The Fight or Flight Response
Written for Caos Accidentale as part of NFA's 2010 White Elephant Fanfiction Exchange
Disclaimer: All names and trademarks recognised as "NCIS" do not belong to me; I've just borrowed the characters.
Characters: Abby, Ducky, Palmer, OC
Genres: Drama, Suspense
Warnings: None; set sometime early-ish season six
Summary: When NCIS is taken hostage on a quiet Sunday morning, it is up to Ducky, Abby and Palmer to save the day. A drama in three parts.
A/N Originally completed and posted on NFA in June. Just re-discovered it on my computer and decided to post it here.
But I've taken a few liberties with the security systems and layout of NCIS headquarters to better suit the story, especially in the beginning of the third part. I'm not exactly sure how NCIS would really react in such a situation, or what the proper security measures are, so I've used some creative licence. It's best to just go with the flow and enjoy the story for what it is, inaccuracies and all.
Music blared from the speakers, echoing across the room as Abby rolled her chair from one computer to another. It was a Sunday, but Abby and the rest of Gibbs' team were hard at work – a Petty Officer had been found dead clutching State secrets. So since the SecNav had declared it a national security issue, the team had been working 'round the clock. Abby, currently, was waiting for her babies to work their magic. Major Mass Spec was analysing a foreign compound found at the crime scene and some of her computers were running a search for a possible suspect through every database she could get her hands on.
Abby sighed and twirled her chair, flipping her pigtails out as she did so. She was bored. There was nothing to do besides wait for her machines to beep. What she'd do for a visit from Gibbs and a Caff-Pow; Abby looked at the empty red container forlornly. Even Palmer would have been a welcome distraction from the monotonous Sunday morning.
Closing her eyes, Abby willed Gibbs to pick up on her brainwaves and walk into her lab carrying a Caff-Pow. But no such luck. Abby opened her eyes a moment later and she was still alone, with only her machines for company.
She sighed again and rolled to one of her computers that wasn't running a scan. Maybe she could get on Facebook; it wasn't exactly regulation, but it was a Sunday and Abby was bored. Pulling up a new window, Abby's fingers were just poised over the keyboard when her machines started to beep.
. . . Wait, no. It wasn't her machines.
Bewildered, Abby glanced around her lab. Dully, she knew she recognised the sound but for some reason it wasn't registering. She looked across at Major Mass Spec sitting quietly against the wall and then back to her computers humming away.
Only a second or two had passed, but then it finally registered with Abby. It was rare to hear that noise in the NCIS building and Abby was sure it must have been a drill. But it was a Sunday, wasn't it? Why run a lockdown drill on a day when most of the building was relaxing at home?
Jerking in her seat, Abby flicked over and pulled up her inter-office email. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. No indication that this was a drill, was an accident, was anything other than a real lockdown. Abby grabbed her phone, punching in the number of the bullpen with such ferocity that it shook in her hand.
It rang . . . and rang . . . and rang.
Cursing softly, Abby changed tactics and stood abruptly from her chair. She swiped her cell phone on the way and dialled Gibbs again as she dashed into the other part of her lab. Abby clicked on her videophone, immediately connecting with Autopsy where she knew Ducky and Palmer were working on discovering the secrets of their dead Petty Officer.
"Ducky!" she exclaimed as the medical examiner appeared on the tiny screen. Her cell went to voice mail so she hit redial.
"Abigail," Ducky acknowledged with a slight nod.
"Do you know what's happening?" she asked quickly, glancing around her lab as though she expected an axe murderer to jump out from behind the door and hack her to death.
"I do believe we are in lockdown," Ducky summarised as the siren continued to sound.
"Well, duh," Abby replied sarcastically, hitting the redial button again. "I got that bit. But why are we in lockdown? What's going on? I can't get hold of Gibbs. He won't answer his phone. What if it's not a drill or an accident? What if something is really, really wrong! Maybe it's an axe murderer! Why won't he answer his phone?"
"Abigail, calm down," Ducky said gently through the videophone. "I am sure there is a very reasonable explanation for the lockdown and for why Jethro is not picking up your calls. Perhaps he is busy."
"But what if he's not!" Abby exclaimed, gesturing wildly with her hands. "What if something bad has really happened? What do we do?"
"We do as the lockdown suggests," Ducky told her. "We stay calm and remain where we are. I am sure it is a drill or an accident. I don't think there is anything to worry about, Abigail. There are certainly no axe murderers."
"But how do you know?" Abby cried.
"Abby . . ." Ducky started, almost warningly. "Calm down. There's nothing to worry about."
Abby chewed on her bottom lip. "Well . . ." she started, unsure. "If you think so . . ."
"Just stay where you are," Ducky replied, though he was distracted by someone off-screen. "Now I have to go and make sure Mister Palmer doesn't . . . No. Not that one, lad. . . . I have to go. Stay there." Ducky shifted from focus and the videophone screen went blank.
Wringing her hands, Abby redialled Gibbs' number again and when nobody picked up she tried McGee. And Tony. And Ziva. After four unsuccessful calls, Abby was ready to throw her cell across the room. Why was no one answering! If it were just a misunderstanding, why wasn't anyone picking up their phones?
Abby had a bad feeling.
Slinking back into the main part of her lab, Abby made up her mind. Flicking off her pounding sound system, leaving only the ominous squeal of the alarm, Abby cast a quick look over her machines before heading towards the door. She wasn't about to wait around for the axe murderer to hack her to death in a steely silent lab.
Abby shut the door to her lab silently as she slipped into the hallway. It was empty, only the clanging siren echoed against the walls. She knew she shouldn't be moving, should've been staying in her lab, but her gut was telling her to go, go, go. Abby wasn't, however, naive enough to think going to the bullpen was a good idea, just on the off-chance an axe murderer really was rampaging. Nor did she think it a good idea to use the elevators. Elevators made noise and would announce her presence to any present axe murderers.
Instead, Abby headed for the stairwell that would take her down to Autopsy.
"Ah, Mister Palmer, didn't I tell you not to . . ." Ducky started, but was cut off as the doors to Autopsy chimed and slid open. Ducky sighed and without turning around, he said, "Do you not understand the concept of lockdown, Abigail?"
Abby paused. The ringing alarm was just as loud and just as ominous down here as it had been in her lab. "How did you know it was me?"
"It is either you or an axe murderer, and I'd rather not entertain the idea of an axe murderer in my Autopsy," Ducky replied pleasantly, still bent over the dead Petty Officer.
"Hi, Abby," Palmer said cheerfully, accidently waving a cadaver as a hello. He looked at it and amended, "I mean, I say hello, not Petty Officer Banks. It's not like he can say hello anyway; he's a bit . . . indisposed." Palmer laughed awkwardly.
"Nice, Palmer," Abby muttered. "If you hadn't realised, we're in the middle of a lockdown!"
"Which means you should still be in your lab," Ducky pointed out, straightening up and moving away from Petty Officer Banks in order to place something in an evidence jar. It clanged to the bottom with a metallic ping.
"I wasn't about to wait around for the axe murder," Abby remarked. "And safety in numbers, remember."
"Or more targets in one place," Palmer pointed out, putting Petty Officer Banks' arm down on a tray. "I've always found it odd that they say safety in numbers but really it just makes a bigger target, don't you think."
"Not helping," Abby replied as she glanced furtively around the room. "Are you sure you don't know what's going on?"
"We know as much as you do, Abigail," Ducky answered, flicking on the fluorescent lights so he could examine the Petty's Officer's x-rays. "Ah," he said, though mostly to himself. "As I thought. One bullet to the upper quadrant and the poor man found himself bleeding to death. It would not have been pleasant."
"What's up with the arm, then?" Abby asked curiously, making her way over to Palmer and glancing down at the severed arm.
"That I am not sure of," Ducky replied, shrugging. "I believe that is a job for Jethro."
"Who's not answering his phone," Abby said absentmindedly, slipping on a glove so that she could poke the severed arm. She frowned. "It was severed."
"With a hunting knife, probably," Abby continued, dropping the cadaver back onto its tray. She pulled off the glove and said, "Get me a photograph and I'll run it through my babies. I'm sure . . ."
She was cut off as Ducky's computer chimed an incoming email. Pausing, Ducky glanced at Abby who was the only one of the three not covered in blood and body parts. With over-exaggerated hurriedness, Abby raced over to the desk and clicked open the email window.
Abby sighed loudly. "It's just one of admin's automated emails advising us that a lockdown has been activated and could we please stay where we are." She harrumphed. "I'm going ring the bossman again."
She pulled out her cell and dialled. Like last time and the time before that, it rang and it rang but no one picked up. Abby threw Ducky a worried looked and commented, "He's still not picking up."
Ducky clicked off his x-ray light, leaving the scans on the blackened box. "Have you tried Timothy? Or Anthony? Ziva, perhaps."
"I've tried them all, Duck," Abby replied nervously. "And they won't pick up either. I know they're here because I spoke to Tony half an hour ago."
"Try them again," Ducky suggested. He didn't want to admit it, but he too was getting a foreboding feeling.
So Abby did. She dialled McGee first. No answer. Tony. Nothing. Ziva. The same. Gibbs again. Silence.
Abby, Ducky and Palmer looked at each other silently as the final phone rang out. Then, absentmindedly twirling the end of her pigtail, Abby announced, "I'm hacking the security cameras in the squadroom."
"Is that really necessary?" Palmer asked, looking slightly worried. "Doctor Mallard said it was just a drill."
"I said, Mister Palmer, that I thought it was a drill," Ducky replied curtly.
"So there is an axe murderer?"
Ducky didn't know how to answer that.
"That's it," Abby declared. "I'm hacking into the cameras now."
She leaned over the desk and started to furiously tap away at the keyboard. Ducky's autopsy computer wasn't designed for hacking but with some clever handy work, Abby was able to access her lab's mainframe and use it to access the security cameras that littered the squadroom.
Discarding their autopsy gear, Ducky and Palmer hovered nervously behind Abby as she worked. Wincing and momentarily pausing her assault on NCIS' security system, Abby spun her head around and glared at the autopsy inhabitants. They backed away and Abby nodded once, turning back to the computer.
Another couple of keystrokes and a few enters later, Abby had access to the security cameras. She grinned, she'd never hacked NCIS' cameras before, but then her grin turned to a horrified frown.
Abby was staring into a barrel of a gun.
"Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God!" Abby repeated as she paced the floor of Autopsy.
"Doctor, what do we do?" Palmer hovered unsteadily near the morgue draws.
Ducky stared at the computer screen, unable to believe what he was seeing. How had security been breached so badly that it allowed armed men to take the squadroom? From his vantage point in autopsy, Ducky could see on the pixelised screen that Gibbs and his team, plus two other agents he couldn't identify, had been rounded up by the armed men (Ducky counted four) and shoved into Gibbs' bullpen. They sat, hands on their heads, against the desks.
"Oh, my God!" Abby exclaimed again and that was enough to jolt Ducky from his shocked stupor.
"Abigail, do be quiet," he hissed, keeping one eye on the computer screen and turning the other on Abby. "Stop pacing. We need to think."
"Think!" Abby screeched. "There are armed men in the building and they have Gibbs! And McGee! And Tony! And Ziva!"
"I'm well aware of that," Ducky replied testily. "But we cannot do anything if we panic." He glanced over at Palmer. "First things first, we need to secure the room."
"Secure the room?" Palmer repeated dully.
"Yes, Jimmy, secure the room."
With legs that didn't feel like his own, Ducky started the process of locking the doors. Generally these systems were designed for bio-hazards, but Ducky figured that they'd work well enough to keep unwelcome visitors out. He tried not to think of the last time the security at NCIS had been breached so badly. That incident had given them Ziva, but had lost them Kate. Ducky didn't think that NCIS could handle another death, not so soon after Director Shepard.
"What if they find us?" Abby was panicking. "God, I should have never left my lab. What if I'd run into one of them? Forget axe murderers. Terrorists!"
"We don't know if they are terrorists, Abigail," Ducky said calmly, at least he hoped he sounded calm.
"Armed men with guns? What else could they be?"
"Doctor Mallard's right." Palmer was surprised that he'd finally managed to find his voice. It was like a fog had lifted from his mind and he could suddenly think clearly. Palmer felt a sense of calm in the face of danger, but he wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
"We need to think about this logically," Palmer continued, wondering when on earth he'd been a voice of reason.
"Logically, right." Abby looked as though she was calming down, but the others couldn't be sure. She nodded. "I can do logically."
"Good," Ducky said as he finished securing the doors. "Good. The next thing we need do to is call for assistance. We cannot call anyone in this building, but the Navy Yard security should have all the relevant procedures for such an occasion."
"Right. Call Navy security." Although she said this, Abby didn't move.
It was Palmer who went for the phone, but as he reached for it, the lights failed and plunged Autopsy into darkness.
Abby shrieked. Though it was still bright daylight outside, Autopsy had no windows and no natural light. Eerie shadows bathed the smooth contours of the equipment and Abby jumped as a dead phone clattered onto the desk.
In annoyance, Palmer had let the phone fall from his hand. He knew it was futile, but he'd tried it anyway. No dial tone; any access they might have had was cut off. The gravity of the situation dawned on Palmer, and he wondered if today was the day he was going to die.
"My cell!" Abby yelled suddenly, fumbling in her pocket. "If the landlines aren't working because of whatever, cell phones should still work unless . . ." She watched with growing horror as the bars of her phone flickered down to zero.
"No. No. No! This is not happening!" Abby resisted the urge to throw her cell phone across the room again. "They've jammed the signal." She looked up in horror. "We're stuck. We can't call anyone because the power is off. We can't text because they're jamming the signal. And we can't go anywhere in case we run into a gun-wielding terrorist!"
Abby looked ready to cry.
"Isn't there a way to, uh, block the jamming signal?" Palmer asked as he pulled two flashlights from the emergency store of equipment. He clicked one on and accidently shined it in Abby's eyes, making her wince violently.
"Watch where you point that thing, Palmer," she all but snapped. "And I could block it, if I were in my lab and if my lab was actually working. No power, Jimmy, don't you get it!"
"Hey, shouldn't the back-up generator be coming on?" Palmer remembered suddenly.
Ducky frowned as he accepted the second flashlight. "You are right, Mister Palmer. The back-up generator should have come on by now."
"But it hasn't," Abby pointed out.
"Um, and I don't want to make a bad situation worse . . ." Palmer started, trailing his flashlight over to the dead body of Petty Officer Banks. "But what about the bodies?"
Abby groaned and sank into one of the desk chairs. "Thanks for bring that up, Palmer. I was trying not to think about it."
Ducky glanced at the body splayed open on the table. He sighed. "Sorry, dear boy, but we're going to have to take a scheduled interruption during out lovely chat. Mister Palmer, if you would be so kind as to close the poor fellow and pop him in one of the draws. We will have to hold out the hope that we regain power soon. Otherwise, we may have to take the chance with our friends upstairs."
"What are we going to do?" Abby moaned, dropping her head into her hands. "We're stuck here like huge walking targets. What happens when they decide that maybe they should be searching the whole building?"
"We'll deal with that if it happens," Ducky replied firmly. "For now we . . ."
Abby screamed, cutting Ducky off mid-sentence. Palmer jumped violently; his flashlight clattering to the floor. Ducky's blood ran cold and for a moment he truly thought that this was his end.
But then Abby was out of her chair and racing over to the sliding doors. She waved her hands frantically, trying to activate the motion sensors. She spun around when nothing happed, pigtails whipping against her head.
"The doors are locked!" she cried, looking desperate.
In an instance, Ducky was behind her and gaping out the door. There was a trail of blood smeared ominously across the floor outside Autopsy and at the end, like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, was a man wearing an NCIS security guard uniform.
"Abigail, quickly. Press that button there." Ducky pointed to a slightly obscured knob on the wall.
"Is that a good idea?" Palmer asked breathlessly, his earlier calm seemed to have evaporated; he didn't want to die. He groped the floor for the fallen flashlight. "What about the terr–"
Ducky ignored the question and instead made a rule. "No more mentions of terrorists in my Autopsy. Now, Abby, the door."
Stumbling in shock, Abby slapped her hand against the button and the autopsy doors sprang open. Ducky tumbled out, followed closely by Abby, and dropped to his knees. Immediately, he forgot what was happening, what was going on above, and entered his doctor zone; nothing mattered but the patient in front of him.
"Keep still," Ducky muttered, pressing his hand against the writhing man. "Moving will only make things worse. Your torch please, Mister Palmer."
"Harry!" Abby exclaimed, dropping down so that she was nearly level with the security guard.
"Miss Sciuto," Harry ground out. He attempted a grin, but it was definitely more like a grimace. "Nice top. Wish you'd give the missus some advice."
Abby managed a watery smile in return. "I thought I'd told you. Skull and Cross."
"And I told you." Harry stifled a yelp of pain. "She never listens to me. A bright young thing on the other hand . . ." He cried out and Abby could feel tears welling up in the corner of her eyes.
"The bullet is lodged in your abdomen, I'm afraid," Ducky said gently, gesturing for Palmer to bring across the cloth he'd asked for while Abby and Harry had been conversing. "And I am just a purveyor of the dead. I am, unfortunately, not a surgeon and my autopsy is not an operating room." He looked up at Abby. "We need to get him out of here."
"Uh, there's just the small problem of the terr–, um, bad guys, Doctor," Palmer offered as he handed over the towels.
"Yes, Mister Palmer, I'm well aware of that."
"But there must be a way, right?" Abby asked, blinking through tears as she clutched Harry's hand. "What about receiving? The garage?"
Harry shook his head and groaned. "No . . . no. They're . . . they're taking all the floors, one-by-one. I heard them say that as . . . as they forced their way in. Got shot for my trouble. It's Sunday . . . less people . . . easier to control . . . Bringing everyone to the second floor squadroom."
"Jethro's floor," Ducky confirmed with a small sigh.
"They . . . said they were going up first . . . but not that many people are up in the other divisions . . . Probably be finished soon," Harry gasped.
Abby's eyes were wide. "That means they could burst out the elevator at any moment!"
"The elevators are down, Abigail," Ducky reminded her.
"Then the stairs!"
"She's right, you know," Palmer remarked, glancing furtively around the alcove outside Autopsy. "We're totally exposed out here. At least inside we're safe . . . mostly."
"Unless they decide to hide in body bags," Ducky muttered darkly.
"Is that likely?" Palmer asked with a slight dazed look on his face.
"How do you think you got your job, Palmer?" Abby replied, glaring.
"Oh, right." Palmer rubbed the back of his neck nervously.
"Despite his obvious lack of tact, Mister Palmer does have a point," Ducky conceded. "We are as you said earlier, Abby, huge walking targets out here." Ducky paused. "Mister Palmer, help me move Mr Layne inside."
Without waiting for Palmer's reply, Ducky shifted his position and levered Harry so that his arms were supporting the bleeding man's torso. Awkwardly, Ducky pulled himself to his feet and ordered Palmer to take Harry's feet. With Abby leading the way, Ducky and Palmer managed to half-carry, half-drag Harry into the Autopsy bay.
The doors slid shut behind them.