Morale

Disclaimer: I do not own The A Team movie or television series or any of the delightful characters found on The A Team.

AN: The camp code was a communication code based upon a grid system in which letters of the alphabet were each assigned two numbers to be tapped out. "A" was one tap followed by one tap based on its position on the grid.

"All Night, All Day" is a traditional song sometimes said to be a spiritual, sometimes a children's song. Its writer is unknown. The lyrics to the hymn "Amazing Grace" were written by John Newton. "The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond" is a traditional Scottish song.

The CIA program MKUltra was conducted from the early 1950s to 1973. It was both covert and illegal and used human test subjects, many times without their knowledge. The U. S. Congress through the Church Committee and the Rockefeller Commission held hearings on it.

Chapter 4 Black Dogs At Night

When he woke he wondered for several moments where he was. The rough-textured blindfold was still in place and the hands he could no longer feel were still extended by his bound wrists above his head.

The fire ants had made their way up to his face. He felt one scurry across his cheek and disappear as it reached the cloth. He was thankful his eyelids were shut when the blindfold was tied around his eyes. The ants which crawled under the cloth and became trapped between blindfold and skin took out their fury on his eyelids and the tender area around his eyes. The blindfold tightened over his face as the multiple bites swelled.

But not even the ants and their painful bites could hold his attention. Something had changed but without sight he could not tell what it was.

He listened for the sounds of the camp. Instead, the intense whine of mosquitoes filled his ears.

If those bloodsuckers're out, it mus' be jus' 'bout dark.

His empty stomach churned as he realized they intended to leave him hanging longer than the previous day. If he hung there through the night, the biting insects of the jungle around them would have a little picnic all up and down his raw and bleeding legs.

'N' not jus' my legs. Guards musta had a lotta fun while I was outta it.

Fire ants, mosquitoes and flies explored what must be newly opened gashes across his bared back and chest. He couldn't feel blood trickling down but each congealed sticky trail on his skin from the day's torture was attracting a conga line of hungry nighttime insects.

Least the sun ain' burnin' me t' a crisp anymore.

Night meant sleep for everyone else in the camp. He wasn't sure if it was night but if it was, he shouldn't keep the POWs awake with his singing.

From his CIA training, he knew sensory deprivation was almost as good of a weapon as bamboo switches and broken rubber fan belts for driving a prisoner close to insanity. It was one of the dirty dark memories he kept locked away and hidden in the deepest recesses of his mind: his few months as an unwilling volunteer in CIA-directed mind control experiments collectively known as MKUltra.

He shook his head as much as he felt he could without attracting the attention of his guards. Those memories were best left buried. They were the type of nightmarish ghosts he wished had never taken up residence in his brain. That his own government would conduct such experiments . . .

I love my country. If I think on that stuff too much, the VC'll have me spoutin' what I know. Ain' much but they'll have it.

So he tried to prevent the past from resurfacing in the present. The hours before dawn promised to be almost unbearable if he had to be silent. The sting of a bamboo switch across his legs told him his guards noticed his head movement and knew he was conscious.

Black dogs wanna get rough 'gain. They don' know they're doin' me a service, holdin' the nightmares at bay.

A faint tapping sound from one of the huts attracted his attention. It was the code of the camp. While the switches descended again and again on his bare legs, back and chest, he strained to hear.

Tap-tap-tap-tap . . . tap-tap-tap . . . . . . tap-tap . . . tap-tap . . .

The tapped code repeated, this time from another hut.

Tap-tap-tap-tap . . . tap-tap-tap . . . . . . tap-tap . . . tap-tap . . .

And again until he could distinguish which letters of the alphabet were being transmitted.

S-G.

He felt his eyes burn with the tears that could not come because of dehydration. Even without the missing letters, he knew what the abbreviated word was.

And he began to sing softly to his fellow POWs. He didn't know how many could not sleep in the sticky lingering heat of the jungle but they had encouraged him to sing. They knew he needed to.

His thoughts turned to his grandparents waiting for word from him. Would he ever see them again?

All night, all day,
Angels watchin' over me, my Lord.
All night, all day,
Angels watchin' over me.

He remembered how Gramma used to put a swing to the beat on the out of tune piano as they sang that one. When he was five years old, after Mama died, he thought the idea of angels in his room at night was a little scary. Now he thought of angels watching him through the long hours of torture and giving him the strength to go on.

Sun's a-settin' in the West;
Angels watchin' over me, my Lord.
Sleep my child, take yer rest;
Angels watchin' over me.

Gramma was his strength in that first year after Mama's death. Every night he woke up with nightmares about the hospital and Mama's final rattling breaths. She rocked him back to sleep in time to her singing but it was her love and not the song she sang that reassured him. To a child who already saw monsters in the shape of his drunken angry father, angels were no more than frightening creatures who would take him away from the last people on earth who loved him unconditionally. But those fears were no more since he had become a man.

If I should die 'fore I wake,
Angels watchin' over me, my Lord.

Pray the Lord my soul to keep,
Angels watchin' over me.

That was the hope he clung to each time he fell into unconsciousness.

How many'll be dead from disease or injury when the sun rises in th' mornin'? Will I be one o' them?

Gramma was a righteous woman. More than Grampa, she taught him about the God in whom she trusted. He could see her sitting in the pew, one eye on the minister behind the lectern, the other on her mischievous grandson beside her. Her once-reddish-blonde hair, streaked with silver, was always carefully braided and pinned under a veiled hat. One hand held her Bible open to the page the minister referenced in his sermon. The other hand readied itself to haul a young H. M. up from the floor if he sneaked down to play with army soldiers and toy airplanes hidden in his pockets.

She was always surprised when I could tell Grampa what the message was 'bout when we got home later. My memory saved my hide from a tannin' lotsa times.

He remembered Gramma's favorite hymn. Maybe it was a favorite because it could sound so mournful when played by bagpipes. Maybe it was the lyrics. Gramma could even forgive John Newton for being an Englishman.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.

Blind. He guessed right about now he understood a little bit about what a relief it would be to have blindness removed. To be able to see with crystal clarity once again would be welcome, even if the surrounding world was revealed to be one of suffering and needless cruelty.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace that fear relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Fear. Now there was a concept he had plenty of experience with. Not so much over here, where his trademark whooping cry and an occasional delusion got him through the worst barrages of ground fire. No, his fear traced its origins to his childhood and his father. It was from that origin he had learned to use song to defeat demons.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

There it was again: that word that made his heart grow weary and sick within. Home. According to the song, grace was going to get him home safely. He tried to remember what his Gramma had said about grace.

Grace. It's like somethin' good ya get that ya know ya don' really deserve. Can' earn it. Don' deserve it. God jus' gives it to ya like a totally unexpected free ticket ta see the circus. Least that's how Gramma 'splained it.

Thoughts of his Gramma and Grampa made him homesick. They were proud people, proud of their Scottish heritage, proud of Texas, proud of the Confederacy. He remembered an old Scottish song the two of them sang, Grampa's hands gently resting on Gramma's shoulders as she played.

By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes,
Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond,
Where me and my true love were ever wont to gae
On the bonnie bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond.

He remembered the bonnie lassie he left behind when he left Sour Lake, Texas, and headed west. Cynthia Berquon. He and she talked about marriage at one time. She was his equal in intellectual ability and oh, so sweet. If he were ever able to go home, she would be the first after his grandparents he would visit.

O' ye'll tak th' high road 'n' I'll tak th' low road,
'N' I'll be in Scotland afore ye
But me 'n' my true love'll never meet again,
On the bonnie bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond.

He used to call her Buttercup. Her sunny disposition and her tender smile were like the bright yellow flowers that lifted their faces to the Texas skies even in rain storms. Memories of their times together filled his mind and made his heart ache. He knew she didn't understand why he had left so suddenly. Would she ever accept him back?

Twas there that we parted in yon shady glen,
On the steep steep side o' Ben Lomond,
Where in deep purple hue, the Hieland hills we view,
'N' the moon comin' oot in the gloamin'.

The moon must be out by now, bathing the compound with a silvery light. He wondered if he cast a shadow and how far across the ground his shadow stretched. Taking a breath to begin another chorus, he exhaled when he heard the sound of the wooden crates being drawn up near his dangling feet.

Maybe the black dogs're finally satisfied.

The sound of rope being cut and the slight vibration of the bonds around his wrists told him he was being cut down. His legs would not support his weight and he collapsed onto the dirt.

"Chọn anh ta lên. Mang lại cho anh ta. (Pick him up. Bring him.)" He knew that voice.

If they take me back to the interrogation room . . .

He shivered from pain and dread. Lifting him between themselves, they dragged him, his legs trailing, his body limp, across the camp yard. He prayed for darkness to cloud his mind for what he was certain would follow.