Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Setting Things In Motion

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

Chapter 364: Setting Things In Motion

There have been a few, rare, moments where Tim's wanted to rub his hands together, cackling like a mad scientist, shouting 'Eureka!'

And right now he's awfully tempted to start doing it.

Exactly one month ago he hit the key that set the Beta test of the paperwork software live. Over the course of that month his guys and Autopsy had managed to snag, break, stall out, and confuse the software six times. (He was expecting that to be the first day of reports, not the first month.)

And now, fixes in place, patches patched, he's once again getting ready to send the software live, this time for the gamma test, NCIS Navy Yard-wide.

He hits the enter button and, boom, it's up.

A fast email to everyone, (he'd already written it, just needed to hit send) explaining what was up, and how everyone would still need to do their paperwork by hand, but that the computers should be doing it, too, and how if something went wonky they needed to let Cybercrime know.

And then it was time to settle in and wait for the error reports.

He's feeling more and more at ease in this job. His guys are moving more smoothly. They're teaming properly now, and as of last week the job software went live for the whole of NCIS, so they're running twenty-four seven with full teams. (Granted the members of said team may be spread along three continents.) With his current talent pool, no case ever has to wait for more than a few hours to find someone who knows how to run it.

That makes him very happy.

Sure, getting hands on work can still be a bit rough. ID10T errors seem fairly common when, say, someone in Bogota needs a phone hacked, and the nearest hacker is in Eido, and Bogota is having a hard time figuring out how to get the phone hooked into the system so Eido can hack it. But, talking Bogota through how to do it is still faster than sticking the phone on a helio and moving it to the closest hacker (Mexico City) and then waiting for him to get into the office, get done with his other cases, and then hack the phone.

So, in that he doesn't have a mound of paperwork on his desk to fill out, and in that he's also (not yet) getting inundated with error reports, and in that his Minions who also do not have mounds of paperwork to fill out and are now on 24/7 are whipping through the job queue, something he hasn't thought about for a while springs to mind.

Namely, back when he tested Cybercrime the first time Jarvis mentioned that he'd like a copy of the report and a feasibility study for doing it Navy-wide.

Might as well start that up.

"Can I ask you for some advice?" Tim asks, walking into Gibbs' living room later that evening. (He cut out a little early, wanted to talk to Gibbs. Kind of hoping to just 'drop by' when Borin was there so he could report back to the crew that he had at least seen them both in the same place at the same time, but no dice.)

"Sure," Gibbs answers, looking up from his kindle. (Tim makes a mental note to get him a new one for Christmas, this one's two generations out of date.)

"I started writing that report on the feasibility of my Cybercrime test navy-wide."


Tim sits next to him on the sofa. "Okay, I've hit a brick wall. I don't know precisely how their computers are set up, and I can't determine how feasible this is if I don't know that."

"Sounds like you know what's going on."

"Yeah, on that part. None of the tech is an issue. I mean, I can find out how they're set, on my own, but, that's about twenty grades above my clearance and really illegal. So, what… Do I tell Vance, and he tells Jarvis? Do I go straight to Jarvis? I mean, what's the chain of command here? He asked me to do it so, do I go straight to him?"

Gibbs thinks about that. How to do politics is something he's not good at. How the chain of command works, he's… still not good at. His plan was to always go to the guy who could get you what you want or need and screw the intermediaries. He tries to think about it like he was the kind of guy who wanted a career and that not pissing off the powers that be mattered. That didn't work, he's not that guy, never was, and really can't imagine him too well. So, he tries it from how he would have handled it.

"You wanna own this, or do you want NCIS to own it?"

"Not following."

"If it's your baby, then you call Jarvis' secretary and make the appointment. If it's NCIS being useful to the Navy, if it's Leon loaning you out, then you put it through Leon."

Tim thinks about that for a while. His first instinct is that this is his. He thought it up. He put it in motion. His second instinct is that Leon might not see it that way. "Do you think Leon will be upset if I take this?"

Gibbs shrugs. "Maybe. Probably depends on what you do with it and how the rest of your jobs go. Keep doing your job and doing it well, he likely won't mind."

"Will Jarvis?"

"He asked you for this?"

"He told me that if I had time I should write it up for him."

"Sounds like he asked for it."

"That's how I took it. So, call his secretary?"

"Unless you want to share the glory with the rest of NCIS."

"I'll think about it."

And Tim did. For a day. Then he called Leon's office, got his secretary, Karen, and asked for Jarvis' email. Which she gave him.

Then he carefully drafted an email with his current findings and explaining what he needed to know and why in order for him to take this to a Navy-wide level. He cced it to Leon, but did not address it to him.

A few hours later he got a quick note from Leon:

Looks good. Keep me in the loop.

Four days later he got this from Jarvis (also cced to Leon):


I've read over your preliminary reports and your plan for how to roll this out wider. I like what I'm seeing.

If I remember correctly, you were involved in the hunt for Harper Deering. He used his knowledge of our system to find flaws and attack us with them.

Put your Deering hat on. Set up a test, find our flaws, break them open, and let's get them patched before someone on the outside can break into them. Once that's done, I'd like you to set a testing protocol for the Navy, so that we may continue running these tests, but doing so doesn't become your full-time job. I have a feeling you have other jobs that need doing just as much as this one.

Admr. Dean Finnegan runs all Cybersecurity for the US Navy. I've included his contact information and sent him a note to offer you any assistance you desire.


For a long moment Tim just stares at that. Clayt. He swallows hard and gets to work. Jarvis is right, he's got jobs to do, lots of them. (Like right now he's the lead hacker breaking into a hyper-secure shell corporation's inter-web.)

But he also takes a moment to write an introductory email to Admr. Finnegan, requesting a meeting. Once he's got the access he needs, he can design one hell of a test, and he's really enjoying the idea of that.

Traditionally Admirals have flagships. They have battle groups and one specific ship that is their, for all practical purposes, home.

Admiral Finnegan does not have a flagship. That's sign one of how much naval warfare has changed over the years. He could have a flagship. He's an Admiral. He could have his very own pink aircraft carrier should he so desire. (Tim's father and grandfather have/had aircraft carriers. Not pink ones though.)

But he doesn't.

He's out of Norfolk for several reasons, but primarily because it's the Cyberhub of the Navy, and if it happens on a computer anywhere in the world under a US Navy command, he's hooked into it from there. And because he's on land, in a hardened base, he doesn't have to worry about his command getting knocked out by wonky satellites, storms, or anything that could mess with a ship.

So, if there is one Admiral in the Navy that Tim McGee wants to visit in his home base, it's Admiral Finnegan.

Tim would have to admit to feeling a little nervous about this as he's driving down to Norfolk. He knows it will clear once they get talking, because Finnegan seemed very enthusiastic about what he wanted to do in his emails, but he's still going to visit an Admiral, and even if it's not The Admiral, it's still got a lot of the same associations buried in the back of his mind.

At least it's on dry land.

Over the years, Tim has been pleased that McGee is a very common last name. Because there are lots of McGees out there, the number of people who have put together Admiral John McGee with Special Agent (and now Director of Cybercrime) Tim McGee have been very few and very far between.

For example, he's not sure if Jarvis has twigged to it. He knows the only reason Leon found out was they had that one case his dad was part of. Armstrong actually did some research on him when he showed up to recruit him for NCIS, which is how he found out. He'd worked for the MCRT for five years before they knew what Navy Brat actually meant in regards to Tim.

But, of course, there are only eleven Admirals in the US Navy, and they know each other, so…

Tim can hope it won't come up, but he's not thinking it's likely.

So much for hope. Admr. Finnegan's secretary walked Tim in, they shook hands and then Finnegan looked at him carefully, thought about it for a few seconds, and then said, "Are you John McGee's boy?"

Tim supposes he probably does look like his dad some. And even if he doesn't, last Sarah said, he still had a picture of him up in his office, so…

"Yes, sir."

"No need for that. Dean'll do. How's the old son-of-a-bitch doing?"

"I understand he's well." Which is true but doesn't require him to pretend they have any sort of relationship.

Finnegan seems to catch it though, thinks about that for a second, like he was about to either ask a follow-up question or say something else about John, but decides not to.

Instead he nods and says, "You've got Clayt all fired up about this, so what do you need from me?"

Finnegan shows him their central hub. He talks through how everything works, giving Tim some very good ideas.

"We do this for ourselves, of course. My guys run tests on our ships, on our bases, on anything with a computer on it."

"Good tests?"

"Yes. But they still come from the inside. And they've still got a… Navy feel to them."

Tim smiles at that. "I trained at MIT, and I can spot another Beaver from my era from a mile away. I know what you mean about having a certain feel to them. Trust me, nothing that comes from my office is going to feel like a Navy attack..." Tim thinks about that. "Unless I want it to."

Finnegan smiles at that. "Tit for tat? Want us to take a swing at you guys?"

"Certainly. So far all of my attacks have come from the inside, too. Part of how I could hack my own system. And you've got to keep watch for that, too. Especially with how spread out your organization is."

Finnegan nods. "Physical security of the system is just as important as keeping the internals safe."

"Exactly. We've had people break into the building because that's easier than hacking the system from the outside."

"So, you going to break in and 'compromise the physical layout'?"

Tim smiles. "Maybe. I'd have to talk to Jarvis about this, but… I think I'm going to make them think I broke in and launched from the inside, but actually strike from the outside."

Finnegan grins at that, really enjoying that idea. "That'll be fun."

"Oh yeah."

A week after talking to Finnegan, Tim had finished the first test protocol.

If he were to explain it to Finnegan, it would take three hours and involve a lot of words that most laymen don't know.

If he were to explain it to Gibbs, it would go something like this: My computer at work is going to slip a program into Norfolk. That program will hit the computers there that run everything. Those computers are hooked into every command center in the Navy. From there a program will hop to whatever ship we're testing. That ship will then get a message to do something bad. The ship will also get the message that it's being told to do something bad from one of the computers on the ship. The test is can the guys on the ship get it shut down in time, and can they find out where the attack actually came from?

He sent a somewhat more technologically sophisticated version of that to Jarvis (with the cc to Leon) and got back a one line response from Jarvis. Isn't that supposed to be impossible?

Tim smiles, feeling pretty cocky, and writes back. Yes. It's supposed to be impossible.

Another brief email hit his inbox. I have three free hours in the morning of May 16th. Lt. James'll select a ship and we'll discuss putting the test into play. Let's get this set to go.

Tim sent back one line. Yes, sir.


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