Summary: Templeton Peck does some reflecting prior to meeting Hannibal Smith.
The name on my enlistment papers is Templeton Peck. I can't remember a time when I had a different name, but it isn't the one I was given at birth. When I was small, I turned up on the steps of the orphanage. I guess I was John Doe for a time as I couldn't tell anyone my real name. I've been told it was probably a mental block brought on by the shock of my mother abandoning me. I guess that's as reasonable an explanation as any. In any case, at about the same time the experts gave up on prying my real name out of me, I got tired of not having a name and dubbed myself Templeton Peck. The uniqueness and length of the first name amused the orphanage staff enough they filled out the appropriate paperwork.
Every once in awhile I do wonder what my real name was, but more often than not, I wonder who I am. I've been running scams and faking personalities as long as I can remember. I'm not certain who I am underneath it all. I'm even less certain I'd like the answer. Whoever I was, my own parents didn't like me enough to stick around. Some part of that unworthy child remains inside me, and I'm always afraid of what he'll cost me next.
Maybe that's why when I dream of my life, I don't look like me. In my dreams, I'm taller, broader in the shoulder and my hair is dark. I don't make mistakes and everyone thinks I'm wonderful. I gave myself my name, but Templeton is the dark-haired guy. I'm ... Tem. Way I have it figured at least a small part of me must be in Templeton -- it is my life he keeps revising after all -- so I use the nickname. Tem who hopes to one day be Templeton.
Hey, I'm not blind. I know I'm good looking -- oddly enough, far better looking than Templeton. But he has the personality. Me, I spend most of my waking hours trying to make the inside as attractive as the outside. I guess I don't do a good job of it. No one ever adopted me, no one ever really loved me. I thought Leslie might, but she didn't. Somehow I ended up enlisting to ease the pain. The modern version of running off to join the Foreign Legion. I guess.
I'm not as pretty as I was before I signed up. They shaved off most of the fair hair everyone loved to touch, and fashion sense doesn't do a guy much good when everyone wears variations on the same theme. But I still have nice eyes and a good body. Good news, bad news there. I don't have to rely on my personality to get by, but I'm also attracting the wrong sort of attention. While I'm sure I'm not the only guy to end up in Vietnam because of a broken heart, sometimes I think I'm the only one who came here to get over a girl.
Okay, so that's an exaggeration, but I've had to talk myself out of some nasty situations with guys who had to be decedents of King Kong. Funny thing is, if they'd tried to seduce me rather than make me fear for my non-existent virtue, I'd have been happy to do the deed with some of them. Everyone thinks I'm a ladies' man. I am. But there have been more than a handful of guys in my past, too. I never really tried to hide it, but people see me flirt with girls and make assumptions. People, not just female people, turn me on. Or maybe I'm so hungry for love I'm not willing to be picky about things like gender. The rationale changes depending on my mood, but the long and short of it is I don't have any sort of virginity left to lose.
Which brings me back to Vietnam and the wrong sort of attention. I'm a sensualist. A hedonist. Whatever. I love pleasure and finery. None of which falls into the category of being shoved over some sticky, beer-stained bar and fucked raw by some jerk who thinks he has rights to my body because I'm smaller than him. Hell, I even outranked some of the apes I've had to evade.
One of the few real things about me is the lieutenant insignia on my collar. The bits of metal came about through a mixture of some college credits B I was smart enough to qualify to take a few college classes while in high school B a smooth manner and the usual half a dozen cons. It all got me into officer training instead of basic. Second Lieutenant Templeton Peck. They might have fallen for that stateside, but the primates here saw an 18 year-old kid with a slender build and a prettiness about him. It added up to a sort of bull's eye on my back.
I had to do something. I figured I could either grow another 6 inches horizontally and vertically, mess my face up so no one would give me a second glance or I needed to belong to someone who would keep the wolves at bay. While far from an original or dignified solution, the final possibility seemed the best bet. Unfortunately, it also made me desperate around the edges.
Too eager to please, I took too many risks with my scams. The rapid succession of commanding officers I reported to gladly accepted the material comforts my cons provided, but they were unwilling to cover for me when a too quick scheme fell apart on me. And none of them wanted me in a physical sense. I guess I was lucky in that regard. I had a bad reputation, but it wasn't a sexual one.
A month before my nineteenth birthday, I remained untouched as far as anyone in Vietnam could testify. I also had been transferred into and out of five different units. Not good. Not good at all. Even I would have taken the bet I'd spend my next birthday, and a few to come, in some form of prison or other.
I guess I figured I had nothing left to lose. Or maybe I couldn't take one more groping paw. I don't know. But when I got my orders to report to my sixth commanding officer, something inside me seemed to go haywire. Part of me knew I couldn't get away with it, but all I could see was a long trip with nothing to protect me but a clever tongue which was rapidly running out of things to say to avoid getting raped. Even given that motivation, it was a stupid thing to do, but no one on the transport knew me B I'd at least made certain of that much -- and I talked myself into a special forces uniform. The reasoning was even King Kong himself might think twice about pawing someone who had been trained to kill a hundred different ways in 25 seconds or less.
Stupid. But life didn't teach me a good lesson on the first leg of the trip. No one laid so much as a finger on me. Or maybe no one wanted me or any other guy. My mind did tend to exaggerate the number of encounters. Who can say?
My most recent ex-CO had been so anxious to get rid of me, I'd ended up in a truck headed across the country versus an air transport. A tire blew around sundown, and the driver found the middle of a ditch before he could stop the truck. A base under the command of a Colonel Morrison was within walking distance, so we walked.
At the motor pool a big guy with an even bigger attitude informed us any repairs would have to wait until morning. His uniform identified him as a Sergeant Baracus. He struck me as someone even I wouldn't want to try to con. Besides I was in no hurry to get to base number six. Nor were any of the other passengers.
It had been a long dusty, bumpy ride B my backside felt like it could identify with all those forefathers riding in stagecoaches. And there was a decent bar in the village near the base.
It all seemed so harmless. How was I to know it would change my life?