"Lost Causes" Part XI February, 2003 Stallions Gate, NM Admiral Calavicci stared at the monitors, then looked to Gooshie. "Pull him out," he ordered shakily, "and get a med team up here now!" ~~~~~~ April, 1992 Ainsworth, NE The instant Sam Beckett reached the location he'd been given directions to, the first thing that reached him was the sound of a shot. Then another. He broke into a full run and collided with two men just inside the front entrance. One of the men grabbed him, but he jerked free. "Hold it," the man intoned dangerously, "you can't come in here." "I don't have time for this!" he yelled, his anger and helplessness rising to a startling climax. Operating purely on adrenaline and instinct, he ran past them, not bothering to think what he was going to do if - when - he found Al and they caught up with him. A flight of stairs appeared on his right and he would have passed right by them if a familiar figure hadn't yelled from the top of them. "Hey, stop!" Sam looked up to see the man from the building. He was clutching a gun with one hand and his side with the other. He was leaning heavily against the banister and, as Sam looked again, he could see blood between the man's fingers, and he wondered if he'd been on the receiving end of both bullets. "You two - don't move!" The two men in pursuit stopped and Sam was in awe of how steadily he held the gun despite the pain he had to be in. Then he looked at Sam. "Hurry - please!" The man staggered and Sam took the stairs three at a time, but, when he reached out to assist him, the stranger pulled back sharply. "Not me - Al. He's hurt and I-" Sam felt his face pale. "Where?" The gun went off and a bullet struck the floor just in front of one of the two at the bottom of the stairs. "If you don't go, the next one won't miss," he warned and Sam winced at the deadly tones in his voice. He was still controlled, though, still aware of what he was doing. As soon as they were out of sight, he slid to the floor and held out the gun. "Take this." Sam accepted it with a shaking hand. "Just hold on, okay? I'll be back," he said quickly. "I won't be here. Be careful - and get him out of this." The stranger gasped, then blinked in confusion. Sam didn't wait around any longer, but moved hastily into the room. Al was on the floor next to a chair at the far end of the room, face down, bleeding from his forehead and breathing hard. His hands were fastened behind his back with some kind of strap and a woman with short, blonde hair was next to him, her knee pressed forcefully into his back. She was bent over him, whispering something in his ear, but she looked up when Sam came into the room. The scientist winced at the fury in her eyes and, in an instant, he knew she wanted blood. She straightened and lifted her own weapon beside her. "Oh, I just don't believe this one," she snapped in exasperation, "you shoot one and the other one shows up." He took several deep breaths and jerked the barrel of the gun at her. "Move away from him." "Sam?" Al called and he took several automatic steps towards them. The woman fired the gun and the bullet missed him, but only by mere inches. Sam froze again, looking anxiously at Al, who was sure to pass out if he kept hyperventilating. The woman's eyes glinted. "Someone here's going to pay for this mess - is it going to be you, or him?" "Shoot her, Sam!" She was still, but her expression clearly said, `Well?' "Shoot her!" Al repeated angrily, desperately. She didn't seem particularly upset by the weapon aimed at her. He had never shot much less killed anyone before, and, looking at him, she must have known it. Sam pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. She smiled and he wondered if she'd known it was out of ammunition before he tried to fire. With quick reflexes and not enough time to even think about what he was doing, he threw the useless object at her with all his strength. He wasn't aiming for anything in particular, just her general direction - anything for a distraction, the upper hand. The handle of the gun connected with her collarbone and her responding shot of retaliation went wild. As he rushed her, he just barely registered the shattering of glass and then he connected with her, pushing the gun from her hand and knocking her onto her back against the tiles. She shrieked in either pain or anger and Sam pinned her against the floor, confused and uncertain. Suddenly she jerked her hand out from under his, gasping in alarm. There was blood on the back of her hand. His eyes traced the same path as hers to see a shard of glass laying in a small puddle on the tiles. She looked up at him, a detached horror on her face, then she went limp. Sam eased up slightly, then moved away from her, still watching her carefully. She moaned and her eyes fluttered open. She squinted at him and he reached for the closest gun, realizing only after he picked it up that it was the one that was empty. Despite the fact that she knew that, she backed away, then seemed to regain some of her earlier confidence, though only a sliver of it. She opened her mouth to speak, but Sam cut her off, clenching the useless device tightly. "Get out of here. Go tell your friends someone's on the way and they won't want to be here when they get here, understand?" She looked at Al and things seemed to be coming back to her, slowly. "This isn't over," she warned, then turned and walked out of the room as if there was no sense of urgency surrounding his threat. The instant she was gone, Sam reached for the admiral, tugging off the restraint and pulling him into a sitting position. "Al?" he asked worriedly, "are you okay?" He held Al's arms loosely. "I was so worried..." Al avoided his eyes. "I just wanna get out of here." The doctor in Sam took over momentarily and he touched Al's forehead, trying to discern the damage. Al winced, but remained motionless. Then, in a relief he could hold back no longer, Sam pulled his friend into a warm embrace. Al caught his breath, his limbs rigid. "Sam, don't-" Sam loosened his hold, but didn't pull back, not yet. Al relaxed only marginally before Sam released him, staring intently into his black eyes. "They'll kill us before we even hit the front door," Al murmured matter-of-factly. Sam shook his head. "I told McBride where I was. She agreed to keep it between the two of us and she's waiting for my call. If she doesn't get it, there's gonna be trouble - they just have to understand that." Al still looked uncomfortable. "How did you find me?" "Someone called me and told me how to get here. I don't know who." ^"When the time comes, I'll call him myself..."^ Al dropped his gaze. He knew who it had been: Derrick. Or... "Sam, I don't-" Sam cut him off by placing a hand on his shoulder. "Let's just get you away from here." A mixture of confusion and concern crossed the admiral's face. "What about - Derrick? He was shot and..." Sam frowned, then stood, pulling Al to his feet and keeping a steadying hand on his arm. "I don't know - we'll see. There was a guy just outside when I came in, but he told me he'd be gone when I got back out. He'd been shot in the side." Sam led him to the doorway and out into the landing next to the flight of stairs and then stopped abruptly. Lying at the bottom of the steps was the man who could only have been Derrick. He'd been shot several more times and was clearly dead. Al looked up to see the blonde woman, brandishing the murder weapon. "Zoe," he breathed in anger. He started to move towards her, but Sam held him back firmly. She raised an eyebrow. "Who?" Al hesitated. Sam watched the interchange in confusion, and finally faced her down. "I called Senator McBride. I suggest you let us walk out of here or there'll be problems." To Sam's surprise and Al's relief, she lowered the barrel and pointed it towards the floor. "That's okay. The next battle is the one we plan to win." ~~~~~~ February, 2003 Stallions Gate, NM Al pushed through the crowd of people and grabbed Verbena's arm. "What's going on?" he demanded. "Is he all right?" She lightly touched the hand that restrained her. "He'll be fine, Al. He took a bullet to his side, but it missed all vital organs. The doctor says he'll need surgery, of course, but then he'll be just fine." Al let go of the breath he'd been holding and her arm simultaneously. "Thanks." He smiled weakly, suddenly exhausted. "Can I see him?" At her doubtful expression, he added hastily, "Just for a minute." She hesitated, then looked into Al's eyes. "All right, I'll sneak you in, but make it fast, okay?" He nodded and trailed her to the room, casting her one last look of gratitude before entering. Nurses swarmed around, prepping and monitoring and whatever else it was they did. Sam was lying on a gurney, his eyes closed and his face pale. Memories formed shadows in the room and another shifting piece locked into place as the foundation for the future he was in was being rebuilt under his feet. "Sam?" The leaper opened his eyes and smiled dimly. "See what I gotta go through to save your butt?" he intoned softly. "Yeah." He chuckled and grasped Sam's hand tightly. "How do you feel?" "Like I've been hit by a truck," he groaned. "But they gave me something - it's getting better. `Course, the room's getting fuzzier..." "Well, they're gonna put you under in a minute." Sam nodded tightly. "Figured as much." Al shook his head. "I warn you time and time again about playing hero without proper training, but you just never listen, do you?" Sam's eyes still sparkled. "It was one hell of a big windmill, Al." He glanced down at the temporary bandage on his side. "Yeah, I bet." When he spoke again, his tone was more subdued. "I'd better go before the shrink police take me away." "Okay." Al nodded once, then squeezed his hand once more. "Al?" Sam said softly as he turned away, stopping him. "Are you okay? I mean...it looked like she..." He stopped, uncertain of how to continue. "Did Zoe..." "No," Al reassured him quickly, cutting off his fumbling. "No, she didn't. Everything's fine, Sam. I'll be fine." Sam eased against the mattress. "Good." "Just relax. I'll be back when you wake up." Sam was already starting to fade, though, and Al slipped out, going into the small waiting area outside the surgical room. He sat down on one of the two small benches and leaned against the wall, staring off into the distance, watching the picture of the past form more completely in his mind. It was almost all there, now... The entire week and a half, "Derrick" getting shot as he came to find him, his convincing himself that everything Derrick had said had been some elaborate, misguided lie. And then there had been the plane ride home, and the second night back in Santa Fe. Even so, the other history was still very clear. It had been similar in so many ways...for a while. He laid down on the bench, fighting the exhaustion that ran through him. The next thing he was aware of, someone was shaking him. "Is everything okay?" he asked before he was even fully awake. Verbena's face came slowly into focus above him and he wiped his face and sat up. She removed her hand. "He's still in surgery, but everything's going fine. Why don't you go back to your quarters and get some sleep?" Her tone was just a bit too persuasive. "I'll be fine here," he protested wearily. "Al..." He straightened. "Verbena, he was hurt because of me. I wanted to sit with him when he came out of surgery, I just wanted to...do for him what he did for me." She faced him a moment longer, then bent and kissed him on top of his head. "Can I get you a pillow?" He smiled warmly. "No thanks, hon. Oh, and Verbena? Thanks for all the things you did for me, too." The expression on her face told him she didn't recall the last few days the way he did. "Even if you don't remember them," he amended. She offered him a lopsided grin. "I'll get you when he comes out."