[ manhunt in the jungle ]

by starbuck

Please note that some of the Vietnamese words that you encounter may be spelled as a phonetic depiction of what the phrase or word sounds like and I cannot promise that it sounds the same to everyone. The actual written Vietnamese word, with the special characters, is way beyond my abilities and those of my computer (I have several font faces but not the Vietnamese one). There are some words that I am sure of the spelling and written those, but again I have not included the characters. What I write here might be pronounced diversely by different readers. You have been warned, and, don't forget - I do not know how to speak Vietnamese. Only enough to get by for story content and ordering take away meals. Also, I apologize for any anguish or disrespect I might cause to those who "really know" the language.

Vietnamese Vocabulary used in the story:

Mama San - pidgin English for older Vietnamese women
Papa San - " " " " " men
Xin loi - sorry about that, tough shit (depends on context used in)
Ga mug - thank you
Ca'm o-n nhienu - thank you very much (pronounced Caam uhrn neow)
Tam biet - goodbye
Ba Mu'o'i Ba - brand name of Vietnamese beer
ao-di - traditional dress of Vietnamese women
ba - married woman, "Mrs"
biet - understand
bo dai - uniformed NVA soldier
Caca Dau - I'll kill you
can cuoc - identification card
choi oi - expression of surprise "what the hell?"
chung toi - We
co - unmarried woman "Miss"
con gai daughter
dai uy - captain
di - go
didi - to leave or to go
didi mau - go quickly
di bau - walk, go by walking
Dinki dau - you're crazy

Point of Interest for those that didn't know;
"A-Team" is a basic ten man team of the U.S Special Forces. The A-Teams often led irregular, military units which were not responsible to the Vietnamese military command.

'They came from all over the nation, for all different reasons. But these soldiers had one thing in common: their friendship, forged under fire. Some of them gave of themselves; others gave their lives. They were heroes because they had to be.'

"With all due respect sir, I can not and will not send my men back into the jungle. They need a break. Either they be allowed to rest for a few days or you're going to have more casualties on your hands!" Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith tried to reason, without losing his composure.

"Colonel, I can understand what you are saying and if there were any other possible alternatives, I would take them, believe me." General Anthony Phillips sighed. He rubbed his furrowed brow and continued.
"The truth of the matter is there is no one else that I could send to do this mission. The LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol), has already radioed me with the location of the NVA regiment. I need you John. I need you and your men." Phillips said imploring Hannibal with his eyes. "John your team is the only one that can pull this off."

Hannibal looked towards the ceiling and expelled the breath that he'd been holding. With it he let go his pent up frustrations and focused back not the general.
"Look general.."

"John, have a seat and cut the 'general' crap. I want to be able to work this out and I don't want you standing on ceremony while we do it. It's bad enough I spend every waking moment fighting the VC's every move without having to battle you." Phillips gently chided him.

With a look of resignation, Hannibal accepted his friends offer and rested his fatigued body in the plush chair. Accepting the cigar offered to him he bit the end of it and spat it into the receptacle beside the desk.

"Tony," Hannibal said with familiarity of all the years that they had been friends, having served together since the Korean war.
"All I'm asking for is a few days for the boys to get over the last trip into the jungle. Two months is a long time to spend out there, not knowing if each day you were facing was going to be your last. You said yourself that the LRRP had given you the location of the NVA regiment. Surely they've got enough nous to stay out of sight and keep you updated on the VC position."

Phillips watched Hannibal light his cigar and inhale the pleasing taste of the rich tobacco.
"This the same brand that Face acquired for you?" Hannibal asked, blowing out light coloured plumes of cigar smoke.

"Yeah they are." Chuckled Phillips. "John at most all that I can give you is 48 hours and then I must insist that you take out that regiment."

"Thanks Tony, I do appreciate it...and I'll let them know the good news. It shouldn't be to hard to track them down. They were all wanting a hot shower, something a bit more substantial than a quick wash in the river every now and then." Hannibal smiled and then left in search of his men.

As he expected the men in his command were either just finishing their showers or still having them. Past the pile of strewn towels and dirty worn out fatigues in the centre of the room he found lieutenant Peck, brushing his hair which was considerably cleaner from a couple of hours ago.

"Feel better lieutenant?" Hannibal smiled then he sniffed. "You sure smell a lot cleaner."
Face turned around and pointed his comb at Hannibal's face. "Yeah, well you weren't exactly smelling like a florist shop either you know." He pocketed his comb and packed his toiletries away, "If you're looking for BA, he's still in the shower, he said something about staying in it till the end of the war." Face laughed.

"Well I think he'll be out before then…, there isn't that much hot water." Hannibal replied smugly and continued to wait for Face while he gathered the last of his belongings together.

"You want something Hannibal?" Face questioned, uncertain as to why Hannibal was being so quiet.

"Huh kid?" Hannibal asked, not really paying attention to what Face had said.

"Hannibal what's wrong?" Face questioned yet again, becoming anxious at his colonel's somber mood.

"That obvious huh kid?" Hannibal grinned.

Face rolled his eyes in a 'no shit' look. "Yeah…, that obvious. Now spill." He gestured towards the door, and with his CO he exited the changing room.

"How about I tell you when BA, Zeke and the others are here. Saves me repeating myself that way. You seen Murdock around here at all?" Hannibal asked, scanning the base for any signs of the eccentric captain.

"Surprise, surprise, surprise. Well golly!" he shower block." Hannibal instructed, leading the way ahead of his two subordinates.

Face and Murdock exchanged bewildered glances and obediently followed their superior officer.

"Hey colonel, what's up?" BA asked when Hannibal entered the billet followed by Face and Murdock. Zeke also looked in the colonel's direction when he heard BA speak.

"Well what do you want to hear first? The good news or the bad news?" Hannibal asked, rifling through his pocket for another cigar. Face was the first to answer.
"I've always been an optimist, I'll take the good news."

"General Phillips has given us 48 hours for R&R, the next transport into Da Nang leaves in forty-five minutes." Hannibal replied, waiting for someone to asked what the bad news was. Finally Murdock asked. Hannibal smiled and removed the cigar from his mouth.

"We get to go back and visit Charlie. There's an NVA regiment that the LRRP boys have located and the general wants us to take it out."

Amidst the protests Murdock's questions were heard.
"Take it 'out' colonel? Where should we take it to? Dancing or dinner or maybe even a movie?"

"Shut up fool. Can't you be serious for one minute. You're out of your mind!" BA grumbled at the grinning Murdock. "Yeah, ain't it cool." Murdock smiled. BA shook his head in annoyance.
"I'm gonna leave you with this crazy man. I promised my Momma that I'd call her when we got back, just to let her know we got back all right."

"Okay BA, we'll meet you by the transport in say twenty minutes." Hannibal said, looking at his watch, calculating how much time that they had left.

BA smiled to himself as he left the billet, leaving behind him Murdock and his inane chatter. It was a few minutes before BA got his turn to use the telephone to call home. His call was answered on the third ring.
"Momma?" He asked excitedly. During the course of his conversation with his mother, small tears made an appearance at the corners of his eyes.
"Yes Momma I'm taking care of myself…, and getting enough to eat. Hannibal says we got forty-eight hours before we gotta go back into the jungle again. Momma! Momma….., don't cry. Momma you'll make me cry….. I'll take care Momma. God bless you too Momma."

After his phone call had ended, BA struck out at the wall. Venting all his frustrations for being caught up in a war, which had seen many of his friends either killed or maimed for life. He skinned his knuckles in the process, leaving small rivulets of blood dripping down the wall.

"BA, over here." Hannibal called, when he saw BA sauntering off towards the billet. BA raised his head and acknowledged Hannibal.
"How's your Mom? Hannibal asked as BA neared the truck..

"She's okay, just worried is all." Responded BA in a somewhat sober mood.

The trip into town was uneventful. Each person looking out the windows at the passing scenery and each of them caught up in their own personal thoughts. The villagers were painting and cleaning their houses in preparation for the Tet Nguyen Dan holiday, which was to begin soon.

On their arrival in town, Hannibal and Face found lodgings for the night for the platoon. The building they entered was surrounded by sandbags, concertina wire and had a machine gun positioned on the roof. Although the Tet holiday was to begin tomorrow, the NVA used it as an offensive to attack the Southern Vietnamese.

With rooms secured for the night Hannibal and face left the boarding house to locate the rest of their team. The ruckus coming from a nearby bar indicated their whereabouts. Hannibal and Face stopped outside the door and bought from a pedlar two souvenir dolls. One of the young girls standing beside the elderly woman that was peddling her goods noticed the gold crucifix around Face's neck.

As she started to flirt with him, the other girl noticed what she was doing and joined in.
"Catholic's number one. Bhudda's number ten." The girl said, gesturing to the cross that Face wore.

"You lie. Bhudda is number one." The older girl argued with her. The two girls fought fiercely knocking over the pedlar's stall. Face was about to intervene and stop the girls from pulling each others hair, when he felt a tight grasp on his shoulder.

"No conversing with children!" The rugged MP warned him. Face shrugged his shoulders at the MP not understanding what he had done that was so wrong.

"I'm sorry lieutenant, it's just that the VC use children to get close to American soldiers. Sometimes these kids carry small hand grenades. Just can't be too careful." The MP explained.

"Thanks." Uttered Face, still shocked that children were being used to fight the war between North and South Vietnamese.

"Come on kid, better go and sort out that lot in there before the MP's are called back." Hannibal said. Face nodded his agreement and helped to upright the fallen stall.

"There you go 'Mama San'. Xin loi." Hannibal offered, dusting off a few of the small souvenir dolls. The elderly woman looked at Hannibal, her clear brown eyes conveying her appreciation.

"Ga mug." She said and pushed her cart further down the street.

"Hey you two we were about to send out a search party." Zeke shouted above the noise. He pointed to the two chairs that he had saved for them. Hannibal indicated to Face that he was going up to the bar, when Face offered Hannibal some money to pay for the beers, Hannibal waved him away.
"Your shout next round." He said.

"What will it be colonel?" Asked the bar tender. Hannibal eyed up all the drinks that were available and then settled on one in particular.
"Two Ba Mu'o'i Ba, thanks." Hannibal answered and handed over the correct amount of piastres. He made his way back to the table and handed Face his Vietnamese beer.

"Drink up lieutenant, I'll be ready for the next round soon." Laughed Hannibal and drank from the bottle, savoring its contents. Face nodded at Hannibal, understanding what he had meant and made his way to the bar with the empty bottles.

"Two more of the same barkeep." Face said handing over the empty bottles.

As they relaxed enjoying their cold beers and listening to the latest music on the jukebox, Hannibal began to reminisce on his time spent in military training schools before being assigned to various units.

"You think you had it hard, when I was at Fort Bragg, I had to pull guard duty one night. The temperature so cold it could have frozen the balls off a brass monkey. I was watching the snow fall, amazed by the size of the flakes that were falling, they were bloody big. The drill sergeant caught me watching them and let me have a closer look at them ...by doing pushups in the snow at 0300 hours." Face complained and shuddered at the memory of being so cold.

"Face why does that not surprise me?" Hannibal laughed and was joined by Zeke and the others that had been listening to Face's tales. The exchange of stories went on during the night until the small hours of the next morning.

"I think we should call it a night, big day later on this morning." Hannibal said, checking his watch, seeing that it had already passed 2:00AM. Without a word of complaint the men in his command followed him back to the hotel accommodations that he and Face had booked earlier. The building was adorned with sprigs of yellow blossomed Hoa Mai, for the Tet Nguyen festival.

"You know what I'm looking forward to." Face said to Hannibal.

"What kid?" Hannibal asked, already having an idea as to what his second in command was going to say.

" A real bed. Much better than sleeping in a foxhole or with your back against a tree all night." Face grinned, relishing the thought of letting his battle weary body enjoy the soft and gentle warmth that a real bed would offer him.

"Ah, but you like it kid--roughing it in the woods, communing with nature.." Hannibal started to say before Face interrupted.

"Hannibal first of all it's the jungle not the woods and the only nature out there to commune with are the mosquitoes and snakes."

Hannibal chuckled at Face's comment and continued on in silence. As they approached the dimly let alley way that led to the hotel, Hannibal stopped abruptly.

"What's up?" Face whispered. Hannibal shook his head.

"It's too quiet, considering the festival starts tomorrow. Just be careful."

BA and Zeke heeded the warning and passed the word along to the others in the platoon. The passage of the alley was strange, frightening. Stark white faces emerged from one of the doorways that they passed. Hannibal saw a frightened Vietnamese woman cowering in a corner. When he approached her, she looked at him with close, direct clear brown eyes.

"Mama San?" Hannibal asked gently, trying to evoke a response from the woman. She acknowledged him and pointed to the door that they had passed.

"GI's, take daughter." She replied in broken English.

Looking back towards the doorway, Hannibal nodded, knowing that the elderly woman was defenseless in being able to get her daughter out of the building by herself.

"Face, BA, we've got a party to break up. Murdock stand guard, if we're not out within ten minutes you better come in."

"Sure colonel, but remember to call if you need some extra help." Murdock answered. Zeke followed Hannibal inside with Face and BA, while the rest of the platoon waited with Murdock.

Too many times Hannibal had seen soldiers succumb to the easy escapes from war, turning to drugs and alcohol. Seeing several soldiers passed out from the illegal use of the narcotics did not make it easier for him to deal with.

"Over here colonel." BA said, pointing in the direction of a group of six men huddled around a young girl. Hannibal nodded and gestured for his men to flank each side, blocking the exits that the drunken soldiers could try and use.

"Let the girl go now!" Hannibal seethed, trying to control the rage that was building inside him. The drunken lout in charge of the small group, staggered forward, crashing into a table in an attempt to reach Hannibal.

"What's it to you?" He slurred, "she's just a whore, a gook." As he spoke the young girl, got up from the floor and made her way behind BA, seeking refuge behind the muscular sergeant.

"The young lady is not a gook, soldier, nor is she a whore! You have a duty to protect the citizens caught up in this war, they have been through enough already without the likes of you making their lives more intolerable! Have I made myself clear, private?!" Hannibal berated the man in front of him.

"I'm a sergeant not a private!" The drunk retorted, swinging his balled fist towards Hannibal.

"You will be a private by the time I have finished with you!" Shouted Hannibal, easily ducking the punch thrown at him.

Seeing their drunken friend throw a punch, the others joined in, each selecting a target on which to vent their anger at having been caught. The fight that ensued was short lived, each of the drunken men lying on top of each other over broken and upturned tables. Hannibal walked over to where Face was leaning against the wall.

"You all right kid?" he said handing Face a crudely made ice pack.

"Yeah, I'll live….., didn't see that guy. He sure knows how to pack a punch." Face grimaced applying the ice pack to the rapidly forming bruise under his right eye.

"Hold it! Stay right where you are!" Shouted an MP, aiming his service revolver at Face. Murdock had followed the MP's inside and was frantically shouting at them above the noise of the juke-box.

"Not them," Murdock said pointing at Hannibal, BA, Face and Zeke.
"Those are the guys you need to arrest…the ones on the floor."

"Uh ….sorry about that captain." The MP said, turning his revolver away from the direction of Face. He then summonsed the two MP's that were waiting for his instruction to place the drunken men under arrest.
"What would you like them charged with colonel?"

Hannibal wasted no time in rattling off a list of charges as he withdrew a cigar from his pocket.
"Conduct unbecoming a soldier, willful destruction of private property and attempted rape."

After the MP had finished writing down the colonel's list of charges the MP looked at Face.
"What about you sir? Anything to add?"

Face removed the ice pack and smiled. "How about assaulting an officer?" He said, his eyes twinkling with glee as he added his charge.

"Duly noted sir." The MP grinned. He moved a little closer to Face and whispered.
"It makes a change not to be placing you under arrest this time lieutenant."

After the room had emptied of all its patrons and BA had escorted the girl outside, Hannibal approached Face.

"What was that all about?" Face looked at Hannibal and gave him a wry smile.

"Long story, let's just say last time Malloy, the MP, was sure that I was guilty when he arrested me, purely on the grounds of association."

"And were you?" Hannibal asked intrigued at an issue from Face's past coming to the surface. Face grinned at Hannibal and shrugged his shoulders.

"What do you think?" He asked, before walking off to catch up with Murdock..

Face found Murdock outside the door with BA, Zeke and the young girl.

"Where's Hannibal?" Murdock enquired when he saw Face emerge from the building.

"He's just wrapping a few things up, shouldn't be too long." Face answered, turning back towards the door he'd exited he saw Hannibal. "Speak of the devil." Face added.

"How is she BA?" Hannibal asked, noticing that the girl had found a protector in BA.

"She's frightened man, time to get her back to her Momma." Stated BA, wrapping his arm around her shoulders.

Together the platoon crossed the empty street and found the girl's mother. Hannibal cautioned the others to remain alert while he and BA took the girl to her mother.

"Mama San. Con gai." Hannibal said to the girl's mother.

When she saw that her daughter was all right, she graciously thanked Hannibal and BA.

"Ga Mug. Ca'm o`n nhienu." The girl's mother repeated over and over. Han0nibal smiled at being able to help.

"Kong co chi, ba." His words were welcomed with a warm smile from both the girl and her mother.

"Tam biet." They both said as they left the vicinity.

"Tam biet." Hannibal replied, watching them disappear from view.

Crossing back to where the platoon was waiting, Hannibal signaled to them that the girl had been reunited with her mother.

"Now that the night's excitement is over, I am more than ready to hit the pillow." Hannibal sighed, heading in the direction of their sleeping accommodation.

"Hannibal, why are you going to hit your pillow?" Murdock asked, concerned for the pillow's well being.

"Ah, Murdock, what Hannibal meant to say is that when he gets into bed he will put his head on the pillow and go nighty night." Face quickly said.

"You know Face I really hope that is what he meant, because the pillow, it didn't do anything to him and it just might call on all of its friends to start a pillow liberation army, and we wouldn't want that would be?" Murdock asked with sincere seriousness.

Face shook his head and thought best to keep quiet rather than get Murdock started on his next crusade, fighting for the defenseless inanimate objects.

"Murdock, if you don't shut your mouth I'm gonna feed you to a pillow." Growled BA, gently swiping Murdock on his head. Face decided that now would be a god time to catch up with Hannibal.

"For yourselves," Hannibal said, rubbing his weary eyes, "all I want to do is climb under the blankets and get some real sleep for a change. Coming lieutenant?"

"Sure colonel." Face replied, taking the opportunity to leave the argument that he was slowly becoming entangled with.

The stillness and quiet of the morning was broken by a culminating crescendo of explosions, quickly followed by joyous laughter from the young spectators in the street below.

"What the hell is that?" Face yelled, clambering out of bed and falling over the chair beside it.

"Take it easy kid. It's only fireworks ….., it's the first day of the Tet Nguyen Dan holiday." Hannibal chuckled, turning on his back and placing his hands under his head.

"Tet Nguyen…, hmm, well can't they go and be noisy somewhere else?" Face grumbled, before gathering his towels and flannel together.

"Where ya goin' kid?" Hannibal asked when Face did not bother getting back into bed for a few more minutes peaceful slumber.

"While no one else is using the bathroom, I am going to enjoy a hot shower, no telling how long before we get to have another one. It's not as if there are portable hot showers in the jungle is it?" Grinned Face, all ready half way out the door.

"Mot, hoi, ba, bon, nam, sal, bai, tam, chin, moui. Un, deux, treis, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix. Ekahi, elua, ekolu, eha, elima, eono, ehiku, ewahu, eiwa, umi. Odin, dva, tri, chetyre, pyat, shest, sem, vosem, devyat, desyat. Uno, dos, tres.." Murdock counted.

"Ahem, Murdock, what are you doing?" Hannibal asked when he heard Murdock talking to the door of the bathroom.

"Good morning colonel. I, was, um…., counting." Murdock sheepishly replied.

Hannibal shook his head, 'it's too early for this' he thought to himself.
"Okay Murdock why are you counting and I know I am going to hate myself for asking."

"Colonel, I told Face he had to the count of ten to get out of the bathroom and when I counted Face told me it was the wrong language, so I've been counting to ten in the languages that I know. Vietnamese, French, Hawaiian, Russian and Spanish." Murdock grinned and rapt the door with his knuckles. "Come on Face open up."

"Murdock have you tried counting in German?" Hannibal asked. Murdock looked at him dumbfounded,

"Hannibal why didn't I think of that?" He then turned his attentions back to the door. "Eins, swai, dri… well it's about time Faceman, I was about to call the water police." Before Murdock could push passed Face, Hannibal had already beaten him inside the bathroom and locking the door.

Not believing that Hannibal would do such a thing Murdock slid down the wall to sit on the floor, he began counting again. "Better count to at least a hundred in each language." Face smiled as he strode purposefully out of Murdock's way.

By the time Murdock was finally done with his shower the water was barely tepid. He chortled to himself, thinking about the next person who was to use the shower. His grin suddenly turned to a worried look when he saw that BA was the next bather.

"Morning BA." Murdock said as he scurried past him.

During breakfast which consisted of bread, rice, fish and nuoc-mam (fermented fish sauce used as a condiment), Hannibal instructed the platoon that they had four hours before their transport was to take them back to the army base.

The morning was spent scouring the local markets for souvenirs to send home to loved ones and enjoying the celebrations. Face had persuaded Hannibal and BA to part with some of their hard earned income to go thirds in buying Murdock a new flight jacket. Face had seen one earlier and knew it would suit their beloved pilot.

Hannibal and BA also agreed with face when they finally saw it. "Kid why a tiger design on the back of it?" Hannibal asked, admiring the workmanship of the jacket.

"Hannibal it is said that the Vietnamese fear the tiger, it is a symbol of a stalker that is silent and always present." Face replied matter of factly, recalling what he had read about Vietnamese superstitions. The small man who had completed the work nodded his head in agreement when he met the silent question that Hannibal asked with his eyes. BA looked at Hannibal and shrugged, for all he knew it could be true or Face had conned the Vietnamese businessman to play along.

After thanking the man and paying him for his fine skill they hurried off to find Murdock.

"What's the hurry guys?" Murdock asked, steadying himself after BA had collided into him. After presenting Murdock with the jacket, the three watched as Murdock proudly put it on. "But guys why? This must have cost a fortune."

"It did." Grumbled BA. His comment was rewarded with a nudge in the ribs by Face.

"Murdock it was worth every cent, besides we missed your birthday consider it a late gift." Smiled Face.

"Yeah Murdock, happy late birthday." Hannibal also smiled, giving Murdock a congratulatory slap on his back.

"Our ride's here." Face said when he saw the familiar green truck pulling into town. Hannibal nodded and gestured to the men in his command to make their way to the truck. During the ride back, Murdock proudly displayed his new jacket.

"Sure is a beauty Murdock." Zeke said, admiring the workmanship.

Once back at the base they were met by General Phillips and briefed as to their next mission. He explained to them that the LRRP had moved in and taken out the regiment but had located a much bigger stronghold. A NVA base that was armed to the hilt.

"You will be joined by some new recruits they need to learn from this mission, it is only a pre-lim to what is in store. Colonel, I need you to train these new men and this jaunt into the jungle should enable that. I will see you when you return."

"Great FNG's." Face sarcastically mumbled. The dissention amongst the platoon at the change of plan and the addition of green recruits was audible.

"Lieutenant I don't like it any more than you do," Hannibal said addressing his junior officer, "but if I have to follow orders and like them, so do you."

"Yeah but Hannibal, I mean colonel…., FNG's? You gotta be kidding." Face retorted. Hannibal was starting to become more frustrated at the predicament and tried to resolve the issue.

"Look I'm not interested in having Fucking New Guys here either, this unit works well as it is, but you heard the general, it is a pre-lim for what is to come, come on it won't be that bad…it'll be a walk in the park."

When the new recruits arrived, Hannibal gave them a quick orientation course.

"Survival," he said, "depends on having what you need, when you need it. And that gentlemen I suggest you emblazon into your brains now, forget the crap you learnt at basic training you are here to fight, for your country and for your lives!" His thunderous voice bounced off the walls of the makeshift building, causing the new recruits to cringe in their seats.
"Any questions?" He bellowed.

Silence filled the building. Hannibal looked at each man waiting for someone to open their mouth.

"Well no takers, so I assume that you know what is expected of you and you are ready to begin your tour."

"Yes sir, colonel sir." Came the unisoned reply. Again silence filled the room, this time to be broken by Face.

"Colonel, the huey is ready. Murdock's ready to go when you are." Hannibal nodded at Face.

"Thank you lieutenant, well don't just sit there," he said looking at the new soldiers, "move out."

As they scrambled into the huey, the seasoned soldiers sat at each side of the doorway with their backs to the walls. The six new recruits were not so fortunate, those lucky enough got to be in the middle of the doorway while the others had to hang on for dear life as the Huey's did not have doors. Holding onto each other they watched as the canopy of the jungle sped by until their destination was reached.

When airborne Hannibal revised the mission. It was to be a simple search and destroy operation. Go into an area and search it and then destroy anything that might be useful to the VC soldiers. Hannibal and his men had performed the operation many times before, but this time something nagged at him, a feeling of impending danger.

"Murdock I'll call you when we're through, channel one seven. Take care Murdock." Hannibal said before exiting the huey, followed by a very seedy looking BA.

The chopper left after barely touching the ground and was immediately lost in the cover of the jungle. Hannibal instructed Face to take point and Johnson to take rear guard. The target area was a two click walk, during the course of the distance silence was maintained.

Moving through the woods, they looked for signs of the enemy target. By the time they located the enemy base it was getting dark. Hannibal halted the platoon and ordered them to take up a position on the edge of the clearing. When they were close enough Hannibal positioned himself near Face.

He took his night vision glasses and focused on the enemy target. "What the fuck!" Hannibal exclaimed when he saw it was still being patrolled by several VC soldiers. Face heard the tone of incredulity in his colonel's voice.

"Hannibal…., what's up?" Face asked not really wanting to hear the answer.

"So much for intel…, this place was meant to be deserted, ready for us to come in and clean it up." Hannibal growled under his breath, not wanting to alert the rest of the platoon to the problem that had arisen.

"Hannibal how many times have I told you not to trust military intelligence. Take it from someone who knows, take what they say with a grain of salt. I was told that I was going to have a nice cushy number running the PX and look where I get sent." Face said in his con-man charm, trying to alleviate the tension.

Hannibal looked at him and gave him a crooked smile. "They sent you out here because you were costing them money, building up your only little supply store."

"It was surplus stock." Face uttered in his defence.

"Uh huh Face, you just remember that line, when you're brought up before the Judge Advocate General, right now I've got bigger fish to fry." Hannibal replied focusing back on the guarded target area.

When Hannibal had laid out his plan the platoon moved in. Unfortunately one of the new recruits tripped a claymore, an anti-personnel mine, he was lucky he died instantly not knowing what hit him. Face recognized the type of mine and pulled the new recruit beside him down to the jungle floor, while keeping his M-16 aimed towards the running enemy soldiers.

"Thanks." Uttered the nervous soldier. Face shook off the thanks and concentrated on what was going on in front of him. Their cover had been broken and frenzied VC soldiers ran head strong into their direction, taking the newer recruits by surprise at the ferocity of the attack.

The VC soldiers rushed forward like crazed kamikaze pilots, with their AK-50's. They thrust their bayonet ended rifles into the unsuspecting new recruits, who stood there mesmerized at the swiftness of battle. The closest that many of these soldiers had come to in defence fighting was firing a few rounds at targets that didn't fight back, that was back on the outside world, here they learnt a cruel lesson.

Hannibal stole a few moments of precious time to radio Murdock, he needed some air assistance, enemy soldiers were coming out of the wood work. "Blue leader, calling red tiger do you read me? Red tiger come in."

"Red tiger to blue leader. Copy." Murdock replied, his voice barely being heard above the hail of bullets.

"Red tiger, we've got movement in the wire, we're pinned down. We're taking hits, we need some illumination down here Murdock, they're coming through the wire. Over.." The culminating percussion of small arms fire and explosions punctuated the environment of their position.

The radio crackled to life once more, "Blue leader give me your co-ordinates and I'll come knocking on their door…over." The faint voice on the other end said.

"Red tiger grid co-ordinate is GA nine six seven oh one niner …over!." Hannibal shouted into the PRC.

From the enemy side a battery of 105mm howitzers opened up. Tracers careened wildly in the night sky, going in a myriad pattern of directions. Agony filled cries were heard as bullets hit their targets. Castings clattered as the howitzers fired and a haze of blue smoke drifted across.

"Murdock!" Hannibal shouted, "where the fuck are you? Don't spare the horses, just get in here now!" Screams amidst the gunfire and shelling could be heard on Murdock's end of the radio. Hannibal's repsonse was a pyrotechnic display which illuminated the night sky, at last they had air support.

The men in the platoon looked at each other, their eyes wide and animated in the half light. With renewed vigor they returned gunfire, Murdock had brought with him reinforcements, bringing hope to the soldiers fighting on the ground.

The sound of the choppers above was wonderful, Murdock had come back in an AII-1G (cobra) attack chopper, it was armed to the teeth. Dirt fountains started to appear in front of the VC soldiers, causing the ones not crazy enough to pursue that battle, to retreat to the shelter of the building.

Within minutes of the air support arriving the target is completely destroyed along with it, vital documents needed by the military intelligence. A single rocket was fired at the building turning it into a pile of splinters, the poor souls caught inside cremated instantly.

"Hannibal? Hannibal? Where are you?" Face shouted into the smoke filled jungle. He stumbled his way over to the colonel's last sighted position.

"Oh God!" Face said turning Hannibal over. Frantically he felt for Hannibal's pulse, it was there all be it weak, but it was palpable. Face found the PRC and radioed Murdock.

"Murdock I need a Dustoff down here! I need it now." Face shouted into the mouthpiece.
"Hannibal's been hit." He finished more calmly.

Too many times Murdock had heard the all to familiar call for a 'Dustoff', he'd carried out so many of them he'd lost count. The call was used to apply to all medical evacuation missions, but GI's reserved the term for missions flown to pick up wounded soldiers in the filed, often under fire.

"Hang tight Face, I'll get Spinner to get him out." Murdock replied, his own cobra helicopter being unsuitable for the job. The Huey choppers excelled a the job of picking up the wounded soldiers, with its wide doors and ability to get in and out quickly. Dustoffs took courage on the part of the crew - ground fire was the rule rather than the exception.

BA looked over at Face to see him trying to make the fallen colonel comfortable.

"How is he man?" BA shouted above the volley of rounds being fired. Face raised his thumb in an okay signal and picking up his rifle continued to fire in the direction of the enemy.

"Spinner can you get in there?" Murdock asked over the radio while giving as much air cover as he could to the men below him.

"Yeah shouldn't be a problem …those poor son's of bitches are in deep shit down there." Spinner replied.

"Save the liturgy …., just get in and out as soon as you can ..over." Murdock radioed as he dropped flares, giving Spinner an idea of where to head. Murdock knew the move was two fold being both dangerous and life saving.

"Co*at Face had seen, he was not interested in taking prisoners, any feelings of remorse that he had for them had gone. What he had witnessed made him feel that the VC soldiers were less than human.

While BA and Zeke loaded Hannibal and three other wounded soldiers into the huey, face performed the grim job of collecting the dog tags, he wished that he could have taken the bodies of his fallen comrades back with him, he neither had the time nor the room needed on the chopper for that.

All the dead soldiers were killed at close range, most had their throats cut and all were butchered. Entrails slithered from the mutilated bodies towards the ground.

'Was it not enough for them to be killed? Why mutilate their bodies as well?' Face thought to himself, disgusted at what he had seen. Although he'd seen his friends killed in action before, it still didn't make this any easier to take. Gasping he reached for a young sapling and retched until he could no more.

Wiping his mouth he passed from one soldier to the next, collecting their dog tags and any other personal possession that he could return to the next of kin. After performing this sad duty he offered a silent prayer of comfort for their souls and for their families.

"C'mon lieutenant, this bird's about ready to go." Zeke yelled above the slow churn of the rotors. Face madly scrambled into the huey before it was to far off the ground.

"Rest in peace." He said, wiping his eyes.

Zeke saw Face's pain and placed a hand on his shoulder. "It doesn't get any easier does it?" Face shook his head and held the bits of metal in his hand, up into the illuminated wall of the chopper, letting the light reflect off. Soft murmurs throughout the chopper were heard, each surviving man offering his own individual prayer.

"Hey kid…" Hannibal coughed, trying to keep the pain he was feeling at bay.

"H-H-Hannibal?" Face asked questioningly, surprised that the colonel was conscious once more.

"No point getting to sentimental about it … just makes the pain harder to live with." Hannibal spoke, offering words of comfort to Face.

"I know Hannibal, …it's just like Zeke said." Face started to say before Hannibal interrupted.

"It doesn't get any easier does it?" Hannibal coughed, clenching his teeth in effort to fight the pain. "Let it go kid."

Face looked at Hannibal, here he was hurt, bleeding and in pain and yet trying to comfort his younger friend.

"Better not clench those teeth too hard," Face sniffed, "or you'll be having to get a false set made." Hannibal and Face both looked at each and began to chuckle softly.

Zeke pulled a syrette from his pack. After administering the morphine from the collapsible tube, Zeke proceeded to check on the wounds that had been suffered by Horn, Johnson and Harris, the new recruit. With help from BA the wounds were dressed and the men made comfortable.

"Spinner how long before we land?" Zeke asked, trying to break the eerie silence that filled the cabin of the helicopter.

"Another ten minutes or so sergeant, providing we get a clear run back to base." Spinner replied, and caught the thumbs up understanding from Zeke.

BA edged over to where Face was sitting and tried to disrupt Face from his all too quiet mood.

"Hey man, there was nothing you could do. It wasn't your fault." He said softly.

Face looked at him incredulously and shook his head. "BA saying that doesn't help bring them back does it? We lost some good men back there. Christ's sake four guys lost their lives on their fucken first mission BA. And three guys that we've been serving with for the past ten months. It was my fault BA…." Face's voice was packed with emotion as he turned his head to look at the passing tree tops, from which the steam could be seen rising in the early morning light.

"How can you say that Face? It wasn't your fault…it was just one of those things …you didn't have any control over the outcome, how were you to know what was going to go down. You got us out of there, you did the best you could." BA said, looking to Zeke for support.

"My best wasn't good enough though was it? Hannibal would have gotten us all out alive. He would've had a plan that worked." Uttered Face, tightening his grasp around the dog tags in held in his hand.

"How do you know that lieutenant?" Zeke retorted, "I'm damned sure that I couldn't have done any better under the circumstances …pull yourself together, your in command now. The new guys are scared shitless, they're going to be looking to you for leadership Face."

Face looked at Zeke and shook his head. "I don't know if I really want the responsibility any more ….. maybe Murdock has the right idea, coming up with his crazy antics, so no one knows whether to take him seriously or not." As he spoke he gripped the dog tags so hard that the edges cut into his hand.

"Have you really thought about that," before giving Face a chance to answer Zeke continued, "I mean Murdock… is he really crazy? You know there's a lot of tension in the bush, some need to act crazy, just to remain sane. Maybe Murdock is one of those people. I know that listening to him chatter helps to get me through at times."

While reflecting on what Zeke had said, Face saw blood dripping from his hand. He looked at it as if it were not real, he hadn't felt any pain and sat mesmerized by the blood pooling in his hand.

"SHIT!" Zeke said, a lot louder than he realized, his exclamation catching the attention of the rest of the platoon who had been lamenting silently on their own personal losses.

"Purcell hand me that first aid kit." Zeke ordered, wiping the blood from Face's hand with a small towel.
"You did a good job on this," Zeke remarked as Face watched him, "didn't you feel the tags cutting in?"

Face shook his head, still not believing that he had cut the palm of his hand so deeply.

"No….., I was just holding them, must have been grabbing them a lot tighter than I thought." Replied Face sheepishly.

"You don't say." Growled BA, accepting the first aid kit from Purcell. He rummaged through it finding the necessary lotions and a crepe bandage. Between himself and Zeke they cleaned the wound and wrapped the bandage around the pressure pad on Face's hand.

"You better see the quack when we get back to base." Commented BA, taking the blood stained tags and cleaning them.

As he cleaned each one he read the names; Captain Rusty Wallace, Captain Randy Lee, private Scott Baker - three men he had spent the last ten months with, getting to know them a little, sharing times of fear and joy. 'How soon things change', BA thought to himself.

The four remaining tags still had their newness about them and bore the names of Alex Shepherd, John Grainger, Steven Doyle and Luis Fox.. "God guide them on their journeys, give their families strength". The burly sergeant prayed quietly. Fingering the tags once more he raised them up to his lips and placed a small, delicate kiss on them.

"Nice BA". Hannibal whispered, then sought out Face. The euphoria of the morphine giving him the needed time to talk to Face before they landed.

"Lieutenant?" Hannibal mouthed.

Hearing his CO call him, Face twisted his body around to meet Hannibal's gaze.

"I heard what you said before, and for what it's worth, I couldn't have gotten everyone out any better than you did. You did your best and that's all that any one can do under the circumstances. You can only play the hand your dealt kid." As Hannibal finished speaking, he caught BA's smile and signaled him to watch over Face.

"Hold on boys and girls, where about to land." Spinner said, guiding the huey to the illuminated landing site, upon landing, medics rushed from the side of the building where they had been waiting for the arrival of the huey.

When the helicopter blades had slowed enough, General Phillips waited near the door of the helicopter for the platoon to disembark. He saw Hannibal carried from the helicopter on a stretcher, followed by Horn and Johnson also on stretchers. Ruiz assisted Harris from the helicopter and helped him to the infirmary.

"My God!" Phillips uttered. He searched for lieutenant Peck, seeing him he moved in his direction. "What happened?" He asked, placing his hand on Face's shoulder.

"Fucken Military intel is what happened!….., sir." Face seethed. Two MP's had heard the tone Face had used with the general and stepped forward to intervene.

"Do you wish to press charges general?" The larger of the two MP's asked.

"No." Phillips answered firmly and ordered the MP's to leave. Face had continued to walk on while the general was dismissing the MP's, ignoring the requests for him to stop.

The general gave Face a few minutes to calm down before he decided to catch up with him.

"Thought this is where I might find you lieutenant." Phillips said trying to break the tension. Face looked up and then abruptly stood, saluting the superior officer.
"At ease lieutenant. Care to tell me what that outburst earlier was about, before I change my mind and have you charged with insubordination." Phillips asked, beckoning Face to follow him.

"Well lieutenant? An explanation sometime this decade would be nice." Phillips asked, becoming exasperated by the non verbal replies from the junior officer.

"Typical intel….. they never get any information right. Seven men were killed by the VC thanks to incorrect information being handed on yet again!" Face exploded, finally losing his battle to contain his emotions. He let his arms drop to his sides, his actions distracting the general's gaze.

"Lieutenant that is the second count of insubordination that I could have you charged with in as many minutes. I am sure that colonel Smith would be disheartened to hear of your conduct. I am willing to drop the matter, provided that there are no further outbursts of this nature." Phillips cautioned, watching the lieutenant take himself back to an 'at attention' stance.

"Thank you sir and no sir there will be no more outbursts." Apologized Face. He continued to stand at attention and waited for the general's next words.

"Dismissed lieutenant. But I would like you to report to me in my office in ten minutes, so we can go over this more fully. Go and see how the rest of the platoon is doing, I'll see them later." Said Phillips, knowing that was where Face wanted to be right now.

"Thank you sir." Face said and saluted the commanding officer, flinching a little as he flexed his fingers to the salute formation. "Oh ..and lieutenant?" Phillips smiled, "you may want to get that hand looked at."

Face returned the smile and hurried off towards the infirmary. Inside he found BA pacing the corridor while Zeke remained seated by the door.

"Any word yet?" Face asked, sitting next to Zeke. He heard BA grumble something about the doctors being busy and his answer from Zeke was a shake of his head.

One of the nurses saw the blood seeping through the bandage on Face's hand. "Let me take a look at that for you." She smiled and beckoned him to go with her.

"It might need a stitch or two." Zeke offered, remembering how Face had cut his hand.

Face arrived back a short time later, adorned with a new bandage. "How many?" Zeke asked looking at Face's hand.

"Two." Face replied and gave Zeke a wry smile. He waited a few more minutes before excusing himself, telling Zeke and BA that the general had requested to see him. "I'll be back as soon as I can."

"Uh huh." Zeke uttered, "if Hannibal wakes while you're gone I'll tell him where you are."

BA looked at Face and smirked. "Yeah man, we'll just tell him that Phillip's finally threw you in the brig."

"Wouldn't be the first time." Face chuckled and hurried off to keep his appointment, leaving Zeke and BA to wait for any news.

"Lieutenant Peck is here to see you sir." The young secretary informed the general.

"Thank you corporal, show him in." Replied Phillip's, watching the corporal exit his office.

She returned momentarily with Face. "Can I get you anything? Tea? Coffee?" She asked surreptitiously flirting with Face.

"Coffee would be great ma'am." Smiled Face, placing his hand on the door, holding it open for her. "General?" She asked him again, "Can I get you anything?"

"Just a coffee, black, thank you Su…, corporal." The general replied, covering his Freudian-slip.

The general's faux-par had not gone unnoticed by Face. He thought best to keep his comments to himself, being reprimanded twice in one day was enough for anyone.
As the secretary left she gave Face a subtle wink, causing him to quickly clear his throat.

"Lieutenant?" Phillips asked, thinking that Face' action was for his benefit. When Face responded with a surprised look the general knew all to well that the clearing of Face's throat was not for his benefit but for the sole purpose of the lieutenant's own actions.

"She is a beauty isn't she?" Smiled Phillips to a stunned Face.

"Sir, yes s-s-s-sir." Stammered Face, knowing full well he'd been caught. The general leant across his desk, beckoning Face to lean in to the middle also.

"Susan is my niece lieutenant. Need I say more?" Astonished by the revelation, Face sat dumbfounded for a few moments before he found his voice again.

"Sir, fully understood."

"Good, now that we have that out of the way, I would like to go over your report of what happened in the AO (Area of Operations)." Phillips said, taking a cigar and leaning back into his chair.

"What can I say … it was a cluster f…" Face started to say before stopping himself of saying the vulgar word in front of the general.

"I've heard the term before son, but thank you for saving me from having to hear it first hand." Phillips smiled and offered Face a cigar. Accepting the cigar Face continued with his report.

"…..so after landing in the AO which was supposedly clear of all VC activity, we walked into a fire zone. We finished the job at hand, but not without paying heavily for it, called in a 'dust off' and the rest as they say is history." Face said trying to remain calm. "We have to go back and get the bodies, they deserve a proper burial." Face added, finally handing over the dogtags from the dead men that he had been holding.

"Understood lieutenant. I have a squad leaving within the hour to collect the bodies. Thank you for the tags, I will send a personal letter home to each family. Is there you would like to have added?"

"I think Zeke, sergeant Anderson was going to gather their personal belongings and have them packaged up to be sent back home." Answered Face, staring at his bandaged hand.

"Excuse me…coffee is ready. Would you like to, have it now?" Susan asked, pushing the door open with the trolley. "Yes thank you corporal. Perfect timing wouldn't you say lieutenant?" Phillips smiled, noticing Face looking in another direction rather than at his niece.

After the coffees had been drunk. Face excuse himself from the general's office, saying that he wanted to check in on Hannibal. He made his exit from the office, avoiding the advance being made to him by Susan.

"Strange fellow." Susan remarked as she collected the emptied cups. She noticed the hint of amusement in her Uncle's eyes and shook her head. "Tell me you didn't." She said shaking her head.

"It is for your own good. I don't want the likes of lieutenant Peck consorting with you. Why you had to choose the army of all military careers available to you I'll never know. Why didn't you choose to join the navy like your father and brother?" Phillips retorted, trying to defend his actions to his niece.

"Because of the same reasons your displaying now. Just once I'd like to meet a nice decent man as well as have a career for myself but I am finding it so much harder than I had first expected. Of all the units to get assigned to I end up at this one." Susan jokingly complained.

"Look, I'm only looking out for your best interests. If I had my choice you'd be working state side away from all this. I'm sorry you ended up here, how about we call a truce?"

Susan warily nodded her head. "Talk about a military family….a father who is an admiral, my brother the lieutenant commander and my uncle a general. Okay truce." She said, extending her hand. Upon shaking her uncle's hand she added, "and I get to see whoever I want, off duty?" Knowing he had been beaten her uncle agreed.

"How is Hannibal, BA?" Face asked, sitting on the chair beside the sergeant who reminded him of 'Hoss Cartwright' from 'Bonanza'.

"He's getting better, been improvin' since they brought him back from surgery." BA yawned, barely able to keep his eyes open.

"I'll sit with him a while. Why don't you go and get something to eat and have some rest." Face suggested. BA nodded and silently left Face watching over the colonel.

"Well Hannibal," Face said covering his face with his hands clearing the tiredness from his eyes, "you were right…., again. Susan is Phillips' niece. I sure know how to pick 'em. Just glad you're not awake to tell me 'I told you so'."

While sitting with Hannibal, Face picked up one of the military newspapers and began to read it.

"Anything interesting Face?" Murdock asked, pulling down on the piece of paper that Face was reading.

"Murdock! When did you get back?" Face asked in amazement. He folded the newspaper and offered Murdock a chair.

"Just got back in…had to pick up the next shipment of turtles." Murdock said. Face looked at Murdock suspiciously.

"Okay I know I'm going to hate myself for asking this but what or who are you referring to as 'turtles'?"

"New guys." Came a hoarse reply from the bed. Both Face and Murdock looked tot he direction from which the voice had come.

"Hannibal!" They both said in unison.

"No it's jolly old Saint Nick, of course it's me….., who else were you expecting?" Hannibal coughed and then chuckled softly at the two somber faces in front of him.

Face quickly grabbed the flask of water and poured Hannibal a small drink. "Just sip it slowly." He instructed. "How did you know what 'turtles' were?"

As Hannibal slowly sipped his drink, Murdock answered Face's question. "The new replacements are called 'turtles' 'cause it takes 'em so long to arrive."

"Uh huh…, should've known. It's been one of those mornings." Sighed Face, turning his attention back to Hannibal.

"Found out she was his niece huh kid?" Hannibal smiled, knowing that he had hit upon one of Face's dilemmas.

"You could say that." Smirked Face, recalling the conversation he'd had earlier with the general. "How's your shoulder feel?" Face added trying to divert the conversation.

"Can't feel much…they must have me pretty doped up on painkillers. My ribs hurt like hell though." Replied Hannibal, trying to get himself into a more comfortable position.

"Who are the new recruits Murdock?" Hannibal asked as he accepted Face's offer of another pillow.

"A lieutenant Myron Goldman and corporal Marcus Taylor. They've both been assigned to your platoon." Murdock answered, "Oh and I've warned them to back anything they say to Face with money."

"Cute Murdock." Face responded a little chastised. Hannibal pulled Murdock's hand close to him.

"Murdock your part of the platoon too, don't you forget that."

"Hey colonel I know that…but when I'm up there in my bird, it's like a different world. It's like I believe I can fly. You know that's a good name for a song title." Smiled Murdock, catching Face's expression.

"You're nuts Murdock." Face retorted, rolling his eyes.

"Hang on a minute Face, I think Murdock may have something there…., a few more lyrics you could have a top seller Murdock." Hannibal grinned, enjoying how much he was beginning to irk Face.

"Aw Hannibal, don't go encouraging him. You know what happened last time when he tried to sell back the general's golf balls to him. Why anyone would want to play golf is beyond me…, chasing little white balls all over the greens and trying to sink them in holes." Complained Face.

The laughter was broken by a heavy set nurse carrying a laden tray. "Good to see our patient is feeling better. You two plan on sticking around while I give the colonel his sponge bath?"

"Uh no thanks, I'll see you later Hannibal." Murdock said, grimacing at the frightening tone of the nurse.

"Me too, I had better get going and check on BA." Face stammered, backing away from the nurse.

Before he could move to far she reached out and grabbed his arm.

"Y'all tell BA that I said hello okay sugar. Boy I swear you're gettin' skinny. You need to get some meat on dem bones. You knows I likes my men big and strong."

"I'll remember that and I'll tell BA you said hello." Face said, breaking free from the nurses strong grasp. "Enjoy your bath Hannibal."

"Oh I will kid. Hey bring back a radio or an up to date newspaper when you come back again. Tell BA I said hello as well." Hannibal smiled as he waved goodbye to Face.

As Face hurried out the door he heard the nurse commenting on how skittish he was. The comment was followed by raucous laughter.

Face had caught up with Murdock just outside the infirmary.
"Well I suppose that I'd better go and introduce myself to the new replacements and show them the layout of this place." Face said, placing his arm on Murdock's shoulder.

Murdock stopped abruptly causing Face to trip.
"Ah Face, don't you mean that you want to relieve them of any monetary assets that they may have by inviting them to a poker game?"

Face feigned a hurt look. "Murdock, how long have we known each other? I'm surprised that you could think such a thing."

"I'm not." Zeke retorted, having finally caught up with Face. "You know the first time I met you, you were as I recall trying to relieve me of some funds, by inviting me to a card game in your cell. As it was it cost me an extra guard duty for accepting your offer, not to mention two hundred bucks."

While Face remained still trying to present himself as the epitome of innocence, Zeke and Murdock reveled at his discomfort.

"Are we going to stand here all day or are we going to meet the new replacements?" Face at last asked.

Murdock and Zeke both shrugged and followed Face to the general's office. They waited outside enjoying the fresh morning air while the general finished welcoming the new arrivals. When the door to the office opened the general called Face, Zeke and Murdock forward and carried out the introductions.

"You'll be bunking in here." Face gestured as he led Myron and Taylor to the billet. "Stow your gear and then come over to the mess. I'll introduce you to the rest of the platoon there." Face dismissed both the new recruits and made his way over to the mess accompanied by Zeke and Murdock.

As they entered the mess they were greeted by BA and the rest of the platoon. "How's the colonel, Face?" BA asked pushing past one of the members of the platoon.

"He's doing okay but not overly happy at the prospect of being out of the field for a week. By the way Katy was wanting to pass on her well wishes for you. If I didn't know better I'd say that woman has a soft spot for you." Face smiled at BA's growing uneasiness.

During coffee and breakfast the new replacements were introduced to the rest of the platoon. Conversation was light and stemmed mainly around interests and family. During the course of the light hearted conversation general Phillips and his aide appeared.

The platoon quickly stood to attention, acknowledging his presence. "As you were." The general said as he stood in front of them. "I know you're still coming to terms with what has happened and that your CO is in the infirmary, but we need to press on. We have been receiving help from the local VC resistance and now is the time for us to help them."

As the general spoke he gained the full attention of everyone present. He laid out the plan in full detail of what he wanted the platoon to accomplish and appointed Face as the CO while Hannibal was recuperating.

"I want you all to be ready to move out at 0500 hours tomorrow. I suggest that you get in as much rest as you can today. Dismissed." General Phillips finished, before signaling to Face to join him.

The next morning was overcast as Face made his way over to the infirmary. Katy was on duty and approached him as he entered. "Hannibal's sleepin'. Do you want me to wake him?"

Face shook his head. "No thanks, just tell him when he wakes that I said hello and that we should be back in a few days." He watched Hannibal's chest rise and fall in peaceful slumber, before turning to leave.

After landing at the designated site, Murdock bid his passengers goodbye and told Face to be careful. "Sure Murdock, just don't you forget to come and pick us up again." Face laughed as he too disembarked.

It wasn't long before the team came across the village as pin pointed on their map. One of the local villagers had decided to do more than just provide the enemy locations whenever he could, he'd also chosen to take up sniping on NVA troops.

As the team began the arduous task of relocating the entire village some twenty clicks away, one of the villagers refused to go on the grounds of religious beliefs. Face and Zeke both tried reasoning with the elderly papa San farmer and in the end called upon the man's granddaughter to help. After several hours the elderly man conceded and packed his meager possessions, joining the rest of the villagers.

BA had directed Harris and Taylor to check the stores for and food that could be transported and for Purcell and Ruiz to tether the cattle together. When BA was sure that there was nothing else worth salvaging he informed Face of what he had done and waited further instruction.

Face and Zeke both looked over the map and the relocation zone that they had been given while everyone waited with bated anticipation of the move. The trek to the new settlement would be long and tiring and the best possible route had to be used. The map showed rugged mountain terrain which was passable.

"Do you think they will be able to make the journey?" Zeke asked looking at the handful of elderly villagers who were a respected part of the community.

"They'll have to, they don't really have a choice." Face glumly replied, knowing what Zeke was thinking. Without wanting to waste what was left of the precious day light hours Face gave the command to move out.

Two days into the journey they came across a burned out village of Montagnards. A Vietnamese tribe of mountain people that had inhabited the mountain area that the platoon and homeless villagers were now in. The travelling villagers offered prayers for the lost souls while the platoon searched for any signs of life.

After seeing so many slaughtered bodies, all hope was given up of finding anyone alive. Zeke was searching one of the last huts to be checked when he heard the strained cries of a small child.

"Me, me." The child cried for her mother. What Zeke saw bought tears to his eyes. The child of no more than ten months was trying to suckle at her mothers breast, trying to gain attention from her dead mother. As he fought back his emotions, thinking about his own girls back in the States, he gathered the baby in his arms and wrapped a blanket around her.

"Zeke? Zeke where are you?" Face called unable to locate the sergeant in his command. He heard a muffled reply a short distance from where he was walked in the direction from where it came.

"What have you here?" Face asked seeing the baby in Zeke's arms. He also noticed Zeke casually wipe tears from his eyes as he held the young child up for Face to see. "Another victim of this bloody senseless war." Face said be fore Zeke could answer him.

"Yeah. Her mother's on the other side of the room. She was trying to feed from her mother …., by the looks of her I'd say she hasn't had a meal in two maybe three days." Zeke answered cradling the baby closer to his own chest.

"Well she's not going to find anything there, unless you're not telling me something." Face laughed, seeing the baby root around Zeke's chest, looking for any signs of a feed. Zeke could not help but laugh at the situation and quickly assured Face that he was not hiding anything from him.

"Maybe one of the villagers will care for her." Face suggested hopefully, rubbing the baby's cheek with the back of his fingers. "They have a dairy cow out there, wonder if the milk bar's open yet." He added, looking around for something to use as a bottle.

"It's worth a shot…., at this stage this young lady has nothing to lose." Agreed Zeke also hoping that one of the villagers may take over caring for the child.

They emerged from the building to find the rest of the platoon waiting for them and the villagers still in a state of shock of witnessing the devastation of lost lives. They all turned when they heard the young baby crying.

One of the villagers stepped froward from the group and held her arms out towards Zeke.

"Xin vu long mote gai?", she asked. Zeke looked towards Face to obtain a translation on what was being asked.

"It's all right, she has asked if she can hold the baby. I think our worries are over." Face smiled, motioning for Zeke to let the woman hod the baby.

"Ca'm o-n nhienu." The woman replied thanking Zeke. Saving Zeke from a possibly embarrassing reply Face answered her.

"Khong co chi."

"You're certainly handy to have around. Can you order take -aways too?" Zeke asked Face as the woman turned and walked back to where her people were standing.

"My Vietnamese is limited to asking for the necessities and then it is not the best." He added while Face was softly chuckling.

They watched silently as the woman spoke to her fellow villagers about the baby. They all turned and smiled at Face and Zeke and held the baby aloft. One of the women rummaged through her personal belongings and located a pouch feeding bottle, similar to those used by the North American Indians.

Within a few minutes enough milk had been milked from the cow to satisfy the baby's insatiable thirst. After the baby had been fed and cleaned she settled contentedly in the makeshift cradle that had been fashioned for her and was placed in it on the back of the team of oxen.

The soldiers in Face's command spent several minutes with the help of the Vietnamese refugees burying the dead before moving on to their awaiting destination.


"Good morning colonel. How are you feeling today?" General Phillips asked as he neared Hannibal's bed. Startled buy the unexpected visit Hannibal maneuvered himself into a sitting position.

"Tony…, what brings you by this way?" Coughed Hannibal. Before answering him, Philips handed Hannibal a glass of water. "Your nurse tells me that you've been asking questions about the mission I sent Peck and his patrol on."

Hannibal nodded sheepishly. "It's just that no one has said anything and by --" Before he could say any more Phillips finished his sentence.

"And you're wanting to know when they were last heard from. Well the last transmission that was received was late yesterday afternoon, saying that they had gotten the villagers safely to their new home along with one extra."

"One extra?" Hannibal asked, his eyebrows raised with intrigue. He motioned for Phillips to drag the chair over and make himself comfortable.

"It seems that lieutenant Peck and sergeant Anderson came across a village ransacked by the NVA with all but one of the occupants dead. A young baby survived the brutal assault and before you ask, yes they did place the baby with the refugee villagers."

Hannibal smiled contentedly at the news, and knew that his unit would be back soon, now that the villagers had been relocated.


The return journey for Peck's team passed without incident and after a days walk through the mountainous region they reached the designated landing zone. BA had previously radioed Murdock and now it was simply a matter of waiting before being airlifted back to base.

To pass the time Zeke took a notebook from his pack and started to write.

"Writing home?" Face asked as he leaned against a tree.

"Huh?" Zeke replied, unsure whether he had heard the lieutenant talk to him or whether he was just imagining it.

"I only asked if you were writing home." Face smiled as he let his own thoughts drift a while.

"Yeah. That baby back there got em thinking. I've been mean to find the time to write more than a few lines to my girl. The last photo I got of them, showed me what I had been missing out on. Would you like to see it?" Zeke asked as he produced the photo.

Face leaned across and accepted the photo. Zeke had sealed it in a small plastic bag, protecting it from the elements.

"She's a wonderful looking girl." Face said as he looked at the picture of Zeke's daughter holding a home made sign saying 'I love you daddy'. She was dressed in a embroidered dress that had smocking along the bodice. And held a small doll that Zeke had sent as a gift.

"How was your last trip back to 'the world'?" Face asked, handing back the photograph.

"It didn't go to well. My wife asked me for a divorce. Said that she couldn't handle it with me being over here, not knowing whether I was going to come home in one piece or not. Guess I knew a few months back when she dropped hints through her letter to me. It all came to a head when I did get time to go and see her and my daughter. There were clothes in the wardrobe that weren't mine." Zeke spoke quietly so no one else could hear.

Face kept his own voice to little more than a whisper. "I'm sorry…I didn't know things were so.." Before he could finish Zeke interrupted him.

"Don't worry about it. I managed to sort a few things out before leaving to return here, we agreed that when the time is right for me to return we will share joint custody of our daughter. Besides I had to come back to make sure that you stayed out of trouble." Zeke smiled at Face.

"Heads up…here's our ride." Face said, hearing the familiar whump of the chopper blades.

"Hey Murdock it's great to see you." Face beamed as he clambered aboard, stowing his gear out of the way.

"You too Faceyman…. It makes a change not having to be coming in for a dust off. Better buckle up back there…, we came across some heavy fire on the ride over here. It could get a little bumpy." Murdock said, returning the smile that had been bestowed upon him.

As Murdock had warned the return flight back to base was indeed bumpy, with howitzer shells narrowly missing the chopper.

Face continued to watch from his position in the chopper as Murdock skillfully guided the chopper through the maze of smokes plumes from spent shells, the paling face of BA caught his attention.

"BA?" Face gingerly asked, watching BA clasp his hands more tightly around the stock of his rifle. When BA nodded an acknowledgement to the lieutenant, Face returned to his previous position and rested his weary body against the wall of the chopper.

"He doesn't travel so well does he?" Zeke asked, leaning across closer to Face so that his voice did not carry in the small compartment.

Face flashed one of his famous grins at Zeke. "Just don't mention the possibility of crashing." Leaving Zeke to ponder his last statement Face watched as the tops of the trees from the jungle below sped past.

The remainder of the flight was spent in silent thought, each man reliving what he had witnessed, the brutal attacks and destruction of a village of people and the acceptance of the newborn by the villagers that they had helped relocate.

Murdock's voice boomed throughout the cabin. "That concludes your flight with HM airlines, please have your tickets ready for processing when you disembark."

"Hey, L tee, we've landed." Zeke said, gently nudging Face's arm.

"Oh yeah, yeah thanks Zeke." Replied Face, a hint of remorsefulness in his voice.

Zeke moved from the chopper, slinging his back pack over his shoulder, he grabbed Face's backpack and waited for him to emerge from the huey.

Waiting at the landing pad to meet them was Hannibal, seated in a wheelchair, being attended to by a young nurse. He tried to stand up to welcome back his team but was forced to remain seated when the young nurse applied pressure to his shoulder.

As the soldiers from the returning platoon gathered their belongings they saluted him as they passed by him on their way to their barracks. The last ones to come into his line of vision were a very pale looking BA followed by a boisterous Murdock and a very subdued looking pair - namely Face and Zeke.

Hannibal allowed himself to be wheeled towards the debriefing room, but was anxious to find out what had caused Face to become so somber.

During the quick yet intense debriefing Hannibal's silent questions were answered. 'How much more do they have to see and be a part of?' He thought to himself, recalling the horrors that he had previously seen in another war in another time.

Following the debriefing General Phillips dismissed the men in front of him and suggested that they may like to freshen up with a hot shower before packing into a good meal.

Face and Zeke once again stood at attention and saluted their commanding officer before obeying his last directive.

After enjoying the warm water caress his back, like magic fingers finding every ache and massaging them to they were no longer felt, Face quickly toweled off and dressed. He was met outside the ablutions by an irate looking corporal who was easily twice his size.

"'bout time you got out! There isn't that much hot water in this shit hole of a camp and certainly not enough to waste on an upstart little prick like you!" The corporal lashed out at him, striking him hard in his ribs as he did so.

Taken aback by the outburst from the lout of a corporal Face, dropped his toiletries and pinned the burly man up against the shower wall. Holding him there with his right forearm under his neck while he held his ribs with his left hand.

"Who the hell do you think you are? What do you think that these bars mean?!" Face snapped, pulling the towel away that was draped around his neck.

BA who had been walking to the ablutions block saw the confrontation going on between Face and the corporal. "Is everything all right lieutenant?" BA asked.

"This has nothing to do with you sergeant!" The corporal retorted, trying to squirm out of Face's stranglehold.

"Hey easy Face, you don't want to kill this piece of .." before BA could finish his words of caution to Face, he heard a low moan escape from the corporal's lips.

"Christ! You're them, you're part of the A-Team….I didn't realize, if I had known.." The corporal stammered, not knowing where to look or what to say. In his direct line of vision was the angry face of the lieutenant and to his left the sullen face of the sergeant who was of equal stature to himself.

"So what you really mean is that had you known who we were you would have ignored the issue about the hot water, but had it been someone else you would have been quite content to throw your weight around?" Face questioned, keeping his voice on a level tone and restraining the urge to pound the arrogant corporal into an unrecognizable figure.

"Somehow I think by the time I've finished with you you're going to be in more hot water than you would have dreamed possible." Face continued, secretly enjoying the way that the corporal was sweating.

Plucking up a bit of Dutch courage the corporal spoke. "You wouldn't hit a corporal would you?"

BA moved in closer to the corporal and when his own face was centimeters from that of the corporal he replied,

"You've got to be kidding, he'd hit an old woman." Of course both BA and Face knew that wasn't true but it did give them both a deal of satisfaction seeing the man in front of them suffer a taste of his own medicine.

"BA, go on in and get your shower, have an extra long one….I don't think the corporal here is in too much of a hurry for his shower any more. Are you corporal?" Face said directing his words to the quivering corporal.

"No problem Face, just yell if you need me." BA said smiling as he left the two men, he hummed to himself as he entered the showers.

It was a while before BA finally caught up with Face. "Hey Face, what happened with that corporal?"

"The general was so pissed at his actions, that he was busted from being a corporal down to a private, apparently it was not the first time that he had pulled that stunt, to cut a long story short, he's been relieved of duty and scheduled for further review. By the time Phillip's is through with him the only assignment he'll be able to pull is sweeping the general's office." Face grinned contentedly.

"It's enough that we've got an enemy to fight we don't need any of that shit to deal with as well." BA growled, pummeling a fist into the palm of his hand.

"Forget it BA, I have …for now." Face shrugged as he walked towards the mess tent. "Coming?" He called out to BA.

"Sure…., hey what did you mean that you've forgotten it for now?"

"BA don't worry about it…the jerk just advised me to watch my back, maybe he should watch his mouth." Face laughed.

Not dismissing what Face had said, BA followed him to the mess tent. Grabbing their trays, BA starting filling his with what could once have been classed as animal, vegetable or mineral.

"You're braver than I thought." Chuckled Face as he sat down opposite BA who was dousing his dinner with tomato sauce.

"Whaddya mean?" BA asked, reaching for the salt.

Face shook his head and began to eat his own meal. After they had eaten they were joined by the other members from their platoon.

Gathered around the table they swapped stories and jokes while they relaxed in each other's company. Silence fell over the room as General Phillip's entered.

Noting his presence everybody instinctively stood to attention. "At ease gentlemen." Phillips spoke his tone one of casualness.

"…….., And after lieutenant Peck has put you all through some PT and himself included," Phillips said noting the whimsical looks on the platoons faces at the mention of Peck's name, "I will clear you from duty for three days. You are on stand down and are permitted to leave the base. But your whereabouts must be informed to either my secretary or to myself."

Phillips watched intently at the broad smiles trying to break through the rugged exterior of each man in his command. Unable to maintain a straight face himself he cleared them from attention.

"Dismissed." He said. No sooner had he said dismissed than whoops of joy echoed around the mess hall.

"Don't forget the PT exercise lieutenant." Phillips reminded Face as he turned and left the building.

"Uh huh." Grumbled Face when Phillips was out of ear shot. "One hell of a welcome isn't it?" Face said to Myron and Taylor. They both nodded in the affirmative, still shocked from the announcement.

Neither had expected to have a furlong so soon, but did not complain all the same.
As time passed, Face motioned for everyone to don their packs and complete the short exercise.

"But guys make sure you look like you've done some work by the time we get back, or Phillips will send out a drill instructor with us to make sure we've done what we're meant to."

They set off at a moderate pace but soon dropped it back to a more leisurely pace when they were clear of the base. On their return they were singing their cadence so that everyone kept in time. As they rounded the general's office they were still chanting.

"I can barely move my legs….Do me a favour kill me now…,
Something, something rhymes with legs
I don't care my life's over anyhow….
Sound off 1,2,3,4.."

Phillips smiled as the platoon went passed. "If Peck put them through their paces I'm a monkey's uncle". He said to himself.

"Pardon general?" His aide asked him, unsure if he was talking to him or not. Phillips shook his head and smiled.

"Just talking to myself son."

Before they left the base to go into the local town, Face, BA and Murdock stopped by to say goodbye to Hannibal.

"Really wish you could come with us." Murdock said, looking very forlorn at the prospect of having sometime to unwind without him being present.

"Who says I can't go with you lot…someone has to watch out for you." Hannibal gleamed as he through back the bedcovers, revealing that he was already dressed to go with them.

"Hannibal that's great, are you sure that you are feeling up to it?" Face asked enthusiastically.

"Kid, do you remember what happened the last time I let you go on R & R without my supervision?" Hannibal jibed Face, enjoying the look on his face as he recalled the past events.

"Uh, well since you put it that way…" Face began to say.

"Glad you see it like that kid, now give me a hand up." Hannibal grinned.

Three hours after arriving in the small town, the soldiers from Hannibal's team had managed to get themselves involved with a scuffle with members of a marine unit stationed near the town, who were drunk and disorderly.

Within ten minutes of the scuffle starting it had grown into a fully fledged bar room brawl. MP's made their way through the onlookers and duly went about their duties.

Hannibal's squad were all placed under arrest and transported back to the base. Their three days of R & R cut short, each man sporting an array of bruises, all colours and shapes and all feeling rather sorry for themselves.

It was when they were all placed in t the brig that Hannibal let the thought of the consequences of the platoons actions set in. Mulling on this thought he curled up on the bunk under the one that face had laid claim to and closed his eyes.

The next morning they were awoken to the sound of the general's bellowing voice.


"Impressive, all those words and he didn't take a breath." Face mused quietly to himself, unfortunately for Face not quiet enough.

The general made his way to where Face was standing. "DO YOU CARE TO REPEAT YOURSELF LIEUTENANT?" Phillips growled, emphasizing each syllable as he spoke.

When Face did not answer, Phillips quickly reminded him of the two previous charges of misconduct that he had up to now overlooked. "Well Lieutenant, I am waiting for an answer!"

"No sir." Face answered solemnly.

"Pardon lieutenant?" Phillips questioned unsure whether he had heard correctly. Hannibal cringed at Face's aloof behaviour, fearing the worst.

"Sir! No sir!" Face replied, acknowledging the question directed at him. "I do not wish to repeat myself."

Taken aback by Face's stance and his gumption to play the general at his own game of questions, Phillip's let a small smirk show, as quickly as it came it had vanished. He walked back to where Hannibal still stood at attention.

"Well Colonel what do you have to say about your platoon's behaviour?"

"Exemplary sir." Hannibal replied, his eyes remaining focused on a small part of the wall behind Phillips' head.

"And why would you say that it was exemplary colonel. You're men are all in the brig. Do you see any of the marines in here with them.?"

"No sir, I believe that they are all in the infirmary." Hannibal said, keeping a straight face.

"Exemplary indeed!" Phillips said, giving Hannibal a sly wink. "Dismissed." He said so that all could hear his command. Turning to the guards he asked that they release the prisoners from custody.

"Colonel Smith, I expect to see you in my office within five minutes, I suggest that you not be late."

"Yes General." Hannibal replied and nodded in the affirmative.

Face was the last one to exit the cell, his way being hindered by one of the big burly guards.
"I have some words of advice for you…" he started to say.

"Oh let me guess," Face said, a devilish gleam creeping into his eyes, "your advice for me would be for me to watch my back. Say you must be related to the louse I had busted down to a private."

"All the same…., just watch your back!" Snapped the guard.

"My, my is that a threat?" Face questioned, standing so close to the guard that a fine piece of paper could not have passed between them. "You really should learn to brush." Face bantered as the guard breathed into his face.

"Yeah and you should learn to shut your face, or someone may just shut it for you!" Snapped the guard, finding it hard to remain as calm as Face was.

Outside BA was wondering what was keeping Face and called out to him. "Is everything all right in there?"

"It sure is BA," Face replied, "Just teaching this guard some manners." Then in a quiet voice so that only the guard could hear, he continued, "I'm quite willing to dismiss the difference in our ranks and deal with this man to man, but I guess that won't happen unless you can find a man to act on your behalf."

The last comment hit the rage ridden sergeant like a ton of hot bricks. Without warning he threw Face backwards into the cell wall. The back of Face's head hitting the wall with a resounding thud. The guard reached down and pulled Face to a standing position, grabbed the collar of Face's shirt with his left hand and punched in his right eye with his balled fist, recoiling and striking again.

Face returned the attack with a sharp thrust of his knee into the sergeant's groin, causing him to collapse on the floor of the cell, clutching his manhood and writhe in pain.

With the noise of a body hitting the floor, BA rushed into the cell, surprised to see Face still standing albeit a little on the unstable side, but standing all the same.

"Face are y'all right man? You want me to get Hannibal?" BA asked, concerned not only for Face's well being but also anxious that this attack could have an unwanted aftermath for the lieutenant.

"Nah, don't worry about it BA, I think this piece of scum has learnt his lesson for now, if not I'll be sure to come and reinforce it later."

"Y-y-y-you'll get yours!" The fallen sergeant hissed.

"As I said before I'm willing to settle this man to man…but I guess that won't be happening in the near future will it?" Face smiled, reaching his hand out to grasp BA's arm to steady himself.

Face jerked his head, gesturing to BA that they should leave the cell. BA nodded and supported Face as they left the cell. As they walked away from the cell, BA directed Face in the direction of the infirmary.

Wanting to get some fresh air before heading into the sterile smell of the infirmary, Face sat on a bench near the door.

"What happened to you?" Zeke asked as he saw Face sitting with his head between his legs, holding a towel to his face, while BA held a clean cloth to the back of his head.

BA took the opportunity to leave Face with Zeke while he sought out a nurse and ignored Face's protests.

"I'll be back in a minute…,just watch he doesn't go trying to pull any more of them stupid stunts. I'm gonna find someone to have a look at his head or what's left of it."

Face and Zeke were slowly gathering an audience while BA went in search of the nurse. It wasn't long after before word got round the base that Face had been involved in a fight.

"Come in." Phillips replied when he heard a knock on his door.

"Reporting as ordered sir." Hannibal spoke, standing at attention.

"At ease John, have a seat." Phillips smiled trying to ease the tension in the room. "Before I tell you what I ordered you here for, I must say I don't condone the bar-room brawling but I did admire the way you had the nerve to say that your platoon's actions were exemplary. You understand of course why I could not show that before." He said, offering Hannibal a peace token in the form of a cigar.

"Yes sir." Hannibal grinned accepting the peace offering.

"John, I know I fell for Peck's way out of repeating himself with the open question, but can you just get him to let me win one round occasionally." Phillips laughed.

After a couple of minutes the general explained to Hannibal what he had summoned him for. "We've got a situation …."

Before he could explain further to Hannibal the general's telephone rang.


"Yes sir….. he's with me now sir." Phillips said raising his eyes to look at Hannibal.

"We lost a few men, so I'll need to get replacements first."

"I see…., no sir…., it won't be a problem. I'll have Lieutenant Peck and Sergeant Anderson taken to select suitable replacements."

At this last statement Hannibal raised his eyebrows in a questioning glance.
'Why he sending Face and Zeke' he thought to himself. He placed the cigar in his mouth and sat back in the chair while Phillip's finished his conversation.

"We will be there as soon as we can." Phillips replied, this time looking at Hannibal and mouthing 'you and me'.

"Until then sir." The general said before he hung up the phone.

After he replaced the receiver on the hook Phillips gave a small shudder and focused his attentions back on Hannibal.

"Our presence is requested at 'MAC' (Military Assistance Command), we leave within the hour. As you heard in the conversation I will be sending Peck and Anderson to get the best of the best recruits. The mission that we have on will require skilled men, no time for FNG's as you put it." Phillips spoke with sincerity, smiling when he said FNG's.

Hannibal stood and talked with the general while he made his way over to the door. As he reached the door, it opened, nearly hitting him as it swung inward.

"Sir, I apologize for the intrusion, but sergeant Baracus would like to speak with you and colonel Smith." Susan uttered, realizing that she had almost hit Hannibal with the door.

"By all means, send him in." Phillips acknowledged. He motioned for Hannibal to stand by him, allowing Baracus room to enter.

"What is it sergeant?" Phillips asked, noticing the furrowed look on BA's face. Hannibal, too, also picked up on this and waited for the inevitable outcome.

BA stood at attention, looked first at Phillips then to Hannibal before relaying what had taken place.

"Face, I mean lieutenant Peck was attacked in the cell block after we were released from custody. He didn't want to press charges, must have been the knock on the head, but I think that something should be done, sir."

Before Phillips could ascertain further as to what had happened, Hannibal was asking BA if Face was all right. BA shrugged huis shoulders and gave a 'don't ask me I ain't a nurse' look.

"Who was the man that attacked the lieutenant, sergeant?" Phillips inquested, having his own suspicions as to who it could be, after hearing about the last scuffle that had taken place, between Peck and the corporal who had been busted in rank.

"Sir, it was sergeant Stauffer." BA answered honestly.

"And the injuries sustained by Peck?" The general asked, upon learning that it was the man that he had held his own suspicions about.

"I'm not sure about Stauffer, the last I saw of him he was lying on the floor of the cell, complaining that the lieutenant had kicked him in the balls." Replied BA nonchalantly, he continued keeping his voice level, as to not show any prejudice emotion.

"I took the L-tee, to the infirmary and left him there with sergeant Anderson. He took a hit to the back of his head, which was bleeding quite a lot and …, well, his right eye doesn't need any camouflage on it to make it look dark." BA let a small grin escape when he revealed the last of Face's injuries.

Hannibal grimaced when he heard BA say that Face had received another black eye, and again to the right eye. "Ahhhh…, not the right eye again." He muttered quietly to himself.

"Thank you sergeant, I trust that you will sign a document to attest to these claims you have made." Phillips said, making his question into more of a statement.

Hannibal excused himself and left Phillips and BA filling out the necessary paper work to have Stauffer officially charged.

"Zeke would you quit pressing so hard on the back of my head, I already have the mother of all headaches without you giving me all her daughters as well!" Face snapped, trying to pull Zeke's hand away.

Changing his position so that Face could not grab at his hand, Zeke continued to hold the blood soaked cloth next to Face's head. "Look you're gonna have to go and get this stitched man, there's way to much blood."

"Yeah I guess you're right, I'm not feeling so good right now." Face admitted, accepting help from Zeke to walk into the infirmary.

They were met by Sarah, the heavy set nurse that had told him that she liked her men big and strong, the last time that he was in the infirmary as a visitor.

"So sugar, what have you been doin' to yourself? Who's did this to you Faceman?" Katy asked, using the lieutenant's nickname that she'd heard a few of his friends call him before. She talked with him while she led him to an examination table.

Face gave her a perplexed look as she spoke his name that the team had christened him with in a baptism of fire. He shook his head, then decided that it was not one of the wisest things to do at this present point in time.

Katy looked questioningly at Zeke, who shrugged his unspoken reply back to her. She nodded to Zeke and continued to clean the wound. She gestured for Zeke to come and hold the gauze pad in place while she prepared the suture tray and a small local anesthetic.

"Thanks for your help," Katy said to Zeke, taking the soiled swab from him. "Now do you think you can hold him still long enough for me to put in a couple of stitches?"

Zeke assisted Face to the stool that Katy had found for him, within the few steps that it took Face to reach the stool, Zeke had to tightly grasp his arm as he was very unsteady on his feet.

"This is going to hurt a bit," cautioned Katy as she administered the local anesthetic.

"Jesus!" Face hissed through clenched teeth as he felt the needle go in.

"Well I have been called a lot of things lieutenant, but have never been called Jesus." Hannibal smiled as he approached Face. He looked over Face's shoulder at how big the cut was to the back of his head.

Looking at Katy, Hannibal smiled. "Two stitches?" He asked, seeing her prepare the suture needle.

"Hannibal, I swear you've been spending too much time round here…., maybe I could have you trained up as a surgeon." Katy grinned, enjoying the moment of camaraderie with the renown colonel.

"Did BA send you over here?" Face winced as he felt the dull sensation of the needle going through his scalp.

Hannibal stood in front of Face looking down at him, he did look a sorry sight. He could see the bruise and swelling quickly forming around his eye and sighed. "Kid you really should learn to turn the other way, that's the second time you've let someone clobber you in your right eye."

"For your information I did not let that son of a bitch hit me, it was unprovoked…" Face began to say before Hannibal interrupted.

"Look kid, I know you didn't provoke Stauffer, his sort don't need much of an excuse, but it does not excuse what he did and from all accounts I believe this is not the first time that you've had trouble lately with Stauffer or his low life associate." Soothed Hannibal, while he watched Face's abraded expression.

"Is Stauffer going to be charged with assault colonel?" Zeke asked, already suspecting what the answer to his question would be.

Hannibal nodded and explained that he had left BA and Phillips filing the necessary paper work. "Well kid, feel like getting out of here now or would you like a guided tour of the whole facility?" Hannibal jeered as he helped Face to his feet.

Katy gave Face a fresh icepack and suggested that he apply it every twenty minutes to his bruised eye, and asked him to say hello to BA when he saw him.

"Sure Katy…, and thanks. Sorry about cursing before." Face replied, feeling remorseful at his actions.

Before heading back to the billets where Face would be able to rest from his ordeal, Hannibal escorted him to Phillips' office with Zeke in tow.

Susan cringed when she saw Face's eye and the bandage that adorned his head. "Does it hurt as bad as it looks?" She asked, trying to lighten Face's mood.

"Ah, colonel…, I thought I heard you. Do come in." Phillips said, standing at the entrance of his office.

"You too." He nodded, directing his comment to both Face and Zeke.

Face cringed when he heard Phillips call him into his office.

'Time to face the music sunshine' he mused to himself as he obeyed the command.

Both he and Zeke remained standing at attention until such time as Phillips gave them the opportunity to stand at ease.

'Here goes, wonder how many days I'll get in the brig this time, hell it wasn't my fault that Stauffer is such a jerk, he had it coming, the son of a ..' Face's thoughts were halted as Phillips stood in front of him, holding the signed affidavit he had received from BA.

"Lieutenant as you can see I am aware of the incident that had taken place not only at the cell this morning but also at the ablutions block prior. I know that neither attack was any of your own incitement, but I do not and will not condone this activity from any one in my command." Phillips voiced, pacing back and forth like a caged tiger.

A deathly silence fell on the room as Phillips continued. "Sergeant Baracus, albeit under duress has aided in the filing of the necessary paper work about the alleged assault."

"Does this look alleged to you, sir?" Face spat, unable to contain his demeanor any longer, the pain killer was starting to wear, sending the throbbing sensation through every fibre of his body.

"Lieutenant!" Hannibal cautioned, noticing the taken aback look that Phillips portrayed.

"It's all right colonel, it is quite understandable. I too would have a chip on my shoulder if I had been singled out for these unprovoked attacks. I imagine that you must have one hell of a headache son," Phillips spoke, his words exhibiting empathy.

"But I do need to bring a halt to this sort of behaviour, we are all here to do a job and to perform it admirably, we have the eyes of the world watching us, so many have demonstrated their outrage at this war and we cannot be seen fighting amongst ourselves. Hell I know what it's like to be away from loved ones, it gets to everyone, but this kind of behaviour is inexcusable."

"Yes sir." Agreed the paling lieutenant, wishing that Phillips would just cut to the chase and end this whole charade. 'Just tell me how many days this time, maybe I can get my old cell back.' Face smiled to himself at the thought.

"Lieutenant I require you to file your version of the assault, and off the record Peck this is not the first time that Stauffer has caused trouble." After obtaining Face the necessary documentation he left the office, leaving Hannibal in charge.

"Come on kid, why don't you sit down before you fall down." Hannibal said, guiding Face the to the general's desk.

"Thank you for your co-operation lieutenant. I will personally see to it that Stauffer is charged with BCD (bad conduct discharge)." Phillips said, showing a faint smile as he took the testimonial from Face.

"I won't beat about the bush gentlemen," Phillips said, addressing all who were in the room. "The A Shau Valley*, which you know is conducive to the NVA obtaining supplies and additional troops, is in threat of being over run by the Viet Cong, we cannot let this happen."

Taking time to gauge the reaction on the faces of the men in front of him, Phillips deeply inhaled and continued.

"Lieutenant Peck, I need you to take sergeant Anderson with you to help select some men that you think would be suitable for this assignment. I trust your judgement and I have captain Murdock ready and waiting to take you when you're ready to leave."

"Yes sir." Face answered, not expecting to be the one to draft some men for the task.

After discussing the situation more extensively, Phillips dismissed the men and wished Face and Zeke well in their selection.

"Whew." Zeke whistled as he and Face headed to the heli-pad where Murdock was waiting for them. "What do you make of that?"

"Huh?" Face asked, having not heard what Zeke had said to him.

"I said, I suppose that Phillips wanted me to go with you to keep you out of trouble." Zeke grinned, trying to get a reaction from Face.

This time Face took notice of Zeke and laughed when he heard what Zeke had said. "As I always say buddy, lead me not into temptation…., I can find it all by myself." Face countered, enjoying the friendly bantering.

"Your chariot awaits." Murdock smiled, bowing enthusiastically as Face and Zeke approached.

After they had boarded Murdock burst into song with his rendition of 'up, up and away in my beautiful balloon, substituting the word Huey for balloon. Zeke shook his head , good naturedly as he heard Face join in with Murdock.

"Up, up and away in our beautiful huey." They both sang in unison, until Murdock tired of the song and asked if anyone knew where they were meant to be going.

"Murdock, your the pilot, how should I know how to get there?" Face asked, when he saw Murdock struggling with the map he was holding in his lap.

"Well Face, do you see an airport? Are we anywhere near an airport co-pilot?' Murdock asked, looking out the window of the huey as they passed over the canopy of the jungle.

"Hey don't bring me into it, I was just along for the ride." Zeke smiled when he saw Face turn and look in his direction.

"Gee, I don't know Murdock, how big an airport did you have in mind?" Asked Face, unsure whether Murdock was having him on or not.

"I don't know... I see a little mark on my map, maybe that is the airport." Murdock sighed as he looked at the map once again.

Face took the map from Murdock and shook his head. "Murdock you've got sauce on the map, that's what that mark is. Do you know where we are going or not?" Face asked, the desperation in his voice becoming obvious.

"Ya know Face, I can't tell. I wish the company would buy us some instruments. This little dial thing is spinning around but I'm not sure…., oh, I've got my trusty compass and the sun went down about 20 minutes ago, so we've got to be on course." Murdock said excitedly, knowing that Face was in a state of panic.

"Murdock!" Face exclaimed, wishing that he'd never gotten out of bed that morning it had been a long and exhausting day and his headache was not showing any signs of abating either.

Zeke tried to stifle a small laugh, which had not gone unnoticed by the pilot who was having immense pleasure in baiting Face.

"Look, see that spot down there, that must be it. Either that or a fast food outlet has opened up. Wonder if they have fly-through." Smiled Murdock. He noticed that Face had taken two of the aspirin that he had been given for the headache which was the inevitable result of the assault earlier on that day.

"Hey Face, are you okay?" Murdock asked with an air of seriousness in his voice, concerned for Face's well being.

"Yeah Murdock, I'm fine....., just a little tired." Admitted Face, "Well this looks like the place." He finished while Murdock set the huey down.

"Wake up and I'll walk with you to the CO's office." Murdock shouted out after Face, while he waited for the blades to stop spinning.

Face nodded in reply and grabbed Zeke by the arm causing him to stop and wait for Murdock.

In the CO's office when the introductions were made and dispensed with, colonel Jackson informed Face that it would be best to wait until daylight hours before they reviewed the possible recruits.

After devouring their meals that were provided to them, Face, Murdock and Zeke were shown to their assigned sleeping quarters.

"I think I'll call it a night," Face said, rubbing his temples, "I feel absolutely whacked, in more ways than one. You two do whatever you want just wake me in the morning with a strong cup of coffee, I've a feeling I'll be needing it."

"Goodnight Face. Don't let the bed bugs bite." Called Murdock as Face entered his billet.

"Yeah, goodnight L-T…, and do you want one or two sugars in that coffee?" Zeke asked as he bid goodnight to the wary lieutenant.

"Wakey, wakey rise and shine Face, breakfast is served." Smiled Murdock as he set the tray that he was carrying, down beside Face. When the lieutenant didn't answer him, Murdock leaned over him and gently shook him.

"Aw come on man wake up, I want to get back to camp sometime tonight." Murdock grumbled and sat heavily on the side of Face's bed.

"Mur-mur-murdock! What are you doing here?" Face asked, squinting into the stream of light that had found its way in through a partially open curtain.

"Well I had brought you some toast and coffee but since you're not …" Murdock began to say before Face cut in.

"I'm sorry Murdock, didn't realize what time it was, didn't get much sleep last night. I didn't mean to be grumpy." Apologized Face, accepting the tray from Murdock.

"Head still hurts huh?"

"Yeah, I think I have the miniature version of the seven dwarves living in there, just wish they stop with the pick axes for a few minutes." Face grinned, slurping at the hot coffee.

When he finished the coffee, he looked around the room. "Where's Zeke?" He asked, amazed that Zeke had not followed Murdock in.

"He said that he'd meet you on the parade ground, he wanted to catch up with an old friend of his." Murdock replied, taking the cup from Face. " 'bout time you got up anyway, I want to get back before nightfall. Promised Harriett I'd give her a wash when we got back."

"I know I am going to hate my self for asking but who the hell is Harriett?" Face asked bewildered.

"My helicopter." The captain answered proudly and gauging from the expression on the lieutenant's face he got the reaction that he wanted.

"what the hell do you with a man who's fallen in love with a machine. You're incurable. How about giving Harriett a wax job while you're at it." Face chuckled.

"You know Face that isn't a bad idea." Murdock chortled and hearing the door open turn in its direction.

"What isn't a bad idea?" Zeke asked not sure whether or not he wanted to hear the answer.

"In a word Zeke, 'Harriett'." Face said smugly as he finished buttoning his shirt.

Not wanting to ask any more, Zeke told Face that the new arrivals were out on the exercise field.

"Well since you're here I won't bother meeting you on the parade ground. Did you catch up with your friend okay?" Face asked, maneuvering them out the door.

Murdock excused himself from their company, saying that he had to get back to 'Harriett'.
"I'll see you in about thirty minutes." He said, departing from face and Zeke.

"Okay so where are our victims?" Face gleamed, raising his eyebrows in a impish manner.

When Zeke and face approached the new arrivals were split up into teams playing rounds of volleyball against each other. Face nodded approval for Zeke to call them to order.

"All right, listen up, I want all the winning teams over here…., you losers what don't you just ah…., why don't you just play with each other." Zeke said, trying to hide his own smiles.

The members of the winning teams gathered around him while the others went back to playing volleyball. Face moved in closer to Zeke to hear what he was going to say.

"Line up cherries!" Zeke shouted.

Each man rushing to be in line so that he could carry out his inspection. Each soldier standing with his shoulders back and eyes forward.

"Got some good dope here," Zeke said gesturing to his pocket, "it's good shit. Anyone want any?"

When no one answered, Zeke continued. "That's good because I don't have any dope and I don't want any dopers in my platoon, nor do I want dummies. So anyone who is a doper or a dummy fall out now."

Face grinned when he saw all the cherries looking at each other, not knowing what to do. He thought about intervening but decide to let Zeke do all the shouting, his head was too sore to have it start throbbing again when he raised his voice.

"Good, I don't want no dummies either, and I do not want any bleeders," he said, pushing four of the men lined up in front of him to the back row, "I cannot stand the sight of blood."

"What about him?." One of the enlisted men asked when he saw the bandage of Face's head.

"First off son, he is the L-T and was injured in the line of duty." Zeke said gesturing to Face. He had no intention of telling anyone how Face had come about his injuries. Looking back at the man who had raised the question, he asked, "What's your name?"

"Henderson, sir." The soldier replied.

"Did you volunteer for the army son?"

"Yes sergeant." Henderson replied, not breaking his stare at Zeke.
"Why didn't you step out with the other dummies when I said to?" Zeke asked and then turned to Face.

"L-T did you volunteer to be here?" The sergeant asked, hoping that Face would give his answer.

Face came closer to where Zeke was, avoiding the mud on the ground. "Well sergeant Anderson I would have to say yes to that one. It was either volunteer or D.I.E." Face grinned spelling the word die.

"D.I.E sir?" asked one of the recruits that was paying full attention to him.

"It was the Army's term for guys like me who 'volunteered' only because we knew we were about to be drafted. I suggest you listen to your sergeant now." Face replied.

"O.K you heard the lieutenant, I want survivors and if I call your name I want you to step forward."

As he perused the list of each man's skills, he looked at them all again before making his final decision.

"Barnes, Henderson, Stevens, Machio, Webber, Gordon. The rest of you men are dismissed, better luck next time. All right you men are my platoon, pack your trash we leave at 1400 hours. Move! Move! Move!"

Seeing the men who had been chosen to fill the positions on the platoon, Face grinned, recalling his first day of being chosen for an assignment.

"Looks like you got a good bunch there Zeke." Face said congratulating him on his selection.

"You know me Face, only take the best that is on offer." Zeke replied, pulling a cigar from his shirt pocket.

"Don't I know it." Face gently complained when he saw his lost cigar find its way to Zeke's mouth.

"You know the first time I came here and got recruits was when I met Purcell and Horn. You know I'm going to miss Horn, even though he was a conscientious objector." Zeke uttered, fingering the harmonica which he carried in his pocket.

"Well old buddy, we'll find you another harmonica player, maybe someone who can teach you how to play before we have to throw.."

"Listen.., listen! Hey do you hear that?" Zeke asked excitedly, hearing the haunting strains of harmonica music coming from behind the billet.

Before Face could say 'oh no, not another one' Zeke had scarpered around the corner, leaving Face to follow him.

When Face caught up with Zeke he was talking with the player of the music.

"That's 'digger's blues' and that ain't bad either. That is good, I'm telling you that is first rate." Zeke offered as he stood in front of the man.

"Hey thanks."

"Where did you learn to play like that?"

"Well I'm from Chicago, a lot of blues in Chicago."

Oh yeah, yeah, …, Junior Wells, Paul Butterfield…" Zeke began to say.

"Butterfield's a friend of mine.

"No." Zeke said, shocked that the soldier knew of Butterfield.

"Yeah, him and Barry Goldberg and Al Cooper too.

"Those guys are the greatest. I can't even find 'C' chord half the time."

"Don't I know it." Jibed Face as he listened in to the conversation.

"I could show you it's not that hard." The soldier offered.

"Can you supply ear muffs as well?" Face asked good naturedly as Zeke looked towards the heavens.

"Yeah, tell you what, I'm gonna put you in Bravo company you're going to be in my platoon." Zeke declared.

"Great just what we need, another mouth organist. Oh well since you're joining the platoon I am lieutenant Peck and this is sergeant Anderson. What's your name?"

"Hale, sir. Private, first class." Hale said extending his hand.

"We leave in 1400 hours pack your stuff." Zeke said, grinning that he had located a fellow blues player.

"Great just what we need, another mouth organist. Oh well since you're joining the platoon I am lieutenant Peck and this is sergeant Anderson. What's your name?"

"Hale, sir. Private, first class." Hale said extending his hand.

"We leave in 1400 hours pack your stuff." Zeke said, grinning that he had located a fellow blues player.

"Welcome to 'Bravo company' boys." Face smiled as he shut the gate on the truck. "Sergeant Anderson and I will meet you back at camp, we've got some recon work to do on the way." Explained the lieutenant as he signaled to the driver that all was secure.

With a chorus of 'yes sir' the truck departed with the eager recruits.

"Well Zeke, old buddy we've got work to do." Face grinned, clapping his hand on Zeke's shoulder.

On the way over to where Murdock was refueling the chopper, Face explained to Zeke all about Harriett. While they were still laughing about it they saw Murdock unhooking the fuel line and giving the chopper a friendly pat.

"All set to go Face? 'cause the sooner we get back the sooner I can give 'Harriett' her wax job." Murdock smiled emphatically.

"I tell you Zeke, he's in love with this chopper, next thing you know he'll be proposing to it." Face jibed Murdock, while Zeke enjoyed the light heartedness.

"keep talking like that Face and you won't get an invite to the wedding." Murdock growled, turning to speak to the corpsman who had just joined them.

"Put the fuel on my tab." The zany pilot smiled.

"But sir…" The corpsman started to say.

"No, I insist, after all if it makes 'Harriett' happy it makes me happy." Murdock finished and climbed into the chopper.

"Uh…, lieutenant, sir…..may I ask who 'Harriett' is?" Asked the stunned corpsman.

"Trust me…, you do not want to know." Face smiled as he signaled Zeke to get on board.

Face and Zeke took their places in the chopper, strapped themselves in and gave Murdock the all clear.

Within minutes they had departed the base and overtaken the truck transporting the new recruits.

"So do you know what we're meant to be looking for?" Zeke asked, watching the truck disappear from view.

"Yeah, word is from AO (Area of operations) is that the VC are advancing towards the South, quicker than anyone had thought. Our job my friend is to locate said VC forces and report with their locations."

"Yeah but face, what's the catch?" Zeke asked, guessing that this task was not going to be as easy as it sounded.

"Zeke, I'm hurt that you could ask such a thing. Trust me, it's going to be a piece of cake." Smiled Face, who resumed watching the ground below him.

"You know Face coming from you those are the two most scariest words in the English language, besides from this height, how are we meant to tell if they are VC or not?"

"Simple, we just pull them over and ask for their driver's licence." Face laughed.

Zeke shook his head in disbelief but soon saw the funny side and he too enjoyed the joke.

"Hey Murdock, can you take us down a little lower?" Face asked, watching the moving troops pass through the open cover below.

As Murdock maneuvered the chopper so that Face could get a better view of how many troops were passing below, the rotor of the chopper was hit with a 105mm howitzer.

"HANG ON!" Murdock yelled, fighting for control of the chopper as it spun in dizzying circles.

In the back of the chopper, Face and Zeke both tightened their seatbelts an extra notch and dug their fingers into their seats as the chopper plummeted towards the ground below, smoke pouring from the engine.

In the cockpit. Murdock was pulling hard on the control stick as the stricken craft yawed wildly out of control. Having the presence of mind, he hit the fuel release, dumping what was left of the aviation gas on the vegetation that they were quickly descending on.

In the cockpit. Murdock was pulling hard on the control stick as the stricken craft yawed wildly out of control. Having the presence of mind, he hit the fuel release, dumping what was left of the aviation gas on the vegetation that they were quickly descending on.

"Shit! There goes the 'Jesus nut'!" Murdock swore as he felt the chopper begin to spin violently, like a small vessel tossed amongst giant swells at sea. Murdock knew instantly from the pull of the chopper that the main rotor retaining nut which holds the rotor onto the rest of the chopper had gone.

"I guess only Jesus can help us now." He muttered to himself. There being nothing else he could do to ensure a softer landing, or directing the craft to a landing spot, Murdock braced himself as his beloved chopper plunged rapidly to the canopy of the jungle.

Huge branches broke and gave way to the force of the chopper crashing through the dense jungle cover. Trees that had stood for many years fell by the wayside as the huge craft tore a downward path through them. The blades sheared from the craft, embedded themselves into the massive trunks, while the tail section ruptured and came to its precarious resting place over the immense branches. The bulk of the huey continued to fall, shattering the large branches as thought they were twigs, until it to came to its final resting place, amongst the flora of the jungle floor.

Three inert figures lay in the chopper, while the metal body creaked and moaned as it settled. Wild boars that had been feeding had fled, as had the hundreds of migratory birds, all the while the occupants not knowing or hearing the sounds of wildlife around them.

Zeke was the first to regain consciousness and willed his body to an upright position, gingerly holding his ribs as he did so. After a cursory check he unstrapped himself from his seat and moved over to where Face was lying, sprawled awkwardly across his seat.

While checking the lieutenant for any signs of injury, he heard Murdock calling from the front of the huey.

"Hang on Murdock, I'll be with you in a minute. Are you hurt?" Zeke asked, whilst inspecting the cut on Face's head that had reopened.

"Zeke? Tell me that its you and not my imagination." Murdock beseeched as he began to free himself from his harness.

"Yeah it's me Murdock, I'm okay what about you?" Zeke questioned as he undid the lieutenants seatbelt.

There was a muffled reply from the cockpit which Zeke became concerned about. "MURDOCK?" He yelled, waking Face out of his slumber.

"Is Murdock all right?" Face asked, wincing a little as he moved himself to a sitting position.

"I'm not sure, but if you're okay, I'd like to go and check on him." Zeke said, getting Face to hold a small sterile swab in place. "I'll be back to check on you soon."

Zeke gave face one last look before he clambered out of the misshapen craft to locate Murdock.

"Go…., I'll be fine." Grinned Face, motioning for Zeke to go and check no Murdock, while he exited the chopper.

Face was leaning against a tree when Zeke returned with a forlorn looking Murdock, who apart from being a little shaken was otherwise all right.

"Murdock what's wrong?" Face asked as he neared his friend.

"I ... I ... I didn't even get to give Harriett a wax job and now she's all broken. Face do you think that she'll ever forgive me?" Murdock sobbed into his jacket.

Zeke shrugged his shoulders, not knowing how to comfort or humor the dismal pilot, while Face supported Murdock, occasionally patting him on his back.

"Come on Murdock, I'm sure the army will cough up for another one…., hell Murdock I should be able to find you one myself." Face grinned, trying to break Murdock from his pitiable mood.

"You mean it Face? You really mean it?" Murdock asked excitedly, like a child being given a much awaited gift.

"Trust me." Face beamed, embracing Murdock in a comforting hug.

Zeke shook his head and rolled his eyes, when he heard Face say 'trust me'.
'Oh boy, where is he going to come up with another bird? Ands who's bird will it be?' Zeke silently asked himself, imagining Face conning some poor PX operator out of a helicopter, that he'd only just requisitioned.

"Have you tried using the chopper radio?" Face asked, still pressing the small bandage against the reopened cut on his head, unsuccessfully trying to swat Zeke's hand away while he spoke.

"Face would you just stay still for a minute!" Zeke growled, becoming exasperated with his attempts at trying to get the bandage to stay in place. "Murdock can you help me out here?"

"How?" Murdock asked, unsure of what Zeke wanted. "And Face, the radio's dead. Got any other suggestions?"

"Captain Murdock," Zeke replied, empathizing the word captain, " do you not outrank the lieutenant here?" The sergeant finished gesturing with his free hand to the insignia that each wore.

"Oh yeah." Murdock grinned. "Lieutenant Peck I am giving you a direct order to sit down and let the good sergeant take a look at that think skull of yours and do what he has to do."

"Murdock you can't be serious." Winged Face as Zeke tried to make him sit down.

"Lieutenant Peck I believe I just gave you an order. Do I take it that you are disobeying that order? I could always have you put on report for this." Murdock gloated, enjoying the sense of authority he held over Face.

"You wouldn't." Face stated, looking for a sign from Murdock that the captain was only pulling his leg.

"Ahhh, I do believe that now would be an appropriate time for me to say the famous words of a certain lieutenant 'Trust Me'" The zany pilot responded, taking pleasure in seeing Face do as he was ordered to do.

When Zeke was satisified that he had stopped the bleeding as best he could he gave Face an hand up and promptly handed him two pain killers. "I don't want to listen to you complaining of a headache all the way back."

Obligingly Face accepted the pain killers and swallowed them, chasing them down with some water.

"Look we can't stand here all day, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Those Charlie's are bound to be coming this way soon, lets grab what we need from the chopper and get out of here." Face said, taking command.

Murdock, although he outranked Face, was quite happy to follow Face's lead. He was not much of a plan maker himself ad had gown accustomed to heeding either Hannibal's or Face's suggestions.

Camouflaging themselves to blend in with their surroundings and gathering as much ammo as they could carry, Face grabbed a PRC 25 radio pack and slung it over his shoulders, while Zeke grabbed some food and first aid supplies that had been packed as emergency provisions on the chopper.

Murdock had rummaged through the chopper and found some trip-flares and a starlight scope which he took and placed in the knap sack that he'd had in the front of the chopper.

Making sure that they had stripped the chopper of all useful supplies, they got their bearings and headed south.

"Are you sure we're going the right way Face?" Murdock asked, wiping the sweat from his brow.

The late afternoon sun was beating down on the wary travelers as the transversed the terrain. The shade afforded to them by the copious tree leaves was welcomed, when face stopped to check the compass.

"Unless magnetic North has moved Murdock, I'd say we are heading in the right direction." Face looked upwards again at the fierce sun, squinting from its rays.

"If it's all right with the captain, I' say that we rest here a while and then move on again and find somewhere to make camp for the night."

"Lieutenant that is a mighty fine idea." Murdock drawled, puffing on a make believe cigar. "We stop for fifteen minutes and then get going again. But Face can we use your watch, 'cause my Mickey mouse one broke when we crashed."

After they had rested and replenished themselves with liquid they continued on, beating their way through overgrown vines and tree roots that had snaked up out of the ground.

"What time do you reckon the truck with the new recruits will be in at camp?" Zeke asked as he pushed another vine out of his way.

"Well they left at 1400 hours, it's roughly a three hour trip by road giving thirty minutes or so for any water buffalo that might have got in the way." Face replied, getting the general idea of what Zeke was getting at.

"It's 1720 hours now, and its' going to get dark soon. So you can kiss any hope of a rescue tonight goodbye, the best that ewe can hope for is that someone has seen the downed chopper on their way back to base. The chances of that are pretty slim considering we were out doing reconnaissance, but on the other hand…." Face began to surmise.

"On the other hand there's different fingers." Smiled Murdock, unable to resist the temptation of a little humor.

"Apart from that captain!" Face said becoming agitated, "we have not been maintaining radio contact, so Hannibal may have a spotter craft out looking for us now."

"Lieutenant thank you for your thoughtful insight but…" Murdock snapped before Zeke stopped him from saying something that he might regret.

Zeke put his first two fingers into his mouth and whistled sharply. When Murdock and Face stopped their altercation before it escalated into a full blown battle of friends quickly becoming ex friends.

"If you ladies have quite finished, may I suggest that we stop here for the night. Face you need to rest, and Murdock I don't know about you but I could do with a break." Zeke voiced with an air of annoyance at the way Murdock and Face had been at each others throats for the better part of the afternoon.

Face nodded and shrugged the PRC 25 radio from his shoulder. "Maybe I can get a better signal from here…, it's worth a try."

"Let me give you a hand Face." Murdock said, reaching for the personal radio communications unit. "You think up there may be a better place to try from?" The captain asked, pointing to a small rise.

Together Face and Murdock trudged off to the spot that Murdock had pointed out and tried raising their base.

"Alpha Bravo, Alpha Bravo this is Whiskey November do you copy? I repeat do you copy?" Face spoke into the mouthpiece. The only reply was static.

"Any luck?" Murdock asked, eagerly awaiting any sign from Face that they may be rescued in the near future.

" 'fraid not Murdock. Must be too much interference…, the signal's just bouncing all over the place. Let's head back to where Zeke is and try again tomorrow." Face suggested as he flashed Murdock one of his winning smiles.

"Hey Face."

"Yeah Murdock."

"I'm sorry…., you know for what I said back there."

"Look Murdock, it wasn't your fault. Hell you know what I'm like when I've got a headache and right now I think I have the mother of all headaches. How about we just forget it?"

"So does this mean your not angry at me?"

"Murdock, I never meant to be angry with you…., hell you could out me on report. Now why would I wasn't to ruin a good friendship…., we're a team." Face smiled, putting his arm around Murdock's shoulder as he spoke.

"Like Chip 'n' Dale, Bugs and Elmer, Road runner and Wyle . E. Coyote….and.."

"Hey Murdock I get the picture." Chuckled face, relieved that any animosity between them had vanished.

"You didn't let me finish. I was going to say like Laurel and Hardy." Murdock smiled.

"I think that couple applies more aptly to Hannibal and BA." Laughed Face as he envisaged what it would look like.

"Who do you think would be Laurel? Maybe that could be BA." Surmised Murdock as he pondered the outcome.

"Murdock if I were you I wouldn't suggest it to BA, not even in your wildest dreams. That is not if you enjoy breathing." Face cautioned as they came upon Zeke.

"Don't tell BA what?" Zeke asked, pleased to see that Face and Murdock were getting along again.

"Zeke it's a little like 'Harriett' you don't want to know." Face explained, as he lowered himself to a log that he had guessed would make a comfortable seat.

"Enough said, huh L-T?" Zeke grinned. "I'll take first watch, I've fixed dinner?" He added passing a pack of c-rations each to Face sand Murdock.

"What was wrong with it?" Face asked, his face in a serious poker face expression as he investigated the item that was being passed as dinner.

"Face get some sleep." Zeke suggested, trying to hide his own smirk at face's remark. "I'll wake you when it's your watch."

After consuming dinner, Face and Murdock stretched out and lulled themselves to sleep with dreams of warm sands and crystal blue seas, anything far away from the world they were in now.

Murdock had taken the last watch and woke both Zeke and Face, when the shafts of first light made themselves known.

"C'mon guys time to get up. Wakey, wakey rise 'n shine." He said prodding both of the sleeping soldiers into some form of alertness.

"Murdock, what time is it?" Face said, sitting up blearily rubbing his eyes and wincing when he rubbed the right eye.

"It's O 500 hours Face, c'mon no point wasting a good day in bed, now get up. You too sleeping beauty." Murdock said to Zeke in a chipper voice.

"Better let him sleep Murdock, old Zeke needs his beauty sleep." Grinned Face.

"I heard that lieutenant and easy on the old, besides it seems to me a case of the pot calling the kettle black or however that saying is meant to go. You've got one hell of a shiner there Face." Zeke replied, dragging himself off his bed of leaves that he had made.

"Whew." Murdock whistled softly as he saw how dark his eye had become.
"Well Face, you won't need any cammo paint on that today."

"yeah, okay, okay I get the point…, keep out of the way of flying objects." Face said standing up and tucking his shirt in.

After a quick breakfast the trio set out on their homeward journey, with Zeke taking point and Murdock bringing up the rear. Their journey through the lush jungle was much the same as previous, but at around 1300 hours when Face had taken point things changed.

Moving stealthily through the jungle, they began to pick up signs that the enemy had passed through this way recently. Face crept forward and took up a position on the bank of a small creek and smelled the aroma of cooking being done.

He had a good view of the enemy sitting down to have a meal. 'Must be break time' he said to himself, checking his watch. Sure enough it was 1300 hours, the usual break time for North and South Vietnamese.

Face crouched down, all camouflaged looking like the flora around him, blending in with the shrub he was watching from, watching the opposite side of the bank for movement. He signaled Murdock and Zeke to hold their position.

He knew that the VC had to be close, but was not sure how close they were, whether any were on his side of the embankment or not. As Face continued to watch a NVA uniformed Charlie appeared on the opposite side, directly in front of Face.

"Oh God." Face said as he breathed in deeply, felling his heart almost stop at the shear shock of being so close to the enemy. The VC soldier had gone down the side of the embankment to wash his face and hands, and looked up to see Face looking straight at him.

Face thought that his number was up and couldn't believe what happened next. The VC soldier looked like he started to smile when he saw Face, he then raised his hand and waved, mistaking Face for a fellow, VC soldier.

In camouflage and in his cramped position Face did look short enough to be a VC. Not wanting to be in this compromising position of being able to shout a warning to the others Face raised his hand which he had placed a knife in and threw it with such swiftness his enemy did not know what had hit him. The knife had struck cleanly in the man's heart, killing him silently and quickly.

Quietly he made his way back to where Zeke and Murdock were waiting. He was still shaking from the experience, at having been seen by the enemy and having killed a man who probably didn't know what he was fighting for anyway.

Although he had justified to himself that it was either kill or be killed, it didn't make taking another life any easier or any more excusable. It was a fact of war, a fact that he detested in all its entirety.

"Face are you all right?" Murdock asked, seeing Face pale under the camouflage make-up.

Face nodded and put his hand to his mouth trying to resist the urge to throw up. Unable to contain the contents of his stomach any more he lurched behind the nearest tree and heaved until he could no more.

"Is Face okay Murdock?" Zeke asked, unsure why or what had made Face ill.

"It's his predisposition to this whole bloody war. When he's had to kill someone without them fighting back, it has this effect." Murdock explained as he waited for Face to join them.

"I'd say we better get going. They're going to know sooner or later that we've been here. A dead soldier is a dead give away like that." Face said.

With the others in agreeance, they left their current position and headed for an alternate route South.

In an hour they had picked up their pace and by Murdock's reckoning traveled 10 clicks through the heavy wooded area. "We must be getting close to home." Murdock said excitedly.

Catastrophically for the trio not close enough, waiting for them on the Northern side of the Mekong Delta was a party of VC soldiers.

"Dung Lai! Dung Lai" Shouted the commander of the small assault team of VC's.

Raising their arms Face muttered, "SNAFU, situation normal all fucked up, again".

His words earned him a blow to his mid section.

"What do you mean they are more than twenty four hours overdue? Why was I not informed earlier of this? For Christ's sake man, don't just stand there, I need answers and I need them now!" Bellowed Phillips as he paced back and forth in his office, looking at the bearer of the news as though he were the enemy.

"I-I-I-I-I was only told about it this morning sir when I came on duty, sir" answered the young corporal respectfully.

While Phillips was still seething about the news, there was a rap on the office door.
"Excuse me general but colonel Smith is here as requested." Susan said as she held the door open, waiting for a response

"Thank you, please show him in." Phillips sighed and then turned his gaze towards the young corporal. "Dismissed son, and as the old adage goes I did not mean to shoot the messenger." The general apologized , and returned the salute given by the corporal.

"Ex-ex-ex-cuse me colonel , ma'am." The exiting corporal said as he squeezed past Hannibal, whose frame was engulfing the doorway.

"He seems a bit skittish." Hannibal said as he entered the room and closed the door behind him.

"He has every right to be." Phillips agreed before seating himself behind his desk and opening up his prized cigar box, offering Hannibal one.

"I take it this is not a social call Tony. What's on your mind, if you don't mind me asking. You seem pretty uptight." Hannibal surmised, accepting the cigar that had been offered to him.

"Always did say that you were pretty perceptive John." Phillips answered and took a map out of his drawer before continuing.

"John, we have not had any contact with captain Murdock since yesterday afternoon, just after 1400 hours. As you know he had taken lieutenant Peck and Sergeant Anderson with him on a recon flight. I have just learned that they are well over the E.T.A that we had and.."

Before he could say anymore, Hannibal halted what Phillips was saying. "You mean this is the first you've heard about it? When did you find out? What 's being done? Has anyone heard anything?" The colonel was becoming worried and his questions reflected his mood.

"Yes, about ten minutes ago, nothing at present, not as far as I am aware, in that order." Phillips replied, getting up from his side of the table and walking round to Hannibal.

"Hannibal we'll do everything we can to bring them home. This crazy war has seen too many families destroyed by loved ones not returning. Hannibal believe me we will find them." The general sympathized as he placed his hand on Hannibal's shoulder.

"How soon before we can get a chopper in the air?" Hannibal asked, the pain in his eyes imploring Tony for an urgent response.

"As soon as you're ready to go. I will get a chopper on stand by for you."

"Thanks Tony, I really do appreciate it. Well I guess I had better let BA know. We'll be leaving within the next ten minutes." Hannibal said, trying to force a small smile for Tony's benefit as much as his own.

As Hannibal had estimated they were ready to go within the ten minutes. BA had not taken the news well and now the pilot that had been assigned to them was voicing his own opinions.

"If they went down in that area they're as good as dead or wishing that they were." He stated matter of factly.

"When I want you're opinion I'll ask for it!" Hannibal berated the pilot, forcing him back against the side of his chopper. Hannibal placed his forearm against the pilot's neck as he did so, leaving the pilot gasping for air.

"I'm sorry sir." The pilot replied huskily as he eased his throat, when BA pulled Hannibal away from the pilot. He in turn also gave the pilot a threatening look to which the pilot retreated to the relevant safety of his cockpit.

BA knew that Hannibal refused to accept the fact that the missing men could well be dead. But damned if he were going to let some wet behind the ears kid tell him what to expect. He'd seen it too many to time to keep count of.

'C'mon kin give me sign, let me know where you are' Hannibal thought to himself as they flew over the last known aerial route that the ill fated chopper had taken the day before.

As Face winced at the strike he'd taken to his ribs, the VC soldiers stripped them of all weapons, food rations, medical supplies and anything else that might be deemed useful by the VC's.

While they were being searched Face saw Murdock start to shake.
'Hang in there Murdock, don't you crack up on me now'. Face silently thought as he watched one of the VC search through Murdock's beloved jacket.

When it was the lieutenant's turn to be searched by the enemy soldiers, Face saw the CO of the small team walk over to Murdock.

"Ten ahh la gi? Ten ahh la gi? Can cuoc?!"(what is your name? What is your name? Your identification?) Vehemently spat the CO of the soldiers, as he grabbed Murdock by his collar.

"Khong biet. Xin loi." (I don't understand. I'm sorry) Murdock replied nervously as a gun was raised to the side of his temple.

"Toy ten trung uy Murdock. Trung uy Murdock." (He is sergeant Murdock. Sergeant Murdock) Face replied hoping that the VC commander would believe him. He knew that once he uttered some words in Vietnamese the attention would be taken away from the quivering Murdock to himself.

Face knew that Murdock although he outranked him, was in no state to be questioned and tormented by the VC.

Not satisfied with the answer he was given the commander searched Murdock for any identifying emblems that would reveal the pilot's true rank. When he found none, he turned his focus back to Face who was being held firmly by two soldiers, one on each side of him.

Face let out a sigh of relief when the commander approached him.

"Ten ahh la gi? Can cuoc?" The commander repeated again, unsure how much Vietnamese that his prisoner understood.

"Dai wan Peck." Face answered, gesturing towards his lieutenant's bars with his eyes.

After the CO had seen the lieutenant's bars, he spoke to his soldiers restraining Face.

"Lai dai guy nai!" (Bring him here!) He ordered, pointing to a spot a short distance away.

Murdock and Zeke both called after him, asking where he was going.

"You two stay there and don't say anything, I'll be fine." Face yelled back as he was dragged to where the CO was waiting.

When they were in the spot pointed out by the CO, face spoke to him. " Ten ahh la gi? "
He did not expect the VC soldier to answer him but thought it worthy of asking all the same.

"Toy ten dai uy Diem." (I am captain Diem) Replied the smiling soldier.

"Great still outranked." Face muttered to himself when Diem revealed that he was a Captain.

The VC Captain asked Face several questions, regarding the size of the base that he was from, the weapons that thy had and tactical assault plans that he was privy to.

Playing dumb Face responded. "Toy kung biet tieng Viet." (I don't understand the Vietnamese language).

Diem laughed at him ad struck his already abused ribs again using a palm strike. The blow winded Face for several seconds as he let his body sag between the two holding him.

Reaching down, Diem grabbed Face by the collar and yanked his head upright and looked at the lieutenant's black eye that he had received earlier. He laughed menacingly at him and ran his finger over the bruise that had spread.

"Khong xau Peck. Minh oi? Diem again laughed. Telling Peck not to worry about his bruise and asking whether it was his sweetheart that had done it.

"Du Mi Ami!" Face cursed in Vietnamese and Diem and his men. Wishing that he could break free from the restraining arms that were holding him and deal with Diem on a one to one basis.

Diem retaliated the remark with another blow that caused Face to cry out in pain. Murdock and Zeke cringed when they heard the gut wrenching cry, but remained calm, hoping that Face would soon be returned to them.

Their hopes were answered when they saw Face being forced to walk in front of his captors with his arms bound behind his back.

Murdock opened his mouth to ask face if he was okay but stopped when he saw Face shake his head, cautioning them to remain silent.

Diem ordered his men to secure the other prisoners in the same fashion. When this was done the VC pushed them forward to join Face. One of the bo dai (uniformed NVA soldier) took point and was followed by Zeke, Murdock and Face, with Diem walking beside Face and the remaining VC behind them.

They had been marching for some time before Diem halted the procession and ordered a small rest period. While his men were resting he approached Face and jeered at them all when he saw the multitude of cuts they had suffered when they had stumbled during the walk and had received cuts from the unforgiving elephant grass *.

"Chung ta uuh dao?" Face asked, trying to find out where they were. His question went unanswered as he had suspected it would.

When Diem walked away Murdock moved closer to Face. "When did you learn to speak Vietnamese?" He whispered, not wanting to be heard by Diem.

"I don't know a lot, just enough to get by and find out what we need to know, and Murdock for the time being your rank is a Sergeant." Face grinned, the first time he had been able to do so since their capture.

"Why Face?" Murdock asked bewilderedly. He had heard Face say to the VC that he was a sergeant but as yet had not been able to work out why.

"Murdock if they knew different, they'd have killed you. A pilot who is also a Captain does not go down to well with these guys.., trust me I know." Replied Face, recalling a time when another pilot he knew had been captured and tortured relentlessly simply because he was a Captain.

Murdock nodded and whispered 'thank you'. He edged his way back to where he had been before Diem had left to return to the main group.

Once they were moving again, it did not take them long before they came a cross an area which Face had often heard referred to as the 'Rung Sat Special Zone'.

It was a massive mangrove swamp located on the northeastern edge of the Mekong Delta, a maze of canals, twisted vines and mud and it was swarming with Vietcong and NVA troops.

To the NVA this are was known as 'The Forest of Assassins' and the most feared predators were the Navy Seals in the zone. Face saw soldiers take aim at the water and fire a volley of shots into it, this confirmed to Face what he had suspected they were indeed in the 'Rung Sat Special Zone'.

Still bound the three prisoners were forced to enter the water to cross to the other side. When Murdock lost his footing and went under, the VC mocked him when he came up spluttering and gasping for air.

"Murdock?" Face yelled, wanting to make sure that his friend was all right. He had realized all too late that he had verbally spoken what he had thought, when he felt the butt of a AK-47.

He too went under the murky water, filling his lungs with the vile tasting liquid. He pushed his way back to the top of the surface and coughed until he was sure he had rid his body of the repulsive tasting muck.

On the other side of the crossing, the VC pulled their prisoners up the embankment and made them march on again.

This time without the cover of the trees, protecting them from the sun. The heat bored into each part of their skin, any part which was not caked with the mud from the Mekong Delta, was being scorched by the fierce heat.

Diem's men were able to drink when they wished, leaving the prisoners to suffer in the heat. They were parched and becoming dehydrated. At this point Face decided to take matters into his own hands.

"Chung ta toy caht!" (We are thirsty!) Face spoke angrily, hoping to gain Diem's attention. The attention was gained and rewarded with a resounding slap from Diem to the side of the lieutenant's face.

"Xin.., dai uy Diem." (Please…captain Diem) Face asked, not wanting to lose face with his captor.

"Dung lai." Diem called to his men and beckoned one of them to bring the canteen which had been taken from Face when they had first been caught.

Diem took it and poured the precious liquid into the mouths of his P.O.W's. When their thirst had been quenched, Face thanked the captain.

"Ca'm o-n. . Ca'm o-n nhienu." (Thank you, thank you very much). Face said, hoping that the Captain would look favorably on their behaviour.

The Captain gave a fleeting smile and signaled to move on again.

* Elephant grass = tall, razor-edged tropical plant indigenous to certain parts of Vietnam.

"Dung lai." Diem called to his men and beckoned one of them to bring the canteen which had been taken from Face when they had first been caught.

Diem took it and poured the precious liquid into the mouths of his P.O.W's. When their thirst had been quenched, Face thanked the captain.

"Ca'm o-n. . Ca'm o-n nhienu." (Thank you, thank you very much). Face said, hoping that the Captain would look favorably on their behavior.

The Captain gave a fleeting smile and signaled to move on again.

The next three klicks of the trek were traversed in silence, Diem's men watching for any movement of their enemy, while Face continued to look for any opportunity that they could use to escape.

'Survival depends on having what you need when you need it, which mean that you must keep what you need until you need it', Face thought to himself, trying to recall where and when he had heard that particular phrase said to him.

Diem had changed course, opting for a shorter route to the intended destination. "Dung lai." Diem said in a moderately low voice.

That was one phrase that Murdock and Zeke knew, and so responded immediately. They stood waiting and watching for Diem's next move. Face craned his head to try and catch the key words that Diem was saying to his men.

"Di trai…, di len." (Go left, go up) Diem instructed, and watched as the man in his command obeyed the order he was given. Diem saw Face leaning towards his direction and walked over to him.

"Dai wan…, ang hei?" (Lieutenant…, you understand?) Diem asked, suspecting that the lieutenant had lied to him before about understanding Viet.

"Toi hei mot it tieng Viet." (I understand a little Vietnamese) Peck answered, hoping fervently that Diem did not see through his bluff. With his arms still bound behind his back, Face stood at attention with his shoulders back.

Diem was not oblivious to his captives ploy and decided to ignore the challenge. He spoke to Face in what little English he did know. "You understand yes?" Diem asked in broken syllables, whilst staring directly into Face's eyes, trying to detect any reluctance in speaking the truth.

"I know enough to get by." Admitted Face, not breaking his own gaze from Diem's expressionless face.

"And them? They also understand yes?" Diem again asked, pointing at both Murdock and Zeke.

Face shook his head. "No. They do not speak Viet." He tried to flex his arms which were beginning to rebel against their cramped position. He did this more in annoyance at himself for having to admit to Diem that he did understand what was being said.

"You translate for them." Diem stated, gesturing towards the two eager faces looking in his direction.

"I will." Face replied respectfully, in a tone that did not show brashness or insolence.

While Diem waited for his scout to return, he let Face join his friends who seemed anxious to speak with him. The VC Captain watched as Face rejoined his friends and spoke with them.

"I do not know how much English he knows, but just be careful what you say. He's not stupid and he knows when he is being lied to." Face said, recalling the beating he had received from Diem.

"Face where and when did you learn Vietnamese?" Murdock asked incredulously. "Does Hannibal know you speak the language?" He added before Face got a chance to respond.

"It's a long story Murdock, I'll tell you later." Face answered, still watching Diem's every movement like a hawk watching its prey.

"I hope that we are around later to hear it good buddy." Zeke said, voicing what Murdock had been thinking.

"Me too." Face admonished in a low voice, hoping that there would be time later to talk. "In the meantime, listen to me, watch for any signs and be careful. Diem thinks that I only understand a bit of his language, that is our advantage. Understand?" Face spoke, still keeping his voice low enough that the gentle wind did not carry it along.

Before they could say anymore, Diem was signaling his men to move out and pushed the three prisoners up the beginning of the incline, letting them find their own footing after that.

It was another two hours before they stopped walking again. This time stopping to make camp. Diem ordered his men to untie the prisoners while they relieved themselves and later ate and drank, all the time keeping their AK47s trained on them. Face, Murdock and Zeke bedded down on the small ferns that grew prolifically around the trees.

Murdock silently thanked the heavens above that they were allowed to be left unrestrained that night and turned to see Zeke and Face already asleep. Offering another silent prayer of hope of a rescue, Murdock too closed his eyes and let his exhausted body succumb to the blissful bounty of sleep.

Face thought he was hearing things when he next awoke. He looked at his watch and saw that it was oh- 600 hours, but was still curious about the noise.

It had the distinct sound of gears being graunched and grinded into position, as if the driver was unable to syncromesh the gear change properly. 'That's it…it's a bloody truck' Face thought, trying to maneuver himself to a sitting position, only to be forced back down again by the barrel of a rifle.

"Xuong!" (Down!) Diem snarled as he watched Face become more awake and aware of his surroundings.

When Face moved to try and sit up, Diem trained the AK47 over the sleeping forms of Murdock and Zeke.

"I get the hint asshole." Face mumbled, hoping that Diem had no idea of what he was saying. He remained motionless but listened carefully to the rumbling of the truck and any voices that he could hear.

He distinctly heard three trucks pass by each sounding as overworked as the other.
'BA would have kittens if he heard the engines of those trucks.' Face smiled to himself, recalling how every piece of machinery that BA turned his spanner to sounded like a symphony on wheels.

Diem had caught the expression of the Lieutenant's face and was puzzled as to what this meant. He tried to shake the feeling of unease and concentrated on what he wanted to achieve.

He wanted to get his prisoners to the POW camp himself and reap all the glory of capturing three spies. He wanted to make sure that this time he was not overlooked when the promotions list came round.

After the small convoy had passed he ordered his men to rouse the other two sleeping prisoners.

"I thought I ordered room service this morning." Murdock yawned in an exaggerated manner waving the barrel of the rifle away.

"Dinky dau." (You're crazy) laughed the guard who had his rifle aimed at Murdock, although he did not understand what was being said to him. The actions of the sergeant were enough.

"What he say?" Diem asked Face, dragging him to his feet.

"Xin dua toi knach san an sang." (Please bring me hotel breakfast) Face translated as roughly as he could, trying not to smile as he pictured the VC bringing Murdock breakfast in bed.

Diem laughed heartily when he heard the translation as did the others when they too heard. The breakfast that Face, Murdock and Zeke were given was far from what Murdock had wished for but he accepted it all the same. His growling stomach reminded him of how hungry he was.

A while later after having finished what constituted breakfast, Diem instructed his men to rebind his prisoners arms behind their backs.

"Di bau." (Walk) Diem ordered, waving his side arm in the general direction he wanted them to go.

"Beza chung ta di?" (Where do we go now?) Face asked Diem, trying to ascertain where they were and wondering why they did not walk along the road side instead of traipsing through the heavy wooded area.

Diem turned and smiled sadistically at Face. "Khach san Hanoi!" (Hotel Hanoi) He said evilly, making sure to emphasize each word.

Face sighed deeply, his suspicions were confirmed. They were on their way to what was called the 'Hanoi Hilton'.

Hannibal had a poor nights sleep after their abortive recon mission, finding no trace of the trio's helicopter. The next morning he found BA where he'd thought the burly sergeant would be, at the motor pool, tinkering on a jeep that looked as though it had given up the ghost long ago.

He marveled to himself while he watched BA work. His sergeant certainly had a way with tools and engines. If anyone could get this hunk of tin going again it would be BA.

"Morning BA." Hannibal smiled as he approached.

"Glad you didn't say 'good morning', I ain't in a 'good morning' mood." growled BA as he pulled the starter system from the tangled wiring in the jeep.

"Would you like a hand with that Sergeant or are you making this a life's work?" Hannibal questioned while BA continued to struggle to free the wiring.

BA glowered at Hannibal as he removed the starter system. "Ain't nothin' round here works. We get stuck in this God forsaken hell hole and we watch all our friends and people we care about get taken away from us. I ain't gonna take it no more man!"

"BA you know as well as I do that if there were any possible chance of Murdock being able to land that bird of his, he would have." Hannibal consoled BA who had begun to show signs of being visibly worried about his missing friends.

"Yeah …, I know Hannibal, it's just that not knowin' where there at, y'know what I mean." BA sighed, sitting heavily on the tool chest near the jeep that he was working on.

"And that BA is the reason that we are taking a little excursion to go and find them." Hannibal said as he clapped his hand on BA's broad shoulder and pulled out a cigar from his breast pocket on his drab olive green shirt.

"Don't you go lighting them cigars round here man…, can't you read the signs. They say 'No Smoking'!" BA growled as he pulled the beloved cigar from Hannibal and broke it in two.

"Sergeant that was once a fine cigar." Hannibal sighed mournfully as he held a piece of the broken cigar in each hand. "Face got these ones in especially for the General." Hannibal added as he stashed one half of the broken cigar into his pocket and the other between his teeth.

"Anyway BA what I was starting to say before you murdered my cigar…, is that Phillips has given us permission to take a few good men and go and find Face, Murdock and Zeke. Too many people have not gone home from this war alive, and we're not letting them become another statistic of M.I.A soldiers."

BA seemed happy at Hannibal's reasoning and with renewed vigor pulled the rest of the dismembered motor from the jeep.

"Hey Parkes come and earn ya keep…..I want this engine stripped, the wiring sorted out and then you can put it all back together and once it's purring like a kitten you can start on the other jeeps that need fixin' over there". BA smiled as he wiped his greasy hands down the front of his overalls.

Within an hour Hannibal had assembled a platoon of eight men including himself and BA. He read aloud a report that he had been given by General Phillips.

"Latest military intel says that the squad from the NVA was seen headed towards Hanoi with three American prisoners. We have reason to believe that after reading the descriptions of each of the P.O.W's that these men are the missing Captain HM Murdock, Lieutenant Templeton Peck and Sergeant Zeke Anderson. Briefing says quiet AO, some intel about movement but nothing exceptional."

When Hannibal finished reading, he folded the military cable gram and announced what he and General Phillips had planned.

"A morning insertion will take place approximately ten clicks from the Hanoi POW camp, as we feel this is the safest point from which to proceed. The area we will be executing a HALO (High Altitude Low Opening*) jump over is the least fortified area according to the most current intel reports. Are there any questions?"

Hannibal paused and scanned the group for questions. When no questions were asked he ordered his platoon to board the awaiting chopper.

The chopper was piloted by the same pilot who had dared to make a comment yesterday in front of Hannibal. Today he remained quiet, waiting for clearance to lift off.

When they had reached the designated area, Hannibal gave the command to jump. Although he had been apprehensive about flying BA felt comfortable with jumping from the chopper.

Once on the ground and behind enemy lines the parachutes were buried in shallow graves, just enough to allow them to be hidden from view without too much effort. The disturbed soil was then covered with broken branches and fallen leaves to make it appear natural.

Hannibal had moved his men off the LZ and into the heavily wooded area. BA could sense that Hannibal was filled with a renewed purpose of bringing his men home and away from the clutches of their captors.

As the platoon moved stealthily through the wooded area BA noticed movement in the bushes just ahead of their current position.

Raising his hand in a 'Stop' signal, the platoon remained still while BA encroached further to inspect the cause of the movement he had seen.

He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that it was only low bush moving around. 'Animals, not people' he thought as he edged his way back to the waiting platoon. He signaled that it was okay to move on again.

Three clicks on the platoon came upon a small piece of land that had been turned into a humble farm. Six chickens made their way to where the platoon was holed up and then turned to go back to where their feed had been scattered.

A Papasan farmer had just finished feeding his chickens when they went berserk. All hell broke loose with the squawks of the chickens and the barking of the dog, whose attention had been aroused by the birds.

The spooked soldiers in Hannibal's platoon began to return fire at every moving bush, some innocent ones too. People began to run everywhere screaming and crying at the sudden attack.

Hannibal ordered the firing to stop, which by the time he had finished speaking, had ended as suddenly as it had started.

"Bloody hell! What the hell do you clowns think you were doing? Are you trying to give our position away to the VC?" Berated Hannibal as he took charge of the situation again, bringing it under control.

After surveying the area around them for any signs of movement by NVA soldiers, Hannibal emerged from his hiding place and made his way over to where the frightened Papasan farmer was standing, quivering from the eruption of gunfire around him.

"Xin loi. Xin loi." Hannibal apologized to the trembling farmer, lowering his weapon just enough to show him that he does not mean any harm.

Gradually the farmer stopped trembling and nodded his head as he accepted Hannibal's apology.

"You need food?" The farmer asked in broken English as he extended his arms that nursed one of the clucking chickens that he had managed to catch.

"No." Hannibal smiled as he shook his head. Before continuing he looked around at the ramshackle buildings. "You are not VC?" He asked.

"No…, we not VC. Hate VC." The farmer replied.

After a short discussion Hannibal had added another member to his platoon. The man that was working for the Papasan farmer had revealed that he was a former Viet Cong and would be willing to help Hannibal in his mission. Hannibal had often heard of these 'Kit Carson's' but had never had the pleasure of having one in his platoon until now.

*Kit Carson = former Viet Cong who act as guides for the U.S military units.

Twelve hours had passed since the prisoners, had arrived at the prison camp, and Face was still being questioned by the commandant. Face had been forced to kneel between two guards who had kept him upright during the interrogation.

The interrogation had begun to take its toll on Face as he now allowed his body to slump and let his head rest upon his chest.

"You will give me the information I desire, or you will suffer the consequences!" Bellowed Chao, as he paced back and forth. He stopped to raise the weary head of the lieutenant in front of him and thrust the barrel of his handgun into his prisoner's jaw.

Face was exhausted and lacked the energy needed to answer the same repetitive questions that Chao had been asking since their arrival. He had forgotten how long he had been made to kneel in front of the oppressive and uncompromising General. His body was tired and painful from the abuse he had already suffered under Chao's hands.

His thoughts strayed away from supplying Chao with the answers he desperately sought to thinking of Murdock and Zeke. He wondered how they were coping and also Hannibal and BA. He hoped passionately that they would not try anything foolhardy which would see them in this new hell as well.

For a brief moment he closed his eyes and saw the familiar faces of his childhood friends. From past friendships, his memory turned to current friendships and especially the ones he called his family. A small smile let itself known as he saw a picture of happier times with Hannibal, Murdock and BA.

The small smile had not gone unnoticed by Chao. The manic General had become infuriated, when he saw the prisoner that he had subjected to a constant barrage of questions and physical assaults was still able to smile.

Taking it as an insult to his powers of extracting answers, Chao raised his foot and savagely kicked it into the side of Face's back. The force of the strike sent Face sprawling face first to the floor of Chao's office.

The impact of his face meeting the floor in such a cruel way caused blood to rush from his nose. While he lay on the floor he heard the jeers from his captors. His mind was still reeling from the sudden impact and the words he heard sounded muffled and distant.

His prone form was pulled savagely from the floor and he once again was forced to kneel before the commandant.

"You Americans very stupid. You will learn to obey me." Diem taunted as he signaled the guards to remove Face from the building.

The guards pulled Face to standing position and escorted him outside. From the cage that was constructed of bamboo Murdock and Zeke watched in horror as they saw Face led to an indoctrination hut, which was a short distance from them.

From the hut they heard the ominous sounds of torture emit. After what had seemed an eternity they finally heard Face.

"I'm an officer in the United States Army. You can force me to listen to your propaganda, you can torture me, BUT I don't have to believe a bloody word you say!" Face retorted defiantly.

after his outburst, Face was struck with the butt of an AK47 that rendered him unconscious.

Murdock who could see the hut from his cramped cell saw the limp and beaten body of the lieutenant being dragged towards him, supported by the guards.

As the guards approached the cell, Murdock and Zeke moved away from the door as they had been previously warned to do when the camp's cook brought them some food.

When the guards had left, Murdock and Zeke both scrambled towards Face. Each cursed under their breath about the cramped conditions that they were forced to endure.

Murdock had reached Face first and gently turned him over. He could feel the blood rush from his own face as he stopped the overwhelming urge that he had to heave.

"Oh Face." Murdock said forlornly as he perused the injuries that his friend had sustained. "Zeke help me try and make him comfortable." Murdock spoke while he lifted the lieutenants shirt to see the hidden injuries.

Time seemed to pass slowly while Face lay unconscious in a fetal position. The cell certainly didn't allow any luxuries such as leg room when lying down. One man would have difficulties enough lying on a diagonal, for the three occupants finding any such space would have been heaven sent.

When night fell, the camp became quiet, each prisoner trying to absorb as much energy from rest as they possibly could. Those who were afflicted with illnesses slept fitfully, their bodies being wracked by bouts of coughing spasms.

During the night, Murdock had woken several times to check on Face. The full moon illuminated the night sky, sending enough light for Murdock to see clearly by. As he touched his friends furrowed brow he heard a low moan escape from the lieutenant's lips.
The same sound he had heard many time during the earlier parts of the night, but now becoming more incessant.

"Damn it Face, why can't you learn to keep that mouth of yours shut." Murdock growled only loud enough to register as a whisper.

"Because it wouldn't be as much fun if I couldn't get some satisfaction out of annoying them." Face wheezed while a hand sought his injured ribs.

"FACE!" Murdock exclaimed. Then remembering where he was he lowered his voice. "How long have you been awake?"

"Long enough to know that you have bony legs", Face grinned, flashing the beloved captain one of his famous smiles.

"Hey will you two keep it down to a dull roar." Zeke growled playfully. "Hey buddy it's good to see you awake, but couldn't you have picked a more civilized hour?" The sergeant asked as he moved into a better position.

"What time is it?" Asked Face, while he endeavored to subdue a cough. "Chao took my watch…, my favourite one. The one that Hannibal gave me." His voice was packed with emotion as he remembered the time it had been given to him.

"Not that silver one with the two tone strap." Murdock sighed while he took Face's hand into his own. The only reminder of the watch that had been there was the tan lines that were left. "Hannibal's gonna be pissed at you when he gets here to take us home." Murdock added trying to add a little humor.

"If he gets here." Mumbled Face. He hoped that Hannibal would not come after them, but knew his commanding officer all to well. He knew that where there was a will there was a way and that Hannibal had an uncanny knack for turning up when it counted.

"He'll find us Face. Why don't you try and get some rest. I'll wake you when the cook brings round breakfast." Murdock soothed while he stroked Face's hair.

After a short discussion Hannibal had added another member to his platoon. The man that was working for the Papasan farmer had revealed that he was a former Viet Cong and would be willing to help Hannibal in his mission. Hannibal had often heard of these 'Kit Carson's' but had never had the pleasure of having one in his platoon until now.

"BA signal the rest of the platoon it's time to move out." Hannibal instructed while he studied his map for the final time.

Hannibal had graciously accepted the food that the Papa san farmer had supplied them with and the blessing that he had bestowed upon them. Before they left the village, Hannibal offered his thanks once again to the farmer.

The Kit Carson guide had located several booby traps. He was somewhat of an unconventional guide, not one that Hannibal would have expected to find in such a remote area.

Albeit he showed his expertise in identifying the enemy and had been quick to dispose of them. Twice the KC guide had stealthily moved through the dense undergrowth of the jungle and had silenced the would be assassins before they'd had time to react to his presence.

The rest of the journey to the infamous Hanoi Hilton was uneventful, Hannibal had suggested that the men all rest. They were within five clicks of the compound but Hannibal wanted to take the opportunity to rest and regroup. He had plans that needed to be thought out with precision.

'No classic half Pincer moves this time old boy.' Hannibal said to himself. His thoughts were interrupted by BA.

"Sergeant what is it? Is there a problem?" Asked the weary Colonel.

"Nah man, I just wanted to make sure that you ain't gonna come up with none of your hair brained plans to get Face, Murdock and Zeke out." BA playfully chastised.

"Well you know BA I was thinking about using the 'Classic Half Pincer Maneuver', the one that you love so much." Hannibal grinned, the cigar that he had been smoking, protruding between his teeth that gleamed in the moonlight.

"Aw man, you can't be serious." BA grumbled, as he sat heavily down on mother earth.

"Gotcha!" Hannibal grinned again. He could not resist the way that BA had made himself such an easy mark.

"Who's on watch BA?" Hannibal asked. He took his cigar from his mouth and exhaled a perfect smoke circle.

"James and Chris are. They decided to double up and take the watch together. Y'know first week nerves in the jungle." BA replied as he tried to disperse the smoke that had reached his face with his hand.

"Jeez Hannibal why don't you just go and light a bonfire and attract Charlie's attention over our way." The sergeant was visibly annoyed with the smoke that had begun to permeate his clothing.

Hannibal explained his plan to BA and excused himself, finding a need to respond to the call of nature that his bladder had been screaming at him for the past twenty five minutes.

The Colonel made his way quietly over to where James and Chris were on watch. He noticed that their vision was partially obscured by the rim of his helmet and that the flack jacket that he had on looked cumbersome and heavy for his wiry frame.

'Shit their only kids.' Hannibal thought as he approached and touched Chris on his blind side.

Be fore Chris could react James had his AR-15 trained on Hannibal and then withdrew it when he realized who he had pulled his gun on.

"S-s-s-sorry Sir." He stammered. The sigh of relief that Hannibal had made had not gone unnoticed by the man on watch.

"Just wanted to see that you boys were okay and ask you if you needed anything while I am up." Hannibal offered as a response, still thankful that James had not pulled the trigger.

"No Sir, thank you sir." Both men replied in unison.

Silence prevailed upon the trio as they watched in the distance the night sky that had become illuminated with flares and a thin line of red tracers spewed into the air.

"Well I'll leave you two to it…, make sure that someone comes to relieve you both in a few hours. We don't want to be carrying your sorry arses all over the jungle tomorrow because you didn't get enough rest." Hannibal uttered before he made his way back to BA.

"Hey Chris, what do you make of the Colonel?" James asked as he pushed his helmet back.

"I dunno man…, but I heard he's the best. I also heard that the men we are going to haul out of the Hanoi Hilton make up the best damn team there is here in 'Nam." Chris replied as he too adjusted his helmet.

"Cock-a-doodle doo, hee haw, hee haw." Murdock said, trying to rouse Face from his fitful slumber.

"C'mon Face, wakey, wakey rise and shine." Persisted Murdock as he pinched at the Lieutenant's cheeks.

The Captain waited for a response and was rewarded with a low moan. The Lieutenant's eyes had eventually opened, enough for Murdock to be satisfied with the responses after doing a cursory check on them for pupil reaction.

While Murdock waited for the camp chef to deliver what constituted the morning meal, he sang softly to Face.

"I went to the animal fair, All the birds and beasts were there
The big baboon by the light of the moon, was combing his auburn hair.
You should have seen the monk, he sat on the elephant's trunk
The elephant sneezed and fell no his knees and what became of the monk
The monk, the monk, the monk, The monk, the monk, the monk?"

Face turned his head to be able to look directly into Murdock's eyes. "That was great Captain…, no one has sung to me in a very, very long time. I remember once the nun's singing to me when I was sick at the orphanage." Spoke Face, before coughs racked his body and caused him to gasp for air.

"Take it easy Face." Zeke offered as he looked to Murdock for his opinion of Face's condition.

Murdock shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. He wanted to say something to Zeke that would symbolize hope but right now his own tenuous hold on hope had begun to fade.

"What's your singing voice like Zeke? Is it any better than your harmonica playing?" Murdock asked hoping to get some sort of a rise out of the seasoned Sergeant.

"Sure Captain, what did you have in mind?" Replied Zeke, willing to take Murdock up on his challenge.

"How about this one, it's a favourite of Face's." Smiled Murdock before he proceeded to clear his vocal chords.

"Well come along boys and listen to my tail,
I'll tell you all my troubles on the Old Chisholm Trail
Come-a ti yi yippy, Yippy, yay, yippy yay!
Ti yi yippy, Yippy yay!

A ten dollar horse and forty dollar saddle
And I'm going to Texas to punch them cattle
Come-a ti yi yippy, Yippy, yay, yippy yay!
Ti yi yippy, Yippy yay!

I woke one morning on the Old Chisholm Trail
Rope in my hand and a cow by the tail.."

Before Murdock could start the chorus again he heard a noise come from behind him. He turned to see it was Lin Duc Coo the cook of the prison camp.

"Come a Ti yi yippy, yi, yi, yi, yi, Come a ti yi, yi, yi, yi, yi." Coo sung with enthusiasm.

"I think he's got it by George, I think he's got it." Murdock grinned, as his hand patted Face on the shoulder.

"Sort of." Face said, barely able to muster the strength to reply.

"Well he's better than Zeke." Murdock smiled.

"So I got tangled on the Ti Yi Yippy's." Zeke responded at the same time defending his singing ability.

"How is Faceman?" Lin Duc Coo asked, passing the bread he had saved from the kitchen to Murdock.

"He's not good Lin, but thank you for the bread. The North Vietnamese cuisine is definitely underrated, the nuoc-mam is exquisite. It has definite nose." Murdock placated Face, who was turning his head away from eating the fermented fish.

"It has definite something." Grumbled Zeke as he played with a piece of the fish in his bowl. He settled for eating the meager amount of rice that they had been given as part of their meal.

Lin offered his kind wishes and quickly departed back towards the kitchen humming to himself as he went.

One of the approaching guards heard the cook's humming and looked at him with a bewildered gaze. He shrugged his shoulders and proceeded on to check on the prisoners and to take the one that Chao had beaten the day before to the Commandant's office.

Today brought with the early morning rays a sign of promise and hope. Hannibal stretched working out all the kinks in his back. The silver haired Colonel found his First Sergeant also stretching and limbering up his muscular body.

"How ya feelin' BA? Get a good nights sleep?" Hannibal asked, flashing him a wry grin.

BA's eyes twinkled, he had seen that look on his Colonel's face only a few times before, and knew that it meant that he was 'On the Jazz'.

"Feelin' good Colonel. Today's the day huh?"

Hannibal clasped BA's shoulder and pulled from his own breast pocket a Cuban cigar. He savored the aroma and after biting off the end, placed the cigar in his mouth.

"It sure is BA. Today we get back our platoon."

Within twenty minutes of rising, the small skilled team of men was on its way to where Chao held their friends and comrades captive.

Hannibal struggled within himself to maintain his composure and his burning desire to see Face, Murdock and Zeke. A few men in his present command were young and cocky, but serving their country in a job that few wanted. He would have to retain a controlling presence over them, yet give them enough slack to use their initiative in the quest that lay before them.
Stealthily they slipped through the jungle, constantly watching the activity around them for any signs of 'Charlie'. With Hannibal in control they acted like a well oiled machine, a formidable force to be reckoned with.
For now they were the hunters, but knew that they would soon become the hunted as they made them approached to the "Hanoi Hilton'. With less than two clicks to go before reaching Chao's death camp, one of the younger members of Hannibal's team had begun to show signs of nervousness and being afraid.

"Easy son," soothed the experienced Colonel, "now is not the time for you to start losing it on me. I need each and every one of you to make this mission a success and don't have time to baby-sit any of you."

"Sorry Colonel…, it's juts that, well I ain't never been this close to a P.O.W camp before." The young solider replied, never taking his eyes off the Colonel.

Somehow under the gruff exterior of his commanding officer, Chris sensed a paternal streak and was for the first time since beginning the mission more at ease.
The pace that had been previously set by BA was brought back to a slow walk. Slow but steady. BA had taken point. He had led the team through the maze of trees that encompassed them and had risen his hand to halt them when he heard a noise over head.
Less then tow feet above his head a Chicom sat smoking. The cap had blown buy the grenade has not exploded.

"MOVE!" Ordered BA, as he pushed the man behind him out of the way.

"Well I guess they know we're here." Hannibal surmised.

The flurry of activity around them increasing.

"What now Hannibal?" BA asked as a VC soldier materialized before his eyes.

"We surrender." Grinned Hannibal. He dropped his rifle to the ground and signaled his men to follow suit.

"I guess this is where I say take us to your leader." Smiled Hannibal, pleased that the first part of his plan was falling into place.

"Awww man. You're on the jazz ain't you." Grumbled BA, unable to mistake the look that Hannibal gave him as anything else but being right.

The VC pleased with their capture of more enemy soldiers herded them towards the massive gates of the prison camp. Hannibal was detained at Chao's office while, BA and the rest of the team were escorted towards their waiting cells.
Luck was holding out for BA and his team members as they were directed to enter the cell that Zeke and Murdock occupied.

"Zeke! Zeke.., wake up, we got company." Murdock spoke as he tried to rouse his sleeping friend.

Gradually Zeke, sat up, his weary body exhausted from the lack or proper nourishment.

"BA? Purcell? Ruiz? What? How?" Zeke stammered, as he grasped onto a bamboo pole to steady himself.

"Take it easy Sarge." Grinned Purcell, relieved to see that although beaten Zeke was still alive.

He took Zeke's chin in his hand and turned his head from side to side.

"Shit man, you look like crap."

"Well gee Purcell thanks for the compliment, you've really been working on that bedside manner haven't you. Guess I'm still better looking that you though." Zeke laughed, and quickly grabbed his ribs.

"Hey man, where's Face?" Asked BA, as he sat down next to Murdock.

Murdock looked down at his own feet and began totwiddle his thumbs. He sighed heavily before he replied.

"Chao's got him."

BA slid from his hunched stance position, to sit on the floor of the cell, "Aw man."

Silently the reunited friends sat and waited. Each prayed his own prayers seeking some form of divine intervention.
In Chao's office, Hannibal had been forced to watch the abuse that was dealt to Face. He admired his Lieutenant's determination not to give in to Chao, but at the same time remorse for what Face had endured.

"Come on Chao, it's me you want. Or am I too much for you to handle?" Taunted Hannibal.

"Far from it Colonel. I just wanted you to witness what happens when I am disobeyed." Snarled Chao, as he brandished another harsh blow to Face's already wracked body.

A painful ninety minutes passed before two men were forcibly dragged towards the bamboo cell that held their comrades prisoner.
For the next 24 hours Hannibal and Face were intentionally denied medical treatment. Both refused to betray the military Code of Conduct and would steadfastly refuse to impart with any known secrets.
Chao had become increasingly angry with the stubborn men and had ordered that two prisoners from another cell be brought before him. Without word or warning he fired a bullet into each man's head an killed them outright.
In his state of delirium, Face shuddered and retched violently as he watched the VC soldiers drag the bodies of the two dead prisoners towards an open grave. Face wished fervently that death would take him. Take him away from the hell ,in which he was a living member of. He'd had enough and wanted to quit. He welcomed the darkness that encircled his mind and let himself slip into the void of nothingness.

"Come on kid, hang in there." Hannibal encouraged.

He had only endure one days wrath of Chao's unmerciful behaviour and had begun to feel ill as a result of it.
Face was bleeding, wracked with fever and had begun to convulse in his state of unconsciousness.

'Hang in there Face. I'm here with you. We'll get out of here, I promise'.

Parts of broken sentences filled Face's mind. He heard the voices from fallen soldiers enter his mind, each forgiving him for being unable to save them. He felt as though he were tumbling into an inferno. The insidious noise around him had begun to increase in volume rising to a crescendo and then as quickly as it had happened it stopped.

"M-m-make it stop." He mumbled.

His body twisted as he struggled against the fever that had taken over not only his body but also his mind.

"For crying out loud," Hannibal cursed, "this man needs a medic and needs one now!"

The rage that he had pent up inside him let lose as he pulled at the bars that confined him.
Unable to offer any assistance Zeke watched from the cage opposite from where Hannibal and Face were.

"Come on guys, we can’t sit on our arses and let this happen." Zeke muttered.

A plan had begun to formulate in his mind but it would need the help of a certain Vietnamese cook.
Murdock had been instructed to gain Lin Duc Coo's attention the next time that the slightly built chef came near the POW's.
Purcell and Ruiz were to keep the guards distracted while Lin slipped the much needed supplies to BA.
At six in the evening Lin Duc Coo brought around the daily bowls of rice. As he made his deliveries he was accompanied by two guards. Purcell and Ruiz went into their hastily put together Abbot and Costello routine which succeeded in distracting the guards long enough for Lin to pass Murdock some chicken bones and a small bag of medical supplied that he had appropriated from the camp medical locker.
Murdock discretely slipped the package under his shirt and handed BA the chicken bones along with a small stone that Lin had given him. After the guards had seen the show especially put on for their benefit they pushed Lin on towards the next cell. Face lay in a curled position on the floor with his head in Hannibal's lap. As the guards passed by they heard Hannibal ask for water.

"Toi caht. Nook." Surprised when the guards nodded their heads.

Lin put the ladle into the bucket of water that he carried with him and filled the two tin cups that Hannibal held up towards him. Hannibal placed the cups on the ground and soaked an end of Face's tee shirt and pressed it against the injured Lieutenant's lips. When Face started to suck the water greedily from the sweat stained shirt he gagged, as he tried to dispel the acrid taste from his mouth.

"Easy kid, easy." Soothed Hannibal, thankful that Face had continued to accept the water from the dirty shirt.

"It's not much kid, but it's fluid. I promise when we get out f here I'll shout ya a couple of beers."

Face cringed when he tried to laugh at Hannibal's promise. His abused ribs protested against any movement and he was forced to remain still. After he had consumed his fill out water, Face lay back and looked at Hannibal.

"I really don’t care any more." He said as he looked into his Colonel's eyes.

Before Hannibal could reply, face lapsed once more into unconsciousness.
During the night under the luminescence of the moon, BA worked steadily at making the utensils that he would need for his task. The first was a crudely fashioned lock pick and the second a knife. When he had finished he proudly showed them to Zeke who nodded and quietly congratulated him on a job well done.
Using what was left of the dark and cool hours, the entrapped team slept. For the first night Zeke and Murdock slept soundly, each comforted by the fact that their days here were now drawing at a close. Now, finally there was a chance of escape, from this hell on earth.
The next morning brought with it the news that Chao had planned to leave the camp in the afternoon for a meeting with his commanding officer, a recently transferred officer to the camp was to be in charge.
This was to be the downfall of Chao's previously inescapable camp.
Hannibal instructed his men to rest and to bide their time, until the heat of the day had passed and Chao had left the compound. During the free time that they had, poor renditions of Paint it Black were heard wafting through the cells. Zeke had started the song to be joined by Purcell and Ruiz. A song that although in itself meant despair, it meant a lot to the member of Firebase Ladybird.
Soon other prisoners joined in. Guards on duty ignored the tuneless singing and took it as a sign that the prisoners had finally lost their sanity.
Zeke cleared his throat and proceeded to sing,
"I see a red door, and I want to paint it black. No colours anymore I wanted them to turn to black."

While Zeke sung his tune to what BA could only distinguish as cats on heat howling, Purcell and Ruiz joined in much t BA's disgust.

"Can't you guys go somewhere else and make that racket?" He glowered.

"It's not so bad BA. We could even use it against the enemy if it got any worse. Could be a new form of torture." Chuckled Hannibal.

The nights rest had done him some good, and he felt good at the prospects that the day was to bring.

"I see the girls walk by, dressed in their summer clothes, I have to turn my head until my darkness goes. I see a line of cars and they're all painted black." Ruiz and Purcell bellowed.

Their inharmonious noise even made Zeke cringe.
The guards on duty laughed heartily when they saw the Sergeant raise his hands to his ears to impede the noise. The balance of the afternoon was spent in restfulness with the occasional bout of song.
Night fell and brought into existence the plan of escape. Chao had left the camp some hours before hand and was not expected back until the following afternoon. It was to be now that the plans be put into action.
When Lin dished out the daily rice meals he was unaccompanied a sign that the guards had relaxed in their duties since Chao's departure. A sign that Hannibal favorably welcomed.
"So Lin, what's cooking?" Murdock asked as he handed his bowl to Lin Duc Coo.

"You velly clazy man Murdock." Lin smiled when he filled his bowl with rice.

"But I learn Ti yi yippy, yippy. No?" He added as he looked over his shoulder to see where the guards were positioned.

"Take this, it will help your sick friend."

"Thanks Lin." Replied Murdock as he took the small pack that Lin slipped him.

Then as Lin was saying his good-byes, Murdock asked him to join them.

"Murdock I would like to but I have my family to think about. Chao would have them killed if I were to leave. I am not political, just a victim of this war like you. Once day we will meet again I am sure." Lin spoke before he turned and walked to where Hannibal and Face were.

After imparting his best wishes and a bowl of rice he left and finished his rounds.

"Now Murdock." Hannibal signaled when he saw that the guards had retired.

"We aren't going to get a better chance."

"We're onto it Hannibal, BA's nearly got this cage opened." Murdock replied.

No sooner had the words left his mouth than the cage was open.
Ruiz and Purcell helped steady Zeke as they exited the cell that had held them captive since their incarceration. BA made sure that Zeke was going to okay before moving to Hannibal's cell. After breaking the door open, he handed the tool, on to Ruiz to use to free Chris and James sand then the other POW's at the camp.
As the freed men scurried to the edge of the camp that led towards their escape, the guards were roused by the noise and activity in the compound.
BA encountered the first guard who had his rifle aimed at the fleeing men. Taking the knife that he had made with a bone he plunged it directly into the would be assassin's heart. While the guard writhed on the ground, BA reached down and took his rifle.
The burly Sergeant gave cover to the escaping men by firing upon the VC soldiers that had drawn their weapons. He fired with precision and marksmanship as the soldiers fell before having a chance to take out any of the escape POW's.
Murdock helped Hannibal carry Face to safety while Ruiz and Purcell took Zeke. The VC on the outside of the camp had positioned themselves to slaughter the escaping prisoners.
Some of the VC's shots met their intended targets, and killed a dozen of the escaping men. BA returned fire and slowed the VC's advancement before he rejoined the team. Upon returning he took point and raced to the site where they had slept a few nights ago. When he reached the site he uncovered the radio that had been hidden and radioed for help.
With 'birds' above and making circles at the LZ, the VC in pursuit of the men who had broken free of the 'Hanoi Hilton' fired at their backs while the gunners on the choppers fired upon the VC.
The men clambered aboard the choppers, while the VC were hitting the choppers with the fire power that they had at their disposal. The chopper was covered in a multitude of hits as the pilots were looking on as though this were just another one of those days.
The body count of the NVA grew steadily as each chopper hovered above the ground taking on board grateful men who were pleased to be alive after leaving the hell hole behind. Within minutes the choppers jam packed left as quickly as they had arrived. The men of Bravo company now making their journey home.
A few days later at the base, Face had begun to show signs of recovering from his ordeal when Zeke walked in with Susan on his arm.
Amused at the look that Face was giving him Zeke grinned.

"You snooze you lose pal."

"Guess you're right there Zeke. How long have I been out anyway?" Face asked.

"Three days." Replied Hannibal, pleased to see that Face was awake.

"And you evoked great sympathy from the nursing staff, especially Katy."

An audible groan came from Face as he hid his head below the covers.

"Come on Face it's not so bad, besides you need to get better. I've got us tickets for R&R in Hawaii, curtesy of a Mr Beller, who owns the airline." Hannibal chuckled pulling back the covers on Face's bed.

"Beller?" Face questioned.

"Can't say as I know of him." He added after he had done a quick scan of the room for Katy.

"I get the feeling that you will one day Face. But right now concentrate on getting better. It's good to have you back again kid." Smiled Hannibal while he sat on the edge of face's bed.

"It's good to be back Hannibal." Agreed Face, before turning to see Zeke heading out the door.

"Guess he's pleased to be back too." Face chuckled.

Hannibal saw what Face was looking at and nodded his head.

"Well you're better off without her Face, after all her Zeke doesn't know what he's got himself into."

They both laughed and enjoyed each others company as they pictured Zeke running for his life once he sound out her Susan's Uncle was.

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