Chapter 10

Al stepped out of the Imaging Chamber and tossed the handlink on the main 
control board.  Gooshie caught it just before it slid off and hit the floor.

"Damn it."  Al swore softly.

Tina looked up from the repair she was performing, but said nothing.

"Where's Verbena?"  Al questioned anyone who would answer.

"In her office, Admiral."  Gooshie supplied helpfully.

Al stepped over to the main control panel.  He placed one hand on a colored 
square.  "Ziggy?"

"Admiral."  The computer responded.

"How soon can we get some data for Sam?"

"Try me in 7.2 hours."  The computer replied sulkily.

"No, Ziggy.  I want data in 2 hours."  Al raised his voice to his 'Admiral' 

"Unable to comply."

"Ziggy, don't make me threaten you."  Al warned.

The computer remained silent.

Al gave up and went to search out Verbena.  He found her in her office.  The 
door was open a crack, but Al knocked anyway.

"Come in."

Al stepped inside.  Verbena was behind her desk writing notes on a chart.  Al 
dropped into the chair near her desk.  

Verbena glanced up at him and back down at her notes.  She closed the folder 
and went to sit in the chair opposite Al's.  "What happened with Sam?"

Al looked at Verbena with surprise.  "How did you know it was Sam?"

"What else could it be?"

Al looked down at his hands.  He gathered his thoughts and looked back up at 
Verbena.  She was waiting patiently, knowing he would speak when he was 
ready.  "Oh Dammit.  He asked about kids."  Al's fingers twisted together in 
his lap.  "It was all I could do not to tell him about Donna.  You should 
have seen him with that baby, he was a natural."

Verbena crossed her legs and folded her hands in her lap.  "I'm sure he was.  
But Al,"  She softened her tone, "if he finds out, he will be hurt.  The 
scars such information can leave will not heal easy.  There is no guarantee 
that he would forget on the next leap, and to remember each time, would hurt 

Al stood up and began to pace.  "But it is so unfair to him."  He took four 
steps and turned took four more and stopped.  "He should have some say so in 
the whole affair!  It is his child after all."

Verbena needed to calm Al down before he wore a hole in her rug.  She got up 
and went to her desk.. Opening a drawer, she retrieved a hidden box.  She 
held out the box to Al who stopped his ranting to stare at her.

He grinned at her and took the box.  "Bena, you shouldn't have, you know it's 
forbidden."  She winked at him.  "Not in my office it isn't."  She watched 
him open the box and retrieve a Chavello cigar.  He handed the box back to 
her and she placed it back in her desk.

Patting his pockets, he found the lighter and the small cigar clipper he kept 
with him.  Expertly he clipped the ends and lit it up.  He took a long, 
satisfying drag and exhaled slowly.  Verbena returned to her chair knowing 
that he would calm down now.  Funny how you get to know people over time.  
That was one thing she liked most about her job, being able to help even if 
it was in little ways.

The nicotine helped.  Al did relax enough to sit back down.  He picked up 
right where he had left off, but his tone was calmer now.  "Still, he should 
be allowed to know.  Don't you think it will hurt him when he does return 
home and find out he was not allowed to even name his child?"

Verbena took a small ashtray from an end table and handed it to Al.  He took 
it and placed it on the table next to him.  She collected her thoughts and 
tried to think of an easy answer to Al's question.  Problem was, there were 
no easy answers.

"Al this is really a no-win scenario."  She placed her hands palm side up in 
front of her as if weighing something.  "On one hand, he gets hurt if he 
finds out.  On the other hand, if he leaps home he gets hurt because we never 
told him.  Either way he gets hurt.  We just have to decide which would hurt 

Al took a couple more puffs on the cigar and tapped the ash in the tray.  
"Well if it was me, I'd want to know."

She reached across to Al's hand and took it in between her own.  "You are 
also forgetting about Donna.  She is his wife and doesn't want him to know.  
It's her call on this, Al."

Al looked down at Verbena's hands.  They were smaller than his, and the nails 
were done in a nice shade of red.  "I didn't forget Donna.  I just think Sam 
has a right to know.  It didn't matter before, because we couldn't find him.  
But it matters now.  Especially now.  With this leap.  Y'know, baby and all."

Verbena placed one hand on Al's chin and raised his head so he was looking at 
her.  "Let's see what Ziggy has to say about this leap before we jump the gun 
anymore.  Okay?  He may not be there long enough for any of this to matter."

Al nodded.  "You're right, Bena."  He took a couple more drags on the cigar.  
"I'm gonna check on Donna before I turn in.  For once, Sam's leap time 
actually runs close to ours."  He stubbed out the end of the cigar before 

"Are you going to be okay, Al?"

He kissed her on the cheek.  "I'll be fine.  Thanks, Bena.  For everything."

"Night, Al."

He opened her office door.  "Night, Bena."