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Desert Run

Desert Run

By Tee

 

Rating: G

Summary: A while ago someone posted a "Face on the run challenge" on ATSB2.  Here is my effort.

Thank you to Pam – for the jump start and all the rest.

 

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Face was on the run.  Not a good thing for any of us, but always an interesting sight to behold. I'd only actually "seen" Face on the run a couple of times, and he always did it the same way. I might want to talk to him about that before it becomes a habit. Face has a very strong "fight or flight" response. His first instinct is usually to run. No, that's not really fair. I've seen the boy talk his way out of some situations that no one but him could talk their way out of, but when the odds are long and the chips are down, Face will run.

 

He's fast, too. He uses that speed and agility to his best advantage, dashing and darting, flashing a smile at office workers and checking out girls as he rushes down aisles and through doors marked "employees only."  But those fast feet will only get him so far before he settles down and his brain starts looking for other options.

 

I like Face. Well, I would, wouldn't I, or he wouldn't be my second-in-command, but I like him for a lot of reasons. Reasons that most people don't notice about him right off. He's got a larcenous soul and a generous heart.  He'll give you the shirt off his back, just before scamming a better one for himself.  He's not one to be thinking six chess moves ahead because he's too busy actually listening to the person in front of him.

 

Have you ever watched a person who really listens? It's kind of odd. Most all of us listen the same way, with one ear on the conversation and the other one listening for the doorbell. See if you catch yourself the next time the person across from you is rambling on- are you really listening or is part or your mind wondering if you still have peanut butter in the cupboard or turned off the stove.  Face really listens to people, he gives them his full attention. You don't see his attention wander unless a mud green sedan is nearby. I'm sure his mind is calculating odds and wondering how whatever this person is saying will work to his advantage, but it never shows. Not in his eyes, not on his face and not in his body language.

 

But that's only one reason I like him. There are dozens of others, but the one that stands out is his ability to think.  I like people who know how to think. Someone once said that problems are only opportunities.  Someone also said an opportunity never shot back.  I think that was Murdock.

 

Face was thinking now.  He'd run out of places to run, and had literally headed for higher ground. He'd know that BA and I were close, but not close enough to help. 

 

Face had gone ahead to work a job, and Lynch and his banana corps were closer than any of us had thought. So Face made a run for it. First, in and out of the dusty, gritty storefronts in the podunk town in New Mexico and then out into the countryside.  Now, I know what you're thinking, but not all of New Mexico is like some John Ford western. It's not all red rock desert and dry riverbeds, where Face would be dying of thirst before the afternoon hit its peak.  Some of it's nice Ag land with farms and houses, with lawns and picket fences and streams that feed lakes. Not the part Face was in, or me and BA now, but parts of it are that way.  And that was the way Face was headed.  I could tell, just from the way he'd started.  Which was away from this type of place and into the desert.

 

Now, I know you are wondering how I know all this. BA and I got a play-by-play when we arrived in town just two hours after Face left.  The line of military cars had been big enough news, but the chase out of town had sent tongues wagging – and the story would be told for weeks of the blond man that gave the Army a good run for it's money.

 

I couldn't follow Face.  There was literally an army of men between him and us.  So BA and I hung back and followed the Army, looking for that place that we'd see and they'd miss, a place where Face took a turn and left them in the dust and headed back towards someplace that wasn't here.

 

One thing about Lynch is that he's a bit of a bulldog. Hanging on to the idea of having one of us in his sights, he wouldn't let go, and wait for things like supplies.  Face was probably hoping that Lynch wouldn't set off into the desert without food and water for his crew. Face would be disappointed – he didn't know that pugnacious oaf the way I did. 

 

But BA and I wouldn't make the same mistakes as Lynch. We knew that chasing Face could be a long process. We filled the gas tank and got supplies and blankets and BA bought a Coleman propane stove, so we could camp and follow the Army following Face. Now we just had to hope for two things. That Face would know that we would follow the Army and find us when he doubled back; and that Lynch's second-in-command, a Lieutenant by the name of Powell, who had been known to think a time or two, wouldn't look over his shoulder.

 

So here we are. BA on the roof of the van, looking through a pair of high-powered Bushnell binocs. 

 

"See anything?"

 

"I see tons of stuff, ain't none of it Face." 

 

Looking for Face would be like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, one lone man on foot in the desert. We just have to hope that Lynch is having more trouble than we are.

 

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"Anything?" Colonel Lynch was a barrel-chested man.  Once, a long time ago, when he'd been in his prime, he'd been a bit of a brawler and a man to be reckoned with, but now, after too many years behind the lines and behind a desk, he was just another bureaucrat. A bureaucrat with a chip on his shoulder.

 

He'd made a decent career for himself. He was no rocket to the top, but he did a decent job for a day's pay.  He'd run Fort Bragg like he had every other command. With competent leadership, a healthy respect for the men under him, and no real fuss. He followed orders and expected his to be followed. He didn't rock the boat and things had worked out well. His was a slow, steady climb up the through the ranks until he'd settled in his niche as commander of the prison.

 

Until that day!  The day that arrogant, egocentric, wisecracking jackass, Colonel John Hannibal Smith had come through the front gates bringing his minions from hell with him.  Lynch had hated the man from the moment he saw his smug, smirking face. He didn't let it show, however, and treated Smith and his men as he did every other prisoner brought into his compound.  No better, no worse.  He made no allowances for the man's rank or his battle record or the number of medals he wore on his chest.  Smith was a soldier and convicted felon. As far as Lynch was concerned, the man wasn't worth thinking about.

 

But he was thinking about him now.  And had been for the last year and a half.  Since he'd made it his personal mission to get these men back behind bars.  Eleven days.  Eleven days after their conviction, Smith and Peck and Baracus were over the wall and back among civilian population. Emboldened by Smith's success, other prisoners attempted three breakouts in the next two weeks. One attempt was successful enough that two sergeants were out for four days before being recaptured.  Lynch was a laughing stock and he knew it. He needed, for the sake of his career to re-capture these men, and this was the closest he'd ever been.

 

It had been a fluke finding Peck in the little grocery store in Dunlop.  Lynch and his men had been headed to Albuquerque when a mild bout of flu hit the unit. They'd stopped in Dunlop to use the restrooms, and there he was, like a jackrabbit in the road. 

 

Lynch had stood, staring for half a minute before he comprehended that the man before him was the same one who plagued his existence.  He'd shouted the order to give pursuit and followed after Peck, into a store, down an aisle and out the back door. 

 

Peck was fast; he'd give the man credit for that. Smith must have been keeping up on their training, and Lynch knew he'd never catch the man on foot. Powell, behind the wheel of the military issue sedan had come around the corner quick enough, but Peck was already down an alley and over a fence.

 

They'd been following the man for half a day.  Just when they'd get close, Peck would dart down some gully or wash where the cars couldn't follow and they'd be back to having a soldier in foot pursuit.  The men switched off and on, trying to use their fresh strength against Peck's stamina.  But each time they took a moment to exchange men, Peck would vanish, leaving no trail, and Lynch's men would have to scour the desert looking for a hint of his footprints. A helicopter had been ordered from White Sands, but it wasn't likely to arrive before dark.  Lynch was determined to have captured the man before that.

 

"Anything?" Lynch shouted to the man on point.

 

"No, sir. He's given us the slip again." Wilson half-shrugged. It was hot, and they were unprepared for this sort of work.  His men weren't trackers. This wasn't some WW2 movie where one of the guys in the unit was an Indian tracker off the reservation. The closest they had was a guy from Ohio who used to be an Indian Scout.  Wilson had always thought of deserts as flat oceans of sand, but that wasn't the case here. This desert was full of brush and scrub bushes and gullies and creek beds and cactus. 

 

And Peck, wearing sneakers and jeans, was moving a lot faster than the men in green uniforms and combat boots.  The only thing they had going for them were the jeeps and water.  Peck had neither.

 

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Water. It was vital and necessary to the everyday workings of life, to life itself. A person could go days without water.  "And," Face thought, with an inward smirk, "die right after." But he knew what to do, what to look for. There were other animals in the desert besides him, and all of them needed water every day too. 

 

He'd done his survival training in Louisiana, which was so far removed from New Mexico that he might as well have been on a different planet. But in the year and a half they had been on the run, Face had learned a lot of things. He just hadn't really expected that desert exercise the Colonel made them run just four months ago to pay off so soon.

 

BA had been the one to find water on the last exercise.  Face was sure, when it was brought up after this debacle -- and it would be brought up he was positive -- that BA would remind him of that fact.  Face knew BA had tripped over an exposed root of a tree and landed face first in a pile of soft sand. BA swore he knew what he was looking for when he found it, and it only looked like he'd taken a header. When BA had pushed himself up, his fingers dug into that sand and found water underneath. Face didn't expect to be quite that lucky. First of all, he mused, he wasn't going to take a fall like BA had, and if he did, with his luck, it wouldn't be into a pool of water. 

 

Face belly-crawled over the edge of an embankment and looked back on the military patrol.  One green sedan was axel deep in a gully of sand, blocking the six cars behind it from passing. That was the kind of luck Face had.

 

Mother Nature had smiled on him and granted him a boon. Face slid feet first down into another ravine.  The deep cuts in the landscape carved by thousand year old dry rivers were becoming his ally. The natural cover of the countryside was the only weapon he had, and he'd use it for everything he could, for as long as he could.

 

Face knew he had one other thing on his side, night.  Night would be falling soon. Even the long twilight would be on his side.  He could use the shadows, before darkness set in, to cover his movements.  Then, under cover of darkness, he'd head back to town. 

 

Somewhere along the way, between the Army and town, would be Hannibal and BA. He knew, deep in his soul, that Hannibal wouldn't wait in town for him to come back.  The Colonel would be out looking for him – all Face had to do was find the Colonel.

 

Face rubbed a little pebble between his fingers, rubbing off the loose dirt, and then popped it in his mouth. He knew he couldn't suck water out of a stone, but it made him salivate, bringing water to his parched tongue. He glanced skyward. It seemed to be getting a little darker. Mother Nature was smiling on him – he wondered if she was a red-head.

 

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"We have a problem."

 

"Only one? How'd we get so lucky?" It was hot and I was letting my temper get the best of me.  BA was sitting on the roof of the van, the pair Bushnell's trained on the horizon.

 

Just as BA looked over at me, I realized what the problem was, and it wasn't the MPs stuck in the sand.  A window-rattling crash of thunder followed a flash of lightning.  I'd been in some good storms in my day, but I couldn't remember ever being so exposed before.

 

"Well," BA said, as he secured the binoculars inside his shirt and swung his legs over the side of the van's roof. "At least Face ain't gonna die of dehydration."

 

I scanned the darkening sky and knew that dehydration was the least of Face's worries. And if I knew my second-in-command, something I'd spent years learning, he was about to go to ground.

 

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"Zimmerman, stay here and try to get that car moving. Wilson, bring those men and follow me. We'll go after Peck on foot." Lynch tossed his Class A dress coat into the front seat of his car.  Dark rings of sweat had already stained his white shirt.  He kept his cap, it wasn't the best cover for this terrain, but it was better than nothing, which is what Peck had.  Lynch was hoping to use every advantage, as few as they might be.

 

"Sir, do you think that's wise, considering the weather?" Captain Zimmerman hovered at the fender of the military-issue sedan.

 

"I'm not made of spun candy, Captain. A little rain never hurt anyone."  Lynch set out, the shine on his black shoes gone before he'd taken ten steps.

 

Another crack of thunder ripped the air, and Zimmerman was sure he saw bushes tremble.  He saw a private or two reach for their side arms.  "Men, the quicker we get that car moving, the quicker we can be inside it."  The first big drops of rain were already making polka-dot patterns in the dirt on the hood.

 

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I watched as the rain cleaned off the hood of the van.  It was making a tin-ey, hollow sound that echoed around the inside of the van.  BA was still out in the rain, the downpour not dampening his desire to find Face. I'd have been out there too, but there was no reason for us both to come down with pneumonia, and besides, BA wasn't giving up the binoculars. 

 

The storm was sudden and violent, as they sometimes are in the southwest. Flashes of lightning tore through the sky in jagged patterns of light. The horizon line looked like a black wall as we waited for the storm to pass. The lightning itself had been in the distance, but it was coming closer.

 

Just after one flash, BA hustled into the van, bringing with him the smell of damp clothes and wet mesquite. 

 

"I think I saw him." BA wiped a hand over his face and then flicked away the water.  "Course, it could' a been a wildebeest for all I know, but it looked like him and where he should be."

 

"There are no wildebeest in the US."

 

"Murdock said…" He stopped then – realizing the source.

 

"So you want to go in after him?" I asked him anyway, even though I'd already decided we would.

 

"I think so. We might loose him and time if we wait."  BA reached into the back seat and pulled out what he thought was a towel. It was actually one of Face's sweaters.  It didn't stop BA from drying his hair with it.

 

We waited for the worst of the storm to pass us by before I turned to my Sergeant. "Let's see what we can find."

 

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"We're not going to find anything out here." Powell was frustrated.  They'd almost had the car unstuck when the flash flood hit. Three cars were now down stream, the men packed six to a car in the rest of them. 

 

Private Jefferson rolled down the window in the back to help keep down the condensation that was blocking their view of the unending rain. 

 

"It's a freaking monsoon."  Powell grumbled and crossed his arms over his chest, glaring at nothing, and hoping his boss was on his way back, so maybe they could get out of here soon.  He wanted to say what he thought of his commander and this half-cocked stupid quest, but there were junior officers present and he just bit his tongue.

 

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"It's a freaking monsoon." Face said with a sigh, as he struggled to higher ground.  The flash flood had been a surprise. He'd heard it before he'd seen it and scurried up the side of the rocky wall face, scrambling for handholds, using every outcrop and piece of scrub he could find. 

 

The wall of water that swept below his feet was muddy and dark, and full of brambles and debris from somewhere upstream.  But Face didn't stop to look back to watch the powerful force of nature. He knew that as the storm progressed, it would be possible for the water to rise higher, so he kept going up. 

 

The wall he was climbing was the westward side of a mesa, and he knew that sooner or later he'd find the top. Before he got that far however, he found a ledge that might have stopped his ascent, but cut into the under hang was a bit of a cave.

 

It was narrow and dark, and Face tried not to think of snakes and bugs as he wriggled into the small space.  Using his hands, he felt his way into the hole. A long lump, which Face took to be a piece of driftwood, was along one side of the cave, so he sought the other side of the narrow little shelter.  Grateful to be in out of the rain, Face lay in the muggy darkness and listened to the harmony of rain and thunder, and wondered where Hannibal and BA were.

 

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Lynch was drenched through and through, and wondering where the rest of his men were. When the rain started to get heavy, the sky darkening, he'd decided to turn back, but either he'd gotten turned around, or his men had dug out the car and moved on.  Either way, he and Wilson and his men were huddled under a rocky outcropping, waiting for the rain to stop.

 

"Once this is over, Peck," Lynch thought determinedly to himself, "I'm going to catch you and make you suffer."

 

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"I'm gonna make Face suffer."

 

I could hear BA grumbling behind me as we slid down the side of a slope. Thank heaven the rain had finally stopped and the sky was suddenly clear. It was a long shot, but worth the risk, I felt. It's always a risk for any of us. We can't live in each other's pocket, so we do the best we can, and back each other up the rest of the time.  But when any one of us get caught, or even have a close call, the others just have to give him a bad time about it. And trust me, BA has had just as many close calls as me, but together, we've only had half as many as Face.

 

It's not because Face is careless or even reckless - usually. It's because he's our point man and he spends more time alone among the public.  Well, that and the fact that he has a penchant for damsels in distress.  But we won't go into that right now, because I fear it's my Lieutenant who's about to be in distress.  BA is not a happy camper.

 

"I'm gonna kill him," BA muttered under his breath as we scrambled up the side of the wall he was fairly sure was the one where Face had taken refuge.  BA had watched through the binoculars and seen what he was sure was Face ducking into a cave. And BA was also sure this was the right cave, perched three quarters up the face of this cliff.  And he and I - and don't ask me what I was thinking when I decided this - decided to climb up the rock face, in the dark with only the light of a full moon, to extract my second-in-command and get out of this God-forsaken wilderness.

 

"Poor boy don't even know he's dead yet." BA continued his litany as we struggled up the last portion. That lieutenant of mine must be half mountain goat. BA gave me a boost from below, apparently I wasn't going fast enough, and I moved out of his way.

 

BA held his flashlight in his hand, his thumb on the button. Too late, I could see what BA had in mind.  He crouched on a small outcropping just below the cave's entrance, planning to spring up, turning on the light. I hoped Face wasn't armed.

 

"Ha!" BA's yell "to" surprise changed suddenly to a yell "of" surprise. "Ah! There's a dead guy in there!"

 

I grabbed at BA's shirt as he almost stepped off into space.  Then I grabbed the flashlight and shone the light into the dark crawlspace. BA was right.  There was a dead guy in there, but it wasn't Face. Well, Face was in there, too, curled up on the far side of the cave, but the dead guy wasn't Face.

 

I couldn't stop myself from reaching out and touching it.  The fingers were curled as if maybe they once held something, and they felt like old leather.  I was both fascinated and repulsed in equal measure.

 

"Face – wake up!" 

 

"I'm awake," came the terse reply.  "I've been waiting for the storm to pass and to make sure just who you were." He rolled to his stomach and belly crawled to the edge of the cave.  "What took you guys so long?"

 

Ah, my favorite smart-ass. And to think I was actually worried about him.  "Well, I see you had some company. Wonder how long your friend's been here."

 

"Don't know.  I didn't even know it was a he until BA shined the light." He doesn't look too happy knowing he'd been sharing his hide-out with a mummy. "What do you think we should do about him?"

 

"Nothing.  This has been his resting place for a long time, and we should get out of here and leave him in peace again."

 

We climbed down, heading toward the van.  BA was way ahead of us, I guess his thoughts of revenge gone for the moment in his haste to get away from the ancient occupant of the cave.

 

After we reached level ground, Face and I made good time back to the van. BA had the heater on high and the warmth of the interior felt good after the chill of the desert air.

 

"How ever did you get yourself into this mess?" I searched through the glove box for a smoke, and wasn't having any luck, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Face passed a cigar up from the back. I love the taste of a good cigar. Not just smoking one.  I like to hold it in my teeth, feel it there. Sometimes having one is almost as good as smoking one. Almost.

 

BA backed the van out of its hiding place and we set off into the night. I could hear Face in the back, studiously ignoring my question as he looked for clean clothes in our stores. I started to think of Lynch and his boys and which way to head. I wasn't sure how he'd found us and that worried me. Had we slipped up in some way?

 

Before BA made it back to the main road, I knew what we had to do. "Turn around, BA."

 

"Why?" He'd already slowed down, but he wasn't happy about it.

 

"Yeah, why?" Face asked, as he pulled a sweatshirt over his head.

 

"We aren't finished here."

 

"What do we have to do?" Face asked the question with a tone that told me he didn't want to hear the answer.

 

"He's on the jazz, man." BA was shaking his head.  He hasn't figured out that those words alone can spur me on. I like 'The Jazz'.

 

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When BA got to the top of a bluff, we could see them below us.  The four military cars were in a semi-circle overlooking the creek bed that had been a raging river just a few hours ago.  They had their headlights on. That would work for us. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, which wouldn't.

 

"This is just dumb, we could be long gone already."

 

"Consider it revenge. I don't like that he chased us across the desert."

 

"Us?"

 

Face was muttering, but I was used to that. My team muttered a lot. Perhaps I should think about that, some other time.

 

We jogged down toward the cars, coming up from behind and to the right, using the blind spot of the last car on the end.  From there, it was a nice little belly crawl across the desert floor.  My team was getting a practice session in covert ops, that's all this was, and six minutes later, each car had a flat tire.

 

We'd almost made it clear when Lynch appeared out of the bushes, damn his hide.

 

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"Damn your hide, Smith!" Lynch was just scrambling up the far side of the creek bed. It had taken him hours to find his way back to the cars in the dark, and the first person he saw was Smith - Hannibal Smith and his men, creeping around the cars. "I don't know what you're doing here, Smith, but you are under arrest!"

 

"Hmmm." Hannibal got to his feet, casually brushing the dust off the front of his shirt. "An interesting thought, but - no." He made a gesture with his hand and BA backed up, slowly heading for the van.

 

"Don't move, Baracus." Lynch's gun moved from Smith to Baracus, and the men behind him brought their weapons to bear.

 

BA didn't stop, still moving slowly backward, taking cautious steps, but moving nonetheless. 

 

"I said freeze, Baracus!"

 

BA stopped, his hands coming out from his sides, but Face now was on the move, making a wide arc that put more space between himself and the team. A soldier in one of the cars attempted to get out, but Face slammed the door shut. The sudden noise set off a mad scramble, as MPs began piling out of the other cars like clowns at a circus.

 

Lynch swung his weapon up and took a bead on Face. "Freeze, Peck."

 

BA moved when the gun was off him, and Face was on the run as soon as the weapon was off him.  In a matter of seconds, the three men were scattering in different directions. Lynch opened fire, but he was shooting wild and managed to pepper his own car and blow out the back window. 

 

BA was behind the wheel of the van when an MP opened fire. He ducked his head, but revved the engine even as Hannibal slid into the passenger seat. "I told you this was a bad plan!" BA slammed the van into gear, spitting dust into the air. "You're paying for a new paint job," he growled, as bullets pinged off the side and the rear window shattered in a hail of glass. "You're payin' for that too."

 

Face dove in the side door and scrambled over the back seat, looking for the pump action. He shot through the hole in the back window making soldiers dive for cover. 

 

BA gunned the engine and the rear end broke loose and fishtailed.  They were on the run again, only this time together.

 

Hannibal dug out a cigar and stared up at the full moon. "I love it …."

 

"Don't you dare!" Face dropped the shotgun and plopped into his seat. "Don't you even dare."

 

Hannibal grinned. Some things just didn't need to be said.

 

 

The End

By T Fischer

March 2005 (give or take)

 


Desert Run by Tee

 

 


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