Washington, D.C., United States of America
Naval Criminal Investigative Service headquarters
Jenny Shepard, the director of NCIS, told herself that she could handle one more thing.
She'd been telling herself that for months. Between Persia; Ottoman Egypt; Dubai; Singapore; Germany; Soviet Venezuela; and aboard the orbiting USS Ronald Reagan, every day offered some new crisis for her and the agency.
Very few days brought closure. Shepard was getting pressure from her superiors to close these various cases and to drop 'less essential' cases, like La Grenouille.
Shepard had repeatedly told her superiors that she would be the one to determine what was most essential. Her immediate boss, the Secretary of the Navy, reminded her that everyone was replaceable.
She kept her opinion on that to herself.
Forty minutes ago, Shepard was informed of a particular case that, she was told, "is to be solved yesterday." She instructed her secretary to call in the agent she had in mind.
A little over a minute later, Leroy Jethro Gibbs -- Special Agent-in-Charge of the Washington-based Major Case Response Team -- barged into her office.
"Admiral Kelley, Joint Chiefs of Staff, was killed just over an hour ago on the other side of the wormhole," Shepard said. "Pack your go bags. You leave in less than an hour."
"We just finished paperwork on the Seabrook case," Gibbs grumbled. "My people need a LITTLE rest. And you want to send us off-planet now?"
"I have no choice, and they can rest on the Marine shuttle that's taking you through the wormhole," Shepard replied. "I hope Dr. Mallard and Ms. Sciuto have their go bags with them--"
"Duck and Abby? And why can't the off-world desk handle the case?"
"Ambassador Stewart wants our best people involved, Jethro. That's YOU and your team."
"Why does he need Abby and Ducky? We can send the body, and evidence, back here."
"No they can't, not as easily as a van driving from Rock Creek Park to the Navy Yard," Shepard said. "Travel through the wormhole isn't cheap."
"We've done it for the past nine months."
"Because it's necessary. AND expensive. Here."
Gibbs took a folder from Shepard detailing his team's newest case and skimmed through it.
"You know anything about these Federation people?"
"Very little, other than they're top-notch and the Federation commander has wanted to visit Terra since discovering this wormhole," she said, looking at her watch. "You've got less than an hour to get your things together, including personal items."
Gibbs shot Shepard an annoyed look. He hadn't been as enthused as others were about the discovery of the wormhole and the alternate universe on its other side. "Might not be enough time."
"The ambassador knew you wouldn't want them to move the body or disturb the scene before you got there...the clock's ticking, Gibbs. You and your people need to be on the roof at 1640 hours."
Gibbs shot her another glare, and she heard a loud groan as he threw the door open on his way out.
Two hours later
Deep Space Nine
The moment he stepped foot onto an alien spacecraft went unnoticed for special agent Tim McGee. He was distracted by the headslap that Gibbs gave his senior agent Tony DiNozzo.
Right alongside McGee was Ziva David, an Israeli and the liaison of her country's Mossad intelligence agency to NCIS. Behind them were Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard, NCIS's chief medical examiner, and Abby Sciuto, NCIS's chief forensic scientist, both stepping out of the U.S. Marine shuttlecraft that took them to DS9.
The four Terrans behind Gibbs wondered if the Federation people on the other side of the airlock had seen the headslap. They all realized Gibbs wouldn't care what the Federation people thought.
"Sorry boss," DiNozzo said, as Mallard and Sciuto caught up to the others in the airlock's forward security gate. When McGee saw Odo, it hit him where he was. "I'm on an alien spaceship," he whispered, before getting hit on the back of his head by DiNozzo's palm.
"OUCH...what was THAT for, Tony?"
"Stay awake, Probie," DiNozzo said just as he got headslapped again by Gibbs, who shot him a glare that caused him to apologize a second time.
"It's okay, McGee," Sciuto said. "We saw the wormhole out in the country the very first time. And now we're on the other side!"
"This," Mallard added, "reminds me of the time I first saw the Taj Mahal, from the air, in an airplane. During my sojourn in Afghanistan, I was contacted by a colleague doing mission work with Mother Teresa in Kolkata. I never got to visit the Taj Mahal that first time, although the yearning never left me. It wasn't until my first year at NCIS that I was finally able to see this most remarkable--"
"Duck," Gibbs said, causing the medical examiner to end his monologue.
Seconds later, the door opened into the hallway. Awaiting the NCIS contingent were, from left to right, Bashir; Kira; Sisko; Odo; Dax; and Ambassador Stewart.
"Thank you for coming," Sisko said, shaking hands with Gibbs. After introductions were made and the team shown to its temporary headquarters on the Promenade, both parties went to the crime scene.
Odo went in first, with Gibbs, Sisko and Kira following right behind him. The octagon-shaped room was large enough to hold a dozen people, and the ambassador's entrance along with the doctors meant less space for Gibbs to work. Gibbs held his palm up, a signal for DiNozzo, David, McGee and Sciuto to stay just outside the door for the time being. Dax stayed with them and the two security officers guarding the door.
Gibbs shook his head when Bashir offered him a lightweight, paper-like breathing mask. The scent of the decomposing body came with the territory in his line of work; he and Mallard began looking over the body as Sisko, Stewart, Kira and Bashir put their masks on.
"Why are you inserting that...thing into the corpse?" Bashir asked Mallard. "My tricorder should have all of the information you would need."
"That 'thing', Doctor, is a liver probe," Mallard replied. "I understand my methods might seem a little archaic to you. Consider what I'm doing another, less technological, but no less effective method of examination. Although, perhaps Agent Gibbs already has determined the cause of death."
"That so, Duck?" Gibbs chuckled.
"It appears to be from a projectile that entered his forehead and exited the back," Odo offered.
"That so, Constable?" Gibbs replied, as Odo and Sisko noted a hint of skepticism in his response. Gibbs looked at the position of the body as he gestured for his agents to come in.
"The admiral's feet are pointing right at the door, Boss," DiNozzo said as he began to sketch the scene on a paper pad. "Looks like he was looking right at the door when he bought it."
"McGee?" Gibbs said to his junior agent.
"He probably was looking at the shooter -- or in the direction of the shooter -- when he died," McGee replied.
David leaned down to take some close-up shots with her camera of the admiral's head wound. "Something looks off, Gibbs."
"The entry wound appears to be smaller than it should be from that close of range," she replied, looking towards the door. "And there's no shell casing in this room."
"Maybe it's one of those laser guns," DiNozzo said.
"Phasers," Kira clarified, as she leaned down to look at the wound. "Just looking at the wound doesn't narrow it down. Could be Cardassian, Bajoran, Ferengi, Federation...even Terran."
"Since when have we invented a 'phaser' gun?" DiNozzo asked.
Gibbs shot him a look before turning to Odo. "Constable, this scene hasn't been disturbed?"
"Not at all, per the ambassador's request," he said, glancing at Stewart. "If the weapon was particle- as opposed to projectile-based, there wouldn't be a shell casing--"
"Where's the brain splatter?"
Odo and Bashir looked at one another in confusion. Stewart was about to ask Gibbs to explain when Sisko spoke. The commander asked Mallard to raise the admiral's head, so he and Gibbs could take another look at the exit wound.
"Agent Gibbs has a point; there's hardly any brain matter on the ground," Sisko said. "In high school I had the opportunity to engage in some target practice with an old-fashioned rifle. My target was a bullseye, but some classmates decided to practice on what you would call a dummy.
"One of the dummies had vegetables crammed inside its cranium; you could see the explosion from the back of the skull when his shot hit the mark. There were pieces of carrot chips, tomatoes, squash, turnips all over the ground behind the dummy and the exit wound was larger than the entry wound."
"Whereas," Mallard added, "the exit wound on the admiral is perhaps a tad larger than the entry wound. And, instead of blood splatter, there's a large pool of blood beneath him, as if it all drained from the exit wound. Doctor, can you still say for certain the cause of death was from a particle weapon?"
"When you put it that way..." Bashir replied.
"If he wasn't shot, how did he die? By rod?" Stewart asked. "The weapon could have been holographic in nature -- have you agents experienced how realistic these holosuites can be?"
David and McGee shook their heads. DiNozzo began talking about a ZNN report he had seen on the topic, then shut up upon catching Gibbs' glare.
"So, the weapon is either a projectile, or a 'rod', or some other physical device -- or it is holographic," Sisko said. "And the killer, or killers, are either real OR holographic."
"Doesn't do much to narrow down the killer, Commander," Gibbs said.
"We should start with the program the admiral was using at the time of his death," Odo replied. "There are four holosuite programs approved for Terran use--"
"They're like your movies," Bashir interjected, at which DiNozzo's eyes lit up. "Movies where you are the participant, not merely the viewer. The Jason Bourne program was particularly exhilarating."
"'Exhilarating'?" DiNozzo said. "Huh...the ZNN report referenced a Titanic program AND some interesting local ones of a, ah, titilating nature."
David rolled her eyes at DiNozzo's chuckle. "Is that something you could not handle, Tony?" she said with a smile.
"I can handle ANYthing, Mossad Ninja."
"Really?" she said coyly. His non-flirtatious response solidified her suspicion that he was seeing someone. While she had come to annoy Gibbs with her constant questions regarding DiNozzo's unusual absences from work, the Israeli was genuinely concerned for her teammate.
And, perhaps a little jealous of the other woman.
"You two done playing grab-ass?" Gibbs said suddenly as he leaned into them, to the point he was almost face-to-face-to-face with both.
"That's just his style," McGee whispered to Sisko and Odo.
Ignoring Stewart's chuckle and the Federation officers' wide-eyed looks, Gibbs looked down at the admiral's body, then back at his team and at Sisko. "I want to know more about whatever Admiral Kelley was doing in here when he died. You say there were people nearby when he was killed?"
"There are five of them, and all are in my security office waiting for you, Agent Gibbs. You and your people are free to use the adjacent holding cells to conduct your interrogations."
"You kept them separated?"
"No, but two of my people are with them."
Gibbs groaned, then turned to his agents. "McGee, you get with the Federation people on this holographic thing, DiNozzo with the Constable's people on the security feed, Ziva with me on the interrogations--"
"Perhaps if Agent Gibbs's people and Constable Odo's people work on the interrogations," Stewart opined, "while--"
"I see no reason not to begin immediately," Sisko interjected as he noticed Gibbs's growing irritation at the ambassador. "Doctor Bashir, would you escort Doctor Mallard with the body to your infirmary? Have Lieutenant Dax join Ms. Sciuto; their expertise should be of use in this investigation as well."
With that, the combined group split up.