Fan fic, original fic, fic recs, and artwork by Keryl Raist.
Sunday, February 22, 2015
Shards To A Whole: Chapter 411: All Hands On Deck
McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.
Chapter 411: All Hands On Deck
Tim gets into his office in a very good mood. He opens up his computer, uploads the shot of Sean, and begins printing it out to put on his door. He figures that's the most efficient way to get the news out to the wider world that another McGee will be joining it soon.
He's in an even better mood as he gets to walk from his desk to his door, holding the picture and a piece of tape.
Jimmy's onto something with the whole keep taking the real pain meds and move around more thing. This still hurts, but a lot less than it did on Aleve, and a lot less than it did on Friday with the Tylenol 3. He's not sure if that's because he's moving more, or if it's just a matter of Tylenol 3 being built up in his system enough to really do its job, but either way, he can walk several steps at a go somewhere between mild pain and moderate discomfort. Both of which he considers better than how walking used to feel and vastly better than not walking at all.
He's taping the picture up when his computer chirps at him. He stops taping. He hasn't heard that chirp before. It's not his go check your email chirp, or his you've got an IM chirp, doesn't sound like Facebook (which he's rarely on at work and hasn't logged onto yet, anyway). It's not the 'a job you're on the hook for just came up' chirp. And he's fairly certain it's not the 'we're low on hackers get over here and do your job' chirp, either.
But, he knows he did tell the computer to let him know when all sorts of things were up. (He can very easily get so into his work that he needs some sort of alarm to let him know to shift focus.) And he knows that if this is a chirp he doesn't remember setting up, he's getting a Zebra alert instead of a Horses alert, so this is some manner of exotic thing looking for his attention.
The computer's on its third chirp by the time he gets to it, and when he sees what's up, he's cursing that he's only got one hand.
He sends out the All Hands call fast, anyone who is not actively on a priority one job (terrorism threat, kidnapping) just got called into work.
Someone's attacking NCIS, trying to break his firewall, using their intranet mail servers as an attempted entry point.
Manner, Howard, and Brand are all heading toward his office as soon as he's finished typing up that alert, but he's already switched onto job number two.
"Jimmy, remember that all hands on deck scenario?"
"Uh, yeah, sure?"
"Meet me in Vance's office in ten minutes, okay?"
Tim turns off his phone, and checks his computer to see who's up and on by now. Three techs in his office, and twenty-two more around the globe.
Good place to start.
"We've got an attempted security breech in progress."
Brand's eyes go wide. This is her second day on the job and they've already got a hot case. She's happy and excited and a little nervous. Manner doesn't look impressed. Feds get hacked all the time, usually those hacks fail.
"Looks like they're trying to use our email system to get in."
Howard also looks bored by this. They know how to shut this down. "So, we're all hot and bothered, why?"
He smiles at her, and by extension anyone who's watching this through his video feed.
"First off," he gestures so they can see what's on his screen, and hits the commands, curses under his breath when he hits a few wrong keys, and then hits them in again, slowly, so that the rest of his crew can see it on their computers, "this one probably would succeed if we just left it alone." They can all see that's some sophisticated code aimed at them. "Second of all, we aren't usually a target of this kind of attack, so they're looking for something specific." They get hit two or three times a day, but usually by people who are just messing around. This attack looks like something that could make it through his firewall, given enough time. "Third of all, I want to see how fast we can get an NCIS mirror system up, and then, while they think they're raiding the place, and we're spooning them crap information, I want to see what they're looking at, who they are, and what they're using the information for. This attack looks like it's got some brains behind it, not just kids messing around for kicks, so let's get to it."
And suddenly everyone who's listening knows why this is an all hands situation. Shutting the attack down would take a matter of minutes. Building a mirror site will take hours, if not longer. Containing the attack so that the hackers think they're getting somewhere until they get the mirror up and the hack switched over to the mirror site is yet another level of something all-together.
"Okay, I've got to go see Leon, you all know your specialties, break off into them, and get moving."
Brand's looking elated at the idea of dealing with this, and a bit lost because she's not sure what team she should be. "Good time to start, Brand," Tim says. "I want you with Howard working on finding out who is doing this. Subtle enough so they don't know we're tracking them back, right?"
"Manner, you know what you're doing, right?"
Manner nods. He's already got his phone in hand, checking to see who else is up and working. "Yeah, Blake, Tomishido, and Frederickson are on, too. We've got making the hackers think they're getting in without letting them see anything interesting."
Tim smiles at them, and gently pats the back of Brand's head as he grabs his crutch and heads, as fast as he can, toward the elevator.
"So, I take it there's something interesting going on?" Leon asks as he eyes Tim and Jimmy in his office.
Tim quickly explains what is going on, and why he wants the clean piss-test waived. Jimmy quickly adds in the bit about being okay to work, before Leon asks why he's there.
Leon smiles and nods. "I did not, for one moment, think you'd actually obey that order. I was thinking, that at best, I'd be able to get you to take an extra day or two off before you got Agent DiNozzo to pee into a cup for you. I'm impressed, Dr. Palmer, that you've done such a good job of reining McGee in. Yes, go work, do your magic, report back when you know what's going on."
Tim sends a glare that's halfway between annoyed and bemused to Leon, and then starts to hobble toward Cybercrime.
He's at the door when Leon adds, "By the way, I got your email. Congratulations!"
Tim actually has to think for a second about what Leon's talking about before it hits and he feels tremendously stupid for forgetting. "Oh, yeah, thanks! We're over the moon about it."
Leon smiles at him, nodding. "I understand."
If he could be bouncing on the balls of his feet, he would be, but he can't, so instead of actually bouncing up and down, Tim's just giving off the impression of wanting to bounce up and down.
"I take it you're eager to be back?" Jimmy asks.
"You have no idea. It's a great case. Whoever's behind this is using an…" and from there very technical words start spewing out of Tim, and Jimmy just stands there, nodding at him.
When Tim pauses to breathe Jimmy says, "You realize you could be saying this in Klingon and it'd mean just as much to me?"
"Oh, yeah. It's a good case."
"So, I gather. Don't overdo it, okay?"
Tim nods, then deflates a little. "You're serious about being on Tylenol 3 being like being drunk, right?"
"Yeah. I was."
"Great. My last one was this morning. Seriously, should I just be supervising?"
Jimmy thinks for a minute, too. "Drunk" is very subjective and ranges from out of your head to mildly impaired. "Sixteen plus thirty-seven plus fourteen minus three."
"Sixty-four," Tim shoots back almost before Jimmy's done talking.
"If I gave you a quadratic could you factor it?"
Tim smirks at that. "If you could remember a quadratic to give me, then yes, I can factor it, in my head."
Jimmy inclines his head. Tim read his bluff. At this point he's not even sure what a quadratic is anymore, beyond something he used to do in high school. "If it absolutely has to be right, make sure someone else gives it a one over. This is going to take a while, right?"
"Like all day?"
"And then some."
"I'll check in before I go home, see how bad you're hurting. You haven't worked a full day, brain on, for a while, sack out and get a nap, or two, if you need to, okay?"
"Okay." The elevator bongs, letting them know they're at Autopsy. Jimmy's about to step out when Tim asks, "Do you have any Novocain or something like that?"
"No, but I can probably get some. Not a good long-term solution, but if you've got like an hour's work and the pain is driving you buggy, we can see about trying it."
The doors slide shut, and though Tim had hit the button for the basement, he also presses the button for the Lab, as well.
He hobbles in, sees the LabRats ratting away, wrestling data out of samples and Major Mass Spec. Abby looks up from her pipettes and sees the look on his face.
"You've got a real case."
"Yeah, and I'm cleared to work it. Not sure when I'm heading home, but…"
She smiles at him, seeing how happy he is to be working. "I know the drill. When I get lunch, I'll bring you some?"
"Thank you." He kisses her gently, fingers brushing her tummy. "You let them know?"
She turns away from Major Mass Spec to her computer and points at the shot of Sean on it.
He smiles again. This is a very good day.
Okay, once upon a time Tim did this whenever he needed to. Code all day, code all night, vanish into numbers and symbols and make the computer sing his tune in its sweet little hum of a voice. No problem! Bring on the code. He was the code master, and it was his willing tool.
First off, he can type faster than he can talk. At least, he can type faster than he speak code. Sigh. By the time it's out of his mouth he's often getting lost in the details.
Second of all, while it does appear that what eventually does hit the screen is good, it's tiring him out a whole hell of a lot faster than he thinks it should. He used to do this for hours, slurping down coffee, fingers flying, brain firing on all cylinders.
It's been three hours, his eyes are already blurring and he's having a hard time staying focused. Part of it, he absolutely knows, is the lack of caffeine. Large quantities of mild stimulants help keep his brain on track. Part of it, absolutely, is the Tylenol 3. In addition to not being able to focus the way he wants to, he's also feeling it leach out of his body, which means he's starting to ache, which is also not helping with his focus. And part of it, though he doesn't like to admit it, is that his body is already working double overtime healing up and doesn't have much energy to spend on things like deep, intricate thought.
He's (according to him) pathetically grateful when Abby comes in with lunch, thus giving him a good excuse for a break.
"How's it going?" she can see he's less 'go get 'em' than he'd usually be this far into a coding spree.
He rolls his eyes and sighs, pulling the bag toward him. "What's for lunch?"
"Cold cucumber-dill soup, smoked salmon sashimi, iced mint tea."
"Sounds good." He's looking really tired as he takes the straws and glasses out of the bag.
"You're fried, aren't you?"
"I shouldn't be."
She shuts the door and then kisses the top of his head, sitting on his desk, resting her feet between his legs on his chair. "You are allowed to be fried the first time you go back to doing something strenuous after you get really hurt. I didn't go back to work for three months after Kelly was born, remember?"
"Yeah, but you also didn't get to sleep after she was born. I'm sucking up twelve hours a day."
"Which you need." She turns the monitor toward herself and can see where he left off, and suddenly more code starts filling in on the screen. "See, someone else is taking over for you."
He squints a bit, then makes himself not squint; he does not need to squint to read a computer monitor five feet away from his face. "Harrison out of the Great Lakes office. He's good."
"Wonderful. Let me guess, there's no way I can get you to go home."
He shakes his head. "Can't go home. I can take breaks, catch a nap on the sofa, but as long as I'm saying we've got to turn this into a trap for the guys attacking us, I've got to keep watch on it."
She nods. "Then get a nap, okay?"
"After lunch, I'll get an hour down."
Okay, two hours. It was supposed to be an hour. He was sure he wasn't going to sleep. Just lay down on the sofa and rest a bit. Next thing he knew Jimmy was gently poking him.
"I guess you can't be in too much pain."
Tim sits up, gingerly, wincing. "I wasn't." As soon as his brain realizes he's awake, it starts sending flares of pain through his shoulder, arm, calf, and foot. "Umng!"
"That's why I poked you, would have let you sleep but your neck and shoulder were all squashed up, figured you'd hurt even worse if you spent more time like that."
"Thanks." Tim's very gingerly lifting and lowering his shoulder at the collarbone, feeling pain sparking through his pec and shoulder.
"So, moment of truth time, more Tylenol 3 and just supervising, or Aleve and working?"
"If the Aleve isn't doing the job and I can't focus, can I take the Tylenol 3 and just supervise?"
"Let me check." Jimmy does some googling. "It's not great for you, but yeah, once, it's okay."
"I've got Aleve in my desk and Tylenol 3. With any luck the Aleve will take the edge off, and the work'll keep my brain off my body."
Tim grabs his crutch and stands up, and Jimmy rises from his seat on the sofa next to him. "I thought you were going to check in before you left. It isn't that late, is it?"
"Nah, half past four. Got a case. Not sure when we'll be back. Allan's gassing up the truck, figured I'd stop in and check on you."
"No problem. I told Abby I'd poke in when we get back, mostly likely after she's headed home. If you need a ride home tonight and I'm still here, I'll give you one."
"Unless this wraps a lot faster than I think it will, I'm not going home tonight."
"Have fun with the bodies."
Jimmy waves, heading out of Cybercrime.
Tim swears that once upon a time, he had stamina. He's absolutely certain he used to. But for the time being it's AWOL, and he's the grumpy MA looking to drag its ass back on board and throw it in the brig.
Or he would be, but he's too damn tired to go looking for his lost stamina.
Right now, he has successfully kept an eye on everyone, planned but did not execute how to back track the attack, and ordered pizza and burritos for the whole team.
He'd like to get another nap, but the sofa and both beanbag chairs are currently in use. Manner went home at his normal time, punting his job off to Connon. Howard and Brand both hit sixteen on and were sacking out for their mandated ten off. Trevet had hit ten on and was grabbing a nap to clear his head. Really more than ten hours at a go isn't a great plan, but some hackers do hit their stride after that. (Brand was actually sulking about having to break at 16. Meanwhile, Tim's wishing he had her energy.)
The NCIS mirror decoy is up and running. Tim's made a mental note that that's going into their permanent defenses. Anyone who breaks the firewall is going to get a mound of crap. The pirates who are going after them right now are getting piles of it, meanwhile his crew is getting to see what they're going after. They're mostly pulling up employee data files, Vice Director Craig's travel itinerary for the last six months, but not for the six months coming up, the location of several hundred cases' worth of stored evidence, and case notes for two hundred more cases. His guys haven't found the pattern behind what they're taking, and in that they're still taking stuff, it's readily apparent that they haven't yet figured out that what they're getting is just strings of random numbers. With any luck, they assume that what they're getting is encrypted.
Meanwhile, NCIS has the location of the hack down to somewhere in Mexico City, and in only ten more hours, they should have it down to a street address. That is, assuming that this stop in the track back is the real one. He's got people checking to see if it can be backtracked any further, other people trying to get a fix on where in Mexico City, while a third group attempts to figure out who these guys are, and the fourth (which he is theoretically in charge of) attempts to figure out why they want this particular pile of stuff.
Tim's feeling especially stupid that it takes him this long, but he's tired, he's hurting, he's out of practice, and he's not nearly well-drugged enough to be thinking clearly about anything that isn't the case, but finally as the clock hits 01:30, he remembers that upstairs, there's a person who specializes in putting together vast wodges of data, sorting through them to find patterns, and then explain what they mean.
"DiNozzo." Tony sounds distracted when he answers.
"You guys still here?" Tim asks.
"Yeah, case up here went hot this afternoon. Just got the scene processed. We found the body of Herico Juaras, personal secretary to Emilio Ventente, the head diplomat from Mexico."
Tim feels something click when he hears that.
"How'd we get the case?"
"Long story. Part of my multi-year long terror cases. What's up?"
"I need you to send Bishop down. We're getting hacked, as of ten thirty this... yesterday morning, from Mexico City."
Tony says something under his breath, possibly, "Eight" but Tim's not sure. He does say, loud enough for him to understand. "According to Ducky our time of death is roughly 10:00 yesterday morning."
"Yeah. Bishop'll be down soon."
There are patterns, and there are patterns inside patterns, and then there are patterns that require the lens of a certain kind of mind to see.
And then there's junk.
Ellie's looking through what files are being taken. She's sitting on the conference table, shifting things around on the plasma, making notes, munching on a never ending bag of Swedish fish, sipping her coffee, and shaking her head.
Meanwhile, Tim's in his office, feeling awake and pretty good because he's on crimes solver mode and that's giving him a decent second wind. He doesn't want to think too hard about how he's going to feel when he crashes.
"Okay, so, crime scene photos…"
Tony's got them up on his phone. Leon already knows they're building files for the hackers to find and that the real ones are going to be entered in a few days under a different case name and lead investigator.
Tony keeps flipping through, and finally says, "All set. Should hit your inbox…" and Tim's computer beeps.
Tim glances at his inbox and shifts the photos to the right file. "That's most of them, isn't it?"
"Yeah. Cut a few out. All the ones that indicate we know there were two guys there. We're going to make it look like we know Renuald Transez was the killer."
"All right, and he is?" Tim asks.
"Wet works for a group that makes its money ensuring safe travel for drugs over the border."
Tim nods. "Okay, and… once again, you've got this case why?"
"They use that money to help fund a group that's been trying to shut down the Panama Canal."
"Oh. Haven't we been out of there since…"
"'99. Yeah, we ended up with it because we had more boots on the ground and better intel."
"Ah…" Tim's hit the point where he's too tired to get all of these details. He uploads the photos. "Anyway. New files are up and in. If they grab them, we'll know."
Bishop hops in as he says that, still shaking her head. She takes a long drink of her coffee. "Judging by what they're taking, my best guess is that they want something we've got in evidence, and they want to know who worked the case. They're probably hoping that if anyone notices the breach that they won't be able to tell what they accessed because they grabbed so much stuff."
Tony nods. "Okay, back up to the lab. Let's see what we found but didn't know about."
Two hours later a PAY ATTENTION TO ME I'M FREAKING RED ALERT IMPORTANT chirp blares out of Tim's computer.
He jerks awake, says some extremely profane things at how bad he's hurting from falling asleep at his desk, rubs his eyes until they focus, and then ineffectually whacks at his mouse to get his computer to shut up.
The third time he successfully manages to do it.
His eyes scan over the screen, smiles, and he sends back a very quick IM. Good job! A round of whatever the hell your team likes to drink is on me. Paypal me the bill!
He stands, sways, pain shooting through his arm and leg, grabs his crutch, no way in hell he's walking without it, and then hobbles into the main conference area.
"Jimenez and Smith out of Rio got the address! We know where those bastards who are hacking us are. I'm heading upstairs."
By the time the elevator gets to the bullpen, Tim's really hurting. He thought he was hurting before. He was wrong.
He's making little whimpering noises each time he steps, and knows in a way that he never has before that these days he literally cannot make himself pull an all-nighter.
Draga and Ziva aren't at their desks. Tony's not at his, either. Bishop is at hers, still munching away, files spread out all around her.
"We got the hackers' address," Tim says, and notices that she doesn't look up. He looks closer and sees the cords on her earphones.
"Bishop!" She turns to him, and he hears a groan from behind Tony's desk as Tony slowly pulls himself up from the nap he was getting on the floor. For a second, he and Tony share a quick 'we're too old for this shit' look, and then Tim says, "My guys got the address of the hackers. We know where they are. So…"
Tony nods. "Ziva and Draga are driving down to Norfolk to talk to a lead. Is this the sort of thing where we've got time to get to Mexico ourselves, or should we send in the guys on the ground?"
"I'd send in the guys on the ground. I mean…" Tim doesn't know the Mexico City field team. In fact, he's not entirely sure Mexico City has field agents, what with the whole it's several hundred miles from the ocean and not a big spot for US Naval presence. He knows that his guys are there because they're stationed out of the consulate, thus giving them the best shot at rock solid communications and good security. "Where are your guys on the ground?"
Tony rubs his eyes. "Um… San Diego?" He stretches, winces, twists his neck and it pops loudly. "Think Leon's still here?"
"Let's go check?" Tim's got no idea of Leon's here or not, after all, not like he can see Leon leave from his office these days.
They head up.
"No Vera," Tony says. Vance's new secretary isn't at the desk.
Tim knocks on the door, no answer, so he pokes his head in, no Vance. He shakes his head at Tony.
"So, Mr. Fourth-in-Command. Can you order a strike team?"
Tim's never thought about that before. "Probably. Question is, do you want to shut this down, or leave it in place and see if they come for whatever you found."
Tony shakes his head. "Already know what they want. Jimmy found it in the autopsy. Henrico had five data chips sewn into his arm. The Lab's cleaning them up, and in the morning Abby'll start messing with them. I'm sure you'll get called in on them, too."
Tim nods. "So, then, you want me to call in a strike team, or grab the jet so you can go yourself?"
Tony sighs. Then he laughs a little, pulling out his cell phone. "That's how Gibbs would have done it. I need to call the CIA. They'll get pissy if I don't let them in on this, and I know they've got boots on the ground a lot closer than we do. But, if you can get it up on MTAC so we can see what we're dealing with, and brief the Spooks, that'd be great."
Tim nods, tired. "That I can do."
It's been years since Tim's watched a mission he broke go live in MTAC. But he's sitting there, in one of the observation chairs, not in his usual seat at the com (Draga's handling that now) watching the glow of three CIA agents and ten SEALs swoop down into what looks like a small auto body shop in downtown Mexico City and "neutralize" the "targets."
Once the targets are "neutralized," he sees two more bodies, his guys from the Mexico City office, hurrying in. They're taking custody of the computers. It took a major pissing match between Tony and Hullen (CIA contact for this op) but somehow Tony won control of the scene and the evidence.
CIA's getting credit for the bust.
Mexico is happy to see another branch of what has been a problem for them go up in smoke.
All around, it's been a good day.
And when he steps out of MTAC, and sees Abby standing there, waiting for him, he very happily lets her lead him out of NCIS and home, to a long, drugged, and blissful sleep.