Chapter Eight


As the word echoed across the room and disturbed the silence of the
seventh-deck lounge, Deanna Calavicci stirred awake and opened her eyes,
then lay still and stared at the vinyl couch cushions a few inches from her
face. She knew who had spoken to her, and rather than respond to the
woman's voice, she shut her eyes again.


This time, the overhead light snapped on to accompany the word, and bathed
the room with white florescent light.

There's that voice again, she thought.

With a long intake of breath, Deanna stretched her arms and rolled over
from her side onto her back, laying one arm over her eyes to block the
light. She released a low groan as the muscles in her back protested the
movement, and as the cold rush of air cleared away the pocket of body
warmth she had formed over the past hour.

"Doctor Trenton," Deanna muttered, "you are interrupting a fine, fine Navy
tradition. It's called the nooner." She grunted and turned onto her side.

Sammi Jo Trenton crossed her arms and leaned against the doorway, then gave
her head a quick jerk to the right and tossed her long blonde hair over her
shoulder. She brought one hand up to rub her neck, then narrowed her blue
eyes and frowned at Deanna.

Deanna yawned. "What do you need?"

"I need an Assistant Observer with a better attitude," she replied sharply.

"Well, you're stuck with me."

"No kidding. Let's make the best of it, then, okay?"

Deanna raised both hands and shrugged. "You mean, we're not making the best
of it now?"

Sammi Jo exhaled sharply, then uncrossed her arms and walked into the room.
She stopped at the overstuffed chair against the wall, a few feet from
Deanna, and dropped into the seat. She wore a brown-and-white lace top over
a tan T-shirt-- an outfit which complimented her slim figure and gave sharp
contrast to Deanna's relaxed dress uniform. Despite the responsibilities
pressed on her as Engram's Project Leader, Sammi Jo was still only
twenty-seven, just two years older than Deanna.

"I was going over the project reports from last week," Sammi Jo said in a
controlled, casual tone. "I don't have one from you."

"St. John writes them, not me."

"He went to Albuquerque last week for medical appointments. I left a
message on Friday morning for you to write it."

"I never saw it." Deanna swung her feet off the couch and sat up. "He never
said anything about going anywhere, either. What's wrong?"

"Why don't you check your messages?"

Deanna pursed her lips. "I don't bother. The last thing I got from either
of you had to do with the Imaging Chamber. Something about my lacking the
‘clearance' to enter it. That was seven months ago."

"He's having trouble walking," Sammi Jo confessed with obvious concern. "He
hasn't really said much about it until recently, but until his leg gets
better, you'll have to take over the reports.

"Anything else?"

"No." Sammi Jo smiled coldly and stood. "You don't have the clearance for
anything else."

Deanna rose from the couch. She waited until Sammi Jo passed through the
doorway, then she snapped to attention and tilted her chin up as she

"Aye aye, ma'am," she muttered hoarsely.

"Talk to me, Ziggy."

Deanna glanced at the computer's speakers as a feminine voice floated out
of their horizontal gray webs, then she leaned back and rocked in her

She recalled that one of the original scientists from Project Quantum
Leap-- Doctor Tina Gushie, the wife of the former head programmer-- had
altered the voice pattern and pitch of the computer from male to female.
Both of them had been dismissed during the downsizing, and now the position
of head programmer rested with another man, Doctor Eric McCarthy.

"Good afternoon, Lieutenant," Ziggy said. "By the way, I wish to thank you
for using the original name given to me by Doctor Beckett and Admiral
Calavicci. However, I do have a question for you."


"How is it," Ziggy asked, "that you chose to call me by that name prior to
learning about the original history of Project Quantum Leap?"

Deanna hesitated. When she received her orders, she had been briefed on the
history of Quantum Leap and how it related to another failed experiment
called Project Starbright; this made Engram the third phase of research.
Those different levels of development, coupled with her first impression of
the building itself, reminded her of a ziggurat, an ancient structure she
had seen during a documentary. The image inspired her to abbreviate the
word to "Ziggy," because for some reason it seemed right. But wasn't there
more to it?

"I don't know, Ziggy," she said at last. "I really don't."

"It is unusual. After all, your father-- in the present circumstances, that
is-- has had no connection to either Project Engram or Project Quantum
Leap. His assignment as Observer was terminated by Doctor Sam Beckett on
April 3, 1969, after Doctor Beckett saved the Admiral's first marriage to
Beth Lynn Calavicci."

"Their project wasn't built in 1969, though."

"No, but the incident which altered the original history of the project
occurred then."

Deanna leaned forward and placed one hand under her chin. "So in changing
my father's life, Sam Beckett trapped himself in time?"

"Yes, Lieutenant."

"What can we do to bring him back?"

"Nothing, I'm afraid. The equipment at Project Engram is insufficient to
retrieve Doctor Beckett."

Deanna hissed through her teeth and stood, then began to pace the room.
"That's no surprise. The equipment has been messed with so many times in
the past few years..."

She stopped and leaned over the back of the chair. "What if everything was
put back to its original configuration. The plans are still around
somewhere, I'm sure. Is there a chance of retrieving him then?"


The blue screen on the computer terminal dissolved to a picture of the
Control Room, and showed the energized equipment with its random flashing
lights. Deanna hardly recognized the room, which varied greatly from the
cluttered, dissected chamber in its present state.

"The particular wave pattern which I used to send Doctor Beckett back in
time," Ziggy explained, "was different in this dimension from the one used
in the original history. Another contrast between the two experiments is
that no exchange of location occurred between him and another individual."

"So he really did it? He sent himself physically through time?" Deanna
whistled in surprise and sat down again. "Lock, stock and barrel. No wonder
we never had visitors. We didn't need anyone for him to switch places

"Correct. However, the system designed by Doctor Beckett and Edward St.
John was insufficient to accomplish both a leap and a return."

"You're kidding. Why didn't you say something?"

"It was not my place to control the outcome of the project," came the
emotionless reply.

Ziggy took the picture of the Control Room and zoomed in towards an open
panel in the far corner, and a series of lines appeared to represent the

"Doctor Beckett had no intention of returning, Lieutenant. The retrieval
system was created solely as an option, but it was never an actual working

"Never real?"

Deanna scanned the screen, then put one finger over the image of the dummy
unit and traced the lines. Her finger rested at a gap in the line.

"It's missing something, right here. But why would he do that to himself?"

Once again, the picture on the screen changed. Ziggy showed her a video of
a small church decorated with flowers and filled with guests in obvious
anticipation of a wedding. The scene cut to a shot of a nervous Sam
Beckett, just as someone whispered to him. Although Ziggy had cut out the
sound, Deanna didn't need words to understand the circumstances.

"I forgot." Deanna looked away from Sam's confused, pained expression on
the screen. "His fiancee left him at the altar."

"One month, three days and four hours prior to Doctor Beckett's first

Deanna reached for the stack of handwritten notes beside the computer and
dropped them into her lap, then flipped several pages.

"But you said he came home once, to his wife, Donna. Same woman?"

"Yes." The description of the leap mercifully covered Sam's distraught
face. "However, the situation remains the same as I described. Only a
handful of the changes that Doctor Beckett made with Admiral Calavicci's
assistance can be matched to those made with St. John's help. Sadly, this
is one incident that did not change."

Deanna scribbled down a few additions, then set the papers aside. Her body
began to tingle, just as it had upon discovering the leaps, and she stared
at the far wall as she tried to organize her thoughts.

I think I get it now. I think...

"Lieutenant, will you help me?"

Deanna shuddered and turned her attention back to Ziggy. "Help you do

"If I were human," Ziggy said in a contemplative tone, "I suppose that I
would feel guilt for allowing Doctor Beckett to accomplish his leap when I
knew what the results would be. In that sense, I am responsible for what
happened to him."

"What did happen, Ziggy? I mean, in this time with St. John here. What

"The life of Doctor Samuel Beckett was terminated when he leaped into the
household of Abigail Fuller on October 16, 1976."

"Sammi Jo's mother?"

"He was stabbed to death by a woman named Leida Aiders, who afterwards
committed suicide. Mrs. Aiders suffered nervous breakdowns following the
deaths of her husband and daughter, and she blamed both incidents on
Abigail Fuller." Ziggy paused. "Miss Fuller was executed for the murders of
Leida Aiders and an unidentified man found in her kitchen."

"Sam." Deanna tilted her head back and closed her eyes. "So what the hell
did he accomplish? He goes through all those leaps with my father and fixes
history, then messes it up and gets killed in a leap he succeeded in
before. For what?"

"For Admiral Calavicci, of course," Ziggy responded. "Might I remind you
that if he hadn't reunited your parents, you wouldn't be here."

"That's a hell of a price." Deanna let out a humorless laugh. "I mean, I'm
flattered. I'm alive. But what about Sammi Jo's mother? And how many other
lives did Sam fail to save by dying so early?"

"Twenty-three, in comparison with the original project history."

"Exactly!" Deanna exclaimed with a snap of her fingers. "And there's no way
to measure the repercussions of those lost lives, either."

"I take it, then, that you are in agreement with me? That something must be

Deanna put her little finger to her mouth and began to chew absently on the
nail, watching as information scrolled down the computer monitor. Her gaze
roamed over the screen restlessly, and after a few minutes of careful
contemplation, she nodded.

"All right, Ziggy. Whatever you want, I'll do it. For Sam Beckett."

                                Chapter Nine

Al Calavicci winced and lowered his right arm. He looked down at his hand,
rubbed the side of it, then raised his other arm and pounded on the door
with his fist.

"I know you're in there, Sam!" he shouted hoarsely.

"Leave me alone, Al," came the muffled reply.

Al grit his teeth and gave the door a kick. "Open the door!"

"I'm busy."

Al delivered one last kick to the door. "Okay, Sam. You asked for it."

With a grim smile, he pushed up his bright blue shirt sleeve to reveal a
communication bracelet on his wrist. The bracelet's red, blue and yellow
lights flashed to life when he touched it, and Ziggy's calm voice echoed
out of a tiny speaker along the side.


"Yes, Admiral. I am monitoring the situation between you and Doctor

"I need to get in there," he whispered.

"That is a breach of Doctor Beckett's privacy," Ziggy replied. "However, if
you would inform me of the problem, I will gladly open the door. He
neglected to engage the mechanical locking device and activated only the
electronic one, which is easy to neutralize-- that is, if you tell me what
is wrong."

"Only if you let me inside first, Ziggy." Although not in the mood for
games, Al knew that Ziggy would do anything to satisfy her ever-present

"Very well," came the exasperated reply.


The door handle emitted a soft click and the door eased out of its frame.
Al didn't hesitate. He stepped quickly into the room, then stopped a few
feet inside.

Sam Beckett sat hunched over his desk surrounded by books, loose sheets of
blank paper and his hand-drawn diagrams of Ziggy's systems. He looked up in
surprise as Al charged into the room, then closed the book cradled between
his hands with a snap.

"Dammit, Ziggy!" he shouted as he tossed the book away.

"I'm sorry," Ziggy replied, "but you were being unreasonable in refusing to
speak to Admiral Calavicci."

Sam combed his fingers through his hair. "That's my business, not yours."

"I'm afraid you're wrong, Doctor," Ziggy insisted. "I am aware that Project
Quantum Leap is being threatened by the presence of an outside influence. I
am also aware that since your return, you have avoided extended contact
with everyone on the staff except for Admiral Calavicci and Sammi Jo

"So?" Sam replied in a sullen voice.

"I am in danger, Doctor Beckett." Ziggy paused and addressed Al. "Isn't
that so, Admiral?"

"That's right, Ziggy."

Sam crossed his arms. "When did this come up? What kind of danger?"

Al shrugged his shoulders and cocked his head to one side, his dark eyes
studying Sam Beckett carefully. "if you hadn't locked yourself in here,
maybe you'd have an idea."

"I'm trying to re-design a couple of systems."

"Well, excuse me!" Al snapped. "We've got more important things to worry
about now. Do you have any idea who's here?"

"The review board. I saw them."

"This is no review board. There are seven people upstairs right now. Three
of them are scientists and three are military, and the last one is a
government agent." Al glanced away, then turned back to Sam. "I thought
they were here to close the book on us, but now I'm not so sure."

"They can't shut us down, Al."

"Sam, wake up to reality, here!" Al took a few steps forward. "Denial isn't
going to do you a damned bit of good."

"I'm afraid it's useless, Admiral," Ziggy interjected. "Doctor Beckett is
unconcerned about the outside world. He is preoccupied with my systems and
the reconfiguration and improvements that must be made."

"That's right," Sam agreed with a sharp nod of his head. "But don't think
I'm not going to fight this, Al. I won't let them take my project."

"It's our project, Sam, and there are a lot of other people involved in
this thing, not just you." Al bowed his head. "Look, I've put up with you
these past few days because I know you're not quite right yet--"

Sam stared at Al with his peculiar bright eyes and remained silent.

"--but if I'm right about these people, then we can't fight this committee.
As a matter of fact, I think it would be a bad idea to show any resistance
to them. They would label us as a hindrance to their investigation and shut
the whole complex down." He paused. "I know this game. At least if we
cooperate and give them what they ask for, we'll have access to Ziggy."

"For how long, though?" Sam thought for a moment, then nodded. "All right,
I'll go along with that. No resistance."

"Good." Al passed his hand over his forehead. "Now we've got to start
getting our case together."

"I'll do it," Sam interrupted. "It's my problem. I'll take care of it."

"No, it's everyone's problem. Everyone is willing to help."

"I said that I'll take care of it," Sam muttered through clenched teeth. He
set one clenched fist above the desk and let it drop onto the papers that
lay scattered there. "I don't want anyone's help. I don't want anyone
getting in the way."

Al looked at him and shook his head, then took a step back, confused by
Sam's sudden flash of anger.

"What's with you? Nobody's gonna get in the way. It's not like you're still
leaping. You're not alone in this, you know--"

"I said, leave it to me!" he shouted.

Al half-closed his eyes. "You can't shut me out, Sam," he said in a low
voice. "You can't shut everyone out like you've done to Donna."

Sam turned away. "Leave Donna out of this."

"What? Like you have? My God, Sam, how many times have you talked to her
since you got back? Five? Two? She misses you more now than when you were
leaping. How can you act like this to her?"

"Oh, I'm supposed to get marriage tips from you?" Sam stood and leaned
against the desk, then rubbed his eyes. "She understands."

"Yea, that's the worst part," Al replied with an exasperated look. "She
loves you. She's coming up with one excuse after another to explain what
you're doing to her, did you know that?"

"Shut up," he hissed.

"You're tearing her apart, Sam!"

"Yea?" He spun around. "Well, maybe you ought to worry more about Tina than

Al blinked in surprise at the sudden shift in the conversation. "Huh?"

"Stay out of my personal life." He glared at Al and though he tried not to,
Al had to look away to avoid Sam's strange eyes.

"Ever since I've known you," Sam continued, "you've always kept your
distance. Aside from hearing about your one-night stands, you never told me
anything personal until after I leaped. The first time you opened up was
when you told me about your sister Trudy. Hell, I couldn't even appreciate
it because I was lucky to know my own name then."

Al shrugged, his gaze on the wall behind Sam. "That's just the way I am."

So why the sudden interest in my life? What do you care what Donna's been
up to, or how I've felt?"

"Because you haven't 'felt' anything!" Al replied sharply. "Right now,
you're looking at me like you don't even know me. It's probably the same
look you give donna. No wonder she's afraid of you." Al struggled to meet
Sam's gaze. "Donna slept in the lounge last night, on the couch. She said
she didn't want to go back to your quarters because she didn't know who you

Sam's gaze sharpened. "What were you doing there?"

"I couldn't sleep. At least I'm trying to help her, and that's more than
you're doing."

"To help her, or help yourself?"

Al caught the accusation and shook his head. "Sam, you know me. I'd

"Yea, I know you!" he barked. "I know that you'd love the opportunity to
come up, too. Stay away from my wife, Al. You wrecked your marriages, but
you're not going to mess up mine. If you want something to do, why don't
you go chase Tina out of Gushie's bed?"

The room grew silent. Al looked at Sam with a stunned, angry expression in
his dark eyes and started to turn away from him.

"Damn!" Sam pounded the desk in frustration, then extended one hand towards
Al. "Al, I didn't mean that."

Al slouched away from him, avoiding contact with Sam's outstretched hand.
"You think I didn't know about it?" he mumbled weakly. "Don't you think I'd
do something, if I could?"


"I've got to go," he said as he moved through the doorway. "See you later,

Sam started towards the door, then sighed and sank down on a corner of the
desk, his head lowered and his hands over his face.

"I didn't mean it, Ziggy. I really didn't."

"Of course you did, Doctor Beckett," Ziggy replied. "You wouldn't have
brought it up if you didn't. In light of the current situation," Ziggy
added, "I think it would be best for you to consult with Doctor Beeks for

"Yea. I've got to get out of here for a while. Level Two, right?"

The computer monitor in the corner flashed a room number on its black
screen, and Ziggy's voice flowed from the speaker. "That is correct."

                                Chapter Ten

The door to Verbeena Beeks' office, unless she had a counseling session,
always remained open to members of the Project during the day; an
occasional "Gone To Lunch" sign or "Back In Fifteen Minutes" remained the
only deviation from this practice. Therefore, when Sam Beckett turned the
corner and found Verbeena's door closed and locked without any explanation,
it confused him for a minute.

"Where is she, Ziggy?"

Sam asked the question out loud, then touched his wrist absently as he
realized he'd forgotten a com bracelet.

Sam looked at the door, puzzled. Where is she, he wondered. Maybe if I
hadn't wasted the past hour looking for Al, she would have been here. And
where did Al disappear to, anyway?

Sam closed his eyes and moaned.

The briefing! How could I have forgotten that?

Sam rubbed the back of his neck and looked around the empty hallway, then
started off in the direction of the lecture hall.

As Sam reached the end of the hallway, he heard Gushie's voice echo from
around the corner. He took the corner sharply and came nose-to-nose with
Don Benettelli, then backed up quickly and smiled to hide his

Don jumped a little, too. "Oh, he-hello, Doctor Beckett," he whispered.

Sam looked at the half-open lecture hall door, then tilted his head and
peered through the opening. "What's going on?"

"The visitors are having their c-conference."

"A briefing," Sam corrected him. "I know. I was supposed to start it off
with a speech, but I forgot about it."

Don nodded. "I was s-supposed to speak, too, but..." He shrugged and looked
away. "Th-they didn't want me to."

Sam placed a hand on Don's shoulder. "Who didn't?"

"The rest of the s-staff. They don't have to say it. I can tell by the way
they l-look at me."

Down on the floor of the lecture hall, Sam watched as Gushie waved his arms
to emphasize his speech on Ziggy's programming commands.

"But I've heard you," Sam insisted. "On the video for the committee. You've
got a great voice."

"Not when I stutter."

"That's not important. You're a part of this team, too. You've got a right
to be down there."

Sam pulled open the door and walked over to the top of the stairs, then
stopped and observed the sunken room, the seats occupied by the review
board members and the Project staff. The staff sat off to the left side of
the room in the first row, while the board members had positioned
themselves in the middle of the right side, an empty seat between each of

Gushie concluded his lecture on his duties as Head Programmer and Sam
watched as Al replaced Gushie behind the podium. Al glanced up and spotted
Sam and Don by the door, then took in a deep breath.

"At this time, ladies and gentlemen," he said, "I would like to introduce
Doctor Samuel Beckett, who will answer any further questions you may have
on the general operations of Quantum Leap."

As Sam began his descent to the floor, Al spoke again.

"I must remind you that this is an introductory meeting. Your investigation
is not the issue here, and we cannot answer any questions--" he gave Sam a
steady look, "--on the details of the experiment at this time."

Sam nodded to show Al that he understood.

In other words, he thought, don't give them any ammunition.

Even before Sam reached the bottom of the carpeted stairs, Al slid off to
the side to join the rest of the core staff-- Gushie, Tina, Verbeena and
Sammi Jo. Al stared at the visitors, his face unemotional and in control,
completely ignoring Sam Beckett.

Sam looked over the seven people seated before him. He quickly identified
the military individuals (all male) by their uniforms; two wore Navy dress
whites and the other one had on Air Force attire. The scientists, two men
and one woman, wore conservative business suits.

Sam deliberately avoided looking at St. John, even though he could feel the
man's attention focus on him.

"I'd like to apologize for my absence," Sam began. "I hope that my staff
has given you a clearer understanding of what goes on here at Project
Quantum Leap. We've spent an incredible five years here, and we are pleased
to have the opportunity to share our knowledge with you."

Sam managed to keep a straight face as a thought occurred to him: can
lightning strike this room?

"Feel free to ask me any questions," he added.

A moment of silence passed before the female scientist, a thin woman with
long gray-and-white hair drawn back in a ponytail, raised her hand. She
flashed a brief smile and locked her hands together.

"Doctor Beckett, my name is Doctor Virginia Mayes. I would like to start
off by congratulating you on such an incredible discovery. It's something
none of us could've dreamed of, much less achieved."

Sam returned her smile. "Well, thank you."

"My question is, how did you know that a complete hologram-- voice and
picture-- could be transported across time? Did you do some preliminary

"We did perform a few tests with the system before my leap, with positive
results. I would be in another room, and the Observer would project his
image to me. Kind of like hide and seek." Sam shrugged. "The connection was
based on my brain waves, so I naturally assumed that it would extend
through time as easily as it did through space."

Doctor Mayes nodded and made a few notes as the man next to her, in the Air
Force uniform, put his arm up.

Sam's expression became more serious. "Yes?"

"I've got some questions on the organization of your staff. It seems that
you've burdened a few people with a lot of responsibilities."

"Well, sir..."

The man supplied his name. "Captain Richard Adams."

"Captain, I was forced to limit access because this is a top-secret
project. The government would only allow a certain number of people to work
here due to security and funding reasons. Our original staff did consist of
over one hundred, mostly during the construction period, but over the
course of the experiment we had to dismiss the majority of the personnel.
Prior to this investigation, we had a crew of thirty-seven."

Captain Adams sat back in his chair. "So how did you decide in what manner
the various jobs would be handled, and by whom?"

"Each person here," Sam replied as he gestured to the staff, "represents
the head of a department. As people were phased out, these individuals and
their staff took up the necessary job assignments according to their
particular abilities."

One of the naval officers raised his hand.

"My name is Admiral Sean Mirosa, Doctor." The slim, dark-haired man placed
his hands on his lap and offered up a hesitant smile. "I'm with the NASA
space program. I don't believe that Admiral Calavicci remembers me, but we
worked in Pensacola at the same time."

Sam looked at Al, but Al shook his head and shrugged.

"Why did you decide to bring Admiral Calavicci into this project?" Mirosa
asked. "I am aware of his outstanding contributions to the United States
Navy-- his improvements on the disposal of nuclear waste, his help in
eliminating the 'Deep Six' practice and so forth-- but why would you bring
him here?"

"Admiral Calavicci has an understanding of computer systems that was very
helpful in the construction and improvement of Ziggy, our parallel hybrid
computer. Also, because of his astronaut training, he can maintain his
equilibrium and good judgment in the Imaging Chamber."

The male scientist seated at the end of the row instantly brought his hand

"Doctor, I'm Doctor Avery Steiner. I perform experiments at UCLA concerning
the human brain. We're currently working on the nature of the mind, and I
can't help but wonder. How is this computer of yours able to link the two
of you together for this hologram process? If there isn't a direct physical
connection, how can the computer utilize electromagnetic brain waves
through time to accomplish this?"

Sam watched Al mouth, "Careful, Sam."

"I'm afraid that question is a rather involved one at this stage," Sam
replied cautiously. "It's a very detailed process which I'll be glad to
answer later in your investigation."

The final scientist spoke up, his pudgy hand curled around a pen that he
held up in the air. "I'm Doctor Mitchell Levin from MIT. I'm aware of the
rarity of successful experiments involving field generators, and I wondered
if you could tell us how you managed to incorporate them into your

"And," added the last naval officer, "how you did it without the
government's knowledge." In the silence that followed his question, the man
gave his name. "Admiral John Peovis."

Sam glanced around the room, then settled his gaze back on Doctor Levin. "I
know that field generators are unpredictable, but to get the results I
needed it was necessary to, uh..."

"Sneak them in?" Peovis prodded him.

"I was never given specific instructions as to what I could or couldn't
use. I simply didn't ask," Sam replied defensively. "All that was asked of
me was to get positive results. The methods used to get those results were
never discussed."

"But how," Levin interrupted, "did you decide the generators were
necessary? Couldn't some less dangerous and more stable equipment have

Sam heard Al's voice, low and cautious. "Sam..."

"Uh, again, that's a question I'll have to address later."

Doctor Levin and Admiral Peovis gave Sam matching looks of irritation, but
fell silent. Sam sighed with relief and leaned away from the podium.

"I'd like to thank you for coming here today and for your questions--"

"One last question, please," said another voice.

Sam felt a chill run through his body as the words echoed down to him. He
turned slowly and held onto the podium for support, then looked up at the
patient, smirking face of Edward St. John.

"Yes?" he asked in a hoarse voice.

St. John sat straight in his chair and gave him a calm, measuring look.
"How do you justify changing history," he asked, "in order to straighten
out your own troubled life?"

Sam took in a sharp breath of surprise. "How--"

Al suddenly stood up, made his way across the floor and gently moved Sam
aside from the podium. "I think that's enough for today. I'd like to thank
you for your time, and we'll be ready for the start of the investigation
tomorrow morning. Good night," he said firmly.

Al took Sam by the arm, half-leading and half-pulling him towards the
stairway and the door.

"Don't say anything else," he whispered harshly. "Don't even look at him."

Another hand took his other arm, and Sam turned his head to face Don
Benettelli. "Let's g-go, Doctor," he muttered in agreement.

"I don't get it," Sam heard himself say.

"The guy was testing you," Don explained. "Ziggy d-does the same thing to
help me stop stuttering. You distract the person with something they
d-didn't expect and the person does what you want them to."

"He tricked you, Sam." Al gave Sam a grim look. "He didn't know a damned
thing. He was bluffing."