Introduction to Intermediate World Saving
Author's Notes: As a Jewish mystic once said, if you save one life, you have saved the entire world. From that perspective, each of our groups of heroes has done a honking lot of world saving. You'd think one genre of world saving would be enough, but no. While Buffy and Willow are getting an introduction to conspiracies of global domination, the Jeffersonian researchers run into evidence that so-called psychic powers are not necessarily a sham, and NCIS . . . well . . . they're having a rough week. Builds character, as my mom tells me.
As a side note, trying to track which fictional universes I can used as pop cultural shout outs and which are to be saved for future crossover stories - I prefer my characters to be ignorant of the particular universes I'm going to pitch them into - is just too darn hard to keep track of. So, keep in mind that just because one agent references a certain wizard by the name of Harry (not, the other one), doesn't mean a) he isn't fictional, b) he is fictional, or c) any particular character running into him in the future will know anything about him. That is all. Introduction to Intermediate World Saving
“Okay, I was cool with the little emotional send off she gave Jarod,” Tony complained, “and six hours of shopping was a little much, but I coped. It's good to know that they're staying at that charming, completely unnoticeable cottage in Georgetown. But what exactly have they been doing for the last forty-five minutes in this part of town?”
Ziva sat beside him, keeping an eye on the two young women as they walked the same four blocks, back and forth, over and over – talking, laughing, and occasionally (maybe) re-enacting scenes from Wizard of Oz.
“This is not a very good neighborhood,” she noted. “And they don't seem to have a purpose here, other than . . . making a spectacles of themselves?”
She had a point. The two women were dressed in attractive, colorful, eye-drawing outfits, as if they wanted to catch the attention of everyone else in the area.
“Spectacle. Spectacles are glasses. And have you noticed?” Tony added. “Not a single drug dealer has approached them.”
“If you were to ask me,” Ziva said.
“Which I am,” Tony answered.
“I would say that they are looking for tr-”
Both women vanished.
“-ouble,” Tony finished for her. “Let's go.”
“Dawn would so totally kill to be down here,” Buffy said, kicking at a few scattered leaves near the gutter. “All the museums and landmarks?”
“I think Hodgins would totally kill you if you invited your kid sister into the covert infiltration and takedown of a global conspiracy because it would make a cool field trip,” Willow told her.
“Yeah,” Buffy agreed. “Does he seem kind of tightly wound to you? He does to me.”
“Seriously? More than half the people we met today seem tightly wound to me. Especially Gibbs, Hodgins, and Booth.”
“I kind of like Gibbs. Yeah, he's got the tension monkey on his back, but you know when stuff goes down, he's going to be Mr. Stomp The Baddies. Oh, and you know what Jarod figured on Booth? The reason he looks so much like Angel?”
“What's that?” Willow asked, pirouetting spontaneously.
“He figured out that Agent Booth is the great-great-great grand-something of John Wilkes Booth, and – uh – don't go around telling people that, because apparently, he's not exactly thrilled.”
“Who would be?”
“Right? Seriously. Anyways, he traced the Booth family back to these bigwigs in England, and that end of the family had property in – get this – Galway, and they just happened to be visiting less than a year before Mrs. Booth gave birth to her second son. Oh, and those Booths were known as having really awesome parties.”
Willow turned and looked at her, mouth open in astonishment. “But . . . the odds . . .”
“'Never tell me about the odds,'” Buffy quoted and gave her a wry smile. “Jarod wants to do a whole lot more research before he officially calls it, and he isn't sure telling Booth is a good idea. I mean 'Congratulations, not only do you have an ancestor who assassinated Abraham Lincoln, but his great-grandmom cheated on her husband and conceived her child by a guy later known as the Scourge of Europe.
“I asked him how it was possible they looked so much alike,” she continued, “and he started muttering about genetic drift and conservation of hottie genes.”
“Yeah, I think you misheard the last part,” Willow said. “The hottie gene has yet to be identified.”
“Well, they should get busy on that,” Buffy said, nodding her head emphatically. “Humanity could benefit from a significant increase in hottitude.”
They came up on one of the narrow alleys. Willow deliberately turned her back to it.
“Don't look,” she said, smiling, “but I think we've finally got a nibble.”
“Geez.” Buffy rolled her eyes. “It's about ti-”
Tony and Ziva sprinted for the alley, weapons drawn.
“How many?” Tony demanded.
“I saw at least three,” Ziva answered. “There are probably more.”
Just as they came up on the mouth of the alley, a howling, icy wind of hurricane strength blew past them, and tumbled some unlucky man and a great deal of trash onto the street. Both instinctively flinched back and put their arms up to cover their heads.
“What the – FEDERAL AGENTS!” Tony roared.
The man that had been thrown past them got to his feet, and moved so fast, Tony couldn't quite get a bead on him as he turned to face him. He was three quarters of the way around when the man tackled him, crushing him against the ground, and knocking his weapon out of his hands. Then he grabbed Tony by the hair and pulled his head back.
Tony did his best to break the man's grip, but not even Ziva, not even Damon Werth, had the strength this guy did. He had no leverage at all, and this guy was about to snap his neck like a Twix bar.
“Federal agent!” Ziva hollered. “Drop him!”
The guy ignored her and started to twist. Ziva put a bullet through his head.
Tony's attacker wavered, but didn't fall. Then, he blinked and released his hold. He shook his head as if trying to clear it, scattering bits of brain and blood in a circle around them.
“What the fu-” Tony gasped, gave up, kicked the guy in the face, pushed him off, and scrambled to his feet.
The guy got to his feet as well, brought his hands down from his head, and in the dim streetlights, considered the blood and brain matter on them. There was something wrong with his face. Very, very wrong.
“Great,” he lisped. “Like I need another hole in my head, assholes.”
“What. Is that.” Ziva stated, her voice shaking with reaction, but her weapon rock steady.
“Let's go with Romero fast zombie for now,” Tony answered, stumbling to her side. “I say we kill it with fire.”
“Incoming!” someone shouted.
Another man was thrown out of the alley, striking their fast zombie dead on and knocking him down. Buffy bolted out of the alley and ran straight for them.
“Time to take cover!” she yelled.
She didn't tackle them, but she did emphatically grab both of them and bring them to the ground with her.
A roaring tongue of yellow-white flame leapt from within the alley twenty yards out to where Tony's attacker and the attacker's friend had gotten to their feet. It engulfed them, and in a split second, the two men disappeared in a blast of dust and heat.
“Uh . . . I . . . whu . . .” Tony managed.
“Upsidaisy,” Buffy said, getting to her feet and pulling them up with her.
“The . . . guy . . .” Tony continued to struggled.
“Yep,” Buffy agreed with him. “Bad guys go poof. We'll explain, but we've got some things to do before we can. Come on.”
She turned and walked back toward the alley. Ziva stood, frozen, one finger raised and her mouth open. Tony looked around, spotted his gun, and grabbed it. By the time he returned to Ziva, she was moving towards the alley after Buffy.
“You got 'er, Will?” Buffy called.
“Uh huh,” Willow called back.
“Got what?” Tony demanded, coming up behind Buffy.
“In a minute,” Buffy replied.
In the alley, Willow stood over a woman. The woman had been impaled through the belly by a spar of wood from a broken pallet. Around the ground in the alley were several low mounds of gritty dust. Tony counted five.
“We need to call an ambulance,” Ziva said.
Buffy turned on her heel, right next to the woman, who moaned.
“No, what you need to do is listen,” Buffy said, her voice hard. “And if you pay attention and make a real effort to get it, I'll skip the lecture on 'If You're Trying To Get Yourself Killed.'”
She leaned over, grabbed the woman by the hair and hauled her to her feet, lifting her off the spar of wood.
“Help me,” the woman babbled, her eyes rolling in terror. “Please, help me. Don't let her kill me.”
“Hey, this is-” Tony started.
Without speaking, Buffy used her other hand to pull a necklace out from under her jacket and take it off. She held it out so they could both see light glint off the plain cross in her hand. Then, still without a sound, she slapped the palm of her hand against the woman's forehead. The woman shrieked and arched like a bow, and a horrible sizzling sound came from where Buffy pressed the cross against her skin. Smoke rose from under her hand. It smelled disturbingly like barbecue.
After a moment, Buffy brought the cross away. She pulled the woman back up.
There was a cross-shaped burn on the woman's forehead, but more than that, her forehead was wrinkled, the brow ridges stuck out, and her irises were bright gold with elliptical pupils.
“Holy Mary, Mother of God,” Tony whispered.
Next to him, Ziva whispered something in shocked Hebrew.
“This,” Buffy said, shaking the woman a bit, “is not a person. This is a dead body possessed by a demon, and it stays busy killing people and drinking their blood.”
“Vam . . . pire?” Tony managed.
“Points to the Fed,” Buffy replied.
“Vampire?!” Ziva demanded. “Like . . . like Dracula and all-” she held up her hands like claws and made a face.
“That's the general idea,” Willow agreed. “With a few minor differences in abilities. These guys – and the seven others we dusted – are all fledglings.”
“Which means they've got a master out there,” Buffy continued.
“And he's going to eat you alive, bitch,” the vampire spat at her.
Without changing expression, Buffy lifted a foot and brought it down on the vampire's lower leg. Tony and Ziva could hear the bones snap.
“I'm sorry,” Buffy said, looking down at the now writhing vampire, “you had something to add to the discussion?”
The vampire screamed at her.
Buffy reached behind her, snapped off the spar of wood from the pallet, and brought it down on the vampire's chest, punching through bone and skin like tissue paper.
The vampire screamed again, but the sound never made it out of her throat as her body disintegrated in a fall of ash and dust. Even so, Tony reached out as if he could stop her.
“You just killed her?” he demanded.
“You have to be alive in order to die,” Buffy told him. “The person who became that vampire has been dead long enough to vote in Chicago. Will, what are you looking at?”
“Eight total,” Willow answered, “all of them near the same age, and all of them turned by the same vampire. From their relative weakness, I'd say their master is no older than fifty years. My guess? There's been some sort of coup of the old master, this master survived, and he's trying to build up a power base.”
Tony glanced at Ziva. From her expression, she was troubled and afraid and watching Willow and Buffy like a hawk.
“Have you checked the accidental deaths, disappearance, and murder stats in your town recently?” Buffy asked them. “Because we did. There have been twenty this month, and the bodies which have been recovered all bear the hallmark signs of vampires.”
He tried to find something to say, but it just wasn't happening, and his jaw worked without any sound being produced.
It couldn't – literally could not – be possible. Vampires? He was hallucinating. Or he'd been poisoned. Or maybe it was all special effects, smoke and mirrors.
“Buffy, I think the Feds have crashed,” Willow said. “Blue Screen Of Death.”
“Yeah, well, that's what they get for tailing us when we're supposed to be working together,” Buffy answered. “Yes, Agents DiNozzo and David, when Willow and I aren't working to disassemble global conspiracies, we like to spend our time killing vampires. You might even say it's my raison d'etre
“What's that?” Tony finally managed to squeak a couple of words out.
“It's French for 'reason for being',” she told him.
He closed his eyes for a moment. “I know what the phrase means. I'm asking, why is your reason for being killing vampires?”
“Because I'm the Vampire Slayer,” she answered, completely serious.
He looked over at Ziva, who met his eyes.
“That's it,” he said. “I have officially lost it. Ziva, would you be so kind as to inform Gibbs and maybe see about a reservation at the Funny Farm for me?”
She shook her head in a tiny motion. “No, because I am certain I will be in my room before you are. Perhaps Gibbs can find us there later.”
Buffy pressed her lips together and raised her eyebrows. “Great, I broke the Feds. You know what helps that?”
“What?” Ziva and Tony asked together.
“Ice cream shakes. We know a place.”
“Werewolves?” he asked.
“Yep,” Buffy replied.
“I dated a werewolf for a while,” Willow said, staring off into the mid-distance. “Really sweet guy. Except, you know, at that time of the month. Had to lock him up and read bedtime stories to him when he went furry.”
“Or . . . ?” Tony prompted.
“He ate people,” she answered. “Not his fault. He's gotten a lot better controlling his inner wolf.”
Ziva tapped the table until she could pull the phrase she was looking for off her tongue. “Frankenstein's Monster!”
“Couple of those,” Buffy said, digging deeper into her shake. “The second one was government issue.”
“Creature from the Black Lagoon?” It was Tony's turn.
“That was the swim team,” Willow answered. “They really loved their coach. You know, with some falva beans and a nice chianti.”
Both Ziva and Tony shuddered.
“Mad scientists?” Tony asked.
“Only every other time we turned around,” Buffy said. “There were also a ton of non-vampire demons, a power mad city mayor who wanted to become a Hell god, and then an actual Hell god.”
“So, technically, vampires can live forever,” Tony said, taking a sip of his shake through his straw.
“Technically,” Buffy agreed.
“I ran a statistical analysis a couple of years ago,” Willow started. “The majority of vampires, like eighty percent, don't make it past a year. Stupid mistakes, falling prey to other demons, and being killed by their own masters. Of the remaining vampires, most of them are killed off before they reach fifty years old, and that's almost entirely internecine warfare. Of the small number that get past one hundred, less than one tenth of one percent of the original number, those guys start racking up centuries.”
“The first master I killed was actually the oldest one on record at that time,” Buffy told them. “He was, we think, around a thousand years old. I was fifteen. Then we ran into Kakistos, who turned out to be more than two thousand years old. Faith killed him. I was backup.”
Her tone of voice turned quiet and reserved, as if memories had taken up her attention.
Tony's eyes narrowed in thought. “That thing with Agent Booth yesterday. That was something about a vampire, wasn't it?”
Buffy's head jerked up, and her pupils dilated, but she stayed silent.
“Damn, DiNozzo,” Willow muttered. “How the hell did you make that connection?”
“I actually do this for a living, you know,” he answered, the slightest edge to his voice. “Figure things out, find the bad guys, et cetera. Who was he, Buffy?”
Buffy, the most rattled either of them had seen her since, well, the scene the previous day, swallowed. “His name was Angel. He, um, he had a soul. He fought on our side. He was killed in that thing in Los Angeles.”
Tony and Ziva exchanged looks.
“That thing in Los Angeles?” Tony repeated. “With half the city burned down and insane reports of a dragon flying over . . . head . . . There was an actual dragon, wasn't there?”
“Probably,” Buffy replied, not looking up. “I wasn't there.”
All four of them slumped in their seats. Ziva and Buffy played with their shakes.
“Gibbs will never believe this,” Ziva said.
“Oh, he hangs out around us long enough,” Willow said, “he will.”
“Should probably bring him along on a patrol,” Buffy said, sounding unsure and rather deflated.
“Think that's going to have to wait,” Tony said. “What with all the stuff coming up. Also, Sunnydale?”
“What about it?” Buffy asked, looking up from her shake.
“Really? Seriously? The intel on that town looks like someone copy and pasted the Dresden Files,” Tony said. “Even with vampires and their buddies being real, it's hard to believe a town could be that messed up.”
“Oh, it was,” Buffy answered. “And then some. I consider it a good thing the sinkhole took it out. It would probably be for the best if they diverted a couple of rivers and put it at the bottom of a lake.”
“That,” Ziva mused, “is actually quite terrifying.”
“You ain't just whistlin' Dixie, Agent David,” Willow answered.
The table fell silent for a moment. Tony looked up and around, and then picked up his shake.
“Good shakes, though,” he commented.
The others nodded in agreement.
“You what?” Gibbs asked. He hadn't quite worked up to a full, patented Gibbs Glare, but he'd put down his auger and stared at them.
It was close to three o'clock in the morning, which didn't really matter much in Gibbs's world. Either he was awake, down in the basement, and working on his latest nautical project, or he was sleeping on the couch in his living room, ready to be awake at the drop of a clue or team member's personal crisis.
“We are asking you to trust us on this, Boss,” Tony repeated, meeting his eyes. “At least until tomorrow night. Buffy said she'd happily show you the ropes once the rendezvous was completed and they'd verified that Jarod and the others are on their way back.”
“The ropes?” Gibbs demanded.
Tony glanced at Ziva, who nodded emphatically.
“Gibbs,” she spoke, “I do not feel I can adequately describe the circumstances in which Tony and I learned of what Miss Summers and Miss Rosenberg do, at least not in a way you would find believable. If anything, the abilities they claim are understated. If anything, it . . . opens a door to a world even more frightening than what the existence of this Centre implies.”
Gibbs's eyes narrowed, and he watched her closely for a moment.
“Ziva, are you all right?” he asked.
She didn't answer immediately, and Gibbs's gaze flashed over to Tony, who met his eyes steadily.
“I am . . . reconsidering some long held beliefs,” Ziva admitted.
“This is the second time in a week I've had to re-organize my understanding of how the world works, Boss,” Tony said. “I can't make any guarantees for how this will end up, but my gut tells me they're good guys.”
Gibbs studied them for a long moment, then exhaled.
“Okay,” he answered, shrugging. “I trust your call on this. Let's work on the rendezvous and deal with the rest tomorrow night.”
“Boy, did Tony and Ziva look pooped,” Abby commented. “Wonder why.”
“Well, they got their butts kicked by a former cheerleader,” Tim replied, smiling at the memory, “and they had to get everything set up for this by six o'clock this morning.”
“Even so, you'd think they would have joined us,” she pointed out.
They had paused at the entry way to the ocean exhibit and were both staring up at the life sized replica of a barnacle encrusted right whale.
“I know,” Tim agreed. “How could sleep possibly compare with this?”
He indicated with a tilt of his head the entirety of the Jeffersonian's Natural History Museum, where he and Abby attended as the primary contact for Jarod's family. The ocean exhibit occupied a quarter of the rear portion of the main floor and less than an hour after opening, it was filled with crowds.
“Sometimes, Timmy,” Abby said, slipping an arm into his, “I wonder about them.”
She'd had to surrender her black battenburg lace parasol at guest services, but that was her sole concession to the security concerns of the day. Even her five inch platform, lace up Edwardian boots spoke more to her sense of proper fashion aesthetics than the possible need for mobility in a hurry.
Around them, an overly chipper teacher guided a group of private schoolers through a series of displays, asking them probing questions while keeping them expertly herded together. Housefrauen, college students, families, retirees, vacationers, tourists, and devotees of knowledge circulated around them. On the other end of the whale, Booth appeared to be absorbed in reading an explanation of the deep ocean. Hodgins strolled past a stand listing the different oceanic environments. Angela Montenegro sketched the enormous man-o-war jellyfish dangling above another plexiglas encased assortment of ocean life. Buffy and Willow were elsewhere in the museum, looking over the other patrons. Gibbs sat in the cafe downstairs, coordinating by cell phone only when absolutely necessary. Ducky and Riley waited in a storage room just off one of the exhibits, near a straight shot out a maintenance alley. Tony and Ziva watched over the alley and kept an eye on security.
Hodgins and Angela were under strict orders to be lookouts and nothing more. Booth and McGee carried only their service weapons under casual, weekend clothes. They were off duty. There were no walkie-talkies, as the museum security had no idea what was going on. There was no reason to believe any of the Centre's operatives knew what was going on, but it was enough to know that the Centre was willing to spill blood on a very large scale to get their hands on Jarod's parents, sister, and brothers and had been hunting them for years. It was a balance between not drawing any attention and maintaining enough strength to protect those people the Centre wanted.
“Any ideas?” Abby asked.
Tim shook his head. “They're supposed to come to us. I suggest we treat this like any other Saturday at the museum.”
Abby hmmphed, but not unhappily. “I like Angela,” she announced.
“Of course you do,” Tim answered. “She worshipped your boots and promised you a copy of her facial reconstruction software. What's not to love?”
She grinned. “It's more than that, Tim.”
They moved along, stepping past the teacher, who was losing her chip and beginning to look a bit harried.
“Thomas, must you?” the teacher asked one of her charges.
The little boy nodded enthusiastically.
“Hey, Auntie Em!” Abby yelled, and waved at one of the docents.
The woman pointed a finger at her and wagged it. “I've killed people for less, Sciuto, and I'll never run out of places to hide the body, working here.”
“Emmie, then,” Abby corrected herself.
“That's better. Hey, Tim!” the docent called. “Good to see you again.”
“It's like we're celebrities,” Abby said, smiling happily.
“Hey, Emily,” Tim called.
The docent, tall enough under most circumstances but positively short in the company of Tim and Abby, wrinkled her nose at them.
“Check out the Written In Bone exhibit,” she suggested. “They just put out the stuff on the remains recovered from that well last year.”
“You got it,” Tim answered.
She started to say something else but was swamped by a group of tourists all wearing identical red baseball caps.
“It's kind of a microcosm,” Tim noted, as they looked around.
“In a manner of speaking,” Abby replied. “Your writer is stirring, isn't it?”
He shrugged a little, uncomfortably. “I've been doing a little thinking on a new plot.”
“Gotten a chance to talk with Doctor Brennan?”
He shook his head, wide eyed. “Are you kidding? You realize every single book she's written has been optioned for either movie or television production? She has more invitations to cons and readings than there are weekends in a year. I've got three books out there, and I can't get my editor to even look at my outline for a novel outside Deep Six.”
“Hmmm. I foresee L. J. Tibbs will be chasing a suspect through a crowded museum,” Abby predicted. “I think you should include the T-Rex skeleton.”
“It's been done,” Tim answered.
They moved on to the next exhibit, noting things which had been adjusted, removed, or updated. The crowds of people shifted only a little. The teacher had to chase Tom down, but not before Tom careened into a young man, knocking a soda out of his hands. Shocked, the young man started wailing, and the teacher stopped to check on him. Emily the docent hurried forward, talking into a mike clipped to her jacket lapel. An older man, about Gibbs's age and with similar bearing and expression stopped to help.
“But . . . but . . .” the young man cried, bewildered, “that was mine.”
“Sorry,” Tom said, sheepishly.
The teacher, now harrassed and almost out of cheer, gently pushed him away from the growing mess.
“Here's your cup,” the older man said, picking up a plastic cafe cup with a crazy straw. There was a bit of ice left rattling around.
“Hey, we got it,” Emily said, ducking in. “Let me get everyone to back up, so the soda doesn't get tracked.”
“Young man,” the teacher started in a kind voice, “you're not supposed to bring drinks into the exhibit. Is there someone here with you?”
The man looked at her, confused with the kind of wide-eyed, worried innocence which usually didn't survive fourth grade.
“The whale,” he answered, pointing up to it. “I wanted to see the whale.”
“It's okay,” Emily answered, “he's got a season pass, and he's always here with his brother.”
There were crowds gathering on either side of the spill now, as they'd blocked cross traffic. Emily did an admirable job of steering everyone around. Tim found himself crowded next to worried man while the teacher directed her students around the mess and kept one hand on Tom's shoulder.
“I . . . I wanted to see the whale,” the man said, getting upset. “But my soda . . .”
“Hey, it's okay,” Tim assured him. “Emily's going to make sure it gets clean up, and you got one of the collectible cups, so you can get a refill. Do you know where your brother is?”
“What's wrong with that boy?” the old man asked Abby, who stood next to him. His tone of voice was concerned, not irritated.
“Hmmm?” Abby came back from trying to keep an eye on everything that was going on, “oh, he's probably got some developmental delays. His name's Ethan. I've seen him here a bunch of times, but his brother-”
“There you are,” a teenage boy yelled, jogging towards the whole mess. “Ethan, I said to wait for me.”
The newcomer was wearing an Eagle scout uniform, and half a dozen other boys in the same uniform came up behind him, like reinforcements at a landing.
“Jeff! Jeffrey!” Ethan called.
,” Abby protested, catching the name and starting to do the mental addition.
A hand clasped her wrist, and she looked down, then up. It was the teacher.
Wait, didn't she have gray hair? Hadn't she been shorter a moment ago? The woman smiled with a daring twinkle in her eyes.Danger is close.
The thought sprang into her head without any attached ideas, and Abby almost jerked away from the touch. She stopped herself and managed to scan the crowd the way she'd seen Gibbs and Ziva do it, looking without turning her head, checking reflective surfaces, and paying attention to her peripheral vision.
A much older man in a polo shirt which didn't fit him and flecks of stubble from shaving too fast that morning.
A young woman sitting at one of the resting spots, her vacant eyes staring down.
A pair of identical twins, boys who couldn't be older than twelve.No harm.
That thought rang in Abby's head like the Liberty Bell, accompanied by a hectic, kinetic sense of running, tracking, and chasing, then a picture of group of foxes – a skulk? A leash? Abby wondered and shut up – fleeing hounds, running into what looked like a dead end. The foxes turned to face the hounds, and when the hounds came into view, the trap sprang. The foxes were wolves, and a dozen more joined them. But instead of tearing into the hounds, the wolves took each of them by the scruff of the neck and carried them up and over the surrounding cliffs, taking them to safety while the hunters cursed and struggled against the brambles around them.
“Wow,” Abby whispered, staring at the woman's green and golden eyes. “You just . . .”
The teacher abruptly let go of her, turned on her heel, gave young Tom a push, and continued after her class.
“Come on, everyone! Human origins is next!” she called.
“Cavemen!” Tom shouted.
A custodian with a bucket and mop had arrived to clean up the soda spill. Warning signs were put up.
“Sorry about that, mister,” Ethan's brother said. “He just loves that whale. I should have realized he wouldn't wait long enough for the rest of us to hit the bathroom and the giftstore.”
“No problem,” Tim said. “Jeffrey, right? You've got a season pass? Me too.”
The older man had walked off, but the Eagle scouts were busy admiring the exhibits. One of them had redirected Ethan away from the soda spill to the pictures of deep ocean life.
“My whole family does,” Jeffrey answered and broke into a smile. “By the way, there are four teams – surveillance, capture, retrieval, and clean up – for a total of twenty operatives. The last three are armed. There's a group of eighteen Marines on shore leave showing up in forty minutes. We pull this off right, we rescue Surveillance, arrest Capture and Retrieval, and leave the Clean Up team to get beaten up by some irate Marines.”
He grinned at Tim, gave him a quick salute, and dashed after his brother and troop.
“Uh . . .”
Emily thanked the custodian, then turned and looked at him and Abby.
“You should probably update Gibbs,” she said.
Then she left.