Chapter Twenty Three
Ziva David sighed, and stifled a small yawn. Straightening up, she looked around the rest of the deserted bullpen area. Glancing at her watch, she saw it was past midnight now and the night crew were the only ones moving around in the dimmed areas. Idly, she watched as one tech entered the MTAC room.
It had been a long day, and now even her West Coast inquiries were starting to become unavailable. Stifling another yawn, she headed off to get some coffee. Perhaps she would go and watch Gibbs and that Summers woman talking to the other Summers woman.
~ + ~
“I’d say you filled out somewhat Lehane, but that would just be stating the obvious, and playing with your ego.”
“Oh DiNozzo, you say the sweetest things to a girl. No, seriously, I bet you do.”
Tony smiled bleakly. “I’d like to say that, but I can’t. Because I went to Faith Lehane’s funeral, so whoever you are, you ain’t her!”
Faith looked bored. “Yeah, great. Was waiting for you to finally get to this point. Tough titties DiNozzo, I’m here, I’m alive. Deal.” Her voice rose throughout, and ended on a growl.
~ + ~
Almost before Gibbs had a chance to sit down, Summers smiled briefly, a smile that he noticed didn’t reach her eyes. “Ok Grumps,” she started, “Let’s be clear – we’re talking hypotheticals here”.
“Not quite what I was hoping for,” he said mildly.
“It’s all you’re getting,” Buffy snapped back almost immediately. “There are some things that you’re just never going to be ready for straight up.”
“I think I’d be the better judge of that,” Gibbs answered softly, but intently.
Buffy waved that away with one dismissive flap of her hand. “Doesn’t matter either way. Right here, right now, it’s all about the power and control. And I got both. You want to hear some hypotheticals or not, Agent Gibbs?”
Gibbs leaned back in the chair. “Hit me,” he said eventually.
~ + ~
Timothy McGee stared unseeingly through the glass into the room where Tony DiNozzo and Faith Lehane’s discussion was rapidly turning into an angry shouting session. It was important, he knew it straight to his core. Something he’d missed, something from that time in his apartment that afternoon.
He closed his eyes, and tried to throw himself back bodily to that whole experience. Ok, they’d knocked him out, tied him up, blindfolded him and dumped him on his own bed while they used his computer to get into NCIS servers. He remembered struggling, attempting to get free, listening to the distant voices.
They’d mentioned a sunlight allergy, but he’d said about that in his report. The whole NCSI, NCIS thing, the whole admiration of his computer set-up.
Wait. His eyes flew open in shock. That made no sense whatsoever. Why the hell had they blindfolded him in the first place?
~ + ~
Buffy settled back in her chair. “So, hypothetically, let’s say there’s a group of people whose responsibility is stopping... stuff. And part of what they do involves the clean-up. Because people are stupid.”
She held up one finger to stop Gibbs interrupting. “Wait. One person is smart. Two people can figure things out. Three or more is a crowd, and that’s dumb. The IQ of a crowd is directly in proportion to the square root of its dumbest member.”
“You’re talking about panic,” Gibbs said quietly. “The type of crowd that causes a riot if one person shouts ‘fire!’ in a movie theatre.”
Buffy nodded grimly. “Some stuff is like that. It goes public, the entire country might shout ‘fire!’. But then, this is all hypothetical and not true in the slightest.”
“Obviously,” Gibbs observed dryly.
“Obviously,” Buffy echoed. “So, clean-up of these totally non-existent and totally non-panicky situations might require certain qualities in the type of person who do these non-happening things.”
“So these hypothetical agents might be not your normal sort of chosen volunteer then?”
Buffy laughed humourlessly. “Volunteer? Draftee might be closer. Hypothetically of course.” She looked pensive for a moment. “Although, I’m not really sure you could walk away after seeing.... Well, not and be the same person with even a little self respect remaining.”
~ + ~
Ziva wandered back to her desk, coffee in hand, nodding to a couple of people as she went by. She’d give Kelman until 1am her time to call her back, which considering his current location with the Sixth Fleet should be fine for him.
Idly, she stood by the window and gazed out at the Washington skyline. The dark was everywhere, with certain monuments aglow on the horizon. Below her, she could see the NCIS parking lot and the occasional coming and goings through the NCIS front entrance.
Amused, she harkened back to her old Mossad training, and tried identifying everyone as they came and left.
~ + ~
Tony and Faith were now stood up, the table the only thing between them, yelling angrily into each other’s face.
“Fuck you, DiNozzo!” Faith declared, tensing angrily. “I know who the hell I am, and where the hell I’ve come from. I don’t need any jumped up patrolmen to tell me I’ll never be anything!”
“Call yourself Lehane?” sneered Tony, “Faith Lehane was a street animal who’d have fucked anything for a dollar’s worth of smack when she died. I don’t see any track marks on your arms, so I don’t care who the hell you are but you’re not her!” His voice rose to a crescendo. “Stop abusing the name of a young girl who could have been so much more!”
Faith stared at him, fists clenched on the table, panting slightly. “Potential,” she spat out, “It’s always about the fucking potential. Isn’t it?”
Tony nodded, suddenly drained. “Just... stop. Please.”
Faith regarded him coldly. “You’re still an asshole at times, DiNozzo. I’m going to really enjoy what’s coming up.”
~ + ~
Gibbs stared dispassionately at Buffy across the table. “And these agents might find themselves doing things they might personally find offensive?”
Buffy smiled tightly. “You’ve been in the military. I can tell. Ever find yourself following orders that you might personally not like?”
“I did my duty.”
“Duty. Yeah. That’s the word.” Buffy looked tired. “I’m the record holder, you know. There isn’t anyone else still alive who’s been doing this longer than me. Even Faith, though she’s trying to claim the record for longer, uninterrupted stint.” She smiled wryly.
Gibbs nodded and touched the folder before him. “So, this Zero of yours...” he prompted.
“Not my Zero,” she answered automatically, “But say, someone got out of somewhere he should never have gotten out of and turned up in your warehouse. Then, maybe, someone else might have gone after them.”
Gibbs raised an eyebrow. “Can’t help but notice it wasn’t a Search and Retrieve mission. More of a Search and Destroy one.”
Again, Buffy looked tired. “Some things should never spread. Some things need to get rooted out and utterly obliterated before they can expand. The faster you can do that, the better.”
She closed her eyes. “As it was, we were too late to save everyone. I’m sorry about your seaman, and the jogger, and the UPS guy.”
She opened her eyes widen suddenly and sat up. “But I’m not sorry in the least for that bastard!”
~ + ~
Timothy McGee started striding around the observation room, deep in thought, his mind whirling. The tech on the recording equipment eyed him nervously.
Why? Why blindfold him? He already knew what both of them looked like from the warehouse. So, whatever it was, it wasn’t to stop him from seeing either of them.
~ + ~
A familiar-looking person crossed the NCIS parking lot, and entered the main door. Ziva frowned. She’d easily ID-ed everyone else so far and this one most definitely bell-rung for her. Still no name came up in her memory, and she growled.
Mildly annoyed, she crossed back to her desk and deposited the empty coffee cup in her wastebin. Heading over to the elevator, she pressed the button for the interview room floor, still trying to recall the name of that red-haired Chief Petty Officer.
~ + ~
“So, it’s like a sort of contamination that you deal with? Literally burning out all traces?” Gibbs said, flipping through the pictures of the burned 2376 North Bishop Drive.
Buffy winced. “You could say that. But then, part of this little trip of ours would involve getting rid of all traces along the way. Once certain parts of the government get their hands on this stuff, they’d start to mess around with it and that produces stuff I’ve seen first hand.”
“You’re talking about the Initiative? Margaret Walsh, right?”
Buffy blinked. “Wow. Not a name I quite expected to hear. Maggie? Guess she always was the type to get in over her head.”
Gibbs studied her for a moment. “So if I guessed that IWC stood for something like Initiative Watchers Corps, how close would I be?”
Buffy blinked again. Twice. “A lot closer than I thought you’d be, to be honest.” She shook herself for a moment.
“Anyway,” she continued, “You haven’t quite got what I’m talking about yet, have you?”
Gibbs eyed her. “I do want to know why you surrendered. You could easily have gotten away from us.”
She looked back at him sadly. “Oh, Grumps... you really want to know why I’m right here, right now? I’m still doing clean-up.”
~ + ~
Downstairs, in the morgue, Ducky was pulling his coat on, ready to go home when a noise caught his ear.
He stopped, looked around cautiously, and then heard a repeat. “My word!” he breathed. What on earth could be in Seaman Balboa’s storage to cause that sort of noise?
~ + ~
McGee stopped dead in his tracks.
Oh god. They hadn’t cared about him seeing either of them, which left only one possible answer.
Suddenly, the computer hacking made sense; Neither Summers or Lehane had struck him as the computer type.
The respect shown by insisting on their being called by their proper title. Again, neither Summers or Lehane would have done that.
There was a third person involved.
~ + ~
Ziva got off the elevator, and looked casually down the corridor. And was taken aback momentarily by the red-haired CPO she’d just been thinking about, vanishing around a corner.
“Wait a moment,” she said out loud, her brow furrowing. That was the CPO from MacArthur Supply base. The one who’d taken Tony’s phone number.
She suddenly froze as something Tony had said earlier came back to her. “And someone who swears her laundry has been taken.”
Ziva ran after her, pulling her gun out. What had been the name written on the very new looking ID on her? Ziva ran around the corner at high speed, swinging her gun up in a fraction of a second aimed directly at her target.
~ + ~