Chapter Twelve
	When Al's image finally appeared next to Sam, the Leaper was already in his
car driving home.  "Finally!" Sam muttered, glancing up as soon as he heard
the Imaging Chamber Door slide open.  The hologram was now hovering outside
the car, and Sam lowered his window to speak to him.  "Where have you been?"
	Sam looked more than a little touchy at the moment, but when Al thought of
his own behavior, he decided to let it slide.  He also decided that Sam was
never going to find out about his close call, not now, not ever.  [Well,
_maybe_, when he comes home,] Al amended.  "Well, the Committee's getting on
my back again.  And Beth, well, you know."  He let his voice trail off, and
Sam nodded in sympathy.  "I just had some things to take care of."
	"Well, we need to start getting a plan ready for tomorrow," Sam informed the
Observer.  "June and I are going out to dinner again at seven, and I'm going
to need you there to help us brainstorm.  And whatever Ziggy has would be
really useful, too.  Please tell me she's found out some more about what
happens to James."
	Al punched at the handlink, gnawing impatiently at the end of his cigar as he
waited for the data to come up.  "Okay.  Ziggy just got access to the San
Francisco police records, and his time of death is recorded as 1:32 PM of a
single gunshot wound to the head.  It looked like he was cleaning off his
pistol at the time.  The police report lists the cause of death as an
accidental gunshot wound, but there are rumors that it was a suicide.  And
Ziggy says there was an eyewitness, Big Mac, 99 cents??" Al stopped and
frowned at the handlink, slapping it angrily.  "Okay.  Here it is."  He raised
his eyebrow.  "Well, well, well!  What do you know?  The eyewitness was Mac
Forester, says James was playing around with it, and it just went off!  Now
there's no doubt anymore!"
	As Al finished that sentence, Dante momentarily materialized in the
passenger's seat, somehow managing to appear as if he were actually sitting
down next to Sam, except for a few places where his robes went through the
seat.  "June just asked me to make sure you were on your way," he said.  Al
nodded, and Dante vanished from sight as if he was never there.
	"Boy, that is strange," Al commented with a shiver, glancing at the spot
where the medieval poet had just been.  "I mean, you have no idea when that
guy is going to pop in.  I think I'm starting to understand why you get so
jumpy when I show up.  What I don't get is how he can actually sit down like
that without going through the seat."
	"Well," Sam ventured, "I think it's because he's really _here_, even if he
isn't here in flesh and blood.  You're in the Imaging Chamber somewhere in the
future, alive."
	Al shivered again.  Supernatural phenomena always managed to give him the
creeps.  "That's even worse," he muttered.  "The guy's just about seven
hundred years dead, for crying out loud!  He shouldn't even be here, hologram
or not!  But you've got to admit he can be awfully helpful.  And he seems like
a pretty decent guy, even if he's dead."
	Sam had to smile at the Observer's squeamishness.  The guy could handle being
a POW for three years (or was it three?  He was too Swiss-cheesed to be
sure.), but he couldn't handle another hologram.  "That he is.  But I wouldn't
mention it in front of him.  I don't know how he'd react to being reminded of
that fact.  Anyway, here we are," the Leaper announced as he pulled up to
Harry's Diner, whatever that was, but according to Sam Blitzen, the backup
guitarist, it was good.  He just hoped that the other Sam wasn't there at the
	June waved at Sam to get his attention as he scanned the restaurant and could
find neither his fellow bandsmen nor 'Mac Forester,' much to his relief.  He
sauntered over to the booth and greeted June and Dante, who was sitting next
to her.  "I guess I'll have to stand," Al grumbled good-naturedly, "seeing as
I can't manage a stunt like that in the Imaging Chamber."
	"Ziggy has some new information," Sam began, and quickly outlined all of the
data that the computer had just reported, as well as his conclusion that Alia
was behind Westhall's death.  "The question is, what are we going to do about
it?  In order to stop her, one or both of us is going to have to touch her and
reveal ourselves.  Lothos is out for our blood, so whoever touches her is
probably going to end up drawing all of their attention.  The last thing
they'd expect would be to have both of us at the same place at the same time.
And there's the question of Zoey.  When we approach, we're going to have to
keep from being spotted by Zoey.  Ziggy can sweep the area for her and center
Al on her to 'illuminate' her like he did the last time while you--" he
glanced at Dante, "-can watch over us directly, since I assume you can't
center on a hologram you're not linked to."
	 "What worries me," said June, "is that you said Alia has been brainwashed.
Can't we help set her free somehow?  I can't stand to see her enslaved like
that.  When I met her, I got the feeling she was actually a good person at
heart.  I'll bet she didn't even know what she was getting into when she
	Sam paused for a second, reluctant at first to present his idea to Al.  It
was a long shot with the Committee about to pull an inspection on the Project,
but perhaps Al would see fit to give him the missing piece of the puzzle.
"Well, I remember hypnotizing her once to make her think she was actually her
host . . . Angel was her name, I think.  And I included a code word that would
return her to her own identity.  I was thinking I could use that to snap her
back to the way she was before Lothos brainwashed her."  He paused and gazed
deep into Al's eyes, giving him the famous Beckett 'puppy-dog look', and
admitted, "But I can't remember it.  And I need you to help me."
	Al looked at Sam and sighed.  "Sorry, kiddo.  What you can't remember, I
can't give you."  Sam's expression became pleading.  It hurt Al terribly to
have to do this, like it did every time, but there was too much at stake now,
what with Weitzman's warning.  The Committee looked like they were really out
to pull the plug this time, but if they did that, then Sam would be stranded
in time without a hologram to help him.  Al could not condemn his friend to
that fate.  [I'm between a rock and a hard place,] he thought.
	"Please, Al," Sam begged, his voice dropping to a desperate whisper.  "I need
you to help me.  This isn't for me.  This isn't me trying to change my own
past.  This is about setting a young woman free, someone who is being tortured
and abused, forced to participate in wrongdoing against her will.  She can't
even remember that she wants to fight them, because of what they've done to
her.  If it's the Committee you're worried about, they'll understand.  All I
need is one word."
	Al shook his head reluctantly.  Somehow Sam always managed to make him feel
awfully guilty whenever he had to do this, but whether it was intentional or
not, Al would not even hazard a guess.  "No can do," he stated in a tone that
brooked no argument.
	[What I can't remember, he can't give me,] Sam thought, grasping at straws.
[I remember things from those Leaps.  But I don't remember the right things.
I could use what I _do_ remember to access what I can't, but the Swiss-
cheesing is too much.  I won't remember in time.  If there were a way to speed
the process up . . . the same trick could work twice, but in reverse!]  If he
could talk Al into it, Sam realized that he now had a way to retrieve the
memory he needed, while possibly allowing Al to escape the Committee's wrath
at the same time.  "All right.  You don't have to tell me," Sam started.  "But
there is something you _can_ do.  Put me under hypnosis, just like we did to
Alia, and have me relive that Leap.  If the memory is there, it'll surface on
its own without any help from you, but if it isn't there, then I won't ask
anymore.  I promise."
	"Sam!  I'm not putting you under hypnosis!  There's no telling what that
might do to you!  I'm not an expert in this!  We got away with it once, but I
don't want to hurt you, buddy, if I foul up somehow."  The Leaper could tell
that Al was quite sincere in his worries.  "And I can't do it at the risk of
dredging other memories up that you shouldn't have."
	He sighed, realizing that Al had a point.  "This is _my_ decision, Al, and
I'm willing to take the risk.  And if it helps you feel better about it, I'll
let you plant a suggestion that will prevent me from remembering anything else
I might recall under hypnosis."
	"All right, Sam," Al replied grudgingly.  Why did his friend have to make so
much sense?  "We'll give it a try.  But if you don't remember, I'm going to
hold you to that part about not asking anymore.  Got it?"  Sam nodded, with a
satisfied smile on his face that seemed to say, 'I won.'  [How do you always
manage to do this to me?] Al mourned.  [I say I won't help and then you always
manage to talk me into something.]  But then again, Al didn't want to see Alia
as a slave of Lothos any more than Sam did.  Weitzman and McBride would
probably stand up for his decision if the matter came to light, he
rationalized.  "I don't want anything or anyone around that might interfere.
Tonight.  We'll give it a try then.  I hope this works," Al said, realizing
that he'd always wanted his friend to succeed even as he'd tried to deny it.
They had gone through too much together for him to think any other way.