The complete Countdown to Looking Glass (an NCIS/DCU crossover)

Part One: Chapters 1 through 8
The original timeline can be found at https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/countdown-to-looking-glass-ncis-dc-universe-crossover.446845/

Countdown to Looking Glass: An NCIS-17 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.


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.


Chapter 3

--talks in Johannesburg 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."


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?"



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.


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.


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."


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," Tony 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," Tony interjected. "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 Tony, 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."

Tony 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, but decided she would take the high road. "I accept your apology."

"Her name is Jeanne," Tony 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, and 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," Tony 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 Tony, 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," Tony 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
 
Last edited:
Top