PROLOGUE: The First Experiment
"Has the subject been acquired?"
"Yes, oh Great One."
"Has the Teleinvisichronomicon been properly charged?"
"Yes, oh Great One."
"Very well. Prepare to activate on my signal."
Cote de Pablo breathed in deeply and then out slowly, as she concentrated on the fight choreographer, Ray Austin, who was demonstrating the moves she would place on her antagonist in the scene they were about to film.
It was irritating, she thought, that she worked so hard on her fight skills -- she'd been studying judo and karate since she had accepted the role of Ziva David three years ago -- and yet the way the film editors cut these fight scenes, it was impossible for the television audience to tell what was really happening. She was sure they all thought "it's all done with cameras," and "it's all fake." Mosst annoying.
Her co-stars in the scene, Michael Weatherly and Mark Harmon, were paying less attention...they would only have to stand on the sidelines with guns aimed in her direction in a determined manner while she took care of the bad guy.
"Okay, Cote," Ray called. "Let's you and Sam go through the moves once, slowly."
Cote moved forward into the cameras, and gave Sam, the actor playing the villainous Goldfish, a smile. He was a foot taller than she was, and probably a hundred pounds heavier.
"Now," said Ray as Sam placed his hands on Cote's shoulders. "Cote, you raise both hands and knock his arms off," she did so. "Then Sam, you grab her again and body slam her into the ground..."
Slowly, Sam held her while he moved his leg behind hers, swinging it out to break her balance and then lowering her to the ground.
"Cote, you reach up with your leg, hook his neck, pull him off, and roll on top of him.
Cote did as she was bid, and once on top of Sam, slow-motion punched him in the throat.
"Okay, Cote, great. Now, let's try it for real."
Sam helped her to her feet, then, at Ray's call of "Action," they went through the motions again. Not at full speed - the camera would be speeded up to make it seem as if it were happening incredibly fast. Nevertheless, the back of Cote's head hit the floor with a thunk.
Stars going off in her eyes like miniature nova, Cote reached up with her leg, hooked it around the neck of the man on top of her, and pulled him backward, simultaneously rolling up on top of him, while drawing her arm back for a killing strike.
Then she froze and looked at him, for something was wrong.
It was Sam's face... but somehow, it was not Sam....
"Okay, Ziva," came Mark Harmon's voice. "We'll take it from here."
Cote waited for Ray to call, "Cut," but no such call came.
"C'mon, Ziva, let him up," came Michael's voice. She felt his arm on hers as he helped her up.
Cote looked around. The vast banks of lights that illuminated the set were gone. The set was gone. All of the people who surrounded the set were gone... she was standing in a room with a ceiling, and four walls, and Mark Harmon had flipped Sam on his back and was applying handcuffs while Sam was swearing, quite loudly and quite inventively.
Cote blinked. Her head was pounding...she must have hit the floor harder than she thought...she must be hallucinating.
"You okay, Ziva?" said Michael, looking at her with concern.
She stared at him. "My... head," she faltered.
"Not quite as hard as you thought it was, eh Ziva?" said Mark. "DiNozzo, help her out to the car. I've got this dirt bag."
Mark jerked Sam's arm and they led the way out of the room, down a corridor, out a door, and out into the bright sunlight. Cote, with Michael at her side, followed them.
Cote blinked at the sunlight and looked around...she had no idea where she was...she should be at the studios out in California and instead...buildings everywhere, a street, cars lining the street, no cyclorama to be seen.
What the hell was going on?
"Ziva, you'd better let me drive," said Michael. They had come to the dark sedan that they used for all their exernal shots. Cote was watching Mark, who had gone on to yet another car and was putting Sam in the back seat.
"Ziva!" barked Michael.
Cote opened the door, got into the seat, put on her seatbelt, and rested her head in her hand.
"Jesus, Ziva, what's the matter?"
She felt a hand on her arm. Opening her eyes, she saw Michael looking at her with concern on his face.
And yet, somehow, not Michael.
Cote forced a smile.
"Sorry. I"ve got a bit of a headache. Just let me sit her very, very quietly."
And she closed her eyes again.
What was going on? Had she got a concussion? Because she was definitely hallucinating. Michael was calling her Ziva, Mark had called her Ziva, and Sam...if he'd tried swearing like that on national television they'd have washed his mouth out with soap, not to mention fining him - and the show - thousands of the dollars.
And now she was in a car and instead of being in it for a few seconds while they were filming establishing shots, they were driving on and on as if they were actually going somewhere.
Cote lowered her hand to see where they were going...then placed her head in her hand again. She had just seen the Capitol dome.
She was in Washington, DC.
She was riding next to not Michael Weatherly, but rather Tony DiNozzo, and the man she'd been fighting was not Sam the actor but Sam the dirtbag, and Mark Harmon must actually be Jethro Gibbs.
This couldn't be happening. She'd hit her head too hard, she was probably laying on the ground right now and would wake up any second.
"Hey, Ziva, we're here," said Mi -- Tony, softly.
Cote got out of the car and looked around. She'd had a tour of the NCIS headquarters once, when she'd first started. Indeed, the whole cast had been brought down to look at the city and the buildings where they ostensibly worked. And this was definitely the NCIS headquarters.
She followed Tony DiNozzo into the building, and after a corridor or two, they came out into a large area which she recognized immediately B it was exactly like the set in Hollywood.
And sitting in the desk one over from that belong to DiNozzo, the baby faced Sean Murray...Timothy McGee.
Cote approached her own desk and sat down behind it. She reached out, touched the desk...very solid...
She looked up to see Tony staring at her. "Ziva, maybe you'd better go get yourself checked out."
"Well, have an aspirin at least. Probie!"
McGee stared at both of them, then dug into a desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of Tylenol. He got up, came over to them, handed her the bottle.
Cote poured three of the gelcaps into her hand, then downed them without benefit of water.
"Thank you, Timothy," she said.
"Sure...Ziva." said Timothy. He looked at Tony, who only shrugged and made one of his comic faces.
Tony returned to his desk, Timothy to his, and Cote sat behind the desk belonging to Ziva.
She felt...different. Cote reached across her body and felt her bicep. She had been in shape...but there was muscle there..more than she was accustomed to. She drummed her fists on her thighs...solid muscle....she was in the body of someone who had worked out and lifted weights for years.
Silence. Cote looked up. Tony was staring at her with a puzzled expression. She glanced over at McGee...who was absorbed in paperwork at his desk...she knew he'd been looking at her too.
At that point Mark Harmon...no.... Jethro Gibbs.... made his characteristic entrance, striding into the room.
He stopped in front of her desk and stared down at her.
"Are you all right, Ziva?" he asked in his calm, quiet voice.
Cote could only stare up at him. Gibbs. Jesus...Harmon was handsome and charming...but this man...he simply exuded sexiness...
"I"m fine. Gibbs." said Cote. Her voice was jusst a little hoarse.
"All right. Fitzpatrick is in Interrogation. It's you and me. DiNozzo, you observe. Let's go."
Cote found herself standing in the elevator between Gibbs and DiNozzo. It was as if she were looking at Mark Harmon and Michael Weatherly, but with an extra layer over them...the toughness one would expect from real NCIS agents rather than actors. But still...the charm and the sex appeal was just a bit overpowering...must be this tremendous headache...the Tylenol was not working at all...
Cote followed Gibbs into the interrogation room. Sam...no, Fitzpatrick, as Gibbs had called him, was already there, seated on the opposite side of the table from the observation window, his hands still handcuffed behind his back.
Gibbs sat down opposite him. Cote took up a position at the rear of the room, because she didn't think she could stand to sit within a foot of the real Jethro Gibbs. Gibbs directed a puzzled look at her, but only shrugged and turned back to Fitzpatrick.
The interrogation began.
If the man sitting there had been the actor Sam Brown, then Cote would have thought he was giving the performance of his life. But instead it was some dirtbag named Fitzpatrick, with a foul mouth and doubtless even fouler deeds to his credit.
But Cote couldn't keep her attention on him. Even with that effluence there...Gibbs presence was just too overpowering. God he was sexy.
Cote clamped her lips down on a chuckle, turning it into a fixed smile.
She'd often stood like this, in the same room with Harmon, admiring his acting technique and the sure way he handled himself, for all that he was giving lines and in real life was the sweetest and gentlest of men...and yet here he was, not him but Gibbs...and all that power...
Cote couldn't stop a chuckle. Immediately she clamped a hand over her mouth.
Fitzpatrick couldn't seem to keep his eyes off her. Well, Gibbs was doubtless going through the whole spiel about how she was a Mossad agent who'd as soon kill him as look at him, and could do remarkable things with a knife, and her chuckles were just anticipatory...
Did she have a knife, by the way?
Cote reached to her belt, and yes, there it was! She extracted it from its sheath and began to clean her fingernails, desperate to do something that would take her mind off lascivious thoughts.
Just think about it, though, she thought, her lips curving into a grin as she thought of what it would be like...to actually work next to Gibbs...to think that Tony DiNozzo was real. And Abby...she'd have to find out if Abby was still the Goth queen...and Ducky...
And DiNozzo...she'd have the upper hand on him, no question...
Cote chuckled softly...
"All right, Ziva," Gibbs said, "If you're so anxious to get started, I'll leave you alone with Mr. Fitzpatrick."
Cote stared at him, sudden horror sending a cold chill down from her heart to her stomach.
Gibbs had stood up, walked around the table, now he suddenly bent down and placed his lips next to Fitzpatrick's ear.
Cote couldn't hear what he said, but Fitzpatrick, who hadn't seemed to be able to take his eyes off her anyway, suddenly said, "Okay, okay! I'll tell you what you want to know. Just don't leave me alone with her."
"Oh, come on Gibbs," Cote said, getting into the spirit of the thing. "Leave us alone. And take his cufflinks off, it will be more fun that way."
“Cuffs,” said Gibbs, with a small smile. He returned to his seat.
"I'll take it from here, Ziva, he repeated.
Cote allowed herself a sigh of disappointment, as she thought Ziva would give it, then replaced her knife in its sheath and walked out of the room.
She stood in the hallway, getting her balance....
Suddenly there was an overwhelming pain in her head, and she slowly dropped to her knees, then rolled over onto the floor and blinked up at the lights and the faces staring down at her.
"Cote!" cried Sam. "Jesus, girl, are you okay? My hand slipped...I..."
Cote grinned. "Don't worry about it, Sam. Just wait until the end of this scene, I will have my revenge. Help me up."
Relieved, the cast members backed up and Cote and Sam were alone again in the spotlight.
She'd known it. Just a hallucination, brought on by that bump on the head. But damn, it was too bad. To have lived the life of Ziva David for a day....that would have been something...
"Action!" cried the director.
And the scene went on...