That was all Eric said until he suddenly stopped speaking to anyone, as well as avoided any eye contact. The agents became worried for their friend, as they each had a pretty good idea what was going through his head. Once the police arrived at the scene, the NCIS agents allowed them to take charge in dealing with the bodies while they travelled back to their headquarters, with Eric so that they would be able to talk with Hetty about what just happened. It certainly wasn't going to be an easy conversation.
As they walked into the main room, Hetty slowly approached them, mainly Eric, but before she could say anything to him, he looked at her sadly, then shook his head, and walked off toward the ops center. Callen started to go after him, but stopped himself when Sam placed a hand on his shoulder.
Then Hetty turned to the rest of the team she had carefully put together and asked, "What exactly happened out there? Mr. Callen? Mr. Hanna?"
Sam replied somberly, "It wasn't long after we got there that we were surrounded by a number of heavily armed men who began shooting at us. We're assuming that they were the same mercenaries that had killed our missing engineer's previous team, looking to kill us too so that they could continue whatever it is they had planned with the engineer's supercomputer. They had us pinned down, but they took off as soon as they heard the police sirens. We thought everything was fine until we heard another shot and saw the engineer collapse to the ground dead and Eric holding a gun."
"A gun that we think the engineer had pulled out to try to finish us for his new friends," Deeks continued. "We didn't think to check him as we didn't necessarily consider him much of a threat."
"Much of a threat?" Hetty repeated angrily. "Eric had to kill a man today. He obviously was a threat."
Everyone looked away in shame, then Callen spoke up as he responded sincerely, "He killed him to save me. If he hadn't, I would be dead on the warehouse's floor like the rest of the scum back there."
Hetty looked at the team's leader and answered, "Yes, maybe so and thank goodness you all are okay, but I prayed that Eric, of all of you, would never have to learn what it feels like to kill. He was never trained for this and he certainly wasn't made for this kind of lifestyle like the rest of you are. He has a very sensitive soul. If there's anyone to blame for this, then it's me."
The older woman walked off to find their tech operator, leaving the others behind, and when she found him, Eric was hunkered down in his chair, staring blankly toward the large screen in front of him. Hetty didn't speak as she slowly approached him and stood beside him. Instead, she just waited, hoping that the young man would speak first.
"I never should have… I never should have started going out into the field," Eric said quietly, not turning his head to look at her. "I belong here, in my chair where I can't cause anyone any trouble."
"But you haven't caused us any trouble, Mr. Beale," Hetty replied as she looked over at him. "Why ever would you think that?"
He replied, "Because, by doing what I did, you and the others will most likely be under scrutiny and an inquiry will be opened."
Hetty shook her head as she responded, "You saved Callen's life. What you did took a tremendous amount of bravery and I am so proud of you. If Granger or anyone else wants to open an inquiry or fault you and the rest of our team for any wrong doing, then let them."
"Proud?" Eric asked, then stood up, and looked at her with sadness and fear in his eyes as he continued angrily. "I killed a man, Hetty! I told you the first time I was asked to go out into the field that I didn't ever think I could kill anybody. Now I know that I can and I hate myself for it. How am I supposed to recover from that? I'm not like the rest of them."
"I know you don't think you can, but in time, what you're feeling will dissipate," Hetty answered, hoping she could get through to the young man. "You're right. You are not like the others. You were not trained to harm anyone in the midst of battle, let alone to fire a weapon and I am so sorry that you were forced into this situation. I never should have…"
Eric interrupted, "You're right and I never will be put in this position again because I will no longer be here for you to ask. I'm done. It isn't because I don't love you guys and love working here because believe me, I do, but I can't do it anymore. I'm not… I just can't do it anymore. I'm sorry, Hetty."
As soon as he finished, Eric ran from the room carrying his backpack over one shoulder, leaving Hetty standing there bewildered. It was then that Callen, Sam, Kensi, and Deeks walked into the ops center looking confused as they wondered why Eric had just bolted past them in such a hurry without saying a word.
Kensi looked at Hetty as she asked, "Is everything all right? Eric looked awful."
"No, Miss. Blye," Hetty replied sadly. "Everything's not all right, least of all, Eric. I'm afraid he's just left us."
"Left us; you mean he quit?" Callen asked in confusion. "But why would he do that?"
Hetty looked at the agents as she responded sadly, "Because, he's lost all confidence in himself and he hates himself for what he's done."
Sam shook his head sadly and then asked, "So what do we do?"
"How do we help him?" Callen retranslated his partner's question.
"First, we need to get Nell back here straight away and clue her in on everything that's happened," Hetty answered calmly. "I'll call Nate in as well, but Miss. Jones may be the only one who can help Eric pull through this. You four need to focus right now on finding our mercenaries so we can bring them to justice and make sure that they can't use whatever information they have already gathered, if any, against our city."
Hetty then walked out of the room to head back to her office, after which Deeks spoke up saying, "I remember the first time, I killed somebody. I must have thrown up a dozen times. At least Eric was able to hold in his stomach contents. Of course, I did just finish eating lunch then."
Kensi just looked over at her partner and shook her head in disdain, then said, "I can only imagine what Eric's going through right now. We killed the guards left behind to watch over the engineer along with the one shooter that tried to sneak up on us and now the engineer is dead too. What do we do next?"
"We wait for the ids of our dead mercenaries and maybe they'll help us figure out who the rest of them are or where they might have disappeared to," Callen replied. "If not, then we do whatever it takes to track them down and either arrest them or kill them."
"Doing so might help Eric a little too," Sam responded. "Back to the crime scene then?"
Deeks quickly asked, "Wait, why are we going back there again? The bodies will be at the morgue by now."
Callen answered, "We're going back for the supercomputer, if we can figure out a way to transport it. Since it's what our killers want, we're going to take possession of it and wait for them to come back to try to steal it again. I don't doubt that they won't try. Plan B."