McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.
Chapter 259: Job, What Job?
Monday morning. Abby’s napping. Kelly’s almost checked out. (She’s hanging out on his chest for the time being, but he’ll be taking her upstairs soon.) So, theoretically he’s got time to do some stuff.
Like, maybe take a glance at his computer.
Maybe wade through the mess of emails and data that’s been accumulating.
Sounded like a plan.
|Damn, this thing is useful!|
Computer on, booted up, gmail up and… Wow, ton of emails. He runs two fast searches through them. Okay, three of them are interesting. Two from Vance, and one from his editor looking for a clue as to when the next book will be done. He’s about to fire off the response to that when he noticed Kelly’s awfully still. He looked down. Her eyes were droopy and she’s barely sucking the pacifier.
So, taking Kelly to her crib put a pause to handling his email. But getting her down only took a few minutes. While he wouldn’t have believed it when she was brand new, he’s now starting to agree with Breena that Kelly’s a good sleeper.
Kelly down meant he had probably a good two, maybe two and a half hours of free time.
So he got to work. First things first, he sent that response to his editor. He had about twenty-thousand words to go on the next Deep Six, and he’s got no idea when he’ll get it done. Before October 1st, which is his deadline for the rough draft, but beyond that, no clue.
Next up, emails from Leon. The first one wasn’t terribly interesting, just housekeeping stuff, likely written by his secretary, a reminder that they were switching to a new system for handling their paperwork, and that once again NCIS would be hosting Virginia Blood Services and that last year 82% of NCIS had donated and this year, they’d really like to see that number get up to 87%.
Tim made a note of that, if everything was going well, he’d stop in and give blood. So far he’s given every year.
The next email was much more interesting.
This one was a personal letter from Vance concerning the information he’d been getting about Tim’s test.
At the end of each month each Department Head sends a report to Vance listing what’s happened, what needs to happen, how things are going with their departments. As June faded into July he’d been especially interested in the report from Cybercrime. It was, as Vance put it “disappointing.” No mention of the test. No mention of all the computers going bonkers all at once. Nothing.
The other interesting bit was that Stephen Manners had asked for an appointment to see the Director, and had asked him why he’d been hacked by “Kevin Hussein.” Vance had told him it was a security test, and that between the Port to Port killer getting access to their building, and Dearing’s attacks on Navy weaknesses, he periodically has different branches of NCIS check up on each other. As a former NCIS employee who left in good graces and had a great security clearance, he had “asked Kevin” to run periodic checks on Cybercrime.
Tim tried to remember which one Manners was… Then it clicked. He was the one who programmed straight through the attack. Good. Someone noticed, checked up, and actually found the trail of bread crumbs he’d left.
He kept reading: The thing I found most fascinating about my conversation with Manners was that, from everything I could see, he had no idea that anyone else in Cybercrime had been targeted. Likewise, he appeared to have never thought this was something worth mentioning to Jenner. He took this straight to me.
He left my office under the impression that “Kevin” had chosen him at random.
Hmmm… Okay. No communication at all in that department. He made a note to pay especially close attention to Manner’s logs so he could see how Manner tracked his attack, and wondered if he’d noticed he was still being monitored.
He sent that as a follow up question to Leon, along with a few lines about how he was getting ready to wade into the data to see what exactly they’d all done in response to the attack.
Then came all the rest of his email. Tons of it.
He was cruising through it, deleting most of it as stuff that didn’t matter, redirecting a few to Tony or Ziva with a quick note about how he’d be back in the office on the 20th.
The two from his mom he hovered over with his mouse and decided not to open.
Not today. He’s in a good mood, he’s getting useful stuff done, he doesn’t need to know what’s in those emails. If it was really important, Penny or Sarah would have told him about it.
He was in the process of forwarding another one to Ziva when he took the time to really read it. And really reading it, he smiled.
Ngyn, Cybercrime tech who noticed the attack while it was happening, had emailed him to find out what was going on.
So, he told her a variation of the same story Leon had spun. Namely, as the best guy with a computer outside of Cybercrime, he’d been picked to run the occasional check on them. He didn’t elaborate on who’d been checked, but did let her know he was pleased she had noticed she’d been hacked and found he’d done it.
He blind forwarded Ngyn’s letter and his response to Leon.
He added her logs to the things he was going to check first, and continued to slog through his emails.
Okay, he’s moving a lot more slowly than anticipated, (or maybe there was a hell of a lot more email) or Kelly’s not sleeping as long as normal, but the soft cry of a small person looking for her next meal curtailed his progress.
He stood up, got to the doorway of his office, and then heard Abby heading to Kelly’s room, so back to his desk.
At some later point Abby poked her head in, and he thinks he sort of grunted in her direction. Then coffee materialized next to him, and he was awfully happy to see it. (Decaf or not, the act of drinking coffee is part of the rhythms of how he processes data.) And though he wasn’t paying any attention to it, apparently the Magic Coffee Fairy kept providing refills for him because at no point did he reach over and find an empty cup. (Which is usually the trigger that lets him know to get up, walk around, stretch, go to the bathroom, get a snack/meal, do something other than work the data.)
At some much later point he noticed that: A: He was hungry. B: It was dark out. And C: He hadn’t gotten any naps and it was his night for the 4:00 feed so he was going to be hurting for sleep.
He wandered out of his office, blinking at the light coming from the living room, and found Abby sitting on the sofa, Kelly in her lap, patting her, must be post nurse burp time, watching some sort of TV show. Abby looked over at him as he flopped onto the sofa and paused the show.
“Haven’t seen you that buried in a computer in a while. Good stuff?”
He rubbed his eyes and forehead, and scanned the room for a second, checking the clock. After 10:00, great.
“Yeah. Sort of. Got into the raw data from my test.” Kelly decided to punctuate that statement with a burp.
“Here.” She handed him Kelly, and he settled her on his chest, in the baby sling. (He was a little surprised to still be wearing it, apparently he didn’t take it off after getting her down.) She looked from her mom to him, seeming a little confused at getting shifted all of a sudden. But Abby got up, and gestured for him to follow her. He did, ending up in the kitchen, sitting at their table (where Abby pointed to) and less than a minute later was looking at salad and left over Thai style chicken fried rice from the night before. “Eat, before your blood sugar completely tanks.”
He nods, taking a bite. “Thank you.”
“I made it up for us, called out to you, you didn’t answer, so I headed into the office, said your name twice, you still didn’t answer, so I figured I was on my own for dinner.”
“Oh, God,” he shook his head. “Sorry about that.”
“Tonight, it wasn’t a problem.”
“Maybe not, but don’t let me do that. Go in there and poke me. It’s not good to be that deep into it.”
“House wasn’t on fire, you weren’t alone, and Kelly wasn’t bugging me. We’re good.”
He exhaled heavily, then ate another bite.
“So, what’d you find.”
“Let’s put it this way, if there was any little nagging voice in the back of my mind that thought this wasn’t fair to Jenner, it died this afternoon.”
Abby rose an eyebrow.
“How are you going to track down Cybercrimes and protect people if you can’t keep your own department tight?”
“Worse? I don’t know. From what I can tell, Jenner decided the test had to be some sort of prank. Okay, given that everything was saved, and what actually happened, that wasn’t an insane take on the subject, but he barely checked anything, just made sure none of their data had gone missing. Two of his guys mentioned that their computers had gone wonky, and he checked them, too.
“No follow up.” He grabs another fast bite of the rice, the smell and taste of it reminding him, vividly, that he hasn’t eaten since breakfast. “He didn’t check in with anyone else. He checked enough to see that the hack had come from NCIS, which was one of the false trails I laid. It didn’t actually; I fired it off of my computer here. And then he just let it lie. He didn’t even bother to go through and see who’d pulled it. I mean, imagine for a moment that all of a sudden our team had our guns stop working properly. Can you imagine Gibbs looking at them, and then deciding that Tony must have just pulled it as a prank, and then did nothing about it?”
“I can imagine him thinking Tony might have pulled it as a prank, but Tony’s head would ring for a week from the force of the headslap.”
“Exactly. And you can bet we’d all get slapped for letting him mess with our guns, too.”
“Yep. Nothing happened to the techs for letting themselves get hacked?”
“Not that I could see. Now, maybe they do have a prankster down there and things like this have happened before, in which case I picked the wrong damn test case. But… Anyway… No leadership on this. From the looks of it, they aren’t talking to each other, either.
“Seven of twelve of them just let it go. Once everything went back to normal on their systems and they realized they hadn’t lost anything, they went back to work. Five of them decided to see what was up. All five of them used exactly the same technique for the first three levels. Three of them decided to let it go when they hit enough dead ends. One found “Kevin.” He went straight to Vance, and I wonder if he’s also got Jenner’s job in his crosshairs. The other emailed me directly.
“Ngyn, the one who emailed, also buffed up her internal security. Manners, the one who went to Vance, didn’t. Though he might decide to, because Vance told him the test was a sort of internal audit, that he has different branches of NCIS check each other periodically to see how good we are.”
“So, you’re not taking over the A-Team.”
“They may not qualify as the Bad News Bears. I’ve got to see if I can get into HR and find out how Jenner was hiring.”
“Help me figure out if he’s just not good at locating talent. Or if it’s so bad down there it just sucks the life out of them. Or… I don’t know. I just want to know what made him think, hey, you, person who had your entire system go insane for ten minutes and then you did nothing about it, you’re the guy I want to put in charge of hunting down criminals.”
“I can see that.”
He took another minute to just eat and then said, “Next test’ll be interesting. Right now Ngyn’s the only one in position to even notice it happen.”
Abby stole one of his cucumber slices. “How good is the security on your work computer?”
“Good, at least, I think it is.”
“Might want to buff it up. If you’re making them look bad, and any of them figure it out, you might get a nasty surprise.”
“Good point. I’ll have to add an extra layer of defense or two.”
“What’s the next test?”
“Once I’ve finished sorting through the data and what exactly it was each of them did, I’m going to give them enough down time so Manners and Ngyn aren’t on edge, maybe a month, and then I’m going in and breaching whichever cases they’re working on. Not going to screw anything up, but I am going to snag at least one bit of classified info off of each of their computers.”
“After that, I’m going after their personal computers and phones.”
Abby squinted at him, thinking for a minute. “That’s illegal, right?”
“Probably. Might have to find a way to deal with that.”
“Lots of jobs are requiring prospective employees hand over their social media so they can check up. That’s considered legal…”
“Good to know. I’ll have to send it by Leon. Don’t want to end up in jail for testing how good my soon to be employees are.”
“Yeah, I’d prefer you didn’t end up in jail, either. I mean, I still have the McGee defense fund that I set up back when that guy was sniffing around from you hacking the CIA—“
“Really?” That had to have been close to five years ago now.
“Okay, I’ve got the bucket I was collecting it in. Remember we went out to dinner after you caught him, I paid—“
He laughed, understanding. “You mean my defense fund paid.”
“Wasn’t that take out Chinese?”
“Defense fund had $32.57 in it.”
“Gibbs put in twenty.”
“Even better.” He laughed at that. “Good to know that you all were willing to pay the big bucks to keep me out of jail.”
“Anything for you, baby.” She leaned over and kissed him. “So, what happens now?”
He looked down, checking Kelly, who had been sucking away on her pacifier, adding little burbles and coos to their conversation, but was looking like she might be starting to think sleepy thoughts.
“Were you planning on going to sleep when she went down?”
“That was the idea.”
“Okay, I’m still too wired for that. So, I’m enjoying your company, but if you want to go to sleep now, I’ll put her down.”
“I could use the extra down time.” She stood up and kissed him. He wrapped his hand around her neck, and kissed back, soft and gentle, not sexy, just saying I-love-you without voice.
She was heading toward the stairs when he said, “Abby.”
He stood up and crossed over to her, resting his hands on her hips, and his forehead against hers. “All of it.”
She smiled, pecked his lips, and headed up to get some sleep. He looked down at their daughter and said, “So, feel like hanging out with me while I finish dinner?”
She didn’t say anything.
“We keep kind of odd hours here. It’ll probably get more regular as you get older, but right now, sometimes I work all night, and sometimes Mom does, too, but we’re going to make sure we spend some time with you, when you’re awake, every single day.”