Bug Spray

By Rocket

Episode 9.12

Part One

 



“This sounds really good, Pete.” MacGyver watched the credits roll on the Wellforce Pharmaceuticals promotional video. “They’re making real progress, if their sales pitch is to be believed.”

“They do seem to live up to the hype.” Pete nodded. “Which is why Phoenix is funding their latest research project. A way to treat tuberculosis without needing months of expensive antibiotics would be a godsend for a lot of Third World countries.”

“And how!” Willis leaned around Pete to look at MacGyver. “Do you know how many deaths could be prevented by access to something like that?”

“Oh yeah.” MacGyver nodded and put down the Wellforce leaflet he’d been reading. “Pete, when do we get started?”

“Right now.” Pete handed out reports on the research project whose progress they would be checking out, and the meeting became a discussion of the project so far.
Behind MacGyver, on the desk, the breeze from the open window fluttered the leaflet and the first page turned. Underneath a photo of scientists hard at work, the title read ‘Fight for a healthier future with Wellforce’.

* * * *
 

“How much further is it?” Willis turned the map again. “Are you sure we should have turned left back there?”

“Pretty sure.” MacGyver guided the Jeep around a tight bend and up a hill. “There should be a turning just… Aha! Here we are.” He spun the wheel and they pulled up outside a gateway, a cluster of single-storey buildings visible through the trees.

“It looks so small, to be doing such important work.” Willis shaded his eyes against the sunbeams slanting through the pines. “Then again, small can be mighty. I mean, the germs they’re fighting here are pretty scary even to something as big as a human.”

“I guess.” MacGyver slowed the Jeep, looking at the research facility buildings. “But we beat them, don’t we? I guess I prefer being the bigger guy in the fight!” He turned the Jeep into a parking space, they collected their bags and headed into the building.

* * * *
 

The research facility seemed bigger on the inside. Halls and corridors, laboratories and clean rooms merged into one as Lucy, an excited intern, gave them a tour, talking non-stop about how much she was enjoying spending a term here as part of her post-graduate programme. She was familiar with Phoenix’s work elsewhere as well as at Wellforce, and had heard of Willis. Willis, not used to being seen as a celebrity, warmed to her straight away and MacGyver hung back, observing everything going on around him as Willis and Lucy’s conversation moved into branches of science with which he was unfamiliar.

MacGyver was impressed by what he saw. The labs seemed to be run well, all the employees were working hard and were confident to answer his questions. He spotted Dr. Caroline Ortega, the project’s leader, across the lab. She grinned, returned his wave, and signalled ‘be with you in a minute’ as she listened to a scientist making his report.

“MacGyver!” Dr Ortega strode across the lab to meet him, smiling and holding out her hand. “Is it really six months since I was at Phoenix, presenting my idea?”

“Yes ma’am.” MacGyver shook her hand with a smile. “Just here to see how you’re getting along.”

“Of course.” Dr Ortega shoved her pencil into her messy bun, where it stuck out at an angle. “We’re spending Phoenix’s money well, you know – we’re really onto something here. Let me show you.”

They spent the morning going over the research completed so far, and explaining the next steps. MacGyver and Dr Ortega collected Willis, who had been taken step-by-step through the practical side of conducting the research, and Dr Ortega left them in the canteen having their lunch.

“Looking pretty good, I reckon.” MacGyver ate a forkful of bean casserole, finding it tastier than he’d anticipated.

“Uh-huh.” Willis smiled at someone over MacGyver’s shoulder and MacGyver turned, just in time to see Lucy wave shyly at Willis, blush red and turn back to the rest of her table.

“The research, Willis! The research is looking pretty good” MacGyver grinned as Willis blushed too, then looked serious and concentrated on his dinner. MacGyver gestured with his fork. “You know you have gravy on your tie, right?”

* * * *
 

After dinner, they went up to Dr Ortega’s office, where they were given space and access to a computer.

“Help yourselves, gentlemen.” Dr Ortega smiled as she collected her files and went out into the lab. “Have a good afternoon.”

MacGyver moved a photo on Dr Ortega’s desk to make room for his own paperwork. The photo showed a boy of perhaps ten years old, with a smile just like Dr Ortega. He was wearing an oversized Judo gi and standing on a podium, holding a trophy. The boys wearing second and third place medals were much larger, though they looked about the same age, and MacGyver found himself wondering how Dr Ortega’s son had been able to beat them. The boy must be very skilled, MacGyver thought, to be able to overcome such large opponents. He put the photo on the windowsill and booted up the computer as Willis spread out the printouts they’d brought from Phoenix.

* * * *
 

“Something’s not right here.” Willis scrolled down the column of numbers on his computer screen and frowned.

“What’s wrong?” MacGyver set aside his page of statistics and leaned across to read over Willis’s shoulder.

“Here.” Willis pointed at the screen. “This part of the research hasn’t been started yet. It isn’t due to start until January, so the equipment hasn’t been bought yet. But look here:” He pressed a key and the screen changed. “Here it shows that everything’s been purchased and paid for already. Both of these records can’t be right.”

“Hmm.” MacGyver reached over Willis’s shoulder, clicking between the two sets of data. “Does it appear on anyone else’s inventory?”

“Nope.” Willis sat beck and folded his arms. “I checked. Twice. No-one else here has bought that equipment. It’s just vanished.”

“Things don’t just vanish.” MacGyver stood up and crossed to the window, running a hand through his hair. “It must be a mistake.”

“Some mistake!” Willis shook his head. “Have you seen the price tag on these things?!”

MacGyver looked, letting out a low whistle as he worked out how much the equipment was worth.

“And this equipment is used for…?” he raised his eyebrows and looked at Willis.
“Corralling germs.” Willis frowned. “Which makes sense if you’re trialling medicines – you need some captive germs to test your prototypes on. But no-one else’s research is at that stage right now. Either live testing is way off in the distance, or they’re past it and on to human volunteer trials. You know, for monitoring side effects and stuff.”

“Replacing old equipment, maybe?” MacGyver put his hands in his pockets and paced the office.

“Maybe. But this is top of the line gear. You only need this if you’re dealing with next-level, apocalypse-on-your-doorstep kinds of germs.” Willis took his glasses off and cleaned them on his handkerchief. “Anyway, why would you charge it to this project? Makes no sense.”

“No.” MacGyver reached the end of the office and turned. “Maybe we should dig a little deeper here, see if we can trace the purchase back.”

“We could ask Dr Ortega.” Willis put his glasses back on and blinked through them. MacGyver glanced through the glass door at Dr Ortega, talking with a colleague and peering down a microscope. Surely she couldn’t be involved in anything shady…
“No.” MacGyver pulled up a chair and sat down next to Willis. “Not just yet. Let’s see what we can find…”

 

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