Chapter Seventeen Takeout and various instant food packages littered the surrounding workspace. The group had been working for five and a half days. It was after 2:00 a.m. on December 30th, and they had less than forty-eight hours. A power source for the parallel hybrid computer had been jury-rigged from the existing minimal power that had been supplying the Project buildings since they were shut down. Along with hiding the location of the real Ziggy, Al had also mislead the government officials closing down the Project about Ziggy's back-up power. It was this power which they now counted on to energize their hopes. Even Al and Verbeena had been put to work, feeding cables, handing connectors to Gushie when he was working under the panels, keeping coffee on hand, retrieving parts from the lower level. On one such trip, Al found a box of what seemed to be miscellaneous parts. Not knowing exactly what Gushie needed, he grabbed the box and returned upstairs. Setting it on their makeshift worktable, he began to sort out its contents. More wires, connectors, some things he remembered using when he and Sam had build the Accelerator Chamber, and some stuff he'd never figure out the uses for in a million years. As he removed the last of the items out of the bottom, he uncovered something he'd nearly forgotten about. Reaching down, he slowly pulled out the handlink, dusty and scratched from three years of neglect. Its lights off, its noises silent. "Aw, Ziggy," he said quietly, brushing the dust and cobwebs off, using even his shirttail. "I'm sorry, old girl. I shouldn't have left you to those vultures." The sounds of the others working behind him faded away as he caressed the small piece of computer chips and coloured plastic, almost willing it to life. He certainly didn't expect a response. "Admiral?" The soft, feminine vibrato made everyone in the room stop. "Admiral Calavicci?" Al spun around, still holding the handlink, staring at the speakers that had been temporarily installed on top of the console. A few lights began to flicker. "Ziggy? Is that you?" Of course it's her, you idiot. "Admiral, I ..." The voice dissipated as quickly as it appeared. Almost in unison, Gushie, Sam and Sammi Jo pounced on the console, working together to retrieve the voice again. "Al," Sam turned to him. "What did you do?" Al looked down at the handlink. No lights flickered, no squeals came from it, but it held the connection between Sam's leaping back into himself, or staying trapped in someone else's future. "Al, what did you do?!" "Nothing, I just wiped off the handlink." Sam was in front of him in two strides, grabbing the small extension of Ziggy from his hands. "You must have hit something to trigger a response." He began to slowly pry the top away, being careful not to disconnect anything. "But, like, the power to Ziggy isn't turned on yet?" "Dr. Beckett must have programmed some sort of internal power source," Gushie speculated as he moved towards Sam. "Probably had just enough power left after all this time. How's it look, Dr. Beckett?" Gushie was standing directly behind him, breathing down his neck, straining to see what Sam had found. Despite the fact that they had been working together for nearly six days now and he should be used to it, Sam nearly recoiled as Gushie's breath past his nostrils. How does Tina stand this? He waved his hand just above the link, in a feigned attempt to fan away any dust, but more particularly to force away the remnants of Gushie's breath. Sam gazed closely at the opened link. Dust and moisture had managed to penetrate even the tightly closed handlink. Rust had caused a few wires to deteriorate, some were disconnected. "Hand me the jeweller's repair kit." A small plastic box, its bottom half dark blue, its top clear, was opened and placed on the table next to him. He reached for the smallest instrument in it, the delicate size of the tip of the screwdriver almost too big for the mission he demanded of it. Reaching slowly into the handlink, he gently began loosening connections, removing now useless circuitry. Instinctively, Sammi Jo placed a small collection of similar, newer wires next to him. He reached down, choosing the correct replacement wire, then positioning it gently into the compartment. A few turns of the screwdriver and it was secured into place. Sam repeated this operation several more times, until he had replaced all the useless parts. Placing the cover back on, he handed it back to Al. Sam turned, nearly crashing into Gushie, and headed for the main console. Getting down on his knees, he swung around, laid on his back and slid under the unit. Sammi Jo knelt beside him, all the necessary equipment within her grasp. He reached out, not knowing she was there, and laid his hand on her knee. He jumped, startled at the unexpected human contact. "Phillips screwdriver, please, Sammi Jo." The instrument was quickly placed into his hand. His arm disappeared back into the confined workspace. The only sound in the room was the occasional twisting of metal against metal, as Sam would remove then replace various wires and connections. After a few minutes that seemed to last an eternity, he pulled himself out from under the console. "Gushie, hit the main power control," the Leaper said, but Gushie was already standing next to the open door which contained the power centre for the supercomputer. Crossing his fingers, Gushie pushed upwards on the control switch. Sparks flew from countless buttons and screens on the console, causing the group to shield their faces. Indicator lights slowly flickered to life, wires long since cooled began warming up to workable capacity. "Talk to her, Al," Sam said over his shoulder, his gaze never leaving the console. "She knows your voice best. Talk to her." Al stepped forward, the handlink still tight in his grasp. "What do I ...". "I don't care, just talk to her! Get her to respond!" "Ziggy," he began carefully. "Ziggy, can you hear me?" It was the first time he'd ever felt silly talking to her, like trying to revive someone who'd been in a coma. But that was a literal translation of what had happened to her. "Keep talking, Al." Sam had moved back under the console, making adjustments. "Ziggy, it's Admiral ... it's Al. Talk to me. What's the weather like in Boston today?" A soft squeak came from the speakers, but no voice followed. "Ziggy, I really need to know the weather in Boston. Sam needs to know, for the current leap." Under the console, Sam could been heard calibrating and recalibrating, finetuning Ziggy's numerous components. "It is currently minus two degrees centigrade and snowing in Boston, but why would Dr. Beckett require such information?" The voice, sounding rather sluggish and out of tune, was still that of their Ziggy. "Good to hear your voice, old gal." Al's voice nearly cracked, happiness trapped like a bubble in his throat. Moisture in his eyes momentarily blurred his vision. I sound like a bloody fool, blubbering for a computer! But he was, and he knew it. As Sam pulled himself out from under the console, Gushie quickly slipped into the vacancy, checking to see what other damage may have occurred. He still thought of Ziggy as his computer and he wasn't about to be left out of her rebirth. Sam stood beside Al, each slapping the other on the back. The three women in the room had moved forward, forming a protective circle around Ziggy's main console. Days of working without sleep was wearing on their emotions, and Ziggy's restoration had been the climax of that time. "We've got a long way to go, but now that we've got Ziggy up and running, the rest should, hopefully, fall into place." "Dr. Beckett, I would not say fully functional, precisely. I am, however, able to function sufficiently to assist Gushie and yourself in completing my restoration." Everyone chortled. That was the Ziggy they all new and loved. Sam's eyes locked momentarily with Al. They both knew what the other was thinking. Time was running out. Could they finish Ziggy in time? "Okay, everybody. Let's get to it." Someone was knocking. Somewhere in the distance, someone was knocking. A key turned in a lock. Sunlight streamed across the room. Donna flipped her right arm over her eyes protectively. "Oh, h'excuse me, miss. I did not know anyone was steel here. I will come back later." The spanish accent slowly cut through her nighttime haze. "Hmm?" Donna rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Gradually, the room came into view. Someone stood at the door, waiting for a response. "What?" "I said I will come back later. After you hab check-ed out. H'okay?" "Yeah, sure. Uh, what time is it, please?" "It is nearly eleven thirty, miss. I h'only came in because this room should be empty. My leest says you should have check-ed out half-an-hour h'ago." "Eleven thirty? In the morning?" She bolted straight up. Her retinas responded, making her squint tightly to shield them. "Yes, miss." She had slept for over twelve hours. "I didn't mean to sleep so late. I'll call the front desk and let them know I'll be gone shortly. You can come back later, alright?" "H'okay, miss. I will do this room last of all. Gracias." The maid closed the door, cutting off the sunlight that seemed too strong for Donna's still roadweary eyes. Her retinas readjusted themselves to the now dark room as she leaped from the bed. She quickly showered and dressed. Calling the front desk, she apologized for not checking out already. The manager seemed to take pity on her, having been told how late she had checked in, and how tired she had seemed to the night staff. He wouldn't charge her for the extra day. She realized that anyone not driving a transport that late at night certainly would have been noticed checking into a small town motel. By noon, she had set off again, and had passed into Arizona within a matter of minutes. It took less than half-an-hour for her stomach to start complaining of emptiness. It was still nearly three hours to Phoenix, so she decided to stop for something to eat, and to top up the gas tank. She checked her funds. Still plenty, but she would have to be careful. She wanted to have enough to carry her across the country.