Monday, August 19, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 175

McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

Chapter 175: Cybercrime

Monday morning Tim fired off two emails. One to Vance's assistant asking for an appointment and the other to Geoff Carter, who, once upon a time, had been one of Tim's classmates at FLETC.

These days Geoff taught Civil Rights law to the new Probie wannabes. He made sure they knew what was and what was not legal when it came to dealing with the wider world. Back in the day he'd been one of Tim's study partners.

He asked Geoff if he could get the CVs of two or three guys who were hot on tech/computer skills, preferably ex-Military, young, and with no previous law enforcement experience.

He got one back saying: "Want a unicorn while you're at it?"

That made him smile.

He sent back:

If you've got one.

Our team is losing half of its members soon and I need a tech guy who can shoot or ask questions or speak military or something like that. And if he can do all of that, even better.

Half an hour later he got back.

Does this unicorn have to be a he?

Tim quickly sent back:

Nope. Male, female, undeclared, somewhere in-between, doesn't matter. Knows his/her way around a computer, that does.

Two hours later he'd gotten an email back with some interesting looking attachments. He was just about to open them when Vance's assistant buzzed him and let him know that Vance had some time.

So he shot the email to Tony, said, "Let me know who looks interesting, and I'll set up the interviews," and then headed up.

There was a time when he found dealing with Vance to be deeply intimidating. That time is not now. He's not entirely sure when it changed. Somewhere between taking down Bodnar and his wedding. But no matter how it happened, it did.

Which is not to say he finds dealing with Vance particularly comfortable.

The man is still his Boss, still the head of their agency, and still deeply formidable.

So, while it's true that he doesn't have to give himself a little pep talk or anything, he does pause for a second before opening the door to straighten up and get himself into the right mindset for this.

"You wanted to see me?"
"You wanted to see me, McGee?" Vance asks as he walks in.

"Yes." Confidence, his job is to tell Vance what he wants, and then make sure Vance knows he's got the balls to deal with whatever gets tossed at him. A little voice in the back of his mind keeps telling him to channel Gibbs. Talk more than Gibbs would, but project that same air of there's nothing you can throw at me that I can't handle.

Vance gets up from his desk and gestures to the seats at the conference table. They both sit.


"Back in '11 you offered me Okinawa's Cybercrime department. I assume you did that because you knew I could handle not just a team, but a department. I'm better now than I was then. Everyone knows Jenner's not happy here, and when he leaves, I want his job."

"Uh huh…" Vance has that hard to read look on his face, pretty much the only thing Tim knows for sure is that he's not in any way, shape, or form surprised by this. "And what do you suggest I tell William Manner, Jenner's second-in-command, who is also under the impression that he'd do a good job with Cybercrime and has been waiting for Jenner to leave so he can take his place?"

"That I'll do a better one."

Vance smiles a little at that, which makes Tim happy, then says, "Are you sure?" which is less fun.

"Yes. I know Will, he was down in the basement when you sent me there the first time. He's great. He's competent. He's a really good second-in-command. And he's got the imagination of a bucket of cement. He will follow orders perfectly. He will do exactly what you tell him to exactly the way you tell him to do it. He's probably the most reliable man I met down there. But he can't think outside the box, doesn't innovate, and you know that about him, otherwise you would have offered him Okinawa when it opened up."

"That so?" Vance appears to be amused by this.

It bugs Tim when Vance does this. He's fairly certain that Vance will give him Cybercrime, but this testing thing, proving he's up for it is annoying. Still, as hoop jumping goes, this is child's play compared to his first five years with Tony and Gibbs.

"Yes. Manner's a good symbol for DC Cybercrime. Competent, technically skilled, decent at the job, but no spark. LA and Okinawa are high-tech, cutting edge, on the front lines of the cyber battles. We're playing clean up in the back. And it's because there's no one in the basement who knows how to give orders. No one's figured out that we are not supposed to be playing defense, but that it's our job to go out and find the bad guys, catch them at their own game, and tie them in knots."

"And you're the guy to do that?"

"Yes, because in the last ten years you've needed tons of secure systems hacked, you've needed feints, Trojan horses, and decoy systems, and not once have you ever called any of the guys in the basement, whose job it is to do precisely that. You've called me. Because you know I'm the guy who can take an objective, catch the bad guy, and figure out what needs to be done and do it without someone telling me what to do."

"I do. But running yourself is very different than running a department."

"It is."

"And Okinawa, which you are right, is the premier Cybercrime division at NCIS is four people. It's a team, and a department in name only. I know you can run a team, but Cybercrime isn't a team, it's a department."


"And in fourteen years, you've taken point on fewer than ten operations."

"Also true."

"And for all his lack of imagination, Manner is a fantastic bureaucrat. He knows how to manage people."

"I'm sure he does. And I'm sure his paperwork is always perfect. Of course, mine is, too." Tim smiles wryly at that. His is. And so is Tony and Ziva's when he does theirs. In fact, the single biggest change that'll happen when he leaves the MCRT is that the quality of the paperwork is going to drop like a rock tossed off a cliff. "And it's true I haven't taken point often, but the last time I did, I was managing more than two thousand people. But it wasn't keeping all those people on a leash, making sure they did the right things at the right time that ended that manhunt, it was having enough imagination to be able to flush Blen out. It was being able to think outside of the box and then rebuild the box so that he couldn't hide in it. And if you want DC Cybercrime to ever be anything beyond a tech center that plays catch up, then when Jenner leaves, you'll give it to me, and I'll turn it into the best cybercrime division on the east coast."

Vance looks mildly amused by that. "It's the only cybercrime department on the east coast."

"Only one for NCIS, but CIA, IRS, FBI, NSA, and fourteen states all have cybercrime departments here, and if you give me three years, I will have them all beat."

Now Vance looks honestly amazed. That's a whole lot more than he expected Tim to come up with. "And how are you going to do that?"

"By rebuilding the box we all play in."

Leon sits back, steeples his hands in front of him, and smiles. "I like the sound of that."

"I thought you would."

"When Jenner gives notice, you'll be the next head of DC Cybercrime."

"Thank you."

"And when he gives notice, your first job as Boss is to tell Manner you're his new Boss."

"Of course."

"And I assume you are helping DiNozzo and David find a suitable replacement for you."

"Trying. Just got started on that this morning. Looking to find someone to replace me and Gibbs."

That got a grin out of Leon. "Good luck on that."


"Well, don't let me keep you from it."

Tim knew a dismissal when he heard it, so off he went.

When Tim decided to start getting into better shape, he stopped taking the elevator. Sure using the stairs wasn't a ton of exercise, but he figured every little bit helped, and it didn't add all that much more time to getting from point A to point B. MTAC to Abby's lab is four flights of stairs and that's usually about as far as he goes in any given day.

So his feet are more or less on automatic, taking him toward the stairs as he gets out of Leon's office, but he stops, turns and heads for the elevator.

He wants to say it to Abby first. More importantly, he wants another moment where it's just his, and if he takes the stairs, then he has to go through the bullpen to get to her lab, and he knows they all saw him head up, so they'll want to know how it went.

He's going to be a department head. He'll have guys calling him Boss.

Wow. He takes a deep breath, lets it out slow, and tries to let it settle in, then hits the button for the lab.

He'll be handing in his badge and his gun, sitting at a desk every day, coding until his eyes fall out, and filling out even more paperwork.

He's not going to see Tony and Ziva every day. He won't see dead bodies, either. No more running down suspects, at least, not with his feet, with his fingers will be a whole different story. He won't set all of his computers to searching for something, and then hop down to Abby's lab and use hers as well.

He won't be heading down there for updates on cases (and a quick smooch).

No more stakeouts.

No more long drives to go get suspects, or question witnesses, or talk to C.O.s.

No more bad take out eaten at his desk at ten at night while going over the clues with Tony and Ziva.

No more desk.

No more looking up and seeing the three of them working away on their paperwork.

He let out another long, slow breath.

Hopefully many fewer late nights. And even if he is on a case and it needs overtime, he'll be able to do it from home. Kelly's going to need someone at home, and he'll be there.

No more close calls. In the fourteen years he's been at NCIS they've lost exactly one Cybercrime Agent, and he was killed when Kahn leaked him. Not going to happen on his watch.

The elevator opens and his thinking time ends.

He pauses at the door to her lab, watching for a moment as she dispenses some sort of liquid into the tiny vials Major Mass Spec uses.

Learner's team is working on a drug ring case that got hot recently, so she's probably doing something for that.

She looks up from her pipette, jumps a little when she sees him lurking, and says, "So?"

He heads over to her, gently kissing her lips, and waiting for her to put the pipette down before hugging her. "You're looking at the next head of DC Cybercrime."

She squeezed him tight and shrieked. "When?"

"Whenever Jenner gives notice."

She was doing an excited little bouncing sort of thing, but his voice caught her attention, and she stopped and really looked at him. "You okay?"

He shrugs, holding her close, feeling her head against his shoulder. "I think so. Just, on the way down, I was thinking of all the things that are never going to happen again once I make the switch. And some of them are good and some are bad."

"You regretting it?"

"No!" He shook his head vehemently. "It's just… I won't see them every day anymore. I probably won't see you every day anymore, not here at least. There'll be no reason for me to come down, I guess once I get to Cybercrime, up here to work. It's going to be really different."

"It's going to be really good. You're going to be the Boss."

"Yeah, that's sort of freaky, too."

"Tell me about it."

He nods, understanding her own issues with this. Norfolk was supposed to close its lab in January. That didn't happen, emergency funding showed up from the ethers, but that funding was only going to keep Norfolk going until June. Supposedly, for real this time, come June 1st Abby would have three more forensic scientists working under her. And sure, that worked out really well from a maternity leave perspective, but she was pretty nervous about being the Boss all of a sudden, let alone sharing her lab with new people.

"You want to celebrate?"

"Not yet. Let me actually get the job. Want to keep this quiet. Among other things, Manner doesn't know he's not the next Head of DC Cybercrime, and when Jenner gives notice, letting him know that is my job. So, for right now, I want to just keep this in the family."

"No problem." She kissed him, sure that he needs the extra time to let it settle in. Then she kissed him again, suddenly understanding part of why he looks so out of it. "You're still you, Tim."

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He nods, seeing her get it. Special Agent Tim McGee is a good third of his core identity, and soon, he won't be Special Agent Tim McGee anymore.

"I know." And he does know it, but feeling it is a different story.

She kisses him again.

"I should probably get back up. Paperwork's not doing itself. And I got Tony a list of guys from FLETC to look at, got to see what he's thinking about them."

"Okay." One last kiss, soft, gentle, supportive, and then he heads toward the stairs.

When he got to the Bullpen all three of them were staring at them. He gave a tiny nod which they all caught, and Tony was about to start asking about it when Tim also shook his head slightly, signaling not here. They understood that, as well.

Two seconds later, before he had even gotten all the way to his desk, Gibbs' phone rang.

And they all know how this works, before Gibbs even has the phone put down they're snagging their go bags, saving and closing computer work, stashing paperwork, and by the time Gibbs had the phone hung up they were ready to go.

"Gear up." It's a formality now. It's probably been years since Gibbs has had to say the words.

But like a mantra, or a benediction, those words start a case. They mark the team swinging into action. And today they mark something else, the beginning of the end of Team Gibbs.

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