“You wanna see Stockwell beg?” Tasmin asked her partner.
“Haven’t we been to that fic already?”
“You thought that was unique behaviour?”
Allison sighed and sat up. “Okay, let’s go see Stockwell make a fool of himself unbecoming a retired general. And while we’re at it, see if anyone else is making a fool of themselves unbecoming a retired general. And kill the Sue that is causing all that behaviour unbecoming generals, or anyone else for that matter.”
“Great.” Tasmin punched in the coordinates and opened a portal.
Allison looked around the fairground. “This would be one of the last places I would ever imagine Stockwell going. So where is he? The Merry-go-round? The cotton candy stand?” Allison smirked at her partner.
“Huh.” Tasmin looked at the Words. “There was some begging in a prologue scene, but we went too far ahead for that. Not much sense in going back.”
“I feel you have lured me into this fic under false pretences. Is there anything happening in this fic I would rather not know about?”
“Isn’t that a given? Never mind. Murdock’s over there, and the woman he’s ogling is the Sue.”
“Oh, thanks. One of those again.”
“Well, you know why Murdock gets so many Sues: they are just making up for the fact Murdock never got the girl in canon.”
“Neither did BA. Can’t they fling themselves at him every once in a while?”
“They’d probably bounce right off him. He wouldn’t even notice if anything had hit him.”
“The big guy is Sue resistant. A much coveted characteristic.” Allison chuckled. Tasmin poked her in the ribs and reluctantly she directed her attention at the fic.
She was of average height, nicely proportioned, maybe late twenties, with shoulder length chocolate brown hair that was barely tamed by a red head scarf which framed the most beautiful face he had ever seen.
“I take it I write her up for Murdock having been blind for the past forty years,” Allison growled as she pulled a notepad from one of her pockets.
“For that, or for some bad punctuation.”
Murdock stared at the Sue, and would have probably floated over to her if he had not been called back to reality by someone with the power to deny him payment. He turned his attention back to his job.
A scene break followed. The scenery turned dark and deserted. The scene change had taken the agents out of the fairground.
The Sue was standing by a bus stop. Murdock walked over to her. Though he did not understand what was happening to him, Murdock started to talk to the Sue. She didn’t seem much in the mood for chitchat. Murdock was about to turn away, when he decided he couldn’t leave without asking her if he could give her his phone number. She replied he could give her a lift instead.
Which Murdock happily did. The smile quickly dropped off his face, though, when he turned the ignition and then turned to look at her and saw her pointing a gun at him. Murdock could kick himself for falling for such an easy trick. The Sue told him to drive to a nearby motel.
It started to rain. The agents quickly ran for cover under the shelter at the bus stop.
Murdock was silent and contemplative during the short drive to the motel. He thought about how he was caught, about looking for a way out, but not wanting to leave her, and that his usual crazy routine would not work on her.
“There are three reasons Murdock would not be talking crazy: A, he’s unconscious; B, he’s been told very explicitly to shut up and most likely been gagged; or C, the Sue doesn’t know how to write him crazy,” Allison listed.
At the motel the Sue knocked Murdock in the back of the head and he collapsed onto the floor.
“Now, that would work to make him stop talking crazy.”
Allison sighed after stepping through the portal and seeing her new disguise. “Maid service?”
“We need to be inconspicuous here.”
“Maid service without a cart is inconspicuous to you?”
“Go get a cart then.”
Allison rolled her eyes. “There’s a cart over there.” She pointed her thumb over her shoulder.
“Over there is not over here. Go and get it.”
Allison rolled her eyes again and walked down the corridor to get the cart.
Tasmin tried to see through the window into the motel room where the Sue kept Murdock. Thin curtains covered the window on the inside. All Tasmin could see were some silhouettes. She turned and leaned against the wall next to the window. The walls were paper-thin so she could hear pretty well what was going on inside the room. She signalled to her partner to be quiet and take up position on the other side of the window.
Murdock woke up. He found himself bound to a chair and gagged. The Sue ripped the tape off Murdock’s mouth and pulled up a chair to sit in front of him.
“Okay, so what do you want? Who do you work for?”
“Odd opening questions,” Allison noted. “Wouldn’t he start by asking her who she was? She never told him that, did she?”
Tasmin shushed her partner.
The Sue said she held him at gunpoint because he had killed her brother. Murdock denied the accusation. It turned out that the Sue’s brother was someone Murdock had done a tour with in Vietnam, and the unfortunate brother had been killed on a mission.
“I’ve recently been informed by a mutual acquaintance of ours that it was you that killed him. However, this mutual acquaintance is an arrogant, manipulative little shit so you get the benefit of the doubt until I’m able to verify he’s telling the truth, and he has been known to… sometimes”
Murdock immediately guessed the arrogant shit was Stockwell. He denied the accusations made by Stockwell, and went on to claim Stockwell knew the truth.
He debriefed me after that mission himself.
“Stockwell knew Murdock in Vietnam?”
“It’s the first I’ve heard of it.”
“Could he have?”
“Murdock would have mentioned it to the rest of the Team if he had.”
“That’s true.” Allison made a note of adding an unlikely alliance to Murdock’s backstory.
She stood up and looked away thoughtfully. There was honesty in the mans face. She had always been a good judge of character.
“During this mission, however, she will show to be very bad at keeping people in character,” Tasmin said. “In the same vein she's probably also good judge of punctuation, but bad at applying it herself.”
Murdock put two and two together and concluded that Stockwell wanted him dead. Which meant the Team might be in danger too. He told the Sue he had to go. The Sue needed to have a think. She stuck a fresh piece of tape over his mouth and went outside.
Tasmin opened the door to the room next door and the agents quickly jumped to the task of pretending to be cleaning something. The Sue barely paid attention to them when she paced up and down the corridor. She thought about what Stockwell had told her. She had believed him at the time, but she also believed Stockwell wasn’t beyond manipulating someone like her into killing a man he wanted to be rid of.
Tasmin stepped close to Allison and whispered in her ear. “Stockwell wouldn’t trust on manipulation if he wanted a job like this done. Not unless he had some leverage over the person that would make it unlikely for them to back out of it. Most likely a 'their life for your life' kind of deal.”
“I also don’t think he’s quite beyond paying for a hit.”
The Sue wondered what Stockwell would do to her and Murdock if he found out that his plan had backfired. She got her answer when she caught a glimmer of something across the road. She went back inside.
The agents cautiously came out of the other room to listen in on what went on between Murdock and the Sue.
The Sue cut Murdock free. He got up and said he had to get to a telephone.
“No, there’s no time.”
In a swift movement he grabbed both her wrists
“Why, you gonna kill me now little girl?” he growled threateningly.
“She already killed his character. She might as well finish the job and kill his body too.”
The Sue relaxed her muscles, letting him think he got the better of her, then she tensed up and head butted him. He went down and called her a crazy bitch.
“Why do some women try to change the men they claim they love?”
“In order to make them more perfect?”
“I don’t think perfect has a comparative. Perfect means without flaws.”
“Perhaps they are trying to put some flaws in,” Tasmin suggested. “Perfection just gets boring after a while.”
“There are plenty of reasons why you wouldn’t want to introduce Murdock to your parents as your new boyfriend. Wouldn’t need to add verbally abusive to that list.”
The Sue gathered up her things and told him that they both had to go out of town. Someone still wanted him dead, and her too.
“Despite what I said earlier,” Allison said, “I really only want her dead.”
“I think she’s talking about someone else.”
The Sue said Murdock could go on his own or come with her, but that she was taking the car.
“My car? In that case I think I’ll come with. Where are we going?”
“Why? Does he still have payments on the car?”
Murdock suggested a remote cabin he knew as a get-a-way.
“Or did his ‘I’m sane’ card expire?”
Tasmin pulled Allison back into the neighbouring room and closed the door. “Best to stay away from the windows,” she said in reply to her parent’s questioning frown. “There’s a sniper on the roof.”
She had the advantage over him in that she was expecting the hail of bullets the second they emerged from the room together.
“When I say sniper I’m just being polite. I mean some idiot with a machine gun and no sense of direction.”
The Sue pushed Murdock to the ground and fired back. Murdock crawled into the car. A few moments later the Sue sat in the seat next to him and he drove off with squealing tyres. Not much later Murdock and the Sue were under fire from a car behind them. The Sue fired back, but was almost out of bullets. She suggested they would have to lose their pursuers on foot. Murdock questioned her sanity.
“And rightfully so.”
A helicopter was added to the team of pursuers. Murdock followed the directions of the Sue and parked the car behind a large department store. They left the car and ran into the store. The Sue grabbed some items of the racks while running. Murdock went behind a door and came back with a couple of blond wigs. The two of them slipped into a dressing cubical together and a few minutes later emerged in their disguises.
Then they casually walked out of the store.
“I’ll just add shoplifting to the list of charges.”
Outside the chopper was watching the store exit from up above. Stockwell was in the passenger seat with a pair of binoculars, but if he noticed the couple walking passed the shop window that had two bald mannequins in it, it never occurred to him that it could be them.
“At the very least, add that Stockwell is going for overkill instead of certain death. And that Murdock wasn’t spotted when he grabbed the wigs of those mannequins.” Tasmin pulled the remote activator from her duffel bag. “Let’s go that cabin in the woods.”
There was only one small dirt road leading up to the cabin. The agents arrived shortly after Murdock and the Sue did. While Tasmin and Allison hid around the corner, Murdock and the Sue carried their groceries into the cabin. Despite its secluded location the cabin was well equipped. It had a bathroom and even a record player.
“If no one followed them this would be a good place for them to hide.”
“It would also be an ideal place for her to kill him. It would be weeks, if not months, before he was found here. If he was found at all.”
“Men.” Tasmin shook her head. “Tell them you will steal their car and they blow all caution to the wind.”
“Nothing comes between a man and his wheels,” Allison agreed. “Though, if I had to pick anyone from the A-Team to put their car’s safety before their own, I would have picked BA.”
“BA loves his van and he would certainly throw himself in front of it if someone tried to steal it. He would not invite a Sue that had threatened to kill him into his van. Not unless she was tied up like a meat roll, and even then he wouldn’t want her in his van as she might stain the upholstery.”
The agents snuck around the cabin. Through a window they watched the scene that took place inside the cabin.
Murdock slumped into a kitchen chair and buried his head in his hands.
“Has he called the rest of the Team?” Allison asked.
“Hmm, doesn’t say.” Tasmin checked the Words. “They stopped for gas, burgers and groceries. I’m pretty sure at least two of those stops would have had a payphone. So he should have at least tried to contact the Team.”
The Sue tried to comfort Murdock. He said it wasn’t her fault.
“If it hadn’t been you it would have been someone else… and for the record, I’m glad it was you.”
“I’ll take that as an answer to my question whether the Team already know Stockwell’s out to kill them: Murdock hasn’t told them yet. He probably hopes they too will have assassins they can fall in love with.”
Murdock went to sit outside. It wasn’t until it had turned dark that the Sue came to join him with some whisky she had found in one of the kitchen cupboards. Murdock asked her what Stockwell had told her. She said it didn’t matter.
“I think it’s obvious he was just hoping I’d kill you for it and not ask any questions first”
“But you’re not like that?
“Stockwell isn’t like that either,” Tasmin said softly. “Stockwell is actually a pretty good judge of character. He knows who he can manipulate in what way. And he certainly wouldn’t ask someone that is liable to get a bad case of morals to commit a murder.”
“The Sue implies her history made it reasonable to think she would not get bothered too much by morals.”
The Sue told Murdock her life's story. She immigrated with her parents and eigth-year-old brother from the Soviet Union when she was two. Five years later her parents were killed in a car crash and the children were taken in by a colleague of her father. He had owned a plane and taught both children how to fly. From then on the brother wanted to become a pilot.
“Er, the brother fought in the Vietnam War. He was born in the Soviet Union. Did the US Army employ foreign nationals?”
Tasmin bobbed her head. “They did employ people born abroad. I don’t think there would have been a problem there. Particularly not if the brother went through naturalisation.”
“Even though he was born in a communist country and would be fighting other communists, they would have no doubts he would change allegiance? During the Second World War the US put US citizens of Japanese and German ancestry in war relocation camps because they might be spies for the enemy.”
“True, but there were also Nisei, second generation Japanese immigrants, who fought in the US Army. I think the army itself would not be a problem for him, but certain military positions, such as Intelligence and Special Forces, would be off limits.”
“Right.” Allison thoughtfully rubbed her nose with her index finger.
“This whole discussion has caused us to miss the list of talents of the Sue.”
“Were any of those talents an indicator of her moral stance later in life?”
“Well, I’ve always had my suspicions of people who speak more than two languages fluently.”
“Please… I’d like to know more about the person who’s prisoner I am”
“You’re not my prisoner any more”
“Yes I am”
“No, you’re not. You came with her voluntarily,” Tasmin said. “The figurative, if not the literal, meaning of prisoner implies that one is usually a prisoner against his own will.”
“Again you’re talking semantics, while the real problem is that Murdock is warming up to this person. That he’d rather stare meaningfully into her eyes than get off his bum and warn the rest of the Team.”
The Sue was unwilling to tell her life’s story, but somehow felt forced to tell it. Her adoptive mother had died of cancer, and after her brother was killed in Nam; her adoptive father killed himself the following Christmas.
Allison rolled her eyes. “You see, the reason I’m this screwed up psycho bitch is because everyone I cared for had died on me when I was barely even eighteen. People dying is a reason for mourning. It is not an excuse for anything else.”
“If she would use it as an excuse for flexible morals, it would show she was mentally unstable and a likely candidate not to be hired by Stockwell, because he could not rely on her to finish a job he wanted her to do.”
The Sue said she had felt dead inside and not cared any more. Then one day she met an Army recruiter and ended up in Vietnam. Stockwell came to meet her there. He had told her he had known her brother and that they had been good friends. The Sue and Stockwell had gone for a drink and he had persuaded her to help him with a project of his.
“Even if I can imagine Stockwell being in Nam – not everyone went there – I find it hard to imagine he would have been rubbing elbows with people ranked below him, let alone paying courtesy calls on their relatives. Other than to express sympathy for their loss.”
“Perhaps Stockwell was already working on his master plan here. He knew that he had to be friendly to the Sue so that one day he could use her to kill someone her brother had worked with. Stockwell has that kind of foresight. He probably also knew the A-Team were going to be fugitives before they even got the orders to rob the bank of Hanoi.”
Tasmin glared at her partner.
“We don’t know much about how Stockwell operates. Perhaps he really does prey on emotionally unstable mourners.”
Tasmin growled and turned her attention back to the Sue and Murdock.
The Sue continued that this project involved high-ranking officers that were selling information to the enemy. One day Stockwell finally received some intelligence he could make stick: he had information that one colonel would order a commando unit to rob the bank of Hanoi, which would be a set-up for the unit to be captured by the North Vietnamese and become a political embarrassment for the US.
Murdock was shocked at what he heard. He urged her to finish her story.
The Sue said that Stockwell for some reason did not want to stop the robbery, but that he did want a copy of the orders the colonel – Morrison – had given.
“See, I told you Stockwell knew the Team were going to be fugitives!”
Tasmin gave her partner a shove.
Colonel Morrison had once shown an interest in the Sue that wasn’t just professional. Stockwell thought he could send her to him with some fake documents and she could charm the colonel in a ploy to get her hands on the orders.
“Never one to point out logical fallacies,” Allison said, “but wouldn’t Morrison notice if in his administration his orders were replaced by fakes?”
“I think she means fake transfer documents, though I admit the Sue’s being a bit ambiguous here.”
The Sue arrived in the evening when Morrison was debriefing the pilot who was to fly the commando unit for the Hanoi bank job. She avoided meeting the pilot. Then she reported to Morrison. He was happy to see her and left her alone for a few moments. The orders she had come to get were right there on the desk for the taking, but when the Sue did, Morrison returned to his office. There was a struggle and the Sue shot Morrison with the gun she had received from Stockwell.
“Rather than a gun, Stockwell should perhaps have given her a microfilm camera. Or weren’t those invented yet?”
“Sure they were invented. Perhaps he needed the original documents for authentication purposes.”
Murdock was very exited to know whether the Sue had walked away with the documents.
She said she did. She also said Stockwell wanted the documents destroyed. The commando unit had not been caught by the enemy and no one seemed to be interested in the truth. The Sue speculated that everyone that knew the truth had ended up dead. Stockwell would have tied up all the loose ends.
“He didn’t tie up the loose end that’s flapping her mouth here.”
Murdock wanted to know if she had destroyed the documents. The Sue was surprised at his excitement, but admitted she had not destroyed the documents.
Murdock almost collapsed with his sigh of relief and steadied himself with another sip of whisky.
“The real Murdock – not this version that is inebriated with a Sue and alcohol – the real Murdock would have jumped up, dragged her up and urged her to go and get the documents so his friends could get their pardons before this fake!Stockwell kills them.”
The Sue had not been able to bring herself to destroy the only evidence of the truth and had kept the documents. It had proved good leverage over Stockwell when the Sue wanted out of his employment. She had threatened to make the documents public if he did not leave her alone.
“I doubt Stockwell is going to be much bothered by the publication of orders that exonerated a team of Special Forces and indict a dead colonel. His name isn’t on the orders. There may be a little embarrassment for him if the reason is mentioned why the documents only showed up over fifteen years after the crime, but he’d probably be able to minimise that embarrassment without effort. Probable deniability.”
The Sue’s version of Stockwell thought the orders very important, however. He traded information about the death of her brother for the documents. Or so he thought. The Sue had given him copies of the orders.
“Oh, wow, this Sue is going to get the Team their pardons. That in itself should be a charge.”
Tasmin raised her eyebrows at her partner. “You don’t want them to get their pardons?”
“Sure, but this plot is just made up of too many coincidences. Murdock and her brother worked for Stockwell; Stockwell sends her to get the orders that could get the Team their pardons; she gets the orders just before the shelling starts; Stockwell doesn’t destroy the orders himself, even though, according to this Sue, he’s particular about tying up loose ends; she doesn’t destroy the orders even though they had no apparent use to her; Stockwell sends her to kill a man for whom the orders have use. Too many coincidences. You get one outrageous coincidence per story. All other plot developments need to be character driven, or follow from something that a character had done or neglected to do.”
“True, though here I think the problem could have been solved if she had gotten hold of the documents in a way that did not involve Stockwell. And perhaps Stockwell should not be involved either in her coming after Murdock.”
“Take out the involvement of Stockwell?” Allison thought about it for a moment. “That would be one step. But she also shouldn’t have got hold of the documents before the shelling. Years later, on one of her bad girl mission would be better. Best if she hadn't even been in Vietnam.”
“Why not?” Tasmin almost sounded pleading. Allison gave her an odd look. “She’s the first Nam-Sue that researched the place women had in the US Army in the Vietnam War. Of all the Sues, she’s the only one that should be in Nam.”
"Okay, she's been to Vietnam, but she's never met Stockwell, 'cause she doesn't seem to know him very well, or at all for that matter."
Now it was Murdock's turn to talk. He told her he knew the commando unit that did the Hanoi job. He also told her about the guilt he had felt at not having been able to testify for the Team on their original trial because he was deemed an unreliable witness due to his PTSD. The Sue held his hand to comfort him. She was surprised to learn that the Team was now working for Stockwell. Murdock explained the Team had to work a number of missions for Stockwell while he worked on securing them their pardons. Stockwell had offered to have them continue working for him once the pardons came through, but Murdock and the Team hadn't decided on that yet.
At least we know why Stockwell wants you dead now… if you were just a liability that would be bad enough, but your ‘no’ vote could lose him this A-Team, and it’s clear he has decided he wants them.
"That makes no sense," Tasmin said. "If Stockwell wants the Team, he's not going to get them by killing its members."
"Unless he thinks: 'if I can't have them, no one can'."
"Even if Stockwell was that small minded, he'd wait before killing off the Team until he indeed did not have them any more."
Murdock suggested the Sue could get the Team their pardons. The Sue declined, though. She held the proof that the Team were innocent, but explaining how she got it would be signing her own death certificate. Murdock said he would get a message to the Team in the morning and that Hannibal would then come up with a plan.
Allison made a note that Murdock had not gotten a message to the Team yet.
"Why did we leave the cabin?" Allison whined. "Murdock was just cooking breakfast. It smelled wonderful. We could have snagged some leftovers while the Sue was getting dressed."
Tasmin merely raised an eyebrow. "I thought it was about time we took a look at what the Team was up to."
"If it isn't breakfast I'm not interested." Allison rubbed a hand over her stomach. "Did you bring any food? Murdock was cooking the Sue half a full English, and it made my mouth water."
Tasmin had set the portal to open in the lounge where the Team was hanging out.
Face sighed as if he was tired of having the same discussion over and over again.
“BA, you heard what Stockwell said. Murdock left town for a few days with a woman he met.”
"Face thinks this makes sense and is nothing to worry about?" Allison nearly toppled when she leaned forward, trying to look into Face's eyes to see if he was making a joke. "Surely they are all aware that everything Stockwell says is suspect?"
"Not to mention that if Murdock went away for a few days and could not tell the Team himself, Stockwell would not be the one taking a message for him."
Hannibal thought it suspect that Murdock had not told them he was seeing someone, but Face didn't think that strange. He thought Murdock hadn't said anything because he didn't want BA or Hannibal ruining things by being overprotective.
"Overprotective? Has this Faceguy met Hannibal? Or is this a completely different Hannibal? Murdock wouldn't think Hannibal would ruin his chances with a woman. That's more a Face thing. And it's not because Hannibal is being overprotective, but because he has a sense of humour not everyone appreciates."
"That could be interpreted as being overprotective."
"Really? I would just think he made an effort at being obnoxious. Anyway." Allison waved it away. "Murdock is much more appreciative of Hannibal's sense of humour in that regard than Face is. But this Face person here, he either doesn't know Murdock or Hannibal and he certainly doesn't know himself. 'Now is not a good time to start disobeying orders'? Face, mate, it's your friend who's gone missing. Do a character measurement of him. Perhaps he's a replacement."
"If he was, he would have noticed us by now. But he most certainly is not in character."
Murdock hadn't shown up for lunch the previous day and Face had found out he also hadn't shown up for work. Then Stockwell had -- of his own accord -- offered them the news that Murdock had gone out of town for a few days. Hannibal found this a paralysing lack of information. He suggested they'd keep listening to Talk Radio for a message from Murdock.
Allison made notes of the lack of punctuation as well as the lack of character. Then she gave Tasmin a pleading look and asked to be taken back to the cabin, or to some other place where she could eat.
There was no one at the cabin when the agents returned. Allison set herself to the task of finding the leftovers, but found that the Sue and Murdock had been quite homely: everything they hadn't eaten they had thrown in the trash and then they had done the dishes. She sat down at the table and sulked. Meanwhile Tasmin read the Words to see what Murdock and the Sue were up to.
Murdock had made the call to Talk Radio and they were now driving back to the cabin. The Sue tried to make conversation and asked Murdock about the tiger on his jacket, which her brother had painted. She wondered why something that reminded him of the war was so precious to him. He replied that she would understand if she knew him better. She asked if she would have that chance. Murdock replied that he felt like he had known her his whole life.
Tasmin rolled her eyes. Unceremoniously she dumped her duffel bag on the table. "I put some candy bars in here before we left. Dig in, but leave some for me."
Allison did not need to be told twice. She had caught a glimpse of the Words and did not like at all where things were going.
“You do remember I tried to kill you yesterday?”
Murdock retorted that she had not tried to kill him. She had thought about it, but not tried.
"Next person to use semantics like that is going to get shot in the kneecaps," Allison growled. She took a bite out of the bar of chocolate she had unearthed from Tasmin's bag.
Tasmin turned her head to her partner. "Where would you get a gun?"
Allison pointed at the duffel bag. "I've noticed there were two in there. Can't be that hard to get my hands on one of them."
Murdock told the Sue that he liked her. That he found something irresistibly attractive about her. The conversation started to turn flirty.
Allison chomped on the chocolate. A car pulled up by the cabin.
"Quick. They're back." Tasmin grabbed her duffel bag and in one sweeping motion returned all the items that Allison had scattered across the table back to the bag.
The agents ran into the bedroom and left the cabin through the bedroom window. Hunched over they snuck around the cabin and saw the Sue enter it from the front. Murdock was wearing a strangely odd smile when he watched her going in.
Allison dropped to the ground and leaned her back against the cabin wall. She pulled the chocolate bar she had been eating from the pocket she had stuffed it into before they had to make their exit. "I'm guessing this Sue is going to get the Team their pardons and we are going to hold off charging her until she does."
Tasmin nodded and sat down next to her partner. "I'm afraid so."
"I think I need more chocolate."
Tasmin handed her another bar.
"So, this cabin, it's Murdock's?" Allison asked.
"He said he inherited it a few years back."
"Then Stockwell would probably know about it."
"That would not be an outrageous assumption."
"Not a very safe hiding place from Stockwell then."
Allison looked up at the sky and noticed it was turning dark again. "Just another notch on the charge list."
Allison woke up with a start when she heard the doors of the van slam shut.
"Team's here," Tasmin announced.
"Already?" Allison yawned. "I wasn't expecting them for another day or two."
"Considering Murdock and the Sue got here in a few hours time, and the Team took about twenty, I'd still say they took their time."
Hannibal, BA and Face went into the cabin where they found Murdock and the Sue in bed together.
"What did I miss?"
Tasmin looked at her partner and opened her mouth. She thought better of what she was about to say and instead said, "You don't really want to know."
Murdock explained why his bed partner was pointing a gun at the Team.
“Helen’s… well, she… she was sort of sent to kill me by Stockwell.”
“Stockwell?” said Hannibal with concern.
“Kill you?” said BA with disbelief.
"At least BA's surprised that Murdock's in bed with a woman that was sent to kill him."
"The others are probably just assuming that he took lessons from James Bond on neutralising the enemy."
Allison glared at her partner. "They too should realise the unlikelihood of that being successful."
Murdock put on some clothes and led the Team outside to tell them the Sue held the proof that could get them their pardons.
The Sue had not much confidence in their talk. At least not when it came to her. She was sure they would sacrifice her if they could save themselves. She decided to leave. The van was parked out front with the side door open, a rifle casually lying across a back seat; the Team were conveniently having their talk at the back of the cabin.
"I take back whatever I said that could have been interpreted as BA being in character," Allison said. "He'd be near the van if there were a killer on the loose, and if he wasn't, he would have made sure it was locked."
"And never ever would he have left a rifle where a kid could easily get their hands on it," Tasmin added.
"Don't think there are going to be any kids sneaking around these woods."
"There could be," Tasmin replied. "I heard some noises like kids playing."
"You must have super sensitive hearing. I didn't even hear a bird. We're in the woods. Where is all of nature? Did the Sue scare off the little creatures?"
"That, or she thought 80s, acid rain and didn't write them in."
The Sue took the rifle and went back inside to pack up her stuff. When she returned the Team was waiting for her, and not about to let her go. They wanted the orders and they wanted her to take them to them. So not much later, the Team and the Sue took a commercial flight to Zurich. The Sue kept the orders in a safe deposit box at a Swiss bank.
"Of course, Swiss." Allison rolled her eyes. "Land of fondue, cuckoo clocks and banking secrecy. I always felt the latter was the odd one out, you know, compared to cuckoo clocks. That bird can't even keep the time a secret."
Tasmin rolled her eyes in turn. "Rather than pondering the difference between banks and clocks, you might want to take note of the fact that BA is so excited about getting his pardon, that he stayed conscious during the flight."
"What? That's an eight or nine hour flight. Surely he napped?"
"Actually, it doesn't say." Tasmin pulled the remote activator from her bag. "He just states he hates to fly, but there is no mention of him putting up a fight or anyone knocking him out. But Hannibal implies all of the Team noticed when Murdock slipped away with the Sue to join the Mile High club. Let's go to Switzerland."
"You quickly changing the subject doesn't mean I didn't pick up on the club comment. That's something I really didn't need to hear."
"Sure you do. It's a charge. You have to write it down." Tasmin hopped through the portal.
The portal had taken the agents to the Zürich-Milano International Express train. They installed themselves in the compartment next to the Team and the Sue.
After the Sue retrieved the order documents from her safe deposit box, she and the Team caught the International Express. They were on their way to Milan to meet Amy Allen. The Sue had a bad feeling that Stockwell was aboard the train too. She fetched her gun and a knife from her bag. Her hunch was right: a moment later Stockwell pushed open the door to their compartment.
"And now things are getting interesting." Allison rubbed her hands.
Tasmin shushed her. She pulled a stethoscope from her bag and put the plugs in her ear. She climbed on the seat and put the resonator against the dividing wall.
Allison pulled one of the plugs out of her ear. Tasmin give her an annoyed glare. "You've got one of those for me too?"
"No." Tasmin pushed the plug back in her ear and turned her attention to the wall.
Allison flopped down in one of the seats and stared out the window. Once again she'd have to make do with the Words. She'd really ought to start thinking about that smart packing stuff. Just the thought that she'd have to lug stuff around for hours which she was only going to need for five minutes was keeping her back.
Stockwell greeted all and closed the compartment door behind him.
Stockwell flashed him an angry look, “Colonel, I offered you and your men an opportunity and you have betrayed my trust and broken our agreement.”
"I trust that Stockwell is aware that if he is sending assassins after members of the A-Team, he's the one that is breaking the agreement."
There was no response from Tasmin. Of course not, she had those plugs in her ears. Allison sighed.
Stockwell said he was well ahead of the Team and showed Hannibal a Polaroid picture of Amy bound and gagged.
"I wonder if he was sent that picture by courier."
"Like we thought." Tasmin pulled an earplug of the stethoscope from her ear and looked at her partner. "Stockwell knew Murdock and the Sue were hiding in Murdock's cabin, and he immediately came into action. It's been three days since Murdock was tied up in that motel, plenty of time for Stockwell to make his arrangements."
The Sue offered herself up in exchange for Amy.
“I want the orders too, the genuine article this time, no clever forgeries”
The Team all agreed in silence, and Hannibal gave him the documents. Stockwell examined them and then set fire to them.
"What? Just like that? After he's already been fooled once concerning these documents? Why doesn't he take them back to a lab and have them C14 dated or something?"
"C14 dating is not that accurate. But testing these documents to see if they had any of Morrison's prints on them would be in the realm of possibilities."
"Stockwell has Morrison's prints on file?"
"He could have. It would make more sense than him falling for the same trick twice."
"We don't know yet if he did."
"C'mon, Stockwell's been behaving like a right idiot throughout this entire fic. Why stop now?"
Allison conceded that.
Before the Sue could leave with Stockwell, Murdock gave her his jacket. As a passing gift Stockwell told the Team they were no longer working for him, and also did not have his protection any more.
"After he has worked so hard to keep them in his employment." Tasmin shook her head.
"Hmm. I'd half expected him to say: and now you're mine, all mine. Haha," Allison cackled.
After Stockwell and the Sue (and his Abels) had left the train at its next stop, Murdock noticed that the Sue had left her bag behind. He opened it and found an envelope addressed to the A-Team. It contained a note from the Sue, and the original orders Morrison had signed. The Sue had fooled Stockwell a second time.
"Seening as that is about all the plot development we're going to get out of this story, I suggest we go find that Sue and charge her." Allison flicked through her notepad. "I've got a few things to say to her."
"Good idea." Tasmin rolled up the stethoscope and returned it to her bag. She pulled out the remote activator and opened a portal.
It had only taken bureaucracy three months to realise that the Team had presented them with original order documents and not clever forgeries. The Team were granted their pardons (despite the fact that since their court martial and escape from fire squadron, they had no longer been wanted for the Hanoi Bank job, but for the murder of Colonel Morrison). After some soul searching and head scratching about what to do with their freedom, they decided to go into business as a team of troubleshooters. Basically, they would do what they had always been doing, but now they would have to send proper invoices to their clients, and charge them VAT.
The Team threw a party when they opened up their business and invited many of their former clients and their friends to come and celebrate with them.
Amongst this crowd Tasmin and Allison searched for the Sue. She was not hard to find: she was wearing Murdock's jacket and thus kind of stuck out to Allison. The agents managed to intercept her before Murdock did and pulled her into one of the glass walled offices to the side of the reception area.
"I like how this glass is frosted," Allison said. The walls behind her immediately turned from transparent to opaque. "Means no one else is going to notice we're having a little chat." She gave the Sue a pleasant smile. The Sue just looked wary in return.
"Helen Moore, or Helen Rodchenko, or whatever name you go by these days after having faked your own death, we're Protectors of the Plot Continuum and we're here to charge you with crimes against fanfiction in general and A-Team fiction in particular."
"I always love this part." Allison flicked to the first page with notes on Helen in her notepad. "We charge you with bad punctuation, daft plotting and bad characterisation. We charge you with being a bad influence on Murdock. Murdock showed, under your influence, behaviour remarkably unlike himself. Apparently you were so scary he did not talk crazy, yet he came with you when you let him go but said you were going to steal his car. Though warning the Team that Stockwell might be after them was the first thing on his mind, it was not the first thing he did after shaking off whoever was after him. Instead, he took you, his once assassin, to a remote cabin to escape Stockwell, even though Stockwell may have very well known about that cabin. We charge you with Murdock being very forgiving towards anything you did and falling for you almost instantly, despite the fact that you tried to kill him." Allison looked up from her notepad for a moment.
The Sue's eyes were transfixed on Tasmin's gun, but dashed over to Allison when she stopped talking.
"Look, we don't mind if Murdock and his would be assassin become unlikely alliances. We have a problem with the fact that he has absolutely no reservations about trusting her." Allison turned back to her notepad. "Next, we charge you with giving Stockwell a part in Murdock's backstory. We doubt he was in Vietnam, and if he was, he wouldn't have known Murdock there. Murdock would have told the Team if they had been old acquaintances. We charge you with having Stockwell behaving unlike a retired general, and worse, unlike himself. Stockwell is not so stupid that he would hire a bunch of people who all fail at killing one man. He would not take part in chasing that man by helicopter. Stockwell doesn't do overkill; he goes for certain death. And he would not fall for the same trick twice. Further, we charge you with saying that Stockwell would tie up all the loose ends, yet this whole plot is based around the fact that he left two ends untied, namely you and the documents of original orders.
"We charge you with being sent to take the original orders, rather than take microfilm pictures of them. We charge you with having your brother know Murdock. We charge you with having said brother paint 'Da Nang 1970' on Murdock's jacket, while your brother was killed in 1969. We charge you with there being all together too many coincidences in this story, amongst others, BA conveniently leaving his van open, out of sight and with a rifle across the back seat. We charge you with having BA out of character like that. Face was uncharacteristically trusting of Stockwell, and Hannibal wasn't his proactive self either.
"Lastly, we charge you with shoplifting." Allison closed her notepad. "In short, we charge you with being a Mary Sue."
"Additionally, we charge you with the suggestion that despite your many years of doing dirty work for Stockwell, and, only a few months ago, mutilating a woman so her corpse could not be identified and others would think it was you, that despite this, you could still be capable of forming loving and committed relationships. Unless you have two separate personalities that you can turn off and on at will, that is not very likely. Dirty work like that leaves a mark. Particularly on someone that fell apart after the death of a loved one. Other than that, compliments on doing your research. But it isn't enough of a redeeming factor."
"You have been charged. Your punishment for these crimes will be death. Tasmin will shoot you now."
The Sue made a swift movement to grab her own gun, but Tasmin was quicker. The Sue died with a very surprised look on her face.
On the other side of the glass wall the murmur of conversation stopped.
"It can't have been because people heard your gun." Allison looked at her partner.
"The story is resetting itself. The Team didn't rent these offices; they didn't go into business for themselves. Etcetera." Tasmin returned her gun to her bag and pulled out the remote activator. "Let's go back to the office."
"Good, there I can get a proper meal."
Tasmin gave her partner an odd look.
"By proper, I mean it's warm."
Tasmin nodded and followed her partner through the portal.