Rating: T for language in future chapters

Disclaimer: They belong to CBS, not me. But I can play, right?

A/N: This is probably way too ambitious for my first multi-chapter fic, but what the heck, in for a penny, in for a pound, as they say. In the past I've not paid much attention to the Middle East situation, so I've done a crash course of research in the last few days to get up to speed. This is an almost-real-time fic, spawned from the May 31, 2010 Israeli Flotilla raid that's been all over the news for the past several days. I wish to make it clear at this point that although each character has their own particular POV regarding these current events for dramatic effect, this is NOT a platform for my personal views on the situation or anyone else's. So please don't flame me if what you read conflicts with your personal take on the facts. I'm getting my info primarily from The Globe and Mail newspaper, Wikipedia, and various other websites, including Israeli, North American and UK sites, trying to get a balanced view as things unfold. It's definitely not TIVA - Tony D. and Ziva D. figure prominently but in separate, dovetailing story arcs. It also introduces a few characters of my own devising, who I plan to keep on using in future fics (assuming this story doesn't lead me to kill them all off...) One story arc is my attempt at serious Suspense/Crime fic, the other is shameless romantic drivel. My plan is to alternate story arcs in alternating chapters. I'm in almost over my head here, so please review!

July 7/10 Update: Well, the story is not evolving the way I originally envisioned it, but I have to let the characters take me where they want to go, so...not as much Ziva D. as I'd planned, more case-fic, not much romantic drivel either. Don't worry, it's coming in later chapters! LOL

Sunday, May 30, 2010 5:12 p.m.

"What you got, Leon?" Leroy Jethro Gibbs breezed into MTAC and squinted at the plasma screen in front of them. He'd left his damned glasses downstairs on his desk again.

Director Vance appeared particularly disturbed. He chose to ignore the irreverent address of his subordinate. "Central Security Service picked up an encrypted message being transmitted to the Israeli embassy 30 minutes ago. They've got the Tenth Fleet working on it right now." Turning to face the screen, he continued: "Rear Admiral Hank Penachetti, may I introduce Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Jethro, Admiral Penachetti is Commander of NETWARCOM in Norfolk, Virginia.

"Admiral." Gibbs nodded toward the plasma in acknowledgement. "The Tenth Fleet... Cyber Command?"

"Correct, Agent Gibbs. They were reactivated on January 29th."

The concern in the Admiral's voice had Gibbs on high alert. He gave a questioning glance to his superior. "Why would someone need to encrypt a message to one of our allies, within the United States?" he queried. "We have secure networks for ongoing communications with foreign embassies, there's no need for encryption..." He paused, thinking out loud, "...but if it wasn't an officially sanctioned transmission..."

"We need to find out everything we can about who sent that message, and why. And quickly," Vance muttered, almost under his breath. Despite his cool exterior, Gibbs could tell the Director was nervous. The clenched fist was a dead giveaway.

Gibbs eyed first Vance, then the Admiral. "And this involves NCIS...why?"

Penachetti leaned forward, clasping his large hands in front of him and staring intently into his webcam. "Because, Agent Gibbs, that message came from Fort Meade." Now it made sense. This could very well be an unauthorized use of Navy cryptologic and communications equipment, transmitting an unknown signal to what was technically foreign soil. Penachetti continued, "There's a small fleet, six vessels, just headed out a couple of hours ago from Cyprus. They're carrying 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid on board. But they're also carrying 700 pro-Palestinian activists. Our intel says their destination is Gaza."

The look of uncertainty on Gibb's face gradually gave way to a grim realization. "They're going to try running the blockade." He could see the pieces falling into place.

"Affirmative. The lead ship is Turkish. Our fear is that this message contains information about that fleet, something that could make the Israelis go all trigger-happy on us. They haven't exactly been showing restraint lately." The senior agent internalized and processed each piece of information instantly as the Admiral spoke. It would be highly embarrassing to the Obama administration if there was an "incident" in international waters and it later emerged that it had been triggered by a breach of U.S. Navy computer security. SECNAV would have someone's head if they didn't sniff this out before things got ugly. "We're already working the diplomatic angle with the Israelis, and we've got the cryptologists in the Tenth Fleet trying to decipher the message. We need NCIS to find out exactly where it came from, and how. Whoever sent that message is clearly a National Security risk."

"We'll get on it right away, Admiral. Director." Gibbs gave Vance a rueful glance, turned on his heels and left MTAC, mentally assigning his team to their various tasks as he hurried down the stairs towards the bullpen. Even though it was after 5 p.m., he was not at all surprised to see his dedicated crew still at their stations, processing paperwork from their most recent case. "Tony. McGee. Ziva. Grab your gear – we're heading to Fort Meade."

The team exchanged questioning glances, as they all jumped into motion. "Boss?" Senior Field Agent Tony DiNozzo's raised eyebrows beckoned for additional information. Gibbs dutifully complied, as they headed for the elevator.

"There's been a possible breach of National Security, someone's using Navy computer equipment to transmit encrypted information to the Israeli government."

Ziva looked bemused. "We are allied with Israel, no? Why would they not share the contents of the transmission with us if it comes from an unauthorized source? Surely they would want to verify its accuracy." The newly-minted American citizen could not bring herself to consider that the government of her native land might have a reason not to cooperate with Federal authorities for such a basic request.

"It's not that simple, Ziva." Gibbs described the impending conflict between the Israeli Defense Force and the self-described Freedom Flotilla, filling in his team on all the relevant details.

"Zee-vah, now's your chance to prove you're a true American patriot!" crowed DiNozzo. She shot him a fiery glare, satisfying him that the quip had hit its intended target. He cringed as Gibbs swatted the back of his head, a little harder than usual. "Shutting up now, Boss."

The elevator reached the garage level, and Ziva, Tony and McGee automatically headed towards the waiting MCRT van.

Gibbs whistled through his teeth and motioned with his head for them to follow him to the other end of the garage, where the agents' private vehicles were parked. "I think it's best if we keep a low profile on this one," he mused. "I'll drive."

As they loaded their gear into the trunk and piled into the Dodge Charger, McGee was mentally processing the information Gibbs had shared. "Fort Meade houses the Defense Courier Service, the Defense Information Systems Agency, not to mention the NSA. A breach like this is unheard-of. How the heck could any unauthorized personnel get access to that equipment?"

"That's what you're going to find out." Gibbs gave his junior agent a knowing look as he backed out of his parking spot.

"Right, Boss." McGee shot a sideways glance at Tony, an altogether uncertain expression on his face. Anyone clever enough to commit this type of crime would surely be good enough to cover their tracks beyond detection. His gut told him Tony's smooth interrogation skills would be of more use in this situation than any computer expertise he might bring to bear.

And Ziva? Just what role would she play in this investigation, he wondered?