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|MacGyver Online Forums > Fan Fiction Library > Starting Point|
|Posted by: bluegirl 26 March 2023 - 07:35 AM|
| Hi there!
Yes, I?m still here... yes, it?s been a long time... and yes, I?ve got something to announce.
I am in the final stages of finishing my last big work in progess (still a bit of progress to make). Two weeks ago, I finally put the words 'The End' under my written script. By now, I?ve still got about 20 pages left to type, then it?s off to error-hunting and refining the story... It?ll be a big one again, although not as long as the last one... and it?ll be dealing with 'uncharted territory'...
So, for all those of you interested in reading fanfiction... Give me a few more weeks, but then get ready for a new adventure!
Greetings to all,
|Posted by: Barry Rowland 29 March 2023 - 04:17 PM|
|Hi Bluegirl, sounds like fun!|
|Posted by: bluegirl 18 April 2023 - 05:51 AM|
| Hello everyone!
I?ve always wondered... after the backstory of how MacGyver and Pete had met (thanks to Murdoc ) we were told during 'Partners'... and since the MacGyver we meet during that backstory is kind of an apprehensive, cautious and shy guy... what happened after that building collapsed onto Murdoc? What happened that made MacGyver become a government agent (since he obviously wasn?t one during that story) permanently (not just for catching Murdoc)?
And what about the 'camel story'? How does it fit in?
So... I drew inspiration from various episodes - 'Partners', of course - but you may also find references to 'Friends', 'Deathlock', 'The enemy within', 'Blood Brothers' and a few more... and from a song I heard on one of the 'Miami Vice'-soundtracks -
Lives In The Balance by Jackson Browne - especially its second part...
I've been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
With the blood in the ink of the headlines
And the sound of the crowd in my ear
You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that you've seen it before
Where a government lies to a people
And a country is drifting to war
There's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
Where their business interests run
On the radio talk shows and TV
You hear one thing again and again
How the USA stands for freedom
And we come to the aid of a friend
But who are the ones that we call our friends
These governments killing their own
Or the people who finally can't take anymore
And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone
And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire
There's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who fan the flames
Of the wars that are fought in places
Where we can't even say the names
They sell us the president the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us everything from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars
I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can't be counted on to tell us
Who our enemies are
But they're never the ones to fight or to die
And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire
So I took all this and unleashed my imagination once again... and here?s the result.
Starting Point - my take of what might have happened after what we?ve been told in 'Partners'. Why MacGyver became a government agent and what started the friendship between him and Pete Thornton... This is set in 1980 and begins a couple of months after the 'Murdoc incident'...
I am aware that there are several timelines of MacGyver?s life floating around the fan community, and that there are a few inconsistencies throughout the series - I mostly followed the timeline given on macgyveronline.com... mostly and tried to address at least one of those inconsistencies
So please, all of you interested in fanfiction.. read, enjoy and tell me what you think! I am looking forward to your feedback!
|Posted by: bluegirl 18 April 2023 - 05:59 AM|
| Here we go - I'll be cross-posting this here, on AO3, fanfiction.net (those two support all the text layout I've done) and the rdanderson.com-forum
It was anything but early morning silence.
The dull and constant roar of the engine working hard. The whole thing was vibrating. The sharp tapping noise of the rotors outside, struggling against the wind. Occasionally, some turbulences added to the movement that could be felt inside the helicopter.
Peter Thornton tried to sit perfectly still in the military helicopter. He was holding his backpack close with one arm wrapped around it and seemed calm on the outside. But inside his head, his thoughts were running wild. Although he knew, he?d checked his gear for the upcoming mission at least twice for completeness ? he was mentally going through all items he?d packed once again, asking himself if he?d missed anything he might need real soon.
He would be dropped off in the woods in a couple of minutes, all on his own, and was doing his best to conceal his inner turmoil. As he had been trained to. As he should be able to? after being a government agent for quite some years. Thornton tried to focus on what lay ahead of him, especially on the route through the woods he would have to take until he would reach his final destination, and onto his mission objective.
Intelligence reports about what might await him there had been sketchy at best. Blurry satellite pictures had shown what was likely to be a camp and a probable small airstrip close to a river. But of course, those pictures had told Thornton nothing about how many men of the arms dealer ring would be present. Neither had he any idea if he would be able to gather any information that might help bring those men to justice.
Musing about the evidence took his thoughts instantly to the second main reason why he was sitting in the helicopter; why he had prepared to go on this mission alone and on very short notice. Thornton?s mind abruptly concentrated on the young man he had met several months ago.
The young man who should be out there, close to the camp, investigating it, gathering information. At least Thornton suspected him to still be there? hopefully also still alive.
By now he doubted if he had been correct about choosing this assignment to be the first official solo mission for the young one. Not that he doubted his decision to recruit the young man as an operative for the department in the first place. Not at all. The guy had a very unique set of skills that should fit their line of work perfectly. If he managed to survive.
That was where Thornton?s concerns started. Although it was obvious he knew his way around handguns and rifles ? he had effortlessly passed the shooting training and test required for field certification for the DXS ? the kid had flat-out refused to take a gun with him on his assignment. He?d only stated that ?he did better without them?. Thornton had tried to reason with him, but to no avail. And he had stopped arguing with the rookie real soon because Thornton had already noticed during the training how uncomfortable the young one felt with guns around ? although he handled them quite confidently. Back then at the beginning of summer? several weeks ago.
When the information about the arms trafficking ring getting a new and large shipment soon had reached Thornton?s desk ? just a week ago ? Pete had been forced to act quickly. He had sent the rookie off to retrieve some intel from behind the Iron Curtain right after he had completed his training and passed the certification test, but he?d been accompanied by Craig Bannister then.
This time, all experienced agents had been out of the country or busy with different matters. Pete Thornton had asked the man if he felt ready to ?fly solo? and he had agreed. In fact, he had been eager to do something about those illegal weapon dealers. Especially since they had chosen to situate one of their main operation bases in the USA.
Thornton had had no doubts back then to send the man off ? after all the assignment had been meant to be only about reconnaissance, about finding out more details about their operation base, so the DXS could work out a solid plan on how to take the arms dealer ring down. Since the camp was located in a wilderness area of the northwestern US, hidden in some densely forested valley of the Rocky Mountains, the newbie had seemed like a good choice. He was a seasoned woodsman; the tests had proven that.
But had it been too soon? Had he really known what and whom he would be up against? Had he really understood his objective was to only gather information and not attempt to take them down single-handed?
All those questions circled in Thornton?s head while he sat in the helicopter, strove to block out the noise, and watched the country pass by below through the side window. Ever since the young one had taken on the assignment, he had reported in via radio every evening, right on schedule, like clockwork. He had told them, he?d found the base, had been able to come quite close without being spotted, and had shared some intel about what he?d been able to observe so far. He?d been able to take some pictures, which would have been helpful to the DXS ? had the department received the films as planned.
But three days ago those check-ins and reports had abruptly stopped. On the first evening, Pete Thornton hadn?t been all too concerned because of reports of fierce thunderstorms passing through the region. When there still had been no word from the man 24 hours after the storms had subsided, Thornton had gotten a bit worried. But as soon as he hadn?t turned up for his scheduled pick-up and flight back home to L.A. on the next morning those worries had mounted. What if the kid had gotten caught?
Pete Thornton knew that in his business, sometimes, there was the sad possibility to lose an operative? and that he shouldn?t let it get to him? but with this young man? he had his difficulties. He knew the kid closer for only a few months and he?d already grown quite fond of him. Despite his urge to stay professionally detached and to deny it, Thornton felt responsible. He had sent the guy off. He had known about the whole extent of the danger those arms dealers posed.
What if the young hotshot had gotten too eager to stop them? What if he had gotten in way over his head, not realizing that his assignment had been limited to recon due to his lack of experience?
Thornton sighed deeply. The kid may very well be dead by now. Those goons weren?t known to keep their prisoners alive for a long time. That was why he?d chosen to go on the trip himself. That was why he was sitting in this noisy chopper, was being taken to a very remote forest, and had prepared for a three-day hike. Today to at least reach the top of the mountain ridge the compound was located behind, tomorrow to find out whatever he could, and one more day to return to the site where he would be dropped off. With all intel possible. Hopefully also together with the young man. Preferably alive. Another helicopter flight was scheduled to take them back home.
It had been a while since he had taken on a wilderness mission like this one. He?d been in a way better shape back then. But he had to do this himself ? and it had taken some persuading to get his department chief to agree due to his current workload. He had to make sure what had happened to his young rookie. No matter how hard he tried to deny it outwardly, he liked the man, he was worried about him and whatever had gone wrong. More than he was supposed to.
Perhaps it had to do with how they?d met in the first place. A few months ago. The ?Murdoc? incident. The kid had gotten himself involved way over his head back then as well. Bold? trying to help the ?lady?? not knowing anything about the true situation? but also careless and ignoring the possible danger. But? he?d gotten them out of their predicament as well. And in the end, Murdoc had been killed under the building that had collapsed onto him.
?We?re almost there, Sir.? The voice of the co-pilot cut through Pete Thornton?s musings. ?The clearing?s just ahead. Get ready.?
Thornton straightened himself a little and adjusted his grip on his backpack so he?d be able to shoulder it quickly once he?d gotten off the helicopter. His eyes stayed fixed on the mountain ridge they were flying along as he nodded. The DXS regularly asked for and got the help of the military on urgent missions. He was used to the feel of those large Huey choppers.
The chopper was following the bends of the valley now, and Thornton knew the pilot couldn?t take him any higher to give him an overview of the area or go closer to the camp because of the risk that they might be spotted or heard. He had to rely on his maps and blurry satellite pictures for his trip through dense forest and rough terrain.
He took a deep breath when he saw the small clearing he would be dropped off on come into view and felt the momentum of the helicopter change. Just then he felt adrenaline rush into his veins. Just then he noticed how wound up he was inside. After all the military and intelligence work he?d done over the years, Thornton still sensed his tension rising. His focus moved to the co-pilot only seconds before the chopper touched the ground.
?Day after tomorrow? 18.00?? he asked.
?Correct, Sir.? the Captain confirmed. ?That?s when we?ll be here to pick you up again.?
?Us, I hope.? Thornton shifted his weight, preparing to depart from the helicopter. ?I plan on returning together with our missing operative.?
?Of course, Sir.? The co-pilot half-turned around to him and saluted. ?Good luck.?
Thornton reached for the handle and pulled the door open.
?Thanks, Captain!? he half-shouted over the noise before he climbed out of the chopper as soon as it had steadied. ?I?ll see you then!?
He slammed the door shut and ran keeping his head down toward the tree line with his pack flung over one shoulder. Only then he turned and saluted the already departing pilots in the helicopter. Thornton watched it fly away for a couple of moments before he let his eyes do a quick scan of the area. He compared what he saw to his mental map, adjusted his backpack on both shoulders, and then determinedly walked off into the forest.
The noise of the helicopter faded soon and the following silence allowed his thoughts to wander off again while he started his way toward the top of the ridge. His mind traveled back to a morning only a few days after they had chased Murdoc into the demolition zone. He had asked the young man to come to his office? primarily for completing the paperwork?
|Posted by: bluegirl 18 April 2023 - 06:10 AM|
| Unfortunately, on this site even some of the basic punctuations get scrambled or are lost or replaced by question marks - sorry! I?ve got no idea how to fix it. I tried importing the text from different file formats, but it?s been no use.
|Posted by: MacGyverOnline 19 April 2023 - 12:18 AM|
Yes, it's something I haven't been able to fix.. or even work out why it's happening other than something to do with character encryption in the database.
I think some software has been updated on our servers which is causing this issue.
|Posted by: bluegirl 23 April 2023 - 06:07 AM|
| Despite the encryption error - I?ll continue posting here - if any of you prefer to read without the 'bug' - go to fanfiction.net or archiveofourown.org - my username there is 'MacsBluegirl'
No comments or feedback so far? I?d been hoping for some...
Well, let?s get on with the next part - so Pete has been dropped off in some wilderness area of the Rocky Mountains, close to the Canadian Border, and has a mountain to climb ahead of him... and while doing so thinks back to how he has met the young man again, in his office...
A few months ago?
MacGyver tried his best not to be too impressed when he entered the Federal building. Needless to say, this place was supposed to be high security. Peter Thornton had asked him to meet him in his office, to give his statement about their encounter with that darn assassin, so Thornton would be able to complete his files.
Mac still had trouble wrapping his head around what he had stumbled into a few days ago. Just trying to keep Jack?s cab in business, he had felt compelled to help some lady chased by a gunman, only to find out ?she? was actually a man ? no, a top-level hitman ? and the gunman was a government agent. He had been close to getting killed twice that day and only barely gotten away the first time thanks to his ingenuity.
But the bomb placed under Jack?s bed had scared him. More than it should have. He had been used to dealing with bombs during his time in the military. But that had been many years ago. Back then he would have been prepared, mentally and emotionally. Being confronted with the sudden threat to his life now had caught him off guard. He was grateful that Thornton had kept his cool on that occasion. In the end, they had chased the killer into the building that had been blown to rubble only seconds later.
MacGyver sighed deeply as he approached the entrance counter. He?d help Mr. Thornton get his statement written down with all the details he could remember and then, hopefully, this nightmare would be over for him. Murdoc had been killed under the collapsing building, so there was no impending threat anymore. He could go back to helping Jack while he was laid up in the hospital. He could go back to finally getting used to living an ordinary life.
MacGyver had had his share of excitement and special jobs during the last ten or twelve years. His service in the military for a start. He had joined the bomb disposal teams in Vietnam right after graduating from High School. He had worked together with his partner Charlie Robinson for quite a while, but his commanding officers had noticed his resourcefulness real soon. They had sent him off to different places, on special, sometimes top-secret missions, as soon as he wasn?t needed all too desperately in ?Nam. He?d been to Afghanistan, the Middle East, also North Africa, at times even assigned solo if confidentiality had called for it.
MacGyver had gotten used to being in dangerous situations during that time. Back home, after he?d left the military, while he?d attended college, he had sometimes missed the thrill, the adrenaline rush. Maybe that had been why he?d spent some time fighting oil well fires. Maybe that had been the reason why he?d started traveling around the world. He?d also been curious to meet different people, and he?d very much enjoyed sharing a lot of his travels with his best friends, Mike and Jack. Maybe it had also been the reason why he?d gotten into scuba diving. The adventure, the exploring, the thrill.
Well, one of those adventures had nearly cost him his life due to the diving accident Jack had only barely been able to save him from. It had been a frightening ?just in time rescue? from drowning. Mac had been done with adventures afterward. He?d been kind of a mess mentally and emotionally when he had returned home from this last journey.
He had been lucky to meet Booker and Cynthia soon, as working at the Challenger?s Club had grounded him again, and had helped him rely on and trust his abilities once more. Helping and taking care of those kids had given him an objective in his life and a reason to carry on. Since he had lost his mother totally unexpectedly during his service in the military, people like Booker and Cynthia and friends like Mike and Jack were kind of his family right now. He had done his best to settle into a ?normal? life after his job at the Challenger?s Club, although MacGyver had to admit that he missed the excitement and the special experiences every once in a while.
MacGyver straightened himself when he stepped up to the guard behind the entrance counter, who looked up at him expectantly but also measured him.
?Good morning. How can I help you?? the guard asked.
?Morning,? Mac answered the greeting. ?Name?s MacGyver. I?ve got an appointment with Mr. Thornton.?
The guard checked a list hidden from Mac?s sight and nodded after a moment. Then he handed Mac a clipboard with a sheet where MacGyver had to leave his name, address, and signature and checked Mac?s driver?s license.
?Thank you, Mr. MacGyver.? The guard took back the clipboard and handed Mac a visitor?s pass. ?Please keep this visible all time while you?re in the building.?
Mac nodded and clipped the pass to the front zipper of his jacket.
?The elevators are over there.? The guard told him with a brief gesture. ?Do you know which floor you have to go to??
MacGyver?s eyes followed the man?s hand and then returned to the guard with a little smile.
?Yes, thank you,? he said.
?I?ll inform Mr. Thornton that you are on your way up.? The guard stated and turned to his phone.
MacGyver nodded once more and then walked off toward the elevators. He took a deep breath as he stepped into the next open car and let himself be taken upward. Dealing with government authorities of this kind made him slightly nervous. He really looked forward to getting this done and over with.
Mac took a moment to orient himself once he had departed the elevator on the correct floor and searched for some board that would tell him where to turn to when he heard Thornton?s voice from behind.
?MacGyver! I?m glad you could make it!?
Mac whirled around surprised but relaxed quickly when he saw the government agent coming down the corridor toward him together with another man. MacGyver managed to smile at Thornton and shook his hand.
?Of course. I?d rather deal with this sooner than later,? he replied and looked expectantly at the second man.
?Right.? Thornton agreed quickly. ?Speaking of which ? this is Agent Carlyle.? he introduced his colleague. ?He?ll record your statement about what happened.?
Mac nodded a greeting to Carlyle and then raised his eyebrows questioningly at Thornton. ?I thought, you?d be the one to??
?I can?t since I?ve been there myself.? Thornton cut him off. ?I can?t take the risk of influencing your testimony. Not with Murdoc?s file. It?s too important.?
MacGyver nodded his understanding and focused on Carlyle again. He gave the man a quick once-over and tried not to let his nervousness about having to go through all this with yet another government agent show.
?Just tell him everything you remember,? Thornton added after a moment. ?Every little detail? so we can finally close this file.?
?Yes, Sir.? MacGyver nodded again.
Carlyle half-turned and invited him to come along down the corridor.
MacGyver followed the man, realizing that Thornton didn?t accompany them, that he walked off the other way. Somehow, while he strode down the corridor behind the agent in his suit and tie, Mac felt the notion that this day might hold another surprise for him settle in the back of his head. The notion that he might not be done here after giving his statement. It made the hair on the back of his neck rise.
?All right, that?s it from me.? Agent Carlyle said as he handed the print-out and pen over to MacGyver. ?I?ll give you a couple of minutes if you want to go over it again before signing??
?No, thanks.? Mac interrupted the agent.
He leaned forward, took the pen, and just skipped quickly through the pages, before signing his statement on the last one. Inwardly, he sighed with relief. It had taken hours to get to this point. It had taken hours until Carlyle had been satisfied and stopped pestering him with even more new questions.
?We spent quite a while getting all the details correct,? Mac stated.
He returned the pen and papers and saw how the agent shot him a quick, apologetic smile.
?I know,? Carlyle replied, more serious again. ?But since the Murdoc file is particularly important, I had orders to??
Mac cut him off with a small wave of one of his hands.
?It?s alright.? He accepted the man?s apology. ?I?m just glad we?re finally done.?
?We are.? Carlyle nodded in agreement and got up behind his desk.
Mac also pushed himself out of his chair while the agent walked around the desk.
?Thank you for taking time for all this, Mr. MacGyver.? The agent thanked him.
He shook Mac?s hand, but then held on to it a moment longer than necessary. The hair on the back of MacGyver?s neck ? which had calmed down in the meantime - stood on end instantly. There it was again. The feeling in his gut that he was in for another surprise today. Mac raised his eyebrows questioningly. Why had Carlyle stressed the ?we? a few seconds ago?
?Something else you need me for?? Mac queried cautiously.
?Not me,? Carlyle explained and let go of Mac?s hand. ?Agent Thornton asked me to take you to him once we?re done.?
Mac straightened himself and stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jeans.
?Really? Why?? He frowned.
?I don?t know.? The agent shrugged. ?I?m just under orders to??
?Alright, fine.? MacGyver cut the man off and sighed. ?Let?s go see Mr. Thornton.?
He followed Agent Carlyle out of the room they had occupied for the last hours, down the corridor and past the elevators, until the man knocked on a blank door.
?Come!? Mac heard Thornton?s voice call from inside.
Carlyle opened the door and led MacGyver into an office slightly bigger than the one they?d just been in. Peter Thornton was seated behind a desk and looked up from the files he?d been working on. A bright smile widened on his features as soon as he saw Mac coming in behind agent Carlyle.
?You?re through?? he asked expectantly.
?Yes, Sir.? Carlyle nodded dutifully. ?I am going to update the file with the new information immediately.?
?Very good? Also check with the search team and the forensics if they got any new details.? Thornton ordered. ?Thank you, Agent Carlyle.?
The man quickly left Thornton?s office, only nodding a brief goodbye to MacGyver. Mac stood somewhat clueless for a second, but Thornton waved him closer as soon as they were alone.
?Have a seat, MacGyver.? Thornton offered with a gesture toward the chair across his desk. ?You?re probably wondering why I called you here? since you?re done with giving your statement.?
He closed the folder lying in front of him and pushed it away, while Mac dropped into the chair and shrugged tiredly.
?A little.? Mac sighed.
A glance at his watch told him it was around midday. No wonder, he felt a bit exhausted and quite hungry by now. He hadn?t expected, that giving his statement would take that long. Especially since the assassin was presumed dead. How could he be anything but dead? a whole building had collapsed onto him.
?I?ve got a few important things I need to discuss with you.? Thornton continued as soon as Mac had settled. ?But first? Do you have any further questions??
?Just one?? Mac said after a moment of consideration. ?The payment for Jack?s cab and bed are on their way??
?Of course,? Thornton confirmed. ?You?ll be able to get a new bed for him in time? before he?s released from the hospital.? Then he grinned. ?Has he calmed down in the meantime??
?Sort of,? Mac replied. ?Yesterday he wanted me to confirm several times that Murdoc is really dead? I had to tell Jack about the building that had been blasted just seconds after he ran into it.?
Thornton leaned back in his chair and his face went serious.
?Seems, I need to talk to Mr. Dalton once more? myself,? he said slowly. ?That?s the first point I needed to discuss with you? I know, I already told you about it, but? any information about Murdoc is classified at this moment. If someone asks you what happened a few days ago, you?ll have to come up with another story. Do you understand? Can you do that??
?Of course, Sir,? Mac assured
MacGyver squared his shoulders while shifting a little in his chair. This whole setting and Thornton?s underlying air of authority subconsciously reminded him of his time in the military.
?Do you think Jack Dalton will be able to understand this as well?? The older man wanted to know.
?Yes, Sir,? Mac replied quickly. ?He was just overly surprised by the whole ? thing ? and also a bit scared, I guess.?
Thornton nodded silently and measured MacGyver probing for a few seconds.
?How about yourself?? he then asked. ?Have you had time to digest it??
Mac nodded a bit hesitantly. ?I guess so,? he answered slowly. ?I had time to think about it while straightening up Jack?s apartment during the last days.?
?Good.? Thornton seemed satisfied. ?Any different answer from you would have surprised me.?
?What?? Now MacGyver raised his eyebrows surprised. ?Excuse me? ? Why would???
?I took the liberty of running a background check on you.? Thornton cut him off. ?You do have quite an interesting past, kid.?
All of a sudden, MacGyver felt trapped in the office. Again, he shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
?You did?? he asked cautiously. He didn?t like the idea of some government agent digging through his life? even if the older man had saved him from Murdoc?s bomb under the bed only days ago. ?But why?? he then continued a little firmer and a bit annoyed. ?And what would be so interesting about my past??
Thornton pulled a manila folder close to him and flipped it open. He drew in a deep breath.
?Your military service to begin with,? he stated calmly. ?Right after High School. On a bomb disposal team in Vietnam, but regularly sent off with the Special Forces real soon. Way too soon for someone your age back then.?
He eyed MacGyver for a moment, but Mac chose not to respond. The uneasy feeling had settled in his gut again. What the heck was Thornton getting at?
?You must have impressed your COs.? The agent carried on a couple of seconds later. ?Although there are a few cases of insubordination stated in your file.?
MacGyver sat up a little straighter in his chair. Yes, he had refused to follow orders here and there. He remembered most of the situations quite clearly. The first time had been when he?d still been relatively new on the bomb disposal team. He?d refused to let his unit pass a street? because it hadn?t ?felt? safe to him. He?d insisted on checking it for hidden mines or bombs first. He remembered his commanding officer dressing him down after he hadn?t found any hidden explosive device but cost his unit a lot of time. He also remembered his partner Charlie scolding him later in the barracks. The second time he?d slowed down their progress but turned up with no result the scolding and repercussions from his CO had been even worse. But it had stopped after the third and fourth time, when he?d found and defused hidden land mines that would have torn half the men in his unit apart.
After those incidents, he had earned the respect of Charlie, his fellow soldiers, and especially his commanders. They had rolled their eyes at times but had allowed him to follow through with closely checking any place he doubted the security of. He had saved his unit several times during his service there. But he?d never considered it as ?impressing his COs?.
His assignments with the Special Forces on the other hand? He?d argued a few times with his team leader. Had clearly overstepped the line concerning his place in the chain of command. Mostly when it had come to how to proceed. But he?d willingly faced the punishment for it because he?d never agreed with the military way of ?shoot first, ask questions later?.
During an early assignment, he had once refused to plant a booby trap in a house that wasn?t only used by some warlord they had been after, but also his family. He?d come up with an alternative plan that his team leader had reluctantly agreed to and they?d been able to catch the man alive ? without endangering his kids and wife. Mac recalled that after this occasion he?d been sent off alone on many of his missions? and he also remembered that after this experience he had realized that he couldn?t wholeheartedly agree with what the Army forced him to do at times.
MacGyver felt a sting in his heart when the memory of his mother dying while he?d been away on assignment flashed through his head. No one had told him until he had completed it and returned ? although he?d been in contact with his CO during his mission. ?The mission had been too important to jeopardize it?? had been the only explanation or ?apology?. He hadn?t even been able to attend his mother?s funeral. He?d spent a lot of time thinking back then ? whether or not the military was the right path for him ? and had ended his service shortly afterward.
He saw Thornton watching him, trying to gauge him, but as he still knew very little about the man opposite to him and his intentions, he remained silent and did his best to keep his thoughts from showing on his face. Why on earth should he discuss his decisions from long ago with the agent anyway?
Thornton noticed Mac getting uncomfortable with his last words. He smiled to ease up the tension a little bit.
?Don?t get me wrong, I?d rather respect a man who chooses to follow his own judgment than one who chooses to blindly follow orders.? he clarified. ?I?ve had to learn that the hard way in ?Nam as well.?
MacGyver saw regret and pain briefly flashing in the older man?s eyes, but Thornton quickly regained his composure. Mac only nodded quietly, waiting for what was to come next while Thornton concentrated back on the file in front of him and turned over a page.
?You quit relatively soon, went to College, and got yourself a science degree.? The agent stated a moment later. ?With your grades, you could have easily continued as a scientist ? but you chose otherwise ? and spent a kind of ?unsteady? life over the last years.?
MacGyver drew in a deep breath. ?I?d rather call it ?full of variety?.? he defended his decision firmly. ?I was curious to see more of this world ? to meet people ? and got caught up in helping out friends once in a while.?
?Hell fighting ? social work with kids ? taxi cab driving.? Thornton smiled at him a little amused. ?I?d call that quite a stretch concerning jobs ? especially with your background, your knowledge, and your abilities.?
?So?? Mac replied tensely. By now, he was annoyed with the older man seemingly judging his life choices. ?Why would you care about my jobs??
?Because I think, you?re wasting your talents, kid,? Thornton answered seriously. ?And your intentions. You could help far more people, given the right opportunities.?
?What?? MacGyver frowned at the agent, not quite understanding yet. ?What are you talking about??
?You were really helpful in taking Murdoc and his goons,? Thornton explained while leaning back in his chair again. ?You?re a do-gooder ? we?ve already established that a few days ago. You care about what happens around you.?
Mac shrugged warily. The uneasy feeling in his gut had gotten a lot stronger during the last moments. His hungriness from before was gone.
?So?? he repeated curtly. ?What?s your point??
?I could give you a lot of opportunities to use your resourcefulness to right at least some of the wrongs of this world if you?d team up with me ? if you?d join the department.? Peter Thornton continued with an encouraging smile.
MacGyver froze with surprise at the older man?s words. For a couple of moments, he was speechless. The sudden terror, he had felt facing the bazookas and later sitting on the bomb-rigged bed, flashed back into his mind. He stared at the agent, but Thornton just sat there smiling quietly, expectantly waiting for his answer.
?You?re serious, are you?? Mac asked cautiously, incredulously.
?Of course,? Thornton assured. ?You could put your talents to good use ? and you?d be able to help a lot of people.?
Slowly, MacGyver?s paralysis loosened. He sucked in a sharp breath and wiped his suddenly sweaty palms dry on his jeans.
?I helped you because Murdoc was trying to kill me,? he replied resolutely. ?I am glad that threat is gone. I certainly do quit the volunteer business now.?
?I am not talking about volunteering.? Thornton clarified. ?I am offering you a job ? on a regular basis ? with regular payment.?
?No!? Mac declined impulsively and straightened himself even more in his chair, ready to get up and end this conversation. ?Almost getting killed twice a day was it.?
Now Thornton leaned forward again and rested his forearms on his desk, not willing to let the young man off his hook yet.
?Well, that day was not quite what we?re usually dealing with,? he said. ?Murdoc?s always been kind of ?over the top?. But you handled yourself very well ? and I know, you could use the money.?
For a second time, Mac was rendered speechless. Again, he felt trapped. Was there anything that man didn?t know about him? He couldn?t honestly deny that he was in need of a regular job ? with a regular payment. When he didn?t respond, Pete Thornton continued.
?Our daily business is mostly about gaining and retrieving information. You?d get to travel a lot. You?d get to meet a lot of people. You?d get a lot of variety.?
MacGyver remained silent. His initial shock and fear, along with the initial surprise eased up bit by bit. He inwardly had to admit that some part of him still missed the excitement the top secret missions during his military service had posed. That he had truly enjoyed the adventure, the thrill. That the prospect of being able to help people on a greater scale appealed to him. Thornton?s offer started to intrigue him, but he wasn?t ready to admit it to himself ? or even the government agent ? yet. There was no way he could decide this here and now.
?You don?t need to answer right now,? Thornton said suddenly as if he?d read Mac?s thoughts. ?I?ll get back to you soon ? and I?ll be here to answer any questions you might have.?
MacGyver nodded warily, still refusing to give away his inner turmoil.
?Just promise me, you?ll give it some thought,? Thornton added with a smile, got up, and walked around his desk. He reached out with one hand when Mac also pushed himself out of his chair. ?Will you, MacGyver??
?Yeah,? Mac replied hesitantly as he shook Thornton?s hand. ?I?ll think about it.?
?Good.? Thornton?s smile grew even wider. ?And thanks again for sacrificing half of your day for giving us all the details concerning Murdoc.?
?No big deal.? Mac waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. ?It?s just the last legs of cleaning Jack?s apartment that are waiting for me.? He grinned lopsidedly.
?Of course.? Thornton nodded. ?Wouldn?t have expected anything else? well, goodbye for now, but ? we?ll stay in touch.?
?Yeah, sure.? MacGyver?s smile sobered before he agreed. ?Bye.?
He left the agent?s office, quickly found his way back to the elevators, and let himself be taken down to the lobby. MacGyver hurried to return the visitor?s pass to the security guard and quickly left the building.
Two days later, in the early evening, MacGyver sat down on the sandy beach, keeping a little distance from the people bustling around Santa Monica Pier. He stared at the Pacific Ocean and its waves and allowed himself to reflect on the events of the last days. The Murdoc incident to begin with? meeting that government agent because of it? and finally being offered a job by him.
Mac had tried his best to bury any thoughts about it in the back of his head since then, to keep himself busy with other things. He had made good progress in straightening up Jack?s apartment, but after two days of working down there, in the basement of the huge office building, he was in desperate need of fresh air and sunlight. Mac felt the light ocean breeze as well as the comfortable warmth of the sun?s rays on his skin as his mind wandered off. Several years back.
Thornton?s offer to join the department reminded MacGyver of his service in the army. Of the classified missions, he had been assigned to. It took him back to when his CO had sent him off solo, to retrieve information about warlords in the middle east, to sabotage a weapons dealer ring in Afghanistan, to locate the bases of terrorists in North Africa that had been building bombs, and to track down their suppliers.
MacGyver delved into those memories for some time; thought back to why he had been chosen for these missions in the first place, why he had at times even volunteered to take them? and why he had ended his service. He still felt, that he had been able to make a difference back then, to make changes for the better, to help people, to make this world a more peaceful place. He still felt, that he had done the right things back then. But in the end, the military way of thinking and the rigid discipline enforced by some officers had conflicted with his intentions. Those had been the main reasons why he had quit his service and returned back home.
To an uncertain future. With no family left to support him since his mother had died unexpectedly while he?d been away on assignment. He had been lucky to be able to attend college thanks to a scholarship and get his science degree. A small smile crept onto his face while all those memories passed before his mental eye. A lot of decisions throughout his life had rather followed his heart than his head.
A small part of him was still annoyed by how Thornton had recounted his choices. Also by how he?d accused Mac of wasting his talents and abilities. MacGyver let his eyes wander over the rolling waves, stretched out his legs in front of him, and balanced himself on his hands behind his back. He sighed deeply.
Maybe I wouldn?t be that annoyed if another part of me didn?t think he?s right, Mac mused. I can do a lot more than driving Jack?s cab? hadn?t it been blown up? my idea with the shoelaces, the paperclip, and the wrench saved us from the bazookas? and I also reacted quickly to Murdoc turning up in the hospital? maybe a ?normal life? isn?t what suits me?
The warm sand he was sitting on and feeling between his fingers reminded him of one of his last assignments for the army. Sent off to the desert, it had taken some effort from him to blend in with the locals, so he could move around the region without drawing any unwanted attention. Until he had stumbled across a man trapped in a patch of quicksand. MacGyver had been quick to save the man with a rope and some help in pulling from his camel, but as soon as he?d realized he?d been dealing with another US American, Mac had been very careful in keeping his incognito. He had never taken off his protective scarf with the man around, had told him to call him just ?Mac?, and had been quite sure the man hadn?t told him his true name as well.
Just finding an American all alone in the vast sea of dunes, in bad shape already, had aroused MacGyver?s suspicion back then. Mac had taken care of him nevertheless, had shared his water and food with him, but the man had also been cautious and hadn?t shared a lot of information ? especially not about how he?d gotten into his predicament.
Mac had put the weakened man onto his camel and had been truly relieved when they?d met a group of locals early on the following day. They had been able to join the caravan, and after a few hours, Mac had persuaded their leader to take the American with them to the next city. He had negotiated to switch his stronger camel for another one, and the leader had even had him promise he?d return that camel as soon as he was done with his business in the desert, but MacGyver had just been focused on getting back to work on his mission after losing at least 24 hours. He had trusted the band of locals to safely guide the man back to civilization and had left the caravan as soon as possible on the same day. He had only thought back to the man after he?d completed his assignment.
Mac sat up on the beach and concentrated on his hands while he let some sand rinse through his fingers. Since he hadn?t been sure about the man?s true name, Mac hadn?t been able to track down his fate after he?d returned the camel and come back safely from the desert. When he reflected back now, the man had vaguely resembled Agent Thornton, but with different clothing, several pounds less, his bad condition back then, and a memory from many years ago, MacGyver dismissed the thought quickly.
Couldn?t be, now could it? That would be too much of a coincidence, Mac mused and silently shook his head. He raised his eyes back to the ocean. He had to admit he had liked his work with the Special Forces. Especially the ones when he?d been sent off on his own. Especially because of the adventure, and the thrill.
Would working as a government agent be similar to it? What would be the differences with the ?department?, as Thornton had called it? Would I enjoy it as much? Would the chain of command be as strict as it had been in the military?
The questions rotating in MacGyver?s mind were cut off abruptly when he noticed steps in the sand approaching him. Instinctively, his body stiffened a little, and he quickly turned to see who was behind him.
He had stopped a few yards away when he?d noticed MacGyver tense up, and now held up his hands to signal his harmlessness.
?Whoa, easy? it?s just me.? Thornton hurried to say with an apologetic smile. ?I?m sorry, I didn?t mean to startle you.?
MacGyver relaxed when he recognized the agent and let out the breath he hadn?t realized he?d been holding.
?It?s alright.? He returned the smile. ?I guess, I was too lost in thought.? His words trailed off while Thornton stepped up to his side.
?I promised, I?d stay in touch.? The agent stated calmly.
Mac returned his gaze to the waves and straightened himself a little.
?Yeah? you did,? he replied slowly, but then another thought popped up in his mind and he looked up at Thornton. ?How did you know where to find me??
Thornton shot him a lopsided grin. ?I?m a government agent, remember?? he chuckled. ?It?s part of my job to find people.?
MacGyver?s eyes stayed fixed on him and his eyebrows curiously raised. He waited silently.
?All right. You were neither at Jack?s nor at your apartment? but I happened to meet one of your neighbors.? Thornton gave in with a sideways glance after a moment. ?She told me where you usually go? if you need time for yourself? I just had to search Santa Monica beach to find you.?
?Of course.? Mac nodded his understanding. He took a deep breath. ?So? What can I do for you??
?I think, you know very well what you can do.? The agent replied instantly.
Their eyes met quietly for a couple of moments, both knowing what Thornton was talking about.
?Take a walk with me, MacGyver.? the older man then asked, breaking the silence. ?Please.? He took a step aside to allow Mac more room to get up.
MacGyver eyed the older man probingly from below. Thornton was wearing a suit, similar to the one he?d been wearing two days ago, only the tie was missing today. It looked awkwardly misplaced on the beach. He probably came here directly from his office? aw man, would I be forced to dress like this as well? The thought crossed MacGyver?s mind as he nodded and slowly got up. He brushed some sand off his jeans, straightened his shirt and jacket, and then fell into step alongside the agent as he strode even further away from the pier.
?You said, you were lost in thought,? Thornton stated quietly. ?Did you consider my offer??
Straight to the point, Mac noted internally. No beating around the bush. Good? I prefer it that way. ?Yeah,? he answered slowly. ?I did.?
Thornton nodded and gave Mac a few seconds to continue. ?Glad to hear that? did you come to a conclusion?? he asked when Mac remained quiet. ?Or have I arrived too soon??
?Don?t know? I?m not sure? yet.? MacGyver sighed.
?Any questions left that I can help you with?? Thornton shot him a measuring sideways glance.
?Maybe?? Mac admitted a bit hesitantly. ?I was thinking back to my time with the Special Forces.?
Thornton noticed the little smile crossing Mac?s face before he schooled his features again.
?You?re wondering about the differences,? he stated. ?And the similarities.?
Mac nodded. ?Yeah? I was??
?You thought about why you liked the work.? Thornton continued, not waiting for MacGyver to finish. ?And what made you quit.?
MacGyver remained silent. He managed to hide it, but he still felt a bit uncomfortable with how the older man was seeing through him at times.
?You?ll like the investigative work.? Thornton carried on after a few moments. ?You?ll like the traveling and the countries you?ll get to see? all the special places.?
MacGyver drew in a deep breath and lowered his eyes to the sand they were walking through. He wasn?t ready to put his cards on the table? not yet.
?You?ll have to undergo some special trainings before you?ll take your first assignments,? Thornton explained further. ?Your chain of command wouldn?t be as tight as in the army, since you?ll be working alone quite often? and since you?ll be answering to me.?
A little relief flooded through MacGyver, although he still did his best to conceal it. He had to acknowledge that he had come to have a high opinion of Agent Thornton over the past few days. So far, he could very well imagine working together with him.
?Since I was the one who recruited you.?
Thornton?s last sentence made Mac stop dead in his tracks and stare at the man baffled.
?Wait a minute? I haven?t said yes.? he protested resolutely.
Thornton turned to face him and held his gaze with a serious expression.
?Let?s be honest? You?re intrigued by the offer? What does it take to get you to agree to it?? the older man queried.
MacGyver?s perplexity grew with the question. ?Why are you so insistent on this?? he frowned and straightened himself.
?Because I think, it would suit you well.? The agent replied instantly. ?With your background and knowledge, you?d be a great addition to the department.?
MacGyver sighed inwardly. For a moment, he had forgotten that the agent possibly knew almost everything about his past life. He took a step back and turned to the ocean, watching the waves again, trying to sort his thoughts and feelings.
?You?ve been to missions for the Special Forces that were quite alike to the work we do. Don?t you pretend it?s the occasional danger that holds you back.? He heard Thornton say from behind.
?Well? no,? Mac admitted hesitantly before he could stop himself. ?It?s not.?
His mind ran wild with all the pros and cons circling in his head. Intelligence work? Really? Back to the adventurous life, I?ve lived before that diving accident? Would it allow me enough time to still be there for my friends, and to pursue my other interests? Would it raise conflicts as it had in the military?
Thornton gave him a couple of moments for internal consideration before he walked up to MacGyver?s side and looked out to the Pacific next to him.
?Level with me, MacGyver? What ?is? holding you back?? he asked quietly, patiently.
?Will I have enough spare time to spend with my friends? and for myself?? Mac asked back.
?Well, it?s not an ordinary 9 to 5 job.? Thornton chuckled at first but sobered up quickly. ?But I can assure you, you?ll get your time off between assignments.?
?Will I be able and allowed to do it my way??
?Certainly.? the agent agreed. ?Your unique approach and resourcefulness are the main reasons why I want you with us.?
?Will I get to choose which assignments I take?? MacGyver continued, his eyes still glued to the rolling waves. He heard Thornton draw in a deep breath.
?Maybe not at first,? he admitted. ?I?d be the one to decide and send you off? But as soon as you?ve proven yourself in the eyes of our department chiefs ? of which I have no doubt you will ? we should be able to work out something for you. Some special contract.?
Mac let out a breath, he hadn?t noticed he?d been holding. ?Part-time maybe? or freelance??
?Probably.? The older man agreed. ?Something like that. It?s highly unusual but I promise you, I?ll talk to all the decision-makers I have to to make it possible.?
By now, the sun was nearing the horizon. Mac took in its orange glow before he looked sideways at the agent.
?You?re really determined to get me, are you?? MacGyver asked.
Their eyes met and Thornton nodded assuringly. His face was serious.
?Yes, I am.? He held out his hand to MacGyver and repeated his words from a couple of days ago. ?So, what do you say? Partners??
MacGyver gazed down at the hand and then at Thornton?s expectant face again. He felt his doubts fade away. He felt he could trust that man and his promise. He felt the excitement of getting into a new adventure, the thrill of an impending challenge. He took Thornton?s hand.
?Alright? Yes,? he said. ?Partners.?
A relieved smile widened on Peter Thornton?s features. He squeezed Mac?s hand.
?That?s great. Thank you,? he replied. ?Could you meet me in my office tomorrow afternoon, so we can go over the details??
?Yeah, of course,? MacGyver answered and let go of Thornton?s hand. He shot his watch a glance and realized how late it had gotten. He still needed to do some grocery shopping, if he didn?t want to remain hungry tonight. ?Listen, I gotta get back?? he added slowly and turned to the pier.
?Yes, me too.? Thornton agreed, and they fell into step alongside back to the parking lot. After a couple of moments, Thornton broke the silence.
?May I ask what you were thinking of when I arrived??
?One of my last assignments for the Special Forces. A classified one.? MacGyver recalled. ?Don?t know if I am allowed to tell you about it? But I remembered, I had to take a little detour on that one. Because I had to rescue some guy out of the quicksand. Fortunately, my camel helped me pull, and we met a band of locals on the next day, so I wasn?t delayed all too??
He broke off when Thornton all of a sudden stopped and gaped at him perplexed.
?What?? MacGyver asked confused and turned back to the older man. ?What?s wrong??
Thornton cleared his throat. ?Out of the quicksand?? he repeated Mac?s words exasperatedly. ?Your camel helped you pull??
?Yeah,? MacGyver confirmed. ?In the Wadi Nafud? probably an American, but I?m pretty sure he wasn?t using his true name. I never got the chance?? He trailed off when Thornton held up one hand to interrupt him.
?And my savior was a cautious fellow that never took off his scarf and didn?t tell me his full name either.? The agent stated. ?I was on that darn camel for another five days with those locals before we reached civilization of some kind.?
They stared at each other silently for seconds when realization hit home.
?That was you?? Thornton then gasped, still baffled.
?Seems, our paths have crossed before?? MacGyver agreed, also surprised by the revelation. Hadn?t I dismissed the idea only a short while ago?
?Seems, I already owed you my life before the ?Murdoc incident?,? Thornton replied. ?You were gone so soon after we met the caravan? I never got the chance to really thank you.?
MacGyver waved his thanks off with a self-effacing gesture. ?I just did what I had to.? He shrugged and continued his way to the Santa Monica Pier. ?It seemed like the right thing to do? at that moment.?
Peter Thornton nodded and caught up with the younger man.
?I?m glad you did. I appreciate it.?
They walked together in silence, both engrossed in their memories of those days, but just as they reached the parking lot, Thornton stopped once more. MacGyver turned to him and raised his eyebrows questioningly. ?What??
?I just realized something else, MacGyver,? Thornton said slowly and drew in a deep breath. ?Apart from my life? seems, I still owe you a camel.?
|Posted by: bluegirl 30 April 2023 - 08:46 AM|
| Alright, everyone... the next weekend has arrived... time for the next chapter...
So, Pete has been thinking back during his hike through the woods... about how he convinced MacGyver to join the DXS... and he?s finally made it to the top of the ridge... still searching for the arms dealer? camp and his rookie... and now we?re back with him...
Please, read, enjoy and let me know what you think!
As he had expected, Pete Thornton had needed almost the whole day to reach the top of the ridge, which the arms dealer?s camp was located somewhere behind. He was out of breath and exhausted when he stopped next to a huge rock, only a few steps short of a place that he expected to allow him a first good view of the valley behind the ridge. And hopefully, a good view of the compound as well. He had scolded himself several times during the day for not being as disciplined concerning his physical condition and training as he had been during the earlier stages of his career. Since they had discovered that they?d actually first met in the desert, years ago, MacGyver had ? once and again ? teased him about the pounds he had gained over those years. By now, as he strove to regain control over his panting breath, Pete Thornton internally admitted that the kid was right. He was out of shape.
The memory of MacGyver teasing him took Thornton?s mind back to the main reasons why he had chosen to take that hike? the kid? his whereabouts? and the intel he should have gathered? To this point, he had neither seen nor heard any trace of him.
The agent took a deep breath and straightened himself next to the boulder. The sun was nearing the horizon, but the light of dawn would allow him to search along the ridge for any signs of MacGyver?s presence for a few more hours. The young man had been dropped off at the same site as Pete and had presumably taken a similar route to the top. But knowing MacGyver a little better after a few months, Thornton didn?t expect it to be easy to find him. He puffed out a breath and with renewed determination strode around the corner of the huge rock. Keeping his back close to that rock, Thornton let his eyes scan the valley he now saw laying below him.
After a couple of moments, he spotted the compound the blurry satellite pictures had shown. Quickly, he crouched down to keep himself hidden, shrugged off his backpack, and dug into it for his binoculars. Then Thornton did a closer survey of the buildings, the airstrip leading away from them, and the small airplane resting on it.
The whole compound had been built on a small, cleared plateau above a river, with a steep, rocky slope leading down to that river, and huge old trees surrounding it toward the mountain. On one end of the plateau, Thornton could see the beginnings of a path leading down the ravine which the waters of the stream rushed through. To a boat landing place he couldn?t see down in the ravine maybe? Or just a small trail for fetching water? He spotted only a few men outside the five buildings and took some time watching them, getting a feel for what they did, for how they moved.
One of the wooden buildings was fairly big and the large doors on one of its short sides stood open. Numerous crates were visible through the opening, but Thornton couldn?t read the writings on them from up here. The expected weapons shipment?
The smallest building was closest to the airstrip, its doors closed and several barrels piled up next to it. Airplane fuel? A workshop?
The three remaining buildings were situated on the other side of the cleared area, close to the tree line, fairly the same size, and looked like barracks. Pete Thornton saw lights shining inside through the windows of two of them. So they had to have a generator somewhere?
Thornton was also relieved to see that getting down there wouldn?t take as long as he had needed to get up here. The terrain wasn?t as rough on the other side of the mountain. Relieved, because he knew, he had to take a closer look at all this. Thornton was still too far away to make out any details or even hear what was going on down there. He lowered his binoculars and stuffed them back into his pack. He would use the cover of the early morning?s darkness to get near the arms dealer?s camp.
But first, he had to use the remaining daylight to search for his rookie agent.
Slowly, Thornton rose to his feet again, careful to conceal his presence behind undergrowth and trees. He moved backward until he had reached the backside of the huge rock, where he was safely out of sight of the goons. Only then he positioned his backpack firmly on his shoulders, puffed out a deep breath, and started his walk along the ridge, just below the top of it, looking out for any sign that MacGyver had been around.
Peter Thornton had been searching along the top of the mountain ridge for almost two hours when he had to admit to himself that his concentration and attentiveness were waning due to his exhaustion. He?d been traveling to this part of the country since yesterday, with very little sleep during the night thanks to rough flights, and forced to get up real early to meet the helicopter in time. He?d been on the move on this darn mountain for the whole day. He was getting tired.
It was high time for him to find a place where he could set up camp and take a break. By now, the sun had long set behind the mountains and it was getting significantly darker in the forest. But he still had to find his rookie agent. So far, he had seen neither hide nor hair of him. With a defeated sigh, Thornton stopped next to a huge tree and rested with one hand braced against it.
Wilderness investigations had never been his favorite. Yet his concern about the fate of the young man kept him going. After a minute, he took a deep breath and stepped around the tree, still steadying himself against it with his hand. Only a second later though, he flinched away from the trunk and stopped surprised. His fingers had sensed something he hadn?t expected, something that didn?t seem to belong to the coarse bark of the tree, something that seemed non-natural, but rather man-made.
Warily, Thornton turned back to take a look at what his fingers had discovered. He froze for a moment and let his eyes wander over the tree. A thin string and wire, entwined with each other, hanging from a strong branch 10 or 12 feet above the ground, just beside the trunk, some of it concealed by the moss growing on the bark. The light beige of the string and the military green of the wire added well to hiding them from quick glances. Their bottom end was covered with a small rock, right between the roots of the tree.
When Thornton crouched down to examine it further and turned the stone around, he saw the ends of string and wire secured to the stone with strips of silvery duct tape. He frowned at it at first sight, but then recognition struck him and his face lit up a little. He knew only one man to build contraptions like this: MacGyver.
Then Thornton remembered, that they?d had trouble receiving MacGyver?s message on the first evening, but from the next onward the signal had been crystal clear. Now he understood. MacGyver had built a large antenna, just below the top of the mountain, and like this, he had enhanced the signal range of the mobile radio set, the DXS had provided him with. Positioned perfectly, so the arms dealers wouldn?t be able to easily pick up his signal and listen to his transmissions.
Thornton laid the rock back down and sighed with relief. So the young man had been around. He stood up and let his eyes scan the surrounding forest and ground. Now, where would he have set up camp? Where might he have found protection from the thunderstorms a few days ago?
Inwardly, Thornton chided himself for not being better at reading tracks. Slowly he walked circles at growing distances from the tree, hoping the thunderstorms hadn?t wiped out all traces MacGyver might have left behind. After a couple of minutes, he stopped at a rocky slope below the tree and knelt down. Some of the soil and moss had been scratched off some of the rocks, as if someone had made his way upward between them. Thornton?s gaze followed the marks that were barely visible in the dim light.
Alright MacGyver, if that?s where you came from, he thought, took a deep breath, and proceeded downward. He stuck roughly with the direction the marks on the rocks had pointed to after passing the slope. A little while later, Thornton came across a small, mostly flat plateau. As he looked around it, he noticed the remains of a fireplace and something that had been built out of branches and covered with leaves. It had probably been some tilted canopy once, but was now badly damaged, most likely by the storms.
This place might have been where MacGyver had built his camp, but he must have been forced to move somewhere else by the bad weather, Thornton mused. He stood still for several moments, glanced around himself, and tried to imagine what might have gone through his rookie?s mind at the time. Where could he have found shelter?
Thornton crouched down and pulled the maps and satellite pictures out of his backpack. He compared what he saw on paper to what he had seen in reality, quickly made out his current position, and then searched the map for anything close that would be helpful during heavy rain, strong winds, and lightning. The only thing that stuck out was a cliff at a little distance below and sideways from the plateau, closer toward the river.
Could there be a cave? Or at least a ledge to use for protection?
With renewed determination, Thornton stuffed the papers back into his pack, got to his feet, and hurried down- and sideways on the slope.
The waning light had slowed Thornton down a bit, but soon, he reached the bottom of the nearby rock face. He quickly spotted the mouth of a cave that was accessible through a couple of yards of easy climbing upward. He froze, listening intently, and watching out for any signs of his young agent. But he saw no light, no hint of a fire inside the cave. In fact, the whole scenery was eerily quiet.
?MacGyver?? he half-called out. ?MacGyver, are you up there??
Nothing ? no response whatsoever.
Thornton sighed, adjusted his backpack on his shoulders, and started his climb upward. After only a few minutes, he reached the entrance of the cave, dropped his pack, and dug his flashlight out of it. He hoped not to encounter someone four-legged and unfriendly? like a bear, for example?
Keeping close to the cave wall, Thornton straightened himself and turned on the flashlight. Just a couple of feet from the entrance, he spotted the remains of a fireplace, but as he wanted to approach it, one of his ankles caught at something thin, that gave way with his momentum. Instantly, Thornton saw a thin branch toppling over in the corner of his eye, and only a split second later, several small rocks tumbled to the ground with a distinctive clattering sound, clearly audible and echoing through the cave.
Thornton flinched back, and his free right hand automatically whipped toward the revolver, he kept hidden under his jacket in a shoulder holster ? but nothing more happened.
After a moment, his sudden shock faded and he took a closer look. A thin string like the one he?d come across earlier in the woods? secured in a crack on one side of the cave? stretching across it just a few inches above the ground, barely visible? tied to the stick that had toppled over when his shoe had caught on the string? which had allowed the rocks to fall? an intruder alarm. Another contraption that seemed to bear MacGyver?s signature? And I?ve been careless enough to set it off, Thornton chided himself inwardly.
He stepped over the string, crouched down next to the fireplace, and reached out with one hand. Holding it above ashes and burned wood, he sensed no warmth at all. It had been at least a few hours, maybe longer since this fireplace had been in use. Then he noticed that so far, no one had reacted to the intruder alarm going off. Thornton stood up again and directed the beam of his flashlight to the back of the cave.
?MacGyver?? he called out once more. ?MacGyver, are you in there? ? It?s me, Pete Thornton!?
Slowly, now more alert for another probable surprise, he followed the cave around a bend when he got no answer. The cave pointed a little upward from there on and he didn?t have to go very far until the light beam caught on a dark blue sleeping bag and a bright blue backpack. Thornton instantly recognized them as the stuff MacGyver had packed. He?d seen both when the kid had left for his mission, when they?d said their goodbyes. He puffed out a relieved breath.
There wasn?t much to see apart from sleeping bag, roll mat, and backpack, but he?d finally found the place where MacGyver had set up his camp after the thunderstorms. Thornton looked around and quickly understood why he?d chosen the spot. Protected from wind and rain behind the bend, a bit upward from the entrance, dry and mostly flat ground, and also hidden very well from outside ? unless the fireplace in the front was alight.
But still? he hadn?t found the man himself.
On the other hand? this was the most likely place for him to return to.
Letting the light beam wander over the camp, Thornton discovered the mobile radio set and kneeled down to give it a closer look. Parts of its casing had been removed, revealing some burnt circuits and components ? probably caused by a short circuit. Some of the wires had been replaced ? most possibly in an attempt to repair it. Pete Thornton sighed. So that was why the kid had stopped reporting in. The radio set was out of order.
Slowly Thornton got to his feet again. Finding MacGyver?s stuff and the reason why his daily updates had stopped eased up some of his worries but also made him realize how exhausted he himself was by now. It was high time for him to eat something and get some rest. Thornton returned to the front of the cave to pick up his own backpack while he mused about his options.
After a couple of moments, he agreed with himself that his best choice was to wait right here for MacGyver. If he was still somewhere out there investigating? he?d turn up in the cave sooner or later. Thornton stared out to the darkening forest surrounding the rock face for a minute. If he didn?t? Thornton would have to wait out the night anyway and continue his search for the young man at the first light of the next day. With another deep sigh, the senior agent turned back to the cave, reset MacGyver?s intruder alarm, and settled for the night behind the bend, close to his rookie?s belongings.
One and a half months ago?
MacGyver was panting and drenched with sweat when he closed the door of his apartment behind himself. Since he?d been hired by the DXS and had started the training for his new job as a government agent, he had taken up running again. The first assessment tests had shown him, that he?d been in better shape during his time in the army. He had realized that he had let his physical training slide too much during the last few years. During the past months ? whenever he?d had enough free time between classes ? Mac had demanded a lot more from his body.
He took the few steps to the kitchen, filled up a glass with water at the sink, and downed it in one go. Then he put the glass down, rested both hands on the counter, and took a couple of deep breaths. It didn?t quite help that it was a hot day today.
After several minutes, his breath and heart rate had slowed down to a more comfortable level, and he left the kitchen and strode to the bathroom. MacGyver pulled off his damp t-shirt, dropped it to the ground, and turned on the shower. He knew it took a couple of moments to get the hot water flowing. Mac used those moments to retrieve a fresh towel and strip out of his remaining clothes before he stepped into the shower. The warm water loosened the tension in his strained muscles and it also eased up his inner turmoil.
The lectures he?d been attending during the last days, and especially the one today, had dealt with unsettling topics. He took his time while letting the soap and water wash away not only his sweat but also part of his worries. When he dried himself off afterward, he felt more human again. MacGyver slipped into fresh clothes and walked over to his living room window.
He watched cars and people flowing by below for several minutes, suddenly acutely aware that probably none of them knew about the chances and risks government agents took while doing their intelligence work each and every day ? to ensure that their ordinary, everyday life stayed just the way it was. Free? and peaceful.
MacGyver sighed deeply.
On the contrary? it was just as possible that one or more of them were operatives from ?the other side?. He straightened himself and squared his shoulders. He wasn?t sure yet, how to deal with the constant, underlying mistrust he would have to get used to in his life from now on.
His field certification test was coming up during the week after the next one, and he knew he had some studying, reviewing, and practicing ahead of him until then. Some of the classes, he?d been obliged to take, had posed no problem for him ? especially the ones covering science, fun stuff like lock-picking, or explosives and their handling. He had expected those to be easy for him. The language training on the other hand? He had just needed to polish up his Spanish and French knowledge, but getting into German and Russian had taken some serious effort during the past weeks.
Nevertheless, MacGyver felt confident, that he would be able to meet the required level by the time he would have to take the test. Although until now, no one had been willing to tell him about the precise modalities of said test. There would be a theoretical and a practical assessment ? that much he knew ? but no information on the details. Just a date, a time, and a place where he had to show up.
MacGyver shot the folders containing his lecture notes on his desk a sideways glance and sighed again. Those meant some long evenings during the days to come until that date.
But not today, he suddenly decided. This evening, I need some time for myself? and something to get rid of the pictures swirling through my head. Having a vivid imagination is a wonderful thing, but after a lecture like the one I?ve heard today? after all the possibilities my imagination has conjured up? I?d love to be able to just switch it off.
With newly found energy, MacGyver turned away from the window, grabbed his jacket from where it was lying over the backrest of his sofa, and strode toward the door. He stuffed some money into his jeans? pocket and picked up his keys on his way out. He was going to pick up some Chinese food for dinner, pick one of his favorite Western movies to watch, and go to bed early. He thought about what to get from his preferred Chinese restaurant while he descended the stairs, left the building, and turned toward his car once he?d reached the sidewalk.
But his thoughts were interrupted when he noticed who was coming his way. He slowed down.
?Hello, MacGyver!? Pete Thornton called out smiling. ?Great timing.?
MacGyver stopped next to his car and straightened himself.
?Hello, Sir.? he returned the greeting. He hadn?t seen the senior agent all too regularly during the last weeks, in fact during his whole training, although he was sure Thornton had kept track of his progress. But him being here? now? puzzled Mac. ?What can I do for you??
?Nothing.? Thornton waved off his question with a quick gesture. ?Nothing, but giving me some time for a little talk?? he then admitted and stopped in front of MacGyver.
?I was just about to pick up dinner?? Mac half-heartedly objected.
If his new boss came to his apartment to see him? because he wanted to talk about something? this was likely to be important? on second thought though? it was early evening? MacGyver knew he was ?off duty? for today. But before he could tell the senior agent about his longing for solitude tonight, Thornton agreed happily.
?Perfect. I haven?t had dinner yet. I?ll pay if this is okay for you.? Thornton smiled.
?Well, I was?? Mac muttered caught off guard and with a somber expression. ?I was hoping for some time for myself tonight? Sir.?
Thornton?s underlying air of authority made him subconsciously switch back to addressing his new boss with the same discipline and honorific as he?d learned in the army. Thornton?s smile grew more serious with Mac?s feeble protest.
?Yes? I figured as much as that,? he said. ?It?s the reason why I am here.?
?What?? MacGyver raised his eyebrows surprised. ?How did you figure I??
?Dr. Gorman came to see me after today?s class.? Thornton cut him off firmly. ?But I?d prefer to discuss this matter under more private circumstances.? He gestured to the sidewalk.
MacGyver stayed silent and stuffed his hands into his pockets. Dr. Gorman? the psychiatrist? one of the main speakers today? What he?d talked about, had not only fueled Mac?s imagination into running wild but also brought back some memories of his time in Vietnam. Haunting ones. Mac tried to keep his thoughts from showing on his face, yet Thornton seemed to be able to read them anyway. His smile turned softer ? and also a little concerned.
?Come on, MacGyver.? he encouraged the younger man. ?I told you, I?ll pay.?
MacGyver sighed. He saw no way to avoid the situation. After all, this was his new boss.
?Fine.? he reluctantly offered. ?I was about to drive to my favorite Chinese restaurant.?
?Sounds great.? Thornton nodded. ?Were you about to pick up the food and return to your place? or headed to the beach??
?I was hoping for a quiet evening at home?? Mac replied hesitantly.
?I won?t keep you long.? The older man assured. ?I?ll ride with you if this is okay??
?Yeah, sure.? MacGyver shrugged, yet couldn?t help but smirk with a memory. ?Just don?t wave your gun in my face this time, will ya??
They had fallen easily into casual conversation over choosing their meal in the restaurant, while returning to Mac?s apartment, and during consuming their dinner. Thornton had noticed some of the odd and unusual stuff MacGyver kept in his apartment quickly after the young man had invited him in, but had reigned in his curiosity while Mac had prepared the table and during their meal.
Now, as soon as they had finished, and MacGyver got up and took the dishes to the kitchen sink, Thornton stood up and allowed himself a closer look at the place. The dossier, he?d put together on MacGyver before recruiting him, had told him a lot about his life choices. While he?d gone through the ?Murdoc incident? together with him Thornton had learned a lot about how he reacted to ?special? situations. But seeing how he lived offered a lot of information about the person he was.
It wasn?t Pete Thornton?s usual mode of operation to seek out a new recruit at home during the evening, but with this young man? something was different. He cared more about MacGyver than he had about any other aspiring agent ever before. He couldn?t yet say why, but after what Dr. Gorman had told him about in particular Mac?s reactions to today?s class, Thornton had felt the need to check if the young man was alright.
?So, you?re into hockey?? Thornton asked while he inspected the ice hockey gear leaning in one corner of the living room.
MacGyver was caught off guard by the question after a few minutes of silence while he?d been clearing the table. He didn?t look up from his business in the kitchen though.
?Since I was a kid.? he then answered. ?Most Minnesotans learn to skate on the ice as soon as they?re capable of standing.? He turned to his boss with a wistful smile only to see Thornton watching him. ?I try to play as often as I get some spare time.?
Thornton saw a brief flash of pain cross Mac?s eyes with his words.
?Sounds like it's very important for you.? Thornton probed slowly. ?Did you have high hopes for yourself??
MacGyver?s eyes grew even sadder and his gaze dropped to the ground. He was surprised by how natural and not the least awkward it felt to have his superior here, at his home. The conversation with him had been easy-going and he?d expected the older man to ask some personal questions at some point. Seems, ?at some point? is right now, he sighed inwardly.
?Yeah,? he admitted with a low voice. ?But my chances of making it to the pros were crushed in an accident on the ice that put me into the hospital for several weeks.?
?I?m sorry to hear that? My game is golf.? Thornton said with sympathy and offered a piece of himself. ?But unfortunately, I don?t get to play often.?
?I never tried out golf? so far,? Mac replied, stepped out of the kitchen, and rested his hands on one of the chairs next to the table. ?Haven?t had the chance to yet.? Strange, MacGyver thought to himself. We?ve spent some time together during the past months, but it is still highly unusual for him to talk about himself. But his thoughts were cut off by Thornton?s next observation.
?You even got your own small lab,? he stated impressed, glancing over Mac?s microscope, test tubes, glass jars, and chemicals.
?Well, yes? but I only dabble in chemistry,? MacGyver answered with a smile as Thornton eyed the bookshelf next to his desk. ?By education, I?m a scientist, remember? ? Not a secret agent in training.?
?I do remember?? Thornton replied slowly, while he continued to examine the books, which mostly dealt with scientific or environmental topics. He noticed the humorous and lighthearted tone Mac used to keep the situation from getting uncomfortable, but it made him grow serious. And reminded him of why he?d felt the need to check on the young man in the first place.
MacGyver watched the senior agent silently for a couple of moments but then chose to act. They had both spared out talking about Dr. Gorman and today?s lecture until now.
?With all due respect, Sir?? MacGyver sighed. ?I guess, you didn?t come here to take a look at my apartment? or is it standard operating procedure to seek out all new recruits??
Thornton froze with his question and then turned to face Mac with a serious expression.
?You?re right.? he nodded. ?I didn?t? and no, it is not.?
?So?? MacGyver straightened himself. ?If you do bother to come see me? I suppose there?s something different about me.?
The older man hesitated to answer at first. MacGyver?s clear-cut question made him realize that he, in fact, did feel different toward this young man than toward the other trainees. He also knew it was a dangerous terrain in their business, but he?d come to truly like him. Nevertheless, as his superior, he, of course, couldn?t admit that.
?There is.? Thornton agreed with a low voice.
Mac raised his eyebrows surprised but chose to wait quietly for the man to continue. Thornton cleared his throat and picked his words carefully.
?Most of the applicants, the DXS invites into the training program, have done police work before or do have a military background. All of them see it as a career chance and are fascinated by the term ?intelligence? itself. They decide to apply by themselves.? He took a deep breath and then looked directly into MacGyver?s brown eyes for a moment. ?You wouldn?t be in that program if we hadn?t met thanks to Murdoc? if I hadn?t convinced you to give it a thought. Your motivations to join this line of work are different? as is your approach to it. I noticed that during the last months.?
?So you kept track of how I fared during the courses,? Mac stated.
?Of course.? Thornton nodded. ?I?ve got to justify recruiting you to my department chiefs.?
?I made the final decision.? MacGyver objected.
?You probably wouldn?t have, hadn?t I been that insistent?? Thornton shot back but his last words trailed off.
?Maybe?? Mac agreed slowly and cocked his head sideways. ?Do you regret being that insistent? Do you doubt recruiting me??
?No!? Thornton?s answer came quick and firm. ?Not at all? you?re among the best recruits we?ve ever had. ? Do you doubt making the decision??
?No. I don?t.? Mac assured. A quick smile flashed across his face. Not that he?d seen the training program as some sort of competition, but it was nice to hear that his effort paid off and was noticed. But Thornton?s words didn?t add up. There was still something he hadn?t mentioned yet. Something the senior agent was concerned about. MacGyver frowned, let go of the chair, and squared his shoulders.
?Then what has you worried enough to keep me from spending my evening alone?? he probed.
Thornton?s eyes locked onto MacGyver?s again with the straightforward question. Then he smiled briefly.
?You?ve learned quickly to read me,? he stated approvingly.
Mac only shrugged silently and stuffed his hands into his pockets. He held Thornton?s gaze and waited for him to finally get to the point. Thornton?s expression went serious again and he sighed as he noticed once more that the young man?s brown eyes lacked their usual energetic sparkle today.
?Dr. Gorman came to me after giving his lecture today? to talk about you.? The senior agent started off slowly. ?See, I know that today?s topic can be especially unsettling? but you have already shown reactions we don?t expect from our trainees to previous classes? the shooting training, as the most important example.?
MacGyver?s face went dark in an instant as a memory from his childhood came to the surface of his mind. The sudden pain, it brought back, made him bite his lower lip nervously. He was thinking about how to reply, how to explain when Thornton continued.
?We expect our operatives and trainees to be aware of the possibility of being captured by the other side during their work. We expect you to be bothered to some extent by hearing about what might happen to you while being interrogated. We know that even only theoretically hearing about what different methods of torture can do to you physically and mentally is terrifying. ? At the same time, we don?t expect our recruits to shrug this off all too easily.?
For the blink of a second, Mac had been grateful that Thornton hadn?t dug deeper into the reason for his aversion to guns, but his following words had awoken Mac?s imagination once more. He stayed silent while the older man stepped close to the other side of the table and scrutinized him.
?You were the only one to ask questions.? Thornton carried on. ?About certain details? but then you went quiet, withdrawn? like caught up in your mind. And since Dr. Gorman has already noticed how active your mind usually is during the past weeks? he was concerned about you. So I came here to get an impression of how you?re dealing with today?s lecture.?
MacGyver drew in a slow, deep breath and forced himself to hold the older man?s gaze.
?I?m fine.? he declared while memories from his time in Vietnam flashed through his head.
?Of course.? Thornton?s voice went sarcastic and a little sharp with Mac?s answer. He leaned forward and rested his hands on the table. ?Guess, that?s why you wanted to spend the evening alone in the first place, isn?t it??
MacGyver involuntarily drew back a little with Thornton?s tone and broke eye contact. He puffed out a breath, then walked over to his living room window, and stared down at the now darkening street for the second time tonight.
?Alright, I?m not,? he replied a bit impatiently. ?So? Getting a theoretical, but vivid impression of what getting tortured does mean rattled all of us. You don?t have to be afraid, your promising recruit will snap under pressure. I can handle it.? He sighed. ?Still doesn?t explain why you?re here? seeking out only me.?
He heard Thornton sigh deeply and the rustle of his clothes as he turned around toward him.
?I trust you to be able to handle the pressure.? The senior agent said softly, but firmly after a moment. ?I am concerned about what your active mind and imagination might have conjured up? that made you withdraw.?
MacGyver?s eyes stayed fixed on the street below as he fought back the pictures running through his mind and tried his best to keep his face blank. When he didn?t respond, Thornton continued.
?MacGyver? your military file doesn?t say so? but have you been a prisoner of war?? he probed cautiously.
MacGyver dropped his gaze to the ground for a few seconds and then shook his head.
?No? not me. A fellow soldier of my unit?? he replied low. ?I got wounded but managed to narrowly escape. Made my way back through the jungle alone. Took me a while to reach the base again, since a bullet injury slowed me down? He refused to talk about it after we?d finally managed to rescue him from the enemy's hands. But I got a good look at the cell they had kept him in? and at his condition.?
Thornton?s face was serious, but full of sympathy when Mac looked sideways at his new boss.
?Nam has left almost all of us with harrowing memories.? the agent acknowledged quietly. ?I lost good men there as well.?
Mac nodded quietly as he felt his inner tension ease up a little.
?I got caught once during a classified assignment with the special forces,? he added a few seconds later. ?But I was lucky enough to quickly work my way out of that prison back then.?
The older man watched him quietly for several moments before he sighed again.
?So, today?s lecture has not only provided you with some terrifying facts, but also brought back haunting memories,? Thornton stated.
Mac didn?t answer and turned back to the window.
?You wanna also tell me what happened during the shooting training?? Thornton asked patiently. ?You handled the rifles and guns effortlessly, finished the test with a very good score? yet seemed uncomfortable until you were allowed to return them and leave the shooting range.?
MacGyver?s stomach turned into a tight knot. His inner tension and grief were back in an instant.
?I just figured a while ago that I do much better without them,? he stated with a low voice.
?Does this also root in your service in the Army? You must have undergone basic training before joining the bomb disposal team.? Thornton wasn?t fully satisfied with the younger man?s answer but managed to keep his voice soft.
MacGyver?s jaw tensed, and he swallowed hard as the memory from his childhood again appeared before his mental eye. His father had told him how to handle a gun and how to shoot when he?d still been a kid. He`d been good at it back then as well. Years later, he and his pals had meant to have an exciting afternoon shooting cans and bottles with his father?s gun. But he had made a very bad choice and everything had gone so fatally wrong. His friend Jessie had gotten shot because of him and had died despite his best efforts to save him. The sudden pain, sadness, and guilt that came with the pictures threatened to overwhelm him. He rubbed his hands over his face and then ran them through his hair to cope with some of his emotions.
?Yes, I had to, but no,? he replied carefully controlled. ?I learned that a lot earlier in my life.?
The older man noticed how hard his young recruit was fighting against his emotions to keep his composure. It made him realize once again, how much he liked the younger one already? and how protective he felt toward him.
?Do I need to know about it?? he probed softly. ?Do you want to talk about it??
MacGyver drew in a deep breath and looked sideways at his boss. Thornton?s face was calm, but showed some concern. He waited quietly for Mac?s answer with an expression that somehow reminded MacGyver of his father. Mac tried to decide if he was ready to open up that deeply to the senior agent already; if he was ready to share one of his most painful experiences with the man. He?d grown full of respect for Pete Thornton during the past months and had a high opinion of him? but did he trust him enough? Would his superior judge him for his fatal childhood error?
?No, Sir.? he sighed after a moment of consideration. ?With all due respect, I don?t.? Thornton opened his mouth to reply, but Mac quickly raised a hand to keep him quiet. ?Just know that I despise guns for a good reason.?
?Alright.? Thornton nodded slowly. ?I?ll, of course, accept that? but you know, that I?ll always be here for you if you do need someone to talk to.?
Thornton?s earnest and open expression left no room for doubting his words when MacGyver looked into the older man?s eyes. He wasn?t totally sure, but he thought, he saw more in those eyes than just a boss being concerned about a promising recruit. A moment later though, he dismissed the thought. That would be expecting too much of his new superior, now would it?
?I appreciate that, Sir,? he said with a feeble half-smile.
?I?m sorry if I stirred up haunting memories.? Thornton straightened himself a little and went a step closer to MacGyver. ?Will you be okay??
?It was the training that reminded me? not you. No need to be sorry.? He answered a bit firmer now. A second later he nodded determinedly. ?Yeah? I will be okay.?
Thornton shot the clock hanging on the wall over Mac?s apartment door a glance and noticed how late it had gotten.
?I?m also sorry for keeping you that long.? he apologized. ?I promised, I wouldn?t.?
Mac also turned to look briefly at the clock, yet then smiled earnestly at his boss.
?It?s alright? actually, I appreciate that you did. You kept my imagination from considering different torture scenarios for a least a few hours.? He thanked the older man.
?My pleasure,? Thornton replied. ?Anytime.?
For a couple of moments, the two men smiled quietly in mutual understanding, before MacGyver remembered something else. Thornton saw the shift in the younger one?s focus, when Mac visibly relaxed and turned to fully face him.
?So? golf?? MacGyver abruptly changed the topic with a curious raise of his eyebrows. ?Ya think, you can explain to me what?s so fascinating about it??
Thornton was baffled for a second by the question, but then his smile broadened with the understanding of his recruit?s motivation behind it. The young man was trying to provide his bright mind with something completely new to him, so his imagination could work on something different than torture methods.
?I?ll sure try to.? The senior agent nodded. ?If you could fix me a drink??
MacGyver?s smile turned apologetic. ?Well? I don?t drink.? He shrugged. ?About the hardest stuff I?ve got at home is orange juice? or ginger ale.?
Thornton was surprised? again. No alcoholic drinks at home? and prefers not to consume any, he noted mentally. Glad to hear that.
?Ginger ale will do just fine.? he agreed aloud.
MacGyver nodded and strode back to the kitchen.
?On ice?? he asked over his shoulder.
?Please? if you got some.?
Thornton followed slowly, but stayed on the other side of the counter, watching Mac prepare his drink.
?Thanks,? he said when Mac handed over the glass a few moments later. The young man had turned fully and rested against the counter opposite to Thornton, looking at him expectantly. His dark eyes have regained their light, their usual sparkle, Thornton noticed with relief. He drew in a deep breath and sorted his thoughts.
?Well, where do I start? golf is said to have its roots in Scotland.? he began to explain. ?What catches me most is the precision it demands? and the strategic planning needed to conquer the obstacles along the course??
|Posted by: bluegirl 7 May 2023 - 08:03 AM|
| Hello to all of you!
Seems, many are reading along - but no one is sharing his or her thoughts, or giving any feedback... why?
Sunday afternoon near Vienna... time to post the next part!
So, after two chapters with extensive flashbacks... let?s get into the adventure - Pete?s still in the cave, the night has passed, but has 'his rookie' turned up in the meantime? Or does Pete have to continue his search?
So, here we go with
Peter Thornton was roused briskly by the beeping alarm of his watch. He?d set it to keep him from sleeping in, so he?d be able to get up real early and use the half-light of dawn for his approach to the arms dealers' camp. He silenced his watch by touch only, took a deep breath, and then forced his eyes to open. It had been way too little sleep to be fully rested after the previous days, he noticed with a quiet sigh.
But the next thing Thornton realized, was that he had, in fact, slept until his alarm had sounded. Nothing or no one had disturbed or awakened him during the night. He listened intensely for a moment, then turned to look toward MacGyver?s belongings in the almost complete darkness of the cave. He sensed no one breathing; saw no one close to himself.
So MacGyver hadn?t returned during the night. So he had to continue his search for the kid.
With another sigh, Thornton opened his sleeping bag and sat up. He got to his feet and turned on the small camping light he had discovered amongst MacGyver?s stuff. He had only a quick breakfast and decided to lighten his backpack for his upcoming task. Thornton left all, but the absolutely necessary items behind before he returned to the cave mouth. The intruder alarm was untouched and he was careful to keep it armed as he passed it.
Thanks to all the scouting he?d done the day before, Thornton made his way quickly to the top of the mountain ridge, even though the forest was still quite dark. The senior agent got a lot more careful while moving through trees and undergrowth once he was descending the other side of the said ridge toward the camp of the weapons trafficking ring. The sun hadn?t risen over the top of the mountain yet, so the woods were still cast in shadows when Thornton approached the compound. The opposite side of the valley was already bathed in the bright morning light; it just hadn?t reached the ravine yet.
Despite being that much closer, Thornton couldn?t hear the water rushing through the ravine much louder than yesterday. The ravine seemed to be dampening the sound of the river at this part of the slope. Meaning, he had to be much more cautious while snooping around so close to the camp.
He spotted only two men outside the buildings so far. One of them was keeping watch, the second one was moving between the airplane and the shed close to the airstrip. He seemed to be working on the plane, but Thornton couldn?t make out any details of what he was doing. He noticed a small hut during his approach, with only two wooden walls, which housed the generator and some fuel barrels. He hadn?t been able to see it from above yesterday since it was located really close to the tree line.
Pete Thornton had almost made it through the thicket into hearing range when he heard an angry shout from below and froze instantly. He crouched down quickly, worried that he had been spotted. After a tense moment, he looked down toward where the shout had come from. He saw the man standing stiffly close to the plane with an open toolbox next to his feet, staring at the engine with a frustrated expression.
Thornton sighed with relief about not being the reason for the shout and the anger, but then he heard the man talking again. He couldn?t understand every word, nevertheless, the man?s tone made it clear that he was cursing something? or someone. A problem with the plane? The thought reminded Thornton that he still had seen neither hide nor hair of his young recruit.
After a moment, the man turned away from the plane and walked off toward the larger buildings on the other end of the compound. Thornton tried to move along with him, to keep up with him as he passed the huge shed with the crates inside, but stopped briefly when he noticed another hut close to the tree line. Another one that had been hidden from his sight the day before. Since the guard now accompanied the man who had been working on the airplane, Thornton concentrated back on them and hurried to follow them along the cleared area. Both disappeared into one of the large buildings and left Thornton to survey the compound quietly.
He settled behind the trunk of a huge tree, set down his backpack, and dug out his binoculars. He stood hidden half-behind, half-beside the tree, nearby, but still keeping a comfortable distance to the camp. Scanning the whole area, he took a close look at everything with the help of his glasses. Since the doors of the large shed close to the airstrip also stood wide open this morning, he could read the inscriptions on the crates and found his suspicion from the day before confirmed. The shed was full of rifles, ammunition, grenades, and explosives.
But before he could think about the implications of his discovery, his concentration was caught by something else. Both men, who had entered the building only minutes ago, left it again ? now accompanied by two more men. Thornton watched them cross the clearing through his binoculars, and all of them seemed uptight, judging by their body language. His mind quickly matched one of the faces with pictures from the files he?d studied before handing them over to MacGyver, prior to his departure.
Javier Moreno. One of the most powerful leaders among the arms dealer ring and a very dangerous and ruthless man. If he was here in person? whatever was going on around here had to be important.
The small group stopped close to two huge trees growing at a little distance from the tree line. For a few moments, Moreno was engrossed in agitated conversation with the man who had worked on the plane?s engine, but Thornton couldn?t understand a lot. He only got that it had to do with some engine starting problem. Moreno then turned to the two heavily armed men, told them something harshly, and gesticulated toward the small hut close to the tree line.
Frustrated, Thornton lowered his glasses and picked up his backpack. He had to get even closer to be able to listen to what they were talking about. He briefly watched the armed men walk off to the shed and enter it while he cautiously slid to the next thicket that would provide cover. Thornton was just about to plan the next part of his approach when he saw the men leaving the shed again ? holding a third man between them.
Thornton froze stunned. The man was dragged out into the open, toward Moreno, and even though he saw him only from behind, even though his movements lacked the usual athletic fluidity, Thornton had gotten so familiar with during the past months, he recognized the lanky build within a few seconds.
He had just found his rookie agent. In the hands of the thugs.
Thornton sighed as he hurried to get to his next hideout. He crouched down and raised his glasses again. He saw MacGyver being held at both upper arms by the armed guards and forced to stand in front of Moreno. But MacGyver wasn?t standing completely steady and secure; Thornton had to watch him sway a little.
?My God? what have they done to you, kid?? Thornton muttered under his breath while his thoughts ran wild. What the heck had happened during the last three days? The relief about seeing the young man still alive battled with the concern he might have to watch MacGyver getting killed right before his eyes inside Pete Thornton. Somehow paralyzed, yet desperately trying to think of some quick way to help the kid without getting caught or killed himself, Thornton kept observing and noticed the stains on Mac?s khaki pants and green shirt.
He still understood only single words, while Moreno talked to MacGyver, saw Mac shrug, reply briefly and shake his head apologetically. Thornton got worried about what might have stained his rookie?s clothes when Moreno?s expression turned angry in an instant with MacGyver?s answer. Moreno stared silently at the young man for a moment, and then ? without any warning ? rammed his fist into MacGyver?s stomach with full force. Thornton flinched as he saw Mac double over and grunt in pain. His knees seemed to give way, but the guards grabbing him by his arms held him upright.
When MacGyver had steadied himself again, he was asked another question, this time by the man who had worked on the plane ? and for the second time, his answer didn?t seem to satisfy his opponents. It only earned him another hard blow; this time to his jaw. Thornton lowered his binoculars in disgust and anger and automatically felt for the revolver he kept in his shoulder holster. MacGyver was pulled up once more, when Thornton noticed two more men at some distance in the corner of his eye. They had just stepped out of one of the large buildings and now strode over to join the small group.
Thornton puffed out a frustrated breath with the sudden realization that even if he could take out one or two of the goons before they made out his position? there were too many of the bad guys for him to handle alone. Judging by MacGyver?s visibly weakened condition, he probably wouldn?t be able to help? six armed men against one trying to rescue another one ? he and Mac wouldn?t stand a chance.
With a defeated sigh, Thornton closed his eyes for a moment before he concentrated back on the scene unfolding in the clearing, forcing himself to silently observe.
Moreno closed in on MacGyver again, but with a sudden, unexpected surge of energy and defiance, the young man quickly leaned onto the two men holding him, pulled up both legs and kicked hard against Moreno. He landed a good blow in the man?s gut, set down both feet and rapidly turned in an attempt to pull free. The guards were as surprised as their leader; one of them lost his grip on MacGyver?s arm yet the second one reacted faster, held on tight, and twisted the arm behind MacGyver?s back.
Thornton gasped baffled. His body tensed up ready to get up and step in, yet froze as he saw how the young agent kept struggling but couldn?t break free. The second guard recovered quickly, grabbed onto Mac again, and had just pulled back his fist ready to strike when Moreno yelled at him.
?No! Stop! ... He?s mine!?
An icy cold ran down Thornton?s back.
Moreno had been thrown backward by MacGyver?s kick and picked himself up from the ground, while the two men who had only left the building a few moments ago were now running toward the group. Moreno gingerly straightened himself, dusted himself off, and as soon as the guards had Mac under control again, he approached the young man menacingly slow. He growled something low and angrily, that Thornton couldn?t understand, and only a second later drove his knee hard into MacGyver?s stomach. MacGyver doubled over with a groan, yet didn?t get any break this time. A brutal strike to his head followed, and then Moreno?s knee rammed against his chest. Mac dropped to his knees and with a curt flick of his hand, Moreno ordered his guards to let go of his arms.
The man who had worked on the airplane stepped back as the four guards surrounded MacGyver, who had one arm wrapped around his body and balanced himself on the ground with the other one. Thornton held his breath when he watched him sit back on his heels, raise his head, and briefly glance at all the men around him. His gaze settled on Moreno, who was still looming over him, and with a pained half-smile Mac quipped something at the gangster boss.
Whatever he?d said, only a moment later it earned him a heavy kick by Moreno against his upper body that threw him sideways to the ground, quickly followed by another to his side. Thornton winced at the sight of his young agent curling up on the ground, trying to protect himself. He let out the breath he?d been holding slowly when he saw Moreno step back from MacGyver.
But his relief was short-lived when, with a short gesture, Moreno allowed his guards to have their go at MacGyver. The blows and kicks rained down in quick succession on the young one?s legs, chest, back, and head, giving him almost no time to recover in between. After only a minute or two, he wasn?t moving anymore, let alone defending or protecting himself. Moreno raised one hand to stop his goons, and when they drew back he watched his prisoner silently for a few moments.
Thornton drew in a sharp breath, suddenly worried his rookie had been beaten to his death already, and forced himself to raise his binoculars. As afraid as he might be? he had to be sure. MacGyver was lying sprawled out half on his back, half on his side, and for a couple of seconds Thornton doubted his eyes, but then he was sure. His chest was moving. The young man was still breathing.
When Moreno knelt beside him and rudely grabbed his jaw to assess his condition, Mac barely reacted to him with a feeble attempt to raise his arms and fend off his attacker that Moreno brushed off easily. He got to his feet again, murmured a command to his guards, and then turned to the man waiting at a little distance.
But Thornton?s concentration stayed with his young agent, who was being picked up at his arms and dragged back to the shed they had brought him from in the first place. He set down his glasses as soon as the goons had left the hut a couple of minutes later and watched how all the guards strode back to the larger buildings. Then he let out a long, quiet sigh.
Moreno and the sixth man walked past the huge shed over to the airplane, while Thornton?s thoughts ran wild. Somehow he had to get down there. Somehow he had to make it into that little hut and get MacGyver out of there? unseen? before they finally killed the young one.
His eyes scanned the area and he straightened himself a little. The sun had risen over the rim in the meantime, and soon the forest he had approached through would be bathed in bright light. Thornton knew he didn?t have much time to spare, but as long as the bad guys were outside, his chances to get to MacGyver unnoticed were slim. He drew in a deep breath, stuffed his binoculars back into his backpack, and pulled his revolver from the holster. He checked it, placed it safely back, and reached for the water bottle he carried clipped to his belt. He looked around while he took a few sips.
He needed a place where he could hide his pack ? a place he would easily find again. Soon, he spotted a single huge rock next to a high-grown tree, a couple of yards upward and to his left ? easily recognizable. After a quick glance downward, assuring himself that his presence hadn?t been noticed yet, Thornton got up, shouldered his backpack, and cautiously made his way through thicket and trees until he?d reached the rock.
He discovered a gap between rock and tree, conveniently covered by a dense bush, and hid his pack under it before he turned back to the camp. Careful not to give his approach away, Thornton descended the slope, doing his best to quickly get as close as possible to the small hut MacGyver was kept in while keeping an eye on Moreno and the guy who?d been working on the plane. Their conversation still dealt with the airplane and some problems concerning its engine, but Thornton couldn?t understand a lot of it. He wouldn?t have comprehended much of the technical details anyway, and it also wasn?t at the top of his priorities right now.
His thoughts rotated about how he could get around the shed and to its door unnoticed, and how badly MacGyver was injured. Thornton fervently hoped that the young man would at least be able to walk. He was realistic enough to know he wasn?t strong enough to carry his tall rookie to safety all alone.
Thornton stopped within a few yards of the tree line, silently surveying the whole compound and desperately willing the men to leave, to get inside any of the buildings. Time seemed to slow down to a crawl; the minutes seemed to be ticking away slower than normal while he waited. He?d been so focused on the two men and the airplane that he flinched when suddenly a bell sounded from one of the larger barracks. Thornton?s head whipped around, and he saw another man disappearing into the furthest of those buildings. Moreno?s and the second man?s concentration shifted, and they reluctantly left the plane for the building where the bell had been rung.
Thornton watched them leave, frowned, and glanced at his watch. A late breakfast maybe, he mused. His inner tension rose as he saw everyone, even the guards, disappear into the building. Now or never, he thought, got up from his crouched-down position behind the thicket, and slid to the tree line. With a few quick steps, he reached the back wall of the hut, and keeping his back close to the shed, made his way around it.
Thornton was a bit surprised at first when he saw only a simple padlock securing the door?s latch, but then relief took over. Since he?d brought a set of lock picks along with him ? following a hunch ? opening the padlock took only a couple of seconds. He quickly confirmed that he was still alone with glances to all sides before he removed the lock and pulled the door open.
Thornton?s eyes needed a moment to adjust to the dim light inside the shed, and then he froze for a few seconds with what he saw. The room had been completely emptied, apart from the motionless body on the ground. MacGyver was lying half on his side, half on his front, breathing only shallowly. His hands were tied tightly behind his back with a sturdy rope, as were his ankles.
Thornton sucked in a sharp breath, then hurried to Mac?s side, and crouched down next to him. He noticed dark stains on his face ? most possibly blood ? and saw his eyes closed.
?MacGyver?? he asked nonetheless as his worries increased. ?MacGyver!?
When MacGyver didn?t react, Thornton moved around him and started working on his binds. He first loosened the rope around his ankles, then freed his wrists. The moment, his arms dropped to the ground, MacGyver?s body stiffened and he let out a pained moan since his strained muscles protested wildly against the sudden release. Thornton quickly switched back to MacGyver?s front and laid a hand on his shoulder.
But before he could say anything to the young man, MacGyver flinched from the touch, bolted up, and backed away from the hand. His attempt was short-lived though. He collapsed only seconds later, breathing raggedly. Thornton followed him smoothly.
?MacGyver? ? It?s me, Pete Thornton.? he addressed Mac low before he touched him once more.
MacGyver?s body tensed up as soon as he felt Thornton?s hand, and he turned his head just a little bit toward the voice he?d heard. Despite the agony he was in, the dizziness, and the haze in his head, that voice sounded somewhat familiar.
?Come on, MacGyver! ? Come out of it! ? Look at me!?
The voice urged him to leave his half-conscious state. The hand on his shoulder squeezed softly. MacGyver gathered some strength and forced himself to lift his head a little off the ground. He turned it toward the man next to him and blinked his eyes half open although his headache spiked. He needed a moment to recognize Thornton?s face in the half-light, but noticed a brief smile flash across it. He sensed how Thornton?s second hand was quickly there to support his head and neck.
What the?? His new boss was here? How? Why?
?Thank God.? Thornton let out a relieved sigh.
But MacGyver frowned at him confused and uncomprehending. He turned to lie half on his back. Thornton?s hands stayed with him.
?Sir?? Mac breathed, barely above a whisper. ?How did you get here? Why???
?Not important right now.? Thornton cut him off and scrutinized the young man for a moment. His gaze was still unsteady; he was bleeding from a cut close to his left temple and had a purplish bruise covering his cheekbone, but most of his injuries seemed to be hidden by his clothing. Thornton?s expression sobered up as he noticed, how much effort MacGyver put into concealing the amount of pain he was going through.
?I had to watch as they beat you,? Thornton stated softly. ?I?m sorry, I couldn?t help? but since I came alone??
?Well? it wasn?t the first time? and you?re with me now,? MacGyver replied with a feeble and lopsided grin. ?That?s a start.?
He relaxed with a deep breath and let his head drop back to the ground. Thornton?s hand slid to the side of his neck and steadied him.
?How badly are you hurt?? the senior agent asked full of concern. ?Do you think you?ve got internal injuries?
?Bad,? Mac answered dryly, but weakly shook his head. ?But no, nothing serious.?
?Any broken bones?? Thornton probed further.
?No,? MacGyver assured hoarsely after concentrating on his insides for a moment. ?Maybe a cracked rib or two, but I?m fairly sure??
He broke off because he went into a coughing fit and curled himself up on his side with the stabbing hurt it caused in his chest. Pete Thornton reacted quickly, shifted with him, and held him until MacGyver?s breath had calmed down again. But his worries increased all of a sudden when he saw fresh blood on MacGyver?s lips.
?Nothing serious?? he inquired harshly. ?MacGyver, you?re coughing up blood. A broken rib may have punctured your lung or worse? you may be??
MacGyver cut him off with an upward glance, a brief shake of his head, and a feebly raised hand.
?No.? he sighed. ?One of Moreno?s kicks went to my head. Yesterday? I?ve got a gash on the inside of my cheek and lower lip? just opened up again.? His last words trailed off and his eyes drifted closed again as he tried to will away another wave of dizziness rushing through him. He rolled to lie on his back gingerly with a faint moan in an attempt to ease up the tension in his body.
?Let?s hope there?s nothing more to it,? Thornton answered, moved his hand to MacGyver?s forehead, and felt for his temperature. It seemed only a little too high, and his skin was awkwardly dry. But what worried Thornton the most, was that Mac barely reacted when he probed the skin around the cut on the side of Mac?s head with his fingers.
?MacGyver, hey!? he urged, afraid the kid was losing his grip on consciousness once more. ?Stay with me!?
The younger man?s eyes fluttered open, first clouded and wavering but then slowly focusing.
?Working on it.? he drawled with a half-grin. Then, only a moment later he frowned, his eyes flicked to the top of Thornton?s head, narrowed, and returned to his face. Confusion showed on his features. ?Sir?? he started to ask. ?What about your??
?No.? the senior agent cut him off firmly. ?I am not wearing it. A hairpiece isn?t all too practical during a wilderness hike.? He returned the smile briefly but turned serious when he remembered the dangerous situation they were both in. ?Listen, MacGyver? we?d better get you out of here before those guys return,? he added. ?Can you get up? Will you be able to walk??
?Yeah, I think so.? MacGyver nodded. ?Just help me get to my feet.? He drew in a deep breath and steeled himself mentally for his task. ?But they?ll be occupied for some time with their second breakfast? so, no need to rush.?
Doubt flashed across Thornton?s face before he realized that the young agent had been observing the arms dealers for a few days. Of course, he knew about their daily routines.
?Alright.? he agreed. ?Hold on.?
He grabbed Mac?s upper arm with one hand and, as soon as he felt MacGyver hold on to him and raise his head and shoulders in an attempt to sit up, Thornton wrapped his second arm around MacGyver?s back and pulled him up. A tremor ran through MacGyver as he strove to gather the strength for staying upright. He lowered his head and pressed his eyes shut for a moment as vertigo threatened to overwhelm him. Thornton noticed his struggle and allowed him a break. His arm stayed around MacGyver?s shoulders to steady the swaying man.
?Concussion?? he asked softly and concerned.
?Probably.? MacGyver nodded only once.
When he forced his eyes to open again, he saw the water canteen dangling from Thornton?s belt and it instantly caught his attention.
?You still got some water in that thing?? he asked a little breathlessly.
?Sure.? Thornton?s hand left MacGyver?s arm and loosened the bottle from his belt. ?Need to get rid of the bloody taste in your mouth?? he wanted to know while he screwed off the cap one-handedly.
?Well, yeah.? MacGyver reached out with one hand and his breathing sped up. ?But mainly I?m terribly thirsty. They kept me without food or water since yesterday.?
?What?? Thornton froze with shock about the revelation and stared at the younger man exasperatedly before he handed the bottle over.
MacGyver only nodded silently as he raised the bottle with a shaking hand, and then drank greedily. The senior agent watched him for a couple of moments, steadying his grip on the canteen, helping him drink, but then pulled it away. Mac?s eyes snapped to Thornton?s hand and he tried to get the bottle back.
?Hey!? Mac protested.
?Mind your condition!? Thornton countered instantly. ?Not too much at once! Or you might collapse.?
MacGyver sighed, but relaxed a bit against Thornton?s arm still holding him upright. He knew that? mentally ? logically ? but emotionally? he was so desperately longing for water, for something to drink. Thornton closed the bottle when he felt Mac give in, clipped it to his belt, and then shifted his position so he would be able to help MacGyver get to his feet.
?You ready?? he asked.
MacGyver laid one arm around Pete Thornton?s shoulders and held on tightly. He nodded.
?Kind of. Let?s get out of here.? He agreed.
He let out a pained gasp as Thornton pulled him up and held his breath for a moment as soon as he was standing. Mac lowered his eyes as his dizziness worsened abruptly and he sensed his boss grabbing onto his belt around his back. Thornton gave him only a few seconds, then tightened his grip on him and moved toward the door. Mac had to raise his gaze to be able to follow his movements. After a probing look through the half-open door, Thornton led him outside and quickly around the shed to its back side. The senior agent stopped briefly to assure himself that all the bad guys were still inside, busy with their breakfast. But when he wanted to hurry toward the tree line, MacGyver?s body suddenly stiffened and he held his boss back.
?Wait a minute!? The young agent was breathing heavily with the effort it took to stay upright and concentrated. He gazed over to the hut that housed the generator.
?What?? Thornton hissed impatiently. ?We gotta go!?
?Yeah. But ? the camera.? Mac argued. ?I hid it over there. Along with a film that??
?I don?t care about the camera right now.? Thornton cut him off sharply. ?My priority is getting us out of here alive.?
?But there?s?? Mac tried again but fell silent when Thornton shot him a warning, almost angry glare.
?No!? His tone was final. ?Tell me about it as soon as we?ve put some distance between them and us ? but not now.?
MacGyver withstood Thornton?s glare for a few seconds, but then exhaled shakily, and then nodded. His boss had a point. Moreno and his men didn?t even know the camera was there and hadn?t found it during the last two days, so it was likely to remain safe just a little longer. A couple of quick steps took them to the tree line and behind the first thicket. MacGyver was limping slightly due to the bruises he?d sustained, yet did his best to suppress the pain he felt with every movement. Thornton noticed it, nevertheless hurried upward, holding on tightly to the young man, pulling him along, and steadying him whenever he needed help on the uneven ground of the slope.
A small while later, they reached the huge tree and rock where Thornton had hidden his backpack. The agent lowered Mac to the ground, helped him sit down in a somewhat comfortable position leaning against the rock, and crouched down next to him. He scrutinized the young man, trying to assess his condition while he offered him his water bottle.
MacGyver?s breathing was still labored, but his pale skin had regained some color, and his gaze had cleared and seemed more focused. He nodded gratefully when he took the canteen, screwed off the cap, and took long, but slow sips between panting breaths.
Thornton retrieved his pack from below the bush, yet kept watching his rookie in the corner of his eye. He allowed the man a few minutes of rest, just until his breath had slowed down a little. Mac handed the bottle back on his own this time, obviously more aware and back in control of his emotions, and let his head drop back against the rock. One of his hands slid to cover his side, right where Moreno?s kicks had hit him. His jaw tensed when he suppressed a moan.
?How are you doing?? Thornton asked before taking a sip of water.
?I?m fine.? Mac turned his head toward his boss. ?Or at least a lot better than down there,? he added when he saw Thornton?s doubtful expression. ?Thanks for getting me out, Sir.? Then he puffed out a deep breath. ?But why???
?You stopped reporting in.? Thornton cut him off, concentrated on his backpack, and started digging through it. ?And you didn?t turn up for your pick-up. But the department really does need the information you were sent out to gather to act against the arms dealer ring.?
He found the small first aid kit, he?d carried along, opened it, and pulled out a few gauze swabs. He moistened them with antiseptic fluid and offered them to MacGyver. Mac took them, but his boss?s answer hadn?t fully satisfied him.
?Well, when you sent me off? you?d said, I?d be on my own, with no reinforcements or support from the department possible? but now you?re here yourself. Why? How?? he asked slowly while he cautiously wiped the dried blood off his face and cleaned the cut on his temple.
?I just told you. The intel you were supposed to bring back is important? How? By helicopter. Which is going to pick us up tomorrow at 18.00. Same clearing they dropped you off.? Thornton replied harshly, not meeting MacGyver?s questioning gaze, but searching through his first aid kit. ?Want an aspirin?? he added once he?d found the small pills. By now, he started to understand what MacGyver?s COs during his military service had meant by stating ?tendency to insubordination? in his file. Despite all his concern for the young man, his inquiries began to annoy him.
?No, thanks.? MacGyver softly shook his head, careful not to worsen his headache and dizziness. ?Might aggravate any bleeding. I?d rather try without it.? He was silent for a beat, his eyes nevertheless stayed fixed on his boss. ?But you said you?d be needed at the office, you couldn?t leave.? His mind couldn?t leave the puzzle of Thornton coming to his rescue alone. ?Seems you were worried I failed? on my first solo assignment. That your most promising rookie?? he added after a moment but broke off when the older man shot him a warning glare.
Thornton drew in a deep breath. Now the kid even doubted himself and his abilities. For a moment, Thornton couldn?t determine if this fact concerned or angered him. Once again during these days, he strove for professional detachment from the young man.
?I was worried you might have gotten killed.? he then admitted carefully controlled, but with a sharp undertone. ?Contrary to public belief, we try our best not to leave our people behind.? He took a break and sighed. ?But our department chief didn?t easily allow me to go on this trip, you know.?
His eyes found the younger man?s dark brown ones, and MacGyver held the senior agent?s intense gaze for a couple of moments before he exhaled slowly.
?I appreciate it, Sir,? Mac answered low.
He knew he had gone beyond his assigned task? had gotten too eager to stop those arms dealers, no matter what the cost. It was part of why he had gotten caught. The fierce thunderstorm had been the second reason for it.
What a way to start this new job, MacGyver thought sarcastically to himself. Getting into a serious mess on your first time out alone, causing the department that much trouble that they send in a senior agent to bail me out? Perfect. So much for ?one of the best recruits ever??
He lowered his eyes to the bloodied swabs in his hands and then took another gulp out of the water bottle Thornton had placed between them. A tense silence hung in the air for several seconds before the older man took a deep breath.
?So? what went wrong before you stopped reporting in three and a half days ago? How did you end up getting captured?? Thornton asked. ?And what is so important about that camera and film??
MacGyver sighed deeply when all he remembered from those days came back to the forefront of his mind.
?The thunderstorms on that evening came unexpectedly fast. The heavy rain caught up with me while I was still on my way back to where I had set up camp.? he began to relate. ?By the time, I?d reached it, some of my stuff was already soaked through? including the radio set. The water had caused a short circuit. I tried to fix it once I had found a cave, and managed to dry up myself and the salvaged rest of my camp? but couldn?t. Fortunately, the films had been buried deep within my backpack, and since I had carried it along with me, I was also able to keep the camera safe.?
MacGyver?s voice had gotten hoarse the longer he?d spoken and a coughing fit forced him to break off. He bent forward, holding on to his side as the coughs sent a stabbing pain through his chest. He bit back a moan and closed his eyes for a moment but then felt Thornton?s hand on his shoulder. When he looked up, he saw his boss scrutinizing him, once again trying to gauge his condition. Most of the sharp anger on his face had been replaced by concern.
MacGyver gingerly straightened himself again, leaned back against the boulder, and took the canteen that Thornton offered him wordlessly. Another large sip of water soothed his parched throat. Mac knew it would take quite a while to replace all the fluids he?d been denied during the last 24 hours, but even with the little he?d gotten so far, he felt a lot more human again. Thornton waited a few more seconds before he answered.
?I found the remains of your camp and the cave yesterday. And the ruined radio set,? he told his rookie. ?It explains why you couldn?t contact us ? but doesn?t explain why you didn?t turn up to meet the helicopter one and a half days later.?
?Right.? MacGyver nodded. ?Since I still had one day left for investigation, I decided to go back to gather more information? and since the guys were occupied with fixing some damage the thunderstorm had caused to their camp, I managed to break into Moreno?s office.? He cleared his throat before he continued. ?I figured I might discover vital intel concerning his customers or shipping schedule? and bingo. All the crates in that storage shed ? they planned on moving them out today. I knew I had to find some way to pass on this information quickly, so the department could take action.? MacGyver took a deep breath. ?The radio in Moreno?s office wouldn?t work because its antenna had been ruined during the storm. So my only chance was the radio of the airplane. I was able to sneak around them later that day, but couldn?t establish any contact.?
Mac lowered his eyes again, understanding very well that he was admitting he?d overstepped his mission objective? and that his next words would reveal how far he?d gone beyond his assigned task. He mentally steeled himself for Thornton?s anger.
?I felt I had to at least make sure they couldn?t fly out the weapons, so I sabotaged the engine of their plane? but one of the guards spotted me on my way out? and I was captured.? He admitted.
Thornton?s face was serious but only a little irritated when Mac looked up at him again.
?Alright.? The senior agent nodded curtly. ?But what kept you alive so long? Moreno?s known to kill off any prisoners quite soon.?
?At first, they wanted to find out who I was, whom I was working for, and if I really was alone.? MacGyver?s expression darkened with the memory of what they?d done to him on that first evening? how he?d been bound to the tree on the following day? after his attempt to escape in the early morning had failed? and how angry Moreno had turned on the day after as soon as his pilot had discovered that the plane?s engine wouldn?t start anymore. ?They found out only yesterday morning that their plane wouldn?t take off, and of course, suspected me of sabotaging it.?
?But Moreno still wasn?t furious enough to kill you?? Thornton interrupted him baffled.
?Oh, I bet he was. But he couldn?t afford to.? MacGyver told him with a pained half-grin. ?His pilot couldn?t completely figure out what damage I had done ? neither could he repair it. They needed me to fix it. Denying me food and water was only one way of putting pressure on me when I refused to.?
?So the beating I witnessed was another attempt to get you to cooperate.? Thornton?s face softened with sympathy and understanding as the awful pictures came back to his mind. ?I?m sure there wasn?t much chance for escape if you?d been bound as tightly as I found you for all those days.?
MacGyver?s eyes left Thornton again. He stared into the distance, drew in a deep breath, and let it out in a long, quiet sigh.
?I wasn?t. I also wasn?t kept in the empty shed all the time,? he recalled. ?Only after my attempt to get away failed ? in the early morning after I got captured. The guard wasn?t as sleepy as he had seemed to be and noticed me. Moreno wasn?t pleased? and they were much more cautious afterward.?
Thornton watched MacGyver silently for a few moments. After how the young man had dealt with the scenarios set for him during his training and his certification test, it would have utterly surprised Thornton, wouldn?t he even have tried to escape once. He saw Mac swallow dryly and straighten himself gingerly, his hand still protecting his aching side. Thornton offered him the water once more since he?d noticed the young man?s voice turning hoarse. The cracked skin on MacGyver?s lips told quite a story about how dehydrated he had to be. Inwardly, he was relieved the kid wasn?t too badly hurt and seemed to remember everything despite his possible concussion. But one detail was still missing.
?You haven?t mentioned the camera yet.? Thornton queried while MacGyver drank. ?What?s so important about it??
MacGyver set down the canteen slowly and needed a couple of seconds to catch his breath.
?I took pictures of the lists and documents covering Moreno?s customers and his shipping schedule,? he explained afterward. ?I hid the camera near the generator to keep it safe before I made my way to the plane. They haven?t discovered it so far? don?t even know about it? It still holds the film with all the pictures. We need to retrieve it.?
When Mac looked up at Thornton, the senior agent noticed that a lot of his determination and some energy had returned, causing MacGyver?s eyes to sparkle again, momentarily covering up the amount of pain he was still in. Mac glanced at the watch on his sore wrist.
?We?d better get it quickly.? he then urged. ?They?ll be done with their second breakfast real soon and once they notice I?m gone??
His words trailed off and he readied himself to get to his feet. But Thornton?s hand was on his shoulder in an instant and stopped any attempt to get up.
?Whoa!? he admonished his rookie. ?Where do you think you?re going??
MacGyver winced at the firm grip of his boss and looked up at him surprised.
?Down there,? he said. ?The camera??
?You hardly made it up here.? Thornton cut him off sharply. ?Just tell me where to find it. I?ll go get it.?
?But Sir? at least let me watch your?? MacGyver tried to argue but broke off when the older man shot him a warning glare.
?Not a chance. I said you?re staying put.? Thornton took a deep breath; now some concern was showing on his face. His voice softened a little. ?You can barely walk, kid. You?re in no condition to??
?I can make it.? MacGyver cut in defiantly. ?Water and rest have helped me recover. I know the place? I?ll be??
?No.? Thornton?s expression hardened once more as some anger about the young man not accepting his decisions returned. MacGyver was truly testing his patience. His tone left no room for further discussion. He shouldered his backpack and got to his feet. ?I?ll be back in a couple of minutes. Now, where exactly did you hide the camera??
MacGyver held Thornton?s gaze for a few seconds, but then sat back with a defeated sigh.
?On one side of the generator shed? there are some empty barrels stacked up.? he gave in.
Thornton?s eyes switched down to the shed and he nodded.
?On the left. See them,? he confirmed.
?I stashed the camera between them.? Mac continued. ?Kinda disguised it with some dirty rags I found? of course still protected by its case.?
Thornton nodded again and straightened himself a little, mentally preparing to sneak back into the compound. He had to be careful, as the generator shed wasn?t far from the tree line, yet clearly visible from the larger buildings. Just as he wanted to leave, MacGyver piped up once more.
?Sir? I?d rather wait for you at another spot.?
Thornton puffed out an annoyed breath and glared down at his young agent.
?What?s wrong with this hideout?? he snapped.
?The terrain around here is quite rough,? he explained a bit subdued, yet staying calm despite the sudden anger of his boss. ?Should we have to get away quickly? it would be difficult.?
Thornton reigned in another flare of emotion at the repeated interference of his rookie and reminded himself that MacGyver had been investigating the territory for days before he had been captured. He had to be familiar with that mountain after those days.
?Fine? what do you suggest?? he sighed and let his eyes wander across the slope.
?The slope above the airstrip isn?t as rocky? a lot easier to pass through,? MacGyver answered. ?We could get away around the mountain ? rather than crossing over it.?
Thornton nodded as he assessed the indicated direction.
?A little above from where the plane is parked?? MacGyver continued, now a bit more confidently. ?Do you see the large tree with the lightning mark on its trunk? It was hit during the thunderstorm.?
?I do.? Thornton agreed after searching the forest for a second. ?But do I have enough time? to take you over there and then retrieve the camera??
?Don?t think so,? MacGyver stated after a glance at this watch. ?But I?ll get there on my own.?
The senior agent couldn?t suppress a doubtful look at MacGyver, but when he saw the young one preparing to get up, he wordlessly reached out with both hands, offered his support, and pulled him up. MacGyver gasped with the sudden pain his injuries caused, stood swaying for a moment, yet then gathered some strength and steadied himself. He blinked to clear his sight as a wave of vertigo washed over him, looked around, and then realized that his boss was still holding on to his arms. His eyes returned to Thornton?s and found the older man scrutinizing him closely.
?You sure?? Thornton asked concerned.
?Yes, Sir,? MacGyver assured. ?I?ll be alright.?
Thornton slowly let go of him and bowed down to pick up his canteen. I?ll just have to believe him that he?s recovered sufficiently, he noted mentally while he clipped the bottle to his belt.
?Fine. I?ll meet you over there in a couple of minutes.? he sighed.
|Posted by: bluegirl 14 May 2023 - 09:16 AM|
| A happy Sunday evening (at the moment near Vienna) to everyone!
Just got ready to share the next chapter with you! Consider yourselves warned - this one will raise the action level considerably!
Let?s get going!
MacGyver was out of breath when he, several minutes later, reached the huge tree and leaned his forehead against it. The worst of his dizziness passed within a few seconds, yet he still felt lightheaded when he turned his gaze down to the compound. From his position on the slope a little above the airplane, he could overlook the whole area. He quickly spotted Thornton as the older man reached the edge of the forest. MacGyver couldn?t suppress a sudden pang of guilt while he watched his boss check his surroundings and then carefully step out into the open. The senior agent covered the few yards to the generator?s hut quickly and disappeared momentarily from Mac?s sight.
MacGyver drew in a deep breath as his thoughts ran wild.
I should be down there. Getting that camera. At least, I should be there to watch Thornton?s back. But I?m not in the physical shape to. Because I?ve gotten myself into a serious mess. Because I?ve gotten caught. Judging by how angry he got, I?ve badly disappointed my boss. Because I failed to complete my assigned task. Because I?ve disregarded the limits he?d set for me. Because I haven?t met the expectations and high hopes Thornton had for me.
MacGyver lowered his eyes for a moment and sighed deeply. ?You?re among the best recruits we?ve ever had?? Thornton?s words on that evening in his apartment echoed inside his head.
?Yeah, sure?? he growled sarcastically to himself. He hoped that the intel he?d gathered would allow him to redeem himself? at least a little. With another deep inhale, Mac turned so he could lean his back against the tree and raised his eyes to scan the camp.
His thoughts were cut off abruptly when he saw Moreno and his pilot step outside of the farthest of the larger barracks. His body stiffened with the sudden rush of adrenaline into his veins. A glimpse at his watch told him they?d finished their breakfast earlier today ? probably due to the plane?s engine problems. MacGyver drew in a sharp breath, pushed himself off the trunk, and straightened himself.
With the generator currently up and running, Thornton wouldn?t hear them coming? and with the generator?s hut blocking his sight, he wouldn?t see them either ? until they were way too close for a safe escape. If they spotted Thornton? if he got caught with the camera? they?d both be in serious trouble.
All these thoughts flashed through MacGyver?s head within seconds as he observed the scene unfolding. His mind hit overdrive. He had to come up with something if he wanted to protect and help his new boss. If he wanted to make sure Thornton and the camera had a secure way out. And he only had a few moments to do it.
Moreno and his pilot were engrossed in conversation and stopped after only a few steps. Moreno still seemed angry and was gesticulating wildly toward the weapons storage shed and the plane while he talked to his pilot.
MacGyver?s eyes raced across the whole camp. He was too far away to be able to warn Thornton ? so he had to somehow distract Moreno and his pilot ? and draw their attention to something important for them. Mac?s gaze caught on the plane? on the workshop next to the airstrip? and the fuel-filled barrels stacked up along its walls. An idea rose within him and without hesitation, his pain and dizziness forgotten, MacGyver rushed downward between trees and thickets to the workshop.
His hand went into his pocket automatically and felt for his Swiss army knife and the matches, he usually carried, but then remembered that Moreno had forced him to empty his pockets after they had caught him for the second time, after he?d tried to escape. He reached the tree line only a moment later and stopped briefly to check on Moreno?s and the pilot?s position. Pleased to see, that they hadn?t moved in the meantime, Mac?s eyes returned to the barrels, and his second hand checked the pocket on his other side.
He knew he?d find some rags inside the workshop, right next to the door, but he needed some means to set them on fire. Just then, his fingers caught on something small in the folds of his left pocket. MacGyver puffed out a relieved breath as he pulled out a single match, and then hurried to cross the little distance to the shed.
He slid inside quickly through the half-open door, picked two of the oiliest rags lying on the workbench, and also grabbed the petroleum lamp hanging from a hook in the wall. He shook it softly to determine the amount of oil still in it and nodded to himself when he found it almost full. MacGyver struck the match on some wooden board, lit the lamp, and left the workshop, holding the rags in one hand, the lamp in the other one.
A sideways glance confirmed the two men still standing in the distance, and Mac turned around the corner to the barrels. Hurriedly, he screwed off the cap of one of them, drew a brief grimace at the intense smell of the fuel, and threaded one of the rags partly inside. With the help of the lamp, he lit his makeshift fuse. MacGyver took a second to assess his work, then picked up the remaining rag and the lamp and ran toward the airplane.
Knowing he might be visible from where Moreno was standing, and that he only had a couple of moments before the barrel behind the workshop would blow up, Mac quickly opened the fuel tank in the plane?s wing and stuffed the second rag into it.
The more fires I can start, he thought, the longer they?ll be occupied with fighting them, and the better are the chances of Thornton getting away with the camera.
He raised the lamp, lit the rag, and then turned toward the huge shed acting as the weapons storage. His gaze crossed the generator hut, caught a small movement in it, but then settled on Moreno talking to his pilot.
I just gotta make them believe, I got killed during my attempt to destroy their operations base, MacGyver mused. Or they?ll be searching the whole forest for me. Meaning, I have to get the timing right if I don?t wanna get killed for real.
A sideways glance at the barrel confirmed that it could blow any second. MacGyver drew in a deep breath, determinedly stepped further away from the plane, and straightened himself with the lamp in his hand. Out into the open space, where Moreno would be able to see him. As would Thornton.
Now for the tricky part. Gotta get Moreno?s attention and warn Thornton at the same time, he thought while he strove to recall which part of the ravine next to the airstrip he would have to use to get to the river ? where the slope wasn?t all too steep and rocky, so he could rather slide than fall downward ? and had a chance of surviving it.
MacGyver tightened his grip on the lamp.
?Moreno!? he then called out.
The arms dealer?s head snapped around to him almost instantly with a confused stare.
?You know, I can?t let you get away with those weapons!? Mac continued and again saw movement inside the generator hut.
Part of Thornton?s face was visible to him above the barrels, with a puzzled and surprised expression. Their eyes met for a split second, and MacGyver tried to communicate the impending threat to his boss wordlessly, fervently hoping that his message and his doing were understood. Then his gaze returned to the now angry Moreno, who barked some orders at his pilot and turned around completely to MacGyver while he drew his pistol from his belt holster.
Alright, that?s my cue to leave, Mac noted mentally and threw the petroleum lamp toward the crates filled with weapons, ammunition, and explosives.
The glass protecting the flame broke when it crashed sideways against the wooden surface; some petroleum leaked out and was instantly ignited. Only the blink of an eye later, the barrel behind the workshop blew with an earsplitting bang into a huge fireball. Mac felt the wave of heat from the distant explosion rush over his skin, saw Moreno briefly distracted by it, but then raise his pistol and take aim.
Without another conscious thought, suddenly acting purely on survival instinct, yet still following the plan he?d formed in his head, MacGyver turned and ran off. He ducked through under the wing of the airplane, heard gunshots from behind, felt bullets whizz by him, and hit the ground way too close for his comfort. He had only just passed the plane when the fuel tank blew, engulfing everything behind him in flames.
The heat- and shockwave threw him forward, causing him to stumble in his full run toward the cliff. MacGyver?s idea of a controlled slide down the slope evaporated when he saw the edge nearing, sensed parts ripped from the plane fly by him, and noticed he couldn?t avoid losing his footing.
?Aw, man!? he gasped as he reached out with both arms to absorb some of the force of his tumble. Despite his effort, Mac hit the ground hard, rolled over dazed by the impact, staying just aware enough to feel his fear of heights kick in as the ground dropped away below him when he passed the edge, and he sensed himself falling.
Peter Thornton was fully concentrating on what MacGyver had told him as he took the last, quick steps toward the generator and ducked into the shed that was protecting it. He allowed himself a moment to catch his breath and accommodate his ears to the dull roar of the machine. It blocked out almost all sounds of his surroundings which made Thornton slightly nervous. He wouldn?t hear anyone coming closer. But MacGyver had assured him those goons would be busy with their meal for some time to come anyway.
Thornton took a deep breath and oriented himself. He looked to the left, toward the barrels, and moved to them cautiously between the generator and wall; one of the only two walls of this shed. But both of them kept him from seeing what was going on in the rest of the camp? behind his back? leaving him virtually blind and deaf to probable danger. He didn?t like the feeling at all and chose to hurry.
Being more rotund than his lanky, young rookie, Thornton had to be careful not to tip anything over when he crouched down next to the barrels. He quickly tested how much they weighed to find the empty ones and soon discovered the pile of dirty rags between them. One after another, Thornton removed them until he saw the camera case underneath.
Just as the kid has told me, he mused with a little relief while he took off his backpack. His thoughts trailed off. Back to the young man he?d left behind in the forest. Back to the young man who?d been the reason why he had come out here in the first place. Of course, he?d also come here to gain information about the arms dealers ? and he?d prioritized the intel when he?d argued about leaving with his department chief ? but in his mind, the search for and probable rescue of MacGyver had been a main point for self-assigning him to this mission.
With a small sigh, Thornton opened his backpack and admitted to himself that despite his effort to remain professionally detached, he cared about this particular rookie. Watching Mac getting beaten had bothered him more than it should have; finding Mac unconscious and injured had worried him more than it should have. He was becoming attached to the young man.
Whether it had to do with MacGyver?s unique attitude to his new job and life in general, or that he had lost his father at a very young age and his mother while he?d been away on a military assignment, Thornton couldn?t tell. He also wasn?t sure why MacGyver?s admission that he?d gone beyond his assigned task had a bit surprised, but even more so angered him. After how the young man had acted throughout his training for the job, he should have expected it. He just hoped that MacGyver would make it safely to their meeting point. After he?d left the kid behind in the forest, an uncomfortable sense of foreboding had settled inside Thornton?s gut.
He shook his head to clear away the thoughts and concentrate back on his objective and reached out for the camera. He had just picked it up when he heard someone shout Moreno?s name over the constant drone of the generator and froze instantly. Even if it was hoarse, he knew that voice.
MacGyver! What the heck?! I told him to stay put!
Thornton?s paralysis loosened after only a second; he stuffed the camera into his pack quickly and stood up to gaze over the barrels, toward where MacGyver just continued to address Moreno. Perplexed, he saw the young man standing out in the open, between plane and storage shed, with a lit petroleum lamp in his hand. Thornton?s first impulse was to get angry at the kid for disobeying his orders? again? but then MacGyver?s dark eyes met his for a moment.
The rookie was tense, fully alert, worried? and not because Thornton had seen him. His look communicated a silent warning and then snapped back to something or someone beyond the generator shed. In the next second, Thornton heard Moreno?s furious voice, shouting at someone to get the other men, quite close to the hut he was hiding in, and he understood why MacGyver was out there, warning him? and distracting the men that would have discovered his presence real soon. But Thornton had no time to remain baffled anymore because then everything seemed to happen all at once.
He spotted the burning rag on the airplane?s wing at almost the same moment that MacGyver threw the lamp toward the stored weapons and flinched when the blink of an eye later something behind another shed blew up in a huge fireball. Thornton watched MacGyver run off, heard gunshots from where Moreno?s voice had sounded, and saw the bullets hit the ground just beside MacGyver?s feet. Thornton?s body tensed up, preparing to flee as he subconsciously shouldered his backpack, yet couldn?t take his eyes off the scene unfolding in the clearing.
He?d only rescued the young man from his prison a little while ago ? and now desperately hoped it had not been just to witness him getting shot. An icy cold traveled down Thornton?s back as he observed MacGyver rush through under the plane?s wing and head toward the edge of the cliff. In the next split second, just as Thornton was about to check if his escape route to the forest was safe, the kerosene in the plane?s tank caught fire. First the wing, and then the entire airplane were ripped apart by an enormous explosion.
The senior agent flinched back with sudden shock and instinctively raised one hand to shield himself from the wave of heat hitting him. As soon as the noise from the explosion had died, Thornton heard several men hurrying closer from the barracks, and Moreno barking orders at them in his rage, part English, part Spanish. In the next moment, the men ran toward the storage shed, intending to save their weapons shipment, and Thornton tore his eyes off the spot where the plane had blown.
Flames, smoke, and debris obscured his sight anyway; he couldn?t see if his young rookie had been torn apart by the explosion. But he realized, it was his cue to get away.
Moreno and his men were tied up with fighting the fire the petroleum lamp had caused, frantically trying to protect the crates. Thornton threw a glance toward the forest?s edge, then made sure no one was looking in his direction before he ran off toward the tree line. He slowed down a little once he reached the first thicket, careful not to make too many rustling sounds that might have alerted Moreno and his men, so no one would notice his departure. He hurried on until he arrived at the tree that MacGyver had pointed out earlier to him.
Only then he stopped with a panting breath and turned back to look toward the camp. Even from up here, he couldn?t make out any trace of MacGyver, but he spotted Moreno. He was standing behind the plane?s wreck, at the edge of the cliff, staring down into the ravine, with his gun still in his hand. Quickly Thornton dug out his binoculars, determined to find out what had happened to his young agent. He scanned the devastated area and watched the guys busily saving the shipment for a few moments before he turned to Moreno. Thornton couldn?t see the bottom of the ravine or the slope from his point of view, yet a couple of seconds later, he watched as Moreno angrily kicked some gravel over the edge, stuffed his gun back into his holster, and then turned to his men. And a sudden realization hit Thornton.
The distraction, MacGyver has conjured up? has assured Moreno and his men still know nothing about my presence? they won?t search the forest for me?
Thornton sighed with relief, but then his heart sank with the next thought surfacing in his mind.
And Moreno seems to believe, MacGyver got killed by the explosion? or the fall? otherwise, he would already be going after him?
Thornton lowered his glasses and let his gaze drop to the ground. He hung his head. The young man had put his own life in the line of fire ? and saved Thornton?s by creating this distraction. For another time after pulling him out of the quicksand many years ago? and of course the two times during the Murdoc incident. Thornton sighed deeply. He owed MacGyver? who had possibly died during his attempt to warn him? and his only way to repay at the moment was to ascertain what had happened to him? or to at least find his body.
Thornton strove to recall the maps and satellite pictures he?d memorized yesterday. MacGyver had stated that it would be easier to go around the ridge rather than cross over it ? because the ground wasn?t as rough. Thornton forced himself to gather some energy and straightened himself while inwardly he felt some grief about the probable loss of the kid taking hold of his heart. He?d only known the bold, but humble young man for about three months, but he knew he?d miss him. He?d been one of a kind.
Not quite what I had in mind for him when I recruited him? or supported and supervised him through his training and the certification? guess, I should have known that he would go beyond any limits if he felt the situation called for it. Thornton sucked in a deep breath and forced his concentration back to his mental maps. He looked toward the direction Mac had indicated earlier. If the terrain is, in fact, easier along this way, he thought, maybe I will be able to get to the bottom of the ravine from there? and find out more about his fate.
About one month ago?
MacGyver was not only out of breath but also thoroughly exhausted. Not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally worn out. But there was no way he could stop or give up? not yet. He slid slowly and carefully into the shadowy side street only a few blocks away from the Federal Building he was so desperately trying to reach. Glancing forward and backward every few steps, he made sure that no one was following him as he moved along the small alley. When he felt certain that he really was alone, Mac stopped beside a large waste container and leaned against the wall with a deep sigh. Automatically, he felt for the papers safely hidden in the inner pocket of his jacket while he allowed himself a break and the memories of the hellish rollercoaster ride of the last one and a half days to pass through his mind.
He?d been summoned for his certification test yesterday morning. Early on some abandoned airfield he?d never been to before in some sleepy town at some distance from Los Angeles. He had met a few of the recruits, he?d already known from previous trainings and lectures once arriving there. Due to not knowing what exactly awaited them, the atmosphere had been tense when Agent Carlyle had welcomed the small group and had taken them into an old warehouse on the grounds. He had shown them around briefly, had told them where they would get something to eat and to drink during their breaks, and then had led them upstairs. Several agents had been waiting for them in a large room, with separate desks for each one of the aspiring agents. There they had started their theoretical exams. They?d been allowed to take pauses between the different tests, and the longer they?d been at it, the more the recruits had separated during those breaks, each dealing with the pressure in their own way.
MacGyver had been the first to complete the science exam in the early afternoon and had opted to go outside and get some fresh air before the next one. But just a few moments after he?d returned inside, just after he?d grabbed another bottle of water from the refrigerator downstairs, all hell had broken loose.
First, he?d heard agitated shouts, quickly followed by gunfire. After a brief moment of shock and surprise, MacGyver had rushed up the stairs, only to see one of the agents who?d helped supervise the tests shot down in the middle of the corridor. But before he?d even had the chance to get to him and check if the man was still alive, Agent Carlyle had run toward him, his drawn revolver in one hand, and a manila folder in the other one. He?d stopped MacGyver?s rush, had hastily handed him the folder, and ordered him to take the classified papers inside to the headquarters, preferably to Peter Thornton personally? at all costs. And to talk to no one about it.
Mac had tried to object, had offered his help against the armed assault, but Carlyle had told him something about a mole, most probably among the recruits, someone who had betrayed the Department and spilled the secluded location of this test to ?the other side?? enabling this attack. He?d said, the folder held the latest information about all new trainees and was vital for further investigation.
Then they had been cut off by masked and armed men entering the hallway. Carlyle had shoved MacGyver back toward the stairs, shouted at him to go, and then turned to their attackers and answered their fire. For a few seconds, Mac had thought about disobeying, but when bullets had come flying his way and impacted the wall above and beside his head, he?d ducked, hidden the papers inside his jacket, and chosen to leave.
He had encountered more armed goons outside and hadn?t been able to make it to the parking lot and use one of the cars there for his getaway. It had taken quite some hiding and sneaking around the attackers from him to just get off the airfield unseen and unharmed. MacGyver had spent the rest of the afternoon, the evening, and most of the night fleeing cross-country until he?d reached the outskirts of L.A.
He had felt somewhat safer in the big city, and had thought he hadn?t been tailed, but real soon he?d been forced to realize they had known about him escaping and had been searching the greater area for him. He had planned to hitch a ride or commandeer a car or motorcycle toward the downtown district, yet those armed guys had rather forced him to continue on foot and create some distractions to cover his escape route. It had taken the rest of the night and almost all of today to get to where he was now.
MacGyver drew in a deep breath and puffed it out quickly before he pushed himself off the wall. He didn?t know if any word of the attack had reached headquarters by now. He didn?t know if anyone but him had made it out of there alive. Since he had no idea how long the certification tests had been scheduled to last, he didn?t even know if the department had tried to contact Carlyle and the other agents in the meantime. Mac hadn?t called in either, since Carlyle ? not knowing how big the leak was ? had warned him to trust no one but Peter Thornton. He just hoped there hadn?t been too much bloodshed, but feared the worst, since all recruits had gone into the theoretical exams unarmed.
By now, he was only a few blocks away from completing what Agent Carlyle had ordered him to do. Deliver the files. Then help investigate the assault.
MacGyver shot both directions a probing glance, then left the shadowy corner behind the waste container and walked on toward the Federal Building. As exhausted as he was after more than 24 hours on the run, with little or no chance to rest or even sleep, his adrenaline kept him going and still on full alert. Since ?the other side? hadn?t gotten hold of him yet, he expected them to wait for him, to cover the area.
Mac had only just finished the thought when he reached the corner and spotted a man he?d seen yesterday, close to the airfield, on his route along the main street, watching out for him. MacGyver froze, but it was too late. The man had noticed his movement and was already coming toward him. His hand traveled under his jacket, probably to a gun hidden in a shoulder holster.
MacGyver instantly withdrew back to the alley as his mind went into high gear. Outrunning the man was out of the question; Mac was certain he was armed and wouldn?t hesitate to shoot him. He frantically looked around himself and then hastily picked up a three-foot wooden pole lying next to the waste container. Quickly he hid next to the wall, close to the corner, gripping the pole tightly, preparing to defend himself.
Only seconds later, his attacker came around the corner, a revolver readily pointing forward in his hand. Without having to think about it consciously, MacGyver reacted. He brought the pole down hard on the man?s hand, knocking the revolver out of it and stunning him momentarily. But before he could follow up with another hit, the man had recovered, grabbed Mac?s jacket with his other hand, and rammed MacGyver forcefully backward into the wall.
Mac gasped when the air was driven out of his lungs and his head connected painfully with the bricks, knowing he had to hang in there and couldn?t allow himself to pass out if he wanted to live through the day. Stars danced before his eyes when he felt his attacker loosen his grip a little and reach for the pole in Mac?s hand. MacGyver was still quick-witted enough to let go of the pole and use the small opening the man was giving him for a punch to his face. When his attacker drew back a little, Mac followed him and drove his knee into his stomach. This made the man double over and Mac sent his fist against the man?s jaw once more.
The goon dropped to the ground motionless, and MacGyver shook his aching hand briefly before he retrieved the gun from the ground and threw it into the waste container. Then he turned on his heels and ran off, not waiting for how quickly the man would recover. With the Federal Building already in sight, MacGyver hurried on on the main street, pushing back the throbbing in his head and trying to control the dizziness he sensed by taking deep breaths. He had to stay alert if there was more trouble ahead.
Partly relieved, he reached the building without further harm. As he dashed through the front door, Mac instantly slowed down, not wanting to draw any unnecessary attention. The entrance guard eyed his slightly disheveled appearance all over, but didn?t say a word about it while MacGyver signed himself in, and then hurried to the elevators.
Only when the elevator?s doors had closed and he was on his way up, alone in the carriage, MacGyver relaxed a bit and leaned against its back wall while he drew in a slow, deep breath. He made a mental note to check back with one of his trainers after all this was over. Hand-to-hand combat had always been one of his weak points, and the last 24 hours had proven ? even if he had survived ? that he needed to polish up his skills. He gingerly felt for the sore spot where the side of his head had hit the wall and sighed when his fingers came back red and sticky with a little blood.
He just hoped that Thornton was there, in his office.
MacGyver straightened himself, ran his fingers through his hair, and puffed out a breath as the elevator arrived at the correct floor. He should have felt safer by now but sensed another surge of adrenaline flow into his veins when the doors opened with a ping. He wiped his bloody fingers clean on the side of his jeans and managed to slow his breathing and appear unfazed as he stepped off the elevator. Mac hurried along the corridor toward Thornton?s office, muttering only curt greetings to whomever he met on the way.
He knocked on the door once he?d reached the correct one and entered the office without waiting for Thornton?s answer. He was truly relieved to see the senior agent sitting behind his desk, concentrating on some files in front of him. Thornton looked up quickly and a bit startled at him while Mac hurried to close the door behind himself and only then allowed himself to briefly still and draw in a deep breath.
?MacGyver?? Thornton asked perplexed. ?Aren?t you supposed to be at the certification test??
?I was,? Mac replied a little breathlessly and stepped closer to the desk.
In those few seconds, Thornton had noticed Mac?s disordered appearance, the tiredness showing on his features, and the bloodstain on his jeans. He instantly straightened in his chair and his surprise was replaced by concern.
?Then what?s the matter?? he queried. ?What are you doing here? And what, in God?s name, happened to you??
?We were attacked,? MacGyver stated quickly. ?Yesterday, early afternoon. I was downstairs for a break when I heard shouts and gunfire. I ran back up to help, where Agent Carlyle stopped me. He ordered me to leave and to take these papers back to you. Personally. And to talk to no one else about it.? MacGyver pulled the sheets out of the inside pocket of his jacket and handed them to Thornton. ?Carlyle said something about a probable leak among the recruits, and that the files would provide vital information for further investigation.?
Thornton?s expression darkened with his words.
?That was about 24 hours ago.? he probed. ?What happened to everyone else??
?Don?t know.? MacGyver shook his head, careful not to worsen his dizziness, and lowered his eyes to the ground. ?I saw one agent who?d been shot down in the corridor, but Agent Carlyle shoved me back and out of the way when our attackers spotted us? before he returned fire. It took me some doing to get off the airfield and back here without getting caught? or killed? has no one of them called in? Has no one else returned?? A dreadful feeling settled into his gut. Was he the sole survivor?
?No.? Thornton shook his head. ?Would you be able to identify those men?? he then asked.
?The ones on the airfield wore masks, so no,? MacGyver recalled. ?But I?ll certainly recognize the one that attacked me a few blocks from here.? He subconsciously felt for the cut on the side of his head again. Thornton?s eyes, of course, followed his hand.
?Are you alright?? he asked worried and pushed himself out of his chair.
MacGyver pushed back the image of the bleeding man lying in the hallway to the back of his mind and slowly returned his gaze to the senior agent.
?Yeah,? he assured slowly. ?I?m fine. Nothing serious.?
Thornton scrutinized him closely and silently for a moment, then dropped the papers on his desk, and reached for his phone.
?You don?t look like ?nothing serious?, kid.? he assessed flatly. ?I?ll have someone take you to our doctors and have you checked through.?
Mac?s eyes followed the files to the desk. As much as he appreciated Thornton?s concern for his health? the intel on those sheets was supposed to be important? and he hadn?t even looked at them yet. Let alone made any attempt to find out what had happened to all the other men at the airfield? beyond questioning Mac. Some confusion mixed with some anger rose in MacGyver. Was this how the department dealt with attacks? Was this how the department dealt with possible casualties?
?No, thanks,? he replied sharply and straightened himself. ?With all due respect, Sir? shouldn?t we rather be trying to find out if anyone else has survived the assault on the airfield? I could be of help out there? and shouldn?t we be digging into this information??
His confusion grew as he watched Thornton pull his hand back, then relax in front of him and saw a smile widening on his face.
?We should.? His boss agreed slowly. ?And we would have every man on the move by now? had this been a real incident.?
?What?? Mac frowned at him, still tense, not yet comprehending what Thornton was talking about.
?Our certification scenarios are supposed to feel like the real thing? for obvious reasons.? Thornton continued quietly and more serious now. ?We need to make sure our field operatives will come through? and you?ve definitely passed the final test? not that I ever doubted you would.? Then he smiled again. ?Congratulations, MacGyver.?
MacGyver stood still, stunned and caught between confused and shocked, speechless for a couple of seconds.
?Wait a minute?? He drew in a deep breath. ?All of this was a test??
Thornton nodded silently.
?It wasn?t a real attack?? Mac asked, still uptight, and leaned forward, resting both hands on Thornton?s table.
Thornton shook his head reassuringly.
?But they used live rounds!? Mac?s exasperation took over. ?A man was shot down??
?He wore a ballistic vest and used fake blood,? Thornton said firmly, calming down the young man in front of him. ?You wouldn?t have fallen for blank rounds, would you??
After a moment of thinking about it, MacGyver relaxed a little. His sudden irritation deflated.
?No? I guess not.? he agreed hesitantly. ?But what about the other recruits??
?Some of them were agents posing as recruits,? Thornton explained with a small chuckle. ?For some, it was set up as a training scenario? and two others were also taking their final test, but were sent off with different objectives.? He grinned at MacGyver?s still incredulous and surprised look. ?MacGyver, this is the DXS? deception and making someone believe is part of our job, remember??
MacGyver nodded slowly as his superior's words sunk in and registered in his mind. As he allowed himself to fully relax, as his adrenaline rush took a nosedive, he realized for the first time just how worn out he was. Thornton noticed his thorough fatigue as well.
?Sit down, will you, MacGyver,? he suggested with a gesture toward the chair across his desk. ?To my knowledge, you?re the first to complete the task appointed to you.? He tried to cheer the young man up. ?Don?t worry, everyone?s fine? even the man you struck down a few blocks away.?
Mac nodded again and exhaustedly dropped into the chair in front of Thornton?s desk. He?d emotionally struggled with the fact that he had left all his colleagues behind at the airfield to a potentially deadly fate for the whole time he?d been on the run? even if he?d been ordered to do so by Agent Carlyle. His mind still replayed the pictures of the man lying in the corridor, shot down, bleeding? whom he hadn?t been able to help. He had trouble wrapping his head around the fact that the man hadn?t needed his help anyway. That all of it had been a very elaborate set-up. He rubbed his hands over his face and then buried it in them for a couple of moments.
Wait, Carlyle stopped me before I even had the chance to get close to the wounded man, he suddenly realized. And I didn?t see Carlyle firing back at the masked attackers? I was too far down the stairs by then? all the bullets ?aimed? at me went wide or too high? all the traps they?d set for me? but it felt so real? MacGyver barely heard Thornton talking on the phone as relief settled within him, and at the same time, his exhaustion finally caught up with him.
?Craig? ? Could you come over to my office and pick MacGyver up for a medical check-up? ? Yes, he?s back already? No, he seems fine for the most part, but I want our doctors to have a look at him. Just to be on the safe side? Thanks.? Thornton set down the receiver after finishing his call, walked around his desk, and leaned against it right in front of MacGyver.
?We needed to put you through a kind of worst-case scenario for your certification.? The senior agent softly addressed the young man. ?I know, it was a rough ride? so I?m asking you again, MacGyver? are you alright??
MacGyver slowly raised his head, looked up at his boss, saw him honestly concerned, and leaned back in his chair. With his inner tension wearing off, the bruises he?d sustained during the last 24 hours and the throbbing on the side of his head made themselves clearly known. But he?d been through much worse during his time in the army.
?Yeah,? he answered with a lopsided and feeble grin. ?For the most part.?
Thornton smiled back at him when he heard the young man quote his words on the phone.
?Haven?t lost your sarcasm? good,? he replied with a little relief, but then his expression went somber again. ?So MacGyver, after all we?ve put you through? not only during this test but also the past months? and before I pass the result of your certification on to my department chief? are you still sure, you want to take this job? Do you feel ready for it??
MacGyver drew in a slow, deep breath. He hadn?t expected those kinds of questions at this point. They caught him unprepared. His thoughts were cut off though by someone knocking at the door before an answer had even fully formed in his head.
?Come in!? Thornton called.
MacGyver only half-turned to see who was joining them, but his eyes instantly went wide when he recognized the man he?d seen lying shot down in the hallway. Alive and well. Mac was tense with surprise within the blink of an eye.
?MacGyver, meet Agent Craig Bannister.? Thornton introduced the man that was smiling broadly at Mac.
MacGyver got up as if in half-trance and shook the man?s hand.
?Keeping up with you was quite a challenge for us,? Bannister said appreciatively. ?Good work.?
?Thanks.? MacGyver nodded somewhat automatically as he felt another wave of relief wash through him, and then looked back at Thornton.
?He?ll take you down to our doctors. For a check-up.? Thornton explained to Mac. ?Just to be sure? do me that favor, will you??
MacGyver nodded and turned to leave the office, intent on following Bannister to the corridor, but Thornton?s voice stopped him.
?Take some time to recover, MacGyver,? he advised. ?But then?? his words trailed off as Mac looked back at him over his shoulder.
?Then?? Mac echoed questioningly.
Thornton drew in a deep breath and gave him an earnest smile.
?Then let me know if you?re sure about joining our line of work.? Thornton completed his sentence.
MacGyver took a long moment to let not only the last day but also the months since they?d met due to Murdoc pass before his mental eye. This last day hadn?t changed his motivations for signing up for this job. On the contrary. His eyes met Thornton?s and held his gaze. He sighed and shot the older man a lopsided smirk.
?If you?ll allow me some rest and recuperation on a regular basis after assignments like this?? Mac replied slowly, closely watching Thornton?s expectant expression. ?Then I am sure.?
|Posted by: Barry Rowland 14 May 2023 - 11:05 AM|
|Posted by: bluegirl 14 May 2023 - 12:20 PM|
Woohoo! The first one sharing a thought on this forum!
Thank you so much!
|Posted by: Barry Rowland 15 May 2023 - 06:38 AM|
|You're very welcome! I've always enjoyed the stories our members have shared here. There's a ton of creativity out there.|
|Posted by: bluegirl 15 May 2023 - 06:46 AM|
Just curious... Have you read my older stories as well?
|Posted by: Barry Rowland 15 May 2023 - 10:59 AM|
|I have not, but I am going to. I haven't been around much in the last few years.|
|Posted by: bluegirl 15 May 2023 - 01:57 PM|
I?d be very happy to read your thoughts on those as well!
If you want to avoid the encryption bug currently making reading on this site a bit difficult, you might also switch to fanfiction.net or archiveofourown.org - it supports all the formatting like italics as well. My username on those sites is MacsBluegirl (so you?ll find them easier)
I wrote them in the following order:
Breaking Point (be warned - a dark story and topic)
Point of No Return (a sequel to Breaking Point) - there?s a slightly revised/updated version of those two available on fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org
Point of View (new storyline - this one has a 'missing chapter' I only posted on ff.net and AO3)
Starting Point (new storyline)
Please be aware that I am not a native English speaker - and that my writing skills have somewhat evolved over the past years... while working on those stories.
Looking forward to your feedback!
|Posted by: bluegirl 21 May 2023 - 11:05 AM|
| Hey all of you!
Sunday evening - a little later today, I got delayed, sorry.
So, now that we know what MacGyver has gone through during his certification test... we can head back to his first solo assignment. Some of you might have thought, he?d better survive the explosion. Well, I can assure you, since this story was written to describe the beginning of a friendship and not its end - he will survive. But not all too easily.
So, let?s get on with
MacGyver didn?t fall nearly as far as he had feared he might, and his early and sudden impact on rocks and gravel stunned him. He slid down the slope with way less control than he had hoped for, sensed his already bruised and battered body protest wildly against scraping over rough ground, and felt the gravel tear his shirt and scratch his skin.
Nevertheless, he was still aware enough to notice that ? due to the heavy rainfalls in the whole region during the last days ? the river carried high water. Knowing he had no other choice but to pretend having been killed by the explosion, MacGyver allowed his body to drop into the stream anyway. The coldness of the water somewhat revived him, yet also caused him to instinctively hold his breath as he went under. He just barely resisted the urge to swim and let his limp body be carried away by the strong current.
Don?t move! Moreno can still see you! Play dead! Otherwise, they?ll be hot on my tail!
A voice in his head screamed at him to breathe while he strove to estimate how long it might take before he would reach the rapids. Those were out of sight from the camp, meaning he could start swimming from there on without tipping Moreno off that he was still alive? and he definitely would have to start swimming by then if he wanted to keep it that way; if he wanted to make it through the maze of rocks and water without drowning.
MacGyver tried to count the seconds ticking by inwardly but it wasn?t working out all too well while his lungs begged for air and his limbs went numb in the icy water. He, by far, hadn?t reached the number he?d aimed for, and his chest was already aching with oxygen deprivation when he felt a rock brush past his legs and hips.
Mac?s body tensed with immediate alarm about the sensation and he started swimming instantly. He pushed through the surface quickly, gasped for air with relief, and opened his eyes to orient himself. His relief was short-lived though since he saw only white water and rocks around and ahead of himself. He gave his best effort to keep his head above water and stay clear of the boulders, but it didn?t pay off all the time. The cold added to his already weakened condition, as did the water he swallowed, and the several times he crashed into rocks.
Minutes that had seemed endless later, the ravine was getting wider and bending around the mountain ridge, and MacGyver remembered that he had almost made it. Only a little further, then he just had to swim to the river?s bank before he arrived at the small waterfall. He?d rather avoid dropping down that one. But due to his concentration being distracted by his thoughts concerning the waterfall, Mac didn?t notice the fallen tree between the last of the boulders until it was too late. The strong current carried him toward it with no time left to counter.
One of his legs got caught between a strong branch and a rock before he could react and the force of the flood pushed him on and underwater. He hardly avoided crying out with pain as the rough bark tore into his skin and his leg was bent at an awkward angle. MacGyver frantically grabbed on to whatever he could reach of the tree and fought to move against the current while his lungs were again burning with the need for oxygen. He pulled his body back to take some of the strain off his leg, stabilized himself with one hand, and grasped for the branch that forced him in place. He felt for how his leg was wedged in while his vision started to black out at the edges, and desperately pushed and pulled backward to free himself. He broke off some smaller branches in his struggle to survive, and when he could finally yank his leg away from the rock and the tree, the wood of the branch ripped even deeper into it.
With a painful gasp, MacGyver pushed himself off the tree and relied on the current to take him onward since his strength was spent. Barely conscious anymore, he made it to the surface, fought to take a few ragged breaths, but had no energy left to swim for the river?s bank. The rushing water carried MacGyver along as the memory of what lay ahead of him popped up in the back of his mind. The waterfall was a couple of yards high and the pool below it was fairly deep and wide, so there was a good chance he could survive the drop ? but he had to avoid drowning afterward.
Teetering on the brink of passing out, MacGyver sensed adrenaline flowing into his veins as he felt himself being carried over the edge and falling. The icy water below engulfed him only moments later, and Mac was instantly caught within the turbulences underneath the waterfall. Hardly able to fight back, the floods pushed MacGyver downward until he touched the rocky ground of the pool. Already numbed by the cold and dazed by the lack of oxygen, in some part of his mind, he realized he had to act if he wanted to survive but couldn?t anymore. Only a few seconds afterward, the thought that should have alarmed him faded away again, and everything around him went dark and quiet.
Peter Thornton crouched down at the edge of the cliff and pulled his binoculars out of his backpack for what felt like the umpteenth time. He took a moment to catch his breath and then looked down to the river. Foot by foot, he scanned the area of the rapids and slopes he could overlook, while he let his search so far pass through his mind.
He?d made it to the end of the airstrip unnoticed by Moreno and his goons, who?d been very busy saving at least part of their weapons shipment. He?d heard several explosions during his hurried hike and suspected that some of the crates ? probably those filled with ammunition ? had blown due to the fire MacGyver had set off. He hadn?t been able to find a safe way down to the bottom of the ravine though, so Thornton had been forced to look for his rookie from above.
Fortunately, he?d been able to have a good view on the slopes back where MacGyver had presumably been caught by the explosion of the airplane and dropped into the ravine; to the area where Thornton had seen Moreno standing earlier, glaring down to the stream. But other than a few tracks in the gravel, probably caused by someone sliding down the slope, Thornton hadn?t found any trace of MacGyver. No body. Nothing. Meaning, he had to have fallen into the river and been carried away.
So, Thornton had followed the ravine and had checked the river and its banks every few minutes. His hopes had continuously sunken while he had made his way along the rapids, while he?d watched the water rushing through the rocks. By now, he had reached the area where the river was already bending around the end of the mountain ridge, where the ravine was widening, and where the rapids finally ended.
Thornton drew in a deep breath while he searched every yard of the scenery below. He saw a fallen tree partly submerged by the high water, close to the last huge boulders in the river?s bed. Some debris had caught between its branches, but he couldn?t make out any hint of a human body. When he looked further downstream, he spotted the upper edge of a waterfall. Instinctively, he compared his memory of the maps to the area he could oversee from the spot he was kneeling at.
The river?s banks between the end of the rapids and the waterfall were fairly smooth in some places. Thornton suspected MacGyver would have been able to get out of the water at one of them without any problem ? had he still been in the physical condition to do so. He might even have been able to climb out of the ravine since the slopes weren?t all too high and steep around here.
But Thornton couldn?t make out any signs or tracks that suggested he had in fact done so.
Pete Thornton set down his binoculars with a deep sigh. All the odds are against MacGyver, he thought. If the young man had made it through the rapids alive? wouldn?t he have tried to swim ashore to avoid the fall? But since he hadn?t? if he had already gotten killed at this point? how far would his body have been taken downstream?
Thornton stuffed his glasses back into his pack and shouldered it. After another long glance down to the river, he got to his feet. Some grief rose within him as he continued his way. Up until now, all the evidence was pointing toward MacGyver being dead. Due to a distraction, he had created to enable Thornton to get away unseen, alive, and with the camera. The senior agent?s steps grew even heavier with the realization that he was the reason for the rookie?s death. That he was somehow responsible for it. He?d known the kid only for a few months? but he?d miss him. He?d learned not only to value MacGyver for his special kind of abilities but also come to like him for the special person he?d been.
After a couple of minutes though, Thornton scolded himself inwardly for allowing such thoughts and feelings concerning his rookie. He?d been in the business long enough to know that their line of work was, by definition, dangerous. Casualties are sometimes given, he reminded himself and forced his concentration back to the forest he was working his way through. He had to find some path around the waterfall and then back to the cave.
If he couldn?t bring MacGyver back with him alive, he at least had to make sure that all the films and whatever intel other than pictures Mac had gathered were taken to the DXS and put to good use. To at least give this loss some meaning?
Silence? a sensation similar to floating? then the rushing of water close by? and the rustling of soft wind in the trees. A distant bird calling.
Slowly, MacGyver came aware of the sounds surrounding him. Then he noticed his head, shoulders, and most of his upper body resting on something, while his arms and everything below his waist were slightly moved by something else. That bit of movement, and how the inside of his head seemed to be swimming with it, reminded him of the necessity for him to breathe, to supply his system with enough oxygen.
Wheezing, he consciously tried to draw air deep into his lungs, but almost instantly went into a coughing fit. His back arched convulsively, and some water, he?d aspirated, spluttered out of his mouth when he turned his head sideways. It took several moments until he had regained some control over his breath and let his body sag back to the ground.
Next, he noticed the icy cold within his body and couldn?t help but start shivering uncontrollably between labored breaths. Needing to finally find out what had happened to him after the drop down the waterfall, and where he was, MacGyver forced his eyes open. At first, he saw only the blue sky above him. Cautiously, he tilted his head to both sides, gave his eyes some time to focus, and soon recognized the pool right below the waterfall.
I?ve been here during the first few days? to refill my water bottles? before I got captured? Slowly the thoughts surfaced one after another in his woozy mind. Seems I was washed ashore? and didn?t drown? this place isn?t all too far from the cave? where I should be able to meet Thornton again.
The relief his thoughts caused, made him breathe deeper ? but that sent Mac coughing once more. Automatically, he wanted to turn sideways in an attempt to easier get rid of the congestion in his airways, yet froze almost instantly with a hoarse cry. The cold had numbed his body and limbs, but with his movement a sharp pain flashed through his leg, effectively reminding him of how he?d gotten stuck underwater between rock and fallen tree. Reflexively, one of his hands flinched toward his injured leg, while coughs still shook his body.
It took a couple of moments until he?d calmed down again, by then lying on his side, trembling with the cold, and moaning quietly with the agony it all caused. MacGyver squeezed his eyes shut, strove to remain in control of his heavy breathing, and tried to relax his wounded leg to ease the hurting. Slowly, he realized what was moving him was the icy water lapping against his limbs, and that he was still lying more than half in the pool. Only his head and upper body had caught on the gravelly river bank, keeping him from being washed even further downstream while unconscious.
Better get out of this freezing cold water, MacGyver sighed inwardly. At least, I don?t need to worry about dehydration anymore?
Feebly, Mac pulled both arms under himself, pushed himself a little up, and felt his bruised body complain wildly at his attempt. He gritted his teeth to keep them from chattering and to keep another pained cry from escaping when he drew his good leg under himself, and then pushed and pulled himself onto the river?s bank, dragging his injured leg behind. He fought back a wave of vertigo and nausea as he slowly moved upward. He couldn?t remember all too clearly what had happened to him underwater, only that his knee had been sprained and the branches had torn into his skin and flesh.
MacGyver granted himself a break as soon as he had made it completely onto solid ground. He let his body relax, rested his forehead on the gravel, and strove to calm his breath for a few moments. Still trembling with the cold, Mac then propped himself up on one elbow and turned sideways to take a look at this wound.
He drew in a sharp breath at the sight of the torn and bloodied leg of his pants and cautiously pulled the fabric aside. He stabilized himself on one arm while the fingers of his free hand probed around the bleeding gashes above and below his knee. Mac bit back a groan when he noticed something ? probably wooden splinters ? embedded in the wound, but knew he couldn?t do anything about them right now. He had to make it back to the cave first ? where his first aid kit was stashed. All he could do for now was slow the bleeding.
MacGyver sat up a little swaying and gathered some strength before he ripped the sleeves off his shirt. Then he rested his injured one over his good leg, tied the sleeves together, and as tight as he could around his thigh, just above the injuries. His hands were unsteady due to the agony it caused and because the shivers running through his body increased with the pain. Mac lowered his head, held himself upright with both hands once he was done, and suppressed another moan.
A few deep breaths later, despite his dizziness, MacGyver raised his head and oriented himself. Soon, he remembered the direction he had to take to get to his shelter, turned around, and pushed himself onto his good knee. He crawled upward until he had reached the nearest tree, and with its help pulled himself up until he was standing. Cautiously, he tried out if his wounded leg would carry at least some of his weight and managed to limp the few steps toward the next tree.
A brief glance at his watch told him, it was only around midday, and the memory of Thornton telling him about a helicopter scheduled to pick them up tomorrow evening popped up in his mind. So, no need to rush, he mused grimly as he hobbled forward. The cave isn?t all too far from here? a little more than half an hour? under normal circumstances? might take a bit longer in my current situation.
A couple of minutes afterward, however, MacGyver stopped panting heavily. He held on to a tree trunk and took his weight completely off his injured leg with an agonized gasp. The forest seemed to be moving around him as he scanned it with his eyes. He couldn?t deny anymore just how worn out he was.
No harm in taking a break and getting a little rest, he thought. But I?ll need a hiding place? just for the small possibility that Moreno?s men are searching the forest for me.
Mac spotted a dense thicket in front of a row of huge boulders close by, gathered his last ounces of will and strength, and staggered on toward the bushes. He had hardly reached them when his legs finally gave out, and he dropped to his knees with a painful grunt. Not willing to give up, Mac crawled forward slowly on his hands and one knee, dragging his wounded leg along.
As soon as he was hidden between rock and thicket, MacGyver allowed himself to lie down. He rested his forehead on the ground and let his aching body find a somewhat comfortable position. But he was still freezing badly in his cold, wet clothes and each shiver sent a fresh wave of agony through his leg. He tried to breathe deep, tried to fight the dizziness weakening him even further, knowing he couldn?t afford to pass out. Mac knew he had to stay awake, he had to stay alert. But only minutes later, the last of his energy was spent. Everything around him drifted away ? and went silent.
Thornton had had to keep some distance from the river while he?d continued his way, and had been forced to avoid the steep and rocky slopes close to the waterfall. He made his way through the woods and, after a small while, he realized he wasn?t all too far from the cave anymore. He stopped briefly, checked his location with the help of map and satellite pictures, and glanced at his watch for the time. Just a little after midday, he noticed and mused about how to make good use of the remaining hours of daylight.
Thornton drew in a deep breath, considered his options, and then decided to give his search for MacGyver?s body one last shot. He?d circle back to the area below the waterfall where the river?s banks were easily accessible. He had to refill his water canteen anyway. The sound of the rushing water helped the senior agent aim, while he hiked over rough terrain, taking a wide bend around an area with huge boulders and dense thicket, and soon he?d found the pool below the waterfall.
He approached it a bit hesitantly, not really looking forward to finding a human body floating face-down in the water. As he stepped out of the woods, onto the shore surrounding the pool, and spotted nothing but the undisturbed shimmering surface, Thornton couldn?t suppress a small relieved sigh although he knew it also meant he might be forced to call in a search party as soon as he would meet the helicopter tomorrow evening. Making sure MacGyver?s body would be recovered was his last and only chance to repay the young man for what he owed him.
Thornton?s shoulders slumped as he clipped the water bottle off his belt and walked toward the water?s edge. Slowly, he knelt down, opened the bottle, and dipped it underwater. His gaze wandered around while air and water switched places within the canteen. As soon as the bottle was full, Thornton straightened himself, sat back on his heels, and screwed the cap back on.
All of a sudden, he froze as his eyes caught on something a few feet beside him. Some of the gravel of the river bank was slightly disturbed, but what made him hold his breath were reddish-brown stains on said gravel, at a little distance to the water?s edge. Pete Thornton sensed adrenaline electrify him, and instantly got to his feet, while he automatically fastened the bottle back on his belt. Three quick steps took him over to the stains and he crouched down to examine them closer. He cautiously touched the stains with his fingers, noticed they had dried up, and only seconds later was convinced that those stains were, in fact, blood.
With renewed determination, although he couldn?t be sure if it was human blood, Thornton raised his head and scanned his surroundings for more tracks. It took only a moment to spot boot marks in the moist soil next to a tree at the forest?s edge, a couple of yards away. Hastily, Thornton got up and hurried over, and also saw dragging marks leading to and from the tracks. A small glimmer of hope rose within him and refueled his energy reserves. While he searched the ground around himself for further signs, he chided himself inwardly for not being better at reading tracks.
But then he realized something else. If MacGyver was wounded and the source of those blood stains and tracks? he would have tried to return to the cave? to his shelter? on the shortest route possible for him. Thornton straightened himself and turned to the direction that would take him directly to the cave. Step by step he walked off into the forest, keeping his eyes out for the slightest hints on the ground, narrowing them for more concentration.
The tracks got harder to see with every minute he strode on, but the dragging marks got more visible? which worried Thornton. And then, close to the huge rocks Thornton had avoided earlier, they stopped, since there was next to no soil covering the also rocky ground around here. Thornton took a few steps forward, and checked if the trail would continue further onward, but hurried to return when he found nothing.
If MacGyver hasn?t vanished? or built something that enables him to fly? he has to be close by? probably resting? definitely hiding. Now, where would the kid choose to hide?
Thornton gazed around himself slowly, trying to figure out which place Mac might use as shelter. Following a hunch, he then hurried off toward the huge boulders and the thicket growing in front of them. He?d barely reached the thicket when he froze with a mixture of shock and relief at the sight of well-worn hiking boots and the lower end of torn and bloodied cargo pants covering long legs. He took two more cautious steps forward and saw MacGyver?s lanky frame lying between rock and bush, stretched out half on his side, half on his front, motionless.
Thornton drew in a sharp breath, shook off his paralysis, and rushed to Mac?s side.
?Thank God.? he sighed when he crouched down and noticed the young man was unconscious, but still breathing. Then he saw him shivering, saw the wet hair matted to his head, and how pale his face was.
?MacGyver?? he asked low.
Carefully, Thornton reached out and touched MacGyver?s upper arm, close to his shoulder, when he got no reaction. Instantly, he sensed the dampness of his clothes and felt the coldness of his skin where the fabric of his shirt?s sleeves was missing.
?MacGyver?? he tried again, this time a little more determined and a bit louder. He didn?t want to startle the young man. But still? he didn?t stir. Thornton finally gave the arm a gentle squeeze, then softly shook him.
Mac wasn?t sure if he?d heard someone call his name when a tremor sent fresh waves of pain through his body. Slowly, the memories of what he had been through during the last few days crept back into his foggy mind. Suddenly, someone held onto his arm. Addressed him again, but the voice seemed so distant. Then shook him. In an instant, the voice was next to him.
MacGyver needed a second to react, but then ? not knowing who was by his side ? terror rushed through him. He couldn?t afford to get caught again. He flinched back, bolted up and backward, at the same time raising his hands, ready to defend himself, and forced his eyes open. In the next second, his back collided painfully with the boulder he had collapsed close to, and before he?d even recognized him, the man in front of him caught both his forearms with his hands.
?Whoa! Calm down!? the voice called out to him. It sounded familiar now.
?It?s alright, MacGyver! ? It?s just me.?
Mac?s eyes needed a moment to focus and to identify Pete Thornton steadying him.
?Sir?? he croaked unbelievingly, but allowed the tension to leave his arms, and let his body sag back to the ground. His eyes fell closed again and he groaned with the agony the sudden movement had caused to his battered body. Thornton let go of his arms and laid one hand on the young man?s forehead in an attempt to stabilize Mac?s head as serious tremors shook him. His second hand automatically felt for MacGyver?s pulse on his neck and found it racing.
?Yes, it?s me,? he confirmed with a carefully controlled voice. His relief about finding his rookie alive mixed with alarm about his condition and worries about how to keep him alive until the helicopter would pick them up. Or how to even get him to the pick-up location. But his thoughts were cut short when MacGyver?s hand grabbed onto his arm and pulled the hand away from his neck.
?I?m okay.? the young man breathed while his eyes were still closed.
?Okay?? Thornton exclaimed exasperatedly and sucked in a sharp breath. The pained grimace on MacGyver?s face had faded but his labored breathing did nothing to ease up Thornton?s concerns. ?Let me check your eyes, kid.? he urged, intent on continuing his examination of the younger one. ?Come on, look at me!?
MacGyver slowly turned his head toward his boss and obeyed, blinking his eyes open although his headache worsened. He let Thornton test their response to dimness and light but then raised his eyebrows questioningly. Thornton let out a small sigh when both of Mac?s eyes reacted normally.
?You lost some blood? your skin feels cold to the touch? you?re shaking like a leaf? and your heart rate is way too high.? Thornton summed up his worries. ?You seem to be battling a serious shock, MacGyver.?
?No?? Mac slowly, cautiously shook his head. ?My pulse is up because you startled me awake a few moments ago? and I?m freezing because the river?s water I had to swim through is kinda icy.? A feeble and lopsided smile widened on his face with Thornton?s still exasperated expression. ?Haven?t reached the cave yet? couldn?t change into my dry spares so far, sorry.?
Pete Thornton was baffled by MacGyver?s cheeky answer and stared at him silently for a few seconds. Then he regained his composure, straightened himself a little, and pulled back his hand from MacGyver?s forehead.
?Fine? if you say so,? he answered with some doubt in his voice. ?What about your leg? What happened? Did you get injured by the explosion??
MacGyver bit his lower lip as another shiver sent waves of agony through his leg.
?No? that kinda worked out,? he explained between shallow breaths. ?While swimming through the rapids? my leg got caught in the branches of a fallen tree? got pushed underwater? and nearly drowned before I could free myself? couldn?t avoid the drop down the waterfall? the turbulences below pulled me to the bottom of the pond? and I passed out but was washed ashore.?
Talking that much sent him into a coughing fit and made his sore throat and lungs ache anew. MacGyver curled up on his side, wrapped his arms protectively around himself, and quickly sensed Thornton holding on to his shoulder and steadying his head. When he had settled down, MacGyver instinctively felt for his injured leg and couldn?t suppress a moan. Thornton gave him another moment to relax, then gently drew back his hands and concentrated on the wounds.
?Seems you?ve been lucky.? he stated, still doubting Mac?s ?I?m okay?. ?Now let me see your injury.?
When he pulled back the bloodied and sticky fabric, he sensed MacGyver?s body stiffen a little and heard him draw in a sharp breath. MacGyver rolled over to lie half on his back, withdrew the hand from his thigh, and covered his eyes with it. Thornton subconsciously held his breath when he got a first good look at the gashes above and below MacGyver?s knee. But all the concerns flashing through his head were cut off when MacGyver suddenly addressed him.
?Sometimes? I?d rather be lucky than good?? he replied between strained gasps. ?But what about you, Sir? Did my little diversion enable you to get away unseen??
For a few seconds, the senior agent was surprised by the question, yet then realized the young man was trying to keep his mind from focusing on the hands examining his leg. He chose to play along with Mac?s intention.
?You call that a ?little diversion??? he asked perplexed and glanced sideways at Mac?s face. ?You blew up their workshop, the plane, and a good part of their weapons shipment!?
MacGyver half-raised the hand covering his eyes and gazed at Thornton from under it.
?Had to keep them occupied. Didn?t have enough time to come up with something better,? he explained. ?Didn?t have a lot of choices either.? Mac shrugged with an apologetic half-grin. ?Can?t say I?m sorry though??
Thornton stared at him stunned for a couple of seconds before he returned his focus to MacGyver?s leg and cautiously probed along the injuries.
?Yes, your distraction worked just fine for me.? he acknowledged. ?They still shouldn?t have any idea I?m around? and Moreno seemed to believe you?ve been killed. So far, they didn?t even try to go after you.?
?That?s good?? MacGyver said but broke off biting back a pained cry when Thornton?s fingers found the wooden splinters still embedded in his wound.
?Don?t!? he hissed through gritted teeth and raised his head a little when Thornton tried to pull on one of the fragments.
Thornton?s hand froze and he looked sideways at MacGyver?s face again.
?Something?s stuck in there.? the agent declared.
?I know.? Mac shot back.
?We gotta get it out.? Thornton continued. ?Otherwise it will??
?Agreed, but not now.? MacGyver cut him off hastily. ?It?ll only worsen the bleeding while we hike back to the cave. We can take proper care of those wounds once we?ve reached our camp.?
Their eyes locked, and Thornton had to admit, he knew his rookie was right. He set down his backpack and dug out the remains of his first aid kit.
?Fine. But I?m going to cover it,? he said while he pulled out some swabs and a gauze bandage.
MacGyver nodded, puffed out the breath he?d been holding, and relaxed back to the ground as Thornton placed the dressings on his wounds and wrapped the bandage tightly around his leg.
?Alright.? The senior agent nodded with a small sigh when he was done and shouldered his pack again. ?You sure you?ll be able to walk that far??
?Well? seems I don?t have much choice on this, Sir,? Mac replied dryly. ?Help me get up.? He reached out to Thornton with the hand he had shielded his eyes with.
Pete Thornton eyed him full of doubt, yet after a moment of hesitation, he nodded once more. MacGyver was right. It wasn?t as if they had a lot of options. He turned a little, held on to MacGyver?s wrist, and waited until the young man had a secure grip as well. He also supported him behind his shoulders when MacGyver gingerly sat up. Mac then wrapped his arm around Thornton?s shoulders and let the older man haul him to his feet. He stood swaying at first and had to hold on to Thornton until he had steadied himself. Mac shivered, nevertheless wanted to let go of his boss a moment later, but Thornton tightly gripped his belt around his back.
?No way. Hold on.? the senior agent ordered. ?You?re gonna let me help you, kid.?
MacGyver shot him a hesitant sideways glance but nodded.
Thornton drew in a deep breath, raised his head, and directed his gaze to the forest, up to where he suspected the cave to be.
?Alright, you know this mountain better than me,? he said. ?You know which way you should be able to cope with. Where to??
MacGyver straightened himself and turned his head to reorient himself. Then he focused on a direction slightly upward the slope and pointed toward it with his free hand.
|Posted by: bluegirl 28 May 2023 - 08:35 AM|
| Hi again!
Let?s recall - MacGyver has survived - for the moment...
Now they?ve got to take care of his injuries... and are heading toward a first shift in their relationship...
Here we go
It took about one hour until MacGyver and Thornton reached the rock face. Mac had needed a few breaks during their walk and was nevertheless panting heavily when his free hand touched the rock. His gaze went upward to the cave mouth.
Thornton eased up his hold on the young man when he sensed him lean against the rock but didn?t let go completely. It impressed him how his rookie had gotten along so far. Although he was obviously in pain, had some trouble breathing at times, and was still trembling with cold and now also exhaustion, he tried his best to hide the extent of his suffering and to not let it slow him down too much. Although being beat, he was far from giving up. He watched MacGyver as he focused on the way they had to take to the cave.
?How are we going to get you up there?? Thornton asked after a moment. ?Will you be able to climb at all??
MacGyver still strove to slow down his breath but nodded.
?Yeah? I should be,? he answered slowly. His expression turned concentrated and pensive. He seemed to gauge the rock face and cave entrance. ?But I`ll need a little help.?
?What? How?? Thornton frowned at him. ?There?s not enough room for us to climb this side by side.?
?I know,? Mac replied calmly. ?We can?t.?
?Then how do you expect me to help you?? Thornton queried, not understanding what the young man was thinking of.
?I?ve got an idea.? MacGyver looked sideways at his boss.
Thornton?s eyes found MacGyver?s and he measured the condition of the pale and shivering man for a moment.
?I guess, I should have known you?d say that.? he huffed then. ?So, what?s your plan??
?I need you to climb to the cave first.? Mac started to explain while his gaze returned to the rock face. ?I can make it over the lower part, but the footholds on the upper part of the wall are too far from each other. I need you to pull me up over where my injured leg won?t support me.?
Thornton followed his gaze, tried to imagine it, but came up with it being impossible.
?How do you expect me to reach down to you?? he asked exasperatedly. ?That?s too far! We don?t have any rope at hand.?
?We don?t.? MacGyver stayed calm. ?That shoulder holster of yours? is it made out of leather??
?My what?? Thornton?s head snapped back to MacGyver with surprise. How the heck does he know? Due to the cold weather, I?ve kept my padded coat closed. At least while we?ve been together? there?s no way he could have seen it? Has he felt it while holding on to me? ? But he?s been on my right side? how??
His thoughts were cut off when MacGyver glanced sideways at him with a little grin.
?I?ve been trained to notice concealed weapons during the past months, remember?? Mac said with an apologetic half-shrug. ?So? is it??
Thornton drew in a deep breath. Right, he thought. The training. It?s been only a few weeks since the kid has passed his certification.
?Yes, it is.? he then nodded. ?Why??
?Well, most shoulder holsters are kinda like a large figure eight,? Mac explained. ?So is the one you?re usually wearing. Leather should be sturdy enough to carry my weight? and it?ll give you two or three more feet when reaching down ? where I should be able to grab it.?
Thornton?s frown eased up as he finally understood what MacGyver wanted him to do.
?Alright.? he agreed, let go of his rookie, and turned to the rock face. ?Let?s try it.?
The senior agent climbed up to the cave entrance with a bit of an effort, and he quickly shrugged off his backpack and jacket once he?d made it over the edge. He dropped both at a safe distance to said edge, pulled his revolver from the holster, and laid it on top. Then he took off the shoulder holster and quickly turned back to the edge. He looked downward, saw that MacGyver had already started his way up, and hurried to crouch down with the holster in one hand. He knelt close to the edge, bowed down, and braced himself with his free hand. He watched the younger man climb for another moment, and then reached down to him, holding the holster securely on one loop while the other one dangled down.
MacGyver had just finished a step upward when he looked up and spotted the leathery strap just out of his reach. He drew in a deep breath, shifted his weight to his good leg, bent it a little, and then pushed himself up abruptly. He grabbed the holster with a strained grunt and quickly found a hold for his second hand. Mac pulled himself up, rested his good leg on a higher foothold, and focused on Thornton.
Their eyes locked. MacGyver tightened his grip on the leather and mentally steeled himself for what awaited him during the last part of his climb. This isn?t going to be easy? compared with the walk in the park I?ve had so far, he thought sarcastically. Then he nodded.
He felt his boss pull almost instantly, gritted his teeth against the agony his bruises caused, and fought his way up over the rocks. MacGyver?s memories of the rest of his way up were blurry, but just before he?d reached the edge, Thornton had first gripped his wrists, then his upper arms, and helped him. He supported Mac a few feet into the cave until MacGyver dropped to one knee exhaustedly. Coughing and panting heavily, Mac lay down and rolled onto his back.
Thornton?s hands left him as Mac?s eyes fell shut, and he bit his lower lip as he pushed back the pain radiating through his whole body. Shivers shook him uncontrollably while he strove to calm his breath and fought for staying conscious. He gathered the last of his strength but was so concentrated on his insides that he flinched involuntarily when Thornton laid a hand on his shoulder a few moments later.
?It?s okay? just me,? Thornton said quietly as Mac?s eyes snapped open alarmed.
MacGyver urged himself to relax as soon as his gaze had focused on his boss.
?Sorry, Sir.? he breathed. ?I know? I was just??
?Shh.? Thornton cut him off. ?Take a few minutes to rest.? he continued and draped his coat over MacGyver?s trembling body. ?I?ll get some spare clothes from your pack? and whatever we can use to take care of your leg.?
?Got a first aid kit in my backpack as well.? MacGyver agreed. ?But I can come with you.?
He wanted to push himself up, but the senior agent held him down.
?No. You need to recover.? Thornton ordered. ?And we?ll better use the natural light available close to the cave entrance while cleaning up your injuries. We?ll move to the back once we?re done.?
MacGyver nodded silently. He had shoved the need to clean and properly bandage his wounds to the back of his mind while they?d been hiking to the cave. While he was, of course, aware of the need to do so, he wasn?t looking forward to it, knowing very well how painful it would be for him. His eyes followed his boss briefly as he got up and left.
Then MacGyver let his eyelids fall closed again with a long quiet sigh and concentrated back on internally assessing his current condition. The hike had helped boost his weakened circulation, but he hadn?t warmed up sufficiently yet to stop freezing. He?d just recovered enough to get rid of the numbness he?d experienced after crawling out of the water. By now, his body was hurting with every bruise and scratch he?d sustained during his captivity and escape. Fighting his exhaustion, he drew in one deep breath after another, striving to slow down his racing heartbeat.
He?d just managed to push back the pain a little when, a couple of minutes later, he heard Pete Thornton return. Thornton dropped all the stuff he?d fetched close to his backpack and watched the young man for a moment before he addressed him.
?MacGyver?? he asked. ?You still with me??
Mac?s eyes drifted half open and he nodded with a small, tired smile.
?Right here, Sir,? he answered low.
Thornton crouched down next to him and checked Mac?s pulse on his neck while he observed him concerned for a few seconds. He was, once again, impressed by how the young rookie was mostly in control of the display of his emotions. Although MacGyver had to be hurting, there was barely any hint of it visible on his pale face.
?Sit up, kid,? Thornton ordered and moved his hand to Mac?s shoulder. He supported the young man when he obeyed a moment later and pushed himself up with a quiet moan. Thornton stayed with him until MacGyver had steadied and only then pulled back his hand.
?Now take off those shirts.? the senior agent suggested. ?Although your clothes have dried up in the meantime, I suppose you?d be more comfortable with fresh ones.?
Mac nodded quietly and handed Thornton his coat back before he started to unbutton his shirt. Thornton used the time to slip into his shoulder holster, put his revolver back into place, and pulled on his jacket. He grabbed MacGyver?s fresh t-shirt and shirt and turned back to him only to freeze at the sight of the young man gingerly shrugging out of the old one.
Thornton drew in a sharp breath when he got a first good look at the bruises on Mac?s upper body. Dark blue blemishes covered part of his ribcage, a clearly visible shoe imprint spread over his spine and one shoulder blade, as well as several scratches that crossed his back, only to name a few. MacGyver reached out to him for the fresh clothes, but Thornton didn?t hand them over at once. He swallowed dryly.
?MacGyver, are you really sure there are no broken bones below those bruises?? he asked worried.
?Quite,? Mac assured with a lopsided smile. ?Guess, I would have noticed during the rough ride I had in the river.?
Thornton sighed, handed the shirts over, and reached for the first aid kits.
?I?m gonna have a look at your back anyway.? he declared.
MacGyver grabbed the clothes tightly and ceased any movement as his boss moved behind him. His body stiffened involuntarily, partly because of the cool air hitting his unprotected skin, partly because of his anticipation of what Thornton was about to do. Not that he didn?t trust the older man to be careful ? but he knew it would hurt. He couldn?t suppress shivering with the cold as Thornton?s fingers probed along his sore back. When Thornton ran swabs he?d soaked with antiseptic fluid over the scratches to clean them, the burning sensation caused Mac to flinch a few times and bite his lower lip. But after only a small while the older man was done.
?Alright.? the senior agent said low as he backed away a little. ?Now pull on those shirts and then we?ll deal with your leg.?
MacGyver slipped into the t-shirt, then buttoned up the flannel shirt over it, and turned a little, so he could sit leaning against the cave wall. He bowed forward and picked at the bandage around his leg with his long fingers. As soon as he had removed it, he pulled the fabric of his khaki pants away from the wounds and spread the tears a bit to allow him better access. Then he also removed his makeshift tourniquet that had slowed the blood flow.
?Hand me that water canteen of yours, please,? he asked hoarsely after he?d taken a closer look at the gashes.
Thornton looked up at him from rummaging through all the first aid material they had left, caught a glimpse of Mac?s torn leg, and then followed his request.
?Looks worse than it is.? MacGyver tried to calm his boss?s concerns while he moistened the remains of his shirt and used it to wash the dried blood off his leg.
Thornton moved closer once he was done and scanned the damage with his eyes.
?It?ll start bleeding again as soon as we get those splinters out.? the older man stated. Then his eyes sought out MacGyver?s. ?I?ll steady your leg while you pull them out?? he suggested when their gaze locked.
MacGyver sucked in a deep breath and nodded silently before concentrating back on his injuries. He waited until his boss had a secure grip on his lower leg and then reached out with both hands. One hand stabilized the skin around his wound while the other one searched for the wooden leftovers of the underwater battle for his life. He gritted his teeth and held his breath as soon as he started to tug on the first with his long fingers.
His sight blurred with the intensifying agony and he couldn?t suppress a pained gasp once he gave it a quick and harsh pull to remove it. MacGyver dropped the splinter aside and, after a brief pause, dealt with the remaining ones in the same way. He was breathing heavily and felt a bout of nausea wash through him when he reached out for the antiseptic fluid.
Before he had the chance to stop himself or reconsider, he opened the bottle and poured the fluid over the wounds. The fiery burning that spread almost instantly through his leg made him moan and filled his eyes with tears. Mac closed them when dizziness also rose within him, and suddenly felt Thornton grab on firmly to his shoulder and take the bottle of antiseptic from him. MacGyver hadn?t noticed he?d been swaying before Thornton slowly, but resolutely pushed him back until he was leaning against the cave wall. Mac blinked his eyes open, allowed them a couple of seconds to focus, and found Thornton?s concerned expression.
?You?d better lie down again.? the older man advised sympathetically, now holding on to both of Mac?s shoulders. ?Cause you?re not gonna enjoy what I gotta do next.?
?I?m okay? I can take care?? MacGyver feebly argued but broke off when Thornton?s frown grew serious.
?MacGyver? lie down.? His boss said in a tone that left no room for further discussion. ?I know you could? but I don?t want you to keel over.?
MacGyver sighed, but then obeyed and shifted his position until he was lying half on his side, and half on his back. He fixed his eyes on the rocky cave ceiling as he sensed Thornton move closer to his knee.
?I?ll try to be quick.? He heard Thornton say and before he could reply, his boss grabbed on to his lower leg tightly with one hand. In the next second, the agony that had just subsided a little returned to his leg as Thornton cleaned the gashes with moist gauze swabs. Some of the liquid seeped back into the wounds, only worsening his suffering and causing Mac?s body to stiffen. MacGyver fought for staying silent through the pain, while Thornton wiped away whatever the fluid had rinsed out of the wounds, and also fought for staying aware and conscious.
But his senses blurred and he only realized how close he?d been to passing out when he felt Thornton?s firm hand squeezing his shoulder some time later. He couldn?t recall much of the last minutes when he blinked his eyes open, panting heavily and trembling with the strain.
?I?m sorry.? Thornton?s face creased with concern while he waited for MacGyver?s gaze to steady on him. ?But I had to??
MacGyver cut him off with a small wave of his hand and a feeble smile.
?It?s okay.? he breathed and noticed that his leg was already bandaged. ?Thanks, Sir.?
?I?ll take my pack and the remains of all this?? Thornton said with a small gesture toward Mac?s knee. ?To the back of the cave and prepare everything? so you can rest back there.?
Mac only nodded silently, still occupied with calming his breath, and let his eyes fall closed. Thornton quickly gathered whatever was left of their first aid kits, got up, picked up his pack, and strode off.
He dropped his stuff with a deep sigh once he?d reached their camp at the back of the cave. As impressed as he?d been about how the young man had concealed his state of pain and weakness and had pushed on nonetheless? as worried Thornton was now about MacGyver. Taking care of his wounds had given Thornton a glance at how bad Mac?s condition truly was? under his carefully kept-up calm fa?ade.
Thornton kneeled down, turned on the small camping light, and assessed the cave floor. He spread the kid?s roll mat out on the most even and comfortable surface he could find, reached for his own sleeping bag, wrapped it around MacGyver?s, and spread them out together as one on the mat. Then he got up and hurried back to the young man ? only to find him on his feet, balancing against the cave wall and limping toward the back of the cave. Thornton stopped baffled, but then a surge of anger flared up within him.
?What the heck are you doing, kid?? he snapped at MacGyver as he quickly took the last strides to his side and grabbed onto his arm and belt to steady him. MacGyver winced at the sharp tone of his superior.
?Coming after you?? he offered a bit discouraged. ?You said, you?d prepare everything, so I thought??
?Did it occur to you that I might be coming back to help you?? Thornton cut him off pointedly. ?That you ought to be careful and take it easy??
?Yes, Sir.? MacGyver nodded and opened his mouth to continue, but Thornton gave him no time to.
?Good thing we at least agree on that,? he replied harshly and wrapped MacGyver?s arm around his shoulders. ?Now hold on.? He cautiously led Mac to the camp and helped him settle on the readily opened sleeping bags.
?Thirsty?? Thornton offered his water bottle as soon as MacGyver had adjusted his worn-out frame to a somewhat comfortable position but was still sitting.
MacGyver accepted the canteen with a grateful nod and took several large gulps while Thornton searched Mac?s backpack. MacGyver understood without a word when the older man turned back to him with fresh, dry socks in his hands. He set the bottle aside and started taking off his clammy boots and socks. Those hadn?t dried up yet. Thornton aided him whenever his wounded leg wouldn?t cooperate.
Slipping into dry socks improved MacGyver?s comfort a lot. Nevertheless, he was still breathing heavily and shivering when he finally slid his long legs into the sleeping bags and lay down half on his side. Thornton was quick to wrap him up and closed one zipper after another before he sat back on his heels and observed MacGyver for a long moment. His sudden anger had deflated already.
?Now get some rest, kid,? he said softly. ?You hungry as well? I suppose you gotta be? after such a long time without getting anything.?
MacGyver?s half-closed eyes wandered up to his boss.
?Not really,? he answered slowly. ?Mainly cold? and exhausted.? When Thornton remained silent, Mac continued. ?I just wanna get warm? but I guess, eating something, getting some energy into me, will help.?
?Alright.? Thornton nodded. ?I?ll see what I can do with our supplies? and start a fire for you.?
?You can?t, Sir.? MacGyver?s reply came low, but fast. ?No fire? not back here.?
?But you need the warmth.? Thornton countered immediately.
?Not enough air circulation? the smoke would suffocate us.? Mac reasoned shakily. ?And if you start one out front? they might see it. Moreno sent out patrols sometimes.?
Thornton watched his rookie baffled and silent since he was out of arguments.
?I?ll just have to warm up by myself,? Mac added with a feeble smile and a weak shrug.
?Fine? at least we?ve got a camping cooker,? Thornton answered after a few seconds. ?You do allow me to use that one, do you??
The feeble smile on MacGyver?s face grew a little wider as he nodded silently. Thornton noticed that he stopped explaining and arguing since he was only half-awake anymore. Mac?s exhaustion slowly took over, now that he felt somewhat safe, now that his adrenaline level took a nosedive. Thornton observed MacGyver?s eyes fall closed and waited another few moments, assuring himself that the young man was asleep before he moved over to their backpacks and searched through them.
A little more than half an hour later, Pete Thornton had managed to forge a hot soup out of some of their resources. He had grown hungry himself while preparing the food, which wasn?t all too surprising given that he?d been on the move since before sunrise. After all, it was mid-afternoon by now. He smelled probingly on the steaming liquid in the small pot and then nodded satisfied to himself. He?d offer it to MacGyver first, see how much the young man was willing to eat, and probably prepare something else for himself ? in case it wasn?t enough for both of them.
Thornton turned off the gas stove and turned to MacGyver. It was hard to tell in the little light the camping lamp provided, but Mac?s face looked concerningly pale under his sun-tanned skin. His breathing had calmed down once he?d dozed off, but he was still shivering, despite the two sleeping bags.
?MacGyver?? Thornton addressed him low but got no reaction. He laid a hand on the young man?s shoulder, squeezed softly, and tried again. ?MacGyver??
Mac?s body tensed up instantly. His head turned a little, he blinked his eyes open and found his boss next to him.
?What?? he asked hoarsely. ?Something wrong??
?No.? Thornton shook his head. ?Sorry to wake you? but I made some soup. It?ll help you get warm.?
?Oh? that?s great.? Mac nodded, still a bit dazed. ?Thanks.?
Thornton opened the zippers of both sleeping bags just enough to enable MacGyver to sit up and then turned back to the pot. He retrieved a cup and poured some of the soup into it. When he faced MacGyver again, the young man had already pushed himself up. Mac took the cup with shaking hands, smelled probingly at its content, and then took a sip. He sighed with relief when he sensed the warm liquid running down his throat to his stomach. A few minutes later, he?d emptied the cup.
?Some more?? Thornton asked as Mac handed the cup back to him.
MacGyver concentrated on his inside for a couple of seconds, but then tiredly shook his head. He didn?t trust his stomach yet to handle more of it.
?Later,? he replied. ?Not too much at once. Don?t wanna get sick on top of it all.?
?Alright.? Thornton watched him lay down again with concern. ?I?ll keep it for you.?
He made sure both sleeping bags around Mac were tightly closed and sat back next to their backpacks afterward. He sealed the pot with a lid and reached for the rest of their supplies. Thornton pulled out some bread and jerky and chewed on it while he kept an eye on MacGyver from the distance. He had noticed how cold the young man?s skin had still felt when their hands had met while handing him the cup. Mac had now curled up on his side and had trouble falling asleep again since he was trembling so violently at times. Thornton?s worries grew with every minute he sat there, eating? and observing.
There had to be a way to help his rookie warm up? without a fire. The kid had to rest and recover ? otherwise, they?d never make it to their helicopter pick-up in time.
Thornton took some time to straighten up their camp and get some order into their stuff once he was done with his meal, so he wouldn?t spend so much time searching anymore. He came across the mobile radio set and instantly thought about calling in, so help would arrive earlier, but as quickly remembered that the thing wasn?t working. Pete Thornton sighed. If MacGyver hadn?t been able to repair it, he wouldn?t be able to do it by himself either. They were on their own? until tomorrow evening.
The memory of something he?d learned during his survival training in the military popped up in Thornton?s mind and he turned back to watch MacGyver again.
Only half asleep and still shaking like a leaf. Breathing labored again. The young man?s jaw is set to keep his teeth from chattering.
It would place us both into what might be a truly awkward situation? but maybe I?ve got to?
Once again, Thornton?s desire to keep up a professional distance to the rookie fought with how almost fatherly protective he felt toward him deep inside. The senior agent drew in a deep breath and then softly shook his head to clear it from the doubts swirling around. He got to his feet and went to the front of the cave to check the intruder alarm. Satisfied to find it readily prepared, Thornton stood at the cave entrance for a couple of moments and looked into the sky. Clouds had gathered since they had arrived. The bad weather predicted for tonight seemed to come in faster than forecasts had anticipated. Doesn?t matter, Thornton thought. We already do have a safe and dry place to stay.
He returned to MacGyver and kneeled down close to him. Once again today, it wasn?t as if he had a lot of choices. Pete knew only this one way to provide MacGyver with the warmth he so direly needed ? keeping his distance wasn?t on priority right now. Thornton opened up his padded coat, pulled the revolver from the holster, and placed it safely under his backpack. Cautious not to startle the young man, he laid a hand on his forehead and addressed him simultaneously.
MacGyver?s skin felt cold to the touch and Pete sensed him tremble. His reaction took a second. He half-opened his eyes and lifted his gaze to his boss a bit disoriented.
?What?? he asked dazed.
Thornton moved his hands to the zippers and started to open them up.
?What are you up to?? Mac frowned at him.
?Sit up, kid.? Thornton slid the zippers down to Mac?s waist.
?But? why?? MacGyver lifted his head a little, still only half-awake, and instantly felt Thornton?s arm weave around his shoulders and help him up.
?We need to get you warm,? Thornton replied flatly and lifted the sleeping bags as soon as Mac was sitting, albeit unsteadily. He sat down right behind MacGyver, wrapped his arm around Mac?s upper body, and pulled him back against himself. The young man stiffened as soon as he sensed his boss?s rotund belly against his back. He was wide awake at once.
?What are you doing?? he asked hoarsely, with a mixture of confusion and surprise.
?You are still suffering badly from hypothermia.? The senior agent explained the obvious while he used his free arm to adjust his jacket and the sleeping bags tightly around them. ?I can?t think of another way to help you. Now relax, lean back, and consider me your oversized hot water bag.?
MacGyver hesitated. Logically, he knew that, given their current situation, his best chance of returning his temperature to normal fast was sharing body warmth. But the man sitting behind him and holding him real close was his superior? he respected the older man way too much? that was why he hadn?t even considered asking for this earlier.
Then another round of shivers shook him, and Thornton moved his arm around his chest. He grabbed on to Mac?s upper arm and wanted to tighten his hold.
?Lean back, kid,? he ordered softly when he still felt some resistance from MacGyver.
Mac took a deep breath and strove to control the tremors running through his body. It wasn?t that he didn?t appreciate the warmth offered to him. It wasn?t that he hadn?t noticed how Thornton?s tone when talking to him had changed since the morning. But he still felt like he?d failed to meet the expectations the older man had set in him? as if he?d disappointed him.
?But, Sir?? he tried to argue. ?I can?t just??
?Shh.? Thornton cut him off. ?Save it. Now, would you please relax and take what warmth you need??
MacGyver was stunned silent by how much Thornton?s voice behind his head had sounded like a father getting slightly impatient. He held his breath for a moment and then decided to give in. His boss was offering this? so it had to be okay. Mac let go of his tension as best as he could and let his head drop back against the front of Thornton?s shoulder. His eyes fell closed as his tiredness got the better of him. He concentrated on slowing down his labored breathing while Thornton readjusted their covers so that no cool air could seep in.
?You comfortable?? Thornton asked low after a minute, after he?d gotten a secure hold on the young man. He sensed MacGyver's cold frame shivering against him now.
?Yeah.? Mac nodded feebly without raising his head or opening his eyes. ?Thanks, Sir.?
Thornton drew in a deep breath and let it out in a long, quiet sigh.
?MacGyver?? he said slowly and softly. ?Don?t you think, it?s time you finally dropped the ?Sir?? The name?s Pete.?
Instantly, some tension returned to Mac?s body but he didn?t move. His eyes snapped open with those words.
?We?re partners, kid.? Thornton stopped his objection before Mac had time to even voice it. ?I owe you my life? more than once? and you?ve more than earned my respect by now. So stop seeing me as just your superior, will you??
The thoughts in MacGyver?s exhausted and dazed mind ran wild abruptly. I did what? ? Well, yeah, I saved you back in the desert, but? I let you down on this assignment?I still feel like I?m not worthy of your respect? I?ve still got so much to learn? first and foremost from you? But his insecurity faded when Thornton shifted his position and pulled him even closer as another shudder ran through him.
?I might try, Sir,? Mac replied low between raspy breaths and relaxed against the older man. Then a tired, but mischievous smile widened on his face. He glanced up at the senior agent and closed his eyes afterward. ?If you?d drop the ?kid??? he added.
Thornton couldn?t suppress a short chuckle at the young man?s cheeky answer.
?It?s a deal? Mac.? Thornton remembered that MacGyver had offered him to use the short form of his name already a few weeks ago. He sensed the young one sink against him just a little heavier. ?Now try to rest.?
MacGyver just nodded feebly.