CHAPTER 12 PHOENIX, ARIZONA Date: April 2, 1999 "So." He smiled at the woman sitting across the table from him. "So." She did not smile back. Al sighed. This was going to be more trouble than he'd thought. "Why don't we start with what you know about Sam," he said, "and then I can fill in the details of what happened after that." I hope I can, anyway, he thought. Then he had an inspiration for what he'd do if he couldn't. "I'll tell you everything I can that's not classified, of course." There, that should do it. "Is what happened to Sam classified higher than Top Secret?" the woman, Donna Elysee, asked. "Because if not, you can tell me all of it." "YOU have a Top Secret classification?" Al blurted, wishing he'd at least remembered THAT much about the life he'd never lived. "You spend too many years helping your father out with the paperwork from his job, and they kind of have to give you the clearance. Makes them feel more secure about who's seeing the stuff." She smiled, and suddenly Al had a shatteringly powerful image from the life he'd never lived. Donna smiling exactly this way. But this time, she wasn't wearing a dark blue suit-dress. No...this time, she was wearing a white full-body gown. A wedding dress. She was smiling at Al as she stood there, arm in arm...with Sam Beckett. It was Sam's wedding day, several years before the project began (PROJECT? his brain screamed from a little corner. WHAT Project?) Sam had asked Al to be his best man because his father was too ill to make it and his brother, unfortunately, had been killed during the Vietnam situation. Al had been only too happy to be there. After all, it was only weeks until Al would be leaving for the Star Bright project and-- Al began to feel faint. He tried to list off in his mind how many delusions there were in that last image. He didn't know a Sam Beckett. He had never met Donna before tonight. There was no Star Bright project. He knew nothing about Sam's father (Elk Ridge, his mind whispered. You told him his name...) Wait a minute. Sam's brother wasn't dead at all--Sam had saved him when he leaped into Magic, the black man who Sam had used to make sure his brother survived the day he was supposed to be killed. Al stopped, dizzy. Oh, Mary, Mother of God. Al realized that he was now having delusions of delusions--he was telling himself that one false memory was incorrect because it was different than another false memory. He began to feel faint, and suddenly realized why those who are mad speak to each other. It was the only way to tell what version of their false memories was real. If he spoke, he thought, he would be able to know where he truly was. "Are...are you alright? HEY, are you okay?" Al spun his head, focusing on the voice. There was a woman standing in front of him. Who was she? He recognized her--right, Donna, the woman who knew Sam, who stood Sam up at the altar even though she married him, the marriage where Sam's brother couldn't make it even though he wasn't dead because he'd been killed, the woman who told Sam that she would always wait for him, no matter how long it took him to get back. HOW LONG IT TOOK TO GET BACK WHERE???? Al suddenly realized he couldn't breathe. His mind was whirling, and seemed to be caught in circles, trying to focus on something--anything--to snap him out of this confusion. "Bartender, call 911. I think he's having a heart attack. DO IT!" Al heard the voice but had no idea where it was coming from. Why did his chest feel so tight? It must be a nervous attack--hysteria, that's what it was. He tried to stand and then collapsed against the table as a pain shot up his arm faster than a speeding bullet. "I need the first-aid kit from my car. Here are the keys." How was he supposed to get any kit from the car, he wondered dully. He couldn't even stand up. Then he heard someone running and thought, of course, it's not ME who has to go anywhere. "Help me lay him on the table. He has to get prone." Al felt the world around him twirl. Funny. He'd seen something like this before. Of course! This was like the Imaging Chamber--that place where he stood when he was about to become a hologram and go and see Sam--his mind latched on to that image, trying harder than he had ever tried in his life to stop the spinning of his mind, to try and pin down WHAT he thought he was seeing, what he thought he was remembering. What did his crazy mind want him to think he remembered? He clenched his eyes to try and make it all come clear, just once. If he had to be mad, at least he could KNOW the madness completely. "Open his shirt while I get this needle ready. Do it, NOW." Al's eyes remained closed as he tried, desperately, to focus. Start at the beginning, Admiral. Do it as the military taught, focused, clear, straight. You know a man named Sam Beckett. He is dead, but you know that is not true. You know Donna Elysee, as Donna Beckett. So she never married him, and that is not true. You know that you are not a drunk, but that is not true. You know you married Beth, but that is not true. Does that mean everything in your entire life is a lie? A hallucination? A..hologram? NO--this was real, all of it. It was HE, AL, who was the hologram. It was Al who was ALWAYS the hologram, and SAM who always got to put right what once went wrong. SAM who always got to fix things, who always got to change the world. It was Sam who decided what COULD be changed. And what couldn't. It was SAM who had said Al couldn't have Beth back. Al froze. "He's going into full arrest. Stand clear, I'm going to give him CPR." Sam had the chance to change Al's marriage. Al's mind was suddenly as clear as a bell. He wondered if it was because he was about to die. Al had told Sam to change things. But Sam had said that was not what he was there for- and he had been right. Al had begged and pleaded...but in the end, Sam had leaped after only giving Al one last chance to see her. Sam had not changed Al's life. Not that time. Al wondered if this time, Sam had gone back there. And if so...why? "Dammit, Albert Calavicci, don't you die on me!" Al heard her voice yet again, and in the clarity of his mind, knew that Donna had never married Sam, and that he, Al, had never lost Beth--never met Tina. That thought worried him. For if HE, Al, were not with the Project (yes, he remembered PQL now)--and if DONNA was not there...was anyone? Donna believed Sam had died, Al thought suddenly. Did he? Did changing my life mean he changed his? "Breathe, damn you!" If that were the case, then Sam had sacrificed himself for Al. To give Beth back to him. To put something right that had always been wrong. The cost for that had been staggering, however. And Al wasn't sure that it was a cost he was willing to pay. Or one he was willing to accept. Of course, now he had no choice in the matter--it was too late for him to accept or not to accept anything. Now, all he could do was grieve over what the sacrifice his best friend had made has cost both Sam and Al... Donna Elysee pushed with her hands on Al's chest. She forced him to keep breathing, trying to keep him around long enough for the paramedics to get there. Al felt the pain slipping from him, however. He felt his body letting go of the fight, knowing that one more time, he had left his friend behind. Like so many of those soliders left behind in Vietnam, left to die on their own, Al had let Sam sacrifice himself for a better cause. He only wished he had one last chance to say goodbye to Sam before he left. Then again, he realized, if Sam's dead in this timeline, I can thank him any second now. "You will not die, Al Calavicci. You will not die." Donna was still whispering in his ears, the last sounds he was ever going to know. "If you die, I swear to God I will tell Ziggy to wake you every morning with a John Denver song and cancel every cigar order you ever make." Al focused suddenly. Ziggy? But Donna knew nothing about Ziggy. Donna knew nothing about anything... And then Al knew nothing more. A LEAP, SOMEWHERE, SOMETIME She had to get out of these restraints for two reasons. First, they were beginning to cut off circulation, both to her hands and to her feet, and she was convinced that if she did not do something soon, she might very well end up dying right here, on this bed, in the corner of whatever damn place she had been stuck in several hours ago when she had woken up. That was the second reason she wanted to get out of the restraints. So she could find out where in the hell she was. For her memories didn't add up--didn't add up, hell, they weren't even complete. She could barely remember who she was and what she did for a living, much less what had happened that ended up with her like this. But she knew the restraints were wrong. She knew she was not a prisoner, that she was not someone who needed such things. She was not someone who did things wrong, and by God, she did not deserve to be treated as such. Once again, she raised her voice, hoping that someone would hear her and respond. "Hello? HELLO!" She would have to be careful, or else she's strain her voice and lose that option completely. She struggled again, trying to slide her hands and fingers into some position that would allow her to get free. She had to get free. Her husband depended on her. Husband? She was married? Well, of COURSE you are, her mind answered. You've been married for years and you just forgot about it because of the shock of whatever this situation is. Whoever's done this might also have drugged you, the voice went on. Maybe with something to keep you unconscious--or hell, maybe even some type of truth serum to get you to tell them what you know about the project. Project? What project? THE project, her mind replied. THE project. But don't you remember what the project is? Of course I do, the voice in her head snapped. I just don't remember it right this second. She really had to get out of these restraints. Suddenly, the lights on the wall brightened, as if by someone's command. She glanced around, finally able to see where she was. It was a tiny bedroom, clearly attached to some other place through a door at the foot of the bed. She didn't think she'd ever been here before, but at the same time, the slightly blue glow of the walls seemed familiar. Like she should know the place, but simply had forgotten about it. Regardless, if the lights had come on, it might mean that someone was outside that room--the only question now was whether that person was the problem, the reason why she was here...or if that person might be her salvation. "Hello?" She pitched her voice to be sure it was heard outside, but didn't convey anything in the tone other than a simple request for a response. "Oh my God!" A woman's voice yelped out the words from outside, as if startled. Then came the sound of footsteps and a push against the door to the room. Unfortunately, even though she could hear that someone pushing, the door refused to give. "Hang in there, Doctor! I'm going to get you out, I promise! I just have to find the keys..." The woman's voice was excited, as though she was glad to have found her. I bet she is, the woman thought. Lots of people have probably been looking for me. As soon as I find out what happened and who's responsible, there'll be hell to pay. She glanced over at the door and realized...she saw where the keys to the door were. They were on the inside, in the lock. "Whoever you are, the keys for the door are on this side." She called out, praying that her instincts were right and the woman out there was actually helping her. "Shit," she heard the other woman mutter. "Why haven't you opened the door, then?" She was quickly losing her patience with the woman outside. She snapped, "it's a little hard to do when I'm restrained to a bed." "Oh my God!" the woman outside yelped again. "Okay, try and get out and then I'll see if I can find another way to get in." The woman in the restraints sighed. As if trying to get out wasn't what she had already been trying to do. She wriggled her hands once more and this time, finally, she felt something give. Looking down, she realized that she would be in a tremendous amount of pain momentarily. What had given was her thumb. It was now dislocated, which allowed her hand to be smaller...but also meant that her tendons would be screaming in a matter of seconds. Yep, there was the pain. Quickly, before she could think, she slipped her hand out of the restraint and then jammed the thumb back against the hand, snapping the bone back into its joint and adding three times as much pain. But it did mean that her hand was now in working order--barely--and she could get herself out of the bed. Working quickly, she freed all five restraints and ran for the door. Just because there was no one here now who was behind her kidnapping--at least, she didn't think so--didn't mean that someone wouldn't be there soon. And when that happened, she intended to be out of here and already safe with the police and her husband. She grabbed the keys and turned the lock. She opened the door and screamed as a woman charged right into her, toppling them both to the ground. Her hand fell hard and the pain was excruciating. "Oh my God!" the second woman cried. It was the same woman that she had heard from inside the room. They helped each other to their feet and then she looked at the second woman. She knew her. She had to think for a second to remember the name. "Sammy Jo?" Sammy Jo, who had been looking at her as if stunned, suddenly smiled. "Yes! Yes, that's my name! You remember! Fantastic!" Sammy Jo ran out into the second room and came back with a chair on rollers. "Please, Dr., please sit down and relax." The woman sat down slowly, curious as to why Sammy Jo was being this solicitous. Perhaps something more had happened than she thought. Something strange had happened. It was almost as though Sammy Jo hadn't seen her in a long, long time. "Can I get you something?" Sammy Jo was animated as she spoke. "Water, food, anything?" The woman frowned. "What I'd most like to do is get out of here and call the police." Sammy Jo spun around. "Oh, no! You can't leave here. Not for a while, anyway." The woman frowned harder. "Why not?" "Because there are no monitors in here, Sammy Jo replied. "You always made sure this place had no connections to the rest of the project. Your own special thinking space, you called it. As long as you stay here, no one will know that you're awake and moving around." Sammy Jo grabbed a second chair and slid close to the woman as she sat down. "Look," Sammy Jo said. "Things have changed drastically since you were last here, and most of it's been terrible. So I don't think it would be a good idea if you let anyone know you are awake. That way you and I can figure out a way to change things and fix them. If they don't know you're here, we can outfox them and put all of it right again. I know it's asking a lot of you, but please, I know more about what's happened here since you've been gone and you don't know any of it. You have to trust me right now." The woman grew worried as Sammy Jo talked. "How long have I been gone?" she asked. It couldn't be more than a few weeks--but she worried that something terrible had happened, that perhaps her husband had gotten into an accident, or that something had happened the very night she was taken that had changed things. But how could things change so much in three or four weeks that she had to stay hidden? Was the project (what project? her voice wondered) taken over by foreign spies or something? Sammy Jo took a deep breath and said slowly, "You have been gone for five years, Doctor Beckett. Nothing is the way you think it is anymore." The woman stood up. "That is preposterous!" She stormed towards the door, determined to leave right this second and finish whatever this entire criminal deal was. Maybe she had been wrong. Maybe Sammy Jo WAS part of those who had done this to her and was now trying to keep her here until the others could get back and re-sedate her. Regardless, she wasn't going to put up with it. She was a DOCTOR, for God's sake. As she reached the door and looked for a way to get out of the room, she turned around. Sammy Jo was already stepping to try and stop her, saying "Please, Doctor Beckett, please you have to believe me!" And then the woman, who suddenly realized she WAS named Dr. Beckett--Dr. Donna Beckett--stopped entirely. For beyond Sammy Jo, Donna had seen a moving reflection. As she turned her head, it had turned its head. Not one for denying reality, she raised her own hand for a second to be sure of what she saw. The reflection raised its hand as well. It was a man's hand. It was a man's reflection. Somehow, Donna Beckett was reflecting as her husband, Sam Beckett. Sammy Jo reached out a tentative hand towards Donna. "Sam? Sam, please it's going to be okay." Donna turned, very slowly, and looked at Sammy Jo. "What...what did you call me?" she asked. "You don't remember, do you?" Sammy Jo smiled and slowly reached out to put her hands on Donna's shoulders. "You are the person I have been looking for every day of the last five years. You are the man who created this entire time-travel project." She smiled wider. "You are Samuel Beckett." Donna glanced down at her body. Funny, it looked like there were female secondary characteristics down there. She looked across at the reflection, and moved closer to see if her husband's reflection had those characteristics. It did not. She turned and looked at Sammy Jo. Sammy Jo smiled a bright, too-wide smile and said, "Boy, oh boy, I bet you're glad to be home. Bit of a shock, though, isn't it?" Donna nodded once. Twice. "Oh boy is right," she whispered. And then Donna knew nothing more.