Chapter Twelve

     It nearly 6:00 a.m. Christmas Day when they had
finished putting their plan into action.  The others were
probably on their way to their respective airports by now, or
nearly ready to go.  All except Donna.  He couldn't bring
himself to include her.  She had been through enough the first
time, when Sam had died.  If she knew that he was still alive,
it could have a devastating affect.  Her current marriage was
already in trouble, according to Verbeena, and she didn't need
this tacked onto it.  Al had also awoken a few members at the
lower end of the military scale.  He wanted his files and he
wanted them now.  All of them.  No, tomorrow would not be
good enough.  Rear Admiral Calavicci wanted them in his
hands by zero nine hundred hours that day.  Good thing they
didn't accept my resignation, Al thought.
     In the meantime, Sam had arranged for airline tickets for
everyone from their respective destinations.  They were to meet
at the Project as soon as possible that afternoon.
     An ensign arrived at Al's condo at precisely nine o'clock
that morning.  The bedraggled young man which had ended up
with the assignment of retrieving the boxes from their place in
storage looked to Al like he had been dragged from a sound
sleep.  When the ensign saw Sam, encased in Kara's shapely
body, his eyes lit up.  Sure hope I can attract them like that
when I'm his age!  The look didn't get past Sam.
     "Okay, Sam, I think we've got everything we need here. 
Where are the files, ensign?  Ensign!"
     The man jumped to attention.  "Yes, sir!"
     "I asked you where the files were."
     "In the car waiting for you, sir!"
     "Very good."  He reached inside his pants pocket,
handing the ensign some cash.  "I'll be needing the car, so you
take a cab home."  His hand returned to his pocket.  "And
here.  Buy your wife something for Christmas, from me."
     "Sir?"  The ensign looked bewildered.
     "To apologize for pulling you out on Christmas
morning.  Dismissed."
     "Yes sir."  The ensign snapped Al a perfect salute, then
looked at the money the Admiral had handed him.  It was a
hundred dollar bill.  "Yes Sir!  And Merry Christmas to you
both, sir!"  With one last gaze at Sam, the young man
disappeared.  The ensign's scrutiny of the Leaper in the
woman's body wasn't lost on Al, either.
     "I see you still haven't lost your appeal with the, uh,
younger generation," he grinned, sauntering towards the bar.
     "Very funny, Al.  Ha, ha, ha."  Then, it was the
Leaper's turn to have a laugh at his friend's expense. 
"Actually, I think he was more impressed that someone like you
could even manage to attract someone like Kara.  That is, of
course, if he wasn't assuming that you were my grandfather!"
     Al pulled a cigar from a box behind the bar and lit up,
blowing smoke rings above his head.  He wasn't about to let
Sam have the final guffaw.  "And why wouldn't he think that
I could produce someone as beautiful as Kara?  After all, I have
been known to turn a head or two, even now."  He puffed
away, his mind wandering back to just those times, the grin on
his face getting larger.
     The Leaper cleared his throat, not once but twice, before
Al came back from his thoughts.
     "Well, Sam, let's get going."  Stepping from behind the
bar, he stepped across the room to the front door, then reached
down and grabbed an overnight bag.  "We can get your bag
from the trunk of my car once we're downstairs."
     "Al, I couldn't get flight reservations for us.  I had a
difficult enough time getting them for the others.  How are we
going to get to New Mexico for this afternoon?"
     "Don't worry.  I've already taken care of that, too. 
Now, come on, let's go.  We're burning daylight!"  Al was
holding the door open, waiting for him.  The Leaper following
his friend into the hallway outside the condo, and this time, Al
made sure to lock the door before leaving.

     Their car pulled up to a private airport, just outside
Georgetown.  A large plane stood at the ready, waiting for
them.  Sam got out and stared at the jet.  A man in uniform
approached the car, taking the keys from Al and moving
towards the truck.
     "Al, that's Air Force One!  We can't use the President's
     "Actually, it's not Air Force One.  More like Air Force
Two.  It's the stand-by plane.  The President's a golfing buddy
of mine, so when I explained it was a matter of life and death,
he let me 'borrow' this one."
     "Al, you don't 'borrow' government property like it was
your neighbour's car!"
     "Look, are you going to argue with me about this, or
are we going to go to New Mexico?"  Sam didn't respond.  "I
thought so.  Now, all these nice people are giving up their
Christmas morning to help us, so the least we can do is let
them do their jobs and help.  That way, they can get back to
their kids and their presents and their turkey dinners and their
overeating ... ."
     The officer who had met them at the car stepped
forward, his back ramrod straight at attention.  It always
amazed Sam when someone did this around Al.  It also made
the former Observer a little uncomfortable when it happened,
especially when it happened around his circle of civilian
friends.  "Admiral."  He inclined his head toward Al.  "Miss." 
He repeated the gesture toward Sam, then returned his gaze to
the Admiral.  "Your baggage and belongings have been stored
onboard, as requested.  Whenever you are ready, sir."
     "Very good," he acknowledged the officer, then turned
back to Sam, bending slightly at the waist and extending his
arm to indicate for the Leaper to step forward.  "Shall we?" 
Not liking the idea, but realizing that time wouldn't allow any
other choice, Sam started up the stairway, leading up and into
the large jet, followed by Al.  The interior was far more
elaborate that he had imagined it would be, but then again, this
was the President's plane, or at least the secondary plane.
     He heard the door being shut and securely locked into
place, the minimal staff performing their duties like a well-oiled
machine.  The female officer that had greeted them upon their
arrival onto the plane escorted them to the seating area.  The
file boxes that Al had demanded be brought from storage sat
along the walls and floors of the area, secured in place with
temporary netting to prevent them from moving during the
initial part of the flight.  Al took a seat next to the window,
settling himself in as if he had done it hundreds of times before. 
But Al had a way to making himself instantly comfortable
wherever he was.  Sam, however, remained standing, feeling
some apprehension about the whole thing.
     "Sit down, Sam.  We have to get going."
     "Al, I don't feel right about this," he whispered.
     "Look, we're already here.  The pilot's already here. 
The flight crew is already here.  The only thing we're not is
airborne, now sit down and let's get going."  Sam slid into the
seat next to Al and began fumbling for the seatbelt.
     Just then, a female lieutenant approached them.  "Is
everything alright, Admiral?"
     Al's eyes light up at the sight of the lovely lieutenant. 
"Yes, everything's fine, Lieutenant, uh ..."
     "MacPherson, sir.  Rachel MacPherson."
     "Everything's fine, Lt. MacPherson.  My friend here
has a slight problem with flying, but he, uh she's, getting
settled in even as we speak, aren't you Kara?"  The last three
words were spoken through gritted teeth.  Not getting a
response, Al poked Sam in the ribs with his elbow.
     The Leaper looked up from trying to locate his seatbelts,
first at Al, then at the lieutenant.  "Yes, fine, thank you."
     "Would you like some help with your seatbelt, miss?" 
The lieutenant began to lean down, her hand ready to reach
along the side of the seat.  Seeing what she was about to do,
Sam quickly pulled the resistive belt from its position.
     "Uh, no, I've got it, thanks."  He clicked the two halves
together, tightening them a bit too much.  He had to release the
unit and try again, this time with less exuberance.
     "Then, if everything is to your satisfaction, I'll notify
the pilot that we are ready for take-off.  Admiral."  She gave
Al a sharp salute, which he answered, but not with quite the
same enthusiasm as had been given.  Al's gaze followed her
departure as she walked towards the cockpit.
     "I see you haven't lost your lecherous tendancies in the
past few years," Sam scoffed, the Admiral's eyes still riveted
to the corridor where the lieutenant had last been.
     "What, Sam?"  He pulled his gaze back.  "Oh, well,
you know.  The more things change, ..."
     "The more you stay the same."
     "Flight crew prepare for take-off," the pilot's voice over
the speakers interrupted them, cutting off any further discussion
on the subject.  "Welcome aboard, Admiral Calavicci.  It is a
pleasure to be at your service once again.  And Merry
     The Leaper looked at his friend.  A self-satisfied grin
covered his face as he began to remove a cigar from his jacket
     "And just a reminder, Admiral.  This is a no smoking
flight.  Sorry."  It was Sam's turn to grin.
     "I guess you have been on this plane before."
     "Once or twice," was the response, as he begrudgingly
replaced the cigar.
     The slight jarring told them that the jet was on its way,
taxing towards the runway.  In a matter of minutes, they were
     For the length of the flight, they hardly spoke, each
reviewing the files that had been retrieved, going over as much
detail of Ziggy's assembly as they could.  Sam's photographic
memory allowed him to recall much more than Al, and his
younger eyes allowed him to do it much quicker.  By the time
they had touched down in New Mexico, he had nearly finished
reading all his old notes, leaving only one more box.