The blurring began to fade from his mind, the world around him

coming  into focus rapidly.  His hearing, as always, seemed to echo

for several seconds after the leap in was finished. Glancing down at 

himself, he breathed a sigh of relief to see that he was wearing brown 

slacks and a gray and blue plaid, short-sleeved shirt.  *At least I'm

a guy, this time* he thought.  Then he seemed to hear a male voice

speaking near him, and he blinked and looked around for its source. 

   He was sitting in a classroom and from his proximity to the 

blackboard, in the front row. A quick glance at the students on either

side of him, probably high school juniors or seniors judging by their

looks as well as the way they were dressed, told him he was the focus

of attention.  The male voice spoke again, this time almost on top of

him, and Sam jumped, managing to knock the open textbook and notebook

in front of him to the floor.

   "Huh?" was the first sound that came out of his mouth, and he

felt the color rise in his face at the hoots and laughter aimed at him.

The girl sitting to his left retrieved the book and held it out to him.

   "You better stop daydreaming, Perry," she whispered under her

breath as Sam grabbed up the notebook before taking the book from her.

Her brown eyes were as shy as her smile, and Sam managed a nod and a

smile himself.  


   "Mr. Kirkwood!" Howard Packard spoke again, the thinness of his 

patience evident in his sharp tone.

   Sam looked up at the tall man with thinning black hair. "Yes


   Howard Packard had been teaching chemistry and the basics of

physics to the juniors and seniors of Willandale High School for more

than twenty years.  He had patiently, often wearily repeated the

lessons to many teenagers who had no real interest in the subject

except to get a passing grade in order to move up a class or graduate.

   He had fallen under the spell and fascination that chemistry had

cast over him when he had received a chemistry set for Christmas at

the age of twelve.  The tall, gawky youth had realized he'd found

something that not only was he interested in but in fact, was better

at than anyone else in school.  He had also discovered, while

tutoring some of the kids who sought him out, a knack and appreciation

for teaching his beloved chemistry.  Though shy in social situations,

Howard felt at ease when helping his classmates to understand his

beloved subject, and by the time his senior year rolled around, he had 

decided to become a teacher.  His astute sharpness and ever fresh 

fascination with the subject he taught had carried him through endless 

classes of teenagers such as the ones surrounding him now.  But, every

so often, the Fates rewarded him for his devotion to chemistry and to 

teaching by sending him a few students who had reaped the benefits of

his knowledge, going on to higher planes of knowledge and professions 

because of him.  The tall, good-looking if gawky young man blinking

up at him from behind heavy tortoiseshell-rimmed glasses, was one of

those special students who would go on to greater things.  If he could

keep him from daydreaming!  He fixed the young man with a keen look

and repeated himself for the third time.

   "Mr. Kirkwood," Howard spoke clearly, holding a tight rein on his 

patience. "Please go to the blackboard and see if you can finish the 

equations that no one else," he allowed his eyes to rove over the

classroom, "seems to be able to complete."  He held out a piece of

chalk to Sam.

   Taking the chalk, Sam got up and went to the blackboard, then

stood staring for a minute at the three incomplete equations. Despite

the Swiss-cheese effect leaping had on his memory, the vast wealth of 

knowledge of chemistry and physics stored in his brain always seemed

to stay with him. Though he wasn't able to draw on every aspect of it 

whenever he liked, in every instance when he needed it, enough bits

and pieces of that area of knowledge were available to him, and right

now he was grateful.

   What Perry (that was what the girl had called him) was obviously 

supposed to do was fill in the missing elements of the equation and

then identify each substance by its chemical name.  These three were


   "Well?" Howard Packard, now standing at the back of the class,

leaned against the wall and folded his arms across his chest. "Is

there a problem, Mr. Kirkwood?"

   "," Sam answered.  "Just thinking for a minute."  Then with

a speed that amazed even the teacher, he completed the equations,

writing the chemical name after each one.  Laying the chalk down,

he turned to go back to his seat, then stopped when the teacher

spoke again.

   "Can you identify everyday items in which these chemicals are


   Sam responded easily, turning to point to each equation.  "All

three equations are forms of potassium," he said. "The first is

potassium bromide, and is commonly used in photography.  It can also

be used in medicine as a  sedative. The second one is potassium

nitrate. Some uses for it are in matches and fireworks. And the last

is potassium hydrogen tartrate, but most people know it as cream

of tarter." He met Howard Packard's gaze and waited. He knew he was

right but felt it best to let the other man have the last word.

   "That's correct," the teacher said slowly.  Then, gathering his 

thoughts together said, "Imagine what you could do if you didn't


   Sam and the teacher passed as they returned to their respective 

places, and amidst the hoots of laughter, Slipping into his seat,

he glanced at the girl beside him; her smile told him she wasn't

laughing at him.  He mouthed the words, "Thank you."

   Then the bell sounded for the end of the class, and Sam made sure

he was among the last to leave. The girl who been his quiet ally

was in the doorway when he put a hand on her arm.

   "Uh...thanks..for the book," he said, stumbling over the words. 

Without knowing her name Sam was at a loss to know what else to say. 

   A plump girl with short red curls, and dressed in a bright pink

skirt and short-sleeved white blouse wedged her way between Sam and

the girl and hurried out the door. "Come on Margie," she called over

her shoulder as she turned left, into the crowded hallway. "We've got

that test in Caldwell's class in seven minutes."

   "Be right there, Cathy," Margie called after the girl. She turned

back to Sam. "Were you getting one of your headaches, Perry? Is that

why you didn't hear "Pack"?"

   "Yeah," Sam grasped at the handy explanation. "But, it's better

now."  He looked up when a warning bell rang. "We better get to

Caldwell's class. Don't want to be late for that test."  Her odd look

told him he'd goofed.

   "Funny," she said, her brown eyes laughing. "I don't recall

seeing you in any of Mrs. Caldwell's Home Ec classes before."

   "I..I just meant, I'll walk you to her class," Sam fumbled 

desperately, "on my way to my next class." He followed her into the

hall, then felt his face get hot again when Margie pointed down the

hall in the opposite direction.

   "Home Ec is just around the corner, but the gym is that way," she 

teased. "All the way to the end, then turn right.  If you run, maybe

Mr. Smith won't give you five more demerits for being tardy."

   By the time the last bell of the day rang at three forty-five,

after gym class, followed by classes in American history and English,

Sam's head was indeed pounding.  The headache Margie had asked about

in chemistry class had become a reality.  Sharp points of pain like

hot needles stabbed through his temples and into his eyeballs, his

head felt like it was going to explode, the back of his neck stiff

with tension.  He had quietly followed Margie to his locker, giving

silent thanks for the discovery that his locker wasnext to hers.

Another garbled prayer tiptoed carefully through his head when he saw

a small padlock on the locker, instead of a combination lock. Digging

in his pocket he found a small key amongst the few coins, opened the

full length locker and put his books away.

   For a moment Sam closed his eyes and leaned his forehead-against

the cool grey-green metal door.  He longed for some quiet corner to

hide in until the pain released him.  Only when he heard the sound

of the Imaging Chamber door opening nearby did he open his eyes and

look around. Looking past Margie, who was talking to another girl,

he saw Al step out of the Imaging Chamber.  Just glancing at Al's

bright red suit and black shirt with red and silver stripes and a

red fedora with a green feather added to the throbbing in his head.

   Seeing the drawn paleness of Sam's face caught Al's attention,

and he moved closer to him. Throughout the years of leaping, he had

seen his friend in many unusual situations, seen him hurt and in

pain on many leaps.  But something about the pain he saw in Sam's

face now was different.

   "What's wrong, Sam?" he asked.

   "Please, don't yell," Sam whispered as he pressed his fingertips 

against his temples and squeezed his eyes shut.  Al's eyes narrowed;

though a little sharp from concern, his voice was within his normal

speaking level.

   "I'm sorry, Perry," Margie said, turning to the silent young man 

beside her. "Rita just told me..."  She noticed his paleness, and

put a hand on his arm. "You're having one of your headaches, aren't

you Perry? Did you forget your medicine again?"

  The pain was steadily increasing as Sam nodded carefully. "I need

to lay down," he whispered.

   "Come on," Margie slipped an arm around his waist and started for

the door. "Mom's waiting for me. We'll take you home."

   Al had remained silent, gathering whatever information he could

from the stilted conversation.  At the mention of medicine and home,

he said, "Ziggy, have Verbena check with the new visitor.  Find out

about any medication he's taking for headaches."  He listened a

moment, then stabbed another button on the handlink and snapped,

"No! From the looks of Sam right now, we're probably talking serious 

migraine.  And keep me centered on Sam."

   Outside, at the curb, a red 1961 Chevrolet waited, a woman sat

behind the steering wheel. Spotting the two teenagers coming out,

she waved, then, seeing who was with her daughter, got out and came

around the car.


  "Perry's having one of his headaches, mom," the pretty teenager 

explained as she helped Sam into the back seat of the car. "Just lie

down," she told him gently, "and cover your eyes with your arm till

we get to your house."

  Sam turned onto his back, pulling his knees up so the door could

be closed, then carefully laid his arm across his closed eyes. The

darkness caused by the move seemed to bring a minute easing of the

pain.  For a moment, while the two women were getting in the car,

he took a chance that Al was still nearby.


   "I'm here, Sam," Al spoke softly. "I told Ziggy to keep me

centered on you till we get to your..uh Perry's house." He punched

in another code, then recited the little information Ziggy had been

able to supply so far. "You're Perry Kirkwood, a nineteen year old

senior at Willandale High School, in Willandale, Florida.  It's a

little town about a hundred miles or so from Tallahassee. You live

with your father, Howard Kirkwood, about six blocks from here at

261 Liberty Street. Probably take about ten minutes to get there."

   "Okay."  Sam whispered so softly that Al leaned through the back

seat to get close enough to hear. He didn't like the way Sam looked.  

The headache was probably a doozy if the grayish pallor of his

friend's face was any indicator of the pain he was experiencing. 

   During the brief ride, Sam studiously avoided listening to Margie

and her mom's conversation. He discovered that if he didn't try to

focus on their words, but on the blessed darkness, the pain was easier

to bear.  Then, as he felt the car turn into a driveway and stop, he 

wondered about the person in the Waiting Room. Did he have a

headache to?

   *Who are you?* The whispered question, so soft, so distant as to be

almost a thought, jerked Sam back from his wondering about the person

he had leaped into.  He waited. Had he heard something? Maybe it was 

something Margie or her mother said.


   Sam dared to lift his arm from his eyes enough to look around.  He 

glanced at the front seat thinking Margie had spoken to him, but her 

attention was on telling her mother about some project in Home

Economics.  He looked at Al, but he was reading data on the handlink,

then punching in another code.  No one was even looking at him.

   Even as the pain in his head pounded mercilessly, Sam felt a shiver, 

as if he'd been touched by a cold wind, and he felt afraid.  That last

word that no one in the car had spoken, had been said with a touch

of cruel amusement.