Part Two: Chapter 21
Chapter 21

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

--I'm David Eddings, from GBS headquarters here in Metropolis. Welcome to GBS 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--

"Sergei Mishnev. Soviet assassin," Gibbs said to his team in the morgue, leaving out the part about Jenny's killer being Eli David's 'son'. Now they knew who Jenny's killer was, they could move on, just like he would, looking for the bastard who murdered her -- Russian or otherwise.

Gibbs went to McCallister's office and watched how the man conducted his business while informing his superiors regarding Eli David's revelations about Mishnev. "At least we know who killed Director Shepard," he told Gibbs. "Now I get to find out how my bosses react to the news."

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

8:36 p.m.

The front door to his house was 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 affiliate's local 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 felt that he 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. I saw your body. I’m working your case."

"The case is pretty much done, Agent Gibbs. Finish it, then 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, then 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, pointing to the side of her head. "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. It’s not too late for yourself and your team. And, if they'll listen, it’s not too late for 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?" Mike Franks 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.
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Part Two: Chapter 22
Chapter 22

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

12:38 a.m. EDT / 5:38 a.m. GMT

(BBC breaking news report, broadcast on all BBC national, regional and local television channels throughout the United Kingdom)

--...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...--

It has not gone unnoticed. Thousands of Britons instantly begin making arrangements to seek safer ground. The U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom is woken from a sound sleep by a panicky aide. The Ambassador rubs the sleep from his eyes, then contacts the White House in Washington.

Washington, D.C.

Franks emptied his shot glass and put it down on the workbench.

"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, Gibbs. 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, Jethro?"

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 Shepard'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’m still not sure what to think of him.”

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

DiNozzo 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. DiNozzo 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 DiNozzo’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, DiNozzo 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--

DiNozzo 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?" he yelled from the bedroom doorway.

McGee typed furiously on one of his keyboards, unable to hear due to the headphones in his ears. DiNozzo shook his head as he saw McGee lost in his work. 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 both 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?"

DiNozzo 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 DiNozzo hard on the back of his head. "Can't you see he's busy?" She and Kate pointed to the hallway, and DiNozzo began bringing in the bags, dumping them in the bedroom.

McGee didn't notice Abby looking over his shoulder, nor Kate looking at the shelves full of computers and other tech, but couldn't ignore DiNozzo’s headslap. "That's for being a poor host, McRude," DiNozzo said right before Kate elbowed him in his gut.

While DiNozzo 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 ever saw 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, DiNozzo 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 DiNozzo. "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. DiNozzo 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," DiNozzo 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. DiNozzo 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’s eyes.

"Take us through what happened in your apartment, Kate," DiNozzo 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, Cingular and Verizon 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, then 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, Franks 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."

"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, our 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. "Ziva. You stay there--" Gibbs then heard a beep. "Stay on the line!"

He switched to the other line and got McGee who, along with Kate, Abby and DiNozzo 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."
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Part Two: Chapter 23
Chapter 23

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

1:12 a.m.

Gibbs sped out of his neighborhood faster than a bat out of hell. He had DiNozzo on his cellphone's speaker as he swerved around an oncoming truck.

"Call Mike's phone!" he yelled at DiNozzo; eyes on the road, he dialed Ducky while 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, Maryland, 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 DiNozzo 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," DiNozzo said, his primary pistol in hand. "Crazy Clair's not gonna stand there waiting for you to flatten her to death."

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," DiNozzo 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."

DiNozzo peeked through the closed blinds behind McGee's writing desk. "I see her too Kate…dammit! 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???" Kate shot back, with a roll of her eyes.

"I'm hungry, alright?" DiNozzo 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," she 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," DiNozzo said, standing between Kate and McGee 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.” Two more suits stood several feet behind Gibbs, weapons drawn, looking uncertain as to what they should do.

"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.

DiNozzo 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," DiNozzo said. "I have questions."

"Questions?" the bald suit asked. "Questions about what--"

"Don't talk unless you're spoken to, Kojak," Tony said. "I ask the questions. You give the answers!" Two tenants opened their doors at the same time to see what was going on: DiNozzo showed his badge. "Federal agents," he said with a smile. "Business call. Go back inside. Sorry about the noise." The tenants quickly closed their doors.

As DiNozzo shepherded the suits further down the hallway, 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, DiNozzo 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 DiNozzo to order them to repeat themselves one at a time. Once they had done so, DiNozzo told them to explain 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?" DiNozzo asked. "C'mon, probies! Speak up!"

"The director," Hensley replied, and DiNozzo 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 Guantanamo," 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 he 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 DiNozzo ran in.

"What was that?" Abby asked.

McGee's mouth flew open. "Gibbs shot her."

"Not a gunshot," DiNozzo 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 to Kate, her eyes focused on Gibbs.

"How is that?" Gibbs interjected.

"I'm not talking to you," she told him.

"You should be," he said.

"Then you know you won'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 what I was…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."

Lady—” Kate interjected, shutting up as soon as she saw Gibbs raise his palm to her.

"To me?", Gibbs said.

"And her…a little,” she said with a weak smile. As Gibbs gave her a glare, she continued talking.

“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 with a growl.

"I am," Clair replied. "Really!" she added, responding to Gibbs's raised eyebrow.

"Talk," he said.

"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."

"What were those threats?"

"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 Powell'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 Powell. If I had gone forward, I suspect the director would've retired me permanently."

Gibbs shot Clair a hard look. "Define 'permanently'."

"He wouldn't have killed me. But I wouldn't be here, either."

Outside in the hallway, the building super arrived and found DiNozzo, Franks and the two rookie suits standing near McGee's door. Then, he saw the kicked-in door, and screamed in frustration.

"Rough neighborhood," DiNozzo 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."

DiNozzo 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 based on Top Gun yes. Mike doesn't say anything because he doesn't watch movies and the probies, uh, are too green 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 DiNozzo 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," DiNozzo 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," Franks added. "She's the one who kicked down the door."

"But the one you need to worry about is him," DiNozzo said with a grin. "I wouldn't piss him off."

Gibbs spotted the stranger in the hallway, apologized for the damage and told him NCIS would pay for the repairs. After the super returned to repair the damage, Gibbs sent Clair outside with DiNozzo and Franks 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.
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Part Two: Chapter 24
Chapter 24

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

5:34 a.m. EDT

Gibbs' house

DiNozzo 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 DiNozzo 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," DiNozzo 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," DiNozzo 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."

DiNozzo 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 Franks 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. He didn’t buy Clair’s claim that she was faking the obsession with Kate to get to him, and wanted Ducky’s opinion on that, among other things. 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."

DiNozzo 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 DiNozzo.

"May I have some eggs benedict?"

"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 McCallister and his special ops unit than he expected. The new director of NCIS, he 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 don’t know who’s got anything like that technology."

"Someone does," 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 for now, between us."

He suddenly got an onimous feeling in his gut, along with a thought:

We're running out of time.
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Part Two: Chapter 25
Chapter 25

--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--

--the impromptu airing in Britain that the British government is saying nothing about has spread throughout the U.S., over the Internet. Here in Central City, there have been runs on essentials in grocery stores and places like Walmart; the same thing has been happening across the river in Keystone City, and nearby in both Kansas Cities as well as Lawrence--

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Navy Yard, NCIS headquarters

1:54 p.m. EDT

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 and General Secretary Khalinin reportedly will meet privately tomorrow around noon Geneva time--

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, May 25, 2007


Navy Yard, NCIS hedquarters

11 a.m. EDT

The memorial service for Jenny Shepard was held on the grounds of the Navy Yard. McCallister cited security as the reason. He had his suits back off of Gibbs and his team, so they could have mourn and remember their former director with some measure of privacy.

After the 45-minute ceremony concluded, Gibbs gave his people a few hours to unwind and relax. God knows they've earned it, he thought while unwinding in his own way outside of his basement: focusing on the case with two large cups full of hot coffee.

He heard something and looked up at the top of the stairs, near MTAC: it was a suit making his rounds. Gibbs thought of McCallister, who in a different -- better -- world, would be nowhere near the director's chair. Even though Sergei Mishnev was credited in-house as Jenny's murderer (the official story was she was killed by an unnamed terrorist), Gibbs was certain only that he pulled the trigger, less certain if he did it on his own or was ordered to by his superiors....or, if someone else used him to eliminate their competition.

God help whomever did the deed.

2:40 p.m. EDT

"Stay safe, Stan...yeah, of course 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 and heard DiNozzo chuckle. "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," DiNozzo replied.

"The agent's brother was an Air Force pilot. He died a week ago when his plane was shot down near the Canal Zone by insurgents. The agent is the last surviving son of three; the middle brother died in a wreck four years ago."

"Geez," DiNozzo 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 DiNozzo stood in front of his desk. "You need somethin', DiNozzo?"

"Yeah. I need to talk about a case." Gibbs picked up on DiNozzo’s tell and got up to walk to the elevator, DiNozzo 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, and told me I'm done," DiNozzo replied. After several moments of silence -- and an impatient look by Gibbs -- DiNozzo resumed speaking. "I got too close."

"The daughter."

"I did what you’re not supposed to do, Boss. I got…too close to 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," DiNozzo 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?" DiNozzo reached over and flipped the switch causing the elevator to move.

Gibbs flipped the switch again, and the lights darkened as the elevator stopped. "Yeah, Tony, you got too close."

" Boss. I know that. I screwed up, got too damn close, pissed off the director--"


Gibbs looked hard at DiNozzo 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," DiNozzo 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 DiNozzo inside. "What's that crap you get from the cafe?"

"...Oh! It's a latte, Boss."

“Go upstairs.”

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.

8:30 p.m. EDT

Mrs. Victoria Mallard's residence, also known as 'Ducky's house'

Everyone but Gibbs and Franks were staying with Dr. Mallard, his mother Victoria and her dozen corgi dogs at their mansion. Ducky was happy for the company. He thought that his mother was, too, even if she didn’t quite show it.

"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!" DiNozzo 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 in regards to preparation for war."

Ziva nearly dropped her phone in shock.
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Part Two: Chapter 26
Chapter 26

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C.

1:01 a.m. EDT

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 next 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 headquarters

8:15 a.m. EDT

"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 to whom?" 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."

Out in the facility's 'B' 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. "You’re telling me that all of this protection is his way of vetting me and my team."

"Pretty much."

"Hell of a way to vet us. Anything else?"

"At some point, nearly every federal agency who's worked with McCallister or his team has vetted him," Fornell said. "Jenny undoubtedly did—”

“Can’t ask her about it, though.”

No. You didn’t hear any of this from me, especially this last part.”

“Go on.”

“I got a look at a report some of our profilers did on him, for people way above our pay grades. Report basically said he gives the appearance of being a shady bastard, but he’s ‘our shady bastard’. He's allegedly done some things, nothing too bad has 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 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?"

"Probably not. Nothing stuck."

"What about Jenny's death?"

"No on her. 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. Even if they didn’t bother to read you in."

"Good to know. Something bugs me about this guy. If he didn't kill Jenny to get her job--" Gibbs wondered aloud.

“You could ask the Secretary of the Navy.”

“Trying to keep all this under McCallister’s radar. It’s hard as hell to get to SecNav. If I did, that would definitely tip Riley off.”

"Your best bet might be to ask him yourself. 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.

WBAL radio, Baltimore

--Despite the protests downtown, the Orioles' game against the Gotham Knights will go on as scheduled but will be moved up to a 1:05 p.m. start. The NCAA men's lacrosse semifinals will go on today at M&T Bank Stadium but be moved up earlier: Johns Hopkins plays Duke at 10 a.m., Harvard and Denver at 12:30 p.m. The state high school track championships have been pushed back a week while the state association seeks an alternate venue, possibly at the University of Maryland in College Park. We're one day away from the running of the Indianapolis 500--

WCBM radio, Baltimore

--two groups of protestors in the downtown area. The first is made up of several groups, all calling for peace between the U.S. and USSR in the wake of the Geneva Summit. The second is led by a coalition of African-American and liberal groups, calling for transparency in regards to reported shortages at stores in the inner city. Frederique Chantall, chairperson for the Coalition for a United Baltimore:

‘We want to know why our city government has not spoken out about the trucks being denied access to stores and pharmacies, even clinics and churches where many go to get food, clothing and medicine. We want to know why the police department is participating in preventing these trucks from making their scheduled deliveries.’

Spokespersons for Mayor O'Malley and Police Commissioner Hamm called the allegations 'ridiculous'. However, Amy McPherson, the president for the Americans for Peace chapter at Johns Hopkins University, says the city government and police department have to answer the allegations:

‘We hear the news from Geneva and cannot help but wonder if this is the first step towards preparing for the worst, and if so, is part of that preparation denying the poorest among us their right to necessities.’
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Part Two: Chapter 27
Chapter 27

--from The Daily Planet Magazine, dated May 27, 2007:

To understand how the two superpowers got to where they are now, one must go back to World War II.

The United States and the United Kingdom joined forces with the Soviet Union to end the war 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 West 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-to-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 Terry Sanford 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 Community in Angola; the organization posited itself as a neutral organization while boasting that seven of its initial 11 member nations “have been recently liberated from aggressive Western powers". Over the course of the decade, the African Community and its members increased their ties to Moscow. By the mid-1980s, the now 19-nation strong organization considered itself a "dear friend of the workers and peasants of the world". The African Community 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. Two years later, the Soviets' actions set the world teetering on the edge of Armageddon.

From March through September, pro-Moscow governments were installed in 15 nations -- Bialya; Cambodia; Colombia; El Salvador; Guatemala; Guyana; Iran; Markovia; Nepal; Qurac; Sierra Leone; Sudan; Thailand; Venezuela; and Vlatavia. 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-Czechoslovakian 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 began in those Yugoslavian socialist republics, and also in Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo. Moscow's response was an intensive conventional bombing of all of Yugoslavia that killed a reported 400,000 people. Moscow followed up with 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 West Germany, South Korea and complete U.S. withdrawal from Guantanamo 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 operation of a future moon base with the U.S. under United Nations jurisdiction.

The offer was said to have been turned down by Reagan on Air Force One as it landed at the Fort Knox/Godman Air Force Base military facility 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 Pacific Ocean. Simultaneously the British detonated a 100-megaton device south of the Pitcairn Islands, its last Pacific Ocean-based territory. And China detonated its own 100 MT weapon over the 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 took power. American political scientist and author William Taubman wrote of the coup d’etat in his biography,

He arrived at the Kremlin and saw Romanov dragged out of the office. Gorbachev barely acknowledged the now-deposed leader’s curses as the KGB officers led him away, and walked straight to the desk where, minutes before, Romanov had been speaking with high-ranking military and KGB officials about military preparations for war.

Gorbachev sat down and, within minutes, a conference call involving his co-conspirators was set up. After getting confirmation that all important military, government and intelligence centers had been secured, the new Soviet leader ordered an emergency meeting of the Politburo. Only three members, all loyal to Gorbachev, arrived; the other members had been arrested. Gorbachev became General Secretary through a simple 3-0 vote; his first official act was to contact the Marshal of the Soviet Union and the KGB Secretary, both of whom were both co-conspirators and sympathizers, and ascertain their loyalty to the Soviet Union – and to himself. Satisfied with their affirmative answers, Gorbachev then contacted Reagan to inform him of the coup, and of his vow to pull back his country’s forces and ‘bring my country back into sanity’. Gorbachev said he would be open to ‘perestroika’ and ‘glasnost’ with the U.S. and the West, and offered to meet Reagan anywhere in the world.

On November 1, Gorbachev addressed his country, and the world, announcing himself as General Secretary. He said "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, however begrudgingly. Yugoslavia's nine nations were allowed to begin a five-year transition to independence upon confirmation by popular vote: the Markovia, 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 Community into the African Confederation 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 dismantle their own nuclear arsenals.

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 traveled to Washington, London, Paris, Bonn, Tokyo, Rome, Canberra and Beijing – the capitals of the leading Western powers, along with the capital of China – “in the name of true peace”. His visit to West Berlin gave hope to those who wanted the Berlin Wall torn down; on his word, East Germany allowed free movement between both halves of the city for the first time in four decades. In 1990, the Berlin Wall began coming down. Gorbachev spoke of the Soviet Union sharing medical and scientific research with the West, and of a joint exploration of the solar system with the Americans and Chinese, beginning with a joint mission to the Moon.

Behind the scenes, however, political opposition slowly built against Gorbachev. Glasnost and perestroika would not last long.

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 five former Yugoslavian republics which had split from Moscow. 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, and a popular uprising in Markovia resulted in the restoration of the Markovian monarchy. As the six free republics (now including Markovia) 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 part of the Warsaw Pact; both countries militaries -- supported by Soviet, Warsaw Pact and Luanda Pact 'advisors' -- brutally put down Islamist resistance forces. 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 Community -- threatened not just the Western-friendly governments of South Africa and the Boer Republic but such neutrally-aligned regional powers as Kenya and Nigeria.

Largely to dispel international tensions and stave off potential Soviet incursions, a sizeable group of countries reaffirmed their commitment to a third political bloc: the Non-Aligned Movement. Each associated nation declared neutrality in the dispute between East and West, 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 their 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 as much of an adversary by those in charge in Moscow as the United States; it is seen as one of the likely reasons that former Soviet leader Vladimir Putin was deposed. 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.

Throughout 2006 and the early part of 2007, the Soviet Union built up its forces in several key areas -- Cuba, Nicaragua and Honduras and off the coasts of the Dominican People's Republic 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.

On September 26, 2006, Dimitri Arvatov, a Soviet defector and professor of Pact Military Doctrine at Metropolis State University, told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that Khalinin and his top advisors are confident the Pact would win an all-out nuclear war. A Newstime article in November 2006 ran claims by unnamed Western operatives that, privately, many World Pact governmental, military and intelligence leaders acknowledge that an all-out exchange would spell the end of civilization. There are known separatist groups and individuals known as 'doomsday preppers' all over the western world preparing for survival after such an exchange. Then there are wild rumors spread by the Western internet of vast complexes across the U.S. and the USSR; Kentucky State Police recently arrested preppers who had tried to access Mammoth Cave in southern Kentucky, looking for 'Vault 52' while Illinois State Police arrested four individuals looking for a supposed federal government facility entrance underneath the movie theatre in the 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. Many individuals, from Congresspersons to talk show hosts, 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 around the world, hope 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. 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 hoping for the very best, while also preparing for the very worst.
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Part Two: Chapter 28
Chapter 28

Saturday, May 26, 2007

As heard over Virginia Public Radio, 11:01 a.m. EDT/4:01 p.m. GMT

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--

Navy Yard, NCIS headquarters


DiNozzo 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. She quietly moved a half-full bottle of water from behind his keyboard to the edge of the desk, just over his crotch.

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.

As she was about to push the button on the air horn, a frighteningly loud shriek came from the row behind Kate and Gibbs' desk, from a woman about 40 feet away from the bullpen. DiNozzo shot up from his chair, knocking over the half-full bottle of water onto his pants. But no one, even himself, noticed his mishap; everyone’s attention was firmly on the shrieking woman.

Kate rushed over to her side and, with the help of two other coworkers, calmed her down as a bewildered DiNozzo 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 DiNozzo, 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 to give the Goth-garbed forensic scientist.


"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 radio 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. 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, readers and viewers.

"Mother, the BBC has admitted they made an error," Ducky said calmly. "Don't worry, please. 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 paper 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 at least five places you could start World War III 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’m here to find out what you know about Amsterdam, 1991. And a former NIS agent. 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. Mother 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 are 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 mother 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 mother 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, thought Ducky, someone in the cabinet or military went over the Prime Minister's head, forcing him to relieve them of their duties. Powers has fought his way up the political ladder into 10 Downing Street and is known not to tolerate dissent from his underlings. Hopefully that will be enough to keep everyone else in London in line.

God only knows what Washington will do if it isn't.

NOTE TO THE READER: 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 The dates in the piece incorrectly reflect 2008 as the current year ITTL. The mistake is mine, not rvbomally's.
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Part Two: Chapter 29
Chapter 29

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Washington, D.C.

Navy Yard, NCIS headquarters

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.

"Leon Vance was a young man from Chicago recruited out of the Naval War College. He had some ideas the agency was interested in."

"What kind of 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."

Gibbs said nothing.

"DAMN it--" 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. I know you had me as a possible suspect in her death."

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 would never kill one of our own," he said in a low growl, giving Gibbs a look that would peel paint. "I would never kill someone to get their job, and yes, 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 you dare 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 DiNozzo 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 half-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, and 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 nor with the Communists."

"He trained someone who is, Gibbs. You may not know this, but there are people here in Washington who trust once and verify again and again. Especially where Eli David's family is concerned."

"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 she was. 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.

Gibbs's home


--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 DVDx-ah and Cadillacs and designer CLOTHES-ah won't feed you in THE WORLD TO COME--


--Charlotte Motor Speedway was packed tonight as an overwhelmingly patriotic crowd watched qualifying for Sunday's NASCAR Coca-Cola 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...angry voters. Number ten--


--here at QVC 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-- >click<


--only 2,000 fans in the stadium for this morning's NCAA men's lacrosse Final Four games, and a season-low 1,967 at Camden Yards to see the Orioles play, as demonstrators protested just blocks away from both stadiums. Several streets downtown remain restricted at this hour while police attempt to keep both protests from turning violent--


--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' – as our visitors from Coast City, California did – instead are sent to another destination, one with state troopers and federal authorities—


Sitting in Gibbs's basement with a remote in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other, 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.

Franks 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," Franks 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.

“Read this,” Gibbs said as he handed the folder to Franks. Gibbs sat down as Franks began reading through the folder, and over the next hour explained in detail what Hollis Mann had told him about the portal near the Pentagon, and their trip where they snuck into the facility so he could see the ring for himself.

Franks’s response when Gibbs finished was succinct.

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Part Two: Chapter 30
Chapter 30

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Washington, D.C.

Leroy Jethro Gibbs's basement

As Franks 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."

Franks 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. "As a suspect or as a bastard? "

"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? From what you know about the man, can you work for him?"

Silence filled the basement as both men left the other to his thoughts. Franks soon got up from his chair, quietly, to head upstairs and outside for a late smoke break.

"Got no choice," Gibbs said as Franks ascended the stairs.

"You always have a choice," Franks 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."

Sunday, May 30, 2007

Noon EDT

--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-


--protestors have established a presence in Virginia Highlands Park, close to the Pentagon, calling for peace. So far there have been no incidents with either Arlington police or Army observers--


--Baltimore police broke up a skirmish between Army veterans and a group of pro-peace college students this morning, even as much of Baltimore's police force and the Maryland National Guard are shadowing protestors downtown and in several city neighborhoods. The Orioles game will start at 11 a.m. at Camden Yards, and the NCAA lacrosse final is still scheduled for Monday, otherwise, downtown is restricted only to 'essential' traffic--


--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 18 scheduled Major League Baseball games, plus the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 races, the NBA playoff games in Cleveland and Metropolis--


--an overwhelmingly patriotic crowd here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to watch the Indianapolis 500--

The Mallard house

While appreciative of her host's hospitality and happy to be there with her NCIS family, Kate wanted to be somewhere besides Victoria 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 DiNozzo -- flanked by McGee and a suit named Curtis -- was flipping through the channels on the 40-inch high-definition flat-screen television set. Kate sat down on the opposite edge of the couch next to McGee; DiNozzo laid back from his edge of the couch, with Curtis standing to his side.

"Hey Kate," DiNozzo 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 DiNozzo 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," DiNozzo 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 DiNozzo could answer. "For the thousandth time, I haven't been to it since my senior year in high school. I 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," DiNozzo 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 DiNozzo 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 Kenny and Taylor 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--OMIGOD."

Kate heard a loud boom, then 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, turning in her direction.

"Kate!!! KATE!!!"

"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, were you?"

"I saw the flash and heard an explosion."

"You saw and heard 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..."

DiNozzo 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. He stopped at the channel for the CBS affiliate.

--This is a CBS News special report. I'm Russ Mitchell from 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 via our local affiliate WISH via email and via a short, one-sentence release from the Associated Press's Indianapolis bureau--


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.
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Part Three: Chapter 31
Chapter 31

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Georgetown, D.C.

NCIS Director Riley McCallister's home office

As the Director of NCIS, every day was a workday 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 operations division, and now as its director, McCallister gave his all 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 his 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. Television screens monitored the ABC, CBS, GBS and NBC network affiliates, plus the CNN, Fox News, GBS NewsNet, MSNBC and ZNN news channels.

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 ABC's coverage 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:


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 well damn visible outside the county and most of the state all the way north at least to Lafayette, south into Louisville, Kentucky. 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 and things are gonna escalate real 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 its 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--'

Excuse me, Angie, this bulletin has just been handed to me....UPI is reporting that a plane, believed to be a TWA 747, has crashed just west of the suburb of Plainfield, possibly due to the explosion or the flash from it--

Gibbs's house

Back at his Baja California beach house, Franks could smoke wherever and whenever he wanted.

At Gibbs's home, Franks could smoke whenever he wanted, just not in the house.

As he sat on the front porch, Franks saw several people out for a walk in the usually quiet neighborhood. A man and his son tossed a baseball around in one yard, a woman tossed a softball to her daughter in another, and a family kicked around a soccer ball in yet another. People are enjoying themselves, and that’s a damned good thing to see, he decided.

He waved to a couple walking past the house, and saw a woman grilling something in the front yard: he wasn’t sure if that was a violation of neighborhood rules, but if it was, she wasn’t the only one.

Maybe I can talk Jethro into grilling a couple of them cowboy steaks, he thought, as a kid ran out of the house to pull the woman inside. Franks considered walking over to see what might be wrong and if he could help, then noticed other people running into own homes. One of them was the next-door neighbor, who literally dropped her cell phone on the grass.

“Hey! You okay?”, Franks shouted at the woman.

“Indianapolis,” she said, picking up her phone and running back inside.

Franks decided to head downstairs and see what the hell was going on.

“Jethro! You got that TV on?” he yelled as he hurriedly ran down the steps into the basement. Gibbs, sanding one of the planks on the frame of his boat, looked up just as his own cell phone rang. “Yeah, Gibbs,” he said; moments later, he ran to the TV nearby and turned up the volume. The set was tuned to ZNN.

--news sources are reporting a massive, loud explosion in the Indianapolis area, possibly near the Indianapolis Motor--

"Turn it to 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?...You stay with her, Tony. I'm on my way."

Gibbs took off towards the stairs. “Something happen over there, Jethro?”, Franks said.

"Kate's family lives in Indianapolis," Gibbs said as he ran up the door. "They were all at the Speedway."

"Holy shit," Franks muttered as Gibbs sprinted up the stairs and out to his sedan as quickly as he had run in years.

The Mallard 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..."

DiNozzo 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," DiNozzo quietly told Ziva, McGee and Ducky.

"What does Jethro know about...the explosion?" Ducky said in a near-whisper.

"Same as we do."

McCallister’s home office

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:

  • 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 or Mexican cartels could not be completely ruled out.
  • U.S. armed forces worldwide remain at Defense Readiness Condition (DEFCON) 3 by 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 that crashed near Plainfield after the pilots were blinded by the flash from the blast. Conservative estimates put fatalities from the fallout over residential areas at 30,000.
  • The plane, which had flown out of St. Louis, had 132 passengers, plus pilots and stewards and stewardnesses.
  • 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 McConnell remains in Washington at the White House, 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, most members of the Indianapolis-Marion County Council, and many members 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. Firefighters were being brought in from Terre Haute, Greensburg, Mooresville, Kokomo and Lafayette to assist around the blast area and at the TWA crash site.
  • The 465 loop, Interstates 65, 70 and 74, and "any road going out of town" were already 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. Agent Todd’s from there, isn’t she?”


“Gibbs, I’m sorry…please convey my condolences 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.
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Part Three: Chapter 32
Chapter 32

Sunday, May 30, 2007

--I'm David Eddings here in Metropolis, on the GBS Television Network, on GBS NewsNet and all GBS cable channels. If you have not heard, there was a major explosion in Indianapolis, Indiana at 12:18 p.m. Eastern time, centered at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where an estimated crowd of over 200,000 fans were in attendance to watch the Indianapolis 500 auto race. The mushroom cloud has been spotted at least as far as Louisville, Kentucky; Dayton, Ohio; and South Bend, Indiana, while the flash was noticed as far north as Chicago. Officials are not calling it a nuclear bomb -- to repeat, officials are NOT calling this a nuclear explosion -- but the situation on the ground in Indianapolis is still nothing less than chaotic.

Reports so far out of the city are few and far between, with television and radio stations in the area off the air. What we're hearing comes from the Associated Press and from emails sent to other media outlets from inside the city. This includes reports of thick smoke and broken windows all over the downtown area, gridlock on every road going out of the city, and Indiana National Guard vehicles speeding into the city.

We do have someone on the ground, someone who was at the studios of GBS affiliate WTTV when the bomb went off, reporter Scott Turner, who is on the road and, as far as we know, the first person reporting live from the city after the explosion. Scott, first off, our condolences to you and to everyone in the community.

TURNER (seen standing in front of an endless row of cars, with the last of the smoke from the mushroom cloud in the background): Thank you,'s been...rough, to say the least.

HEMMER: Scott, tell us where you are, and what is going on there.

TURNER: David, we're on the side of Interstate 70 heading east. We're just north of the suburb of Greenwood, and as you can see (the camera pans left to right), this road is gridlocked. From what I've been told by Indianapolis police, EVERY road out of the city is gridlocked. Right now, it seems as if the only thing going on here in Marion County is people trying to get out, anywhere they can, however they can. Sam, if you'll follow me (talks into the camera, and Turner begins walking towards the vehicles), we're going to see if anyone will talk to us.

(Turner picks out a man in the driver's seat of a Dodge Ram pickup truck, and walks over to the vehicle. There's a woman in the passenger seat, and three kids in the back seat)

TURNER: Sir? Scott Turner, WTTV 4 Eyewitness News, would you be willing to talk with us for a few minutes.


TURNER: We're also on the GBS network--

PASSENGER: Are we at war? We being attacked?

DRIVER: Dolores, please--

TURNER: Ma'am, to my knowledge, the only incident was here in Indianapolis.

PASSENGER: If you're the news, seems like you could tell us a lot more than we can tell you. (The camera pans to both sides of the truck, and others are either getting out of their vehicles or sticking their heads out their windows).

TURNER: Tell you what. I'll tell you what I know, but I'd like to hear your perspective first.


TURNER: Very good...sir, what's your name?

DRIVER: Riley Parker, this is Dolores, and my kids Sean, Bridget and Talia in the back.

TURNER: Mr. Parker, how long have you been here on the road?

DRIVER: A half-hour? We were in the house when we saw the biggest flash you ever seen. I knew it was a nuclear bomb. We got what we needed to get and jumped in the truck in five minutes and when we got on the interstate, it was crowded but moving, at a crawl. We stopped about a half-hour ago, haven’t moved since. We can't go anywhere. Some guy on a bike drove by a little bit ago; he said the state police's got the interstate blocked all the way to Richmond.

TURNER (looking at the camera): For the benefit of our viewers, Richmond is close to the Ohio state border. (turns to the driver) Mr. Parker, have you been told this by a police officer?

DRIVER: State police ain't sayin' jack to anybody except 'remain in your vehicles'. I heard that from another guy on a motorcycle, heading into town. He said FEMA ordered it, and they're setting up a refugee camp there.

TURNER: In Richmond?

DRIVER: Yeah, Richmond.

TURNER: Mr. Parker, that's one thing I haven't heard. I'll have our newsroom check on that. I did hear that people are being ordered to stay in their vehicles with the air conditioner turned off. Can you verify that for us?

DRIVER: Not me. I'm sure some people are, there's a lot of people outside. I'm here with the windows rolled down.

PASSENGER: Sir? Have you heard anything about fallout?

TURNER: No, ma'am, I haven't. We haven't been told this bomb was nuclear.

PASSENGER: NOT nuclear? That WAS a nuclear bomb--

DRIVER: If that's not a nuclear bomb, I don't know WHAT is.

The Mallard 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 the Mallard home and its occupants. As he opened a door, he felt a buzzing in his pocket; pulling out his phone, he saw a text, from McCallister:

Charles Todd and family confirmed alive and safe in an secure location near Indianapolis. Todd acting governor of Indiana. Maureen Ingalls and her family confirmed safe at Indiana University in Bloomington by local law enforcement.

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 only 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 enroute throwing things into their vehicles, like they're trying to get out of 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," DiNozzo 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 time to 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. Everyone. They're in a secure location outside the city. He's the acting governor, now. 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 noticeable 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, he thought. "Whatever we are, 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, and it is here for you and will be here for you no matter what happens. Kate, you will move forward and we're 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, DiNozzo -- 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 Katie Couric, 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 at this time.--
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Part Three: Chapter 33
Chapter 33

Sunday, May 30, 2007

5:17 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time U.S.A., 9:17 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time, 10:17 p.m. in Geneva, Switzerland

--it's fake? It's FAKE? (Shepard Smith shouting to someone off camera). UnBELIEvable...good God. Ladies and gentlemen, according to this report I've just been handed, the report of any explosion in East Germany is false. As if we've had enough to deal with today...—

--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 them there was no flash nor mushroom cloud anywhere in East Germany. RTL quickly reported a retraction and continues to report as such.--

--Mayor O'Malley has just declared Martial Law throughout the entire city of Baltimore. There are reports of rioting in numerous neighborhoods and hundreds of rioters attempting to make their way downtown through a blockade of Baltimore police and Maryland National Guardsmen—

--thousands of people are leaving Louisville in the wake of the Indianapolis explosion and the, now false, report of a similar explosion in East Germany. More than one person we've spoken with simply pointed north when asked why they were leaving the city--

--the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels and the George Washington Bridge are impassable, repeat, impassable. Hundreds of abandoned vehicles, drivers and passengers reportedly leaving those vehicles and walking out away from Manhattan—

--hundreds of people impromptly singing John Lennon's "Imagine" acapella here on Michigan Avenue, while panicked residents in high-rises along Michigan Avenue are trying to catch a taxi or bus or anything that could get them to O'Hare or Midway—

--an unknown group of rioters wearing a twisted clown's face on their clothing are clashing with pro-peace and pro-military demonstrators in Gotham's central business district. Gotham police are keeping their distance. Governor Waid, according to our sources inside the state capitol in Brookline, is considering sending in the New Troy National Guard--

--ABC News has learned from a Pentagon source that Al-Qaeda is now the prime suspect in the detonation of the Indianapolis bomb—

--CNN can confirm, via sources, the CIA now considers Mexican and Colombian drug cartels may be involved in the Indianapolis explosion—

--NBC News has heard, from sources inside the intelligence community, that domestic terrorist groups are being investigated for their ties to ‘international organizations’ who may have provided the materials for the bomb—

--GBS has been told by sources in Congress and the White House that 'every possible actor' is on the table as the cause for the explosion--

--ZNN's sources are not talking at this hour regarding any cause for the Indianapolis bomb--


--three dead at a shootout in Columbus, Ohio between shoppers at a Walmart--

--Florida Governor has ordered the National Guard to grocery stores and gas stations in Naples, after the brawl at a Publix where seven people were arrested and a shooting at a Winn-Dixie that left two people dead--

--9 News Now can confirm that Mayor Fenty will declare a State of Emergency for Washington and the entire District--

--as we await Secretary-General Rajapaksa's 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 Beria...--

Washington, D.C. area

The Mallard house

Agent 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, relaxing 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 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 DiNozzo -- 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 Army 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 getting into details of a conversation with the director that he didn’t clear either of you for, I did as much due diligence as I could," 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, Wells?" Gibbs replied in a calm and deliberate tone. McGee asked himself what side of Gibbs he'd show next. "I’m not cleared to 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."

"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 Agent McGee drives," Wells told her.

"The, uh, Boxster," McGee said in response to her look of confusion.

Franks was waved through the checkpoint, then drove up to the house and parked behind McGee's car. He was escorted to the front porch by two suits, who said nothing 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."

Arlington, Virginia

The Pentagon

Colonel Steve Trevor had a headache, and the four Advil he had just popped in his mouth weren't helping. His back, though, felt a little better.

Pouring himself a cup of coffee, he watched the three TV monitors in his office, tuned respectively to Fox News Channel, CBS and CNN. The career Air Force man had been an optimist all his life, and he saw numerous paths that could keep the Indianapolis bomb from leading to World War III.

His gut, though, was telling him something else. Something he did not want to be told or think about.

Trevor was also a man who prepared for any possibility; he had a plan for every potential scenario he could think of in a given situation. That trait saved his life in Iraq, on 9/11 and during that strange trip he took to that Mediterranean island that, officially, never happened. He planned and worked his way up the ladder to where he was now: part of what is called the Joint Staff, a group of officers from the five armed services of the United States government that assist the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in discharging their duties. Officially, Trevor was charged with overseeing domestic threats from anti-American sympathizers. His true responsibilities were radically different.

The Colonel's position was new, so new in fact a formal name still had yet to be settled upon. What Trevor did was oversee 'unusual phenomena', a very broad term that covered everything from UFOs to zombies to aliens. It was an extension of what he had been responsible before while working for the Department of Defense, and it made him privy to some incredible and terrible secrets the government was desperate to cover up. Trevor sometimes told friends and associates that "99 percent of what I'm responsible for is bullshit. It's the one percent that I have to be deadly serious about".

That one percent included the ring complex, such as the one underneath the former mall just blocks away from his office. He, effectively, ran the rings operating within U.S. territory from here to Guam, and had the power to open them up to the public or shut them down to all but a small elite. So far, he had openly heeded his bosses's 'encouragement' to limit access to 'approved' personnel. From them, he kept secret the various clandestine groups of people -- federal agents, military officers, police officers, adventurers -- investigating these rings, and even taking trips through them.

It was because of Steve Trevor that Hollis Mann and her group knew as much about the rings as they did, and their still being alive to tell the tale to others.
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Part Three: Chapter 34
Chapter 34

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Mallard house

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, Jacqueline, 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 Jacqueline 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 report," he replied. "As best anyone knows, someone in the West German media jumped the gun and put something on the air before confirming it. In these times, that was not a wise thing to do. If I may ask you, Jacqueline, what would this be the end of?"

"The end times."

Ducky had grown to like Jacqueline 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 Jacqueline's connections of current events and biblical prophecy, though.

Her 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, Star City 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 across the nation.--

"Good Lord," Jacqueline 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 the state’s Emergency Powers Act giving him complete power until the General Assembly can reconvene 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 on the remote. 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, Jacqueline?" 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?

KATIE COURIC: Desmond, I'm here. What about the Secretary-General's address--

DESMOND LITTNER: 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.

COURIC: This means the President and his delegation are heading back to the U.S.?

LITTNER: 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'.

COURIC: Desmond, have you seen any sign of that happening, the American delegation, the Soviets, or the British, French--

LITTNER: 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.

COURIC: 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?

LITTNER: No, Katie. The source didn't say a whole, excuse me, it appears the U.N. Secretary-General Rajapaksa 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 Rajapaksa 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.

If and when war broke out, Ducky 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, Palmer might be ordered to put down his scalpel and pick up a gun. Palmer certainly would be able to defend himself -- the thwarted attack by a Stasi wanna-be domestic terrorist last year led the young assistant to take up jiu jitsu and mixed martial arts which in turn both gave him confidence and lit a small flame of rage, always simmering under the surface, but never displayed at work and always let out inside the octagon-sided cage.

On second thought, Palmer might be sent to the front lines to fight.

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 -- if I can get him to stay here stateside -- could 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 here on Earth, this Earth, so Godspeed, my friend, to you and your family."

Ducky heard the click in his earpiece, then took a minute for himself to ponder the conversation. Last time we talk on Earth? 'This Earth'?!? And a ring? What would Jethro know about it?

Before he realized it, he was headed downstairs towards the kitchen, first to have Jacqueline 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.

Arlington, Virginia

The Pentagon

"Your car is waiting, Colonel."

Steve Trevor acknowledged his secretary's message, grabbed his briefcase off of his desk, and headed out of his office. Seven minutes later, he stepped into the back of his vehicle -- a Ford Expedition -- and told his driver to go to Washington, more specifically a northeast neighborhood named Capitol View.

"Capitol View?", the driver asked, rather unexpectedly to the Colonel. "Sir, is that..." The USAF Second Lieutenant's voice trailed off.

"Lieutenant," the Colonel said, softly but with a steely firmness to his voice, "when you're given an order, you do it. But you know that already."

"Of course, sir," the Lieutenant replied, chastened by his response, but no less concerned. He had heard the wild rumors about the violence in the civilian parts of the city, fueled by rumors and reports of similar violence in other large cities across the country.

The Ford Expedition left the Pentagon complex and got onto I-395, beginning its short journey into the city.

Passing the U.S. Capitol building, Trevor noted the presence of a small Army battalion in the vicinity. He counted at least seven Patriot anti-ballistic missile systems in the area, some camouflaged, some right out in the open for anyone to see. One was mounted over the hall of the House of Representatives, to the left of the building’s dome.

The Expedition took I-395 to New York Avenue NW, then turned right, and drove a short distance before turning right onto Florida Avenue NE. The vehicle drove past the entrance to Gallaudet University, and dozens of students and professors holding peace signs behind a row of at least two dozen police officers dressed in riot gear sealing off the entrance.

“Lord Almighty,” Trevor muttered.

Florida Avenue NE became Benning Road NE, which soon ran into East Capitol Street SE, which the Expedition turned onto. As the vehicle approached Trevor’s destination, he was struck by the crowds of people walking on foot towards one of eight churches in the vicinity. Given his experiences the past two decades, Trevor had gone through stages of indifference, atheism, and belief. He currently considered himself a believer in God, and had taken to exploring a deceased aunt’s Anglican faith.

Trevor decided he would have liked to visit one of these churches on a day like this. Instead, he was headed for a meeting that, officially, wasn’t taking place.

He told the driver to pull into the parking lot of a mall that had seen better days. The only store still open was St. John’s Kitchen, and Trevor was sure the cafe would be empty. He knew this because the man he was here to talk with would have made certain that the cafe was free of anyone who had no business there. The presence of four black SUVs in the otherwise empty lot affirmed it.

“Stay here,” Trevor told his driver, who wasn’t about to do otherwise.

Trevor got out of the Expedition and walked inside, nodding to two men in black suits. One pointed towards the back, where Trevor’s contact waited impatiently.

“I figured the perks of being a Colonel in the Air Force meant something,” said Riley McCallister, as he got up to shake Trevor’s hand. “Like being able to speed down the street.”

“The speed limits are there for a reason, Director,” Trevor replied. “Even an officer like me has to obey them.”

“Well, I did want you here and not in intensive care, Colonel,” McCallister said. “Don’t worry about a thing. This restaurant’s secure. My people swept it and the adjacent businesses.”

“Couldn’t you have at least picked something a little better, Director? One of my people knows someone who runs a Greek restaurant.”

“Send me the address and I’ll pencil it in for next time,” McCallister said. “I have a favor to ask you, and I realize I owe you one, or two—“

“Two? Try four.”

“Yes. But you owe me one, too, that I’ve never called in.”

“You’re about to call it in.”

“Yep. The ring.”

“The ring.”


“Who?” Trevor knew McCallister wanted to get someone access to one of the rings within the domestic ring complex.

“Some of my people.”

“Like an assistant director?”

“Some of my agents, including Leroy Jethro Gibbs. You know his girlfriend, Colonel. I want him and his people to get through, when the shit hits the fan.”
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Part Three: Chapter 35
Chapter 35

--President Boehner will address the nation at 9 p.m. Eastern time--

Washington, D.C.

Capitol View neighborhood

St. John's Kitchen

"You do get right to the point, don't you, you wiley old fox?" Colonel Trevor leaned back in his chair while McCallister waited for him to say yes to his 'request'.

Trevor did owe McCallister a favor, though, several times over, for all the times McCallister saved him during one of their numerous missions. Trevor knew he would not be here if McCallister and his people hadn't been there during a shootout with the KGB in Afghanistan. Nor would he be here if McCallister hadn't radioed him to stay in place, which kept him from walking on a landmine planted by a member of the Reynosa cartel in northern Mexico.

There were the numerous black ops missions that McCallister was heavily involved in, that everyone in Washington who knew about them had gone to great lengths to keep hidden. Some of those missions would fuel his nightmares for the rest of his life: how many lives were taken, how much was covered up, in the name of national security? If another path had been taken, Trevor had asked himself on several occasions, would the world be at peace?

Probably not,
Trevor had decided. Perhaps the best thing the black ops missions had done was erase all real evidence of extraterrestrials - and eliminate whatever threats they posed.

Perhaps, with the knowledge of alien artifacts and societies somewhere out in the vastness of space, Earth would be at war - or conquered by one or more of those races.

But what about the threats covered up, and eliminated, from Earth?

Years ago during the Balkan War, Trevor and seven other USAF jets flew from their base in Belgrade westwards, to support Greece Air Force jets which were on an intercept course with a dozen Soviet jets over Greek territory. In an instant everything whited out around Trevor, and he briefly thought he was dead. Instead, he found himself crashing into the water near an island that never showed up on any charts or satellite photos, rescued by some of the most beautiful women he had laid eyes on.

Most of them were interested in Trevor only as some potential invader from 'man's world'. Some took a more personal interest. One in particular came to care about and for him.

She haunted his dreams for years, especially after the General jammed the syringe in his neck to knock him out, when he wanted nothing more than to stay with her even if he had to live and die on a boat.

He was told about the nuke when he woke up on the C-130. All to protect the country, the General assured him.

Trevor has never forgiven the General for that, nor for the other actions taken in the name of national security.

The alien lantern with the bright emerald hue. The fight with the winged, Hawk-helmeted warriors from God knew where. The young, scared half-human, half-cyborg man fighting a losing battle against a platoon.

The humanoid baby, found in a spaceship that crashed in a Kansas wheatfield, laying on the autopsy table and bathed in that depressing red light, scientists mining the corpse for scientific knowledge or whatever it was they did to rationalize to themselves that they hadn't just committed infanticide.

She, though...she no longer haunted his dreams, but sometimes she made an appearance in them, always telling him to fight for truth and justice, to do what was right, and to fight evil wherever it may be found. She couldn't do it herself, she would tell him, so he had to do that for her.

McCallister was involved in some of those operations, and he probably knew things that Trevor would never find out in this life. But Trevor knew McCallister objected to the killing of the alien infant, and the small, strange group of superpowered and non-powered individuals who wanted nothing more than to help others, and the half-cyborg young man, and the young woman who could breathe and live underwater...

Asking Trevor to help him get some of his NCIS people to the rings was, Trevor decided, McCallister's way of repentance for his sins of omission and commission.

"They don't deserve to die, Steve," McCallister said of Gibbs and his team.

"A lot of people don't deserve to die, Riley," Trevor replied. "A lot of people will die when -- if -- we go to war. A lot of people will deserve to go through those rings and not get to them."

"You're right."

"Why them?"

"I can do something to save them. With your help. Because you're already helping the Lieutenant Colonel, and you’ve made sure she and Gibbs weren't caught by the wrong people."

The Mallard house

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 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."

Franks 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 Franks 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 shall 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," Franks 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 wish to discuss this here. We need privacy, away from listening ears."

Gibbs told Ducky to follow him to his truck that Franks 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. 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 -- 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. FEMA camps are also being set up outside the city, in areas away from the fallout. 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 allotted 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--"

"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 four cartons of eggs, two one-gallon cartons of almond milk, two gallons of skim milk, a box of saltine crackers, a bag of jalapeno Doritos, a carton of salt, two loaves of bread, three boxes of frozen lasagna, two boxes of cheese, a pound of ground beef 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 ten allotted items to be a magazine or a bestselling paperback, they were in luck.

"Ten 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, 15 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’s really bugging 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..."

"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."


"What else have you yet to tell 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 Boehner. 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 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 Boehner is safe and in an undisclosed location discussing the Indianapolis bombing, and the situation in Geneva with his advisors, the Joint Chiefs, Congressional leaders--

(the reporters in the room shout over each other: seconds later, after yelling for calm, Hobard points at a reporter on the front row. "Yes.”

"Lois Lane, Daily Planet. Is the President here in the White House, in the Situation Room?"

"Can't tell you that. Undisclosed location for national security purposes. Next."--

--Vice President Mitch McConnell's call for calm seems to have resonated with most of the nation even as unrest continues in several cities--

--continued rioting in Baltimore after reports that trucks carrying food and medicine were rerouted away from inner-city neighborhoods--

--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 had been there just a half-hour, checking on field offices around the world, and pulled the phone out of his pocket to answer the call. "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. Is it real? Or is it a bunch of bull?"

McCallister sighed. Damnit, he thought. Why did Shepard talk Gibbs out of retiring to Mexico? Things would be a hell of a lot easier with one of my men in charge of that team. He cleared his throat. "We'll talk. You be in my office tomorrow, 0700, to debrief. Then you, McGee and Wells, at 0800 for the other 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 DiNozzo.

"Sorry, Boss," DiNozzo 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 news anchors 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...--
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Part Three: Chapter 36
Chapter 36

--"...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. The flash was seen as far as Chicago and Kentucky, and affected the pilots of TWA Flight 11, which was en route to Indianapolis International Airport from St. Louis: the plane crashed west of Indianapolis, in a field in Clayton, taking the lives of 138 people.

For comparison's sake, the bomb that destroyed Kyoto at the end of World War II was a yield of 30 kilotons, the same yield as in Indianapolis earlier today. The bomb that destroyed Nagasaki was 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. in the South Pacific Ocean in 1986 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 security of 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: businesspeople, 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 the surviving members of the General Assembly. The Indianapolis/Marion County government is under the emergency management of the state government. All state 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. State agencies, whose headquarters are in the fire- and smoke-damaged area of Indianapolis, are being reconstituted in a secure location that will be made known to the public in the coming days. I am told a decision on an interim state capitol will be made in the next 24 hours and announced immediately.

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. Detroit, Charlotte, Buffalo, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Louisville, Memphis, Baltimore, and many smaller cities and towns have taken in the injured. 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 from Indianapolis journeyed to New York City after the attacks on September 11, 2001.

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, but 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; South Bend; Fort Wayne; Bloomington; Lafayette; Richmond; Terre Haute; Evansville; Jasper; Paoli; Pekin; Madison; Scottsburg; Jeffersonville; Henryville; North Vernon; 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 Ford and the South wellfields. 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.

If I may, let me address the crash of TWA Flight 11. The National Transportation Safety Board is taking the lead on the investigation. Again, my heart goes out to the survivors of those lost onboard, as it does for those survivors of the bomb attack. The people manning the control tower at Indianapolis Airport were obviously taken surprise by the explosion at the Speedway, but they did their duty in communicating with the pilots onboard Flight 11. Based on the NTSA's initial interviews, we do not currently believe the crash was caused by anything other than the pilots being blinded by the flash. I must also commend those aboard the control tower for bringing in four other scheduled flights during and after the explosion, and diverting several others to nearby airports.

I know many of you are angry at those who perpetrated this atrocity; so am I. I know all of you want justice; so do I. Many of you want vengeance; I understand. Intelligence is coming in literally by the moment that brings us closer to finding out for certain who was behind this attack. When we learn that information, we will then give you, the American people, as much information as we are able. And we will act.

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. As I said, 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 have given their lives over the years so that their fellow Americans and fellow humans 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 Clayton 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. My thoughts also will be with those who have lost loved ones and friends, and for those who have been taken from us. 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..."
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Part Three: Chapter 37
Chapter 37

Sunday, May 27, 2007


10:37 p.m. EDT

As Gibbs pulled into his driveway, he wasn't surprised in the least to see two suits waiting for him on the front porch. Their presence – while still unwanted – had become routine.

He got out of the truck, greeted both suits, and briefly looked around the neighborhood. He was surprised that many of the houses along the street were still occupied; he knew a couple of families had decided to get out of the city. No one else had chosen to follow them – yet.

As he approached the steps onto his porch, he noticed a faint sound coming from his next-door neighbor's house. He turned and saw the neighbor's 11-year-old daughter Erica peeking out from behind the blinds in the front window. He 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, an older former NIS agent who had been coaxed back into service by McCallister. "Good to see you got home safely. Mr. Franks stayed behind at Dr. Mallard's, then?"

"Yeah," Gibbs replied as he walked inside. "Gonna get some rest."

The suits saw Gibbs grab a beer from the refrigerator before heading to his basement, nodded to their comrades sitting outside on the street in unmarked SUVs, and walked to the kitchen. A minute later, Carey – a probationary agent with just two months on the job – heard the sound of nails being hammered into wood. “He calls that rest?”, she said.

“Hey. Everybody’s got their way of winding down,” Ronald replied.

"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 them.

His heart ached for Kate, for the unimaginable loss she would endure probably for the rest of her life. He himself would never get over the loss of Shannon and Kelly, and he missed his own late father greatly despite their estranged relationship. Gibbs would be damned, though, if he didn't do all that 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 during the late director’s first year on the job. Gibbs realized had Jenny died a few months earlier, before President Broome's assassination, he'd have been working through his grief by growling at his team and tearing apart his boat while they worked day and night (literally) to find her killer. 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 ago when he met the man at the Navy Yard, when NCIS was still the Naval Investigative Service. Although McCallister's claims on the director's chair were legitimate, and the investigation into Jenny's death had (so far) 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.

Could she possibly, as DiNozzo once remarked (without realizing Gibbs had 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 had thrown it at the wall, not realizing it until he heard the thud – and Carey and Roland had heard the noise, too. Before the hammer stopped moving, Roland was in the doorway at the top of the stairs. "Agent Gibbs! Are you alright?", Carey yelled out as she flew down the stairs into the basement, weapon drawn.

"Yeah," he said in an angry tone, although he was angry at himself and not at Carey. She was new on the rotation of agents assigned to his house. "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."

That surprised Gibbs; he hadn’t bothered to think of these suits as people. If her friend was caught up in the chaos in Indianapolis – or worse – Gibbs decided she was doing one hell of a job keeping herself together. "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 addresses and I'll have one of 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. Carey Carter. You may have heard me called by a different name back at the Yard."


“Kelly. The Director called me Kelly when he offered me the job. Name kinda stuck. Some of the other agents call me that instead of Carey.”

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. Mister President, make no mistake: if you, as your American saying goes, 'poke the bear', do not be shocked if the bear pokes back, and more.

I hope that things wil 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 same people to urge their governments and leaders to 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...--
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Part Three: Chapter 38
Chapter 38

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day in the United States

--This is ZNN Sunrise. 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—

--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, Pennsylvania—

--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--

Navy Yard

NCIS headquarters

6:45 a.m. EDT

The morning was clear and cool as Ducky drove Kate to the Navy Yard, with two of McCallister’s SUVs following closely behind.

After driving through the entry gate, Ducky drove into the facility parking lot and pulled his 1954 Morgan 4-4 Series V automobile into one of the few empty spots. Kate got out of the two-seater vintage British roadster and walked around to the driver's door on the right side to open the door for Ducky..

"It is I who should be opening the door for you, Caitlin," Ducky said as he stepped out of the car. "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. McCallister invoked the rule with the approval of the Secretary of the Navy after the bombing, according to what Gibbs told the team the night before. 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 after a 24-hour reprieve; in fact, he wouldn't even allow her to go back to Indiana, citing 'chaos' in the area. She, of course, was welcome to report to work sooner if she wished – which she confirmed, via a head nod after Gibbs asked her if she wanted to come back ‘that soon’.

Gibbs told Kate he wasn't about to give up on getting her 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’s persons and belongings.

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.

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. By all accounts, you have come a long, long way since joining this agency, and you, like the other agents here -- and officer -- are one of the best this agency, my agency, has. I want to extend my condolescences on the loss of your family and loved ones yesterday, in Indianapolis."

Kate looked at DiNozzo'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, mourn. 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 and that I have for you."

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 and McGee, "remember our meeting. Agent Gibbs, Give me ten 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.

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 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 cannot 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 called me early this morning, and 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 is the general, and we and the others, Caitlin included, are his 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."

"Yeah" Gibbs said. "I respect the position. I respect his ability to do it -- right. I don't trust him to do it."

"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, although not many in your position would hold that opinion. With this man, Jethro, do so differently, more respectfully, with the professional welfare of your agents, of Abby, of Mr. Palmer and myself in mind."

"You 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 third floor, Gibbs went to the new director's office for the debrief.

--ABC News has learned that Congress will be called into special session to address issues related to Indianapolis and Geneva and Khalinin's response—

--the President will not be at Arlington today, Press Secretary Brent Hobard confirmed to CNN. When asked about the President's whereabouts, Hobard said only Boehner, his family, his staff and the Cabinet are in 'undisclosed locations kept secret for reasons of national security'—

--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 Boehner administration—

9:05 pm EDT

The Bullpen

Gibbs, McGee and Wells hurried down the stairs, Wells to the elevator to go back to Ducky's house to help guard Mrs. Mallard, and Gibbs and McGee back to their desks.

"What did the Mustache want with you two, Boss?", DiNozzo asked, as Ziva watched McGee go to his desk, then turned her attention to the Special Agent in Charge. "More scolding? More B.S.?"

"Need to know right now, DiNozzo, Ziva," Gibbs said. "You two, keep an eye on McGee."

"What has McGee been working on, Gibbs?" Ziva asked.

"Yeah. I've been wondering about McSecret's secrets, Boss," DiNozzo added.

"Need. To. Know.", Gibbs said, plainly but without anger, walking to the side of Kate's desk. "Kate. How're you doing?"

She nodded, with a smile, sadness still in her eyes. He put a reassuring hand on her shoulder, and for a moment the sadness in her eyes was replaced with gratefulness.

Gibbs turned back to DiNozzo and Ziva. "And keep an eye on Kate," he said, as he headed towards the elevator.

"10-4, Boss," DiNozzo said. "Where are you going?"

"For a walk."

Navy Yard, along the Anacostia River

Fuming over McCallister's handling of Kate -- and pondering the debrief about what he and McGee and Wells saw on the laptop the night before -- 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 the person 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."

--Salt Lake City is under martial law at this hour. Seven men and two women that Governor Huntsman says are of 'East European origin' are still on the loose and the subject of a massive state-wide manhunt—

--cleanup has begun at the grounds of the Space Needle in Seattle, which was hit yesterday by a van fleeing from police. —

--dozens of churches throughout the D.C. 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 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—

--the George Washington Bridge is closed—

--no decision on when or if baseball will resume play. Same with the NBA and NHL, both into their postseasons. NASCAR owners reportedly will meet via teleconference to discuss whether to run this weekend at Dover or postpone –

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'?"

"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. 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 when they thought it up. There's already a shitstorm at the Post and the Dispatch and the Star 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, GBS 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."

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’. Military 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 missiles 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?"--
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Part Three: Chapter 39
Chapter 39

…At dawn, the skies over Washington and other major American cities contained more military jets, helicopters and drones than ever. For some of those who looked up, it was quite noticeable 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 noticeable outside of Washington. 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.

By dawn, governors of 29 states quietly called up their respective National Guards, while governors from the other 23 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 as soon as possible. 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, for the enemy sprang up from its hiding places and wreaked havoc.

--Nigel Fuqua, Countdown To Looking Glass: The Days Preceding The Great Disaster, Tulane University Press, pp. 186-187

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Navy Yard

NCIS Headquarters

11:34 a.m. EDT

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:



--the Dow is down 450 points. That's not what investors here in the U.S. want to hear--


--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," he said. He instinctively reached for the remote, then stopped himself. It was secure in the pocket hugging Ziva's left buttock, and DiNozzo didn't want to chance being jabbed hard 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 will keep it," she said, taking a step away from DiNozzo.

"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 Sanford 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 in the show by a 'gong', whatever that is, and one ended up dead, the other remains 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," she replied, wiggling the remote in her hand just out of his reach.

"...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 El Frio 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: Clair. 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 Clair pull their sidearms and others in the open either pull weapons or scramble to get inside the nearest building.

"KATE! CLAIR!" 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 Clair, gesturing for them to come his way with his left hand. She elbowed Clair's bicep, and they both ran towards Gibbs.

All three hit the ground seconds later when the nearby guard shack exploded.
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Part Three: Chapter 40
Chapter 40

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Washington D.C.

Navy Yard

12:17 p.m. EDT

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 Clair two feet away laying low, then looked over Clair's waist and saw Gibbs 20 yards away, crouching behind a park bench. Clair noticed Gibbs motioning to them with his left hand at his calf and turned her head back towards Kate.

“We go on three,” Clair whispered loudly, as she stuck three fingers out at her side and withdrew one in a silent count.

When Clair 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 Clair. 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 Clair, 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,” Clair interjected. “Intel suggests Thais doing Moscow’s dirty work for them.” Ever since the so-called People’s Revolution put a Soviet-backed government in control of Thailand, the former U.S. ally had been a thorn in the side of the Allies. East German, Cuban and Angolan military advisors turned the People’s Thai Army special forces into a formidable, and deadly, unit; the Stasi turned Thailand’s intelligence agency into what a former CIA director called “twice the sons of hell the Stasi are”. The Thais had earned a fearsome reputation in Asia and Oceania and were known to send “advisors” of their own into Europe and the Middle East, but Gibbs hadn’t heard anything on Thai special forces or intelligence being active inside the United States.

“You sure about that?” Gibbs asked Clair, 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 nothing but armed camps. Nothing short of a missile—“

“Did Morrow or Shepard ever brief you on Soviet terror doctrine?” Clair snapped. “Whennot if — they attack inside the District, they and their allies will attack anyone and anywhere.”

“Both directors made sure we were up to speed, Clair,” 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. Zig-zag. One, two, three!”

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 Clair were doing the same. The closer they got to their target 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 Clair falling towards him, part of her head 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 to hope whoever killed Clair 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-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. “Kate Kate Kate 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, seeing the chief medical examiner heading the contingent comprising the rest of their team.

Ducky was the first to notice that Abby still had her hands to her mouth, then saw the blood and gore splatter on Gibbs’s person. “Mr. Palmer, hand me my medical bag immediately,” he ordered Palmer, who handed him the requested bag. “Jethro, Caitlin, were you—“

“We’re both fine, Ducky,” Kate interjected. “Physically.”

“‘Physically’”? Abby said. “What does that mean? Were you hit? Oh my god, did they do something--”

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 Clair, and their view of the attack.
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