Chapter 22 Al was in the Imaging Chamber, waiting for Gooshie to activate the program. He had showered and changed after Donna had left. Now he was dressed in dark brown trousers, khaki shirt, his favorite gold vest and a dark brown jacket. Beth had joked that he reminded her of a fancy candy bar. Al paced, wanting to get to Sam. "Gooshie! Come on already!" "Just one moment, Admiral." Gooshie's soft voice came over the speakers. Al snorted. One moment to Gooshie was 10 minutes to the rest of the world. Al had eaten a light lunch, then stopped by Verbena's office. Verbena had suggested that when he saw Sam, to just talk to him. Al planned to, IF he ever got in. "Gooshie!!" he called again. "Imaging Chamber online. Centering now." The world began to spin once again. Al wished for the upteenth time that they could find a way to center on Sam that didn't make him feel like the laundry in the washer on spin dry. He closed his eyes until the lock was complete. When he dared open them again, he was once again in Sam's room. Two doctors were at the foot of Sam's bed discussing his case. One was an older, balding man, obviously a resident. The other was younger, probably an intern. The elder man was talking. Al stepped over beside them. He wanted to hear what they had to say about Sam's condition. "Dr. Morrows, This patient has severe head trauma. Have you been able to locate any relatives? The family should be notified." The younger man answered. "No. I have not. There were no contacts listed at her address. Dr. Browning, what is the prognosis?" The elder doctor picked up the chart. "Not good I'm afraid. The impact was just to severe. If she does wake from the coma, she will most likely have some kind of paralysis." He replaced the chart. Al narrowed his eyes. Oh boy, this did not seem good at all. The younger doctor went to Sam's bedside. "Such a shame. So young too. What's to become of the baby?" "State care, I suppose." They walked off then, discussing other patients. Al stood frozen to his spot, unable to move. His brain reeled. Paralysis? Sam? Mr. Boy Scout?? How could Sam accomplish his leaps paralyzed? He walked over to Sam's bedside. "Sam?" No response. "Sam, Bena says I should talk to you, because you can still hear me." He paused wondering what to say. He took a deep breath, then began. "Sam, I'm sorry you are in here. Real sorry, kid. If you can hear me, please know that I tried my best to prevent this." He paced up and down Sam's bedside. "Ziggy didn't give us much notice. Four minutes, she said. Can you believe that?" He was gesturing with his hands, more out of habit, than because Sam could see. The machines continued to beep with Sam's heartbeat. The room was just too quiet for Al. "It took me almost three minutes to get in here from Verbena's office. I tried, Sam. I hope you can hear me and know how sorry I am. This shouldn't have happened." He stopped his pacing and looked down at Sam's still face. "Sam. Please fight. You're no quitter. I know you won't give up. You never could." He smiled as a memory surfaced of Sam staying up all night working on the plans for Ziggy. Al raised the handlink and patched himself through to the main control room. "Gooshie. Bring me in a chair. I want to stay a while." Al continued to talk about the early days of the project. He was aware that he was babbling, but he preferred the sound of chatter over the beeping of the machines keeping Sam alive. The Imaging Chamber door opened and Gooshie entered carrying a folding chair. "It was all I could find." he said apologetically. "It's fine, thanks." Al took the chair and opened it. Gooshie watched as he set it up next to what he assumed was Sam's bed. To him the room was empty and blank. He stared for a moment at Al. He turned to leave, but hesitated. Al sat down in the chair and turned to see Gooshie waiting. "Cripes, Gooshie. If you're gonna stay, at least let me close the door." Gooshie paused for a moment then stepped inside. "Admiral, umm..." He took a step closer and watched the door slide shut. "May I?" he held out his hand, eyes filled with an unspoken question. Al sighed and nodded, knowing what Gooshie wanted and was unable to ask. "Get over here already." He reached his own hand out. Gooshie walked over and took the proffered hand. Sam's room came into focus. He stood there looking down at the woman in the bed. He didn't have Al's ability to 'see' Sam, but he still knew. He bowed his head in a silent prayer. Al watched as Gooshie bowed his head. Out of respect, both for Sam and Gooshie, Al bowed his own head too, and said a small prayer of his own. When he looked up at Gooshie, he saw tears in the man's eyes. Gooshie let go of Al's hand and swiped at his face. He turned to face Al. "Thank you." His voice wavered. Al had to fight off tears of his own. "You're welcome." his own voice was unsteady. He lifted the handlink, and Gooshie nodded. Punching in the code, the door rose. With a final nod, Gooshie left, still wiping tears from his eyes. The door closed again, and Al was alone again with Sam. He sat in silence for a moment. Gathering up his thoughts, he spoke again. "Sam. When you finally leap back home, I'm going to host the biggest party ever. I promise you that." Donna could argue all she wanted with Al, but no one wanted Sam home more than Al did. No one. He still blamed himself in some ways for Sam's first leap. So many big IF's and no place to really lay the blame. He sighed. A nurse came in to check Sam's vitals. She took his blood pressure and temperature, and recorded the results on the chart. She checked the monitors, then smoothed down the sheets and left quietly. Al hated not being able to ask questions sometimes. He got up and went to where Sam's charts were hanging at the foot of the bed. He had to bend in half and crane his neck to read it. Blood pressure was a little high, but still within the norm. Temperature was within the norm. He went back to his chair, but before sitting, checked on Sam himself. Sam appeared to be at peace, his breathing deep and regular. The oxygen machine hissed quietly with each breath. Al sat back down, aware of just how useless he was now. He couldn't help Sam. He couldn't talk to anyone. Hell, he couldn't even hold Sam's hand to reassure the kid there was someone nearby. It was going to be a long afternoon.