DISCLAIMER: This is a non-profit work of fanfiction and is in no way a challenge to any existing copyrights.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is now the sixth fic in the Lock series. Starting with "Life on the Farm" and progressing through "Downtime". If you haven't read them I would suggest you do because while there are many familiar faces figuring out how they got where they are at could get confusing.
SETTING: The Lock, an AU of my own creation that started it's own path in season 6 of Buffy, mixed in the end of Angel, and the current run of NCIS as well as healthy elements of the Mack Bolan/Stony Man Farm novels.
SPOILERS: Anything Buffy/Angel/NCIS/Executioner may be used or referred to, read at your own risk.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To Wyldchilde37[at]yahoo.com
By Dark Wyldchilde
It was like a scene out of a nightmare, literally so for Leroy Jethro Gibbs. While he had been in the Middle East when his wife Shannon and his daughter Kelly had been killed, his nightmares had played out their deaths all too often in details only a veteran soldier's mind could provide.
This time it wasn't Shannon and Kelly lain out on blood soaked stretchers being frantically wheeled down a hallway, but his niece Tara and her soul mate Faith who's precious lives were pouring out of them in crimson tides.
No, there would be no waking covered in a cold sweat with his heart pounding and his arms reaching for the family he could never hold again. Now he was left watching the family he had just started to know die in front of his eyes.
Now his heart was refusing to beat. The only thing that allowed him to take a ragged breath was hearing Jimmy's voice as he stood beside Tara reciting her vitals, shouting out numbers to Ducky that Gibbs might not understand but told him that Tara hadn't been lost yet.
Ducky seemed to be taking all that in and letting it direct his hands as the surgeon tried to stem that vital tide before it rushed out of Tara's body entirely. For a brief moment Gibbs' excellent memory reminded him that a knife wound had damaged Ducky's surgical hand, but just as quickly he remembered the joy the surgeon had shown when Tara's magick repaired his hand, leaving it as steady as the day he graduated Edinburgh.
He wondered if Tara had any inclination he would be using that healed hand on her.
Right behind their stretcher Doctor Samantha Finn and Cameron Baum were just as frantic as they used their knowledge of Faith's superhuman physique to try to save the superhuman's life.
The numbers Cameron was shouting to Samantha seemed better then Tara's, but that was to be expected.
He was doing his best to follow behind, but his normal sure stride seemed to be off somehow, a ringing echoing in his ears. Past that ringing however he realized somewhere along the line Faith had regained consciousness and was trying to speak.
His steps suddenly felt more sure, and he hurried to take a place at the foot of the stretcher. As close as he dared to get without getting in the medical staff's way.
"Faith! Faith! Can you hear me! What happened?"
Faith took a deep breath, and it instantly emerged in a bloody froth that covered the inside of the oxygen mask over her mouth.
While part of Gibbs felt his stomach twist at the suffering of someone who was his daughter-in-law as far as he was concerned, his training took the forefront and he was able to lean in as Faith took a smaller breath and whispered.
With that Nurse Baum put a gentle hand on his chest and eased him away. His face came up in a glare, but the honest expression of compassion on the young woman's face wiped it away.
He realized she was pushing him back because they had reached the surgical bay and as the doors swung open to admit Tara's stretcher he saw two surgical tables already prepared.
The doors swung shut one second, but were flying open the next as Faith's stretcher was pushed through. The last thing he saw of either of the women was the medical team preparing to transfer Tara from the stretcher to the surgical table.
He felt a hand on his shoulder, and numbly turned to see who it was. Anthony DiNozzo, his second in command, his right hand man was looking at him with understanding, but also with a look of worry all his own.
Gibbs knew both women had worked their way into more then just his one heart, and as he looked around the room he saw similar expressions on the faces of everyone there. Not only his team, but the medical staff, and even the pilot, Apollo, who had landed the chopper in the middle of the street outside.
It was even money whether they were more worried or shocked.
His niece and her partner had built the place from the ground up and Gibbs knew "Slayer" and "Witch Woman" were larger then life, almost legendary figures to much of the rank and file at the Lock.
The real women however were all too mortal, and those mortal lives were now hanging in the balance.
There was a stronger lurch to Gibbs stomach as a part of his mind wondered what would be worse. To loose them both? Or only loose one to leave the other in anguish for their lost half?
Gibbs didn't realize it, but he had visibly paled at that thought, and Tony gave his shoulder another squeeze. "We'll get em Boss, and I don't think I've ever been more happy to not be talking about their day in court."
Behind him Ziva David took her hand from where it had been rubbing her Magen David as she prayed and then spoke. "They will be headed for a much more confined space... one of Ducky's drawers."
Next to her even the gentle young man Timothy McGee was solemn faced and nodding.
Lex was there too, and her expression was asking why they weren't on the case already.
They had been on another case. They had been in New Orleans where a practitioner of Vodoun had went dark in the aftermath of the flood and began worshiping the Petro Loa, making items for all the tourists now swarming over the "rebuilt" New Orleans that allowed those Petro Loa to possess the people at will.
It was an important case, and they had saved a lot of lives, even souls in putting the mad Houngan down. They had gotten back and just handed over their reports at Oracle's "Temple" when the call first came in.
All Gibbs could think however is that it meant he wasn't here. He wasn't here and he KNEW things were getting bad. Everyone knew it. The tide they had thought they were beating back was returning with a vengeance, and the cases were getting both greater in number as well as more horrific in their brutality.
Things had gotten to the point that Tara had issued orders that no one was allowed to work a case alone. Much to Faith's complaint.
Gibbs had no trouble realizing that Faith must have wanted to go look at this Witches Powder and Tara decided to accompany her... since Gibbs hadn't been there!
Now however this "Witches Powder" was his only concern, their only concern, and Gibbs imagined that may very well apply to the entire Lock, not just his team.
Just then the doors to the medical bay flew open and the entire room seemed to jump. More then a few of the combat veterans were so keyed up that hands briefly dropped to side arms.
The hands came away as they recognized Abigail Sciuto barreling in. Only to have Gibbs caught her and put his hands gently on each of her shoulders. "Steady Abs."
Abby however was anything but, her dark eye make up was already starting to run with the first few signs of tears. "Is it true Gibbs? Is it Faith and Tara?"
He nodded once, his own anguish fading as he tried to console Abby, but his nod had the opposite effect as she sobbed and fell into his arms.
"It's my fault Gibbs! It's all my fault! They're dying and it's all my fault!" She continued to weep and blame herself as she buried her face in Gibbs chest.
They had reconvened at the control room, the Temple of the Oracle, and Oracle was sitting behind her altar, but her eyes were staring off into space as Gibbs spoke.
"What do we have Oracle?"
When her blank expression didn't even respond to him Gibbs felt a flash of anger, but he could see the troubled expression on the red head's face. She had history with his niece, and while it had taken Tara asking Gibbs not to reopen old wounds for him not to bring up that history he realized Willow's mind was with the rest of theirs, downstairs in the surgical bay.
So he took a deeper breath. "Willow? What do we have?"
At her proper name Willow Rosenberg responded by looking over at Gibbs and then back at her computer as she started typing and the main screen came to life with the times she was typing out while saying them aloud.
"1017 yesterday a formal request for a sample of Witches Powder to test for signs of a magickal presence was logged by Abigail Sciuto."
Abby had come with them to the control room and cringed, sniffling and snuggling more into the supportive embrace of her significant other Ziva David, as she saw her actions listed as the start of the chain of events.
"1018 Slayer accepted the assignment and prepared to set out to retrieve a sample."
"1019 Witch Woman conferenced with Slayer about the standing order that no one worked a case alone, and whether or not it applied to Slayer."
"1214 Slayer and Witch Woman set out to Los Angeles to retrieve the sample."
"0517 the next day a call comes in from Witch Woman calling for a back up to be scrambled, but she was cut off before she could give their location. Gunfire is heard in the background."
"0529 Apollo takes off from the airstrip with both military and medical support."
"0610 one of our emergency beacons was detected. Witch Woman and Slayer were both found critically injured at the scene. The medical team was able to stabilize them and fly them back to the Lock for treatment."
Gibbs interrupted. "The vehicle?"
Willow responded. "Not ours, a guard was left, and we've sent one of our cargo trucks to pick it up and bring it back."
Gibbs nodded. "Good. Abs..."
Abby interrupted, sitting up, but staying close to Ziva, seeming glad for something else to think about. "I'll know everything down to what brands of cigarette they were lighting with the cigarette lighter."
He nodded at Abby before nodding at Willow to continue.
"0703 they landed outside the base and Witch Woman and Slayer were brought in for emergency surgery."
Listening to her tone Gibbs realized Willow had retreated into her role as Oracle to not have to think about Tara fighting for her life downstairs. He didn't really blame her, he too was focusing on the job rather then the worry writhing around in his gut.
Gibbs inhaled and exhaled. "What do we have on the Witches Powder itself?"
Willow minimized her time line and opened up another window. It was obviously a prepared file she was reading from.
"Witches Powder popped up a couple months ago in Los Angeles, spreading up and down the coast like wildfire with reports now just crossing both borders."
"It's said to take the form of a greyish powder, but I say 'said' because so far no sample has been obtained."
Gibbs interrupted then. "Wait, none?"
Willow nodded as she kept typing. "None. It's one of the things that brought it to my attention. I didn't know how it could have stayed out of the hands of law enforcement like that without some sort of supernatural involvement. So I added it into our system to be followed up on."
There was a small tremor in the woman's voice that betrayed she felt she shared some of Abby's guilt. It was gone however as she continued.
"You can snort it, smoke it, shoot up with it if you melt it down. It can be dissolved in a drink or just eaten out of the hand if you believe the reports..."
Ziva then interrupted, knowing something about the metabolizing of chemicals from her days in the Metsada. "Is there any variation in the effect?"
The way she asked the question showed that Ziva both knew there should be, while knowing there wasn't, and Willow simply confirmed that knowledge.
"Not if you talk to the addicts, and the police have, and from all accounts the addicts showed NO signs of a drug in their system, blood, urine or hair. Yet despite no signs the addicts talked about Witches Powder having a reverse tolerance."
Gibbs was taken aback. "So the more they take it the less they need to have the same effect?"
Gibbs was staring at the screen, reading the report. "So this crap is equally effective no matter how you take it, has a reverse tolerance, and is invisible to all known forms of detection? Did they look for masking agents?"
Willow was nodding, arrest reports coming up on side screens. "And those they could hold showed signs of withdrawal while still showing no signs of drug OR masking agent."
The whole room was starting to realize why Willow had brought the drug to their attention. She however had more.
"AND while it IS reported you can overdose there hasn't been a single body of a single user that has made it to the ME. So far ALL of them have vanished."
Gibbs was quick with his reply. "Finn back yet? We're taking the case and he needs to sign off on it."
Oracle shook her head. "He wants us to keep him updated, but the EPA ban on the lake where the kids went missing is in danger of getting a closer eyeball by the real EPA and he wants to wrap it up before that happens. He said it should be one day, two tops, but to let the paperwork pile up if need be."
No one in the room seemed to like it, but they all knew Finn's case involved a lake that had seemed to develop a taste for preteens, and their current workload had been so heavy that the second in command had left with some slayers, a war wizard, and some SCUBA gear to settle the issue.
They wanted him there, they knew he wanted to be there, but neither he nor they would have him leave kids to the mercy of whatever was in that lake to come back and do paperwork while helping everyone worry.
"Okay, we need to find out where they were."
Off to the side, the typically quiet Timothy McGee spoke up from where he was typing away at one of the terminals. "Boss... I think I may have it."
Everyone's attention focused on him and Oracle mirrored Tim's monitor on the main screen where it showed multiple police, fire and ambulances were being sent to the same location. More windows were opening as Tim narrated.
"For something to take down both Witch Woman and Slayer I realized there would have to be one hell of a fight. So I started looking and this jumped out at me. I've got reports of massive gunfire... extensive property damage... and calls for more body bags... AND it's close enough to the partial trace they had to Tara's distress call."
Tony spoke quietly off to the side. "Sounds like the kind of fight those two would be able to put up."
Gibbs didn't bother taking the time to agree. "Tim, I want the scene secured. Tell them they finally have material evidence connected to Witches Powder, and that a DEA team is being dispatched."
He turned to Oracle, but she didn't let him speak. "Cook you guys up DEA cover identities? On it!"
Gibbs felt the energy in the room grow focused, and while he couldn't say it made him feel any better it made him feel something other then the fear and worry that had been dominating his mind.
He might not been able to have stopped what happened to Faith and Tara, and truth be told if he had been there he could have wound up in surgery with them, or dead on the roadside they were found, but he could find the persons responsible. He could find them, and he WOULD make them pay.
Coming back into the room after finishing his own preparations Gibbs heard Buffy Summers voice and realized she must have called in and heard about Tara and Faith.
"How are they Willow?"
"It's only been a couple hours Buffy. They're still in surgery."
Gibbs walked fully into the control room and saw Scooby Squad filling up the main screen, Scooby Squad and their current ally, one Ian McCallow. While the hotel room they were in looked the same as you would find in almost any higher end corner of the world he knew they were in Northern Ireland.
He knew because Scooby Squad's three foot tall green clad ally was a leprechaun.
He could also tell Buffy hadn't gotten over her apprehension over working with a leprechaun when she jumped slightly as he started to speak.
"Right tragedy what happened with your two people. I think they could use a bit o me luck." With that the little man reached into his green jacket and produced two golden coins. Holding one up in each hand he concentrated, murmuring something in what sounded like Gaelic, and they suddenly vanished from him and reappeared in front of Willow on her keyboard.
At that Willow jumped slightly, before picking up the two coins. "Um, thanks, but are you sure you can spare them?"
Ian just smiled. "Truth be told I'll be running a bit short till we get me pot o' em back, but you're good people. I know you're mainly helping me so that those IRA bastards who stole it can't keep using it to finance their terrorist shenanigans, but you're helping me and trying to help others. Ye deserve it."
Gibbs was going to have them thoroughly analyzed before the coins got anywhere near the girls, lucky or no, but he felt himself grateful that only a leprechaun could tap into the luck inherent in the gold coins. It was bad enough the IRA had a ever full pot of gold with which to buy supplies and pay off people, Gibbs didn't want to think about what the Irish terrorists could do if they had the "Luck of the Irish" on their side.
While a part of him would love to have the skills of Scooby Squad on hand at the Lock he knew this mission was important to Tara. One of her long term goals had been creating inroads with the non-hostile elements of the supernatural world, and McCallow had been the first to respond.
It had been a matter of necessity for the leprechaun, but even if the nature of the thieves hadn't made the mission such a high priority Tara was personally invested and Gibbs preferred to leave Scooby Squad on the trail of the IRA cell holding McCallow's pot of gold while his people ran down the Witches Powder.
Then it struck him, almost like one of his own slaps to the back of the head. There really was no bureaucracy here. Sure Tara had to deal with outside agencies, but inside the Lock the importance of the mission, and the skill of those picked to execute it made it unnecessary.
He exhaled a breath he didn't realize he had been holding. There would be no Director swooping in to try to reign him in. No external agencies shielding the bastards responsible.
That also meant that Gibbs had to be that much better at his job, because while the Lock COULD pull strings to cover his ass they preferred not to, but that was okay. Gibbs didn't tolerate failure on a normal case.
He would be damned if he started now.
Buffy noticed him, and alerted Willow when she looked over the redhead's shoulder. Willow looked back as well and then jumped slightly and looked forward. "Okay Buffy, I gotta go!"
Buffy however wasn't ready to go yet, and when she locked gazes with Gibbs the fact she was on another continent didn't matter, her intent was clear. "I don't need to say it do I?"
"Nope." She didn't need to say it, Gibbs was going to get the guilty parties, and while he knew Buffy would want in he fully planned on having them taken down before Scooby Squad ever got back.
Willow looked between the two team leaders and after each of them nodded she nodded herself."Okay. Bye!"
Buffy was smiling at her friend as the video closed. The regular screen didn't have time to be seen as another file was opened. Gibbs recognized his picture, but that was all that was familiar as Willow started speaking.
"Okay Special Agent 'Bob Markham'..." Over his shoulder he saw Ziva join him as Oracle started speaking.
"You've been with the DEA for seventeen years, and have seen all the hot spots, Columbia, the Golden Triangle, Afghanistan. You are their go to guy for the tough cases." A printer started kicking out pages. "That will tell you all the details, but I've put as many classified labels on it as I can. That way those who CAN get to the info will tell me who they are and I can pay extra close attention."
Gibbs was starting to read his new id, and saw a badge case in the new name was already sitting on her "altar". He was nodding as he read. "That's good work Willow."
While she smiled, and even blushed a little at the compliment from the taciturn Gibbs, it was good work. Though he would memorize his new history by making people have to dig for it both made it more authentic while making them have to show their resources to uncover it.
Though she might seem a bit childish at times he could understand why Tara had put Willow where she was.
Willow then turned to Ziva. "All right, Special Agent Sarah Davis..."
The process continued much the same with Tim McGee becoming "Special Agent William Heller."
The pattern continued with Lex when she became "Special Agent Ella Swenson."
After hearing his cover id of "Special Agent Logan Cale" DiNozzo felt the need to protest. "Couldn't you have had Probie come up with our names? He's good at names that sounds like ours without being ours."
Ziva quipped back. "Good' may be overstating his naming ability."
Everyone looked at Tim, but Gibbs said the words. "Tim, you do know you can NEVER write books about what we do here right?"
McGee blushed. "I know Boss. NCIS was a known agency and we were known agents. I wasn't really breaking any security."
Tony chimed in. "Just privacy."
McGee rolled his eyes. "Here the Lock is too top secret, and before the Lock..."
His expression was obviously uncomfortable, and Willow picked up on it. "What about before the Lock?"
McGee's expression grew even more uneasy. "Well before the Lock... from what I've heard!... well... your stories were... well they were good at some points, great even... but..."
Willow's face was showing her growing anger. "But what?"
Tim sighed. "Well you've probably heard the show, don't tell when it comes to a story? Your early story didn't tell, or show, it demanded. So much happened that you were just expected to accept. I mean Buffy dies her first year and Kendra was called, but no one picked up a phone?"
Willow interrupted. "Well the Council isn't exactly big on sharing information."
Tim's brows arched sceptically. "Even when they are sending the new slayer into the old one's town?"
Willow blinked, looking unsure. So Tim continued. "And your development pre-Lock was almost non-existent! I mean please don't repeat this to Buffy, but she had an ALAMARING habit of developing on the job romantic attachments with ENEMIES."
Lex and Tony were snickering while Willow was looking disturbed.
"Then there is Faith, and Tara, and I'm not lumping them together because they are romantically involved, but your magic accidents killed more people then Faith ever did and SHE went to prison? Angel was a mass murder and he was allowed to stay out because he felt, really, really bad about it? Then there is Tara, and while I'm not trying to remind you of what happened you hurt her badly enough that she had to leave. If you had done that to my sister I could have shot you."
Everyone jumped at the gentle McGee's honest words as he continued.
"To put that to a story, and then expect people to just take it? Then what? Expect them to kneel down before me for giving the tale to them? Get offended when they don't? When I write I write what I write, and I hope people like it. Turns out they did, sure I drew my inspiration from already existing elements, but coming up with something utterly unique doesn't automatically mean people are obligated to like it."
Everyone was starting at Tim, blinking. With an almost visible shake Gibbs brought himself back. "That was then, this is now, and we have work to do."
That seemed to bring most everyone out of it, Willow still looked a little shell shocked, as Gibbs people started gathering the cases they brought to the control room with them that carried a variety of forensic and military gear.
"This is definitely the place." While DiNozzo was the one speaking the entire team was taking in the scene of the destruction. What looked like some sort of hotel or perhaps run down apartment building had already fallen into ruin before Faith and Tara had found it.
Now the building was missing it's top floor, and perhaps half of the one underneath it, as if a demolition team had started work taking down the abandoned building and then changed their minds.
Of course there was ample evidence that the building hadn't been truly abandoned as the ground outside was littered with rubble from the explosive force that had taken out the top floor, as well as tarps draped over vaguely human shapes.
If it hadn't been for the arsenal of automatic weapons they could see had been tagged as evidence the team would be reminded of a terrorist attack, but they could see the weapons, and they had seen the effect they had on the bodies of their two leaders.
Even more bodies, and even more evidence was being taken out of the building as they watched by a variety of uniformed personnel. The flashing and flickering of their various lights was almost enough to compete with the light of day.
While fire crews focused on the explosion, a combination of paramedics and medical examiners were cataloging the dead, or in some cases their component parts.
The blue of police uniforms as well as the off the rack suits that indicated their "plain clothes" brethren were even more numerous, and it was one of those uniformed officers who was approaching the team, obviously ready to shoo them away.
Gibbs however was already reaching for his DEA id, and as his fingers touched leather case he was impressed yet again with his niece's people. While the ID was fresh off of Oracle's printer the case was as worn as the one that had contained his old NCIS identification.
As would be expected of a seventeen year veteran of the DEA. "Markham, DEA. You were told to expect us."
Apparently the uniformed officer hadn't been told, but with a quick check on his radio he nodded and waved them forward. Even then he still checked their id's, but they were glad to see their lock down of the site had been taken seriously.
Once they had been verified they were escorted in. The man they were escorted to was a good six feet tall with a lean build. He had to have at least 10 years on Gibbs with a head full of hair gone pure white, and a face that showed weathering by both the effects of a lifetime, and a lifetime spent in law enforcement.
His energy didn't seem to be lagging though as the plain clothes detective turned to Gibbs and extended his hand. "Markham? Frank Drevin."
As Gibbs extended his own hand he knew he had just met the lead detective on the case. Even if Willow hadn't been updating them as they had traveled here the man's bearing screamed "cop" and the way that everyone else on the scene was deferring to him screamed "top cop".
Having been there himself Gibbs could respect the journey Drevin would have had to get there. He was glad it was a veteran LEO rather then some politic playing punk in charge of the scene. Gibbs gut was giving him a good read, and the handshake was strong as Gibbs nodded.
Drevin continued. "So I understand we have you to thank for the heads up." When Gibbs gave a curt nod Drevin returned the same. "So was it your people who had to fight their way out of this meat grinder?"
That got Gibbs attention, and he didn't bother hiding it, so the Detective elaborated as he walked over and picked up an evidence jar laying amongst numerous others. When he held it up they could all see a brass shell casing was inside.
He rotated the jar so they could see it's base, it's utterly bare case, and while he started speaking the whole team was already aware of approximately what he was going to say.
"Most bullets are stamped with when and where they were made. These here, not a damn thing, I've got some people who are ex-military and the way they say it these bullets are black ops, that whole plausible deniability thing so even their casings can't prove anything."
Or in the case of the Lock they wouldn't have to worry about their casings tying together the "strange incidents" they are usually shooting at.
"Now I've got a ton of these little beauties. All in .45 and 9mm, and looking at the trajectories I've got a small team, perhaps half a dozen crack shooters who found themselves on the wrong end of a shooting range filled with around a fifty guys with automatics. The thing is while I have plenty of bodies none of them look like the type who could fight out of those kind of odds."
Gibbs then added in. "And then I show up."
Drevin smiled. "And then you show up."
Gibbs already satisfied gut had his professional opinion agreeing about Detective Drevin and he decided to lay a few cards on the table. "It wasn't a half dozen. It was two, both women, one with blonde hair, one with brown."
Drevin seemed to read the tone that came into Gibbs voice as he described Tara and Faith, the veteran LEO obviously knowing what it was like to have your people shot in the line of duty, and his voice was solemn as he replied. "Only two...what's their condition?"
Gibbs whole posture tightened. "Still in surgery."
"I'd like to talk to them when it becomes possible."
That got a single nod from Gibbs. "Right now can you walk us through what happened?"
With a wave of his hand Drevin indicated they should follow, but as they walked he slipped in next to Gibbs. "I can't say my bosses will be too happy to know the DEA was running something off the books in their jurisdiction, but I'm more worried about how closely I should be looking at my people."
Gibbs could understand that. He himself once had to sniff out a mole at NCIS. The sad fact was that crime did in fact pay, and quite well, and the criminals were all too happy to share that wealth with officers who were often paid far, far less then what they were worth.
The problem was the Gibbs was currently flying blind as this case had started off with Faith just heading off to buy a sample of the drug for Abby to test. He could only guess that Slayer's talents, or propensity for trouble got her far deeper then even the women had planned for.
Since he didn't know he stayed non-committal. "We didn't have anything sure, but the fact that no samples have made it into evidence had us thinking these guys aren't afraid to share the wealth."
Drevin nodded. "I've been thinking the same. So they drop you guys in since the bad guys wouldn't have had any chance to get their claws into you."
Another curt nod. After that nothing was said until they reached the new top floor of the building.
The Detective started a fresh monologue. "We're not sure what happened on the top floor because there isn't one anymore, but your girls were in the stairwell when it went off."
Ziva with her experience in far too many terrorist bombings then spoke up. "Has the building's structural integrity been looked at?"
The Detective's eyes narrowed in a way that they guessed he placed her accent, but he showed no other reaction as he replied. "It has. We've also tested the ruins for caustic chemicals, and it's reading clean so far, but our current theory is that they were fixing it here, and whatever they were using burned off in the explosion."
Well his theory was that whatever chemicals that were being used to make the Witches Powder caused the explosion. Gibbs and his people however knew there was another option, and with a brief glance at Lex, Gibbs knew that there had been magick involved.
As their tour continued the trained investigators found themselves seeing their leaders fighting for their lives in their mind's eye. A discarded clip here that Gibbs confirmed came from a Beretta 93-R, a broken neck that Drevin's ME was swearing was done with one arm... even if that wasn't physically possible.
Blasts that the team recognized as elemental spells from Tara, but were shrugged off with looks of confusion that deliberately mirrored the Detective... and then there were the bodies.
Looking at the sheer amount of carnage the two women had been able to unleash in their fight for survival they understood how Drevin could have thought it a small team of a half dozen highly trained operatives rather then the two fierce females who lead the Lock.
It was obvious the two had fought with a ferocity, but had kept it closely wed to skill as the bodies wounds were all closely grouped and well placed. What was more disturbing was the sheer volume of return fire.
There didn't seem to be a surface that wasn't scarred with it, and they all knew that no matter how skilled you were if enough bullets were thrown your way sooner or later some of them were going to connect.
They soon found evidence of that. First small splotches of blood that they guessed would be from grazes or minor scrapes in hand to hand, but soon growing into splotches or puddles where the women were undoubtedly given the wounds that Ducky and Sam were even now trying to deal with.
While the entire team had been there to see the two women rushed in, being here where it happened was obviously affecting them. Gibbs however was in full control, both of his faculties, and his people as he ordered them to work.
Ziva however took a second longer. Making eye contact with Gibbs the pair moved off to a deserted part of the building as she spoke. "The blood, the bodies, the guns, Gibbs we are dealing with humans. Lex may be able to tell us if they are using magick, but we are dealing with people."
Gibbs nodded. "Uh huh. Just means there won't be any questions about where to put the bullets."
Ziva paused, nodding once in satisfaction. While the original team had all made the transition from "investigate and arrest" to "search and destroy" Gibbs and herself had the easiest time of it. For her part Ziva had learned how to walk the line between distancing oneself from their actions, and becoming too distant where it became easy.
Stray to close one way and you hesitate when your life or the life of another is in jeopardy, stray too far the other... her expression fell... and you become like Ari.
This mission however didn't have that feeling to it. She knew even Tim and Tony were on board with eradicating the guilty parties. While they didn't know who they were yet, Ziva David knew they were living on borrowed time.
Willow Rosenberg was used to dealing with intense people. Obviously after Buffy Summers entered her life, but even before that there was people like Cordelia Chase and her crowd as well as her intensely passive aggressive parents and her own pushing of herself to gain their approval.
None of that could prepare her for standing before the Executioner however. Just physically the man had a build Willow was used to seeing on Olympic athletes then on people on the street. His hair was a jet black and his eyes were a cool blue. All in all, an imposing package.
While she was used to dealing with heroic types they typically had super powers, slayer powers like Buffy, or magick like Tara, but Mack Bolan was from all accounts a normal guy. A highly trained, self-disciplined guy, but a normal, highly trained, self-disciplined guy.
A normal guy who broke the Mafia of the 70's into the little pieces the Fed's then pulled apart and smashed into the disorganized and scattered Families eking out their existence today. A guy who then went on to battle even bigger foes, at one point being hunted by both the USA and USSR at the same time.
To Willow however his greatest accomplishment was reforming Faith. When she had first heard that Faith had turned over a new leaf she was sure it was all a trick to get back in their good graces so she could hurt them all over again.
She had been so sure that it was all an act that she had conspired with Giles to have Faith killed by Watcher assassins. The irony to that being that Faith was still alive, but the Council was not, and the only reason Willow and Giles were around was because the protection Faith and her people had extended to them.
While she was now a believer Willow was still having trouble reconciling the girl who had once held a knife to her throat and seemed all too eager to kill her with the woman who was now the life partner of the woman Willow had planned on spending the rest of her life with, as well as Willow's boss.
Now that she had met the man everyone, including Faith, attributed with turning her around she could understand it.
It wasn't a matter of scary slayer powers, or magickal abilities, or even being a member of an ancient secret society.
He had started life as a rank and file soldier like countless others. Yet even then, in the midst of one of his countries ugliest wars he had managed to wear the dual hats of "Sergeant Mercy" and "The Executioner".
To the civilians of Vietnam he was a source of aid and comfort, getting them medical supplies and treatment, food... she had actually seen an old reporter's picture of a young Sergeant Bolan giving a Vietnamese child a drink of water out of his helmet.
To the leaders of the forces savaging that land in the name of Communist doctrine "Sergeant Mercy" was known as "The Executioner" a sniper who seemed to slip behind their lines at will and cut down their leaders with what could only be called ease.
Now that she was living with real soldiers she knew it would have been anything but easy. She knew it was dangerous, and it was hard. Not just hard to survive battle after battle, but to emerge triumphant against overwhelming odds again and again while staying sane, and retaining his humanity.
When she had first seen those blue eyes they were ice cold and staring at her over the sites of his Beretta 93-R... the gun he had taught Tara on, the gun he had used alongside his protege Faith to cut down the Watcher's who had been holding Tara, Dawn and Xander captive while their assassins chased after Faith.
Now those eyes were all too warm, and all too worried. She could tell the man was hurting over the fact that Faith and Tara were fighting for their lives a few floors away.
While she had read Striker's file now that she was seeing the guy without her worrying he might kill her and without him worrying he might have to kill her, Willow could now see how he could take that angry, hurting girl and make the woman warrior who now had her own band of soldiers ready to literally march into Hell at her command.
He had a similar effect, she imagined that was where Faith got it, and Willow felt her spine wanting to straighten as she talked to him. Having experienced it with Faith, and Tara, and now Gibbs Willow knew it was called "command presence" and Mack Bolan embodied it.
Now up to date on the women's condition as well as the state of the investigation his expression had grown focused, and she knew the furry of the Executioner was going to be added to the mix in one way or another.
Before anything else could happen however the comm system registered an incoming call. Sitting down Willow hit a few keys and the screen came to life with the image of Harold Brongola, Head of the Justice Department's Special Operations Group, officially.
Unofficially he was the man who first convinced the President to go forward with Stonyman Farm, and a later President the Lock, and was the head of both bodies.
Or in simpler terms, he was Willow's bosses, boss, and her voice showed it as she spoke. "Mister Brongola!"
There was small growl from the Fed on the screen. "It's Hal, or Brongola, maybe Harold if you're feeling fancy, but not Mister, and definitely not "Sir"..." his voice dropped slightly. "It took me more then a year to break Tara of that habit."
That got a small smile from Bolan. "At least she didn't call me 'Mister Striker'."
The two men shared a grin at their early memories of the Lock's mission controller before both seemed to wrench themselves back to the present. "Good to see you Striker. I won't even ask if you're in on this one. So just bring me up to date Rosenberg."
Willow proceeded to do just that.
The Head Fed gave a nod he didn't seem to realize giving."All right. The way Tara has set that place up it runs itself most of the time and she just has to sign off. So you should be fine until Finn wraps up and get's back. If not Finn or myself are just a phone call away. All you'll need to do is hold down the fort."
Willow's eyes got wide, and her normally fair complexion got down right pale as she looked from Hal, to Striker, back to Hal and then back to Striker before speaking. "M-me?!"
Brongola was trying unsuccessfully to hide a small smile. "I'm not asking you to lead troops in the field Willow. I'm not even asking you to give them orders. I just need you to be ready to call Finn or myself if something comes up before he can get back."
Willow still didn't look sure, but she was getting some of her color back as she nodded. "Okay, yeah, I can do that."
Hal then turned to Striker, and the tiny grin the soldier had been hiding vanished as the other man spoke. "So I'm guessing your going to link up with Gibbs?"
Mack gave a small shake of his head. "Not right away. I'm going to have Oracle get me everything we've got on gunrunners in the area and I figure I'll pay them a visit."
Hal was nodding, he had already seen the early crime scene reports and knew the level of opposition Faith and Tara had faced, and knew that it went well beyond their unknown enemy simply calling up anyone they knew with a gun.
They had to get those guns from somewhere all at once to field that kind of force, and now Striker was going to find out where.
Willow cut in to the conversation. "Wouldn't it be safer to go with Gibbs and his team?..."
She trailed off as she realized Striker wasn't planning on bringing anyone in for interrogation or handing evidence over to Abby... sure some of the people he would be asking questions of might wind up meeting Ducky, but that was only if they didn't give him the answers he was after.
While she knew the big man's file enough to know he didn't believe in torture in a situation like this, he specialized in finding the bad guys who would have the information he was after and playing a game of "Truth or Consequences", the kind that didn't have a round two.
She felt a brief shiver as her mind replayed the sight of Slayer and Striker simultaneously shooting Quentin Travers in the head and how the Watcher's skull had basically vaporized.
For a brief moment she almost felt sorry for the men who would live long enough to be asked the Executioner's questions. Then her keen mind replayed the images she had seen when she looked in on the medical bay through the viewing glass and saw Tara and Faith and the damage their bodies had been put through.
The feeling then went away, and she focused back on the two men.
Tony was shaking his head as he and McGee finished loading the evidence they were driving back to the Lock into one of their two black SUV's.
The fact that the "evidence" included two bodies had the man scrunching up his nose as they performed the task, but the Boss had wanted one that had been killed by magick and one that hadn't. So the requisite remains were now zippered in their black bags and were now secured in the cargo area along with other boxes and bags as he climbed behind the wheel and McGee climbed into the passenger seat.
Tim was shaking his head. "I can't remember seeing that many guns all in one place, and we used to work on a military base."
Tony nodded. "I've seen similar piles when some of the PD's I worked for did melt downs of pieces from crime scenes, but those were a variety of guns, and most of them were in questionable condition. Those were all mil-spec and recently fired."
There was a long moment of silence as the two men contemplated who the weapons had been fired at before Tony spoke again. "Any word?"
Tim checked his Lock issued smart phone and shook his head. "None... but the fact the surgery is ongoing has to be a good sign right?"
Tony smiled sadly, even now Probie was still a kid in many ways. It was a key part of their friendship. Tony was very much the older brother between them, and while that meant that he picked on the man quite often it also meant that he was very protective of the younger agent.
He still remembered the expression on Tim's face when Kate was killed, and it looked like that expression was trying to come back. So he wanted to reassure Tim, though his voice was solemn as he did. "Yeah, I'd prefer if they were out and in recovery, but at least they are still alive to be in surgery."
The conversation had taken up their pulling out of the police station and reaching the street. As he pulled the car onto the road Tony decided to change the subject. "Now these are the kind of stories you should be writing about. The adventures of Special Agent "Tommy" would be much more exciting if you mix in some demons from Hell."
A small smile curled the right side of McGee's mouth. "You mean if I wouldn't not even make it to a trial for treason? Yeah I'm sure people would like to read these stories, but I figure you'd want to make them a big summer block buster movie."
Tony put on a full smile, seeing the distraction was working. "That's a very good idea. So! Who would play Special Agent McGregor?"
Tim smiled fully as he contemplated the question. "Matt Damon."
Tony nodded appreciatively. "Good choice, good choice... that said Tommy wouldn't be played by Ben Affleck."
Tim was smiling as he nodded at that. "So who would play LJ Tibbs?"
There was a long pause before Tony finally spoke. "They would just have to teach the Boss how to act."
The conversation seemed ready to continue, but then both men quickly fell silent. They were both looking at the road ahead that was blocked off by two cars, and three men holding automatic weapons.
Lex had just stowed her own smart phone when she heard auto-fire coming from outside. Both her and another officer recognized the sound and hurried to the front door to look out and see what was happening.
The officer however showed a lack of military training when he stepped up and tried to push the door open.
If it hadn't been for Lex tackling him from behind and taking him to the ground a second auto weapon would have ripped open the man's chest.
As it was the glass off the door came raining down on the two of them as Lex dragged him with one hand tangled in his belt while the other drew her Kahr .45.
The officer had been understandably stunned by his brush with death, but quickly recovered as Lex felt him roll away and draw his own side arm.
Just in time as the doors were then filled with shadowy forms, all carrying the squat, ugly frames of various assault weapons, and while the police officer's training may have failed him a moment ago it didn't now as he and Lex practically moved as one, raising their firearms and emptying them into the onrushing attackers.
Lex imagined the LAPD didn't demand the same level of training that the Lock did and while her rounds were hitting vitals the officer's were coming close enough as the attackers went down in a sprawl. Their advance stopped, and those behind them were slowed by fallen bodies and pooling blood.
"Fall back." The officer nodded at her command, he could see just as well as her that there were more trying to get in and he knew the two of them wouldn't be enough to keep them at bay with just their two hand guns.
Hand guns that had been fired empty, and were now being reloaded as they back tracked down a long hallway to the squad room where Lex knew Gibbs and Ziva were... at least the last time she knew where they were.
A second charge came down the hallway they were in, but Lex could see the cop hadn't managed to chamber a fresh round. Thinking quickly she looked to the side and put her freshly chambered round into a fire extinguisher.
The pressurized chemicals came out a white spray and the military armed mob that was charging them came up short.
The officer's weapon was ready at that point and again they fired themselves empty. This time before fleeing however Lex dived down and grabbed a folding stock AK-74. While the weapon didn't look fresh off the machining line it also didn't have the dings and scratches of a weapon that had seen combat before today.
Filing that fact away she checked the chamber, that combined with what felt like a fully loaded weight had Lex a bit more confident as she used the assault weapon to wave the police officer forward.
He was a younger man, and while he had the presence of mind to reload his side arm he was looking at the other fallen weapons and back at Lex.
"You ever use one before?"As he shook his head she shook her own. "Now's not the time to learn. Make for the squad room."
The young man had been trained to respond to that voice of command and didn't hesitate any further as he ran the rest of the way.
Lex took up a fast clip, but steady enough that she could keep the now unfolded stock to her shoulder, and the weapon up and ready to fire.
It was quite similar to how Ziva had her Uzi and Gibbs his M-4 when the two of them made it to the squad room.
There were also several shot guns pointed at them that were lowered at the same time Gibbs and Ziva lowered their weapons.
Lex gave the young officer a nod as he picked up one of the more familiar shot guns and looked to Detective Drevin for orders. She did the same with Gibbs, but first found an arched brow at her appropriated weapon.
"One of them was nice enough to let me borrow his gun."
Ziva gave a arched brow. "Borrow?"
Lex shrugged. "He didn't complain when I grabbed it."
Gibbs had a small smile, but he took the AK and handed her the woman's HK along with the web gear carrying more clips and other military tools Lex had filled it with.
"Did you see Heller or Cale?"
Lex shook her head, but at almost the exact same moment a large explosion shook the building. They all dashed to windows, and for a horrifying second all they could see was the burning wreckage of what was obviously one of their SUV's.
A split second later they realized the vehicle was in the midst of the largest group of what were their attackers. Now the individuals were laid out around the flaming ruin dead, dying, or wishing for death as they twirled, shrieking, flaming scarecrows who had been too close to the exploding, burning fuel.
A split second after that they saw the two familiar silhouettes of Tim and Tony or "Heller and Cale" running for the station.
Gibbs nodded to Lex and Ziva. "Cover them!"
Lex paused. "Boss! They're here for the evidence!"
Gibbs nodded, grabbing Drevin by the arm. "That's where we're going."
Either Drevin had the same idea or was willing to defer to Gibbs with a nod, but not before giving a few more orders. "Fall back to the cell block, it's the most secure part of the building. We'll meet you there." He emphasized what he was saying by pointing with the barrel of his own shotgun in the direction of the holding cells.
As Drevin finished giving his orders Gibbs did the same. "We've already tried the radios and it looks like they took control of the radio room before launching the attack. Once you get the guys you need to retake the radio room and call for reinforcements."
The two women seemed to nod in unison, turning back for the main doors as that had been where the bad guys had massed most of their troops, so that had been where Tony and Tim had deployed their improvised missile, and would now be heading for that door.
As they started for it Lex realized it wasn't the only place the enemy could be found however as side entrances had piled bodies with a variety of bullet wounds displaying that the marksmanship of the LAPD was enough to get the job done when it counted.
At this point there was only one set of mortal remains in the blue uniform of the LAPD, but while his wounds were along his back and side his attacker was laid out with a series of well placed knife slashes that told Lex that it had been Ziva David that had avenged the officer's death, perhaps even before his last breath had been taken.
Between the well placed slashes and the blood that was drying into the arm of Ziva's shirt Lex knew she had read the scene correctly, and Ziva's single nod confirmed it.
Her mind however was wrenched back to the present with the increasing sounds of enemy gunfire as well as the counterpoint of police shotguns and Gibbs M-4.
Lex knew the fight was just beginning, and there was a dark, angry part of her that was screaming for her to get out there and join it, that part found it's own counterpoint in wondering what that dark part would mean for her soul if she were to join that unknown officer on the lists of the fallen.
Then her free hand, seemingly on it's own reached down to touch the tyet, the mark placed on her by her goddess Isis. Lex would do her duty, she would fight her foes, protect her friends, and leave the rest to take care of itself.
The sentence Doctor Mallard spoke into the phone was short and to the point, and was said in a voice that clearly showed the man's incredible fatigue. "The patients have made it through surgery and have been moved to recovery. There will be no visitors at this point, only medical staff. Their records will be updated as normal."
He didn't give the person on the other end of the line time to reply as he hung up and turned to his colleagues. "A little cold there weren't you Ducky?" Was the comment Samantha Finn found, her voice just as tired as his.
The exhausted Englishman was untying his bloodied surgery apron. "I'm too tired to argue with the long list of people who would want to take 'just a peek', and Miss Rosenberg would likely be at the head of that list."
Sam nodded, she had been sitting down on a bench in full surgical gear except for the bloodied latex gloves that had been removed as she closed Faith up and ordered her moved to recovery. She got up to start removing her own crimson stained apparel.
Nurse Baum had rolled over the container those garments were to be disposed in when she saw Ducky start to remove them and was now taking off her own.
The only one that wasn't moving was Jimmy Palmer sitting on a bench not far from Samantha Finn, and while all three shared an understanding look it was Ducky that moved over.
"Chin up Mister Palmer you did an extraordinary job."
Jimmy looked up at his mentor, blinking for several long moments. Ducky put a bare hand on the young man's shoulder and gave a squeeze as Jimmy spoke. "It's.... it's different."
Ducky nodded knowingly. "It's easier to treat strangers then when it's those you care about."
Jimmy shook his head, almost to himself, and then nodded. "Yeah, but I mean it's different when they're alive."
Ducky got a small grin. "Quite, but have no doubts Mister Palmer you really did do admirably."
Jimmy looked from person to person, obviously unsure, and all three nodded, he however still seemed unconvinced. "But you all seem so... calm... so sure." He held up his hands, and there was a noticeable shake. "I'm anything but."
Sam smiled. "Of course you are... now, but in surgery you were steady, you were sure, and you did your job. There's nothing to be ashamed of."
Cameron was nodding. "And don't forget Jimmy the Doctor's and I have all been combat medical personnel. We've had to do stuff like that with bullets and bombs flying. We shook after our first operations too."
Jimmy seemed to size on a distraction. "You were combat personnel too?"
Cameron smiled and now with all her surgical gear removed seemed comfortable as she sat next to him on the bench and started speaking. "Fallujah, Army, MASH, and yeah it was as bad as you think. I won't say the front line didn't have it worse, but for them the suffering could be separated from the job, sorta. When you're a medic the suffering IS the job."
Baum was looking into the distance, her mind obviously having traveled back to the Middle East. The two Doctor's however were nodding sagely and Palmer figured Nurse Baum was reading pages from their own lives.
She noticed none of this however as she kept speaking. "I still remember the day. The fighting had been intense, brutal, and the weather seemed to almost be competing with the soldiers of both sides to see how many lives it could take simply by baking it out of them. We were running triage, or they were running triage, I was just trying to give the wounded water, even if I did have to do it by their odds of survival."
Her voice was soft, but obviously haunted and the three other medics gave each other concerned looks. "There was an explosion, louder then anything I had heard before, louder then anything I thought either side had, and I thought maybe one of the Insurgents had gotten his hands on a nuke and set it off. Then the sun went black. Several had went outside to see what had happened, I just took a scalpel and made a slit in the fabric of the tent."
Her breath left in a shaky exhale and the next one in was just as ragged. "The sun hadn't been blacked out, but the massive figure was so big that standing between the sun and the city plunged us all into darkness. It probably comes as no surprise that with all those guys with guns, and this massive, terrifying... thing, pretty soon someone started shooting. When it was just bullets it didn't even seem to notice. It looked like it was maybe thinking, concentrating somehow, and whatever it was thinking about was more important then the little lead pellets we were pelting it with."
"Then someone hit it with a rocket, and that got it's attention, that made it mad."
"I could just tell in it's posture, in it's expression, it was probably more like one of us if we had gotten stung by a bee, but I KNEW it was about to swat us. I thought about my patients, I thought about my unit, but I knew that I barely had time to save myself, let alone them. I would like to say I thought at least someone had to survive to tell people what happened there, but I can't even say my mind went that far. It was pure, animal panic, that thing wanted to kill us, and there was nothing we could do to stop it."
"I dived inside one of the large refrigeration units that was being used for water since we had already emptied it of the blood we had on ice. I left the doors open since I knew I didn't want it to make an airtight seal, and I pulled it down on top of me."
Sam had sat down next to Cameron and put her right hand on the woman's right elbow. "You survived, there's no shame in that."
Cameron gave a smile, one that said she knew Sam was just trying to comfort her. "I know, and I don't feel guilty, I did, but... come on, with Tara the head administrator here do you think I would have been allowed to carry that pain for long? She would have had Faith tie me up and drag me to counseling if it had come to that."
There was a small smirk on all three of the faces and Baum smile in confusion. "What?"
Sam snickered softly. "I figured Lex would have been the better choice to get you tied up."
The young nurse blushed prettily, and then promptly ignored the statement and continued her tale. "I spent a good thirty hours under that fridge, not only was it too heavy for me to move without that panicked adrenaline, but laying on my stomach as I was I couldn't even get into the right position to try. Nope, it took a superhuman to lift it off."
Ducky was smiling. "Slayer with a big S or little?"
Cameron smiled right back, a wide, bright one. "Big. Something that huge had the Lock on it right away, but it took Faith's even sharper senses to hear me under that fridge and realize I wasn't just another causality... if it hadn't been for her I would have been." She looked down, her expression solemn. "Hopefully I was able to pay her back today."
Sam's voice was clear. "You know we don't keep track here."
Baum was still looking down, but she nodded. "Still, they investigated and figured out it was an ancient demon, they think King Solomon himself imprisoned it there."
Jimmy then interrupted. "But a bomb let it out?"
Cameron shook her head. "Not quite. It was all the fighting, all the bloodshed. While it couldn't MAKE people kill each other it could make the option seem SO much more appealing, and the fighting had gotten so intense that it was able to gather enough energy to free itself."
Ducky smiled. "But I can't imagine it was out that long."
Cameron looked up sadly and shook her head. "No Ducky, it got away. We're still looking for it, but it DID get away." She was frowning and gave a small shrug. "It happens. We try to tie up every loose end we can find and close the cases as tight as possible, but sometimes they just get away."
Seeing the young woman's expression darkening further Ducky decided to try another tack. "Yes, yes, it's inevitable in more standard combat I can only imagine it's the same here... on another topic I was going to get something to eat before a shower and some rest would you care to accompany me? I was hoping to learn a bit more about slayer physiology. While I know their metabolism is a great deal more then a traditional human's you and Samantha had pumped Faith full of enough sedatives to put down five Marines for days, and she was STILL mumbling what I believe was Tara's name when she was being rolled into recovery."
Cameron grinned, making a deliberate effort to shake off her old dark memories. While she HAD been counseled on them meeting an evil that immense, seeing what it did to both your friends and your enemies, and would have done to you... you never really "got over" that, but she put it back to where she normally carried it as she accepted the English gentleman's offer and laced her arm, elbow in elbow with his allowing him to lead her towards the mess hall as she replied.
"Yeah, we've tried a wide variety of sedatives, but the Slayer metabolism rejects them all and tries to fight you, reacting almost as if you were trying to poison them."
Ducky interrupted. "Which in a way we are."
Cameron smiled and nodded. "So you just have to keep hitting them and hitting them to keep them under. The only good news to it is that their systems are so resilient they have yet to even show signs of a risk of OD."
The surgeon seemed to be getting a second wind as his mind started finding new questions to ask his colleague about their superhuman compatriots.
Lex and Ziva were firing as one, Lex on the left working right and Ziva on the right working left, both of them trying to drop as many as they could aim at from their cover from the front desk, but that wasn't their true goal as the two targets on the field that they weren't shooting at ran frantically towards the door and it's relative safety as compared to the raging firefight outside.
Two two men finally made it inside and clambered behind the desk with the two women. DiNozzo was the first to speak, looking right at Lex. "Now what did we tell you about inviting boys over?"
Lex knew the man's sense of humor, and smiled right back at him. "I don't know. When I heard you thinking I would want to invite boys over I figured you had finally lost it and didn't pay any attention."
Ziva interrupted though she was smiling as she did so. "Yes, yes, we need to get to the radio room so we can call for help."
Tony smiled, arched his brows an reached into his pocket for his cell phone, only to fall flat on his ass as he brought up his M-4 carbine in the direction McGee was up and blasting away with his SPAS 15 shot gun.
Almost similar in styling to Tony's carbine the big difference was that Tim's weapon looked to be the big brother of the two, and was capable of firing solid slugs, the riot control bean bags, or the buckshot it was now firing into the chests of two thugs that had come up on Tony's blind side.
The pair had their chests opened in a brutal fashion that looked like it would have saved Ducky the trouble of a Y incision, but in this case they were still standing and all the organs that Ducky and Palmer would lift out and weigh were left to fall out to the floor.
While it was obvious the young man was effected Tim was able to put it aside as he ejected the shotgun's clip and rammed a fresh one home, racking a fresh shell into the chamber.
Tony gave his partner a nod. "Thanks Probie." He got a nod in return as he dialed his cellphone. Not giving the operator much chance to speak he read off his location and the badge number for his "Logan Cale" id.
"We are under heavy assault and need SWAT back up, every unit you can roll! Our radio room has been taken, but we are going to try to reacquire. If successful I will use my partner William Heller's badge number to let you know it's us! It's doesn't matter who it is! They have guns and are shooting cops! Now dispatch the units!"
He hung up and turned to his friends, standing as he did so and starting to walk further into the police station"Come on, time is not on our side here."
The three looked a little shocked, but they obeyed the order and got up to follow. Ziva however spoke. "I know you said it does not matter who they are, but... these are not soldiers."
Tony nodded. "I know, they're junkies. These guys are giving their clients guns and sending them after us. Probably just promising to pay them in Witches Powder."
He seemed to follow that realization up by cutting down one of those armed junkies who hadn't even seen him yet. The short burst had hit the person in their shoulders and neck, and dropped them from behind, so they hadn't even seen the one who killed them.
The four of them were heading in that direction anyway, and when they got closer they saw it was a girl. A girl, not a woman, one who would have probably gotten carded to buy cigarettes. It was obvious it effected Tony, but not as much as the Skorpion machine pistol still in the girl's hand would have, and he was able to put it aside like McGee.
Drevin ducked behind the evidence table as he heard the commotion. His Remington shotgun was up and tracking as he saw Markham bring up the butt of of carbine's stock into an attackers throat in a move that was likely right out of boot camp.
Markham was obviously military, some sort of special forces that had made a lateral move into Law Enforcement. Of course from the read he had been getting on Markham and his people they were more focused on the "enforcement" part, but the veteran LEO found himself surprised at how okay he was with that.
Despite the sadly earned reputation of a sad number of his fellow LAPD officers had he and so many others were sincerely dedicated to protecting and serving, and part of him said that Markham and his people seemed more search and destroy then anything. Something that left the aged lawman troubled.
Drevin however WAS a veteran policeman and he wouldn't have kept track if he could of how many cases fell through and put some violent monster back on the streets to hurt even more of those people he had sworn to protect and serve.
While Markham and his team may seem too easy with the extreme methods Drevin found something in them that told him he didn't have to worry about their results.
While the attacker was now laid out and dying from an obviously crushed windpipe Markham didn't seem phased as he arched his brow at Detective Drevin as if to ask "What's the hold up?"
He heard a single round, and flinched as the solider ended the man's struggles for life giving air with a mercy round between his eyes.
There was so much evidence that they loaded it onto a wheeled cart to get it to the cell blocks, but Drevin still had to set his shotgun on the cart, and use both hands to push.
Something that should have left him feeling defenseless, but something in the way Markham had his rifle up and searching told him the soldier would cover him long enough for the detective to get his gun and join in the fray.
The procedural part of the detective's brain worried that all this could be used to get the evidence thrown out as compromised, but as he looked down at the body of the man Markham had just finished off he figured they would have little trouble finding more.
Of course while that procedural part of the detective's brain contemplated that possibility a deeper part of him, that part of his very soul that led him to seek out justice on the police force told him that Markham wasn't planning on bringing them to trial, and that deeper part of him was okay with that.
Anthony DiNozzo felt surprisingly calm for a man being shot at. It wasn't just that he was now an expertly trained, monster hunting commando, or even a former law enforcement professional with multiple fire fights under his belt.
It was the fact that the people shooting at him were obvious amateurs.
The first sign was the fact that they were firing a near constant barrage of rounds at the end of the hallway where he, Tim, Lex, and Ziva were ducked back behind the corner. While amateurs took comfort in the sounds of their gunfire professionals knew gunfire didn't do any good if all it was hitting was walls and ceiling.
The second sign was the fact that the fire was near constant. Professionals knew that an automatic weapon could blow through a clip in seconds, while amateurs didn't realize that fact until their gun clicked empty.
It was why there were more amateurs then professionals, as most amateurs didn't live long enough to learn from their mistakes.
Once they heard those weapons clicking empty, and the sound of frantic reloading Tony and his teammates set out to make sure this group met with a similar fate.
Lex was the first to act, since the attackers had taken out the CCTV cameras and only her team could see her she was free to teleport to the other side of the hallway.
There she popped up and started firing down the hallway from a direction they didn't expect, and already screams of those she hit were raising over the hail of gunfire.
Tony and Tim were next as they moved out as one, Tim on one knee and Tony standing tall as they started firing back down the hall to the barricade in front of the radio room where their untrained opposition was trying to hold them off.
While Tony was aiming at whatever flesh he saw exposed while hugging the wall to keep his flesh from making the same target Tim was blasting where they SEEMED to be, counting on his shotgun's heavy slugs to blast through the makeshift barricade of desks, file cabinets and other office materials.
Once those three guns where roaring Ziva did a shoulder roll over beside the standing Lex to add the fire of her Uzi to her compatriots efforts.
The hail of fire and resulting sprays of blood showed the amateur level of their opposition in another way as the remaining defenders broke and made for the door to the radio room.
Ziva was already on her feet and charging, and while Tony growled he was up and following.
While taking an occupied room was dangerous no matter how you did it, the fact that they had people who already charged in meant that they would be in chaos and unready for Tony and team to kick in the door right behind them.
With any luck they wouldn't even try to shoot them, hoping it was more survivors from the barricade.
While David was a tiny woman, she put her shorter legs to good use and was already driving a shoulder into the door as Lex and Tony were in a dead heat right behind her.
That meant that the both of them saw Ziva fall flat on her stomach as she brought her Uzi up before her. First firing one handed at those right in front her, and then bringing in the second hand to steady the weapon as she started snapping off bursts at the rest of the room.
The door was trying to shut again until Tony slammed one of his personally trademarked expensive shoes into the door and it slammed back hard against the wall.
At this point the defenders guns were starting to come into play, but they still hadn't acquired any targets by the time Lex's SMG and Tony's carbine started cutting them down.
McGee was a distant forth, but in the heartbeats that the battle was taking that still gave him plenty of time to slip inside the door before it tried to swing closed after Tony's kick and use the remainder of his shotgun's clip to blast ragged channels in the few left standing from his teammates precision shooting.
Tim had ejected his clip and was ramming home a fresh one as silence fell. While reloading wouldn't have been an option in a point-blank firefight like this one it was a reflex action, and with his team the only ones left standing Tim wasn't in any danger.
At least from this group. While Tony was carrying out a similar reload of his own weapon the second he racked a fresh round in the chamber he was running over to the radio, and grabbing the mic. "This is Agent Logan Cale..."
Gibbs found himself thankful for his training as he entered the cell block. It kicked in and all the blue uniformed bodies laying out on the floor weren't people, they weren't men and women with families that would miss them.
They were important, they were friendly forces, but Gibbs' training allowed him to take the horror that he imagined gripped Drevin those first few seconds and put it into an unused corner of his mind.
There were the friendly forces that where still in combat with individuals in street clothes. Briefly that tactical part of his mind took in the opened cell doors and realized that the enemy forces had to have realized that after their battle with Faith and Tara evidence WOULD fall into police hands and an action like this would be necessary. So they had their own forces get themselves arrested.
It didn't matter if an attacker managed to open the cells or if one of the persons inside managed to convince an officer to let hem out so they couldn't be cut down in their cages. The effect was that the officers who had went to the cell block were either dead or dying, or frantically fighting for their very survival at point blank range.
One of them was thrown to the ground where the attacker then lifted the police baton they had been fighting for over his head to crush the young woman's skull where she lay.
He never got the chance as two reports of the M-4 cored his skull and dropped him on the remnants of his face next to the woman he was about to kill.
Drevin seemed to have gotten over his initial shock as he saw an even deadlier contest as one of his follow officers was fighting over the cop's service weapon. The battle was ended when Drevin stepped close, put his shotgun under the attackers chin and decapitated the man.
Even as the officer frantically tried to rub the remnants of the attackers head from his own face Drevin ignored the splattered blood and other viscera as he joined Gibbs in shooting all those who could be shot without risking hitting an officer.
There were a few attackers left after that, but they seemed to realize the battle had turned and the two men who had turned it wouldn't think twice about cutting them down.
Gibbs actually wasn't sure for a few seconds, because while the combat veteran had been able to realize the threat had passed this was probably the heaviest, and most brutal combat the veteran LEO Drevin had seen, and it seemed to take a few extra seconds for the man to remember his training and direct the remaining officers to secure the prisoners back in their cells, and begin treating those who hadn't already succumbed to their wounds.
For his part Gibbs focused on treating the wounded, drawing on a sad amount of field medical experience to treat them for a variety of wounds stemming from everything from service weapons that had been taken from the officer's hands to the assortment of items the attackers had seized when they swarmed over the peace officers.
He was still doing so as a familiar voice came over the police radios.
"This is Agent Logan Cale..."
Striker had heard the words over his own police radio, but had other things on his mind as he took up his roof top perch.
Oracle had been keeping an eye on their people through the police systems and when those systems suddenly went silent she had called the Executioner and frantically asked him to see what had happened to blind all her electronic eyes.
He had figured it out soon enough as he found a sight that seemed more familiar to the jungles of Southeast Asia when the VC would pour waves of fire against American bases then anything that should been seen on the streets of any modern city.
His reaction came from his experiences in those same jungles has he grabbed the big Weatherby Mark V from the weapons case that had been in his vehicle. He was now in a commanding position over the attackers, but he had to take it from a pair of snipers that had already occupied the rooftop.
Of course calling them snipers almost insulted those who truly practiced the trade as the two simply had assault rifles, ammo, and a willingness to shoot anything that vaguely resembled an enemy that exposed itself to their fire.
They didn't see Bolan however, they didn't even seem to be thinking about what was behind them as they looked for more police officers to shoot at, and they never saw the Desert Eagle as the Executioner drew it from his hip.
His first instinct for dispatching sentries was to use his silenced 93-R, but with the raging gun battle going on all around them he figured no one would notice a pair of .44 magnum reports.
No one did, except for the two on the opposite end of them.
Now he was in their position and bringing the massive rifle up. Looking through the scope he didn't even have to consciously think of the sniper's rule of looking for someone important.
Nor did he have to look very hard as he saw the man who seemed to be sending more and more waves against the embattled police station, while staying back himself.
The brass casing was arcing through the air as Bolan worked the lever to chamber another round as the man directing the charges dropped like a marionette who's strings had been cut.
His body had barely impacted the ground as the Weatherby found someone who had seemed ready, even eager to charge, and another casing was sailing through the air was the man's charge ended before it's first step.
Striker kept up a similar strategy as he set casing after casing flying, and body after body dropping, knowing that a sniper went after the spirit of a fighting force as much as it's people. By cutting down those who were in charge, or simply enthusiastic he cut the morale of the attackers.
As he fed more rounds into the rifle's internal magazine he could already see his efforts bearing fruit as the less determined members of the attackers force began to cut and run.
With that success he took a brief moment to speak into his own combat radio, that was set to the police band. "Belasko to Markham, do you read?"
In the cell blocks Gibbs did read, and he grabbed the radio that was offered to him as he recognized both the voice and the alias of the Executioner. "This is Markham, I read you Belasko. How close are you?"
The voice came back as Gibbs looked up and saw his fully reunited team gather around him to listen into the conversation. "I'm right outside." With those words the report of a high caliber rifle came over the channel clearly.
As the reports continued Gibbs found himself smiling, a sniper himself he could imagine what Bolan was up to. "Give us your position, and we will reinforce."
"Unnecessary Markham. This one is getting popular..." Gibbs knew that meant the attackers had realized where he was and were starting to shoot back at him. "I'm repositioning, but I've already shaken them, I would recommend if you have plans for a counterattack you use them."
Drevin, now cleaned up as best as he was able, was listening, and while they were holding the cell block very well it was obvious the man wasn't comfortable with breaking out and taking the fight to their enemies.
Gibbs noticed this and shook his head at the LEO, making a gesture that clearly indicated it would be Gibbs and his team making any counterattack, and while the LEO still didn't look comfortable he seemed more at ease with leaving the task to the obvious soldiers.
Outside Striker was threading the climbing rope through the rappelling gear on the combat harness that the Lock had provided when he had first set out on this mission.
The gear was quite similar to that issued at the Farm, but he knew that was because it was based off the Farm's designs with modifications made for things like stake loops. The irony of that being that the Farm was likely to adopt the Lock's designs as the combat operatives who worked with the Lock never forgot their experiences and would carry crosses, stakes, and silver weapons "Just in case."
Rappelling however was useful no matter what kind of foe one was facing or arena the combat was taking place in, and rather then try to fight past the men battering on the rooftop access door he had barred after taking out the enemy snipers he simply attached his rope to a A/C system and was down to street level while they were still hammering away several floors up.
As he hit the ground his Desert Eagle was in hand before he freed himself from the rope as he saw a human form, but when he realized the form was indistinct because it had teleported to his area he realized it was the witch Alexandra Detton and held his fire.
If the woman was aware of how close she came to a .44 Magnum misunderstanding she didn't show it as she looked at him and nodded.
"They're about to bust out. Tim and the Boss will be coming out the right side, Tony and Ziva will be left, when they do you and I hit the center. They will fight to us, and then we will sweep around back catching anything left."
Striker had figured there wouldn't really be much need for a signal to let them know the break out had begun, but even he was slightly startled as the grenades went off. The rolling thunder followed by waves of leaden rain from the Lock's investigators told him more then enough.
From the area the explosions covered and the heartbeat between the explosions ending and the gunfire starting told Bolan that the four combat operatives must have fisted grenades in each hand, timing the eight tosses to be as close as possible while covering as much of the enemy forces as they could, by the same token leaving Lex and Bolan to cover the center made sure that they wouldn't be caught in the explosions.
Gibbs must have only had the eight grenades available at that point because Lex was relying on her stutter gun as she laid in fire on the main body of enemy troops remaining.
While Bolan's fire was more deadly bolts of lightening courtesy of his hand cannon it complimented Lex's leaden hail perfectly, and then the sky of their battle field became lit with red and blue strobes, and the attackers will seemed to collapse in on itself.
Though a few seemed intent on going out in a blaze of glory all they got were brief retorts that wasted the lives they had spent so long wasting on their own.
Bolan joined Gibbs and his allies around the responding SWAT teams well built, angry looking African-American commander, all of them with their Lock supplied badges in evidence.
Before they could get to him however Drevin trotted out of the building and over to them, and while he also had his badge held up the SWAT commander seemed to settle down. "Frank! What the hell happened here?"
Frank put his shield away as he started speaking. "We found evidence of that Witches Powder at that flop house shoot out, but they were determined not to let us keep it. It's damn lucky you arrived when you did Danny. I'm not sure how much longer we would have held out. You SWAT guys are the heroes yet again."
It was a lie, a bold faced, blatant lie. SWAT Commander Danny knew damn well he and his people were batting clean up for the half dozen standing there before him with ordinance to equal or exceed his team, BUT he also knew Drevin, and while there seemed to be a rather lengthy silent conversation flashing back and forth between them men's gazes Danny finally nodded.
"I just wish we had gotten here sooner... how many did you loose?"
Drevin's voice was solemn. "Too damn many, and we're going to loose more if those ambulances don't roll in here soon."
While he knew it was the truth Danny also seemed to know he was being given the brush off, but accepted it with another nod.
"Once the shit settles we're going out for a beer." Of course the unspoken addition to that was "... and you can explain to me what really happened." Danny however walked off speaking to the radio on the shoulder of his web harness.
The officers inside had followed Drevin out to either direct emergency responders or help secure the scene so they could come in, but one young officer had been close enough to over hear the conversation, it was the young man that Lex had saved in the opening of the assault.
He wasn't able to contain his thoughts on the matter. "Sir? These guys were the heroes!" He pointed to Lex "She saved my life, TWICE, in less then five minutes!"
Drevin smiled at the young officer's enthusiasm, his voice becoming calming, his hand reaching out to rest on the officer's shoulder to pull him close. "I know Eric, I know, and I'll come right out and say if it weren't for these guys none of us probably would have made it. Now I could fill out all the reports and paperwork to say that, and they would probably get a few more medals for the drawers of them I'd imagine they've already earned, but do you know what else would happen?"
Eric's head shook as he obviously didn't and Drevin continued.
"The deputy chief would want them to each give him their recounting of the events, then the chief, then the mayor, with each of them getting their requisite photo ops. You could probably throw in a few state or even national senators if they're looking at a close enough race, and while all that is happening the bastards who did this would be getting farther and farther away."
It was obvious the young officer was starting to get the point, but it was just as obvious he didn't like it as Drevin kept on. "Now the medals can be nice, I have a few framed at home myself, but I do this for the work, I have a feeling you do to, and I'm damn certain that's why they do it."
At the mention Officer Eric looked at the Lock's assembled assets and they nodded as Drevin kept speaking in a soothing manner. "Now, by keeping their reference in the report as "assisted in defending the station" and "was given samples of material evidence to run through their labs" they are free to do the work, and find the animals who did this. Understood?"
Eric nodded. "Yes Sir." He looked at the Lock's soldiers. "Thank you, all of you." Then he smiled at Lex. "Especially you."
Lex gave him a friendly smile in turn, and the young man's smile was wide as he moved off to help his fellow officers.
Drevin turned to Gibbs. "Markham? I'm meant what I said, my report will list the DEA team as assisting in the defense and being given physical evidence to process... as our labs have been shot to Hell, BUT if you need ANYTHING you call, give me a land line number and wait exactly five minutes. If I don't call back then it will be exactly an hour after that cut off."
Gibbs was nodding as Drevin took out a business card and wrote a number on it and kept speaking. "It's a burn phone, and I haven't used it yet, and after this is settled I'll be tossing it in the nearest trash can... Markham... I wasn't kidding here. A lot of good men and women lost their lives because a bunch of dirt bag dealers put more value on some damn secret recipe to their junk... while some families might want the closure of a trial most would be happy with graves to spit on."
The silver haired soldier was simply nodding as he tucked away the card, but the look in his eyes told Drevin the only official the guilty parties would see is the medical examiner.
"I really wish people coming into the evidence bay could do so without looking at my ass!" While Abby's first words were muffled as she was bent over searching the trunk of the car Tara and Faith had used to make their escape, she stood up and was able to speak freely.
"Yes, I know it's a particularly fine ass, able to look good even in these baggy overalls, but still!" Though the words seemed indignant the forensics scientist was grinning so Willow didn't worry about it.
The truth was that she HAD checked the Goth out as she arrived to the mechanical bay that Abby had commandeered for when she had evidence that was too big to fit into her lab.
Abby didn't seem offended though so instead Willow mirrored the small grin on her own face. "I have news."
"If it's about Faith and Tara then I already know. I have extra special hugs ready for Ducky, Jimmy, Sam and Cameron ready."
An echo of the relief that she had felt when she first heard Tara and Faith had been moved to recovery washed through her. "Nope... first of all Ziva is ok, and so are the rest of our people."
That brought Abby up short, and the woman's normally pale complexion managed to loose even more color. Some of that color made it's way back as Abby took one deep breath, and then another. "Okay, that's the right way to start. Something obviously happened, but our guys are okay? Ziva's okay?"
Willow nodded. "Bruises, scrapes and stuff, but nothing that required any sort of attention."
Abby seemed unsure, as if she wanted to check Ziva's state herself, but with the woman in LA she knew that wasn't an option. "So what happened?"
"The police station they had taken the evidence to came under attack."
That was a whole new shock to Abby. "Attack? How?"
Abby motioned them both to some stools she had in the bay next to the long table she used for setting evidence out on. As they sat Willow continued. "Waves of guys with guns. While our guys were able to stop the attack, repel those attacking, and then take out the attackers they think the bad guys wanted to storm the station, kill all the cops, and then destroy the evidence."
The Goth's face twisted in confusion. "Not exactly subtle for the guys who have kept such a low profile the past six months."
Willow nodded. "Exactly. The question then becomes "What is it they were willing to go to such lengths to hide? It's going to be up to you and Ducky to figure it out. Apollo has already left to pick up the evidence and fly it back here for you guys to go over. The fact they are willing to go to such lengths to keep the secret means there is a secret to keep. It's going to be up to you guys to find it."
Abby was nodding, seeming lost in thought as she was already be thinking of the tests to run on the Witches Powder when she noticed Willow's own fair complexion had paled. Looking closer she could see the redhead's eyes had focused on the front seats she had taken out of the car and processed.
The two front seats that were covered in the blood the two women knew had come from Tara and Faith. Abby's own tests as well as her own keen forensic mind could read the blood splatters and it was like she could see Tara in the passengers seat, passed out, soaked with blood as she leaned into Faith while Faith kept an arm around Tara as the other one drove.
It usually gave Abby a wave of nausea that she imagined Willow felt as well. So she sought to bring them back on topic.
"I haven't been able to pull much from the car except for a whole other list of reasons to want to see these guys shot."
That seemed to do the trick as Willow refocused her attention on Abby and away from the bloodied car seats. At Abby's words Willow shifted her attention to the car Abby was gesturing to. It looked... like a lot of cars seemed to look now a days with neon lights, and an overly elaborate paint job. Not getting the problem she looked at Abby and didn't bother to hide her confusion.
Abby threw her hands up. "Willow, if I were to walk out and buy this make of car off the lot I would probably pay around a quarter of a million dollars. Now if I were to take THIS car and try to sell it with all the modifications I MIGHT get a hundred grand, and YES cars DO depreciate the second you drive it off the lot, but NOT by that much."
Seeing Willow was still confused the Goth sighed. First she stood up and sort of held her hands up to put herself on display. "Okay, I won't deny people flash, I mean I'm already already hot and the tats and dyed hair and pigtails all accent that, BUT there is a point even I will say it goes from flashy to gaudy."
Willow took a second look and her nose scrunched, the car was a bit tacky, it just seemed tacky was the trend for cars these days. Abby however noticed her expression and pointed. "See! You agree! This is like giving the Mona Lisa a mohawk... no, no it's like giving her a faux hawk! You know? Where the person doesn't actually cut their hair so much as use obscene amounts of product to make the middle stand up?"
Willow nodded... and wondered if this was what it was like for other people listening to Willow babble as Abby continued, while reaching in for the steering wheel.
The engine was turned on, and growled loudly, Abby then turned it off, as she climbed out. "Hear that! She SHOULD be purring like a kitten, but now she growls like an angry cat. The kind that bites your hand and makes you get stitches when all you were trying to go was pet her!"
Abby leaned over and kissed the hood of the car. "Someone hurt her. Trading perfectly timed engineering for maybe five to ten more miles per hour at top speed, and FREQUENT break downs."
Willow's face was still scrunched up. "Isn't that what most people do now a days?"
"EXACTLY!" Willow jumped a little at the exclamation as Abby continued. "Willow, we're dealing with a douche bag."
"Huh?" Willow blinked.
"A douche bag. Those preening pretty boys who fight their girlfriends for the bathroom so they can apply their man tans and shave their chin straps to mathematical precision, and make me very VERY grateful for the fact I'm dating Ziva."
Willow then grinned. "You dated one didn't you?"
Abby looked at her feet. "More then one. The worst was a psycho one, name was Micheal, and I think he spent more time on his make up then I did. He ended up getting arrested after Gibbs found out he was stalking me."
"I'm guessing the words 'hospital ward' and 'persistent vegetative state' could be used for him now."
Abby grinned. "No, no Gibbs caught him, and put him in jail... well actually the police were the ones to find him first. Which is probably why those words can't be used since he was in custody by the times Gibbs got to him... but that's not important right now. The perp here is over compensating. I already called the dealer, and the modder and in both cases the person paid in cash. So that's a dead end."
Willow paused. "Did they have security cameras?"
It was Abby's turn to blink as Oracle wondered out loud if there were any electronic eyes available. "I doubt the modder would have, but a high end car lot would probably have cameras watching the lot! They also would probably keep their footage for awhile in case of cash payments being stolen money! I might be able to find our douche bag's picture!"
Willow then took a breath. "So I need you to get me your info and then you'll want to head up to your lab. Apollo is flying the evidence in right now, and by the time you're ready to analyze he'll have it here for you to do so."
Abby smiled. "You're getting used to this whole being in charge thing."
Willow blushed, grinning. "Oh no, Riley's back. Turns out it was a mortal with SCUBA gear and a taste for preteens." At Abby's look of distaste Willow nodded. "So if you need anything Riley's here to get it for you, but otherwise you should probably give him his space. It was a toss up between more pissed off or disgusted, but either way Riley's in a mood."
"Any word on Scooby Squad?"
That got a grin from the red head. "Yep, Giles is calling it reverse alchemy. They are finding the gold in the IRA hands and turning it into lead, their lead. Haven't found the Pot though, but they think they are close."
That got a nod and nothing more was said as Willow headed back to her Temple to see if she could find their douche bag while Abby gave the modded car one last pat before heading to her lab to do the same.
Gibbs and McGee were in a rental car with Gibbs at the wheel. As he drove he looked over to his younger colleague and took in the man's obviously worried expression.
"Everything all right Tim?"
He threw his hands up. "Fine, just fine!" At Gibbs arched brow his hands fell and his shoulders slumped. "Okay, I'm not fine. We're heading out to muscle the mob. The mob muscles, they don't GET muscled."
Gibbs shrugged his expression nonchalant. "Then they should be familiar with the procedure."
That earned the older man a scowl, which got a laugh in response before Gibbs started speaking again. "It's not the mob Tim, it's a Triad."
Tim was almost bobbing with nervous energy. "Yeah, so they'll cut us into little pieces while were still alive to appreciate it rather then put our feet in cement and dump us into the nearest large body of water."
Something in Gibbs expression solidified. "Tim, the weapons that were used on Tara and Faith, and used on the siege of the police station had to come from somewhere, and wherever they came from it would take organized crime to get them here in those kind of numbers."
Tim seemed to realize he may have been pushing a bit hard, and made himself mellow his tone. "Yeah Boss, but we have nothing to tell us it was these guys."
Gibbs shrugged slightly. "Doesn't matter. They move in the circles that could tell us where they came from either way."
"So were just going to make them?"
Gibbs, Leroy Jethro Gibbs then gave a quick glance to Timothy McGee, and he smiled. "Yeah."
Tim's eyes flew open in shock. "You're enjoying this!"
Gibbs shoulders shook with soft laughter. "A little bit. Tim, I've been in law enforcement for almost twenty years at this point. I've had to build cases, and I've seen cases fall through, all too often because some scum bag hired the right sleaze ball to take my case apart."
Gibbs took a deep breath, and put more consecutive words together then the young agent could ever remember the man doing in a single setting. Leaving Tim with the realization that it was being done for the younger agent's benefit."I've had to tell families that their loved ones killer went free because some procedural loop hole was more important then putting the killer behind bars, and after all those years of that, being able to toss the rules in the same trash pile with the kid gloves I was forced to wear and go after the bastards directly... yeah. I'm going to enjoy that. The guys we are going after, this Triad, they smuggle guns, and drugs, and people, and they deserve everything we're going to do to them, and a hell of a lot more."
Tim expression was contrite. "I get that Boss, I do. I'm just still not used to... fighting like they do."
Gibbs reached a hand over and squeezed Tim's shoulder. After that they were silent until they pulled up in front of the alley door Drevin had provided directions to.
Drevin, Tim had to wonder about the Detective. The man had to know that the information he handed over to Gibbs wasn't going to lead to any arrests, but in fact lead to more violence. To say it was simple gratitude for saving the station when it came under siege didn't cover it by half.
That Drevin was willing to set the book aside, rather then toss it out completely like the Boss had, until those responsible for the siege had been taken care of seemed more likely, but also didn't seem to cover it, not entirely.
As they had driven in silence Tim wondered if Drevin was as sick of it all as the Boss was? While Tim hadn't been in law enforcement as long as the two men he too had seen his share of tragedies that seemed far more urgent then some procedural red tape.
Like when Kate had been murdered. He still remembered how the bile had risen up as his throat had closed off when the director was talking about how Gibbs had no proof that Ari had been the one to pull the trigger.
He did it, the Boss knew, the Team knew, he might have had Ziva fooled, but Tim imagined it would be like Tony going rogue for them, but for those who sat behind their desks and interpreted the rules, their relationship with Israel was FAR more important then catching Kate's killer.
McGee had to imagine if Ari HAD managed to kill Gibbs they still would have insisted there wasn't enough proof.
The thought of the double agent had Tim's heart pounding in his chest. He willed it to still, if he was going to commit what could be called an act of domestic terrorism he had to do it with a calm mind.
Because while Tim held no illusions that the Triad deserved what was about to happen to them this WAS domestic terrorism. The door they had pulled up in front of WAS a Triad enterprise, but it wasn't even connected to their trade in guns, drugs or people, it was a software piracy operation.
It WAS however incredibly profitable for the syndicate with a handful of technicians, a bank of computers and a small number of guards cranking out cracked code that could be copied hundreds, even thousands of times and sold to those who needed the high end software without paying the high end prices.
The large profit combined with the fact that the crime family focused it's guards on the more obviously profitable lines like guns, drugs, and people made it an ideal target for the two men to torch in order to show the Triad they could and WOULD hurt them if they didn't get them the information they were after.
As they climbed out of the car Tim didn't even have to think as he checked the pistol on his hip, his mind more focused on worrying about how easily he had went from enforcing the law to going outside it.
The deeper truth that calmed him as they stepped up to the door however was that the law was a construct, a social contract that when it worked, worked wonderfully allowing a diverse grouping of souls to live and work together in harmony.
The problem was no construct worked perfectly, and the power of a social contract was only based on people's willingness to follow it.
While the usual enemy Tim faced working at the Lock could be argued to not be "people" if they existed outside that contract then he would have to as well in order to fight them, and his last bit of apprehension vanished he swore he would fight them.
For people like his sister, who had nearly been convicted of murder when people went outside that contract over a damn blog post. For people like Kate, who were cut down all too soon because some psychopath saw her as nothing more then a button to push to hurt the Boss.
For Abby whose only crime had been falling for a guy who couldn't accept she wouldn't, and couldn't be who he demanded she be. For Faith and Tara who swore themselves to this ugly war for the rest of their lives at ages where Tim was still earning his degrees, lives that had almost been cut short by guns that men like these, if not these men themselves, had provided.
He would fight for them, and for those he was determined to keep from joining them on the lists of victims.
His breathing was calm, and his hands were steady as the Boss reached out and knocked on the door in the signal that had gotten passed along with the address.
As Tony pulled the car to a stop he turned to Lex. "Do you think we need to worry about type casting?"
Lex looked confused. "How so?"
He grinned. "Well the two team members with the most... renown libidos being sent to take down a brothel?"
She looked shocked. "You mean this isn't a refresher to fortify us for the battles ahead?"
Tony smiled his most charming smile. "Well... if you WANT to play the loving couple out to let the Misses relive her college days and share one of the girls BEFORE we burn the place down I'm certainly game."
That got a laugh from the witch as she reached out and pat Tony's cheek. "My darling, darling husband I may be willing to channel the darkest, most primal forces of creation, I may be willing to bind unspeakable horrors to force them to carry out my will... I may even be willing to pose as a straight woman out for a little love that dare not speak it's name, but I am NOT willing to look the Boss in the eye and tell him I stopped off to get laid in the middle of an op."
Tony's charming smile grew. "You've assimilated into the Team completely then?"
Another laughing nod was his reply as he got out and walked over to her side of the car to open the door for her.
While Tony always strove to be a gentleman that was part of their cover, a married couple, but a rich married couple, visiting a Mafia controlled brothel so that his "wife" could enjoy the company of a woman without any later complications.
As they linked their arms Tony looked to the backseat where a purse identical to the one over Lex's arm sat. The two were linked mystically, but the one still in their car had a pair of compact Mini-Uzi's as well as clips and incendiary sticks.
The Mafia's whorehouse had strict security, and the pair would be walking in... naked... as in unarmed rather then literally so. Lex would then use her magick to swap the two purses and hand Tony an SMG and clips.
As they got to the door Lex was the first to be wanded by the hand-held scanner in the Mafia goon's hands.
The expression on the man's face showed he had more then an interest in security as his eyes followed the wand's path over the fit frame of the Lock's witch, but when his eyes came back to her face, after a detour to breasts Tony himself had to admit he admired more then once, the almost matching expressions on her face and Tony's reminded the man they were here for their pleasure not for his, and the expensive way the two were dressed told the man he was in danger of pissing off paying customers.
Tony's check was far quicker, but equally thorough, and the pair was allowed in.
Ziva David had known of Mack Bolan long before she ever joined the Lock, she had known of him long before she even joined NCIS. In the Mossad Mack Samuel Bolan was well known. Whether it was renown or infamy depending on who you asked.
Some held him up as a magnificent champion of his people, moving past needing someone to order him to fight their enemies to engaging them himself under his own direction. Many of those same people called him a hero when he moved past fighting just his own countries enemies to the enemies of civilization all across the globe.
Others held him up as a reckless fool, a virtual mad dog who gave himself an excuse to kill while refusing any sort of guidance or direction.
Neither side however could deny the soldier's fearsome capabilities.
For Ziva David the man had nearly become a role-model. After the death of her sister Tali she was in a state she imagined mirrored that of young Sergeant Bolan when he had been called home to bury his family, and her response mirrored his as well.
Blood for blood,of course the blood they spilled was precious and therefore required a great deal more of theirs to be spilled before the scales were anywhere near balanced, but Ziva David felt she understood Bolan in a way few others could.
She knew that those scales could never be truly balanced, that hollowed out place those precious lives leave in you when they are lost never being truly filled.
That the best one could hope for was a purging of grief, that the hollow sensation would be a sort of relief after the rage and revenge left you.
She did not know if she would have progressed like he had, to move past simple revenge to a deeper sense of duty to battle the enemies of humanity, but where young Sergeant Bolan had to go it alone to avenge those well loved lives Ziva David had her father and... her brother behind her all the way in her quest to kill all of those responsible.
Not just the terrorist cell, she killed their suppliers, their informants, anyone who was involved. She even killed a member of the IDF who's last words were to swear to her that he had sold the patrol schedules to hashish smugglers who must have then sold them to terrorists.
Ziva knew the Executioner's file and knew that he probably would not have done that last one, but would not have blamed her either.
Looking at then, and looking at now Ziva had to wonder how real that "line" she crossed really was. The monsters she fought for the Lock never seemed to acknowledge it, except when mocking human weakness, but more alarmingly humanity itself seemed to cling to it only until it would benefit them not to.
So she was left wondering if she crossed it and crossed back, or just accepted the guidance that the Executioner rejected in his personal quest for justice.
Whatever the cause she was able to move in the circles that led her to another role-model, but one not so dissimilar, Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
A United States Soldier, like Bolan, a sniper, like Bolan, a Marine to the Executioner's Army service, both men loosing their families while they were off serving their country. Both taking that pain and using it to drive their search for justice.
That Bolan seemed as attached to Faith as as Gibbs did to Tara felt almost like the hand of a wise and loving Adonai to the Hebrew woman.
It left her wondering if Mack Bolan had met Mike Franks, or if Gibbs had not, would their positions have been exchanged?
The question was left unanswered for times when she was not working.
Now she was on the job, with the Executioner, the two of them taking on a back room gambling den that was technically run by the Latin Kings street gang, but supposedly heavily financed by a Colombian Cartel that was having trouble moving their money back south with the Patriot Act's banking regulations now in place. Which left the Cartel agents with vast stacks of money from their narcotics sales and little to do with it but invest back into their underworld community.
They had chosen to enter separately, and more dangerously they chose to enter unarmed. The security making the incendiary sticks they were carrying difficult to smuggle in as it was.
While she was quite confident in her own hand to hand skills as well was sure enough about the abilities of the Executioner their plan had him in the open playing an irate gambler who would start causing trouble for security.
She would use the distraction to disarm one of the guards and take his gun. When she started shooting the Executioner would do the same.
As she watched Bolan she saw his body language tense in a way that told her he was about to act.
In the metal door a small slide opened and a pair of Asian eyes looked out at Gibbs and McGee, before he could ask what the two men wanted Gibbs had a fake badge flipped open and obscuring the man's view.
That set off some rapid fire speech behind the door, but even if Tim could hear it clearly it wasn't in English. Still, he didn't really need a translation to guess what the software pirates were saying behind the door Gibbs had just flashed a badge in front of.
Some English words followed from the eyes behind the door though. "Do you have a warrant?"
Gibbs putt he badge away and had a cocky half-grin on his face. "No, the raiding party that's coming here in twenty minutes is bringing it. Now, we had planned on leaving here in ten minutes after we help you boys clean up, but we can leave right now. We're not paid enough to be here any later."
Sadly when they were planning how to get in the dirty cop angle seemed all too easy.
Organized crime couldn't commit all the crimes they committed without securing the aid of those who should be working to stop them, and two white men who would otherwise never get past the door without a heavy duty breaching charge could talk their way in with the flash of one of those supposedly bent badges.
It wasn't the fake id that Willow had made, and they had in fact ditched all forms of identification before they had set out on this mission. So if the unthinkable happened and they were either captured or killed nothing could connect them to anything.
Technically their faces could get connected back to their files at NCIS because Willow couldn't remove their images without alerting Vance, but Oracle had worked her digital wizardry, and made sure that any requests that would set off an alarm bell on the NCIS system would instead get routed to her system for the all clear/nothing found.
Neither man had contemplated the idea too deeply however. They made the preparations and then forgot about them as contemplating the failure of a mission made it that much more likely.
Instead they both looked annoyed that they were being kept out on the steps by people they had come there to help.
The slide shut, and that click was followed by the sounds of the door opening.
As soon as they could enter Gibbs did so and the guard at the door was behind Gibbs and slightly to his right while Tim was to the left in the same spot.
The guard spoke in accented English. "There's a raid coming in twenty minutes?"
Gibbs made a show of looking at this watch. "Eighteen now, and my partner and I will be out of here ten minutes before them. Now, you need to get your records together and either destroy them or get them out of here."
The guard nodded and fired off some rapid fire Chinese. While he looked in his early twenties he had the cold eyes, and sneering expression of those who had decided they would make their way in the world by hurting others to get what they wanted.
Dressed in deliberately flashy "Urban" apparel with a Asian flair he had a pistol tucked in the front of his overly low slung belt. He had two compatriots visible, and they were all dressed and armed in a similar fashion.
Gibbs however was focused on the thinner, paler, and much more frightened form that Tim could have very well played against on his MMORPG at some point. "You."
At the point and the word the young man jumped, and then nodded as Gibbs continued. "You need to erase all your drives." Gibbs pointed over at Tim. "He said you should have something like that so you can erase and write over it so there's no trace?"
The technician looked over at Tim and McGee stepped forward. "Multiple times preferably. Our cyber-crimes guys are quite good and you can't leave ANY trace."
The technician nodded, and started firing off his own rapid-fire Chinese, the half dozen similarly dressed pale types with him hurrying to the terminals.
Seeing things were getting done Gibbs nodded, turning to the guard, while looking to his watch. "Okay, we're out of here in five. You'll have ten more to get yourselves out."
The guard nodded, smiling. "Yeah... you guys really earned your bonus today."
Gibbs shook his head. "Not quite." A second guard walked up with his hands full of ledgers and burned discs. "Those the records?" A nod from both the guards. "Let's put them out in my trunk." At the pairs reluctance Gibbs feigned aggravation. "Look! You three aren't exactly low profile. As it is you'll want to ditch your hardware because I can pretty much guarantee you'll be stopped by the unis that will close off the neighborhood. I however won't be blinked at. Hell I'll be giving them their orders. I can walk those books right out of here."
The guard shook his head. "No way. These get into the hands of the wrong cop and they'll do a lot of damage!."
Gibbs nodded. "I know."
Tim was still getting used to the world of sudden violence he had stepped into, but he knew the Boss, knew the man's expressions, and his body language, and he knew when the Boss had was going to act.
So while part of him jumped at the gunshots when Gibbs drew his Colt 45 and put two rounds in the young man's heart at point blank range he had no trouble getting his Glock 21 out and putting twice as many in the chest of the young man across the room digging for his own pistol.
The shots Gibbs had put into the young man's heart had been at an upward angle from where he had pulled the pistol from his hip, but now the weapon had cleared his body and Gibbs put his gun to the forehead of the guard trying to drop the records while reaching for his weapon.
Three shots echoed before Gibbs turned to Tim. "Make sure their computers are erased. I want nothing salvageable."
Gibbs turned to the excitedly babbling, screaming, technicians. "You better go."
Realizing the two round eyes were only going to shoot those who could shoot them the head technician that had spoken earlier spoke to them. "Do you guys know who you're dealing with?"
Gibbs gave a half grin. "Damn sure ain't Bill Gates. Let him know he'll be getting a call. Now go!"
The man knew not to push things farther and gave a nod as he took off.
The Boss knelt down next to the body of the guard he shot in the head and started picking up the records. At Tim's curious look Gibbs replied. "An anonymous care package for Drevin. He can use this stuff to follow up and hurt these guys even more."
McGee nodded his understanding. They may have thrown the book out, but they still had immense respect for those who still lived by it, and as long as the intel was "anonymous" Drevin could use it to follow up on their efforts and maybe keep the Triad's more focused on protecting themselves then on hurting others. At least for a little while.
Looking at the computers he spoke. "It's basically done Boss. I don't think I want to know how these guys got their mitts on this grade of software, but it erases and writes over the hard drive seven times. There's nothing salvageable here."
That got a nod. "Then let's make it a total loss." Reaching under his jacket Gibbs pulled out an incendiary stick and twisted the cap. After he tossed it into the office where the guard carrying the records had emerged from it could be heard sputtering to life.
The pair repeated the process, leaving their pyrotechnic packages liberally strewn throughout the building. It stood alone so they could do so without fear of burning out any neighbors. The same idea that let the Triad operate without fear of witnesses allowing the Lock's soldiers to do the same.
By the time they retreated to their car flames were lapping at the outsides of the building.
Climbing inside the car the pair calmly drove away, both knowing how many arrests came when criminals eager to escape the scene of their crime sped away, drawing attention to themselves and getting stopped for speeding or reckless driving, which then led to them being tied back to their felonious act.
At first they drove in silence before Gibbs looked over to McGee. "You all right Tim?"
The older man's tone showed that he was genuinely concerned for McGee, and if he was honest with himself Tim had no trouble analyzing why. Their opponents had been human, and their actions had been murder.
Yes the men they had murdered were Triad enforcers. Their hands undoubtedly bloodied collecting protection money, or making "examples", or in any one of the countless acts of violence that all crime syndicates carried out, but they hadn't been carrying them out when the they had been cut down.
They had been shot, by surprise, their lives leaving them in gory crimson sprays before they even managed to get their weapons drawn.
Tim didn't kid himself though. He knew the three toughs would have shot the pair down at the first indication they weren't the corrupt cops they had portrayed themselves as.
The Lock fought the way they did because of the battles they fought. They couldn't be known publicly, they couldn't even be known to the covert intelligence world. Their battles were too important, the stakes too high, often the fate of the entire world, and they had no time for the inter-departmental crap that came with things like back up.
They had to throw that book out if they wanted any chance at victory, if they wanted any chance at survival.
On one level Donald Mallard couldn't remember feeling so tired. He wanted to say he was getting too old, but on a deeper level he never felt so vital.
Yes only four hours of sleep after the exhausting surgery he had performed to save the life of Tara Maclay would leave anyone ragged the fact that he was needed yet again made him feel like the young man of his military days.
Of course here at the Lock he was basically experiencing a whole fresh set of military days, but that was part of what left him feeling so vital. Every day quite literally had the potential of showing him something he had never even imagined, and quite often did so.
Beyond that however there was that deep satisfaction from knowing one is needed. While his skills were always appreciated at NCIS, except for the "rush orders" his abilities were never urgently needed.
Now however he was being called upon to exercise those talents as a medical examiner, but with the case more a mission then a case and still ongoing it went beyond the "rush orders" he was used to.
Yet even then the potential for greater learning was likely as his subject was almost certainly a user of this Witches Powder currently confounding everyone. Not only that, but as the senior medical examiner he was going to be autopsying the one Tara had slain with magic, and the idea of examining a cause of death he had never before encountered was putting a certain spring in his step.
Having just stepped out of his quarters Doctor Mallard came up short at the sight of Camile, the woman who tackled the daunting task of keeping the Lock, and especially it's slayers, fed. She was pouring a mug even as he started to nod.
"Um, thank you, Camile."
She smiled at the Doctor's obvious confusion. "Ducky, you saved Tara's life. Thank YOU."
New understanding entered Ducky's eyes and he smiled as he blushed and looked down at his feet. The evidence had arrived, and with the mission still active Camile realized Ducky would be woken up to examine it, and while this level of service was unique at the Lock the fact that he had been the surgeon that had saved one of their fearless leaders must have left her feeling he warranted it.
He wanted to argue, but already knew it would be futile so he smiled, nodded, took the offered mug, and smiled and nodded again before taking a sip. "Thank you Camile, but I'd best be off to the medical bay."
Camile smiled. "Of course." and said nothing more as he nodded again and started towards the medical bay.
The way there was littered with "Thank you's" and "Great job's", and Ducky found himself dreading what would have happened if his hands hadn't been quite so sure, or Miss Maclay hadn't been the fighter she was.
There wouldn't have been blame, the combat veterans of the Lock knowing the fragility of life well enough, but the deeper impact to the morale of the fighting force... Doctor Mallard felt a physical shudder at what the loss of their leaders would have meant.
Having both of them survive just emphasized it all the more as the Doctor had comforted more then one bereaved loved one in his long career, and with the depth of the bond the two women shared it would have been his own nightmare to have to have told one of them the other hadn't made it.
Entering the bay Doctor Mallard found his three compatriots either suited up, or getting there as they smiled at his arrival.
The Doctor's keen eyes picked out mugs much like the one he was now draining, and setting aside for the cleaning staff to take care of.
Doctor Finn's eyes were perhaps just as keen, but she decided to comment. "So I see you're feeling the love too?"
Ducky grinned, looking down at his feet again. "Yes, it would seem we are the conquering heroes in these halls right now."
Nurse Baum spoke up as she tied an apron on. "Still, I'd rather be getting more praise then I deserve then the 'You tried your best.' speech."
That got unanimous nods.
It was that military man inside Doctor Mallard that knew he needed to break the somber mood that contemplating what a failure that hadn't happened would have cost them. So he strode over to the first body bag in the row of four.
"Right! They however did survive in spite of these lads best efforts, and now we need to see what they can tell us!"
Their face masks were pulled up and their face shields were pulled down, bags were unzipped, and the familiar procedures began, but they quickly ventured into the unfamiliar as the Y incisions were made and the organs removed and weighed.
Jimmy was the first to comment. "This guy seems remarkably healthy for a junkie willing to kill for their next fix."
Ducky didn't speak, but was nodding as Sam commented. "Same here. The dermis is in the condition you would expect from a routine user, but the organs aren't showing the damage you would plan to see."
That had Doctor Mallard commenting, his cultured tones distracted. "Quite, but most all narcotics are there to effect the brain. So I believe that is where we should examine next."
Words were matched to action and after their subjects scalps were sliced into and pulled back the whirr of small circular saws filled the air as they were used to cut open the subjects skulls.
Or at least he first subject's skull. While Samantha Finn and Cameron Baum might have had more experience with their supernatural comrades and competition Ducky and Jimmy knew medical examination and they had the skull of their subject off first, to have it emit a cloud of gray powder.
Ducky dropped the saw, and the revving engine came to an immediate stop as the safety engaged. "Stop what you are doing!"
The clear plastic shield over Ducky's face was covered with gray crystals, but the venerable medical examiner didn't show any hesitation to his steps as he hurried to the sink. His face shield was dropped into a bio-hazard bin as he dove his head under running water.
Jimmy had been standing to the side and had the gray crystals all over his hands and arms, and had hurried over with Ducky, washing his hands and arms as Ducky washed his face.
The two women had stopped their actions at Duckies direction and as Cameron moved over to assist the two men Samantha hit the bio-hazard alarm.
Ducky and Jimmy quickly scrubbed all exposed flesh and shed their blue scrubs. The women took the scrubs and hurled them into the same bins the men's medical equipment had been tossed into.
As the two sodden men stood there in undershirts, boxers and socks they looked over to the subject on their exam table, and the pile of gray powder the had poured out of the subjects skull while still covering the inside of the skull and the surface of the brain.
Ducky was the first to speak. "While our bio-hazard procedures are spot on..."
Samantha finished for him. "I think we've found the source of the Witches Powder."
As Abby was walking around the autopsy area in full bio-hazard gear vacuuming up the powder and covering the bodies with plastic tarps she found herself agreeing with Ducky and Sam, and saying so to Riley over her contamination suits radio.
"I think they're right Riley. It LOOKS like Witches Powder, and it explains the organic compounds that Major-General Mass Spec was picking up."
Riley however himself had another question. "Major-General?"
Abby grinned to herself under the clear plastic shielding. "My mass spectrometer at NCIS was Major Mass Spec, and while I loved him dearly the one you guys got me here is even better so he's Major-General Mass Spec."
Finn hadn't smiled since his return from hunting an all-too human predator, but as he spoke there was a smile evident in his voice. "Understood. As long as the blood tests following their decon showers come up clean I'll let them get back to work, but what sorts of organic compounds were you finding?"
Abby's voice carried her uncertainty. "He wasn't sure. They LOOKED like neurotransmitters, but...not. Seeing Witches Powder pouring out of this guy's skull... I think..."
Willow Rosenberg's voice suddenly cut in. "Soylent Smack is made from people!"
The resounding silence hung until Willow's much tamer voice again came over the channel. "Sorry... with Xander and Tony in the field I figured someone should say it."
Now Abby's voice had an obvious smile. "Essentially, yeah. We'll want to take a more magical look at this, but I'm guessing the reverse tolerance is because the users soon end up with a literal head full of the stuff."
Riley complimented her thought with his own. "It would also explain why it doesn't show up to normal drug tests... but what does it do exactly?"
The Goth sighed. "Ducky and Sam will be able to give us a better idea of that, but looking at this guy's brain it seems mostly intact, and with Major-General Mass Spec finding what he thought neurotransmitters I would guess it turns certain neurological activity into the drug itself. Which explains why we aren't finding the bodies, they get turned into new product. Redefining the vicious cycle of drug abuse."
While it wasn't the first time Anthony DiNozzo had seen his teammate Alexandra Detton with her tongue in another woman's mouth it was still a distracting sight, but he knew that was the point.
He however was the only one as even the working girl that Lex had first touched the cheek of before pulling her into said fiery kiss seemed a little overwhelmed at the intensity of passion the witch had put into the action.
Tony however was expecting it and while the rest of the room was watching Lex kissing the prostitute he watched the witch slip her hand inside her purse, and from the way she was now holding the bag he would guess she was fisting one of the Mini-Uzis that had been in the bag in the car outside.
The kiss broke as the madame of the house approached. "Now, now sweetheart. Save that for upstairs."
Detton put on an embarrassed smile. "Right, sorry, of course. Honey? Would you take my purse?"
As her "husband" he knew what to do, and as he made the action look as natural as possible he took the item, twisting the handles around his left hand as his right dipped inside and felt the grip of the other compact Uzi sub-machine gun.
Pulling it free he spun and put a quick, four round burst into the chest of a guard who was still grinning at Lex's display. The ghost of the man's smile was still on his face as the burst tore into his heart and lungs and spilled his life out in their passing.
His darling "wife" was matching his actions as she moved back to back with him as she sent her own short burst into an unsuspecting member of whorehouse security. The parabellum manglers not stopping until they impacted the wall behind him, spattering them with the man's crimson essence.
The security showed itself more suited to handle the occasional unruly customer as two more guards blithely charged into the killing ground the two Lock aces were ruling, and were sent sprawling, likely not fully realizing what ended their lives before those lives expired. Only the fifth and final man managed to get his pistol drawn, managing to fire a single round.
It however impacted the ceiling as the two agents fired practically in unison, and sent the man to the ground in a bloody sprawl.
As soon as the cacophony of gunfire had ended a riot of screams replaced it until Tony fired a burst into the glass bottles hanging behind the small bar set up for the house's "guests".
He didn't bother to speak the command for the people to leave, but the waving of his gun towards the exit communicated the point enough, and once the crowd realized their guns had only been meant for the brothels armed security they made a stampede for the door.
Tony's non-verbal communication continued when one of the working girls stumbled and Tony reached out to catch her with his free hand. He nearly stumbled with her until he used the metal frame of the SMG to clout the side of the head of a member of the brothels clientele who didn't seem to think twice about trampling a girl he would have once paid a rather exorbitant price to spend a few hours with.
A head popped up over the bannister at the top of the stairs and found itself staring down the twin barrels of those guns.
They quickly realized it was another member of the houses staff who raised her hands, and quickly scuttled out the doorway that now hung open. Just as quickly though they realized they needed to clear the upstairs, and likely had little time to do so before the half dressed stampede brought the official attention they were taught to avoid.
With that in mind the pair cat footed up the stairs. At the summit Tony looked left, and in turn Lex looked right, and they simply nodded. Though they expected that any resistance that could have been mounted would have been mounted after the auto-fire they unleashed downstairs neither discounted the possibility of a customer being foolish enough to try to attack them.
As the first door opened to Tony's kick there was an attack using one of the house's girls as an improvised thrown weapon, the girl being shoved at him as the customer dashed for the door.
Tony caught the girl while hooking his foot between the running feet of the man hurling past him. The partially clothed man went down in a sprawl while the girl looked up at him fearfully.
He shook his head in a small motion and nodded towards the open main doors. "Go."
She did so, but not before slugging the man who had sought to save himself by sacrificing her to Tony, giving the Lock's investigator a slight grin.
A grin that vanished when Lex's auto-weapon opened up. Quickly moving to back up his partner he saw she wasn't in any danger. Rather he saw the working girl who MIGHT have entered her teens at this point dashing past, and the now rapidly cooling body of the man who had obviously figured if he was going to solicit a prostitute he might as well double up with a little statutory rape.
Meeting the witches eyes Tony had to admit to himself there was a darkness to the witch, but the fact that it was showing as she stood over the body of a man who sought to join what was likely an unfortunately long line of people who had defiled what WAS a child he couldn't find it in himself to fear her, or what he saw in her gaze.
There were no more encounters as they finished clearing the rooms. Lex's execution of one of the "guests" seeming to cow the rest.
They scattered the incendiary sticks that would render the house of ill repute a husk of no value, and made a hurried, but cautious retreat for their vehicle.
The numbers had fallen too close as they found a roadblock at one of the first stop signs heading away from the site, but with everything that had happened it wasn't difficult to imagine the LAPD was keyed up.
Knowing that a search would not only reveal the paired Mini-Uzis and ammo, but the additional ordinance in the trunk the former LEO knew he had to make sure the officers wouldn't have any reason to search the vehicle.
Reaching over he made sure to muss Lex's dress and hair before reaching back and disheveling himself beyond what their previous action had managed.
Rather then complaining about being effectively pawed by DiNozzo Lex knew what he was thinking and instead quickly leaned in and planted a very large, and very obvious kiss in her shade of lipstick on Tony's neck.
The former NCIS special agent found his flush wasn't as faked as he thought it would have to be as he was commanded to stop and roll down his window, beginning his planned explanation even before the officer bent down to hear it. "I'm SO glad to see you guys. We were at a party and we were hoping you could direct us to the interstate."
His heart skipped a beat as one of the other officer said. "Yeah, we know all about the 'party' that got busted up."
As Tony was already recalling the number that they had all been told to memorize for if they needed the Lock to spring the from custody a familiar face leaned down to look into the car.
It was that young officer... the guy Eric, the one who Lex saved at the police station shoot out! He looked into the car, looking closely as the two faces he undoubtedly recognized, as well as their attempt to create a cover story.
Standing up Eric addressed the other officers. "Nah, this lucky guy has already got more then enough woman riding in the car with him." He then turned back to Tony, waving the car forward. "But you'd best get going sir. This area isn't terribly safe right now."
DiNozzo thought he might have never spoken with such sincerity as he said. "Thank you officer." and put the car into motion.
After they were a couple blocks away they both exhaled and Lex finally spoke. "We get by with a little help from our friends."
Tony laughed a relieved sound. "Damn right we do."
As they continued to get out of the area Lex gave Tony a grin. "You should be flattered Tony. You're the first boy I've kissed."
Tim was poking at the small screen of his smartphone where he and Gibbs were standing in a convenience store parking lot . While the Lock had issued the computer savvy agent a bleeding edge laptop the phone was of a similar level of tech and useful for the communications he was now engaged in.
"It's confirmed Boss, police and fire were just dispatched to Bluto and Black Magic Woman's target, without the thermite foam."
A minor detail, but one that said the whorehouse would be a total loss, but that wasn't what had Gibbs grinning at the news.
"Bluto" Tony had finally gotten his handle from his partner for their current strike, his teams witch giving Tony the title of the ultimate Frat Boy from the classic movie Animal House. Combining two of Tony's greatest passions, his glory days in college and his love of movies.
The funniest part though had been just how delighted the man had been at Lex's choice, actually smiling and giving a few chants of "Toga, toga!" Until Gibbs had given him the requisite slap to the back of the head.
To Tony's credit however he had lowered his head. "I know Boss, super-secret probation."
Gibbs shook his head from his pleasant memories of his people and walked over to a payphone. Dropping in the change he dialed the number from memory, and as it was picked up he didn't bother to give the person a chance to speak.
"I speak English, and I know your boss does to. Give me to him."
Instead there was the expected response of "Who is this?"
Gibbs reply was instant. "The man who torched your cyber-shack. Now either the next person I talk to is your boss or I'm going to hang up and find something else to burn down before I call back."
As the phone changed hands Gibbs didn't bother to give them any time to speak. "Yeah, yeah, you're going to find me, and kill me, and you'll make it slow. The question becomes how much of your empire I could put to the torch before that happens. Now do you want to see? Or do you want to know another way to make me go away?"
Gibbs smiled to himself, but it was obvious in his voice. "The shoot out at the flop house, and the one at the police station are related by more then the fact that over 100 near new automatic weapons hit the streets of LA. They are both connected to the Witches Powder. Now I don't expect you to be able to tell me where to find the Witches Powder because you would have went after it yourself, but that much steel isn't hitting these streets without you or someone you know finding out about it. Now. I can keep coming after you, or you can point me at them."
At the continued silence Gibbs' smile grew. "Good, now here's a voice mail drop box you can leave the information at."
Ziva's "crazy ninja skills" were well known amongst her teammates, but the term was overused to describe any of the specialized skills the Mossad had taught her to perform the tasks her people needed done.
That thought got a sigh from the Israeli. "Her people" sometimes that was singular person, her father, and those were the times her conscience had the most trouble with. Actions she carried out for the safety of the people of Israel, or the safety of their American allies, or simply civilian strangers were easily processed by the woman.
It was incidents like the HRT officer killed during Ari's infiltration of NCIS that caused Ziva to loose sleep on occasion.
One of her less physical "crazy ninja skills" however was the ability to put aside distractions.
Old regrets certainly applied as she was being called upon to put those physical talents to use backing up Mack Bolan's play in the underground casino.
All those thoughts came and went in the time it took Ziva to rise from her seat in front of a slot machine and stalk towards a gang member in a white wife-beater t shirt and overly baggy khakis worn far too low.
Ziva was dressed almost similarly, but her top and the pretense of sleeves covering her shoulders, and her khaki cargo pants were well fitted, primarily to help her move as she brought her combat booted foot up, and down hard on the back of the gang bangers' right knee.
She chose the right because it was also the side where he had a pistol tucked into his pants, and the kick left his whole right side crumpling to the floor to be followed by his left. Ziva was on top of him as he landed, with one hand at the back of his head, and the other on his chin, making a rapid twist to snap his neck before he could make a single sound of distress.
His Glock pistol was appropriated by Ziva and she was up and tracking. While it had been entirely possible for something of her action to have caught someone's attention distractions worked because unless the person has had experience teach them otherwise people tended to focus on what was right before them.
This was no exception as Ziva brought up the weapon and lined up it's sights on the head of one of the youths Bolan had just shoved back after the guy had tried to grab him, undoubtedly to throw the gringo out.
The anger on the young man's face was wiped away along with a large portion of the face by a pair of 9mm rounds from Ziva.
Again people focused on what was right before them, but before they could even fully process someone was shooting another pair of parabellums had cored another skull, wasting another already wasted youth.
By the time the screams started breaking out, and the gang members realized they should probably draw their guns a double tap had been sent to another bangers' heart.
Ziva knew that these initial moments of shock were crucial in a firefight, having been on the other end far too man times in her service with the IDF. Of course soldiers of the Israeli Defense Force were drilled extensively for just these sorts of situations and would be grabbing cover and readying weapons before their conscious minds would be thinking about it.
The Latin Kings street gang, if they had any training drills, didn't train for ambushes, at least not for being the victims of one and were standing almost like cut outs in a shooting range as a fourth was felled by Ziva putting a three tap this time into the young man's lungs.
The pistol she appropriated was down to maybe a third of a clip, as Ziva dropped to a knee. She would have hesitated as she was in a crowd of relatively innocent people, but the crowd had reached the point of being able to react and had fallen prone to the floor in what was the seemingly instinctive shoot out survival tactic.
Some return fire had started to manifest as some rounds went sailing over her now much lower head, but before she had to return fire she saw the shooter fall from shots from the Executioner who had taken pistols of the two men she dropped near him, and grabbed cover behind the blackjack table he had been at when this all started.
He however had the presence of mind to tip the heavy wooden table on it's side.
As Ziva grabbed cover behind the slot machine she had been playing she saw a Latin King who hadn't thought things through as fully and was just down behind the Roulette table, leaving his legs totally exposed to Ziva.
She put the rest of her remaining clip into the man's lower extremities, and while it wasn't fatal it left him open and unable to respond as Bolan fired the rounds to finish him off.
A seventh shooter was trying to tag the crazy gringo, but a greedy gambler had thought to use the distraction to clear a table of chips and took the rounds that probably wouldn't have hit Bolan anyway, but still dropped the short sighted soul.
The would be executioner of the Executioner never got a second chance as Bolan exposed enough of his head and right arm to zero in on the shooter and make his own rounds count.
Ziva felt bad, but not terrible as the person had stood up with all the gunfire going on around them. Instead she focused her attention on finding more targets.
She found a pair that showed the street gang's lack of training even more as they seemed to find strength in numbers without realizing the dangers of grouping up.
While having someone to watch your back was undoubtedly useful she and Bolan were doing just that without allowing an enemy to take them out like Ziva was preparing to do.
First a round through the light fixture above them, counting on their lack of real battle experience to make the gawk upward, and keep their eyes upward as Ziva put them in her sights. As they had more bullet wounds appear then she fired she realized Bolan had sought to seize upon their distraction as well.
Four more had a similar theory as they hid behind the long, heavy bar and banged out rounds at the two. Unlike Bolan and Ziva however they hadn't quite come to terms with the notion that to win at a firefight you had to poke out enough to actually aim your weapon.
Their basically blind fire however was still dangerous, a danger the Executioner dealt with as he took out one of their incendiary sticks and tossed it. Ziva realized what he was doing, and was actually impressed that he even had the savvy to toss it above their heads to the bottles hanging behind them so the alcohol would be ignited and add to the effect.
As the stick ignited the liquor did as well and it fell on the cowering forms behind the bar, filling the air with an unholy chorus of wailing pain.
That seemed to get to the crowd more then the gunfire and people started to rise and run.
One gang member tried to use them as cover, tucking his pistol back in his belt and filling his hands with a fire extinguisher as he ran for the bar.
Ziva rewarded him for his heroism with two rounds to the chest that sent him sprawling.
Another tried to use the crowd as cover in another way as he grabbed a human shield. Shields however only protected you from one direction, and while he was fairly well protected from Ziva's fire it didn't do anything to keep Mack Bolan from coring the man's skull with a lead slug.
The two veteran shooters hadn't picked their positions by accident.
Then there was silence. Sure there was crackling of ire, but the men who had been burning had succumbed to it, and were now simply cremating remains.
There was no sounds of movement, not even labored breathing beyond the two of them.
Either the enemy had a rather pronounced upswing in their level of skill, or a fatal depletion of their guards on site.
Whatever it was there was only one route open to the two, and while Bolan was the first to rise Ziva wasn't far behind him as the two stood, with weapons scanning the room.
Only to silence. Now content that they had cleared the area the two got to work. Bolan's first stop was the cashiers cage, and Ziva felt a moment's hesitation. She had been an investigator for several years now, and while she had occasionally appropriated resources from the enemy in her time in the Mossad her people had always made sure they were well supplied.
That was exactly why Bolan had to do what he had to do. In freeing himself from official oversight he had to free himself from official support. Or more simply had had to cut the purse strings. It was how he had financed his war against the Mafia back when he first started it, and it was how he financed his battles now that he had severed most all of his official ties.
While the Lock would certainly make sure Mack had whatever resources he might need to tackle the suppliers of Witches Powder Ziva knew this might go to finance further strikes against the Latin Kings, violent White Supremacists, terrorist groups (foreign or domestic), or any one of a million other savages the Executioner was at perpetual war with.
Yes, Ziva might have had a moment of hesitation, but she damn sure wasn't going to begrudge the guy as she moved to start scattering her incendiary sticks.
Though Jimmy was startled when he saw Faith's eyes open he wasn't surprised.
His blood tests had been run, and came back clean, the autopsies had been finished, and while they were still going over things with Abby that was mostly Doctors Finn and Mallard going over things with Abby and Riley.
Nurse Baum and himself had taken it upon themselves to be the primary care givers of their leaders Faith and Tara.
While after surgery of the level the two women had been through would mandate a close eye the two knew it was more then that. Though Cameron had been there longer both Tara and Faith had made a strong impression on the young man.
Leaving Jimmy often stunned such extraordinary individuals seemed to believe in him as much as they did, and leaving him worried about them like the members of their extended family they had become.
But no, he was not surprised Faith's eyes were opening. During their rare moments of downtime Abby had convinced some of the slayers to let her experiment on them, and despite Lex constantly making dirty jokes a good deal had already been uncovered.
There were measurable, distinct power levels between slayers.
The first was the "Baby Slayers". Freshly chosen they were new to the Lock, and while they were extraordinary physical specimens they were demonstrably less then an average slayer. While they were all stronger, faster, and tougher then humans could manage they were all relatively equal.
It wasn't until they were trained, and graduated to full "Slayer" that they really became fearsome, and became unique. Some would become preternaturally fast, while others who were still fast became more focused on strength or endurance. Similarly others might become better at with weapons while still others were best with their hands.
Some of the newly trained were even developing a similar ability with firearms.
They had recognized another level because they had the worlds oldest vampire slayer Buffy Summers on staff, though they made sure to try to not refer to her as such when she was around. If a slayer survives long enough they have another power spike and become what they titled "Senior Slayers". Though while they had a title, they still only had the one.
Much like their pinnacle of slayer development the "Founder". While it was conceivable others would survive to reach "Senior Slayer" there has been only one "Founder", and Faith's claiming of the title required her to kill the previous holder.
Admittedly it was in a dream, but no one disputed that there was only one Founder, and would only be one Founder, and that was Faith.
What had worried Jimmy, and worried him even more after he asked and no one answered, was that if the original Founder Slayer had been active as a wandering spirit since prehistoric times then what would that mean for Faith when she eventually passed?
That fact that no one answered said that everyone had a clue, but didn't mention it out of respect for the woman it related to.
A woman who was on her own power scale that they didn't compare too closely to other slayers, and the fact that she was already conscious and now looking at Jimmy just seemed another entry into just what a "Founder Slayer" was capable of.
It was obvious she was trying to speak and Jimmy quickly poured her some water and put a straw in the glass. As she saw what he was doing Faith stopped trying to speak, but as Jimmy followed her eyes she realized she was looking for Tara.
"She's in the bed right next to you. She's still unconscious, but her signs are steady."
Faith's eyes closed in obvious gratitude for the news, and Jimmy too pondered what would have happened if only one of the women had survived.
She laid quietly as Jimmy finished checking her vitals. As he did so he nodded more to himself. "It is amazing. I know Doctor Finn didn't have you sedated at this point because you would have been fighting it off like you did in surgery, but it is still incredible that you are already awake and aware."
Faith was awake, and aware, and her eyes were alert as they focused on Jimmy. "So Sam and Cameron operated on me?" While it was possible Sam and Ducky would have switched assistants it was more likely they would work with the one the had the most personal experience with.
Jimmy nodded as he entered the information into Faith's chart. "Yep."
"And you and Ducky worked on Tara?" Jimmy nodded quietly, his eyes not meeting Faith's. She however kept her eyes on him until he pulled his gaze to hers. "Thank you."
He blushed and looked a the floor. "It's you I should be thanking. While I started out just wanting to be a medical examiner I still wanted to do good, put bad guys away, stuff like that, but here at the Lock we are literally saving lives every single day. I was just glad I was here to save hers."
He met Faith's eyes again, and seeing the gratitude still shining there he saw her make a conscious effort to banish it for his sake. "Nah, all we did was just put talent where it would do the most good."
That got the young man grinning, though he still had a touch of a blush. "Okay, but right now you need to get some rest. Probably not much rest with you being you, but still."
Her response was arched brows and a stare.
Since she didn't bother speaking Jimmy went ahead and spoke for her. "But still, you being you, you will ignore that and have me grab Riley so he can bring you up to date."
Though noticeably pale Faith smiled her large dimpled smile. "Thank you."
Jimmy left, and soon Faith's second in command Riley Finn was walking into the recovery room in the typical fatigues worn at the lock. With several who "happened" seeming to try to get a peak inside.
Their eyes met and Faith shook her head with a rueful grin. "I'd suggest posting a guard."
Riley finished the thought with a similar expression. "But then they would just be poking their heads in."
She exhaled and hit the switch to bring her hospital bed up to a sitting position. Sparing one brief look to Tara, Faith then looked back at Riley.
He had been looking the same spot and took an extra moment to start speaking. "Scooby Squad has recovered the pot of gold, but is now trying to recover all the gold the terrorists spent, because while the IRA might not have been able to tap into the luck inherent to the gold..."
Faith finished. "Some magickally aware bad guy might."
Finn nodded. "Exactly."
She didn't disagree. She had seen the gold coins at the head of each of their beds, and from the fact they smelled to her slayer senses like their magic had been all but expended getting them through surgery she figured it would be for the best if some magically capable foe didn't wind up with the Luck of the Irish on their side.
Riley again showed himself following a similar train of thought as his eyes briefly flashed to the gold coins by each woman's bed. His eyes met Faith's again. "The Executioner met up with Gibbs people just in time to help break the siege on the police station where the Witches Powder evidence was being held."
She tried to sit up. "WHAT?!"
He moved forward, his hand up to direct her to lay back. "Faith! I respect the hell out of you, and you know that, but you gotta keep calm or I won't give you a report until Ducky clears it."
That got a frown from the woman, but it also got a nod at the same time and she laid back. "Yeah, okay, keep going."
"They've got a blitz going against any and all bodies of the LA underworld, figuring that even if the Powder itself is hidden no one can move the amount of weapons used against Witch Woman and yourself AND the police station without leaving some traces."
Slayer nodded. "A good call. What have they hit so far?"
"Boss Man and Elf Lord took out a software piracy operation. Bluto and Black Magick Woman took a brothel."
Faith interrupted with a smirk. "You mean raided and destroyed right? Not 'took' as in wore all the girls out?"
Riley was smirking, but also rolled his eyes. "No, they torched the place. Spy Queen and the Executioner did the same to a back alley casino."
"How the hell do you fit a casino in a back alley?"
Finn shrugged. "Bribes to the right officials, a depressed economy that leaves plenty of good sized buildings vacant, and plenty of liquid cash that can't get past the Patriot Act's international banking restrictions."
"They made their calls to the owners and started a second round of strikes. Boss Man took Bluto to be his spotter for some sniper work on a ranking lieutenant, and the Executioner took Elf Lord for the same reason. Black Magic Woman and Spy Queen went after a porn shop that had a back room where they kept the under-aged stuff."
"You mean kiddy porn?" Riley nodded once, their faces with similar looks of distaste. Faith scowl then changed. "You also mean those bitches went toy shopping without me."
Finn's face was a schooled look of indifference. "Probably."
He took a deep breath. "We finally shook a lead loose, finding out that the Russian mob brought the guns in on a freighter that is still in port. They've formed up and are preparing to take it."
Faith exhaled. "Okay, we REALLY need to find a name for Gibbs team. Right now however I want you to get me wired in to watch the op go down." Seeing the protest form Faith cut him off. "I give you my word I will take it easy, but I am conscious and I have people in the field, and I'm going to be ready to do anything I can to help."
Riley knew that was enough. It was the attitude that had earned her his loyalty, and the loyalty of the rest of the men and women here at the Lock. Faith was the kind of commander that led from the trenches, and her continued survival spoke of personal ability rather then using her rank to keep herself out of harms way.
After all this time her people were literally ready to follow her into Hell knowing full well it wasn't the typical military metaphor. It was something brewed by mutual loyalty, and hospitalization wasn't enough to keep Slayer from at least being with her people in the digital spirit if not in the flesh.
"We've got six transponder signals long and strong. On your mark Boss Man."
Gibbs reply was instant, and his voice held an obvious smile. "Good to hear your voice Slayer."
Faith's smile was just as evident in her reply. "Good to be heard. Witch Woman would be here, but isn't quite up to talking just yet."
Gibbs nodded to himself, even up to his neck in the oily waters at the docks, "Understood Slayer." and it was, while one could read the medical reports there was nothing quite like a friendly voice telling you a loved one was doing okay. Maybe not as well as wished, but alive, well, and recovering.
Looking to Ziva who was treading water with him the two brought the masks of their dive gear to their faces.
Gibbs then said, "Boss Man mark." and put his mask on and sunk beneath the diesel laden water.
Ziva repeated the words, "Spy Queen mark." and then repeated the actions.
Mack Bolan's voice was professional, but Faith could hear the relief in the cool solder's voice. "Roger Striker, glad you could make it."
There was a little bit more emotion as Mack replied. "You couldn't have kept me away."
Faith actually cleared her throat of the responding emotion his tone brought up. "Black Magick Woman?"
Alexandra Detton's voice was next. "Black Magick Woman stand by roger."
Tony was next. "Bluto and Elf Lord mark."
He replied for the pair because they took the first visible actions. The two men were in the pea coats and denims one would expect from sailors, and they had soaked those clothes in rot gut vodka. Their approach would be via the dock where they would try to convince the Russian mobsters that they were just two sailors who had made their way back to the wrong ship.
While it would be better if either of the two men spoke Russian Gibbs, Ziva and Bolan all did, so they taught the men enough phrases to pass themselves off as Russians drunken to the point of insensibility.
Faith was obviously the mission controller for this event and she was the one to speak next. "Bluto and Elf Lord are about to be received."
The response was a double click on the radio. The two soldiers may have trained on different sides of the world, but they were both familiar with aquatic insertion, and with the re-breather masks that still allowed them to breathe without any tell tale bubbles to alert sentries, and they would be in position.
Over the large screen that had been set up in her hospital room Faith saw Gibbs and Ziva surface, barely, such that if the pair hadn't been wearing transponders to keep their position on the Lock's read outs even her keen eyes would have missed them.
While the magnification wasn't amped up enough to see it happening Faith knew the two were assembling a collapsible ladder. With the polymers available to the Lock they made the super light yet super sturdy ladder possible to be assembled by a pair of swimmers. With one end hooked like a shepherds crook the ladder could be silently raised and secured up top by the hook, and then down bottom by a super strong electromagnet.
With handles all along it's length it allowed Gibbs and Ziva to quickly and quietly get on the freighter with certainty, rather then hoping you didn't tag something loud with the old fashioned padded grappling hook.
Faith spoke again. "Boss Man and Spy Queen are ready. Ready Striker, Ready Black Magic Woman?"
"Ready" from Bolan.
"Ready" from Lex.
Willow was patched into Faith's head set, but didn't need to be told to focus in on Tim and Tony as it started with them. The pair was up, and had been greeted by a pair of real Russians. Tony had gotten closer by putting a companionable hand on one of the real Russian's shoulders.
His left, and Faith knew Tony shot with his right. Which he proceeded to do, drawing the silenced .45, but not bothering to get it clear of his jacket, actually firing through the pea coat, muffling the shots further.
So much that the second sailor didn't realize what was happening even as McGee drew his silenced pistol fully and pumped two rounds through the man's face.
Slayer had only two words to say to that. "Take em!"
While it was a sort of brutal poetry to watch the grace as Ziva and Gibbs started taking down targets with silenced SMGs working on the far side of the ship while Tim and Tony took similar actions from the dock side.
It still sucked being able to do nothing but watch. Yes they did all they could to get them into position, and they would be just as determined to do all they can in the aftermath, but now all she could do was sit on the sidelines as her people put their lives on the line.
Faith found herself swearing to buy Tara the biggest bunch of flowers, probably after every mission Slayer went on, because Faith knew it would have to be doubly worse when you love the one in the line of fire like the two women loved each other.
The mission was going smoothly so far however as Striker's sniper fire took out any who got too close to their shooters on the deck, or that their shooters couldn't get close to, while Black Magic Woman teleported to the control room and dispatched the crew there.
Her's was more butcher work, but the ship AND it's crew were all owned by a Russian crime family. The same that had provided the guns that had her and Tara in the state they were in now, and that had provided the network that had allowed Witches Powder to spread as far, and as fast as it did.
So they picked their side, and Faith wasn't going to cry as her people made it the loosing one.
When she saw Black Magic Woman appear from the control room she knew that she didn't have to worry about harbor cops or other mobsters being called, but the witch didn't even slow as she joined her teammates in clearing the deck.
They read no more targets up top and Faith watched as the marker representing the Executioner moved quickly from it's sniper spot to the freighter's deck.
That gave her a smile smile as she knew Bolan had used a zip-line to make the trip almost instantly. While with the proper aids to his weakened vision Gibbs would have been able to do the sniper work the idea of using the zip-line made him more comfortable fighting from the deck.
She watched as bodies were checked, and weapons were kicked away from hands, and then she frowned.
In many ways that was the easy part. Close quarters combat sucked with walls made of stone and wood, with the ship almost entirely metal and networked with hidey holes her people were in for trouble.
It wasn't that she didn't trust their abilities, but the fact that she was where she was showed well enough that talent only took you so far.
Watching silently she saw Gibbs partner up with Tim and Tony while Bolan took Lex and Ziva as they moved to separate hatches and entered the belly of the Russian beast.
The boys were relying on their disguises again, and while Gibbs didn't like it the strategy would allow the two to get right up next to their targets.
If it worked.
The big problem was that DiNozzo and McGee didn't really look all that Russian. The counter being that they still looked like sailors, and smelled like sailors back from shore leave.
Of course DiNozzo had a couple of bullet holes in his pea coat, but to his credit he even thought of that and had Gibbs tell him how to say "Shooting! Up on deck!" in Russian.
It had been the primary reason that they took the crew section of the ship while Bolan took the girls into the cargo hold.
Because while their appearance wouldn't stand up to scrutiny the pair wasn't looking to ship out, only delay their enemies response long enough to draw their weapons and start shooting.
Gibbs would also be half a step behind in concealment, but all three knew that could still prove not close enough.
Either way it wouldn't be any safer then the shootouts Striker, Spy Queen, and Black Magick Woman would be finding themselves in. So after they quickly formed the strategy they settled on it, and started out.
Their first encounter came in what looked like a mess hall/social area, and to Gibbs relief the costumes seemed to be passing as the first words heard were in Russian. "What are you two doing down here?"
The elder Marine made sure to contain the sigh of relief that wanted to come forth as he realized the sailor had just assumed they were members of the freighter crew.
His two men were still in shadow, and couldn't be seen clearly. DiNozzo added to the confusion as he waved his hand between McGee and himself as if to say. "Him or me?"
"Both of you!"
DiNozzo answered by stepping to one side of the door and dropping to one knee, slinging the silenced H&K from where it hung under his right armpit.
McGee did the same from the other side and Gibbs started moving even faster then the stealthy approach had him going to fill the position they were leaving open for him.
As he got their his men's weapons were already speaking hushed whispers that answered all the questions the Russian mobsters would ever have.
Now able to fully see the room Gibbs saw it had a half dozen people, with four already dead or dying from the opening rounds. Men that not only were the easier shots as they were in the open social area, but the more obvious danger as they had weapons close at hand.
Another pair were by stoves fixing some meal or another, but clawing at weapons holstered on their hips as Gibbs readied H&K spoke it's own silent answer to the two cooks.
Mack Bolan hadn't had a chance to work with Alexandra Detton or Ziva David, the current operation non-withstanding, but it was obvious the women had worked and trained together.
It was also obvious that the pair had trained with Faith, and as the one who had been Faith's primary trainer he knew how she moved, because beyond what the Watcher's Council had instilled in her with their slap-shod methods had been taught by him.
Of course Ziva also had her Mossad training, but he had worked with the Israelis countless times in his War Everlasting. Detton had only been trained by the Lock, but the fact that he had trained Faith meant that he had trained the trainers, or at least trained with them somewhere along the line.
So even as new as he was to the two women he felt confident in his first foray with Team Wet Dream. The Executioner even allowed himself a smile as he remembered the arrogant smirk Faith had on her face when she related the nick name the rest of the Lock had given the trio.
It was a fond memory, but one that quickly put away as he used hand signals to put the veteran Ziva at their backs while he took point, leaving the eager, but least experienced Lex between them as they entered the ship's hold.
Walking silently on metal was virtually impossible, and the situation was made all the more difficult by the fact that many of the ships sounds were stilled while it was in port.
The one constant however was it's crew, and the same people they feared hearing them provided cover for the three person team with the conversation the four sailors were having.
Initially the three commandos were inclined to simply raise their weapons, but gunfire, even silenced is still audible.
The Executioner quickly gestured for the two women to keep their weapons up, but to move to opposite sides of the passage to cover him.
He then slung the assault piece and drew his combat knife, holding it point down in his fist, he then brought it to the metal wall and gave three sharp raps.
Then the three listened, and while Lex didn't speak Russian she could understand tones of voice, and more then that she could see the expressions on her companions faces. The sailors weren't thinking they were under attack, and as she heard one break off from the group and approach she knew that person had been elected to discover what was causing the rhythmic sound.
The man never truly discovered the cause as his first indication of the Executioner's presence was when the big soldier wrapped a muscular arm around the man's chin as the right hand holding the blackened blade drove into the back of the man's skull and killed him instantly.
The now lifeless shell was dragged back and concealed amongst machinery, and Lex realized that whatever hurried communications he and Ziva must have deciphered left the sailors thinking it was nothing out of the ordinary.
She knew because Bolan repeated the three raps, and when someone shouted back he shouted "Da!" Which Lex figured everyone knew was Russian for yes.
Another set of foot steps approached and while Bolan rammed the knife in the front of the man's neck this time the result was close enough as he left another body piled on top of it's former comrade.
That left two, but this time when they shouted a question their tone wasn't as dismissive, and Bolan remained silent, only tapping his three raps.
This time two sets of footfalls approached, to find themselves staring down the sound suppressors of the big warriors companions.
As Bolan, Ziva and Lex emerged on deck they found Gibbs, DiNozzo and McGee had beaten them there. The two younger men seemed to be on a covert ops version of body detail as they slid the shells of the men they had slain on the way in to some form of concealment.
While everyone knew Gibbs wasn't afraid of getting his hands dirty the two men still looked like they belonged on the vessel while the silver haired soldier was in a combat wet suit that was obviously out of place.
Which left Gibbs in the control room guarding a sullen prisoner who was left hand cuffed to a chair, trying not to look at his captors, or the bodies of his crew.
Yes, the three men could have tied the prisoner up and proceeded to help their three teammates, but with the labyrinthine conditions in the ships hold having a distinct possibility of a friendly fire incident as well as the fact the three hadn't asked for help left Gibbs to guard the prisoner while the other two tidied up to make sure they weren't disturbed until they were ready to quit the scene.
The reappearance of the rest of the team however made that imminent so the two men fell in behind the rest as they made their way to Gibbs.
With the entire group surrounding him the man had no choice but to look at his captors.
To their surprise he started speaking on his own, in a thick Russian accent, and it was something other then a denial.
"This is about the Witches Powder isn't it?"
As their faces hardened he looked down at his feet. Making a disgusted sound he shook his head and looked up. "You don't need to break out any electrodes or anything you brought. I'll talk."
Gibbs eyeballed the man until he looked up and met the blue-eyed gaze. "You didn't give us any trouble when we nabbed you."
He shook his head. "I've been expecting you. Not you maybe, I was expecting more helicopters, sirens, and flashing lights, but I knew this was coming."
"I knew this would happen ever since we started dealing with the..." The Russian seemed to struggle with the word, saying something in Russian.
"Pretender." Was the word Bolan supplied.
Gibbs added his own translation. "Wannabe."
The Russian mobster nodded at both the men enthusiastically. "Yes, the pretender, the wannbe."
Gibbs continued. "Wannabe criminal?"
The actual criminal scoffed. "Wannabe man, but that too. He was soft, soft skin, soft hands, no scars inside or out. Just shiny suits and attitude, no brains. The kind we would have put a knife in his chest and dumped his body in the harbor if it weren't for one thing."
Bolan and Gibbs were tag teaming the interrogation. The two veteran solders naturally falling into the pattern, and it was the Executioner's turn. "Witches Powder." It wasn't a question.
The mobster still answered as his head bobbed the affirmative. "Da. Witches Powder. One of the guys took it and swore it was the finest he'd ever felt."
Gibbs interrupted. "You didn't?"
The man's head jerked up proudly at that. "Hell no! I may sell the shit, but I never use it. The normal stuff we move kills you fast enough, but that bastard didn't make it a month before he got shot trying to steal from our first big shipment. The Wannabe wanted the body, demanded it, we didn't want to know why, but still an exclusive is an exclusive, and the Wannabe gave us the exclusive."
He laughed once, a sort of bitter barking sound. "He was so new he didn't realize how much of a cut he deserved."
Gibbs spoke again. "You took most of the profits?"
That got a scowl. "We paid ALL of the costs! Yes the Wannabe might have cooked the stuff, but if it weren't for us it would still be sitting there in Germany. Might have sold well enough there, but the Wannabe wanted to take it to the States. Wanted to make it big here. Even quoted the movie. The one about the man, the man with the face, with the little friend."
Everyone looked to Tony. He quietly replied. "Scarface."
The Russian's head bobbed excited. "Yeah that one!" The man paused. "Good movie."
Tony nodded. "Classic of the mobster genre."
Their captive continued, warming to his story, seeming eager to tell them about this quarry. "The Wannabe seemed to think he WAS Tony Montana. Wanted the money, the women, the power. We gave him the cut we agreed on, let him hire our girls, and sold him the guns."
When the guns were mentioned the man shrunk back in his seat. "I tired to tell them this idiot shouldn't have anything bigger then a pistol, but if he wanted to give us back the money we have given him then I was told I should just do it, but the number of weapons, full automatic stuff... I didn't know he was this stupid, but I begged my bosses to let me get the hell out of LA before he did something really dumb."
Bolan cut in. "You said Germany. Is the Wannabe German?"
"Da. At least his accent was, I didn't see his pass port, but he looked and sounded German." He then continued all on his own. "But I'll tell you this. Even loosing the ship, the crew, and me, they made it back ten fold with our cut of this stuff. They could loose everything in LA and still end up with a profit."
Gibbs was the next to speak. "Can you give us an address?"
"His name is Dieter, and I can tell you what he looks like, and give you his plant here in the States. We made him move it here so we could keep a better eye, to make sure we had our exclusive, but really because we expected a lesser amount of stupid and we would use it as an excuse to take over. He never let us in, but I can tell you where it is."
Gibbs arched a brow at their prisoner. "No home address?"
That got a head shake in the negative. "No, even an idiot gets things right on occasion. Still, find the tackiest house in LA and blow it up, you should get him."
Tony remembered Abby's report calling the guy a douche bag. ""No taste? Probably got a neon 'The World is Yours' above his hot tub?"
That got a laugh from their hostage. "Probably, I could see him doing just that. Just make sure he ends up like that Montana."
Tony then continued. "You really don't like him do you?"
The Russian spit. "I've had to deal with that BOY for over a year! I had to let that soft little child think he was my equal, my partner for too damn long! Yes the money has been good, but if I'm going to die I want to know he's not going to outlive me by too much."
Bolan had another question. "Think that your bosses will care you handed him over to us?"
A shrug was the first reply. "Maybe in theory. I'm sure they would have preferred to take over the Witches Powder, but attacking a police station? If you had gotten here tomorrow you would have found a vacant slot. We were just being told things had gotten too hot."
The mobster then looked closely at the six people surrounding him. "And not just the official heat. We received word that the rest of the underworld was looking at us because some pack of lunatics was running around burning all their stuff and asking about the Powder, and their source of guns."
The noticeable silence seemed to answer his question. "Well when both sides of the street are out for your ass we decided to get back to more familiar streets. Just too late da?"
Again a noticeable silence. "I didn't know your Americans did this sort of stuff, but can't say I blame you. Just make it quick."
With that he closed his eyes, obviously ready to be executed.
The Executioner stepped near, and unlocked his cuffs.
The Russian's eyes shot open, looking confusedly at the people surrounding him.
Bolan was the first to answer the unasked question. "You told us what we want to know. You earned a walk."
The mobster didn't seem to believe his luck, and sat their without moving. Which gave Gibbs time to say something else. "But between the attack on the police station, and the attacks on the rest of the underworld you'll want to let your bosses and everyone in town now those more familiar streets might be a good idea for awhile."
Frantic nodding was his response. Then he looked anxiously to each person, when he realized no one was moving to stop his he got up and ran out the control room doors.
Before he vanished though they head three last words. "Good Luck Americans."
Ziva had a small scowl, but the rest just smiled at her expression.
Tony looked over at Gibbs. "Think they'll actually close up shop here in LA?"
Gibbs shrugged. "At the very least they'll go VERY low key. Maybe buy Drevin and the LAPD some breathing room."
Tim then spoke. "But for how long?"
Ziva was then finding her voice. "Three months, maybe four."
As they started towards the control room doors themselves Bolan spoke. "But that's three to four months without LA being actively savaged by them."
That got nods, and the team of commandos realized that while there was still the rest of the underworld, and even if they turned their attentions to making the Russian's suffer for the misfortunes that the Lock had brought to them they would still be selling drugs, turning out whores, and engaging in the countless other money making enterprises that made LA famous for it's criminal enterprises.
For those three to four months though stolen goods might get stolen less, or even recovered as people didn't have Russian freighters like the one they were disembarking to smuggle them out to other ports.
Eastern European women might have to learn to make due with what they had with in Eastern Europe rather then chase their dreams being smuggled here to the States where they would only find nightmares of sexual servitude.
Not to mention that a few months without holds full of narcotics could do to the same local underworld. Not just in the shortage of product, but in the shortage of revenues, because while prices would go up, and some junkies would go without, having less product to sell meant having less money coming in.
What each of them was swearing to themselves however was that whatever other effect they may have on the LA underworld Witches Powder was going off the market.
"All right Tim, tell me what you see."
McGee looked at Gibbs nervously, in harsh comparison to the older man's quiet, calm tone. The two men were laid flat on the roof of a closed factory in one of LA's harder hit industrial sections looking at the one lit up building in the area through binoculars. Trusting the distance and the Lock issued black suits, and combat cosmetic to keep them concealed.
This was a step well beyond live fire training exercises as their opponents were real ones, and would really try to kill them if they were seen, but long before Tim had ever heard of the Lock he knew that training could only do so much.
The rest was a matter of earned experience, and Tim knew that the Boss picked him to help scout the processing plant to get "Elf Lord" that much needed experience.
He took a breath, and then another, mellowing his voice like Gibbs as he started to reply. "Well after Ducky and Abby's report on where Witches Powder comes from I would guess they picked a meat packing plant to cover the smell of blood. Though that also has me a little queasy about what we'll find when we'll enter."
Gibbs nodded. "And?"
"I count seven sentries. Three forward on foot patrol. Two look bored while the third has night blinded himself, and flagged his position by lighting a cigarette. Four stationary sentries posted at the four entry points from the blueprints Oracle got us. One at the loading bay doors, one on each of the doors to the main processing area, and one at the office entry."
"There's nine sentries Tim." Gibbs actually reached over to pull Tim's binoculars, and McGee saw two men huddled down past the loading dock passing a bottle-shaped paper bag between them.
"Sorry Boss. I missed them entirely"
Gibbs met the young man's eyes as the young man stopped mid-apology. "It's okay Tim. It's my job to teach you how to spot them all. When spotting sentries you need to remember they are still people and will not just do the professional thing to do. Those two might be blitzed, but if we left them at out backs they could catch one of us in the open. "
McGee frowned. "It's more amateurs Boss. Junkies."
"Yeah, but the guns in their hands are professional enough to kill us. So we treat them like we would any other gunner. How do we approach?"
Tim frowned, while he knew Gibbs would correct any holes in his strategy he had played enough tactical sims that he knew he could get this right. His friends couldn't re-spawn, but neither could he, but still, he could do this.
"Spy Queen, Striker and you will take out the three roaming sentries. Striker can take the smoker, you and Spy Queen will take the other two, which will leave you positioned to team up to take the two drinking. Striker will then move to take the one at the office door. While you guys are taking those three I'll move to take the front entry to the work floor, Bluto can take the back while Black Magick Woman takes the one on the loading bay doors."
Gibbs smiled. "You gave yourself one of the more difficult entry points on purpose didn't you?" While the combat cosmetic blackening Tim's face made it impossible to see the resulting blush Gibbs nodded his approval. "Good. I'll join you there, and once we take the work floor we will move to the office and you will take their computer system."
The information was quickly absorbed and McGee continued planning. "Spy Queen can then link up with Black Magick Woman. I was thinking they could blow the loading bay doors with timed charges to pull everyone's eyes that way, and when they are looking that way five seconds later additional charges could blow the trucks fuel tanks to keep their attention pulled that way while the ladies have already moved to take the back door to the work floor."
A nod from his superior. "Good, but the charges should be placed on the engine blocks. If those trucks have been loaded with Witches Powder burning them could expose us to that crap. The engine blocks still creates sound and fury, while making sure they can't get that stuff out of here."
Several nods from McGee. "Okay, Striker and Bluto come in through the offices. We neutralize any opposition, meet on the main floor. You and I will take the office and it's computer while the others rig the place to blow... will we want it to burn as well?"
Another single nod. "Yeah, I want this stuff gone, and fire's always best for that sort of thing. This place is isolated enough that any fumes from the Witches Powder should disperse enough that there won't be any problems." Their eyes met, and Gibbs got a wider smile. "Good job... Elf Lord. Let's tell the others your plan."
The others found no flaw, and moved quickly to carry out their individual parts. Gibbs, Bolan, and David went first, the roaming sentries being left the more experienced troops.
Striker actually had to be careful so that the same glowing ember that drew him to his target didn't wreck his night vision like it had for the nicotine deficient guard. It proved to be the least of the man's problems as a large hand was clamped over his mouth while a razor sharp blade drew across his throat, releasing that last smoke into the air through the clean line left in the steel's wake.
As confident as she was in her abilities Gibbs could often leave Ziva feeling like a rank private. It wasn't done intentionally on the man's part, but rather it was just a natural effect of Gibbs being as good as he was at what he did.
Putting literal legends like the Executioner in just made it worse, leaving Ziva still confident in her abilities, but in awe of the elder warriors. It didn't make her feel TRULY inadequate however, she felt honored.
Because while Gibbs might have never set out to make her feel inferior he had made it clear early on that Jenny's recommendation, her position in the Mossad, and everything else didn't mean a whole lot to the man.
It had been up to Ziva to earn her spurs as they say... or at least she thought that was how they said it, but earn her spurs she had, and the fact that both Gibbs, Bolan, as well as the rest of her team didn't blink when she was picked to be the third of their team to be tasked with taking out the advance guard left her with a deep pride in the abilities she had spent her whole adult life honing.
The fact that the skills were put to use slinking up behind a man and slapping his windpipe with the knife edge of her left hand so he couldn't make a sound as she drove a literal knife in her right into his heart seemed almost secondary in comparison.
She had a job to do, a vital one, and the young man who's lifeblood she was now wiping off her knife and onto his shirt had decided to be an obstacle to her doing it.
"Stay cool, stay alive." It was one of Gibbs earliest rules, but it was not one he always lived by. As a young boy in Stillwater Leroy Jethro Gibbs had quite the temper, and he might as well have packed it in his ruck sack when he shipped off to Paris Island.
He was not however the first angry young man to join the Corps by a long shot, and while he may have arrived with a temper he damn sure didn't leave with one.
That wasn't entirely true. It wasn't as if Gibbs had left his temper with the sweat, and more then one occasion blood he left behind him on those hallowed stones, but rather the discipline the Corps built up in him kept that temper on it's leash.
Those who knew him well enough learned to recognize the signs, but even when Gibbs got angry his temper NEVER ruled his actions.
"Stay cool, stay alive."
Those four words saved Gibbs life on countless occasions.
More times then the Marine would ever be willing to count other jar heads who didn't take that mantra to heart would get angry, or simply over eager and they would ride home in flag covered coffins.
Each time reinforcing the importance of those words to Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
Then and now the solider kept his focus. He didn't allow his anger of what this band had put Tara and Faith through, and he didn't allow pity for what was obviously another wretched soul enslaved by addiction.
His renown cool demeanor kept those emotions at bay, and while it didn't apply to him at this point he also knew how to fend off boredom.
It was one of the deadliest enemies a solider on guard duty faced, and it had already done a good part of Gibbs job as he cat foot his way up behind the young man cradling a old AK-47 in his arms.
Gibbs right arm slung around the butt of the rifle with the back of the pistol grip in his elbow. His left elbow took up a similar spot right in front of the assault rifle's magazine as both muscular arms snapped taut and brought the rifle up to the guard's windpipe with incredible force.
The young man was still kicking, and trying to draw a breath to call for help, but Gibbs tensed him arms tighter and the wet crushing sound of the windpipe giving way under the weapons metal frame reached his ears.
The kicks increased, but the gasping died to basically nothing, the young addict already as good as dead, but his brain not caught up at that point. Gibbs however was never one for needless suffering and with a deliberate tensing of his shoulders he torqued the rifle tighter and the kicking stopping as he broke the guy's neck.
He set the body down without worrying about concealing it. At this point by the time anyone could emerge to see the crumpled frame it would all be decided one way or another, and if the authorities became an issue they would either find the meat packing plant a smoldering ruin, or they would find the bodies of Gibbs and his team.
Ziva seemed to simply appear, but with the woman's ability to hide and sneak that was to be expected, but so was she so Gibbs didn't blink as the two fell in, side by side, but not TOO close together as the snuck up on the drunken pair of guards.
Of the sounds, the silenced rounds, one from Gibbs sound suppressed piece, and one from Ziva's were easily overlooked. As were the sounds of the two partially intoxicated but now entirely dead guards hitting the ground.
What had both warriors ducking down and ready to race for cover was the breaking of the glass as the men's beverage bottle cracked upon hitting the concrete.
However the pair had picked their position to not be overheard, and they had picked well.
Timothy McGee took a deep, steadying breath, and then another. The weight of the mostly polymer .45 Glock and the similarly constructed silencer screwed to the weapon's barrel feeling impossibly heavy in his hands.
It was murder, and even as Tim knew how much it had to be done he wasn't going to allow himself any comfortable illusions about it. Still it had to be done, and Tim put hesitation aside as he lifted the weapon up and lined up the sites on the guards head.
A pair of whispers and the guy dropped, the life that didn't splatter on the door he was guarding now pooling underneath him. While McGee could probably say he shot the guy when he was to the side of the door so they wouldn't have to worry about slipping on pooled blood the greater truth was that he didn't want to have to reach down and pull the corpse out the way to make their entry.
If anyone else was around Tony knew he would feel obligated to have some movie spy/commando quotes at the ready. Even if they couldn't speak the ugly nature of what they had to do made Tony want to find a way to cut the tension.
He was alone though, and concentrated on the garrote wrapped between his hands. His face was already scrunched in distaste at what he was going to have to do, but too many silenced gunshots and even in the plant someone might notice something, let alone the guards the rest of his friends were taking out.
So Tony did his job, wrapping the wire around the junkies neck and then twisting, putting his back to the man and bending at the waist like Gibbs had taught him. It took his feet off the ground so he couldn't find the leverage to struggle, and since Tony had picked his moment to be when the guy had the weapon slung at his shoulder the AK was pinned between Tony's back and the guards'.
The Witches Powder user seemed a little more resourceful then Tony had counted for however and was keeping his head enough to reach for a pistol holstered on his hip.
Before Tony was able to drop him and take action to deal with it, the second member of his entry team appeared and Mack Bolan quickly grabbed the man's hands and held them to the side as Tony finished strangling the life out of him.
Deep down Tony was thankful for that, because he wouldn't have wanted to have to look into the man's face as the life was choked out.
Lex had an advantage in this kind of situation, it was the same advantage she had is most situations, magick, but in this case a spell that could kill a human quickly and quietly was more a matter of which spell rather then whether or not she knew one.
The guard on the loading docks was the only woman guarding the place, at least on the outside, and Lex knew she had been assigned her on purpose. While she knew that any of the guys on the team would have been able to the the job if needed she knew they were all gentleman, and her and Ziva had shared more then one knowing look that said if a woman needed to be killed, or even struck they should probably be ready to take care of it for the guys.
Much like the pasty, obviously strung out young woman barring Lex from the loading doors.
It was a fairly old curse their family had come up with when they wanted the cause of death to look natural, or at least expected. The consumption curse was for those who didn't know moderation. It took their normal bad habits and used them to kill them off.
Or in other words the junkie girl had an OD right then and there.
Lex quickly dragged her to the side of the doorway and waited for Ziva to arrive.
Ziva had already peeled off to link up with Lex when Gibbs found McGee. The young man was hunkered down behind a pickup truck, and Gibbs was happy to see Tim had hidden up by the front where the heavy engine could absorb extra incoming rounds rather then near the highly combustible gas tank.
Of course if Gibbs did his job properly Tim did that without any conscious thought.
He caught Tim's eye and the pair moved to the front entry. Things were getting close now. They had chosen to make their attack at dawn, both because that was about all they had left of their already eventful night, but also because it was often an excellent time for attacks as the sun started to rise.
People were tired from a long night's work, and instinctively they seemed to harken back to the memories of their ancient ancestors who saw the rise of the sun as a sign they had survived another night.
Back when Gibbs had first learned that rule it was said they just knew they had survived the predators like saber tooth tigers and such, but now Gibbs knew there was other things primitive man knew to fear in the dark.
Either way scientific research as well as time tested soldier's wisdom knew dawn was a good time to attack, and they hoped it would help the Lock's assorted aces come through yet another battle.
Half way around the building Anthony DiNozzo was contemplating the fact he was standing right next to Mack Bolan. Putting aside the guy was basically the closest thing Faith had to a father, and that he might be the only person in existence that could out Gibbs Gibbs he was literally perhaps the worlds most prolific murder.
When they had gotten in position after Bolan had helped Tony kill a man there was yet another body. This one taken out with a knife thrust to the kidney, something the Boss had taught Tony was both instantly fatal, as well as painful enough to paralyze a sentry with that pain so they couldn't use their last moments to sound an alarm.
Yes, the people he killed deserved it, but still Tony had started his professional life as a cop. Even when he was a "Special Agent" he was essentially a cop with a fancy title, and this was a guy who at one point basically had every police agency in the world looking for him, both free world and otherwise.
The thing was that even before joining the Lock and learning of Stonyman Farm, and learning of just how much supposedly official types were willing to look the other way to let the guy keep doing what he was doing everyone knew that no matter how good Bolan was there had to be people looking the other way.
Tony didn't know if he would have... and that wasn't entirely true, you never really know how you would handle a situation until you are in it, but Tony guessed he would have give the big guy a pass like a great many LEOs before him.
Of course now that legal system Tony once served would call him as bad as the Executioner, if perhaps not in sheer volume, but as Tony covered the left side of the door, and Bolan the right, Tony recognized the smell, it was human blood, and he guessed there was a lot of it.
Regular LEOs never would have gotten this far, and regular LEOs wouldn't be able to handle what was to come, and whatever came Anthony DiNozzo wasn't just ready to handle it, he was proud to be on the team that did.
That said, waiting sucked. So he looked to his companion. "You really need to learn to smile more."
To Tony's surprise the combat blackened face broke into a grin. "When we're done with this remind me to introduce you to Gadgets." At Tony's arched brows Bolan's smile grew. "He's the man who nicknamed the Lock 'Fort Lesbos."
Seeing some warmth of humor under the battlefield intensity Striker carried himself with actually had Tony's tension eased and he felt himself relax as they waited for the exploding of the loading bay doors to signal them to make their entry.
Lex watched the Boss link up with Tim and cover the two women as they planted their explosive charges.
Just like Tim had gotten extra battlefield experience in planning the attack with Gibbs the only slightly less green Detton was getting some of her own on the job training with her Israeli teammate.
There were tree large "refer" or refrigerated semi trucks and trailers pulled up to three doors, and while the trucks were prepared to blow first they were timed to detonate second. Though as she helped Ziva set the charges she knew the former Mossad agent had also included wiring so if someone tired to make a break in the vehicle before bomb had detonated it would go off prematurely.
Lex had initially wondered about doing the same to the assortment of personal vehicles in the lot, but Gibbs had explained that he wasn't concerned with wiping the place out, just shutting it down. The semis were rigged because their trailers were likely packed with Witches Powder, not because they need to make sure they couldn't be used for an escape.
The charges were set, and the timers were counting down.
With the first explosions being a signal for the three teams to make their entries a radio detonator would have been an unneeded variable.
The timers however were synchronized with their watches and everyone knew the when and were the charges would be going off.
So Lex hunkered down on the left side of the door by the knob so she could turn it and let Ziva in before following right behind her.
The witch had begun a breathing exercise to calm her pre-battle jitters and center her for the action ahead. It had started to work when the explosions went off and the heavy metal loading bay doors crumpled inward. Without another thought Lex reached up and tore the door open, watching Ziva make a speedy combat entry, and then jumping up to do the same even before the door could close behind her.
Movies desensitize you to violence, TV, video games, rock and/or rap music all desensitizing you to real life violence. As Tony cleared the offices and emerged into the main work area of the Witches Powder processing plant he wished he was a little more desensitized.
The problem was that when you watched a violent movie you knew that when the director called "Cut!" the bodies would either get up and wander over to craft services to talk about the next part their agent has lined up for them, or be picked up and stored in the FX trailer with all the other severed appendages, and fruit that looked really good on camera, but would never be eaten because in both cases they were made of plastic.
As his combat boots echoed against the concrete floor Tony saw bodies, perhaps not more bodies then he had ever seen, but you would have to add up ALL the bodies he had seen in his entire law enforcement career to get a similar number to what was hanging on hooks, and rolling on lines ones used for cows, pigs, and sheep.
Ziva David had been born after the foundation of the nation of Israel, and while she did not know an easy life there she knew how fortunate she was for the struggles and sacrifices of her people to make Israel a reality.
She knew because in Israel "Never Forget" was more then some pithy phrase. It was a reality she saw in tattooed numbers on the arms of kindly elders who still displayed pictures of those who never got to see the Jews return to their homeland.
She knew because while she may have never fought the Nazi war machine more then a few of the trainers who had taught her impressive array of skills had. Either during the second World War or after as they hunted those who escaped the justice that followed.
Yet even knowing that, for Ziva violence was typically an explosive thing. Either the attacks of the fanatics out to unmake everything the Hebrew people had accomplished in the intervening decades, or when she herself was unleashing acts against those same fanatics with stealth, speed and surprise in the Metsada.
Then in NCIS violence was in the occasional firefight, or seen afterwards at crime scenes, or under Duckies bright lights in autopsy.
The Lock seemed to blend her times in the Metsada with NCIS with investigations of atrocities which would be followed by finding and killing the perpetrators of such acts.
Now however Ziva finally felt she understood. That she could understand the stories of the camps, the executions, of violence become systematic, even routine. Here in what she had expected to be more like the drug dens she had raids both in NCIS and in police actions in the IDF she found atrocities against the human body made matter of course.
McGee was glad the Boss was standing next to him.
It wasn't so much on counting on the older man for emotional support, but rather if his brain shut down he knew he could count on Gibbs to drag him to cover until his mind could reboot.
Because the sights he was seeing had his conscious mind of the verge of a system crash.
It wasn't seeing heads cut open, or even cut off in some cases so the Witches powder could be retrieved.
Honestly it wasn't even the volume.
It was that these people, these real, once living, breathing people, had been reduced really to a level below the animals that had once been processed here.
Animals were animals, and while Tim never WANTED to see animals suffer he never considered it the same thing as when a person suffered.
Here people were being butchered to harvest a powder that would hook more people who would eventually be butchered for a powder that would hook more people... it was that spiral that was dragging Tim's conscious mind downward.
Gibbs felt it too. He felt the horror he saw on the faces of Tim, Tony, and Ziva. While the veteran had seen enough atrocity to choke back the revulsion, what rattled even his battle hardened nerves was seeing that same horror reflected back in the faces of the three young people who hadn't quite followed him here from NCIS, but still united under his leadership at the Lock.
It however was an old ache, an all too familiar sorrow that came to the gunnery sergeant who had seen too many young people loose their innocence on too many battle fields.
What truly shook the Marine however was the two that didn't have that same response.
Well, not Bolan. The man had earned the title of the Executioner in Vietnam, and had been teaching the world's human monsters to fear it... longer then the young people in the team had even been alive. If anything Gibbs felt compassion for the guy.
Here was a guy who if they compared stories WOULD have more horror stories then Gibbs. Could tell tales that would probably make the old Marine's hair even grayer, but still he held onto his humanity.
Held onto it with that same ferocity that carried him through all those tales. If he understood Striker right, and Gibbs felt enough of a understanding of the man he thought he did it was that humanity that led Striker into, and through those tales.
Like Gibbs himself when confronted with those horrors not only could he not turn away, he had to try to do something.
What truly worried Gibbs though was the fourth young person, the full time addition to his team, Alexandra Detton. While he knew her history it was a file that basically said she came from a line of dark witches.
Since Shannon and Kelly were from a line of White Witches he knew the other side of the equation, but Lex's non-reaction to the horrific scene laid out before them suddenly clicked with that knowledge and Gibbs was worried.
Not about Lex, between his niece's trust of her, and his own gut he knew he didn't have to worry about her.
His worry was for the young witch.
Whenever her past came up Lex would make a joke and change the subject. Normally she would think it was for their benefit, but when she allowed herself to think about it she knew it was for her own as well.
The truth though was that they couldn't understand. Honestly Lex didn't want them too. The biggest obstacle Tara had faced in getting her to open up about her past wasn't the things that 'Growing up Detton' had put into her head, but Lex not wanting those things to escape from her head and into Tara's.
While anyone who had ever interrupted a vampire feeding knew the smell of blood Lex was the only one at the Lock other then Angel who knew what a mouthful of human blood that was not your own tasted like, and while as a member of the family she was never hurt at a ritual there were children that had been kidnapped for just that purpose... what sometimes really got Lex about burning her family alive was how still her hands had been when she'd done it.
Her first thought upon looking out on the work floor had been relief that all the bodies were fully grown.
The second was that she was glad those being cut into were obviously dead.
Thanks to Tara, and Isis, those thoughts didn't haunt her like they did when they were counterpoised to her families death screams, but if anything her reborn humanity seemed rattled by how little she was rattled at the sights assailing her.
Approximately twenty dead, with most already in various stages of dismemberment by the five person crew. The line itself poised to carry the bodies further down for eventual disposal.
It wasn't that the Executioner wasn't horrified. It was that after so many horrid sights the soldier's well trained brain could make that emotion wait as those mental energies were put to better use dealing with the situation, and the human predators responsible.
In this case they were dressed as one would expect employees at any meat packing plant with rubber aprons, goggles, and the like. Though they were technically unarmed the assortment of hacksaws, cleavers, and other implements typically used in a place like this... they were in the crews hands, and their ability to rend human flesh evidenced by the human carcasses they had been working on.
What caught Bolan's trained eye however was that they weren't wearing face masks, and the tactician's mind put it together.
It was horrifying for them to do. So rather then the typical drug plant where the employees were watched like hawks to make sure they didn't steal any product it looked like the staff here was encouraged to forget their troubles with as many free samples as they wished.
The flecks of blood around the noses of all ten supporting that idea.
It made sense, with Witches Powder somehow replicating itself in the users brain as Abby and Doctor Mallard seemed sure of it was an even greater case of the more the merrier then with normal narcotics.
Bolan's greatest piece of evidence was when he saw two of the hanging bodies might have been stripped of their normal butchers gear, but were still wearing the plastic booties that kept the gore off their shoes.
They would work the line till they dropped, and then be hoisted up on it.
Thankfully while Gibbs and his people were understandably horrified their weapons stayed poised, because the addicts manning the line seemed to realize the people with guns were there to end things, and no matter how horrid the addicts life had become the first one was ready to fight for it.
Striker shouted one word. "DON'T!"
So rather then looking to flee thorough the now toppled loading bay doors and past the smoldering semis, the addicts response was to pick up a cleaver. It was even odds whether he would toss it or charge, but he didn't get the chance to do either as a short burst entered under that blood flecked nose and dropped the man to the floor.
That set off the others, whether it was the understandable idea that they feared for their lives, or the incomprehensible need to put their drug supply before their own existence they all picked up the sharp tools they had been using on the dead and readied to use them on the living.
The problem being that not only were the living not willing to be still and be dismembered, but these living were combat ready and carrying automatic weapons.
It couldn't be called combat, it was more akin to the butcher's work that had been happening ever since the building first opened for business, and soon the workforce was laid out with their labors.
Looking down Bolan saw the first young man he had shot. The Executioner had a great deal of experience with head shots, and while he never sought to dwell on them he was almost as well acquainted with their effects.
It took a moment to realize what was wrong. The reason they hadn't discovered the Witches Powder in the brain until Doctor Mallard was that the stuff would dissolve in the bloody mess left behind by a bullet.
Looking up he met Gibbs eyes and got an acknowledging nod as the other man spoke. "Call the Lock, have Abby see if there is any trace." Striker figured there would be, but if he had learned one thing working with the Lock it was that human science was only a starting point.
While Bolan knew it wasn't an order, when Gibbs turned to his people his next statements were.
Gibbs took Tim to ransack the office and it's computers. Lex had volunteered to check out where the line went and the bodies were obviously disposed of, and Bolan offered to go with her.
Tony and Ziva were left to rig the place to blow.
While not even Faith knew it Mack Bolan had heard of the Detton family before. It had been almost two decades ago in his battles against an underground network of genuine Satanists her families name had come up more as powers controlling the group then as mere members.
From what he had seen then he knew why the young woman had been the only one other then himself who hadn't blanched at the sight that had greeted them on the work floor.
Yet both of them were taken back when they reached the body disposal area. It looked like some sort of chipper/shredder, but it, and the entire room was spattered with the blood of those who had been fed through it.
What competed with the machine for the most horrific and macabre was the chute was obviously set to feed the essentially liquified remains straight into the sewer line.
As they moved to set the charges that would remove all traces of this horror there seemed to be an unspoken vow between them. While they would never forget what they had seen they would use their righteous anger to remove all traces of those responsible.
Daylight was there, and with the Russian's out of play and the Witches Powder plant out of commission the Lock's assets decided to fall back to a Lock safe house they had been given the address to and plan their next move.
Getting there they realized safe "mansion" might have been a better name as it was a mansion in the Hollywood hills. They had been a bit stunned at first until Striker explained by asking them. "Would you expect the team of people who'd been tearing up LA over the past 24 hours to be hiding up here?"
That explanation got a series of nods as they entered the building using the supplied security codes. It had been one of the techniques he had taught Faith early on in her transition from the young woman who had called herself the "back up slayer" to the one now known as "Slayer" who could get the "original" to follow her orders.
When most people thought safe houses they were often apartments, and even when they were stand alone dwellings they were at best more like track housing, each one looking like the next and all looking close to condemnation.
The problem with that was that was what most everyone thought of when they thought of safe houses. So when the enemies you were trying to hide from went looking for you they would head right to those types of neighborhoods.
Another benefit was that higher end homes were built with privacy in mind.
A feature that not only would make it easier to spot potential attackers inbound, but made sure that if they came one could fight back without reservation.
While the type of people, and now creatures the Executioner would find himself facing never worried about civilians caught in the crossfire Mack Bolan had been hurt countless times getting "combat stretch" a battlefield where he could hit back without chance of civilians in the crossfire.
Here they could fire back on full auto or even hurl grenades, and as long as they kept their teammates locations in mind have no worries about a bullet going through a wall and taking out some hapless bystander or a grenade blast taking out kids playing outside as it caught enemies in the same radius.
His safe houses had been bought with monies taken from the same predators, and while most didn't know it the Lock provided much of it's on financing in the same way. Like the CIA being able to seize criminal assets the Lock often took down beings that had been building their fortunes over the course of centuries.
While having their soldiers carting off crate loads of cash very often could cause too much scrutiny, all too often bank records that had gotten handed over with the rest of their intel would be quickly and quietly drained and funneled into accounts that let the Lock know their mission could continue without worrying about the whims of those who set budgets on capital hill.
Though officially it was all to hide the sweeping influence of supernatural threats Striker knew that part of the clout Tara wielded came from government resources, but no small amount was from her continuing efforts to have her people as self-sufficient as possible.
It was an ancient strategy he had passed down, and he was happy to see the two women putting it to such good use.
It had provided the luxury digs they were now settling into. Gibbs quickly ordered his people to grab some sleep. They had all been up for twenty four hours or more, and they had spent that entire time either in battle, heading to a battle, or escaping after a battle, and everyone's resources were running low.
Only Ziva had come close to registering a complaint, and that had been asking if she could be awoken in three hours.
Though Gibbs didn't even try to order Bolan he threw the soldier a look that obviously said Gibbs was ready to take the first watch. Bolan shook his head, and instead joined Gibbs in breaking down and cleaning the weapons that the team members had left when they retired to bed with only their side arms.
While they had started their lives in different branches of the same military, they were both grunts, and they how to grab rest in countless ways. Like in this case letting the ingrained process of breaking down and cleaning weapons be done on automatic while their minds and bodies rested.
Though before lapsing into that activity Bolan had walked over and turned on the TV. Gibbs had looked confused a moment before realizing it was set to the news.
As the two men worked they listened to the reporters telling how "LA is burning!" Of course both men knew it was not that bad, but the title looked impressive in burning CGI letters on the screen.
When the reporters started worrying about actual accuracy the two men learned that over the past 24 hours the Los Angeles underworld had burst into explosive violence. Though in this case they seemed to be exclusively targeting themselves.
Though some reports were linking the violence to a shoot out at an abandoned tenement early the previous morning the event that everyone agreed truly set things off was the armed assault on a police station.
Drevin was seen briefly, being credited as the man who bravely led the defense until SWAT arrived. Much to their relief, and Drevin's credit, the "DEA" agents that helped in the defense were never mentioned.
After that however the city exploded as numerous criminal fronts were attacked in seeming retaliation.
At first they thought it simply the cover story Riley had fed their contacts, but as sites started being listed they realized that the underworld had truly taken it upon themselves to deal with the problem internally.
The "experts" the network provided were surprisingly accurate as they guessed that such an audacious move on behalf of the gang behind the narcotic "Witches Powder" had put the whole LA underworld under an imminent threat of intense police scrutiny.
Neither Bolan nor Gibbs was sure if the fact that their had been no casualties that didn't have "known criminal ties" (aka NOT civilians) was because they didn't want to further aggravate a police department that was already grieving, or perhaps a more direct fear of the half-dozen hard cases who had made their concern only slightly less obvious then their tactics.
Five hours had passed in silence broken only by TV reporters, and the sounds of weapons, and gear being maintained.
It was that point Ziva David woke up and she was obviously not pleased. Already showered, but also obviously dry the woman was in a sleeveless olive shirt, her khaki pants, and stocking feet.
"I asked you to wake me up in three hours."
Gibbs gave her a small lop-sided grin. One that had been the taciturn man's all along, but still seemed a little warmer, almost in tribute to the similar look his niece would get. "No, you asked if you 'could' be awoken in three hours. I decided you could use a couple extra hours of sleep."
The Israeli scowled at Gibbs deliberate abuse of her English, but knew there was not much she could say to that. She was not however silent. "Fine, but now you two can get some sleep. We have six guest bedrooms, plus one master bedroom. So there are still plenty of beds available. I will start something to eat."
Bolan and Gibbs eyes met before Gibbs spoke. "Hand me your side arm Ziva. I'll clean it for you, and if no one is up by then I'll leave you and the security set up to keep watch."
That was reasonable enough and Bolan just gave a nod as the big man got out of the chair to find a a guest room with it's shower and bed.
Gibbs had reached the point of just having finished showering away the sweat, grime and stink of battle before he heard movement, and though he was surrounded by high tech security features, mystic protections, and some of the most highly trained warriors he had ever had the honor of fighting along side he still slipped on sweats and a t-shirt in the same basic gray and crept out ready to deal with an intruder.
It had only been DiNozzo, and the younger agent hadn't seen Gibbs as the older man slipped back to the room, finished drying off, and grabbed some rack time.
He awoke to the sounds of vehicles, and while the fact that the sounds of vehicles weren't accompanied by Gibbs being woken up by one of his people or the sounds of his people engaging the vehicles directly he didn't take anything for granted, and was up and out of his room with his Colt .45 in hand, again in gray sweats and t-shirt.
When he saw Bolan in the hallway in jeans, t-shirt and stocking feet he realized the man had likely slept in his clothes. He understood the move, and if he hadn't been surrounded by his people he would have done the same, but it still struck him that the warrior NEVER stood down.
There had to be some times where Bolan would let his guard down, but he knew they were few and far between, and likely usually in fortified positions like the Lock or Stonyman Farm.
Gibbs felt both a great deal of respect for the man's dedication as well as compassion for all it obviously cost him.
Those thoughts however vanished as quickly as they appeared as he saw the massive .44 Magnum Desert Eagle in the man's fist and he knew Bolan was there for the same reason. The pair slipped out to the main area where they found Scooby Squad being welcomed.
Buffy smiled upon seeing them. "Sorry we're late to the party, but we wanted to be here for last call."
Over her shoulder Xander stage whispered to Giles. "Where is the sweet, and gentle Buffy Summers we once knew?"
In typical droll British tones Giles replied. "Which one did you know?"
Buffy matched their grins with her own as she pulled put a memory stick. "Fresh off Willow's presses."
Gibbs steeped closer to Buffy. "She found our target?"
The older man's tone was serious, and Buffy mirrored it. "She did. Between what Tim got off their office system, the whens and wheres of the land deals, as well as everything Abby and her got off the car Tara and Faith got away in, as well as just showing why we call her Oracle... she got it."
While the meal Ziva had been prepared was dished up for Bolan, Gibbs, and their new arrivals it was in the background as Buffy handed McGee the memory stick, McGee put it in his laptop and wired it to the immense flat screen in the living room, and the first image came up.
"Willow actually had one of our guys take a drone out and get this first shot, but she says it confirms it's our guys because it looks like what would happen if Hugh Hefner turned the Grotto into an armed camp."
"He's learning." Bolan's words were spoken quietly as he, Gibbs and Summers were making a final sweep of their target with binoculars.
"He" was Dieter Becker, a seemingly normal German, he had been smuggled into the country illegally by his Russian contacts.
They had a name as well as a loose description they had gotten from the Russian before they had let the mobster go. It matched up with what Oracle had gotten from the German databases as well as the images she got from the car dealer where Faith and Tara's escape vehicle had started it's life.
Looking back far enough Dieter's great-grandfather had tried at Nuremberg after World War Two, but had been found a rank and file solider, and had been repatriated to Germany without any known incident.
The Becker family had otherwise lived quiet, moderately successful lives. Such that their financials said that Dieter had never had to work a day in his life, and would likely have never needed to.
Moderately successful however was no where near the mansion they were now surveying, but the obvious opulence was muted by the fact that most of the grounds were now dark and still.
The only thing that was lit was the main house, and that was brightly lit, with floodlights set to cover every angle, and all the guards pulled back to cover the main house. Which left the Lock's two hard teams plenty of room to maneuver, but a free fire zone to cross to get to their target.
One they were determined to take alive so they could learn the origins of the Witches Powder.
"Too little, too late." Was Gibbs reply.
Buffy commented right in sequence. "Not necessarily arguing, but I'm having trouble counting how many guns there are on the place. While I've got twenty walking the well lit part of the yard in pairs. I can't get a fix on the inside, but I would put the total closer to 100 then not."
Gibbs didn't really argue. "100 of the same junkies with guns he sent against the police station. Ones that we were able to take with out you helping us out."
"Fair enough." Was Buffy's level reply as she kept her binoculars sweeping the grounds.
Tony whispered off to the side where he and the rest of the two teams were readying gear, applying combat cosmetics to blacken their features, and preparing weapons. "Forget the supply side of the equation, when this is all said and done LA might be having at least something of a junkie shortage."
Everyone looked at him, but no one argued.
Instead Gibbs looked over to McGee. "Ready?"
McGee nodded and lifted the LAW tube to his shoulder. "As I'll ever be."
That got an arched brow from Gibbs, but no comment as the Marine checked his watch. Oracle was set to cut their power. Once she did it would be a matter of minutes before someone ran out to fire up the generator. Once that was done and the lights were back on McGee was supposed to shut them back off with the LAW rocket.
With the guards staggering around in the dark with stars in their eyes the Lock would be launching the assault they hoped would wrap up the case of the Witches Powder.
They all knew that odds were some user out there escaped their sweep, and that all it would take was that one user to die and a medical examiner to figure out what Ducky had figured out for the nightmare to be reborn, but if you looked past the supernatural aspects that was the nature of the narcotic beast.
There would always be those foolish enough to think they could handle it. Just like there would always be those selfish enough to let them as they profited off of the persons resulting misery once they were proven wrong.
The lights went out as Oracle flipped the digital switch, and their weapons were readied as the guards were shown at least semi-prepared as the lit cones of flashlights suddenly appeared in their hands.
Once the Lock's already adjusted night vision showed guard heading for the generator Tim double checked his aim.
As the lights came back on he fired, and the lights went out in a roar of flame and thunder as the rocket hit the generator, and added the fuel to it's own explosive furry. A furry that also took out the three men sent to fire the machine up.
The roar hadn't even finished echoing as they broke into their teams and began the assault. Giles was with Xander as they attacked from the southwest while Tony and Tim attacked from the southeast.
Ziva and Lex charged from the northeast while Buffy and Angel took the northwest.
Gibbs and Bolan went straight for the north facing front door.
It could be argued if Buffy and Angel were the first to encounter the enemy or if Buffy's slayer reflexes simply caught sight of a pair of enemy gunners and dropped them with a burst from her un-silenced H&K before they could get off a shot between them.
Another auto-weapon opened fire almost instantly in seeming response, and Gibbs was ready to dive for cover, but as yet another responded Gibbs realized neither was from an angle his people would have been firing at or being fired upon from.
Realizing what was happening the former Gunnery Sergeant remembered a lesson he had all but literally beat into more then one new recruit. "Know what you are shooting at, or you might be firing on your own people."
With at least two of their guard pairs banging away at each other Gibbs decided to leave them to it as they continued their run for the main house.
They first came under fire from a pack of four in a V formation standing on the front steps. Those guards actually took a moment to visually confirm their targets before they raised their weapons and began to fire.
Which was admirable, and if they hadn't stood stock still Gibbs and Bolan might have had some trouble. Instead they both dropped prone while the Executioner fired a anti-personnel round from the M-203 affixed under his M-16.
Ziva didn't need more then a moment to visually confirm that Bolan's rifle fired grenade took out his opposition. It did, and he and Gibbs were up and charging through the front door in perfect entry procedure.
She used similar form as she fired a short burst through the window that would be the entry point for her and Lex to drive anyone in the room to cover before she threw her arms over her face and dove through the window.
Hitting the ground rolling she didn't stop until she connected with the wall. That way any shooters in the room couldn't zero in on her while Lex would be able to tag them.
The room was empty however and Ziva quickly popped up, her own weapon ready as Lex climbed over the window frame. An action that caught the defenders attention as Lex came under fire.
Again their oppositions lack of training was helping them as the man aimed at where he saw that Lex was, rather then where her entry would have her obviously end up.
She had to fire one handed as she landed on her feet, but the H&K's rounds still were accurate enough to drop the man to the floor where he kicked a few moments, and then was still.
Neither bothered commenting on the subject as Ziva put the folding stock of her Uzi to her shoulder while Lex did the same with her German SMG as the pair advanced into the hall.
The entire back of the house was glass, presumably to look out on the luxurious pool, but in this case making the approach for Tim and Tony on one side and Giles and Xander on the other a tricky subject.
The light cast by the burning generator even negated much of the lights out advantage.
This had all however been discussed and planned for as they all prepared their approach. Giles was using a Steyr assault rifle, with the funny barrel that allowed him to quickly affix and fire rocket propelled grenades.
Tony and Xander were both using M-4's and they had M-203's under slung that allowed them to do much the same.
Tim was carrying his SPAS-15 automatic shotgun, and fisted it one handed while he plamed a flash bang in his other hand.
So as one all the men rose up and fired flare flash bang grenades at the twenty men who seemed almost eager for their approach.
That eagerness dimmed as the grenades went off, and even with the light from the remains of the generator this batch of defenders was left blinded, this pack also reeling in a stupor from the thunderous concussion that had blown out enough glass to offer the commandos several points of entry.
At this point however they didn't want them, and took advantage of the low ballistic resilience of glass to drop the twenty men so they would prove no more of a concern.
One of the things that Buffy had made herself start taking to heart after her talk with Faith, after the fight with Lex, was to stop thinking of herself as "the hero". It was a good part of her contribution to Faith's fall, and a shameful part of more then a few of her problems in her early life.
What was bad there could be downright lethal with the Lock.
Yet even with all that said getting caught up with the yard defenders before they could even join the assault on the main house was embarrassing.
That was however what happened. After she caught two defenders with a sweeping burst on the fly she saw two sets get confused between the explosion of the generator, the gun fire and the darkness and start firing on each other.
That however still left fourteen defenders, and they ALL seemed to zero in on her first shots and were now hounding her and Angel.
It had first been two teams linking up from the opposite side of the trigger happy sets that were trying to kill each other and teaming up to unleash a wave of fire that was pushing them back towards the pool.
Not getting that they could team up without forming up the group was good enough to pull in close together and Angel was able to tag them with an fragmentary grenade. Which bought them some breathing room to ram fresh clips into their H&K's and grab cover as the remaining ten defenders converged on the pool.
Buffy was happy to see that Giles, Xander, Tony, and Tim had already gotten inside at this point. While she would have been happy for their help, Buffy WAS a leader and was glad they weren't in the firestorm she and Angel were trying to fight their way out of.
Angel, she had almost been ready to cripple him once he had regained his mortality. He might hate her if she put him in a wheelchair, but he'd be alive to do so. After seeing what the mortals of the Lock were capable of he became determined to keep fighting.
Even though it enraged her, she loved that part of him that kept fighting. Whether it had been monsters within, or monsters without, he kept fighting.
He was still fighting how as he hunkered behind a stainless steel fridge that had already burst open to reveal what Buffy figured were pool snacks, now just colorful refuse torn up by incoming fire.
She was hunkered down behind a stone barbeque grill, and was happy Dieter preferred the smoky flavor of charcoal grilling rather then the more combustible propane.
Rapidly searching her mind she tried to think of options to get them out of this mess, and then noticed that five of the ten were hunkered down behind a pool shed to cover another five who were trying to flank their positions.
Chlorine wasn't itself explosive, but if Buffy remembered her high school chem... or maybe it was PE swimming, but if she remembered right it did burn VERY well. With that in mind she hurled an incendiary grenade, and using slayer strength sent it THROUGH the thin metal wall of the shed.
Something in there reacted and the resulting fireball did enough damage to the five who had been covering their companions that Buffy and Angel were able to concentrate their fire on the five now flat footed gunners.
The remainder of their weapons clips were used for mercy rounds on those who had been badly burned, but not killed when the shed went up.
Buffy and Angel then fed fresh magazines into their weapons as they stepped into the main house.
Their black suits ceased to be of practical use inside the house done almost entirely in whites, but as Lex and Ziva made the entry way it made it easy for them to differentiate Gibbs and Bolan as they met the two.
The two soldiers had taken three defenders down already and forced another five up onto the stairs to the second floor.
It had the signs of a stalemate, which was bad even when you had numbers on your side, so with just a look of her eyes Ziva got Lex to move along the outside wall to position themselves under the enemy shooters.
Striker and Boss Man quickly realized what the two women were up to and kept up their fire to keep the enemies attention.
While firing up through the flooring at the stop of the stairs took a great deal out of their bullets force Ziva burned a full clip of her Uzi's 9mm while Lex put a full magazine of .45's from her H&K up through the floor and into their opposition.
The two actually had to jump back when the corpses crashed through the weakened flooring, but they were content to add them to the lists of the dead as they met with the two men and mounted the stairs.
Rupert Giles had been prepared for combat at young age. Of course that combat was the kind that had been more en vogue back in the 1600's and earlier, but he had still be drilled on the rigors of life and death struggle.
The introduction of firearms made things much more frantic, but the principles were as timeless as they were ancient. Kill your enemy while trying not to let them kill you, and if you manage to kill or capture more important enemies so much the better.
The reason the rules were so simple was that combat was too chaotic for anything more complex to function.
The initial plan had their five two person units attacking from five directions and basically skirmishing with the defending forces to whittle down their numbers as they sought the villain behind the Witches Powder.
The fact that the enemy response had been to cover their back wall with 20 defenders had compelled Xander and himself to band together with Tony and Tim to gain entry.
That Buffy and Angel had been forced in their direction was simply another tide of war.
Now however the same black suits that allowed them to distinguish each other allowed their opposition to do the same, and the six Lock commandos were facing approximately four times their number.
They had made the living room before the defenders had managed to mass their forces and Giles was now behind a large recliner.
Tony had Tim had take position behind the plush couch that was even now filling the air with scraps of it's padding as it came under fire.
Buffy had kicked the legs out on one side of a piano to tilt it to give cover for herself and Angel.
Xander had sought shelter behind a large stereo system, bravely ignoring the sparks that Giles knew had to be uncomfortable.
They didn't have many options as they had only managed to secure a small section of the immense living room, but they were holding their ground. Something attested to by the four dead or dying already from their gunfire.
Giles managed to fell another as the young woman didn't seem to realize that you didn't get a "time out" to reload your weapon, and didn't make sure she was fully under cover before doing so.
Two seemed to object and fired angrily upon Giles from the doors leading in from the entryway into the living room, but their anger didn't translate into accuracy. Buffy and Angel however kept cool heads and took the time to aim their weapons before dropping the two in a pile.
That seemed to set off the other four who had taken up positions in the doorway, and they formed a flying wedge, seeming intent on rushing twice their number and ending it.
Timothy demonstrated why the SPAS-15 was so popular in close quarters such as these and the flying wedge was left in a bloodied pile fit for a butchers block as the young man dropped back to load a fresh magazine of buckshot.
Buffy then rose up long enough to hurl a grenade past most of the defenders and into the entryway. At first they wondered if she had hurled a dud, but then the white smoke came back into the living room and a pack of coughing defenders came in with it.
There were approximately a dozen defenders left and half of them were now up and coughing because of SMOKE. While Giles knew they were untrained the lack of anything resembling discipline galled him as he and his compatriots cut down the indistinct shapes.
Then much to his surprise he heard "We surrender!"
Guns clattered to the ground, and forms raised up into the smoke again, but this time the indistinct shapes clearly had their arms up over their heads.
The Lock's soldiers rose slowly, their hands up, and filled with weapons ready to cut down any who resisted, but the fact that the Lock had managed to turn their inferior numbers into superior numbers by blasting them that way broke the will of those formerly enjoying the tactical advantage.
While it was not a common experience in the battles the Lock's warriors waged, an honorable surrender was accepted. Though it could be called some sort of warriors code Giles knew it was as much simple humanity.
Either way they had zip ties since they had come here to capture at least one man and were able to secure the prisoners before making a quick sweep of the main floor for any stragglers.
Not finding any they looked up the stairs and hearing gunfire they knew that was where the remainder of the enemy was.
One the second floor Gibbs, Bolan, Ziva and Lex found what they guessed was the remainder of the defenders behind an improvised barricade, guarding stairs to the roof.
The first problem was that there was at least a good twenty one of them.
The second was that none of them seemed to be Dieter Becker.
The third problem revealed itself to be the cause of the first two when a helicopter was heard approaching.
It left them having to strategize at the end of a long hallway that was filled with flying lead.
With numerous doorways all along the hall there was the tactical concern of ambushers in the rooms just itching to create a crossfire, but those rooms also being the closest thing to cover they had to advance along the hall.
Grenades were always an option, but they had to make sure they could pass in the aftermath to peruse their quarry.
Or at least three of them did.
Gibbs looked to Lex, and didn't even have to say the words. All he did was nod. The witch nodded back and her body broke apart as she teleported to the roof.
It wasn't the safest option in case a guard or two had been put up there to help secure Dieter's escape, but none of them had signed up for "safe".
Dieter realized the sound of laughter was his own as the chopper set down and he ran towards it. He didn't know who it was that was attacking his house, and likely took out his plant at this point, and right now he couldn't care less.
Sure later he would have numerous revenge plots to find every party responsible and make them pay in a slow fashion, but for any of that to happen he had to get away.
The door in the back of the chopper was opening , and a rush of adrenaline had his legs pumping all the faster to reach it.
As it went up in a fireball.
It was then he saw her. It was only an outline, but definitely a her, dark hair, light tan skin, and wearing the black suits the rest of these ninja assholes were wearing, but she wasn't carrying a gun.
That got another almost hysterical laugh as Dieter brought up the pistol he was holding, determined to make at least one of them pay right here and now.
Suddenly the piece of metal in his hand flared white hot and he dropped it.
Looking down the metal was still scorching the roof, and he had to jump back when the rounds started cooking off in the metal frame.
Fuck! Magic! It was like that blonde bitch that set off the past twenty four fucked up hours!
It wasn't that he didn't believe in magic, hell he knew the secret of the Witches Powder, but it wasn't until a day ago that he got a picture of just what it was capable of.
The night had started out like most any other since he had come to the States. Rather then having to wait in lines like he had back in Germany the bouncer recognized him, calling him by name, but MISTER Becker, rather then Dieter.
He hadn't just wanted to come to the States because of their famous appetite for any and all narcotics that the world was ready to supply them, but because he wanted to be more then just another nobody guy on the party scene in Europe.
With the money the Witches Powder was pulling in he was somebody, he made himself somebody, the America-Fucking Dream yeah!
The girls didn't seem too unusual at first, but where most girls in clubs dance with their girlfriends might occasionally dirty dance with their girlfriends in order to get free drinks these two seemed genuinely into each other.
THAT got his attention when he saw them dancing with each other near his table.
When they first arrived they made it fairly clear they were just into each other, but they still sat at his table and drank with him. So he knew it would be work, but when he decided to show the girls where all the money they were curious about came from and take them to his drug den he figured he would soon be fucking them both.
Things had been going smooth enough until he decided to take a piss.
While most of his staff were junkies that he paid off in powder he had brought a few over from Germany. Lars was one of them, but Dieter was noticing some changes in Lars that made him think he was going to have to demoted his boy to one of this junkie shock troops since the guy seemed to be using too hard.
That seemed to be the problem the crazy bastard was screaming about when it all went to shit.
He was swearing the brown haired one had picked his pocket for his Powder. There was the sounds of a scuffle and Dieter was quickly shoving his dick back in his pants as he hurried to the room.
Lars was trying to pull a gun, and the brunette broke his fucking neck!
Another was trying to pull a gun as the brunette drew her's so fast it looked like a fucking magic trick, but she wasn't turning fast enough.
It was then the blond held out her hand and lightening shot from the palm.
Lightening! Yeah, Dieter knew the secret of the Witches Powder so he knew shit wasn't just what scientists said it was, but he was still rooted to his spot outside the bathroom door.
Things got even weirder when the lightening that should have hit his guy pointing a gun at the blonde's girlfriend arced. Arced like there was a freaking lightening rod, but the rod in this case was the closet where they kept the houses supply of Witches Powder.
The blond looked as surprised as Dieter. The brunette didn't look like she had any more idea going on then they did, but seemed to have some sort of instinct as she wrapped her arms around the blonde, cradling the woman to her chest as she dove through the wall that Dieter knew led to the stars down.
He had his own animal instincts that were screaming to him if those scary bitches were running he was in real danger. So he thought of something more then one action movie said and dove into the bath tub.
It was one of those heavy old school ones that would have been common back when this place was new, and he hoped it would shield him from whatever was coming next.
"Whatever" turned out to be an explosion that took out the walls and roof of the whole damn floor.
He wasn't even buried by the rubble as it seemed to push everything out and away from where the Powder had been.
Climbing out he had hoped that pair that made this all possible had been taken out with the blast, but creeping forward he found the pair still alive and kicking. Kicking the ass of every gun he had guarding the place!
It was scary, the blond was now using magic, and it seemed the lesser amounts of Powder weren't having an effect on it while the brunette... he wouldn't even say she was moving like she was juiced. She wasn't even LIKE a blur, she WAS a blur as she shot, and stabbed and just generally fucking killed every last person in the place who looked like they might be thinking about threatening either of the women.
That even included enterprising junkies thought the grabbing a fallen gun and saving the day might get them promoted to his house guard.
Of course his real house guard weren't faring any better against the girl's friends... FUCK! That had to be why they took his car. Yeah he had it tricked out to be faster then anything, but odds are it somehow led them back here!
He added the pair to his mental list of people to fuck the hell up after he got away as he was turning and running back down the stairs.
It wouldn't be easy to get past the guys that were cashing him down even now but...
They were all that was left. As Dieter hit the landing he saw three people, three people against the twenty damn one he had left at his back. One woman, she had black hair, tan skin, and a widow's peak. The two men were both obviously older with one gone to gray while the one with black hair could be dying it but was fit enough that it was hard to nail if he was old enough to need it.
Both of the men had blue eyes, but the one with gray hair had blue eyes that were almost familiar... they were like the blonde. GREAT! The daughter was Charmed and the Daddy was Chuck Norris!
He cursed his fate, but when he saw they weren't cutting him down with gunfire he ducked down a side hallway. It zigged and zagged as he heard three and then four sets of feat as the ninja-commando types were obviously chasing him.
It opened to his main hall where he found six of his people had actually been caught!
While that sight enraged him he looked around and saw the rest of the bodies... there were maybe six of the commandos down there with four behind him... TEN! Just ten of these guys managed to take 100 guns!
A brief thought said that if he had those ten guns on his side the world really would be his.
Jumping a hole in the floor at the top of the stairs he was ready to continue making a run for it, but a heavy weight his his back and he was sent sprawling down the stairs, his last sight that gray haired commando, the blondes dad.
He landed in his hot tub, his Scarface replica right down to the "The World is Yours" neon. He came out of the water coughing only to find the old guy had already gotten down there and was grabbing him by the back of the neck to force him back under the water.
For what seemed like forever he struggled, he hadn't been able to take in a breath and knew he was drowning. He thought the guy might want to make this his revenge since the blond must have died from her injuries.
Then he was pulled free, to cough and gasp and glare as the commandos all drew close to the tub. "Who are you assh..."
His question was cut off as he was plunged back underwater to drown some more.
As he came up he took a breath and used it to speak. "Fuck y..."
After yet another dunk he came up, quiet this time, sullen. "What do you want?"
He turned to a young looking guy with hair that still looked good after the fight, standing by the prisoners. "Cut em loose."
The guy complied. "Got it Boss."
Once he was done the "Boss" put Dieter on the ground and stood up to look Dieter in the eye with that cold blue stare. "What's the story with the Witches Powder?"
Dieter's first instinct was that they wouldn't believe him, but the one who had blown up his chopper with magic had joined them and he realized they would.
Taking a breath he sat back at the foot of the stairs and began.
"My grandfather found the Powder, in the war."
Ziva interrupted. "World War Two?"
Dieter read her accent, tone, expression, and features and seemed to realize why she seemed aggravated about his Nazi grandfather, but he also seemed to realize if his situation truly got worse they would simply kill him so he just continued.
"Yes, he was in Greece, and when separated from his unit he found an ancient temple. It had what looked like Greek written on the walls, but it was old, really, really old. There was also an altar with the Witches Powder on it."
He sighed. "It was war, and soldiers took souvenirs all the time. So he made rubbings of the walls and took the powder."
The witch that blew up his chopper then interrupted. "Did he get the rubbings translated?"
The German nodded. "He did. You all know ambrosia right?"
A young guy with black hair was then heard. "The food of the Gods right? Not Jello with marshmallows?"
Everyone, including Dieter looked at him incredulously and the guy shrunk back as Dieter continued. "The food of the Gods, it's made from human emotion. Ambrosia is made from distilled joy. Early on though they weren't sure what emotions would taste better though. One of their experiments was distilling sorrow. It boiled down to a powder."
The old guy with blue eyes interrupted. "Witches Powder."
A nervous nod. "Yeah, but the Gods spat it out and dumped it into the river Lethe... it's said that's part of why the river makes people forget. It takes that despair and washes it away. One of their guys however had snuck a hit as well and found they liked it. He, or she, it wasn't too clear, ran away with the stuff and hid it in the temple. The Gods however didn't like people stealing from their stash anymore then mortals do so they killed them. I don't know if they couldn't find the powder or just forgot since their gods and can't sweat the small stuff, but it looks like it lay there till my grandfather found it."
The old commando still hadn't blinked from what Dieter could see though the black crap on his face and the fact the lights were still out, but those slivers of white and blue on the guys face were locked, not moving, and not seeming to blink as they seemed to weigh Dieter's soul.
"You didn't mention how you figured out what happened if you take the stuff without a glass of Lethe river water."
Dieter swallowed. They knew, these guys must have taken down his processing plant so they didn't just KNOW, but they SAW. He didn't like it, needing a hit of Witches Powder himself to get past his visits.
He knew he was probably writing his death warrant, but he just hoped it would be quick rather then all the stuff you see in the movies when they are out to break you. "I found it after grandpa's will was read. I read the story and one night when I was drunk I did a line."
A small blonde chick broke in. "You had a side dish of the Gods and your response was to do a line?"
That got a shrug in response as he continued. "It was great. I literally had never felt better, it was like so much of the shit that bothered me from day to day just blew away on the wind."
That old guy, the blondes dad spoke almost in a sad sigh. "No it just crystallized on the inside of your skull."
The way Dieter's eyes went to the floor said the answer. "Yeah, I didn't know till a friend I had did it with broke into my place to steal it. I shot the bastard, but I noticed that more powder then there was in my whole stash seemed to be dissolving in the mess that was left after I shot him in the head. Still, I couldn't be sure it was Witches Powder so I found a homeless junkie and let them get low before I..."
Gibbs interrupted. "We get the idea." Two rounds from the Colt .45 left Dieter Becker's head a similar mess as he fell back into the still waters of his whirlpool, his house still, dark, even the "The Worlds is Yours." neon stating the truth as it hung there a lightless gray.
They got the idea, if they drained the blood before opening the head the powder could be harvested. The misery that they sought to loose in the powder not leaving them just making them think their problems were behind them, but leading to the cycle of addiction that would cause more misery, that would need more powder to deal with.
The naming of it as "Witches Powder" undoubtedly just the young Mister Becker's way of wanting to "brand" his product to appeal to his customers.
As they watched the powder in Mister Dieter's head dissolve in blood rapidly mixing into the whirlpool they knew, they knew.
Tony however said it best as they started to leave. "He pictured himself another Tony Montana, how the hell did he expect it to end?"
Looking up into the sky of the aptly named Sunnydale Gibbs had to smile. Of course the fact that the guy who had given the town it's appropriate name had been the bastard who had led Faith down the dark path for awhile usually made him scowl, but today was a good day.
Gibbs smiling wasn't so rare of an event that he was in danger of hurting himself trying, but just that it was the kind of day he would challenge anyone who said he didn't have the right to smile about it.
Tara was awake and both Sam and Ducky agreed she was on the road to a full recovery. Her partner Faith was actually up and mobile, and starting to get on the nerves of their medical staff. His smile grew as he thought of how the medical staff kept Faith following their orders.
They threatened to tell on her. They did once, and Slayer, the big bad stuff of nightmares for the forces of evil caved to Tara's soft blue gaze right away.
His smile turned bittersweet when he remembered how Tara's Aunt Shannon could handle Gibbs in much the same fashion.
Rather then shake of memories of his departed wife and their beloved daughter he allowed himself to remember the joy they brought him, even if he had to swallow the resulting pain of their loss.
His good mood however pulled him onward. With no one making it to trial for the Witches Powder the media and police were content to chalk it up to the street policing itself. With no civilians killed in the process some might have wanted a trial for "closure" Gibbs figured the majority of officers were happy to know the bastards who killed their fellow officers were dead.
Though they hadn't contacted the LAPD Detective Frank Drevin, Oracle had been keeping an eye on their systems and she had told Gibbs that it had been on Frank's orders that with no trials all samples of the narcotic known as Witches Powder had been destroyed.
Abby had done a few more tests here at the Lock once Tara was awake and confirmed that Witches Powder attracted magickal energies and would explode at the resulting contact, but at this point all the tests they could do were done and those samples were also destroyed.
Even that cynical part of Gibbs had to admit that the highly soluble powder would likely be destroyed if any of the remainder of living users suffered the kind of injury that would reveal it's existence inside their skulls.
So in a very real way the Lock had one at least ONE "War on Drugs".
That too was part of the reason Gibbs was smiling.
His smile was assisted by the fact that when Drevin wasn't ordering the destruction of Witches Powder he was using Gibbs intel care package to kick the LA underworld while it was down, and the aged detective was showing no signs of stopping.
It was a good day, even on the mouth of Hell. It was a sentiment any Marine could appreciate, and Gibbs thought that was good because he was standing at the Lock's airstrip to greet a Marine visitor.
The private jet came in for a smooth landing and Gibbs watched silently as it taxied to a stop and Mike Franks got out with a single bag over his shoulder..
Apollo followed right behind, but as Franks headed towards Gibbs the pilot raised his voice. "I'll get a ride in later. I want to check on the jet's maintenance."
Gibbs nodded as he opened the back for Mike to toss his bag before moving over to the driver's seat. The fact that the Lock's flying ace took his duties as seriously as he did had earned him Gibbs respect early on.
He heard the back close before the passenger door opened and closed as Mike climbed in beside him.
"So what the Hell am I doing here Probie?"
Gibbs grinned right back at the older man, something that made the perpetual scowl on Mike's features deepen. "It's your own damn fault Mike."
That got an immediate response out of the older man. "Come again?"
"Your own damn fault. If you had simply managed to use that stake and cross I gave you to survive when that vampire attacked you we'd simply be happy you were safe and leave it at that. YOU were the one who dusted the thing, and then managed to connect the details of your attack with several other unsolved cases to find a larger pattern we missed."
Mike just lit up a cigarette and glared. Gibbs however knew the man well enough to know he couldn't argue with Gibbs reasoning, and kept his grin.
He let that grin fade as he started speaking. "Look Mike we just wanted you here to give us a report in person as we figure out what kind of response we need to send."
The glare lessened. "You mean like your team?"
Gibbs shrugged as he steered. "Maybe. From what you sent so far it's more likely though a pack of vampire slayers will be given a handler and sent in to clean up the problem."
Mike pointed with the fingers holding his cigarette. "Don't you DARE go looking at me Jethro! I'm too damn old to be hunting monsters."
He deliberately muted the responding smile. "I didn't ask Mike."
The drive to the Lock continued in silence, but that wasn't a bad thing as neither man was the type that felt a need to fill the silences with idle chatter.
Once they got there and inside the first level of the base however Mike felt the need to speak up.
"What the Hell kind of operation are you running here Jethro? These are a bunch of damn kids! Literally!" He pointed angrily at a group of three preteen girls in the same lounge area they were standing in, who looked up as he was shouting. "Those three are braiding each others hair!"
Gibbs exhaled, nodding. He then waved over the one girl who's hair was sporting a couple braids. Her hair was black, her skin fair, Gibbs placed her as Japanese and she was likely native rather then American born as she bowed to the men as Gibbs was sure she was taught to do with elders.
He smiled and knelt down in front of her, softening his voice for the child. "Hi, what's your name?"
She looked at her feet. "Limone, sir."
He smiled. "Could I ask you a favor Limone?"
She looked up, obviously curious what a leader of one of the Lock's action teams could want her to do, but she nodded.
Gibbs smiled again. "Could you please pick up my friend here and hold him over your head?"
She blushed, giggled, looking to Gibbs for confirmation. When he nodded she giggled again and stepped closer to Mike.
Mike's voice was softened, but not pleased. "Probie..."
He then found the young girl grabbing him by the belt buckle and the front of his collar before lifting him up over her head, with out a single sound of effort, and holding him there with no signs of distress. She was actually giggling, as were her two companions who had stopped braiding hair to watch events unfold.
Mike had held his body stiff as not to make it difficult for the girl to hold him, but he was obviously not happy being held. "Put me down!"
Instead of complying Limone looked to Gibbs. Mike looked to Gibbs as well. "Probie! Tell her to put me down."
Gibbs was shaking with silent laughter as he nodded and Limone put Mike down.
Gibbs then said "Thank you Limone" and the girl bowed to the two elders again and returned to her friends, who all giggled.
Mike obviously had some words on the situation that he seemed reluctant to use in front of minors, but Gibbs held up a hand to hold him off.
He motioned Mike to follow, and as the man did Gibbs spoke in a soft voice. "Mike, that was an eleven year old girl... we've titled them baby slayers... now imagine her having a tempter tantrum."
That brought Mike to a stop both physically and mentally as he looked to Gibbs. At first Gibbs just nodded. "At that age Mike all we do is teach them how to control their powers so they don't hurt themselves or anyone else..." Gibbs sighed. "And we teach them how to protect themselves from the threats that would target them."
It was a notion that injected steel into the old Marine's spine. "Who would target eleven year old girls?"
He continued in that same soft tone. "You have to understand Mike. When those girls grow into their power each and every one of them will be a super powered soldier with an instinctive drive to hunt supernatural threats."
Mike filled in the blank. "And if they can get to them before that point."
A saddened nod. "Some want to take out potential threats early. Some seem to just want to take out the frustration they feel over how well our trained slayers are doing... and others we think are trying to figure out a way to convert them."
They kept walking, speaking in hushed tones as Gibbs continued. "We think some supernatural elements are hoping to find slayers of their own that can be turned to fight on their behalf. In those cases we're lucky because so far it seems those slayer instincts are keeping it from working."
Gibbs sighed, Mike could always find those points Gibbs didn't want to address. "Yeah, we don't know of any confirmed incidents, but one of our girls here was smuggled out of Communist China. Partially to train her in how to use her powers, but also to keep her from being exploited by the Communist Government there."
Mike was skeptical. "So you're not exploiting them?"
"Mike, I don't know what picks slayers, but it damn sure ain't us. We are however committed to the same battle they were literally born for, but still we don't draft. We never have, we never will. Everyone here is a volunteer. In the case of the slayers we're just the support system that has added a decade plus to their projected life span."
"Huh?" Was Mike's reply.
"Before the Lock was established a slayer never seemed to survive past her teens. With our training, our support, and the fact that we've organized them into units for the most part their survival rates are on the rise. We've only been here for just over a decade, and the slayers a few years less, but our projections are giving those girls better odds then they've ever had."
"Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs!" Abby ran up to as they were about to enter the control room. "I figured it out!"
Gibbs was smiling at the jubilant Goth. "What is it you figured out Abby?"
"The anti-vampire bullet! At least I think I figured it out. We have to get to the actual field testing, but they've worked on the firing range."
Mike hadn't even been noticed and he sought to rectify that. "Hello?"
Abby turned at the sound. "MIKE!" She pulled the now smiling man into a hug, and Mike happily returned it.
Pulling back the always smiling woman was smiling wider. "When did you get here?"
"Maybe an hour ago. I managed to dust a vampire down in Mexico, and looking into it I managed to find a pattern. I let Leroy here know and next thing I knew I was being asked up here to report in person."
She hugged him again. "It's so good to see you! It's also good to know you didn't get hurt."
Franks scoffed. "The thing just thought I was another old gringo. It didn't stand a chance."
While he was smiling at the exchange Gibbs was curious about the .45 bullet in Abby's hand. "You mentioned an anti-vampire bullet?"
Abby held up the bullet, looking at it as if to confirm that was indeed what she had came there to talk about. "Yeah, right. Well I was remembering some of the slayer's war stories and more then once they talked about having to improvise stakes out of furniture."
A woodworker himself Gibbs took a closer look at the bullet Abby was holding. "Varnish."
Abby's smile grew excited. "EXACTLY! It's actually more of a super high-tech polymer, BUT it IS made of wood, and with the polymer it CAN keep it's shape in flight."
Mike's expression asked Abby for permission to hold the round, and as he handed it over he regarded it closer. "I know the one I took out turned to dust the second I sunk the stake in."
Abby pushed in closer, pointing at the round. "Uh huh, from all accounts as soon as wood meets heart, the vampire's dust. This works on the theory that the bullet can punch through dust, or get turned to dust with the vamp, or whatever. As soon as the wood bullet meets vamp heart it should be all over."
Mike gave the woman a smile. "Should?"
Abby rolled her eyes. "Well you never know till it's tested in the field, but the way it would work is one slayer would carry a gun loaded with the bullets while 2-3 three of her friends would be carrying stakes. Either way the vampire would be dust, but hopefully they will be able to bring me back vast amounts of field testing data."
His tone then became more stern. "You don't go out there yourself do you?"
Abby looked down at her platform shoes. "No, Ziva made it clear that is NOT going to happen."
Gibbs realized what Abby had let slip before Abby did, and he saw it bring a twinkle to Mike's eye as the older man feigned confusion. "Ziva? What would she have to do with it?"
Abby's pale skin quickly turned blush before she looked up and saw both men grinning at her. Her response was to pout.
Mike's smile grew at the expression. "Don't worry about it darlin. I'm just glad you two finally realized your feelings for each other."
That was one of the bigger things the two men had in common, while they might both be old fashioned they both figured that as long as you weren't hurting any body what you did in your own life was your own damn business.
The fact that it was something that made Abby as obviously happy as she was just being all the more motivation to support their rights to live their lives as the women chose.
The happy Goth followed the men into the control room to find the normally bustling eye of the storm at one of it's moments of calm.
While Franks spotted McGee at one of the computers, and DiNozzo standing there he was talking to a familiar face that claimed all of Mike's attention even though she was someone he had never met before.
She was blonde, pretty, fair skinned with blue eyes. She was confined to a wheelchair and had a combination of bruises and bandages that not only told the combat veteran the woman had been through a rough time as of late, but filled him with an urge to find and kill those who did it.
No, while Mike had never met the woman before, she was hauntingly familiar, and as he threw a glance over to Probie he knew that he wasn't imagining things. That woman was a blood relation of Gibbs late wife and daughter.
It was haunting for Franks because the only times he had seen the Gibbs women had been in family pictures at their home, and cold and dead at the crime scene or on ME tables. Yet the resemblance was unmistakable, looking over at Gibbs he knew it wasn't just physical.
There was something to Gibbs that Franks had never seen, but that wasn't true, not entirely. Franks had seen that light go out when he had brought the Marine to identify the bodies of his wife and daughter, seeing that there was no mistake, that his wife and daughter were dead.
After loosing his son he knew that nothing could take that pain away, but he also had his granddaughter, and he knew that could fill some of that hole left behind.
It amplified his urge to find and kill whoever had put the obviously gentle soul in a wheelchair, and that urge showed in his voice as he spoke. "Probie?" As Gibbs looked over Franks continued. "The ones who hurt her?"
Gibbs eyes darkened, as did his voice. "Dead."
Franks had his own one word response. "Good."
Abby had felt the change in the air between the two men, and while she probably agreed with their feelings on the matter she still quickly stepped forward to catch Tara's attention.
It worked and Tara rolled herself forward, scowling at Tony as he slipped in behind her to give her a push that short distance.
"Mister Franks? My name is Tara Maclay, though some here call me Witch Woman. Thank you for coming."
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