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
Pete turned to
MacGyver, sensing as if his silence meant something terrible.
“Mac? What is it?”
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.
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?”
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
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…”
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…”
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.”
his lip. Pete was right. Heck, Pete was always right.
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.
a moment. He was panicking purely because Sam was involved.
Would this happen in any other scenario?
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
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 can save the shuttle,” MacGyver eventually offered
sounding more confident than he felt. “If they’ll
let me try?”
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
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?”
has an idea how to save the shuttle.”
nose twitched in agitation. “Maybe I need to keep
repeating myself, but your help is the kind we can do
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
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?”
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
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
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
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
The Texan waved
playfully, even though the situation was dire. He was
a man Mac could work with.
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?”
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?”
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.
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…”
him explaining. “I know what it is, and we can improvise,”
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.
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?”
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!”
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
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
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.
a hand across his forehead and he let out a long puff
of air. “That was interesting…”
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?”
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
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
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…”
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.
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…”
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…”
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!”
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.
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…”
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…”
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
she’s going to save your life,” Mac concluded.
“That spring looks like an old piece of copper?”
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
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.
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.
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…”
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?
got a safety pin or a paper clip?” Mac responded.
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.
to bend it out straight and then cut it down to the size
of the other pins in the connector,” Mac prompted.
won’t stick to this, though?”
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
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
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.
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.
gonna make it?” Atkins asked in a low voice.
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
Houston, do we have a green light for burn?”
Ames, you have a go, good luck and Godspeed.”
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
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..?”
nothing…” Mac shook his head.
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
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
Mac took the
card gratefully, and headed for the door. Pete’s
voice stopped him.
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?”
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.
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?
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?”
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.
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
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!”
* * * *
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.
in first, his right hand hovering over his jacket where
MacGyver knew he wore a shoulder holster.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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!”
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,
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
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
to take that as an invitation and began to shift his weight
in his chair…