CHAPTER 29 The four friends stepped out of the elevator as the doors opened to the reception area of the hospital. Sam took Al to one side. "Al," Sam whispered, "I need to...." "I know Sam." Al interrupted his friend, a look of concern in his eyes. "No need to tell me. I'll take the women to the airport. You just take the time you need. He placed a hand on Sam's shoulder. "There's a couple of hours before the plane leaves, we'll be waiting." There was no need for words between the two friends, they new each other too well. Al knew that before leaving Washington, Sam wanted time for himself. Al knew where he was going, so did Beth. As Sam walked out through the doors, Al turned to Bernie and motioned to her with a nod of his head, she followed him as Beth gave her a little push in Al's direction. As Bernie neared Al's side, he took hold of Bernie's arm and steered her away from a crowd. "Sam needs a little time, he always has this time before leaving DC." All Bernie could do was nod when she saw the look in Al's eyes. Somehow she understood that this was Sam's special time, that Sam need space to be alone. Al smiled as he saw the understanding in Bernie's eyes. "I think I know Al, he tried to talk about it earlier, but he found it too difficult." Al slid his hand down Bernie's arm and took hold of her hand and held it gently, he patted her hand with his other hand, squeezing slightly before letting go. "You know, you amaze me sometimes." Bernie looked at Al quizzically. "Why?" She whispered. "Because," Al looked over at Beth, "You remind me of Beth. She always knows too." Slowly Al and Bernie moved towards the entrance doors, as Beth joined them Al placed an arm around Beth's shoulder and hugged her close. "What more can a guy ask for?" The two women looked at Al. "A girl on either side, and beautiful ones at that." Al laughed as they disappeared through the smoky glass of the doors. * * * * * It was a long walk from the hospital to Constitution Gardens. But walk he must as he always did. As Sam looked up from his thoughts the black glossiness of the rock loomed up before him. He could feel his throat becoming dry and he swallowed hard as he felt tears stinging his eyes. He looked away, down at his hands. His knuckles were white, his fists were clenched, in readiness to tackle his next task. Panic struck him momentarily as he remembered the blue box, then relief as he remembered that the blue box was in his past, it had served its purpose. He stepped closer to his usual spot, his blurred reflection distorted by the silver carvings in the black stone. He closed his eyes and reached out with trembling fingers to feel its shiny surface, to touch the icy surface of the black stone. He leaned his forehead against its cold exterior, paining the spot where his head rested. He traced the outline of the carved letters, they formed the familiar names which his fingers had traced so many times. He paused suddenly, tracing his fingers backwards, and, forwards again. Something was wrong. He knew all of the names here, in order, he had been here so many times. Now, something was not quite right. He laid his hands flat against the stone and pushed himself upright, his head drooping like a wilted flower. Sam opened his eyes and stared at his shoes, one of his laces was untied, his head ached. The lace could wait, he was more concerned about his present problem. Without looking he traced the letters again. This was not right. He jerked his head up and looked at the letters his fingers tracked. His eyes searched, but even they couldn't find what he was searching for. He stood back and searched again for one of the thousands of names, but the words Thomas Andrew Beckett could not be found. Deep in his unconscious Sam heard Al's voice, "Tom came back from Vietnam." Tears welled in his eyes, he fought to stop them but couldn't. "Tom's alive." He muttered amidst sobs and gasps of realisation. His knees buckled and he fell to the ground, his hands sliding down the slippery surface of the dark stone. Tears flowed freely down his face, he didn't try to stop them. No-one was surprised at Sam's anguish, there were no smiles at this place, this was a place for tears and sorrow and regrets. Sam looked upward, the brightness of the sky through the haze of tears hurt his eyes. "Thank you." He whispered. He rose to his feet and slowly walked way. He stopped and turned to look once more at the blackness of the stone, thankful that he wasn't compelled to visit again as a matter of task, but knew in his heart that he would return in reverence. * * * * It was Wednesday afternoon, Sam, Bernie, Al and Beth had returned to the project the previous day. Because of Sam's condition they didn't return in the usual aircraft, but a heli-plane that could fly at a very low altitude, so at to not put pressure on Sam's injuries. Sammi Jo returned to the project earlier that morning. Sam entered the Control Room, "Al, What did Ziggy say about Gregory Pearson?" "Well, he's on the list Sam, but....." Al rubbed his chin. "But what Al?" Sam strode over to the control panel, the bandage gone from his head, steri-strips replacing it. "Are you sure Pearson said he was from New York?" Al stood pondering, still rubbing his chin. "He said he'd driven from New York. Why?" "Ziggy says he's from upstate Montana, Helena, Montana." "Where's his business Al?" "Montana." "Perhaps he'd been visiting Bebrooks or perhaps family," Sam looked at Al's list, "or perhaps one of these others on here." Sam jabbed a finger onto Al's list. "That's a lot of perhaps's Sam." "Why don't you give Mr. Bebrooks a call, perhaps he can shed some light on this." Sam pulled out a chair from under the counter and sat down. "That's another perhaps Sam, but a good idea." Al headed out of the Control Room. Sam slapped a hand down onto the counter next to him. "Yer know, I've been quizzing Ziggy all morning." Al stopped and turned back, "Yeah Sam, what's she said to upset you now?" "Oh no she's not upset me Al. No, far from it." "Yer the only one then, you can't remember, but she goes out of her way to stigmatise everythin' I say." Al shook his head. "It's as if she has to have the upper hand, the last word, all the time." Sam raised his eyebrows, "And you don't, I suppose?" "Erm, well, you're right, I do have to get back at her." "It's just that I can't believe how far the project has come along. I never dreamt of actually interacting in the past Al, just observing. But I wish I could remember, just a little of it." Sam's gaze drifted above Al's head. "I can't wait until tomorrow Al." His eyes wandered off towards the Accelerator Chamber. "To travel in time." Al knew by the look in Sam's eyes that Sam was off somewhere else, but at least he hadn't had to answer Sam's questions. He was dreading the time when yet again, he had to explain about Gooshie, Sammi Jo and Katie and especially Donna. How would Sam react this time with her death, last time he wanted time out for himself, now it seemed that all he wanted was to do the entire thing over again. He would have to think of a darned good explanation for when the time came. The future depended on it, their futures, everyone's future, especially Bernie's. It would have to be Sam's choice, whichever he loved the most, the past or the present. Al sadly turned away from Sam, and continued out of the Control Room, even the whoosh of the door didn't disturb Sam's thoughts. Al returned to his office and dialled Bebrooks' number. Bebrooks' secretary answered. "Can I speak with Mr. Austin Bebrooks please?" Al waited for an answer, "Albert Calavicci." He waited again, "Hello Mr. Bebrooks, Albert Calavicci here, was wonderin' if possible. Erm. can you give me anything, any information on a Mr. Gregory Pearson?" Al paused, "Yeah Sam's fine, apart from the memory loss, he's great." Al picked up a pen, whilst the other spoke, "Yeah he's doin' that now. About Gregory Pearson." Al hesitated, "He told Sam, when he saw him on Monday, that he came from New York. Our information says he's from Montana." Al jotted down notes on his notepad, "He want to see a demonstration at the project." Bebrooks continued his side of the conversation, "A new business, I see Mr. Bebrooks." Al continued scribbling notes, "New investments, that sounds great, yeah I'll see to it." Al hesitated, "Yeah, I'll tell him now. Bye Mr Bebrooks." Al held onto the handset for a few moments before replacing it. He tore the page out from his notepad and headed for the elevator. He tapped a foot impatiently, as if trying to make the elevator descend faster. He was out of the elevator before the doors were fully open, rushing down the meandering corridors and into the Control Room. "Sam! Sam!" Al shouted excitedly. Sam was still transfixed to something and was miles away in some distant time or space. "Sam!" Al shouted again as he neared Sam. Sam's gaze didn't waver, "Y-e-s Al," he drawled. "Bebrooks is gonna be out of the picture. Sam are you listening to me?" Al snapped his fingers. "'Cause I'm listenin', I can think too, can't I, at the same time. I'm rememberin' somethin' Al." "That's good," Al commented, his news could wait a few more minutes, but he was feeling very impatient to tell Sam. His fingers twitched, crumpling the scrap of paper he was holding. After a long pause Sam spoke "I'm remembering feelings Al, a sorta floating sensation, a tingling, white and blue flashes of light. I remember lookin' into a mirror, I'm not there though, it's someone else I'm lookin' at." "That'll be when you're leaping Sam. You always said that was the part you were apprehensive about the most, the sensation of not being anywhere." Al looked at Sam, he was itching to tell him the news, but he didn't want to disturb his friend's concentration. "And the face you see, that the person you've leapt into." Sam shook his head, "It's gone Al, the mirror's gone blank, the reflection's vanished." "Sorry pal. Did I disturb you?" Al turned slightly, not wanting to see the disappointment on his friend's face. "No Al, you didn't disturb me, just daydreaming I suppose, none of it made an sense anyway." Sam turned to Al, "What were you sayin' about Bebrooks?" "I've phoned him, and in short, Gregory Pearson is gonna be taking over Bebrooks' investments and a few of the others by the sound of things." Al slapped a finger across the scrap of paper. "That's why Pearson wants to see the project tomorrow. He said it should be all finalised by the end of the week." "Why would Bebrooks want to sell us out Al?" Sam looked at his friend confused. "He's been offered a new business opportunity with the government, some new dangle space probe or something, he didn't say specifically what. He'd been thinking about it for quite some time, when you hadn't come back for so long, that is." Al looked down at the scrap of paper. "Apparently he'd been wondering how to break with the project, but when you came back he had a change of heart. He wanted to stick with the project and us, but things had gone too far and there was no way he could get out of the Government's contract." He crumpled the paper up into his fist and threw it into the waste basket. "He was so pleased when Pearson offered the investment, it meant that he wasn't letting us down so badly, that we had a new sponsor. He wanted to give the news to us himself and he wasn't too pleased when Pearson got in first." "I wish I could remember Bebrooks Al, he sounds a decent man." "He is Sam, a lawyer, one of the few decent ones left. Now we've got to start all over with this Pearson, I just hope he's half the man Bebrooks is." The Control Room door whooshed as Sammi Jo entered, "What are you two in cohorts about?" Al turned to Sammi Jo, "We're just discussing our new sponsor Sammi, Bebrooks has had to back out." Sammi Jo crossed over to the two friends. "I'm sorry to hear that, Austin had such high hopes now that you'd returned Sam, I liked him." "That reminds me, Ziggy will have to update her security clearance codes." Al turned to Ziggy, "Ziggy." "Yes Admiral." Ziggy's harmonious, feminine voice answered. Sam laughed, "I still can't get over that voice, I was so surprised this morning when I didn't hear the low, monotones." Al cringed, waiting for the next inevitable question, he turned and watched Sammi Jo. "Who's idea....." Al didn't let Sam finish, "Sammi Jo's idea," Al butted in as he saw Sammi Jo's mouth open, "She upped it an octave to make it more pleasant." He raised an eyebrow as Sammi Jo looked at him quizzically. Sammi Jo looked at Al, frowning, "Yeah Sam, don't you like it?" "Yeah Sammi, I do, but it was so unexpected this morning." Sam smiled. "I am waiting Admiral!" Ziggy sounded impatient. "See what I mean Sam, about Ziggy, she's so....." "Well you shouldn't keep a lady waiting Al." Sam laughed again. "Thank you Doctor, we will have you back to normal in no time." "She's no lady Sam." "Oh contraire Admiral, I think you will find that I am." Sammi Jo looked between Al and Ziggy, "Oh stop it you two, you're like a couple of kids. It's the cells Sam, it's like Al is arguing with himself." "What cells Sammi?" A baffled Sam looked at a befuddled Al and a reserved Sammi Jo. Al looked at Sam open mouthed, "My cells Sam, you used some of my cells when you designed Ziggy, remember. N-no you don't remember do you?" "Well that settles it Al . Now when was the last time you had an argument with yourself and won. Eh?" Al puckered his mouth thoughtfully, his brow depressed, "You got a point there Sam." Sam looked at Sammi Jo, he was deep in thought again, "Yer know Sammi, you remind me of someone, someone long ago. I can remember her face, but not her name." He turned to Al, "This is really frustrating Al." "I can understand that pal, looks like your photographic memory's run out of film." Al laughed and nudged Sammi Jo. Sam wasn't laughing, "This aint funny Al, it's serious, my whole life I've remembered things, everything's stored up here." Sam pointed to his head. "I've always been able to recall anything, it's me and part of me is missing." Al returned his attention to Ziggy, he didn't like it when Sam was so melancholy. "Ziggy, update your security clearance codes." Sam turned to Ziggy, "Will you add Bernie to your database Ziggy." He turned back to Al and Sammi Jo. "I want her to know my work Al." "No need to explain to me Sam, thought you might have done that already. Anyways, she's bright and intelligent, she just hasn't had the opportunity to show it yet." "Security clearances updated Doctor." Ziggy confirmed. "I think we're gonna be needing a couple of new waitresses Al. Bernie's been working double shifts with Alfredo, since we arrived back, I've hardly seen her. I don't know how Alfredo coped whilst we were all away." "Pretty easy I should imagine, there's only the maintenance and engineering crew, a couple of programmers and Verbena." Al pointed out. "I thought there'd be more." Sam looked perplexed. "Nah, whilst you were away everything was held on standby, now the project's completed, we don't need so many staff, I remember the beginning though." Al's eyes gleamed as he thought back. "You couldn't move for fallin' over programmers, analysts, data input clerks and technicians. Ahm, I'll get on to the government agency though, see if they have anyone available. It's about time Bernie had some time off, for someone to look after her for a change, she's had a tough time over the past few years." "I'll go and give her the news, whilst you make the phone calls Al, I want Bernie to share everything with me from now on." "Hadn't you better ask her first Sam, I know some women like to be asked and make their own minds up. Some don't like to be told what to do." Al suggested. "Thanks Al, that's a good point. I wish I were like you, you understand women, I find it so difficult." "Bernie's different Sam, you'll have to find that out again for yourself though." Al laughed and added in good spirit, "But if you ever need any pointers you know where I am." "That's right Sam, you two were made for each other." Sammi Jo moved close to Sam and lovingly stroked his cheek. "You knew it and so did Bernie, right from the moment you first met. You'll see." Al saw Sam pull away from Sammi Jo, "Come on pal, we've got some arranging to do " He lay a firm hand on Sam's shoulder and led him out of the Control Room. "What was that? Sammi's getting a bit personal isn't she?" Sam asked when they were in the elevator. "No Sam, you're a father figure to her." "Aren't I a little young to be a father figure to her Al?" "Didn't bother you before Sam. Never mind, when you get all of your faculties back, when your brain gets un-magnafuzzled, you'll understand your relationship with Sammi." The elevator doors opened and they headed up the corridor and stopped just short of the corner. "You mean you're not gonna explain this relationship to me?" "No, not this time Sam, this is one thing you're gonna have to work out for yourself." Al turned the corner and headed for his office. "See yer later pal." Sam stood looking at the door to the cafeteria. He wanted to go in but he was heeding Al's words. He was tying to figure out a way to ask Bernie to share in his work, she was already involved in his life. He wanted nothing more than, for her to share everything, his thought , his dreams, his excitement and he wanted to share hers too. He stood looking, digging into the far recesses of his mind for the right words, they had to be the right words.