The door from the Imaging Chamber slid open, and Al was greeted by the sight of Verbena standing near Gooshie, her gaze meeting his instantly. "How's Sam?" she asked. "When Ziggy told me you went tearing into the Imaging Chamber, I wasn't sure what to expect. What happened?" "There was a radical surge in Dr. Beckett's brainwave readout," Gooshie said. "I've never seen a spike like that on any of his readouts since he began leaping." "What happened, Al?" Verbena repeated as the Observer came to the control panel. "I didn't see anything. But when I got there Sam was at a classroom door with the school nurse handing him a note. And when I asked him why she was there, he said that the last thing he remembered was brushing his teeth......" "...when the Aaron personality asserted itself...," Verbena filled in, remembering the startled, almost spooked look on Al's face when he'd come out of the Imaging Chamber almost as quickly as he'd gone into it over an hour ago. His description of the emergence of the taunting personality of Aaron only confirmed much of what Evalyn had told them earlier. "...yeah. And the next thing he knew, he woke up on the hall floor at school. A couple of teachers found him and took him to the school nurse. She walked him to his class...and that's where I came in," Al finished. "A second transition," Verbena said thoughtfully, a slight frown furrowing her brow, "in less than two hours...." "Whatever it was," Gooshie interjected, "it was sudden and very powerful to make Doctor Beckett's brainwaves spike the way they did." "Al, when Sam was brushing his teeth, what were you talking to him about?" Al didn't need any refreshing on that. "I was starting to tell him about Aaron. All of a suddden he grabbed his head, fell on the floor, kicking and screaming about the pain. A few seconds later he stopped moving. And that's when Aaron came out." "When are you going back to see Sam?" Verbena's sudden focus and questions got Al's attention. "In a little while, when he has lunch. Why?" "That gives me enough time to go talk to Evalyn," Verbena said more to herself as she headed for the door out of the Control Room. As she opened it she said, "Let me know when you're ready to go back to see Sam," and she was gone before the Observer could respond. For a couple of minutes Al just stood staring after her, wondering what she was pursuing. When Gooshie cleared his throat for the third time, he put aside his wondering. "What have you found out about Perry?" he asked. "For one thing..." Gooshie began. "....his I.Q. is nearly as high as my father's," Ziggy smoothly interjected herself into the conversation. "How high?" Al asked. "During the last testing done in the school district, Perry had the highest score in the district." Al repeated his question. "How high, Ziggy?" "196," Ziggy replied. "His highest scores were in math and science." "What else did you find out about this kid?" Al asked. It was one of those rare times when Ziggy did exactly as asked and began reciting the background information on the current guest in the Waiting Room. If Al or Gooshie had taken a moment to consider the hybrid computer's "serious" attitude as she provided dates and facts about Perry, they might have realized that Ziggy had arrived at the same conclusion as they: that her creator was in the midst of possibly the most dangerous leap yet, and that there was no place for playfulness in such a situation. "Perry Eduardo Kirkwood was born on August 13, 1944 to Joseph Jesse Kirkwood and Stacia Sophia O'Nyan Kirkwood. His father worked in the McKeesom Bottling factory at the same job for most of his adult life. Joseph Kirkwood never finished school, having dropped out when he was fifteen. He met and married Stacia Sophia O'Nyan in August 1942 when she came to town to teach at the local high school." "Did you find any pictures of Perry's mother? Or his dad?" Al asked. "On screen," the computer said. Moving around the control panel, the Observer and Gooshie focused their attention on the monitor set in the panel at the end nearest the Imaging Chamber. As they watched, a black and white newspaper picture of a much younger version of the man Al had watched taking care of Sam when he'd first leaped in, appeared. But it was the dark haired, dark-eyed beauty with him in the picture that caught the Observer's keen eye for beautiful women, and he couldn't help the low appreciative whistle under his breath. The young woman was dressed demurely in a simple, light-colored summer frock and a wide brimmed white hat decorated with a pale colored (probably pink, Al guessed) rose on the band. Yet for all the simplicity the new bride had striven for, Al recognized a sultriness in the dark eyes and the full, pouty lips that was as bold and inviting to the Observer at that moment as it was when the picture had been taken more than fifty years ago. Though she'd pinned her hair up in a very unassuming French twist for the picture with her new husband, it was all too easy for the Observer to summon up a mental picture of what Stacia Kirkwood would look like in....an off-the-shoulder peasant blouse, her dark hair worn loose, tumbling about her shoulders, and gold hoop earrings glinting in the moonlight.... Suddenly Al realized where his thoughts were headed, and he gave himself a mental shake. He could see how a rather ordinary looking young man from a small country town like Willandale (*hell..any man from anywhere*, he thought) could fall under the spell of a young woman like Miss Stacia O'Nyan. The only spoken thought he permitted himself was, "Boy!....did opposites attract!" "Any background on her?" Al had moved away from the monitor and the picture still filling the screen. Even if the picture was over fifty years old, he recognized the pull of sexual attraction, even from a photograph. But recognizing it only made him wonder about her more *A woman like that...a teacher? In a small Southern town?* He shook his head, clearing his thoughts, and focused his attention on the information Ziggy was reciting. He interrupted the computer only once to ask, "Are you sure about the kid's middle name, Ziggy? I mean...Eduardo? It's not a name that was real common in the deep South in the forties." "It's on his birth certificate, Admiral," the computer replied, her tone miffed at having her work questioned. The only sign that Al had noticed Ziggy's attitude was a quirked eyebrow. He remained quiet during the rest of the recitiation. About half way through it, something, a thought, an idea began nibbling at the edges of his attention. A past master at listening and maintaining near total concentration on something else was a skill Al had learned early in his miltary career. While Ziggy talked, every now and then he'd toss the "something nibbling" a scrap of a thought then mentally sat back to see where it would lead or what it would come up with.