Note from Loth:
Oh, my aching head!
I tried--I really did--to make up as much as I could the glaring mistakes that occur in the following scene involving the acid leak. Without rewriting the entire chapter--which I am seriously considering attempting--and wholly discarding the evidence presented in the Pilot Episode, there is not much more I can do besides beg the indulgence of our wiser, more learned and chemically knowledgeable MOL members as I present the following...
oh, and not to forget...
Many thanks to my editor and my research assistant, both of whom deserve metals for their work and patience with me! ((('Beth and 'Grrl)))
-L The Rainmakers, ch 21
Pete’s Voice-Over:When I saw those vacuum pumps come on, I knew that MacGyver had done it again. It is positively uncanny, the way that young man can take the most impossible situation, twist around the odds and come out on top! The only thing that damped my relief that he had managed to escape the gas was that he was going deeper into the KIVA instead of coming back out.
My relief was even more short-lived when the entire computer console for the gas lab suddenly erupted in another shower of sparks and began to belch smoke into the already stifling air of the control room. Whatever Mac had done must have short-circuited the entire array. Now we were well and truly blind. And all I could do to show my concern was to light another one of these damned cigarettes!
It was all MacGyver’s show now… all we could do was wait and hope.
The command center filled with the acrid odor of overheated metal. Burke caught Gantner’s arm and steered him into the Operations room where they could watch and listen without getting in the way of the technicians.
Gantner mopped the sweat from his face and tried to be patient. They had hear nothing from MacGyver since he’d broken out of the airlock. Gantner called into the mike again. “Mac! Mac, can you hear me?” He turned to Burke and said, “Are you sure this thing is working?”
“Should be – maybe MacGyver is too busy at the moment to talk,” Burke said, without much hope.
A young soldier came running into the control room, pausing to ask ‘Colsen’ a question. He turned and pointed up at the Ops room with his cigarette, but as the soldier hurried up the stairs, he followed him with a distrustful eye.
The solder went directly to Burke and delivered his message. “Colonel Keele’s confirmed, sir. They’re about to go into the launch procedure.”
Burke gave a resigned sigh and muttered an absent-minded, “Thank you.”
Gantner was confused and rapidly becoming alarmed. “Launch procedure? What launch procedure – what’s he talking about?”
“Ed – Ed, Ed – take it easy. We had no choice,” Burke said.
Gantner was not about to be soothed. “About what?” he demanded again.
“About the acid!” Burke snapped defensively. “We can’t be sure the sodium hydroxide flooding’s going to be enough. We have
to fuse the substratum rock between here and the aquifer.” Burke’s anger cooled as swiftly as it had flared; his voice gentled as he added, “And we think an underground missile aimed at the KIVA foundation might do it.”
Gantner slowly absorbed what Burke said. “A missile?” Burke nodded, agreeing more with the shocked expression growing on Gantner’s face than his words. “But what happens to the KIVA?”
“Below the first level, there won’t be a KIVA.
” Burke turned away, amazed at the coldness of his own words.
Gantner stared at him for a moment, then his gaze swiveled to the hand mike. He grabbed it up as if to crush the thing in his hands. “Mac!!”
he shouted desperately, “You’ve gotta get out of there! They’ve got a missile aimed at you. Mac!” Burke glanced away so that he wouldn’t be able to see the panic that he could hear in Gantner’s voice. “Mac, can you hear me? Mac! Answer me!
Mac, you – you – use your intercom! Mac!
Two hundred and fifty feet below where he stood, Gantner’s voice echoed through empty chambers. The radio lay where it had fallen, on the sill beside the hatch that joined the two gas labs, where MacGyver had tried to make his escape. Nobody there could hear Gantner, no one alive with a voice to answer his frantic calls.
Burke felt awful. He hated to have to make decisions that would cost lives – but even more lives were on the line – he could not risk the potential disaster that would result if the KIVA bled acid into the water table. Making hard decisions was part of his job – it was also his job to say the things that people didn’t want to hear. “It’s too late. I’m sorry, Ed, but – but you said it yourself… MacGyver was dead as soon as he broke that airlock.”
Gently, he took the mike from the man’s nerveless fingers and set it down. Lifting a hand, Burke hesitated for a second and then placed it on Gantner’s shoulder to try to comfort the man. “I am
sorry. I know he was your friend.” Burke turned and looked at the computer lab. “We’re out of luck, out of options, and…” he lifted his other hand, checking his watch, “… in about thirty or so minutes, we’ll officially
be out of time.”
Down in the computer lab, ‘Andy Colsen’ had been listening to the radio and had heard Gantner’s broken pleas – as well as Burke’s death sentence, overheard through the mike Gantner had been holding. He turned and stared up through the window at them, and when Burke turned and looked down into the lab, he met the livid glare of Pete Thornton. Although he had no real idea who this man was, masquerading as his Chief of Operations, what Burke saw made him take half a step back, his throat gone suddenly dry.
“Oh, my God…” Burke murmured as he watched the man take off his headset and walk slowly toward the Ops room. Burke had seen thunderstorms tearing across the face of the desert that looked friendlier than the expression Colsen was wearing. “Andy – Andy, I was going to tell y – ”
“When, Burke?” Pete kept his voice calm, rage simmering beneath.
“As-as soon as I knew th-that – we had no other options,” Burke stammered.
“Not that, Burke… when
did you learn what the Army was planning to do with the missile?” Pete demanded. “And why
didn’t you tell us when we might have been able to warn MacGyver?”
“The orders came down from the highest level,” Burke said meekly, backing away from Pete until his back was pressed against a computer console. Burke didn’t understand why his Ops chief suddenly intimidated him so much, but something had changed in the last few minutes, and Andy didn’t seem like a harmless engineer anymore. “I-I was instructed not to tell anyone… until I heard from Colonel Keele… he had to locate a place where the missile could be fired effectively… and I didn’t want to make a deal about it until we were sure...”
“‘Make a deal about it’?” Pete’s voice was soft and deadly. “The moment that we lose contact with MacGyver, suddenly you’re ready to give up on the KIVA. Sounds to me as if someone is very effectively manipulating you and the Army to complete the destruction of Steubens’ research.”
“No! That’s not it at all! Andy… we have no choice. There’s nothing else we could do! The acid…”
“I’ll tell you what you can do,” Pete said in a soft and dangerous voice. “You can make sure that we give that man down there all the time that he was allowed – every second! You get on the horn and tell Keele – and I mean right now – and make sure he knows not to fire that thing until that time is up. I’ll be back – I’ve got a phone call to make.”
“I promise they won’t launch it until we say so…” Burke found himself talking to the back of Andy’s head; Pete was already storming out of the room. “I swear it,” he added softly. Pete’s Voice-Over:Burke might have thought he had no choice and no options … but I did! All I needed was some privacy and my satellite-telephone. I was going to get to the bottom of this … before the bottom of the KIVA – as well as MacGyver – became a permanent part of the rock strata!
Another corridor led Barbara and MacGyver from the gas lab down to the Third level of the KIVA maze. The floor had a noticeable gradient to it, which helped speed their feet forward, but adding to the feeling that they were plunging headlong into the darkness. And it was dark; what meager illumination there was came from red emergency lights spaced along the hallway. Nearly every inch of the ceiling had fallen through, piling the floor with rubble. Dirt sifted down in a steady trickle, filling the air with a disagreeable and cloying musty smell. Hurrying along, they became aware of an indistinct noise. It became louder as the proceeded.
Barbara was walking a little ahead of him as they threaded their way through the mess. MacGyver heard her sniff a couple of times, then she suddenly covered her face with a hand and sneezed violently.
“You okay up there?”
“Yeah.” Barbara half-turned as she walked, waving her hand in front of her face. “Dusty.”
The passageway led on, until they turned two sharp corners and it opened up onto a vast chamber, the ceiling – if there still was one – lost in a haze of dirty smoke. The air was strongly damp and stank of rotten eggs. The roar of suffering machinery, now grown into an assault upon their ears, forced them to shout at each other to be heard.
Barbara coughed and gestured, “The tank should be this way.”
MacGyver eyed the open-toed shoes Barbara was wearing as she stepped daintily over some debris. “Watch your step, now. This is nasty stuff we’re lookin’ for.” Barbara nodded, placing her feet carefully as she proceeded.
They split up, walking around the vast banks of machinery looming in the semi-darkness. MacGyver could hear Barbara’s muffled coughing. His own nose was telling him that they were close, and the amount of moisture in the air was more than enough to make him worry. The rank odor of chemicals saturated the air, and if enough water condensed around the spill, it could cause a nasty reaction with the acid.
He heard Barbara shout his name. He hurried toward the sound of her voice, and found Barbara standing beside a vast tank, clutching the scrap of cloth over her face as she gazed up. The tank was huge – easily a story high.
At the place where a pipe fed into the tank, a crack had appeared. It was well above MacGyver’s reach and was liberally drooling brownish foam down the side of the tank. It ran to the floor and disappeared into a fissure, where the floor had buckled from the blast. Thankfully, there was no trace of condensation on the tank, and no obvious sign of dripping or pooling water near the spill.
“Well, it looks like the explosion cracked the foundation, too. Acid’s runnin’ into the ground through that.” MacGyver frowned down at the fractured concrete and then followed the messy trail up the side of the vat to the crack, measuring with his eyes. I need to be about four feet taller…
“Well, there’s nothing we can do to stop it, is there?”
“We might be able to whip up a band-aid.” Barbara stared at him in puzzlement. He smiled back at her. “Our first problem, though, is to get up to that crack.” MacGyver placed his hands on his hips and issued his challenge. “You think you could balance against that tank if you stood on my shoulders? That might get us close enough to stop that leak.”
” Barbara demanded as he began to rifle through his game bag. “That’s sulfuric acid up there, remember?”
“With these!” MacGyver fanned a double handful of wrapped candy.
“Chocolate bars?” Barbara eyed him doubtfully.
As MacGyver explained, his voice slipped back into the broad accent that had put his professors off their guard when he had first gone to college. “To you, they’re milk chocolate. To sulfuric acid, it’s lactose and sucrose. C12H22O11. Disaccharides. The acid will react with the sugar to form an elemental carbon and a thick gummy residue.” He enjoyed watching the incredulous expression on Barbara’s face change to wonder and hope. “It should be enough to clog up that rupture. Temporarily, at least.”
“And where does my standing on you come into the picture?” Barbara asked uncertainly, glancing back up at the leaking crack. “Why me?”
“Well, I can’t quite
reach it. I’d do it myself, but I don’t think you’d want me
to stand on your
Barbara snorted softly. “Okay. Let’s do it!”
MacGyver stooped next to the vat, and Barbara slipped off her shoes and gingerly placed her feet on his broad shoulders. “Comin’ up,” he said, and she walked up the side of the vat with her hands as he slowly straightened his legs.
The drooling, spitting acid leak was only a few feet off to the right. “Awright. I’m movin’ over.” As MacGyver began to edge closer so that she could reach the crack, Barbara worried that the vicious stuff might spatter onto them. She could feel the heat produced by the acid as it reacted with the moisture in the air and the coating on the outside of the vat.
“Awright.” MacGyver’s voice was as steady as his back. “Bars comin’ up. Right hand.” The movement of him raising his arm made Barbara sway a little, but she steadied herself against the vat and reached down slowly with her right hand.
“A little closer.” She flexed her knees and MacGyver placed the candy in her hand. “Got ‘em.” Great,
she thought drolly as she reached back up carefully, now he’s got me talking like him!
“Awright!” MacGyver steadied her with both hands on her calves, now that he’d passed off the chocolate. “Start stuffin’ ‘em in at the angle and work your way over,” he instructed. “Oh, and Spencer?”
Barbara could see this one coming a mile away; smiling as she began peeling wrappers off of the chocolate, she interrupted him dryly, “Yeah. Make sure it melts in the acid, not in my hand, right?”
MacGyver grinned and laughed. “Yeah.”
Barbara reached out gingerly and touched the edge of the chocolate bar the place on the vat where the crack terminated. Instantly a reaction occurred, one so sudden that she nearly dropped the sticky, melting bar in surprise. A black porous substance, thick and rigid and smelling strongly of caramel, sprouted quickly where the chocolate and the acid mixed, instantly gumming up the portion of the crack that Barbara was working on. Smiling as she realized that this really might work, she stripped the paper and foil off of the next bar as quickly as she could and continued to work.
Mac watched the acid rolling down almost in front of his eyes. It changed from a foamy flow to a viscous trickle as Barbara continued to feed bars into the hungry maw of the leak. Soon there was a thick seal over the entire crack.
MacGyver's eyes and nose were burning from the irritation caused by the acid fumes; he was sure that Barbara felt it too. Without protective clothing, he knew that they would both be looking at some uncomfortable skin burns as well, just from standing so close to the acid.
Barbara sighed and said, “Done!” MacGyver obediently squatted down. She slid down his wide back and landed neatly on her feet. “I think we got it!”
MacGyver looked up at their makeshift patch with a smile and nodded. “Yeah. Nice work, Spencer.”