Atlas

By Rocket

Episode 9.20

Part Four

 

“OK, so Pete’s passed on that Tristan is planning to let Atlas loose in New York.” Seeley sat down again and ran a shaking hand over his smooth hair. “Local police are on their way.” He nodded at the twins. “How’re they doing?”

“Well,” Nikki glanced at the Carmichaels. “Troy’s been going nuts at Tristan, all about how insane he is and how he’s got to stop the plane before he unleashes mayhem and destruction etc etc. Tristan is lapping it up – look at him!”

Seeley turned, seeing the Carmichael twins’ reflections. The second twin was red in the face and leaning across the table, berating his brother in a fierce whisper. The first twin sat back and listened, his expression triumphant.

“Yuck.” Nikki repressed a shudder. “How long before DXS have planes in the air to stop him?”

“Not long, I hope.” Seeley looked grim. “Also, Willis says the plane has taken off, which means Mac and Jack weren’t able to keep it on the ground. Mac sent the plane specs through, but we’ve lost contact with them for now, so they’d better get that thing under control before DXS decide to shoot it out of the sky!”


* * * *

“There has to be a way to break the code.” Jack’s eyes were very wide and frightened in the glow of MacGyver’s flashlight.

“No.” MacGyver shook his head.

“OK. OK.” Jack took off his hat, scratched his head and paced the length of the cargo bay. “If we can’t crack the code, how about bringing this bird down?” He kept his voice steady with effort, aware that he was talking about a suicide mission.

“Crashing the plane would still spill the superbugs on impact.” MacGyver shook his head. “Even if we just do enough to force a controlled landing, the device is on a timer. All we’d be doing is changing the location of ground zero.”

“Alright.” Jack was secretly relieved. “Then we need to take out the pilot and get control of the plane ourselves. We fly it out somewhere over the ocean, bail out and let the bugs drown when the plane ditches!”

“I like it!” MacGyver glanced up from the device. “You know how you said breaking into airplanes wasn’t a quiet job?” He nodded to the locked cockpit door. “It’s time to make some noise!”


* * * *

The first Carmichael twin smiled at his brother’s whispered tirade. He’d waited a long time to see him lose it like this, really lose control and show that he knew he was defeated. A pity he’d had to go to such lengths to gain his victory but, as their father had always said, the end almost always justifies the means. He reached for his cigarettes on the table in front of him. No smoking regulations be damned – he wanted a smoke and it wasn’t as though he couldn’t afford the fine.

Picking up the packet and lighter, he glanced down. Ignoring his brother’s continuing tirade, he turned the lighter over in his hand. Not his. “Brother, I do believe I’ve been wearing your coat!” He held out the lighter, oblivious to his brother’s incredulous expression.

“Have you heard anything I’ve said? Anything at all?!” The second twin drew breath to continue, but words failed him.

“That idiot cloakroom girl must have given us the wrong ones at that tedious fundraiser.” He unhooked the coat from the back of his chair and held it out to his brother.

“You’re mad! You’re actually mad!” The second twin pushed back his chair and stood up. “All this to win some stupid competition? You stop this, Troy, and you stop it now!” Behind them, Seeley and Nikki exchanged horrified stares. As one, they said “We’ve been tracking the wrong twin!”


* * * *

Jack glanced out of the small window behind the cockpit door, then did a double take and pressed his nose to the glass. “Mac. Mac!” He turned to see MacGyver look up at him and then back at the device. He seemed to be getting somewhere – wires and components littered the floor in the flashlight’s beam. “Mac, I get that you’re busy right now, but I’m watching Vegas go by underneath us here.”

This time MacGyver’s hands stilled and he looked up, wide-eyed. “So, we’re not heading for New York after all. We’re heading for…”

“California.” Jack’s voice was grim. “This thing’s going to drop right on the City of Angels!”


* * * *

Seeley swore and stood up, the bar stool clattering to the floor. He pushed his way through the crowded restaurant and elbowed past Tristan Carmichael to grab Troy by the front of his expensive dinner jacket. Two men sitting at the nearest table stood up, ready to intervene.

Nikki stepped between them and the Carmichaels. “Don’t try it, fellas.” She shook her head. “We got this.”

One shrugged and sat down again, but the other stayed on his feet. “He’s gonna hurt him, lady!” He reached out a hand to move Nikki aside and she pulled a small pistol out of her purse.

“Don’t.” She waited until the man held up his hands. “Walk away.” She glanced over at Seeley, who still had Troy Carmichael’s shirt bunched in his hand. Troy’s nose was bleeding.

“TELL US HOW TO STOP IT!” Seeley’s yell was loud in the silent, shocked restaurant. Troy Carmichael tipped back his head and his laugh echoed back off the walls.


* * * *

Jack looked around the cargo bay, his own flashlight casting a feeble beam. Pulling aside a tarpaulin, he grinned. “Come to daddy…” He picked up a rusted crowbar and slid it quietly into the cockpit door handle. “Three, two, one, knock knock!” He wrenched the crowbar and kicked the door just below the locking mechanism.

There was a metallic screech as the lock gave and Jack jumped into the cockpit, fist raised. “GAAH!” Jack stumbled back as the pilot launched himself out through the door. Jack’s foot caught against the doorframe and they both crashed to the floor with Jack underneath.

The pilot grabbed hold of Jack’s lapels, staring at him with wild, terrified eyes. “We gotta get out of here!”


* * * *

“Seeley!” Nikki called c=back over her shoulder. “The police are here, let them handle this.”

“HOW?” Seeley shook Troy, who laughed harder.

“You can’t stop it! No-one can stop it!” Blood from Troy’s nose sprayed out with his words. “You’re finished, Tristan. Finished!”

The police grabbed and handcuffed Troy, who was led away still laughing maniacally. Seeley turned to Tristan who’d sat down again, his face ashen.

“I really believe he’ll do it.” Tristan’s voice was shocked and his hands shook as he took out his own cigarettes. “He was always on the ragged edge, even as a child. I remember having to cover up things he’d done. Cruel things.” He looked at the cigarette in his hand and dropped it on the table, unlit. He blinked and shook himself, looking up at Nikki and Seeley. “If there’s anything I can do to help, you only have to ask.”

“Matter of fact, there is.” Nikki put away her gun and folded her arms. “You can tell me exactly where in L.A. your brother is likely to have aimed his superbugs!”


* * * *

“Tel me what happened.” MacGyver stared at the pilot, now being held by Jack.

“I took off, standard run out to LAX. Then the radio stopped working. Then the autopilot kicked in and the radio fired up again on a different frequency – all about weapon trajectories and blast radius and weapons stuff.” He took a shaky breath. “Then I couldn’t disengage the autopilot and I worked out the new flight plan and we’re going to crash! On L.A! And I can’t stop it!” He pulled out of Jack’s grip and staggered a few steps before stopping. “I fly freight! I’m from Missouri, not Miramar! This should have been a commercial flight, not some nightmare secret mission and –“ He pointed a shaking finger at the drums of liquid and the device bolted to the plane floor. “- what the hell is THAT?!”

“That? Oh, that’s just a secret bioweapon that’s going to wipe out everyone and his dog if we don’t disable it!” Jack nodded at the pilot’s open-mouthed shock. “So we got bigger problems than a simple crash! So you and me, we’re going to go back in there –“ he jabbed a finger at the cockpit – “And we’re going to work out how to NOT crash while Mac here works out how to switch off the doomsday device! He turned the pilot around and gave him a push towards the cockpit. “Now, GET!”


* * * *

Willis caught up with Seeley and Nikki at the police station. “Where is he?” Willis skidded to a halt, his sneakers squeaking on the polished floor.

“In the cells.” Seeley rubbed a hand across his face, looking tired. “Did he tell you how to –“ Willis broke off as Nikki shook her head.

“Nope, he’s lost it but good. We’ve got Tristan going through everything we can find on Troy’s laptop, so Seeley’s going to see what we get off that. DXS have scrambled planes to intercept too.”

“I’m on it.” Willis pulled out a complicated-looking gadget from his backpack. “I found a way to boost the signal to Mac and Jack, so we can at least give them some warning.”

“Great.” Nikki nodded. “Let’s get to work.”


* * * *

“I jammed all the dispersal valves with chewing gum and stuck the whole thing together with duct tape.” MacGyver ducked his head and stepped through the low door into the cockpit. “It won’t stop the device firing, but it should foul the delivery and limit the spread some.” He shoved the remains of the duct tape into his pocket. “I also messed with the timer as much as I dared, but I dunno…” He shook his head.
“How’re you doing?”

“We can’t get into the launch stuff, but Carl there is busy unhooking the autopilot.” Jack pointed to a pair of feet sticking out from underneath the console.

“OK, that’s good. At least we get to choose where we crash!” Mac Nodded. Carl the pilot crawled out from under the console clutching a bunch of wires.

“Try it now.” He dumped the wires on the floor and watched as Jack gripped the controls. The plane banked gently to the left and then straightened up. Jack tested switches and nodded.

“OK Mac, we got control of the direction we fly in but not the speed. Glass half-full eh, Kemosabe?”

“Yeah, Jack. Glass half-full.” MacGyver frowned at the console. “What else can we do? Can we open the loading bay doors?”

“Probably.” Carl stepped out of the cockpit. “You thinking of bailing out?”

“Not just yet.” MacGyver grinned. “Jack, aim us for the most remote place you can find, OK? I’ve got the beginnings of a plan…”


* * * *

“Why’s that lighting up?” Nikki reached for Troy’s tray of possessions, picking up his cell phone and flipping it open. “Hey, guys? Look at this!”

“What is it?” Seeley glanced up from Troy’s laptop.

“Looks like the inside of a plane. All dark and green lights.” Nikki held up the phone. “Hey, that’s Jack!” The viewpoint changed, showing Jack sitting in the pilot’s seat.

“They must have a camera hooked up in there.” Seeley leaned over Nikki’s shoulder.

“Hey, how about we show this to the arch-scumbag in there - I bet he won’t be expecting this!” They watched for a moment longer, both breathing a silent sigh of relief when MacGyver came into view.

Troy Carmichael sat on his prison cell bench as though sitting on a throne. He looked up with mild interest as Seeley and Nikki approached, smiling at them. “I trust room service will be along shortly?” His blue eyes were wide, bright and quite mad.

“You wish, buster.” Nikki held up the phone to the bars. “Read it and weep!”

Troy shook his head, disappointed with Nikki’s rudeness, but got to his feet and crossed the cell. When he saw the phone, his eyes lit up and he reached for it, but Nikki moved it away.

“Ah, yes.” Troy smiled at the tiny image of his pilot flying the plane. Then his smile vanished as the pilot got up and someone else took his place. Someone tall. Someone with shaggy hair. Someone familiar… “NO!” Troy’s hands flew to his mouth.“No, he’s dead. He’s… He can’t possibly be…” His knees gave out and he sank to the floor of the cell. “But if he’s…” He gestured helplessly, his hands falling to his lap. “All my plans…” He blinked up at the Phoenix agents. “He can’t stop it, you know. Not even him.” A feral grin showed his teeth. “He’ll be the first to die! A fitting sacrifice ahead of the total destruction of my damnable brother and his damnable city!” he nodded, clutching the bars with both hands and pulling himself upright. “Yes!” Spit gathered at the corners of his mouth. “He’ll die first, and you’ll all die with him! All of you!” He threw back his head and laughed.


* * * *

“WILLIS!” MacGyver yelled into the phone, sticking a finger in his other ear to block the noise of the engine. “We’re going to have to ditch the plane! DITCH THE PLANE! Yes, that’s right.” He listened and then shook his head. “No, no way to disable it totally. Yes, we’ve done that. You have? That’s great! THAT’S GREAT! Not more than a mile, I hope.” He listened again. “The most remote spot we can find, way west of Mountain City, Nevada. Yes! Hold them off as long as you can!” He looked around the hold and sighed. “No, there aren’t any. THERE AREN’T ANY!” He ran a hand through his hair. “I know. I’ll figure something out.” He flipped his phone shut and put in in his pocket. He shone the flashlight around the edges of the hold, stopping on a crumpled heap in one corner. “OK, that’s a start…”


* * * *

“This isn’t going to work.” Carl shook his head, pulling at the straps crisscrossing his chest. “You’re crazy!” He held onto the side of the cargo hold as the plane started to tip forwards into a dive, the note of the engine rising.

“You’d be amazed how often the crazy stuff works out.” Jack shrugged, trying to hide his own nerves. He’d heard about most of MacGyver’s crazy ideas over the years, but never taken part in one quite as crazy as this. On the floor between them lay a spiders-web of rope, scavenged wires and seat belts, all fastened to a massive tarpaulin. The air was thick with the reek of aviation fuel, spilling from cut lines into the cargo hold.

“It’ll work, trust me.” MacGyver slid his phone into his pocket, careful not to disconnect the call. He tightened the straps on his makeshift harness and cranked the cargo door open, the shrilling of the alarm lost in the roar of the wind. He glanced once out of the door, seeing only darkness outside, and took a deep breath. “JUMP!” He leaped out, pulling the other two with him.

The wind screamed in MacGyver’s ears, so strong that it made his eyes run with tears and threatened to rip the ropes from his hands. He felt someone slam into him and heard a frightened yell before the wind whipped the sound away. He heard the howl of the plane’s engines and, squinting against the wind, saw the plane’s lights spinning away beneath him. Above, the frantic flapping of the tarpaulin steadied and his arms were almost jerked out of their sockets as the canopy opened out and filled with air.

He risked a glance down, seeing the light of his phone shining out through his jeans pocket in the rushing darkness and feeling the weight of one of his companions against his back. Below him, the plane’s lights spiralled, and vertigo threatened to overwhelm him. A helicopter whizzed by, seemingly close enough to touch, and the makeshift parachute swung and bucked in the turbulence. The plane made one last circle and a fireball mushroomed up as it crashed into the desert below. The spilled fuel caught immediately, burning bright and hot in the night. Instinctively, MacGyver and Jack pulled their feet up, trying to get as far away from the superbugs as possible. Beside them in the darkness, MacGyver could hear Carl praying. Moments later, the sound of the explosion reached them – a rolling boom following the fireball up into the desert air. The sound echoed, then faded, and MacGyver was left only with the sound of the wind.

Taking a deep breath, MacGyver looked first up at his improvised parachute. As far as he could tell against the starry sky, neither the descent nor the helicopter’s turbulence had damaged it. Then he looked down between his feet. The fire was burning in several places on the desert floor below, showing the plane had broken up on impact. The fire still burned fiercely, lighting up the landscape and burning the superbugs into oblivion. The helicopter made a low pass, searchlights scanning the area.

“Jack?” MacGyver blinked in the darkness, swaying as the parachute spun them around.

“Right here, Mac!” Jack sounded breathless. “Was that it? Is it gone?”

“I hope so!” MacGyver glanced down again, tightening his grip on the ropes as he saw the crash site slide past underneath him. “I think so.” He turned himself around, feeling his shoulder bump against the pilot. “Carl?”

“What?!” Carl tightened his grip on the ropes and screwed his eyes even more tightly shut. “You OK?”

“NO!” Carl spun himself around to face MacGyver, but was unable to stop and carried on turning. “Do I look like I’m OK?! I’m dangling a million feet in the air from a parachute made of dust cloths and seatbelts, with two lunatics somewhere above a freaking desert full of superbugs!” He revolved slowly, coming around to face MacGyver again. “There is no part of me that is OK!”

“He’s OK.” Jack laughed and kicked his feet. “Boy, Mac – we really did it, didn’t we?”

“We really did.” MacGyver grinned, feeling the weight of the past year lift off him. “We brought down Atlas!”

“Who? What’s Atlas?” Carl revolved around again, hanging on grimly.

“We saved the world today, buddy!” Jack grinned. “You’re looking at two bona-fide heroes right here!”

“Whatever you say, man.” Carl spun slowly away. “I just want to get down and go home!”

“Hey Mac, how are we going to get home?” Jack frowned. “I mean, gravity takes care of the ‘down’ part, but we’re going to come down in the remotest patch of desert I could find, with no way to steer the Good Ship Dust Cloth here, and we could have a lot of trouble hailing a cab in this neighbourhood!”

“Don’t panic, Jack.” MacGyver pointed at his pocket. “Willis is tracking my phone signal so they should be able to find us just fine.”

“And the landing part?” Jack looked down at the ground, which suddenly seemed very much closer.

“Uh…” MacGyver looked up at the ropes holding them to the tarpaulin. He tugged on one handful and the parachute lurched. “I’m working on it! Any landing you walk away from is a good one, right?”

“Damn straight!” Jack whooped as the ground rushed up to meet them. “Here we go!”

The parachute swung and flapped as MacGyver tried to steer their progress. A gust of wind caught them, buffeting them sideways, and the parachute caught in a tall cactus and dragged them through sagebrush and thorny scrub before fetching them up hard against some rocks. It tugged a couple more times and then collapsed, draping itself over the three struggling men.

“Mac?” Jack’s voice was muffled as he thrashed his way free of the tarpaulin. “Mac, you OK?”

“Yeah, Jack.” The tarpaulin heaved and bulged, and MacGyver rolled out, stopping at Jack’s feet. “Is Carl OK?”

“NO!” A voice came out from underneath the tarpaulin. “I think I’m dead!”

A light shone at the top of a nearby hill. The helicopter appeared, spotlight beam bouncing over the uneven ground. Shading his eyes, MacGyver raised his other hand and waved.

“Yes!” Jack punched the air and turned around to help Carl up. “Carl? Our ride’s here.” He took the trembling pilot by the arm and led him to the approaching helicopter, holding his hat on as the wind from the rotors threatened to blow it away.

MacGyver got to his feet. The landing had been hard on his ankle and he limped slowly across the desert to the helicopter, now waiting for them on the ground with the rotors turning lazily. By the time he got there, Jack and Carl were already seated and strapped in. “Hey Mac – any landing you hobble away from is good too, right?” Jack grinned and reached down to help MacGyver into the helicopter.

“Yeah, Jack. Something like that.” MacGyver buckled his seat belt and gave the pilot a thumbs up.

As the helicopter lifted off, he looked out of the window, seeing the crash site fire dying down. He closed his eyes, stretched out his bad leg and leaned back in his seat. Then he felt a tap on his good knee and opened one eye.

“So, Mac,” Jack grinned over at him, “What are we doing tomorrow?”

THE END

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