Lock & Load

By Rocket

Episode 9.2

Part One

 

The driver leaned forward, squinting through the rain lashing his windshield. The wipers squealed and sloshed against the downpour but as soon as it cleared, more water sluiced down from the skies. A flash of lightning lit up the flooded road ahead.

The driver cursed, rummaging in the glove box for his map and steering one-handed through the storm. He thought he should have turned left at the last intersection, and now he was lost. Failing to find the map by touch alone, he glanced down.

The wheel wrenched out of his hands as the front axle dropped into a deep puddle, and the truck skidded.

The driver grabbed the wheel with both hands, wrestling with the heavy truck as it careered across the road.

The truck lurched into the kerb, tearing the back tyre off the rim. The driver spun the wheel but the truck continued to skid, out of control on the flooded road.

Another tyre blew out as the truck jolted over a rock, spinning the truck around. The driver threw up his arms to protect his face as the truck swerved off the road and into the trees. It skidded sideways down the wooded slope, hit a boulder and rolled, tumbling over and over before crashing down onto another road at the bottom of the hill.

The truck rolled once more, landing on its roof. The back doors burst open, shiny cylinders spilling across the wet tarmac. Inside the cab, the driver put a shaking hand to his head, his fingers coming away sticky with blood. The thunder echoed in his head as the world grew dark and echoing around him. He looked out, seeing the city lights twinkling upside down in the distance.

His last thought before he passed out was, ‘I guess I found L.A. after all…’.

* * * *


Being in a gang sucked, the boy decided.

Going for a drive in this weather sucked too, the roof of the ancient convertible leaking a steady stream of water down the neck of his too-large leather jacket.
The jacket sucked as well – it was too hot to wear during a sticky, September storm and it smelled of the previous owner’s sweat and stale cigarettes. But, as Jethro had pointed out, if you aren’t wearing the colours, you’re disrespecting the gang. And you didn’t upset Jethro, because Jethro getting mad at you sucked worse than anything. The boy pulled at the jacket collar, trying to stop the rain getting in. The movement attracted the attention of the convertible’s driver, something he’d been trying to avoid.

“Hey, Einstein, you having fun yet?” The driver turned to stare at him without taking his foot off the gas.

“Oh yeah, Jethro. Great.” The boy forced a smile, willing Jethro to concentrate on the rain-slick roads

“OK then.” Jethro’s gaze flicked back to the road and Einstein breathed a sigh of relief. He’d hoped for safety in numbers when he’d hooked up with Jethro, but Jethro frightened him almost as much as the older gangers, the proper gangers in his neighbourhood.

“Well, what do we have here?” Jethro stood on the brakes and the car squealed to a halt, the wreck of a truck lit up in the headlights. The gang crowded forwards, squashing Einstein against the door.

“You think the driver’s dead?” The ganger next to Jethro opened his door, letting in the rain as he got out for a closer look.

“Most likely. Come on, let’s see what we got.” Jethro turned up his collar and stepped out into the rain.

Einstein followed more slowly, stepping round the puddles and walking past the spilled load to peer into the cab.

“Jethro! I think he’s still alive!” Einstein scrubbed at the cracked glass and looked in again.

“I look like I care? Get your skinny ass over here – truck’s carrying chemicals and shit.” Jethro shook his head at Einstein and turned a silver canister over with his boot.

“But Jethro! He’s hurt. We can’t just leave him here!” Einstein flinched as Jethro glared at him.

“So call 911!” He spun round, water spraying off the fringes on his jacket sleeves, “Except I don’t see no phone round here, do you?” He tipped his head back, catching a mouthful of rain. “Call ‘em when we get back, you’re so worried about some punk-ass truck driver. Idiot. Get over here and look at this.” Jethro stared at Einstein until the younger boy sighed and splashed his way to the back of the truck.

Einstein crouched next to the canister, wiping rain off the label. His lips moved as he read the formula printed there and shook his head.

“I never heard of that, Jethro. Is there anything else in there?” He rolled the canister over. “No hazard stickers, so I guess it’s not dangerous.” He watched as Jethro leaned into the truck, flicking his lighter to see inside.

“Looks like… jetpacks?” Jethro shook his head. “No idea what the hell we got here, but it looks like it’s worth money. Load her up.”

The gangers filled the trunk with three jetpacks and an armful of cylinders, piled in and drove away. Einstein twisted round to look out of the back window as they left, but there was no movement from the truck.

 

* * * *


Inside the truck, the driver frowned. Had he seen a pale face at the window, or was he hallucinating? He closed his eyes and slid into unconsciousness.

* * * *

Detective Kate Murphy set her coffee on her desk and picked up the folders in her in-tray. She blew on her drink and sipped as she flicked through the titles, then opened the top one. She read through the four burglary reports, the update on the gang scene in South Hollywood and the accident report on the chemical truck, crashed up in the hills. She skimmed the rest, but there was nothing new assigned to her. Nothing that sounded like Dr Zito might have been involved. She silently cursed her own paranoia and reached for her case files.

* * * *


“So what is it?” Jethro leaned against the kitchen counter and poked a finger into the mass of tubes and wiring Einstein was investigating.

“I dunno.” Einstein caught Jethro’s frown. “I dunno yet, I mean.” He moved the machine out of Jethro’s reach and picked up one of the silver canisters, fitting it into a space at the side of the machine. “The gas, or whatever’s in here, hooks up to the delivery system, but what it’s for? Beats me.”

“Huh.” Jethro picked up another machine by its straps. “You can’t read that science-shit formula on the tank? Maybe you’re not so clever after all. Remind me why I let you hang with us again?” He glared at Einstein and the younger boy looked away.

“I’m trying, Jethro. I’m trying.” Einstein picked up a tube of superglue, sticking down a component that had shaken loose in the crash. He laid the tube down next to the canister, holding the machine parts together. Then he frowned, glancing from the canister to the tube. He set the machine carefully aside.

“Jethro, I think I know what’s in here.” He frowned at the canister, trying to work out the formula in his head. “I think it’s kinda like superglue, only it’s a foam.”

* * * *


“Non-lethal weapons? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?” Seeley scooted his computer chair across to MacGyver’s desk, reading the New Scientist article over his shoulder.

“I don’t think so.” MacGyver moved the magazine so that Seeley could see too. “Imagine the situation: You know there are enemy soldiers or terrorists in a particular building, but bombing the building is out of the question because there are innocent people in there too. What if you could, say, ‘neutralise -’” MacGyver made quote marks in the air, “- everyone in the building and then go in and weed out the terrorists afterwards, with no threat to your soldiers and the civilians?” He spread his hands. “Think of the lives that could be saved!”

“Sounds, good, but how would you do it?” Seeley rubbed his chin and frowned. “This John Alexander’s ideas of microwave cannons and electromagnetic pulse generators sound like pure science fiction to me.”

“Yeah…” MacGyver turned the page, scanning the article. “Sound waves and guns that shoot fast setting foam or anaesthetic gas sound more plausible right now, but in twenty years or so, who knows?”

“It’ll never catch on.” Seeley stood up. “I’m getting some coffee, you want some?”

MacGyver shook his head, still reading.

* * * *

“Damn, bro!” Jethro shrugged out of the harness and put the machine down on a dry patch of concrete. He crossed the yard and reached out to touch the sticky mess plastered across the wall. His fingers stuck, taking some skin off as he yanked his hand free. “Just like the Ghostbusters packs! We got us some unlicensed adhesive accelerators right here!” He chuckled, turning to face the assembled gangers.
“Don’t cross the streams, bro!” A lanky ganger grinned, shaking his head as he poked the mess with a toothpick.

“Don’t cross the streams is right. Lonnie, go get me a guinea pig. I want to test this baby on a live target!” Jethro picked up the glue cannon again, settling the straps on his shoulders and stroking the canister. “Real firepower at last…”

“Yeah, Boss.” The lanky ganger signalled to the two standing nearest to him and they slouched off down the alley. Einstein watched them go, more worried than usual by the gleam in Jethro’s eyes.

* * * *

Detective Murphy rubbed her eyes and blinked. Her shift was due to finish in half an hour and she was looking forward to a hot shower and a meal. She typed the last paragraph of her report and signed it. The phone rang and she tucked the receiver into her shoulder, winding the report out of the typewriter.

“Murphy. Yeah, what is it?” She listened to the agitated desk sergeant. “You’re kidding me. They glued him to… How?!” She put the report down, reaching instead for a notebook and pen. “Yeah, tell me where… OK. And we’ve no idea how…? Right. On my way.” She put down the receiver and stared at the phone, drumming her fingers on the desk. Then she picked up the phone again, dialling a number from memory.

“Can you put me through to MacGyver, please? Detective Kate Murphy, LAPD. Yes, I’ll hold.” She grabbed her bag, fishing out her keys and gun one handed. “Mac? Yeah, it’s me. I’m OK. No, no sign of him, this is something else.” She shrugged into her jacket. “Uh-huh. Yeah, well, you know how much you love weird science? I want you to come out to a crime scene with me…”

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