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BA had slept most of the way across the Atlantic

Shifting Sands

By: Junkfoodmonkey

 

Rating: PG-13

Summary: The A-Team returns to Qumar and gets caught between opposing factions.

Warnings: Bad language, later there's violence and references to non-con.

Notes: This story follows on from Insurance, Settlement and Vendetta.

Disclaimer: I don't own the A-Team; I'm making no money from this.  The country name "Qumar" belongs to the creators of "The West Wing" and if I'd known this series of stories was going to go on this long I'd never have borrowed it!

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

BA had slept most of the way across the Atlantic.  He started to stir as the pilot announced they were about to begin their descent into Heathrow.  Hannibal put down the book he was reading and watched BA narrowly as he awoke and looked around.  There was a brief second of panic in his eyes then he relaxed.

 

"What was that he said?"

 

"We'll be in London in a few minutes," Hannibal said.  "You okay?"

 

"Yeah," BA said, cinching his seatbelt just a little tighter, looking nervous.  "Ah still don't like the landings."

 

"Better than the alternative."  Hannibal commented.  The Gulfstream jet broke through the clouds and the urban sprawl of London was spread out below them.  BA very carefully avoided looking out of the window.  The hypnotherapy he'd been undergoing for the past year meant he was finally getting onto planes willingly; but he wasn't going to do anything silly like look out of the window and be forcibly reminded that they were thousands of feet up in the air.  At least Murdock wasn't flying he thought, then felt ashamed of that, because Murdock had been helpful and patient, happily taking BA on short flights as part of his therapy programme.

 

The 'fasten seatbelts' sign began to flash and beep and Hannibal strapped in.  He kept a close eye on BA as the plane made its final approach and touched down.  BA was still tense and his eyes went wide as the wheels touched the runway, but he kept his head.  As they began to slow down, firmly on the ground now, he let out a long sigh.

 

"Well done, BA."  Hannibal said, unfastening his seatbelt.  BA at once replaced his nervous look with his customary frown.

 

"Ain't nothing to it.  Ah wasn't scared."   He kept his own seatbelt fastened until the jet came to a complete stop.

 

"Of course not," Hannibal said, grinned.  "Why would anyone be scared of flying?  It is the safest form of transport after all.  Being scared of flying would just be foolish."

 

BA looked as if he was going to give Hannibal a pretty sharp answer to that but shut up as the pilot came out of the cockpit.

 

"Nice smooth flight, Captain," Hannibal said to the slender Arab man, who stopped by their seats and bowed his head in acknowledgement of the compliment.

 

"Thank you, Colonel.  We have at least an hour while we refuel and embark the other passengers for the final leg."  He passed Hannibal a small folder.  "Your passes for the first class transit lounge.  Please relax and myself or the co-pilot will come to tell you when we are ready for departure."

 

BA was impressed.  "First class?"  He asked Hannibal as they made their way to the terminal.  BA received the usual odd looks from business travellers and tourists from all over the world.  In fact it was probably the most international collection of odd looks he'd ever had all in one place.

 

"Yep, first class lounge."  Hannibal stretched the kinks out of his back.  The private jet was roomy, but it had been a long flight.

 

"And a five-star hotel once we get to Qumar?"

 

"That's right.  Hilton."

 

"Man…" he shook his head, "this consultancy game is even better than one of Face's scams."

 

 

They relaxed in the luxuriously appointed transit lounge.  Hannibal sipped on a neat Jack Daniels and BA demolished a stack of ham sandwiches and a frosty glass of milk.  They had secured a table by the windows and looked out at the planes.  When BA finished his food he sat back with his second glass of milk and sighed contentedly.

 

"This flying stuff ain't so bad.  Ah could sure get used to the 'first class lounge' part."  Hannibal wasn't sure the first class lounge could get used to BA.  He looked around at the mostly soberly dressed business people, who darted glances at the gold bedecked Sergeant.  BA followed his gaze and gave the curious folks a scowl that sent them quickly back to their newspapers.  An African man wearing a brightly coloured dashiki and carrying a briefcase gave him a friendly smile though and he smiled back.  You just have to be nice to him, Hannibal thought, and the guy is a pussycat.

 

"You gonna take another sleeping pill?"  Hannibal asked, "It's still a long flight to Qumar."

 

"No, ah'll… um… ah'll just have a Valium so I'm not nervous.  Not that I would be of course."

 

"Okay," Hannibal smiled.  "I suppose you don't want the SAS guys to think you're scared of flying."

 

"No, 'cause ah'm not."  He drummed his fingers on his knee, gazing out at the planes again.

 

"You wanna take it now?"  Hannibal asked.

 

"Yeah…" BA said distractedly.  But Hannibal had to admit he was impressed.  BA was doing great.  This was the longest flight he'd ever taken willingly.  If he made it all the way without a panic attack it would be a huge achievement and Hannibal would be proud of him.  Though not, he suspected, nearly as proud as Murdock, who insisted he wanted a full report of the trip.

 

The co-pilot turned up after BA swallowed his Valium and they headed back to the private jet.  As they approached it Hannibal said to BA, "Don't talk about our fees to these British guys.  They aren't private consultants like us, they're serving soldiers and they're classed as 'advisers', so it's probably their government getting the money not them."

 

"Right."  As they boarded the plane again they could hear a loud voice complaining.

 

"There's nee drink in this fridge."

 

"Christ, Slater, we're not even in the air yet."  The reply came from a well-built man with blond hair.  He was about forty and wearing a good suit.  His accent was clipped and upper class, but with a slightly rough edge to it.  He turned as Hannibal and BA followed the co-pilot into the cabin.  "Colonel Smith and Sergeant Baracus, I assume?"  He shook their hands, smiling.  I'm Lieutenant-Colonel James Langford, that is Sergeant Malcolm Slater," he waved a hand at the man crouching by the mini-bar.

 

Slater straightened up and grinned at them.  The state of his nose and teeth suggested he'd been hit in the face a lot.  However the size of his shoulders, arms and chest suggested that you really should see the other guy.  He was about thirty-five, had a crew cut and there were crude black home-done tattoos decorating his scarred knuckles.  He wore a cheaper looking suit than Langford's and it fitted badly.  Hannibal guessed he was no more a suit-wearing sort of guy than BA was.  He came forward to shake their hands enthusiastically.

 

"The A-Team, ah diven't believe it.  Wait till ah tell wor lass that ah met the A-Team."  Hannibal and BA exchanged glances, the man's accent and dialect were a little impenetrable, but he sounded complimentary.  Slater looked at the gold around BA's neck.  "Jesus, ye like ya jewellery a bit."

 

"Yeah," BA scowled as if asking if he wanted to make something of it, but Slater didn't seem to notice his annoyance.

 

"Anyway, call me Mal or Sarge or Geordie, whatever ye prefer, ah'm easy."  He laughed coarsely.

 

The pilot came over the P.A. then asking them to take their seats for take off.  BA and Hannibal took the seats behind the SAS men and Hannibal kept a close eye on BA as they took off.  BA gripped the armrests pretty hard and his eyes seemed to be trying to leave his head completely as the jet climbed, but he stayed in control.  Once they reached their cruising altitude and the seatbelts sign went off he relaxed again.

 

Slater stood up first and tried the minibar that had been such a disappointment earlier He got out a bottle of Coca-Cola and lounged on the sofa pulling off his tie.

 

"This Qumar place isn't fucking dry like Saudi, is it?" he asked as the others joined him.

 

"No," Hannibal said, "you can get a drink in the hotel bars and in a few restaurants, but that's about it."

 

"Bloody 'ell."  He addressed Langford.  "Why do ah always get dragged along to places where ah canna get a decent pint?"  He drank his cola with an expression of distaste.  "Bleeding Arabs."  He added.  He pronounced Arabs as "ay-rabs".  Oh yeah, thought Hannibal, this guy is really going to fit in.  Langford was ignoring the Sergeant's complaints and rummaging in his briefcase.  BA was scowling.

 

"Ah don't drink either," he told Slater.

 

"Yeah?  You one of them Black Muslims then?"  Slater asked.

 

"No," BA's frown deepened.  "Ah just don't."  Slater shrugged.

 

"Colonel Smith," Langford said.  "Could I just clarify a few things in my files with you?"

 

"Sure."  Hannibal said.  The two Colonels went back to the flight seats and Langford took a folder out of his briefcase.  The front cover had 'Major Faris Al-Madari, Qumar Royal Guard' typed on it.  'Major' was crossed out and someone had written underneath 'Lieutenant-Colonel.'  A photograph of Madari was clipped to the folder.

 

"You've worked with this chap Madari before, right?"  Langford asked.

 

"Yeah and I've been over as a consultant on the project three times now."

 

"How's it going?  You think these Qumaris have it in them to form a decent Special Forces unit?"

 

"I do.  Madari is a good commander and this project is his baby, he has a lot invested in it.  He knows how to pick good men and keep their loyalty.  And with his guerrilla warfare experience…"

 

"Yes, quite." Langford interrupted.  "Seems sort of odd that, a distinguished officer from a very traditional regiment ending up as a guerrilla leader."

 

"He did what he saw as his duty," Hannibal said.  "He's the sort that gets on and does the job that's in front of him and…"

 

"And does it well according to all we know about him."  Langford studied the file some more.  "I have one concern though."

 

"Yeah?"

 

"I assume you know about him being tortured by the KGB?"

 

"Of course."  Hannibal said, frowning, not liking where this was going.

 

"Does that still affect him?"

 

Hannibal looked at Langford strangely.  "Of course it still affects him, it'll affect him the rest of his life."  Langford must have heard the edge of anger in Hannibal's voice, when he spoke again his tone was a little conciliatory.

 

"I understand that, Colonel.  I meant does it affect him day to day?  His work?  Is it something we need to worry about is what I'm asking?"

 

"No," Hannibal snapped, "it's not."  He wished he could bite back the defensive tone because he could almost see Langford's mind filing that tone away for future consideration.  But what else could he say? 'Oh he's fine, he hasn't had a flashback for two years now'? He felt an instinctive distrust of Langford and felt sure he would misconstrue or even misuse any personal information Hannibal might give him.  So he kept his counsel and Langford seemed to sense that he should drop the subject.

 

"What about his aide, Captain Jahni?  You know him too.  Sound man is he?"

 

"Yes," Hannibal wasn't defensive now, his voice was sincere. "He's a natural for Special Forces.  If I'd met him in Vietnam I'd probably have recruited him."

 

"High praise indeed."  Langford's voice was only just on the right side of sarcastic. "This Jahni didn't start his career in the Royal Guard," he glanced at more notes in the file, "Madari had him transferred there."

 

Hannibal shrugged.  "You find a good soldier you do what's needed to hang on to him."

 

"True."  Langford nodded.  "He's known out there as 'Madari's Shadow'."  He smiled at the nickname.  "What's that all about?"

 

"They're close friends."  Hannibal said and then wished he hadn't.  "He's a loyal officer, very..."

 

"Good, good."  Langford scribbled a note in the file then closed the folder and put it back in his briefcase.  "Thank you, Colonel, very useful to compare notes.  Now if you'll excuse me I think I'll try to get some sleep."

 

Hannibal left him to it as he reclined his seat and settled back.  'Adviser' he decided was probably not the right word for Langford, he was certainly out to collect information as well as give it out.  Hannibal made a mental note to warn Madari to be cautious of the SAS officer.

 

The SAS sergeant was still lounging on the sofa talking to BA.

 

"Divn't say the lasses all dress neck to ankle," Slater was saying in a worried voice.

 

"Ah didn't see a lot of women when I was last there."  BA said.  "But ah think most do, yeah."

 

"Christ almighty, nee beer, nee women, bloody weird food.  Why the fuck did I get stuck with this job?"

 

"I guess we just got lucky."  Hannibal said, settling into an armchair.  He put on a set of headphones and started up his 'Learning Arabic, Level 3' tape.  BA glared at him as he was left to listen to Slater's complaints alone.  Hannibal gave him an apologetic smile and then closed his eyes.  As he learnt how to make polite conversation in Arabic he idly wondered if there might be a gap in the market for more specialised language tapes.  It would be more useful to him, for example, to know how to ask for fresh clips for an M-16 than how to find the nearest railway station.

 

 

TBC

 


Shifting Sands by Junkfoodmonkey
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