July, 1985 Atlanta, GA Sam opened his eyes slowly, but he still couldn't see anything because it was so dark out. Then his eyes widened and he felt the other side of the bed he was sleeping on. His hand met with an empty pillow, much to his immense relief. If there was one thing Sam truly hated, it was leaping in next to someone he was supposed to know intimately. He sat up and reached for some source of light. Before he could find it, he heard the sound of movement from the far side of the room and he groaned in despair. He had come so close. He was gratified to note that he had on an undershirt and boxer shorts, which was promising. He waited, but nobody joined him. "Hello?" he hazarded, pulling back the covers and sitting on the edge of the bed. The sound came closer and Sam felt the cold hard muzzle of a gun press up against his head. He tensed and swallowed hard. "Don't talk," said a voice at his side. *Where are you, Al?* he thought to himself with increasing panic. He had a bad feeling about all this. It was hard not to when someone was holding a gun to your head. "Get up and get dressed." Sam obeyed, fumbling around in the drawers for a pair of pants while at the same time making note of his surroundings. It appeared he was in an apartment, in a small bedroom area. Through the open door he could see the small kitched with an adjoining living room. "Hurry up!" the man yelled from behind him and Sam turned so he could catch a glimpse of his attacker. With a photographic memory, one glimpse was all it ever took. The man was small and lean and very afraid. He looked like he hadn't shaved or possibly showered for at least a couple of days, as his thickening stubble showed. He was dressed all in black, casual clothing, but his encounter was anything but. The thin sharpness of his face revealed more than a hint of desperation and Sam wondered if that had anything to do with what was going on. "What is it you want?" Sam asked. He paused before his next question, unsure if he should voice it without Al's council, but he saw no other opportunity. "Who are you?" he demanded. The man didn't respond, but he didn't call Sam crazy either, so maybe he didn't know this man after all. He didn't say anything at all, but advanced a step with the gun. "Okay," Sam said quietly. "Okay, just calm down now. Please, put down the gun. You don't need it. Just tell me what you want and we can clear this up." The man's eyes narrowed and he shook his head. "I don't think so Mr. Price. Go outside." He tossed Sam a set of keys. "You're driving," he said. He was starting to look a bit more confident about himself and Sam could feel his chance slipping away. Well, at least he knew now that this man knew him, which was something. "Please, if you could just tell me what it is you want, maybe I can help you." He paused, the hand that held the gun trembling slightly. "You want to know what I want? I want my life back, that's what I want. I want you to give me my life back. You go about your life and work your way up and you never even stop to think of the people you grind underneath your heels while you do. But I will not be ignored. You don't remember me? Fine. I shouldn't have expected any less from the likes of you. Now," he grabbed Sam's arm roughly, "get outside." Sam stumbled out onto the damp lawn, noting the BMW parked off to the side. He was pushed to the worn-looking sedan parked out front in hasty abandon and his head connected with the roof of the car, causing him to wince in pain. His captor pushed him over the the driver's side and got in himself, the gun still trained on Sam. "Look, you don't want to do this. I can't give you your life back. I'm sorry." "Shut up," the man said evenly. Sam gripped the steering wheel and started the car. "Where are we going?" "We? _You_ are going to commit suicide. _I_ am just along for the ride. Drive. I'll tell you where to go." *Suicide,* thought Sam frantically. Where was Al? ^----^----^----^----^ September, 2000 Santa Fe, NM Al glanced back behind him at the three cars parked side by side, mostly obscured by a smaller building so that whoever had set this up wouldn't detect them. He felt better knowing they were there, even though it meant that he had to put them on for extra hours. He hadn't wanted to sacrifice project security on this, but neither did he want a potentially innocent person to die because he decided not to go or because he gave it up to the authorities. There were no other vehicles around and he walked slowly to the warehouse door, feeling the reassuring weight of the small handgun he was told not to bring. He hoped it wouldn't cause any trouble, but with as little information as he was going on, he wasn't about to take any chances. The door opened with a sharp creak and Al winced. The inside of the warehouse was dimly lit, always a bad sign, and there was no sign of anybody. He was uncertain whether to sneak in or yell out, but he figured the door had already announced his presence to anyone within. The slightest noise echoed in the massive, empty room. He slid through the small crack in the door he had created, motioning to the troops in the cars to hold off until they recieved a signal. What kind of signal he would send, he wasn't yet sure, but if worst came to worst, the sound of a gunshot would send them running. "Hello?" he hazarded softly and the echo of his voice caused him to regret it. The room had stacks of carts everywhere in a maze-like formation with one clear view right down the center. He realized that he stood in that plain view and he moved quickly to one side to get out of it. The sound of movement like a soft scuffle reached him, but due to the echo, he was unable to tell where it was coming from. "I want to see the hostage," he tried again, but there was still no response. He walked slowly forward, taking care to remain out of the direct path in the middle, wishing it was safe to take out his gun. He wasn't but fifty yards into the place when he saw the figure lying on the floor. A woman lay bound and gagged in the middle of the room, wiggling furiously. He knew instinctively that it was a trap, but he couldn't think of anything else to do other than try and help her. He crouched low to the ground to try and get close enough to pull her behind the shelter of the crates and then gunfire erupted overhead. Al reached out and grabbed her by her leg, dragging her to safety, simultaneoulsy reaching behind him to get his gun. The doors exploded inward and the people he had brought filed into the building, returning fire with seemed to be ruthless accuracy. The ear-splitting noise went on for a full five minutes, at least. Al got off a few shots himself, but made sure that nobody put themselves in any danger seeing as the hostage was safe and there was no apparant reason for anyone to risk their lives more than they already had. Finally, the racket ended when it became clear that the enemy had gone out the back. Al had half of the troops go outside to try and find where they had escaped to while he and the other half advanced cautiously on the spot where the shooting had begun. He steeled himself for a gruesome sight, but everyone was gone. There were no bodies and there was no blood. He could only assume that in the whole darned thing there had been no casualties at all. "That doesn't make any sense," Al muttered to himself, stooping to find any clues as to what had caused all this. "Why call me here, hand over the hostage, and not shoot to kill?" He straightened and looked at the man standing next to him. "Corporal, let's clear out. Go find out if they found anything outside." "Aye aye, sir," the man responded and walked off. Al raised his voice a little. "The rest of you, I want you to go over this place with a fine tooth comb. I want to know everything. Every speck you find, report it to me." He spun angrily on his heel, suddenly remembering the hostage he had left behind. He crossed the room back to the location he had left her at and she lay there trembling and scared, and no doubt as confused as the rest of them. "It's okay," he said gently, kneeling beside her. She was breathing hard and he reached down to remove the gag, holding her steady as she gasped for air. "It's okay," he repeated, "nobody's going to hurt you." She was coughing furiously, probably because of all the dust in the place. Al helped her sit up and was about to untie her hands when he got his first good look at her and he gasped a little bit, almost letting her go in the process. "Alia." ^----^----^----^----^ August, 2000 Santa Fe, NM Christina entered the room slowly, hesitating to tell the senator what she had to. "Senator, I am telling you that I just can't get any further on the equations on my own. I have tried everything. I am very sorry." She was uncertain what else she could say, or how he would react to it. Senator Franklin leaned back in his chair and she couldn't erase the mental image of a panther lying in wait, biding his time before pouncing. "We predicted this." She wasn't sure whether to feel relieved or offended. "You did?" "Yes. After all, you're brilliant, but you're no Sam Beckett. If you've gone as far as you can, it's time for phase two." "What does phase two involve?" she asked, shifting her weight anxiously. He smiled. "You don't need to concern yourself with phase two. Suffice it to say that in shortly, you should have all the information you need to finish the project. Give us another two months after that and we will not only be able to travel through time, but we'll have someone specially conditioned to do it." She narrowed her eyes. "What are you going to do? You're not going to hurt anybody, are you? I'm doing this to help people, not harm them. What good is it if we hurt people to get what we want?" He stood, slowly, menacingly. "Thank you for your advice, Dr. Meth, but we have invested a great deal of money and time in this and we are not about to stop because you are having problems with your moral fiber. You never had problems in the past." "You never talked in such drastic tones before," she pointed out, warming to her subject. "If you had had your eyes opened, you would have seen that our methods have not changed one bit." "Then I quit. I don't want your money anymore." It was a desperate grasp at straws which she had failed to keep focused on all this time, and he knew it. He smiled. "You won't do that. This is your dream." "I don't care," she said, and she almost believed herself. "You can't keep me here. You can't force me to do this." His smile widened. "A fool believes what he wants to believe while the wise believes what is. That, my dear, is why the wise will always control the fools."