Coming Home I:   
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot 
by Maureen S. O'Brien (mobrien@dnaco.net) 
 
[Of course Airwolf doesn't belong to me!  It belongs to 
String. Or the Firm. Okay, Bellisario and/or Universal. But 
everything that doesn't belong to them belongs to me. 
 
Spoilers for the episode "Horn of Plenty". Takes place after 
the 3rd season; the 4th never happened.] 
------------------------------------------------------------ 
Swing low, sweet chariot, 
Comin' for to carry me home....
--- Traditional African-American spiritual from the days of 
slavery. 
------------------------------------------------------------
"Tobit said, ...Though alive, I am among the dead. I can
hear a man's voice, but I cannot see him.' Raphael
answered, 'Take courage! God has healing in store for
you, so take courage!'"
--- Tobit 5:10
 
The cell wall had as many days tallied on it as the prisoner 
had scars.  But the important number was kept inside his 
head.  18 years.  He had been moved 11 times from prison to 
prison.  The war was over, he had heard.  Most of his fellow 
POWs had been sent home years ago.  But some had not.  The 
ones who knew too much, or had been hurt too much, or had 
somehow been forgotten.  He had the roll call in his head -- 
they all did.  But it got shorter every year. 
 
But somehow, he knew his brother had not forgotten. 
Sometimes he dreamed that String was talking to him,telling 
him he was coming. Telling him to hold on. He held on. They 
all did. They shared their memories, thoughts and dreams in 
the slow network of tap-conversations that passed from cell 
to cell.  But the roll call got shorter every year, and 
wrinkles grew deeper, and everyone wondered if anyone 
outside still cared.  They prayed often, but there no longer 
seemed much hope in praying for freedom.  Freedom was when  
the list got shorter. 
 
Three taps on the wall meant "Listen up!"  He waited eagerly 
for a message to begin.  Nothing.  But then he heard it: the 
chatter of some kind of machine gun, the closer sound of the 
guards' weapons.  A whoosh like a rocket launcher.  And 
above it all, a eerie howl oscillated through the air. He 
didn't have a window to look out.  From the sound of the 
fight, that might be lucky.  He crouched down behind the 
door. If the guards decided to kill the prisoners, he wanted 
a chance to overpower them and escape. 
 
The guns went silent.  The howling continued.  Damn, it 
reminded him of something.  But what?  The closest he could 
get was a jet engine, but that was ridiculous.  The guns 
chattered briefly again; but the guards' guns stopped first.  
Then the guns began again. 
 
The door shot open.  A low hiss.  "Come on!"  In English.  A 
Texan! Some short guy in black peered cautiously around the 
doorway, an Uzi in his hands. He saw String behind the door.  
"If you can walk, c'mon!  If not, tell me and I'll help."  
 
"I can walk."  He grinned. "I can walk all the way home, if 
you want!"
 
"That's what I like to hear!"  His voice went up an octave 
before he realized, made a shushing motion, and slipped out 
the door to the next cell. St. John raised an eyebrow as he 
followed.  A teenager?  Awfully short guy, too.  And the way 
this guy walked down the corridor, he wasn't a guy at all!  
A woman Green Beret?  He smiled slowly as he joined her out 
in the hall. He'd let the other guys figure it out by 
themselves. He didn't want their rescuer mobbed. 
 
The chatter of guns was growing closer now.  The woman 
hurried them from cell to cell as the line of freed 
prisoners following her grew.  Those who  could not walk 
fast enough leaned on others who were stronger.  St. John 
tapped his fingers nervously against his leg.  They were 
going too slow.  Someone would catch them.   
 
Someone behind him cleared his throat. "You know, you can 
use your voice for that." 
 
St. John was bewildered for a minute.  Then he looked down 
at his fingers and laughed.  It sounded a bit rusty, but it 
was a laugh. 
 
They came to the end of the corridor and the woman hushed 
them.  "With any luck, the guards are all fighting over on 
the other side of the building." The guns cut in again.  
"When you get outside, head toward the patch of jungle up 
ahead.  Your transport's hidden out there.  If the guards 
catch on, I'll cover you; but let's make sure they don't 
catch on."  She looked at them, making sure they understood. 
They did.  Then she slid out the door and found cover, and 
they followed, one by one. 
   
St. John waited in line.  He'd never met a woman like her 
before.  It should have seemed strange to take orders from a 
woman, to be protected by her.  But she didn't act like it 
was anything special.  The world sure must have changed 
while they'd been in here....  
 
He was coming to the head of the line now.  He could feel 
the adrenaline flow.  Just a few short yards and he'd be 
halfway home.  He peered from behind the door as the man in 
front of him scurried across the open ground and was 
swallowed up by the jungle.  Now it was his turn.  He tried 
to run as quietly as he could, but he couldn't help hearing 
the noises he made. Despite all the exercises he'd done in 
his cell, it hurt to run.  The bumps in the muddy ground 
made him stumble.  But he kept going until he crossed  
the treeline.  He panted and walked a little further into 
the jungle.  Then he saw it. 
 
A line of parked trucks.  In front of them stood another 
woman, and a man with a cane and an eyepatch; both also wore 
black.  As they motioned him over, he couldn't help 
chuckling.  Ooh, action attire. Must be the Agency or the 
Firm or such.   
 
He trotted toward them, then did a doubletake.  That woman 
was black.  How'd she get hired as a spy? How was she senior 
enough to get put on an dangerous mission?  He mentally 
shook his head. The same way a woman just saved your butt, 
stupid!  The times, they have been a-changin'. 
 
"I'm Marella.  This is Archangel. And you are?"  
 
Any other day, St. John would have thought codenames were 
stupid and pretentious. Today they seemed appropriate. 
"Lieutenant St. John Hawke, USAF. Need my serial number, 
miss angel?"   
 
Marella raised her eyebrows and tapped on a boxy device on 
the hood of a truck.  "Not at all.  We know all about you, 
Lieutenant." 
 
"Because I was doing a spook mission when I got captured?" 
 
"Because your brother's been on my back about you for 
years," Archangel said.  "Unofficially, you may have heard 
him swooping around up there." 
 
"String's here?"   
 
Archangel took St. John's arm and steadied him. "Yes, and 
you'll see him soon. Right now, though, you should get in 
the back of that truck." 
 
St. John got in the back of a truck.  They were painted with 
Laotian Army markings, and the drivers wore Laotian 
uniforms. 
 
"Are they just gonna drive us outa here?" one of the POWs 
asked. "I mean, won't somebody suspect?" 
 
The last person got in, and the back of the truck banged 
shut behind him. "Not if they don't see us," somebody 
answered.  
 
St. John wasn't sure he liked it.  He'd been transferred 
between prisons in trucks just like these.  Maybe that was 
the backup story, if anyone caught them.  
 
The driver opened up a little window from the cab and 
counted noses. "We're leaving," he told them. He spoke with 
a sort of California-Laos accent. "If the border guards 
realize you aren't prisoners, use what's in the crate.  Keep 
them hidden till then." 
 
St. John was sitting next to the crate. The top was loose. 
He lifted it off and looked inside. 
 
"M-16's," he reported with wonder.  "Loaded.  One for 
everybody. 
 
"We really are free." 
------------------------------------------------------------ 
It had all started on a clear morning at the cabin on Eagle 
Lake. Stringfellow Hawke was at his kitchen table, cleaning 
fish. Tet pretended to relax at his feet, secretly 
determined that no fish guts would fall without his 
immediate attention to them. String shook his head and 
whispered to Tet, trying not to wake the whole house. "Raw 
fish is no good for you, old hound. Wait till it's cooked 
and cleaned, like the rest of us." 
 
"Rut I ron't rant to rait, Ring!" 
 
String looked up, startled. Cait grinned at him and dropped 
her doggy voice. "Mornin', Hawke. Just sayin' what Tet's 
thinkin'." 
 
"Well, Tet can _think_ about it as much as he wants," String 
answered in a low voice. "You're pretty wide awake for 
someone who hasn't had coffee yet." 
 
"Sun woke me up. It's gonna be a hot one." She grinned again 
and went looking for a mug. "I swear, if it gets as hot 
again today as it did yesterday, you're gonna see me 
skinnydipping in the lake!" 
 
He watched her walk across the kitchen and stretch to pull a 
mug down from the cabinet. The view was good from here. "I 
don't want you to encourage tourism." 
 
But Cait was facing the stove and didn't see his expression. 
Her mouth twisted. "Yeah. Uh-huh." She poured herself a cup 
of coffee and sat down. Then she smiled, though it was a 
little more subdued. "So what's on the agenda today, o
Master of the Revels?" 
 
"Fish for breakfast. Cold cuts for lunch. Hot dogs and 
hamburgers for supper. Fireworks and music afterward. 
Michael should show up around dinnertime; he's good at that. 
That's about it, Cait." 
 
"Sounds good," she said sincerely. "Happy Fourth of July, 
Hawke." 
 
He smiled at her. She sat back and drank her coffee, and a 
ray of sunlight touched her hair and made it glow like 
flame. He seldom saw her this still. Even now, he could tell 
that she was busy drinking in everything the morning could 
offer. He turned his eyes back to the fish, confident that  
Caitlin O'Shaughnessy was Having Fun. 
 
A few fish later, Le Van walked in. "Morning, Uncle String, 
Cait. Is it breakfast yet?" 
 
"It will be. Put some butter in the skillet and turn on the 
stove." 
 
Cait raised an eyebrow. "Real butter?  Living dangerously, 
Hawke?" 
 
"No! Don't make me remember that makeup woman!"  
 
Le Van looked confused. 
 
Cait stepped in. "Yeah, be glad you didn't meet her, Half 
Pint. She took one look at your Uncle Dom's lunch and nearly 
blew a gasket! 'Too many calories. Too much oil. Too much 
this. Too much that." She laughed out loud, then caught 
herself and lowered her voice. "So Dom informed her that 
_his_ family came from a little town in Italy where no  
one ever had a heart attack and they all lived to be a 
hundred. And that Italian food was the healthiest kind of 
food there was. And that even if he died young, he'd have 
more fun in a day than she'd have in a million years! She 
stalked off, and even the vegetarians on the crew clapped. I 
thought I'd die laughing!" 
 
"I don't see why she got so worried about it," Le Van said 
after a moment. "Food’s food, and any food’s better than 
none." 
 
String closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Cait took her 
mug to the sink and managed to pat Le Van's shoulder as she 
did. "Let's see how the skillet's going. Hm. Butter's 
starting to bubble. Turn it down just a little and I'll get 
the fish!" She washed the mug and her hands and went to get 
the plateful of fish from String.  
 
He shook his head and stood up. "My turn to cook." He walked 
over to the stove. "At least, I'll get it started. I'll need 
you to watch so the fish don't burn, Half Pint." He washed 
the fish one last time and prepared to put them in the pan. 
 
"No problema." Le Van smiled. Uncle String was teaching him 
to cook and do all kinds of things. He already had earned a 
bunch of camping merit badges and stuff, and he was able to 
teach the younger kids in the troop, too. He'd stayed at 
home last summer and this one, because Uncle String  
wanted to get to know him; but next summer he was going to 
camp. And in a few years, he could even go to Philmont! 
 
Dom walked in, rubbing his eyes. "Coffee! I need coffee!" 
Cait gave him a cup of coffee and a look of dubious 
sympathy. Dom rolled his eyes, but he drank the cup with 
gusto. "Ah! Red, you just saved my life! You have my eternal 
gratitude!" 
 
String rolled his eyes in turn. "That and a quarter will get 
you another cup of coffee, Cait." 
 
Cait chuckled and shook her head. "Where in this city?" 
 
"Right here." 
 
Cait got her purse from the closet, dug out a quarter, and 
slapped into String's hand. "There! You now have Dom's 
eternal gratitude and my quarter. Where's the coffee?" 
 
String ceremoniously poured her a second cup, into his most 
impressive mug. He knew she didn't really want it, but it 
would be a shame to waste the shtick. She took it from him 
with an equally ceremonious manner, raised the mug into the 
air, and prepared to say something silly. 
 
But he would never know just what, because he heard 
something just then and stiffened. "Chopper. Sounds like 
Michael. What's he doing here this early?" 
 
"Bringing more bad news, of course," Dom snorted.  
 
Cait sighed. "Well, at least we won't be the only folks 
working on a holiday." 
 
"Whatever he's here about, I think this batch of fish is 
almost done," Le Van interrupted.  
 
They smelled smoke. 
 
"Um, well done." 
 
 
 
Michael Coldsmith-Briggs sauntered toward Hawke's cabin.  
Hawke waited at the door. "Come to meet me?" he called, a 
bit surprised.  
 
Then he saw smoke rising from a skillet in Hawke's hand. 
 
"Or did you start the fireworks a bit early?" 
 
"Neither. Breakfast is gonna be a little crispy today, 
that's all." String waved a final bit of smoke away from the 
skillet and turned back inside. The fish hadn't actually 
caught on fire, but he really didn't want the cabin smelling 
like burnt fish. 
 
Michael followed. Hawke didn't invite him to eat with the 
rest, but someone had put out an extra place setting, and 
there seemed to be plenty of fish coming. Not to mention the 
rest of the food. Michael took a seat and found himself 
relaxing. For a would-be recluse, Hawke was suspiciously 
good at hospitality. 
 
Dom gave Archangel the hairy eyeball. Why wasn't he telling 
them why he came?  Maybe that was a good sign, and it wasn't 
that urgent. But in that case, why didn't he wait for a 
reasonable hour? 
 
Hell, maybe the guy just wanted to mooch a decent meal. He 
sure was putting it away. Dom checked out the others' 
plates. They all had appetites this morning. Le Van was his 
really good eater. Good thing. Kid needed some meat on his 
bones. String was cooking the last of the fish, but he  
kept snatching bites when he came over near the table. And 
Cait had stopped that silly diet she'd put herself on.  
 
Hmph. Eating rabbit food and half-starving wasn't the way to 
get String to notice her. No matter what she did, she was 
too strong to turn herself into one of String's broken-
winged birds, and she was too smart to be one of his  
bimbos. Besides, String didn't keep either type of girl 
around for more than a little while. He was gonna have to 
tell Cait, one more time, that she should just be herself. 
Especially since String had stopped going out with most of  
those girls last year, when Le Van moved in. 
 
Dom looked up. String had finished cooking the fish, but he 
was still standing by the stove. Dom shook his head. "Hey, 
String! Your fish are getting cold." 
 
String stopped staring into space. "Coming."  
 
With satisfaction, Dom watched him sit down and start 
eating. Dom grabbed himself a third slice of toast and 
coated it with mulberry jam. No sense letting good food go 
to waste. 
 
When the meal was over, Archangel still didn't seem in any 
hurry to tell them his news. Dom decided to corner him. 
“It's my turn to do dishes. But since you showed up late, 
Michael, you wash and I'll dry." 
 
Archangel didn't even blink, dang it. He just took off his 
white jacket, rolled up his immaculate white sleeves, and 
started running water. Dom, disappointed, started bringing 
him dishes from the table. Cait (whose turn it really was) 
shrugged and made herself scarce, as did Le Van. String  
walked off somewhere.  
 
"So," Dom asked, "what brings you here? And don't say the 
Fourth. Even you wouldn't bring a briefcase to a barbecue." 
 
"There's no job," Michael assured him. "Just a briefing for 
Hawke. The rest of you will probably want to be present, but 
I'd appreciate it if Le Van was out of earshot." 
 
"Huh." Dom was still suspicious.  
 
"Changing the subject, has there been any progress to report 
in the matter of your other project?" 
 
"What other project?" 
 
"Your little matchmaking scheme." 
 
"It's not a scheme!" Dom said indignantly. "You have 
schemes. I just have...plans." 
 
"Yes," Michael agreed. "Schemes are less obvious. At least, 
obvious to you, me, and Le Van." 
 
Dom took his meaning. "Yeah, you could throw a bomb at those 
two, and they still wouldn't notice. I thought that kinda 
thing only happened in soap operas." 
  
Michael smirked. "Perhaps you should adopt some of their 
strategies. Let's see. Should you get them lost in a 
blizzard, or just housebound in one?" 
 
"You seem to know an awful lot about the soaps. Must have a 
lot of time on your hands," Dom smirked back. "I just 
thought that if I had Cait and String spend more time 
together at work...." 
 
"That's work. Hawke and Cait are hardly going to hit on each 
other there. Away from work would be better." 
 
"They do spend time together away from work! Here they are! 
But do you see anything romantic going on? Noooo." Dom 
sighed. "At least neither of them have dated any psychos or 
corpses-to-be lately. Maybe I should take Le Van up on his 
plan, though." 
 
"What'd he want to do?" 
 
"Start asking String if Cait could be his aunt. I told him 
he was a little too old to do cute." 
 
Archangel chuckled. "True. Well, String's problem is that he 
thinks he's jinxed. But what's Cait's? She seems to know how 
she feels about String.  She certainly read me the riot act 
back when Horn kidnapped String." 
 
"Wish I knew. Most women just go after String. Cait just 
sorta looks at him, when he won't notice, and keeps the rest 
to herself." 
 
"Not then, she didn't. Now there's a plan. Get Hawke 
kidnapped, brainwashed, and half-killed again, and maybe 
you'll be getting somewhere!" 
 
Dom groaned. "If they keep this up much longer, I may take 
you up on that." 
 
 
 
If it'd been up to Michael, he'd've just done the briefing 
when the boy was out playing. But Hawke called Le Van over, 
explained that they'd be discussing something he wasn't 
cleared for, and asked him to go for a walk. And the boy 
went. 
It didn't seem like proper child behavior. When Michael'd 
been young, he would complained about it. Or gone and then 
snuck back. But come to think of it, his parents had never 
just told him they didn't want him to hear something; they'd 
played some elaborate but easy-to-see-through game of 
getting each other aside. Maybe if they'd been as open about 
it as String, he wouldn't have minded leaving, either. 
 
Michael opened his briefcase, drew out a folder, and handed 
it to Hawke. "This is very recent intelligence, and it 
wasn't easy to obtain. But it's been verified." 
 
Hawke started to read it. At one point, he stopped in his 
tracks. Then he flipped back to the beginning, started 
reading more carefully, and read all the way to the end.  
Then there were photos. New photos. He looked at them with 
equal attention.  Cait and Dom watched this whole routine,  
puzzled, while Michael maintained a careful stone face. 
Finally, Hawke closed the folder and set it on his lap with 
infinite care. 
 
"So you're saying you've found St. John." 
 
Cait and Dom held their breaths. 
 
"Well, we've been wrong before. But that's what it looks 
like." Michael paused. "Please don't tell your nephew yet. I 
would hate to disappoint...." 
 
Dom grinned. "So that's what you didn't want Le Van to hear! 
You big ol' softy!" 
 
Michael sighed. "Please. Operational security really should 
have demanded that I not show any of you the information 
until after St. John was home." 
 
"You were going to run an op and not let me in on it?" 
String was not happy. 
 
"The Firm was going to run an op, and not even let _me_ in 
on it. The Committee is, shall we say, more than a bit 
embarrassed by its previous failures at filling its side of 
our bargain. But fortunately, one of my sources clued me in, 
and I had enough time to put together a case for making 
Airwolf part of the plan." 
 
String shook his head. "I want to go inside the prison and 
get my brother out." 
 
"Out of the question. We'll have Firm field agents handling 
the assault. You can best support us from the air." 
 
"I don't want to hear afterward that somebody made a 
mistake." 
 
Cait bit her lip and then spoke up. "I hate to say it, 
Hawke, but you can't go in. You've got Le Van to think of. 
If anything went wrong, he wouldn't have you or his father." 
 
String winced. "Okay. But I need somebody down there I can 
trust to look out for St. John!" 
 
"Then I'll go," said Cait.  
 
String's mouth took on a very stubborn line. "I wasn't 
talking about you." 
 
Michael grimaced. "Don't look at me, Hawke. I had to fight 
very hard to get in charge of getting them safely away. Hm. 
Now that you mention it,  Cait does have experience with 
this kind of mission. She got you and Dom out of Horn's 
fortress two years ago." 
 
"Besides, you're our best pilot," Cait pointed out. "You 
ought to be the one in the air." 
 
Hawke chewed it over. The worst thing was that they were 
making sense. But Cait.... He gave her a look. "These days, 
I'm not best by much." 
 
Cait turned pink with pleasure. "Why, that's the nicest 
thing you've ever said to me!"  
 
Michael sighed. If she was getting that good, he'd have to 
find her a raise. 
 
Dom grinned. It was true. But String had brought it up 
rather conveniently. 
 
Cait caught on, and looked at Hawke with suspicion. 
"Flattery will get you nowhere. I'm still going." 
 
Hawke glared at her. "Fine. Now that you people are done 
planning the mission for me, I'm going to fetch Half Pint." 
He stomped off.  
 
Cait glared after him. "Fine. Be that way!" She stomped off 
in the opposite direction. 
 
Michael laughed. "Well, Hawke said there'd be fireworks...." 
 
Dom just shook his head. "They'll be back. They'll 
apologize, and pretend it never happened. And then they'll 
get back to the usual little looks at each other. Allll 
night." 
 
"Well, you could always kidnap 'em, strip 'em naked and lock 
'em in a room together." 
 
Dom gave him a look. 
 
"Okay, maybe not just now...." 
 
"It's not funny. They're tearin' themselves apart over this, 
and that's not real survival-oriented. But if I sat 'em down 
and talked about it, they'd just deny everything and then go 
do something stupid." He sighed. "Maybe kidnapping's not 
such a bad idea after all." 
------------------------------------------------------------
So there Cait was, dressed in a black field suit just like 
the folks from the Firm. Waiting to get picked up. And 
waiting. And waiting. 
 
Finally, she heard the Lady's banshee keen.  The guards shot 
at the big black helicopter.  The bullets bounced off, and 
they cursed with frustration.  Then Airwolf fired back.  The 
guards cursed again, and retreated as Airwolf settled 
towards the ground, firing sporadically. 
 
"What took you so long?" Cait called into her radio.  "The 
angels flew off five minutes ago!" 
 
"We had company," String answered. "Come on out." 
 
Cait sprinted towards Airwolf.  Halfway there, the guards 
noticed that the helicopter had stopped firing. So of course 
they started firing at her.  She zigzagged a little, 
wondering whether it would help or if she'd just zag into a 
bullet. Then the door was open and Dom was pulling her in as 
Airwolf rose beneath them. 
 
"Mama mia, that was close!"  Dom wiped his brow for effect.  
"You okay, Red?" 
 
Cait came forward, buckled into the copilot's chair, put on 
her helmet, and pointedly counted her limbs. "Two arms, two 
legs, one head -- I guess so!" She paused.  "Not that I need 
a head to work for you, Dom. Right, String?" 
 
Hawke didn't say anything, didn't laugh or even grunt. Cait 
sighed.  He was afraid to ask, so he didn't. Typical Hawke.  
 
"I missed you guys. I missed talking. On the way over here, 
all those Firm people didn't want me to know who they were. 
So all we could talk about was the weather. And baseball. 
Endless, in-depth analyses of baseball. I mean, not that I 
didn't want to learn the entire history of the Boston Red 
Sox and the long-term plans of the Toronto Blue Jays, but 
sheesh!" 
 
She buckled into her seat, wishing she could sit beside him 
or see his face. "I found your brother, Hawke. He was fine," 
she hurried to add. From what she could hear over the radio, 
String still seemed to be holding his breath. She struggled 
to fill the silence. 
 
"He looks a lot like his picture." He looks like hell, she 
thought. But I can't tell Hawke that. "Michael says he got 
on the truck okay. They're on their way across the border 
now." 
 
She heard Hawke let out his breath.  There was a long 
silence again.   
 
"Cait?" 
 
"Yes?" 
 
"Take the controls." 
 
Neither Cait nor Dom said a word. Cait was tired, but she 
took the controls and carefully did not notice Hawke 
switching off his radio. They all knew what he was doing. 
It's hard to fly when your eyes are blurred with tears. 
 
 
 
It was almost too easy.  The border wasn't a problem.  They 
crossed it in a village too small for guards.  The villagers 
didn't want the Army to stop there, so they asked no 
questions.  Then they were in Vietnam and safe. Vietnam? 
Safe? Strange way to think.
The trucks stopped about 5 klicks further on. The spooks in 
black gave them some clothes to change into, now that the 
POWs were no longer in danger of being shot as spies if they 
were caught out of uniform. 
 
"You want us to wear...suits?" 
 
"They're tropical weight," Archangel assured them. "And they 
should fit, even if they're a bit loose. My tailor estimated 
your measurements from your records." 
 
"But why?" 
 
"From here to Ho Chi Minh City, you are all Australian 
businessmen," Marella explained. "Socialist planned 
economies are a great way to starve, so Vietnam's government 
is opening up to capitalism.  You're here looking for 
investment opportunities."  
 
St. John felt his jaw dropping. Marella smiled at him.  
"Yes. Even though we lost the war, we won." She looked at 
Archangel. "Now, if you'll excuse me, sir, I'll go to the 
minivan to change." A couple guys whistled after her.  The 
rest just started to change into their suits as fast as they 
could. But St. John had a question for Archangel. 
 
"What on Earth is a minivan?" 
 
 
 
Cait turned her mind back to the mission.  "How far to the 
Vietnam border, Dom?" 
 
"Twenty miles, Red.  Michael said he'd need a good fifteen 
minutes distraction to get back across and onto the suits' 
itinerary." 
 
"Well, we've given them a good ten already. Okay. We'll head 
over toward that army base and distract." 
 
"Uh, Red...." Dom broke in, "I think the distraction's 
coming to *us*." 
 
Three MiGs.  Just what a girl needed to make her day 
complete. 
 
"Hawke, did you want..." 
 
"All yours, Cait." His breathing was easy now, and he 
sounded too damn cheerful for Cait's taste.  Like he was 
offering to let her lick the beaters after making a cake. 
Well, maybe it was that easy for him. 
 
Not that she couldn't do it, of course.  These were older 
fighters, the best Laos could afford but not the best she'd 
ever faced.  Hawke had spent some of the ammo and missiles, 
but there were plenty left.  The difficulty was that, 
ideally, they were supposed to get out of here without 
wreaking _too_  much havoc.  They weren't declaring war on 
Laos, even if it had been keeping Americans prisoner for 
umpteen years. 
 
Considering the situation, Hawke was not real concerned with 
Laos' feelings. Maybe she wasn't either.  And yet -- it 
didn't seem fair to shoot down a bunch of poor suckers in 
peacetime, especially since the Lady was a much better craft
than those obsolete MiGs.
 
But even as she thought this, Cait was sending her mind to 
the still place  it lived when she was dogfighting.  Her 
eyes on the sky and her instruments, her hands on the stick, 
the feel of her craft, the information that came through her 
ears, and the calculating thoughts that told her how to 
move, how to evade, how to kill. She did not leave that 
place until her enemies no longer were a threat. 
 
She took a breath.  Now she could think about what she'd 
done and how she'd done it.  Objectively, she'd done well. 
She'd flown skillfully and defended her craft.  But there 
had been people in those MiGs.... 
 
Archangel sent them the signal that told them he was safely 
into Vietnam. They flitted over the border of Laos, through 
Vietnam, and back out over the Pacific.  
 
Finally, Cait asked, "How many ejected?" 
 
"Two." Santini didn't add anything.  There wasn't much else 
to say, was there? 
 
Cait didn't say anything in reply. She just flew on, steady 
as a rock. 
 
Yeah, right.  String silently cursed himself.  He should 
have spared her the death.  But how could he?  They were in 
a dangerous business, and Cait was good at it; taking over 
the controls would have been an insult.  But as far as they 
knew, she'd never killed anyone before. 
 
"You're probably calling yourself a murderer right now." 
 
Cait's hands clenched, and String felt the Lady tremble just 
a hair. Good.  He'd broken her out of that shell. 
 
"I know the feeling. I know how it feels to have blood on 
your hands. But they didn't leave you any other choice.  If 
you weren't so good, you and Dom and I would be dead right 
now, and you wouldn't feel anything at all." 
 
Cait put the Lady on autopilot. Then she took off her helmet 
and whirled on String.  "Dammit, don't you think I know 
that?" 
 
"I think you need to be reminded."  
  
Hawke barked out something that sounded like laughter but 
wasn't. "It doesn't get any easier."  
 
Santini spoke up. "Ain't that the truth." 
 
The sky was blue and so was the ocean.  Whitecaps sprung up 
underneath Airwolf's wake, then smoothed themselves back 
into the sea. Cait watched Hawke fly the Lady, hoping her 
mind would settle too. 
 
 
 
It turned out that the spies were from the Firm, and that 
minivans were not some kind of super secret spy machine 
(though they looked futuristic enough to be one).  Instead, 
they were a new way to pack the kids (or in this case, the 
spies and POWs pretending to be Aussies) into the car. There 
were a lot of spies.  No wonder the guards had been so busy 
during their escape. The Firm's California Laotians drove 
the trucks off, planning to abandon them 50 klicks away just 
to muddy the trail.  The M-16s went with them, but would not 
be abandoned. Waste not, want not. 
 
St. John's suit turned out to be a natty dark blue 
pinstripe.  He wasn't sent to a minivan to watch _Crocodile 
Dundee_ on a automotive VCR. Instead, Archangel informed him 
that he was riding in the Rolls. 
 
St. John's eyes widen with delight. "I won't argue! But 
why?" 
 
"Because your brother would kill me if anything happened to 
you.  And with Hawke, that's not just a figure of speech!" 
He sighed. "I know it's a bit paranoid. We're on the 
homestretch now.  But we haven't had even one major 
screw-up yet, and that worries me." Archangel limped over to 
the car. Marella opened the door for him. She was sitting 
inside, sipping a drink and wearing a summer dress.  She 
looked beautiful.  She looked normal.  St. John just looked 
at her. She smiled. Nice to know that one of the Hawkes 
noticed her. 
 
"Hello again, angel. Do you work for him, or do you have 
your own cloud?" Dumb, he thought. Boy, was he out of 
practice. 
 
Marella didn't seem to care, fortunately. "I used to work 
for Michael. I transferred to another department, a few 
years back. But he asked me to be  part of the field team 
for this mission, and I accepted." 
 
"Why?" 
 
"Because I was part of the Airwolf Project from the very 
beginning, and I wanted to see it out to the end."  She 
thumped her leg. "Considering how much it almost took from 
me." 
 
Archangel looked grim. "Indeed. Well, enough war stories.  
String asked me to brief you on the Airwolf Project so 
you'll know what's been going on. Here is an oath of secrecy 
for you to sign before we begin." 
 
"Paperwork." St. John looked at the clipboard, form and pen 
with distaste. "The only form of torture we were spared back 
there." 
 
 
 
Archangel signaled that the convoy was in Saigon, heading 
for the safe house.  There the POW's would get fake ID and 
airline tickets to South Korea. Archangel would reveal their 
true identities to military authorities there, and they 
would come back home in triumph. The prisoners were almost  
free.   
 
Meanwhile, the Airwolf crew would fly up to South Korea and 
refuel on an otherwise deserted airstrip. Then they'd head 
back down the coast to keep an eye on things till Archangel 
signaled that they'd taken off from the airport. 
 
But in the middle of refueling, Dom saw String tense.  
 
"Michael and St. John are in trouble." 
 
Dom didn't bother to ask how he knew. "Cait, we gotta get 
out of here!" 
 
Cait didn't bother to leave things nice and neat. She just 
cut off the fuel and raced for the Lady.  
 
Hawke didn't bother to curse.  His face took on that set 
look that promised trouble. They took off. He turned the 
Lady toward Saigon.  Archangel and Marella had deliberately 
worn rare metals that the Lady could detect. In case 
something went wrong, he didn't mean to lose St. John 
twice.
  
But even as they reached Saigon and headed for the safe 
house, someone called them on the radio. 
 
"Hawke, this is Archangel." Broadcasting in the clear?  
"We've been captured by Horn."  
 
String felt his gut clench. 
 
"So he told you to radio us." No sense using a special 
frequency or the codes, then. 
 
"Yes.  He says to tell you that we're in the old city.  Let 
me give you the directions." Archangel read them off slowly.  
They were insultingly clear. "He says that he won't trade 
for any prisoners unless all of you leave Airwolf and come 
inside. He says this time that means Hawke, Santini, _and_  
O'Shaughnessy." He paused a moment. "Angela Horn sends you 
her regards, Caitlin." 
 
Hawke glanced at Cait.  She was wearing a very unpleasant 
smile. "She remembered!" she fluted. 
 
String's lips twitched. Then it was time to get back to 
business. "Is anyone hurt?  How are they treating everyone?" 
 
"We're fine so far." 
 
"Good. Tell Horn I want to talk to some of the POWs." 
 
"He says he knows perfectly well who you want.  He's going 
to put St. John on." 
 
There was a bit of noise as the microphone was laid down or 
passed to someone else, and a stir of whoever was standing 
around it. 
 
"String?" 
 
In spite of everything, Hawke grinned and couldn't stop 
grinning.  "St. John! Long time no hear!" 
 
Okay, it'd been stupid, String thought. But St. John was 
laughing, and that was good. 
 
"No kidding, little brother."  Horn let them snarf at each 
other a moment. Then St. John sobered.  "Horn says you know 
what he wants. He says if you try anything funny, he'll kill 
me first." 
 
Santini muttered, "Think of a new one, Horn." 
 
"He says to tell you you should appreciate the golden 
oldies, Uncle Dom. Guess everyone's a comedian," St. John 
added derisively. There was a little more noise in the 
background, and then St. John came back on. "Or a  
heckler.... String, he's making us sign off for now. See you 
in a while." 
 
The radio clicked off. 
 
Cait looked at Hawke. His face had been so alive while he 
talked to his brother. Now, just for a moment, she could see 
fear for St. John in his eyes. Then the impassive mask came 
back down. 
 
Dom said what they were all thinking.  "We can't let that 
maniac have the Lady. But we can't let him kill St. John and 
the others. We need a plan." 
 
"We can lock the Lady so he can't get in -- that'll stall 
him for a while. Or leave one of those nasty surprise 
programs Archangel made us. Serve him right." Cait grinned. 
 
"Yeah, and leave a homing beacon or something to trace her 
by. Or better yet, just run around the corner when we've got 
the prisoners and then run back."  
 
"It could work," Cait said seriously. "Sometimes simple 
plans work best."  
 
"They work for you, Red, 'cause you get just as singleminded 
as String!" 
 
"We'll do all of the above," String decided, before the 
nervous byplay could get out of hand. "We can get rid of all 
our little surprises quickly, but Horn can't. And he won't 
expect us to try to get her back right after we leave." 
 
"Then what are we waiting for?" Dom asked. "Let's go get St. 
John!"