Wooden Acting

Summary:
January 18,2015: Hill, Bishop, and Morse investigate a Koa lumber facility under cover.

Koa Lumber Facility

Somewhere on Maui


Characters

NPCs

  • Jason the Logger
  • Unnamed Logger

Mood Music:
None


The worst part of traveling somewhere nicer than where you live is the travel. What's even less pleasant is having to make the trip not two times, but several times. Hill had to leave Maui without any warning a few days ago, flying back to the Triskelion at an ungodly hour for another Doom and Gloom scenario which, naturally, only gets way worse before it gets any better.

Now she's back in Maui, her eyes tinged red in silent testament to the sort of time she's had with everything going on. She's back in civilian mode with denim shorts, hiking boots, and a white button shirt left open over a black tank. Duty still calls, though fortunately the weather's still fantastic out here.

Her first order of business is to return to the team's hub away from home, sending out an encrypted message to the rest of the team just to say that she's back in the area. She's got some catching up to do.

*

Tank top, khaki shorts, hiking boots. It's the general uniform for these sorts of situations. Bobbi has the arms of a khaki jacket knotted around her waist, concealing what gear she could manage. Something one forgets when requesting a tropical mission, it's hard to hide batons and big guns under skimpy garments.

More of note than what she's wearing, however, is what Bobbi is doing. She's humming. Merrily even. HUMMING. Something must be up. Maybe she's been poisoned by whatever got the loggers? She goes about in the common area making herself some coffee, her hair back in a loose pony tail as she hums something that might be pop music.

*

Kate has been busy as ever, working her way through the locals and visitors alike. Apparently, sunbathing isn't actually all that friendly to the young archer. She's already several shades of white, tan, pink, and freckled, and has finally conceded to practicality, wearing a broad-brimmed hat whenever she's out to shade at least her face and shoulders, and keeping a light-weight button down shirt over her tank tops. "Brought more coffee," she calls in as she steps into the hub, laden with several bags worth of various groceries.

*

Hill just about stops dead in the doorway, eyes wide at first then quickly narrowing at Bobbi with suspicion. "Don't tell me the sun's gotten to you, already." Who the heck -hums- after joining SHIELD, honestly!

Spying coffee gets her interest before any response can be given, gravitating toward the machine like a mosquito would gravitate toward a flashlight. Kate's announcement is met with a muttered "Thank God" before Hill catches a glance at the younger archer, once more just about doing a double-take. This time it isn't followed with suspicion so much as a low chuckle. "I leave for three days and I barely recognize half of my team anymore. Gimme a sitrep, ladies. How far have we gotten and where are we going?"

She can explain the multiple crises back in the three cities later. Gotta keep her people focused on the job at hand, and all.

*

"Director Hill," Bobbi greets with a smile. "We've determined that the loggers were suffering from nitrogen poisoning. Not the sort you get from diving ascension, the sort you get from if you're cattle around too much ammonia. No chemicals that would be indicative of that are used in their line of work, logging. Some are found in volcanic gasses, however, but the volcanoes on or adjacent to Maui are dormant." She moves to pluck up a file folder and hand it to the other woman.

"I'd recommend reconnaissance of both the logging sites, and Haleakala," Bobbi notes. "If there's anything suspicious happening, it's likely happening in one or both of those places."

*

Kate sets the bags down and digs out the bag of fresh ground coffee, starting up the pot. She spends a lot of time with Clint. She's well-practiced in the art of speedy production of mass quantities of coffee. "Hunter says there's been an uptick in the Koa lumber exports," she adds to the intel in hand. "And lots of dead plants and the like around the 1800 foot mark. Which matches what I'm hearing from the locals. Except the locals are talking about evil volcano spirits. Lumber and dead plants seem like a constant, though, whatever's causing it."

*

"That's a new one," Hill deadpans to Bobbi's report. "But hey, if people want to exercise their rights to Pasture LARP then who am I to stand in their way." The offered folder is taken and automatically flipped open as the next thought to cross her mind automatically makes itself heard. "So an evil overlord trying to muck about with the sleeping lava-spewers is still on the table. Excellent. I could use something simple, straightforward, and with emphasis on ass-kicking."

Bobbi's suggestion, and Kate's pieces of intel, are given a nod. "Loggers, huh. Then we'll focus primarily on the forested areas of Ol' Hale and leave the barrens to the drones. Wherever we see dead plants we'll know to plant a camera. Spirits might be a little harder to detect, should I be lining up an expert on the paranormal?" she asks Kate with a pointed glance. As if Kate would know if spirits really are to blame!

*

"Maybe Pele's angry," Bobbi points out with a faint smirk. "I mean, we have Norse gods with magnificent abs wandering around, who's to say the Hawai'ian pantheon isn't real too?" She shrugs and settles into a chair. "But I suspect maybe someone is trying to make it look like there are spirits angry over the deforestation of the island. Hawai'i is very eco and conservation focused."

*

"I could call Fenris," Kate offers with a shrug. "But I don't think wolves are exactly native to Hawaii. I'm kind of on the outs with satyrs, but I think there's a dryad staying at the shelter. I don't know if she'd be willing to fly out here for some tree chat, but she does sort of owe me one. Fenris could probably portal her over, though." Of course Kate's got a comment about spirits and whether or not they're to blame. Once the coffee's started, she hops up onto the edge of the table, feet swinging. "Also, Sam's in town. He said it was for a conference, but I think Stark Medical's got a whiff of something going on."

*

"Let's hope not," Hill tells Bobbi with a gentle sigh. "There's not a lot we can do about that one short of mass-evacuations, and those -are- magnificent abs," she easily adds while flipping to another page in the folder. Regarding Hawaii's reputation for being green she dips her head once more, thinking aloud "And if there's talk about 'angry spirits' then we might have some natives involved. There's lots of places a small, dedicated group of people could hide around here."

Kate's next offer gets another flat response from the DepDir, "I'll take our chances." The folder gets lightly tossed onto the table so she can free up her hands for coffee, because it's here now and it's fresh. Thank you, Kate. As usual her attention gets divided quite easily, asking "Sam? Who's Sam now?" There's a slight shift in her expression as she regards the archer. "You wouldn't happen to be sharing intel with outside parties now, would you?"

*

"The Falcon? Great, the last thing we need is Stark's people here, getting in our way," Bobbi groans. "If they tip off whoever is doing this to there being an investigation going on, we will entirely lose the element of surprise. And surprise is what we do best." She spins in the chair and sips her coffee, muddling over their options.

*

"Hey!" Kate protests. "I did not. I said I was laying low and playing clueless socialite after getting caught on camera during the Gotham thing." Which isn't even entirely a lie. "Natasha was there, you can ask her. Besides, Sam's good people anyhow," she adds, hopping back off the table and opening up the en suite dishwasher to take out some clean mugs for the coffee. "And I doubt Stark's got the people to spare to get in the way, anyhow. News says he's busy trying to rig power for Metropolis."

*

Bingo. Bobbi nailed it. This could be a serious situation, which means Hill's attention is now leveled upon Kate and Kate alone. "'Good people' or not, security is paramount when you play with SHIELD. We cannot function if there's any leaks in our boat. I appreciate your helping my team so far but let's be sure that we continue to keep a lid on things."

The remainder of her coffee is hastily assembled. Already the rich scent is helping to bring her around, they've got some quality stuff out on the islands. Turning to lean against a counter in order to properly regard the two, she asks "That said, you ladies feel up to taking a field trip to the lumber yards? I'll start badgering the eggheads about expanding our surveillance grid."

*

"An excuse to work on my tan? I'm always ready for that, Director," Bobbi chimes, cheerfully. She's one of those terrible people who tans beautifully. "Just let me get my backpack." She gets up and heads to a chest from which she pulls a hiking pack loaded with gear, including her weaponry. "Don't forget to bring water, these hikes can dehydrate you quickly."

*

"I didn't say anything," Kate repeats, putting the clean mugs back in the cabinet. "And I told you he's here so you can take whatever precautions you need to. Besides, if I'd really screwed it up, I'm pretty sure you would've heard from Natasha by now." A beat, as she goes for a water bottle. "Or I would've disappeared."

*

Hill smiles thinly to Bobbi. "Figured you'd appreciate a break from staring at medical records. It's another beautiful day in paradise, let's start digging up some of its secrets."

Speaking of digging up secrets, Kate bringing up Natasha is certainly a good point. She seems serious enough about keeping the situation under wraps, enough that Hill gently holds an open hand up. "Alright, Bishop. I hear you. Tag some others to keep you both company if you want to, Barton's getting a little too much sun and Hunter's not getting any at all."

Speaking of Natasha, she needs to try and reach out to their resident super spy. One doesn't tend to assign her a job so much as to step in the queue and wait for a turn to give her another assignment.

*

Bobbi moves to a table on which several maps, covered in markings, have been laid out. She grabs the one for the logging sites and keeps it in hand, along with a GPS device from a shelf. She hands both to Hill. "Lead the way, Director." She grins. Hill is in the field! Hill is in the field!

*

"Hunter's getting some, just not sun," Kate chimes in as she tightens the cap on her water bottle, disappearing into one of the bedrooms to pick up her own go bag, along with a rather tall, slightly wide walking stick. A close look might show that there's a place where it twists apart, just big enough inside to hold a bow. Hopping on one foot, she pulls on her socks.

*

Supplies gathered and coffee consumed: Field trip!

***

It's a hike to the first of the lumber yards, which is mostly Hill's fault for keeping them as isolated from the rest of the local population as she could manage. From the outside it looks exactly like one would expect, numerous local offerings already cut into planks and organized within roofed enclosures. There isn't a lot of activity, only a few people spread out over the yard. The first impression is that things feel perfectly calm, who would have known that three people had already gotten sick from something out in the woods?

It's here that Hill tells the other two "Pick some good candidates to grill. I'm going to scout the perimeter." Maybe she'll pull a Scooby-Do and uncover a pile of chemicals with a tarp casually tossed over them.

*

"He is definitely getting some," Bobbi chimes at Kate's comment with a wicked grin. Uh…oh…does that mean? Oh dear. Are the warring exes having warring sexes? Only the shadow knows. And Bobbi. And Hunter. And maybe the poor sap who had to bring them room service this morning.

When they reach the site, Bobbi nods at Maria and she puts on her most charming smile, heading over to one of the guys stacking the wood. "Hi there! I'm Casey, from Flipping Your House on the DIY channel," because no one watches DIY channel over HGTV, right? "I heard that you have Koa wood, and I'm looking at putting in some koa wood paneling in a couple of flips next season. How is business?"

*

As Bobbi starts the questions about the wood, Kate makes a face at the older woman's back before walking over toward the most native looking person on the site. "Ugh," she sighs. "Oh, koa wood!" she says in a high-pitched imitation. "It's so natural and beautiful. But is anyone looking at sustainability? Who cares, it looks pretty as an accent wall!" She huffs, pulling out her phone as though scrolling through email. Of course, she's taking pictures instead, but no one needs to know that. "That's what I get for putting in for the unspecified internship."

*

Bobbi's first victim is Jason, going by the nametag. He doesn't look like a native to the island but he must have been working here long enough to have gotten the almost excessive tan he's rocking these days. He's tucking a pair of gloves into the back of his pocket when 'Casey' calls out, prompting a turn and an automatic smile which quickly but subtly shifts into something a lot more genuine when he sees the woman doing the speaking. (Well hell-o, there…)

"Well I'd say you're just in time, Casey. Got a lot of folks asking about Koa lately, about how much are you looking for?"

Between the speaker and her request Jason's got a lot to look happy about. There's the hint of a vast numbers of dollar signs in the air.

Kate's got one of the 'proper' yard workers rather than someone who is more encouraged to work with the customers. He's got the look of someone who's done an awful lot of heavy lifting in his days, which is easy enough to see as he shifts the corner of an entire stack of boards back into alignment. With Kate's announcement he huffs and scowls, making a point to say "No one respects the gifts of the islands."

There's a reason why he's lacking a nametag. It's the same reason why he's not one of the sales reps for the company. Go figure!

*

"Oh at least enough to cover a half dozen twenty foot long by ten foot high walls," Bobbi enthuses at Jason. "And maybe some extra for a bathroom flip. I think I could make a really zen spa-like bathroom with some of it." She then pauses and plants her hands on her curvy hips. "Oh, are there other designers trying to get their hands on koa? You have to let me know who is shopping with you, Jason, because if their shooting schedule is earlier than ours I'll look like a copycat!" She pouts, angelically.

*

"Right?" Kate agrees with the worker, shaking her head at the stacks of lumber. "I wanted to work with the green show. All the recycled goods, you know? Take old things, make them new again. Like, things used to be made to last. People respected the stuff they were taking from the earth, and they made sure it actually needed to be replaced before they threw it out. I mean, the wood's beautiful, and I'm sure the jobs are a great side effect and all, but…" She turns a sympathetic look on the worker. "I bet it was a lot more beautiful where it came from."

*

Jason does the math in his head. It's all he can do to not look like he's just won the lottery. These silly TV hosts, so much money to throw around! "I'm sure we can see to your needs," he replies with a smile which falls a bit short of award-winning. It falters an instant later when it sounds like he might actually lose this client based on how many others had taken a fancy to the species of late. He'll do whatever he needs to in order to keep Casey interested. He could get a raise out of this one!

"For renovation shows? None that I'm aware of… See, we got started here by cutting down trees which had died of natural causes. It's always a question as to what we'll have in stock at any given moment. Over time we've expanded our efforts but we always lag behind, unfortunately no tree grows overnight. Well, Koa in particular takes about twenty to thirty years before it's ready for construction use. Somewhere along the way it must have been a real good growth season. As soon as the word started to get out we've had more orders coming through than usual, though still for smaller projects. It's gained some popularity in the music industry, as well."

As Kate continues her own covert sales pitch the man slowly runs a hand across the identically cut planks, as if mourning their loss from the wild. He nods slowly, whether in regards to the green show or in agreement to what she has to say.

"Some of our trees take a lifetime to grow. We used to respect the forest by only logging the ones to have already fallen. We plant the seeds for more, one of the most reasonable laws they have ever passed, but we must continue to come back for more. Their hunger is too great."

Civilization, perhaps?

"If we are not careful we will one day erase such miracles from history."

*

"Oh dear, so these aren't all cut from dead trees? I imagine that I might get some backlash from the eco people if I use it on my show," Bobbi says mournfully. "Do you get a lot of people complaining about the company not being green?" she asks.

*

"Don't they realize they're going to run out, though?" Kate asks, frowning at the stacks of lumber. "I mean, sure, plant more, but if a tree takes thirty years to grow to maturity, there's no way they can keep up with what they're cutting. Is there anyone lobbying for more limits?" she asks.

*

THUD. (C'mon Jason, keep it together!)

"Oh no, no, we look out for the environment!" he says, perhaps just a tad too quickly. "We always plant more than we cut down. It's a selective process, we don't believe in clear-cutting. One here, one there, it gives the other trees surrounding them some extra breathing room. This way the customer gets the best lumber possible and every sapling gets to grow to its full potential."

Mister Nameless finally looks back to Kate when she asks her next question. "A time will come for those who do not learn the error of their ways."

Real 'Doom and Gloom' sort, this guy. It's no small miracle he even has a job.

"Hey, David!" one of the other workers calls out after seeing the man engaging in something other than his assigned task. 'Don't feed the visitors!'

"Excuse me," Doomy David mutters as he turns and heads further into the yard.

*

"But, if they take so long to grow, how can you keep up with the demand?" Bobbi asks Jason with her most dimwitted look.

*

"Good luck," Kate calls quietly after David, shoving her phone back into her pocket and starts to roam aimlessly around the yard. Just another half-hearted intern here, nothing to see.

*

"Typically we don't see a lot of call for Koa," Jason replies to Casey while rubbing the back of his neck. "As you're probably aware, it's valued according to its rarity." As in, it's expensive, but he's -sure- Casey already knows all of this..!

"It used to be when a large enough order would come through the customer would have to visit the other yards in order to cover their needs. We've been in business long enough to keep ahead of the demand." As in, 'we have enough, now go inside and make the order official! And tell 'em Jason took care of ya!'

Kate may be down one conversation pal but there's more to be discovered than words. Either there haven't been a lot of other orders lately or they've hit the jackpot for clearing out dead trees. There's a lot in stock, of just about everything. 'Plants' die, get cut up, turn up at places like this. They might be looking at a proverbial feast before a coming famine.

*

"Oh, thanks Jason!" Bobbi murmurs, leaning in to whisper, "Have you ever thought about being on TV? I could use a handyman." This is, naturally, a cover as she pickpockets him for any keycards or the like that might give her access inside the operation.

*

Kate moves around the yard, quietly swapping stacks of wood as she goes, in case any chemicals might be left over for analysis. Swab, close, pocket. Swab, close, pocket. Swab, close, pocket.

*

(Critical success!) Jason doesn't have long to celebrate what looks like a victory when Casey leans in, using that tone of voice which people tend to reserve for those 'special' moments. 'Just between you and me.' "Well now..stardom does run in the family," he replies with a stupid grin. "My brother's appeared on one of those fishing shows. Good, strong smiles in our genes."

And one less keycard. Simple.

While Kate's running to and fro she'll wind up coming back into Hill's proximity. "Yep. It's a lumber yard," she flatly replies. "I've got nothing. Is she still terrorizing the locals?" Bobbi, naturally.

*

"I'll go put in my order. I'll float the idea of a handyman by my producers next week," Bobbi promises dear sweet dumb Jason as she pockets his keycard. With that she turns on her heel and heads for the office, motioning the other women to join her.

*

"Probably," Kate answers Hill, hands in her pockets. "Not everyone's happy, sounds like. There's a lot of stuff in here," she murmurs. "I got swabs on it. It's not just the koa, though." As Bobbi gestures toward them, she starts to shuffle toward the other woman, every inch the reluctant intern.

*

Well, Jason's looking pretty damn smug about now. He's all smiles and waves when Casey goes to make her purchase, completely oblivious that he's just lost his back-stage privileges with his own job.

"I've got the feeling that we're wasting our time here," Hill replies to Kate before lifting her chin a few degrees at Bobbi's summons, likewise moving in to close the gap.

Now to Bobbi, she asks "Felt like taking the extended tour?"

*

Bobbi passes the keycard to Maria, with a murmured, "Don't know how long til he misses it. It might get us into some places they don't let buyers or tourists though." She makes sure to swing her hips as she walks, so if Jason is watching her retreat, he isn't focused on her hands. "He's hedging. The sales pitch was way off the mark, and I'm curious as to who is putting in such a massive order for koa wood from one logging company. If we find that out, we might find out that someone is purposely causing the die offs to meet the order."

*

"Supposedly, they're only taking already dead stuff," Kate says quietly. "And they're replanting, which sounds like it's due to legislation. Which means these guys might just be profiting from whoever is doing this," she says with a grimace.

*

The card offered to Hill is taken without another thought, there and gone in a heartbeat. "Could be an attack of opportunity." More in stock means buy it all while you can! "Either way we have a buyer to track down. Hunter can do his thing over the net to find the rest of the story. We're going to have to make this a quick visit."

She already mapped out a secure entrance to the warehouse while the other two were hitting up the conversations.

With both Jason's key and a SHIELD PIN unlocker in hand, getting through the lock is a trivial matter. Inside the smell of freshly cut lumber is almost overpowering. Obvious efforts have been made to control the sawdust population but there's no way to clear all of it out of the building. There's also an unpleasantly loud racket every time one of the massive sawblades cuts through another trunk, which will both make it real easy for the three to remain unheard and make conversation between them quite difficult.

*

Bobbi uses hand signals as she crouches down, directing them towards wherever there might be an office with a computer to hack into. The agent also removes one of her batons from her pack, just in case. One never knows if someone might arduously object to their presence if they're spotted.

*

"I got swabs from the stuff outside," Kate adds quietly to Bobbi before they step inside. "In case there's anything that might still be on them." Once they're inside, she falls silent, trying to look for anything that might seem out of place.

*

There doesn't appear to be any smoking guns inside of the warehouse. There's just a few people milling about, working the machinery, minding where all of their limbs happen to be at any given moment. No piles of chemicals with a tarp thrown over the top. No blood spatters hastily scrubbed out of the floor. Anything obvious would have made things way too easy.

Locating the office area is simple, it's the part of the building which is the furthest away from the saw. Like anyone working on a phone or computer wants to hear that blasted thing! Because of this the door separating the two areas is heavily soundproofed, though Hill makes a point of keeping it quiet once the ambience has settled down. There's a glance to Bobbi then a tapping of two fingers to the back of her wrist. 'We're on the clock.' While hacking the terminal directly would be doable it would also take up more time.

Fortunately SHIELD does have its toys, and Hill likes to come prepared. A pair of small USB adapters are retrieved from her pocket, passing one to Kate and one to Bobbi. Find a terminal, plug it in. They can dig into the records back home. Or on the beach! On the beach with pina coladas. While watching Barton surf. Maybe.

*

Bobbi does as instructed, and plugs in the drive to one of the terminals. When she's done, she moves with the others to back out, then gestures to a spot near the warehouse door for Maria to drop Jason's card. Clearly it just fell out of his pocket. Nothing bad!

*

Plugging things in it totally within Kate's skill set! There's a brief, grateful look toward Hill before she goes to find a spot to plug it in. "Way better than the USB arrow," she murmurs, waiting for it to do its thing. Once the color of the lights changes, she pulls it and tosses it back into her pocket with the swabs, giving a thumbs up to the other women.

*

Hill can barely contain her curiosity long enough for the three to make it back outside, easily dumping the borrowed keycard as they head out. As the plastic hits the pavement she gives Kate a troubled look, "Please tell me Barton didn't really make those…"

She's heard the rumors from R and D!


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