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Ripping Times (#2 in series)
Summary: A story series beginning directly after "Beast from the Belly of a Boeing." In this story, a jump to the Stockwell years, a reunion of sorts, and a troublesome mission.
Warnings: Some violence. (Slash in stories 5, 6, and 7 of the series.)
Some of the same characters appear in Avenger, but that story does not fit the timeline of this series.
"Johnny gonna fry. Gonna fry, Johnny. Bye bye!" The gleeful lyrics echoed around the stone corridors as they had done for the last few days. The prisoner referred to sat alone and contemplated the opposite wall. Another lifetime, he would have told the singer to keep his mouth closed and concentrate on coming up with a plan to get out of their present situation. For more than three years, however, they had all been behind bars - each and every one of his original team, the men he had met so many years ago. The kid's mind had broken an indefinite number of days ago. Not surprising really - he had never been that stable to begin with. Of the others, he knew very little of how they were feeling. Scared, but hopeful that their beloved leader would get them out of this.
No hopes for him. Yesterday a lawyer hired by his former employers (in a round-about way) had told him that the prosecutor had come up with some interesting evidence against him. Turns out that Johnny-boy had a few more skeletons in his cupboard than anyone thought. And so he was to die. He wasn't scared of the fact - he would be in a cell and alive for long enough beforehand. What frightened him was the idea that he could be beaten by a lawyer, a legal system and some electricity. He was more than that, surely? To them - to everyone outside of the few men who lived in the cells adjacent to his - he was nothing. He was determined to prove them wrong.
He heard the guard long before he saw him - years of walking the prison corridors had made the warden's step slow as he inspected the cells he passed. Chains rattled as he unlocked the door. "Coming out?"
The prisoner squinted into the light. "Do I want to?"
"Sure you want to." The guard smiled as another of the many guards stepped up at his elbow. The second guard stepped into the cell and hauled the prisoner off his bunk. "You don't want to miss Death Row, do ya?"
The prisoner looked soundlessly at him, in silent disbelief that anyone could take death so lightly. For several minutes he was pushed along passages and eventually the prodding stopped when he reached a locked door. The first guard took up one of the keys on his belt to unlock it. The prisoner was too busy watching him to see the other guard begin to move. The first blow hit him square in the side of the head, knocking him into the wall he stood by. He could make no response before the guard's foot impacted against his groin. The prisoner grit his teeth together to prevent letting loose a howl of pain. Somehow, he was still standing, shoulder grazed against the wall. He looked defiantly at both guards.
"Better than a gay bastard like you deserves." Guard One spat at his feet.
The prisoner was still staring at him in disbelief when Guard Two threw him past the unlocked door into a dark room. He managed to hit his head off something hard and metallic as he fell wildly forwards. The taste of blood formed in his mouth as the door crashed closed.
I remind you,
Smith, aka '
"Good. Well, therefore I'm also not our official scrounger." Templeton Peck replied.
"So I am not going to get Murdock a new freakin' baseball!" Face concluded triumphantly seconds before the *old* baseball hit off his shoulder and back into the hands of Frankie Santana. "Frankie! Do you mind!!!"
Frankie grinned. "Hi Face." He deftly turned on his heel and quickly shot at the basket. The ball, however, ended up resting in Murdock's hands. Frankie groaned. "Murdock, I haven't got anything past you all morning. How'd you keep it up, man?"
"Uhh..." Murdock thought. "Exercise, a good diet and...being better than you."
Frankie rolled his eyes skywards. "Hey, where's BA?"
our van's engine, I think."
"Don't get complacent, Colonel. Complacency breeds errors and errors cause your death." Hunt Stockwell, man of many an unnerving smile, stood and looked through his tinted glasses at four fifths of the A-Team.
"Well, isn't that a cheery thought for the day?" Frankie said to the world in general.
"You should write Christmas cards." Face pointed out.
Stockwell smiled with his usual air of superiority. "Fortunately, Mr. Peck, I have an occupation which helps our fair land significantly more than anyone involved with Christmas card production."
"I don't know about that." Murdock started up. "I happen to think that those who write messages in Christmas cards are in fact extremely talented people. How difficult must it be to work with such a limited scope? How difficult to be original? Whereas you, General, have a veritable diversity of tasks. Also-"
Frankie clamped a hand across the pilot's mouth.
"Sorry about that. He's been attending a debating society." Face grinned.
"Yes. Very nice." Stockwell looked around the four men. "However I did not come here to argue to pros and cons of Christmas card manufacture. Captain Murdock, Mr. Santana, come with me, please."
"Huh?" Frankie stared blankly. Murdock made noises. "Where we going?"
"That is, of yet, none of your concern." Stockwell stated.
Stockwell sighed in exasperation. "I really do not see the point of these constant arguments, Colonel. I have made my stand perfectly clear - you work for me or you are delivered to the nearest police officer and executed as according to your previous conviction."
"And we have a right to know what we're doing!" Frankie added.
Stockwell shook his head, turned to leave. "I'll expect the two of you at the front gate in one hour." He disappeared into the house.
The four remaining men stood and stared in confusion. "So much for baseball." Murdock said, bouncing the ball off the ground.
It was dawn before he could bring himself to ignore the pain and open his eyes. How many hours had passed since the guard had come for him? He had no exact idea, as the dark room held no timepiece. Probably a little less than ten hours. Ten hours and no one had come to drag him away to his cell again, or transport him to Death Row. He had thought he knew how prisons operated; with this one he had no idea.
With an effort, he got himself to his feet, intricately examining himself as he did so. His clothes were in a heap next to where he had been lying unconscious. He picked them up with a foot - they were good for nothing but rags now, dirty and ripped. As for himself, he ached all over, but was at least still breathing. His arm, which had been twisted behind his back, might be broken, but checking was not high on his list of priorities. As for the rest of him, at least his legs still worked.
And so to escape. He wondered for a few long minutes where the guards were. It was possible that he was supposed to still be in here - his *visitors* had notified them that they would be here all night. Otherwise, they thought he was dead or had simply forgotten about him. In any case, it was likely that they would be coming for him soon. He had to get away, and quickly. The idea of breaking down a door and running naked through the prison was not immediately appealing, but it was at the moment all that he had.
He was still staring into nothingness when the door opened.
"Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, ninety nine bottles of beer. Take one down, pass it around, ninety-eight bottles of beer." Murdock sang loudly as a simple means of protest as he sat with Frankie Santana in the back of what from the outside looked like a simple truck delivering soft drinks. The unfortunate thing was that it also looked like a simple truck delivering soft drinks from the *inside*.
"Where d'you think we're going, Murdock?" Frankie said, wrestling free a cola can from a pack.
Murdock lifted his nose to the wind. "South, I think."
"Long way to go to find an airport!" Frankie groaned.
"Airport? Why an airport?" Murdock asked.
Frankie shrugged. "If they didn't need a pilot, why would they need you? Why not take Face or BA?"
"I don't know..." Murdock stretched his arms. "I just don't have a clue."
"Well I'm glad that my security on information is holding up." Stockwell's voice came from behind Frankie, making him jump forward to land in a heap with Murdock's foot in his stomach.
"Whoa! Don't *do* that!" Frankie disentangled himself and the two of them watched the carefully concealed monitor screen carefully.
Stockwell, standing in front of his beloved computer screens, smiled in some amusement. "I expect you would like to know what you're doing in the back of a soft drinks truck."
Frankie and Murdock looked around and nodded as one. "Yup."
"Very well. In a few minutes you will be dropped off by the side of the road. To the West there is a high-security prison surrounded by a large area of scrub ground. Somewhere in this area is an escaped prisoner you will refer to only as 'Louis'."
"And we're to capture him and take him back to the prison, right?" Frankie smiled as he caught on to the general idea.
Stockwell shook his head. "No, your mission, Mr. Santana, is to find Louis and bring him back to the road. There will be another truck waiting for you."
Murdock and Frankie stared at each other. "But, he's like a dangerous prisoner, isn't he?" Frankie started. "We don't want him loose..."
"You don't. I do." Stockwell regarded them sharply. "Louis is to be regarded as a friend. Give him whatever assistance is necessary, but get him back here!" The monitor winked off.
A few seconds later, the truck ground to a halt. Murdock prised himself up from the floor. "Come on, Frankie. Let's go get our man."
Click...click...click. Thoughts of recapturing the A-Team and warfare in general were dismissed from Roderick Decker's world as he sat happily playing 'Minesweeper' on his home computer. In the area of the A-Team, he was no longer really concerned. Although he had been taken off their case two years ago, his duty had finished in his eyes when he had testified against them at their highly-publicised trial. His efforts had gone into that more than most - detailed reports he had given on their escapes had allowed them to finally be captured by some unknown General. And then, with his help, they had been convicted of murder. No more did he have to pursue them on a lone quest. Now the world knew they were criminals and every serving police or army officer was bound by duty to find and arrest them. He and his family could sleep safely at nights with this thought.
The telephone rang, making him inadvertently hit a 'bomb' and losing him the game. He swore quietly and picked up the receiver. "Decker!" He listened attentively to what the officer on the other end of the line was telling him. "Who? Oh my god..."
"You know, I really hope you aren't an axe murderer or something." Frankie Santana babbled as he helped 'Louis' into the back of the new truck, which was apparently selling oranges. "Because axe murderers really freak me out. Did you see that movie last week where that guy..." Frankie dodged into the clear space behind the ordinary crates and proceeded to act out the entire last scene of the latest horror movie.
Murdock smiled apologetically at Louis. "Sorry, he always gets like this when he's missing his baseball game."
"I know the feeling." Louis answered, ducking behind the crates as Murdock closed up the back of the truck. "I hope you have some clothes for me. I really don't want to be arrested for being naked in the middle of some orange crates. People would talk."
Murdock passed him the underwear, jeans and sweater that had been lying in the back. "I'd watch that arm." He pointed out. "You'll need to see a doctor."
"Yeah, right." Louis pulled on the jeans with some effort. "I've had worse. Much worse."
"You wanna tell us the story, pal? What's going on here?" Frankie asked, impatient.
Louis shrugged. "I don't know 'the story' anymore than you do. I've been in that prison for three, four years. Why Stockwell wants to bust me out now is...I don't know." He shook his head and sank back against a pile of crates to find Murdock watching him intently.
"Haven't I seen you somewhere before?" Murdock asked, staring at the former prisoner.
Louis stared back with his piercing blue eyes. "No. I never forget a face. How long have you two been working for the General?"
"Year and a bit." Frankie muttered. "When we're gonna get our pardons, I don't know!"
"Pardons?" Louis looked at him quizzically. "What did you do?"
"That doesn't matter." Murdock replied, throwing mental knives at Frankie. "What about you?"
"A long time." Louis answered and turned away to stare at one of the crates. Murdock continued to stare at him in puzzlement. Frankie shrugged and went to work on opening one of the boxes.
"This is a really bad idea." Abel Two threw his arms up in the air in frustration. "Why d'you want *him* out now, of all times!"
Hunt Stockwell, calm as ever, sat behind his desk and sighed. "Why is it such a problem for you? You won't have to deal with him."
Abel Two glared at him. "This ain't personal, General. It's a matter of principle. I think every one of us was pleased when he went behind bars. The guy's crazy!"
Stockwell's expression became deadly serious and he leaned forward in his chair. "If we had left him in there one more day, we would have had to leave him to die in the chair. I was not prepared to let one of my men die in that way."
"Fine." Abel Two replied. "Just keep the guy away from us sane folks, okay?" He stomped off, shaking his head.
Stockwell gave the slammed door a crack of a smile before turning back to his computer screen.
"Where's that fool, Murdock?" BA charged into the main room of the A-Team's base of operations and looked around wildly.
Face peered over his newspaper. "Don't ask us. We apparently don't 'need-to-know'."
"*I* need to know!" BA growled. "That fool took my spanner set this morning to fix his basketball net."
"Let me guess - now you need it back." Face said. "Well, why don't you look outside - I don't think even Murdock would take your spanners on a mission."
"What?" BA stared out at the rain. "Man, it's pouring!" He raced off to save his beloved tools from the rain.
"Hey, looks like we're back!" Frankie hurriedly stuffed the remainder of his orange back in the crate and stood up.
Murdock blinked, shook his head and brought himself back to full consciousness. The penetrating stink of oranges had probably caused them all to start hallucinating. He shook Louis by his good arm. "Hey, muchacho, got to move now."
"Huh?" Louis opened his eyes and Frankie pulled him up onto his feet.
Outside, the driver opened up the back of the truck. Murdock led the way out between the crates and found two 'Abels' and Stockwell waiting for them. "Good evening, Captain." Stockwell smiled.
Murdock was about to collapse in shock when he realised that the comment was directed not to him, but to the man who had previously been a prisoner. Louis jumped down from the lip of the truck to shake hands with the General, blue eyes blazing. "Nice to see you." He gave a quick, false smile.
Stockwell, however, seemed to be genuinely pleased to see him. "We have to get you to see a doctor." He gestured to Louis' limp arm. "Abel Twenty, escort Captain Murdock and Mr. Santana back to the house, please."
Murdock and Frankie were quickly ushered away by one of the guards - a tall man of Asian extraction who didn't say much, if anything. As they looked back, they saw Louis and Stockwell getting into Stockwell's limousine. "This is too weird." Frankie said, summing up their thoughts perfectly.
Murdock nodded. "I don't even know if I *want* to know what's going on."
Murdock shrugged. "Not much to report, Colonel. Stockwell sent us to find an escaped prisoner and bring him back here. We found him naked and looking pretty beaten up near the road."
"What happened?" Face asked.
"Don't know. He's got a broken arm, maybe. Nothing else very serious. Typical prison fight, I guess." Murdock speculated.
idea who he is? Have you seen him before?"
Frankie shook his head. "Never seen him before in my life. I'd remember a guy like that."
"I don't know. I might have seen him somewhere. I don't think I've ever met him, though. Like Frankie says, I'd remember."
"Why? What's so special about this guy?" Face wondered.
"The eyes! The eyes!" Murdock shrieked in mimic of a bad horror movie. "Oh, I dunno, Face. He's just..."
"Can you give me a description?"
"I'm not good with people, Hannibal." Murdock protested. "Uhh...blue eyes, brown hair. About your height, Face. And Stockwell called him 'Captain'."
been in the army?"
"I don't think so, Colonel." Murdock shrugged. "But it's difficult to tell. He doesn't talk much."
"What do you think you're doing!!!" Louis gesticulated wildly with his free arm. "Sending *those* guys to get me! What if they knew who I was?"
Stockwell tried to placate him. "Santana wouldn't recognise an elephant if it fell on his head. Besides, you yourself said in your report that you never saw Murdock."
"That doesn't mean he never saw me!!!" Louis argued. "You're getting lazy in your old age, General."
Stockwell gritted his teeth. Much as he liked the young man, Louis could try the calmest temperament. "As it happens, that mistake is irrelevant. I have found it necessary to put you to work with the A-Team."
"What?" Louis groaned in disbelief. "You *have* cracked. Whatever happened to security? Compartmentalisation? Where did they go to?"
Stockwell's temper broke and Louis was on the receiving end of a cracking blow to his jaw. Once he could sit up straight again, a defiant grin appeared on his face, but he was quiet. "I agree that this is quite out of the ordinary." Stockwell admitted. "However, I need you and you need your men. To get your men, we need people. The A-Team are the only people we have available."
"I don't suppose we can get them out the same way as me?" Louis was already shaking his head. "No, I suppose that arrangement only works once."
"I'm sorry for what we allowed them to do to you, Jack." Stockwell laid a hand on Louis' shoulder. "It was the only way."
Louis nodded. "I know. I know. So, you going to introduce me to your new friends?"
Decker arrived at the prison still in civilian clothes to find a couple of worried looking Privates waiting for him. "Well?" He glared at them as he disentangled himself from his car.
"Uh, Colonel Decker, sir, sorry to inform you that we have been told that, uh..." Private No.1 babbled.
"The FBI have taken control of this investigation." Private #2 said.
"Thank you, Private." Decker was thankful at least to get some sense out of one of them and then realised what he had been told. "What? The Feds? What do they want with this case?"
"Apparently the man was a federal prisoner, Colonel." Private #2 explained. "He's been convicted of more crimes than Charles Manson."
"Yes, and that's exactly why the army should be tracking him down and not some suits!" Decker fumed quietly.
"Uh, sir, we do technically have nothing to do with this." The Private ventured.
"Like hell we have nothing to do with this!" Decker answered. "Get in the car - you're driving!"
BA stomped back into the room and deposited a pile of cold wet spanners in Murdock's lap.
"What?" Murdock looked around the room in search of a clue.
"You left my tools outside, Fool. Now you gonna clean them!" BA stood there, arms crossed, looking very much like a brick wall.
Murdock stared at the objects which were slowly numbing his legs. "Awww, BA, this is already a bad day. I miss baseball, I spend a whole day with some oranges and Frankie and Stockwell makes me stay here!"
"Why's that bad?" Face asked from underneath a newspaper.
"I had a date tonight!" Murdock said indignantly. "Well, sorta a date. A meeting with a young lady, anyway."
"Where, the laundry?" Face quipped.
"I don't see why I should even tell you." Murdock sulked.
teasing him, Face."
"The real world?" Murdock looked around, a puzzled expression on his face. "Where's that?"
Face groaned and tapped him on the head with his rolled-up newspaper.
"Ah, here we all are." Stockwell opened up the door leading to the outside world and sauntered in, followed at heel by a recently escaped prisoner. "Hannibal Smith, Templeton Peck, HM Murdock, BA Baracus, Frankie Santana...I'd like you to meet your new associate."
Jonathan Jackson stepped forward, blue eyes filled with ice. "Well, finally. I've always wanted to meet the A-Team."
"Holy-!" Face started. "I thought you were in...oh, right..." He muttered, letting recent events log themselves into his memory.
a pleasure to see you again, Mr. Jackson."
raised a finger. "This guy's
Frankie looked around wildly as the other four A-Teamers descended into random discussion and whispers. "Uh, guys, am I missing something here? Who is this guy?"
"You hijacked a 747 and threatened to kill all the passengers, if I remember correctly!" Face blurted out.
"Cool." Frankie grinned.
forward so that he was almost touching
"And then you tried to kill Murdock!" Face remembered. "What do you want here, revenge?"
"It's your call, Jack." Stockwell replied, smiling.
make sure it *is* my call."
"I don't believe it!" Face surveyed the faces of the rest of the team. "That couldn't have been a setup!"
else do you think I followed Colonel Smith's warped logic, Tonto?"
"Hang on a minute!" Murdock waved an arm in between Hannibal and Jackson. "You didn't know BA and me *were* onboard."
"Apart from you getting blown out of the airplane."
"Hmmm, yes. That was not exactly according to plan, but at least I had a
are the General's organisation. My team
are part of that organisation. We used to
operate for a group called the United People's Front. When that organisation was destroyed, it provided a good cover."
"So when'd you change sides?" Face inquired.
"This is absolutely impossible!" Decker stood a few feet away from both his car and a bored Private and declared his frustration to the world. "No one - not even Jackson - escapes from a high-security prison without a trace. Not to mention leaving his clothes behind."
"Yeah, it is pretty weird, sir." The Private - whose name, Decker had discovered, was Wood - yawned. "Shouldn't we maybe leave it to the FBI? They have got a lot more people than us and I'm supposed to be back at base."
Decker sighed, bent down, picked up a stone and threw it at the nearest tree. It didn't have much effect, but it did make him feel better. "All right, Private. We'll resume in the morning. If he's gone, he's gone. But wherever he's gone, I'll find him."
"So, you bunking with me, then?" Frankie picked the subject that everyone else was least interested in or worried about and proceded to stare at everyone else until someone gave him an answer.
"Hey, cool!" Frankie beamed. "I've always wanted a room-mate."
"So what now?" Face broke the sudden silence.
"Yeah, do we get a fun, wacky and ultimately depressing briefing?" Murdock asked, looking at Stockwell. To his surprise, it was Jackson who glanced at his watch.
"Too late for any of us to do anything. It can wait until tomorrow."
"Cool!" Frankie bounced up and down. "Hey, Murdock, Face, you gonna watch Dirty Harry with me?"
Murdock readily agreed and hurried to switch on the television. Frankie caught Face's eye. "Well do ya, punk?"
"Huh?" Face said. "Oh, right. Sure. Kathy's doing a night-shift tonight anyway." He sat down while everyone else in the room did a quick facial-expression conversation around the subject of 'Who's Kathy?'.
want to draw the line."
saw the papers, Jack. You've just been convicted of the murders of several
Mexican immigrants - including women and children."
"Don't mess with my people." He warned.
Murdock woke up at the he had pre-programmed into his brain and promptly fell off the couch. He got up onto his knees, rubbing his head and blearily looking at a fully-clothed Jackson who was gingerly examining his injured arm. "Getting the worm?" He inquired.
got up off the floor and stretched his tired limbs. "You
planning on going somewhere?" He examined
groaned inwardly. Getting small talk out of
Murdock shrugged. "Okay. Fine. But I don't know you, all right? I got no grudge against any man I don't know. If you've got a problem about anything we did - you take it up with 'Uncle Stockwell' because we were just doing our jobs. If you had just kept your head, you wouldn't have ended up taking the quick way down and we wouldn't have had to fly in blind!"
"For what?" Murdock liked to have specifics.
"Well, hello all you fun fun people!" Frankie Santana said, swinging open the door and looking on in amazement as both men eyed him carefully from their new positions on the floor. "Uh, I think you can get up now."
"Frankie!" Murdock exclaimed to the carpet. "I thought you were an MP or something! Don't do that!"
get the others."
Wood was still muttering about this not being *his* idea of an early start - more his idea of a late night - when the lone jeep Decker had comandeered was halted by two dark cars pulling up in front of it. Four FBI men jumped out, guns in hands. "Identify yourselves!" The leader yelled, as if this was the first exciting thing he had got to do on this mission. It probably was.
Decker calmly got out and presented his ID. "Colonel Decker, Military Police."
"Decker?" The Fed scratched his nose. "You here because of the A-Team?"
"A-Team?" Decker started, puzzled. "No, I'm assisting in the search for the escaped prisoner - Jackson."
if you ain't looking for the A-Team, then I suggest you get your military butt out
of here." The Fed said. "
Decker sighed. "Look here, son. It looks to me that you could do with all the help you can get."
"Does it?" The Fed glared. "Well then, I suggest you look harder. Good day, Colonel."
Decker turned on his heel and walked the few steps back to his vehicle, remembered something. "Why did you think I was after the A-Team?"
know you all right, Colonel. And according to rumour,
the A-Team were involved with a hijack
"Guess you were." Decker smiled and sat down. "Okay, Private, now we've got a legitimate reason for being here. Head for the prison."
want us to do WHAT????" Templeton Peck's ears rebelled against his brain's
usual logic processes as he heard
"Uh, he said we're gonna break into the prison." Frankie said, helpfully.
"You want us to do WHAT????" Face repeated, in hoping that he was dreaming and by shouting loudly enough he would wake himself up.
do you need your men for?"
laid a hand on
"Do we get to ask why?" Face asked.
"Oh, okay." Face muttered.
is a slight problem."
rescuing a blind man?"
"A more conventional way?" Frankie inquired.
"Okay, Murdock." Face surveyed the territory. "How'd you know about this place?"
Murdock took a running leap at the wire fence. "Applied for a job here once. The guy wouldn't believe my qualifications."
"And just what were those qualifications?" Face asked suspiciously as he joined the pilot halfway up the fence.
"Oh, the usual." Murdock said. "Why is it no one ever believes I was once a fully-fledged Thunderbird?"
"Well, it could be the psychiatric report from Dr. Richter." Face hazarded, dropping to the hard concrete ground.
"That could be it." Murdock joined him and immediately looked around in the darkness. "Where's the sun when you need it?"
Face headed off in one direction. "I think maybe over...argh!!"
"Face?" Murdock took a few steps towards where he thought Face might be and stood still to listen. Dead silence. Until suddenly there was an outbreak of barking.
Face yelled, obviously aiming for the people at the top of the
Murdock hurried towards him and found Face on the ground with a large huskie dog perched on top of him. "Urr, Face, it's only a dog."
"It isn't a dog! It's a nasty, evil, killing-machine!!!" Face protested.
Murdock looked at the dog. The dog looked at Murdock. "Uh, hi there." Murdock ventured. "You wouldn't mind if Murdock and Faceman borrow one of your choppers, would you?"
Face looked between the dog on his stomach and Murdock, a few feet away. "Murdock, it's a dog. They don't own helicopters."
"Maybe not, but they can sure rent them out." Murdock stepped forward and scratched the dog's neck. "Hey, pal. You wanna get off Face, now? He's getting a bit scared."
"I am not scared!" Face said loudly, but quickly scampered up to his feet when the dog bounded off to investigate Murdock's knees.
"Okay, I think we got a deal here." Murdock grinned.
not to make reply. Theirs not to question why. Theirs but to do or die. Into the valley of death rode the
the Feds. They never give up."
"How did you get out, anyway?" Frankie asked, bored with the whole thing.
"What do you mean, *entertainment*?" Frankie asked, not following.
means sex, Frank."
prisoners don't have an A-Team to call if they get gang-raped by some
businessmen. Who's going to believe a mass-murderer over an executive?"
mean they did this to you before?"
that moment, BA and the van rolled up and the big man got out. "Okay,
"Hey!" Frankie hollered in his most obnoxious voice. "Anyone awake in there?"
"What?" A familiar voice asked, as its owner stepped up to the window of the fruit 'n' veg van the Team had acquired from Stockwell.
Frankie didn't even look twice at Decker. "Hey, my man. I got some food here for the kitchens. Nice threads, by the way."
"I'm going to have to check your van." Decker replied, motioning to Wood, who was still half asleep.
"Why? I only got vegetables in there!" Frankie protested as the young Private scrambled into the back and dug around in crates for a while.
"Nothing here, sir." Wood reported, closing up the van again.
"Right. Sorry to have kept you, sir." Decker grimaced in an imitation of a smile and opened up the gate.
Frankie drove through with a smile on his face.
sorry, Face, but sometimes the best way to break security is by not going to
"Yeah, whaddya want?"
"Get lost pal." The guard said. "It's too early in the morning for that sort of thing."
we won't take long."
"Hey, whatcha doin'?" The guard levelled his gun at
"We won't get up that." BA gave his opinion.
I'll get up it."
Frankie Santana half-heartedly unloaded a few crates until he found what he was looking for - his gun. He hadn't really expected Decker to search him, but it was always possible. The prison, half-lit in the dawn, was a daunting place to be. The walls seemed to go on forever. Frankie straightened up to get his bearings, looked around for guards and sped away into the building.
Inside were too many security devices for him to try to get through. He worked his way inconspicuously to as far inside and close to the correct block as possible and waited for an alarm to go off. It soon did.
Price hollered from a few cells away. By this time, everyone in the block was
awake and screaming at the free men to let them out.
will be if we don't get out of here."
"Jack, we gotta go!" The kid yelled, as bullets thudded into the bars of the cells.
Rourke merely blinked and turned back to his cell. BA grabbed
"Well, see, Frankie Santana does come in handy sometimes." Frankie smiled, from his position at the door of the guard's common room where he held five uniformed wardens at gunpoint.
looked at Jackson, who was still staring back at the last corridor. "You
want a hand with him?" He pointed out Thomas, who was still over
"What're we waiting for?" Price asked.
"Our ride home."
"FREEZE!!!!" Colonel Roderick Decker stood there, still half in shadows, pointing a gun at them. The young Private, Wood, stood next to him.
Everyone dutifully froze.
"So, I finally got you, Smith." Decker grinned. "Got you when it wasn't even you I was after. It was you." He shifted his gun to point at Jackson, who stared back with an expression that was something very close to fear. "But I won't complain."
you can't honestly expect that we won't escape."
"Then maybe I should just make sure right now." Decker said as something that sounded like thunder came across the sky.
"Uh...no. I don't think so."
Decker swung around in total amazement. "Peck!"
"Decker!" Face smiled. "We must stop meeting like this!"
on! Move it!"
"I'll always have more time to catch you, Jackson." Decker glared.
"Omanomanoman." Frankie gibbered. "I am *never* doing anything like that again."
Face grinned from his position with his back to the sliding door. "Never mind, Frankie. At least you got to meet our dear, delightful Colonel Decker. An experience everyone should have at least once in their lives."
else was immediately on alert, except for Baker, who was still relating his
part in the amazing escape.
Murdock chose that moment to pipe up from the front. "Hey, uh, Colonel!"
"Uh, where d'you want me to land this thing?" Murdock asked. "The yard where we found it? The house? Where?"
Murdock positively beamed at the thought.
Stockwell and a few Abels were, unexpectedly, waiting for them as Murdock landed neatly in the back garden of the villa. Stockwell immediately pulled open the door at the front to speak to Murdock. "Captain, get rid of this as soon as everyone's out. I don't care where you put it, just not anywhere conspicuous."
"Understood." Murdock gave him the thumbs-up.
The rest of the crew spilled out the back, Face opening up the door. Price and Baker, carrying Thomas, were the last ones out before Face slammed shut the door and yelled to Murdock to take off. Stockwell quickly told them to take Thomas to the house and followed the three men in. The rest were left standing on the grass, wondering what to do.
"Some morning, huh?" Ross grinned at
"Talkative, isn't he?" Face said.
grinned. "That's our
take it you're all good friends."
"Oh, sure." Ross smiled. "Well, we work well together. I don't know about friends, exactly. I think if it weren't for us being in the same line of work, we wouldn't look twice at each other. Except for Jackson and Thomas, maybe. They were best buddies even before we signed up for the United People's Front gig."
"Hey, Faceman, wanna share a pizza with me?" Frankie tapped him on the shoulder.
"Pizza?" Face looked at his watch. "It's barely !"
"Well, you gotta try everything once." Frankie grinned. "Race ya to the phone."
you my doctor, now?"
and I admit you're not my favourite person, Jackson.
But it seems that we are at present on the same team and I just want to make
sure that my team wins."
thanks for caring."
with the doctor now."
means a lot to you, doesn't he?"
"What are you saying?"
"I'm saying that my team means a lot to me and I'm not going to let you jeopardise their lives by being stupid."
Thomas smiled with blind eyes. "I'm fine, Jack and thank you for getting us out. We all thought you were dead."
one kills Jonathan Jackson off like that."
"Aye, aye, Captain." Thomas grinned.
Murdock charged into the villa, looking surprisingly like part of a hedge, yelling "Shower!" at the top of his voice. He skidded into the main room to find an assortment of team members milling around, looking faintly puzzled. "Uh, what's up?"
"I think I'm the first person ever to outrun a tank." Murdock reported. "I ditched the helicopter, but they must have been tracking me. I don't think they could have picked up that I landed here though, I was only here a minute at most."
"Don't worry about it!" Ross piped up. "Jack takes off on his own a lot. What does it matter?"
matters, Mr. Ross, because you and your team have a highly classified mission
to undertake within the next week." Stockwell appeared out of nowhere.
"I have spoken to Thomas. He was reluctant to tell me anything, which
"Wow, that's real helpful." Frankie muttered.
Stockwell's eyes went around each one of the men in the room before settling on the muddy and leafy HM Murdock. "Captain, be ready to leave in twenty minutes." He slithered out of the room again.
Murdock stared at the departing General and then at everyone else. "Well don't look at me!" he said indignantly.
"With that camouflage it's pretty hard not to." Face grinned. "Shower! Now!"
Jackson stood outside the up-market apartment block in
"Hey!" A uniformed security guard from the apartment block came out of the door and glared at him. "You got business here?"
The guard was evidently somewhat unnerved by the pilot's pale blue stare. "You've been standing here for over an hour. I get complaints, you know. People get frightened you're out to burgle them."
"So what you doing here?" The guard asked nervously.
actually going to see a friend of mine."
"Oh yeah?" The guard doubted this a
The guard looked him up and down once more. "Okay, I'll take you up there. But if you're playing games, Mister, I'm calling the cops."
door was opened by a young blonde woman in her twenties who looked as much out
of place in the building as
sorry to disturb you, Miss, but this gentleman claimed to know you." The gyard looked at
do know him, then." The guard said, evidently unhappy that he wouldn't get
rolled her eyes at him. "Of course I know him! He's my fiancé!" She
turned her attention to
guess I am."
"Jonathan..." She gazed at him. "You're in jail."
got me out."
"That's all very well, but you're still a wanted criminal." She pointed out.
I'm a wanted criminal. Your father is at this very moment scouring
"But Jack...those stories about you being a murderer..." She faltered.
"Women and children?" Martina asked, matching his stare.
He looked at her again. "Why the questions? Has your father been talking to you again?"
"Jack, I haven't spoken to him in months!" She answered. "But I think when someone I love is accused of multiple murders I have a right to know what happened!"
Martina's face brightened. "You mean it? No more secret government missions? No more of me thinking you're dead?"
Murdock was not, on reflection, having the best week. It was, in fact, steadily
getting worse. First his baseball had been seriously dented by virtue of coming
into contact with Frankie's head. Then he had been grounded and as a result had
missed his date. Then he had had to ditch his stolen helicopter in a field
which had not yet recovered from the time of Noah's
was he in
was, for a few seconds at least, totally speechless. "Urrr,
I, ummm, was wondering if, perhaps,
face developed into a frown. "
"Uhhh, my uncle?" Murdock remembered something about this from Stockwell's briefing.
"Cool!" She replied cheerfully. "Come in!"
Murdock ventured in, to find a tidy and spacious room. Whoever she was, she certainly didn't need any money. "Nice place you got here."
"Thanks!" She locked the door. "So who're you? You're not one of Jack's boys?"
"Um, no. HM Murdock, at your service." Murdock flashed her a charming smile.
"Murdock, Murdock, Murdock..." She looked at him, puzzled. "Someone's mentioned you. I'm Marty Decker, by the way."
Murdock almost bit his tongue off.
"Ha-nni-bal." Frankie poked his head
around the door. "Murdock's left the bathroom covered with mud." He
looked around the few men who were attempting to play pool. "Where's
want an explanation."
Stockwell focused on him behind orange-tinted glasses, rubbed the corner of his eye. "Of course, Colonel, if you would be so good to give me a topic?"
"So you'd prefer to be in a high-security prison yourself?" Stockwell said, in a tone of utter seriousness.
smiled nastily at him. "Of course, Colonel, I heartily agree. However,
whatever orders I issue to
"Coffee?" Murdock was jerked out of his thoughts by a word spoken by the daughter of the man he perhaps feared most in the world - if he feared anyone. Martina Decker, who happened to be the girlfriend of Jonathan Jackson, a convicted terrorist who had three years ago tried to kill the A-Team and ditch a 747 into the ocean, all apparently on the orders of General Hunt Stockwell, whom Murdock was now working for. Right now, answering the question of did he want some coffee was a lot easier - and safer - than trying to puzzle out what on earth was going on.
thanks." Murdock nodded and stripped himself of his jacket while sitting
down on the couch. Jackson himself was, Marty said, 'in bed'. Murdock wasn't
about to question further. "So, you've known
"Uh huh." She called from the kitchen. "About five years, I think. We met at a football game. He was there to meet one of his weird contacts."
"And why were you there?" Murdock felt obliged to ask.
"To watch the game, of course." Marty appeared back in record time with two mugs of steaming black coffee. "His contact never showed and the game was pretty boring, so one thing led to another..."
"Right." Murdock grinned, wondering whether he should keep holding the cup of coffee and burn the skin off his hands or to actually drink some of it and become the first official case of spontaneous human combustion. "I guess your father doesn't know?"
"Oh, you know Dad?" Marty looked confused. "Then maybe it was him who mentioned you."
Uh oh, Murdock thought. "Well, actually, we have spoken on several occasions."
"Then that's it!" She grinned. "Were you in the army?"
"Um, yeah." Murdock inwardly sighed with relief. "I flew
She pointed a finger at him. "Another pilot. You know all Jack talked about for months were planes. He was pretty nervous back then. Still, I suppose if I ever need to know the seating capacity of a 747, I'll be all right."
Murdock laughed nervously. "Great. Um, so there isn't any chance of the good Colonel bursting in here?"
"Dad? In here? No." Marty replied. "He thinks he chased Jack away a long time ago. Why would he want to think his daughter was in love with a terrorist? I suppose he might call up here in a few days if he can't find any other options. No, I think we're all right. Anyhow, I'd have the two of you to protect me, right?"
"I wouldn't bet on that." Murdock thought.
"You chatting up my girl, Murdock?"
"I see you found your clothes, then." Marty replied.
"Well, you know, I might have found another boyfriend who fitted them." She joked. "Do you have to go now?"
time is it?"
"No, we just changed your watch. And the position of the moon in the sky." Murdock said.
you and your A-Team buddies, you probably did."
Murdock froze and was about ready to bolt for the door.
"You know the A-Team?" Marty asked.
"Ummmmmm..." Murdock tried to think up an excuse.
Marty stood there staring at Murdock. "So that's how you knew my father. Hmmm, what he wouldn't give to know about you."
"But you're not going to tell him, right?" Murdock pleaded.
She raised her eyebrows. "Murdock, what am I going to say? That you happened to turn up while an escaped prisoner was sleeping in my bed? I don't think so, as much fun as it would be..."
"Don't promise anything." She smiled. "Just do it."
you like to steal a plane?"
is a baaaaad idea." Murdock said, looking idly
around the deserted airfield. He was officially the lookout, but that was
pretty pointless, given that trying to see anything this far away from the city
was like staring into the backs of your eyes.
"No. Afraid of the police, the army, the Feds, the CIA, the KGB..."
Murdock shrugged. "Well, you never know."
"Huh?" Murdock asked, giving up totally the idea of looking out for any passers-by.
"Really." Murdock followed
"Yeah. Read it in prison. Keats would have been better, but I guess they
don't figure that terrorists like romantic poets."
I think they just gave them all to the lunatic asylum." Murdock said,
sitting down in the co-pilot's chair and giving
you want to do the honours?"
Murdock shrugged. "It isn't as if either of us actually has a licence. And you are a pilot."
but you're a whole lot better than me at the flying business."
"What's your record look like?" Murdock asked.
"Very long, but none of it official."
"Interesting." Murdock made a mental note before shoving
Murdock thrust out a hand. "Friends?"
have no idea."
wrong with you, man!" BA exclaimed. "I don't
"Right." Frankie seconded.
not that I'm worried about."
asked him to look in on Tommy."
Stockwell smiled thinly. "It means that, as of today, the A-Team is officially disbanded."
grabbed his arm. "Don't be stupid,
Captain." Stockwell said, smiling at them as if a God over his foolish
creations. "This decision was only recently taken when it was realised that
"A liar?" Face blustered. "I am not a liar! I am a very skilled professional!"
up, Face." Murdock said quietly, observing the scene. Stockwell and
Hannibal staring lightning storms at each other,
"Yeah." Murdock said, giving
"What we gonna do, Murdock?" Frankie asked, totally lost.
"I guess that's for General Stockwell to decide." Murdock looked at the besuited man in front of him.
Stockwell started chanting his bureaucratic reel again. "Mr Santana, Sergeant Baracus, Colonel Smith if he is still here and Mr. Thomas will remain in this building. The rest of you are moving to an indisclosed location in twenty minutes. Get whatever things you have and be ready to move out. Captain, I have arranged for your clothes to be picked up from your apartment." He nodded at the pilot.
on, what about Tommy?"
"This is a high-security mission, Jackson." Stockwell replied. "If Thomas is not taking an active part, then he isn't joining us. Understood?"
The staring match between the two men might have gone on forever if Frankie hadn't piped up with what Murdock, Face and BA were thinking. "What if Johnny doesn't come back?"
is ludicrous!" Colonel Decker sat uncomfortably across from a black suit.
"You can't call off the search for
"Whyever not, Colonel?" The suit, a man called Havers, was slowly eating into Decker's mental processes like acid. "I do believe that it was our operation and that we are perfectly entitled to call it off."
"The man is a danger to everyone alive!" Decker pointed out. "And that isn't including his gang or the A-Team."
Havers smiled. "Right.
"He's a murderer!" Decker said, outraged. "And on top of that, he raped my daughter!"
The suit sighed. "He has been formally convicted of nothing higher than hijacking and as for your daughter, I would think that that is a personal matter, considering that she herself seemed quite enamoured with the man."
"You've talked to her?" Decker asked.
"Of course. It was quite possible that he would go to her for assistance, but
there's been no sign of him anywhere. As a result, we feel it necessary to close
this file for the time being.
Decker sat forward. "And what would that be?"
looked serious, too serious for the formerly crazy young man. "BA,
Frankie, you two gotta hold the fort for us. Try to find
we will, Murdock!" Frankie grinned. "But it's no big deal - you guys
If Murdock had ever felt like slapping Frankie across the face to wake him up to reality it was now. "Frankie! We may not be coming back. Now, look after yourselves, okay?"
"Okay, brother." BA grinned, putting a heavy hand on Frankie's shoulder.
nodded to them and followed Face inside the limosine
where Jackson and his team were gathered, minus Thomas. "Okay,
Murdock looked at Face, who was masking a feeling of terror. As he settled back against the seat, the brutal humming of helicopters echoed in his ears.
it began to rain, John '
since Frankie Santana had almost killed him on set, his entire world had been
different. Frankie had joined the team, Murdock had been declared sane, they
had relocated to
to hell with
threw a fist at the door of a small diner to open it and stomped inside,
trailing muddy water on the plastic floor. None of the few equally wet patrons
asked him anything, not even the waitress who was more interested in her
cigarette than her newest customer.
Thirty seconds later, all that remained of his presence there was a smoking cigar.
"All right." Jonathan Jackson surveyed the motley crew in front
of him. Price, Ross, Baker, Murdock and Face. All
equally confused. All equally scared of what might come next. From Stockwell's attitude to the whole thing, keeping even
Thomas out of it, it seemed that this was perhaps the most important mission
any of them had ever been sent on. From
No one was doubting and no one was smiling.
"Ideas on what?" Face asked, confused.
"What the mission is, of course." Baker regarded him as if the older man was a certified idiot.
"Planes, I guess, Jack." Price said.
There was much groaning from Baker, Face and Price. "What we doing this for, Jack?" Ross moaned. "This ain't important."
"The plane itself isn't, no. But we're not asking for a ransom this time. This time, we're doing the A-Team role and sneaking onboard."
"But what *for*?" Baker asked, bored.
"Why is there never anything good on daytime TV?" Frankie complained, flicking channels.
shifted restlessly in his chair. "I wonder where
"Don't worry!" Frankie said. "He'll be back, right?"
that very ironic moment,
"Sit down, man!" BA practically shoved his commanding officer into a chair. "What's going on?"
"Delicate issues?" Frankie asked.
"Isn't it just a coincidence?" BA suggested.
"Isn't that good?" Frankie said, puzzled.
"Good, yes, but not for Stockwell's
methods of operating. With something like this in operation, his hands would be tied."
"Seems that way."
"Well." The big man got up, a wide grin on his face. "What're we gonna do about it?"
"This is all very well, Jack." Price mused. "But we're never all squeezing inside the underbelly of that plane without being noticed. Airports do have a lot of personnel, you know. On that Beller job we were lucky - we only found one or two. And that's if we can even get onto the tarmac - there'll be guards everywhere."
"You sure about that?" Face drawled. "The A-Team rescuing you guys from a high-security prison days before the President flies out to a secret mission is a little more than a coincidence - even to someone like Decker."
knows nothing of any of this."
"Uh, how're we doin' that, boss?" Murdock said in an impression of one of the heavies he regularly pummelled.
Captain, are an official Beller Air pilot, along in
case anything goes spectacularly wrong, since you know the plane."
Baker muttered something to himself, to the effect that that was not a compliment.
Price looked exasperated. "But they're never going to let those guys onboard, Jack."
the expense of making it look like something weird's
With much groaning, everyone got up and left in ones and twos. "I guess it's our usual policy of making it up as we go along then?" Ross quipped.
"Hey, that's our policy!" Murdock replied in earnest. "We patented it and everything!"
is one very big problem with this,
"Where's the meeting to take place?" BA asked.
have any really good newspaper contacts?" Frankie asked, still staring at
his bumper map of the
BA and Hannibal looked at each other. "Amy."
yes, well, we were, of course."
"I know, Murdock told me." Amy replied. "So, what can I do for you?"
"You're the hottest foreign reporter around, Amy. If there are things to know, you know them."
okay. I just hope the FBI haven't bugged my phone.
Word is, the conference is taking place in
"Only BA and Frankie. Uh, he's my special effects man."
"Cool." Amy grinned. "See you."
from his argument with the customer service woman at the travel agent's with
the information that only one commercial airline ever went to Budapest on a
regular basis - Beller Air. "Well, well."
"They sure remember Murdock!" BA chuckled.
"So, what now?" Frankie asked, battling with his map.
"I think I can help you with that." Thomas said, watching them closely from the doorway.
paused in his ongoing war with his bumper map of the
Thomas ventured a few steps into the room, dressed in what appeared to be the clothes Murdock usually left at the Villa for when Stockwell dragged him away from his beloved apartment. "Well, yeah, I am. But only technically."
Frankie looked between BA and Hannibal. "Hands up all those not following."
Thomas gave him a smile. "Exactly. I can see light and dark. Movement... Basically I'm a lot more able to see than *official* papers give me credit for. Which made sure that I was the perfect plant."
door crashed open, revealing HM Murdock and a box full of stuff from his
whaddya know? These Abels
do have a bit of culture in them." Murdock took out a thin book, brushed
the dust off its cover and handed it to
"You regret doing that?" Murdock slouched against a wall.
The terrorist shrugged. "For my men, yes. For Rourke, for Thomas. For the time we all spent in prison. But I guess it meant that the lives of your A-Team were saved as a result, and I got to meet you all, so no, I don't regret it."
Murdock nodded. "There was a naughty boy, a naughty boy was he, He would not stop at home, he would not quiet be."
"All of us, I should imagine." Murdock laughed and spun back out of the door. "Happy reading, Mr. Jackson!"
The door slammed closed.
"Guns! Guns! Guns!"
BA grunted. "There's none here, Hannibal. Stockwell took everything. You know that."
clapped a hand to his face. "Oh,
"He's serious." Frankie said.
"Yup, sounds it." Thomas grinned.
"Oh, man..." BA hurried after his demented leader.
"Aaaarrrggghhh!!!!" Face said from his new position on the floor after being assaulted by a cardboard box wielded by one HM Murdock Esq. "Murdock! What are you doing!"
"Faceyman!!!" Murdock grinned enthsiastically before his expression turned to complete seriousness. "In here, come on!" With one movement, he picked Face up and threw him into a storage cupboard presently occupied by a vacuum cleaner.
"Oh, this is nice." Face looked around. "What do you want, Murdock? And this better not be you coming onto me!"
"No..." Murdock said. "But I understand the vacuum has quite a thing about you. No, we have to talk. How'd you feel about this...thing?"
Face swallowed, stared at the ceiling. "I don't exactly like it, Murdock, but what else can we do? We have to."
Murdock shook his head. "Stockwell's playing a game this time all right and I don't think he's betting with us."
Face nodded. "True, but whatever happens, happens, right? We're still the A-Team! We can do this!" His face darkened. "Do you think...Hannibal and BA and Frankie...will they be okay?"
"We can worry about them when we get out of this." Murdock smiled. "See you tomorrow, Face."
Face nodded. "Yeah." And left Murdock in the cupboard.
The pilot stared at the vacuum cleaner. "This sucks, doesn't it?"
"Huh? Well, I can fire one, just I'm about as likely to hit my own foot as a bad guy." He frowned. "I guess not a lot's changed, then. You know - six of us guys and not one of us was really any good at shooting. Rourke, maybe, on a good day."
The Colonel surveyed his three troops, sighed inwardly and pointed at the ceiling. "Tally ho." He said, halfheartedly.
"I wish that Fool were here." BA muttered.
"'Fool! Fool!' repeated he, while his eyes still
Repented not, nor moved: 'From every ill
Of life have I preserved thee to this day,
And shall I see thee made a serpent's prey?'
Like a sharp spear, went through her utterly,
Keen, cruel, perceant, stinging: she, as well
As her weak hand could any meaning tell,
Motioned him to be silent; vainly so,
He looked and looked again a level - No!
'A Serpent!' echoed he; no sooner said,
Than with a frightful scream she vanishèd:
And Lycius' arms were empty of delight,
As were his limbs of life, from that same night.
On the high couch he lay! - his friends came round -
Supported him - no pulse, or breath they found,
And, in its marriage robe, the heavy body wound."
airport lit up the skyline majestically with its flashing lights of many colours. BA parked the van in one of the many,
half-deserted car parks and turned around to join the meeting. Beside him,
"We don't exactly have a whole load of people, so we're splitting up. Frankie - go to the terminal building. Find somewhere you can get a good look at the front doors and the airplanes."
"Uh, Johnny, what if I can't?" Frankie asked, picking up a walkie-talkie.
you'll run very quickly."
"Okay." Frankie muttered.
Thomas, we're going to try to find our plane."
The reaction was not exactly what he had expected. In ten seconds, each and every member of his team, including Face and Murdock, were neatly turned out and standing in front of him. He looked at Price questioningly. "You tried that one on us one too many times, Jacko." Price grinned. "Now, we going to die or what?"
"Aw, come on you guys." Ross yawned. "I got things to do today!"
aeroplane was standing alone out on the tarmac, a
fair distance away, even, from the departure lounges. None of the passengers
were due on it for at least another half hour. Even so, a great number of
people were taking an interest in it,
"Man, how much longer?" BA grumbled. "We been here over an hour!"
BA nodded sullenly and then reacted to a distant figure. "Hey! Ain't that Murdock?"
"Look, I have to go onboard!" Murdock argued with the Fed-in-disguise at the foot of the steps leading to the plane. "I'm a backup pilot! This is Bobby Gibson, my engineer. We work for Beller Air and the company wants us onboard!"
The Fed glared at him. "Where's your ID?"
Murdock instantly produced his, along with a pile of orange-rimmed Beller Air documents. Baker had to be prodded somewhat to get his out. The kid was presently still half asleep. The Fed looked over them, even reading the small print. "Well, I dunno... I don't know about you guys at all. We already got a pilot!"
Murdock sighed and prepared for a long battle.
stood at the top of the stairwell and whistled absently to himself. No one
suspected anything - none of the Feds knew each other very well, he suspected
from their conversation, so they wouldn't know if he was one of them or not.
Suddenly a black shape blanked out his vision. "Tommy?"
"Jack!" Thomas replied, a fraction too loud. Some of the Feds looked at him, but soon turned away,
"Sure, they're here." Thomas said. "Everything okay?"
"So far, so good."
Jack." Thomas gave him a thumbs-up as
so Murdock's on the plane."
that's exactly why I came along."
I already got too many people trying to do that."
told us Stockwell's plan."
The pilot laughed. "You're right. Well, be seeing you, Smith. I have a flight to catch."
A-Teamers watched him go towards the plane, out of
sight of the Fed. "Well." said
It was five minutes to seven when the first shot was fired - a bullet from Frankie Santana's gun from where he was perched on one of the many stairways leading to the plane. He hit no one, but that was expected. It was nothing more than a warning shot and a spark to set the dynamite off.
The Feds and their passenger either hit the deck or hurried into the 747. For those, Murdock and Baker were waiting. "Hey, pal!" Murdock yelled enthusiastically, knocking one of the Feds out with his gun and shoving him back into the cockpit. Baker had already dealt with the assigned pilot and co-pilot of the aircraft. That left another nineteen Feds to cope with.
Most agreed with him and forced their way inside. Frankie fired off a few more shots, just to make a point. From that distance his chances of hitting anyone were remote, but they managed to unnerve the Feds. The last man inside the plane shot in his approximate direction, but acheived nothing. And then the door slammed shut. Frankie grinned and reloaded.
The Feds were in total disarray. From Murdock's glimpses through from the cockpit he could tell that they had thought of some attempt on the President's life coming, but had either not taken it seriously or had not been prepared. "What now?" Baker asked, tying up the third captured Fed.
Murdock smiled. "You have that little faith in your commanding officer?"
levered up the hatch leading to the main part of the Boeing and waited for the
other three to climb out before he did so.
He stood for almost a minute before anyone saw him. "What the hell?" One of the Feds, who seemed to be in charge, said.
"Who are you?" A man in a light grey suit stepped forward. If he wasn't the genuine article, he looked eerily like the President.
was much whispering among the ranks.
sorry to say, gentlemen, that this man is not the President at all, but an
impersonator hired to lead you all in the wrong direction."
"You bastards!!!" One of the Feds shot at Price, starting off a
flurry of bullets in the air. Most of the true Federal Agents went to ground,
taking their 'President' with them. Eight terrorists and six of
dropped to the floor, a bleeding graze from a bullet across his forehead. Ross
and Jackson ducked back into the second section of the plane. Murdock and Baker
did the same with the cockpit, using the plane's walls for cover. The eight
shot furiously at them, but had no cover of their own except for seats. The
team picked off three of them, while the Feds on the floor pulled down another
two, howling from leg wounds.
the door swung open, revealing BA, Hannibal and Frankie with all guns blazing.
Anyone standing up would have been instantly killed and the one terrorist who
had stuck up his head or a shot at Ross was. Once the Teamers
stopped shooting, the two terrorists left alive and conscious yelled out a
nervous surrender and stood up. Ross and Face immediately grabbed them.
The terrorist Face held started. "You mean he *is* really the President?"
"Only thanks to you."
agents were gradually beginning to sit up and work out what had just happened.
Blood spattered most of the seats and most were all too glad to file out.
"Colonel... Decker!!" Face realised who the green-uniformed man was at the bottom of the stairs.
"Peck." Decker quietly regarded him. "All of you, you're heroes for what you've done today. Mr. President, I'm sure you'll agree." His face darkened. "However, I still have to do this."
lifted his gun and shot
No one had time to pay attention to where exactly the first shot went as immediately afterwards Decker was thrown to the ground by one of the two absent team members - Thomas, who had been left in the terminal building. As all other parties looked on in confusion and horror, Decker's gun went off again, muffled between the two bodies. And then all was silent.
Decker could offer no reply to the angry stares of two confused young men. Baker restrained his comrade. "Hey! He's the bad guy, remember? The courts'll get him!"
Ross stared for an instant at his young friend. Baker at any other time would have been nervously urging him to kill the soldier. Now the kid was in control. "You know, you're right!"
He dropped his arm from Decker's throat. "But you - you will be punished for this."
placed a hand on
Murdock wandered the empty rooms of the A-Team's villa in search of an escape
from the party going on outside. Normally, he would only be too eager to join
in Face's volleyball contests or to teach BA how to crash model planes with
style, but this party was different. Hollow. Strange he should think that, as
it was to mark the greatest thing that had ever happened to the A-Team - a
Presidential pardon. Well, he thought, it was pretty difficult not to get one
after personally saving the guy's life. Still, he would have perhaps given it
up to prevent the bloodshed he had seen those few days ago. Thomas
dead, with no one to be punished for it.
himself had disappeared without a trace after they had buried Thomas. His arm
injury had not been serious and Murdock was sure that he would turn up sooner
or later - probably hijacking flights again. Murdock stuck his head,
pointlessly, into the storage cupboard. "Haven't I seen you before?"
He asked the silent vacuum cleaner before heading back to the main room. He
flopped down on the sofa and absently stuck his hand down the side to look for
lost change. What he found was a familiar book, opened at a page which
displayed the last verse of Keats' poem 'A Song About Myself'. Murdock smiled
and read it to the room: "There was a naughty boy, and a naughty boy was
he, he ran away to
I guess you'll get this. A note to let you know I haven't been abducted by any evil terrorists or anything. If Decker's wondering where his daughter is, she's safe too, although I will deny any claims that she's with me. Say hi to Tommy for me. I suppose I can always get Stockwell to tell me where you all end up as you'll be gone when I get back. It's been a pleasure working with the A-Team and if you ever need a co-pilot, Captain, you know where to look...
Murdock smiled, replaced the book and went outside to join the party.
END for now. See TWO YEARS ON (#3 in series)
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