Thanks for all the wonderful reviews!

Academy of the Sacred Heart

Auditorium

1:00 P.M.

"I think the people outside have had time to get themselves organized," the leader, who Catherine had heard the other men calling Barnes, said as he moved to stand in front of the group. "It's time to let them know what they need to do if they ever want to see any of you alive again."

Several of the students immediately began to cry at his words.

"Do you have to say things like that?" Catherine asked irritably.

"I don't believe in lying to people, even young people. It's only fair they know what will happen to them if the people on the outside make a calculation that they are expendable."

"You keep saying you want them to stay calm and quiet, Mr. Barnes," Catherine said as she rose to her feet, pulling herself up to her full height and looking him straight in the eyes. "Scaring them is not the best way to make them happen."

"It's just Barnes. Not Mr. Barnes. And your name is…."

"Catherine Rollins."

"I assume by the badge you have clipped to your waist band and the gun my associate took from you earlier that you're a police officer?"

"I'm a member of the Five-0 task force," Catherine said. She had no intention of revealing her history with the navy until she knew exactly what the group's beef was.

"How fortuitous you should be here on this of all days. I think you're going to come in very handy."

Catherine swallowed hard. She knew the man was trying to get inside her head and she wasn't going to let that happen. She had to stay focused on the safety of the hostages, especially the students, above everything else.

"Fine then, if you think I'll be helpful why not keep me and release the young people?"

"Now why would I do that," Barnes asked as his second in command moved in closer, cradling his arm and looking for any excuse to take another run at Catherine.

"They're too unpredictable. Plus the bigger the group the harder it is to control. You'd be much better off letting the children go."

"That's very noble of you, Ms. Rollins, but I don't think I'll be taking your advice. Now why don't you have a seat while my associates and I decide how to proceed."

Catherine cringed inwardly.

They had no plan.

They were making it up as they went along.

That was not good news.

She rejoined the group and motioned for one of the students to scoot down so she could take a seat next to Samantha Grover who was sitting quietly with her knees pulled up to her chest, arms wrapped around them. At the same time she kept an eye on the hostage takers who were now huddling quietly to the right side of the stage, keeping a vigilant eye on both the hostages and the doors.

"Hi, Samantha," she said softly. "Do you remember me?"

"Yes, you work with my dad."

"That's right."

Catherine's heart clenched at the pure fear she saw in the young girl's eyes. She dropped her arm around Samantha's shoulders in an effort to offer some small amount of comfort.

"Are they gonna let us go," Samantha asked with a shaking voice.

"Yes, I think so."

"Really?"

She was desperate for any shred of something to hold on to.

"I do. You know why?"

"Why?"

"Because I know that your dad, and Steve, and the rest of the team, and the whole police force are gonna do everything they can to make sure we get out of here safe."

Samantha turned her head and looked nervously at the canisters. "But what if…."

"Don't think like that." Catherine grabbed Samantha's chin gently and turned her head away from the bomb. "There's not a whole lot you or I or anyone else inside this room can do to resolve this. But what we have to do is stay strong, and stay alive, and give the people outside a chance to work their magic."

"Okay. I'll try."

"That's a good girl."

"Alright, Ms. Rollins, you're about to prove your usefulness," Barnes said as he moved to the front of the stage apron while Tomas and Wilson moved off to either side, closer to the doors, ready to act if the police tried to breach the room.

"How?" Catherine stood up and faced him, determined not to show fear.

"I need to speak to Captain Richards, the head honcho over at the naval base. You're going to help me make that happen. "

"I'm not sure how. I have no influence with him. If you'd rather deal with my boss I can probably make that happen," Catherine said, trying to re-direct Barnes towards Steve. She had complete faith that Steve and the team could put together a plan to resolve the situation.

She had no such faith in the people at Pearl.

Not that they wouldn't be capable of planning and executing a rescue mission.

They would be. Of course.

But the reality is that they would be unwilling to do so.

Catherine understood that.

Anyone who had ever gone on an active duty mission understood that.

The U.S military could not negotiate with, or be seen as giving in to, terrorists, whether foreign or domestic. It would endanger every service member at home and abroad. If there was ever even a hint that the navy, or any branch of the service, was willing to give in to demands in order to secure the release of military or civilian personnel, hostage taking would become a national and international sport.

"No. Captain Richards is the only one who can give me what I want," Barnes insisted.

"Then I'm not sure how I can help."

"Your boss is the head of the Five-0 task force?"

"Yes."

"I assume he has some juice on this island then. Perhaps I can convince him to use his pull to get Captain Richards involved. I just need to give him the proper incentive. Sit back down, Ms. Rollins. Right where you were. I want to make sure your boss gets the full picture."

Barnes pulled out his phone, descended the steps and moved to stand in front of the hostages.

Catherine sat back down and squeezed Samantha's arm. "This is good news," she said softly. "Once your dad and Steve and the rest of the team find out what their demands are they can figure out how to get us out of here."

Just as he was about to snap the picture Barnes had a thought. "Bring me the box of phones, Tomas," he barked at his second in command. Once he got the box he held it out to Catherine.

"Get your phone out of the box, Ms. Rollins, and give it to me. Unlock it first. And don't try anything else because I will not hesitate to shoot you."

Catherine obeyed immediately. Not only because she had no other real choice but because it was important for the children to see the adults in the room comply with orders. Hopefully they would model the same behavior if the need arose.

She knew there might come a time when she would have to encourage the students to make a move against the men in an effort to help affect their own rescue, but until there was a plan in place she needed them to do as they were told and not antagonize the hostage takers.

Barnes took the phone, moved a few steps back to make sure he got everyone in the frame, then turned towards the group of people sitting on the floor, crowded around the makeshift explosive device. As he raised the camera he said, "Feel free to look scared. It might make them move a little faster."

Catherine made sure to hide her swollen wrist and tip her head down far enough that she hoped her split lip wouldn't show.

Barnes snapped the picture. "Excellent. You're all very photogenic. Which one of these people is your boss?" he asked Catherine as he scrolled through her contacts.

"Steve McGarrett."

Catherine knew that Steve had to be up to speed on what was happening by now. She needed to find a way to make sure he was looped in on everything so the navy couldn't stonewall him. Using her phone to text him directly was as good a plan as any.

The man opened up a text message to Steve and typed. 'I want to speak with Captain Richards. I assume you can arrange that. You've got one hour or bad things are going to happen.'

He attached the picture and hit send.

"Get comfortable everyone, now we wait."


Academy of the Sacred Heart

1:00 P.M.

Steve leaned against one of the squad cars being used to form a blockade around the school, arms crossed, posture seemingly relaxed, as HPD officers scrambled to put up the tents that would form the framework of a makeshift command post. The number one priority was an effective communication center. They needed to be able to not only reach the men in the auditorium, and establish good two-way communication with them, but also to maintain constant contact with all agencies and officers involved. Getting the hostages out safely was going to take the combined efforts of all available manpower.

As Steve stood watching the tables, chairs, laptops, monitors and all other manner of equipment being set up and tested he looked to any outside observer like a man without a care. Completely relaxed, calm and collected. But anyone who knew him well knew the deadly calm was a sign that he was laser focused on the mission at hand.

He was in assessment mode. As soon as he could get some information on exactly what was going on in the auditorium, and what the hostage taker's demands were, he would move immediately into planning mode.

His SEAL training allowed him to have almost complete control over his emotions in situations like this. Allowing doubt or fear about Catherine's safety, and that of all the other hostages as well, into his head was not going to help anything.

Quite the opposite.

If he was going to bring this situation to a successful conclusion he needed to keep his head clear. To make decisions based on experience and logic, not emotion.

"We need to stop playing around with tents and computers and make contact," Grover said angrily as he approached Steve. "Just give me a bullhorn and I'll take care of the rest."

"A bullhorn might allow you to talk to them but how are they going to talk back?" Steve said calmly.

"I'm assuming there are at least a couple dozen cell phones in that room. I'll just give them my number and tell them to call me."

"And if they don't?"

"Why wouldn't they?" Grover exploded. "If they have demands they have to make them known sometime!"

"And if they were prepared to do that at this point," Steve said, drawing himself up and standing face-to-face with the angry father, "they'd have done it already. Like you said, there are dozens of cell phones in that room. If they were ready to talk to us we'd know it."

"So who says we have to do things on their schedule," Grover argued, not backing down. "Why don't we take the initiative? Make them do things on our terms."

"Because they're the ones with a room full of hostages, automatic weapons, and a bomb that could kill everyone within 1000 yards in a matter of seconds," Steve yelled.

"So we…what…..stand around and wait?" Grover's emotions were, understandably, beginning to spiral. He was a man accustomed to taking action, to solving problems. Waiting, especially when his own flesh and blood was in harm's way, went against every instinct in his body. Yet deep down he knew it was the only way to proceed. Hasty action in situations like this too often proved deadly.

"The school's PA system has an emergency frequency that we should be able to tap into. At a minimum it will allow us to get a message to the people inside the auditorium. If we're lucky it may allow us to actually hear what's going on in there as well. " Steve kept his tone calm and measured.

"What about cell phones? Has anyone managed to get a message out?"

"Duke is in the process of talking to all the parents and loved ones of every unaccounted for person. Until we hear otherwise we have to assume all those people are hostages. So far no one has received a message but he's monitoring the situation. He'll let us know if something pops up. Have you tried your daughter?"

"Yes. About 100 times. Her phone is off."

"Catherine's too," Steve said.

"Wait…what did you say?"

"I said Catherine's phone is off too."

"Are you telling me you have an officer inside that room?"

"Yes. She was at the school to deliver a presentation on a career in law enforcement."

"And she just let them waltz in there and take over?" Grover fumed.

"She's one person," Steve's own anger began to rise. "There are at least three of them, maybe up to five, and they're armed with automatic weapons and a cyanide bomb. What did you expect her to do? She has her service weapon. And several dozen innocent bystanders."

"Still…."

Steve cut him off. "Still nothing."

Grover backed off. He liked Catherine, he really did. In the limited number of times they'd worked together he'd been impressed with her skills. Having her on the inside might turn out to be a good thing. But all this waiting made him feel helpless and that was not a feeling he handled well.

"What in the world could these people want?"

"I have no idea but we're gonna find out, and then we're gonna get everyone out of there safely."

"Damn straight." Grover would not allow his mind to consider any other possibility.

"Who's your best negotiator?" Steve asked as the officer setting up the communication system signaled it would be ready to go in two minutes.

"Me." Grover said without hesitation.

"Are you sure you're up to it under the circumstances?"

"I'm the only person I trust to handle things under the circumstances."

"Fine. I'm in no position to tell you to stand down. But if you start to make things worse..."

"I won't."

Danny could feel the tension between the two men as he approached the command center. "Anything new?" he asked.

"No," Steve answered flatly. "They're just about ready to put the PA system online then we can try to open a line of communication. Gracie ok?"

"She's still shaken up but she's doing fine. Better than me in fact."

"Are you sure you don't need to be with her," Steve asked. He hated the thought of dealing with this situation without Danny there to help but he also understood that being there for Grace, being a good dad, took precedence over everything else in Danny's life.

"Believe me….I was more than ready to take her home, lock us both inside the apartment and not come out for a week…..maybe longer. But Grace was having none of that. She told me I have to stay here and help make sure Catherine, Samantha and all the other hostages get out safe. She wants everyone to have a happy ending."

"I'm gonna do my best," Steve said.

"I made sure the school officials knew she was safe and accounted for then Kamekona picked her up. He said she could stay with him as long as needed."

"She ok with that?"

"Actually she wanted to stay here and help."

Steve smiled a small smile. "Sounds like her."

"I told her I wouldn't be able to do my job if I was worried about her so she needed to go with Kamekona. That way we can all concentrate on doing what we need to do here."

"We've finished tapping in to the PA system, Commander."

Steve turned towards the young officer who had been working diligently to open the line. "Thanks, now all we need…" he stopped mid-sentence and looked down at his buzzing phone.

"What is it?" Danny and Grover asked simultaneously.

"It's a text from Catherine."

Steve held out the phone and all three men looked at the screen as he opened the message and found the picture Barnes had taken of the hostages. Grover's eyes were drawn immediately to his daughter while Steve breathed a sigh of relief when he saw a seemingly unharmed Catherine.

Danny read aloud.

'I want to speak with Captain Richards. I assume you can arrange that. You've got one hour or bad things are going to happen'.

"Who's Captain Richards," Grover asked.

"He's the head man over at Pearl-Hickam," Steve answered, his mind spinning with the possibilities of what this could be about.

"What in the world does this guy want with him?"

"I have no idea."

"They won't negotiate with hostage takers," Grover said, fighting to keep the panicked edge out of his voice. "Will Richards even be willing to talk to him?"

"No," Steve said somberly. "Which means this situation just got a whole lot more complicated."


Academy of the Sacred Heart

Auditorium

1:20 P.M.

Once the text was sent many of the students began to fidget nervously and stare at the clock in the back of the room. It was as if they now felt there was a timer running, and it made them very uncomfortable. Catherine was confident Steve would do whatever he could to get someone for Barnes to talk to, but she was certain it wouldn't be Captain Richards. She had no idea how Barnes would react to someone other than the man he requested, but she felt sure Steve would come up with a plan. All she could do now was stay ready to help in any way possible.

"Can I ask you a question?" Samantha asked softly.

"Sure."

"Have you ever been involved in something like this before? I mean as a cop…or before that in the navy…have you ever seen something like this end well?"

"Listen to me, Samantha, you have to stay positive. You have to have faith that everyone out there is working hard and doing everything they can to get us out of here safely. We owe it to them to be ready for whatever happens."

"I'm sorry."

"You don't need to be sorry, sweetheart, what you're feeling is completely understandable. You just need to fight against the fear and stay strong."

"I'll try. I promise."

"Just think of the story we're gonna have to tell everyone when we get out of here."

Samantha managed a small smile.

"Enough talking," Barnes yelled in their direction. "Just sit quietly and wait to see if Captain Richards values your lives."

Catherine smiled reassuringly at Samantha then leaned her head back against the stage, swallowed hard, and gave in to the memories she'd been fighting off since the moment the gunmen entered the auditorium.

Flashback

Catherine stood at the window of the temporary command center in Kabul, staring out the window and waiting for the arrival of an officer who would tell her why she had been summoned off the Enterprise for yet another TAD assignment. She turned when she heard the door behind her open.

"Lt. Rollins, how nice to see you again."

"Sir," Catherine snapped to attention.

"At ease, Lieutenant. Have a seat. You must be tired after your flight."

"I'm fine, Sir."

"Sit." Commander Franklin indicated the visitor's chairs as he sat behind his desk and opened a thick manila folder. "I guess you're wondering what you're doing here."

"To be honest I am a little curious," Catherine admitted. It was early March, just a few weeks after her leave in Hawaii and a matter of days since Steve had finished up his reserve drill on the Enterprise, when she had gotten word to report to Commander Franklin immediately for further instructions.

"The lack of warning was unavoidable. I need someone to step in on a mission in progress and being as you've had some success with similar missions in the past you came highly recommended. I'm sorry to pull you away from your team but I need someone who can hit the ground running."

"Of course, Sir."

"We have a situation at a small school on the southern edge of the Kabul. The school leaders have been allowing girls to attend. They managed to keep it quiet for a while but they've garnered the attention of the Taliban and tensions are rising. The people we have on the ground are, unfortunately, in over their heads.

Lt. Commander Stiles told me you had a great deal of success on your last TAD helping defuse a somewhat similar situation. The need here may be even more urgent. I need you on the ground ASAP. We're getting a lot of good intel out of the townspeople here and we want to avoid an attack."

"Of course, Sir. I'll do what I can." During her three tours in Kabul, Catherine had spent a lot of time liaising with local schools. As much as she disliked putting townspeople at risk she had a job to do. And oftentimes the people who ran the schools, especially the schools that chose to defy the Taliban by educating girls and young women, were willing to provide information to the Americans as a tradeoff for training of local security forces.

"I'm sorry to drop you into this mission already in progress but I have no choice. You can read the file on the plane in and I'll have someone meet you on the ground to brief as soon as you land."

"Thank you, Sir. I'll do my best."

"I'm sure you will," Commander Franklin said.

Catherine opened her eyes with a start when she heard Barnes addressing her.

"Only 15 minutes left, Ms. Rollins. Maybe your boss doesn't have the pull I thought he had. Perhaps he needs a little more….incentive." Barnes pointed his gun at the head of Principal Fiske.

"You said an hour," Catherine fought to keep her voice even. "If you do something stupid before the time is up you're just begging for them to storm this room."

"You better hope that doesn't happen," Barnes said as he lowered his gun to his side. "Because if it does you all die."

"We all die," Catherine corrected him. "You and your men included. That won't do much to help with whatever you want to talk to Captain Richards about."

"Touché'," Barnes conceded. "So we continue to wait a little longer. But I'm going to start thinking about who I shoot first just in case your boss doesn't come through."


Academy of the Sacred Heart

Command Center

1:30 PM

Three men in fatigues crossed the parking lot purposefully and approached Steve. None of them was Captain Richards. But Steve expected that.

No matter the situation, no matter how many lives are at stake, no matter the age of the people being held, the U.S. Navy, like the U.S. government, does not negotiate with hostage takers.

No exceptions.

Still, Steve had called the base, used his connections to get as far up the chain of command as possible, then explained the situation and the urgent need for an immediate response being as they were on a one hour clock.

He wasn't at all surprised by the reaction of the people he spoke to. His military experience had prepared him for exactly what he would hear. Grover, however, did not take the news nearly as stoically. Once Steve let him know that Captain Richards would not be communicating with the men in the auditorium in any way, the SWAT Captain had been in favor of attempting to start a dialogue on their own.

After a lot of back and forth, Steve and Danny managed to talk him out of it. There was no point in starting off on the wrong foot. The hostage takers might not be able to talk to Richards personally, but hopefully they were smart enough to have realized that was always a longshot.

Whatever their issue was it clearly involved the military so it was best they be allowed to talk to military personnel.

"Commander McGarrett?" the oldest of the three men who the brass at the base had obviously tasked to handle the situation asked.

"Yes."

"I'm Lieutenant Commander Fernandez. This is Ensign Rogers and Lieutenant Finn. Captain Richards sent us over to see if there's anything we can do to help get this situation resolved."

Steve did a quick assessment of Lieutenant Commander Fernandez. He was the highest ranking of the three, so would most likely be making all the decisions. He appeared to be in his mid-40s, short but muscular. His stiff stride and rigid stance went beyond typical military bearing and indicated that the man was tightly wound.

Steve had dealt with soldiers like him throughout the course of his military career. He was going to recite military regulations at every turn, stonewall when it came to giving out any information, and refuse to consider any solution that wasn't precisely by the book.

Which was why Steve immediately started working on a plan to get around Lt. Commander Fernandez.

"What you can do is get him over here himself."

Steve knew it wasn't going to happen but he had to try. He also had to let Fernandez know from the outset that he, the members of his team, the SWAT officers, and all the HPD personnel on scene, were not willing to defer to the navy men and their 'no negotiation' strategy.

They planned to do whatever it took to get the hostages out of that auditorium safely. If it meant putting themselves on the wrong side of the navy that was just something that would have to be dealt with later.

After the hostages were safe.

"I'm sure you understand, Commander, why that isn't going to be possible."

"I don't understand at all," Steve said angrily. "There are hostages in there. Children. I'm not asking the Captain to give them what they're asking for. Just to not antagonize them right out of the gate."

"You're going to have to make do with me," Fernandez said firmly. "I'll be keeping Captain Richards apprised of what's going on but he won't be having any direct involvement. These men will have to deal with me or with no one."

"You better hope this doesn't end up costing any of the hostages their lives," Steve growled menacingly.

"Give me fifteen minutes to get organized and we'll be ready to attempt first contact. May I see the text they sent?"

Steve checked the time then handed over his phone. "We've managed to tap in to the PA system so you can use that to send your first message. There's a button on the wall in the auditorium that would allow them to open up the line and talk back. If you can get them to do that we'll be able to hear what's going on in the room."

"I'll keep that in mind. Though I prefer to communicate through my own electronic set-up." Fernandez indicated the equipment the two ensigns were currently plugging into the system HPD had wired earlier. "There are certain policies in place for how to handle issues such as this when they arise. Using secured channels helps ensure those policies are not breached. We'll see how it goes though."

Fernandez turned to talk to his men. Steve turned his back to try to get his anger under control.

"I knew it," he snarled as he clenched his fists. "They're gonna take a hard line. No wiggle room at all. The best we can hope for is we use them to open a line of communication and hopefully stall for time while we figure out who we're dealing with. Whatever we decide in the end, we're most likely gonna have to move forward with no help from the navy."

"Then that's what we'll do," Danny said confidently as Chin approached the group.

"I got here as soon as I could. Kono headed back to headquarters to handle things from there. As soon as we get anything on the identity of these guys, or what they're after, we can start doing our own research.

"Thanks, Chin," Steve said.

Grover's fear of how the hostage takers would react when they were contacted by someone other than Captain Richards began to get the best of him and he lashed out. "Well all I can say is that whatever's going on in there, I hope your girlfriend can handle it."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Despite his best intentions Steve rose immediately to the bait.

"It means that my daughter is in that room and I need to know the people in there with her are going to be able to keep their heads and keep her safe and not make a bad situation worse. I hope your girlfriend fits that bill."

"For your information," Steve began, his voice holding a deadly edge, "Catherine is a highly trained and decorated naval officer. She's an Annapolis grad, she served three tours in Kabul, she an intelligence specialist, and she handles pressure situations as well as anyone I've ever met."

"Is that the assessment of her boss or her boyfriend?"

"You know what…" Steve exploded, getting right up in Grover's face.

"No…..but I do," Danny said as he stepped between the two men. "Steve, you go for a little cool down walk with Chin. They said 15 more minutes till they're ready to go so you have some time to burn off a little energy."

"You know what….fine….we'll finish this later," Steve said as he turned and stalked off. Chin jogged to catch up with him.

"You listen to me," Danny said sharply as he turned to face Grover. "I'm willing to give you a certain amount of latitude considering your daughter is in that auditorium. But only a certain amount. You know Catherine. You've seen her in action. Where do you get off questioning her abilities like that? And to Steve of all people."

"Fine. I'll keep my mouth shut."

"This isn't about keeping your mouth shut. This is about the fact that what you said was dead wrong. It's about understanding that all of us want to get the hostages out safely. It's about how we need to work together. To trust each other. Steve is as invested in their safe release as you are."

"I know." Grover clenched and unclenched his fists. "I'm not even sure why I said that. It's like my mind was saying no but my mouth wouldn't listen."

"You're under a lot of stress"

"That's no excuse. I just hate this feeling. I feel….. helpless," Grover admitted with a vulnerability Danny had never seen in him before.

"I know that. It's understandable. But I also know that the quickest way to bring this thing to a close and get those people, your daughter included, out of there safely, involves you and Steve working together. You can think whatever you want to think about him personally, but if that was my daughter in there, aside from me, he's the one I'd most want working to get her out unharmed."

Grover nodded. "I know. You're right."

"That having been said….listen to me…..if Steve is number one on the list of people I'd want looking out for Grace if I couldn't be there, then Catherine is #1a."

"Really?"

"Absolutely. All those things he said about her are true. And then some. She is every bit as single minded and focused as Steve when she needs to be. Trust me; she isn't cowering in a corner in there waiting to be rescued."

"I guess I owe him an apology."

"Save it for once this is all over. And one more thing. Catherine has never been handed anything, including her job at Five-0, just because she's Steve's girlfriend. She's earned everything. We're lucky to have her. "

"Ok."

"I have no idea what's going on in that room, but one thing I know for sure, Catherine is doing everything humanly possible to keep everyone safe until we can figure out a rescue plan."