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by: keith (Send Feedback)
Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 004 Word Count: 12855
Pairing(s): - No Pairing -
Crossover Shows: Stargate SG-1
Summary: NCIS investigates an abnormal number of Marine deaths at an Air Force facility
Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
A few miles outside of Baltimore, a small planetarium was coming gently to life with the death of the muggy day. The calm of the sunset shining through the window was disrupted when a small boy burst through the doors. Short and mop-haired, he sported a pair of coke-bottle glasses and a ‘Star Wars’ T-Shirt. He called out for someone named ‘Ray’ several times as he ran through the building. He finally found an old man sitting beside the main projector of the planetarium itself. “Why didn’t you answer me, Ray?” he asked.
“Because then you’d have known I was here, Anthony,” was the gruff reply. He didn’t mind, though. Ray was always gruff. But he kept coming back because Ray knew EVERYTHING about outer space. And Anthony wanted to know everything about space.
Ray watched out of the corner of his eye as the kid wandered over to the control panel. “What’s the show tonight, Ray?”
“Dangers of Outer Space.”
“Aw, no, Ray. There’s no dangers, just risks. And lots of cool STUFF!”
With his attention on the kid, Ray never saw just what started the fire. Suddenly half the projector was shooting sparks. He fell back, across the floor. From there, he watched as the entire projector started to fall over onto him. Anthony turned around at the sound of the crash, to see his favorite astronomer trapped under a large mechanical mess. He ran, and tried to lift it off his leg.
“Get out, kid. The fire’s spreading, get help.”
“I won’t leave you, Ray!” he replied but was too small to shift the metal frame. He never considered that the fire was starting between him and the only exit, or that it was spreading to block escape. But Ray was well aware of that fact.
Anthony was still trying to get his friend free when he felt a strong grip on his arm. A very strong grip, for a man as old as he thought Ray was. Ray drew him inexorably towards his face. In the firelight, Anthony thought he saw the old man’s eyes glowing. Then with a voice like something out of a bullhorn Ray said “We both agree. We will not be the cause of your death.” Something came out of Ray’s mouth, and there was a brief pain in Anthony’s neck. Then he stood straight up, turned his back on Ray, and walked out of the small burning theatre. Ray sagged beneath the projector as the flames rose.
It was the summer of 1978.
Now, it's the summer of 2004.
Kate and Tony entered NCIS headquarters to find the bullpen fully occupied. Magee, Abby, Ducky and a few other agents were watching the big screen. On it, a NASA channel broadcast of the latest space shuttle launch was concluding.
“What’s going on, Ducky?” asked Kate.
“It’s very exciting, Kate. The flight surgeon on this mission is a former student of mine.” the medical examiner replied. “He’s conducting some experiments I helped design.”
“What kind of experiments?” Kate asked Dr. Mallard, but Abby spun around to respond.
“It’s like way cool dress rehearsals. He’s going to operate on dead bodies to see how they should set up surgeries in orbit.”
“Cool,” remarked Tony. “Now, how many corpses can you fit on one shuttle?”
“Oh, not the whole corpse, Tony,” said Ducky, “just prepared sections with the requisite medical issues. Things that have to be at least addressed before a patient can face up to the stresses of reentry. There’s a head with skull trauma, and bits of bone embedded in the brain. There’s a leg with a compound fracture, a torso with shattered ribs, a few legs with-“
“They cut up some bodies so they can take them in orbit and cut them up some more?” Tony was a little queasy. “Somehow, that’s worse than whole corpses.” He sat at his desk. Ducky followed him across the bullpen, trying to ease his feelings.
“Oh, it’s all in the name of science, Tony. Nothing new, really.” Ducky leaned on Tony’s desk, to look him in the eye. “Haven’t you ever wondered, when I examine a corpse left in the wild, and can say things like how long it takes for worms to grow in someone’s eye sockets, or how long it takes alley rats to eat away someone’s face… How do you think I know these things?” Tony’s eyes never left Ducky’s, but he slowly raised a small paper sack in his hand towards the other TV watchers.
“Anyone want a roast beef sandwich? I lost my appetite.” Ducky grabbed the bag, winked at Tony, and walked off.
“Did I ever tell you,” Tony asked, trying to escape the previous conversation, “That when I was a kid, I wanted to go into space?”
“Let me guess,” Kate smirked, “You wanted to be Kirk? A woman in every orbit?”
“No,” he corrected her, “_I_ wanted to be Sulu. But aside from that, I got deep into the whole exploration thing. Expanding the boundaries of human knowledge, all that. There was this guy at a planetarium near my house. He was a grouch, but he knew everything there was to know about space. He even knew stuff no one else suspected. Got me hooked on space and stuff at an early age. I spent a lot of time bugging him about space, and stars, and planets and…oh, everything beyond lunar orbit.”
Magee leaned forward at his desk when Tony stopped talking.
“So what happened?” Tony’s face went unnaturally blank for a second. It was quick, but it reminded Kate of nothing so much as an actor waiting for a line. Then it was gone and Tony responded.
“The old guy died, I lost all interest in outer space. We got lots of stuff around here on Earth to occupy our time, no reason to go poking around in the stars. Probably lots of dangerous stuff out there, that we’re not ready to face yet.” Kate shared a look with Magee, to see that he had noticed the difference in Tony for that brief second.
“How uncharacteristically cautious of you, Tony.” she commented.
“Hey, it just goes to reason, you know? So, what’s on the menu for this afternoon?”
“Two marines died during a training exercise” Gibbs announced, rounding the corner of Dinozzo’s desk. He tossed a manila folder onto Tony’s desk, then another one onto Kate’s. Magee stood up from his desk and walked towards Gibbs’ as the senior agent sat down.
“Is foul play suspected, boss?”
“Nope,” answered Dinozzo, looking into the folder, “according to the Marine Corps, it was an accident.”
“Both of them were,” added Kate, reading through her folder. “A fairly straightforward, well witnessed, fully investigated accident. At least, according to this report.”
“These reports,” Tony echoed.
“So,” asked Magee, “why is NCIS interested in their deaths?”
“Because, Agent Magee,” answered Gibbs, “both of their wives are unsatisfied with the official report of their death. They’ve asked NCIS to look into it.”
“Well,” Magee persisted, “if they were investigated, and the Marine Corps is satisfied, why do…” He trailed off as he noticed Todd and Dinozzo out of the corner of his eye, both trying to wave him off with overt ‘don’t go there’ signals. But it was too late.
“Because, Agent Magee,” Gibbs repeated, standing up and leaning towards the junior agent, “both of their wives are unsatisfied with the official report of their death. They’ve asked NCIS to look into it. They’ve lost their husbands. They should have been at least partially prepared for that, what with Marines entering willfully into harm’s way on a daily basis. Their husbands gave their lives for their nation, so the least we, as representatives of that nation, can do is to help their dependents deal with their deaths. To assure them that their husbands’ deaths were, if not necessary, at least unavoidable. To report to them that those responsible are punished or, at the very least, taking steps to make sure it never happens again. Unless you’ve got something more important to do with your time?”
“Um, no, boss,” Magee quailed.
“Good!” Gibbs stormed off. Magee looked helplessly towards the other agents.
“Marine dependents.” Tony said, as if it explained everything.
“Gibbs has sort of a soft spot for a dead Marine’s family,” Kate expanded. “Well, ‘soft’ may not be the right word.”
“You got that part right,” Magee mumbled, turning back towards his desk.
Over the next few days, the team assembled information about Corporals Spinelli and Anderman, their Marine security unit, and their attached command, located under Cheyenne Mountain, in Colorado.
“Cheyenne Mountain?” Gibbs asked, when Tony mentioned this. “That’s Air Force? What the hell are Marines doing at an Air Force command?”
“Maintaining security?” Todd suggested.
“Marines were invented to keep sailors from getting hurt. Not airmen.” Gibbs mulled for a second. Then he asked the room in general “Are there any Navy personnel at Cheyenne?”
“Actually, boss,” Magee supplied, “the command personnel seem to be mostly Air Force personnel, but there is a large presence of Navy, Marine and Army.”
“Backgrounds?” Gibbs asked, in his personal verbal shorthand.
“The Air Force and Navy personnel are drawn from technical specialties, and the expected AFB support personnel, the Army and Marine people seem to concentrate on experienced special forces. Small unit combat, recon, that sort of thing.” Magee looked up. “There’s a lot of firepower for a radar station, boss.”
“The…the main command is involved in deep space radar telemetry research.”
“Well,” Magee translated, with a deep breath, “Deep Space would be any region beyond the conventional solar system, Radar is, in this instance, a means of locating objects in space, and Telemetry is a means of transmitting data over long distance communication links. Like through a satellite.”
“So Cheyenne Mountain is…”
“Trying to find ways to look out into space, and getting the information from the radar unit to someplace on Earth, maybe by a chain of satellites or other probes.” Everyone watched Gibbs think this over for a second. Finally, the senior agent asked “So, is there any way that sort of research would be useful to, say, a Special Forces unit attacking an Al Qaeda weapons cache?”
“No,” answered Magee.
“Maybe,” answered Todd. Everyone turned to her. She gestured at her computer screen. “According to these pay statements, about half the people there are getting combat pay. Either it’s part of the war on terror, or someone thinks the terrorists will think it is.” She shrugged. Gibbs shook his head.
“You can only get combat pay if you’re actually serving in a War Zone,” he pointed out, “Otherwise every soldier in the world filling a support billet could be said to support the war effort. Heck, recruiters could get combat pay. And War Zones have to be authorized by Congress. Tony!” Everyone turned towards Dinozzo’s desk, to see the agent on his phone, waving everyone to ‘come here.’
“Yes, Major Davis,” he said into the phone, “you’re the Legal Officer for the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base? Yes, I did submit a request to exhume two Marine corporals. No, we went through the civilian authorities, figured their enlistment contract expired at some point after their deaths.” As Gibbs and the others approached, Tony pointed to the Caller ID display. Gibbs noted the number. “That’s Pentagon,” he whispered to Todd. At that comment, Dinozzo signed for ‘Bingo!’ His conversation continued.
“Oh, isn’t that a coincidence!” He moved his mouth a small distance from the mouthpiece. “Hey, boss, guess what? They just happened to have exhumed Corporal Anderman’s body this morning. Their ME has it, and is more than willing to let our ME look it over.” He moved the mouthpiece back. “Just one thing, Major. See, I have two college drinking buddies that live in Colorado Springs these days. They have a landscaping business. And before we submitted the exhumation request, I asked them to go over and move a few headstones. Tell me, was your ME surprised to find that a 23 year old Marine’s coffin held a” he paused to loudly shuffle some sheets of paper on his desk, “a 63 year old woman named Muriel, who drowned over 12 years ago? Hello? Hello?” He hung up and smiled broadly. “Seems to have been a surprise to someone.”
“You don’t have any drinking buddies in Colorado.” Kate said. It wasn’t a question.
“Nope. But he doesn’t know that. And he didn’t know I was bluffing.”
“Why,” asked Gibbs, “would an officer at the Pentagon be involved in covering up the death of a Marine enlisted? Cause sure as sin, whatever body they’re offering for Ducky to examine, it isn’t Anderman. Magee, is anything hinky going on in Colorado?”
“Uh, actually, boss, Abby has the hinky watch.” Magee offered.
“Hinky is as hinky does, Gibbs!” Abby exclaimed as the team entered her lab. A map was displayed on her large screen, showing the area immediately around Cheyenne Mountain. “About once a year, there seems to be a chemical spill or a nerve gas release in the area.” She touched a button on her keyboard and 7 death’s head icons appeared on the screen. “Now, there is enough industry or military stockpiling in the area to justify each individual event, but all conspiracy theorists agree, chemical spills are great ways to get the media to convince the population to evacuate. Gives the evil forces of the government plenty of room to wend their wicked ways without civilian oversight.”
“You realize,” Tony asked, “that you ARE a force of the evil government, don’t you Abbs?”
“Know it, live it, love it.” she replied with a smile. “In addition, if there is a chance civilians might see something you don’t want them to, you call it a nerve gas spill.”
“So,” Kate suggested, “any comments in the media can be dismissed as under the influence of something chemical.”
“Exactly. Like the Big Translucent Bug Scare of Greater Colorado a few years back. Also, there have been some sightings of government special operations units in the area.” Another keyboard operation, and six large red question marks appeared. “They sweep in, gunshots are reported, they sweep out…and no mention in the newspapers about any arrests or trials. Now, what crosses over my personal threshold of ‘hinky’ are…” Twelve purple exclamation points scattered across the map. “…the reports that qualify for the National Enquirer. People doing impossible things, people in two places at once, lightning bolts coming from individuals, skinny intellectual types beating the crap out of motorcycle gangs, odd lights in the sky, unknown types of planes in the air, that sort of thing.” The overall pattern clearly centered on the Air Force Base under the mountain. “I think there’s more than this. But the forum I was getting the information from, one of the conspiracy enthusiasts spotted my federal ISP and the whole thing crashed.” Gibbs nodded and turned away.
“We have to go out there.”
Gibbs strode out of the airport doorway, glancing around for directions to the Hertz parking lot. Beside him, Abby was practically bouncing in her shoes.
“This is so COOL!” she exulted. “I NEVER get to go on the investigations.”
“With this case,” he pointed out, “we may only get one look at any evidence we can find. Have to be ready for it. Anything pertinent my disappear as fast as your conspirator buddies.”
Kate commented, “Well, not conspirators, exactly. The conspiracy freaks…who conspire to expose the conspirators.”
“And this advances the conversation how, Agent Todd?” agent Gibbs asked, with one eyebrow dangerously raised.
“Um, well, I….” Kate faltered into silence, with Ducky beside her breaking into a large grin. He turned back, to where Tony labored to push a luggage cart piled as high as his chest. Ducky warned him to be extra careful with his equipment. Behind Tony, Magee pushed a cart piled higher than his head. Abby warned HIM to be extra careful with HER equipment.
When the investigators entered the lobby of their hotel, they found an Air Force officer with a handful of enlisted men waiting. The officer approached, hand stretched out. “Special Agent Gibbs, I believe? I’m Major Davis. Welcome to Colorado.”
“What’s up, Major Davis?” Gibbs asked, taking the offered hand for a brief shake.
“I’m your liaison, escort-
“Keeper?” suggested Tony.
“Whatever else you need. The Air Force understands what you’re doing here, and we want nothing so much as to put your and the widow’s concerns to rest.”
“But?” asked Kate.
“But there are national security issues at stake.”
“Ah,” Tony sighed, “if I had a nickel for every time ‘national security’ was an issue…”
“I’ve been ordered,” Davis continued, clearly uncomfortable with the conversation, “to take you directly to the commandant of the Marine detachment on the base, if you’re interested. These men will take care of your gear while we go out to The Mountain. Or whenever you’d like to schedule it. The Air Force will be paying for your suite while you’re here, you’re already checked in.”
Abby eased between Gibbs and Dinozzo to face Davis. “When you say ‘take care of’ do you mean…”
“Believe me, miss. Nothing sinister is going on here.” For the first time, Davis seemed less of a Public Relations officer and more of an individual. He met Abby’s eye contact directly as he continued: “We appreciate the sacrifice those men made for their country, and the sacrifice their dependents have made. And are making. All we want is to find some way to satisfy you and them that nothing underhanded is going on, without breaking any laws.” Everyone seemed to hold their breath to watch Gibbs’ reaction, even the airmen. Finally he gave a brief nod.
“Okay. We’ll go with you, for now. See how that goes.” Davis nodded back, gestured towards the front door and two staff cars at the curb. Airmen moved to take the luggage while Todd, Dinozzo and Ducky jumped to grab their personal bags with their investigation gear. As they exited the hotel Tony stepped up beside Davis.
“Did you say ‘suite?’ How big is this suite?”
The staff cars entered the mountain facility, and offloaded the passengers next to an underground security station. Tony noticed a large black man, in some sort of half-uniform of BDUs talking to one of the security guards. What drew his attention was a large block of gold apparently welded to the man’s forehead. He nodded in the man’s direction and asked Gibbs, “Hey, boss. See that…um, tattoo? How drunk would you have to be to get something like that?”
Gibbs grinned and answered “Drunk enough to marry my second wife again.” Ducky followed their attention as the group passed security towards a large bank of elevators. “It reminds me of …well, no, I can’t think of anything like that. I mean, a few warrior tattoos or ritual scars come to mind, but…no. I got nothing.” Tony shared a grin with Mallard, then looked back over his shoulder as they all entered the elevator, and was startled to find himself in eye contact with the guy. The gold-pressed man was staring directly at him, and didn’t look away until the elevator doors closed.
Down below, there was barely room for everyone to fit into the commandant’s office. Major Kest clearly wanted to be helpful, but warned them that security concerns were paramount in any discussion of the facility or events within it.
“My team, sir,” Gibbs pointed out, “all have security clearances that – “
“That are meaningless,” Kest interrupted, “without a need to know. As you surely understand.”
“Major,” Gibbs pressed, “I have 52 Marines dead at this command in the last 5 years. That’s my jurisdiction, and I have a need to know.” As the two continued to set and question the boundaries for the investigation, Dinozzo glanced out the door. He noted the oddly marked individual from the security station passing by. Soon after he cleared the door, a blonde woman in Air Force blues walked by, glancing in. Her eyes scanned the room, coming to rest on Dinozzo’s face. He smiled back at her, she ducked away. After a minute, just enough time, Dinozzo estimated, for the blonde and the gold-scarred warrior to compare notes, and agree that Dinozzo was god’s gift to women, she entered the room. Tony noted she specifically did not look at him again, making her way to the side of Major Kest. She interrupted the argument that was reaching almost a record decibel level even for Gibbs.
“It’s alright, Major. I’ll take care of this.”
“Are you sure, Colonel? General O’Neill told me…”
“It’s alright.” she repeated, “There’s been a change of plans. I’ll take them to General O’Neill.” The marine shrugged and relaxed into his office chair again. The lieutenant colonel nodded to Major Davis, who turned and led the way to yet another elevator. Tony hung back to the tail end of the growing procession, trying to get close to the cute officer to impress her with his own ineffable cuteness. Out of nowhere, a large muscular chest stepped between him and his target, and he looked up into the implacable face of gold-man. In fact, Tony reflected, he’d never really understood the term ‘implacable’ until he got a look at this guy’s face.
“Hey, big guy. What’s your name?”
“Murray.” Tony noticed the clear rebuff in the terse response. Noticed, but didn’t care. He pointed to the man’s forehead.
“So, what is that thing on your face, there?”
“I woke up in…Tijuana one morning and found it. I have no recollection of how it came to be there.” Tony nodded as if this explained it, as if he believed the story. As an explanation, it was something that, if it could happen anywhere, could have happened in TJ.
“That must have been some party, Murray.” he remarked.
“Indeed.” was all the reply he got. They joined everyone else on the elevator.
Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
MTAC - NCIS Fic