[Disclaimer: I own zilch! Some extracts are taken from real-life scenarios, which I have adapted for this story. This is a further expansion of "Mind over Muscle and "Mind over Prejudice" and is the last part of BA's little trilogy.]
Chapter 1: Courting death
After being on the A-Team for nearly four months, Sergeant BA Baracus wasn't sure what exactly defined madness any more. Especially if their latest mission was anything to go by. The 5-man reconnaissance team - led by the irrepressible Colonel Hannibal Smith – was on the second day of their intelligence gathering mission. Following the given co-ordinates of the military commanders, they had discovered a well-used trail hidden deep in the dense jungle terrain. Hannibal thought it would be a good place to monitor the trail or maybe even set up an ambush.
Except the Colonel's plan didn't quite come together, as it soon became obvious that this was a point element for a much larger NVA force. Looked like Intel had slightly underestimated the seriousness of the situation. "Swell!" thought BA, sarcastically to himself. "Another bum rap for the team!"
With Mr Charles moving into the vicinity of the ambush site, the team hastily grabbed as much enemy documents and other intelligence material as they could get their hands on and swiftly slipped back into the jungle. The NVA were now hot on their heels. Fitz the RTO, called in the contact on his handheld radio. He reported that they were being pursued and requested an urgent extraction.
There were only a limited number of possible LZs in the immediate area. And guess what? The enemy knew them all – as well as the network of trails that fed into them. A crazy game of chess would now ensue, as Charlie would monitor each move the recon team made, ruthlessly blocking their escape route back to their liaison with the Huey.
With a sigh of resignation, BA knew Hannibal would give the order to follow one of the guarded trails to get back to the Pick-up Zone. With ammo supplies getting low, they really had no other choice. Spreading out in their usual formation, Lieutenant Peck was out front as point man, keeping the escape route clear by obliterating several enemy soldiers that got in his way with his M-16.
Fitz dutifully kept in touch with TOC, as he hot-footed along the trail. He frantically established where the designated LZ would be. He was flanked by Hannibal and 2nd Lt Brenner, who, with guns also blazing, were covering their left and right positions. BA was in his usual position at the rear, covering their sorry arses.
With the PZ now established, the team made a suicidal dash to get to the Landing Zone, before it became overrun by the enemy. By this time the rescue slick, together with one of the intimidating mother-fucker gunships, were homing in on their location.
And now their fate depended upon a certain Captain HM Murdock getting them out. BA shook his head irritably as he thought of Murdock, who in the Sergeant's mind was barking mad and already on the verge of falling into an abyss of undeniable instability. He had only been with the unit for a couple of months and BA was still trying to work out what made the madcap pilot tick!
It was a standing joke amongst the troops that BA hated flying – especially when Howlin' Mad was at the controls! He was always cussing the pilot because of his highly over-dramatic, aerobatic antics. He had developed a very unique war cry on take-off, which unnerved the already overwrought Sergeant every time he heard it. But BA also knew that the fool would fly to the moon to make an extraction if his buddies were in danger. The sound of his voice suddenly crackling over the radio, somehow brought a sense of calm to the co-ordinated panic of the recon team.
"Prairie Dog this is Screaming Eagle. We're on short final. Do you copy?"
"Roger!" panted back Fitz. "We're on our way!"
"When you get to Papa Zulu we'll cover your five," continued Murdock. "You copy?"
"I copy!" confirmed Fitz, his voice almost drowned out by the accompaniment of AK-47 machine fire in the background.
Four of the five men had now made it to the edge of the PZ. Miraculously, they had all survived with everything intact, apart from the usual battle scars that went hand-in-hand with being out in the field. Murdock was already making his final approach. With unfounded precision and accuracy, he somehow managed to land in a clearing between two huge trees that had sort of formed a widened out "U" shape, where other pilots had also made the same dangerous landing.
Brady, the Door Gunner and Griff, the Crew Chief had already began to spray bullets from their M-60 machine guns at the jungle, effectively keeping Charlie away from the LZ. It was only when the team were scrambling to get on the Huey, that Hannibal noticed BA was missing. Having barely enough ammo between them to warrant a rescue party, he couldn't risk going back for a counter-attack. He pressed the intercom button to speak urgently to Murdock, who was just about to pull pitch and take-off.
"Captain!" he shouted anxiously. "BA is MIA – repeat, BA is MIA!"
"Roger!" replied Murdock. "No problemo, Colonel, I've got the Big Ugly Mudscucker covered!"
With that he turned his controls over to Murphy, his co-pilot and discarded his safety harness. He pulled out his .38 pistol and quickly exited the cockpit, yelling instructions out to the extremely bewildered Peter Pilot.
"If I'm not back in a few minutes, take off!" he shouted, ignoring Murphy's four-letter tirade in reply!
Murdock sprinted out towards the jungle, where he could hear the familiar rattle of an M-16 still firing. Shooting sparingly at any sudden movement with his pistol, he headed towards the sound of the gunfire. It would appear that BA was held up behind a rotten log, holding his own against the barrage of enemy fire.
In between rounds, he was gallantly trying to bandage up an injury to his arm. A bullet had just grazed the lower part of his forearm and the open wound was bleeding quite a bit. The look of surprise on his face when he saw the pilot diving over the log would have been nothing short of comical, if it wasn't for their dire situation. He couldn't quite believe that Murdock had made it past the NVA with only a hand pistol for protection.
"What da heck?" he yelled at Murdock, who was grinning inanely at him.
"Dah dah!" enthused Murdock, as if he had just performed some amazing magic trick. "The Calvary has arrived! Come on, Big Guy. This aint no time to be admirin' the flora and fauna!"
"Quit da jibber-jabber!" barked back BA. "Let's get outta here before we get mobbed!"
Murdock was only too happy to comply. A roar of thunder reverberated in the distance, announcing the gunship's timely appearance. It was music to the ears of every grunt who was pinned down by the enemy in a firefight. They knew Charlie wouldn't hang around to sample the impressive array of armoury that would soon re-arrange the jungle landscape, with every well-aimed strike.
Taking advantage of the enemy fleeing in the opposite direction, they both made a dash for the LZ. As they emerged from the treeline, the Door Gunner was already out of the Huey, giving the men the extra cover they needed to reach them.
Murdock was wildly signalling to his PP to start the rotors and get the bird airborne. He knew they had long out-stayed their welcome. Despite the arrival of the gunship, he knew that any remaining NVA soldiers would avert their attention to the helicopter in a last ditch attempt to stop the escape.
Having obeyed his AC's orders, Murphy had started to take-off. As the trio reached the bird he hovered long enough for them to reach out and grab on to the skids before continuing with his ascent. They all gripped on to the skids for dear life as a tangle of arms reached out and pulled the men on board. Unfortunately, Murphy was having trouble keeping the aircraft steady as he manoeuvred between the two trees. He was bobbing up and down like an apple in water, making them a sitting duck for incoming enemy fire.
Griff was firing his machine gun furiously from his side of the bird, whilst Brady lurched towards his M-60 on the opposite side. Murdock squeezed through to the cockpit to take back control of the Huey and the rest of the team strapped themselves into the cargo seats. BA was left sprawling on the floor on his back, too stunned to move after his ordeal of clinging to the skids.
Murdock had just got them above treetop level, when a round of bullets hit the right side of the Huey. Murphy didn't even have time to acknowledge that he had been hit, as the bullets snaked through him. Murdock watched in horror as his whole body jerked violently on impact, blood spewing across the instrument panel and on to the windscreen. He slumped forward rather awkwardly in his seat, held up only by his safety harness. Blocking out the image of the dead Peter Pilot, Murdock began to rock the bird left and right in order to evade another artillery assault.
Meanwhile, as the Huey pitched to and fro, the Door Gunner amongst all the excitement, had forgotten to re-attach himself to the monkey harness. He promptly fell on top of BA, who was gripping on to the leg of one of the cargo seats. The others were hunched down in their seats, trying to make themselves smaller targets against any stray bullets that might evade the cargo space.
As the aircraft pitched in the other direction, Brady began to slide towards the open cargo door. BA immediately shifted position so that he was crouched on his knees and belly-flopped towards the Gunner, grabbing his outstretched hands. As the bird evened itself out, BA caught him just in time. As they both came to a standstill, Brady's legs were dangling outside the aircraft.
BA grimaced as he held on to Brady with all his strength. His wounded arm was throbbing like hell, but he wasn't about to let go. He was looking straight into Brady's eyes and he could see his fear staring back at him. BA had seen that look before and it sent a shiver through his body. It was the same look that he had seen in his buddy's eyes at Jump School, just before he had hurtled to his death, during his final qualifying jump.
The bird pitched again as Murdock tried to evade another round of incoming bullets. BA and Brady started to slide across the floor again. Hannibal released his safety belt and leaning forward in his seat, grabbed on to BA's legs. But now Brady had slid further out the door and his exposed back and legs took the full force of another incoming round. Somehow, BA still managed to hold on to his hands, but he could feel the Gunner's grip loosening. There was a sad, almost submissive look in his eyes as he finally let go of BA's hands.
The sound of BA screaming out a gut-wrenching "Nooooo!" echoed around the cargo hatch, as he watched the Gunner disappear out the door. The whole incident had probably only taken place over a few seconds, but to BA, they were the longest seconds of his entire life.
Yeah, at that precise moment, it was pretty hard to define what madness meant.
[AN: Thanks for reading. Hope to update soon. If anyone needs a glossary of any dialogue, let me know and I'll add it at the end. Hopefully, most of it should be self-explanatory to any die-hard military experts!]