Donald wakes up to a splitting headache and the sound of someone whimpering.
"Chase," he says, taking note of his son before his location. "Chase, hey, what's wrong?" They're in what looks like some sort of cave, renovated to include doors and computers and heavy-looking iron bars. Chase sits propped up against an outcropping of rock, his left leg splayed out at an awkward angle.
"You're awake," Chase mumbles, face clammy and splotchy. Intermittently he pants and whimpers, carefully trying to avoid looking at his leg. "You were out… I didn't know what to do. I don't know what to do."
"Shh, it's okay," Donald says even though he's confused and afraid and, by the looks of the big lock on the door, trapped. "It's okay, Chase, I'm up now." He crawls across the cave floor to Chase and pulls himself into a sitting position facing his son. "What the heck happened?"
Chase sucks in a shaky breath and lets it out. "They knocked us out," he says. "I don't know who they are. I don't… I don't know anything."
"It's okay," Donald says again, turning his attention to Chase's leg.
Mentally, he wades through memories until he manages to dredge up the events prior to waking up in a dark cave cell. The new Jeep, the desert… they'd been driving. The black SUV had appeared suddenly behind them as if out of nowhere. He vaguely remembers feeling the blow to the back of his head, then nothing.
"Chase, can you take a deep breath for me?" Chase nods, but it takes him two tries to actually manage a decent breath given the panic coursing through him. Donald thinks back to the time Adam broke his arm, the tears and the terrorized screams. But Chase isn't a crier.
"Is it broken?" Chase says quietly, obstinately not looking down.
Donald brushes his fingers across Chase's leg, pulling back when he sees Chase wince. "I think so," he says. "It's hard to tell, but… it looks like you might have cracked your tibia."
"Which, um," Chase says, gasping in another deep breath, "which one is that?"
Donald blinks; Chase knows human anatomy like the back of his hand. He could name all the bones in the back of his hand. But shock does things to a person. "This right here, the front one," he says, pointing without touching. "I'm gonna figure this out, just stay still. Maybe I can find something-"
But the cell door swings open and three men step in holding fancy-looking guns. Chase stiffens up and Donald reaches out to put a hand on his shoulder, a tiny attempt to comfort him. "Davenport," one of the men says, his voice near emotionless. "You come with us." He has an accent, something faintly European that Donald can't place.
"I'm not going anywhere without my son." It's not even something he needs to think about.
The man shrugs and gestures to the two at his sides, and they come forward to scoop Chase up by his arms. He shouts as they jerk his broken leg around and wriggles against their grip. "Careful," Donald rasps, eyes on Chase. The first man comes behind Donald and grabs him tightly by the arm, gun pointed to the small of his back.
"I have a lot of money," Donald rambles as the three men take them down through the winding labyrinth of pathways toward their unknown destination. "I can pay you whatever you want. I'll cooperate."
"Don't want your money," the man says with a harsh laugh. "Want your skills." Donald must look confused because the man keeps talking. "You are skilled inventor. Even put GPS in your boy's neck. You know technology." GPS. They think it's a GPS chip. "We need missiles. Bombs."
Oh. So they want him to build weapons for them. And bizarre as it is, he's relieved that at least their captors don't know about the bionics.
Donald remains silent the rest of the walk, cringing every time he hears Chase make a noise; the men aren't being careful with him. Finally, they reach a bleak but well-furbished lab. Tools and equipment litter the counters, a smorgasbord of destructive material.
Donald swallows. "Can I please get some bandages and material for a splint?" he asks the men. "Also painkillers." They say nothing. "Please. I won't help at all until I have these things." The first man stares him down for a long moment, but then he nods to the other two. They vanish and come back minutes later with everything he asked for.
"Heat seeking projectiles," the first man orders. "To start. We expect a prototype in two hours." They leave.
Donald takes a second, just a second to collect his thoughts, and then he grabs the medical supplies and props Chase up against a wall. "Deep breaths," he reminds his son. "Just… try not to worry, okay? I've got this."
Chase nods, looking a little dazed. Donald unscrews the bottle of painkillers and hands three pills to Chase. "No water," he says apologetically.
"It's fine," Chase says, voice rough. He throws back the pills and swallows forcibly. "Who are these people?"
Donald ducks his head and starts wrapping Chase's injured leg. "I don't know," he says. "Low level terrorists, I guess."
Chase coughs. "Low level?"
Donald shrugs, strapping in Chase's leg as well as he can to keep it straight. "Lot of bad people in this world, Chase," he says, readjusting Chase's position against the wall. "Okay, just, stay still. Don't try to bend your leg. Your bionics should help you heal a little faster than-"
Donald stares at him. "What?"
"Those men," Chase says, looking terrified and miserable. "They took it. They took my chip." He bends his head forward to show Donald the back of his neck, where there's an ugly-looking gap, dried blood around the edges. "It hurt," Chase says in a small voice.
Donald lets out a huff of air and tugs Chase toward him, tucking Chase's head into his chest. "I know," he says, kissing the top of Chase's head. His son hasn't let him hold him like this in years, he usually squirms away or insists he's too grown-up and doesn't need any cuddling. "I know it must've hurt," Donald says, rocking him slightly. "Just… just sit tight, okay? You're gonna be fine, Chasey."
Chase stiffens. "I'm not a child."
Donald pulls away and gives him an odd look. "I know that."
"Just… just I can't think," Chase says, his tone laced with panic. "I'm scared and I'm hurt and I want to help, I'm trying to help, but I can't… think. Everything's too quiet and too dark and I don't know anything. I should know things."
Chase's relationship with his bionics has always been a little different than Adam's and Bree's. The way the infrastructure interweaves with his conscious mind differs, and it makes Donald's hands start to shake when he thinks about these strangers ruthlessly ripping out the chip in Chase's neck.
"It's okay," Donald says, backing away but leaving one hand light on Chase's shoulder. "I don't need you to know things right now, alright? I just need you to be alright. Just sit and get your strength back."
He steps away from Chase and toward the counter. There's a clock in the room, but he hasn't been watching it. He doesn't know how much time he has left. Nevertheless, he cracks his knuckles and gets to work.
First, he collects everything he thinks he'll need into a pile- the sensors, the shell casing, the nav system, the propulsor jets. He can feel Chase's eyes on him. It isn't until Donald slides one of the sensors into the computer and starts programming it that his son speaks up.
"What are you doing?"
Donald's hands still. "I'm building a heat seeking missile."
Chase moves like he's going to stand up but then he winces in pain. Still, he looks desperate and urgent. "No! You can't, you can't do that. Mr. Davenport, you said they were bad people." He can't even talk the way he wants, and the struggle is evident on his face. The right words won't come to him. "Ugh, I can't think. I can't think. Mr. Davenport, don't make weapons for them. They'll hurt people."
Donald rubs a hand down his face. "Refusing to help them," he says slowly, "would be worth my life. It wouldn't be worth yours."
Chase struggles again. "No, Mr. Davenport-"
Donald works in silence, fingers flying as he clicks machinery into place. Absurdly, he misses the familiar chaos of his own lab, Leo breathing too loudly beside him, Adam and Chase squabbling in another room, Bree's stereo blaring.
"They'll kill people," Chase says.
"Maybe," Donald says. "If we can get out of here, we can contact the police and the FBI and stop them. But we need to live to do that."
"I can't," Chase says, pulling himself up to a kneeling position. "I can't live with myself. If we help these men, I can't go back and face Adam and Bree and Leo. Mr. Davenport, we're supposed to be heroes." He squints his eyes shut and breathes through his teeth, looking like he's in pain. "God, I'm so stupid. I can't think."
"You're not stupid," Donald says, stepping away from the counter to crouch down in front of Chase. "Hey. Hey. You're not stupid."
"My head is just empty," Chase says, eyes glassy. "There's nothing there. It's so… lonely."
Donald lets out a breathy laugh. "Now you know how the rest of us feel," he jokes, ruffling Chase's hair. He gives Chase a long look. "Okay. Okay. We're not going to help them."
"Nope," Donald promises, his mind whirring. He can do something. He can figure a way out of here. "Alright, Chase, I need you to do something for me," he says over his shoulder as he turns and starts gathering a different set of supplies from the counter. "Can you tell me the story of Daedalus and Icarus?"
Chase shakes his head. "I don't know it," he says, sounding sad and scared and pitiful. "I don't know anything."
"No, you know this story," Donald pushes, not looking at Chase. "Remember? I used to read that book of Greek myths to you and Bree and Adam. Bree loved the story about Arachne. You remember? And I told you about Daedalus and Icarus."
"I can't," Chase says obstinately. "I told you. They took my chip. I don't know anything."
"What's Adam's middle name?"
"Charles," Chase answers immediately.
"What's Leo's favorite candy bar?"
Donald smirks at him. "See, you know things," he says. "Now tell me the story."
Chase settles against the wall and racks his brains. "Daedalus was an architect," he says, fumbling his way through the fable. "And he and his son were trapped on an island. Daedalus built them some wings so they could get away, and… and he told Icarus not to fly too close to the sun or the wax would melt." He stops to take a deep breath. Donald grabs a propulsor jet and wires it into the nav system in front of him. "But Icarus didn't listen. And he went too close to the sun, and the wings broke and he fell and drowned."
Donald nods. "See, I knew you knew it," he says. "You just forgot one part."
Chase's face crumples like a discouraged napkin. "I told you," he says. "I'm not smart enough. I'm not good enough to-"
"It's okay, it's okay," Donald says quickly. "No, you just forgot that Icarus didn't only have to worry about flying too close to the sun. He also wasn't supposed to fly too low."
Chase blinks. "Oh, yeah."
"Yeah," Donald says. "It's like Goldilocks. Not too high. Not too low. Icarus isn't supposed to let his ego get away from him, but he's also not supposed to fall too close to the sea." Donald turns back and finishes up with the contraption on the counter. He holds it up so Chase can see.
"Your wings, Icarus," Donald says, setting the jet pack down beside his own. "Get ready."
There's a vent in the cave lab that opens directly up into the hallway above them. Donald manages to get the grate removed, and then the challenge is lifting Chase up through the hole. "Owowow," Chase mumbles, worming his way up.
"Take it easy," Donald says, remembering teaching him how to climb the rock wall when he was just a little boy. "I've got you. I'm not gonna let you fall."
He pushes Chase up and through, then the jet packs, and then he grabs his son's hand and hauls himself upward.
Chase leans on Donald as they hobble down the hall toward the sunlight and scent of open air. They both have packs strapped to their backs, and as they walk Donald explains in a loud whisper how to work the controls.
"I'm gonna forget," Chase says, scared. "I'm gonna get confused."
"It's just like a video game," Donald promises, showing him the arrows and buttons. "You just fly it like you would in a video game."
They reach the edge of a cliff and there it is, the expanse of California desert they left behind. It was supposed to be simple, a relatively short test drive for Donald's new car. Chase wasn't even supposed to be there, but Donald promised he'd stop by the bookstore on the way home. Too many shouldn't haves, too many could've happeneds. Donald will be happy to put this creepy craggy clifftop hideout behind him.
"Alright, so you just hit the power and then jump," he tells Chase, holding him up by the shoulders. "It will carry you, I promise. Your leg can't support any weight and you can't bend it, so don't try to land until I catch up with you."
Chase pales. "You're not coming with?"
"I'll be right behind you," he says. "You first."
Chase teeters on the edge of the cliff, looking down at the dirt and rocks hundreds of feet below. "I'm-"
"I know," Donald says, patting him on the back. "I know you're scared. And I know you think that you can't do anything without your bionics, but I promise you you can. Okay? You're bigger and better than you think you are." Chase still doesn't move. "Okay? You know what? Do you remember last year when Adam refused to learn how to swim, so we had to sneak up on him and toss him into the pool?"
"Swim, Icarus." Donald throws him off the cliff.
Chase flails in the air for a moment before hitting the button on his jetpack and zipping upward. He zigzags away, finally settling into a pattern. But then he begins to dip, not able to keep up the momentum. He looks back, waiting for Donald…
But Donald is surrounded by the men from before.
"Escaping?" one of them says, grabbing Donald by the neck and shoulders and forcing him up against the cliff face. "You'll pay dearly for this, Davenport."
One of the other men aims his gun and fires, and the projectile zips inches past Chase.
"No," Donald says, wrenching away from the man holding him at gunpoint. He yells, "Chase, get out of here!" But Chase has no intention of leaving. He watches, transfixed, as Donald pivots and smashes in the nose of the man nearest to him. The man grabs Donald's jetpack off of his back and tries to punch him back, but Donald kicks him in the chest and he goes plummeting off the cliff.
From his vantage point, Chase can see the man struggling to start the jetpack. He's not fast enough. He gets smaller and smaller as he gets further away, and then he hits the ground and stops struggling.
"Mr. Davenport!" Chase yells, trying to steer himself closer to the cliff and the fight. But the controls are complicated and his brain feels slow and clunky, like gummed-up gears.
"Go!" Donald yells at him, locked in combat with the two men.
"I'm not leaving without you," Chase says firmly, wobbling as he gets nearer the cliff. The ground looms too close, and so does the cliff's edge for that matter, but he keeps going. Not bionic. Not a genius. Just a kid trying to protect his dad.
"All the better," one of the men says, slamming Donald in the jaw. "When we get your son back, we'll break his other leg. Maybe the arms. Let you watch him scream."
"You don't touch him," Donald says, low and dangerous, but he's powerless. They have both their guns pointed at him now.
And then Chase flies over him and kicks both the men in their chests. They fall backward into the wall and slump to the floor. "Come on," Chase says, grabbing Donald. And they fly toward freedom.
"Chase," Donald says, yelling over the rush of the wind. "The jetpack can't sustain both our weights. If you have to drop me…"
"Not gonna happen." Chase keeps going, but he begins to drop toward the ground, the jetpack shaking with exertion. "I… I don't know if I can…"
Chase has both hands gripping Donald tightly. Donald hangs onto him with one hand and uses the other to grab at the controls and boost them upward. They drift, a little lopsided, but still flying. "It's okay," Donald says again. "I've got you." It's the other way around, really. But Chase doesn't bother correcting him. "Just don't go too low."
And finally they can see the Jeep parked below them. Their captors just left it on the side of the road. Chase drifts down slowly, slowly toward the ground, and then he releases Donald to land lightly beside the car. Donald reaches up and switches off the jetpack for him before catching Chase, stumbling a bit.
"See, we're okay," Donald says, leaning Chase up against the Jeep. "We're okay." The keys were left under the tire- maybe the men meant to come back. "We're okay." Donald helps Chase into the passenger's side and starts the car, driving haphazardly and too-quickly toward home.
"I'm gonna make you a new chip," Donald promises him. "But for the record- you don't need one to be smart. And important, and good, and strong. That's all you, Chase."
Chase nods tiredly, leaning back into the seat. All the adrenaline is beginning to wear off and he just wants to sleep. "I'm just used to having all the answers right there," he says after a long moment, looking out the window as the desert speeds past outside.
"Well, today you didn't need all that," Donald says, clapping him on his good knee. "Today you had me. And you'll have me for a good long while." They drive in silence. But he's pretty sure Chase is smiling.