by Murdock's Doc
Warnings: Violence, Anguish, Lot's of Foul language.
Summary: Vietnam era fic. After the events in Blazing Star, a struggle between Commanding Officers places Murdock in the middle. Before there is an outcome to the battle between CO's, tragedy strikes and a grieving Murdock is sent on another CIA mission that ends up going sour.
Comments: They really would be appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own them, I don't profit from them, I just love them.
H H H H H H H H H H H H H
"Captain, have you ever consider testing the full range of your talents?"
The question rolled though his mind and caused Murdock to grunt in disgust
before rolling over in his bunk to avoid the other thoughts that always
followed. It had started out as a simple meeting in the local bar for a beer to
say thank you, and had turned out to become a conversation that had been
haunting him for over a month.
"I've been able to test my talents Colonel, I've flown with the Thunderbirds."
The Captain could almost see himself grinning with pride as he delivered that
statement. To most of the free world the Thunderbirds were the undeniable "best
of the best" when it came to the air. The Colonel hadn't been impressed. The
pilot remembered waiting for a response, feeling a bit stupid for his boasting.
After a long pause, the Colonel had eyed him critically as he asked a question
that the pilot hadn't expected.
"Does that mean you've found the limit of your talents?"
The Captain should have seen the set up. Thinking back, any moron could see
that it was a trap big enough to catch an elephant. Unfortunately, the Captain
had fallen into the trap, hook, line, and sinker.
"Hell no, I know I haven't reached my limit yet."
The Colonel had silently listened to the pilot's response, with a gleam in his
eyes. He was pleased with the response. After taking a long drag from his
cigar, and slowly blowing the blue grey smoke into the air, the Colonel had
leaned forward and issued his offer.
"My team needs a pilot who's not afraid of a challenge."
Murdock rolled over again and opened his eyes. In the shadows, the Captain
could see that Murray's bunk was empty. 'At least I'm not the only one who
can't sleep.' Murdock thought to himself. Sighing heavily, the pilot pushed
himself off his bunk and headed out into the night to look for a kindred soul.
Stepping out of the hooch, Murdock glanced briefly up into the cloudy night
sky. "What's with you and the stars buckaroo?" Murray asked drunkenly from the
shadows. "Ol' doggie boy looking for a star to howl at," he added with a
Murdock smiled and turned to the teasing. He shook his head in disbelief upon
finding his friend spread out on the ground at the corner of the hooch. "You're
such an ass Monkey."
Murray snorted, "It's hereditary, I only hope to live long enough to become a
big enough ass to make by mum and dad proud."
Murdock chuckled and sat down beside his friend and took the bottle being
offered. After a long swig of Murray's best friend for the night, the Captain
leaned back against the hard side of the hooch.
"SSSSSShare." Murray protested as he slapped Murdock's shoulder and held he
hand out for the return of the bottle.
Murdock took another drink from the bottle and handed it back. "Thanks buddy."
Murray took a drink and glanced over at his friend. "What got you up tonight?
Beginning to feel like pull toy for the big brass yet?"
The Captain frowned at Murray's suggestion. Although he hadn't said anything to
anyone about Smith's offer, the rumor mill was in full force with a precision
that only the military could muster. Hell, he had heard the rumors himself.
Someone had heard Colonel Smith ask Martin about reassigning one of his pilots.
Next day, word was out that there had been a loud argument and Smith had told
Martin that the kid was better off getting transferred then set up by his own
CO. "Listening to rumors again Monkey? I thought you were smarter than that."
Murdock said indifferently.
"Don't bullshit me Howlin'," Murray snorted as passed the bottle back to his
friend. "We all know Smith wants you in his unit. Me and the guy's, we think
it's a good idea."
"I don't like ya'll talkin behind my back," Murdock snapped as he waved off the
bottle. "I ain't going no where, and you know it. Anyway, Martin would never
approve a transfer, it would deprive him of a chance to make my life miserable."
"Yeah, I heard Martin's havin a snit fit over the number of requests Smith's
been making." Murray said with a slur. "Guess the big bad ass Colonel really
wants ya pretty bad. Sure is a persistent guy."
"Nutton but rumors ya dumb ass," Murdock said with a deep sigh. "Even if Martin
decided to get rid of me, ain't no way the Air Force is gonna give one of their
pilots to the Army."
"As you're livin and breathin me boy, ye have ta believe that anything can
happen." Murray said in a badly butchered Irish accent. Murray looked over at
his fellow pilot and noted the pinched expression as his friend asked another
question. "Do you want to go?"
"Just shut up Monkey," Murdock snapped, "I really don't want to talk about
"Sure ya do," Murray challenged with a chuckle, "Why the hell else would you be
out here with me if your didn't want to talk?"
Murdock closed his eyes, "What difference does my opinion really make, I have
no control over where I go or where I'm assigned, or even what I do." He was
thinking more of the control that the CIA had over his destination.
After taking a long drink from his bottle, Murray responded. "Ya know, you're
right." Murray said sadly, "Ain't a damn think we can do about anything, cept
get drunk or go crazy."
The younger man sighed and the two men fell silent for several minutes. Murray
leaned over and handed the bottle to Murdock. "So ya wanna go?" The drunk pilot
Murdock took two large gulps from the bottle and gritted his teeth as it burned
its way to his stomach. When the burn let up, he muttered, "Yeah, I do."
Murray chuckled as he reached for his bottle, "Then stop being such a bonus for
With a look of shock on his face, Murdock turned to the older man. "You mean
screw up? I can't do that." he said in shock. Too many lives depended on him
giving everything he had while in the air.
"You're a fuckin twit you know that?" Murray snapped back, "I meant give him a
reason to think you're not worth the kudos he gets for your ace flying."
As drunk as Murray was, he seemed to have hit on something. "You mean act crazy
or get busted? I can't do either. Nothing personal, but I've worked too hard to
get into the Air Force, and I'm not about to screw it up just to get a
Snorting loudly, Murray grabbed the bottle and held it close. "You're smart, or
at least I think you are," he said with a slur as he reached up to scratch the
back of his head. "Or maybe it's me that's smart." Murray paused to think
through the drunken haze that was seriously fogging his mind before he
continued. "Well whoever is smart can figure it out. Got to be some way to play
a happy balancing act that will keep you out of trouble."
Relaxed from the effects of the alcohol, Murdock closed his eyes and decided to
give Murray's idea some thought. "Hey Monkey?" Murray grunted in response as he
hugged his bottle close. "We need to get some sleep, we're in the air
tomorrow." Murdock said to the older man.
"Hey Murdock?" Murray grumbled, "Shut the fuck up, I'm trying to pass out here."
Just past the Hai Van Pass to the west, two Jolly Green Huey's headed north
toward the Quang Tri province on a mid afternoon patrol. Both Marines and Army
platoons had faced several days of fierce fighting over the past few days in
Quang Tri and the good guys had taken some back some ground from the NVA.
Unfortunately there was a price paid for every inch of soil and the Jolly
Green's had been running regular trips north then south to shuttle the injured
or dead. For the moment, all battle fronts were quiet and it looked as if
Murdock and Murray would reach Quang Tri only to returning empty.
'This is heaven,' Murdock thought as he nudged his chopper a higher into the
sky. The winds were light, the sky was clear, and for the moment all was
peaceful in his little neck of the woods. Glancing down to his left, Murdock
spotted Murray's chopper rising to join him in a parallel position. 'He's a
little slow today,' the pilot thought to himself. Reaching up to his helmet,
Murdock activated the ship to ship intercom. "JG 26, you awake over there?"
Murdock teased, "How about a com check?"
"Communications confirmed," came a crackled response.
"Response green," the younger pilot replied. "You okay Monkey?" He asked as a
feeling of apprehension rose up in his gut. With Murray, a com check response
usually amounted to a "fuck off" or "pucker up and kiss my Irish arse".
"Something's out of place 24," came a tense response, "Can't pinpoint it, but I
got a funny feeling."
Gulping nervously, Murdock shot a quick glance at the chopper flying off to his
left. "Anything I should look for?" The Captain asked quickly.
"Don't know buddy, right now it's just a feeling."
"Roger that 26, Jolly Green 24 out," Murdock said as he turned assure himself
that his crew was on alert. When he turned back, he found his co-pilot looking
at him curiously. "Keep your eye's open Birdy." Murdock shouted in response to
the unasked question..
Lt. Long cocked his head slightly and curiosity turned to confusion. "Intel
says this area's clear, nothing down there but the good guys."
For a moment, Murdock looked as if he'd seen a ghost. A month ago he had nearly
been killed due to an Intel screw up, not once, but twice. Swallowing his own
emerging feeling of dread, the Captain shouted firmly, "Humor me Birdy and keep
your eyes peeled. I ain't got too much faith in Intel."
Long frowned and hesitantly nodded. "You're call," he replied loudly before
turning to scan the ground below. After fourty-five minutes of vigilant watch,
Lieutenant Long was almost surprised when he spotted puffs of red smoke rising
up from the jungle just after entering the Quang Tri province. "Red Smoke! We
got a pick up!" He called out with excitement.
"Contact base, find out if its been called in!" Murdock shouted as he opened
communications with Jolly Green 26. "Eleven o'clock JG 26"
"Spotted," Murray replied tensely.
"JG 24 to Base, repeat, Jolly Green 24 to Base" Long recited into his
microphone, "Red smoke sighted without radio transmission, 24 and 26 advancing
"Acknowledged 24. Negative contact at base, we'll radio if we get a unit ID"
came the reply transmission. "Proceed with pick up and advise when complete."
"Jolly Green 26 to base, request fast mover assistance," Murray interrupted
before Long could respond.
As Captain Murray gave their coordinates Long looked over at Murdock with a
frown. "What the hell is he calling in the jets for? Isn't that kinda
overkill?" Long shouted loud enough to be heard over the changing pitch of the
rotors as their chopper maneuvered in line behind Murray's ship. Murdock
flashed the Lieutenant a look that amounted to "Later".
"Acknowledged 26, fast movers are scrambling, ETA 5 minutes." Base replied.
"Jolly Green 26 to Jolly Green 24, I'm taking point." Murray's tight voice said
over the crackle of the radio.
"Roger 26, we'll watch your ass." Murdock said as he cut his speed to about
twenty knots and leveled off his chopper in line behind Murray's.
Circling around what had been rice paddies before their dividing walls had been
blown to dust by mortars, the Huey's dipped low and began their approach
towards the edge of the clearing marked by the billowing red smoke. The moment
they dropped down to glide along the flat land, time seemed to slow.
Hanging out of the open cargo doors of the chopper, Trombetta was the first to
spot something out of place. "Movement! Movement!" he called out as the edge of
the jungle edge suddenly came alive as dozens of NVA appeared from behind trees
and brush. As the Sergeant shouted a second warning, a blinding flash erupted
from the clearing.
In shock, the crew of Jolly Green 24 watched a mortar arch towards the lead
helicopter. "Murray, get the Fuck out of there!" Murdock screamed out over the
radio as he tightened his grip on the controls of his own ship.
Jolly Green 26 tilted skyward and began to move forward. The hull of the ship
groaned loudly as the chopper made its attempt to leap out of the path of the
incoming shell. A moment of relief existed for Murray's crew as the main body
of the chopper lifted skyward, but it didn't last long.
The tail of Murray's chopper exploded into a ball of flame when the shell
impacted. The tail disintegrated in the explosion, sending tiny bits of
shrapnel razors flying in all directions. The chopper continued moving forward
in the air, until suddenly gravity brought it down to slide uncontrolled along
the ground. Twisted and abused metal screamed in protest as the the right skid
was ripped away, tilting the wounded bird on its side.
The main rotors bit into the mud and another mighty groan sounded as the blade
assembly tore away from the body of the chopper. Freed from the chopper, the
rotor assembly lifted up a couple feet into the air. Just when it looked as if
they would fall back to earth the fuel tank of the chopper exploded and sent
the blades spinning through the tall grass and into the jungle.
The horrifying death of Murray's chopper took less than a minute from start to
finish, and once it lay burning, time seemed to return to normal. Shrapnel
pelted Murdock's bird and he guided it left over the area of jungle where the
blast had come from.
"Jolly Green 26 down!" Long shouted hysterically into his microphone, "Repeat,
Jolly Green 26 down, we're under fire." Any response was drowned out by the
shouting of the crew.
"Incoming!" Wendel and Trombetta screamed in unison as the enemy below turned
their attention to the air. Murdock turned sharply and weaved, throwing Wendel
into the netting at the back of the Huey.
Long glanced down and spotted the spinning mortar flying towards them. "Headed
for the nose!" He shouted.
Murdock pushed the Huey into a 180 degree turn and headed back to the clearing.
The mortar whizzed past their tail, Trombetta began to fire into the jungle.
The still burning body of Jolly Green 26 came into view and reality hit both
the pilot and the co-pilot hard.
"oh god" Murdock whispered softly as he spotted the shadows of human forms in
the flames. Beside him Long leaned forward and vomited between his legs. The
Captain could feel his stomach churning, but he didn't have the luxury of
losing it just yet.
Below, the NVA was growing bold with their victory. Leaving the shelter of the
tree line, the enemy troops moved into the open to shoot at the remaining
helicopter without fear. They had tasted blood and they obviously wanted more.
As the enemy blasted holes into his chopper, Murdock fought against sluggish
controls to push forward onto the sky. The tail rotor was slow to respond, and
the Captain suspected that the cables had been damaged. A sense of urgency
filled his mind as he mentally reviewed what would happen if he lost full
control of the tail rotor. 'The spin'll be ten times worse than the tea cup
ride at Disneyland,' he thought to himself.
Behind him, Trombetta yelped when a bullet pierced his upper arm, and he fell
back heavily between the cockpit seats. Murdock stole a second to glance back
to check his Flight Engineer, and be breathed a sigh of relief when he saw an
arm wound. "Get him when you can Wendel!" the Pilot called out.
"Sandies get your god damn asses over here," Murdock snapped outloud as he
spotted the distant trails of incoming jets. Beside him Long screamed as a
bullet burst through the bulkhead, through his leg and smashed into the radio
console. The Huey choked and the controls paused. "Damn it!" Murdock shouted as
his left fist reached out and beat the dials in front of him. "Don't do this to
me baby, we need ya to hang on." When power returned, he pushed south past the
clearing. "Long's hit!" Murdock screamed back to Wendel.
Two swift flying jets screamed past the limping helicopter, releasing their
deadly cargo simultaneously into the clearing and the jungle beyond. "We're
clear," Long gasped as the chopper shook from the concussions of exploding
bombs cleared the area behind them. "Sandies got em," the co-pilot said in a
voice filled with sorrow and pain.
"Not yet!" Murdock replied stiffly as he fought to keep his wounded chopper in
the air. "Good chance we gonna go down before getting home."
"We shouldn't even be alive," Long said weakly. "Trust ya. . . " He whispered
as he passed out.
Halfway between the city of Hue and Hai Van Pass, Shipton and Jarvis dropped
their choppers in beside Murdock's struggling bird to escort him home. With the
choking bird demanding his full attention, Murdock couldn't give the new
arrivals anything more than a quick glance and a wave to acknowledge their
"Hey Cap!" Wendel called out, "They're trying to signal you!"
"I'm kinda busy right now!" Murdock impatiently shouted back as he jiggled the
stick to keep the chopper flying straight. "Tell em to leave a message!"
"Colonel want's us to land Cap!" Wendel shouted as he poked his head forward
into the cockpit.
The Captain frowned, and the chopper coughed and dropped a couple feet. After
kicking the right pedal, the bird lifted back up again. "That what you think we
should do Wendel?" Murdock shouted tensely.
The pararescueman paused to think for a moment, and he watched the pilot
struggle to keep the chopper aloft. "Anybody but you flyin and I'd say land
this pig," Wendel finally shouted after careful consideration, "but I think
you'll be able to bring us home."
Murdock stole a quick glance at his fellow Texan, and could see the
stubbornness in the man's eyes, the same prideful obstinacy that was native to
all from the Lone Star State. Despite the grief he was feeling, the look on
Wendel's face brought a slight look of determination to his own. "You bet!"
Murdock shouted, "Let'em know we're goin home under our own power!"
Wendel grinned and withdrew from the cockpit to send the signal to Shipton's
chopper. A few moments later, Murdock glanced over at his CO's chopper and
noticed that Shipton looked pissed. "What the hell did you tell him Wendel,"
A few seconds passed and Wendel stuck his head back into the cockpit, "They
wouldn't take no for an answer so I flipped them the bird." Wendel said in a
voice that was barely auditable over the noise of the blades beating overhead.
"shit" Murdock hissed under his breath as he took another quick glance at his
Commanding Officer. Gritting his teeth for a moment, he imagined the chewing
out he would get later for the action of his crewman, he finally shouted back,
"I guess I can live with that."
"Good!" Wendel replied loudly, "Cuz I told em the message was from you!"
Pursing his lips tightly, Murdock gave Wendel a quick glare. "Thanks a lot," he
called out dryly. "Now get your ass back there and check on Long and Trombetta."
An hour later Murdock's wounded chopper circled on its final approach towards
Da Nang. Even at a distance, the pilot could see a crowd gathering to greet
their arrival home. 'They sure as hell don't give me much room to land,'
Murdock thought to himself. As the Captain dipped into the final approach, the
chopper choked again and tilted to the left. The Captain paled from the sudden
and very vivid visions racing through his mind of a fiery crash into the crowd
below. The images were enough the throw him into a panicked fight to regain
When the chopper finally leveled out, Murdock looked ahead to the landing zone
and silently thanked god that the crowd had backed off in the face of danger.
At least there was a positive side to the last struggle for control. With the
crowd scattered he now had more room to land. 'Now or never,' the Captain
thought to himself as he took a deep breath and pushed his chopper down. "Hang
on!" Murdock shouted to the back of the chopper as he decreased power and aimed
for the center of the landing pad. A few yards from the target, the Huey choked
again and died. The blades above screamed a protest as the steady beating
quickly became a shrieking whoosh. With the lift power gone, the chopper
dropped, bounced forward several times then slid several feet until it finally
came to a stop a few feet from its target.
Dazed by the less than perfect landing, Murdock watched in awe as the crowd of
medics rush forward like a wave racing for the shore. The movement itself
signaled an end to the stresses of the past few hours and he began to shiver
slightly in response to the shock. Deep in his own private nightmare of
memories, the Captain jumped when something touched his shoulder. It took a few
moments longer to realized that someone was talking to him. "What?" he asked
"They're taking Long and Trombetta," Wendel said softly. "If it's okay with
you, I'd like to go with them."
Murdock nodded, "I'll be at the hospital as soon as I can."
"Cap," Wendel said as he squeezed Murdock's shoulder, "They wanted me to tell
you thanks for getting them home."
The Captain's voice momentarily caught in his throat and he offered a nod in
response. When Wendel disappeared, Murdock turned his head and rested his
forehead on the glass portion of the door to watch the medics carry his men
away on stretchers. 'Could I have done anything different?' the Captain asked
himself as his heart twisted in pain. After only a moment, the Captain was
unable to watch his men being carried off any longer. The pilot turned away
from door and bent forward to hide his face in his hands.
The pain the pilot felt inside was something he couldn't even describe to
himself. Coping with the sight of death and injuries was a lesson quickly
taught in the first days since arriving in Vietnam, but this was something
different and it was tearing him up inside. The countless faces of injured and
dead he had carried from the front lines flashed through his mind, but none had
been so close and none had been injured or killed before his eyes. This hurt so
much more, and his heart ached for the time he no longer had to spend with his
friend. Breath caught in his throat, and he choked out an agonizing cry while
tears began to flow unchecked.
Twenty minutes later, Lieutenant Colonel Shipton cautiously opened the pilot
side door of the battered chopper. In an almost fatherly gesture, the older man
placed a hand gently on Murdock's back. "Captain?" he asked softly, "do you
need help getting out?"
"I'm okay," Murdock said hoarsely through his hands. His body shivered from the
release of emotion. "Gimme a minute." The pilot added between soft sniffles as
he fought to get himself back under control.
Shipton lightly patted the younger man's back. "Sure thing kid." He said
softly, "We'll wait for you." As promised, Shipton backed off and gently closed
the door behind him.
The minute turned out to be ten, but when Murdock emerged he had his emotions
locked down tight even though his red rimmed eyes betrayed the trauma he was
feeling. "You okay?" Jarvis asked with concern before Shipton had a chance to
do the same.
Murdock nodded stiffly and took a deep breath. "I know you need a report, but
I'd like to see my crew first." he said tightly.
"Your report can wait until tomorrow," Shipton replied quickly, "your crew is
more important than the paperwork."
"Thanks Colonel," Murdock said gratefully. Taking a couple steps in the
direction of the hospital, the Captain suddenly turned. "Martin know yet?" he
asked with a slight catch in his voice.
Shipton nodded and replied, "We told him." The Colonel paused for a moment and
eyed the Captain carefully, "He's approved my recommendation to take you off
the roster for a few days till we have a chance to get you a new Chopper and
arrange for any crew replacements needed."
Murdock's eyes narrowed and he said quickly, "Replacements?"
Shipton nodded, "Trombetta's going home for sure since he was due to rotate in
a few weeks anyway, Long's a maybe, but you have to be ready just in case."
Shivering, Murdock wrapped his arms tightly across his chest. "Everything
happened so fast." He finally said in a haunted voice, "I haven't been able to
think past right now."
Jarvis took a few steps toward the younger pilot and reached out to lay a
comforting hand on Murdock's shoulder. "You did good kid. Most of us, including
me, wouldn't have been able to bring that bird home."
"Damn thing had more holes in it than swiss cheese." Shipton added with a quick
jerk of his head towards the damaged chopper, "You should be proud."
Looking down, the last thing Murdock felt he could muster was pride. Murray and
his crew were dead, two from his own crew were injured, what the hell was there
to feel proud about.