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BITTER HARVEST - Excerpt only, incomplete
by Rita Ractliffe (lovpeppard)
Rated: Entire book will be R-X overall, this chapter PG-13 Summary: Hannibal has surrendered himself to Vietnam to save his 4 year old son. Hannibal is being put into solitary a lot, and these are some of his recollections while trying to pass the time.
Warnings: Ultimate book: Very Adult themes, cons M/F sex, VC/Russian torture for information, Laotian/Cambodian border atrocities. Ultimate book not for weak stomached.
Disclaimer: A-Team characters were created by Cannell and Lupo and are owned by Universal.
Original characters and story otherwise belong to me. Copyright: 2000
//How long will it take for them to catch on that I really don't know?// He didn't mind buying into the stiff upper lip ploy when there was something `real' for him to protect, some way he was safeguarding his country by his silence. But this was ridiculous. Always one to resent pointless punishment, Hannibal was growing increasingly frustrated at their inability to get past this one area. //But really, it's more than just the bank - the money - they're taking out all their latent hostility on all the Special Forces ops over the years. They've got me good; legally bound by their laws to be punished, now they're making up for all the years of humiliations B all the POWs who escaped all those years, not just us; all the POWs who would not break, would not bend to the will of their captors and who ultimately went home with honor. I'm just a symbol for all those they couldn't break B all those failures.// Smith understood the rationale, but he was just one man - one very tired man at this point.
This couldn't go on much longer without him finally succumbing. //But not breaking - you haven't broken me in 20 plus years; I'll be damned if I'll give you the satisfaction now!//
Sitting alone in the dark, Hannibal found he was losing track of time since they had conveniently placed him in a cell where he could not see the passing of day to dark and reverse. The only way he had to know days were passing were the food trays that were left inside his door twice a day. They would remove the bottom slat from the door, slide the tray in and then replace and lock it again. If he did not place the tray back in the same spot, then they would not feed him the next meal. It took a few times for him to catch on, and seeing no purpose in overt rebellion, he complied. He fully intended to be as model a prisoner as he could, given circumstances.
Having nothing to do to pass the time, Hannibal began delving back into his memory, digging out old bits and pieces of his life and reviewing them, estimating them, judging them and himself in the process. //When you sit down and think about it, it's been a pretty interesting ride.// He called up memories of his parents, and their premature deaths in Korea. That had always been a sore ache in his heart and he had always blamed himself. If he hadn't been wounded, then Mom wouldn't have been traveling on that damned road to come see him. It was bad enough that Dad had died in battle only a couple of days before, but for her to be taken too just because of a goddamned land mine had always filled him with an impotent rage. Unable to find any way to let his anger out, he had finally condemned it to the back recesses of his mind, and finally shut all the doors and would not talk about his parents any more. He'd been given the appropriate medals and honors for having survived in a war that made no sense, and then spent about ten years knocking about the world, going wherever he was sent, honing his skills and slowly but surely rising in the ranks. Post-war Korea, Japan, Germany, West Berlin - none of them held any particular attraction for him - he simply went where he was sent and went through the motions.
Then came Vietnam and they needed officers, tested officers, to put in the field. He'd signed up for tours there since he had nowhere else really to go. When marriage to Jan had proved to be a commitment he couldn't make, and Jack Harmon was more than ready and willing to jump into the void, he mentally shrugged, figuring it was all for the best. She wanted stability, she got it. Harmon was not a terribly intelligent nor charismatic man, but he was stable. He remembered their parting just before he went back to `Nam...
..."She's going to marry me, Smith. Not you. So why don't you get your sorry ass out of here and leave us alone." Harmon was never one to mince words.
"I wish you both the best." Hannibal tried to keep the sarcasm from his voice. He loved Jan desperately, but he could not give up his life in the Army and knew, pragmatically, that he would always have an itchy foot. Jan had made it abundantly clear that she did not intend to be an Army `wife' traipsing all over the world, never having a home to really call her own, and especially in the small police action turning dirty that was called Vietnam. She wanted no part of it. If he would not give up his career in the military, then she was sorry, but she couldn't, wouldn't share his life.
It tore his heart apart. For a few days, he'd gone on a bender, the likes of which he'd never experienced before. When he finally came out of his drunken haze, he shipped back off to Vietnam for yet another tour, trying to rationalize to himself that it was for the best. He had the Team waiting for him -- the "family' he was creating for himself. //If you really love her, you would give it up... all of it. So it must not be love, John.// He tried to convince himself, but never totally succeeded, and like the memory of his parents, he locked it away in a small, dark closet of his soul, nevermore to be looked at but to be kept and cherished as a musty past memory.
Except Jan could not quite shake the handsome soldier out of her life, and when she had Kyle, nicknamed `Kid', she'd made sure that he knew about it, asking him to be one of the boy's godfathers at the very late christening. Kid was already seven and a little old for it, but she and Jack had always argued about everything, including religion, until they both realized they were putting the child's soul in danger. Hannibal had accepted, but said there was probably no way he could get back to do it in person. Her letter had shed a wealth of her understanding of him and how he was hooked together.
I know you won't be able to join us for the christening, but we have a surrogate standing in for you, so that you will be officially his godfather. Jack wasn't too thrilled, but he has always understood that I will always love you, even if I couldn't live with you.
I pray every night that you survive that dreadful war over there and that you will come back home to all of us. I know Kid wants to see you again. Jack was so angry with me because I wanted to name him John that we nearly separated over it. But he finally relented when I told him that John was the proper name for Jack in any case. Aren't I the clever one? And anyway, Kyle is his father's name, so he couldn't say much.
Stay well, dear John, and come see us the next time you get some time free. You will love Kid, he's such a wire! If I didn't know better, I'd almost think he was your boy. He is so unlike Jack in personality. But then that would have been the pits, huh, if I'd had a blonde kid? Jack would have never believed that we never slept together... and that is something I will always regret, sweet, that I turned you down that night. But you were more sensible than I (why couldn't you have been so with the Army thing?).
Have to run to get this posted. Take care John.
Jan had never known how close he'd come to chucking the whole damned Army `thing' and going back to try to repair the damage and see if he could win her back. And then she had died in childbirth trying to have her second baby and so it was one more thing that he locked away in that secret closet of his. Jack had sent him a scathing letter telling him his presence was not wanted and to stay away. But Hannibal took his vows of godfather-hood seriously and made it a point to check in on the family whenever he got leave in the U.S. Kid had always loved seeing his "uncle" John and so they'd remained connected, despite Jack's sour and dour efforts to prevent it. Then when they had the trouble with the Hanoi mission, his own life created the chasm that kept him and the boy apart. Kyle was the closest thing he had to a son, besides the Team. Smiling to himself, he often wondered if Face ever really knew how much he regarded him as a `son'.
Having gotten onto that track, Hannibal's mind replayed the situation that had caused all the chaos in his life to start with...
...They'd been cranking over the rutted and potty roads like the demons of hell were after them B which considering the VC's propensities, they probably were.
His cigar clamped tightly between clenched teeth, Smith hung onto the window frame for dear life, as BA drove the unwieldy amored truck at speeds it had never been designed for. Ever so often he would hit a pothole or a missing piece of asphalt and they would all get tossed upwards to hit the ceiling and bounce down again. Face was holding on to two tiedown straps from the center frame bar to keep himself from being bounced completely out of the truck.
Smith's grin was demonic. Dangerous or not, he was having the time of his life. The thrillseeker in his nature was scaling the heights with all the adrenaline flowing from this impromptu escape. Once their originally planned transportation had been lost, it had been improvisation all the way. Ditching the small jeep Face had commandeered outside the city, they'd found this hulking troop carrier parked with the engine on. How could you argue with luck like that? "How much further, BA?" His voice was mostly lost over the loud clunking of the complaining engine.
"Dunno. You say 15 klicks earlier. We gotta be pretty close by now." Baracus had his hands full just keeping the steering wheel even.
"We should be seeing the cutback area any time." Hannibal was working straight from his memory; the precious maps they'd had with them had been stowed in the original vehicle. "There, that looks like it!" He tried to lean his head out the window just as BA hit another chuckhole, and nearly brained himself on the frame again.
A sudden, sickening snap skewed the truck all over the road. They all held on desperately as the truck took its own path.
"BA! What the hell happened?" Hannibal knew whatever it was, it might have just spelled their death warrants.
"The axle, man, the axle! It done snapped!" BA was doing a heroic job of keeping the truck upright. Realizing that he didn't have much longer to control the truck's path, he slewed it around in a tight 90 degree turn, slamming it into a grove of large mangrove trees and huge bamboo tubes, effectively blocking the road to any other traffic.
"Good move, BA!" Smith thoroughly approved the maneuver. //Quick thinking, Sergeant!// Scrambling out of the door, he grabbed his two bags of money and then looked in the back. "Coming, lieutenant?"
Face was still trying to get re-situated from having been thrown across the bed of the truck during BA's last spin. Slightly dizzy, he grabbed his sacks and tossed them out, followed by their armaments. BA, also out of the truck by now, caught a couple of the bags, set them down and then took the rifles that Peck handed out.
"Now whadda we do, Hannibal?" BA looked around nervously. The damned Cong had been on their tails for most of the ride. It was going to be a real squeak to get across the border.
"What else? We run like hell." Smith had been shrugging into packs and attaching everything he could to them. Finally ready, he turned to the two other men, who had been likewise occupied. Hoisting his M-16, he pointed off in one direction. "The defoliation starts over there, so I'm thinking that's our best bet. The road curves around a lot, so this way will be straighter and quicker. Anyway, they're gonna be tied up for awhile trying to get that truck outta the way." Smith's pleased smirk told his two men how very happy he was considering the dire straights they were in.
"Don' you go gettin' on the jazz, Colonel. We ain' made it yet." BA's practical nature came out.
"He's right, Hannibal. Let's get moving... now!"
Smith smiled at them for a moment longer, then took off loping towards the area he'd pointed out. Following on his heels, they were careful to shadow his every step, knowing full well the area was full of landmines.
It had been a really strenuous hump, the humidity sucking out all their body moisture and energy along with it. Hannibal was pouring sweat when he finally called a halt. "Shhh, guys. I think I hear something." They all silenced and listened to the sounds around them: jeep engines, people tromping noisily through the underbrush, and finally good old American slang coming across a walkie talkie.
Hannibal grinned like a cheshire cat. "I think we have arrived, gentlemen." Pulling out another cigar to replace the one which had gotten trashed in the crash of the truck, he bit off the tip, spat it out and happily started chewing down the end. Waving his hand, he led them forward through the underbrush until they came face to face with a GI patrol - with all rifles pointed at them!
"Whoa! Hey guys, we're US Army... put down the rifles!" Hannibal had been expecting a lot of things, but not quite this. "Boy, are we glad to see you!"
"We know who you are, Colonel Smith. Put your weapons down and raise your hands." The non-comm in charge looked at them like they were dirt.
Smith turned to his men, a puzzled look on his face. "Do what they say, guys. I don't know what's going on here, but I'm sure we'll get it straightened out." He leaned forward, lay his rifle down on the ground, then shrugged out of the backpacks and set them down too, while BA and Face followed suit. Putting his hands in the air, Hannibal tried to figure out what this was all about.
"Now, put your hands behind your head, spread your legs and stay still."
Hannibal looked at the Team again. Something was wrong here, but he didn't have a clue what it could be. "Y'mind tellin' me what the hell is going on here?" He looked carefully at the rank insignia of the soldier in charge. "Uh, Captain?"
"You are under arrest, Colonel Smith. You and your men."
"What?!" The cigar dropped from Hannibal's lips unnoticed in his shock at the statement. "Arrest? For what, chrissakes?"
"Robbing the Bank of Hanoi." The Captain looked particularly smug. "We've been expecting you."
"Well, uh yeah, we did, but it was under orders. Call up Colonel Morrison at [name of camp] and he'll tell you."
"Colonel Morrison is dead."
Hannibal Smith's face went white. If Morrison had been killed and hadn't told anyone else they were on the mission, then they were in one hell of pile of shit. "When? How?"
"Two days ago, after you and your men left the camp." The captain was really enjoying this. Hannibal Smith was loved by his men but despised by most of the higher-ups because he would not follow the rules exactly to their liking. He served under one of those Generals who hated Smith's guts and was relishing informing him about Smith's fall from grace. "How, Colonel Smith? I would think you would be able to tell me about that."
"What are you talking about?" Hannibal was now in no mood to play word games.
"Right after you left, the whole camp came in for a heavy set of shelling. Too much of it was too precise in the hits. Someone had to have told the VC where things were located, since we had moved things around a couple of days before."
"I know. I helped Morrison move his tent to the lower side of the camp... farther away from the ammo dump. How many others were killed?" Hannibal's nature as a commander came into bearing; he'd had other men in that camp, 6 others assigned to his particular A-Team.
"Dammit, I want names!" Smith's temper was close to the edge and about to explode at this little poppinjay's antics.
"Krowsky, Randall, Germane, Hollander, Alvarez, Jones, Sorenson, Chang, Ngyuen Li, and a few others."
Smith suddenly felt sick. Six names from his unit. He looked back over his shoulder at Peck and Baracus. The shock was on their faces as well. More than half their unit had been totally wiped out as well as Morrison. Then he turned back to the pissy captain. "God help them."
"Little late for that, Colonel. You shoulda thought of that before you sold them out." He moved toward Smith with a pair of handcuffs.
Hannibal's temper couldn't be contained any longer. Realizing now that he was considered a traitor and also guilty of killing his own men, he knew these men would look for any excuse to do him in, but he could not resist the urge to pop the sanctimonious jerk in front of him. As the Captain came up to him, Smith decked him with a solid right, sending the man to the ground hard. Standing over him with a look of pure and utter satisfaction, he then looked up to realize that every rifle in the place was aimed at his heart.
BA and Peck had started to move. Hannibal saw it and waved them back. "Leave it, guys. Do what they tell you. This one was just for me." He looked down at the moaning soldier on the ground. "Just following orders, Captain." He immediately raised his hands up and locked them behind his head. Fighting would get them nothing here except killed. //There's been some snafu... we'll get it straightened out, but not if we're six feet under.// He flinched as a burly sergeant and an MP moved to him, roughly grabbing his wrists and shackling them behind his back.
"Hannibal? What are we going to do?" Face's voice was lost and worried. //To escape the VC for this?//
"Do what you're told, guys. We'll get this all sorted out back at camp. I don't know what's been going on since we left, but I do know Morrison sent out a copy of those orders to Washington, so we're safe."
The MP suddenly shoved him forward and stuck out his foot as he did so, so Smith tripped and went sprawling into the muck. Without his hands to balance him, he took the fall bad, landing on his right shoulder and sliding forward, ripping his cheek and laying it bare from the root-covered terrain. The MP gave him a swift, hard kick in the groin while he was down, payback for Smith's attack on the Captain, causing Smith to curl up in a tight ball of sudden, gut wrenching agony.
BA had been tractable until that moment. Already shackled, nevertheless his bulk could make quite a battering ram and he ran towards the MP intent on getting his licks in. //Don' no one do that to Hannibal! No one!// Seeing his CO kicked while he was down and helpless brought back all the bad memories from the VC camp and Dien's insane punishments of Smith and sent BA over the edge. The MP saw him coming, turned and raised his rifle.
Raising his head, Hannibal saw him too, and desperately trying to catch his breath, barked out orders. "Stop it, BA! Do what he tells you. I'm fine. I will be okay, just got to catch my breath."
Baracus stopped mid-stride, not because of fear of the MP nor his rifle, but only because his CO had ordered it. He looked back at Smith lying in the muck and saw his eyebrow quirk up and then saw him mouth, "Not here, BA... not like this."
Nodding, BA stood at loose attention while they put more chains around him.
The soldiers surrounded Smith and hauled him to his feet, ignoring the blood pouring from the fresh wounds on his cheekbone and eyebrow. The sudden motion made him dizzy and he swayed for a moment, looking like he might pass out. The MP's grabbed his arms and held him tightly upright until they felt the shakes stop.
Face stood in stunned silence, watching all of the events unfold. He simply could not believe this was happening. They were being arrested for carrying out their orders? What in hell was the justice in that? Then when the MP brutalized Hannibal and BA nearly followed suit, it hit him hard B they were damned if those orders couldn't be found. He'd heard the subdued undertone of anger in the Captain's voice when he'd called out the roll-call of the dead soldiers at camp. Of course, they were his friends too, and if he thought that the Team had had anything to do with it, he would probably want any excuse to execute them on the spot. Peck looked back at Hannibal to see the usually bouyant colonel watching him closely, understanding he'd reached the same conclusion.
Hannibal shook his head slightly. //Don't give `em any guff, guys... any excuse to kill you. We will get this straightened out... we will.// .....
... //Oh yeah, we got it straightened out alright. Shipped back stateside, to be stuck in prison, run through a sham of a trial, then stuck back in the slammer...// Smith sighed heavily at the long-forgotten memories. It had been a long time since he'd even consciously thought about the `homecoming' they'd had when they came out of northern Vietnam the second time. Their lives had never been the same afterwards. He remembered when they were interviewed by their counsel for the defense and how totally disinterested the man was in anything they had to say. He=d kept reiterating that the papers had to be found. If they could do that, all this would be straightened out. The lawyer had been unimpressed, saying that teams of researchers had been looking through all the papers that had come out of Vietnam at that time, and there were no orders for any such mission. Hannibal knew they were screwed when he heard that. What he could never understand was who would have done it to them... and why. If someone had a vendetta against him, then fine, attack him personally but for God's sake, to kill six men and destroy the lives of three others? He'd never been able to reconcile it and knew if he ever found out who hated him so much, he just might cross the line and take his cold-blooded vengeance, for himself and for all the men. Face, BA and Murdock had suffered equally much, and he would take it for them as well. They had trusted him and look what it got them!...
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