Chapter 3: Brains –v- brawn
[Timeline: Nha Trang Base Camp – Oct 1969]
Colonel John Smith was tutting in frustration as he scrutinised the file on Sergeant B.A. Baracus. It had been given to him by the Sergeant's CO, General Ludlum who had tried everything - short of sending him in front of an execution squad – to bring him into line.
According to Ludlum, he had spent most of his first two months in the Brigg. It would appear that the volatile Sergeant liked to let his fists do the talking and had acquired a reputation for being insubordinate, unruly and rebellious.
The Colonel had seen Baracus on a few occasions around the base. With his extremely large bulk and foreboding presence it was difficult not to notice him. Rumour had it that his initials – B A – stood for Bad Attitude! Much to the Colonel's amusement, he had also observed that he was nearly always surrounded by the children of the local personnel who worked at the base.
Colonel Smith just couldn't understand it. On paper the guy appeared to be the perfect, text-book army candidate. He had 14 months' military experience under his belt from his time spent with the JDF, together with his training with the Special Forces. He was very much a weapons and engineering expert and had shown exceptional skills in advance demolition with offensive and defensive explosives.
On top of that, he appeared to be nothing short of a mechanical genius with extraordinary construction abilities. He had all the credentials the Colonel was looking for to replace his current Sergeant whose tour had finished a couple of weeks ago.
As the Colonel scanned over the rest of the file, his attention was brought to an incident that he had been involved in during his final jump week at Airborne School. He had tried to help a colleague, whose parachute failed to fully open, as he plunged towards the Drop Zone at an alarming pace. Baracus was the next man in the line to jump and saw that he was in trouble. He had successfully steered his chute towards the man in an effort to help him land safely. Unfortunately, the stricken jumper never made it in one piece and Baracus had landed badly himself. Luckily he suffered only minor injuries and had been awarded extra merit for his bravery and quick-thinking actions under extreme pressure.
Smith was impressed. Surely the guy couldn't be all that bad!
"Ludlum said you wanted to see me," suddenly growled a voice from the doorway.
The Colonel looked up to find Baracus glaring at him in an intimidating manner. Smith immediately felt the Sergeant's abrasive attitude grating on his nerves. There was no polite knock or courteous introduction to his arrival. Although Smith wasn't a great one for protocol, he found the Sergeant's lack of respect towards his CO's rank rather insulting.
"Something wrong with your right arm, soldier?" he barked back, returning Baracus's look of defiance with his own steely-eyed glare.
Baracus turned his eyes skyward for a second, but not wishing to piss off another dumb-ass officer so soon after getting out of the Brigg, he raised his arm into a half-hearted salute.
Smith acknowledged the salute with a curt nod of his head and beckoned him into his hooch. With a heavy sigh, Baracus trudged across the room and stood in front of the Colonel.
Smith deliberately continued to read the file for a few more seconds, in an attempt to unnerve the Sergeant and let him know who was boss. He finally looked up to address him.
"You got an obsession about being thrown in the Brigg?" he asked. "You've already had two visits there this week alone and its only Wednesday!"
"Ludlum said I didn't put enough spit on my boots!" retorted Baracus. "I'd only just come back from a 3-hour assignment defusing mines in some stinking, muddy rice field, but he was chewing me out over ma dirty boots!"
Smith couldn't help sympathising with Baracus. General Ludlum was what he would describe as one of those "old school" soldiers. He was more interested in political awareness than he was about getting his hands dirty out in the field.
"I see," he responded slowly. "And the other incident?"
"Some sucka made a comment about my mama's photo!" snarled Baracus. "No-one shows my mama disrespect. He won't forget that again in a hurry!"
The Colonel couldn't help thinking that the unfortunate grunt must have been remarkably brave; and/or incredibly stupid; and/or drunk as a skunk to evoke the wrath of this giant of a man in such a manner.
He looked down at the file again, whilst Baracus started to shuffle his feet impatiently. He had no idea why he had been summoned to the Colonel's office, but he wished he would just get the lecture over with, so he could get the hell out of there.
"I see you experienced a rather nasty ordeal at Jump School?" continued Smith. "Must have been a very frightening experience."
For a second, he thought he saw a hint of anguish break down the Sergeant's gruff exterior. But somehow he managed to recover from his moment of weakness.
"BA Baracus ain't scared of nothin' or no-one," he hissed resolutely. But he couldn't quite disguise the panic in his voice. Realising that the Colonel had picked up on the chink in his body armour, he added quickly, "There's no reason why anyone should know about this, is there Sir?"
"No reason I can think of," replied Smith. He somehow managed to keep the bemused smirk off his face as he recognised from the tone in his voice that Baracus was giving him a direct order, rather than making a polite request.
Despite the fact that he had serious anger management issues, Smith couldn't help warming to the straight-talking, intelligent Sergeant. He liked the way he had stuck up for his mama. He obviously seemed devoted to her. Perhaps he could use that to his advantage in getting Baracus to play ball.
"How would you like a chance to put your talents to better use?" asked Smith. "I am in urgent need for a reliable, skilled weapons expert to compliment my team."
Baracus looked up in surprise. He had of course heard of the somewhat legendary Colonel Smith and his famous A-Team. He was known more commonly as Hannibal amongst his men. They had a reputation for being the best at what they did. And BA had always strived to be the best.
He looked intently at the Colonel's face. He struck Baracus as being very young to be in such high command. He guessed possibly early-thirties. His fair hair was flecked with white specks around his temples and behind his ears, making him look older that he probably was. His sapphire-blue eyes burned attentively as he held the Sergeant's gaze and he moved with a nervous energy that was both contagious and motivating.
"I guess it beats spending the rest of ma days in the Brigg," he finally said.
Smith met Baracus's response with a deep frown.
"Let's get something straight, soldier," he said in a warning voice. "I don't give a shit about your past or your hang-ups. I only care about the welfare of this unit and we always work as a team. I give the orders and if you can't hack that then don't waste my fucking time."
"I ain't scared to take no bullet for the team," huffed Baracus indignantly.
"That's good to know," said Smith. "But I'm not interested in accommodating any hot-headed, punch-happy vigilante. You get into any more trouble and I'm going to write to your mama and let her know what her little boy is getting up to over here!"
He paused to give the Sergeant time to digest this information. At the mention of his mama's name a look of complete horror flashed across his face. He truly believed that the Colonel was crazy enough to carry out his threat!
"Any questions?" asked Smith.
Baracus thought about retaliating, but wisely decided against it. Even he could see this was a chance for him to dig himself out of the whole he had gotten himself into.
"No Sir," he replied civilly, albeit through gritted teeth!
"Good reply," said Smith. "I'll make the arrangements with General Ludlum to get you transferred A-SAP."
Baracus made a move to turn and leave the room before hastily turning back to face the Colonel again.
"Permission to leave, Colonel?" he asked.
"Permission granted," replied Smith.
Baracus threw the Colonel a firm salute before marching out of the hooch.
Smith closed the file and sat back in his chair, smiling contently. He fished out a cigar from behind his ear and lit it with a satisfactory flourish.
"Perfect!" he thought to himself. "I love it when a plan comes together!"
[Sorry about the corny ending. I haven't used it in a while and was getting withdrawal symptoms! Any reviews from any mean, ugly Mudscuckers out there would be greatly appreciated.]