The Proof in the Pudding
The Forensic Anthropology lab of the Jeffersonian Institutions was split into two levels and multiple offices. On the first floor, the autopsy lab was raised above the main floor and could only be reached by swiping in with a security ID. The platform was surrounded by other workstations, and behind and to the side of those were the particulates lab, the media room, and offices for Montenegro, Brenner, Sweets, and Saroyan. Above, on the second level, was a well appointed lounge.
One of the reasons it was so well appointed was because Special Agent Booth was tired of his back going out when he slept on Dr. Brennan's office couch, and Doctor Saroyan found it easier to bring her team together if there were well stocked snack and soda machines and comfy chairs for everyone. Just then, it was crowded with those members of the Carthis who couldn't or shouldn't be contributing to the first phase of investigation below – proving Jarod and Miss Parker's claims.
Buffy and Willow had taken seats together. Willow had produced a thick volume on symbols in religious iconography larger than the purse she'd pulled it from. Buffy was patiently grooming her nails. Dr. Saroyan was in her office, trying to keep up with all the other projects the lab was responsible for – deflecting questions and dealing with bureaucracies. Gibbs sat patiently across from the girls. DiNozzo paced the perimeter of the second level. Broots stared at the selections in the snack machine.
McGee, Abby, Hodgins, and Angela were working on the hard evidence – determine whether Jarod's notebooks, the information they included, the digital record display, and all its video records could be verified. Doctors Sweets and Mallard had taken over one of the smaller offices to work out the timelines of the different projects in regards to the hierarchy and membership of the The Centre. They had access to all the information from Jarod's notebooks, the video records, and Miss Parker's statements.
Doctor Brennan, Agent Booth, and Agent Riley were consulting with Jarod and Miss Parker on a related matter.
Booth ducked into the particulate lab.
“Hey, Angela,” he called. “I need to borrow you for a few minutes.”
“I was just getting started with the video records.”
“It can wait,” he told her.
“It can wait
?” she asked. “Global conspiracy? Twenty-four hour time limit?”
“It's okay, Ang,” Hodgins said. “I'll work on the notebooks, and Miss Sciuto and Agent McGee will take the device and give us an idea of the hardware.”
Abby muttered something.
“I'm sorry,” Hodgins said, cupping a hand to his ear. “Did you say something?”
“Miss Sciuto,” Angela said, picking her things up, “you have my permission to maim him, so long as you don't get any blood spatter on my stuff.”
“It's Abby.” Abby begrudged. Then she looked pointedly at Hodgins. “And I can kill you without leaving any forensic evidence.”
“Oh, there's always something,” Hodgins answered.
“Uh, I wouldn't tempt her,” McGee said, looking up from the tangle of cables he was organizing. “She's short on Caf-Pow, which makes her cranky. Also, she carries a Tazer and sleeps in a coffin.”
“Do you really?” Hodgins asked, delighted. “Hey, Ang, I finally met someone kinkier than you!”
Angela put her head back in the room. “Go ahead. Kill him. I'll be back.”
She followed Booth back to the media lab, where she normally ruled the roost. Inside, Agent Riley, Jarod, Miss Parker, and Temperance waited.
“What's up?” she asked, coming in.
“Angela, we need you to bring up the reconstruction of the remains labeled C-MS-15,” Temperance said.
“Okay,” she agreed, dubious.
Unlike Temperance, she didn't have the memory for random strings of letters and numbers, so the designation didn't mean anything to her. She logged into her computer, signed on to the server, searched for the specific file, and uploaded it the 3D display.
“Does this have something to do with what we're currently working on?” she asked.
“Possibly,” Agent Riley answered. “For now, just give us the facts without drawing conclusions.”
“Of course,” Dr. Brennan answered, a little irritated. “I can assure you that if I draw any conclusions from the evidence on hand, they are warranted.”
“It's okay,” Booth assured her. “They're just used to working with people who sometimes . . . jump to conclusions.”
“I can see where that would be both irritating and distracting,” she answered after a moment.
Angela brought up the first layer of the file, a 3D modeling of the skull.
“From the brow ridge and jaw length, this specimen appears to be male,” Brennan started, highlighting the features for a moment so they glowed. “The size of the ocular orbits, their shape and the width of the nasal cavity all fall well within the parameters of a Caucasian, and the cranial sutures are completely ossified, which indicates the subject was a minimum of fifty-five years old. This is confirmed by calcified epithemeae of the long bones. Dentition shows tooth wear consistent with a greater age, possibly by ten to fifteen years.”
Agent Finn and Jarod watched impassively, though Jarod looked like he was soaking in every word and recording it indelibly in his brain.
“From this,” Angela said, picking up where Temperance had left off, “I can apply tissue depth markers over the skull.”
The holograph of the skull sprouted thick, stubby cylinders of different colors.
“I then fill in the eyes,” she explained. “There's no way to determine eye color from skeletal remains, and in this instance, there was no recoverable DNA to sequence in an effort to find the alleles responsible. However, because the anthropomorphic measurements better matched northern European proportions, I defaulted to blue.”
The eyes, spherical and unprotected by muscle or skin, appeared.
“Then, the nose,” Angela continued. “There's room for interpretation because the nasal cartilage continues to grow with age, but the angle and width of the nose don't.”
A nose, gray in color, appeared over the nasal cavity.
“Then I overlay the musculature,” she added, clicking her controller.
The skull abruptly became a face – unskinned and without human expression, but a face nonetheless.
“Skin color, again, is extremely variable, but as with the eyes, I decided to go with something on the low end of the pigmentation range.”
The face became human, an adult man with strong, authoritarian features, but no discernible age. There was an eerie smoothness to it, emphasized by the lack of eyebrows or hair. Miss Parker gasped and pressed a hand to her mouth.
Angela glanced up at the noise, saw Miss Parker's expression, and then glanced at Booth. He nodded reassurance.
“From the age range, I've added what would be considered a normal amount of change to the underlying fatty tissues and collagen – that is, sags and wrinkles.”
The face began to age before them, lines appearing at the corners of the eyes, between where the eyebrows ought to be, stretching from the corners of the nose to the corners of the mouth. The skin sagged down at the jowls, and light brown age spots blossomed in random spots. The face took on a slightly hostile expression, frowning. The lines around the eyes and mouth weren't from laughter but anger and stress.
“A lot of this is interpretation on my part,” Angela admitted. “I spend a lot of time with each set of remains and try to get a feel for the person.”
“Keep going,” Miss Parker ordered.
“Well, hair is usually the last thing added. At the subject's age, gray hair is the most common color.”
Eyebrows finally appeared, and a short, businesslike haircut made the man real. Angela looked up at Miss Parker and glanced at Jarod. There was no mistaking their recognition.
“Give him a mustache,” Miss Parker ordered. “Full but well trimmed.”
Angela called up a menu, made some adjustments, and a mustache appeared above the man's upper lip.
“His hair was lighter, closer to white than gray,” she said. “And he was balding.”
“Standard male pattern?” Angela asked.
Miss Parker nodded.
With a few more adjustments, the portrait of a man emerged – strong, calculating, possibly cruel. Miss Parker stepped toward the display and raised a hand, as if to touch the face.
The tiny voice didn't seem to come from her, but there wasn't anyone else who could have spoken.
“It's him,” Jarod said. “You can identify him as Cain Parker.”
There was a long moment of silence as the others in the room absorbed the news.
“Miss Parker,” Dr. Brennan spoke, “your father's remains are currently stored on site at the Jeffersonian. I can make arrangements to ship them to whatever mortuary you name whenever you choose. Please accept my condolences on your loss.”
The woman staring at her father's face didn't respond.
“Brennan, Angela, come on,” Booth said, gesturing. “Let's give them some time.”
After a very brief whispered exchange, Agent Riley followed the others.
Jarod stood and waited for nearly five minutes while Miss Parker stared at the image.
“Katherine,” he finally said, “I'm so sorry.”
“Just . . . please leave,” she whispered. “Please.”
Jarod bowed his head and left without speaking again.
“That's just great,” Angela snapped, as they walked back to the particulates lab. “You couldn't have given me some warning?”
“It wouldn't have changed anything,” Brennan said.
Angela turned on her heel and put a finger in Temperance's face. “You nearly had a meltdown when we identified your mother's remains. It was the closest I've ever seen you get to losing it.”
Dr. Brennan only blinked and refocused on Angela's face. “Miss Parker was well aware that the remains were in all likelihood her father's. I believe she handled the news with equanimity and poise.”
“I am not talking about her,” Angela said. “I am talking about me. I did not go into that room expecting to be the Bringer of Death for some poor woman I only met an hour ago. You should have warned me. Now I'm going to have to go hide in the bathroom and cry, because now all I
can think about is looking at that display and seeing my own father up there.”
“Angela,” Booth started.
“It's my fault, Miss Montenegro,” Riley interrupted. “Time is of the essence, and I told Agent Booth to bring you straight in without explanation. I didn't want your emotional reaction to sway Miss Parker's identification one way or another.”
“Okay, let's get something straight,” Angela snapped at him. “I am the soft, squishy, wibbly-wobbly, artistic emoter of this team. I am the one the others come to when their worlds are shredded. I have seen death come through this lab two and three times a week for years now, and I have helped identify over one thousand human souls. I don't sway people's reactions, Agent Finn, I respect them and provide as much emotional support as I can. When I can't
do that, I get angry, and you are not going to like me angry.”
She stormed off, leaving the others behind.
“Is there some 'Beware the Nice Ones' message we didn't get?” Booth asked. “Because between Miss Rosenberg nearly exploding my head from the inside and that
, I'm starting to worry.”
“You know, realistically, it's impossible to explode someone's head remotely with currently available technology,” Brennan said. “It would take an almost impossibly complex plan, including cranial surgery, and the victim would have to be aware that something was going on.”
“Keep saying that,” Booth told her.
Hodgins looked up from the samples he was carefully swabbing from each page of the journals and setting into individual test tubes for rehydration when Angela returned. He dropped what he was doing and went over to her.
“Whoa, whoa. Hey,” he said, taking her by the shoulders and turning her towards him. “What's wrong?”
She was near tears. “Why couldn't you just be wrong?” she demanded. “I was fine when you were paranoid and obsessed with conspiracies. Really. I liked the world better that way.”
“Okay,” he agreed with her. “I liked it better too, to tell the truth. Come on over here.”
He led her to a stool where she could sit and took a seat beside her.
“Tell me what's going on,” he said.
Across the lab, McGee and Abby stood, heads bent over the digital record display, which was now opened up and spread out like a corpse at an autopsy. McGee nudged Abby.
“Check it out,” he whispered. “I wonder what's going on.”
Abby glanced up. Her mood was much improved – first by the two one-liter bottles of chilled Caf-Pow Hodgins had produced for her when they entered the lab, then by his promised tour and freedom of the facilities, and finally by this piece of impossible hardware that looked like Blu-Ray system designed by Alan Turing and the recordings they'd analyzed.
“She's the artist, right?” Abby asked.
“Artist, forensic reconstruction expert, and designer of the most completely mindblowing holographic hardware/software interface seen on this planet,” McGee told her. “Didn't you read the article I sent you?”
“No, I was looking at the pictures,” Abby responded. “She's really upset.”
“Probably her first global conspiracy,” he judged. “There's always some harsh disillusionments in those.”
Abby tsked. “Timothy McGee, you are going straight to Hell.”
“Only if you come with me.” He smiled at her.
Jarod joined the rest of them upstairs and went straight to Buffy and Willow. He spoke to them in a low tone none of the others could catch. After a moment's conference, Willow put a bookmark in her thick tome, set it aside, got up, and went downstairs.
“Everything all right?” Gibbs asked.
Jarod took a deep breath. “An unexpected complication, but it should be okay. It doesn't affect the research teams.”
Tony and Ziva stood off to the side.
“You catch anything?” he asked. Ziva's talent for reading lips was well regarded.
“Miss Parker's father has been identified,” she said. “Jarod asked Willow to check on Kate and make sure she was all right.”
“Identified?” Tony asked. “In a forensics lab? That can't be good.”
“I agree,” Ziva said. “And considering Miss Parker's spank, if she's upset enough that Jarod's worried about her, it must be very bad news.”
Tony paused and ran her words back through his mind.
“Spunk,” he told her. “And Miss Parker doesn't have spunk. Abby has spunk. Miss Parker has knives and a glare that can flay a man's ego.”
“You're only saying that because she spunked you,” Ziva said, glancing up at him through her lashes.
me, and she did not,” he answered. “And seriously, you should not be using the word spunk until you look it up in a dictionary.”
“It is what Mary Tyler Moore had, is it not?” Ziva asked, pretending to be defensive. “And it's a slow burning piece of tinder used to set fire to fuses, no?”
“Technically, yes, but there are other definitions that get a little . . . sticky,” he answered.
He looked down at her.
“You're messing with me, aren't you?”
She gave him a sweet smile.
Katherine Parker stood in the darkened office and stared at her fa- no, he wasn't her father. If what she'd learned was true, the man she believed was her father had actually been her uncle. And the thought that kept occurring to her was simply “I don't understand”.
She didn't understand how her mother could have given birth to twins – her and Mr. Lyle – by one man, a man everyone who'd ever dealt with him believed to be evil incarnate. She didn't understand why her mother would then allow Mr. Lyle to be raised by a completely different family or why she then married the brother of the man she'd conceived her children by.
And what about Ethan, the half-brother she shared with Jarod?
He had known, she thought. The man she'd called Daddy her entire life had known at least as many secrets as Mr. Raines, and he must have staked everything he had on his understanding of them if reading the Carthis scrolls had driven him to suicide.
She had stood still so long the motion sensors had automatically dimmed the lights. Now, another person stepped in and silently closed the door. It wasn't Jarod. She always knew when it was Jarod. She was surprised to realize she knew it was Willow. It was a quiet Willow, a gentle Willow, a Willow that made no move to fix or demand or instruct the way every person in Katherine Parker's life always had. She felt a sudden gratitude that gripped her throat.
She waited for it to pass and spoke without looking away from the hologram of a man now dead nearly a year.
“I have no father,” she said simply.
“I'm sorry,” Willow answered.
“I gave up everything for him, just to please him. Just to make him proud. I would have spent the rest of my life hounding Jarod, and I would have been been glad to do it, if just once he'd said he was proud of me.”
“You're not the only person who's ever said that,” Willow told her.
“I just don't understand.”
Willow came up beside her and stood next to her, studying the portrait of the man who'd raised her, called her Katie, and quite possibly ordered the death of the only other man she'd ever loved.
“Buffy's dad stopped coming to visit after her junior year of high school, stopped taking her for visits. He moved to Spain her senior year and didn't even come back when her mom died,” Willow said, the tone of her voice not changing. “Xander's dad is – or was, we haven't had word since Sunnydale – an abusive alcoholic who acted like having a son was the worst thing that could have happened to him. Except Xander has saved my life and Buffy's more times than either of us can count and
saved the world. Giles' father trained him to be a Watcher even though he knew Giles might have to kill the Slayer he trained if the Council required it.”
“And what about you?” Katherine asked.
Willow looked down, calm and sad. “My dad read to me every night before bed until he could recite 'Hop on Pop' from memory. He refused to let me watch The Charlie Brown Christmas Special
in his house, and he never let me get a puppy. He paid all my college bills. When I brought Tara to visit, he treated her like a daughter, and then, he and my mom moved away. I write them every month. Mom sends me a card for my birthday and Chanukah,and she signs for Dad. I haven't actually talked to him in two years.”
“I don't understand,” Katherine repeated. Her eyes hadn't left those of the portrait in front of her.
“We think there are rules,” Willow said. “That Dads are species with certain markings or habitats or predictable behaviors, and they're not. They're just people, and they're about as random as everyone else. Some people luck out, I guess. Jarod's dad is supposed to be decent. Riley's talked about his dad, and he sounds nice. Giles has pretty much taken over Dad duties for the rest of us. You just weren't as lucky.”
“I don't understand what I'm supposed to do,” Katherine said, staring at the man that had been her father.
Willow took her hand. “Right now, you don't have to do anything. At some point, you'll wake up, and you'll know what you're supposed to do, and you'll do it.”
Katherine found the hand holding hers more comforting than she'd ever imagined such a thing could be.
“Probably ice cream,” Willow said.
“Promise?” Katie Parker asked.
Doctors Sweets, Mallard, and Green had spent hours combing through the recordings, the statements, the notebooks, and the interviews. The data they collated had been organized and illustrated on three separate whiteboards – a timeline, an organizational chart, lists of the children, their families members, other victims, and people tangentially involved, and a geographical map of incidents, headquarters, meetings, and events. There were symbols drawn around the edges, taken from what little information had been recovered from obscure documentation.
“Wow,” Sweets said again for the thousandth time. “I still can't get past this. The scope is one thing – looking for inheritable abilities of the same magnitude as Jarod's and then pushing for some sort of extrasensory perception – but to take that and try to apply it to everything from market manipulations to political assassinations? I mean, it's like Professor Moriarty had a sociopathic genius child with a James Bond villain. The complete lack of empathy necessary to acquire Jarod as a child, and what was done to him afterward is utterly inhuman.”
He stopped, realizing a moment too late that he had directly referenced the same program Doctor Sidney Green had run, if not designed. Neither Doctors Mallard or Green looked at him.
“Ah. Okay,” Sweets said, “I want to run this by Hodgins and make sure our timelines match up with what they've verified from the notebooks and the recordings. There are also a couple of things I want to check with Dr. Brennan on. If we've got time for the tests I'm thinking of, they could be the clinchers. Can I get either of you two anything while I'm out?”
It was close to ten p.m., and they'd started just after nine that morning. They had simply plowed through reams of data for hours on end with few pauses and no breaks. Sweets, the youngest by far, still looked like he could wrestle a dragon. Dr. Mallard was feeling his age in his joints and his fraying temper. He'd grown quieter and quieter during the work, finally only answering direct questions. Dr. Green was gray with fatigue, his hair limp and damp, his face pointy with stress and exhaustion.
“Thank you, Doctor, but no,” Mallard answered Sweets.
Dr. Green shook his head.
Once they'd correlated the data with Hodgins' team, they'd write out their conclusions – which Dr. Mallard had every intention of leaving to Sweets – and rest until the morning. Just then, Dr. Mallard was very glad Doctor Sweets had stepped out. He hadn't been sure he could have held on to his temper much longer.
He got to his feet, took his glasses off and cleaned them on his sweater.
“Yes,” the old man said in his curious voice. It had a timbre like a double reed instrument – an oboe or an English horn.
“I have one question for you.”
“And what is that, Doctor Mallard?”
And Ducky felt his heart harden. “How could you?”
Doctor Green opened his eyes, but he didn't sit up or say anything.
“Doctor Sweets hasn't put it together yet, but he will,” Ducky said. “He's too bright not to add it up. I have the advantage of age and experience. Your English may be fluent and your accent almost eradicated, but it's still there. So is your age. And so are the clues in your accounts. You were born an eastern European Jew. Polish?”
“Slovakian,” Doctor Green replied.
“You and your twin brother were shipped off to the camps but kept from the gas chambers even if you were too young to work. You were set aside, weren't you?” Ducky demanded. “For Mengele and his experiments.”
Doctor Green looked down at his hands. “We were. Jacob and I lost all of our family in the Holocaust – parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles. They were all gone. We survived only because Mengele hadn't proceeded as far in his protocols with us as he had with other twins. If the Allies had not liberated Auschwitz when they had, we probably would have been killed by the next week.”
“You were taken from your family,” Ducky repeated, shaking with fury, “tortured, experimented upon, and finally rescued. And yet, you inflicted the very same fate on Jarod and dozens of other children. How could you
Doctor Green looked up at him, pale and tired.
“You're familiar with Faust, Doctor Mallard, I'm sure,” he said. “I was offered a similar deal. I simply didn't recognize the Devil when I saw him. Jacob and I were assured that Jarod had been placed with The Centre by parents who recognized his uncanny abilities and wanted the best for him. We were told that contact had to be limited, then extinguished entirely, in order to provide the control necessary for Jarod's proper development.”
Doctor Green paused for a moment.
“Each step was only a tiny bit further on the road to damnation, and my brother and I convinced ourselves that the work we were doing would shape humanity for the better. It was Jacob who found his conscience first and began to question the lies The Centre fed us, began to look into where the children had actually come from and what had become of their families. Katherine Parker, the elder, came to him with her own suspicions.”
He looked up at Ducky now, his expression bleak and bitter.
“They tried to kill him,” Sidney said. “My brother. They very nearly succeeded. As you've read in the documentation, Jacob was in a coma for nearly thirty-five years. And by then . . . I was trapped. I told myself the best thing I could do was to remain in the belly of the beast, to protect the children I worked with as best I could and to try to find a way, somehow, to mitigate the damage done to the children, and then somehow rescue those. Mrs. Parker and I were working together on a plan when she was murdered.”
He closed his eyes, exhausted and pain-ridden.
“Miss Parker has never known how vulnerable she was, how she could have just as easily been put in a cage alongside Jarod, and used to undermine all that is good in the world around us. I did the small things I could, to deflect attention away from her own abilities, to keep The Centre from using up Jarod, and to find some way to redeem myself. Jarod suspects that I enabled his escape, that I put those records in his path. Miss Parker wonders but has no proof. I even, at one point, did my best to kill Mr. Raines, the man I hold most responsible for this hell, but I botched that.”
He wound down and sighed. He looked ill.
“Will Jarod ever forgive you?” Ducky asked him.
“I don't know,” Sidney replied. “First, he'll have to come to terms with the magnitude of my betrayal and the smallness of my reparations.”
Ducky turned away from him, mouth tight with disgust and anger. By God, he'd seen men tortured, he'd even ended lives in order to spare them the kind of pain dealt out by power mongers like The Centre, he'd known Jethro for twenty years and more and was well acquainted with how well his friend played the role of the Reaper. He'd autopsied friends and colleagues. He'd watched a woman he'd greatly admired drive herself to destruction over a choice made a decade previously. But he didn't think he'd ever seen as great a betrayal or tragedy as the man sitting before him.
Sweets returned, closing the door behind him, wreathed in smiles.
“This is great. Doctor Brennan can do the tests I've requested and have the results by the time we present, and Jarod and Miss Parker have both agre- what's wrong?”
Ducky decided not to press Doctor Green under the circumstances. He would talk to Doctor Sweets separately. It did no good to leave the team's only fully-fledged psychologist in the dark on a matter of this magnitude.
“I'm afraid both Doctor Green and I have reached the limit of our endurance,” Ducky said. “We need to retire for the night and take up the fight in the morning. Could you outline our results and begin fleshing them out without our help, Doctor Sweets?”
“Uh . . . sure. Sure, I can do that,” Sweets agreed. “You guys do look beat. I understand they've got some more comfortable sleeping arrangements on the second floor, if you like.”
“That sounds lovely,” Ducky said. “Why don't you join me, Doctor Green.”
“Yes,” Sidney replied. “I think I will. Good evening to you, Doctor Sweets. I will see you in the morning.”
Gibbs and Ziva stood on the other side of a table in the ballistics lab with Jarod on the other side. Ziva held a stopwatch. Jarod wore a blindfold.
“Go,” Ziva ordered, clicking the button on the watch.
With unerring accuracy, Jarod's hands began to pick out pieces of the disassembled rifle in front of him. Each piece dropped into the next like a ballet of machined steel. Stock, lock, barrel, spring, pin, trigger, and scope. Both Ziva and Gibbs watched, eyes flicking back and forth like spectators at Wimbledon.
“Done.” Jarod said, leaving the now assembled sniper rifle on the table in front of him.
Ziva clicked the button again.
“So?” Gibbs asked.
“He has beaten both my time and yours,” Ziva told him. “The only person I've ever known who could assemble a 2000 HTR any faster was the Mossad agent who trained me and virtually every other person in Israel to ever pick one up.”
“Can I take off the blindfold?” Jarod asked.
“You have any other weapons you want to test him on?” Gibbs asked.
Ziva shrugged. “We appear to have exhausted the stores of the Jeffersonian. We could give him one of our service weapons.”
“Standard issue firearms for Federal agents?” Gibbs asked. “If he can handle the esoteric pieces you've put in front of him, he can do a semi-automatic nine millimeter in his sleep. Go ahead and take the blindfold off, Jarod.”
Jarod lifted it off, looked over the scene, and met Gibbs eyes.
“Abby says there's no record of you ever doing a stint in NCIS,” Gibbs said.
“I never had the honor,” Jarod replied. “Usually, I enter situations where there's been some abuse of power or corruption. Nothing ever came up with NCIS.”
Gibbs hrrmmmed. Ziva picked up a clipboard they'd been working from.
“That covers small and large arms, medical knowledge appropriate for an EMT, a trauma surgeon, a physical therapist, a veterinarian, cosmetic surgeon, anatomist, and a geriatrist, flight ratings, interstate trucking regulations, military procedures for every
branch of the United States military as well as most of the NATO signatures and several eastern bloc countries, civilian law enforcement on local, state, and Federal levels, epidemiology, vulcanology, zoology, lab technician, survival guide, urban and wilderness Search And Rescue, fire fighter, journalist in both print and television, mechanical and chemical engineering, an NTSB investigator, psychologist, psychiatrist, and that does not include the criminal activities he adopted in order to bring at-large criminals to justice. Listing his technical and computer skills would take more time than we have left.”
“You forgot lawyer,” Jarod added mildly. “I've done that about six times.”
“And lawyer,” Ziva added.
“Is there anything you haven't
done?” Gibbs asked him.
“I haven't gotten to conduct a symphony orchestra or work in a circus,” Jarod answered. “I've wanted to, but there just haven't been any situations where I was needed in that capacity.”
Booth ducked his head in. “Hey, Jarod, Dr. Brennan needs you in the lab. She'd like your opinion on some of the results she's looking at.
“No problem,” Jarod answered. “Do you mind?”
He gestured at the assembled Israeli sniper rifle.
“I'll take care of it,” Gibbs said, and began to break it down and put the components away in a its stainless steel carrying case.
Once Jarod was gone, Gibbs continued to tidy up.
“What's your take on Summers and Rosenberg?” he asked Ziva.
She hadn't imposed herself, but they'd spent more than ten hours either upstairs and had visited the ladies' restroom – fully equipped with shower and towels for late nights at the lab – at the same time.
“You've noticed Buffy has small scars all over her hands,” Ziva said.
“They extend up her arms. When she changed clothes, I saw at least one bullet scar and several surgical scars. The placement of the injury was either sloppy or someone determined to make her die slowly. Thoracic surgery would have been very dangerous, and I'd expect a high rate of disability even if the patient survived. Yet, her scars all have the appearance of being extremely old, and she has no limp, no loss of range of motion, no one-sided weakness – nothing I have seen in operatives who carry the same number of scars.”
“And Rosenberg?” Gibbs asked.
“She reminds me of myself,” Ziva said, as she handed him several other cases to stow away, “when I realized that my father had succeeded in turning me into a weapon. It took a few missions, but I came to understand that if I decided a certain person should be dead, I could then ensure it happened. I could do it from far away – like you – or up close and personal. But, I was Mossad. My training ensured that I only ever killed when the mission required it. Willow has never had that level of training. It's not in her file or in her demeanor. She's had to learn on her own what the cost of that ability is.”
“Has she learned it?” Gibbs asked.
“For the most part, yes,” Ziva said, staring off into the mid-distance. “Whatever happened with Agent Booth leads me to believe that she will kill to protect Buffy, perhaps Jarod or Miss Parker. Her reaction afterwards tells me that she's not comfortable with that. She's not a born killer, Gibbs. She had to be pushed into it.”
“None of us are born killers, Ziva,” Gibbs told her.
“Ari was,” she answered, locking the cabinet.
Doctor Brennan posted the results on the widescreen monitor in her office for Jarod and Miss Parker.
“I thought you might prefer to see these before I sent the results to Doctor Sweets,” Doctor Brennan explained.
“It does kind of put a whole new spin on characters and motivations within The Centre,” Booth added. “You weren't kidding, Miss Parker, when you said they weren't far from the Borgias.”
“What are we looking at?” Miss Parker asked.
She stood between Booth and Jarod, her diamond hard persona softened just enough to sound human. Jarod leaned against the corner of Doctor Brennan's desk. Brennan stood before them, ready to explicate whatever was displayed.
The monitor displayed several pictures – a series of Jarod from childhood to adulthood, a similar series of Miss Parker, a single photo of a young man named Ethan who both of them claimed to be related to, and a last photograph, taken sometime decades ago, with Jarod's mother and the elder Katherine Parker standing arm in arm.
“Doctor Sweets idea was to compare what biological and genetic data we could in the time we have, to see if it helped us understand the underlying motivations and pressures this so called Triumvirate and The Centre possess,” Brennan said. “We don't have the time to do a full genomic comparison, but we could isolate particular alleles in both the mitochondrial DNA and the Y chromosone of the nuclear DNA as well as compare your different blood types.”
“Could we skip the squint talk?” Booth asked.
“If it's all right, I'd like to hear it in detail,” Jarod said. “Doctor Brennan?”
“Here are our preliminary findings from cell samples obtained from you, Miss Parker, and the lock of hair from the man you call Ethan when subjected to comparison of mitochondrial DNA.”
She flicked something and three strips of random black and gray dashes appeared. Only, they weren't completely random. With another click, the strips stacked one on top of the other, and every single dash aligned perfectly.
Jarod lost all semblance of relaxation. His hands dropped to his sides, his mouth fell open, and he stood at attention.
“Oh, my God,” he whispered. “Of course.”
“What?” Miss Parker demanded.
“Mitochondrial DNA is only passed from mother to offspring,” Doctor Brennan explained, “and it has a very slow, regular rate of mutation – too slow for us to determine how many generations may have gone by in as short a time as a century or even a thousand years. But from this, it's very clear that you, Jarod, and Ethan share a common female ancestor.”
Miss Parker looked at Jarod, her brows drawing down. “What does that mean?”
“It means our mothers were related,” he told her. “Daughters of the same woman, or granddaughters of the same maternal grandmother. We're cousins.”
Miss Parker opened her mouth to speak and stopped, unable to find anything to say.
“What about Ethan?” Jarod asked.
“Well, Miss Parker indicated that he was her half-brother by her mother,” Doctor Brennan said.
“I was told he was also my half-brother, but not by which parent,” Jarod answered. “And it's very possible that Miss Parker was lied to.”
Brennan shook her head. “There are thirty different blood typing groups, and most of them have been mapped to specific chromosomes. Miss Parker and Ethan both possess a mix of groups, many of them recessive, that are statistically would almost never occur in people who weren't related. There are enough differences between the two of you that, in comparison, I would rate the likelihood of you and Miss Parker being first or second cousins as greater than fifty percent, and the likelihood of Ethan and Miss Park being siblings sharing one parent at ninety-five percent or better.”
“What about Ethan and me?” Jarod asked.
Brennan clicked again, and two new gene diagrams appeared. “These are from an arbitrary length of codons from your Y chromosomes.”
She overlaid the two. Again, they were a perfect match.
“We share the same father?” Jarod asked, stunned.
“You share a recent, common male ancestor,” Brennan corrected him. “It could be a paternal grandfather or great-grandfather, though, admittedly, I would consider that fairly unlikely. There's one other thing.”
Both Jarod and Miss Parker stared at her, unable to demand what else could possibly be left.
“Neither of you mentioned Ethan's age,” Brennan said, “though I was left with the impression that he was younger than either of you.”
“Yes,” Miss Parker said. “I believe he was born just before my mother was murdered.”
“The timing may be correct,” Brennan told her, “but your mother may not have given birth to him.”
“What . . .” Miss Parker shook her head, trying to grasp what she was being told.
“This is . . . not even a theory,” Brennan said, glancing at Booth. He nodded at her. “But, considering the extremely advanced design of the digital recording system and mentions of other technological breakthroughs The Center possesses, I was willing to entertain it when Doctor Hodgins brought it to my attention.”
“What?” Jarod demanded.
“There's a suspicious amount of damage to the telomeres for a man nearly ten years younger than Miss Parker. In fact, I would expect to see the same amount of damage on the telomeres of someone at least forty-five years old or older. It's difficult to judge.”
Jarod walked over to the couch and sat down heavily. He put his head in his hands for a long moment, and when he looked up, he was wracked with grief and guilt.
“It was never about me, was it?” he asked Dr. Brennan. “All this time, I thought it was about me, just me, but it's not.”
“If Doctor Hodgins' hypothesis is correct,” Brennan told him, “then no, it's not just about you. It's about the genetic legacy your father, your mother, your maternal aunt, and your cousin carry. The Centre hasn't been trying to recapture you simply because of your abilities but because they've found some sort of genetic key that you carry. Either they spotted it in your parents' generation, or they back-tracked it from you to your parents, and decided to replicate it as best they could.”
“Could I get this in FBI dummy talk?” Booth asked. “Because you left me back with all the genetic key words I never picked up in high school.”
“Ethan,” Brennan told him, “is most likely the product of a cloning or genetic manipulation program, one that is decades ahead of what we can do now. Jarod, Miss Parker, their mothers, his father, and all their direct relatives have encoded in their genes some inheritable factor that makes it possible for Jarod to be a Pretender. There are some other, very vague references to Mrs. Parker possessing a different set of abilities. Creating Ethan may have been an attempt at fusing those abilities, provoking a new ability when the involved genes were paired, or just at duplicating what they knew they had.”
“Let me get this straight,” Booth said, pulling his hand down his face, “Jarod, Miss Parker, and their backwoods, Maury Povich “who's my baby-daddy” family are the real world equivalent of X-Men mutants? And The Centre's using them to try to take over the world?”
“I don't know what that means,” Brennan said.
“I do,” Jarod answered, his shoulders slumping. “And I think it's true.”
“Where's Ethan?” Booth demanded.
“Safe,” Jarod answered. “With my father. The younger brother I mentioned . . .”
“My father and I managed to rescue him from The Centre. He looks exactly like I did at that age. It's my belief that The Centre cloned him from my genetic material. He's also with my father.”
“We've got to find them,” Booth said. “Now.”
“Wait a minute,” Miss Parker cut in, turning towards him. “I am not
digging out and exposing Jarod's family just so the government can take them into custody instead of The Centre. My mother gave her life making sure Ethan and the other children would have a chance to grow up outside of a . . . a rat cage in a laboratory. There is no way in hell
I will see her sacrifice go to waste.”
“Hey, nobody's talking about involuntary custody,” Booth answered, his voice rising to meet hers. “I'm saying, let's get them out of harm's way before The Centre can put them all in a blender and make mutant smoothies out of them.”
“Oh, and you think the govern-”
“That's enough,” Jarod cut in, hard and incisive. Both Miss Parker and Booth shut up. Brennan had an impressed expression on her face.
“We talk to Agent Finn,” he continued. “If he gives his word our family members won't be held against their will or subjected to any involuntary testing, then we do this. If not, I walk away and do it on my own.”
“Not without me,” Miss Parker said.
Jarod looked up at her and nodded his thanks.
“We really do need to include this in our briefing,” Doctor Brennan said.
“Let me talk to Finn first,” Jarod responded. “And Buffy,” he added as a quiet afterthought.