Friday, September 26, 2014

Shards To A Whole: The Storm

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

Chapter 387:  The Storm

Four AM Friday morning. Butt crack of dawn as Tony would say. Tim's yawning, and Abby's looking like she's about to fall asleep on her feet. Test begins 13:03:06 Pacific Standard Time. Between now and then he's got more than three thousand miles to cover. Time to get moving.

He kisses her, and she holds him, tight. "Come back as soon as you can."

"All goes well, I'll be home Sunday or the day after."

"You better be." She's looking up at him, serious, some fear in her eyes.

"Look, there is no way I'm missing Kelly's birthday for this. Give her extra hugs and kisses from me when she wakes up."


He kisses her again and then gently turns her toward the stairs. "Come on, go back to sleep, you look ready to drop. I'll be fine. I went to Afghanistan, and you were less nervous about it."

"Because you were less nervous about it."

He smiles a little and kisses her one last time.

"Sunday or the day after. I'll skype if I can."

She kisses him, pulls back a little, and looks him over in the uniform. "Think they'll let you keep this?"

He knows where this is going but plays along anyway. "Why?"

"Want to take it off you when you get home."

He grins at that, kisses her ear and whispers, "As you wish," then pulls back and heads for the roadster.

Jarvis and James are standing on the tarmac when he pulls up. He sees both of them eye the car. Bright red 1930s roadster isn't precisely subtle.

"Didn't know you were a car guy," James says to him as he gets out, shouldering his bags.

He shakes his head. "I'm not. My wife is. She rebuilt this from scrap. I just get to drive it when I need to get somewhere, and she needs the car with the baby seat in it."

Jarvis nods. "Beautiful car." Then he looks Tim over critically. He's pulling off the uniform okay, doesn't look uncomfortable in it. Posture's a bit wonky, but not terrible. It's right, but it looks like he's got to think about it to keep it right. "What's that black thing on your wrist?"

"Wrist cuff." Tim pulls up his jacket sleeve showing it off. Jarvis is good at this, everything fits, almost perfectly, but the sleeves are about a quarter inch too short.

"Any chance of you taking that off?"

Tim does and shows him the red lip print tattoo under it. "This at least looks vaguely like a watch. I can take the watch off, so it looks even more like one."

Jarvis nods, squinting at the lip print, curious. "Why do you have a pair of lips tattooed onto your wrist?"

Tim smiles, putting the cuff back on. "Had a good time on my honeymoon. How about you, do you have any?"

Jarvis smiles at that, looking amused. "No. It's difficult to do a good job in the clandestine services if you have a readily visible identifying mark. James has a few interesting ones, though."

James shrugs, touches the top of his arm. "SEAL team mark. Got Bill on my calf."

Bill the Goat is the official Navy mascot. "Played for Navy?"

"When I was at Annapolis, yes. Linebacker."

Tim looks at James, who is likely six two and two hundred pounds of muscle. Yes, he would have been a fine linebacker. James is looking at him. "You're what, a swimmer?"

Tim smiles. "MMA."

James shakes his head, and Tim sees him flash Jarvis a Computer guys really are weird look. "Of course."

The pilot joins them. "We're ready to go, as soon as you are."

James looks toward the plane, and up they go.

Clayt is dozing. James is going over his files, probably making sure everything is ready to go as soon as they hit the ground in California.

Tim's prepping his character.

He actually likes the idea of naval aviator. Between talking with Draga, and his personal aversion to boats, he feels like he can pull off an aviator.

The Irish Naval Service doesn't have aviators. That's not entirely true. They have one team. Search and rescue missions. It's a helicopter that works off the deck of their largest ship. Tim could fill a thimble with what he knows about helicopters and still have plenty of room left over, so he can't convincingly fake that.

Plus, apparently one of his medals involves diving. Another one indicates he was loaned out to the UN for peacekeeping missions.

He looks up from his reading to James. "So," he taps the medals, "Is this a real person or…"

James shrugs. "I didn't handle that. He's got contacts all over the world from doing all sorts of things. Once the idea was set, he called someone and then this showed up along with the SparkNotes version of what all of this is a week later. All I know is that if someone gets suspicious and actually calls the Irish Naval Service to check up on you, you'll pass."

Tim nods at that. "Okay." He does more reading, and thinking, and when he feels like he's got Captaen (Captain, he's lucked out this is the one rank where the English and Irish Gaelic are practically identical) Timothy McGee set in his head, he also decides to get some more sack time.

It feels a little odd to be part of a VIP delegation. Personal guest of the SecNav.

His stateroom is nice. Really nice. Walnut and mahogany fixtures, crisp linens, plush carpeting. It's about a thousand times nicer than the berths the enlisted men get (which is where, on the few times he's been on a ship overnight, he's crashed.) Actually, other than the small aspect, it's also nicer than basically every hotel room he's ever stayed in for the job, too.

But, very nice or not, it's still a room, in a ship, which is at sea, moving, under his dad's command. To say that he's nervous is an understatement. As soon as he saw the damn ship, it hit. Bad. He feels like his skin is buzzing he's so keyed up.

To say that he's green from sea sickness isn't. That hit about two minutes before he got on the ship.

They have an hour to get settled, and then they're meeting in the conference room. The Admiral didn't greet them when they got on the ship. That helped with both the jitters and the seasickness. But helped doesn't mean he's feeling good.

Like Jarvis had said, John's XO, Captain Russle, took them in hand, and if his dad still has pictures of him up, he looks different enough now, or Russle never paid enough attention to them, to identify him from them.

Of course, between the uniform and the goatee, it's possible that all the XO saw was an Irish Captain with a goatee and never looked any closer.

Fifty minutes until they meet. Tim takes a deep breath, and two of the anti-nausea pills Jimmy donated for this trip, then he gets his computer out, and gets going.

Focus is a good thing. He needs to focus to do the only hacking he's going to do onboard today, and that's getting into the security feed.

Takes him a good half hour to break in and get everything set. It'll take a minute or two more to transfer the feed from his computer to the big screen in the conference room.

By the time James knocks on his door saying, "Three minutes," everything is ready to go.

"Okay." He checks the count, then closes up his computer. "We're good on my side. 13:03:06 it all begins."


"Just a random time not too long after we get together. Wanted to get it started off soon, but some people run periodic sweeps. They usually start at the top of the hour or the top of the minute. Anyone who plays the game knows that, and adjusts. If they're on their game, they know that too, and have also adjusted, instituting random times. Hopefully the guys on this ships are that good, but there's no reason to give them an easy target if they aren't."

James nods. He's looking like he's going to enjoy this. "We'll see how good they are."

Tim exhales, forces his shoulders to relax, and says, "That's the plan."

"Looking forward to seeing your dad?" James asks.

"No." Tim says flatly. It'll be clear to everyone who sees them soon enough, so… "We're not on speaking terms."



James looks nervous. "Is this going to compromise the test?"

"It shouldn't. Him noticing I was on the visitors' roster might have, because he knows I'm a tech guy and he'd wonder why I was coming. But once it gets going, everything should run smooth."

"Good." He can see James is in pre-emptive clean-up mode.

"Really, no one ever accused my dad of letting his personal life get in the way of his professional life. He's not going to let the fact that it's me doing it mess with his career."


Like his stateroom, the conference room is plush. It'd be at home in any four star hotel or Top 100 corporate board room.

There are some hints they're at sea, the table and chairs are attached to the floor. There aren't a lot of cute decorations that could go skittering around. But everything just screams money and luxury.

That doesn't much matter to Tim. The fact that he's got lots of plugs and excellent Wi-Fi does.

The fact that the TV's huge is quite nice, too.

He can run a good show from here. He's getting it set up when he notices James (who's been hovering in the back of the room, doing something with his own computer… getting ready to record the whole thing, Tim remembers,) leap up.

He looks up and notices that he didn't hear the door open, but open it did, and The Admiral has just walked in. As best as Tim can tell, he looks the same as he did four years ago. Maybe a little more gray in his hair, maybe not. Posture, eyes, face, voice, all of that is the same. His eyes flick to the man standing next to his father… He's met him before, but doesn't remember his name. Same secretary he had back when they last met up.

The secretary glances at Tim, not happy at his lack of jumping up and proper attention, and then he sees who Tim is, and glares. That's not a good look. Tim feels the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He's got no idea of what this guy knows about him, or thinks he knows, but it's not good, at all.

"Clayt!" The Admiral sounds happy to see SecNav, though Tim's thinking that's probably a façade. He doesn't ever remember his dad having anything positive to say about higher ups poking around in his business. Of course, as a political animal, he never had anything negative to say about the higher ups who were poking around, but he would tell Torri about how frustrating it was to have to stop everything and deal with said higher ups.

"John. How are you doing?" SecNav's smile is warm, but restrained.

"Just…" And that's exactly how long it took for his dad to notice the tall, thin guy with the goatee in black sitting at the table, not standing up for him, not saluting, is Tim.

"Tim?" There's a mix of confusion and horror in his eyes at seeing his son. Tim's not sure how much of that is him, versus him in a Captain's uniform, versus being caught completely flatfooted by Tim in an officer's uniform.

He nods curtly, acknowledging his existence. "Sir."

John turns to SecNav, very confused look on his face. "Clayt? What is going on here? What is he doing in uniform?" Apparently the Admiral can't tell at a glance what nationality this uniform belongs to, either.

"McGee… Hmmm…" Jarvis looks at both McGees. "That's awkward. Tim?" He looks over at Tim, who nods, his first name is fine. "About a year back, before Tim took over NCIS Cybercrime, he decided to test their team. The test was very informative…" while Jarvis is explaining, Tim's continues setting up. He can feel his dad's eyes on him, but he's doing his best to not pay attention to it. He's got a job to do, and that job means getting everything online so they can watch the test.

He gets the images of their main computer stations up on the big screen, and gets his computer up and scanning the techs' feeds. He half-notices Jarvis pause, and gets the sense they were waiting for him, so he looks up and says, "All set on my side. Show starts in sixty-four seconds."

"You're running a blind test on my men?" John McGee does not sound pleased by that. Tim doesn't look up, but he can feel or maybe imagine, the look the secretary is getting right now. Tim's very, very glad to not be him in about an hour when John gets him alone.

"Exactly," says Jarvis. "Though not just yours. This will be happening periodically through the whole Navy for the foreseeable future. You and Lt. Mane are the only ones on this ship read into this and you are to remain silent about it until we're done with the testing phase. What are we seeing, Tim?"

"The test will run on the whole of Strike Group Three, so upper left corner is the Stennis, lower left is the Borealis, lower right is Dewey, and upper right is Kidd."

John nods and turns to Tim. "And you're in charge of this?"

Tim nods. "Just this first one, sir. I have a department of my own to run. Since it's my baby, I'm setting up the first test, writing up the assessment, and how to do it for whomever takes over from here, but from here on out someone else will handle it."

"Did you pick my ship?" The Admiral's voice is icy.

"No, sir." I wouldn't voluntarily go anywhere near your ship if it was up to me is left unspoken, but The Admiral gets it.

"Your ship was chosen at random, John," Clayt says.

"Then why the secrecy? Why?" he points to Tim's uniform, his voice scathing on the why.

"You would have known something was up if you saw my name on the visitors' roster. But a good cover ID is easy to remember and respond to, so my name, different branch of service. Apparently McGee is a common Irish name, and their Navy was happy to play ball."

"Indeed," John's voice is frigid as he says that. Tim's heard that tone before. He exhales quietly and shakes his head at it. Mane is going to get grilled awfully hard in the not very distant future for missing that the name of the visitor from the Irish Navy was Capt. Timothy McGee.

Mane shifts slightly, and Tim can see he knows what's coming for him, too.

He sees his screen flicker, the feed changing. "Okay, we're starting. The first time I ran this, I made sure the test was big and ugly and really visible. But if you guys were really getting hacked, that wouldn't happen. So this is slick and quiet. If your guys are awake, they may notice it in the first two minutes. If not… Well…"

They spend a moment watching techs on the different ships working away. Tim rotates through three of the screens, showing the other ships. He keeps the Stennis up so they can keep eyes on this ship's response.

"You run your own department now?" John asks Tim.

"Yes. In January I became the Director of Cybercrime for NCIS."

John nods. "How many men are under your command?"

"One hundred and forty-seven, sir. My biggest team is twelve, smallest one, and they're scattered across the entire globe."

"I had an entire battle group under my command by your age."

"I remember, sir. I was there. That's when you started going to sea ten months a year."

John inclines his head. "Quite a step up from being tech support for a four man team. You catch your Boss in a compromising position with a sheep and get pictures or something?" John asks with not quite enough of a smile to make it a joke.

Tim closes his eyes and refocuses on the screen. Jarvis winces at the tension between them and the silence that falls after John's statement.

"How are they doing?" Jarvis asks a minute later.

"Haven't noticed so far."

"What happens if they don't notice?" The Admiral asks.

"First all of your communications for the entire strike force will go down. Then you'll start firing on your own ships. Your ship will be aiming at the Borealis. Well, that's what they'll think is happening. Unless they've got a view of the deck, they won't know it isn't real. I'm not looking to kill anyone, so the guns won't move or target or fire or anything, but they'll see it target and the command to fire go through on their computers. Your other ships will get similar messages. Your radar and sonar will go blind, so no one will have any clue what's out there. And because I don't want you scrambling the jets and actually shooting anyone, your intercom is going down. By the time your men have figured out what's going on and can get a message by foot to the pilots, the test will be over and everyone will know no one was actually shooting."

"You can do that?" John looks very surprised.

Tim smiles, and there was nothing kind in that expression. His father is on the President's Commission for Drone Warfare, the top Drone man in the Navy. So, he's not asking, 'Is this possible?' He knows it's possible. He's asking, 'Can you do that?' "Apparently those years at MIT weren't the complete and utter waste of my time or talent you claimed they'd be, sir."

That's a smartass answer. Jarvis and James likely read that question to mean, can this be done. Jarvis looks from Tim to John, one eyebrow raised, and Tim just shakes his head. John's appalled at the idea that Tim would ever say that to him, let alone in front of his Boss.

"He is your father; you show him some respect," Mane growls.

Tim turns to look at him, mild expression on his face. "Were I to show him the respect he's earned as my father I'd have to resort to immensely unprofessional behavior and a vocabulary of nothing but profanity. Since that would be uncomfortable for everyone here, I'm showing his uniform the respect it deserves. However, after that sheep crack, I'm sorely tempted to quit doing that, too."

The other four men in the room go silent at that. John's looking at Tim like he's never seen him before, and Tim isn't sure if that look is good or not. Mane is seething. Jarvis and James both appear to be deciding that Tim's got a hell of a lot more backbone than they had expected.

They wait for a minute. Tim watching the big screen, looking to see if anything interesting is occurring, but the techs are all staring at their computers, doing their jobs, oblivious.

John is standing behind him, too close, and Tim's very carefully trying to ignore him, but that's impossible when he asks, "How is my grandchild doing?"

Tim bites his lip. He's gonna double down on it. Son of a bitch, never could leave anything alone. "I wasn't aware you had one, sir." He played the happy family charade for more than a decade. Not anymore. "However, if you mean my daughter, she's well, sir. She'll be a year old next week, already talking, everyone says she's extremely smart."

"Takes after your wife, I see," John says, dryly.

Tim rolls with that. "Yes, sir. She does. Looks like her, too. She's absolutely beautiful."

"Do you have pictures?"

"Yes." He's staring very intently at the feed, hoping his dad will drop this.

"On you?"


"May I see one?"

Tim finally looks away from the screen to face his dad. "No, sir. You lost that privilege decades ago." Mane is seething at that response. John looks mildly annoyed.

Jarvis clears his throat, and Tim goes silent, returning his gaze to the screen, willing someone to figure out something is going on and get them off of his own family drama.

"How long will it take?" John asks.

"Eleven minutes start to finish. I'm hoping having your guns target one of your own ships will make sure your men know something is up. But, if somehow they don't notice, then in…" he checks the clock, "six minutes the test will end, and I'll be on our way. If they do notice, I'll be staying until they figure out what's going on and someone shows up to arrest me for espionage."

"Arrest you?" John seems interested by that idea. Mane is grinning. Tim really doesn't like the edge of glee in his voice at that.

"If they're any good, they'll figure out where the commands are coming from." Tim gently taps his computer. "Technically, today I'm an Irish national, which means if I'm hacking your ship, I'm guilty of espionage."

Tim sees James and Jarvis glance at each other on that. As they understand how the test works, it's not coming from anything that can be traced to Tim. But they both have the sense not to ask about that. And Jarvis has the experience to see a trap being laid when it happens in front of him.

Two tense minutes pass, and Tim keeps monitoring both his worm and the lack of response from his father's men. Jarvis hovers over his shoulder, occasionally asking what different bits of information mean. Mane is sitting at the conference table, watching the feed intently. Through the whole thing, his dad paces back and forth across the conference room, and the sound of James' fingers clicking on his keyboard as he does whatever he does fill the room.

"Show time," Tim says. Three of the sections on the big screen went blank. "Okay, that was communications going down."

"Why did those screens go blank?" John asks.

"Because you've got communications blocking tech on this ship, and I've hijacked it. Once the jamming software goes live, nothing gets in or out, including the feed I was using to monitor the rest of your Strike Group. I'm still recording the responses on the other ship, and will get them uploaded once communications are back up." Tim's fingers fly over the keyboard and three new angles on the Stennis' computer hub come up. "Can't get feeds from the rest of your group, so we're just watching here, now."

Unfortunately nothing is happening.

Tim's feeling very satisfied, watching the way the vein on his father's head is throbbing away as his techs just sit there, completely unaware of the fact that they've been cut off from the rest of his fleet.

"Okay, phase two begins…" They see one of the techs hop up, yelling. "Now. Looks like he just noticed the order to target go live."

John's gone stone-faced, staring at the screens, watching his whole command fall apart as they realize they can't talk to anyone and have no clue how to stop the targeting.

Tim shakes his head. "They're not figuring out what's doing it."

By this point John's bright red, the vein is throbbing, and his eyelid has started twitching.

Tim's glancing between him and the feed. "Clueless. They're in damage control mode, just trying to shut it down, and not having any luck. They're not even sure where it's coming from."

One of the techs runs over to another computer, one no one was sitting at.

"Okay, he's on the ball. He's noticed that it appears the commands are coming from that computer. Would have been better if someone had been using it, but this is good, too."

They can see the sailor hitting keys, fast and nervous, and calling over his shoulder.

Jarvis says, "I have a feeling you're about to get a call, John." He looks at John and Mane. "Neither of you can let on that you know what is going on. They have to believe that this is real, so act like your ship is suddenly targeting another of your ships."

John nods, curtly, standing very, very still, hands in fists. Mane doesn't respond, though he does stand up, ready to go as soon as they get "word."

Half a minute later, they hear footsteps pounding toward the room, and Tim quickly flips a schematic of the Stennis up onto the big screen. An out-of-breath sailor bursts into the room, obviously having run as fast as he could, and lets them know the XO wants the Admiral on the deck NOW.

So John and Mane leave.

As the door closes, Jarvis says, mildly, "I take it you two don't get on?"

Tim's tempted to apologize for being a smartass or letting Jarvis see that, but… No. This is not a guy he wants thinking him weak, and he's not sorry he didn't let his Dad see the pics or pretend they get along.

"We don't. And he knows that he is not, in any way but DNA, Kelly's grandfather. He has never seen her. He never will see her. He does not know her name, until five minutes ago he didn't know she was a girl. And he knows no one in our family has permission to share pictures of Kelly with him. So asking was way out of line. He was probably hoping I'd knuckle under because you're here."

"Okay." He can see Jarvis wondering what could have gone that bad between the two of them. "Is this going to be an issue?"

"I don't see how it could be. Even if he got on deck and specifically told everyone it was a test, and that they're being hacked by me, it won't speed them up on fixing it or help them figure out how to trace it. But he won't do that. Best of my knowledge he's never disobeyed a direct order, but… I'm here and I'm making his guys look bad. He's not going to react well to that. He's never let me beat him at anything before, and if his guys fail, if they can't shut down the worm, that would be me winning. Sabotaging something of mine would be in character for him, so I built an extra layer of protection in. I lied about them being able to trace the signals coming from me. If a bunch of his guys show up to arrest the 'Irish spy,' it means he's told someone what's going on."

"Because the test is launching from Tim McGee, Director of NCIS Cybercrime's computer. Someone shows up for you, I'll take a few minutes, 'call the Irish Consulate' and then get you transferred to my custody," Jarvis says.

"Thanks. My computers will keep recording everything, but if I'm in the brig I can't follow what they're doing, and God only knows what they'll do to my laptop if they can figure out how to open it." Tim pauses, they hear the red alert, all-hands-on-deck go through the intercom. "And they've got communications back. That's good.

"Look, I hope he plays by the rules, but… I've never beaten him at anything, and if they don't come out of this looking great, he'll consider this me beating him, and it'll get messy."

"How messy?" Jarvis asks.

For all he told Abby about everything running smoothly, once he was in front of the man again, Tim began to doubt that. "Unpleasant, I'll probably get yelled at later. At least, that's how he used to handle it. I haven't spent more than an hour with him in fifteen years, so you probably know him better than I do these days."


"Just, if someone… Mane," Mane'll be the one that shows up, he's sure of that, and really doesn't like that, at all, "does show up to arrest me, don't leave me on my own too long, okay?" That's as close as he's willing to get to saying he may need to get bailed out of something sticky.

Jarvis stares at him for a long minute, and Tim feels like he's having his whole life history read.

The feed catches Tim's eye. His eyes narrow, and he nods. "They failed. If that had been a real attack, five missiles would have just blown the Borealis out of the water, but not before it fired on the Aurora, and the Aurora fired on the Mobile Bay, and on and on. If that had been real, Strike Group Three would be completely out of commission by now."

"Okay. Now what?" Jarvis asks.

"Eventually, you do whatever it is you do with him. I'm thinking I'll stay in my quarters and keep an eye on this. They didn't stop it, but now they know it happened, so I want to see what they do and how they try to track me."


Clayton Jarvis was never a cop.

At eighteen he was young, talented, the apple of his Daddy's eye, and Daddy, a Senator, made sure he got into Annapolis when he indicated he wanted a career in the Navy.

He did well there, bright, good with people, good with languages, always able to see all the angles, somewhat 'flexible' moral compass. He was a natural for the Clandestine Services.

The twenty-five years he spent in active Navy Service are classified, and the bits that aren't classified are so heavily redacted that only one out of ten words is still legible. So, suffice it to say, he had a rich and varied career involving many hair-raising adventures before he blew out a knee (officially he was repelling from a helicopter when that happened; we won't speculate as to what he was really doing) and moved from active engagement with the enemy (and friends, and allies, and some neutral parties, but we're not going to talk about that, either. Trust me, we're all better off not knowing who he was working with) onto the Navy political track.

Once on the political track, he was able to blend the fact that he is good with people, and languages, and reading a situation and figuring out all the angles, with the fact that he has a whole cemetery full of skeletons from other people's closets into an upward career arc that made him Secretary of the Navy less than ten years after leaving active service.

So, he was never a cop, but like a cop, he's got no ability to just let a mystery lie, and right now the mystery he can't let lie is the McGee family drama.

And with, what may be, hours to spare, after all it's not like John is offering to take him around the ship for inspection right now, he asks James to get him everything he can find on both McGees.

And James, who was also never a cop, and who is also not exactly a bloodhound when it comes to mysteries, is, nevertheless quite curious about the McGee family by this point, so almost before Jarvis has asked, the first of the files are on his computer.

And so, instead of touring the Stennis and inspecting the men, they are both reading up on their host and their hacker.

What they learn is that both of them are off-the-charts intelligent. But while McGee Senior added ambitious and politically savy to intelligent, McGee younger delved into his specialty and seemed to be very satisfied to find a niche and then become the best possible person he can, at that niche.

What they don't find is anything to indicate why those two wouldn't be speaking. Jarvis assumes that if there was some sort of noticeable friction, it would have been noticed in the different evals that John went through before hopping to flag rank. When the Navy looks at you for Admiral, every facet of your life gets dissected. And while there are mentions of McGee's marriage falling apart, there's nothing in there about the kids, other than the fact that there are two of them.

Jarvis looks up at James, question in his eyes?

James shakes his head. "Earliest thing I can find on Tim is that he got accepted to Annapolis and didn't go."

Jarvis shakes his head, exhaling. "Long time for a grudge like that."

James nods. "Everything else… Summa cum Laude from Johns Hopkins and MIT. Perfect score on the FLETC entrance exam. Highest graduating marks until year before last. Did you know he's a bestselling novelist? He's practically the poster child for the kid you'd be happy to brag about. He ever mention Tim to you?"

Jarvis shakes his head. "I've been in his office before, noticed he had family photos up, but didn't pay much attention to them."

"So, is this all on Tim's end?"

Jarvis shakes his head. He reads people way too well for that. John's not good on this, and frankly, Mane is scary. "No. Someone shows up to grab McGee, and you stick with him, okay? Make sure the paperwork is right. That they process him correctly. Once he's locked up nice and safe, you come back to me, and then we'll be there in a few minutes with my 'custody transfer' order."

"No problem."

Jarvis is surprised when an hour later Mane shows up at his door.

James answers it, and in keeping with the official cover story (in that they're basically talking in a hallway with other men milling around), Mane explains that there was some excitement on deck earlier, and that the Admiral is still engaged with it, but if they'd like to continue the inspection, he would be happy to take them around.

James lets him know that'd be fine.

"Shall I tell Captain McGee?" Mane asks.

James shakes his head. "No. He's busy."

Mane looks mildly surprised at that. "Busy? Curious. He sets foot on our ship, everything goes haywire, and then he's too busy to go along with the inspection he supposedly came here to do."

Jarvis stands up to join them. He can see where this is going, and knows James has stepped in it. They should have thought of a cover for why McGee wasn't actually inspecting ahead of time.

"Yes, Lieutenant Mane, he is busy. It did not require an in-depth inspection to recognize that this ship is vastly beyond the current needs of the Irish Naval Service. He's writing up his report on that, and taking care of a few other issues. I believe he will join us for dinner, though."

"Of course, sir. Have you worked with Captain McGee before?" Mane asks as they step into the hall, heading toward the flight decks.

"No. However, I have worked extensively with his commanding officer, and I am more than familiar with military investigative committees who develop bright ideas to waste officers' time and send them on wild goose chases. Captain McGee is likely writing up some polite version of 'In that we've got fewer planes in our entire Air Force than will fit on one of these ships, and in that our landing fields are in range of anyone even remotely likely to attack us, perhaps we don't need an aircraft carrier right this second.'"

"Ah. A wise assessment." Mane says. "Still, you have checked his background? He is who he says he is? Right?"

Jarvis glances at James. Mane is laying the groundwork for the Irish spy line, and he's doing it in public. No one appears to be listening, but that doesn't mean no one is.

"Are you suggesting that Lt. James is less than competent at his job?" Jarvis asks, pointedly.

Mane shakes his head vehemently. "I'm sorry to even hint at it. I just know how difficult it can be to stay on top of every visitor."

James nods, he pitches his voice so several of the men in the hallway near them will hear this, too. "It is, and I'm certainly not perfect. But, if you'd like to double check, you can contact the Irish Naval Service. I've got the contact information for Commodore Stephens, and he will be happy to confirm that Captain McGee is who he says he is."

Mane shakes his head. "No matter. I'm sure he checks out."

Tim's back in his quarters, keeping watch on the clean-up effort by his dad's men. They're doing… Okay. Taking all the standard steps, looking under the usual rocks, searching for horses before they go zebra hunting. (At least, he hopes that's what they're doing, as opposed to horse hunting is all they can do.)

But nothing they're coming up with is rocking his world. Nothing they're coming up with would have impressed him at MIT, fourteen years ago, either.

He checks his clock. 16:35. Everyone should be at dinner. He grabs his phone and pulls up Skype. A minute later he's got Abby on the screen, looking really happy to see him.


"Hey, I said I'd call." He can hear everyone else buzzing around behind her. And once she said his name Jimmy and Breena (who were apparently sitting next to her) crowd into the screen as well.

"Look, I'm still in one piece." Gibbs drifts into the back of the frame.

"How'd the test go?" Abby asks.

"Awesome. For six minutes, the entire strike group was paralyzed. It was beautiful."

"How did your father take that?" He hears Penny's voice, but she's not in the view. Then everything shifts and she is.

"That little vein in his forehead was throbbing away the whole time, but he just stood there and took it. I'm really glad I'm not his secretary. He's getting reamed tonight."

"So, nothing bad?" Penny asks.

"Few snide remarks, mostly along the lines of how I'm barely competent to breathe and walk at the same time, let alone pull a coup on his strike group, but, not really. Not by his standards. He suggested I got my job by sexually blackmailing Leon. Little tense when he asked to see pictures of Kelly, but I said no, and that was that. Four minutes of me explain what the test was doing, and then his XO sent a runner for him, and off he went to look like he had a clue as to how to stop the mayhem."

"And did he?" Ducky asks.

"Not a clue. I think the only idea he came up with was to break out the Semaphore flags so the ships could start talking to each other again. But communications were up again before anyone found them."

He sees the scene jiggle around again. Then Gibbs is looking at him. "So, you're really okay?"

"I'm really okay." He flips the phone around, showing them his room. "Look, I'm in a locked, from the inside, stateroom."

"Nice digs, McGee!" Tony says.

"Oh yeah! If you can swing it, pretending to be an officer rocks." He shifts the view of the camera a bit further. "Look, mini fridge. Between the upset stomach friendly snacks I brought, and this, I don't even have to leave this room the whole time."

Abby circles back into the frame. "What's the whole time?"

"Who knows? Rate these guys are going, I'm thinking middle of Sunday before they figure it out. Shouldn't be much longer than that."

She nods at that, and hands the phone back to Gibbs, who's just watching him carefully. "I'm really okay."

For the first time in days, Gibbs actually nods at that assessment.

"Unless he wants to blow my cover and his orders, he won't even see me again. His strike force just suffered a huge computer FUBAR; he's not going to be entertaining some piss-ant Captain from Ireland. He's going to be on deck, every minute he can be, until this is handled. Maybe he'll take the time to eat with Jarvis, but me, nah, I'm out of the picture now."

Another curt nod from Gibbs. "Good."

"Hey," Abby says, sitting down again, taking the camera from Gibbs. He sees Kelly on her lap. "Look who wants to say Hi!"

"Hi, Baby!"

Kelly stares around, really confused. She can hear him, but can't see him. Abby's finger hovers over the screen. "Daddy."

Kelly looks at the screen, sees him, and looks really confused. "Hi Kelly," he says with his biggest possible smile.

Apparently she finds the idea of Daddy in a phone horrifying, because she starts crying.

"Oh no! No crying. I'm okay. I'm just far away."

Of course, none of that means anything to a one-year-old who expects Daddy to look a certain way, and two inches tall in a little black box is not the way he's supposed to be.

"Daddy!" she gets out between sobs.

He sees Abby facepalm. Talk about plans going awry.

"I'm okay, baby. It's just a picture." Also completely useless for baby soothing. Abby hands the phone over to Breena, who's laughing quietly. He can hear Abby humming quietly. Ziva and Abbi slide into the frame.

"How is the seasickness going?" Ziva asks.

"Not too bad. It hit pretty hard before the test, but right now… I'm not feeling great, but I'm not green, either. Hey, where's your husband?"

"Hers or mine?" Ziva asks.


Jimmy shows up behind Breena. "Amazingly enough, if you give me pills with actual medication in them, they work a hell of a lot better."

"Thought you said the last ones worked."

"These work better." Tim holds up a bottle of water and a green apple that's missing three bites. "I'm actually able to eat some, this time."

"Lucky you," Breena says. "All those do for me is make me not throw up. Certainly don't make me feel good enough to eat."

Tim shrugs. "Well, I'm not pregnant. It probably works differently."

"Ya, think?" Breena says with a perfect Gibbs deadpan.

Abbi laughs at that, and Tim does, too.

They all hear a soft beeping sound.

"What's that?" Abbi asks.

"My cue to get back to work. Someone on board's up to something interesting. Love you all." The phone gets handed back to Abby.

"Love you, too."

"I'll call again if I get a shot, but… this is looking interesting. I might be keeping watch on this all night."

"Okay." She air kisses the screen. He doesn't see anyone else in the field of view, so he kisses back.

"See you soon."


So much for promising. It started off well, but whoever CT Jenner is, he got lost along the way to promising. He traced the hack through two bounces, but from the looks of it, he decided that two bounces was either: A, where the attack was coming from, or B: after two bounces there was no way he was going to follow it all the way home.

Either way, he gave up nine bounces away from NCIS.

Tim kept watching, focusing in on Jenner, but couldn't tell what he was doing. Thinking apparently. He's just staring at his monitor. Finally he stands up to grab someone else. Okay, that's the XO…
The downside of the security feed is that Tim can't hear. He's got prime seats for what all the techs are doing on their computers, and he can see them interacting with each other, but Jenner's back is to him, so he's got no clue what he might be saying.

He's watching intently, wondering if the XO was just told that Fight Group Three was attacked by NASA. (Tim routed the attack through the CIA, IRS, NASA, Homeland Security, IBM, Bank of America, Facebook, and Pirate Bay, and some lesser known spots. He had a lot of fun setting it up.)

There's a knock on his door, which makes Tim tense up for a second, and then he notices that it's dinner time.

He stands up, opens the door, and there's Jarvis and James. "We're heading to the Captain's mess for dinner," James says.

"Okay." Tim's not exactly relishing the idea of having dinner with his dad. "We're starting to get some action on tracking down what happened—"

"You're coming with us," Jarvis says, definitively. "Lt. Mane is already asking about how suspicious it is that you're on board for an inspection and have done no inspecting."

Tim nods and grabs his jacket, slipping it on. "Good point. Do I wear the hat to this?"

Jarvis is in a civilian suit, and James has his under his arm. "If you like."

Tim looks at it for a second and then decides to leave it off. If anyone is looking for an Irish Spy, he wants to look as American as possible. "No need to advertise who I am, right?"

Jarvis approves of that. Unless you're close enough to see the buttons, Tim's wearing the uniform of an American Captain, and that'll get a lot of line-toeing on a US ship.

As an Annapolis grad, John McGee has been an officer his entire career. Which also means he's been an officer Tim's entire life. And while it's true that Tim can, sort of, remember being brought onto his Dad's various ships as a child and pre-teen, he doesn't think he's ever been in an Officer's Mess before.

Maybe for questioning on a different ship. Snagging the Captain's Mess as a quiet place to talk to people would be right out of Gibbs' playbook.

But, if he has, said mess was a few steps below the level of luxury available here.

Of course, Admiral McGee is expected to do things like entertain the Secretary of the Navy, or the President, or… whoever, so his mess would look like a four star restaurant.

There's one long table, comfortable seating for twelve, white linen table cloth, china (with the Navy emblem on it in gold), crystal, silverware that's actually silver, fresh flowers in the centerpiece. John is there, waiting for them, along with several other officers that Tim hasn't met. Lt. Mane is not there, neither is Capt. Russle, who was on deck last Tim saw.

John stands up to greet them, and even pulls out Jarvis' chair for him. He's being exceptionally polite, and doing a very good job of projecting an air of pleasantness. He introduces Jarvis, and James, looks at Tim for a second and says… "McGee, right?"

Tim nods. "Not an uncommon name where I'm from."

"Ah, yes. Where I'm from, too." John says dryly, he looks to the other officers, "Captain Timothy McGee, Irish Naval Service." The others laugh politely at the coincidence.

"And where are you from, Sir?" Dad's playing nice; he can play nice, too.

"Boston originally. Large population of transplanted Irish there."

Tim nods. "According to my Gran, some of our family headed here during the Famine, and I know few cousins left during the Troubles. How long has your family been here?"

"Since the 1880s. Don't know much about my family before my great-grandfather."


"So, am I to understand that this afternoon's dust up is take care of?" Jarvis asks, mainly for the other officers who are listening.

"Getting close. Last I heard our people had found the trail the attack took, and are now back tracing it. Lt. Mane is with the techs, keeping watch, letting me sit down for a bit and get a bite to eat."

"Splendid!" Jarvis says.

Tim's wishing he was sitting at his computer watching that. He really does hope they're onto his tracks because that would mean they're doing well with this test.

"If you don't mind me saying, you don't sound Irish," John says, drawing Tim back to thinking about here and now.

"I get that all the time. I was born in Dublin, lived there for my first year, and then my father got a position teaching at the University of California. I grew up there, didn't move home again until I was fifteen. Came back to the states for University, and then back to the Irish Naval College for officer training."

"Where in California?" John asks.

"He lectured at the UCSF Medical School. We had a nice little place just north of the city."

Tim can see in John's eyes that he knows exactly where Tim is talking about, and that Tim's built a cover so he can't be called out on facts he wouldn't know.

"Lived there for a few years myself. It's a beautiful part of the world."

"Yes, it is." Tim tries to leave it there. The steward is making his rounds, asking what people want to eat. Tim's not enthusiastic about food right now. (Apparently at this level, you've got options, but absolutely nothing looks good to his queasy stomach. He asks for roast beef, which is pretty hard to screw up.)

"Nothing on the menu you like?" John asks, bit of glee in his voice.

"Everything looks lovely," Tim says, with a smile at the Steward, who is trying to do a good job. "Still getting over a bout of food poisoning from last week. Let's just say not everyone runs as clean a ship as you do."

John nods, taking that compliment. "Of course, clean ship is a luxury. Don't get me wrong, a properly run ship is clean, but not all commands are ships. My first run out was turtle Navy in Vietnam…" And John spends a few moments expounding on his adventures in the jungles, and how absolutely nothing about those commands could be even remotely classified as clean.

Tim's good at this. He's heard these stories before, and knows his job is to just sit there and listen, so he does.

James, who was a SEAL, adds in a few of his own adventures in the less than perfectly sanitary world of getting dropped out of helicopters and swimming into enemy territory and the like, along with a few bits about epic food poisoning in said parts of the world.

They're impressive stories, and Tim's doing a good job of listening to them, asking good questions, keeping James talking, because every word he's saying is a word his Dad isn't.

But eventually James runs down, while food is just being placed in front of them, so that means more conversation for however long this will take.

"How about you, Captain McGee, and interesting stories for us?"

Tim smiles, and shakes his head. "My interesting stories are not nearly as interesting as Lt. James', and currently classified."

"Then what do you do now?" John asks.

"Significantly less interesting work. I believe your Marines would call me a 'REMF.'"

That gets some polite laughter.

"I studied engineering at John's Hopkins and MIT before moving back home for Officer Training. Right now I'm on research, design, and assessment. They send me to go look at various possible toys for our Navy, and I determine if we need them, or if we can modify them to make them work for us."

"Not much of a fighter, then?"

Tim shakes his head. "Not recently. I'm the one who makes sure the fighters have the tools they need to fight as well as they can for as long as they can with minimal damage to themselves."

"And yet you're a Captain?" John asks. "In our Navy, that requires some level of combat experience. Of course, as small as you guys are, I suppose you make do with what you have."

"As I said, not recently. I've always done what I could to serve my country, use my skills for the benefits of others. I'm better at this than anyone else in our service, so this is what I do."

John nods at that. "An honorable sentiment. All men should bend their skills to serving their country."

"Indeed." Tim nods, smiling, enjoying how he's going to force the Admiral into a box. "Armed forces, police, first responders, whatever it is you excel at, should be in the service of others."

And, in public, in front of the SecNav, the Admiral can't disagree with that. So he nods.

No one says anything for a moment, and Tim's feeling like maybe this is almost done. He's only had a few bites of food, but some of the other officers are getting close to done.

"Your father must be proud of you. Putting on the uniform, officer training, serving your country. I bet that makes him smile."

Tim looks up with a jerk; he really didn't expect that.

"Uh…" He's flatfooted, trying to figure out if the Admiral is offering an olive branch or not.

"My son writes books and plays with computers. He had the opportunity to serve, and turned it down."

Nope, no olive branch there. Tim stiffens slightly, realizing what box the Admiral walked him into, as well. "If my father had even a nodding acquaintance with sane when it comes to who to be proud of, he would be proud of me. But he's a surgeon, and he wanted me to be a surgeon. By his compass the only thing that matters is saving lives by putting people back together. He spent my entire life piling insults on me for not being a surgeon and tried to terrorize me into attending medical school. So, no, he's not proud of me, and as of this point we have not spoken in years."

The Admiral's eyes have narrowed, and Tim decides to double down.

"I write, too. Nothing out yet, but working on a novel. And I love to read. Who's your son?"

"You haven't heard of him," John says flatly.

"Oh, not very popular then?"

"No, he's not."

"Huh." Tim looks at the Admiral for a moment, as if he's remembering something, putting something together. "Wait… Are you Sarah McGee's father?"

John blinks at that. "Yes."

"I love her books. Does she serve?"


"Oh, must be disappointing to have both of your children decide to skip the path you wanted for them." Tim's curious to see if John'll badmouth Sarah for not serving, or if he'll be impolitic enough to admit that he thinks women don't belong on a ship.

"Aren't you a little old, and male, to be reading Sarah's books?" Or he could take an altogether different path. "Her intended audience is fourteen-year-old girls."

Tim smiles at that. "Someone has to decide what my daughter can and cannot read. Since I'm the one who likes fantasy stories, I'm the one who got to read her series and see if it was appropriate. Strong female role models, girls doing awesome things, romance that's uplifting rather than psychotic, Sarah McGee writes great stories. Though… I mean… It's on her website. Isn't her brother is a New York Times best-selling author five times over."

John blinks. "You have a little girl?"

"Yes, sir. She's ten."

"Wonderful age for a daughter. Any pictures I could see?"

Tim bites his tongue. "Certainly. Just…" He removes his phone from his jacket, sits back a bit, James, who is sitting next to him, can see that he's not opening a shot on his phone, that he's in fact taking a picture of his extended middle finger, but to the rest of the table it just looks like he's fumbling around with his phone getting a shot up. Tim stands, heads to the Admiral, and hold his phone, shot of him giving his Dad the bird on the screen, so only John can see it, smiling at him.
John smiles, faintly. "She's lovely."

Tim drops the camera, rapidly flicking through the shots until he finds one of Harper Scuito from their wedding, and then shows it around the table. "Fancy dress party. Something called 'Steampunk.' She had a blast." Then Tim sits back down, taking a sip of his soda. (He hoped some Coke would help settle his stomach.)

He's just about put the glass down when Lt. Mane enters the room, whispers something to John, and then sidles over to Tim. "Would you come with me, sir?"

Tim can feel the hairs on his neck stand up again. Whatever's about to happen, Mane doesn't mean him any good, so for whatever's about to happen, Tim wants lots and lots of witnesses.

"I was hoping to finish my dinner and return to my quarters to finish my report. Where would you like to me to with you."

Mane says, quietly, but not so quietly that everyone can't hear, but he may as well be speaking in his normal voice because everyone in the room is staring at him. "I think you'd prefer I didn't say where I'd like you to go."

Tim looks surprised. He didn't think they'd really do it. But if they are... He thinks for another second and says, "Interesting proposition, but in my Navy, you don't have to hide things like this. I mean, I'm flattered," Tim says, regular voice, "but I prefer women." He touches his wedding ring, and several of the other officers laugh at that.

Mane's eyes all but bug out of his head. "Timothy McGee, I am taking you into custody on charges of espionage and sabotage!"

Tim blinks, looks at James and Jarvis, and sighs. "And what exactly is it I'm supposed to have done to sabotage you."

"Come with me, now, or I will call the Masters at Arms, and they will bring you with me."

Tim stands up. James does, too. Jarvis already has his phone out and is 'getting in contact' with the Irish Naval Service.

"You stay here, sir." Mane says to James.

James shakes his head. "Commodore Stephens vouches for McGee. He's the commander of the Irish Naval Service. Obviously there's been some sort of mix up. I'm staying with him until we can get this sorted out."

Mane looks like he just found out the chocolate cake in front of him was actually Styrofoam with a layer of frosting on top of it. For a second he looks so disappointed he might spit. But then he rolls with it.

"Fine, you may come with us Lt. James."

Mane ushers them out of the Mess. In the hall, there are two armed MA's waiting for them.

They look at Tim and James. "Thought we were only grabbing one?"

Mane clasps a hand on Tim's shoulder. "This one. The other is Secretary Jarvis' Aide."

"Ah." Tim does not like the way the two MAs are looking at him.

"So, we're at peace with Ireland," Mane says. "What the hell was this attack about? Just trying to see if you can do it? Good thing our people are better at this than you are, or thousands of people would have died today."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Tim replies.

"Yeah, just keep saying that. The MAs are in your room, collecting your computer. All the proof we need is on there."

Tim glances at James and rolls his eyes.

"What exactly do you think I've done?"

"You tried to kill my whole Carrier Group."

Tim shrugs and says to James, "Apparently I'm an ambitious man."

James nods. "Apparently."

"Apparently, I'm also stupid. This attempt on your Carrier Group, was that the thing that happened where everything went on red alert?"


"Ah… So, you think I did something to your ship while I was on it? I'm a good swimmer, but we're a really long way away from land."

James chuckles at that. The MAs look confused by the fact that the Aide to the Secretary of the Navy being so relaxed about this.

"I don't think. I know. And your computer is going to confirm it."

Tim sniggers at that.

"You're awfully cocky for someone who's about to be tossed in the brig for espionage."

"Because I'll be out of your brig in fewer than ten minutes. But lead the way, Lt. Mane. Have fun with my computer. I'm sure, if your techs can figure out how to get into it, that they'll find my report of the feasibility of an aircraft carrier for the Irish Naval Service fascinating."

The brig is well below deck. And the combination of having actually eaten something, plus the hours between his last anti-nausea pill and now, in addition to a close in, slightly moving environment, is biting him in the ass. Tim's starting to feel really ill.

He reaches for his pocket, but both MAs leap at him, grabbing his arms.

"I'm just getting an anti-nausea pill."

"You aren't getting anything until it's been run by our medics," Mane says.

Great, petty cruelty. This'll be lovely. "Fine. Might be a good plan to get me a bag, unless you want to be dealing with a mess."

Mane doesn't respond to that, and Tim tries to breathe deep and easy.

They finally get to the brig, and he's herded in. "May I have a JAG?"

Mane shakes his head. "No sir. Spies are not granted that privilege."

He glares at Mane. The Master at Arms in charge of the brig says, "We need all of your valuables, sir."

Tim feels that someone-just-stepped-over-my-grave sensation. He's got to empty his pockets.

Whatever happens next, he'll have nothing but his hands on him.

He hands over his knife, wallet, roll of quarters, and phone.

"I'm going to want those back."

The sailor who's noting everything glares at and him and drops his cell phone, shattering the screen before picking it back up again. "Sorry, sir. Butterfingers."

Tim sighs. As long as those dolts don't try to pry it open, they'll keep their fingers intact.

"All of your valuables, Sir." He's looking at Tim's wedding ring.

"You can get this when you pry it off my corpse." Apparently he looks stern enough on that, the MA doesn't press. The fact that he hands over his watch, without a word, probably helps.

"So, this the son of a bitch who made us fire on the Borealis?" Another sailor asks, looking really eager to see Tim behind bars.

"Yep," Mane says. "Techs traced the attack to his computer."

Tim looks at James. He's starting to get alarmed. They didn't fire on the Borealis, but he doesn't know if they know that or not down here. How far and fast has scuttlebutt flown, and what story did it tell?

"Jacket, shoes, and…" The MA in charge gestures to the wrist cuff.

Tim takes off the jacket, and the shoes no problem. "It's a wrist cuff, and you can have when you get my wedding ring."

They process him, take his finger prints, DNA swab, make him sign for his things. James stays by his side, keeping an eye on everything, and while it's tense, and it's nothing that wouldn't happen to a suspect at NCIS, so Tim rolls with it.

Tim's wiping the black ink off his fingertips as the MA says, "Follow me." He does, and James goes along, too.

"Not you, sir," The MA says.

James shakes his head. "This is a high-ranking Irish national who is the guest of the Secretary of the Navy on this ship. Once he's safely locked into a cell, and I've seen with my own eyes that he's being treated well, you can get rid of me."

The MA doesn't roll his eyes, but it's clear he's annoyed with James, though if he's annoyed because he can't wait to get his hands on Tim, or if he's annoyed because of the slight to his professionalism, Tim's not sure.

He follows the MA, who gestures to one of three cells. It's the only empty one. Three walls are bars, one, on the back is metal, with a john and a sink. No bunks. Nothing to sit on. There are men in the cells on both sides, and they're watching him very carefully.

The MA opens the door and Tim steps in, hearing the key shoot the bolt home.

"Are the accommodations to your liking, sir?" The MA asks James.

"They're lovely. I'm sure the Ambassador to Ireland will be pleased to see how well you've taken care of one of his own."

Tim appreciates the sarcasm. "Not like I've never done this before."

James looks curious about that, then nods, and holds up four fingers, which Tim takes to mean he'll be out of here in less than four minutes.

James turns to the MA and says, "And now I'll go report back to the SecNav. Thank you."

The MA nods, doing the putting on a show of obedience for the officer act, and it's very clear it is an act. And it's clear that he intends to make sure James knows it's an act.

Tim looks around, two men in the cell on his left, two on the right. None of them look friendly. None of them look the way most men you'd find in a brig look, no one is drunk, or hung over, no one is sporting any bruises. Possible they've all been in here for a few days, though.

Less than ten seconds after James leaves, Mane is back.

"Step out, Thomas."

"Certainly sir." The MA is smiling at that. And he rapidly goes for a walk. Leaving him in the brig with Mane, and four other men.

Shit. Tim's adrenaline spikes. How long until Jarvis gets here? He takes a few deep breaths, trying to calm his nerves and see what, if any, advantages he can get on this.

He's got nothing. Not his knife, not his quarters, hell, he doesn't even have his fucking shoes. Sink and john are bolted down, can't attack with them.

Okay, can't let them get in here. They've got to bunch up at the door.

"This is the guy I told you about. The one who hacked our system. Made us fire on the Borealis. You've got kin on the Borealis, right, Manz?"

"Yes, sir." Manz's staring at him, and Tim knows that's the man who's going to kill him if he gets the shot. That's the one who has to go down, first.

"Two hundred and twenty dead already. Still doing search and rescue. No word on your wife, yet."

God, if they've been down here all day… All they would have heard was the red alert. They wouldn't know what actually happened. No one would be giving them any news, except whatever shit Mane's told them.

Mane finds what he's looking for, the keys. Manz and his cellmate, and the two others are crowding the doors of their cells. Tim finally gets to see them standing up, and he knows he can't keep them in the doorway of his cell. He's not big enough to bull rush one of them, let alone all four in a bunch.

Okay, back of the cell, wall at his back. John and sink are both low, they'll limit his mobility some, but protect his flanks. They won't be able to get too close to him on his sides.

Come on Clayt, get in here, now!

Mane unlocks both cells. Tim takes another deep breath, moving back.

"I'm going to unlock his cell and take a walk. Five minutes, I'll be back to deal with the body. You need to be gone by then."

The other four nod. And Tim realizes they aren't actually prisoners. They won't be on the record as having been in here. That's why James wasn't supposed to go in. Tim was supposed to get to his cell and have some sort of accident.

Tim watches Mane open the door, watches the four of them rush. He sees the door closing and knows that if he waits for them to get the first move in, they're going to kill him, so he jumps, and hits exactly right. It's a windpipe strike to Manz. It drops him, sends him to the floor gasping. Probably won't kill him, but it will (and does) take him out of the fight.

Three on one, even if you're fast and good, and these days Tim is both of those things, is a losing proposition if the other guys are fast, good, and bigger than you are.

He stays standing for as long as he can, gives as much pain as he takes, tires them out, because once he falls they'll have nothing stopping them but their own fatigue levels, and he has to survive this, he has to get home, he's got a wife and baby and another one on the way and he has to get out of this.

But in the end he can't take them. When the one rips his arm out of his socket, and cracks it over the sink, Tim drops. He curls into the tightest most protective ball he can, using his body to protect his vitals and the wall to protect his back, and then he endures.

"Good Lord! STOP!" Jarvis' voice echoing across the brig. And with that the kicking stops.

"Who the fuck are you?" Tim hears one of the voices above him say.

"I'm Clayton Jarvis, Secretary of the Navy, and you will back away from that man right now. James, get every medic and every MA in this ship here right this second!"

"Yes, sir." He hears James talking on a phone, but doesn't move, doesn't uncurl. Time goes blurry for him. Jarvis may be kneeling next to him, or may not, he isn't sure. The only thing he's sure of is that he's alive and he has never, ever hurt this bad in his life.

He senses another person next to him, and jostling, as what are likely MAs pull the other four out of the cell.

"McGee, we're going to get you to the infirmary."

"No." He slowly begins to uncurl.

"Don't move."

"Necks not broken. Toes hurt, legs hurt, hips hurt. I can feel all of me." Tim inhales and winces. "Ribs might be." Sparking pain shoots through his chest and face when he breathes. "Nose, too?"

Jarvis nods. Tim's nose was in the center of his face when he left the mess, and it's not now. But that's not what's worrying Jarvis. "You've got to see the medics. I'm not a doctor, but even I know you hand is not supposed to be pointed in that direction." Tim looks at his right hand and arm… then looks away and throws up. It's still attached to him, that's the only good thing he can say about it.

"Not his infirmary. Not his doctors."


Tim stares up at Jarvis, who is kneeling on the floor next to him, and now that they aren't attacking anymore he can't keep the terror out of his voice as he says, "He set them on me! You know he did. The MA on duty left so they could do this to me. None of them are even prisoners. They're not supposed to be in here. They were going to find me dead in a locked cell in an empty brig. Official report was probably supposed to say something like slipped and hit his head. Can't trust his doctors."
They've been at sea for eight hours. Still closer to the west coast than anything else, but closer isn't close.

"We're hours away from any other help, Tim."

"I'll live."

Jarvis stares at his arm. Short of it being blown off, he's never seen an arm this mangled. "Your arm might not."

"I'll take crippled over dead, any day."

Jarvis gets up and faces the XO (who, in addition to a team of medics and ten MAs, has been summoned by James), "Ship's equipped with a helicopter for fast trips, right."

"Yes, sir." Capt. Russle looks like he wants to kill people and pass out from embarrassment at this treatment of a guest on his ship.

"Get it ready. Alameda's the closest of our hospitals. I want McGee there in under two hours."

"Done, sir."

He crouches next to McGee again. "If the medics say you can move, you'll be on a helio as soon as you can be. They say you can't move, and I will stay with you the whole time, watch everything they do. Will you take pain meds?"

"Not from his doctors."

"From me?"

"What do you have?"

"Nothing strong enough. Pulled my back out four days ago. Got some Tylenol Three to keep me up and moving."


"James, can you get my meds? If we travel, you can have them."

"Okay." Jarvis moves to the other side, trying to avoid the puddle of vomit, as the Medic starts very gently trying to brace Tim's arm.

He's not even trying to be quiet about how much that hurts. "Look," The medic says, "I'm not one of them, and I'm sworn by the Hippocratic Oath to take care of you. Let me put you under, get your arm set and properly braced. You'll still be on the chopper in less than an hour, and you'll be a hell of a lot less likely to slip into shock and die on the way home."

Tim shakes his head, which makes him want to puke again.

"Jarvis and James will stay with you the whole time. This arm is broken in at least three places and dislocated on top of that. Men have literally died from having to travel with broken bones grating against each other. Let me get it set."

James looks at the MAs who are corralling the men who were attacking Tim. "Get them in another cell, at once."

"Don't let them stay together! They'll all have the same story if they get to stay together," Tim gets out, much preferring thinking about that than anything else.

"McGee, let them treat you. What do you think Gibbs and your wife will do to me if I let you get on a helicopter without medical attention and you die on the ride home?"

That gets through the massive waves of pain and panic.

"Okay. Stay with me."

"I will."

The medic looks relieved and gives him a shot of something, and then everything goes fuzzy, and then black.


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