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 remembered. 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 ourselves." "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 that." "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 look." "I'll help. Can't do much more without it," Sammi Jo said, following Sam out of the Control Room and into the boardroom. "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."