Summary: A continuation of "The Vietnam Chronicles." The A-team begins to solidify. And trouble brews for Murdock's crew.
Rating: PG, per usual (yes, we know they need their mouths washed out-especially Remy. Someone will do that later, promise) And Forsythe isn't PC, but he doesn't care.
Disclaimer: I don't own the A-team, and I think I'm #1360 in line to claim them. The CO, Remy, Forsythe and cronies belong to Avatar, who graciously let them out of their cages...I mean, loaned them out. Special thank-you to the 118th Attack Helicopter Company (AHC) (The Thunderbirds) web page for background info on helicopters and their crews. Any deviations from reality are the fault of the author(s).
VAPORS, CLOUDS, AND STORMS
Two runs with that same chopper crew had left BA unsettled. He could have sworn (what would Mama say to that?) that someone had it in for him. It was almost a relief to have a few days of "normal" Army business. The motor pool work was falling behind-that was one of the things Hannibal would have to thrash out with Morrison. Much as BA would hate to give it up, he knew it had to go. At least for now. He'd spent the couple of days running that new lieutenant through his paces. That had been almost enjoyable. He'd been on the receiving end of drills enough, and barking out orders settled something that BA wasn't quite ready to define, let alone admit to. Although he was still far too green in BA's opinion, the 2LT had a fair instinct for combat, and enough common sense to go with it. It had been late afternoon before he called a halt to the exercise. He had things to catch up on, and the colonel had a small job for Peck, a sort of "final exam". Although BA didn't know the details, he sensed that it had something to do with finding Hannibal's preferred pilot. Just as long as they stayed away from a certain crew, he really didn't care who the colonel drafted.
From his vantage point, Hannibal watched at the two figures separated, his thoughts elsewhere. He'd settled on Peck as the fourth team member, and the man looked competent-at least in combat skills. Now he just needed a regular pilot. And depending on the lieutenant's report, BA may have inadvertently found their man. Hannibal had flown with enough crews, and Murdock had impressed him, especially with his handling of the ground situation. He glanced at his watch, rose, and stretched. There were things-both official and not-that he needed to check on before he met up again with Peck. It shouldn't take the lieutenant too long. And if the crew checked out, he'd have to meet with the pilot before making appropriate arrangements. With a satisfied grin, he pulled out a cigar and walked away.
Peck straightened the fatigue cap on his head one last time,and wondered how he'd gotten in this position. Two weeks ago, he'd been your average second looey, no different than the hundreds of second looeys running around this godforsaken country. Well, okay, maybe not ALL of them were running scams and not-quite-legal clubs in addition to platoons and patrols. But still. And all he'd had to worry about was getting on the wrong side of the VC and Rudy MacDonnell. Then-like Batman and Robin-those two SF guys had swooped in and neatly transferred him to Colonel Smith's command. Smith had pulled the rug out from under both Rudy and Captain Anderson. Peck rotated one shoulder, then the other, trying to workout the stiffness. That sergeant-Baracus?- had run him through three days of drilling, checking him out. The guy should be a drill sergeant in basic training, he thought. Baracus had worn a perpetual scowl during that time, and his only comments beyond orders had been snorts. Whether they were in approval or disgust remained to be seen. He studied the door to the 118th's headquarters. Smith had asked him to check out the records for a couple of their flight crews. Actually, he'd asked about only one crew, but Peck knew that would raise flags with the 118th's administration. As would mentioning that Smith was the one who wanted the records. He gathered that Smith had a reputation as a maverick, and a lot of regulars were suspicious of the colonel. Granted, the man had an unorthodox way of doing things, at least from what Peck had seen of him so far. But there was something else about him, something that defied definition. He tugged absently at the 1st Aviation patch on his shoulder. Ray Brenner-the other lieutenant who worked for Smith-had sewn it on a shirt for him, after watching Peck's attempts with amusement. Brenner, Baracus, and Smith. It seemed an odd combination for a team, a colonel, a sergeant, and a lieutenant. TWO lieutenants, he reminded himself, and a pilot. This yanked his attention back to the matter at hand, and he muttered, "Okay, let's go." He walked up to the door, pulled it open, and went through. Flipping his cap off in an easy motion, he glanced around. The office seemed empty. But he could hear indistinct voices beyond the CO's door, and someone making noises under the desk. The noises resolved themselves into someone just slightly taller than Peck, with colouring similar to his own. The man moved with a grace that, while not inbreed through generations, had certainly been drilled into him. He clutched an assortment of paper, and Peck would bet a week's pay that he was not the company clerk. An expression of guilt flitted across the other's face briefly, then resolved into a sneering, superior look. Then he noted the lieutenant's bars on Peck's shirt. The look faded slightly, and he lazily came to attention. "Permission to carry on, sir?" he asked. Peck nodded, distracted by his own mission. The soldier straightened the papers, and left the office. Moments later, another soldier entered, heading for the desk. He, too, noted Peck and the gold bars, and came to attention a shade more respectfully than his predecessor. "Can I help you, sir?" "I'm looking for the reports for the last twenty missions," Peck said, mentally crossing his fingers that the crew Smith was interested in had flown during that time. From what the colonel had said, it was likely they had, but it would be his luck that that particular crew had not. The voices behind the door rose as the clerk searched for the requested paperwork. Peck waited, wondering idly about the soldier who had been in the office earlier. Mildly impatient, his attention swung back to the corporal and his papers. If this guy hurries up, maybe I can stop by the club. Colonel Smith hadn't specifically told him to suspend his extracurricular activities, and Peck was in no hurry to close up shop there just yet. The door opened, interrupting his thoughts. "Opened" was a rather mild way of putting it, as the door hit the adjoining wall with a resounding bang that caused several items on the clerk's desk to jump, drawing the attention of both men in the outer office. A short, dark-haired, olive-skinned soldier barreled out of the office, face set in a scowl. He reminded Peck of Baracus, at least in expression. The soldier had reached the outer door when the commander's voice snapped, "Get back in here, soldier!" The soldier paused, and slowly turned back to face the CO. He said something that Peck assumed to be "Yes, sir," but the words were nearly unintelligible. He had heard accents being described as thick enough to cut with a knife, but had never actually met one fitting that description until now. "Hutton, I want you in here," said the CO, "Now." "Yes, sir," replied the clerk. He handed a sheaf of papers to Peck. "Here you go, sir." He looked knowingly at the soldier in the doorway, and headed into the inner office. "Thanks," nodded Peck. He glanced briefly at the other soldier, and was startled by the look of recognition and hate directed at him. The man turned if to confront him, his hand reaching toward his belt. His expression was replaced by a brief moment of confusion, then a carefully blank expression settled over the man's features, and his hand dropped to his side. The soldier turned, and headed back into the CO's office. The door closed violently behind him. Peck shrugged, and thumbed through the papers, looking for the men Smith had inquired about. Midway down the pile he found a report with the two names he was looking for. Several others bearing the same names followed. Other names appeared on those reports, but only two of those occurred with any regularity. He pulled a small notebook from his pocket and copied the names. With a wary glance toward the CO's office, he moved over to the personnel files, pulling the ones he needed and skimming them quickly. He jotted a few notes, then replaced the files. The mission reports were left in a neat pile on the clerk's desk, and he tucked the notebook away as he left the office. His attention was caught by two figures a short distance away from the building. Recognizing one of the soldiers who had been in the office, he studied the pair briefly, then shrugged and moved around the corner of the building. He carefully ripped the patch from his shoulder, picking at a few stubborn threads that clung to the fabric. The patch was stuffed into a pocket, and he settled a fatigue cap on his head, pulling the brim as low as he could. Neither of the soldiers were in sight when he walked away from the building. His thoughts occupied with sorting the information he had garnered-and a few details about the club floating about-Peck didn't notice the man following him until the soldier fell into step beside him. Startled, he recovered quickly. The soldier-the first guy from the office-slowed his steps, obviously expecting Peck to do the same. "You're pretty good," the man said, his accent reminding Peck of Clark Gable in Gone With the Wind. "Pretty good?" Peck said innocently, "I'm not sure what you're talking about, uh..." He glanced at the man's collar, then his name tape. "Forsythe?" "I was watching you through the window," said Forsythe. He smiled knowingly. "You looking for a crew to do some transporting, right?" The smile grew wolfish. "I got a good deal going. You're the guy running that club up in Da Nang, right?" Peck shrugged noncommitally, and Forsythe continued. "I'll have a flight out in a couple of days." He looked directly at Peck. "I could use some help with the paperwork." "Oh?" All Peck's warning antennae were screaming danger signals at him. This guy is way too upfront about the whole business. He makes Mac look subtle. While he was no stranger to black marketeering, Peck drew the line at certain transactions and he sensed that this was one of those. The bushes behind them rustled, and both men started. The leaves shook, and a scruffy, mixed-breed mongrel emerged. It looked from one man to the other, sniffing hopefully, then sat and scratched one ear. It stood, shook its head in apparent disgust, and trotted toward the mess hall, tail wagging. Forsythe recovered first. "Some gook's lunch got away from him," he said derisively. He looked at Peck. "Think about, it, sir," he said, the sir laced with insolence, "It could be worth your time." He touched his hat in a mock salute, and walked away. "Right," said Peck, not at all convinced. He waited until the man's back was to him, made a brief gesture, and glanced at his watch. There was just enough time to check on things at the club before he had to report back to the colonel.
Forsythe walked away from the lieutenant, sheaf of papers in hand. That had to be St. James in the CO's office. He still owed the door gunner for the other day, in addition to his transfer from his previous posting. The bastard had his uses and Forsythe wasn't about to let him off the hook. He walked toward his hooch, planning a private talk with the Cajun. St. James needed a little reminder about following orders, and he didn't mean the CO's. The door gunner had not been pleased that Forsythe had tracked him down at his last posting. He had leaned hard on St. James then to force his compilance, and could do so again. Forsythe ducked into the building, stuffing the papers safely away. As he exited the hooch, two of his cronies were waiting outside. "We're going to have a little 'discussion' with Mr. Saint James," he said, knowing they would understand his meaning. "He's in the 118th's headquarters, shouldn't be too hard to catch him off guard. We'll just take him back in the alley where we won't be disturbed." The two men agreed. Bullies at heart, Forsythe paid them well enough to insure their cooperation. They walked toward the headquarters, maneuvering to intercept Remy on his way back to the barracks or the helicopter. There weren't too many other options.
Remy mentally kicked himself as he left the headquarters, this time careful not to let the door slam. Dammit, he thought viciously, You know better than to argue back. The extra duties were an annoyance, but better than another reprimand in his records. Lord knows he had enough of those. Just wait till Cass and Murdock find out.
Through the window, he had caught sight of that lieutenant, whoever he was, removing the First Aviation patch from his shoulder. Remy grimaced, remembering. While he would have no qualms about decking Forsythe anywhere, assaulting an officer would have been the icing on a court martial. If the guy WAS an officer-maybe the bars weren't his either. Hutton hadn't seen past the insignia, and couldn't explain who the guy was. Only that he was after mission reports. Mission report, my ass! Remy paused a moment, considering. Handling cons had never been his strong point-his accent was too easily recognized. But he had friends in the LRRP's who'd probably know who would be working a scam in the 118th's area. If they weren't out in the field. He sorted through his other options, when something clicked. Suave and good-looking, that face-man would probably be known among the nurses. His type usually were, he thought wryly. He shook his head in frustration, heading away from the building. The additional duties, along with an early mission tomorrow, didn't leave time for extras. And Murdock was still waiting for an explanation of the incident on the chopper with Forsythe. He didn't need any more entanglements.
As Forsythe suspected, the door gunner wasn't as observant as usual, his eyes on the ground as he strode toward the aircrew barracks. He signaled to one of his men, who ducked around the supply building in order to cut off any escape via the alley. Forsythe and the other man continued forward, angling themselves to the front and side of their target. Forsythe timed his approach perfectly, meeting the door gunner at the entrance to the alley. He smiled in derision as St. James' head snapped up with a look of dismay. "Well, well," the sergeant taunted him, "What have we here?" He paused, relishing the other's confusion, then continued, "Time for that discussion you've been avoiding." Shit, Remy thought, backing away as they forced him toward the alley. He glanced around without seeing anyone, knowing he was in trouble. "What do you want?" he asked as he retreated. He knew they were herding him that way, but he didn't see another way out of this mess. Forsythe followed him leisurely, savoring the game of cat and mouse. "You're overdue for that lesson in respect," the sergeant said, "and you owe me for causing trouble with Colonel Smith." Remy stopped as he caught sight of the third man, already in the alley behind him. He backed against the wall for protection, watching apprehensively. He had known this was coming, but that didn't make it any easier. Forsythe's "discussions" were never pleasant, at least not for the recipient. It was going to hurt.
Author's note (hey, they're getting shorter)
LRRP - Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol. Small patrols, 4-6 people. Affectionately known as (and pronounced) "lurp"