Author's Note: READ ME FIRST: Okay, as a heads-up, I wrote this as a single scene that's pretty much a prologue to a much longer story. This chapter sets up the characters, and I'm mostly posting it just to get it out of my head. I have no real idea what the bigger story would be. So, if you're looking for something more complete: sorry. If you're still interested in reading: enjoy.
Disclaimer: I own neither NCIS nor Dark Angel and I'm certainly not making any money off of this. (I get paid in reviews to stroke my ego and the calm of not having the story bouncing around in my head.)
"Gibbs, you need to come down here. I need you down here, now, Gibbs."
Gibbs looked at his phone for a second and then hung up before making his way to the stairs. Abby had sounded ... off. She'd been excited and scared and nervous like she was when she found the break in a hot case. But he didn't have any hot cases. All of his team were reviewing cold cases. Abby had been reading up on technological advances when he'd seen her this morning. His team looked curious but none of them were brave enough to question him.
It was times like this that he missed his old team most. DiNozzo and Ziva had both been able to stand up to him, tease him even, and under their tutelage, McGee had even grown a backbone near the end. God, but he missed them. They had been through thick and thin together. It had taken the Pulse, a terrorist attack worse than 9/11 to destroy that team. But it had still happened. More than ten years later, he still mourned their loss more than any of the other losses due to the Pulse.
He shook off his morbid thoughts. "What have you got for me, Abs?"
She was already pacing when he came through the door, and talking with much hand waving before the door had had a chance to close.
"I was reading up on hacking tech and I had an idea to track down Eyes Only."
"Eyes Only." There was an image of Eyes Only on her main screen and he took a moment to study it. Since he listened to the TV while working on his boat, he rarely saw the image, just heard the news when it came on. Still, he must have seen it often enough because the eyes looked familiar as he studied them.
His team had never been assigned to track down the hacker. Given the news stories that got broken through the infamous "Streaming Freedom Cable Hacks," it was pretty obvious that the guy was based on the west coast. Gibbs wasn't sure how he felt about the guy. He disapproved of vigilantism in general, but the corruption in government was so pervasive now that sometimes he felt his own team and NCIS in general were practically vigilantes themselves, trying to get around the bureaucratic rules that hobbled them.
Also, given some of the rumors he had heard about other operations, he was worried about what exactly the government would do if any of them did manage to identify the guy. If Abby had identified him then Gibbs knew he would have some serious decisions to make. He'd cross that bridge when he got to it.
"Yeah, you know, all hackers try to hack Eyes Only eventually," Abby continued to talk, either oblivious or ignoring Gibbs' distraction. "He's like a hacker god. So we all try to hack him, see how far we can get. It's a test. If you get to a certain level, he contacts you directly. Some of my friends are in his network."
"So you got to that level today?" He had to wonder why she was telling him all this.
"No, Gibbs. No, I didn't." She pouted. "Even with my brilliant new idea, it didn't work, he just shut me out. He's good, Gibbs, like me and McGee working together good."
Gibbs took that like a man and refused to flinch. It had been eleven years since she and McGee had worked together. Since the Pulse.
He refused to flinch and Abby didn't notice because she was still talking. "I had that exact thought: good like me and McGee working together. And then I thought, well, what if it was me and McGee working together?"
"McGee is dead, Abby." He spoke harshly. He couldn't help it. She looked stricken, paused long enough to take a breath and give him a hug.
"I know, Gibbs. But, still, what if it was us working together. That last project. We put everything we could think of on that laptop. We didn't know what they would face when they actually got there, so we just put everything we could dream up, the two of us and Tony, too, standing behind us telling us about Hackers the movie with Angelina Jolie. It was the last thing we all three did together. And my copy here was one of the things that I had a chance to protect before the Pulse hit. And afterwards McGee was dead and Tony left, but what we put together, it was a hackers dream, Gibbs, and it worked. Tony told us how it worked. It got them through all the security, it got them past every door, got them into every network, it worked, Gibbs. We were just too late. The launch had already happened but it worked, Gibbs."
"Then the Pulse happened. The laptop was destroyed."
"Gibbs, it was the last thing me and McGee worked on together."
He sometimes wondered how such a tall woman, taller in her platform boots, wearing black and chains, could look so innocent and vulnerable. He wrapped his arms around her in a hug. "I know Abs, I know."
"It was the last thing we worked on together. I recreated a copy. I kept it in a shrine for years." He stiffened and held her back for a moment to look at her face. She refused to meet his eyes. He sighed and pulled her back into the hug.
"You're always telling me that technology changes fast, Abs. That was eleven years ago."
"I know, Gibbs. That stuff wouldn't hack anything important now. But when we threw it together it was cutting edge. It was like a masters education on hacking. If someone had the time to study it, and wanted to spend that time studying it, and was really, really smart, well, they could learn a lot. And I think Tony made a copy of it before he left."
"DiNozzo returned to his family and became a journalist." It was one of his failures. Just another failure that he had sent DiNozzo and McGee and Ziva out and only DiNozzo had returned alive. His senior field agent had refused point blank to ever work with a partner again. What was left of their team had examined all the forensics, filed all the paperwork, attended all the funerals, and then DiNozzo had handed in his two-weeks notice and refused to take it back. He'd had three partners in NCIS killed in front of him, and Gibbs couldn't really blame DiNozzo for deciding it was enough.
So DiNozzo had returned to his rich reclusive family who didn't care about him and about whom he didn't care and taken up journalism so that he could continue to investigate without ever having to have a partner again. He'd even gone back to his father's last name despite having used his mother's maiden name for his entire adult life before then. Gibbs couldn't imagine DiNozzo agreeing to work with someone else, after leaving NCIS, but he supposed eleven years were a long enough time to change most things. And DiNozzo had been Cale for the last decade, and Gibbs didn't know Cale at all.
"You think DiNozzo got involved with Eyes Only and gave him the software."
"Tony would never do that, Gibbs! That software, that was me and McGee. Tony would never give it away."
Gibbs had not gotten to his reputation for omnipotence by making guesses. He waited for her to explain.
She huffed a sigh when he didn't guess again but didn't push it. "Tony wouldn't do that to us. He left because he wouldn't work with us anymore. He wouldn't give our work away to anyone else."
"I know Abs, those were my thoughts too."
"Good. But then how did Eyes Only get it? Don't answer that question, it's rhetorical. I know how. Because I thought Eyes Only looked familiar. And of course he looked familiar because I've been watching his hacks for like three years now, but then I thought of Tony and look!"
On her lab screen, the Eyes Only image shifted so it was on one half of the screen. The other half had a picture of DiNozzo and Abby, arms links together, smiling rather manically at the camera. Gibbs didn't have time to appreciate it, or mourn its loss because Abby was typing away at her computer, and the image zoomed in on Tony's face, then zoomed in again on Tony's eyes. Tony's eyes stared out at him from one side of the screen. Eyes Only stared out at him from the other side.
"Did the computer do the analysis?" Gibbs was surprised at how his voice sounded. It sounded normal. When he had opened his mouth, he hadn't been entirely sure he had the breath to speak.
"Yeah." But her fingers flew and the analysis happened again. Gibbs watched as the comparison points were identified and compared and matched. "Those are Tony's eyes, Gibbs. Tony is Eyes Only."