Radar pretended not to know what Nick was talking about. He just didn't do it very well.
"Look, Sergeant Knight. I'm just a kid from Iowa that's seen some grief lately. An' its prolly cause' o' you two. Its like everyone says--General Steele here ordered Colonel Blake's death."
Sherman Potter looked up again, wondering if General Steele could really look that much like him, to have all of his new friends turn against him so easily.
Nick saw Radar's face shift as he looked at Sherman.
"Radar, what is The Colonel thinking?"
Nick had said this in a non-threatening, almost friendly way. It caught O'Reilly off guard.
"Well, he's thinking about how bad a person General Steele must be, and how he's gonna explain all this to Mildred after he transfers----hey! You were planning to leave, before all this started? Look, once the Captains and The Majors get used to ya, they'll fall in line, same as I did. They'll get ta like ya--same as I did----"
Realization dawned on Radar's face. Potter's face was frozen in stunned wonder. Radar looked at Nick, a bit angry.
"You tricked me. I'm not supposed to ever tell people I can really do that! They're supposed ta think its guessing."
Sherman finally spoke.
"Radar--you really can read minds, can't you, son? You just read mine like it was the dog-eared table of contents in The Reader's Digest."
Radar looked down.
"I'm really sorry, sir. I didn't mean to intrude."
"True telepaths -Mind-Readers- are rare, and the strength of Walter's talent is such that unless someone knew he were capable of listening, to him--they would be speaking as though right to him. Radar--what does your telepathic mind tell you about the man sitting in front of us?"
Radar felt very ashamed of both himself and his camp.
"That he's Sherman T. Potter, a Colonel. That we're a bunch of dopes who got ourselves so upset over what happened to Colonel Blake--we just mighta blown up the thing he built with his own two hands. By that, I mean this Unit. Colonel, it doesn't always work. But if its got the right guy in charge--it can do real miracles. Please accept our apologies--and stay put here."
"Radar--I saw acceptance in all your eyes, not too long ago. But just now--I heard it said out loud for the first time. So if I can--I'm staying."
Now Radar smiled.
"Its funny, ya know? Cause its like I was tellin' Sergeant Knight, here. I felt like--if I let myself get used to you--I'd prolly end up liking you. And If I ended up liking you, I might end up thinking of you the way I did Colonel Blake. And If I went and did that--where was my loyalty? You weren't here all that long when I decided to turn Sophie over--cause I'd made my choice. Then alla sudden, I felt like a kid who'd deserted his father when times got rough."
Potter asked the obvious question.
"How do you feel now, Radar?"
"Like my 'Dad' would want me to be happy. And most of all--he'd want me to keep this unit he built going by helping you the way I helped him. Not doing that-- well, that's worse disloyalty than what Major Burns is doing."
"Now I really regret not meeting the man. I sure wish that Wells character had been right, and someone could build a time machine. How rough did it get for him?"
While Potter asked his question, Pierce and Houlihan waited just outside, and having made the same realization about Potter, nervous as to how to explain themselves. They heard Radar speak.
"Well, sometimes it got plenty rough. If The Captains wasn't fixing to drive him bananas, crackers, and nuts---the Majors was using more ink and carbon paper than I do tryin to take his job away. It got so he'd have to call all The Generals when he got up in the morning--half to be talked to about The Captains's behavior--the other half to explain about The Majors' major reports."
The two were about to enter when Nick spoke, somewhat upset.
"Bad enough that poor Henry is gone--but for a man of his dignity and grace to have to gladly suffer four selfish fools like that proves his worth beyond any shadow of any doubt. And then--they have the nerve to speak ill of him for the chaos they all contributed to without a second thought."
Radar shook his head.
"It wasn't always like that."
Pierce and Houlihan entered.
"No, but it could get that way. I once joked that Henry was like Daffy Duck. What I forgot was---just how much of Daffy's temper came from the tricks that Bugs Bunny would pull. Everyone would laugh with Bugs, and at Daffy. But this isn't a cartoon, is it?"
If Hawkeye looked lost, Margaret looked like she had just found her way back.
"Growing up--I was taught that, so long as the unit wasn't burning down, that you should stand with your CO. Styles vary, but order is as much bottom-up as it is top-down. Maybe the sight of two-thirds of his command staff always undercutting Colonel Blake was as big a contributor to the general chaos as anything we'd write reports on. Colonel Potter--if you'll permit us to continue serving with you--I'd like to get back to the business of this camp."
Potter nodded, but looked at Pierce.
"I'll accept your apologies, on behalf of both Colonel Blake and myself. But Doctor Pierce--I find it hard to believe that a man such as yourself is ever going to buckle down."
"I'll never stop thumbing my nose at this war, Colonel. But, out of respect to both you and Henry--maybe I won't drop my pants---anymore--quite as often. Most times. Except for--"
Potter cut him off.
"Just give me a week's notice, son, so's I can sell tickets."
Pierce turned to Houlihan.
"Major---you wanna buy some tickets?"
"Do you ever change?"
"Would you trust me if I did?"
She looked scared, as though Hawkeye had hit a nerve.
"Of late--there's been a bit too much change--and far too much distrust, Captain. Major Burns doesn't even trust me anymore--and we've been--close, at times."
Rather than a quip, Pierce offered an olive branch, of sorts.
"Frank will be okay. You two can be--close, again."
Potter looked at his hand.
"Nick--could you ditch these cuffs? My wrist hurts like I've been splitting blessed rails."
To the shock of all present, Nick simply tore his cuffs off, and then released Sherman, who nodded at him.
Nick walked to the tent wall.
"Get ready for a surprise."
Hawkeye was still looking at the cuffs.
Nick then ripped a small tear in the tent. A beam of sunlight broke through. Like the candle it was to him, Nick placed his hand in front of it.
When Nick pulled his hand away, Radar moved to patch the rip. Nick's hand was still smoking. Margaret made the connection.
They would be several minutes in calming Margaret down. Later that year, when she was romanced by a man named Duncan, the memory of this moment would keep anyone who knew from revealing that her lover was an Immortal.
Hawkeye went and spoke to Nick. He surprised him with a question.
"What breed are you? No offense meant."
"None taken, Doctor. But the word is Clan, not breed. My master is a man named Lucien Lacroix."
"I thought you looked familiar. I worked three years at Nash Antiques in New York. You and your 'Dad' stopped by one night. Mister Nash got all nervous. I guess Connor was afraid you'd make an hors d'oeuvre out of me."
"Are you an----"
"Me? No! If someone cut off my head, I'd just be embarrassed, poking around for it, while I yelled, 'Hey! Over Here'. It just wouldn't be a pretty sight."
Nick liked the joke. But he also offered warning.
"Pierce--do not turn against him again. He is my only living relative. He deserves your respect. Give him time to earn it."
Warning or request, Hawkeye got the message.
"You have my word. Besides--Radar accepts him. In my book, that's just about as high a compliment as you can be paid."
Radar heard this, as well he might, but he said nothing of it for decades to come. With Margaret calmed, Potter stood up.
"Folks--the sun just went down on us--and its just about to go down on this deuced little coup. Who's for gently but firmly informing 'Commander' Burns of all this?"
Radar sat down, and shook his head.
"None of us, Colonel--we had someone listenin' to us."
With three MP's in tow, and four sidearms between them drawn and at the ready, Frank Burns burst into the tent. One of the MP's--none of whom were the regular assignees--shoved Father Mulcahy in with them.
Frank's face seemed that of a man who in both his agony and his ecstasy. Whatever pain drove him had joined with Pierce's tainted blood and all but erased his latent humanity.