Title: Afraid to Fly
Summary: My take on BA's fear of flying.
A/N: This is one of those images that I saw in my head and it made me laugh so ridiculously hard I had to write it. But unfortunately, it doesn't READ as well as it would LOOK. Any suggestions on how to make this more "visually stunning" would be appreciated.
"What's the matter, BA? Second thoughts?" The smirk Murdock was wearing spoke even more than the tone.
"No," BA said firmly.
Murdock chuckled under his breath as he took one more glance in the mirror over the sink in the bathroom, checking his uniform and giving one more look at Face who was similarly dressed. Hannibal was watching from nearby, leaning on the wall with a cigar between his teeth, arms crossed.
"You're really going through with this, aren't you?" He couldn't hide his amusement.
"He'd better go through with it," Face replied. "It wasn't easy gettingone of those planes."
Murdock grinned. "Oh, it wasn't that hard."
In fact, it had been that hard. They had almost been caught. Face could scam a plane without much difficulty; he'd done it at least a dozen times in the past few months alone. But scamming a specific plane – a specific, high cost, high profile jet was a little more difficult. It had been an elaborate lie, complete with uniforms, orders, confirmation phone calls, and fake credentials. But it would be worth every bit of it in another twenty minutes.
"As soon as you're off the ground," Hannibal said, "Face and I are going out the back door. We'll be heading north on Highway 95."
"And you're sure you're gonna be able to land that thing on a highway?" Face checked.
Murdock beamed. "It's straight, flat desert for miles and miles. No problem."
Hannibal studied him. "Well, just don't crash in the desert somewhere or we'll never be able to find you before they do."
"Crash!" BA's eyes widened a fraction at that. "You'd better not crash!"
Murdock shot a grin at his passenger-to-be, and the look of panic that was on his face. "What's the matter, big guy? Don't tell me you're developing a fear of flying."
BA straightened and lowered his hands to his sides, overcorrecting the fact that he'd been wringing them. The look went away, replaced with the glare that Murdock had been hoping for. "Man, I ain't afraid of nothin'! Least of all flyin'!" It would be no fun at all if BA decided he was afraid, and called the whole thing off.
Face gave a wistful sigh, rolling his eyes towards the ceiling. "Oh, what I wouldn't give to see the look on your face…"
"Hey, man," BA growled, "if you'd lost the bet, it'd be you goin' up there. And next time, I won't lose."
Murdock glanced back and forth between them, amused. In all honesty, he couldn't care less which one of them had lost the bet. He was just thrilled at the stakes had involved giving him the opportunity to get behind the controls of a T-38 – which had to be the prettiest machine he'd ever seen in his life. Like a kid on Christmas Eve, he was waiting anxiously for every second to pass by.
"Well," Face shrugged, "next time, we are going to have to change the bet. I don't think we can pull this same scam twice."
BA glared. "We can change it. It'll be somethin' just as crazy. I'll make sure of it."
"Are we ready?" Murdock asked, cutting them off. He was just too excited to stand here in the restroom and listen to the two of them argue. With quick glances all around, they were in agreement. They were ready.
BA had given up on any attempt to appear unintimidated by the twelve foot machine that was looming over him. With Hannibal and Face at a distance – Face, who'd been grinning like the Cheshire cat for the past hour and a half – he had only Murdock to worry about. And Murdock was so busy trying to contain his delight and appear perfectly normal and sane, he barely even glanced at BA.
It seemed strange to be referred to as "sir". Even stranger to be expected to communicate with few words, or none at all. As the ambassador from the small island of Pakta, off the coast of eastern Africa, it would be a little awkward if he talked too much. And if he blew this role, and they got caught, Face would never let him live it down. He'd say he chickened out. And BA was not a chicken. Nobody called him a chicken.
He didn't answer the man, who gestured for him to follow Murdock up to the two seats of the plane. Just a few feet behind the pilot – who was supposedly here with orders straight from the Pentagon to take the "ambassador" on the ride he requested – he slid down into the seat. BA still couldn't believe they'd pulled this off. He still couldn't believe it.
He also couldn't believe he was actually going to go through with it. Flying was no big deal; he'd been jumping out of planes with parachutes since he was eighteen. He'd hung on the skids of choppers over enemy fire on more than one occasion. But this was a whole new experience. He hadn't really thought about how different it would really be until they were putting him in another suit on top of his flight suit. It was called a G-suit, they'd explained calmly. It was supposed to squeeze his thighs and torso to push the blood back up into his brain so that he didn't pass out. This was a new experience, for sure.
It didn't help that Murdock was like a kid in a candy shop. He maintained a calm enough appearance, but BA recognized that gleam in his eye. It was almost the same look Hannibal got, when he was on the jazz. BA didn't like it. He didn't like thinking that the guy who was going to be flying him in this thing had that look. Murdock was a good enough pilot – helicopters and planes. And BA knew his service record; this base was his old stomping grounds. But BA had never actually seen him fly a jet, and he was understandably concerned. Even if Murdock was an expert jet pilot, he hadn't flown one in more than ten years.
"Do you have any idea what a privilege this is?" BA heard Murdock's voice as soon as he put the helmet on. He hadn't pulled the mask across yet, and couldn't have answered if he'd wanted to. He was too busy being strapped into the harness. Then the medic was strapping folded plastic bags to each of his legs. "I mean, not too many people get to go for rides in these things, you know." Murdock let out a wistful sigh.
BA wanted to tell him to shut up. But he was more curious to know what the bags were for. Remembering the need for limited speaking, he pointed at them questioningly. As he looked up at the man tying them in place, he recognized that he was a medic. "What's…?"
The medic chuckled. "Well, Mr. Ambassador, your body is not used to going to speed of this jet. You're going to get sick at some point."
The medic smiled. "Don't let it bother you. Everybody gets sick the first few times. Everybody."
BA's eyes widened.
As the medic backed away, another man approached, fastened the mask across his face, and clapped him on the shoulder. "Have a good time, Mr. Ambassador."
BA wasn't listening. "Murdock, you'd better not make me sick!" The hell with sign language and non-verbal communication. The cockpit tape was rolling, but nobody was probably listening in the control tower.
"Oh, relax, BA." That overly confident, almost condescending tone was unnerving. "You heard what the man said. Everyone gets sick. Nothing to be embarrassed about."
"You just better hope I don't get sick," BA growled. "I don't like gettin' sick. You better be real careful. Make this a smooth ride."
Murdock chuckled. "Oh, this baby will be smooth as silk. I promise."
Another man was at the side of the cockpit now, leaning over BA. He didn't answer Murdock. "Now remember," the man – his lapel said he was a major – said calmly. "If your pilot says 'eject, eject, eject,' you need to reach down to that handle right there," he pointed to a yellow and black handle on the floor between BA's feet, "and pull up on it as hard as you can."
BA's eyes were wide beneath the helmet, where he was sure the major couldn't see.
"You've got a mortar rocket under your seat that'll shoot you up out of the top of the jet once the canopy flies off. Your parachute will open automatically and you'll float to the ground nice and easy. Nothing to worry about."
BA said nothing. He had nothing to say. The parachute part didn't bother him. The rocket under his seat that was supposed to shoot him out of a jet going five hundred miles an hour or more… that concerned him a bit. "You better not make us have to eject!" BA said firmly as the man backed away with a quick wave to Murdock.
"Aw, relax. I hardly ever have to eject out of one of these things. Prob'ly only four or five times."
Murdock chuckled. "Nah, not really. Just once. And it wasn't my fault, either…"
BA didn't want to hear the story. He wasn't sure whether Murdock was even being serious or if he was just trying to get a rise out of him. Murdock was good for that, especially when he had the upper hand in the situation to begin with.
He definitely had the upper hand right now.
"Ooh wow, this is a pretty bird. Lookit all these cute little lighted displays!"
"You better know how to fly this thing, Murdock." BA suddenly realized he was gripping his knees so hard, his knuckles were turning white.
"You know, you really should relax." The loud, deep whirring sound coming from every direction made BA's head snap up as the canopy slid over top of them. "This'll be fun! You'll have a blast!"
Man, he never should've taken that bet.
The loud clunk of the clamps locking down around the canopy made him jump. Suddenly, it hit him. What was he doing? He was in a T-38, with a crazy fool they'd broken out of the psych ward at the controls! He'd never even flown this plane before! Even if he did fly its predecessors, it had been years since then! And who knew if his memory was messed up with all his craziness! This was insane!
"I don't wanna do this, man," BA said, not liking the way that his voice trembled. "Let me outta here."
"See that little white switch on your right?"
"Let me outta this plane, man!"
"I want you to flip that switch and take a few deep breaths."
"I want outta this plane!"
"BA, the canopy's closed already," Murdock protested. "How would it look if you suddenly changed your mind 'cause you got scared?"
"I don't care! I want out!"
"Look, big guy. We go back now, we all get stuck on an Air Force base with military police and major holes in our story."
BA was not comforted or convinced by that logic. Better to be caught than to die. And he felt a lot like he was tempting fate.
"You came out for a ride, Mr. Ambassador. Just flip that switch and take a few breaths."
BA hesitated. "What switch?"
"That little white one next to you."
"What's it do?"
"Puts pure oxygen into your mask," Murdock explained. "You start feeling like you're gonna pass out or get sick, just flip that switch up and take a few breaths. You'll feel all better."
"I don't like this, man." BA flipped the switch. It didn't make him feel much better. "I don't like this at all. Man, how I let you crazy fools talk me into this? You don't even know how to fly this thing."
"Oh, have a little faith, big guy. It hasn't been that long."
As they taxied down to the end of the runway, BA found himself relying on the little white oxygen button several times. When they finally came to a stop, BA could feel his heart pounding in his ears.
"So." Murdock sounded calm. It was almost – not quite – reassuring. "This kinda like how you felt the first time jumping out of an airplane?"
BA was quiet for a moment, trying to draw up the memory. "I had three weeks learning how to jump out an airplane before I jumped. That's different."
"Really? That long?" Murdock chuckled. "My first jump, I had about twenty minutes – just long enough to get up into the air."
"Who'd you jump with?"
"Boys out at Tinker Air Base. I was bored and needed something to do."
"Thunderbird Three -" the booming voice seemed to echo in the helmet. BA jumped, grip tightening on his knees. "- you are cleared for takeoff. Steep ascent has been approved."
The plane was moving before BA had a chance to ask – or protest. Down the runway, like any other plane. BA breathed, and tried to make himself relax. "Hang on, big guy. Here come the afterburners."
Afterburners. What the hell were –
They shot forward so fast, BA nearly became one with the seat behind him. Shoulders pressed back, eyes wide, he listened in horror as Murdock calmly called out the speed they were traveling. "There's three fifty, four hundred, four fifty, up we go!"
Suddenly, they were travelling vertically at that same speed.
BA was screaming louder than Murdock's yell of glee. But he didn't realize it until he ran out of air. He frantically tried to press the little white switch, gasped a few breaths, and screamed again as they shot up through the clouds.
"Mommaaaaaa! Oh God! Oh God! Mommaaaaa!"
God knew how high they were before Murdock finally leveled the plane out - upside down. "You alright back there, big guy?"
"What the hell was that!" BA screamed.
"Uh, I believe that was called a takeoff. I could be wrong, you know. It has been a while since I've done this."
"Murdock! I'm gonna -"
"Hold on," Murdock interrupted. As they plunged back down through the clouds, BA screamed again. His screams got louder as he saw the ground and how quickly they were advancing towards it. "Oh God! Momma, I don't wanna die! I don't wanna die!"
They skimmed the ground – how far had they gone from the base? BA couldn't see it. Then they were up in the air again. "Let's head out to military airspace so we can play," Murdock suggested, his voice absolutely full of pure glee.
"Play? What! No! I don't –"
They shot up again, and the protest turned to a scream. By now, his throat was getting horse, and he was becoming so paralyzed with fear that he was barely noticing the minor changes – like when they were heading for the sky and when they were falling to the ground.
They must have reached that military airspace when Murdock suddenly said, "Let's have some fun. You wanna try a barrel roll?"
"Try a what?"
It was a rhetorical question. Murdock was already rolling the plane, wing over wing. BA was no longer screaming. He was too busy trying to choke back the vomit that was right in his throat. He couldn't throw up. Not for the pride of it – pride was long gone by this point. No, it was the simple fact that in order to throw up, he would've had to gag, take the mask off, take a bag off his leg, open it, puke, tie it back up, and put it back in the suit. There was no time for all of that!
The hoots and hollers from the pilot in the seat in front of him were becoming more and more terrifying. Every time Murdock let out a cry, it invariably meant that they were about to try some new death defying maneuver. None terrified him quite so much as the freefall to earth – through the clouds and down several thousand feet before Murdock pulled the plane back up just before it made a crater in the desert.
"A'right, big guy, you wanna see how fast this baby can go?"
"I'm gon' to a three count – here, we, go. Now, when I say go, we gon' go real fast. So make sure you got a real deep breath 'cause you ain't gon' be able to breathe 'til we slow down again."
"What! No! Murdock!"
"When I say go, you tense all up tight and curl your toes. It'll help with the whole air thing."
"Stop it, you crazy fool! You gonna get us both killed!"
Murdock wasn't stopping. BA flipped the white switch and took in the deepest breath he could, eyes wide and terrified.
BA was glad for that breath he'd taken as he felt pounds and pounds of pressure crush against his chest. Tensed completely, pressed so hard against the seat he couldn't blink, he stared straight ahead at the seat in front of him. Murdock had gone silent. The plane sped faster.
BA ran out of air.
Panicked, frantic, he tried to exhale. He couldn't. He tried to move his hand to the white button. He couldn't. He couldn't even turn his head to look at it. His lungs were ready to burst when they finally slowed enough to let him breathe. He pressed the switch with both hands gasping, shaking violently as he sucked oxygen.
"Not bad, huh?" Murdock called through the helmet.
"Murdock! If we live through this, I'm gonna kill you! I swear it! I'm gonna kill you!"
Murdock only laughed. Apparently, he thought BA was joking.
"Let's do some scenery, huh?"
"Scenery?" Hands still shaking, BA didn't even want to know what kind of scenery the pilot had in mind.
Up through the clouds, they left the desert behind. When they came down again, there were trees and mountains. BA's eyes were wide. What state were they in? As Murdock plunged down towards the side of a cliff, BA let out another choked, terrified scream. This time, he shut his eyes, and he had no chance to see how close Murdock actually came to the rock surface before he pulled up.
They went over the mountain, and down the other side just a few feet over the tops of the trees. He could see the wildlife scatter as they passed overhead, ripping the trees into a whirlwind. Staring out the side of the cockpit at the passing trees, he could feel his eyes slipping out of focus. He reached for the white button, and realized he was already pressing it. The last thing he was aware of was Murdock's light and carefree suggestion that they should go find Face and Hannibal before they ran out of fuel.
Then there was nothingness.
"Where are they?" Face asked, scanning the sky. "From what Murdock was saying, they should be running low on fuel by now."
"He'll be here," Hannibal shrugged, calmly. "And he'll definitely find us before we find him. He's got a bit of a speed advantage."
Face considered that, tapping the steering wheel with his thumbs as he watched the long stretch of road into nowhere. "Hey, how fast do those things –"
Whoosh! Face slammed the brakes, screeching the tires and spinning the wheel in an effort to keep the van on the road as something too fast to see blew past them – like a tornado at warp speed.
"What the hell was that!"
Hannibal looked through the clearing dust at the jet that was leaving a trail behind it as it skimmed the ground. "I'd say about six or seven hundred miles an hour, if I had to guess."
The van had finally come to a stop. Face put it in park and stepped out into the barren road, shielding his eyes from the sun as he watched the jet pull up again – straight up, into the clouds. Murdock rolled and twirled and spun and spiraled all the way back down. Face smiled. The pilot was definitely having the time of his life. He wondered how BA was holding up.
Finally, he came in for a landing – straight and low and carefully measured. The tires burned and skidded, dust flew everywhere, and eventually the plane rolled to a stop. Face and Hannibal climbed back into the van, then drove to the plane. The canopy was back by the time Face and Hannibal approached, parking the van right up next to the plane.
Murdock looked down at them, eyes wild and full of excitement. "This thing is great! Man, I want one of these!"
Shielding his eyes from the glaring sun, Face stared up towards the back seat. "BA? How was the ride?"
No answer. Face raised a brow. Murdock tried to look over his shoulder – unsuccessfully – before unfastening his harness and turning around on his knees on the seat. He snapped his fingers a few times at BA, then laughed.
"What's wrong with him?" Hannibal asked, with just a hint of concern."
"Lights are on, Colonel, but nobody's home!"
Hannibal and Face exchanged glances. Uh oh. That didn't sound good.
BA "awoke" suddenly. Murdock beamed as his eyes came back into focus. "Heya, big guy, how was the –"
"I'm gonna kill you, you crazy fool!" The harness held him to the seat, and gave Murdock time to jump back.
"Hey, I didn't crash!" Murdock laughed. "You didn't even get sick. What are you complaining about?"
"Hannibal!" BA's voice was bordering on panic. "Hannibal! Get me out of this thing!"
Face stood back as Hannibal climbed up and onto the top of the van to free BA.
"Oh, come on, BA!" Murdock was still trying to get a positive response out of his passenger. It wasn't working. "You had a good time, didn't you? It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You –"
"And I ain't ever gonna experience it again!" BA yelled, his voice so loud it echoed. "You ain't ever flyin' me anywhere again! Never! You're crazy! You're out your mind, crazy!"
"It couldn't have been that bad, Sergeant," Hannibal said calmly, steadying himself against the side of the jet and reaching in to unfasten the harness. Murdock was already climbing down. Good. He'd need a head start once BA was on his feet.
"Hannibal!" BA's eyes were wide and full of anger and fear. "You ain't never gettin' me in another plane with that crazy fool flyin'! Not ever!"
Murdock backed a safe distance away from the van as soon as his feet touched the ground. As BA found his way out of the plane, and onto the van, Murdock was glad for that foresight. BA's eyes locked on him, and he immediately knew to turn and run. "I'm gonna pound you, fool!"
Murdock laughed as he turned and ran backwards for a few steps while BA jumped down. "Gotta catch me first."
Face stood back and watched the chase with some amusement.
"Well, Face," Hannibal said as he jumped down. "For everyone's sake, I think you'd better choose lower stakes next time."
Face chuckled, and nodded. "Yeah. Especially Murdock's."