Sky Kings!



In 1872, a crack commando unit was sent to prison for a crime they didn't commit...

It shouldn't have been hard to protect Professor Montgomery Jones. Scarcely an inch above five feet tall, he was a scrawny, unassuming little man, with a shock of white hair, and a pair of thick, round spectacles that rendered his eyes as little more than a blue-grey blur. It seemed impossible that anybody should wish to harm him, much less that he could ever find himself in danger; and yet that was precisely what had happened. Since coming up with a revolutionary new design for a solar-powered airship, Professor Jones, it seemed, was on everybody's hit list.

"Incoming!" Hurtling over the top of the makeshift parapet, Captain Murdock crashed to a halt a hairsbreadth from Hannibal's left shoe. Goggles awry, and white scarf still flapping, the pilot grinned up at his commanding officer from where he lay flat on his back.

"Bombs are all set, chief." He saluted, still lying on his back, then struggled into a sitting position. "BA should be right behind me."

"I rather think that's him coming now," said Hannibal, in his usual calm way, and puffed quietly on his cigar as a second member of the A-Team came flying over the sandbags. Sergeant Baracus, his waistcoat liberally splashed with oil stains, hit the ground rather harder than Murdock, and sat up rather more slowly.

"It's crazy out there, Hannibal!" he protested, as he attempted to right the now somewhat tangled collection of jewellery that hung around his neck. "We got ten men with automatic weaponry coming at our right flank, and I counted six robots on the left. They're big ones, colonel. Got to be close on two hundred feet tall, and they got portable power units, and what looks like gun mounts on their arms." His voice was angry, as it so often was, but there was no mistaking the gleam of avarice in his eyes. BA had the heart of a devoted mechanic, and to him any machine was manna from heaven - even a giant robot hellbent on his destruction.

"Giant robots. My joy is beyond compare." Lit up by a gigantic explosion, Lieutenant Templeton Peck was the last of the group to come over the top of the barricade, somehow managing it with typically regal style. His cravat had come a little loose, but his waistcoat was still neatly buttoned, and barely a hair on his head was out of place. He smiled as he joined his team mates, wiping a smudge of smoke from one cheek with a white-gloved hand. "Last of the bombs are set, colonel. I think we're good to go."

"When you say 'go'," piped up Professor Jones, blinking out at them all from behind an old oil drum, "what exactly do you mean?"

"We can't stay here, professor." Hannibal blew a smoke ring, which drifted up into an increasingly red-tinged sky. Somebody out there had been throwing bombs their way for much of the evening; the crude, spherical type, with sparkling, spluttering fuses. Crude or not, they did their job, and the terrain had become increasingly treacherous. Sooner or later, as the enemy neared, those bombs were going to start exploding on the unfriendly side of the parapet. He would far rather not be present when that happened.

"But - but--" spluttered the professor, and pointed with a very shaky hand. The robots were visible now, stomping steadily closer, their towering heads showing up on the skyline. They were still some way off, but they would arrive soon. With their vast legs, they were incapable of travelling slowly.

"I see them, professor." Hannibal puffed one last time on his cigar, then tossed it onto the grass, grinding it out with his heel. "We're not exactly unprotected ourselves, you know."

"I have no wish to appear rude, Colonel Smith, or in any way ungrateful." Another bomb exploded, and the little scientist vanished for several moments back behind his oil drum. "But with the best will in the world, sir, you are four men, and they are countless. And they have robots, sir."

"You let me worry about the robots, professor." Hannibal looked around at his men. "Everybody ready?"

"The Dread Captain Murdock is always ready!" announced Murdock, with a flourishing bow. BA's right hand shot out, and closed itself sharply around his neck. Instantly turned quite pink, Murdock coughed weakly. "Ah ha, me hearties?" he squeaked, in rather a querulous manner.

"BA, leave him alone." Attempting to separate the two men, although his strength was in no way up to the task, Face rolled his eyes and had to give up. "Look, if you kill him, we're down one man. That's not good in the current situation."

"He's got a point, BA," said Hannibal. Murdock merely made a loud choking noise.

"I'll let him go," said BA, and shot the pilot a ferocious glare. "So long as there's no more of that damn fool 'Dread Captain Murdock' nonsense. I been listening to it all day."

"Promise," coughed Murdock, and held up one hand in a little salute. BA released him.

"It's all right, professor," Hannibal assured their still cowering client. "They've never killed each other yet. Now, can you run?"

"If it gets me out of our current predicament, colonel, I assure you that I could run any distance." The little professor stood up, barely taller than the oil drum even when he was standing to the fullest of his height. "But--"

"In ten," interrupted Hannibal, and hauled out a huge pocket watch, flipping it open to double check the time. "Nine."

"Be honest, Murdock," said Face, as the pilot adjusted his white scarf, "did you just have your fingers crossed when you promised BA?"

"Eight," announced Hannibal, and Murdock flashed his old friend a bright smile.

"Would I?" The sheer innocence in his voice was impressive, especially coming from a man who had just held up a very incriminating set of crossed fingers. "I'm not the dread captain for nothing, you know."

"Five," continued Hannibal, and snapped his watch shut, moving the countdown along without its assistance. "Places everybody. BA, you're with the professor."

"Right, colonel." Another explosion rocked the ground, and one of the sandbags exploded, showering them all with its contents. "Say, Hannibal--"

"Two!" shouted his commanding officer, in what might well have been an attempt to drown him out, as well as his approaching question. "One!"

The cry of "Go!" came just as another, bigger explosion vaporised several of the sandbags at once. Tiny fragments of glass rained down out of a dust-filled sky, and BA, spurred on by the sudden urgency, scooped up the professor and ran. The others were around him, Hannibal grinning madly, Murdock's scarf fluttering in two long trails behind his throat. Face was providing cover, although the only visible targets were the robots, marching impassively towards them. Face's huge machine gun caused a veritable firestorm of sparks to ricochet off the giant metal monsters, but it did not make them so much as pause.

"Those robots are almost within their firing range, Hannibal!" roared BA over the gunfire, but Hannibal did little more than nod. "We need a getaway vehicle, and we need it fast!"

"Everything's under control, BA." Somehow Murdock was running backwards, his long legs carrying him neatly over the rough terrain with almost as much grace as though he were running the right way; and BA saw a very familiar gleam in the wide brown eyes. Indignation bristled its way through him.

"Hannibal, I am not getting on an airship!"

"BA, we're trapped." Hannibal slowed slightly, turning to speak to him even as a blast from one of the robots' guns incinerated a patch of ground nearby. "We have one gun, a couple of pocket-watches, and a slightly crooked sword-stick to our names. How precisely do you plan to avoid a messy death?"

"I don't care," retorted his mechanic, his glare now practically incendiary. "But I am not getting on no damned airship!"

"You know, I could start taking that sort of talk as an insult, BA." Clearly not insulted in the slightest, Murdock flounced ahead, scarf billowing with peculiar jollity given the circumstances. A few moments later they were stumbling through low-lying bushes, and looking down on a sight guaranteed to fill BA with dread.

It stood in an old quarry, tethered by a dozen ropes - a giant, white balloon that seemed to glow with inner life. The cabin beneath it was invisible, hidden by its great girth, but BA knew that it was there. A tiny, wood and metal enclosure, that to him was a ridiculously unsafe vehicle in which to travel. What sort of madman thought it a good idea to travel in a tiny box beneath a giant balloon? Especially when there were giant robots on the way, with weapons that could incinerate an airship in an instant.

"Hannibal--" he began, but he got no further. Face's gun connected with the base of his skull, and as Hannibal and Murdock twitched away the terrified professor, BA collapsed in a heap. Face stared down at him, and sighed.

"Why can he never kick up a fuss when we're right next to the airship?" he complained. Hannibal smiled.

"He does it on purpose. Captain?"

"Sir!" Murdock saluted with furious energy.

"Those bombs that you boys set should be going off any minute now. When they blow, we need to get in the air, understood?"

"I'm on it." With another salute, Murdock disappeared, pulling his goggles over his eyes as he went. Another explosion rocked the ground, but it didn't seem to bother him.

"You're going to need to move under your own steam now, professor." Hannibal was bending down to help Face with BA. "Follow Murdock. Get in the airship, and keep your head down. Understood?"

"I... That is... I..." Another explosion made the little scientist's eyes all but pop out, and he nodded furiously and disappeared, a shower of dust showing where he had hurried after the pilot. A little more slowly, hampered by the big engineer in their arms, Hannibal and Face took up the rear. It was impossible to fire whilst carrying BA, and the gunfire had done precious little good anyway. Even so, Face kept glancing behind them, searching out targets.

"Forget it, Face," said Hannibal. "We've got a lot more to worry about now than people throwing bombs at us. Once our own bombs go off, we'll have a very small window. We have to be in that airship, and up in the air, before those robots have time to recover. What sort of weaponry did you get us?"

"Weaponry, he says." Face, not the biggest of men, was struggling under BA's weight. He still found the breath to mutter and grumble, however, shooting his commanding officer an exasperated look. "Hannibal, do you have any idea how hard it is to find weapons in a place like this? We're thirty miles from nowhere. Thirty miles. The only place to get any kind of weaponry at all was the enemy encampment."

"Exactly," said Hannibal with a smile, all patience. "And?"

"And we've got a box of dynamite." Face looked like a wounded artist, his pride showing even as he stumbled and slipped. "A couple of static electricity guns, which might mess up the robots' power packs if we're lucky, and a flame-thrower." He frowned, looking towards the balloon. "Might have to be careful how we use that."

"Amen to that," said Hannibal, adjusting his grip on the unconscious sergeant. "If we blow ourselves up in mid-air, BA will kill us."

"Colonel, I--" But whatever smart remark Face had been about to make in reply, it was defeated by a sudden, gigantic explosion. The little bombs that Face, Murdock and BA had planted were some distance away, but even so the ground trembled. The bombs had been set to explode all at once, in an almighty wave of concussion that would have done for any human pursuit. The A-Team's most deadly pursuers were not human, however, and Hannibal could not help but doubt the efficacy of any small bombs against giant men of metal. He didn't say anything though. He merely struggled onwards, until he and Face were all but collapsing at the door of the airship's little cabin.

"All secured back there?" roared Murdock, and as they manhandled BA aboard, Hannibal shouted back an affirmative. Face dragged the door shut, snapping it closed with a loud click, before hauling BA over to the nearest seat. They strapped him in, and Hannibal reached for a fresh cigar.

"You're not thinking of lighting that thing, are you colonel?" asked Face, and Hannibal grinned at him, clapping him on the back.

"Relax, kid. These ships are a lot tougher than they look. It takes a hell of a lot to bring down one of these babies, and my cigar isn't going to make much difference to it. Besides, you're about to unleash a flame-thrower, and I need a spark for that dynamite." His grin widened. "Trust me, a cigar is the least of your worries."

"You don't know what a joy it is to hear that." Straightening his waistcoat and fixing his cravat, Face gave his pearl-tipped cravat pin a quick polish. He could feel the airship rising, as Murdock flicked the row of switches that threw off the tethering ropes. "You know, sometimes I envy BA."

"You really want to miss all the fun?" asked Hannibal, with a devilish grin. Face smiled as well, unable to resist his CO's infectious humour.

"I must be as crazy as Murdock," he grumbled, and headed off to break out the armaments. From a seat nearby, Professor Jones piped up a wobbly question.

"Should I... should I help, Colonel Smith? I could probably... hold something?"

"You just stay where you are, professor." Lighting his cigar, Hannibal drew in a long breath, making the smouldering end glow a satisfying red. "Keep down, and if we take a hit..."

"Pray?" asked the professor, and Hannibal grinned.

"Something like that."

"Well don't worry. I'm rather better with test tubes than I am with religious matters, but right now I think I could probably pray quite fluently." The professor's blurry eyes blinked behind his spectacles. "Just in case I don't get the chance again, Colonel Smith... thank you."

"All part of the service, professor." And with a cheerful grin, and an armful of dynamite, Hannibal vanished away down the corridor.


"And as the giant robots march onward in their relentless pursuit of our heroes, the Dread Captain Murdock knows that only truly daring aerobatics can save the day now!" Spinning the wheel of the airship hard to starboard, Murdock settled his favourite leather flying helmet onto his head, and turned to offer Face a cheerful smile. "Greetings, Oh Facial One."

"Murdock, is there some reason why we're flying towards the robots?" As he stepped onto the flight deck, Face was greeted by the somewhat disconcerting sight of a large picture window filled with a steady array of marching metal. Murdock frowned, as though the answer were obvious.

"Face, how are you going to fight them if we're flying away from them?"

"Running's good, Murdock. I like running."

"Yeah, but how often do ordinary people get the chance to go hand-to-hand with an army of giant robots? Huh?" Murdock gave the wheel a jubilant spin, and the deck beneath them tilted alarmingly. "It's our duty, Faceman! Our duty as Victorian adventurers. Our duty as heroes of the unprotected millions. Our--"

"I get it, Murdock." Face made his way to the door, wobbling slightly as an explosion in the sky set the whole ship shaking. "And I definitely envy BA."

"We are flying way up high!" bellowed Murdock, as a huge metal head turned to look at them, blank, black eyes staring straight into the cabin. "Far far up in the bright blue sky!"

"It's night, Murdock," pointed out Face, struggling to open the door. Murdock frowned.

"Flying up in the star-spangled black!" he carolled instead, a moment later, "'Tis the fabled Faceman, and the Dread Captain Murdack!"

"I've heard worse, I guess." Finally getting the door open, and causing a ferocious draught to billow into the cabin, Face wrestled with his flame thrower. "Okay, get us in a little closer. And Murdock?"


"Don't get us shot down."

"I'm on it, Faceman." His voice momentarily quite sane, Murdock flashed his old friend a reassuring smile, whilst wrenching hard on the wheel to counteract the effects of the wind. Nearby, however, the robot that had been looking at them was raising its right arm. The built-in gun was terrifyingly large up so close, and Face paled noticeably.

"Next time, remind me not to look at the damned things," he muttered, as he struggled to spark the flame-thrower into life. It was resisting him, its little engine coughing nothing but smoke.

"Now would be a good time, Face!" shouted Murdock, sending them into a steep climb that threatened to kill the engine. A huge metal hand reached out for them, and missed catching hold of the cabin by mere inches.

"Colonel Smith!" With a howl of surprise, the hapless Professor Jones was flung from his seat by the sudden climb, rolling helplessly downhill in a tangle of arms, legs and lab coat. Hannibal, who had just opened a window, was fighting problems of his own, the window having abruptly become a trapdoor directly beneath his feet.

"Murdock!" he roared, somewhat uselessly since he was far out of earshot, and made a grab for the tumbling professor. They both collided together with the hull, which was now the deck, and steadied each other as best they could.

"Hey there, professor," said Hannibal a moment later, when they had both got their breath back. "You might want to stay out of the way."

"I had every intention of doing so, colonel." Struggling to right himself, the little scientist scrambled away, doing his best to avoid the dynamite. "Is... is that safe?"

"Highly doubtful," said Hannibal, with no noticeable sense of concern. "You let the robots worry about the explosives. Just don't go falling out of any windows.

"I shall give it my full attention." Looking paler than ever, the professor curled up in a nearby corner, blinking owlishly at the sporadic glimpses of metal limbs that were flashing by outside the window. Hannibal lit a stick of dynamite on his cigar, and blew a thoughtful smoke ring.

"You know, there's probably a good ten percent chance that I'll blow us up with this thing," he said, sounding almost more intrigued than worried by the prospect. Jones swallowed hard.

"I shall take the ninety percent chance that you will not, over the very great chance that one of those creatures will destroy us instead," he said a moment later. Hannibal arched an eyebrow, and the professor shrugged.

"A warrior I may not be, but a mathematician I am. And you might want to get rid of that dynamite now, colonel."

"I think I might." Teeth gritted around his cigar, Hannibal leaned out of the window, and hurled the stick with all of his strength. He had timed it well, the fuse proving just long enough to allow the stick to reach the nearest robot, before exploding in a flash of black and orange. The robot wobbled, but it didn't fall.

"Nice throw, Hannibal!" screeched Murdock, as the force of the explosion caused the wheel to tremble in his hands. Face winced.

"Just as long as he remembers that it's them he's supposed to blow up, and not us."

"Hannibal knows what he's doing with a stick of dynamite." Whirling the wheel with gay abandon, Murdock sent them racing headlong towards another target, giving the colonel a perfect opportunity for a second shot. He took it, and another stick of dynamite exploded shortly afterwards, its hastily adjusted fuse causing it to blow the hand off a robot that had been preparing to fire. Murdock whooped.

"One-nil to the heroes of the sky!" he cheered, and alongside him, Face at last got the flame-thrower to ignite. A stream of fire poured from the cabin door, and, horribly close, the chest unit of the nearest robot caught fire as well. The giant creature beat at it with one arm, a decidedly insufficient fire-extinguisher that wholly failed to help.

"Two-nil!" announced Murdock to the heavens, as the flames raced up around the robot's neck, and its onboard power pack exploded. They felt the concussion aboard the airship, but the vessel held firm, and Murdock spun the wheel again. "We fly, we fly through the fiery skies!" he howled, as he sent them into a stomach-wrenching dive, "Our airship is white, as we're the good guys!"

"All airships are white, Murdock." Having only just avoided setting himself on fire thanks to the dive, Face righted himself somewhat shakily. "And we've got incoming, by the way. Biplane, three clicks to port."

"I see it." Murdock, who prided himself on being able to identify every vessel capable of taking to the skies, was frowning at the distant speck. "It's red. Can't be a bad guy, then. Bad guys always fly black."

"Except for the ones who don't." Face braced himself in the doorway again. "Keep an eye on it. I'm a little busy right now."

"Will do." Murdock spun the wheel again, as another robot raised its gun arm - when, with a sudden roar of flame at its tail, the tiny red speck up ahead came barrelling towards them, guns at its nose spitting furiously. A little, leather-helmeted head was visible behind the whirling propeller, long, brown hair flapping wildly in a corona around it.

"With an engine like that, it can only be..." Murdock's eyes were wide and round behind his goggles, and his grin was almost impossibly wide. "That heroine of the skies, the daring Amy!"

"Murdock, do you have to keep singing in those daft couplets?" Face was aiming the flame-thrower again, but glanced back suddenly when the latest song sank in. "Did you say Amy?"

"Large as life, and spitting hot lead, Faceman." Murdock gestured up ahead, to where the souped-up little biplane was practically dancing in the air. "At that close range, those bullets might actually have an effect, too." He waved, and a second later the pilot of the biplane waved back. "Come on now, Face. Can't let the lady have all the fun."

"The lady probably enjoys it a lot more than I do." Nonetheless, Face leaned back out of the door, aiming his flame-thrower with as much accuracy as it was possible to aim a ferocious piece of machinery designed to spit streams of fire. The arrival of Amy seemed to have made Murdock even more jubilant, and the huge airship was now bouncing up and down in the sky with more verve than was surely aerodynamically possible. If Face was having trouble keeping his balance, Hannibal was having even more trouble at the stern; but, being Hannibal, he was not bothered in the slightest. Hurling dynamite out of the window with an energy that would have eluded most men, his grin did not let up even for an instant.

"Those robots are getting awfully close," said the professor at one point, and Hannibal nodded.

"I see them. I can only move so fast though, professor. So can the airship. Just sit tight."

"That's just about all that I can do." The ship shook violently as a shot from one of the robot arms struck the cabin, and the professor shrank back into his corner. Hannibal wobbled dangerously, and the latest stick of dynamite in his hand slipped away, landing on the deck at his feet.

"Uh oh." He made a dive for it, but the ship was swaying, and the battle that was going on outside seemed determined to send him tumbling in a different direction with every second. His fingers scrabbled for the dynamite just as the ship went into a lurching climb; and suddenly the wide open window was beneath him again. The dynamite, obligingly, fell through it, but Hannibal seemed certain to follow. His hands struggled for purchase on the smooth walls, but there was nothing to hold onto - nothing, until a huge hand closed around his wrist.

"Damn fool," came BA's voice, close above his head. "Don't you have better things to do than go throwing yourself out of windows?"

"Probably." Hannibal righted himself with the sergeant's help, then grinned back at his old friend. "Good to see you."

"I'm gonna need some serious apologies when we get through all of this." BA was holding the static electricity guns that Face had acquired for them, and there was a grim look on his face. "I hate airships. Hannibal, you know I hate airships."

"I do know you hate airships," the colonel assured him, and patted his shoulder consolingly. "Just tell yourself that this is all those robots' fault. And then go get 'em, tiger."

"Them today, you tomorrow." Jaw clenched, eyes bright, BA threw his commanding officer a brief, fond smile. "I gotta need my head examining for even thinking about doing this."

And as the airship flew higher, with its little red fellow alongside, the fusillade of mixed weaponry continued to do its work. Impossible had never been a word in the A-Team's vocabulary, and under the onslaught of fire and dynamite, bolstered by Amy's bullets and BA's bursts of blue lightning, the giant robots inevitably stumbled and fell. Up in the front of the airship, clinging to the wheel of brass and wood, Murdock gave a mighty cheer as the last metal man collapsed to the ground, and he sent the great white ship leaping skyward in his glee.

"Cannons and robots, electricity and steam!" he bellowed, as they headed at last for home. "There is nothing that can defeat the glorious A-Team!"

Hanging onto the doorframe, bedraggled but happy, Face found that he could not disagree.