Many apologies for the delay...I'm just back my holidays and I wrote part of this there, and didn't really like...I still don't really like it, but these 'setting up chapters' are kind of a necessary evil so the story can really get moving...Please stick with me!
Many many thanks to ncislover1111, SpecialAgentAllie, fart fart, diana teo, L Moonshade, katesari and combatcrazy for the reviews!
This chapter introduces the first sci fi elements to the story :)
McGee spent the rest of the day trying to track down anything he could find to do with a Project Antigua while Tony and Ziva continued to work on their respective cases. Eventually Ziva hit a dead end as well, so she helped Tony with his case instead. They'd discovered a glaring error made in calculating a bullet trajectory, but luckily the error wasn't on their end but on the end of the local LEOs who'd worked the case prior to handing it over to NCIS.
"So that could implicate the Corporal as the shooter," Ziva stated.
"Yeah, but then we're missing a motive, which the waitress definitely had...And...aha! She has a rap sheet!"
Tony clicked away with glee, bringing up the profile of a petite Asian woman on the screen.
"Oh yes, she definitely looks like a murderer Tony," Ziva admonished reading the woman's statistics, "She's only five foot in height."
"She could still have made that shot!"
McGee turned his attention back to his search and was rather surprised when a friend from MIT sent him an email.
"Hey Tim, got your message and I have file that might interest you. The file isn't about Project Antigua, but is held by it. It's about something called the Riptide Directive, and if anyone asks where you found it, it wasn't me...This is serious high-level stuff and I don't want convicted of treason, and I mean that.
Be careful Elf lord.
Zack the Warlock"
As McGee downloaded the file, he glanced up at Tony and Ziva who were now trying to re-enact how the waitress could have fired the shot.
"Tony, be serious! This was a calculated killing, not a game of twister!" Ziva groaned as Tony grabbed at one of her arms.
"Enough!" she said, forcing Tony off of her, "I will take our findings down to Abby, and she will tell us definitively."
With that Ziva took the case file and the rerun ballistics report and left the bullpen. Tony took a moment or two to unruffle his suit.
"Gibbs not back yet?" Tony asked.
"No...he's been gone a while," Tim concurred.
Tony sighed loudly returning to his desk and tapping lazily at his keyboard, "Something weird going on...You had any luck with that thing Gibbs wanted?"
"Yeah, just downloaded a file which might be of use to Gibbs...Something called the 'Riptide Directive'."
"Definitely something hinky," Tony muttered, continuing to type.
McGee silently nodded in agreement, returning to the file which had finished downloading and was opening on the desktop. He quickly scanned the first page.
"Project Antigua - Research and Development
August 22nd 1977
FOR ANTIGUA STAFF, JOINT CHIEFS AND ABOVE ONLY
Intercepted document from Project Riptide detailing their response to anticipated Antigua success. The content of the document is detailed below:
Should any Riptide subjects escape custody at hands of Antigua. Riptide staff will use any means necessary to stop Antigua and the subjects from mobilising. This review of Riptide policy has been necessitated by the escape of the first subject - Shannon Jaida Fielding nine years ago. Subject had phase two clearance and upon her escape was recruited by Antigua. Subject considered highly dangerous and is a fanatic against the cause. Subject Fielding received mesh and cortical implant and-"
Tim jumped as his computer cut out.
"What the hell?"
"What's up?" Tony asked.
"Damn computer just switched off," McGee said with exasperation, "Dammit!"
McGee tried to reboot his computer, but found himself unable to log back in to his system. Tony came over and input his own password, which seemed to work on the computer.
"Could the power thingy have scrambled your password?" Tony offered in an attempt to be helpful.
"Computer's don't work like that Tony, but thanks," Tim sighed.
"At least my password works so you can still log in."
"Yeah...I'm going to use a hack to get into my own files...This has brought up your preferences and your documents," Tim said, taking in the unfamiliar desktop configuration, "Your resolution's all wrong," he added, squinting at the tiny text on the screen.
"20/10 vision McProbie...I can see the screen fine...Maybe you need glasses."
"Yeah right Tony," McGee said as his own desktop appeared, but he quickly realised something was wrong.
"I can't get online, and that file I was reading is gone."
"The rip...directive one?" asked Tony.
"Yeah it was relating to what Gibbs asked me to look for and what I read of it was really weird...About test subjects and escaping and brain implants and all sorts."
"You're kidding, right?"
"I wish I were."
Gibbs returning from the NCIS Records Vault a couple of hours later. He'd hunted high and low for anything that would be of use to him, but had come up empty-handed. He returned to the bullpen to find Tony and Ziva typing up reports, and McGee seemingly pulling his entire computer apart.
Gibbs indicated the mess of McGee's desk, and younger agent beckoned the team leader over.
"Did you find anything?" Gibbs asked.
"Yeah, and that's the problem," he sighed.
"Let's take a walk," the lead agent instructed.
Tony and Ziva watched the two leave the bullpen. Ziva wore an odd expression, but after a moment she shrugged and went back to her typing. Tony for his part watched both men until the elevator doors shut, and then turned his head up to the mezzanine level.
Vance's eyes may have seemed unreadable to almost everyone at NCIS HQ, but not to Tony. The two men exchanged a knowing look, and Vance almost imperceptibly nodded his head before returning to his office.
Tony sighed, hoping they were doing this the right way.
"I was reading a file on my computer than an MIT buddy had managed to find for me. It was a file that had belonged to project Antigua and it detailed something called the Riptide Directive."
Gibbs and McGee were taking a walk along the Potomac, coffee in hand to discuss what had happened, and Gibbs was not liking what he was hearing.
"The Riptide Directive, and I never did find out what it was actually about. It said the file had been intercepted by Project Antigua and outlined what this Riptide Programme or Organisation would do if Antigua was successful about something. Then it went on and spoke about test subjects, and those subjects being helped to escape by Antigua, and then it mentioned Shannon by name...At least I think was Shannon, if her middle name was Jaida."
"Yeah it was."
"Well the document noted that Shannon had been a subject of this, Riptide, and had escaped nine years earlier...they said she had some sort of clearance and had joined Antigua upon escaping. And it also said she was a 'fanatic against the cause' and that she'd received some sort of implants, a 'mesh' and a cortical one."
"What the hell?"
"I know...I keep thinking I must have read it wrong."
"And when was this document dated?"
"August 1977...What age would Shannon have been?"
"She would have been 19 or 20, which means when they say this 'Riptide' had her, she would have been ten or eleven."
"Gibbs...I don't know what else to tell you. It doesn't make any sense, but I don't think I'm going to be able to retrieve that document again. It's too big a coincidence that my computer shut down while I was reading it."
"I know McGee, I know."
It was about 2200 by the time the door chimed as Tony knew it would, and he quickly allowed Tobias Fornell in.
The two men looked at each other, and Tony took in the anger emanating from the shorter man.
"Do you have any idea what you're doing DiNozzo?" Tobias seethed.
"I don't know," was Tony's honest answer, "Take a seat."
Tobias hesitated for a brief moment before taking up the offer and slowly sinking into Tony's leather sofa.
Tony ducked out for a moment, bringing back two bottles of beer.
"What happened?" he asked the older Agent.
"He called me up, middle of the night. Asked what I knew about Antigua...Caught me a bit off-guard even though you'd warned me he might call."
"And what did you tell him?"
"A flat out lie...More like a series of flat out lies. Told him I'd never heard of it. Told him the files might be lost because they were so old. Told him I'd help him. Then I even told him the MIB turned up at my doorstep telling me to stop snooping."
Tobias tutted angrily before taking a sip of his beer.
"What he tell you?" Fornell asked Tony.
"Told me he needed to know what Shannon had worked on all those years ago. That he knew the programme operated out of Guatemala and involved old Mayan languages. But that was all he knew."
"And what did you tell him?"
"Basically same as you...told him I'd try to help him find out...which actually isn't much of a lie...We have been trying to get him clearance, but he needs to back off or he'll never find out."
Tobias sighed, "So what's the game plan?"
"We head him off at every point, try to stop him finding out anything. If he ends up in a briefing asking him to stop investigating he'll never listen, so we're just going to have to make it difficult. I've removed the files from the NCIS vault, and I made McGee's computer crash when he found a copy of the Riptide Directive."
"McGee found what? How on earth?"
"MIT buddy called Zack Leeman. Callum's working that angle to stop further leaks."
"Let me guess he asked McGee to help too."
"And you know McGee - there's no way he'd say no."
"I'll bet. So the game plan is to head him off at every pass? Who's helping us?"
"HQ knows he's snooping, so they're all on alert for potential breaches...We're all hoping that the powers that be will grant him access before this gets out of hand, but then they've been considering him for disclosure since he took off to Mexico."
"Hmm...Didn't do any favours for himself when he pulled that stunt."
"I know," sighed Tony, "It was the same time he got on their radar...And if he hadn't taken off to stay with Franks, he would have been read in within the year."
"The man can be his own worst enemy sometimes," Fornell quipped.