CHAPTER TWO The Imaging Chamber door opened with a 'whoosh' and the familiar figure of the observer stepped out. He found himself in the centre of a large oak table, surrounded by several high backed chairs. He looked up, immediately above was a large dusty chandelier. "That doesn't look none too safe." He commented and moved quickly from the table and walked around the room. Heavy curtains hung at the windows. His eyes scoured an ornate dresser that almost covered one wall, a picture hung crookedly above an iron fireplace. Ironically he tried to straighten the picture, and laughed "Ha-ha, stay crooked then," as he realised he couldn't move it. As he turned amused from the picture he noticed a rough cot in disarray on the floor, and strode closer. The sheets were not sheets but old rags and were none too clean either. Suddenly a door opened and two coarsely dressed guards entered the room, sandwiched between them was a sorry sight of a figure. One of the guards backed out of the room and stood in the doorway. The observer touched a button on the hand-link. The figure heard this very familiar sound and lifted his head and looked towards to the observer. "Al!" The observer responded quickly, "Sam! Don't say another word." Sam's forlorn face looked questioningly towards the observer. The remaining guard pushed Sam further into the room with the muzzle of a riffle. "Get over there, darkness is falling, have to take care of the others." He lit the lamp on the dresser keeping the weapon aimed at Sam and closed the curtains at the windows. The observer spurted out, "You're in Russia Sam, the date is 14, July 1918. I don't know who you are yet, cos there's no-one in the Waitin' Room." The guard turned to leave the room, before closing the door, he turned to Sam, "If you remember anything more, doctor you'll have to holler as usual, damn gentry can't do a thing for themselves." He continued to close the door and the sound of a key turned in the lock. "Al! What am I doing in Russia? What's the year again 19....?" "1918 Sam. Well, that's good, at least we know you're er, a doctor. Ziggy, find out what you can about a doctor here." The hand-link tweeted and spluttered, the observer looked anxiously at Sam. He looked like Sam, sounded like Sam, well sort of. He could just make out the image through a thick, smokey haze of what must be this doctor, and the voice came through, gravely and deep, but the under-tones were Sam. He shook his head and continued, "You're Dr. Eugene Botkin." "What! What am I-I doing in 1918?." The observer looked back at the hand-link, "Er-erm. You're in Russia, Ekaterinburg, Ipatiev House. You're the personal physician of the czar of Russia, and his wife Alexandra and their four daughters Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and their only son, Alexei. Oh no! Sam!. You're erm, he, er Dr. Botkin was assassinated along with the rest of the Russian Imperial Family." "Yeah, but what am I doing in 1918, Al?" The observer raised his shoulders and shrugged them, "There must be some sort of malfunction or something. A lot has happened since you last leapt." "What do you mean a lot has happened? I only got here yesterday morning." Sam's face was puzzled. "Oh my God Sam!" he covered his face with a hand, trying to hide the emotion he could no longer hold inside. Tears flooded down his cheeks, he turned his back on his companion, and wiped away his sorrow. "Al! What is it?" Sam moved closer to his friend. "God damn it, tell me!" The observer was silent as he slowly turned to face Sam, and found it difficult to look him square in the face. "It's been nearly nine years since you last leapt." He could see Sam's face drop, and for the first time he could see through the haze. Time had been hard on Dr. Beckett, although he still looked in good physical shape, lines had furrowed deeply into his face, time had taken its toll. Sam looked at the floor his face wracked with emotion. "What! Nine years!" Sam sat slowly into a chair, his elbows on the table, hands cupping his face. He looked worried. "What-what the hell?" The observer watched Sam with concern in his eyes, feeling Sam's pain. "Nine years. Al, what have you been doing for nine years?" "Just like you Sam, to think of someone else before yourself, but of course you wouldn't know this Sam, I'm a grandfather now." The observer trying to change the subject a little, trying to make light of this difficult situation. "Lisa Jane had a baby last year and..." Sam interrupted. "Lisa Jane! Beth! What about Beth?" "Oh, she's okay. She wasn't too keen on being a grandmother, but she got over it. In fact, she loves having the baby around and Ruth, Sharon and Maxine are all pleased too." "Who's Lisa Jane?" "My eldest daughter. Why?" "I can't remember." Sam looked confused. "Well it could be that swiss-cheesed memory of yours." He wished he could console his companion. "All I remember before coming here was.... erm, seeing Beth." Sam sat thinking "Yes, Beth. I told her you were coming home. Yes, you-you coming home Al." "Sam, what are you talkin about? Beth's been with me for 44 years." The observer scrutinised Sam quizzically. Sam stood up suddenly, walked around the table and confronted the observer. "Al, don't you remember, you were a POW in Vietnam and Beth declared you dead and she married a Lawyer." "No, you got that wrong Sam." His face was stern, "Vietnam, yes, you got that right. Beth didn't marry any Lawyer. We have four beautiful daughters together." Sam smiled at his friend. "So Beth waited for you then?" "Yeah course she did, what makes you think she didn't?" "Then what about Ruth, Sharon and Maxine?" "They're my kids Sam! Boy your brain really got magnafuzzled this time." Sam turned away and whispered to himself, "I did it." The observer didn't see Sam's smile. "I'm really happy for yer." The observer was by now very confused, and looked at Sam thoughtfully. "Thanks Sam!" Sam turned back to face his companion and moved closer. "They keep questioning me about people I know nothing about, I don't know what to say to them, I don't know anything. Al, why am I here?" "Erm, well. We're having a little trouble with that one Sam. Ziggy's working on it, but I can hazard a fairly good guess." "What's that?" "Well Sam, I think you're here to stop the assassination of the Romanov family, and I think the people they are questioning you about are their relations, erm- immediate family." "Who?" "Oh Sam, you must remember the abdication of the czar Nicholas II during W.W.1." Sam shook his head. "Nope." "And about Rasputin, the Mad Monk?" The observer looked at Sam curiously. Sam shook his head once more. "Never heard of him, I can't remember." "Sam, you must remember something? Ziggy said..." "Ziggy, Ziggy, Ziggy! Why can't that darned computer come up with anything?" "Well Sam, she hasn't any data on 1918. I mean she's not been programmed for anything further back November 1952, and, this time you've leapt way outside of your own life-time. She's working on it though." Sam's gaze changed suddenly, "I've met him Al." The observer was once again puzzled by Sam's change of subject. He found it hard to keep up with Sam's mind going off on tangents. "Who?" "Yer know, him." Sam looked upward still keeping his eyes on his friend. The observer looked at Sam in total confusion. "Oh Al, the one that's leaping me around in time." The observer still looked at Sam, as confused as ever. "When?" "My last leap. He gave me a choice Al. To return home or to carry on helping put right peoples pasts, your past Al." "You could have stopped me goin to Vietnam, that woulda helped." "But I did help yer, can't you see, before, when you were in Vietnam, Beth didn't wait for you." "Oh Sam, don't start that up again." The observer turned his back on Sam, not wanting to show his emotions. Sam looked on at his friend, wanting to tell him more. "How long's it gonna take, Al?" Sam had gone off on another tangent again, "What, how long's what gonna take?" Sam was getting impatient at his friend, "Ziggy, how long's Ziggy gonna take?" Familiar tweeting and chirping came from the hand-link. "95% done, won't be long now Sam." They both heard the sound of sobbing from outside of the room where the two friends stood. Sam rushed over to the door and started banging on it with his fists, the observer followed him. A voice yelled back from outside. "Hey, you stop that banging, and you bitch, stop that whining. 'Cause if you don't I'm gonna give you something to whine about. Stop it do you hear!" Sam shouted back at the voice, "You leave her alone." Sam still banged on the door. "If you touch one hair on her head I'll-I'll....." The sound of a key turned in the lock. Sam moved away from the door. "Be careful Sam!" The observer sternly warned Sam. The door flew open with a 'crash' and the guard stood challenging in the doorway. "And you'll do what old man?" Sam suddenly became very quiet, "Just leave her alone okay!" The sound of sobbing still continued outside. The guard turned slightly in the doorway, "Stop that whining bitch." The guard left the room pulling the door closed behind him. They heard the muffled voice of the guard continue, "Whining like that will not help you, yer all the same, damned gentry." "Be quiet for a while Sam," the observer held a finger to his pursed lips, "the guard hasn't locked the door. I'll go check on the girl. You stay here." The observer walked through the door without opening it. Then popped his head back through. His voice demanding, "Mind you don't go anywhere Sam!" "Al, as if I would." "I know you pal, now stay put. I'll stalk out the territory while I'm at it." "Al, I'm not gonna go anywhere, I promise." Sam shooed the observer away with a gesture of his hands. Sam watched the disappearing image of the holographic observer. Sam faced the centre of the room and looked about him. Sam started thinking, "Sometimes after a leap I can't figure out who I am, where I am or what I'm here to do. This time I know who I am, where I am and I have the probability of knowing what I have to do. Mostly confusion reigns for the first part of a leap, then the memory that the leapee has left behind, kicks in. This leap seems somewhat different somehow. How can I leap into someone and that someone not be in the Waiting Room? Also there is the fact that I have leapt outside of my own life-time. This is something that has only happened twice before, and there were reasonings for those times. The first time Al's and my own masons had merged and we switched places, Al had leapt back in time and I was the hologram. We were in Al's life-time. The other time was when I leapt into one of my ancestors. That was due to me having the same metabolic atoms as that ancestor, but what of this leap? There are no connections whatsoever that I can think of to explain." Sam heard the observer voice, "Hey Sam, she's beautiful." The observer re-materialised through the closed door. "Oh sorry Sam, I mean sh-she's pretty for a 17 year old. Hm." "Al, lechery will get you nowhere." "What yer mean, I'm not being lecherous?" The observer was hurt. "Come off it, if it wears a skirt and is of the opposite sex, you just gotta have a go. Don't forget I know you, Al." "Aw, that really hurts, I'm a happily married man. Perhaps you don't know me like you think you do." "Oh I'm sorry, I forgot you've only been married to one wife and not five." "Five! Where'd yer get that from? Oh don't answer that one.... Anyways Ziggy's come up with the scenario." The observer pointed to the hand-link. "Of course I knew I was right all along." "Your head is swelling Al." "All right, all right, cut it out." "What'd Ziggy say?" "There's a 99.5% chance that erm, " The observer struck the hand-link. "That you've got to stop the ass...." The observer hit the hand-link once more. ".....oh, hm, stop the assassination of the czar and his family, the Romanovs.... Nothing else has come up." "How am I supposed to do that? There are guards everywhere?" Sam glanced at the observer for advice. "Well, I've had a look around, we're on the first floor. That door on the right leads to the four Duchesses' room, also through there is Nicholas', Alexei and Alexandra's room. The door to the left is the Salon, which leads to the hallway. Everyone's in the Salon at the moment. Apparently you are kept in this room because you erm, Dr. Botkin has a bad heart condition and only had an attack yesterday morning." "Al that's when I leapt in, yesterday morning. A bad heart eh, that's, that's why I'm not feeling too good, right?" "Probably Sam, probably. I must say you don't look too good either." "A mirror Al, I can't find a mirror. Have you seen one?" "Honestly Sam you don't need one, I don't think you'd like what you'd see. How are you feelin'?" "Okay, why?" "Thought we might join the others. I'll go and check and see if it's clear." The observer moved towards the door. "Don't be long." Sam sounded a little more than anxious. "I won't." He left the room in his usual manner and re-appeared on the other side of the door. The observer looked about the Salon, a few more steps into the room he could see a large archway to the right leading to another section of the Salon, to his left there was a stairwell. The room was dark, lit only by two lamps, one in each section. Along one wall was a large marble fireplace and a chase-lounge on which sat the czar, Nicholas and czarina, Alexandra. On another sat the two eldest daughters, Tatiana, and Olga along with the son, Alexei. On two separate chairs sat Maria, and Anastasia with her dog, Jemmy at her feet. All the females were in the process of sewing. Crouched in a corner talking, were three servants, one male and two female. There were no guards in sight. All was quiet except for the sobbing of Olgar. The observer walked through the darkened hall and headed down the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs he turned left, a short passage and down more stairs to the left. Through empty, darkened rooms and corridors he trudged. He passed a room full of noisy guards and watched for a while, mentally counting each one. His final destination, the cellar, empty and dark. The only light came from the moon that shone through the solitary window. "Oh my God! This is where it all happens, two days from now." The observer swallowed visibly.