Relics

By MacsJeep

Episode 8.13: Part One



MacGyver spun off the last bolt holding the carburetor down and sighed. The old Chevy pickup had been faltering a bit lately every time he hit the gas, and so it was time to give the old girl an overhaul.

He wandered over to the workbench, sat the carburetor down, and began to inspect it. There was a rebuild kit waiting and ready, along with a plentiful amount of cleaning fluid, and he hoped that a few new gaskets, a good fettle and maybe a new accelerator pump would be all that was needed to get his beast back in full form.

It was nice to just be able to take the time to do something like this, instead of chasing around the globe for the Phoenix Foundation, or getting mixed up in bizarre Halloween killings like he had the previous month with Neil Ryder.

He grabbed a stool and began to separate the unit to get at the jets when a car pulling up outside caught his attention. Of course, it could be someone for Mel, or one of his other crazy neighbors, but somehow Mac had that “feeling” his peace was once again about to be shattered.

He ignored the sound of the vehicle’s engine until he heard it die and two doors slam, then he simply couldn’t resist getting up to see what was going on.

MacGyver was halfway across the room when he heard a tapping sound, followed by a knock at the door.

Pete Thornton, then! Mac couldn’t tell from just the knock, but the tapping was definitely from Pete’s white cane.

“C’mon in,” he offered, turning back to look longingly at the Chevy.

Pete tapped his way across the workshop and adeptly stopped at Mac’s side. “Doing a bit of DIY mechanics?” he asked, raising a brow.

Mac smiled and grabbed a cloth, wiping some of the grease and oil from his hands. It was amazing what Pete could figure out, even though he didn’t have his sight anymore.

“Yeah, you just can’t trust garages these days. And besides, it’s kinda therapeutic to just sit and rebuild something, y’know?” He perched himself on the open flatbed of the truck.

Pete followed, taking a hand up from his friend when he got closer. “So you’re pretty busy..?” There was that look in his eyes as he asked the question. The look that meant he wasn’t just here on a social call.

MacGyver found it slightly amusing that after all this time, Pete couldn’t come right on out and ask for what he wanted, but he didn’t say so. “Aww, c’mon, Pete what’s eating at you? You got an assignment you want me on, right?”

Pete squirmed a little. “Well…it’s not exactly an assignment, more of a working vacation.”

Mac raised a brow as he rubbed more grime from his hands. “Okay, so you wanna tell me what it’s all about?”

Pete seemed to relax. “A little over a week ago, an amateur diver spotted a sunken German U-boat in the Baltic, and it looks intact…”

“U-boats and war relics are found pretty much all the time. What’s so special about this one to get Phoenix involved?” Any thoughts of the Chevy or the carburetor were slowly ebbing away as Mac’s inquisitive nature kicked in.

“Because this was no ordinary U-boat,” Pete confirmed. “It was on a mission for the E.R.R. It sailed right at the end of the second war with stolen Nazi treasures onboard just like the ones we dealt with during the Rubens painting incident.”

MacGyver’s mind fleetingly jumped back to an auction that Pete had been trying to buy a painting at a few years previously. He’d won the bidding, only to have an elderly gentleman named Sam claim it was his – stolen during the war when the Nazi’s had pillaged art galleries, national treasures, and Jewish family homes for anything antique they could find.

On that occasion, the good guys had won the day and the art had been returned to its rightful owners, albeit over forty years after the original thefts.

“Wouldn’t you be better talking to Laura Sand than me? She’s the expert on this stuff, and she was more than helpful last time?” Mac was thinking of the expert Pete had brought in to verify the Rubens, and who had eventually helped them stop a very nasty incident with modern-day Nazis.

Pete smiled. “We’re bringing Laura in on this too. You guys worked too well together before to pass up the opportunity again.”

Mac ran a hand through his hair. He really should have known Pete would be one step ahead in the planning department, which also meant he was pretty sure he was going to talk MacGyver into the assignment.

“This might seem like a dumb question, but surely there won’t be any of the art or antiques left to find down there after all this time? I mean the sub’s probably flooded and full of marine life by now.” Mac didn’t want to be a killjoy, but the obvious had to be pointed out, even though Pete most likely knew the facts and figures. “Not to mention, won’t it be classed as a war grave? In which case we won’t be able to touch it?”

“We’ve already anticipated that,” Pete confirmed. “Nikki contacted the German War Graves Commission and they’ve given us the go ahead to send a mini-sub down to check out the U-boat. Technically, if there are no crewmen aboard, we can go ahead and investigate. If she sank with the men,” Pete shrugged. “Then she’s untouchable under maritime law, and we have to scrub the search.”

“Okay,” Mac conceded. “So we have permission to check it out, but don’t you think the amateur diver’s description is likely to be a little exaggerated? I mean, c’mon, this thing has been down there the best part of half a century?”

Pete bobbed his head. “It is possible, and the foundation isn’t expecting it to be quite as good as this guy suggested. On the other hand, the wreck does have something going for it – it’s in the Baltic. There’s a lack of current and salinity in the water there that helps preserve sunken vessels better than anywhere else in the world.”

“Yeah, I’d kinda heard that,” MacGyver admitted with a sigh. “So what do you me for?”

“You worked well with Dr. Sand before, you know about the E.R.R. side of things, and hey, this is one assignment where you won’t get smacked on the head, chased or shot at. I thought you’d grab at it!” Pete chuckled. “And if that’s not reason enough, Nikki and I are going along too. We’ll stay topside, and you can go down in the mini-sub with Laura.”

MacGyver considered it, letting his gaze wander to the Chevy. There would probably still be time to fix it up before the trip, and it really would be good to work with Pete and Nikki in the field again without fearing for anyone’s life.

Mac smiled, even though Pete couldn’t see it, and then patted his old friend on the back. “Okay, you got me. When do we leave?”

* * * *

Phoenix Research Vessel “Eternal Flame”
Baltic Sea
Three weeks later…

MacGyver watched as Pete Thornton made his way across the lurching ship’s deck, somehow managing to keep on course with his cane, despite the heavy waves.

Pete had just come on board with Nikki after stopping off to pick up more research. Mac had arrived some twenty minutes earlier via a different chopper and had already stowed his gear in the allocated cabin.

“You finally made it, huh?” MacGyver met Pete halfway, rubbing his gloved hands together against the chill of the wind that even his thick winter jacket wasn’t quelling. “We must be nuts coming out here!” He found himself shouting over the noise of the sea and the retreating helicopter, and was glad when they reached the relative calm of the bridge.

Pete blinked as they entered, apparently sensing the change in conditions. “You know you love it,” he retorted.

Mac opened his mouth to reply, but an officer broke away from the rest of the crew and nodded as he came towards them. He tipped his cap. “I’m Captain McKenna, and you two must be Thornton and MacGyver?”

Mac held out his hand. “I’m MacGyver.”

McKenna shook it, and then turned to Pete offering his hand again. “I guess that makes you my boss?”

Pete chuckled and took the proffered appendage. “I guess it does! Listen, can you give MacGyver a tour of the ship? I really need to stow my things and get my bearings before Nikki declares me lost at sea!”

This time it was McKenna’s turn to chuckle. He was a tall and imposing figure with a thin frame and short mustache, and the laughter was definitely unexpected from his previous manner. “I’d be glad to,” he eventually agreed, and then turned to a young crewman. “Baines, can you escort Mr. Thornton to his cabin?”

Baines nodded, gave a small unofficial salute and then offered up an arm to Pete, who took it gratefully as the Eternal Flame pitched as it hit a swell.

McKenna watched them go and the fixed his gaze on MacGyver. He held it there for several seconds before gesturing towards the open hatch that led to outside.

Mac noted the captain’s appraisal and wondered what the man was making of him. Was it distrust, or something else? For now, he simply stored the thought in the back of his mind, and followed the officer back out into the unruly Baltic weather.

McKenna made a beeline for the DSRV, which was currently hanging from the side of the ship like a Christmas tree bauble. With the rise and fall of the waves it seemed to rock precariously from side to side, its bulbous white shape making it look like something from a tale of alien invasion instead of deep sea exploration and rescue.

“This is the Sun Dog, she’s a specially adapted LR7 the Phoenix Foundation commissioned a couple of years ago. For this mission, she’s been fitted with a docking collar specific to the U-boat’s escape hatch in case there’s still hull integrity. You’ll join Dr. Sand on board, along with one of my specially trained crewmen.” McKenna pointed to a giant reel that had a thick cable wound around it. “You’ll be connected to the Eternal Flame via an umbilical to improve communications, although the DSRV can operate fully without it.”

MacGyver inspected the LR7, shielding his eyes from bitter ocean spray to take in its size, controls and the tools it appeared to carry. “You really think there’s a chance the sub still has hull integrity after all these years? I mean, c’mon, that’s one heck of a long shot!”

“Stranger things have happened at sea.” McKenna smiled and jerked a thumb back to the hatch they’d used. “Look at the Marie Celeste!” He winked as he mentioned the ghost boat, and then clambered back inside the Eternal Flame.

MacGyver grimaced at the comparison and then rubbed at his head absently. Heck, what did it matter if this was one spooky mystery? It sure beat getting cracked on the skull for a living. What more could he wish for?

After taking two corridors and a set of stairs down into the bowels of the ship, McKenna paused outside another hatch. “This is the control room where we co-ordinate what’s going on with the DSRV and relay information back and forth.” He swung open the door with a metallic grind and entered, heading straight to a board with photos and printouts pinned to it. “This is all the information we currently have on U3524 – the designation the diver found on the sub.”

MacGyver instantly locked onto the images and details as if they were pieces of a giant puzzle. He loved fathoming things out, and this was one of the oldest conundrums he’d faced.

Was the U-boat really carrying treasures? Was there even the slightest chance it was intact, and not a war grave? Would they even find it given the current conditions in the Baltic?

McKenna appeared to realize his companion was already transfixed, and began to read out the data Phoenix had managed to piece together. “According to the official records, U3524 was scuttled by her commander, Hans Ludwig Witt in Flensburg Forde on May 4th 1945. Of course, we now know this is incorrect.”

“Unless the amateur diver got his numbers wrong,” Mac pointed out. “It’s gotta be kinda murky down there, ya know? Maybe he found a totally different sub.”

“No, its U3524…”

Another voice joined their conversation – a voice MacGyver instantly recognized. Mac spun to see Laura Sand standing by the hatch with an apologetic-looking crewman.

“MacGyver this Dr. Laura Sand…” McKenna was going to say more, but Mac held up a hand to stop him.

“We’ve already met,” MacGyver explained. “It’s a long story and one all about the E.R.R.”

McKenna looked puzzled for a moment but then turned to the crewman. “This is our communications officer, Dan Engel.”

Engel nodded and Mac shook his hand.

When the introductions were over, he looked to Laura Sand, and then the board where he’d been scrutinizing any intelligence Phoenix had gathered. “So you’re sure this is U3524?”

Laura stepped to his side. “According to my records, a U-boat that matches this one’s description is listed in E.R.R. files, although we never had its actual designation number before.”

“So you really can’t be sure until we get down there?” MacGyver probed.

Sand cocked her head apologetically. “Not one hundred percent, but, if we’re correct this U-boat was carrying some of the most treasured art and antiquities you could dream of. Rubens Annunciation, Van Gogh’s Painter on the Road to Tarascon…

“I thought the Van Gogh was destroyed when the allies bombed Magdeburg,” Engel interrupted. “I’m sure I read that somewhere.”

Laura nodded. “That’s what the Nazi’s wanted the public to believe. There is however, a strong suspicion it survived and was on U3524, along with so much more.”

Engel didn’t appear swayed. “But should we really be getting excited?” He asked, looking at McKenna for apparent support. “I mean, if the submarine’s compartments were flooded when it sank, there will be nothing left by now. And honestly, that’s the most likely scenario after all this time.” The young blond officer rubbed absently at his neck, looking almost sad.

“I hate to say it,” MacGyver winced. “But he’s right.”

Laura smiled enthusiastically, as if she refused to accept defeat. “Well then, what are we waiting for? Let’s get down there and find out!”

* * * *

Phoenix DSRV “Sun Dog”
Somewhere in the Baltic Sea
Two Hours Later…

MacGyver watched in awe from the mini-sub’s huge glass frontage as they crawled along the bottom of the Baltic. Taking in the world’s wonders above ground, whether it be wild mustangs or endangered rhinos was one thing, but to see what happened in the hidden world beneath the waves, well that was something else.

Mac had been down on dives before, but on those occasions it had been strictly business – no time to enjoy what was around him, or indeed to enjoy the wonders of what made a mini-sub tick.

Laura Sand didn’t appear to be quite as impressed with their dive so far. Every few seconds, she’d sigh, check her watch and then scowl.

“These things take time,” Mac offered. “The diver who found the wreck wasn’t all that specific about co-ordinates, so we can’t just drop down to the sub, we have to search for it ourselves.”

“I know that,” Sand snapped and then slowly exhaled. “Sorry,” she apologized. “I just want to find the U-boat intact, so we have a chance to get its contents back where they belong.”

MacGyver wanted to say again that he didn’t think that was likely, but mentioning the submarine was probably a wreck didn’t seem to phase Sand one bit. “I understand,” he eventually conceded. “But it’s pretty murky down here, what with all the mud we’re disturbing and all. We have to do this by the numbers…”

As he spoke, he took another glance out into the depths. Suddenly, the sea he’d found captivating seconds ago now looked more dark, and much more ominous. Mac pushed the thought away. The hazy water wasn’t caused by anything dark or scary, it was simple mud, and that may well have helped preserve what they were searching for.

The pilot of the DSRV, Larry Mortimer, broke MacGyver from further thought. “Hey, I think we’ve got something…”

Mortimer eased the two joysticks that controlled the mini-sub’s planes and motors, pointing it in a slightly new direction.

Mac and Laura quickly took position either side the pilot and peered into the gloom, but at first they didn’t see what Mortimer’s trained eyes had.

Mortimer grinned cheekily as he navigated towards his find. “You guys want some gum?” He deftly removed a stick of Juicy Fruit while still steering and popped it in his mouth. “I have issues with the whole depth versus ear popping thing,” he explained.

Laura scowled, her expression suggesting she was mortified he’d even offered. “Err, no thank you,” she replied curtly.

Mortimer shrugged and Mac couldn’t resist a smile. This was one weird dive.

“There…I see something!” Laura was suddenly pointing excitedly to their left as what appeared to be a submarine’s tail came into view.

Mortimer nodded and spun the DSRV over just a touch to compensate for drift. Once they were hovering over the U-boat’s aft section, he stopped the maneuvering thrusters completely and simply let the mini-sub hang in the water.

MacGyver whistled in complete astonishment. The amateur diver had been wrong about the U-boat’s condition alright – the thing wasn’t just well preserved, it looked like it had only been submerged for a few months.

This is impossible! Mac’s mind screamed that he was dreaming, but he wasn’t, this was very real, and very wrong.

“I don’t believe it!” Laura’s hands were in the air in amazement one second and wringing with excitement the next. She was like a teenager meeting her screen idol instead of a trained expert on a scientific expedition. “It’s intact!” She oozed, “I’m sure of it! We can save the art!”

MacGyver put a calming hand on her arm. “Hey, what say we take it down a notch, huh?” He tried to quell Sand’s exhilaration just a touch without drowning her enthusiasm. “We have to remember this might still be a war grave, ya know? There might be bodies…” Mac let his eyes meet the doctor’s and kept them there until she drew down a breath and nodded.

Sand pulled free of his grasp, ran a hand through her hair absently and turned back to Mortimer seemingly fully composed. “Can you get us closer?” She asked in a level, almost neutral voice.

“You betcha!” Mortimer grinned and began to chew faster and faster as he moved the DSRV along the length of the U-boat.

From what MacGyver could tell, the submarine was slightly on its side, but if they could find the escape hatch, and it was clear of any debris, they might just be able to use the docking collar.

Debris? His mind questioned. There is no debris. Nothing is damaged on this thing, and there’s hardly any sea life attached. It should be encrusted in the stuff after all these years…

Mortimer’s voice broke him from further deliberation. “I’ve found the hatch and it’s clear. Are we gonna open up this can or what?” he drawled.

“I’ll call topside and ask them for the go ahead.” Mac moved to the DSRV’s radio and unclipped the mike. “Eternal Flame this is Sun Dog, we have a visual on U3524 and she looks intact. Do we have a go to use the docking collar?”

The line hissed, popped and then after a few seconds went completely dead. MacGyver keyed the mike a few times until the static returned, then repeated the message.

Nothing.

“I guess they’re busy having lunch,” he quipped. “I sure hope they save us some.”

“Try again!” The impatience was slowly seeping back into Sand’s voice. “Why aren’t they answering? The line and cameras should be monitored without fail!”

Mac shrugged. He had a bad feeling of his own about the lack of response, and it wasn’t because he was eager to open up the sub, or because he was worried about missing lunch. He tried again, and after a second failed attempt a disembodied voice finally came on the line.

It was Nikki Carpenter.

“Mac…unexpected…storm…crew busy…”

Parts of the message were missing, but MacGyver could still hear the tension and fear in Nikki’s voice – and Nikki didn’t panic easily.

He clicked the mike, worry lines filling his brow. “Can you put Pete or McKenna on?”

“Negative, McKenna too busy on bridge…can’t understand why we…no warning, no radar…. Can’t fin…Pete…” Nikki’s voice trailed and faded with a staccato hiss and then came back again as if someone had turned up the volume. “Ship taking a battering…”

MacGyver swallowed and was about to respond when he heard more muted sounds in the background followed by a new voice on the line.

“MacGyver, its McKenna. I need to disconnect…umbilical…storm…or we’ll start to drag you across sea bed…”

Laura’s face turned ashen. “He wants to cut our connection to topside?” She shook her head. “He can’t, what if we can’t get back!”

Mortimer was still smiling, either oblivious to any danger, or confident in the DSRV’s systems. “Don’t worry,” he reassured. “This little puppy wasn’t designed to need a line to the surface anyway.” He patted the DSRV’s console. “Think of it as an optional extra. We’ll be fine until the storm subsides. Heck, it won’t reach us down here, so we can carry on investigating your U-boat.”

Laura bit into her lip, but didn’t complain further. She slumped back into one of the mini-sub’s sparse seats and stared out at U3524 as if it was suddenly cursed.

Given its bizarre condition, MacGyver wasn’t sure she was wrong. He keyed the mike one last time. “Understood, Eternal Flame. Good luck.”

“Roger that,” McKenna confirmed. “I’ll re-establish contact on…regular channel once unhooked…storm…subsides.”

There was a click and the line went eerily silent. No one in the DSRV spoke. They’d gone from excitement to concern in just a few minutes.

Mac reached up to put the handset back on its hook, but the mini-sub suddenly veered in the water, almost making him stumble into the metal hull. He steadied himself and turned to ask Mortimer what he was doing, but the pilot wasn’t touching the controls.

In fact, Mortimer’s alarmed expression suggested he had no clue why they were moving.

And they were moving – straight towards the rear planes of the U-boat.

Mortimer grabbed at the joysticks trying to stop their drift, but the motors simply weren’t strong enough.

MacGyver scrambled into a small glass observation bubble on the top of the DSRV and tried to see what was happening, even though he already suspected he knew the answer.

The umbilical that McKenna had intended to detach was still secure, and it was allowing the Eternal Flame to drag them across the sea bed as it pitched and yawned on the Baltic’s crashing waves above.

Mac winced at the abrupt memory of his last time in a mini-sub. On that occasion it had been in a test tank, but he’d been just as trapped as he was now, and at least that time he was a heck of a lot closer to the surface to try and escape. He dropped out of the observation bubble to see Sand asking if she could help Mortimer, but the pilot was shaking his head, his attempts to control the DSRV failing.

“The umbilical won’t disengage this end!” Mortimer yelped. “We’re going to crash into the U-boat!” The pilot covered his face with his arms, expecting the worst.

Laura backed up from the glass nose cone and turned to MacGyver just as the DSRV smashed into U3524.

There was a metallic screech and the sudden hiss of escaping air as the two vessels collided. The Sun Dog’s smaller frame took the brunt of the crash, its robotic front arm splintering away completely and sinking away into the depths.

MacGyver felt himself tossed forwards from the impact and narrowly missed being slammed into one of the empty front seats. Laura yelled, but he wasn’t sure whether it was from fear, or an injury.

The red emergency lights kicked in, flickered, and then died, leaving the DSRV in complete darkness and at the mercy of the deep.

 

Continue...

 Original content is 2015 MacGyver.tv.