Chapter XV APRIL 3, 1973, CALAVICCI RESIDENCE, LAJOLLA, CALIFORNIA Sam was pulling on Beth's uniform jacket when Al arrived. "We didn't know this was going to happen, Sam," Al announced, half way through the Imaging Chamber Door. Sam adjusted the collar and sighed. "I know you didn't Al." The scientist had been sound asleep, planning to take advantage of this chance to sleep in. It wasn't often that a leap would allow him this luxury. Then the phone rang. There was an emergency at the hospital, and from Kelly's tone, Sam realized this wasn't something he could say no to. "Ziggy says," Al was saying, tapping the handlink, "that Beth was either, gone already or she never answered the phone." "I've *got* to find away to leave the hospital early, Al. What does Ziggy say about that?" Sam asked hurriedly, grabbing up Beth's purse and keys. "Nothing yet." "Al, emergency or no, I've got to get to Michael. By the way, who worked in Beth's place in the original history? I'll try to get hold of her, at work." "Sam, that information ceased to exist the moment you picked up the phone. And it wasn't something Ziggy accessed earlier," Al told Sam, as the scientist was climbing into the car. "We don't have time to research every nurse at Balboa and run scenarios on them." "Does Ziggy have *any* idea on how long they'll need me at the hospital?" "Uh, no. I'm sorry, Sam." "It's not your fault, Al. You know," Sam said slowly, an idea forming, "what if I can get hold of someone else, not necessarily the one who worked originally, to come in? Maybe around noon?" "You'll miss Michael's uncle," Al informed him, waiting for Ziggy's reply. "Yeah, I know." Something else occurred to him. "Did Ziggy ever establish a more accurate time of death?" "Uh, Ziggy found something that puts it between one and two this afternoon," Al replied tersely. "As for as getting someone else to fill in, well, Ziggy's still not giving me anything on that. I say, go ahead and try." By the time Sam reached Balboa, Ziggy had not given them anything new. With Al trailing behind him, Sam sought out Beth's friend. "Kelly," Sam called out, more urgently than he intended. "Do you think it's possible to get someone else to fill in for me today?" "Why? What's wrong? Is it Al?" "What? No. It's a classmate. He's, well, his brother's body was brought back to the States and he just found out about it. I think he needs someone right now." He paused. "Kelly, I think he's suicidal." Kelly looked dubious. "Beth, we called you in because of an emergency--" "I knew, Kelly," Sam interrupted her. "I'm just asking if we could get someone to come in around noon, maybe." "Well . . . " Sam gently took her by the shoulders and stared solemnly into her eyes. "He's nineteen, Kelly. He's too young to die." She held his gaze. "Are you *sure* he's suicidal?" Sam hadn't witnessed any suicidal tendencies in the brief time he had observed the young man, but he knew the future. "Yes, I am." She sighed. "We can try. I'll go down to Personnel and get them working on it." "Thank you, Kelly," Sam replied, breathing a sigh of relief. Once she was out of earshot, Sam turned to the Observer. "Well?" Al swore softly. "She's not being very cooperative today, Sam. She's telling me that she hasn't had sufficient time to process the data." "Why do you go back and try to persuade her?" "Persuade Ziggy? How? She doesn't respond to most threats, and she can't exactly be bribed." The Door opened behind him. "I'll be back." "With answers, I hope." ********************************************** Al headed toward the Waiting Room. He needed a break from the Control Room before he took a hammer to the computer. Ziggy had informed him that no one had been in to see Elizabeth all morning. She was standing, with her back to the door, when it slid open. "How are you doin', sweetheart?" he asked, as he strode in. Though tired and frustrated, he managed to smile. "I'm fine, but these walls are getting to me," she answered, returning the smile. "Yeah, well, there's not a whole lot I can do about that." Elizabeth tilted her head to one side and touched his arm. "Al? What's wrong?" "Oh, Sam made the mistake of answering the phone," Al said with a heavy sigh. "The hospital called him into work. He's got Kelly helping him, so he can leave in time to get to Michael." She studied his face, with a small frown. "Is - is everything going to be okay?" "I don't know yet, honey. Sam's cut things close before, so anything's possible at this point." Elizabeth nodded slowly. He noticed that she was eyeing his outfit, curiously. "You look like a Christmas gift," she said, touching the vest. The comment startled him. He chuckled softly. "Thanks." Other remarks came to his mind, but he reserved them for Beth. "I like this." She was fingering the bolo tie, making the tree sparkle. "It was a Christmas gift." He watched her face while she toyed with the tie. Obviously there was something on her mind and it wasn't necessarily his wardrobe. "Are all your clothes this colorful?" "Yes." He paused. "Beth, something's bothering you. What is it?" She didn't say anything at first. After a moment, she released the tie and smoothed his collar. "I feel bad about what I said the other night to one of your employees. I called her a liar." "I know who you're talking about, Beth, but she's not an employee. She's," Al hesitated. "Well, she drops in from time to time. She works for Congress." This surprised Elizabeth. "Really? She looks much too young. And so familiar," she added. "Is she still here? I would really like to apologize to her." Al studied her face. *It couldn't hurt for Bertie to come in, just for a minute.* "Ziggy," he called out, "Have Doctor . . . Riley come to the Waiting Room." "Yes, Admiral." "Tell me about Sam," she said, suddenly. "He seems to mean a lot to you." "Sam's a good man, Beth. The best friend you could ever imagine." Al shook his head in wonder, caught up in the memories of the different pasts. "The things he's done for me . . . things I probably didn't deserve . . ." He trailed off, remembering. "I'd do anything for him," he added quietly. After a moment, he looked at her. She was looking at him, with a solemn expression. "I know you, Al, and for you to say that about him, means he must be special." "He is. He truly is, Beth," Al agreed. "I can't wait for you to meet him, honey. He's like a brother and a son, rolled into one." It probably wasn't the right thing to say because she asked, "Al, do we have children?" Before he could answer, the door open, revealing Dr. Beeks and Bertie. Dr. Beeks had her arms crossed and she was looking at him in a way that told him he was in big trouble. Bertie was festively dressed, in red. "Oops," he said, under his breath. Elizabeth didn't hear him; she was watching the new arrivals come into the room. "Ah, Beth, this is . . . Bertie Riley," Al introduced them, avoiding Beeks' gaze. "I hope you're feeling better today," Bertie was saying to Elizabeth. "Yes, I am. Thank you." She paused. "I wanted to apologize for what I said." "I understand," Bertie said, quickly. Al sensed that she wanted to put Elizabeth at ease. Hopefully, she could leave without further complicating the situation if Elizabeth suddenly figured out who she was. "I really shouldn't have said anything to you. I wasn't thinking clearly. I'd feel the same, in your shoes." She paused, looking apologetic. "I just thought that the news would make you happy." Elizabeth smiled warmly. "It did, and I'm glad you told me." She peered at Bertie, curious. "Do I know you? You seem familiar." *Oh, great.* But Bertie was capable of handling the situation. "No, but you do know my parents," she informed Elizabeth, with a quick glance at Beeks. Elizabeth frowned, concentrating. Beeks finally decided this went on long enough. "Well," she said, touching Bertie's arm, "I think you and I should be leaving. And Al," she said, looking at him pointedly, "I want to see you later, in my office." For the first time, Bertie looked at him, and grinned. "Always getting into trouble," she commented and turned to go. "Wait!" Elizabeth reached out and put a restraining hand on Bertie's arm. Al held his breath. Bertie turned and gave her a questioning look. With a visibly trembling hand, Elizabeth cupped Bertie's chin and peered into her dark eyes. *Oh, hell. Verbena's gonna kill me.* Al thought. "You have his eyes," Elizabeth choked out, tears glittering in her own. "I knew this was a bad idea," Verbena murmured. "What gave it away," Al asked Elizabeth, who hadn't taken her eyes off of Bertie's face. For her part, Bertie remained still, with a gentle smile on her face. "Beth?" "It's hard to explain," she said, voice shaking. "It - it was like a flash of insight, as she turned. I could see you, in her profile." She ran a caressing hand along Bertie's cheek bone. Abruptly, she pulled their daughter into her embrace, tears running down her cheeks. Tears where also in Bertie's eyes. Al felt a lump in his throat and a tug at his heart as he watched his wife cling to their daughter. He was also certain he was wearing a silly grin on his face. Al glanced over at Verbena. She was wiping tears from her own eyes. *I might survive the day after all,* he thought, putting an arm around Verbena's shoulders. "I still want to see you in my office, Al," she told him softly. *Then again, maybe not.* "Admiral," Ziggy softly called out. "Yes?" "Your presence is requested in the Control Room." "I'm on my way. Beeks, stay with her until the leap is over, okay?" Verbena nodded and Al put his arms around his wife and daughter. "I've got to go, but I'll try to get back before the leap out." Elizabeth nodded, but didn't speak. Al held her gaze for a moment. She was looking at him with such love and gratitude, he couldn't move. It was the same look she gave him after each of their daughters' births. He kissed her cheek. "I love you," he whispered. Al turned and left the room before Ziggy summoned him again. ******************************************** Sam glanced up at the lounge clock. 11:45. It didn't look good. Al wasn't back, and Sam hadn't heard from Kelly or the people in Personnel. His feet were sore from being on them, non-stop, since he arrived that morning. Sam's entire body ached, and he was hungry. He glanced back at the clock. Only two minutes had passed. *Come on, Al,* Sam thought, rummaging through Beth's purse for change. *If something doesn't happen soon, I'm leaving.* As if history had been affected by Sam's thoughts, the Imaging Chamber Door opened, revealing the Observer. At that same moment, Kelly came into the lounge. "Beth!" "Sam!" *Oh no, not two conversations at once.* Fortunately, Al saw Kelly and let her give Sam her news. "Beth, Personnel told me that Jill Byrnes is starting her shift early." "That's the same thing I came to tell you, Sam." Sam let out a relieved sigh. "Thank you. I've been thinking about this kid all day. I was about to leave." "I could tell." "Look, Kelly, I've got to go. I'll tell you all about it later, if I can." He paused and smiled gratefully at her. "Thanks again, Kelly." She smiled at him and he was out the door. "Where's Michael now?" Sam asked the Observer, when they reached the relatively private interior of Beth's car. "Ziggy can't seem to get a lock on him. She thinks he's driving around, aimlessly. We know *where* the shooting takes place, Sam. I'll just have Ziggy center me, to see if he's there. We haven't located Andrea --" "Forget about her, Al," Sam interrupted. "I don't have time." "But Sam," the Observer protested as Sam drove into lunch time traffic, "the odds of you successfully convincing Michael, alone, are fifty-fifty." "How long would it take for Ziggy to get a lock on her?" The question was met with silence. "I thought so. By the way, where am I going?" "Back that way, Sam." Sam made a U-turn. Once they were headed in the right direction, Al rattled off the address and directions to the building. Sam was only half-listening. His mind was on what he would say to Michael. Last night, he lay awake for hours, going over exactly what he would say to the young man. "Sam, you missed your turn!" Al exclaimed sharply, nearly scaring the scientist to death. There was no way he could make a U-turn this time. Sam found himself in a minor traffic jam caused by two separate problems: the light was out and telephone linemen were working on the lines. "Oh great," Al muttered. "All that research and we still end up getting tied up in traffic." Sam made no comment. "I'll go check the abandoned building, Sam. Be back in a minute." While waiting for Al to come back, Sam strained to see out the window and around the vehicles in front of him. They continued to inch along. Al reappeared. "He's not there yet." "Do you think he's in this?" Sam gestured at the mess in front of them. "No. If he were that close, Ziggy could get a lock on him. Besides, we're driving *away* from the location, Sam. Remember, you missed your turn. Don't worry. I had Ziggy plot us a way around this, without having to make a U-turn near this dead light." It took about half an hour to detour around the stop light. During that time, Al checked the abandoned building twice. Michael had not arrived. "We're approximately ten minutes away, Sam," Al informed him. "I'll check again in five." Sam drove carefully this time, even though he had the urge to speed off. The last thing this leap needed was for him to end up in a car accident. "Sam! He just got there!" the Observer exclaimed. Al didn't take the time to center himself properly; he was half-in, half-out of the car. "Stay with him, Al, please. Let me know if he . . ." Sam didn't have to finish the sentence. He hadn't a clue, as to what he would do, if Al came back and told him that they were too late. "Right." **************************************** Andrea hummed along to the radio as she drove, enjoying her day off, and wondering why she bothered to come downtown during lunch. It was insane. While waiting for the traffic light to turn green, and knowing she'd not make this light, Andrea looked out the side window at the people on the sidewalks. She watched as a red, 1965 Porshe pulled up in front of an abandoned building on her left. To Andrea's surprise Mrs. Calavicci, still in uniform, hopped out of the car. There was a sense of urgency about the woman that spark a curiosity in Andrea. Mrs. Calavicci hurriedly approached the car parked in front of her own, and placed her hand on the hood and peered into the car. With a start, Andrea recognized the car. It was Michael's car. Abruptly, as if she had heard her name being called, Mrs. Calavicci looked up. Andrea watched as she hurried around Michael's car and into the building. The guy behind Andrea honked his horn. Still curious, she pulled into a parking space across from the abandoned building. Carefully crossing the street, Andrea also examined Michael's car, puzzled. *What on earth is going on?* she thought, staring at the entrance to the abandoned building. ************************************ "He's back here, Sam." Sam followed the sound of Al's voice, in the rear of the building. "Don't startle him, Sam. He may shoot you." Sam paused, still far enough away from the room where Al's voice came from, and called out. "Michael? It's me, Beth Calavicci." "Leave me alone!" "I'm coming in, Michael. I want to talk to you." "I said, leave me alone!" Sam took a deep breath and, slowly and carefully, continued moving forward. He could see Al standing in the doorway, back to Sam. Michael was sitting on an overturned crate, head bowed, gun held loosely in his hands. All the windows and doors were boarded. There was no place else for Michael to go. The young man jumped to his feet as Sam entered the room, taking a firmer grip on the gun. "Leave me alone!" he shouted again. "Michael, you really don't want to do this," Sam said gently, watching the gun. "How would you know?" "Because I've been -- I'm going through it, too." "What are you talking about?" he asked, suspicious. "I know about your brother, Michael." Sam inched closer. He could sense, rather than see, Al's anxiety. Al hadn't spoken a word since Sam entered the room and Sam couldn't spare him a glance. "How?" "Someone told me," he replied soothingly. "I know he was MIA, and I know his body was found. Listen, Michael," Sam reasoned gently, "Kenny wouldn't want you to throw your life away. He'd want you to go on living." "He shouldn't have died!" Michael hollered. "He shouldn't have even *gone*!" "I know," Sam said in the same soothing voice, taking another small step closer. "Neither should have my husband. A lot of people died over there that shouldn't have." "Is he dead?" Michael asked, momentarily curious. "I - I don't know. I *hope* he's alive. But if he wasn't, I'm sure he would have wanted me to get on with my life." "This is different," Michael insisted. "He's just your husband; this is my *brother*. Do you have any idea what it's like to lose *your brother*?" "Yes, I do," Sam said firmly. "I know *exactly* what it's like. It feels like the world's ended. You don't want to go on. Then I remembered how much my brother wanted me to succeed, to make something out of my life. I would have let him down, if I didn't go on." As Sam spoke, he moved closer and closer to Michael. Al began swearing softly. He spoke directly to him. "Sam," he said, hoarsely, panic rising in his voice, "whatever you're planning to do, be careful." Al had moved in behind Michael, to be in Sam's line of vision. "Michael, please put that gun down. I want to help you." "Why would I want your help anyway?" Sam was at a loss. Why would he want `Beth's' help? The handlink began squawking like mad. Al hadn't bothered consulting it. "Michael?" It was Andrea. "What's going on?" The young man's attention was turned to Andrea, and Sam took advantage of that. He went for the gun. But Michael wasn't as distracted as he appeared. They struggled for control. "Give me the gun, Michael," Sam insisted. "Let go!" "Sam, for God's sake, do as he says!" Al pleaded. He was white as a sheet. "Mrs. Calavicci, please be careful!" Andrea was frantic. "Let go, old woman!" *Old?* Sam thought fleetingly. Beth wasn't even forty yet. "Sam!" Now Al was yelling at him. "Please! He's gonna shot you! Both you and Beth could die! Please, Sam, let him have the gun!" Sam shook his head. He couldn't. Michael wasn't listening to him. It was too dangerous for him to keep the gun. But Sam was slowly losing the struggle. Michael was younger. He was also stronger than he looked. Sam had to act quietly. "Andrea! Go and get help! The police, anyone!" he shouted. Al was yelling incoherently at him and the handlink started squawking again. Without warning, the gun went off. The last thing Sam saw, was Al's frantic lunge for Michael and the gun. ~To be continued in the as-yet-named part II.