Thursday, June 5, 2014
Shards To A Whole: Bishop
McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.
Chapter 333: Bishop
She can't literally be twenty-two. She got her Doctorate in Quantitate Predictive Statistical Analysis from the University of North Carolina (He'd asked McGee what the hell that was and he said, 'Means she's smarter than I am,' then he looked at her thesis and said, 'A lot smarter' which wasn't exactly helpful.) in '11, worked at NSA until the middle of '15, and has been on her own since then.
But, not actually twenty-two or not, he feels like he hasn't seen anyone this young or green since he first laid eyes on Probie all those years ago.
She's cute and blonde and wholesome, a little bit nervous, but he's good at soothing that, and gets her talking about herself. She's the youngest of four, three older brothers, a mom and dad all back in Oklahoma, and a husband here. (He also used to work for the NSA and is now working as an analyst for DC Metro PD).
And after a bit more about herself, he asks, "Why you leave the NSA?" He's a bit worried at the idea that they both worked for the NSA and left. He's wondering if they did something stupid and got the 'you're going to resign to save us the trouble of firing you' speech.
She sighs, looks up and behind him, seeming to be thinking about how best to answer this. Finally she says, "We had different understandings as to what the job was."
"I signed up to help protect the United States from terror attacks. I signed up to look at patterns, see the pieces, put them together, and catch people who wanted to do us harm. And I kept telling myself that that's what I was doing. First wave of scandals hit, and I told myself that we had to go to court and get warrants like everyone else."
Tony's got an idea of where this is going. "Then you found out that court never turned anyone down."
"Yeah. Didn't matter how shaky the evidence, and then there were the guys who weren't even bothering with that. But that didn't come out for a while. And I told myself we were focused…"
Tony definitely knows where that's going. "Then the Snowden stuff came out and you found out focused meant you were watching everyone on Earth with a computer or phone?"
"Yeah. And then it got worse when the list of who we were spying on came out. Look, I can guarantee you Angela Merkle isn't a terror threat to the US. Yes, I know we all spy on each other, but… that's the CIA's job, right? And I didn't sign up to work for them for a reason.
"Then I find out they're using some of my research to target people who are peaceful, but politically active in a direction they didn't like. And that was it. I was out. Look, all up front, I'm a moderate. I don't love the hardcore peace activists, I don't think they've got a clue as to what's out there, the far-right TEA Partiers creep me out, and the Libertarians look like anarchist pot-heads to me, but I didn't want my work used to make their lives miserable. They aren't the bad guys, and they certainly aren't the guys I signed up to track. So I left."
"What kind of work were you doing that got used that way?"
"Classified. And you don't have the clearance. Your Director doesn't have the clearance for it." She smiles sadly. "It sounds trite, I'm sure, but I believe that this country means something. Call me Captain America if you want, but freedom, privacy, a government you can trust, it matters. And I was working for the bad guys. So after some long conversations with my husband, we both left. Couldn't do it anymore, Agent DiNozzo."
Tony thinks about that for a moment and says, "Well, we go where the leads take us, and they've taken us here and they've taken us abroad, but we do wait for actual leads."
"That's all I need. I've got no problem going up against anyone who wants to hurt us. I've got a lot of problem going up against people who just disagree with me. And I've got an even bigger problem with going up against people who aren't doing anything at all."
He can see that sort of attitude blending well into any group he'd be willing to run. She might be a little sticky on some of the techniques they use, but they never go in completely blind, and they certainly aren't listening to everyone's phone conversations, reading all their emails, and adding back doors into popular software.
"So, why NCIS? Why not go and use your skills to make a killing on Wall Street?"
She smiles at that. "I still want to fight the bad guys. Terror is real. There are people out there who want us dead just because of who we are. I hunted some of them down. I've been face to face with a few of them." That interests him very much. She's not a field agent, or at least nothing in her file suggested that, but maybe that's classified, too. "I want to stop them. My dad suggested you guys. He's retired Navy. According to him, you've got a good reputation. Maybe not total straight shooters, but you still know who the bad guys are. You're small enough that I could probably do some real good here. And who knows, my skills might be useful for run of the mill cases as well. I'm good at puzzles. Murders are puzzles, right?"
"Something like that Mrs… Ms… Bishop."
"Ms. Or Ellie. I like Ellie."
"We usually go by last name here. Part of the Navy culture."
"Then I can be Bishop." She smiles at him. "That's got a sort of pleasant gravity to it, right? But not Mrs. Bishop, that's my mother-in-law."
Tony smiles and shakes his head a bit, wondering why on Earth he's actually thinking of doing this. But, good idea or not, he's starting to like it. Good idea or not, he's starting to like her.
"So, tell me something you did that isn't classified fifteen levels above my pay grade."
She looks curiously at him and launches into a complicated discussion of probability and the use of what seems like unrelated data points to make a pattern. About two paragraphs in he stops her.
"Okay. That's how you explain it to McGee or Abby. Explain it to someone who still needs a calculator to figure out the tip."
She's about to laugh at that, realizes that he might be serious, and then thinks about that for a moment. "You ever play minesweeper?"
He nods. He didn't play it a lot. Mostly because both Ziva and McGee would absolutely kill him at it. They'd be flashing their zippy times and perfect scores, and he'd get blown up twenty times in ten minutes. And it's not that he can't play it, because if he takes the time to really look, he can. But he was a whole lot slower at it than they were.
"Okay, so that's what I'd do. You get a few data points together, and you've got a whole lot of blanks, too. You use the data you have to make a guess about those blanks. Then you hit the blank. If your data was good, and you're a bit lucky, you get more intel, and that helps you uncover more blanks. One of the things I did was take our guesses about what might be in those blanks, and then used those guesses to figure out what might be in blanks even further down the line, and then from there go even further."
"How do you know if you were right?"
She shakes her head. "You never know if you're right. You do know if you're wrong."
"If you're wrong?"
"Lots of booms?"
"No. I'm good at my job. They probably wouldn't have found my stuff so useful if I'd been bad at it. So, you never know if you've got the right idea, but when nothing goes boom, that's data, too, so you add that in, and go after even more invisible blocks."
"And of course the other side knows you're watching, so sometimes you get something, and they fed it to you, so they don't go Boom on purpose just to feed you more false data."
"Yeah. Like playing chess on an infinite board with an unknown number of pieces and an unknown number of players where the players are blindfolded ninety percent of the time."
"Great." All of that sounds really… theoretical. Is she going to be able to do anything useful for a concrete situation?
He is, however, pleased to see she reads people well enough to ask, "So, I guess, my question is, what do you think I can do for you? I mean, I applied as an analyst, not… this."
"We are a MCRT, Major Case Response Team, that means we get sent out on murders, rapes, grievous bodily harm, thefts and frauds with a value of over one hundred thousand dollars," it had been fifty grand when he started, inflation hits everything apparently, "and I'm building what is going to be the main NCIS anti-terrorism task unit."
"We usually get two or three terror cases a year. The four other MCRTs out of the Navy Yard get a few each, too. The shift is that we'd get all of them, but even with that, we're talking something along the lines of one new case a month, so we'd still be doing murders, rapes, and thefts. So, this is an actual, in the field, deal with dead bodies and criminals sort of job. Is that a deal breaker for you?"
She thinks about it. "Nah. I'm always trying to push myself in new directions, new challenges. Since I left the NSA, I've tried everything from gourmet French cooking to marathon running to writing crossword puzzles. This would be another new challenge."
Okay. He hands her a folder. "This is one of our solved cases. Look through it, tell me what you see, what you're thinking…"
She opens the folder and starts reading. A few seconds in she says, "Do you mind if I eat?"
He's puzzled by that, but maybe she's diabetic or something and needs to eat regularly. "No."
"Good." She pulls three candy bars and a bag of chips out of her purse. Obviously not diabetic. She catches him staring at the food. "Food helps me file the things in my head."
"Oh." That's… weird. But, if it works… Her eyes scan over the pictures as she chews, taking in details, reading the file, and then she starts to talk…
She's fast, a little disjointed, he's not following everything she's coming up with, but she is seeing patterns they didn't find until later in the investigation, and there's a touch of Ducky's profiler in there. (Which is when it hit him that eventually Ducky will be leaving, and one thing Jimmy won't be replacing is Ducky's profiling skills, so that's something else he's going to need.) The information he's given her is just the basic facts, what they found at the crime scene, original witness statements, stuff like that. It took her less than twenty minutes to read the file, and in half an hour she'd come up with a fairly decent plan of attack for finding their killer. She'd missed a few of the clues, but she's not a field agent, so he doesn't expect her to get everything on one look.
He can work with this.
"You're up to date on your FLETC certifications?"
"You any good with a computer?"
She just stares at him before slowly answering, "Everything I did for the NSA was on a computer."
"Good. So, you can hack into things?"
She squints at him, feeling like they just talked about this and how she's not really big on just breaking into people's stuff. "What sorts of things?"
"We get a vic's computer. It's got some locked files on it. Can you get in?"
"Maybe." He sees her relax at that. Yeah, she's probably not the person to call in on the 'can you hack this suspect's computer' without a warrant stuff, at least, not right away. "I'm more of a number cruncher when it comes to computer work. Like if you've got three victims and you want to find out what they've got in common, that's the sort of computer work I'm good with."
He nods. That's useful. McGee spends a lot of time doing stuff like that for them.
"So, like if I give you ten years of financials for three different guys…"
"No problem." She waves that off. "You can give me fifty years of financials for two million guys, and I'll find your patterns." She sounds half-proud and half-ashamed at that, and he gets that that was the problem with the NSA. He's also now wondering if they were doing that, running through everyone's bank records willy-nilly. He wonders if how to do that better and slicker is part of what she came up with that made her leave.
He's half thinking that she's overkill. Like bringing a tank to a knife fight. She may be way too damn smart and theoretical for this job. But it feels right. He's sure he can use her. He's sure she's part of getting to the next… whatever it is that comes next. So he says to her, "You doing anything January 18th?"
She checks her phone. "Nope."
"You are now. 08:00, front and center, bring lots of pens, you'll have a ton of paperwork to fill out."
She looks startled. "That's it? I've got the job?"
"You're a Probie. You've got a year to decide if you like the job for you, and to prove you deserve the job to me."
"Cool!" She smiles brightly at him.