The Neverending Fire of Kilauea

~ for Lianne, who encourages me to write more.

Consistent with Lianne's "Carl" series.

Set after Stony Man #39 "Breach of Trust"

Relevant summary: Able Team (Carl Lyons, Rosario "Pol" Blancanales, Hermann "Gadgets" Schwartz) are ambushed and Pol and Gadgets are killed; Carl escapes. The remaining members of Stony Man (inc. Gary Manning and Mack Bolan) go after the killers, and when they catch up with the main man responsible, they discover that Pol and Gadgets' deaths were faked, and rescue their teammates. At the end of the mission, Gadgets, who was injured, is on R&R in the British Virgin Islands. Pol and Carl are intending to meet him there.

Thirteen years previous, Able Team prevented an assassination attempt during an Ironman Triathlon. Carl Lyons competed, and while in Hawai'i shown signs of being one of the twelve faces of Lono (or an incarnation of Lono, the god of the harvest who liked picking fights with people for fun and honor.) After the mission, Carl stayed behind to recuperate from the triathlon and studied lua, the Hawaiian martial art.

For more information on background of the characters and series, see Lianne's Stonyman page.

Kilauea is the volcano where Pele is said to live.


Debriefing ended, and Carl followed Rosario out of the War Room. The other members of Stony Man's anti-terrorist teams lagged behind, already talking about the chances of upcoming missions to China. Carl didn't hear Mack's voice in the crowd as the door swung closed behind him; he didn't expect Mack was any too pleased about the idea of working for China's government even if it did mean eradicating the world of a few more criminals.

There was a time, Carl told himself, when the good guys were good guys and the bad guys were bad guys. The Soviets, the Communists, the Columbian drug dealers, the Mafia: there were practically badges on everyone's shirt fronts declaring whose side they were on. Nowadays, with the falls of governments and changing political allegiances, Stony Man found itself allied with former enemies.

It was hard to take, sometimes, knowing that you were working for someone who, ten years ago, you would have been trying to kill.

Carl caught Pol's backwards glance, his half-smile and cocked eyebrow. The message was clear -- let's get packed and get out of here to someplace warm. Join Gadgets in St. Thomas and forget about work for awhile.

A few days ago Carl had known he would never be seeing his friends again.

He gave his friend a slight nod, not changing his expression. Rosario's face didn't change; either he didn't know what thoughts were going through his friends' head, or he wasn't going to attempt a conversation about it here in the hallways of Stony Farm.

It wasn't a conversation Carl wanted to have, so he turned his thoughts back to the more familiar litany of the annoyance of not knowing exactly who to shoot.

To be fair, Carl admitted to himself, there were always bad guys on the good side and good guys on the bad side. From the very first time he'd stepped foot on the street as a uniformed policeman, he'd understood that. Bill Towers hadn't bothered lecturing him, his first day. He'd just taken the newly minted Officer Lyons aside and told him who in the department to stay away from, and who, when they were out on patrol, not to bother busting.

Granted, Carl hadn't liked the fact that he had to work alongside crocked cops. It had always been easier to accept that some of the so-called criminals were good folks, trying to do something worthwhile from a bad situation.

But he still wished people would just wear nametags. Let him know who to shoot.

"I've called Jack; he's gonna ferry us to the airport," Rosario said, interrupting Carl's thoughts.

Carl nodded. He still didn't say anything, and Pol didn't seem to notice anything wrong.

Was there something wrong? Carl headed into the room he was assigned here at the Farm, and grabbed the small suitcase he kept packed for off-duty trips. Pol had gone on, to his own room, to pack his own. Politician didn't keep an R&R bag pre-packed; he said he liked knowing where he was going first. Carl didn't figured it mattered -- who would ever vacation anyplace other than somewhere warm?

Bag in hand, he found himself standing still. Briefly. He moved down the hallway again, suddenly fighting the urge to run.

St. Thomas, he told himself. He thought about the cathouse Gadgets had gone to, thought about the girls and the beaches and kicking back for a few days with his friends.

His dead friends. He fought another urge to turn his head and look if Pol was really back there somewhere.

Carl headed upstairs and directly for the car pool. He found Jack lounging against a sedan, looking bored.

"Hey, Carl," he said, starting to head forward. Like he was gonna take Carl's bag for him? Lyons silently laughed at the idea.

"I'm swinging by town first," Carl said. "Got something to do. I'll get myself to the airport."

Jack frowned. "All right..." He started to say something else as Carl went past him, heading for a small sports car he favored when he was driving.

It only took a few minutes to check the car out and let the Farm know where he was going, and he was off. Pol and Jack would probably only be a few minutes behind him.

As he got past the last of the checkpoints and out onto the highway, Lyons pressed his foot down on the accelerator.

~~~~~

He didn't stop moving until he stepped out of the Hilo International airport. He'd driven to the National Airport in Arlington, searched the departure screens until he found a flight leaving in just half an hour. He'd bought a ticket and was heading west before he could think about what Pol would say when he found out where Carl had gone.

Lyons had sat as still as he could on the flight, stayed near the terminal during the layover in Dallas and again in Los Angeles. He'd been tempted to have a drink or five, but he was getting more and more wound up and he didn't think alcohol would make him more relaxed.

It hadn't been hard at all to resist leaving LAX during his layover, and revisiting old stomping grounds. He'd thought about it -- but where he wanted to go was here. Hilo, Hawai'i.

He had his bag in hand, and sunglasses purchased at the airport's tourist shop. He'd had a pair in his suitcase, but they'd been broken the last time he'd got a chance to wear them. His other pair were in his mission bags; expensive ones, and charged to the Farm. These were cheap plastic, but they kept the sun's glare from searing his eyeballs and that was all that mattered.

Carl walked past the smiling girl at the "Welcome To Hilo" information desk. He didn't need tourist guides, even though he'd never spent much time in Hilo before.

Mostly his visits were to Kona. He could have gone there this time, where they're gone thirteen years ago to rescue Pol from the Russian spetznaz, and where Carl had stayed for a long and strange recuperation afterwards. He might even have looked up old friends like Princess Sherri Lilivokalani or even old Kekupa'a, his lua master. But he'd decided on Hilo instead, with vague plans to rent a car and drive south.

Stopping to see friends wasn't something he could do just yet. Maybe on the way home.

Carl headed to the car rental desk and handed over his credit card, taking whatever they had on the lot. He wasn't picky, and he didn't mind that the charge would make it even easier for Stony Farm to track him. As though they didn't know exactly where he was; he wasn't trying to disappear. He just... couldn't stop moving yet.

Carl signed the forms and went through the motions of checking out the vehicle. Then he stowed his bag in the trunk and headed out, getting onto the highway as soon as he could.

There was a map in the glove compartment and the signs told him that 30 miles south he'd find the Volcanos National Park. It was a good start, though he didn't want to stop there. As he drove, he felt something pulling him farther. He wasn't sure what it was -- just not ready to stop moving, maybe. Maybe it was Lono telling him to go on.

Carl didn't scoff at the thought as it entered his mind. His weeks back in Kona had shown him that he didn't believe in mystical or mythical legends. But he didn't doubt the power of the lua he'd learned, and he had never felt the need to show disrespect for others' beliefs. Sherri had said they all knew he wasn't the incarnation of Lono.

But she'd said, more than once, that maybe Lono didn't know that.

He'd been back to Hawai'i a few times since their mission here, each time on vacation. He'd never again felt anything like what he'd felt during the Ironman Triathlon. But he'd enjoyed his visits here and wasn't surprised by his impulse to come here now.

Half an hour later, he passed by the national park and continued on until he found himself in a small town on the edge of the island. There was a sign saying "room for rent", so he pulled over. He gave an old man a hundred dollar bill and found himself with a room in the back of an old, rundown house. There was a window facing the ocean and the promise of noise at all hours from the neighbors.

He left his car on the street, his bag on the bed, and changed his clothes. Wearing only shorts and sunglasses, he went for a walk.

Sometime after he'd left, he found himself starting to relax. He was in the middle of the tropical forest, walking along a small path worn down by feet and bicycles and god knew what else. He could see the ocean over his right shoulder and nothing but greenery to his left. The peaks of the volcanos filled most of the view ahead of him.

A few days ago, he'd thought his best friends dead. He'd known it throughout every inch of his being. He'd believed it to the point he'd only been able to continue functioning by focusing himself on killed the man who'd ordered it.

He'd nearly lost it, exactly once. In Frankfurt, when the Stony Man warriors had holed up in a hotel to lure their attackers in for an ambush, they'd had four days and three nights to sit and do nothing.

Carl had managed not to go nuts the first day. He wasn't sure how, exactly, unless it had simply been the amount of planning and scouting they'd had to do to get ready. The first night he'd taken watch and hadn't had to do anything at all but stay on guard.

The second day, and the second night, he'd nearly torn through the walls. He'd kept himself moving, then, checking and triple checking their defenses until Mack had practically ordered him to his room. Manning had gone with him and Carl had spent the next two days alternating between hard sex, showers, meals, and something not unlike sleep. Gary and Mack had switched off keeping an eye on him and taking their turns in Carl's bed, keeping him distracted and exhausted.

Lyons hadn't stopped moving, and hadn't let himself start thinking. He'd been grateful for someone to lose himself in. He hadn't thought about anything at all until he'd found himself staring at his friends, alive if not completely well.

Once they'd got everyone home and Gadgets looked after, he'd expected to relax. When he hadn't, and faced with the prospect of vacationing with his friends... Carl had run. Run as far as he could and still be on US soil, he realised. And now, here on the island, walking through the tropical heat and letting the sun and ocean breeze take their turn at him, he found himself ready to stop.

He found a clearing and sat down. He had no idea if he'd be disturbed here; it seemed a likely spot for locals to wander through. But he'd seen no one, heard only the animals and birds.

Carl leaned his back against a tree and let himself stop.

Dead. A roll call of names began in the back of his mind, from partners, to lovers, to friends. People he'd been responsible for and people he'd simply known. A few names of people he'd killed.

The other members of Stony Man had ghosts, too. Some of them the same: Konzaki, April Rose. Phoenix Force had lost team members, Mack had lost family. They could all spend a lifetime just remembering the people who'd died.

He'd never had his world shifted off-balance like this, before. Once, almost. Flor... it still hurt to say her name. Her face swam into view in his mind's eye, clear and beautiful as the first time he'd seen her, the first time he'd made her laugh. The last time, when her skin was cold and turning grey with death.

He'd loved her as much as he'd loved anyone, including his wife. But as much as it had destroyed him to lose her, he'd found his bearings again and gone on. He'd suffered her loss, and it had hurt.

But he hadn't felt fear.

Carl sighed, and leaned his head back. Now that he knew the name of the thing that had chased him here, he could finally face it. Fear had gripped him since the moment he'd seen his partners fall. He'd been able to reshape it into rage, and physical passion, for a short time. But it had always been fear and now... He had to ask himself what would happen the next time he walked into a room with his partners with the unknown facing them.

Would he freeze? It was a common reaction among those who'd lost partners. The Farm employed psychiatrists who would be glad to help him through it, if so. Hell, the Farm would give him a new job if he demanded it, or if the docs considered him unable to return to the field. He could serve as a strategist from base, much as Katz was doing. He could train blacksuits, work on their hand-to-hand and weaponry skills, or help Cowboy test new weapons. It wouldn't even be considered a demotion, or a failure. No one would blame him.

Truth be told, Carl didn't even shy away from the possibility. He was getting older, and knew eventually he would retire from fieldwork if he didn't get killed, first. But he didn't figure on it being because he was afraid -- because he knew the moment his partners went out into the field, he would be right there with them, fighting alongside them.

It didn't make the fear go away. 'Nut up and do it,' he told himself silently. It might have worked had he had something to do. But he was exhausted, and his body ached as though he'd just finished a heavy workout. He tilted his head forward, letting his forehead rest on his arms, wrapped around his knees.

The world was quiet, around him. He stayed still within it, letting the first tears slip out and run down his forearms unabated. He cried silently, without force; despite it all he felt more at peace now than he had in a very long time.

When he finally stood up, his joints felt like he'd aged a dozen more years. He stood, stiffly, and began walking slowly back towards the town. He wiped his face dry with his fingers, not really caring what he might look like to anyone he encountered.

The old man he'd rented the room from was nowhere to be found when he got back. He'd said nothing about Carl's use of the kitchen, but as he considered going to find someplace to eat, Lyons decided he wasn't hungry enough to bother.

Kicking off his shoes, Carl tossed his bag into the closet and laid down, pulling the thin sheet over him. He fell asleep, and slept for nearly fourteen hours.

~~~~~

His friends found him the next day at breakfast, at Mama La's Cafe. Carl was sitting in one of only three booths, eating a "traditional hawaiian breakfast" of eggs and coffee. Gadgets and Pol walked in, which Carl had expected; he was surprised to see Gary enter the cafe behind them.

He wondered just how much he'd pissed them off.

None of them looked angry, though. Pol nodded to Mama La -- whose real name was Agnes -- as they entered, collecting a menu from her. Gadgets sat down across the table and Pol slid in next to Carl, with Manning taking the place beside Gadgets.

No one said anything as the girl -- Mama La's daughter, Carl suspected, brought them all coffee without waiting for their order. The menu was short and by the time she'd poured three cups and refilled Carl's, his friends were ready to place orders for breakfast.

When she was gone, Lyons found himself being stared at.

He let them stare, and kept eating.

"Thought you were coming to St. Thomas with me," Pol said. "Could have left a note."

Carl paused, then nodded. "Should have. Didn't know where I would be when I stopped."

He could tell from their faces that he'd pretty much just explained everything.

"Hal said for us to call when we found you," Gadgets said. "He checked the local sheriff's office, both in Hilo and here. He was surprised when there were no disturbances or arrests reported involving strange tourists from the mainland." There was a grin on Gadget's face, but his eyes were quiet.

"Remind me to mention that to him when we get back," Carl said, easily. He felt the relief from his partners as he said it. Of course they'd be worried. Whether he could still cut it, whether he still wanted to.

Gary didn't say anything; Carl glanced up and met his gaze for a moment. He wasn't pissed off, but Carl figured he was worried. Lyons, for his part, wasn't exactly sure why he'd come. Not that he minded, but it surprised him.

"Thought they might need help bringing you down," Gary finally said, quietly, as though he'd heard Carl's question.

Lyons nodded. Made sense. Knowing himself as well as anyone, he wasn't bothered that his friends had expected him to explode. Violence, crazy, out-of-control rampages...

But that would have only been the case if his partners had really been dead. Had he returned from the mission without knowing his partners were alive -- had they truly been dead -- he wouldn't have got off the Farm at all. He'd have lost his mind as soon as he'd had nothing else to hang onto. Possibly not even made it back to the Farm, he might have been killed in the last firefight.

Deliberately or otherwise.

"I'm all right," he said. It was mostly true; he still felt exhausted, and had been looking forward to spending the day lazing about doing nothing. He'd known that his friends would track him down sooner or later, but hadn't expected them this soon.

Then again, he'd left Virginia nearly 24 hours ago.

"So, now what?" Gadgets asked.

Carl shrugged. He knew he, Pol, and Gary were due back at the Farm in three more days. Gadgets was on medical leave for awhile longer.

"Does Sherri know you're here?" Pol asked, no doubt expecting that Lyons had made plans to head to Kona eventually.

"No."

The four men sat silently for a moment, and Carl knew they were weighing his apparent need to be here against their own boredom of a tiny town on the edge of an island.

"Drove through the Volcano park," Gadgets finally said. "Looked interesting."

"We could rent a boat," Pol offered.

With that, they'd settled themselves into Carl's self-imposed retreat. Comfortably, knowing that there was room for them wherever Carl went.

Gary just looked at him, mutely asking if Carl needed more company than his partners. Lyons considered it, briefly.

"We should head someplace with hotel rooms," he said. "We're not that far from Pahoa," he added, casually.

"Pahoa has a nice hotel?" Gadgets asked. "I don't remember anyone mentioning it from last time."

"There's a nice place that has cabanas," Carl clarified. He kept his face straight. "Very native."

"Sounds all right," Gadgets said. "We can head up there, get settled in, and then make like tourists and see the sights."

Carl smiled and didn't say anything else. Sherri had sent him to Pahoa on his last visit, saying it was the sort of place he'd enjoy. And it had been.

They finished up their breakfasts, and Carl paid for everyone -- with cash from the Farm's expense account. Manning hung back as Pol and Gadgets left ahead of them.

"What's with the hotel in Pahoa?"

"No big deal. Just a clothing optional place. Not far from Kehena Black Sand Beach."

Gary looked at him. "And are we likely to find any women at this 'hotel'?"

Carl just winked.

"They're going to kill you," he said casually.

"Long as I die happy," Carl returned. They exited the cafe and found Lyons' partners waiting for them. Their rented car was parked at the edge of the dirt lot that served for parking.

"I'll see what I can do," Gary said, with a very slight leer in his tone.

"We can stop by your current digs and grab your stuff," Gadgets said as Carl and Gary walked over. He was clearly eager to get back to his resting and relaxing.

Carl wondered if he was hoping to get back to other things he'd had available at the Abalone Shell -- the famous cathouse they'd been supposed to meet him at.

Yeah. He was going to pay for this, dearly. But he felt too good, all of a sudden, to care.

And besides, maybe Sherri would protect him. He could run all the way to Kona from here...