Part 4: Metamorphosis


The events of my A-Team story Settlement take place within this Part. I have added certain scenes from Settlement within the narrative, so you can follow the events without re-reading Settlement in full and so that this Part has a coherent story.

Disclaimer: I don’t own the A-Team, I don’t make any money from this.

Chapter 1

March 1987

“New prisoners.” Ishaq hurried over to where Madari sat in the mess hall with Noor and Faraj, drinking coffee. They looked at him surprised. There’d been no new prisoners for months now. The prison camp was full. Ishaq went on, his voice full of amazement. “Westerners.”

They hurried outside and joined Jahni and another officer, Captain Fahad at the wire.

“Five men. They’ve taken them into the blockhouse.” Jahni said, turning as the senior officers approached.

“You’re sure they’re westerners?” Madari asked, watching guards and unfamiliar soldiers milling around. He shaded his eyes against the low, late afternoon sun.

“We couldn’t see them too closely, but one of them had blond hair,” Fahad said.

“I think they’re Americans,” Jahni said. He shrugged at their questioning looks. “Their clothes. And…” He shrugged again. “I don’t know, they just looked American.”

“What the hell are Americans doing here?” Noor wondered, frowning.

“We don’t know for sure they’re Americans,” Faraj said, glancing at Jahni, smiling at him. “Unless they were dressed as Superman, perhaps, Kahil?”

“Superman isn’t American, he’s an alien,” Jahni pointed out. “Anyway, I prefer Batman.”

“So, Kahil,” Noor said, winking at Faraj, “do you read anything besides comic books?”

Madari tuned out their banter. Westerners? Who were they, what had they done to be brought here? He glanced around. The prisoners in the yard were already talking and looking over at the blockhouse. The new arrivals had been seen only for seconds and yet the camp already buzzed with excitement about them. Madari could understand why. Until new arrivals had stopped turning up all new prisoners had been pressed by every man that met them on what was happening outside. Westerners could tell them even more.

“Javid,” Madari said, interrupting the younger men’s speculations and chatter. “See if any of your people can get anything out of the guards about who these men are.”

“Right, sir.” Noor said. Madari had put him in charge of extracting information from the guards. Noor had recruited other men, all as naturally good-natured as him, to make friends with individual guards and report back any useful snippets of information they could glean. One common thing they all reported back; the guards were mostly not much happier with their lot than the prisoners.

Noor went off to instruct his “agents” as he liked to call them. Madari left Fahad to keep watch on the block house and walked back to the mess hall. Jahni and Faraj followed him, falling into step on either side of him. He glanced at them, Faraj on his left, Jahni on his right, but didn’t speak. Walking with his hands behind his back he turned to stare straight ahead, out across the desert, under the sky that was darkening to an inky blue now. The stars were coming out.

Madari didn’t know who the westerners were or what they wanted. He knew only one thing. That he was afraid. Things were quite settled here. He was ashamed of that. Ashamed of letting it be so settled, but he was too afraid to try to change it. Now it was being changed. A forced change from outside. Who knows where it would lead. Back to a cold underground room having his body and mind and soul torn apart?

Madari was afraid.


Two days later, in the afternoon Dr Al-Hijazi approached Madari, who was reading in the rec room. Noor was sitting at a table nearby, chin on his hands, looking unusually glum. He had been miserable all day and resisted everyone’s attempts to cheer him up.


Madari looked up at the doctor, and reflected for a moment how the man was a shadow of what he’d been a year ago because of the weight he’d lost.

“Doctor.” He stood up from the couch, gestured to it. “Please sit.”

“Thank you. Major.” The two men sat. “I thought you’d like to know, I’ve just been treating two of the westerners. Salim Al-Fulani brought me to them.”


“Young lad,” Noor said. He came over from the table, to stand beside the couch. “Engineer. Arrived not long after Kahil did. Polite boy, clever.” Madari nodded a quick thanks to him, recalling the young man now. Noor’s ability to remember every man in the camp still amazed him.

“That’s right,” Al-Hijazi said. “Two of them, they’re Americans by the way, were released from the blockhouse.”

Madari already knew this much, his officers had reported back.

“Were they badly hurt?”

“Both were beaten up, one of them had been flogged.”

Noor cursed in disgust and Madari closed his eyes briefly before pulling himself together.

“Did they say who they are? What they’re doing here?”

“No. They called each other ‘BA’ and ‘Face’.” He said the last word in English.

“Face?” Madari repeated.

“I think it must be a nickname, Salim said the man told him his name is Templeton Peck. They talked about another man, named Hannibal.”

“Hannibal?” Madari’s eyes widened. “Like Hannibal Barca?”

The doctor looked puzzled. “I don’t…”

“The man who took elephants over the Alps to beat the Romans.” Noor supplied. He smiled at Madari, who smiled back. There was so much time in this place, sometimes all you could do was lie on your cot and smoke and talk. And anyone talking to Madari for long enough would eventually learn plenty about military history.

“Right.” The doctor said, still not much wiser. “They both had quite a lot of old scars, including what I’m certain were bullet wounds. Oh and they said they’d been photographed holding a newspaper while they were in the blockhouse.”

Madari and Noor exchanged a glance. That sounded important.

“All right, thank you, doctor.” Madari and the doctor rose. Madari saw the doctor start to extend his hand before an embarrassed look crossed his face and he put his hand down. Madari outwardly ignored that. Inwardly he cringed. His hands were able to stand handshakes now, but he still kept them out of sight and didn’t shake anyone’s hand. Ridiculous, he thought. I let the doctor examine my hands, yet I’m afraid of him seeing them if I shake his hand.

The doctor instead bowed his head and left.

“Newspaper.” Noor said. “That means the government wants someone to know they are still alive. And old bullet wounds and other scars? Military men? Mercenaries perhaps?”

“Hannibal.” Madari said, a musing tone in his voice, “Templeton Peck. BA.” He frowned.

“Americans have such funny names.” Noor gave a small smile.

“Yes, but I…” he frowned again. “There’s something familiar about them.” He shrugged. It would come to him.

“Do you want to go and talk to the two that have been released?”

“No.” Madari said it a little too fast. There was that fear again. Now it was a knot in his stomach. “No. Let them… um, let them make the first move.”

Noor nodded. “Okay.” He didn’t seem to care much one way or the other.

“What’s wrong, Javid,” Madari asked in a low voice, hating to see the usually cheerful man so gloomy. Noor looked at him, then looked away.

“It’s my wife’s birthday today.” He said quietly.

“I see.” Madari said. He put one hand on Noor’s shoulder and squeezed it. Sometimes he forgot what the men here who had families outside must be going through. And that made him remember that Faraj was missing not only his wife but also precious months of his son’s life.

Madari had no close family left. He missed his friends, especially Rahama, he missed Youssef, who he’d known all his life. But aside from them everyone he cared about was here, everyone he… he stopped himself as he always did before his mind said the word he didn’t have the courage to admit.

“You’ll see her again,” Madari tried to reassure Noor. Inside he sneered at himself. If he does it will be no thanks to me.


Madari saw two of the Americans for the first time at breakfast the next morning. The blonde haired one was Peck, according to Dr Al-Hijazi. The other, a hugely muscular black man, was ‘BA’. ‘BA Baracus’ Madari had been told later in the evening and his mind had snapped into place.

He knew who these men were, he’d read about them in the newspapers. And an American officer he’d met years ago at a conference and had corresponded with sometimes, had mentioned them too.

They were the A-Team. And that they were here was extraordinary, it was impossible.

Because they were dead.


For dead men they were pretty lively. Not long after breakfast Jahni looked into the rec room to find Madari reading.

“Two more of them were let out a few minutes ago.”

Madari replaced his book on the shelf and followed Jahni outside.

“Are we going to go and say hello?” Jahni asked as they emerged. He seemed keen to meet them. He’d told Madari several times that he would love to visit America one day. Madari had once visited New York for a week, when he was a young man and Jahni got him to recount pretty much every moment of every day of that week. Madari had gladly done so, letting his mind take him back to the streets of Manhattan, the amazing buildings, the astonishment he’d felt in Central Park, that such a place existed in the heart of a city. Madari smiled, remembering Jahni’s face, eyes wide, as he listened to Madari’s account.

“Sir?” Jahni said, bringing him back to reality. Madari realised he had stopped on the step out of the rec room door. He sighed. Jahni bringing him back to reality was usually welcome, but this time he’d have liked to stay in the memories for a while.

“Yes, perhaps we should go and speak to them.” He took another step down, then stopped again, put a hand on Jahni’s arm and said, “wait.”

The four Americans came out of the barracks, Salim Al-Fulani with them and went up to a guard. Madari watched as a tall, well built man, with white hair started talking to the guard. Smith, that had to be Colonel Hannibal Smith. Madari tried to remember if he’d seen a picture in the newspaper report he’d read of the three American soldiers on trial for killing their commanding officer. He didn’t think so. But that had to be him.

Smith was too far away to hear, but Madari noticed that Fulani seemed to be translating for him to the guard.

“None of them speaks Arabic,” Madari said. Jahni glanced back at him.

“There’s another one of them still in the blockhouse.” Jahni reminded Madari. Madari nodded. Then his eyes widened.

Things were heating up, the guard was pointing his rifle at Smith now, who stood his ground despite the weapon pointing at him. Madari heard Jahni let go a held breath as the guard seemed to back down, lowering his gun. Smith spoke again and suddenly the guard lashed out, hitting Smith in the stomach with the gun butt, doubling him up. Madari and Jahni winced at the blow. Fulani stumbled back, looking scared. The rest of the Americans rushed forward to help their commander, and the guard opened up with his machine gun.

A heavy weight cannoned into Madari and suddenly he was hitting the floor on his back, just inside the rec room door. The air was forced out of his lungs as Jahni landed on top of him, arms around him.

Just as quickly Jahni rolled off, hooked the door with his foot and kicked it closed. Then he knelt over Madari pale and wide eyed.

“I-I’m sorry, sir. Did I hurt you? I just heard the gunfire and…”

Madari groaned and gasped for breath, coughed. Other men that had been in the rec room and had ducked to the floor at the sound of the gunfire stared at the two of them. Madari managed to lean up on one elbow, rubbing his stomach.

“Did he shoot any of them?” Madari gasped out.

“What?” Jahni looked quite unnerved, and Madari didn’t think it was the gunfire, but rather his own reaction to it that had shaken him so much.

He protected me, Madari thought, his first instinct was to protect me.

“The Americans, are they shot?” He could hear a lot of yelling going on outside now, but no more gunshots.

Jahni crouched by the door, partly opened it. He was still, Madari noticed, keeping his own body positioned carefully between Madari and the now open door. Madari got impatient then, needed to see what was going on. He got to his feet, though still short of breath and opened the door fully, pulling it out of Jahni’s hand. His newly acquired bodyguard stood up, but couldn’t stop Madari going outside.

Smith was being dragged to the hot box by a couple of guards. Other guards were restraining the rest of his men and the other prisoners who’d crowded around. The guards tossed Smith inside and shut the door. Then they went back over to Smith’s group and grabbed Fulani. A tall man in a blue cap hung onto Fulani’s arm for a moment, until he was persuaded to let go by having his arm struck with a rifle butt.

Fulani was dragged to the hot box too, twisting in the guard’s grip, resisting ineffectively. He was shoved inside and a second later Smith’s voice, in English boomed out.

“Hey, he was just translating he didn’t do anything wrong!”

A guard banged on the top of the box, answered him in Arabic.

“Shut up, Yankee dog.”

The yard slowly calmed down and in a moment Noor wandered up to Madari and Jahni.

“How long was he out of the blockhouse before they threw him in the hotbox?” Noor asked, though he already knew the answer.

“About ten minutes.” Jahni said.

“Oh yeah,” Noor said, with an evil grin, “these guys are going to liven things up around here.”


Jahni was on the steps on a barracks, not his own, when Smith and Fulani were taken out of the hotbox.

Strictly speaking Jahni was meant to be keeping an eye on the comings and goings of the Americans, who were in the barracks. But his mind wasn’t on the job. He kept going over and over in his mind the moment the gunshots had started. What had made him do that? Most of the men had ducked or dropped to the ground. But his first thought had been to turn and throw Madari back into the room. No, not even a thought, he couldn’t remember making the decision. It just happened.

Well it was his duty of course, as a junior officer to protect a more senior officer. That’s what had motivated him. Protect the commander. He smiled. Clearly his training had seeped even deeper into his mind than he realised. Become instinct.

“Move!” A guard shoved Jahni aside when he stood up as they approached. They dragged Smith and Fulani, barely conscious, into the barracks, then came out again. Jahni watched them go and sat down again. The door was left open. He could hear their voices, only occasionally make out their words though. A fifth man, the others called him Frankie, had been released from the blockhouse a couple of hours ago. At one point Jahni heard Smith say loudly.

“Frankie, look at me!”

Jahni had to resist the urge in his spine to snap to attention at the tone of command in the voice. He glanced back and saw that as well as taking care of Smith two of the Americans, the big man, BA and the tall man he’d learnt was named Murdock, were tending to Fulani on a cot. Jahni smiled in approval. He liked these men, they didn’t just take care of their own, they helped those who had helped them. He had a good feeling about them.

Turning away again he waited, hearing the drone of their voices, barely letting the sound penetrate his drowsy mind. It was very hot and he been awake half the night, talking to Madari. Madari had suffered a nightmare so horrible that it produced a physical reaction. He’d staggered to the toilets and vomited. Jahni had insisted on staying with him after that.

Madari had been turning him away for months now if Jahni got too close, but last night he had opened up again and in a shaking voice, like a man confessing to a horrible sin he had whispered.

“They made me eat pork.”

He related how his interrogators had starved him for days and then started cooking bacon over a camping stove outside his cell. How the smell of it both disgusted and enticed him. How he’d resisted for as long as he could, but finally given in and eaten the meat offered to him, his mind screaming for food, all taboos destroyed in mindless hunger.

Jahni held him, felt him trembling. Jahni was filled from the soles of his feet to the ends of his hair with hatred for the men who had played such sadistic mind games on Madari, trying to destroy him. Jahni’s voice choked and he could only whisper that god would forgive Madari. That he was only trying to stay alive.

“It was a test,” Madari said. “I failed. I should have let myself starve before giving in to them.” He paused, then finally spoke again. “I wish they had killed me. I wish I had the courage to do it myself, but I am afraid to go to hell.” And he didn’t say anything else. Apparently exhausted he had fallen asleep and they had stayed there until dawn prayers.

Jahni almost fell asleep on the barracks steps, catching his head nodding. He rubbed his eyes and stood up and stretched. Coffee required. The American’s voices were silent now and he glanced inside to see they were all lying on cots.

Jahni went inside the room. All of the men were asleep. They looked battered and worn out. Murdock lay on a cot that was pushed close to Fulani’s. His hand rested protectively on Fulani’s shoulder. Sleeping with the engineer, Jahni thought, smiling. Silently he turned and went back outside, closed the door. He called out to a friend who was passing, one of Noor’s friendly agents.

“Hey, Nizir, would you fetch me some coffee, please?”

“What’s in it for me?” Nizir asked, grinning.

“You already owe me ten cigarettes.”

“You don’t smoke.”

“No, but I trade.” Jahni settled himself on the barracks step again. No one was getting in to disturb the Americans without his say so. “Fetch me a coffee and the debt is cancelled. Don’t forget the sugar.”

“Sugar ran out two days ago.” Nizir said and hurried off to the mess hall.


Smith had set two of his men to make friends with people, Madari realised the next day. He watched Peck and Murdock “working the yard”, chatting to many of the men, sometimes individually, sometimes in groups. They were gathering intelligence.

Baracus was walking around with young Fulani, the two of them doing a lot of pointing things out and having hushed conversations. They stood for a long time in a spot that gave them a good view of the vehicles. Baracus is assessing the hardware.

Smith himself was sitting with the Latino looking man, Santana, apparently relaxing, yet taking everything in. He’s watching the guards, Madari thought, tracking their routine.

All of this activity had one clear purpose.

These men did not intend to stay.

He went into the rec room and sat on a couch. All right. So they didn’t intend to stay. They intended to escape. Of course, they were soldiers. But would they ask for help?

He remembered the letters from the American officer he’d corresponded with. He said the case against the men stunk to high heaven of conspiracy, of making these men scapegoats. He wrote about how, while on the run, they had hired out to help people, and according to reports they often took no fee. Sometimes they just acted out of a sense of justice, tried to put a bad situation right.

Well this was a bad situation for sure. What if the Americans wanted to do more than escape? What if they saw only one means of escape? What if they were making friends for reasons other than intelligence gathering? What if they were gathering allies?

And if we join forces? If we try to take the camp? And if it all goes wrong? Madari shuddered, put his hands over his face, felt the sweat break out across his forehead. His breath was coming in gasps and his heart was racing. Panic filled his mind. Can’t risk it. Can’t. Won’t. Won’t go back to that place. The dark place. Not just the dark cell, the dark place in his mind. The darkest part that he couldn’t visit even in his dreams. The darkness that descended like a curtain after he heard the word “pliers”. He could never go back there and stay sane.

He heard the door open and quickly took his hands away from his face, tried to get himself under control. But his throat tightened as he saw Jahni and Noor lead in Peck and Murdock. The two Americans wore friendly smiles as the four men approached. Peck’s smile was especially brilliant, despite his rather battered face.

Madari stood up to meet them. He kept his trembling hands behind his back.

“Major,” Noor said, “allow me to introduce Captain Murdock and Lieutenant Peck.”

“Captain,” Madari said formally, “Lieutenant.” He saw Jahni look at him sharply, knew his voice was faint and guessed he was pale. He could feel the cold sweat still on his face. “I, ah, I apologise for not shaking your hands, gentlemen.”

Murdock waved a hand. “That’s okay, Captain Noor explained that. It’s nice to meet you, Major.”

“I hope your injuries aren’t too bad.” Madari thought he was going to fall down. His knees were shaking. They were looking for allies, he was certain of that now.

“Poor BA got the worst of it,” Peck said.

“He’d have got worse if Ghaith was still around,” Jahni remarked. He gave a small smile. Madari knew he felt a sense of victory about the fact that two weeks after the officers had stopped him killing Jahni, the vicious sergeant had vanished from the camp and according to information from the guards had requested a transfer. Presumably to somewhere the men had not learnt not to be afraid of him.

“Ghaith?” Peck asked.

“Sadistic bastard.” Jahni said. “Liked to punish us. The major saw him off though.” He smiled at Madari who frowned at him.

“That’s not quite…” he stopped, as Jahni’s face fell. No don’t hurt Kahil just because right now you’re so sick with fear you want to hide in a corner.

“Why don’t you come and meet our CO?” Murdock suggested.

“No.” Just too quickly, making Jahni look at him worried, “Not at the moment, I’m sorry. I have to go to the infirmary. Good day to you.” Desperate for air now he strode quickly to the door and into the fresh air, breathed deeply. Still shaky he hurried to the gate and asked to be taken to the doctor. He had to escape, even for an hour. One of his fingernails was especially painful today, perhaps becoming infected. An hour in the infirmary while Rachad checked them all would be just what Madari needed right now. He glanced across at Smith standing by the wire with the man Santana.

He had to escape from Smith.


He kept on escaping from him until breakfast the next day. Then he came into the mess hall to find Jahni, Noor and Faraj were sitting with the Americans. Jahni and Noor were laughing and joking with Peck, Murdock and Santana. Faraj was more aloof, but talked politely to them. Other officers sat at the same long table and joined in the conversation.

Jahni waved to Madari, who nodded and went to get himself coffee and food. He’d put some bread on a small tray and turned to the coffee urn to find Smith standing there, pouring several cups.

“I’ve always thought you Arabs make the best coffee.” Smith said. He held two cups by their handles in each hand.

“It -” Madari said. The trembling in his knees started again. “The coffee here isn’t very good.”

“Strong though.” Smith smiled.


“Hannibal Smith.”

“I know. I mean yes, good to meet you, colonel.”

“You’re Major Madari.”


What the hell is wrong with me? Madari wondered. Smith was friendly enough. His smile was sincere. Yet Madari felt as physically intimidated by him as he’d once been by Ghaith.

“Well come and join us when you’ve got your coffee,” Smith said, with another smile. He left and Madari leaned on the table, his heart pounding.

“Major, are you getting coffee?” He looked up to see Fulani, wearing a kitchen apron. “I have to refill the urn.”

“Yes, wait a moment.” Madari poured himself a cup of the horrible coffee. “Mr Fulani, Salim isn’t it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Salim, you’ve become friends with the Americans since they arrived.”

“I’ve tried to help them, sir. None of them speaks Arabic, I’ve been translating for them.”

“Very commendable.”

“Just trying to be hospitable.”

“Of course. So, tell me, Salim, have they told you when are they planning to make their escape attempt?”

Chapter 2

“…Hannibal of Arabia…”

Hannibal heard Murdock’s voice, smiled. The moment Murdock had seen Hannibal in the white headdress he’d fashioned for himself the pilot had started to call him that. It drove BA crazy of course. He looked up from the table to where Face and Murdock were sitting cross-legged on the floor, pulling on the ropes for the fans that cooled the recreation area.

“Murdock.” Face said warningly, “Watch it, you might offend people.” There were a few other prisoners in the room. No one seemed to be taking much notice of the three westerners.

“You know,” Murdock said, “I was talking to Hakim, who works in the kitchen…”

“The lawyer?” Face asked.

“That’s him, he told me his grandfather fought with Lawrence of Arabia.”

Face rolled his eyes.

“Murdock, half the guys in here have grandfathers who say they rode with, fought with or were close personal friends of Lawrence of Arabia.”

Hannibal tuned out their banter, was glad to see Murdock staying calm. Face had volunteered himself and Murdock for a shift on the fans not just to ingratiate them with the other prisoners, but also because a nicely dull and repetitive task like that would be useful to soothe Murdock. The Captain’s behaviour had started to become noticeably erratic, obvious not just to the team, but to other inmates and the guards. It was also a useful job if you wanted to keep an eye on the comings and goings, see who was talking to whom. The man pulling the fan rope seemed to become part of the furniture and no one took any notice of him.

Hannibal bent over the paper he was drawing on, frowned. He looked up again though as he heard Face give a sharp cough and followed the lieutenant’s glance to the doorway. An inmate had come in that Hannibal recognised as Major Madari, the senior military officer among the prisoners. They had spoken only briefly so far and the major was not very welcoming even of Face’s efforts to make friends. The major, his military bearing unmistakable, strode across the room and began to browse the small selection of books on a shelf. Hannibal bent over his paper again, but after a while he felt someone’s eyes on him and looked up to see Madari looking at him. His nearly black eyes were quite piercing in his hawkish face. Hannibal nodded to him, a greeting, a small invitation. Even so he was quite surprised when Madari walked over, stood beside him, hands clasped behind his back.

“Major.” Hannibal said, standing up and offering his hand. Madari hesitated. Though they had spoken a couple of times now the major had not shaken Hannibal’s hand. The other prisoners shook Hannibal’s hand every time they met him, and each other, he knew that was their custom, but Madari always seemed to keep his hands behind his back. Hannibal had watched him with the other military officers and though they shook hands with each other in greeting none of them seemed to expect Madari to do so. Hannibal had an inkling of why. Salim had told him that when Madari was brought here after his arrest he spent a month in the infirmary recovering from the injuries sustained in his interrogation. When he was released into the inmate compound the doctors here were shocked by the nature of his injuries. Try to get a look at his hands. Salim had said mysteriously.

“Colonel Smith.” Madari said, and his formality finally overwhelmed his reluctance. He took Hannibal’s hand and shook it. Hannibal tried not to stare, but a quick glance at the major’s hand confirmed what he’d suspected. Where Madari’s fingernails should have been there were ugly masses of scar tissue and partially regrown nails, red and inflamed. He was probably in continual pain, Hannibal realised, allowing Madari to pull his hand away quickly and put it behind his back again.

“Major, I’m told you served here when this was a military base.”

“I did.”

“Under General Ziyahd?”

Madari snorted contemptuously at that. “Hardly! He wasn’t a general then, just a major, and a bureaucrat.”

“Got promoted when the new regime came in, huh?” Madari didn’t answer. “Or bought promotion, am I right? Greased the right palms, said the right things to the right people and got a shiny new uniform with too much gold braid on it?”

“The man is a fool. That’s why they put him in charge here. They can’t give him a real military command.”

“I know the sort.” Hannibal said, trying for the ‘fellow soldier’ approach. He considered Madari’s bitter tone; he looked at the man’s face. He was about forty years old. The other military officers among the inmates that Hannibal and the rest of the team had talked to gave nothing but glowing reports of Madari’s intelligence and military acumen. They all admired him. So why wasn’t he a colonel? Perhaps speaking out inconveniently wasn’t something he had only started doing after the regime change.

“It’s always the way. The ones who say the right things get promoted while better men who have the guts to speak the truth get passed over.” That hit a nerve. He saw Madari’s carefully controlled face twitch just a little.

“Sit down, Major.” Hannibal said, nodding at a chair. Again the hesitation, then Madari pulled out the chair and sat down. He kept his hands below the tabletop. Hannibal sat back down. Murdock appeared at Madari’s side, carrying two small cups.

“I thought you might like some coffee, Colonel, Major.” He put down the cups and left again quickly. Nice, Hannibal thought; glad to know that Face and Murdock were paying attention. Now he and the major were drinking coffee together, like friends. He took a sip of the strong coffee. It had a spicy taste, and he saw surprise on Madari’s face, as he tasted his cup.

“Hayl!” Madari said, then, “Cardamom you call it. I haven’t had hayl in coffee since I came here, Ziyahd keeps it for himself and his cronies.” Hannibal nodded his head towards Face.

“I have a very good supply officer.” Madari looked at Face who was paying no apparent attention to them, seemingly entirely focussed on playing a word game with Murdock. The major turned back to Hannibal.

“Your men, they are very good. Special Forces, I understand.”

“Green berets.” Hannibal said.

“But not Santana. He is a civilian.”

“Yes. It’s a long story.”

“We have nothing but time here, Colonel Smith.”

“We haven’t,” Hannibal said. “We’ve been told there are people on their way to question us further about our mission. I’m not sure what’s taking them so long to get here. We’re only two days from the capital. They could arrive any time.”

“They could be coming from abroad.” Madari said, between sips of his coffee, not looking at Hannibal. “When I was… questioned some of the men involved were not from here.” Hannibal noticed his hand holding the coffee cup was trembling very slightly. “They were eastern Europeans I think.” Hannibal nodded. Their briefing had told them the government had ties to the Soviet Union, that the Russians were lending their expertise in a number of specialist areas.

“Okay, that makes sense.” He pushed the paper he’d been working on towards Madari, who glanced at it.

“A map of the camp.” Madari observed.

“I wondered if you could help me with it, you must know the layout of this place inside out. I’ve got most of it figured out, but I don’t know the layout of most of the interior of the guardhouse. Can you help me?” Well that was it, he’d laid it on the line. It would be obvious to Madari what Hannibal was making the map for. Asking him “can you help me?” was clearly a loaded question. Help me with the map. Help me with the plan. Help me carry it out.

“I can tell you the layout of the guardhouse.” Madari said. A loaded answer to Hannibal’s loaded question. All right, still some work to do.

“And can you tell me what that thing is under the tarp – tarpaulin – beside the interrogation blockhouse?” Madari actually smiled; the first time Hannibal had seen him do so.

“Hasn’t anyone told you?” Hannibal shook his head. “It’s a missile launcher, Colonel, anti-aircraft defence.” Hannibal tried to control his delight at that news, scribbled the word ‘gun’ on the paper. Madari went into details about the weapon. The best detail of all being that there were still plenty of shells for it stored in the armoury. He became quite enthused and after a while Hannibal had to cut him short.

“About the guard house…” Madari calmed himself, pulled the map over. He picked up the pencil Hannibal had been using and began to draw on the paper.

“I’m particularly interested in the location of radio room.” Hannibal said leaning over him. Madari nodded, impatiently, and looking at the plan Hannibal saw that this was the first room Madari had marked. He sat back with a smile. The plan was coming together.


Madari stepped out of the rec room into the sunshine feeling dazed. What the hell had he just agreed to? Well he’d agreed to a meeting, but really he’d agreed to help the Americans not merely to escape, but to take the camp in order to do so. Despite his terror of the consequences should it go wrong, he’d let Smith and then Peck and Murdock talk at him, asking him first for information, then for advice and eventually for a meeting, a meeting to make a plan.

They were good. They were damn good. Smith was as sharp a military mind as, well maybe even as Ahmed had been. Peck… Peck seemed to have the ability to talk without pausing for breath and smile at you at the same time until you were ready to give him anything he asked for.


Jahni approached with a nervous look on his face.

“Are you okay, sir, you look a bit dizzy.”

“Fine.” Madari said, though he indeed felt dizzy. “I, um, I’ll need you to take word around to the other officers. We’re having a meeting tonight, with the Americans, barracks three, twenty one hundred hours.”

Jahni stared at him, wide eyed. “Sir, does that mean…” he glanced around and lowered his voice, leaned in closer. “Are they making an escape attempt? Are we helping them?”

“Not just an escape, Lieutenant. They intend to take the camp.”

Jahni gasped, his hand flew to his mouth.

“Don’t get carried away, it’s only a meeting, it doesn’t mean it’s definitely going to happen.”

“It could though. The five of them added to the rest of us, that could mean… we could do it! You said that, remember, a couple of months ago, it was at lunch and you said ‘if we had five more trained men’.”

Madari frowned. Sometimes Jahni remembered too much.

“Lieutenant, come here.” Madari took his arm, moved them both out of the light and into the shadows between the rec room and mess hall. They stood near the wall, close so they couldn’t be overheard. Madari put a hand on Jahni’s shoulder.

“Kahil, I know you like these men, but you must remember they did not come here to rescue us. That is not their mission. If they want to take the camp it is because they think that is the best chance they have of escaping. The good of their own unit is what motivates them, don’t forget that.”

Jahni looked at the ground, disappointment on his face.

“I understand, sir.”

“I’m not saying they are not fine men, or that they are not sincere, I think they are. But they have their own agenda. Don’t let their charm blind you to that.”

Jahni didn’t answer. Madari squeezed his shoulder.

“I know you want to get out of here and go home, Kahil, I know that. But please don’t build up false hope about that.”

Jahni looked up at him, his eyes dark pools in the shadows.

“Get out?” He said quietly. “Leave? Is that what you would do, if we took over the camp? If we threw Ziyahd out of his office?”

“You wouldn’t leave?” Madari asked.

“Not if you didn’t.” Jahni’s voice was barely above a whisper now, Madari had to lean close to hear him.

“But what use would it be to stay?” Madari asked, frowning, not understanding. “What would we do?”

Jahni smiled. A slow, hungry smile. He licked his lips.



There were two guards on the door of prisoner barracks number three that night. Not prison guards, they were two of Madari’s men, apparently lounging casually. Any inmates that tried to enter were told to come back later. No one argued.

Inside the barracks the A-Team, Major Madari, the rest of the military officers and a small number of the civilian prisoners were gathered at the far end of the room. Hannibal had the floor, was explaining the plan to the men.

“The first thing we have to do is get control of the guard towers. I’d suggest the best time for that is right after the shift change after sunset prayers.” Several of the men nodded in agreement.

“No,” Madari said. Hannibal looked at him, knew he’d face challenges from the major every step of the way. He had only agreed to this meeting very reluctantly.

Hannibal raised an eyebrow, “No?”

“Do it before the shift change. Straight after Maghrib, sunset prayers, you take out the man at the end of his shift. He won’t be suspicious if he hears or sees someone climbing the ladder, he’ll think it’s his relief. Then you’re in place waiting for the man coming on duty and that’s eight men taken out before anyone even knows anything has started.”

“Nice, though the timing would be tight.” Hannibal said. “Now the north west tower is going to be the hardest to get to without being seen…”

The meeting went on, Hannibal outlining plans. There was plenty of enthusiastic feedback of ideas and information from the younger Arab officers. But they still deferred to Madari and any time he raised an objection they all agreed with it and waited for Hannibal to answer it. Still things were going well until…

“…okay, so we get BA to the motor pool, with Salim.”

“No!” This time the major was so emphatic that people stared at him. Hannibal felt his hackles rise at once. This wasn’t an objection to a minor point. This was a full on challenge. Madari had stepped towards Hannibal and Hannibal straightened up to meet him, was profoundly glad the man wasn’t taller than him.


“No civilians.” Madari said in a barely controlled voice. “I won’t allow it.” Hannibal looked around at the small number of civilians there.

“Why do you think they are here? They want to take part.”

“You may be happy to take civilians into combat, Colonel Smith,” Madari said, glancing at Frankie, “but these men are my responsibility, I will not let you get them killed.” There was a small gasp from behind Hannibal, but he didn’t react to it. He sensed a shifting of postures as his men and Madari’s men poised themselves to back up their respective leaders. Uncertainty radiated from the civilian group.

Hannibal kept his voice quiet and level as he responded, hoping to defuse this quickly.

“I’m not going to put any civilians in danger.”

Madari dismissed this with a snort. “This whole plan puts them in danger. What do we do when you have gone, Colonel? Have you thought about that? Do we hand the camp back to Ziyahd and let him shoot a few men as punishment?” Ah, so that’s what this was about, Hannibal thought.

“What happens when we are gone is up to you, Major, the camp will be yours. The camp, the gun.” He tried to make the word “gun” sound almost seductive.

“And what use are those once the food and water deliveries stop?” Madari demanded.

“There are local tribes in this area, you know what the government is doing to them. They’ll be happy to join you and bring you supplies.” Hannibal kept his tone level, reasonable, but it was a strain.

“The government is wiping out the tribes! Soon there will be none left!” He was shouting now, and in his eyes there was something Hannibal hadn’t expected to see and it shocked him. Madari was afraid.

“Then the sooner we get on with this the better.” Hannibal held the major’s gaze as they glared at each other. The tension in the room was almost unbearable and the sudden sound of a whistle from the doorway shook them like a pistol shot. At the signal most of the men scattered, some to cots in the room, some out of the door. A few moments later a guard came to the door and shouted an instruction.

“Head count.” Murdock said. “Dunno why they keep doing that,” he muttered, “surely they know by now everybody only has one.”


Madari only looked away from staring Smith down when Jahni put a hand on his shoulder and spoke softly.

“We’d better go outside, sir.”

Madari looked away from Smith, letting himself breath again. Outside, yes, head count. He headed for the door, but stopped and looked back. Smith had seen it, he was sure, he could probably smell it, Madari felt sure he reeked of fear. The civilians issue was an excuse. The issue of what happens afterwards was an excuse.

“I am not a fool, Smith, I know all you care about is your own men. Don’t expect me to believe anything else.”

Another excuse. Perhaps convincing, he saw Jahni nod. But an excuse all the same.

He walked outside and into the ranks of men lined up for the headcount, in the back row. The searchlights from the towers were trained on them as dusk deepened quickly into night. His officers stood around him, in groups of five. Five. Five more men. Where had he come up with that number at that months ago lunch conversation? It was another excuse. Seventeen men was more than enough to take this camp from a donkey like Ziyahd. But good men needed a good leader. A leader with a spine. A leader with courage.

And in that meeting he’d seen that Smith was exactly that. No wonder I’m so afraid of him, he thought. He is everything I wanted to be and can never be again. He could lead my men and take this camp.

And then he would leave and the men would turn to me and look for leadership, and what would I have to give them? Jahni said we should fight. That we could stay here at the camp, try to persuade all the young men to stay and train them to be a guerrilla unit. But how can I ask the men to stay and be led by me when I still scream in the night and humiliate myself in the day. Please, if I can be spared one thing, don’t let me have a flashback in front of Smith, don’t let him see me like that.

A guard went past, counting off the groups of five. Something touched the back of Madari’s right hand. He glanced over to see Jahni beside him. The back of Jahni’s hand had brushed Madari’s, accidentally or deliberately it was impossible to say. Madari wanted to take Jahni’s hand, desperately needed the warmth of that contact. Jahni smiled at him and as if he knew what Madari was thinking he slipped his hand into Madari’s. Always gentle, always so careful of the ravaged fingernails. He moved a little closer.

“Do you think they’ll get the count right first time?” Jahni asked, his tone casual.

“I’ll bet you five cigarettes they’ve forgotten about the men in the infirmary.” Noor said from in front them. “Every time they forget.”

“I’ll take that bet.” Jahni said. Madari smiled at their talk. Casual. Camp business, conversations the men here had every day as they walked the yard, or were counted. It was… peaceful, reassuring. Why did it have to change?


“Oh, that’s gotta to be a foul!” Hannibal shouted. He didn’t know much about soccer, a game of which was in progress between two teams of inmates in the yard, but was pretty sure throwing elbows like that wasn’t allowed. Murdock probably didn’t know much about soccer either but it hadn’t stopped him volunteering himself and Frankie to play. Frankie had been less enthusiastic and catching Lieutenant Jahni’s elbow in the face had probably just dampened his enthusiasm even more. The teams argued for a while, with plenty of shouting and pointing, before Frankie’s team was awarded a free kick and the game went on.

Hannibal grinned, leaning back against the doorjamb of the prisoner barracks. A few feet away Madari stood by the wall, his hands behind his back. He watched the game with barely concealed irritation.

“The men need to be fresh,” he said. “Not running about in the burning sun.”

“They’ll be fine”, Hannibal said. “Get their blood up, ready to go.” He could see Face and BA also apparently watching the game, on the other side of the yard. But he knew they were actually watching the guards coming and going, checking for any change in routine. He saw Salim go up to them. They shook hands and Hannibal knew from Salim’s reaction that Face had passed something to him when shaking his hand. As Face spoke to him Salim looked across at Hannibal and began to hurry over to him. Dammit, kid, could you be any more obvious? Madari must have caught the exchange too, he muttered under his breath in Arabic, sounding annoyed.

“Colonel Smith,” Salim said, coming up to him, “Mr Peck gave me this for you.” Under the cover of shaking hands (what a wonderfully useful custom this continual handshaking was, Hannibal thought) he gave Hannibal a flat, round tin, which Hannibal looked at briefly before dropping into his pocket. Boot polish, black. Briefly wondered if Face had scrounged it or lifted it.

“Thanks, Salim.”

“Is it for tonight? For camouflage?” Hannibal nodded.

“And I have this for you.” Salim took a small bar of chocolate out of his pocket. “It’s not a cigar, but I thought you might like it.” Hannibal knew enough about Arab manners now not to refuse a gift.

“Thanks, kid, very generous.”

“Colonel,” Salim said, dropping his voice a little. “I cannot believe that by tomorrow morning we will all be free, thanks to you.” Madari snapped something at him in Arabic and Salim looked chastened.

“Just stay cool about it,” Hannibal said. “You’re clear about what you have to do?”

“Yes, yes, help keep the prisoners calm, make sure everyone stays in the barracks until you come to let us out.” He cast a resentful glance at Madari, whose insistence had led to this compromise. That the civilians involved in the plan stay in the barracks and keep order until after the camp was secured. “I could do more, I could…” Madari didn’t speak this time but his glare shut the young engineer up very quickly. Salim shook Hannibal’s hand again, then touched the fingers of his right hand to his forehead and bowed his head a little, before walking off. Hannibal heard Madari click his tongue in annoyance.

“Kid’s just excited about tonight, lighten up on him,” Hannibal said to the major.

“He has a bad case of hero worship.” Madari said. Hannibal feared this was true. He unwrapped the candy bar, offered Madari a piece. The major declined the offer, turned to look at the game again, then frowned, looking off further into the distance. Hannibal followed his gaze. A column of dust was rising, out on the desert road leading to the camp. Vehicles were approaching.

“Any deliveries due today?” Hannibal asked. Madari tilted his head back, said, “No.” Hannibal bit into the chocolate, chewed it thoughtfully.

Face and BA were arguing lazily about the game, but they had seen the column of dust too. In a few minutes they saw three Land Rovers drive in through the main gate and park up in front of the guardhouse. Several men emerged from them, three soldiers, who had been driving, two Arab men in suits and head dresses and four Westerners, in suits, bare-headed. The drivers started unloading boxes from the vehicles and taking them to the concrete blockhouse that the team had been imprisoned in when they first arrived. Face and BA looked at each other, Face’s eyes were wide

“BA, do you think…?”

“Yeah, it’s gotta be.” They saw General Ziyahd come out of the guardhouse, accompanied by several of his senior officers and greet the new arrivals, then they all went inside. Face and BA made their way with forced nonchalance to where Hannibal was sitting on the steps of barracks number three. He looked at them questioningly.

“They’re here.” Face said.

Incongruously a cheer burst from the spectators of the soccer game as Murdock somehow managed to score a goal, mostly by accident. As his team-mates congratulated him Murdock glanced over to see if his colonel was watching. He saw BA and Face talking to Hannibal, saw the alarm on their faces. He extricated himself, grabbed Frankie and hurried over as two other players took their places.

“What’s wrong?” Murdock asked, “What happened?”

“The specialists have arrived.” Face said. He turned to Hannibal. “What do we do now, Colonel?” If Hannibal had a dollar for every time he’d heard that question, or variations on it he’d be rich. He looked around at the men waiting for his orders, and then turned to Madari.

“It’s up to you, Major, you’ll have to start the party without us.” He felt his stomach tighten as he saw that look he’d seen the other night in the major’s eyes again. Fear. If Madari had lost his nerve, if he didn’t dare to start the takeover without Hannibal pushing him, then they were dead.

“I… I don’t have enough men… without your unit…” Madari blustered. A few of his officers were wandering over now, sensing the tension coming from the group. Hannibal couldn’t let them see Madari vacillating like this, couldn’t let them see the uncertainty. The officers were brave and they were ready to fight, but if they lost confidence in their leader they would be useless. It was time to pull rank. He grabbed the major’s arm and dragged him inside the barracks. There were a couple of inmates in there. Hannibal wasn’t sure if they could understand him when he snapped, “Get out!” But they got the message and left quickly, closing the door behind them. Meanwhile Madari pulled away from Hannibal, swung around to confront him, but Hannibal spoke first.

“They’re going to torture us, Major. And we have information, names, government officials, senior military men with rebel sympathies. When we give up those names your dissident movement is dead!”

Madari stared at him, asked, as if astonished, “You will give in to them? You will give them what they want? You will break?”

Hannibal stared at him in return. My god, why doesn’t he understand this? He’s a professional soldier, has no one ever explained this to him? Or is he an idealist? Does he really believe a man should be able to resist torture if he tries hard enough?

“Everybody gives in, Major, it’s just a matter of time.” Horrible memories from Vietnam clamoured for his attention. He pushed them away. “Under torture, by experts, everybody breaks. It’s not a question of how brave you are, how strong you are, there are simply limits to what the body and mind can take. There’s no shame in that.” That’s what the major feared, Hannibal saw it now. Not just the pain and trauma of the torture, but the guilt and shame of breaking. The loss of his honour.

“You have training, to resist.” Madari’s tone was accusing.

“All that gives you is time, three days maybe.” Madari eyes widened at that. He’d broken on the third day, Hannibal knew at once.

“Everybody breaks.” Hannibal said again, emphasising it. “Everybody.” Madari looked back at him, as Hannibal held his gaze. Needed to convince him this was true, free him of the crippling guilt.

“Colonel,” Face’s voice came quietly from the doorway. “They’re coming.” By the time Hannibal looked back from Face Madari had started to move towards the door. Hannibal followed him, praying he had convinced the man.

The colonel and the major went back out into the sunlight. A squad of guards was heading towards the barracks. The A-Team were all standing by the doorway and several of the military officers were nearby. The two groups looked questioningly at their respective leaders, poised to move on their signal. But Hannibal and Madari both shook their heads at the same moment. To go now was unthinkable. In daylight, without taking the guard towers, with all these civilians milling about, the carnage would be appalling.

The guards came through the gate into the prisoner compound. The soccer game stopped as the guards walked through the players, headed directly for the A-Team. The players stared at them.

“Oh god.” Hannibal heard Frankie say, his voice shaking. He saw Murdock clasp the younger man’s shoulder supportively, lean close to speak to him, his voice too soft for Hannibal to hear. Hannibal felt in his pocket and took out the tin of boot polish they’d been planning on using for camouflage.

“Faris,” he said, using Madari’s given name for the first time. He knew it was rude to do so, Madari hadn’t invited him to use it, but Salim had told him what it was. Besides, compared to the other men he’d met here Madari was a pretty rude guy himself. As Madari turned to him Hannibal, repeating his earlier words, said, “It’s up to you,” held out the small tin to him. Madari hesitated then reached out and let Hannibal drop the tin into his hand, quickly moved it to his pocket.

As the A-Team were led away, out of the prisoner compound towards the block-house Hannibal looked back over his shoulder, the inmates were standing in groups, watching silently. Salim had come out of the dining hall and seeing what was going on had dashed over to stand by the fence, his hands clutching the wire, eyes wide with shock and despair. Major Faris Al Madari stood a few yards behind him. Faris. Salim had said it meant ‘knight’. They could do with a knight about now, shining armour optional.


Why did things have to change? Because if they didn’t five men were going to be tortured. Madari watched the guards lead the A-Team away to the blockhouse. Smith’s words still rang in his ears.

“Everybody breaks.” And it was clear, from the pain on his face, in his eyes, that he spoke from experience. “Everybody.” The words “even me” were not spoken, but were there somewhere.

Smith had been tortured and been broken. In Vietnam, presumably. Yet he was so strong now. How? How had he found the man he used to be? I need to talk to him, Madari thought. I need him to tell me how he got back. How he got strong again.

His thoughts were interrupted by a commotion around the gate. Salim Fulani was arguing with the guards and a crowd of prisoners was starting to build up. The men who had been playing football were there. A lot of shouting and gesturing was going on.

Madari frowned. He could feel the explosive atmosphere wash over him like a wave. He realised several of his officers were in the arguing crowd, including Jahni.

“Faraj,” he snapped at the Captain who stood nearby, looking tense, biting his thumbnail. “We can’t have this.” He nodded at the crowd.

“No, sir.” Faraj looked at him. “Sir, about the Americans, we can’t just -”

“Later! Come on!” He took off for the crowd around the gate. This needed to end before it got out of hand.

Too late. Someone threw a punch, and someone else threw another and suddenly the prisoners were heaving at the gate, trying to tear it off. The guards yelled, their dogs barked and someone pulled the alarm.

The siren wailed out across the camp and the desert. The camp exploded.

Chapter 3

Madari was walking down a dusty road. He was walking home from school. His Taqiyah, a small white cap, was stuffed in his satchel with his books, because he liked to feel the sun on his head.

He was twelve years old and he was nervous. His pace quickened as he walked past the house by the orchard. The house with the dog. He was afraid of the dog that guarded the fig trees. It hated him. Admittedly he and two of his friends had once given it a good reason to; climbing into the orchard and making a creditable attempt to break the world fig eating record. That had been two years ago, but this animal knew how to hold a grudge. Whenever he passed by it came racing out, snarling and barking, and he broke into a run.

Then suddenly it was one specific day. A day Ahmed came out to the school to meet him. Madari walked holding his grandfather’s hand and chattered excitedly, asking a million questions about the mission Ahmed had just returned from.

He forgot about the dog. But it didn’t forget about him. Out it came, ravening like the Hound of the Baskervilles. Ahmed reacted so fast it took Madari’s breath away. He swung Madari around, placing himself between the boy and the dog and shouted, “Go back!”

The dog skidded to a halt, cowered before the tall soldier.

“Go back!” Ahmed ordered it again. And it obeyed. Its tail went down. It turned and slunk away.

“Has that animal been bothering you, Ris?”


“You must learn to use your voice.” They walked on. “An officer must be able to control his men easily using his voice.” He smiled. “Works on dogs too. You shouldn’t be afraid.”

“I’m not afraid anymore, grandfather.”

Madari looked back at the dog. The dog was gone and Sergeant Ghaith stood there instead.

Madari frowned and turned back to Ahmed. Who was no longer there. Jahni now walked in his place, holding Madari’s hand. He carried a rifle in his other hand.

“The voice is important.” Jahni said.

“Yes.” Madari was still a child, Jahni now taller than him instead of the other way around. “Yes.” His voice was still high, a boy’s voice, not a man’s.

“The voice is important.” Another man walked on his other side, held his left hand. Smith. Smith’s hand was large and rough, like Ahmed’s but something warm and sticky covered it. Madari held up his hand, still small, still a child’s hand. Still perfect, not disfigured. The fingers glistened black. He looked at Smith, whose hands had blood pouring from where the fingernails should be. The blood was black like ink, it made a trail along the ground.

“Everybody breaks.” Smith said.

And Madari was back in the camp. He was fully grown again. The camp was deserted. Not a prisoner or a guard in sight. Madari walked to his barracks and went inside. Not totally deserted. Someone lay on Madari’s cot. He walked closer, to find it was Jahni. Jahni slept, one white cotton sheet over him, his body outlined, clearly naked, underneath it.


Jahni woke and smiled, slow, sensual, the same smile he gave before he said “fight.” He held out his hand.

Madari woke with a small gasp. He blinked and looked around. Jahni was nearby, but fully clothed, sitting on a cot, playing cards with Noor. The two men looked at Madari, smiled.

“Good afternoon.” Noor said, “you missed lunch, but we didn’t want to wake you.”

Madari got his bearings. He was lying on his side on his cot, one blanket covering him. He’d not slept all night. After the guards regained control and locked the camp down, confining everyone to barracks, Madari had sat up on his cot all night staring into the darkness. He knew it couldn’t be real, but in his mind he could hear the Americans screaming.

After breakfast he’d fallen asleep finally, fully dressed. His rest was fitful in the light, with people walking around. Dreams haunted him. Not nightmares for a change, just strange dreams. That last the strangest of all. Ahmed, Jahni, Smith. Perhaps the strangest thing is that the three of them seemed to go together. All so strong. Then he shouldn’t have been there himself. He didn’t belong with strong men. Perhaps that’s why he’d been a child in the dream. Someone who needed protection. But then he’d been a man again when he was suddenly back here, when he came in here to find Jahni naked in his bed. In this bed. Waiting for him…

A shiver went through him suddenly, a shock of realisation.

He had an erection.

Mixed emotions assailed him. I’m aroused from dreaming of a man in my bed. I’m aroused. I function. The first time since my arrest. Dreaming of Kahil naked in my bed aroused me, that’s sinful. Oh that was only a foolish dream, forget it. I’m hard, it still works. My god, I’m a man again.

He laughed out loud, making the others look at him oddly. Then he flushed. Could anyone see? He made sure the blanket was bunched up so that no evidence was visible.

He lay there, enjoying the warm breeze on his skin. He imagined the heat of the sun on his head, remembered how he would touch his hair to feel how hot it was. And his grandmother would scold him and say if he ran around in the sun with no cap on he’d end up as crazy as Ahmed. And Ahmed would scowl and say “curb your tongue, woman.” Which hadn’t the slightest effect on her.

Slowly the arousal ebbed and the erection went away. The delirium of the moment faded with it and other images from the dream came into his mind. Smith, his hands pouring with blood. Smith being broken again.

Can I really say I am a man if I let that happen? I fear being tortured again, but does that mean I can sacrifice those five men to suffer in my place? But if we fail we might die, Jahni might die. And I…

I what? If I’m a man I should be able to admit what I feel for him. Yet to have such feelings surely means I’m not a man, doesn’t it? He sat up on the cot, looked at Jahni, who was laughing at something Noor had said. His thick hair fell forward over his eyes and he brushed it away.

You are beautiful, and strong and your voice saves me from losing my mind. I depend on you utterly. I love you. I can never tell you that. But I love you and I am still a man.

He stood up. He knew now what he was most afraid of. Not that they would fail, but that they would succeed. He was afraid of who he would have to become then. Not simply as strong as before, but stronger. What he would have to do if he commanded these men not as prisoners, but as soldiers. What he would have to risk.

Failure would almost be a relief. But they were not going to fail.

Jahni and Noor were looking up at him, curious as he stood there, quiet, his arms by his side, hands relaxed.

“Captain, Lieutenant. Gather the officers.”


“With throats unslaked, with black lips baked… black lips baked… damn, what was it?” Hannibal had moved on to poetry, and the longest thing he’d ever learnt. Half of it seemed to be gone now. And then it was all gone, because the door was opening and he could hear a babble of voices outside. They’re coming for me. It’s time. Well, I got through it before, I can do it again. The hood was untied and pulled off. He closed his eyes as light from the doorway blinded him after so many hours in the dark, briefly seeing shadowy figures surrounding him.

“Get those manacles off him.” At the sound of the voice his eyes sprang back open and he stared at the man in the doorway.

“Madari!” He gasped out, then, because he couldn’t stop himself, “What the hell took you so damn long?” Madari didn’t answer that, moved back out into the corridor, barking orders at his men. Hannibal was released from his shackles and the two officers helped him out of the cell. Face and BA were being brought out too. Both looked about as bad as Hannibal felt, but neither appeared seriously hurt. The three of them were given water, which they drank greedily. Then despite the pain Hannibal pulled himself up straight, away from the support of the officer on either side of him.

“The others?” He asked, his voice still croaky.

Captain Noor, a machine gun looking small in his large hands, said, “In here, sir.” He took Hannibal, Face and BA through to a large room. The smell of it hit them all as they went in, making their stomachs roil. Blood and vomit and burnt flesh. Frankie and Murdock were tied onto straight-backed wooden chairs, both slumped in their bonds, a man tending to each of them. At the far end of the room two officers were holding the four Russians, and their Arab colleagues at gunpoint and looking as if they were itching for an excuse to fire. Murdock wasn’t obviously hurt, but Frankie’s hands were covered in blood. Face and BA hurried to their friends, to check their injuries, to offer comfort.

“I think they’ve used drugs on them,” one of Madari’s men said, standing up from Murdock’s side, talking to Hannibal, “they’re barely conscious.”

“Frankie has…” Face’s voice cracked a little. “…they pushed needles under his fingernails, and his arms have been burnt.” Hannibal felt the anger start to rise, hot and red inside him.

“Somebody give me a weapon,” Hannibal said, enjoying the fear in the eyes of the torturers as Captain Noor quickly handed his gun to Hannibal. But he pushed away the anger, stored it up for later, needed a cool head now. “Get Murdock and Frankie out of here, leave these…people locked in here for now.” He left the torture chamber and found Madari outside in the corridor. Knew the major wouldn’t go into that room. Hannibal focussed his mind; there was still a long night ahead.

“Report, Major. First off, what time is it?”

“About one in the morning. We have all the guard towers and the dog patrols and I have men going for the armoury now.”

“I thought the attack was meant to start at sunset. The shift change on the guard towers?”

“There was a change to the shift patterns. They changed shifts at midnight instead.”

No time to ask why Hannibal ploughed on. “Okay, after the armoury is secured we get the guard’s barracks, then the guardhouse itself. Any alarms yet?”

“No. They don’t know…” He stopped as Murdock and Frankie were carried out of the room, and laid down on blankets in the corridor.

“Colonel…I’m…” Madari said quietly, then pulling himself together, “we’ll get them to the infirmary as soon as we take the guardhouse.”

The blockhouse guards were locked into their own cells. The team and the officers moved out, leaving two men behind to guard Frankie and Murdock. A squad of men, led by Captain Faraj had taken the armoury from the two men guarding it and they regrouped inside, began distributing weapons. Hannibal noticed how, with a gun in his hand, Madari lost all his previous self-consciousness about his mutilated fingernails.

“Major,” Hannibal asked, “any casualties?”

“Minor injuries only so far.” At Hannibal’s glance he added, “Apart from your men. I am sorry about that.”

“Why didn’t you attack last night? Hannibal asked, icy calm to keep any note of accusation out of his voice.

“It was impossible, they had every guard in the camp watching us last night.”

“Did they suspect something was going on?”

“Something was going on. After you were taken away there was some unrest among the prisoners. Especially when they saw the foreigners going to interrogate you.”

“There was a riot?” Hannibal was impressed. The charm offensive by Face and Murdock had apparently been even more successful than he’d realised.

“Not quite, but it was enough to make Ziyahd nervous. That’s why the shifts were rearranged today, most of the guards were up all last night.”

“Really? Nice. Okay,” he turned to his very small, but currently very well equipped, army. “Everybody armed to the teeth, I see. Let’s get this show on the road.”


The klaxon screamed into the night as the prison guard pulled the alarm lever, just before BA punched him into temporary oblivion.

Damn, thought Hannibal, and we were doing so well. They had taken the guards barracks with the minimum of fuss, most of the men were asleep. But making their way to the guard house they were spotted and the man who’d seen them was just a little too quick to get to the alarm. Shooting him would have had the same effect as the alarm so Hannibal had pushed aside the pistol Madari was raising and urged the squad into a run instead. They still had the element of surprise. Hearing the alarm the guards were probably expecting more prisoner unrest, not that they were about to be hit by a heavily armed unit of trained soldiers. And if he’d counted right there were only six men in there, including the general.

As they burst through the door, bristling with weapons, the first man who saw them instantly dropped his gun and threw his hands in the air. One down.

“Major, find the General, Face, with me, the rest of you mop up the rest of the guards. And somebody kill that alarm!”


Madari snapped for Captains Faraj and Ishaq to follow him and they raced off in the direction of Ziyahd’s quarters. At the door of the office they stood to each side, Madari signalled a count down with his fingers, three, two, one.

Faraj kicked the door in, ducked back as gunshots blasted out, then a cry of alarm and the sound of something heavy hitting wood.

“Go!” Madari snapped at his men and the three of them piled into the room. Ziyahd stood behind his desk, his uniform jacket on over his pyjamas, a panicked look on his face. His pistol lay on the desk.

“Hands on your head!” Madari ordered him.

He didn’t have to repeat it. Ziyahd raised his hands. Faraj quickly ran around the desk. He pushed the pistol beyond Ziyahd’s reach and Ishaq grabbed it, checked the chamber and ejected the clip, before putting it in his pocket.

“Empty.” He reported to Madari.

“Sit.” Faraj pushed Ziyahd into the chair, kept him covered. “Do not move.”

Madari smiled, enjoying the efficiency of his men. The alarm cut off.

“Keep him there, Faraj. General, you are relieved of your command. Do as you are ordered and you won’t be hurt.”

“You…” Ziyahd glanced at the furious looking Faraj still covering him. “You guarantee my safety?”

“Worm.” Ishaq snarled. “We should kill him now.”

“You won’t be hurt, if you do as I tell you. I give you my word.”

“Sir!” Faraj protested, but Madari raised a hand to cut him off. He noticed one of his nail beds was bleeding, he must have scraped it somehow, hadn’t even felt it. He winced as the pain got his attention finally.

Madari understood Faraj’s objection, Ziyahd didn’t deserve to have his safety guaranteed, but there were rules for dealing with prisoners, even ones who didn’t deserve it. Rules were rules and principle was principle.

Faraj stilled his protest, kept Ziyahd in his seat.

Madari reported over the radio, to Noor, that Ziyahd was secured and that they would hold this position. After that he went through to the general’s living quarters, reached via another door in the office. A comfortable sitting room, with a stereo, a television and a VCR. He went on through to the bedroom. Like the sitting room it was carpeted. Madari had to resist the urge to slip off his sandals and let his toes sink into the shag pile. The large bed had crisp white sheets, which were now badly disarranged, the general presumably dragged hastily from sleep by the scream of the alarm. Last of all he checked the small but well appointed bathroom. All clear. He went back to the office.

“Right, General, the first thing I want you to do, is open your safe.”

Again he didn’t have to repeat the order. Ziyahd looked alarmed, but let Faraj drag him over to the small wall safe, entered the combination and sat back down as Madari and Ishaq emptied the contents onto the desk. A plastic tub, with a faded label promising ice cream, was surprisingly heavy. Ishaq, not expecting the weight dropped it and when it hit the floor the lid popped off, spilling the contents. Chains, rings and bracelets fell to the floor, gold and diamonds shining.

“Bloody hell!” Faraj gasped, in English, making Madari smile. Faraj had been educated at Eton and Cambridge. Now and again that showed through. Ishaq bent down and began to retrieve the gold.

Another box held more jewellery, watches, lighters. Madari put it on the desk.

“Quite a haul, General,” he said, mockingly.

“Thieving dog.” Faraj growled in contempt. Madari rummaged through the booty, hoping to find the lighter Faraj had had stolen from him, knew his wife had given it to him. But there was no sign. This was probably mostly recent stolen goods, ones the general hadn’t had time to sell yet.

Ishaq straightened up, dumped the box of heavy gold jewellery on the table with a muttered curse.

“Whose is this anyway?” He asked grouchily.

“The Americans,” Ziyahd said.

“Not a people known for understatement.” Madari observed. “Faraj keep him covered. Ishaq, let us see what else we can find in here.” He smiled evilly at Ziyahd, “perhaps we can find the account books. The real account books.” Ziyahd now looked very alarmed indeed.

The two men began to systematically search the office.


Hannibal sat on the steps of the main entrance to the guardhouse, sipping a tin mug of coffee. The Arabs normally served coffee in tiny cups, but Hannibal felt the need for a large amount of very strong coffee. Two nights without sleep was telling on him. He’d gone longer in the past, but he’d been younger then too. Against the lightening, near-dawn sky he could see the menacing shape of the anti-aircraft gun. Men climbed over it, working under Face and Madari’s supervision. He could hear BA’s voice as he ordered around another team of men checking over the trucks and jeeps, tweaking every part to perfect efficiency. BA did not intend for them to break down in the middle of the desert half way to Jordan. Hannibal’s walkie-talkie crackled as the officers talked to each other. Most of it was in Arabic, but sometimes he heard Face or BA.

“Mornin’, Colonel.” Hannibal almost spilled his coffee as Murdock’s voice sounded right behind him. He must be tired; he hadn’t heard anyone approaching him. Murdock moved past him and outside.

“What are you doing up, Captain?”

“Oh, I feel fine now. After all the drugs they’ve tried on me at the VA that stuff the Russians gave me was like taking NyQuil.” Hannibal looked at him narrowly, but he seemed lucid.

“Frankie?” He asked. Murdock looked serious.

“He’s still out. He got the worst of it, they were…” he took a breath, shaking off the memories. “They were hurting him to pressure me. It was pretty bad, Colonel.” He wrapped his arms around himself, shivered.

“Okay,” Hannibal said, after a moments pause. “Go get yourself a weapon and a radio.” Murdock ran off to the armoury. Hannibal noticed that the inmates were coming out of their barracks now. Some of them stood by the fence staring at him. He raised his mug in a salute and grinned, then went back to drinking his coffee. Two Arab officers were in the prisoner compound, talking to the inmates, explaining the new situation.

“Hey, Colonel, just like old times, huh?” Murdock was back, carrying an M-16. He nodded at the rifle. “Old friends from ‘nam. And here I was expecting to find crates of Kalashnikovs, labelled ‘from your good friends in the Soviet Union.'”

“We can’t expect them to make it too easy for us.” Hannibal said.

“I used a Kalashnikov once,” Murdock went on. “The instruction manual was weird though.”

“Oh yeah?” Hannibal had heard this gag before, was only half listening to the Captain. He was watching the prisoner compound. An inmate approached the gate pushed it open in an experimental way, as if he couldn’t quite believe it wasn’t locked any more.

“Yeah, it said ‘for best results draw the enemy into your own territory and wait for him to freeze to death.'”

“Funny, Murdock. Hey, kid, whaddya say?” He called out to the man making his way tentatively out of the gate. It was Salim. He ran over to Hannibal and Murdock.

“Colonel Smith, you did it!” He grabbed Hannibal’s hand in both of his own as Hannibal rose, shook it enthusiastically, did the same to Murdock. “We’re free!”

“There’s still work to do, Salim, do you want to help Sergeant Baracus with the vehicles?”

“Of course, I’ll be…”

Machine gun fire cut across the camp, throwing up sand as it gouged the ground. Men scattered, yelling. Hannibal, pure instinct driving him, threw himself backwards into the doorway with Salim in his arms. Murdock lunged in beside them, the three men landing in a heap. Hannibal pushed away from the other two at once, scrambled on his knees to his dropped radio.

“It’s the south west tower!” He yelled into the walkie-talkie, which was babbling with voices, Face and BA’s the only ones in English. “South west tower! I saw the muzzle flashes!” Then he stared at the radio in his hand and snapped urgently, “Shut up! Everybody quiet! Radio silence, now! Major, order your men to radio silence!” One by one the voices stopped. Hannibal breathed a little easier. This would be hard enough without giving away their plans to the men shooting at them, who were doubtless listening in, and, he realised with a sinking heart, could have been listening in for some time. He became aware of a voice that wasn’t on the radio. It was Murdock’s behind him, speaking very quietly.

“Oh no, oh no.” Hannibal turned, his gut a knot of fear. Murdock was sitting with Salim clutched awkwardly to his chest. The back of Salim’s shirt was soaked with blood. Hannibal sprang over to them, took Salim from Murdock’s arms into his own.

“Get a medic!” Hannibal ordered.

“Hannibal…” Murdock said softly, sadly.

“Do it, Captain!” Hannibal yelled. Murdock scrambled to his feet and ran.

“They were shooting at me.” Hannibal said, half to himself, half to Salim, “dammit, they were shooting at me!” Salim couldn’t hear him. His eyes were open, but they no longer saw anything. Gently Hannibal closed them, held the young man close.

Murdock returned with two doctors within minutes and they took Salim… Salim’s body… from Hannibal. Hannibal stood up and watched them check the engineer. Then one looked up at him, shook his head. But Hannibal didn’t need the confirmation. He already knew that Salim was dead.

Another burst of gunfire erupted, met this time by answering bursts from the other guard towers. Hannibal looked around as Face and Madari appeared from the interior of the guardhouse. They must have worked their way around under the cover of the other buildings and got in through a window.

“Hannibal,” Face gasped, wide eyed, seeing the blood staining the colonel’s clothes. “Are you okay?” Not trusting his voice yet Hannibal nodded towards the group on the floor. Madari was already staring down at them. “Oh god,” Face whispered.

Hannibal straightened himself up, again storing away the anger and pain. He turned to Madari as the medics picked up the body and carried it away.

“Did you get anything useful before we went to radio silence?”

“My man in the south east tower reported that a body was pushed out of the hatch of the south west tower. Just before they started shooting.”

“Who was your man in the south west tower?”

“Lieutenant Hoshel.” Madari’s face twisted with anger, but it was directed at himself. “I should have reinforced the towers. I should have sent another man up each of them.”

Hannibal shook his head. “That would have left us too thinly spread on the ground. How long can they hold out up there?”

“They keep plenty of ammunition and food and water rations for several days.”

“Long enough to wait for reinforcements to arrive. Meanwhile they take pot shots at anyone who moves.”

Another burst of machine gun fire interrupted them. Strange metal spanging noises were heard and over their radios BA’s voice yelled.

“Hannibal! They’re shooting up ma trucks!” At another time Hannibal might have smiled at the outraged, possessive tone in BA’s voice, but he was a long way from smiling now.

“Maintain radio silence, Sergeant,” he snapped.

“If they hit a gas tank we could lose all the vehicles.” Face said.

This had to end fast. Hannibal couldn’t let them keep everyone pinned down like this indefinitely. And they couldn’t lose those trucks. It was getting light and there was a lot of open ground with no cover between here and the south west tower. Even if they could get to it, no one could climb the ladder without being fired on through the hatch. Taking them out with a sniper rifle from another tower was near impossible. The towers had shutters all around them to keep out sand storms and defend against enemy fire, and all the shutters on the southwest tower were down now. Flaps in the shutters permitted the occupants to poke weapons through and keep anyone from approaching. Steel was plated over the interiors of the shutters. They were small fortresses in themselves, well equipped for a siege.

There was only one option Hannibal could see. Hated it, but had to take it. He looked at the expectant faces around him, said, “Follow me.”

They re-traced the route Face and Madari had just taken to get into the guardhouse. Out of a back window, round the back of the armoury and the blockhouse, along the side of the blockhouse by the eastern perimeter wire of the camp. The men who had been working on the anti-aircraft gun were sheltering there.

“Is it ready?” Hannibal asked Face.

“It should be, but we never got a chance to test it.”

“Shells?” Face pointed at a wooden box beside the gun. “Okay, Madari, I need you with me. Face, Murdock give us covering fire. Go!”

As Face and Murdock broke cover and fired their weapons the men in the other friendly towers got the message too and fired on the south west tower, keeping its distinctly unfriendly occupants from shooting at Hannibal and Madari as they ran for the gun. Hannibal grabbed a shell and climbed into the firing seat, loaded the shell and swung the barrel around to bear on the tower.

“Major,” he shouted at Madari, who was on the ground, behind the gun, sheltered from the machine gun fire. “Tell them they have twenty seconds to throw out their weapons. They won’t be harmed if they surrender.”

“They killed Al Fulani and Lieutenant Hoshel,” Madari reminded him.

“I know. Twenty seconds. Tell them.” He heard Madari on the radio, speaking in Arabic. When he stopped talking Hannibal started counting. He heard a reply coming over the radio, recognised the defiant tone in the voice if not the words, swallowed the sick feeling rising inside him. Don’t be damn fools, don’t make me do this. Madari went on talking to them, his voice steady, calm, reasonable. Hannibal hoped he was trying to persuade them to do the sensible thing. The defiant answers came back interrupting him. They don’t believe us, Hannibal realised, they think we’ll kill them anyway. They just want to take out as many of us as they can before we can get them.

Sixteen. Sweat broke out across Hannibal’s back and arms. He had to wipe his palms on his shirt as they became wet.

Seventeen. More machine gun fire burst from the tower. Hannibal and Madari instinctively ducked.

Eighteen – But it wasn’t directed at them. Instead it smashed into the front walls of the prisoner’s barracks, wood splintering, glass shattering and flying lethally from the windows. Hannibal heard screams from inside. And all that pain and anger he’d stored up today was finally unleashed. He took the last two seconds of their warning…

Nineteen – to sight the gun and…

Twenty – trigger it.

The shell smashed into the tower and at such a short range the effect was devastating, ripping it apart in a huge fireball. Charred debris raining down all over the camp and the surrounding desert. As the thunderous noise of the explosion died away the only sound was the barking and howling of the dogs in their kennels. Black smoke rose high into the sky as dawn broke.

Chapter 4

The sun was high now, heading towards noon. Hannibal, sitting in General Ziyahd’s chair, jerked awake, catching hold of the side of the desk that he had put his head down on. Only for a moment. A moment was long enough for the dream to come. For Salim to die in his arms over again. He stood and walked to the window, trying to shake off the memory and the fatigue. The blackened supports that were all that remained of the south west guard tower poked up obscenely into the blue sky and Hannibal had to turn away as the memory of the burned bodies they had pulled from the wreckage hit him. The sight and worse, that smell… So long since he’s seen that, since he’d caused that.

No, no time for those feelings now, they were burning daylight here. He picked up his walkie-talkie from the desk.

“Major, meet me at the blockhouse. Murdock, you too.” He left the office and headed to the interrogation block, passing BA and his repair team fixing the damage to the trucks and jeeps. Stopped off to talk to him.

“How you doing, BA?”

“Fine. I’ll have them ready to go by nightfall. We’ve had to replace some parts, but they kept a good supply of spares here. We’re in good shape.”

“How are you holding up?” This was in fact what he’d been asking first, but typically BA had focussed on the work instead.

“A little tired, but I’ll be okay.” The sergeant didn’t like to admit any kind of weakness. ‘A little tired’ was probably his way of saying ‘totally exhausted’.

“We’ll try to get some rest before we leave,” Hannibal reassured BA and left him to it. He headed on the blockhouse, where Madari and Murdock were waiting.

“Major,” Hannibal said. “What are your plans for Ziyahd and his men?”

“When the trucks return we’ll take them out on the desert road, a very long way from here and drop them off.” When Hannibal looked at him quizzically he added, “I’ll leave them water and a radio, so they can call for help, get picked up.” He scowled and demanded. “Did you think I was planning to have them all shot, Colonel?”

“Of course not.” Hannibal snapped. Irritation rose in him, but he bit it back. God they were all so tired and the shock of the deaths wasn’t helping. Everybody was on a knife-edge. He pinched the bridge of his nose. His head was starting to throb. He stopped that quickly when he saw Murdock looking at him in concern. Madari also made a visible effort to control his temper.

“I give you my word they won’t be harmed.” Hannibal believed him. He wasn’t the massacre sort.

“The Russians.” Hannibal said, “I want to take them with us to Jordan and then on the States, hand them over to our…” he grimaced at having to say the word, “boss.” Madari frowned.

“I just gave you my word. You don’t trust me?”

“I trust you, but our mission here was to prove Soviet involvement with your government. Four KGB men should be more than enough proof.” Madari looked thoughtful for a while, considering the damage it would cause the regime to be associated with known persecutors of Muslims.

“Very well, consider them your prisoners,” he said eventually.

“Thank you, Major.” Hannibal turned to Murdock. “Captain, I need you to point out which of the Russians was in charge.” Murdock nodded. They went into the blockhouse. As they approached the cells Hannibal asked Murdock, “Those Arabs that came with the Russians, what was their role? Observers? Supervising?”

“More like…” Murdock searched for the right word, “Students. They were being trained by the Russians.”

“I see,” Hannibal said, grimly. Captain Noor was in charge of the blockhouse and its prisoners. He acknowledged their entrance with a salute.

“Have they been fed?” Madari asked him, in English for Hannibal’s benefit.

“Yes, sir, an hour ago.”

“Where are the foreigners?”

“Same, er, cell they were in before.” Noor said, using the word ‘cell’ after a tiny pause and a glance at Murdock. Knowing what had gone on in there ‘cell’ was a barely adequate word. “The general is in there too, there’s been a lot of shouting going on.”

“Ziyahd throwing his weight around?” Hannibal asked.

“No, sir. It’s not the general doing the shouting. It’s the others shouting at the general.” He smirked. “They used the word ‘incompetent’ a lot.”

“Alright, open the door, please, Captain.” Hannibal said. Noor called a couple more officers over to ensure there was plenty of cover and opened the door into the large cell.


That smell. When Noor opened the door, into the room Madari had not dared go into last night, the smell filled his mind. The smell of dried blood, of vomit and urine and sweat. The smell of pain.

He backed up until his back hit the wall and then had to get further away, moved off up the corridor, deeper into the blockhouse, away from Smith and Murdock. He felt ashamed of his weakness. Hiding in the dark from a smell, his back turned to the Americans, not wanting them to see him trembling.

Voices babbled in Arabic and Russian, angry, making demands. Then Smith’s voice.

“Which one, Murdock?” He was looking for the man in charge.

Murdock didn’t speak, must have pointed. There was some minor scuffling and Smith’s voice again.

“You can go if you want.”

Madari glanced back over his shoulder. Smith was talking to Murdock, but the battered man just looked defiant and stayed where he was. Another one stronger than me, Madari thought.

“I know you speak English. Are you KGB?”

“I do not have to answer your questions, Smith.”

That voice. Madari spun around and stared. That voice, that face. Him, him him!

He almost blacked out. His knees shook and his head swam. The dark water was trying to pull him down again. Not the water, something in the water, a hand snatching at him, at his ankle, dragging him down until ink blackness filled his brain and his lungs.

The demon. Kill it. Kill it.

He drew and cocked his handgun and took off the safety. He could have pointed the gun and fired right there, but he couldn’t risk hitting Smith, who had Sevchenko pushed against the wall now. Instead he strode over and shoved Smith aside, grabbed Sevchenko around the throat and lifted his gun until the muzzle touched the Russian’s temple.

He saw Sevchenko’s face change, not to his demon face, but to one of utter terror. He knows he’s a second away from hell. I never saw him look afraid. Is he really just a man? Is he actually afraid of me? Does he even know me, or am I just a face in a crowd? One more of a line of faces crying begging screaming.

Words penetrated his mind.

“Major! You gave your word! No more blood!”

“Blood…” Madari said, a whisper. His brain was full of blood, his eyes, his hands, blood red, blood black, a sea of it drowning him again, pulling him down. Now he could see the demon again.

Send it back to hell. His finger started to squeeze the trigger.

“Major! Let that man go!”

Ahmed? Who else had such a voice? Such authority? To make Madari stop without even knowing he had. No, Ahmed was gone, a hole in Madari’s heart that the old man had torn the day he died was an ever painful reminder of that fact.

Smith. It was Smith. The voice brought him back, back to the present. He turned his head to meet Smith’s stern glare. Anger made him spit his next words.

“Can you tell me that this creature deserves anything but death?”

“What he deserves and what it’s your place to give him are two different things.”

“My place? My place?” He was outraged, how dare Smith tell him what it was his place to do. Smith wasn’t the one who had suffered at this demon’s hands. His own screams echoed in his head, a chorus of them, as if every scream was being replayed at him at the same time. His voice cracked and shook as he went on. “You don’t know. You don’t know what they did.” Barely more than a whisper.

“I know exactly what they did.” Smith said, his voice softer, gentler, yet still firm. “I know.” He laid his hand on Madari’s right arm, the one that held the gun at Sevchenko’s head. Madari wished he could stop shaking, hated that Smith could feel that, could feel his weakness. But Smith spoke not with contempt or even pity, but with understanding, kindness.

“Faris, you’re a soldier, not a murderer. Don’t do this.”

Another demon had broken Smith, a long time ago. Had he spared its life? Is that why he asked Madari to do the same now? Or had he killed it and now knew that killing it didn’t help?

Madari turned back to look at Sevchenko. The Russian had stopped wriggling about, just stared back at Madari, waiting to die. Would the pain stop if he blew this man’s brains all over the wall? Of course not. The pain would never stop. He knew that now. He saw that same pain in the eyes of Smith and Murdock and Peck and Baracus. Deep, old, but still there.

And yet they were strong, They carried that pain inside and stayed strong. Pain did not have to be weakness. Then he too could be strong. The blood of this creature was not worth soiling his hands with, was not worth losing his honour again, not worth breaking his word to the man who had given him his honour back.

He stopped trembling. With a steady hand he engaged the pistol’s safety catch. Then he opened his left hand and let Sevchenko go, letting him drop to the floor like a sack of garbage. As Sevchenko grovelled, coughing, Smith moved his hand away from Madari’s arm and Madari holstered his gun. He felt dazed now, as his emotions ebbed, felt dizzy and sick.

“Why don’t you go get some fresh air?” Madari looked at Smith, his mind taking a long time to process and understand the English words. Finally they sank in. He didn’t speak, wasn’t sure he could now, not in English anyway.

Air, yes, air and light. Make it as different from back then as he could, drag himself back using his senses. He nodded. As he walked out, past the other men he only started to notice again now, he heard Noor give orders. Someone started following him, but they stayed back, gave him space. Madari emerged into the sunlight, the warmth like stepping into the Turkish bath after the chill of the blockhouse.

He paused a moment then took a deep breath and walked towards the anti aircraft gun.


Control came back slowly. Control of his mind, the images and sounds and smells of his interrogation slowly faded until he was totally in the present again. The concrete his back rested against was the mounting for the gun, not the wall of his cell.

The gun. Should he have allowed Smith to destroy the tower or should he have done it himself? It was his officer they murdered. A lump rose in his throat as he thought of Hoshel, young and bright, his life just snuffed out. But Smith had felt Salim die in his arms, he had as much right to revenge as Madari. Another young life taken away. A good man who shouldn’t have been here in the first place.

He wanted to weep for them, but couldn’t allow himself that. He had to be strong now. Smith would be gone soon, and then the men would look to him for leadership. Was Jahni the only one who wanted to fight? No, he wasn’t.

I want to fight.

If he really was a man again then the time had come to take on the responsibilities he used to carry. He was an officer of the Royal Guard, his duty was still to the king, to fight the usurpers who had exiled him and restore him to his throne. Even if no-one else but Jahni would fight with Madari he knew he must stand.

He opened his eyes, had to squint, the sun was almost overhead now. He rose and stood, resting his hand on the concrete emplacement, and looked at the gun, its black barrel still pointed at where the guard tower had been. Wisps of smoke still rose from the wreckage.

Almost noon and men were heading to the rec hall. Going to pray. I should pray, he thought, should give thanks for my freedom, for the return of my honour, and I should pray for those who died here today.

And pray for the strength I am going to need.


Hannibal left the infirmary taking Face and Murdock with him. It was well after noon now and most of the men were heading to the dining hall to eat. Hannibal, Face and Murdock joined them, arranged for food to be sent to the infirmary. BA allowed himself and his team to take a break and he came to sit with the rest of his unit. As they were eating Madari came in and seeing the Americans he came over. He stood with hands behind his back, said, “Gentlemen.” They nodded at him and he turned to Hannibal.

“Colonel, I must apologise for my behaviour earlier.”

“No apologies necessary, Major.” Hannibal said.

“It was inexcusable.” Hannibal supposed that to a man like this it really was.

“It was understandable. Now why don’t you get something to eat? I think the men have been raiding General Ziyahd’s personal larder, the quality of the food has risen quite a bit since yesterday.”

“What was all that about?” Face asked, as the major left.

“He had a touching reunion with the KGB man who tortured him.” Hannibal said.

“Really? So, do we only have three prisoners to take home to Stockwell now?” Face’s question was flippant, but he sounded as if he wouldn’t be too surprised if the answer to it was ‘yes’.

“Hannibal stopped him from killing the guy.” Murdock said. “Which I suppose was the right thing to do.” He didn’t sound entirely convinced, went on. “Do you think Madari will be okay, Colonel? I mean we’re leaving him in charge of this place and, well you can take it from me as an expert on this stuff, he’s got… problems.”

“Fool’s got a point,” BA said. “He ain’t had no help either, been dealin’ with it on his own.”

“He has help,” Hannibal said, shaking his head. “He has good men following him, you’ve seen how loyal they are, that helps a lot, and you can take that from me as an expert.” He smiled as he echoed Murdock’s words. “He’ll be okay, I’m sure of it.” The team accepted his assurance. Hannibal was the one who had come to know the major best. They continued their meal, were discussing the plans for the journey, when their radios burst into life with an excited voice in Arabic, quickly joined by more. The tone was alarmed and Hannibal looked at once to Madari, who was hurrying over, listening to his radio and giving orders. The civilians looked at the soldiers, confused and uneasy.

“What is it?” Hannibal asked as the major reached them.

“Incoming aircraft.”

They rushed outside, Hannibal sent Murdock off to climb a tower, grab a pair of binoculars and see if he could identify what was about to hit them. The radio operator must have got an SOS out before we got to him, Hannibal thought. It might not be a raid yet, could just be reconnaissance, but he couldn’t take the chance.

“Face, get the wounded out of the infirmary and into the block house.” The blockhouse was reinforced concrete, the best shelter in the camp. Face sped off taking two of the Arab officers with him. Hannibal, BA and Madari headed for the anti-aircraft gun. One of Madari’s officers was already manning it, loading a shell expertly as they arrived. Hannibal contemplated taking his place, but the man looked as if he knew what he was doing and while hitting a big, stationery target like the guard tower had been easy enough Hannibal wasn’t certain enough of his artillery skills to be sure he’d manage to hit a fast moving, airborne target.

The aircraft were easily visible to the naked eye now, black shapes approaching from the north. North? Hannibal frowned, Madari was looking puzzled too, north didn’t make sense, the nearest air base was south west of here. At least, the nearest Qumari air base…

Then Murdock’s voice came over the radio, almost babbling, “Colonel! Colonel! It’s okay! Stand down! Stand down!”

“Murdock, what do you see?” Hannibal asked.

“They’re ours, Hannibal! They’re ours!”


Apart from the A-Team the Americans kept their distance when the prisoners buried the dead. Santana was still in the infirmary, but the other four followed with everyone else as the four bodies were carried carefully to the graves and lowered in. The prayers were led by an elderly prisoner, an Imam. Madari saw Peck cross himself and cover his face with a hand as he watched them lower Hoshel and then Fulani into the graves. Murdock linked his arm with Peck’s, pain clear on his face.

Smith stared straight ahead, not even seeming to be in the same place as anyone else here, as the prayers in a language he didn’t understand, were said for a man he had held at the moment of death and for two men he had killed.

Friends of Hoshel and Fulani among the prisoners openly wept. Jahni’s eyes shone but he blinked away tears as he looked at Madari and saw he was not weeping.

Then it was time for the worst part, the part Madari hated most at every funeral he had attended. Men moved forward with shovels towards the mounds of sandy earth by each grave. He remembered his father’s funeral, his small hands held by his mother and grandmother, remembered the women sobbing. And he remembered Ahmed stepping up to take a shovel. Ahmed filling in the grave and covering the body of his son, his only child. Other officers there had looked shocked. An officer of the Royal Guard did not dig.

“Give me one of those.” Smith’s voice was quiet, but all the men were silent, but for a few muffled sobs. Madari looked up to see him take a shovel from one of the prisoners and begin to fill in Fulani’s grave. And his men followed his example. Each of them took a shovel and each of them took a grave and started to fill it with earth. No distinction was made between the dead prisoners and the dead guards.

That moment was the closest Madari came to breaking down. Praise god that such men came here, praise god that I had the honour to meet them and fight shoulder to shoulder with them. They had one last task to perform together.

Madari stepped forward and took a shovel, movement at his right side and Jahni was doing the same. Noor followed, then Faraj, looking awkward with the shovel in his hands. Officers of the Royal Guard did not dig. Men as rich as Faraj did not dig. So he held a shovel for the first time, but Madari knew that a man like Faraj understood what was happening here.

Madari stepped up to Fulani’s grave, nodded to Smith and began to shovel earth onto the body. Noor joined Peck at Hoshel’s, Jahni and Murdock and Faraj and Baracus filled in the graves of the dead guards.

When the graves were filled the eight men, exhausted and sweating laid down the shovels and stood back. Peck crossed himself again and looked up. The crowd of prisoners still stood silent, watching them

Madari gave them a moment. He glanced over at the American helicopters, and then at the trucks back inside the wire. Plenty of room to take men out of here. To take him if he wanted. Claiming asylum in another country would not be hard, just show them his hands, the scars on his back. But that would not be doing his duty.

He cleared his throat and spoke, riveting the attention of all the men on him at once.

“I am staying here, to fight, to help restore the king. I want to make this camp a base for resistance fighting. If enough of you stay, agree to let me train you to fight, we can hold this camp, we can fight.” He looked around at their faces. “It will be hard, I cannot lie to you about that. But we took the camp,” he looked at the A-Team. “Thanks to Colonel Smith and his unit, and I do not intend to give it up.” He paused and saw the men looking at each other, muttering. “Anyone who wants to stay please tell Lieutenant Jahni. Lieutenant, make a list and report back.”

Jahni nodded and then he saluted. Madari returned the salute and turned to walk back into camp as the crowd broke up. The man in command of the helicopters at once approached Smith. A lot of men started to surround Jahni and Madari smiled as he heard Jahni appealing to someone to find him a piece of paper.


In the face of Hannibal’s persuasion Harris had eventually shrugged and said, “Oh hell, whatever you want, Colonel, we’ll let the politicians sort it out at the other end. But you and your team are going on the helicopters.”

“Fair enough.” There was a knock at the door. Madari came in, snapped off an impressive salute and stood at attention. Hannibal returned the salute, said “Report, Major.” The Arab officers had become extra disciplined since the American soldiers had shown up. Hannibal felt certain that if Madari were wearing the right kind of shoes for it he’d have clicked his heels at this point.

“Trucks ready for boarding, sir.” He was starting to look nearly as tired as Hannibal felt. They were all running on adrenaline and caffeine now.

“Thank you, Major, at ease.”

Harris stood up. “I’d better go see to loading the choppers.” When Hannibal didn’t move to follow him he added, “Ten minutes, Colonel.”

“Sit down, Major,” Hannibal said as Harris left. Madari did so and Hannibal held out the box of cigars, was quite surprised when Madari took one. He bent forward over the desk as Hannibal lit it for him and when he sat down he actually relaxed in the chair, leaning back. He blew out smoke and gave a sigh of pleasure.

“It’s been a long time,” he said, looking at the cigar and smiling. Hannibal indicated the brandy bottle.

“I don’t suppose you…”

“No, thank you.”

“Thought not. Coffee’s hot though.” He got up and poured the major a small cup and one for himself and set them on the desk. They sat in companionable silence for a moment, enjoying the cigars. After a few minutes Hannibal spoke.

“What’s the final figures on who’s going where?”

“One hundred seventeen men are going with you to Jordan, not counting my officers, who will return with the trucks and supplies. Ninety-four will try to return to their homes here in Qumar, though they’ll have to stay in hiding. All of my officers and the remainder of the civilians are staying here. Mostly younger men. They want to fight.”

“So it looks like you’ll have to get used to fighting with civilians.” Hannibal said. Madari gave a short bark of a laugh.

“Believe me, Colonel, a few weeks under my training and they won’t be civilians any more.” He appeared to be looking forward to it, smiling again as he took a drag on the cigar. Hannibal grinned at that thought and at seeing Madari finally unbend a little. They heard the sound of the trucks starting up. It was time to go. Both men stood. Madari gave another salute, held it. Hannibal did the same.

“It has been my honour to serve with you, Colonel Smith.”

“The honour is mine, Major Madari,” Hannibal said formally. Then they dropped the salutes and Madari held out his hand. Hannibal shook it.

“I expect to be hearing from you, or at least about you, very soon, Major.”

“You will. Good luck, Colonel.” He put his right hand on his chest and bowed his head a little, then straightened and they headed out of Ziyahd’s… no, Hannibal corrected himself, out of Madari’s office.


It had taken a good twenty minutes to get everybody loaded onto the trucks and helicopters. There were many farewells as the former prisoners took their leave of each other, with salutes and handshakes and embracing. Lieutenant Jahni shook Face’s hand for at least five minutes at Hannibal’s reckoning, talking all the while, only stopping when Captain Noor said something to him in Arabic that Hannibal guessed would translate loosely as ‘knock it off’. Hannibal watched each of his team salute Madari before shaking his hand and climbing aboard the helicopter. Frankie couldn’t shake hands, but Hannibal saw the major clasp Frankie’s shoulder and lean close to speak to him quietly, saw Frankie nod and look over at Hannibal. Then, accompanied by one of the doctors, he got on the chopper. The four Russians were loaded onto a second helicopter, their hands cuffed in front of them.

BA had finally agreed to a sedative; since the alternative was getting cuffed and staying awake for the ride. As Hannibal climbed aboard it was being administered and the sergeant was quickly unconscious. Hannibal sat beside his men as the door was closed and the rotor blades started to turn. Captain Harris came to sit down opposite his so-called prisoners after giving his pilots their orders.

“Okay, Colonel, we’re following the trucks and I have men down there with them in your jeeps, so… oh good grief.” Hannibal, Face and Murdock were all as fast asleep as the sedated BA. Harris shook his head and put on his seat belt as the helicopter left the ground.


After the helicopters and trucks left Madari went back to Ziyahd’s office, no, not Ziyahd’s office, he realised, not any more. My office.

When Jahni came in a few minutes later he quite startled Madari, who sat behind the desk, trying to read the papers that now covered it.

“Oh, Lieutenant.” Madari smiled. “I am trying to make sense of these inventories, but I can’t make head or tail of them.”

“Straight down to work, sir?” Jahni asked, looking dubious.

“There’s no time to waste. And I need to know what supplies we have.”

“Sir, you’ve had no sleep for two nights.” Jahni reminded him. “You should get some rest.”

“Yes, I suppose you are right.” He looked at the paper Jahni held. “Is that the final list?”

“Yes.” He handed it to Madari. Jahni’s own name was at the top. Madari scanned the list but the names blurred. He pinched the bridge of his nose, put the paper down and rubbed his eyes.

“Sir, you have to rest.”

He looked up into Jahni’s concerned face.

“Yes.” His brain felt like it was full of cotton wool. Even coffee had no effect. He stood up, tried to walk around the desk, but misjudged where the corner was, bumped against it and stumbled. Jahni was there in an instant, catching his arm.

“I’ve got you, sir. Come through here.”

He let Jahni lead him into Ziyahd’s quarters, on through to the bedroom. Jahni pulled the sheets off the bed and grabbed a counterpane that had fallen to the floor. He laid that on top of the mattress.

“Lie down.” He pushed Madari to sit down on the bed. “Take off your shoes.”

“I can’t sleep here!” Madari protested. The bed was soft and luxurious, he couldn’t sleep in here while the rest of his men slept on cots.

“Just for tonight.” Jahni slipped off Madari’s sandals and pushed him gently until he lay down. He found another blanket and covered Madari with it. Now he was lying down, Madari found himself near to unconsciousness. He imagined the blanket being like the weight of the earth pressing down on a dead man in a grave.

But I’m not dead any more. I was, for a year. But now I’m alive. The sound of helicopters echoed distantly in his mind, he saw the choppers lifting off, taking away the man who had destroyed his honour and the man who had given it back to him, given so much back to him.

“Smith.” He muttered.

“Sir?” Jahni bent over to hear him. Madari’s vision was dark and blurred. Jahni was only a vague shape bending over him.

“Kahil?” He’d almost forgotten Jahni was there. Was he going to stay? Was he going to ‘sleep with the Major’? It was time to stop that. Suddenly that was very dangerous indeed. “Smith.” Madari murmured again. “Gave me my balls back.”

Jahni went silent. He’s never heard me say something vulgar, Madari realised, I shocked him.

“That’s good, sir.” Jahni said, softly. His hand touched Madari’s face, brushed the cheek and touched the forehead, almost as if he were checking for a fever. “Sleep now, Faris.” The voice. The voice was so important. He needed to hear that voice. And he could let Jahni help him now. The men who would target Jahni to hurt Madari were prisoners themselves now, would soon be gone.

“Sleep.” Jahni said again, in his comforting voice, in the voice that had no right to come from a tough young soldier. Hypnotic. Magical. I can rest. I am safe. With him at my side I am safe.

Madari slept.