Greater than Its Parts
Spider Reid stared at the newspaper in disbelief. He put out a shaking hand to brace himself against the door jamb.
"Are you alright, Mr. Reid?"
Startled, Spider jumped slightly and looked up. He saw his 10-year-old next door neighbour standing on the sidewalk staring at him. He realized that he had been standing in his pyjamas in full-view of the street for some time. He smiled feebly at the boy.
"Uh, yeah. Uh, I was...uh...surprised by an article."
"Sure, Mr. Reid. See ya!"
"Thanks, Brian. Have a good day."
With that, Spider turned and entered the house. The smell of coffee drew him to the kitchen and the freshly brewed beverage waiting on the counter. He poured himself a cup and took it and the paper to the kitchen table. A bright patch of sun lit the centre of the table, spotlighting the photo that had so shocked him.
The photo showed three men in formal military uniform and handcuffs surrounded by soldiers in battle dress. The eldest of the three stared straight ahead, his face serious. The man next to him, looked up and to the right as if searching for something above the crowd. His blue eyes wide and anxious although his face was emotionless. The last of the trio looked down, his face distorted with a grimace, a snarl.
But Spider didn't see the photo as it was shown. In his eyes, he saw the same trio as he had known them nearly twenty years before. He remembered Colonel Hannibal Smith grinning impishly, blue eyes shining with life; Lieutenant Templeton "Faceman" Peck opening his eyes wide and smiling innocently as he let his friends see him hide a card up his sleeve; and Sergeant BA Baracus bent over a jeep engine, his face frowning in concentration.
Sipping his coffee, Spider leaned back and recalled a briefing for one of the missions.
It was early 1971. Hannibal leaned over a map on the table. Face stood to one side, foot up on the seat of a chair, listening intently and occasionally throwing in questions and comments. Sergeant Brenner sat backwards on a chair, chin propped on his arms on the backrest. Corporal Keller and his henchman, Corporal Spider Reid, slouched on chairs watching and listening. BA sat at a small side table dismantling, cleaning, and oiling weapons.
Finally, Hannibal stood up and stretched. "Okay, we leave at 05:00 tomorrow."
Keller straightened up slightly, "You coming with us on this one, Colonel?"
Hannibal accepted a cigar from Face and lit it before answering, "You bet! I can't let you guys have all the fun. And this," he paused and waved at the map, "this is gonna be fun!" He grinned so hugely that his eyes seemed to shine like beacons.
As one, Keller and Spider whooped their joy. Ray Brenner, sat back and smiled. Missions with the colonel were something special. That was not to say that Face wasn't a good and competent leader in his own right. The team trusted Face and knew that the young man could be relied on to bring them all back alive if it was within his power to do so. But, somehow with Hannibal along, missions became something more - they became adventures.
As Spider looked around at his comrades, eager to share his enthusiasm, he saw that both Face and BA had stepped forward towards the colonel, creating a small circle around the map. In that brief instant, the three men became a unit, focussed on the mission.
With a sudden flash of insight, Spider realized that the magic of Hannibal's missions wasn't with the Colonel himself, it was the combination of the three men: Face, BA, and Hannibal.
When Hannibal wasn't on a mission, his plans were more conservative and detailed. When he did go on a mission, it was like he cut loose his creativity and opened the way for improvisation. At that moment, Spider recognized the reason why: Hannibal didn't need to spell out more detail for Face and BA. They didn't act as individuals, they acted as a team. Without their uncanny co-ordination and teamwork, there would be nothing more than a bunch of guys.
With a rueful grin, Spider knew that he, Keller, and the rest of them may belong to a team, but they did not belong to the core team - The A-Team. They would only ever be along for the ride - a crazy rollercoaster ride. He had known then that he intended to enjoy it for as long as possible.
For Spider Reid, it had only lasted eight months - a lifetime of adventure never to be forgotten.
And yet, even though he would never be a part of the core, Spider never resented that. Instead, the A-Team came to represent that idea of the sum being greater than its parts. It was as if something like the A-Team could exist, somehow magic was still possible and fairy tales could come true.
But now ...
Spider stared at the words "A-Team Executed" and tried to figure out if the magic had died, too.
His thoughts were interrupted by his son's eager voice, "Dad, Dad, come look at this!"
Sighing, he got up and walked down the hall to the living room. Both of his children sat on the floor, completely focussed on the television. Catherine's eyes were huge and her mouth slightly open as she watched. Matthew glanced up at his father and pointed to the screen.
Spider did as he was bidden and looked at the screen. It was a newscast. With a sharp splinter of pain, he realized that it was a report on the execution of the A-Team. After briefly closing his eyes, he forced them open to focus on what the newscaster was saying. The news team was interviewing person after person in a crowd. The throng behind the newscaster was creating such a racket that it took a moment for Spider to realize what was going on.
It was not a mob of protesters against execution. It was not a crowd of people out for angry justice. It was a group of individuals who had been touched and helped by the A-Team. As each one was interviewed, it became clear that they had been transformed by the experience. Their words, their faces spoke of a passion for justice and honour and adventure - a gift that they had received from the Team, and one they were determined to pass to others.
At last Spider let a tear roll down his cheek. The magicians may be gone, but their magic lived on.