Chapter VI

MAY 1985
PROJECT STAR BRIGHT
MAUDLIN, VA
(F*L*A*S*H*B*A*C*K)

	Al pushed open the stairwell door, descending into the lower levels of the
project, where the vending machines were kept.

	It was late, close to 6:30 p.m.  Most of the staff, if not all, was gone
for the evening.  That was good, as far as Al was concerned.  The last
thing he needed right now was to get caught with booze on a top secret
project.  He'd been smuggling bottles in his gym bag for almost a year, and
he'd stock up on cans of soda to help disguise what he was up to.  Tonight,
he was a little more than half way through the bottle and ran out of soda.

	The divorce was final.

	Six months ago, Janet filed for divorce and sole custody of their
daughter, Calista.  To add insult to injury, she also petitioned to ban Al
from even seeing Callie.

	Al swayed slightly, coins poised above the slot.  He remembered calling
Janet immediately after her lawyer contacted him.  He demanded to know why
she was cutting him off from their daughter.

	*"What difference does it make?  Your never around, Al and she hasn't seen
you in weeks."*

	Al didn't know how to tell her that he'd watched his own father die of
cancer and he just couldn't sit around and watch Callie die as well.  He
hadn't worked up the courage to face his daughter yet and now Janet was
threatening to deny him the chance.

	*"Look, honey, if you promise not to cut me off from her, I'll  . . . I'll
try to stop in to see her.  From time to time."*

	*"Not good enough," she informed him.  "She needs you, Al.  She misses
you.  She doesn't understand why you don't come to see her.  She thinks you
don't love her anymore."*

	Even now, Janet's words stung.  Al closed his eyes and leaned against the
machine, still clutching the change.

	*"Janet . . ." he pleaded, turning on the charm, trying to get his way.*

	It hadn't worked.

	*"No, Al.  I'm serious.  You need to get help.  I want you to see someone
about those nightmares.  And your drinking.  If you do that, then I'll
change the petition."*

	Al had tried to reason with her, but she wouldn't budge.  Those were her
terms.  End of subject.  Part of him realized that she was doing this for
him, but that part of him was silenced by the other part.  The part that
felt bitter and betrayed.  How *dare* she use their *child* against him?

	Janet was true to her word.  When the judge declared the marriage
dissolved, Al lost all rights to his daughter.

	*My daughter's dying and I can't see her,* he thought, angrily shoving the
coins into the slot.  That rational part of his mind kept reminding him
that it was his own fault he lost Callie.

	Al jabbed at the selection button.  Nothing happened.  He pounded on the
button several times before he realized that he jammed the coins in the
slot.  Unsuccessfully, he alternately tried to pry the coins out and push
them in.

	After about fifteen minutes of more pounding with his bare hands, Al went
in search of something to help him.  The old storage room had an assortment
of items with potential.  Croquet wickets, a pitiful excuse for a Christmas
tree, an old `Reserved for General Officers' parking sign with every other
letter scratched off, and a hammer.  Al picked the hammer.

	He swayed a little has he raised his arms, ready to strike.

	"Excuse me."

	The admiral turned sharply.  "What?"  Standing before him was an earnest
looking man, somewhere between the age of 25 and 45.

	"Uh, I really don't think that's a good idea."

	"So?"  Al turned back, raising his arms again.

	He never delivered the blow.  The stranger calmly, and with a surprisingly
strong grip, took hold of the hammer.  Stubbornly, Al held on, locking eyes
with the younger man.  There was a determination there, and a bit of
desperation, too.  That caught Al off guard, and he wondered who the kid
was.  Al let him take the hammer.

	"Admiral Albert Calavicci?" he asked, hesitantly, as if he was afraid he
had the wrong person.

	"Yeah.  Who wants to know?"

	"I'm Sam Beckett.  I need help," he replied, offering his hand.  "And I
think you do too."

		***********************************

	Sam turned out to be a godsend.  It didn't happen overnight, but the kid
eventually got through to him.  And he went about it in such a devious way,
Al sometimes wondered if Sam was as innocent as he looked.

	In those days, the young genius wasn't being taken seriously by people in
power.  It was up to Al to run interference for him.  By giving Al a
challenging job, Sam was able to goad the admiral into spilling his guts.

	In appreciation for all Al's help and support, Sam went as a go-between
for him and Janet.  That's how Al found out that Janet had hoped, and
prayed, that Al would have taken steps to face his problems, instead of
running further away from them.  Even as the gavel had fallen, she told
Sam, she'd been hopeful of Al coming to his senses.

	Janet's offer still stood, but Sam convinced her to let him handle Al.
Sam made Al go see Callie every day.  It was pure agony, but the rational
part of his mind pointed out, again, that time was precious.  All Al wanted
to do after each visit was to drown himself in a bottle.  Sam wouldn't
allow that.  He reminded Al that Janet would ban him again, if he did.

	Sam only relented once.

	The day Callie died, Sam brought him back to his apartment.  He put one
bottle and one glass on the dining room table and watched Al from the sofa,
never saying a word.  Al couldn't finish the bottle, he broke down after
the second glass.  The scientist wordlessly put him the spare room.  The
next morning, the empty bottle was sitting on the table.

	That was the last time, until the birth of Ziggy, that Sam allowed Al more
than one drink.

DECEMBER 21, 2000
PROJECT QUANTUM LEAP
STALLIONS GATE, NM

	Al groaned, momentarily disoriented.  The lamp on the night stand was
blinding him.  The clock next to the lamp told him that it was four in the
morning.

	He rolled out of bed, nearly tripping over the desk chair that had been
pulled up beside the bed.  Someone had moved it and he was certain it
wasn't him.  The empty bottles were also missing.

	Al had lost count.  He'd have to check if the stash was still there and
he'd have no way of knowing if he'd already drunk them all or if someone
had taken them.  He wouldn't trust Ziggy's answer if he asked her, so he
didn't bother.

	*This must be Verbena's doing,* he thought, stumbling out of the room.

	He hoped there were bottles left.  After that last dream, Al wanted to
forget as soon as possible.

	Sam.

	If he'd known then, that Sam Beckett was responsible for Beth's death, Al
would have used that hammer on him.

	The rational part of his mind told him to stop blaming Sam for her death.
It was an accident.  Plain and simple.

	Al told that part of his mind, on no uncertain terms, where to go.

	His supply was still there, but there was only two left.  Al stood there
in the dusty room, raking his brain, trying to remember if he'd gone
through ten bottles already.  He was rewarded with a dull throbbing, so he
stopped.  One way or the other, he was down to last of his crutch.  He'd
have to find more soon.

	Al clicked off the flashlight and left the store room, clutching the
bottle like a life line.

	*********************************

	Sabina listened carefully, ear pressed against her door, waiting until she
heard the door close behind Al.

	She sighed. *Not that he could hear me,* she thought, sitting on the edge
of the bed.

	Sabina took temporary lodging in the guest room across the hall from Al.
It was more convenient for checking in on him.  It was the only thing she
could do for him at the moment.

	She glanced at the full bottles, sitting on the table across from her.
Earlier, Sabina had removed them from the store room.  She also removed the
bottles from his room, so he wouldn't know how much he'd actually drank.

	It would be a while before Al had passed out again, so she picked up one
of the bottles and uncorked it.  She moved to the bathroom and carefully
poured the contents down the drain.  Hopefully, the sound wouldn't carry.

	When the last bottle was empty, Sabina placed them in the plastic
recycling bin by the door and settled down to wait for Ziggy's Ďall clear'.

********************************
Next chapter:  Sam!  Little side note to the curious:  There IS a place
called Mauldin, but it's not in Virginia.  There's one in South Carolina.
There's a place called The Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia, and I thought
Mauldin would be the perfect name for a place near by.  So, Mauldin, SC has
been temporarily annexed by the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Ssshhh.  Don't
tell anyone. ;)