A/N: I want to say thank you to my daughter wolfchild81 who co-wrote this story with me. We got to talking this afternoon about an unfortunate fellow who ended up in an ER with a similar problem. My beady little brain started thinking about the boys. I looked at her and said, "What if?" A couple of hours of collaboration later, this is the result.
Somewhere in Iraq
Before the fall of Baghdad
The desert could be very unforgiving in a lot of ways, and so could the enemy. It hadn't taken the Americans long to discover that the critters that scurried about on more than two legs could be just as deadly as some of the two-legged sort. And like their human counterparts, you didn't always see them coming.
Fortunately for Murdock, his encounter with one multi-legged creature was not deadly, but it certainly left a lasting impression on him… and on his teammates.
Dawn in the desert is a special time… beautiful and cool. For a military camp, it is also one of the busiest times of the day. Morning dispatches are being read, soldiers are engaging in morning routines and meals are being prepared or eaten, assignments are being handed out to various underlings, equipment is being checked and re-checked. The camp is a veritable hive of activity.
For those units which are for whatever reason assigned to a remote location, the routine is very much the same, but on a much smaller scale. Such was the case with Hannibal Smith and his "A" Team. They had bivouacked twenty klicks away from the main base to meet with an informant who had some information for General Morrison, but who was not comfortable coming any closer to the base.
Their mission had been accomplished late the night before, and they would be starting back to base by jeep directly after breakfast. Just now, they were beginning to stir in camp, since their mission had kept them all awake until nearly 0230. Hannibal had felt that an extra hour or so of sleep would not be amiss.
The first indication of a problem was apparent to them when they were awakened by an odd, frenzied keening sound from Murdock. It was not terribly loud, but it was harrowing. He was flailing around on his sleeping bag, having apparently worked his way out of it at some point. He pitched his head side to side, almost as if he were having a seizure. However, he did not appear to be out of control. He would stop and moan occasionally, his expression one of horror and pain.
Face scrambled to his side, the others not far behind him. "Murdock? Buddy, what is it? What's wrong?!"
The pilot turned terrified eyes onto his best friend. He seemed nearly mute with fear. He brought his hand up to cup his left ear and tried to speak. "B-b-b—" He broke off and shook his head, and squeezed his eyes closed in desperation.
Face grasped Murdock's shoulder. "Look at me, buddy." He waited until H. M. finally opened his eyes. "Okay, that's good. Now, what is it? What's happening?"
Murdock took a deep breath. The pain in his ear was like nothing he had ever felt before. Even electroshock therapy was a breeze compared to this, and that stuff was not the walk in the park he liked to pretend it was. But worse than the pain was the sound. It was like a freight train was running loops in his brain. He couldn't take much more of it. He couldn't help it when tears started falling.
Hannibal was shocked when he realized Murdock had to be in horrific pain, because he couldn't recall ever once seeing the man cry… and if anyone ever had a reason… the pilot did. He knew some of his history, and to see this?… What the hell was going on?
Finally, Murdock was able to gasp out a couple of words. He looked Face right in the eye. "Bug. Ear."
Face stared. "You've got a bug in your ear? Like, one crawled in there?"
Murdock nodded, the relief that Face understood obvious in his eyes.
Hannibal knelt down next to the pilot. "Captain, look at me."
It took a moment, but finally, H. M. did look at him. "Can you feel the bug moving?"
Murdock nodded slightly, and B. A. and Face both shuddered at the thought.
Hannibal sent B. A. to fetch Murdock's first aid kit. They watched Murdock's eyes grow wide as he watched Face help Hannibal lay out some of the items he needed and both of them cleaned their hands with alcohol prep wipes.
Hannibal picked up the portable otoscope and gently tipped Murdock's head to the side. He carefully inserted the tip of the scope into his ear and turned on the light—and got the shock of his life. He wasn't really sure how the damned thing actually fit, but that had to be the biggest frickin' spider he'd ever seen! Well, not counting the damned wolf spiders that loved to keep life interesting… but they could get to be six inches across easy. Still, this guy was pretty big… and pretty active too. It had to be driving the captain nuts.
Hannibal decided to do the captain a favor. He knew there was no way he would be able to get the spider out of there alive, and equally no chance of getting the thing out with Murdock in that much pain, so, he made the executive decision to knock the captain partially out. They would slip him some morphine. He needed the captain relaxed and basically pain-free. He wouldn't use any more than he had to, because he knew Murdock hated being sedated.
Hannibal would be using a pair of tweezers near his eardrum, so he doubted the pilot would complain too much. He wouldn't be cleared to fly for a day or so since he would likely have to have his hearing and equilibrium double-checked before they let him back up in the air anyway. That little fact was not going to make H. M. happy at all.
Once they had the morphine on board and he was relaxed and pain-free, things went fairly smoothly. Hannibal had B. A. hold a Maglite for him so he could se what he was doing. Murdock was semi-conscious. Face acted as scrub nurse, handing Hannibal what he needed. Murdock proceeded to hum and babble somewhat loopily all throughout the procedure.
Hannibal knew the first thing he would have to do is to kill the spider. He didn't relish trying to tackle the thing while it was still alive. He told Murdock what he was doing as he went along as much as he could. They had learned a long time ago that surprising the pilot was never a good idea. He had Face fill an oral syringe with rubbing alcohol.
"Okay, Murdock, now listen. You have a spider in your ear, and I have to get it out, okay? The morphine looks like it's kicked in, so it won't hurt. I'm just gonna squirt some rubbing alcohol into your ear now. It'll be cold, okay?"
Murdock frowned muzzily. "What are ya gonna do that for? That will kill him! Why ya gonna kill the li'l guy, Colonel? He din' do nothin' but look for a warm place ta sleep! Don' kill 'im for that!"
B. A. rolled his eyes and growled. "Shut up, Fool. It's just a stupid spider!"
Hannibal spoke sharply, his commanding tone unmistakable. "Stand down, Sergeant."
B. A. immediately subsided. "Yessir." His expression still spoke volumes, but he wisely kept his mouth shut.
Hannibal looked to Face. After all, he was the captain's best friend, and if anyone could get him to understand, he had the best chance.
Face sighed and placed his hand on Murdock's arm. The pilot was loopy, but not totally out of it. "Look, buddy, the spider is pretty messed up in there right now. I'll bet you can hear him and feel him, right?"
Murdock nodded uncertainly.
"Well, see, he may have just been trying to find someplace warm, but he picked a place that was hostile territory… and he's pretty busted up right now. There's no way of extracting him outta there in one piece, see."
Murdock thought seriously about that one for a few moments. "So, he kamikazed himself without realizing it, huh?"
Face nodded. "He did."
Murdock scratched his nose and addressed the spider. "Well, Ferdy, ol' buddy, I won't forget ya." He looked at Hannibal. "Okay, Colonel, go ahead and do what ya gotta do."
None of them were a bit surprised that Murdock had named his tormentor. It was just such a "Murdock" thing to do.
Hannibal poured the alcohol into the pilot's ear, and carefully proceeded to remove the dead spider piece by piece. B. A. had earned another glower out of Hannibal when he had whistled at the size of the body of the spider, but fortunately, Murdock was just loopy enough that he missed the reference. Finally, Hannibal told Face to count the body parts.
"Let's see, body and head, and um… six legs. We're missing two."
Murdock had shown signs of finally completely relaxing, but his eyes shot open at this announcement. "What?"
Face placed a soothing hand on his friend's shoulder. "Don't worry. Hannibal will find 'em."
He rubbed Murdock's shoulder until he began to relax again. Hannibal went back to work and found the AWOL spider legs in short order. He rinsed the ear one more time with alcohol and proclaimed his patient cured. The patient sighed in relief and lay back on his sleeping bag. "Thanks, Colonel. I do feel bad for Ferdy, though."
Hannibal smiled. "You're welcome, Captain. You get some rest. We'll pull out in a few hours. And don't worry. We'll find some way of memorializing Ferdy, I'm sure."
He glanced over Murdock's head at his SIC and could see the wheels were already turning. He shook his head. He chuckled as he pulled out a cigar and Face tossed him his Zippo. This should be interesting.
One Month Later
Hannibal knew that Face and B. A. had been conspiring on some sort of a project, but he had no idea what it was. He suspected it had something to do with Murdock, mostly because the pilot wasn't in on whatever it was, and normally the three men were thick as thieves on everything.
The colonel was grateful that the spider incident a few weeks ago hadn't done any permanent damage to their captain. He had been grounded for two days because his equilibrium had indeed been thrown off a bit, but his hearing had not been affected at all, which was truly a miracle, because Murdock had almost superhuman hearing. It would have been a tragedy if it had been damaged.
At the moment, Murdock was attempting to badger one of the other units into a barbecue. Or more precisely, into a cook-off. And, they were having none of it, because Murdock's reputation as a chef, albeit a slightly lethal chef, had long preceded him. Face was not the only one to have fallen victim to his "secret sauce," which the pilot seemed completely immune to. Rumor had it he had learned the recipe from a beloved uncle who was crazier than he was.
Hannibal chuckled as he watched the byplay. He truly loved his boys. Face and B. A. appeared on the scene. Murdock immediately wandered over to the two. His attention was caught by the unusual object in Bosco's hands. "Whatcha got there?"
Face smiled. "We made you something."
Hannibal joined the group and realized what B. A. was holding. He looked at the sergeant. "May I?"
B. A. nodded and handed it over. "I made it, and Face came up with the name for it."
Hannibal nodded and smiled. "Very nice!"
Murdock stared at the object, confusion in his expression. "What is that?"
Hannibal looked at Face enquiringly, and the lieutenant leaned over and whispered in his commander's ear. Hannibal nodded approvingly.
He held the object carefully in front of him, and suddenly barked at his men, "Atten-shun!"
All three men snapped immediately to stiff attention.
And Hannibal placed the shining purple medal etched with a bright silver spider strung on a leather bootlace around Murdock's neck. Solemnly Hannibal intoned, "I hereby award you, Captain H. M. Murdock, the Order of the Purple Spider for Heroism above and beyond the call of duty in the matter of Ferdinand Spider. Well done, Captain." He shook Murdock's hand, whose eyes by this time were shining as he stared at the medal. It was beautifully carved but looked suspiciously in size and shape like a certain silver dollar that one Brock Pike liked to brag had been given to his father by President Nixon. If so, the war between Pike and the pilot could heat up to volcanic proportions…. Hannibal smirked. He loved it… just loved it.