Ziva hung from the flagpole, twenty-five feet above the roof of the hotel’s covered entrance, and tried to ignore the white-hot agony in her arms. It felt as if she had dislocated her right shoulder when she caught the pole and brought her death dive to a jarring halt. She couldn’t have done, or surely she wouldn’t still be hanging on, but it felt that way. The pain in her left forearm, where the bruises left by Cierre’s fingers were now black and purple, was worse. And a shard of glass had gone all the way through her cheek and her mouth was filling with blood.
She hung on. If she let go now, from this height, she would survive but the likelihood was that she would suffer a broken leg or a similar disabling injury. And Tony lay bleeding to death in the hotel room above.
The pole had bent alarmingly when she caught it, then whipped upward again almost causing her to lose her grip, and it oscillated up and down for several seconds before settling in a stable state. Normally it projected outward from the hotel at a forty-five degree angle but now it was curving down under Ziva’s weight. She released her hold with one hand, causing the flagpole to wobble up and down again, and grabbed at it nearer to the base. She came close to losing her grip but managed to catch the pole just in time. For a moment she swayed, her head swimming, and she felt the glass shard scrape across her gum. She composed herself and repeated the maneuver with her other hand. Then again, and again, working her way hand over hand along the pole. It became more stable as she neared the base and she speeded up. And then she made an over-hasty grab with her right hand, missed, and hung, swaying dangerously, from her left with safety only feet away. The pain in her bruised forearm was like fire and she felt her fingers slipping. She grabbed again, caught hold, and almost hurled herself the rest of the way.
Now she was facing a low wrought iron railing around a little balcony that was, presumably, used when the hotel changed the flags on the poles. She could climb over it onto the balcony, where off to her right was a floor-to-ceiling window that presumably served as a door, and re-enter the hotel that way. However she had no idea what lay behind the window; if it was a guestroom, and turned out to be occupied, the occupants would be thrown into a panic when a blood-spattered stranger burst in. She’d lost her identity wallet during the fight; with her Semitic coloring, and her non-American accent, she could well get shot as a terrorist before she could prove that she was a Federal Agent.
So, instead, she went down. She transferred her grip from the flagpole to the railing, took hold of the horizontal bar at the bottom, and lowered herself down toward a ledge that ran around the building at window level there. Her feet found purchase and she released her hold on the rails. She flattened herself against the wall and then went down on her knees. She grasped the ledge and let herself down toward the covered entry-way. When she was only a couple of feet above it she let go of the ledge and dropped, breaking her fall like a parachutist, and then stood up and pulled out the shard of glass from her cheek. No doubt she was causing additional damage, and it would have been better to wait until it could be extracted by a surgeon, but if she left it in she risked it being driven deeper into her face when she made the final drop to the ground. And if she encountered Cheyenne Doyle again, and they engaged in another fight with the shard still embedded in her… it could be fatal.
She swung over the edge of the porte-cochere just as a taxi turned into the drive-through. It was moving slowly enough that there was never any danger of it hitting her but the driver, startled by the sudden appearance of a figure in front of him, slammed on his brakes and came to an abrupt halt. Then Ziva dropped the rest of the way to the ground and rushed for the door.
The doorman started to bar her way and then recognized her from when she had first entered the hotel. Luckily she had showed him her ID on the way in. “Holy crap, what happened to you?” he asked.
“Call 911!” Ziva snapped. “Police and ambulance. My partner was stabbed.”
“Jesus!” the doorman exclaimed, and he wheeled around and was through the door ahead of her, shouting to the receptionist, who at once began to dial.
Confusion and chaos began to spread. A guest, recoiling from the sight of Ziva’s blood-smeared face, almost crashed into the huge Christmas tree that dominated the lobby. A member of staff protested volubly about Ziva dripping blood onto the floor but was firmly silenced by the doorman.
“Don’t let anyone leave!” Ziva ordered. “Lock the place down!”
“But there’s a big wedding party tonight!” wailed one of the reception staff. “It’ll be ruined!” Ziva managed to hold herself back from punching the woman in the face.
Hotel security people were quick to appear on the scene. Ziva was desperate to get back up to Doyle’s room but had to give explanations, as quickly and concisely as she could, first. Probably it took only a minute or two but it seemed like forever. She could already hear police sirens when, at last, she was able to ascend in the elevator with a couple of hotel security men accompanying her.
The door of Suite 504 stood open. It seemed certain that the deadly woman had gone but wolf-caution was ingrained into Ziva’s very heart and she entered warily, wishing that she had her gun, ready for immediate action. The hotel security men followed, taking their cues from her, but they weren’t trained for this sort of situation and it showed. But the suite was empty.
Except for Tony. He lay on his back, very still, on a carpet that had become a blood-soaked quagmire. For a heart-stopping moment Ziva thought he was dead then she detected a slight movement of his chest. He was still breathing. But for how long?- - - - -
“David says DiNozzo shot Doyle twice and she’s pretty sure he hit her in the head with one of the shots,” Gibbs said. “She was wearing nothing but a bathrobe, and that fell off during the fight, so there was no way she could have had body armor. Yet she just shrugged the hits off.” He glared at Cierre and at Davis. “Something you forgot to tell us?”
“The Goa’uld have force screens that will stop bullets,” Davis said, “but they work from a thing like a gauntlet of metal bands with a big glowing jewel in the center of the palm. It would have been pretty obvious.” He shook his head. “I’ve never heard of aliens who can just ignore bullets.”
“I have,” Cierre said. “On my planet the mages can cast spells that will absorb bullet impacts. Jack had to shoot some of them multiple times before he could pierce the protections. And there are creatures that can only be harmed by magic weapons, or by silver, or by cold-forged iron. This woman might be one of them. That would explain her strength.”
“How would someone from Toril get here without coming through the Stargate?” Davis wondered.
“There are ways to create portals other than Stargates,” Cierre said. “The representative of the Bridesmaids is making her own way here, we have been informed, though we know not how it is being done. Perhaps Doyle is a servant of a rival deity or faction and came here through such a portal.” Her eyes narrowed. “Do we know who the representative is yet?” she asked Davis. “If it is Sumia, for instance, she could heal Agent DiNozzo. Or do we have any powerful healing potions in Washington?”
“Most of them are reserved for the President,” Davis said, “but we’ve kept back a couple. But the Emergency doctors at the hospital aren’t going to let military personnel pour an unknown fluid down a critically injured patient’s throat.”
“Then find a way to make them accept it,” Cierre said, her voice steely. “I will not let another good man die because of me. I carry the guilt for Kenadi, and now for Mike; there will be no more.”
Davis nodded. “I’ll see what I can do,” he said.
“We’ll have to bring in another team, Gibbs,” Jenny Shephard declared. “You can’t run the investigation with only McGee. I’ll call Erica Barrett.”
“There’s already another team right here, ma’am,” the AFOSI team leader pointed out. “I don’t mind working under Agent Gibbs’ direction. It’ll save a whole lot of time and mean we don’t have to read even more people into the program.”
“Indeed it would,” Jenny agreed, “but I thought you said that your primary duty was to watch over Ms LuaLua.”
“Give me my knife back, and a gun,” Cierre said, “and I will watch over myself.”
Gibbs nodded. “It makes sense,” he said. “Okay, then, let’s get back to the bullpen. I want a BOLO out on Cheyenne Doyle. Armed and extremely dangerous.”- - - - -
“Pete Blenkowski,” Burleigh said, indicating the male agent on his team. “He was a pilot until he bent a thirty million dollar fighter plane. He’s my hitter. Does Thai boxing and is good with a gun too.”
Gibbs nodded acknowledgement as Blenkowski grinned at him. Gibbs assessed the handsome and well-groomed ex-pilot as being the AFOSI team’s equivalent of DiNozzo, personality-wise, although the role he filled presumably was more like that of Ziva.
“Gail Dorsey. She was with Metro PD for ten years,” Burleigh went on. Dorsey was African-American, probably in her mid-thirties, a tall and bony woman with an expression of severe competence. As a former Metro cop she would bring local knowledge and police procedural skills to the team.
“And last, our geek,” Burleigh said. “Rachel Drummond.” She was young, white, with raven-black hair and way too much eye make-up. “What she doesn’t know about computers Bill Gates and Steve Jobs don’t know either.”
“She should get on well with McGee, then,” Gibbs said. Something made him glance at Cierre and he noticed that the Drow girl was directing a glare at Drummond that probably could have melted lead. Drummond sensed it too, her eyes widened, and then she held up her left hand to reveal a diamond ring on the third finger. At once Cierre’s expression softened. Oh. No, make that ‘Uh oh.’ It would seem that the rapport McGee had established with Cierre during the interrogation might have gone a little too far.
That was McGee’s problem, however, and had no immediate bearing on anything to do with the case. “We seem to have all the slots covered,” Gibbs said. “Let’s get busy. David reckons Doyle made it out of the hotel before they locked it down. We might get lucky with the BOLO but I’m not going to rely on that. We need to track her down first and worry about how to fill her full of lead… or arrest her… later.”
Burleigh must have recognized that the ‘arrest her’ option was an afterthought but he made no comment. “And to do that we’ll need to either follow her trail or else work out where she’s going and get ahead of her,” he said. “Probie, find out how she paid for the room at the St Regis and look for anywhere else the card’s been used. Especially new reservations at other hotels.”
“Sure thing, Boss,” Agent Drummond said.
“McGee, help her,” Gibbs said. “Concentrate on the high-end places. The Hay-Adams, the Park Hyatt, the Four Seasons, and so on. She must have money to burn and she seems to like luxury.”
“On it, Boss,” McGee responded.
“She might play it the other way,” Agent Dorsey suggested. “Go somewhere down-market to hide out.”
“That would be the smart thing to do,” Gibbs agreed, “or go mid-range and check into a family hotel to blend in with the tourists. But I get the feeling she’ll stay high-end. What do you think, Cierre? You know the… aliens.”
“The Goa’uld are arrogant and dismiss the capabilities of the ‘lesser races’,” Cierre said, “and they surround themselves with luxuries at all times. A Jaffa… no, a Jaffa would never be so… flamboyant. And if she is from my world she will not realize how organized your people are. I was somewhat lost for the whole of the first year I was here despite having good friends from Earth to guide me. I didn’t understand credit cards, or even paper money, and the first time I saw a TV I couldn’t look away and watched for eight hours straight. This is the first time I have been granted leave to travel unaccompanied outside of Colorado – and I fucked it up. I’m amazed that someone from Faerûn could even find her way around on Earth let alone act as an efficient killer. She should stick out like a… sore thumb, if I have the idiom right.”
“So you think the… Goa Uld… is more likely?”
Cierre shrugged. “I don’t know. The invulnerability does point to someone from Faerûn, it is true, but I can’t really advise you on how she’d behave. My guess would be she will continue to seek out luxury but I wouldn’t bet on it.”
“It’s my gut feeling too,” Gibbs said, “but we’ll cover all the bases anyway.” He turned his attention to Major Davis. “You think her target is the meeting at the Pentagon, right? How would she have learned about it?”
Davis frowned. “Not from the SGC,” he said. “There’s no way any of SG-1 would have told anyone. They’ve been keeping secrets for years. It has to be either at the Faerûn end or else someone in the International Oversight Authority.”
“If it’s the… other planet that’s the leak there’s no way we can follow it up,” Gibbs said.
“I might be able to do something,” Burleigh said. “Where was it set up at that end? Neverwinter?”
“Rilauven,” Davis replied. “Neverwinter just finished fighting a war and they’re in a lockdown.”
Burleigh pursed his lips. “I might be black but I’d stick out like a sore thumb in a Drow city,” he said, “and so would anyone else we could send. It would be worse than trying to conduct an investigation in Japan. It’s a dead end. I’ll see what I can find out about the Oversight people. They’re the most likely source of the leak anyway. Everything goes to hell when the politicians get involved.”
Gibbs nodded agreement. “Yeah, and they always do,” he said. “But if they did let something slip who would do something about it? Something like this, I mean. Going to the media, or trying to make political capital out of it, would make sense but not bringing in an indestructible hit-woman from another planet to bust up the meeting.”
“It has to be The Trust,” Burleigh said. “They were a syndicate of businessmen and politicians who were obsessed with hijacking the Stargate program to grab alien technology for their own ends. Including stealing it from allies, some of them way more advanced than us, and who got seriously pissed at having their cool shit stolen. We put some of the Trust people in jail but most of them covered their tracks too well. Then they came up with the idea of using chemical weapons against the Goa’uld. That went about as well as you would expect. They killed as many of our allies as the enemy. Then we went looking for them, they bugged out on a captured spaceship, and fell right into the hands of the Goa’uld. They came back with snakes in them, bringing more to put into their cronies, and took up where they left off except that they weren’t even vaguely on Earth’s side any longer.”
“And you don’t know who they are,” Gibbs said.
“If we did they’d be locked up or dead,” Burleigh confirmed. “We got some of them when they tried to start a nuclear war, just so they could grab a particular piece of technology, but we know there are more out there. And inside the Beltway is just the kind of place they’d hang out.”
“Alien lobbyists,” Gibbs said. “That could explain a lot.”
Burleigh gave a brief grin. “You see the problem? How do we tell one lot of slimy snakes from the others?” His face turned serious again. “Even the ones who are still human can be just as dangerous and might even have more of a motive for this operation. One of the allies they killed in the chemical attack was Cierre’s significant other. They’d sleep a whole lot easier in their beds if she was dead.”- - - - -
McGee looked up from his computer. “We got something, Boss,” he reported. “Cheyenne Doyle flew in on Monday from Cleveland.”
“Cleveland? What the hell’s in Cleveland?” Gibbs growled.
“Maybe a cell of The Trust,” Burleigh suggested. “We’ll look into it once we’ve caught Doyle.”
“Me too,” Gibbs declared, in a tone that brooked no denial. Whoever had hired Doyle, or brought her in from another planet, was ultimately responsible for DiNozzo being stabbed and Ziva thrown out of a fifth-floor window. And nobody
hurt members of Gibbs’ team and got away with it.
Burleigh nodded. “Yeah, you got the right,” he said, “and maybe you’ll come up with some angle we haven’t. Fresh mind, fresh approach.”
Cierre released the slide on the SIG P-228 she’d been loaned and fed a round into the chamber. “Ideally I would like some practice with this before I use it in earnest,” she said, “but I should be able to give a fair account of myself. I have used one before but my usual sidearm is the FN Five-seveN.”
Gibbs raised an eyebrow. “Unusual choice,” he commented.
“We use the P-90 as our standard combat weapon,” Cierre explained, “and it’s handy to be able to use the same ammo. And the armor-piercing capabilities are important against the Jaffa and some of the things we encounter on Toril.” She holstered the gun, drew it with blinding speed, and then holstered it again. “But this will do for now.”
“You realize you can’t carry that in Washington?” Agent Dorsey pointed out. “It’s against the law.”
Cierre frowned at her. “What about the Second Amendment to the Constitution?” she said. “I learned about that in my citizenship class.”
“There are local laws that take precedence,” Dorsey said. “I guess they don’t want everybody running around with guns right where the President lives. There are restrictions on gun ownership and no private citizens can carry concealed weapons in DC at all. You might be employed by the Air Force but you’re still a private individual. So no wearing the gun outside this building.”
Cierre pursed her lips and wrinkled up her nose. “Then I shall have to rely only on my knife,” she said. “I ask that you return it to me.”
“I don’t see why not,” Gibbs said. “It doesn’t count as evidence any longer. Where is it now, Abbs?”
“In the evidence lockers,” the forensic scientist replied. “You want I should go get it?”
“Yeah, do that,” Gibbs said, and Abby departed.
“I might be able to get you attached to AFOSI on a temporary basis,” Burleigh suggested. “You wouldn’t have any powers of arrest but you’d be able to carry the gun.”
“That would be useful,” Cierre said. “I thank you.”
“It might take a while, though,” Burleigh went on. “I’ll have to get hold of the Director and he’s out of town for the weekend.”
“I have my Director right here,” Gibbs pointed out. He looked at Jenny and raised an eyebrow.
“Hmm,” Jenny said. “I don’t know off the top of my head what the relevant regulations would be but I’m sure I could come up with something that would allow our… guest to carry a firearm legally. I’ll go and look into what precedents there are for deputizing a civilian employee of the Armed Forces as a temporary NCIS agent. It should be straightforward enough.” She walked off toward the stairs leading to her office.
“Can I have an NCIS cap?” Cierre asked Gibbs. “They are very smart and would be effective at keeping the sun out of my eyes.”
“Hey, you’re Air Force, you should wear an AFOSI cap,” Agent Blenkowski said.
At that moment the elevator doors opened and Ziva walked into the squad-room. She looked in surprisingly good shape considering she’d reported being thrown through a window, Gibbs thought; she had no visible injuries and her clothing all seemed intact. She seemed to have lost her Star of David pendant, and she was wearing her cap tipped further back than usual, but otherwise she looked exactly the same as when she’d left the office at lunchtime.
“What are you doing here, David?” Gibbs growled. “I told you to stay with DiNozzo at the hospital.”
“Sorry, sir,” she answered. “I need to speak to Cierre.”
“Never apol…” Gibbs began, and then his hand flashed to his gun. “Who the hell are you?” he demanded, leveling the weapon at Ziva’s head.
“Your worst nightmare,” came the reply, and the thing wearing Ziva’s face crossed her hands and drew out two SIG-P228s.
Gibbs pulled the trigger and hit her smack in the center of the forehead. She just laughed and returned fire, using both guns at once gun-fu style, and missing Gibbs by a couple of feet as he dived for cover. A CRT monitor on McGee’s desk exploded in a shower of sparks as a bullet shattered its screen. McGee had hurled himself clear just in time, leaving his gun sitting on his desk, and flattened himself against a filing cabinet. Agent Drummond, at Ziva’s desk, snatched at her gun but before she could get it leveled Ziva pistol-whipped Drummond across the side of the head and sent her crashing to the floor.
Agent Blenkowski and Cierre opened fire simultaneously. Ziva’s cap flew from her head, its peak shredded, and two holes half an inch apart appeared in the left breast area of her windcheater. The shots had no other effect. Ziva advanced, still shooting, and hit Blenkowski in the left shoulder. Officer Dorsey, who had thrown herself flat to get out of the line of fire, reached out so that the muzzle of her gun was only inches from Ziva’s leg and pulled the trigger. Ziva didn’t even flinch. Her left-hand gun tilted down and fired. Dorsey cried out, her gun dropped from suddenly limp fingers, and she stopped moving.
Burleigh had pulled out, not a gun, but an oddly-shaped device that writhed in his hand until it looked like a striking snake. He aimed it at Ziva and fired a beam of blue light from the weapon. Ziva yelped, the first sign she’d given that anything had hurt her, and turned both her guns on Burleigh. He dived behind a desk and rolled away.
Gibbs ran, doubled over in a crouch, to seek cover behind a room divider. He saw Cierre doing the same thing but she went in the opposite direction and vanished from his sight. Once in a partially protected position he opened fire on Ziva again. His heart was pounding and he could feel a cold sweat on his brow. Major Davis had described the snake-like alien Goa’uld entering the body of a human, wrapping around the spine, and taking permanent control of the host. Was that what had happened to Ziva?
He heard Cierre, somewhere out of his sight, yelling something about the power of a snow leopard. Meaningless and so to be ignored. Then a new gun opened up, Jenny’s Glock 17, firing down from the balcony in front of her office. A beam of blue light from a ray-gun, presumably fired by Major Davis, lanced down from the balcony and struck Ziva simultaneously with a second blast from Burleigh’s weapon.
Ziva… changed. Suddenly she was six feet tall, her clothes had transformed into a beige jacket and pants, and her hair was short and spiked up. Her eyes glowed with a silvery light. “Help… mmmeee…
” she moaned, her voice metallic and echoing, and then she changed again. Still six feet tall but with long blonde hair and a face Gibbs had seen in a photo. Cheyenne Doyle.
“Naughty worm!” Doyle said, in the tones of a normal human but a voice completely unlike Ziva’s. She swung her right-hand gun to aim at McGee, who was now exposed to her fire, but before she could pull the trigger Cierre emerged from behind a partition and hurled herself bodily at Doyle. Her gun was nowhere in sight and she was relying entirely on her strength and speed.
Cierre seized Doyle by the right arm and heaved. The gun went off, blowing a hole in the plasma screen above McGee’s head, and then Cierre swung Doyle around and hurled her to crash into the wall beside the elevator doors. Cierre followed up instantly, grabbed hold of the arm again, and twisted until Doyle was forced to drop her gun. Doyle brought her left arm around behind her back to bring her other pistol into action; Cierre released her grip on the right arm and deflected the left so that the shot missed. Then Cierre grabbed Doyle’s left arm, wrenched it upward into a hammer-lock, and started to bash Doyle’s face into the wall with brutal force.
The impacts shook the wall and rattled the glass in the windows. Doyle’s face should have been pulverized, her skull shattered, but she merely laughed. “A little help here!” she called.
A ring of fire appeared behind her and a smell of burning sulfur filled the air. Inside the ring there appeared a monstrous being; six feet tall and of roughly humanoid shape but broader, with furry legs ending in feet bearing three claws, a long tail, bat-like wings, and a horned head with a long beard that writhed as if alive in its own right. It held a pole-arm, with a saw-edged blade two feet long at the end of a four-foot shaft, in its claw-fingered hands. The circle of fire went out and left the monster standing there, its head turning as its eyes swept the room, but otherwise motionless. Then bullets from Blenkowski, and from McGee who had now snatched up his gun, struck the creature and it roared out in rage.
“Silver!” Cierre yelled. “Kill it with silver!”
Good advice, no doubt, but where were they to find silver? There was no… yes, there was. Gibbs dived for his desk drawer, pulled it out with frantic haste, and opened the box of his medals that DiNozzo had stashed there. Most of them had minimal silver content but one, the Naut Tahrir al-Kuwait medal struck by Saudi Arabia for those who had participated in Operation Desert Storm, had genuine silver prongs protruding from a gilt medallion. Maybe it would serve as a throwing star…
Meanwhile the beast – it could only be described as a devil, what with the horns, the tail, and the wings – turned its attention to Cierre. It swung its weapon at her neck. She dodged away and pulled Doyle into the path of the blow. The devil pulled back its strike and managed to avoid hitting Doyle. The blonde, now that she was no longer being repeatedly slammed into the wall, flipped herself into the air and spun around to free herself from the hammer-lock. Cierre grabbed the gun and twisted it from Doyle’s hand before the escape maneuver was complete. She fired twice, aiming at the shaft of the demonic creature’s weapon, and shattered it. Then she tossed the gun across the room just as Doyle punched her in the jaw with one hand and made a futile grab for the pistol with the other. Cierre rocked back as the punch hit her but retaliated at once with a back-fist strike to the middle of Doyle’s face and a left hook to the floating ribs. Doyle took the punches without flinching and struck back.
Gibbs found the medal he was looking for and groaned in disappointment. His memory had played him false. The prongs were blunted and the ones opposite the ribbon were too short to inflict any worthwhile injury. The longer prongs, near the ribbon, might just be usable as a weapon if he slashed across the creature’s eyes but that would be the only vulnerable point. A beam from one of the ray-guns hit the monster; it growled, dropped its broken weapon, and took a stride that brought it almost to within arms’ reach of Gibbs.
Then the elevator doors opened and Abby stepped out.
The sound attracted the devil’s attention and it turned in her direction. Abby recoiled, her mouth dropped open, and she dipped her right hand into a pocket.
Gibbs reacted without conscious thought. He took hold of the medal, turned it so that the longest points were at the front, and leapt at the beast. He used the medal as if it was a punch-dagger and slammed a blow into the creature’s kidney area – assuming it had kidneys. It was like punching a brick wall. The heel of his hand erupted in agony as the prongs were driven into it. But it was worth it. The devil uttered a roar that carried a definite note of pain and turned away from Abby.
It swung a massive fist at Gibbs’ head. He ducked under the blow and punched it in the gut. Again he was rewarded with a cry of pain from the creature; again the points of the medal inflicted damage on his hand. The beard of the devil writhed and reached out for him. Some instinct warned him that allowing it to touch him would be a very bad idea and he dodged back. The beast followed up. Its clawed hands opened and it raised them to grab at him with both at once. Then it jerked, stiffened, and froze motionless. Abby had come up behind it and used her Taser. The immobility lasted only a second and then it began to move again.
“Boss!” McGee yelled. “Silver! Catch!”
Gibbs turned and McGee threw something to him. A ball-point pen, from DiNozzo’s desk, that Gibbs remembered DiNozzo had claimed to be of sterling silver. Not something Gibbs had ever cared about before, any more than he cared about what make of shirts or shoes DiNozzo wore, but now he had to hope that DiNozzo hadn’t been making false claims. Gibbs dropped the medal, snatched the pen out of the air, and instantly thrust with it. The devil, probably still somewhat dazed by the tasering, didn’t react quickly enough and Gibbs struck home precisely where he aimed. The creature’s right eye.
It sank in deep. The devil bellowed in agony and grabbed for Gibbs’ hand; he released the pen, leaving it embedded in the wound, and snatched his hand away. The beast took a stride toward him, its hands reaching out to grab, and then it froze once more as another ray of blue light struck it. At once Gibbs seized the opportunity and lashed out with the heel of his left fist, striking the protruding pen, and driving it all the way into the devil’s eye socket. The creature reeled, staggered backward, and uttered a piercing shriek that sounded like something that would come from the whistle of a wounded steam locomotive. A greenish fluid, presumably the creature’s blood, oozed down its cheek into its beard.
“If it bleeds, we can kill it,” Agent Blenkowski said. It was so exactly what DiNozzo would have said in the circumstances that Gibbs felt a renewed stab of anguish. The monster staggered, reached out an arm vaguely in the direction of Gibbs and clutched at nothing, and then dropped to one knee. It caught hold of the edge of Ziva’s desk, tried to push itself upright, and then lost its grip and fell face-first to the floor.
“My knife!” Cierre yelled. “Quickly!”
Gibbs looked past the fallen devil and saw that Doyle was no longer exchanging blows with Cierre. She had produced a knife, presumably the one with which she had stabbed Sherman and DiNozzo, and was striving to drive it home. Cierre was holding onto Doyle’s arm, keeping the knife away, but she was being repeatedly punched and kicked and was starting to look a little worse for wear.
“Here!” Abby called. Cierre held out her right hand and Abby slapped the hilt of the dagger into Cierre’s palm.
“You’re fucked now, bitch!” Cierre growled. Doyle seized Cierre’s wrist as the knife came forward and now the women each strove to keep away the other’s knife while trying to strike with their own. They seemed evenly matched in strength but Cierre had the edge when it came to making effective use of feet and knees to strike at the legs and lower body of her opponent. Doyle, however, absorbed the vicious blows without flinching. Then Cierre pinned Doyle up against the wall and began to bang her wrist against the solid surface in an attempt to make her drop the dagger. Cierre’s own knife crept closer to Doyle’s breast.
And then Doyle was gone. There was a sound like a light bulb imploding and Cierre was facing nothing. She stumbled and her hand smacked into the wall.
Doyle reappeared at the other side of the room, where Cierre had tossed her gun, and bent to scoop it up. “I’ll be back!” she said, in a deep voice that indicated that she was quoting Schwarzenegger, and then she vanished again with another popping sound. This time she did not reappear.
Gibbs looked around. Burleigh was bending over the unconscious body of Agent Dorsey; the look of concern on his face changed to one of relief and Gibbs deduced that Dorsey’s injury was not as severe as it had appeared. McGee was checking out Agent Drummond who also lay unconscious. Agent Blenkowski was now cradling his left arm in his right hand; his shirt-sleeve was red with blood and it was dripping onto the floor.
The body of the devil was melting away, shrinking and fading, shriveling up and becoming insubstantial. The silver ball-point pen could be made out through a skull that was now semi-transparent. “What the hell
was that thing?” Gibbs asked.
“Barbazu,” Cierre said. “A bearded devil. Do not touch its glaive for it causes wounds that do not heal. And I hope you did not let its beard touch you for that carries disease.”
“And Doyle?” asked Gibbs.
Cierre wiped away a trickle of blood from her nose. “An Erinyes devil,” she said. “Very intelligent and very dangerous.”
“Ya think?” Gibbs said. “She came close to killing all of us. If those ray-guns hadn’t slowed her down she probably would have done.”
Major Davis was descending the stairs. “The zat’nik’tels should have killed her,” he said. “Against humans one shot knocks you unconscious, two shots in quick succession usually kill, and three disintegrate the body. Unfortunately, we’ve found, it doesn’t always work like that against things from Cierre’s home planet.”
“Devils are not alive in the same sense that we are,” Cierre said, “but had we zatted her enough times it would have worked eventually. Probably.”
“There was a moment,” Davis said, “where she seemed to be a Goa’uld.”
“That is so,” Cierre agreed. “One of The Trust must have thought to take for itself a host that cannot be slain by bullets. It thought it could control her. It was wrong.”
“Except for that few seconds when the zats got to her,” Davis said. “And it was calling for help.”
“Indeed so,” said Cierre. “It is, practically speaking, in Hell. And now I understand how it is that she can operate so effectively on Earth. She can draw upon the knowledge of a Goa’uld who must have been here for a long time.”
“That doesn’t sound good,” Davis said.
“A devil with the knowledge of the Goa’uld could be a deadly threat not only to Earth but to Faerûn,” said Cierre. “We must find her and kill her.”
“That’s not going to be easy,” Gibbs said.
“You slew a Barbazu with a pen,” Cierre said. “That was a mighty feat of arms.” She dipped her head. “I salute you.”
“You’re pretty good yourself,” Gibbs said, “but I’d rather have a way of killing her at a distance.” He met the eyes of Jenny Shephard, who had descended the stairs behind Major Davis, and saw her raise an eyebrow. “I think arresting her is a non-starter,” he said. “Did she… teleport out of here?”
“She did,” Cierre confirmed, “and you are right, she could do the same to escape from any confinement. She must be killed.” She bared her teeth in a mirthless grin. “There is more,” she added. “Now that she has seen this place she can teleport here as well. She said that she would be back; we must be on our guard because she could return at any time.”