Created by Webmaster on 16 Jul 2011 - 7:54. Pageviews : 2328
High in the sun-scorched mounains, the speeding A-Team truck shuddered under the murderous barrage of high-powered shells that roared from the lush under- growth bordering the narrow road. B.A. ducked under the dashboard as the windscreen smashed, the front tyre exploded and the van slewed into a tree. "I told you we should have used an old jeep!" he hissed angrily at Hannibal. "Those suckers gonna pay for shooting up my van!"
In the seat beside him Hannibal smiled broadly as he lit up a half-smoked cigar. "You're going to have to sit on it, Sergeant," he drawled. "Until we find out where Kuzak is we're just four peace-loving archaeologists on the trail of a hidden temple."
"Hannibal's right, B.A.," agreed Face Man from the back, his smile freezing as a group of bearded men in combat fatigues edged slowly from the bushes.
"We can't afford to blow our cover. Until Kuzak's free we're scientists - remember?"
"That's right, Facey Boy," Murdock added. "Absolutely right. Scientists. That's what we are. Three fearless archaeologists and me - your friendly weather man - scientifically pinpointing dangerous cloud formations, always ready with an up-to-the-minute storm warning, protecting you - "
"You're going to need protection, spaghetti brain," growled B.A., stepping from the van with his arms raised. "You're about as much help as a wheel on a tuxedo."
"You shouldn't underestimate the powers of the weathermen," Murdock persisted, wriggling over the front seat and standing next to the ex-staff sergeant with his hands held above his head. "I mean, this place is hot. They feed their chickens ice cubes to stop them laying hard-boiled eggs. Now, if your hair caught fire, wouldn't you want to know when the next batch of rain was coming along?"
"We all like to know when there's a storm brewing up," said Hannibal, as he and Face joined the others, "but these bozos look like they want to interrupt the bulletin and get on with the main show." Cigar clamped between his teeth, Hannibal smiled and nodded at the leader of the ambushers, a huge man standing almost seven feet tall, with long black hair tied in a pony tail behind his fearsome head. The holes in his tattered clothes revealed gleaming teak-hard muscles and his broad shoulders were draped with two belts of ammunition. A flash of sunlight glinted on the razor-sharp machete in his right hand. In his left he carried a 6.48kg Vilar Perosa submachine gun capable of firing 2,400 9mm rounds per minute.
"Doctor Livingstone?" smiled Hannibal, as the man walked forward. "I don't suppose I could interest you in an advanced correspondence course in doll making?"
The man placed the tip of his machete under Hannibal's chin and his mouth split open in a cruel smile.
Hannibal returned it with interest. "I see you do your own dentistry," he grinned, staring at the man's yellow teeth, which hung like a row of fire-damaged stalactites from the roof of his mouth. "Do you clean them yourself or do you get someone in?"
The man scowled and turned his attention to B.A., staring intently at the masses of gold chains round the former mechanic's neck. When he put down his gun and reached out to touch them B.A.'s hand shot out like a striking snake and grabbed the man's forearm.
"Looks like rain," muttered Face Man as B.A. stood staring angrily into the man's eyes.
Hannibal stepped forward. "I don't want to appear ungrateful for your hospitality," he said easily, "but don't you think - after shooting up our van and waving that tooth-pick under our noses - that it's round about time to give us an explanation of what exactly you gun-crazy peanut heads are trying to do to us?"
The maiys face looked momentarily puzzled. When he spoke, his rasping voice was heavy with menace. "This is not the USA, silver hair," he sneered. "In this country I - Zucco - say what happens."
Hannibal fished in his pockets for a piece of paper. "It's all here in black and white," he explained pleasantly, holding the forged document up to Zucco's face. "We've got permission from the president of your country to look for some ancient ruins. We're archaeologists."
Zucco watched his men pulling shovels and pickaxes from the back of the crashed panel truck. "You do not look like scientists," he said, his gaze going from B.A. to Murdock.
"I do a little weather forecasting on the side," Murdock admitted. "Chili today, hot tomali - nothing fancy, you understand - but if you're ever short of a gale warning. . ."
"The sucker's likely to run in to a hurricane!" grumbled B.A. as he watched Zucco's men roughly pushing his van back onto the dirt road.
Zucco grabbed a shovel and thrust it hard into B.A's hands. "Here," he taunted, "a big strong man like you should be a great help to us in our work here." He pinched B.A.'s cheeks between his forefinger and thumb then slapped him playfully on the cheek. "There has been so much more to do since the donkey died '"
Murdock winced. Face covered his eyes. Hannibal stepped forward and put his arm round B.A ''s shoulders. He could feel the tremendous pulsating anger and tension surging through B.A's powerful body. "It seems our host is a little short of manners '" he said easily, "but I don't think that making him eat that shovel will improve our situation at the moment."
"Ha!" laughed Zucco sharply. "So the big man has a temper, eh?" He stepped close and trod heavily on B.A.'s foot, slowly grinding the heel of his boot down on B.A.'s toes.
"There's a ridge of high pressure coming in fast," warned Murdock, staring at the blue sky.
Zueco lifted his foot and waited for B.A's response. When none came he spat on the ground and gave another short, nasty laugh and walked back to his men.
They were laughing so loud they didn't hear the sharp crackle of splintering timber as the thick shovel handle in B.A.'s hands snapped clean in half.
That night, after working under armed guard to help clear a patch of jungle, the A-Team sat in a primitive hut and discussed their plans. Two armed guards stood outside the door and, above the chirruping of insects and calling of birds, the sounds of Zucco and his men enjoying a feast floated across the hot night air. B.A. sat on the floor in the corner, staring straight ahead of him.
"I was real proud of you back there, Sergeant," said Hannibal. "You showed you put the interests of our mission first."
B.A. didn't answer.
Murdock slowly waved his hand in front of B.A.'s eyes. No response.
"It's no use, Hannibal" Face declared. "He's not spoken a word since Mr Nice Guy stepped on his toes."
"They say it's always quiet before the storm," Murdock observed, "followed by blustery spells and a little rain after lunch. Cooler at night. Anybody want to buy a shower?"
"I'll pass this time," said Face, working to unloose the twine that held together the walls of their bamboo cell. "Did anyone see where they might be hiding Kuzak?"
Hannibal shook his head. "I figure they've got to be keeping him wherever they've got the gold stashed."
Face's eyes widened slightly. "Gold, Hannibal? I don't remember you saying anything about gold."
"I didn't I" Hannibal agreed with a grin. "I heard some of the guards talking about it today. It seems Zucco's setting himself up in the smuggling business. Mere kidnapping isn't good enough for him any more. Did you notice how the land we cleared would make a perfect landing strip for a large chopper? The way I heard it, there's some kind of consignment coming in tonight and Zucco's going to pay for it in gold." He relit the stub of his cigar. "If we can make it look like Zucco tried a doublecross he'll have so much pain from his new-found business partners that he - "
Suddenly the door of the hut flew open and two of Zucco's men marched in, their loaded guns pointed firmly at Hannibal and Face. Two others followed and grabbed B.A. by the shoulders. The big man, still staring straight ahead as if in some kind of trance, climbed silently to his feet. Zucco's huge frame appeared in the doorway. "Take him away," he ordered, then pointed to Murdock. "And you too. It's time we learned who you really are'"
"You mean I've been rumbled?" asked Murdock. "You mean the shower of cats and dogs I predicted never showed? No chickens? No watermelons? No huge fall of used postage stamps?" He was still shaking his head as they led him into the night.
The centerpiece of Zucco's mountain retreat was a crude stockade set back from the well guarded road and covered with massive camouflage nets. In the middle, a huge black pot was suspended over an open fire. Zucco's men sat around it, talking and drinking. Every now and then one of them would slowly wander over to the pot and test the temperature of the stew inside. When B.A. and Murdock were pushed roughly into the middle of a group of grinning, gloating, faces, Murdock turned to Zucco with a worried look on his face. "I think it's time you heard the storm warning," he whispered. "It can be very dangerous taking liberties with the elements."
Zucco pushed him to one side and stepped in front of B.A. His men smiled in evil anticipation. B.A. stared blankly ahead. "I don't think we need worry about your friend," mocked Zucco, picking up a bucket. "It doesn't matter how strong you are - it's what's in your heart that counts. Your friend has the heart of a mouse." He placed the bucket over B.A.'s head and smashed down on the top of it with his massive fist until it stuck tight. Zucco's men roared with laughter. Zucco bowed. B.A. didn't move.
Murdock peered under the rim of the bucket. "I thought so, B.A.," he whispered as a low growling sound started inside. "Let me get you out of here. It's time for some thunder and lightning."
B.A. bent forward and Murdock lay on the ground with his feet on, his buddy's shoulders, gripping the bucket with both hands and pulling hard. As the two men struggled Zucco and his men grew almost helpless with laughter. Then the bucket flew free, Murdock somersaulted backwards to his feet and B.A. was flung back against the cooking pot. While Murdock set about Zucco's men with the bucket, B.A. grabbed the handle of the cooking pot and - slowly at first, but with a relentless fearful determination - began swinging it round and round like an Olympic hammer thrower. With a mighty surge of gut-busting courage he hurled the boiling, steaming pot into the heart of Zucco's forces, then turned to face Zucco, whose evil laughter caught in his throat like a piece of mouldy cheese. He was reaching for his machete when B.A.'s first blow doubled him up. The second, a hook to the chin, straightened Zucco out again and the third knocked him flat on the ground. B.A. grabbed his boot, lifted him up and, swinging the helpless bully round and round his head, waded into the remainder of Zucco's cohorts. The cowardly thugs, seeing their leader beaten, fell about in fear and panic.
Meanwhile, Hannibal and Face, having drawn their guards' attention by setting fire to the hut, had knocked out one and tied up the other and were now heading for the compound with the guards' weapons on their hands.
"Looks like the storm finally broke," said Face, squeezing the trigger and loosing off a fiery hail of lead that sent a crowd of the kidnappers scattering.
"That's what I call a twister," agreed Hannibal, nodding approvingly in B.A.'s direction as the enraged ex-marine commando tore into his tormentors with furious fighting skills. B.A. flung Zucco's limp figure to the ground, picked up a machine pistol and drove the remaining bandits off with a spectacular demonstration of precision firing.
"Looks like you scared them off, Sergeant," said Hannibal, clapping B.A. on the shoulder. "I guess they felt a little under the weather."
"They'll be under the ground if they come back," murmured B.A.
"Hey you guys!" called Murdock from a corner of the stockade. "Those dudes even had their own zoo! Come on over here and take a look."
They walked over to find Murdock peering down into a large hole in the ground. Six wooden stakes set in the earth across the top stopped the man inside from escaping.
"What kind of animal do you think it is?" asked Murdock. "Looks kinda weird, doesn't it?"
"I'm Leonard Kuzak," the man replied in perfect English. "I've been held captive here for twenty-seven days, and of all the verminous degenerates and braying imbeciles I've seen in that time you, sir, are the weirdest '"
"You've really got my number, haven't you?" grinned Murdock. "You aren't as dumb as you look."
They helped Kuzak out of his prison and showed them where Zucco's gold was hidden, in a crude water tank by the clearing. From what he and Hannibal had pieced together it seemed a shipment of drugs was due to arrive at four o'clock that morning. Hannibal checked his watch. Ten past three. "In that case, gentlemen, we'd better get busy."
Dead on four, as Hannibal stood at the edge of the clearing with his gun sticking into the back of the now-conscious Zucco, the whirring of the distant rotor blades rose to a crescendo and a twin-bladed CH-21 Chinook came clattering out of the skies and put down in the clearing in a cloud of leaves and twigs. Hannibal watched as twelve armed men climbed out, and when a man in a white suit appeared, he pushed Zucco forward. The bandit leader was shambling slowly into the middle when suddenly Hannibal dropped to the floor and fired a flare into the air.
At this signal the other members of the A-Team went in to action, firing the rockets that lifted the camouflage nets high into the sky, dropping them neatly over the helicopter and its odious cargo and crew. As the men struggled to extricate themselves it was a simple matter for the A-Team to race over to the net and knock them out.
As the morning sun rose and the last of the smugglers was herded into the hole in the ground, Murdock turned the helicopter engine over while Hannibal scattered its contents to the wind. B.A. stood by his van with his arms folded and glared at Face.
"It's not really a plane," Face reasoned, holding a half-finished bottle of lemonade in his hand.
"It's a helicopter. They hardly leave the ground."
"I ain't going on no airplane," said B.A. flatly.
Murdock switched off the Chinook's engines and joined Hannibal as they walked to the van. From his seat on a nearby packing case, Leonard Kuzak watched the proceedings with a bemused smile. "I already told the Face Man - I ain't going on no airplane!" B.A. insisted.
"You could sit in your van. It wouldn't seem like flying then," Murdock suggested.
"Ain't going on no airplane!"
"If that's the way you want it, it's OK by me," smiled Hannibal.
A cunning glint flickered in B.A.'s eyes. "You trying to trick me! I know it!"
"Trick you?" asked Hannibal, taking the bottle from Face's hand. "Not me, Sergeant. If you want to drive that van back to the good old US of A, it's alright with me." He took a large mouthful from the bottle and passed it on to Face.
B.A. watched him suspiciously. "You jivin' me! I know it! You're on the jazz!"
Hannibal shook his head as Face took a mouthful of lemonade. B.A. turned to him angrily. Face passed the bottle to Murdock.
"You sure you're not trying to trick me?" he asked. Face shook his head. "And I can drive back in my van without going in no airplane?" Face nodded. B.A. turned on Murdock. "Just what you trying to pull, peanut head?"
"I'm trying nothing, Mr Baracus," Murdock said pleasantly as he rubbed the neck of the bottle on his sleeve. "Your mode of transportation is entirely your own affair. If you don't care to fly that's quite hunky dory by me." He took a large mouthful then passed the bottle to B.A. B.A.'s baleful glare never wavered as he drained the last of the contents. He was turning to question Hannibal some more when suddenly his mind seemed to go blank, his legs gave way beneath him, and he toppled motionless to the ground. Hannibal, Face and Murdock spat out their mouthfuls of lemonade.
"He's getting better," observed Face, as he and Murdock lifted B.A. into his van and drove it on board the chopper. "For a second back there I thought he had us rumbled."
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