By The Jipster
The musky smell lingered and the quiet calm haunted the atmosphere as the figure sat slumped in the corner, ignoring the damp and dirty conditions he remained still. Numbness was a common feature, tiredness almost a bonus as time slowly began to have no baring.
The darkness ruled in this place, no light dared to invade. No freedom or comfort that most people would take for granted, instead the battle of wills constantly raged and the ties that bound him never relented.
The man simply known as SY097 had no past, he had no recognizable present and if things were to look up he'd have no future. Death was wished for on an hourly basis, the only salvation available in this squalid place.
The sound of the heavy door opening meant only one thing, pain.
"ST097 stand up!"
The man with little energy struggled to comply, his age and features could not be determined amongst the swelling and the bruises that masked his pain. Two armed men took their prisoner and abruptly marched him out of the cell, with no hope or care the man let them take him without struggle.
The man had followed the same routine day after day since he'd arrived, they'd take him to a cleaner place but it was by no means a better place. As the straps were secured around his wrists, the will power the man still held was summoned and the questions would begin again.
"State your name and rank," a voice asked from the darkness stated, his captor's features remained within the shadows and were hardly ever seen.
Silence, no word uttered in reply to the question. The tension in the room grew as the inevitable happened, the cries of the man filled the building as the electrical charge went straight through him.
"I'll ask again," the voice remained calm and on the same level, no anger shown as anger denoted weakness.
The man known as ST097 remained silent, strapped to the chair with no energy to struggle. Stripped down and caked in dirt, blood and bruises. The figure asking the questions could be heard moving slowly, the sound of a stick being hit into his gloved hand only signaling the next phase.
A loud crack and the stick made contact against the bare skin of the captive, the shrill of pain filled the room. A new cut and more blood appeared on the already battered body but the defiance remained, this man was not a talker. Another surge of electricity surged through the weakening body, malnourished and gaunt. Another crack of the stick continuing the man's torment, his cries becoming less as unconsciousness reared its beautiful head.
"We will break you," the voice said before darkness loomed large, managing a slight smile the man gave in swiftly to the darkness.
He was blissfully unawares of the continued beating he was to receive for his defiance, waking up would let him know all too painfully what he had missed.
Pain, throbbing pain invading every part of his body as consciousness slowly returned to the man known only as ST097. His own thoughts redundant, hope taken harshly away. Knowing he was dying brought with it the fear of the unknown, but the piece of mind that the pain would stop.
Abused and beaten, he tried to remember the good times but the pain seemed determined to make sure he didn't. With only a little recollection of who he was or what he was, he willed the darkness to take him but it seemed to enjoy the suffering he felt.
The familiar sound of the door opening and of people entering the room returned, he decided this would be the last time. He decided death was going to get him now and he wasn't going to wait for it, he was going to embrace it in any form.
A light shining directly into his face blinded him instantly and it was quickly moved away. The man was aware that there was something different.
"We've found him, sir," one man spoke.
The steam rose and the water continued to run, the man no longer known only as ST097 didn't worry that it was now beginning to grow colder. He wanted to stay there for as long as he could, the soft touch of the soap massaging every pain he felt.
Finally he emerged, wrapping himself up in the softness of the towels provided he look at his beaten and gaunt face in the mirror. A shadow of his former self, a man no longer the boy he used to be, stared back.
A knock at the door stopped him staring at his own image; he desperately tried to recognize his own features before he quickly turned around.
"Sir," the man now known as Murdock replied quickly and quietly.
"Are you feeling better?"
The expression the man received from Murdock confirmed his own fears.
"We have someone who will talk to you, try and help you through what you experienced," the man offered reassuringly.
The man now known as Murdock looked lost, uncomfortable and scared. The other man stepped forward and gently led him out of the bathroom.
They walked into the main bedroom; clothes laid out on the bed and a table of simple food laid out before him.
An older man sat in the corner, a notebook on his knee observing his new patient. Murdock walked in unsure of his new environment, holding on tight to his own body for comfort. Another man made himself known, he carried a small briefcase and he held out his hand.
"I'm Doctor Richards, I need to examine you Agent Murdock and I will then advise you on you recuperation."
The handshake was made with hesitation on Murdock's part, he simply followed the orders he was given as he removed the soft towels and laid on the bed.
The examination took over an hour, what needed patching up or cleaned was dealt with swiftly. The only conversation had been between the men as Murdock remained within his own thoughts. The doctor encouraged Murdock to put on the clothes provided, having no need for clothes where he had been this proved to be the first part of the long road to recovery and reintegration and he slowly stood up to begin the journey. Every gesture, every expression was noted as the three men held their own court on Murdock's condition.
"Stick to these lighter foods," The doctor advised Murdock, taking away a couple of items. "Eat slowly and chew your food, your severely underweight and your stomach could be in the process of healing. In this case that's not good, you need to reintroduce the process of digestion."
The doctor took out some pills and poured Murdock a glass of water.
"Take these, they will help for now and hopefully aid you to a prompt recovery," the doctor placed the pills in one of Murdock's hand.
Murdock brought the hand up to his mouth and put the pills inside without question, taking the glass he brought it to his lips and painfully swallowed. His hand began to shake as he tried to return the glass, it fell and smash on the floor. Murdock quickly stepped back and brought his hands to his face in fear.
"It's ok, it's just a glass," the doctor assured him as he quickly picked up the pieces.
The man with the notepad stood up and walked over to Murdock, taking hold of his hands he attempted to calm him down. Still shaking Murdock resisted the help and found enough energy to push the man away, sending him tumbling into the food table and most of the things on it flying.
Jumping onto the chest of drawers beside him he curled up and began to hum quietly, the doctor helped the floored man to stand up.
Retrieving what food he could from the part of the table that hadn't made contact with the floor, the doctor offered it to Murdock. Snatching at it, Murdock chewed and took a long time before swallowing. The doctor nodded his head approvingly and patted Murdock affectionately.
"Things will get better, it's going to take time before your feeling yourself again. One broken glass isn't the end of the world."
Murdock didn't acknowledge the man, choosing instead to eat what he'd been given. The two men left him to it; a guard entered the room to observe Murdock just in case.
A long table seating over twelve men sat discussing the man they had rescued earlier that day, the man known as Agent Murdock. He had been missing for six weeks, taken by some militant group in a revenge attack due to some political cat and mouse game. His mission was a simple one, for someone of his age and experience his work for the CIA was never more than simple post runs or message errands to safe spots. His skills in flying were exceptional and it was no surprise that he also flew for the Thunderbirds, it was with them that his talents were first spotted by the government agency.
He had been an eager new recruit, taking an interest almost immediately into the various forms of work carried out by the CIA. He had the right attitude and showed the enthusiasm required and it was little wonder he was hotly tipped for greater things. But something had gone wrong; somehow he had turned up at a place which only two hours previous to his capture was deemed a safe zone. The prodigy had been taken and they knew he wasn't ready for what they knew he would face.
"Doctor, we seem to have conflicting views here," an older man announced.
Doctor Richards looked briefly at his colleague, the highly respected psychiatrist to his left who only an hour earlier had been pushed into a table full of food by Murdock.
"I respect what my colleague, Dr Wilfredson is saying. However, I do not share his doubts. With time I believe Murdock is strong enough to get over this experience," the doctor argued.
"Humph," Dr Wilfredson sounded in disagreement. "The man is of no further use to us, he's clearly showing the early signs of a complete disassociation with reality."
"Which is why if we catch it now we might be able to help him, my god this is the 1960's not the 1860's. We can help this man, just give it time," Richards argued.
"At what cost? We don't have the funds available, what with all available funds being put into the war effort in Vietnam," another man argued, sitting across from Richards.
"Please, I can help him," Richards pleaded.
"You tell us this man has suffered both physical abuse and mental abuse, he was a prisoner for six whole weeks. Receiving endless electric shocks and countless beatings, not to mention the extreme sexual abuse you have informed us about. This man, in my own opinion, is of no further use to us and is beyond our help."
Richards stared blankly at the old men seated around him, nodding their heads in agreement with the distinguished man. He knew he was seen as some young know it all with fancy ideas but on this occasion old fashion bigotry had over-ruled.
"We have two options, first option at the tax payers expense we have this man committed. Second option is we allow our good doctor to ensure this man is operational again, then we 'donate' him to the war effort. His skills in flying should come in to some use out there, even if only for a short while if you catch my meaning. Better he help how best he can than spend the rest of his days in some hospital at our expense."
Richards looked on opened mouthed at what was being considered, but his experience told him not to speak out.
"All in favor on option one, raise your hands," the man asked.
Richards raised his arm and noted he was the only one to do so.
"Option two it is, can this meeting please be strictly off the record and the contents confidential," he added before standing up to leave. "I'm about to hit the golf course if any of you would care to join me," he announced as if nothing had been decided only moments earlier.
Richards remained seated, watching the old men filing out as he rubbed his eyes. He was going to give Murdock at least a fighting chance, after what expectation Murdock had brought to the CIA he couldn't believe how quickly they had voted to discard him.
Richards sighed as he watched his patient put the final touches to his preparation; he had gained weight and confidence back in the little time he had been working with him. That saddened him, if only he could have just six more months, week's, to get him even better.
"We better be going," Richards announced, sensing Murdock was stalling.
Murdock nodded his head and moved forward.
"Hey, Doc," Murdock announced.
Richards looked back at him and frowned.
"Thanks," Murdock shrugged; he couldn't put any emotion into his voice. Simmering anger still lurked but Richards held back the urged to comfort him, knowing Murdock wasn't ready.
"You just remember to keep to the guidelines I've stated, with your diet and exercise," Richards smiled.
Murdock nodded his head, still unsure where he was going. Assuming it would be to reintegrate into the CIA missions, he was about to enter a whole new nightmare.
The office was well lit and Murdock stood nervously, waiting for instruction. Richards stood by him, also showing some nerves as they waited for the top man to arrive.
"Agent Murdock," Richards hurriedly turned to Murdock. "I can't stay for this, I can't show my approval. Just remember what I'm about to tell you now. I tried everything I could to stop this happening, I failed you and you'll never know how sorry I am."
Murdock stared into Richards's eyes, so full of sorrow and regret.
"Just remember that the world is not what it seems at the moment, bad things are happening and your finding yourself in the thick of it. Just take care and don't take anything out on yourself, this isn't about you its about the system, remember that and always fight for what you believe in, never fight yourself."
Murdock stared at Richards in an unsure manner; he was speaking in riddles and had promptly left the room. Alone, Murdock waited until the top man appeared.
The old man handed Murdock a uniform and some papers; an army general stood besides him.
"For your recent bravery and actions beyond the call of duty, you have been recommended and accepted to enter the flying division of the US Army."
Murdock looked down at the army uniform and tried to take in the words he was hearing.
"You are to be given the rank of Captain, effective immediately and you have been requested to join the war effort. Your first tour of duty will commence in one weeks time, at the supplies camp in Vietnam."
Murdock watched as the general stepped forward and pinned his new rank onto the shirt he wore.
"Welcome to the army, Captain HM Murdock," he saluted and Murdock, after some convincing did likewise.
"You are excused, gather your possessions together to leave within the hour," the general ordered and watched Murdock leave the room. "I think he will do, he'll fly simple shuttle runs between bases with supplies. Nothing that will put any good men at risk, if he's lucky no one will use him for target practice."
The old man smiled, glad to have the potential mad man off his hands.
The heavy rain fell onto the ground turning the soil into an unsightly mess; the jungle air drifted across the base as the sound of a returning Huey became clearer. Using his hand to shelter his eyes from the rain, Captain Murdock looked up and watched it land. Soaked to the skin he moved back to the main building, a temporary shelter from the elements.
Moments later two men walked in to see Murdock sorting out various papers, he seemed to ignore them as they entered.
"Hey, upstart. Go refuel my bird."
Murdock continued to ignore the man, an aircraft commander who far outranked him.
"Hey, kid," the AC raised his voice and begrudgingly Murdock looked over. "What did I tell you when you first arrived here?"
Murdock shrugged as he remembered.
"Welcome to hell?" Murdock offered, his stance calm and uncaring.
"After that!" The AC stated, obviously attempting to show his authority.
"Something about respect, I think," Murdock frowned as if trying to remember the exact words.
The AC rushed over and grabbed Murdock's shirt; Murdock's face remained stony cold.
"Well you don't seem to have taken that on board! I don't care what kind of baggage you carry with you, whilst you in my command you do as I say and you show me the respect my position demands!"
Murdock looked down as the AC let go of his shirt, shoving him backwards a little. Murdock glared back at him but remained silent as he brushed past.
The AC watched him leave, he didn't like his new recruit since the first time he met him, but he'd hope two weeks in hell would have sorted him out.
"That kid is gonna get himself killed," The other man remarked shaking his head.
"Funny, I kinda get the impression from HQ that that's the only reason here's here," the AC admitted.
"What's his problem?"
"Who knows, all I know is he's our problem until further notice," The AC frowned as he saw Murdock pulling up an empty ammunitions box to sit down and pulled out a cigarette.
The rain continued to fall heavily and Murdock didn't even seem to notice as he quietly puffed on his cigarette, he knew they were watching him and the anger within him rose. All he wanted was some peace and quiet, to work out what was so messed up in his head, but he never got a minutes peace in this hell hole. He threw the butt of the cigarette into a newly formed puddle and watched it fizzle out, realizing how jealous he was of that small action.
Reluctantly he grabbed the fuel line and proceeded to do as ordered, he hated being here, in Nam. A war he didn't believe in and had no concerns over, a war he'd been brought to for only one reason. He'd quickly worked it out once he arrived, the way the people stared at him as if they knew something he didn't. He was here to be swept under the carpet, to be out of someone's in-box and become another statistic in this escalating war. He knew he was here to die, but he couldn't help thinking they were going to make him suffer to achieve it, but he was going to achieve it.
In the nearest town to the base, there was a bar that was often frequented by soldiers, who had been given some rare time off between the horrors they endured. For the past two weeks it had become the only sanctuary for Murdock, where he could drown his nightmares and forget what was happening.
He lifted his head and indicated the same again as the barman poured away, his eyes narrowing as he realized his best customer was about to lose himself again.
"Carn on," Murdock thanked the man as the drink was passed to him, he didn't know why he had started to speak and understand the Vietnamese language but he'd always been a quick study.
His many nights spent amongst the citizens of the town had begun to show as he started recognizing some more faces coming into the bar. A group of soldiers, just returned from the depths of the jungle, walked in. They had already heard of Murdock, the kid with attitude who had only arrived a couple of weeks earlier.
"Hey, I hear you understand these freaks, order our beers in!" one yelled over.
"I would but there's no word to describe you, assholes don't translate too well," Murdock responded loudly.
A chair was suddenly pushed aside and the place went quiet, the bar man stepped back and wondered what the young man had said to get the soldier so angry. The soldier approached with menace in his eyes, he took
Murdock's beer and proceeded to smash it against the bar. Murdock frowned; more in annoyance of losing his beer than the actual threat it poised.
"Why?" Murdock asked, showing his disbelief.
"Opps," the soldier smiled, his face soon returning to show anger.
The soldier suddenly reached out and shoved Murdock back off his stool, losing his balance Murdock fell with a crash. The laughter from the soldiers friends filled the bar as Murdock quickly got to his feet, his eyes glared at the man.
"Opps, again," the soldier teased and smiled.
Murdock lunged forward and grappled with the soldier, it soon became obvious he was losing the battle as the friends all gathered and helped to contain Murdock. A couple of blows to the stomach sent him gasping for air, he felt his head being lifted up and then a striking blow to his face sent him back to the floor.
"You better learn to shut that mouth up of yours quick, kid."
Murdock remained laying on the floor, rolling slightly as the pain took hold. He closed his eyes and could hear the soldier and his friends continue to enjoy their evening. He was on his own and no one seemed to understand him, he gingerly stood up and found the bar owner helping him the rest of the way. A new drink waited for him and the offer of a towel to wipe the blood from his face was there. Murdock took the towel and held it to his cheek, removing it only to check how much blood was lost.
He took the drink and silently approached the group of soldiers; they didn't notice him as he stood behind the one who had instigated the fight. Murdock cleared his throat and they all stared back at him.
"Just wanted you to have a drink on me, muchacho," Murdock announced and swiftly pour the contents of the glass all over the man.
He quickly turned and raced out of the bar, he heard the noise of the men as they gave chase but he knew the town better than any of them. He hid behind a small building and watched them as they angrily exchanged words, his own arrogance was confident he would not be found.
As he watched the last of the group head back to the bar he sat against the wall he found himself by and looked up to the stars. Quietly laughing to himself as he replayed the scene, but the laughter soon turned to tears as he tried to control his own fears. Shaking, he lit another cigarette, wondering for a moment when he had taken the habit up. He wiped his eyes as calm was restored; he gingerly felt the new cut and bruises on his face.
Looking down he found he had the peace at last, he savored the feeling as he continued to smoke. A shadow caught his attention, thinking he'd been found by one of the soldiers friends he stood up, ready to fight. Throwing his cigarette away he waited, relaxing immediately as a Vietnamese boy approached.
"You made me throw a perfectly good cigarette away!" Murdock huffed as he reseated himself.
"I have better soldier, much better," the boy announced and cautiously approached.
Murdock retrieved his cigarette and glanced over as he re-lit it.
"It will make everything better, sir," the boy continued and showed Murdock a bag. Murdock knew what the kid was suggesting; he snatched the bag and stood up as the kid protested.
"Oh go and play!" Murdock shouted as the kid reacted angrily to him taking the drugs.
"I'll remember you mister!" the boy screamed with venom as Murdock prepared to escape to oblivion.
"It's just too easy," he smiled as he felt the first effects of the drug.
He stood up, smiling as things started to appear 'differently'. He made his way back to base, or his own interpretation of base in his continuing drug induced state.
The sensation of being soaked, made Murdock's eyes snap open as he tried to get his barings. A small old Vietnamese woman stood staring at him, holding a now empty bucket.
Murdock shook his head as the water dripped down him, the sun caused him to narrow his eyes. Reminders of the previous evening came back thick and fast as the pain of a bruised eye and the effects of the drug took hold.
He tried to get to his feet but his feet were not responding yet, instead he flapped helplessly causing the young children now surrounding him, to laugh. His own anger at his state caused him to throw the sloppy mud at them, their parents brought them closer to them in fear.
Murdock finally managed to stand up and he slowly walked away, checking his watch he saw he was over an hour late for duty. Shaking his head he walked the short distance back to base.
The small communications box quickly fed out a long piece of paper, the words quickly snapped off by an eager soldier. He read them and promptly moved away, walking out of the tent.
"Colonel Smith!" the eager soldier cried on seeing Smith walking across the base.
Colonel Smith changed direction on hearing the cry and met up with the soldier.
"Go ahead," Smith ordered.
"This has just come in, Peck has been found, sir."
Smith grabbed the paper strip and read the confirmation, he nodded his head in thanks to the soldier and headed off to the main building. He walked briskly to the back of the building and knocked on the door, on hearing the sound to enter he did so.
"Colonel Morrison," Smith acknowledged.
"Colonel Smith, What is it?"
"Peck's turned up," Smith announced.
"The base at Da Nang, I'm planning to go over there."
Colonel Morrison looked at Smith and knew he wasn't going be able to stop him, he looked through his papers and frowned.
"I guess you're here because you know there's no birds available at the moment," Morrison smiled.
"I know there are no pilot's available, but there is a bird ready to go," Smith corrected him.
"What are you proposing?" Morrison asked intrigued.
"There must be someone on base available to fly."
"No pilot's being available means exactly that, Smith."
"What about that kid, the one who arrived a couple of weeks back?"
Smith nodded his head.
"No way, I can't authorize that. He has no time in the air out here and his superior has stated more than once he won't get any," Morrison stated.
"I'm only talking about flying to Da Nang, that's less than twenty minutes from here. I need to make sure Peck is alright, he's part of my unit whose been missing for over a week."
"Talk to Foster, he's in charge of Murdock. I can't promise anything," Morrison sighed.
Smith turned around and promptly left the office, feeling time had been wasted already.
The raised voices coming from the tent could be heard all around the base, inside Murdock simply stood as if waiting for a bus whilst his commander ranted and raved.
"You're a complete waste of space, you can't even managed the simple task of arriving on time for duty!" he screamed. "And when you do turn up you're by no means fit for duty, didn't I state you were to stay on base last night!"
Murdock looked everywhere but at his commander as he continued to holler at him.
"I just don't know what to do with you, Murdock. If your looking to be sent home then your out of luck cos that's the last place your going, why don't you just accept that? I have ways of dealing with scraps like you and you're very close to finding out how!"
The commander reached out and held Murdock's face, checking his cut and bruised face from the night before. He shook his head and let go, turning his back on him.
"Just get out of my sight," he ordered and heard Murdock leaving the tent.
Murdock walked away from the tent, kicking the ground as he walked. His own anger continuing to grow at his situation. He looked at the lone helicopter; he wasn't even able to do the one thing that still made sense to him. Finding an empty container Murdock kicked out in frustration, watching it smack into the shins of a colonel who had just come into view.
"Fantastic," Murdock muttered and walked away.
Murdock stopped and took a deep breath, expecting another lecture.
"It's Captain Murdock, right?"
Murdock turned around and narrowed his eyes at the colonel.
"Have we met?" he asked with a touch of arrogance, hoping his stance would delay any lecture.
"No, my name if Smith, Colonel Smith," the colonel offered his hand.
Murdock looked at him suspiciously as he approached. Reluctantly he took the colonel's hand and shook it.
"I understand you can fly that bird," Smith motioned to the helicopter.
"You're mistaken, that's the last thing I can do around here," Murdock responded allowing his anger to mask his voice.
"We'll see," Smith smiled and walked towards the tent.
Murdock watched him walk away, confused by his words. He didn't know why but somehow he sensed that colonel was different. He hadn't risen to his attitude and he didn't try to put him in his place. Frowning, Murdock walked away thinking of ways to get into this new colonel's bad books.
The commander looked up at the colonel and smirked, shaking his head.
"I need to get to Da Nang, and you can't fly me because you're about to do a pick up. There's a chopper available
and you have a pilot, I don't see the problem,"
"Murdock is the problem," The commander admitted.
"I'm only asking for him to fly me to Da Nang not to win us the war," Smith replied.
"I know you have this reputation for picking out the rubbish and making soldiers of them but I really would not recommend this kid, he's trouble."
"Listen, Foster. He can fly and I need a pilot, I wouldn't be stood here still arguing if I wasn't desperate to get to Da Nang, give this kid a chance."
"Fine, fine. Take him but I'm accepting no responsibility for his actions, the guy is crazy."
Smith smiled and turned around, wanting to waste no further time.
Smith squinted into the sun as he searched for the pilot he'd just acquired; there was no sign of him. He walked around the area unable to see him, growing impatient after all the trouble he had had to get him.
He stopped on hearing the slight sound of someone talking; he approached and stepped closer to where it was coming from. He turned around the corner and saw his pilot talking out loud, with some anger although he couldn't quite pick up the words.
"Captain?" Hannibal announced.
Murdock snapped his head around, angered by the intrusion. He stood up quickly and came face to face with Smith.
Smith held his stare with the man, knowing he was treading on very light ground with him.
"Go to the chopper and get her warmed up, we're leaving in five," Smith ordered.
Murdock's anger was replaced by confusion as he let the words sink in. His posture relaxed as he allowed a smirk to come over his face.
"No, there must be some mistake."
"No mistake, Captain now get on over there before I kick your butt over there!" Smith ordered, raising his voice.
Murdock's stature returned to defensive and he brushed past Smith with a scowl, still believing there had been some mistake. Smith followed him; he wasn't going to let him get too far out of his sight.
Minutes later the chopper was ready to take off, Smith got in besides Murdock and watched the transformation in him. Suddenly he went from being totally angry to being a total professional as he checked the instruments and settings.
Smith nodded his head, still maintaining the air of authority and for a brief moment Murdock shook his head in disgust.
"Welcome to Vietnam air, please fasten your seatbelts and be ready for the sightseeing tour of hell," Murdock jested as he slowly prepared to lift off.
"Just get us up," Smith ordered knowing this pilot hadn't left the base since he'd arrived in Nam.
Murdock's air of professionalism returned as he lifted the bird, he saw his commander watching him go and decided for once not to mess things up. If this could be the start of him flying more at least it would make his life a little more tolerable.
Smith turned around sharply to his pilot, his thoughts had been focusing on Peck and he hadn't expected any sudden noise.
"What the?" Smith began.
Murdock turned around to him without answer, only a grin and a manic look in his eye. Smith began to seriously doubt his own insistence on this man flying him, but something clicked. For the first time since he first encountered this man, Captain Murdock, he sensed a purpose. The twinkle in his eye was obvious and it became apparent he was more at ease in flight than on the ground. Something settled within Smith quickly and his fears began to subdue.
"You know where we're heading, right?" Smith checked knowing this was the kid's first flight in Nam.
"Da Nang, sure. Second right after the big tree up there," Murdock said without a hint of jest.
Smith narrowed his eyes as he checked the surrounding area.
"Captain, we're flying over a jungle, from here to Da Nang it's jungle. Tree's are not usually a good pointer," Smith advised him.
"I know where we're going and I know my trees," Murdock insisted enough for Hannibal to drop it in the hope they didn't get lost.
A smile came over Smith's face; there was definitely something he liked about this pilot. He found it a breath of fresh air and pleasant to meet one who didn't try to cloud you with constant jargon or trying to make out they had a more difficult job than they did. He certainly had never come across a pilot who howled on take off, he hoped the kid never lost that spirit in the air that he had obviously lost on the ground.
Smith looked over as enemy fire was sighted in the distance, along their flight path. He looked over to Murdock knowing he hadn't dealt with this before.
"Just stay alert," Smith ordered and Murdock nodded his head as they got closer. "They might be alerted to our presence and try to shoot us down, don't get too close," he added.
Murdock shifted position, he'd never been this close to conflict and an adrenaline rush hit him as he altered their heading slightly to avoid direct conflict. As they got nearer he started to see what appeared to be fast moving bugs below him, he tensed up a little but controlled himself to stay focused.
"There shooting at us, evasive maneuvers," Smith ordered.
Murdock nodded his head and swung the chopper with ease to the left before banking up to the right, the bullets could be heard occasionally hitting the body work but no serious damaged was being done.
"We're too far out of their range, the bullets are dying before they reach us," Murdock informed Smith.
"Good, keep it like that," Smith acknowledged.
He looked over to Murdock who seemed totally unfazed by the encounter, something he'd never seen in a pilot's first trip through Nam before. He'd often seen and had come to expect the new pilots to be a little dazed by their first taste of war.
"Good work," Smith commended Murdock who simply nodded his head.
"Da Nang is approaching, we should be in the bar in ten," Murdock smiled.
Smith laughed at Murdock remark and his thoughts returned to his downed man, Peck.
"So, who we picking up?" Murdock suddenly asked as if sensing Smith's thoughts.
"One of my unit, a young lieutenant by the name of Templeton Peck."
"Sounds like he should be in real estate not in a war," Murdock thought out loud.
Smith nodded his head knowingly.
"He's a good soldier, went missing about a week ago. One of the units managed to rescue him and bring him back."
"What would have happened to him?"
"Who knows, usually it's not good."
Murdock seemed lost in his own thoughts as he remembered being held captive himself, not being able to escape. He found it hard to imagine that another man could have suffered the same, he couldn't imagine it being worse than what he had experienced.
"What if he don't want to come back with you?"
"What makes you think he won't?"
Murdock looked uneasy at the question.
"Maybe he didn't want to be rescued," Murdock suggested.
"Are you kidding? Who would want to stay a POW?"
"Maybe he wanted to die, to be free of the pain. You should have left him to die."
Smith glanced over at the captain, his stony face suggesting his seriousness.
"We don't leave good men to die, Captain," Smith raised his voice to show his anger at the suggestion.
"What about the ones that ain't so good, huh? They get left behind? They get moved or shifted to be other people's problems. No one goes after the bad ones do they?" Murdock argued showing some of his vented up anger.
Smith looked ahead, not knowing what Murdock was referring to but his anger couldn't let him continue the conversation. They both continued the flight in silence.
The chopper landed with ease and Murdock went through the motions of shutting it down. Smith got out and turned to the pilot.
"Thanks, be here in an hour ready to return," he ordered.
Murdock nodded his head and jumped out of the chopper.
Murdock was walking away and ignored the cry.
"Hey, you the pilot!"
Murdock felt a hand on his shoulder and he stopped and turned around.
"What!" he cried.
"You have to fill in the duty log, you have to its procedure!"
"Stuff procedure I need a beer," Murdock stated and continued to walk.
"If you don't I'll have to report you!"
"Well make sure you spell my name right, it's CK not CH at the end!" Murdock yelled as he walked away.
The man watched dumfounded and filled out the report form to hand to his superior.
Smith entered the room where he'd been directed, sat on the chair inside was Lt. Peck. He saw instantly the bruised face and how weak his supplies officer appeared.
"Hey kid," Smith announced.
"Hannibal!" Peck turned around and smiled.
"How's it going? You know BA doesn't like having to be worried sick," Hannibal smiled.
"Well it might do the bad attitude some good," Peck replied with a smile.
"Don't talk to me about bad attitudes," Smith sat down.
"What's BA done now? He hasn't hit Morrison again has he?"
"Not BA, I've uncovered another bad attitude that might rival BA's if he isn't careful."
"You're kidding? Do you go looking for them or something?"
"He was the only pilot available," Hannibal shrugged. "He's good though," he added.
"Uh-oh, why do I sense you want to take this new BA under your wing?"
"Who says I do, I'm not sure even I can help him."
"Because I know you Hannibal, this jazz everyone talks about I can see that in your eyes right now. You know Thomas comes to the end of his tour in a couple of months and we'll be looking for a new pilot," Peck smiled.
"Well the way this man acts, he won't be here in a couple of weeks, let alone months, the guy needs taming."
"Sounds perfect," Peck jested.
"You seem ok, you sure you're all right?" Smith changed the subject not wanting Peck to hide his feelings.
"I'm Ok, you've always said I'm strong." Peck replied, with a little bit of distance in his voice.
Hannibal stood up and guided Peck to the door.
"Let's get you sorted out so we can return to base and regroup."
Peck stood up, showing the signs of pain and under-nourishment, he accepted Smith's hand of help as they walked out of the room.
Smith and Peck approached the chopper and it was obvious that it was not ready to leave as scheduled.
"Hey, where's my pilot?" Smith asked.
"Haven't seen him, shot off as soon as he landed. I've had to report him for not signing the duty book and for his overall conduct."
Peck looked at Hannibal.
"You weren't joking about the BA bit were you?"
"Face, stay here, I'll go and find him," Hannibal motioned, his anger clearly showing.
"He said he was getting himself a beer," the man offered as Smith walked away.
Smith scanned the third local bar he knew of and finally found his man; about to get his head knocked off as he confronted another man twice his size. Smith hurried over and approached the confrontation.
"You take back what you said about me before I knock you to the ground!"
"I only take back things when I lie, I was speaking the truth," Murdock replied casually.
The man was bringing his hand back when Smith stepped in.
"Hold it right there!" Smith yelled and the man instantly let go of Murdock and stood to attention, realizing Smith was a colonel.
Murdock resumed his position at the bar, oblivious to the customs of meeting senior officers.
"What seems to be the problem?"
"This soldier was suggesting things about my mother that I took offence to, sir!" the soldier responded.
The soldier looked around; not realizing the man he was threatening actually out ranked him. He wasn't wearing any identifiable motifs to suggest his rank.
"It was all true," Murdock shrugged.
The soldier growled his contempt, no longer caring that Murdock out ranked him; he just wanted to bring him down a peg or two.
Smith stepped forward; knowing the soldier wasn't going to be able to contain himself much longer. He grabbed Murdock by the collar and marched him out of the bar, Murdock managed to keep hold of his beer in the process. Once outside Smith pushed him against the wall and held him tight.
"You had orders to have the chopper ready to fly over twenty minutes ago, captain. I do not like my orders being ignored!"
Murdock sipped some more beer before Hannibal smashed it out of his hand against the wall. Murdock looked at his hand that had started to bleed from the broken glass that now fell to the ground and Smith backed off, knowing he had acted unprofessionally.
Murdock moved away clutching his hand and headed back to base. Smith followed wanting to apologize but not knowing how Murdock would react.
"I guess you'll be joining the queue to report me," Murdock muttered as Smith caught him up.
"Your action warrants it, but in the circumstances I'll drop it if this incident is never brought up again, understand?"
"Sure," Murdock responded still clutching his hand.
"I'll find another pilot, don't worry," Smith advised him.
Murdock looked at him sadly and quickly let go of his hand.
"I'll be alright, it's just a scratch," he insisted.
"You sure?" Smith checked not convinced.
"Trust me," Murdock said as seriously as he could and Smith didn't miss the meaning.
"OK, just don't let me down," Smith asked.
"I'm sorry about the bar thing, I lost track of time and then that sour face started on me," Murdock began.
"No problem, now get that chopper ready to fly and we'll be away," Smith stated as they approached it, sensing for the first time some true regret in Murdock's voice.
Peck moved over from the tent as they got closer.
"So you've found our pilot I imagine, funny I always thought pilot's slept with their choppers," Peck teased.
Murdock looked at the young, blond haired kid. Knowing it was very likely he had experienced much the same as he had but somehow he appeared unaffected by it all. He could joke and laugh; he looked younger than he was. How could he come to terms with it so well?
"Lt. Peck I'd like you to meet-" Smith paused as he looked at Murdock. "-Howling Mad Murdock, our pilot for today," he finished.
Murdock glanced at him confused by the introduction but shook Peck's hand.
"Call me Face," Peck insisted.
"You'll see," Peck smiled.
Smith moved away and walked over to the tent to get a flight time. Peck moved closer to Murdock.
"That's a good sign," Peck whispered.
"What is?" Murdock asked.
"He's given you a nick name, Hannibal only gives people he likes nick names. We all call him Hannibal for that reason, to show our thanks to him amongst other things."
Murdock looked at the admiration in Peck's eyes towards Smith, he didn't know what to think, he didn't want to like anything about this place but it was beginning to get harder.
"I didn't ask him to like me," Murdock stated and walked to the chopper, sensing Peck's surprise.
"Hannibal doesn't have to ask!" Peck snapped back after him in annoyance.
Hannibal came back and saw his lieutenant almost fuming.
"Hey, what's going on?"
"Nothing," Peck replied.
"Face," Hannibal insisted grabbing Peck's arm as he tried to move away.
"I just don't rate your chances in breaking him in, I don't think he'll fit in," Face replied truthfully.
"You've made up your mind, just like that after a couple of minutes with him?"
"Look, Hannibal I know what you're like but I just don't think the rest of the team will like him, he's messed up."
"I seem to remember you carrying a grudge when I first found you, or would you have preferred me to look the other way? You didn't exactly have a glowing reference, weren't you on your way to being court marshalled?" Hannibal asked, already knowing the answer. An edge to his voice made Peck stop and think.
"Point taken but I think he's going to be tough nut to crack," Face shrugged.
"Let me worry about that, you just worry about getting fit again. I think our taxi awaits," Hannibal motioned as he saw the chopper come to life as the rotors began to turn.
Murdock had sensed Peck's distrust of him as soon as he had got into the helicopter; he simply looked away and concentrated on his duties as he flew the chopper above the skyline. He figured he wouldn't be getting much more flying time after the reports came flooding in about his behavior. Inwardly he found himself sighing, he didn't mean to mess things up for himself but it appeared he was destined to.
He could hear Smith and Peck talking in the back of the helicopter, there was a great respect for each other there. He focused on Peck, finding it hard to believe he had just hours earlier been held against his will. He seemed as if he'd just come back from a holiday camp and yet Peck got treated like royalty compared to how he was treated.
The anger within him reared its head again, anger at his situation and anger at what happened to him. The sound of gunfire passing closely by brought his attention back to the flight and he realized they were in the midst of another gunfight.
"They must have been waiting for us, they must have guessed we'd be back, that or they just got lucky," Smith yelled forward. "Take evasive action," he added.
"Too late, the bullets are coming from both sides. Too late to change course," Murdock yelled back.
"Just do it!" Smith screamed back as bullets continued to shower them knowing the pilot was not experienced in these situations.
"No!" Murdock yelled shaking his head, he instead lowered the helicopter and moved swiftly from side to side.
"Any lower Captain and we'll be nesting with the birds, captain!" Smith yelled clearly agitated.
Smith looked forward and saw how calm Murdock actually was as his body followed the movement of the chopper. He was now just hovering above the treetops but the firing had stopped. The angle was too tight to be fired at and the chopper was too well hidden amongst the trees, Smith sat back with a huge grin. Face sat next to him with panic filled eyes at the passing branches.
"Just one branch sticking out too far, Hannibal!" Peck hissed.
"Trust him," Hannibal almost ordered.
Murdock continued to expertly guide them through the trees before slowly rising above them and resuming the flight at a normal level. He found himself feeling good for the first time in a long while, he had been of use. His anger returned as he remembered the reason he was here, being of use was not his objective.
Moments later he landed at the base, once he got out of the chopper he was met by Smith who held out his hand.
"Good work, Captain," Smith smiled as Murdock accepted his hand.
He glared at the colonel and looked away once they had shaken hands, he walked to the tent to fill out the duty log. Once he had signed it Donald Duck he retreated to prepare the chopper for the next flight, one he knew he'd have no part in.
He was surprised to find Colonel Smith was still there, sitting down on some boxes and waiting it seemed for him. He notice Peck had already gone someplace else, he continued to work as if he hadn't spotted him.
"So what is your story?" Smith asked as he prepared a cigarette.
Murdock ignored him as he washed the windshield. He closed his mind not wanting to ever reveal what lay within.
"I want to help you," Smith persisted.
Murdock simply smirked at his notion; it was a joke only he could laugh at. Smith noted the laugh with concern, wondering what this man hid and why he seemed so angry.
"I'm not here to be helped," Murdock finally announced as he threw the dirty bucket of water across the path leading to the tent.
It didn't escape Smith's attention what Murdock had done, he found himself smiling. He was beginning to like this man's style in dealing with his anger, although he knew this was only the very tip of the iceberg.
"Then why are you here?"
"That's not for me to tell," Murdock responded immediately, his growing anger evident. "Why don't you ask the suits? If they have trouble remembering tell them to look it up in their files under N," he sneered with contempt.
"No-hope," Murdock threw the empty bucket at the wall of the tent in a rage and quickly stormed off.
Smith watched him go but remained seated, not knowing what to do or how to handle the extremely fragile man he'd seen before him.
Murdock continued to walk, holding back his emotions until he reached a place where no one could see or hear him, right at the back of the base. He found himself by a brick wall which he began to thump without care and the tears finally released themselves as he let the pain of his existence come out. He slumped against the wall and reached into the side pocket of his trousers, allowing the tears to continue; shaking he rolled himself a cigarette. Blood poured down his recently cut hand and new grazes were forming from hitting the wall; he added the drug substance he had stolen the previous night for comfort.
He took a long drag and felt the calming influence immediately, the tears dried up and he was once again safe. No longer feeling the pain within him or the pain his bloodstained hands offered him, no longer remembering anything about anything.
Smith stood in Morrison's office and waited for an answer.
"I want to know the truth."
Colonel Morrison looked up and sighed.
"I can't tell you anything about him, there's nothing to tell!"
"Really? So he was born bitter?" Smith mocked.
"He signed up like any other, he could fly a bit but he's only here to fill in the gaps, an extra pair of hands," Morrison hit back intending to reveal no more.
"I want him to join my team, I want him to take over from Thomas when his tour finishes," Hannibal announced.
Morrison shook his head, frowning as he saw the conviction in Smith's eyes.
"Baker is already lined up to resume Thomas's position. He's the best pilot in Nam, I couldn't get anyone better.
There is no one better!" Morrison insisted.
"There is," Smith smiled.
"You're telling me this Murdock guy, with no conflict experience is a better pilot than one who has already clocked up over fifty hours of Nam flying time?"
"My team doesn't want a pilot who pussy foots around and gets the flying time in the air, my team needs the one who thinks on his feet and doesn't fly safety first. Ask yourself how this whiz kid has had so much time in the air? He doesn't have a scratch on him, I don't think he'd be much use to us in the air if we're trapped on the ground," Hannibal responded.
"And after one flight with this Murdock guy, you've seen what exactly?"
"I've seen the new A-Team pilot."
Morrison shook his head, he stood up and tried to think of a way to try and convince Smith he was wrong.
"I can not authorize this, I can not be seen to authorize this," Morrison admitted.
"Why? Can't this man be promoted, or encouraged?" Hannibal probed.
"This man is not army trained, your team is the best the US army have. We can't afford to lose you guys because you have some kid at the controls when you need the experience."
"I can train him, I have two months before Thomas leaves and he can work besides him during this time," Smith insisted.
"No, I'm sorry." Morrison repeated shaking his head trying to dismiss Smith.
"He told me he wasn't here to be helped, I didn't believe him. I thought he was just being paranoid - I was wrong to doubt him," Smith stated calmly.
"Smith...John, leave this misfit for someone else to take care of," Morrison insisted.
"Too late, I've seen the new A-Team pilot today and he wasn't wasting his time counting the clouds from his sky high seat."
"You do what you think you have to do but the minute you start risking the A-Team I'll pull you off so fast you'll be taking orders from Murdock, do I make myself clear?"
Smith nodded his head with a knowing glint in his eyes; he promptly turned and walked out of the office. Morrison put the empty file belonging to HM Murdock back in the cabinet; he longed to know more about the man Smith was intending to train up. All the reports so far didn't bode well, only the thought of how Smith had turned other misfits like Baracus and Peck into soldiers eased his concerns.
The assembled group of men shared one last joke before Hannibal motioned for silence; he looked proudly at his team.
"Firstly, it's great to welcome Face back into the fold. He's given us another five days R and R as he recovers from his injuries," Hannibal announced to cheers from his men. "I also have an announcement to make, I have found us a new pilot. He will need working on; his training is limited but he's good, a natural. Thomas, it will be your job to show him the ropes but everyone's else job to get him trained up in simple combat techniques."
Peck's face dropped as he realized who the person was that Hannibal was talking about; he wasn't looking forward to having anything to do with him.
"I thought Baker was Army trained?" A voice asked from the back.
"Baker is not our new man, a guy by the name of Murdock, Howling Mad Murdock will be our new pilot."
"Howling Mad? You've gotta be kidding, man," BA protested lightly.
"Oh it gets better BA," Face remarked with a frown.
"Hey, we're not talking of that Murdock kid who cleans the choppers are we?" Thomas spoke up. "He's worse than BA for attitude," he added.
"Hey, don't be talking behind my back!" BA warned.
"I'm not you're sat right there!" Thomas smiled as he pointed to his left where BA sat.
"Hey, quieten down. Yes, that man is our new pilot but something's going on with him that we know nothing about so don't judge him till you see him fly!" Hannibal warned.
"Hannibal, the guy has no respect for authority or for life. He's bad news," Face stated.
"You know, every single one of you are lucky I never shared your narrow minded attitudes when I picked you for my team," Hannibal announced with sadness evident, he left the tent and walked into the nights air.
Face looked around to BA and Thomas as the others all began to chat amongst themselves.
"I just don't like him, he's not going to fit in," Face commented.
"He's a strange one, never talks just glares and from what I can tell he just wants to pick fights all the time," Thomas responded.
"He looked like he just stepped out of a ring, his hand was all cut up from some incident before he flew us back this afternoon. He couldn't even manage to get the chopper ready for when Hannibal ordered it to be, I mean, what if we were trapped in the jungle because that crazy man wanted one more beer?"
"Sounds like Hannibal's on the jazz, again," BA shook his head.
"Well, I'll give him a go. I must admit, he'll be a challenge but if he's as good as Hannibal seems to think he is," Thomas shrugged.
Face remembered the calm manner in which Murdock had flown them to avoid the bullets; it was something he'd never seen before and definitely not in the handbook of flying.
"I guess we should give him a chance," Face shrugged.
Hannibal continued to walk around the base, there was no sign of Murdock anywhere and the guard on the gate had assured him he hadn't left. Hannibal lit up a cigarette and wandered over to the wall to think, wondering whether he was risking too much by having faith in Murdock. Something troubled him about the man; there was nothing on file about him, making it seem like he'd appeared from no-where. He'd never come across a man who was so vague, and he seemed to prefer people to hate him rather than like him.
A slight groaning noise alerted Hannibal to someone close by; he stepped closer and found his new recruit in a heap on the floor. He rushed over and knelt down, he seemed both in pain and at peace. He noted the blood covering his hands and sat him up, his stature immediately told Hannibal he was on something he shouldn't be. He picked up the stub of the cigarette Murdock had dropped to confirm his fears, checking the pilot's pockets he found the stuff and ripped the bag open and threw the contents over the ground. In his haze Murdock didn't see the action, preferring to simply roll his head.
"You won't be needing that anymore, captain," Hannibal remarked as he checked the pilot's hands.
The wounds he had inflicted on him remained open and the blood still trickled.
"For heaven's sake, Murdock!" Hannibal hissed trying to shake Murdock to his senses realizing the loss of blood could be adding to the pilot's current state. "Why didn't you get checked out before you checked out!"
Hannibal knew he couldn't take him straight to the infirmary in his current drugged filled daze, Morrison would only use it as an excuse for Murdock to never be considered for the A-Team assignment.
He lifted him up and carried him to Peck's tent, knowing Peck was a dab hand at first aid. He dreaded being wrong and intended to remind Murdock when he came out of this how he felt about it.
Peck had only just turned in for his first night in a comfy bed, or the most comfy bed Nam offered, when Hannibal rushed in.
"Face - I know but just take a look at him," Hannibal ordered already sensing protest from his lieutenant.
Face wearily stood up without objection, realizing Hannibal was not in the mood for protest. He saw the state Murdock was in, and knew why. He was now unconscious and looked like he was on his last legs.
"My god, what happened?" Face asked waking up quickly.
"Took too much of the good stuff and forgot to make sure he wasn't leaking the red stuff," Hannibal offered as an explanation.
BA woke up on hearing voices and saw Face and Hannibal talking, he yawned and then walked over to where a man lay in a bad state.
"Hey man, why have we got a dead guy in here?" BA asked confused.
"He's not dead," Face explained. "This is our new pilot," he emphasized.
"Look's like a crazy fool to me, a dead crazy fool."
"Face, time is of the essence here," Hannibal insisted and Face quickly began to cut away the blood stained uniform.
On removing the shirt, Face stood stock-still. Hannibal and BA had moved away to get some hot drinks but hurried back when they saw the deadly expression on Peck's face.
"What is it?" Hannibal asked fearing they had lost him.
"Look at his body," Face stated his voice slightly shaking.
Hannibal and BA both saw the fading scars, scars they knew came from beatings with a stick of some sort.
"The mystery gets deeper," Hannibal remarked as he noticed burn marks under his arms that he knew could only be made by electricity connecting.
Face started to clean up the hand wounds trying not to think how Murdock had received the injuries.
Hannibal moved BA away from Face; he wanted to talk about it without reminding Face too much about his ordeal so soon after he had experienced it himself.
"Man, I thought you said that fool had to be trained. I thought that meant he had no army training for our line of duty!" BA whispered.
"I was told he had no army training period," Hannibal insisted.
"Then why on earth is he here then?"
"That's the one question no one knows the answer to," Hannibal responded as he sat down.
"Sounds like bad news to me, man."
"He wouldn't get those types of scars at flying school, this guy has a past that no one is allowed to know about. If we are going to help him we're going to have to find out, I fear he's not going to want to tell us," Hannibal spoke with conviction in his voice.
"Then how do we find out?" BA asked.
"We're the special-forces unit, BA. There's nothing we can't do, remember?" Smith smiled.
"Man, it's not part of our job to go finding out stuff on crazy fools or breaking into filing cabinets!"
"Well let's make it part of our job, you never know it may come in useful when this war is over," Smith grinned.
"Man if you think I'll be doing this stuff when there's no war on your crazier than that guy," BA huffed.
"Come on BA, admit you love it really," Hannibal stood up as BA growled, he knew he was finally taming the big guy. "Just Peck, you and me understand, we don't want to attract attention, we'll find out what's going on around here."
"Hannibal, I think he needs stitches in these cuts, they're pretty clean cuts," Face called over as he examined the wounds.
"You got the stuff I need?" Hannibal asked, as he washed his hands to do the one thing he had so far mastered in first aid.
"Sure," Face instantly retrieved the materials needed.
Hannibal noted the concern in Peck's face and knew Murdock was in a bad way, he wondered if the drug influence was making it appear worse. His temperature was rising and falling at dangerous rates.
Hannibal finished off the stitches and for a brief moment admired his handy work, he allowed Face to clean up and bandage the cut hand. He noted the other hand had already been cleaned and bandaged, although a lighter one as it had only been grazes.
"When he's sober better make sure nothings broken, it's my guess he's been fighting a brick wall," Face advised, finally moving back to his bed.
"The man is a crazy fool," BA announced once again.
Hannibal pulled up a chair, showing his intention to stay and watch over the captain. The others knew not to question him and went back to their cots.
The sound of screaming woke BA up instantly and he already saw Hannibal by Peck's side soothing him, he rushed over.
"Nightmare," Hannibal told him as he approached, the others had also been woken but BA signalled for them to go back to sleep.
"I'll hold him man, you already have one lost sheep to worry about," BA advised him looking over to the still sleeping Murdock.
BA sat next to Peck and he huddled up to BA without question, fighting the fear he felt from the images he saw within him.
"Come on brother, fight it," BA soothed; only imagining what hell Peck had endured for the past week.
Hannibal watched as BA tenderly urged Face back to sleep and remained with him as he lightly dozed. Hannibal looked back to the sleeping pilot, allowing his own thoughts about the man to continue. There was so much mystery about him that he couldn't wait to get started on what he hoped would become an interesting past time.
He knew BA and Face would be ideal to help him uncover the truth, between then they made a formidable team.
Murdock suddenly stirred snapping Hannibal out of his daydream and he waited for full consciousness to appear. Within moments, Murdock opened his eyes into the dim light. Without a word he simply looked around him and let his eyes rest on the sleeping BA holding Peck tight.
"Peck's been having nightmares, BA just made sure they went away," Hannibal whispered sensing Murdock's confusion.
Murdock looked longingly at the image, wondering how it helped the nightmares. He looked down at his chest and saw his bandaged hands across his stomach.
"We've cleaned you up a bit, you were losing blood," Hannibal explained.
Murdock noticed his shirt had been removed, the darkness brought back images of his nightmare and his breathing started to get more rapid. Hannibal could see Murdock was having trouble and put a reassuring hand on Murdock's shoulder. Murdock sense someone in the room with him and found this time his hands weren't tied, fearing he was about to be taken for questioning again he moved out of reach and found himself falling to the floor.
Hannibal quickly stood up as Murdock landed besides the cot, but Murdock had already scrambled to his feet before Hannibal could check he was all right. Murdock's eyes were glazed over as he got his bearings, Hannibal deduced the last effects of the drugs were kicking in and tried to work out his next move.
Murdock saw the side of the tent and promptly ran at it, finding enough space underneath to crawl outside, moving aside some sandbags he disappeared from view. Hannibal ran to the exit, the night had brought with it a heavy storm. The rain had turned the ground into sloppy mud once again; the heavy rain blinded Hannibal for a moment as he tried to find Murdock knowing he was shirtless and prone to the elements.
"Murdock!" Hannibal cried in vain and then saw movement to his left.
He gave chase and easily caught the bewildered captain up. Struggling in his hold, Murdock caused them both to slip over in the mud. Hannibal held on tightly to Murdock until he stopped struggling. He was out of breath and energy before he finally remained still. Hannibal wiped the water and mud from the captain's face and held him tight, humming slightly to reassure the pilot he was there with him. One hand held Murdock's forehead and the other went across his chest as they both got soaked through by the rain.
Hannibal heard the slight whisper from Murdock and felt him begin to move forward, he supported him to the standing position.
"D-don't touch me!" Murdock suddenly screamed moving sharply away from Hannibal.
"I'm not going to hurt you, Murdock."
Murdock clung to himself as he backed away, not fully knowing where he was or whom he was with. He saw his hands, tied up with bandages and began tearing them off.
"Don't do that!" Hannibal insisted and step closer.
"Leave me alone!" Murdock yelled, his bandages in disarray.
The cold bit him once more as he clutched his arms together for warmth. His eyes were wild as he looked around, trying to work out where he was.
"Let's go inside, it's warmer," Hannibal spoke softly.
Murdock shook his head, not knowing whether the guy was friend or foe. BA and Peck both arrived at the scene having seen Murdock wasn't in the cot anymore, wondering what was going on. They gave Hannibal a blanket and urged him to get out of the rain but he refused, Peck saw the pain in Hannibal's eyes, the concern for the pilot's well being. Peck had seen it before, when Hannibal was trying to convince him that he could help. Peck stepped forward towards Murdock and stopped just short of him.
"We won't hurt you, we don't want anything. Those men that hurt aren't here, they're far away, we won't hit you," Peck stated with conviction and knew he'd got the captain's attention.
Murdock glared at the young man and knew his name was Peck, he knew he'd also been taken and listened to his words. He looked up and now recognized Hannibal but not the other man who instantly made Murdock weary.
Face stepped forward and was relieved that Murdock allowed him to put the blanket around him, he then led him to the tent. Hannibal was visibly impressed by Peck's actions and followed him into the tent.
Murdock curled up on the bed, not allowing anyone to get close to him, not even to tuck him in. Peck found this worrying but knew that he'd finally made a connection with the strange man. He could help him that much was clear. He had shared the same experiences although maybe in different circumstances but finally there was someone who he could help instead of always being the victim.
Hannibal checked Murdock was asleep and then turned to Peck.
"Thanks kid, you don't know how much that meant to me," he admitted.
"I know Hannibal, I know."
Hannibal nodded his head and took his seat next to the bed intending to watch Murdock once again.
"Hannibal, he's not going any where, you need sleep too," Face advised him as he got into his own cot.
Hannibal realized Face was right, he could see he was coming round and knew he would look out for Murdock as well now.
"OK, you know where I am, if you need me," Hannibal smiled and left the tent.
Face watched Murdock as he got comfortable in a dozy state. The sheet on top of Murdock moved off and his back was revealed clearly showing signs of torture that ate at Face, whose own back showed the same scars, although more recent.
He wondered just where Murdock had come from.
The early morning sounds of the base waking up filled the air, the sun drying out the rain the night left behind. Peck opened his eyes and saw Murdock sat on the edge of his cot, head in hands. Remembering the previous night, Peck slowly sat up and saw they were both the first ones to wake up.
"I have some painkiller's for that headache," Peck offered.
Murdock didn't move and remained still. Peck removed the covers and stood up walking over, he noted that Murdock had wrapped himself up in his blanket.
"It will take some of the pain away," Peck shook the container as he got closer.
There was still no response, Peck found a water container and poured some into the cap. Moving back to where Murdock sat he knelt down in front of him, offering both the water and pills.
Murdock glanced up and saw Peck knelt before him, he wanted to be left alone but Peck wasn't looking like he was leaving. He swung his hand out and knocked both the water and the pills out of Peck's hands.
Peck moved his hands to a defensive position, looking to one side containing his anger. He was only trying to help and his thoughts returned to believing this man was beyond help.
"I find they are a lot more effective when swallowed, but have it your own way," Peck finally said as he stood up and backed away.
Peck began to get dressed knowing he had to call by the infirmary, no doubt the shrink would want him to discuss everything that had happened to him in the past week. Peck considered sending Murdock in his place but decided he didn't want to do the guy any more favors until he deserved them.
Murdock looked up as Peck was about to leave, he looked troubled and Peck noticed his expression.
"What?" Peck asked.
"I need my shirt back," Murdock said in a low voice.
"It was ruined, surely you have another shirt. You're issued with enough at the beginning of your tour," Peck explained.
"That was my last one," Murdock replied.
Peck shook his head.
"You've only been out here three weeks and you've never left the base," Face realized and then remembered hearing about how he had been picking fights like friends. "Look, just this once I'll see what I can do, you're not on duty anytime soon, are you?"
"2pm," Murdock responded with a frown.
"Wait here till then," Face requested and left the tent.
Hannibal sat playing cards with BA when Peck arrived back, it was 1pm and he was carrying five neatly pressed shirts. Hannibal turned around and smiled.
"Been shopping again?"
"These aren't for me, where's Murdock?"
"Haven't seen him, wasn't here when I arrived," Hannibal frowned.
"Well he couldn't have gone far he didn't have a shirt, he didn't seem like he wanted to go anywhere without a shirt on," Face explained, knowing how humiliated the scars of torture could be.
"I ain't seen him all morning," BA added.
Face moved over to where his belongings were and noticed immediately.
"Hannibal, he's stolen one of my shirts! I told him I'd sort him something out if he waited!" Peck stormed angrily throwing the new shirts on the ground.
"Calm down, why don't you take one of the new ones and let him keep the old shabby one he stole?" Hannibal advised.
"It's the principle, Hannibal. And my shirts are never shabby!"
Hannibal smirked knowing his sharply dressed lieutenant wouldn't let that comment pass.
"What time does his duty start?" Hannibal asked.
"He told me 2pm."
"Let's get going then," Hannibal ordered.
"Where man?" BA asked confused.
"We're going to make sure Murdock turns up on time, the kid has to learn how we do things if he's going to become a part of this team. Where's Thomas?" Hannibal asked.
"He's flying some of B company across the border for some mission I think," Face replied.
"I want him to start using Murdock as his PP," Hannibal said out loud.
"A Peter Pilot, you think Murdock will do that? The guy thinks he owns the place already!" Face mocked.
"He has to start learning somewhere, being Thomas's co-pilot is the best way to begin with," Hannibal stated and gestured for them to follow him.
Hannibal emerged from the last bar, he'd been told the same as he had been in the other's, Murdock had not been seen that day. He walked over to where Peck and BA stood keeping a watchful eye around the place.
"He's not been seen," Hannibal stated when he got closer.
"Joe on the gate said he definitely left the base two hours ago, where else would he go?" Face asked.
"Do you think he has some lover some place?" BA asked.
"He doesn't even love himself, how could he love anyone else the state he's in?" Hannibal frowned.
"We should at least check the known places, he might have bought someone," Face suggested, knowing Hannibal didn't like what he was suggesting.
He motioned for them to move and they headed to the area of town where the lonely soldiers went for fun, at the right price. The atmosphere took on a grimy taste as the three men saw the ease with which senseless sex was available; knowing the effects of war had driven both the soldiers and the women to acts of self-abuse.
The run down shacks where the sordid activities took place looked ready to fall as the shanty looking part of town fell to squalor. Hannibal scanned the area ignoring the offers; he wanted to find Murdock quick knowing his duty was soon arriving.
Peck needed BA's help to pry some of the more desperate women off him, knowing he probably looked an easy target in his state and his fears returned to Murdock whose own state was similar. It was not unheard of for these women to lure injured or lonely soldiers in and then take their own revenge for what the war had done to their people.
"He's not here," Hannibal said almost with relief.
"You can't be so sure," Face objected.
"He wouldn't let anyone near him, I don't think he would have found himself here," Hannibal stated.
"Some of these woman don't take no for an answer, if they think they can take you they will," Face warned as if speaking from experience.
A sudden scream from the other end of the street alerted them to trouble and they somehow knew they had to check it out. Following Hannibal, Face and BA quickly headed over to where the scream came from.
Arriving to the scene, a crowd had already gathered and Hannibal found himself pushing his way through to the front. On the ground he saw who he was looking for, he had a man stood over him with a knife to his throat.
"Stop!" Hannibal yelled and the young Vietnamese man looked up and backed off.
BA stepped forward and glared at the man, snatching the knife out of the man's hand.
"You speak English?" Hannibal asked.
The man nodded his head; he looked scared as he looked between the three men.
"What did this man do?" Hannibal asked as Murdock gingerly stood up, brushing the dirt from his clothes.
"Nothing," Murdock responded sharply.
"You!" Hannibal stared directly at Murdock. "Shut up and stay there!"
Murdock seemed taken aback by Hannibal's tone and remained still, knowing that the man they called BA had turned his attention to him.
"He attacked my sister!" the Vietnamese man yelled.
"That's a lie!" Murdock screamed back in anger.
Hannibal turned back to Murdock and raised his finger to indicate silence. Hannibal then stepped forward and inspected the marks on the young girl's face, he shook his head.
"Nice try but these injuries are already hours old, you're not trying to stitch up one of my men are you, sir?"
Hannibal asked turning his sole attention to the Vietnamese man.
The young man tried to back off but Hannibal wasn't giving him much room.
"Why were you about to cut the throat of my soldier?" Hannibal demanded louder.
"He stole from me!" the young man shouted.
Peck stepped forward narrowing his eyes as he looked closer at the man, he walked beside Hannibal.
"I think I know this clown, he's a dealer of the good stuff or should I say bad stuff to give it its correct title," Face remarked.
"My stuff is always good stuff!" the man protested.
"See," Face smiled smugly.
"Nice Face," Hannibal grinned as the pieces fell into place.
The young man frowned as he realized he'd given himself away, knowing the blond lieutenant had only been half guessing he sold drugs to the soldiers.
"BA take this man to the MP's, on charges of attempted murder and attacking his sister," Hannibal ordered and watched BA march him off.
The sister run forward and hugged Murdock, he seemed stunned and backed away quickly, bumping into Peck.
"Watch where you're going..." Peck snapped and noted his once nice shirt covered in mud. "...In my shirt."
The sister persisted and managed to hold on to Murdock, Peck looked closely at his face and could see pain.
Murdock could feel the arms around him, closing his eyes his mind went back to the cell. A tight grip, never letting go. Suffocating as his privacy was invaded and his rights taken away, never leaving him and holding him tighter the more he resisted. Holding him down, painful jolts erupting through his entire body as the laughter from his captors filled the room. Unable to accept what was happening to him, the confusion and pain melded together to make anger, then shame.
"Leave me alone!" Murdock yelled and pushed the sister with force before he walked briskly away.
Hannibal had managed to stop the sister from being hurt; he looked at her confused expression.
"He saved me," she whispered, thinking she had done something wrong.
Hannibal looked at Face and they double-checked she was ok before going after Murdock.
"Hannibal, the more time we spend with this guy the more terrified I'm getting," Face admitted.
"Face, I'm counting on you to stick with it. He listened to you last night," Hannibal remarked as they picked up the pace.
"I have my own issues I need to deal with Hannibal, I'm not sure I can handle anyone else's problems."
"Face, I'm not asking for much, just your support," Hannibal almost pleaded.
Face found it hard to reply; he had seen a lot of himself in Murdock at various times over the past day. He had to admit that the previous night it meant something when Murdock had listened to him, it made him feel better more than any doctor could make him feel.
"I'll do what I can," Face assured Hannibal.
"That's all I can ask for," Hannibal smiled as they reached the base entrance.
"Captain Murdock's only a couple of minutes ahead of you," Joe on the gate informed them as they entered, they nodded their thanks.
Peck and Smith could hear the distant sound of the raised voice of Murdock's commander as they hurried to the building. They looked at the building in the distance hoping to reach it soon so they would be able to intervene in Murdock's defence. A young officer suddenly appeared and demanded Smith's attention, delaying their arrival.
Inside the building, Commander Foster laid more and more into Murdock, two of his men stood close by watching with intimidation.
"You turn up three hours late for your shift in a uniform that looks like you've not only slept in but also done the gardening in it as well! You're hands look like they've been through some sort of machinery and I have to be frank and say you don't look like you want to be here, or is that an understatement?" his voice boomed around the makeshift building, probably loud enough for the entire base to hear. "I was told to take you on, no I was ordered. I'm beginning to wonder what on earth I've done to upset the high command because I'm sure it's not that bad to have you as my punishment!" he continued.
Murdock stood staring up to the roof, shaking slightly and breathing deeply as the abuse continued. His mind tried to shut off what was happening, but it started to play tricks on him as he had flashbacks to his time in captivity. The constant questioning and noise, he started to feel the pain he felt then, and the anger began to rise.
"I have enough reports handed in about you to make the Bible look like a guidebook! Well what do you want? Huh? What exactly is it you want? You think you're better than I am? Why don't you answer my questions? Are you too high and mighty to even grant me a yes or no!" Foster screamed clearly getting angry with Murdock abusing his authority.
Murdock tried to avoid eye contact but could resist no more as he glanced over, he saw how much his commander hated him and it pained him within. For the first time he felt scared, he could see the rage his commander had. He'd seen it a lot lately in a lot of different people and it always ended up with him getting hit then feeling more pain.
"You leave this office and you think long and hard about your attitude, I don't want to have to tell you again!" Foster finished and left the office quickly.
Murdock took a few deep breaths; he'd never known anyone to get so angry with him. Looking at the two men who stayed in the office he realized he should leave and headed out of the door. Walking into the corridor, Murdock felt himself shaking, having a knife to his throat one-minute and then the lecture of all lectures the next hadn't done his nerves any good. He figured Smith would have a few choice words to say to him as well, if he caught up with him.
Murdock saw the restroom and quickly headed to it, once inside he turned on the cold water and washed his face. The noise of the rushing water drowned out everything around him and he savored the feeling.
A hand on his shoulder made him suddenly aware that he was no longer alone, he stood up sharply in shock and nervously turned off the tap.
"You shouldn't sneak up on people like that!" Murdock snapped as he turned around and recognized the two soldiers from Foster's office, who had followed him in.
"We just wanted to double check you got the message," the soldier who had hold of his shoulder sneered.
The other soldier secured the door so they were effectively trapped, he then moved nearer.
"I get the impression this piece of dirt didn't fully understand," the other guy added.
Murdock sensed the danger but could see no exit, whatever they were planning they were not intending on having an audience.
"My boss is getting grief from the boys upstairs because of you, they're knocking on his door because you can't control your feeble mind!"
"You're a waste of space, you're about as much use as a ballerina out here!"
"If our boss had any sense he'd let Smith have you, what is it you do to impress Smith so much anyway? Or do you only do it for cash?"
Murdock looked hard at the two soldiers with complete contempt and lunged forward, the words struck a stinging blow with him and his anger hit boiling point. The first soldier easily dodged the fists of Murdock, laughing as he did so. The laughter brought back the images of his torture, the laughter that accompanied the unsavory pain of being abused and raped. The indignity and the shame, he felt the same feeling now as they continued to mock him. His hands were untied yet he still couldn't defend himself, he kept swinging but his mind couldn't focus on the objective as tears welled up in his eyes and images of his pain erupted within.
"What's the matter baby? Didn't you have a daddy to teach you how to fight, or are you just a mommy's boy?" the soldiers didn't let up as their true characters came out.
Murdock fell to his knees in defeat, unable to control his own emotions as he hit rock bottom. No longer caring about anything as they closed in on him, his mind swirled rapidly with various images, he tried to stop it but it was too hard. A blow to his stomach sent him further down to the floor but the pain just mingled with the rest of his confusion.
"Let's teach this loser what happens to men who can't fight for themselves, boy is he in the wrong place."
More laughter as Murdock felt a tight grip around his neck and someone turning him onto his front, no more will power to fight back with the desire to live seemingly on an extended vacation. His arms were pulled back tightly as the familiar sensation of being tied up followed, one of the men now sat on the back of his shoulders. Murdock screamed in pain as his head was sharply lifted backwards so the men's legs could slide under his armpits leaving Murdock in the most uncomfortable position possible. Unable to move even if he found the strength, the supply of blood to his arms stopped rapidly as the man on the back of his shoulders got comfortable.
Then the bit he knew was coming but couldn't come to terms with, he felt hands all over him as his trousers were removed. He tried to kick but a sharp bolt of pain to his left shoulder momentarily paralysed him as he took deep breaths to counteract the constant pain he felt. By which time he could feel the familiar sensation of what was about to happen, the touch sent shivers through him and the humiliation ran wild. Is this what he deserved, he questioned. Hadn't he already been rescued? It was happening all over again, only this time he had no way of knowing why they were doing it, before he was the enemy but last time he checked he was in safe territory.
They began the trial of abuse and Murdock closed his eyes tight. Extreme pain was felt as one of them forced himself inside of him and Murdock could only let out a blood curdling scream which was instantly muffled out by the man on his back, who had stuffed a dirty rag deep into his mouth. Murdock started gasping for air but there wasn't enough, choking suddenly, Murdock's nightmare began to get more and more intense as he sensed darkness looming. He almost welcomed it as he remembered how fond of darkness he'd become, it was like an old friend as the pain continued within him with every push.
A small scuffle was heard outside the door and suddenly the door flew inwards, before the soldiers could react they were both thrown against the wall. Murdock was aware that the intense pain had ended and then of the rag being removed, he started choking for real as someone tried to hold him. He struggled he couldn't face anymore pain, he had a chance and he tried in vain to move.
"It's OK Murdock, I won't hurt you," Peck soothed.
Murdock couldn't stop coughing as he tried to get some sort of rhythm back into his breathing but he was struggling, Face tried to give him more room and gently turned him onto his side to help him. Peck noted the fresh blood where Murdock had been abused and held back his own tears and the feeling of nausea. He did what he could to cover Murdock up from the prying eyes he knew would investigate, hoping it would look like they had just broken up a fight. He imagined that both BA and Hannibal were also not expecting the scene they found. He'd never seen it for himself, not American guys, he thought it was only harsh rumors. He thought only the low lives of the NVA did such acts to men, men they considered unworthy, men like him.
He gently stroked Murdock's face as he continued to have trouble breathing, he glanced over to Hannibal and BA who were securing the men who he recognized worked for Foster. Hannibal saw Face looking like death warmed up, holding their fallen friend.
"How is he, kid?"
Face simply shook his head; numbness didn't allow him to say out loud. He wanted to cry but he wanted to kill the men tied up more, he looked down at Murdock and found a kinship.
Murdock had closed his eyes, the images within were slowing up but the battle still raged. He'd been saved again, somehow the pain had stopped but the aches still tore at him. He remembered the last time he was saved, he ended up in a much worse place and fear turned into panic as he tried to move.
Face reached out and held Murdock as he suddenly began to move.
"Hey, stay still," Face urged.
Sharp jolt of pain fired within his left shoulder as he tried to stand up, he didn't want to go anywhere. He felt more hands holding on to him and ignored his pain and rolled away, he found himself against a wall and he stayed there trying to hide within himself.
"BA take these low lives outside and then shut the door, this isn't a side show!" Hannibal ordered as a crowd gathered outside the door.
BA took both men and handed them to the MP's who were just arriving on the scene.
"We'll handle it from here!" BA growled at one of the MP's who tried to get into the room; BA closed and locked the door in the MP's face.
"Good BA, make sure no one gets in!" Hannibal ordered and rushed over to where Murdock sat huddled closely.
"Murdock, it's me Hannibal. You know who I am?"
Murdock stayed within his own mind ignoring the outside as the images of the causes of his pain continued to play out to him. He wanted them to stop but didn't know how to make it stop, he creased his face as the images grew stronger.
Hannibal reached out and took hold of Murdock's rigid arms, struggling to control the pilot who seemed to be on a one way ticket to oblivion.
"Murdock come back to us, it's over no one's going to get you again, understand?" Hannibal assured him.
"Murdock, we need you here."
Murdock heard the voice, for reasons he didn't know of he trusted the lone voice like he'd never trusted anyone before. He blinked his eyes and saw Hannibal had hold of his arms and the pain erupted again as he screamed out.
Hannibal instantly let go of Murdock and saw the heavy bruising around his left shoulder.
"We need to get you to the infirmary, we need to get you looked at. Can you make it?" Hannibal advised him. "We can help you, let us help you," he insisted calmly.
Murdock closed his eyes wanting everyone to just leave him alone, he knew unless he tried to regain some control that would never happen.
"Just leave me alone," Murdock whispered. "Get away from me."
Hannibal motioned for Face to back away with him, they moved away to give Murdock some room. Murdock sensed their movement and waited, accessing himself both inwardly and outwardly he was feeling strong enough to move on his own. He slowly managed to stand up, noting that Hannibal was holding Face back from helping him, it seemed the message had got through. The pain erupting from his left shoulder was intense but Murdock just remained focused on trying to keep moving. He wanted time alone; he needed to collect his thoughts. He didn't want an audience and the familiar feeling of anger started to rise. No matter how hard he tried to convince himself he was in control there was always someone there to put him in his place.
"I said leave me alone!" Murdock raised his voice not looking at the men who had effectively saved him from worse horrors.
Hannibal seemed to consider the request before gently encouraging Face, then BA to leave the room. They closed the door but remained only on the other side. Murdock saw the door close and he felt the loneliness of the room surrounding him, he went over to the only light and smashed it with his already bandaged hand, the light instantly disappeared into darkness. Murdock paced the darkened room, holding his arms tight around his body and feeling every inch of pain that he'd had inflicted on him. He found his discarded trousers and through the pain he put them back on, his face burned as he considered leaving the room. He couldn't imagine sinking any lower. At least with memories no one else has access unless you let them, but to be found, to have to be saved from something like that. Murdock slumped to the floor and held his head, rocking gently.
Murdock remained like that for the next hour, his thoughts turning constantly over as to why it had happened, had he caused it? Was there something about him that just yelled 'loser'?
He remembered back to when he was locked up for the first time it felt like a lifetime ago, he was just a kid who happened to be good in the air. Doing some simple CIA jobs on the side for experience, he knew his name was being mentioned in high places. They trained him to a certain level; he had a promise of a great career. Then, it all went wrong. The images returned to Murdock like he was looking through a discarded photo album. Images he hadn't remembered for a long while.
He remembered the screams first, looking around the village where he had only just collected some documents. The documents were nothing more than a newsletter, being delivered to various agents known to be in safe or friendly territory. The gunfire came next, instinct caused him to duck but his fear caused him to freeze. He knew of the procedures in these situations but in practice, theory becomes irrelevant.
A gun sticking into his temple, a foreign tongue yelling at him. His first taste of a knuckle sandwich and then the boy he was, the happy go lucky always in good spirits prodigy, was lost forever in what was to become a living nightmare.
Murdock slowly opened his eyes into the darkness of the room, shaking slightly he stood up ignoring the obvious pain. Checking his clothes were in order, Murdock headed for the door.
Before he could open the door he closed his eyes one last time, remembering or at least trying to remember who he used to be. Nothing remained, everything had been taken from him and now all he had left to show was the mess life had spat out and left behind.
The door creaked as Murdock slowly stepped out, the corridor was quiet but he knew the three men who had saved him were seated directly to his right. He moved forward, not wanting to look back and headed for the exit. Murdock held tight to his left shoulder, it eased the pain and comforted him in a strange way. As he left the building and walked into the starry night, he took a deep breath.
Murdock started to walk; hearing Smith's voice did nothing to make him stop. He could hear the three men discussing him, wondering why they suddenly were so fond of him. A moments thought wondered whether he'd be their next piece of meat, he couldn't believe he had any other purpose anymore.
A whistling sound suddenly filled the sky and Murdock looked up to see something heading towards the other side of the base, a loud explosion sounded and the flash of fire erupted from a far off building.
He heard Smith yell to take cover and he settled quickly behind some sand bags, he watched as Smith, Peck and
Baracus rushed off to be of use someplace else. Alone he watched as more bombs hit the base, more men emerged and he guessed they were going to do more than just hide behind some sandbags.
The fires flared even more as the base continued to come under attack from enemy fire, Murdock looked around him. The mayhem was creating the perfect cover for him to just vanish, away from this place and all its horrors. He looked over to the exit nearby; no one would see him not if he went now.
Murdock looked back and saw the base was taking some pretty bad hits, he gingerly stood up as another volley of fire hit the building he just come out of. The scene played out like how it did when his nightmare began, screams and gunfire. This was more intense but Murdock's paranoia caused him to keep looking behind him for enemy soldiers waiting to take him back to hell.
He saw men had fallen from the recent fire and instinct kicked in as he rushed over to them, using his one good arm to drag them behind the sandbags for temporary protection. He couldn't explain why he suddenly felt compelled to do something, his anger was absent as he spied the spare water tank. He calculated the size and weight quickly in his mind and absently grabbed some chain harnesses used for ferrying the big boxes of supplies he had to sort out every other day for the other bases.
Attaching the harness to the framework of the water tank was done within moments and Murdock jumped into one of the choppers. Warming it up he jumped out and attached the other end of the harness to the chopper. The rotors were spinning already as he got back in and slowly lifted up the bird; another volley of fire hit the far end of the base. With a creak the chopper struggled at first to move the permanent fixture, but it soon gave way causing the bird to veer to the right. A shot of pain came down Murdock's left side as his shoulder reminded him of his injury but something stronger willed him on. He saw the mighty fire that now raged close to the main supplies store; he could see the lines of soldiers struggling to get it under control. He gained more height and already knew some of the ground soldiers had spotted him, they saw the rusty tank flying dangerously above them and yelled madly at him.
"I'm howling mad don't you know!" Murdock sneered at them and then let out an ear-piercing howl to prove the point.
He looked around him and spotted another volley of fire heading towards them, narrowing his eyes he made out the launcher. He reached the building and noted all the gasps of wonder as they realized some crazy pilot had managed to bring them all the water they needed, the creaks told Murdock he wouldn't have to wait long before the tank fell of it's own accord. Sure enough, moments later the chains relented and the tank upended releasing all the water directly into the heart of the fire. The fire distinguished immediately and the cheers went up, Murdock leant the chopper to one side and tried to find Smith amongst the crowd below. Spotting him and Peck he brought the chopper lower and Smith saw Murdock wanted to tell him something, he rushed forward.
"Colonel! Get these chains off my bird and then get armed up, I'll take you to the cause of all this!" Murdock yelled above the noise of the blades.
Smith didn't need any further information as Peck threw him a gun and helped to remove the excess chains. They both jumped in and Murdock wasted no time in lifting the lighter bird up.
"I see them," Hannibal agreed and Murdock lowered the bird and flew between the buildings of the base and then the outskirts of the town.
Peck could see the villagers looking wide eyed in horror as the chopper hovered near enough to them that if they tried they could reach it. Peck remained focused and waited for Hannibal's signal. Murdock approached the field where the gun fire came from and used the cover of the tree's to disguise his approach, waiting for the last second before rising up and swooping down.
Both Peck and Smith fired in unison on the men as Murdock did several circles of the field.
"Lay us down, captain," Hannibal ordered and Murdock hovered so they only had to jump a short way to round up the terrified men.
Murdock rose back up and without being told scouted the area for any signs of more surprise attacks, by the time he returned to Smith's position more men had shown up on foot and they were of no further need of his help. He guided the bird back but saw the amount of people waiting for him at the base, his thoughts returned to the horror his evening had previously offered him. He swoop low but quickly rose again and away from the base, he scanned the area and found a suitable place to 'park' in the courtyard just outside the bar in the town.
The owner rushed out on hearing the noise and smiled on seeing Murdock, he walked over. Stony faced, Murdock ordered a beer and remained with the chopper, he wasn't intending to let it get in the wrong hands.
The beer quickly arrived and he downed it in one, he ordered another. Once the attraction and surprise of a chopper landing in a street wore off Murdock found he was alone, his second beer arrived and he took this one slow. So much had happened to him in one day and the only consistent thing had been the presence of Smith and his men. Three life threatening situations, the drug dealer, the restroom and then the base attack. Weariness took hold suddenly as Murdock let his body relax, the pain soared through him as he battled to remain in control. He finished his beer and then started up the chopper again, hearing MP jeeps approaching, he hurried up the procedure and returned to base.
A big clean up operation was in progress as Murdock found himself quietly slipping into the background, he was surprised no one had heard him return considering the noise of the chopper but the attention was focused elsewhere.
Murdock continued to hold his shoulder and was in a desperate need of a smoke, he reached his cot and discovered all his things has been trashed. Remembering how he had slept in the Special Forces tent the previous night he hadn't bothered to check on his own stuff. He imagined the guys must have found some amusement going through the little possessions he owned and then destroying or taking what they could find any use for.
Murdock threw what remained in anger across the empty tent; he checked his pockets and discovered his own stash had also disappeared. He couldn't remember the last time he had them and hit out again in frustration. Standing up sharply he left the tent with his anger returning.
Hannibal looked as the sun began to rise; most of the base had worked through the night to salvage what they could. Hannibal noticed Morrison and strolled over.
"So?" Hannibal began.
"So what?" Morrison asked not catching on.
"What did you think of that pilot?"
"Very brave, I'm almost certain he was not following orders. Which, on this one occasion proved to be a good thing, you know who it was?"
Hannibal savored a nice long pause.
"Captain Murdock," he grinned.
Morrison waited for the 'only joking' part but it never came.
"You have to be kidding," he finally spoke when Hannibal didn't deliver.
"I told you the kid's got more than just a chip on his shoulder, he's got the ability to think on his feet," Hannibal stated.
"If that was Captain Murdock, and I'm not doubting it was, then I wish to see him immediately, his actions should be commended without delay."
"I'll see to it immediately," Smith smiled. "Did you hear about Commander Foster's men?"
"I heard you've placed him under arrest, I'm expecting a full explanation on my desk by the end of the day."
"You will have it to read for your first coffee break," Smith said with conviction evident in his voice, the anger still inside him from what he had seen first hand.
Morrison saw the look in Smith's eyes and sensed the anger; he nodded his head knowing Smith had probably come across another bad deed that he just had to sort out himself.
Smith excused himself and headed over to where Peck sat with some coffee.
"Comfortable enough Mr Peck?" Hannibal raised his eyebrows.
"Colonel, give me a break I've been working all night and I'm supposed to be resting, remember?" Peck protested thinking everyone had forgotten his little POW ordeal he'd faced only a couple of days earlier.
"Where's Murdock? Have you seen him?"
Peck's face went tense as he remembered what he had seen before the whole place came under attack, he hadn't exactly forgotten but it had got lost amongst the mayhem.
"Not since he dropped us off last night," Peck replied.
Hannibal sat down next to Face and sighed, he looked troubled as if he had let all his worries come to the surface.
"He'll get over this, it just takes time and understanding," Peck said quietly sensing Hannibal concerns for Murdock.
Hannibal took comfort in Face's words, he was aware that Face had always been a target and he always seemed to be the one the interrogator's at the POW camps took a fancy to.
"I'll make sure he does, Hannibal," Face added as he finished his coffee.
Hannibal looked around at his lieutenant and gave a look of thanks before standing up.
"Want to help locate him?" Hannibal asked.
"Sure, you know there's a rumor flying round that he flew that chopper to the bar last night, instead of returning to base," Face stated.
Hannibal laughed out loud as he proceeded to walk with Face.
"You were right, Hannibal. I think he is the next A-Team pilot, I mean what he did last night. After all that had happened, the injuries he had he still managed to pull that off."
"I'm not interested in yes-men or men who collect all the stars, you should know that," Smith smiled.
"I'm learning fast," Peck agreed.
"What I am interested in is finding out exactly where Murdock came from, he's not army issue and he's definitely isn't just an extra pair of hands," Hannibal announced.
"BA told me you wanted us two to do a bit of work outside the normal fields," Peck admitted.
"I think it would help us to help Murdock, to understand him a bit better. We don't even know his full name," Hannibal emphasized.
Peck nodded his head as they began their search of the base.
Murdock opened his eyes and immediately reached for his sore shoulder, scrunching his face in pain. Sleep had allowed him some pain free hours but reality always seemed to come back. Murdock struggled to sit up and found he was sleeping in the back of the chopper he'd flown the previous night. Not remembering how he got there he rubbed his head.
Every part of his body hurt, bruises and aches hindered every move. The degrading images teased him as he struggled to find some energy and will power to move. He noted that his uniform, the clothes he has slept in, still carried the bloodstains and memories of the night before. Rubbing his shoulder he reached for the cigarettes that were no longer on his person, his anger returned as he remembered how the drugs he also carried had been taken.
The heat of the morning seem to start agitating him as he moved out of the chopper and walked slowly to the mess tent, needing something to stop him thinking of a smoke.
Grabbing what he could easily take away he avoided all the calls of his name, not wishing to know what insults the soldiers had ready for him. Somehow sensing everyone knew what had happened to him, feeling as if he was the first person who'd ever experienced it. The need for some kind of substance, illegal or otherwise, grew as he tried to leave the mess tent, but the cries of his name persisted and the pats on the backs started to intimidated him.
The loud noise coupled with the hands hitting him became unbearable and he couldn't fight it as the momentum of the moment carried him amongst the crowd. They all wanted to congratulate the bad seed turned good, finally proven to the base that he wasn't as useless as they thought but Murdock could only hear and feel the mayhem not understand it's significance.
He wanted peace and his own space but he was trapped amongst an endless sea of hands, the noise hurt his ears as he saw man after man surrounding him. Suddenly one soldier noticed his discomfort and saw he was having trouble breathing, as Murdock's eyes began to glaze over.
"Give him some room, guys!"
A space suddenly appeared and Murdock found himself being lowered to the ground, a man stepped forward and checked his pulse.
"He's having an anxiety attack, someone help me take him to the infirmary."
Two men stepped forward on hearing the doctor's orders and carried Murdock as fast as they could as he fell in and out of consciousness.
Hannibal and Peck stormed into the infirmary having heard and found Murdock in the end cot. Various tubes lay around him and his heart was being monitored. Peck glanced with concern to Hannibal who remained staring at Murdock, he finally turned around on hearing the doctor on duty's voice.
"Doctor, can we have a minute?"
"Sure, ah friends of Captain Murdock?"
"We are, yes," Hannibal agreed.
"He needs a good couple of days rest at least, his body has suffered a, how shall I say? A severe shock," the doctor suggested but both men knew exactly what he meant.
"If you file a report at my request to Colonel Morrison, the matter is being dealt with," Hannibal announced.
"That's reassuring to know," the doctor smiled. "He had a dislocated shoulder that I've now fixed, caught it just in time, might have been more serious if he'd delayed it any longer. I also have reason to believe his anxiety attack, amongst other things may have been triggered by a need of some sort, there's signs of drug use," the doctor raised his eyebrows and saw Peck's expression, Hannibal's remained the same.
"That's also going to be dealt with," Hannibal announced.
Peck looked at Hannibal in amazement; he had no idea their new pilot was into drugs. It partially explained Murdock's behavior; but the idea, he shook his head. Face then remembered the run in with the drug dealer earlier the previous day and things made more sense.
"That's all we need to worry about for now," the doctor smiled.
"How soon before he can resume duties?" Hannibal asked.
"Light duties by the end of the week, back to hard stuff by the end of next week," the doctor advised and walked away.
"You really do pick them, don't you Hannibal?" Peck conceded.
"I prefer to think that they pick me," Hannibal shrugged and walked towards the exit, Peck followed with a knowing smile.
Hannibal looked across to BA and counted down three with his fingers, with the last finger down they moved further down the corridor. Smith let Peck overtake him and he quickly set about picking the lock.
"I don't remember this skill being taught in army training," Smith teased as he kept lookout with BA.
Peck nimbly unlocked the door and the three of them entered the room.
"BA keep watch at the door," Hannibal ordered and swiftly moved to the filing cabinets.
Peck followed him and assessed another row of filing cabinets.
"They was nothing in Morrison's file on Murdock, what makes you think these guys will have anything?" Peck asked.
"You ask that now?" Hannibal said amused, seeing as they had just travelled all the way to Da Nang and gone to all the trouble of breaking into the main army HQ.
"Hannibal, I'm just wondering why the base where Murdock is stationed has only an empty file on the man. You think there'll be any more to find?"
"If we don't find anything then we'll just ask Murdock straight out, I think we're winning his confidence but I'd prefer not to have any surprises thrown at me," Hannibal responded as he flicked through some files. "How's it looking, BA?"
"Still clear, no ones around," BA responded.
"Got something!" Peck announced and pulled out a file.
Both Hannibal and Peck rushed over to the table and were pleased to find this folder seemed to contain something.
"H.M. Murdock, Captain. Nineteen years of age born in the state of Texas," Peck read out loud.
"Well, at least he exists now and has an age," Smith responded.
"There's very little here Hannibal, I don't believe this though," Face said raising his eyebrows and noting Hannibal's expression. "Say's here he has flown with the Thunderbirds, he surely can't be old enough for that?"
"Explains his flying skills, I said he was a natural," Hannibal shrugged.
"How has a Thunderbirds pilot ended up in Nam? There's no mention here that he ever enlisted in the Air Force," Face remarked.
"I was told he's had no formal Army training."
"There's something very wrong about this time scale, Hannibal."
"Well, it doesn't say anything about him ever actually leaving the Thunderbirds and up to March this year, just four months ago he was still performing with them. He appeared at the Chicago air show on March 19th," Face said with confusion in his voice.
"Hey, we better be vacating soon. That pretty lady who works here won't wait all day for Face to show," BA warned and Face quickly replaced the file on Murdock.
"Is that enough? I mean how does that help?" Face asked as they left the office.
Hannibal watched Peck re-lock the door.
"We can at least be safe in the knowledge he can fly, and fly in pretty patterns if need be. You need guts to do the kind of flying those Thunderbirds do, we've learned that much if nothing else."
"He's only nineteen, how could he have got into the Thunderbirds so young?" Peck asked.
"Tell me again how exactly you find yourself in the special forces, kid," Hannibal teased as they left the building, knowing Peck himself was a good two years experience off the minimum requirement.
"Hey, I earned my place on that training program," Face protested.
"That must have been a real tough game of cards that night, then," Hannibal smiled.
Peck simply smiled.
"So this crazy fool-" BA began.
"His name is Captain Murdock, sergeant," Hannibal stated calmly.
"-If he ain't got no experience or training, how's he gonna be able to join us?"
"We have one month, sergeant. One month to turn him into our new preferred pilot, in that time we have to push him to the limits and make sure he's ready for when it's time for Thomas to be on the plane back to the motherland."
"You really think he'll want to be pushed? That he'll even care about what we want him to do?" Peck asked with concern.
"We can't make him do anything, but we can at least try," Hannibal shrugged and they quickly got inside their transport.
For three days and nights the man known as Captain Murdock was finally left alone, to rest and to think. The pain was numbed and he was able to enjoy the peace and calm, his anger staying deep within allowing him to finally relax.
The peace and quiet, the lonely days and nights he had longed for however didn't do any of the things that he had hoped they would. He still felt the anger and he was still confused as to why he had experienced what he had. No question could be answered and the questions he had, had simply grown and he realized that shutting himself off and having his own space wasn't what he wanted anymore.
He looked out of the window and made out small figures going through drills and exercises. The suits that had sent him to this hell, had done so to solve their own problem. What he needed wasn't an issue with them and his say in the matter amounted to zero. He knew he shouldn't be here, he knew it was very likely his presence here wasn't exactly above board.
For the past month he had shown his anger in ignoring orders and fighting back, nothing had resulted from that. Instead he found himself in a worse position than before, with more nightmares to add to the growing collection. Murdock looked to the men that slept in the cots around him, baring the scars of real combat. Something began to make itself clear to Murdock, it was like a revelation that had been waiting in the wings patiently to appear.
He was sent here to be a nobody, to be shot down on some petty mission that by the time he was noticed missing, they'd have already forgotten about him. A new confidence built up as Murdock allowed a rare smile to form on his healing face. He was no longer going to go back to America in a body bag; he was going to return a somebody. He was going to get the suits that had done this to him to see him return a hero and he was going to get questions raised as to how he came to be in Vietnam in the first place. He knew it would be hard but he knew Smith was already on his side.
Murdock closed his eyes, looking forward to seeing Smith when he return to the base from Da Nang the next day.
Murdock gathered what little possessions he still had and shook the doctor's hand, he wanted to find out if Smith had returned as he hurried out of the infirmary where he had been hidden for the past four days. Feeling stronger and in control he found some rare enthusiasm within him.
"Captain, Captain Murdock!"
Murdock looked around and saw Peck walking over.
"I was coming over to see you, the doctor let you out on good behavior?" Peck smiled.
"Is Smith back?" Murdock asked quickly.
Peck took objection to Murdock ignoring his own question for a moment before answering.
"Sure, he sent me to come and get you. Colonel Morrison wishes to see you and him immediately," Face repeated the instructions he'd been given by Hannibal.
The two men began to walk, Face took a deep breath wondering how to deal with Murdock. He never smiled, was rude and always seemed to be able to turn his good moods into bad ones. He knew Hannibal wanted him to help Murdock, but he didn't know where to start. The stuff the two of them had experienced was hardly good conversation starters, he frowned as he racked his brains to think of how to win the man's confidence.
"Did you enjoy your rest?" Peck finally asked.
Murdock shrugged, a vague nod indicated that he probably did.
"Good, that's good to know," Peck responded, a slight sarcasm lined his actions.
Murdock suddenly put an arm out to stop Peck and he seemed suddenly troubled.
"This Colonel Morrison, he's the main guy right? The one in charge around here?" Murdock stated.
"Yeah, listen there's nothing to worry about," Face sensed Murdock's concerns.
Murdock remembered back to when he had last been rescued, he had been given a short time to recuperate before they announced he was coming to Nam. The fear that history was about to repeat itself manifested itself into panic as Murdock stood before Face.
"I don't want to go no place, I want to stay here," Murdock stated quietly.
"Who said you were going anywhere?"
"It always happens," Murdock exaggerated as his panic rose.
"Why else would this Morrison guy want to see me?" Murdock questioned.
"To thank you? What you did the other night saved this base, saved a lot lives and money. This base was near to being lost but you changed that," Face insisted allowing Murdock to understand the full appreciation he had for his actions.
Murdock's eyes darted about as he heard Face's words, he barely remembered the action but there was a hazy recollection of him putting out a fire and then dropping into the bar.
"Just wait and see what he says, then react," Peck advised him, knowing Smith's presence in the meeting meant Murdock was going to be told he was being allowed to train to be the next pilot.
They reached the main building, the smell of the recent fire still lingered as they entered. Peck patted Murdock on the back as he pointed out Smith waiting for him.
Peck left Murdock to it as Smith approached and shook his hand.
"Good to see you up and about again, captain."
Murdock nodded his head and walked alongside Smith as they headed to Colonel Morrison's office.
Murdock stood uneasy in front of Morrison's desk, with the feeling of déjà vu in the air as Murdock waited for Smith to be seated.
"Well, well, Captain Murdock. Sent to me a month ago as an additional pair of hands for the supplies division and now being recommended for a bravery medal for his lone actions in saving this very base."
Hannibal nodded his head in approval as Murdock's eyes continued to dart around.
"Off the record, I'm forever in your debt for doing what you did. It was brave and I will be highly recommending some kind of official notice of your actions. Which brings me to the other point I'd like to talk to you about," Morrison began.
Murdock couldn't help but fear he was about to be moved on to become someone else's problem, he never imagined he'd want to stay here in hell but it had begun to grow on him.
"Your conduct at this base, ignoring the fact you saved it the other night, has been less than we'd expect from an active soldier in this base. We realize your role is not exactly front line or the most interesting around, but it's still a part of a united effort to make sure we win this war. We can not afford to carry lose cannons," Morrison's voice took on the air of authority Murdock had started to get used to when being lectured.
Morrison took a file and lifted it up.
"In one month, you have filled an entire file with reports. Late for duty, conduct, attitude, fighting, disobedience, leaving the base without permission, being intoxicated on duty, the list goes on captain do you want me to continue?"
"No," Murdock lowered his head.
"No, what, captain?" Smith urged.
"No, Colonel Morrison, sir!" Murdock stated loudly with conviction.
Hannibal couldn't hide his surprise by Murdock's actions, he'd never given any sign of army training before but his response was the correct one.
"Captain, do you want to progress with us?" Morrison asked.
Hannibal found himself raising his eyebrows again and then smiled.
"I'm prepared to overlook these reports, for now. I'll put them down to teething problems in settling in, in light of your recent conduct, this should be easy enough," Morrison frowned as he moved the file to one side. "You've got lucky, Murdock. Colonel Smith has asked for you to be considered to join his Special Forces unit, the A-Team. You will have to learn new things, start at the bottom and with only a month to do so, you'll have to put the effort in," Morrison announced.
"I want to do it, I can do it, sir!" Murdock said loudly, hiding the joy he felt that he wasn't being moved on.
Morrison looked over to Smith with some amusement and watched Smith stand up and walk over to Murdock.
"Welcome to my team, Captain Murdock," Smith greeted and shook his hand once again.
Murdock left the office in an air of disbelief, not knowing what the next few weeks held for him but suddenly finding a purpose. Smith caught him up as he left the building, he glanced over to him.
"Thanks," Murdock offered although he wanted to say more.
"Just don't let me down," Smith stated as they both headed towards the tent where the rest of the unit waited.
The nicely decorated offices were a far cry from the mud and jungles of Nam, a petite young lady opened the door and let an older man in. The man approached a desk at the far end and stopped.
"Sir," the man offered and waited to be acknowledged.
The leather chair swung around and the distinguished gentleman smiled.
"What is it, Lowe?"
"We have a problem, concerning the ex-agent Murdock."
The distinguished gentleman barely remembered the name, he remembered they had voted off record to send him to Vietnam.
"Please don't tell me he's died a bloody hero!"
"He hasn't died," Lowe informed him.
"Dam, I knew he'd take his time, why do the good soldiers die first?"
"The fact he hasn't died is not the problem," Lowe tried to get the point back into the conversation.
"So what is?"
"He's been promoted, he's about to start training with the Special Forces," Lowe finally revealed.
"Are they crazy? This man is just a boy, he can't be ready for that kind of thing, not so soon after...he's only been there a month. Surely they can see he's unstable?"
"Sir, I think it's time we let the army know why we offered him. They have to know about the time he spent in captivity, what happened to him."
"I've heard they have soldiers in the field who have experienced worse, those Vietnamese are ruthless to their POWs," the distinguished gentleman remarked.
"What he experienced, he wasn't trained for or prepared for. He should never have had to, sir. It was mistaken identity, they thought they had picked up one of our top men. What he experienced was due to our mistake, we sent him there by accident."
"I know, I know!" the gentleman cried loudly. "We have to put a block on the promotion, recall him back. If he truly is fit to train for the special forces then maybe we can find a use for him here, I'm sure he won't complain about being pulled out of 'Nam," the distinguished gentleman ordered.
Lowe nodded his head and promptly left the room to issue the order to the army to recall their man.
The splash of mud and cries of encouragement filled Murdock ears as he proceeded to do fifty sit ups, he wearily stood up and then sprinted to where Peck stood and did another fifty. Once he was done he went to sprint again but a sound of a whistle stopped him.
"That will do, captain. Take some water and have a five minutes break," Hannibal ordered.
BA handed Murdock the water and patted the exhausted man's back.
"Nice work, crazy man," BA nodded his head.
Murdock removed his sweat drenched mud covered T-shirt and sat down, taking deep breaths to recover.
"Well your fitness is definitely up to par, captain," Hannibal noted as he stood in front of Murdock. "I don't think we'll have to work on that too much."
"He's pretty strong for someone who just spent four days in the infirmary, man," BA agreed.
"You gotta be fit and strong to fly the birds," Murdock managed as he caught his breath, wanting to justify his fitness.
"You feeling up to some simple combat exercises? One on one hand combat?" Hannibal asked.
"Sure," Murdock eagerly stood up.
"What about that shoulder? Feeling any pain from that?"
"Not really no," Murdock answered, he was enjoying being tested and didn't want to stop.
"You're hands don't look like they are up to it yet," Hannibal noted seeing they were still partially bandaged.
Murdock seemed to be getting angry by the delay, he'd already said he was fine. Hannibal walked over to Murdock, putting a hand on his shoulder.
"You have to work within your limits, captain. In the field, yes those limits change with your situation but in a training capacity, nothing is gained by pushing those limits. Never let your head fight when your body needs rest, take a shower and meet me in fifteen. The rest of today's training can be theory, let your wounds heal a little more."
Murdock controlled his anger and accepted Smiths orders, he walked away to get his towel for the showers.
"He's certainly taking this seriously," Peck observed.
"Maybe all he needed was something to believe in?" BA shrugged.
"I think he's gonna work out just fine," Hannibal smiled.
Peck waited in the changing room for Murdock to emerge from the showers, beside him some fresh new clothes. Murdock appeared and seemed surprised to see Peck.
"I never did get around to giving you those shirts I got you," Peck motioned to the clothes. "I managed to get you more of everything, seeing as you're now kind of on active duty," he added.
"Thanks," Murdock offered as he dried his hair.
"Listen, I can't help feeling we've got off on the wrong foot. I just want you to know that I'm glad your on the team," Peck stated, he really wanted to talk and be able to call Murdock a friend.
"Thanks," Murdock responded and began to get dressed.
Peck was disappointed that Murdock didn't appear to share his enthusiasm, he stood up.
"I better leave you to it," Peck smiled and went to leave.
Peck stopped at the door as a group of soldiers entered, he recognized them and frowned.
"Well look who's here."
Peck was about to respond, looking up he realized the main guy wasn't talking to him but to Murdock. Murdock sat on the bench tying the laces of his boots up, he was almost dressed but for his shirt. He glanced up and smirked.
"If your after more drinks on me, then your out of luck," Murdock stated without fear.
"What's a supplies boy doing taking a shower during the real soldiers time?"
Peck stepped forward, concerned for the situation he saw developing.
Murdock slowly stood up to face the main soldier who did all the talking.
"In your absence a few things have changed around here, one I'm no longer a part of the supplies division and two, we almost got rid of that smell you carry round with you!" Murdock stated.
Peck stepped past the group of soldiers and grabbed Murdock, he pulled him back from the growling soldier.
"I don't think we should stick around here, let's get back," Peck advised Murdock who nodded his head.
Their paths were block by a couple of the soldier's men. Peck smiled but knew what was coming.
"Pretty boy, is he yours?"
Murdock lunged forward and grabbed the soldier by the throat, this time fully aware of his actions and not hindered by drink like before. The soldier fell back, and they exchanged blows on the floor.
"Murdock!" Peck screamed.
Murdock looked around and saw the other men had grabbed Peck and had a knife to his throat. The distraction gave the soldier a chance to escape Murdock's attack; he quickly stood up and saw Murdock raise his hands in defeat.
The soldier kicked Murdock hard in the stomach sending him reeling in agony, gasping for breath. The soldier knelt down, grabbing Murdock's face and spat into in.
"So, what useless job are you doing now, I want to make sure next time I have a bad day I know where to find you!"
Murdock still struggled to breathe as he tried to answer.
The soldier laughed then held Murdock's face tighter causing more pain.
"Now the truth!"
"SPECIAL FORCES, the A-Team, I'm now apart of the A-Team!" Murdock managed to yell, feeling the pride in his voice.
The soldier looked at his men and then slowly recognized Peck in their grasp with a knife to his throat.
"Peck! Come on guys, let's get out of here," the soldier panicked, no one messed with the special forces and he wasn't going to question Murdock on how he had got the promotion.
Murdock fell back holding his stomach as Peck shook his head watching the men flee.
"Couldn't you have told them that a little sooner?" Peck teased as he walked over to Murdock. "You alright?"
Murdock nodded his head but remained on the ground holding his stomach.
"You're not having a good time of it lately, are you? Maybe I should tell Hannibal to get those combat lessons moved up the list of priorities," Peck joked.
Murdock managed to sit up and frowned.
"I'm fine on fighting, it's learning to keep my mouth shut, that's the problem," Murdock joked back and smiled at Peck.
Peck noted the smile, the first one he'd ever seen the captain do and laughed. Helping him up they gathered his things together.
"You want to tell Hannibal about this?" Peck asked.
"No," Murdock responded.
"Thought so, well, he won't hear it from me."
"I know," Murdock continued to smile as they walked out of the dressing area.
Murdock breathed heavily as he ran with Peck, Smith and Baracus. The bruising from the blow to the stomach the previous day was hindering his progress. Peck looked over from time to time concerned but saw the determination in Murdock's face, hoping Hannibal hadn't noticed the discomfort Murdock appeared to be in.
Smith gestured for them to stop by a clearing and they went through a series of sprint exercises. Murdock noted that it only ever seemed to be BA and Peck who accompanied the colonel, he figured he did as well for the training but wondered about the rest of the unit as they arrived a few moments after them.
The unit as a whole took a five-minute break and Murdock chose to ask Peck about the situation, needing to know what the significance was.
"It means nothing," Peck explained to answer Murdock's question. "Hannibal works with the rest of the unit on a one to one basis, but he has us training, socializing and working in the same groups within that unit.
"Why? Doesn't it alienate you from them?"
"He's a strong believer of team spirit, and thinks a unit of ten men is too large to form the trust that is needed to create the spirit so he splits us up. Sometimes he moves us around, but it works. I don't know why it does, but we're the best specials forces team out here, so why question it?"
Murdock nodded his head as Smith ordered him, Baracus and Peck to resume the jog, he indicated to the others to follow in one minute intervals before joining them.
The unit was given the afternoon off; Hannibal took out his map of Vietnam as he planned their next mission. Murdock wandered over and waited for Hannibal to look up.
"Take a seat Murdock," Smith invited. "You've surprised us all with your training, we thought you were a raw recruit," Smith said as idly as he could, hoping Murdock might reveal some more.
"I've done similar training, a few months back," Murdock offered him.
"Really? The bosses indicated you had no formal army training," Hannibal put his pen down and saw Murdock was still calm, not feeling uncomfortable with his questions.
"It wasn't army training," Murdock corrected him, he wasn't sure how much he could say but sensed the colonel was at a point that he wanted to know more about him. "You think I'm ready?" he asked hoping the subject would move away.
Hannibal noted Murdock's attempt to steer the conversation and frowned.
"Do you think you are?"
"I think so, but I know I can only progress with experience, I only lack that in my opinion," Murdock shrugged.
"Then we share the same opinion," Hannibal smiled. "I'll be expecting you to join us on this next one, you'll be a Peter Pilot to Thomas but you'll join us on the ground. Even though you're a pilot, I want you to know what we do and be ready just in case you ever find yourself needed on the ground."
"I've never done co-piloting before but I'll discuss that with Thomas," Murdock stated, he looked at Smith with respect. "I appreciate the chance, sir," he smiled genuinely.
"I want you to understand that this is one hell of a chance," Hannibal indicated. "I only want to have to say this once but I found you last week, lets say not quite with us, I found the drugs on you and I figure that man who we stopped slitting your throat wasn't a friend?"
Murdock looked down, ashamed that the colonel had had to bring it up.
"I wasn't feeling myself last week, I haven't been for the past few months. I was weak and I can assure you the desire has gone to sink so low," Murdock stated with conviction.
"Who was that guy about to kill you?"
"No idea, he claimed I stole some drugs off him. His son kept insisting it was me, I can't really say either way, I don't remember stealing them."
"That woman, he said was his sister. She said you saved her life?"
Murdock looked down and held his hands close together, Hannibal could see his knuckles going white.
"No, I didn't save her life," Murdock admitted, still looking down at the table.
"Then why did she hold you like she did? Why did she say those things?"
Murdock shrugged; he looked like he was struggling to find an answer.
"She wasn't his sister as far as I know, she had nothing to do with that man. She just happened to be with me when that kid recognized me," Murdock explained.
Hannibal looked at Murdock, his gaze making Murdock compelled to explain more.
"I don't know why she was with me, I can't remember much before you guys found me. I just remember the anger within me, something had set me off in a blind rage and by the time I focused properly I had the blade at my neck," Murdock explained quietly, avoiding eye contact.
"You're going to have to learn to get control, captain. This team may be counting on you one day, I can't keep chasing your shadow," Smith spoke with enough conviction of a lecture but with the concern of a friend.
Murdock closed his eyes; it had been such a long time since he had just talked that he found himself at a point now alien to him. So many lectures over the past month had ended with him storming out or in a fight.
"I'm not expecting you to sort out whatever is going on inside your head alone, if you need help, ask for it," Hannibal continued. "I can't guarantee that things will get better, joining this team is sometimes signing your death warrant. But I know you can cope with whatever we throw at you, but if your already holding excess baggage things might turn sour," he added as an extra incentive to Murdock.
Murdock knew exactly what Smith was suggesting; that he should get his head checked out. Murdock nodded his head but only as a reaction, deep within he remembered the last time a shrink had looked at him. That's how he'd got into this hell and he feared being locked up again.
"You better get some rest, we'll be starting preparations for our mission in a few hours," Hannibal suggested and watched as Murdock slowly left.
He found his new recruit fascinating; he spoke so freely when he wanted to and easily yet he still felt there was so much more to learn. Hannibal folded up his map, deciding to take up his own advice and get some rest.
The adrenaline and excitement kicked in as the unit went about final preparations for departure, the chopper was being loaded and a series of orders where being yelled.
Murdock spun around and saw Thomas gesturing for him to get to the chopper, he rushed over and got into the seat next to the AC.
"OK, listen up kid. I know you can fly a bit, I know you've never been a PP but just listen to my orders and we'll get on just fine," Thomas smiled as he went through the motions checking the systems.
Murdock put on his headset and looked behind him at Peck, who was already seated. Peck gave the thumbs up and Murdock did likewise, feeling the buzz of what was to everyone else a routine sweep mission.
With all the men on board, Thomas proceeded to take off and headed towards the proposed co-ordinates.
"Just hold the stick, follow my path but don't take over," Thomas ordered. "I hear your going with them, on the sweep?"
Murdock nodded his head as he held the stick, the stick moved his hands allowing him to feel the flight Thomas was making.
"Being Smith's pilot means you have to be more than a pilot, I never got into it as much as he would have liked. You'd never catch me leaving my bird, just be careful. The jungle isn't pilot friendly and my one big word of advice is, if you're ever caught by the NVA never reveal that you're a pilot or a captain, understand?"
Murdock glanced around at him sharply; the thought of being caught was the furthest from his mind. His advice seemed heartfelt and he noted it mentally, he nodded his head and attempted a smile.
"We have some action to the west, diverting 10 clicks to avoid," Thomas announced to all on board, Murdock looked across and saw the smoke and fire in the distance.
Fifteen minutes later and the bird was descending at the co-ordinates given, Thomas looked over to Murdock and gave him a reassuring pat on the arm.
"Go get 'em pilot, show those ground forces that the airman can do their thing too," Thomas smiled as the bird landed safely.
Murdock quickly removed his head set and shook Thomas's hand before joining up with Hannibal and Peck. They all looked away as the chopper moved up again and the wind rush was at it's strongest, moments later the sound of the jungle came alive.
"OK, team two start your approach from the east," Hannibal ordered.
Murdock watched as the small group of men started to disappear into the jungle, leaving just himself, Peck, Baracus and Smith.
"BA, is the radio working?"
"Course it is man!"
"Yes, sir would suffice," Smith stated. "Let's go we don't want too big a gap between us and team two," he moved forward.
Murdock stayed close to Peck as they began, he held a gun in his hand and went over in his mind the many training sessions he had completed over the past few days to get to this point. His eyes scanned at all times, his mind totally focused. Nothing else mattered at this moment in time, the past was locked away deep inside and the future had been postponed.
Peck knelt down as he successfully unmanned another potential trap from the camp they were securing. Murdock watched from a safe point, he saw the tension and concentration Peck carried with him. Peck motioned for Murdock to come over and showed him another potential trap, he pointed to a box on the desk.
Murdock stepped close with Peck as he narrowed his eyes at the object; it was a box that could be lethal as it could be innocent. Peck hovered around it and backed away, Murdock knelt close to him.
"It's another trap, you open that and your face is launched into orbit. The NVA guys don't like losing a base and when they leave they make sure the base can fight back," Peck whispered.
He crept forward and Murdock watched as he carefully marked the box warning people against going near it when the clean up team arrived. He backed away and faced Murdock, he smiled as he indicated they leave the base.
Murdock couldn't figure out how Peck could smile in a place like this, where death could come at any moment from a number of traps. He followed Peck outside and saw the unit was regrouping around Smith. The whole place gave him the creeps, knowing the enemy had been here and the horrors they must have planned from this position. He looked at the unit and saw the worn out faces, the expressions of war-ridden men who looked at him and tried to remember when they saw all this for the first time.
Murdock sensed his own problems getting smaller, the anger he felt no longer seemed such a burden out here in the jungle. New rules applied out here and there was no room for any bad memories, there were too many out here already to cope with ones from back home or at base.
"Let's move out, men. Chopper pick up at the same co-ordinates, let's get moving we have forty-minutes to get there," Smith ordered.
The men all checked their packs and then went on alert as they entered the jungle once more, leaving the base for the next team's arrival. Murdock waited for the signal from Smith before they followed a moment later, his eyes practiced looking out into the jungle, the colors blinded and the mind played tricks. He walked alongside Peck who seemed relatively calm and at ease with his surroundings, no words were said as concentration remained solely on getting back in one piece.
Murdock sensed movement to his left and he froze momentarily. Peck caught his reaction and slowed down, Murdock scanned the area and realized this time he wasn't seeing things. He saw clearly the movement of one soldier, in enemy colors and he saw him raise his gun.
"Get down!" Murdock hissed to Peck and the two of them hit the deck as the volley of fire erupted around them, Murdock saw BA and Smith further ahead looking back and also falling to the floor for safety.
"You ready for a fire fight?" Peck asked, Murdock nodded his head as he started to return fire with Peck.
"Peck! Cover us," Hannibal hissed and BA and he started moving under the cover of the jungle to give a surprise attack.
Peck watched them go and directed Murdock to where they were heading, he loaded some more ammo and then indicated to move to the right, away from where Hannibal and BA were heading.
"This is the double crossed circle," Face smiled at Murdock and he attracted the fire.
Murdock nodded his head dodging the bullets that flew around them, they found a suitable spot and resumed firing. Murdock remembered Hannibal explaining the move, splitting the unit into two. One unit would draw the fire and move a quarter of a circle to a new position like they had done, the other unit would move a quarter circle the other way. By the time they reached their positions, the attackers should have the men they are aware of in front, and the surprise attack would now lie directly behind.
Murdock wondered if Smith and Baracus had made it as he continued to fire, he saw a man go down but didn't think about it as he continued to fire. Suddenly more gunfire sounded and the attackers all fell in a short time adding to the casualties of war, Smith and Baracus signaled the area was clear. Peck stood up and encouraged Murdock to do likewise, some of the advance unit arrived having backtracked on hearing the exchange.
"Need any help?" one of the unit asked who had come back.
Smith just smiled and ordered his team to keep moving, Murdock couldn't help but smile himself. Four men had just defeated ten NVA soldiers; this was something he wanted to be a part of, he thought.
The chopper arrived back at base without incident and on landing the unit allowed themselves to relax and finally congratulate themselves on a highly successful mission. The whoops and cheers greeted each man who left the chopper and Murdock felt a wash of pride as he was given the same treatment. The unit continued to shake hands and expressed their joy as the relief of another day in the living was realized.
"Good work, captain."
Murdock looked over to Smith unable to hide his true emotion of happiness, he felt like he could burst.
"That was something else," he beamed.
"Peck, told me you spotted those soldiers. Not bad for a fresh face," Smith smiled.
Murdock shrugged, not wanting to be singled out.
"We all have our part to play, I just did the easy part; you had to get us out of there," Murdock stated.
"I think you did well and I will be making sure Morrison hears that," Smith walked away to speak to more of his unit.
"I never had a chance to thank you back there," Peck announced.
"For what?" Murdock asked confused.
"I never saw those soldiers, if you hadn't told me to get down-" Peck began.
"I thought you had, I thought you'd seen them," Murdock admitted, the realization of his actions now being made clearer.
"I owe you," Peck smiled.
"OK, men. To the mess tent, I've arranged a little something for you all," Smith announced.
The men all cheered again and began heading in the direction of the tent, Murdock stayed close to Peck as he considered his actions.
He liked the feeling he was experiencing, he'd actually saved somebody's life. Not indirectly, but directly. His actions had prevented a person from losing their life and he smiled inwardly.
A young officer stood in his way snapped Murdock out of his thoughts. Peck slowed up and stayed with Murdock, he noticed Smith ahead had also slow down.
"I have orders that you are to report to Colonel Morrison's office immediately!"
Murdock looked around confused, trying to determine whether this was something that they knew about. Their expressions confirmed they were as surprised as he was.
"I haven't done anything," Murdock pleaded, he looked at Smith.
"Reporting to Morrison's office doesn't always mean you've done something bad, Murdock," Peck assured him although he knew from experience it wasn't normally a good sign.
"What is this about?" Hannibal asked stepping forward.
"I'm not at liberty to say, Captain Murdock must report to Colonel Morrison immediately," the young officer repeated, he took Murdock's arm.
"Hang on, are you taking him? You're not just playing messenger here are you? You've been ordered to take him there!" Smith realized, knowing it wasn't usual procedure for a man to be dragged to Morrison's office.
"I have my order's please do not obstruct," the officer responded.
Murdock shrugged and allowed the man to lead him back to Morrison's office, he looked back.
"Leave some of that little something for me, guys," Murdock stated looking at Smith and Peck.
Hannibal was reluctant to let Murdock go alone, but Peck reminded him that his unit was waiting for him. He figured some of Murdock's past activities might have come up and it was only a matter of straightening them out, he couldn't imagine Murdock would be long.
The grip on Murdock tightened as they approached the building; Murdock looked around to the man holding him.
"Do you mind?" he mocked but the man remained stony faced
He was led into Morrison's office and Murdock's eyes immediately rested on the two suited men who stood with Morrison. They smiled and Murdock felt his gut wrench, a bad feeling suddenly engulfed him.
"Captain, this is Agent Marks and Agent Henley," Colonel Morrison announced.
"Captain Murdock, it's so good to see you are well," Agent Marks stepped forward and offered his hand.
"What is this about?" Murdock asked, keeping his hands tight behind his back.
Agent Marks sensed the hostility and backed away to where he had previously stood, Agent Henley smiled weakly.
"We're here to take you home."
Murdock looked at the two men, disgusted by their words and the manner in which they were said. He glanced to Morrison whose expression remained calm.
"I don't want to go home, I have work to do here," Murdock stated.
"You were only loaned to the army, Murdock. You're needed in the US now," Agent Marks spoke up.
Murdock smirked, the idea that he was some piece of equipment the Army had borrowed amused him but he was in no mood to laugh. He tried to work out what was going on when it slowly dawned on him, he was still alive and that was not part of the bargain.
"I get it, I get what this is all about. You want me back because I'm still here, you didn't think I'd last this long, right?" Murdock questioned.
Agent Henley cleared his throat nervously and smiled, Morrison caught how uncomfortable the agents appeared.
"You're mistaken, you know your time here was just as a filler, to help the war effort," Agent Marks stated with authority, his voice almost ordering Murdock to comply with the remark.
"I want to stay, I want to continue helping the war effort!" Murdock raised his voice.
"That's not possible, you have new order's awaiting you on your return," Agent Marks informed him.
"Colonel, you can't let this happen!" Murdock insisted.
"It's not my decision to make, captain. It's out of my hands," Morrison shrugged. "Although that doesn't mean I accept it," he added.
"So, what? Have you figured out a new way to get rid of me? Plan A didn't work so it's on to plan B?" Murdock yelled.
"You're leaving me no choice," Agent Marks announced and signalled to two more suits who had appeared at the door, on hearing raised voices.
The two men entered the room and roughly pushed Murdock forward, grabbing his hands and placing cuffs around his wrists. Murdock looked to Morrison wide eyed at his treatment, confusion filling his thoughts.
"Now look here, Captain Murdock has done nothing wrong!" Morrison stood up to protest.
The suited men who had cuffed Murdock now allowed him to stand full again and his expression seemed to be of resignation.
"This has nothing to do with you, we thank you for your time," Agent Marks smiled and motioned for his party to leave the office with Murdock.
"This isn't right, Colonel, this isn't right!" Murdock yelled, before being shoved hard in the back to make him shut up.
Morrison saw the glares he received from the two government agents and remained silent, not knowing who or what he was dealing with. He took some deep breaths and headed out of the building, seeing the dust of the van taking Murdock away as he walked.
Hannibal shared the laughter as his men finally began to relax, he made sure every one of them enjoyed the moment. He was about to pour himself another drink when he caught sight of a worried looking Morrison, his muscles tightened sensing his mood.
He walked over and led him away from where his men partied and relaxed, the quiet of the evening hit him as they walked.
"Where's Murdock?" Hannibal asked as soon as they were far enough away, he feared why he hadn't returned with Morrison.
"He's gone," Morrison sighed.
Hannibal stopped and put a hand on Morrison's chest, his face filling with anger.
"How do you mean, gone?"
"Some government types, in suits," Morrison sighed as he explained. "They claimed he was only ever on loan to us, they've taken him back."
Hannibal's eyes narrowed as he heard the explanation.
"And you let them?"
"I had no choice! They had papers that went well above my jurisdiction, and yours. In fact if I read it correctly, they had the top man himself signing those orders!"
"Something doesn't make sense here, how did he take it?"
"He refused to go, yelled something about how he hadn't done what they thought he would and so that's the only reason they were taking him back," Morrison shrugged. "He was eventually cuffed and ordered to leave, I wish I could have done more for him but my hands were tied."
Hannibal saw the genuine look in Morrison's eyes and patted his back, they began to walk again.
"I can't help thinking my involvement plays a part in this somehow," Hannibal frowned.
"How can you say that, before you got hold of him he was nothing. He was on self destruct and of no use to anyone!"
"Maybe that's what he was suppose to be on, self destruct. I've never had to fight so hard and hit so many walls to get a man on my team before, the minute I secured him the suits arrive," Hannibal explained.
"You don't think? Smith, no. He was simply reassigned, we knew he wasn't army. Maybe the timing was off, I can't accept that he was sent here because he wasn't supposed to return."
"If you have a problem, if you have someone you think is a liability, where better to send him than to a place where more people go than come back," Hannibal shrugged and stopped once more.
"The minute he started suggesting they had alterior motives, they got heavy with him. I think they were scared, thinking he might say something," Morrison admitted as he remembered how Murdock was bundled out of the office.
Hannibal looked off into the distance, his thoughts carrying him away.
"Smith, you have responsibilities here. You have missions to complete, I know you feel hard done by but I don't want to hear reports that you're looking for Murdock," Morrison warned him. "He's gone and that's that, it's not your problem."
"Sir," Hannibal saluted and left Morrison standing alone.
Morrison knew the salute was a teasing gesture, he knew Smith would not let this lie until he knew exactly why one of his men was gone.
The white walls surrounded him as he stared blankly ahead, a numbness struck his every thought. Captain Murdock sat on the sharply made bed, remaining still. His thoughts drifted to Smith, Peck and Baracus. Back to the jungle, his first taste of Vietnam. He remembered the feelings of respect he'd received and how he had felt the pleasure of working within a group to do something worthwhile.
For so long those feelings of being a part of something had vacated his life, he had felt alone for what had seemed a life-time. Here he was less than twenty-four hours later, alone again. It had been too much of a good thing, it wasn't supposed to happen. Nothing he had experienced was supposed to have happened, he stood up as the anger rose.
He wanted to yell, scream and hit out but there was nothing or no one there to take it, he had been left locked up. Murdock was back in the USA, back with the suits of the CIA. He walked over to the barred window and looked out to the green fields, the sun bright and the temperature was warm. Images of Nam rushed back to him as he remembered the varying climate; he enjoyed the unpredictability of it all more than he realised.
Closing his eyes he found himself wanting to cry, for the first time he felt the remorse of his own actions. The many reports he had filed against him, the numerous fights and enemies he had made. Somehow he knew that would all be thrown in his face now and his pleas to return would be considered a joke. Opening his eyes he saw a world that he had no concerns for, reality no longer interested him.
The door opened and Murdock chose to ignore it, he knew anything anyone had to say was worthless. He briefly wondered what was going to happen to him, before deciding he didn't care.
Murdock heard his name being said and the voice seemed familiar.
"Murdock it's me, remember? I helped you after you were rescued. Before you were-" the sentence stopped as the voice broke.
Murdock slowly turned around and recognised Dr Richards; he recalled the Doctor's last words to him. He simply stared, not sure of his intentions.
"I heard you had been brought back, I have to be honest and say I was surprised," Richards admitted as he stepped closer, he appeared unsure of himself.
Murdock remained silent, not knowing what to say or who to trust.
"Murdock, I tried to stop them taking you over there. I know given time I can help you."
Murdock looked sharply at Richards, only being able to guess at what he meant. He seemed to be nervous but at the same time, he appeared to be giving the impression he was fighting the same fight as Murdock was.
"Who are 'them'?" Murdock asked.
"The guys in charge, the ones who sit around making the decisions," Richards explained.
Richards nodded his head.
"I was sent to 'Nam to die, wasn't I?" Murdock stated, needing his paranoia to be settled.
Richard's seated himself on the bed and struggled to find an answer, he was clearly trying to figure out what he should and shouldn't say.
"You were sent to Vietnam as an alternative," Richards finally said.
"As an alternative to what?"
Murdock let the words register, he knew he'd been pretty messed up but he hadn't realised he was that close to being locked away in a nut house.
"You think I'm crazy?"
"No, I think you're troubled but you're not crazy."
Murdock smirked, he didn't know why he was amused but he found it stopped his anger from showing.
"Murdock, you've been assigned to me. They want me to make sure your ok and ready for duty," Richards announced, his voice sounding more confident.
"Well, your experience in Vietnam and what you have already learnt with us, they think your ready to start the next stage of your training."
"Oh right, THEY think I'm ready," Murdock mocked.
Richards sensed Murdock's attitude and frowned. He stood up and stepped close to Murdock, his eyes met.
"I had to work hard to even be able to talk to you, I had to literally put my job on the line just to get them to agree to allow me to work with you!" Richards quietly stated. "They have already found you a room at the Veteran's Administration Hospital, if you go there you have no chance of ever seeing the light of day again!"
Murdock stared back at Richards intently, the thought of being put away as a mad man did not appeal to him. He looked away and started to nod his head, he took a deep breath.
"All I want is the chance to make my own decisions, I just want my life back," Murdock said with conviction.
"I can keep you out of the VA, but I can't work miracles," Richards frowned.
"Give me a fighting chance," Murdock asked. "I need to go back to 'Nam, I still have work to do," he added.
Richards shocked expression did not escape Murdock as he held his gaze with Richards. Richards searched every part of Murdock's face in the search of sanity; a moment of hesitation about the man's state of mind caught him.
"Let me guess, trying to think of how to grovel for your job back?" Murdock sneered; realising the Doctor was suddenly having second thoughts.
Richards moved away, hating himself for letting Murdock see his confusion.
"No, Murdock. I just wasn't expecting to hear you say you wanted to go back to Vietnam," Richards admitted.
Murdock sat down and held his head, wondering if in fact he should take up the offer of the room in the nut house, who in their right mind would want to go back to hell having been given a passport out of it?
"Murdock, I don't know why you were ordered back. I know why you were sent over there, and so do you."
Murdock looked up at the doctor, his fears confirmed about the true reason for him being in Vietnam.
"But you asked me to give you a fighting chance to get to a point where you can make your own decisions; and if one of those is to return to Nam, then that will be progress and this time it will be for the right reasons," Richards explained.
"So you'll help me?"
Richards nodded his head and smiled. Murdock returned the smile, feeling a new determination within him as he stood up.
"I have to go back," Murdock stated with conviction once more.
"You show me in actions the conviction you put in your words and there shouldn't be a problem," Richards returned.
"But it will ultimately come down to those suits deciding, right? No matter what I want, they'll be the ones who will decide in the end, the ones who already have my room booked at the Nutball hotel," Murdock sighed, the first seeds of doubt being sown.
"I'm not saying it's going to be easy, they want you to work for them," Richards admitted.
"I'll work for them, but I don't want no kamikaze missions."
"Murdock, no mission is guaranteed an easy ride, you'll have a couple of weeks intensive training in firearms and for fitness."
Murdock looked out of the window and longed to hear the sounds and smell the smells of Nam once more, he dismissed the images as he turned back to Richards.
"I'll do everything that's asked of me, just do what you can in return," Murdock stressed.
"It won't be easy, they see you as a liability."
Murdock looked away; clearly angered by the reputation he had acquired for himself.
"If they had just given me a few more days, they would had seen that I was starting to make something of myself out there! I was going to be an A-Team pilot, I had just completed my first ground mission with them," Murdock raised his voice in frustration as the anger flowed out. "But then, that's not what they wanted, I wasn't supposed to do anything was I! I was supposed to become just another statistic and a problem solved, well they can go to hell cos I ain't planning on solving the problem the way they want me to!"
Richards saw the inner anger as Murdock yelled his frustrations; he hadn't been told about Murdock's progress in Nam and was silently impressed. He remembered the human wreak he was forced to let go, his own anger at not being able to stop them sending him had been made known to any suit that listened.
Murdock now stared out of the window once more, his thoughts collecting themselves once more. Richards moved to the chair in the corner and sat down, he knew one of the first things he would have to do is to get Murdock to release the anger from within.
"Tell me about this A-Team," Richards asked.
Murdock looked over, distracted by his own thoughts he snapped back to attention.
"They saved me," Murdock said quietly, only realising his words to be the truth in that instant.
Richards saw the ease with which Murdock spoke the words, the calm manner in which he was able to admit something that should never be taken lightly.
"Explain self destruction," Richards urged, sensing the peaceful atmosphere that now encased the room.
Murdock moved away from the window and went over to the bed; he sat down heavily on it and sighed.
"I just gave up, I was bored and to pass time I'd annoy people, usually to the point of violence," Murdock admitted.
"I've seen the reports that were filed against you, I saw the medical reports as well," Richards ventured.
Murdock sat back and laid down on the bed, the fresh linen crumpled around him as he got comfortable.
"Murdock, you were attacked again, right?"
Murdock's expression was stony cold as he brought his hand behind his head. He knew where the doctor was heading and all of sudden he felt the room growing smaller around him, his breathing seemed to be getting more tight.
"Do you feel up to telling me what happened when you were captured, do you feel you can face that now?" Richards asked.
Murdock remembered the amount of time Richards spent with him before he was taken to Nam, each day he'd ask to be told what he experienced at the hands of his captors, each day he remained silent. It had felt like being a prisoner all over again, each day the questions would be the same, only with Richards there was no pain.
Murdock tried to find a reason not to speak, before it had seemed so much easier to stay quiet but he found a part of him needing to be released. No one else had been interested in what he had or needed to say; he felt his desire to speak winning.
Richards remained seated, as he had done so many times before. Patiently waiting for a few words that might spell the next phase of Murdock's recovery.
"Why?" Murdock spoke suddenly.
"Why what?" Richards asked, hiding his joy at the question Murdock was asking.
"Did I do something wrong?"
"No, Murdock. You were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time," Richards explained.
Murdock thought over his words carefully before speaking again.
"I wanted to die, I wanted it to end."
"That's perfectly natural, do you want it to end still?"
"No, I don't think so," Murdock wondered why he doubted his feelings, he couldn't work out why he wasn't more convinced.
"How do you feel now?"
"I feel like I'm not in control."
"When was the last time you were in control?"
"In Nam, in the jungle."
"Is that why you want to return?"
"I want to be with my unit, they need a pilot."
Richards looked at Murdock intently and saw concern in his expression; this A-Team unit had really struck a chord with a man who had so far shown all the signs of being disjointed.
"How do you feel about yourself?"
Murdock's took his time to answer, his body tensing. His silence concerned the doctor.
"Do you feel good about yourself?"
"I'm weak," Murdock responded, almost in a whisper.
"Why do you say that?"
"Because," Murdock's breathing started to quicken as the anger surfaced. "I'm easy meat, I feel pain too easily," he stressed.
"Every report of your fights, run-ins and attacks, have clearly stated you were outnumbered. That's not weak, that's bad judgement, bad luck but not weakness," Richards argued.
Murdock sprung off the bed in anger and paced the room.
"I couldn't defend myself, they laughed at me!" Murdock yelled directly at Richards. "They picked me because they knew I was weak!"
Richards stared back at Murdock showing the air of not being convinced; inwardly he was celebrating as Murdock began to let his anger out. Murdock took some breaths to recover before yelling some more.
"They-" Murdock began before realising tears were forming in his eyes. "They," Murdock collasped down onto his kness, rapidly wiping his eyes to hide his tears.
Richards moved down and knelt beside Murdock, holding him tight as the man cried into his arms. Releasing all the anger and shame he was feeling, Murdock lost control and let go, pouring out his emotions within his tears.
Richards stayed with Murdock and held him tight, not letting go and gently soothing him with words of encouragement.
"The men who did this to you are not human, it wasn't your fault," Richards said quietly as the tears dried up.
"Why me? Why did it happen to me?" Murdock sniffed.
"I don't know, no one does. You have to move on or else it will always be there and you'll never escape the memories," Richards urged. "You would have come across this one day in your life, the torture and the pain of humanity but your unlucky that you saw it so early in your life."
"I didn't even know two men could-" Murdock stopped as he heard his own words, for the first time he heard his old self, the innocent young adult he was before his life changed forever.
"It was one hell of a way to find out, huh?" Richards asked hoping to find a smile amongst the sadness.
Murdock looked at Richards, for a moment not being able to believe the man was smiling but then he found himself agreeing. He felt himself smiling, smiling at something that had made him so angry for so long. Smiling at the pain he had been inflicted with, he then began to laugh lightly. Inwardly he began to find comfort in his smile, in his laughter.
"Smiling and laughing will get you through this, HM," Richards stated still holding him tight.
"But surely if I smile in the face of danger I'll be locked up in the nut house?" Murdock questioned; he couldn't believe how different he felt now.
"But if your smiling, you can't be hurting, you can't be angry and you can't be sad."
"But you'll be fooling yourself," Murdock objected.
"Isn't that better than hating yourself?"
Murdock narrowed his eyes as he looked at Richards; he pulled himself away and stood up.
"The tears of a clown?"
"Murdock, you want to be in control again then I can only suggest you get control of yourself before you start demanding control of your life back," Richards stated as he also stood up. "Being angry for things that you can't change is not going to help you regain control. You have to think positive and wear a smile so people can see you're in control, being angry is natural but its hard work and takes complete control to appear happy."
"What if I fake it?"
"Now that's a skill that's hard to master, that could get you locked up if you get it wrong. There's a thin line between being constantly happy and being judged insane," Richards warned with a smile.
"I'll remember that," Murdock smiled back, his eyes still showing the signs of his tears.
"It might save your life one day," Richards mocked.
Murdock shrugged his shoulders, he felt comfortable as he continued to smile. An expression he never thought he'd have again, the anger he had carried around him like a weight seemed to disappear when he started to laugh. He decided to ditch the frown, from now on he was determined to see the lighter side of life.
"Is my work done for today?" Richards asked seeing Murdock was miles away in thought.
"Er, one more thing," Murdock asked, obviously as an afterthought. "Can you communicate with other people, and the suits not know?"
"Sure, I can," Richards smiled.
"Can you contact a Colonel John Smith, he's the leader of A-116, the A-Team unit I was with," Murdock whispered not risking being found out.
"I'll try, you want me to tell him you're alright?"
"I want you to tell him I'm sorry," Murdock stated. "I want him to know I didn't want to leave."
"I think he'll already know that, it's in the report that you had to be escorted out of the base in cuffs," Richards teased.
"Just tell him not to forget me, that I will resume my training, one day," Murdock insisted losing his smile momentarily.
"I'll tell him, I promise," Richards stated. "Now, get some rest you have a tough couple of weeks ahead," he added before leaving the room.
Murdock heard the lock on the door and sat down on the bed before lying back, he put his hands behind his head and closed his eyes. Feeling a rebirth within him as his memories came into perspective, no longer asking why instead he tried to accept it had happened and there was nothing he could have done to prevent it. Slowly he began to drift as his dreams accepted him; a deep, uneventful sleep was his reward for his new found optimism.
The exhaustion was obvious to the naked eye as the soldiers left the chopper, the rotors slowing down. A young soldier greeted the weary men; he found Colonel Smith and approached him.
"Sir!" he saluted.
Smith looked at him with contempt; all he wanted to do was get some deserved rest.
"What is it?" Smith barked.
"Colonel Morrison wishes to see you immediately."
"Tell him once I have showered, gotten some sleep and eaten, then maybe he'll be right up there on my list, understand?" Smith stated angrily.
They were returning from a twelve-day mission in the jungle, living on their wits as they determined the position of a NVA base.
"He told me to tell you it's urgent," The soldier persisted as he kept up with Smith's pace.
"Well tell him I will see him when I'm ready!" Smith yelled, wanting the young kid to stop bugging him.
"He also said it was to do with Captain Murdock."
Smith stopped sharply and looked at the soldier, his whole demeanour changed abruptly.
"Well why didn't you say?" Smith queried and headed in the direction of Morrison's office.
The soldier frowned as he watched Smith head off, confused by the colonel's behaviour.
Morrison put the paper's down when he saw Smith enter the office; he gestured to him to close the door.
"You've heard from Murdock?" Smith asked as soon as he had closed the door.
"Not exactly, but I have news."
Smith sat down and saw the look on Morrison's face, knowing that Murdock had now tweaked Morrison's interest as well.
"So what have you learnt? Must be important if you wanted to see me immediately," Smith guessed.
"He's CIA, Agent Murdock."
"CIA?" Smith narrowed his eyes.
"He was a hot young prospect for them, I have paper's here that ear mark him for greater things."
"But he's just a kid, not much older than Peck," Smith stated.
"From what I can tell, they were already training him to become a proper field agent."
"I guess they became aware of him with the Thunderbirds?"
Morrison glanced up at Smith, wondering how he knew of the Thunderbirds.
"Did he tell you he was in the Thunderbirds?"
"He didn't have to, we worked it out ourselves."
Morrison narrowed his eyes, sensing Smith was teasing him somehow.
"The mention of him stops just before June of this year, he was running simple errands in safe territory. Says here he was being looked after until he could complete his training," Morrison read out loud from some papers he held.
"In other words till he was old enough to, Murdock must have been just a kid when they got him," Smith figured.
"His school and college reports are glowing, he was a bright kid. Completed his education two years ahead of his age group, youngest pilot to ever be accepted to the Thunderbirds."
"Somehow, from that audacious beginning, he ended up here cleaning choppers, picking fights and carrying the biggest chip possible on his shoulder," Smith frowned.
"Doesn't add up does it? I read this stuff on him and I couldn't see the man I knew. I never got to know Murdock like you did, all I saw was the reports and anger," Morrison admitted. "But I know those men in suits were up to something when they took him back."
Smith sat back and tried to think, his mind growing weary again after the excursion into the jungle.
"This came for you as well, from Washington."
Smith took the note from Morrison, knowing this was another reason why Morrison had demanded an audience with him. Slowly he opened the envelope and read the contents, he re-read it before looking up at Morrison.
"Whoever sent this is with Murdock now," Smith announced finally.
"Is there a name?"
"No, it's sent incognito. He must know that there's a chance the mail is scanned and didn't take the risk."
"What does it say?"
Smith took the paper and cleared his throat.
"Dear Colonel Smith, you don't know me but I'm a friend of HM's. He's doing well and is in fine form, he wants you to know this. He's planning on joining up with you again soon; I'm not sure how soon this will be. HM is here with me because he needs help, if you got to know him at all you would probably realised this yourself. You'll be pleased to know he's got that help, and has responded well to treatment."
Smith folded the letter back up and placed it in his pocket. He saw Morrison was mulling over the words, he sighed.
"You think he'll be back?" Morrison asked after a while.
"I'm counting on it, Thomas leaves us within the week and I'm not looking forward to getting to know his replacement," Smith said as he stood up, remembering how he was now getting some apparent whiz kid as the preferred pilot.
Morrison nodded his head, already knowing Smith's feeling about the new pilot they had to draft in when Murdock left. Smith left the room and Morrison went over the papers he had gained on Murdock, somehow knowing he wasn't going to go away if Smith had his way.
Hannibal headed for the mess tent and found all his men tucking away to a hearty meal, he smiled as they all started yelling abuse at him.
"OK, calm it down or else," Hannibal warned through a smile. "Peck, Baracus, Thomas, can I see you outside?"
Peck, Thomas and Baracus immediately stood up and left the tent, it took on a tense atmosphere as the three men followed Hannibal outside. Once outside Hannibal led them to a quiet part of the base.
"I've just seen Morrison," Hannibal announced.
"Please don't tell us we're going back in, I haven't had a chance to get over the last trip yet," Face frowned.
"It was about Captain Murdock."
"That crazy fool?"
"Those guys who took him were CIA," Hannibal announced and saw the looks on his men's faces.
"CIA?" Face questioned. "What did he do to upset them?"
"Nothing, he works for them. That's where he came from, he was a trainee agent of sorts," Hannibal informed them.
"So how'd he get out here?" Thomas asked.
"From all accounts he was supposed to stay under the CIA wing, until he was ready. I got this letter, not sure who from but he's definitely with Murdock at the moment," Hannibal pulled out the letter.
"Why didn't Murdock just write?" Face questioned.
"I'll tell you why, now this can't go any further. Even Morrison doesn't know this, I made out only one paragraph had been written," Hannibal smiled.
"Man, he's on the jazz again," BA shook his head.
"Listen to this," Hannibal motioned and began to read the letter. "HM is not here of his own accord, he is a prisoner. He is still an agent of the CIA but not considered fit for active duty. Off the record he is judged to be a liability, a threat. He was a part of something the CIA are desperate to cover up only he doesn't know it and I can't be the one to tell him, if I did I would lose more than my job. If there's any way you can get him, take the chance."
Face, BA and Thomas all looked at Hannibal as he refolded the paper.
"So, what does that tell us? How are we supposed to find him with that information?" Face asked.
"How we gonna get back to the USA and rescue the fool?" BA asked.
"We're not going back," Hannibal raised his eyebrows. "But one of us is, pretty soon," he smiled looking at Thomas.
"I don't understand," Thomas seemed confused.
"You have to find the guy who sent me this letter," Hannibal ordered.
"But where would I start?" Thomas asked bewildered.
"Washington, it's postmarked Washington."
"Last time I checked Hannibal, Washington covered more than a couple of blocks. I can't be expected to find one man in the whole of Washington, armed only with a postmark!"
"The man will find you," Hannibal motioned and saw the confusion around him, he took the envelope and held it out. "This envelope has been postmarked to say it was from Washington, but it also holds this mark," Hannibal pointed out the crest of the government postal mark.
Face raised his eyebrows and smiled.
"I get it, you send the envelope back in the system as return to sender and hey bingo, that crest will somehow ensure the envelope finds its owner?"
"Something like that, this crest is created so the mail isn't scanned. This mark means it's government and shouldn't be read by anyone other than the person its marked for the attention of."
"How do you know all this?" Thomas asked amazed.
"I hate being ignorant," Hannibal shrugged.
"But won't they check the letter? If they have trouble finding the originator?" Thomas queried.
"Which is where Face and his charm comes in. Kid I want you to smile nicely to Janet in the communications and see if she could run us off a simple letter, you know how to word it, CIA codes," Hannibal ordered.
Face let out a sigh as he nodded his head and took the envelope.
"Why don't I post it as well?" he suggested.
Hannibal nodded his head mockingly; knowing the kid enjoyed the challenge as he watched him leave.
"So this fool, is he really worth all this effort?" BA asked.
"BA, he's a part of this unit and he needs our help," Hannibal stated with conviction.
BA nodded his head and saluted before heading back to the tent with Thomas, knowing that Hannibal was on the jazz again.
The noise of the rotor blades cancelled out all the mayhem around the area as Murdock maneuvored the chopper skillfully. Looking down on the ground he saw the men he'd been sent to collect, a firefight was taking place and he suddenly found himself the focus of the enemy's attention.
Dodging the bullets whizzing past him he used an old warehouse as cover to land, once he had secured the chopper he jumped out and took his position. He finally saw his men approaching and got his gun ready, as they continued to approach the enemy came into Murdock's vision and he began to spray a round of cover fire to ensure all his men made it.
Once they reached him he quickly turned around to head back to the chopper and took the bird up and out of range, focusing on the horizon he didn't realise someone was talking to him.
"Hey, I said that was fantastic timing."
Murdock glanced around and saw the senior field agent smiling back.
"Just doing my job," Murdock returned his focus to flying the chopper.
"I haven't seen you around before, what's your background?"
Murdock didn't want to make conversation, he thought about ignoring the man but relented when he reminded himself that staying in the CIA's good books was a necessity.
"I've been working in different areas, that's all," Murdock replied.
Murdock's eyes instinctively looked at the fuel gauge as he heard a foreign noise coming from the engine.
"We have a problem, Commander," Murdock announced, hitting the gauge as a precaution. "I must have taken a hit in the fuel tank, we've lost over half the fuel we need to get back," he added.
The commander moved forward to see for himself and frowned.
"Where are we?"
"About one-hundred miles from the nearest town, although I know there's a drugs baron's fortress about ten miles back," Murdock mocked.
"We're still technically over his land," The Commander realised.
"We won't be up here for much longer," Murdock stated then looked over his shoulder. "And we may be grounded a lot sooner than we think, we have a bogey to our right," he raised his voice to alert the men to the new danger.
Murdock managed to keep the chopper level as the side doors were swung open; the men inside began to fire their weapons in the hope of delaying the enemy's progress.
They were losing altitude and taking fresh hits as Murdock tried to out-maneuvor the other chopper that was quickly catching them up. Knowing they were never going to out run them and not wanting them to decide when he went down, Murdock began scanning the area for somewhere to land.
Suddenly a loud explosion ripped through the chopper and Murdock lost control, he swung around to find that most of the men had been thrown from the chopper.
"What the -?" Murdock said to himself, wondering what had hit them.
Murdock struggled to keep control of the chopper but remained calm, he'd crashed before although never like this. He tried to determine how many man were with him still, seeing the commander and a couple others out cold to his side.
The other chopper teasingly circled the bird and Murdock felt some more hits to the chopper from the gunfire.
"Give us a break!" Murdock yelled in frustration as his control grew less and less.
The chopper decended at a fast pace and Murdock could see the ground getting closer, he prepared for impact and closed his eyes.
Thomas walked along the street, passing people with smiles on their faces and all the joys of life in their expression. He moved uncomfortably in his clothes, he had grown accustomed to the uniform Nam had provided him, it felt odd to be able to wear what he wanted again.
He had been back for almost a week and found himself in Washington, nothing seemed the same anymore. He found it hard to talk about the war with people who couldn't begin to imagine what it was like. He found himself not wanting people to know he had been out there, the abuse he'd received from some for even going to Nam was enough to make his blood boil.
It appeared that America was just getting on with life, not wanting to know about the horrors of Vietnam. People were rallying to end the war, a good thing he thought but the soldiers seemed to be hated as much as the government.
This new era of peace and love didn't fit right with him, after everything he'd seen he didn't believe there was such a thing.
Looking at his watch Thomas walked towards a park bench and seated himself, making sure the copy of the local paper was there for all to see. He looked around and waited, he was meeting the originator of the letter Smith had received about the rookie pilot.
"Red man four, I hear your interesting in acquiring a lost soul?"
"Cut the crap, just tell me what I have to do," Thomas snapped, just wanting to get on with business.
The man seated himself, his young face expressionless as he looked around him.
"So come on then, Smith's had me playing cat and mouse with you, talk," Thomas demanded growing impatient.
"I have some bad news," the man spoke.
"I've wasted my time?"
"We had a report in today that claims that the man in question is dead, killed on duty in a crash," the man looked away.
"He was assigned to a mission, no men survived including your friend."
"Right," Thomas spoke with shock. "There's no chance he survived?"
"Early reports suggest there was no way he could have, most of the men have been recovered scattered over a one mile radius. The chopper was burned out on impact, we don't know what went wrong."
"So who are you then?" Thomas asked, seeing no need to speak in riddles any more.
"I'm Dr Richards, I looked after Murdock when he first came back."
"No, from a personal hell before Nam," Richards emphasized.
"I thought the kid had problems," Thomas shrugged as he remembered the attitude Murdock carried with him to begin with.
"The CIA made a mistake, then to cover up the mistake they sent him to Nam. Hoping the horror of war would erase their mistake," Richards suggested.
Thomas looked around and stared at the young doctor.
"You telling me, Murdock was only in Nam to be erased?"
"They figured he'd be less of a problem for them and easier to eliminate," Richards frowned. "They didn't count on him actually being of use out there, when he left us he was pretty mixed up."
"He made a lot of trouble for himself out there, until Smith got hold of him."
"He was just a kid when the CIA targeted him, they saw his potential. A quick study, he was the best prospect the air force and the US probably had for a long time. Only, the CIA wanted more than a great pilot, they wanted him to become something more," Richards carefully explained. "They sent him on what they led him to believe would be a routine mission, delivering some form of newsletter. They were planning to test him, see how he was progressing but didn't realize that one of there own had earmarked Murdock for his own organization."
"I don't understand," Thomas admitted.
"The plan was for Murdock to be ambushed and they would then see how he'd react, telling him at the end that it was a mock up. Only the guy who led the operation had no intention on letting Murdock think it was a game, he took his chance to take the CIA's prodigy for his own fight for power."
"The CIA had a wannabe power monger in its ranks?" Thomas smiled.
"Now you can probably see why finding Murdock, and finding him alive was not what the CIA thought to be in their best interests," Richards frowned.
"But, he didn't speak a word of this to anyone, I didn't know till he'd gone that he even worked for the CIA," Thomas defended.
"I believe he never did work out the truth, I wanted to tell him but how would I begin?" Richards explained. "He had to pay the price for being a mistake," he added sadly.
"Well they made another mistake by sending him to the same base as Colonel Smith, he's famous for making soldiers out of misfits," Thomas grinned.
"Doesn't mean anything now though, the CIA got him killed in the end," Richards sighed and stood up.
Thomas watched the young man leave, he knew he would have to report back to Smith somehow and stood up to follow thinking he should get more information whilst he could.
Thomas had almost caught the doctor up when a man in a dark coat brushed past Richards, Thomas watched as Richards fell to the ground. Darting forward, Thomas went to Richards's side and saw the dark coated man continue on as if nothing had happened.
Breathing heavily, Richards looked up at Thomas with a joyous expression.
"You'll be alright," Thomas assured him as he looked once again at the dark coated man, he had stopped by the bench and was looking around.
"He must be alive!" Richards managed between breaths.
"Murdock must be alive, you must get out of here before they realize I was speaking to you!"
"I can't leave you like this!"
"I'm already dead, trust me I worked the injection that man just gave me as he brushed past!"
Thomas looked up and made eye contact with the dark coated man, realizing he had just worked it out as he headed towards him.
"If Murdock is still alive, we'll find him, promise," Thomas patted the doctor and lay him down.
"Don't let the umbrella tip touch you," Richards warned in a whisper Thomas could only just make out.
Thomas quickly stood up and briskly started to walk away from the doctor and the pursuing dark coated man. A car suddenly started up and Thomas knew he'd been targeted. Changing his pace to a jog and then a sprint he rushed towards the trees, losing the men who had just murdered Richards for the information he now had.
The white room had an air of familiarity about it as the worn out looking man rocked back and forth on the only chair provided. The room was empty and the door was locked.
Captain Murdock took a deep breath and tried to remain relaxed but his anger was growing, he thought they would be please to see he had made it back safely. No one had brought him any food that his stomach moaned for, there was no drink his dry throat needed badly. No one had come to dress his injuries or even offered him a chance to shower.
Standing up he finally decided what energy he had would now go into acting like the prisoner he felt.
"Listen up! I'm still in here; I want to see the manager! When I booked into this hotel I at least expected a bed!" he yelled although his voice didn't express the mocking tones the words suggested.
After five minutes of continuous ranting, just as Murdock was about to collapse, the door unlocked.
"Captain Murdock, sorry to keep you waiting," a neatly dressed man walked in and smiled. "My name is Dr Fisher."
Murdock looked up at the new face and caught his breath.
"What's happened to Richards, I want to see my own doctor!"
"I am now your doctor."
"Bull shit I want to see Richards, you can't treat me like this!"
"Dr Richards is dead, a tragic accident," Fisher informed Murdock.
Murdock stared blankly at the new doctor, the shock evident on his face.
"He was attacked in the local park, there were no witnesses," the doctor continued.
"I need to freshen up, I need food and drink. I've been here for over four hours and so far all I've received is bad news!" Murdock voice was edged with his growing anger, he didn't need to hear of the doctor's death in the manner he had done.
"We are short staffed, what with the tragic loss," Fisher offered as way of apology.
Murdock clung his arms around himself and suddenly his anger turned to despair as the need for food and the anguish of learning about the death of what he considered his only friend took hold.
"Please," Murdock begged as his face surcommed to the tears of pain he felt. "I just need to eat, godammit, I've been trekking on foot for five days without any kind of nourishment until you found me and I'm beginning to wish you hadn't!" Murdock let his anguish out into floods of tears as he crawled onto the floor and rolled himself up into a ball.
"I'll see what I can arrange."
Murdock looked up sharply at the doctor, his voice so uncaring and cold that Murdock's anger rose immediately to the surface. Standing up shakily, Murdock picked up the only chair and hurled it as far as he could; his weakened state enabled the doctor to easily dodge it.
The doctor continued to smile and Murdock lunged forward, grabbing him by the throat. In an instant the room was full of security and Murdock was easily contained, the doctor's expression suddenly showed a more evil edge.
"This man is no longer human, I will suggest without question he be locked up in a place where his behavior is more acceptable!"
Murdock's mind was a haze of fury, pain and hunger. He didn't realize that Doctor Fisher had just effectively got him institutionalized.
Colonel Smith stepped off the plane and onto US soil once again; he took a deep breath and savored the feeling. Morrison had let Smith take his place in a strategy meeting with government officials, he was home even though it was only for a couple of days.
Once he had sorted out his hotel room and phoned his young nephew, Hannibal left the hotel and walked briskly to a local bar. Checking all the time that no one was following him he headed inside, finding the table as instructed he sat down.
Hannibal looked up and saw Thomas stood besides him.
"I'm alone, I hope there's a reason for this paranoia," Hannibal remarked as Thomas set a drink down for him.
"Our contact within the CIA, he's dead because he spoke to me."
Hannibal hadn't realized the seriousness of the situation, glad that he had taken Thomas's coded advice to stay alert.
"So what's going on?"
Thomas handed Hannibal an envelope; Hannibal quickly hid it away out of sight.
"Its all in there, I want nothing more to do with this, understand?"
"Thank you for everything," Hannibal stood up knowing when to leave.
"Just do what's right, I hope you find him," Thomas smiled knowing he'd probably never see Smith again.
Hannibal walked out of the building and headed back to the hotel, he was looking forward to his bedtime reading.
The constant murmur of voices and cutlery distracted Murdock as he looked around the room he now sat in, fully refreshed and fed after his ordeal. He hadn't realized he was no longer in Washington until he had come to this room and the confusion set in.
All around him he saw people who spoke to themselves or gently rocked whilst humming a tune of some description, he saw broken men. He looked down at his own situation, his arms encased in a straitjacket. Not knowing what he had done to warrant this and at the same time trying not to react to it.
Murdock sighed, restraining himself against letting his anger rule his head. Not knowing how to respond without violence, Murdock simply smiled.
"Good day to you," he teased.
"My name is Doctor Willis," he announced and sat opposite Murdock.
Murdock stared at him and waited for the questions to start.
"So, captain. Can you remember what happened to you?"
"In what sense?" Murdock asked.
"You were missing for six days, can you tell me what happened?"
"The chopper crashed," Murdock started.
"How did that make you feel?"
Murdock smirked wondering what the guy expected him to say, it would hardly make him happy.
He shrugged. "Made me feel like a goner," he smiled.
"Did you think you would die?"
"Sure, all kinds of crazy thoughts enter your mind," Murdock stated
"What happened to the rest of the men?"
Murdock did find the question tough to answer as he put his chin to his chest, remembering the rocket that seemingly hit the chopper and the men losing their footing.
"We got hit real bad," Murdock remembered out loud. "They had no chance," he added.
"How do you feel about their deaths?"
"The same I feel about any loss of life, its pointless and unnecessary," Murdock spoke wisely.
"Do you wonder why you survived?"
"No, I don't look at things like that, I'm just thankful I did."
"That's good, very positive."
"Doc, why am I here? In the loony bin?" Murdock asked.
"You're aware that you need help?" The doctor asked.
"I just needed some rest, food and a shower. Not a shrink, I had a shrink but he was killed."
The doctor looked at Murdock, he was perfectly satisfied with the man's answers and so far had failed to find even a hint that he needed help.
"Why do you think you are here?"
Murdock thought over the question, he wanted to make sure he got his point across.
"About a year ago, I had problems. I was taken by some army and-" Murdock hesitated but willed himself on. "-And kept prisoner, tortured and everything else."
"How long did it take you to come to terms with that?"
"I guess I faced it about a month ago, Dr Richards, my doctor before; he made me face it and I kind of do now," Murdock admitted.
"It takes courage to face something like that," Willis gestured around the room. "These guys are still here because they can't do what you have apparently done."
Murdock shook his head as he looked around the room, for so long he had thought he was the only one. How wrong he had been, he was just one of many. He remembered Richards with fondness, knowing just how much the man had helped him when he needed it.
"Why am I here?" Murdock repeated.
"To be honest, I have no idea."
"So you believe I'm sane?"
"Yes, I do Murdock."
"So can I leave?"
"It's not that simple, you were referred here by a greater power than me. If you want to leave you have to satisfy the hospital board."
"But there's nothing wrong with me!" Murdock yelled standing up abruptly.
"Outbursts will not help your cause," Willis advised and watched Murdock quickly reseat himself. "Listen, just sit tight and I'm sure over time it will become obvious you do not need to be here."
Murdock looked at Willis with a element of trust.
"I need to go back to Nam," Murdock announced but saw immediately the doctor's expression. "No, hear me out. I can be of use out there, they need me!"
The doctor saw the conviction within Murdock's eyes and gently nodded his head.
"I read in your records that you were in Nam for a short time, from what I can see you caused nothing but trouble which is why you were sent home and presumably here."
"Doc, don't think everything in black and white is the truth, there's more going on here and all I ask is that you judge me how you see me here, sat before you."
"You're a very convincing person, Murdock. Off the record, why don't you forget Nam and have a peaceful life here, I'm sure with these records you could just as easily convince us your crazy."
Murdock looked at the doctor, somewhat disbelieving his words. He knew that a load of soldiers already in Nam would love to be able to come here and never see the light of day again, if they could.
"I'll remember your advice, doc. But now isn't the time, I need to go back."
Murdock stood up to leave the room, two orderlies escorted him back to his room. Doctor Willis frowned, he knew the government were not going to let Murdock leave as easily as he imagined.
The door of the bar opened and Colonel Smith entered, he had just returned to Nam and it felt like he'd never been away. He saw his men seated at the back and headed over, they spotted him and the teasing abuse flowed.
"Calm it down, guys, I was only gone a couple of days."
"We missed you Hannibal, we missed the wake up calls, the jungle jaunts. I'm so glad your back," Peck teased.
"Good job I'm back then isn't it kid, maybe next time I go I won't give you guys some free time."
"Now don't go making any rash decisions on my part," Peck smiled knowing BA was growling in his direction.
Hannibal waited until only Peck and Baracus were sat at the table, he motioned for them to come in close.
"I take it you found Thomas?" Peck realised.
"And he's found a whole heap of trouble," Hannibal responded.
"How is he?" BA asked.
"Scared, with every right as well," Hannibal frowned.
"What's happened?" Peck asked sensing the trouble.
"That guy who sent the letter about Murdock, he met with Thomas and then two minutes after they finished talking, he was dead."
BA and Face looked at each other, their expressions the same.
"Murdock is one hell of a subject matter," Hannibal announced as he drank some more of his drink.
"So what is the story?" Peck asked.
"Murdock is a thorn in the CIA's side, he just refuses to co-operate with what they want," Hannibal grinned.
"And that is?" BA asked.
Hannibal's smiled faded; knowing the full story had made him even more determined to help Murdock.
"They want him out of the way," Hannibal admitted.
"As in the out of the way not breathing kind of way," Peck responded.
"You got it kid."
"Why, what that fool do?" BA asked, shocked by the revelation.
"Technically he did nothing, but potentially, he could do a lot," Hannibal spoke; his voice was low so that no one could overhear him.
"So where is he now?" Peck asked.
"From what I can tell, Thomas worked out that up until a few days ago the CIA were satisfied that they had succeeded. Only with our source being killed it could only mean Murdock is somewhere, but he's not dead."
"We have'ta find the fool, if he ain't done nothing he don't deserve to die, man!" BA insisted.
"I'm glad to have your support, BA."
"Count me in too, colonel. I still owe him for that jungle firefight we had," Face frowned.
"I've asked Morrison to make some descreet inquiries, my guess is the CIA thought Murdock was dead so if he's turned up he must be in some kind of care."
"Here we are fighting a war against another country, whose methods our government have taken objection to. You have to wonder sometimes, right colonel?" Face surmised.
"Face, Murdock's situation is not the same as here in Nam," Hannibal insisted with conviction. "But it needs to be addressed just the same," he added as an afterthought.
Peck nodded his head and listened as Hannibal explained to him and BA the whole situation about Murdock.
Murdock lay on his bunk, his thoughts miles away in the jungles of Nam. He'd already learnt the art of pretending to take his pills and he was observing with newfound interest the art of crazy. The doctor had been right to suggest he could find acting crazy one day a useful skill, one he chose to start learning.
He looked out of the barred window, wondering if there was anyone out there who even knew he was laid there in total boredom. It was hard to believe that now he felt able to confront the world, it was cut off from him by the bars. He thought back to the day when he felt the powerful release, when Dr Richards had broken him down and forced him to speak. Ending up on the floor a mental wreak, but suddenly able to confront his fears.
From there he had found the intense CIA training a challenge, fuelled by the hope that one day his new skills would be used to help his unit, the A-Team. He had started to go on missions, not the safe kind either. He had loved the buzz, or was it the jazz? His actions were starting to attract attention and like before, attention always got him locked up.
Was he never going to be able to progress? Every time he did he would end up locked away. Thoughts and paranoia started to escalate as the realization began to dawn, every time he started to alert people to his skills something would come along to lock him up.
The first time, was that a coincidence? He'd naturally assumed that he had just been unlucky but now he wasn't so sure. Images entered his mind, long forgotten and he heard the voice of his captor for the first time within his thoughts. The voice was familiar; he remembered trusting that voice when he was first captured and then the pain. The pain denied him the thoughts that he might know the man who inflicted it, but now it was allowing him to remember.
He was still convinced he'd been sent to Nam to die, to not be a burden to the CIA. He still firmly believed it was his involvement with the A-team that got him sent home, but had he seriously believed that him returning home meant end of story?
Why had he gone along with the CIA training? They wanted him dead or should it be wants him dead? Murdock stood up, his thoughts almost scaring him as he began to take in what his mind was suggesting. He wanted to rejoin the A-Team in Nam; its what drove him to be so blind to the obvious. The treatment he received on returning from his downed bird, they didn't seem to know what to do so they institutionalized him. They did the thing they wanted to do all along, if his suspicions were true, who'd believe a crazy man? Murdock stopped pacing his room; a final thought emerged, Richards was the only man on his side who would have helped him. Was his death such an accident?
Murdock stared absently into space and began to think that maybe he was crazy. How else could he describe his situation? He moved over to the sink and washed some water over his sweating brow, the stings from the various cuts he had healing from the crash proved he was still in reality. He stared at his own reflection in the mirror and sighed.
"Betcha the teacher's never saw this coming, I should have listened to them," he tried to smile but fear wouldn't let him.
Suddenly feeling very alone without any hope of salvation, Murdock grabbed his pillow and huddled up under the sink. He didn't know why but he found it comforting, if he was found like this a least it would lead to a conversation with human life. Being normal in this place only led to being ignored, he figured.
Hannibal slammed down the file in frustration, he looked directly at Morrison.
"Committed?" Hannibal checked.
"VA hospital in LA, says he's a long term patient. Apparently broken with violent tendencies," Morrison confirmed.
"That's bull! Murdock is as tough as they come!"
"You know what he's been through, I can believe it," Morrison admitted.
"You don't know what he's up against, what he's experienced is a serious lack of support!" Hannibal yelled.
"Which is what he's getting now!"
"He doesn't need a shrink, he needs to be constructive, a part of a team. You saw how he responded and he's exactly what we need, I can not tolerate that pilot you found us for much longer!"
"Smith, just drop it. The guys been lost there's no way on Earth I'll be able to justify having a certified crazy coming out here to fly our best men!" Morrison returned in anger.
"He ain't crazy!" Hannibal insisted. "Read this," Hannibal threw the file Thomas had given him.
Morrison took the file and looked at the intensity in Smith's eyes. He quietly read through the shocking report, wondering about the source.
"Where's the proof?" Morrison asked as he pushed the file away, realizing where Smith's passion had come from.
"He's sitting in the VA hospital," Smith replied.
"I can't go throwing my weight around with these allegations."
"Just say to them if they allow Murdock to come out here, then we will not make any allegations," Smith suggested.
"You have this all planned out, right?"
"When I find a man I know can fit in my team, it's a rare occurrence. I admit I've never had so much problems obtaining my men, they are usually out with the rubbish. Murdock has always been the next A-Team pilot and I'm not going to let anything stand in his way," Hannibal stated.
"Smith, one day you'll take what your given, understand. This is the last one I'm going to fight for you for," Morrison smiled.
"I run an A-Team, Colonel. You want the best you have to shop around, with Murdock, Peck and Baracus I will have a good central core of men, you'll see."
"Ten men, Smith. Ten men make up an A-team," Morrison reminded Smith.
"But stability and inner strength make them a force, ten men are fine but if we get split up then you need an inner core to rely on and no ordinary Joe can do that," Hannibal responded before leaving the office.
Morrison picked up the phone, wondering if he'll ever regret letting Smith get him into this.
"This is Colonel Morrison, I need to speak to Gerrard, yes at the CIA," Morrison announced and questioned what he was about to do.
Hannibal stopped, realizing he must have already covered the parameter of the base ten times already, his thoughts raging over what he should or could do. Was he right to go to so much effort over one man? One man, who in all likelihood is better off away from the horrors that Nam presented.
Who was he doing this for? Himself or for Murdock? Was it simply a case of him not wanting to lie down defeated, having already stated that Murdock would be the next A-Team pilot? The thoughts continued to pile up and the confusion set in, why was this man bothering him so much that he was willing to rage a war against the CIA.
He looked across and found himself close to where his team were being drilled, Sergeant Baracus was setting the pace and the commitment was there for everyone to see. He noticed Baracus picking out a single man, a man who was lagging and not pulling his weight. Hannibal started to walk over, already knowing that the man was singled out because he didn't make the grade. That man was their new pilot, Hannibal smiled as the confusion and questions settled and his belief was restored. He was after Murdock for one simple reason; it was for the good of the team.
He remembered the short time they had spent with Murdock, training him hard but he never once complained or lagged behind. If anything he showed a unique kind of enthusiasm that is rarely seen, Hannibal had no doubts that if he could find Murdock, Murdock would want to be here.
"Colonel," BA saluted as he approached.
"Nice work, sergeant," Hannibal commended as he watched his team continuing to go through the paces.
He remembered when everyone warned him to stay clear of Sergeant Baracus, no one could understand why he wanted such an undiciplined man and no one was prepared to let him train for special forces. Hannibal knew he could gain his respect, and he did so within days of him joining the team.
Looking over to Peck, Hannibal felt the same. Ever since he took command of this A-Team he had searched for a core group within the team, he had found Peck and Baracus but always knew he needed a pilot he could trust. Thomas had come close, but he refused to do the ground work preferring to stay in the air. The rest of the unit was simply made up of men who had wanted to become special forces, not men Hannibal had encouraged and that was the difference.
Thinking back to Murdock, Hannibal now knew why he was making the effort. He was so close to having a core A-Team, he wasn't going to let that go.
Colonel Smith turned around and faced a young soldier, one of many that occupied the base.
"I have orders from Colonel Morrison that Lieutenant Peck, Sergeant Baracus and yourself are to report to his office immediately."
Smith looked back to his team.
"Peck, get over here now!" Hannibal yelled and motioned for BA to follow him.
Peck caught them up and got into step.
"What's going on?"
"We've been summoned to Morrison's office."
"I haven't done anything," Peck protested.
"Kid, no ones saying you have," Hannibal smiled.
"So what's this about?" BA asked.
"I have a feeling we'll find that out when we get there," Hannibal teased, silently hoping there had been some encouraging developments on the Murdock situation.
Colonel Morrison acknowledged the salutes he received from the three men standing in his office.
"Colonel Smith, Lieutenant Peck, Sergeant Baracus," he spoke with the air of authority often associated with men of his rank. "Smith, your team are being temporarily assigned to other units."
Smith didn't flinch as Peck and Baracus glanced across at each other, uneasily.
"You three have orders to fly to Los Angeles, I want you to attend a talk being given by Lord Marchford at the university."
Hannibal couldn't help but smirk; knowing this was a very strange order.
"You will be asked to draw up a report on this man's findings, he's been studying the effects of the Vietnam war being shown on television news. We'll all be interested in your findings," Morrison smiled.
"How long will we be in LA, sir?" Hannibal asked, sensing the confusion from his two men.
"Three days, the talk takes place on the second day there. I would suggest, whilst you're there that you take in a few of the sights, Hollywood and Long Beach would do you good. Maybe even take a few historic buildings in for good measure," Morrison hinted.
"Any suggestions?" Hannibal played along.
"I hear the hospitals in the area are very picturesque, if you do visit the VA do make a point of seeing a Dr Willis. He's the man to ask about the place," Morrison sat down and looked through his papers.
Peck and Baracus finally cottoned on to what was being said in riddles, they were going to LA to get themselves an old friend.
"I trust we will be welcomed at these places of interest, that we won't be turned away," Hannibal asked.
"If you're discreet and quick, you shouldn't have any problems."
Hannibal took an envelope from Morrison with all the details in, he looked at Peck and Baracus and gestured to them to wait outside. Once they had gone he turned back to Morrison.
"Thanks," he said simply.
"It was an easy enough thing to arrange, the CIA want shot of him," Morrison shrugged.
"How did you work it that he could come out here, I thought the tough part would be getting a committed man out here," Hannibal asked.
"He may be residing at the VA but the doctor looking after him, Doctor Wilson, has so far refused to label him insane. So, technically he's just there as if it was a hotel."
"I take it that's why we have to be discreet and quick," Hannibal realized.
"I get the feeling the CIA are not happy with our persistence in this man, I've given them assurances that once in our care he won't talk but I'm not sure they are fully convinced. They might change their minds, so good luck."
Hannibal saluted once more and left the office, ordering his men to pack quickly to be ready to leave that same afternoon.
Morrison watched him leave and sat back, sighing sadly. He didn't want to tell Smith the whole story that Murdock was only 'free' for as long as the team survived. His freedom counted on the team staying together, if anything was to happen to Smith, then Murdock would be back at the VA before he knew it. The same applied to when the war was over, he had his orders to send Murdock back to the VA whatever the outcome. He had to agree to their terms, it was the only way Smith would get his man. In some ways, Smith now controlled Murdock's future until the war in Nam was over.
He could sense the concern, the growing anxiety around him. It didn't bother him that he was attracting the concerned attention. He was happy to just remained within himself and with his thoughts.
Captain Murdock held tightly to his pillow, sometimes he'd talk to it just for some conversation. He found it quite reassuring in some ways, although in other ways he knew it wasn't healthy. The past few days had opened his mind to the world of wonder, seeing how people fussed over you the more you wanted them to leave you alone.
He had started to enjoy seeing the confused looks on peoples face's as his imagination ran riot, talking to his taps and then telling them off for being hot and cold. He didn't feel crazy; he just found it a nice distraction to pass the time. With no hope of leaving this place he had begun to settle into the routine, he had to admit he liked it here even though he knew he didn't belong in this place. The place had taught him how to relax, to be calm and to stop hating everything so much. Sure, he had wanted to go back to Nam but what was the point in letting the anger that he couldn't go back control him.
Wondering how to waste another couple of hours, Murdock began to pull the covers off his bed. An idea about making a tent had festered within his mind and seeing as he had nothing better to do, he thought why not. Voices outside his door were ignored as he piled the sheets together, the door opened.
Murdock froze in his tracks; his back to the door but the voice was instantly recognizable. Slowly turning around he came face to face with the blue eyes he never thought he'd see again.
"C-Colonel Smith?" Murdock said in confusion.
"We're still looking for that pilot," Hannibal grinned, unable to hide the joy Murdock's confusion gave him.
"S-sure, erm, what do I have to do?" Murdock asked, his voice trembling with confusion but also with happiness.
"Just follow me," Hannibal ordered and watched as Murdock hurried out of the room, not concerned with taking any possessions he might have had.
Peck and Baracus shook Murdock's hand, happy that Hannibal had finally found the pilot he wanted.
"Lead the way Peck," Hannibal ordered as they walked out of the hospital.
Doctor Willis looked on as the three men took Murdock away, quietly smiling to himself. The receptionist moved over to him.
"Isn't that your patient?"
"Who?" Willis asked dumbly.
"That guy who just left?"
"I never saw anyone, you saying I'd let my patients just walk out of the building?"
The receptionist just stared at him blankly as he walked behind the desk. Passing the heavy-duty shredder, he calmly lost all trace of Murdock having ever been in the building as the file disintegrated. Picking up the phone he proceeded to confirmed the same to the men in suits.
The lively chat of the bar and the soft music filled the air as four men made themselves comfortable, BA got the drinks in.
"You know something Hannibal, if we didn't want to go back this place would be the best to hide out in," Peck suggested.
Hannibal glanced over to him, knowingly.
"Peck, we're going back first thing tomorrow so my suggestion is, just enjoy this whilst you can."
"All I'm saying Hannibal is if you ever need to live anywhere and not be found, LA is the perfect place."
"I'll keep that in mind if the situation ever arises," Hannibal smiled.
"I can't wait to go back," Murdock enthused.
"That won't last long," Peck teased.
Hannibal grinned as BA placed the drinks on the table; he sat down next to Murdock.
"You wouldn't think there was a war on, man," BA grumbled as people around him laughed and joked.
"BA, there's enough gloom and doom out there we don't want it back here as well," Hannibal stated.
Murdock took a sip of his drink and looked at the three men sat with him, he couldn't believe they had come back for him. It was the last thing he had expected to happen, he had simply thought they'd have just got on with things.
"So, how you feeling captain?" Hannibal asked.
"Not sure, give me a day to think about that," Murdock smiled.
Peck looked at the man, already seeing the change in him to what he remembered. The scowl on his face had been replaced with a boyish charm, he smiled more and looked genuinely relaxed.
"You looking well," Peck had to remark.
Murdock nodded his head, allowing another smile to form.
"I took the colonel's advice and got the old head looked at, I feel a lot better now."
"Life's a lot easier once you drop the excess baggage," Hannibal agreed.
"You still look like a crazy man to me," BA remarked with a smile.
"That's good, cos I've been practicing," Murdock chirped up.
The three men stared at him, they hadn't seen this side of the man before and were unsure of it. BA simply growled at being teased, Murdock continued to smile as he felt the uncertainty and placed his hand as if holding a microphone to his mouth.
"This is Captain HM Murdock reporting, after their intrepid rescue of yours truly, the team were decidedly undecided about what exactly they picked up," Murdock reported mockingly.
"Is this for real?" Peck asked bewildered.
"The man is real crazy, we should have kept him locked up," BA stated.
"Welcome back, Howlin Mad," Hannibal held his glass up and Murdock happily clinked his against it.
Hannibal could somehow tell Murdock was only teasing, having learnt a new way to control his emotions. It suited him and he was only glad he had stopped letting his anger control his head. He watched as Murdock showed no fear to BA's continued threats, he knew BA was not going to carry out the threats but it was refreshing to see someone actually standing up to the sergeant.
The night wore on into the early hours and the four men used the time to talk and bond, it may be the last chance they get before finding themselves amongst the hell again.
The silence of the jungle surrounded the men as they quietly moved forward, out of sight. The beads of sweat on their faces and the grime of the four days they had already spent out here showed.
A whispered order was relayed between the men and packs were removed, the orders were to rest. Peck moved silently over to a wide space and motioned to BA to put the stretcher down.
He looked down at the injured soldier, remembering how they had come to this point.
"We're clear captain, let's go!"
The chopper rose above the trees and proceeded to reach a quick pace away from the gunfire. Murdock was flying his third mission for his new unit and enjoying the challenges it brought him, he glanced back to see he had sucessfully picked up Peck, Baracus, Armstrong and Smith. To add to the others he had picked up less than an hour ago.
"The rest of the unit made it safely to base, sir," Murdock called out. "They will have our drinks on ice and dinner on the table when we return," he added with a smile.
"Nice work, captain," Hannibal wearily responded, glad the mission was near an end.
A sudden explosion hit the back of the bird and Murdock turned back, remembering the last time this had happened to him and men had lost their footing. He was relieved to see all four men had managed to hold on, although he was doubtful the chopper could take a hit like that and survive.
"Hold on, Muchachos," Murdock yelled knowing he had lost part of the tail section.
"Can you pull us out of this?" Hannibal yelled as the bird spun around wildly.
"Give me a moment," Murdock called back and managed to stop the momentum of the spinning.
They were losing altitude and Murdock called on his previous experience to make sure the landing was a safe one, only before he was the only man on board.
"Guys, hold on to something back there, secure yourself, we're going down!" Murdock ordered.
Murdock glanced back to check they were suitably secure and saw a sudden fear in BA's face.
"Have faith, big guy. I'll try and make it a happy landing," Murdock smiled.
"Shut up fool! Concentrate!" BA lashed back.
Murdock scouted around for the best place to crash and found a clearing free from trees, only the bird suddenly adjusted of its own free will and headed straight for a dense part of the jungle.
Murdock narrowed his eyes as he struggled to bring the bird up in a last ditch attempted to make the clearing, not giving up until first contact was made with the tree tops. Branches crashed into the glass around him and instinctively he brought his hands to his face. Feeling the tears in the arms of his clothes and the sharp biting sensation of the branches making contact with his skin he braced himself for impact.
"How is he?"
Peck looked up and found Hannibal heading over, they both looked at the man on the stretcher and sighed.
"Not good but Armstrong is tough," Peck tried a smile. "How's Murdock?"
"Still in shock but at least he can walk now," Hannibal advised him. "He's back there annoying BA again," he added with a genuine smile.
"That's a good sign," Face smiled back.
"How's the head?" Hannibal asked, seeing the nasty gash on the side of Peck's head.
"Not bothering me," Peck shrugged unconcerned by it.
"Well make sure you rest," Hannibal ordered and watched him sit down.
Hannibal looked at Armstrong once more, he had come off the worst in the crash and things didn't look good for him. BA and Murdock approached and sat near to where Peck was resting, they were both niggling each other over something.
"Guys can you cool it, this place could still contain some of those NVA soldiers and it wouldn't take long to find us the way you two are acting," Hannibal ordered.
Murdock and BA immediately stopped and looked at Armstrong. Murdock felt a pang of guilt as he saw the man, effectively dying before them.
"Hey, captain. Drink this," Hannibal advised on seeing the distant look in Murdock's face.
He knew Murdock did all he could to keep them in the air, he couldn't have asked for more and he hoped Murdock didn't think he messed up.
"I figure we have another fifteen clicks before we are in safe territory, so stay alert," Hannibal stated.
Murdock rubbed his arm, it had taken most of the impact in the crash and he suspected it was fractured. He had been lucky, he knew it when he looked at Armstrong. Just before impact the bird had flipped onto its side, up until then it was the cockpit that was going to take the full impact and he would have been the one on the stretcher. He hadn't known about this, having lost consciousness as the bird fell through the trees, exposed to the branches, Murdock had been on the receiving end of one exceptionally tough branch that had knocked him out cold.
He felt water being applied to his head and saw Peck had come over to him, washing the wound he had as a result. He guessed it must look bad, it felt as if the whole right side of his face had been hit. His right eye had only just started to open again and he had only resumed walking unaided that morning, having used BA as a crutch for the past three days.
"Hannibal, I think it's infected," Peck stated.
Murdock looked at the concern in Peck's eyes, he had been feeling light headed but had put it down to the circumstances.
Hannibal walked over, followed by BA and they all examined Murdock's face. He took the water container off Peck and washed the wound a bit more. He motioned for Murdock to lie down in the recovery position as they applied a new dressing, Murdock sensed the concern but didn't know how to respond. He felt strong, he felt fine, he thought. He'd felt a lot more pain than this but was this the time to argue with them?
They rested for another hour; Murdock remained lying down after being yelled at for attempting to sit up. He wondered how they would have reacted to seeing him when he was first rescued so long ago, when the pain was a hundred times worse. He found himself smiling, this wasn't pain or suffering, he thought. This was child's play in comparison. A new strength grew within him as he used his past to bring him new determination. He sat up and this time ignored the response for him to remain lying down, he simply smiled.
"You're one crazy fool, man," BA remarked, almost admiring the strength he saw in his sick friend's expression.
"If being crazy means I feel no pain, I'd recommend you try it," Murdock replied.
"I'm not the one who's injured, and I don't appreciate you crashing us! I'm never getting in a chopper with you again!" BA protested.
Hannibal glanced over concerned, he wasn't sure how Murdock would respond to such a direct confrontation and he felt like telling BA exactly how he felt about his use of words.
"Ahhh, so the great big ugly mudsucka is now afraid to fly! Don't worry on the next trip you can borrow my cuddly bear for comfort," Murdock teased, apparently oblivious to BA's words accusing him of crashing in purpose.
Hannibal fears were still for Murdock but now they were for his safety against an angry BA, no one had ever got away with calling him names before.
"I ain't afraid to fly!" BA raged. "Just don't like crazy fools being at the controls!" he added as he grabbed Murdock's neck in retaliation.
Murdock fell back as BA lunged forward, with a manic look in his eyes as finally he had managed to wind BA up enough to attack him. He didn't know why he had wanted this but somehow he knew he had to get a reaction from BA, to get him to his old self. The look he had seen on BA's face before the crash had almost scared him and he figured the big guy needed to let off some steam, amongst friends that can be a hard thing to do, especially when trapped in a jungle away from civilization.
Murdock felt the air leaving him as the pressure around his neck remained, finally BA let go with both Peck and Smith holding onto his arms. Murdock remained lying down, smiling as he rubbed his neck.
"Feel better, big guy?" Murdock croaked.
BA looked confused and realized he did, he had wanted to hit out at something for the situation they were in. Hannibal saw BA's expression and realized why Murdock had been pestering him; it was a crazy way of getting BA to express himself but effective.
"You OK Murdock?" Hannibal checked as he helped him up.
"Yeah," Murdock's grin assured all around him that he was fine.
BA, Murdock and Hannibal turned around at the sullen sounding Face who crouched near to Armstrong.
"What is it, kid?" Hannibal asked but the look in Face's eyes already told the story.
"We've lost him," he said quietly, gently stroking Armstrong's face.
Hannibal moved closer and saw the lifeless form for himself, he had suspected the journey through the jungle would prove too much for the injured man.
"Let's let him finally rest in peace," Hannibal motioned as he removed the dog tags from around the dead man's neck.
BA removed some simple tools from his pack and began to dig, Face moved over and helped. They wouldn't have to dig far down, within days the jungle would take Armstrong as its own.
Hannibal looked over to Murdock who sat with his head in his hands, clearly distressed by the death. He realized Murdock was still relatively new to the tragic loss of war, he feared what this first major set back would do to the man who still carried the questionable mental health.
"Be strong, captain."
Murdock looked up, the dampness around his eyes evidence that he had been crying. Murdock quickly wiped his eyes as Hannibal sat besides him.
"It happens, you have to learn to accept it and learn that lesson fast. It's the most important one," Hannibal continued.
"I know," Murdock said as he took a deep breath. "But it don't make it any easier."
"Come on, lets help the others," Hannibal encouraged and was pleased to see Murdock stand up.
The ceremony was fast, simple and over in a minute. They were still in enemy territory and couldn't afford to hang around; Hannibal kept an eye on all his men knowing this set back could be just the beginning.
The lingering heat and humid air began to show it's draining effects on the four men as they continued to walk, Face and Murdock took the lead with Hannibal and BA dropping back. Murdock narrowed his eyes; an uneasy feeling washed over him and he suddenly had the feeling they were not alone. Face began to sense Murdock's feelings and motioned for them to stop, they went to ground and scouted the area. Looking back they searched for Hannibal and BA, there was nothing there.
"They we're right there, behind us, I checked less than a minute ago," Murdock hissed.
"I know, but they're not there now, we have to be alert," Face hissed, his expression showed concerned.
They continued forward, crawling through the jungle. Hoping to hear the reassuring orders of the colonel, knowing they may already be under survallance.
Face held his hand out motioning to Murdock who immediately stopped. They heard voices around them, NVA personel.
They both exchanged looks, looks that spoke a thousand words. Keep quiet, merge with the jungle, hold tight. Minutes seemed to turn into hours as the NVA continued to search the area, Face and Murdock not moving a muscle. They knew the longer the enemy stayed the less chance they had of avoiding capture.
The thought remained that these guys may have already got Hannibal and BA, may already know they have two more men to find. If that were the case, they would not give up until they were found. But the slim chance that Hannibal's and BA's disappearance and the NVA's appearance were coincidental, it was the hope Murdock and Face clung on to.
A force suddenly grabbed the back of Murdock's neck, the whole of the surroundings became a blur as the sound of twenty or more guns were levelled on him. Almost immediately Face received the same treatment, they both looked around at the many NVA soldiers that surrounded them.
Yelling instructions in a language Murdock only vaguely understood, they found their hands bound behind their backs. Face started to smile in the faces of his captors and Murdock could sense that Face had been in this situation a few times before. He also remained defiant; knowing he was probably about to return to a place he never wanted to visit again. Different country, different reasons but captive just the same as before. He started to march on with Peck by his side, wondering what had happened to Hannibal and BA who still remained absent.
Quite away from the action, Hannibal leaned further back out of sight holding back BA. The rage was obvious on BA's face and Hannibal was doing all he could to hold him back.
"We're better off to them on the outside, sergeant!"
BA finally stopped struggling as he saw Murdock and Peck being led away, surrounded by a small army of NVA soldiers.
"Faceman can't be captured again, Hannibal!" BA stressed. "And that crazy fool, he ain't strong enough!"
"BA we must double our efforts now, we have to get back, regroup and get those two out of this," Hannibal ordered remaining calm but deep down his anger was also raging.
They had both been delayed and had fallen behind, some loose mud had covered an old hole of some kind and BA had had to pull Hannibal out after he fell part of the way in. Not wanting to shout to the others for fear of alerting someone to their position they instead had intended to catch up with Face and Murdock, only when they did they had found it was already too late. It all had happened so quickly, they had only been a few yards behind at most.
Hannibal made sure they were not spotted, instinct told him to charge on over with guns firing. Experience told him to hold back, he knew the group had at least a five-day trek ahead of them. If he could get back within the next thirty hours, gather his team and then get a chopper to drop them off for an ambush then everything would be OK. He guessed the guy's first stop would be the infamous Hanoi Hilton, he was almost banking on it.
Murdock had lost all sense of direction, an uneasy feeling for someone who usually could tell you where you were in the dark with his eyes closed. The heat and dehydration played on his senses; the pain and the aches tortured his body.
Peck seemed remarkably strong, Murdock noticed. Taking each stride as if it was his first, Murdock somehow sensed it was his way of teasing the captors. Murdock felt anger at his own physical being, he felt he was letting the side down with his weakened appearance.
Murdock was aware that the NVA guard in charge had yelled something, his own preoccupations distracting him until a guard roughly stopped him walking. A container was brought to his lips and for a few seconds precious water seeped in, enough to tease before it was pulled away again. Murdock lost all control as he struggled in binds, desperate for more liquid to quench his sore, dry throat. A short jab to his ribs stopped him and he couldn't stop himself falling to the ground as he doubled up in pain, coughing as he caught his breath.
Looking up intending to release more anger he saw Peck was now being teased with the water, he realised this was all a game to them and this was just the beginning. If he let his anger control him now, he knew he wouldn't last long. Peck already knew this, he seemed to enjoy letting the NVA soldiers tease him as he smiled in their faces. He didn't get the jab to the ribs; he simply got them off his case. Letting them know he was strong, he was someone Murdock knew he needed to learn from.
Murdock felt himself being hauled up to his feet, he could have done without the pain he now felt in his rib cage. They had enjoyed being able to punish him, he wouldn't let it be so easy next time. Peck simply stared a sympathetic stare, but Murdock felt ashamed of his actions and looked away as the group moved on.
It had been at least two days now that they had been walking, the jungle seemed to never end. Murdock had to control his fits of despair, knowing any moment they could both be struck down. No one would know, no one would find them this deep in enemy territory.
The soldiers had stopped every attempt Peck and Murdock took to talk to each other, only a handful of words had been said and none of any worth. Eye contact was their communication; he was beginning to find comfort in Peck's face and was slowly working out his every expression. He knew the story behind Face's nickname, but to him it now took on a new meaning. Face's face was already his saving grace, a strength he never had before when he was held against his will. He hoped he was giving the same strength to Peck, a simple glance between them could not be stopped by the brutality of their captors; it was all they had left apart from hope.
Colonel Morrison stood up abruptly, he stared intently at Colonel Smith. His eyes showed authority and his expression was full of anger.
"I will not risk the A-Team, not this time!"
"Two of my men are down and we have an opportunity to save them!" Smith yelled back.
"Not this time, Lieutenant Colonel Smith!" Morrison used his full rank to emphasise that he made the decision.
Smith looked away momentarily, unable to comprehend the situation.
"It's an easy enough exercise as they're heading to Hanoi, it's a simple enough route to map," Hannibal explained.
"Two men, Smith. You realise how many men we believe are being held as POWs?"
"We have a chance today of lessening that number by two," Hannibal insisted.
"Your team already have orders, you are to carry them out. You fly to Da Nang in three hours, ready for briefing," Morrison calmly announced.
"What if it had been Peck and Baracus?" Hannibal suddenly asked.
Morrison looked up sharply at the question.
"I hope your not suggesting what I think you are suggesting," Morrison warned.
"There must have been a catch, I've been thinking we got Murdock pretty easy back there. This all kinda works nicely doesn't it, for the CIA?"
"GET OUT, SMITH!" Morrison yelled, angered by the insinuation but refusing to back down.
"Well I hope you sleep well tonight, because I know two guys who won't for quite a few nights," Hannibal said bitterly before heading for the door.
Morrison didn't want Smith to think he's actions were ones of guilt, he stepped forward.
"Actually, your right about the catch with Murdock," Morrison announced. "But your wrong with everything else, if I could spare you and your men-" Morrison began.
"Save it for Peck and Murdock, if you ever get the chance to speak to them again," Hannibal sneered and left the office.
Morrison re-seated himself and sat back, he had feared this happening. Murdock being such a delicate issue, he knew Smith would throw this in his face if he ever went against the man in a decision. He cursed the whole affair, wishing he could pull back the A-Team on their latest orders, but then there was every likelihood instead of two men missing there'd be a whole team.
Morrison took Murdock's file, with sadness and a touch of guilt for bringing him back he stamped it with the initials 'MIA'.
They had reached the destination, after however many days lost to the jungle they were now at some kind of building. Murdock glanced over to Peck, he seemed to know the routine although even he had a new nervousness to his features. He was giving the impression of familiarity but at the same time he seemed unsure of the surroundings.
They were both left in a room, free for the first time of the ties that bound their hands. Murdock eagerly stretched his arms and rubbed his wrists, he looked at Peck who did likewise.
"What is it?" Murdock asked, knowing all of Peck's expressions made it easy to tell Face was unsettled.
Peck looked nervously over and frowned.
"Welcome to the Hanoi Hilton, Murdock," Face said with a sigh. "This is a place I only heard of in horror stories, we've upset them really bad this time."
Murdock didn't like the sound of Peck's voice, the atmosphere was tense as they waited alone in the room.
"Listen Murdock, just you keep thinking of me and I'll keep thinking of you and we'll both get through this, understand?" Peck said, sounding much more like the older brother than his young years should.
Murdock nodded his head absently, the look in Peck's eyes once again giving him inner strength. Unable to stop himself he reached out and they both gave each other a manful embrace.
"I won't forget you, bud," Murdock managed a smile.
"I hear the room service is something else," Peck teased and they both found themselves chuckling.
Murdock's expression quickly dropped, Peck had been talking like they'd never see each other again.
"What's gonna happen?" Murdock asked suddenly, a need to know as his fear started to rise.
"You'll be accused of crimes against the Vietnamese, none of it will seem real," Face's own expression faded to one of pain. "You just have to remove yourself, take yourself someplace else for a while," he added with conviction.
"It's gonna be like before," Murdock stated more to himself but loud enough for Face to pick up.
Peck was confused, he stepped towards Murdock and put his hand on his shoulder for added comfort.
"Endless questions, endless pain and darkness," Murdock continued as if in a daze.
"You've been in one of these places before?" Peck asked a little surprised, he had known Murdock had been a hostage but there was never any mention of him being mistreated, it explained a lot if he had.
"Full circle," Murdock muttered as the door opened and five guards walked in.
Face was immediately struck down for holding Murdock, it snapped him back to the reality of the situation. Long pyjamas type garments were thrown to them and indications that they were to change into them issued. Murdock took Peck's lead and removed the uniform he still wore, slowly they changed.
A guard walked up to Murdock, eyeing him closely he looked at his dogtags. The guard suddenly pulled on them sharply, wrenching Murdock's neck forward until the chain snapped leaving a deep burn mark visible to the naked eye. Peck had the same done to him and both tags were thrown to one side.
"No more a part of US army, now you a part of the NVA," the guard sneered in broken English.
A quick glance from Peck was enough for Murdock to not react to the comment, both men standing tall. The order was given for them both to be removed, their hands were tied once more and each had two soldiers as escorts. Walking down a narrow passageway, Murdock looked on as Face was taken off through an adjoining corridor. Unable to look for long as his friend disappeared out of sight, the sudden realisation that things were getting worse hit him.
Some time has passed...
The room was bare with no windows, a simple bucket and a chair the only furnishings. It had been days, possibly weeks or months since Murdock had done anything but sit in this chair. His routine broken only by visits to the bucket and maybe, in some ways as a welcome distraction, the arrival of one of the interrogators to beat what energy and spirit he had left out of him.
At first he found it relatively easy to simply sit and think, so much had happened it was nice to be able to reflect. He played out the many possibilities about what had happened to BA and Hannibal. He had planned over a hundred ways he would escape, find Face and run to freedom. He had already written his story including the screenplay just in case. He'd imagined meeting the woman of his dreams, named his children and watched them grow up and have children of their own. He'd even imagined owning a dog, taking it for walks and feeding it but it had died not long ago. Now he found he was struggling, he was replaying images of his escapes and remembering his dog with fondness. He now housed a whole host of imaginary lifetimes and memories, he had begun to forget which were real and which were fake.
Still he sat, sometimes untied and sometimes with his hands tied to his ankles. The guard was always present; sometimes the guard would provide his own entertainment, beating Murdock up for no reason other than amusement. They knew they had a limit, take it to the point just before death, a dead POW was not good for business Murdock had worked out. The heat was unbearable, the long pyjama garments were unsuitable for the humid air and it almost suffocated him at times.
When the interrogator had visited, to give him a painful reminder that he was a POW, he had also tried to get him to accept his crimes. The only crime Murdock could work out he'd committed was being American, he had no intention of selling himself or his country. They had once asked him to appear on television, stating he was treated well and that he had committed crimes against the Vietnamese. He'd rather remain seated and take the beatings like a man.
The door opened once more and the small interrogator entered the room, the guard wore a knowing smile. Murdock had by now managed to close himself off to the real world, hiding within his own body unawares of the outside world. A sharp pain to his lower back, the stick he knew so well nearly drew him out. Being pushed to the ground, Murdock no longer felt he lived within his own body. Almost watching as the small man yelled indecipherable sentences to him, he could no longer tell whether he yelled in English or Vietnamese. It didn't bother him any more, nothing the small man had to say was important to him.
As the beating progressed he fell more and more back into reality as pain snatched at his conscious, alerting him to every hit and the pain it enforced.
The blood flowed once again and the darkness loomed, no part of his body escaped the stick. He couldn't hide, the minute he rolled up the guard would ensure he laid out straight again.
Finally the darkness arrived to guide him away but his sub-conscious knew the beatings continued for a lot longer.
Murdock was unsure of when the change occurred, when he didn't wake up tied to the stool. Now things had progressed, he knew he had angered them with his persistence. He woke up face down with his hands tied to a pole that run across his back, his elbows draped over the top of the bar. When the guards wanted to be entertained now, they tightened the rope, cutting all circulation.
After one particularly bad beating, Murdock woke up finally, his arms aching for any form of blood supply. The position was proving uncomfortable and unbearable, no longer being able to concentrate through the pain, it felt like he'd been born into the position he now sat in.
The room was pitch black, the guard stood outside exchanging stories with some others. A piece of bread was stuffed in Murdock's mouth, not much different to the old rag they used during the beatings. Food was scarce and usually off but it was something to help him survive, he would accept it willingly. This time however, more bread was put in his mouth, more water was offered.
"You're being moved," a quiet voice said, "This is to get your strength up for the journey, eat it and rest," the voice continued and Murdock felt the ties around his wrist being loosened.
His arms flopped down by his side, barely able to lift his head to eat the food he was grateful for the first act of compassion he had received as the quiet man lifted his head to give him more bread and water. The pain he now felt in his arms was immense as slowly the feeling returned as the blood fought its way around the newly freed veins.
His hands were still useless and numb as he was helped into a sitting up position; the quiet man escorted him to a wall and helped him to sit down. The man left with Murdock wishing he had the strength to say 'thanks'.
He had sat there, relieved to be out of the restraining position. Unable to shake the feeling of vulnerability he had felt, remembering how he'd been in similar position when he was abused. The thought struck him that not once had he been abused like before, even though the torture was mentally as bad it was more calculated than the direct abuse of rape. What he had experienced here was more painfully simple, being forced to keep the same position, to keep yourself amused within your own thoughts. It was evil, purposely self destructive and very effective form of torture. In some ways, you were torturing yourself and in essence doing their work for them.
Murdock became aware he was being moved, he was now standing and light was in the room. Focusing, a hard thing to do once you have lived in darkness, Murdock squinted and barely made out four guards in the room with him as the light hurt his eyes. Darkness returned as his eyes were covered with a blindfold, he felt his clothes being removed and fear overcome him as instinct alerted him to his past.
His fears were eased as new garments covered his sore, painfully thin and weakened body. His hands were tied in front of him and he was led outside to breath fresh air for the first time in a long while, his steps unsure he found himself quickly getting into step as he received a beating for every stumble.
The journey seemed short as Murdock enjoyed the rare outing; he paid attention to the sounds of life around him in the jungle. He guessed there were at least ten other men in the group as he was told to stop; suddenly he was marched forward again. Reaching what felt like a door, Murdock was pushed inside and heard it close behind him. Another cell he thought, this time blindfolded and hands still tied. He gathered his energy; his hands still hurt from lack of circulation for so long.
Suddenly he was aware of movement, panic filled him as his thoughts and paranoia of being vulnerable kicked in. He instinctively moved back and struggled to free his hands.
"Don't struggle, my god, Murdock?"
Murdock froze as a familiar voice was heard.
"F-Face?" Murdock managed; he had forgotten the last time he'd spoken.
"Don't speak, just relax, I'm here," Face assured him and was already untying his hands.
Finally he removed the blindfold. Murdock tried to focus, squinting but he saw nothing.
"I-I can't-" Murdock struggled with words and felt Face's hand on his shoulder.
"It's OK, you've been in the dark for a long while. Your sight will return, it just needs to adjust."
Face crawled up to Murdock and held him, brushing his hand against Murdock's forehead.
"Just sleep, nothing will happen to you, I promise," Face whispered and Murdock felt himself relax.
Within minutes he was asleep, still unsure of where he was or what had happened. Face kept hold of him, for his own comfort as well as Murdock's. He been in the cell for a few days, a nameless soldier had held him for those first few hours and it helped him through. His thoughts wondered to the nameless soldier, only with him for what seemed a short time. He had been dragged out of the cell roughly a day before, Face wondered if he was next.
He looked down at Murdock and sighed, he too had had the solitary torture. He inwardly thanked the lord that Murdock had been strong enough to get this far, he had had his doubts. Holding Murdock tighter he let himself fall asleep, to dream of better times.
The time passed but never registered, what seemed like a day may have been an hour. Guesses were the only things that judged the passing of time, as the colder weather drew in. They were no longer wearing the long warm pyjamas, so good at keeping in the heat. Now the climate was colder they had to wear shorts, suffocating heat was no longer the problem it had been.
Murdock curled up tight in the corner of the room; unable to get warm his fingers were numb. The cold air and brisk breeze cut through him, there was little protection. He looked over to where Face usually huddled, he was still absent after being taken some hours ago.
Murdock had been grateful that he had got to room with Face, the only friend he had in the hell he now lived in. Pain and suffering was second nature to him now, his dreams the only escape. Murdock closed his eyes, he knew the situation was wearing him down and he was finding it hard to keep up the momentum of survival. The images he saw were becoming too real, if he imagined owning a dog he'd be able to see it within moments of picking the breed. Reality and the imagination were joining forces and he couldn't stop it, especially when Face was not there to kick him out of it.
The door suddenly opened and a limp form was thrown in like a rag, it took Murdock a while to realised the figure was Face. Blinking his eyes he attempted to rejoin reality, it took longer than it should have.
Murdock hurried over and scooped Face up in his arms, glad to see the blue eyes flutter.
"Face?" Murdock said with concern.
"H-Hold me," Face managed through gritted teeth.
Murdock noted the bruises and blood about Peck's body, his shorts were splattered with red blotches.
"What happened?" Murdock asked.
Face simply shook his head unwilling to answer. His eyes opened and Murdock froze; the stare was cold and pain filled.
"Tell me," Murdock insisted.
Peck's eyes creased up as tears formed and Murdock held Peck closer, taking in the full anguish the young lieutenant was feeling. Peck pulled away slightly and looked up at Murdock.
"T-They wanted me to be in some propaganda, I refused-" Peck spoke between sniffs. "I think they took offence," he added and even managed a smile through the pain.
Murdock shook his head, unable to comprehend the strength of will Peck seemed to have. He laid Peck down and reached for the small water supply they were given each morning, he began to sparingly sooth some of the cuts and grazes about Face's person.
"M-Murdock," Peck spoke quietly. "Do you understand why they do this?"
Murdock put the water down and looked into Peck's curious eyes.
"Not really," Murdock admitted. "Times we live in I guess," he shrugged.
"When those guys, you know back at base-" Face hesitated before proceeding. "Those guys who attacked you, the ones we stopped. Why did they do that?"
Murdock took a deep breath; the distant painful memory had been locked away. He remembered himself asking why he had been attacked, he remembered the release he went through to accept why it happened without knowing why in fact it happened.
"They just did, Faceyman," Murdock said lightly, feeling able to just dismiss it now.
Face seemed more distant now and Murdock took hold of his upper body, intending to hold him like he had done for him on numerous occasions recently.
"I find it hard to just accept it because it happened," Peck announced.
"Moving on is the easier thing to do," Murdock advised, he had never considered that Peck may have been troubled by what he saw that day.
"It happened to me," Peck stated without warning.
Murdock held him closer, feeling his inner pain and knowing what he must be feeling.
"I was beginning to wonder," Murdock admitted to him, the thoughts had started to cross his mind. "It never gets any less painful," he added sadly.
"How many times has it happened?" Peck wondered out loud, surprised by the confession.
"That was the second time, the first had been when I was captured once before," Murdock spoke slowly to stop his own emotions seeping through.
"I-I never realised," Face stated clearly saddened.
"That's why I was one hell of a son-of-bitch when I first arrived here," Murdock teased softly.
Peck nodded his head as the memories came back to him, of when he first met Murdock having just been in a bar fight.
"Hannibal never let me show my anger like that, he expected me to just pull myself together," Peck almost smiled. "Only now, I sometimes think I will it to happen, it always seems to now," he added quietly.
Murdock shot a look at Peck, his eyes were closing.
"Face, were you-" Murdock struggled to find the words. "Just now?"
Tears welled up in Face's eyes and Murdock brought him close again unable to accept it, fear rose inside him as he imagined the young lieutenants state of mind compared to his.
"It's not you, Face. Please believe that, its this place not you," Murdock repeated many times as he rocked Peck gently, trying to control his own feelings.
As Face fell asleep in his arms Murdock took a moment to think, here he was trying to comfort a man who had faced the same things he had. Only, he wasn't convinced even he had faced them completely yet. It seemed strange being so close to a subject that nearly destroyed him but being told by someone else as there own experience, he only imagined the horror had happened to him.
The door opened and two guards instantly separated the two men, grabbing Murdock and tying up his wrists. Murdock looked back at Face who dozily looked on; Murdock tried to reassure him with a glance before being led out of the cell. It was now his turn.
The rain felt like daggers as Murdock hung by his wrists to a tree, fully exposed in just a pair of shorts to the elements. His shoulder's ached and he passed the time trying to figure out how long he'd been out there. He'd seen two dawns but had also been unconscious for long periods. He looked down at his sorry excuse for a body, skeleton's at med school looked healthier he thought.
His weakening state was made worse by the many whiplash cuts around his torso that seeped his life-blood. He flung his head back, subconsciously wishing for permanent darkness but knowing that would be the easy option.
The torturer returned, a man who appeared to enjoy his work it seemed by the huge smile he had. To Murdock's surprise the rope was given some slack and then released completely, leaving Murdock to crash to the ground in a heap. His senses, although not as sharp as they once were, could tell he was surrounded and he fought the inner battle with his fear.
He was almost relieved to find they intended to beat him senseless, at least then the darkness would come a lot quicker and his conscious would be spared any ugly details. The kicks to his body and punches to his face struck him hard, he was easily taken to the darkness. He was aware the beating and torture continued but where he now was had no room to feel the pain, that would come later after the event.
Murdock felt the pain almost before consciousness arrived, he fought to stay where he was but he could hear Peck talking. The words were even and unlike the words he normally heard, as he became more aware he recognised the words as those of the lord's book.
"F-Face," Murdock managed through the extreme pain, somehow he knew this time he'd been lucky.
Face never responded, instead he held Murdock close almost like a soft toy. Murdock's whole body stung and pain was never ending, his limbs felt on fire. He realised he could hardly move, he was lying flat on his back and Peck was lying next to him, holding his head.
"F-Face?" Murdock croaked softly, his throat felt like sandpaper.
Face seemed to snap out of his trance and appeared amazed that Murdock was calling his name, he reached for the water and eagerly poured some on Murdock's lips.
"Murdock? Your still with us?" he couldn't hide his joy.
Murdock didn't need detective skills to see the scared look Face carried with his joy, he had obviously scared the kid this time. He found some strength, biting his tongue as he sat up ignoring the pain. He knew he had to remain strong, Peck seemed to be counting on it.
"I'm still here, just needed more time that time," Murdock grinned.
"Don't ever do that to me again!" Face protested. "You were out cold for at least two days, I'm sure," he added.
Murdock saw fresh bruises on Peck's face, he figured he had taken the fancy of one of the guards. He didn't think he'd been touched in that way, but by Face's stare it was clear he'd been attacked again. The coldness of his look was evidence enough for Murdock, he sighed and took some more water.
"We will survive this, we will get through it," Murdock insisted.
Peck nodded his head and seated himself on the other side of the cell, they both allowed warm thoughts to entertain them.
"We still have each other, we're still fighting," Peck agreed finally. "Hannibal will be proud of us," he added after a moment's pause.
Murdock looked down at the mention of Hannibal's name, they still were not sure what had happened to Hannibal and BA back in a time that seemed a lifetime ago.
"I think I came real close with that last beating," Murdock found himself admitting with an uneasy calm.
Peck stared at him knowingly, death was not a sign of weakness here it was a sign of freedom and hope.
"If you do get there before me anytime soon, put in a good word right?" Peck jested.
Murdock smirked and passed the water over to Peck, he had never met anyone like him before and knew he had met a friend for life. They both had strengthened their friendship through circumstances, he could tell just by a look what Peck was thinking. They could sense each others pain with just a look and words didn't always need to be said, he knew Peck was thinking the same thing.
"We'll get through this," Murdock stated speaking out loud what they were both thinking.
Murdock watched over Peck as he slept and his concerns were growing. Both Peck and himself had not left the cells in what seemed like days, what had been a daily occurrence now was just a memory. It had given him time to recover fully from the hideous beating he had received and it had allowed Peck some thinking time. Murdock couldn't help but fear what was next, had they realised they'd pushed them too far? Or were they now at the next phase?
As if answering his question the door finally opened and three guards walked in, one of the guards threw clothing at Murdock. Murdock took the laundered items and immediately recognised them to be his A-Team uniform, a strange sensation was felt within him as he looked across at the waking Templeton Peck.
"Get dressed, you are to be released at noon," the lead guard yelled.
Murdock and Peck looked at each other, their jaws dropping but everything fell into place. Why they had not been touched for a while, why they had started getting more water and food. Not enough to remove the skeleton look they both carried but enough to ease it a bit and wounds to die down.
Neither could talk as they rapidly changed into their uniforms, the feeling of complete clothing being like a luxury. Not until they were both fully dressed did they dare start to believe they may have survived, but the doubts were there.
"This could be a sick joke," Peck warned.
"I'm willing to play along just for the hope it may be true," Murdock reasoned.
The wait for the guards to reappear was torture itself and when they did they couldn't get out of their cell quick enough, within minutes they found themselves being embraced by their fellow countrymen. Unsure of what was happening, Murdock and Peck allowed themselves to be led away. Not until they were seated in the chopper did they believe it was over, the unknown friendly faces around them fast becoming their heroes.
During the journey they learned they had been released as a good will gesture, not so much a public thing but more of an understanding. The NVA guessed Murdock and Peck would share the horrors of their camps, intending word to spread amongst the enemy and let the fear run wild.
Murdock and Peck however had decided long ago never to share the true horror, deciding they would always be there for one another if they needed to talk.
Colonel Smith and Sergeant Baracus walked into the infirmary and immediately saw the two men who had been missing for over eight months. They looked gaunt and weak, all bones and the scars of torture were obvious. Walking slowly to the two beds, they watched the two sleeping figures and the pain of their suffering cut deep.
Hannibal moved to Peck's side and saw a shadow of the man he had last seen, he felt the same when he glanced over to Murdock. Sitting down he couldn't say anything; words offered no comfort and couldn't change what had happened. BA looked from one man to the other, struggling to control his rage at the sight he saw.
Niether man noticed Murdock open his eyes, he saw the reflective manner of Hannibal and BA.
"Did you get my postcard?" Murdock croaked, the relief he felt on seeing the two men exploded into a wild smile.
"Murdock," Hannibal looked around.
"Don't be giving us no crazy talk, sucker," BA smiled.
Murdock sat up and sprung out of bed, embracing the big guy.
"I missed ya too, BA," Murdock teased, he had seen their worried expressions and intended to dispell them.
"Sit down, fool, ya sick!" BA protested as he pushed Murdock gently away.
Hannibal couldn't help but smile, remembering what Murdock used to be like he was pleased to see him joking around. Silently he hoped it wasn't a mask, Murdock still carried demons and he knew being a POW can't have helped.
"You rest, captain. We need your services in the team again as soon as your ready," Smith ordered.
"You mean I'm staying?" Murdock's smile seemed to get bigger, he had been wondering whether he might be sent home and was planning to appeal.
"Your unit needs you," Hannibal encouraged.
"What about me?" another voice croaked.
"Face!" BA exclaimed on seeing the lieutenant getting his bearings.
"Well, if you feel up to it," Hannibal mocked, finally relaxing about the fact his men were ok.
"I could get used to this though," Face smiled as he got comfortable in the sheets of his bed.
Hannibal and BA laughed; Murdock took a moment to thank the lord as Face turned over to get more sleep.
Over the next eighteen months the team's reputation grew, they soon went from being the best to being unbelievable. The core of the unit, Smith, Baracus, Peck and Murdock were a formidable force and no one messed with them. Murdock grew in confidence in his new-found stature, his past nothing more than a very distant memory. It seemed soldiers confidence grew the minute they noticed it was him dropping them off or picking them up.
But with each passing day it was also obvious with the confidence came the paranoia, his experience as a POW had taught him to let his imagination run wild and since his return he'd been unable to curb it. On the surface his flights of fantasy were a welcome distraction, comic amusement in the jungles of hell. To the trained eye, they were a worrying sign that not everything was right.
Peck knew exactly what the flights of fancy were; they were a self defense mechanism. He knew Murdock was letting them stay to be able to protect himself against what really happened to him, he too to some extent still let his imagination take control but never for very long. Peck used his imagination to pull off his wilder scams, but he knew what was real and what was fake. He wasn't so sure about Murdock; he seemed to become totally convinced by his own delusions.
Murdock's continued decline, albeit a slow one did nothing for BA's new fear of flying. It now seemed that BA found it impossible to fly if Murdock was at the controls; it never helped if Murdock's current delusion was also on board.
It was at night that the true extent of Murdock's problem came to light, the core of the team now slept in a separate tent to the rest of the unit for fear of the truth being misreported. The nightmares had begun less than a week after they returned, Peck also suffered but Murdock found it harder because his nightmare was still there in his waking state.
At first Peck had tried to get Murdock to snap out of it, to see what was real and what was his imagination but it didn't get through. Now he simply played along, Murdock wasn't lost he was still there but there was a part of him, a small part that didn't let go and it was something Peck realized might never leave him. To talk to the man, was like talking to any other. Murdock still performed his duties, saved the day if needed. He just needed someone close by who understood him; Peck was now self-appointed to the role.
The air of optimism was rife and like a disease it spread to every soldier, the end of this war was in sight. Murdock took a deep breath, intending to soak up all the optimism he felt. He walked to the tent with a big grin on his face, the end of the tunnel was almost in sight he felt.
"Hey, fool. Take that dumb look off ya face!" BA moaned as he tried to shave.
"Good morning to you, ugly mudsucker, you."
Hannibal walked over to Murdock; he motioned for him to come to the back of the tent where a map was laid out.
"You know I don't know how you get away with talking to BA like that," Hannibal grinned.
"It takes years of practice," Murdock responded in all seriousness.
"Right, today's mission," Hannibal began, leaning over the map. "It's one of those top secret ones so you just need to drop off myself, Peck and Baracus."
"You sure I'm not needed?" Murdock checked. "I could bring some sandwiches or something."
"You have orders to report back here after you've dropped us off, you have to get C company to Da Nang before you come back to pick us up," Hannibal replied.
"Roger, roger," Murdock responded, making a mental note to collect his itinary for that day.
"You will fly this route to our drop off point, we can not afford to be spotted even accidently," Hannibal followed the route with his finger.
Murdock checked the route and nodded his head.
"But if I went this way," Murdock announced marking his own route, which took them everywhere but the destination. "You'd get a lot more Nam for your pennies," he smiled as if he was mapping out a tour.
"Murdock," Hannibal stated, his tone indicating this wasn't a time for jokes.
Murdock lost his grin and looked more closely at the map to memorize the route, he already knew but wanted Smith to see he was clear.
"We meet at 0900 hours," Hannibal announced and watched Murdock leave the tent.
"That fool never changes," BA muttered as he washed his face.
Hannibal smiled knowing BA had a weak spot for the captain but would never admit to it out loud.
Murdock glanced around the trees; he was flying low to avoid detection. He glanced back and saw BA with his eyes closed, it amused him that such a tough guy was now afraid to fly.
"Colonel, get ready to move out, the drop off point is fast approaching," Murdock ordered.
Murdock heard the noise of the three men preparing to leave, it pained him to not be a part of this mission but he knew he had to get back.
"Colonel, I'll be back here as Morrison orders, remember to retain your ticket for the return journey," Murdock teased.
He brought the chopper down to a clear parting in the trees and didn't hang around once the three men had departed. He let off a howl as he rose again and saluted the three soldiers, not knowing what was ahead of him when he returned.
Murdock flew much the same route back; he knew when he was on his own, as always, he was most vulnerable. The smoke however, distracted him from his concentration and he squinted to try and get a better look. The smoke was definitely coming from the base, it was a huge black cloud and the fear began to rise within him.
The smoke was blowing in his direction, blinding his vision and he had to rise above it making detection much easier. His panic was momentary as he got his bearings and forced himself to focus; however his imagination started to play its games as he approached the base. He never heard the gunfire hitting his bird, it took a moment for him to realize he was being attacked but he didn't know where from.
A series of bullets hit the tank and a small explosion ripped through the back of the bird sending the chopper into a series of spirals. Murdock regained control but by this time the engine was coughing for more fuel, he was over the base and his attention snapped to the fires erupting from it. The engine finally cut out and Murdock held on as the chopper went into a wild freefall, not wanting to be with the bird on impact Murdock timed his jump and landed heavily in some foliage on one side of the base.
Getting to his feet and ignoring the pain he felt to his arm and head he staggered to the main building, now a mass of fire and wreakage. He looked around and found some soldiers tending to the injured, he walked over dazed.
"W-What happened?" Murdock asked.
"Where did you come from, we thought we had everyone out!" the soldier explained.
"No, I was up there but my bird came down here and I jumped," Murdock explained thinking he had made perfect sense.
"Sit down, you need treatment urgently," the soldier fussed, concerned by Murdock's injuries and state of mind.
"I need to see Colonel Morrison, I have to get my next orders," Murdock tried to stand up but the soldier stopped him.
"There will be no more missions, this base is history," the soldier stated. "Besides, Morrison got the full impact of that explosion, he's dead."
Murdock turned his fuzzy attention to the building, knowing the soldier had turned away he gingerly stood up and walked towards the building. Looking around he saw properly the devastation and ruins he now stood in. Men were being laid out and covered before his eyes, moans and groans of pain were constant.
This base had been his sanctuary, his home in hell. He had great affection for this place, now he saw it destroyed and burning, he suddenly sensed a great loss. Something grew within him slowly, it was almost telling him that things could never be the same again. He crouched down to touch the dirt, one last contact with the place before things changed altogether.
Murdock looked up and saw one of the unit, Stevens looking back.
"What happened?" Murdock asked, sounding as if he was about to cry.
"The place just blew, we had no warning."
Murdock stood up and walked with Stevens, his bewilderment clear.
"Are you alright, sir?" Stevens asked seeing Murdock clutching his arm.
"The chopper fell out of the sky again," Murdock shrugged.
"You must have flown back in the midst of it all," Stevens stated.
"How are the others?" Murdock asked, wondering where the rest of the team were.
"There are no others, until Smith, Peck and Baracus return we are the A-Team," Stevens suddenly broke down in tears and Murdock put his good arm around the man's shoulders.
"They all died?" Murdock asked knowing the answer.
"I wanted to read, they all went to the bar," Stevens said between the sobs of pain he cried.
Murdock wanted to remark but couldn't; the full impact of the loss was too great.
"Lets go back, see if we can help," Murdock murmured, his own pain now subdued in comparison.
The two men slowly walked back and worked through the day to try and retrieve what they could.
Murdock stayed close to Stevens, he knew the man was carrying the guilt of at least five men's deaths. No matter what he said, it made no difference. Stevens regretted not being there with the unit to die in the mortar attack, moving him to a group of soldiers still cleaning up he looked at his watch.
"Kid, I have to go collect the other's. With Morrison dead I'm not sure what time was allocated for pick up so I'm just gonna go along and wait, hopefully they'll already be there wondering where I am," Murdock grinned, he'd been trying to get away for the past hour.
Stevens gave him a nod that let him go, he raced over to where the choppers stood. His own bird was already a write off but he hoped another would be ready to go, time had already been wasted and he didn't like not knowing where the rest of the team were.
Murdock's face fell, as he approached the field where the choppers stood, not one had survived. He raced up to the crumpled remains, it seemed a mortar had hit the target and blown everything in range.
Murdock spun around and saw Stevens heading towards him, his face a mess of emotions and Murdock feared the worst. Stevens almost fell into Murdock's arms, struggling to breathe as he caught his breath.
"You have to come back!"
"What?" Murdock asked bemused.
Stevens took some more deep breaths.
"We've just heard, the team," Stevens announced before taking more breaths.
"What's happened?" Murdock demanded as he shook the man.
"Arrested, the team," Stevens announced. "They've been arrested!"
Murdock looked on confused, not understanding what was going on.
"What? Where?" Murdock asked.
"When they arrived back in Da Nang, the MPs arrested them for robbing the bank of Hanoi!" Stevens stated.
Murdock decided to go back, he grabbed Steven and headed back to where everyone else had gathered. His mind ran over all the possibilities, why would the team rob the bank of Hanoi? He had thought it odd that a pick up time wasn't decided before he dropped them off but a lot of things were being done differently, what with so much optimism that the war was nearing an end. How did the team end up in Da Nang? Murdock shook his head, unable to answer any of his own questions.
Murdock looked over to a group of soldiers, guys he'd only ever seen around the base or in the bars before today. Now, a strange commarade had developed in a few hours since the base was destroyed.
"Murdock, have you heard?"
Murdock headed over, realizing they knew more than he did.
"What's going on?"
"A unit just arrived back from Da Nang, they told us Smith, Baracus and Peck had been arrested accused of crimes against their country," one of the soldiers informed him.
"That's bullshit, they'd never do that!" Murdock yelled.
Murdock didn't know what to do, with no commander on hand there was no way to confirm anything. With no base it was difficult to do anything other than believe the rumors. Murdock moved away and seemed in a daze, he walked away from the group.
Murdock saw a truck arriving, he made out a group of officers and began to run over to them. As he ran he felt jolts of pain in his arm, reminding him of his pains. As he got closer he was spotted by two of the men, they seemed to wait for him to reach them as they got off the truck.
"Murdock, I'm glad we've found you," the man smiled.
"Whats going on!" Murdock yelled, using his good arm to get hold of the man.
Murdock felt like he was speaking another language when the answers were not forthcoming, he was growing more angry as the frustration set in.
"Calm down, captain," the officer advised him. "Smith, Baracus and Peck have been arrested by the military police on suspicion of robbing the bank of Hanoi," he continued.
Murdock took some breaths and focused on the man, his confusion clear. The devastation around him and the news he was hearing, it was all becoming too much.
"They were following orders, I dropped them off," Murdock stressed.
"I don't think they were somehow ordered to rob a bank, captain. We need you to come with us now, to answer some questions," The man shook Murdock's grip on him off and led Murdock to the truck.
Murdock let the man guide him to the truck, once he was seated Murdock held his head in his hands. The feeling he had that things were never going to be the same grew stronger as the truck made its way to Da Nang.
Interrogation again, although this time without the pain. Murdock sat in a sparsely decorated office and let the questions and accusations fly around him. No matter how many times he told them the team were following orders they never listened.
He was now refusing to answer any questions, an arrogance that clearly annoyed the men who questioned him. He knew it was odd that the orders were only given on a need-to-know basis, but then it wasn't beyond belief that a Special Forces team might have to deal with a mission on that setting sometimes. He silently cursed the death of Morrison, if the base hadn't been hit then this mess could have easily been avoided. Maybe Morrison had stitched up his unit, maybe Smith had changed the plan but whatever the reason he wasn't going to play any further part.
He'd stick by Smith no matter what, just as Smith had stuck by him. He owed the man the life he had and Peck and Baracus were like brothers to him. Deep down he knew the guys hadn't betrayed their country, he knew they were innocent.
Murdock's attention were alerted to two suited men who had just walked into the room, they were in a heated discussion with the guys who were questioning him.
"Look now, the man isn't even in this room with us. He doesn't hear your questions!"
Murdock narrowed his eyes realising he had just been miles away, oblivious to what was going on right in front of him.
"He knows what Smith was planning!" one of the questioners stated.
"That's of no concern, that man doesn't even know what planet he's on. I have papers here that makes him my concern and he needs help, this man isn't going to see anything other than the inside of a rubber cell," the suit smiled as the other suit walked over to Murdock.
Murdock looked quizically at the suits, he saw the strait-jacket and he let the man put him into it. He was in a no win situation with the guys questioning him, they were already convinced he was in on it. He remembered how acting crazy could be a good defence, and in some way he did feel as if he was going mad.
The team was at that moment being transported back to America for the trial, he was stuck here until told otherwise but suddenly he had a ticket home. He smiled wildly and began to put the madness he had seen at the VA into use.
"You see, you won't get no answers from a loony toons," the suit smiled as he led Murdock out of the room.
Once outside the suit put a radio to his mouth, he glanced at Murdock with suspicion.
"We have the item, be ready with the transport we're coming down," he stated.
Murdock looked back at the suit and it clicked, these guys were the CIA he had no doubts about that. They had probably got scared he'd talk now Smith wasn't there to look after him, he was back in their hands.
Murdock made the decision to continue back home, the VA wasn't exactly security aware and it had a bed to sleep on and food. Maybe for a few months it would provide a good base, then he'd check out his options. His first priority was to the team; his own welfare would always be on a back burner.
The numbness and anger continued to cloud his every move, he felt alone and useless. Strapped up in a strait jacket in a room with walls he could bounce off, but he wasn't in the mood. He was so confused and angry that it hadn't taken the hospital long to find him, at the courthouse where the team were standing trial.
His friends and his unit, the sound of the hammer coming down still sent a shudder through him. Closing his eyes, Murdock couldn't even begin to think of anything beyond the next second. Hannibal, Face and BA had been sentenced for a crime he knew they didn't commit.
Unaware of anyone else in the room, Murdock continued to look within himself for an explanation. He had found a reason to live, a purpose to his life after everything that had happened to him. Now he sat restrained and unable to do anything apart from begin the journey to hatred once again.
Murdock was suddenly aware of another person with him, but too caught up in his own misery to acknowledge him.
"My name is Doctor Richter, I've been told you're a little shy."
Murdock still refused to respond; instead he remained sitting down with his eyes closed. The doctor edged forward and slowly began to undo the jacket, causing Murdock to open his eyes sharply.
"I don't think I have to fear you," Richter said on seeing Murdock's expression.
Murdock narrowed his eyes, he was in no mood for talking but appreciated being free from the jacket.
"You were found at the courthouse, I understand you were interested in the A-Team case. They were your unit, right?" Richter asked hoping to get a reaction.
Murdock simply sniffed and held his knees close to him.
"It must be hard to know they betrayed their country," Richter prompted.
Murdock sprang up in sudden anger and lunged at Richter, taking hold of his coat jacket. Richter simply stood his ground; Murdock's energy was in his emotions rather than his actions.
"They didn't!" Murdock began to sob, not realising why he couldn't find the strength to fight the man who had suggested otherwise.
"Let it go, let the inner battle out," Richter encouraged.
"Shut up!" Murdock raged pushing himself away from Richter.
"I can help you, Murdock, but you have to let them go," Richter frowned.
Murdock curled up in the corner and shook his head.
"You have to start again, get it into your head that the past is over," Richter continued.
Murdock couldn't forget, how could he forget? The CIA had destroyed him, Nam had nearly killed him but he had survived. He survived because Smith had given him the reason to fight back, now Smith needed help and he couldn't provide it.
Richter looked thoughtfully at the man before him, so wrapped up in guilt and anger. He wasn't sure how professional his next act was going to be, but he was willing to give it a go. He could see instantly how important the A-team were to this man, he knew he had a right to know.
"Murdock, I want to gain your trust and by telling you something, I hope it will," Richter was pleased when Murdock looked over. "This morning, the A-team escaped from Fort Bragg."
Murdock's eyes went wide and a sparkle could be faintly seen, he crawled closer to Richter and used him to stand up.
"You're not jesting with me?" Murdock checked.
"No, Murdock. They escaped and have not been seen since," Richter said with all seriousness.
Murdock turned away as if deep in thought, he paced the room with a new found energy.
"Now, will you talk to me and co-operate?"
Murdock glanced over to the doctor who was waiting for an answer.
"Do I get a couch?" Murdock asked like a child.
"You get a whole office, I get a desk and chair," Richter enthused.
Murdock nodded his head, pleased to be leaving the padded cell he followed Dr Richter to the office. As they passed the floor's reception a woman called out after Richter.
"Doctor Richter, do we have a patient by the name of HM Murdock?"
Richter looked around to Murdock and smiled.
"Well yes, he's right here," Richter motioned as they approached the desk.
"This came for him," the receptionist struggled with a big teddy bear.
Murdock took the bear and saw a card attached and with curiosity he read it, suddenly smiling brightly.
"Murdock?" Richter asked confused as to why someone had sent him a big cuddly toy.
"It will help me to sleep at night," Murdock said without the hint of jest.
Richter frowned and walked on down the hall with Murdock following behind. Murdock took the card one more time and read its contents.
'Stay on the jazz'
the end or the beginning?