Dead Flight

By MacsJeep

Episode 8.1: Part Two



MacGyver was just slotting the hatch cover back into place when he heard the sound of the gunshot. It was a noise that never ceased to grate on his ears, and in a confined environment like the Boeing, it also meant double the danger – yes, bullets could kill if they hit a person, but they could also kill everyone on board if the outer skin of the plane was ruptured causing decompression.

Mac’s heart leapt in his chest as he jogged two steps at a time up the stairs to the upper level. There were raised voices shouting, but at least no screaming, so he guessed there probably wasn’t a gaping hole in the side of the plane to worry about.

On the top step, he paused, just poking his head out enough to see what was happening before diving into the situation.

What he saw made his blood run cold.

Grant was fighting with one of the passengers, and he still held a gun in his right hand. He seemed not to care that his incompetence had already shot someone – but not just anyone – Sam.

Somehow, MacGyver resisted the urge to rush to his son. He couldn’t think about one life, he had to think about the many souls on board.

Right now, the most important thing was to stop Grant.

Mac moved lithely from the stairs and into the aisle. None of the other passengers moved to stop him. Most were cowering, terrified in their seats.

That was good. There was less chance of someone walking into another stray slug.

Be alive Sam, please be alive…

Two seconds before Mac was upon him, Grant finally realized he had company and whirled around.

As his eyes met MacGyver’s, he just had enough time to register the anger in them before Mac’s fist hit him square on the jaw, dropping him with just the one blow.

Mac leaned over, quickly grabbing the gun from the marshal’s hand before anyone else could take possession. He dropped the clip and tucked it in his belt, wishing he could toss the thing out of an open window.

Around him, the other passengers were daring to move, and two of them had grabbed the so called “terrorist”. For now, that situation was under control, and Mac could finally get to his son.

Dana, the flight attendant was already with Sam, and a first aid kit lay open on the next empty seat. She shook her head, though, obviously not really knowing what to do with a gunshot wound.

Sam was awake, but shaking. He looked apologetically at his dad as MacGyver hunkered down next to him. “I couldn’t let the little kid take a bullet…”

Mac glanced over and realized what Sam had done. He should have been proud of that at least, but he didn’t have time to be. “It’s okay. We’ll fix you up in no time. Just sit back and let me take a look.”

Sam glanced down at the crimson stain already soaking through his shirt. “I can’t feel anything,” he admitted.

Mac nodded, he’d taken enough bullets in his time to know how it generally played out. You didn’t feel anything for maybe fifteen or twenty minutes sometimes, but then the pain would kick in so bad you wanted to pass out, and sometimes did. “Trust me, it’ll hurt later,” he assured, cutting away Sam’s shirt with his knife to take a closer look.

The bullet had passed through Sam’s right shoulder and exited, and while people tended to think that wasn’t too serious a wound, MacGyver knew different. You had to be very lucky for any gunshot not to be dangerous, and in that area of the human body, there was lots of major blood vessels, bone, and nerves you could easily damage.

Sam seemed to read his dad’s expression a little too well. “Bad, huh?” He coughed.

“We just need to stop you bleeding is all.” Mac smiled wanly and tried to sound way more confident than he actually was.

He didn’t think the bullet had hit an artery, that was one good thing, but there was very little chance it had missed Sam’s shoulder blade. And that meant all kinds of trouble, including shattered bone and maybe severed nerves.

Trying not to think about odds, and how long Sam could go without real medical attention, he took a couple of dressings Dana had offered up and pressed down hard front and back on the entry and exit holes.

Sam let out a little gasp, but to his credit, he didn’t pass out. He coughed again, and then tried to smile. “You know how I said I couldn’t feel anything? Well I felt that,” he hissed through gritted teeth. “Feels like something grinding together in my shoulder.”

Mac bit into his bottom lip just a little. Shattered bone, then? And how long before infection sets in? Blood loss? He didn’t want to think about all the complications Sam faced without a hospital, but his mind was offering them up anyway.

He looked over to Dana. “Can you keep pressure on these?” He motioned to the dressings. “If they start to soak through, put more on top. Don’t take these off.”

Dana nodded and slid her hands into place as MacGyver moved his away.

Mac stared down at the blood covering his palms and fingers.

Sam’s blood.

Why did this have to happen now? Why couldn’t it have been him taking the bullet, not Sam?

Mac had long since learned that life wasn’t fair, and it never played out the way you expected or wanted, but this was plain cruel. They’d spent so little time together.

He couldn’t, wouldn’t lose Sam like this, not when it should have been their first Christmas together.

A shriek from the back of the cabin shook him from any further melancholy thoughts, and MacGyver fully expected to have to punch someone else out or worse.

Instead, as he glanced up, he realized the cry had come from a little man that appeared absolutely terrified. The very geeky looking gent had just exited the toilet compartment, briefcase in hand, and his eyes were almost popping out at the sight of Sam’s blood on Mac’s hands.

With another yelp of alarm, the geek turned tail right on back into the toilet and slammed the door, locking it for good measure.

“Jessica Fletcher” huffed, putting down a bunch of knitting to eye MacGyver uncertainly. “He locked himself in there when the trouble first began,” she offered sagely. “Silly little man is obviously a wuss!”

Mac almost gaped at her brusque attitude, but then couldn’t help a small smile when she looked over her glasses at him like an old school teacher.

“At least he’s outta the way in there,” he agreed. “People who panic like that can make these situations worse.”

“Jessica” nodded, knowingly. “And right now, you’ve more on your mind than the likes of him.” She looked over to where Sam was propped, Dana still at his side.

“Yes, ma’am, a lot more.” MacGyver turned to look at Sam, watching him try to chat to the flight attendant. For now, he was conscious and talking. That meant Mac needed to turn his attention to saving the plane again.

He’s going to make it. We’re all going to make it.

Mac ignored the drying blood on his hands and moved back to where the passengers held both Grant and the suspect.

The Asian didn’t appear to be scared of the people around him, despite some of them making veiled threats as MacGyver approached. Mac didn’t blame them, they were afraid, and this man might be the cause.

“Who’s in charge here?” The so called “terrorist” stared at Mac expectantly.

“That would be me, if only you bozos would listen. I’m employed by the airline and my title makes me a federal air marshal.” Grant tried to get up, but a passenger pushed him back down again. He grunted.

MacGyver wanted to punch Grant again, just for the hell of it, but he resisted the temptation. He was a better man than that. “I think you’ve done enough damage, Grant.” He looked to the Asian man. “You mind telling us why the lady over there thinks she’s seen you on T.V.? As a bomb maker, no less?”

The man shrugged. “Because its’ true, I was featured on a documentary for shall we say, having certain beliefs. But I’m on this flight for the same reason as everyone else. To get to L.A.”

“And we’re supposed to buy that?” Marvin huffed.

“I wouldn’t,” the Asian admitted. “But it’s the truth. My wife has just had our first son, and I was on my way to see him when this happened. Believe me, I’ve no wish to die without seeing my firstborn.”

MacGyver eyed the man, and for some unknown reason, actually trusted what he was saying. Maybe it was because he’d only just found his own son, and he knew what that felt like.

Maybe it was the sincerity in the man’s face as he spoke about the child. There was love there, Mac was sure, and a father’s pride.

But if that was true, then where did that leave them with the plane?

Not to mention, Mac doubted the other passengers would so easily buy the Asian’s story.

He was right about that, too.

“Jessica” poked the man with the tip of her knitting needle just enough to make him jump. She apparently still didn’t like sitting near him. “I saw what you did on that show, and I still think you’re at the bottom of this…”

“And you’re within your rights to suspect me,” the man sighed. “Do with me what you will, but it won’t solve any of our problems.”

“How about I punch you out anyway,” Grant growled. “It would sure solve one of my problems…”

Mac held up a hand. “Look, folks, whether this man is responsible or not, we still need to focus on what we do next.”

Fighting amongst themselves wasn’t going to get the Boeing on the ground or Sam to a hospital.

And besides, he was starting to form another possible scenario in his mind – what if this whole thing revolved around him? Or at the very least whatever Pete had wanted him so urgently about?

After all, Sam’s bike being stolen, and then the mysterious message and tickets from Pete, it just didn’t add up.

Then a name flicked into Mac’s mind, and he instantly wished it hadn’t.

Murdoc.

This whole mad situation just stank of his zany M.O.

The thought tumbled around in MacGyver’s head until he felt almost dizzy. But there was no time for conjecture, not while Sam lay bleeding.

Mac turned to Marvin, thinking he might at least have some common sense. “Just watch him,” he pointed to the Asian. “No fighting, no taking revenge – we don’t know that he’s done anything for sure.”

Marvin looked a little taken aback, but nodded. “He’s going nowhere.”

“Right, now I need to find a way to talk to the authorities…” Mac was about to head back up to the cockpit, but “Jessica’s” voice stopped him.

“Can’t you just use a phone?”

Mac stopped mid-stride. The Boeing had the customary Airfones built into the back of the first class seats, but the bad guy was far too clever to have overlooked those, wasn’t he?

Mac had to try anyway; it might be their only hope.

He moved to the nearest Airfone and quickly examined it for more booby traps. There didn’t appear to be any outward signs of danger, but then the bad guy they were dealing with was quite capable of rewiring things internally.

That was the risk he had to take.

Sucking in a deep breath, Mac tugged the phone from its slot and was relieved when he didn’t immediately fry. He put the unit to his ear and was surprised to find it still active.

But would it dial out, and who should he try first?

There were two options, the authorities at LAX, or Pete Thornton.

After a moment’s consideration, he chose Pete.

The whole Airfone system was known for not being reliable and having drop outs, and if he spoke to Pete, then he could kill two birds with one stone, as Pete would in turn talk to the authorities.

Not to mention, he’d finally get to know what Pete had wanted him for, and if it was connected to what was happening.

Never mind that, why is this phone working at all? The guy who rigged this plane isn’t that stupid to have overlooked this…

Mac ignored the alarm bells singing out in his brain and dialed Pete’s office at Phoenix, hoping his old friend was in despite the late hour.

After three rings, Pete answered without it even going through to his secretary.

Mac didn’t give him chance to say anything more than his name.

“Pete, thank heavens…” The line hissed with static as MacGyver spoke, and for a second he thought it was going to be cut.

“MacGyver? I thought you were still doing your whole born to be wild thing with Sam?” There was mirth in Pete’s voice – he hadn’t a clue that Mac wasn’t still on his road trip.

“Pete, you didn’t leave a message at our motel that you needed help? No plane tickets?” Mac already knew the answer, but he had to ask anyway.

“No…why would I? Mac, is everything okay?”

MacGyver sighed, waiting for more static to clear before trying to explain everything as fast as he could. “No, we’re not okay, Pete. We took the flight back to LAX that was on the tickets, except it never arrived. We’re still on it headed out to sea. The pilot’s dead, co-pilot’s out cold, and…” He couldn’t quite bring himself to say it.

And?” There was real concern in Pete’s voice now.

“Sam’s hurt. There’s an air marshal on board and he got a little too gun happy with one of the passengers. Sam took the bullet,” Mac’s voice cracked as the last word left his lips.

“How bad?”

Silence filled the line.

MacGyver didn’t want to answer. He didn’t want to admit that Sam could actually die if they didn’t turn the plane around soon.

Pete understood the lack of an answer implicitly and didn’t push further. “Do you know why? Who is behind this?”

“At first I thought maybe just your run of the mill hijacking, but if you add in the fake message and tickets, this all has to be aimed at me somehow.” MacGyver paused, thinking of all the times his arch nemesis had played these silly games. “Pete, what if it’s Murdoc? If he’s discovered I have a son, it would make Sam a prime target.”

“The problem is you’ve ticked off way more than Murdoc in your time. Mac, the list of possible people behind this could be endless.” Pete sounded frustrated. “Look, the best thing we can do is for me to liaise right away with the authorities on this. I’ll deal with the airport, police and anyone else I need to. You just look after Sam, and watch your back.”

“I need a passenger manifest.” MacGyver was still thinking, working out every possible angle. Somebody somewhere knew what was going on, and he was running out of time to find out who. “And any information you can get about the people on that manifest, Pete. Any skeletons in the closet, right down to parking tickets.”

“I hear you…”

“And one more thing – I need an avionics expert for a Boeing 747 on the line as soon as you can.” Mac took a second, thinking about the device he’d seen. He hadn’t mentioned it to the passengers, and they might be listening now. He still didn’t want to panic them. Not yet. “I have some questions.”

“Understood. I’ll get to work on it all right away.”

“Just keep the line open, Pete. I don’t know if I can get a connection again if we lose it.” Mac ushered Dana over as he spoke. “Can you hold the phone and keep the line?” He asked, putting a hand over the mike even though he didn’t need to.

Dana nodded and took the Airfone, but she looked worried.

Mac noticed instantly. “What’s wrong?”

“Well, two things…” Dana seemed almost reluctant to answer. “First, Dean is awake.” She pointed over to where they’d left the co-pilot and he was sitting up on the chair, rubbing his head like he had a hangover.

“And that’s bad?” Great, I don’t have to land this bird on my own after all.

Dana looked almost apologetic as her gaze shifted to another seat. “No…but it’s Sam. He’s not doing so well.”

MacGyver didn’t need her to say anything else. Leaving the phone in her capable care, he scooted to Sam’s side, trying to keep a smile on his face.

Sam looked up as he approached, and Mac could see fear in his son’s eyes. And why wouldn’t there be? This was the first time Sam had taken a bullet, and hopefully the last.

Mac had taken a few in the line of duty over the years, and it wasn’t an experience he wished on his son. The irony, though, was that somehow MacGyver had always gotten away with it. Most had been flesh wounds, and those that hadn’t had always managed to miss anything vital.

Why couldn’t Sam have been so lucky?

“Do I look that bad?” Sam pulled a face as Mac kneeled by his side. “I feel that bad,” he admitted. “And…I can’t feel my arm so much…”

“The bullet probably damaged some nerves,” Mac replied honestly.

What he wasn’t so honest about was what his own experience was telling him.

Sam was pale, and every now and then he slurred his words. He was getting sleepy, and keeping awake was going to get harder and harder.

The bleeding appeared to have stopped, but it was the amount Sam had already lost that was causing the problem. He was going into shock, and no duct tape or pen knife was going to fix him.

This is my fault. Someone has a grudge against me, and Sam has had to pay the price.

“I’m kinda cold.” Sam shivered and then blinked like he was trying to keep focused.

Anyone I ever get close to gets hurt or worse…

Mac reached up and pulled out a blanket from the overhead locker, laying it gently over his son. “You just stay awake for me, okay? I might need your help later, so no snoozing.”

Sam swallowed and even that seemed an effort. “I already snoozed earlier, remember?”

“Like Sleeping Beauty, except for the extra snoring,” Mac tried to tease, to make Sam forget all the pain and fear for a moment, but his mind still screamed that this was going to end badly.

A voice thankfully broke him from that thought.

“Mr. MacGyver?” It was Dana, and she was holding out the Airfone. “Your friend needs to speak to you.”

Mac laid hand on Sam’s good shoulder for a second reassuringly. “I’ll be back soon.”

“Just go save the plane, dad,” Sam whispered as MacGyver moved away. “Just do what you always do…”

Mac took the phone from Dana and was relieved to hear Pete’s voice once again. It was funny how a portly blind man with very little hair and a penchant for junk food could be so comforting, but Pete was all that and more.

MacGyver had looked up to Pete for years, and that would never change.

“Pete, what ya got for me?”

“I have your avionics expert as promised.” There was a click on the line as Pete pressed the conference button, letting everyone join in the conversation despite being in different locations.

The ex-Boeing employee didn’t waste time on small talk. “How can I help?” His question was simple, but that was all it needed to be.

Explaining what was in the avionics bay wasn’t going to be so easy.

Mac took a second to bring the picture back into his head before beginning his description of what had been tampered with.

“There’s a small black box in the corner that almost every system has been wired into,” he recounted after giving a few more details. “It seems to cycle through those systems every few minutes, but I have no idea what each one does, or what we’d lose if I tried to disarm it.”

The expert took a breath so deep even Mac heard it down the line. “From what you’re describing, your terrorist has rigged the plane’s systems into a bomb that plays Russian roulette. I think it’s running random sequences and if anyone tries to disarm it or its maker activates it, then whatever sequence it’s on at the time is what systems it takes out.”

MacGyver had suspected as much, but that didn’t tell him what it would take out. “Any ideas what we’d lose if it’s activated?” he asked.

“Going on the information you’ve given; I’d say it’ll take out three vital functions in any one sequence. Trim control, cabin pressure, landing gear, fuel management, throttle control…”

“I get the picture,” MacGyver cut in. “Any way of telling which three will go together?”

“Maybe if you could watch it for awhile and tell me what system lights are going on and off as it goes through the various sequences?” The expert didn’t sound all that confident.

Mac rubbed at his temple. “So, basically, if I try to diffuse this thing or disengage the autopilot and it activates, we won’t even know what systems are going to go down until it happens. That’s just great…”

Pete joined in the conversation, his tone suggesting he was getting annoyed by both the device, and its maker. “This has to be the weirdest bomb ever. It doesn’t actually kill outright, unless its maker presses a trigger.”

“No, but it causes massive avionics malfunctions that will bring us down anyway,” Mac pointed out. “It’s like whoever is behind this wants to torment us before he makes the kill.”

“You’re still thinking Murdoc?” Pete asked.

“I don’t know.” MacGyver shook his head. “What I do know is that its one device my skills in bomb disposal won’t work on. I can’t beat it, Pete.”

“No, but maybe we can cheat it.” The Boeing guy offered. “It’s a massive risk, and I think we should still attempt to find the person who built it to try and get them to disarm it first.”

“And if we can’t?” Pete didn’t sound happy.

Mac suspected he knew where the expert was going. “I think he means we cut off the autopilot and let it activate the device, Pete, but hopefully on the right sequence that won’t make us explode in midair.” He looked over to Sam’s pallid form huddled under the blanket. “All I know is whatever we’re going to try, it has to be fast. I don’t think our bad guy has finished playing with us yet. And Sam isn’t doing so good.”

There was a slight pause and MacGyver thought he heard the rustling of paper coupled with a very familiar voice. He waited, hoping it was good news at last.

Eventually, Pete spoke again. “I think we might be able to help with finding your man. Nikki’s been working hard on this since you got in touch, and she’s dug up some interesting information from the manifest.”

Mac was surprised to hear Nikki was back at head office, but was glad she’d been there for Pete in his own absence. In fact, he was glad she was there right now, probably about to save his hide along with two hundred other passengers.

“What ya got, Pete?”

“It seems that one of the passengers on board – one Roger Mariotte has served time for fraud. But listen to this, not just any fraud. He was running an electronics company making sub-standard circuits that were in turn going to be sold as "A" grade to Boeing. If they’d actually have been fitted, those parts could easily have malfunctioned and caused a crash.”

“So this guy would know all the systems on board this plane and how to mess with them.” MacGyver theorized. “He has all the right credentials, and maybe a motive. Except for one thing.”

“Oh?” Pete sounded puzzled.

Mac explained. “I don’t know the man, and I’ve never even heard of this case. Why would I be a target? I mean, c’mon, this has to be linked to me, or why those tickets for this flight and the phony note from you?”

There was a pause while Pete obviously thought about it. “You’re right. It doesn’t make sense. I get that Mariotte might think Boeing is a target in some warped way because of the time he served in jail. But why pick on you?”

“Well, I think we’ve already accused the wrong man once already, maybe Mariotte isn’t our guy either? Having a motive is one thing, but there’s no evidence. All we have is a plane flying itself and two hundred passengers on borrowed time.”

“So, now what?” Frustration was creeping back into Pete’s voice, and MacGyver could just picture him sitting in his office feeling helpless.

But that wasn’t going to help them. Only one thing was – direct action.

“We find Mariotte,” Mac sighed. “And then we confront him, and hope he doesn’t have a gun or the bomb trigger in his hand…”

 

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