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Que Sera, Khe Sanh
Title:                 Que Sera, Khe Sanh
Copyright         2001
Author:             Reckless
Rated:              R (but a light one)
Disclaimer:        The A-Team characters belong to Stephen J. Cannell and Universal.  Copyright to "All Along the Watchtower" belongs to Bob Dylan.  I don't know who owns the copyright to the real lyrics of "Louie Louie," but it's not me.  I don't think anyone owns the copyright to the fake lyrics.
Warning:           Some violence, injury, a little sex (not particularly graphic), some m/m (also not graphic), swearing.
Comments:       Please.  Special thanks to Fingers and auntiehill for their initial comments and to
                        everyone on the ATFF mailing list who commented on the first draft.
Summary:         Hannibal comes up with a bad plan, Face gets an education and Murdock and BA get taken for a bumpy ride.  And a lot of bad jokes.
 
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
This is a response to the first ATFF Throwaway Line Challenge.  The challenge was to write a fic about the Vietnam-era plan to capture the Cong General mentioned in “A Small and Deadly War,” the episode where the team gaslights the leader of a rogue SWAT team.  The plan is mentioned in a scene in the van that goes like this
 
Hannibal:          Now we've primed the pump.  Let's see if we can get it to blow a cylinder.
 
BA:                  Man.  I don't know why you had to go and send that warning, Hannibal.
 
Hannibal:          BA, that is what is called style.
 
BA:                  I call it dumb.  You don't go kick a snake you're tryin' to sneak up on.
 
Hannibal:          Part of my plan.
 
Murdock:         Plan?  I didn't hear anything about any plan.  I must be fading in and out again.
 
Face:                If you have a plan, Hannibal, perhaps you'd care to share it with us.
 
Hannibal:          These guys got to have an achilles heel.  We'll just keep pushing them and pushing them and pushing them until we find their weak link.  It's the same plan we nailed that Cong general with outside Khe Sanh.
 
Face:                Ahh . . . You mean where I took it in the leg?
 
Murdock:         Where I got shot down?
 
BA:                  That was a terrible plan.
 
Hannibal:          Now we've got all the kinks worked out.
 
 
 
 
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Que Sera, Khe Sanh
 
 
“You got that, BA?” Hannibal asked.
 
The sergeant nodded deliberately, but his mouth twisted as if he had just eaten something sour.
 
“Something you want to add, Sergeant?” the colonel added.
 
“No,” BA mumbled.  “Don’t got anything to add.”
 
“Good,” Hannibal stated.  With a smile, he turned to his new lieutenant.  “See, kid, this is going to be a piece of cake.”
 
Face had watched the interplay between the other two members of his squad with interest, but turned away from BA to nod at the colonel.  Hannibal grinned back, exposed a full set of teeth and immediately put Face at ease.  Face could not help but trust Hannibal.  ‘No one could fake an honest smile like that,’ Face thought as he watched Hannibal head out the door.  The colonel was right.  This mission would be a “piece of cake.”
 
The angry noise from the other end of the hooch forced the lieutenant to turn around.  The gruff sergeant began stomping around, grumbling about Hannibal’s “terrible plan” and how the colonel was “as crazy at that fool pilot.”
 
The lieutenant shook his head.  He did not understand what BA’s problem was.  Didn’t BA know that Hannibal Smith was a military genius?  Everyone in ‘Nam knew that.  Hell, that was the reason that Face had doctored the transfer orders so that one Richard Bryant went to Charlie Company and one Templeton Peck went to Smith’s unit.  Face chuckled slightly, when he recalled the colonel’s surprised expression when, instead of a dyed-in-the-wool career office with three tours of Nam under his belt, a young, wet-behind-the-ears kid lieutenant just out of Special Forces training had turned up on Smith’s doorstep.
 
But Face was determined to learn from the best.  And no one disputed that Hannibal Smith was the best.
 
Things had been fine during his first few missions with the team.  They had taken out some supply depots in the Ashau Valley and had ambushed some VC patrols in the hill country surrounding Pleiku.  But, while the missions were successful, they did not live up to the billing that Face had received.  Hannibal Smith’s unit was supposed to do the impossible.  His a-team pulled off daring tasks that other units could only dream of accomplishing.  Face’s first few missions seemed pedestrian and, frankly, he had found himself disappointed.
 
This mission, though, was going to be different.  This was something that only Hannibal’s unit could pull off and Face considered it his first real test as a member.
 
“Ya’d better get ya head out of the clouds, L-T, or we’re gonna be pickin’ up yore pieces all the way from Quang Tri to Khe Sanh.”
 
Face had to chuckle.  BA Baracus definitely had a way with words.
 
“I think I got your point, Sergeant.  You don’t like this plan, but there’s nothing to worry about.  Hannibal said this job would be a piece of cake.  Besides, you and Hannibal don’t speak Vietnamese . . . even if you could get inside.”
 
BA just shook his head, making no effort to hide the rueful smile that said he thought the lieutenant was a kid without a clue.  Face found himself growing annoyed.  Of course, knowing BA’s reputation for punching superior officers, it was not as if Face was going to say anything.
 
“Umm, Sergeant, why don’t you finish up checking the weapons?  I’m going to go see about the extra supplies the colonel wanted.”
 
@@@@@@
 
BA continued to shake his head as he watched the kid lieutenant walk out the door.  Actually, Face was not supposed to be that much younger than BA, but the sergeant figured that Face’s age was a bit inflated.  If the lieutenant was really 21 as he claimed, it would be cause to worry.  At 21, Face would have been too old for hero worship.  ‘No, there’s no way Face is that old,’ BA thought.  ‘Kid’s probably just outta high school.’
 
With a sigh, BA finished oiling Hannibal’s —16s and his own M-60.  Then he checked the ART on Face’s M-14 sniper rifle to make sure the scope was not loose.  No question the kid could shoot.  He was one of the best marksmen any of them had ever seen. BA still marveled at the show Face had put on with a “heavy” sniper rifle the team had borrowed.  The kid had nailed a target twenty times at 1200 meters.  Then he had stood up with a shit-eating grin and pretended like it was the easiest thing in the world.  Even Hannibal had been impressed.
 
Yeah, BA thought, as he tightened the ART, Face was one of the best distance shooters around.  Maybe that was what was bugging the sergeant about Hannibal’s plan.  Face should be planted in some tree a half-click away, not going in the front door.  And especially not using these stupid radio prototypes Hannibal had told BA to get in working order.
 
“Hey, you ugly mudsucka,” came a voice from the door of the hooch.
 
BA groaned inwardly.  He had enough to deal with right now.  He did not need Murdock’s jibber jabber right now.
 
“Whatcha want, ya crazy fool?”
 
“Whoa, kimmosabe,” Murdock answered.  “Me look for paleface with eagle-eyes.”
 
Exasperated, BA growled.  “Stop that fool talk and speak English.”
 
Murdock broke into a wide grin.  “I’m looking for the Faceman.”
 
BA should have known.  No wonder Face was being such a fool about this mission.  He had been hanging around with the crazy pilot since arriving in Da Nang.
 
“He’s gettin’ some equipment.  Don’t know where he went, but Murdock, if you find him, talk some sense into him.”  BA nearly laughed out loud when he realized what he had said.  Asking Murdock to talk sense was like asking Nixon to hug Bobby Seale or Abbie Hoffman.  ‘Ain’t ever gonna happen,’ he thought.
 
Murdock’s reaction came as a surprise to the sergeant.  The pilot looked up with a serious expression on his face and inquisitive brown eyes.
 
Sensing the question before Murdock even asked, BA answered.  “This is a terrible plan, but the kid don’t see it.  He don’t realize that he can’t be Hannibal’s fan.  Face ain’t thinking things through.”
 
@@@@@@
 
Murdock stood quietly for a moment as he pondered BA’s words.  The pilot understood what BA meant.  Hannibal needed his second-in-command to rein in the colonel’s recklessness.  As BA said, Hannibal did not need a fan.  He needed a devil’s advocate.  Face just did not understand that yet.
 
“Come on, muchacho, cut the kid some slack.  Face’s just learning the ropes.  Give him some time and he’ll figure out his role.”  Despite the assurance in his words, the pilot pulled off his baseball cap and started twisting it into a ball.
 
BA shook his head.  “Somethin’ ‘bout this mission don’t feel right.  Sendin’ Face into an enemy camp to gather intel on General Sung just so Hannibal can use it to gaslight him . . . Don’t sound like too good of a plan ta me.”
 
Listening quietly, Murdock pursed his lips.  The plan did not sound to kosher to him either, but Hannibal and Face both seemed convinced it would work.  Of course, BA was probably right that the new lieutenant had not figured out that Hannibal’s plans did not always work as planned.  They worked, true enough, but plenty of things went wrong in the process.
 
“So what do you want me to do, BA?  Tell the colonel his plan’s no good?  Tell Face that he should refuse to follow orders?”  Murdock could hear the undercurrent of frustrated anger in his voice.  Did BA really think Murdock was going to be able to change things?  They both knew what Hannibal was like when he was on the “Jazz.”
 
“No,” BA growled and he slammed a piece of equipment against the table where he was working.  “Talk to the kid.  Tell him to use his head . . . Tell him Hannibal ain’t god, no matter what the kid thinks.”
 
Murdock nodded and headed out of the hooch.  BA had said that Face was gathering supplies, so the pilot started toward the supply depot.  If the lieutenant was there, he was probably chatting up one of the pretty supply clerks.  Or more.
 
As he strode across the small base, Murdock pondered BA’s comments.  The gruff sergeant rarely talked like that.  And he never openly questioned Hannibal’s plans.
 
With a deep breath, Murdock thought, ‘Either BA has the hots for Face or Hannibal’s plan really must suck.’
 
Murdock knew that the first thought was not true.  BA did not swing that way, but, at the moment, the pilot wished it were otherwise.  He did not like the alternative.
 
The telltale sounds coming out of the supply shed told Murdock that Face was inside.  Doing what, Murdock was not sure he wanted to know.  For a kid as naive as Face was about some things, he obviously knew a hell of a lot about others.
 
With more than a little trepidation, Murdock peeked inside the door of the shed.  The supply clerk, a petite brunette that most soldiers on the base drooled over, was up against the wall, her legs wrapped around the lieutenant’s waist.  Her skirt was hiked up above her hips and Face’s pants were around his knees.  They moved together, gasping and moaning, oblivious to all else.
 
Murdock hesitated.
 
He shouldn’t.
 
He really shouldn’t.
 
No.  Really, he shouldn’t.
 
Oh yes, he should.
 
“Ride ‘em, Cowboy.”
 
Murdock’s yell had the desired effect.  Face pulled away, scrambling to pull up his pants.  In his haste, his legs got twisted and he fell roughly to the ground.  The woman, more annoyed at the intrusion than anything else, just glared in Murdock’s direction.
 
“A friend of yours, Temp?” she asked.
 
Face looked up from the ground and spotted the captain.  “Murdock,” he hissed.
 
“Hiya, Facey.”  Murdock put on his best innocent smile.  “Umm . . . Did I interrupt something?”
 
The lieutenant turned red with anger.  “You could say that.”  Face stood up and buttoned his pants while giving Murdock a look that clearly conveyed a desire to inflict pain.  As Face finished buckling his belt, he growled, “This better be good.”
 
Murdock grew nervous.  Maybe he had underestimated Face’s reaction.  It probably was not a good time to mention BA’s concerns about the mission or to try to convince Face to second-guess Hannibal.  Instead the pilot frantically tried to come up with an excuse for the interruption, finally selecting one he thought Face might buy.  “Umm . . . The colonel needs to talk to you.  He . . . umm . . . sent me to find you and BA said you were getting supplies.”  Well, part of that was true.  Most likely, by the time Face figured out which part, he would have cooled down a bit.  Murdock had to remember not to screw around too much with these Special Forces types.  Green berets knew too many ways to kill – and even more ways to inflict pain.
 
For the moment, Face seemed to accept the excuse.  Turning to the supply clerk, he smiled apologetically.  Like a proper gentleman, Face took her hand and kissed the back of it.  “Perhaps we can continue this when I return in a few days.”
 
From the lustful gaze in her eyes, Murdock had no doubt that Face would get his wish.
 
“Okay, Murdock, lead the way,” Face said with a sigh as he returned the gaze to the brunette.
 
Murdock froze for an instant.  If he went with Face to Hannibal’s hooch, the colonel would deny sending Murdock.  He would be a dead man.  Recovering, he hemmed and hawed, “That’s okay, Face . . . I, umm, have to check my Huey . . . The colonel just wanted to talk to you.  Umm . . . Said it was private.”
 
Face was obviously preoccupied with the woman or he would have detected the lie.  Instead, he just nodded.  With a quick, “I’ll see you later,” he headed out the door and towards the colonel’s hooch.
 
Knowing that all hell would soon break loose, Murdock decided BA could deliver his own message to Face.  With a quick tip of his cap to the supply clerk, Murdock slipped out the door.  He had already reached the safety – and the locked doors – of the mechanics’ shed when Face’s angry yells reverberated across the base.
 
@@@@@@
 
‘This is a terrible plan,’ Face thought as he tried to get the blood flowing through his cramped muscles.  He had been trapped in the crawlspace above General Sung’s office for the past two days relaying reports of the general’s actions to Hannibal and BA, who were hiding in the jungle outside Sung’s base.  Right now, as he peered through the tiny hole in the ceiling, he could see no one moving around below him.
 
‘Piece of cake.  Right.  Sure.  Easy for Hannibal to say.’
 
The team’s plan, at least what Face understood of it, was to try to smoke out General Sung, part of the VC military brain trust.  Apparently, Sung controlled the VC’s operations along the Ho Chi Minh trail.  Capturing him, the US believed, would disrupt the flow of soldiers and supplies from the North to the South.  The problem, though, was that Sung never left his heavily fortified compound, a former plantation near Khe Sanh left over from the era of French colonialism.  In fact, according to the team’s intelligence, Sung never even left the manor house.
 
So Hannibal’s plan had been to smoke Sung out of the compound or at least out of the house long enough for the team to snatch him.  To do this, the colonel decided that the team needed to send the general into such a fury so strong that he would grow careless.
 
Face remembered Hannibal’s exact words as he had described Face’s role in the mission.
 
“All you’ve got to do, Lieutenant, is sneak into the headquarters and find a good hiding place where you can hear Sung.  Then report back on the radio about what’s happening.  Leave the rest up to me.”
 
‘Yeah, right,’ Face thought sarcastically.  Maybe he should have listened to BA a little better.  If he had, Face might have thought to ask Hannibal about how the lieutenant was supposed to escape from the hiding place.  Or, he wondered as his stomach rumbled, what he was supposed to do when he ran out of food.
 
Apparently, Hannibal’s plan had seen some success.  Typically within an hour or so of one of Face’s radio reports to the colonel, Sung would come stomping into the office shouting at his underlings.
 
Face knew that the general had received annoying notes from Hannibal – conveniently translated into Vietnamese by Murdock – that the pilot dropped into Sung’s compound.  The notes detailed recent events or comments, things only someone in the room – or listening close by – would know.  To Sung, the notes were more than an annoyance.  Completely unaware that Face was literally hiding in the woodwork, the general had destroyed half his furniture trying to find a non-existent listening device.
 
Unfortunately, the notes only seemed to cause Sung to become more entrenched in his position.  Still not leaving the house, he ordered more and more soldiers to wait for Murdock’s helicopter passes.  From the sound of the barrage, Face knew that only luck had allowed the pilot to get away the last few times.
 
In the darkness, Face regretted not setting things right with Murdock and prayed he would be okay.
 
Not that Face lacked reason to be angry.  He had pursued the supply clerk for weeks and Murdock’s little stunt had ruined everything.  And then the pilot had hid in the mechanics’ bay, not even man enough to come outside when Face had tried to break down the locked doors.  Then, on the flight out of the base the following morning, Murdock had said nothing while Face had listened to Hannibal and BA snicker in the background.  By the time the Huey had reached the LZ, Face was so furious that he had returned Murdock’s “Good luck” with a murderous glare.
 
Face now realized it was stupid and childish to have left things like that.  The pilot was risking his life each time Face gave Hannibal a new report.  Murdock, Face, any one of them could die on this cockamamie mission, and Face knew he should have worked things out with Murdock before leaping from the chopper skids into the jungle.
 
To take his mind off the pilot, Face checked the little radio for what seemed like the hundredth time.  It was a feat of engineering genius, a small transistor-size communication device.  Much smaller than a PRC-25, it had more range than a walkie talky and the battery lasted longer.  It had taken a lot of work to forge the papers to get two of the devices delivered to Da Nang, and then BA had spent hours modifying them.  But so far, the radio was working perfectly.
 
Feeling for the volume control, Face adjusted the level and whispered close to where he seemed to recall the small hole labeled “mic” being.  It was so dark in the crawlspace, Face could not even read the markings on the radio.  Below him, the office was quiet.  Still, he kept his voice low just in case someone entered.
 
“Fearless Leader, this is Eagle Eye.  Come in, over.”  Face wondered why they even bothered with code names.  At least, he had managed to avoid the nickname “Pretty Boy.”  Hannibal had been pretty insistent on that one until Murdock suggested “Eagle Eye” based on Face’s sniper ability.
 
The radio crackled to life as he heard the colonel’s voice.  “Eagle Eye, this is Fearless Leader.  Report.”
 
Face groaned at how serious Hannibal sounded.  Trying a little levity, Face joked, “Well, the quarters are a bit tight and room service leaves a lot to be desired.  Any idea when breakfast is served?”  In truth, it could have been afternoon.  Face knew it was light outside, but could not tell the time of day.  In the darkness of the crawlspace, he could not even read his watch.
 
The voice on the other end assured, “Don’t worry, kid.  We’ll get Sung out of there soon.  Just hang in there.  Did you get any sleep?”
 
Face could detect a faint trace of worry in Hannibal’s voice.  Two days without sleep would dull Face’s reaction times if he had to move quickly.  But there was no point in getting the colonel worried at the moment.
 
“Yeah,” Face lied.  “A couple of cat-naps here and there.  It’s pretty quiet at the moment.”
 
“Great, kid.  Let me know if anything new happens.”
 
@@@@@@
 
BA and Murdock watched Hannibal put down the radio.  Murdock’s chopper was hidden carefully in the dense canopy, a perfect location for the mission.  The Huey could enter and exit without being seen, so the pilot did not have to return to Da Nang before each flyover.
“That was the kid,” Hannibal said as if the others had not heard every word.  “Everything’s going according to plan.”
 
BA rolled his eyes.  ‘Right,’ he thought sarcastically.  ‘Everything was going according to plan except that Face was trapped in an enemy camp with no food and no way out.’  How could Hannibal be so blind to things going wrong?
 
Murdock sat against a tree, his legs folded up, his arms wrapped around his knees and his head nodding listlessly.  BA knew the pilot was worried for the young lieutenant and felt guilty about what had happened at the base.  It had been pretty funny, the sergeant acknowledged, but Face had been furious and there had been no time to set things straight before the mission.
 
The sergeant knew better than to go out on a hump angry at a buddy.  Too much could go wrong to leave things unresolved.  Too many friends went out on patrol and never came back.  Now, BA knew as he watched the pilot for a long time, Murdock was beating himself up over the thought that Face might not make it out of Sung’s camp.
 
“Hey, fool, the kid’s gonna be all right,” BA said.
 
Murdock looked up, confused for a moment and then gave an appreciative nod.  But before he said anything, Hannibal spoke up.  The colonel had the radio pressed tight to his ear.
 
“Heads up,” he ordered.  “Face says there’s some movement.”
 
@@@@@@
 
Through the peephole, Face watched General Sung enter the room with another VC soldier.  Face listened and watched closely, hoping that whatever he learned next would coax Sung into the open.
 
<“No one is to know about this.  Do you understand”>
 
The soldier, just a kid from Face’s perspective, nodded.
 
<“You will die if you mention this.”>
 
Sung stomped across the room and ordered the other soldier to stand at the desk.  From his vantage point, Face laughed silently.  He had gotten into enough trouble at the orphanage, at boot camp, at – well, pretty much everywhere – to know when someone was about to get disciplined.  It was nice for a change that the someone being disciplined was not him.
 
Face was not prepared to see the younger soldier drop his pants and bend over the desk.  The lieutenant was even less prepared to see Sung unbuckle his own pants and sidle up beside the young soldier.
 
‘Ohmigod.’  Face froze, his eyes nearly popping out of their sockets.  Years in a Catholic orphanage had not prepared him for the sight below.  ‘What was Sung doing?’  Then it dawned on him that he really did not want to know.  He felt his jaw drop at the sight.  ‘Was that physically possible?’
 
As the shock began to past, Face realized that, if he got caught, he was a dead man.  Sung had threatened a soldier in his own command. What would he do to an enemy?  He would be in a fury at the thought of an American watching this scene.
 
‘A fury . . . Of course.’  Face anxiously reached a trembling hand for the radio.
 
“Eagle Eye to Fearless Leader,” Face whispered as quietly as possible.  The volume was turned down as low as it could go and still be audible.
 
“Go ahead, Eagle Eye.”
 
Face smiled at the genius of his idea, completely forgetting the code names.  “Hannibal, you won’t believe this.  Our good general has a thing for boys.  If you move fast, you can catch him in the act.”  Face thought how he had reacted to Murdock’s prank.  If Sung’s reaction was half as strong, the general would go ballistic.  That was the goal of Hannibal’s plan after all, wasn’t it?
 
Over the radio, Face could almost hear Hannibal grin.  “How about this?  ‘Roses are red, violets are blue.  Your boyfriend sucks cock and you probably do too.’  What do you think?”
 
Face looked back through the peephole.  ‘Well, the rhyme was truthful,’ he thought.  In a whisper, he asked, “Will it translate?”
 
“Murdock says yes,” Hannibal assured.  “He’ll be overhead in about two minutes.  You get ready for all hell to break loose and see if you can get out of there.”
 
At the mention of the pilot, Face sobered considerably.  Before Hannibal could cut the transmission, the lieutenant added, “Hannibal . . . Tell Murdock everything’s cool between me and him, okay?”
 
@@@@@@
 
Murdock heard Face’s words on the radio as he was scrawling the new note.  The pilot looked up and saw Hannibal gazing in his direction.  With a nod, Murdock said, “Tell Facey it’s cool on this end.”
 
Hannibal started to speak, but Face cut him off.  “I got that, Hannibal.  I’ll -”  Face’s words were cut off abruptly, replaced by a loud, sharp tone that erupted from the radio.  It was followed almost immediately by the strains of Jimi Hendrix.
 
            “There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief,
“There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief.”
 
“What the hell?” Hannibal sputtered.
 
BA was next to the colonel in an instant.  The big man grabbed the radio out of the colonel’s hand and started checking the device.  He gave an immediate diagnostic.
 
“The transistor’s pickin’ up AFR.”
 
Murdock stood wide-eyed for a second and then spun and raced for the Huey.  It suddenly dawned on Hannibal what Murdock was thinking.  If their radio had picked up the armed forces broadcast, Face’s must have too.
 
Without another word, Hannibal and BA locked eyes.  Then each man grabbed his gun and began a desperate sprint for the chopper flight to the VC compound.
 
@@@@@@
 
In the darkness, Face worked frantically to silence the radio that had suddenly gone haywire.  As if the loud, near-siren had not been enough, the music that followed came through loudly and Face could do nothing to silence it.  The entire concept of volume control no longer seemed to exist.
 
There was no way that Sung could miss the noise coming from his ceiling.  Looking back down through the peephole, he saw that the general and the soldier were pulling up their pants and looking around in confusion.  As Face watched, the general slowly began to set his gaze on the direction of the song.
 
All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.
 
Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl,
Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.
 
Face felt his eyes widen as Sung removed his sidearm and pointed it directly at the ceiling panel where Face was hiding.  ‘Damn,’ he thought.  This was not the way he wanted to die.
 
Several shots rang out, and Face felt the bullets cut through the ceiling panel and whiz around in the darkness.  Miraculously, none of them struck him.  He pulled his own sidearm and shifted in the tight space in an effort to move along the crawlspace, but realized his mistake too late.  The bullets had knocked the panel out of position.  The panel, Face and the traitorous radio tumbled to the floor.
 
Landing hard, Face was momentarily stunned and his gun went clattering across the tile floor of Sung’s office.  When Face recovered enough of his senses to look around, he saw Sung looming over him.  Though surprised to see an enemy soldier on the ground, the general was quickly recovering from his shock.
 
Face followed the general’s gaze to where the radio lay and realized that the song had changed.  The swirling guitars of “All Along the Watchtower” had been replaced by the garbled lyrics of the Kingsmen singing “Louie, Louie.” 
 
The general looked back from the radio to the lieutenant.  Then, his lips drew back in a cruel smile and he pointed his gun at Face’s head.
 
In response, Face shrugged and grinned broadly.  He waited for a moment and, then, in time with the song, screamed as loud as possible.
 
“Louie, Louie, me gotta GO!!!”
 
Face’s yell caught Sung momentarily off-guard.  Taking advantage of the general’s surprise, Face scrambled to his feet, shoved the general aside, bolted for the window and launched himself through the glass.
 
It was a futile gesture.  The sound of gunfire echoed around the courtyard of the manor.  Face had barely regained his footing after crashing through the window and taken a few steps when a bullet struck his right thigh.  The leg gave way under the force of the blow and he collapsed heavily to the ground.
 
The force of the landing knocked the breath from him.  Face lay still on his left side, knowing there was no point to trying to get away.   The sound of rapid footfalls echoed around him and he found himself lifted roughly to his feet.  In the process, Face’s right hand brushed the wound on his leg and came away covered with his blood.
 
‘I’ve been shot,’ he realized.  Until that moment, he did not fully comprehend what had happened.  He had acted purely on instinct, but now the reality hit him.  He looked around, seeing only the barrels of Kalashnikov’s pointed in his direction.  One set of anxious eyes peered over each barrel; each gun was prepared to fire at any sign of movement.
 
<“Guess I took a wrong turn at the DMZ.”> Face announced before he could stop himself.  Frankly, he was astonished that he could joke, let alone joke in Vietnamese, at a moment like this. 
 
<“Very funny, my American friend.  Too bad that may be the last joke you ever make.”>  The cold, authoritarian voice sent a chill up Face’s spine and wiped away his cocky grin.  He recognized the voice from his two days of reconnaissance.  Sung had exited the manor and was now standing directly behind the lieutenant.  In his periphery, he saw the general move around the guards and then step fully into view.  The general still held his sidearm and pointed it at Face’s head.
 
The sheer irony of the situation struck him.  He had spent two days trying to get Sung outside the manor, but had accomplished the feat only when Hannibal’s plan went to hell.  But now that Sung was outside, Face was helpless do anything about it.
 
<“Yes, you are very funny,”> the general continued angrily.
 
Face could tell that the anger stemmed from being caught with the young soldier.  More irony.  Interrupting the general in the act was probably the very reason Sung was now outside.
 
<“You and the pilot of the helicopter.  Very funny,”> Sung went on.  <“But you will learn better than to make jokes at my expense.  Others have done that, and their deaths were slow and painful.”>
 
Face suppressed a deep swallow and tried to hide a tremor that shook his body.  He wondered how Hannibal would act in this situation.  The colonel would never show fear.  He would laugh in the face of an adversary like Sung, hoping to infuriate the general into making a mistake.  Finding his answer, the lieutenant forced the broad grin back onto his face.
 
<“You are a brave one, but I can see the fear in your eyes,”> Sung commented.  He studied Face carefully and reached forward to run a hand along Face’s jaw.  <“And such pretty eyes you have, too.  I think I might enjoy seeing how pretty those eyes and your face look after I’ve played with you a bit.”>
 
<“I’m sure you’ll enjoy yourself,”> Face spat, wondering if his sarcasm translated into Vietnamese. <“Does Ho Chi Minh know how much you like playing with boys?”>
 
The sarcasm must have translated, because Sung dropped his hand from Face’s cheek and brought it down hard on the wounded leg.  Unable to stop himself, Face cried out in agony.
 
<“You will regret that remark, American,”> Sung hissed.
 
Face could not stop himself from laughing. Whether from the shock of the bullet or just from trying to fight his own terror, the utter ridiculousness of Sung’s comment sent Face into hysterical convulsions.  He was already a dead man.  The remark did not change anything.  Realizing this, Face found himself growing emboldened.
 
<“I regret a lot of things, Sung.  Seeing you without pants, though, is number one on the list.”>
 
The general turned beet red in fury and raised his hand above his head, gun clenched tightly in his white-knuckled fist.  Then, gathering all his strength, he began to swing the metal hilt towards Face’s head.  The lieutenant braced for the impact, wondering if the two soldiers gripping his arms would allow him to fall to ground or if Sung would continue the beating after Face lapsed into unconsciousness.
 
At that moment, all hell broke loose.
 
Before the gun could hit its target, something struck Sung in the chest and he staggered backwards.  Face looked down and saw a metal cannister rolling away from the general.
 
‘The poem,’ he realized.  Murdock was dropping the notes in metal canisters.  Face realized that had been so focused on the gun that he had never heard the approaching sound of the helicopter’s whirring rotors.  The same was true of the guards who had failed to keep a lookout for Murdock’s chopper, which now hovered directly overhead.
 
Still in the grip of the two soldiers, Face jerked his head in the direction of the little cannister.  <“That’s from the A-Team Poetry Appreciation Society,”> he announced to the disbelieving general just as an explosion erupted in the courtyard and everyone staggered from the force of the shockwave.
 
Looking up at the chopper, Face saw BA firing round after round from his M-60 and Hannibal tossing grenades into the courtyard of the manor house.  Under the barrage, the two soldiers holding Face let go and ran for cover.  Face would have done the same, but, as he tried to move, his injured leg collapsed under the weight and he fell to the ground.
 
Trying to get out of the way of the grenades and bullets, his eyes darted left and right and locked on Sung a few feet away.  The general was spinning around in confusion, trying to comprehend what was happening.  Face could tell Sung also was trying to figure out which way to run.
 
“Oh, no you don’t,” Face muttered.  He had not been through all this to let General Sung get away.  This may not have been part of the plan, but at the moment, Face had a chance to get his hands on the target.  Ignoring the pain in his leg, he stumbled partially to his feet and, falling forward, grabbed onto one of Sung’s feet.
 
In the Huey, Murdock realized that the team’s momentary element of surprise was almost gone.  Sung’s soldiers had nearly regrouped and, in a minute, they would probably let loose with a heavy barrage designed to knock the bird out of the sky.
 
“Son of a bitch. Look at the kid.  He’s got Sung,” Hannibal yelled from the back.  Murdock was so busy attempting to dodge VC fire that he had no idea where Face was at the moment.  Taking his eyes off the attacking soldiers, the pilot looked down and saw the lieutenant.
 
It was an almost-comical sight.  Face lay flat on his face, but he had a tight grip on one of the general’s legs.  Like the actor in a TV show trying to shake loose a biting dog that had latched onto his pants leg, the general was flapping his leg around in an attempt to free himself from Face’s grip.
 
The scene would have been more comical to Murdock if he had not seen the blood flowing from Face’s leg or the gun in Sung’s hand.  In the confusion, the general must have forgotten about it, but it would only take another minute or so for him to realize that there was a far easier way to break free than jumping around.
 
“Get us down there now, Murdock.”  Hannibal apparently had seen the same thing as the pilot.
 
Murdock dropped the chopper as quickly and as close to Face’s position as possible.  A few feet from the ground, BA and Hannibal jumped off the skids and made a beeline for the lieutenant.  Hannibal clubbed Sung with the stock of his M-16, knocking him to the ground.  BA used one hand to lift Face over a shoulder.  With the other, the sergeant continued to fire his M-60 at the enemy soldiers.
 
“Hurry up, hurry up,” Murdock chanted anxiously.  He watched as Hannibal dragged the Vietnamese general back to the chopper.  Dumping Sung roughly on the floor of the cabin, the colonel turned and laid down cover fire for BA and Face.  Dodging bullets as he raced across the courtyard, BA reached the chopper and pulled himself and the wounded lieutenant inside.
 
“Take us up,” Hannibal yelled as he laid another barrage of grenades into the courtyard.  That was an order the colonel did not have to give twice.  Murdock lifted the chopper, banked her sharply to the right and pushed the bird forward.  In an instant, they were away from the compound.
 
@@@@@@
 
BA sat in the back of the Huey, trying to staunch the blood from Face’s wounded leg as the lieutenant struggled to remain still.  His blue eyes were clouded with pain and confusion and he gritted his teeth against the pain.
 
“You’re gonna be okay, Faceman,” BA reassured.  The injury was not life-threatening provided Face reached a medic.  Trying to take the lieutenant’s mind off the pain, BA reminded him of the battle.  “What made you tackle Sung?  You’re crazy as Hannibal.”
 
The lieutenant laughed weakly.  He managed to get out the words, “Learned from the best,” before the chopper lurched forward and Face pitched to his side.
 
“Hey, fool,” BA called out as he steadied himself and caught the injured lieutenant.  “Faceman needs a doc pretty soon, so stop playing games.  Fly normal.”
 
“Uhh . . . sure . . . BA,” came Murdock’s hesitant reply.
 
BA did a double take and Hannibal jumped up from where he had trussed up the VC general.  Even Face knew there was a problem.  His blue eyes no longer seemed cloudy and confused.  They were bright, alert and panicked.
 
“Hang tough there,” BA said, surprised by the calm evident in his voice.  He sure did not feel calm, especially when the chopper lurched again and Hannibal yelled from the front of the helicopter.
 
“HOLD ON!!!”
 
Realizing that they were going to crash, BA braced his legs against the wall and leaned across Face, hoping to spare the lieutenant further injury.  Glancing out the side of the chopper, BA watched as the treeline grew closer and closer until the skids were striking branches sending leaves flying into the cabin.  With a thunderous roar, the Huey sliced through the jungle canopy until it hit solid ground.  Metal and glass showered the men inside.  Losing his grip on Face, BA flew against the back wall and the world went dark.
 
@@@@@@
 
Murdock woke to a hand on his shoulder.  He looked up to see Hannibal leaning over him and the world moving.  Or was it Murdock moving and the world standing still?
 
“You’re going to be fine, Captain,” Hannibal said.  The pilot noticed that the colonel had a bandage around his head.
 
“What happened?” Murdock asked, noticing how faint his voice sounded.
 
“You must have hit your head harder than I thought if you don’t remember,” Hannibal quipped. “Before the crash, you said we took a bullet to the gas tank when we charged Sung’s compound.  But it all turned out okay.  You got the Huey within 10 clicks of a firebase and we got spotted by a patrol.”
 
Murdock nodded as he saw the marines carrying his stretcher.  So that explained the world moving.  Then he looked up quizzically.  “Hey, Hannibal.”
 
“Yeah, Captain?”
 
“Does this count as getting shot down?”
 
Hannibal grinned down at him.  “Yeah, I think this counts.”
 
Murdock nodded again and then asked another question.  “Is this part of the plan?”
 
“NO!  It ain’t part o’ the plan,” came another voice that Murdock immediately recognized as BA’s.  That was good.  BA was okay.  BA hated to crash.  Murdock remembered that.
 
Face.  Face was in the back of the chopper with BA.  The kid had been wounded, but he had been conscious.  Where was he now?  The pilot struggled to sit up so he could look around.
 
“Whoa.  Sit still, Captain,” Hannibal ordered.
 
“But . . . Face?”
 
“He’s on a stretcher behind you.  That’s why you can’t see him.  The medic’s got him pretty doped up because of the leg wound, but thinks he’ll be okay.”
 
As if on cue, someone behind Murdock began to sing.  It was hard to decipher what Face was singing, but Murdock thought it sounded like “Louie, Louie.”  Of course, Face was singing the false, dirty lyrics for the song.
 
A fine little girl a-waiting for me
            She's just a girl across the way
            We'll take her and park all alone
            She's never a girl I lay at home
 
Murdock groaned and started to ask the medic to give Face some more sedatives, but the singing abruptly cut off.  It did not really matter.  Murdock’s head had started to swim again and he knew he was going to lapse back into unconsciousness again.
 
Before he did, Murdock decided he needed to say something.  “Hannibal?”
 
“What, Captain?”
 
“That was a terrible plan.”
 
@@@@@@
 
Two days after the team made it to the base, Hannibal entered the hospital ward and surveyed the room.  His two officers were playing a game of cards on a small table set between their hospital beds.  Ever the mother hen, BA dozed lightly in a chair next to Murdock’s bed.
 
Face looked pretty good.  His leg was wrapped tight from the knee to the hip, but the doctors said he would be fully fit in a couple of weeks.  Aside from a concussion, Murdock’s injuries were confined mostly to cuts and bruises.  He would be fine too.
 
It was a small price to pay for the capture of General Sung.  The kindly general was now in Saigon answering a lot of questions and getting serenaded regularly with poems in his honor.  The thought caused a smile to cross Hannibal’s face.  His team had accomplished the impossible.  His men.
 
Seeing that Face had seen Hannibal arrive, the colonel spoke up.  “Hey, guys.  You both look better.”
 
Murdock looked up, sulking.  “Face is cheating.”
 
“Am not,” Face interjected.  “I can’t even hide a card in this hospital gown.”
 
“No, but you can under your covers,” Murdock spat back.  To prove his point, he reached across the table and pulled an ace of diamonds from between the sheet and blanket.
 
Face feigned innocence and slammed his cards down on the bed in mock outrage.  “How’d that get there?  Do you know what that means, Murdock?  We’ve played all of our games with only 51 cards.”
 
“Yeah, sucka,” BA, now awake, piped up from his chair.  “It means ya gotta return all the fool’s comic books that ya won.”
 
“Like I really would have taken Murdock’s prized possessions,” the lieutenant retorted.  “I’m hurt, BA.  Deeply.”
 
BA harrumphed.  “Ya almost as bad as the colonel and the fool.”
 
“Yeah,” Murdock added.  “But I think we have a new code name for you.”
 
From the glint in Murdock’s eye, Hannibal knew Face was not going to like it.  The lieutenant studied Murdock suspiciously before sighing.  “Go ahead.”
 
“From now on, we dub you ‘Ankle-Biting Chihuahua’ in honor of how you gallantly let the enemy shake you from Khe Sanh to Saigon.”
 
Face and BA groaned, but Hannibal laughed at the picture of Face’s desperate hold on Sung’s ankle.
 
“Well, I’m glad you are all getting back to normal,” the colonel said.  “You’ll be back in the field in no time.”
 
Both injured men looked up suddenly.  Though neither spoke, Hannibal knew something was up.
 
“What?” he queried.
 
Face shifted uncomfortably in the bed.  “Umm . . . You’re not going to send me in the front door any time soon?”
 
“And I’m not going to be flying sorties to drop notes?” Murdock added.
 
Hannibal looked askance.  “What’s wrong with that?  The plan worked perfectly.”
 
In wide-eyed shock, the two younger men looked first at Hannibal, then at each other and then back at the colonel.
 
“Perfect . . .” Face sputtered.
 
“Are you out of your mind?” Murdock gasped.
 
“We got the General,” Hannibal said.  “Everyone made it out.”
 
“But, Hannibal,” Face whined.  “I took one in the leg.  And I got stuck in the dark without food for two days.”
 
BA leaned over and whispered low to Murdock.  “Hannibal’s lost his biggest fan.  His only fan, ‘cept himself, I think.”
 
“And that ‘prototype’ radio freaked out on me,” Face continued, cataloging a litany of other things that had gone wrong with the plan.
 
“And I got shot down,” Murdock chorused.
           
Hannibal nodded.  “Maybe, but those are just minor details.”
 
They looked at him like he had just returned from a vacation on Mars.  “Aw, come on, guys. Honestly.  Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?”
 
The two pillows struck the colonel simultaneously.  When he looked up, he saw Face and Murdock glaring at him from their hospital beds.  BA's arms were crossed and his expression was even more murderous.
 
“Okay,” Hannibal admitted.  “Maybe there are still a few kinks still to work out.”


Que Sera, Khe Sanh by Reckless

 

 


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