Chapter Eleven
	Al did not re-enter the Imaging Chamber for another three hours, much to
Sam's dismay.  Although he had Dante and June as sort of a safety net to fall
back on to ([Well, that wasn't very kind.  Their role has got to be equally
important, or we wouldn't have Leaped here together.]), he still felt awfully
edgy without Al around.  Their relationship was one built through five years
of trials and tribulations, and he was connected to the man in a way he
couldn't describe.  Although he wouldn't know why during this Leap, he even
felt a little of Al within him from the simo-Leap.  It was never enough to get
in the way, but it was there.  Al, he realized, was his lifeline.
	He caught himself pacing nervously whenever he wasn't busy blundering through
song after unfamiliar song, although he was beginning to build a mental book
of music by this point, which was beginning to alleviate the situation
slightly.  And now he was pacing again.  To his extreme horror, he almost
banged into 'Mac Forester,' and jumped nearly a foot in the air.  "Oh, I'm so
sorry!" he gasped.  "I should watch where I'm going!"  [You could have gotten
yourself killed!] he berated himself.
	"That's all right," 'Mac' answered, but 'he' studied Sam intently.  "You're
awfully nervous today."
	Sam unknowingly tossed back the reply Al had just barely rejected while
speaking to Senator Weitzman.  "You're telling me.  I mean, my girlfriend is
here," he lied, realizing DiCarlo had given him the perfect excuse.  "Won't
that make any man nervous?  But hey, it's worth it.  You wouldn't believe what
a wonderful person she is."  [You'd believe _me_ being here, but two Leapers?
Ain't it a kick in the butt?] he thought, mimicking Al.  "Quite a standard to
live up to, you know."  He was quite aware that he was blubbering.  But then
it certainly fit that nervous, idolizing-his-girlfriend image he was trying to
give 'Mac' to allay the evil Leaper's suspicions.
	'Mac' seemed to accept the explanation.  Sam hoped Zoey did, too, if she was
present.  "Okay," he replied.  "Sorry for prying into your business."
	"That's all right," Sam answered, with a sheepish grin.  "Guess I had to tell
someone.  Can't keep it all bottled up inside, or else I'd explode, wouldn't
I?"  'Mac' smiled as if in sympathy, and walked off to do whatever it was 'he'
was supposed to do.  Sam let out a great sigh of relief as soon as 'he' was
gone.  [Oh, that was close.  Oh, that was _way_ too close, Sam!]  He
desperately wished Al would return to keep him from blundering into situations
like that, and glanced up at the clock in an involuntary reflex to see how
long the hologram had been gone and realized it was about time to go home.
	He didn't know what was keeping Al; he had been upset over his wife, but at
least he'd remained in contact with Sam.  What worried Sam was that he might
have gone back to his quarters to get a drink to steady his nerves, and that
drink became another, and another, and another.  Al had managed to thwart the
drinking problem so far in this timeline, but Sam knew well that the potential
was there, and that there was the possibility that Al might not remember the
other timeline.  In which case, he would not even know to be on guard against
the potential of another dark period of drunkenness.  He hoped that he was
overreacting, but still, Sam couldn't help but pray that Someone was watching
over his friend.

	Sam's worries weren't that far off.  Al had found himself totally inundated
by everything that had transpired, swirling into one terrible monster that
just refused to die no matter what steps he might take to try to fight against
it.  After his stomach settled back down, he had ordered, no, shouted at, the
entire Control Room staff to have the entire Project spotless by the next day
in a display of temper that had shocked even Al himself.  Ashamed at the way
he had just verbally abused his colleagues and friends, he had slunk quietly
away to his quarters.
	Al was teetering precariously on the brink of a sharp cliff, although he
didn't realize it right at that moment.  He dug through his refrigerator until
he found the secret stores of beer he'd had stored up for this year's Super
Bowl, and wrenched out a bottle from the back, and poured himself a glass,
sitting down at the nearby table, prepared to wallow in his misery.  He raised
the glass to his lips in preparation to bolt down the entire glass, but a
voice came to him from another timeline that he'd tried to allow himself to
forget during the short time of bliss he'd enjoyed with Beth, before _this_.
[What are you doing, Al?]  He lived with two distinct pasts that were each
equally valid, although he did his best to shove the first from his mind.  He
shook his head trying to dismiss it, but the memory came back to him unbidden:
	--Clunk.  [_In_ goes the dime.  And _out_ comes . . . I _said_, out comes the
cigar!  Okay, give it one more second . . . nothing!  Hey, you ate my dime!
Now it's personal!  Hmm . . . there's something!  Perfect.  Now you'll regret
you ever messed with a Calavicci!  I'm gonna get my dime one way or the other
if you're gonna be this way!]  I raised the . . . what was it?  Oh, yeah, it
was a hammer.  You hit nails with those.  At least I thought you did.  Right?
Anyways, I raised the hammer (if that's what it was?), and took aim, wondering
why the blasted machine kept moving back and forth.  And sometimes it looked
like there were two of them.  Oh, well, never mind that.--
      --Bang!  A hit!  [That'll teach you!  Gimme my dime!]  I waited a
second.  Then I swung again.  The vending machine ducked out of my way.  Yep,
that thing was definitely alive, and it definitely hated me.  No question.
[Well, I hate you too, if you're gonna play this game!]  Bang!  Another hit!
And still no dime!  [Or a cigar, for that matter,] I remembered.  [Hey, the
way I see it, you owe me both!  Cough 'em up!]  Bang!  Bang!  And then it
dodged me again.  Okay, maybe the hammer wasn't enough.  Well, if it could be
so clever, so could I.  I renewed my attack, now with both the hammer _and_ my
fists.  [Come on, come on, you nozzle!]--
      --But something grabbed my wrists all of a sudden and I couldn't move.
This guy had to be superhuman in order to stop Al Calavicci!  He spun me
around to face him, and I realized I was right, but not the way I expected.
"What are you doing, Al?"  His hazel eyes just bored straight into mine and I
guess I could tell there was no point in fighting this guy.  That look was
enough to crush any man.  [Wait a minute!  How did he know my name?  Oh,
right.  I'm the only admiral in this place . . . right?]--
      --Well, there was nothing to do but tell him.  "It ate my dime!"--
      --He sighed and shook his head, a patient smile on his face.  Funny that
he could smile while he had me in that death grip.  "No, that's not what I
mean.  Why are you wallowing in misery like this?"--
	--I had my clearest thought all night.  "I . . . I don't know.  This is
stupid!"  I wasn't sure whether I meant his question was stupid or what I was
doing was stupid, but either way, it had the same effect.--
	--"Exactly!" he answered, and that grin widened.  And then he finally let go
of my wrists, but that look of his kept me from renewing my attack on the
vending machine.  "I'm Sam Beckett," he said. Sam stuck out his hand, and I
took it.  "Why don't I come see you tomorrow?"  I was too dumbstruck by his
sudden change of tactics to say no.  He turned around and left, and I
discovered that this Sam Beckett had left something in my hand: a bright,
shiny new dime.--
	[What are you doing, Al?], came the echo of Sam's admonition.  The admiral
looked at the glass in his hand and slammed it down suddenly in fright,
realizing just how close he'd come to reopening that timeline.  Some of the
beer sloshed out and onto the desk, the less to endanger him.  [What _are_ you
doing?] Al thought frantically.  [What about Sam?  You'd let him down so
badly; he still remembers.  And what if Trudy Dann woke up and saw me blitzed?
Or Beth?  Wouldn't that make her day?  Oh, God, I was _this_ close!]  He
sighed and made a solemn resolution.  [Never again.  No matter what anyone
does to me, NEVER AGAIN.]  With those words ringing in his mind, he quietly
mopped up the mess, and poured the rest of the beer down the drain, and he
headed back towards the Control Room to take care of Sam, realizing he'd been
neglecting his best friend.  Al gave a final shiver and continued on his way.
	Gooshie eyed him warily as he entered, recalling his earlier outburst, and Al
found it difficult to meet his eyes.  He felt unclean somehow after his close
call, but he somehow summoned up the words he felt he needed, addressing not
only Gooshie, but the entire Control Room staff.  "Look . . . I'm sorry I
snapped at you; that was really uncalled for.  Just do your best and that's
all right by me."  Tina looked at him with surprise in her eyes, astounded by
the admiral's apology.  If Beth wouldn't listen to him, maybe Tina would be
willing to . . . no!  He wasn't going to let himself think like that.  Somehow
he was going to win this.  After all, he _was_ a Calavicci!