Chapter Five After a restless couple of hours, Sam finally gave up trying to get any more sleep. Leaving the motel, the Leaper finally reached the Project compound around mid-morning. It was completely deserted. Fencing still surrounded its perimeters, but no one stood guard. For a former government installation, there didn't seem to be any precautions against intruders. Maybe the government doesn't own it anymore. The only sign of any previous occupancy was the building itself. The lock on the gate had rusted off some time ago, and it only took a few hard shoves for Sam to break it open. Parking the car outside the main building, he stepped out. He looked around at the nothingness that once held his dream. Forcing back his emotions, he stood in front of the lone door and grabbed the handle. It refused to release. Sam let a exasperated sigh escape. It was then that he saw the security pad. I guess that's what's left as security. What was my access code? He thought hard before a few digits came to him. He attempted to punch a few buttons with fingers encased in false nails, but found that task nearly impossible. Crooking his index finger, he began to hit the keypad with his knuckle, and long forgotten instincts took over, finishing the task. A series of computer bleeps preceded the sound of the door catch releasing. Taking a deep breath, he swung it open. The heavy metal door protested, squeaking on hinges that hadn't been used for some time. A corridor, the depth and darkness of which he couldn't determine in the bright sunlight, exposed itself. Sam stepped in and felt for a switch. There was none. "Damn! There has to be some source of power to keep the security lock functioning." It was then he spotted the familiar shape of a fusebox just into the darkness. Marking the distance in a few strides, he opened the box and, crossing his fingers, flipped a few switches. Nothing happened. Pulling at wires, crossing and rerouting their circuits, he finally managed to get the emergency lights to flicker to life. Turning away from the door, he began to tentatively walk down the hallway. The part of his brain that seemed to recall things from the time before his life had changed took over, leading him towards the bowels of the building. It took him slightly longer than normal, negotiating the entire eight hundred foot descent using the stairs, not wanting to trust the elevators. Travelling down hallways and stairwells he hadn't seen for a lifetime, past rooms he couldn't even remember, he ended his journey outside the room where he had spent so much time before he first leaped. The Control Room, the place that held the main brain of the entire Project. Ziggy's room. He reached up, ready to input his code to open the door, it's probably the same as the one that let me in here, only to find that no lights flickered to indicate it was even active. No access code was required. The door wasn't locked. "This isn't right. This room should be highly protected." Pushing aside the sliding door, he stepped in. He sucked in his breath, overwhelmed by what he saw. The room that had once held Ziggy, an extremely large and powerful computer with a mind of its own, was all but empty. Wires hung from the walls where once a mega-genius computer stood. The work station where Gushie and several other techs used to ply their trade was nothing but an empty shell, broken buttons and disconnected wires were scattered across its top. To his surprise, hanging from the ceiling was what Al had dubbed Ziggy's 'disco ball'. What it really was was the central control of his parallel hybrid computer. Ziggy's 'brain', for lack of a better term. The light supplied by the emergency lighting system caused awkward shadows and grotesque shapes to fall everywhere. Slowly, pained by what he saw, Sam walked deeper into the room, turning in an attempt to take it all in. He found himself standing in front of the Imaging Chamber. The portal stood open. He stepped through it. The walls, floor and ceiling where still the same, blinding white that he had remembered. "At least nothing's changed in here," he said, looking at the room that had always been meant to be empty, except when in use. Leaving the Imaging Chamber, he turned towards the Waiting Room, squinting through its viewing window, a light layer of dust covering its unidirectional surface. The room was totally void of all items. Something in the back of his mind seemed to recall at least some furniture in there, to keep the "Visitor" comfortable. He walked down the short corridor to the door leading into the room. The door was open, slid into its place inside the wall. Strange. This door should be closed. Shouldn't it? He stepped inside. There were holes in the ceiling where Ziggy's speaker and microphone system had been removed. Unbelieving eyes surveyed everything, looking for something that wasn't there. His eyes scanning the room, he spotted the window from Verbeena's office. He could barely see into it, the lighting cast such strange shadows. But part of him knew how to get there. He left the Waiting Room, left the Control Room and ran up the nearest stairway to the floor just above the one where he had just stood. Entering Dr. Beeks' office, he found only an empty desk and filing cabinets. A quick check told him that everything, down to the last pencil, was gone. Not to be deterred, he left Verbeena's office and turned right. A few steps further down the hallway, Sam found himself standing outside another office door. The engraving told him what he already knew - "Dr. S. Beckett". He touched the letters, feeling each one as if for the first time. His mind searched for memories of this place, but few came. He pulled his hand back, as if the letters suddenly were too hot to touch. Taking a deep, fortifying breath, the Leaper rotated the doorknob, as if wanting to get an unpleasant job over with, and flung the door wide. It banged open, vibrating on its hinges, but he didn't seem to notice. Slowly, he stepped into the room that had once held his files, notes and miles and miles of calculations and schematics. Now, all that was left was a desk, chair and a few filing cabinets. A heavy coat of dust was everywhere. He moved towards the desk, pulling out drawers looking for ... something, anything. But all traces of his ever working, ever existing in this room, were gone. Moving to the filing cabinets, he pulled out all the drawers, not knowing what he was working for, but knowing that there was something to find. They were also devoid of any contents. But something, he didn't know what, led his hand to the back of the top filing drawer, reaching beyond the back of the drawer itself. His fingers fumbled, not knowing what they were looking for. Then he found it. The Leaper's fingers grasped at whatever it was they had located and pulled. The sound of tape grudgingly releasing itself from metal resounded in the empty office. Bringing his arm out, he saw what it was his instincts had remembered was there. His hand held a small red address book, long since forgotten. He pulled the tape from it, removing some of the gold ink from its cover. He grinned, memories of why he'd left it back there coming back to him. To keep Al from calling all my female friends while I wasn't around. But it didn't just hold the names, addresses and telephone numbers of women. That wasn't Sam's style. It also held all his personal numbers, family and friends. And Al. At least, Al's address before Project Star Bright, and before their own Project had begun to take shape. Flipping the pages, he quickly found what he was looking for. Al Calavicci - 1535 Boston Road, Apt. 1A, Georgetown, Maryland, (202)-872-1553. He knew that, after more than - how many years? - the telephone number wouldn't have a forwarding reference, but hoped the current residents might know where Al was now. Or at least have a forwarding address, no matter how old. Sam tucked the book into his jeans back pocket, then, with a final glance around the empty room, left that which was once his office. He turned back towards the stairwell, not wanting to see anymore destruction, and started the climb upward. Stepping back outside into the late December desert air, Sam closed the final door to the building. He could hear the sound as it resonated through the empty structure as he walked towards the car. With one last look back, he opened the car door, got in and, ignoring the sight in the rearview mirror, drove away from the dream that had become a nightmare.