replied. “I already know what happened up there today.”


While the other four agents looked sideways at one another, Gibbs and Franks kept their gaze steady on the director.


“I know why you two” – he glanced at Gibbs and Franks – “met the rest of you, and Lieutenant Colonel Mann, at an officially restricted federal complex in a neighborhood closed to the public and anyone else not authorized to be there. I know your team, Agent Teague, were racing to the scene to get to my people before they could be ambushed – and that you all were ambushed anyway. Four North Korean special forces agents, on hire for the KGB, hoping to get access to the facility with the Ring.”


The five federal agents, and the sole officially retired fed, stood stone-faced, waiting to see what else the NCIS director knew.


“I know about the Ring. I’ve known about it for some time now,” McAllister said. “Gibbs, I knew you and Lieutenant Colonel Mann visited the complex. I know she wanted Mike Franks to visit it too, to see it for himself, as a step towards getting your entire team to visit it. And, when and if the time comes, to go through it. I’ve seen it, too.”


“Why am I not surprised,” Sloane said. “Please tell us you had no idea the ambush was coming.”


“Scout’s honor,” McAllister said, although no one else in the room completely believed him. “You’re lucky there were only four of them, and they weren’t the elite-level North Koreans. There’s a lot of terrorist activity being sponsored by the Kremlin right now, people. Lucky for us, there aren’t an infinite supply of top-level special forces to carry it out. A lot more of it’s being farmed out to third-string operatives and below—”


McAllister stopped talking when he saw Gibbs, whose glare had turned menacing, slowly making his way over to him. “Jethro,” Franks said as the others saw what Gibbs was doing; Teague reached slowly for her handgun.


Gibbs finally stopped, both men’s noses literally an inch apart. McAllister met the man’s glare with one of his own, Gibbs enraged with grief, McAllister attempting to establish himself as the alpha dog in the room.


“I read up on you long before I accepted this job, Gibbs,” McAllister said with a lowered, even tone. “I know you’re a man of few words. But I’m your boss, Gibbs, and you’ve obviously got a problem with me and you need to tell me why.”


Gibbs thought of Jenny, and Paris and Moscow and butting heads with her after she took the NCIS job and of her body laying in her car at the park. And he thought of Hollis, of the first time they met on the job at the golf course, and the nights they spent together in his basement and her apartment, and of her body laying on the ground at the facility. Two women, both of whom he loved, whose lives were taken in a hail of bullets.


“I can accept that you weren’t behind this, that you didn’t know about the ambush, Director,” Gibbs said. “Tell me. Were you behind the death of Director Shepard?”


“No, I was not,” McAllister said.


“Do you know who killed her, Director?”


“Sergei Mishnev, Agent Gibbs. You already know that, though. Is there something you want to say to me, Agent Gibbs?”


There was, and Gibbs suddenly realized it was the wrong thing, that Hollis’s death had shaken him far, far more than he realized and that he had lost track of his emotions. Gibbs understood if he didn’t regroup now, he’d fly off the track in ways that neither his people, these other agents nor himself needed right now.


McAllister didn’t kill Jenny Shepard, nor did he kill Hollis Mann. Gibbs saw Pablo Hernandez in his mind’s eye, and the caskets of Shannon and Kelly Gibbs, and had a flash of himself, insane with rage, setting up a nest across the Anacostia River so he could blow McAllister’s brains out in revenge.


It was time for Gibbs to get ahold of himself.


“You gonna arrest us, Director, for knowing about this ring?”


McAllister paused. “There’s enough people in town who know about the damn thing already. No friendly’s going to shoot at you for going there when the balloon goes up. Visiting hours are out of the question, though. Pentagon’s going overboard in securing the premises. You show up now, you will get shot at, by Rangers, SEALs, Knights, whichever elite-level forces the Pentagon can spare.”


“Have you spoken with our directors?” Teague said.


“No, Agent Teague, I haven’t spoken with anyone from the Agency or the Bureau or ATF or DIA about this. As far as the Major General, I kicked it up to SecDef. Army CID won’t be a problem going forward.”


“Gibbs,” McAllister said. “I had your truck towed to someone I know in town; I’ve emailed Agent DiNozzo with the owner’s name and the address of his garage so you can do your due diligence, satisfy yourself that the man’s on the up-and-up. You’ll have your truck back by Sunday afternoon, good as new.”


“I can fix it myself—”


“Thought I’d save you the time and trouble of rebuilding an engine,” he said, turning to walk back to his car. He took a step, paused, and turned back. “I’m sorry about Hollis, Jethro. I really am.”


That wasn’t much consolation to Gibbs, who watched McAllister walk back to his SUV, and watched the caravan drive away.


Cooke shut the front door, and Teague snapped her fingers. “We’re done here,” she said, pulling out her copy of the letter than Hollis gave Gibbs before she died. As Teague read its contents aloud, Gibbs followed along silently.


I hereby nominate Leroy Jethro Gibbs and Michael Aaron Franks for membership. I trust them inherently to uphold the purposes of this team and to maintain its secrets when and wherever appropriate.


“So reads the letter,” Teague said to Cooke, Langer and Sloane. “Does anyone second the nomination?”


“I second it,” Langer said without hesitation.


“So do I,” Cooke said seconds later.


“As do I,” Sloane added.


“And I do as well,” Teague said. “As there are no nays, the nomination carries. Mr. Gibbs, Mr. Franks, welcome to the team.”


Gibbs acknowledged the honor with a slight nod. Franks cleared his throat. “Well, that’s nice, Agent Teague, but having gotten shot at today by the equivalent of Kim Jong-il’s second-string junior varsity death squad, and seeing someone important to my family die, what exactly are the purposes of this team I just became a member of?”


“To get as many people through the ring as possible when the time comes, plain and simple,” Teague said. “And the time will come, too. Gibbs, Hollis had another letter for me to give you, of a more personal nature, to read at your leisure.”


She went to her purse that was laying on the couch, pulled out an envelope, and handed it to Gibbs. “We’re pulling out, people,” she announced. “Gibbs, Mike, we’ll be in touch soon. Agent Langer will take you two back to your house.”


Gibbs nodded and walked outside, while Franks made small talk with Langer and the others gathered their belongings scattered around the living room. The sky was cloudy, and Gibbs could smell the humidity in the air; he looked down the street towards the west and saw some ominous-looking black clouds in the distance.


Fitting, Gibbs thought as he looked around the neighborhood. A few people were staring outside their doorways or through blinders or parted curtains, and a couple of kids down the street were staring as their mother yelled at them to get inside. Gibbs wondered if he should say something, maybe tell the mom to lighten up a little.


He wondered, since he was a member of this team, how many kids and parents he could round up on a moment’s notice, if he needed to. Should he go down the street and—




Gibbs turned his head and saw an impatient Franks standing to his left. “Langer’s ready to go. They all are.”


Franks pointed to Langer’s white Toyota Camry parked behind a red truck Cooke was getting into, and ahead of a gold Corvette driven by Sloane that was pulling out of the long driveway. Teague was inside a black Mercedes-Benz SUV parked ahead of Cooke, in front of the garage.


Langer stopped before he got into his car, having pulled an envelope left underneath the wiper on the driver’s side. “Boss,” he yelled to Gibbs, holding the envelope high for him to see from a distance.


Gibbs took it only after he got in the front passenger seat and locked the door, and didn’t say a word until Langer got to his house. Suits were all over the property and parked in front of Gibbs’ house, and Langer had to stop in the middle of the street next to one of the SUVs to let both men out.


“Thanks,” Gibbs said, reaching in his wallet for a $20 bill. Langer held his palm out. “Ride’s on me, Boss. Don’t worry about it.”




“I’m serious, Gibbs,” Langer said. “We’ll be in touch, but you need me for anything, pick up a phone. I’ll be there.”


“I know,” Gibbs said. He threw the bill down onto the seat and shut the door before Langer could protest. He nodded at the agents guarding the front door, went through it as one held it open for him, and didn’t stop until he got to the basement.


One of the agents stopped Franks as he walked onto the porch. “Director said to us only that you two had a rough day,” she said. “You need anything — takeout, beer run, whatever — say the word.”


Franks took a few steps past her, stopped, and turned around. “A cold bottle of Corona wouldn’t be bad right now,” he said to her. “A bottle of bourbon, too. I don’t think either of us are hungry.”


He walked inside, and down to the basement, where he saw Gibbs already at work on his boat, stenciling an H on its side. One look from Gibbs told Franks it’d be a good idea for him to go upstairs for awhile and watch a movie.


Over the next several hours, Gibbs sanded and varnished the boat, stopping every so often to add another letter to its side. Eventually, he got too tired to go on, but didn’t stop until he had gotten Hollis just right. The cot near the workbench beckoned Gibbs, who realized he needed a few hours of sleep to recharge.


The cot held sturdy as Gibbs flopped down onto it. He closed his eyes and tried to think of something besides the day’s events. Shannon and Kelly came to mind and he quickly pushed thoughts of them away. Not today, hon, he thought, certain that Hollis and everything he didn’t want to dwell on would quickly follow and embed themselves in his brain.


The thing was that there wasn’t much else Gibbs could dwell on. He read books and watched movies on occasion, but it’d been a long time since he picked up a Jack London novel or since DiNozzo came over with his DVD player. Gibbs found himself searching through a myriad of memories — Iraq, Stillwater, Mexico, Moscow, Paris, Baltimore — trying to find something he could fall asleep to.


His mind kept going back to his team.


Kate, who had in her own right become one of NCIS’s best agents while harboring a secret.


Ziva, the Mossad officer forced on him who had become another daughter to him, who had discovered a new life and family far away from her domineering father.


McGee, the young and naïve agent who had progressed leaps and bounds in just a few years, who Gibbs realized he had been too hard on.


Abby, the lab rat who charmed her way into his heart from her very first day and, though he was reticent to admit it, had perhaps filled some of the hole in his soul caused by Kelly’s death.


Palmer, scared to death of him and nervous as hell, until that day where he did to the terrorist what Kate couldn’t do to Ari, and since then had changed his personality completely.


Ducky, who Gibbs felt a kinship with from the day they met, and was one of the true friends who would call him out on his bullshit and be there no matter what.


And DiNozzo, the son he never thought he wanted to have, whose wisecracking attitude masked his competence. He wondered why in hell DiNozzo hadn’t taken Jenny’s offer of the head job in Rota, indeed why he still stuck around in D.C….


DiNozzo…DAMMIT! The case!


Gibbs jumped off the cot and grabbed his phone from the workbench, calling DiNozzo five times. Each time he got a busy signal. Nothing.


Cursing under his breath, Gibbs called Ducky, and this time someone picked up. “Jethro!”, said the doctor on the other line. “It’s very good to hear from you. How are you and Mike Franks?


“Mike’s fine. Where’s DiNozzo?”


Upstairs, wrapping up the case.”


“Wrapping up the case? Already?”


You may not believe it, although Tony is writing an extensive report for you. He’s having the others do the same. I’ve never encountered a case completed in a single day before, even with agents having double- and triple-checked the—“


“DUCK,” Gibbs blurted with a bit more annoyance than he wished. He hoped Ducky would take it as normal behavior.


My apologies, Jethro.”


“You in the morgue, Duck?”


I am, Jethro. I sent Mr. Palmer back to his home-away-from-home and told him to watch a movie, or game, or whatever was on the Telly that’s not news-related.”


“News buggin’ him, Duck?”


The news is ‘bugging’ us all, Jethro. The case was a welcome respite, in that it took our collective minds off current events and finally gave us something to focus on.”


“How’d it get wrapped up so quick?”


The killer came to the Navy Yard and turned herself in.”




The victim’s wife. She thought the victim was cheating on her, because by her logic he shouldn’t be here in the States at all. He was here to visit his mother who lives in one of the poorer parts of the District. He never got to saw her, unfortunately.”


Gibbs cursed after remembering that Riley had his truck, then remembered his car was still in the driveway. “How did the wife kill him, Duck?”


A pool stick. A metal pool stick.”


“Say that again, Duck.”


She stabbed him in the back with a metal pool stick. She had followed him since a friend told her he had arrived at Washington-Baltimore International last night. She put her weapon in her car and followed him from the airport into the city and confronted him at a gas station. Then she cut his tires, and he ran. And she followed him.”


“Go on.”


She caught up to him at Rock Creek Park. They argued, and he walked away. Enraged, she ran back to her car, grabbed the cue, and ran until she caught up to him. Then she thrust the stick into his back. It went through his heart, and he fell, dying seconds later.”


“You know, Duck, I’m not sure—“


Unsure you believe this. I understand, but the cue did kill him. Did I tell you the tip of the cue was sharpened?


“No, Doctor, you didn’t. That might explain how it could penetrate skin and muscle.”


The wife was an athlete in high school, a state champion in the javelin event. She has kept herself in outstanding physical shape over the years, and in fact is what Anthony called ‘buff’.”




Her muscles are very well-toned, and at six feet and 195 pounds, has the strength and power to thrust the pool cue into a larger man — the victim — with such force as to kill him instantly.”


“Where’s Tony, Duck? I called him five times and he never picked up. He broke Rule—“


Rule three? Or it Rule three-A? He was acting under the Director’s orders.”


Gibbs sighed. The mention of McAllister caused the day’s events to come flooding back into his mind. He pushed Hollis to the side. “What did Riley say to him? To you?”


Only that you were on a special mission,” Ducky said before pausing.




And, only after the killer confessed and taken back to holding, did the Director say that Lieutenant Colonel Mann had died,” Ducky added. “He didn’t mention you or whatever ‘case’ you were on, but…


“Everyone put two-and-two together.”


Yes…Jethro, how are you holding up?


“I’m…I’d…I’d like to see the case notes, like to talk with Tony, but I’m too damn tired to do anything but try to get some shut-eye,” Gibbs admitted. “It’ll have to wait until tomorrow — and I will be at work in the morning and I expect everyone there.”


Certainly, Jethro,” Ducky said. “It’s good you recognize that you need some rest, because otherwise I was going to order you to rest. I still may give that order, if I don’t like how you look tomorrow.”


“Duck…” Gibbs thought of the ring, and of what Teague said back at the safe house: the time will come. “I’m not sure I’m going to have that luxury.”




“We need to talk, tomorrow, in private. I can’t go into details now, but trust me that it’s as important as anything we’ve ever talked about.”


Alright, Jethro. Is this related to Hollis?


Gibbs felt a sharp stab in his gut. “Indirectly,” he said. “Clear time in your schedule. Ten-hundred hours.” 10 a.m.


Of course, Jethro. For how long?


“As long as it takes,” Gibbs said. “Until then. I gotta get some sleep.”


Get your rest, Jethro,” Ducky said. “I’ll inform the others you and Mike are…well. We’ll speak tomorrow. Until then, have as good a night as possible, under the circumstances.”


Ducky’s voice gave way to silence, and Gibbs groaned at the thought of his being well. He wasn’t going to be well for a long time, but he hadn’t really been ‘well’ since he lost Shannon and Kelly. Gibbs’s eyes drooped as he looked for the place where he picked up his phone, and then saw the envelope he hadn’t yet opened. He read the one from Hollis after he got back home, but he had tossed McAllister’s envelope aside. Gibbs didn’t need his gut to tell him that he really needed to open the director’s envelope.


Using a flat screwdriver as a letter-opener, Gibbs saw a folded note and a flash drive. He opened the note.


Have your man McGee decrypt this, stat. You’re going to want to know what’s on it. McAllister.


Gibbs took the drive and note, shoved them down his right pocket, and then fell back onto the cot. As sleep overtook him, he tried to focus on something different and more pleasant. He thought of the treehouse in the backyard he had built for Kelly, and of the only time he and Shannon had been there, together, watching Kelly play teatime with her dolls.


This time, at least in his dreams, he got to keep his promise of teatime, with the two people he still loved more than anyone else.


Friday, June 1, 2007

7 a.m.


Gibbs really didn’t want to wake up. He had dreamed of Shannon and Kelly many times before, and always treasured those ‘visits’, although he had never spoken of them to anyone else.


The worst part of it, always, was waking up to the real world. Usually, he awoke to his basement, the boat, and a partly-full bottle of bourbon on the workbench.


This time, Mike Franks was there too, and the expression on his face made Gibbs assume the worst.


“Mike?”, Gibbs said, groggily.


“Jethro,” Franks said, calmly and quietly. “I let you sleep as long as I could. Had to get you up. Coffee’s upstairs, one of the suits is makin’ us breakfast. She’s a pretty good cook, too.”


“Mike. What in hell’s going on?” Franks’ expression hadn’t changed, and Gibbs wasn’t going to let it slide. “Did something happen?”


“Jethro, I would’ve woken you up but Ducky—”


“What happened, Mike?” Gibbs said, already exasperated. “Are we at war?”


Franks realized that he’d done a lousy job of hiding his anxiety. He pulled a stool over near the cot and sat down. “There was some sort of peace concert in Australia. They’re like, 14 hours ahead of us I think. Celebrities, musicians, actors, athletes, a huge target.”


“Target for what?”


“Someone blew up the Sydney Opera House,” Franks said. “Destruction was total. Thousands dead. News is being real careful to assign blame, but if you read between the lines you can pretty much assume it’s from—”


“It’s from Moscow,” Gibbs said.


“There’s more,” Franks said. “News says there’s some big storm, Barry or something, that might turn into a hurricane. They’re evacuating Florida up to Orlando. CBS says there’s been a bunch of accidents from Key West up to the Everglades, cars running into one another. Fox says the Cubans got a little too close to a United flight out of the Canal Zone taking civilians up to Texas.”


“You’re a lousy newscaster, Mike,” Gibbs said with a grin.


“You’re a lousy audience, Jethro, without some caffeine in you,” Franks joked. “You’re the one who wanted to go into work, right. You’re not gonna do that, sleepin’ down here all day.”


Navy Yard, Washington

9:03 a.m.


--again, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour is on the ground in Bangkok, Thailand. Christiane?


Susan, people are filling the streets of Bangkok, celebrating what we understand as the military overthrow of the country’s Central Committee and Politburo. About an hour ago, state radio and television returned to the air after going off abruptly around 4:30 p.m. local time. A general, confirmed to be known dissident Anuphong Phaochinda, dressed in the uniform of the former Royal Thai Army, sat at a desk and announced the retirement of the Central Committee and Politburo and the reestablishment of the Kingdom of Thailand under the emergency government of the Royal Thai Army, with the aim of reestablishing democracy and freedom by and for the Thai people.


Christiane, what is the atmosphere like in Bangkok?


Susan, people are happy, overjoyed that the Communist government has apparently been swept from power in what effectively is a bloodless coup. After the announcement on state media, military and civilian police looked on as people began to dance and sing, flying the flag of the Kingdom of Thailand. There is a tenseness underlying the celebratory mood, though. I can tell you according to a reliable source, the military is gearing up for a confrontation with the Soviets, who were instrumental in the murder of the last Thai monarch, Rama IX, and his family, and the founding of the People’s Republic of Thailand.



DiNozzo hit the mute button on the TV set behind his desk. He needed to take a final look over the report on the so-called ‘Pool Cue Case’. Gibbs hadn’t seen it yet, and DiNozzo wanted it to be up to the boss’s usual standards.


Twenty minutes later, DiNozzo finished the report and wondered where in hell Gibbs was.


“Penny for your thoughts, Tony?”


DiNozzo looked up, seeing Kate with her chin on her palm. He looked closely at her, seeing less of the pain and rage from Indianapolis, and more of the Kate Todd he knew and loved.


“You gonna stare at me all day, Tony?” Kate said, with a hint of snark and in a good-natured way. The last couple of years had seen the relationship between the two evolve from borderline mean-spirited bickering to friendly, supportive, good-natured bickering between brother and sister.


“Oh! Sorry,” he said. “Wondering where the boss is.”


“He’ll be here,” she replied. “Even Gibbs has to rest. I’m sure he’ll be here before you know it.”


“Gibbs will be here, Tony,” interjected Ziva, from her desk on the other side of Gibbs’s desk, across from McGee. “He is strong. He will survive what he endured yesterday.”


“You have such a gift for subtle, smooth transitions, Ziva,” Kate said.


“Are we talking about…that….when Gibbs gets here?” McGee asked.


“No,” DiNozzo and Kate said together.


“Why not?” Ziva said. “Even just to give our constipations.”


McGee’s mouth flew open, and Kate slammed her palm over her mouth. “You mean condolences, Ziva,” DiNozzo said.


“That is the word I was looking for, thank you, Tony!” Ziva said.


“Uh, I wouldn’t go out of my way to bring it up,” McGee said. “Might be too soon, too raw.”


“I kinda agree with McGee,” Kate added. “Business as usual.”


“I am not saying we have to speak of Lieutenant Colonel Mann when Gibbs arrives for work,” Ziva said, “only that he is strong and will get through what he endured yesterday. He will survive. He will, eventually, move on.”


“He’s moved on from a lot, over the years,” DiNozzo observed. “A whole lot more than most.”


The next moment, the nearby elevator dinged, and everyone in the bullpen turned their heads to see if Gibbs would walk out onto the floor. This time, he walked off, holding a box filled with five large black coffees from the Sundollars kiosk inside the front entrance, and a 48-ounce Caf!-Pow from the building cafeteria. He noticed all four of his people watching him intently, as he walked from his elevator to his desk.


Gibbs had DiNozzo’s coffee in hand before the senior field agent had stepped away from behind his desk. “Got somethin’ to say, DiNozzo?”, Gibbs said as he handed him his coffee.


“I’m sorry, Boss,” DiNozzo said, taking the coffee. “We all are.”


Gibbs silently took the other coffees, passing them to Kate, Ziva and McGee.


“We are here for you, Gibbs,” Ziva said.


“Anything you need,” McGee added.


“Anything?” Gibbs said. “What about that report?”


DiNozzo scrambled to grab the report off his desk, nearly knocking the bottle of creamer on to his keyboard. Kate, meanwhile, caught Gibbs’s eye, and both saw the same sadness in the other’s face.


He knew Kate would let it alone for the time being, and made a mental note to talk with her later on. Right now, there was a report to be read, after a few more stops. He looked up towards MTAC, and McAllister’s office. The director, he had already decided, would have to wait.


“Gonna check with Abbs and Duck,” Gibbs told his people. “Anyone comes looking for me, tell them to wait.”


Forensics Lab


Acknowledging the two suits outside the lab with a nod, Gibbs firmly gripped the Caf!-Pow in his right hand and braced himself.


Abby Sciuto saw him enter the lab and ran full force at him, launching herself into his chest and wrapping her arms around him in the tightest hug he could remember being in.


“Gotta let me breathe a little, Abbs,” Gibbs said, which caused the pig-tailed, gothic ‘lab rat’ to back away, but just briefly. Moments later, she wrapped her arms around his neck, making sure to give the man room to take a breath.


“Gibbs, I’m so, so sorry,” she whispered. “Tony told me what happened yesterday and to give you some space, otherwise I would’ve been over last night.”


“I know that, Abbs.”


“I wish there was something I could’ve done…something anybody could’ve done—“


Gibbs gently put his hands on Abby’s upper arms, and just as gently pushed away enough where her chin was off his shoulder and he could look her in the eye. “Abbs, there wasn’t anything anyone could have done. They ambushed us. She died in the line. She went out saving the rest of us.”


Me, he thought.


Abby looked at him for several moments, not wanting to say a word, but just to be there with and for the man who had become a father to her. She, like the rest of the team, knew about Shannon and Kelly, and his own parents, all gone. Abby knew Director Sheppard personally, and could almost feel Gibbs’ pain over her loss, even though he hadn’t spoken of it to her or — as far as she was aware — to any of the other team members.


She also knew Agent Michelle Lee, blackmailed by the North Koreans, killed by Gibbs himself to prevent a mass bombing incident here in Washington. She didn’t know some of his other associates, like Agent G Callen, but saw the pain on his face the time McGee mentioned him, in passing, in the bullpen. Hollis’s death added to the list of the dead in Gibbs’s life, and Abby wanted to help support Gibbs anyway she could. She needed him right now, and she knew he needed her, and the rest of the team, no matter how stoic of a front he presented to them and to the rest of the world.


“We’re going to be okay, Gibbs,” she said, then almost uttered a profanity after realizing that she had spoken it in the form of a question, instead of a declaration of truth. Abby wanted to be strong for him and not be selfish and let her own fears filter out — like she had inadvertently done just now.


Gibbs looked her in the eyes, again, and smiled. “We’re going to make it, Abbs. All of us.” He thought of the ring, and Hollis, and thought a prayer: God, if You will still hear this old bastard out, don’t let those be empty words.




Gibbs walked in after nodding to the two suits guarding the door, and saw Ducky alone, sitting at his desk.


“Duck,” Gibbs said to the older man, who was thumbing through a book. “What’cha doin’?”


“Ah, Jethro!” Ducky said, looking up from the thick tome on his desk. “I’ve been reading through a rare copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare published in 1854, sent to me by a friend from Scotland, whom I went to Eton College with. Did you know I once performed the lead role in the school performance of Julius Caesar?”


“No, Duck. That’s one thing you haven’t told me about,” Gibbs replied.


“It was an interesting experience, to say the least. I received high marks for my performance as Caesar and was even asked if I was going to consider a career in the performing arts. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I had considered the matter rather briefly; however, my interest in medicine was far greater than that of acting, and obviously prevailed regarding my choice of career.”


“Pretty thick book, Duck,” Gibbs said with a smile. “You read it through this morning?”


“No, Jethro,” Ducky said with a chuckle. “William Shakespeare wrote a known number of 37 plays and 154 sonnets, all of which are contained in this, as you put it, ‘thick book’. As beneficial as a regular reading of Shakespeare would be to you or I or to anyone else, I simply do not have the time.”


With a nod from Ducky, Gibbs took the book and began carefully turning its pages. Although he preferred to read the likes of Jack London and Wallace Stegner, Gibbs remembered having read some of Shakespeare’s works during his high school years in Stillwater, Pennsylvania. He remembered Julius Caesar as one of Shakespeare’s tragedies.


Given the previous day’s events, the small irony was not lost on Gibbs.


“Duck,” he said, “you and McGee have any luck with the lock on the door?”


Ducky looked at the entrance to the morgue, and the two men standing guard. “It will work, for a short while. Our friends cannot stand out there forever and will find a way inside eventually, but if you need to talk, of course I am here.”


“Appreciate that, Duck.”


“I cannot say with full certainty, however, that mine aren’t the only listening ears in the room.”


“Don’t worry about that, Duck. Palmer around?”


“He’s working out his personal feelings in the gymnasium. I’m quite worried about him, as you know. But please, sit.”


Gibbs pulled over a chair and sat. Ducky got up and pushed the button on the wall, just to the right of the desk, that would lock the morgue doors for 15 minutes. He then sat back down at his desk and faced his friend. “Jethro, once again I cannot express how truly sorry and hurt I am for the loss of Hollis. She was a wonderful, vibrant, intelligent, amazing woman and I know how much you loved her.”


“Thanks, Duck, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Not now.”


“Really?” Ducky said. “What is it, then?”


Gibbs then told his friend the most amazing, and almost unbelievable, story the Scotsman had ever heard.


10:57 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time


the Senate voted 97 to nothing, with three abstentions, to reinstate the draft. At the moment, the bill is being discussed in the House


11:12 a.m. EDT

CBS (continuing news coverage)

Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont who abstained, released a short statement via his office. It reads, quote: “I, alongside Senators Feinstein and Kennedy, abstained from the vote on the draft bill. My reasons for abstaining are my own. I am not fearful of provoking the Soviet Union. Instead, I am fearful of what will happen as we send our young men and women off to fight in a war that, ultimately, no one can win. Once the first shot has been fired, the fighting will not stop until the final remaining missile silo has been emptied, until the final nuclear device has been detonated. What I do fear is, at that point, there will be nothing left on the planet. Nothing of the great civilizations, including this country I love, no life whatsoever. My abstention stands not as a protest, but as a plea, to my colleagues, and to those who lead my nation and that of the Soviet Union, to stop their march into madness while they still can.”


11:20 a.m. EDT


numerous protests, over the draft bill and the Rock Act, have spontaneously erupted across the country in virtually every city and town


11:46 a.m. EDT

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

massive looting throughout the city, especially here in Center City. We’re getting reports of violence at protests in Fishtown, University City, Logan Square


11:47 a.m. EDT


police and the few National Guard units in the city have been forced to use extreme measures to protect themselves against the increasingly violent mobs that have overtaken the Center City and much of Greater Philadelphia


11:48 a.m. EDT

Radio Free Philadelphia pirate FM radio station, broadcasting illegally on seven different FM frequencies

it’s a damn lie! It’s all a damn lie! People are exercising their Constitutional right to assembly and to protest, and they’re met with rubber bullets and water hoses! In some places, with metal bullets! One thing you won’t hear from the ‘lamestream’ media: injuries and deaths. Well, maybe to the pigs who are enforcing the government’s illegal Rock Act. Not to the people the pigs are maiming and killing! We’ll tell you right now what we know, via sources: two dead, 21 injured among the citizen protestors


11:49 a.m. EDT

Louisville, Kentucky


Mayor Abramson has declared a state of emergency for much of Metro Louisville after the third day of protests throughout much of the city, including the West End, the Highlands, Shively, Smoketown, Okolona


10:53 a.m. Central Daylight Time

Lubbock, Texas


(A group of Texas Tech University students have taken over the station, forcing network news coverage off the air and the station to switch to live coverage from its news studios)


We are not Communists! We are not Reds, just Red Raiders, and just red, white and blue!


We do not want to be marched off to our deaths in Germany or Panama, and do not want to see our families and friends left behind waiting for the deaths from a nuke! The government and military clearly don’t want anything but war, while the people they say they serve don’t want war! The only thing the powers in charge will listen to is force, and if you, the people, rise up, they’ll listen to you! So rise up


(In the distance, there are sounds of doors being kicked in, and people running towards the studio)


Rise up and fight! Stand for your inalienable rights


(Someone nearby shouts ‘turn that goddamn camera off, now!’)


Omigod, they’re here! They’re coming for us


(Gunfire can be heard for 1.3 seconds, as the wide-eyed students freeze, in the direction of the gunfire. The screen then goes to black.


The station does not return to the air)—


Transcript from Fox News Channel, from 11:57 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time




(FOX NEWS LIVE, June 1, 2007)




HILL: And there it is. 481-33, 21 abstentions, the House votes in favor of the Draft Act, which now goes to the White House for President Boehner to sign into law. Men and women, 20 to 34, all eligible, selected by lottery according to birthdate. Brian, briefly, your thoughts?


KILMEADE: E.D., this should have been done weeks ago. All hands are on deck. We’re on the verge of war with a country that, time and time again, has announced its intention to take over the entire world by any means necessary.


HILL: Steve?


DOOCY: I wholeheartedly agree. I do hate that this has to happen, but it’s necessary. The President is going to sign this shortly, and it’s the last piece of the puzzle to be prepared to fight a global war. We all hate—




UNKNOWN: With your Congress voting to reinstate its draft, America has shown its willingness to wage war on the peace-loving peoples of the world. This action ordered by the war-mongering capitalists of the West will not go unanswered outside nor inside your own borders.




HILL: That was. That was not authorized, not by Fox News Channel, not an official message from the White House or the Pentagon. OhmiGOD.


DOOCY: Not an authorized, uh, the enemy has apparently spoken, without permission.


KILMEADE: This was not authorized by Fox News Channel and definitely not the opinion of us here at Fox News nor of the American people. In fact, if that is you, Moscow, know this: you may have spoken but WE are not intimidated. … America stands strong. Against Soviet aggression. Next, a special edition of Your World With Neil Cavuto begins after the top of the hour.






Although war had not been formally declared, the Soviets began their work of softening the American homeland for the increasingly inevitable confrontation between the two great thermonuclear powers.


12:13 p.m. EDT

The Capitol building, Washington

Five Congressmen and Congresswomen narrowly miss being mowed down by a Spetsnaz agent with a machine gun. The agent, who imbedded himself into the Capitol building by killing a security guard and taking on his identity, is himself killed by a legitimate guard.


6:24 a.m. Honolulu Standard Time

Honolulu, Hawaii

Shortly after lifting off from Honolulu International Airport, a United Airlines 747 jet is hit by a missile from a man-powered, shoulder-fired launcher. All 219 people aboard, including a Naval Lieutenant Commander by the name of Stephen McGarrett, die.


12:40 p.m. EDT

Raleigh, North Carolina

Four Wal-Marts throughout the metro area, all packed with shoppers trying to get as much as they can ‘just in case’, are hit simultaneously with shoulder-fired missiles. First responders arriving minutes later are hit by similar missiles. The attackers escape, but not before killing hundreds and injuring hundreds more.


11:51 p.m. CDT

Manhattan, Kansas

The town’s main hospital is destroyed when a suicide bomber walks into a packed emergency room and detonates the bomb embedded in his vest, at the same time a stolen FedEx delivery  truck carrying a giant bomb crashes into the main entrance.


12:03 p.m. CDT

Port Arthur, Texas

A Texas Air National Guard plane – ‘borrowed’ from the USAF – successfully destroys a tractor-trailer filled with explosives headed straight for the Port Arthur Refinery. East German agents had stolen the Wal-Mart truck in Victoria, Texas; packed the stolen truck; then headed for the refinery.


12:16 p.m. CDT

The Texas/Mexican border

U.S. Border Patrol and FBI agents and members of the Texas Rangers fire on a group of armed men attempting to sneak into the U.S. over the Rio Grande. Due to an agreement between the White House and the Mexican government, U.S. agents are allowed to cross into Mexican territory to survey the damage: all 30 insurgents dead, some of which are known to be allied with Cuba, Bulgaria and Angola intelligence. Seven Mexican Policía Federal personnel also are among the dead.


12:29 p.m. CDT

Chicago, Illinois

Chapter 46

Friday, June 1, 2007

8:10 p.m. EDT

Washington, D.C.


As you can see behind me, dozens of U.S. Army soldiers whom we in the media have been told have just returned from Afghanistan, are surrounding the Soviet Embassy. You can also see dozens of protestors defying the martial law order, and police trying to keep them separated from the line of Army personnel, who are protecting the embassy itself


New York City


both LaGuardia and JFK are taking on dozens of flights from World Pact countries, We know the Cuban and Bulgarian consulates have been evacuated, with all personnel heading east, off Manhattan Island, towards both airports


Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis Star website



Anti-Soviet protests all over the state

Residents in FEMA camps ‘want blood’


John Lennon, speaking to MTV:

I’m…I’m bloody speechless. I don’t know what to do, what to say. They aren’t listening to the people. They aren’t listening to the sane people in their own governments. I’ve done something I haven’t done in years, not even when Paul and Linda were killed in the plane crash. I prayed, to God. I asked God to intervene. Maybe I’m talking to the bloody wind. It can’t hurt. I’m scared to death, you know?


WHAS-AM, Louisville, Kentucky, open lines for listeners, ‘Jeff’ from Salem, Indiana talking with host Joe Elliott:

I lost people up there, man. I got family and friends, people I went to school with, living in these FEMA camps and they ain’t going home. Everyone here in town knows someone who died or knew someone who died or someone living in those camps. Yeah, I’m pissed. (Bleep) Bernie Sanders, (bleep) the Democrats, let’s bomb the (bleep) out of the Russians. They attacked us. Why haven’t we dropped a bomb on Leningrad or some other city of theirs? Huh? We that damn scared of them? I’m not. No one here in Indiana is. They show their (bleep) heads around here, we’re blowing them clean off their shoulders.


Notice from an Exxon gas station, Fairfax, Virginia:







Drudge Report

Wyoming the last state to declare statewide martial law…

‘Patriot’ groups fighting Russian-born residents in streets of Chicago…

37 dead after crowd rushes police protecting Publix supermarket in Jacksonville…

Reverend Billy Graham: ‘The only answer now is in Christ Jesus’…

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists move Doomsday Clock to 30 seconds before midnight…







Sign on the front lawn of a home in Omaha, Nebraska:

We’re gone for awhile. Please don’t take anything from our home. And please say a prayer, that the Russians don’t take our homes and families and our lives from us.



Leroy Jethro Gibbs’s home

8:47 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time


Two black SUVs pulled up on the lawn of the empty two-story house across the street from Gibbs’s house, and he and Franks watched the rest of Gibbs’s — their — team get out of the vehicles.


Without saying a word, Gibbs waited on his people as they got to the house and walked through the front door held open for them by a suit. He followed Franks, who himself walked in behind Ducky, the last person in the line of people briskly heading towards the basement stairwell. Gibbs nodded to the suit standing upstairs outside the stairwell before making his way to the workbench; everyone else were either standing by the bench or by the boat that took up a significant portion of the center of the basement.


“Mustache let you bring us here, Boss?” DiNozzo said, breaking the silence. “Things must be real bad for that to happen.”


“What’s going on, Gibbs?” Kate said. “I mean, really going on?”


“Is this it?” Palmer interjected. “We going to war?”


“Boss, why are we here?” McGee asked.


Gibbs didn’t say a word in response.


“I have been told nothing by my contacts in Mossad that add to what has already been reported on the news,” Ziva said, “or is in the briefing from Director McAllister given to us to read on the way here.”


“There’s a reason you all are here,” Franks said, from the corner of the workbench he had taken over. “This is definitely need to know.”


“Does it have to do with Hollis?” Kate asked. She, and everyone else, saw the brief glimpse of anguish in his eyes. They saw it go away an instant later, replaced by his usual demeanor, as if he shoved his personal pain to the side to concentrate on his job.


“Nope,” he said with steel in his voice, enough to convince the others not to bring her up for the rest of the meeting.


“Then what is it?” Palmer said, with respect and with none of the timidity he had been known for. Gibbs noticed that Palmer didn’t have his glasses on, and looked more muscular than he remembered. Gibbs then realized he hadn’t touched base with Ducky enough to know about what was going on in his assistant’s life. DiNozzo — who hung out with Palmer off work and probably knew him more than anyone else besides Ducky — hinted at Palmer dealing with some personal issues.


“Jimmy, give Agent Gibbs the floor,” Ducky said firmly, and without admonishment. Gibbs looked at the doctor, then at DiNozzo, who mouthed ‘I’ll explain later’. Gibbs nodded, and looked at the clock on the wall. Then his phone rang, and he picked it up, listening and saying nothing.


“They’re in the neighborhood,” Gibbs said. “Oughta be here in a few minutes. When they get here, hear us out till we’re done, then ask whatever you want.”


“Want to give us a hint, Gibbs?”, Kate asked. Gibbs started to say ‘no’, then reconsidered it, and answered her.


“Yeah,” he said. “The government and military both have their hands in projects you wouldn’t believe are on the up-and-up. This is the mother of them all. Just hear them — me — out. Trust me on this.”


Before Kate, or the others, could ask what ‘this’ was, Langer appeared in the doorway at the top of the basement stairs. He made his way down, laptop in arm, followed by Teague, Cooke and Sloane.

Langer opened the laptop, and began to explain about the ring Gibbs and Hollis saw, as well as its sister rings around the world. Langer showed video of the ring from the Pentagon, and pictures of other rings from 'restricted areas' elsewhere in the country.

“Ask your questions,” Gibbs said, and no one spoke up for the next minute. All of Gibbs’s team looked skeptical to varying degrees, Palmer and Ziva being the most skeptical, and DiNozzo being the most willing to believe.


Finally, Palmer stood up and said what was on his mind, and those of his teammates. “The only reason I’m taking this seriously at all is because I know you don’t bullshit around, Gibbs. But this is the craziest thing I’ve heard in my life.”


“Fair enough,” Gibbs replied. “The rest of you agree with Palmer?”


They all nodded.


“You believe me when I say that I saw something?”


They all nodded, and Ducky remained quiet while the other team members decided they had something to say, all at once, and all talking over one another. A loud whistle from Gibbs silenced them, but he knew they needed to have their say. He nodded at DiNozzo.


“Okay, Boss. I believe you and Hollis saw something,” DiNozzo said. “What if it’s what they — whatever’s down there — wanted you to see?”


“Fair question,” Langer interjected. “Wanna see the video again?”


“Could be from a Hollywood studio,” McGee said.


“It’s not,” Teague said. “It’s real.”


“If it is real,” Ziva said, “and there are others like it around the world, why have we not heard about them yet?”


“Panic, greed, national security, to keep our people from going somewhere that would put them in danger,” Cooke said. “To keep out something on the other side from coming over here and creating havoc.”


“Great,” Kate said. “That thing is supposed to be our salvation, and the authorities are scared of what’s waiting on the other side? Assuming it’s real.”


“It is, Agent Todd,” Sloane said. “You have every right to be skeptical.”


“It’s called ‘common sense’, Agent Sloane,” Kate shot back. “I’ve heard about black ops projects the government is supposedly involved with. This was an alien craft sitting in Nevada, I’d be more inclined to believe you. I take The X-Files and Star Trek for what they are: fiction.”


“It’s real, Kate,” Gibbs said, quietly, and with more conviction than she’d ever heard from him. That unnerved her, but she didn’t want it to show. She tore her gaze away from Gibbs, finding it easier to maintain her skeptical countenance with a stranger.


Sloane’s look of sympathy unnerved Kate almost as much as Gibbs’s tone. She turned away from Sloane back towards Gibbs only to notice her other teammates looking at their leader. Their expressions mirrored the small conflict raging inside her own mind and heart: not wanting to believe Gibbs was insane, or pulling an elaborate (if sick) joke, or anything other than he believed what he was saying, but finding it all but impossible to believe in something they regarded as real as UFOs.


“Boss, I gotta ask,” DiNozzo said, as calmly as Kate remembered him ever speaking. “Are you pulling one on us?”


“No, Tony. I’m not.” The tone of Gibbs’s response was this is as serious as it gets.


“This some kind of psych test?”




“Something Mustache pulled out of his ass?”


“Definitely not.”


“So take us,” DiNozzo said. “Take us all. Now.”


“Impossible,” Teague said. “You’ve all heard what happened there. The area is locked up tight—“


“So how in hell are we supposed to get there, if that’s where we end up having to go when the missiles fly, then?”, Palmer said with a sharp tone and in a somewhat confrontational manner.


Palmer and the other team members followed Gibbs’s eyes as he looked over at the other agents. “The Pentagon ring is off limits right now,” Teague said several moments later.


Cooke suddenly had a brainstorm, and he wondered how neither he nor his teammates had thought of it before.  “We can’t take them near the Pentagon. We can take them to another ring,” he said.


“And you came up with this just now, Agent Cooke?”, Franks said, mirroring the thoughts of the other NCIS personnel in the basement.


“That’s a great idea!,” Kate added, with much sarcasm. “Stop talking about where we can’t go and talk about where we can go!”


“But where can we go?”, McGee interjected, before Cooke’s fellow agents could come to his defense. “How many of these things are there? And how do you know they all don’t have the same level of security — and be just as impossible to get into?”


“Assuming they’re real, McMulder,” DiNozzo said.


“Devil’s advocate,” McGee said. “Can any of you offer an alternate location that we can visit tonight?”


Cooke held up his hand to silence Teague, Langer and Sloane, then pulled out his cell phone. “How secure is this basement, Gibbs?”


“You can talk to your people, Roger,” Gibbs replied, and Cooke walked to the foot of the staircase before placing his call. He spoke with someone while Gibbs’s team talked amongst themselves, and Teague, Langer and Sloane huddled nearby, whispering amongst themselves.


“I wonder what they’re discussing, Tony,” Ziva said as she observed the huddle.


“The weather on Mars,” DiNozzo cracked.


Ziva turned to look at Gibbs, who was talking with Kate. “I wonder if there is something that we are not able to see because we have closed our eyes to it,” Ziva said.


“You mean closed our minds,” DiNozzo said. “My mind’s working just fine, Ziva, and my eyes are wide open.”


“Look at Gibbs,” Ziva said. “He saw something, Tony.”


“Maybe it was what Mustache wanted him to see,” DiNozzo said. “Aliens? Come on.”


“No one said anything about aliens—“


“Then other Earths. Parallel worlds. That’s Star Trek, Ziva. Major Comics. Sci-fi. Not even McGeek believes it.”


“Doesn’t he?”


“Do you?”, DiNozzo shot back.


“My eyes are open to the possibility,” she said, “but only because of Gibbs.”


“Gotta admit it’d be one helluva thing if it were real,” DiNozzo said. “McGee would never let me live it down.”


“He wouldn’t agitate you like that, Tony,” she said, spotting McGee making small talk with Palmer. “How is Jimmy doing, Tony? You spend more time with him than the rest of us.”


“On the surface, he’s doing great,” DiNozzo replied. “Thing is, I can’t get past the surface.”


“Perhaps McGee will have better luck,” Ziva said.


McGee, in fact, had looked for an excuse to get with Palmer one-on-one, and Palmer was willing to converse, about everything from the weather to McGee’s now-stalled writing career. “How’s the book coming along, McGee?” Palmer asked.


“The manuscript’s sitting in a box in my apartment, assuming someone’s not broken in there by now. I didn’t have time to get it when McAllister gave the order to leave. I’ve been free-writing some, but nothing’s really come of it.”


“Sounds like you’ve got a pretty decent science fiction story here.”


“Already done. Stargate SG-1. That what this sounds like to me, more than anything else,” McGee said. “What’s been going on with you?”


“Nothing, just work.” Palmer wore a Washington Redskins T-shirt that showed off his muscular, 185-pound frame. The medical examiner’s assistant was no longer the slim, shy young man who had a habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. He was a slightly older, and much more confident, man who made the ladies’ (and some of the gentlemen’s) heads turn whenever he walked past. He also seemed more brooding, and DiNozzo had tried without success to find out what was going on in Palmer’s head that had made him that way.


“Don’t give me that, Jimmy. You’re way more confident now than you were when you replaced Gerald. You’re working out like a monster. Tony said he didn’t work out as much as you when he played at Ohio State.”


“That’s ridiculous,” Palmer said. “All I have is a weight set I bought from the guy down the street from Dr. Mallard’s house. Tony played at a major college program. He had all kinds of equipment—“


“You’re way more buff than most anyone at the Navy Yard, probably as much as the Marines,” McGee said.


“So why do you not sound like that’s a good thing?”


“It is, it’s great,” McGee said. “I oughta be down there on those things. The weight-lifting’s good for you, Jimmy.”


“Then what are you getting at, Tim?”


McGee paused, to make sure he didn’t respond in the wrong way. “Is something bugging you?”


“No,” Palmer said. “Why?”


“Because you look like…like something’s going on and you’re trying to hide it. Something you’re trying to deal with on your own.”


Palmer sized McGee up, trying to figure out what the young agent meant. “I’m not gay, if that’s what you’re asking,” Palmer said with a smirk. “But I’m flattered, really.”


McGee’s mouth flew open. “That’s not what I…dammit, Jimmy. You’ve been hanging out with Tony a little too much.”


Palmer chuckled. “Probably, although some of his ideas about women make sense. Too bad I can’t test them out right now.”


That’s what got you pissed?”


“No, and I’m not pissed. About anything.”


“Jimmy, look,” McGee said. “You have friends here. If you ever wanna talk—“


“Nothing to talk about,” Palmer said as he turned away from McGee to walk over to the frame of Gibbs’s boat, then picked up some sandpaper to smooth out a rough edge on a plank. McGee sighed in frustration, and looked over towards Abby and Ducky, who were in the middle of a conversation.


“Uh-oh,” Abby said. “McGee tried to say something to Jimmy.”


“Someone needs to get through to that young man,” Ducky replied. “I know Anthony’s spent quite a bit of time with him during the team’s long sojourn with my mother and I.”


“Tony says he can’t get Jimmy to open up, though,” Abby said. “Something going on with his family, but Jimmy won’t budge. I’ve tried to get him to open up. All he wants to talk about now are movies and working out. It’s like someone reached in his brain and hit a switch.”


“Perhaps you and Anthony will be the ones to get him to open up,” Ducky said. “I have tried to encourage him to speak openly. I’ve even told him it would be a pleasure to see a glimpse of his old self. Mr. Palmer reacted in a manner I didn’t expect.”


“He didn’t yell at you, did he, Ducky?”


“Nothing of the sort, Abigail. He replied in a most calm manner that I hadn’t come to expect from him, and said ‘That idiot’s dead and buried, Dr. Mallard. I choose my words more carefully, now’. Clearly, something is going on with Mr. Palmer, and I assure you, Abigail, I have not given up on him by any stretch of the imagination.”


Ducky put a reassuring hand on Abby’s arm. “That is one of the most pleasant things I have observed about this team, Abigail. The banter flows, but we have gone from a group of four coworkers to a family of sorts. We’re all there for one another, even when we can’t be with our own families.”


“Your mother’s still around, Ducky, and you live with her.”


“That is true, Abigail, but I cannot be there for her as much as I would like. My regular duties prevent that, and her mind is beginning to slip away, as you know. Even now I see moments when she doesn’t know who I am.”


“Ducky,” Abby said. “I’m so sorry. I wish there were something somebody could do.”


“She’s lived a full life, already, and every day with her, no matter how she can be sometimes, is truly a gift,” Ducky said. “How have you been holding up? Any luck contacting your brother Luka?”


“None,” she said with a hint of sadness. “I emailed Agent Pride in New Orleans a month ago. He emailed me back, said he couldn’t find him anywhere. There’s a missing persons report out on him, now. You know what Gibbs would say: ‘until you find a body—‘“


“‘There’s always hope’…How about the nuns you had been living with? Have you spoken with them recently?”


“A few days ago,” Abby said. “They’re scared. There are security guards on site, now, 24 hours a day, and at the church, too. Sister Fran says the neighborhood’s gotten worse since the Indianap—since Memorial Day. More looting, more fights in the streets, more cops chasing whomever. I’m scared, Ducky. That’s why I’m hoping Gibbs is right about this ring, and someone’s not playing a trick on him.”


“Do you believe him, Abigail?”


Abby started to say yes, then put herself on pause, and thought about her answer. She looked at Gibbs, whom she knew was not someone who easily brought into such fantastic stories. For him to think this was the honest truth meant he had to have come across hard evidence — like seeing the ring for himself.


“I trust him, Ducky,” she said. “I always have. We all have, and do.”


Gibbs noticed Abby and Ducky looking at him and nodded back at them, then turned his attention back to the conversation between Kate and Franks.


Franks — for years Gibbs’s ‘boss’, when NCIS was the Naval Investigative Service (NIS) and Franks led the Washington-based Major Case Response Team — had been reading up on Gibbs’ team members and, when possible, getting acquainted with them.


Kate had fascinated the older man the most: the spunk Gibbs spoke of from her early days was still there, tempered by a few years of experience as an NCIS field agent. She still challenged authority, but had come to realize she had plenty to learn, especially from those — like Gibbs, Tony, and Ziva — who had more experience in certain areas. Kate had become more strident on one specific thing: that she was as capable of excelling in her job as an NCIS agent as any man, and she (and Ziva) had the full backing of former Director Shepard.


Gibbs, of course, had always had Kate’s back.


Franks, in approaching Kate, had avoided the Indianapolis Bomb and instead asked her, flat out, how she would have fared if she, and not Gibbs, had been Franks’ probie?


“I would have nailed it,” she flat-out told him. “A lot of what I learned from Gibbs came from you, and I like to think I’ve done pretty well so far.”


Gibbs acknowledged her with a nod.


“You hear that, Probie?” Franks said. “I don’t know whether to thank Kate or ask her why on earth she’s bent on bullshittin’ me.”


Kate chuckled, and Gibbs — chuckling right alongside her — was pleased to see her lighten up. Despite Tony and Abby’s — and his own — best attempts, Kate’s personality was still shaped in large part by her upbringing and her staunch Catholic faith — and, on occasion, her innate sarcasm, which had mostly been tamed but still flared up now and then.


The bombing at the Indianapolis 500 would have been psychologically devastating to most people, according to Ducky, who had taken profiling classes to add to his considerable skill set. Ducky pondered it was a miracle that Kate hadn’t turned into an emotional wreck, and credited that as much to the woman’s inner strength as to the considerable emotional support she had from the team.


But, Kate still wasn’t out of the woods, not by Gibbs’s standards. He cursed himself for not having had more time to help her. He had to rely on his team to pick up the slack. That didn’t mean he couldn’t do what he could do, whenever he had the chance.


“You wonder why I spend so much time down here, building boats?”, Gibbs asked Kate. He pointed to the nearby frame of a boat, with Hollis’s name clearly visible on the near side while Palmer, McGee and Ducky looked over the frame from the far side. “It’s because he nearly drove me crazy.” Gibbs pointed his thumb at Franks.


“It was for your own good, Jethro,” Franks growled, good-naturedly. “You were so raw starting out I had to yell at you every night, just to get you to where the other Probies were. Gettin’ you to where I wanted you took a lot longer. Kate, he ever tell you he was more like DiNozzo at the beginning?”


“I’ve heard that story before, believe it or not,” she said. “I’m still not sure I believe it.”


“It’s true,” Gibbs said. “It’s one reason I was so hard on Tony when I brought him aboard. I didn’t want him to screw up the same ways I did when Mike brought me on.”


“I just can’t see it, though,” Kate replied. “You…seem like you’ve always been Gibbs, the Gibbs I’ve known you to be. A way different guy than Tony. I’ve never seen a wall full of VHS tapes and DVDs in this house. I don’t think you’ve ever bought a VHS tape in your life.”


The three people laughed. “I’ll grant you that, Kate,” Gibbs said.


“We’re getting off track, people,” Franks interjected, looking at Kate. “So you think you would’ve done pretty good as an agent if I’d gotten ahold of you instead of Gibbs.”


“I said I would’ve nailed it,” she replied. “And probably turned out the same, or about the same. A lot of what I’ve learned from Gibbs came from you, after all.”


“So, does that mean you’d be head-slapping people instead of elbowin’ them, then?”, Franks quipped, and Kate smiled. The conversation had made Gibbs happy, and he was about to raise the subject of head-slap lessons when he noticed Cooke waving to get his attention. Moments later, all of the conversations in the room came to a halt when Cooke put his fingers to his lips and let out a loud whistle.


“I’ve got a destination,” he announced. “Not the Pentagon, but not too terribly far. But if we’re going, we’ve got to leave now.”


“Go where?” Franks said.


“Richmond, Virginia,” Cooke replied, then turned to Teague, Langer and Sloane. “Had to pull some strings.”


“Fine by me,” Teague told him. “Richmond?”


“Baltimore’s the closest, but the whole city’s gone SNAFU and is about to go FUBAR,” Cooke said. “The ring’s locked up tight, and you’d have to go thru blocks full of gang-bangers and survivalists and cops just looking to throw some outsider in the slammer — and the last thing any of us needs is to be stuck in a Baltimore jail.”


“I’d heard from someone I worked with in Baltimore P.D.,” DiNozzo said. “She said it’d gotten bad there. I turned on the local news station — WBAL, I think? — on the way here. The Sun, the TV and radio stations are working out of Annapolis, that’s how bad things are in the city.”


“What about Charlottesville?”, Langer asked Cooke.


“Out of the question,” Cooke said. “You have to have Presidential-level security clearance to get in there.”


“What’s in Charlottesville besides the University of Virginia?”, asked Sloane. “It’s a small town, like Mayberry.”


“Whatever it is, the White House doesn’t want anybody knowing,” Cooke said. “Hagerstown’s too far away. Dover, Toms River in Jersey, Bristol in Tennessee, Wilmington in North Carolina, all too far.”


“So what does that leave?”, Teague asked.


“Norfolk was open, but takes a little longer to get there and the way security is down there right now, we might not get in until 5 a.m. And there’s the matter of the NCIS field office down there, which puts a cramp on the cover story I’d like to use.”


“What cover story, Roger?”, asked Gibbs.


“Dr. Mallard,” Cooke said, “is the NCIS Medical Examiner’s van still at the Navy Yard?”


“It’s in the garage,” Ducky said. “But we don’t have an active case.”


“Gibbs,” Cooke said. “Call your director, tell him you got a tip about a victim in Richmond, at the raceway—“


“How’s the Mustache gonna buy that?”, DiNozzo interjected.


“He already knows about the ring,” Cooke said. Noticing the mixture of confusion and horror on the faces of Gibbs’s team members, Cooke followed up and asked, “didn’t Gibbs tell you?”


DiNozzo and the others looked at Gibbs. “Does Mustache really know?”, DiNozzo asked.


“Yep,” Gibbs said.


“Hell, we’re screwed,” Palmer blurted out.


“No, we’re not,” Gibbs said, as if everything was alright. He pulled out his cell phone and called McAllister. After speaking with the director, Gibbs snapped his phone shut. “I hope you brought your gear with you,” Gibbs told his people.


“Yeah,” DiNozzo said, speaking for the group. “It’s stuffed underneath the seats in that SUV. Not a lot of room to work with—shutting up right now, Boss.“


Gibbs smiled. A stern look often did as much good as a head-slap.


“Cooke, you and the other three follow us,” Gibbs said. “Kate, you’re with me and Mike. The rest of you, follow in the van…let’s go!”


Gibbs was almost proud of how quickly his team got up the stairs and out of the house.


Saturday, June 2, 2007


The trip from Gibbs’s house to the Navy Yard was uneventful, as was the drive from the Navy Yard to Interstates 695 and 395. The caravan — the NCIS M.E.’s van, Gibbs’s truck and Teague’s sedan, surrounded by SUVs assigned by McAllister himself — wasn’t put at risk once. Washington and the rest of the District of Columbia was, at the order of President Boehner, secured by two Army platoons and the entire D.C. National Guard. Virginia National Guard helped local police secure I-395 from the Potomac thru Alexandria.


Once I-395 became I-95 south of Alexandria, the caravan was joined by two grey Humvees with Virginia State Police markings on the sides. The missile launchers and machine guns visible on the ringmount atop both Humvees gave away that these were military, not civilian, vehicles. Police in all 50 states, and territories, and all major cities had at least four military-type Humvees in their fleets. Because of D.C. to the north, Norfolk to the south and whatever it was the feds were doing on the now abandoned UVa campus in Charlottesville, the Virginia State Police had 40 Humvees in its fleet.


Gibbs was behind one of those Humvees, and thought it a little odd that the drive from D.C. had been — so far — peaceful.


“We’re either secured tight or sittin’ ducks for Spetsnaz,” said Franks, who sat in the middle of the back seat.


Kate looked on both sides of the interstate; at the moment, the caravan was passing near Fredericksburg. Off to her left in the direction of the town, she saw a faint reddish and orange glow. Kate didn’t want to imagine what might be going on there. “I won’t dispute the need to be secure when going out,” she said, looking back for another glimpse at the glow; one of the Humvees blocked her view. “These military vehicles with us, though; it’s a little overkill, don’t you think?”


“Might be the safest way to get anywhere, now,” Gibbs replied.


Traffic down I-95 was light, if one didn’t count the presence of Virginia State Police sedans and SUVs at least every mile. Tractor-trailers carrying food, gasoline, medicine and other essential items went north and south, along with civilians going to and from work; the near-universal curfew hadn’t excused second- and third-shift workers from their jobs. So far, according to various media outlets, people were still going to work in most areas of the country, the most notable exception being Baltimore.


Once the caravan reached the Henrico County suburbs north of Richmond, the state police peeled off and gave way to Richmond Police Department SUVs and Humvees. Once the caravan got into the city, it quickly became apparent that there was no one on the streets other than police and the occasional ambulance or National Guard vehicle. Gas stations were open, but had one or two civilian vehicles parked and at least two police vehicles. Some of the police cruisers looked like they had been through the wringer, adorned with dents, scratches and mud.


Four Richmond police vehicles — two sedans, an SUV and a Humvee — surrounded the caravan as it entered Gate 4 of the vast Richmond International Raceway complex at 1:07 a.m.. The 60,000-seat motor racing venue was well-known for hosting races from the three divisions of the NASCAR and IndyCar auto racing series, as well as concerts and other public events.


The last event held at the track was from NASCAR’s top-flight Nextel Cup Series in early May. That piece of trivia was brought up by none other than Langer, who caught up to Gibbs after the caravan parked in front of the garages on the west side of the infield. It shouldn’t have mattered to Gibbs, who knew little about NASCAR and had no interest in the sport.


However, his gut suddenly began suggesting something more disturbing than a pack of Spetsnaz or criminals lying in wait behind the garage bay door being lifted by two of the police officers. Gibbs looked around the darkened venue and had the thought that it wouldn’t be around much longer.


He pushed aside the thought of what kind of bomb would wipe the facility off the face of the Earth, and focused on the now-open bay. One of the officers had a flashlight that she shined on a mannequin wearing a sailor’s uniform.


“That supposed to be the victim?”, DiNozzo asked the officer. The ‘victim’ had a plastic ‘spork’ from a fast-food restaurant stuck halfway through its skull, and was covered in ketchup. A half-full ketchup bottle lay a few feet away from the mannequin.


“You needed a reason to be here, right?”, said the officer, a short, muscular woman who grinned at the sight.


“Does he have an ID?”, Ziva asked.


“No,” the officer said. “Call him Dale. Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett. Or Jeff, Ward, Ricky, whatever you want.”


Ducky made his way over to the mannequin, having left his medical examiner’s gear in the NCIS van. “This reminds me of a story,” he said. “Back home in Edinburgh, in Scotland, I was given an opportunity to visit a faux crime scene, at the small home of a pensioner who was the uncle of an acquaintance of mine, an Edinburgh police inspector. The pensioner had recently passed away, and have left his ‘estate’, such as it was, to his nephew. The nephew decided to recreate an infamous crime scene from after the Second World War where a reclusive veteran, recently returned from service in the British Army, was killed with a stab to the skull—“


“Duck,” Gibbs blurted out tersely. A moment later he realized he was too gruff, but he wanted to get to the reason they all were here, and looked to the officer. “This where you go to get in?”


“Yep,” she said. “See the shack?”


Gibbs squinted — his vision wasn’t the best in any case, and especially in a darkened area like the vast garage bay used by the teams that competed during the NASCAR and IndyCar races held at the track. However, he did see a small, square-like building about 40 feet away, and along the wall next to a large Chevrolet sign.


He also saw another officer — a tall, slender man with a swimmer’s physique — open the door to the shack. A moment later, lights came on from inside the shack, partially illuminating the surrounding area; the tall officer then opened another door inside the shack.


“That’s where you’re going, folks,” the stocky officer told the group. “The shack over there was manned last month by myself and my partner inside, and by one of you guys.”


“One of ‘us’ guys?”, Kate said.


“Feds,” the woman replied. “Follow me.”


Kate and the others did as they were instructed. She was the first of the group to enter the shack, and she saw what looked like the inside of an elevator. “Two at a time,” the tall officer said, and Gibbs nodded to Ziva. The Mossad officer joined Kate inside the elevator, and the elevator shaft descended. It ascended three minutes later, and it took nearly 20 minutes for the rest of the team — DiNozzo and McGee; Ducky and Palmer; Sloane and Cooke; Gibbs and Franks; and finally Teague and Langer — to join Kate and Ziva in a waiting room area a mile below the garage bay’s surface.


“An elevator?”, DiNozzo mused aloud. “I figured some kind of James Bond, giant magnets attached to steel cables falling from the ceiling and pulling up the floor to reveal some giant platform, rising from the bottom, that takes us to a vast underground complex—“


“DiNozzo,” Gibbs said, turning his gaze from his agent to the tall officer who accompanied Teague and Langer on their trip down. “You gonna show us where this is?”


“No,” he replied, as he stood next to the elevator. “Your host will, though. He should be here in a minute.”


It was a four-minute wait. The door on the far side of the waiting area that Gibbs, Kate, DiNozzo and Teague tried to open finally opened on its own. A tall, African-American woman, dressed in a black business suit walked through; she scanned the room, and fixed her gaze on Teague.


“What a surprise,” Teague said drolly. “I never expected to see you here, Quinn.”


“I got reassigned stateside,” Quinn replied. “Just as you did.”


“A colleague from the Agency,” Teague told the others. “Shall we,” Teague said to Quinn.


“Please follow me,” Quinn answered, leading the group down a long hallway that led to two Army Rangers guarding a steel door. With a nod from Quinn, the Ranger on her right stepped aside and away from a dull-orange glowing panel he had stood in front of. She put her left hand against the panel, and a few moments later the door began to open, in the opposite direction of the hallway.


The sight that awaited the group was nothing like they had ever seen in person.


For Gibbs, it resembled what he and Hollis saw at the Pentagon site; a large area with people moving around or standing. Some of the people, wearing civilian clothing or white lab coats, stood or sat at desks in front of laptops and computer monitors. Some had laptops, or palm-sized tablets. There were soldiers all around the area, several standing at attention, several armed with weapons that he was sure were ready to use at a moment’s notice.


Gibbs figured he was the only person in the group who noticed what else was in the vast, stadium-sized area. He finally allowed himself to look at the area’s centerpiece: a gigantic, circular object that looked like a ring of fire and electricity, hovering a foot above a ten-foot-high machine probably 80 feet long, atop a platform that was probably seven feet high. He could see through the ring, a 70-foot-wide by 70-foot-tall object, probably two feet thick.


He looked at his watch. It was 1:43 a.m. He gawked at the ring.


He looked back at his watch. It was 1:51. He looked around at his team and at Teague’s people. No one looked tired, just awed; even Quinn looked as if she was amazed at the sight. Still, his people couldn’t keep this up all night.


“Agent Teague,” he heard McGee say from his left. “Can we see the other side?”


“Quinn?”, Teague said to her fellow CIA agent, who motioned for the group to follow her around to the other side. The ring and the machine were at the back of the platform, which had a space that stretched out at least 50 feet, with a set of stairs at the end leading down to the floor.


Gibbs, and everyone else, saw the grey, barren brick wall they stood near while gawking at the ring from the other side.


“Transit about to begin. All personnel report to secure areas. Countdown one minute.”


Everyone in the area heard the voice of a male with a British accent, but the voice didn’t come from the speakers in the back or sides of the vast room or the front of the platform. It seemed to come from inside the ring itself.


The few people on the platform in front of the group quickly made their way down the stairs, and one of the soldiers on guard motioned for the group to step back 10 feet. The voice counted down to zero, and the ring began to rotate, and glow, and crackle.


The rear wall faded, and gave way to another sight: a trio of flags and a vast, open area behind them, visible only within the radius of the ring. The wall remained visible outside the ring.


“My God,” Ducky said.


“What in hell is this, Jethro?”, Franks said to Gibbs. “This what you and Hollis saw?”


“Yeah,” Gibbs told him.


DiNozzo made his way to Gibbs’s side. “Boss. I’ll swear on a stack of Bibles that I’ll never doubt you, ever, ever again.”


“No need to, Tony,” Gibbs told him.


“Gibbs?”, Kate asked. “What’s there?”


“X-Files stuff,” McGee answered for his boss.


“That’s what I thought when I saw this, Agent McGee,” Cooke said.


“We must go through, yes?”, Ziva said.


“Absolutely,” Palmer replied.


The ring ‘cooled down’ and resumed its normal glow, and someone on the other side walked right up to it and seemed to do something — punch buttons, move levers, no one on the group’s side of the ring could tell what. Seconds later, a set of stairs lowered on a set of cables from the top, until landing on the platform.


Quinn began walking, rather briskly, towards the stairs. She stopped halfway up, turned to the group, and waved them over. “Come on!”, she said, with a grin. “This is the fun part.”


“What ‘fun’ part?”, Ziva asked.


“Visiting another dimension!”, Quinn said. “Let’s go. We don’t have all night.”


Palmer turned to the others. “Don’t tell me we came all this way for nothing,” he said, looking at Gibbs and Teague. The ex-Marine turned to the other CIA agent (that he knew about) in the place.


“We didn’t, Mr. Palmer,” she said. “Let’s go.”


The group went up the first series of steps, then the second, portable series of steps, into another world.


“‘Through the looking glass we go,” Kate said, the last of the group to walk through into a world that looked like their own.


She went down the stairs on the other side and joined everyone else on an identical platform. They saw civilians at desks or with laptops, and soldiers either standing at attention or walking around the area with weapons. The flags they stood in front of, however, weren’t there on the other side — which had a different meaning now.


“Don’t touch,” McGee heard a booming male voice say from the floor, scaring him off from touching the blue and white flag in the middle. McGee, and the rest of the group, quickly saw the man who gave the warning jog up the stairs, and into plain view.


“Harry Langford, MI-6,” said the tall, athletic, man who — except for his three-day-old beard — was impeccably dressed in a dark blue suit, without a tie. “You must be the, what is the saying? ‘Brothers from another mother’. You look as lovely as ever, Miss Quinn.”


“Charmed, Mr. Langford,” Quinn said.


“What’s MI-6 doing here?”, Franks interjected. “Shouldn’t FBI or Homeland or someone American be here?”


“If this is America, Michael,” Ducky replied.


“Ah, another Brit,” Langford said. “Let me show you the flags, and I’ll explain,” he said, holding out the flag on the left, in the center, and on the right: a close replica of the Virginia state flag; the United Nations flag; and a flag with a British Union Jack in the upper left corner superimposed against two red bars sandwiching a white bar. “Now look behind you, along the wall."


Each group member saw the British Union Jack partly visible along the near back wall of their current location.


“You’re in the Dominion of Southern North America, which stretches from here to the Pacific Coast,” Langford said. “The DSNA is independent, but in close association with Great Britain.”


“You won the Revolutionary War?”, DiNozzo asked.


“Lost. The DSNA was formally established in our early 20th century, but its roots came in what on your world, I believe, was called the ‘Civil War’. We — Britain — initially agreed to support the Confederates in exchange for numerous concessions, including the end to slavery. Then we and the French found ourselves fighting the Americans after the Confederate government collapsed. The Yanks sued for peace, we rebuilt the old Confederacy, and fought the Yanks off two more times that century. Two more times again in the 20th, in both wars.”


“America and Britain are allies where we’re from,” Teague said. “That’s not the case for you.”


“Not on my world, Miss…?”


“Agent Teague.”


Agent Teague. On this world, the U.S. government allied itself with greedy corporate interests, which controlled both the executive and the military by the early 20th century, and began a long alliance with Germany which culminated in the ascension of Charles Lindbergh to the Presidency in the 1930s, just in time to solidify the U.S.A.’s ties with Germany — by then ran by the Nazis. We fought the Nazis in North America to a stalemate on two fronts during the Second Great War. Hitler and his lot eventually were overcome, and with Germany split between us, the Free French and the Soviets, the United States entrenched itself into isolationism. The corporate interests completely took over the nation, expelling or killing its minorities, and have proven to be a persistent threat to individual liberty and global peace for the better part of seven decades.”


“This America of yours sounds like a terrible place to live,” Ducky said. “I assure you, none of these people besides me are reflective of anything like it.”


Langford looked at the older man for a few moments until realizing why Ducky looked so familiar to him. “I recognize you, sir, more specifically your counterpart. He served with distinction during the Persian and Filipino Wars. A proud Scot with a million stories to tell. He was a good man. That’s why I’m so disappointed to see you with this lot.”


“I assure you, Agent Langford, that the integrity of each of these men and women, individually and collectively, is of the highest caliber,” Ducky replied. “I am sorry your prejudice seems to prevent you from realizing that.”


“I get the feeling you don’t like us very well,” DiNozzo interjected, before Langford could reply to Ducky.


“That would be a logical conclusion,” Langford replied. “Nevertheless, here you are. And here I am, as well. I have my duty, regardless of personal observations, and I will perform it.”


“Is that ‘duty’ to insult us?”, Kate said.


“Part of it is to show you a piece of the mystery,” Langford said, ignoring the latter part of Kate’s question. “As fantastic as this must be to you, you are, in fact, in another dimension, similar to your own. I will show you a slice of it. Come with me.”


Langford turned heel and went down the stairs onto the main floor. Gibbs caught Teague’s eye, and she joined him, both going down the stairs, and the remainder of the group following them down to the floor. Langford didn’t look back until he came to the door leading to a hallway, and saw Gibbs and Teague less than 50 feet away.


Sighing, the MI-6 agent waited on his unwelcome guests, then led them to an elevator like the one that took them to the ring from their own world. Langford was the last person to go up, to a garage bay, where the group — now guarded by a contingent of British Royal Marines — awaited him.


“This looks like the bay we rode down from,” McGee said. “So does the stadium.”


“This track, sir, holds proper motorsport,” Langford said, proudly. “Formula One. Sports cars. The North American Touring Championship. Stock car racing done properly and safely. The Americans race their Fords and Chevys like a drunk lot trying to wreck on the Motorways. That isn’t what you’re here to see, though.”


“I’m guessing

Chapter 47 by Briwd

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Chapter 47

Saturday, June 2, 2007

10:04 a.m.

Washington, D.C.

Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ home




McGee shouted the word loudly enough that he was sure someone upstairs would have heard him and come downstairs, and see him with the laptop full of information that a lot of people would kill for. He really didn’t care.


Until now, McGee thought he had kept a level head regarding what he had heard and seen just hours before. He had expected the thumb drive to contain information relating to the drive, or to the ring system, and had prepared himself for that. There was nothing about the schematics of the machine that powered the ring, or any usable information on the network of rings around the world.


Instead, McGee uncovered files full of things he at first thought might be a red herring, or someone’s idea of a joke. Had DiNozzo handed him the thumb drive instead of Gibbs, McGee would’ve rolled his eyes and told his teammate something along the lines of ‘nice joke, Tony, at least you’ve finally graduated from putting super glue on my keyboard’. If it had been some stranger, like someone from the CIA or Naval Intelligence, McGee would have set his mind for some kind of spy game that NCIS had been pulled into.


Either scenario would be well within the 30-year-old agent’s limited frame of reference. His world involved criminal investigations involving sailors, Marines, military officers, civilians and, on occasion, KGB and Mossad officers.


What he had uncovered from the thumb drive, however, wasn’t applicable in the real world that he lived in. Comic books? Movies? Television? Science-fiction novels? All yes.


Still, he had managed to keep an open mind regarding what he saw in Richmond, and in the alternate dimension he and his teammates had briefly visited. He saw all of that for himself, and therefore he could more readily accept it.


What he couldn’t accept were stories of giant dogs, atomic soldiers, or super surveillance satellites; those were the stuff of comic books and TV shows from the 1960s, not of 21st-century reality.


And yet, Gibbs was treating what was on the thumb drive as Gospel truth. That unnerved McGee more than anything. Gibbs didn’t seem capable of conceiving of the ideas in these file folders. Gibbs, as no-nonsense of a hard-ass Marine as there was, didn’t even seem capable of pulling a prank.


If Gibbs is taking this seriously, McGee thought, then what in hell have I just seen? McGee had skimmed over most of the many files and sub-folders on the drive. And he had to debrief Gibbs soon.


McGee looked over at his plate, half full of cold scrambled eggs and stale toast, and his coffee mug, a quarter full of lukewarm coffee. He wasn’t too hungry, but surely there was something upstairs that could tide him over until lunch. And it wouldn’t hurt him to take a quick trip to the restroom – nor to stretch his legs a little.


He got up from the stool he had sat on for two hours, stretching as he took a final look at the laptop’s screen. Forty-eight folder icons, all full of insanity (assuming everything there was true), daring him to sit back down and uncover more of their secrets.


“You’ll wait,” McGee muttered. He turned to head towards the stairs, and yelled.




McGee found himself nose-to-nose with a grinning and mischievous DiNozzo.


“That never gets old. I oughta do that more often,” DiNozzo said with a chuckle. “Going somewhere, McRecluse?”


“Tony, damn it,” McGee half-shouted. “What the hell? And how you’d get down here, anyway?”


“Gibbs is on the front porch seeing who’s still in the neighborhood, Franks is smoking his ninth cigarette of the day and those other agents went home,” DiNozzo said. “Come on Probie. You know I’m messing with you—”


Like messing with me—”


“And I know you like it when I mess with ya? Right?”


“No, Tony. I don’t like it—”


“You shouldn’t have said that, McGee. That makes me want to mess with you more.”


“And what if I said, ‘I don’t mind’?”, McGee said with a sigh.


“I’d do it anyway,” DiNozzo said with a wink. “Everybody’s asking about you, McMissing. Boss told us you were working on something for him and to stay upstairs—”


“You probably should’ve listened to him, Tony.”


“And yet here you are, with a laptop,” DiNozzo replied, looking over McGee’s shoulder at the icons on the laptop’s screen. “No screen saver, either, huh? What’s on there, anyway?”


“None of your business,” McGee said, firmly.


Surprised by McGee’s boldness, DiNozzo stood with his mouth open for a few moments. He quickly came back to his senses. “Look at you, Timothy Aloysius McGee, all grown up, standing up to big brother. I’m proud of you.”


“I’m so glad,” McGee deadpanned. “Now, if you’ll—”


Before McGee could react, DiNozzo moved behind him and right against the workbench and in front of the laptop. “Picked your pocket just like I did to Steve Alford, on the road in Assembly Hall my freshman year!” McGee instinctively reached in his pocket for his wallet, and found it there, and saw DiNozzo break out into a wide grin. “Remember, Timmy. Big brother’s got plenty of moves to teach you. Now, what’s on your laptop?”


“It’s classified, Tony!”


“Probably the long-awaited-by-no-one rewritten sequel to Deep Six,” DiNozzo mused as he grabbed the laptop, then ran towards the stairs. “Tommy and Lisa get together?”




“Did Amy finally get her man…Agent McGregor?”




“Did you give Kate a new name besides ‘Mae Codd’? She hated that. Didn’t speak to you for days. Gave you the glare – and I thought Gibbs’s glare was nasty. Speaking of, what’s L.J. Tibbs up to—”


“TONY!” McGee caught up to DiNozzo and attempted to pull the laptop from his hands, but DiNozzo was quicker, and ran back to the workbench. “Tony, if I tell you what’s on it, if I show you what’s on it, will you shut up?”


“Hmm…maybe,” DiNozzo mused. “I want the juicy stuff, though. Like is Mae dating a certain FBI hottie from Brooklyn? I hope not. Kate’ll kill you for sure and I’m not sure if Ziva could save you.”


McGee eyed DiNozzo with some suspicion, then took the laptop. “There’s no Deep Six material here, Tony. It’s crazy.”


“What’s crazy, Probie?”


“All of it.”


DiNozzo held a hand up as McGee clicked on one of the folders. “Wait, McGee. If that really is classified—“


“I know you, Tony. You won’t let this go.”


“No, I won’t want to let it go, but I really don’t want you to get into trouble, either.”


“Tony…Gibbs didn’t say anything about reading you in, but he didn’t say not to read you in, either. I know you’ll keep quiet about what’s on this flash drive, too.”


DiNozzo noted the hint of fear in McGee’s eyes. “There’s a time to screw around and a time to get down to business. Something’s got you worried.”


“I don’t know what to make of this, Tony,” McGee said as he briefly glanced at the laptop. “Any of it.”


“It have anything to do with that trip down to Richmond?”


“No, most of it doesn’t.”


“Then what’s got you freaked out?” DiNozzo looked McGee in the eye and put a hand on his arm to reassure his teammate and friend.


The gesture didn’t work.


“The part, parts that don’t have anything to do with what we saw or what Gibbs and those people talked about.”


“Tell me, Tim,” DiNozzo said, without jest. His usual tendency to irritate the other agent was long gone; DiNozzo’s primary concern was for the younger man’s mental and emotional well-being. “I won’t say a word to anyone, not even Gibbs.”




“Swear on a stack of Bibles. Or my stack of classic movie VHS tapes, and I mean the classics. Casablanca. Citizen Kane. Maltese Falcon. Whichever works for you.”


DiNozzo chuckled, and McGee allowed himself a slight grin. “I don’t know where on earth to start, Tony.”


“Give me the Cliff’s Notes,” DiNozzo replied, and McGee did his best to summarize the contents of 47 file folders in 10 minutes.


Afterwards, DiNozzo wasn’t sure what to think. Most of the contents to him seemed, as they did to McGee, like something from a 40- or 50-year-old comic book.


Except, Gibbs thought whatever was on that flash drive was factual and important.


And there was that case a couple of years before in July 2005, after Ziva joined the team. The case that took the team down to North Carolina, where they worked with the NCIS office at Camp Lejeune to find a missing, and eventually dead, Gunnery Sergeant who was the only son of President Broome’s Chief of Staff.


Working with the other team was weird enough – the team was led by a Navy Commander on active duty but attached to NCIS, and his people referred to each other and to Gibbs’s team individually as ‘Special Agent ____’ or ‘Doctor ____’ – but one of the interrogations unnerved DiNozzo like nothing else he’d ever encountered.


June 25, 2005

NCIS field office

Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

Interrogation Room #2


With Gibbs, Kate, Commander Will Coburn, Gunnery Sergeant Shel McHenry and Agent Maggie Foley watching from the observation room, DiNozzo sat down at the small, wooden table across from the prime suspect, Bryndon Smith.


“Let’s see,” DiNozzo sat, making a small show of leaning back in his chair while lazily reading the dossier on the suspect. “Bryndon Smith – what kind of name is Bryndon, anyway? – says here you’re a biologist currently visiting at Duke. That’s in Durham, right? Right down ol’ Tobacco Road. Say, you catch any basketball games?”


Smith, wearing one of the best poker faces DiNozzo had ever seen on a human being, sat expressionless.


“I wasn’t a fan either. I preferred the Big Ten. Played for Ohio State, in fact, football and basketball. Been awhile, though, since I’ve watched an entire game. Job makes it hard to follow college hoops, or any sports. That’s one reason I watch so many classic movies. Easy to pop in a tape, get an hour through, get called into work a case for, say, 10 straight days, then go home and pop it back in.”


Smith sat straight as an iron rod, while he remained expressionless.


“Enough about me, though. You…you have quite the past. Some guy on some blog called you ‘a contemporary of Richard Dawkins, who besides stirring up the religious right co-wrote a paper with you that almost won a Nobel Prize’. Remember that? But nobody really knows what was in it, because the government did that thing where they mark out what they don’t want the public to know.”


DiNozzo exaggeratedly flipped through a few pages while Smith said and did nothing and showed no expression. “You’ve been around the block, Smitty – you know, I like calling you Smitty. You got that Clark Gable thing going, though…but Smitty it is. Anyway, Smitty, you’ve done work for the feds, the Brits, the West Germans, the Japanese, been all over the free world doing something, but I can’t tell what.”


Smith blinked, for the first time since he entered the room.


“I haven’t been able to find out whatever it is that you do because it’s classified,” DiNozzo said. “Whatever the hell it is, the Agency’s involved, and so is something that we, that is, my Boss and my team and the Commander who runs the NCIS office and his people can’t come close to getting any information on.”


Smith locked eyes with DiNozzo in such a way that almost jarred the NCIS agent. He’d seen that look once before, when Ari Haswari appeared in Kate’s apartment a few weeks before after the terrorist/Spetsnaz agent tried to kill everyone on Gibbs’ team.


DiNozzo pushed on. If he could survive Ari, he surely would be able to handle this guy.


“Look, whatever you’re doing with the Agency or God knows who else in the name of national security, I’m sure it’s all above board and for baseball, apple pie, truth, justice and the American way. I don’t care about that.”


Ignoring Smith’s increasingly unsettling stare, DiNozzo reached in the back of the folder he was holding for a couple of photos of the victim whose death both NCIS teams were investigating: Marine Gunnery Sergeant Michael MacIntyre.


The first two photos DiNozzo put on the table were of MacIntyre in better times: in full uniform sitting in front of the American flag, and at liberty with other members of his unit while serving in Afghanistan.


The next three photos were of MacIntyre at the crime scene, severely disfigured by a rash that neither Ducky nor Coburn’s medical examiner Nina Tomlinson could make sense of. The middle photo showed the Marine’s death mask – Coburn didn’t allow Ducky to close the victim’s eyes and mouth until after McGee took the photo – and even now, the anguish in MacIntyre’s face was as apparent as the day he saw him at the crime scene. DiNozzo wondered if that particular photo might get a response from the man sitting across from him.


Instead, Smith kept boring a hole into DiNozzo’s soul.


He is what I care about right now,” DiNozzo continued, stating the victim’s name and rank. “The last person he was seen with was you. We know because you both were on surveillance video at a Speedway convenience store in Jacksonville near the base. You gave him a coffee after you put something in it when no one was watching.”


DiNozzo looked up at the video monitor in the corner of the small room. Smith didn’t break eye contact with the agent, who watched the feed.


“Not gonna watch, huh?”, DiNozzo said. “Guess you think since you were there, you think you don’t have to see it again. I don’t want to see it again. But I did. Wanna know why?”


DiNozzo realized Smith hadn’t blinked other than that one time.


“Because I’m trying to figure out why you would murder a man in his twenties, who did nothing more than serve his country.”


Smith, finally, showed some emotion: anger. DiNozzo, initially surprised by Smith’s reaction, found himself getting angrier, and determined he would not lose this glare-off or whatever game this bastard was playing. Bryndon Smith would not get the best of him. Not today.


“Answer me,” DiNozzo said, coolly. Smith’s anger grew, although he only showed it in his eyes.


“Answer me,” DiNozzo repeated, this time with some anger of his own. Although he had kept his emotions at bay, DiNozzo’s anger at the horrible manner of McIntyre’s death and at Smith’s reaction in the room had abruptly manifested and was about to boil over.


DiNozzo looked back, briefly, at the large mirror where he knew Gibbs, Coburn and the others were watching. He remembered Coburn’s admonition: ‘keep your composure’. As good of a Christian as Coburn was, the commander also liked to throw his weight around, as he showed DiNozzo and the rest of Gibbs’s team the past 10 days. But Gibbs was his boss, not the commander, and he knew if it came to it that Director Shepard outranked both Coburn and Assistant Director Michael Larkin and would have his back.


Satisfied that he wasn’t alone, DiNozzo fell back on the unspoken rule he used for certain situations – like the one involving Bryndon Smith – that neither the handbook nor experience covered and required a rather strong approach:


WWGD – What Would Gibbs Do?


DiNozzo gathered up the five photos and put them in the folder, then laid it on his chair. With all his might, he slammed his palms down onto the surface of the table. That created a crack where his left palm hit the surface, along with a loud bang that reverberated in his ears for several moments.




Smith cocked his head, and smirked. “Impressive, Agent DiNozzo. I believe I saw that scene on television, once.”


“Finally, he talks,” DiNozzo shouted to the mirror behind him, and to those behind it. Turning back to Smith, he leaned into the suspect’s face until their noses were a hair’s width apart. “You want to answer my question now, jackass?”


“You won’t like the answer,” Smith said.


“Try me,” DiNozzo replied.


Smith scooted his chair back six inches to give some space between himself and his interrogator, while he unblinkingly kept his eyes on DiNozzo. “There are things afoot in this country, this world, that you cannot possibly have conceived of in real life, Agent DiNozzo. Born in the Northeast, your mother died, your father left you to grow up alone while he tried to find consolation in war reenactments or by befriending Saudi princes. Good enough to play intercollegiate football and basketball at a high level but not good enough to turn—”


“Why did you kill Gunnery Sergeant MacIntyre.”


“—Not good enough to turn professional. You did save a young man’s life while walking the streets of Baltimore, an admirable act despite the fact you were supposed to be at the arena with your teammates before the national championship game. Of course, had it not been for the East German Stasi threat, you’d have been in Seattle, but that’s a minor footnote in the long cold war between—”


“Why. Did. You. Kill—”


“—East and West. You turned to police work to find fulfillment, and you found success. Peoria. Philadelphia. Baltimore. Then you were recruited to NCIS, and you became Leroy Jethro Gibbs’s right-hand man. They say you should have your own team by now, but you stay—”


“Kill. Gunnery Sergeant MacIntyre.”


“—you stay out of loyalty? Has to be. It isn’t like Leroy Jethro Gibbs is going anywhere. Of course, Gibbs has some skeletons in his own closet, and perhaps subconsciously you know this, so you’re waiting—”


Ignoring the jab at Gibbs, DiNozzo picked the folder back up from the chair. He then pulled out the photo of MacIntyre’s face, frozen in agony, and put the picture on the table. “Look. This is what you did.”


“I did no such thing.”


“Unbelievable,” DiNozzo said. “Video doesn’t lie, pal.”


“Doesn’t it? You’re a film aficionado. You have heard of Hollywood, right?”


DiNozzo pointed to the monitor, showing Smith taking a pill from a small bottle near the coffee machine in the convenience store. It then showed Smith pouring creamer and sweetener in the cup before walking over to MacIntyre, who was at the counter. “You thanked him for his service and offered him a cup of coffee as a gift. Said it was a lucky guess when he asked how you knew he liked half-and-half and Splenda.”


The monitor showed McIntyre walking out of the store, and Smith milling about for three more minutes before leaving himself. “Didn’t even try to go back and pick up that prescription bottle, did you?”, DiNozzo said. “Our people told us MacIntyre probably started feeling the aftereffects of whatever it was you gave him after he got on the road. Had enough time to realize something was wrong, and he was headed in the direction you’d expect him to go in if he were headed for the nearest hospital.


“Only thing is, he ran out of time. Skin started peeling off. Probably was lucid enough to realize he had to pull off the road to keep from killing somebody else. So he pulled off of the road and reached for his cell phone. He was starting to bleed from his fingertips, and he may not have been able to clearly see the numbers on the dialpad. Now I’m not God, so I don’t know if he figured the hospital wouldn’t be able to help him, but for whatever reason he called NCIS at Camp Lejeune. He told the agent he was attacked and, according to the audio from the call, began convulsing. I heard that call, Smith. Towards the end, he couldn’t speak. His vocal cords were failing him. All he could do was grunt while he was grasping for air. And then, nothing.”


Smith looked at the photo, then back to DiNozzo.


“He died, Smith. Didn’t take long to connect you to the crime, once the local TV news ran their stories on his death—”


“Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?”, Smith interjected, turning his glare back to DiNozzo’s eyes. “You want to know if I killed this man.”


“You offering to confess?” DiNozzo went to the chair next to the door and picked up a notepad and pen, then walked back and tossed both onto the surface of the table. “Don’t you dare leave a thing out.”


Smith looked at the pad and pen, picked the pen up as if to write, then threw it and the pad against the wall to his right.


“So that’s how this is going to be,” DiNozzo muttered. “You’re on thin ice, pal—”


“MacIntyre was dead before he suffered that unfortunate malady,” Smith said, with a calmness that made DiNozzo feel as if his spine had instantly been encased in ice. “He is one of millions of victims and there will be more.”




You, Agent DiNozzo, are no fool. You seem to be a wise man, underneath the façade you wear around your teammates. Open your eyes. How many tragic deaths have befallen those in the military, the government, the media, lately? How many more will there be? Who is behind their deaths, Agent DiNozzo?”


DiNozzo pointed to the monitor – which, thanks to the tech in the observation room, now showed the photo of the dead MacIntyre’s visage, frozen in agony – while never breaking eye contact with Smith. “He is the focus here, Smith.”


“There are many things going on behind the scenes that will soon affect us all, Agent DiNozzo, but because I see you are a persistent man—”


“Damn right.”


“I will answer your question, after asking a question of my own: do you truly think I killed that man?”


“Are you serious?”


“I did not kill Gunnery Sergeant MacIntyre, if that is what you are asking. I could not save him, but I could spare others, and I have. It is why you and your people are alive.”




“I am not finished speaking, Agent DiNozzo. I have much to say in so little time. I know you have recording devices and I know you and some of the people behind the glass have excellent memories, so stay silent while I give my ‘confession’, as it were. I work for a secret agency that is attached to no government. This agency was formed by citizens of the world to bring about peace, to prevent war between the two great powers. This agency, sadly, came to the conclusion that such a conflict was inevitable. That conflict, Agent DiNozzo, may not completely destroy the world but will devastate it. What we – I, and others like myself – do is to save who we can, however we can.


“There are many who would profit in some way from a Third World War. They know unless an outside force that doesn’t exist were to subjugate the entire world, that such a war is now inevitable with the next two to five years. They have set into motion the machinery that will expedite the war. They will save themselves, if at all possible, and leave the people to fend for themselves. You prosecute me for the death of one man. You need to see the bigger picture.”


DiNozzo finally sat down, with the folder, pad and pen in his lap. “If you’re trying to talk your way out of—”


“I am not finished, Agent DiNozzo.”


“You’re not making any sense, Smith.”


“The bigger picture, sir. Ask why your government is allowing thousands to die while it and its corporate masters speed towards a war that will destroy them. Ask why your government has no plan right now besides sending as many panicked people as possible into the unknown at the last minute, to other worlds, instead of making peace with the Soviets. Ask why their grand plan to save the nation is modeled after the Jewish myth of the Exodus. Ask why their answer is to profit and flee while the people run—”


The door into the interrogation room opened unexpectedly, but DiNozzo didn’t see either Gibbs or Coburn walk in. He saw eight men in black suits and ties and sunglasses, six of which aimed submachine guns right at him. The other two picked Smith up by his arms and carried him out of the room.


Over DiNozzo’s protests, the six men didn’t leave until one got some kind of order in his earpiece. They swiftly ran out of the room, ran down the hallway and ran out of the building; DiNozzo started to run after them, then heard banging from the door leading into the observation room. Moments later, DiNozzo was thrown against the wall by a charging McHenry, who had managed to break down the door (and nearly break his own shoulder, and DiNozzo’s back, in the process).


DiNozzo and the others ran to the parking lot, but the eight men in black, and Smith, were long gone. They were never found, and MacIntyre’s case was never officially solved.


The present


DiNozzo had nightmares about the interrogation for days, then purged the incident out of his mind. He hadn’t thought about it until now, when McGee came across the contents of File Folder #48 on the laptop.




“What’s in there?”, he asked McGee, who showed him the list titled ‘MULTIVERSE’.


“Numbers and letters, that didn’t make much sense when I first saw them, under open, restricted, and closed categories,” McGee said. “Maybe they’re the worlds people go to from those rings?”


“Makes sense, McGee,” DiNozzo said. “Closed is where you don’t go or want to go. Open is where you want to go or are able to go. Restricted is self-explanatory. But that can’t be all that’s there. Go further into the folder.”


“I’ll try,” McGee replied, and the tech-savvy agent finally hacked his way into a series of subfolders. DiNozzo saw the file name on one and pointed to it.




“Open it,” DiNozzo said. McGee clicked on the file, and a Word document appeared on the screen. Both men began to read.



January 2, 2007


Mr. President,


For the past eight months, this committee, made up of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, along with representatives from the military (United States Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy); from the intelligence community (the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Military Intelligence Agency); and from federal government agencies (the Department of Homeland Security and its Federal Emergency Management Agency subdivision) has met to discuss ways to protect the general public in the event of a full, global nuclear conflict between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and its allies.


This committee has reviewed thousands of documents, interviews and attestations from individuals regarding the potential and likely outcomes of such a conflict. The conclusions this committee has come to numerous times are that there is no way to protect the vast majority of the American people in the event of a nuclear exchange. Even if the majority of the public were placed in non-targeted areas, they would be subject to subsequent lethal amounts of radiation and fallout, and the combined federal, state and local government and private organizations to feed, clothe and care for these refugees would be very limited both in time and in scope. In essence, it could not be done.


Therefore, this committee must turn its attention to what can be done for the general public in the event of a nuclear war. Rather than leave the public to its fate, there is one possible course of action that can be taken to save as many people as possible. This course of action carries significant risks, mainly provoking the Soviets into a possible sneak nuclear attack in the event the action was executed. It also forces a gross presumption by us towards our interdimensional allies. Namely, they will accept our refugees without question, and includes the possibility some, many or all of those allies will not accept our refugees. But it is the only course of action we see as plausible, and we unanimously see it as the most moral and ethical course of action.


That action is to open the ring system to the public in the event an all-out nuclear exchange becomes likely. Other countries – including the Soviets – are coming to this conclusion. We cannot deny our own citizens the opportunity to flee to safety when our enemies are doing the same for their own people.


That’s their plan?”, McGee said. “Run?”


“That’s what he meant,” DiNozzo mused. “Sonofabitch. That guy finally makes sense.”


“Who’s ‘he’ and what ‘guy’, Tony? What are you talking about?”


“Bryndon Smith,” McGee heard from behind him, and he and Tony turned at the same time to see Gibbs, who somehow had snuck up on them both.


“Boss?”, McGee said, rather loudly. He looked over at DiNozzo, then to Gibbs, and then the thought came to the younger agent that DiNozzo wasn’t brought up as part of the debriefing Gibbs mentioned during their earlier conversation. “Uh, Boss, I’m sorry, I – I’m sorry for, uh—”


“What have I told you about apologies, McGee?”, Gibbs said, without anger, irritation or any other sign of being remotely upset. “You’re not the one who should be apologizing anyway.”


DiNozzo’s eyes grew wide a moment later, as the fleeting thought of enjoying McGee’s discomfort was swept away by the thought that he had some explaining to do, and quickly. “Uh, Boss, you’re right. I’m the one who—”


“I need to apologize,” Gibbs interjected. That surprised both DiNozzo and McGee. Gibbs rarely apologized about anything; he even had a rule against it.


“You?”, DiNozzo said. “For what?”


“To all of you, including the ones upstairs,” Gibbs replied. “The MacIntyre case a couple of years ago, McGee.”


“The one we worked with the military team in North Carolina.”


“The one that got buried,” Gibbs said, with a hint of disgust. “The suspect said things that never made sense, at the time.”


“Now they do,” DiNozzo said. “You think what’s on that screen is what that guy was talking about?”


“Yep,” Gibbs said. “I’m also sorry I didn’t see it earlier, even when Riley handed me the thing,” Gibbs added, referring to the flash drive. “The ring at the Pentagon was enough to deal with. I never thought about the MacIntyre case until DiNozzo made the connection just now.”


“Boss?”, McGee said. “There’s a lot on this drive. I can start with the highlights, and give more details as we go.”


“Do it,” Gibbs said. A half-hour later – and at least one look-in by everyone else upstairs from the doorway at the top of the stairs – Gibbs had seen enough to satisfy his curiosity.


“What do you think, Boss?”, DiNozzo said. “I mean, what do you even do with all this stuff?”


“At least we know where to go if things get bad,” McGee said. “A couple of places…right, Boss?”


Gibbs got up and, without a word, headed towards the stairs, and stopped a few feet short before turning around. “You two coming?”, he said to DiNozzo and McGee, both of whom were still sitting on their stools at the workbench.


“Yes Boss!”, both said in unison, seemingly bouncing off their respective stools. “On your six, Boss!”, DiNozzo added.


“Bring that laptop,” Gibbs said, as he headed up the stairs. Once all three men got upstairs, they saw everyone else huddled around the new HDTV set McAllister had installed in Gibbs’s living room, watching CNN:


1:09 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time


--Kiran Cherry: For those of you just joining us, the Soviet Union has expelled all journalists and others affiliated with a Western media outlet. All 19 members of our CNN bureau in Moscow, our only authorized bureau in the Soviet Union, and their families were put onto an Aeroflot airliner hours ago and flown to neutral territory in India. Joining us now by phone from Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai is CNN Senior Soviet Correspondent, and Acting Moscow Bureau Chief, Jill Dougherty, whom we hadn’t heard from since around 4 p.m. Eastern time yesterday. Jill, how are you and everyone else holding up?


Jill Dougherty: We’re holding up pretty well. There are 24 of us, including a three-year-old boy, here in Mumbai. We aren’t the only ones from a Western media outlet here in Mumbai. There is a group from the French Agence France-Presse, four reporters from the British Guardian newspaper, a group of 20 people from ABC News, eight more from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and single reporters from Belgium, Japan, Taiwan, Brazil, Australia, Spain and Nigeria.


Cherry: Jill, we’re hearing from other media outlets that their bureaus in Moscow, Leningrad and elsewhere throughout the Soviet Union were raided about the same time CNN’s was. The reports from other media outlets are consistent: a raid by KGB and local police around 8:30 p.m. Moscow time, those in the Western media offices or, in a few cases, their individual apartments, were given just enough time for personal belongings and then taken to the airport and put aboard an airplane headed for neutral territory, either India, Finland, or northern China.


Dougherty: That’s correct. This was a coordinated effort.


Cherry: Jill, from what I understand you and the other CNN personnel and their families were rounded up early in the morning Moscow time, and allowed just enough time to get their belongings before being taken to the Moscow airport to be—


Dougherty: We all were in the CNN offices when what we believe to be KGB agents, accompanied by Moscow police, barged in around 3:30 a.m. local time, I think that would’ve been 8:30 p.m. on the East Coast, and told us we had 15 minutes to gather our personal belongings, that we were being evicted from the Soviet Union.


Cherry: ‘Evicted’?

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