Sympathy for the Devil

The team have to find the missing Stockwell. It should be an easy mission, but when Stockwell is involved things are never easy.

Rated: PG13

Words: 27,700

Chapter 1

“You’re sure he’s in there?”

“Yes. He is there.”

“And tonight they move him?”

“Tonight, yes, tonight they move the foreigner. I am certain.”

Hannibal shivered a little and pulled the scarf he wore over his head tighter. The old man he was talking to was bundled in many layers of shapeless clothing. He grinned, showing nicotine stained teeth.

“You want more men for your attack, Colonel? The Mujahedin would…”

“We’ll be fine.” Hannibal cut him off. He took a roll of banknotes from a pocket, peeled off several and handed them over to the informant. The dollars disappeared somewhere beneath the layers.

“Thanks, Najeeb. You’d better get out of here. If you’re lying to me, or you tell anyone about our attack, then I’ll hunt you down and shoot you like a dog, okay?”

Najeeb grinned his brown toothed smile again.

“Good luck, Colonel. Shoot a Russian bastard for me.”

“Count on it.”

Najeeb vanished into the twilight. Hannibal moved off quietly, into the deeper darkness of a cave. His boots crunched on the thin layer of glittering, crusted snow.

“Okay, fellas,” he said to three dark shapes in the shadows. “We’re a go. Najeeb says they’re moving Stockwell tonight. Let’s get into position.”


Hannibal shivered again, it was even colder now. He listened to the radio chatter from his men.

“Guys, can’t you feel it?” Murdock’s voice. “History is soaked into the stones all around us. Alexander the Great could have passed along this very road.” Hannibal doubted it, but didn’t interrupt Murdock in mid-flow. “The Silk Road. The Hippy Trail, man. I mean here we are, half way up the Hindu Kush…”

“Shut up, fool. I don’t see no hippies. You don’t keep quiet, I’ll come over there and knock you the rest of way up the Hindu Kush.”

“You know,” Face was using his ‘long suffering’ voice. “It’s at times like this, when I’m freezing my ass off in the mountains of Afghanistan, waiting to ambush crack Red Army troops, just to rescue a man I despise, that I begin to wish I’d never met any of you people.”

Hannibal doubted the Red Army boys were crack troops. Probably miserable, homesick conscripts, doped to the eyeballs to block out the cold and the boredom.

Then he heard the distant sound of an engine, labouring uphill.

“Here we go,” Hannibal said over the radio. “BA, set off the explosives on my mark. Remember, fellas, unless you want to walk to Pakistan, no permanent damage to the truck.”

The explosives buried in the unpaved road blew on Hannibal’s order, yards in front of the truck as it drove into the pass where the team waited in ambush. It slewed to a halt broadside across the road. The engine stalled and then started trying to cough back to life. But by that time it was too late. BA yanked the driver out of the cab and punched him unconscious to the ground before he even had time to draw his gun. Murdock got the man riding shotgun and Hannibal and Face took the rear, first dropping onto the roof and waiting for the back doors to open.

Two men jumped out and Face swung down into the interior. Hannibal yelled at the two on the ground to drop their guns. When they hesitated he sprayed the ground at their feet with automatic fire and then they couldn’t obey fast enough. A second later two more soldiers fell out of the interior. Hannibal swung down and inside. He shouted into his radio.

“Go BA!” The truck fired up, the big engine, built for the cold, sputtering back to life and the truck drove off as fast as BA dared on the treacherous mountain road. Face pulled the doors closed, cutting off the sound of yelled Russian curses. A few pistol bullets dented the doors, but none made it through.

Hannibal smiled. Piece of cake.

He turned back to the interior of the truck. A dim lamp swung from the ceiling. By its light he could see a man lying on the floor, bound hand and foot, a rough Hessian hood, more like a sack, over his head. The man was struggling, muffled, incoherent shouts came from under the hood. Hannibal knelt by him, found the hood was secured with a cord, so pulled out a knife and got to work cutting it.

“Stockwell,” he said as the man broke into fresh struggles when Hannibal started to manhandle him. “Take it easy! It’s me, Smith, you’re safe.”

The cord parted under Hannibal’s knife and he pulled the hood off, revealing a shock of thick red-blonde hair. A pair of bright blue eyes stared at him from a pale face.

“Who the bloody hell are you?” The man demanded in an unmistakably English accent.

Hannibal and Face stared at him, then Hannibal sat back against the wall of the truck.

“Wrong man.” Hannibal sighed. “Wrong damn man.”

Face sighed too, shook his head in resignation. Then he got to work with his lock picks on the handcuffs and shackles the man wore.

“We came to rescue you.” Hannibal explained to the stranger. “Or rather we came to rescue someone else. Looks like we got some bad intelligence somewhere. Again.”

Free of his bonds the man rubbed his swollen and chafed wrists. His face was battered, Hannibal noticed, bruises dark against his pale skin. He held out a hand to Hannibal who shook it.

“Well even if it was a mistake, I’m grateful. American?” He studied them for a moment. “Covert Ops?” Hannibal nodded. That was close enough for Jazz and it was too long a story to get into here. “Martin Thompson, MI6. Smith was it?”

“Hannibal Smith, that’s Templeton Peck. Pleased to meet you, Mr Thompson. You been a prisoner for long?”

“Several months, I think.” A shadow seemed to pass over his face. No doubt it had not exactly been a vacation. Hannibal fished out the hip flask of brandy he carried and handed it to Thompson who gratefully took a long swallow and passed it on to Face. “Hard to keep track. They moved me around a lot.”

“You haven’t run into an American on your travels?” Hannibal asked. “A General Hunt Stockwell? Tall, dark, untrustworthy man?”

Thompson shook his head. “Sorry, Mr Smith. I’m afraid not.”

Face sat against the other wall of the truck. He took a pack of cards out of his pocket, held them up.

“Low card has to tell BA we didn’t need to fly to Afghanistan after all?”


“So where is Mr Thompson now?” Shriver asked.

“We left him at the British embassy in Islamabad.” Hannibal said.

“Yeah,” Murdock said. “No-one there works for MI6 in any way at all, of course, but they said they could get in touch with them.”

Shriver nodded, sipped his coffee. If you could call it coffee, Hannibal thought, glaring at his own cup. A mug full of lukewarm brown milk was not his idea of a proper cup of coffee. But when in Rome do as the Romans do. Or in this case when at the tables outside a fashionable LA coffee house, then do as the trendy do.

“That mission,” Murdock said, sounding disgruntled, “was what I would term a ‘Jayne Mansfield’.”

Shriver looked at him puzzled.

“A great big bust.” Face explained.

“Ah,” Shriver said, with an amused smile. Jayne Mansfield was a bit before his time, Hannibal supposed. “Yes, I’m sorry. Though I’m sure Mr Thompson was grateful.”

“Yeah, so we made a new friend and got a gold star from British Intelligence.” Hannibal said. “But it doesn’t get us anywhere nearer to finding Stockwell.”

“We’ve been at this six months.” Face said, “We’ve nearly been killed… well I’ve lost count of how many times over. That landmine in Brazil. The bomb in Finland. And I’m just not even going to talk about what happened in Havana.” He winced as if the memory was physically painful. The rest of the team grimaced and shuddered. Hannibal knew that he, for one, never wanted to talk about “what happened in Havana” ever again.

“And I done a lot of flying I didn’t need to.” BA growled.

“Wake up and smell the cappuccino, Shriver,” Face went on, flourishing his coffee cup. “Stockwell’s dead. Whoever had him will have extracted everything useful from him within a couple of months and then finished him off.”

Shriver shook his head vehemently.

“You’re forgetting he wasn’t a well man when he was taken. If they didn’t want him to die under interrogation they’d have had to wait for him to recover from his gunshot wound.”

“And he might have died of that before they ever got to interrogate him.” Murdock said.

“No.” Shriver insisted. “There’s a new lead. A strong lead.”

“That’s what you said about Afghanistan.” Hannibal pointed out. “Okay, I’ll bite. Where this time?”

“North Korea.” Shriver said. Hannibal tensed then forced himself to relax. Korea. Long time. Very long time.

“Oh great,” BA muttered. “More flyin’.”

“Sorry, Mr Baracus.” Shriver’s regret sounded sincere, Hannibal thought. The agent had been to see them off on several of their missions and witnessed what they went through to get BA to fly. When he’d first seen Hannibal crack BA over the head he’d gone quite pale.

“You really think the North Koreans have him?” Hannibal sounded dubious.

“It’s more likely he’s under the control of the Chinese.” Shriver said. “They have a few old scores to settle with him.” He put a folder on the table. “All the briefing information is in here. You leave on Friday.” He glanced at his watch, drank the rest of his coffee off quickly, and dabbed his lips with a napkin. “I must get back, I have to prepare for my two o’clock.”

“The NSA has an office around here?” Face asked.

“No, I’m currently undercover, at a law firm.”

“Is that for the NSA or…?” Hannibal asked. He didn’t say Zephyr. They never said it out loud any more.

“I can’t discuss it, I’m afraid.”

BA’s face twisted in disgust. “Lawyers,” he growled. “I hate lawyers. Bloodsuckers.”

“Oh, Mr Baracus, you don’t even want to know how right you are,” Shriver said, shaking his head.

“Um, aren’t you a lawyer?” Face asked.

“Indeed. That’s why I know what I’m talking about.” He picked up his slim, expensive looking briefcase and took out his wallet. “Anyway I only became a lawyer to please my father.”

“Was he pleased?” Murdock asked.

“He did look rather proud when I took first chair for the plaintiffs in that class action suit his employees took out against him.” He put some bank notes under a saucer on the table and stood up. “See you on Friday, gentlemen.” He walked away.

“Was he joking about his dad?” Murdock asked. “I can never tell.”

Hannibal never could either, which bothered him a lot. He’d never met a man so hard to catch in a lie. Not even Stockwell. Not even Face. The possibility that Shriver was actually always telling the truth, Hannibal dismissed out of hand. The man was a lawyer after all. He’d wondered about what exactly a lawyer did at the NSA. He’d asked Shriver that once and got a vague answer about “compliance management”. He suspected that wasn’t the half of it.

“We goin’ on this mission then?” BA asked.

Hannibal shrugged. “We got a choice?”

“I think Stockwell’s dead.” Face said.

Hannibal didn’t. He wasn’t sure why, but something told him the bastard was still breathing out there somewhere. Getting him back had started out as a matter of pride for Hannibal, a matter of proving himself and his team to their smiley new friend and whoever gave him his orders. Then the weeks had stretched into months and he had to admit that what was keeping him going now was sheer boneheaded stubbornness.

“Maybe he is, maybe he’s not. Maybe this time we’ll find out for sure.”


“I ain’t goin’.”

“BA, you said as long as we drug you then you’d be fine.”


Hannibal sighed. It was like this every time. BA would say he would be fine as long as they put him out before he got on the plane and as long as Murdock wasn’t flying. But the closer it got to take-off the colder his feet got.

“You’ve gotta get this licked, BA.” Face said. “How about hypnotherapy? That’s supposed to be effective. And we – hah – we know you’re susceptible to being hypnotised…” He shut up as BA scowled at him and then he muttered “eclipse” on the off chance it might start to work again. No such luck.

“Hi, guys.” Murdock came bounding into the aircraft hanger where they were standing around waiting. “Look who I found outside, lurking around in a suspicious secret agenty type of way.” Shriver walked at Murdock’s side.

“I was not lurking.” Shriver protested. “That’s the only place I could get any cell phone reception. He was bundled up in an overcoat against the chill of the night. Hannibal handed him a plastic mug of coffee.

“I see you found the food.” Shriver glanced at the nearly demolished packs of sandwiches and doughnuts, piled on a folding table alongside several flasks of coffee. He glanced at his watch as he sipped the coffee and then rubbed the back of his hand across his eyes. He looked rather tired Hannibal noticed. Well he was working two jobs after all. “Another hour before take off. Do you have any questions about the briefing materials?”

They had no questions. But BA had something to say.

“I ain’t goin’. ‘less we go on a boat.”


“Don’t worry,” Hannibal said. “We’ll handle it. You sticking around to see us off?”

“Not exactly. I am sticking around because…” He unbuttoned his coat and took it off. He was wearing green combat fatigues underneath.

“I’m coming with you.”

Chapter 2

“Wow,” Murdock said. “Those must be the cleanest, neatest fatigues I ever saw.” He grinned. “Did your mother press them for you?”

“My mother is deceased, Mr Murdock,” Shriver said mildly, wiping the smile off Murdock’s face.

“Sorry,” Murdock muttered around the foot in his mouth.

“You’re coming with us? Is this a joke, Shriver?” Hannibal asked. “We don’t normally take along a legal representative on missions.”

“Though, thinking back, that might have been useful a couple of times,” Face admitted.

“We got our own backs to watch without watching yours,” BA growled. “Hannibal tell him we ain’t taking no civilians along for the ride.”

“He’s right.” Hannibal said, “this is a combat operation, we can’t afford to carry passengers. You’re not going.”

“Are you done?” Shriver asked. He sighed. “Believe me, I don’t want to come. I have at least a hundred places I’d rather be than North Korea. But I have orders. And my orders are to go with you, to report on your methods in the field.” He did look rather disgruntled Hannibal noticed. His usual smile was gone. “Don’t worry about watching my back, I can take care of myself.”

“Oh really?” Hannibal sounded dubious. “You had any military experience? No? And your NSA work isn’t field work, is it?”

“I’ve had training as part of…” Again the word Zephyr was unsaid, yet loud and clear. “I can take care of myself.” He repeated. “If you recall, Colonel I once saved your life.”

Hannibal had to admit that was true. He’d not even seen Shriver draw when he’d shot Frankie. He lit a cigar and looked at Shriver, assessing. He was a good shot, and he obviously wasn’t squeamish about using his gun. He looked pretty fit. “Skinny” certainly, as BA had once called him. But lean and hard muscled.

“Okay, NSA, I’m going to give you a little test. You pass and you can tag along. If not then I don’t care what your orders are.”

“A test?” Shriver looked intrigued, the others did too.

“Well, we’ve got an hour to kill before take off. There’s a warehouse just across from here. I want you to head over there and conceal yourself inside. We’ll follow you in ten minutes. If we can’t find you before it’s time to leave you get to come.”

“Hannibal,” Murdock sounded delighted. “That’s a great idea! I haven’t played hide and go-seek since, ooh, last week, I think.”

“The warehouse will be locked up at this time of night.” Shriver pointed out.

“Yes,” Hannibal answered. He looked at his watch. “Nine minutes fifty seconds.”

Shriver at once headed for the door. Then he stopped for a moment, turned back.

“Just to clarify, Colonel. If any of you get close to me, am I allowed to, what would you call it, ‘take him out’?”

BA giggled and Murdock grinned. Hannibal smiled. “Sure, kid, just don’t hurt us too much.” He shook his head as Shriver smiled back, nodded at him and hurried off.

“‘Take him out’…” Face shook his head too. “Can you believe the nerve of that guy?”

“He was at the head of the line when they were handing out cheek.” Hannibal agreed.

“Only if he cut in fronta you.” BA muttered.

“So.” Face said, “now we get on the plane early and leave him behind?”

“Face!” Hannibal said, shocked. “That thought never even entered my head! You’re not suggesting I wouldn’t play fair are you?”

“And we ain’t getting on no plane.” BA reminded them.

Hannibal wandered over to the table and drank a cup of coffee, ate a doughnut. After a while he looked at his watch again.

“Right, five minutes, let’s go.”

“Er, didn’t you say ten?” Face asked.

“You know what I just said about playing fair? You were right. I’m not.”

They trooped out into the night air, across to the dark warehouse. It had big double doors, large enough to accommodate trucks. A people sized door was set into one of them. It was locked.

“No sign this has been forced.” Face said, as he began to pick it. “You know I wouldn’t put it past this guy to be hiding somewhere outside and double back once we’re inside. Put his feet up and eat doughnuts till we come back.”

“No.” Hannibal said, “he’s inside.” He’d seen a look in Shriver’s eyes, when Hannibal issued his challenge. A little bit of the Jazz. And a fairly large chunk of proving something.

The warehouse interior was gloomy and silent. Stacked shipping crates loomed. There were steps leading up to catwalks high above. A few windows, high up near the roof, let in the moonlight.

“Be easier if we put the lights on.” Face suggested. He swept a hand over a panel of switches on the wall. The lights did not come on.

“Power outage?” Face suggested.

“Sure, Face,” Murdock said, he gave a scary smile. “You just keep telling yourself that.”

“Okay, spread out. BA and Murdock take the catwalks and see what you can spot on the floor. Be careful.”

“Yeah, he might ‘take you out’.” Face said grinning. BA scowled.

“I meant be careful not to slip and fall,” Hannibal said. “But, yeah, what Face said too.”

BA and Murdock moved off, began to climb the steps up to the catwalks.

A maze of crates, stacked high dotted the floor of the warehouse.

“Face, take the left, I’ve got the right. If he’s on the floor we’ll box him in, force him into the middle.” Face started to move off. “Face.” Face stopped and turned back as Hannibal spoke. “Don’t underestimate him.”

Face rolled his eyes. “Yeah, because I’m so scared of Shriver.”

“Frankie should have been.” Hannibal said. Face sobered at once. “I don’t mean I think he’s a threat to us, but he’s an unknown quantity. He’s very careful to keep you looking at the surface. Don’t discount what might be under that.” Face nodded, his expression serious. He moved off quietly to the left. Hannibal took the right and they began to search the maze of boxes.


BA had come down from the catwalk when he couldn’t find any sign of Shriver. Murdock stayed up his on the other side, to be lookout. He had a good view of the whole of the warehouse floor. BA could hear him over the radio now.

“Avast, mateys, tis Cap’n Murdock in the crow’s nest. I see a shadow moving nor’ west of you, pull alongside and open up the gun ports.” BA muttered and he heard Face clicking his tongue over the transmission. “And watch out for the whale. The white whale…”

“You did that one before, Murdock,” Hannibal said.

After forty five minutes creeping around in the moonlight, chasing shadows and footsteps, that all too often turned out to be each other’s, Hannibal had decided that they really did need the lights. He sent BA to find the fuse box to see if he could get them back on.

BA found the box. The fuses were sitting on a large shipping crate a short distance away. He shook his head. Should have taken them with you, Shriver. He went over to get them. As he picked them up he noticed the lid of the crate was loose.

BA chuckled. Ready or not, here I come, he thought. He carefully took hold of an edge of the lid and with a quick movement flipped it off. Shriver was sitting in the big crate, cross legged, like a school boy at story time. He looked up at BA with a dismayed expression.

“Good thing we ain’t playing sardines.” BA said. “Don’t look like room for two of us in there.” He smirked. Shriver sighed and hung his head. Then he shrugged and began to get up. He held out a hand to BA, who at once put out his own to pull Shriver up and help him out of the crate.

“What the heck?” BA yanked his hand away, as he felt a sharp pain in it. He stared back at Shriver to see he was holding a hypodermic he’d had palmed. “Why you…” BA didn’t waste any more words, he made a grab at Shriver, who hastily jumped out of the crate, the other side from BA. He backed away as BA made his way around the crate, starting to stagger.

“It’s only a sedative, Sergeant.” Shriver said, his voice a combination of placating and panicking. “Nothing that the team haven’t given you before.”

“And I ain’t happy when they do it either!” BA’s vision was going dark, Shriver seemed to be at the end of a long, dim tunnel. “Stand still!”

“I am standing still.” Shriver said, the smugness back in his voice in full measure. It wasn’t Shriver weaving around BA realised, it was him. He caught at a crate for support, then his legs gave out and the floor rushed up at him. He passed out.


“Can you guys reach BA?” Hannibal asked Face and Murdock. They both shook their heads.

“You think Shriver took him out?” Murdock asked, smiling. He had left his nautical personality up on the catwalk and was back to himself now.

“His walkie talkie batteries probably went flat.” Hannibal said. “Okay,” he checked his watch. “I guess Mr NSA made it. Time to catch the plane.”

“Aw, Hannibal.” Face said. “I hate babysitting on missions.”

“I know,” Hannibal sighed, then shouted up, his voice echoed around the big open space. “Ollie, Ollie, in come free!”

“Hannibal,” Face said, “what the heck was that? It’s ‘alley, alley, oxen free!'” he shouted the last four words.

“That’s funny,” Murdock said. “When I was a kid we used to shout ‘all ye all ye outs in free!'”

“I heard you the first time, thank you.” Shriver was smiling at them, leaning against a tall stack of crates near the wall, arms folded.

“Okay, Shriver, you win.” Hannibal said. “You can come. And on your own head be it.”

“Thank you, Colonel. Now, if you’d be so kind, I need some assistance with Sergeant Baracus.” He turned away and the rest of the team stared at each other then ran after him. They found Shriver standing over BA, who was unconscious on the ground. Hannibal moved fast as a striking snake, grabbed Shriver by the front of his nice clean fatigues and slammed him against the wall.

“What did you do to him?” He demanded.

“Colonel, please,” Shriver struggled ineffectually. “A sedative, that’s all! The same as you use to get him on planes. It’s in my trouser pocket, the left… my left, mind the needle.”

Hannibal kept hold of Shriver with one hand while he fished a small brown bottle out of Shriver’s pocket with the other. He studied it. It looked legit, it was even a brand they’d used before.

“I just thought I’d kill two birds with one stone.” Shriver said, giving a weak version of his smile. Hannibal scowled, leaned on him hard and he coughed out, “I’m sorry, bad choice of words… please, Colonel… I just didn’t want to watch you… hit him over the head again.” Hannibal stared at him in surprise. He stepped back and let Shriver go. Shriver coughed some more, smoothed down the front of his shirt. He was flushed and looked rattled.

“I watched you shoot a man.” Hannibal said. “I’m supposed to believe you care about BA getting a little tap on the noggin?”

“It can’t be good for him.” Shriver said, gathering his composure. He grimaced. “And it’s so… uncivilised.”

Face stood up from checking BA. “He seems fine, Hannibal, just out cold.” Even so he glared at Shriver. Murdock was also giving Shriver the evil eye.

“Well, I’m sorry if we offend your delicate sensibilities.” Hannibal said. “If you come with us believe me they’ll get plenty more offending.”

“I understand.” Shriver said, nodding. “So you are happy for me to come along?”

“Happy would be an exaggeration. You can come, but let me make a few things very clear. You’re under my command out there. You follow my orders without question and you do it fast. When I say jump you don’t ask how high, you just jump, understood?”

Shriver nodded again, without speaking.

“Wow,” Face said, “I’m suddenly getting this really strong sense of Deja Vu.”

Hannibal didn’t react to that, kept Shriver pinned with a stern glare.

“There’s two commands that you especially need to pay particular attention to. That’s ‘shut up’ and ‘get down’.” He saw a small smile play over Shriver’s face.

“Do you think I was trying to be funny, mister?” The smile vanished and Shriver composed his features into a serious stare.

“No, sir,” he snapped out. He was almost standing at attention Hannibal noticed. Strange how when he put on the command voice even people who weren’t soldiers found themselves acting like they’d just got three months worth of boot camp injected straight into the spine.

“No, sir,” Hannibal echoed. “Shut up is the one you need to make sure you obey real quick. You may think there’s no immediate danger when I say that, but believe me, if you don’t shut up right away you’ll find that danger materialises very fast indeed.”

Shriver kept his face admirably still as Hannibal spoke. He’d even taken on the ‘listening to the officer, but not looking him in the eye’ look that Hannibal had seen on any number of faces.

“And one last thing, if BA needs knocking out, you leave that to us. Believe me, that’s for your own good.”

“Yes, Colonel,” Shriver said. “I apologise if I took a liberty. I’m sure Sergeant Baracus would prefer that his closest friends be the ones to knock him senseless.”

And now it was Hannibal’s turn to keep his face icily composed.

“Right,” he said after a moment. “Let’s get on that plane. Captain, Lieutenant, shall we go? Dibs on a window seat.”

“Um, what about BA?” Face asked.

“Oh, I think since Mr Shriver was the one to put him to sleep, he can be the one to get him back over to the hanger and onto the plane.”

The dismay on Shriver’s face looked absolutely sincere this time.

“Just consider it a test of initiative,” Hannibal said. The three of them started to walk towards the door. “See you on the plane. You’ve got ten minutes.”

Chapter 3

Hannibal opened his eyes, blinked a few times. Face and Murdock were sitting opposite him playing cards. He glanced across the aisle of the jet’s dimly lit cabin to see BA was still slumbering peacefully. The engines droned steadily as they cruised through the blackness, somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

“Hey, Hannibal.” Murdock said, quietly, noticing Hannibal was awake. “Deal you in?”

“Next hand.” Hannibal said. He got up, used the bathroom and got himself a cup of coffee. As he went back to his seat he glanced at Shriver, apparently sleeping as peacefully as BA, in a reclined seat. Hannibal watched him for a moment. He wished he knew for certain whether Shriver could be trusted or not. He wished he knew for certain that the man was actually asleep right now. He looked like he was, but…

“Philip.” Hannibal said, in a loud voice. Face and Murdock looked over at him, distracted from their card game. Shriver didn’t react for a moment, then a frown crossed his face and his eyelids fluttered. He stirred and opened his eyes. They were hazy with sleep and confusion. Shriver looked back at Hannibal, his gaze unfocused.

“Dad?” Without the glib tone and all the polish his voice sounded very young. He raised one hand, reaching towards something Hannibal couldn’t see. The fingers twitched reflexively.

“It’s all right, Philip, go back to sleep.” Hannibal made his voice soft this time. Shriver’s eyes closed and his face relaxed again. He is asleep, Hannibal decided. If that was fake he should be rehearsing a speech starting “I’d like to thank the Academy…”

Hannibal went back to his seat. Face and Murdock were grinning. “What?” Hannibal said, putting his coffee cup down on the folded out table.

“He called you ‘dad’.” Face said, smirked.

“He was dreaming.”

“I thought it was sweet.” Murdock said. Hannibal scowled at them.

“Just deal the cards.”

Face, his hand a blur, flicked out the cards into three piles. Hannibal picked up his hand and studied it intently. After a moment he looked up.

“So… what are we playing?”


“Right, Hannibal now owes me seven hundred and fifty eight thousand two hundred and fifteen dollars and ninety cents and Murdock owes me one million three hundred sixty five thousand, seven hundred and eighty nine dollars and six cents. Oh and his first born child.” Face wrote the new totals in his notebook. “You know one day I’ll call in those markers.” He smiled smugly as he put the book away in his pocket.

“Well it’s no good calling in the child one yet,” Murdock said. “I’ve not even had a date for a month.” He stretched and yawned hugely. “I’m bored. Flying just isn’t as much fun when I’m not flying.”

Face checked his watch as Hannibal did the very same thing, their movements mirrored. Still hours to go.

“Go bother the pilots for a bit.” Face suggested. Murdock nodded with approval at the idea and got up. He grabbed some candy bars as an offering and went off to the cockpit.

Hannibal and Face sat in silence for a while. Face picked up the cards from the table, started to shuffle them. Eventually he spoke.

“Think this will be another wild goose chase?”

Hannibal shrugged. He got out a cigar and lit it.

“Why do you think he’s really here?” Face nodded over Hannibal’s head towards where Shriver was still sleeping.

Hannibal shrugged again.

“Great. Thanks, that’s a big help.” Face muttered. He went silent again. The cards he was shuffling made a soothingly familiar sound. Hannibal watched him go through various techniques, his hands practising what his brain didn’t even have to think about any more. Weave shuffle. Hindu shuffle. Riffle shuffle, with the cascade finish, of course.

“What do you think will happen if we do get Stockwell back? And if you shrug again I’ll tell BA that you ordered Shriver to drug him.”

Hannibal smiled, then looked serious.

“Stockwell was a senior man in Zephyr, maybe even the top man. If he’s well enough I guess he’ll want to go back to work.”

“And I suppose that means we end up taking orders from Stockwell again.” Face started to shuffle the cards overhand, very fast. “But, never mind, at least now the stakes will be higher and the missions even more dangerous.”

“We asked for this, Face.” Hannibal reminded him, remembering that day in Langley, ash floating on the breeze like snow. Finding out that they’d spent a year living on top of, unknowingly guarding, a doomsday weapon.

“You asked for it, Hannibal.” A card escaped him, flipped out of the deck and fell to the floor, face down. “You volunteered us for the job of finding Stockwell. For tracking down and rescuing a guy we all hate.”

“It’s a matter of national security, Face, you know that. Stockwell knows a lot of secret stuff, not just about Zephyr. How we feel about him isn’t the point. He can’t be allowed to remain in the hands of the enemy. We have to get him back.”

Face frowned, looked annoyed by the inescapable truth of that. “I wish to hell we’d walked away. We should have said nuts to Zephyr and let them keep their secrets.”

Hannibal had wished the same thing many times over the last six months. Curiosity killed the cat and at this rate it would kill the A-Team.

“We could have been free and clear.” Face was still grousing and still shuffling. “But no, we had to know the big secret.” He looked back at Hannibal. “Well now we know. It’s a trap. You heard what Shriver said, that he found about it accidentally and had to make the same choice we did. He said the same thing happened to Stockwell. Zephyr trapped Stockwell, it trapped Shriver and it trapped us. And there’s no way out. For any of us.” He noticed the card he’d dropped, bent down to pick it up. “If this is the ace of spades I’m going to bail out and swim home.” It was the five of diamonds. Face put the card back into the deck, put the deck on the table and subsided into a depressed silence.

“Face…” Hannibal started to say after a moment.


“Oh damn.” Hannibal looked at his watch. “We forgot to give BA his last top-up shot.” He stood up and looked over the back of his seat at the now wide-awake and nervous looking Shriver. The agent had his gun in his hand, he’d probably reached for it before he actually awoke Hannibal thought. He watched Shriver put the gun away again.

“I need to get close enough to give him a shot.” Hannibal said. He grinned. “Perhaps you’d like to distract him by explaining how you got him from the warehouse to the plane.”

“I’d rather not.” Shriver said, his reluctance understandable. BA had used a mechanic’s roller board plenty of times, but it wasn’t a dignified mode of transport for a man to be dragged along on, heels trailing on the ground.

“Hannibal, I’m on a plane. You guys put me on a plane I said I didn’t want to get on.” BA’s gaze fixed on Shriver. “You! You gonna die, you skinny, cheating little…”

Hannibal interrupted BA. “By the way, did I mention that we have to parachute into the target zone?”


Hannibal buried his parachute with the small shovel, patted down the earth on top of it. The others had reported in that they’d be here in moments. BA had added that he was going to kill them all when he arrived at the rendezvous.

Hannibal spun suddenly at a noise behind him, turning his flashlight on, but it was only Shriver emerging out of the darkness. He held a hand up to shade his eyes. Hannibal checked his gun and holstered it, lowered the flashlight.

“You land okay? Didn’t hurt yourself?” Hannibal asked. Shriver shook his head. “You bury your chute?”

“Yes, Colonel.”

“Okay, get off your feet for a few minutes, take some rest, till the others get here.” Shriver nodded and sat down, sliding his backpack off his shoulders. He sat in silence gazing out into the blackness around them. There wasn’t much to see even if it had been light. Scrubby brush, stony dry ground. Little cover, so they had to move fast and get to the target while it was still dark.

Hannibal regarded Shriver for a while. He was too quiet. Normally you couldn’t shut the guy up. Nerves, Hannibal guessed. Never been on a mission quite like this, probably. Wasn’t used to being deep in enemy territory with only his wits to rely on to get back out.

“Don’t look so worried, kid.” Hannibal did his best to sound reassuring. Didn’t need Shriver going to pieces on them out here. Needed to make him feel safe. “This is gonna be a piece of cake.”

Shriver smiled wanly at him. “I hope so.”

“Listen, I know I wasn’t keen on bringing you along, but now you are here there’s something important you can do for me. I don’t know what kind of state Stockwell is going to be in, but I can’t imagine he’s a picture of rosy cheeked health right now. Someone will have to take care of him, keep him moving, keep him on his feet. Can you do that?”

Shriver stared at Hannibal for a second and then he nodded, his face very earnest. “Yes, Colonel, I will take care of General Stockwell.”

“And the rest of us will take care of the two of you and get us all out of there.” Hannibal hoped that worked. Shriver did seem to look happier. The two of them sat in silence waiting for the others.


The intelligence was good. For once. For so many years, right back to Vietnam, there’d been missions that went straight down the toilet because some guy thought the kitchen was actually the armoury. It was nice to have one where everything fell into place.

The layout of the small compound was exactly as shown on the plans they’d been given. There were exactly as many guards as they’d been told. And he was there.

Hannibal stood outside an office door, readying his pistol. His knuckles were bruised from the guards he’d taken out to get this far. Inside he could hear men speaking in Korean. His Korean was very rusty; he’d not spoken or even heard it for years. Well, except in some of his nightmares. But he understood enough to know they were talking about a prisoner. And Hannibal heard them say the prisoner’s name.


His boot smashed the door open. Two officers inside the room reached for guns and it was the last thing they ever did. That left one man. He hadn’t reached for a gun. He’d thrown himself to the floor and was quivering. He wore a suit, not a uniform. Hannibal grabbed him by the collar and dragged him to his feet.

“Take me to the prisoner.” Hannibal ordered in Korean. The man in the suit nodded, looking terrified. I know what you are, Hannibal thought. Interrogator. Torturer. Maybe even a doctor. The doctors were the worst bastards of the lot. They kept you alive, so you could suffer for longer.

He radioed the others. “There should be four guarding the prisoner.” Hannibal said. “And I’ll bet their orders are not to leave their posts whatever else is going on. So they’ll be waiting for us. Meet me in the east corridor.”

The rest of them met him there. BA reported the communications room was destroyed. Hannibal had felt the grenade blast shake the building. Face and Murdock had mopped up all the guards, with some help from Shriver. Hannibal had heard those gunshots.

Now he could hear quiet voices, the scuff of boots from around the corner of the concrete corridor they were in.

“Do you think this one is any use as a hostage?” Face asked looking at the quaking man Hannibal had dragged along.

“Let’s see.” Hannibal said. Before the others could stop him he had pushed the Korean in front of himself and stepped out into the corridor.

Three soldiers stood at the end of the corridor, in front of a metal door. They pointed their rifles, then hesitated as they saw the interrogator with Hannibal’s handgun jammed into his neck.

“Tell them to put their guns down.” Hannibal said. He didn’t move forward yet. The man shouted at the guards in Korean, doing as Hannibal ordered. The guards looked at each other and then one snapped an order and they raised the guns again.

“Oh, hell.” Hannibal said. It was one of those ‘asset primary’ situations. Protect the prisoner, whoever has to die. Hannibal flung himself and his useless hostage back into cover as the gunfire crackled out. He felt the man twitch in his arms. “Return fire!” Hannibal yelled as he fell to the ground.

The others had already started to, and the soldiers had no cover. Within a few seconds the machine gun fire from down the corridor ended. Hannibal sat up. The interrogator he held was dead, a shot had taken him in the chest. Hannibal pushed him away and stood up.

“Everyone okay?” He asked. They nodded, faces pale and serious. Hannibal noticed Shriver’s gun was smoking too. He’d not hesitated to fight, Hannibal was pleased to see.

“There could be one man left in there.” He nodded at the door. “We’d better get to him fast. If he thinks it’s all over he might kill Stockwell.” They pounded up the corridor. Hannibal signalled the others to be quiet and stepped close to the door. He started to yell in Korean, hoping not only that he was understandable, but that his accent wouldn’t give him away.

“Open up, we drove them back. Let me in!” No response. “We’re evacuating. Quick, open up now!”

That worked. No one wanted to get left behind. The instant the door started to open Hannibal pushed it hard, shoving the man inside back. The others rushed in behind him. BA ran around the door and there was a cry and a couple of thumps. BA emerged carrying the guard’s rifle.

Hannibal didn’t see him emerge because he was staring into the corner of the room. The corner of the concrete cell was enclosed by a cage, two sides and a top. It wasn’t high enough to stand up in, barely four feet. A man sat inside the cage, wrists and ankles chained. He was dressed only in a ragged grey singlet and trousers.

He stared at them without recognition. Hannibal almost didn’t recognise him either. His hair had gone totally white and only the untrimmed ends of it straggling down the back of his neck still showed the old black. He was shockingly thin, and deathly pale, bruise-like dark shadows under his eyes standing out clearly. Hannibal recognised the eyes. He breathed out slowly.


Chapter 4

“Face,” Hannibal said, his voice tightly controlled. “Get that thing open.”

The cage was getting to Hannibal. The cell was one thing, but the cage was something else. At least it wasn’t made of bamboo. Face knelt down beside the cage’s door and started to pick the padlock that secured it. Stockwell watched him warily from inside. He had moved back into the corner, curled up, defensive.

Shriver, his face pale and appalled, came over to the cage and leant over it. Stockwell looked up at him.

“General Stockwell. It’s Philip Shriver. Do you know me, sir?” There was an edge of desperation to his voice.

Stockwell peered at him for a moment, then he smiled. It was a disturbing smile.

“Excellent well, you are a fishmonger.” His voice was cracked and weak.

“What the heck did he say?” BA said, sounding baffled.

“That’s from Hamlet.” Murdock said as Shriver straightened up, looking dismayed. “Of course Hamlet was faking….”

“He’s in shock, Shriver.” Hannibal said. “Give him some time.”

Face had got the padlock off now. He opened the cage door. Stockwell didn’t move. He looked frightened. Hannibal really didn’t want to drag him out of there, but they had no time to waste. They had to make their rendezvous with the plane.

But it didn’t come to that. Face held out a hand to Stockwell. When he spoke his voice was gentle. Not a tone he’d ever used to Stockwell before, but Hannibal knew that Face could always be relied on to see what was needed in any given situation. Besides this wasn’t Stockwell. At least not the Stockwell they knew.

“Come on out now. You’re safe. Come out and let me get those chains off you.”

And maybe it was the old Faceman charm, the smile that made everyone trust him. Maybe it was just the blond hair and blue eyes that told Stockwell this wasn’t one of his captors. Whatever it was, it worked, Stockwell struggled to the door of the cage and let Face and Shriver help him out, get him to his feet.

“My god, he’s so thin.” Shriver said, in a small voice.

“Keep it together,” Hannibal snapped. He’d seen thinner men. As Face quickly dealt with the shackles and cuffs Hannibal went on. “There’s an infirmary here. Let’s check him out and get him ready to travel. Murdock, go find him some warm clothes. BA, get back outside and get one of the vehicles ready. Once this outpost misses its check-in, company will be coming.”

They hurried to obey. Hannibal led Face and Shriver, supporting Stockwell, to the small infirmary. They sat him on the exam table and Hannibal got the vest he was wearing off. A neat surgical scar marred the general’s chest, right beside a less neat bullet wound scar. That looked okay, but there were other injuries Hannibal could see.

“He’s favouring his left arm.” Hannibal said. “Stockwell, your arm,” he touched it, carefully. “It’s hurt?” Stockwell just shrank away from him and spoke quietly, a whisper.

“Alas, poor ghost.”

Hannibal sighed. More Hamlet. He used his hands to check. Stockwell gasped when Hannibal touched his wrist, tried to pull away, but Hannibal held on. He could feel the bones were out of line.

“This is broken, it’s not been set. Get something to splint it with.” Face nodded, started rummaging in drawers.

Hannibal could guess, almost see how the injury might have occurred. The guards dishing out a little extra, unauthorised torment to the helpless prisoner. Why should those bastards in suits get all the laughs? Go on, kick him again. All good clean fun, until that sickening snapping noise and the sharp cry of pain. Then a threat of worse if he complains. Sweating as they hope no-one notices. Coming up with ways the prisoner must have done it himself, sir, accidentally. Yes, Hannibal had seen that play out often enough to see it happening here.

“Sir?” Shriver’s voice interrupted Hannibal’s mixture of memory and speculation.

“Doesn’t matter,” Hannibal said. “See if you can find some balm or something, for his wrists and ankles.” They were raw and swollen from the chains. Shriver nodded and went off to search through drawers with Face.

Hannibal looked at Stockwell and Stockwell looked back at him, frightened, but not panicking. Perhaps he believed he was safe, even if he didn’t recognise them.

“Hunt?” Hannibal said, trying the same trick he’d tried on the plane. Stockwell frowned, as if the word stirred a memory that he couldn’t quite grasp, but then he put his head down.

Time. What Hannibal had said earlier was right. Time was what it would take. And serious psychiatric help of course. Had the torture driven him insane? Hannibal wondered, or had he simply escaped the horror by retreating deep into his own mind.

Well, once they got him out of here it would be someone else’s problem. He watched Face and Shriver apply some antiseptic cream to Stockwell’s wrists and ankles then bandage them and splint the broken wrist.

Murdock came in, with a bundle of clothes in his arms.

“General, I’ve found something in just your size. I know you’re going to love it.” He shook out fatigues very similar to the ones the team were wearing. “Olive green is THE big colour in Hollywood this year.” Between the four of them they helped Stockwell into the clothes. He whimpered a couple of times about his broken wrist, but didn’t fight them. Murdock finished with a jacket, camouflage patterned.

“Now that is what I call an ensemble! Just fabulous!” If he was trying to provoke a reaction from Stockwell, the usual irritation, then he was disappointed. Shriver helped Stockwell into the boots Murdock had brought, supporting each foot in turn on his leg and tying the laces, like a parent might tie the shoes of a child.

“Okay, Hannibal,” Face said, his pockets bulging with stolen infirmary goodies. “I think we’re good to go.”

“Let’s move out.” Hannibal ordered. He nodded at Shriver, who took Stockwell’s right arm, helped him down from the table.

“We’re getting out of here now, sir.” Shriver said, quietly. “I’m going to help you. Stay close to me.”

Stockwell seemed to hear Shriver, seemed to take notice of him, which was good to see. When Stockwell looked at him, into his face, Shriver smiled.

Stockwell spoke again, his voice still scratchy and hoarse.

“That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.”

Shriver’s face fell. His smile vanished.

“He got Hamlet on the brain or something?” Murdock said, as they left the infirmary. Hannibal shrugged, glanced back at Stockwell and the now grim faced Shriver. Face followed, rearguard. Maybe it wasn’t his own head Stockwell had gone inside to escape. Maybe it was Hamlet’s head. Nice choice, Hannibal thought, that is if you wanted them to think you’d lost your marbles. He’d have picked Henry V himself.

We few, we happy few, he thought as they emerged from the building into the chilly night. We band of brothers. And a couple of black sheep of the family tag-alongs.

BA was waiting for them with a Jeep.


It was a two hour drive to the rendezvous. They kept the canvas top up on the Jeep to try to keep warm. There were a couple of blankets in there and Shriver wrapped one of them around Stockwell, when he saw the general start to shiver. Snuggled in the blanket Stockwell drifted into sleep leaning against Face, who looked distinctly unamused at being used as a pillow by Stockwell. But he didn’t push him away.

Hannibal could understand, felt sure Face was feeling the same thing as Hannibal himself. The old dislike, even hatred of Stockwell was still there, but mingled with pity for the abuse the man had suffered.

He remembered what he’d said when vowing to find whoever had shot Stockwell. He’s a total bastard, but he’s our total bastard. It was nothing to do with personal feelings. Stockwell’s our guy. The Koreans, the Chinese, whoever had been responsible, didn’t get to torture our guys. Not without paying.

Nothing wrong with feeling sorry for him, Hannibal thought. Just shows we’re nice guys. He grinned. We’re great guys.

And we’re good. We are damn good. We got him out. Okay it took six months, but we got him and we’re going to get away clean. He could see the jet, appearing out of the darkness, a ghostly shape in the night. It stood in a flat empty, desolate landscape. Hard packed cold earth, no hills or cover for miles. Perfect for secret take off and landing. The enemy had relied on isolation as part of their security, but now it was working against them. It could be hours before anyone came after the team.

Hannibal glanced in the rear mirror. Shriver was sitting staring at Stockwell. Hannibal shook his head. I said keep an eye on him, he thought, you don’t have to eyeball him to death. Well at least Shriver was doing as he’d been ordered.

“Hannibal.” BA said. “It’s a plane.” He didn’t elaborate, didn’t need to.

“Yes it is.” Hannibal said. “You want to stick around, you’re welcome to. But the rest of us are getting on the plane. Your choice, sergeant.” He grinned. “North Korea’s really lovely this time of year. Apart from you know, the repression and the death squads.” He glanced towards the back of the jeep. “Unless Mr Shriver’s got any more surprises for you in his knapsack?” Shriver looked at him, wide-eyed. Obviously didn’t like the idea of trying that one again. “No? Okay. Come on.”

BA got out of the Jeep, turned back to help the others manoeuvre Stockwell out and unload their packs and weapons.

“I’ll get on the plane.” BA growled. “But when we get home you gonna pay.” He glared at the others. “You all gonna pay.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Murdock said. “We’re all really scared.” He waved at one of the pilots who had appeared at the door of the plane and lowered the steps.


Twenty minutes later they were in the air and the ‘fasten seat belts’ sign had just gone off. Hannibal grinned at Face, who was sitting beside him.

“What’s that saying I have? Something about a piece of cake?”

Face scowled at him.

“Save the cake till we land in Tokyo. Then I’ll believe we’ve made it.”

“Okay,” Hannibal said. “Let’s get some coffee. I’m still freezing.”

He passed Murdock and BA in the seats behind them.

“He’s gone catatonic again, Colonel,” Murdock reported. BA was staring straight ahead, eyes blank. Murdock waved a hand in front of his face, got no response. “I’m going to shave off his eyebrows and tell him Smiley Phil over there did it.”

“Hey!” Shriver protested from his seat across the aisle. Hannibal went over to check on him and Stockwell. Stockwell looked scared and was pulling ineffectually at his seatbelt. Shriver undid the buckle, ignoring Hannibal’s frown. Stockwell relaxed once he was out of the restraint.

“Just take it easy, sir,” Shriver said, voice smooth and reassuring. “We’re going home now.”

“I don’t want him wandering about.” Hannibal said. “You keep him in his seat. You need anything one of us will fetch it for you. You need the bathroom, call one of us to sit with him till you get back. Clear?”

“Yes, Colonel. Could you bring him a blanket? Perhaps he’ll sleep again.”

“Sure.” He retrieved one from the overhead and tossed it to Shriver.

Face was pouring coffee. “Er, Hannibal, do you want – ahm – a little something extra in BA’s hot drink” He indicated a mug of milk he was about to put in the microwave oven in the galley. Hannibal dug in his pockets and brought out a blister pack of pills.

“One should be enough,” he popped one out and handed it to Face. “To get him as far as Tokyo at least. If he needs it.” He glanced over to where Murdock was still trying to bring BA out of his trance.

Hannibal went back to his seat with his coffee. He was about to take a sip when the jet lurched violently. His coffee cup flew from his hand, smashed against the bulkhead.

“Shit!” That was Face. He’d been thrown to the floor, landing hard. The ‘fasten seatbelts’ sign began to flash. An alarm started to go off. Hannibal ignored all the instincts telling him to obey the sign. As the jet straightened out he got to his feet and ran forward, burst into the cockpit.

There were more alarms sounding in here. The two pilots were talking fast at each other. The co-pilot gave Hannibal a quick backward glance.

“Go back and strap in now!” He snapped.

“What’s going on?”

“We just evaded a missile. We’re under attack. Fighter jets.”

Hannibal went cold.

“They going to shoot us down or force us to land?”

“They just fired on us, what do you think? Besides, landing might be a problem. We just crossed the coast, we’re over the ocean.”

“Can you evade them?”

“Get the hell out of here and let us work!” The pilot snapped. Hannibal had enough sense to know this was one of the very few times he wasn’t in charge. He ran back into the cabin. The others were all strapped in.

“We’re under attack. Fighters.” He saw Murdock start to undo his seatbelt. “Don’t even think about it, Captain!”

“I can help!”

“Three’s a crowd up there. Stay where you are.” Hannibal knew there was nothing more even Murdock could do up there. He sat down, beside Face, who turned to look at him.

“We’re over the sea, aren’t we?” Face asked, his voice tight. He had the shutter up on the window. It was totally black beneath them, no lights of towns or villages.

“Yes.” Hannibal said. Which meant parachuting wasn’t an option. About the only option left was praying. He looked back at Murdock and BA. He was jealous of BA’s catatonia, could do with a dose of that himself right now. He looked across the aisle to Shriver and Stockwell. Stockwell looked scared, but more because he didn’t understand what was going on. Sorry, General, rescue you, just to get you killed. Maybe we’re not as good as I thought. Shriver had his eyes closed tight and was a very pasty colour. Sorry, NSA, but you insisted on coming with us. No, that wasn’t true, you were ordered to come with us. So not my fault that you’re going to die with us. Hannibal didn’t believe that for a second of course. He was in command. That meant everything was his fault.

The jet lurched again and then through the windows the light of an explosion blossomed. A shockwave hit them. Horrible banging and shuddering. The lights went off. They were falling now, Hannibal could feel it. He could hear the engines faltering. In the darkness Face’s hand found his and held on tight. He heard Face’s voice, just under the screaming alarms. Barely more than a whisper.

“Hannibal…” Nothing more. Was he going to say goodbye? Hannibal couldn’t say that back.

His mind was racing ahead. They were still level, he was sure. The plane might float, at least long enough for them to get out. They had life jackets under the seats. Was there a life raft on board? The life raft would have a transponder. Could transmit their position. If they could last long enough they could get picked up. He didn’t dignify these desperate thoughts with the name “plan” but it was something to hang onto.

Then the last thing any air passenger wanted to hear. The last thing some of them did hear. The final alarm before impact. The pilot’s voice over the PA.

“Brace brace brace!”

Murdock didn’t whisper Hannibal’s name. He screamed it as Hannibal put his head down and wrapped his arms over it, muffling the terrible noise. The screaming. Impact. Blackness.

Chapter 5

Face waited for the water. For the rush of freezing, black, death. It didn’t come. They didn’t feel like they were floating either, felt solid. He heard a groan behind him.

“Murdock? You okay? BA?”

“Face?” Murdock’s voice was shaky. “Yeah, think so. Hannibal?”

No answer. Face peered through the darkness. His eyes were adjusting, he could make out the dark shape of Hannibal beside him. Fearful, he reached for Hannibal’s neck and felt near painful relief as the pulse, strong, steady, pounded against his fingers. He called Hannibal’s name a couple of times, but got no response.

“He’s out. We need some light. Is BA okay?”

“He’s out cold too. Don’t know if he even knows we crashed.” Murdock was moving around, rummaging in the overhead by the sound of it. Then a flashlight beam pierced the darkness. Murdock handed Face another one and Face switched it on.

“We’re not in the water,” Murdock said. “You think they turned back towards the mainland?”

“Don’t know.” That could wait. “Check the other two and the pilots.” Face ordered.

Murdock went across the aisle, Face shone the flashlight beam at Hannibal and winced to to see a jagged cut on the side of his head. Need the first aid kit, he thought. Behind him he could hear Shriver’s voice.

“We crashed. We crashed.” He wasn’t hysterical, just sounded disbelieving.

“Don’t worry, Phil, the first one is always the worst.” Murdock’s words of comfort were probably more disconcerting than anything else. Actually, Face thought, the first half dozen were the worst, after that you started to get used to them.

He stood up, let Murdock pass, as he headed up the aisle to the cockpit. Face swept the flashlight around. The cabin was mostly intact, but the floor was severely distorted, pushed up from below. The windows were smashed, some of the overheads had burst open. Debris was strewn about everywhere, a couple of the seats were torn loose. The table they had played cards on, what felt like a week ago now, was bent at a crazy angle. Face looked for any sign of fire breaking out. If it did…

“Lieutenant.” Shriver said, his voice hushed. He was staring at Face, one hands picking ineffectually at his seat belt release. Face didn’t know if it was the blood covering his hand that stopped Shriver getting a grip on the buckle, or if his brain had simply temporarily forgotten how to work it. He had a nasty looking wound in his shoulder, a lot of blood down the front of his shirt. Beside him Stockwell sat gazing back at Face. He appeared totally unscathed by the crash. Luck of the devil, Face thought, bitterly.

“Stay calm Shriver, try to get yourself and Stockwell ready to get out.”

Shriver nodded, but still stared at Face. No, Face realised, at Face’s right arm. Face looked down at it too. Ah, that wasn’t right. No, that wasn’t good at all.


“Yes,” Face said, hastily. No details please. He hadn’t even felt it. Adrenaline sure was a wonderful thing. His head started to spin. Murdock came back from the cockpit then. His expression was serious.

“The pilots are dead.”

“You’re certain?”


“Right. Murdock, can you get the first aid kit? Only you, ah, you need to take a look at my arm.”

He shone the flashlight on it, on the glistening ends of bone poking though the skin of his forearm.

“I think I’m going to throw up.” Shriver said faintly.

“Welcome to the joys of fieldwork,” Murdock said, grimly, and went to find the first aid kit.


Once he got everyone out of the plane and retrieved the first aid kit, Murdock got Face sitting down and set his arm. Shriver made good on his threat to throw up when Murdock pulled the bone back into line and Face screamed in agony.

Hannibal and BA both woke abruptly when Face screamed.

Hannibal waited until Face had finished calling Murdock names while Murdock splinted and bandaged the arm, then he sat up.

“Report.” His head was pounding and felt three times the normal size. His vision was blurred, but he could make out a lot of trees surrounding them. The plane loomed above them and the men sat in a circle around a couple of electric lanterns. BA was looking around in total bewilderment. Then he saw the plane and stared.

Murdock glanced at Hannibal and moved on to Shriver, started dressing the gash in his shoulder.

“We hit land, obviously. Don’t know where, will need to wait for first light to check. Forest terrain. Pilots are dead. They dumped the fuel, so we shouldn’t be exploding any time soon. Face has a broken arm. The rest of us have got a few minor injuries, ‘cept Stockwell. He’s got nothing he didn’t have when he got aboard. I’ve retrieved the transponder from the plane, but not switched it on yet.”

Hannibal nodded in approval. No need to attract attention until they know where they were.

“Wasn’t there a radio set on the plane?”

“Smashed,” Murdock said. “It was in the cockpit.” Hannibal glanced up at the plane. The cockpit was smashed in, crushed to about half the size it was before.

“We crashed?” BA said.

Hannibal saw Face roll his eyes, as he struggled with trying to open a pack of painkillers one handed. “Try to keep up,” he muttered. BA scowled at him, but didn’t say anything else.

Hannibal touched the side of his head, to feel a bandage covering it. The skin on his face felt tight, from the dried blood covering it. Murdock came over and sat in front of him. He touched the dressing gently.

“That’s just an emergency one. Let me get you cleaned up and dress this properly.”

Hannibal closed his eyes and let Murdock work on him.


Murdock climbed. The trees were tall, but not rain forest tall. When dawn had come he’d found the tallest one he could find and started to climb.

They needed to know where they were. Was there any sign of civilisation nearby? And more importantly, any sign of transportation that could get them out of here?

Hannibal waited at the foot of the tree. BA, Face, Shriver and Stockwell back at the camp.

It had been a long wait until the dawn. Hannibal had slept, but Murdock had to wake him regularly to check on him because of his concussion. BA seemed to have turned into a dark, brooding, gold festooned rock of some kind. Murdock was sure he was trying to figure out a way this was all Murdock’s fault, despite Murdock not flying.

Face, doped up with strong painkillers, slept deeply. Murdock wanted to get him in particular back to civilisation as soon as possible. He’d probably need surgery on that arm.

Stockwell had muttered under his breath, mostly unintelligibly, though Murdock caught occasional snippets of Shakespeare, before finally falling asleep. Shriver just sat staring at the lanterns, his mind somewhere very far away. Well surviving a plane crash did have the effect of making a man think pretty deeply, Murdock knew.

Murdock neared the top of the tree. He knew he wouldn’t be able to get much higher, the branches were getting too thin to support his weight. But they were still just about strong enough to get him above the smaller surrounding trees, and at last he broke through into the morning light. He looked around.

“Oh, terrific.”

The forest was spread out below him, for several miles in all directions. To the north there was some open ground beyond the trees, but not very much, before the land became beach. Murdock managed to twist around to do a full turn. Only a few miles away, north, south, east and west was coastline and then, going on as far as the eye could see, the ocean.


“An island?” As the two men walked back towards camp, Hannibal listened to Murdock’s report, while trying to ignore the pounding in his head.

“Yes. Only a few miles across.”

“No sign of any settlements?”

“Nothing. It’s nearly all forest. I guess the pilots spotted it on their radar, or their charts and aimed us at it.”

Aimed like a bullet, Hannibal thought. No option then, they would have to use the transponder. Problem was they couldn’t possibly be far from the coast of North Korea. The enemy would be listening out for signals and would come looking. And those fighter jets might know exactly where they went down anyway.

But capture was better than playing Robinson Crusoe indefinitely on a deserted island. They could always escape once they got back to the mainland. Try to escape. Hopefully before any of them got any of the same treatment Stockwell had received. Hannibal grimaced both at memories and dread at that thought. For himself, for his men, even for Stockwell. And for Shriver, because he wouldn’t last five minutes.

There has to be another way, Hannibal thought, as he walked. There’s always another way. But it was difficult to try and think of another way while his head felt as if someone was trying to unscrew the top.

They walked back into camp. Noises coming from the plane told Hannibal that BA was in there, retrieving anything useful he could find. Face was still sleeping, a blanket covering him. Stockwell slept too. Shriver was standing, close to Stockwell, looking down at him. He started when the other two came back. Odd, Hannibal thought, we made enough noise approaching. His mind really is somewhere else. He wondered if Shriver had hit his head in the crash.

“I… I was just going to wake him – them – see if they want something to eat.” Shriver had completely lost his smooth exterior. The crash seemed to have shattered it and swept away the pieces.

“Good idea,” Hannibal said. “Let’s eat. Then we figure out how to get off this damn island.”


Breakfast made them all feel a lot better. Afterwards Hannibal got a big mug of coffee and sat thinking. He’d have preferred a cigar of course, but naked flames around an air crash site were a bad idea. The coffee was the instant kind and not very strong, but the caffeine was welcome, it sparked up the old brain cells and Hannibal began to smile. The others looked at him, most frowning, but Murdock smiling.

“He’s got a plan.” Murdock said. “Enlighten us, oh wise one.”

BA growled, but looked at Hannibal expectantly.

“We activate the transponder.”

“Well, I could have come up with that.” Face muttered.

“Ah, not yet though. First we get away from the plane, make camp elsewhere. We set off the transponder beside the plane. Someone will come. Now if we’re lucky it will be our back up, from Tokyo. But chances are it will be the enemy, they’re closer and they may already have a good idea where we are.”

“If they capture us, we’ll all end up reciting the bard.” Face nodded his head at Stockwell. “And if any of us gives up even the word ‘Zephyr’…”

“They won’t capture us. What they won’t realise is we’re actually luring them here. They have to show up in either a helicopter or a boat. They’re the only ways on and off this island, right?” They nodded in agreement. “Whichever it is we take it off them and get the hell out of here.”

“It better be a boat.” BA said. “I ain’t getting on no helicopter.”

“Well let’s hope it’s a boat, or BA will be staying behind and living off the land for the rest of his life.” Hannibal said. He looked around at their faces.

“We just take the boat or helicopter off them?” Shriver said. “You make it sound pretty easy, Colonel.”

“It won’t be,” Hannibal admitted. “But they won’t be expecting an attack. That gives us the edge. It may be the only advantage we have.” He stood up. “All right, let’s break camp and get on the move.”


They had to leave most of the supplies behind, took only what they could carry on their backs. And Face couldn’t carry a pack with his broken arm, so that left them down a man. Hannibal briefly considered putting a pack on Stockwell, but even if he put only light items in the pack, the weight of it would simply pull the weakened and emaciated Stockwell to the ground.

Hannibal put Murdock on point. He had Face follow Murdock, then Stockwell and Shriver following him. Hannibal came next keeping an eye on their passengers. Finally BA took up the rearguard.

They made slow progress, their battered bodies soon calling for rest. After a long lunch, they walked again for another couple of hours. This brought them to the edge of the forest, right by the west coast of the island. Somewhere out to the west Hannibal knew, was Korea. They were in the best place to spot the enemy approaching. He looked at the sky.

“Murdock, you think you can get back to the plane and then back here before dark?”

“Time me,” Murdock said, “I shall be as swift as the wind.” He emptied all but a few emergency supplies from his pack and tucked the transponder into it. “I hope there’s no scary animals around here though.” The thought seemed to have just occurred to him, though they hadn’t seen any sign of large animals on the way. He got out his walkie talkie and checked it was working.

“Good luck,” Hannibal said.

“See you soon.”

Murdock strode out of the camp.


He strode back into it as the darkness closed in.

“Any problems?” Hannibal asked as Murdock dumped his pack and grabbed some of the food they were just heating up on the small fire they’d built. He sat down beside Hannibal.

“Nothing. Started up the beacon. It should run for three days before the battery dies.” He glanced around. “All okay here?”

“Yeah. BA’s still growling about how it better be a boat. I checked and redressed everyone’s wounds.” He looked at Stockwell. “Stockwell’s quiet. But he’s taking notice of people when they talk to him. He may be coming out of it.”

“Lovely, we’ll soon have the pleasure of his sparkling conversation again. How about Shriver?”

“See for yourself.” Hannibal said.

Shriver was pacing, wearing a patch of grass flat.

“The crash really shook him.” Murdock said, quietly. “I don’t think he’s ever been through anything like that before. Plus I think he’s very scared of being captured.”

Hannibal nodded in agreement with all this.

“There’s something else, though. I don’t know what, but something else is eating him.” He shook his head. “I guess we’ll find out soon enough.”


They did. At just after three o’clock in the morning BA was on watch. He saw Shriver get up and walk over to Hannibal. Shriver had been awake the whole time BA had been on watch, but had made no attempt at conversation, which BA was quite pleased about.

“Don’t be waking the Colonel up.” BA said quietly, warningly.

Shriver looked over at him.

“I’m sorry, Sergeant Baracus. I have to. And I’m sorry about knocking you out earlier. Truly I am.” His face looked pained and BA sensed he was being entirely sincere. He came over as Shriver bent down and shook Hannibal’s shoulder.

“Wharrrzzt.” Hannibal muttered, waking up and rubbing his eyes. He peered at Shriver and at BA behind him. “What’s the problem?”

“Colonel,” Shriver said, “I need to give you some things.” He took out his gun. BA tensed, but Shriver ejected the clip and reversed the gun, handed it and the clip to Hannibal.

“Be careful; there’s one in the chamber.”

He reached into a pocket and took out a brown bottle and a syringe, handed them to Hannibal. From a pants pocket he took out a Swiss Army knife. Last of all he reached into his breast pocket and took out – BA stared – what looked like a cigar clipper. Face had bought Hannibal a nice silver one for his last birthday. What the heck was Shriver doing with a cigar clipper, BA wondered, and why was he giving it to Hannibal?

Hannibal stared down at the strange collection of objects in his hands, and looked at Shriver as if he suspected he really had banged his head in the crash.

“What’s this about?” Hannibal asked.

“I’m surrendering to you.” Shriver said. “You need to take me prisoner.”


“I told you my orders were to come with you in order to assess your methods. That was a lie. My real orders were to come with you, and once you found General Stockwell… my orders were to kill him.”

Chapter 6

“Stand up,” Hannibal ordered. Shriver did as he was told. Hannibal took out his handgun and pointed it at Shriver. “Sergeant, search him.”

Shriver held his arms out and BA started to frisk him.

“You got anything in your pockets that’s gonna make me annoyed?”


BA found nothing more suspicious than a pack of breath mints and a monogrammed linen handkerchief. He put a heavy hand on Shriver’s shoulder and pushed him back down to the ground.

“Okay, sit down, cross legged and sit on your hands. You make a wrong move and I’ll pound you.” Shriver nodded and obeyed. BA stayed standing, looming over him.

“Explain,” Hannibal said. “Tell me exactly what your orders were.”

“I was to let you rescue him, then kill him before we returned home.”

“And you think I’d have just let you shoot him, do you?” He glanced at Stockwell, the blanket pulled up so far around his head that only his hair was visible. “He’s under my protection.”

“I know,” Shriver said. He nodded at the objects he’d given Hannibal. “That bottle, it contains a drug that would induce heart failure. It would appear he’d simply died from natural causes, his… his ill treatment putting a strain on his heart, on top of his gun shot injury.”

Hannibal looked at the bottle. It had no label. The liquid inside was clear. He put it in his pocket. He picked up the cigar clipper. A flat square of metal, with a round hole in it and a blade that slid out. You put the cigar in the hole and then pushed the blade back down to clip it. Classier than biting off the end and spitting it out. Hannibal generally only used his own if there were women around, or at the dinner table.

He held up the clipper. “You don’t smoke,” he said to Shriver. “Which makes me wonder about this.”

“Proof,” Shriver said in a quiet voice. “In case it was impossible to bring back the body.”

“A finger?” Hannibal asked. “Confirm the identity with the fingerprint?”

Shriver’s voice was even quieter when he spoke again.

“His thumbs.”

Plural, Hannibal thought. Both of them. Dammit, they thought it through. You can’t fake that. If they just wanted a finger then Shriver could probably have talked Stockwell into giving one up in order to pretend he’d been killed. But who would give up both their thumbs?

“Why? Why was he to be rescued then killed?”

“He can’t be left in the hands of the enemy, he knows too much. But… well he’s been in their hands sometime now. It was feared he’d been compromised. Not just that he’d told them secrets, but that he could have been brainwashed. That he can no longer be trusted.”

“Whaddya mean ‘no longer’,” BA muttered.

“What?” Hannibal almost sneered. “Your bosses think he’s going to go all Manchurian Candidate on them and kill the President or something? You know paranoia is classified as a disease, don’t you?”

He waited for a moment, thinking. Shriver put his head down.

“Are you an assassin?” Shriver’s head came back up at Hannibal’s question. He looked shocked. “Is that what you do for Zephyr?”

“No!” Then he calmed himself. “No.” He shook his head. “This was a test. A test of… A test I failed.” He sounded almost astonished, as if he hadn’t had to use those words very often.

“So why did you baulk? You may be squeamish about some things, but not about killing, you’ve demonstrated that.”

“Killing the enemy, yes. But General Stockwell is not my enemy. I actually… I’ve known him since I was a child. He and my father were… well perhaps friends is not the word. Allies.”

“So who gave the order? Who wanted him dead?”

“The man who is now in charge of Project Zephyr.”

“‘Now in charge’? So he wasn’t before? Stockwell was?”

Shriver nodded. Hannibal raised his eyebrows.

“You know, for a smart guy and a lawyer you seem to have missed a pretty obvious ulterior motive there.” Shriver lost his dejected attitude for a moment and bristled.

“Of course I can see that.” He snapped. “But…” he slumped again. “This man has, um, he has a stronger claim on my loyalty.”

“This guy, whose name I notice you’re taking great care not to mention, did he order the hit on Stockwell in the first place?”

“No!” Shriver snapped. “No, I’m certain. I’ve investigated and I can’t find any connection between him and Santana.” Hannibal was more dubious. Just because Shriver didn’t find a connection didn’t mean there wasn’t one. Then he smiled at himself. Paranoia is a disease, Colonel.

“So what now, Shriver? What exactly do you want from me? Why confess? You could have just not done it, got home and said you never got an opportunity, that we watched you too closely.”

“Because if we take him back they will kill him.” He looked at Hannibal steadily. “I know you hate him for the way he treated your team, the way he set you up for your Court Martial to get you where he wanted you. So I know I have no right to ask this of you. But I know you’re a good man. A man of principle. You’ll do the right thing whatever your personal feelings are…”

“Forget the ass kissing,” Hannibal snapped, Shriver looked intensely earnest and Hannibal imagined being in a courtroom, on a jury, listening to that voice and seeing that look in his eyes. Sincerity radiated from him. He must have won a lot of cases.

“Just ask me.” Hannibal had the feeling he knew exactly what he was about to be asked.

“I’m asking you to protect him, Colonel.”


“Protect him?”

Face stared at Shriver who was still sitting in front of Hannibal. Hannibal had ordered BA to wake Face and Murdock and had told them what was going on. And what Shriver had just asked them to do. He’d ordered Stockwell be woken too. Hannibal didn’t know for sure if Stockwell could even understand what they were saying, but it was his life they were deciding, he should be awake for it. He sat up now, watching them. His eyes followed whoever was speaking, Hannibal hoped it wasn’t just noise to him.

“Only to get him to safety.” Shriver said. “After that I can obtain new identities for us both, we can vanish. I will see he is safe.”

“You’ve got money?” Hannibal asked. “Money that Zephyr doesn’t know about?”

“I have a Swiss bank account. I’ve moved money into it gradually over the last few years.” He shrugged. “Just as a contingency.”

“And what about us?” Face asked. “You know what you’re asking of us? What happens when we show up back in the US without either you or Stockwell? Doesn’t that make us the enemies of Zephyr? The people you’re always so helpfully pointing out could have us killed at a moment’s notice.”

“I know,” Shriver said. “But I don’t know what else to do. He’s in no state to defend himself, and I can’t help him unless you help me.”

“I had an idea about that,” Hannibal said. He’d started planning the moment Shriver had asked him for protection. He had to find a way to make this work that kept all of them alive. Shriver was right about Hannibal, he hated Stockwell, but this wasn’t personal, it was principle. Stockwell was a devious bastard, but so far as Hannibal knew that devious bastardry had always been employed in the service of his country. Hannibal didn’t like the General’s methods, but he couldn’t argue with the motive. No-one was killing Stockwell, not while he could prevent it.

“A plan, Colonel?” Shriver asked. Hannibal grinned. He took out a cigar and snipped the end using Shriver’s confiscated cigar clipper. He saw Shriver wince as the blade sliced the tip of the cigar off.

“Of course. We get you two someplace safe and we go home. When they ask us where you two are, I tell them I caught you when you killed Stockwell and I shot you. We weren’t able to bring the bodies back with us. And of course I know nothing about bringing back anybody’s thumbs.”

“Simple but ingenious, Hannibal,” Murdock said. He was wrapped in his blanket and looked exhausted, but he smiled at Hannibal’s plan.

“If we can make them believe us.” Face said. “You know we’ll end us getting interrogated separately and they’ll try to find some discrepancy in our story. If they do, and they figure out it’s all a lie then we’re dead meat and Shriver and Stockwell are spinning in the wind.” He looked at Shriver. “I don’t care how good the new identities you buy are, or where you hide, they’ll track you down in the end.”

“Jeez, Face.” Murdock said, watching Shriver grow more and more gloomy through Face’s speech.

Stockwell was watching Face as he spoke. Abruptly, his voice clear in the night air, he spoke.


They all turned to look at him, expectantly. He stared back at them frowning, then shook his head in confusion and looked down.

“He recognised you,” BA said. “Just for a second there, I saw it in his eyes.”

He’s clawing his way back, Hannibal thought. He’s climbing up out of that black pit. Maybe he’ll actually get back to his old self eventually. He grimaced. There’s something to look forward to.

“Face has a point.” Hannibal brought their attention back to him. “I’m not happy about the idea of cutting you two loose on your own.” He held up a hand to silence Shriver who started to speak. “You’ve got nerve, I’ll give you that, but you’re one man. You can hire men to protect him. But men you buy can be bought by someone else too. You need real protection. Government protection.”

“Huh?” BA said. “Government? But the government…”

“I’m not talking about our government.” Hannibal said.

“What, are you suggesting he defects?” Face said, amazed. “I mean the Russians would welcome him with open arms, I’m sure, but we just got through rescuing him from the ‘evil commies’…”

“I won’t put him back in the hands of the enemy.” Shriver said, loud, almost yelling.

“That’s not what I mean.” Hannibal said. “I mean a friendly power, someone we can mostly trust. At least not to hurt him. He can claim political asylum.”

They all sat in silence for a moment. Hannibal looked at Stockwell who seemed to be listening to them. “How about it, General?” Hannibal asked, but got no response.

“Like who?” Face asked.

“Well, there’s the British.” Hannibal said. “Or the Canadians maybe. Or Australia, Japan.”

“Aren’t they all a bit too friendly,” Murdock said. “I mean that if our government wanted to get at him they might let them.”

“Good point.” Face said. “What we need is…”

“The French!” Murdock piped up, with a huge grin. “They hate us! But they’re an ally and they’re mostly trustworthy, I guess.”

“Good idea, Captain.” Hannibal said. He looked out at the moonlit sea. Of course all this was moot until they got off this damn island. He saw Murdock suppressing a yawn.

“Okay, let’s sleep on it, consider our options afresh in the morning. Everyone get some sleep.”

Hannibal took over the guard duty. He watched the others bed down, watched Shriver cover Stockwell with a blanket and then come back and sit near Hannibal.

“Get some rest.” Hannibal ordered. Shriver nodded and lay down, curled up with a blanket, but his eyes didn’t close. He gazed off into the distance, perhaps, thought Hannibal, contemplating the choice he’d made tonight, and what it was going to cost him.

Hannibal glanced over at Stockwell. You’d better be worth it, he thought. You’d better be worth what he’s giving up. Shriver was a golden boy born with a sliver spoon in his mouth and he was ready to give all that up to do the right thing. The only person more astonished about that than Hannibal seemed to be Shriver himself. But he seemed calmer now than before. Now the decision was taken, the choice made, he appeared almost relaxed, despite the inevitable problems ahead.

“He’s getting better.” Shriver said quietly. Hannibal turned his gaze away from Stockwell. Shriver was leaning up on one elbow now.

“Yes. Slowly.” Hannibal paused. “So you’ve known him since you were a kid?” He said in a conversational tone. He decided he might as well see if he could take a little advantage of Shriver letting his guard down.

“Yes.” Shriver smiled. “When he came to visit us he used to bring me comic books.” He smiled again at the incredulous look on Hannibal’s face. “I learned to read them very fast, because after the General left my father would take them away. He said they were a waste of my time, that I should read real books. That I should study.”

“He sounds pretty demanding.” Hannibal said. “You two don’t get along?” He remembered Shriver dropping various hints in their previous meetings that he and his father weren’t the best of friends.

“I… we have issues.” Shriver admitted, still guarded with some details. “But I still admire him in many ways. Especially because he married my mother.”

“Took a lot of guts that, did it?” Hannibal asked, smiling wryly.

“Yes, actually. For a rich white boy to marry a black girl, back in the nineteen-fifties, it took some guts. His family threatened to cut him off without a penny, but he still married her.”

“Did they cut him off?”

“In the end no. He was the only son in the family. So even if he did have an unsuitable wife, they still thought it was better for him to inherit the family fortune than one of his sisters.”

“So their chauvinism won over their racism?” Hannibal said. Shriver smiled wryly.

“Exactly, Colonel.”

They were both quiet for a while. Hannibal thought about the phrase ‘family fortune’ and wondered just how big that fortune was.

“You’re giving up a lot to protect him.” Hannibal glanced at Stockwell. “Are you sure he’s worth it?”

“Perhaps not.” Shriver admitted. “But I get something out of it too. I get to be free. Free of Zephyr. Never again to be at their beck and call on a moments notice.” He was silent for a few minutes, looking up at the sky. Then he muttered softly. “Free at last.” He turned to look at Hannibal again. “Whatever happens, Colonel, thank you. Thank you for at least giving me the chance to be free. Goodnight.” He turned over, away from Hannibal, settled himself down to sleep.

Hannibal waited out the rest of his watch wondering how the hell he was going to achieve everything he’d promised.


“Of course there is another way.” Murdock said, as he sipped coffee after demolishing his breakfast. “We stay right here.”

“Doing nothing,” Face said. “Now why didn’t I think of that?”

“No, not doing nothing.” Murdock protested. “We declare this island a sovereign nation and we grant Stockwell and Shriver political asylum.”

BA growled and muttered. “Here he goes again.”

“Hannibal, you’d be the king obviously.” Murdock went on. Hannibal grinned. “BA would be your bodyguard and champion. Face could be your Chamberlain. Shriver, he’s a lawyer, he can be Chief Justice. Stockwell, once he’s stopped gibbering, he can be, ooh yes, he can be head of internal security. He’d love that, getting to be suspicious of everybody.”

“What about you, Murdock?” Hannibal asked. “What’s your role on… what are we calling the place?”

He saw Face and BA exchange an exasperated look at his encouraging Murdock. Shriver, who had been coaxing Stockwell to eat, was watching them with a little of his old amusement.

“Ateamland.” Murdock gave their personal kingdom a name. “Well all those old fashioned royal courts had a jester right?” He grinned. “I just need a hat with bells on it and a bladder on a stick and I’m set. Forsooth.”

“Fool.” BA muttered.

“That’s right, BA!” Murdock exclaimed.

“Sounds great,” Hannibal said. “The only problem I can see is that Ateamland will only survive as long as the last one of us Ateamlandians alive does. Now if I had a queen, or maybe even a harem…”

“Hey, what’s that!” BA interrupted, standing up and pointing out to sea. Hannibal squinted, he thought he could make something out, a long way off but moving fast. He grabbed the binoculars and checked it out, then he turned to BA.

“You got your wish, BA. Here comes your boat.”

Chapter 7

“Okay, strike camp. We were never here. By the time they arrive I want us to be invisible.”

Those fit enough to work started to rush about gathering their gear and burying anything that might give away that they’d been here. Face one handedly stuffed backpacks with gear. Hannibal heard him talking, turned to him. Stockwell had moved over to Face and was also putting gear into backpacks, one handed like Face, his bad arm also in a sling. Face was talking to Stockwell, but getting no answers.

“So, you don’t want to talk to me, that’s okay. Just keep packing, you’re doing fine.” He gave an encouraging smile.

Hannibal smiled too. He knew Face would certainly deny later that he’d ever been at all nice to Stockwell. Can’t help yourself, kid, can you? He thought. You can’t stand to see anyone in pain. How does the song go? You’ve got a heart as big as a whale. You and Minnie.

Within minutes the small clearing was deserted. Only the closest examination of the area would have revealed six men had camped there overnight.


The boat anchored a couple of hundred yards off shore and the team, watching from concealed positions in the forest heard voices carrying ashore on the sea breeze. After a while a rubber dinghy was lowered into the water. Soldiers climbed down a rope ladder into the dinghy. Hannibal counted them down. Sixteen.

Orders were shouted. The dinghy started to move towards the beach.

“Murdock, you’re still watching the boat?”

“As ordered.” Murdock confirmed. “There’s at least two men left on the boat. One guy’s beside the rope ladder, the other’s up on the bridge.”

Could be more below, Hannibal thought. He watched the soldiers arrive at the beach, jump out of the dinghy, boots splashing in the surf. A couple of officers consulted a map and some electronic equipment. Tracing the transponder signal, Hannibal knew. Then they gave orders and the soldiers moved out, in good order, up the beach and into the forest.

All but two of them. Eyes fixed on the two men that remained Hannibal caught himself repeating over and over in his head, “stay on the beach, stay on the beach”. But they were too smart for that. When their comrades were gone the two soldiers left behind pushed off the dinghy and rowed it back out to the boat.

“Damn,” Hannibal muttered. Someone was going for a swim.


“Okay, there’s at least four guys on the boat. Murdock, you’ve been watching, you seen any more?”

Murdock shook his head. He’d been using the binoculars and watching every movement on the boat for the last hour. “Nope, just the fab four. Unless there’s more below who don’t like fresh air, then I think that’s it.”

“Then the only way to get at that boat is to swim to it. The problem is getting into the water and getting close without being seen.”

“That means waiting until dark.” Face said. He groaned. “And if the rest of the soldiers come back in the meantime?”

“It will take them at least half a day to get to the plane.” Hannibal said, frowned, thinking. “But there’s no reason for them to come straight back here when they don’t find anyone there. They’ll start to search.” He didn’t kid himself that they hadn’t left enough of a trail to be followed, but hoped it wasn’t so obvious that the enemy could just stroll along it. Besides, if there was a trail to their camp he’d made damn sure there wasn’t one when they left.

“Face is right, we’ll have to wait until dark.” There were areas further up the coast where someone could get into the water without being seen, but the chance of two or three people swimming all the way to the boat in daylight without being spotted were slim. And the distance would be enough that they could be too worn out to fight by the time they made the swim.

“We’re going to hole up for the day and rest. As soon as dusk falls we make our move.”

“So who goes for a dip?” Murdock asked.

“You and BA.” Hannibal said. “I’ll stay here to guard the wounded.” He glanced at Stockwell and Face and then at Shriver. Shriver could have stood guard of course, but he couldn’t be trusted, not for sure. Shriver looked back at Hannibal and then stood up from where he’d been sitting on a fallen tree trunk.

“Colonel, I’m volunteering to swim out to the boat with Captain Murdock and Sergeant Baracus.” He looked very serious. Hannibal frowned at him.

“I want you where I can keep an eye on you.”

“Colonel, I know you don’t trust me, and I know you have no reason to. But you do know that I have no more desire to be captured by the enemy than you do.”

That was a good point, Hannibal thought. And maybe it was a better idea to have Shriver occupied, and under the watchful eyes of BA and Murdock. Hannibal didn’t have any reason to trust him, but he had good instincts and his instincts were telling him to believe that Shriver currently had no intention of acting against them. He needed them.

“I am rather a good swimmer, actually,” Shriver mentioned, still trying to sell the idea to Hannibal. “I was on the swim team at Harvard…”

“He has got a swimmers body.” Murdock said, looking Shriver over critically. “And if the cops ever find it he’s in trouble.” He grinned.

“Murdock…” Face shook his head. BA growled. Hannibal and Shriver didn’t react, eyes locked on each other. Then Hannibal looked away, looked at Murdock and BA.

“Would you two object to taking him along?”

“Of course not,” Murdock said, enthusiastically. He slapped Shriver on the shoulder. “Me and Phil are the best of pals, aren’t we, Phil?”

“Um, certainly, Murdock.” He gave Murdock his most charming smile.

“Great, I’ll even let you be up front.”

Shriver’s smile disappeared. “So if they spot us, I get it first?”

“Never thought of that.” Murdock said, breezily. “Hey, BA, we can bring him along, can’t we? Say yes. After all,” he added, with a smirk. “Someone has to row that big heavy dinghy ashore to pick up Hannibal and the sling twins.” Face gave Murdock a disgusted look at being twinned with Stockwell.

Shriver groaned, as if he was starting to regret ever speaking.

“If only you had been in the army,” Hannibal said, smiling at him. “You’d have learnt a valuable lesson. Never volunteer.”


They holed up for the day and rested. Hannibal kept two men on watch, patrolling, at all times, in case the soldiers did come back unexpectedly. The boat never moved, no one came ashore.

It was a long, dull day. Hannibal would almost have enjoyed the chance to relax, if his nerves hadn’t been stretched waiting for darkness. Stockwell didn’t help. He’d started talking more. No more Shakespeare, just sudden random words or phrases, sometimes their names if one of them caught his attention walking past him. Shriver stayed by him and shushed him to silence at each outburst when Hannibal glared.

If he wasn’t injured and helpless I’d gag him. Hannibal thought, and sat with a smile on his face for the next few minutes, thinking about how the many times he’d wanted to do that.

At last the afternoon ended, the shadows lengthened, the sun began to slip behind the trees. The sea grew dark.

“Time.” Hannibal said, quietly. “Get ready.” Murdock, BA and Shriver started to strip down to just shirts and pants. BA put his gold into one of the backpacks.

“Hannibal, if the soldiers come back, you make sure you grab this pack, okay?” He said. Face scowled at him. “After you’ve made sure Face is okay of course.” He looked at Stockwell. “Yeah, after you make sure Face is okay, then grab this pack, right?” He giggled and Shriver frowned at him.

“He’s kidding.” Hannibal said, “I think. Come here.” Shriver went up to Hannibal at the colonel’s order.

Hannibal reached into his pack and took out Shriver’s handgun. He looked at it for a moment, weighed it in his hands.

“Glock 17. Don’t know how anyone uses one of these, feels too light. Feels like a damn toy.” Something you use to kill people shouldn’t feel like a toy.

“They seem to be catching on.” Shriver said. His eyes were riveted to the pistol, Hannibal noticed. Of course a loaded gun did tend to command the attention of everyone in the vicinity.

“Guess you’ll be needing this.” Hannibal held it out, presenting the handle to Shriver.

Shriver reached out slowly and took it. Automatically he checked the chamber and the action, then looked at Hannibal. He smiled.

“Thank you, Colonel.”

“All of you make sure you have full clips. Cut up some of that plastic groundsheet and wrap your guns and radios in it. Shriver, here.” He handed Shriver a sheathed hunting knife. Shriver clipped it to his belt.

The three of them were ready now. It wasn’t fully dark yet, but would be by the time they got to the boat.

“All right, Captain, take your team and proceed.” Hannibal said.

Murdock nodded, looking serious. He nodded at BA, said “Let’s go,” to Shriver. The three of them moved off into the trees. Murdock looked back once before they were out of sight.

“Good luck.” Hannibal heard Face say, quietly. Hannibal turned to him. He was sitting on a log, looking dejected, Stockwell sitting beside him. Stockwell looked up at Hannibal.


“Yeah?” Hannibal said. Face turned to look at Stockwell too.

“I’m sorry,” Stockwell said. Then looked away, past Hannibal, no longer seeming to see him.

“Was that an apology?” Face asked. “Sorry for everything he’s put us through?” He smiled grimly. “I suppose that’s a bit too much to hope for.”

Hannibal shrugged. “Try to keep him quiet.” He said and turned to watch the boat.


Murdock led his team through the forest, only a short distance, before they turned west and moved out of the trees. Staying low they moved across a spur of rock that stuck out of the forest into the sea, dividing the beach. They scrambled over rock pools, the sound of the surf masking any noise.

They went into the water on the side facing away from the boat. The water wasn’t too cold, to Murdock’s relief. Murdock, despite what he’d said earlier, took the lead, Shriver following, BA in the rear. Then slowly, wading at first and then starting to swim, they rounded the spur of rock and were looking at the boat four hundred yards away, give or take. Lights showed, dark shapes of men moving about were visible sometimes. Murdock lifted a hand out of the water, slowly, to avoid splashing and motioned the other two forward. He began to swim towards the boat and they followed.

Murdock glanced back often, to check on BA and Shriver. They both swam in near silence. BA was a bulky shape in the water, and made Murdock think of a killer whale, big, fast and lethal. Shriver reminded him more of a dolphin, graceful and elegant and much more dangerous than first appearances might suggest.

He wasn’t sure what kind of sea going animal he might be himself, but quite liked the idea of being a giant squid. Then he could just pick up the boat in a couple of stupendous tentacles, shake out any inconvenient people and put it back in the water, ready for his friends to come aboard.

Mind on the job, Captain, he thought as the boat loomed closer. He was aiming at the stern, where the anchor chain arced into the water. The rope ladder had been drawn up, so the anchor chain was the only way up onto the boat. He was grateful for Hannibal’s insistence on their regular obstacle course training, much as they all complained about it at the time. He assumed Shriver would manage the climb easily too, he seemed pretty limber.

The chain felt greasy under his hands when he reached up to grab it. He wrapped his legs around it under the water and began to climb slowly. In a few minutes he was at the top of the chain. A couple of feet above him was the lower rung of the deck rail. He stopped and listened. No voices, no noise of anyone moving around. It was dinnertime wasn’t it? With luck there was one man on the bridge and the rest were below.

Murdock reached for the rail and pulled himself up with one hand, grabbed on with the other when he could. Next rung, then the top of the rail, heaved and hooked a leg over, and in a second he was on the deck, panting with the effort. He caught his breath and, dripping, he looked over the rail, hearing the chain clinking.

Shriver was climbing up. In a moment Murdock was grabbing him, helping him pull himself over the rail. At once Shriver got his gun out, using his knife to cut open the plastic and tape it was wrapped in. Without needing to be ordered he turned away from Murdock, crouching, watching, guarding their rear while they waited for BA to climb up.

Murdock hauled BA over the rail and let him catch his breath. When he had and all three of them had their guns and walkie-talkies out Murdock spoke in a whisper.

“You know your orders, you two go below, I’ll take the bridge and then come down to help you. Radio silence for now. Move out.” They both nodded, faces grim. BA took the lead, led Shriver off down the side of the boat, towards the door that led below. Murdock waited until they’d checked it then vanished inside before he followed. He went on past the door, padding silently, the only sound the water that still dripped from him to the deck.

He found the metal staircase that led up to the steering housing. A light showed up there. The main thing he was worried about was that the man would raise the alarm before Murdock could incapacitate him. Then BA and Shriver would find themselves running straight into a meat grinder.

Murdock glided up the stairs like a ghost. The door to the bridge was closed, which Murdock was grateful for, he could get close without being seen. He crouched down by the door. There was a window in it, at head height. Murdock straightened up, slow, painful, his knees protesting. He looked through the window, just a corner of it, and ducked down again. There was indeed one man in there. He was leaning over the controls drinking from a tin mug and reading something, a magazine looked like. As long as it wasn’t a magazine catering to martial arts champions, Murdock felt sure he could handle the guy. He readied his gun, safety off and hoped all he would have to do with it was point it and not fire it.

“One, two, three, four, who’s that knocking at the door?” He murmured and on ‘door’ he kicked it in and leapt into the room. The tin mug and magazine went flying as the man jumped back from the console, with a yell of shock. He reached for the holster on his hip.

“Drop it!” Murdock snapped, in Korean. Hannibal had spent the day teaching him a few useful phrases like that and “hands up” and “on the ground now.”

The man looked at Murdock’s gun and then at the fierce look on his face. He moved his hands away from the holster, and instead unbuckled the belt the holster was on.

Once he dropped it Murdock had him sit down, tied his hands securely, and gagged him. Then he took out his radio. BA and Shriver probably still had their radios off, until they were secure. Murdock turned his on and said “Come in, Hannibal.”

“Report.” Hannibal snapped at once, sounding tense.

“Bridge taken, rest of team still below. Going to reinforce them now. Will get back to you. Over.”

Then another voice came over the air. BA. He must have been listening. Murdock smiled, sounded like they were done already.

“Hey, fool. I took out two down here. You on your way?”

“Yeah,” Murdock said. “Shriver?”

“We split up,” BA said. “Sent him after the last guy, was heading back topside. Head down here now and meet up with ’em.”

“Right.” Murdock said. He was just leaving the bridge when yet another voice sounded from his radio.

“Murdock?” Shriver’s voice was faint, raspy, pained. Murdock went cold. “Murdock, help me…”

Chapter 8

“Shriver?” Hannibal snapped urgently. “Are you hurt?” He got no answer. “Just hang on, Murdock’s on his way. BA, you listening?”

“Yeah, on my way.” He sounded like he was running. Hannibal could hear Murdock’s feet pounding down metal stairs, along the deck. Hannibal glanced at Face, who was watching him, tense, as they both listened to the radio.

“Murdock, be careful.” Hannibal ordered. “Could still be a hostile loose.” A bang, like a door slamming back, then Murdock’s voice.

“Oh hell, oh no.”

“Report.” Hannibal ordered. Face was staring wide eyed at Hannibal now. “Murdock, report!”

“BA!” Murdock’s voice came through from his own radio and echoed distantly from BA’s. “Help me get him up onto the deck.”

“Murdock!” Hannibal yelled.

Murdock answered, shouting right back. “Stand by.” His voice sounded distant. His radio must be on his belt, Hannibal thought, he wasn’t holding it to his mouth. Which must mean he had his hands full. “Shriver’s down. Lot of blood. Hostile down too, looks dead.”

Hannibal saw Stockwell staring back at him as well now. They could hear grunts of effort from Murdock and BA and once, a cry of pain from Shriver. There’d been no gunshot, Hannibal thought, so he’s not shot. Unless someone used a silencer.

“Murdock, what’s going on?” Hannibal demanded. He could hear Murdock talking.

“Put him down, that’s it. Get his shirt off.” There was a ripping sound. Hannibal pictured Shriver’s bloodstained shirt being torn away by BA’s big hands. “Wipe the blood away, got to find the wound.”

“Murdock!” Hannibal wanted to yell with frustration. He wanted to be there. How bad was it? Could Murdock and BA help him?

“Hannibal,” Face said quietly. “They’re doing their best.” Hannibal tried to let Face’s words calm him, but it didn’t work. If he didn’t have Face and Stockwell to protect he’d already be in the water halfway to the boat.

At last Murdock reported back.

“Hannibal, it’s a stab wound, deep, bleeding a hell of…”

“Murdock…” Shriver’s voice, weak, frightened.

“Shh.” Murdock said, soothingly. “Don’t talk, you’ll be okay.” The edge of fear in Murdock’s voice belied his reassurance. “Hannibal… stand by.”

Hannibal waited, but not patiently. He started to pace. He listened to Murdock and BA. A couple of times there would be a weak cry or a word from Shriver. Once he called out, “Dad, help me!”, and Hannibal felt as if he had just been kicked in the gut. But after that there was no more sound from him. Hannibal tried to get Murdock or BA to talk, to report, but they ignored him. They were too busy.

“Murdock.” BA’s voice. “I’m losing his pulse.”

Hannibal whipped around to stare out over the water.

“Damn!” he snapped. “Murdock, BA, report. Report, god dammit!”

“Hannibal.” Hannibal turned to Face. Face had taken out his handgun. “Go.”

“I can’t.” Hannibal said, shaking his head. “I can’t leave you two.”

“I can manage. Just send the dinghy for us, soon as you can, but get over there. Now.”

Hannibal hesitated for another second, but saw the determined look in Face’s eyes. He dropped his rifle, stripped off his jacket, started to run, out of the trees, down the beach, into the surf. He discarded his radio and handgun as he went, dropping them into the sand.

And then he was in the water, swimming as fast as he could, keeping his head out of the water to follow the lights of the boat. And now the frustration was killing him, now he couldn’t even follow the events over the radio. What the hell was happening? Murdock and BA could keep Shriver alive, surely? Between Vietnam and their years on the run they’d all become good field medics. Hadn’t they kept Murdock alive when he’d been shot? And BA and Face? If they could do that…

He swam, adrenaline and frustration driving him on, as fighting through the water sapped his strength. Then the boat was there, a high dark shape above him. Hell, how did he get aboard? Face would have radioed to Murdock and BA that he was coming, but what if neither of them could leave Shriver? Hannibal started to to work his way down the starboard side, towards the stern, to climb the anchor chain. But then a light stabbed down into the water.



“Keep swimming, just a bit further, the ladder, you see it?” The light swung away from Hannibal and shone down the side of the hull, illuminating the rope ladder the soldiers had climbed down earlier. Hannibal grabbed it. Fighting exhaustion he started to climb up. And BA pulled the ladder from above, heaving Hannibal up the side of the boat faster. In a few seconds he was pulling Hannibal off the ladder onto the deck, Hannibal panted on his hands and knees for a second, black spots dancing in front of his eyes, then he staggered to his feet, with BA’s help.


BA pointed, and Hannibal turned to run.

“There ain’t no point running.” BA called after him. The heavy, dulled, tone in his voice only made Hannibal run faster.

Hannibal came to the door that led below decks. It was standing open, spilling light onto the deck and out into the ocean. Murdock sat with his back against the door, his eyes closed. Shriver lay in his arms.

Hannibal froze in place. Shriver was dead. His light brown skin had become grey and slack. One hand lay limp on the deck, fingers curled, the neatly manicured nails now filthy with blood. Blood that pooled on the deck, and ran back and forth with the movement of the waves.

Murdock opened his eyes and looked back at Hannibal.

Only the lapping of the water against the hull broke the silence of death.


Sunlight spilled through the open door, down the steps that led from the lower decks to topside. Hannibal sat half way up the steps. He’d been sitting there for some time and had stopped noticing the chill of the metal.

The boat was under way now, had rounded the island and was heading east, towards Japan. BA had taken the dinghy to pick up Face and Stockwell right after Hannibal arrived on the boat. They needed to get away fast. Once the boat missed its regular check in with the men on the island and with home base trouble would be coming.

Hannibal sat with Shriver’s Glock in his hands. They had found the pistol lying on the deck below the steps. At the bottom of the steps had been a dead North Korean soldier. Hannibal had allowed the three men captured alive to take that body with them when he and BA had taken them off the boat and left them on the beach. Shriver’s body was in a cabin below.

The sunlight showed up the marks on the wall above Hannibal. Streaks of blood. More blood covered the treads of the steps above Hannibal.

Hannibal could see the events in his mind, reconstruct them. Shriver and the Korean had fought on these steps. Somehow Shriver lost his gun. But he still had his knife and the two men had struggled for it. Hannibal imagined the desperate battle, silence broken by heavy breathing and grunts of effort. And Shriver had overcome his opponent, pushing him away, wounded already, to fall and break his neck at the bottom of the steps. But not before Shriver was stabbed himself.

Hannibal looked at the blood on the steps. After collapsing Shriver must have tried to drag himself up the stairway, instinct telling him to go higher. Higher means safer, his shocked and dying brain must have told him. Climb. Climb.

BA and Murdock had found him near the top of the steps, pulled him up onto the deck, tried to help him, tried to control the bleeding. But…

“The knife must have got an artery,” Murdock had said, his voice taut as he described their desperate and ultimately futile efforts to control the bleeding. “He just bled out. We tried…” And he stopped talking.

Was it an ignominious end, Hannibal thought. Or an honourable one? Either way it’s a strange way for a Harvard Law graduate to die. I’m sure it’s not something he ever imagined. I’m damn sure it’s not something his father ever imagined. He looked up at the wall again. As well as the streaks of blood there was a clear, un-smudged hand print. It looked like a larger version of something a child might make in paint. Did Shriver’s father have pictures on his refrigerator of small brightly coloured hand prints, to remind himself of when his son’s hands were that size? Probably not actually. Hannibal looked from the hand print to the Glock. He ran his thumb up and down the grip.

“It wasn’t your fault.” He’d told Murdock, when Murdock had finished his report. It was strange Hannibal thought, how Murdock was so forgiving of the human frailties and failings of others, but never was of his own, even when he hadn’t done anything wrong. But Hannibal knew that no matter how much you analysed the situation and knew there was nothing you could have done differently, it didn’t stop you feeling guilty when a man under your command died.

“It wasn’t your fault.” He’d told BA, when BA had finished his own report.

“I shouldn’t have let him go after that guy alone.” BA had said, shaking his head. “I thought he could handle him.”

“He did.” Hannibal reminded BA of the dead Korean they’d found at the bottom of the stairs. “He just got unlucky.” BA looked up at Hannibal then.

“Yeah. You know, for a man who shoulda had everything, I think he was the unluckiest guy I ever met. Well, ‘cept for us.”

Hannibal understood. Perhaps Shriver’s bad luck had started when he became part of Zephyr, but Hannibal suspected it had started a long time before that. And that it wasn’t a matter of chance. More a matter of – he glanced up at the wall again – blood.

“It wasn’t your fault.” Face had said to Hannibal when he’d found him sitting on the steps looking at the blood on the wall. “He volunteered.”

“Yeah, I know. But I shouldn’t have…” he shook his head. Pointless. No use in second guessing now. They had sat in silence for a while. Face also looked at the blood streaks on the wall, the hand print.

“He was okay.” Face said eventually. “He was a good guy. I mean I know he was a Good Guy in capital letters, the way even Stockwell is. But he was a good guy in small letters too. Someone tried hard to train that out of him, but in the end, they failed.”

Hannibal looked back at him. “Yeah. In the end, he chose to do the right thing.” And look what it cost him.

Face had left him alone with his thoughts. Hannibal put his head down on his crossed arms, closed his eyes. He should probably go and get some rest. They had a busy time ahead of them, he had to start making plans. Someone started to walk slowly up the stairs, halted a few steps below Hannibal. Hannibal looked up. Stockwell.

Stockwell stood, looking at the bloodstains. His eyes were drawn irresistibly to the hand print. Is he trying to reconcile that with the small eager hands he used to put comic books into? Hannibal wondered. And was that simple generosity? Or was it a calculated act? Cultivating the loyalty and friendship of a boy who could one day grow into a valuable ally?

“Philip.” Stockwell said quietly. Hannibal wasn’t sure if it was just the way the light shone on him or if there really were tears gleaming in his eyes. If there were he didn’t let them fall.

“Yeah. Philip.” Hannibal said. He looked at Stockwell for a while. “Sit down.”

Stockwell looked at him. Did he understand? Apparently so, because he sat down, leaning his good arm on a step.

“Comfortable? No? Me neither. Now listen.” Hannibal took a breath. He had a plan, but he had a few things to say first.

“Shriver wanted to be free. He never had the chance to be free, did he? Even before Zephyr he was never allowed to choose what he wanted to do, was he? You know that better than me, because you were one of the people making that happen.” He watched for a reaction from Stockwell. Perhaps there was something, a flicker of guilt in the brown eyes that looked more alert now than they had at any time since the team rescued him.

“He wanted to be free. So do I, and so do my men. What about you, General? How old are you, Hunt?” He used the name very deliberately as he asked the personal question. “How long have you been in this business? Aren’t you tired of it? Aren’t you sick of what it’s cost you? Don’t you ever want to just… I don’t know… what do you do for fun? Go fishing?”

Stockwell was listening, Hannibal was sure. It wasn’t just noise to him. He was listening and understanding. He moved, probably uncomfortable sitting on the hard steps. He ran a hand through his now white and thin hair.

Hannibal went on. “You once said to me that you’re a dedicated American patriot. And you know what? I believe you. Your methods have left a lot of people very pissed, but most of those people are our enemies, so what the hell?

“You’ve been defending freedom for a long time, Stockwell. Don’t you think it’s time you got your share of it?”

He let Stockwell digest that for a moment. The general wasn’t a fool, he could surely tell that Hannibal was preparing ground, that something was coming. But Hannibal’s questions had to be making him think.

“To know about Zephyr is to become part of it, right?” Hannibal quoted what Shriver had told them months ago now. “And there’s no way to leave Project Zephyr is there?”

Stockwell shook his head. He answered me, Hannibal thought. I’m not talking to myself. He pressed on, encouraged.

“Well I don’t think that’s true. I think there is a way. I have a plan, but you’re going to have to help me. You have to help me, because a man like you understands debts and obligations and you know that you owe me. Not just for the rescue, but because you know that I would have kept my word and helped Shriver protect you, don’t you?”

Stockwell nodded this time.

“Good. It’s too late for Philip, but it’s not too late for my team and it’s not even too late for you. There is a way for all of us to be free.” He fixed Stockwell with an unbreakable gaze. His hand tightened on the grip of Shriver’s Glock. “We have to destroy Zephyr.”

Stockwell stared at him. And then he smiled. And then he spoke.


Chapter 9

“All roads lead to Langley.” Hannibal muttered as he drove through the dark along an all too familiar road.

Stockwell glanced at him from the passenger seat, and then looked at his watch.

“We’re on schedule.” Hannibal said. “The others are all in position. We’re ready. Are you?”

Stockwell looked back at him and nodded. Hannibal put his foot down.

They had been back in the US for five days now. Almost three weeks had passed since their boat had arrived in Japan. A group of Americans turning up in a stolen North Korean Navy vessel with a dead body on board had naturally attracted the attention of the Japanese police and the team had spent several days answering questions. Face avoided most of the interrogations by dint of being in hospital for surgery on his arm.

But Stockwell had contacts at the American embassy in Tokyo and they had managed to cut through some of the red tape. Otherwise Hannibal was sure they would still be there answering questions now. Or, more accurately, avoiding answering questions.

The embassy had arranged to fly Shriver’s body home. Meanwhile Stockwell and the team had lain low in a small hotel in Tokyo, rested and made plans.

And now they were home. Now they were ready to stop planning and start acting. Hannibal turned the car into the driveway of their former residence.

“What the hell…?”


BA checked his watch. Time. He looked around with the binoculars again. Nothing in sight but a coyote poking around about two miles away. He got out of the car. The desert air was starting to cool now as dusk fell, but the heat was still oppressive. He would have liked to take off his uniform jacket, but resisted the urge.

With a set of bolt cutters in his hand, BA approached the electricity sub station by the side of the road. The bolt cutters would get him through the fence and the doors. In his pocket was a sheet of instructions that would tell him how to get through the hatch in the floor that the electric company had no idea was there. In his other hand he carried a square metal case.


Murdock put down the square metal case he was carrying, brushed some dust off the lapel of his uniform and adjusted his cap. He took a sheet of instructions from his pocket and began to tap a series of numbers into the key pad on the metal door in front of him. Behind him he could hear the distant roar of turbines. He tried not think of the huge mass of the dam pressing down above him.

It was late in the evening now and the huge complex was nearly empty. He had passed the occasional worker as he made him way to this door and they had glanced curiously at the man in army uniform. But he wore a visitor’s security pass, so no-one challenged him.

The door opened, leading into a concrete room. On the wall opposite was a round metal vault door.


Face opened the vault he found in the concrete bunker deep under a mountain. He wondered if he could have done so without Stockwell’s instructions. Of course I could, he thought.

He stepped inside and the lights flickered on. The small refrigerator he found in the vault looked identical to the one he’d seen at Langley. Inside it the sample of the Zephyr virus waited. Face felt his hands start to sweat. It’s safe, he reminded himself. It’s sealed in a block of perspex for god’s sake.

Even so he had to wipe his hand on his uniform jacket before he started to tap in the code to open the refrigerator.


Hannibal got out of the car and straightened his uniform jacket. Stockwell came around to stand beside him.

“They rebuilt it. Now that I didn’t expect.” Hannibal said. “It even looks the same, must have used the old plans. And of course…” Several dark suited Ables emerged from the house, pointing guns. They gaped when they saw Stockwell. That didn’t surprise Hannibal. Even without the ‘back from the dead’ factor Stockwell was an arresting sight. He was still shockingly thin and was now wearing a dark suit he’d bought in Tokyo. The combination made him like Death gone corporate.

“Gentlemen, we should not have been allowed to get this near the house without being challenged.” Stockwell said, frowning at the Ables.

Another man appeared at the door. A middle aged black man, not tall, but with an air of command about him that Hannibal recognised. Military, he thought at once. The man was casually dressed and was smoking a cigarette.

“What’s going on?” He demanded of Hannibal, the uniform catching his attention instantly. “Who are…” Then he saw Stockwell and stared. “Stockwell… what the hell…? They told us you were dead.”

Hannibal glanced at Stockwell. “Go on, you’ve been waiting for that feed line since we rescued you.”

Stockwell gave a very quick, ghost of a smile.

“The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” he said. He turned to Hannibal. “It seems we have to do this with an audience. That won’t matter, but they cannot be allowed to interfere.”

Hannibal nodded, his face grim. “Understood. Let’s go.” Hannibal strode into the new house, Stockwell in tow. The Ables didn’t try to stop them, apparently too amazed at the miraculous return of their boss. The black man watched them warily, but let them pass.

They all trooped into the living room. Four more men sat around a table, cards, chips and beers scattered on it. One of them, a tough looked red-haired man wore a sweat shirt with U.S.M.C. on it. A smaller, skinny man with dark, intense eyes jumped to his feet, pointing a handgun at the newcomers. The last two men at the table made Hannibal grin as he thought ‘all jarheads look the same.’ They were identical twins. Now that must confuse the hell out of their opponents in a fight. They were young, mid twenties at the most, number one haircuts, square jaws.

They’re us, he thought. They’re a Marine Corps version of us. I wonder what Stockwell has on these guys? Stockwell was talking to the black man.

“Was there a problem with your accommodations in Georgetown, Major Randall?”

“There was after Kowalski had a little problem with some Semtex he was playing with. Sorry you missed it, actually. Kowalski, put that damn piece away. I told you before, no guns when we’re playing cards.”

The pistol wielding man reluctantly put his gun down. The other men at the table were all staring at Stockwell.

“Isn’t he meant to be dead?” one of the twins asked.

“I think he is.” The other twin answered, looking at Stockwell’s cadaverous appearance.

“Naw, we ain’t that lucky,” red hair muttered. Oh yeah, thought Hannibal. They’re us.

“Well, gentlemen, it is good to see all of you again. I hope you’ve been keeping busy. This, by the way, is Colonel John Smith.”

“Yeah,” Major Randall said, frowning at Hannibal. “We know who he is, General.”

Hannibal grinned, He suspected his celebrity status was nothing to do with the Aquamaniac.

“Good.” Stockwell said. “In that case let’s get down to business. Major, you and your men can help us. We need to tear up the floorboards in front of the fireplace.”


It had to be clear the samples hadn’t been stolen, Stockwell and Hannibal had agreed. That could lead to things getting very messy indeed. The vaults all had hidden cameras activated by the opening of the door. Each man was given the location of the camera in his particular target and they carried out their actions ensuring they were in full view of the camera.

At almost exactly the same moment in three places across America, BA, Murdock and Face opened a metal case and placed a perspex block carrying a Zephyr sample into it, then closed the case and pressed a switch on the outside. The switch released a reservoir of acid into the lead lined interior of the case. Three minutes later, each man opened the case again. The perspex block was a steaming mass, the sample it once held completely destroyed. After making sure the camera got a very good look at that, they left behind the cases and exited the vaults. Murdock saluted at the camera before he left. BA scowled at it and Face smiled at it.


Hannibal and Stockwell were a little behind time, with the added complication of finding a house full of people on top of their target. But at last Major Randall’s team and the Ables had prised up the floor boards in the living room, revealing the hatch set into the concrete foundation. Hannibal and Stockwell ignored all the questions about what the hell this was all about and climbed down into the bunker.


BA left the sub-station to find a helicopter waiting near his car. Three men in dark grey suits stood by the car. BA scowled.

“If you guys think I’m getting on that chopper you about to have another think comin’.”


At the bottom of the ladder Hannibal waited and helped Stockwell as he finished climbing down. The general was putting on a good show, but he was still weak. Hannibal could see his hands were trembling now.

“You need to sit down?” Hannibal said. “I’ll open the vault.” Stockwell nodded, eyes closed. Hannibal got one of the folding chairs that were stacked against the wall and Stockwell sank down onto it gratefully, while Hannibal went to the vault door.

“You’re sure this other combination will work? You’re sure they don’t know about it?”

“I’m sure.” Stockwell said. “Open it.”


Murdock was arrested by men in dark grey suits in the reception area of the dam complex. He offered no resistance. They took him outside to a helicopter. He was disappointed that it was a perfectly ordinary looking Bell 206.

“It’s not even painted black.” Murdock complained to the agents. “You guys aren’t even trying. Nice bird though. Can I fly it?”




The security of the Zephyr samples didn’t rely on armed guards, Stockwell had explained. It relied on isolation and secrecy. The samples were kept in secret, remote locations, behind doors locked with unbreakable electronic codes.

They were safe because only those who could be trusted knew where they were and knew the codes. Of course, as the man in charge, Stockwell was trusted with all the locations. And he’d personally supervised the set up of all the security for Zephyr. He’d worked with the people programming the security codes and passwords.

“Won’t they have wiped out all your access codes after you were taken?” Murdock had asked.

“They will have.” Stockwell agreed. “Which is why we’ll be using the back doors.

Programmer access.” he explained. “Even if no-one else can get access, the programmer leaves himself an emergency entrance to the system.” Stockwell had smiled, some of his old smugness starting to return. “And I know all the back door codes.”

“Okay,” Hannibal said. “So we go in…” he grimaced, “… the back door.” Those words just sounded wrong somehow. But even so he grinned at Stockwell. “I guess this means we’re doing it your way.”


Hannibal pulled open the safe door.

“So those guys upstairs, same kind of deal as us, huh? Missions means pardons?”

“Yes.” Stockwell said. “Though there is one small difference.”

“Which is?”

“They are very definitely guilty of the crimes they have been convicted of.”

“Ah.” Hannibal went into the vault. Stockwell stood up and followed him. He found Hannibal kneeling in front of the small refrigerator.

“Are you ready for the code, Colonel?”

“Um, Stockwell. I think we have a small problem.” Hannibal moved aside, so Stockwell could see the refrigerator properly.

The door was open. The Zephyr sample was gone.


Face actually made it as far as a truck stop diner nearly five miles from his target. He sat in a booth drinking coffee, reading a paper and waiting for the muffin he’d ordered. Three men in dark grey suits walked in. One sat beside Face in the booth. The other two sat opposite.

“Hi, fellas.” Face said. “Try the coffee here, it’s like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. Unless you’ve tried transmission fluid, I guess.”

“Lieutenant, you will accompany us outside. If you offer any resistance I will shoot you.” The man sitting beside Face added weight to his words with a pistol pointed at Face below the level of the table.

Face leaned forward, called to the waitress, ignoring the gun jabbing into his gut.

“Miss, do you think I could get that muffin to go?”


“I suspected this,” Stockwell said.

Sure you did, Hannibal thought. God forbid anything ever took you by surprise.

“So, what now?” Hannibal said.

“Now you both drop your weapons and put your hands up.” They turned around. Major Randall stood in the doorway of the vault, pointing a pistol at them.


Randall, reluctantly acting under orders from grey suited Zephyr goons, brought Stockwell and Hannibal out of the vault and handed them over, though he scowled as he did it. The rest of his men and the Ables were all standing around looking tense.

If Stockwell orders them, the Ables will fight for him, Hannibal thought. And in the pinch Randall and his men would probably back me up. Uniforms against suits.

But neither the colonel nor the general looked for help. They let themselves be taken outside to a blacked out limousine.

“Nice ride.” Hannibal said. They got into the back and to their surprise were left alone. The grey suits got in the front. Probably bugged, Hannibal thought. Then of course there’ll be the nozzles to pump in the nerve gas…

He nosed around for a while. No bugs or nozzles, but he did find the bar. Hannibal poured two single malt whiskeys, and handed a glass to Stockwell. As Stockwell took the glass Hannibal clinked his own against it.

“Philip Shriver,” Hannibal said.

“Philip.” Stockwell answered the toast, his face serious. They drank.


The journey wasn’t a long one. In less than an hour they were travelling up the long drive of a very large, very handsome house. When they stopped, a goon opened the limo door and Hannibal and Stockwell got out. They didn’t wait to be told, but went straight for the front door of the house. A butler in a dark grey tail coat opened it. He nodded politely to them.

“General Stockwell, Colonel Smith. Please follow me.” The Uzi he carried suggested that they had better do as he said.

“The library?” Stockwell asked.

“Yes, sir.” The Uzi toting butler opened a door, leading them into a completely enclosed room. No windows, all the walls lined floor to ceiling with book cases.

Please make yourselves comfortable,” the butler said. “Can I offer you a drink?”

“Coffee, thank you.” Stockwell said, and the butler left. The door he closed had bookcases on the inside of it, so the room became a box. That made Hannibal nervous. He never liked not being able to see the exit.

Stockwell ran a finger along the spines of leather bound books, took one down from the shelf and sat in one of the deep winged leather arm chairs.

“I suggest you relax, Colonel, it could be some time before the others arrive.”

“Yeah…” Hannibal couldn’t sit down though. He started to pace around looking at the books, while Stockwell settled down and started to read The Prince by Machiavelli.

Oh, he is definitely doing that for my benefit, thought Hannibal. Playing up to the image. For one thing he probably has that book memorised.

“Old favourite?” Hannibal asked. Stockwell gave a thin smile and didn’t answer. Hannibal shrugged and started to pace again.

A few minutes later the butler returned with a coffee pot and cups on a silver tray. As he poured their coffee Hannibal noticed the black armband he wore.

“Ring the bell if you require anything else, General, Colonel. Oh, I have been informed that your colleagues are on their way. Once they are all here Mr. Shriver will meet with you in his study.”

Chapter 10

Stockwell fell asleep in his chair and Hannibal continued to pace and hoped Stockwell wouldn’t have a nightmare. He’d been having them almost every night now, since they had landed in Japan. And they were getting worse. The more like his old self he became while awake the worse the nightmares seemed to get.

Hannibal felt sorry for the man. Not just because of the nightmares, but for the way he looked when he woke to find one of the A-Team beside him, trying to reassure him he was safe. Embarrassed, humiliated. But none of the team did anything to make him feel any worse. In the morning they acted as if what they had seen in the night had never happened. They gave Stockwell the old back chat they’d given him before all of this had ever started. Hannibal was proud of them for that.


At almost 4:30am the rest of the team arrived. BA was semi-conscious and was hauled in by two goons. Murdock and Face followed under guard. The butler came in with a silver salver that had a small brown bottle on it.

“Smelling salts, sir.” He addressed Hannibal.

“Ready for anything, aren’t you, Jeeves?” Hannibal said. The butler’s right eye twitched at being called Jeeves but he didn’t react otherwise. Hannibal took the bottle and the butler left.

In a few moments BA was awake and angry.

“They shot me!”

“What?” Hannibal stared at him, shocked. “You’re shot? Where? You guys,” he scowled at Face and Murdock, who were wide eyed. “Didn’t you notice he was…”

“With a dart gun!” BA added. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. “Like I was a bear or something. Do I look like a bear?”

There was silence for a moment.

“I’m waitin’ for an answer.” BA growled.

Hannibal grinned. “Only in very poor light conditions.” He looked at the three of them, they all appeared to be okay. “Report.”

They all reported that they had completed their missions before they were arrested, brought by helicopter or car to an airfield and one by one were picked up by a jet, before all three of them were brought here, landing at a nearby strip and being brought to the house by car.

“You two?” Murdock asked Hannibal.

“We actually had a slight problem at our end.” Hannibal admitted. “The sample was gone.”

“Gone?” Face groaned and sank down into an armchair. “Don’t tell me we went through all of this for nothing.”

“We’ll see,” Hannibal said. “I think that last sample isn’t far away.”

“Are we where we thought we’d be?” Murdock asked.

“Yes.” Stockwell answered.

“And are we getting out alive?” Face asked. “Or are we going to be politely shot by Mr Belvedere with his Uzi?”

No-one had an answer for that.


“What can we do for you, Lurch?” Hannibal asked, when the butler returned a few minutes later.

“If you’ll follow me, Mr Shriver will see you now.”

They followed him through the dark entrance hall of the house. A grand staircase was illuminated by moonlight streaming through a tall window above the landing where the staircase split into two. In the shadows the grey suited men lurked, watching the team and Stockwell pass.

The butler knocked at a pair of tall oak doors. In a moment a voice from inside called out “enter” and the butler led them inside.

The interior was oppressive, wood paneled. The only light came from a lamp on a large oak desk and from a crackling fire. A man stood on the huge marble hearth, staring into the fire, a heavy crystal tumbler in his hand, the liquor in it made golden by the firelight.. He wore a dark wool suit, was tall and a little paunchy. His white hair was somewhat disarranged. As they came into the room he straightened up and ran a hand over his hair to flatten it.

“General Stockwell and the A-Team, sir.” The butler announced them and then melted from sight. The door closed behind the team. They glanced at each other. Stockwell was the first to make a move. He walked to the man and held out his hand.

“William, I am sorry about Philip.”

William just stared at Stockwell’s hand, as if he couldn’t believe it was being offered. After a moment Stockwell lowered his hand, not apparently embarrassed. He turned to the A-Team.

“Gentlemen, allow me to introduce Mr William Shriver, the father of Philip Shriver.” William looked at the team, frowned.

“Why are you wearing your uniforms?” he asked. His New England accent was identical to his son’s, but his voice was hoarse and strained.

“Because we’re not terrorists.” Hannibal said.

William still frowned at them.

“You think that makes any kind of difference? What you have done is…” He stopped abruptly as Stockwell swayed on his feet, Murdock and Hannibal jumped forward to grab him.

“Perhaps we can sit down?” Stockwell said, “I’m afraid I’m not fully recovered yet.”

“You should be dead.” William snapped, vicious hatred in his voice. Now they were closer Hannibal could see that William’s eyes were rimmed with red and were dark circled. “You should be in the ground, not my son!”

“If you hadn’t sent Philip to kill him, they’d both still be alive,” Hannibal pointed out. “Now get a hold of yourself and let’s all sit down and talk about this like the civilised men you two claim to be.”

William visibly fought for control, then he spun on his heel and walked over to sit behind his desk. The team and Stockwell took chairs on the other side. A small metal container stood on the desk, a wire led from it.

“Nice paperweight.” Face said. “Do we win a prize if we guess what’s inside?”

William glared at them.

“After you are all dead the sample will be secured in a new location. You have wasted your time, gentlemen.”

“If you want us dead why are we here?” Hannibal asked. “You could have killed all of us hours ago.”

“Because… I… I need to know about Philip.” William’s voice cracked as he said it. “Were you with him… at the end?”

“I was.” Murdock said. He gestured. “And BA. He died bravely. And his last words were to call out to you.” BA nodded his confirmation.

“I find that hard to believe.” William said. “I find it hard to believe that he called for me after he betrayed me.” He glared at Stockwell. “Are you happy, Hunt? You finally won. You stole his loyalty from me.”

“That’s not how it was.” Stockwell said. “He made a choice to do the right thing. It hurt him to go against you, but despite all our training he still knew the difference between right and wrong.”

“Must have got that from his mother’s side.” Hannibal muttered. He glanced around the walls of the room. In the dim light he could make out photographs. Most of the photographs were of Philip Shriver, at various ages, ranging from six to over thirty, holding trophies or certificates. This really was the first time he failed, Hannibal thought. Pride of place went to a large photograph over the fireplace of Philip in his Harvard graduation robes.

“And no, William, I am not happy.” Stockwell went on, ignoring Hannibal’s muttering. “I would have rather that he’d carried out his orders than see this happen. If it was possible I’d change places with him right now!” He shouted the last words, and the team turned to stare at him, had rarely seen him become so agitated.

William sneered. “If you think I believe that then you must think I am a fool.”

“You are a fool.” Hannibal said. And now they all turned to stare at him. Hannibal stood up. Here goes, he thought. We live or die on what I say next. “You were too stupid to see what you had in Philip. You thought you had to push him to make him succeed. But a bright, curious kid like that doesn’t need to be pushed, he just needs to be encouraged. But you had to push. And you pushed so hard that you pushed him away.”

“What the hell do you know about it?” William demanded. “I just wanted to see my son succeed.”

“Yes, you did, because how else could you prove to your family that your marriage wasn’t a mistake? ” William’s mouth dropped open, then snapped shut to a thin, hard line. “You were smart enough to see what was happening though. After your wife died you thought you were going to lose Philip for good, didn’t you? That’s why you set the trap for him.”

“Zephyr.” Murdock said.

“Most people would want to make sure their son didn’t fall into the same trap they’d fallen into. They’d protect him from it. Not you. You laid down a trail of breadcrumbs, and Philip, bright and curious as he was, he followed that trail and found out about Zephyr.”

William turned from staring at Hannibal to glare at Stockwell. “You told him this. Did you also tell him that you were as much a part of that as I was?”

“Yes, he did,” Hannibal said. “He told me how the two of you planned to groom Philip to take charge of Project Zephyr one day. But you couldn’t see,” he glanced from William to Stockwell, “either of you, that he wasn’t cut out for it. He was smart enough, but he wasn’t ruthless enough. You tried to train him to be that, but it didn’t work. You couldn’t freeze his heart. You couldn’t change that he hated to see anyone in pain. And when it came to the crunch, he made the choice with his heart, not with his head. Philip didn’t fail, Mr Shriver, you did.”

Hannibal sat down again, letting William think that over for a moment. The others glanced sidelong at Hannibal. Hannibal took a couple of breaths and wished he had a glass of water. There was still work to be done. Stockwell was gazing off at a nearby photograph. Shriver, about fifteen by the look of it, smiling and holding up a trophy. His parents stood behind him, their proud smiles even bigger than his. The late Mrs Shriver was beautiful, Hannibal thought. No wonder William had been prepared to defy his family and risk losing his fortune for her. A decision made with the heart, not the head.

Hannibal looked back at the desk, at the metal box. Refrigerated he guessed. The last Zephyr sample, his target, was only a few feet from him. He could spring up and grab it. Toss the perspex block into that roaring fire. No, that wasn’t the way this was going to go down.

“Philip wanted to be free, Mr Shriver.” Hannibal said, his voice quiet. “Free of Zephyr.”

William gave a bitter laugh. “Philip wanted to be free of me, Colonel Smith. I no longer have any illusions about that.”

“No.” Hannibal said, softly. He didn’t add anything else, and William looked pained and then pulled himself together.

“Well this has all been…”

“Did you love your son?” Hannibal asked. William went pale.

“What did you say?”

“It’s a simple question. Did you love him?”

“How dare you?” William jumped to his feet, came around the desk. Hannibal got up to meet him. He was a good couple of inches taller that William. “Of course I loved him!”

“Then stop protecting what killed him.”

William took a step back. “What?”

“Zephyr trapped him. And in the end it killed him. But you still protect it. Why? Do you love the power more than you loved your son?” His arm came up fast to block the blow William aimed at his face. The others jumped to their feet, but Hannibal waved them away.

“The power is what keeps you in the trap isn’t it? It makes you drunk. And who thinks straight when they’re drunk? It deluded you into thinking you were doing Philip a favour by luring him into the same trap.”

William backed off from Hannibal again.

“You don’t need it, Mr Shriver. It’s an illusion of power. This,” he waved a hand at the room around them, “this house, the men you have at your command, your corporation. That’s real power. Stop wasting the profits of that power on an illusion.”

“Illusion?” William looked as if he was going to laugh. “Do you know what that virus can do?”

“It can send you to jail.” Hannibal said. William frowned. “You go on protecting it, you risk being found out one day, and being the man who protected an illegal biological weapon. Who violated God knows how many laws to do so. The press will call you a monster.”

“Reporters can be so sensationalist.” Murdock said.

Hannibal nodded. “We should know, we’re good friends with a number of reporters.”

“Is that an attempt at blackmail?” William asked, his face hardening.

“Not at all.” Hannibal said. “Just a warning. If we were to, for example, disappear, there’s a few people, bright, curious people, who would investigate. I haven’t told them to do so, that’s just what they do.”

William went back and sat at his desk, slumped in his chair, looking exhausted.

“No, this is insane. I can’t listen to this.”

“William,” Stockwell said. “You should listen to him. I know what you and I usually think of men like these.” He glanced at Hannibal. “We think we can predict them, but Colonel Smith and his men surprised me constantly. I realise now why that was. They have something we lost long ago. Principles. And that means their decisions are simply beyond our understanding.” He smiled. “Philip did understand. He knew Colonel Smith would protect me, even though he hated me. Even though it was the most dangerous thing to do. And I still have no idea of what motivated that choice. But Philip understood.”

Hannibal was a little stunned by Stockwell’s speech, still trying to decode how much of was praise and how much insult.

“It’s the only sane solution.” Stockwell went on. “Destroy that last sample and Project Zephyr is over. We’re all free.”

“I tried to kill you.” William said to Stockwell. “I’m supposed to believe you’re going to forget that?”

“I hold no grudge.” Stockwell said. “I understand your motive. It’s entirely possible I’ve been brainwashed by the Chinese. If the situation were reversed I’d have done the same thing.”

“If you want power,” Hannibal said, “there’s other ways. More honourable ways. Politics. A rich man like you would have no trouble getting himself elected to some nice influential position.”

“Politics is honourable?” Face said quietly to Murdock. Hannibal heard that, but William didn’t seem to.

“I already own several politicians.” William said.

“That’s not quite what I meant.” Hannibal said, with a small smile.

“If I destroy this…” he looked at the sample case and stopped. Got him, Hannibal thought. If he’s even saying those words, I’ve got him.

“If you do, then you’re the man she married.” Hannibal glanced at one of the pictures with Mrs Shriver in it. “If you do, then you’re honouring the memory of your son. And, Mr Shriver, he deserves that.”

William stood up, walked back round to the hearth. He stood looking at the photograph over the fireplace. Hannibal glanced at the box on the desk. Face caught his eye, nodded at it. Hannibal shook his head. Face sighed, settled down in his chair again. He looked pale and tired, Hannibal thought. He was holding onto his still healing arm.

Hannibal turned as William suddenly walked away from the fireplace and strode to the door. He opened it and spoke to someone outside, too quiet for the team to hear. They looked at each other, worried.

“Be ready.” Hannibal said. Tense nods in return. A moment passed and William came back towards the desk. He was carrying something. As he reached them they could see what it was. The square metal case the Zephyr goons had taken from Hannibal at Langley.

“Colonel Smith. Tell me how to operate this.”


The goons were gone, not a grey suit in sight. The butler was no longer carrying his Uzi. He looked as if the mere suggestion he would carry a gun was quite ludicrous. He offered them coffee, but they refused, stepped out of the house into the dawn light.

William Shriver did not accompany them to the front door. They had left him standing in front of the fire place again. The room stank of the acid that had eaten the final Zephyr sample.

A car waited on the driveway, the doors unlocked, the keys in the ignition. A bag on the back seat held their confiscated weapons. The butler told them the car was theirs and walked back into the house, closed the door.

“Should we have tipped him?” Murdock asked Face, who rolled his eyes.

“Get in the car, fool.” BA said. They all got in and BA took the wheel.

“Where we going?” He asked, setting off down the driveway.

“I really need some breakfast.” Murdock said.

“Yeah.” BA agreed. “Breakfast. Being knocked out always makes me hungry.”

“Okay, we’ll get some food.” Hannibal said. “Then…” he smiled. “Then what we do is up to us. We’re free.” He glanced in the rear view mirror.

“What about you, Stockwell? Drop you off at Langley, maybe?”

“No.” Stockwell shook his head vehemently. “No. I can’t go back there. I can’t go back to any of it.” Hannibal turned in his seat.

“You really do want to be free of it all?”

“I have to be, Colonel. I don’t know whether I’ve been… compromised or not. But I can’t take that risk.”

“Come on, Stockwell, how likely is all that mind control stuff?” Face asked.

“If the experiments we’ve conducted are any indication, then more likely than you might believe, Lieutenant.” Face and Murdock stared at him. Even BA glanced at him in the rear view mirror.

“Please be kidding.” Murdock said. Stockwell just shrugged.

“So where do you want to go?” Hannibal asked.

“My home is not far from here. You can drop me off.” He smiled. “I will finally get to enjoy my retirement. Perhaps you and I can go fishing together sometime, Colonel? We won’t bother with bait, you can talk the fish onto the hooks.”

Hannibal laughed, as much from surprise at the joke as anything else.

“Sure, General. It’s a date.” Sometime after hell freezes over maybe, he added in his head.

Twenty minutes later they drew up outside a pair of gates set back from the road.

“Gentlemen I’d invite you in for coffee, but I have no idea if the electricity is even switched on.”

“Can you get in?” Face asked. “If you need me to pick the lock…”

“No, I keep a spare key under the doormat.”

Now that one had to be a joke. Hannibal thought. He wasn’t that happy about just leaving Stockwell to it. But they’d done their job, he supposed, they’d got him home in one piece, the rest was up to him.

“Okay. Oh, don’t forget this.” Hannibal rummaged in the bag and took out Stockwell’s handgun. Stockwell took the weapon and got out of the car.

“Goodbye, gentlemen, perhaps we’ll meet again some day. Perhaps by then I’ll have decided whether recruiting you was the worst or best decision of my career. And, Colonel Smith, all of you… thank you.”

And he turned, opened the gates and walked off up the drive.

BA started the car up again and drove away. Hannibal still had the weapons bag on his knees.

“Pass me my gun, would you,” Face said. Hannibal nodded, distributed the pistols to the team. There was one last gun in the bag, one he’d been carrying around for over three weeks now. Shriver’s Glock 17. He took it out of the bag. It still felt lightweight.

“You seem to be getting quite attached to that.” Murdock said, with a smile.

Hannibal looked up. “Yeah.” He smiled back. “It’s more substantial than it appears.” He gripped it. It felt good, comfortable.

“This I could definitely get used to.”