Disclaimer: NCIS and its characters do not belong to me and I am making no money from this.

Many thanks to Mr VP for the Beta. Any remaining mistakes are mine.

MTAC 15.00 hrs Wednesday 24th

There has been an explosion at sea. USS Surreptitious the Navy's latest experimental sub. She was undergoing top secret trials mid Pacific when the explosion happened. She's managed to break the surface but is unable to get underway, assistance required, foul play suspected.

02.30 hrs Wednesday 24th

The ringing of his cell jerked him out of a sound sleep and DiNozzo rolled over quickly to take it from the nightstand.

"DiNozzo," he said, instantly alert from long years of practise. He listened carefully, nodding to himself once or twice as he tucked the phone against his neck, getting out of bed quickly and grabbing a pair of jeans. By the time he had finished his call he was half dressed, a quick glance at the clock on his nightstand confirmed his suspicions. Definitely still the middle of the night. To be precise it was two and a half hours since he'd gotten to bed. Shaking his head ruefully he grabbed his keys, punching the speed dial on his cell to call the rest of the team.

Twenty minutes later he walked into the bull pen and powered up his computer. He was the first to arrive, not surprising since he lived nearer than Ziva and McGee and Gibbs would have stopped for coffee on the way and be expecting some initial findings when he arrived. The elevator dinged announcing its arrival and the man in question marched out, the expected cup in hand. He raised his eyebrows at his subordinate and DiNozzo noted that his boss looked, if anything, wearier than he felt. Mind you the man probably hadn't been to bed at all, preferring to unwind with his boat after the last case rather than crash as Tony himself had done.

"What've we got DiNozzo?"

"Two dead naval cadets in civvies at the services off the Southwest freeway, junction nearest the university. John Stevenson and Lance Blake found behind the dumpsters by one of the workers at Starbucks. Local LEOs called us when they id'd them as navy." As he spoke Tony had been pulling up the two young men's service records and he put them up on the plasma screen as he finished. "Both just out of basic training," he continued, "same unit."

"McGee, Ziva?"

"I told McGee to go check the truck first thing Boss and Ziva," he stopped, inclining his head towards the elevator as the young Israeli stepped out. She looked hassled, her hair in disarray as she hurried to her desk, dropping her bag unceremoniously on the floor.

Gibbs ignored her mood, instead instructing Tony to fill her in on the way to the garage and the truck.


They arrived at the scene thirty minutes later to find the area awash with activity. Gibbs practically growled at the sight, only relenting slightly as he realised that the area had at least been taped off and was being supervised by a uniformed officer. Where the hell all of the onlookers had come from at 04.15 was anyone's guess, though a quick glance at the car park revealed two coaches emblazoned with a tour bus emblem.

Marching forwards Gibbs quickly cleared the area, instructing Ziva and McGee to begin the interviews whilst he and DiNozzo ducked under the tape. "Begin shooting Tony," Gibbs said quietly, "I'll do a preliminary perimeter search while we wait for Ducky and daylight."

DiNozzo glanced at his watch as he took the camera out of his backpack, checking the flash unit. "Should be getting light in an hour or so," he replied.

Gibbs didn't answer but turned away and began slowly walking the perimeter of the scene, stopping occasionally as his flashlight picked up something on the ground. They continued working in silence for a while, making sure that they didn't miss anything. DiNozzo finished with the pictures and began to sketch just as Ducky and Palmer arrived in their van.

"Good morning Tony," Ducky said jovially

DiNozzo frowned over at the elderly ME before remembering that he had not been up for most of the last twenty-four hours. Smiling ruefully he returned the greeting. "Morning Duck, this looks like a dump to me, very little blood and some heavy boot prints over there."

The ME nodded, looking over the first of the bodies without touching. "I think you're right my boy," he said at last. "Dual lividity, certainly this fellow didn't die here."

"Time of death Duck?" Gibbs asked coming over to join them.

"Patience Jethro," Mallard smiled over at the younger man even as he took out his liver probe. Gibbs waited with barely concealed impatience until Mallard spoke again. "Between midnight and 01.15," he said, moving to the second body and repeating the procedure.

"What time did the call come in?" Gibbs asked DiNozzo who checked his notes before replying.

"LEOs called us at 03.05, call came into them nearly an hour before that."

"Can't have been killed too far away from here then," Gibbs mused. Looking over at the parking lot he raised his voice and shouted across. "Hey, McGee."

The young man looked up quickly from where he was interviewing an elderly couple and excused himself before hurrying over. "Yes Boss," he said, slightly breathlessly.

"Did anyone see anything?"

McGee shook his head. "Seems the tour buses stopped off about 01.30, drivers had to have an hours break, no-one saw anything until the janitor from Starbucks found the bodies when he took out the trash. He panicked and then everyone wanted in on it."

"So the scene is contaminated." Gibbs voice was deceptively quiet but anyone who knew him could sense his fury.

"Um, it may not be as bad as all that," McGee began, taking a breath and then hurrying on before Gibbs could interrupt. "The manager at the gas station is an ex cop and apparently he got there first and kept people back."

"You talked to him?"

"Sure thing Boss, I'll send him over but he seems pretty certain he stopped any contamination."

"Pretty certain McGee?"

"Umm, I'll just go get him Boss," McGee stammered and scurried off towards the group on the edge of the parking lot.

"Jethro," Mallard interrupted without a thought to Gibbs' mood. "This is interesting, the second young man died approximately two hours earlier than the first."

"But they have both been moved here though Doc?" queried DiNozzo, looking up from making a cast of a boot print.

"Oh yes my boy, definitely moved from where they were killed. Perhaps we shall find some bruising when we begin the autopsy which may assist in determining how they were transported here."

"Are you ready to move them Doc?"

"Yes I believe so, let's get them home Mr Palmer," Mallard called over to his assistant who had just finished making his notes.

Gibbs listened quietly as his team made their preparations and watched as McGee led a tall man over to them. He was running to fat but wore an air of authority that screamed cop even from a hundred yards away.


12.00 hrs Wednesday 24th

Gibbs walked back into the bull pen carrying his customary cup of coffee. He had just spent the past half hour in autopsy listening to Ducky's preliminary findings but had come away with little more than he already knew. Both young men had been shot at point blank range in the chest, suggesting that they perhaps knew their assailant as there were no signs of defensive injuries. Or they could simply have been held at gunpoint and been afraid to move. Ducky had confirmed the differing times of death but without more to go on that was just one more piece of the puzzle. His patience was wearing very thin as he approached his team.

"Both come from long term naval families Boss," Tony got up and approached the plasma as soon as Gibbs entered the room. Long used to the older man's moods he had become adept at diffusing him and today was no exception. He continued quickly at the other man's glare but the heat had gone out of his gaze.

"Stevenson's father and grandfather are both still serving officers, Blake's dad retired last year and his grandfather was lost at Pearl Harbor."

"Where are Stevenson's family serving?" Gibbs asked with sharpened attention.

"Walter Stevenson, his grandfather is onshore in Norfolk, his father, also John, is in experimental subs. I can't get any more than that it's classified. McGee is on it," DiNozzo indicated the younger agent who was engrossed in his search, his fingers flying over his keyboard.

Gibbs chose to ignore him for the moment, knowing that he would report as soon as he had something. He looked back at DiNozzo, recognising that his senior agent had more to report.

"Blake's father served on destroyers for most of his career and was honourably discharged last year. He's living downtown," Tony looked at his feet briefly before continuing, "He has been informed of his son's death. Mom died five years ago."

"Is there anything to connect the two?" Gibbs asked.

"Not yet" Ziva spoke up for the first time. "Blake and Stevenson were friends at the academy but there is no record of contact between their families. Blake was the first one killed, approximately two hours earlier than Stevenson."

"I've started looking into their finances Boss, nothing yet," Tony headed back to his desk, rolling his shoulders as he tried to ease his tired muscles. The last case had involved several long days and nights and sleep had been scarce over the past week. Shaking his head he continued looking through John Stevenson's financial records. Across the aisle Ziva also sat down quietly, too tired to even tease.


14.55hrs Wednesday 24th

The bull pen remained unusually quiet as the afternoon wore on. Gibbs had visited autopsy and Abby's lab a couple of times but was still awaiting results. Between them they had amassed further facts of the young men's lives so that they could recite details from birth to their untimely deaths. Nowhere could they find a connection before they met on joining the navy.

Gibbs' phone rang, he listened for a moment before putting the phone down and heading up the stairs towards MTAC all trace of fatigue gone from his step.

MTAC 15.00 hrs Wednesday 24th

As Gibbs entered MTAC he was aware of a subdued hush. Director Sheppard stood in front of the main screen listening to a report coming in from SEC NAV. She gestured him down to join her, her expression bland as she spoke. "Please continue Sir, Special Agent Gibbs has arrived."

The Secretary nodded and began without preamble, "There has been an explosion at sea. USS Surreptitious, the Navy's latest experimental sub. She was undergoing top secret trials mid Pacific when the explosion happened. She's managed to break the surface but is unable to get underway, assistance required, foul play suspected."

Bull pen 15.00 hrs Wednesday 24th

"Got it!" McGee exclaimed excitedly.

DiNozzo looked up quickly. "You've found the sub?" he asked.

"Yep," McGee tried and failed to hide the grin on his face, aware that DiNozzo probably didn't appreciate just what a feat it had been to hack as deeply as he'd had to to find the information.

"Are you going to enlighten us Probie," Tony began, advancing menacingly towards the younger agent.

"Sorry Tony, of course," McGee replied, unfazed. "It's an experimental sub called the Surreptitious."

"Good work Probie, any idea where she is?"

"Mid Pacific," Gibbs strode purposely down the steps from MTAC, without breaking stride on his way to his desk he called over his shoulder. "DiNozzo, grab your gear, we've got a plane to catch."


AN. I have wrestled with this story for months, writing in fits and starts as RL has got in the way or I have struggled to decide what should come next. It is, finally, almost finished and I am posting now in the hope that a little pressure will give me the final impetus. I hope that you enjoy it. VP.