Part One: Chapter 1
  • Countdown to Looking Glass: An NCIS story

    An alternate history fictional story set in a world combining the NCIS universe with aspects of the DC Comics multiverse


    To my parents, who always told me I could be anything I wanted to be



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


    PART ONE

    Chapter 1

    August 5, 2005


    The Cold War was never-ending, threatening to turn red-hot in a moment, and always appeared on new and unexpected fronts with occasionally confusing twists and turns that could exasperate the most composed of persons.

    Leroy Jethro Gibbs hated such surprises, almost as much as he hated not being in total control of the situation at all times.

    His Major Case Response Team had literally not had a break since late May. Starting with shutting down a planned attack on Naval Station Norfolk that would have led to one of the biggest tragedies in American history, Gibbs and his team survived assassination attempts from the terrorist behind the threat; uncovered that terrorist’s connection to the KGB and Spetsnaz while hunting down a copy-cat serial killer; then solved a case where a Marine was found buried in a Civil War-era casket.

    Even with the addition of Ziva David – a Mossad agent-turned-liaison to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the half-sister of the terrorist who tried to murder Gibbs and the rest of his people – the lack of rest was beginning to wear on everyone involved. Gibbs petitioned his new boss, Director Jennifer Shepard, for a few days off.

    Instead, another Marine died, and the trail led to North Carolina, under the jurisdiction of another NCIS team – one run by a Navy officer still on active duty and every bit as stubborn and possessive as Gibbs himself.

    Gibbs glared and willed his team to rise to the occasion, one more time. If he knew how weird this case would get, he might just have retired on the spot.

    NCIS Carolinas Field Office

    Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

    Interrogation Room #2


    Gibbs and his junior special agent Kate Todd stood behind the two-way mirror in the observation room, along with Carolinas Field Office Special Agent-in-Charge Commander Will Coburn and two of Coburn’s people – Marine Gunnery Sergeant Shel McHenry and Special Agent Maggie Foley. On the other side, Gibbs’s senior field agent Tony DiNozzo sat down at the small, wooden table across from a man named Bryndon Smith, the prime suspect of the Marine whose death they were investigating.

    “Let’s see,” DiNozzo said, making a small show of leaning back in his chair while lazily reading the dossier on the suspect. “Bryndon Smith – what kind of name is Bryndon, anyway? – says here you’re a biologist currently visiting at Duke. That’s in Durham, right? Right down ol’ Tobacco Road. Say, you catch any basketball games?”

    Smith, wearing one of the best poker faces DiNozzo had ever seen on a human being, sat expressionless.

    “I wasn’t a fan either. I preferred the Big Ten. Played for Ohio State, in fact, football and basketball. Been awhile, though, since I’ve watched an entire game. Job makes it hard to follow college hoops, or any sports. That’s one reason I watch so many classic movies. Easy to pop in a tape, get an hour through, get called into work a case for, say, 10 straight days, then go home and pop it back in.”

    Smith sat straight as an iron rod, while he remained expressionless.

    “Enough about me, though. You…you have quite the past. Some guy on some blog called you ‘a contemporary of Richard Dawkins, who besides stirring up the religious right co-wrote a paper with you that almost won a Nobel Prize’. Remember that? But nobody really knows what was in it, because the government did that thing where they mark out what they don’t want the public to know.”

    DiNozzo exaggeratedly flipped through a few pages while Smith said and did nothing and showed no expression. “You’ve been around the block, Smitty – you know, I like calling you Smitty. You got that Clark Gable thing going, though…but Smitty it is. Anyway, Smitty, you’ve done work for the feds, the Brits, the West Germans, the Japanese, been all over the free world doing something, but I can’t tell what.”

    Smith blinked, for the first time since he entered the room.

    “I haven’t been able to find out whatever it is that you do because it’s classified,” DiNozzo said. “Whatever the hell it is, the Agency’s involved, and so is something that we, that is, my Boss and my team and the Commander who runs the NCIS office and his people can’t come close to getting any information on.”

    Smith locked eyes with Tony in such a way that almost jarred the NCIS agent. He’d seen that look once before, from Ari Haswari, architect of the foiled attack on Naval Station Norfolk, when Haswari tried to run him down with a stolen Jeep.

    DiNozzo pushed on. If he could survive Ari, he surely would be able to handle this guy.

    “Look, whatever you’re doing with the Agency or God knows who else in the name of national security, I’m sure it’s all above board and for baseball, apple pie, truth, justice and the American way. I don’t care about that.”

    Ignoring Smith’s increasingly unsettling stare, DiNozzo reached in the back of the folder he was holding for a couple of photos of the victim whose death both NCIS teams were investigating: Marine Gunnery Sergeant Michael MacIntyre.

    The first two photos DiNozzo put on the table were of MacIntyre in better times: in full uniform sitting in front of the American flag, and at liberty with other members of his unit while serving in Afghanistan.

    The next three photos were of MacIntyre at the crime scene, severely disfigured by a rash that neither Ducky nor Coburn’s medical examiner Nina Tomlinson could make sense of. The middle photo showed the Marine’s death mask – Coburn didn’t allow the NCIS Medical Examiner, Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard, to close the victim’s eyes and mouth until after Special Agent Tim McGee took the victim’s photo – and even now, the anguish in MacIntyre’s face was as apparent as the day he saw him at the crime scene. Tony wondered if that particular photo might get a response from the man sitting across from him.

    Instead, Smith kept boring a hole into DiNozzo’s soul.

    “He is what I care about right now,” DiNozzo continued, stating the victim’s name and rank. “The last person he was seen with was you. We know because you both were on surveillance video at a Speedway convenience store in Jacksonville near the base. You gave him a coffee after you put something in it when no one was watching.”

    Tony looked up at the video monitor in the corner of the small room. Smith didn’t break eye contact with the agent, who watched the feed.

    “Not gonna watch, huh?”, DiNozzo said. “Guess you think since you were there, you think you don’t have to see it again. I don’t want to see it again. But I did. Wanna know why? Because I’m trying to figure out why you would murder a man in his twenties, who did nothing more than serve his country.”

    Smith, finally, showed some emotion: anger. DiNozzo, initially surprised by Smith’s reaction, found himself getting angrier, and determined he would not lose this glare-off or whatever game this bastard was playing. Bryndon Smith would not get the best of him. Not today.

    “Answer me,” DiNozzo said, coolly. Smith’s anger grew, although he only showed it in his eyes.

    “Answer me,” DiNozzo repeated, this time with some anger of his own. Although he had kept his emotions at bay, his anger at the horrible manner of McIntyre’s death and at Smith’s reaction in the room had abruptly manifested and was about to boil over.

    He looked back, briefly, at the large mirror where he knew Gibbs, Coburn and the others were watching. He remembered Coburn’s admonition: ‘keep your composure’. As good of a Christian as Coburn was, the commander also liked to throw his weight around, as he showed DiNozzo and the rest of Gibbs’s team the past 10 days. But Gibbs was his boss, not the commander, and he knew if it came to it that Director Shepard outranked both Coburn and Assistant Director Michael Larkin and would have his back.

    Satisfied that he wasn’t alone, DiNozzo fell back on the unspoken rule he used for certain situations – like the one involving Bryndon Smith – that neither the handbook nor experience covered and required a rather strong approach: WWGD – What Would Gibbs Do?

    DiNozzo gathered up the five photos and put them in the folder, then laid it on his chair. With all his might, he slammed his palms down onto the surface of the table. That created a crack where his left palm hit the surface, along with a loud bang that reverberated in his ears for several moments.

    ANSWER ME!”, DiNozzo yelled at Smith. “WHY DID YOU KILL GUNNERY SERGEANT MCINTYRE?!?!?

    Smith cocked his head, and smirked. “Impressive, Agent DiNozzo. I believe I saw that scene on television, once.”

    Finally, he talks,” DiNozzo shouted to the mirror behind him, and to those behind it. Turning back to Smith, he leaned into the suspect’s face until their noses were a hair’s width apart. “You want to answer my question now, jackass?”

    “You won’t like the answer,” Smith said.

    “Try me.”

    Smith scooted his chair back six inches to give some space between himself and his interrogator, while he unblinkingly kept his eyes on DiNozzo. “There are things afoot in this country, this world, that you cannot possibly have conceived of in real life, Agent DiNozzo. Born in the Northeast, your mother died, your father left you to grow up alone while he tried to find consolation in war reenactments or by befriending Saudi princes. Good enough to play intercollegiate football and basketball at a high level but not good enough to turn—”

    “Why did you kill Gunnery Sergeant MacIntyre.”

    “—Not good enough to turn professional. You did save a young man’s life while walking the streets of Baltimore, an admirable act despite the fact you were supposed to be at the arena with your teammates before the national championship game. Of course, had it not been for the East German Stasi threat, you’d have been in Seattle, but that’s a minor footnote in the long cold war between—”

    “Why. Did. You. Kill—”

    “—East and West. You turned to police work to find fulfillment, and you found success. Peoria. Philadelphia. Baltimore. Then you were recruited to NCIS, and you became Leroy Jethro Gibbs’s right-hand man. They say you should have your own team by now, but you stay—”

    “Kill. Gunnery Sergeant MacIntyre.”

    “—you stay out of loyalty? Has to be. It isn’t like Leroy Jethro Gibbs is going anywhere. Of course, Gibbs has some skeletons in his own closet, and perhaps subconsciously you know this, so you’re waiting—”

    Ignoring the jab at Gibbs, DiNozzo picked the folder back up from the chair. He then pulled out the photo of MacIntyre’s face, frozen in agony, and put the picture on the table. “Look. This is what you did.”

    “I did no such thing.”

    “Unbelievable,” DiNozzo said. “Video doesn’t lie, pal.”

    “Doesn’t it? You’re a film aficionado. You have heard of Hollywood, right?”

    DiNozzo pointed to the monitor, showing Smith taking a pill from a small bottle near the coffee machine in the convenience store. It then showed Smith pouring creamer and sweetener in the cup before walking over to MacIntyre, who was at the counter. “You thanked him for his service and offered him a cup of coffee as a gift. Said it was a lucky guess when he asked how you knew he liked half-and-half and Splenda.”

    The monitor showed McIntyre walking out of the store, and Smith milling about for three more minutes before leaving himself. “Didn’t even try to go back and pick up that prescription bottle, did you?”, DiNozzo said. “Our people told us MacIntyre probably started feeling the aftereffects of whatever it was you gave him after he got on the road. Had enough time to realize something was wrong, and he was headed in the direction you’d expect him to go in if he were headed for the nearest hospital.

    “Only thing is, he ran out of time. Skin started peeling off. Probably was lucid enough to realize he had to pull off the road to keep from killing somebody else. So he pulled off of the road and reached for his cell phone. He was starting to bleed from his fingertips, and he may not have been able to clearly see the numbers on the dialpad. Now I’m not God, so I don’t know if he figured the hospital wouldn’t be able to help him, but for whatever reason he called NCIS at Camp Lejeune. He told the agent he was attacked and, according to the audio from the call, began convulsing. I heard that call, Smith. Towards the end, he couldn’t speak. His vocal cords were failing him. All he could do was grunt while he was grasping for air. And then, nothing.”

    Smith looked at the photo, then back at DiNozzo.

    “He died, Smith. Didn’t take long to connect you to the crime, once the local TV news ran their stories on his death—”

    “Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?”, Smith interjected, turning his glare back to his interrogator's eyes. “You want to know if I killed this man.”

    “You offering to confess?” DiNozzo went to the chair next to the door and picked up a notepad and pen, then walked back and tossed both onto the surface of the table. “Don’t you dare leave a thing out.”

    Smith looked at the pad and pen, picked the pen up as if to write, then threw it and the pad against the wall to his right.

    “So that’s how this is going to be,” DiNozzo muttered. “You’re on thin ice, pal—”

    “MacIntyre was dead before he suffered that unfortunate malady,” Smith said, with a calmness that made Tony feel as if his spine had instantly been encased in ice. “He is one of millions of victims and there will be more.”

    “You—”

    You, Agent DiNozzo, are no fool. You seem to be a wise man, underneath the façade you wear around your teammates. Open your eyes. How many tragic deaths have befallen those in the military, the government, the media, lately? How many more will there be? Who is behind their deaths, Agent DiNozzo?”

    DiNozzo pointed to the monitor – which, thanks to the tech in the observation room, now showed the photo of the dead MacIntyre’s visage, frozen in agony – while never breaking eye contact with Smith. “He is the focus here, Smith.”

    “There are many things going on behind the scenes that will soon affect us all, Agent DiNozzo, but because I see you are a persistent man—”

    “Damn right.”

    “I will answer your question, after asking a question of my own: do you truly think I killed that man?”

    “Are you serious?”

    “I did not kill Gunnery Sergeant MacIntyre, if that is what you are asking. I could not save him, but I could spare others, and I have. It is why you and your people are alive.”

    “You’re—”

    “I am not finished speaking, Agent DiNozzo. I have much to say in so little time. I know you have recording devices and I know you and some of the people behind the glass have excellent memories, so stay silent while I give my ‘confession’, as it were. I work for a secret agency that is attached to no government. This agency was formed by citizens of the world to bring about peace, to prevent war between the two great powers. This agency, sadly, came to the conclusion that such a conflict was inevitable. That conflict, Agent DiNozzo, may not completely destroy the world but will devastate it. What we – I, and others like myself – do is to save who we can, however we can.

    “There are many who would profit in some way from a Third World War. They know unless an outside force that doesn’t exist were to subjugate the entire world, that such a war is now inevitable with the next two to five years. They have set into motion the machinery that will expedite the war. They will save themselves, if at all possible, and leave the people to fend for themselves. You prosecute me for the death of one man. You need to see the bigger picture.”

    DiNozzo finally sat down, with the folder, pad and pen in his lap. “If you’re trying to talk your way out of—”

    “I am not finished, Agent DiNozzo.”

    “You’re not making any sense, Smith.”

    “The bigger picture, sir. Ask why your government is allowing thousands to die while it and its corporate masters speed towards a war that will destroy them. Ask why your government has no plan right now besides sending as many panicked people as possible into the unknown at the last minute, to other worlds, instead of making peace with the Soviets. Ask why their grand plan to save the nation is modeled after the Jewish myth of the Exodus. Ask why their answer is to profit and flee while the people run—”

    The door into the interrogation room opened unexpectedly, but DiNozzo didn’t see either Gibbs or Coburn walk in. He saw eight men in black suits and ties and sunglasses, six of which aimed submachine guns right at him. The other two picked Smith up by his arms and carried him out of the room.

    Over DiNozzo’s protests, the six men didn’t leave until one got some kind of order in his earpiece. They swiftly ran out of the room, ran down the hallway and ran out of the building; he started to run after them, then heard banging from the door leading into the observation room. Moments later, he was thrown against the wall by a charging McHenry, who had managed to break down the door (and nearly break his own shoulder, and DiNozzo’s back, in the process).

    DiNozzo and the others ran to the parking lot, but the eight men in black, and Smith, were long gone. They were never found, and MacIntyre’s case was never officially solved.

    The present

    Monday, May 21, 2007

    Washington, D.C., United States of America


    Oftentimes, Gibbs retreated after a long day at the office to his basement, where he mused on things while working on the boat that he perpetually built and rebuilt.

    Whenever he was done putting the frame together, or sanding or varnishing the wood, he would sit down at his workbench and pour himself a bottle of bourbon.

    Tonight was par for the course. That damned note stuck with him, in a way he couldn't shake no matter what. He sat on the stool at the workbench, pulled the note out of the back of his wallet, and opened it. With an empty glass and a mostly-filled bottle of Jim Beam next to him on the bench, Gibbs read the note for, seemingly, the hundredth time:

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

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

    i know shes serving but i miss mommy.


    For the fifth time that evening, Gibbs poured himself another shot of bourbon and emptied it in a single swallow, then folded the note and put it back in his wallet. He then walked over to the other side of the bench, opened a manila folder, and read the file on his team's most recent case.

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

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

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

    Gibbs thought back to what he was told about the Army/Air Force Command D facility near New York City, and about the bastards working there. He wondered if Ari was still working with them; Gibbs had a bullet waiting should that particular bastard show up anywhere near himself or his team.

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

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

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

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

    There has been no official comment out of Moscow--

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

    Washington

    Rock Creek Park


    Tim McGee loved coffee, craved it even.

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

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

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

    Traffic was a little heavier nowadays – the drivers having the same idea McGee did about when to leave for work – but it still flowed well enough. Any slowdowns or stops were due to jams, or the occasional fender-bender, instead of government checkpoints.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    That's Director Shepard's car.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Assistant Director Riley McCallister.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Twenty minutes later -- after a passing DC Metro police van recharged his battery -- McGee went on his way, and drove as fast as he could towards the Navy Yard.
     
    Part One: Chapter 2
  • Chapter 2

    Washington, D.C.

    Navy Yard, NCIS Headquarters

    8:36 a.m.


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

    She patted the head of her pet terrier, Toni, whose presence in the building went against agency regulations; thanks to a word from Gibbs, Director Shepard had allowed it to slide. The mug of coffee on her desk on the other hand was allowed, and she was on her 12th refill in the past 11 hours.

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

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

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

    PRESIDENT REFUSES TO BUDGE

    BOMB KILLS 32 IN TEL AVIV: MOSSAD DIRECTOR AMONG DEAD

    SWISS BORDERS WON'T CLOSE TO PANICKED CIVILIANS

    COSTA RICA PROTESTS NICARAGUAN INTRUSION

    NORTH KOREA PRAISES SOVIETS, DENOUNCES WEST -- AGAIN

    INDIANAPOLIS STILL IN THE DARK

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

    TENSIONS FLARE BETWEEN REFUGEES, ACTIVISTS IN MIAMI

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

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

    Kate heard Toni growling, then looked up and saw DiNozzo and Ziva walking to their desks.

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

    "I couldn't sleep, DiNozzo," Kate said, instantly regretting she had said anything to the nosy senior agent. After working nearly five years together, and even with his preoccupation Ziva, he still couldn't keep his nose out of Kate's business.

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

    "You interested in a date, Tony?"

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

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

    "I bet you couldn't," he said, walking to Kate's desk. "A girl...was it Abby?"

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

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

    Surprised to bump into her, he turned around.

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

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

    DiNozzo chuckled. "You--"

    Ziva grabbed Tony, threw him to the ground to where she was sitting behind him, then 'lightly' put him in a rear naked choke. A second-year jiu-jitsu student would've been able to escape the hold, but DiNozzo had no jiu-jitsu experience.

    "I...feel my...head still on my shoulders," he whispered, as Kate (holding Toni) stood wide-eyed. She had come to accept Ziva as a teammate and a friend, but still was somewhat wary of her Mossad-trained side.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Quiet Miss Smartypants," DiNozzo replied. "Gibbs – as you should be able to tell, Probie – isn't here yet, but as Senior Field Agent and acting boss in the boss's absence, you can tell me whatever you want to tell the boss."

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

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

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

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

    "What?"

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

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

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

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

    "DAMMIT, Tony, I don't have TIME for your CRAP!!!" McGee yelled at the older agent. Kate’s mouth flew open, and Ziva bit her lip to suppress a grin. "I need to find Gibbs."

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

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

    "No time like the present, McGee," said Gibbs, coming around the corner into the bullpen with a fresh cup of black coffee in hand. None of the four agents in the bullpen had seen their boss leave the elevator, nor even noticed the elevator’s ding.

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

    "About what, McGee?"

    "Not here."

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

    “What the hell do you think that’s about?”, DiNozzo said to Kate and Ziva as the elevator door closed, McGee with Gibbs in his ‘office’. “Hey…he finally lost his virginity and now she’s pregnant.”

    Kate walked out from her desk and gave Tony a headslap.

    “OW!”, he yelped, after she slapped him “That hurt almost as much as the boss.”

    “She thinks of you as a mischevious pig, and so do I,” Ziva said before Kate could state her reason. Kate and DiNozzo both stared at her for a few moments.

    “I think she means ‘misogynist pig’, and no, I don’t think you are, but you keep acting like one, Tony,” Kate said. “I did that because you deserved it. Why does something sex-related always come to your mind?”

    “I should’ve kept my mouth shut on that, Kate,” he replied, still rubbing the sting out of the back of his head. “McGee’s a McMan – don’t let him know I said that – and I’m sure he’s lost his virginity. Probably.”

    “Tony…”, Kate said.

    “Okay, okay. Maybe he’s telling Gibbs that he accidentially hacked into China. Downloaded the Soviet Premier’s grocery list. Hey: why don’t we ask them when they get off the elevator?”

    “That is the best idea you have had, Tony,” Ziva said, a coy look in her eyes and a smile on her face as she turned to walk back to her desk across from McGee’s, where the bullpen’s secondary video monitor used to sit; it now sat on a stand that bumped up against the right front corner of her desk.

    “Thanks…the best idea since…yesterday, right?”, he said to her. “The best idea since yesterday.”

    Ziva chose not to respond, and looked at her email’s inbox with that coy smile still on her face.

    “I think maybe she means ‘ever’,” Kate said in a loud whisper.

    “I’ve had plenty of good ideas,” he said. “Lots of them.”

    “Of course,” she said, picking Toni off the floor and putting the terrier on her lap. “You snatched your hand away before Toni could bite it off. That was a good idea.”

    “Nip it off,” DiNozzo shot back, before looking at the elevator. “What the hell did Probie do? He really lose his virginity and he’s telling Gibbs since the Admiral won’t—"

    The elevator dinged, getting DiNozzo and Kate’s attention. Moments later, Gibbs ran out of the elevator and into the bullpen, McGee sprinting behind him. "DiNozzo. Kate. Ziva. Where's Ducky?"

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

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

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

    "I’ll explain downstairs," Gibbs said, halfway to the rear elevator that went directly to the forensics lab and to autopsy.

    “On your six, Boss!”, DiNozzo said, as he, Kate (dog in arm) and Ziva ran to catch up.
     
    Part One: Chapter 3
  • Chapter 3

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

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

    --peace protestors at Metropolis University were shouted down by a group sponsored by a conservative think tank--

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

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

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

    "Duck. You have any idea who that examiner might be?," Gibbs asked Ducky.

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

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

    "Start making up a list, Duck, and coordinate with McGee; McGee, you'll be working in the lab with Abby," Gibbs said. "Abs, any other labs besides yours that McCallister could use?"

    "The FBI lab at Quantico," replied Abby Sciuto, NCIS's Chief Forensic Scientist. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Technical Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia, was the primary forensics lab for the FBI and for most federal agencies, a cost-cutting measure put in place by bureaucrats looking for a little more money for defense and homeland security. The FBI lab was also available for use by state and local law enforcement agencies but, due to security reasons, federal agencies always had first dibs on that lab’s use.

    NCIS’s forensic lab was sometimes used by Washington, D.C. police, otherwise, it handled Gibbs’s cases, and infrequently cases from other NCIS field offices. It stayed open because the late director Thomas Morrow lobbied for its exemption, and he didn’t want to lose Abby to another agency or to the private sector.

    “Quantico for the lab work,” Gibbs mused. “Duck. What about the body?”

    “If he wished to bypass my services, the other place he would go would be to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for Washington,” Ducky said. “She was found within the city limits; if she was a civilian the city M.E. would have jurisdiction.”

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

    "Which appears to be what this McCallister is doing, especially since we have yet to hear from him," Ducky said. "The question is why would he do this?"

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

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

    "It is, Ziva, and we have Director Morrow to thank for that,” Ducky replied. “It is why I am still here, and why that policy was put into place: so that we don't have to rely on other agencies, which may or may not be able at the time to accommodate our needs."

    "Which brings us back to the question: what is he trying to hide?", Ziva replied. “He has not even contacted us, except to tell McGee to back off.”

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

    "I not only want to know the answers to those questions, I want to know everything about McCallister we can get. That includes verification of his claim on the director's chair," Gibbs said. "Most of all right now, I want to know how Jenny died and where they took her."

    "Do we want to contact Fornell?", DiNozzo asked regarding Tobias Fornell, the FBI agent who often worked with the team.

    Gibbs shook his head. "Not right now. Leave Fornell to me. Find another way to trace the evidence, and to see where her body might have been taken.”

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

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

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

    "Where are you going, boss?" DiNozzo asked.

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

    Standing behind Ducky off to the older man’s side, Palmer raised his hand. "There's no active crime scene, Agent Gibbs," said the young medical examiner's assistant, who had in recent months gone from nervous and timid to angry and sullen. “He had his own people there processing the scene and taking the body. The scene’s probably cleaned up by now.”

    "There's a crime scene still there, Palmer," Gibbs said. "Ziva, come with me and grab your gear." With that, Gibbs headed out the door, Ziva rushing to catch up.

    "Boss!" "Gibbs!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Still here, sir."

    "Place them under surveillance," said Director McCallister. "I'll deal with Gibbs."
     
    Part One: Chapter 4
  • Chapter 4

    --East German advisors reportedly have been imbedded with Thai People's Army forces since rebel insurgents destroyed a depot on the outskirts of Bangkok last week

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

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

    Washington

    Rock Creek Park


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Mexico

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

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

    "What a waste," muttered the retired agent, who left NCIS when it was still known as the Naval Intelligence Service. He sat in the back between the two NCIS agents he judged to be in their late twenties. "It was a damn good place to retire to."

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

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

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

    "What IS worrying you, sir?" asked the woman on his left.

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

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

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

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

    Navy Yard

    Forensics Lab


    Abby's gut was churning worse than usual.

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

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

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

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

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

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


    UNAUTHORIZED INTRUSION

    USER HAS COMMITTED A VIOLATION OF THE ELECTRONIC AIR AND GROUND LISTENING AND EAVESDROPPING ACT


    "Oh boy," McGee said with a groan.

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

    "A violation of the Eagle Act."

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

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

    Director Shepard's office

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

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

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

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

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

    Rock Creek Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    As Gibbs looked for footprints, his cell phone rang.

    "Find me something, Ziva?"

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

    "Be there in a minute."

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

    "Shooter didn't police his brass," Gibbs said, picking up one of the spent casings off the ground to put it in an evidence bag. “Whoever was here earlier missed that entirely.”

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

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

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

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

    Gibbs wasn't impressed with him, either.

    "Agent Gibbs. Officer David," Director McCallister said. "What in hell are you doing involving yourselves in my investigation?"
     
    Part One: Chapter 5
  • Chapter 5

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

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

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

    NCIS headquarters

    The bullpen


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

    Minutes later they debriefed in the elevator.

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

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

    "Not so far. You?"

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

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

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

    "Maybe she had business elsewhere?" Tony mused.

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

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

    Forensics lab

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

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

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

    "Stop saying that too, McGee!!!"

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

    The morgue

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

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

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

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

    "Yes. How may I help you?"

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

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

    "What, may I ask, am I signing for and, most importantly, may I ask who you are?!?" he replied.

    The woman didn’t answer. Moments later, the other suits returned, wheeling in two gurneys with body bags. Ducky and Palmer walked over, unzipped both bags, and they saw the bodies of Jenny and her driver.

    Washington

    En route to the Navy Yard


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

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

    "This caravan is a pale imitation of what would accompany John Boehner,” McCallister said. “They're calling this the 'Year of Four Presidents'. Broome – who did good work for this country – was assassinated. His successor couldn't keep it in his pants, and the next one cracked under the pressure. The fourth, and current, holder of the office within the last 11 months has much, much more security than I do."

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

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

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

    "My case?"

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

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

    "Debrief us on what?"

    "Two of your agents accessed restricted material without proper authorization. Another not only spoke of this incident to you against my direct orders, he also just violated a federal security act attempting to access classified information. On your orders, by the way, which technically makes you an accessory, just like the agency's chief forensic scientist. However, because it’s part of my job to know how the rules work and where to find the loopholes and cracks, I've made all those violations null and void. I just saved your all of your asses, Gibbs. I think a ‘thank you, Director’ is the least you can say right now.”

    "Thanks...'Director',” Gibbs said with a smirk.

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

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

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

    "I'd expect no less," McCallister replied. "Alright. Before I set you loose to find out exactly how that happened, we're going to have a conversation in my office about who's in charge and how the chain of command works now. And, how I expect my agents and employees to conduct themselves on the job. Your agents conduct themselves like high schoolers. The lab technician dresses like a liberal pinko rock and roller. You yourself?"

    "Yeah?"

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

    Gibbs pondered, for a moment, what to say that the new director might want to hear. The next moment he mentally headslapped himself. The hell with telling him what he wants me to say.

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

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

    "If you say so...'Director'."

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

    Gibbs and McCallister got out of their SUV and were joined by Ziva, and met the rest of the team in the garage.
     
    Part One: Chapter 6
  • Chapter 6

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

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

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


    Navy Yard

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

    While Gibbs went upstairs to talk with McCallister, his agents went to the bullpen to work on their ends of the case. McCallister's men and women in black stayed silent, unmoving and unreacting, to the agents and employees unnerved by their presence. Nothing -- including the hushed whispers that something bad had happened to Director Shepard -- fazed them.

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

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

    She got DiNozzo’s attention instantly.

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

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

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

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

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

    "Ice???"

    "Yes."

    "On edge, Ziva," he said, looking at Kate and McGee, then around the entire floor. He stepped out in front of the main video monitor in the bullpen.

    "Campfire,” he said, loud enough to get Kate and McGee’s attention. “My desk."

    He went back to his desk, grabbed his chair and pushed it into the aisle, then called the others once more to join him and Ziva. They pulled their chairs over, and DiNozzo pulled his out to the side of his desk, forming a circle.

    “Since when does the NCIS director have people watching us?”, McGee said. “This is the kind of thing they probably do in Russia.”

    “East Germany, Cuba, North Korea, and on and on,” DiNozzo said. “I don’t think they’re Mustache’s secret police.”

    “This is quite unusual,” Ziva said. “Mossad would be much less obvious. You would still know they were there, but they would not make it so…obvious.”

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

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

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

    Forensics lab

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

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

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

    She needed her tunes.

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

    Morgue

    “We’re going to find out who did this to you, Director,” Ducky said to the dead body of Jenny Shepard, laying on one of the steel, grey slabs, covered only by a sheet. “Normally, Mr. Palmer assists me, but today we have a couple of guests observing us.”

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

    “I apologize for any intrusion, but their presence, I am told, is a necessity,” Ducky added. “I will, of course, respect your modesty as best as I can.”

    Neither reacted in any way to his talking to a corpse. Since he couldn't get rid of them, Ducky decided to have a little fun.

    "When we perform an autopsy, the first thing we do is to conduct an external examination," Ducky told them, noting photographs and x-rays are taken as well as fingerprints, and clothing is closely inspected. "Are there any distinguishing marks on the body, such as a birthmark or a tattoo? How tall is the deceased, and how much does he or she weigh? You've already witnessed this, of course, and I'll trust you both to keep the director's weight between the four of us."

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

    Palmer brought over a tray filled with medical tools.

    "Thank you, Mr. Palmer."

    "You're welcome, doctor."

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

    Again, there was no reaction from either suit.

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

    "Of course."

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

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

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

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

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

    Ducky and Palmer chuckled.

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

    Ms. Suit finally raised her eyebrow and left it there.

    The director's office

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

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

    "What have you heard, Gibbs?"

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

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

    "Yeah, it is," Gibbs replied.

    “When we wrap this up, we’ll go after the bastard who killed him. Haswari’s been on my list for a while, now.”

    “Could’ve used an extra hand or two.”

    “Unfortunately, we had bigger bastards to track down.” McCallister said, in that tone of voice that suggested to Gibbs the other man didn’t want to talk about who they were tracking down or why.

    "Looks like you took control of special ops during Jenny's watch,” Gibbs said.

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

    "Jenny knew what she was doing."

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

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

    "How so?"

    "She thought he killed her father, and decided to hunt him down, without regard for his value to the agency nor to national security."

    "Hell of an accusation," Gibbs said. "What's your evidence?"

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

    "And?"

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

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

    "I was the assistant director, right behind her on the food chain and it was my job to know what happened to her and how, as quickly as possible," McCallister said. "I didn't want to wait."

    "You figure it out yet?"

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

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

    "Need-to-know basis, Gibbs."

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

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

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

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

    The bullpen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    LA GRENOUILLE


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

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

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

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

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

    "Need to know," DiNozzo shot back. "Come on damnit!"

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

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

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

    Ziva headed right for the back elevator, to the others' confusion. Moments later, the main elevator door opened up, showing FBI Special Agent Tobias Fornell.
     
    Part One: Chapter 7
  • Chapter 7

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

    Arlington, Virginia

    The Pentagon


    Colonel Steven Trevor sat at the table in what was being called The Situation Room, a room 12 floors below ground on the south side of the Pentagon facility. He was part of a group of high-ranking officers from all five branches of the United States military -- directly below the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- who gathered regularly to debriefings on important political and military events.

    Things didn't get much more important than the death of the leader of the Soviet Union.

    A 15-foot-long high definition monitor hung from the near wall in the rectangle-shaped room, and the officers were all turned towards it. Normally, the monitor showed the Joint Chiefs who would be elsewhere in the building, in an equally secured room (with one member in an unknown location elsewhere, acting in the role of 'Designated Survivor').

    Today, all but one of the members were in the room, standing in front of the monitor. U.S. Army General Samuel Lane, first among equals in the group, spoke to the room.

    "What I have told you has been verified several times over and we are telling you this now," Lane said. "Zhukov has been deposed. Officially, he will have died of natural causes. The Agency is convinced it was otherwise, although it can't yet tell us how it thinks Zhukov was killed. This information has not yet gotten out to the public although all state-run media has switched to somber classical music -- a sure-fire sign someone high-up has died. Our people inside the Soviet Union tell us people on the street and in the government are already beginning to talk. That's not the concern here, though."

    Lane paused for effect.

    "Khalinin, the head of the Red Army, has taken over their country. Zhukov could be reasoned with. Khalinin has been planning for war at least as long as we've known about him. You may recall he was involved in the Putsch that led to the death of Putin."

    And a lot of other things, Trevor thought.

    "War has not been declared by anyone, us or them. But as of this moment, at the request of the President himself, this military will prepare for it. When -- if -- it comes, we will be ready. We will go above and beyond in carrying out our duties, no matter what. Your packets will be waiting for you when you return to your desks. You have your assignments."

    With a nod from Lane, those seated at the table stood up. "Dismissed," Lane said, turning on his heel to leave, his aide alongside him and the rest of the Joint Chiefs alongside him. The other officers followed them out, going their separate ways.

    Trevor walked 200 yards to an elevator, and took it down two more flights, then walked another 60 yards to a room designated 'FILES'. After his retina was scanned, he entered the room, and went to a back room, locked the door, and placed a call.

    "She better be there," he muttered, and four rings later the person he dialed picked up on the other end of the call. "Hindenburg is dead. Heinrich is in control," he said.

    Moments later, the woman Trevor called spoke. "My god."

    "I'm not waiting for them to declare Exodus. You have my authority to conduct full operations. You trust this man?"

    She paused. "With my life."

    "Good. We need good people."

    "But his people come along."

    Trevor paused. "You know I can't guarantee that--"

    "They're good people too, Colonel. He won't go along if it's just me."

    Trevor looked outside. He needed to get back to his office, soon. "Any screw-ups, Colonel, are on you...and good luck."

    She hung up, and Trevor hoped everyone was wrong about the new Soviet leader.

    Washington

    Navy Yard, NCIS headquarters

    The bullpen


    "Where the hell is Gibbs?" Fornell asked Gibbs's agents.

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

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

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

    "Mine's bigger."

    "Can't be bigger than ours."

    "Trust me. It's big."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Where's Ziva?" Gibbs asked.

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

    "McGee. Find her, get her back here," Gibbs replied, and McGee headed towards the back elevator. DiNozzo got up to join McGee, but Gibbs held his hand up, looked his senior agent in the eye and gestured with a nod toward’s DiNozzo’s desk.

    DiNozzo got the message and sat down, and Gibbs turned his attention to Fornell. "What'cha doin' here, Tobias? Making yourself at home?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Forensics lab

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

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

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

    "General Secretary Zhukov is dead."

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

    "Are you certain?"

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

    "So if that is happening there--"

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

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

    "Yes."

    "Are you recalling me back to Israel?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "No accident?!? Are you suggesting--"

    "There are many who would find value in the assassination of the head of an American intelligence agency. There are many who would profit from such an assassination. That includes the man who took her place," he said. "I have worked with him in the past. He is a dangerous man. He is loyal to his country, but he is not above killing his own to advance that country’s goals and, perhaps, to advance his own--"

    "Father, are you suggesting he murdered Jenny for her job?"

    "Ziva. If not for Khalinin’s ascendancy to the head of the Soviet Union, I would have expected the Americans to begin questioning him. This news is already leaking out; if it has gotten to me it no doubt has gotten to the rest of the American intelligence community. Watch your back…and tell Gibbs and his people the same.”

    “Father, I cannot leave my team—”

    “Have you forgotten already you are Mossad?”

    “I have not, but—”

    “Neither have I, Ziva. I will make arrangements for you to return to Israel within the day."
     
    Part One: Chapter 8
  • Chapter 8

    --although the very thought is laughable, leaders within the Russian emigre community here in Chicago say they will fight any attempt to separate American citizens of Russian descent into camps—

    --and now, instead of telling people about Jesus, Jim Bakker is using his popular PTL Club show to sell thousands of his pre-mixed 'great disaster' food buckets per day—

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

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


    Quantico, Virginia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "You're guessing McCallister?"

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

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

    "What are you talkin' about, Tobias?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Gibbs took a gulp of his coffee. He had so many questions for Fornell, and his mind told him something was hinky about what he had just been told. His gut told him his friend was on the level. "So the Soviets are planning to start World War III. Just like '86."

    "1986 was fought over the Arabian oil and the Israeli coup. This time the Soviets and their allies are in Korea, Africa, Central America, Europe, plus the Middle East. In '86 they only nuked Cairo and Wuhan. Now? Those might be the only places not nuked."

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

    "He did, but he's not in power anymore. Their military staged a putsch, and put one of their own in the big chair. The Bureau's gonna be gearing up for war real soon. You, too." Fornell turned off the running engine and air conditioner. "I can't tell you anything more, especially military-wise," he said. "You might be able to find out something with your Navy and Marine contacts.” He opened his door. “Let's go inside. That thing with Diane is for real and your other ex-wives are involved."

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

    Navy Yard

    The elevator


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "I don't care right now if you are Senior Field Agent," she said, right in his face. "Some things in my life stay private. It was hard enough for me to get here as a woman. If these people we investigate know I'm gay? My career is ruined."

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

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

    "Her name is Jeanne," he said.

    "Jeanne?"

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

    Kate, her arms folded, softened a little bit.

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

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

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

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

    Forensics lab

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "I am not leaving," Ziva said.

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

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

    "YOUR DUTY IS TO ISRAEL!"

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

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

    "I will send Segev to you--"

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

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

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

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

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



    END OF PART ONE
     
    Part Two: Chapter 9
  • Chapter 9

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

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

    --security tightened around Pact embassies in Western and neutral countries--

    --"…last year's incident with the Siberian oil fields was the greatest ecological disaster in the Soviet Union since its test of a 100-megaton nuclear bomb in 2000. Could it be, maybe, that this Khalinin fellow taking charge means the Soviets are making a move to get access to natural resources they lost with that debacle? I’m not saying, necessarily, anybody had Zhukov killed, I’m just saying, look at who benefits from his death and why.”--


    Washington

    Navy Yard, NCIS headquarters

    The bullpen


    Each of Gibbs’s team members returned to their desks, each wary of the suits standing silently nearby.

    Kate thought they weren’t just getting on her and her teammates’ nerves, they also were getting on the nerves of everyone else who worked in the building – except for McCallister -- and anyone passing through.

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

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

    Kate briefly checked on the others in the bullpen. Ziva seemed to be not bothered at all by the suits’ presence and, in fact, had let Kate know she too was aware of the woman near the staircase, and tried to let Kate know she had her back. Kate relaxed at that; it had taken some time for Kate to go from being wary of the Mossad officer to considering her as a close friend. It had taken time for Ziva to warm up to the team, but she had loosened up and embraced them as friends. Kate felt much safer with Ziva nearby and Gibbs on the premises – and it didn’t hurt that Ziva could probably take out the woman, and at least half of the other suits, by herself.

    McGee appeared to be a little more relaxed, Kate noted, after he returned from the lab. He focused on his PC’s screen, wrapped up in whatever he was doing. Although he would always be Tony's 'probie', McGee had become a competent and dependable agent in just a few years. Kate was sure the suits wouldn't easily faze him.

    She was most concerned about DiNozzo. She had learned the various sides of the senior field agent since joining the team, including the jokester side that usually covered up his more serious, focused side. She knew him about as well as anyone on the team, and she had noticed how much Jenny’s death had shook him up. DiNozzo hadn’t changed much outwardly, but she kept a close eye on him anyway; if he lost focus or began acting aggressively or did something unlike his usual self, Kate was ready to step in, knowing everyone else would do the same. They all were looking out for one another, especially with their boss being an unknown, and potentially hostile, entity.

    Navy Yard

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

    McCallister knew full well Shepard’s death would leak out very soon; some of the suits were reporting back about whispered discussions of rumors of Shepard’s death. The fear of God that some of the suits were trying to put into the rank-and-file was having some success in shutting down the scuttlebutt, but McCallister knew he’d have to make an announcement very soon, probably by the end of the day.

    He wasn't yet ready to formally announce himself as the new director. He sent emails to the regional directors, department heads and special agents in charge over each office, and the Secretaries of Defense and the Navy were aware. McCallister spent – wasted, he thought – too much time explaining to SECNAV how he would run an agency he had just taken over. All McCallister wanted was to be left alone by the politicians, so he could devote every second to nailing down which direction he wanted NCIS to go in, then running the agency accordingly.

    "We're wasting too much goddamned time," McCallister muttered to himself as his cell phone rang. He kept a sudden string of obscenities from escaping his lips as he answered the call.

    "McCallister."

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

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

    Virginia

    Fornell and Gibbs contacted their ex-wife Diane, who currently was working as an agent for the Internal Revenue Service. She told them the ex-wives wanted to know from Gibbs if they could stay with him, should things escalate out of control or – as Diane put it – ‘go FUBAR’. Gibbs tried to tell Diane he was staying put in D.C.; she was convinced he had an escape bunker up in Pennsylvania, ready to flee to should the Soviets send troops into West Germany, and demanded access for herself and the other two ex-wives, Stephanie and Rebecca, and their immediate families.

    Gibbs finally hung up on her.

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

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

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

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

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

    "Not far enough."

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

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

    "You got enough to take him on?"

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

    San Diego, California

    Naval Base San Diego


    The SUV pulled up to the entrance of the building that the San Diego field office was located in; when it stopped, two agents and Mike Franks got out. The first thing Franks did was pull out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from his jacket.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Special Agent in Charge Carter will go over that with you," Ashley said, as Pete -- the other agent who met Franks in Mexico and accompanied him here -- burst through the front entrance. Their team had just caught a case and they both had to get to the scene ASAP. As both left, Franks watched them go, and saw a sedan tear out of the parking lot a couple of minutes later.

    Franks finished his cigarette, then went inside looking for the head. Finishing his business there, he looked around until he spotted his luggage by a desk, and the baby-faced probationary agent sitting there.
     
    Part Two: Chapter 10
  • Chapter 10

    Monday, May 21, 2007


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

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

    --all cars racing this week here in Charlotte leading into Saturday's Busch Series CARQUEST Auto Parts 300 and Sunday's Nextel Cup Coca-Cola 600 races will have Old Glory on their hoods. There also will be a special anti-Communist decal on the #3 car of none other than the legendary Dale Earnhardt himself--


    Washington

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

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

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

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

    "At least a few months, going back before his job in your agency's special ops program," Fornell said.

    “You didn’t think of saying something to me?”

    "You know I couldn’t do that, Jethro.”

    “Can you tell me something about what you found on him?”

    “Well, Jethro, the guy's slippery. Nothing that would make us arrest him right now. Lots of stuff that made you wonder what the hell he was into.”

    “Like what?”

    “Sorry. Active investigation. Can’t give you details.” Gibbs sighed in frustration. “But, Jethro, you’ll probably find out the same things we did. You ever meet the guy?”

    “This part of the investigation, Tobias?”

    “Come on, Jethro. I’m not investigating the guy. I’m just asking you a question.”

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

    The line of cars trying to get into the Navy Yard began moving suddenly, and in less than a minute Fornell and Gibbs could see the shack, guards and dogs.

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

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

    "Jethro...be real careful. You and your people. I’m not saying he’s as bad as Ari, but if the rumors are half-true this guy would make Ari look like Santa Claus."

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

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

    "You have anything to give me?" Gibbs barked at the team.

    "Uh, boss--"

    "No, Gibbs."

    "Not yet, Gibbs."

    "Abby's still working--"

    "OH GOD!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Maybe we should put that out to the media,” Kate quipped, after DiNozzo failed to speak up.

    Gibbs gave her a momentary glare, then looked around at the suits moving back to their positions, noticing one of them talking into a cell phone. "You have anything for me?" he said to his team

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

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

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

    Gibbs turned to DiNozzo, who looked around at the various suits, all staring at them.

    --SLAP!—

    "DiNozzo!"

    "Car's in the garage," Tony said straightforwardly, looking around at the suits.

    "DiNozzo, you got something else for me?"

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

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

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

    An exasperated Gibbs turned around, facing DiNozzo, who held up his desk phone’s earpiece. "Boss. The director wants to talk to you."

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

    "Gibbs."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Don't like predators, Director," Gibbs said, causing the woman to freeze in her tracks. "Ask Ari how I handle predators. You could have asked Kyle Boone, too, if he was still alive. "

    DiNozzo jumped right in front of the woman and pointed his handgun at her forehead and Ziva, McGee and Kate had their own weapons drawn. The other suits, looking on, had their hands on their weapons, while the regular workers were frozen in their chairs or hiding under their desks.

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

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

    Two suits sprinted towards the woman, grabbing her arms and restraining her. Moments later, Gibbs looked up and saw McCallister himself at the top of the stairs, looking down at them all before he announced himself.
     
    Part Two: Chapter 11
  • Chapter 11

    Monday, May 21, 2007


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



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



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



    --flags at World Bloc embassies and consulates throughout the world are flying at half-mast after the announcement of Zhukov's death--


    San Diego

    NCIS field office


    Franks sat in a folding chair across from an earnest, bright-eyed, mild-mannered young man whose badge identified him as NCIS probationary agent Mitchell Conley but – to Franks – looked like he still belonged in high school.

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

    "I have a criminal justice degree from UCLA and was fortunate enough to do extremely well at FLET-C," Conley said. "I was hired three months ago and assigned to San Diego. It's a very challenging and interesting job."

    Franks kept his opinion on that to himself; he'd ask Conley's boss why NCIS was putting probies in a high-profile field office like San Diego. "So why aren't you out with your team on its case, son?" Franks asked.

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

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

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

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

    Neither did Agent Carter, who returned to the office earlier than expected. The athletic, confident woman said very little about her team's case, and declined Franks's offer to help them. Instead, she wanted to talk about where he would stay. During a nearly 40-minute-long conversation, Franks judged that she wanted to get rid of him. After learning their case wasn't serious enough for him to pull rank, he decided to listen to his gut: it was time to get out of there.

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

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

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

    "No." Franks shook his head emphatically.

    "Excuse me, sir?"

    "I'm not gonna go live there."

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

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

    “Baja California is not an option right now and for the foreseeable future--:

    “Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s what you tell me. But I didn’t say Baja. I said I know where I want to go.”

    “That’s what I’m trying to help you with, Agent Franks,” Carter replied, wondering where this conversation was going.

    “Then let’s wrap this up right now,” Franks said. "How soon can you get me on a C-130?"

    Washington

    Navy Yard, NCIS headquarters

    McCallister's office


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

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

    "So I've heard, Director," Gibbs replied. He looked around the room again; other than the alcohol on the bar, every trace of Jenny Shepard had been wiped clean. Even her secretary, Cynthia Sumner, was gone, replaced by a young man who Gibbs couldn't quite get a read on. And, there were the armed guards at the doors to the reception area and to McCallister's office. There was no sign of the two agents who normally stood outside reception.

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

    "They’re ours, right? Or are they yours?", Gibbs asked, staring the new director down.

    McCallister chuckled, at Gibbs’s attempt at intimidation and at what he was implying with his question. "They’re all NCIS, Gibbs. Some are from special ops, some from other field offices around the world. Several came from FLET-C in Georgia."

    “I don’t recall ‘hovering over your agents and employees and making them nervous’ being taught at FLET-C.”

    “It’s an…unconventional introduction, I’ll admit. These are unconventional times. They’re as much NCIS as you and I are.”

    Gibbs smirked; he kept his eyes locked with McCallister’s, looking for a ‘tell’ that would confirm his suspicions that McCallister was up to no good. "They're making my people nervous, Director."

    "Understand, Gibbs, they're there for security," McCallister said, keeping his eyes locked with Gibbs’s, willing himself to win whatever game Gibbs was playing here. "When my top field team is investigating the death of the Director of NCIS, I want them protected as best as possible. I trust people, Gibbs, not drones and electronics."

    And my ex-wives only wanted the furniture, thought Gibbs. "One of them made a move toward one of my people just now.”

    “Oh?” McCallister was surprised, just enough that he looked away from Gibbs, who kept his eyes locked on the director’s.

    “Yeah. That I won't stand for."

    McCallister pondered for a few moments who Gibbs was talking about; he had told his people specifically how to act around Gibbs and his team, and others around the Navy Yard.

    Then, he realized who the harasser was. God damn it! "Is that agent tall, lean, short blond hair, and female?"

    "Yeah."

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

    "Had? Something happened."

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

    "She got better enough for you to put her down there."

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

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

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

    The director paused, and his countenance softened a little. "In fact, that brings me to my next point. I wanted to update you on some people you've worked with. Agent G Callen. You two worked together undercover in the Soviet Union, with Shepard."

    “This isn’t good news you’re about to drop on me, is it?”

    “No, Gibbs,” McCallister said, his voice catching just a tad. “Callen…came to me from the Agency. Hetty wanted me to make him SAC but Clair…Clair was already in the spot. I made him her SFA. You already know we did our work undercover, around the globe—”

    “What happened to Callen, Director?”

    “There was a case in Iraq involving Spetsnaz imbedded with a particularly nasty group of insurgents. Our base was bombed; I lost good people there, Gibbs. Granger. Lange. Hanna. Callen survived only because he wasn't on base; he was embedded with some friendlies in a village nearby. It was hell inside the base; communications was down so there was no way to get thru to him. Clair and I and a group of SEALs made our way there to extract him. That’s when we found out he hadn’t made it. I'm sorry, Gibbs.."

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

    “I couldn’t read you in until right now, because Director Shepard put a gag on the incident. Knowing you and your relationship with her, Gibbs, I’m honestly surprised you didn’t know.”

    What other secrets did Jenny have? Gibbs thought. What else died with her?

    "I have better news regarding a couple of people you've worked with," McCallister continued. "Agent Stan Burley is temporarily serving as Agent Afloat on the USS Gretsch in the Persian Gulf until our man there recovers from some type of flu-like sickness he picked up a few weeks ago. I checked in earlier with Paula Cassidy in Panama City. She’s doing a good job there.."

    "Heard from Stan a couple of months ago, and DiNozzo talked to Cassidy last month. Got another name for you: can you track down Mike Franks?"

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

    "San Diego."

    "Yeah, San Diego. I'm sure Agent Carter there can tell you where he is. Now, while I'm enjoying our talk, I'm busy as hell and I know you are, too. Just one more thing." McCallister walked over to a file cabinet behind his desk, pulled out a drawer and took it back to the conference table, dumping it in front of Gibbs. "I'm missing a folder, Gibbs. Rene Benoit. La Grenouille."

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

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

    McCallister got up, walked over to his office door and opened it. "Whatever you need to find Shepard's killer, you'll have it. But I do want that folder back, first thing tomorrow. Get it from them, and take it home if you want, read it. But make damn sure it’s on my desk first thing tomorrow."

    Gibbs got the message, taking his coffee with him to the door. He stopped and turned around. "Your woman, Clair. Tell her to stay the hell away from all of my people." Then Gibbs headed out.

    McCallister pondered the man and found himself both respectful and wary of Gibbs. That bastard’s definitely one to keep an eye on, he realized.

    The bullpen

    Gibbs looked around for Clair; not seeing her anywhere, he walked over to McGee and leaned over his shoulder. "Take this," Gibbs said in his ear while handing him Fornell's flash drive. "Do not look at it here or in the lab. When you get home, go through it with a fine-tooth comb, find whatever's on the damn thing and bring it to me at the house."

    "What's on this drive--"

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

    They headed to the elevator, and the suits standing at each side of the door gave way after Gibbs gave him his glare. Inside, once the door shut and Gibbs hit the switch to lock it in place, he briefly looked at them both and decided to make this as quick as he could. “Where’s the folder?”

    DiNozzo and Kate looked at each other. “I have it, Gibbs,” she said. “We were in Jen—his office, and found it. I…wanted to know what was going on with Tony.”

    “Boss,” DiNozzo said to draw Gibbs’s attention (and glare). “This is all on me. Jenny put me on that op—”

    You were under orders,” Gibbs said to DiNozzo, “and you” – he said, turning to Kate – “were looking out for your teammate.”





    DiNozzo looked away. “We’re screwed, aren’t we, Boss?”, he said, with no trace of his usual levity.

    Gibbs paused, then hit the switch that caused the elevator to resume its motion. “Where’s the folder, Kate?”, he said.

    “I’ll show you,” she replied. When the door opened, she walked out first, Gibbs right on her six and DiNozzo right behind him. McGee saw them leave and started to get up from his desk, the flash drive secured in his jacket, but Gibbs subtly shook his head. As McGee sat back down, Kate walked behind Gibbs’s desk, reached underneath and grabbed the folder, and handed it to him.

    “What’re you gonna do with it, Boss?”, DiNozzo asked, as Gibbs put the folder into a copy of that day’s Washington Post. “And where’s Probie going—”

    “He’s working on something,” Gibbs said. “You two go over the evidence, again. You find anything new” – he held up his cell phone – “call.”

    “Where are you going, Gibbs?”, Kate asked, knowing the answer as he walked towards the rear elevator. Which was good, since he didn’t give her, DiNozzo nor McGee one.

    The garage

    “Neither of you found anything new?”, Gibbs asked Abby and Ziva, as they stood next to the Town Car.

    “Nope,” Abby said. “I have everything I need here or in my lab. Gibbs…” Her voice softened, and her gaze fell downwards. Gibbs knew Abby was struggling with Jenny’s death, and had Abby keep as busy as possible to keep her focused on helping solve the case.

    “Yeah, Abs?”

    “I – we – Ziva and I wanted to see Jenny one last time…”

    “I would like to see her as well,” Ziva said, stoically. “Have you been down to the morgue, yet?”

    “That’s where I’m headed,” Gibbs said, intentionally speaking more softly than in his default gruff tone, especially with Abby. “Both of you, with me.”

    The morgue

    They walked into the morgue and saw Ducky standing just inside the doorway, and Kate and DiNozzo standing nearby with Palmer, next to Jenny’s covered body lying on one of the slabs.

    “I took the liberty of asking Anthony, Caitlin and Timothy to join us, Jethro,” Ducky said. “There appears to be a lull in the investigation, which presents an opportunity to remember a member of our family.”

    Gibbs walked to the slab and stood next to Jenny. He allowed the memories of his past with Jenny to flood his mind; working together in Moscow, their romantic encounters, his surprise at having her introduced to him as the new director after Morrow’s death, the numerous times they discussed business – and personal issues -- in FLET-C and in her office, the ribbing she gave him when he and Hollis Mann stood in front of her desk.

    He remembered the sparkle in her eyes, her red hair he found so attractive, her smile he still found endearing.

    People I care about keep dying around me.

    “She told me I could be anything I wanted to be, that my only limits were on myself,” Kate said.

    “She said the same thing to me,” DiNozzo said. “When you..left the agency and went to Mexico, she didn’t treat me any differently as SAC than she did you.”

    “She told me the same thing, too,” McGee said. “After that case with Sarah” – referring to a case where his younger sister, Sarah, was falsely accused of murdering a sailor – “seeing how rough she was on me, and that she was doing her job as director, I looked back and realized I wouldn’t want anyone else to be in charge of NCIS. Especially now.”

    “I have worked with her more than anyone in this room outside of Gibbs,” Ziva added. “She was as good of a partner as anyone I’ve had outside of this room. I trusted her with my life, as she trusted me with her own. She is the reason I came here, and the reason I stay here.” The others smiled at her comment, and Abby gave Ziva a light hug.

    “She told me I could be anything I wanted to be, too,” Palmer said. “Once I believed in myself, everyone else would, and to be bold and confident.”

    “I never really told her how much I appreciated her as a role model,” Abby said. “She was such a great leader, such an inspiration. I never told her how much I loved her style.”

    “It’s not easy being a woman in a man’s world,” Kate added.

    “If she could make it and do what she did, any woman could,” Abby said.

    “She will not be forgotten,” ZIva said. “The way she lived her life, what she did for us, ensures that.”

    Ducky clamped his hand over his mouth and tried to will himself not to shed a single tear. I will not cry; this is a time for remembrance, not for mourning.

    “I have not had the occasion to interact with the Director as you have,” Ducky said to the group. “Even in my limited interactions with the Director, I have never met someone who was more of a force of nature than she…present company excluded,” he added, glancing at Gibbs, whose countenance softened just a bit at hearing the comment. “She was a woman who always knew what she wanted in her life. Some may see that as mere careerism. We know better, that she did so out of a true sense of duty that carried her.”

    “Have you found any family, Duck?” Gibbs asked.

    “No, and I’m not surprised,” Ducky replied. “Her only living relatives are an aunt and a few cousins, none of whom really knew her.”

    “Her life was wrapped up in her career,” Gibbs said.

    “We’re the closest thing to family she’s got—had,” McGee said.

    “No, McGee, we’re her family,” Abby interjected. “When’s the funeral?”

    “The arrangements, such as they are, are apparently in her will,” Ducky said. “I’ve emailed her eldest niece who is the executor. I do know she wished to be cremated. The chaplain is planning a memorial service to be held in the next few days.”

    Gibbs gave his agents a few more minutes to mourn Jenny, then sent them to the bullpen, and Abby back to her lab. Ducky had Palmer take some blood work up to the lab, to give him a few minutes alone with Gibbs.

    Ducky then walked over to his desk after Palmer left and picked up a folder. “She had a brain tumor, Jethro. Her health would eventually have rapidly deteriorated. She would have been in debilitating pain and would have lost her motor skills before succumbing to her disease. As difficult as this sounds, Jethro, her actual cause of death may have been far more merciful.”

    Gibbs paused, looked at Jenny one last time, then walked out without a word.

    He went back up to the bullpen, satisfied to see all four of his agents working at their desks. He got angry for a moment when he spied Clair back on the floor, standing near one of the windows. Then he saw Toni, Kate’s dog, standing watch in front of her owner’s desk, with her water and food bowls nearby.

    That made Gibbs smile, and brought him a moment of happiness in what had been a very dreary day.
     
    Part Two: Chapter 12
  • Chapter 12

    Tuesday, May 22, 2007


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

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

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

    *******

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



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



    "You are saying you are about to tell us the most important thing any of us have heard in our lives."



    "Yes sir."

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

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

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

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

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


    Washington, D.C.

    Gibbs's basement

    12:07 a.m.


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

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

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

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

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

    By all rights, he could bust both of them for snooping around and taking that file. Any other director, even Jenny, would've taken their badges at the very least. Instead of trying to figure out how to get them out of their predicament, Gibbs was learning about an op that DiNozzo was an integral part of, and without him even suspecting Tony was involved.

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

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

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

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

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

    She wished that this second visit was for pleasure.

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

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

    "Termite 'bugs'?"

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

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

    "Went through it myself."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "What kind of 'scuttlebutt'?"

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

    "Talk."

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

    "Cleaner than my basement?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Blonde. Square jawed. Athletic.

    Clair.

    Gibbs's long day was not about to get any better.
     
    Part Two: Chapter 13
  • Chapter 13

    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    Washington, D.C.

    12:40 a.m.


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

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

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

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

    "McCallister's done some very shady things, Gibbs, all the way back to when he got into the spy game," she said. "There was an incident in California when he was SAC of their West Coast division, a case I wasn't allowed to discuss with you before you say anything... Army CID worked with him on a case involving some squids and grunts. All from the same small town in east Texas, all signed up during President Broome's recruitment drive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Lost?"

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

    "I suppose you found something."

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

    "You got proof for this, Hollis?"

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

    "Hollis..."

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

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

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

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

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

    --SLAP!--

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

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

    "Listen to me," she said. "They kept that thing a secret. You had no reason to be aware of them and your directors weren't going to read you in."

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

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

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

    "McGee. Sitrep."

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



    "English, McGee."



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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Tony??? Boss--"

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

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

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

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

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

    "Rule 39."

    "I'm sorry?"

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

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

    Gibbs raised his eyebrows.

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

    "Preparations for what?"

    "Transition to war."

    Neither had anything to add to that.

    "Why are we here, Lieutenant Colonel?"

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

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

    "Sergeant Grayle. Army."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Lots of property; government wanted to protect the Pentagon, figured civilians being so close played into the Soviets' hands," Gibbs added. "Something tells me there's more."

    "You're right. Come on. A little longer and you'll see what I brought you here for."

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

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

    "There are others, Hollis?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "What am I looking at?" Gibbs asked.

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

    "Since when?"

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

    "Exodus...it's not a bomb, is it?"

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

    "Escape, to where?"

    "As insane as this sounds, it's to take people to another planet, another dimension, another universe when the missiles start flying."

    Hollis turned and grabbed Gibbs by the shoulders. "I didn't bring you here for the hell of it, not just to read you in, and not to screw with you. That device is very real, and it may end up saving lives. Mine. Yours and your people."
     
    Part Two: Chapter 14
  • Chapter 14

    Tuesday, May 22, 2007




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


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

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

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

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

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

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

    "How often do they test that thing?"

    "I've been told daily."

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

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

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

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

    "Watch," Hollis said.

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

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

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

    "You could tell this how?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "I'm not exactly sure. Thousands--"

    "How many?"

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

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

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

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

    "Jenny would have known most likely."

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

    "But not assistant directors."

    "If there were time, perhaps."

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

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

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

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

    As he did so, he asked himself where his investigation was heading. Would finding Jenny's killer be the easy part of it? And, would uncovering the reasons behind the murder be what put himself, and his family, in the crosshairs?
     
    Part Two: Chapter 15
  • Chapter 15

    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    Washington, D.C.

    2 a.m. EDT


    The Navy Yard was crawling with activity, with the goal being remaking the facility into an armed and wired camp in one night.

    When Gibbs's team and the other day shift employees were scheduled to arrive for work around 0700, they would see extra security on campus in the form of a few dozen extra suits on campus. Extra surveillance cameras were being installed as well; the threat of Communism had long outweighed the threats to privacy in both government and civilian life.


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

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

    It confirmed what he suspected for weeks: the geopolitical situation was on the proverbial tightrope, teetering between the status quo and total war, and could fall in either direction at any time. Between certain media outlets' patriotism, the Conway Act and aggressive disinformation campaigns, the public was kept ignorant of the true global situation. The last thing the federal government and military wanted was to have deal with mass panic on American streets. Until recently, the feds had managed the flow of information to their favor; however, the facts were very slowly getting out to the Western public, primarily through the internet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Central Europe was the most obvious flashpoint. The USSR had built up its forces over the past 18 months in East Germany and Czechoslovakia, and it was plain that it was in preparation for a land and air attack on West Germany and Austria. West Berlin -- surrounded on all sides by a physical and virtual wall -- had East German and Pact-related forces doubled in the past month.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

    No matter who got in his way.
     
    Part Two: Chapter 16
  • Chapter 16

    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    Washington, D.C.

    2:22 a.m. EDT


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

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

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

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

    "You left out that little detail."

    "I'm telling you, now."

    "Anything else you forgot to tell me?"

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

    Gibbs smirked.

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

    "I do know how to keep a secret, Hollis.”

    “I didn’t doubt that for a second.”

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

    "No one saw that coming, Jethro."

    "You’ve been planning this."

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

    "How many levels?"

    "There's a primary list, for basically anyone you'd expect to be essential to rebuild civilization. The secondary list is for anyone who’s not on the primary list, but helpful in rebuilding society or maintaining order. Tertiary would be anyone they could find on the street before the gates shut down."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Gibbs did so.

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

    "How high?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

    --General Samuel Lane was heckled yesterday outside the Pentagon by a half-dozen students from George Washington and Georgetown universities. Fox News was there live, and remained on the scene as the General left the Pentagon and over four dozen protestors, many representing a group of Vietnam War and Gulf War veterans, arrived--

    --people have been arriving at St. Peter's Basilica to pray for peace since the announcement of the former Soviet premier's death—

    --the Metropolis Daily Planet is reporting that Kansas Senator Martha Kent has broken with the Democratic Party's 'peace plank' --
     
    Part Two: Chapter 17
  • Chapter 17

    Tuesday, May 22, 2007




    --This is the BBC News at Twelve.



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



    The British government has filed a formal protest—



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

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

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


    Navy Yard, NCIS headquarters

    7:04 a.m.


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

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

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

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

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

    The morgue

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Same ones we saw on the Admiral."

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

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

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

    "Me too, Duck."

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

    Forensics lab

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

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

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

    "Abs, you okay?"

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

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

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

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

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

    "Director Morrow," Abby whispered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "And you're not yourself either," he said. "I need everyone at their best right now. Including you."

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

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

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

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

    "Keep spinning 'til you get traction, Kate. You'll work down here with Abby for the time being. When I need you, Palmer will be here with her." He turned and sprinted to the door, and Kate realized her question about how long she was to work in the lab was beside the point.
     
    Part Two: Chapter 18
  • Chapter 18



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



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

    --"Are you there?"

    "Yes. To whom am I speaking?"



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



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



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



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




    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    Bullpen


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

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

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

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

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

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

    "McGee!" she whispered. "This is not the best place to be...conducting such a search. Please tell me you have capped your butt!"

    McGee's eyes widened. Then he figured out what she meant.

    "Ziva, I've covered my tracks," he said. "I do know a little about this stuff."



    "I realize that, McGee. With his people all around us, I believe that exercising extreme caution in such matters is wise."

    "So do I. And by the way, it's 'covered your butt'. 'Capped your butt' would mean I shot myself in the…you know."

    "Why would you shoot yourself in the buttocks?" she asked, confused at his reference.

    "I wouldn't. It's a figure of speech."

    He then pulled up several surveillance camera shots of the shooter's nest, ranging in time from an hour before Jenny was killed to after McGee arrived at the crime scene.

    "Somehow, the shooter managed to avoid being in the direct line of sight of the cameras," McGee said.

    "Which indicates he knew where the cameras were," Ziva added.

    McGee then pulled up four shots he had just been able to access from the civilian firm which operated one of the surveillance networks servicing Rock Creek Park. Unlike the government and military networks, the civilian network's cameras had the best view of the shooter.

    "I see the side of his face," Ziva said. "Zoom in...now a little closer. There. He has brown hair and glasses but the picture is too blurry. Do you have a better picture, McGee?"

    "This is as good it gets," McGee replied. "It's not much but better than nothing. Hopefully we can get some kind of lead off facial recognition."

    Conference Room

    "My name's James McIntosh," said the teenager sitting at the head of the conference table, flanked by Gibbs and DiNozzo. "I'm a sophomore at Columbia Country Day, I'm an only child, my mom works at the State Department and my dad at the--"

    "Kid, we don't need your life history," DiNozzo said. He looked at the kid and saw McGee in high school, with glasses. "You came to us and said you had something we needed to see."

    "That it?" Gibbs asked, pointing to the bag in the seat next to James. The boy nodded and pulled out a video camera he said was high-definition and worth $1,200.

    "I plan to study ornithology at Cornell University," he explained. "I wasn't at school because I got some kind of stomach bug the day before. I felt well enough to take the camera and take pictures of the birds outside."

    "That's when you saw something," Gibbs said.

    "Yes, a man running up to one of the trees I normally observe. I'm certain I was able to briefly capture his face."

    As it turned out, James did in fact get a good look at the shooter's face. The usable footage was just two-and-a-half seconds long but it was enough for Abby to begin running facial recognition on. Gibbs decided to put James and his parents in protective custody; before he called the mother, he stopped at McGee's desk.

    "What's this?" Gibbs asked, looking at the younger agent's screen.

    "I think I know where all these men and women in black came from, Boss," McGee said in a low voice. "Most of them worked with McCallister in San Diego, ranging from seven years to as little as a month."

    "People he knew."

    "If I can nail down where the, ah, new director worked at I'll probably find the others worked with him at one of those places."

    "Good work, McGee. Now what about what I told you to work on?" Gibbs growled.

    McGee headslapped himself. "Uh, sorry Boss," he said as Gibbs looked at him. "Uh, I saw an opportunity to follow up on a hunch, but I also was working on the camera angles from the crime scene. I sent a few dozen frames from the civilian surveillance network to Abby--"

    "Why'd ya' headslap yourself, McGee?"

    "...sorry Boss?"

    "Rule 18, McGee: 'Better to seek forgiveness than ask permission'," Gibbs said, continuing to stare at the junior agent.

    "Yes, Boss, that's right," McGee said. "And I didn't forget anything."

    Gibbs leaned over and looked at some of the frames. Something about the shooter's face looked familiar but he couldn't put his finger on what it was. "You went over everything, McGee?"

    "Yeah, Boss. Nothing more than what you see here."

    "Keep looking, at everything," Gibbs said as he reached in his pocket and handed McGee an envelope. "Triple-check, McGee. Everything. Call FBI on the federal network and Army on the military network if you have to."

    After watching Gibbs turn and head towards the back elevator, McGee looked at the envelope. He saw FBI and Army written on the front, then noticed something in the envelope itself.

    Another flash drive.
     
    Part Two: Chapter 19
  • Chapter 19

    Tuesday, May 22, 2007




    --ZNN's This Date in History: May 22, 2003. President Colin Powell and his party were attacked by the Fighters of God near Army Base Delta outside Kabul, Afghanistan. Five people, including ZNN correspondent Jasmine Carmine, were killed in the ambush. The President's vehicle was able to escape to safety at the base, and the insurgents were killed during the Army's counterattack.--

    --The Communist bloc supported Islamist insurgents and terrorists for the same reasons the West supported anti-Communist insurgents: to disrupt enemy operations and ultimately to destabilize governments sympathetic to the other side. Since former President Reagan's death, this covert front of the Cold War is where the two power blocs have been playing their game of geopolitical chess. The alternative is nuclear. God help us if one side chooses the alternative thinking it can win.--

    --"The Cold War's staying just cool enough to keep from going hot." -- President Broome, January 26, 2007, the day before his assassination--


    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    Forensics Lab


    Ziva picked up an evidence bag and pulled out a shell casing, then looked at it from all angles. Her gut told her she had missed something the first time she went through evidence from the scene, and whatever it was had to be in plain sight.

    "Kate," she whispered so the suits wouldn't easily overhear her. "Do you remember the Afghanistan case from your Secret Service days?"

    Yeah, she thought. That's when I broke Tim's heart.

    Marine Corps Major Timothy Kerry pursued Kate and told her how he felt about her after a razor-thin close call: both narrowly escaped being killed by Stasi-backed Islamists when President Powell's caravan was attacked near Kabul. She then told him her truth, and he was hurt but took it about as well as she hoped. Kate last saw Kerry at a Georgetown restaurant, where he told her about his fiancee.

    Then Gibbs shook her up after informing her of Kerry's death and accusing her of the murder. The agent took her shock (and pallor) as evidence of her innocence; after he apprehended the killer, Gibbs offered her a job working for him at NCIS. Kate had no idea at the time exactly how he knew she wanted out of the Secret Service, but she trusted him enough to take him up on the offer. Gibbs had done his due diligence on her, and suspected she wasn’t guilty of the crime; part of him had regretted having to be so rough on her, but the killer had to be found, and he rationalized if she couldn’t handle his interrogation, how could she be part of his team?

    Kate had proven herself to be invaluable to the team, especially after the incident in Norfolk. NCIS had given her some of the best years of her life -- in spite of certain aggravations -- and the team was her second family. That included Ziva, who had become a close friend. A tiny part of Kate wondered what life would be if they were more than close friends.

    Perhaps that's why Kate wasn't triggered by the reference to that incident, like she would've if someone else had brought it up.

    "Of course. Not easy to forget finding yourself in the middle of an action movie," Kate joked.

    "Look at this," Ziva replied, holding a magnifying glass up to the casing. "The inscription near the base." Kate took a closer look and saw just what had caught Ziva's eye: three Cyrillic letters and a line crossing through closely to the bottom of the lettering.

    "His signature?" asked Kate; Ziva nodded. "If I remember my Russian alphabet that reads--"

    "SDM. I've seen this, before."

    "Is his where Afghanistan comes into the picture?"

    "Yes," Ziva said. "Your President was there to visit one of your military facilities."

    "Army Base Delta," Kate replied. "I was with the President in his vehicle when they ambushed us. We were lucky to be so close to the base; I don't think we would've made it otherwise...so what is it about Afghanistan?"

    Ziva pointed to the letters on the casing. "This inscription was seen on casings at a sniper's nest near the caravan's route. The same--"

    Kate put her hand on Ziva's arm, which surprised -- and silenced -- the Mossad officer. "How do you know about that?"

    "Mossad knows many things," Ziva replied as she looked around at the suits, none of whom were looking back. Ziva double-checked on Abby's whereabouts -- the goth scientist was at her desk -- and turned back to Kate. "I need to speak with Gibbs. And the director."

    Multiple Threat Assessment Center

    Ziva held the bag with the casing as she stood in front of MTAC's main viewscreen, flanked by Gibbs and McCallister. On the screen was her father Eli David, the newly-installed director of Mossad.

    "When my country's Prime Minister, Gadot, was assassinated, Mossad found these casings with this inscription at the sniper's nest," Ziva said. "You have been read in on two assassinations in which I helped investigate. This inscription was found on the sniper's brass in both instances."

    "The shooter didn't bother to police his brass," Gibbs said. "He wanted you to know he did it."

    "That's not unusual," McCallister added, "If you're an elite Spetsnaz or Stasi sniper."

    "We know in the past six years Soviet and Soviet-aligned special forces and intelligence have committed killings in a variety of ways, including the use of snipers," Director David said. "Many of them police their brass, including 'elite' operatives. Some do not."

    "They're sending a message," Gibbs said. "Letting you know who they are."

    "I've heard of these shooters," McCallister said, nodding to a technician who put photos of murdered Western government, military and civilian personnel on the viewscreen. "What they're doing is telling us it's not KGB or whatever killing you, it's me killing you."

    The photos were replaced by mugshots of Communist-aligned operatives. "There's a bastard named Hang, works for the North Koreans. Killed a Japanese software executive and his family. That woman in the corner is known as Svetlana; she had several kills in the Baltic War. Denisov we know to be on loan from the KGB to the Luanda Pact; that bastard nearly got Mandela twice."

    That left the head shot of the shooter from the teenager's camera.

    Gibbs took the bag with the casing from Ziva and held it up to the viewscreen. "This and that" -- he gestured towards the screen -- "are related, aren't they, Director?"

    Director David looked down and to his left; those in MTAC heard ruffling of papers. "I have some new information to share with you, Director McCallister. Agent Gibbs and Officer David should hear this as well."

    McCallister stepped forward. "Director David. I suppose you're about to tell us you know who this man is."

    "That is correct, Director McCallister."

    "Alright." McCallister took a deep breath. "How long has Mossad had this information?"

    "Since early March."

    McCallister took two slow, deep breaths. "Tabling for the moment the question why Mossad waited so long to inform us about someone who tried to kill our President, just who is this man?"

    Director David gave the camera a hard look. "He is like a son to me."
     
    Part Two: Chapter 20
  • Chapter 20

    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    Navy Yard, NCIS headquarters

    Multiple Threat Assessment Center (MTAC)




    "’Like a son’?" Ziva thought her father had told her everything about their family.



    He hadn't.



    "Yes, Ziva." Eli David remained silent, to allow Ziva a few moments for that to sink in.



    “Who is this man?”, McCallister asked, impatiently.

    "His name is Sergei Mishnev,” Eli said. “My son Ari’s mother, and a Soviet officer, are his parents."

    Gibbs glanced over to Ziva to see her reaction; she was putting on her best poker face. Then he glanced at McCallister, who wasn't trying to hide his disgust at the Mossad director. “Director David, now would be an excellent time to explain."

    As Director David explained, he met the mother -- Dr. Hasmia Haswari -- after the Saudi Arabian national had met a Soviet diplomat, had relations with him, got pregnant and later gave birth to a boy. Eli married Hasmia Haswari and, together, they had Ari, Ziva and younger sister Tali.

    “Mossad helped Hasmia rescue her other son, whom the father had named Sergei, and hide him in safety here in Israel,” Eli explained. “Ziva, we felt it best to keep him away from you three children. Even the knowledge of him might tip off the KGB and result in the boy’s capture, and possibly your kidnapping.”

    Ziva stood, silently, pondering what her father had just told her.

    “I began training Sergei at age 12, to be an undercover agent in the Soviet Union which by then had begun to build an alliance with the Israeli government. Four years later, we lost him.”

    “’Lost’ him?” Gibbs said.

    “Sergei’s father used diplomatic channels to regain custody of his son and bring him back to the Soviet Union,” Eli said. “A regrettable occurrence. Sergei’s mother and I had not communicated for quite some time other than on matters involving Sergei himself. We ceased contact after that.”

    Ziva winced at her father’s matter-of-fact recounting of the matter like reciting days-old stock market results.

    “How did Sergei come into contact with Ari?” Gibbs said.

    “After Mossad…lost control of Ari, Sergei, now going by his last name of Mishnev, contacted Ari through a mutual acquaintance working for the KGB, which had an agent embedded within Hezbollah,” Eli said. “Ari accepted the KGB’s offer to come work with Sergei inside the Soviet Union. The Soviets felt they could use Ari, and they did. Sergei played on Ari’s anger towards me, and towards the United States. For my part, I…I failed Ari, and I failed Sergei by not helping him. I wanted...the very best for him. I could not keep him from the KGB. While it is true he was not my progeny, I fell that Sergei was no less of a son to me than Ari."

    Ziva calmly took a step towards the screen. "No less of a son than your actual son?"

    Eli remained silent.

    "And yet you did not tell me this?" Ziva said.

    "There were...many reasons, Ziva. Reasons I was not at liberty to discuss with my other family as a father and as a Mossad officer."

    Ziva looked for an instant as if she was going to let her father have it before glancing at McCallister. She then stepped back, put her hands behind her back and her poker face back on.

    While Gibbs noted that Ziva appeared calm, he couldn't say the same for McCallister, whose face was turning red with anger. "Apparently, you also thought you weren't at liberty to inform the United States that the man who tried to assassinate President Broome was Mishnev. Care to explain that, Director?"

    "It is regrettable, Director McCallister but my hands were tied by my government--"

    "Bullshit!" McCallister screamed, startling Ziva, and went on a rant that finally ended when Gibbs stepped in front of the man and shouted him down. As McCallister glared at him, Gibbs turned to the screen. "Director David, your people can confirm that the Cyrillic lettering and the placement of the line is Mishnev's signature?"

    "Yes."

    "Then what does the middle initial stand for?"

    "David...Director McCallister, again I regret--"

    McCallister abruptly turned to one of the techs and gave him a 'shut-off' hand signal. The screen then went blank, leaving Ziva staring at the screen now showing the NCIS logo, and McCallister fuming at Gibbs.

    "Gibbs. With me," McCallister growled. "Officer David. Back to your desk." Ziva turned and headed for the exit, glancing briefly at Gibbs, who couldn't care less that McCallister was shooting daggers at him.

    Director McCallister's office

    "Since you know so much, Gibbs, you care to let me in on the reason you interrupted me back there?"

    "For starters, his hands really may have been tied," Gibbs replied. "Every government does that sort of thing including us, and especially now. And while I would've wanted to rip him a new one myself, we need them as much as they need us."

    "You need them."

    "I need them?"

    "I know Mossad helped you break a case last summer, and that you and the agency have benefitted from the ties Shepard's built with them," McCallister said. "I also know Mossad is notorious for putting its own interests first, even at the expense of Israeli allies. And, you're fond of David's daughter. A little too fond."

    "Excuse me?"

    "Officer David's ‘real’ brother tried to murder two of your people if you haven't forgotten. Have you?"

    "No," Gibbs said, evenly.

    "Officer David came here out of a friendship with someone who's no longer alive and here to advocate for her. That's rare. Any other Mossad officer would be here only on orders."

    "Your point?"

    "How long do you expect her to stay here, Gibbs? She's Israeli. She's Mossad. She's loyal to her daddy and she's probably on the next plane to Tel Aviv."

    You don't know anything about that woman, thought Gibbs. He bristled at the director's glare and matched it with one of his own.

    "And I have doubts about her loyalty, not to mention my predecessor's decision to force her on you. The presence of a foreign intelligence agent in an Ameri--"

    With his glare still on McCallister, Gibbs slammed his fists on the director's mahogany desk. Satisfied he had the man's attention, Gibbs leaned in for emphasis.

    "Officer David would never betray this team nor this agency and her record here speaks for itself," Gibbs said, slowly and deliberately. "If she was anything like her brother or her 'daddy's' pawn she wouldn't be here and definitely not on my team. I don't tolerate fools, Director, and I sure as hell don't let 'em infiltrate my team."

    "Your hand was forced," McCallister replied, leaning over his desktop to meet Gibbs's glare. "I'm aware of her record here including how she performed the last time Haswari was in town -- and the time before that."

    That last time nearly cost Gibbs the lives of Kate, Tony and, indirectly, Fornell. Ari's previous appearance in the States brought Ziva to Washington ostensibly to defend him. She actually was there to verify that Ari had become a Soviet operative -- which he had -- and found herself in the position of having to choose between saving Kate and Gibbs or looking the other way while Ari completed his personal mission to kill them both.

    Ziva's decision -- to directly engage her brother in hand-to-hand combat -- gave both NCIS agents time to escape. Gibbs's house got wrecked in the fight and Ziva took a stab wound to her bicep. Ari got away with the help of KGB, but not before taking a bullet in his rear from Fornell. From there, Jenny got approval from her superiors for Ziva to work with NCIS as a Mossad liaison. Ziva was quickly accepted by Gibbs and his team, and in his mind she had long since proven her worth and loyalty. Now he had to convince Jenny's replacement of that.

    "You send her back to Mossad, Director, you're making a serious mistake," Gibbs said.

    "Whatever reason Shepard had for making that arrangement is under review," McCallister replied, "as are many of her decisions. Gibbs, I'd like to think keeping you and your team around were one of the things she got right. I'd hate to have to rethink that."

    "Then don't. Just like you don't have to think anything other than the best about Ziva."

    The director picked a folder up from his desk and waved it at the agent. "I realize you have a lot on your plate, Gibbs. Just so you know, I'm not the only person...of influence...who's rethinking how things have worked in this agency the past couple of years."

    Here we go, thought Gibbs. McCallister put the folder down. "As long as you and your people do the fine job you've been doing, you won't have to worry about a thing."

    Gibbs picked up the folder and teased opening it. "That include Ziva?"

    "That includes any and every American employee of this American federal agency," McCallister said, taking the folder out of Gibbs's hands. "Did you do this shit to Morrow or Shepard?"

    "If you mean standing up for my people? Every day."
     
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