"Agent Afloat to the freezer immediately; Agent Afloat to the freezer." The page rang out over the loudspeakers as the USS Helena powered toward home. Stanley Burley powered through startled sailors as he ran for the freezer. The entire tour had gone pretty much without incident. He couldn't believe that would change on the day they were pulling back into U.S. harbor.
"Make a hole," he said more calmly than he had been, walking into the kitchen.
"Over here, sir," a cook said, motioning Agent Burley to the freezer door in the back corner. "We found it as we were packing up the ice cream."
Burley stopped in the door. "You packing before we even get back?" he asked the cook.
"As much as we can, sir," the cook said. "It's been a long nine months. We want to get off this tin can as soon as humanly possible."
Burley smiled. "We all do, specialist." Burley patted the culinary specialist on the shoulder and entered the freezer. "Whoa," he said backing out of the freezer. "Didn't expect to see that."
"Is there a problem sir?" the cook asked.
"Yeah," Burley said. "Don't pack too quickly. You're going to have a few more meals."
Burley was almost blinded as he walked out onto the tiny deck on the submarine. He never did get used to that light when the sub surfaced. Norfolk was not yet visible, but he knew it wouldn't be long. He pulled out his cell phone and pressed speed dial 1. The person he reported to had changed over the years, but that speed dial never did.
"Gibbs," the voice said on the other end of the line.
"Hey Boss, it's been quite a while," Burley said.
"Stan," Gibbs said. "Yeah. Been, what, 10 years?"
"5," Burley said. "Don't get crazy Boss."
Gibbs chuckled. "What do ya need now?"
"Do I have to need something to call?" Burley asked.
"No, but you never call unless you do," Gibbs replied.
Burley chuckled. "Well, I could use your help if you've got some time."
"What's up?" Gibbs asked.
"Got a case, just came up. We're due in Norfolk in 4 hours. These men have been out for nine months. One of them is guilty, but I don't want the other hundred to spend one more minute than they have to on this sub. I could use a few extra hands."
The elevator dinged as Gibbs walked confidently onto the main floor of NCIS. He stopped just off the elevator to assess how things were, but it was exactly as he expected. McGee was typing away at his computer, no doubt setting up some framework for some computer miracle on a future case. DiNozzo sat absentmindedly at his desk staring at Ziva's desk and doing absolutely no work at all. He'd been like that pretty much every down moment since they'd found out that the Damocles had gone down with Ziva on board. There had been no survivors. Gibbs studied Dinozzo's face knowingly and his heart broke. He recognized that look. But there was no Pedro Hernandez for Tony.
Gibbs picked up his stride and walked toward his team, speaking only as he turned into his team's bullpin. "Some idiot tried to smuggle a koala onto a submarine. Grab your gear."