Disclaimer: The A-Team Belongs to Stephen J Cannell & Frank Lupo, and several other various studios. This is written just for fun, and not for money.

Warnings: light bad language and weird humour

Author Notes: I just can't seem to resist a good, old fashioned buddy-fic, and despite the fact that the A-Team is such a guy movie and action, action, action, all the way through, I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed it. So of course, like any fic writer, I began to wonder how and why they got started...

Please read and enjoy and review!

Running Up Eight & Eighty – by Ryuuza Kochou

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Within the military true, original, old fashioned imagination was like a weed in the garden of the mind, to be eradicated and rooted out at much as practicable. After all, you were trained to deal with the worst situations that all human malice could dish out. In those situations imagination was an enemy, which exaggerated the truth and destroyed perception. Imagination made you see things that weren't there; and when the guns were up and the chips were down and the bullets were cutting trails through the air, survival depended on the ability to see what was there and nothing but. Career people in the military, for better or for worse, called a spade a spade.

They weren't quite at home with the one career man who called a spade a shovel, a key, an opportunity, a path, a door, a plan. By all military logic that particular trait should have ended in a pine box long ago; instead, it took him went places no one else did, turned the most inevitable defeats into the most sparkling triumphs and left the finest military think tanks gasping in the dust left in his wake. The records departments had given up keeping statistics on him. Whenever they were asked for a copy of his records no one ever believed it.

Just like now, as he finished his announcement with a subtle but suave flourish.

It was an odd thing to find in a career military man – but the crucible of boot camps, SERE training, battles and blood hadn't managed to uproot the iron clad Shakespearean streak that made the man, in equal measure, a maverick long shot and the best bet in the house. Not many people had ever managed to figure out that the theatricality that made him so unpredictable also made him the finest tactical genius the armed forces had ever produced.

"Smith," one member of the board replied to him, aghast. "You cannot be serious! These...men...you have nominated for your Alpha Response Unit are the biggest disgraces in the armed forces!"

Lt Colonel John 'Hannibal' Smith just smiled at their stunned faces. "They're the best, sir. And I want the best."

"One of them is a con artist, Smith!"

"I wasn't aware of any such charges ever being levelled against Lieutenant Peck, sir."

"Not for lack of trying! For crying out loud, the man smuggled the entire playboy mansion onto the base where he graduated and a portable swimming pool and live music and a full catered buffet. We don't even know how he convinced the officers not to bust him to toilet scrubber after it!"

"Even senior officers need to relax every once in a while, sir," Hannibal commented mildly. "I have it on good authority they still have the highest level of morale on that base than any other; in fact, they're planning to do it again after the next big graduation."


"Nevertheless, sir," Hannibal smoothly intercepted. "Despite any disinclination toward military bearing the Lieutenant might have, everything he's scammed, swindled and conned he's done it for the army. Need I remind you he was able to outfit nearly every tactical unit he was connected to with the finest, most effective body armour, weaponry and essentials, without ever once blowing the budget? And aside from this he has a double degree in linguistics and behavioural science. This kid speaks over two dozen languages and has been posted across the world, anywhere his interpreting skills could be used. He's been trained in both covert infiltration and sharpshooting. Put shortly sir, even with his idiosyncrasies, he's still a huge asset to any team."

"It's a matter of time before he ends up in a court martial, Smith."

"Hasn't happened yet, sir," Hannibal retorted mildly. "And I think it says something about his skill level that it hasn't. Elementary tactics is all about using whatever advantages are available to you, and this kid is a huge one, sir. Why cast off an asset like that? Every insubordinate act he's perpetrated is in his file. Hasn't it ever occurred to you that even after all that, no one has even charged him with a crime? I think the most important thing to consider here is not that he does these things; but that he never gets caught."

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True, Templeton 'Faceman' Peck hadn't been caught out for scamming yet by the military. He hadn't been caught out by the civilian police either. Face hadn't been caught by anyone, ever.

It wasn't all the face, despite the nickname. It was in part because he could lie with the eyes of an angel, and in part because he kept people guessing and assuming and wrong footing until they were so turned around they would listen to any voice of authority to get out of the mental tangle they were caught in; but mostly it was because Face wasn't a shallow pretty boy, though he made full use of the assumption when it applied to him. He was just extremely selective about who got an act and who got the real deal.

So far, Hannibal was the only one who got the real deal.

"What do you think's happenin' in there?" Murdock asked, entirely too chipper for a man who hadn't slept in two days – hell, none of them had. "I think they'd better be done soon, all the sparkly purple lizards around here look like they might swarm any time now."

This had the innocent effect of dropping a brick wall in front of any normal train of thought. The other two exhausted men plus the military guard all turned to look at him in disbelief.

"We gotta get this dude back to the hospital," Baracas growled after a long, bewildered silence. "You ain't right in the head, fool."

"Not right like a left turn," Murdock replied cheerily. "Not right like a bright night. Not right like a stranger 'elpin' another stranger in the desert. Not right like trust in a tattoo. Not right like..."

Baracas waved his hands. "Okay, okay, knock it off, I get the message."

"You got a message?" Murdock asked, sounding utterly awestruck.

"Aw hell," BA put his face in his hands.

"From hell?"

Face was watching the byplay with an easy grin that didn't quite cover the narrowing of his eyes when he looked at Murdock. The pilot was, without a doubt, waving at sanity from a long distance; but Face was getting the definite feeling that there was a masterpiece of a mind somewhere in there. Face had survived the meaner streets of Los Angeles on his ability to read people. The fact that he could not read the erratic pilot was proof to him there was more than garden variety crazy going on here.

"So, how long you been working for 'the' Colonel Smith, Lt?"

It took Face a moment to realize the question had been directed at him. He turned to look at Baracas who was steadfastly ignoring Murdock; who was, in turn, exaggeratedly stepping over whatever sparkly purple lizards he was seeing, trying to pace across the lobby. For Baracas's part, the big man looked desperate for any normal conversation.

Face shrugged nonchalantly. "Not too long, really. I got shunted into Military Intelligence and the Colonel picked me up as soon as I walked through the door. Officially I'm his Supply Officer."

Baracas raised an eyebrow. "Uh huh? And what were you supplying in the ass end of Mexico? Tanning tips?"

Face smiled enigmatically. "Some things just can't be replicated in a booth, man."

"Hey, is it just me," Murdock asked, shooing invisible lizards away while the military guard outside the war room watched him suspiciously. "Or are the levels of hungry rising in here?"

"Levels of what?" Baracas replied.

Maybe it was the fatigue talking, but Face suddenly felt hugely entertained by the erratic pilot's crazy shtick, and was spurred into playing. "You know, the levels of hungry." Face grinned into Baracas's disbelieving expression. "Tasteless, odourless, undetectable except for a strange intermittent gurgling. You think you're safe, you walk around without a care in the world, and suddenly..."

"The hunger level rises!" Murdock threw out his arms dramatically. "It's all around you, there's no way out, Washington has got it's finger on the speed dial to Dominoes, the world is on the brink of collapse..."

"And it is the right, nay, the duty," Face stood to attention. "Of every red blooded American to eat until they're sick for the sake of satisfaction and for home, country, and Mom's apple pie for dessert."

"God bless America!" Murdock finished, snapping his arms to his side.

They saluted each other. The military guard at the briefing room door stood ramrod straight with a thousand mile stares, but nevertheless conveying the impression of suddenly getting hernias from not reacting.

Baracas put his head in his hands. "What is it with me and crazy people?" He asked the unfeeling world in general.

"He may be crazy, big guy," Face spun around to face him. "But he still has a point. I want some good food and better ambience."

"You're in the army now, el-tee," Baracas pointed out drily. "In case you didn't notice, what you want doesn't signify."

"But we must defeat the dreaded hunger levels!" Murdock half wailed, falling backwards dramatically at their feet.

Baracas glared down at him. "What you want definitely doesn't signify. Ever."

"Awwww, you're just mad cause you dangled over the precipice of death recently," Murdock sniffed, fearless in the huge man's murderous look. "Some people pay good money for that."

"Now, now," Face mediated hurriedly as the former Corporal's sledgehammer hands curled into fists. "Remember any landing you walk away from is a good one. We're all here so it couldn't have been that bad, right?"

"Not that...Lieutenant, that crazy ass fool nearly got me killed! The trip back here I was so jazzed up I couldn't barely breathe!"

"It's Faceman...Face, if you like, not Lieutenant," Face interjected. "You saved my life, so you've earned it as I'm concerned. Look, it's fine, okay? It'll pass. It might take you a few goes to get back on the horse, that's all."

The sudden invitation to ignore rank wrong footed the big man and effectively derailed his temper. "I don't know. The thought of going up is giving me the heebie jeebies at the moment."

"Of course, post traumatic stress has been known to lead to long term anxieties, especially with compartmentalized personalities," Murdock cut in from the floor.

Baracas reverted back and growled, and Face considered giving the madman a kick; maybe superior rank didn't count when the superior in question was non compos mentis. "And you're the big expert on psychology now, are you?"

"Proud product of the mental health system, right here," Murdock proclaimed.

"If I ever get that crazy, just shoot me," Baracas glared at the Captain. "Or better yet, shoot him."

Murdock's wide grin faded slightly at the sight of the built former soldier staring him down from two feet away. "Er...it's bad luck to hit crazy people?"

"I'd risk it," Baracas declared flatly.

"Aww, shoot. It's just the hunger levels, mudsucker, it's makin' y'all crazy," Murdock rapped his knuckles on the vinyl floors.

"That's it," Face slapped his hands to his knees. "We're going to get something to eat."

"Oh, really?" Baracas raised an eyebrow. "Forgetting a little something called orders there, Lieu...Faceman?"

"Naaah," Face waved an airy hand. "But let's just think about this for a second. We don't actually have anything to lose. Murdock's...well, Murdock..."

"And as for you, big man," Murdock chimed in from the floor. "You're already discharged. What do you expect them to do, discharge you again?"

Baracas made a face. "Okay, maybe I don't matter and maybe no one in their right mind would care about you, fool. But Face, you leave now and it could be bad for ya."

"Only if I let it," Face clapped the well meaning man on the shoulder. "Look at it like this. My ass is in the fire no matter what I do. I mean, I fraternized and almost blew an op, so it's hot seat time, right? Now I could stand here with my intellect dulled by an empty stomach waiting for them to tear me a new one, or I could go and have a rich, nourishing meal; which means whatever I face I face on a full stomach, with all my wits about me. Simple, logical, reasonable."

Baracas stared at the other man, then snorted. "Faceman, huh? I can sorta see why."

"'Course, we'd have to get past Wingus and Dingus over there," Murdock waved a lazy hand at the watching guards. He pinned Face with a look, and Face got the first glimpse of the sharpness under the crazy. "Any ideas?"

"Oh please, give me an actual challenge," Face retorted derisively. "Or better yet, give me ten minutes."

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"And what about the other man, Baracas? I don't care if you want him, Colonel, you can't have him! No one in the armed forces can have him! He's not in the military anymore."

"I read his file, sirs," Hannibal interjected smoothly, undeterred. "He's a fine soldier. The best. If he'd ever been inclined to get a degree, he could have had a Masters in mechanical engineering by now. He went on two tours, and earned several commendations for bravery above and beyond during Kenya and Sudan, and was sent on several high profile covert mission missions in and around South America and South East Asia. As a weapons, demolitions and heavy vehicles expert he is among the finest the armed forces has ever had."

"You fail to mention, Colonel, that in his last deployment he struck a superior officer," was the dry retort. "For which he was duly court martialled and dishonourably discharged. How, may I ask, were you able to gain access to his file?"

Hannibal smiled enigmatically. "I seek to be well informed at all times, sir," he replied before misdirecting expertly. "I read the report on that incident. His CO, who will remain nameless, ignored vital intelligence and approved a strike against a soft target that, in fact, turned out to be a schoolyard. Corporal Baracas risked his own well being and safety to return to the scene and disarm explosives that would have killed up to sixty women and children, receiving severe injuries in the process; he disobeyed the orders of a man that would have been happy to let innocent bystanders die to cover his own culpable stupidity. I'd have punched his lights out for that, sirs. But I doubt whether I'd have been able to knock out half the man's teeth if I'd just dragged myself out of the jungle with a broken leg and shrapnel wounds, which is what the Corporal, even in that state, was able to do. The charges against him were filed out of embarrassment and petty spite, and key witnesses were all conveniently deployed elsewhere before they could testify, which turned it into the word of a Corporal over that of a Major. I'm not surprised he was struck off, sirs, but I am surprised, and not a little ashamed, that so many allowed the farce to continue as long as it did. It was, if you'll excuse my language, bullshit."

There was an uncomfortable creaking of chairs and a chorus of awkward clearing of throats. "If the Corporal had wanted to stay, he had the right of appeal."

"Being betrayed by your home team tends to kill morale, sir," Hannibal replied to this with a hint of sarcasm. "I'm not surprised he wouldn't want to stay where he was clearly not wanted."

"Be that as it may, it fact remains he is not in the army anymore, and therefore your argument in moot, Colonel."

"The Corporal was instrumental in the elimination of General Tuco, sir, which has been a headache of the intelligence department for the last year. He was dedicated to the corps even having no obligations to it, and risked his life for no better reason than loyalty. Whatever you might think of his discharge, sirs, I think it's more than clear he's earned a ticket back into the military," Hannibal stated firmly. "He's courageous, clever and loyal. More so than most others actually still serving, sirs. You could pick a worse reinstatement. If all soldiers were like him, we would be the finest military force until Judgment Day. Not only do I want him to be reactivated, I want him to be promoted. He would have been at least a First Sergeant by now."

"And if we reinstate him, and he strikes you Colonel?"

"Then I will accept I've turned into a bigger asshole than his former CO, sirs. Because that's what it would take," Hannibal declared. "Even with a badass attitude problem, Baracas would die before he disgraced the army, sirs."

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It had taken eight minutes and forty three seconds, and had involved a trip to the bathroom, a phone casually loaned to him by a female officer that Peck had never met before, one phone call, and a three minute spiel about the Pride of the United States Army.

Three soldiers walked away from their honour guard, said guard completely convinced the orders had come from the White House itself.

"How in the hell did you do that?" Murdock asked in deep admiration.

Face casually buffed his nails on his shirt. "It's a curse to be this good, but I try to live with it."

Murdock nearly fell over cackling while Baracas was mentally turning the whole scenario over in his head, trying to see just how Face had been able to do what he'd done.

"Well, now that we're free men, where do you feel like going?" Face asked, looking much more cheerful and energetic now that four walls weren't closing him in.

"Hey there's a Blackhawk squadron here, a few Osprey's and whatnot. How about a quick trip to 'Frisco? Or Colorado, maybe? I got a hankering for a steak." Murdock offered, his eyes lighting up.

"No! Hell No!" Baracas barked vehemently. "I ain't even sure I'm ever gonna fly again, and I sure as hell ain't ever flyin' with you!"

"Awww, c'mon big guy," Murdock wheedled and choked as Baracas lifted him up bodily by the shirt collar to shoot a death glare into his face. "But, then 'gain, it's a lovely day for a drive, hey fellas?" he rasped.

"Put him down, man," Face broke in urgently. "Come on, we're trying not to draw attention here."

Baracas snarled and released the pilot. "I still owe you for my van, fool." The big man's shoulders slumped as he remembered his poor, crushed girl still lying in Mexico.

"I can get you full access to The Boneyard," Murdock offered hesitantly.

"I can get you access to it much quicker," Baracas muttered.

"Uh..." Face tentatively broke into the big man's gloom. "I think he means the aircraft graveyard in Tucson, man."

"What, you mean where they ship all the old planes and missiles and junk?" Baracas shot Murdock a calculating look. "How does a fool like you get the run of the place? All that stuff is held by the Air Force."

Murdock shrugged. "Know lots o' people reachin' into the blue. They keep trying to recruit me for some reason. Anyway, I made a few friends there. They let me wander round The Boneyard when I'm not active or in the ward. Any parts y'all can think of, and any you want, for free..." Murdock waggled his eyebrows invitingly. "'Course you gotta keep an eye out for gremlins when you're wanderin' through the aisles, but other than that..."

"Jesus, you always been this crazy?" Baracas asked. He did seem slightly more mollified though.

"I ain't crazy! I keep telling the people in the hospitals that, and they never listen," Murdock muttered. "The voices all tell me I'm completely sane. If you can't trust your voices, who can ya trust?"

Face and Baracas shared a look.

"Well now that that's all settled, we'll have to get some transport," Face advised, turning towards the motor pool. "I don't know about you two, but I didn't do all this just to eat in the mess hall," Face frowned meditatively as he thought about it. "Hell, we'll have to sign out a car from the pool. That's going to take a while."

Baracas snorted. "You got a destination in mind?"

"Well, there is this little bar nearby that I have on good authority does the best T-Bone this side of the Mississippi."

Baracas felt his stomach put in a demand just at the thought.

Murdock visibly wilted. "Can't you just pull one o' your little things," he waved his hands vaguely.

"They put all the newbies in the motor pool sign out duties. You know, those kids that are so green you almost expect them to have leaves? They'll be absolutely cowed by some bastard of a drill sergeant, and they could get in real trouble for letting us have one," Face grimaced. "I don't like to be that much of a jackass."

There was a short, contemplative silence.

"Aw hell, in for a penny," Baracas sighed. "You think you could jack me a screwdriver? I'll get us some wheels."

The other two beamed at him.

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"Moving on to your pilot," there was a visible, room-wide cringe at the new topic. "Colonel, as you've read Baracas' file, I have no doubt you've read Captain Murdock's. I hope you had time to read the psychiatric history as well. The man has spent a major part of his career on medical leave and committed to every psych ward in the military."

"Yes, sir," Hannibal agreed. "But the rest of the time he's spent piloting just about every type of aircraft that has ever flown the skies. Gliders, ultra lights, choppers, any number of different class of aeroplane. He is one of the most skilled aircraft specialists on record. He once dropped a Chinook – that's a ninety nine foot long troop carrier, gentlemen – down a canyon with what witnesses described as no more than ten feet clearance on either side of the rotors, and rescued a platoon of soldiers under fire. He didn't so much as clip the sides once. Even after just being released from a mental ward, Captain Murdock was able to tactically outmanoeuvre a fully armed enemy chopper with nothing more than a twenty year old hospital transport. He is, without question, the best pilot in service."

"The man is mental! The risk of him breaking down at a critical moment is unacceptably high, and his inability to maintain a coherent mental state speaks against his ability to even stay in armed forces."

"Sirs, with all due respect, why then has the army not discharged him?" Hannibal challenged. "I'll tell you why; it's because no matter his eccentricity on the ground, in the sky he has no equal. Plus there is also the fact that despite his unusual mental state, the good Captain has a Masters in aeronautic design and a second one in applied physics. You don't get those kind of credentials by being completely out of touch with reality. He's been in practically every aerial deployment the military has participated in recently and he's never once lost it, even with every good reason to do so. The Air Force would practically hand over their budget to have him, except that Murdock is loyal to his battalion. I think that however unusual his thought processes, his mental stamina is entirely stable. I have already staked my life on it, sirs."

Disbelieving silence greeted his assertion, but he held firm. "The esteemed members of this board gave me full rights to hand pick the members of my new response unit. Well, I've picked them, gentlemen; and I will fight to keep them."

"Colonel, every one of your candidates is an oddball misfit, more suited to the circus than Special Forces! How can you expect these men to even form a coherent team, let alone succeed in the kind of complex covert operations the response units would be required to accept?"

"Sirs," Hannibal drew himself to his full, not inconsiderable height. "With respect, you seem to be labouring under a few misconceptions. Namely, the right to pick whatever assets from whatever branches is completely and only within my power; and therefore responsibility for their training, actions and deployment is also is also my purview and no one else's. That was the authority I received when I accepted the offer to form the unit. I do not come before you to seek permission, only to inform you of my intentions as required. And as for the teamwork, sir," he continued over their outrage. "In case I am not mistaken, they are already a team today."

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Face slid neatly into the booth, and plunked a wad of cash onto the table. "Pool hustling, two hundred and forty. How'd you do?"

"Arm wrestling, one hundred and eighty five," Baracas made a face as he flashed his gains. "Not many takers."

Well, no, there wouldn't be, Face thought wryly. Anyone betting against the huge man was clearly blind and stupid.

"Where's Murdock?" Face scanned the vicinity.

Baracas jerked a chin towards the far wall. "Fool's playing darts. I ordered three well dones while you were at the tables."

"Thanks Baracas," Face nodded, and peered over at Murdock, who had, to much general laughter, managed to put two darts into the wall next to the board, three into the ceiling, and one ricocheted into someone's drink at the bar. Face's eyes narrowed.

"Yeah, I'm wondering how long it will take for them to realize how much skill that takes too," Baracas gave an almost smirk. "Crazy like a fox, as well as just plain crazy."

Face turned back to the larger man, and raised an eyebrow at him. "You were pretty handy with that jeep, big guy."

Baracas shrugged. "Always been fixing stuff for my Ma and round the neighbourhood. When I wasn't kicking some punk's ass, anyway. I may have been a little...scientifically curious 'bout starting cars without keys when I was a kid. They're all pretty much the same once you get down to it."

Face laughed. "I'll bet you were curious. I was more into three card monte, myself. The only thing I'm interested in with cars is how flash it is with the ladies."

Baracas grinned. "Yeah, I did kinda notice you frenching the Mexican mama while escaping from a gunfight."

"We all have our crosses," Face snickered. "But I'll bear mine. Hope she's okay; Hannibal's buddy'll have gotten her into a safe house by now." He looked almost wistfully sad.

Murdock perched himself atop the wall of their circular booth, and tipped backwards so he was looking at them upside down. "Darts. One thousand, three hundred and twenty two and forty five cents," he plunked a thick wad of small bills on the table and clattered a smattering of coins on top.

"Jesus H Christ," Face stared at the small fortune in astonishment, before turning to view the dartboard.

A dart had been placed with almost perfect circular precision in every section of the triple ring of the dartboard, three forming a triangular grouping in the bull circle and another three in a tight huddle in the bullseye. A crowd of pole axed punters had gathered round it, checking the placements.

"Hey, Murdock? You ever played poker?" Face asked while Baracas swore in astonishment.

"Naw," the pilot drawled as he pivoted around to drop into the booth. "I get all freaked out when the little pictures start talkin' to me."

Baracas frowned at the pilot. "I just can't figure you out, man."

"Yeah, that's what all the therapists tell me too," Murdock grinned brightly.

"Not bad for a round for a half hour's work, man," Face clapped the pilot on the shoulder. "You gotta show me your method."

Murdock shrugged. "It's all just spatial perception and aligning my essence with the cosmic aether."

"Right," Face laughed, which made the pilot smile along.

"I guess dinner's on me boys," Baracas tapped the table with his knuckles. "That was the bet."

"Aw hell big man, I'll buy," Murdock offered. "You'll need your strength up when you're fighting off gremlins in the Boneyard."

Baracas scowled. "You just had to remind me, didn't you?"

Face, having just flagged a waitress for some beers, hurriedly wondered if the big Corporal was going to make it a fight, but the man's broad shoulders just slumped instead.

"I worked forever on my girl," he said, mournfully soft. "I spent years on her. Took her everywhere, got her the best parts. She stood by me, she's been with me through everything and I only just got her back. Now what am I gonna do? I'll need her to make a living."

Murdock pushed the pile of winnings towards Baracas. "Here. I got this for you anyway. You don't need no money to sit around and watch the walls melt. The white guys will probably haul me back to the ward any time now. Being this close to the centre of gravity always does make me a little crazy," Murdock's face tilted up towards an unseen sky. "Up there it makes sense. Everyone has something that makes absolute sense, and without it you're just..." he trailed off, shrugging.

Baracas gave Murdock a long look. "Yeah. I kinda almost get that."

"I don't know if you'll go back to the hospital, Murdock," Face broke into the contemplative silence. "Hell, maybe even you'll be sticking around, big guy. Hannibal's kinda funny that way."

"What d'ya mean?" Baracas frowned, puzzled.

"Well, Bara...hey, what do your friends call you, anyway?"

"The name's Bosco. Most of my army buddies called me BA."

Murdock chuckled. "I wonder what that stands for?" he asked ironically.

"Three guesses. First word is Bad," BA deadpanned.

"Well, anyway BA," Face took three beers off the approaching waitress and tossed her an inviting wink. "Hannibal has this...thing about oddballs. He's kind of an expert on soldiers who aren't really very soldierly; which is kind of weird, because he's got the whole Army Patriot Pride thing practically etched on his bones."

"All I know about him is he's a legend," BA took a swig. "Everyone talked about all the things he did at Benning."

"Goes where no one can go," Murdock added. "Does the things everyone else says is impossible."

"The truth," Face replied. "Is a hell of a lot stranger than the fiction. Hannibal's pretty eccentric for a career man. I've known him for about two years and I have no idea how the Bossman comes up with half the stuff he does. But one thing I do know is that he's got a soft spot for...I guess you'd call them the problem children in the corps. I think he sees it as his mission in life to turn all the freaks and misfits into functioning soldiers. All for the good of the army, see? Because everyone has a potential for greatness as far as he's concerned, and if you turn into a good soldier then all that greatness gets cycled into his pride and joy; the army. He sees everyone and everything as a kind working part in some grand scheme, and if you can turn that to your advantage then you can win against any odds. Hell if I understand it, or even see it, but Hannibal does and it works." Face smiled. "It always goddamn well works."

"What's that got to do with us?" BA asked

"Part of the whole army pride thing. He's got some very definite ideas about favours." Face took a mouthful while he organised his thoughts. "If you've done him a good turn, then he'll get one right back to you. If he thinks you'll do the army he fights in proud then he'll fight tooth and nail to have you; I think he'd definitely think that about you two after what happened. He likes intelligence, he respects loyalty and he applauds courage. At least," Face smirked. "That's as much as I've been able to figure out about him so far."

The waitress brought out their steaks while the other two mulled over that, and Face flirted with her shamelessly, making the middle aged woman blush like a teenager before sending her giggling back to the kitchen.

BA was nonplussed. "You actually think he wants us under his command? That'll be a hell of a trick where my ass is concerned."

Face shrugged. "If anyone can pull it off, Hannibal's the guy. He asked you to come here, so you impressed him. And he likes keeping people around who impress him."

"Oh look at this beautiful baby," Murdock moaned over his steak. "Levels of hunger, prepare to be defeated!"

"Hell yeah," BA chimed in.

Face raised his cutlery. "The spoils of a successful mission."

A hand dropped heavily onto Murdock's shoulder. "Hey! You no good cheating grunt! I want a word with you!"

A-T.A-T.A-T.A-T. A-T.A-T.A-T.A-T.A-T.A-T.A-T.A-T. A-T.A-T.A-T.A-T. A-T.A-T.A-T.A.T. A-T.A-T.A-T.A-T.

Russell Morrison surveyed his old friend as they stood companionably while watching a room full of various upper echelons reaming out a pair of military guards outside the briefing room.

"Hannibal, do you know where they've gone?" Morrison asked amusedly while they watched the show.

"Of course, General. Want to come along?" Hannibal waved his friend alongside as he headed out of doors. He turned his feet towards the motor pool.

"Hannibal, be honest with me," Morrison spoke with a smile. "What's this really about? Are you getting some kind of karmic payback on those stuffed shirts for sticking you behind a desk in Intelligence?"

Hannibal viewed his friend askance. "Watch yourself, Russ. Technically, you are one of those stuffed shirts. You'll get kicked out of the club."

"So be it," Morrison snorted derisively. "I'm getting goddamn sick of standing around, sipping brandy and complaining to the Pentagon lackeys who are half my age and a fifth my intelligence. Don't ever let them give you the stars, Hannibal, they'll lull you out of the battlefield."

"Aren't you deploying into Iraq soon? That's some desk job," Hannibal raised a dry eyebrow.

"Is it weird I'm looking forward to it?" Morrison waved a hand. "Wait, don't answer. Forgot who I was talking to. But seriously my friend, I have got a stack," the older man levelled a hand about shoulder height. "Literally yay high of requests, demands and entreaties to be in your Alpha Response Unit. More arrive daily. The minute it went out on the grapevine that you were set to lead one, I think the entire US army asked to join up. You have the cream of the cream of the cream of the crop salivating at the thought of working with you..."

"That's vaguely disturbing," Hannibal muttered, lighting a cigar.

"And yet," Morrison continued. "You pick these men, who never even asked, and who are not what the committee see as an ideal choice. I kept my thoughts to myself while the rest of them were giving you the third degree, but I would be lying if I said I couldn't understand their reasoning. I mean one certifiably insane Captain and one disgraced Corporal? I know Peck's a special favourite of yours, God knows why..."

Hannibal grinned. He signed the log the motor pool private offered him and accepted the keys.

"Hannibal, why? Why these men and no others?"

"I told you, Russ," Hannibal opened the door of the jeep. "I want the best. Since when has 'the best' meant 'the most obedient', 'the most proper' or 'the most conventional'? You know why they're starting up the response units right?"

"What has that got to do with anything?"

"For the last few years the army has been getting black eyes every time it deploys. Especially when it deploys Special Forces. It's gotten to the point where we're getting blamed for everyone else's screw ups; the CIA, the NSA, Black Forest. They pull our strings like puppets and are quick to take the credit for our hard work, and just as quick to scapegoat us when things get bloody. I find that," Hannibal scowled as he blew out smoke. "Unacceptable. All the Specials Teams were ten men or more, and their jobs were successful but not subtle and not well planned. It made us easy to be taken advantage of, and that, I think, has to stop. What we need now is precision, and precision only comes with the best."

"You still haven't told me why it has to be these men," Morrison replied mulishly as they exited the base ad turned onto the road into the town. "Men, whom I might add, have gone AWOL within an hour. If they can't follow even that kind of order, what use will they be in the field?"

"That's why it will work," Hannibal stated as he drove. "Don't you see? If we do things as per procedures, which all the rest of the departments know, then the results will be the same. We're trying to set ourselves apart from the alphabet soup, as well as be an effective fighting force. I need soldiers who don't follow the playbook; they need to be able to take initiative, they need to think outside the box, they need to be totally confident and decisive about what their missions are."

"Hannibal, no matter how you spin it, soldiers still need to be able to follow orders in the field," Morrison insisted. "Even you can't tell me that doesn't matter."

"It does matter," Hannibal agreed. "It matters a great deal. But they will follow me because they trust me and because they are loyal. And they will do this because they know I'm loyal and I trust them. Besides, I never personally ordered them to stay put, and they haven't eaten or slept in two days. Fa...Lieutenant Peck gets antsy when he's forced to stay in four walls not of his choosing."

"Hannibal," Morrison clapped a hand to his friend's shoulder. "There are any number of men at your disposal who could give you every asset those boys have to offer. And you damn well know it. So tell me, really, why them?"

Hannibal was silent for a while. "You remember Desert Storm? We were thrown in together and managed to cut off that insurgent group with just the two of us, two guns and a few bits of junk?"

Morrison gave a nostalgic chuckle. "I remember. I still can't quite believe we pulled that off."

"We worked well together, didn't we?" Hannibal asked softly. "You once told me you worked better with me in a month than some of your people that's you'd known for years."

"Yeah, I do remember that," Morrison grinned. "I still think so. Where is this going, exactly?"

"There are some things you'll never read in a manual, you'll never learn in training, Russ," Hannibal replied. "You might not even get the experience of it in combat, but it happens. You know this. Sometimes, people come together and they just work. No rhyme or reason, no warning and no plan. They just work. I had that with Peck, but when we came together with Baracas and Murdock... everything clicked in and made sense, and was greater than the sum parts. By the time we were flying out of Mexico it was like we'd been fighting together for years. I don't know why, but General, I don't really care. I do know that it would be stupid to let it pass by. That sort of thing is so very rare, and you can't mix it, bottle it or copy it. We should never waste it when we have it."

Morrison sighed. "Hannibal, I respect you and your instincts. I sure as hell respect your ability to win. But you might be seeing what you want to see here. You gathered them all up and had them each fighting separately. You can't know whether or not they can fight as a team."

Hannibal pulled up to a bar and gave a megawatt grin as he relit another cigar. "Oh, I think I can safely say they can, sir."

"Hell and damn!"

Outside the bar lay various unconscious and groaning prostrate tough guys, fanned out around a door hanging off it's hinges and a spray of glass from broken windows. The two senior officers picked their way carefully inside the dim interior.

Inside was mayhem personified. Rows of broken alcohol bottles dripped behind the bar. Several broken tables and chairs scattered the floors with debris and woodchips, interspersed with broken glass, cruet sets, mysterious substances, lime and lemon slices and broken crockery. Layered over this were yet more unfortunates, being assisted by the remaining upright people in the bar. And in the middle...

Surrounded by pretty waitresses, Face was milking a black eye and split lip for all the sympathy it was worth. He rolled half a dozen romance languages off his tongue while faking a concussion.

Baracas was disconsolately chewing on a French fry while he glared at some white faced and shaking men, who seemed to have been press ganged into cleaning up the mess of the bar. The big man's knuckles were bruised, and his face was a dare for anyone to disobey.

Murdock yodelled a Native American sounded war call while he ritually scalped the fallen men by waving a butter knife several inches above their scalp, stating in between war cries that 'the spirit guide Gookimooki had commanded him to take trophies from the invading red-neck men' in a deep, thick accent.

Faceman looked up from his pampering. "Oh, hey there Boss," he grinned around is bloody lip. "If you can find a whole chair, pull one up. They're gonna make extra steaks for us anyway."

"Greetings, War Chief," Murdock intoned solemnly. "The red-necked white devils have been successfully driven away from tribe lands. The great spirit guide, Gookimooki, is much pleased."

"They started it, sir," BA saluted. "We gave them fair warning that if they didn't back off they'd lose teeth."

"That's true Boss," Face confirmed. "Those were his exact words. Of course, Murdock's next exact words were 'they don't have that many to lose what with dissolving 'em with their brain cells in moonshine up in the backwoods and all."

"But then you said Face," Murdock's voice changed to a spot on mimicry. "'Come on boys, use little words. These guys are probably still discovering that they can See Spot Run'."

"And then the one dude hauls Murdock by the scruff..."

"And BA punches his lights out..."

"And Face slugs the other guy behind him..."

"And then Murdock tackles two others into a table, which breaks..."

"Then this one guy brings out a shotgun..."

"So Murdock throws salt in his face..."

"And a whole bunch of his buddies come up..."

"And it all kinda went downhill from there, Boss."

"I see," Hannibal looked around and hooked a chair over to the booth with one foot. Behind him, Morrison stared in disbelief. "Steak, huh? Cooked well?"

"Well done, sir," came the three voice chorus.

"Sounds good to me, boys. General? Care to join us? You've got some news for Baracas and Murdock anyway."

All four of them looked at him expectantly, oblivious to the surroundings or the sheer absurdity of the whole affair.

Morrison gave up, and dragged over chair. "Don't mind if I do, Colonel. Now, you soldiers, do any of you, aside from the Colonel here, know what an Alpha Response Unit is?"

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The End...And The Start