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
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.
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.
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, 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—”
“I will answer your question, after asking a question of my own: do you truly think I killed that man?”
“Are you serious?”
“I did not kill Gunnery Sergeant MacIntyre, if that is what you are asking. I could not save him, but I could spare others, and I have. It is why you and your people are alive.”
“I am not finished speaking, Agent DiNozzo. I have much to say in so little time. I know you have recording devices and I know you and some of the people behind the glass have excellent memories, so stay silent while I give my ‘confession’, as it were. I work for a secret agency that is attached to no government. This agency was formed by citizens of the world to bring about peace, to prevent war between the two great powers. This agency, sadly, came to the conclusion that such a conflict was inevitable. That conflict, Agent DiNozzo, may not completely destroy the world but will devastate it. What we – I, and others like myself – do is to save who we can, however we can.
“There are many who would profit in some way from a Third World War. They know unless an outside force that doesn’t exist were to subjugate the entire world, that such a war is now inevitable with the next two to five years. They have set into motion the machinery that will expedite the war. They will save themselves, if at all possible, and leave the people to fend for themselves. You prosecute me for the death of one man. You need to see the bigger picture.”
DiNozzo finally sat down, with the folder, pad and pen in his lap. “If you’re trying to talk your way out of—”
“I am not finished, Agent DiNozzo.”
“You’re not making any sense, Smith.”
“The bigger picture, sir. Ask why your government is allowing thousands to die while it and its corporate masters speed towards a war that will destroy them. Ask why your government has no plan right now besides sending as many panicked people as possible into the unknown at the last minute, to other worlds, instead of making peace with the Soviets. Ask why their grand plan to save the nation is modeled after the Jewish myth of the Exodus. Ask why their answer is to profit and flee while the people run—”
The door into the interrogation room opened unexpectedly, but DiNozzo didn’t see either Gibbs or Coburn walk in. He saw eight men in black suits and ties and sunglasses, six of which aimed submachine guns right at him. The other two picked Smith up by his arms and carried him out of the room.
Over DiNozzo’s protests, the six men didn’t leave until one got some kind of order in his earpiece. They swiftly ran out of the room, ran down the hallway and ran out of the building; 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.
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.
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.