Chapter 18

	The Observer came out of the Imaging Chamber with his 
mind racing, his expression determined. Gooshie was the 
first person his gaze fell on.   The intent look made the 
head programmer's palms start to sweat. But it was to 
Ziggy he spoke first.



	"I want you to dig into Perry's mother's background.  
I want to know everything there is to know about Stacia 
Kirkwood, and I want to know yesterday!"

	"But, admiral, Ziggy's already done that," Gooshie 
pointed out.

	"Then she'd better stop rubbing her tummy and patting 
her head, and dig harder," Al barked.  "I need more 
information on Stacia Kirkwood, and I need it now! You got 

	Gooshie gulped and nodded and immediately turned 
his attention to the control panel before him.

	"What do you expect Ziggy to find, Al?" Verbena asked, 
entering the Control Room just as he finished barking at 

	"That she's a gypsy," Al said.

	"Did you say...a gypsy?" Verbena repeated, not sure 
she'd heard correctly.  "Where did you get that idea?"

	"Sam," Al said. "Just before Aaron showed up again."

	"Another transition?  That's three in less than 
twenty-four hours." Verbena said, clearly alarmed.  
"When did it happen?"

	"A few minutes ago," Al said. "Sam and I were talking.  
I'd given him the information about Perry's family. We were 
discussing it..."

	"Wasn't that awfully risky?" Verbena asked. The worried 
expression on the Observer's face agreed with her.

	"You know Sam," he said, taking a puff of his cigar.  
"He was doing some mental gymnastics while we talked just 
so Aaron couldn't listen in."

	"What did he do?"

	"Translated something from Greek to Japanese in his 

	"So how did Aaron slip through?"

	"Well," Al began, then glanced around the room. "Let's 
go to my office."  As they moved toward the door, he spared 
a glance at Gooshie who had moved to the far end of the 
control panel.  When the head programmer darted a nervous 
look at him, Al started to bark again, then thought better.  
"Come on Gooshie.  I'm not sure where this is going, but I 
think you need to hear it, too."

	Even before the threesome left the Control Room, 
Ziggy had begun a more exhaustive and minute study of the 
Visitor's maternal background.  She decided to save her 
scathing retort to the admiral's comment for another time.

	When the private meeting in Admiral Calavicci's 
office finished an hour later, the hybrid super computer 
was reviewing the new information she had found concerning 
Stacia O'Nyan Kirkwood.  At the same moment she noted the 
meeting ended and the threesome headed for the Waiting Room, 
the computer she was attempting to interface with finally 
accepted the connection.  At near the speed of light Ziggy 
found the file containing the last particular record for 
which she was searching.  It took six seconds for Sam 
Beckett's brain child to confirm what other sources had 
first suggested.  After recording the new information 
in the permanent record on the current Visitor, she 
'went' to the Waiting Room.

In the hall outside the Waiting Room

	As they turned the corner and approached the guarded 
Waiting Room, Al paused.  He looked first to Gooshie.

	"How long will it take you to adjust my mind's sync 
with Sam?"

	 "Considering what we've talked about admiral, 
perhaps an hour."

	"Get to it. It's bad enough having to watch when 
"Aaron" takes over Sam's body.  I don't want him sneaking 
up on me anymore.  The less he knows about Sam and me, 
the better."  Al waited just long enough for Gooshie to 
nod then hurry toward the Control Room, then turned to 

	"Is Perry up to talking?"

	"What are you going to talk about?"

	"His mother."

	Verbena considered for a moment.  "If you don't push 
too hard," she said, "he should be okay."

	Entering the Waiting Room, Al and Verbena approached 
the hospital bed in the middle of the large quiet room.  The 
figure on the bed stirred as they neared, watching them 
through sleepy eyes.

	"How are you feeling?" Verbena asked, picking up the 
young man's wrist to count his pulse. Regular and calm.

	"Like I do after coach makes us run wind sprints," 
Perry said with a tired smile.

	"I can imagine," Al said.  He glanced at Verbena, 
then back to Perry.  "Do you feel up to talking?"

	"I guess so."

	"Tell us about your mother," Al said.  "What was she 
like?"  He was aware that any bits of memories Perry was able 
to recall would be hazy at best.  He was wrong.

	Perry thought a moment, then said, "She was beautiful."

	"Beautiful?" Al repeated the unexpected response to 
what should have been a vague memory at best.

	Perry's smile relaxed and widened.  "Yes."  He paused, 
his brow furrowing as he thought for a moment.  "Granddaddy 
Kirkwood once called her a "campfire beauty"," he said. 
"I remember he winked at daddy when he said it."  The smile 
vanished.  "Daddy didn't like that."

	Al shot a glance at Verbena, the question clear in 
his eyes. He didn't wait for her to respond as he asked, 
"You remember that from when you were four?"

	"I was three," Perry answered without guile.

	The psychiatrist deftly entered the conversation. 
"Perry, do you know what your IQ is?"	The question 
seemed to make the Visitor uncomfortable. She repeated 
the question, noting his discomfort at being questioned 
about his mental abilities.  She also noticed that he 
didn't meet her eyes when he answered.

	"196," was the almost whispered reply.

	Something else occurred to Verbena.  "You must have 
a very good memory if you can recall something that 
happened when you were just three years old."

	Al stiffened a bit as he followed her reasoning, 
then wondered why he wasn't surprised when Perry nodded.  
He hesitated a second then asked the question on the tip 
of his tongue.

	"You remember things like..looking at pictures in 
a book, don't you?" Another tremor ran through the young 
man's body as he nodded again. *Photographic memory...
just like Sam.*

	Wanting to avoid triggering another episode like 
the one he'd witnessed just a couple of hours ago, Al 
changed the direction of the questions.  "You loved 
your mother, didn't you?" He hoped to divert Perry 
from wandering into the emotional minefield that his 
wordless responses seemed to have turned him toward.

	"Yes," Perry answered. 

	Al decided to press a little harder. Avoiding 
Verbena's eyes, he said, "Perry, I know you were just 
a little boy when your parents ..split up.  But, do you 
remember if your mom and dad ever...argued?"  Al could 
almost feel Verbena's fiery gaze burning into the side 
of his face as he watched the young man nod again as 
he wrapped his arms tightly around himself. 

	"Daddy watches me all the time, now."


	"My headaches are getting worse. And he hates 

	Al couldn't help glancing at Verbena, her 
expression was as uncertain as his thoughts. He said 
carefully, "I would think that with a son as smart 
as you...."

	 "I love my dad," Perry hurriedly interrupted. 
"There's nothing I wouldn't do to please him.  But..."

	"...he hates school," Al finished the sentence.

	"Well, no. What he really hates is college."

	Al's brow furrowed a bit more.  Each time Perry 
spoke, his words only added to the confusion in the 
Observer's mind. *It's like trying to catch a White 
Rabbit*.  Al decided to grab the rabbit's tail and 
hang on for wherever the ride took him. He hoped 
Verbena had a sedative handy in case the rabbit 
headed for edge.

	"Why does your dad hate college so much?"

	Perry's shoulders rose and fell in a quick, 
tight shrug.

	"Does he get mad when you try to talk about 
it?" Al persisted.

	He hoped his quiet tones would make the questions 
easier for Perry to answer.  He was about to pose another 
question, but was cut off when Perry stood up and began 
pacing around and around the bed.  The Observer heard a 
warning bell in the back of his mind; it became louder 
as Perry began to talk.  Al could hear in his voice how 
he was struggling to keep a tight rein on the emotions 
starting to churn inside him again.

	"The last time I tried to talk to him about it, 
he flew into a rage," Perry said. "He was throwing 
stuff and screaming at me that no son of his will ever 
waste his time or money going to college."  Perry sat 
down again on the side of the bed, his posture rigidly 
erect, his knuckles white as he clutched the edge of 
the mattress.

	Al felt the rabbit increasing speed in its flight 
from whatever was chasing him.  He tightened his grip 
on the rabbit's tail. "What happened?"

	For a moment the Swiss-cheesing effect that 
Leaping had on a person's memory eased the tight 
expression on Perry's face.  But then a connection 
was made in his mind, and the tension returned.

	"I..I remember him and mama having a really bad 
fight.  Next morning, mama was gone."

	Verbena had returned to stand beside Perry. She saw 
his glance go to her hands tucked inside her labcoat 
pockets. Without a word she laid a hand gently on his arm, 
noting the slight hesitation before he covered it with his 
own.  Not once did he meet her eyes. "Did she leave you 
and your dad?"

	"Daddy never told me where she went or why."

	"Perry?" Al said the young man's name, then waited 
for those troubled gray-blue eyes to meet his.  "What 
happened after she..left?"

	"Daddy never talked about her, not even once," 
Perry said through the tears now running down his face.  
He paused, taking several deep gulping breaths.  He 
didn't notice that Verbena's hand had slipped down to 
his wrist, nor did he see the warning glance she aimed 
at the Observer. He continued.

	As the words poured out of Perry like flood waters 
through a broken dam, Al felt his dislike of Howard 
Kirkwood deepen amd darken.  He chewed on his cigar, 
refusing to let his mind wander to what he'd like to 
do to the man who had so severely emotionally and 
physically damaged his own son.  He hated the thought 
of Aaron controlling Sam's body.  But even that paled 
in comparison to what he thought of Howard Kirkwood.

	"A little while after that when I mentioned..
college, he screamed so loud that I hid under my bed 
and c.cried," Perry hiccuped.  He looked up at Al.

	"He got down on the floor and stuck his head 
under my bed, and kept screaming at me."  He gulped 
in air, his body shaking, unaware of his finger-numbing 
grip on Verbena's hand.  "I cried the whole time.  
I promised I'd never leave him. He finally fell asleep, 
still half under the bed.  I fell asleep under there, too."

	"How old were you when that happened?" Al asked 
carefully.  When Perry finally answered, he wished he 
hadn't asked.

	"I didn't know it would make him mad," Perry 
whispered, his voice aching.

	"How old were you, Perry?" Al repeated gently.

	Large tears steadily welled up and spilled down 
his cheeks. "F.four."

	Rarely did Al Calavicci act publicly when his very 
Italian emotions were stirred up, and never in the 
Waiting Room. But now an emotion he couldn't identify 
...perhaps didn't want to identify...surged through him 
and he obeyed it without thought or hesitation.  Tossing 
aside his cigar, the Observer sat down on the bed, took 
Perry in his arms and hugged him fiercely. He didn't even
try to deny the sense of almost paternal protectiveness 
flooding through him as he felt the boy's arms encircle 
his body, clinging to him as if for dear life.

	"It's okay," he murmured, rocking gently as he 
listened to the boy's wrenching sobs. "It's okay.  
You're safe. Everything's going to be all right."  
Perry's next words came the closest to shredding the 
tenuous grip the Observer had on his own emotions.

	"Mama's gone.  Daddy's all I got," he wept 
against the Observer's shoulder.

	It was the most powerful outpouring of emotions 
that Verbena had ever seen displayed in the Waiting Room. 
And the most powerful display by the Observer ever.
Wisely she held her tongue, deciding for the moment 
to let Al deal with Perry...and whatever memories 
the troubled young man was triggering for him.  
Watching the Observer comforting Perry, every word 
he said, even his touch as he rubbed the boy's back 
soothingly served only to reinforce something she 
had privately always believed about him.  *You may 
not have kids, Al* she thought, *but you ARE a father.*

	Even Ziggy remained silent, deciding that the 
information she had to relate could wait until the 
admiral and Dr. Beeks departed the Waiting Room.  
Then she 'felt' something.  Immediately she scanned 
every possible location for the source of that 
'feeling'.  When she identified the 'something', 
Ziggy instantly alerted Gooshie, who verified it.  
She sent a silent alert to the communicator on 
Al's left wrist.

	Without loosening his embrace, Al managed 
to press the response button. "Yeah, Ziggy?"

	"You are needed in the Control Room," 
Ziggy said. "Now."

	When the hybrid computer didn't elaborate, 
Al glanced up at Verbena. She nodded and moved closer.

	"Perry?" Al said quietly, watching as the 
psychiatrist took Perry by the arms and gently 
drew him back. He took hold of the young man's 
shoulders to help steady him as he sat up. "You okay?"

	Wiping at the wetness on his face, Perry 
nodded. His eyes fell on the large wet stain on 
the shoulder of Al's shirt. "I'm sorry." He looked 
down at his hands in his lap, unable to meet the 
Observer's eyes.

	*I'm sorry...*...*He sounds so much like 
Sam*...the Observer thought as he stood up.  
He wondered how many times Perry, like Sam, had 
said those two little words, hoping they would 
appease the person to whom they were spoken.

	"No problem," Al said with a little smile. 
"We all have to..let it out sometime."

	"But real men don't cry," Perry whispered.  
"Only girls and babies and...sissies cry."

	A second signal came through the communicator; 
Al acknowledged it.  He squeezed Perry's shoulders 
gently and waited for him to look up.

	"Yes, they do, Perry," Al said, his voice 
strong and clear in its quietness, his dark eyes 
unwavering. "Beleive me..son, a real man isn't 
ashamed or afraid to cry."

	A third signal blinked on the communicator at 
that moment, and Al turned and left the Waiting Room.

In the Control Room

	"What's wrong, Gooshie?" Al demanded as he 
entered the Control Room.

	"Doctor Beckett's brainwave activity is 
escalating at an alarming rate," the head 
programmer responded.  "If I were to hazard a guess, 
I'd say he's about to have a seizure."

	Al brushed away the mental fatigue that was always 
one of the byproduct of high emotions, and held out his 
hand.  Grasping the handlink slapped against his palm, 
he headed up the ramp to the Imaging Chamber.  A thought 
occurred to him, but he didn't slow his pace.

	"What about the mind sync, Gooshie?"

	"Done. Only Doctor Beckett will see you," 
Gooshie responded.

	"Good."  The Observer then took his place in 
the Imaging Chamber and waited for the swirl of past 
years to surround him.

	Yet even as Perry was gradually coming out of 
the dark he had lived in most of his life, Sam was 
learning of the terrors it held.