McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.
Chapter 371: Team Building
In an effort to locate quality people for his pool of talent Tim has a specialized search in play for his news feed.
And on May 3rd, 2016, that search pays off.
He's writing up a plan. He's had it in play for a while, but, since they've now finished the active development stage of the paperwork software, he's got the time to put this into play. Namely, he's got 154 techs under his command, all of whom suddenly have a lot more free time, and that is a huge pool of talent.
So, he's writing up a memo about how he wants each member of Cybercrime spending at least one week a year studying, attacking, dissecting, all manner of closely scrutinizing their security protocols, looking for holes, weaknesses, or God, worse, spyware that's lurking in their code where it isn't supposed to be, and then one additional week on defense, building up extra walls, protecting them, when his computer chirps at him to let him know that something interesting is up.
And boy is it. His eyes flick through the storyline quickly, and before he has it done, he's already calling Abby.
"You okay on your own for a night?"
"Tim?" she asks, wondering what's up. Part of the whole Cybercrime thing is that he's not supposed to be just wandering off unexpectedly.
"Just went across the wire, three kids out of New Mexico just took down Anonymous. Got all of it, all of the servers, the nineteen people who were orchestrating it..." Yes, officially Anonymous is a collection of somewhat sympathetic to each other individuals all working toward vaguely similar goals, but, especially among law enforcement, there's always been the idea/hope that there was some sort of unifying force behind it, and if the story he's reading is right the answer to that was yes, and this girl... Cristin Brand, and her two buddies, just broke the whole thing open. "the fifty-four hundred people who were hacking, they took down the entire house of mirrors. The oldest one is seventeen. I want to be in the air in an hour and at her house offering her a job before the sun sets."
He can feel Abby smile.
"I think Kelly and I can do a night on our own. Go get your hacker!"
"Thanks. I'll call when I can."
"Love you, too."
Tim doesn't have a secretary. Every other Director at NCIS does. Why he doesn't has never occurred to him, but he's guessing it's because no one ever thought that his job would need one. After all, he already knows how to use a computer, which, from what he can see, is a lot of what the other Directors' Secretaries do.
He's never actually thought about that until right now when he's trying to figure out how to get in the air, while wrapping up his memo, and sending out another one for where he's going and why. Finally, he calls Vance's secretary and asks her what to do. He's found a commercial flight, but it leaves later than he'd like and won't get in until after ten.
He's hoping he can hop whatever Navy or Marine transport might be available and get there faster.
Karen gets him pointed in the right direction, and hooked into the air traffic schedule at Andrews, Norfolk, and Dover, and lets him know that NCIS does have a jet, and it is available to him, but as Director of Cybercrime, he's fourth on the list of people who get to use it.
But today, it's free. And tomorrow, it's free. So he snatches it, calling in with instructions to get ready to go, he'll be on the tarmac as soon as he can get there.
"Like the last five times, we are done talking to the press!" and the extremely irate woman with the black hair and brown eyes tries to shut the door in his face.
Tim's very glad that he got his foot in the door and that today's shoes are pretty tough, otherwise he'd have a very sore foot. She did not give the door a gentle push.
"I'm not with the press." He gets his ID out and the woman in front of him, who he's assuming is Cristin Brand's mother, squints her eyes to read it. She's frazzled. Probably didn't know what her daughter was up to, let alone expect the storm of reporters and tech bloggers who are camping out in front of her house. (They've actually got cops keeping them back. So the fact that they let him through probably should have been a hint he isn't a reporter.)
"Naval Criminal Investigative Service."
"We're not talking to you without a lawyer."
He holds up his hands. "I'm not here to interrogate your daughter; I'm here to offer her a job."
"What?" She's utterly stunned by that. Apparently none of the barracudas circling her home are headhunters. Their loss.
"May I come in?" It's got to be one hundred and ten out there, and sure, dry heat and all, but it's still hot! The fact that he's dressed for early May in DC is not helping the matter. Blue jeans, black button down, leather jacket (in the rental car) is not New Mexico-friendly clothing.
She squints at him again, but lets him in. A staggering wall of AC hits him, and for a second it feels really good, and then he's wishing he'd brought his jacket. Overheating to overchilled in less than five minutes. Splendid.
Enough of that, business time. She hasn't offered him a seat or a drink. She's got him standing in the foyer, looking at him warily.
"I'm Tim McGee, Director of Cybercrime for NCIS, we're a Federal Agency devoted to solving crimes involving Naval and Marine personnel and their families. We also work on terrorism and Naval and Marine security. Your daughter and her friends just counted one of the biggest hacking coups ever, and I want her working for me."
"Just like that. You've… You don't know anything about her."
"Are the stories true? Did she and her buddies take down Anonymous?"
"Then I want her, and when they turn eighteen, her buddies working for me. May I talk to her?"
"She hasn't even graduated high school, yet."
Tim thinks quickly, there's what, six weeks of school left for the year? He's not getting rid of Hepple until June, anyway. "She's a senior, right?"
"That's fine, I can't hire her until she's eighteen anyway. I'm comfortable with a whichever happens first start date."
Mrs. Brand (she still hasn't introduced herself, so he's hoping that's right) is still staring at him, dumbstruck. "Are you really serious?"
"I am dead serious. Yes, I do want to meet her and talk to her and see if this kind of job is interesting to her. But, if she wants it… We have what's called a Probationary Year. She'll work for us, be a full employee, but over the course of that year, if she's not happy or doesn't like it, she can leave and it's not a problem. No bad reviews, nothing like that. I just chalk it up to being a bad fit. If, at the end of the year, she wants a career with us, we're good to go."
"She's been accepted to MIT."
He nods. "MIT's a great school. I'm a Beaver, too. I got my MS there, class of 2002, and loved it. But, MIT also has a deferred acceptance program. She can work with me for a year, and if she doesn't love it, her place will still be waiting for her. Plus, they've put all of their classes online, so there's no reason why she can't study anything that takes her interest in her spare time. With as hot as she is right now, I'm certain that if she wants to work with me, and take a course or two a semester long distance with them, they will work with her to make sure it can happen. Trust me, they're going to want her on their alumni list.
"And, if she does love working with me, and just wants to work for me, four years from now, instead of being $170,000 in debt with no concrete job experience, she'll be…" Tim does a little quick math. "One hundred and forty thousand in the black, with four years of experience at a Federal agency, and the kind of skills that any firm would kill to have."
The assumed Mrs. Brand looks him over for a long minute, and then says, "Wait here. I'll go get her."
And, two minutes later Cristin Brand, the girl who got Anonymous, and her dad, had joined them in a sunny living room to hear more about this job at NCIS.
She's so young. He forgets exactly how young eighteen is, because it's been a long time, and there really aren't any teenagers in his life. She must have gone to school today, (Catholic school from the looks of it.) because she's in a plaid skirt, white shirt, and navy blue blazer. Her hair is long and black, her eyes are dark brown, like her mom's, and he's not sure if she's (and her Mom) half or a quarter Latino, (her Dad is blond with blue eyes) or just tan.
They talk, and she's smart, and enthusiastic, a little overwhelmed by all of this, little overwhelmed by him showing up and saying, 'Come with me, get to be a grown-up overnight, none of this messing around with college stuff, I'll give you a job and let you catch bad guys and save the day.'
After all, he remembers how it felt when he was not all that much older, and the FBI and IRS were offering him desk jobs and then Armstrong sauntered in and told him to leave that bullshit behind, come with him, and get to use a gun and put bad guys away.
(Though, in that he's sitting in her parents' living room, both of them watching him like a hawk, his version of 'leave this bullshit behind' is significantly more polite than Armstrong's was.)
But he's very much playing up the save the day angle, explaining their most recent cases, and how what they do literally saves lives, and she's impressed.
He asks her about what they did. Most science/hacking reporters know just enough about the subject to write something that other people who don't know anything about the subject find compelling. So, while he's sure that the main thrust of the coverage was right, took down the whole Anonymous syndicate, he's also sure the how and why aspects were, at best, glossed over.
So he gets her talking, and she spends two hours on it, working him through the whole thing, seeming to really enjoy talking about this with someone who gets it.
He's enjoying the conversation, too. She's got great instincts. She and her buddies can code like no one's business and they went in deep, built awesome covers, and broke the whole thing into pieces.
"When do you turn eighteen?" he asks as they wrap up.
"If you want it, July 8th I've got a desk and a job waiting for you."
She's smiling at him, eyes bright. "Oh yeah."
"Wait a second. We are not letting you just snatch up our daughter," the now-introduced Marcella Brand says.
"Mom, I'll be eighteen. You can't stop me."
Tim holds up his hands. "Look, I get this. I've got a daughter of my own. You did college visits, right? Checked everything out, made sure the place looked good?"
All three Brands nod.
"Pack some bags. I've got a jet, so come back with me. Check it out. We pay travel expenses for people who come to interview, so putting you up for a night or two and then flying you back home won't be a problem." (He doesn't actually know if that's true or not, but if petty cash won't cover it, he'll pay out of pocket. He wants this girl on his team.)
"You have a jet?" David Brand asks.
"Not me personally. NCIS does. I've got 154 people under me all over the world, Cristin would be part of the 12 who report directly to me, but if I need to get to one of my other stations, I have to be able to travel."
"So, wait, you… what, read about her, grabbed a jet, and got here, just like that?" Marcella asks.
"Yes. I'm going to build the best Cybercrime division of any Federal Agency. You build something like that by investing is good people. You," he looks at Cristin, "are exactly the kind of person I want on my team. So, if you like, pack up, let's go see where you'll be working if you come with me."
He thinks it's the Lear jet that sells the Brands on the idea that this is a real job offer. The idea that his agency would go to this level of expense to come get her, and make her want to work for them, begins to settle them down.
Of course, after a day of annoying press badgering them (and they did swarm when they saw him leave with her) several hours outside of any contact with the rest of the world was probably pretty nice.
"You really want to hire me?" Cristin asks. She's been alternating between watching the sky and ground, and staring in awe at the jet. And Tim has to admit, it's an awfully cool jet. He did some staring in awe and fiddling with all the nifty little dohickies on the way over. Then he took pictures and spent a few minutes texting with Abby about the fact that he gets to use the Lear Jet!
"Don't I have to have a college degree or something?"
"I got some wiggle room from my boss on that. You've got to be over eighteen. You've got to do the job. Showing up on time, doing the work. You go to college, you can coast. You can play. You're more than smart enough that if you wanted to go and party for four years, you could. You come with me, you can't… Actually, you can do whatever you like on your off time. But, when you're on, you've got to be on, and they do random drug tests so you can't come up positive for anything. Beyond that, your off time is your own.
"So, for fifty hours a week, you'd be mine. The computer will spit out jobs, and you'll do them. They'll range from pretty easy stuff, NCIS agent in New Orleans, say, needs someone to track a suspect's computer history, to very hard stuff. You remember Ajay Khan?"
Her eyes go wide, and she nods. "That was you?"
Tim nods back. "Yeah. I'm the one who took him down. I had help. My partners actually grabbed him and made him talk, but I'm the one who found out what information we had to get out of him. Even thinking he was about to die, he was still trying to BS us, and I'm the guy who knew it was BS, so I got the right answer out of him."
She stares at Tim for a few minutes, really looking at him, thinking. "So, why haven't I heard of you?"
Tim inclines his head, not exactly shrugging that off, but keeping the answer light. "Because I like it that way. Got a kindle on your phone?"
He gets out his own phone, heads over to Amazon, and sends her a gift. "Maybe you have heard of me."
Her phone chirps to let her know it's got a new email and she sees the book he sent her. "You write books, too?"
He nods. "The job will take as much time as you'll let it, but it doesn't have to be your whole life. I've got a wife and baby girl at home, too. Cybercrime works twenty-four seven, but I work hard to make sure all of you have downtime, too. Once those pictures of us leaving your house go on the wire, some other agencies will get the idea that maybe they'd like to hire you, too. If I'm the only guy who shows up with a job offer in hand, I'll be stunned.
"They'll be good offers. Maybe better pay, maybe they'll say 'Go to college and we'll have a spot for you in four years.' They may offer to pay for college. I can't do that. But I can give you the best team, the best work/life balance, and the best cases. I can get you working now, and they likely won't. And I believe in teams, in the power of people who know how to work with each other, and how that makes the work better, makes you sharper, so as soon as they're old enough, your two friends'll get job offers, too.
"You won't always be working with them. They might not even end up at DC. I have to put people where I get openings, and the one I've got right now is in DC. The ones I have next year may be in Tokyo or Berlin or Detroit or… We've got stations all over the world.
"But if you let me, I'll leverage your skills, teach you to be an even better hacker than you are right now, and we'll catch killers and stop terrorists."
She stares at him with wide eyes. "I feel like I'm dreaming."
He smiles at that.
It's after ten when they get wheels on the ground. "So, get you settled and come in tomorrow morning, or come see everything now?"
The older Brands look like they're all in favor of settling down. Cristin wants to see Cybercrime.
So they go.
It's after eleven by the time they get in. "Pretty quiet this time of night. Ngyn and Connon are on, and I think Howard's still here. She's been hunting a digital terror cell for the last five days along with techs in Eido and Cartagena."
Brand's eyes light up at the big screen tvs, gaming stations, and snacks.
Tim sees that, and his Dad instincts are sharp enough to read the look. "That's for cooling off time. Sometimes it's good to have some time to just veg before you go back to it, and sometimes you need to cool off some before heading home. Either way, you can get it here." He points to the sofa and says to the adult Brands. "If they're too wired to drive, I don't let 'em go home without a nap or someone else driving."
"How old are most of your employees?"
"Cristin would be the youngest by six years. Next one is twenty-three, and she's a wunderkind, too. Most of the rest are somewhere between thirty and fifty-five."
"You're younger than a lot of your employees?" Dave Brand asks.
Tim nods. "NCIS respects talent more than years on the job. This time last year I was a field agent, actually carried a gun and arresting people. But I was better with a computer and had a better vision for where I wanted Cybercrime to go, so now I'm the guy in charge of it."
All three Brands look impressed by that.
He shows them the work stations, introduces Connon, who's busy working away. He explains what he's doing (pretty straightforward, just basic computer history for one of the guys upstairs) and tells the Brands a bit about working at NCIS.
Tim introduces them to Ngyn, whose eyes go wide when he introduces Brand. Then she looks to Tim and back to Brand, and immediately gets into a deep and heated conversation with Brand about what she'd done. Howard drifts over, sees the gab fest going on and hops into it, bringing over Caf-Pows and coffee.
"Cristin…" her dad says when it gets to 01:00.
She waves him off, her new buddies are awesome!
"Cristin, time for us to get some rest."
She pouts at him, but allows herself to be pulled away.
When Tim drops them off at the hotel he says, "There'll be a formal job offer in the mail tomorrow. If you want to come back tomorrow and meet more of my team, you're welcome to. If you want to just rest and head home, or do some sight-seeing, that's fine, too. I'll email you tickets for a return flight for tomorrow evening."
May 6th, Tim got a piece of mail, over-nighted from New Mexico. It was a signed job offer. He also got an email from Leon, short and to the point, You used the jet?
He sent back. Got five minutes to talk?
A minute after that, Sure.
He heads up to Vance's office, and as soon as he has the door shut he says, "I found my first seventeen-year-old."
Vance does not seem to think this is an answer to his comment about the jet, but says, "Tell me he starts after he turns eighteen?"
"She'll be eighteen in July, and she begins then."
He's not entirely sure if that look on Vance's face is amusement or concern. "You're hiring eighteen-year-old girls?"
"I hired the seventeen-year-old girl who flushed out Anonymous. I was at her house less than four hours after the news broke, which is why I needed the jet. And I gave her two best friends who helped offers to start the day they turn 18, in 2018."
"You going to have a space for them?"
"I'll make 'em if I have to. They're worth it. So, you saying I'm not supposed to use the jet? Karen," Vance's secretary, "said I was on the list for it."
"You are, just… Usually we send each other a note about it."
"Oh. Will do that next time."
"Good. Craig was surprised to see it wasn't sitting on the tarmac waiting for him."
"He didn't have it reserved."
"No, he didn't. He's the only one who uses it, so he didn't bother."
Tim gives Leon a not my fault sort of gesture. "Something blows up and I need to be there for it, unlike Jenner, I'll move. Someone hits my radar, someone I want for the team, I'll move on it. I've got no problem using Navy or Marine transport or going commercial, but if I need to be in Rota tomorrow, I'll be in Rota."
Leon smiles at that. "I'll remind Craig we've got a sign up system for a reason."