Obligatory disclaimer: Don't own them, but one can always dream…
"Tell me again whose lame idea it was that I'm here," Detective Danny Williams grumbled at his fishing pole. "I don't like fishing. I'm not a beach person. I don't like boats, and I get a sunburn after fifteen minutes in the sun even when I've slathered on two gallons of sunblock with an SPF of two thousand twenty three. Why am I even here?"
The man behind the wheel of the yacht on the deck looming over him grinned, turning off the engine and listening to the propeller slowing and finally stopping. "'Cause Robert Nycroft doesn't look a thing like Kono." He scanned the broad expanse of choppy waves, noting the white crests that rocked the small powered craft more than a little. Aside from that, there was nothing to see, not even the fin of some larger than average sea creature breaking the water surface. "I hope they show."
"Yeah. Maybe." Danny wasn't convinced.
His partner had good reason, Steve reflected, carefully not looking at the man. This wasn't even a Five-0 operation they were on, but a military excursion thoughtfully brokered by Lt. Cmdr. McGarrett and some upper level buds from the base and sanctioned by a governor who knew that cooperation with the local military authorities had far-reaching consequences that kept the State of Hawaii in good repair.
It had started when Andy Lopez—that was Commander Lopez, even though he was 'Andy' to his friends—had approached Steve with a concern that the usual black market pilfering had gotten out of hand on the naval base. There was always a little bit missing here and there, and Andy simply took it as part and parcel of doing business. If a ream of paper went missing, or a case of penicillin, the world would not come to an end.
This was more than a box of pencils. A serious piece of armament that went by the classification of an X-56 class torpedo, self-propelled and suitable for turning the scuffle between North and South Korea into a full-fledged conflict, had gone missing.
Steve recalled the discussion over a round of beers in Steve's living room. Andy hadn't been willing to have the conversation in any place with a reasonable chance of being overheard, and Steve had offered his home.
Andy Lopez welcomed the chance to relax and unload. The man was someone that Steve had served with, had run more than one mission alongside, and he had a great deal of respect for Commander Lopez's talents both in the field and in the back room. Andy's rise through the ranks had been based on merit, not on politics.
Andy had returned the favor, had followed Steve's own career through his mutation into the leader of one of Hawaii's more prominent and successful crime-fighting units. That was why there had been a phone call to a certain personal cell after hours with a bit of verbal dancing on both ends that had led to this quiet meeting.
Steve had shrugged. "I'll have to ask the Governor, but I can't see anyone saying no," was his response. "Give me what you've got."
"It's not much," Andy sighed, pushing forward a manila folder. "I had CPO Mulrooney conduct an audit of the armament, once I had a suspicion that something was missing. I thought we were just missing a couple cases of M-16s," he said aggrievedly. "Instead, Mulrooney couldn't find a damned torpedo!"
Steve frowned. "Are you sure that it wasn't just a paperwork error?"
"I wish." Andy looked away, looked out through the large window onto the garden outside the McGarrett homestead. There was a lone rose bush poking a few leaves over the windowsill, a single pink rose bravely demanding to grow in an environment meant for hibiscus. Steve's mother had planted it, and, after her death, his father had dutifully cared for it, year after year. Now it's my turn.
Andy pulled Steve's attention back to the case. "No, we took a shipment of fifteen X-56's some three months ago. Mulrooney checked them in himself, put in the serial numbers and logged them as received. Not likely he made a mistake."
Steve furrowed his eyebrows. "Pretty hefty items to go missing. Didn't anyone notice a big hole somewhere?"
"That's the thing about the 56s. They're smaller than a Mark 46 by a foot or so, but they pack the same wallop and the smaller size makes them even easier to hide. We can attach them to the side of a midget sub, or practically hook 'em onto the edge of a rowboat. When you have fifteen of them, it's not that hard to glance over a bunch of tarps in a shed and think that they're all there. Steve," and Andy leaned forward, his beer forgotten in his hands, "I've got people investigating on the inside, but everyone can see them coming from a mile away. I need someone that nobody knows."
Steve snorted. "Hate to break it to you, Andy. People haven't forgotten my face, either."
"Yeah, but you've got people working for you, Steve, people that the military community doesn't know." Now Andy leaned back against the faded fabric of the sofa, grabbing and hugging one of the cushions, unaware of how much comfort he needed. "We've got a lead, Steve. It's a Seaman Robert Nycroft, who works in munitions. He's perfectly placed to do what he's doing: grab a torpedo and sell it to the highest bidder."
"Right. Grab a torpedo. How did he get it out of the torpedo shed?"
"Like I said, Steve: it's not that big. Drive up in a pick-up, shove it in the back end and throw a tarp over it, and you've just bought yourself a brand spanking new X-56. Which is apparently what Nycroft did." Andy toyed with the bottle of beer in his hand, not drinking. "He switched out his red hotrod type car for a pick-up, so that everyone would get used to his habit of driving it onto the base parking lot. Some of the enlisted types would see a crate in the back end every now and again, and didn't think anything of it. This went on for months. From the looks of his bank account, he probably heisted at least two dozen crates of pineapples besides the X-56, and I'm not talking the type of pineapples that grow in your back yard."
"And now he's graduated to the big time," Steve observed dryly. He took a long pull on his own beer. "You have any proof?"
Andy snorted grimly. "We've got his ass in a sling. We nailed him with a crate of grenades in his shed, off base. He's going to be a guest of Uncle Sam, with three hots and a cot for the next ten years. If we can prove the torpedo connections and dealing with foreign powers, we'll make his eight by ten his permanent residence for the rest of his life."
"Then what's the problem? You've got your man; why do you need Five-0?"
"Because we're greedy." The look on Commander Lopez's face wasn't greedy at all. It was desperate. There was more to the story. "Nycroft is trying to cut a deal: the destination of the X-56 in exchange for an honorable discharge. Benefits and everything. Record expunged."
"So you want us to find out where the 56 is headed."
"No." That surprised Steve, and Andy hurried on. "Well, yes, that's part of it, but not even half of what we're after. Nycroft has already started dealing with some big boys, and those are the people that we want. From some of the hints he's dropped, we think that he's got a deal going with someone."
"And you want to know who."
"That would be helpful; yes."
Oh, it would be helpful. The misery in Commander Lopez's eyes made that very clear and Steve could understand. To have to explain to taxpayers why an expensive torpedo wasn't where it should be was bad enough, but to have it in the hands of someone who wanted to use it for their own gain was intolerable. Steve could think of half a dozen groups who would kill—literally kill— to get their hands on new technology like this, ranging from the crazies in North Korea all the way through a drug lord with a grudge against the Coast Guard. Even underground techies would like to have a shot at it, to copy the technology and then sell knock-offs to whoever would pay. To take down a group like that would be a win for the Navy, the State of Hawaii, and all Good Guys around the world in general.
There was something else—as if a missing torpedo and a foreign power bidding for the stolen technology weren't enough. Steve had known Andy Lopez for many years, and could read him like a book. Steve had proven that fact over several poker games. "And…?"
Andy wouldn't meet his eyes. "We think we know the location of the meet, Steve."
"Okay…?" There was more to it.
"Nycroft has a boat, a small yacht, actually. Powered. He calls it the Sucker Punch."
"And—?" Steve had done interrogations that were less work.
"We don't think that he's met the buyers. Talked to them, yes, and made a deal. Met them, probably not. Not in person."
Steve had had enough. "I need everything that you've got, Andy. Everything."
Andy grimaced. "There was a reason that I thought of you, Steve. Reasons beyond your general tendency to dig into problems further than any other man I know." He indicated the manila folder that he'd placed on the coffee table between them. "Look in there, and tell me what you think."
It was time for some hard evidence, something beyond this general reciting of a bad situation. Steve flipped open the folder, noting the transcripts of conversations between Nycroft and someone known as Ivan and another person with the name of Ekaterina. There was even a third party, later on, who called himself Diego. The grammar got a bit convoluted here and there, suggesting that one or more of the group's English was force-fed, which tended to bolster Andy's theory that an overseas Black Market was involved.
Then there was Seaman Robert Nycroft's service record, shortly to be morphed into a rap sheet for crimes yet to be prosecuted. The man had served a tour in the Middle East with little to distinguish himself beyond two reprimands for drunkenness and one late for duty. He seemed to have done his job neither well nor poorly, and had been transferred to Commander Lopez's bailiwick almost six months ago.
There were three months of calm, and then the suspicions started to surface. As Andy had told him, Mulrooney had been assigned to check the inventory when the rumors floated in, and it hit the fan. Nycroft had tried to cover his tracks, but his attempts were clumsy at best. Rather than arrest the man on the spot, Commander Lopez had made the decision to let things ride for another few days and had been rewarded by intelligence that could lead to plugging several holes. Steve could understand Andy's actions. Even coming here, today, was the smart thing to do: as the commander had said, anyone who was anyone could see the Naval Intelligence people coming from half a mile away. The locals who knew the territory were well-known, for the most part, and those from out of the state didn't know the lay of the land. Commander Lopez needed help from outside of military channels.
Why Steve? Even though Steve McGarrett was no longer part of the chain of command, it had still been little enough time that Steve's face was a known commodity—oh.
Steve flipped over to the next page, and the answer was instantly clear.
Robert Nycroft was Caucasian, a little shorter than average, with light brown hair that would pass for blond in the right sunlight, blue eyes—
-and bore more than a passing resemblance to a certain snarky detective who was sitting in the front of the boat that Steve McGarrett was currently piloting.
Steve continued to study the back of the head of his partner. Danny Williams wasn't a perfect ringer for Robert Nycroft but the likeness was close enough so that anyone who hadn't met Nycroft more than once would accept Danny as Nycroft. A little more dredging of the files with some pertinent memorization, and Danny could now announce to anyone who asked that Robert Nycroft had grown up with the nickname of Bobby, had gone to Brewster High School in upstate New York with a science teacher named Mrs. Freiberg who had had it in for him when she flunked him after his sophomore year and made him go to summer school, and had joined the navy after finding out that he really didn't have an aptitude for repairing plumbing fixtures and that his mother wasn't about to continue to support his aspirations of a lifestyle to which he wished to become accustomed. Young Bobby had had a dog named Charlie during his formative years, a mutt with leanings toward a black lab, and several hamsters along the way. His sister Caitlyn was an actress on Broadway and had actually gotten a couple of good reviews in a small production that had gotten bad reviews overall and closed after a run of only two weeks; not a big deal. Nycroft hadn't spoken to her in over a year.
Steve had gone on to meet Seaman Nycroft in person, and had been unimpressed. This was not a big time criminal, just an over-aged adolescent who had had the fortune—or misfortune—to be in the right place at the wrong time to steal a torpedo. Nycroft was in over his head, gotten caught, and Steve and Andy and the U.S. Navy were about to take advantage of his misfortune.
The meet: twelve miles out to sea, right at the edge of territorial waters. Five-O had been able to determine the date, time, and place from communications found within Nycroft's home, although not the group that he would be meeting with. Nycroft had managed to score the one good rookie lawyer from the local JAG unit, one who advised him to keep his mouth shut until a deal that didn't involve the death penalty for treason could be arranged. That meant that Steve and Danny were out on the water in the good ship Sucker Punch, no one in sight, waiting for…what?
There was a radio next to the controls that Steve stood before, but the transceiver was turned off. There wasn't a ship in sight, and certainly not anyone or anything that could be traced back to either the navy or the State of Hawaii. It was a given that whoever Nycroft had expected to meet would be scanning the airwaves, watching for American authorities to swoop in.
So this was a raid of another kind. Lopez had arranged for naval maneuvers to occur today somewhere out around the twenty nautical mile mark, far enough away so that whoever was coming in for the meet would only be a little skittish instead of being scared off entirely. Once the meet had been completed, Steve would turn on the equipment and signal that a pick up could commence.
The torpedo that was sitting on the deck of the Sucker Punch and covered with tarp was the real thing, although one that had less than one percent of the explosive power of the original. It was also equipped with a tracking device, one that would be turned on once someone tried to put the torpedo into action. Unless a higher level technician did a thorough look-see, it would fool just about anyone. Even the serial number was correct.
Only one thing missing: the other side. Steve swayed uneasily from one foot to the other, automatically shifting his center of gravity to keep up with the waves that were lapping uncomfortably high against the sides of the Sucker Punch. There was a storm headed in this direction, he knew, but it wasn't due to make landfall until several hours after the meet was to take place. In the meantime, the choppy water made this an ideal time for two illicit parties to make contact. Anyone innocent of wrongdoing would take one look and decide to spend the day surfing closer to home.
"Am I really supposed to be fishing like this?" Danny asked in an aggrieved voice. "These waves are taller than I am. And have I mentioned recently that I get seasick?"
"You're a Navy boy now, Danno." Steve continued to scan the horizon. "Navy types don't get seasick."
"This one does. If they don't show up pretty soon, I'm gonna toss my cookies overboard."
Yeah, his partner was looking green around the gills. Steve didn't blame him; this was water that would push the limits of more than one sailor. Steve had known plenty of Seabees who would be heading for the john right about now. If it weren't for this meet, he'd have been aimed for port long ago.
"You might as well put up the fishing gear," Steve told him. "The fish aren't going to be biting in this weather, and there's no one to look good for."
"Finally, something going right. I was afraid that I might have to pull in a fish." Danny hauled in the fishing line, taking care that the hook didn't slide into tender flesh, and stowed the equipment away into its locker. "Maybe we should head in? Waves like this, there might be a message back at Nycroft's place telling him to reschedule."
"They're only fifteen minutes late." Steve kept his hands on the wheel. "We'll give them another fifteen. If they don't show by then, we'll head back." He edged one foot out a little further, to give himself a wider stance to balance on as the waves rocked the craft. It would be a short fifteen minutes, he decided. After all, the real Nycroft wasn't much of a sailor, according to his papers—
It was the boiling up of the water that first alerted him; that, and the indefinable something rocking under his feet. The deck tilted this way and that; out of the corner of his eye he saw Danny grab frantically for something to anchor himself with, letting the rest of the fishing equipment slide away aft. A half-outraged, half-panicking howl emerged from his partner.
It wasn't as big as a whale, not one of the great whales, but it was bigger than the yacht and twice as mean. A long and dark outline slowly emerged from the depths, bubbles hissing and spitting, until the first slender metal rod broke the water line, shoving more waves over the deck of the Sucker Punch.
Steve caught his breath. How the hell—? It was a damned sub! Sure, a mini-submarine, designed for stealth, but there weren't many of the things built and all of those were owned by the various militaries of the… His thoughts trailed off into waters murkier than those he was floating in. This wasn't just Black Market stuff; this was going to have international repercussions, and former Navy SEAL Steve McGarrett was getting caught in the middle of it!
No help for it now; they'd have to play it through and hope for the best. How well would Danny play his role? Big, fat question mark. If the discussion veered to anything remotely nautical, they were sunk; no pun intended. The Jersey cop had lived on the islands without yet embracing the culture, and it was too much to ask that he'd acquired the knowledge that any Island boy knew. Danny Williams was going to have to give the right answers that a Navy SeaBee would say.
Danny looked at his boss with big and scared eyes that told Steve that Danny too realized what they were facing. A round hole in the top of the fifty foot mini-sub opened, and four people emerged, three of them armed with automatic weaponry. Steve tried to see what they were carrying: one seemed to have an Uzi, and another an AK-47. Grabbed from the back streets, then; that suggested that this really was a Black Market group instead of a branch of someone's military. Unless that was what they wanted people to think…Steve had run across several groups that operated underneath the radar. What better way to confuse people than to use multiple brands of firearms? Steve swallowed hard; the handgun in his shoulder holster seemed something less than useful at the moment.
There were no identifying letters on the mini-sub, just black paint that would allow the vessel to go undetected. It was small enough that there was likely a Big Mama waiting out for it in the ocean, but where Big Mama was sitting was something for someone back at the base to figure out from the safety of his desk in front of a sonar screen. If the US Navy wanted a piece of her, they were welcome to it. Steve just wanted to stay alive through this little slice of life.
It was Danny's show now. Steve was just the 'hired muscle', up on deck piloting the boat because 'Robert Nycroft' was too good to do menial work like that.
Danny swallowed hard, forcing down the seasickness, insisting that some of the tri-state swagger come on board. He spread his feet into a wider stance to keep from toppling over from the swaying of the smaller craft. "Yo! Can you move it a little? You can dive deep to get away from the storm, but I gotta make a run for the shoreline and tie this baby down."
One by one, three of the four jumped off of the mini-sub to land sure-footed on the deck of the Sucker Punch. One remained behind, on guard, scanning the surrounding waves much as Steve had been doing just moments before, Uzi secure in his arms.
Steve stared at the trio, committing their likenesses to memory. The lead was a woman, a tall one, coming in at several inches above Danny Williams. She pulled off the hood to her wetsuit, revealing long blonde tresses—Steve was reminded of the generic Russian agent that James Bond always seemed to take to bed in the final scenes of each movie. Icy blue eyes, wide mouth that was turned down in a frown, and an AK-47 swung casually over her shoulder.
She addressed Danny. "You were to come alone."
Danny had his answer ready. "Right. Me, all by my lonesome, and you with three hunks of meat. I don't think so, lady. Besides, this thing ain't no lightweight piece of junk. I needed help to get it aboard my boat. You got my money?"
Another stab in the dark. Nycroft had refused to give up any details of the transaction. The group had discussed this during the planning stages, how to talk about money without giving away just how little they knew.
Success: "I will tell the bank to transfer the funds to your account in Switzerland as soon as the torpedo is mine," she told him. "You have it?"
Danny gestured to the tarp-covered tube. "Right there. You want to see it?"
"Yes, I wish to see it." That was definite, and the two men with her tugged the tarp off of the torpedo.
The first few drops of rain were beginning to fall, and they tapped small circles into the dust that clung to the X-56. That didn't matter to anyone present on the Sucker Punch. They only had eyes for the dull metal hull, the serial number etched into the side. The woman motioned to one of her people, instructing him to inspect the purchase.
"Hey," Danny objected as the man started to open the hatch to the electronic innards.
She favored him with a cool stare. "You perhaps object to my people ensuring that it is a real X-56?"
"Oh, it's real, baby. It's real, all right." Danny back-pedaled.
"That is what we will determine." She added something in another language, aimed at the man looking at the torpedo.
Not Russian; Steve was reasonably certain of that. Ukrainian? Maybe. Steve wasn't about to say that he would recognize even half of the Slavic languages that were floating around Eastern Europe. Steve wished that they'd thought to put in something like a recorder or transmitter to capture the discussion. Too late now.
The man said something back to her, and she turned back to Danny, satisfied. "It is genuine."
"Like I said: it's real." Now for the hard part. They'd coached Danny through this until they were satisfied. "You got a buyer for this?"
The woman sniffed. "This? This technology is old. We have no need for it."
Uh-oh. That wasn't part of the script. The woman was supposed to give Danny—and Steve, listening oh so closely—a hint of which country was after new-fangled US technology.
Danny played the part of the low level seaman well. "What're you talking about? This is Grade A US military hardware."
"Exactly, which is why it is valuable to us." She favored him with an appraising stare. "If I were you, I would not remain in this area for long. I would especially avoid the Newton."
Danny played stupid. "Why?"
She rolled her eyes. "Move the torpedo to our vessel," she instructed her crew.
Steve subdued his excitement, keeping his face free from emotion. Crap, this wasn't Black Market stuff, this was international intrigue! The Canadian ship HMCS Newton was docked in town in preparation for the arrival of Sheik Hassan al-Kazid, one of the prime unaligned chieftains in Afghanistan. The only reason that Steve himself knew of the talks was because of his own connections; he doubted that Danny had any clue that the Sheik was going to be sampling the delights of the Hawaiian beaches, let alone engaging in business. There were supposed to be some quiet talks between Sheik Hassan al-Kazid and certain government officials on the neutral territory of the Canadian ship, after which would hopefully come some announcement of an agreement of cooperation that would expand peace and good will in places where peace and good will were sorely needed.
A torpedo of American make that smashed into that ship killing a bunch of innocent Canadians, Americans, and Afghanis would do more damage than killing a few people. It would take down any real chance of peace for decades, perhaps even longer. People would immediately jump to the conclusion that, because the torpedo was American, that the American government and its people were to blame. Steve carefully unclenched his jaw, hoping that no one had noticed his reaction. Sheik Hassan al-Kazid's people weren't known for letting a grudge rest quietly. Steve seemed to recall hearing about one that had lasted for more than four hundred years, and was profoundly grateful that they'd taken the time to remove the explosives from the cone of the torpedo.
Not that it would help much, not if Steve knew his mercenaries—and that's what these four were. These were people who had been hired to do a job by those who couldn't afford to be seen, and they had been paid well to do it right. The inspection that had been done was cursory, but the next one would be an in-depth look into the guts of the X-56 and it would come out that they had been swindled. The mercenaries would have a choice: put in more explosive into the nose cone—and Steve had no doubt that they'd be able to acquire some from somewhere—or come up with another plan to cause chaos and strife for the target.
That would be difficult; Five-O would see to that. Now that they were warned, they and the military would take steps to ensure that the talks between Sheik Hassan al-Kazid and others would be uninterrupted. All Steve needed to do was to get the intel back to shore.
Danny stood back, letting the men from the mini-sub do all the heavy lifting, his arms folded across his chest. Steve, too, looked down over the tableau from his position on the high deck. There was no camera—it would have been too dangerous, with too much chance of being found out—so Steve would simply have to rely on his memory so that they could identify this group later. He concentrated on the details, the way that the first man took hold of the tarp with his left hand, suggesting that he was a lefty, and the scar that etched itself across the second's cheek and down onto his neck. There was the barest outline of a tattoo on the first's wrist, something that looked like a hawk or some other predatory bird. Steve only got a glimpse of it before the man's sleeve covered it up once again.
It took only moments for them to slide the X-56 into the mini-sub, and Steve wondered idly where they had put it. Those vessels had very little room for crew, let alone take on a torpedo. With a mocking salute, the woman followed her men off the Sucker Punch and disappeared into the depths of the mini-sub. A clanking noise indicated that the locks had been set on the entry hole to the sub's interior, and moments later the sub slipped into the watery depths.
There was nothing left to indicate that a meet had ever taken place. Nothing but moisture on the deck of the Sucker Punch where several wet feet had walked.
Danny gave the silence another moment before suggesting, "you think we better call this in? Before we get to shore?"
"Yeah." There was something bugging him, something that Steve couldn't put his finger on. It would come to him eventually; he only hoped that it would be at 3AM when he was too tired to do anything about it. "You do it. I'll head this thing back home. We'll give a detailed report once we get to port." He tabbed the starter button, listening to the engine catch and turn over.
On the main deck, Danny wasn't having the same success with the radio. "Five-0 one to Five-0 two. Come in. Come in, dammit."
A burst of static marred the reception, and Steve could barely make out Chin's voice. He glanced up toward the sky; dark clouds had filled the top arena and on the not too distance horizon he could see a heavy sheet of rain coming toward them. "The weather's likely interfering. Keep trying, and don't get discouraged."
"I'm not worried about getting discouraged. I'm worried about getting soaked." Danny winced automatically as the first heavy and cold drops fell on bare arms.
"This tug boat isn't designed to be out in the rain," Steve agreed, pushing the throttle forward. He felt the engine thrust the vessel forward, cutting through the waves that were steadily rising in height. Yeah, it was past time to be heading in. He only hoped that they could run before the peak of the storm in time to avoid getting caught.
Afterward, Steve McGarrett would never be able to say exactly what prompted him to look over the edge of the boat when he did. Perhaps it was a coming premonition about the towering waves racing across the surface of the ocean. It might have been the stray thought that the mini-sub was designed to carry five crew members, and they had only seen four.
In the long run, that wouldn't matter. What did matter was that he spotted a foreign object attached to the hull of the Sucker Punch, an object that was circular, nearly half a meter in diameter, and ticking.
"Mine!" Steve yelled.
Just before the world came to an end.