Chapter Six - The Madness

MASH 4077TH, MARCH, 1952

Father Mulcahy sat down in his tent.

"I'd like to thank you both for coming here."

In opposite corners physically, but less so mentally, were Hawkeye Pierce and Margaret Houlihan.

"Considering the craziness that's been going on, Father, even an agnostic might be safer in a Priest's tent."

Houlihan reluctantly agreed.

"Something about his recently assumed Command has caused Fra--has caused Major Burns to lose perspective. Even our...working relationship has suffered as a result."

For 'Hot Lips' Houlihan to make even such a halting half-concession about her paramour in front of Pierce, or anyone meant that things were grave indeed.

"Major, no offense--but he's not only lost his perspective, he's lost his marbles. Or haven't you noticed how he's not yelling anymore? Just revoking privileges--not to mention rights? This is an all-new Frank. He actually makes me miss the old one."

"Waitaminute, Pierce! Command is a huge burden. Frank just needs time to get into it, make it his own. He'll get better."

"Better? BETTER? Read this, Major. I won't tell you to weep, because it'll be instinctive---I hope."

Houlihan grabbed the paper.

"Be advised that BJ Hunnicutt, having been AWOL more than thirty days, and having refused lawful entreaties to turn himself in, is to be considered a deserter during wartime and will be.....Shot On Sight? Pierce, is this some kind of...."

Father Mulcahy handed her his copy of the bulletin.

"Oh, my....But Hunnicutt hasn't even been gone much more than twenty-four hours--he didn't neccesarily...Dear Lord, Frank, what's wrong with you?"

The Padre stood up now, a bit enraged.

"What in blazes is wrong with the two of you? You had Colonel Sherman Potter arrested because of his resemblance to that insane general? I wish you had consulted me---I have my sources. Potter is NOT General Steele. He never was. But now an unstable man is in charge."

Pierce nodded.

"Extremely unstable."

Houlihan shook her head.

"Please define unstable, Mister."

With three MP's behnd him, a very dark version of Frank Burns suddenly burst in.

"This is, I hope, a lawful assembly? I've had to discipline nine groups of my people today for speaking against Commander Burns."

Their hearts thumping at this turning of the odd man out, only Pierce found the nerve to speak.

"Oh, its lawful, Commander. The Major, The Father and I were talking about getting the men to pray more."

Burns was smarter, now. But his vanity had also magnified to ridiculous levels.

"Good. I knew I'd break you, Pierce. Especially after I got you back for that whole vampire incident."

Mulcahy raised a hand.

"Yes, Lieutanant?"

Ignoring how disturbing it was to be addressed by rank instead of title, Francis asked his question.

"Commander, what 'vampire' incident do you refer to?"

Burns smiled, but didn't laugh.

"Well, Lieutanant...oh, lets just call you Reverend...Pierce and McIntyre needed blood for a Commie patient--my blood. So they tapped me during the night. Just after Potter--or Steele--arrived, I returned the favor. Had to prime it a bit--Pierce's blood flows slowly. Even spilled some in my mouth--but then, a good Commander should be somewhat bloodthirsty. Carry On--so long as this asembly remains lawful. Major, Captain, Reverend."

When they had fully left, Houlihan shook.

"Pierce--if he's had a sample of your blood---there's no telling what he might do."

Father--not Reverend--Mulcahy spoke in confusion.

"What about Captain Pierce's blood?"

Hawkeye shook his head.

"Nothing good, Father. In fact, everything bad."

In Potter's tent, Radar brought Sherman the food he needed and that Nicholas could not use at all. He stared at his erstwhile CO.

"Something wrong, Radar?"

The boy sniffed.

"You Creep. You Killed Colonel Blake. I Believed In You!"

Nick grabbed Radar's hand.

"Then, Radar, I suggest you believe in him now. Because you alone know for certain that he is not this 'General Steele."

Potter wondered how Radar could discern such a thing. Radar wondered how Nick knew.

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