Shadowside

By MacsJeep

Episode 9.1: Part One

 

Five hours – it seemed almost ironic that there were now two deadlines, two problems that would ultimately end in death if they weren’t solved.

Pete turned to MacGyver, sensing as if his silence meant something terrible. “Mac? What is it?”

But MacGyver had no words to explain to Pete. How could he? His choices were simple, and yet agonizing.

Mac could walk away from the shuttle for Sam, leaving the astronauts to die or he could stay here, almost certainly causing Sam’s untimely demise.

Could there be another option, a way to save both Sam and the men orbiting the earth with very little air left?

This time, MacGyver wasn’t sure there was. He stood in silence.

“Mac…I don’t like it when you get like this…” Pete reached out, feeling for MacGyver’s arm, and when he touched warm clammy flesh he paused. “So what the heck just happened?”

MacGyver broke, every last detail of his encounter with Mariotte spilled out like water from a fountain, and when he was done he simply sagged down onto a chair next to his friend, feeling empty and so very alone, even though he was surrounded by people.

Pete took a moment to let it all sink in, or maybe he was just speechless too. Eventually, he swallowed hard and his hand fell away from Mac’s arm like he too felt defeat before the game had even started. “MacGyver I…”

“Don’t know what to say?” Mac finished for him. “Then maybe I should say it for you. Maybe I should run from here, grab a taxi and find Sam…”

“But you can’t leave those men up there to die, either can you?” Pete sucked down air. “I’ve know you too long for you to just run from this, even for Sam.”

MacGyver bit his lip. Pete was right. Heck, Pete was always right.

“And besides,” Pete continued. “There’s no way you could get to Alameda in time anyway. Even if I sanctioned the use of the Phoenix Learjet, its cruise speed is 500mph, and Alameda is almost two thousand miles away. What could you possibly do in an hour?”

Mac nodded. The jet could push Mach 0.8, but given the time it would take to file a flight plan, actually get to the jet, land the other end, well, the math did all the talking. “I get it,” he admitted. “Zito has given me an almost impossible task, but you know he expects me to pull it off somehow, right?”
“Right,” Pete agreed almost too soberly.

MacGyver took a moment. He was panicking purely because Sam was involved. Would this happen in any other scenario?

Dang right it wouldn’t bucko…

He sat up straight, sudden determination pushing him back into the game. Whatever he could do to help the shuttle would have to ultimately be long distance, and it was the same with Zito. Somehow, he had to release the doctor without physically being there.

So which first?

Mac realized his heart didn’t like the answer his head was giving. He was here in Houston, and despite his mind being on Sam it made sense to try and help the shuttle first – besides, he had an idea that might work about the thrusters, but no idea for Zito – yet.

“I think I can save the shuttle,” MacGyver eventually offered sounding more confident than he felt. “If they’ll let me try?”

Pete slapped him on the back, perhaps a little too heartily, and Mac coughed. Thornton ignored it. “Well alright! I better go tell Newman you want to try something. I expect he’ll argue again…”

The Flight Director seemed to sense he was being talked about, and chose the moment to approach them with Bennett in tow like a pilot fish to a shark. Overhearing his name mentioned, Newman scowled. “Argue about what?”

“MacGyver has an idea how to save the shuttle.”

Newman’s nose twitched in agitation. “Maybe I need to keep repeating myself, but your help is the kind we can do without!”

“Sir, we’re out of options,” Bennett dared to interrupt, but his voice quivered in trepidation. “I’d like to hear what they have to say.”

Pete waved a hand. “Why you guys talk, I’m going to pull Seeley Atkins from the Phoenix jet at the airport over to here, he may be of some help.” Without asking for assistance, he stood up and made his way to a nearby desk.

Mac watched him go, amazed at how he navigated blind and then turned back to Newman and Bennett. It was time to make some magic happen. “We can’t replace the boards, right? But what if the astronauts could repair them?”

Newman bristled, seemingly un-amused, and he moved to turn away. Bennett stopped him. “How?” The engineer asked, his face as determined as MacGyver’s.

Mac pulled out a diagram of the thruster control board he’d been using earlier and began pointing at the faulty components. “Okay, so RL3 is a relay, D3 and D5 are diodes, and IC2 is an integrated circuit. Over here, you’ve got a resistor wire, and all these are suspect. Can your people check to see if the same components are used on any other boards on the shuttle, preferably ones not used for re-entry?”

Bennett’s eyes flashed with apparent excitement. “I see where you’re going! Remove the bad components and replace with the same from other boards that were made by different manufacturers!”

Newman apparently wasn’t so optimistic. “That’s if those components are on any other boards, and if the guys up on the shuttle can do the job.”

Mac raised a brow. He was a have a go kind of person, and he was sure given the situation the astronauts would be too. “Why don’t you ask them?” He suggested as Bennett scurried off to check shuttle schematics for the required parts.

Newman paused, and for a moment MacGyver thought he was going to argue or give some sarcastic retort. The man was still annoyed at Phoenix’s failings, but could he let that go to save lives?

Newman took down a long, apparently calming breath and picked up a headset. After a brief explanation, Steve Lockridge, the shuttle’s co-pilot appeared on a huge screen that everyone was now glued to.

The Texan waved playfully, even though the situation was dire. He was a man Mac could work with.

“None of us up here have any soldering skills whatsoever,” Lockridge offered the room. “But I’m dang sure up for giving this thing a try if you guys are?”

Mac nodded. After all, the planet would never have evolved if man hadn’t tried things and experimented. He picked up a headset of his own without waiting for Newman’s permission. “Okay, Steve, name’s MacGyver, and I’ll be talking you through the repair. Do you have anything we can work with up there?”

Lockridge’s head bobbed, he vanished from the viewer and then returned with a slightly worse for wear soldering iron, which he let playfully float around him in the zero gravity. “We just picked this puppy up from the Russian space station in a batch of kit to come earth side. Thing is, don’t I need to take stuff off as well as solder on? How do I do that – there’s no de-soldering tool in this whole shebang?”

Mac adjusted his headset, concentrating as he worked everything out in his head before replying. “It’s nice and easy, I can talk through it blindfold,” he reassured.

Bennett bobbed up beside him, breaking the conversation. He was breathless, and very excited. “When can do it! The same components are on six other boards, and none of them supplied by Aurix, or needed for re-entry!” He shoved several printouts under Mac’s nose, then sobered a little. “Well…everything except the resistor wire…it’s a little pigtail that…”

MacGyver stopped him explaining. “I know what it is, and we can improvise,” he assured.

Bennett blinked, seemed to readjust his thoughts and then addressed Lockridge without asking exactly what “improvise” meant. “Okay, let’s get these boards out. First you’ll need to remove the cargo bay arm control access panel and remove the second board to your left by pulling sharply backwards to unplug both connectors…”

It took Lockridge and the rest of the crew a further seventeen minutes to remove all the boards without damaging them. Seventeen long minutes in which all Mac could think about was Sam. He took a foam cup of coffee from a N.A.S.A. employee and drank heavily, even though he normally hated the stuff. Maybe the caffeine would keep him awake and alert the next few agonizing hours.

“Mr. MacGyver?” It was Bennett. “You’re turn to take the reins.” The engineer’s expression said he didn’t envy Mac one bit.

Mac nodded and faced the screen again, wiping a hand through his hair. It was wet with perspiration, even though the air conditioning was blasting out over their heads. “Right, you have the iron and some solder braid?”

Lockridge waved a small blue spool of something at the N.A.S.A. crowd with a cheeky grin. How he held his cool was anyone’s guess. “If this is the stuff, then yep, I’m ready to roll!”

“Okay, first we need to remove the good parts. We’ll start with RL3. It’s at the top left hand corner of the board, a small black relay…” Lockridge took a second, then nodded he’d found it. “Turn the board over, and place the braid over the first leg of the relay, then apply the iron over the braid until the solder melts. You’ll see the solder seeping into the braid quite quickly. Once it’s absorbed it all, move onto the next leg until all the solder is removed.”

Lockridge silently tried out the procedure, his brows furrowing as he tried to hold his hand steady. Eventually, he grinned as the relay was released from the board and began to float up in front of his face, little globules of dried solder following in its wake. “Easy as taking candy from a baby!” He smiled, and then quickly bobbed his head back down, working on the other components in the same way.

Next to Lockridge, Ames, the shuttle commander was quietly collecting all the parts as they floated up from the work station. An hour passed before the pilot and his superior had finished the task. By this time, Lockridge’s jovial façade was waning, and his head was almost covered with as much sweat as MacGyver’s.

Lockridge wiped a hand across his forehead and he let out a long puff of air. “That was interesting…”

MacGyver paused a moment. Taking parts from boards they didn’t need was one thing, but if they damaged the thruster PCB’s, well, there was no repairing them. “Can you hold up the board you’ve just been working on and let me see it?”

Lockridge’s brow furrowed, as if he couldn’t see the point, but he held up the PCB anyway. Mac squinted at the green rectangular shape on the screen, trying to make out the tiny areas where the astronaut had removed components. He let out a small puff of exasperated air at what he saw.

Lockridge had removed the components, but in some places, at the expense of “lifting the land” where it had been seated. If that happened on the thruster PCB’s, there was no going back, and no “MacGyvering” them to work.

“You’ve done a good job,” Mac began, “but you have to do better on the thruster boards. See the tiny tinned area where each part is soldered on? That’s called a land, and if you hold the iron on it too long, it gets hot and parts company with the board, and that’s pretty much game over…”

Lockridge took a look at his handiwork and swallowed hard – any joviality was now gone. One slip up now, and his life, and everyone else’s on the shuttle was over. Considering the stakes, he took it pretty well. “Guess I better not strike out on this one, huh, or Commander Ames will be taking more than my wings…” The pilot settled back down, and once again began removing parts, this time much more slowly.

Everyone around MacGyver became suddenly silent. It was make or break time. Mac looked at the clock, more minutes passing agonizingly slowly – minutes he couldn’t get back to save Sam. What had taken an hour to remove on the cargo bay boards, this time took an hour and a half. Lockridge needed to be faster putting the good parts back in, or it wasn’t just going to be Sam that was in trouble.

The pilot mopped his brow every few seconds, his eyes becoming cloudy with his own perspiration, but his hands moved faster now they had purpose. He took just thirty minutes putting the relays, diodes and IC’s into their new homes. Eventually, he stopped, whistled and held the boards up for MacGyver to check. “All done, except we need that dang resistor wire, and we don’t have one…”

Mac examined the board closely. It was hard to tell for sure, but it looked like Lockridge had pulled it off. Now it was his turn to pull something out of the bag. “Okay, that looks pretty good,” he praised. “Now you folks just need to help me out a little. We need to find something we can solder to replace the resistor wire, copper, brass, tin all solder easily, but we have to be careful it will take the load…”

Commander Ames and Bennett both looked horrified at the same time. Bennett spoke first. “And just how do we do that? Its impossible to test the load of a homemade resistor wire up there!”

Mac didn’t pull any punches. “We guess. It’s the only shot at this we’ve got. We need the wire or metal we find to be the same thickness, and we coil it exactly the same amount of times…and then we pray.”

No one spoke. Everyone knew they were out of other options, but admitting it wasn’t coming easy.

Lockridge broke the awkward moment. “You mean to tell me I burned my fingers for nothing?” He chuckled then moved back and grabbed something that appeared to have been stuck down near the shuttle controls. It was an ancient Hula doll. He shook it at the screen, its faded colors filling the room as it bounced around. “Me and Betty here we were sure hoping to be home for supper tonight…”

Bennett rolled his eyes and looked at Mac. “That’s his good luck charm. He’s taken it on every flight he’s made, both for the Airforce and N.A.S.A. although how he can joke with it at a time like…”

MacGyver cut the engineer off by addressing Lockridge. “Lockridge, what makes that little lady dance so well?”

The pilot quite discourteously pulled up the little doll’s skirt to show a homemade spring. “Granddaddy fixed her for me when I was just a kid, and she’s been dancing ever since!”

“And now she’s going to save your life,” Mac concluded. “That spring looks like an old piece of copper?”

Lockridge instantly seemed to see where the troubleshooter was going. “And it’s the right thickness…just needs cutting down a little!” He crudely pulled the Hula from her spring and grabbed something off camera. When he came back, he was cutting down the spring and trying to roll it over the nose of a pair of pliers to match the pigtail shape of the missing component.

While Ames held the board one last time, Lockridge soldered it in, his hands shaking violently. It looked messy, but it just might work.

Bennett wasted no time in taking back control. “Alright, let’s get those boards back where they belong!” he rubbed his hands together as the astronauts started to slide the PCB’s back home.

Ten seconds later, they hit another snag. This time it was Ames who addressed the screen. “My board won’t reconnect.” He spun it over in his hand, scrutinizing it. His sigh and expression said they had another issue before he even spoke. “One of the connector pins is damaged. It must have happened when we removed them. She won’t slot back in, it’s too bent.” Without asking for permission, he took up the pliers and tried to twist the pin back into shape. It protested at his rough handling by snapping clean off in the connector.

Silence once again returned to the room. Every step forward they made, they then took two back, and they were getting dangerously close to their deadline – and Sam’s.

MacGyver refused to let the tension get to him, if he allowed any more emotion in, then it would be the end for the shuttle and his son. “Give Lockridge the board back,” he said calmly over his mike. “Steve, I want you to de-solder the pins on the connector block just like you did the other components, and then I want you to gently knock the damaged pin out from behind with the end of the long-nosed pliers…”

Lockridge followed the instructions, and there was no joking, no speaking at all. When he’d finished, he looked up his eyes asking the question his mouth dare not. What next?

“Anyone got a safety pin or a paper clip?” Mac responded.

Ames appeared onscreen with a note board and pulled a clip from the bundle of paperwork on it. He looked somewhat guilty as he offered it to Lockridge. The pilot took the clip and just stared at it, mystified.

“You need to bend it out straight and then cut it down to the size of the other pins in the connector,” Mac prompted.

“The solder won’t stick to this, though?”

MacGyver stepped nearer the screen, as if it somehow made him closer to the astronauts, reassuring them as he talked them through. “You need to tin it first. Heat up some solder on the iron and run it along the pin you’ve made, then push it back home in the connector and solder it. It should hold.”

Lockridge did as he was told, and when the board was complete, he pushed it home himself then closed the panel. He looked to Commander Ames, who nodded. It was time to do or die. “We’re ready to get in position for re-entry,” the pilot confirmed to mission control.

Newman, who had been watching and listening silently moved to take back control of the proceedings. He gave the thumbs up to the men around him before announcing, “Affirmative, you have a go for re-entry.” He pulled away his headset mike, addressing the room instead of the shuttle. “We have just one hour left, let’s make this work people!”

MacGyver watched as the room turned into a bristling mayhem similar to how it had been when the thrusters had failed. The engineers had purpose again, and they were making the most of it.

Someone stepped up beside him, and for a moment Mac expected it to be Mariotte back to gloat that there was no time for Sam. Instead of the megalomaniac, though, he was greeted by the stoic gaze of Seeley Atkins, Phoenix’s second best man. At his side, Pete had also returned to the fray.

“Are they gonna make it?” Atkins asked in a low voice.

Pete answered without even being able to see what was happening on the screen. “You bet they are if Mac had anything to do with it.”

MacGyver didn’t reply, he watched as the men orbiting the earth slid into their positions on the flight deck and then requested what might be the last order of their lives.

“Ames to Houston, do we have a green light for burn?”

“Commander Ames, you have a go, good luck and Godspeed.”

Ames reached forwards and began pressing controls that lit up at his touch. There was a pause, and everyone held their breath. Nothing was happening. Had the P.A.S.S. system blown one last time?

MacGyver felt his heart rate go up a notch.

And then slowly and gently, the shuttle began to change trajectory as its elegant white airframe turned ready to push through the earth’s atmosphere. The room turned into one huge cheering crowd, but Mac couldn’t be happy, not yet. There was less than an hour now to save Sam, and two thousand miles between MacGyver and Zito.

Pete as always, sensed Mac’s fear and frustration as if he were his own son. “MacGyver, if there’s anything I can do..?”

“There’s nothing…” Mac shook his head.

Atkins turned to his two companions and raised a brow. “Nothing legal, perhaps.” He jerked a thumb to something unseen beyond the hallway behind them. “But I’ll bet you with N.A.S.A.s super computers we could “fake” Zito’s release into another state hospital.” He looked Mac straight in the eyes. “I’ve heard you’re pretty good at making stuff up as you go along?”

MacGyver didn’t normally condone doing anything that was illegal, and he knew Seeley was the same, but this was different, it was Sam, and, it wasn’t exactly going to hurt anyone. “We don’t have security clearance for the main frames, but I might be able to wing it,” he replied, already working a way around N.A.S.A.’s security in his head.

As it happened, there was no need. Newman had been listening in the background, perhaps with a softer heart than they gave him credit for. He stepped forwards between the group of men. “I could never sanction the use of government property for such a venture,” he began, “but you did just save the shuttle, so if you just happened into the mainframe room by mistake…” He handed over his swipe card to access the computers. “Just don’t take long, there are staff down there that might get a little suspicious.”

Mac took the card gratefully, and headed for the door. Pete’s voice stopped him.

“I can’t do anything official either, Mac, you know that, but you’re going to need someone to have Zito released to in Alameda, or we can’t pull this off. Let me make a call and see who we’ve got in the area I can trust?”

MacGyver ran a hand through his hair and nodded. Everything suddenly felt like they were wasting precious time, but this had to be done. Newman led Pete to the nearest phone and dialed for him. Two minutes later both were men were back.

“Nikki’s at the nearest regional office,” Pete didn’t look happy. “She’s the only one I trust to do this knowing its illegal, but I really don’t like leaving her alone to handle Zito. She’s about a half hour from the institute…”

Mac felt the same. Having his kid in danger was enough, without adding Nikki into the fray, but what choice did they have?

“Nikki can handle herself.” Seeley looked to Pete and then MacGyver as he spoke. Somehow his black suit, white shirt and tie all seemed out of place here, but that didn’t matter, he was one of the good guys. A little straight-laced and by the book at times, but he was Phoenix all the way. “Let me help too,” he offered. “I can bend rules sometimes too you know?”

“Are you any good with computers? We’re going to need to both work together to pull this off in time.” MacGyver held his breath as he waited for an answer.

Seeley grinned, which in itself was unusual. “Hey, in a former life I wasn’t just a fed and damn good field agent, I was on the tech team. Anything you can do, I can probably do better.”

MacGyver didn’t argue. He knew Atkins wasn’t boasting, he was stating a fact, and it was one Mac was grateful of. “Okay, let’s do this!”


* * * *

MacGyver slid the access card into the reader on the wall and held his breath. There was no reason to think it wouldn’t work, but he couldn’t help but hesitate. There was a pause, and the unit bleeped, the ominous red indicator light turning green after a second.

Seeley pushed in first, his right hand hovering over his jacket where MacGyver knew he wore a shoulder holster.

Inside, there was a pair of N.A.S.A. engineers working at a console – they looked up as Mac and Atkins entered, but didn’t speak. Mac nodded to them and smiled, hoping his calm attitude and manner convinced them he should be here. After a moment, the taller of the two nodded back and they both left.

“Do you think they suspected anything?” Seeley asked, fidgeting with his tie.

Mac shook his head in uncertainty. “I sure hope not.” He sat down at a console, the whirring and beeping of the mainframes around him soothing his tense nerves like birdsong on a summer evening. “I’ll work on a fake court order to move Zito,” he explained. “Can you deal with the paperwork transferring him to a hospital closer to California?”

Atkins bounced down into a red plastic seat across from Mac. “I’m on it,” he reassured. “I’ll have a hard copy sent to the Phoenix regional office for Nikki.” His fingers tapped at the console keys faster than even MacGyver’s, and occasionally his eyes left the screen to check on Mac.

Mac didn’t look up. He was concentrating so hard his knuckles were white as sheets like he was gripping a steering wheel too hard. The keyboard groaned at the excess pressure he was exerting without even knowing it, and all the while his mind screamed one thing.

Sam…

Twenty minutes later, Seeley hit the enter key triumphantly and pushed his chair back from the desk just a touch. “I’m good to go,” he grinned. “Guess I haven’t lost my touch!”

MacGyver was about to say he’d finally finished too, but before he could open his mouth, the door burst open, bouncing into the wall behind so hard one of the hinges popped and it swung aimlessly.

Before it could settle, two armed security men stormed into the room, weapons drawn.

The lead guard’s hand was shaking, like he’d never been put into an actual situation before, and it made Mac wonder what kind of people the space agency were hiring. It also made him wonder if the man was likely to fire his weapon without just cause.

Seeley, just don’t provoke these guys, his mind yelled.

The shaking security man seemed to read Mac’s mind and shifted his aim slightly onto Atkins, who was smiling just a little too warmly given their situation. “Nobody move, or I’ll shoot…”

Seeley seemed to take that as an invitation and began to shift his weight in his chair…

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