Dead Flight

By MacsJeep

Episode 8.1: Part One



United Airlines Flight LA4177
Boeing 747-400
December 22nd 1992

 

Angus MacGyver blinked, stretched, and finally put down the tech magazine he’d been reading for the past hour. It wasn’t exactly fascinating stuff, but it had been better than watching the rest of the passengers doing what amounted to very little.

At his side, Sam was sleeping like a baby, and had been that way since he’d gotten on the plane. How he could sleep so deeply when they’d been through some pretty rough pockets of turbulence, was anyone’s guess, but his eyes were still tightly closed and occasionally, he actually let out a small snore.

Mac smiled. It still felt weird having a kid – and a grown one at that.

Sometimes he felt like he’d missed out on so much, not seeing Sam’s childhood, not reading him bedtime stories, or teaching him hockey.

But then, that was what the last few months had been about.

Mac had chosen not to renew his contract at the Phoenix Foundation, and he and Sam had taken a long road trip together to try and really get to know one another like a father and son should.

It hadn’t always gone smoothly, and there had been one or two quarrels, but Mac was proud of Sam, and he got the feeling Sam didn’t think he was too shabby a dad, either. So he guessed it was all good, considering the circumstances.

Their grand tour had taken them halfway across the country and back on their bikes, and their last stop had been Mission City, Minnesota, where Mac had been born. He’d not pushed Sam to go there, but was pretty glad when the kid had wanted to see his roots.

There was so little of the MacGyver family left, it was good to have a son to share his memories and hometown with. They’d even taken in a hockey game together.

That was when things had suddenly gotten a little strange.

The game itself had been pretty cool, and Mac had enjoyed sharing it with Sam, but then, when they’d gotten back out into the parking lot, Sam’s bike had vanished.

Getting a car or bike stolen wasn’t exactly big news, and the local cops hadn’t really held much hope of finding it. The insurance company hadn’t been much more helpful, either.

Still, Sam had been adamant he wasn’t going to let that little setback ruin anything. He’d aimed to find a dealership and buy another cheap bike just to finish their trip.

Fate had gotten other ideas about that plan too, though.

As soon as they’d returned to their motel, the manager had come knocking on the door with a message.

And this was where it got even weirder.

The note was from Pete Thornton.

There was very little information, except that he was in trouble and needed MacGyver’s help. Along with the note, were two plane tickets back to L.A. for that evening.

Now Pete was never normally that cryptic, so Mac had tried to call his office at Phoenix, but Pete’s secretary had said he hadn’t been in all day.

The whole affair had worried Mac. He was still worried now they were on their way back to find out what was going on.

But one thing he had been proud of was Sam.

Sam could have asked Mac to forget Pete; he’d left Phoenix behind, after all. But instead, Sam had insisted his dad go back to help an old friend – it was what he would do.

Now that had made Mac smile.

A yawn from Sam as he dozed broke MacGyver from his thoughts, and he couldn’t help but let out a small yawn too.

I guess I’m just gonna have to stop wondering and wait and see what Pete is up to. I hope it’s not a surprise Christmas party, he knows how I hate those things…

He looked at his watch and realized they’d been traveling longer than he’d originally thought. Not long now and they’d been making their final approach.

Mac stood up and dropped the magazine onto his seat, intent on grabbing a drink of water before the seat belt light came on.

Reading tech and engineering babble about in-flight communication advances was thirsty work, after all.

As he hunkered over to push past Sam’s snoozing form, he inadvertently glanced out the window, and then paused.

Mac was no astronomy expert, but after living in an observatory for awhile, he did like to think that his knowledge wasn’t half bad.

And right now, that knowledge was saying Flight LA4177 was in the wrong place.

He did a double take, but the stars twinkling outside in the night sky simply didn’t lie. In fact, as he scrutinized what was happening more carefully, it quickly became apparent that they were circling.

That’s pretty odd. Some air traffic problem, maybe?

It made sense. Air traffic control often put birds on holding patterns due to weather conditions, hold ups at airports, other aircraft taking priority due to technical issues.

Except, something about this was already getting his senses tingling.

MacGyver had been in enough situations to know when something was normal, and when things were getting strange.

Mac carefully took a look around the cabin for other signs of something being “off,” and it didn’t take too long to find what he was looking for.

At the far end, nearest the cockpit, the co-pilot was talking discreetly to a stocky, grizzled looking character, and the conversation didn’t look like it was all that friendly.

Mac noted the second man was getting more and more agitated as the pair talked, and what alarmed him about that fact was that the man had a bulge under his jacket that could only be one thing – a firearm.

Given how conspicuous the weapon was, Mac guessed he was looking at either a government agent of some kind, or an air marshal.

Probably not an air traffic problem, then…

MacGyver glanced back to Sam, but he was still oblivious to anything, his eyeballs darting back and forth under their lids as he dreamed fitfully.

Perhaps he was better off asleep, given that something was definitely going on.

Mac moved into the aisle, unable to control his inquisitive nature any longer. Moving slowly towards the two arguing men, he was careful to make his approach friendly, rather than confrontational.

He spoke to the co-pilot first. “Excuse me, but I can’t help but notice we’re circling. Is everything okay?” He kept his voice low, so the other passengers weren’t alarmed.

“Everything is fine. Now if you’d just get back to your seat and stay there, Sir.” The air marshal was as ill-tempered as Mac had suspected. His words were polite enough, but the way he said them left a lot to be desired.

Mac ignored him altogether and still focused on the co-pilot. “I’m ex-DXS,” he offered, carefully showing the flier his wallet and I.D. Feel free to radio ahead and check me out.”

The co-pilot thought about it, but didn’t answer. It was as if he was almost scared of the marshal.

“Look, I know something is going on here, and maybe I can help. I’ve worked through some pretty unusual situations in my time…” Mac was speaking more firmly now, hoping to get one of the men to see sense.

The marshal wasn’t impressed. “I don’t care what you’ve worked through, if you don’t sit your butt down, I’ll put you down myself. All you need to know is that the situation is under control.”

He moved to grab Mac by the shoulder and spin him back towards his seat, but Mac was just a little too fast and dodged sideways. The marshal stumbled, cursing under his breath.

Finally, the co-pilot grew a backbone. “Actually, Mr. Grant, I think we do have a problem here, and any help from this man would be appreciated. He held out a hand to MacGyver. “I’m Dean Sheckley, co-pilot on this flight, and this is Grant, our ill-mannered marshal in tow.”

“Name’s MacGyver.” Mac held out a hand to both men, but only Sheckley shook it warmly. “So what seems to be the problem?”

Sheckley sucked in a deep breath. “About twenty minutes ago, the control tower received a message that there is a potential terrorist on board. They put us on a holding pattern while they get confirmation of what we do next.”

“But there’s been no outright attempt on the plane?” Mac asked, raising a brow.

Sheckley shook his head. “Nothing. Everything was just fine until the tower contacted us.”

MacGyver thought about it. The whole thing could be a hoax, but then no one was going to risk that. “The authorities will probably just send a SWAT team to the airport and then let us land,” he suggested. “We’ve not had any problems on board for them to take any more drastic measures.”

Grant huffed and wiped a hand across his mouth. “Yeah, well I have one big problem.” His eyes narrowed suspiciously and he stared pointedly at MacGyver. “You! How do I know you’re not this nut job who sent the message, huh? How do I know you’re not the terrorist? All we’ve seen is some I.D. anyone could buy on a street corner.”

“And that,” Mac pointed out, “is exactly why I told you to go radio through and check me out.”

Grant wasn’t giving in. He pushed past both men, heading back towards the cockpit, despite not actually having the access codes to get in. “I’ll check you out alright,” he spat. “And if you aren’t as clean as a …”

The marshal’s voice trailed as he was suddenly forced to focus on grabbing the nearest seat to keep his balance.

Mac and Sheckley were forced to do the same as the 747 suddenly veered sharply to the right.

The angle was far too steep for a normal maneuver and anyone standing was left fighting to keep their footing as the plane yawed violently.

Sheckley regained his balance first, diving for the cockpit access panel in a blind panic as he obviously realized the situation had just gone from potential hoax, to potential hijack.

MacGyver was close behind, carefully watching as the co-pilot keyed in his code to open the security door between the passenger cabin and flight deck.

Mac really shouldn’t have been looking, but if anything had happened to the pilot, the code might be something he needed to know later on. There was something to be said for the phrase “Be prepared.”

There was a two second pause, and then the door clicked open.

Sheckley pushed in first and then stopped, his mouth opening, but his vocal chords not responding.

Mac pushed in beside him and could instantly see why.

The pilot, a man of about fifty, with graying hair and a rather portly figure, was slumped over in his seat, small trickles of blood ebbing from his ears and nose.

There was no way to tell for sure without checking, but Mac was convinced from the way his eyes simply stared out and didn’t react, that he was already dead.

Sheckley moved to check anyway, but MacGyver grabbed his arm, tugging him back away from the body.

“Don’t touch him!” Mac pointed to the base of the pilot’s seat. It wasn’t easily visible, but if you looked carefully, the chair had been wired into the electrical system of the plane somehow.

Sheckley sucked in a breath. “ How do we check if he’s alive?” He was shaking slightly and his voice quivered just a little. But then, it wasn’t every day you got to see your friend and colleague murdered.

“We can’t,” Mac soothed, “but I’m pretty sure he was dead when we got in here. The main thing now is not to touch anything else until we’re sure it’s not wired too. Whoever did this must be able to control the electrical current in here.”

“What the hell..?” Grant had finally decided to come up front and see what was going on, and now he had, he was wide-eyed and staring wildly at the Boeing’s controls. “If he’s dead, who’s flying the plane?”

As if to answer, the 747’s instruments chirped and beeped, the odd light flashed here and there, and occasionally, both yokes moved to make some minor course correction.

The bird was perfectly in control – of itself.

“The autopilot’s engaged,” Mac said, matter-of-factly. “We’re not in any immediate danger. Well, at least as long as whoever did this doesn’t decide to make any more adjustments.”

The marshal snorted. “Pretty convenient that this happens right when we were gonna check out just who you are?”

MacGyver cocked a brow apologetically. It actually did look pretty bad, but there was very little he could do about that now. Instead, he took a look at their heading. He was no expert, but it looked to be empty space. “Sheckley, do these co-ordinates actually take us anywhere other than over empty ocean?”

The co-pilot took a look and frowned. “No,” he admitted. “Not if you factor in what fuel we have.”

Mac nodded. “So whoever has control of the plane plans on taking us out to sea, where we’ll end up ditching when the gas is all burned. Pretty much a one-way ticket if we can’t get control back.”

“Maybe I should just punch you out and take control myself,” Grant offered under his breath.

Mac ignored him. He was listening to the muted radio chatter he could hear from the captain’s headset.

The control tower was trying to reach them.

“Flight LA4177 this is LAX, do you read? Flight LA4177 we’re showing a deviation from your designated flight plan, can you confirm?”

“We need to find a way to talk to the tower.” MacGyver’s eyes were searching the flight deck as he spoke, searching for more booby traps, and a way to talk to the people on the ground.

For a split second, that was all he was concentrating on – and that split second was enough.

Sheckley was so focused on what needed doing, that in that instant, he forgot all about not touching any of the Boeing’s systems, and reached out to pick up his own headset.

Mac saw the move one millisecond too late. “Dean, NO!

Sheckley already had the headset in his right hand, and as he held it, his whole body convulsed as current from some unknown source flowed through him.

Mac took a risk and grabbed the pilot’s briefcase from behind his seat, using it to knock the headset from Sheckley’s violently shaking hand.

The receiver and mike fell onto the co-pilot’s seat where it sat innocently waiting for its next victim.

Sheckley tumbled forwards, almost hitting the throttle controls with his forehead before Mac could lose the case and catch him.

Grant simply stood in the doorway, watching everything transpire as if it was all a dream. Maybe it made him feel better to think it was.

MacGyver continued to ignore him, and was relieved when an attendant pushed past the marshal to try and help.

At least she wasn’t panicking, despite seeing two of the flight crew flat out.

And then it hit Mac – this was the 400 model 747, and that meant it only had two flight crew.

As he checked for a pulse at Sheckley neck, the girl leaned over. She looked scared, but not panicked. “What…what…I mean, who are you and..?” She rightly had a million questions, and not one answer.

Sheckley had a pulse. It was racing, and he was out cold, but he was alive.

Mac turned his attention to the girl. He was going to need all the help he could get, and for that, he needed her to trust him.

“My name’s MacGyver and I’m here to try and help.” He looked her in the eye, deciding just how strong she was. Could she take the truth? “The pilot’s dead,” he admitted. “Dean here just took a nasty jolt, but I think he’s gonna be okay. Can you help me get him in the back and comfortable, and then I’ll explain everything?”

The blonde flight attendant nodded, and as MacGyver took Sheckley’s weight, she helped him out to the nearest seat they could drop down. “My name’s Dana, by the way,” she
offered wanly.

Mac smiled back at her, trying to look more assured than he was feeling. “Pleased to meet you, Dana. Now do you think you can take care of Dean here, while I go back to the flight deck and try and call for help?” He lowered Sheckley as carefully as he could from his shoulder.

The co-pilot slumped lifelessly onto the chair below, and Mac couldn’t help but notice several of the passengers eyeing what was going on.

It wouldn’t be long before they had a blind panic on board if he didn’t do something, and fast.

“I guess,” Dana sighed. “But then you come right back here and explain, or we’re going to have a situation we can’t handle.” She looked over her shoulder at the passengers, obviously realizing the same thing Mac just had.

These people knew something was wrong.

Mac nodded and scooted quickly back to the cockpit.

The Boeing was still happily cruising along at mach 0.85 according to the airspeed indicator, and there didn’t seem to be any other aircraft showing in the immediate area. They were at a good height, and the auto-pilot still held its bizarre course.

Mac licked his lips. Now it was time to try and get in touch with LAX and get some help to regain control.

He focused firstly on the lethal headset that belonged to Sheckley. Without touching it, he followed the wires back to where it plugged into a console. Whatever had been done was behind the panel.

Taking out his knife, he carefully removed the metal plate and traced more of the wires.

Whoever had done this hadn’t been too bothered about it being “defused.” With one simple twist of his wrist, MacGyver had cut through two joined wires and the thing was safe.

To Mac, that could only mean one thing.

There were bigger, better booby traps to come.

Mac swallowed and checked out the rest of the console that contained the radio equipment. It “looked” clean, but dare he try and use it?

Gingerly, he slipped on the headset and hit transmit. “This is Flight LA4177 do you copy LAX?”

Static hissed back at him, interspersed occasionally with chatter meant for other flights.

MacGyver changed the radio frequency and tried again – still nothing. He repeated the procedure, but it appeared that signals were coming in, but none were going out.

Whoever had hijacked the plane had jammed outgoing radio transmissions too.

Mac let out a breath and took the headset back off. In his mind, he tried to assess the situation, and it wasn’t looking good.

He was on a plane with around two hundred other passengers, the pilot was dead, the co-pilot unconscious, and probably every system on board had been tampered with by some unknown bad guy.

To make matters worse, Grant was outside the flight deck ranting at Dana about how he’d been trained to deal with real threats, real people he could see and disarm, not invisible electronic enemies.

That was all they needed – Grant mouthing off in front of already panicking passengers.

Mac turned to go talk some sense into the marshal when he heard a familiar voice already asking Grant to shut up.

And not all that politely.

It appeared Sam had finally awoken from his nap and had joined in the fray.

“Dad, what’s going on?” Sam was looking between the downed co-pilot, Dana, and Grant with a very puzzled expression.

A rather plump black man in the nearest seat had the same question. “That’s what I’d like to know! We weren’t born yesterday, and it’s pretty obvious this plane is in trouble.”

Mac winced, it was time to tell everyone and hope he didn’t have a Boeing full of screamers at the end of it. He moved to stand in the centre of the aisle, and Sam moved to stand beside him.

“Okay folks, can I have your attention,” Mac raised his voice, hoping it would carry enough for everyone to hear first time. “We have a situation here, but I’m confident we can resolve it if we all stay nice and calm.”

“What kind of situation?” A sweet looking elderly lady that reminded MacGyver of Jessica Fletcher was eyeing him expectantly.

But, she wasn’t panicking, and so far neither were any of the others.

Mac continued, careful with his wording. “The crew has been …incapacitated, but the plane is on autopilot. There’s no immediate danger. But, there has been a suggestion that there is a terrorist on board, or at least behind this.”

The black man stood up, he looked angry more than anything. “Yeah, well you say incapacitated, I say out cold.” He pointed to Sheckley. “I’m guessing the pilot is the same? So if they don’t wake up, who’s gonna fly the plane?”

There was a lot of murmuring among the other passengers, but Mac got the general consensus was that they all had the same question.

Good job they don’t know the pilot is actually dead, then…

Mac held up a hand to try and keep things calm. “I will,” he said much more confidently than he felt. “I’m not going to lie, I’ve never flown anything this big before, but if I have to I will. I’m a qualified pilot.”

Sam had been listening, taking it all in, and now he pushed past his dad to address the crowd. “Maybe we can all help. If there really is a terrorist on board, maybe we can spot him or her? Has anyone been acting suspiciously for instance? Have you seen anyone with something that looked odd sitting near you? Just think about it…”

MacGyver could see passengers looking at one another, and he had to admit Sam’s idea might work – maybe it wouldn’t expose a bad guy, but it could get everyone working together, and focused instead of panicking.

“Nice work,” he said in a low voice.

Sam smiled. “I wasn’t just saying it to give them something to do. I think this actually might work. Remember that expose on radicals and extremists I told you I did awhile back? Well who knows, maybe the guy behind this was part of that group. I might even recognize him!”

“That’s one titanic-sized long shot.”

Sam shrugged. “It’s not like I have anything better to do.”

Mac considered it. In the end, what did they have to lose?

On the other hand, he did have something better to do. He needed to find out just how much of the Boeing had been tampered with.

“I want to check out avionics,” he eventually whispered to Sam. “I think we need to come at this from separate angles, in case we can’t find the bad guy in time. If you can, take that guy with you. He’s an air marshal with just a little too much attitude.” He jerked a thumb at Grant. “I don’t want him getting in my way when there could potentially be a bomb on board.”

Sam nodded. “I think I can manage that. I’ll convince him to get the passengers from the lower deck up here and then we can check everyone out. It shouldn’t be too hard to ruffle his feathers into helping.”

MacGyver raised a brow. “Do you wanna to bet?”

Grant had finally noticed he was being talked about and barreled over as if he was going to get nasty. His demeanor from earlier hadn’t improved. “Doing a little plotting behind my back?”

He stared at Mac, but the troubleshooter simply ignored him and made his way down the aisle to the stairs and the lower level. From behind, he could still hear Grant cussing, but Mac had no doubt Sam could handle him.

For now, Mac had to concentrate on the plane.

At the bottom of the stairs, he took a look around at the passengers.

Thankfully, the Boeing was far from being at capacity. That fact would make his job, and Sam’s, a lot easier.

Trying not to look too conspicuous, Mac found an emergency flashlight, and then opened the hatch in the floor that led below to avionics. He carefully lowered himself down, his eyes scanning all the while for triggers or remote devices.

When his feet hit the metal floor, he hunkered down and flicked on the flashlight. Around him, he could hear the thrum of electronics as the thousands of circuits on the plane did their job.

Metal plates covered up the circuitry he needed to check out, and MacGyver knew it was going to be risky removing anything, but it had to be done. He tugged his knife from his pocket and using the screwdriver tool, very slowly began to work off the nearest panel.

It took two minutes to be sure there were no little extras he needed to worry about. At least – no extras to stop him getting inside the bird’s electronic brain.

Once he was inside, though, well, that was a whole different story.

MacGyver sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. Some of the circuitry was beyond him, and he didn’t actually know which parts of the Boeing it controlled.

But one thing he did know was that almost every chip, board or circuit had been compromised and wired into an alien-looking device nestled in the right hand corner of the bay.

The device was illuminated, and active, but it didn’t appear to be an outright bomb.

No, this was something way more complicated.

MacGyver took the light in his hand and traced the wiring from and to the little black box. Whoever had done this wasn’t just a bomb expert; they were a Boeing expert too.

And for all his knowledge, that was something one Angus MacGyver was not.


* * * *

Sam was finding working with Grant to be just as frustrating as he’d expected. The man didn’t seem to have once iota of common sense, despite somehow being cleared to marshal for the airline.

All Grant actually seemed to do was grumble, grouse, and generally instill fear and dread in the hearts of everyone he encountered.

Right now, he was ushering the lower deck passengers all up into first class. Or maybe herding was a better word, given how he was barking and yelling most of the time.

Sam tried to resist the urge to punch the guy out, simply because his dad wouldn’t condone the idea, but it was getting harder and harder every second he spent with the man.

“Can’t you shut him up?” It was the black man who’d spoken to MacGyver earlier, and he was scowling at Grant. “He’s scaring my kid!”

Sam looked at the little guy huddled next to his dad, his eyes darting to Grant and then back up at his father. He wished he had memories to look back on like that, but finding MacGyver now, rather than not at all was at least one small grace. “I’ll do my best,” he promised.

“Thanks.” The guy held out his hand. “My name’s Marvin, by the way, and this is Travis…”

The kid, who didn’t look a day older than six, smiled at Sam shyly.

Sam nodded back. “Pleased to meet you folks.” He leaned over to Travis. “Now remember, keep an eye out for anything strange, and if you see something, tell me or Mr. Grant over there.”

Travis nodded, his eyes narrowing as he began to scour the cabin for something to report back, his woes suddenly forgotten in favor of detective work.

Grant was back again, pushing his herd further into the cabin, seating people in empty seats he could find and grumbling as he worked.

Sam turned to watch and examine all the newcomers. There were lots of nervous faces, but none that he recognized.

Grant pushed an Asian man roughly down by his shoulders next to the woman his dad had affectionately named “Jessica Fletcher.”

She sniffed, and then after looking over her glasses at the man for about five seconds, started to scream blue murder.

“Don’t put him next to me! He’s the terrorist! I saw him on national T.V. He makes bombs!” She continued to shout all kinds of accusations that Sam suspected were probably only half true at best.

The problem was, Grant believed her.

As Sam moved to calm the situation, Grant was already pulling his gun.

The marshal waved it around at the so called “terrorist” instead of steadily pointing the weapon.

In turn, the Asian man appeared to panic and grabbed for the barrel, somehow managing to connect with it despite Grant’s erratic behavior.

It was an insane moment as the marshal and his target tussled with the gun, yanking it back to and fro like some manic puppet show.

“Let go or I’ll fire!” Grant’s eyes were popping from his skull with rage and his cheeks were turning a bright crimson.

The other man looked too frightened to actually follow Grant’s command, and instead, reaffirmed his grip on the firearm almost tearing it from his assailant.

Sam watched the scene play out in what seemed like vivid slow motion. He could see Grant’s gung-ho style about to cause a death, and he could see the Asian man’s fear pushing him to take actions he probably had never even thought of moments before.

And through all of that, the realization hit Sam that Grant’s trigger finger was ticking back on the lever, and if the gun were to go off, the bullet was going in one direction only.

Right towards the innocent little boy named Travis.

And Sam couldn’t let that happen.

Sam made a conscious move to put his body between that of the kid and Grant’s gun. It wasn’t a pretty maneuver, more of a dive and hope for the best kind of deal.

But somehow, it worked, with only milliseconds to spare.

Grant seemingly wanted his man, and when the situation started to get away from him, he did the only thing his kind knew how – he pulled back all the way on the trigger.

The gun kicked back in his hand, and Grant finally stopped tousling with his opponent to look what damage he had caused.

Except the little Asian man hadn’t been shot, injured, or even stunned. He simply stared in disbelief as someone else hit the deck for him.

And that someone was one Sean Angus Malloy.

Grant didn’t seem to even care. His eyes grew even wider in his skull, and ignoring the young kid now bleeding in the aisle, he launched out at his enemy once again, and this time he planned on getting his man.

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