Chapter XI DECEMBER 18, 2000, CALAVICCI RESIDENCE, STALLIONS SPRINGS, NM Beth placed the last storage container in the garage was a small sigh. Al had called her earlier, wondering why she hadn't said a word to him about going back to the house. She hadn't even left him a note. It would have been simpler just to tell him the truth, but she didn't want to ruin the surprise for him. The truth of the matter was, the rest of their daughters were arriving that afternoon, earlier than originally planned. Trudi had wanted to come completely unexpected, but nobody approached the project's air space without clearance, so someone *had* to be told. Trudi told Ziggy, but she had no idea Ziggy was a computer, not a person. So the computer politely referred her to her mother. The look of delight that would be on Al's face, when he got home later, was worth this temporary annoyance. All would be forgiven and forgotten before the sun rose the next morning. Al wasn't the only one out of sorts by this little arrangement. Out of necessity, Bertie was also kept in the dark. Her earlier attempts to reach her husband had failed because he was flying them all out to New Mexico in Alessandra's plane. Though Sandy was a Navy pilot too, she was also a new mother of an eight-months-old and the legal guardian of a year-old child. She was needed in passenger section more than the cockpit. Kevin had been a little leery about not contacting his wife, since he knew it upset her when he didn't. To ease his conscience, he kept in contact with Beth. Beth stuck her head into the doorway of Bertie's room. She was curled up, sound asleep, in the middle of the bed. Bertie had slipped out of the project. Not that Paul would have noticed. Beth had seen him with Sammie Jo. Bertie had helped Beth, for a while, with the decorations. She rambled on about some things she was going to change, now that there was a baby on the way. Obviously tired out, Bertie disappeared into her old bedroom for a nap. Without disturbing her sleeping daughter, Beth closed the bedroom door and retired to the den, to wait for her guest and to catch a quick nap. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Bertie drifted near consciousness, sensing someone else in her room. Thinking it was her mother checking in on her, she didn't bother opening her eyes, and instead nestled closer to her pillow. The mattress creaked under the weight of the other person and she could smell a familiar aftershave. Bertie's eyes snapped open and she found herself staring into the green eyes of her husband. Kevin was leaning over, about to kiss her. "Sorry," he murmured, "didn't mean to wake you." She raised herself on her elbows. "Kevin! What are you doing here?" "It was Trudi's idea. She wanted to surprise your parents," he explained, stretching out beside her on the bed. He looked worn out from the cross-country trip. "As it turned out, we *had* to tell someone, so we told your mom." "You mean, everyone's here?" "Yep." Bertie leaned over to kiss him. "You came in Sandy's plane, didn't you?" Kevin nodded. "I was worried about you." Kevin smiled. "I stayed in contact with your mother for that reason." He yawned. "Forgive me, but I'm still on east coast time, and it doesn't help much when your copilot is a new mother." Bertie chuckled ruefully. Kevin looked at her, curious. "What's wrong?" "Oh, nothing," she replied truthfully. "In fact, I have some news that you'll be happy to hear. I've decided to take a temporary leave of absence from my job. It might even be permanent." Kevin's eyes widened. "Why?" "I'll get to that in a minute." She paused. "Kevin, I've decided to take your name." When they were first married, Bertie retained her maiden name purely for professional reasons. In political circles and in the scientific communities, she was established as `Dr. Calavicci'. Kevin understood this and accepted it. He only cringed when people referred to him as `Mr. Calavicci'. It was Bertie's intentions to eventually change to `Dr. Riley'. This would be the perfect time to do it. Kevin mulled over her news. "Are you trying to hide?" Bertie smiled. "Something like that. `Dr. Calavicci' is in too much demand. She's becoming too well known as a problem solver and a `hired gun'. `Dr. Riley', on the other hand, is a stranger. Unknown. She can sneak up on people. Besides," she said, winking, "Riley is shorter and easier to spell." Kevin smiled at her explanation, still puzzled. "Not that I mind, of course, but why now?" Bertie looked into his eyes, and smiled. "Because I'm pregnant." Kevin's eyes grew wide and a look of amazement spread across his face. "Does anyone else know? When are you due? Are you sure?" Bertie chuckled. "My parents, July 4th, and yes, I'm sure. I confirmed it with my doctor before I came out here. I'm going to put my notice in when we get back to Virginia. I don't think it would be a good idea to do all that traveling and be exposed to all that stress. Once the baby's born, well, I'll have to see about that when the time comes." Kevin, struck momentarily speechless, pulled her into his arms and tenderly kissed her. They settled back down on the bed. After a moment, he said drowsily, "Do you think I should wait to tell my parents?" "Wait until when? I certainly don't think I can hide the fact that I'm pregnant until Independence Day." He chuckled sleepily. "I meant until Christmas Day, you goose." She grinned. "Yes, that's a great idea. I think your mother would be thrilled to hear the news on Christmas Day." "Heck, she'd be thrilled to hear *this* news any day of the year," Kevin commented. "That's true." Kevin tried to stifle another yawn. "Why don't you take a nap?" "I'm trying, but there's this person trying to have a conversation with me." "Well, have you tried to make her stop talking?" Bertie asked, with a playful wink. Kevin narrowed his eyes suspiciously at her. "Yes, but she hasn't stopped." "Well, you obviously didn't try hard enough." APRIL 2, 1973, SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA "I hate the Seventies' fashion," Sam grumbled, staring out the window. They had been waiting for five minutes already. "She looks like . . . Marcia Brady." "Who?" Al asked absently, not looking up from his consultation of the handlink. "Marcia Brady. `The Brady Bunch.' `Here's a story . . . of a lovely lady.' Come on, Al, you've got to know who they are." Al was looking at him, with his mouth hanging slightly open. "I meant, who looks like Marcia Brady." "Oh. That girl, sitting over there," Sam replied, pointing out the front window. A lone figure was sitting on the low wall in front of the building. She appeared to be engrossed in a paperback book. To Sam, she appeared to be no more than nineteen. Al studied her a moment. The look lacked much of its former lechery. "I guess she does," he conceded. "Well, except for the fact that her hair color is darker." Al shook his head. "You know, if you really hate the style of this era as much as you always say you do, then you should be glad you've been leaping these last few years. The style came back. My girls aggressively avoided it." Al paused. "Except for Faith, but she only modeled the clothes." Al returned to his communion with the handlink without further comment. Sam shook his head amused, remembering a time when the observation of a pretty young woman would have elicited a completely different response from Al. Sam returned to the business of watching for new arrivals. It was another five minutes before the handlink began to chip excitedly. An ordinary -looking young man, around nineteen, was making a beeline toward the Marcia Brady look-alike. "That must be him," Al commented. "Hmm." Sam frowned. Michael was plain as they came. He wasn't what one would call good-looking. Average height, average build, average looks. If Ziggy hadn't locked onto him, Sam would never have noticed him. "I wonder what he's up to?" Before Sam could voice an opinion on the subject, a group of more Marcia Brady look- alikes caught the attention of the one Michael was headed for, and she was soon engulfed in a circle of friends. Michael, realizing this, stopped a few yards from the group. "Wanna bet he was going to ask her out?" Al asked, drily. "You'd win. What does Ziggy have to say about it?" "No data," Al replied sourly, after a moment. "Ziggy doesn't even know *who* she is, let alone know if he had plans to ask her out." Sam sighed, conceding her point. After all, she did require, *at least*, the person's name before she could do any background research. Sam turned to look at Al, expectantly. "What?" Al was confused by the look. "Why don't you go listen in on their conversation? So we can get a name." Al gave him a long-suffering look, and said, "Yes, dear." Sam chuckled as Al popped out of existence beside him and reappeared next to the group of girls. Al spared a glance at Michael before turning to listening in on the conversation. He glanced at Michael a couple more times over the next five minutes. Sam also watched Michael. The young man's attention was completely on the group of girls and he was fidgeting the whole time. Sam had to resist the urge to go over and make him stand still. It was clear that Michael was waiting for the rest of them to leave, so he could talk to what's-her-face. Sam glanced at the watch on his wrist and gathered up Beth's belongings. Al was still in the midst of things. As Sam headed across the parking lot, Al began to key information into the handlink, having found what they were looking for. "Andrea," Al said as Sam drew closer. He gave the Observer a brief nod and turned his attention to Michael. "How are you today, Michael?" The young man stared at him, momentarily startled. "Uh. Oh. I'm fine, Mrs. . . . Mrs. . . . " "Calavicci." Sam nearly choked on it himself. "Beth Calavicci," he added. "I'm fine, Mrs. Calavicci," Michael replied, eyes drifting to the group behind Sam. The group migrated toward the door, with no signs of disbursing. Michael looked crestfallen. "Will you excuse me, ma'am? I have to get to class." He was gone before Sam could say a word. Al came around to stand beside him. Sam didn't feel any need to rush off to class (considering that Beth wasn't going to be attending much longer anyway), so he drifted over to a bank of pay phones, with Al on his heels. "Anything interesting on Andrea?" "So far, only that her full name is Andrea Laura Zimmer and that she's known Michael Murphy most of her life. They've attended the same schools and only live a few blocks away from each other." "What do*you* think about them, Al?" Ziggy could speculate until the cows come home, but sometimes it took a human observation to get the real picture. Al considered the question for a moment. "I think he's got a crush on her." "Do you think he'll get the opportunity to ask her out, between now and when he dies?" "Personally, or do you want Ziggy to give you the odds?" "Personally." "Yes, I do. I think, maybe, after class he sees his chance to ask her out. She says no, and then to add injury to insult, he finds out about Kenny. And you?" "I think, personally, that he never got the chance to ask her tonight. He either lost the nerve or didn't get the opportunity to ask." "Ok, I'll buy that, but we don't know for sure." "Right. Run it past Ziggy and see what she says." "She's working on it." Al looked up, thoughtful. "You know, I have this feeling that he's only asking her out, after all these years, is because of his brother." "What makes you say that? You said he doesn't know yet?" Al shrugged, uncomfortable. "Right, he doesn't. But, I've been going over the stuff Ziggy has on the brothers, and I just get this feeling that he's doing this more for his brother than himself, even if he has a crush on her." "I don't buy that." "Sam," Al said patiently, "have you ever done something, because you wanted to make Tom proud of you? Or because you thought he'd want you to do it?" Sam paused, thoughtful, and frowned slightly. Memories that, under normal circumstances should have been clear as day, were hazy. "Indiana State," he said softly, eyes distant. Al raised an eyebrow, curious. He said nothing. "You see, Tom received a basketball scholarship to Indiana State the same time the appointment to Annapolis came in. Tom, well, Tom *wanted* to go to Indiana State, but he knew money would be tight for us and with the appointment, the financial hardship would be eliminated." "Are you saying, Tom wasn't interested in the Navy at all?" Al was confused. "No. I think he'd still have joined the Navy out of college. It's just that, well, long before he'd ever *thought* of becoming a Navy SEAL, he'd *dreamed* of playing for Indiana State." Al nodded, understanding. "Anyway, since he gave up going to State, I decided to try for a scholarship. I thought that Tom would be excited about it." Sam stopped. "But he wasn't," Al finished. Sam shifted the phone, uncomfortable. "No, not the way I thought he would be. I had a dozen or so offer from different colleges including Cal Tech and MIT. Tom knew it would be a waste if I didn't go to one of them. He talked to LoNigro and a few of the others, and Tom was *convinced* that I should pursue physics instead. He talked me out of Indiana State." Sam sighed. "In the end, I guess I really did what Tom wanted me to do." "But," Al pointed out, "It turned out to be the best *for you*. Even his choice of Annapolis over Indiana State was for you, Sam, when you stop and think about it. He was looking out for your best interest. He realized that your family's hard-earned money would be better served by sending you to the best colleges in the country." Sam studied his friend. He'd never really looked at it in that way. At least, he couldn't recall ever looking at it in that light. "Yeah, you're right." "Of course I'm right. You know," Al said, "if Kenny is anything like Tom, I'm sure he's been looking out for Michael all this time, in some way." Al looked at his watch and said, "Uh, Sam I think you should get to class." Sam hung up the phone and headed for class lost in thought. He'd be the first to admit that Michael wasn't likely to be Andrea's type, and Al's scenario was the correct one. But Sam also couldn't help thinking, based on the brief observation, that perhaps Michael never got the opportunity. It was just as plausible, and perhaps Andrea would surprise them all and agree to go out with him. It occurred to Sam, as he entered the classroom, that even if she accepted him, Michael would still take his own life. "Any news?" Sam looked up. Beth's professor was looking at him sympathetically. There was something else in his eyes that Sam just didn't like. "Excuse me?" Sam glanced over at the Observer, who was unusually preoccupied with the handlink, or more precisely, the data he was receiving. Al was muttering something about Pentagon computers. The professor indicated the MIA bracelet. "Any news?" he said again. "Uh. Not yet." The man just nodded, and Sam took his seat. He read over Beth's notes, looking for the professor's name. He learned it was David Kramer. Now that he was in the classroom, it would be difficult to ask Al for information directly without being obvious. While waiting for the class to start (and Al to fill him in on what Ziggy had to say), Sam looked around the room, searching for Michael and Andrea. Andrea was still conversing with her friends toward the front of the room. Michael, as luck would have it, was in the seat two rows over from him, and the chair between them was empty. The younger man still looked crestfallen. His expression convinced Sam that his theory might be closer to the truth. He leaned over the empty seat and said. "You know, maybe you can catch her after class." Michael looked at him sharply, surprised. "How'd you . . ." Sam just smiled. The comment did the trick and Sam saw a new determination in Michael's eyes. Sam turned to the front of the class, thinking of a way to help Michael.