8.17: Part One
dolefully at his desk, staring at the computer screen
in front of him as if it would automatically download
its contents into his brain. He hadn’t been in the
office for weeks – mainly because it usually meant
red tape and endless paperwork. But today, he’d
finally had to give in and face the music.
Pete had Mac
scheduled to do an audit on a company called Aurix Aeronautics
with Nikki Carpenter in a couple of months, and Mac had
to do his homework in advance if he wanted to do the job
right. Getting a feel for Aurix, and exactly what technologies
were involved, however, wasn’t anywhere near as
interesting as field work.
I get older I have a whole lot more of this to look forward
a few keys and brought up more information and classified
schematics. This time, it actually piqued his curiosity
a little, and he sat up from his slouched position to
The audit he
was going to be doing had been initiated by NASA –
Aurix were supplying some key systems for the space shuttle
program, and the space agency wanted to know exactly what
they were getting, and who they were dealing with.
Images of thruster
control circuits and C.A.D. diagrams filled Mac’s
head and he smiled. If you were going to have to deal
with paperwork, then at least this was his kind
He settled into
his chair to digest the electronic bounty when the door
to his office swung open and Nikki breezed in.
tell me you’re bored with the Aurix stuff already
and want to pick my brains so you don’t need to
read anymore of it?” MacGyver smiled cheekily at
Nikki, teasing her. It was the usual game of wit and sarcasm
the two liked to bounce off one another.
This time, though,
Nikki wasn’t playing. “I haven’t had
chance to even look yet.” She shook her head, and
her expression said she was the bearer of bad news. “We
finally have a lead on Roger Mariotte,” she sighed.
in his seat just a tad more. Mariotte had been like a
ghost for months since the whole affair on Flight LA4177.
The F.B.I. and C.I.A. hadn’t had any luck in finding
him. It was like Mariotte had simply disappeared. That
small fact had been a constant worry to MacGyver, because
he couldn’t shake the feeling that Mariotte would
try to hurt Sam again.
you got?” Mac almost snapped.
her head back towards the door, and MacGyver obediently
followed her back to her office. On Nikki’s desk,
a video image blinked on her computer screen over and
over again. She clicked on a cursor with her mouse and
footage is from a gas station in Alameda. You can clearly
see its Mariotte at the counter paying for fuel and groceries.”
The alarm the
images caused was easily apparent in Mac’s expression.
“Alameda..? Heck, he’s not even in a different
state! This is too close for comfort.” Sam…what
if he’s come back for Sam?
to sense his fear and laid a hand on his forearm. “I’ve
already sent two of our people down there to check it
out. Pete approved it as soon as he saw the pictures.”
a hand through the front of his hair in exasperation and
the shook his head. “No. I need to go down there
myself. If this is about Sam then…”
take care of it. We’ll keep him safe, I promise.”
Nikki’s eyes flashed with sincerity, but there was
something else Mac couldn’t quite make out. A tinge
of knowledge, perhaps, that he wasn’t quite privy
to yet? “Actually, Pete wants to see you in his
around on the spot and marched upstairs. If there was
one thing he hated, it was being left in the dark, especially
when it concerned his son.
* * *
Phoenix Foundation Headquarters
on Pete Thornton’s door but didn’t wait to
enter. If anything, he’d expected Pete to be waiting
for him, hoping to talk him out of going to Alameda. What
Mac, found however, was Pete sitting quietly at his desk,
with a U.S.A.F. general seated opposite him.
we’ve been waiting for you.” Pete gestured
with his hand. “This is Ben Harpham. He’s
just flown in from Europe - a U.S. base in the U.K. to
Mac shook Harpham’s
proffered hand, but was somewhat taken aback by his presence
at all. He’d wanted to talk to Pete about Mariotte,
not whatever this was. If Pete was aware of what was happening
with Mariotte, he didn’t show it.
So what have
I just walked into? MacGyver mused silently as he
took a seat. “So how exactly can I help? Nikki said
you wanted to see me?”
off his cap, sat it down in front of Pete’s nameplate
and took a deep breath. “Yesterday, whilst on a
mission to enforce a no fly zone, one of our F16’s
was shot down over Bosnia. The pilot hasn’t made
any contact as of yet, and N.A.T.O. won’t condone
sending in a full search and rescue team as it may stir
up the situation over there. It’s been pretty tense
of late, especially since Operation Deny Flight
took a more active role, and we bombed some actual targets
in the information, fiddling with a pencil he’d
found on the edge of Pete’s desk. The General seemed
to let the troubleshooter digest what he’d been
told, then continued with the real reason he was here.
is pretty personal to me – you see the pilot, Lt.
Pete Kaminski was a friend of my son’s. They did
their training together.”
won’t let a team go in, how can we help?”
Mac asked, feeling the officer’s pain.
for Harpham. “The Phoenix board has agreed to send
in an operative “under the wire” so to speak
– an unofficial mission that will be denied should
anything go wrong.”
understood. “I take it I’m the operative in
question,” he asked.
you agree,” Pete confirmed. “We expect conditions
to be pretty much like they were in Romania last time,
and you handled that perfectly.”
Mac bit into
his bottom lip. He didn’t think things had gone
perfectly that time at all. Sometimes he still had nightmares
about what had happened to Viktor and the atrocities that
had gone on over there, right under the rest of the world’s
about Mariotte if I go to Bosnia? The thought, and
Sam’s safety, lingered in his mind. “Pete,
Nikki just told me about Mariotte in Alameda?”
expression said he had no clue what the men were talking
about, but Pete held up a hand, and his own features softened
as he obviously felt Mac’s concerns. “At the
moment, it’s just a lead. We have good people here
that can handle it, including Nikki. Lt. Kaminski isn’t
so fortunate. He needs you, MacGyver.”
Was that emotional
Mac knew Pete
wasn’t beyond tugging at heart strings to get what
he wanted, and a man’s life did hang in the balance
– if, of course, the downed pilot was still alive.
I’ll do it, but you better have someone watching
over Sam while I’m gone…”
“I already have Atkins tailing him.”
* * *
24 Hours Later…
out into the clouds as the tail of the private Phoenix
jet he was aboard opened up. It was nighttime, and he
was about to be dropped over the territory where the F16
had been shot down.
On any other
occasion, his fear of heights might have already kicked
in, but tonight, all he could think of was what was happening
back home while he was here.
Was Sam safe?
Where was Mariotte?
Mac tried to
push the lingering thoughts out of his mind and focused
on checking his chute one last time. He tugged on the
harness, and nodded to the operative working the tail.
The subtle red
light beside him turned to a glowing green and the man
gave Mac a thumbs up. It was time to leave.
MacGyver stepped forwards until there was nothing beneath
his boots but air and abruptly felt himself freefalling
through the heavens. Even with his fears, it was an amazing
sensation – to be one with the sky like a graceful
bird of prey.
He savored the
moment, checking the altitude gauge on his harness strap
until it was time to pull the cord and open his parachute.
The dive was
over all too quickly, and as the chute opened he was tugged
backwards and up. No sooner had he settled into a vertical
position than he realized something was wrong.
The wind that
had been light and southwesterly when they’d taken
off was suddenly much stronger here, and it had changed
direction to almost the opposite of before. He tried to
correct, guiding the chute as best he could, but up ahead
was a copse of trees, and there was no way he was going
to miss them.
skimmed the treetops for several seconds, and then he
was plunged into a large oak that would have given the
one in Sherwood a run for its money. He dropped rapidly
until his fall was broken by the canopy of his parachute
snagging in the upper branches.
With an undignified
jolt, he came to rest high off the ground, with only a
sliver of moonlight through the clouds and branches to
give any illumination to the scene.
a moment to regain his composure and then reached down
for the release of his harness. He slammed his palm down
hard on it, expecting to tumble to the earth below, but
is running loose in L.A. I’ve been blown into woodland,
and now my harness is jammed and I’m left literally
high and dry. Can today get any worse?
Mac slid his
right hand down to the pocket in his field jacket where
he’d stored his knife, but annoyingly, the harness
was completely covering the flap, and it wouldn’t
slide out of the way. He wriggled, but it only seemed
to tighten the harness more.
I guess it
can get worse…
his left there was a noise, and Mac instantly stopped
grousing and concentrated on the sound. Someone or something
was approaching. The question now, was friendly locals,
or Serbs who would take him prisoner, if he was lucky.
his eyes in the darkness, and after a few seconds was
able to see three people moving through the trees –
and they were definitely trying to be covert, even though
they were dressed just like villagers.
Dare he ask for
you mind giving me just a little hand here?” MacGyver
tried to sound casual, maybe funny even. Heck, it always
worked for Jack Dalton.
The group stopped
dead in their tracks, and after what seemed a moment’s
deliberation moved closer. Mac realized he was looking
at two young women in their twenties, and a teenage boy.
The girls seemed
friendly enough, at least from their expressions, but
the kid was holding an AK47, which was now firmly pointed
at Mac. His stoic, unwavering gaze suggested he would
use the weapon in a heartbeat.
The elder of
the two girls put her hand on the barrel of the gun and
gently pulled it down to point at the muddy earth they
walked on. “Not everyone is our enemy,” she
soothed, and then turned to Mac, scrutinizing him. “Are
you an American pilot?”
Mac licked his
lips. He was a good judge of character, but just how much
could he divulge to these people, when he didn’t
even know who they were, or who they worked for? He decided
on just enough information not to be lying. “No…I’m
not a pilot, but I am American. I guess you could say
I’m looking for someone.”
The girl struggled
to stifle a giggle and her face grew into a warm smile.
“Well, Mr. American, you’re not likely to
find anyone hanging around in that tree!” She put
a hand on her chest. “I am Ana.”
Mac smiled back
as warmly as he could, hoping to soften the other two
locals bravado as he had Ana’s. “You have
a point there,” he agreed. “Name’s MacGyver,
and I’m pleased to meet you folks. I don’t
suppose you happen to have a knife I could cut my harness
with? I’m kinda stuck?”
Ana turned to
her companions and spoke rapidly in her own dialect. After
a moment, the other girl, and the kid with the AK47 shook
“I’m sorry, we have nothing suitable. I could
go back to the village, but we’re really not supposed
to be out here…”
the three were part of some local resistance type group,
and he didn’t want to get them caught by the bad
guys, just to get him out of a tree. It was time to think
outside the box. He twisted in the harness that was causing
all the trouble, spinning around so he could get a better
view of what was around him.
In the darkness,
it wasn’t easy, but in the distance he thought he
saw the glimmer of something metallic. Mac squinted, forcing
his eyes to focus on the thing. It was a derelict 4x4,
and by the looks of it, it had been hit by a shell. Some
parts of the cab were still intact, though.
back around to face Ana, who was still watching him intently.
He nodded towards the hulk of a truck. “Would you
mind going over to that truck and seeing if there’s
something sharp I could use? Maybe a shard of glass or
Ana nodded and
ambled off, leaving her friends to watch over Mac. He
wondered if that was intentional, given he could be a
spy working for the enemy. After all, they knew nothing
about him, and owed him nothing.
Ten minutes later,
Ana returned empty handed. She shrugged. “All the
glass is in tiny pieces,” she explained. “And
the metal is torn and twisted, but there is nothing I
could get free without a blowtorch!”
thanks anyway…” MacGyver bit into his bottom
There was something
he was missing here. He glanced over at the wreck again
and realized it had once been a Mitsubishi – and
not just any Mitsubishi, it was a Japanese import variant,
and that sometimes meant they came with emergency flares
in the footwell on the passenger side. It was a huge long
shot to think that the flare would still be present and
not damaged, but it was worth a look.
apologetically. “Look, I hate to ask, but could
you go back over there? Look on the front passenger side
near the floor. There might be a cylindrical flare fastened
to the A panel trim.”
Ana cocked her
head, smiled, and then padded back over to the LWB Pajero.
The boy with
the gun scowled. “You waste our time. We could be
elsewhere, killing Serbs!”
the kid over and doubted seriously if he’d ever
killed anyone. Whether he was capable was anyone’s
guess. “Taking lives isn’t the answer to anything,”
he offered carefully. “There are always solutions,
y’know, if you look hard enough?”
good, coming from an American,” the kid retorted.
“You people seem to worship guns. I’ve seen
on TV, you all have them in your homes, stuffed in your
belts or hidden in your cars!”
Mac lifted both
arms away from his body. “You won’t find one
from the darkness, breaking up the conversation. In her
left hand, she held a very tatty flare. “Is this
it?” Without letting Mac answer, she clambered up
the tree and onto a lower branch just high enough to pass
it to him.
surprised and impressed with how agile she was, considering
the long skirt she was wearing. These people have
had to adapt, and fast, or die…
his right arm until it felt like muscle and sinew would
snap, and it just gave him enough reach to snatch the
flare. “Thank you. Now you folks might wanna take
a few steps back while I use this to get down…”
back down the oak and practically had to tug the boy back
to a safe distance. The other girl was exceptionally quiet,
and extremely obedient. She moved into the shadows of
the trees like a wraith, almost vanishing at Mac’s
was sure it was safe, he took a breath and ignited the
flare. Its scarlet glow lit up the night, and it was a
beacon to the enemy, but also a savior to the troubleshooter.
the heat to the lines on the parachute, Mac cut through
each one in turn until he felt the last one snap. With
a crack, Mac suddenly felt weightless as his body tumbled
to the ground. As his frame hit the dirt below, he instinctively
rolled as he’d been trained.
It was a harsh
fall, but MacGyver was lucky enough to escape with just
a bumps and bruises. He scrambled to his feet and brushed
off sods of soil and loose mud from his jacket. Then after
fumbling for a few seconds more, he was finally able to
retrieve his knife and cut away the rest of the harness
that had kept him up the tree.
As he worked,
his local companions watched him. When MacGyver eventually
stowed his knife back in his pocket, Ana stepped forwards,
her hands clasped in front of her. “This is my brother,
Velid, and my sister Kadira.”
Mac nodded to
the pair but focused on Ana. He had a mission here, after
all, and time was wasting. “Ana, do you know anything
about an American pilot being shot down around these parts?
He’s the person I’m here to find…”
It was a risk divulging even that much, but he needed
Ana took down
a long breath, glanced warily at her very edgy brother,
and then nodded. “We know where he is. We have been
helping him since he came down from the sky much as you
There was a hesitancy
in her voice that said she still wasn’t sure whether
to trust MacGyver or not, and Mac couldn’t blame
the girl. These were harsh times in this area, and death
could come swiftly from the Serbs with their ideas of
down just a touch, until his eyes were level with the
girl’s. Eye contact was always a good way of gaining
trust. He put a hand on Ana’s shoulder. “Will
you take me to him? He could be in a great deal of danger.
Heck, we all could…”
we believe a word you say?” Velid spat, the AK47
in his grasp moving dangerously close to targeting MacGyver
again. “You could be in league with the Serbs, and
we could be leading you to this man to kill him!”
not,” MacGyver said with total conviction. “You
can frisk me, you won’t find any weapons.”
Of course, real killers can use their hands as the
weapon, he thought dryly. But better not offer up
that fact to Velid – the kid was obviously pretty
bitter about trusting people.
you,” Ana broke the moment. “Kadira will return
to our village, and I will take you to the pilot with
Velid.” She looked to the younger girl expectantly,
and Kadira nodded and ambled off onto a nearby pebbled
path. “Come, it’s this way…”
Ana guided MacGyver
through the copse with Velid bringing up the rear. The
boy was stonily silent, and Mac noted, very jumpy. In
his nervous state, it would be easy for someone to get
hurt or worse.
Mac made a mental
note to be more careful around Ana’s brother as
he stepped over a small rivulet of water, splashing through
a shallow area the other side.
Ana smiled at
his lack of local knowledge of the terrain.
kinda dark out here,” Mac made light of the moment
as best he could. “How about giving a guy a break?”
He shuffled up closer to Ana, his hands in his pockets
as he walked. “Where are your parents?” He
asked carefully, jerking a thumb back to Velid. “Did
something happen to make him so bitter?”
“Our parents are dead, killed for their beliefs.
I suppose you could say the war happened, if you can even
call it that.” She stopped walking and looked at
MacGyver with eyes filled with something he couldn’t
quite fathom. “Why doesn’t the outside world
Mac wished he
had the answer, but whether it was here, East Zambula,
or some South American state, no one seemed to care until
it was too late. Sanctions just didn’t work fast
enough when people were dying.
He looked back
to Ana with sadness. “I just don’t know…”
Ana nodded, as
if she expected the answer, and then pointed to an abandoned,
bullet-ridden house. MacGyver instantly thought about
the three bears, or Hansel and Gretel, except this was
no fairy tale.
The house had
once been painted white, and there were remnants of floral
curtains at the windows. One whole wall had been blown
out by a shell, though, shattering any illusions.
Ana stepped over
the rubble of the wall and grabbed a carefully placed
lantern from behind an old black stove that sat on its
side. She lit the lantern, and then moved on again until
she reached a pile of debris that appeared to be from
a collapsed section of roof.
Ana put the lantern
down and grabbed some of the wreckage, quickly pulling
it to one side. It was then MacGyver realized the rubble
was actually carefully placed camouflage for a cellar
door. He dug, helping the girl to finish the task, while
Velid stood guard.
Once the door
was free, Ana grabbed a large metal ring and tugged. The
thing screeched open with a rusty growl and Mac winced.
Ana ignored him
and took the lantern in one hand, deftly clambering down
set of steep stairs into the unknown. MacGyver followed,
watching his step on the ancient wooden rungs.
At the bottom,
he noted he was in a pretty small room that smelled of
damp earth and mould. Water dripped from the ceiling in
several places. In the far corner, sitting in the only
totally dry spot on the floor, was a man, mulling over
a wad of paperwork. He glanced up as he realized Ana had
company, and the look on his rugged features said he was
not happy to have been found.
eyes scanned the man’s clothes – they were
military issue, yes, but definitely not a USAF flight
suit. In fact, Mac was sure they weren’t U.S. issue
To confirm his
suspicions, the stranger pulled a SIG Sauer automatic
faster than lightning, and pointed it at the troubleshooter.
Mac winced; things
were not going to plan.
who the bloody hell are you?” The man’s accent
wasn’t American. In fact, he had a British accent
– not an Oxford or Cambridge man for sure, though.
Mac guessed the guy was from Yorkshire, or thereabouts.
MacGyver…and I’m guessing you’re not
Lt. Peter Kaminski?” Mac slowly moved to put his
hands in the air. His newfound “friend” looked
more than annoyed, and his trigger finger itched like
he wasn’t afraid to use it.
The gun didn’t
waver. “You guessed right, Pretty Boy.”