Chapter 3 0730 HRS. SUNDAY, MARCH 5, 2000. CALAVICCI'S QUARTERS, PQL "Wake up, Al." Al resumed consciousness, but he did not open his eyes. He didn't want to. He wanted to go back to sleep. He wanted the owner of the warm body in his arms to stop shaking his shoulder, and go back to sleep, too. It was nice, for a change, to have a dreamless, restful sleep without nightmares or annoyingly rude computers waking him up. "Al, are you going to get out of bed? It's 0730, sweetheart." "Half an hour more," he mumbled against her neck. The hand that had been shaking his shoulder moved to the back of his head. Beth gently stroked his hair, lulling him back to sleep. The last thing he was conscious of, before nodded off again, was her steady heartbeat. It seemed an eternity, before he heard her call his name again, but an internal clock to him otherwise. "Al." Al opened his eyes, and to his relief, everything was the same as it was when he closed them hours earlier. He propped himself one elbow and wiped the sleep from his eyes. "Good morning, sleeping beauty," his wife said, amused. "This is a first. Usually, if Sam in a leap, you jump right out of bed. I don't always get a good morning kiss before you leave." "I don't kiss you?" he asked her, as if she had just informed him that he robbed banks for a living. "Sometimes. But I'm not always awake when you leave, either." Al was almost positive she was teasing, but he leaned over and kissed her anyway. "Happy?" he asked, raising his eyebrows. "My toes are tingly," she replied, playfully. Al grinned. "You really should have that looked at, you know?" Beth expression turned serious. "Talk to me." Al sighed and looked away. It would be easier telling her than Beeks. "I'm fine, really. It was just . . .well, I couldn't bear the thought that you might just slip as easily has you appeared. I've already gave you up twice. Once when I came home and you were gone, and the other when Sam was Jake. I just wasn't prepared to go through it a third time. Especially after the memories started to seep in. I still can't remember anything different from the spring of 73, but I started to remember the girls. That's what really kept me awake these last few nights." He looked back down at her, and moved a lock of hair from her face. "I've never stopped loving you. Not even when I first learned you were gone." "I know," she replied softly. "Ziggy told me. I just can't believe that I couldn't wait for you." "You remember Andy, the Marine that died?" "Yes." "Do you remember how devastated you felt?" "Yes." "Did he remind you of me?" Al asked gently. Beth looked away, sad. "You and my grandfather." "Now do you find it hard to believe?" "I'm so sorry, Al," she started to say, still sad. "Honey, don't apologize," he interrupted, gently. "It wasn't your fault, then, and now it never happened. Who could you have turned to for support?" "My father." Al rolled out of bed then. Beth sat up and pulled the blankets up, modestly. He found that habit charming, if unnecessary, and was amazed she still did it after nearly 40 years of marriage. *Her father.* That was something else he had to adjust to. Ziggy had insisted on informing him that Adam Whitmore-Jones was his father-in-law. "Funny," he said, putting on his robe and handing his wife hers, "Adam never told another living soul the truth, other than George if I understand what Zig told me. I guess Adam felt betrayed. On that time line, I mean." "It never occurred to me to go to him. Maybe if he had said something then . . .Well, he explained why he didn't," Beth said, tying her robe securely. "However, he did tell me I could come to him if I needed anything. But, by 1969, Francesca was already getting into trouble and Adam was saddled with Teresa and the twins." *George's wife and daughters.* A least something was still familiar about this time line. Regardless of which past, Al came home to discover that George had married the Italian ambassador's daughter because he had gotten her pregnant with Theresa. He then he flew off to Nam for a third tour while Francesca was pregnant with the twins Georgia and Alessandra. George was shot down before they were born. What had changed was, having Beth around as a role model and "mother", the twins had followed in the family footstep's and attended the Academy. Al nodded and turned to the remote terminal. He wasn't prepared to delve further into the unending melodrama starring the Whitmore-Jones. He sat down in front of the computer and tapped in his access code. Al turned and watched his wife as she picked up their discarded pajamas. The computer beeped for his attention as she was making their bed. Al hummed tunelessly, scrolling past the data on the current Visitor. Normally, Al would have read this for updates. Ziggy had tons of stuff on George, but he knew most of it by heart. Ziggy was still researching Kelly's history and running scenarios for Sam. Beth slid her arms around his neck and rested her chin on his head. He took one of her hands. "Finally," Al commented, finding what he had been searching for. Sam's brain waves indicated that he was still asleep. Al compared Sam's time to the Project's and noted it was a six hour difference. Ziggy offered up an estimate on when Sam would awaken: 0700. It would around lunch time on the Project. "That figures." Beth, reading the same information, suggested, "You could always wake him earlier." "No. I'll let him sleep." He typed in several instructions for Ziggy, before logging back off. "Come on," Beth said, pulling him to his feet. "I need you to tell me what you plan to wear today, so we don't clash." She pulled him toward the walk-in closet. The left-hand side was a neatly arranged pastel rainbow, with a few darker items and her uniforms on the end. On the self above, where hats and purses; on the floor below, were shoes. The right-head side was just as neat, but not organized in any color scheme. His larger collection of headgear took up the entire shelf and he had nearly as many shoes as his wife. It hadn't surprised him to find out that his taste in clothing hadn't changed. However, he was amazed when he learned that his second daughter (he still couldn't believe he was a *father*) was responsible for creating most of the *new* outfits, and she had helped him pick out the more familiar items. Despite the riot of colors in front of him, Al's eyes were drawn to his dress whites. Feeling nostalgic, he took the uniform from the rack, along with the appropriate shoes and head gear. Beth was studying him. "What?" he asked. "You don't plan to see George this morning, do you?" "No. Sammie Jo's doing a great job with the Visitors. Plus, he would recognize me, honey, you know that." "Well, I have no intentions of seeing him either. I guess I should schedule an appointment with Bena. We'll discuss my feelings over tea." She brushed past him. "I think I'll wear mine today too." They carefully hung their uniforms on the dummy valet, and turned in unison toward the bathroom. "Uh, I see a problem here," Al remarked. "I don't." She was smiling radiantly. She entered the bathroom, motioning him to follow. Al raised his eyebrows. *Why not?* he thought, closing the door behind them. 0900 HRS. SUNDAY, MARCH 5, 2000, DR. BEEKS'S OFFICE, PQL Verbena Beeks stared at the closed manila folder in front of her on the desk, trying to prepare herself for the report inside. The Deputy Project Director, Medical Activities (Verbena's boss) had mandated that the Observer's mental and physical health be monitored at all times, using procedures similar to those used on the Visitor. The file in front of her contained data gathered on Al from the time he first turned in (before Sam leaped into George) until 0845 that morning. Ziggy was still monitoring, but Verbena did not want to know what was going on. The Medical Director had stressed the importance of the Observer's health: without him, Sam was lost to the project, until a reprogramming was complete. In a life-or-death situation, Sam did not have time for a reprogramming. Now, every time Al so much as sneezed, the medical team descend on him like a swarm of bees. After the incident several days ago, the chief doctor wanted Al checked into the infirmary. Al wouldn't hear of it and the Medical Director couldn't make a decision, so Al was left alone. It didn't always work to Al's advantage that the Deputy Project Director, Medical Activities was Vice Admiral (Retired) Elizabeth Calavicci, RN, Ph.D. After the first time Verbena received data on Al, she requested that certain portions be excluded, or at least, put Dr. Ruth on retainer. To make it worse, Ziggy liked to editorialize. Verbena had learned to deal with many situations on the Project and had come across a variety of personal problems, but she felt she had to draw the line somewhere. The voyeuristic hybrid computer and the Calaviccis' raging hormones were just too much to deal with on a daily basis. A compromise was reached: the monitoring would continue, but Verbena had the authority to tell Ziggy which portions to include, and Ziggy promised not to editorialize. With all that had transpired in the last few days, Verbena had felt it necessary to get a full report on the Observer. Verbena sighed. It would be another half hour before Ziggy downloaded the transcripts from Sam and Al's meeting, and there wasn't anything else pending. Gingerly, Verbena opened the folder. 0900 HRS. SUNDAY, MARCH 5, 2000. DR. BECKETT'S PROJECT-LEVEL OFFICE Donna surveyed her husband's office with a twinge of sadness, and began gathering up Al's possessions. Not even a week ago, Sam's sudden and mysterious "disappearance" had her terrified that he was lost to her for good. The others had done their best to ease her fears, especially Beth. Beth was Donna's greatest comfort. The older woman's experiences with a missing husband awed her: Beth had gone several years without any reassurance that her husband was even *alive*. Donna, at least, had that. She did not know how would have survived without Al's continual reassurance that Sam was doing fine, or Beth's quiet support. *And now I know she wasn't always part of the project; that she actually lost hope,* Donna thought, folding the blanket and placing it in the laundry basket she brought. *And who could blame her?* Now, thanks to Sam, that faith and hope had been restored. In honor of that time in her life, Beth had named her twins, Hope and Faith. In the last few days, however, Beth put on a brave front and focused her attention on Donna's situation. Donna and Verbena had discussed the quiet woman's apparent calmness, after the initial shock, to the news about the time line. Both agreed that it was only a matter of time before the realization hit her. Donna hoped Al would be able to handle it when it happened. After the initial announcement by Ziggy, Al had retreated into this office with no memories of his life with Beth beyond 1966. He only allowed Donna and Sammie Jo to see him. Both women had purposely kept their topics of conversation as far from the subject of Beth as possible. She asked him about Sam; Sammie Jo talked about the Retrieval Program and who controlled the leaps. Satisfied that she had gathered all his possessions, Donna turned to pick up the basket. Something gold, half-hidden under an old magazine, caught her eye. She carefully pushed the periodical to one side. Underneath, was a gold wedding band. Donna carefully pocketed the ring before leaving the office. 0900 HRS. SUNDAY, MARCH 5, 2000. DR. FULLER'S QUARTERS, PQL Sammie Jo bit her bottom lip and frowned, frustrated. She glared at the photo arrangement on her desk shelf. The one in the middle, was the focus of her attention. There were only two people in that photo, and one was Sammie Jo herself, dressed in a Christmas red Maid of Honor gown, standing next to the diminutive bride. The bride was her best friend, Bertie Riley. Or, as she was more widely known, Dr. Alberta Calavicci, Ph.D. When Ziggy and Al had first dropped the bomb about the alternate time line, Sammie Jo had a sudden onslaught of vague memories. She did not tell Al or Ziggy and, as far as she knew, no one else on the Project had these memories. To them, Beth had always been Al's wife; but Sammie Jo could almost remember a time when neither Beth nor her daughters were part of the picture. Sammie Jo wanted to confide in them, but she was afraid Beeks would suggest hypnosis. It had taken years for her to get over the sight of Leta Aider and the last thing she wanted was something to cause the memories to resurface. Sammie Jo's frustration stemmed from two sources. First, why was she able to remember something that no one else should be able to remember? The other source of frustration stemmed from knowing Bertie as she did. Bertie didn't have an ego the size of her IQ (unlike Ziggy), but Bertie did have qualms about Sam tinkering with the past. So long as his actions effected the lives of ordinary people, and not world events, she kept her peace. Though, in this case, Bertie really couldn't blame Sam. He had no idea his actions would result in the creation of one of the top five geniuses in the world. *We'll just have to keep it from her,* Sammie Jo thought, watching Ferdinand chase his tail. *Of course, that means coaching Al.* That would require a great deal of time and effort. Bertie wasn't easily fooled. Hopefully, they would have plenty of time for that and with a little luck, Al's memories would return. "Dr. Fuller?" Sammie Jo yelped, startling the cat. "What?" she asked the computer irritably. "Is there something troubling you? You seem to be uneasy." Time for half-truths. "I was just thinking about Bertie and what we should do, to keep her from finding out." "I do not understand why you find it necessary to conceal the truth from Dr. Calavicci." "Come on, Ziggy. You know she doesn't like it when Sam influences world events or history, on a global scale." "Dr. Beckett helped bring about her existence, Dr. Fuller. If she had already existed, and he had prevented her untimely death, thereby allowing her to win a Nobel, then I would say he was tampering with world history." "Ah, Ziggy, someone else won the Nobel in Physics last year. Sam changed history on a global scale." "That was not his intent when he reunited the Calaviccis, Dr. Fuller, and there was no one to tell him the odds. Dr. Calavicci would agree with me." "We -you and I- are not telling her a thing. If the decision is made, it will be the admiral's call. Understood?" "Yes, Dr. Fuller." "Now, do you know when we might be graced with her presence?" Ziggy was quiet for a moment. "Unable to determine." "My guess would be Easter. I just need to know if it will be sooner." "Unable to determine." Sammie Jo sighed. "Current location?" Again, silence. "Unable to determine. You are aware that Dr. Calavicci has encrypted e- mail, phones, credit cards, and bank accounts. She designed them specifically to keep her whereabouts a secret. Even I cannot crack her codes." Ziggy sounded miffed. Sammie Jo swore under her breath. If encrypt was activated, it meant she was on business. Congressional business. National Security business. Bertie could be as close as White Sands and as far away as Saudi Arabia. Ziggy could usually track her if she was at her office, since she tapped into the Project almost daily. "Where's Kevin?" "Lt. Riley is currently completing TDY at Miramar. He will be on leave affective tomorrow." "Great." Sammie Jo said sourly. "That means they could be coming here. Monitor Trudi, Faith, and Hope. They usually flock down here as a group. Oh, and don't forget about Georgie and Sandy. We need advanced warning on this, Ziggy, if for no other reason than to give the admiral a chance to explain things to her himself." "Very well, doctor. Do you wish me to inform the others?" Sammie Jo bit her lip again. "No. No use in exciting the masses, just yet. See if you can get any indication of a possible invasion by the Giggle Brigade, first." "Yes, Dr. Fuller. Might I suggest you have breakfast before the meeting?" Sammie Jo scooped up her cat, who had spent the entire time looking for the source of Ziggy's voice. "Stop mothering me, Zig," she told the computer, leaving her quarters.