Part Three: Chapter 41
Chapter 41

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

11:45 a.m. EDT

—we know little about what’s going on in Washington other than what’s already been reported. The Washington Navy Yard was attacked two hours ago. The entrance to the facility was destroyed by a bomb, and CNN has multiple-sourced reports of ‘massive’ gunfire within and near the facility.

At this hour, Anderson, the facility has been secured according to the same, single source you and I have: the White House. The District is still under martial law, in effect, as civilians have been ordered to shelter in place at their places of work, or their homes, or-

-Excuse me, Jim. I need to break in with a couple of news items we’ve just learned about. The first is a car bomb has exploded outside the New York Stock Exchange, where trading had been suspended right after the Navy Yard attack, before resuming at 10:10 a.m. Eastern. This happened literally seconds ago…we can’t contact Alison, who normally would be covering the day’s trading for us. The second item concerns some sort of attempted attack on Andersen Air Force Base in Guam about 15 minutes ago.—

—footage from NBC affiliate KUAM, as you see, shows a massive fire at one of the entrances to Andersen Air Force Base, which is an important staging ground for Allied forces in any potential conflict—

—we can see large plumes of smoke coming from the area of the Stock Exchange all the way here at ZNN’s offices here in Manhattan—

—(a reporter from WCBS-TV in New York is speaking with a woman in her early thirties who’s slightly shaking despite it being 82 degrees and humid in the area. They’re standing outside a Starbucks in Lower Manhattan)

(Reporter) Ma’am, we’re from Channel 2. Would you tell us who you are and what you heard and saw?

(Woman) I’m, uh, my name is Erin Reagan. I’m an assistant district attorney for the State of New York. I was walking to, uh, to work, I was in Duane Reade filling a prescription when I heard this ‘BOOM’ (she spreads her hands wide) and everything froze for I don’t know how long. I was here on 9-11. I saw the second plane hit the tower. I remembered what that was like. I thought when I heard the explosion that might have been another…The next thing I know I’m close to the checkout register near the entrance, and I see one of the windows has this giant crack on it. I hear noise outside, me and a few other people walk out and see people running and I hear cop and fire sirens and see haze on Broadway, on the other side of the Exchange-

(Reporter) You were at a Duane Reade on Broadway just north of Morris?

(Erin Reagan) Yeah. Anyway, I look up and I start to see smoke above the buildings across the street, and this guy comes out of nowhere, he’s wearing a security guard uniform, and yells at the crowd that they blew up the Stock Exchange and we need to get out of here now. So everybody starts running, or going as fast as they can, we all start running south away from the explosion. I ran, I don’t know, five blocks before I ran out of breath. I realize I’m in front of Battery Park, and see police telling people to get inside. That’s all they said, ‘get inside’, so I walk fast to a Starbucks nearby, and I go in and it’s packed and people are saying the Russians bombed the Stock Exchange.

(Reporter) And you’ve been here since.

(Erin Reagan, more composed than when she began the interview) Uh-huh. There are a lot of rumors now. The trains are shut down and the entire city is on a shelter-in-place order and martial law’s been declared. My father is the chief of police and I can’t reach him. My brother’s a detective and I can’t reach him either. All the phone lines are busy. I can’t even call home to check on my daughter, or my grandfather, or Danny’s wife and kids. Do you know anything?

(Reporter) Your father is Police Chief Reagan?

(Erin Reagan) Yes. Have you heard anything that would confirm these rumors?

(The Reporter realizes she’s asking him a question, and puts his finger on his earpiece to make sure he can hear the anchors at the WCBS studios) That’s news to me.—


Navy Yard, NCIS headquarters

Gibbs walked off the elevator onto the floor where he and his team worked each day, expecting a disaster zone. At first glance, however, everything appeared to be normal.

The clocks along the left and back walls were undisturbed, as were the portraits of the NCIS most wanted criminals on the left wall. To his right, the hallway leading to his team’s bullpen, the stairs and the head was empty, undisturbed by debris. Other than the floor being almost completely empty, it seemed undisturbed by the chaos caused by the attackers who detonated a bomb at the Navy Yard’s main entrance and began shooting towards the complex at anything in sight.

The six Marines with him were the only other persons authorized to be on the floor at the moment. Procedure in case of an attack on the Navy Yard required the Marine contingent on site to secure the buildings before NCIS personnel were allowed to return to their workstations. Two other Marines were already there, near the back elevator, and four of their comrades would arrive in short order. The Marines, plus Gibbs, would proceed to sweep the floor for insurgents and other unauthorized persons and unwanted surprises.

Everyone else — including Gibbs’s team and all of McCallister’s ‘suits’ — were ordered to remain in their shelters until given the all-clear by Marine Colonel Jedidah Smith, who was in charge of Navy Yard security. Gibbs got clearance because Colonel Smith trusted that Gibbs could take care of himself – and that Gibbs, a fellow Marine, would find his way there one way or another.

As four of the Marines split off, Gibbs and a Marine the size of a professional football linebacker headed towards the stairs to check the men’s and women’s heads. Gibbs stopped at his team’s bullpen to see if any damage had been done, and that’s when he noticed the numerous divots in the windows overlooking the Yard and the Anacostia River. The windows were installed a year ago and said to be all but impossible to be penetrated by weapons used by local criminals and insurgents and most military forces. Of course, the Soviets and their World Pact partners – like the Allied and non-aligned powers – were constantly working on bullets that would break through such windows, along with much more destructive projectiles.

None of the windows were broken, but Gibbs noticed a couple of holes in one of the upper windows. He squinted at the window, then began walking to his desk.

“Sir?” his Marine partner asked, as Gibbs opened a drawer. He took out a pair of glasses and put them on, then grabbed a Nikon digital single-lens camera, walked back to the windows and began taking pictures.

“Two of the bullets made it through,” Gibbs explained. “I’m guessing MTAC was the target.”

“‘Made it through’? How can you tell who was targeting what from those two holes you’re looking at?”

Gibbs lowered his camera and turned to the Marine. “We know the ‘who’, Sergeant. The location of those ‘holes’ tells me someone was trying to shoot at someone, or something, above floor level. There are two things on this floor that a shooter, or sniper, can see from outside this building: the stairs, and MTAC.”

“There were a lot of people on the floor when the attack began,” the Marine said. “Someone could’ve been shooting at people running up the stairs.”

“All personnel working in this building were told this morning not to take those stairs until the windows were reinforced, because they would be potential targets for a sniper,” Gibbs replied, having resumed taking photos of the bullet holes in the window. “Everyone on this floor, including my people, got away from these windows as fast as they could when the attack began. They either ran, or crawled.”


“My agents’ desk right behind us are in clear view of anyone outside. DiNozzo, McGee and David hit the ground the moment they heard gunfire outside. They crawled to the back wall, then ran like hell for the back stairs.”

“Ah, okay. So, if there was no one on the floor to be a target, then why shoot ‘up’?” the Marine said, pointing upwards. “If you wanted to take out MTAC, wouldn’t you use a man-portable missile launcher?”

“Not if you were shooting at someone upstairs,” Gibbs said. “Like someone you thought might be the Director.”

When Gibbs finished taking his photos, he and the Marine went up the stairs and found confirmation of his theory: there was a hole just above the ‘M’ of the MTAC sign, and another just above a panel to its left, next to an elevator door. Neither bullet had entered MTAC itself, but the casings were found embedded in the wall.

Gibbs, Colonel Smith and Director McCallister — who arrived at the Navy Yard shortly after Gibbs began taking photos of the bullet holes in the wall — watched the Marines extract the damaged casings, then closely examined them.

“Point three-zero caliber,” the Colonel said as he, Gibbs and McCallister looked at the two casings atop the seat of a folding chair. “Also known as a 7.62-millimeter Russian caliber.”

“I’d like Abby to look at them in the lab to be sure,” Gibbs said.

“You’ll get her, Gibbs,” McCallister said. “I’m sure she’ll verify what Colonel Smith just said. There’s one weapon that comes to mind that can hit those targets” — he pointed at the wall — “from distance: an SVD.”

“Dragunov sniper rifle,” Gibbs added. “Better be glad you were working from home when all this went down.”

McAllister ignored the Colonel’s glare. “If we’re done here, we need to talk. Navy Yard wasn’t the only place hit.”

“I’ve heard about the New York Stock Exchange and Guam,” the Colonel said.

“It gets worse,” McAllister said.

A few minutes later in McAllister’s office, he, Gibbs and the Colonel looked at a map of the United States superimposed on the large flatscreen monitor on the wall opposite the director’s desk. The map was marked with numerous red, yellow and orange dots.

“A power plant in rural Kentucky southeast of Cincinnati was attacked; dozens dead, more injured,” McCallister said. “Someone detonated a car bomb at the Bridge of the Americas Port of Entry in El Paso. A stolen truck made a run towards the Hoover Dam and was destroyed by Marines when it refused to stop. A stolen minivan packed with enough TNT to bring down a building tried to do just that in Metropolis. Police stopped the vehicle three blocks from the Daily Planet building. There was a shootout; the driver and his accomplice died, but not before killing three police officers and 16 civilians. And a woman pulled out a machine gun inside a shopping mall in Montana and shot at least 30 people before getting her head blasted off by a local. All of that, gentlemen, happened within the last two hours.”

Gibbs eyed the red dot over Baltimore. "What's going on there?", he said, pointing to the dot. "You know I recruited DiNozzo from Baltimore, when he was a detective. He hasn't been able to contact his former colleagues since the riots started there a few days ago."

"The riots started back up," McCallister replied. "O'Malley and the heads of those citizens groups had come to an understanding, when somebody wearing a BPD SWAT uniform tossed a couple of grenades at the protestors."

"Wearing a SWAT uniform," the Colonel said. "Spetsnaz."

"Shot two uniformed officers before he was gunned down by a legit SWAT member," McCallister added. "Didn't matter. Some of the more radical protestors got the crowds stirred up and attacked police at three locations. Now they're descending on the business district. O'Malley's ordered the whole city shut down. Governor Ehrlich is sending the state National Guard to lock down the entire county. O'Malley's running the city from Towson; he ordered the city government to evac there. Half the city's trying to join him, to get out before the Guard shuts down the roadways."

“Spetsnaz here, in the U.S., on the ground committing acts of terrorism, and I’d bet they’ve done a good job covering their tracks,” the Colonel said. “We know the Soviets are behind this, but there’s no hard evidence yet. Of course, when the gloves come off…” The Colonel’s voice trailed off.

None of the three men spoke the obvious: in the event of impending war with the West, Soviet doctrine dictated terrorist operations would be conducted within the U.S. and its allied countries, the intention being to destabilize those countries and create as much chaos as possible. The CIA and similar Western government agencies would do the same within the USSR and its World Pact allies. The purpose is to create so much domestic instability that the enemy can’t act when war breaks out.

Gibbs remembered that from his past anti-terrorist training exercises, and he also remembered what a retired Naval Admiral once told him: “’Spetsnaz blowing up stuff in New York, Peoria and everywhere else means one thing: War is coming and nothing short of an act of God Himself will stop it.’”

The morgue

Ducky and Palmer had been among the first NCIS employees to be allowed back to their regular workplaces, because their expertise was needed to examine the bodies of the 11 killed during the attack on the Navy Yard.

With Marines standing guard inside and outside the morgue, Ducky and Palmer put their surgical gowns over their flap jackets, and helmets over their surgical caps before starting on the first victim: a 26-year-old clerk.

Kate stood nearby, giving Ducky and Palmer plenty of room to work while close enough to see what they were doing. She was there because Ducky had convinced the guards she would be handy as an extra assistant. He really wanted to keep an eye on her and monitor her emotional and psychological health. Too much had gone on in the past few days for Ducky to make a detailed profile of Kate after the Indianapolis explosion. After her breakdown, Kate’s demeanor abruptly changed, stoic like stone, locking up whatever she felt or thought deeply inside.

Looking at Kate standing with her arms folded, her face as unreadable at stone, he found himself angry at McCallister for ordering her to stay on the job. Ducky knew she needed time to properly grieve, and to be around those who loved and cared for her. Neither putting her back to work nor putting her with friends who had to concentrate on work much of the time wasn’t what she needed.

What surprised Ducky was Kate going along with the director’s directives without complaint. He expected her to walk off the job, or demand to return home to see her surviving relatives. Instead, she wanted to stay in Washington. He wondered if going back to Indiana right now was too much for her to bear, and if that was the real reason she had decided to stay in Washington.

Ducky decided to resume his work. Upon looking down at the cadaver on the table, the concept of death suddenly imprinted itself on Ducky’s mind: the victims in the morgue, those killed in Indianapolis, the murder of Jenny Shepard, and the potential deaths of billions more in the not-too-distant future.

He shivered and nearly dropped his scalpel.

“Are you all right, Dr. Mallard?” Palmer asked from the other side of the table.

“Yes, I’m quite alright, Mr. Palmer,” Ducky replied. “I merely felt a sudden chill. Shall we continue?”

Palmer, thankfully, didn’t prattle on in response as he usually did, silently making a Y-incision on the cadaver instead. Ducky looked over to Kate, still looking on silently, and cursed himself for not being able to stop what he was doing to give her his undivided attention.

The door into the morgue suddenly opened, and Ducky looked up to see Gibbs enter. The team leader glanced first at Ducky and Palmer, then at Kate. She began to approach him but stopped with a raised hand from Gibbs, who walked towards the autopsy table where the medical examiners were working.

“Long day, Duck,” Gibbs said when he stood next to Ducky.

“Indeed, Jethro,” Ducky said as he examined a gunshot wound on the chest of the corpse on the autopsy table. “Meet Samantha Mathis, a mailroom clerk out for a walk when we were attacked. This poor woman’s heart exploded instantly when she was shot by her killer. This wound in her bicep came before or after she was shot, but it didn’t bring about her demise, as the shot to the heart had already killed her. Also, she didn’t suffer, unlike two of our other guests.” Ducky turned his head back towards the drawers in the corner of the room. “They were shot in such a manner that, from what I’ve been told by a couple of the Marines I spoke with earlier, they bled out, probably aware of their fate and unable to do anything about it.”

“Wish I could tell you different, Duck.”



Ducky laid his scalpel down on the table and turned to Gibbs. “One of the Marines informed me he saw one of the attackers. A boy, probably no older than 13 or 14. The regime that rules Thailand with brutality takes its boys and turns them into violent killers. Murderers, who did this.” Ducky gestured around the morgue. “The Congressman Daniel Inouye once said it was ‘one of the horrors of war, that you can train a person, train them to hate, train them to kill’.”

“’It’s a terrible thought’,” Gibbs replied, finishing the quotation. “On my way here, someone had a TV set on. Someone detonated a bomb on the Golden Gate Bridge. Thirteen police officers were killed by unknown assailants trying to attack an elementary school in Nebraska. Straight out of the Russians’ playbook.”

“It’s begun,” Ducky said. “Jethro, Mr. Palmer, Caitlin” – he glanced at Kate, who had moved near the refrigerated slabs – “a myriad of choices out of our hands have led us here. Ms. Mathis,” – Ducky looked at the corpse’s face – “I cannot stop the madness, any more than I can turn back the clock and prevent you from meeting your fate the way you had. What I can do, my dear, is ensure that, as long as you are in my care, that you are treated with dignity and respect. My assistant, Mr. Palmer, will lightly swab the wound on your shoulder for residue. Jimmy, please.”

Gibbs nodded at both men. “Do your jobs. I’ll be back later. Duck, I’m going to take Kate for a walk.”

“Of course,” Ducky replied, and Gibbs turned towards Kate. He gestured his head towards the door, and she followed him into the hall, and into the elevator. After they entered the elevator, Gibbs hit the switch stopping its movement and turned to Kate as the lights dimmed.

“How are you doing?” he asked her.

“Fine,” she said without emotion.

“How are you really doing?” he asked her again, this time more gently. “It’ll stay between us, and Duck.”

“Really, Gibbs, I’m fine,” Kate replied, trying to maintain a stoic façade in front of Gibbs while she looked away towards the door. Even so, she couldn’t hide a tear leaking from the corner of her eye.

“You’re not,” Gibbs said. “I’m not. No one here isn’t ‘fine’—”

“We were attacked, Gibbs. So, yes, you’re right. I’m not ‘fine’.”

Gibbs put a hand on her arm, a simple gesture the usually reserved woman didn’t allow many people to perform. Kate met his gaze, and moments later she reached out to hug him, and the tears began to flow as she wept.

Soon afterwards, after her eyes had dried and she had regained enough of her composure, Kate broke the embrace of the man who had become her second father, then spoke Clair's name.

“Clair?” Gibbs replied.

“She had a…thing for me from the beginning, and it freaked me out. I…we…didn’t know if she was one of McCallister’s creeps, or brain damaged, or what. When...when Indianapolis happened, I forgot about her. But she didn’t forget about me, and to her credit, she didn’t take advantage of me. She never really took advantage of me.”

Kate paused, and at Gibbs’s demeanor, continued.

“Today, she found me and said she wanted to tell me something she thought could actually help me. First, though, she apologized for her actions, although she did say that ‘in another time and place, we might not only be good friends, but more’, that she knew I wouldn’t act on feelings for a coworker and that she respected me for it. Then she told me why she wanted to talk. She read my file, with the director’s permission, just like she read yours and all our files, so she knew my background. She used that to remind me of the crap I fought through just to get here, and that I was…strong.”

Kate paused, her voice weakening, and regained her composure.

“Clair reminded me I still had family, back home and here. You, Abby, Ducky, Tony, McGee, Ziva, Palmer. She told me I was strong, Gibbs, and had people who loved me, and that I still have my faith, and because of all of those things that I would survive.”

Kate looked at Gibbs, wondering if anything she just told him was true.

“She’s right, Kate,” he said, embracing her as she broke down in tears once again.

7 p.m. EDT

--This is ZNN Tonight, with John King, live from Washington.

‘Terror Grips the West’. I’m John King, reporting from an undisclosed location somewhere in the nation’s capital.

It’s been more than nine hours since the terror attack on the Washington Navy Yard opened the floodgates for dozens of incidents in the United States and its major allies. The Chicago subway system was shut down this morning after a mustard gas attack at a station inside the city’s famed Loop. Later, a bomb inside a stolen FedEx truck exploded when it was rammed by a Denver police cruiser before it could reach its intended target: a still-undisclosed terminal at Denver International Airport. Terrorists are being blamed for the deaths of 41 people by two hand grenades in Baltimore, where protestors had reached a tentative agreement with city officials to end unrest; instead, the city is in chaos, the Maryland National Guard having shut down all roads leading out of the city.

That's just the beginning. Car bombs exploded on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Bridge of the Americas in El Paso. At least 15 people, local law enforcement and retired military veterans, were killed defending the Blue Valley Elementary School in Blue Valley, Nebraska, against an attack by unknown assailants. Miraculously, there were no casualties among those in the school at the time.

Saboteurs managed to disrupt power to millions along the west coast after attacks on several power stations. Three people died after a woman randomly shot targets at the entrance to Fort Hood before she was killed by base security personnel. In London, the British History Museum was shut down when a bomb exploded in the facility; 33 adults and 17 children are dead, dozens more injured. An explosion in the Golden Mile entertainment district of Sydney, Australia killed at least 24 people. A soccer match between two of Italy’s premier clubs was called off by threats of shooters lying in wait at Milan’s main stadium.

The questions authorities are trying to answer at this hour are who is behind the bombings and why. No one, including any of the known Islamist terrorist organizations or the Mexican cartels, is taking credit for the attacks. However, within the last hour, the Soviet Ambassador to Canada claims weapons found at the scenes of the various attacks can be traced back to Al-Qaeda and the Mexican-based Reynosa Cartel. Mikhail Vorontsov’s allegations to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation are being denied by multiple government and military sources…--
Part Three: Chapter 42
Chapter 42

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

7:40 p.m. EDT

The Mallard house

McCallister’s suits kept a close eye on the occupants residing within the Mallard property, generally taking a hands-off, eyes-on approach.

Sometimes, though, the suits had to get their hands dirty.

When DiNozzo inadvertently let all of Mrs. Mallard’s corgis out of the house, everyone was needed to corral the paradoxically cute and vicious dogs. All the corgis were quickly found and returned to their home, and a few of the agents returned to their stations with some extra scratches. DiNozzo was met at the front door with a stare from Ducky that froze the younger man in his tracks (and almost made him drop the animals on the concrete porch).

With the corgis safely back inside, Ducky went to the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea. He heard the others talking down the hall as they made their way into the rec room to watch a movie: it was Kate’s turn to pick the film, and she chose Something’s Gotta Give from a few years before.

The kettle on the stove whistled, and Ducky walked over to turn the stove off and pick up the kettle. Putting down the kettle on a nearby countertop, he turned to grab a bag of Yorkshire Tea to put in his mug. His cell phone buzzed in his pocket as he poured the hot water in the mug; waiting for the tea to properly brew, Ducky pulled out the phone and hit the red button, declining the call.

McCallister’s people weren’t monitoring his calls as they had after the new director took over as head of NCIS, but Ducky still didn’t trust his phone to be secure. Like the others on ‘Team Gibbs’, Ducky had taken care to watch what he said when he thought McCallister or his people were listening.

Ducky was tired of their constant presence in his life, especially his home. He deferred to Gibbs’ strategy of waiting out the director, but Ducky thought he soon would speak out and confront McCallister on the overt presence of the suits, and the more covert surveillance he thought McCallister had approved. The killers of Jenny Shepard no longer presented a threat to the team – unless, as darker rumors persisted, McCallister was the one behind her murder. Ducky never quite believed that, though; he thought the man wouldn’t go that far, to kill Americans and fellow NCIS personnel.

He wouldn’t. Right?

The tea was ready, and Ducky pulled out the teabag and put it in the garbage. Turning back to get his mug, his cell phone buzzed again. He stopped, looking around for anyone else in the vicinity, and then looked at the phone’s screen.

There wasn’t a number, but the phone kept buzzing. Ducky decided to answer it. “Donald Mallard.”

For a few seconds, the caller said nothing. “Who is this?” Ducky said, deciding to give the caller five more seconds before ending the call.

“Donald,” the caller said, three seconds later. Ducky recognized the voice of a former colleague from his days in the British Army’s Secret Air Service, someone he hadn’t spoken to in years.

“Are you trying to sell me something?” Ducky remembered using the phrase from his time in the SAS to speak with colleagues when out in public; the phrase meant ‘how can I help you’.

“No, my friend. Jimmy and Ruth have headed off to elope. They’re heading for the countryside, but the balloon has left. God be with us all.”

The call concluded with a recording of a short electronic musical phrase played at the end of a series of videos meant to be broadcast in Ducky’s homeland of the United Kingdom only when nuclear war was unavoidable.

Ducky stood frozen in place as the other line went silent and a chill shot up his spine.

It was 12:40 a.m. Thursday morning Greenwich time in Britain, 7:40 Wednesday night in Washington. If Ducky had been in the UK and in front of a television watching any of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s channels, he would have seen the BBC logo abruptly appear onscreen, followed moments later by the voice of a woman reading from a script:

--This is the BBC.

We have interrupted our regular programming. The BBC will be bringing you news on the developing geopolitical situation, and important information which may be vital to you in the coming days. Stay tuned to the BBC for news and for announcements from the Queen, the Prime Minister, government ministries and the military.—

After a few seconds of a pitch-black screen, Ducky would have seen the animated image of the mushroom cloud from an atomic bomb against a blue background. Seconds later, the screen would change to a red background, with three words in white starkly explaining just what the viewer was watching.




A male voice would begin reading: “Nuclear explosions are caused by weapons such as H-bombs or atom bombs…”

This time, the airing of the first of the 20 Protect and Survive videos was no mistake.

Elsewhere, Gibbs was in his basement, working on yet another of his boats, with a television set playing nearby. The set was over 20 years old, and still working in near-perfect condition, set to the local CBS affiliate. The sound was loud enough for Gibbs to know the news anchors were making light conversation, probably a transition between stories. He turned back to his boat.

He put down his brush and jar of varnish when he noticed one of the anchors stuttering while reading from a script. He saw her coanchor gently take the paper, then saw the man’s face grow chalky white almost in a single instant. Gibbs walked towards the TV.

--“A college friend of one of our staffers who is from the United Kingdom directly confirms the Reuters and Associated Press wire reports, that the UK has taken over all commercial broadcasting within its country. All stations, radio and television, are broadcasting BBC news coverage and a program intended to be aired over British television when a nuclear war was bel—“

The screen went dark. An icy pulse went down Gibbs’ spine as he remembered a conversation that he and Ducky once had about British preparations for a conflict with the Soviet Union and the World Pact. A television program officially named Protect and Survive, after a set of pamphlets intended to be distributed to the British public, fit the description of what the anchor said before he was cut off. Gibbs also knew if war was imminent, the government would begin media censorship, First Amendment be damned.

Gibbs waited a few seconds, lightly hit the side of the set twice, and looked in the back of the set to make sure all of the cables and wires were as they should be. He then went through the other area channels his set could pick up from the large antenna he had installed after President Broome’s assassination in February.

The Baltimore and Washington network affiliates on the UHF band (channels 2 through 13) were on the air, carrying local news or weather. The stations from Baltimore, Washington and further out in Virginia and Maryland either carried news, sitcoms, dramas or infomercials. None of the news programs said anything about war or a declaration of war.

Gibbs hit 9 on his remote and saw a WUSA Technical Difficulties graphic. From the anchors’ reactions to the script, he figured something had happened, somewhere, that either was a precursor to or the signal to the beginning of war with the Soviets. He went to his radio on the workbench and scanned up and down the AM and FM dials, but there was nothing about war and certainly nothing about Britain gearing up for it. He cursed for not having a shortwave receiver or ham radio on hand; he had some contacts who were ham radio enthusiasts that he could contact for more information. Then he figured the government would have locked that down somehow, too.

He considered getting in his truck and driving out to Ducky’s to discuss the situation. But too many of Riley’s suits were around the mansion, and Gibbs wanted to keep as many cards to his vest as possible when it came to the director. Plus, Ducky had told him to stay home after he hurt his knee the day before, and Gibbs didn’t want to aggravate the joint any further right now unless he absolutely had to.

Gibbs then heard his front door slam, and he reached for his handgun in its holster along the right hip. Though the steps sounded familiar, Gibbs wouldn’t let his guard down, just in case, and he aimed his gun towards the doorway connecting the basement steps with the annex.

Seconds later, Gibbs lowered his aim and put his weapon back in the holster.

“Damn, Jethro. I’d have driven into Virginia to get something else if I had thought Chinese would’ve made you draw your weapon,” Franks said, carrying two boxes of Chinese food in each hand as he descended the stairs. “Chinese restaurants and gas stations were all I could find open around here and I knew you wouldn’t want warmed-over cold pizza from the 7 Eleven.”

“Mike,” Gibbs said, his voice trailing off. What was wrong with me, that I just drew a gun on an ally? Or that I wasn’t sure who it was coming into my house in the first place?

“You didn’t have to do that,” he finally said as Franks made his way towards the work bench, where Gibbs had pulled up another stool, and had begun pouring bourbon into a emptied-out nail jar.

“Nonsense. Save them cowboy steaks for another time,” Franks said. “Let me treat you to dinner for a change.”

“Will I like it?”

“Of course, you’ll like it,” Franks protested. “Kung po chicken, plenty of veggies, two large for six bucks and tax. It’s a great deal. It’s that place five blocks over I went to last time I was here.”

Both men began digging into their meal, and Franks noticed the graphic on the TV screen. “Isn’t there something else on? I know you’re working on that boat, but you usually have something on in the background.”

“I’m waiting to see what comes on afterwards,” Gibbs said, explaining what aired before the station briefly went dark. “Something’s happening, Mike.”

“Something else’s happening, too,” Franks said. “Before I explain my…theory…did you do any cleaning down here. And don’t tell me ‘no because Ducky’. I’ve known you too long, Jethro. You ain’t gonna let a little knee-ache keep you in a chair. Hell, look at that thing over there.” Franks nodded towards the boat frame. “You’ll have that done by the end of the week before you do whatever it is you do to get rid of it.”

Gibbs smiled. “No bugs, Mike. Did find a couple when I got here, but I squashed them. So you can talk freely here.”

“Good,” Franks said between bites. “Before I tell you about who I met at that bar you sent me to, I wanna tell you about the first part of my ‘theory’.”


“Just eat and listen, Probie. First part has to do with those kids Riley’s got guarding you and your team. And me. Some of them were at Paulie’s, too.”


“I said, ‘just eat and listen’,” Franks said in a semi-agitated tone. “Guess I’ll tell ya the second part first. So I’m there for happy hour, and it’s the same people this afternoon who’ve been there every single day since you sent me there. Nobody new, nobody absent, TV sets set to ZNN, ESPN and Channel 7. I order a Córdoba Light, in a bottle.

“This time, though, someone new walks in. Very attractive woman, slender, kinda tall in her heels, blonde. Sexy, too, though she called herself Jack. Has to be in her thir—“


I’m the one tellin’ the story, Probie. Anyway, she sits down next to me, orders a Rolling Rock, and we start talkin’. Tells me she’s a psychologist, works for DIA, transferred here from Afghanistan. I tell her I’m an ol’ bastard who’s trying to get back home to Mexico but if that ain’t gonna happen, I’m gonna start looking at beach property down in Florida…just so you know.”

“I trust you’re going somewhere with this,” Gibbs said, with one eye on the TV set.

“She chuckles, then reaches into her bag and pulls out this thick folder. And shows me a dossier on me, and says ‘now, let’s reintroduce ourselves. Former Special Agent Mike Franks, NIS, retired, I’m Special Agent and Forensic Psychhologist Jack Sloane, DIA’. She takes out a few more dossiers from that folder, on you, Ducky, DiNozzo, Kate, Abby, Ziva, McGee, even Ducky’s last two assistants, and on a couple other agents you worked with, Stan Hurley and Paula Cassidy.”

Gibbs kept his countenance neutral but Franks realized his former probationary agent and second-in-command was greatly concerned. “What happened, Mike?”

“She nodded towards the front and back entrances, and a couple of big guys up front, and scary-looking biker types in back, covered them both. So I couldn’t just get up and walk out. I took a drink and asked her politely what the f*** was going on? The barkeeper came over and said ‘you can trust Jack, Mike, just like you can trust all of us. Sit down, and listen to what she has to say’. Then he walks away, and she says ‘now that we’ve been introduced, let’s talk. I have some things you’ll want to know about’.”

“What did you talk about with her?”

“She told me about the ring, Jethro, same things you told me. I told her I believe in facts, not science fiction. Said she’d show me if she got clearance. And she told me she could show me something — someone — else you’d been looking for the past few days.”


“Pulled out her cell phone, placed a call, and I spoke with someone who said she was Hollis Mann. Sounded like the woman on the cassette you played for me—“

“What did she say, Mike?”

“Said she knew you’d been looking for her but that you needed to back off a little. Let her come to you, and it sounds like she wants to come by later tonight.”

“You didn’t tell her ‘yes’?”

“No, but my gut told me she’s coming by tonight whether you like it or not.”

Gibbs sighed and wondered what in the hell he’d gotten himself into and if the bad guys, whomever they were, had somehow gotten the jump on him. Paranoia or not, his gut had been telling him things were beginning to spin out of control, not just between the superpowers but matters closer to home.

Franks sensed Gibbs’ discomfort, and what he said next threw Gibbs a curveball.

“Jack said you were right to be suspicious, but you’ve been suspicious of the wrong people,” Franks said. “She says McCallister’s not your enemy, that in his way he’s trying to protect you and your people and NCIS. The real enemy is some of the people connected with these rings who are almost as bad as the Russians, are the ones you need to worry about.”

“What people?”

“Jack said Hollis would explain, tonight, but they were ‘bad seeds’,” Franks said. “Willing to let billions of people die to save their own asses.”

Gibbs drank the last of his bourbon and refilled his jar, took another drink and got up and paced the basement, then turned to Franks. “What’s your gut telling you…hell, why didn’t you come to me as soon as you got out of there?” Gibbs said. “You should’ve gotten back here—“

“Jack and the bartender and ‘Hollis’ told me it might draw suspicions,” Franks replied. “Might even be on the ‘bad seeds’ radar. Me stopping off for Chinese would’ve drawn a lot less attention than heading straight here.”

Gibbs paced some more, then stopped in front of the TV. WUSA had returned to the air and now carried CBS News coverage. Gibbs’s earlier interest in what the TV stations were and weren’t saying had gone by the wayside, and he was zeroed in on Hollis and her whereabouts and whether he and his people had just made a new set of enemies.

“I’m going to Duck’s, have McGee do some computer stuff, get ZIva to see what her Mossad contacts might now,” Gibbs said. “Mike, you stay here and don’t let anyone in other than me or my people—“

“I think you’re stuck here, Jethro. One of those SUVs are parked behind your truck—“

“The hell with them!” Gibbs snapped as he began walking towards the stairs. “I’m going—“

“You’re going to stay put, Probie!” Franks yelled back, in a tone he hadn’t used since a time years ago when Gibbs, as a stubborn and too-confident probationary agent, had nearly screwed up a case and severely angered Franks in the process. “Think with your head!”

Gibbs stopped, then turned and shot Franks the look he reserved when one of his people got too off track or babbled too much. The older, retired agent didn’t flinch.

“Jethro. I taught you to use your head, and go with your gut and what made sense, not your emotions,” Franks said calmly, and firmly. “You’re upset about Hollis, and worried about her. That’s on top of being worried about your own people, including the ones you can’t protect. And you’re afraid the ones you thought you could protect, you can’t.

“That’s not when the case starts getting away from you. The case starts getting away from you when you get too distracted and upset to think with a clear head, to be able to hear what your gut’s tellin’ you, and not have it muddied up by your fears—“

“My ‘fears’,” Gibbs said, still standing in place.

“You need to ask yourself right now, Jethro, if you’re in control of what you can be in control of or if you’re starting to lose focus. If you’re losing focus, that’s when you’ll start to lose control, and that’s when you veer off track and put yourself and your people in real danger. Before you do anything, Probie, think. Think about what’s going on, and what your next steps need to be. Then take those steps. Use your mind and your common sense, and listen to your gut, but don’t let your fears or anxiety talk you into doing something you know deep down you shouldn’t.”

Gibbs stood in place for a minute, sighed, and walked back to the workbench. He sat down on a stool, pulled his phone out, and looked at it. “You’re sure those people at the bar were on the level.”

“I wasn’t sure about anything the first day I went there, on Monday,” Franks said. “Now? My gut’s tellin’ me they’re on the level. Whatever’s going on with that thing, whatever threat there really is to you and your team—“

“To you too, Mike. You’re as much a part of this as anyone.”

“Well, whatever’s going on, those people are in the know.”

Gibbs took a bite of his Kung po chicken, now growing cold. “So we wait…but if I don’t hear from her by midnight, I’m going after her.”

“Then I’ll go with ya’,” Franks said as he took a drink of bourbon. “I’m thinking, though, we’re gonna learn more about whatever is going on real soon.”

8:32 p.m. EDT

Arlington, Virginia

The Pentagon

Colonel Steve Trevor sat at his desk, waiting for a phone call, and read through some of the reports from the past 36 hours on the thousands of terrorist acts committed across the nation. Spetsnaz, or one of the special forces/terrorist units from another Pact country, were wreaking havoc across the country and everyone, military and civilian both, were so far on the defensive. Things had calmed down within the past 12 hours, but he knew the Soviets could start up again at any time, wherever they wanted.

He cursed Army General Samuel Lane and the bastards in the Pentagon, and the ones on Capitol Hill, for not paying enough attention to the Spetsnaz threat. They should have put The Wall in charge, he thought as the thumbed through the file about the aborted attack on the Sultan Ahmet Mosque in Istanbul. Forty-seven Turkish and NATO soldiers had died protecting the Muslim holy site from Ugandan and Syrian special forces hellbent on turning it into a hole in the ground. The Wall would've known what to do, more than these clowns.

Instead, Lane was in charge of the U.S. military. Long enamored with the former Air Force General Curtis LeMay (who wanted to bomb both the USSR and Cuba to the stone age during the Cuban Missile Crisis), Lane was most definitely looking for a fight with the Soviets. It didn't seem to matter to the man that the 'clash between civilizations' would most likely lead to the greatest disaster in the history of the world and, probably, the end of all life on the planet.

Trevor would've spit in the man's face if he could. Even though he was Air Force and Lane was Army, as head of the Joint Chiefs Lane was still his commanding officer, and therefore Trevor had to follow his orders. So, the Colonel sat at his desk, waiting for the phone call.

His desk phone finally rang, and he picked up. "Trevor."

"General Lane, Colonel. It's been one hell of a day -- couple of days, in fact."

Trevor couldn't argue the fact. "Yes, sir."

"I have a mission for you. Go to Andrews, now. A flight will be waiting for you."

"May I ask where, General?"

"Port-au-Prince." Haiti was the nearest neutral nation to the mainland, and the nation's capital was as stable a place to do business in as anywhere in the world. What kind of business does he have in mind?

"You'll be sent to a secret location. You'll be told more at Andrews. Go, and good luck. If things go well, we might be at peace 24 hours from now."

Lane then hung up, leaving Trevor to wonder what in the hell was going on. As the good soldier he was, Trevor would follow his orders, and try to fill in the blanks.

The short drive -- Andrews had been relocated to the former Reagan International Airport, with the airport moved to Andrews's former location in suburban Maryland -- was uneventful, and Trevor's driver took him onto the tarmac, to the stairs leading up to the 747 waiting for him.

Trevor got out and saw a bald man with Agency written all over him. "You want to tell me what this is about, Mr.--"

"Trent Kort."

"Mr. Kort, I'm listening."

"Inside, and in the air. General Lane's orders."

Trevor sighed. He hated the subterfuge when he worked for Task Force X, and he hated it now. The 747 -- bearing the markings of LASER Airlines, one of the top airlines of neutral Venezuela -- took off from the runway, then turned east, towards the Atlantic Ocean. Trevor assumed it would then fly due south into Port-au-Prince; using his secure MilNet-equipped smartphone on the drive from the Pentagon, he learned it would take just under three and a half hours to arrive in Haiti.

Trevor supposed he could have asked the stewardess, or the pilots, but Kort – sitting right besides him – ‘encouraged’ him to relax in his seat. “I’ll relax when this mission is over and I’m back home,” Trevor shot back, to Kort’s amusement.

There were a dozen people in all onboard the plane. Two were in the cockpit flying the 747, the stewardess was another, and four men and three women in dark suits sat in seats surrounding Trevor and Kort in the first-class section.

"Want to tell me what this is about now, Mr. Kort?" Trevor said, rather impatiently.

Kort reached into a briefcase that had been laying in his seat when he and Trevor boarded, and pulled out a folder. "This is a dossier on your counterpart, Colonel," Kort said, handing him the folder.

"My counterpart?" Trevor said, opening the folder. A photo of a Soviet military official was on the first page, followed by a biography. "I don't see any blond hair on his head, Mr. Kort, In fact, he looks more like you than me."

"Your counterpart in terms of his role in the Soviet government," Kort replied. "Meet Lieutenant General Dmitri Pushkin. One of the top-ranking officers in the Soviet Red Army, and someone who the Kremlin has used to speak with us through back channels in the past."

"Name sounds familiar."

"His father, Sergei Pushkin, was involved with the Soviet space program when Stalin was still alive. He later devised an armored battle suit--"

"The Rocket Red program. I remember it now. We developed our own version."

"The Ultramarine program. I understand there was a conflict some time ago."

"I was there -- and before you even think of asking, it's all classified. This Dmitri Pushkin. Was he involved in the Rocket Red program?"

"I can neither confirm nor deny--"


"Those particular details are, as they say, 'above my paygrade'. There may be someone else you could ask, but we seem to be veering off-topic--"

"It's on-topic because if he was involved, how am I supposed to trust this guy? And what am I going to Haiti to talk to him about, anyway?"

"You and he will discuss what a truce between powers would look like."

11:04 p.m. EDT

—the Pentagon has just announced that U.S. Navy ships off the coast of the Turks and Caicos Islands were closely approached by Cuban naval vessels earlier tonight. A military spokesman at The Pentagon told CNN that two Cuban destroyers came within 500 feet of the USS Grand Canyon, a Spruance-class destroyer, just 12 miles south-southwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands, where some U.S. Navy and British Royal Navy ships are currently stationed. According to the spokesman, the Cubans backed away after being challenged by the Grand Canyon’s captain, and headed away towards Cuba—

“Jesus. Wonder what really happened?” Franks said, turning up the volume on the TV with the remote, as both men sat at the workbench. “Think there was some shooting?”

“If there was, they’re not telling us,” Gibbs replied. “There’s gonna be a lot of things that we’re not gonna get told.”

“Makes sense, if you’re trying to keep people from panicking,” Franks said. “Damn good thing Boehner went on TV to talk about those attacks, tell people the government’s on top of things, that the ‘terrorists’ won’t prevail. I’m thinking some of it’s true.”

“You that cynical, Mike?” Gibbs said with a chuckle.

“I don’t think if the Russians bombed Chicago or whatever, the feds would put a lid on it. You’d hear about it for sure.”

“I think yesterday was just the start, Mike. The Soviets have a scary plan to destabilize the U.S., as much as they can before they move into Western Europe, or the Middle East, or wherever.”

“How many Spetsnaz?” Franks referenced the Soviet Union’s version of the U.S. Navy SEALs and the Army Rangers, elite special forces typically run by the USSR’s KGB intelligence service.

“Thousands, tasked with attacking government, military and civilian places. Power plants, airports, government agencies, churches, neighborhoods. Put as much fear into the public as possible. If they can completely destabilize the country ahead of military action, they’ll do it.”

“And when they start trying to destabilize the country is when you know things are about to go to hell,” Franks said. “If they do that to us, we’re going to try doing it to them. When you let that genie out you can’t put him back in his bottle. He’s gonna do what he was let out to do, and you have to hope the bastards who have the genies with the nukes bottled up decide not to let them out.”

Gibbs’ phone rang, and both men looked at the ID screen. Unknown Caller.

“You gonna get that?” Franks said. Gibbs gave Franks a look, them hit the green button on the keyboard.


His countenance lifted just a bit when he heard Hollis Mann’s voice on the other end. “Heard you been looking for me, Jethro.

“You didn’t pick up your phone,” he said. “Where in the hell have you been?”

I’ll tell you in a few. Your door’s still unlocked, right?

“I’ll meet you, Hollis. Too many ears around here. Give me a secure address—.”

No, Jethro, I’ll meet you, in a few. Don’t worry about the ears, the ones that can listen are friendly. And speaking of, I’m bringing friends.

Gibbs got up from his stool, phone in hand, ready to run up the stairs and out to his truck. “The hell you are, Colonel. Like I said, too many ears—“

Your truck’s blocked off and your basement is as secure a place as any to talk.

“I don’t like it.”

“You don’t have to like it. Just stay there. There’s too much you need to know. You should hear my and my team’s footsteps in five.” Then Gibbs heard a click, disconnecting the call.

Gibbs growled. “Guess she’s coming here, Mike. Five minutes. With ‘friends’.”

Franks looked at the bottle of Jim Beam, now less than a quarter full. “This better not a social call, because between this and the four bottles of beer in the fridge, there’s barely enough for the two of us.”

“My gut’s telling me we’re both going to want to be sober,” Gibbs replied, “for whatever she’s about to tell us.”

True to her word, Hollis arrived within five minutes of ending the phone call. Gibbs and Franks heard the door open, then heard several sets of footsteps going across the living room and kitchen floors, before seeing a familiar silhouette at the entrance to the basement.

Hollis didn’t break stride, and neither did the four people with her, until Hollis stopped in front of Gibbs and embraced him tightly. “Sorry for the cloak and dagger, Jethro,” she told him. “The people I work with, and for, had to do their due diligence on you and your people before agreeing to let you all in.”

Gibbs pulled back and looked at the other people in the room. Two of them he knew, one of which was Brent Langer, an FBI agent, was one of Gibbs’s agents years ago, before his current agents joined NCIS. The other, Roger Cooke, was with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and had worked with Gibbs on a case a few years before.

Two of the three women in the room were strangers to Gibbs, but one was very familiar to Franks. “Jacqueline Sloane,” the slender blonde said with a firm handshake. “You can call me ‘Jack’. Good to see you again, Mike.”

“A pleasure,” Franks said, shooting Gibbs a wink.

“And who are you?” Gibbs said to the slightly taller brunette standing between Sloane and Hollis.

“Joanna Teague,” she replied, also giving a firm handshake. “I’m with the Agency.”


“Indeed,” she said, pulling a laptop from her bag. “May I borrow your workbench?”

With a nod from Hollis, Gibbs assented, and Teague opened the laptop. “The information here explains the history of, and the science behind, the ring as close to layman’s terms as possible,” she said. “There’s a lot to take in. Be patient. We’ll answer any questions you have as best we can.”

Gibbs and Franks watched an advanced presentation program describe the ring and the science behind it, much of which went over both men’s heads. They more easily grasped the historical data, beginning with parallel events in 1999 in the American state of Wyoming; the Soviet republic of Georgia; and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of China. Three separate portals – one in each country – connecting Earth with another universe. Specifically, a fixed point in an identical region on another universe’s Earth.

Although scientists struggled to understand how these portals worked, they managed – with the approval of their respective countries’ governments – to keep the portals stable and to replicate and control the phenomena. A secret summit in November 1999 in Shanghai saw Chinese Premier Li Xeng convince U.S. President Colin Powell and Soviet General Secretary Vladimir Putin to keep the existence of the portals a secret and to use them for peaceful purposes.

Seven and a half years later, the portals had become an open secret among the top government and military leadership of the major countries, and to certain powerful figures in the civilian world. What Li feared could come to pass – nations using the technology as an escape route in the event of total nuclear war – was coming closer each day to becoming reality. And those in the know were dividing into two distinct and contrary groups: one group wanted to use the technology to save as many people as possible, the other group to preserve its own influencers’ interests and lives.

“All that’s a hell of a story, but what the hell are Gibbs and I supposed to do with it?” Franks asked after the presentation ended.

“Knowledge is power,” Teague told him. “More people by the day are finding out about this. The group that’s out for itself already is lashing out, trying to eliminate any threats to its interests. That includes us…and you.”
Part Three: Chapter 43
Chapter 43

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

11:41 p.m. EDT

The Mallard home

Something’s really hinky with the internet, thought McGee as he stared at the error message on his laptop.

The young agent sat at a table in the guest room he was staying in, going through numerous British-based websites at Ducky's request. Within the last hour, several of those websites had gone, and stayed, offline. All of the affected websites had gone down after the time that Ducky said the British government had taken over its domestic media outlets. No official announcement had been made yet by any British government or military agency, but McGee considered Ducky’s word to be as authoritative as any news outlet.

Ducky told him the BBC’s own website would still be online. He was right, and the news articles that were accessible didn’t appear to contradict the organization’s reputation for independent, nonbiased reporting. However, most non-news content had apparently been taken down, although the sports section was still online, and it told him quite a bit.

McGee learned the Wimbledon tennis tournament, scheduled to begin next month in London, had been postponed indefinitely, as had the rugby league Super League competition that included British and French clubs. There was also a story about the English Football Association’s request for its clubs to suspend competition, with no reason given. The two Formula 1 auto racing events scheduled next month for Montreal and Indianapolis (for obvious reasons) were cancelled.

The Italian association had suspended play after the terrorist incident in Milan a few days before. There was a short paragraph about the European Champions League soccer competition being postponed pending 'current events'.

Other than news, sport and weather, the BBC’s website had been stripped bare. McGee was about to visit another website when he came across a link in the BBC’s UK section. The link took him to a subsection titled Protect and Survive. A quick scan of the subsection showed information on how to survive a nuclear exchange, including sealing up one’s house, how long to stay inside and how to dispose of the dead.

He was reading about conserving batteries for radio usage when the BBC site went blank for a few seconds. It was replaced with a graphic, white text on blue background, which read




Other U.K.-based media websites – including Sky News, Channel 4, The Times of London, Daily Mail and other outlets in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – showed the same graphic.

“Todd,” McGee shouted to the suit standing outside in the hallway, “get Ducky up here, now.”

“Tim, I’m supposed to stay here—”

“Get him in here now!” McGee heard himself shout with more determination than he had ever used on the job. Todd stared at him, then looked toward a colleague down the hall, unseen from McGee’s seat, and took off for the stairs.

A couple of minutes later, Ducky and Ziva made their way into McGee’s room, with Todd standing in the doorway.

“I am sorry,” Ziva said to Todd.

“What?” Todd replied, just before the door shut on him.

Ziva locked the door behind her, then walked over to the table, where Ducky was looking over McGee’s shoulder. In a near-whisper, McGee explained to them what he had discovered, then showed them the graphic that appeared when he typed in the BBC’s web address.

At Ducky’s urging, McGee typed in addresses for other British-based organizations, including the Church of England; the Liverpool football club; the Sainsbury’s supermarket chain; and a U.K.-based email provider. Every website showed the same graphic.

McGee turned to look at Ducky and saw a look of anguish on the doctor’s face. He saw the concern in Ziva’s eyes and got up from his chair to offer it to the older man. Ducky sat down and took a handkerchief from his jacket to wipe his eyes, twice. As the significance of the graphics and the inaccessible websites dawned on him, Ducky masked his emotions the best he could, as not to upset the younger people with him.

McGee and Ziva saw right through it. At first, they were concerned something had happened to Ducky, then understood what he was doing, and why.

“Timothy, Ziva,” he said, quietly. “Britain is very much an American ally, but when she is threatened, she will not hesitate to act in her own interest, particularly when faced with an enemy who can destroy her in minutes. What you see there” – Ducky pointed to the laptop – “is one of the first visible signs of a programme that has probably been going on for days, if not weeks.”

“A programme?” McGee said, in confusion.

“A programme of transitioning to war.”

Gibbs’s basement

Franks’ response to Teague was his reaching over the laptop on the workbench for his cigarette lighter and, without saying a word to anybody, taking it – and himself – up the stairs and out to the front porch.

As he exited the top of the stairs and walked into the foyer between the entrance to the basement and the upstairs kitchen, Gibbs decided to go up there and bring him back downstairs. Hollis shook her head at the others, told them to stay there, then ran to catch up with Gibbs.

Outside on the front porch, Franks had lit a cigarette. He looked up and down the street at the houses he could see from his vantage point, then at the night sky. He saw and heard four helicopters in the distance, and noted they probably were SuperCobras.

Gibbs opened the front door, Hollis a step behind him, and both walked out onto the porch.

“Marine copters on patrol. Here, in America,” Franks said to them. “Nobody here gives it a second thought, anymore. Damn shame.”

Hollis saw the suits in their vehicles on the street, in front of the house and further up the street, as well as another suit standing in front of the house on the sidewalk. She walked right up to Franks. “Mike, we want you to see the Pentagon ring for yourself,” Hollis told him, lowering her voice so only they, and Gibbs, could hear. “We’d like all of your people to see it, but that’s not possible yet.”

“You might as well be telling me ‘we’re gonna jump in a spaceship and go to Mars’,” Franks said. “They told me all that at that bar, and I even halfway believe it, but…”

Franks shook his head and took another draw on his cigarette.

“But what, Mike?” Gibbs said.

Franks exhaled away from the other two people with him, so the smoke wouldn’t blow on them. “What you’re talking about?” he said to Hollis. “Fantasy.”

“Fantasy?” she said. “We’ll get you there and you’ll see it for yourself—”

“It may be as real as those helicopters up in the sky, but it’s a fantasy,” Franks said. “Both sides—”

“We need to finish this conversation downstairs,” Hollis interjected, her tone suggesting that Franks not argue her point. He put his hands up, then dropped his cigarette in the ashtray next to the door that Gibbs had one of the suits put on the porch a few days before.

Downstairs in the basement, Franks sat himself back at the workbench, and took a sip from his jar of bourbon. “What I was saying before you dragged me down here, Colonel Mann, was that both sides need to sit back down at the table and work out their differences. That’s the way to save lives. Not by sending people through some magical escape route that everyone was hellbent on hiding from the whole damn world.”

“They’re not going to sit down at the table,” she replied. “Geneva was the last chance.”

“There’s going to be a war, Mike,” Gibbs added. “I’m not leaving my people here to wait to be blown up – and that includes you. We’re going through.”

“You gonna pile everyone in the van and just drive into a restricted area, Jethro?” Franks said. “Who else on your team knows?”

Gibbs was silent, but his reaction gave Franks his answer.

“You better start talkin’ to them, then,” Franks said. “Better do it quick, too. Colonel,” – Franks looked at Hollis – “if you can get me and Jethro away from Riley’s ‘protection detail’, then I’m up for your field trip.”

“There’s a risk,” Teague said, “that we’ll run into the wrong people and get caught.”

“You do know what I did for a living, right?” Franks said, prompting a half-smile from Gibbs. “Risk comes with the territory. I may be retired, but I can still take care of myself.”

“That work for you, Jethro?” Hollis said to Gibbs.

“Works for me,” Gibbs replied.

“Tomorrow night,” Hollis told both men. “It’s becoming more and more difficult for the powers that be to keep a tight lid on this thing, especially now that they’re preparing for a world war. Knowledge of this thing keeps leaking out. It’s possible we may run into others, like you, who want to see the ring for themselves. Or, someone who sees us as competition for the last seats on the plane and would try to eliminate us.”

“What about security?”

“Security measures have changed in the past few days,” Cooke said. “The people running this thing here in the States realize that knowledge of this thing is getting out and they’re trying to eliminate the leak. So, there’s a chance we’ll run into hostiles, likely former military personnel, including ex-SEALs, ex-Green Berets, ex-Rangers working for contractors, looking to eliminate threats like us.”

“But they’re much more of a threat if you’re there to get onto the main floor and go through the portal,” Langer said. “If you’re there to observe, from the vantage point Gibbs and Colonel Mann were at before? The odds of confronting those guys drops significantly.”

“But there’s still a risk,” Gibbs said.

“Yes, there is,” Teague said. “And if the risk is too high for you three to go is for you to decide for yourselves.”

“We’re going,” Franks said.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

1 a.m. EST

--This is ZNN Overnight News, with continuing coverage of the Global Crisis. From New York, I'm Lynne Russell. Here are the headlines at this hour:

Al-Qaeda has taken credit for the attack on the Arabian Hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia two hours ago that has reportedly left at least 300 people dead. That number reportedly includes embassy personnel from the Soviet Union and East Germany. The Soviet news agency TASS reported a response from Soviet General Secretary Ogarkov, who condemned the attacks as ‘butchery’ and offered the USSR’s help to Saudi authorities. The Saudi government has not yet commented on the USSR offer.

Shots were fired between Costa Rican and Nicaraguan forces along their countries’ border, just outside the Costa Rican town of Los Chiles. No deaths were reported, although two Costa Rican soldiers were shot.

Virginia State Police and Virginia National Guard helped Greene County and Stanardsville, Virginia police turn back eight busloads of people from Baltimore. A spokesman for Stanardsville mayor Franklin Glasberg said the leaders of the caravan told the mayor and sheriff they were coming to ‘establish camp’ in Stanardsville as refugees and that the town should expect thousands more refugees in the days to come. The caravan left peacefully with a National Guard escort back the way they came into the state.

Washington, D.C.

Riley McCallister’s home

2:09 a.m.

An aide burst through the door to McCallister’s office in the basement, waking the NCIS director from his hour-long nap.

“Sir,” the nervous young man said, “there-th-there, uh, there’s been, ah—”

“Spit it out son,” McCallister said, wiping his eyes. “I said don’t wake me until 0500 unless something happened. So tell me what it is.”

The aide handed McCallister a note that was sent to NCIS from the Department of Defense two minutes before.





“Shit,” McCallister muttered, as he got up from the cot in his office and ordered the aide to bring him a fresh pot of coffee. The director wouldn’t get any sleep anytime soon.

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

2:23 a.m.

The Triumph nightclub on Avenue John Brown was packed and it was loud. Trevor saw that the queue of people looking to get inside was three blocks long, and he and his driver, Kort, heard the music another block away.

"You couldn't have picked a quieter place?", Trevor said, as Kort drove past the nightclub's entrance, looking for a small parking lot outside a bank.

"We can conduct our business there," Kort said. "The Soviets may be disciples of Marx, but they love to party. Especially when the political officers aren't around."

Kort quickly found his destination. Two armed guards stood along the street, guarding the entrance into the lot. Kort rolled down his window, pulled out two U.S. $50 bills, and handed them to the lead guard, who pointed to the last open space in the lot. Kort pulled his West German Mercedes-Benz SUV into that space.

"The political officers are always around the Soviets," Trevor replied. "They're probably all over that nightclub."

"So is the Agency," Kort replied, opening the driver's door to get out of the vehicle. Trevor followed suit, and went to the back of the SUV, and saw Kort put a shoe-sized metal box inside a duffel bag.

"What's inside the bag?", Trevor asked.

"Gifts, for our friends."

"What's inside the box?"


The two men made their way down the side of the building to a rear, alternate entrance. Trevor thought the six Haitian guards had enough weapons on them to supply a battalion. Kort took them in stride as he flashed his CIA badge and gave them each a 500₽ Soviet ruble note. Trevor could only guess as how much Soviet -- and American -- money the Agency had to blow like that.

He and Kort were ushered down a hallway to a small room where two men awaited them. The men sat at a small table near a bar, while two television sets -- tuned to a Haitian news network and United Nations Television One, respectively -- played on the side wall. The taller, larger and balder of the two men stood up to greet Kort and Trevor.

"I am Dmitri Pushkin," the man said, shaking both Americans' hands. "It truly is a pleasure to meet you both. You are Kort, and Trevor, da?"

"Yes," Trevor replied. "Who's your friend?"

A smaller, thinner man with sandy blonde hair wearing a brown suit remained seated, barely acknowledging the Americans. "We call him Boris," Pushkin said. "Boris. After the cartoon."

"Cartoon?" Kort said.

"Moose and squirrel. Boris and Natasha," Pushkin replied, not waiting for Kort and Trevor to get the Bullwinkle reference. "Ah, perhaps you are both fatigued from your long journey."

"Not as long as yours, I'd guess," Trevor said.

Pushkin looked at Boris, who shook his head. Pushkin then smiled at the Americans. "It has been a long journey for us all. The night is still young, as your American singer Billy Joel would say--"

"Surely you didn't come all this way to quote Billy Joel," Trevor said, suddenly annoyed at the overly friendly Russian and his surly friend. "Why are we here, Pushkin?"

"You are a man who gets to the point," Pushkin replied. "We are here for business."


"The most serious kind. You both serve your country. Boris and I serve the Soviet Union. And we all serve humanity--"

"You have some kind of message from Khalinin?" Trevor said as images from the Indianapolis explosion went through his mind. "Because I have one for him--"

"Colonel, Colonel, Colonel," Pushkin said, with a disarming smile. "Please, let us not get off on the wrong foot. We have much to talk about. So let us relax!" Pushkin snapped his fingers, and then the women appeared in the doorway.
Part Three: Chapter 44
Chapter 44

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

2:27 a.m. EDT

Trevor saw the two scantily clad, slender Haitian women appear in the doorway almost instantly, and both made their way to the bar. The woman wearing a pink bikini came back to the table with a bottle of vodka and two shot glasses, then put the glasses in front of the Americans. She filled them up and put the bottle to the side of the table, to Trevor's right. The woman in a lime bikini pulled two bottles of Bud Light from the mini refrigerator behind the bar, then put both in front of the Soviets

"Beautiful, aren't they?", Pushkin said, with a grin as both women left the room. "It is too bad we cannot enjoy their company, since we have much to discuss."

"I have lots I'd like to discuss," said Trevor.

"Of course, my new American friend," Pushkin said, as he grabbed his bottle of beer. He tore the bottle cap off with his teeth and spit it out on the floor, then raised the bottle to make a toast. "To friendship!", he said, jovially; Trevor stared at him, while Kort and Boris glared at one another. Pushkin looked around the table, shrugged his shoulders, and sat down. "In Russia, good drink is an occasion for relaxation. You do not seem, how do you Americans say it...?"

"I'm not in the mood," Trevor growled. "I'm up past my bedtime and I'm damn cranky. And I keep thinking about the people who've died in my country the past couple of days because of your people."

Boris turned his glare from Kort to Trevor.

"It is unfortunate," Pushkin said, hands spread out. "I have heard of the...unrest in the United States."

"I'm sure you have," Kort deadpanned.

"Would it help matters if I told you of equally offensive atrocities committed against the Soviet people in their own homeland in the days since the Indianapolis bomb?", Pushkin said. "Americans and Frenchmen blew up a school in Kiev today."

“Is this what the Soviet leadership is telling you?”, Kort replied. “Maskirovka.”

“Smoke and mirrors.”

“I wouldn’t put it past the KGB to blow up that school — if that in fact happened — as a means to an end,” Trevor added. “Boris, you have anything to say?”

Boris said nothing.

“I saw the pictures,” Pushkin replied, with regret and anger in his voice. “We have not been able to catch the men. It is regrettable, da, these operations conducted by the West.”

"Is that what your political officer ‘Boris’ told you?", Kort replied. "Perhaps he knows more than you."

"I'd bet the farm he knows a lot more," Trevor added. Boris's eyes darted between the Agency officer and the U.S. Air Force Colonel. The KGB officer then whispered something into Pushkin's ear.

Pushkin shook his head repeatedly. "My apologies, my friends," he said. "My comrade here is concerned greatly that our meeting is not going as well as we would like."

“I’m starting to think it’s a total waste of time,“ Trevor said. "Why are we here, Pushkin? If you have a message from Moscow and it's anything other than 'we screwed up, royally, and we're going to back down now and pay you back a hundred-fold for all of the death and destruction we've caused', all this is, is a waste--"

"General Lane sent you because we could talk to you," Boris interjected. "We are not in the business of 'wasting time'. Perhaps the atmosphere here is not conducive to an open discussion."

Trevor’s expression was unreadable. He wondered what in hell the Soviets knew about Lane, and this mission the General had assigned him, and about anything else the American government didn’t want the other side to know.

“I propose we move this discussion to a more open area,” Pushkin said. “There is a table reserved for us, near the main dance floor—“

“Out of the question,” Kort said to Pushkin. The CIA man then turned to Trevor and nodded, and both men stood up. “Colonel, it seems to me that we have reached—“

“Wait, wait, wait!”, Boris shouted, as he stood up with both hands up. “Please. Give me one more minute. I promise it will be worth your wait.”

The Americans glanced at each other. “Clock’s ticking, comrade,” Trevor replied, he and Kort still standing.

“The two of us represent factions within the Soviet Union — Comrade General the military, myself the KGB — that wish to eliminate the power controlling our nation that threatens the world.”

“More than wish,” Pushkin added. “We have the means to eliminate the threat.”

Trevor sat back down. “Wait a minute. Did you just say what I thought you said?”

Boris whispered in Pushkin’s ear, again.

“This is not maskirovka,” Pushkin said. “We both serve the Soviet Union, but we also serve the greater cause of humanity. Come back this evening, through the front door. The nightclub will not be open to the public, so we will be able to speak more freely.”

“Why not speak here, and now?”, Trevor said.

“The walls have ears,” Boris replied. “Give us the day. Then the ears will vanish.”

Washington, D.C.

6 a.m. EDT

Contrary to the legends about Leroy Jethro Gibbs, the man did sleep.

He hadn’t gotten much sleep overnight, however. After Colonel Mann and her associates left his house, Gibbs decided to get some shuteye on the cot in his basement, while Franks took the couch upstairs. Sleep came quickly to both men, who, despite the presence of a dozen suits inside and near the house, nevertheless slept with loaded handguns underneath their pillows.

Gibbs forgot about the very loud alarm clock on his workbench. It did its job, waking him right at 5:45. He stretched, then trudged upstairs to make breakfast and coffee. Seeing Franks snoozing on the couch, he turned on the TV in the kitchen and lowered the volume as not to wake up his friend and mentor.

--This is ZNN, the Satellite News Network, simulcasting on our sister channel, HNC. Here’s the headlines at this hour:

Allied and Pact forces worldwide remain on high alert, following skirmishes over the Persian Gulf and the border between the two Germanies in the past few hours.

ZNN has learned from its bureau in New Delhi that India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, also the Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement, has spoken with the American and Soviet Ambassadors to India, hoping to use them to reach their countries’ leaders so he could speak to them directly about brokering a peace treaty.

Back home in the U.S., both the House and Senate reconvened at 5:15 a.m. to vote on two items: approving the Rock Act, which effectively would turn the media over to government control, and reinstituting the draft. As you see in this live shot, Capitol Hill is swarming with military guards. The White House, the Pentagon and other federal government buildings also are under heavy guard at this hour.

Police presence has as much as tripled around the Soviet Embassy in Washington and Soviet consulates around the country. Five people were arrested in San Francisco after attempting to rush past police and engaged armed guards in front of the local Soviet consulate.

Coming up next: Carol Costello will talk with Katharine Weymouth, the publisher of the Washington Post, about the Rock Act

Gibbs took the TV remote and clicked through the channels until he found a black-and-white episode of The Andy Griffith Show. With Andy, Opie and Aunt Bee talking in the background, Gibbs cracked open some eggs over the skillet.

A short while later, Franks woke up to the smell of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and coffee. He sat up on the couch and saw Gibbs staring at him.

“Probie, why don’t you just tell me ‘Mike, get your ass over here. Breakfast’s gettin’ cold’?” Franks grumbled, without complaint. Gibbs smiled, and went over to the refrigerator to get some butter and molasses. The men had time to eat, and almost finish their coffee before Gibbs’s phone rang.

“Gibbs,” he said, and the person on the other line told him about a dead Navy SEAL discovered by a Metro police officer on foot patrol. Always prepared for any situation, Gibbs got up, grabbed his NCIS cap and jacket from a coat rack next to the dryer, and told Franks he was coming along.

On the way to the crime scene, Gibbs got a call from an unknown number. His hunch that it may be Hollis or someone connected to her paid off. “Yeah, Gibbs."

“Jethro. It's Hollis.”

“Hollis? Are you—“

“Listen. Meet me and others at the park near the old Pentagon Centre, take the back way in.”

“‘Back way in’? Tell me—“

“Sneak in, don’t be seen. Get there by 10:30. We’re going in, early.”


“Early. If we go tonight, there’s a good chance we get caught by the wrong people. We go now, we probably don’t get seen at all. You in or out?”

Gibbs looked at Franks. “You said 10:30. I just caught a case.”

“You have three agents, one who should have his own team by now, two who probably will lead their own teams in time, and a Mossad agent who can probably protect them all by herself. Again, Jethro: in? Or out?”

Gibbs paused. “In. But I go to my crime scene first, check it out, hand it off. Then Mike and I head out.”

“Good enough. See you then, and stay safe,” she said before hanging up.

Franks had watched Gibbs throughout the entirety of the call. “Hollis?”

“Looks like the ‘field trip’s happening a lot earlier than tonight, Mike,” Gibbs said.

Rock Creek Park

7:16 a.m.

Gibbs’s truck — followed as discreetly as possible by two of the suits, in a very conspicuous shiny jet black Ford Expedition SUV — pulled in front of a Metro DC police cruiser. He and Franks got out of the truck and began looking for whichever police officer was in charge, then found their man about 50 feet away.

A middle-aged man in a light blue shirt and dark blue tie stood next to a woman who was squatting over what looked like the victim. Gibbs barely recognized the woman from having visited the NCIS morgue as a guest of Ducky’s a few years ago, but he didn’t know the man. Time to take care of that, thought the NCIS agent as he briskly walked their way, ignoring the dull ache in his knee while putting on a pair of the gloves he and his team always wore at crime scenes.

“You must be Gibbs,” the man said, reaching into his right pants pocket to pull out his badge and ID. “Detective Sportelli, Metro PD.”

Sportelli glanced at Franks. “You the new director? This guy must be a pretty big deal if you’re showing up—“

Hell no,” Franks growled. “Retired NIS agent Mike Franks.”

“My mistake. Saw the news on TV about that woman Shepard getting killed; they showed the picture of the guy who replaced her — McAndrews? — okay. Well, he’s not here, so I guess this is a run of the mill case.”

“There’s never a ‘run of the mill’ case, and this man’s a pretty big deal to someone, maybe including the killer,” Gibbs said, taking a few moments to look at the victim. The deceased Black man laid face-up, dressed in civilian clothing, and a very prominent wound in his chest. The man looked to be in his early 30s and, Gibbs thought, was big enough to play linebacker in the NFL and, as a SEAL, wouldn’t be an easy kill.

Was he a SEAL, though? “You find ID on him?”, he asked Sportelli. The detective shouted at an officer, who went to his squad car and came back with a clear bag that contained a leather wallet. Gibbs took the wallet out of the bag and quickly found what he was looking for. The body now had a name: Chief Wendell Sears.

“Figured this guy would be overseas, if he were Navy,” Sportelli said. “Could be fake.”

“That’ll be for my people to determine,” Gibbs said firmly, to remind the detective that this was an NCIS case — his case — now.

Gibbs handed Franks the bag to hold onto and told him to give Tony and Ducky a call to see where the rest of the team were at, and took a look at the area around the body. Ignoring Sportelli and the woman, Gibbs looked at the small blood pool under the chest. He really wanted his people there to take over the scene, after hearing Ducky’s initial thoughts on the timeframe and method of death.

Instead, he had to make do for the moment with the people around him. He knew Sportelli wouldn’t give up the scene until Gibbs’s team arrived, so Gibbs turned to someone who he didn’t know, but gambled on trusting on account of Ducky’s brief mention of her as a friend and colleague years ago.

“So you worked with Dr. Mallard?”, Gibbs asked the woman, who was momentarily confused as to who he was talking about. Then he saw the recognition, and a broad smile, on her face.

“Ducky,” she said. “He certainly is a friend, and a colleague. We’ve known each other quite a while. You must be Gibbs.”

“Yep. And you?”

“Oh. Jordan Hampton. Doctor Jordan Hampton. The new Medical Examiner of the District of Columbia. The man who had the job before me quit. I was told he took his family out west, to some place in Oregon, where he thought would be safer.” If the worst came to pass, she didn’t say, although Gibbs read it in her eyes. “I’m surprised Dr. Mallard’s not here.”

Gibbs looked over at Franks, who held up one finger on his right hand. “Less than five minutes away, Dr. Hamilton,” he said, glancing at her and then down at the body. “You got anything I can use right now?”

“Whoever did this to him had to have some kind of advantage on him, or maybe knew him pretty well,” she said, as a couple of more vehicles arrived and pulled off to the side of the road nearby. Gibbs saw the NCIS examiner’s van, and a blue Chevrolet SUV. Ducky and Palmer got out of the van, and the rest of Gibbs’s team out of the SUV.

“Guess I’ll take over, now,” Gibbs said to Sportelli.

“You can have it,” the detective replied.

The rest of Gibbs’s team arrived, and after catching them up on the victim, Gibbs had Kate, McGee and Ziva wait with Ducky and Palmer, and pulled Tony off to the side. “This is your case, DiNozzo. Call me if something goes haywire, but otherwise I’ll be off the grid for a few days.”

“What’s going on, Boss?” DiNozzo said, knowing Gibbs wouldn’t hand over control of a case unless he were under orders, or working another case. “The Mustache pull you off?”

“Me and Mike’s working something,” Gibbs said. “I’ll let you and the rest of the team know as soon as I can. For now, you’re in charge.“


“They’ll listen to you, Tony. This is something I’ve got to get taken care of.”

Tony saw the concern, fear and gravity in his mentor’s eyes. “This thing. How serious is it?”

“Big. Bigger than you imagine,” he said. “Gotta go.”

Gibbs was closer to his truck than to his team, but walked out of his way to go to them. “DiNozzo’s running point on this one,” he told them. “Got something that Mike and I gotta take care of.”

“Gibbs?” Kate said. “Take care of what?

“DiNozzo’s in charge,” Gibbs replied, and said nothing else despite her and the others’ pleas. When Tony arrived to take charge of the scene, Gibbs and Franks were on the road, heading towards their destination.

Arlington, Virginia

The former Virginia Highlands Park

11:00 a.m.

--lots going on here in the District and throughout the nation, and the world. This is WTOP 103.5 FM and WTWP 1500 AM, Washington, D.C. We’ll go now to CBS News at the top of the hour.

(CBS News Radio sounder airs)

CBS News, this is Scott Pelley.

Police in New York City have arrested 47 protestors at an impromptu peace gathering in Times Square that started peacefully but soon turned rowdy. Chris Silber reports:

“A crowd estimated at 3,000 began gathering in Times Square just after 7 a.m. Eastern, in time for the start of the television network morning shows. Six men and women in green T-shirts with peace signs, guarded by a dozen men and women in black T-shirts, also with peace signs, stood in the intersection of Broadway and 47th as the crowd grew. By 9 a.m., New York City police had shut down Times Square both to foot and vehicle traffic; cameras and reporters from local stations and national networks, including CBS, were recording the leaders calling for the United States and Soviet Union to cease hostilities and agree to live in peace.

Nearly 40 minutes later, a few dozen protestors began arguing with NYPD officers, and minutes later several protestors appeared to attack four officers standing in front of a squad car two blocks away on 45th Street. Within minutes, over a hundred police officers, including members of the NYPD’s SWAT Unit, descended on Times Square to restore order. New York Police Commissioner Frank Reagan:

We live in troubling times, and although we enjoy the rights to assemble and to protest, right now we must exercise those rights in an appropriate manner, at appropriate times, in appropriate venues. I do not doubt the organizers meant well, but these impromptu protests are hotbeds for those who would mean them, and all of us, harm. I wholeheartedly commend and support our officers who did an extraordinary job of keeping the peace in a situation that could have quickly turned into tragedy.

At this hour, the NYPD is being assisted by New York National Guardsmen in clearing Times Square, which remains closed to all traffic. Chris Silber, CBS News, Times Square in New York City.”

The British Army was called in to break up a similar protest in London’s Hyde Park that turned violent. The BBC reported three deaths and dozens more injured after the mood of the protest, organized by musicians John Lennon, Freddie Mercury and Pete Townsend, turned rowdy when members of the banned leftist political organization One Earth, One Government clashed with British military veterans.

Indiana National Guardsmen were called in to break up rioting this morning at FEMA camps around Indianapolis. The camps have seen protests the past few days over food and medicine distribution and from residents who want to go back home. A five-mile area around the site of the bomb that destroyed the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Memorial Day remains closed to civilians; portions of surrounding Marion County are being reopened to residents pending federal and state inspections and other factors. This is CBS News.

President Boehner signed the controversial Rock Act into law this morning

“Turn that crap off, Jethro,” Franks grumbled, reaching to push the power button on the truck radio before Gibbs could react.

“Don’t like the news, Mike?” Gibbs said as he looked out towards the large complex of buildings where they would go, once Hollis and her people arrived. With his truck parked just south of the intersection of the former Hayes and 15th Streets, on the southbound lane right next to the park, Gibbs kept an eye out for them and for anyone else.

“If I wanted to hear propaganda, I’d listen to Radio Moscow,” Franks said. “When’s the last time you heard anything about Indianapolis? It ought to be the lead story on every newscast and in the newspaper. You hardly hear much about anything going on there. That’s the Rock Act for ya.”

“Kate called me last night, before Hollis and her people showed up,” Gibbs said. “Her uncle, the governor, said nobody’s going into the city anytime soon because of the water supply. Much of its contaminated and not all of it by the bomb.”


“Or their friends. FEMA thinks some of the reservoirs were ‘spiked’ right before the explosion—”

“Which no one is saying was a nuke. If that wasn’t a nuke, then these things burnin’ a hole in my pocket aren’t cigarettes, either. Whatever it was, it was an act of war, and why in hell the President’s not already declared war makes no damn sense.”

“War on who, Mike?”

“The Soviets. No way the Islamists or the cartels could’ve built a nuke that powerful.”

“Maybe, Mike, it’s because once we go to war with the Soviets, it’s over.”

Franks conceded Gibbs’ point, and decided to change the subject. “If we’re gonna listen to the radio, then the least you could do is let me see if there’s some decent music to listen to—”

“They’re late.”

Franks started to speak, paused a moment, then spoke. “Maybe they’re taking their time gettin’ here, Probie. Wasn’t easy to sneak in past those Arlington cops back there, near that old Exxon station. Hell, whoever’s running that thing up there” – Franks pointed to the nearby complex – “probably already knows we’re here.”

“Hollis told us how to come in here, Mike.”

“She said the park, Jethro. Not on the street. Hidin’ under a couple of trees ain’t gonna cover us.”

“Wanna go out and look around, Mike? You’ve been complaining about not being able to go out and smoke since we left Rock Creek Park.”

“Not my damn fault you don’t want any smoke inside your truck, Probie,” Franks said, with a smile. “And I didn’t survive all those years working for NIS by being a fool; I’ll light up after they show up and we get out of this thing.”

Franks settled for the moment for chewing a piece of gum, scanning the area for any sign of anyone else besides them. “They’ll show up, Jethro. Don’t worry. My gut tells me they’ll be here before you know it.”

“Probably,” Gibbs said. “Something’s wrong.”

“What do you see?”

“Nothing, yet.”

“What’s your gut telling ya?”

“I know what she said about tonight, Mike. Something doesn’t seem right about—”

“Jethro.” Franks pointed behind them. Gibbs looked in his rear-view mirror and saw a plain-looking black van pulling up behind them, slowing down about 20 feet away.

“I see it,” Gibbs said.

“Your girlfriend own a black van, Probie?”

Gibbs reached for his SiG-Sauer, pushing the growing sense of dread out of his mind. “On my six, Mike, but keep your eye on the facility.”

Both men got out of the truck and headed towards the van. Gibbs was relieved to see Sloane behind the steering wheel and Langer besides her but kept an eye out for any sign of unexpected company.

“I don’t like this, Jethro,” Franks said as the pair slowly made their way to the van. “This whole area’s restricted, or it’s supposed to be, but nobody’s around.”

“You’re wrong—“

“The damn Pentagon less than a mile away is swarmin’ with security and soldiers. This place, if it’s what she says it is, oughta have a whole damn Army division here protecting it.”

Gibbs pointed to a nearby building. "Probably hiding in plain sight," he said, although the lack of anyone else in the vicinity made him concede Franks' point. He thought at the very least the area had to be heavily monitored, and the sight of a security camera perched on the side of a nearby building confirmed his hunch. "Second floor, next to the window on the corner: security camera," he said, pointing to the building for Franks' benefit. "They're probably hidden all over the place."

"So we're being watched. I hope her people are the ones watching."

The side door of the van opened, and Gibbs saw Hollis waving him in; as he approached the van, he saw Teague and Cooke both holding semi-automatic weapons, looking ready to fire at will. Both men got in, sitting on buckets set out for them.

“Jethro, I hope you’re not married to that truck out there,” Hollis said.

“Hollis…” Gibbs said with a groan.

“We’re going to have to abort,” she replied. “We got intel on the way over suggesting we’re running into a trap.”

“It’s reliable, Boss,” Langer said to Gibbs. “Contact within the Bureau who knows about the ring said there’s a civil war of sorts between those who want to open it up to the public and those who want to keep it a secret.”

“When did your contact reach you?” Gibbs asked.

“Not long after I called you when you were at Rock Creek Park,” Hollis said, apologetically.

“Jesus, lady,” Franks interjected. “You ever hear of a cell phone!?!”


“Don’t ‘Mike’ me, Jethro! For all we know we might be walking into a trap—“

“Which is why we need to leave,” Sloane said, looking outwards towards the complex. “This van’s sturdier and more powerful than she looks. Zero to 60 in two seconds, we’ll be out of the line of sight in sec—“

Gibbs’s hand was on Sloane’s wrist before she or anyone else knew it, keeping her from being able to take the van out of park and into reverse. Gibbs barely saw Hollis chop down on his arm above his wrist, hard enough that he loosened his grip on Sloane’s wrist long enough for her to slip her wrist out of his grasp.

“You do that again and I’ll chop your head off, Jethro,” Hollis said in a menacing tone. “Literally.”

Gibbs glared at her, she at him. Franks saw Cooke and Teague with their handguns pointed downwards and their fingers on the trigger and reached over to put himself between Gibbs and Hollis. “Colonel,” Franks said to Hollis, “does the situation warrant not investigating this ring that you and your people spent half of last night trying to convince me to visit?”

“It does, former Agent Franks, and in my opinion it also warrants us withdrawing imm—“


Franks found himself knocked down to the van floor by Sloane, who was trying to cover him. In the corner of his eye, he saw Langer dragging Gibbs downwards and Hollis diving between Langer and himself.

A second later, he heard an ear-splitting explosion that cracked the front window of the van and caused it to shudder for a few, long seconds. That was followed by another explosion that Franks figured wasn’t too much further ahead, and probably aimed at Gibbs’s truck.

Hollis was the first of them to look up, and she glanced at Gibbs, then her team and then Franks. She — and the others — saw flames about five feet in front of the van, through the cracked front window, and flames not far away, near the truck.

Then she noticed the old Cadillac in the intersection that wasn’t there before, and a glint from inside the vehicle.


Her training kicked in almost before she could think of what she needed to do.

HIT THE DECK!”, she yelled, and seconds later the windshield and front grille of the van were peppered with gunfire. “Cooke! Give me the key,” she barked, while crawling towards the back of the van, and a locker. She took the key, used it to open the locker, then pulled out a couple of semi-automatics. After handing them to Gibbs and Franks, she took another semi-automatic for herself.

“We’re gonna have to fight our way out of this one,” she said, checking the ammunition in her weapon. “Question is, are they with the General or are they garden-variety Spetsnaz?”

“Doesn’t really matter at this point, does it, Hollis?” Langer said.

“Nope,” she replied. “Jack, you get out of here. I’ll get out and draw fire while you—“

Gibbs reached and grabbed her by the arm, with more force than he wanted and with far more fear than he wished. “You.”

“I won’t ask my team to do something I won’t do myself,” she said, turning away from Gibbs to head for the back door. He stopped her before she could turn the handle.

“I’ll go,” he said. “You take Mike and your people—“

My turn to play hero, Jethro…I love you, you bastard.”

He stared at her, speechless, as she turned the handle. “Do me a favor. Don’t name that boat in your basement after me. Jack. You have your orders.”

She got out, and he leapt out of the van behind her, both to cover her and to shoot at whomever was trying to kill them.

As they ran back towards a large tree to use for cover, he saw one of the assailants, dressed in all-black garb that he had seen somewhere before, during one of Jenny’s mandatory intelligence sessions. North Korean Special Guards, he though; North Korea had lent use of its military and intelligence resources to the Soviets over the past ten years, and these special forces were probably doing the equivalent of contract work for the KGB. Whoever they were, they were bad news, at least for Hollis and himself and the five friendlies stuck in the van.

Gibbs reached in his pocket for his cell phone; he was going to have to call in McAllister on this one, and deal with the consequences later. But he only felt his wallet and keys and cursed. It must’ve slipped out of his pocket in the truck, he thought. Damn these pants DiNozzo told me I had to buy.

Looking over at Hollis, Gibbs saw a flash of anger and surprise in her eyes as she shot at the enemy. He remembered her telling Sloane to get the hell out of here and winced when he noticed the van was still there. Is it drivable? Gibbs ducked to see if there was any fluid leaking from below the engine but couldn’t tell from his distance.

Out in the intersection, one of the vehicles moved further east, and Gibbs knew the assailants were trying to get a clear line of sight on them. If they had a missile to fire at the van…

“We’re going to have to ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ it to draw their fire, Jethro,” Hollis said, breaking Gibbs’s train of thought. Her comment clarified in his mind that he wasn’t likely to make it out alive.

“We’re not going to make it,” Gibbs replied.

“Maybe not us, but they can,” she said. “Bonnie and Clyde.”

“You mean Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

“Yeah. Got my movies mixed up. All this time and I had no idea you were a movie aficionado.”

“Nope. I saw it when I was in basic training, and again when DiNozzo brought his DVD player over to watch with me.”

“You remember how that movie ended?”

“Yeah. Freeze-frame.”

“I’m taking a few of them with me,” she said, running out from behind the tree before Gibbs could say or do anything to stop her.

Law enforcement personnel are trained to run to the battle, trained to overcome a human’s natural tendency to do whatever it takes to survive. As an officer in the United States Army, Hollis Mann had undergone hours of training to become a soldier. Yes, she was an investigator — unlike NCIS, the Army’s Criminal Investigative Command (often referred to as CID) pulled its agents from the ranks of active or reserve Army personnel — but at heart she was a soldier. Especially in light of the ever-present and growing Soviet threat, which had manifested itself in front of her.

As she ran towards the three vehicles and those firing at her from behind and within them, the ring came to Hollis’ mind. She pushed it aside to think of her teammates, and of Gibbs, who she heard yelling and firing behind her. She put his face in her mind’s eye.

Then she felt a sharp pain in her stomach, and felt herself falling, and thought it was strange that she didn’t feel herself hitting the street.

Her mind began to drift, even as she saw the backs of her teammates — her friends, her comrades-in-arm — run towards the battle, then stop. Had they been hit? No…they’re turning around? Fight! Or run like I order – ord —

Hollis screamed in agony at the intense pain that abruptly manifested itself back into her stomach and sensed that her strength was quickly ebbing. The pain subsided a little, but enough that she could retain her concentration for one more thing.

She saw Jethro to her left and saw the blood splatter on his pants and shirt, and for the first time figured out why her stomach was hurting so goddamned much.

Only then did it dawn on Hollis that it was now or never to say her last words. This man, this enigma, this bastard, this man of honor would hear them, and she wanted no one other than him with her, now.

“Hollis. Stay with me. Cooke’s calling for backup.” She could see the fear that he was losing her in Gibbs’s eyes, and she mustered her best smile to try to reassure him.

“Is alright, Gibbs,” she said in a near-whisper. Her energy was running low and about to run out, and the sky began to turn dark. “Come closer.”

He put his ear next to her lips. “In my jacket. Pack-et. Yours. Give the letter to Jo. Says you’re on the team.”

“Hollis, you can tell her yourself,” he whispered, as Franks and Sloane made their way over to them. “Stay with us. Backup’s comin’.”

“Je-thro,” she said, drawing out his name. “Do me a favor.”


“Your next ex-wife. Don’t be…be ass. Tell her…why my name’s on…boat…tell…her…you love her…”

The light went out in her eyes as she exhaled her last breath.

Gibbs shut his eyes tight for several long moments. When he opened them, they were wetter than he wanted, and he noticed the others around him. Hollis’s eyes were closed.

“Probie. She’s gone,” Franks whispered.

“Did we get the bastards?” Gibbs said in a low roar.


DID WE GET THE BASTARDS?” Gibbs screamed, the full force of his fury being directed at, but not to, his mentor. “DID WE GET THE ASSHOLES WHO DID THIS???

Franks grabbed his mentee’s shoulders firmly and looked him right in the eye. “Every last goddamned one of ‘em, Probie. They won’t hurt anyone else ever again.”

“That’ll do,” Gibbs whispered, then looked at Franks and Langer, the two still-living people there whom he trusted the most. “Help me get her into the van. We’re going to Ducky’s.”

“That’s impossi—“ Teague said, shutting up at a glance from Langer.

“Joanna, let me,” Langer said. “Boss. We can’t. That’ll draw attention we don’t want right now. There’s a safe house in Manassas. We can bring Ducky there a helluva lot easier than we can take you to him right now. Trust me.”

“Ducky’s,” Gibbs repeated.

“Probie,” Franks interjected, with a soft, but firm, voice. “The man’s right. We gotta go to their safe house. We sure as hell can’t stay here. This place’ll be swarmin’ with God knows who in minutes. If you don’t trust them, if you don’t trust Langer, trust me.”

Gibbs pondered Franks’s advice, while Langer, Cooke and Teague picked up Hollis’s body and carried it to the van.

“I trust you, Mike,” was all Gibbs said from the time they walked to the van, during the ride to the safe house, and while Teague and Cooke cleaned up Hollis’s body the best they could once they got to the safe house.

Gibbs stayed silent even as flashing red and blue lights lit the darkened living room and kitchen of the safe house, and during the subsequent knock on the door.

Langer opened the door after consulting with Teague.

McCallister was there.

Gibbs had so, so many things to say, but squelched all of them deep inside his soul for the moment.

Part Four: Chapter 45
Chapter 45

Manassas, Virginia

Thursday, May 31, 2007

5:32 p.m.

“You going to let me in, Gibbs?"

The safe house that Hollis’s team took shelter was located in a quiet, middle-class neighborhood.

The area was quiet not just due to its residents – many of whom were either retired seniors, or young couples with families – but also due to the regular Manassas police presence protecting its residents from suspected drug-related and general criminal activity going on at the apartment complexes less than a mile away.

Those who lived in the neighborhood were used to law-enforcement vehicles flashing blue-and-red lights every so often. Those cars and SUVs belonged to the Manassas police, responding to the occasional break-in, robbery or drug-related activity.

On rare occasions, the vehicles with the blue-and-red lights represented another agency. In front of this one-story brick house, there sat ten SUVs and one sedan, all with flashing lights, all from NCIS, whose director stood on the front porch impatiently waiting to be let in.

“Gibbs,” Teague said. “Let the man in. Let’s hear what he has to say.”

Gibbs heard her but didn’t budge. A thousand thoughts were rampaging through his mind, all suggesting Riley McCallister, the director of NCIS, was behind the ambush at the complex, the deaths of Hollis Mann and Jenny Shepard, and God knew what else. Rage, not logic, dominated his thoughts.

Franks, on the other hand, was one of the few people who could break through the fog of animosity that clouded Gibbs’s mind.

“Jethro,” Franks said firmly. “Let the man in. Hear him out.”

This time, Gibbs listened, stepping back far enough for McCallister to step inside and go to the center of the living room.

“Special Agent Gibbs, Retired Special Agent Franks,” McCallister began. “CIA Agent Teague. FBI Agent and former NCIS Agent Langer. ATF Agent Cooke. DIA Forensic Psychologist Sloane. The shooting incident with Lieutenant Colonel Mann is officially gang-related,” McAllister said. “Unofficially, Major General Binder – the Commanding General of Army CID – wants to know what the hell happened up there today.”

“He wants to know ‘what’ about what?”, Teague asked.

“Why are you here?”, Cooke interjected.

“Why are you here?”, asked McCallister. “Agent Gibbs?”

McCallister was peeved, but not surprised, that his agent kept silent.

“Maybe we’re gettin’ ready to play a game of poker, Riley,” Franks said. “Invited players only.”

“Which I might halfway believe if I saw a poker table in here,” McCallister replied. “I already know what happened up there today.”

While the other four agents looked sideways at one another, Gibbs and Franks kept their gaze steady on the director.

“I know why you two” – he glanced at Gibbs and Franks – “met the rest of you, and Lieutenant Colonel Mann, at an officially restricted federal complex in a neighborhood closed to the public and anyone else not authorized to be there. I know your team, Agent Teague, were racing to the scene to get to my people before they could be ambushed – and that you all were ambushed anyway. Four North Korean special forces agents, on hire for the KGB, hoping to get access to the facility with the Ring.”

They all stood stone-faced, waiting to see what else the NCIS director knew.

“I know about the Ring. I’ve known about it for some time now,” McCallister said. “Gibbs, I knew you and Lieutenant Colonel Mann visited the complex. I know she wanted Mike Franks to visit it too, to see it for himself, as a step towards getting your entire team to visit it. And, when and if the time comes, to go through it. I’ve seen it, too.”

“Why does that not surprise me,” Sloane said. “Please tell us you had no idea the ambush was coming.”

“Scout’s honor,” McCallister said, although no one else in the room completely believed him. “You’re lucky there were only four of them, and they weren’t the elite-level North Koreans. There’s a lot of terrorist activity being sponsored by the Kremlin right now, people. Lucky for us, there aren’t an infinite supply of top-level special forces to carry it out. A lot more of it is being farmed out to third-string operatives and below—”

McCallister stopped talking when he saw Gibbs, whose glare had turned menacing, slowly making his way over to him. “Jethro,” Franks said as the others saw what Gibbs was doing; Teague reached slowly for her handgun.

Gibbs finally stopped, both men’s noses literally an inch apart. McCallister met the man’s glare with one of his own, Gibbs enraged with grief, McCallister attempting to establish himself as the alpha dog in the room.

“I read up on you long before I accepted this job, Gibbs,” McCallister said with a lowered, even tone. “I know you’re a man of few words. But I’m your boss, Gibbs, and you’ve obviously got a problem with me and you need to tell me why.”

Gibbs thought of Jenny, and Paris and Moscow and butting heads with her after she took the NCIS job and of her body lying in her car at the park, and lying on the slab in the NCIS morgue. And he thought of Hollis, of the first time they met on the job at the golf course, and the nights they spent together in his basement and her apartment, and of her body lying on the ground at the facility. Two women, both of whom he loved, whose lives were taken in a hail of bullets.

“I can accept that you weren’t behind this, that you didn’t know about the ambush, Director,” Gibbs said. “Tell me. Were you behind the death of Director Shepard?”

“No, I was not,” McCallister said.

“Do you know who killed her, Director?”

“Sergei Mishnev, Agent Gibbs. You already know that, though. Is there something else you want to say to me, Agent Gibbs?”

There was, and Gibbs suddenly realized it was the wrong thing, that Hollis’s death had shaken him far, far more than he realized and that he had lost track of his emotions. Gibbs understood if he didn’t regroup now, he’d fly off the track in ways that neither his people, these other agents nor himself needed right now.

McCallister didn’t kill Jenny Shepard, nor did he kill Hollis Mann. Gibbs saw Pablo Hernandez in his mind’s eye, and the caskets of Shannon and Kelly Gibbs, and had a flash of himself, insane with rage, setting up a nest across the Anacostia River so he could blow McCallister’s brains out in revenge.

It was time for Gibbs to get ahold of himself.

“You gonna arrest us, Director, for knowing about this ring?”

McCallister paused. “There’s enough people in town who know about the damn thing already. No friendly’s going to shoot at you for going there when the balloon goes up. Visiting hours are out of the question, now. Pentagon’s going overboard in securing the premises. You show up now, you will get shot at, by Rangers, SEALs, Knights, whichever elite-level forces the Pentagon can spare.”

“Have you spoken with our directors?” Teague said.

“No, Agent Teague, I haven’t spoken with anyone from the Agency or the Bureau or ATF or DIA about this. As far as the Major General, I kicked it up to SecDef. Army CID won’t be a problem going forward.”

“Gibbs,” McCallister said. “I had your truck towed to someone I know in town; I’ve emailed Agent DiNozzo with the owner’s name and the address of his garage so you can do your due diligence, satisfy yourself that the man’s on the up-and-up. You’ll have your truck back by Sunday afternoon, good as new.”

“I can fix it myself—”

“Thought I’d save you the time and trouble of rebuilding an engine,” he said, turning to walk back to his car. He took a step, paused, and turned back. “I’m sorry about Hollis, Jethro. I really am.”

That wasn’t much consolation to Gibbs, who watched McCallister walk back to his SUV, and watched the caravan drive away.

Cooke shut the front door, and Teague snapped her fingers. “We’re done here,” she said, pulling out her copy of the letter than Hollis gave Gibbs before she died. As Teague read its contents aloud, Gibbs followed along silently.

I hereby nominate Leroy Jethro Gibbs and Michael Aaron Franks for membership. I trust them inherently to uphold the purposes of this team and to maintain its secrets when and wherever appropriate.

“So reads the letter,” Teague said to Cooke, Langer and Sloane. “Does anyone second the nomination?”

“I second it,” Langer said without hesitation.

“So do I,” Cooke said seconds later.

“As do I,” Sloane added.

“And I do as well,” Teague said. “As there are no nays, the nomination carries. Mr. Gibbs, Mr. Franks, welcome to the team.”

Gibbs acknowledged the honor with a slight nod. Franks cleared his throat. “Well, that’s nice, Agent Teague, but having gotten shot at today by the equivalent of Kim Jong-Il’s second-string junior varsity death squad, and seeing someone important to my family die, what exactly are the purposes of this team I just became a member of?”

“To save lives,” she said. “To get as many people through the ring as possible when the time comes, plain and simple. And the time will come, soon. Gibbs, Hollis had another letter for me to give you, of a more personal nature, to read at your leisure.”

She went to her purse that was laying on the couch, pulled out an envelope, and handed it to Gibbs. “We’re pulling out, people,” she announced. “Gibbs, Mike, we’ll be in touch soon. Agent Langer will take you two back to your house.”

Gibbs nodded and walked outside, while Franks made small talk with Langer and the others gathered their belongings scattered around the living room. The sky was cloudy, and Gibbs could smell the humidity in the air; he looked down the street towards the west and saw some ominous-looking black clouds in the distance.

Fitting, Gibbs thought as he looked around the neighborhood. A few people were staring outside their doorways or through blinders or parted curtains, and a couple of kids down the street were staring as their mother yelled at them to get inside. Gibbs wondered if he should say something, maybe tell the mom to lighten up a little.

He wondered, since he was a member of this team, how many kids and parents he could round up on a moment’s notice, if he needed to. Should he go down the street and—


Gibbs turned his head and saw an impatient Franks standing to his left. “Langer’s ready to go. They all are.”

Franks pointed to Langer’s white Toyota Camry parked behind a red truck Cooke was getting into, and ahead of a gold Corvette driven by Sloane that was pulling out of the long driveway. Teague was inside a black Mercedes-Benz SUV parked ahead of Cooke, in front of the garage.

Langer stopped before he got into his car, having pulled an envelope left underneath the wiper on the driver’s side. “Boss,” he yelled to Gibbs, holding the envelope high for him to see from a distance.

Gibbs took it only after he got in the front passenger seat and locked the door and didn’t say a word until Langer got to his house. Suits were all over the property and parked in front of Gibbs’ house, and Langer had to stop in the middle of the street next to one of the SUVs to let both men out.

“Thanks,” Gibbs said, reaching in his wallet for a $20 bill. Langer shook his head. “Ride’s on me, Boss. Don’t worry about it.”


“I’m serious, Gibbs,” Langer said. “We’ll be in touch. You need me for anything, pick up a phone. I’ll be there.”

“I know,” Gibbs said. He threw the bill down onto the seat and shut the door before Langer could protest. He nodded at the agents guarding the front door, went through it as one held it open for him, and didn’t stop until he got to the basement.

One of the agents stopped Franks as he walked onto the porch. “Director said to us only that you two had a rough day,” she said. “You need anything — takeout, beer run, whatever — say the word.”

Franks took a few steps past her, stopped, and turned around. “A cold bottle of Corona wouldn’t be bad right now,” he said to her. “A bottle of bourbon, too. I don’t think either of us are hungry.”

He walked inside, and down to the basement, where he saw Gibbs already at work on his boat, stenciling an H on its side. One look from Gibbs told Franks it’d be a good idea for him to go upstairs for a while and watch a movie.

Over the next hour, Gibbs sanded and varnished the boat, stopping every so often to add another letter to its side. Eventually, he got too tired to go on, but didn’t stop until he had gotten Hollis just right. The cot near the workbench beckoned Gibbs, who realized he needed a few hours of sleep to recharge.

The cot held sturdy as Gibbs flopped down onto it. He closed his eyes and tried to think of something besides the day’s events. Shannon and Kelly came to mind and he quickly pushed thoughts of them away. Not today, hon, he thought, certain that Hollis and everything he didn’t want to dwell on would quickly follow and embed themselves in his brain.

The thing was that there wasn’t much else Gibbs could dwell on. He read books and watched movies on occasion, but it’d been a long time since he picked up a Jack London novel or since DiNozzo came over with his DVD player. Gibbs found himself searching through a myriad of memories — Iraq, Stillwater, Mexico, Moscow, Paris, Baltimore — trying to find something he could fall asleep to.

His mind kept going back to his team.

Kate, who had in her own right become one of NCIS’s best agents while harboring a secret.

Ziva, the Mossad officer forced on him who had become another daughter to him, who had discovered a new life and family far away from her domineering father.

McGee, the young and naïve agent who had progressed leaps and bounds in just a few years, who Gibbs realized he had been too hard on.

Abby, the lab rat who charmed her way into his heart from her very first day and, though he was reticent to admit it, had perhaps filled some of the hole in his soul caused by Kelly’s death.

Palmer, scared to death of him and nervous as hell, until that day where he did to the terrorist what Kate couldn’t do to Ari, and since then had changed his personality completely.

Ducky, who Gibbs felt a kinship with from the day they met and was one of the true friends who would call him out on his bullshit and be there no matter what.

And Tony, the son he never thought he wanted to have, whose wisecracking attitude masked his competence. He wondered why in hell DiNozzo hadn’t taken Jenny’s offer of the head job in Rota, indeed why he still stuck around in D.C….

DiNozzo…DAMMIT! The case!

Gibbs jumped off the cot and grabbed his phone from the workbench, calling DiNozzo five times. Each time he got a busy signal. Nothing.

Cursing under his breath, Gibbs called Ducky, and this time someone picked up. “Jethro!”, said the doctor on the other line. “It’s very good to hear from you. How are you and Mike Franks?

“Mike’s fine. Where’s DiNozzo?”

Upstairs, wrapping up the case.”

“Wrapping up the case? Already?”

You may not believe it, although Tony is writing an extensive report for you. He’s having the others do the same. I’ve never encountered a case completed in a single day before, even with agents having double- and triple-checked the—“

DUCK,” Gibbs blurted with a bit more annoyance than he wished. He hoped Ducky would take it as normal behavior.

My apologies, Jethro.”

“You in the morgue, Duck?”

I am, Jethro. I sent Mr. Palmer back to his home-away-from-home and told him to watch a movie, or game, or whatever was on the Telly that’s not news-related.”

“News buggin’ him, Duck?”

The news is ‘bugging’ us all, Jethro. The case was a welcome respite, in that it took our collective minds off current events and finally gave us something to focus on.”

“How’d it get wrapped up so quick?”

The killer came to the Navy Yard and turned herself in.”


The victim’s wife. She thought the victim was cheating on her, because by her logic he shouldn’t be here in the States at all. He was here to visit his mother who lives in one of the poorer parts of the District. He never got to see her, unfortunately.”

Gibbs cursed after remembering that Riley had his truck, then remembered his car was still in the driveway. “How did the wife kill him, Duck?”

A pool stick. A metal pool stick.”

“Say that again, Duck.”

She stabbed him in the back with a metal pool stick. She had followed him since a friend told her he had arrived at Washington-Baltimore International last night. She put her weapon in her car and followed him from the airport into the city and confronted him at a gas station. Then she cut his tires, and he ran. And she followed him.”

“Go on.”

She caught up to him at Rock Creek Park. They argued, and he walked away. Enraged, she ran back to her car, grabbed the cue, and ran until she caught up to him. Then she thrust the stick into his back. It went through his heart, and he fell, dying seconds later.”

“You know, Duck, I’m not sure—“

Unsure you believe this. I understand, but the cue did kill him. Did I tell you the tip of the cue was sharpened?

“No, Doctor, you didn’t. That might explain how it could penetrate skin and muscle.”

The wife was an athlete in high school, a state champion in the javelin event. She has kept herself in outstanding physical shape over the years, and in fact is what Anthony called ‘buff’.”


Her muscles are very well-toned, and at six feet and 195 pounds, has the strength and power to thrust the pool cue into a larger man — the victim — with such force as to kill him instantly.”

“Where’s Tony, Duck? I called him five times and he never picked up. He broke Rule—“

Rule three? Or it Rule three-A? He was acting under the Director’s orders.”

Gibbs sighed. The mention of McCallister caused the day’s events to come flooding back into his mind. He pushed Hollis to the side. “What did Riley say to him? To you?”

Only that you were on a special mission,” Ducky said before pausing.


And, only after the killer confessed and been taken back to holding, did the Director say that Lieutenant Colonel Mann had died,” Ducky added. “He didn’t mention you or the case you were on, but…

“Everyone put two-and-two together.”

Yes…Jethro, how are you holding up?

“I’m…I’d…I’d like to see the case notes, I want to talk with Tony, but I’m too damn tired to do anything but try to get some shut-eye,” Gibbs admitted. “It’ll have to wait until tomorrow — and I will be at work in the morning and I expect everyone there.”

Certainly, Jethro,” Ducky said. “It’s good you recognize that you need some rest, because otherwise I was going to order you to rest. I still may give that order, if I don’t like how you look tomorrow.”

“Duck…” Gibbs thought of the ring, and of what Teague said back at the safe house: the time will come. “I’m not sure I’m going to have that luxury.”


“We need to talk, tomorrow, in private. I can’t go into details now but trust me that it’s as important as anything we’ve ever talked about.”

Alright, Jethro. Is this related to Hollis?

Gibbs felt a sharp stab in his gut. “Indirectly,” he said. “Clear time in your schedule. Ten-hundred hours.” 10 a.m.

Of course, Jethro. For how long?

“As long as it takes,” Gibbs said. “Until then. I gotta get some sleep.”

Get your rest, Jethro,” Ducky said. “I’ll inform the others you and Mike are well. We’ll speak tomorrow. Until then, have as good a night as possible, under the circumstances.”

Ducky’s voice gave way to silence, and Gibbs groaned at the thought of his being well. He wasn’t going to be well for a long time, but he hadn’t really been ‘well’ since he lost Shannon and Kelly. Gibbs’s eyes drooped as he looked for the place where he picked up his phone, and then saw the envelope he hadn’t yet opened. He read the one from Hollis after he got back home, but he had tossed McCallister’s envelope aside. Gibbs didn’t need his gut to tell him that he really needed to open the director’s envelope.

Using a flat screwdriver as a letter-opener, Gibbs saw a folded note and a flash drive. He opened the note.

Have your man McGee decrypt this, stat. You’re going to want to know what’s on it. McCallister.

Gibbs took the drive and note, shoved them down his right pocket, and then fell back onto the cot. As sleep overtook him, he tried to focus on something different and more pleasant. He thought of the treehouse in the backyard he had built for Kelly, and of the only time he and Shannon had been there, together, watching Kelly play teatime with her dolls.

This time, at least in his dreams, he got to keep his promise of teatime, with the two people he still loved more than anyone else.

10:32 p.m. EDT

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

"They blew us off," complained Trevor, as he paced the floor of the kitchen in the CIA safe house located in the southern portion of the city. "I'm of a mind to pull rank and get the hell out of here."

"That would not be wise," said Kort, who sat at the dining table with a half-warm, half-full cup of decaf coffee and a half-eaten danish. "The Soviets and their Dominican 'allies' -- the Fuerzas de seguridad Dominicanas -- are on the move, in the city. Tonight is not the time."

"You still don't think this was some sort of trap by the KGB?"

"No, I don't," Kort replied, taking a sip of his lukewarm coffee.

"So we wait for Boris and Rocket Red to give us the okay...Kort, we should be dictating terms to them."

"I disagree. The Rocket Red Brigade will follow Pushkin. So will a significant portion of the Red Army and the remainder of the Soviet military. Boris represents a faction within the KGB that will take control of the agency and neutralize the sitting Politburo. This in turn will end the war before it can begin."

"So we're putting another Putin into the hot seat. Remember how well that worked out?"

"This is different. Khalinin sees himself as the 'Stalin of the 21st Century' but cannot kill enough of his opposition. There is a large amount of opposition to him, Colonel. These men we will meet tomorrow represent that opposition. We, as you already know, represent the U.S. government. Agree on terms that both parties can live with, and we have our peace."

It's a simple solution, Trevor thought. Too damn simple. Something's way off about this but I can't quite put my finger on it yet.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Gibbs's house

7 a.m. EDT

Gibbs really didn’t want to wake up. He had dreamed of Shannon and Kelly many times before, and always treasured those ‘visits’, although he had never spoken of them to anyone else.

The worst part of it, always, was waking up to the real world. Usually, he awoke to his basement, the boat, and a partly full bottle of bourbon on the workbench.

This time, Franks was there too, and the expression on his face made Gibbs assume the worst.

“Mike?”, Gibbs said, groggily.

“Jethro,” Franks said, calmly and quietly. “I let you sleep as long as I could. Had to get you up. Coffee’s upstairs, one of the suits is makin’ us breakfast. She’s a pretty good cook, too.”

“Mike. What in hell’s going on?” Franks’ expression hadn’t changed, and Gibbs wasn’t going to let it slide. “Did something happen?”

“Jethro, I would’ve woken you up but Ducky—”

“What happened, Mike?” Gibbs said, already exasperated. “Are we at war?”

Franks realized that he’d done a lousy job of hiding his anxiety. He pulled a stool over near the cot and sat down. “There was some sort of peace concert in Australia. They’re 14 hours ahead of us I think. Celebrities, musicians, actors, athletes -- a big target.”

“Target for what?”

“Someone blew up the Sydney Opera House,” Franks said. “Destruction was total. Thousands dead. News is being real careful to assign blame, but if you read between the lines you can pretty much assume it’s from—”

“It’s from Moscow,” Gibbs said.

“There’s more,” Franks said. “News says there’s some big storm, Barry or something, that's about to turn into a hurricane. They’re evacuating Florida up to Orlando. ZNN says there’s been a bunch of accidents from Key West up to the Everglades, cars running into one another. Fox says the Cubans got a little too close to a United flight out of the Canal Zone taking civilians up to Texas.”

“You’re a lousy newscaster, Mike,” Gibbs said with a grin.

“You’re a lousy audience, Jethro, without some caffeine in you,” Franks joked. “You’re the one who wanted to go into work, right. You’re not gonna do that, sleepin’ down here all day.”

Navy Yard, Washington

9:03 a.m.

--again, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour is on the ground in Bangkok, Thailand. Christiane?

Susan, people are filling the streets of Bangkok, celebrating what we understand as the military overthrow of the country’s Central Committee and Politburo. About an hour ago, state radio and television returned to the air after going off abruptly around 4:30 p.m. local time. A general, confirmed to be known dissident Anuphong Phaochinda, dressed in the uniform of the former Royal Thai Army, sat at a desk and announced the retirement of the Central Committee and Politburo and the reestablishment of the Kingdom of Thailand under the emergency government of the Royal Thai Army, with the aim of reestablishing democracy and freedom by and for the Thai people.

Christiane, what is the atmosphere like in Bangkok?

Susan, people are happy, overjoyed that the Communist government has apparently been swept from power in what effectively is a bloodless coup. After the announcement on state media, military and civilian police looked on as people began to dance and sing, flying the flag of the Kingdom of Thailand. There is a tenseness underlying the celebratory mood, though. I can tell you according to a reliable source, the military is gearing up for a confrontation with the Soviets, who were instrumental in the murder of the last Thai monarch, Rama IX, and his family, and the founding of the People’s Republic of Thailand.

Tony hit the mute button on the TV set behind his desk. He needed to take a final look over the report on the so-called ‘Pool Cue Case’. Gibbs hadn’t seen it yet, and he wanted it to be up to the boss’s usual standards.

Twenty minutes later, Tony finished the report and wondered where in hell Gibbs was.

“Penny for your thoughts, Tony?”

He looked up and saw Kate with her chin on her palm. He looked closely at her, seeing less of the pain and rage from Indianapolis, and more of the Kate Todd he knew and loved.

“You gonna stare at me all day, Tony?” Kate said, with a hint of snark and in a good-natured way. The last couple of years had seen the relationship between the two evolve from borderline mean-spirited bickering to friendly, supportive, good-natured bickering between brother and sister.

“Oh! Sorry,” he said. “Wondering where the boss is.”

“He’ll be here,” she replied. “Even Gibbs has to rest. I’m sure he’ll be here before you know it.”

“Gibbs will be here, Tony,” interjected Ziva, from her desk on the other side of Gibbs’s desk, across from McGee. “He is strong. He will survive what he endured yesterday.”

“You have such a gift for subtle, smooth transitions, Ziva,” Kate said.

“Are we talking about…that….when Gibbs gets here?” McGee asked.

“No,” DiNozzo and Kate said together.

“Why not?” Ziva said. “Even just to give our constipations.”

McGee’s mouth flew open, and Kate slammed her palm over her mouth. “You mean condolences, Ziva,” DiNozzo said.

“That is the word I was looking for, thank you, Tony!” Ziva said.

“Uh, I wouldn’t go out of my way to bring it up,” McGee said. “Might be too soon, too raw.”

“I agree with McGee,” Kate added. “Business as usual.”

“I am not saying we have to speak of Lieutenant Colonel Mann when Gibbs arrives for work,” Ziva said, “only that he is strong and will get through what he endured yesterday. He will survive. He will, eventually, move on.”

“He’s moved on from a lot, over the years,” Tony observed. “A whole lot more than most.”

The next moment, the nearby elevator dinged, and everyone in the bullpen turned their heads to see if Gibbs would walk out onto the floor. This time, he walked off, holding a box filled with five large black coffees from the Sundollars kiosk inside the front entrance, and a 48-ounce Caf!-Pow from the building cafeteria. He noticed all four of his people watching him intently, as he walked from his elevator to his desk.

Gibbs had Tony's coffee in hand before the senior field agent had stepped away from behind his desk. “Got somethin’ to say, DiNozzo?”, Gibbs said as he handed him his coffee.

“I’m sorry, Boss,” Tony said, taking the coffee. “We all are.”

Gibbs silently took the other coffees, passing them to Kate, Ziva and McGee.

“We are here for you, Gibbs,” Ziva said.

“Anything you need,” McGee added.

“Anything?” Gibbs said. “What about that report?”

Tony scrambled to grab the report off his desk, nearly knocking the bottle of creamer on to his keyboard. Kate, meanwhile, caught Gibbs’s eye, and both saw the same sadness in the other’s face.

He knew Kate would leave it alone for the time being and made a mental note to talk with her later on. Right now, there was a report to be read, after a few more stops. He looked up towards MTAC, and McCallister’s office. The director, he had already decided, would have to wait.

“Gonna check with Abbs and Duck,” Gibbs told his people. “Anyone comes looking for me, tell them to wait.”

Forensics Lab

Acknowledging the two suits outside the lab with a nod, Gibbs firmly gripped the Caf!-Pow in his right hand and braced himself.

Abby Sciuto saw him enter the lab and ran full force at him, launching herself into his chest and wrapping her arms around him in the tightest hug he could remember being in.

“Gotta let me breathe a little, Abbs,” Gibbs said, which caused the pig-tailed, gothic ‘lab rat’ to back away, but just briefly. Moments later, she wrapped her arms around his neck, making sure to give the man room to take a breath.

“Gibbs, I’m so, so sorry,” she whispered. “Tony told me what happened yesterday and to give you some space, otherwise I would’ve been over last night.”

“I know that, Abbs.”

“I wish there was something I could’ve done…something anybody could’ve done—“

Gibbs gently put his hands on Abby’s upper arms, and just as gently pushed away enough where her chin was off his shoulder and he could look her in the eye. “Abbs, there wasn’t anything anyone could have done. They ambushed us. She died in the line. She went out saving the rest of us.”

Me, he thought.

Abby looked at him for several moments, not wanting to say a word, but just to be there with and for the man who had become a father to her. She, like the rest of the team, knew about Shannon and Kelly, and his own parents, all gone. Abby knew Director Shepard personally, and could almost feel Gibbs’ pain over her loss, even though he hadn’t spoken of it to her or — as far as she was aware — to any of the other team members.

She also knew Agent Michelle Lee, blackmailed by the North Koreans, killed by Gibbs himself to prevent a mass bombing incident here in Washington. She didn’t know some of his other associates, like Agent G Callen, but saw the pain on his face the time McGee mentioned him, in passing, in the bullpen. Hollis’s death added to the list of the dead in Gibbs’s life, and Abby wanted to help support Gibbs anyway she could. She needed him right now, and she knew he needed her, and the rest of the team, no matter how stoic of a front he presented to them and to the rest of the world.

“We’re going to be okay, Gibbs?” she said, then almost uttered a profanity after realizing that she had spoken it in the form of a question, instead of a declaration of truth. Abby wanted to be strong for him and not be selfish and let her own fears filter out — like she had inadvertently done just now.

Gibbs looked her in the eyes, again, and smiled. “We’re going to make it, Abbs. All of us.” He thought of the ring, and Hollis, and thought a prayer: God, if You will still hear this old bastard out, don’t let those be empty words.


Gibbs walked in after nodding to the two suits guarding the door, and saw Ducky alone, sitting at his desk.

“Duck,” Gibbs said to the older man, who was thumbing through a book. “What’cha doin’?”

“Ah, Jethro!” Ducky said, looking up from the thick tome on his desk. “I’ve been reading through a rare copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare published in 1854, sent to me by a friend from Scotland, whom I went to Eton College with. Did you know I once performed the lead role in the school performance of Julius Caesar?”

“No, Duck. That’s one thing you haven’t told me about,” Gibbs replied.

“It was an interesting experience, to say the least. I received high marks for my performance as Caesar and was even asked if I was going to consider a career in the performing arts. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I had considered the matter rather briefly; however, my interest in medicine was far greater than that of acting, and obviously prevailed regarding my choice of career.”

“Pretty thick book, Duck,” Gibbs said with a smile. “You read it through this morning?”

“No, Jethro,” Ducky said with a chuckle. “William Shakespeare wrote a known number of 37 plays and 154 sonnets, all of which are contained in this, as you put it, ‘thick book’. As beneficial as a regular reading of Shakespeare would be to you or I or to anyone else, I simply do not have the time.”

With a nod from Ducky, Gibbs took the book and began carefully turning its pages. Although he preferred to read the likes of Jack London and Wallace Stegner, Gibbs remembered having read some of Shakespeare’s works during his high school years in Stillwater, Pennsylvania. He remembered Julius Caesar as one of Shakespeare’s tragedies.

Given the previous day’s events, the small irony was not lost on Gibbs.

“Duck,” he said, “you and McGee have any luck with the lock on the door?”

Ducky looked at the entrance to the morgue, and the two men standing guard. “It will work, for a short while. Our friends cannot stand out there forever and will find a way inside eventually, but if you need to talk, of course I am here.”

“Appreciate that, Duck.”

“I cannot say with full certainty, however, that mine aren’t the only listening ears in the room.”

“Don’t worry about that, Duck. Palmer around?”

“He’s working out his personal feelings in the gymnasium. I’m quite worried about him, as you know. But please, sit.”

Gibbs pulled over a chair and sat. Ducky got up and pushed the button on the wall, just to the right of the desk, that would lock the morgue doors for 15 minutes. He then sat back down at his desk and faced his friend. “Jethro, once again I cannot express how truly sorry and hurt I am for the loss of Hollis. She was a wonderful, vibrant, intelligent, amazing woman and I know how much you loved her.”

“Thanks, Duck, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Not now.”

“Really?” Ducky said. “What is it, then?”

Gibbs then told his friend the most amazing, and almost unbelievable, story the Scotsman had ever heard.

10:57 a.m. EDT


the Senate voted 97 to nothing, with three abstentions, to reinstate the draft. At the moment, the bill is being discussed in the House

11:12 a.m. EDT

CBS (continuing news coverage)

Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont who abstained, released a short statement via his office. It reads, quote: '", alongside Senators Feinstein and Kennedy, abstained from the vote on the draft bill. My reasons for abstaining are my own. I am not fearful of provoking the Soviet Union. Instead, I am fearful of what will happen as we send our young men and women off to fight in a war that, ultimately, no one can win. Once the first shot has been fired, the fighting will not stop until the final remaining missile silo has been emptied, until the final nuclear device has been detonated. What I do fear is, at that point, there will be nothing left on the planet. Nothing of the great civilizations, including this country I love, no life whatsoever. My abstention stands not as a protest, but as a plea, to my colleagues, and to those who lead my nation and that of the Soviet Union, to stop their march into madness while they still can.”

11:20 a.m. EDT


numerous protests, over the draft bill and the Rock Act, have spontaneously erupted across the country in virtually every city and town

11:46 a.m. EDT

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

massive looting throughout the city, especially here in Center City. We’re getting reports of violence at protests in Fishtown, University City, Logan Square

11:47 a.m. EDT


police and the few National Guard units in the city have been forced to use extreme measures to protect themselves against the increasingly violent mobs that have overtaken the Center City and much of Greater Philadelphia

11:48 a.m. EDT

Radio Free Philadelphia pirate FM radio station, broadcasting illegally on seven different FM frequencies

it’s a damn lie! It’s all a damn lie! People are exercising their Constitutional right to assembly and to protest, and they’re met with rubber bullets and water hoses! In some places, with metal bullets! One thing you won’t hear from the ‘lamestream’ media: injuries and deaths. Well, maybe to the pigs who are enforcing the government’s illegal Rock Act. Not to the people the pigs are maiming and killing! We’ll tell you right now what we know, via sources: two dead, 21 injured among the citizen protestors

11:49 a.m. EDT

Louisville, Kentucky


Mayor Abramson has declared a state of emergency for much of Metro Louisville after the third day of protests throughout much of the city, including the West End, the Highlands, Shively, Smoketown, Okolona and the East End

10:53 a.m. CDT

Lubbock, Texas


(A group of Texas Tech University students have taken over the station, forcing network news coverage off the air and the station to switch to live coverage from its news studios)

We are not Communists! We are not Reds, just Red Raiders, and just red, white and blue!

We do not want to be marched off to our deaths in Germany or Panama, and do not want to see our families and friends left behind waiting for the deaths from a nuke! The government and military clearly don’t want anything but war, while the people they say they serve don’t want war! The only thing the powers in charge will listen to is force, and if you, the people, rise up, they’ll listen to you! So rise up

(In the distance, there are sounds of doors being kicked in, and people running towards the studio)

Rise up and fight! Stand for your inalienable rights

(Someone nearby shouts ‘turn that goddamn camera off, now!’)

Omigod, they’re here! They’re coming for us

(Gunfire can be heard for 1.3 seconds, as the wide-eyed students freeze, in the direction of the gunfire. The screen then goes to black.

The station does not return to the air)—

Transcript from Fox News Channel, from 11:57 a.m. EDT



(FOX NEWS LIVE, June 1, 2007)


HILL : And there it is. 481-33, 21 abstentions, the House votes in favor of the Draft Act, which now goes to the White House for President Boehner to sign into law. Men and women, 20 to 34, all eligible, selected by lottery according to birthdate. Brian, briefly, your thoughts?

KILMEADE : E.D., this should have been done weeks ago. All hands are on deck. We’re on the verge of war with a country that, time and time again, has announced its intention to take over the entire world by any means necessary.

HILL : Steve?

DOOCY: I wholeheartedly agree. I do hate that this has to happen, but it’s necessary. The President is going to sign this shortly, and it’s the last piece of the puzzle to be prepared to fight a global war. We all hate—


: With your Congress voting to reinstate its draft, America has shown its willingness to wage war on the peace-loving peoples of the world. This action ordered by the war-mongering capitalists of the West will not go unanswered outside nor inside your own borders. The people will rise up against the capitalist hegemony controlling the West. The Revolution has begun.


: That was. That was not authorized, not by Fox News Channel, not an official message from the White House or the Pentagon. OhmiGOD.

DOOCY : Not an authorized, uh, the enemy has apparently spoken, without permission.

KILMEADE : This was not authorized by Fox News Channel and definitely not the opinion of us here at Fox News nor of the American people. In fact, if that is you, Moscow, know this: you may have spoken but WE are not intimidated. … America stands strong. Against Soviet aggression. Next, a special edition of Your World With Neil Cavuto begins after the top of the hour.



Although war had not been formally declared, the Soviets began their work of softening the American homeland for the increasingly inevitable confrontation between the two great thermonuclear powers.

12:13 p.m. EDT

The Capitol building, Washington

Five Congressmen and Congresswomen narrowly miss being mowed down by a Spetsnaz agent with a machine gun. The agent, who imbedded himself into the Capitol building by killing a security guard and taking on his identity, is himself killed by a legitimate guard.

6:24 a.m. HST

Honolulu, Hawaii

Shortly after lifting off from Daniel K. Inoyue International Airport, a C-130 Hercules U.S. Navy plane headed for the Panama Canal Zone is hit by a missile from a man-powered, shoulder-fired launcher. All aboard, including a Naval Lieutenant Commander by the name of Steven McGarrett, die.

12:40 p.m. EDT

Raleigh, North Carolina

Four Wal-Marts throughout the metro area, all packed with shoppers trying to get as much as they can ‘just in case’, are hit simultaneously with shoulder-fired missiles. First responders arriving minutes later are hit by similar missiles. The attackers escape, but not before killing hundreds and injuring hundreds more.

11:51 a.m. CDT

Smallville, Kansas

The town’s main hospital is destroyed when a suicide bomber walks into a packed emergency room and detonates the bomb embedded in his vest, at the same time a stolen FedEx delivery truck carrying a giant bomb crashes into the main entrance.

12:03 p.m. CDT

Port Arthur, Texas

A Texas Air National Guard plane – ‘borrowed’ from the USAF – successfully destroys a tractor-trailer filled with explosives headed straight for the Port Arthur Refinery. East German agents had stolen the Wal-Mart truck in Victoria, Texas; packed the stolen truck; then headed for the refinery.

12:16 p.m. CDT

The Texas/Mexican border

U.S. Border Patrol and FBI agents and members of the Texas Rangers fire on a group of armed men attempting to sneak into the U.S. over the Rio Grande. Due to an agreement between the White House and the Mexican government, U.S. agents are allowed to cross into Mexican territory to survey the damage: all 30 insurgents dead, some of which are known to be allied with Cuba, Bulgaria and Angola intelligence. Seven Mexican Policía Federal personnel also are among the dead.

12:29 p.m. CDT

Chicago, Illinois


(Shot from a helicopter over the city near the John Hancock Tower, zoomed in on smoke clouds rising from Wicker Park. The news anchors cannot communicate with those in the copter, so viewers are hearing the anchors’ voices instead of the reporter in the copter with the pilot and cameraman)

that’s Wicker Park, where we are told insurgents from the city’s Russian-born community are engaging CPD SWAT forces. Steve?

Allison, I’ve just been handed a note which says, quote, ‘Mayor Daley has declared martial law throughout the city of Chicago effective immediately. Anyone not in their homes are advised to get to their homes immediately, if that isn’t possible, get to a safe area

(Sound goes out, the lights flicker, and the screen goes dark, just as much of Chicago loses power)

11:33 a.m. MDT

Salt Lake City, Utah


Oh Lord, omigod, the Tabernacle has literally exploded just now, it’s collapsed, IT’S COLLAPSED…oh no, those men have weapons, they’re aiming at us, run, run RUN

1:34 p.m. EDT

Navy Yard, Washington

NCIS Headquarters

Gibbs ran out of the rear elevator and was in the bullpen by the time Ducky decided to walk briskly to where Gibbs and the rest of the team were, standing in front of the giant flat screen television monitor.

“Turn it up, DiNozzo,” Gibbs barked, and Tony obliged, turning the remote all the way up.

…this is ZNN. I’m Lucille Lane, and we’ve just been handed a statement from the White House, quote, ‘The United States homeland is under attack via numerous domestic terrorist operations across the country. The President is aware of the situation and is helping coordinate a national response to attack the insurgents and protect the American people. The President urges all Americans to seek shelter immediately, and to obey local law enforcement’. And that’s it. That’s all there is. That’s all the White House has to say, at the moment.

“That’s it?” Kate shouted. “Broome would’ve raised fire and rain by now!”

“What do we do, Boss?” DiNozzo said to Gibbs, whose desk phone incidentally rang at that moment. Gibbs walked over and picked it up on the second ring. “Gibbs. … Yeah. … Yes, Director. … That’s what you want? … Yes, sir."

“Are we going out?” Ziva said.

“Staying put,” Gibbs replied, the relief on his face visible to everyone else.

“Seriously?” McGee said. “We need to be out there.”

“Probie’s right,” Tony said, and all four of Gibbs’s agents began shouting over one another to be heard, shutting up only when Gibbs put his fingers to his lips to emit an ear-piercing whistle.


Satisfied his people would stay quiet for the moment, Gibbs spoke. “We stay here until we are requested by D.C. Police, understood?”

The others nodded or murmured yes, and Gibbs turned his attention back to the television set.

12:46 p.m. CDT

Topeka, Kansas


--(Peter Ross, the governor of Kansas, is giving a speech outside the state capitol building)

I urge all Kansans to cooperate with local law enforcement and to keep themselves safe, as we coordinate with the Kansas National Guard and federal military forces at Fort Leavenworth and

(A loud bang is heard, and the Governor’s head dissipates instantly. Moments later, screaming is heard, and members of the Kansas Highway Patrol’s Protective Services Detail are seen shooting at someone, or something, off camera, just before the screen goes black)

10:51 a.m. PDT

Hoover Dam

A team of Army Rangers, assigned to guard the facility on the Colorado River along the border between California and Nevada, engages in a firefight with Spetsnaz agents who are attempting to destroy the dam. The insurgents are all killed, at great cost: all 12 Rangers are dead as well.

1:58 p.m. EDT

New York City, New York


--trading has been suspended here on the floor, but not before the Dow fell over 1700 points in just over one hour

2:01 p.m. EDT

Associated Press



2:02 p.m. EDT

Detroit, Michigan


--the Ambassador Bridge has collapsed after reports of at least three bombs, one under the bridge, and now…there is another report from Detroit PD of a massive explosion inside the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel

11:02 p.m. PDT

San Francisco, California


--multiple bombs have exploded on the Golden Gate and San Francisco-Oakland bridges

1:02 p.m. CDT

St. Louis, Missouri


--a truck bomb has reportedly exploded in the vicinity of the Arch

11:03 a.m. PDT

Los Angeles, California


--(shot from copter over the famous Hollywood sign)

The sign, every letter, is burning, and as you see here, the assailants are in a white SUV being chased by LAPD

1:04 p.m. CDT

Nashville, Tennessee


--multiple explosions now being reported throughout downtown Nashville all the way into the West End

11:05 a.m. PDT

Seattle, Washington



2:06 p.m.

Navy Yard

NCIS Headquarters

McCallister’s office

Gibbs paced the floor in the waiting room just outside the office.

“Can I make you some coffee, Gibbs?”

His seeing Cynthia Sumner – former Director Shepard’s secretary – back at her desk was both a pleasant surprise and a sad reminder to the agent of all he had lost. Jenny, Hollis, Shannon and Kelly…Gibbs pushed them out of his mind to focus on why the current director had called him up to this office.

“Thanks, Cynthia,” he said, as she got up and turned to the coffee maker behind her seat. “Guess you missed this place.”

“More than I let on,” she answered, reaching out to hand him a cup of steaming black coffee. “Director McCallister called me last night and asked me to come back. He said the former secretary ‘up and quit’, and didn’t say why.”

“No idea,” Gibbs said. “You back for good?”

“I don’t know,” she replied as the phone on her desk beeped twice. She looked at the phone, saw that it beeped again, and picked up the receiver. “Director Shepar—sorry, McCallister, will see you now, Agent Gibbs. Sorry about that.”

Sumner half expected the man to admonish her for apologizing by bringing up his rule about apologies being a sign of weakness.

He surprised her, instead. “Don’t be. I miss her too.” That made Sumner smile, and with that, Gibbs opened the door and walked into McCallister’s office.

The director stood in front of a group of newly installed monitors along the wall opposite his desk. The large flatscreen monitor closest to the door, that had been there for years, played Fox News coverage of the ongoing terrorist attacks across the nation. So far, only the United States had been hit, but if the scrawl across the bottom of that particular monitor was any indication, America’s Western European allies were preparing themselves for similar terrorist actions. The newer monitors looked to Gibbs like something straight out of MTAC, showing everything from charts and graphs to what looked like surveillance footage of various landmarks around Washington.

McCallister was looking at a monitor showing a Mercator-type world map, only the borders of the various countries, continents and islands were drawn in either blue, red, yellow or green on a jet-black background. There were red asterisks all over the U.S. and its territories and a few in Finland, Bahrain and southern Africa. Thin red, blue and yellow rectangles dotted the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Southern oceans, while similarly colored triangles hovered over the Sea of Japan, Central Europe, the Panama Canal Zone and Southeast Asia.

Gibbs settled in a few feet to McCallister’s left, content with looking at the monitors for the moment to figure out what was what.

“The Soviet Ambassador’s refused to meet with Boehner,” McCallister abruptly said, keeping his gaze on the Mercator-type map. “The bastards won’t even pick up the phone. They’ve walled themselves off inside their embassy, Gibbs, and so have every last one of their allies. Even Thailand’s shut down. You’ve heard about Thailand?”

Gibbs nodded. “Heard the nationalists kicked the Communist regime out of Bangkok.”

“The Communists still hold much of the countryside, but there’s intense fighting all over, between the rebels and the Commies,” McCallister said. “Intelligence suggests the next flashpoint will be in the Dominican People’s Republic, and when that happens, the shit’s really going to hit the fan."

“Kinda looks like it already has, Director,” Gibbs offered.

“Yeah, Gibbs, except the Soviets are holding back, believe it or not. That won't last much longer."


“Hours, maybe a day or two. State’s telling embassy personnel in all Pact countries there’ll be a brief window of time when the Pact embassies in the West start evacuating all their personnel, ambassadors included. When that happens, our people will need to get out fast. There’s a mutual understanding that we’ll let their people leave our territory and vice versa during that time — afterward, if you’re in the other guy’s turf, you’re considered an enemy combatant."

“Fair game.”

“Capture, interrogation, hell, even shoot you if you look at the other guy cross eyed.”

Gibbs sighed and took a long sip of his still-warm coffee. “You think there’s any way to stop this, Riley?”

“There’s too much in motion now that you couldn’t stop everything. You’d have to be Hyperman to do everything that would need to be done, and he’s a comic book kid’s fantasy. I’m not sure either side wants to stop it at this point, anyway. Too much pride and lust for power. So the rest of us plan.”

“To escape.”

“You said it, not me. Anyway, you and your team belong to me, not to Boehner or SECNAV or the Bureau or whatever other bastards might want to make use of your talents. Not unless the Soviets actually decide to invade the East Coast, but the Pentagon thinks the Soviets will nuke us to Hell first, so you don’t have to worry about Jarvis — now there’s a bastard — drafting your people for his personal security guard.”

“Jarvis is one of the hawks in Congress, right?”

“There are a lot of turds sitting in the hallowed halls of the House, and Clayton Jarvis, esteemed Congressman from Maryland, is one of the shiniest and one of the most dangerous. You see him even looking at one of your team, shoot him.”

McCallister didn’t smile as he made the comment. Gibbs started to follow up on the comment, but his attention was drawn by the SPECIAL REPORT graphic on the television monitor to the left of the newer monitors. McCallister noticed it, too, and hurried to his desk to pick up the remote and turn up the sound.

This is Shepard Smith, here at Fox News Channel headquarters in New York City. President Boehner has asked Fox News, and every other broadcast and cable network and channel, this time for a special address to the American people. We present that, now. The President of the United States, John Boehner.

(The face of Smith gives way, briefly, to the Presidential Seal, and then to a shot of the President, sitting at his desk in the Oval Office of the White House. Viewers can see armed Secret Service agents outside the window)

My fellow Americans,

Today, we have been hit with hundreds of terrorist attacks across our country. Beginning with a threatening message from someone who hacked into three cable news networks, cities, towns and villages were hit with attack after attack, from a pipe bomb that exploded in the main post office building in Blue Valley, Nebraska, to the truck bombs that collapsed the Space Needle in Seattle; the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City; and the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. As our military and civilian law enforcement teamed up to respond, the attacks kept coming. Even now, in this brief moment of respite, our hospitals and clinics are overwhelmed with the vast numbers of people who have been injured. Almost all of our nation is under martial law.

And yet, these brazen attacks have not demoralized the American people. Already, there are stories of brave men, women and children, risking their lives to save their fellow citizens. People dying so their fellow man can live. The bravery of special forces fighting to save the Hoover Dam, the power plants of Chicago, and the wheat fields of Kansas. Just as the American people stood firm when the mushroom cloud rose above the Indianapolis Motor Speedway five days ago, they are standing firm now. Our enemies have attempted to deliver a 1-2 punch to you, America, but you refused to give into fear, and you remain standing tall. I admire you deeply, and your resolve will be needed in the days to come.

I can now tell you, based on valuable intelligence gained at great cost by some of the best we had in both our military and intelligence communities, that we in the government know who is behind today’s attacks, and was behind the bombing in Indianapolis on Memorial Day. I refer not to Islamists, nor to Latin American strongmen, nor to the cartels in Mexico and Colombia. I am referring to the evil men of the Politburo of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and specifically the evil man who took leadership of his country in a coup d’etat: Marshal of the Red Army, now General Secretary, Mikhail Khalinin. They, and no one else, want an all-out war that they know could destroy the entire globe, literally.

They have goaded us into such a war, and I, along with Congress and our military, have stood resolute in not taking their bait. We have waited not out of fear, not to appease our enemy, but to avoid starting a global war as long as possible. I demanded our people make certain they knew who was behind the Indianapolis attack before we mounted any type of response. I demanded the same when these terrorist attacks began a few hours ago. In both cases, the evidence to us was clear, and it pointed directly to Moscow.

The time for caution has passed. Our enemy has forced our hand, and it will quickly find it has unleashed a beast.

These acts of aggression will not go unanswered, nor go unpunished, regardless of whom is perpetrating them. These terrorists, and that is what they are, will not destroy us. They will not destroy what we stand for, our values and our convictions. America will not bow to our enemies. America will stand tall. Do not lose heart, my fellow Americans. Now is the time to stand, and to fight, wherever the battle takes us, be it in our homeland or overseas. Look in yourselves, look to each other, and look to God, and let us prevail in this, our finest hour.

Thank you, and may God keep us, the United States of America and her people, in the days to come.—

Now the shit’s hit the fan,” McCallister said as the shocked visage of Shepard Smith filled the monitor.

4:23 p.m. EDT

New York City

Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx are wracked by numerous explosions throughout the city’s subway system. Soviet and Soviet-allied agents engage in firefights with NYPD officers and New York National Guardsmen throughout the five boroughs.

4:55 p.m. EDT

Atlanta, Georgia

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

A TWA 747 airliner, hijacked by four Soviet agents, is destroyed when a US Air Force F-15 Eagle launches two missiles, hitting the large jet before it can get off the ground. Intel will later suggest the hijackers were attempting to fly the plane into the Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta, which had been opened hours before to displaced travelers.

2:27 p.m. PDT

Los Angeles

An American Airlines 747 carrying civilians from U.S. bases in Japan and China lifts off from Los Angeles International Airport headed for Denver. It never makes it, after North Korean hijackers take control and crash into the second-most congested stretch of freeway in American, Interstate 405 from California State Road 22 to Interstate 605. Initial casualty estimates are over 2,000 dead.

3:02 p.m. PDT

Berkeley, California

University of California

Activist Angela Davis makes an impromptu appearance on campus, in front of the famous Campanile-Sather Tower. With dozens of television cameras and a growing crowd of students, Davis — who left the Communist Party USA in 1991 — calls on the U.S. and USSR to meet again in Geneva to discuss peace, then says Boehner “should not conduct himself as a warmonger on behalf of his corporate puppeteers”. A group of student-athletes take exception to the comment and storm the press conference. Representatives of student organizations supportive of Davis’s cause rush towards the athletes. Davis, and six others, are killed in the subsequent melee.

7:08 p.m. EDT

New York City

Central Park

Over 70,000 New Yorkers defy martial law and the threat of more violence to attend a peace vigil. Nevertheless, panic ensues after insurgents known to be associated with the Angolan secret police attack NYPD officers. While the Angolans and NYPD engage gunfire, the crowd quickly descends into a frightened mob; dozens die, hundreds more are injured.

7:26 p.m. EDT

Gainesville, Florida

Rock musician Tom Petty is shot dead by a sniper during a concert for peace at the University of Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

7:01 p.m. CDT

Houston, Texas

Local television newscasts begin airing reports of area hospitals and clinics being ‘besieged’ by people complaining about an abnormally strong strain of influenza. Local news also reports on jammed highways throughout the region, with some drivers reporting feeling extremely ill.

9:39 p.m. EDT

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

As Kort and Trevor left their safehouse, neither were aware they were being watched.

"Maskirovka," whispered the Beast.

9:55 p.m. EDT


Continuing news coverage with Jack Ryder, interviewing evangelist and pastor Jimmy Swaggart

RYDER : So, Reverend Swaggart, what would you have us do.

SWAGGART : Repent. Get right with the Lord.

RYDER : How about the Lord does some smiting, starting with the Kremlin?

SWAGGART : You mock Him, Mr. Ryder—

RYDER : I’m not mocking God, Reverend. I’m asking, where is He, why hasn’t he taken out the people determined to blow us all to kingdom come?

SWAGGART : Whether you ask sincerely, or in jest, Jesus Christ is giving you, and your audience, and the entire world, yet one more chance to get right with Him. This world is going to be destroyed by fire, if not now, then someday.

RYDER : You seem like you can’t wait.

SWAGGART: My heart breaks, Mr. Ryder. This is no joke. This world with all of its conveniences is going to go up in fire! You have a choice, and I cannot say how long the Lord will wait before removing His hand from you, from all of you. So I ask you, Mr. Ryder, and you in the audience. Are you prepared for the world that's coming???
Part Four: Chapter 46
Chapter 46

Friday, June 1, 2007

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

10:07 p.m. EDT

When Kort pulled the SUV in front of the Triumph nightclub, almost no one was there. In fact, after going through the police checkpoint three blocks away, both noticed no one was on the street, or in the adjacent buildings. Trevor had heard of ’special arrangements’ made for unofficial meetings between representatives of the Allied, neutral and Pact nations. He had been in one of those meetings before, in Mumbai. He didn’t like that meeting, and he didn’t particularly like this one.

Trevor got out right as Kort did, and both made their way to the front. Two local Haitian men, both brandishing AK-47s, waved them in with the barrel of their automatics after Kort and Trevor showed their ID badges. Trevor was surprised to see nearly two dozen men and women, all armed, spread throughout the interior of the nightclub. One of the women, who Trevor guessed was of Latin origin, guided him and Kort through the main dance floor and up a short flight of stairs onto a balcony. He saw Pushkin and Boris waiting for them, with bottles of water and cans of Coca-Cola on their table.

“Welcome, my friends,” Pushkin said, with his sincere-but-overbearing grin. “As you see, the club is private this evening.”

Neither American acknowledged the Soviet military officer nor his KGB comrade, who sat with his arms crossed. Boris wasn’t glaring at them, however, and Trevor tried to take that as an omen. His gut still told him something was wrong, however.

“You spoke as if peace was a possibility,” Kort said as he and Trevor sat down.

“It is,” Pushkin said. “I have read up about you, Colonel Trevor,” he continued, looking at Trevor. He then turned to Kort. “Agent Kort, you not so much. We have not have, ah, as much luck finding information on you.”

“Good,” Kort replied, staring at Boris. “I’m sure your friend would understand.”

Da,” Boris replied.

“I see we both are perhaps much more alike than not,” Pushkin said. “KGB, CIA, not so talkative, until they need to speak. Us military types, can be the same way, but in general are more open.”

“You think so?” Trevor asked Pushkin.

“I do,” Pushkin replied. “I have read up on you. Task Force X has been known to us for decades. You have been known to us for years, Colonel. Your activities have earned you a great deal of respect among the Red Forces.”

“Charmed,” Trevor replied. “Wish I could say the same for your ‘Red Forces’. Kinda hard to, considering your leader’s behind a lot of this mess we’re all in.”

“Many of us behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ feel the same way, Colonel. Perhaps before we talk…business…it would help if I told you a little about me, and if I told you a story.”

“Do I have a choice?”, Trevor said.

“I would hate for you both to have come this way for nothing,” Boris interjected. “Comrade Mikhail does like his stories.”

Trevor looked at Kort, who gave a short nod. “Go ahead,” Trevor replied.

“As you were involved in your Task Force X, I was involved in the Soviet equivalent,” Pushkin said. “We too had our share of adventures to save the Rodina and, sometimes, the world.”

“Were your mission parameters the same as ours?”, Trevor asked.

“Da,” Pushkin said. “By any means necessary. Some of our missions haunt my dreams to this day. There is one I would like to share with you.”

Trevor nodded his assent.

“Years ago, an alien ship crash-landed in the Ukraine, in the middle of a wheat field,” Pushkin said. “It was one of the most prosperous such fields in all of the Soviet Union. It was at a time we were having difficulty making our agricultural quota.”

“The U.N. helped bail you out, as I recall,” Trevor said.

“That is correct,” Pushkin said. “The shutdown of nearby fields, and the evacuation of workers, did not help. I was part of the investigation. I was in my Rocket Red suit, since we had no idea what — or who — was inside. I was ordered to open the hull however possible and secure whatever was inside. I would be the first human to make contact with this alien race was asked to open the ship, a significant responsibility if you think about it. I was, of course, a soldier, not a diplomat, so I acted as a soldier. Using a laser, and brute force, I cut a square in the hull. I was not prepared for who I found.”

Trevor noted the hint of sadness in Pushkin’s last sentence. “Who did you find?”

“We — I — found a young alien humanoid woman, unlike any woman I had ever seen before,” Pushkin said, with a smile. “I would have said she was in her early twenties. Golden skin unlike any other here on Earth. She was nearly two meters tall. That would be — how would you say it in your measurement? — over six feet tall? She was athletic, and beautiful. She should have been the pride of Soviet sport, a better player than your Cheryl Miller and Sheryl Swoopes.”

“You said she was beautiful?” Trevor said, thinking of his own lost love.

“Her skin was gold, with a hint of orange. It glowed, almost as much as her innocent, sweet smile. Her eyes were jade and shone as brightly as the sun. Her hair, long and flowing, as red as fire. She called herself Corey-ann-der — we never could decipher her language — but I called her my Starchild."

Trevor recognized the pain in Pushkin's voice and almost let the story end there. "What happened to her, Sergei?"

Pushkin blinked hard, and looked back at Trevor. “Khalinin and his KGB allies” — he glanced at Boris, who looked down at the table —“are what happened to her. She, and her people, were deemed a threat. I was, at the time, ordered to deal with a different threat, in the former Yugoslavia. When I came back, I was simply told the threat had been dealt with, for the good of the Soviet Union and the peoples of the world. All of the things we are told every time we committed an atrocity."

Trevor looked away. He had his own past actions on his conscience, and never really would forgive himself for some of them. He was certain Kort — who was pensive as he listened to Pushkin’s story — had been involved with, if not committed himself, some brutal actions as a member of the Agency. God only knew what Boris had done in his role with the KGB.

“Why are we here, Mikhail,” Trevor said; the Soviet officer had managed to make a connection with him, whether he liked it or not.

Boris looked at Pushkin, who nodded.

“The Soviet Union and the world Communist movement are ruled by a madman,” Boris began. “Our leaders have not been as exemplary as your people would like, not as many of your leaders wish to portray themselves. But we have not had a madman in power since the ‘great’ Stalin.”

“Khalinin has already began purges throughout the government and the military and he is beginning them in the KGB,” Pushkin added. “He is demanding loyalty to himself and only himself. To be loyal to him is to be loyal to the international socialist movement, to the USSR, to the Rodina; he is even talking about removing the statue of Lenin on top of the Palace of the Soviets and replacing it with one of himself!”

“I’ll grant you he’s probably nuts,” Trevor said. “Can he be removed?”

“Can he be deposed?” Boris continued. “Yes. There are significant elements now within the Red Forces, the government, the KGB, to eliminate him and secure Moscow. Preparations are being made to do so. We would expect something to happen within 72 hours. When it does — not if, when — the new ruling committee will approach your President Boehner about peace. This will not happen until Khalinin is removed.”

“What do you want from us?”, Kort said.

“Tell your superiors what I just told you,” Boris replied. “Tell them to wait. Tell them that the new Central Committee will come to them, soon enough. We—“

Boris turned his attention from the Americans towards the front of the nightclub. He swore he saw the front wall shake.

Then, Boris heard a loud sound, and saw the front wall collapse. Seconds later, he saw a giant of a man walk through the dust cloud, heading right towards him.

The guards opened fire, and their bullets — from Soviet AK-47 assault rifles, German MP5 submachine guns, Chinese Type 77 pistols and Type 85 submachine guns — all bounced off the man, all 2.2 meters and 170 kilograms of impenetrable bone and muscle.

Then, he took the giant red machine gun in his left hand and mowed down the guards, taking care not to shoot at or near the four men at the back of the balcony. Pushkin stood his ground and watched the massacre go down, while Kort, Trevor and Boris hid behind the table they had flipped on its side after the giant walked in.

“Who — what — in God’s name is that?!?”, Trevor yelled towards the end of the giant’s shooting rampage.

“Boris knows of him,” Pushkin replied. “Tell them, Boris. Tell them of the Beast.”

Boris was frozen in fear. Pushkin unfroze him with a cuff to the back of his head. “Tell them, comrade, about the KGB Beast.”

“Anatoli Knyazev,” Boris said after the shooting had ended. “He is KGB. I have met him before. He is referred to often as the Beast. He is a ruthless mercenary, sent to eliminate threats to the Soviet Union, by any means necessary.”

The Beast was dressed in a dark blue and red mask, a dark blue sleeveless shirt with three thick red horizontal stripes on his chest, and dark blue pants and gloves. Trevor had just noticed the Knyazev wasn’t holding the machine gun; his left arm was the machine gun.

And Knyazev was slowly walking their way.

None of the four fled. Trevor’s mind flashed back to one of his last missions with Task Force X in Gotham City a few years before: Operation Mop-Up, in which the Task Force led a platoon of special forces personnel from all four branches of the military, backed by an Army regiment trained in urban warfare. The mission was to eliminate the psychopaths that had terrorized the city. They did so at great cost: over 17,000 civilians dead, 4,200 from the regiment and platoon, not to mention everyone on the target list.

One of them was a man named Bane, who Trevor distinctly remembered as being over seven feet tall, probably 400 pounds of grotesquely proportioned muscle, and having tubes injected into his shoulders, neck and back.

It took the so-called ‘God killer’ sword to dispatch the maniac permanently. Trevor would fall back on God, not luck or his extensive swordsmanship training, as the reason he lived to tell the tale of how he took down Bane. The God killer sword was locked down tight, in a vault outside of Charlottesville, Virginia operated by the Agency’s A.R.G.U.S. division. Trevor wished he had that sword right now, as he figured there was no way his Beretta M9 pistol would make a dent in the blue-and-red garbed maniac walking his way.

The Beast stopped at the stairs and lowered his arm/weapon.

“Comrades, and imperialists,” Knyazev said. “Attention. Moscow is speaking.”

A couple of beats later, the Beast continued. “The uprising against Khalinin, the General Secretary and Marshal of the Soviet Union, has ended. Nineteen out of every 20 of his enemies — the enemies of the workers of the world, the Rodina, the world revolution — have been purged. The rest are being purged. That includes you.” Knyazev looked at Boris and Pushkin, then at Kort and Trevor.

“You are aware of the October Agreement, yes?”, Kort said, as cool as Trevor had ever seen him. There wasn’t a drop of sweat on the man; Trevor, on the other hand, felt a few beads sliding down his neck.

“An agreement made by a would-be imperialist,” Knyazev said. “An illegal agreement.”

“We are abiding by it.”

“Are you going to beg for your lives?” Knyazev said, dismissively.

“I think we’ll stand and fight,” Trevor interjected. Whatever he was, Trevor decided he was a man, not a coward. He would fight to the death for what he believed in, and if that meant dying alongside two Russians he believed were trying to do right, that’s what he would do.

Pushkin wasn’t going to let him die so easily, though.

With no warning, Pushkin — not a small man himself — launched himself at the Beast, knocking him off-balance with a punch to the jaw. “Get away, friends,” he yelled between punches. “Go!”

Kort looked back, and saw the flames coming from the rear entrance. Trevor smelled kerosene. “Arson,” he said to Kort and Boris. “That bastard’s got us good.”

The only possible way out was past the brawling Knyazev and Pushkin; both men’s punches were landing hard, each blow echoing throughout the dance floor. There was no way to get around them, since they were brawling and tossing each other from one side to the other too fast for any well-trained human to dodge.

Abruptly, with a grasp and a squeeze of his hand and a loud crack, the fight was over. Pushkin had passed, and Knyazev turned towards the three other living souls in the room.

Boris broke from behind the table, pulled out his Makarov pistol and began shooting as he walked towards the Beast. He emptied one cartridge, put in another, then resumed shooting. The bullets bounced off Knyazev’s forehead and chest; he waited for Boris to walk within arms-length, then grabbed him and threw him 40 feet against a side wall, killing the KGB officer instantly.

That left the Americans.

Kort then reached for the pistol hidden in his trousers, pulled it out and aimed for the forehead. He pulled the trigger six times; the first bullet found its mark, the other five were for insurance.

Seventeen seconds after Knyazev died, his body fell to the ground, on top of the gore created from Kort’s first shot.

“What the hell was that?” Trevor said, gaping.

“Insurance,” he said, rearming his pistol with another cartridge. "The bullets are made of a substance called Nth metal."

“Why…you could — you should have done that earlier!” Trevor yelled. “You could have spared those men’s lives! They died for nothing!”

“I disagree,” Kort said. “We must leave. The authorities will be here very soon and we do not want to be here.”

Kort was 20 feet away, heading for the remains of the front entrance, before Trevor moved. He caught up with Kort outside, and both men were six blocks away by the time the local police arrived. A ‘friend of the Agency’ had them booked on a flight to San Juan and in U.S. airspace before the local authorities could think to find and question either of them.

Saturday, June 1, 2007

8:10 a.m. EDT

Washington, D.C.


As you can see behind me, dozens of U.S. Army soldiers whom we in the media have been told have just returned from Afghanistan, are surrounding the Soviet Embassy. You can also see dozens of protestors defying the martial law order, and police trying to keep them separated from the line of Army personnel, who are protecting the embassy itself

New York City


both LaGuardia and JFK are taking on dozens of flights from World Pact countries, We know the Cuban and Bulgarian consulates have been evacuated, with all personnel heading east, off Manhattan Island, towards both airports

Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis Star website



Anti-Soviet protests all over the state

Residents in FEMA camps ‘want blood’

John Lennon, speaking to MTV:

I’m…I’m bloody speechless. I don’t know what to do, what to say. They aren’t listening to the people. They aren’t listening to the sane people in their own governments. I’ve done something I haven’t done in years, not even when Paul and Linda were killed in the plane crash. I prayed, to God. I asked God to intervene. Maybe I’m talking to the bloody wind. It can’t hurt. I’m scared to death, you know?

WHAS-AM, Louisville, Kentucky, open lines for listeners, ‘Jeff’ from Salem, Indiana talking with host Joe Elliott:

I lost people up there, man. I got family and friends, people I went to school with, living in these FEMA camps and they ain’t going home. Everyone here in town knows someone who died or knew someone who died or someone living in those camps. Yeah, I’m pissed. (Bleep) Bernie Sanders, (bleep) the Democrats, let’s bomb the (bleep) out of the Russians. They attacked us. Why haven’t we dropped a bomb on Leningrad or some other city of theirs? Huh? We that damn scared of them? I’m not. No one here in Indiana is. They show their (bleep) heads around here, we’re blowing them clean off their shoulders.

Notice from an Exxon gas station, Fairfax, Virginia:






Drudge Report

Wyoming the last state to declare statewide martial law…

‘Patriot’ groups fighting Russian-born residents in streets of Chicago…

37 dead after crowd rushes police protecting Publix supermarket in Jacksonville…

Reverend Billy Graham: ‘The only answer now is in Christ Jesus’…

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists move Doomsday Clock to 30 seconds before midnight…





Sign on the front lawn of a home in Omaha, Nebraska:

We’re gone for awhile. Please don’t take anything from our home. And please say a prayer, that the Russians don’t take our homes and families and our lives from us.

Washington, D.C.

9:47 p.m. EDT

Two black SUVs pulled up on the lawn of the empty two-story house across the street from Gibbs’s house, and he and Franks watched the rest of Gibbs’s — their — team get out of the vehicles.

Without saying a word, Gibbs waited on his people as they got to the house and walked through the front door held open for them by a suit. He followed Franks, who himself walked in behind Ducky, the last person in the line of people briskly heading towards the basement stairwell. Gibbs nodded to the suit standing upstairs outside the stairwell before making his way to the workbench; everyone else were either standing by the bench or by the boat that took up a significant portion of the center of the basement.

“Mustache let you bring us here, Boss?” Tony said, breaking the silence. “Things must be real bad for that to happen.”

“What’s going on, Gibbs?” Kate said. “I mean, really going on?”

“Is this it?” Palmer interjected. “We going to war?”

“Boss, why are we here?” McGee asked.

Gibbs didn’t say a word in response.

“I have been told nothing by my contacts in Mossad that add to what has already been reported on the news,” Ziva said, “or is in the briefing from Director McCallister given to us to read on the way here.”

“There’s a reason you all are here,” Gibbs said, from the corner of the workbench he had taken over. “This is definitely need to know.”

“Does it have to do with Hollis?” Kate asked. She, and everyone else, saw the brief glimpse of anguish in his eyes. They saw it go away an instant later, replaced by his usual demeanor, as if he shoved his personal pain to the side to concentrate on his job.

“Nope,” he said with steel in his voice, enough to convince the others not to bring her up for the rest of the meeting.

“Then what is it?” Palmer said, with respect and with none of the timidity he had known Palmer for having. Gibbs noticed that Palmer didn’t have his glasses on and looked more muscular than he remembered. Gibbs then realized he hadn’t touched base with Ducky enough to know about what was going on in his assistant’s life. DiNozzo — who hung out with Palmer off work and probably knew him more than anyone else besides Ducky — hinted at Palmer dealing with some personal issues.

“Jimmy, give Agent Gibbs the floor,” Ducky said firmly, and without admonishment. Gibbs looked at the doctor, then at DiNozzo, who mouthed ‘I’ll explain later’. Gibbs nodded, and looked at the clock on the wall. Then his phone rang, and he picked it up, listening and saying nothing.

“They’re in the neighborhood,” Gibbs said. “Oughta be here in a few minutes. When they get here, hear us out till we’re done, then ask whatever you want.”

“Want to give us a hint, Gibbs?”, Kate asked. Gibbs started to say ‘no’, then reconsidered it, and answered her.

“Yeah,” he said. “The government and military both have their hands in projects you wouldn’t believe are on the up-and-up. This is the mother of them all. Just hear them — me — out. Trust me on this.”

Before Kate, or the others, could ask what ‘this’ was, Langer appeared in the doorway at the top of the basement stairs. He made his way down, laptop in arm, followed by Teague, Cooke and Sloane.

Langer opened the laptop and began to explain about the ring Gibbs and Hollis saw, as well as its sister rings around the world. Langer showed video of the ring from the Pentagon, and pictures of other rings from 'restricted areas' elsewhere in the country.

“Ask your questions,” Gibbs said, and no one spoke up for the next minute. All of Gibbs’s team looked skeptical to varying degrees, Palmer and Ziva being the most skeptical, and McGee being the most willing to believe.

Finally, Palmer stood up and said what was on his mind, and those of his teammates. “The only reason I’m taking this seriously at all is because I know you don’t bullshit around, Gibbs. But this is the craziest thing I’ve heard in my life.”

“Fair enough,” Gibbs replied. “The rest of you agree with Palmer?”

They all nodded.

“You believe me when I say that I saw something?”

They all nodded, and Ducky remained quiet while the other team members decided they had something to say, all at once, and all talking over one another. A loud whistle from Gibbs silenced them, but he knew they needed to have their say. He nodded at DiNozzo.

“Okay, Boss. I believe you and Hollis saw something,” DiNozzo said. “What if it’s what they — whatever’s down there — wanted you to see?”

“Fair question,” Langer interjected. “Wanna see the video again?”

“Could be from a Hollywood studio,” McGee said.

“It’s not,” Teague said. “It’s real.”

If it is real,” Ziva said, “and there are others like it around the world, why have we not heard about them yet?”

“Panic, greed, national security, to keep our people from going somewhere that would put them in danger,” Cooke said. “To keep out something on the other side from coming over here and creating havoc.”

“Great,” Kate said. “That thing is supposed to be our salvation, and the authorities are scared of what’s waiting on the other side? Assuming it’s real.”

“It is, Agent Todd,” Sloane said. “You have every right to be skeptical.”

“It’s called ‘common sense’, Agent Sloane,” Kate shot back. “I’ve heard about black ops projects the government is supposedly involved with. This was an alien craft sitting in Nevada, I’d be more inclined to believe you. I take The X-Files and Star Trek for what they are: fiction.”

“It’s real, Kate,” Gibbs said, quietly, and with more conviction than she’d ever heard from him. That unnerved her, but she didn’t want it to show. She tore her gaze away from Gibbs, finding it easier to maintain her skeptical countenance with a stranger.

Sloane’s look of sympathy unnerved Kate almost as much as Gibbs’s tone. She turned away from Sloane back towards Gibbs only to notice her other teammates looking at their leader. Their expressions mirrored the small conflict raging inside her own mind and heart: not wanting to believe Gibbs was insane, or pulling an elaborate (if sick) joke, or anything other than he believed what he was saying, but finding it all but impossible to believe in something they regarded as real as UFOs.

“Boss, I gotta ask,” Tony said, as calmly as Kate remembered him ever speaking. “Are you pulling one over on us?”

“No, Tony. I’m not.” The tone of Gibbs’s response was this is as serious as it gets.

“This some kind of psych test?”


“Something Mustache pulled out of his ass?”

Definitely not.”

“So take us,” DiNozzo said. “Take us all. Now.”

“Impossible,” Teague said. “You’ve all heard what happened there. The area is locked up tight—“

“So how in hell are we supposed to get there, if that’s where we end up having to go when the missiles fly, then?”, Palmer said with a sharp tone and in a somewhat confrontational manner.

Palmer and the other team members followed Gibbs’s eyes as he looked over at the other agents. “The Pentagon ring is off limits right now,” Teague said several moments later.

Cooke suddenly had a brainstorm, and he wondered how neither he nor his teammates had thought of it before. “We can’t take them near the Pentagon. We can take them to another ring,” he said.

“And you came up with this just now, Agent Cooke?”, Franks said, mirroring the thoughts of the other NCIS personnel in the basement.

“That’s a great idea!,” Kate added, with much sarcasm. “Stop talking about where we can’t go and talk about where we can go!”

“But where can we go?”, McGee interjected, before Cooke’s fellow agents could come to his defense. “How many of these things are there? And how do you know they all don’t have the same level of security — and be just as impossible to get into?”

“Assuming they’re real, McMulder,” Tony said.

“Devil’s advocate,” McGee said. “Can any of you offer an alternate location that we can visit tonight?”

Cooke held up his hand to silence Teague, Langer and Sloane, then pulled out his cell phone. “How secure is this basement, Gibbs?”

“You can talk to your people, Roger,” Gibbs replied, and Cooke walked to the foot of the staircase before placing his call. He spoke with someone while Gibbs’s team talked amongst themselves, and Teague, Langer and Sloane huddled nearby, whispering amongst themselves.

“I wonder what they’re discussing, Tony,” Ziva said as she observed the huddle.

“The weather on Mars,” Tony cracked.

Ziva turned to look at Gibbs, who was talking with Kate. “I wonder if there is something that we are not able to see because we have closed our eyes to it,” Ziva said.

“You mean closed our minds,” Tony said. “My mind’s working just fine, Ziva, and my eyes are wide open.”

“Look at Gibbs,” Ziva said. “He saw something, Tony.”

“Maybe it was what Mustache wanted him to see,” DiNozzo said. “Aliens? Come on.”

“No one said anything about aliens—“

“Then other Earths. Parallel worlds. That’s Star Trek, Ziva. Major Comics. Sci-fi. Not even McGeek believes it.”

“Doesn’t he?”

“Do you?”, DiNozzo shot back.

“My eyes are open to the possibility,” she said, “but only because of Gibbs.”

“Gotta admit it’d be one helluva thing if it were real,” Tony said. “McGee would never let me live it down.”

“He wouldn’t agitate you like that, Tony,” she said, spotting McGee making small talk with Palmer. “How is Jimmy doing, Tony? You spend more time with him than the rest of us.”

“On the surface, he’s doing great,” Tony replied. “Thing is, I can’t get past the surface.”

“Perhaps McGee will have better luck,” Ziva said.

McGee, in fact, had looked for an excuse to get with Palmer one-on-one, and Palmer was willing to converse, about everything from the weather to McGee’s now-stalled writing career. “How’s the book coming along, McGee?” Palmer asked.

“The manuscript’s sitting in a box in my apartment, assuming someone’s not broken in there by now. I didn’t have time to get it when McCallister gave the order to leave. I’ve been free-writing some, but nothing’s really come of it.”

“Sounds like you’ve got a pretty decent science fiction story here.”

“Already done. Stargate SG-1. That what this sounds like to me, more than anything else,” McGee said. “What’s been going on with you?”

“Nothing, just work.” Palmer wore a Washington Bullets T-shirt that showed off his muscular, 185-pound frame. The medical examiner’s assistant was no longer the slim, shy young man who had a habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. He was a slightly older, and much more confident, man who made the ladies’ (and some of the gentlemen’s) heads turn whenever he walked past. He also seemed more brooding, and DiNozzo had tried without success to find out what was going on in Palmer’s head that had made him that way.

“Don’t give me that, Jimmy. You’re way more confident now than you were when you replaced Gerald. You’re working out like a monster. Tony said he didn’t work out as much as you when he played at Ohio State.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Palmer said. “All I have is a weight set I bought from the guy down the street from Dr. Mallard’s house. Tony played at a major college program. He had all kinds of equipment—“

“You’re way more buff than most anyone at the Navy Yard, probably as much as the Marines,” McGee said.

“So why do you not sound like that’s a good thing?"

“It is, it’s great,” McGee said. “I oughta be down there on those things. The weight-lifting’s good for you, Jimmy.”

“Then what are you getting at, Tim?”

McGee paused, to make sure he didn’t respond in the wrong way. “Is something bugging you?”

“No,” Palmer said. “Why?”

“Because you look like…like something’s going on and you’re trying to hide it. Something you’re trying to deal with on your own.”

Palmer sized McGee up, trying to figure out what the young agent meant. “I’m not gay, if that’s what you’re asking,” Palmer said with a smirk. “But I’m flattered, really.”

McGee’s mouth flew open. “That’s not what I…dammit, Jimmy. You’ve been hanging out with Tony a little too much.”

Palmer chuckled. “Probably, although some of his ideas about women make sense. Too bad I can’t test them out right now.”

That’s what got you pissed?”

“No, and I’m not pissed. About anything.”

“Jimmy, look,” McGee said. “You have friends here. If you ever wanna talk—“

“Nothing to talk about,” Palmer said as he turned away from McGee to walk over to the frame of Gibbs’s boat, then picked up some sandpaper to smooth out a rough edge on a plank. McGee sighed in frustration, and looked over towards Abby and Ducky, who were in the middle of a conversation.

“Uh-oh,” Abby said. “McGee tried to say something to Jimmy.”

“Someone needs to get through to that young man,” Ducky replied. “I know Anthony’s spent quite a bit of time with him during the team’s long sojourn with my mother and I.”

“Tony says he can’t get Jimmy to open up, though,” Abby said. “Something going on with his family, but Jimmy won’t budge. I’ve tried to get him to open up. All he wants to talk about now are movies and working out. It’s like someone reached in his brain and hit a switch.”

“Perhaps you and Anthony will be the ones to get him to open up,” Ducky said. “I have tried to encourage him to speak openly. I’ve even told him it would be a pleasure to see a glimpse of his old self. Mr. Palmer reacted in a manner I didn’t expect.”

“He didn’t yell at you, did he, Ducky?”

“Nothing of the sort, Abigail. He replied in a most calm manner that I hadn’t come to expect from him, and said ‘That idiot’s dead and buried, Dr. Mallard. I choose my words more carefully, now’. Clearly, something is going on with Mr. Palmer, and I assure you, Abigail, I have not given up on him by any stretch of the imagination.”

Ducky put a reassuring hand on Abby’s arm. “That is one of the most pleasant things I have observed about this team, Abigail. The banter flows, but we have gone from a group of coworkers to a family of sorts. We’re all there for one another, even when we can’t be with our own families.”

“Your mother’s still around, Ducky, and you live with her.”

“That is true, Abigail, but I cannot be there for her as much as I would like. My regular duties prevent that, and her mind is beginning to slip away, as you know. Even now I see moments when she doesn’t know who I am.”

“Ducky,” Abby said. “I’m so sorry. I wish there were something somebody could do.”

“She’s lived a full life, already, and every day with her, no matter how she can be sometimes, is truly a gift,” Ducky said. “How have you been holding up? Any luck contacting your brother Luka?”

“None,” she said with a hint of sadness. “I emailed Agent Pride in New Orleans a month ago. He emailed me back, said he couldn’t find him anywhere. There’s a missing persons report out on him, now. You know what Gibbs would say: ‘until you find a body—‘“

“‘There’s always hope’…How about the nuns you had been living with? Have you spoken with them recently?”

“A few days ago,” Abby said. “They’re scared. There are security guards on site, now, 24 hours a day, and at the church, too. Sister Fran says the neighborhood’s gotten worse since the Indianap—since Memorial Day. More looting, more fights in the streets, more cops chasing whomever. I’m scared, Ducky. That’s why I’m hoping Gibbs is right about this ring, and someone’s not playing a trick on him.”

“Do you believe him, Abigail?”

Abby started to say yes, then put herself on pause, and thought about her answer. She looked at Gibbs, whom she knew was not someone who easily brought into such fantastic stories. For him to think this was the honest truth meant he had to have come across hard evidence — like seeing the ring for himself.

“I trust him, Ducky,” she said. “I always have. We all have.”

Gibbs noticed Abby and Ducky looking at him and nodded back at them, then turned his attention back to the conversation between Kate and Franks.

Franks — for years Gibbs’s ‘boss’, when NCIS was the Naval Investigative Service (NIS) and Franks led the Washington-based Major Case Response Team — had been reading up on Gibbs’ team members and, when possible, getting acquainted with them.

Kate had fascinated the older man the most: the spunk Gibbs spoke of from her early days was still there, tempered by a few years of experience as an NCIS field agent. She still challenged authority but had come to realize she had plenty to learn, especially from those — like Gibbs, Tony, and Ziva — who had more experience in certain areas. Kate had become more strident on one specific thing: that she was as capable of excelling in her job as an NCIS agent as any man, and she (and Ziva) had the full backing of former Director Shepard.

Gibbs, of course, had always had Kate’s back.

Franks, in approaching Kate, had avoided the Indianapolis Bomb and instead asked her, flat out, how she would have fared if she, and not Gibbs, had been Franks’ probie?

“I would have nailed it,” she flat-out told him. “A lot of what I learned from Gibbs came from you, and I like to think I’ve done pretty well so far.”

Gibbs acknowledged her with a nod.

“You hear that, Probie?” Franks said. “I don’t know whether to thank Kate or ask her why on earth she’s bent on bullshittin’ me.”

Kate chuckled, and Gibbs — chuckling right alongside her — was pleased to see her lighten up. Despite Tony and Abby’s — and his own — best attempts, Kate’s personality was still shaped in large part by her upbringing and her staunch Catholic faith — and, on occasion, her innate sarcasm, which had mostly been tamed but still flared up now and then.

The bombing at the Indianapolis 500 would have been psychologically devastating to most people, according to Ducky, who had taken profiling classes to add to his considerable skill set. Ducky pondered it was a miracle that Kate hadn’t turned into an emotional wreck and credited that as much to the woman’s inner strength as to the considerable emotional support she had from the team.

But Kate still wasn’t out of the woods, not by Gibbs’s standards. He cursed himself for not having had more time to help her. He had to rely on his team to pick up the slack. That didn’t mean he couldn’t do what he could do, whenever he had the chance.

“You wonder why I spend so much time down here, building boats?”, Gibbs asked Kate. He pointed to the nearby frame of a boat, with Hollis’s name clearly visible on the near side while Palmer, McGee and Ducky looked over the frame from the far side. “It’s because he nearly drove me crazy.” Gibbs pointed his thumb at Franks.

“It was for your own good, Jethro,” Franks growled, good-naturedly. “You were so raw starting out I had to yell at you every night, just to get you to where the other Probies were. Gettin’ you to where I wanted you took a lot longer. Kate, he ever tell you he was more like DiNozzo at the beginning?”

“I’ve heard that story before, believe it or not,” she said. “I’m still not sure I believe it.”

“It’s true,” Gibbs said. “It’s one reason I was so hard on Tony when I brought him aboard. I didn’t want him to screw up the same ways I did when Mike brought me on.”

“I just can’t see it, though,” Kate replied. “You…seem like you’ve always been Gibbs, the Gibbs I’ve known you to be. A way different guy than Tony. I’ve never seen a wall full of VHS tapes and DVDs in this house. I don’t think you’ve ever bought a VHS tape in your life.”

The three people laughed. “I’ll grant you that, Kate,” Gibbs said.

“We’re getting off track, people,” Franks interjected, looking at Kate. “So you think you would’ve done pretty good as an agent if I’d gotten ahold of you instead of Gibbs.”

“I said I would’ve nailed it,” she replied. “And probably turned out the same, or about the same. A lot of what I’ve learned from Gibbs came from you, after all.”

“So, does that mean you’d be head-slapping people instead of elbowin’ them, then?”, Franks quipped, and Kate smiled. The conversation had made Gibbs happy, and he was about to raise the subject of head-slap lessons when he noticed Cooke waving to get his attention. Moments later, all of the conversations in the room came to a halt when Cooke put his fingers to his lips and let out a loud whistle.

“I’ve got a destination,” he announced. “Not the Pentagon, but not too terribly far. But if we’re going, we’ve got to leave now.”

“Go where?” Franks said.

“Richmond, Virginia,” Cooke replied, then turned to Teague, Langer and Sloane. “Had to pull some strings.”

“Fine by me,” Teague told him.

“Richmond?”, DiNozzo asked.

“Baltimore’s the closest, but the whole city’s gone SNAFU and is about to go FUBAR,” Cooke said. “The ring’s locked up tight, and you’d have to go thru blocks full of gang-bangers and survivalists and cops just looking to throw some outsider in the slammer — and the last thing any of us needs is to be stuck in a Baltimore jail.”

“I’d heard from someone I worked with in Baltimore P.D.,” DiNozzo said. “She said it’d gotten bad there. I turned on the local news station — WBAL, I think? — on the way here. The Sun, the TV and radio stations are working out of Annapolis, that’s how bad things are in the city.”

“What about Charlottesville?”, Langer asked Cooke.

“Out of the question,” Cooke said. “You have to have Presidential-level security clearance to get in there.”

“What’s in Charlottesville besides the University of Virginia?”, asked Sloane. “It’s a small town, like Mayberry.”

“Whatever it is, the White House doesn’t want anybody knowing,” Cooke said. “Hagerstown’s too far away. Dover, Toms River in Jersey, Bristol in Tennessee, Wilmington in North Carolina, all too far.”

“So what does that leave?”, Teague asked.

“Norfolk was open, but takes a little longer to get there and the way security is down there right now, we might not get in until 5 a.m. And there’s the matter of the NCIS field office down there, which puts a cramp on the cover story I’d like to use.”

“What cover story, Roger?”, asked Gibbs.

“Dr. Mallard,” Cooke said, “is the NCIS Medical Examiner’s van still at the Navy Yard?”

“It’s in the garage,” Ducky said. “But we don’t have an active case.”

“Gibbs,” Cooke said. “Call your director, tell him you got a tip about a victim in Richmond, at the raceway—“

“How’s the Mustache gonna buy that?”, DiNozzo interjected.

“He already knows about the ring,” Cooke said. Noticing the mixture of confusion and horror on the faces of Gibbs’s team members, Cooke followed up and asked, “didn’t Gibbs tell you?”

DiNozzo and the others looked at Gibbs. “Does Mustache really know?”, DiNozzo asked.

“Yep,” Gibbs said.

“Hell, we’re screwed,” Palmer blurted out.

“No, we’re not,” Gibbs said, as if everything was alright. He pulled out his cell phone and called McAllister. After speaking with the director, Gibbs snapped his phone shut. “I hope you brought your gear with you,” Gibbs told his people.

“Yeah,” Tony said, speaking for the group. “It’s stuffed underneath the seats in that SUV. Not a lot of room to work with—shutting up right now, Boss.“

Gibbs smiled. A stern look often did as much good as a head-slap.

“Cooke, you and the other three follow us,” Gibbs said. “Kate, you’re with me and Mike. The rest of you, follow in the van…let’s go!”

Gibbs was almost proud of how quickly his team got up the stairs and out of the house.

Richmond, Virginia

The trip from Gibbs’s house to the Navy Yard was uneventful, as was the drive from the Navy Yard to Interstates 695 and 395. The caravan — the NCIS M.E.’s van, Gibbs’s truck and Teague’s sedan, surrounded by SUVs assigned by McAllister himself — wasn’t at risk at any time. Washington and the rest of the District of Columbia was, at the order of President Boehner, secured by two Army platoons and the entire D.C. National Guard. Virginia National Guard helped local police secure I-395 from the Potomac thru Alexandria.

Once I-395 became I-95 south of Alexandria, the caravan was joined by two grey Humvees with Virginia State Police markings on the sides. The missile launchers and machine guns visible on the ringmount atop both Humvees gave away that these were military, not civilian, vehicles. Police in all 50 states, and territories, and all major cities had at least four military-type Humvees in their fleets. Because of D.C. to the north, Norfolk to the south and whatever it was the feds were doing on the now abandoned UVa campus in Charlottesville, the Virginia State Police had 40 Humvees in its fleet.

Gibbs was behind one of those Humvees and thought it a little odd that the drive from D.C. had been — so far — peaceful.

“We’re either secured tight or sittin’ ducks for Spetsnaz,” said Franks, who sat in the middle of the back seat.

Kate looked on both sides of the interstate; at the moment, the caravan was passing near Fredericksburg. Off to her left in the direction of the town, she saw a faint reddish and orange glow. Kate didn’t want to imagine what might be going on there. “I won’t dispute the need to be secure when going out,” she said, looking back for another glimpse at the glow; one of the Humvees blocked her view. “These military vehicles with us, though; it’s a little overkill, don’t you think?”

“Might be the safest way to get anywhere, now,” Gibbs replied.

Traffic down I-95 was light, if one didn’t count the presence of Virginia State Police sedans and SUVs at least every mile. Tractor-trailers carrying food, gasoline, medicine and other essential items went north and south, along with civilians going to and from work; the near-universal curfew hadn’t excused second- and third-shift workers from their jobs. So far, according to various media outlets, people were still going to work in most areas of the country, the most notable exception being Baltimore.

Once the caravan reached the Henrico County suburbs north of Richmond, the state police peeled off and gave way to Richmond Police Department SUVs and Humvees. Once the caravan got into the city, it quickly became apparent that there was no one on the streets other than police and the occasional ambulance or National Guard vehicle. Gas stations were open but had one or two civilian vehicles parked and at least two police vehicles. Some of the police cruisers looked like they had been through the wringer, adorned with dents, scratches and mud.

Four Richmond police vehicles — two sedans, an SUV and a Humvee — surrounded the caravan as it entered Gate 4 of the vast Richmond International Raceway complex at 1:07 a.m. The 60,000-seat motor racing venue was well-known for hosting races from the three divisions of the NASCAR and IndyCar auto racing series, as well as concerts and other public events.

The last event held at the track was from NASCAR’s top-flight Nextel Cup Series in early May. That piece of trivia was brought up by none other than Langer, who caught up to Gibbs after the caravan parked in front of the garages on the west side of the infield. It shouldn’t have mattered to Gibbs, who knew little about NASCAR and had no interest in the sport.

However, his gut suddenly began suggesting something more disturbing than a pack of Spetsnaz or criminals lying in wait behind the garage bay door being lifted by two of the police officers. Gibbs looked around the darkened venue and had the thought that it wouldn’t be around much longer.

He pushed aside the thought of what kind of bomb would wipe the facility off the face of the Earth and focused on the now-open bay. One of the officers had a flashlight that she shined on a mannequin wearing a sailor’s uniform.

“That supposed to be the victim?”, Tony asked the officer. The ‘victim’ had a plastic ‘spork’ from a fast-food restaurant stuck halfway through its skull and was covered in ketchup. A half-full ketchup bottle lay a few feet away from the mannequin.

“You needed a reason to be here, right?”, said the officer, a short, muscular woman who grinned at the sight.

“Does he have an ID?”, Ziva asked.

“No,” the officer said. “Call him Dale. Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett. Or Jeff, Ward, Ricky, Kevin, whatever you want.”

Ducky made his way over to the mannequin, having left his medical examiner’s gear in the NCIS van. “This reminds me of a story,” he said. “Back home in Edinburgh, in Scotland, I was given an opportunity to visit a faux crime scene, at the small home of a pensioner who was the uncle of an acquaintance of mine, an Edinburgh police inspector. The pensioner had recently passed away, and have left his ‘estate’, such as it was, to his nephew. The nephew decided to recreate an infamous crime scene from after the Second World War where a reclusive veteran, recently returned from service in the British Army, was killed with a stab to the skull—“

Duck,” Gibbs blurted out tersely. A moment later he realized he was too gruff, but he wanted to get to the reason they all were here and looked to the officer. “This where you go to get in?”

“Yep,” she said. “See the shack?”

Gibbs squinted — his vision wasn’t the best in any case, and especially in a darkened area like the vast garage bay used by the teams that competed during the NASCAR and IndyCar races held at the track. However, he did see a small, square-like building about 40 feet away, and along the wall next to a large Chevrolet sign.

He also saw another officer — a tall, slender man with a swimmer’s physique — open the door to the shack. A moment later, lights came on from inside the shack, partially illuminating the surrounding area; the tall officer then opened another door inside the shack.

“That’s where you’re going, folks,” the stocky officer told the group. “The shack over there was manned last month by myself and my partner inside, and by one of you guys.”

“One of ‘us’ guys?”, Kate said.

“Feds,” the woman replied. “Follow me.”

Kate and the others did as they were instructed. She was the first of the group to enter the shack, and she saw what looked like the inside of an elevator. “Two at a time,” the tall officer said, and Gibbs nodded to Ziva. The Mossad officer joined Kate inside the elevator, and the elevator shaft descended. It ascended three minutes later, and it took nearly 20 minutes for the rest of the team — DiNozzo and McGee; Ducky and Palmer; Sloane and Cooke; Gibbs and Franks; and finally Teague and Langer — to join Kate and Ziva in a waiting room area a mile below the garage bay’s surface.

“An elevator?”, DiNozzo mused aloud. “I figured some kind of James Bond, giant magnets attached to steel cables falling from the ceiling and pulling up the floor to reveal some giant platform, rising from the bottom, that takes us to a vast underground complex—“

“DiNozzo,” Gibbs said, turning his gaze from his agent to the tall officer who accompanied Teague and Langer on their trip down. “You gonna show us where this is?”

“No,” he replied, as he stood next to the elevator. “Your host will, though. He should be here in a minute.”

It was a four-minute wait. The door on the far side of the waiting area that Gibbs, Kate, DiNozzo and Teague tried to open finally opened on its own. A tall, African-American woman, dressed in a black business suit walked through; she scanned the room, and fixed her gaze on Teague.

“What a surprise,” Teague said drolly. “I never expected to see you here, Quinn.”

“I got reassigned stateside,” Quinn replied. “Just as you did.”

“A colleague from the Agency,” Teague told the others. “Shall we,” Teague said to Quinn.

“Please follow me,” Quinn answered, leading the group down a long hallway that led to two Army Rangers guarding a steel door. With a nod from Quinn, the Ranger on her right stepped aside and away from a dull-orange glowing panel he had stood in front of. She put her left hand against the panel, and a few moments later the door began to open, in the opposite direction of the hallway.

The sight that awaited the group was nothing like they had ever seen in person.

For Gibbs, it resembled what he and Hollis saw at the Pentagon site; a large area with people moving around or standing. Some of the people, wearing civilian clothing or white lab coats, stood or sat at desks in front of laptops and computer monitors. Some had laptops, or palm-sized tablets. There were soldiers all around the area, several standing at attention, several armed with weapons that he was sure were ready to use at a moment’s notice.

Gibbs figured he was the only person in the group who noticed what else was in the vast, stadium-sized area. He finally allowed himself to look at the area’s centerpiece: a gigantic, circular object that looked like a ring of fire and electricity, hovering a foot above a ten-foot-high machine probably 80 feet long, atop a platform that was probably seven feet high. He could see through the ring, a 70-foot-wide by 70-foot-tall object, probably two feet thick.

He looked at his watch. It was 1:43 a.m. He gawked at the ring.

He looked back at his watch. It was 1:51. He looked around at his team and at Teague’s people. No one looked tired, just awed; even Quinn looked as if she was amazed at the sight. Still, neither he nor his people could keep this up all night.

“Agent Teague,” he heard McGee say from his left. “Can we see the other side?”

“Quinn?”, Teague said to her fellow CIA agent, who motioned for the group to follow her around to the other side. The ring and the machine were at the back of the platform, which had a space that stretched out at least 50 feet, with a set of stairs at the end leading down to the floor

Gibbs, and everyone else, saw the grey, barren brick wall they stood near while gawking at the ring from the other side.

“Transit about to begin. All personnel report to secure areas. Countdown one minute.”

Everyone in the area heard the voice of a male with a British accent, but the voice didn’t come from the speakers in the back or sides of the vast room or the front of the platform. It seemed to come from inside the ring itself.

The few people on the platform in front of the group quickly made their way down the stairs, and one of the soldiers on guard motioned for the group to step back 10 feet. The voice counted down to zero, and the ring began to rotate, and glow, and crackle.

The rear wall faded and gave way to another sight: a trio of flags and a vast, open area behind them, visible only within the radius of the ring. The wall remained visible outside the ring.

“My God,” Ducky said.

“What in hell is this, Jethro?”, Franks said to Gibbs. “This what you and Hollis saw?”

“Yeah,” Gibbs told him.

DiNozzo made his way to Gibbs’s side. “Boss. I’ll swear on a stack of Bibles that I’ll never doubt you, ever, ever again.”

“No need to, Tony,” Gibbs told him.

“Gibbs?”, Kate asked. “What’s there?”

X-Files stuff,” McGee answered for his boss.

“That’s what I thought when I saw this, Agent McGee,” Cooke said.

“We must go through, yes?”, Ziva said.

“Absolutely,” Palmer replied.

The ring ‘cooled down’ and resumed its normal glow, and someone on the other side walked right up to it and seemed to do something — punch buttons, move levers, no one on the group’s side of the ring could tell what. Seconds later, a set of stairs lowered on a set of cables from the top, until landing on the platform.

Quinn began walking, rather briskly, towards the stairs. She stopped halfway up, turned to the group, and waved them over. “Come on!”, she said, with a grin. “This is the fun part.”

“What ‘fun’ part?”, Ziva asked.

“Visiting another universe!”, Quinn said. “Let’s go. We don’t have all night.”

Palmer turned to the others. “Don’t tell me we came all this way for nothing,” he said, looking at Gibbs and Teague. The ex-Marine turned to the other CIA agent (that he knew about) in the place.

“We didn’t, Mr. Palmer,” she said. “Let’s go.”

The group went up the first series of steps, then the second, portable series of steps, into another world.

“‘Through the looking glass we go,” Kate said, the last of the group to walk through into a world that looked like their own.

She went down the stairs on the other side and joined everyone else on an identical platform. They saw civilians at desks or with laptops, and soldiers either standing at attention or walking around the area with weapons. The flags they stood in front of, however, weren’t there on the other side — which had a different meaning now.

“Don’t touch,” McGee heard a booming male voice say from the floor, scaring him off from touching the blue and white flag in the middle. McGee, and the rest of the group, quickly saw the man who gave the warning jog up the stairs, and into plain view.

“Harry Langford, MI-6,” said the tall, athletic, man who — except for his three-day-old beard — was impeccably dressed in a dark blue suit, without a tie. “You must be the, what is the saying? ‘Brothers from another mother’. You look as lovely as ever, Miss Quinn.”

“Charmed, Mr. Langford,” Quinn said.

“What’s MI-6 doing here?”, Franks interjected. “Shouldn’t FBI or Homeland or someone American be here?”

“If this is America, Michael,” Ducky replied.

“Ah, another Brit,” Langford said. “Let me show you the flags, and I’ll explain,” he said, holding out the flag on the left, in the center, and on the right: a close replica of the Virginia state flag; the United Nations flag; and a flag with a British Union Jack in the upper left corner superimposed against two red bars sandwiching a white bar. “Now look behind you, along the wall."

Each group member saw the British Union Jack partly visible along the near back wall of their current location.

“You’re in the Dominion of Southern North America, which stretches from here to the Pacific Coast,” Langford said. “The DSNA is independent, but in close association with the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Newfoundland.”

“You won the Revolutionary War?”, DiNozzo asked.

“Lost. The DSNA was formally established in our early 20th century, but its roots came in what on your world, I believe, was called the ‘Civil War’. We — Britain — initially agreed to support the Confederates in exchange for numerous concessions, including the end to slavery. Then we and the French found ourselves fighting the Americans after the Confederate government collapsed. The Yanks sued for peace, we took over the Confederacy and rebuilt it the right way, without the slavery and all the unpleasantness that came with it, into a liberal, multicultural democracy. Together, we and our allies fought the Yanks off two more times that century. Two more times again in the 20th, in both wars.”

“America and Britain are allies where we’re from,” Teague said. “That’s not the case for you.”

“Not on my world, Miss…?”

“Agent Teague.”

Agent Teague. On this world, the U.S. government allied itself with corporate interests, which controlled both the executive and the military by the early 20th century, and began a long alliance with Germany which culminated in the ascension of Charles Lindbergh to the Presidency in the 1930s, just in time to solidify the U.S.A.’s ties with Germany — by then ran by the Nazis. We fought the Nazis in North America to a stalemate on two fronts during the Second Great War. Hitler and his lot eventually were overcome, and with Germany split between us, the Free French and the Soviets, the United States entrenched itself into isolationism. The corporate interests completely took over the nation, expelling or killing its minorities, and have proven to be a persistent threat to individual liberty and global peace for the better part of seven decades.”

“This America of yours sounds like a terrible place to live,” Ducky said. “I assure you, none of these people besides me are reflective of anything like it.”

Langford looked at the older man for a few moments until realizing why Ducky looked so familiar to him. “I recognize you now, sir, more specifically your counterpart. He served with distinction during the Persian and Filipino Wars. A proud Scot with a million stories to tell. He was a good man. That’s why I’m so disappointed to see you with this lot.”

“I assure you, Agent Langford, that the integrity of each of these men and women, individually and collectively, is of the highest caliber,” Ducky replied. “I am sorry your prejudice seems to prevent you from realizing that.”

“I get the feeling you don’t like us very well,” DiNozzo interjected, before Langford could reply to Ducky.

“That would be a logical conclusion,” Langford replied. “Nevertheless, here you are. And here I am, as well. I have my duty, regardless of personal observations, and I will perform it.”

“Is that ‘duty’ to insult us?”, Kate said.

“Part of it is to show you a piece of the mystery,” Langford said, ignoring the latter part of Kate’s question. “As fantastic as this must be to you, you are, in fact, in another dimension, similar to your own. I will show you a slice of it. Come with me.”

Langford turned heel and went down the stairs onto the main floor. Gibbs caught Teague’s eye, and she joined him, both going down the stairs, and the remainder of the group following them down to the floor. Langford didn’t look back until he came to the door leading to a hallway and saw Gibbs and Teague less than 50 feet away.

Sighing, the MI-6 agent waited on his unwelcome guests, then led them to an elevator like the one that took them to the ring from their own world. Langford was the last person to go up, to a garage bay, where the group — now guarded by a contingent of British Royal Marines — awaited him.

“This looks like the bay we rode down from,” McGee said. “So does the stadium.”

“This track, sir, holds proper motorsport,” Langford said, proudly. “Formula One. Sports cars. The North American Touring Championship. Stock car racing done properly and safely. The Americans race their Fords and Chevys and AMCs like a drunk lot trying to wreck on the Motorways. That isn’t what you’re here to see, though.”

“I’m guessing it’s not a darkened garage,” Gibbs said, dryly.

“Follow me, Yank,” Langford said. The group — surrounded by the Royal Marines — walked outside, to an open spot of the infield beneath a 107-foot-tall red-and-white BP sign. Langford pointed south, and the group understood what he wanted them to see: the skyline of this world’s Richmond, bright and colorful, with over a dozen skyscrapers in the distance rising above the much nearer bleachers surrounding the raceway’s track.

“Holy…”, DiNozzo muttered. His eye caught the featured skyscraper, a spire in red, blue and white rising high above the other buildings, higher than any building he knew of on his own world.

“Ten million people live here,” Langford said. “We have our problems, but we have built a good nation with a good culture. A good people, multiethnic, proud and British.”

“You love being British, don’t you?”, Langer said. “I almost want to go there. I hope everyone there aren’t the prick you are.”

“If you say so, Mr.?”

“Agent Langer.”

“Ah. I keep forgetting you’re American federal agents. At least you’re not the politicians or the corporate masters directing their every move—“

“That’s not true,” Sloane interjected, with a hint of anger in her voice.

“Perhaps not now,” Langford said, “not in your situation. The military’s probably taken over now. Of course, they have their corporate masters—“

“I think you’re viewing us through the lens of the local Americans a bit too much,” Cooke said. “Maybe you ought to take a deep breath and—“

“And go back? And send you back where you came from?”, Langford said. “I couldn’t agree more. It’s high time you go back, anyway. It’s too bloody late to be up.” He looked at his watch. “Even the pubs are closing now.”

The MI-6 agent headed straight for the elevator. To the last person, the Royal Marines assigned to the group looked apologetic.

4:54 a.m.

Washington (in the team's home dimension)

Leroy Jethro Gibbs’s home

McAllister had agents waiting on the team once they returned to their home dimension through the ring, and each agent was responsible for driving the vehicles the team had driven or rode in. Every person tried to get some sleep while the caravan — again accompanied by Richmond police, then Virginia State Police and, finally, Metro DC Police vehicles — made its way up I-95 into Washington.

Exhausted, everyone straggled into Gibbs’s living room, and either fell onto the couch, or in the recliner, or on the floor. Gibbs pulled up a chair, and considered addressing the group, then thought better of it. He needed some rest, himself; after checking with the lead suit on the scene, he nodded to the women to take the beds upstairs, and he pulled a cot out of a closet, setting it up with help from another suited agent near the kitchen.

He fell sound asleep after his head touched the pillow at the head of the cot, and Gibbs dreamed of Shannon and Kelly, the three of them enjoying a picnic in a park, running through the grass, under a warm sun.

8:00 a.m. EDT

CBS News continuing coverage

Welcome back to continuing coverage of the ongoing international situation. I’m Russ Mitchell, with me are Maggie Rodriguez and Jeff Glor. Bob Schieffer and Katie Couric are both getting some needed rest. There’s been a lot that’s happened in the past few hours, and we’ll start in West Germany. CBS News sources confirm reports by The Associated Press, the BBC and other news outlets of a large number of West German citizens fleeing west, away from potential attack in the event of a conventional military conflict between Allied and Pact forces.

Closer to home, a Ford automobile plant in Dearborn, Michigan was attacked by terrorists overnight. Eleven are dead and dozens more injured.

Georgia National Guardsmen were called upon to put down food riots in Atlanta. Some civic leaders were upset over certain stores in some inner-city neighborhoods having been restricted to being open eight hours a day and to distribution of food and other necessities to those stores.

Portions of Denver are still without electricity at this hour. Insurgent attacks yesterday afternoon initially shut down more than three-quarters of the city’s power grid. While power has been restored to much of the city, an estimated 34,000 customers are still without electric or telephone service.

An estimated 560,000 men and women have signed up at military and National Guard recruiting offices, according to a Pentagon press release. Millions of young Americans will learn at noon Eastern today whether or not their numbers will come up in the Selective Service draft lottery, the first in nearly four decades, since the Vietnam War.

There are sporadic ongoing protests against the draft lottery across the nation, primarily at college campuses. The largest, at the University of California in Berkeley, saw protestors chant ‘PEACE NOW’ at California National Guardsmen separating them from a group of counter-protestors from the Conservative Student Union at Cal.

Gibbs got his sleep, such as it was, and after he sat up on his cot discovered he wasn’t the first person from the group to wake up.

He smelled the bacon and coffee coming from the kitchen and walked towards the kitchen until he saw the person standing over his oven, cooking eggs.

“DIdn’t know you were a cook, McGee.”

McGee turned his head and saw Gibbs. “Making scrambled eggs and bacon, and the coffee pot’s percolating, too,” the younger agent said as he stirred the eggs on one of the skillets and reached for a spatula to flip over the bacon cooking on another skillet. “I couldn’t get much sleep.”

“Not any time,” Gibbs replied as he walked towards the cupboard and pulled out a loaf of bread. “I’ll start making some toast. Gonna need more food.”

“Ronnie” — one of McCallister’s ‘suits’, who had guarded Gibbs’ house the longest — “said there’s a truck coming with milk, cereal, fruit, bagels and cream cheese.”

“Where’s he at now, McGee?”

“Driving the truck.”

Gibbs put the bread in the toaster and pulled down the lever. “He been gone long?”

“Twenty minutes. Ronnie said the director knows people. There’s a place where we can get food. Lots of it.”

“’Lots’, McGee?”

“Not just for breakfast and not just for us. For the neighbors.”

“Makes things a little easier on us,” Gibbs said, reaching in his pocket. Satisfied the object he was looking for – the flash drive McAllister gave him – was there, Gibbs put it on the counter close to where McGee was cooking the scrambled eggs.

“Got something for you, McGee,” Gibbs said, nodding towards the flash drive. “I’ll take care of the food. Grab that, and some coffee, and head downstairs.”

McGee picked up the black-and-red thumb-sized drive and turned it with his thumb and forefinger. “What’s this?”

“Director gave it to me. Said you would know how to crack it and get to the files,” Gibbs said. “Whatever’s on it, he wants us to know.”

“Does it have anything to do with what’s we saw earlier?”

“Find out.”

McGee poured a mug of coffee – he had learned to tolerate drinking his black – and, flash drive in his pocket, went downstairs. He found a laptop waiting for him on the workbench; he decided he’d ask who it belonged to after he decrypted the drive. Searching through the laptop’s operating system, McGee found the decryption programs he helped write a few years back. This is good, he thought. I don’t think I have the time to figure out a new decryption program.

Although he got more entrenched in his work, McGee didn’t fail to notice Gibbs walking down the stairs into the basement with a plate of food. Gibbs had trained him to work under any circumstance while knowing where he was and who was around at all times.

“Headed upstairs, McGee,” Gibbs said, looking over the younger man’s shoulder at the laptop screen, which showed a series of folders. “Stop every so often, eat some food, drink some coffee. That’s an order.”

“Roger that, Gibbs,” McGee replied. He had no idea what order the folders were in or what was in them. So he picked a random folder.


In 1999, farmers in Soviet Georgia, and a hunter in U.S. Wyoming, came across what can best be described as a local wormhole. Government and military investigators soon discovered one could step through the circular phenomenon into a parallel universe. Similar wormholes appeared in China, and scientists in all three countries discovered how to safely replicate the phenomena and control it. In a top-secret, high-level summit in Beijing, Chinese Premier Li convinced President Powell and General Secretary Putin to use the technology for peaceful purposes -- or, at least, to allow for the survival of some people in the event of a total atomic exchange. The existence of the wormholes, the technology that opens them, and the parallel realities on the other side of them are known only to top government and military officials and certain economic and business leaders in all major countries. Disclosure to the general public is punishable by anywhere from life imprisonment to the death penalty, although word is beginning to leak out.

“Keep going, McGee.”

McGee opened another folder.


in the study, Cortexin had a pronounced and lasting effect on a variety of animal subjects during the three-year testing period at Walter Reed Army Medical Center

Cortexin stimulates the reasoning abilities of non-homo sapiens species to the equivalent of a third-grade reading and reasoning level in an average human being

reporting rates of 46.7 percent using Dalmatian canine subjects increasing in size, strength and endurance, which could prove useful on the battlefield, as cavalry or

“What the hell?”, McGee whispered. He closed that folder and opened another file.


two new special forces units attached to the Army:

Atomic Knights

Black Knights

Both forces report directly to CJCS, who reports in matters pertaining to these units to, in order: POTUS; SECDEF; SECARM; CSA; and CIADIR. They act alone or in tandem with other military and intelligence units

McGee went through the other folders, one by one:

project to create a soldier capable of full self-sufficiency in battle. Working name is ‘One Man Army Corps’, the Army and Marine Corps

a similar project between French, British and West German military units named Project Heracles

testing on the Brother Eye surveillance satellites went forward at Naval facilities in Okinawa, Japan, helping coordinate U.S., Japanese and South Korean efforts to contain North Korean spy drones over the Sea of Japan

McGee didn’t stop until he searched through all 48 folders on the drive. The last folder made about as much sense as anything he’d seen in the past several hours.



3 10 15 26 27 28 29 30 31 40 42 43 48 49 50 51


P 6 13 14 16 18 19 20 22 25 37 39 41 45 46 47 W


1 2 5 7 8 9 11 12 21 23 24 32 33 34 35 36 38 44 52 53 54 D M—

McGee shouted.
Part Four: Chapter 47
Chapter 47

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Washington, D.C.

Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ home

10:04 a.m.

Multiverse?” McGee shouted the word loudly enough that he was sure someone upstairs would have heard him and come downstairs and see him with the laptop full of information that a lot of people would kill for. Whatever they thought wasn’t relevant to him at the moment.

Until now, McGee thought he had kept a level head regarding what he had heard and seen just hours before. He had expected the thumb drive to contain information relating to the drive, or to the ring system, and had prepared himself for that. There was nothing about the schematics of the machine that powered the ring, or any usable information on the network of rings around the world.

Instead, McGee uncovered files full of things he at first thought might be a red herring, or someone’s idea of a joke. Had DiNozzo handed him the thumb drive instead of Gibbs, McGee would’ve rolled his eyes and told his teammate something along the lines of ‘nice joke, Tony, at least you’ve finally graduated from putting super glue on my keyboard’. If it had been some stranger, like someone from the CIA or Naval Intelligence, McGee would have set his mind for some kind of spy game that NCIS had been pulled into.

Either scenario would be well within the 30-year-old agent’s limited frame of reference. His world involved criminal investigations involving sailors, Marines, military officers, civilians and, on occasion, KGB and Mossad officers.

What he had uncovered from the thumb drive, however, wasn’t applicable in the real world that he lived in. Comic books? Movies? Television? Science-fiction novels? Yes to all of those, no to reality as he knew it.

Still, he had managed to keep an open mind regarding what he saw in Richmond, and in the alternate dimension he and his teammates had briefly visited. He saw all of that for himself, and therefore he could more readily accept it.

What McGee still couldn’t quite accept, however, were stories of giant dogs, atomic soldiers, or super surveillance satellites; to him, those were the stuff of comic books and TV shows from the 1960s, not of 21st-century reality.

And yet, Gibbs was treating what was on the thumb drive as Gospel truth. That unnerved McGee more than anything. Gibbs didn’t seem capable of conceiving of the ideas in these file folders. Gibbs, as no-nonsense of a hard-ass Marine as there was, didn’t even seem capable of pulling a prank.

If Gibbs is taking this seriously, McGee thought, then what in hell have I just seen? McGee had skimmed over most of the many files and sub-folders on the drive. And he had to debrief Gibbs soon.

McGee looked over at his plate, half full of cold scrambled eggs and stale toast, and his coffee mug, a quarter full of lukewarm coffee. He wasn’t too hungry, but surely there was something upstairs that could tide him over until lunch. And it wouldn’t hurt him to take a quick trip to the restroom – nor to stretch his legs a little.

He got up from the stool he had sat on for two hours, stretching as he took a final look at the laptop’s screen. Forty-eight folder icons, all full of insanity (assuming everything there was true), daring him to sit back down and uncover more of their secrets.

“You’ll wait,” McGee muttered. He turned to head towards the stairs, found himself nose-to-nose with a grinning and mischievous DiNozzo, and yelled in surprise.

"AAAAHHHHHHH--dammit, Tony!"

“That never gets old. I oughta do that more often,” DiNozzo said with a chuckle. “Going somewhere, McRecluse?”

“Tony, damn it,” McGee half-shouted. “How you’d get down here, anyway?”

“Gibbs is on the front porch seeing who’s still in the neighborhood, Franks is smoking his ninth cigarette of the day and those other agents went home,” DiNozzo said. “Come on Probie. You know I’m messing with you—”

“You always mess with me—”

“And I know you like it when I mess with ya? Right?”

“No, Tony. I don’t like it—”

“You shouldn’t have said that, McGee. That makes me want to mess with you more.”

“And what if I said, ‘I don’t mind’?”, McGee said with a sigh.

“I’d do it anyway,” DiNozzo said with a wink. “Everybody’s asking about you, McMissing. Boss told us you were working on something for him and to stay upstairs—”

“You probably should’ve listened to him, Tony.”

“And yet here you are, with a laptop,” Tony replied, looking over McGee’s shoulder at the icons on the laptop’s screen. “No screen saver, either, huh? What’s on there, anyway?”

“None of your business,” McGee said, firmly.

Surprised by McGee’s boldness, DiNozzo stood with his mouth open for a few moments. He quickly came back to his senses. “Look at you, Timothy Aloysius McGee, all grown up, standing up to big brother. I’m proud of you.”

“I’m so glad,” McGee deadpanned. “Now, if you’ll—”

Before McGee could react, DiNozzo moved behind him and right against the workbench and in front of the laptop. “Picked your pocket just like I did to Steve Alford, on the road in Assembly Hall my freshman year!” McGee instinctively reached in his pocket for his wallet, and found it there, and saw DiNozzo break out into a wide grin. “Remember, Timmy. Big brother’s got plenty of moves to teach you. Now, what’s on your laptop?”

“It’s classified, Tony!”

“Probably the long-awaited-by-no-one rewritten sequel to Deep Six,” Tony mused as he grabbed the laptop, then ran towards the stairs. “Tommy and Lisa get together?”


“Did Amy finally get her man…Agent McGregor?”


“Did you give Kate a new name besides ‘Mae Codd’? She hated that. Didn’t speak to you for days. Gave you the glare – and I thought Gibbs’s glare was nasty. Speaking of, what’s L.J. Tibbs up to—”

TONY!” McGee caught up to DiNozzo and attempted to pull the laptop from his hands, but Tony was quicker, and ran back to the workbench. “Tony, if I tell you what’s on it, if I show you what’s on it, will you shut up?”

“Hmm…maybe,” DiNozzo mused. “I want the juicy stuff, though. Like is Mae dating a certain FBI hottie from Brooklyn? I hope not. Kate’ll kill you for sure and I’m not sure if Ziva could save you.”

McGee eyed DiNozzo with some suspicion, then took the laptop. “There’s no Deep Six material here, Tony. It’s crazy.”

“What’s crazy, Probie?”

All of it.”

DiNozzo held a hand up as McGee clicked on one of the folders. “Wait, McGee. If that really is classified—“

“I know you, Tony. You won’t let this go.”

“No, I won’t want to let it go, but I really don’t want you to get into trouble, either.”

“Tony…Gibbs didn’t say anything about reading you in, but he didn’t say not to read you in, either. I know you’ll keep quiet about what’s on this flash drive, too. So…be my guest.” McGee waved his hand towards the laptop.

Tony noted the hint of fear in McGee’s eyes. “There’s a time to screw around and a time to get down to business. Something’s got you worried.”

“I don’t know what to make of this, Tony,” McGee said as he briefly glanced at the laptop. “Any of it.”

“It have anything to do with that trip down to Richmond?”

“No, most of it doesn’t…directly. Indirectly, yeah.”

“What’s got you freaked out?” DiNozzo looked McGee in the eye and put a hand on his arm to reassure his teammate and friend.

The gesture didn’t work.

“The parts that don’t have anything to do with what we saw or what Gibbs and those people talked about.”

“Tell me, Tim,” he said, without jest. His usual tendency to irritate the other agent was long gone; his primary concern now was for the younger man’s mental and emotional well-being. “I won’t say a word to anyone, not even Gibbs.”


“Swear on a stack of Bibles. Or my stack of classic movie VHS tapes, and I mean the classics. Casablanca. Citizen Kane. Maltese Falcon. Whichever works for you.”

DiNozzo chuckled, and McGee allowed himself a slight grin. “I don’t know where on earth to start, Tony.”

“Give me the Cliff’s Notes,” DiNozzo replied, and McGee did his best to summarize the contents of 47 file folders in 10 minutes.

Afterwards, DiNozzo wasn’t sure what to think. Most of the contents to him seemed, as they did to McGee, like something from a 40- or 50-year-old comic book.

Except, Gibbs thought whatever was on that flash drive was factual and important.

And there was that case a couple of years before in July 2005, after Ziva joined the team. The case that took the team down to North Carolina, where they worked with the NCIS office at Camp Lejeune to find a missing, and eventually dead, Gunnery Sergeant who was the only son of President Broome’s Chief of Staff.

Working with the other team was weird enough – the team was led by a Navy Commander on active duty but attached to NCIS, and his people referred to each other and to Gibbs’s team individually as ‘Special Agent ____’ or ‘Doctor ____’ – but one of the interrogations unnerved DiNozzo like nothing else he’d ever encountered.

Tony had nightmares about the interrogation for days, then purged the incident out of his mind. He hadn’t thought about it until now, when McGee came across the contents of File Folder #48 on the laptop.


“What’s in there?”, he asked McGee, who showed him the list titled ‘MULTIVERSE’.

“Numbers and letters, that didn’t make much sense when I first saw them, under open, restricted, and closed categories,” McGee said. “Maybe they’re the worlds people go to from those rings?”

“Makes sense, McGee,” DiNozzo said. “Closed is where you don’t go or want to go. Open is where you want to go or are able to go. Restricted is self-explanatory. But that can’t be all that’s there. Go further into the folder.”

“I’ll try,” McGee replied, and the tech-savvy agent finally hacked his way into a series of subfolders. Tony saw the file name on one and pointed to it.


“Open it,” Tony said. McGee clicked on the file, and a Word document appeared on the screen. Both men began to read.


January 2, 2007

Mr. President,

For the past eight months, this committee, made up of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, along with representatives from the military (United States Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy); from the intelligence community (the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Military Intelligence Agency); and from federal government agencies (the Department of Homeland Security and its Federal Emergency Management Agency subdivision) has met to discuss ways to protect the general public in the event of a full, global nuclear conflict between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and its allies.

This committee has reviewed thousands of documents, interviews and attestations from individuals regarding the potential and likely outcomes of such a conflict. The conclusions this committee has come to numerous times are that there is no way to protect the vast majority of the American people in the event of a nuclear exchange. Even if the majority of the public were placed in non-targeted areas, they would be subject to subsequent lethal amounts of radiation and fallout, and the combined federal, state and local government and private organizations to feed, clothe and care for these refugees would be very limited both in time and in scope. In essence, it could not be done.

Therefore, this committee must turn its attention to what can be done for the general public in the event of a nuclear war. Rather than leave the public to its fate, there is one possible course of action that can be taken to save as many people as possible. This course of action carries significant risks, mainly provoking the Soviets into a possible sneak nuclear attack in the event the action was executed. It also forces a gross presumption by us towards our interdimensional allies. Namely, they will accept our refugees without question, and includes the possibility some, many or all of those allies will not accept our refugees. But it is the only course of action we see as plausible, and we unanimously see it as the most moral and ethical course of action.

That action is to open the ring system to the public in the event an all-out nuclear exchange becomes likely. Other countries – including the Soviets – are coming to this conclusion. We cannot deny our own citizens the opportunity to flee to safety when our enemies are doing the same for their own people.

That’s their plan?”, McGee said. “Run?”

“That’s what he meant,” DiNozzo mused. “Sonofabitch. That guy finally makes sense.”

“Who’s ‘he’ and what ‘guy’, Tony? What are you talking about?”

“Bryndon Smith,” McGee heard from behind him, and he and Tony turned at the same time to see Gibbs, who somehow had snuck up on them both.

“Boss?”, McGee said, rather loudly. He looked over at DiNozzo, then to Gibbs, and then the thought came to the younger agent that DiNozzo wasn’t brought up as part of the debriefing Gibbs mentioned during their earlier conversation. “Uh, Boss, I’m sorry, I – I’m sorry for, uh—”

“What have I told you about apologies, McGee?”, Gibbs said, without anger, irritation or any other sign of being remotely upset. “You’re not the one who should be apologizing anyway.”

Tony's eyes grew wide a moment later, as the fleeting thought of enjoying McGee’s discomfort was swept away by the thought that he had some explaining to do, and quickly. “Uh, Boss, you’re right. I’m the one who—”

“I need to apologize,” Gibbs interjected. That surprised both of the younger agents. Gibbs rarely apologized about anything; he even had a rule against it.

You?”, DiNozzo said. “For what?”

“To all of you, including the ones upstairs,” Gibbs replied. “The MacIntyre case a couple of years ago, McGee.”

“The one we worked with the military team in North Carolina.”

“The one that got buried,” Gibbs said, with a hint of disgust. “The suspect said things that never made sense, at the time.”

“Now they do,” DiNozzo said. “You think what’s on that screen is what that guy was talking about?”

“Yep,” Gibbs said. “I’m also sorry I didn’t see it earlier, even when Riley handed me the thing,” Gibbs added, referring to the flash drive. “The ring at the Pentagon was enough to deal with. I never thought about the MacIntyre case until DiNozzo made the connection just now.”

“Boss?”, McGee said. “There’s a lot on this drive. I can start with the highlights and give more details as we go.”

“Do it,” Gibbs said. A half-hour later – and at least one look-in by everyone else upstairs from the doorway at the top of the stairs – Gibbs had seen enough to satisfy his curiosity.

“What do you think, Boss?”, DiNozzo said. “I mean, what do you even do with all this stuff?”

“At least we know where to go if things get bad,” McGee said. “A couple of places…right, Boss?”

Gibbs got up and, without a word, headed towards the stairs, and stopped a few feet short before turning around. “You two coming?”, he said to DiNozzo and McGee, both of whom were still sitting on their stools at the workbench.

“Yes Boss!”, both said in unison, seemingly bouncing off their respective stools. “On your six, Boss!”, DiNozzo added.

“Bring that laptop,” Gibbs said, as he headed up the stairs. Once all three men got upstairs, they saw everyone else huddled around the new HDTV set McAllister had installed in Gibbs’s living room, watching CNN.

1:09 p.m. EDT


-- Kiran Cherry: For those of you just joining us, the Soviet Union has expelled all journalists and others affiliated with a Western media outlet. All 19 members of our CNN bureau in Moscow, our only authorized bureau in the Soviet Union, and their families were put onto an Aeroflot airliner hours ago and flown to neutral territory in India. Joining us now by phone from Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai is CNN Senior Soviet Correspondent, and Acting Moscow Bureau Chief, Jill Dougherty, whom we hadn’t heard from since around 4 p.m. Eastern time yesterday. Jill, how are you and everyone else holding up?

Jill Dougherty: We’re holding up pretty well. There are 24 of us, including a three-year-old boy, here in Mumbai. We aren’t the only ones from a Western media outlet here in Mumbai. There is a group from the French Agence France-Presse, four reporters from the British Guardian newspaper, a group of 20 people from ABC News, eight more from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and single reporters from Belgium, Japan, Taiwan, Brazil, Australia, Spain and Nigeria.

Cherry: Jill, we’re hearing from other media outlets that their bureaus in Moscow, Leningrad and elsewhere throughout the Soviet Union were raided about the same time CNN’s was. The reports from other media outlets are consistent: a raid by KGB and local police around 8:30 p.m. Moscow time, those in the Western media offices or, in a few cases, their individual apartments, were given just enough time for personal belongings and then taken to the airport and put aboard an airplane headed for neutral territory, either India, Finland, or northern China.

Dougherty: That’s correct. This was a coordinated effort.

Cherry: Jill, from what I understand you and the other CNN personnel and their families were rounded up early in the morning Moscow time, and allowed just enough time to get their belongings before being taken to the Moscow airport to be—

Dougherty: We all were in the CNN offices when what we believe to be KGB agents, accompanied by Moscow police, barged in around 3:30 a.m. local time, I think that would’ve been 8:30 p.m. on the East Coast, and told us we had 15 minutes to gather our personal belongings, that we were being evicted from the Soviet Union.

Cherry: ‘Evicted’?

Dougherty : That is correct. ‘Evicted’ is the term they used. We could take personal items, such as clothing and photographs, but we had to leave our notes, our laptops, and our computers. There were five KGB agents and 38 police officers, all armed. We were not able to do anything to our computers nor notebooks, as we were all threatened with bodily harm should any attempt be made to destroy what the lead agent called “harmful propaganda”.

Cherry: Jill Dougherty in Mumbai. Jill, I know there were two children there, and three spouses but, you’re saying you were told you had to gather your personal items and be ready to leave in 15 minutes and not to do anything to your notes. That had to be…journalists do not readily give in to such threats.

Dougherty: As Acting Chief, I made the decision for all of us. I told the KGB agent he could have whatever else he wanted as long as he allowed all of us safe passage out of Moscow. I will admit that was difficult for me to do, although I didn’t have much time to decide. There were transcripts of conversations with sources in our notes, in our computers. As a journalist I do not want to give those up and I would be willing to be imprisoned, even die, to protect my sources and to stand for the integrity of my profession. There is a part of me that feels as if I betrayed my profession and the principles it stands for by doing this.

Cherry: Giving the KGB your notes and computers.

Dougherty: Yes.

Cherry: Jill, you mentioned spouses and children. Were they the deciding influence in you making this decision?

Dougherty: Yes, along with the other 18 men and women. I knew, as soon as the KGB burst in early this morning, we were either going to be placed into custody or sent away.

Cherry: ‘Placed into custody’, what does that mean, exactly?

Dougherty: Svetlana Golodryga, from ABC News, whose parents fled from the Soviet Union and were given asylum in the United States before she was born, was taken into custody from the ABC News office this morning. ZNN’s Clarissa Ward was thrown into a KGB vehicle when ZNN was raided. Charles Wheeler, from the BBC, was arrested at the BBC bureau in Moscow on charges of espionage. All, we were told, ‘placed into custody’, which we were told means they will be charged with crimes against the Soviet Union, tried by a military court, sentenced and sent to serve their sentence.

Cherry: What kind of sentence?

Dougherty: I wasn’t told specifically by the KGB agent I spoke to, but he implied it was ‘quick and appropriate to charges of espionage’. We know about the CIA agent who was given the same sentence for allegedly spying on Chernobyl two years ago and sentenced to death within a week. I asked the KGB agent if these journalists’ sentence would be similar; he said nothing, but gave me a very slight nod of the head.—

“Anything else on the news?”, Tony asked the group.

“Congress is still in session and no one will say about what,” Abby replied. “Some plane trying to spread poison on some farms in Iowa was shot down.”

“Long lines at the supermarket and longer lines at the gas station,” Kate added.

“And everybody’s waiting on the Selective Service draft,” Palmer said. “Gibbs. You guys find out something downstairs?”

DiNozzo and McGee looked at each other, then noticed everyone other than Gibbs looking back at them.

Gibbs stepped forward before either man could say anything, and loudly cleared his throat. “We did,” Gibbs replied, nodding towards the suit standing next to the front door. “We have a new mission.”

“And what is that mission, Jethro?”, Ducky said.

“We can’t save everyone, but we can save some,” Gibbs said. “Take your phones, and don’t worry about them,” nodding towards the suit near the door. “They’re with us. The ones who are here, and at Ducky’s watching his mother. Wouldn’t be here if they weren’t with us.”

“Thanks for answering the question we were all thinking about – I think – Gibbs, but what about our phones?”, Abby asked.

“Start calling people you know, starting with family,” Gibbs said. “Got a text from the director, while McGee was downstairs working on a project I’ll tell you about in a bit. If we can get them here, we will, and they’ll come with us.”

“You mean the ring?”, Palmer asked.

“The sooner the better,” Gibbs replied. “Stop wasting time and start calling.”

Everyone other than Gibbs, Ducky, Franks and the suit whipped out their cell phones almost simultaneously.

“My mother is my only relative here in the States, and my only living relative anywhere,” Ducky told Gibbs and Franks. “I am quite overdue for a phone call. She will be concerned.”

“Go ahead, Duck,” Gibbs said. Ducky walked over to the stairs going to the upper floor of the house and sat down. “Mike. Got anybody you need to call?”

“A lady friend in Mexico, I suppose,” Franks replied. “My son didn’t make it.”

“Corporal O’Neill,” Gibbs said. “Mike…”

“Got killed in Afghanistan a year ago. Marines came down and told me,” Franks said. “He looked me up the year before. We spent all of one afternoon fishing and the better part of a night catching up. I owe his CO a debt I’ll never be able to repay.”

“What do you mean?”

“His CO called in a few favors to get him down there. That was when the Reynosa cartel was doing their crap along the border. The CO brought it himself, killed by some Commie bastard near the Panama Canal.”

“Mike, I’m sorry—”

“What’s done is done, Jethro. I hope they” – Franks pointed to the rest of Gibbs’s team – “have better luck.”

Abby couldn’t reach her brother in New Orleans. When she called the NCIS field office, she got a busy signal; a phone call to the New Orleans Police Department revealed that the local field agent, Dwayne Pride, had been missing since Thursday after reports of East German Stasi agents near the Naval Support Activity New Orleans facility. “Damn,” Gibbs muttered, when Abby told him.

DiNozzo managed to get in contact with his father, Anthony DiNozzo Sr., who was staying at a hotel in New York City. It was the first time the men had spoken in years. DiNozzo Sr. said that things ‘were insane’ in Manhattan, but that he was confident that he could get away if he had to through the help of a Saudi sheik. Senior refused Junior’s pleas to get to Washington – “I couldn’t if I wanted to. The NYPD has the city locked down tight and the airports aren’t open to civilians” – and told his son to take care of himself. Junior went down to the basement after the call and didn’t come up until Gibbs went down and got him.

McGee’s father, Admiral John McGee, had been recalled to active duty and was the captain of the USS South Carolina in the Persian Gulf. McGee’s mother didn’t answer – he figured she was somewhere in Spain, having hooked up with a businessman from Madrid after she separated from the Admiral – but his sister Sarah picked up on the first ring. Sarah was in town, staying at Waverly University (having finished up her freshman year), and she agreed to leave if McGee would come and get her. Gibbs nodded to Ronnie, the head suit on the premises, who assured McGee they would get Sarah to the house. McGee told Sarah who would pick her up, when, and where they would take her.

Kate called her uncle Charles, the interim Governor of Indiana who took his niece’s call from the emergency state government headquarters in Bloomington. The Governor assured Kate he, her cousin Maureen and the other remaining Todd family members had “a way of escape should the worst happen”, and wouldn’t say how, nor anything else other than “trust that Marine you’re with.”

Palmer got in contact with his parents, who were with a group of survivalists out west. The father called his son a fool for not going with them months ago, told him to head north to a small upstate New York town named Durvale, then wished him well before hanging up. Palmer went out in the backyard to be alone with his anger.

Ziva called her father, Mossad Director Eli David, who assured her he had a way to get to a local ring complex should the worst happen (assuming that he didn’t have to sacrifice himself for his country or his agency), and that she had a greater chance of surviving by staying with Gibbs.

Gibbs thought of his parents, and of Shannon and Kelly, and while he wished all four were alive, he had to admit to himself he was glad none of them were alive at this point in time. There were other people he could help, though.

Gibbs called NCIS Agent Stan Burley, who currently was serving as Agent Afloat onboard the USS Philadelphia destroyer in the Gulf of Mexico. Gibbs simply told Burley “you’re needed in Washington”; a hour later, Burley was onboard a UH-1Y ‘Venom’ Navy helicopter, headed for Homestead, Florida, where he’d board a C-130 headed for Washington.

Gibbs then called NCIS Agent Paula Cassidy, who currently was Senior Special Agent at the NCIS field office in the Canal Zone and told her what he told Hurley. She gave Gibbs the current situation in the area: American, Cuban and Soviet forces lay between Panama and the homeland, and she’d try to get to Washington as soon as she could, probably through Mexico and Texas.

Satisfied he had gotten through to Burley and Cassidy – and grateful that both were alive, and that both had ways to get to D.C. – Gibbs looked for somewhere to sit down, to take a breath and figure out the next steps for his team, and himself.

He’d have to make that spare moment later.

“Turn up the TV!”, Tony yelled.

The channel was turned to WRC, the local NBC network affiliate, which was carrying network news coverage. Gibbs recognized the anchor, Brian Williams, and saw both fatigue and fear in the man’s eyes.

--"NBC News has learned from multiple sources on the ground in West Germany and within both the Pentagon and the U.S. Army that there was a confrontation between French and East German fighter jets an hour ago along the border between Fulda, West Germany and Meiningen, East Germany. We are told only that one French jet and two East German jets went down along the border. No other information…excuse me, I’ve just been handed a note…Soviet Premier Khalinin has just made a statement…I’ve been given that statement, which came to us from the Soviet TASS press agency, and we also have the audio version from Radio Moscow which has been provided to us and the rest of the media from the White House. We will play that for you now.”

The Americans have finally played their hand, accusing the Soviet Union of the atrocities in Indianapolis and throughout the globe, from London to Montreal, Tokyo to Paris, Melbourne to Tel Aviv. And now their French lackeys attack patriotic socialist fighter pilots protecting their own people. Two of the people’s servants in the German Democratic Republic have been executed on behalf of a war-hungry America. The poker faces of the warmongers in Washington poker faces have been wiped away and show to the entire world their hunger for war. Accusing us of destroying their own people, they not only lie to the so-called ‘free world’ about these atrocities but commit them themselves! America is behind the attacks on the London subway system, the religious centers in the West, the nuclear plants in Japan! Blame Boehner, not the noble Soviet people! And they commit atrocities by the hour in the portions of the world that are truly free, ruled by the workers, inside socialist nations, too many to count! Our forces inside the Soviet Union have heroically prevented many acts of American-backed terrorism, at great cost; thousands of innocent Soviets are dead. And now, the Americans and their Western European lackeys line up, preparing for war.

And yet, we stay our hand. As the American poet Robert Frost once said, ‘two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by’. The American eagle and its lackeys, and the noble, Marxist bear and its friends, stand together. The broad path leads to destruction. The road less traveled leads to peace. It can make all the difference, Mister President. If only you will stop listening to the war-mongering capitalists in your country and its government and military and take the courage to follow in the path of Karl Marx and listen to your people. For the sake of your people, I will stay my hand. But I cannot withhold it if you continue to attack us.

There is a road to peace, President Boehner. And that road begins with you laying down your arms, surrendering to an international board, and giving your power and authority and those of the capitalists pushing you towards Armageddon to your people. Give it, and that of your Congress and your military, to the socialist peoples of your country, who chafe under the heavy burden you have laid upon them since the founding of your nation. The choice is yours, Mister President, but it is also the choice of the American people. Rise up, throw off your chains, embrace socialism, and join the world brotherhood of socialists. Destroy the capitalists and their political and military masters! Destroy those who sympathize with them! Rise up, workers of America, throw off your chains and take your place among your socialist brothers and sisters—

And that is where the speech cuts off. We are told the President will give his response shortly. This is NBC News, it is 1:07 p.m. in the Eastern time zone, I’m Brian Williams, and you’ve just heard from the Soviet Premier Khalinin—”
Part Four: Chapter 48
Chapter 48

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Washington, D.C.

Leroy Jethro Gibbs’s home

1:07 p.m. EDT

Believe me when I say to you,
I hope the Russians love their children too
We share the same biology, regardless of ideology.
But what might save us, me and you,
Is if the Russians love their children too

“What a load of SHIT!”

Palmer kicked over a couple of boxes filled with his belongings in the living room; his outburst drew everyone’s attention, startling some of the suits in the process. No one in the living room, though, disagreed with his sentiment.

“I can’t believe it,” Kate added, looking as if she wanted to kill Khalinin. “He’s lying about everything. All of it. Two hundred thousand dead back home. My family. How many others dead, and he’s saying it’s our fault?!?”

Heads turned throughout the room.

Our fault? He’s the one at fault!” Kate yelled. “Put me back on the President’s detail. I’d have begged him to nuke Leningrad in response.”

Abby stood up and began walking towards Kate, then stopped when Kate put her palm out towards her. “I’m fine, Abby.”

“Kate, we’re here,” Abby said, standing three feet away from her friend. “You don’t mean that.”

Don’t I?”, Kate growled.

“No, you don’t,” Gibbs said quietly. “That’s not you.”

“I’m with her,” Palmer interjected. “I wouldn’t mind dropping an atom bomb on his ass myself.”

Palmer saw the disapproving glance Gibbs thrust his way, and locked eyes with the older man for a moment. Gibbs saw pain, rage and bitterness in the young man’s eyes, even as Palmer met his glare.

“You of all people, Gibbs, ought to understand,” Kate replied to Gibbs before Abby again caught her eye. The tall, black-garbed woman had an innocence about her that Kate found charming, and even attractive. Kate suddenly thought she may have just yelled at Abby’s inner child.

“I love you, Kate. We all love you. You are family and if you hurt, we hurt too,” Abby said, trying to project an open, nonthreatening posture. “I just wanted know, let you know that."

Realizing the forensic scientist meant no harm, Kate blushed in slight embarrassment. “I know,” she said more softly, but with an anger-fueled edge.

“Caitlin,” Ducky interjected, “We all know the truth.”

Kate had kept her emotions locked down tightly in the days since Indianapolis. Ducky, in particular, observed her behavior; he had recently earned a master’s degree in forensic psychology, thinking it would be an asset personally and for the team to have another profiler who could provide another perspective on persons involved with a given case.

After the explosion in Indianapolis, Gibbs told Ducky to watch Kate closely, and he had done so, as he was doing now. Kate saw the sympathy in his eyes, and it calmed her down enough that she didn’t protest when Abby wrapped her in a tight hug.

“This madman’s actions and words are meant to provoke and antagonize,” Ducky continued. “He knows we will respond to him, but not as recklessly as he hopes. His day is coming.”

“Better now than later,” Palmer said. “I’d like to drop a nuke right on his—”

“We do that, they do it to us,” DiNozzo said. “That’s what that guy wants, Palmer. We’re not going to give him that.”

“But the Allies will respond, eventually,” Ziva said. “We were briefed on Khalinin during my days in Mossad. He thinks of himself as the successor to Stalin, to finish what Stalin began after World War II.”

Bastard is what I’d call the man,” Franks said. “You ask me, we should’ve killed him back in ’97.”

“What happened back in ’97?”, McGee asked.

“Remember when Bob Dole resigned after he drank that coffee spiked with anthrax, and we blamed that Westboro cult?”, Franks replied. “That was a front. CIA traced it back to Khalinin. We knew he did it, but we couldn’t prove it without any doubt. The people around Colin Powell convinced him to back down, to keep from starting a war.”

“How come we never heard that before?”, Palmer said.

Lot of things are kept from the public, Palmer,” Gibbs answered.

Abby sat in front of the TV and began changing the channels while the rest of the group debated government secrecy. She found only news on all but a few channels.

The Disney Channel was showing a Mickey Mouse marathon, while the Cartoon Network showed a similar marathon for Bugs Bunny and other Looney Tunes characters. MTV showed a music video of a song hastily recorded two weeks before by John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Bono. EWTN showed the Pope holding a Mass from the Vatican (with glimpses of armed guards in the vicinity), while TBN aired a Billy Graham crusade from what looked like 1977. A&E showed a documentary on Humphrey Bogart, ESPN had a roundtable discussion on the long-term future of professional and college sports, and the Weather Channel had coverage of the hurricane headed towards Florida.

All channels had a crawl stating they would carry the President’s response live.

She went through the dial, and stopped at WUSA, the Washington CBS affiliate, which was carrying network news coverage.

“--again, the President’s response to the Soviet leader is imminent. CBS will carry that live. In other news, briefly, Finland announced that it has closed its air space to both Soviet-led and Western military forces, claiming neutrality; France and Belgium have opened their borders to refugees fleeing from West Germany and Austria; U.S. Navy ships have begun evacuating all civilian and non-essential personnel from the Panama Canal Zone Territory—"

“Cassidy’s flying up through Mexico into San Antonio,” Gibbs said.

“—North Korea announced on state-run media that it would support the Soviet Union and threatened Western forces in the region. Sources tell CBS News the South Korean city of Seoul has begun evacuating residents.

Anti-war protests have descended into violence in several major U.S. cities, including here in New York, along with Chicago, Boston, Miami, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles. In Manhattan alone, at least 13 protestors and counter-protestors have been arrested within the last hour.

The Associated Press is reporting that pro-Communist and anarchist groups have mixed in with pro-peace demonstrators in Portland and Seattle. The governors of Oregon and Washington are weighing sending in their National Guard units or declaring martial law in both cities.

And in Israel—excuse me, we’re being told the President is about to speak. This is CBS News, I’m Katie Couric, with me is former U.S. Secretary of State and U.S. Army General Alexander Haig, along with my colleague, Russ Mitchell. We will discuss the President’s response after his speech. It’s 1:19 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Here now is President Boehner.”

My fellow Americans,

We have just heard from the leader of the Soviet Union. He has spoken and claims to speak the truth. I assure you, Marshal Khalinin lies. He lies about Indianapolis, he lies about the attacks in our own country, and he lies about the attacks in Europe, Canada, Korea, Japan, Australia, Singapore, Africa, South America, Mexico, and in his own and his allies’ borders.

The Soviets are behind it all and he is their puppet master.

We want peace, yes. But we do not want peace at any cost, at the cost of our freedom. We will not bow now, nor ever, to the Soviet Union’s demands that will end with the Communist boot imprinted on the faces of every free man, woman and child now and forever.

Marshal Khalinin talks about the ‘noble’ Soviet bear, standing over the ‘warmongering’ American Eagle in triumph.

Make no mistake, Marshal Khalinin. YOU are the warmonger.

But you will not be allowed to rampage through the globe unimpeded.

We, the free people of the world, will stand against you, will fight you, and we will prevail. You will not destroy us. The convictions that guide us are greater than your dogma. The Creator who empowers us is greater than the gods of your own making. The fight for freedom, liberty and justice will prevail. You have sowed the seeds of your own demise, Marshal Khalinin.

Today, the first Selective Service lottery since the Vietnam War will determine who among our nation’s young men and women will be the first to be drafted into military service. Three hundred and sixty-five balls, one for each day of the year, will be drawn. Those whose birthdays are on the date on the first ball drawn will be the first to be drafted. The lottery will continue, from the second ball drawn thru the 365th, and last, ball. The exceptions and loopholes that plagued our military during the Vietnam War do not exist this time around: all who are eligible, poor, rich, middle-class; white, black, Hispanic, and other races; those from all 50 states and America’s territories; all will serve in one way or another if needed, whether it is on the front lines or in support positions.

Congress is in session right now, discussing how America should prepare for all possible scenarios. It is ready, should the time come, to vote on a declaration of war. No one in this government wants war. No one in our military wants war. We want peace, as surely as the American people want peace.

The peace we want, though, is not the peace that Marshal Khalinin offers. His ‘peace’ is the classic picture of a boot print embedded in a human face.

America will NEVER settle for that kind of peace.

I want to speak now to the American people. You have gone through much in recent weeks. Your lives have been turned upside down. Many of you have lost someone close to you, or someone you work with, or worship with, or were neighbors with, due to the Soviet-backed terrorism. Much more will be asked of you in the coming days. Yet your faith, your resolve, your integrity never wavers. I am heartened by your resilience and your persistence.

The days ahead will be trying, and dark, perhaps the darkest our great nation has ever known. But the enemy does not have the greatest resource any country could hope to have, a resource we are blessed with -- you. You are the reason we stand in the face of the greatest threat the world has ever known. You represent the greatness of our nation’s past, the strength of our nation’s present and the promise of our nation’s future. I promise you today, as long as one of you lives, the United States of America, and all that she represents, will never, ever perish from the face of the Earth.

May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

“That was President John Boehner, speaking from the Oval Office, with armed Marines standing behind him both inside and outside the window behind his desk. This is CBS News. I’m Katie Couric, with me are CBS News anchor Russ Mitchell and—”

Having picked up the remote a couple of minutes before, DiNozzo hit the mute button. “Well, aren’t they all bright and cherry,” he snapped.

As the rest of the team, besides Gibbs, debated what they had just heard on the television, Ducky pulled Roscoe aside and gestured towards the front door. “I suppose, Roscoe, this is as good a time as any to bring Mother to be here with the rest of us,” Ducky said in a whisper, as he didn’t want to draw the others’ attention to the matter yet. “Jethro has offered his bedroom for her use as long as she needs it. The issue now is getting her safely here, which is where you and your associates come into the picture.”

“Say no more,” Roscoe replied. “I can have a helicopter there in an hour, and we’ll clear a path down the street for it to land.”

“That’s…that’s marvelous news!”, Ducky blurted, not expecting arrangements to be made quite this soon. “I apologize for imposing, but—”

“It’s no problem,” said Roscoe, who noted Gibbs looking their way from the kitchen area. “NCIS takes care of its own. Tell Agent McGee we’re working on getting his sister here. She might make it ahead of your mother.”

“I will,” Ducky said.

3 p.m. EDT

The first draft lottery since the Vietnam conflict is held from an undisclosed room within the Pentagon. Francis Gomez, a U.S. Army Lieutenant from Dos Rios, Texas, has the responsibility of drawing 366 balls from a machine that is the same model used in the popular Powerball lottery games.

The first ball drawn is for the date of September 24, meaning that all men and women with that birthdate born between the years from 1976 to 1988 are the first to be drafted. The next ball drawn is February 29, and those with that birthday born between from 1977 to 1989 are in the second group of draftees. The next ball drawn is July 17, and the draft goes on.

3:03 p.m.

A Marine helicopter lands at an intersection down the street from Gibbs’s house, and Mrs. Victoria Mallard and Sarah McGee are ushered into an SUV that will drive them a block down the street. Both are greeted with a hug from Abby, and then Ducky and McGee, and then the rest of the team. Mrs. Mallard's seven corgi dogs are left at her home, under the supervision for the time being of two suits fresh out of FLET-C in Georgia.

At that moment, a hurricane warning is issued for central and south Florida. Stan Burley is ushered onto a C-130 at Homestead Air Force Base near Miami, Florida, and four minutes later the plane takes off, heading north towards Washington. Burley looks out the window a few minutes after takeoff and catches a glimpse of a nightmarish traffic jam on Interstate 95; he’s told by a Marine that “everyone from Orlando down to Key West was told to get on a highway and go north” and that state and local officials are expecting little to no help from the federal government when Hurricane Barry makes landfall between 9 and 11 p.m.

3:18 p.m. EDT

Gibbs’s basement

Gibbs left Abby to play hostess for Mrs. Mallard and Emily McGee; he had business to attend to. The first order of business at the moment was to check on as many people as he could, starting with Fornell.

“You find Diane?”, Gibbs asked regarding the woman who was married to, and later divorced from, both Fornell and himself.

“She has Emily,” Fornell said of his and Diane’s daughter, of whom they had joint custody. “I sent one of our people, Special Agent Derek Morgan, to pick them up. FBI’s housing immediate family at a secret location—”

“Bring them here, Tobias.”

“Your house? How many you got over—”

“Bring them here, Tobias,” Gibbs said, in a tone he hoped would settle the matter. “And don't forget to bring yourself, too.”

“Your whole team’s already over there, right?”

“And Ducky’s mother and McGee’s sister. Everyone else is unreachable or refuses to come.”

“What about your other ex-wives?”, Fornell said of Stephanie Flynn and Rebecca Chase, the other two women Gibbs had married, and divorced, after his first wife Shannon and their daughter Kelly were murdered. “You try to reach them?”


“Jethro, I’m sorry—“

“Can’t reach the JAG team in Falls Church, either. Got stonewalled by a secretary I’m not familiar with. Do me a favor, Tobias, and I’m sure you owe me, get your ass, and my ex-wife and your daughter here ASAP.”

“What’s there that we can’t get from the Bureau?”

Safety,” Gibbs said, in a softer tone than Fornell had ever heard him use. “Trust me. Please.”

Fornell was stunned. Gibbs never said ‘please’, to anyone. Then again, the world was on the edge of falling straight into hell, so Fornell supposed anything was possible.

“Give me one hour and we’ll all be here,” Fornell told him. “You better be ready to level with me, Jethro.”

“I’ll tell you everything I can,” Gibbs said.
Part Four: Chapter 49
Chapter 49

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Arlington, Virginia


5:15 p.m. EDT

Hours ago, after escaping Haiti; returning to America; and being debriefed by the Joint Chiefs and the director of the CIA; Trevor went straight to his office and fell face-down onto the cot in the corner.

When he finally woke up, he saw General Lane sitting in a chair beside him, holding a cup of coffee.

Trevor thought for a moment he had died and that the Catholics were right about Purgatory.

“Get enough rest, soldier?”, Lane said; instinctively, Trevor leapt up and saluted, causing the General to grin. “At ease, Colonel. Pour yourself a cup.”

Trevor noticed a pot of coffee and an empty mug on a folding table in front of Lane’s chair and, at the General’s behest, filled the mug before sitting down on the cot. “It was a long day, sir,” Trevor replied. “I’m still not sure what to make of it.”

“Wish there was something to make of it,” Lane said. “It would’ve been nice to get that son of a bitch out of the Kremlin. You play the hand you’re dealt with, as they say. Wish I could’ve been down there with you.”

“Just like old times,” Trevor said, thinking of some of the missions the two had worked together on as a part of Task Force X. He still had nightmares about some of those missions. “Any word on what happened to Kort?”

“The Agency spook?”

“Uh…yes. Didn’t see him again after we got off the plane at Andrews.”

“Doing what Agency spooks do, I suppose. Langley’s not going to sit the war out, you know. Russians are getting all their ducks lined up and so are we, from here to Berlin to Korea. Just waiting for them to put the ball on the tee and kick off the damn war – but they’re going to go on offense first.”

“West Germany?”

“Both sides are lined up right along the border.”

“General, may I ask you a question?”

“Shoot, soldier,” Lane said. The men had never been the best of friends, and Trevor never felt comfortable enough around Lane to break protocol and address him informally.

“Do you ever wonder if we had allowed the…more gifted persons to operate openly, what kind of world we’d be in right now?”


“No, sir?”

“No, Colonel, I don’t.”

“May I ask you why you don’t, sir?”

“Because I know what kind of world we’d be in right now, Colonel, a hell of a lot worse than the one we wound up in.”

“With all due respect, sir, I’m not sure things can get any worse than one step away from Armageddon.”

“Soldier, we did what had to be done. We step back and let things go, God knows who or what would be running things right now. What you did, what I did, what we all did – what Task Force X did – was for the good of the country and the world. We’ve had this conversation before.”

“Yes, we have,” Trevor said, and each time both men came to the same differing conclusions. “I wonder, if things might be better.”


“Gifted men and women, using their abilities and talents to make the world a better place.”

Or, maniacs who make Hitler look like Mother Teresa, tearing the world apart to get some of the other bastards’ pieces. They’re the reason the task force was started at all. The mandate from the very beginning was to identify and eliminate threats to the country that couldn’t be handled conventionally. We did both of those things, soldier.”

“We did, sir. We used a pretty broad definition for ‘threat’ as we went on. We eliminated some threats that could have been allies, General, to us and to the world.”


“Gods, goddesses, humans with unimaginable gifts and, yes, aliens. We should have been able to differ between them and someone like the Joker.”

“We did. They ended up working for their country—”

“I’m talking about the ones who didn’t agree with our ‘objectives’. Sir.”

“Dammit, Trevor,” Lane growled. “We couldn’t – can’t – afford rogues and loose cannons. We can’t afford them falling into the hands of the Soviets. Remember Magnus? Holland? What Moscow did with them?”

I remember the young half-cyborg man, sir, with his whole life ahead of him, and we extinguished him. There was a friend of mine, a career Air Force officer loyal to his country and look at how it repaid him--”

“Adam volunteered for that mission, Colonel—”

“Dr. Isley, who we couldn’t control – so we did away with her. The league of adventurers. Do you remember that incident in Omaha? We never found them, sir. I wonder how they met their fate. Maybe, they made it out and they’re still alive—”

“Colonel. You’re treading on a thin line right now—”

“I remember her.”

Lane sighed. This wasn’t a conversation he wanted to have with Trevor nor anyone else, not now nor ever. “Colonel. We’ve had this conversation before. Nothing’s changed. Nothing’s going to change, especially now. What’s done is done.”

Trevor looked away, briefly, then looked Lane in the eye. “I know, sir. I just wanted to say my peace.”

“And God knows you’re entitled to it, Colonel. You’ve been through hell serving your country, and I’m glad to have you on our side.” Lane got up and put his cup down on the folding table. “Get as much rest as you can, while you can.”

Trevor stood back up and saluted; Lane sketched a salute in return, then walked out of Trevor’s office. The Colonel fell back onto his cot, allowed himself a tear, and remembered something he could take care of, now.

There still were men and women of valor who could make a difference, and he could still help them. Trevor got up from the cot, went to his desk and placed a call.

6 p.m. EDT

--From ABC News headquarters. This is World News Saturday.

Good evening, I’m Charles Gibson, coming to you from an undisclosed location.

Hours ago, Soviet leader Mikhail Khalinin delivered an ultimatum to the West, and President John Boehner told him in no uncertain terms America would not back down, right before the draft lottery was held for the first time in three decades. And Florida braces for a major hurricane even as hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing the state on every and any road going north – ignoring state officials urging them to shelter in place.

Before we get to that, Reuters is reporting that Soviet Ambassador Vitaly Churkin has walked out of a meeting with United Nations leaders in Geneva and is reportedly headed back to Moscow, along with his staff. Our U.N. correspondent, John Alexander joins us now from Geneva. John?

(camera cuts to Alexander, standing in front of the U.N. building in Geneva, Switzerland)

Charles, Churkin walked out after the U.S. and China filed protests over the Soviet Red Air Force’s carpet-bombing of Bangkok in Thailand, where the Communist government had been overthrown and a pro-Western government had taken power. The Soviets and Communist Thailand, which holds much of the Thai countryside, admitted that they hit civilian targets in addition to government and military installations inside Bangkok. After China registered its protest, Churkin got up from his seat and walked out without a word—


--those in the first round of draftees will be informed by phone, mail and email.

Over 80,000 people defied a city-wide curfew today to attend an impromptu peace rally in New York’s Central Park. The New York Police Department did not interfere for the hour-long rally put on by Greenpeace. Political commentators Rachel Maddow and Sam Seder and musician Chuck D spoke at the event.

A similar rally on the Washington Mall, sponsored by Students for Global Peace, did not come off due to the large presence of Army and Marine personnel.

Meanwhile, Pentagon sources tell ZNN that Soviet and Czechoslovakian forces are amassing in western Czechoslovakia—


--this just in to Fox News: Mexican President Felipe Calderon has survived an assassination attempt. This comes to us from the State Department. Calderon is uninjured and currently in a secure area somewhere in Mexico. The would-be assassin is in Mexican Army custody and has been identified as Alejandro Rivera—

Washington, D.C.

Gibbs’s basement

6:25 p.m.

“You’re shitting me,” Fornell said to Gibbs after Teague and Langer played the video from the Pentagon and other rings on Teague’s laptop.

“Not the first time I’ve heard that,” Gibbs quipped. His grim expression told Fornell how seriously he took the videos and the claims that came with them. Claims that Fornell had heard himself whispers about for the past few years, from fellow FBI agents, both in and outside of Bureau headquarters.

Diane – who married, and later divorced, both Fornell and Gibbs (separately; she sometimes joked all three would have ended up killing each other if she had been married to them both at the same time) – sat in front of the frame of Gibbs’s half-finished boat, next to her and Fornell’s daughter Emily, and McGee’s sister Sarah. None of the three had breathed a word; Emily looked to her mother and father, who looked to Gibbs for guidance on what to do with the information they were being told. Sarah McGee listened quietly, trying to make sense of something that to her came straight out of a science-fiction television show, no matter how earnestly her brother told her what she heard was the truth.

“Jethro, there’s something I need to talk with you about,” Teague said. “In private.”

Gibbs got up from his stool next to the workbench and nodded towards the stairs; before he could catch up to Teague, Diane raised her hand. “Got something to ask, Diane, ask,” Gibbs said to her.

“Okay,” she said. “Is the government going to tell people about these…things?”

Langer whispered something in Teague’s ear, both aware everyone else in the basement were looking at them. “I don’t know,” she finally said. “Officially, the rings don’t exist.”

“How do you know what the government will do or won’t do?”, Sarah asked. “How do you know these things are even real?”

“We don’t know what Washington is going to do regarding anything, beyond preparing for war,” Langer said. “As to your other question, we’ve been to these rings. We’ve seen them for ourselves. We’ve been through them.”

“To other worlds?” Sarah asked. Langer, then Teague, then Gibbs nodded their heads. “Forgive me for being just a bit skeptical,” she added.

“I understand,” Teague said, “but they’re real.”

“What happens when the balloon goes up and this goes nuclear?” Fornell asked. “Is this why we’re here?”

Gibbs nodded to Fornell, and smiled at Diane, Sarah and Emily.

“We can probably clear a route from here to the Pentagon,” Teague said. “It’s easier to get everyone to where they would need to go when they’re all in one place. Plus, the military has done a good job in keeping insurgents and Soviet agents out of D.C. It’s why we haven’t had the problems other cities are having.”

“You guys mind giving us time to talk about this?” Fornell said.

“We’ll be upstairs,” Gibbs replied, nodding to Teague and Langer to follow him upstairs.

When he walked through the annex into the kitchen, Gibbs saw Mrs. Mallard sitting on his couch, and Abby and Kate talking to her. Ducky got his attention, and Gibbs gestured towards the foot of the stairs leading to the upstairs bedrooms.

“Ever since Mother arrived, she’s been confused,” Ducky said in a whisper. “I’m not certain if it was the ride or the surroundings. I haven’t the heart to tell her that all of the corgis had to be put down because there simply is no room for them here.”

And they’d be a burden if we had to bug out in a hurry, Gibbs thought. “Duck, she can have my bedroom. I’ll sleep downstairs.”

“I appreciate the gesture, Jethro. It will be difficult for Mother to get up and down the stairs, but Abby, Caitlin and Ziva can help—Mother!” Ducky turned and saw Mrs. Mallard trying to break free from Kate and Abby’s grasp.

“Donald!”, she said. “These…these hussies are holding me against my will. Please call the police!”

“Mother, they are the police,” he said, with an air of resignation. “They’re also friends. I’ve told you we won’t be going home for a while…”

Teague got Gibbs’s attention and pointed upwards towards the stairs. He nodded, and she and Langer followed him into the upstairs hallway. Gibbs’s cellphone rang, and he looked at the number on the screen. “Gotta take this,” he said abruptly, going into the bedroom and shutting the door behind him, leaving Langer to shrug his shoulders at Teague.

“Bud?”, Gibbs said, once he locked the door. He recognized the number as that of Navy Lieutenant Commander Bud Roberts Jr., a trial lawyer working out of the Department of the Navy’s Office of the Judge Advocate General in Falls Church, Virginia. Gibbs had placed several calls to try to get in touch with someone from the office, to discuss the rings and provision for them to flee with Gibbs’s group, and hadn’t heard from anyone until now.

“We’re on a secure line,” Roberts said. “I know you’ve been trying to get in touch. We’ve been busy. Just now got time – and the clearance – to reach you.”

“You and your people okay?”, Gibbs said.

“Yeah, we’re okay. We know about the rings, Gibbs.”

“You do.”

“Yeah, we do. Got filled in by a friend of Admiral Chegwidden’s who sent some of his people to you. ‘Harm’ – Lieutenant Rabb – wanted to sign you up on the spot. The Admiral’s friend said he’d take care of it himself. That’s why he sent Agent Teague. Wants to talk to you personally.”

“Where are you now, Bud?”

“Getting ready to bug out, off the planet. Admiral Chegwidden had to pull a bunch of strings—”

“Hold on, Bud. ‘Off the planet’?!?”

“Yeah. Find it hard to believe, too. But…Harm, Mac, everyone we knew from the JAG office in Falls Church are over there. Harriet and the kids are there. Gibbs, it’s amazing. It’s like here, but peaceful, and…they’re exploring space, there’s little poverty, everyone gets along…they’ve even got superheroes come to life. Gibbs. You’ve got to get there—”

Gibbs heard a knock on the door. He definitely had a question or two for Teague and Langer. “So you’re all safe.”

“And sound, Gibbs. It’s good that…if things go belly-up…there’s a place for people to go. For your people to go…speaking of, I gotta go myself. The train’s here.”

“Yeah,” Gibbs said, thinking the train reference was to Roberts going through the ring to some other…place. “Give Rabb and Chegwidden and your people my regards. Take care of Harriet and your kids.”

“Will do, Agent Gibbs. Good luck. And Godspeed.”

“Same to you.” Gibbs heard the line go dead, and the knocks on the door bang louder and louder. He opened the door, and saw Teague holding up her Agency-issued iPhone. “My boss wants to talk to you.”

Gibbs wondered briefly why the CIA director wanted to talk to him. “Gates?”

“My boss over the rings, not the Agency,” she said. “He knows Admiral Chegwidden. And wants to talk to you.”

Gibbs grabbed the iPhone out of her hands, remembering how Tim McGee showed him to use it when he brought his personal phone in last year. “Gibbs.”

“Gibbs, we’re on a secure line, and my name is Steve Trevor. I’m a Colonel in the United States Air Force, and officially we’re not having this conversation. In reality, I’ve wanted to talk to you for some time but I don’t want to do it over the phone. I want to do it face-to-face.”

“Got a time and place, Colonel?”

“I’m working on it. Unless Moscow starts throwing nukes at us, be ready. I have your number, so don’t call me, I’ll call you.” Trevor hung up.

Gibbs handed the iPhone back to Teague. “You know what this is about?”, he asked her.

“I know he wants to meet you, but whatever he wants to talk about, that’s between the two of you.”

8:17 p.m.

Stan Burley had kicked back in the NCIS-issued Ford Taurus, content for its driver – a young woman in a black suit who had to still be in college – to take him straight to Gibbs’s house. They were stopped four blocks from the house at a roadblock set up at an intersection by two dark Ford Explorers, each carrying two dark-suited agents. After Burley and his driver showed their IDs and badges and the sedan was searched thoroughly, they were allowed to continue on their way.

Burley saw SUVs and Tauruses lined up and down Gibbs’s street, and only a few vehicles that looked like they belonged to Gibbs’s neighbors. The Taurus carrying him stopped on the street in front of Gibbs’s house, and Burley recognized the man smoking a cigarette on the front porch. He had never met Mike Franks, but recognized him from a photo, and remembered the few stories Gibbs had told him about Franks.

“You must be Burley,” Franks said, shaking the younger man’s hand as he walked onto the porch. “Gibbs was wondering about you just now.”

“Looks like a packed house inside,” Burley said. “They weren’t kidding when they told me ‘all of his people’ were here.”

“We’re still waitin’ on Cassidy,” Franks said, tossing his cigarette on the porch and rubbing it out with his shoe. “I’ll tell Gibbs you’re here.”

Franks turned, saw Abby running towards the door, and quickly got out of the way. Burley saw her, braced himself, and moments later saw the door fly open and Abby leap onto him, wrapping him in a tight hug.

“Stan Stan Stan Stan! Omigod I’m so glad you’re here!”, she said breathlessly, as Franks chuckled. “We’ve been waiting for you!”

“Glad to be here, Abbs,” Burley croaked out. “Mind if I take a quick breath?”

“Huh?...oh. Oh. I’m so sorry,” she said, breaking the embrace, before hugging his neck for a few more seconds. “Everyone’s here. Tony, Kate, McGee, Jimmy. Ducky, Ducky’s mother, Fornell, Gibbs’s ex-wife, their daughter, McGee’s sister…Mike.”

“I just met him,” Burley said, nodding towards Franks. “Let me stash my gear inside, and we’ll catch up.”

“Everybody wants to talk to you,” Abby said, rushing inside ahead of Burley.

“Hey!”, DiNozzo shouted from the kitchen. “Look what the cat dragged in!” Kate, with him preparing some tuna fish for dinner, rolled her eyes but didn’t hide her smile.

“Stanley, my boy!”, Ducky said, getting up from the couch where he was chatting with his mother and with one of the suits. “So good to see you!”

“Good to be here,” Burley replied, greeting everyone while waiting for someone to fetch Gibbs from upstairs. A minute later, Gibbs made his way down to the living room and shook Burley’s hand.

“Boss, I don’t see Cassidy here,” Burley said, referring to NCIS agent Paula Cassidy.

“Just got off the phone with her,” Gibbs said, so everyone in the room could hear. “C-130 she was to flown in on got pulled elsewhere. Navy put her on a civilian flight from Panama City to Houston, then on another flight to St. Louis. She had to rent a car because the military and the government are taking control of domestic flights. She’s going to have to drive here from there, and detour through Kentucky.”

“I was told Louisville’s a mess and Cincinnati’s not much better,” Fornell said. ZNN had briefly mentioned riots in Louisville and suspicious wrecks that had clogged up many of the main routes in Cincinnati. “She better have an escort.”

“When I got off the phone with her,” Gibbs said, “she was in a Humvee outside Mount Vernon—”

“That’s where Novamerika is!”, Sarah McGee said.

“What’s that?”, Abby said.

“It’s like a city, history theme park and tourist trap rolled into one,” Sarah said. “Some rich guy started it five years ago. It finally opened in February.”

“Hope it’s not as crazy there as what I’m hearing from Baltimore,” Tony added. “I hope Paula can get here safe.”

“She’s a trained agent, DiNozzo,” Franks said. “She can take care of herself.”

“Hope you’re right, Mike,” Tony said.

9:58 p.m. CDT


Along Interstate 64, south of Mount Vernon, Illinois

Cassidy groaned when she came to the roadblock set up by four Illinois State Police squad cars. “Sorry, ma’am,” a trooper told her after she verified Cassidy’s identity. “Indiana’s cut off the state border temporarily. There’s been trouble from some of the Indianapolis refugees along I-64 from Evansville to the” – the trooper pulled out a piece of paper from her back pocket and skimmed through it, until she found what she was looking for – “Hoosier National Forest. It’s packed full of people from Indy and Louisville and Evansville trying to get to safer ground. From what we’re told, that forest is a madhouse.”

“I’ll take my chances,” Cassidy said. “I have business in Washington. I can’t fly, so I’ll drive—”

“It’s too dangerous,” the trooper said. “Don’t even think about taking I-57 South to 24 South, either. Military’s got I-24 cut off at the Kentucky state line all the way into Nashville.”

“Look,” Cassidy said, holding up her badge for emphasis. “I am a federal agent. I worked in Panama. I survived Panama City. I can survive Hoosier National Forest or Nashville or anything the Russians throw my way here.”

“Sorry, ma’am. Governor Ryan here in Illinois is ordering traffic into Novamerika and Mount Vernon. He ordered I-57 North cut off at I-70. I’m sorry, but right now, Novamerika’s your best bet.”

Cassidy seethed for a few moments, then accepted her present situation. “I’m not going to get you in trouble, you’re only doing your job. But does your C.O. work in Mount Vernon?”

“DuQuoin, ma’am. But we do have an office in Novamerika. Follow the signs, show your badge and you’ll be waved through the dome and escorted to the old security office. We’re set up there now, along with the FBI, ICE, and anyone else from a state or federal law enforcement agency.”

Cassidy backed up 80 feet to the exit and took it past the still open Pilot truck stop and Waffle House, and began the five-mile journey towards the gigantic glowing dome visible in the distance.

11:19 p.m. EDT

--Jim Cantore is live from Vero Beach, Florida. Jim?

Stephanie, I’m standing here outside—outside in the parking lot of a Holiday Inn where Hurricane Barry has just made landfall. It’s a Category Four hurri—we’re going to have to get inside. The winds are too—

(the feed cuts out)

Jim? Jim?...Jim Cantore, in Vero Beach, Florida, trying to stand against the wind in what is now a Category Four hurricane that has just made landfall in Florida.—

--the State of Florida has ordered everyone in the state from the Everglades up to north central Florida to shelter in place—

--Governor Crist has ordered state and local police to pull anyone who refuses to leave their vehicles out of their vehicles by force. This has hampered law enforcement in the areas directly affected by Barry’s landfall—

--the Florida Legislature, we’re told, is torn in both houses between Republicans who are urging the Governor to prepare for war and Democrats who want Crist to focus on Hurricane Barry and on evacuating residents to safer areas out of the state—

Sunday, June 3, 2007

6 a.m. EDT

--This is NPR News from Washington. I’m Mary Bromfield. United Nations Television and Radio is reporting that the U.N., along with the governments of China and India, have formally requested that the United States and Soviet Union back down from their ‘disagreement’ and for both nations’ leaders to travel to New Delhi for a summit—

--Radio Moscow dismissed the formal requests as ‘propaganda backed by a government that is socialist in word only and capitalist in fact’—

--South Filipino and East Malaysian MIG fighter jets buzzed US and Chinese Taipei fighters within the last hour in the Sulu Sea—

--a Ugandan submarine has been sighted off the coast of Mandelaburg—

--the South Korean government has ordered civilians to shelter as a precautionary measure—

AOL military families message board post

10:22 a.m. EDT

Joint Base Knox is under lockdown. We barely got thru the gates this morning when the MPs told us to go straight to our house.

I think we got enough at Wal-Mart in Radcliff but they were allowing customers only one cart. I got there with my son and daughter around 7 and the place was packed, everybody talking about the summit and preparations for war. Radcliff police and National Guardsmen out front and at every lane and in every aisle.

People are starting to get scared. There's a lot going on you're not hearing about from the news channels or the radio. The best way to keep informed IMO is scuttlebutt. The grapevine's working just fine.

11:25 a.m. EDT

Gibbs’s house

Gibbs, Kate, DiNozzo, Abby, Burley and five suits attend a Mass held in the basement by a Catholic priest who knew Fornell from an FBI case back in 2003. Everyone else is upstairs and respectful – although Palmer takes time off from lifting free weights in the backyard, to sit down and read through his copies of two books by author Christopher Hitchens: The Soviet Threat and God Is Not Great.

Noon EDT

--Hurricane Barry’s eye is now over Gainesville and the storm has not lessened—

--Baltimore County is now shut down. The only groups having success bringing in food and medicine are African-American church groups and the Red Cross--

--pastor Chuck Smith, from the Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California, urged his parishoners to go out and evangelize “everyone they can”—

--pastor Joel Osteen told a packed house of over 17,000 people this morning, during the second of eight planned Sunday services, that God is good and loves everyone—

--pastor David Wilkerson, locked out of his Times Square Church by the city’s shutdown of Times Square, told members and attendees of the Brooklyn Tabernacle that he feared America ‘was about to reap the results of decades of rebellion against the Lord’—

--Muslim worshippers throughout Michigan packed mosques, despite protests outside a few mosques in Dearborn—

--like nearby churches and mosques, virtually every synagogue throughout New York was packed today, as Jews prayed not just for the peace of Jerusalem, but for the world—

--peace rallies held outside of several Catholic churches throughout New Troy and New Jersey before Sunday Mass. The Reverend Jean-Paul Valley urged parishoners at St. John’s Parish in Gotham to pray for peace and called for American and Soviet leaders to step back from the brink--

--the Pope again offered the use of Vatican City as a site for Boehner and Khalinin to work out a peace agreement—

3 p.m. EDT

--the USSR has refused repeated requests by the U.N. to send Westerners trapped inside the country to neutral territory—

--the White House would not comment on rumors of Soviet- and World Pact-affiliated persons still in the U.S. being placed in a FEMA camp in Wyoming—

6 p.m. EDT

--the government of the Oman People's Republic sent out a short email to Al-Jazeera just now. Quote: "Oman will respect the integrity of Mecca and Medina. We will not respect the integrity of capitalist oppressors in this region."

--Kentucky National Guard has been called in to put down violence at the FEMA camp at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center in Louisville. Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson requested the assistance, as Louisville Metro police reportedly have their hands full with an alarmingly large spike in home invasions, robberies and carjackings throughout Jefferson County--

9:12 p.m. ED

--CNN has been told by military sources that the USS Savannah, a light cruiser supporting U.S. and Free Philippine naval ships in the western Pacific Ocean, has sunk with all hands lost in an incident off the East Malaysian Riau Islands in the South China Sea—

9:19 p.m. EDT

--President Boehner is currently discussing the incident with his advisors—

9:26 p.m. EDT

--Khalinin has just gone on Radio Moscow to condemn the United States Navy’s ‘arrogance eclipsed only by its buffoonery’ in blaming the sinking of the USS Savannah on socialist naval forces—

10 p.m. EDT

--we open this hour with news from Denmark, where Soviet Red Navy ships are shadowing their West German and British counterparts in the North and Baltic Seas--

11 p.m. EDT

--the National Hurricane Center has issued a Hurricane Warning for Atlanta, as Barry’s path continues upward through Florida into Georgia—

Monday, June 4, 2007

12:01 a.m. EDT/7:01 a.m. Moscow Time

Radio Moscow (heard in English via a transmitter in Cuba)

--Attention. Moscow is speaking. Comrade Khalinin, the General Secretary and Marshal of the Soviet Union, will now speak.

Comrades throughout the world, those laboring together under the socialist banner of the World Bloc and those shackled by the chains of the capitalist warmongers of the so-called free world, as well as those in the so-called neutral nations.

The Americans feel free to blame the Soviet Union and its socialist comrades in the East Malaysian Socialist Republic and the Socialist Republic of the South Philippines for the sinking of the American ship USS Savannah. They say their ship was sunk by an East Malaysian People’s Navy vessel.

They lie. They always lie. The blame for this incident is not with the socialist forces in the South China Sea, it is solely with the Americans.

There have been appeals to me to come to the bargaining table with the warmonger Boehner. These appeals are from parties who have their own biases: India, once a friend of socialism and now a nation wallowing in compromise; China, a bastion of Communism, now chasing the almighty American dollar; and the Catholic Pope, forever blinded by his superstition and influenced by the West.

Their appeals, as they wish them to come to pass, are in vain.

However, there is a way that leads us from the precipice of destruction towards the peace that they claim to desire and that we comrades want and are willing to fight for.

It will be together that we find this peace. It is together we can live in harmony. It is only together that we can vanquish war, once and for all, and build a world where all, regardless of gender, race, creed, nationality, are equal.

Today I call for the United States and its allies, and for the neutral countries of the world to join the Soviet Union and the World Socialist Pact in the formation of one, united world socialist government. I call upon the United Nations to work with the Soviet Union and the World Pact nations to reinvent itself into the World People’s Union, and to move its headquarters to the eventual world capital of the newly People’s Independent City of Riga in Latvia.

I call upon all Western and neutral nations to willingly join the World People’s Union and to eagerly consent to the following conditions for membership:

Dismantling of all nuclear weapons;

A drawdown of all military forces by 50 percent within 24 hours from now; 90 percent within seven days; and 100 percent within ten days;

The handover of all military weapons, from fighter jets to tanks down to hand pistols, over to the World People’s Union Forces;

And, the plan to redistribute all wealth from the individuals in the capitalist and neutral nations to all peoples, within one month.

This is an ambitious plan, yes. Some would say it is outrageous. But it is no more outrageous than the capitalist nations planning for decades to fight a war that it cannot win that will destroy the globe. If you want peace, you should be willing to do anything to achieve it.

Do you want peace, Boehner? Do you want peace, peoples of the West?

Or do you want power and money and death?

We, the Soviet Union, and we, the peoples of the World Socialist Pact, are not willing to let you wipe us, to wipe socialism, from the face of the Earth. We are willing to fight for our way of life, and we WILL fight to the death if necessary.

I have ordered the evacuation of all major cities in the Soviet Union, and our comrades in each socialist country are doing the same for their major cities. We are prepared, now, not just to fight capitalist aggression but we are prepared to liberate all workers and peasants in Western and neutral countries laboring under the heavy yoke of capitalism.

We will give you one hour to decide.

12:12 a.m. EDT

West Berlin, West Germany

ZDF (translated from German)

--East German forces are engaged with West German and NATO forces across the Berlin Wall—

12:13 a.m. EDT


MUNICH, West Germany – NATO forces are now engaged against Soviet/Warsaw Pact air and land forces moving into West Germany and Austria, NATO sources tell The Associated Press.—

12:15 a.m. EDT/8:15 a.m. Alaska time Sunday

Nome, Alaska

--all local television and radio stations are now participating in the Emergency Broadcast System for Western Alaska at the request of the federal government. Ten minutes ago, Soviet air and naval forces were sighted four miles from Joint Base Nome. Governor Palin has authorized martial law in Nome and Western Alaska effective immediately—

12:22 a.m. EDT/5:22 a.m. GMT

BBC television and radio

--the U.K. has formally declared war on the Soviet Union—

12:24 a.m. EDT/5:24 a.m. GMT


--the BBC has learned of a massive bombing at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium—

12:26 a.m. EDT/2:26 p.m. Guam time


Agana, Guam

--the statement from Joint Base Guam also says Soviet planes lifted off from Sakhalin Island ten minutes ago and began attacking U.S. and South Korean planes over the Korean peninsula and began engaging with U.S. and Japanese fighters over Hokkaido--

12:27 a.m. EDT/12:27 p.m. Philippine Standard Time

Voice of America

--U.S. and Filipino forces are now engaged against Soviet-backed forces across the Philippines, including Subic Bay--

12:28 a.m. EDT/8:28 p.m. ADT (Sunday)

Juneau, Alaska

Emergency Broadcast System

--this station is participating in the Emergency Broadcast System at the request of the Alaska and federal governments. This is not a test.

Soviet fighters are now engaged in battle against U.S. fighters over Western Alaska and are believed to be targeting Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and the Alaskan Pipeline. Anyone within those areas are urged to seek shelter now—

12:29 a.m. EDT/11:29 p.m. CDT (Sunday)

Mobile, Alabama


--eyewitnesses have identified planes with Cuban markings flying over Mobile seconds after the apparent multiple detonations at Fort McDermott in Spanish Fort—

12:30 a.m. EDT

Washington, D.C.

The White House

Oval Office

Sitting at his desk, President Boehner gave himself a few moments to put his face in his hands and ask God for His mercy. Then he looked up at General Samuel Lane, standing ten feet away, and told him simply: “General, the gloves are off. Tell the military to put the bastards down.”

Lane left immediately for the Pentagon; aides, meanwhile, finished setting up camera equipment for the President’s impending address to the nation.

12:37 a.m.

Capitol Hill

In a rare joint session, both houses of Congress voted to declare war on the Soviet Union and the World Socialist Pact.

12:44 a.m.

Washington, D.C.

The White House

Oval Office

President John Boehner address

--My fellow Americans.

Forty-three minutes ago, a madman made outrageous demands of a free world he knew it would never agree to.

Thirty-two minutes ago, the madman’s forces began attacking those of the free world.

Seven minutes ago, Congress voted to declare war on the madman and his forces. Two minutes ago, I signed that declaration.

As of now, the United States is at war with the Soviet Union and the rest of the Communist world. We will fight, and we will not give in, nor give up, and we will prevail. We must prevail, for us not to prevail means that tyranny will win. That cannot happen.

Whatever happens over the coming hours, days, weeks, or longer, may God have mercy on us all.
Part Four: Chapter 50
Chapter 50

Monday, June 4, 2007

12:52 a.m.

Washington, D.C.

One could hear a pin drop, not just throughout Gibbs’s house, but throughout his neighborhood.

Gibbs gave himself a minute to get himself together. He gave everyone else another minute. Only then did he step forward, into the center of the living room, with all eyes on him.

“The clock is ticking,” he said. “Call whomever you have to, get your go gear prepared, then get some rest. We have to be ready to move out at any time.”

There was nothing else to say, at least not to the group. Gibbs went back downstairs and tried once again to contact Paula Cassidy. This time he got through. “Cassidy. What’s your sitrep?”

“I’m stuck in this fancy theme park. New America, Novamerika. Whatever it’s called, I’m stuck here.” Cassidy explained how she got stuck there. “There’s thousands of people here, Gibbs. Can you get McCallister to send something to pick me up?”

“I’ll try,” Gibbs said. He hadn’t been able to contact the director in hours. “In case you’re there for the duration…in case things get bad—”

“Things are already bad, Gibbs. There’s only one way this ends.”

“You in a secure area?”

“I’m…in what serves as the local police headquarters. I’m here with security guards, state police officers, agents from other federal agencies who got stuck here. There’s even a few Chicago cops—”

“I want you to look for a black ops complex, somewhere down there.”

“Look for a what?!?”

“You heard me,” Gibbs snapped, more on edge than he intended. “Look for something…crazy. Impossible. No matter how crazy it sounds, things get bad, you get your ass through it, understand?”

“Gibbs…what are you trying to tell me?”

“I can’t tell you any more on the phone. You have a way of getting messages on your phone?”

“Yeah. It’s called ‘texting’ and ‘email’.”

Gibbs ignored her sarcasm. “Watch for a text or email from McGee. It’ll explain more. Make sure you’re alone when you read it. And watch your back, Cassidy. Things are about to hit the fan.”

“They already have, Gibbs.”

“No, they haven’t really hit the fan. Not yet.”

2:17 a.m.

Arlington, Virginia

The Pentagon

Never in his career had Trevor seen the Pentagon as alive as it was right now.

The moment war was declared, it seemed as if every hallway and room had exploded with activity. Although the Pentagon was as high a level of a target as there was in the country, most of the people assigned to the facility were there, and most off-duty personnel were on their way. Trevor himself had been there for hours – he wasn’t certain as to the last time he had stepped foot in his apartment – working on his assignment.

Only General Lane knew what that assignment was: oversight of the ring complex.

After Trevor was read into the existence of the rings in 1999, he was in his office preparing to travel to the Wyoming site where the first ring had appeared. The Air Force had taken apart the circular, ring-like alien device that appeared out of nowhere, and reverse engineered it; at the time, ten rings had been built, and representatives of the federal government already had visited other universes – covertly, of course. Trevor, and others, believed the rings would lead to one thing, and it wasn’t exploration.

While preparing for his trip, Trevor took a brief break and began clicking through the channels on his television set. Nothing appealed to him until he stumbled onto a channel showing a so-called ‘TV preacher’. As the saying goes, he went down the rabbit hole and watched two evangelical Christian networks, focusing on the men and women who preached Jesus Christ, morality and politics (often mixing all three, or sometimes the latter two to the exclusion of Jesus).

What grabbed his attention wasn’t the message – it was the delivery, and the passion these men and women had. Regardless of whether or not they personally believed in what they were selling – and his opinion was that evangelism does have elements of salesmanship – the evangelists’ goal was to make the viewer buy into the message.

That’s when Trevor had his epiphany.

If the government would go as far as to keep these wormholes secret even in the event of an impending world-ending war, he had one goal: stay around long enough to develop a team of people who, at the right time, would go out and tell as many people as possible about a way to escape the coming doom. People would die – before and when the missiles struck – but, enough people would survive that the nation could eventually be resettled and rebuilt.

That was his idea. His government, and the military he served in, had other plans. It didn’t matter. As long as Trevor had the support of the right people, like Lane, he could develop his network and prepare it for the day things went to hell.

The network had grown to involve thousands of people from all walks of life, all heavily vetted and sworn to secrecy. Some were newer than others, replacing those who had died of natural causes, by accidents or by intention. All of them knew their responsibilities and the risks involved.

Trevor began typing a secure email to a contact in Las Vegas: Sara Sidle, a crime scene investigator for the Las Vegas Police Department. Her team had encountered a ring while investigating a murder north of the city – right where the Air Force had placed one of the first artificial rings – creating a situation that Trevor had to move mountains in order to keep the investigators from permanently disappearing. Sidle and her team were among those leaving the Las Vegas area for the ring 34 miles NNE of the city, and Trevor wanted to check in with her while he still could.

He heard the ring of one of his secure flip phones in the top drawer of his desk, then reached into the drawer to take it out and answer it. “Trevor.”

Colonel.” He heard Joanne Teague’s calm voice. “Operation Exodus D.C. is underway. I’ve spoken with the three Council members still in the city and as many of the ANCs as I can.” The Council of the District of Columbia was the legislative body of the District; the ANCs referred to the commissioners who comprised the District’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission and were neighborhood representatives. “I’ve spoken with several of the leading religious leaders. They’re all on board.

“That’s good. I wasn’t sure they’d go along.” Trevor wasn’t sure that anyone in any city, town, state or territory would believe him about the rings, much go along with his plan to run to them once war broke out. Fortunately, his evangelists had gotten the word out around the country, openly verifying what had formerly been discussed only on the burgeoning Dark Web and whispered about in AOL, Compuserve, MSN and Prodigy chatrooms, and in basements and bars.

That wasn’t much of a problem, Colonel,” Teague replied. “We’ve got some persuasive individuals on our team, and people are scared.” Some of Trevor’s evangelists had a zeal that would impress the likes of Billy Graham. The fear of nuclear annihilation, along with Trevor’s word that they wouldn’t be thrown into prison (“right now, the government has bigger things to worry about”), helped win over people. Not everyone bought in, although only a few ‘concerned citizens’ had reported the evangelists, none of whom had even been approached by federal agents or military officers.

“You still in town, Joanne?”

“At a secure facility, as they say. I had to order Roger to stay put. He wanted to go into Baltimore. That city has completely collapsed. We’ve got two people we can count on when the local ring goes active – a pastor and an imam. Both are working together with some of the local police to secure the streets around the ring. God works in mysterious ways, I suppose.”

“Isn’t that the truth. Joanne. I need you to do something for me.”

“Of course.”

“Get me an audience with Leroy Jethro Gibbs.”

“You want to talk to Gibbs NOW?”

“He is on your team now, isn’t he?”

“Well, yes, but he has his own people to worry about—”

“I realize that, Agent Teague. I need to talk with him face-to-face, ASAP.”

“Understood. Do you want him to come to the Pentagon?”

“No. I’ll go to him.”

“Colonel, aren’t you worried about repercussions?”

“Remember what I told you to tell your people: the authorities have bigger fish to fry right now.”

3:34 a.m. EDT

Atlanta, Georgia


(The screen from the station’s feed is split: the left side shows radar of Hurricane Barry making its way up towards Atlanta, the right side shows local police trying in vain to ward off looters in the city’s downtown district)

--this just in from the National Hurricane Center. It has just issued a Hurricane Warning for all of Metro Atlanta and all of Georgia south of Albany and Jessup. It’s a tremendous storm, just downgraded to Category 3, but still formidable and dangerous—



Soviet forces continue to bombard Joint Base Nome. Some Soviet fighters and bombers have broken through to Fairbanks – where Fort Wainwright has been hit by a 2kt conventional bomb – and Anchorage, where fighters have hit both downtown and Elmendorf Air Force Base.

Power has gone out in portions of cities across the country. The largest outages are in Los Angeles and New York. Most people aren’t concerned, though: they’re too busy trying to get out of town, to anywhere they suspect might be safe from a nuclear attack. They’re also concerned about avoiding looters, carjackers and other criminals, and otherwise law-abiding citizens who might regard their vehicles as a means of escape – or themselves as potential competition for food, water, medicine and other vital supplies to be eliminated.


West Germany is a quagmire, the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies having to fight for every meter. Things aren’t much better in the Balkans nor in Turkey. The Soviets are finding things much better in Scandinavia – they’re moving easily through Finland in preparation for an attack on Sweden and Norway. The Soviet and Polish air forces are bombing the hell out of Copenhagen, while paratroopers land throughout the rest of Denmark.

Allied military also has to deal with civilians trying to flee the war as units push eastward. Standing orders are to avoid civilians if possible; in some cases, though, it can’t be avoided. And those unfortunate civilians who don’t get out of the way meet their demise in what local commanders classify as ‘friendly fire’ incidents.


From bases in socialist Iran, Oman and Qurac, the USSR and its local Pact allies launch an all-out attack on the oil fields in neutral Saudi Arabia. U.S., Saudi, French and Pakistani forces equally go all-out in their response. Naval, air and land forces are engaged in battle.

Syria launches an invasion of Lebanon. Iraq cannot support the Allied effort because it’s being besieged from two sides – Syria from the west, Iran from the east.

Through Swiss diplomatic channels, Israel sends a short and succinct message to Soviet-aligned forces and any other nation planning or considering an opportunity to attack the Jewish homeland: the Samson Option is on the table.


Angola and the rest of the Luanda Pact begin moving into Zaire. This brings Nigeria, Algeria and the other African members of MEATA into the war. Uganda goes off script, however, and launches chemical missiles at Mandelaburg and Pretoria, attempting to settle old scores with South Africa and the New Boers.


The Hanoi Pact forces told China to stay put minutes after Boehner announced the U.S. had declared war on the Soviets. Just over an hour into the war, a Vietnamese submarine sunk two destroyers in the South China Sea, believing them to be American. One of the destroyers was from Chinese Taipei. The other was from the People’s Republic of China. At the moment in Beijing, the Politburo Standing Committee is debating entering the war – especially with Soviet Far Eastern forces amassing in socialist Mongolia, near the Chinese border.

There’s no debate in southeast Asia, where U.S., Free Philippines and Australian forces go after Soviet, South Philippine and East Malaysian forces in the air and on the sea. Soviet advisors and the People’s Thai Armed Forces are losing the battle in rural Thailand against the newly restored Kingdom of Thailand (and their British advisors) operating out of Bangkok.

The Second Korean War has erupted. Allied forces have moved 30 kilometers north of the Demilitarized Zone into North Korea, but Seoul, Pusan and other South Korean cities are getting hammered by chemical missiles.

Soviet Red Air Force fighters are engaging with their U.S., Japanese and Australian counterparts over Japanese Hokkaido.


Havana Pact forces – primarily led by socialist Nicaragua, with help from Cuban advisors – begin their invasion of Panama.

The U.S. and USSR go after each other throughout the Gulf of Mexico, and so far, the U.S. has the advantage. This hampers Cuba’s plans to invade the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay and launch air attacks at Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands; Cuba’s role in the war changes dramatically after Fidel Castrol learns of an ‘uprising’ that has toppled the Communist government in the Dominican People’s Republic. Instead of listening to his Soviet advisors, Fidel Castro orders Cuban forces to pull away from confrontations with the U.S. and help the socialist brothers in Santo Domingo; of course, Fidel has a special forces team in place, ready to secure the Soviet missile bases throughout Cuba.


South America is one of only two continents – Australia is the other – where Moscow has failed to establish a presence. The most influence it could wield was to threaten to topple Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez if he allied himself with the other side; as Chavez had been given the same threat by Washington, Venezuela had established itself as a leading neutral country, selling oil to all, allied to none.

Chavez is now dead, killed by KGB agents at 2:22 a.m. EDT. The country is now in chaos, as the CIA attempts to help secure key political and military leaders while the KGB tries to kill them off.

7 a.m. EDT

--This is the United Nations Radio Service, broadcasting in English via shortwave from Geneva, Switzerland.

Soviet and World Pact forces are now attacking Western forces around the world, despite last-minute appeals from the United Nations, the Vatican, and the governments of China, India and Switzerland to Soviet leader Mikhail Khalinin and American President John Boehner. U.N. observers in Helsinki, Finland report Finnish President Tarja Hillonen and Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen are missing, as are many members of the Finnish parliament, even as Soviet forces roll westward across the neutral nation towards Sweden and Norway.

Switzerland is turning away refugees from neighboring countries as the war's central and southern European fronts begin. U.N. observers report shots fired at protestors attempting to cross the border into the city of Basel.

In the Dominican People's Republic, Reuters is reporting that pro-American rebels have taken portions of the capital Santo Domingo, including the city's airport.

Eritrean General Secretary Isaias Afwerki has once more called upon Luanda Pact member nations to liberate the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina, partly to unite his people as it joins Luanda Pact nations in aiding Soviet forces in the Middle East and partly to address concerns by his nation's Muslim minority over the fate of the holy sites--

8 a.m. EDT

Radio Moscow (English service)

--Attention. Moscow is speaking.

The Great Soviet Leader Khalinin, Marshal of the Soviet Union and Head of the Communist Party, has given a short statement on the war with the capitalists. Speaking to the TASS news agency, he says, and I quote, “The capitalist hunger for war and death has manifested itself in the open. We will not use the nuclear option as long as the West does the same. That allows for sane, rational people to pick up the pieces once the decadent westerners have exhausted themselves on the battlefield.”

9 a.m. EDT


For the first time in far longer than Gibbs liked, McCallister finally called him.

D.C. is locked down and on martial law,” McCallister told Gibbs. “The Mayor’s evacuated. The Council and Metro police are working together on an evacuation plan for everyone else. Meanwhile, only essential personnel are to leave their homes for any reason other than getting food or medicine.

“We on that list, Director?”

No, you are not. I am on that list, so I’m working.” Gibbs suspected McCallister was probably at his bunker at his Georgetown home. “You’re staying home. Be ready to move at any moment, though. There may be the need for you to do so.

Noon EDT

--this is Wolf Blitzer, here at CNN headquarters in Atlanta. Here’s the latest on the war, starting with news from Europe, where parts of Copenhangen, the capital of Denmark, have apparently fallen to the Soviets. The Danish government and military are said to remain in control of their country—

--Tom, sources tell NBC News that U.S. bombers have dropped ‘bunker busters’ on the Soviet military base in Yanrakynnot, Chukotka and the Soviet naval base in Lavrentiya Bay. Both are less than 100 miles from Joint Base Nome—

--two Soviet fighter jets went down over Subic Bay in the Free Philippines—

2 p.m. EDT

Novamerika, southern Illinois

The Bat-family arrives. The statuesque beauty with them says she will return, but has business to attend to. They see her disappear in the distance, then hear the roar of a jet taking off from nearby.

3 p.m. EDT

--WSB has learned that FEMA officials have told Mayor Franklin and Governor Cox in essence that the city and state are on their own. This comes just as Barry, now a Category 3 hurricane, is about to descend on Atlanta—

--sources tell ZNN that there still is fierce fighting over Scandinavia at this hour--

5:27 p.m.

--CNN is now operating out of our studios in New York. Atlanta, where our main headquarters is located, is now going through the full force of Hurricane Barry—

5:30 p.m.

--this is the Voice of America.

Freedom fighters have overthrown the unlawful Communist regime in Santo Domingo and reestablished the Dominican Republic as a democracy. The military has aligned itself with the new government, which itself has declared its support for freedom and liberty—

5:45 p.m.

--TASS released another statement from Khalinin. Quote: “In terms the American cowboys will understand, ‘enough is enough'. The Cuban and Nicaraguan allies will send forces immediately to restore the lawful government of the Dominican Socialist Republic—

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

8:43 a.m. Central European Summer Time/2:43 a.m. US EDT

Nuremberg, West Germany

Flughafen Nürnberg (Nuremberg Airport)

Damon Werth, Corporal, United States Marine Corps

General James Longstreet, United States Army

A bar and restaurant at an airport terminal was not where Longstreet wanted to fight his war and definitely not where he wanted it to end. Yet, there seemed to be no way out of his predicament for Longstreet, nor for Cpl. Werth, nor for the four airport security guards and the 34 civilians they were all supposed to protect.

The airport was swarming with Russians, who had all but secured the airport in some sort of blitzkrieg maneuver that shocked Allied forces in this part of West Germany. Longstreet and his people -- only one other who had any military experience to speak of -- were holed up in a kitchen, and there seemed to be no way out. Several people were heard praying for a quick, painless death and an even quicker one-way trip to meet Jesus.

Longstreet, despite the steep odds, had other plans.

"I need some Goddamned extraction AND I NEED IT NOW!", he screamed into his radio. "MAKE A WAY TO GET TO US!"

The Soviet ground forces hadn't proven invulnerable to NATO air attacks, and Longstreet was counting on them for cover while a CH-47 landed near the terminal. He probably wouldn't have authorized such a rescue mission, if he was the NATO commander at Stuttgart.

"Our pilots are getting their asses kicked, General," said the voice, from the NATO regional interim headquarters outside Stuttgart. "It might be--".

The line went dead, and moments later Longstreet heard men screaming outside. Werth burst into the kitchen.

"General. There...there was a flash, and then...I think there's been an explosion."

Longstreet knew what kind of explosion it was without seeing it for himself. "What kind, Corporal?"


3:10 a.m. EDT

--this is Bryant Gumbel here at ZNN. We’ve just received a short press release from the Pentagon and numerous sources have confirmed the legitimacy of the release. I’ll read it for you:

‘At 8:43 a.m. Central European Summer Time’ – that’s 2:43 a.m. Eastern time in the U.S., 11:43 p.m. Pacific time – ‘a nuclear detonation occurred in Czechoslovakia. NATO forces believe the explosion occurred near the city of Line, which is close to the West German border and almost 110 kilometers west of the capital city of Prague. The detonation is estimated to be at least five megatons’. We have video of this from our sister network RTL in West Germany and this, of course, has been cleared by military censors under the Rock Act—
Part Four: Chapter 51
Chapter 51

--This is what we’ve waited for

This is it boys, this is war

The President is on the line

As ninety-nine red balloons go by—

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

3:11 a.m. EDT

Washington, D.C.

Gibbs looked around and saw himself in a park, sitting on a blanket across from his wife Shannon and their daughter Kelly. The weather was perfect, the food smelled delicious, and he was just glad he didn’t have a care in the world.

There wasn’t anywhere else he wanted to be.

He took another sniff of the lunch Shannon had prepared earlier that sat in the basket, waiting to be eaten.

It smelled like black coffee. It hadn’t smelled like that before.

“Shan. There a coffee cake hidden in there?”, he said with a grin. “Or did you spill a cup in there?”

Shannon looked at him and smiled. Kelly looked up from her book, and Gibbs noticed she wasn’t happy like she had been.

“Kelly. You okay?”, he asked her. Shannon reached out for her daughter’s hand, her own smile having turned sorrowful.

“I’m just sad you have to go away, and we won’t be able to go with you,” Kelly said.

“Now where did you get that idea, honey?”, he said. “My service is up. I’m not going anywhere.”

“That isn’t true, Jethro, and you know it,” Shannon told him. “You have to go.”

“Go where?” He was confused. He was done with the Marine Corps. Shannon and Kelly were his life now.

“No, we’re not,” Shannon added. “We’re part of your life. We’ll always be a part of your life. But there are others who are depending on you. Others who need you, now.”

Gibbs realized what really was going on.

“Please, Daddy. We know you’re tired, but they need you,” Kelly said. “We can’t go with you. If you don’t wake up, you and they will be stuck here.”


“You have to go, Jethro,” Shannon said, as she and Kelly reached out for his hands. “It’s time to wake up. You have to wake up.”

“Wake up? Honey, no, no. I want to stay here with you.”

“I know, sweetie. But you have to go. You’ll always have us in your heart.”

He reached out to hug his wife and daughter for what he knew would be the last time, and then he saw the ceiling of his basement.

“Wake up, Jethro. Wake up!”

Gibbs saw Fornell and Abby looking down at him, as he lay on his cot.

“Gibbs! Ohmygosh, I thought something might be wrong,” Abby said, as she held both his hands. “You need to get up.”

He sat up on his cot, and Abby let go of his hands. “Something happen?”

“Yeah. Five-megaton blast in Czechoslovakia,” Fornell said. “News isn’t saying if we authorized it. If they’re dropping nukes on the battlefield—”

“Then we’re on the clock, Tobias,” Gibbs said, getting up from the cot. “Wake everyone up. I’m gonna make some calls, and we need to be ready to move.”

Nuremberg, West Germany

3:18 a.m. EDT/9:18 a.m. CEST

The remnants of the mushroom cloud near Pilsen, Czechoslovakia were still visible, just over 200 kilometers west, at the Nuremberg airport.

Also visible was the smoke from the missile launched from an American fighter on one of the Soviet Red Army platoons assigned to hold the airport. Resistance fighters then descended on the airport in the aftermath and picked off more Soviet soldiers. Fortunately, they hadn’t thrown a grenade at the empty Red Army Mil Mi-26 Halo heavy transport helicopter 80 meters from where General James Longstreet, Corporal Damon Werth, 34 civilians and six members of the resistance were about to make a run for it.

Werth and one of the resistance leaders – Gerard, a retired West German Bundeswehr Heer Oberstleutnant who stayed in shape by running triathlons – took the lead as the group hurried towards the Halo. Longstreet had decided the risk of being shot at from stragglers or snipers was better than their other option – stay where they were.

The group made it to the helo, and Longstreet was happy the resistance had done its job by taking out the Helo pilot and co-pilot without shattering the Halo’s windows. Now, he would see if the U.S. Army had done its job and trained him well enough to fly it.

The Joint Chiefs had decided to train officers it anticipated might see combat duty in how to operate enemy vehicles and weaponry. On paper, Longstreet could properly do everything from fire a Soviet AK-74M assault rifle to fly a Halo.

He hadn’t gotten a real opportunity to try his skills, until now.

Longstreet put one of the civilians in the co-pilot’s seat. Judith, a reporter for a regional West German television network, had one lesson in flying a civilian helicopter. That was more flying experience than anyone else in the group had, so she got the seat.

Werth made sure the rest of the group were strapped into their seats, and then took a seat next to the cabin. If Longstreet got shot, Werth would have to toss his body out of the pilot’s chair and take the reins himself, relying on what Longstreet was able to tell him in only three minutes.

Longstreet got the helo off the ground, and it headed west. “Gerard. You get word to our people we’re coming in on a Russian Halo?”

“Ja,” Gerard replied. “They are watching us on satellite.”

“Glad we’re not shooting those down yet,” Longstreet said. “We’ll be on radio silence and flying low. We’re going for Heidelberg.” After the detonation near Pilsen, he hadn’t been able to raise anyone at the NATO base near Stuttgart – nor anywhere else. The smoke in the far distance to his left confirmed what Gerard’s contact had said on the radio: the Soviets and Czechs had flattened Stuttgart HQ in retaliation. Now it was a race to Heidelberg.

“Sir?”, Werth said. “Permission to speak freely.”

“What is it, Corporal?”

“I was thinking. I saw a movie on TV when I was in high school. Protect and Survive.”

“So did I, Corporal. Won an Academy Award. Kubrick’s last movie.”

“Do you remember the scene when Robby Benson snuck up on the Russian pilot, killed him, then took his jet and flew it to France?”

“Son, no way in hell am I wiggling his thing when we approach friendly territory. Hell, I’m doing good just to keep this thing in the air.”

“Just a thought, sir. And for what it’s worth, you’re doing a great job.”

“Thanks, Corporal…I appreciate that.” They and everyone else in the Halo then heard the boom from a fighter, and Longstreet’s blood went cold. But the radar wasn’t showing a lock on the helicopter.

Seconds later, he saw a friendly fighter fly ahead, about 200 meters, and waggle its wings. Longstreet looked to each side and saw US Air Force F-18 Blackhawk fighter jets; both pilots waggled their wings.

“Well, lookee there, Corporal. Looks like someone else saw that movie, too.”

--Brian, the Soviets have decried the explosion in Pilsen as a, quote, "merciless act of American aggression as revenge for Indianapolis". The TASS release goes on to say the Soviets, quote, “we promise in the mutual interests of our citizens and of world peace to not use nuclear weapons as long as the West dismantles its nuclear weapons.”--

Washington, D.C.

The White House

3:50 a.m. EDT

Trevor wasn’t fond of being ordered to the Oval Office at a time he wanted to concentrate on the rings, but Lane ordered him there, and so he went.

Like the Pentagon, the White House was a beehive of activity, and just as heavily guarded. Trevor went through only two checkpoints from Arlington to get to the White House, then a series of metal detectors to get into the West Wing. His wait in the Cabinet Room wasn’t long, but when Trevor was ushered into the Oval Office, he found himself in a very crowded room.

President Boehner was at his desk, talking with Vice-President McConnell, the House and Senate leadership, Lane and other people he didn’t recognize. He could hear the conversation around the President, though – no one else in the room was speaking.

“Pilsen is on fire,” one of the men unfamiliar to Trevor said. “Based on the wind direction and speed, we’re projecting Prague’s going to get quite a bit of fallout.”

“And this affects Warsaw Pact forces how?” Boehner said.

“Ground zero was an air base being used by the Czechoslovakian and Hungarian air forces to support Pact armies moving across West Germany and into Austria, Mr. President,” Lane said. “Right before the detonation, satellite and ground reconnaissance showed the base being mostly abandoned.”

Mostly abandoned, General?” Boehner replied. “What the hell do you mean by that?”

“Maybe it served its purpose after the initial push into West Germany?”, said Roy Blunt, the House Majority Leader.

“Or it had one last purpose to serve,” said Porter Goss, the CIA Director. “Mr. President, our people in Czechoslovakia sent us this, and this.”

Trevor saw Boehner looking at a series of photographs scattered on his desk. Trevor was too far away to tell exactly what was on the photos. The Secret Service guards scattered throughout the room weren’t encouraging to him in moving from the back of the room.

“This truck carried the bomb?”, Boehner asked, and Trevor didn’t need to see the photos to know what was on them.

“Goss’s people on the ground verified what we saw from our birds in the sky,” Lane added. “We did keep an eye on it—”

“Why didn’t you tell me about this, General???”, Boehner said, with steel in his voice.

“With all due respect, Mr. President, there are a thousand things going on across that front,” Lane shot back. “There are, or were, over 200 mobile nuclear launch sites on the Pact side aimed at our people. Our war plans did not indicate any realistic possibility of one of their nukes detonating by their own ineptitude. One thing Khalinin did when he ran the Red Army was to clean up the inefficiency built into the Communist system, sir. If nothing else, their military and that of their European allies are a well-oiled machine, Mr. President. There are better odds of Martians living among us than the Russians shooting themselves, or their allies, in their ass so badly.”

"General, when I speak to the Marshal, are you suggesting to me I tell him he did it himself?"

"That's exactly what the intel suggests, Mr. President. The Soviets nuked their own base intentionally."

"General, that doesn't make any sense. I realize Khalinin is a megalomaniac. Destroying an important forward base so close to the German front doesn't seem like something he would authorize."

"Maskirovka, Mr. President. Smoke and mirrors."

"He's trying to blame us for something he did himself."

"Yes, sir. He set his path long ago. This is just another excuse for him to stay on it."

“Well, that gives me something else to talk about with the Marshal,” Boehner said. An aide rushed into the room and whispered something in the President’s ear. Trevor then saw Boehner pick up the telephone on his desk. For the next four minutes, Boehner was calm and composed and spoke too low to be heard from the back of the room.

Then he put the phone in its receiver, and Trevor thought he had just seen the last hope of peace disappear.

“He says we did it. I asked him about the photos, and he denied, denied, denied any responsibility. He told me ‘you have chosen to wield the Damocles Sword. You cannot handle it. You have condemned your people to death.’ I told him ‘you condemned the entire world to death long ago.’”

The silence that descended was so stark, Trevor thought he heard the lone fly in the room sigh in resignation.

“People, it looks like we need to start thinking about what we do next,” Boehner said. “John, how’s Exodus progressing?”

“Better than expected,” said John Ashcroft, the Secretary for Homeland Security. “We’ll have enough people and resources, here and elsewhere to rebuild for Operation Return.”

I wasn’t read in on that, Trevor thought. What’ll be left to ‘return’ TO?!?

“I’d like to hear about the rings,” Boehner said. “General, your man—” The President was interrupted by his chief of staff, Paula Nowakowski. She handed him some notes. “Thank you, Paula. Soviet fighters are engaging the French from Belgium down to Spain; we sunk a Nicaraguan boat near the Canal Zone; the Angolans dropped a bunker buster on Mandelaburg and the South Africans dropped one on Luanda; and the Israelis just carpet-bombed Damascus. Nice morning so far, isn’t it, everybody?”

No one spoke.

“Shit. My sense of humor’s flat. General Lane, where’s your man on the ring network?”

“Right behind us, sir,” Lane said, looking back and making eye contact with Trevor. “Colonel, would you be so kind as to update the President on your plans for evacuating part of the public?”

“Go ahead, Colonel. We’re all read in,” Boehner said. “Tell me some of the American people have a shot at getting through this alive.”

Trevor stepped forward, and began updating the President on his plans, beginning with his network of ‘evangelists’ across the country.

Washington, D.C.

5:48 a.m.

“Does this stuff really work?”

Trevor stared at the energy drink he held in his hand.

“It did wonders for me the other day, sir,” said his driver, as the Ford Expedition SUV made its way through Washington from the White House. “Kept me going. Of course, when I got a few hours off that afternoon, I took the couch in the break room and went out just like that.”

The driver snapped his fingers, and Trevor wished he hadn’t mentioned the couch. Then he looked at the can, and realized he was stifling a yawn. “Well heck, Walt. Either the ‘bolt’ will kill me or keep me going. Down the gullet.”


Trevor finished the entire can in 30 seconds, and regretted the taste, which he judged as a mixture of cough syrup and flat cola. “This stuff better work better than it tastes, Lieutenant.”

“It’s an acquired taste, sir,” Walt said with a grin. “You drink it for what it does for you, not for how it tastes.”

Trevor noticed he was less tired, as if he was gaining his second wind. “How close are we, Lieutenant?”

“Two minutes,” Walt said, looking at the map on his dashboard. Two minutes out from their destination; that included the checkpoint set up at the intersection, two-and-a-half blocks away from the house.

As the SUV drove past the checkpoint, Trevor looked at the houses. Many were dark; several had lawns that were overdue for cutting. Many of the people who lived in those houses had left, heading wherever they could that seemed not to be a nuclear target.

The Colonel had been told NCIS had gone through each house near his destination multiple times. This was one of the best things about working in the capital – Washington was more secure than any other area in the country. It helped greatly that most of the capital was empty – only those who had nowhere else to go stayed – but made things a little more difficult where most residents went: rural Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia.

If only the government had told the people about the rings, thought Trevor as the SUV approached its destination. But who would have believed?

At least these people believe.

The SUV stopped in front of the house, and the driver put the vehicle into park. He got out and opened the door for the Colonel, who was escorted up to the front porch by two of the so-called “suits” that McCallister had assigned to guard the team.

Trevor rang the doorbell and was greeted by a younger man – DiNozzo – who he recognized from his dossier on the NCIS Major Case Response Team as its Senior Special Agent. After opening the door, DiNozzo froze in mid-yawn and stared at the Air Force officer in front of him. “Oh – uh – hello, Colonel.”

“Hello. Is Leroy Jethro Gibbs here?”

“Uh—yes, yes he is,” DiNozzo replied. “Boss said someone of your rank would be stopping by. Come on in – it’s pretty crowded in here, but there’s room for one more.”

Trevor walked through the door, and saw a packed living room and kitchen, including everyone in the dossier except for the man he came to talk to. “Gibbs getting some rack time, Agent DiNozzo?”

“No, he’s downstairs. I’ll send someone to get him,” DiNozzo said, looking around the room. McGee, Palmer and a few others were asleep, and Trevor could tell the others were weary.

As one of the suits went to get Trevor a cup of coffee, the Colonel saw Gibbs step into the kitchen. “Colonel. Wasn’t expecting you this early. I would’ve had breakfast waiting for you,” he said as he shook Trevor’s hand.

“Busy times, as you know,” Trevor replied. “You got a place here we can talk? I’ve got my SUV outside if you don’t. I know it’s early.”

“Everybody’s up,” Gibbs said. “The other men will be upstairs in a few minutes. You take your coffee black, Colonel?”

“Always. It’s an Air Force tradition.”

“It’s a good tradition, then,” Gibbs said, as the suit handed Trevor and Gibbs two steaming hot mugs of black coffee.

The men waited until Franks, Ducky, Fornell and Palmer made their way upstairs, and headed downstairs. The first thing Trevor noticed when they got to the basement was the unfinished frame of the boat taking up a large portion of space. Four cots leaned against one of the walls; Gibbs motioned for Trevor to take one of the stools next to the workbench.

“How many of those things have you built over the years, Gibbs?”, Trevor asked.

“Too many,” Gibbs said. “I always finish them, though.”

“Just how do you get them outside, though?”

Gibbs chuckled. “I’m afraid that’s a trade secret, Colonel.”

Trevor chuckled in response. “Admiral Coburn told me you’d say that. He met you, once, after you worked that case with his son a couple of years back.”

“Commander Coburn, one tough son of a gun. Reminded me why I liked to work alone. His people did a hell of a job on that case, but the Commander reminded me of me. His dad went out of his way to smooth things over. Last I heard they were helping Air Force OSI track Spetsnaz in Georgia. I hope they’re okay.”

“I talked with Commander Coburn, you know. Told him about the complex at Clemson University, the one inside the football stadium. Only one in all of South Carolina. He didn’t really buy it…wanted to tell me about the Lord. His whole team got religion. I fended him off by telling him I was Episcopalian…but that talk made me wonder, why would God let things get to this point?”

“Doesn’t God let everyone make their own choices?”

“Depends on who you talk to. The Commander would agree with that. I have a colleague who thinks we’re all chess pieces being moved by a single deity and everything is predestined.”

“John Calvin.”

That’s who said that! I always get him and Luther mixed up. I prefer what I was taught, growing up, before I lapsed. God loves us all, but we make our own choices. That’s easier for me to swallow than God writing us heading straight into nuclear Armageddon.”

“You’re not alone, Colonel. You have any intel on when things might…come to a conclusion?”

“No, I don’t, Agent Gibbs. I will say this. An hour ago, an Air Force E-6B Mercury jet lifted off from Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha. There are three more just like it in the air, just so we can keep fighting the war should it go nuclear.”

“Even if the leadership is decapitated.”

“Yeah. Now that those planes are in the air, the ‘countdown to Looking Glass’ is on.”

“Looking Glass refer to what’s on the other side of those rings, Colonel?”

“More like what everything will look like once our nukes and their nukes glass everything over.” Trevor stretched and yawned. “Agent Gibbs, if you have enough for another mug of coffee, I’ll take it.”

“Think I need another myself,” Gibbs said. “Gimme a second, I’ll yell upstairs—” Gibbs stopped, as both men heard some commotion upstairs. Seconds later, they saw the source of that commotion make her way down the steps, into the basement.

A tall, strong, beautiful, statuesque woman dressed in a white jumpsuit walked onto the basement floor holding two steaming cups of coffee. Gibbs saw two of his agents – Tony and Kate – practically drooling from the top of the stairs and shot them a look. He then turned to Trevor, who stood up and stared at the woman.

“Diana. My God…I thought they had…I thought you were—”

“Never, Steve,” she said.

Gibbs walked over and took the cups from Diana. She smiled and thanked him, then walked three steps before Trevor threw himself into her arms. He put the cups on the workbench and headed upstairs, giving both their privacy, then went upstairs to ask Tony and Kate what the hell was going on.

--the President is now in an undisclosed location, while Congress is in another undisclosed location. The Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia, where Congress would have gone earlier during the Cold War in the event of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, obviously is not an option—

--sources in National Defence Headquarters tell CBC News that the HMCS
Warrior supercarrier group has sunk the Soviet supercarrier Kuznetsov in the North Atlantic somewhere near Iceland--

--the Soviet Ambassador informed the Argentine President he must choose to support the USSR or go to war with the World Pact. Kirchner, according to UN News sources, told the ambassador to ‘go to hell’—

--New York City Mayor Giuliani has ordered Harlem and Hell’s Kitchen shut down to keep unrest there from spreading south to Midtown and Uptown—

--Reuters reports Spanish and Algerian fighters are engaging Soviet fighters over Gibraltar, after a large bomb detonated at British Forces Gibraltar headquarters—

--California is allowing people to head into the Mojave Desert despite the fact that the only FEMA camps are outside of Twentynine Palms, Needles and Blythe—

--before NHK went off the air it was reporting hundreds of explosions throughout all major Japanese cities—

--New Zealand Navy has reportedly sunk a Soviet submarine less than 10 kilometers from Auckland—

--the remnants of Hurricane Barry are expected to dump up to 10 inches of rain onto East Tennessee, hampering local efforts to evacuate residents of the city of Knoxville and to secure the Oak Ridge National Laboratory—

--you’ll only hear it if you get on the internet and have something called RealPlayer. Then go to any number of websites: Art Bell. Joe Rogan. George Noory. They’re taking about rings that will take people to other worlds. Pictures are posting now, on those websites, and in AOL and Prodigy and MSN forums. Giant metal donuts. There’s one in Metropolis Centennial Park, one at the football stadiums at Clemson and Texas A&M universities, one near Mount Rushmore, one near where they hold the Burning Man each year. And people are paying attention. This is something you won’t hear on radio or TV because of the FCC but someone is letting us talk about this on the internet, here on Eyada and other streaming sites—

Gibbs’s basement

6:22 a.m.

Trevor and Diana decided, as far as Gibbs was concerned, to avoid mention of Themyscria and the other missions Task Force X was involved in. The ring network was to be the topic, although Diana suggested she mention that she was involved with the EU – which she was, as she fled west, and wound up in Italy after Themyscria was destroyed. With help from some newly made friends in Europe, Diana made her way to America, determined to find the people who signed off on the destruction of her homeland.

When Gibbs came back downstairs, Diana apologized for her abrupt appearance, and not calling ahead. She thanked him for being gracious to her, then asked for his permission to tell part of her story.

“I come from a small island off the shores of Greece,” she began. “Do not bother looking for it – it has not been on any maps, and in fact is no longer there. It was attacked, and destroyed, by people who…didn’t know any better. It was one of many skirmishes that went unreported by the governments of the world, part of a hidden war that has finally burst out into the open.

“After I lost my people, I left, looking for allies who might help me find those responsible. My priorities were skewed – I was not looking for justice, but vengeance. I would have failed, had I not made my way to America, and met a remarkable man, of means.” She looked at Trevor. “We became friends, and more, and through him I met an amazing group of people. Together we worked in secret, and we accomplished many, many good things.”

“Go on,” Gibbs said. “This group related to what the Colonel’s been doing?”

“Not directly,” she said. “There were many, many times I wanted to reach out to Steve – but was convinced that would be the wrong choice at the wrong time. I argued those who were threatened by me would come against me – us – regardless, but I was outvoted. I was finally swayed by the threat to Steve, and the network of rings he controlled—”

“How do you know they aren’t there now and ready to take you and your team down?”, Gibbs asked.

“They aren’t anywhere now,” Diana said, with a tone of finality. Gibbs then thought he understood her well enough; based on his own experience, he certainly understood going as far as to eliminate someone who would go as far as to kill family.

Trevor understood what Diana was suggesting, and that Gibbs related well enough to it, and his blood ran cold.

“Diana, since I’m hearing this for the first time…who are these people?”, Trevor asked, wanting to change the subject.

“I found myself in Gotham, which is a dreadful, oppressive city,” she began. “I met a man who introduced himself as Bruce, who I later discovered was a multibillionaire, with a reputation for doing good in his city, but hiring others to do his work while he wasted his life on frivolity. He also had quite the reputation for pursuing beautiful and powerful women, which he admitted he did to keep up appearances.”

“Wait…is this guy Bruce Wayne?”, Trevor said.


“He’s gay?”

Diana looked at Trevor with incomprehension, then laughed. “No, not Bruce,” she said moments later. “I meant merely his image was just that. He does have a woman in his life, and he is very devoted to her. He is even more devoted to his city. Bruce is one of the most focused, intense people of vision I have ever met. Bruce is intensely committed to the safety of his city. So much, he willed himself to become an Olympic-class athlete and a world-class detective. He patrolled Gotham for years, protecting its citizens against the monsters who terrorized them – and the government that eventually killed off the monsters. Bruce was the one who gathered a team of adventurers – a League of Justice, we sometimes called ourselves – and kept us together. He funded us, supported us, fed and mended us, and helped keep us alive.”

“What did you do?”, Gibbs asked.

Diana told of her meeting with Bruce that, instead of turning into a sexual liaison, ended up with her meeting his butler, Alfred; two teenagers he described as his proteges, Dick and Barbara; and the other members of his then-small team of adventurers:

* Arthur, the son of a Maine lighthouse keeper and of a queen from a dead undersea civilization, who could live in deep-water conditions and make all forms of sea life do his will;

* Barry, the crime scene investigator from Missouri, blessed with the ability to run faster than sound;

* Hal, the former Air Force pilot turned civilian test pilot from California, who claimed to have been given a ring by a dying alien that could create anything he wanted but had to be recharged every 24 hours;

* and John, the detective from Colorado who could literally become anyone and, Diana said, would later reveal himself to be from another planet.

Soon, there were others, beginning with Oliver, the billionaire heir who survived a year on a deserted island after being presumed dead; his lady friend Dinah, a florist from Seattle; and Ray, a scientist who learned how to shrink to the size of an atom.

They were later joined by:

* another John (an architect) and Guy (a former cop who sounded familiar to Gibbs), both associates of Hal;

* Snapper, a teenager who lost his family to a Stasi agent;

* Rex, an adventurer who, via a failed government experiment, could change his body into any number of elements;

* Adam, an explorer who claimed to have visited another planet via something called a “Zeta beam”;

* Ralph and Sue, a married couple, he a detective who could stretch his body incredibly long distances, she his loving wife (and rock);

* Jefferson, a teacher who could control lightning;

* Ronnie (a college student) and Martin (a nuclear scientist), who somehow combined to become what they called a “nuclear” man;

* Zatanna, an illusionist by day and master of magic by night;

* and William, a loudmouth ‘superman’ who talked his way onto the team and almost led them to their deaths.

Together, Diana said the team fought a wide variety of threats, ranging from stalkers, rapists and child molesters to Pact-sponsored terrorists to alien beings (Gibbs couldn’t quite believe the tale about the mind-controlling starfish, though Trevor had heard about it from his own sources in the intelligence community). According to Diana, though, William – William McIntyre – almost became the one who took the team down for good.

“William was quite taken with himself,” she said. “He had incredible abilities – flight, strength, invulnerability, vision – but was cursed with ego and arrogance instead of humility and gratitude. We tolerated him, because Bruce and I thought we could reach his heart, and sway him towards good, and because the others wanted to watch him, closely.”

“’Keep your friends close and your enemies closer’,” Gibbs said. “This guy wasn’t a friend.”

“Unfortunately, no,” she said. “William betrayed us. He led us into a trap – informing us that a former foe of Bruce’s was about to poison crops in the American plains and Soviet Ukraine, starting a war. We did not find her, but we did discover William waiting with an American military unit.”

“One of ours,” Trevor said. “Diana. Do you know who led the unit?”

“I do not, Steve.”

Gibbs got up, walked to his tool bench, and pulled out a folder. He walked back to Diana and Trevor, pulled out a picture, and showed it to Diana. “Was this man involved?”

The photo was of McCallister, the one used in the press release that announced his succession to Jenny Shepard as the director of NCIS.

“I do not know,” she said. “I do not recognize him. Is this a man of interest?”

“He’s—” Gibbs started to explain who the man was, then stopped when Trevor caught his eye.

“He’s no one, Diana,” Trevor said a tad too quickly. Gibbs saw Diana reach down to the lasso on her belt – how had he noticed that before now? – and take her hand off. Then she turned back to Gibbs.

“William was the only person we knew specifically was involved, but Bruce ordered us to disperse, for our own safety,” Diana continued. “I stayed with Bruce and his proteges in Gotham. Bruce kept tabs on everyone, of course, and finally brought them back together, very recently.”

“How recently?”, Trevor said.

“Within the past month. They are at a place called Novamerika.”

Gibbs’s eyes lit up, and Diana noticed it instantly. “Are you familiar with this place, Gibbs?”

“I have someone there,” he said. “Agent Paula Cassidy. She can’t get out because we can’t get a plane to her and Illinois has shut down the local roads. Cassidy told me the state border’s closed at the Indiana line because of some unrest.”

“People fleeing Evansville and Louisville, and refugees from the Indianapolis bomb,” Trevor added. “I’ve got someone on the ground at the Hoosier National Forest, where a lot of people went. There’s a ring nearby, in a little town called French Lick. Might’ve heard of it. Larry Bird’s from there, survived four years under Bobby Knight, went on to play with the never heard of them?”

“Not a football fan,” Gibbs replied.

“Basketball!” Trevor said. “Four NBA titles in the ‘80s. Kevin McHale, Darrell Griffin, Clark Kellogg, Charles Barkley, John Paxson…you never heard of them?” Gibbs shook his head. “Wow. Well…anyway, we have a ring in French Lick, and you both have people in Novamerika. I can understand an agent getting stuck there. But what’s in Novamerika that your friend sent your team there?”

“Isn’t there a ring there?”, Gibbs asked Trevor.

“No, or I would’ve brought it up earlier,” Trevor said. “Novamerika’s a theme park.”

“A ‘theme park’ funded partially by Bruce Wayne,” Diana said. “Lionel Luthor funded the majority of the project before he sold his interest. Bruce kept his own interest, and unbeknownst to anyone else, stockpiled as much as he could.”

“Stockpiled what?”, Gibbs asked.

“Anything you would need to continue civilization in the event of a global cataclysm.”

“Food, water, medicine?”

“Weapons, also. And knowledge. He has tens of thousands of books in a vault there, on a vast variety of subjects. Science, history, mathematics, the arts. He has the Mona Lisa there, and a book of William Shakespeare’s works dating to the 18th century—”

“Wait, Diana,” Trevor said. “The Mona Lisa.”

“Bruce Wayne is a man of means. And America is a bigger country than France. He is aware of the project you have spent years on, Steve, but he is not putting his faith in it. Nor does he intend to run, as do the leaders of your country. He intends to stay and help rebuild. Novamerika is where he will stay…and, Steve, where we will go.”


“If you will still have me.”

8 a.m. EDT

--(the CBS Radio News ‘sounder’ plays)

CBS News. This is Pam Coulter.

As fighting continues across the globe between Allied and Pact forces, America prepares for another day of war on the homefront. The nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. is quiet at this hour, unlike other major cities like New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Gotham and Chicago. John Woodley reports live from the National Mall in Washington. John?

Pam, the Mall is full, but quiet. Thousands of people are here, gathered around the Washington Monument, officially engaged in a ‘sit-in for peace’ but waiting whatever happens. Organizer Charles Moulton:

“We’re hopeful for a peaceful solution, or a solution that ends in some kind of armistice. But we’re okay with whatever happens.”

Metro DC police report no incidents among the crowd, and in fact the crowd is doing a good job of policing itself, leaving Metro DC police free to address other incidents in the District. But sources tell me there are few incidents to report. The city is mostly empty, although Metrorail and Metrobus continue to operate services out of the city, along with Greyhound. No one other than the crowd on the Mall seems to want to be here, should the worst come to pass. John Woodley, CBS News, live from the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

White House Press Secretary Brent Hobard said President Boehner and his staff are not in the city but are in an undisclosed secure location. CBS News reported earlier that Congress and the Supreme Court were in other undisclosed, secure locations, as are the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This is CBS News.

In Europe, NATO announced the evacuation of Stuttgart, West Germany, which is under heavy bombing by Pact forces. NATO spokesmen also said Allied forces are engaged in heavy fighting in central Austria, in Belgium and in the Balkans.

The Middle Eastern network Al-Jazeera is reporting that U.S. and Saudi forces have pushed back Soviet and Omani ground forces from taking key oil reserves in southern Saudi Arabia. Australian media is reporting Australian and New Zealand Naval ships have sunk three of their Pact counterparts near Papua New Guinea.

Closer to home, Philadelphia, Gotham and Denver are the latest cities to declare martial law. In Dallas, police and National Guard are allowing some travel out of the city, but are concentrating on keeping people out. For more news, visit our website on the World Wide Web, or our dedicated subsites on AOL, Compuserve, MSN and Prodigy. This is CBS News.--

A trip through the Washington, D.C. radio dial

11:15 a.m. EDT


88.1 WMUC (College Park, MD; NPR affiliate)

--the University of Maryland is closed. Everyone still or in near campus is urged to seek shelter in one of the safe zones in western Maryland or in Pennsylvania—

88.5 WAMU (Washington; NPR) // 88.9 WEAA (Baltimore; jazz) // 89.3 WFPW (Washington) // WETA 90.9 (Washington//classical)

--This is NPR News from Washington. I’m Jen Sturgill.

Fighting between Allied and Pact forces continues across the globe, but the story this hour is a joint announcement by governors of all 52 states urging residents to seek shelter at the nearest safe zone to them--

93.9 WKYS (Washington)

Help them to learn (help them to learn)
Songs of joy instead of burn, baby, burn, (burn, baby burn)
Let us show them how to play the pipes of peace
Play the pipes of peace

96.3 WHUR (Washington // urban contemporary)

The sky was all purple, there were people runnin' everywhere
Tryin' to run from the destruction, you know I didn't even care

Say say two thousand zero zero party over, oops, out of time
So tonight I'm gonna party like it's nineteen ninety-nine

98.7 WMZQ (Washington // country)

This lady may have stumbled
But she ain't never fell
And if the Russians don't believe that
They can all go straight to hell
We're gonna put her feet back
On the path of righteousness and then
God bless America again

99.5 WIHT (Washington)

If you made the world, made the day and night
Are we all going crazy, why do men fight?
If you made the mountains and the sea
Now can you show a better way to be?

100.3 WBIG (Washington)

Let me tell you now
Ev'rybody's talking 'bout
Revolution, evolution, masturbation, flagellation, regulation, integrations
Meditations, United Nations, congratulations

All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

101.1 WWDC (Washington)

Jesus can you take the time

To throw a drowning man a line?

Peace on earth

Tell the ones who hear no sound

Whose sons are living in the ground

Peace on earth

103.5 WTOP (Washington)

--any civilians still in the D.C. area are urged to leave immediately, taking the following routes--

105.1 WAVA (Arlington, VA // religious)

--They received Christ and went their way rejoicing. I am going to ask you today to receive Him. I am not asking you this afternoon to join some special church. I’m asking you today to give your life to Christ.

(there is a brief pause, followed by the first verse of the song Just As I Am)

This is WAVA 780 AM and 105.1 FM, broadcasting from Arlington, Virginia. I’m Janet Parshall. During the continuing crisis we are airing sermons from the Reverend Billy Graham, preached in years past at one of his numerous crusades. Our focus during this critical hour of history is simple: for those of you listening now who are not Christians, to help bring you to a saving knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, before it is too late—

105.9 WMAL (Baltimore // news – broadcasting from nearby Chapel Hill)

--the truce between protestors and police is holding. Residents still in the city are making their way north and west of Baltimore as quickly as possible. All lanes on the major roads are now open and lanes headed into the city are reversed: to repeat, all lanes headed into the city are currently open for outbound traffic only—

106.5 WWMX (Baltimore – one of the few radio stations still operating within the city)

Ooh war, I despise
'Cause it means destruction of innocent lives
War means tears, to thousands of mother's eyes
When their sons go off to fight and lose their lives

106.7 WJFK (Washington)

But you tell me over and over and over again my friend

Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction

Don't you understand, what I'm trying to say?

Can't you feel the fear that I'm feeling today?

If the button is pushed, there's no running away

There'll be no one to save with the world in a grave

Take a look around you, boy, it's bound to scare you, boy


570 WWRC (Bethesda, MD; news)

--civil order has collapsed in Chicago, if ham radio reports from the city and suburbs are to be believed--

630 WMAL (Washington; news)

--again, the Mayor is urging all residents still in the District to leave as best they can--

680 WCBM (Baltimore; news – also broadcasting from within the city)

--MTA buses are now running passengers with no charge to the BWI Airport--

980 WTEM (Washington)

--the MARC train is running to the Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg, West Virginia safe zones for anyone who can get to a Brunswick Line station--

1090 WBAL (Baltimore – the other station still broadcasting from inside the city)

--Associated Press reports that North Korean jets are now dropping napalm throughout Seoul and Pusan—

1340 WYCB (Washington)

--an unusual sense of calm among the thousands gathered on the Great Lawn, hoping and praying for the best, and prepared for the worst—

1500 WTWP (Washington)

--Reuters reports massive bombing of NATO forces in Spain—

Noon EDT

--NBC News has learned that Pact forces have initiated the use of nerve gas against NATO troops in four areas within the European theater: central Norway; Denmark; the German front outside Stuttgart; and the Austrian capitol Vienna--

--UN Radio is reporting the Cubans have bombed Santo Domingo—

--numerous explosions throughout Ottawa at this hour, with casualties in the dozens being reported even with much of the city being empty—

--Radio Nebraska is reporting that Tyler Tyles, a former U.S. Army pilot turned Soviet collaborator, has been shot and killed this morning at his compound outside of Fremont, Nebraska. A spokesman for Governor Heineman told Radio Nebraska that Tyles was killed by a federal agent. Federal agencies and Nebraska State Police cooperated on the attack on the compound, which was said to be supplying ‘aid and comfort’ to KGB agents and Soviet Spetsnaz operating inside the state—

--all civil order has collapsed in Atlanta—

--more people are fleeing INTO Dallas and Fort Worth than are leaving—

--the Pope refuses to leave the Vatican, despite pleas for him to flee at this late hour to north Africa or Brazil or even to Geneva—

Washington, D.C.

“My dad’s unreachable,” DiNozzo told Kate.

DiNozzo was doing a good job in keeping his emotions in check, but Kate could read his expression closely enough to tell he was down. DiNozzo had not been able to reach his father since speaking to him briefly a few days ago. According to the clerk who answered at the New York hotel that Anthony DiNozzo Sr. had stayed at, the elder DiNozzo had left with members of the Saudi Arabian Consulate. At that point, DiNozzo knew he wouldn’t be able to reach his dad ever again.

Kate understood. She wouldn’t be able to talk again with her parents, either.

She looked around the living room. McGee and his sister, Sarah, had likely lost their parents, Abby her brother, and Palmer his entire family. On the other hand, Ducky had his mother, and Fornell had his ex-wife and their daughter at the house. Kate thought of Franks, who, as far as she knew, was alone; Burley, whose parents and siblings were at some theme park in southern Illinois; and Gibbs, who had every living person he cared about inside this house.

She thought briefly about the first time they met, during that case aboard Air Force One, when he harshly interrogated her. How dare he accuse her of murder? Of working for the KGB? Nothing like that would enter her mind – she and her family were loyal Americans (as Gibbs had learned before his interrogation) – and Kate had served NCIS as loyally as she had the Secret Service, and then-President Broome.

In fact, Kate was grateful that God, or fate, had led her to NCIS – she didn’t know how she would’ve handled Indianapolis while working on Boehner’s detail. For all she knew, she might have left the Secret Service by now and been in Indianapolis when the bomb detonated.

Instead, Kate was in Washington, and had dealt with the tragedy by dealing with her emotions as privately as possible, reaching out to Gibbs, Ducky and the rest of the team when necessary, and throwing herself into her job. Now, she figured she could at least offer some comfort to her NCIS family and let them know what they all had tried to tell her: they are loved, and they still have a family, here.

Abby came over and, without permission or speaking a word, reached out and hugged DiNozzo. Kate saw both of them would be okay for the moment, so she made her way downstairs into the basement, where Gibbs was on the phone. He saw her, and flipped his phone shut. “Making your rounds, Kate?”, he asked.

“Checking on everybody,” she said. “You okay?”

“Fine,” he said, and she thought that he was. “Remember the little girl from that case a while back; the one those Spetsnaz agents left alone?”

“Yes! Have you gotten in touch with her?”

“With her aunt. I told her we have a way out of here if things get worse. The aunt and the girl are coming with some of their relatives. We’re putting them up across the street. The important thing is that girl has a shot, just like we do,” Gibbs said.

“Have you spoken with the director lately?”, Kate asked.

“He’s been unreachable. So have the deputy directors, and the other SACs.”

“I can’t believe that! Who is he talking to that he can’t touch base with you, even for a minute?”

“I’m sure he’ll surface. Mike’s been helping me take calls from other people from the Navy Yard. They’re asking us what’s going on, and what to do.”

“What are you telling them?”

“Same thing I told everyone here: have your go bags prepared, be ready to move in a second, and meet us near the old Pentagon mall.”

“Ohmigod…you told them about the ring? Can’t they arrest you for that?”

“That doesn’t matter, now.”

12:37 p.m.

Arlington, Virginia

The Ring complex underneath the old Pentagon City Mall

“This is it, Diana,” Trevor told the Amazon Princess of Themyscria. The dozens of civilian, government and military personnel working on the floor around the ring had noticed her. Some people couldn’t help but stare; they didn’t do so for very long. There was important work to be done, to prepare for the thousands of people Trevor expected to begin making their way here within hours.

There were four large doors at the back of the vast auditorium holding the Ring and the people working around it. Those doors contained elevators that would hold up to 500 people at a time. It was thought that one might be able to get up to 4,000 people per hour through the ring, and Trevor wanted to get things started as soon as possible.

Already, there were buses of people heading towards the facility from some of the poorer sections of the District of Columbia, people who couldn’t get out and people who stubbornly stayed. These were the people Trevor and his ‘evangelists’ were able to convince. Others weren’t budging, placing their faith in their gods, or resigning themselves to fate.

TWO MINUTES TO ACTIVATION,” boomed the public address system. Diana saw lights on the ring light up, and the ring itself begin to spin.

“Two minutes from now, we’re going to see another universe,” Trevor told Diana. “It’s one of the friendly worlds we’ve managed to reach an accord with—”

Instantaneously, the lights in the facility went dark, replaced moments later by hundreds of red lights. A loud siren was then heard, and Diana noticed none of the workers were panicking or fleeing.

“Is this a test?”, she asked Trevor, yelling over the siren.

“Hell no,” Trevor yelled back, as the ring rotated more and more quickly. “Something’s coming through.”

ALL PERSONNEL MOVE TO SECURE LOCATIONS IMMEDIATELY,” blared the public address system, and anyone not wearing a military uniform headed towards the back, or into one of the safe rooms along the sides of the auditorium. The message continued to repeat, even as Army and Marine personnel took up positions around the ring, all bearing arms. Diana wondered what she should do, then saw Trevor aiming his Beretta M9 semi-automatic pistol at the ring, now spinning faster than she imagined possible.

The open area within the ring radius turned white, obscuring the front wall, and the white smoke – or whatever was in the radius -- began to spin. Seventy-one seconds later, the ring itself slowed, and the bright white smoke dissipated. As the ring spun down, everyone looking at it saw a wall appear behind the ring. It was not the wall behind the ring, but similar to it – it showed a 52-star United States flag hanging vertically. The actual wall behind the ring had no flag hanging on it.

However, Diana and Trevor’s attention, and that of the military, had turned from the 52-star American flag to the brightly garbed men and women calmly walking onto the platform.

“We come in peace,” Trevor and Diana both heard in their heads. Trevor kept his weapon aimed towards the ring; the professional Army and Marine personnel did the same.

Diana wondered who these people were – and then saw her own double looking outwards, then catching her eye.

“Stand down! Repeat, stand down,” said someone at the front of the ring. Trevor couldn’t tell if the older man was Army or Marine Corps, but the men and women under his command listened. He noticed that he was putting his M9 weapon into its holster, then wondered what in the hell was going on.

“We come from what some of your people call The Second Earth, others call Earth-2,” said the leader, a tall, blonde, strong man dressed in red, green and purple. To Trevor, he looked like one of the so-called mystery men from the pulp comics of his youth, complete with mask and cape. Trevor knew somehow, this man was the real deal, and far more powerful than anyone there.

Come to think of it, he thought, each of those people on the platform are more powerful than anyone here, maybe except for Diana.

He turned to her, to ask what she thought about her chances against these people who appeared as if they stepped out of a comic-book movie. He saw Diana staring, looked towards the platform, and saw her exact double making her way down the stairs onto the floor. The soldiers parted – willingly or otherwise – and a half-minute later, Diana’s double stood before them.

“Do not fear, Diana, and Colonel Trevor. We come in peace,” she said, her smile putting them both more at ease than they were. “We come on a mission.”

Trevor looked over her shoulder and saw the blonde red-and-green man talking to the commanding officer. “Who are you?”, he said to the other Diana.

“Friends,” she said, addressing Trevor briefly, and somehow putting him completely at ease, before his military training kicked in. He glanced at the soldiers nearby, and noticed they had their weapons down but ready for use, a credit to their training.

“Diana. I am sorry for your loss,” the other Diana said to his Diana. “I know you have allies,” the other Diana looked at Trevor, “here, and nearby.”

“How did you know of…who are you?”, Diana replied. Trevor judged that she was torn between curiosity and suspicion. Only then did he notice his mind being flooded with information, and judging by his Diana’s own reaction, she was going through the same experience.

Trevor grabbed his head, then took a knee; so much was going through his mind he was having difficulty processing it all. It was as if someone was jamming weeks of intelligence into his mind.

His thoughts began to settle down, and he began reviewing what had been jammed into his mind.

We are from Earth-2. We are a group of crimefighters and metahumans, sometimes known as ‘superheroes’ or ‘wonders’ named the Justice Society of America. We lived through our own Third World War, over three decades ago. Our calendar is more than a decade ahead of your own; we emerged in our mid-1980s. Our world survived and is at peace, although we help fight those who would cause harm and chaos.

More intel poured into his mind…or was he processing it?

Diana, here, has been known as Wonder Woman, and was one of the first of our kind to emerge forty years ago. Our leader, Green Lantern, took the mantle of a great man killed by men inspired by a despot, who lashed out in fear. Some of us are here: Wildcat, Flash, Power Woman, Nightwing, Huntress, White Canary, Jonni Thunder, Starman, Jade, Obsidian, Doctor Midnight, Doctor Fate, and Stargirl. The rest of us are on our own world, helping the authorities keep the peace. There are dozens of us, and we use our powers and abilities to serve the common good.

“We are doing what you thought your own metahumans could have done: working with the authorities to protect and serve the people, and keep the peace,” the other Diana said to Trevor.

“My God,” Trevor whispered. “Who…who’s talking to me? Who’s in my head?”

“Doctor Fate or, if you prefer, Khalid,” she said. “He is the latest in the line of some amazing men and women who have held his mantle.” Trevor looked to his right, and saw a man, in a blue-and-yellow uniform, wearing a bright golden helmet and gold-and-yellow cape, floating above the soldiers. Trevor was as amazed that no one was aiming a weapon at the man, as the fact the man was hovering in mid-air.

“We mean you no harm; we are here as civilian ambassadors,” said the man whom Trevor, Diana and everyone else on the floor now knew as Green Lantern. “We would like to speak to your leaders.”

“That depends,” said the ranking officer on the floor. Trevor figured the man might have been in the service going back as far as Vietnam and had either stayed in the service all this time or been one of the retired officers reactivated and assigned to domestic duty. In any case, Trevor judged this man as someone who wouldn’t back down to anyone, no matter how powerful or fantastic. “You want to tell me why you showed up here?”

“It was the easiest way to get to your world,” the Green Lantern said. “We are here in part as a last-ditch attempt to talk the leaders of the two sides into backing down from their disagreements. Some of our...fellow compatriots are in Moscow, talking to the Soviet leadership. We would like to talk to President Broome.”

“Broome’s dead,” the sergeant replied.

“Gardner’s in charge?”, asked the man Trevor knew to be the Wildcat.

“Soviets got to him through his family.”

“Who is the President right now?”, the Green Lantern asked, firmly and with a tad of impatience.

“John Boehner. Former House Speaker.”

Trevor and Diana noted the ‘heroes’ looking at each other, confused. “The Governor of Michigan?”, said the man who called himself Nightwing.

“He’s the damn President of the United States,” the sergeant said. “I suppose you could just go there yourselves and just knock on the front door of the White House.”

“That would cause more problems,” the Green Lantern replied. “We’re trying to dial things back, not escalate them. Consider us being here asking permission to ask to speak to your President.”

“And if I don’t give it?”

“Then we’ll leave and go knock on his front door,” interjected the Wildcat, who seemed to be on edge. Instantly, the Flash and the Power Woman appeared in front of the Wildcat, either calming him down or urging him to back down.

“We know you have a…hotline to the White House,” the Green Lantern said. “I urge you to use it, quickly. The more time passes, the less time we have to talk your leaders into backing down.”

“Dammit,” the sergeant swore. He walked a short distance away and picked up a phone hanging on a side wall. Two minutes later, the sergeant returned, and informed the visitors they’ll get what they asked for.

It took 15 more minutes before the Vice-President of the United States arrived, flanked by a dozen Secret Service agents. “Where is John Boehner?”, the Green Lantern asked him.

“Running the war,” said Mitch McConnell, his Kentucky drawl accentuated somewhat by his fatigue. No one in the White House had gotten much rest in recent days. “You want to talk to someone, you’ll have talk to me.”

Trevor didn’t always agree with the VP’s politics, but he was impressed by the man’s refusal to be impressed or scared by the costumed men and women before him. Trevor trusted McConnell to do the right thing for the country – and hoped that if it meant backing away from the abyss, if the Russians would do the same. The Green Lantern and some of the other heroes followed McConnell into a side room, leaving the other heroes on the platform, stared at by soldiers and civilians who still weren’t sure how to regard them.

“I’m good,” Trevor suddenly yelled at, at a couple of Marines and three scientists near him, Diana, and Diana’s doppelganger. He turned to Diana-2. “Is there anything you people are leaving out that you’d like to tell me, as the ranking officer on the floor – no offense to the fellow over there.”

“None taken, Sir. Sgt. Harrison Scott, United States Army. Commanding officer assigned here,” he said. “It’s been a few years since I wore the uniform. Had my commission reactivated, then was assigned here.”

“Good to see you, Sergeant,” Trevor said. “Maintain your position. I’m going to have a talk with the lady—”

Before he and Diana knew it, the man named Doctor Fate hovered above he and both Dianas. “Do not start a fight you cannot finish,” Diana said to Fate.

“Doctor Fate is a master of the mystical arts and a formidable fighter. Do not underestimate him,” Diana-2 said. “But we are not here to fight.”

“We would prefer to talk with you,” Diana said, unholstering the lasso from her clear and barely visible belt.

“Hold,” Diana-2 said to her compatriots, before turning to Trevor to see if he would do the same. “Stand down,” Trevor said to Sgt. Scott and his people. “Princess…can I call you that?”

“I am a Princess on my world, so yes, you may,” Diana-2 said. “We call our island Paradise Island, although Themyscria is the official designation. I would like to talk with you as well, and perhaps, put your minds at ease…with my colleague’s help, of course.”

Trevor looked at Diana, who nodded. “I trust her, Steven.”

He looked up at Fate. “I’m Christian, Princess…lapsed, but I never really stopped believing.”

“I am familiar with the faith,” Diana-2 said. “We have some followers on Paradise Island, and some who have left our island to marry men, or pursue missionary work.”

“That…guy floating above us. He used telepathy earlier, didn’t he?”

“I did,” Fate said. “I am not your enemy, Colonel.”

“You have an ankh on your uniform, pal. Not something I saw in church growing up.”

“It is an Egyptian symbol, meaning ‘life’. Which we are trying to save on this planet, if you would only listen—”

“Doctor Fate,” Diana-2 interjected, “please.”

Fate looked back at the Wildcat, who stood on the platform and gave a curt nod. “I am sorry, Wonder Woman, but this man and your alternate must at least know,” Fate said, with deference and respect to the woman he hovered near; with a wave of his hand, a bright light briefly blinded Trevor and Diana.

Both reopened their eyes and saw themselves in the back of a large auditorium, filled with costumed heroes. Fate stood next to Trevor, Diana-2 next to Diana. Seemingly ignoring Diana-2’s glare (although, Trevor thought, the man could be blushing underneath that gold helmet), Fate gestured towards the crowd with a wave of his arm.

“Days ago, there was a gathering of heroes from across the multiverse,” Fate began. “Earth-17 – your world – was not represented. Other universes, with heroes from Earth and other worlds, were represented.”

Fate pointed to the platform, and a man in red, blue and yellow standing, arguing passionately for intervention. Trevor realized the man was talking about intervention on his world. “You judge correctly, Colonel Trevor. That is one of the versions of a hero who has inspired us all, known throughout the multiverse as Superman. He is from the First Earth.”

“Also known as Earth-1,” Diana-2 said. “The Superman I know is…was…there. Third from the left.” Except for the ‘S’ symbol on the man’s chest, he would’ve passed him and the speaker off as identical twins. “Doctor. Is there a reason for this simulation?”

“Yes, Wonder Woman,” Fate continued. Superman-1 argued for intervention in Earth-17’s affairs, noting the Indianapolis bomb. Several dozens of the heroes seemed swayed by Superman-1’s speech, several dozen others seemed set against what Superman-1 was advocating, and much of the crowd was undecided.

Another Superman – older, and someone who Trevor suspected may have seen his share of war – got up and argued against intervention. “I’ve seen what happens when we do nothing, and what happens when we intervene. If Earth-17 was ruled by villains – like Earths-177 and -178 – I would argue for intervention. No one’s talked about confrontation on those worlds. Why Earth-17?”

“Neither world is about to destroy itself,” said a man dressed in a bat suit. Batman of Earth-54 popped into Trevor’s head. I don’t like this occult crap, Fate. “If the Confederates and the Soviet Russians and Chinese had overrun the Industrial Republic and the Great Plains and the rest of North America, Europe and Asia, I’d be asking this body for intervention.”

“They haven’t because of the Alliance and Guardians,” said a man in blue, red and white with a shield. Captain America of Earth-54. “Our delegation’s point stands. They don’t have heroes to intervene. They killed their heroes.”

“Not all of them,” said a man, dressed in a black overcoat, turtleneck and pants, a black patch over his right eye. Nicholas Fury, Earth-MC. “They’re not operating openly – not like on 616, or other Earths – but they’re doing what they can.”

“They’re hunted down,” said a youngish British woman. “We should intervene, now.” Jenny Sparks, Earth-W.

“And make things worse?”, said another Diana doppelganger. Earth-86. “If we interfere, I fear we will complete what their Vandal Savage has been attempting to accomplish for centuries.”

“If we don’t interfere, ‘sister’, Ares will finish what he started." Diana, Earth-52.

Diana grabbed Trevor’s arm. “All this is Vandal Savage’s doing,” she said in a near-whisper. “How could I have been so blind?”

“Who, Diana?”, he replied. “Who’s Vandal Savage?”

“An immortal man, and a despot,” Fate interjected. “We have one like him on our Earth, although he has not been nearly as successful in his endeavors as his counterpart here has—”

“Buddy, you brought us here for a reason,” Trevor interjected. “All you’re doing is inviting more questions. I want answers.”

“And you will have them, Steven,” Diana-2 interjected, before looking up at Fate. “How much more of this does Wildcat insist you show them?”

“It is not at Wildcat’s behest I do this, Wonder Woman, but Green Lantern’s,” Fate said. Before Diana-2 could respond, he gestured towards the platform. “Behold. The final speaker.”

Trevor and Diana saw a man dressed much like the other Supermen on the platform and floor, except he appeared to be of African descent (unlike the other men and women, most of whom appeared to be Caucasian).

“Superman of Earth-23,” Fate said. “He reminds me of the man who was President of the United States in my world, before the current holder in Earth-2’s timeline. He appears to remind you both of someone. A politician?”

“Congressman Obama,” Trevor replied. “That man reminds me of him.”

“Kalel is a good, decent man…and he is a crafty politician,” Diana-2 said, with a hint of disappointment. “He was on the floor during the convention, trying to sway the unconvinced and the opposition, and encouraging those on his side. He apologized when I called him out on it; Kalel said his alter-ego had just appeared at a campaign rally.”

“Alter-ego…campaign rally?”, Diana asked.

“Kalel, in his civilian guise, is President of the United States on his world,” Diana-2 replied. “Doctor, can you ‘fast-forward’ to the point where he used the Legion’s futuristic technology to show the audience what would happen if nothing or something was done?”

“The results are based on hundreds of scientific and mystical inquiries into alternate timelines,” Fate interjected. “They are the most likely scenarios. Behold.”

Trevor mouthed ‘behold?!?’; Diana-2 smiled, apologetically. “We can be…dramatic on occasion,” she said. “Watch.”

Trevor and Diana saw the first scenario: a global nuclear war, with pockets of survivors. Superman-23 noted the importance of the world-wide Ring network, and Trevor noticed that both Dianas and Fate were looking at him.

Then the second scenario was shown.

It begins with all instruments of war besides individual weapons – tanks, jets, ships, satellites, aircraft carriers, nuclear weapons – disappearing, and the superheroes of multiple worlds spreading throughout Earth-17. Every country is visited, every government given the same ultimatium: pursue peace, now, or pay the consequences.

Several nations, including the U.S. and USSR, choose to fight. And pay the consequences.

With new governments in place, Earth-17 initially is at peace. However, resistance to the occupying superheroes quickly arises, and escalates into guerrilla warfare and terrorist actions (armed by ‘supervillains’ eager to take advantage of the situation), and within decades the entire planet is united against their superhero oppressors.

Then, the Dark Man moves in, to take advantage of the situation. His forces take control; the majority of superheroes, weary of decades of war, pull out. The small remnant of heroes – now fighting alongside those who had recently opposed them – cannot overcome the Dark Man’s forces.

In 2058, Earth again is at peace, the survivors having had the life taken from them, all chanting a single phrase of praise to their new god:

Darkseid Is.

Superman-23 reappeared at the podium.

“Actions have consequences,” Trevor and Diana heard him say. “In my…civilian occupation, I have had the opportunity to see first-hand what happens when powerful forces intervene in other nations’ affairs. I have had to make choices, to clean up the messes my adopted country has created by its presence, and to send my country’s forces into places where they were needed, to clean up other peoples’ messes. These are often difficult choices, made after much consultation and much more reflection, and they often have had unforeseen results.

“Even now, my country has been unable to fully extract itself from places some of you may be familiar with: Qurac, Khandaq, Pakistan, Honduras, Moldavia. Some of my top military leaders were convinced that if we dropped enough bombs, sent in enough soldiers, showed enough force that it would solve all of the problems we were facing in that region and time has shown us it has not. My experiences, as unique as they are amongst our kind, I think speak as clearly to this situation as is possible.

“As a politician, a diplomat, a commander-in chief, a leader, I have been taught lessons I never could have learned merely as a superhero. I offer the benefit of my experience, now. I showed you these scenarios not to scare you or to ‘politick’ for my convictions. I showed them, and speak of them and of my past experiences, to urge you to make the best of two difficult choices. As much as I respect my good friend from Earth-1, he is wrong. If we intervene, now, we will doom this planet to a hellish fate far worse than the one that Kal-El, and many of you, wish to spare it from. We must allow these people to make their own decisions, and to give their survivors the best chance of survival before and after they go to war.”

The crowd erupted, pro- and anti-intervention sides shouting at each other. Trevor was amazed no one ever thought to attack the other; he was convinced the combined power in this vast auditorium could destroy the galaxy. He then saw the same man in red, green and purple who had just asked to speak to the President approach the podium. “Please, please, please,” he said, as a large green gavel suddenly jumped from his hand and pounded the podium. “I may have a solution. Please hear me out.”

As the crowd quieted down, the Green Lantern began to speak, and the scene of the vast auditorium – and the colorfully-garbed supermen, women, animals and aliens populating it – gave way to the smaller auditorium beneath the old Pentagon mall on Earth-17, and the giant Ring in it, surrounded by dozens of civilians and military personnel, plus several members of the Justice Society.

“Green Lantern’s motion carried the day,” Diana-2 said. “As you see, some of the Society members are here. Some of our more powerful members, backed by equally powerful beings from other Earths, are in Moscow right now.”

“Smart,” Trevor said. “Khalinin acknowledges power. It might be one of the only things other than himself he would listen to.”

“We hope, as small as our hope may be, he will listen to reason,” Diana-2 replied. “Both groups are attempting one last attempt at diplomacy, to stop the war, now.”

“Neither wide would listen to the Chinese or the Indians and the Soviets see the UN as their enemy,” Trevor replied. “I hope McConnell will listen to you, but the hawks are firmly in control, now. As far as Khalinin? Whomever you sent over there will have to beat him into the ground, and that might not be enough.”

“I hope you are wrong, Colonel,” Diana-2 said. “I fear, however, that you are right.”


Gibbs’s house

2:21 p.m. EDT

“Spoke with the director, Agent Gibbs. And the White House. The VP cleared them.”

Roscoe – the suit that Gibbs had come to trust the most amongst the agents assigned to them by Director McCallister – looked like he wanted to apologize for the intrusion. “Agent Gibbs. They say they want to speak to Agent Todd.”

“They can talk to me first,” Gibbs said, walking past Roscoe, and the agents guarding the door, to talk to the three colorfully garbed people standing on his front porch.

“You must be Leroy Jethro Gibbs,” said the oldest of the trio, a man in his mid-fifties dressed in red and blue, wearing a helmet that was reminiscent of the Roman god Mercury. “I’m the Flash. I’ve…heard of your exploits before.”

“Haven’t heard of you, or your friends,” Gibbs said. “You from one of those other worlds?”

“You could say that,” said a tall, muscular, blond woman in a white, turtleneck leotard; blue boots; and a red cape. “Power Woman, in case you’re wondering. We don’t have a lot of time.”

“Neither do we,” said Gibbs. “War’s going on. You got business here?”

“Yes,” said the third person, a man dressed in jet black head to toe, wearing only white gloves. Gibbs noticed the black mask completely covering his head and face, and then noticed that every inch of the black portion of his costume appeared to have stars, and constellations, on them.

On a third glance Gibbs noticed the stars on the uniform seemed to be moving.

“You can call me Starman,” the man replied. “I’m from the other side, from one planet, living temporarily on a second planet after being sent from a 22nd planet. Which makes no sense. Just say I’m not from around here, and it’s funny how being on this planet has cleared my head like nothing else—”

Thom,” Power Woman interjected.

“Sorry, Kara,” Starman said. “We know time is short, and if things were to get hot, we could get you to the ring quick. But time is of the essence. I’d like to speak to Agent Todd.”

“Why?”, Gibbs said, annoyed. He had more important things on his mind than to talk to…circus freaks?...and wasn’t going to put any of his people in harm’s way unnecessarily, even with Riley McCallister and Mitch McConnell’s approval.

“I’ve seen her future. There is something she needs to know, now—”

“We’re done,” Gibbs said, turning to leave and lock the door behind him.

He turned, and saw Kate, standing in front of the door, her arms folded. “Gibbs.”

“Agent Todd -- Kate. Go inside.”

“Gibbs. I can decide for myself.”

Gibbs started to admonish her for disobeying a direct order, then sighed. He looked at Kate, then turned to Starman. “One minute.”

“That’s all I need,” he said. He stopped himself when he saw Kate gawk at Power Woman for just a moment; Kara smiled as Kate head slapped herself. “That’s what I get for hanging around Tony too much,” she muttered. “Who are you?” she said more loudly.

“I’m Starman. She’s Power Woman” – Kara waved and grinned – “and he’s Flash.” Flash tipped his hat. “I’m running out of minute. So here goes…You’re important.”

“Excuse me?”

“You’re…you were important. You’ve been important to, and valued by, your loved ones. You’re important, now, to your loved ones here, and in Indiana. And you will be even more important.”

“What…what are you talking about?”

“I’ve seen your future, Caitlin Rose Todd. It’s vital you and everyone in there get through to the other side. Your team has a lot of adventures ahead of it. It’s what you do in the future that’s really important.”

“I’m sorry…but what are you talking about?”

“Keep fighting. Make a better world. In my distant past, my universe’s Earth lost you and got a gift it didn’t know it was given when you crossed over. What you do…what your family and friends do…help make my world, my family, my other friends and their worlds possible. To some of us…you’re as much of an inspiration as anybody. And I wanted to thank you since I might never get the chance to do so again.”

Starman stuck his hand out. Kate didn’t know what to do.

“Miss Todd,” said the Flash, “Starman may be a bit….unique, but he has a good heart.”

“I’d call him crazy,” Power Woman added with a wink, pointing at him with her thumb. “But he’s also a good judge of character. If he says you’re good, that’s good enough for me.”

What the heck, Kate thought, and shook Starman’s hand. She noticed the yellow ring on his hand with a stylized ‘L’ where a diamond would be placed. Is this guy from the future—no way. That’s crazy. All this is crazy.

“Thank you,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of good ahead of you. Gibbs, I’d shake your hand, but I know you’ll see me again. I’ve seen you before. You, and Agent DiNozzo, and Dr. Isl—and some others.”

Gibbs looked at Flash, who shrugged his shoulders. Power Woman smirked.

Before Gibbs could respond, a large circular portal opened 12 feet above the front yard, and Doctor Fate levitated outward from it. “It is time to leave,” Fate said, his voice booming throughout the neighborhood.

“Could you maybe speak a little lower?”, Power Woman said. “Starman, are we done here?”

“Yes,” he replied, taking one last look at Kate and Gibbs. “Thank you both.” Power Woman picked up Flash and Starman, and all three followed Fate through the portal, which quickly vanished as if it was never there.

“What on Earth was all that about?”, Kate said.

“Not on Earth,” Gibbs answered. “Not this Earth, anyway.”

“You can say that again…hey, that guy meant Ducky, right?”

“Sure. Makes as much sense as anything.”

Both turned to go inside and noticed everyone else gawking at them through the door and front windows. Kate shrugged her shoulders and looked at Gibbs.

“Do I have to do everything, Agent Todd?”, he grumbled without a hint of aggravation. They went inside, If Starman was right, Gibbs still had to get Kate and everyone else to the Pentagon mall ring, and his gut was telling him time was running out.

--Pentagon sources tell ABC News that a Soviet submarine has attacked the USS Carl Vinson near Guam. Those sources would not say if there were any casualties, citing the Rock Act and the importance of military operations in the Pacific Theater—

--the BBC broke from its Protect and Survive programme to report that a ‘massive explosion’ has occurred at Buckingham Palace—

--looters have turned St. Louis into anarchy—

--Israeli fighters have bombed Pact forces trying to attack Israel from Syria—

--NBC News can confirm identical reports from ZNN and the Japanese NHK network: China has entered the war on the side of the Allied Nations. Beijing declared war on the USSR and the World Pact minutes ago—

--Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman has implemented a plan from a professor, E.D. Rochelle, that would protect the state’s food and fuel reserves and allow it to aid neighboring states—

--Yellowstone National Park is flooded with refugees—

--refugees are pouring over the Montana state border into Canada—

--White House sources now tell CNN President Boehner is aboard Air Force One—

--the sign outside the First Baptist Church in Atlanta – one of the only places in the city where any semblance of law and order still stand – is reminiscent of a line from Stephen King’s The Stand. The sign reads ‘ACCEPT JESUS NOW. SEE YOU IN HEAVEN’—

3:24 p.m. EDT


Bruce meets the rest of the League and his Bat family, and other allies. He sets up a meeting, tells those who cannot travel quickly back here after the missiles fly to stay put. Some are on missions, either helping move supplies to safer areas or getting people to ring complexes. Elsewhere, Paula Cassidy chances on a robbery attempt, and teens beating up an elderly couple. She waves her gun, the teens point theirs at her, and before she realizes she is about to die they’re all shot. She meets Chicago PD Sgt. Hank Voight, who recruits her into the Novamerika Police Department. “We’ll vet you – we can still access Federal databases – and once you’re in, we’ll read you in on the weird stuff.” She overhears barking in the distance, and a little boy asking his grandmother if it’s “the 101 big dalmatians barking”.

5:10 p.m. EDT

“Those people who came to your front door were legit, Jethro,” Trevor said to Gibbs on a very secure phone line. “After they left your place, they came to the Pentagon, and took Diana and I to Novamerika. We haven’t found your agent here, yet, but we know she’s here, and we’ll find her.”

“You have to be a target, Colonel,” Gibbs said.

“Probably not in the first wave, and Diana’s people think they can protect the immediate area. But that’s all they can do. The Russians are going to launch everything, and even with the shield, most of their missiles are going to get through.”

“And ours, through to Russia. You stay safe, you hear me?”

“And you do the same. Remember. Get to the Ring, no matter what. And Godspeed.”

“Likewise, Colonel.”

The click on the other end was the last time Gibbs thought he might ever hear from Trevor, Diana and Paula Cassidy anytime soon, if ever. He had begun to mull over the possibility of using whatever resources he could find on the other side to mount a post-war rescue operation when his NCIS-issued cell phone rang.

It was McCallister.

“The shit’s hit the fan, Jethro. Soviets just detonated some nukes in West Germany. We detonated three of our nukes in East Germany. Get your people to the Pentagon Mall now.”

McCallister disconnected. Gibbs shoved his phone in his pocket, ran to the workbench to grab his go bag, and ran up the stairs – ignoring the sudden, jarring pain in his knee – as fast as he could.

“Grab your gear NOW people,” Gibbs yelled. “We go in five. Roscoe. Get the vehicles ready.”

Roscoe stared at him, as Palmer, Diane, Sarah and Abby looked up from the television set.

“You heard me, Agent Monroe? We go in FIVE. EVERYONE. WE’RE MOVING OUT.”

The house emptied in four minutes. As Tony and Ziva carried Mrs. Mallard down the stairs and one of the suits carried all three of their go bags (with the agent’s own go bag strapped to her back), Ducky stopped Gibbs. “This is it, Jethro?”

“Afraid so, Duck. McCallister said to go, now. Not gonna argue with him.”

“We have time,” Ducky said with much uncertainty.

“I hope,” Gibbs said. “There's no going back, Duck. The end’s in sight. I'm getting us all to safety."
Part Four: Chapter 52
Chapter 52

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

5:14 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time

10:14 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time

11:14 p.m. West German Time

NBC News

--Lester, the announcement from the DoD states, and I quote, ‘Pact forces have detonated three nuclear weapons with yields ranging from 500 kilotons to 3 megatons over Allied troop positions in West Germany and Austria. Two more nuclear weapons of approximately 10 megatons have detonated over NATO regional headquarters in Kassel, West Germany and over NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium—

Fox News

--sources tell Fox News Allied forces have detonated nuclear weapons over Pact forces in West and East Germany and over Pact bases in Czechoslovakia and East Germany—

5:17 p.m. EDT


--we’ve been told by observers in Colombia along the Panama border of a large explosion followed by a gigantic mushroom cloud rising in the north, possibly where the Panama Canal is—

5:21 p.m. EDT


--a…oh God, no…a…major nuclear explosion in or near Taipei. We…we don’t know if it’s ours or theirs—

5:24 p.m.

Washington, D.C.

Above New Hampshire Road, SW of Dupont Circle

“There’s nobody on this road, Jethro,” Franks told Gibbs from one of the passenger seats of a US Navy Sikorsky CH-53E ‘Super Stallion’ heavy-lift helicopter. Franks had a window seat and looked over his shoulder at the nearly deserted city 500 feet below the helicopter.

The Sikorsky and its sister helicopter had a clear path to its destination, the ring complex underneath the Pentagon Mall in Arlington. Nearby Andrews Air Force Base – the former Reagan Airport – was now a staging area for local defense, with military operations having been moved to the current Reagan International Airport in Maryland (which once was the site of Andrews AFB).

On a normal weekday, the street would be jammed with rush-hour drivers on their way home. The streets were virtually empty, with only a few cars, motorcyclists and bicyclists heading east, towards Arlington and the ring complex.

“Everyone’s gone, Mike,” Gibbs replied. “Everyone who could get out, did. The only reason we’re here, now, is that Ring we’re heading towards.”

“Nice of Riley to have this copter waiting for us,” Franks said, as he reached in his shirt pocket for a cigarette. He then remembered the Petty Officer who told him as he entered the copter that tobacco wasn’t allowed on board.

“I don’t think you’d want to try to drive down there right now, anyway,” Kate interjected, from her seat opposite Franks. “I wouldn’t put it past the Spetsnaz to have someone lying in wait, shooting at a passing car.”

“Or shooting up at a helicopter,” DiNozzo said four seats down from Kate, looking over his shoulder out a window. “I see some people walking, running, riding on bikes I think…hard to tell, from this high up.”

“Anyone who could have left, Anthony, would have done so by now,” Ducky said. “I believe we are most fortunate to be where we are now. I wish only there were more of these, ah, devices, for more people to flee through right now.”

“There aren’t a lot of them,” McGee said. “Well, there are, but not nearly enough for seven billion people. Some states have only one.”

“How close are we, Gibbs?”, Abby asked. Gibbs held up four fingers.

“Four minutes,” McGee said.

Kansas City, Missouri

Like many American cities, Kansas City is largely full now, with some being those who lived there, some those fleeing into the city from the countryside. Most city people didn’t have a refuge in the middle of nowhere to flee to, so they stayed at home to await their fate. Rural dwellers came for a variety of reasons, from fleeing towns they thought would collapse into anarchy to looting for whatever valuables they could steal.

When news of the nuclear detonations in Europe broke, however, there was only one thing on everyone’s mind: run.

Almost anyone with a vehicle fled to the nearest grocery to get food, the nearest gas station to get gasoline, the nearest drug store to get medicine and food and anything else they could rip off the shelves. Over the past several months, sales of handguns, rifles and other weapons skyrocketed, and as a result many people were heavily armed.

In many cities you literally could see an attempted robbery, carjacking or murder on every city block. No one thought of calling the police; anyone acting in a criminal manner, real or perceived, was shot on the spot. Many innocent people were shot on the spot, too.

In Kansas City, four people were trampled to death at a IGA in the suburbs when the manager began putting out his remaining supplies of beef and fish.

Fights broke out at gas stations across the city, be it people not moving quickly enough or the fuel pumps running dry.

In nearby Lawrence, Kansas, local police gave up trying to keep panicked Kansas City residents out of the town. Locals still remembered the 24-year-old The Day After film, and many of the refugees thought the small university town – as close as it was to Kansas City -- had to be a hell of a lot better place to be right now than being in Kansas City proper.

One of those locals, a single, middle-aged man as fit as a 25-year-old sprinter, has been running non-stop between Kansas City and Lawrence. Literally.

Jay Garrick survived the government’s purges and secret wars on gifted individuals, and used his gift of super-speed in as low-key of a manner as possible. Right now, he was playing Robin Hood in a sense – stealing from the soon-to-be-dead rich to give to the soon-to-be-desperately-needy poor – by transferring food and medicine from the city to Lawrence.

If his heart would hold up, Garrick thought he might do his wife and the other survivors in Lawrence some good, after the bombing ended.

Scott Air Force Base, Illinois

As panicked residents clogged interstates and major roads outside of nearby St. Louis, Missouri, a dozen F-19 Blackhawk fighter jets launched from the base. The jets are experimental and tasked with defending this area of post-war America from any Soviet fighters or bombers who make it this far into the homeland.

The nearest emergency strip, should an all-out nuclear exchange occur, is in Mount Vernon, near the Novamerika theme park.

Metropolis, New Troy

Perry White stood in line at Centennial Park, as the sirens began to wail.

The executive editor of the Daily Planet newspaper skimmed through the four-page special section that went to press four hours before. The front-page headline simply read



and showed a picture of a gigantic Ring at Centennial Park, in front of the iconic statue of Revolutionary War hero General Augustus Troy.

With his family and friends at his side – including his former reporter, Lois Lane – White decided to leave while he could. He hoped the Earth they all were fleeing to would be a place that would reject the injustice of all-out thermonuclear war.

5:28 p.m.

Arlington, Virginia

Both Sikorskys landed in Arlington, in the intersection of 15th and Hayes, outside the ring complex underneath the old Pentagon Mall. Gibbs hadn’t forgotten that Hollis Mann died here not too long ago; he doubted he ever would. There were dozens of civilian vehicles, including buses, and some military and police vehicles in the area, parked up and down the streets as far as Gibbs could see. Hundreds of people were making their way into the facility through several entrances, some the size of a house door, others as large as a garage door.

He was the last person to leave the Sikorsky, and he saw Joanna Teague, Brent Langer, Roger Cooke and Jack Sloane near an entrance. As Gibbs’s team made their way through the door, he stopped to talk briefly with Teague and Langer. “We made it,” he said. “Glad to see you did, too.”

“We’re ahead of things, Gibbs. I’m not sure how much longer,” Teague said. “We had the radio on one of the news stations on our way here. They reported the Soviets nuked an oil field in Saudi Arabia, and a South African air force base, and one of our ships off the Nicaraguan coast.”

“Then the Emergency Broadcast System took over,” Langer said. “Guess all that matters now, is what’s down there waiting for us.”

“Better hurry, then,” Gibbs said.

The military guards tried to put on a friendly face but were adamant about everyone making their way down to the facility as quickly as possible. The next five minutes were a blur – Gibbs was so focused on moving he barely noticed the long hallway, and the large cargo elevators he, Teague and Langer, and several strangers were led into.

The elevator trip took about three minutes, which may as well have been an eternity. Eight feet behind Gibbs’s left shoulder, a baby cried in a young mother’s arms. He wondered if that child – if he and everyone there – would make it ahead of the first nuke detonating over Washington.

When the door opened, he saw the ring, on the other end of the football field-sized auditorium, and a long row of people walking through. “Stay in your group and move as quickly as you can,” shouted a police officer. “You will be guided into the line. Once there, move as quickly as you can.”

“Guess this is it,” Teague said to Gibbs. “We’re lucky. We didn’t get shot at, didn’t get blown up. We might just make it after all.”

“Of all the times to quote Mary Tyler Moore,” Langer joked.

“Okay, Langer. You asked for it,” Teague replied. Then, she began singing. “How will you make it on your own? This world is awfully big…

As some of the people in their group joined Teague in singing the lyrics to the theme song of a classic television sitcom, Gibbs looked around. He saw the rest of his team, waiting for their groups to be fed into the row of people hurrying through the ring. He looked around again and saw the little girl from months ago his team had found at the Taco Bell in nearby Fairfax: Kayleigh Newsom, Lt. Commander Joanna Newsom’s daughter.

Kayleigh waved to him; he waved back and was glad he had kept her letter. It was in his go bag, in a box with photos, letters and cards from his late wife Shannon and his late daughter Kelly.

The line began moving faster; the Marines were doing a good job of keeping things orderly, but Gibbs noticed them urging people to move more quickly than before.

Then he felt a rumble, a second before he heard a distant explosion. He saw others around him stop, and saw the confusion, and fear, in their faces. “LET’S GO!”, Gibbs shouted. “Move!”

With a nod to Langer and Teague, Gibbs began moving towards the back, making sure no one was left behind. By now, those who could run, ran towards the ring. Many held a baby or child in their arms; he saw several pairs of people picking up older or handicapped people who couldn’t run fast enough.

Another rumble shook the auditorium, and Gibbs faintly heard attack sirens wailing. This only made the remaining people run as fast as they could. Gibbs suddenly found himself being picked up by his arms and guided into a jeep.

“Sorry about that, Gunny,” an older man driving the jeep said. “We’re gonna have to drive, not run, through that thing.”

“I have a rule against apologies,” Gibbs said, as the jeep waited; Gibbs saw people being herded into jeeps, SUVs and trucks. Then the jeep began moving, slowly at first. “We know each other?”

“Sgt. Harrison Scott, Marine Corps,” the man replied. “We’ve never met. Your reputation precedes you. I’m glad you’re here, now; if you weren’t here, you’d be a goner.”

“Any idea what those rumbles were?”, Gibbs asked. He knew what they were, but not where.

“They’ve launched the missiles – both sides,” Scott said, as the jeep moved faster. They were about 50 yards from the ring. “We have important people here, and the Soviets have important people in Moscow. So, neither city’s going up in the first wave. But the second wave…”

“Were you told what they’ve hit?”

“We heard Norfolk went up. The last one may have been Baltimore. Hell, Philly’s close enough, if the Russians dropped one of those Tsar Bomb—”

The auditorium shook again, more violently this time.

“Or maybe that was the Tsar Bomba,” Scott yelled.

Four Army privates ran up to a Humvee driving up the stairs onto the platform, to keep it from turning on its side; it held up the caravan for a minute. The red lights that suddenly began flashing throughout the auditorium added to the urgency of the situation, and vehicles began speeding through the ring.

As the jeep Gibbs rode in approached the ring, he looked back. Before he knew it, the ring was behind him, and the next thing he knew, they were outside. The jeep skidded to a stop, and it took a half minute for Gibbs to figure out where he was.

“What in hell…we’re in RFK,” Scott said. Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, which he and Gibbs knew as the home stadium of the Washington Redskins football and DC United soccer teams. Now, there were dozens of vehicles, and hundreds of people, on the field, and hundreds more people being led into the stands.

Gibbs figured the jeep was near where the 50-yard-line would have been for a Redskins game. He looked behind him, and saw a long ramp descending down to the field from an elevated platform, where another ring took center stage. He looked around again, and he saw people in the lower level stands; looking upwards, he saw clouds, and noticed it was warm.

Gibbs looked to the end of the stadium opposite the platform, and he reached in his go bag for a pair of binoculars. He looked at the scoreboard near the top of the stadium, and immediately noticed two things.

The scoreboard itself, flanked by signs for Pepsi, Wayne Tech and and one corporation he didn’t recognize, LexCorp. The sign on the scoreboard read


He looked at the signs next to the scoreboard. The one on the left was for PEPCO, the local power company. The one to the right of the LexCorp sign was a video screen showing what he thought was WGDC – the local GBS affiliate – showing news coverage, and at least one other ring somewhere outside New York.

Then there were the other two signs, to the right of the video screen, for WayneTech and the Washington Post.

The one beside it had brightly garbed costumed individuals, like the ones who visited his home earlier in the day, standing next to what he presumed were Redskins players, and young children. He squinted to read the words along the bottom of the sign.


Join the Justice League and the Federals to help DC’s kids. Learn more at wrcf/jla

Federals? Gibbs thought. Is that sign for a government op? He looked around the stadium and saw a sign for the Washington Federals football team. That answers that ques--

Gibbs then felt a tap on his shoulder. He put down his binoculars, turned to his right, and saw DiNozzo, who grinned at him. “We made it, Boss,” he told Gibbs.

“All of us?” Gibbs said.

“Scattered around, but yeah,” Tony replied, pointing to the binoculars. “Mind if I take a look?”

“Be my guest,” Gibbs said, and DiNozzo looked through the binoculars, at the signs. He let out a loud whistle, lowered the binoculars, and turned to Gibbs. “What do you make of that?”

“No idea, DiNozzo.”

“Me neither, Boss. Way better than going up in a mushroom cloud, though.”

“Won’t argue with that.”

“One thing. Going by the sign. The one for the kids. Someone in the crowd said one of those…superheroes…is responsible for that.” Tony pointed behind he and Gibbs, back to the ring on the platform. “Boss. We sure as hell ain’t in Kansas anymore.”

Gibbs had nothing to say in response, and he sure wasn’t going to argue the point.

--reports are coming into GBS News, and our affiliates and our bureaus, of wormholes abruptly appearing across the United States and around the world, and people crossing from them, with little or no warning. We’re told the White House is aware of the situation, and the President will speak to the nation at 6 p.m. Eastern. GBS News will carry the President’s address live. Until then, many of our affiliates will return to local coverage. For those which aren’t, we’ll continue network coverage of this unprecedented event. With Clark Kent in Metropolis and Bryant Gumbel in Washington, I’m Jessica Savitch here in New York. This is GBS News’s continuing coverage of…--