Author's Note: This was just a random plot bunny that hopped in my head, along with about ten others, so I wrote the plotlines all down and am getting to them one by one. I kind of liked the idea of Callen running into an old foster parent, and then I found the statistic that one in five foster homes are abusive…and this was born. I do not mean to offend anyone with this topic; if you do not like it, do not read. Also, I am not going to get too technical with the military procedure in this fic, so I might mess up who has jurisdiction over what o something like that. Please have patience! I welcome reviews, and hope you all enjoy this.

Disclaimer: I do not own, sadly.


It was an unusually quiet morning in the bullpen. The team had no active cases requiring immediate attention and all four members of the unit were working on paperwork. Of course, Sam and Callen defined paperwork as playing hoops with wads of paper and the trash can, but no one really dared correct them.

Kensi cocked her head at them. "Who's winning?"

"I am." Both men said at the exact same time. Deeks looked up, getting interested in the game.

Kensi laughed. "Really? It's a tie, then?"

Callen tossed the ball of paper lightly and it dropped in the trash basket effortlessly. "No…I am winning."

"By one point. Don't spike the ball just yet." Sam countered.

Deeks looked at Kensi. "My money's on Sammy-boy here."

"You did not just call me Sammy-boy."

"Hey, I was trying to give you a compliment." Deeks protested.

Kensi interceded. "I'll take that bet."

"Thank you, Kensi." Callen said in satisfaction. "You obviously have good instincts."

A sharp whistle from the upper deck startled the team from the game. The agents went into action, knowing the shrill signaled a new case.

"This isn't over, G." Sam warned.

"I'm looking forward to wiping the floor with you when we're done." Callen countered as they entered the Op center.

Hetty was standing in front of the big screen, face pensive. "Glad to see you could join us, agents. Ms. Jones, Mr. Beal and I were about to begin without you." She smiled slightly indulgently. "Mr. Beal? If you could roll the clip?"

Eric obediently started a grainy video-from a street camera, Callen guessed. A black van was pulling up to a street corner slowly; an automatic red flag as far as the agents were concerned. They saw a masked man jump out and try to grab a man walking down the street. There was a struggle, and they heard the sharp report of gunfire. The abduction victim still seemed to be struggling and managed to rip off the man's mask. Apparently, the kidnapper managed to get the man inside the van and the car sped away, not leaving a clear shot of his face.

"What are we seeing here, Hetty?" Callen asked.

"We are seeing the abduction of one Dr. Andrew Frement, a scientist working on a highly classified chemical experiment. He slipped his protection detail yesterday morning for some privacy, and this was the result."

Hetty motioned and Eric brought up the man's picture.

Kensi tilted her head. "He looks like a scientist."

"You mean he looks intelligent? Gifted? Clever?" Eric supplied.

"Pale." Kensi said, amused.

"Well, he certainly is all of those things; lack of pigment aside, he is one of the most valuable assets of Operation Tayga. He holds classified material in his head worth millions. And I am not just talking about dollars, team." Hetty said gravely. "If his information falls into the wrong hands before Operation Tayga can be put into effect…it could cost many their lives."

"So, our mission is to recover Dr. Frement?" Kensi asked for clarification.

"Only partially. That is, of course, our main focus and most important goal. But we have a witness to this kidnapping. A witness that saw the kidnapper's face and could identify him again. A witness that, unfortunately, was seen by the kidnapper; someone took a shot at him this morning. He has asked for our protection in return for his cooperation. I would prefer two of you to be with him at all times; but certainly at least one."

The team nodded, and Callen spoke up. "What do we have on the van?"

"Plates come up as stolen six months ago, and we can't find it on any of the traffic cams or satellite images yet." Eric reported. "We also couldn't get a clear shot of the guy's face after his mask was ripped off, but that is why we have a witness, I guess."

"Speaking of, what do we have on the witness?" Kensi asked.

Eric just shook his head. "Not much; he called us just an hour ago. His name is Dennis Kimball, and he was pretty shook up. He is still at his house, waiting for someone to pick him up. I texted his address to your cell phones."

"Deeks, Kensi, go pick him up. Sam and I will see what we can dig up on this Dr. Frement and this Operation Tayga. Eric, keep looking for that van." Callen directed everyone, purpose lighting up his face. Hetty smiled slightly to herself as the team jumped to follow his orders. She had taught him well.

Deeks and Kensi exited the Op center quickly as Callen crossed his arms and looked at Sam. His pensive expression was mirrored in his partner's face.

"What does Operation Tayga pertain to?" Callen mused.

Eric spoke up quickly. "Nell and I have been digging, but all we can really find is that it has something to do with a chemical weapon on a large scale. That was as far as we got before we got stonewalled. We can find out more, but it will take time."

"Great." Sam muttered. "I hate chemical warfare stuff. Hate it."

"I'm not exactly fond of it either." Callen shot back. "You said Dr. Frement had a protection detail. Who is in it?"

Eric started typing as Nell started speaking, voice tinged with anxiety.

"Guys…I haven't seen something buried this deep in years…maybe ever. Whatever this is, it is huge. And dangerous."

"What are you saying, Ms. Jones?" Hetty seemed concern.

Nell seemed to shake herself. "I am not sure. Just…be careful, I guess." She said quietly.

Callen shot her a reassuring smile. "We always are."

"I always am." Sam corrected. "And don't worry, Nell. I'll keep him out of trouble." The analyst relaxed.

"Got it!" Eric said in triumph. "There were three people involved in the protection detail, all from Department of Defense. They all check out, called in that Frement slipped them as soon as they discovered it; statements all match up but aren't rehearsed as far as anyone can tell. They look squeaky clean."

"If DoD is getting involved, and not telling anyone else…this has to be big." Sam commented.

"I thought America didn't usually use chemical weapons?" Nell said.

"We don't. But that doesn't mean we don't do research to find vaccines." Sam said.

"And that research goes both ways." Callen added grimly. "If this doctor knew something, he can be forced to use it against people instead for them."

Eric tapped his iPad against his palm lightly. "I'm sorry; that is all I have."

"That's okay, Eric. Let's see what we can get from our witness." Sam said.

Hetty nodded. "I gave Agent Blye the keys to the safe house by the docks.You can meet them there."

"The dock safe house? That place smells like fish." Callen commented.

"More like reeks." Sam corrected.

"That adds to its protection." Hetty smiled slightly. The two agents shook their heads and laughed, then headed there as Hetty dismissed them. Something in her face showed she was distracted.

"I know that name." She said absently to Eric and Nell.

"Frement?" Nell asked.

"No…Kimball. Eric, pull up his file." She motioned and the computer tech hurried to do her bidding.

"Looks like he has a record." Eric said in surprise.

"For what?" Hetty said sharply, as if she already knew and didn't want to know.

"Looks like child abuse." Eric's voice was tinged with carefully buried disgust. "He got twenty years and served eighteen…got out on good behavior a while ago, I can find the exact dates-"

"What was the name of the child, Eric?" Hetty said, her voice defeated.

"Hold on…I got to break the firewall…there. It says it was a foster child he was in care of. Here's the original case file…oh my God." Eric suddenly broke off as pictures came on the screen. Nell looked at Hetty with wide eyes.

"Is that…"

"I knew I remembered that name." Hetty looked very small and tired as she answered. "Yes, Ms. Jones. That is Agent Callen, when he was ten years old."