Chapter Fourteen

     Al and Sam were the first to arrive at the Project
compound.  It was noon on Christmas Day.  Aside from
orchestrating the use of the plane, Al had also arranged for a
minivan, one large enough to hold all the file boxes, to be
ready and waiting for them.
     Having the van had meant that Sam could leave Kara's
car at the airport yet again.  The Leaper had driven the two
hours to the compound site, while Al watched the landscape go
by.  They travelled through the town of Barra de Navidad, New
Mexico.  The former Observer recalled how many times he
himself had made the trek to and from that same town, barely
a dot on the map, over the years.  Now that they stood outside
the main building.  The silent nothingness overwhelmed Al.  He
couldn't remember it ever being this quiet here, even at three
in the morning, when he would seek out the peacefulness and
stand outside just to watch the stars.
     Sam stepped towards the door that he had opened less
than forty-eight hours earlier, and punched in the same security
numbers.  The door unlocked and, with it giving off the same
groan of protest as before, he swung it open.  Al pulled himself
back to the here and now at the sound, and followed the Leaper
as he stepped into the building.
     "Someone else must already be here.  The lights are
on," Al commented.
     "I must have left them on when I was here earlier."
Sam knew he had to prepare his friend for the worst.  He
turned to face his friend.  "Al, I've been through the building.
It doesn't look good.  Ziggy's been dismantled and I wouldn't
know where to begin looking for her components."
     "Don't worry, Sam.  I have that completely under
control."  Sam knew he would get no more information from
Al until he was ready to give it.  Just like Ziggy, he thought.
"I'd like to look around, see my room, or what used to be my
room, the Control Room."
     "Al, I don't think you should.  Everything's gone.  At
least, nearly everything.  Whoever cleaned this place out only
left a few desks and filing cabinets."
     "I know, Sam.  But I still want to."  His eyes twinkled,
speaking with humour he didn't actually feel.  "I think I may
have left my favourite purple neon suit behind."
     "If you had, I'm sure we would have seen it glowing by
now," the Leaper grinned, trying to carry the humour he felt
his friend was trying to induce.
     "Hey, it wasn't that bright.  Was it?"
     "The suit by itself could have powered Ziggy for a
week.  But when you added that red shirt and multi-coloured
tie, Vegas paled by comparison."
     The Admiral looked at his friend, not sure if Sam was
joking or serious.  Then he caught the humour dancing in the
Leaper's eyes, and chuckled.
     "Very funny, Sam.  Very funny."  Then his own
humour subsided.  "But, seriously, I want to go down there.
I'll just be a few minutes."
     "Alright, Al.  But please, don't go into the Control
Room.  Not yet.  I really need to talk to you, to everybody,
before we get that far.  Promise me."
     "I promise.  I won't go below personnel housing levels."
Turning, he confidently walked towards the door to the
stairwell.  Sam watched until he disappeared through the door.
     "I might as well start to unload," he said to no one.
Returning to the van he began to remove file boxes, stacking
them just inside the door of the building.  He knew his friend
wasn't as confident as he pretended to be, but Sam wouldn't let
on that he knew.

     Al began his dissent.  Feigning confidence for Sam's
benefit, but not feeling it within himself, hadn't been easy.  The
old Sam, the Sam who knew him a lifetime ago, would have
seen right through it.  But this Sam didn't.  He hoped.
     As he approached the levels that had held the sleeping
and leisure areas for those that had spent so many years here,
his stride slowed.  The emergency lighting made the hallways
appear to be lit as if it was early evening, just as Ziggy had
done.  For the benefit of those who spent days, and sometimes
weeks, below ground level, the parallel hybrid computer would
try to simulate day and evening light conditions from outside.
Then it was a nice touch, but now it just seemed eerie.
     He knew the passageways down here better than any
place else in the world.  He knew exactly how many paces it
was from his room to the cafeteria, to the Control Room, to
Tina's quarters.  He'd left his footprints on these floors many
times, sometimes upsetting the cleaning staff for stepping on
their newly cleaned or waxed floors.  More than once, he had
been admonished by the head of the cleaning staff for leaving
cigar ashes everywhere.
     He grinned, recalling one time in particular when the
head of housekeeping, What was her name?  Ah, yes, Rachel,
when Rachel had begun to scold him yet again.  She had
cornered him as he was coming out of Tina's room, and he
wasn't about to let her spoil his recently satiated mood.  When
she began to wag her finger in his face, he reached out with
both arms, grabbing her by the shoulders, then pulled her
towards him and gave her a great big kiss.  When he let go, she
was so shocked she just stood there, her finger still in the air,
pointing at where he no longer stood, while her head followed
his escape.  She never scolded him after that, but occasionally
he would find a small pile of ashes just outside his door.  Her
way of ensuring that, even if she never reprimanded him again,
she still wasn't happy with his ashes being everywhere.
     He pulled a cigar from inside his shirt pocket and lit it.
Taking a long draw, he flicked the first ashes onto the floor.
"Let's see her come after me now," he said, stepping over them
and moving further down the corridor, flicking as he went.
     He followed it to the end, to where he had once lived.
He had always liked being at the end of a hallway wherever he
stayed.  It allowed for less foot traffic outside the door, plus
included a greater privacy factor.  And there were some nights
with Tina that required as much privacy as possible.  He stood
outside the door, knowing that all he would find inside would
be a large, empty room, but still he hesitated.  Everything and
anything that would provide testimony of his ever existing here
would be gone.  He wasn't sure he could handle being negated
like that but knew he had to walk through that door.
     He looked down at the handle.  Most of the doors below
the general office levels were controlled by Ziggy's proximity
sensors =FE no handles.  However he had insisted on maintaining
control over who came and went in his quarters, and had
insisted that a regular door, with lock, be installed.  He rarely,
if ever, used the lock, but he liked knowing it was there.
     Grasping the knob, he forced himself to face whatever
ghosts may be hidden behind the door, and swung it wide.
     The resounding bang startled him.  The pressure of the
room suddenly opening caused the dust to swirl in little funnels
along the floor.  The room hadn't been opened in nearly three
years.  The stale air that assaulted his nostrils told him that
much.  The presence of the dust and stale air surprised him.
Ziggy had always controlled the air circulation and filtration,
keeping everything fresh and dustfree.
     He puffed hard on his stogie, trying to mask one smell
with another, as he slowly stepped into the room.  The
starkness unnerved him.  Even the telltale signs of squares on
the walls where pictures had once hung were gone.  He never
was one to decorate to any extent, but he didn't remember it
being so =FE barren.  And it seemed much larger than he
remembered.  Perhaps the lack of a single stick of furniture had
something to do with it, but to him, it still felt too large.
     He closed his eyes, imaging where each piece of
furniture he had temporarily called his own once stood.  Slowly
stepping forward, his mind led him around the foot of the bed,
a queen size of course, towards where his dresser once stood.
He reached out, his mind's eye guiding him as he opened a
non-existent drawer, placed something inside, and then pushed
it closed again.  He stepped sideways and faced the closet.  Its
double doors already stood open.  His mind reproduced the
numerous and colourful suits and shirts he had owned back
then.  At the far left of the closet stood his military uniforms.
Dress whites and khakis.  He only wore those when he really
had to.  He could see his shoes lined up carefully on the floor,
each pair beneath the outfit they had been specifically purchased
for.  Matching or complimentary, in his opinion, fedoras were
carefully stacked on the shelf above.
     On the right side, he could see a few of Tina's outfits,
her shoes scattered haphazardly on the floor.  He never insisted
that she align her shoes.  He liked seeing her bend over to
chose which pair to wear.
     Turning, he made his way to where his desk once stood.
He had another, larger desk in the office he used upstairs, but
down here, his workspace was smaller.  It had held only a
telephone, a few personal items and a laptop computer.  He had
rarely made use of the computer.  He still preferred voice
communication to any form of electronic.
     He opened his eyes, the image of what once was now
gone.  The only other door in the room led into the bathroom.
A quick glance in there disclosed to him that whoever had
removed everything else had at least left that in tact.
     He had seen enough.  Or rather, hadn't seen anything,
but that was enough.  Grasping the door handle, he stepped
back into the hallway.  The sound of the latch catching as he
closed it was somehow reassuring to him, as if things hadn't
changed all that much down here.  No other doors in the
hallway were closed.  Most likely they had been left open
because they were computer controlled, and there was no
computer.  As he headed back towards the stairwell, he
glimpsed into each room.  They were all empty, as if no person
had ever lived in them.
     He stood at the base of the stairwell, looking back down
the hallway.  An unexpected, unexplained shiver rattled down
his spine.  It unnerved him, but he shook it off, then turned
towards the stairs.
     The energy with which he ran back up the flights of
stairs didn't divulge his age.  He was still in pretty good shape.
He attributed the burst of energy not only to his physique, but
to the ghosts he felt nipping at his heels.
     He topped the stairs, exploding through the doors.  Sam
nearly dropped the box he was carrying.
     "Al, is everything okay?"
     "Of course, Sam.  Why wouldn't it be," he replied,
brushing a few dust particles from his jacket.
     "You just look =FE at little rattled, that's all."
     "Just a few ghosts chasing me," he declared, looking
over his shoulder down the stairwell, trying to mask his
nonsensical uneasiness.  The look on the Leaper's face told him
his friend wasn't convinced. "No, really.  I'm fine."
     From outside, a car could be heard arriving, its wheels
crunching the loose stone on the gravelled asphalt.  "That's
them," he said, thankful for the change in topic.  Al had had
enough time to gather his confidence, and it showed as he
strutted down the hall towards to outside door.  Stopping just
inside the doorway and out of view to those approaching, he
turned toward his friend.
     "Sam, let me go out first.  I need to prepare them.
They're not used to seeing you in someone else's body, and this
body is slightly more than I think they can handle right off."
He stepped outside while Sam stayed in the shadows, just inside
the door.
     Sure enough, a second car containing Dr. Verbeena
Beeks, Gushie and Tina was coming to a stop.  Verbeena
jumped out from the back seat, running up to Al.  She encircled
him in her arms.
     "Al, it's so good to see you again.  We all thought
you'd disappeared."  Al returned her hug.
     "I know, and I'm sorry.  I've been, uh, busy lately."
They released their embrace as Gushie and Tina approached.
     "Admiral, good to see you again," Gushie said,
extending his hand.  Al grasped it, returning the gesture.
     "You too, Gushie.  It's been along time."It was then
he spotted Tina.  She was nearly eight months pregnant, but
looked as beautiful as he could remember.  She could still wear
the shorter style skirts with her maternity outfits, her legs were
that shapely.
     The Admiral wondered if her voice still had the high
pitched vibrato that hid her superior intelligence.  "Al.  It's so-
o-o good to see you.  We, like, missed you."  It did.
     She approached him, but was unsure about what to do.
They'd shared so much while working here, it made her slightly
     "Tina.  It's good to see you, too.  How've you been?"
     "Gushie and I, we've, ... fine, thanks."  He could tell
she was ill at ease with the situation, but before he could
change the subject, she did.  "Is Sammi Jo coming?"
     "She should be here sometime this afternoon."  He
glanced at his watch.  "Probably within the hour."  He turned
to face all three former Project members, taking a long,
prepatory drag from his cigar before he began.
     "Before we go in, there's something I need to explain to
you.  Now, I know what I said on the phone was vague, that
this involved Sam, and I'm sorry I couldn't be more specific.
But now that you're here, it makes it easier to explain."  He
began to pace, chomping on his Chivello.
     "Is Dr. Elesee not joining us?"  It was Gushie.  Tina
gave his arm a small slap.
     "I told you about that, did I?  How would you feel if it
were me suddenly coming back into your life?"  The shameful
blush that covered Gushie's face told Al that Tina had already
come to the right conclusion regarding Donna's absence, and
for that he was grateful.  Sam was too close to the door and
could hear everything.  He didn't want him to overhear that the
wife he didn't even remember had remarried on top of
everything else.
     "As I was saying, early yesterday morning, I received
a letter from someone claiming to be Sam Beckett.  Of course,
you all know that there was no way that this person could be
Sam, because ... well you know why.  Anyway, I went to see
this person and, I am convinced that this person really is Sam
     They all looked at him as if he just told them he was
from a small planet located in Ursa Major.
     "Al, just what the hell are you saying?"  It was
Verbeena stood nose to nose with her former boss, speaking on
behalf of the group.
     "What I am saying, Beeks, is that Sam didn't die three
years ago."  He took a nearly imperceptible step back.  "He got
caught in a cross-leap with another leaper from another time.
We got the other leaper, who had been killed as she left her last
leap, and he took her place.  He's here now, with me."  Al
shouted over his shoulder, widening the distance between
himself and Verbeena. "Sam, you can come out now."
     The Leaper stepped out from behind the door.  What the
three newcomers saw as a tall, beautiful young woman.  "Al,
what the hell is this.  Some kind of sick joke?  That's not Sam.
What is she, Al, your latest conquest?"
     "Verbeena, it's me.  It's Sam."  He approached her,
gazing directly into her dark brown eyes.  "Verbeena."
     The doctor stared deep into the young woman's blue
eyes.  She could see more, though, than just a stranger looking
     "Oh, god, it really is you, Sam."  A small gasp escaped
her.  She grabbed him in the same bear hug she'd given Al, and
he responded in kind.  They weren't his arms hugging her, but
he knew it was his heart that beat with happiness.  She released
her embrace, then stepping back to get a good look.  "You're
not quite the same as when I last saw you, though."  Her eyes
brimmed with unspent tears.
     "I don't exactly feel the same, either."  He turned to
Gushie and Tina.  "Gushie, good to see you."  He extended his
     "You too, Dr. Beckett." Gushie replied, grasping Sam's
hand with more strength than Sam had ever given him credit
for.  "You remember Tina, don't you Dr. Beckett?"  Gushie
stepped aside, allowing Sam full view of Tina.
     "I sure do.  Tina, you look great."  He held her in a
not-so-tight embrace.
     "Thanks, Sam.  You don't look so bad yourself."
     Verbeena spoke up again.  "This is really weird.  I
mean, I know it's you, but it's not you.  I had almost forgotten
about seeing other people in your body.  There's so many
questions I need to ask you, but I wouldn't know where to
     "There's no time for that now, Beeks," Al cut in.
"We've got a job to do.  Now the first order of business is to
get the files from the hallway and van into one of the large
boardrooms, preferably the one closest to the Control Room."
Al continued to give orders, just like old times.
     After a few trips, they managed to move everything into
the room indicated.
     "Okay, Al, where to do we begin?"  The question came
from Tina.
     "Sam, it's your baby ... again."  Everyone looked to
Sam for instruction, just like they had so long ago.
     "Al and I already reviewed these boxes over here," he
indicated a small pile of boxes on his left, then move his hand
from grouping to grouping.  "These are miscellaneous
personnel files, these are yours, Verbeena, these are what's left
of my personal stuff, and these are what's left to review on
     "I'll take those, Dr. Beckett," Gushie stepped forward.
"Tina and I can go through those files and when Sammi Jo gets
here, she can help."
     "That's great, Gushie.  But before we start into the files,
I think you should all see just what we're up against."  He
didn't want them to see the Control Room, but it was better that
they knew what to expect, and the sooner the better.
     He led the procession into the room that had once held
Ziggy.  There was an audible sharp intake of breath from the
four who hadn't yet seen what Sam had.  It was then that they
realized the magnitude of the task ahead of them.
     Gushie slowly walked over to the wall where once had
stood Ziggy, his Ziggy, as far as he was concerned.  He simply
stood there, not willing to believe what his eyes told him.  Tina
slowly walked up beside him and wrapped an arm around his
waist, comforting him.  Al turned away.
     Verbeena had walked towards the Waiting Room
viewing window, then down the corridor to the entrance.  She
stepped inside, taking in everything that was, or more
accurately, wasn't there.  She looked up towards her office.
She could still see her desk, barely, but the computer monitor
that usually stood on it was gone.  She looked back through the
viewing window, knowing that they could see her, even is she
couldn't see them.  This room usually held no more than a bed
and chair, but being in it again brought back memories of the
last time =FE when they had lost Sam.  Tears were forming in
her eyes, but she held them back.  Turning quickly, she left the
room, not wanting to see anymore.  But returning to the
Control Room didn't help her emotions.
     "Alright, everybody.  We've got a hell of a job in front
of us, and not much time to do it in," Al began, trying to get
everyone under control.  "We've got to get Ziggy put together,
up and running,..." he paused facing each one of them
separately, "... within a week."
     "A week!"
     "Al, are you nuts!"
     "It took us over a year just to get Ziggy anywhere near
to working the last time.  A week!"
     All three spoke at once.
     Al raised his hands in an effort to gain control of the
group.  "Verbeena, Gushie, I know.  But there's more.  Ziggy
may have been dismantled, but I know for a fact that her main
components are stored right here, in this building."  He pointed
his cigar clenching finger downward.  "Right below us."
     Verbeena stepped forward.  "Al, there's nothing below
this building except solid rock."
     "Actually, you're wrong.  I had this section built with
an extra level, just in case of ... emergencies.  Even Sam didn't
know about it.  When the military insisted upon Ziggy's
dismantling, I let them believe that the computer we had built
for earlier testing was Ziggy.  I had the real thing stored
underground.  All the components are sealed in an airtight
container, also in the room."  He looked at Sam.  "I don't
know why.  Just a hunch I guess."
     "I've always liked your hunches, Al."
     "The hell you did.  You usually discounted them as
'nonsensical brain functions' if I remember you correctly."
     "Actually, that was Ziggy, but if this works, I'll never
rib you about your hunches ever again.  I promise."
     "If this works, you probably won't even remember this
conversation."  Everyone laughed lightly, glad of the break in
the pall that had settled over them.
     "So," Gushie stepped in.  "Where's my computer."