CHAPTER 4 As his laughter subsided he reached out, grasping the hand-link, firmly, tightly in his hand, He bought it up to his lips and kissed it, roughly. Still smiling he stood and headed back to the Imaging Chamber. Excited, he waved the object of his ferment in the air, triumphant. "Al I've got it, I have the hand-link." Al was just as excited as Sam, "Great, now we can get you back here." Sam could see Sammi Jo in the background, she too was laughing, but he could not hear their jubilation. Sam ran out to the Accelerator Chamber and pressed a button on the hand-link, "Activate the Accelerator Ziggy." He stepped onto the metallic disk in anticipation. He watched the disk above his head, nothing happened. He pressed another button and attempted the procedure again. "Ziggy, activate the Accelerator Chamber." Still nothing, the hand-link was dead. Feeling despondent Sam straggled back into the Imaging Chamber. His voice deflated, "It's not working Al, it must've gotten fried in transit." From Al's gesticulations, Sam realised that the three of them were having a heated conversation, Sammi Jo kept shaking her head and her mouth moved once or twice to a well determined 'No!'. Sam wished he could hear what Ziggy was saying in this conversation, but she had no lips to read, and they all seemed so far away. Al turned around to face Sam and pressed a button on his hand-link. "We've come up with something Sam, erm, it may not work, but er, um, we're gonna try it anyways." Al scratched his head, "you'll have to get into the Accelerator Chamber, and Ziggy's gonna commence the retrieval program from here. Are you ready Sam?" "Sure Al, I'm ready, ready as I'll ever be. Give me to the count of 15, then you can initiate the retrieval program. Right Al, start counting, I'm on my way." Sam started the count down too, '1, 2, 3,' he noticed Gooshie at the control panel. '7, 8, 9,' as he sped toward the metallic disk of the Accelerator. '13, 14, 15,' Sam felt the customary tingle as the electrostatic enveloped his body. He could feel the rush as the energy encompassed his being, he felt the weightlessness as time took over, then dissipated.20 Sam searched about him, he was still in the Accelerator Chamber, white walls surrounded him. He stared to the corner that led to the Control Room and advanced towards it, peering around the corner he could see Al and Sammi Jo staring back at him. "Well aint that a kick in the butt." Both Al and Sammi Jo rushed up to him. "Phew, I've never been so scared in my whole life," Sam started a smile but it soon vanished, "I felt so isolated, I don't want to experience that again." "Don't you ever do that to us again Sam." Sammi Jo smiled, moved close to Sam and hugged him. "You had us really worried then, for a minute there pal." Al slapped his friend squarely on the shoulder. "I guess you oughta check this out Sammi Jo," Sam handed the fizzled-out hand-link to her. She took it and immediately carried it to the bench near to the control panel, screwdriver in hand, she started dismantling it. "Al I can't believe it, the retrieval program worked," Sam was completely overjoyed. "Looks like we still have some problems to sort out though." "I know Al, but we've had one breakthrough, it's only a matter of time till we sort the rest out." "If you can't take the hand-link with you in the Accelerator, you're gonna be stuck again just as before." "But the retrieval program worked Al, I wasn't really in any trouble, and besides, someone still loves me." Sam pointed up. "You're forgetting something here pal. You could only contact us through the Imaging Chamber, what if you'd leaped somewhere else, you wouldn't have been able to contact us at all then." "Oh Al, that's just a minor detail, simple really." "Simple! I wouldn't call what you just went through simple. Get this into your noggin pal, you could still be stranded out there." "You don't understand Al, all I've got to do is create a neuronic microcosmic-molecular hand-link that can go through the Accelerator or even better, use the Accelerator for the time generator and use the Imaging Chamber as you usually do, to observe." Sam looked oppressively at Al, "But there's something else I have to do. I cannot just observe any more, I've got to figure out what else's in that code, I wasn't a hologram before, I could touch and feel things, I want that back, do you understand Al." "Nope not exactly. You wanted out so many times." "Yeah, but that was 'cos I couldn't get back, I can now, we've proved it." "What code are you on about anyway?" "Oh I found some obscure code in the retrieval program, I'd not entered it, I think Jessie did," Sam gave Al a sideways glance. "you remember Jessie?" "Yeah I sure do, Sammi Jo only referred to her this morning. Erm, we were discussing Bebrooks' visit this afternoon." Al glanced round at the clock, it was just after twelve. "Bebrooks is coming here, today?" "Yeah, he made the arrangements last week, but you've been so tied up in your work. We've not been able to get though to you. I was gonna come and tell you yesterday morning but instead, you leaped." "What time's he coming? What'd you mean yesterday? I've only been gone 9 hours - d-don't answer that, it's the time factor thing again, I know." Al looked at him his eyebrows crossed, "He didn't say, just sometime this afternoon." "I'd better get changed Al, I'll meet you up top in 20 minutes." Sam stormed out of the Control Room. "You can breathe now kiddo." Sammi Jo's attention transferred from the broken hand-link to Al, "Sure Al, he didn't change anything. I certainly was worried about him though." She looked up stretching her neck. "Ouch! Damned that thing!" She winced, scrutinising a damaged finger and placed it into her mouth. "What happened?" "Oh just caught my finger on one of the connections, that's all." "Let's have a look at that, there might be some carbon in that cut." Al lifted the first-aid box down from the shelf above and looked at the cut on Sammi Jo's finger, a chunk of skin had been detached and had left a hole. "Better get some iodine on that and cover it up." Sammi Jo flinched as Al placed the iodine drenched cotton wool onto her finger, "Sting does it."20 "Just a little, thanks Al." She used some of the cotton wool to clean up the blood spots on the bench Al unwrapped a new bandage and bound her finger. "Time we went up top." They both left the Control Room, made their way through the meandering corridors, up in the over-sized elevator to ground level. Sam was just entering the cafeteria, he looked fresh and clean. His dark blue jacket complemented the paler blue of his turtle-neck sweater. In complete contrast to Al, his yellow jacket and red satin shirt only matched his tie. They all sat down at a table together, a waitress came over and they ordered lunch. Al kept an eye open for the plane carrying Bebrooks, it was good flying weather, not a cloud could be seen in the desert sky. A slight breeze blew 'dead-man's fingers' across the desert plain. The late summer sun, a smudge of yellow in the blue sky. 'Yes.' Al thought, 'it was perfect flying weather.' Lunch arrived and the waitress smiled at Sam. She'd worked at the complex for over 2 years but had only heard of Sam by name and this was only her second meeting with him. She found him attractive, his manner was quiet and pleasant, very pleasant indeed. As she handed him his plate, their fingers touched. She looked down at Sam and in turn he looked up at her, their eyes met. Sam did not move his hand from hers, but held it there. "Ahm," was Al's comment at the current scene, "Sam, your erm, lunch erm, is getting cold." The waitress pulled her hand aside gently, and walked away. Sam's eyes followed her back to the counter. Sammi Jo giggled and Sam turned to face her, she held her hand up to her mouth trying to hide the smile behind it. What's wrong Sammi?" Sam said innocently, then turned his gaze to a sniggering Al. "Your face Sam, she's really bemused you." "Well er-erm, I-I......" Al interrupted, "Forget it Sam, there's no need for an explanation." Sam's gaze turned back to the waitress. She was not young, but younger than he. Her dark hair was tied up and she had a shapely figure, he had noticed her eyes, dark brown, there was a mystery beneath them and he wanted to know more. "Sam! Sam!" Al was calling his name, "Your lunch's getting cold Sam." Sam was bought back to earth, "Aw-Al, it's salad, how can salad get cold?" "Well it was quite hot a few minutes ago." Al was sniggering again. Al and Sammi Jo had finished their lunch, Sam was only just starting his. The two stared at Sam as he ate, "Quite cute aint she?" Sam swallowed, "Who?" "Don't give me that Sam, you're not so innocent as you make out." The feint noise of an engine filtered into the cafeteria, Al looked then headed for one of the large windows. A small black speck in the desert sky began to expand and the sound of the engine grew louder, it sprouted wings, the undercarriage opened and the wheels locked into place. As it landed on the rough airstrip, dust clouds billowed filling the air with fine sand. Al and Sam went to the entrance and waited for the dust to settle a little and for the plane to taxi into position. Sam looked at Al, no words were needed between them, they both knew that this meeting would be the be-all or end-all of Project Quantum Leap.