"Lost Causes" Part II April, 1992 Pomona, NE There was a knock on Sam's door, rousing him from a restless sleep, and he opened it to see Marcus, Derrick's partner. Marcus looked like an ordinary citizen on the street. He wore jeans and a polo shirt, bright white sneakers, and a baseball cap. But looks could be deceiving. From what Sam had gathered before stepping into the Accelerator to come here, they were actually the two responsible for kidnapping Al and keeping him locked away. How much they were responsible for beyond that, he wasn't sure. "Hey, Rick, I'm going to go pick up the first half of the payment tonight, so you're going to be alone in the building for a good five hours at least." Sam nodded tightly. "Right. Does that mean this is almost over?" Marcus leaned against the door frame. "I know you don't like long deals and I know you don't like the `deliver now, get paid later' policy, but this is big money. It was worth the risk." "What's their deal, though? What are they doing with him?" Sam questioned desperately, clawing in the dark for answers he wasn't even sure Marcus had. "More like `to him'," the man muttered. Sam's gaze snapped up. "What is that supposed to mean?" he demanded harshly. Marcus returned the glare. "You know better than to become involved in what clients want. I wish they'd do what they were going to do, though, instead of dumping him on us. Two days of sitting on our hands." Sam rubbed his palms together as an idea hit him. "What if...we tell them they can't take him out of the building until the entire payment's been made? Whatever they want him for, surely they can do it as well here. That way we can be assured that we'll get all our money." *And I can keep an eye on what's going on and get the information I came here to get.* Marcus looked doubtful. "I dunno. I'll see what I can do, but I don't like the looks of these people. I don't think it's such a good idea to cross them. We agreed to their terms ahead of time." Looking in Marcus's eyes, Sam didn't see the money-hungry expression of a thug, but the carefully calculated risks of a businessman. And it disgusted him. "Well, try, okay? I just - I got a bad feeling about this situation." "Right." He started down the stairs and passed by Al's room on his way out, pausing to glance at the door. There was no lock on it and Sam had to wonder how a businessman could have agreed to a setup like this. "Now, if I'm not back in five hours, beep me. I may be needing an out by that point. Got it?" Sam started to reply when a sharp cry came from inside the room. They turned simultaneously towards the closed door and Marcus yelled out a curse, taking Sam completely by surprise. "Again," Marcus spat angrily. "This is at least the third time it's happened - he's going to alert someone else to what's going on here." He threw open the door so violently that it banged against the wall with a loud crack, and entered the room. Sam could see Al was dreaming. "Hey! Keep it down." He cried out again and Marcus kicked him, hard, in the ribs. "Hey!" Sam yelled in protest, grabbing Marcus's arm automatically before he could think how it would look. "Lay off!" Al, now completely awake, was squinting in the sudden light, keeping remarkably calm given the circumstances and his frame of mind. Marcus turned on Sam instead and the leaper could easily see the side of the man that allowed him to do things like this for a living. "And you, I think you're becoming emotionally involved in this. You know better than that." He slammed the door, shutting Al back in, and glared angrily. "Five hours. Don't forget." Sam watched him as he stalked off, watched as he climbed into his car, turned on the headlights, and sped off into the distance. Then, without wasting a second, he returned to the room and flung the door open, dropping to his knees next to his friend. "Al?" he called softly. Al was on his side, eyes shut tightly. "Don't touch me," he warned tensely. He was shivering, still showing signs of panic every time he realized his hands were bound. "Okay," Sam murmured, reverting automatically into a mode to soothe him, "take it easy." He moved behind Al and pulled out the pocketknife he'd found earlier, shortly after leaping in. "I'm just gonna cut these ropes, so relax, okay?" Al didn't respond verbally, but the trembling eased and Sam brought the blade to the restraints and carefully sliced them away. Al grunted in pain as he pulled them off to see blood on Al's wrists and in his palms. He moved away to give his friend his space, but watched him carefully, hating every minute he was in that room, hating that he couldn't tell Al who he was. Despising that he had to let this happen to his friend. Al bit his bottom lip hard as he brought his arms in front of himself, pain lancing through his shoulders. He eyed Sam suspiciously, as if waiting for a condition. Sam knew the look well; Al was hanging on by a thread. "I'll be right back," Sam told him instead. The front door was locked with a dead bolt - he wouldn't be going anywhere. Sam nodded to the knife, laying on the floor to Al's right. "You can cut the other ropes yourself." He left and went up to their little makeshift kitchen. He assumed the building used to be an office building as most of the rooms were devoid of any creature comforts except for a small kitchen that may once have been used for coffee and donuts. Derrick and Marcus had obviously stocked up for a while, just in case, and Sam had no trouble locating some light foods and a bottle of juice. Scooping up the meal, he returned to Al's location to find him seated in the corner with his knees drawn up in front of him, his arms resting across them and his head buried in his arms. *He looks so lost,* Sam thought, reminding himself that this was a culmination of a very low point in Al's life along with his poor physical condition from the surroundings. "I, uh, brought you something to eat." Al looked up sharply and started to back further into the corner, then caught himself. He looked a little more self-assured now, the panic finally wiped almost completely from his expression. Sam put down the plate and glass and nodded to him. "It was just a dream, you know," he said softly. A tremor ran through his body. "What are you talking about?" "Whatever you were dreaming about before Marcus - woke you. It was just a dream, Al. Please, you've got to believe me: I'm here to help you. In a sense, my hands are tied, too, but I'll do what I can." He stared at Sam. "Why?" It was the same question Al asked him countless times, especially on Starbright. In a way, he understood people like Marcus and Derrick better than Sam Beckett. He understood people who acted out of greed and hate, but compassion was something he hadn't experienced in too long and he didn't know how to respond to it. Sam couldn't think of a reply that would be in character, but he already wasn't doing anything Derrick would. "Because...you're important." Al made a sound of disbelief, misinterpreting the comment with relating to status, not friendship. "Believe me, I'm not. I screwed up the last good thing I had one week ago and now there's absolutely no reason anyone should show me any mercy." *Mercy.* It wasn't the word Sam would have thought he'd use. "You didn't screw it up. Trust me." Al didn't even bother to respond to what seemed like empty reassurances and they sat in a tense silence for the next ten minutes while he ate. "Who else is in the building?" he asked finally and Sam realized for the first time that in addition to befriending Al, he also had to make sure he wouldn't try and escape until they didn't need him anymore. It made him sick to his stomach: that they were using Al in the same way as their enemies, even if it had been the admiral himself who told him to do so. "There's a couple people downstairs," Sam lied, hoping that would satisfy his friend. "We're on the bottom level." Apparently, he did remember something about two days ago, even if it was just them bringing him out of the building. However, with the exposure of the lie, Sam had just lost his trust again, but he hadn't wanted Al to think he had such a clean break for the exit. Al narrowed his eyes, but didn't press further, then tilted his head back, resting it against the wall. "God, I need a drink," he muttered, shoving the half-eaten remnants of his dinner away, a sick look on his face. Sam looked up sharply. "No, you don't." At his response, Al effectively closed him out again. "What would you know about it?" he demanded coldly. "You telling me that's not what got you into this to begin with? You go out to get drunk and now you don't even know how you got here, do you?" Al turned away, all the response Sam needed. "Why is it so hard for you to accept that there are people who care about you, who want to help? You push them away and then use the excuse that nobody gives a damn anyhow." Al's jaw tightened and Sam let up slightly. "Maybe once that was true, but it's not now." "How do you know so much about me?" Al demanded, but there was no firm command in his voice. Sam hesitated, wondering how to answer. "You've got a friend out there who's worried sick about you," he said instead. "Sam." Al forced out a harsh chuckle, not asking how "Derrick" knew this. "I didn't want to let him down, but I did. I failed him." "No, no you didn't..." Sam blinked, surprised to find that his eyes were moist. "I need your help," he said with carefully balanced calm, changing the subject before it could lead to more questions he couldn't answer. "My help? With what?" "These people who have you - I need to know what they want from you. And I need to know what they're planning." "Don't you know?" he asked, beginning to look trapped again. "No - Marcus and I were just hired for the...dirty work." And it was - Sam himself felt filthy just being around it. "I don't know what they want," he stated in no uncertain terms. "I don't have anything they could possibly want and they certainly haven't discussed anything with me." "You do have something they want," Sam corrected, knowing Al would never tell him about Project Quantum Leap. Even in 1992 there were still plans, equations, blueprints...passwords. Against the advice of the committee, Al knew them all. "What do you remember about what's been going on here?" Al looked up at him and, for an instant, Sam could see a rush of information hovering on the verge of exposure. He saw pain, regret, remorse, shame. Then it was gone just as quickly and his face became neutral again. "Nothing. I don't remember anything."