Chapter Nine - Lion And Unicorn, Went Round For Round........
Sherman Potter was in a red rage, the likes of which he had not felt since World War One. As part of a special operation known as Calvalry, but also as Golgotha, he had been Mounted Death to over two thousand German civilians. He had aided in the deaths of thousands more, as the Allied Forces sought bloody revenge for the deliberate targeting of medical facilities by the Central Powers.
Neither side in The Great War knew they were being played by a force of evil older than most civilizations, an Immortal named Kronos, who found pleasure and profit in the wars of mortal men. It was he who delivered the hospitals' exact locations to the Germans, and he who lead the death-charge into their territory, supposedly on the Allies' behalf.
In his search for those ruthless enough to serve him as a latter-day Horseman, he found Sherman T. Potter, seemingly an innocuous farmboy from Missouri. But Potter was the son of a reverted Vampire and a fallen Slayer. His taste for blood was no lesser for having no physical need for it. Though Sherman would rise to become a master at killing and pain, he still served two masters.
At the direction of General BlackJack Pershing, Potter was both Kronos' dog and his leash. Told to keep 'The Boys' under control, Potter also found the evidence needed to prove it was 'Kronoupolis' that had started the whole war-within-a-war. With a secret agreement between both warring parties, World War One resumed the course most people know. Captain Potter was demoted, but two of his comrades were imprisoned upon their return to France. Sergeant Potter had no regrets, as he regarded that demotion as the mark of a job well-done. Kronos was still out there, but his designs had been thwarted once again by the man he had called Death.
Potter returned home, with Nicholas Knight in tow. In Hannibal's environs, he had found the love of a good woman, become a father--and been forced to destroy his beloved mother, Agnes.
Golgotha had never left him. The anger and self-loathing he felt over tasks neccessary but gruesome only multiplied inside his healer's soul. Doctor Potter could never escape the shadow of the violent young man who would have laughed while taking his Hippocratic Oath. Even worse, on occasion, he would encounter young soldiers who so reminded him of himself, the urge to strike some sense into them was hard to fight down.
But that was exactly what he did. The Sherman Potter most saw was the real deal. A good man of gentle humor and tough disposition. A Healer and a Soldier, with no dividing line needed or apparent. He was the man Mildred knew, the man that no one who encountered him--even those 4077th Alumnus like Trapper, who only met him after the war--could walk away from unimpressed. 99% of the time, there was no dichotomy between the man who loved horses and children and the man who drove a jeep straight at the leviathan called Godzilla. For him, it was all part of a fierce devotion to life that was only eclipsed by that possessed by his new Chief Surgeon. But unlike Pierce, Potter had no obsession. A soldier knew better. A soldier was about the mission.
This was that other 1% of the time, though. Before Potter, lying in a heap on the floor of his office, was Bartford Hamilton Steele The Fourth, son of The Flipping General. One day, he would kill a President, and torment an FBI Special Agent with teasing answers about a lost sister. But in March of 1952, he was the recipient of all of Potter's pent-up rage. At first, Steele tried to maintain his facade.
"Potter, you are a broken down old man who has just crossed his last line!"
Pulling his sidearm, Steele found it hard to hide his fear of his father's angry, coherent doppleganger. This became doubly hard when Potter kicked the gun away. No one had seen him cross from in back of his desk except Pierce and Houlihan, who almost swore mentally that he jumped the distance.
"Boy, you secret agent types are always fond of telling everybody how strong you are. Like to act up like your phony swagger actually means something."
Sherman grabbed up the arrogant young man, and held him by his lapels.
"Tell me, kid--How strong do you feel now?"
In his own permanent rage, the young killer pulled out a knife, and stabbed at Sherman Potter. But The Colonel backed away, receiving only a slight wound to his outer left hand. Hawkeye started to shake when he saw Potter wipe the blood away with his own mouth. The older man smiled, and Margaret Houlihan began to wonder how many ways there were for a man to go mad.
"Mister Lewis Carroll said it best. Lion And Unicorn, Went Round For Round..."
In three punches, Potter had Steele through Radar's office and out the front doors. Sherman was roaring, and a scary sight indeed.
"....And Lion Beat Unicorn All Over BLESSED town!"
Watching nearby, Nicholas Knight and Lucien Lacroix watched with interest, but with markedly different feelings.
"Ahh, my former captor has brought out the true Sherman Potter. Watch, Nicholas, as a bug is squashed."
To Sherman, the man he was tossing about like a rag doll was the embodiment of everything that he despised. Worse still, young Steele had laid claim to the cowardly death of a fellow CO, and a man Potter had come to respect without even having known him. But to Nick, it was all a sign that his great-nephew was losing his mind.
"Lacroix, what's happening to him?"
"Nicholas, Nicholas. My son, what do you think is happening to him? It is as I have always told you. We cannot escape what we are."
Sherman was still yelling, albeit a little more softly.
"You come into my camp, brag about how you undermined a good man. You talk puzzle, and hint like a schoolboy hiding a cigarette that just maybe you killed him. You and your sick father are through, here. Blake was a better man than me. He found the strength to tolerate your presence. I never will. No more erasures. No more supply lines cut. No more human guinea pigs. All the secret booswah ends here. It ends now! Radar, give me my sidearm!"
O'Reilly walked out, and looked down at the man who killed the man who was like his own father.
"Ya don't look so tough now, pal. Where's yer big words, and secret agent jive?"
Radar gave Potter the gun.
"Its his, Colonel. Figure there's some justice in that."
Potter looked up.
"Corporal--this isn't about justice."
A worried Hawkeye finally found the courage to speak up.
"Then what is it about, Colonel? Cause I'm drawing a blank here."
"Sir--this is him. This isn't us."
Steele tried to sound like he was still in control, and taunted Margaret.
"See? I knew you loved me, Hot Lips."
Radar kicked the little fool while he was down.
"The Colonel didn't give you no permission to speak, animal!"
"Sherman, is this what you want? Radar corrupted by rage, as you once were?"
Potter turned and looked at his late father's uncle. His face was harsh, and quite unforgiving.
"We are what we are. You heard Lacroix. Now back yourself off, Nick."
A voice like death.
"You will, Nicholas. Sherman has made his choice. That choice to be predator, rather than prey. Added to the fact that this worthless fool has bragged of killing the eminently worthwhile Henry Blake--a man whose shadow he was not fit to crawl across--and destiny fulfills itself in a most delightful and satisfying way."
Destiny did indeed play itself out, as a nervous BJ came back to camp. He looked whipped, and sheepish.
"Colonel, please try to let me explain. I never meant to....."
Potter shook his head.
"To what, Hunnicutt? To desert? To overburden your co-workers? To endanger the lives of the soldiers you weren't here to operate on?"
BJ felt lost, but Nick saw his opening in Sherm's words.
"Sherman--why are you angry at this man?"
"Are you for real, kin-o-mine? This joker let his own problems get in the way of being a doctor. He forgot---"
Lacroix frowned, his moment lost.
"---we forgot what this is supposed to be all about. No conspiracies, or secret families, or hidden agendas. We're Doctors. And Nurses. We help those who need our help, when they need it."
Potter holstered the gun.
"And its time we got back to beeswax."
The healers all applauded. Even Lacroix was forced to concede the irony of his mantra, because Sherman Potter was what he was, and could not betray that. Still, Lacroix knew, this would hardly be Potter's final battle with that hidden part of himself. Some wars really do last forever.
Sherman pointed to Steele.
"As for you--get out and stay out. Simple as that."
"I'm a man who usually gauges the warnings he gets, Colonel. I'll be around."
"No, no, I don't think you will. That warning wasn't a shot over the head. It was first, and final. You don't get another."
Hawkeye bid BJ grab one of Steele's arms, and he grabbed the other.
"Major, if you and Corporal O'Reilly would be good enough to each take a leg, we can call this a nightmare."
"You betcha, Hawkeye."
"Put me down!!"
"Soon, Bartford, soon."
BJ looked over at Pierce.
"So now you trust me?"
"Well, why not? But just be sure if you are a spy, to use a sharp knife. If I get an infection I just break out all over."
"Deal. And thanks."
The four reached the outer boundaries of camp. They then began to rock Steele back and forth. Houlihan yelled out.
His jeep having been driven out of camp, Bartford Hamilton Steele The Fourth said nothing as he recovered from the official 4077th Bum's Rush. Watching him drive off, BJ understood only the basics of what was going on, but that was enough.
"Well, I never did make it home. But, on the other hand, I did get a chance to take out the trash."
Back in camp, two vampires and a thousand separate issues awaited resolution.