Washington, D.C., United States of America
Naval Investigative Service Headquarters
Multiple Threat Assessment Center (MTAC) Room
Special Agent Tim McGee looked intently at the screen in front of him, and the graphic that the FBI hastily put together.
"Is this real?" McGee asked the costumed hero standing next to him. "There really is a multiverse?"
"Science fiction, in this case, is fact," said Alan Scott, also known as the Green Lantern.
"Or magic," McGee replied, looking at the man's glowing green ring. NIS's intelligence files indicated it had a mystic origin, and could be the man's personal fountain of youth.
The muscular, tall, blonde-haired man had the body of an athlete in his early 30s, yet his face, and eyes, hinted at his real age.
Scott was a member of the "Golden Generation" of heroes who debuted right before and during the Second World War, and served their country through the McCarthy trials in the early 50s, then after JFK pardoned them upon taking office in 1961.
Though many in his generation had long since retired - and passed away - Scott was one of the few still fighting the good fight, and teaching the new generation.
Just as McGee himself was doing.
"Speaking of magic," Scott said, "Dr. Cross wants to pass his 'recipe' along to your wife."
Scott pulled a piece of paper out of the ring - how did he do that? McGee thought - and handed it to the NIS agent. McGee opened the note, and raised his eyebrows.
"We tried to have Stargirl deliver it to your house," Scott explained. "But Solomon Grundy showed up in Maryland."
"Saw it on the news," McGee said. "Your team did good work. The young woman – Power Girl – was a bit rough, though."
"A 'bit rough'?" Scott said. "I'd expect that someone who worked under Leroy Jethro Gibbs would think Power Girl's technique was proper."
McGee smiled. Delilah was right: time had enabled him to remember the past fondly, without sorrow nor pain - nor anger - after all. The old man would've liked Kara, just as he eventually grew to like and respect the first version of the Society.
"Gibbs had his own style," McGee remembered, before his eye wandered to the chart on the main screen.
Focus, he thought, walking closer to the screen, Scott walking in step.
"So we're a parallel universe?"
"In a manner of speaking, yes," Scott said. "We are connected to one of these 52 universes represented on the chart, numbered 0 through 51."
"But we're not any one of these Earths?"
Scott put his finger on the screen, where the 33rd Earth was.
"Rule 60. Get Specific." McGee still used Gibbs' rules, but had added several of his own over the years.
"We are not the 33rd Earth, but we are connected to it. Observe," Scott said, as his ring conjured up three-dimensional renderings of dozens of Earths, all in a line, the first hovering over the 33rd Earth on the screen. The line extended to the theater-like seats in the back of the room; an arrow pointed to the second in the list.
"See the arrow, Tim?" Scott said. "That's us."
"And how many Earths....ten dozen?" McGee said.
"That's where it gets...complicated," Scott said. "52 Earths on the screen, as real as the others. And at least 101 Earths poking out from the screen, as real to the others in the row as they themselves are. But they may be bonafide parallel worlds in their own right, or alternate timelines of one of the 52, or--"
"You're making my head spin, Alan," Tim said.
"I prefer Doctor Fate's explanation: 'a multiverse within a multiverse'," Scott replied. "Saves most of us from having to consider the existential ramifications of the chart."
"What does Mister Terrific have to say?" McGee referred to Michael Holt, the so-called smartest man on Earth and a successor, of sorts, to the original Mr. Terrific, Terry Sloane. “He isn’t a religious man, from what I hear.”
"Michael's wrestling with the implications, from a different angle: he's a man of science, after all,” Scott replied. "And you are a man of faith, Tim?"
"More so than I used to be, Alan...I have no trouble believing this is part of creation, a part we're just now finding out about." McGee realized his curiosity about the subject would have to be reigned in: Rule 63, Always Stay Focused, came to mind.
"I'm up here because of the national security implications of this discovery," McGee said, "so how does this pose - or potentially pose - a threat to the U.S.? And the Navy and Marine Corps?"
"The threat implications and potentialities are in your email," Scott said. "I'm here to lay out how this affects you."
"You. Your team. Your wife...your director."
"The director? Then why aren't you in her office talking to her--"
"We already have. Before I came to you. To get permission to talk to you," Scott said. "Tim. You're the leader of the most prominent team in your agency. You're part of a team with a long and storied record going back decades--"
"Don't butter me up, Alan."
"Not at all," Scott said, his demeanor turning from pleasant to serious. "Tim, this potentially is big. For the Society, the world. For you."
"Is there another me out there somewhere?" McGee asked, and for a brief instant he wondered if there were other versions of friends and loved ones here and absent.
"You're on the right track," Scott replied, then explained the Society's meetings with a similar team of heroes from the first Earth in the line of Earths extending from the screen to the seats in the back.
"Meeting the League changed everything for us, Tim," Scott said. "From the time Jay met that other Flash. To the time Kent found the other League. The discovery of the third Earth - which you need to read up on" - Tim saw an X over the third Earth in the line - "we discovered we had alternates. Like us in some ways, different in others."
"Another Alan Scott?"
"No, but another Kal-L. Another Princess Diana. Another Kara Zor-L...and other counterparts of civilians, politicians, military--"
"Federal agents," Tim knew where this was going. "You're saying there are others...like my team...in this, ah, multiverse?"
Scott looked McGee in the eye. "Not of your team members that we know of. But you...and others you worked with," he said. "We know the intelligence community here is beginning to reach out to their counterparts on these other Earths, at least the ones we're calling Zero."
"Which is one of the 52 on the chart on screen. Not on that 3-D thing your ring created--"
"Correct. Zero we think is No. 33. One is hovering right above it; we're Two, next to One, the one with the arrow pointing at it. Zero, One, Four, Five, Eight, 11 and 23 are talking to their counterparts here on Two."
"They must have just begun talking, because I haven't heard anything about that on the grapevine--"
"Because the other FBIs just made contact with our own," Scott said. "That vacation the President went on last week to Camp David? Disinformation. He went to Camp David on 11. Met with a President Michelle Obama."
Scott explained to McGee the meeting between 11's Director, a Leona Vance, and McGee's own director, set up via a special 'dimensional portal'. Vance convinced her of the benefits of an alliance between NIS and the other NIS equivalents on the other worlds. McGee also got the sense that his director was the one holding back NIS from full participation in this alliance.
Then he realized why she might be holding back.
For the same reasons he himself might want to avoid it.
You cannot relive nor undo the past.
You have to move on.
Both he and his director had lived by that motto for a long, long time.
"Tim, you need to talk to her," Scott said. "Maybe she'll convince you of your need to participate."
"If she's waited this long to consent to this 'alliance', then she obviously has, or had, reservations of her own--"
"Or she's stubborn. Just like her dad."
"Or...she's going by her gut."
"Again, like her dad."
"What if her gut's telling her it's a bad idea?" McGee said, and Scott replied by reminding him about the beneficial partnership between the League and Society and the threats posed by realities like Three.
"Together, we can defeat these threats," Scott continued. "We've seen incursions between realities for some time now on the metahuman level, and we're starting to see them in the civilian world. The military. Small arms, drugs. So far, Army CID's had to deai with 95 percent of it. The rest Air Force OSI. Colonel Trevor gave his OSI agents a commendation for stopping an incursion from Three at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana."
"And we'll have to deal with it before long."
"I'm surprised NIS hasn't had any cases before," Scott said. "Colonel Trevor personally spoke with your director and encouraged her to participate."
"He IS the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs," McGee said of Trevor, who looked a little older than Scott, definitely was as old as Scott and probably had his own Fountain of Youth hidden somewhere.
"Tim, talk to her," Scott said. "We know the reason she doesn't want to do this. It's the same reason you don't want to bother with it."
McGee looked away. It HAD been a long time. Time had healed the wounds caused by their loss...
...but would seeing others, just like them, cause those wounds to reopen?
"You, she, NIS, have to deal with this, Tim," said the man who had become a mentor to McGee over the last decade and a half. "Whether you like it or not."
The office of the Director of NIS
McGee walked in the waiting room and nodded to Loretta, the secretary who had 'trained' three different directors. She had tried to train Special Agents in Charge, and succeeded with all but two.
Loretta let McGee slide, largely because he was so nice about it.
He opened the door, unaware of who or what might be in the director's office, and shut it.
"Just when I was gettin' used to my door being a door," the director quipped, as she pushed a button on her phone. "Loretta. Hold my calls. I'm going to be a while."
McGee walked over to push a chair from the conference table towards her desk, but she held her hand up. The fiery, slim short-haired redhead walked over to the bar, poured herself and McGee two cups of coffee - black - and took them both to the table. Then she motioned for McGee to sit down, and sat down herself as she took a sip from her cup.
"Can't drink on the job," she said. "I'm guessing this isn't a social visit, Agent McGee?"
"You'd guess right...Boss," McGee said. "Maybe it's just me, but I swear I see more and more of Director Shepard in you."
Kelly Marie Gibbs raised her eyebrows.
"Shepard?" she said. "Haven't heard that in a while."
"I'm about the only one left who remembers her," McGee replied. "I've already told you how much of your dad you have in you."
Kelly smiled. Time had healed her wounds, too, for the most part, although she learned moving on didn't make up for all of the losses.
"You know who he modeled me after, after I told him I wanted to work in NCIS?"
"Yes. I've heard the story a hundred times."
"And you'll hear it a hundred and one more. He tried to model me after Jenny Shepard."
"Just like he tried to train her," McGee said, "without some of her...flaws."
"You see me frog huntin', McGee?" Kelly quipped. After all these years, the La Grenouille fiasco was still used as an example of how NOT to run a federal agency.
"No Boss," said McGee, who looked at the woman several years his junior, yet leapfrogged over him to become only the third female director in the history of NIS.