The Dead Zone

By MacsJeep

Episode 9.4

Part Two

 

Mac whirled around in the water reflexively, and came face to face with Dawson. She pointed her light his way, apparently realizing he was disorientated and surprised.

“Whoa, what’s got you so spooked?” She spoke through her mike.

MacGyver shook himself and took a moment before answering. “Lost my light, and I guess I got a little…”

“Spooked,” Dawson offered again.

This time MacGyver didn’t argue. “There are no bodies, not anywhere. Why would anyone take over the ship, move it here and then scuttle it, but take the crew?”

“Scuttle it?” Dawson wafted her flashlight as if looking for evidence of what he was saying.

“Yeah, there’s a tear in the hull that definitely came from explosives on the inside of the plating,” MacGyver concluded. “But why? What could be so important on a research ship? And where is McKenna?” He suddenly remembered his air supply and checked the gauge. It was going into the red zone after his stunt with the balloon. “I think we better get topside, I had to use half my tank.” He gave a thumb upwards and Dawson nodded.

As they swam back out of The Eurybia, Dawson took point. “I think I might have an answer to your question about what was important,” she offered cryptically. “And it wasn’t an item, it was a person…” She kicked upwards towards the shadow of the ship above them. “I checked out all the cabins of the key crew members. Everyone’s personal effects were still there except one – Tapping’s.” She broke through the waves, and MacGyver followed.

Mac pulled off his mask first and gently bobbed in the water until Dawson did the same. “You think this was all over some weather specialist? Why would anyone kidnap a whole crew to get to a man that watches clouds?”

Dawson shrugged and then tossed her mask onto the low level deck section specially made for divers. Placing her hands on the ledge, she rolled on board and sat up, running a hand through her soaking hair. “I have no clue,” she admitted. “But isn’t that what you’re paid the big bucks for?”

Mac clambered onto the deck and settled down next to the captain. He cocked his head, mimicking her hand movements through his own hair out of habit. “Then I guess I better find out…”

* * * *

The Crucible
North Atlantic Ocean
1800hours

MacGyver and Captain Dawson waited impatiently as the ship’s communications officer established a satellite call to Pete Thornton at Phoenix’s head office. He’d been contacted earlier, asking for any information on Richard Tapping, and on The Katarina and her owner.

After a few tense crackles, Pete’s voice came in hollow from across the heavens. “Mac, I have some pretty interesting information on The Katarina. She’s owned by a Cuban arms dealer named Paolo Famosa! It looks like his specialty is stealing new weapons technologies and selling them to the highest bidder.”

“But there were no weapons on The Eurybia, unless there’s something you haven’t told us, Mr. Thornton?” Dawson cut in with a slightly acerbic tone.

“No, she was strictly research I assure you,” Pete confirmed. “That’s what doesn’t make sense. That and the fact you seem to think Richard Tapping was somehow involved.”

“You’ve got nothing on Tapping’s background check?” MacGyver raised a brow, but had already guessed the answer was no from Pete’s previous comment and tone.

“Not a thing,” Pete agreed. “Tapping had the highest grades in his year and went on to be an intern at the Sendrex Kiva Laboratories in New Mexico. He worked under a Dr Carl Steubens until the project there was shut down. Then he moved on to…”

“Hold on,” MacGyver cut in. “Tapping worked with Steubens on the ozone layer project at Sendrex?” His voice had gone up a notch, as if he finally understood what was going on.

“Yeah, how’d you know?” Pete sounded genuinely curious.

“Let’s just say I had first hand experience of Kiva and Dr. Steubens, and neither was exactly welcoming. The thing is, the project wasn’t officially shut down, Steubens blew the labs because he suspected Sendrex wanted to use his rainmaking research as some kinda doomsday weapon. Chain reactions that would destroy the ozone and let the sun’s ultraviolet rays burn everyone who wasn’t protected.”

“My God…” Thornton sounded genuinely scared, and next to Mac, Dawson’s mouth fell open in horror.

“You think this Paolo Famosa expects Tapping to be able to finish Steubens work and actually build a weapon?” Dawson was staring at Mac expectantly, and there was fear in her eyes – something MacGyver hadn’t seen before.

Mac shrugged. “It’s the only explanation I have that makes sense, even if it is terrifying.”

“I doubt Tapping can actually do it. According to the information I have, only a Dr. Sydney Marlowe ever came close, and he died in a car accident two years ago.” Pete paused. “Mac, what do you think?”

MacGyver bit his lip and turned away from the mike for a moment in thought. Could Tapping know enough to be dangerous? Famosa was obviously betting a lot of money, time and effort that he could. “I think we need to find Famosa and fast,” he eventually answered.

Dawson put a hand on her hip, some of her former sass returning. “And just how do we do that?”

“We don’t have to…” Dawson’s second in command had entered while they’d been talking, and interrupted without asking. “A yacht just joined us on the port bow, ma’am. It’s The Katarina, and she’s armed.”

Mac spoke to the microphone first. “Pete, we’re gonna have to close this call and go find out what’s happening. Catch you later.”

“You hope!” Pete said with great concern. “Watch yourself, MacGyver, I don’t want you on my AWOL list like McKenna.”

“I don’t plan on it, trust me.” Mac cut the conversation and headed after Dawson and her number two, who had both already stepped back onto the bridge.

As MacGyver moved to join them, he spotted The Katarina, and one of her crew with a missile launcher, pointed right at them.

“They’re targeting below our waterline,” Dawson observed.

A second man appeared on the other ship with a megaphone. Somehow, MacGyver guessed it was Famosa. “Surrender your vessel and be boarded, or die here.” It was a simple message.

Dawson’s brow furrowed and she looked to Mac. “No way am I giving up my ship to that pirate!”

“Giving it up temporarily is better than dying permanently.” Mac stepped to the hatch and onto the deck outside to get a better look. “I’d say surrender, we get to find out if we’re right about Tapping, and see how far they’ve gotten. Then we make our move.”

Dawson looked perplexed. “We make our move? How does that work if we’ve already surrendered? Are you mad?”

Mac smiled wryly. “Some folks say I am,” he half joked. “Trust me; it’s not the cards we play right now that matter, it’s the ones we pick up from the deck during the game.”

The captain rubbed at her neck for a moment then turned to her bridge crew. “Do what they say,” she said with sigh. Then she turned back to MacGyver. “You better just hope they don’t kill us outright, before we can get those other cards…”

* * * *

Famosa’s yacht was far smaller than The Crucible, but somehow he’d managed to pack a small arsenal onto it, along with a healthy supply of henchmen. Once they’d boarded Dawson’s ship, it had taken just twenty minutes to secure it, and move key personal over to The Katarina. The big question now, was what did Famosa intend to do with them.

MacGyver pondered the thought as he and Dawson were led to an inner locked cabin by a hefty Cuban with a moustache, and custom Beretta. The Cuban was silent, but gestured with the gun for them to enter through the mahogany door after he’d unlocked it.

Once they were inside, he slammed it shut, remaining on the outside.

A lean man with wiry spectacles that Mac guessed was about thirty five looked at them from a desk chair with searching blue eyes. Mac realized it was Tapping. It was funny, but he didn’t look like a man who held the fate of the world in his hands. He looked like a very young college professor who was a little retiring.

Tapping squinted for a second, pushed his glasses up his nose and then spoke. “Hi, um, my name’s Richard…” He paused as if unsure what else to say. “I…guess you were brought here against your will too?”

“Yes and no,” Mac answered, thinking of how he’d told Dawson to give it up. “We’re actually here looking for you, Dr. Tapping.”

Tapping looked genuinely surprised. “Forgive me, but you don’t exactly appear to be a very good rescue party?”

“Phoenix sent us,” Dawson joined in. “We were looking for The Eurybia; we thought she’d gone down in a storm maybe, but not this.” She gestured around her. “Although I’m still not sure what this is?”

Mac retook control of the conversation. They needed quick and concise answers before Famosa really held the upper hand. “Famosa took over The Eurybia to get to you.” He looked directly at Tapping. “He sank her where she wouldn’t be found for awhile, giving him time to use you for his plan without the authorities stepping in. He wants some kind of weapon that controls the ozone, right?”

Tapping gaped. “How did you figure all that out?”

Mac brushed his question aside, pulling up a chair beside the scientist and leaning on its back. “Let’s just say I met the master of all this once, Carl Steubens, so when I saw you’d worked with him, and that Famosa wanted you for something…”

“But now you’re his prisoner too, and you may have just given him what he needs to complete the weapon…” Tapping took off his glasses and held his head in his hands. “There wasn’t the right equipment on The Eurybia to finish the machine. It was the only ace I held, but now he’ll pillage supplies and equipment from your ship too.”

Dawson put a hand on her hip and her eyes shone with rage. “You’re making it sound like this Famosa has already got you constructing this thing that can kill the planet?”

Tapping’s blue eyes seemed to dull, and he looked away, staring at the wall. “There’s an uncharted island near here, very small, no inhabitants. He took me and The Eurybia’s crew there. He said he’d execute them one by one until I built it. Four men had to die before I gave in. I should have given in before one died…”

MacGyver put a hand on Tapping’s shoulder. “Their deaths aren’t down to you. Famosa killed them. You can’t give him this machine, no matter what he threatens. Millions will die, not just four. What about the crew now?”

Tapping looked back at them, sliding his glasses back into place. “They’re on the island; he’s using them as slave labor until he’s got what he wants. Then I guess he’ll kill us all.”

“We have to stop him, right?” Dawson had moved to a port hole and was peering through it at what was going on above deck.

Famosa’s people were stripping electronics from The Crucible at an alarming rate and stowing them carefully in The Katarina’s hold. Famosa was overseeing the work like his children were being brought on board, not equipment.

“You can’t stop him,” Tapping said nervously, rubbing his hands together in trepidation. “He’ll kill everyone that bit quicker. There’s no way.”

Mac shook his head, his blond mullet swaying. “There’s always a way. And it doesn’t have to involve killing, either. What we need is for me and Captain Dawson to get to the island and sabotage the machine.”

It was Dawson’s turn to scoff. She slid down onto a couch, rubbing at her temple like she had a headache. “Right, we’ll just jump right on overboard, swim to the island, blow up the device and rescue McKenna and his people, all without Famosa shooting us!”

Mac smiled. “Yes, ma’am, that’s kinda my plan…” He looked to Tapping. “How far is the island from here?”

The scientist pinched the bridge of his nose in thought. “I’m….um, really not even sure where “here” is, but we didn’t travel very far. I’d say a couple of nautical miles south of here.”

“Two miles?” Dawson didn’t look impressed. “We can’t swim that even if we get off this bucket!”

“Aww c’mon, people swim the English Channel and that’s twenty miles!” Mac half-teased. “And the world isn’t even at stake…” He grimaced. “’Course, we do need to figure a way to escape that would mean Famosa didn’t know what we’re up to…”

“How?” Tapping had nervously taken off his glasses again, and was cleaning them with very shaky hands as he spoke. “The only way I’ve seen anyone get off this yacht that wasn’t a crewman, was in a body bag.”

Mac’s face suddenly lit up. “Actually, that’s not a bad idea! Except not the body bag.” He began to rummage around the room, sifting through cupboards and under Tapping’s bunk without explaining what he was doing. Every now and again he’d pause. Eventually, he pulled out a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt and passed them to Dawson. “Take your uniform off, and put these on.”

Dawson took the clothes, inspected them like she was buying fashion attire and then growled back. “You’re kidding right?”

“Nope…” MacGyver peeled off his own jacket and tossed it down, but it was obvious from his face that he hadn’t quite gotten everything he needed. Part of the puzzle was still missing, and he’d exhausted every space to look for bounty.

Behind Tapping was another mahogany door, and Mac took two quick steps over to it and instinctively tried the handle. It was locked, as expected. He slid a hand into his jeans and pulled out his pocketknife. Famosa’s Cuban henchman had failed to frisk them, and MacGyver was going to use the opportunity. Within a minute, he’d picked the lock, and was inside some kind of control room for the yacht.

MacGyver stepped inside, putting a finger to his lips to signal to Tapping and Dawson to keep quiet. Machines around him whirred and beeped, and occasionally grumbled into life as the yacht’s crew brought various systems on and offline.

Mac bit his lip, then noticed a couple of yellow inflatable life jackets hanging from a peg. He smiled, part one of his problem had been solved. Now for part two. He pushed on past the computer controlling the hydraulic thrusters until he came to part of the steering gear.

The correct fluid within the power pack “should” be clear, but MacGyver was hoping that The Katarina’s manufacturers had taken a short cut, like many boat builders did, and used automatic transmission fluid.

He used his knife again to remove the reservoir cap on top of the pack, and smiled as his hunch played out. The fluid was a nice rosy red color.

Mac stepped back into Tapping’s room, grabbed a half-filled mug from the table and then cut one of the lines to the reservoir with his blade, draining fluid into the mug. The move would gain him the liquid he needed, whilst robbing the system of a vital fluid – later, that would hopefully keep Famosa busy while they got to the island ahead of him.

“Just what the heck are you doing?” Dawson asked as she pulled on the clothes he’d given her.

Mac continued to work as he answered. “Oh, just getting us that nice long swim, ma’am…”

The captain’s face suggested she’d rather have stayed with Famosa – at least for a second.

* * * *

The Cuban paced back and forth outside the cabin door, his hands clasped behind his back like they were handcuffed there. Famosa could be a rewarding boss, but he could also be erratic, and over the top. Today, he was the latter two.

Raoul sometimes wished he’d listened to his momma and become a taxi driver, or maybe work in a bar. At least with those professions, your superior wasn’t likely to shoot you if he was having a bad day.

The lock on the door he was guarding clicked, and Raoul instantly forgot other career options as his mind focused on what he should be doing. He stopped pacing, and his left hand reached under his jacket for his revolver. He remained silent as the door creaked slowly open and then paused in mid-swing.

Seconds ticked by, and the door didn’t move further.

Intrigued, Raoul finally made the first move and stepped forwards, cocking his head close to the mahogany for sounds from inside. The moment his ear touched the wood, the door moved again, slamming him backwards with such force, his gun hand hit the wall and the ironically Beretta tumbled to the decking.

MacGyver bounded from the room first, with Dawson quickly following behind. He didn’t stop to punch out Raoul or tie him, heading straight for the transom outside.

Raoul stumbled to his feet, cursing under his breath as he steadied himself against the wall and picked up his weapon. He gave chase within seconds, but whether that was fast enough for Famosa remained to be seen.

“Enrique! The stern, NOW!” Raoul barked out the order to a younger subordinate who was perched on top of the yacht’s bridge with an Uzi. “They’re getting away!”

MacGyver seemed to hear Raoul’s order, and he paused for a second, looking back at the two men now giving chase. Somewhere in Raoul’s brain, he registered that this MacGyver was carrying something over his shoulder, but the thought was lost in the moment. MacGyver grabbed Dawson’s hand and yanked hard as a hail of bullets tore up the decking at their feet, and within a second, the pair were overboard.

A huge splash indicated their arrival in the Atlantic, and Mac and the captain quickly began to swim away from The Katarina.

“Shoot again!” Raoul’s voice cracked. He was afraid now, because in the periphery of his vision, he could see Famosa approaching from the forward hold. As he spoke, he emptied the chamber of his automatic at his prey.

MacGyver bobbed under the waves to apparently try to avoid the spray of bullets. Dawson followed his lead, her legs kicking high as she dived.

Famosa joined Raoul, his face a mask of pure fury. “Idiots! How could you let them get free? Kill them! Kill them now!”

Raoul and his younger cohort opened fire again, their bullets tearing into the waves and deep beneath for over a minute. Each man reloaded several times as their weapons emptied.

“Wait!” Famosa leaned over the yacht’s side rail as something bobbed up in the water - a leather jacket, jeans, followed by the unmistakable scarlet stain of blood amongst the waves.

A second body surfaced, along with more blood.

Raoul exhaled a sigh of pure relief. The escapees had been dealt with. No doubt there would still be repercussions from Famosa, but not as much now that MacGyver and the ship’s captain were dead. “He picked the lock somehow,” the Cuban admitted. “But at least Dr. Tapping didn’t try to follow.”

Famosa rubbed a hand across his face then turned to Raoul, his expression emotionless. “And for that, I should let you live?” The sentence was a question, not a fact.

Raoul’s jaw dropped just before his eyes saw the tip of the bullet that was going to kill him. Ten seconds later, the Cuban henchman tumbled stone dead into the Atlantic, his stocky body joining that of Dawson and MacGyver, dipping and weaving along with the ocean’s swell.

 

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