Monday, October 7, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 224

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

Chapter 224: The Lab

Fume hood, Major Mass Spec
June 1, 2015 marked the first of the major work changes. The lab was no longer Abby's and Abby's alone.

While it's true that the Navy Yard hosts the premier MCRT and the hub of all of the ins and outs of NCIS, it didn't host the best lab. (Not saying anything about the talent of the Navy Yard lab, just the physical layout and technology.) The best lab was at Norfolk.

And it's not that Norfolk was any sort of a major NCIS hub. Yes, there are tons of Navy Personnel out of Norfolk and Hampton Roads, but not so much as to require their very own state-of-the-art lab with three techs.

What Norfolk's lab did was the processing of any trace for any Agent Afloat floating closer to the east coast of the United States than Europe.

So, when Sequester hit, and Vance had to sit down with the NCIS Accounting Department and find the least painful ways to tighten his budget, one thing that stuck out was he had two NCIS bases less than 200 miles apart. One of them already covered any major crimes that happened in the territory of the other, and while it's true the other had the better lab, he could move the equipment and people to DC, shut down Norfolk, and save fourteen million dollars a year by consolidating.

After all, if you're already floating five hundred miles east of Norfolk, the added half hour of helio time to get your trace to DC instead of Norfolk really isn't an issue.

Plus, since Dearing's bomb more or less went off right in front of the lab, when they rebuilt that area, a few extra storage spaces had been added, and converting them into extra lab space only required knocking down some walls, installing better ventilation and lighting, and moving the lab from Norfolk up to DC.

The whiteboard, soon to be covered with
"work" stuff.
So on June 1st, six months after it should have happened, (Because one thing politicians are good at is getting their own pet projects funding extensions, and Virginia's senators might not agree on a whole lot, but keeping plush Federal jobs in their state is one of those things, so miraculously additional funding for six more months showed up out of the ethers.) Abby McGee walked (waddled, it's really hard to look particularly dignified and in command when you're so pregnant you feel like the kid is dangling between your knees) into what was no longer her lab, and got ready to start a new job.


Dworkin, Corwin, and Benedict have been transferred up. Technically she and Benedict have the same rank, but she's got seniority, so it's still her lab.

But it's also not her lab. It's no longer her space. It's not home away from home. Now it's just the place where she works. And that, along with other voices, the lack of music, and a collection of little dohickies that aren't hers is disconcerting.

And she's no longer Abbs. Not down here. Not anymore. She's not a pet. She's not the NCIS mascot. Not to them. She's… McGee. Which feels kind of weird. She's gotten used to it being her last name, but until today, no one besides Leon (and occasionally Tim when he's feeling frisky) calls her that.

But now… "McGee, where do you want…" "McGee, is it okay…" "McGee, how about we…"

Finally she'd had enough of that. "Okay, all of you, right here." And her new techs (Lab rats? Assistants? God, she hates this.) gathered around.

Lab guide
"Look. I know you all call each other by your last names, but I'm Abby. And, unless you really hate it, I'm calling you three by your first names, too. There's one guy I call by his last name, and that's Gibbs. And none of you are Gibbs, so unless you hate your first names, I'm using them. Plus, my husband works here, and works down here," She points at her second computer, though it's occurring to her that might not be as easy to do, what with three other people down here now. "and everyone around here already calls him McGee, because he's been McGee his whole life and I've only been McGee since November."

They nod. "Okay, Abby." Dworkin… Roger, says.


She hates the fact that Roger, Eva (Corwin), and Tom (Benedict) are all lugging and unpacking but she's not. It's not that she's doing nothing, but, in that she can't move anything heavy, and right now, everything is heavy, so instead of moving she's keeping track of the new inventory.

And yeah, it's kind of neat that they're slapping bar codes on everything and scanning them all in, but still, it feels lazy to be the one waving the scanner around when they're all carrying in heavy boxes.

And while she hadn't enjoyed the period while they were getting the storage space up to lab capacity, (they tried to keep the dust under control, but she did end up with a few contamination issues) she would have to admit that the extra space is nice.

And, okay, yeah, it's not exactly painful to admit that Norfolk did have all the cool toys and she can't wait to play with them.

Tim came down in the afternoon, was introduced to everyone, ("Tom, Roger, Eva, this is McGee!") and also came to the conclusion that just popping down to do whatever it was he wanted workwise wasn't going to happen anymore.

"His" computer.
Mainly, he'd gotten down there, sat at what he thinks of as "his" computer (after all, it's got the little black hearts she put on the keyboard for him) and noticed that it was already turned on, and working, and running a search.

And, if that computer's already working, then, well… It's doing lab work, for the lab, in the lab, so pre-empting that to do casework isn't cool.

So he looks around at four scientists all mucking about with science-y stuff, and realizes that the days of him being the back-up lab tech are over.

If he's ever down here to read Major Mass Spec, run trace, help with an experiment, or do the computer stuff, it means something's gone very wrong.

And if he's down here doing his job, just sharing the space with her, then one of the other people down here aren't doing their job.

So he kisses Abby, smiles a little sadly at her, and she sees it, understands, nods and smiles back, also a little sad, and heads up to MTAC, where he'll commandeer one of their computers so he can work faster.

They weren't on an active case, so it wasn't too hard to get out for dinner at a reasonable time. So they were heading toward food (neither of them felt like cooking) when Tim asked, "So, how is it?"

"Honestly, weird with a side of feeling left out."

He doesn't say anything, but his look gets across tell me more.

"I imagine I'm feeling a lot like Draga's gonna feel when he starts up. They're a team. They've got systems and rhythms and know how to read each other and how everyone works. And I'm not part of that."

"You'll get there."

"Sort of. I'll get, at most, a month with them, then three off." NCIS offers twelve weeks of maternity leave, and as of this point, Abby was planning on taking all of them. "By the time I get back, they'll have the new lab all set, and I'll be the outsider, in my own space."


She shakes her head. Nothing she can do about it. "At least I know none of these guys are psychos."


"And they do good work."

"Also true."

"And with four of us, we'll have trace processed faster, and I'll be able to get done working at a reasonable time more often."


"So why does this suck?"

He squeezed her hand and gave her an understanding smile. "It'll get better. You all looked pretty happy setting up the scanning electron microscope."

"That was fun. It can actually get micron level detail."

"That's cool."

"Yeah, it is."

At her most collaborative.
June 3rd Team Gibbs caught a case, and for the first time ever, the new lab set into action.

And, it was bumpy. Abby's used to doing everything, not delegating. At her absolute most collaborative, she works with Tim, the guy she can read at a glance and the only person on earth she can type in tandem with on the same keyboard. Occasionally she had deigned to allow other specialists into her lab to help her with something, and generally they work on separate parts of a project together.

But breaking down a task, giving everyone a different part, actually delegating, that's not in her skillset.

Likewise, she's got her evidence handling system in place, and to say that it's complicated and works only for her is something of an understatement.

And the worst part is, she can see this isn't working. At all. So it's got to change. She can't just sort of share a space with them, let them handle Afloat business, and her Navy Yard business. They've got to be a team.

"Okay." The other three look up at her. They'd been milling around, sort of watching her, because she wasn't really letting them into the job. "How do you guys do this?"

"Tom's on intake. He makes sure everything is accepted, registered, cataloged, and then sorted into what we'll be doing with it. Eva handles prints and computer searches. I do the testing, and when Tom's done with intake he helps out with whichever one of us needs the help," Roger answers.

"Okay, who does mock-ups, re-creations, blood spatter, and the like?"

The three of them just look at each other. "We don't," Roger answers.

"You don't?"

"No. The medical guys on board handle blood spatter. And we don't do mock-ups or re-creations of the crime scenes."

"Okay. Then I'm on that if need be. How about audio or visual processing?"

"Last time we had any of that, we sent it to you," Eva said.

"Good point. I'm on that, too. So, I'm thinking for right now you guys keep doing it your way. I'll float in and out and lend a hand on whatever needs extra hands, and if we've got any of the stuff you don't do, I'll handle it."

They nod.

"When I get back from leave, we're going to start from the ground up and figure out how to do this the most efficient way. It sounds like you've got a good system in place, but any system can get better, so we'll figure out what that is."

Tom smiled at that. "We like better."

Abby smiled back at him, and yeah, if he knew her better, he'd know that was a forced smile, but she's the boss and it's her job to make this team work. "I like better, too."

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