nell65: (by roulade)
[personal profile] nell65
Yes. I went and fell for a new fandom, of another dead show, natch. Eureka. Fortunately only about six months dead, so I hope there are still readers out there. And, for the first time since LFN, I had new fic burst into my brain and demand, DEMAND I tell you, to be written. And then it turned out to be a crossover. With Hawaii 5-0. Knock me over with a feather, people. It was wonderful!

I hope any readers who find their way here enjoy it as much as I did. :-)

Title: "Stars in the Sky"
Author: Nell65
Fandoms: Eureka (syfy TV series), Hawaii 5-0
Rating: PG13
Pairinga: Jo/Zane, Cath/Steve, Danny/Steve if you squint, implied future OT3 Cath/Steve/Danny
Length: ~19,500 words
Spoilers: All of Eurkea, S1-5, Hawaii 5-0 through 3.17 assumed, but nothing specific.
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Syfy and CBS. No infringement intended.
A/N: The wonderful, wonderful MsArtisan stepped up to beta read this for me, and I could not have done it without her. Even the title is one of her suggestions. At this point, whatever errors of fact, or canon, or characterization, or grammar and style exist are my own and none of hers.



"Stars in the Sky"

Steve rounded a bend in the trail and swore under his breath. A pair of hikers were squatting down and looking at a map, blocking the path ahead of him. This was one of his favorite weekend hikes, difficult enough and far enough off the main tourist routes that he could usually count on being undisturbed, but not so difficult that it was foolish to tackle the ascent alone. Well, okay, it was foolish and foolhardy to do any climbing alone but given that he preferred it that way, thank you very much, this was a good destination. And today, there were people on it, people who did not belong.

“Dammit, I hate paper maps.” The man’s tone was aggrieved and ever so slightly tinged with a whine.

“Don’t be such a baby.” The woman, a petite brunette, batted her companion’s hands away from the map spread out between them. Her voice was surprisingly low and pleasantly rough. “We’re right here.” She pointed at something on the map, then gestured up the path. “The ascent is less than a quarter mile further up the trail.”

The man stood up, still complaining. “The guy at the hotel said it was a short walk.”

“Live in the moment, Donovan.” The woman stood up as well, folding up the map and tucking it away in a pocket of her trousers as she rose. Her glossy dark hair was bound up in a long braid that swung down to the middle of her back.

The man was about Steve’s height, with dark hair and blue eyes, and his climbing gear emphasized his broad shoulders, well-developed arms and flat abs. Knowing from experience, Steve estimated it at about four hours with weights a week to maintain that build.

The man, Donovan, looked down at the woman standing in front of him and his voice dropped, all complaint gone and instead full of honeyed invitation and promise. “The moment was supposed to include plenty of downtime between climbing and the reception tonight.” He paused slightly before drawling, “Lupo.” He made it a caress as much as a name.

The woman arched an elegant brow and cocked her chin as she looked up at her, what? Boyfriend? “You can work fast when you have to.”

Then she smiled up at him, a brilliant, happy, satisfied smile.

Even though Steve could only see her face in profile, he had no doubt that a man would crawl through broken glass to earn that smile. Obviously her partner thought so too, because in an effortless and well-practiced move, he leaned down as he wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her in for a hungry, open-mouthed kiss. She more than met him, rising up on her toes to wrap one arm around his shoulders, digging her fingers into his dark hair with her other hand. As the man’s free hand slid down Lupo’s back toward her well-muscled and, Steve did pause to take note, very fine ass, Steve cleared his throat and scuffled some loose gravel on the narrow path.

If there had been any way to pass them without calling attention to himself, he would have done so. Unfortunately it was a single-track path that hadn’t been cut in a while. The verdant undergrowth was rapidly encroaching on what little open space there was.

The man raised his head, but didn’t let go of his girlfriend. She spun in his arms until she was facing Steve as well. Steve smiled an open and friendly smile as he waved. “Hey.”

“Hey.” The man answered, stepping back. Keeping his feet well clear from their packs on the ground and his hands loose at his sides, Steve couldn’t help but notice.

The woman smiled at Steve, far less brilliantly than she had smiled at her man. For the first time, Steve was able to really take her in. Her snug tank showed off a lovely, hour-glass figure, and more smooth, tan skin across her broad shoulders than such a small woman should really have. On his second visual sweep, he noticed how much strength there was in her legs and her forearms, and how capable her hands looked. He also noticed that she had a seven-inch KA-BAR in a comfortably worn-looking thigh strap. Almost identical to the one he was currently wearing, in fact. Her large, dark eyes were steady as she evaluated Steve, checking him out for a potential threat he was suddenly quite certain. Having reached her decision, she moved more directly into the path, putting herself between Steve and Donovan. “Hi,” she said.

Steve kept his non-threatening smile firmly in place. “You’re right,” he said. “About a quarter mile to the ascent. But,” and Steve nodded, friendly-like to the man, “not really a walk. More of a mid-grade hike.”

The woman’s “thanks” was almost overridden by her boyfriend’s, “told you so.”

Steve looked at the gear lying on the ground at their feet. It was a mix of old and new, and, if he’d had to guess, personal rather than rented. He added, “the ascent is also mid-grade, and harder at the top.”

“You’ve done it before?” the woman asked.

“Yes.”

“So it’s safe for one climber?” Her expression was doubtful, and given that Steve had just delivered an oblique warning, he could hardly blame her.

He could also hear Danny’s commentary on the known dangers of climbing alone, which he was sure to get an earful of later. “No. Not really.” He grinned and shrugged. “But my climbing buddies are out of town.”

By which he meant, ‘still in the service and far away from here.’ But he didn’t add that.

He held out his hand, “Steve McGarrett.” And just to see how they would react, “Hawaii Five-0.”

The man frowned. “Hawaii Five-0?”

“Governor’s Taskforce. Major Crimes.”

“So. You’re a cop.”

“Yes.”

“Cool.” He stepped closer to the woman, dropping his left hand on her shoulder as he took Steve’s hand. His handshake was firm, but brief. “Zane Donovan.”

Steve looked at the woman and she held out her hand as well. “Jo Lupo. Nice to meet you, Steve.”

“We’re in town for a conference.” Zane added, “We came early, snagging a vacation out of work trip.”

“Where are you all from?”

“Oregon.”

“Lots of good climbing there, I hear.”

The woman laughed. “Yes. Which is why our equipment is our own.”

Steve grinned at her. He couldn’t help it. They fascinated him. Their odd combination of ease and watchfulness was making all his Five-0 senses tingle. Well, that and that she was clearly guarding Donovan, not the other way around, and they both took that for granted. Which was definitely not something you saw every day. “You saw me check it out.”

She folded her arms across her chest and smiled back. Still blocking the path between Steve and Donovan. “Yes.”

“If you know the ascent, you want to climb with us today?”

“Zane!” Jo turned to look at her companion in surprise.

He raised his hands. “Hey – if he’s done it before, the climb will go more quickly.” His grin turned into what Steve could only describe as a happy leer as he looked down at Jo. “More downtime later.”

The climb did go smoothly, and Steve had a much better time than he would have anticipated climbing with two tourists from Oregon. Zane and Jo turned out to be experienced climbers who knew what they were doing, and had obviously climbed together often. It only took a deliberately inviting glance at their rings for them to clarify that they were indeed married to each other, but for less than a year. This explained a lot of their banter and heated glances, and the kissing. The rest, given the complete absence of any self-consciousness about being inside each other’s space, was probably just them.

Zane, unlikely as it seemed at first glance, turned out to be a physicist and R&D guy. He was in town for a conference on unconventional weapons. Jo was a former infantry grunt, Army Special Forces if Steve had to guess, though she didn’t say and he didn’t ask. Comparing Afghanistan notes was enough for him. And for her to peg him as well, he was certain. Her current position was less clear. “I work for the DOD,” was all she offered. Steve didn’t press. He was sure there was more they weren’t saying. Zane probably worked for the DOD as well, at least as a consultant, and they were doing dangerous enough work to be wary and cautious with strangers.

During their first break, Zane whipped one of the new phone/tablet hybrids out of his backpack and started quizzing Steve about recent cases he pulled from news headlines. By the time Steve had answered a half dozen or so of Zane’s questions, most couched in a gee-whiz, way to go dude, that is so awesome form, he realized he had been efficiently interrogated, and had probably revealed more than he intended. Based on the shared smile between Jo and Zane, and the faint release of tension he hadn’t fully realized was there in their shoulders, he had also passed.

After that, Zane had stashed his electronics and started asking Steve about his favorite weapons, and what, if anything, would make them more useful to him in the field. His wife could play that game too, and it filled in their few rest breaks on the way to the peak, and the hike back down the trail to their cars.

This was how Steve discovered that Zane shared his enthusiasm for blowing things up, and they were deep into a debate on the merits of various timed chargers when they reached the parking area. It was still only mid-afternoon, so Steve impulsively invited them to join him at Kamekona’s shrimp truck for a late lunch. After a quick glance at each other, they accepted. In short order they all were seated at the familiar picnic table, tearing into a well-earned meal.

Steve wasn’t at all surprised when first Danny, then Cath showed up. He’d answered their texts asking about his climb on the drive out to the beach. He was only a little surprised when Chin and then Kono ambled by, each apparently alerted by a call from Danny. By the time the introductions were all over, Zane looked at his watch and announced that they really had to go.

Jo looked at her own watch, and an expression of dismay crossed her vivid features. “Oh damn! We’re going to have to hurry or we will be late!”

Zane pulled his wife to her feet as he grinned down at her. “Oh babe. We are so totally going to be late.”

A flush spread across her high cheekbones, but she only grinned back as she turned him around and pointed him toward their rental car. “Oh get on with you,” was all she said.

Another round of handshakes later, they strolled away arm in arm.

Once their car pulled out into the road, Steve turned back to the table. “What did you find?”

“Blank walls, boss,” Kono replied. “Nothing but basics, social security numbers, birth certificates, driver’s licenses. He works for a company called Rockwell Industries, seems to be some sort of high tech outfit based in Oregon. Only about a year old. I can’t find any records for him before that, which is very odd for a thirty-two year old man. Her military files are sealed, as are her current records with the DOD, which only acknowledges her as a civilian employee.”

“Spider senses tingling?” Danny asked, grinning up at Steve from under his eyebrows, his blue eyes bright and knowing.

“Oh hell yeah.” Steve grinned back, then looked around table. “Anybody learn anything about the conference they’re headed to? And why I’ve never heard of it?”

Danny answered. “It’s a small, semi-annual industry event for weapons design specialists, most of them from the private sector, and for the Army and Navy types who buy their stuff. It’s not open to the public, only insiders. Apparently they get together to geek out about things that go boom and to share tips on getting grants and contracts.”

“And it’s legit?”

“Totally legit,” Cath said. “I ran down a friend who has attended in the past. He said it’s about what you’d expect. Tweedy, squishy brainiacs loving being around soldiers, career staff types trying hard to pretend they’re just as tough as folks with line commissions, and that they aren’t at all insecure about how they stack up, intelligence-wise.”

Steve shuddered in not-at-all-mock horror. “Sounds thrilling.”

“That Donovan guy isn’t big on tweed, I’m guessing,” Chin observed.

“No.” Steve pursed his lips, replaying the day’s climb. “No. And not in the least squishy.”

Kono grinned. “Nope. Rock hard is my guess. Did you see his arms?” She whistled quietly under her breath, then pantomimed fanning herself.

Cath leaned into Steve and bumped gently against his shoulder. “That Jo’s a lucky girl.”

“I’ll say.” Danny poked his finger in the air, taking in both Kono and Cath in an expansive wave. “Did you notice how much he failed to notice the two of you?”

Steve dropped his arm across Cath’s shoulders. “Yeah. I did.”

“Well. He did notice. He just didn’t linger.” Chin’s warm smile took in both Kono and Cath. “He is human.”

“And very, very male,” Kono added with a final smirk. Then she turned to pin Steve with a hard glare. “Why are you so curious about him, about them, anyway?”

“Yeah.” Cath elbowed him gently in the side. “And when was the last time you hooked up with random, tourist climbers?”

“She’s his bodyguard. And he’s cool with that. Never seen a guy who looked like that be so totally unfazed when his female partner takes the muscle position.”

“Partner? You don’t think she’s his wife?” Danny asked.

“Oh. I’m sure they’re married. And very enthusiastically so.” Steve shrugged. “I agreed to climb with them because I was curious about them, but I stayed with them because they’re good climbers.” And despite Zane’s general chattiness, they were able to sit quietly at the top and take in the view, according it the respect it deserved. He added, “It was fun to be out with them.”

“I think I like them,” Cath said.

“Me too,” said Kono.

“Me too.” Steve was only a little taken aback to discover that this was true. “I’d go out with them again, if they have the time before they leave.”

“I’m going shopping with her tomorrow afternoon.”

They all turned to look at Cath in surprise.

Cath shrugged. “She said he was going to be busy all day with meetings, and she really wanted to go to a nice mall. Said they live pretty far out in Oregon, and she has to do most of her shopping online.”

“I guess she figures he’ll be okay, surrounded by military types. Even if they are all staff.” Steve turned to look directly at Cath. “Do you think you could….?”

“See what else I can learn, hanging out with her?”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll do what I can. Though she did specifically mention lingerie. We might be distracted.”

Steve had opened his mouth, already preparing to encourage her curiosity when Cath’s exact words sank in. He paused, his mouth still hanging slightly open, enjoying the imaginary view. Judging by side-eye exchanges with Danny and Chin, so were they.

Kono cleared her throat loudly, and Steve snapped his jaw closed and his eyes front. She said, “Right. If that’s all for today, I have plans for tonight.” She stood up. “See you Monday.”

By Monday afternoon Steve had nearly forgotten about Donovan and Lupo and his spider senses. Five-O was being tasked with more and more drug interdiction. So their morning was swallowed by a briefing with several different agencies, all trying, and mostly failing, to convince everyone else that they were really, truly, for real this time, sharing all their intel.

They had all just wandered back into Five-O HQ after a tasteless but free lunch on the DEA’s dime, when Steve caught the call from HPD. A bomb had gone off at the convention center this morning, and they needed Five-O on the case.

As soon as they walked in to the lobby, Steve spotted one of those conference tripods, bearing a placard that directed the attendees of the Unconventional Weapons Convention to the registration area above and to their right. “Damn,” he muttered under his breath, nudging Danny with his shoulder to draw his attention to the sign. “That’s the conference Donovan was attending.”

Danny’s eyes widened slightly. Then he nodded decisively. “Room full of weapons designers and military types. Good target.”

“Or site for an accident,” Steve added.

“That too.” Danny looked around, his hands stuffed in his pockets as he considered the busy lobby. “Doesn’t this place seem awfully full of people for a place that just got bombed?”

“Yes. It does, Danny.” Steve finally saw a uniformed officer, and headed her way. Following her directions down a corridor they found the roped off crime scene Steve had been expecting.

The site of the explosion was one of the smaller conference rooms along a back hallway. Max was already there, poking around the rubble of twisted chairs and burned carpet. Two bodies were covered with ground sheets, and paramedics were attending to a half dozen more burned and scraped victims.

Max stood up as they reached his side. He explained in his precise and awkward way that the blast had come from a briefcase or a pack of some kind, left in the back row of chairs. The force of it had gone forward, toward the front of the room. The room had been set up in classic conference style, a front table with a half-dozen chairs set behind it to face the room, a drop down screen, a computer and projector cart, and a podium for the speaker, all now in disarray. Partially from the blast, partially from the attendees scramble to get away from the explosion. Uniforms were already taking statements in the next room.

“It doesn’t seem like a lot of damage for a bomb,” said Chin.

“Correct.” Max bobbed his head in approval. “It was really more of a very large stun grenade, but with a surprising level of accuracy and control in the direction of the detonation.”

“So how did these two die?” Steve nodded at the bodies on the ground, midway up the room, one on each side of what was left of the aisle between the chairs.

Max stepped over and lifted a sheet, pointing as he spoke. “Gunshot to the back of their heads. One shot, small caliber, muzzle applied directly to their skin.”

“So, two assailants?” said Danny.

“At least two,” Max replied firmly.

Danny frowned at that, then continued, “Who were they?”

Steve, who had crouched to examine the nearest body, looked up. Lifting the man’s blazer to reveal a shoulder holster containing a loaded handgun, then pointing to the small earpiece, he said, “I’m going to guess, security personnel.”

“Yes.” Max flagged down an assistant. “Their IDs claim they work for something called Rockwell Industries.”

“Security for whom?” Kono wondered.

“That’s what we need to find out,” Steve said. The name rang a faint bell, but he couldn’t quite place it. He turned to Max. “Do you know what was going on in here?” he asked.

“A presentation on some new targeting mechanisms.” Max answered as his assistant appeared and offered Steve and Danny a program, along with the bagged wallets and IDs of the two dead men. “Part of the annual weapons design conference.”

The tech-speak on the program was close to impenetrable, but Steve’s eye immediately fell on the name Zane Donovan, one of two scheduled presenters from Rockwell Industries. “Aw shit,” Steve said, offering the program over to Chin. “Where are the witnesses?”

They turned out to be corralled in the next room over. When Steve and his team entered, his quick once over suggested that the group of fifty or so was overwhelming male. They looked to be about two thirds civilians, one third staff officers, more or less evenly distributed between branches, with a slight over-abundance of army uniforms. He didn’t see Donovan anywhere. Approaching the closest of the civilian scientist types, Steve introduced himself before asking, “Do you know if Zane Donovan was in the room before the flash bomb went off?”

“Donovan?” The man shook his head. “I don’t know. Hadn’t met him yet.” He sounded disappointed.

A thin, bearded man sitting next to him looked up. “I have. He wasn’t there yet.”

“You sure?”

The man smiled and shrugged. “Yes. He’s pretty memorable.” He waved a self-depreciating hand. “A bit of a rock star, for this crowd anyway.”

That struck Steve as completely believable. “Okay. Thanks.”

Steve was starting to turn away when the man added, “His co-presenter was here though.”

“You mean his wife? Jo Lupo?”

“Oh no. She wasn’t here either. I’m quite sure of that. I meant his design partner from RI. Isaac Parish.”

“Is he here now?”

The man looked around, finally standing up to get a better view as he frowned. “You know, that’s odd, but I don’t see him.”

Kono said, “I’ll go see if he was one of the ones the medics were helping,” and vanished out the door.

Steve nodded, and was turning to give Chin and Danny instructions when a disturbance by the door caught his attention. “Damn.”

Chin and Danny looked over, then back at Steve. His frustration at seeing military investigators pushing into the room was mirrored in their faces. “Chin?” Steve made it more a question than an order.

Chin sighed, then flashed a resigned smile. “Sure boss. Interference coming up.”

Steve called after him, “Tell Kono to start collecting the witness statements. Danny and I will try to find Donovan and Lupo.”

As they sidled out of the room’s side door, Danny asked, “Why are you so concerned about them?”

“The explosive was set to blind the presenters at the front of the room, the ones facing the flash. The assailants were behind it, and rushed the front, taking out two private security on their way forward.”

“Right. And Donovan was supposed to be at the front. But,” Danny scowled, “if the guy’s such a,” he paused to make air quotes, “rock star, shouldn’t they have noticed he wasn’t there?”

“I’m sure they did, Danny.”

“Ah.”

As they drove the short distance to the Hilton, Danny returned to the subject of their morning meetings, and how irritating he found the DEA’s local taskforce chief. She and Danny had had run-ins before, none showing either of them at their best. Steve amused himself by baiting Danny into ever more elaborate flights of baroque language while they rode the elevator up to Donovan and Lupo’s floor. Winding Danny up just to hear the ensuing cascade was one of the more satisfying pleasures of his day. The only thing that broke the flow was Kono’s call to confirm that Parrish was nowhere to be found.

Steve rapped loudly on the door, then called, “Donovan? Ms. Lupo? It’s McGarrett. With Five-O.”

He had prepared himself so thoroughly for silence and an empty room that he had the key card halfway into the door when they heard Donovan’s voice.

“McGarrett? Steve?” and the door opened. Donovan filled the entrance, leaning on the doorframe with one arm while he kept the other on the door handle, blocking their view of the room with his body. His brows were drawn down in confusion and concern shadowed his eyes. “What’s up?”

He was shirtless and barefoot, wearing only a snugly fitting pair of jeans that rode low on his hips. His hair and carefully maintained scruff were still wet from a shower. Standing so close to him it was impossible not to take in just how very well defined his muscles were, or to appreciate how much work he put into sculpting himself, and how very well it paid off. Steve dragged his eyes back up to Donovan’s face, only to discover that Donovan was looking back over his shoulder, calling, “Jo?”

They heard what had to be the bathroom door click shut, and Lupo’s muffled voice rang out, “I’m good. You can let him in.”

Donovan stepped back, his voice raised as he said, “Them. Let them in. Danny’s with him.”

Their room was a generous one, with space for a round table and two comfortable chairs by the window, as well as the standard king-size bed, desk and dresser with wide screen combo. The bed itself was rumpled, the pillows tossed in a single heap and the duvet haphazardly dragged over the rest, indicating it had been occupied again after the morning maid service. The table had the remains of a takeout lunch scattered across it, and it seemed glaringly obvious that Donovan had skipped out on the convention to spend some quality time with Lupo.

Steve heard the bathroom door latch click, and a quick glance showed that Lupo had opened it a few inches, no doubt so she could hear their conversation as she finished dressing.

Donovan meanwhile had backed further into the room, so he could reach into a neatly packed bag resting on one of the two luggage racks without turning his back on them. The guy clearly had picked up that something was amiss, and had good instincts about self-preservation. He pulled out a clean tee shirt and a pair of socks. Dropping into one of the chairs at the table, he said again, “What’s going on, Steve? You’re looking very official.”

“There was an event at the conference session you were supposed to be attending,” Danny answered.

Donovan tugged on a sock. “What kind of event?”

Steve said, “At 11:25 am today a flash bomb went off in one of the conference sessions. It was aimed toward the front table and stunned everyone in attendance, allowing at least two assailants to kill two security personnel as they rushed the front. You were supposed to be one of the speakers, but we realized you weren’t there and came looking for you.”

The bathroom door banged open and Lupo burst out. With her long, dark hair loose over her shoulders and dressed in a knit hiking skirt, a short-sleeved peasant blouse/tunic-y sort of top, and a pair of hiking sandals she looked impossibly young. “Killed? Do you have names?”

Danny read them from his phone while Steve watched Lupo and Donovan react to the news. Her face paled, then her expression hardened, eyes narrowing and her lips pulling thin into a determined grimace. He froze in the act of tying his shoelaces, his frown matching hers. Then they looked for each other. Once their glances locked Steve knew he was watching information flow back and forth, choices examined and decisions made, all within a few heartbeats. Too bad he couldn’t read their code.

Lupo turned to the desk and extracted two plastic identification badges and two leather ID folders from the open briefcase. Handing them over to Steve, she said, “I’m the Chief of Security for Rockwell Industries. Those two men are,” she hesitated for a fraction of a second, then continued, “were part of my team. They were there to keep watch over our scientists. Zane,” she nodded in the direction of her husband, her eyes never leaving Steve’s, “and Dr. Parrish. Where is Dr. Parrish now, Commander McGarrett?”

Steve was looking at the badges, which certainly seemed real enough, though hardly difficult to fake. It was the DOD identifications, and the shockingly high security clearance levels they displayed, that really interested him, however. The penalties for forging this sort of thing were very high. He handed them over to Danny as he answered her question. “We don’t know.”

“But, he was on the platform?”

“Yes.”

“Shit, shit, shit.” That was from Donovan, now on his feet and tugging down a blue tee shirt. “I don’t suppose you have any idea if Parrish’s computer or prototypes are still in the room?”

Steve shook his head. “No.”

“Commander?” Lupo recalled his attention. “We need to see the room. We need to secure RI’s property.”

“It’s all part of a crime scene, Ms. Lupo.”

“It’s all classified far beyond your levels, Commander. And we don’t need to remove them, if they are still there and under guard. But we need to know if they are missing, along with Dr. Parrish.”

Donovan finished putting on his watch, then started efficiently stripping their room. He checked the drawers, scooping out the few items of clothing he found and placing them in his wife’s bag. As he headed for the bathroom, Danny and Steve retreated to the space between the bed and the bathroom wall, pushed more by his focused energy than moving by conscious decision. While Donovan was doing this, Lupo flung open the closet door and opened the safe. She pulled out a handgun, which she immediately tucked into her waistband at the small of her back, a half dozen loaded clips, and a bulky but impressive looking taser which she tossed onto the bed. Before closing the safe she pulled out an envelope and handed it to Steve, taking their identifications back in exchange. “My concealed carry permits.”

By the time Steve and Danny had satisfied themselves that the permits were genuine, Donovan and Lupo had their duffels packed and zipped and on the bed. She was transferring items between a handbag, the briefcase and her climbing pack and he was packing an odd-looking assortment of electronics into another backpack. His hands were deft and sure, coiling charging cords and putting each item in its designated space.

Lupo was in front of Steve again, her pack slung over her shoulder, her hair pulled back in a severe ponytail that added years and authority to her countenance. “Commander?”

At Steve’s nod, she continued, “We need to change locations. This one is compromised. And we need to see the scene. I’d like to leave our rental car behind as well.”

Trying to guess at what kind of lives they led that they were so quick to respond to a sudden emergency, and what it was about this one in particular that had them so spooked, Steve must have waited a beat too long to respond because Lupo’s eyebrows shot up in impatience. Her voice dropped a notch and acquired a more distinctive growl. “Commander!”

He didn’t snap to attention, but it took a conscious decision not too. He glanced at Danny, who shrugged and said, “Well, at least this way we know where they are.” Danny looked at Donovan and Lupo. “There’s room in my trunk for your gear, and you can squeeze in the backseat on our way to the convention center. It’s a short trip.”

Of course it ended up being Danny and Lupo in the backseat, Danny muttering in complaint the whole of the brief ride. Donovan spent the trip tapping away at a computer tablet, while Lupo snapped orders at someone over her phone.

As they scrambled out of the car it finally dawned on Steve that he hadn’t actually asked them the question. “Where were you when the bomb went off?”

Donovan stopped in his tracks and turned to give him an incredulous stare. “Seriously? It wasn’t completely obvious?”

Steve ducked his head in mild apology. “I had to ask.”

Danny interrupted, “Yeah, so, okay, it was totally obvious. But why? Weren’t you supposed to be here, showing off your stuff to potential buyers?”

Donovan started moving again. “It is actually a conference, not a trade show. Parrish didn’t really want me there, stealing his thunder for the big reveal. I did promise to be there for the afternoon session and the question period, though.”

“Was it his work? Or yours?”

“Both. The initial idea and prototype were mine, but after I assigned the project to him, he really took it to the next level.”

“You assigned it?”

“Yeah. Don’t faint or anything, but I’m actually his boss.”

Danny rolled his eyes. “I’ll manage. Your Dr. Parrish isn’t the only guy in the world to work for a muscle bound freak who thinks a v-neck tee shirt is professional office attire.”

“Hey!” Steve exclaimed, more or less simultaneously with Donovan’s, “You don’t get your shirts tailored like that to show off a saggy gut, dude.”

Steve sniggered at Danny’s ‘I am offended face,’ which barely concealed a flush of pleasure, and wished he’d thought of the comeback himself. Danny’s shirts were a thing of beauty and a thing of legend in the HPD. But Donovan was the first person Steve had known to comment directly on it to Danny’s face, and within an hour of seeing him modeling one.

Lupo darted ahead of them, spinning at the top of the wide marble staircase to seize the high ground as they came to a sudden stop in front of her. Dark eyes flashing as she glared at them, she flung out her hands and exclaimed, “Boys! Bigger issues here!”

Steve exchanged mildly chagrined glances with Danny and Donovan, and the three of them trailed along in Lupo’s wake as she strode toward the roped off corridor.

Lupo’s ponytail swished and snapped as she moved, making it impossible for Steve not to drop his gaze to admire the way her hips rolled and swung with her quick strides, or to follow that up with speculation about what it would feel like to pull that ass close, how nicely it would fill his hands…and any further drifting was cut short by Donovan’s voice, close to his ear and tinged with knowing laughter. “Nice view, isn’t it?” he said.

Embarrassed to be caught out, Steve looked to Danny for support.

Danny gave him a ‘who me?’ look. Hooking a thumb in Steve’s direction, he said to Donovan, “Don’t mind the horndog here. He is housebroken, difficult as it might be to believe.”

Zane laughed, and Steve glared at Danny. “Thanks.”

Apparently taking pity on him, Donovan said, “You should see her go in her power suits and high heels. That’s even more impressive.”

“I’ll bet,” Danny drawled, his eyes firmly on Lupo’s ass this time.

“I liked her cop uniform too, of course. She totally nailed that deputy sheriff shuffle. That was so hot.”

“She was a deputy sheriff?” Danny looked up at Donovan.

“When we first met, before she took the job with RI.”

“Why don’t you call it Rockwell?” Danny asked.

“Because it’s a really stupid name, that’s why,” Donovan snapped. “It makes it sound like we work for a company in Bedrock and ride dinosaurs to work.”

Danny sniggered and Steve interrupted before they got sidetracked further. “How long have you known her?”

“All my life, and not long enough.” At Steve’s frown, Donovan elaborated, “For about five years, give or take.” He grinned then. “She used to arrest me for the stupidest little shit, tossed my ass in jail once or twice a month for almost two years. Even tazed me a few times.”

“Really?” Danny’s eyebrows shot up. “That’s one hell of a courtship.”

Donovan shrugged and his voice softened into the tones of a man still amazed by his good fortune. “Things changed. I got lucky.”

They reached the conference room and Steve waved them all in, intensely curious about what Donovan and Lupo would do next. The bodies had been bagged and moved to stretchers. Lupo headed directly for them, Donovan following after. As she opened the first one, Donovan pressed in behind her, his hand resting on her shoulder. For a brief instant, she seemed to relax back into him. It wasn’t a hug, but it seemed to serve the same function. The moment ended quickly. She leaned forward to examine the body and he pulled away and began to scan the scene, starting not at the back of the room but at the front. He was clearly looking for Parrish’s equipment.

Steve turned to greet Chin and Kono, while keeping his eye on Lupo and Donovan, and they filled him in on their activities over the last hour. Max and his team were gone, their work complete, all but the lone tech waiting for Steve’s permission to remove the bodies. The witnesses had all finished giving their preliminary statements and been released. Their statements confirmed the loose outline they had already developed. A large flash bomb had gone off, the lights went out, confusion reigned, people rushed about tripping over chairs and each other, the lights came back on, two men were down and about a dozen more sustained minor injuries in the chaos. And the only person who seemed to be missing was Dr. Isaac Parish, the forty-year old scientist and researcher who had just stood to begin his presentation when the flash bomb went off.

Chin had managed to wave the military investigators off, for the moment, but Steve knew that if Parrish had the same type of DOD clearances as Jo and Zane, they wouldn’t be able to hold them off indefinitely.

“So,” Danny’s voice interrupted Steve’s morbid thoughts on the unavoidable intrusion by the feds. “When did you start trusting them?” Danny nodded toward the couple now bent over the burns on the carpet, looking at the readout on some device he was holding.

“Their IDs helped. But mostly,” Steve shrugged, “they aren’t worried about us at all, and they are really, really worried about their colleague.”

Parrish’s computer and other equipment were gone, which surprised no one. After quick consultation with the officers left guarding the scene, Steve ordered everyone back to Five-O HQ. Everyone included Jo and Zane, who obviously couldn’t be left alone, given the apparent kidnapping of their colleague.

“Wow! Awesome set up!” Zane headed straight for the central computer table, an irrepressible kid-in-a-candy-store gleam lighting up his face. He looked up. “Someone give me a password. I can break in, but it will go faster if I don’t have too.”

Steve and his team exchanged startled glances, then Steve shrugged and decided to see what would happen. He had to change his password soon anyway to keep with the monthly security cycle.

Zane’s fingers flew over the keypad, and before Chin had time to draw a breath to explain anything, files started popping open across the table top. Zane straightened up, shooting two sets of video feeds to the wall screens, and pointed. “Okay, here’s the convention center security feeds from yesterday and today, and there’s the ones from our hotel, yesterday and today. Parrish was two floors down from us.” He looked, not at Steve or his team, but at Jo. “Has anyone gone to his room yet?”

She replied without shifting her gaze from the security feeds. “Patel and Davis cleaned it out, along with Aronsky and Foster’s. It was only clothes and personal items in all of them.”

“Hey. Hold up!” exclaimed Danny, poking his finger at them to emphasize his words. “DOD clearances or not, you two can’t just start hacking security feeds or cleaning out potential evidence. This is a police investigation! There are procedures! There are rules!”

Zane cut him a sympathetic glance. “This investigation will never see the light of day. Normal rules don’t apply. I’ll do what I can to make sure they don’t steal all your equipment under some Homeland Security bullshit, or try to vanish you.”

Steve had the very uncomfortable sense that Zane wasn’t kidding, and for the first time began to wonder exactly what they had gotten sucked into.

“Zane!” Jo interrupted, “back up the hotel feed. Lobby elevators.”

They all watched as Zane centered that screen and started rolling it in reverse.

“There!” Jo looked at Zane, who froze the frame. She pointed to a slim woman with brown, shoulder length hair. Jo’s expression was at once alarmed and outraged. “Is that who I think it is?”

Zane enlarged the screen shot, and his mobile mouth settled into a grim frown and his voice hardened. “Yes. Beverly Barlow. Fuck.”

“When was that?” Jo asked.

“This morning.” Zane met her eyes, and they did more of the silent communication thing.

“Who is Beverly Barlow?” demanded Danny.

“Here.” Zane typed some more, then paused, licking his lips as he considered whatever it was he was looking at. Having reached some sort of decision, he continued, “Okay. I’m pulling up her DOD files prior to 2008. You see anything after that and they will lock you up and throw away the key. Basically, she’s affiliated with a self-selected watchdog group created after World War II. They believe they will do better than the rest of us with managing technological innovation, particularly with an eye toward stopping anything they view as too dangerous for the plebes to manage on their own.”

“They are very ends justify the means types,” Jo added, her lip curling with disdain. “She’s been directly or indirectly involved in several murders, multiple kidnappings and assault and theft on a grand scale. It turns out, if they do it, it’s for our own good and not a crime at all.”

“What the hell were you and Parrish planning to present today?” Danny asked.

Zane sighed. “A way of using wifi networks to identify people based on their DNA.”

There was a pregnant pause as Steve, Chin, Kono and Danny all stared at Zane with varying degrees of fascination and horror.

“I know.” Zane scowled uncomfortably and dropped his gaze to the tabletop. “Very Brave New World. I’m working on way to block it, but I was being too clever by half when I built the damn thing.”

Jo gently stroked the back of his hand, slipping her fingers into his. “It also saves lives. And Allison says the medical applications are potentially amazing.”

He smiled sadly at her, lifting their linked hands and pressing a kiss across her knuckles. “Thanks Jojo. But you and I both know it will be decades before it gets used that way. If ever.”

She touched his face with her other hand and offered him a crooked smile. “You never know what the day will bring, Donovan.” Then she pulled him down and kissed him.

“Ahem.” Steve cleared his throat. Zane and Jo’s rapid shifts in emotional settings were almost as mercurial as Danny’s, and just about as productive. “About your friend Parrish?”

“Right.” Zane and Jo disengaged as he spoke. “Okay. Now that we know whom we’re dealing with, we have some idea of how they’ll approach the problem. We should be able to find them, before the end of the day probably.”

“But right now, we need to call our employers. Let them know what is happening,” Jo said. Looking to Zane, she continued, “Would you call Carter?”

He said he would and she looked at Steve, belatedly, if politely, seeking his permission. “Commander?”

Steve waved his hand, indicating either permission or his acknowledgement that he had very little control over the situation; even he wasn’t sure which.

They stepped away, into different corners of the big room, pulling out phones as they went. Steve turned back to his team and sent them off to pursue their own sources for information, determined not to be completely steamrolled by anyone on his own turf. He scanned the files on Barlow, unwilling impressed by her record of subterfuge and mayhem, while Danny flipped through the convention center footage.

He was aware of the low, one-sided conversations in each corner, but couldn’t catch more than a few phrases.

Kono cleared her throat. “Boss?”

Steve looked up.

She was standing in the door to her office, avid curiosity in her eyes. “There’s a General Mansfield on the phone for you.”

“Who?”

“Mansfield? His secretary said he’s with the Joint Chiefs?”

“Okay.” He jerked his head toward their guests, issuing a silent instruction, and headed for his office wondering how a flash bomb at a weapons design conference attended mostly by civilians had already reached the attention of Washington. “I’ll be right back.”

Nearly ten minutes later he walked back into the main room, shaking his head in disbelief. “That was one of the weirdest conversations I’ve ever had with military brass. This guy was all over my ass for not locking Zane down the minute I saw him today. Claimed he was a danger to himself and others at all times, and one of the most valuable assets the DOD has. He also didn’t give a shit about this poor Parrish guy.”

Danny and Kono looked up from the computer table, where they had been bent over more security footage.

“Wait.” Steve looked around. “Where are Zane and Jo?”

“She went to the ladies room,” Kono replied, and Danny added, “He got another phone call and stepped outside to take it.”

Steve glanced at the floor where Donovan had been standing, his temper rising. “With his pack?”

“What?” Danny followed the direction of Steve’s accusatory glare. “Oh shit.”

Steve fisted his hands on his hips and his voice started getting louder despite his better intentions. The conversation with the General had rubbed him rawer than he realized. “What the hell Kono?”

Kono grimaced in embarrassment. “Sorry. Escorting her to the bathroom seemed like overkill.”

“Danny? How hard is it to watch two people?”

Chin walked out of his office, obviously drawn by Steve’s volume. “What’s happening?”

Steve snarled, “Donovan and Lupo are gone.”

“What?” Chin turned a startled glance toward his furiously blushing cousin. “Kono?”

Before anyone could say anything else, a new window popped up on a wall screen. It was Zane, calling in on streaming video. “Hey. Sorry guys. Heard Mansfield’s name and knew we had to split.” His wide grin was downright cocky. “He wanted to ship me home in a padded container, didn’t he? Claimed I’m a danger to global security?”

Mansfield had actually claimed exactly that, though in a vaguely complimentary way. Mansfield said that Zane was merely capable of destroying the world, not that he wanted to, and that he was therefore too precious to be allowed to fall into enemy hands. Steve had protested that he didn’t think anyone could make Zane do anything Zane didn’t want to do. Mansfield had coughed, and then with surprising gentleness had suggested that if anyone ever held Jo’s life in their hands, Donovan would do just about anything and everything under the sun, including blow it up if necessary, to keep her safe. Steve scowled, remembering the General’s warning, and the heavy tones of jaded experience in it. He glared at Zane. “I don’t think the General requires padding.”

Zane chuckled ruefully. “Yeah. Probably not. Hold off on telling him you lost me for a while, unless you like red-faced generals yelling at you. Though, the way the vein in his neck pops is pretty impressive, if you’re into that sort of thing.” He turned his head, obviously listening to the low burr of Jo’s voice. Looking back at the screen he continued. “We should have a lock on Parrish’s location by later tonight. We’ll call you then with coordinates. In the meantime, I’m sending you a list of equipment I think we might need. Looks like you guys have a pretty expansive armaments budget. Oh, and Jo likes your guns and wants to borrow some.”

Steve was listening with a barely contained sense of growing indignation, when the tablet camera view shifted as they took a turn and he got a good look at the background of the image. He was hit by a wave of astounded disbelief. “Are you in my truck?”

Zane didn’t even have the grace to look embarrassed. Instead he smiled a gleaming smile and winked. Winked straight at him! While riding in Steve’s own damn truck! Steve thought he might be feeling a vein in his own neck.

Zane said, “Yeah. We borrowed it. Don’t worry. Jo’s driving, so you should get it back in good shape. And before you try, the tracker is disabled.”

Steve struggled to keep his voice even. “You’re a car thief now?”

“Dude! Now? No! I started boosting cars when I was fifteen, but I haven’t done it in years.”

Steve ground out, “So. You’re a career criminal.”

“First computer felony when I was ten, so, yeah. But I use my mad skillz for good now.” He smirked somewhat sourly. “Mostly.”

“First?” Steve heard his voice rise perilously close to a howl.

“I’m sending you a pretty safe version of our files. You deserve to know who you’re dealing with. Later.”

The screen winked out.

“Oh my God.” Kono pointed to an email that had flowered open on the table. “Get a load of his list. What the hell does he think he’s going to blow up?”

As Steve read through the list, he had strangest feeling that he was having an out of body experience. His vision seemed to be telescoping and he wasn’t entirely sure that he could feel his own hands. As from a great distance, he heard Danny say, “Chin?”

Chin looked up, frowning in an odd combination of irritation and admiration. “Nothing. He bounced that signal off so many towers it looked like he was calling from the entire island, all at once.”

Steve exploded back into his own skin. “Who the hell is this asshole? He breaks into our system, violates every protocol we have, and then sends us a fucking shopping list for enough armament to take out a city block! And he stole my truck! My truck!” He raked his hand through his hair. “What did I ever do to deserve this?!”

Kono, Chin and Danny stared at him, almost identical expressions of dumbfounded shock on their faces. Then they looked at each other and, very nearly as one, started to snigger. As they continued to share wild glances across the table, their attempts to control themselves gradually failed. One by one, they slid down the slope from sniggering to giggling to snorting to gasping and finally into gales of laughter tinged faintly with hysteria.

Now Steve was sure he was popping a vein somewhere. “What the hell is so funny?” he demanded.

Danny was leaning on the table he was laughing so hard, but he got himself enough under control to answer. “Oh babe. We’ve only now realized. He’s just a more annoying you! The geeky, criminal version of you! So watching you freak out about it is...” he waved his hand weakly, dissolving into more laughter.

Steve’s incredulous bellow of “What!?” only provoked more howls of laughter.

Steve marched into his own office and slammed the door, determined to refuse them the pleasure of his discomfort. Once he’d flung himself into his chair, he decided to pursue his own military contacts. He desperately wanted to get a better feel for who in the hell these people were, and why they were being such a monumental pain in his ass.

He started with Cath, naturally, finally seeking a rundown on what, if anything, she’d learned out shopping with Lupo.

“Nothing much. Any secrets aside, I think she’s just a pretty private person. Thinks the world of her husband, likes her job, and mostly wanted to pick my brain about things to do for fun on the island. Said it was their first real vacation together in a long time.”

“So what is her job?”

“She didn’t say, exactly, but she did say it was a lot like trying to herd cats, struggling to keep weapons developers playing inside the lines.”

Finding this entirely un-illuminating, he attempted to debrief Cath on the entire outing, start to finish, hoping to tease out any small clues, only to have her hang up on him in exasperation. “I’m at work, Steve!”

His next three calls produced nothing but promises to look into it later. He finally tracked down a friend of a friend of a friend in Army Intelligence. He must have been bored enough with whatever he was supposed to be doing that he obligingly called up Donovan’s name, only to squawk, “Holy Hells, Batman! Who the frak is this guy? I just ran into a flagged firewall! I’m totally going to get a visit from people in dark suits asking me what the hell I was doing poking around in there. I’m so totally going to give them your name.”

Steve pinched the bridge of his nose as he said, “Fine,” and disconnected.

Next he pulled up the security feeds from the Convention Center, not the ones Zane had hacked, but the ones actually sent over to them in response to Five-O’s formal request. It didn’t take long to find the two murder victims, and once he ID’d them, he was able to spot at least three men tailing them. One of them was dressed in jeans and tee shirt, like a grad student, and was wearing a typical-student size backpack, packed full of something Steve suspected was an unusually large and carefully constructed flash bomb.

He didn’t find Parish, but he only had an undoubtedly dated head shot to go on. He assumed that Parish, too, would have had a tail, which meant at least four men on site at the Convention Center.

He began to suspect that whatever Zane and Parish had cooked up was well past the preliminary design phase, and that their value as the two men most likely to be able to counteract their own work was immense. It also dawned on him that Mansfield had been remarkably unspecific as to who, or what, the ‘enemy’ was.

He found Danny, Chin and Kono sprawled out in Danny’s office, sharing pizza and reading computer files on laptops and tablets. As he walked in, he heard Chin exclaim, “Oh man. How do you accidently launch yourself into space in a decommissioned rocket? And walk away from it afterward?”

Danny shook his head as he continued to read whatever was on his screen. “Cat’s got way more than nine lives.”

“Hey,” Steve said.

The three of them looked up. “Feeling any better?” Danny inquired.

“A little.” Steve gestured at the screens in their laps. “Those the files Zane said he would send?”

“Yep.” Kono looked up and grinned. “Fascinating reading.”

Steve claimed the pizza box with half a pizza still in it and dropped into the empty chair. “Tell me.”

“He’s a brilliant guy,” Kono said. “Seriously. True genius. He was enrolled at MIT at thirteen, and was admitted to their graduate program in physics by fifteen.”

Danny held up a finger. “And expelled for the first time at sixteen.”

“Spent a year each at Yale and Cornell, where he won the most prestigious prize in Physics that they give.”

Danny held up two more fingers. “Expulsions two and three.”

“Finally completed his doctorate in particle physics at UCLA, finishing before he was twenty-one.” Kono concluded.*

Chin took up the story. “Then he more or less vanishes, and a only a trail of computer felonies exists, most never tied to him, though he is the only suspect. At least some people think he was behind the 2004 computer crash on the New York Stock Exchange.” His tone, which had remained studiously dry throughout his narration, acquired a faint hint of admiration.

“During which several million dollars seem to have gone missing.” Danny added, his tone almost exultant as he piled up the bad news.

“The FBI finally caught him after he stole $3.1 million from the U.S. Border Patrol. He was convicted on six felony counts for computer crimes, and he spent almost eight months in federal prison.” Chin added, all cheerful helpfulness.

Danny, gleeful bearer of bad tidings, sang out, “Money never recovered, by the way.”

Chin continued as though Danny hadn’t interrupted. “Then the DOD claimed him. Sent him under parole to a secret research facility in Oregon. Wiped out his records before and since. The only thing Donovan left for us in his files after that are a long string of patents with his name on them, consumer goods to military hardware, a bunch of them with Isaac Parish by the way, and a handful of truly spectacular events.”

Steve swallowed a mouthful of pizza. “Like launching himself into space?”

“Right. Which led to him qualifying as an astronaut under NASA guidelines, which in turn led to a high level intervention that resulted in him receiving full federal pardons for all his crimes. He is officially a free man with no criminal record.”

Kono piped up. “He also once detonated a seventy-year old nuclear bomb, to counteract a ground water radiation threat. That actually worked, by the way. And he helped explode an out of control nuclear fusion reactor, preventing the formation of a black hole. And helped build a device that can wipe out power grids on a national scale. And pioneered radically new data transfer technology, massive jumps in speed and quantity. And devised the hardware and software that takes advantage of that technology to track individual humans based on their DNA.”

After letting that deluge of information settle, Steve could only say, “Now I know why General Mansfield was so insistent.” After another moment of silent contemplation, he asked, “And Lupo? What’s her story?”

Kono answered. “She comes from a military family. Her dad and three older brothers are all retired or currently active duty. Her mom died when she was a little girl. She enlisted in the Army right out of high school, graduated at the top of her training class, then got sent off to a whole bunch of specialized training schools. She ended up in the Special Forces just before 9/11. From what I can tell, she was in Afghanistan within weeks of the towers going down. And that’s when her record gets weird.”**

“Let me see.” Steve held out his hand. Reading through the sections Kono highlighted, he saw exactly what she meant. After flipping back and forth through the whole record a few times, he looked up. “I think she got dropped in with a combat team, one that she wasn’t supposed to be a part of, as a woman, back in 01-02. Whatever they were doing must have been well beyond the official mission, total black ops stuff, and they must have been good at it because it looks like they were in-country for almost a year. When they got back, she at least, seems to have been redacted, handed over to the DOD and vanished into that research facility in Oregon. The same one Donovan later ended up in.” He glanced at Kono. “Can you look up the other members of that team, see where they ended up?”

“So,” Danny frowned, “she wasn’t ever a deputy sheriff?”

“No. I think she was. That’s the job she got placed in by the DOD. Later moving into a security position with some outfit called Global Dynamics, which got bought out by Rockwell Industries about a year ago. But,” he shook his head at the new mysteries, “she has incredibly high DOD clearances. She still works for them.”

“Good call, boss.” Kono said. “There were eight other soldiers who came home with her,” she looked up with a twinkle in her eyes, “Zane attached a list, and so I checked them all out. All of them have records as blank as hers. Basics. Nothing more.”

Steve steepled his hands and gazed up at the ceiling. “So,” he said, to no one in particular, “we have these two remarkably unique individuals, running around the island in pursuit of their kidnapped colleague, armed and dangerous and with a penchant for really big explosions. And in my truck.”

“That’s about it,” Chin agreed, a maddening serenity bathing his features.

Steve rocked forward and slammed his hands flat on the desk with a loud smack. He raised his voice to a shout, feeling that vein in his neck again as he yelled, “How can you be so calm about it?”

The silence that fell made it clear that he had yelled much too loudly.

After another awkward beat of time, Danny raised his hand and looked imploringly at Kono and Chin. “Oh. Oh. Let me take this one. Do. Please.”

They both shook their heads and raised their hands, making vague shooing motions, denying any interest in interference. “Take it, Danny. Floor’s all yours,” Chin said.

Danny leaned forward, hands resting on his desk as he looked up at Steve from under his eyebrows. “So. Steven. You want to know how it is we are so calm, the three of us,” he leaned back and gestured expansively, “sitting here quietly contemplating our evening meal, while an armed maniac with a penchant for blowing things up and an utter disregard for all organized rules and regulations concerning the same, is running around the island in a vehicle not his own? Undoubtedly headed straight into the most dangerous situation he can locate within the next twenty-four hours, give or take? Aided and abetted by a highly skilled commando ninja type, who has exhibited an unhealthy fascination with big guns? This is what you want to know?”

“Well…,” too late Steve saw the wolf pit, and his attempt to stop Danny was in vain.

Danny was on his feet, hands flying as he wandered the room. “Well. Steven. We are calm because we are inured.”

“Inured, Danny?”

“Inured, Steve. Inured. Habituated. Accustomed. Broken in. Yes. Broken. By you. This,” he waved his hands around the room again, “this sitting around, waiting for disaster at the hands of crazed man with a death wish, this? This is our life, Steven.”

“I don’t think Zane has a death wish, Danny.”

Danny ignored him. “Yes. We live this moment, what,” he turned to look at Kono and Chin, “Weekly? Twice a week?”

“Five or six times a month, brah. On average.” Chin said, wicked enjoyment glimmering in his eyes. He looked at Kono. “Cuz? That sound about right to you?”

“Yep.” Kono’s nod was enthusiastically cheerful, her grin nearly splitting her face. “That sounds about right to me.”

Danny turned to face Steve, folding his hands together for the double pointing gesture he was so fond of. “This is why we are calm. This situation is utterly unremarkable to us.” He flung himself dramatically back into his chair, crossed his ankle over his knee and struck a pose of complete relaxation.

“I see.” Steve looked around and saw not even the smallest hint of forgiveness in his teams’ evil smirks. “Did any of you do anything about Donovan’s shopping list?”

“Yes.” Chin pointed with his head out into the nearly dark main room. “It’s all packed and ready to go.”

“So, you’re assuming we are going to help them.”

“Yes.” More maddening calm.

“Why do you assume that?”

“You didn’t report your truck stolen.”

Part II
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