Chapter Fifteen

     By the end of three hours, Al, Gushie, Verbeena and
Sam had hauled as much of Ziggy's components as they could
up from storage.  What was too large for them to carry would
have to be connected via long complicated wirings.  Tina had
been sent into Barra de Navidad to pick up whatever supplies
they may need, food and otherwise.  Her help would be more
important when it came to the reconstruction of Ziggy, and no
one wanted her going into early labour.  Sammi Jo had arrived
shortly after they had begun and found them struggling with the
large machine.
     Al provided her with a quick explanation of the situation
and the time constraints they were under.  Not one to be
deterred by the limitations of time, she took her place without
hesitation.  She certainly is Sam's daughter, he thought.  Too
bad neither one knows it.  Sam had known once, but his swiss-
cheesed memory had blocked it out again.
     When Tina returned from town, she found Sam, Gushie
and Sammi Jo huddled over a desk they had moved into the
Control Room, schematics spread before them.  She joined
them, and the reconstruction process began.
     Verbeena stepped into the boardroom where the files had
been left to find Al rifling through a box.  He had managed to
find an old card table and a few chairs in some out-of-the-way
storage closet.
     "Feeling out of place, Beeks?"  She nodded her assent.
"Me too.  It's hard to be of help when you've got four of the
greatest minds in there, doing what they do best.  Or at least,
three-and-a-half of the greatest minds.  Sam's not quite working
up to specs, being out of contact with his own brain.  But all
things considered ... he's not doing badly."
     "Out of contact with his own brain is putting it mildly."
Verbeena pulled out a chair, dusted it off with her hand, then
took a seat next to Al.  She reached for his hand, stopping it
from moving within the box of files.
     "Al, where have you been?  I thought we agreed to keep
in touch after the Project ended?  You even stopped talking
with Sam's mother.  What happened?"
     He avoided making eye contact with the psychiatrist.
"Oh, you know how it goes.  You promise to keep in touch,
but then time takes over and suddenly, poof, it's been years."
     He spared a glance at Verbeena.  She wasn't buying it.
Damn psychiatrists.  Always seeing through you.  Al slowly
pulled his hand out from under hers, letting out a long,
preparatory breath.  "Okay, I'll tell you the truth."
     He stood and began to pace, not wanting to have to face
the psychiatrist directly.  "After the Project was ... discontinued
... I felt like I just wanted to crawl into a cave and die.
Everyone had someplace, someone, to go on to.  You had your
family, Gushie and Tina found each other, Sammi Jo and
Donna went to the west coast.  Donna stayed with a friend, I
think.  I know she and Sammi Jo became closer.  I think she
figured out just who Sammi Jo was a long time ago."  He
paused, not wanting to think about himself at that point, but
Verbeena wouldn't let him off that easily.
     "And you, Al.  Who did you have to go back to?"
     "I had no one.  There was no one for me to run home
to, no one to be with me through Sam's loss.  So, I returned to
Washington, to bury myself in work I no longer cared about.
Eventually, I just faded from view, becoming the invisible
person I had felt I had become at that point."
     "You could have had Tina, you know.  She loved you
very much."

     He had paced himself into a corner, and now stood,
unwillingly facing his past.  "I know, but I couldn't make her
face a life with me, a broken old man, getting older with each
passing day.  It was harder on me than on her, but I knew
Gushie loved her.  She's better off with him."  Verbeena could
see the pain that slumped his shoulders.
     She stood, crossed the room, her hands on his shoulders.
"Of all the things I would have said about you, Al Calavicci,
'broken old man' isn't one of them.  I've seen you out do men
half your age, then go back for more."
     He turned towards her, sagging against the wall.
Verbeena's hands dropped to her sides.  "That Al lived a
lifetime ago.  He doesn't exist anymore."
     "What!  No conquest of the week!  Al, you disappoint
me.  I was looking forward to analysizing you to distraction.
I'd already reserved two chapters in my book on sexuality
beyond sixty just for you."
     "Only two?  I thought I'd deserve at least three, maybe
even four."   Feigned indignation was accompanied by a weak
smile and a vague twinkle in his eye.  That was the old Al she
     Verbeena pulled him back into the core of the room,
leading him towards the door.  "Come on.  Let's go check out
the food supplies Tina brought back.  Maybe we can at least
sort out some dinner for that group, and make some coffee for
     "You're not going to make coffee, are you?  If memory
serves, your coffee had a consistency more like motor oil than
what Juan Valdez had planned.  I think you'd better let me do
     "Only if you cook as well."
     "You're on."
     The two old friends left the room.

     Four heads bent over a length of schematic drawings.
Four of the most intelligent brains in the country, trying to
make short work out of something that should have taken
months, even years.
     "Something's missing.  There should be one more
schematic," Sammi Jo said.  She motioned to a point on one of
the pages, "Right here, you see.  In between these two sheets.
These conduits don't follow correctly to those on the next sheet.
They look like they do, but if you follow them," she guided
everyone's vision with her long finger.
     Sam stood up, stretching the muscles in his back.  "It's
probably still in one of the boxes in the boardroom.  I'll go
     "I'll help.  Can't do much more without it," Sammi Jo
said, following Sam out of the Control Room and into the
     "You take those boxes over there," Sam said, indicating
the few that he hadn't looked through on the plane from
Washington.  "I'll check the ones that came from my office."
     They each grabbed a box, and placing them on the table,
began their search in silence.
     "I think I've found something."
     Sammi Jo pulled a folder out from the box, removing a
thick section of paper, perforated for running through a printer.
It had lines of various colours coming from and leading to
nothing in particular.  "Take a look."  She handed it to Sam,
who quickly unfolded first one end, then the other.
     "Looks like right to me.  Let's get it attached to the
rest."  As he turned to follow Sammi Jo out the door, he
knocked over the box he'd been looking in.  Files and personal
belongings scattered over the floor.  "Dammit!"  She stopped
in the door, looking back at him.
     "Want some help?"
     "No, you go ahead.  This won't take long," he said as
he bent to begin picking up the bits and pieces of his past.  He
gathered up papers and other items he didn't have time to
reminisce over.  As he set the box back in its place on the
floor, he spotted something that had slipped under the chair Al
had been sitting in earlier.  He bent to pick it up and, turning
it over, he couldn't believe what he was looking at.  It was a
picture of himself and Donna Elesee -- dressed for a wedding.
Their wedding.  He dropped into the chair, not believing his
eyes.  Donna and I are, were, married?
     The voices of Al and Verbeena slowly drifted down the
hall, their footfalls getting closer.  Passing the boardroom, Al
suddenly stopped and took a quick step back, seeing Sam sitting
in a chair, staring blanking.
     "Verbeena and I made some coffee.  Thought you guys
could use some."  He set a small tray holding three cups of the
steaming brew down on the table, but Sam didn't seem to
notice.  "What's up, Sam?  You look like you've seen a ghost?"
     "Why didn't you tell me, Al?"
     "Tell you what, Sam?"  It was then that Al spotted the
picture in Sam's hand.  "Oh, boy.  Look, Sam, it was for your
own good."
     Sam shot out of the chair.  "For my own good!  Al, you
should have told me!"
     "It wasn't my idea, Sam.  Donna didn't want you to
know."  The look on Sam's face was one of both hurt and
confusion.  "She was afraid that, if you knew about her, it
would prevent you from doing something you may have needed
to do.  I mean, you're not the type of guy who would fool
around on his wife."
     "Unlike some I could mention," Sam sneered.
     "Uh, yeah.  Well, anyway, Donna made that decision,
Sam.  No one else."
     "And what about now?  Why didn't you tell me now?"
     "I didn't tell you now because I'm not sure if we can get
you back to the right timeline, and if we do, whether or not
you'd remember.  I made a promise to Donna, Sam, and I
wasn't about to break it.  Not even for you."
     Sam's voice softened, his anger ebbing away.  "So that's
why you didn't tell her about putting Ziggy back together.
About me being here."  His voice was barely above a whisper.
"It would have been harder on her to be here than on me.
Thanks, Al."
     An embarrassing silence fell over the room, the kind
that happens when two men have reached an emotional apex,
but don't know where to take it.  Especially when one of those
men looks like a 21-year old fashion model.
     "Sam," it was Tina.  "We need your help in here."  The
two men looked at each other, grateful for the interruption.
     "Coming."  As the Leaper started for the door, Al
grabbed him by the arm.
     "Sam, if this doesn't work ..."
     "Don't worry.  It will."  The Admiral loosened his grip
and Sam left the room.
     "I hope you're right, Sam.  For all our sakes."