"Linked" Book I, Part VIII ~~~~~~~~~~~~ January, 2001 Stallions Gate, NM ~~~~~~~~~~~~ "Trauma?" Verbena repeated blankly. She, Beth, and Spenard were all crammed into his small temporary office, curiosity and tension growing by the second. Doctor Spenard slid the chart over to her. "I did my research also. Don't you find it odd that he entered into the coma shortly after Doctor Beckett leaped out, as you say? And he came out of it exactly as he landed?" "I hadn't made the connection before, but I suppose so, yes." She fought hard to control her irritation that he wasn't getting to the point. "We ran a whole battery of tests on him while he was in the coma, remember? EKG, x-rays, the works." "Time is short," she reminded him. "But what was really odd was that there were no signs that there was anything wrong. Sure, he had the fever, but there was no real evidence that anything had caused his condition. And now I get this report back indicating massive trauma." Verbena looked back at the chart. "Where?" "The stomach and the right upper arm," he replied, indicating the areas to her with the tip of his pen. Beth was seated in a chair and was barely aware of her surroundings. Now, her head snapped up, startling the other two. "What did you say?" she asked forcefully. "I said he shows evidence of-" "Sam," she murmured. Verbena turned to face her. "What do you know, Beth?" "Before Sam leaped out, he was shot twice - once in the stomach and once in the right upper arm." Verbena and Doctor Spenard exchanged a startled glance. "And then, just before you removed the implant, Al told me he'd asked for this. I asked him what he meant, but he couldn't tell me and I just assumed he wasn't thinking straight." Verbena swung quickly back to Spenard. "We have to do surgery," she stated. He shook his head to clear it. "Now, hold on just a minute here... First of all, he may not survive more surgery." "He's dying now!" Beth cried out. "Secondly," he continued, casting Beth an exasperated look, "how on earth am I supposed to do surgery to remove a bullet when there's no bullet there?" He leaned forward. "How can I treat something that's all symptoms and no cause?" Verbena stared at him. "I told you earlier: Project Quantum Leap plays by a different set of rules. Pretend." "Pretend?" he echoed in disbelief. "You've got to be kidding..." "Doctor, you have a patient out there who's been shot twice. Take that premise and go and heal him." "It's not quite that simple-" "Dammit!" Verbena yelled, planting her fists on the desktop. Beth looked up, shocked; Verbena never acted this way. "I know you're not giving up on him! Everything we've tried has failed and to try nothing is certain death for him. His condition is worsening every second we stand here and argue!" She narrowed her eyes. "Doctor, that man would sacrifice his life for a stranger, for you, even. There are a lot of people here who care about what happens to him, and one stranded out in time who needs him and you're not even willing to _try_ and save his life?!" He opened his mouth to protest, but she waved him into silence. "How _dare_ you take that defeatist attitude before you even try? And in front of her, no less." He realized his mouth was hanging open and he clamped it shut hurriedly. "My apologies," he managed. "Of course I'll try." He glanced at Beth. "I'll do my best," he vowed. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ June, 1980 Anchorage, AK ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Sherri Marks knew when to push and when to bide her time. It was definitely time for the latter. Ron was on the phone and one of his brothers stood in front of her, his gun carefully trained on her head. She was seated up against the wall, straining to keep calm and assess the situation. With any luck, she'd live through this and could get back with some valuable information. "Barry Coleman," Ron said carefully. "I want to see Judge Barry Coleman in here in one hour. You're the fifth person I been talking to in the last twenty minutes - how long does it take?!" His hand clenched on the phone and he eyed Sherri with undisguised intent. "Maybe I can provide some motivation for you." He gestured fiercely and the gunman grabbed her arm and pulled her to the phone, the cold muzzle of the gun pressed to the nape of her neck and her arms clenched tightly behind her. Ron put the phone to her ear. "Talk," he ordered. She swallowed hard. "Hello?" There was a startled pause. "Ma'am, are you a hostage?" *Great. Gomer Pyle is assigned to save my life.* She stared at Ron's unblinking gaze, wondering how much she could afford to say. "Yes." "Have you been hurt?" "Not yet." "What's your name, Miss?" "Sherri Marks," she said clearly, trying to relax into the hold on her. "How many hostages are there, Sherri?" "Four others with me, but-" Ron grabbed a fistful of hair. "What are they asking?" he demanded. She just looked steadily at him. He pulled her back and snatched the phone away. "You listen to me. Either I see Judge Coleman in here, or she dies." He slammed the receiver down and glared at her. "I guess you're stuck with me, Sherri." She felt like she should spit at him, kick him, _something_, but she didn't want to rile him up until it would be to her advantage to do so. So she just continued to stare unflinchingly at him until she was thrown back to the same spot on the floor. "You stay put, sweetie." She folded her arms tightly about herself, picturing Cindy. The more meek and mild she appeared now, the better a chance she'd have to surprise Ron later. And she fully intended to. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ January, 2001 Stallions Gate, NM ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Pacing was getting old rather fast. It seemed all she'd been doing the last few days. Pacing and waiting for news. In the meantime, every second they had Al open on the table, his chances for survival slipped further and further into oblivion. She tried not to think of that. One of the worst parts of the situation was that they'd removed the implant and lost contact with Sam for no reason. Al wasn't going to be pleased about that. The doors opened and Doctor Spenard emerged, Verbena and Angeline in his wake. "Here," he said, holding something up in his hands. She outstretched her own and he let the objects fall in. "What's this?" she asked. "Bullets," Spenard replied. Beth glanced at Verbena, but the psychiatrist looked as perplexed as she felt. "It's completely beyond me how they got in there - they certainly didn't show up in the x-rays we took while he was still in the coma. But there they were..." "Shouldn't they be in the past?" Beth asked, puzzled. "Yes," she replied without hesitation. "But they never performed an autopsy on the leapee so we'll never know." She stared at the heavy pieces of metal, listening to them clink together as she shifted them in her palm. "Is he still alive?" she asked, dreading the answer. "So far." He pulled off his gloves. "So what do we do now?" "Now we wait." "Oh, good," she said bitterly as the small party left the room, "a change of pace." Verbena paused on her way out. "He didn't come this far to die now." "Is it okay if I...?" She gestured towards the door. The psychiatrist waited until Doctor Spenard was gone and the door shut silently behind him. "Just don't take too long, okay?" Beth nodded. "What are...his chances?" "Not worth mentioning," she replied. While Beth tried to figure out exactly how to interpret that, Verbena left the room. Beth Calavicci took a deep breath, and returned to the scene which had occupied her mind every moment of the last three days. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ "Can you wake him up?" Verbena sighed. "I guess we could, but it would be better for him to stay under as long as he can. He underwent surgery twice in a very short amount of time." Donna swallowed. "I don't want to endanger Al's life, it's just that..." "What?" Verbena prompted. "We still know where Sam is. Once he leaps out, he's gone." "What are you asking?" "The implant-" "Donna..." Verbena put a hand on her arm. "We can't put it back now. I can say with a great deal of certainty that if we cut him open again, he'll die." "Well, you may not need to. Taking it out may require some work, but putting it in is a simple matter." Verbena raised an eyebrow at her. "You weren't on the project at that point, but it was just injected into both of them. Doing that again...it couldn't hurt Al, could it?" "I don't know about this... What do we do after the implant's back in?" "Then he just has to be conscious and in the Imaging Chamber while we reestablish a permanent lock." Donna seemed eager, hopeful. "Can't you inject it into someone else and use them?" "No. The project was designed around Sam and Al - there just aren't enough resources to start from scratch. It's tailor-made, Verbena. Plus...they have a link that doesn't come from the implant." That much, Verbena knew. "What's your deadline for getting this in action?" "In Sam's time, according to the original history, the hostage situation lasted an additional 12 hours." She hesitated. "But Sam could change that in either direction." Verbena bit her lip and studied Donna's face. "I can't promise anything at this point, but I'll talk to Doctor Spenard and Beth and we'll see what happens, okay?" "Don't tell Beth that..." Her face twisted into a mixture of dread and regret. "That what? You asked me to look into this?" "I don't want her to think that..." She trailed off again and looked down at her hands. Verbena's expression softened. "She understands, Donna. And she's been worried about Sam, too. Believe me, Beth is the one person in this world who definitely does understand." "Maybe." "No maybe about it," the psychiatrist responded confidently. "I'll talk to her and we'll see what we can do to get Sam back." "Thanks, Verbena. You're incredible." She shrugged. "We're family." +Yes, I am SO mean.
Comments, questions, death threats? Please send them to Thanks! -amkt