"Basis of Control" pt. VIII

October, 1999
Stallions Gate, NM

  Al entered his office and promptly collapsed on the sofa in the corner of
the room. He'd gotten some sleep the night before, but not nearly enough to
make up for what he'd missed the night before that. A small voice told him he
should be spending every moment with his daughters, but he didn't want to
  Until he saw the fax machine.
  Every movement filled with dread, he hauled himself up off of the sofa and
walked slowly to the device, as if afraid it would strike. Reaching out
hesitantly, he took the paper and held it between his fingers.
  "Keep your friends close...and your enemies closer," it said. Al closed his
eyes. "I gotta get an unlisted fax number," he muttered to himself, using
sarcasm in a vain attempt to dampen the dread. When he opened them again, the
words "Don't go into town tonight," caught his attention, scrawled hastily in
small lettering at the bottom corner of the page. Al thought hard. They hadn't
planned to go into Santa Fe, he didn't think, but they certainly weren't going
now. Unless this was the desired effect.
  He shook himself mentally. Second guessing only led to paranoia and he
already had enough of that to go around. Whatever was going on with this guy,
someone on the inside was trying to help him and Al knew he could use all the
help he could get. Easing into his chair behind his desk, he squeezed his eyes
shut tightly and concentrated on silencing the voice screaming at him to do
something, anything, that would put a stop to this. It was when he heard a
choked sob and realized it was his own that he snapped his eyes open and stood
back up. He couldn't let this happen to himself - not yet. Not when he had a
wife and four daughters depending on him. Not when he had to concentrate on
finding a solution for Sam. Not when...not when everything else was already
going to pieces.
  "Enough is enough," he muttered to himself. He was tired of being on the
defensive - he needed to maneuver the situation so he was on the offensive.
Surely it couldn't be _that_ hard to do, could it? He knew he'd done it many
times before and almost always succeeded. Al Calavicci: the master
manipulator, right?
  Al turned to see Marina in the doorway. He raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"I'm not late, am I? I thought we still had another half hour before we
decided to meet for lunch."
  She hesitated in the doorway, seeming more uncertain of herself than Al
could recall her looking in a long while. "Oh, I'm sorry, did you have work to
do? Or - oh, geez, am I not supposed to be in this part of the project?"
  "It's okay," he assured her. He put the fax down on his desk and threw a
file over it. "What's going on?" he asked casually, leaning against the
polished wood.
  "Oh...nothing. Just got bored and thought I'd see what you were up to, so to
  "Just usual government drudgery," he responded.
  "Oh." She stared at the far wall absently.
  He squinted at her. "Gee, this is a lively conversation."
  "There is nothing lively about this situation," she said, a little sharply,
as she looked back at him.
  He put out a hand, palm down. "I never said there was, but you've got to
relax, honey. If you don't, you'll drive yourself crazy." He frowned at the
look in her eyes. "Is there something else?"
  She shook her head stubbornly, but then let out a heavy breath. "Can I have
a hug?" she said quietly.
  "You came all the way down here into the black hole for that?"
  She shrugged and dropped her gaze.
  "Come here." She stepped forward and he wrapped his arms around her and
pressed his cheek against her hair. "I love you, honey," he murmured.
  She smiled, blinking back tears, and buried her face in his shoulder.
"Thanks. I needed that."
  He pulled back and wiped her cheek with the back of his hand. "Sure. Why are
you crying?"
  "I don't know," she muttered, blushing. "I guess I'm just overwhelmed."
  Al nodded solemnly. Despite the brave front she always made a token effort
to maintain, Marina tended to spring a leak whenever she felt like everything
became too much. Then, and when she was angry. Another way she was like Beth.
"How's David?" he asked in an attempt to take her mind off their situation.
  "He's good. I miss him."
  He studied her with soft eyes. "I know you do, sweetie. I know how much it
hurts to be away from someone you love."
  Her grin was pale. "I guess you would."
  "You wanna sit down?" he asked, gesturing to the chair in front of him.
  "Uh, no, I'd better not stay. You've got work to do and-"
  "The work can wait," he interrupted. He pushed aside some papers and sat on
the edge of his desk, placing his hands on his knees. "I want to hear about
you for a while."
  "Dad...how worried are you?"
  He grinned slightly. "Well, I'm sure it's really just nothing-"
  "Don't lie to me," she returned forcefully. "I saw the team you had
following us when we went out to dinner last night. If it's not taken care of
in a week, you're not going to want us to go home, are you?"
  The corner of his mouth lifted in an attempt to lighten the conversation.
"Probably not. But...I won't stop you."
  "Why do you stay here, Dad? All the government red tape you have to put up
with, the long hours, and stuff like this. I just don't understand. You and
Mom are both in positions where you could be practically anywhere else - why
  He looked steadily at her with deep eyes. "It's my choice. It's
just...important to me that I stay."
  "I don't get it."
  He shrugged. "Sorry. Let's just say that sometimes the bonds of loyalty and
friendship can outweigh a lot."
  "You're speaking in riddles."
  He laughed. "Yeah. Confused yet?"
  At first she resisted, but then she smiled warmly. "Now I know how you deal
with the government. Who was it that said 'if you can't convince them, confuse
  Al's smile widened. "Harry Truman."
  "Right." Her mirth faded slowly and she stood up. "I'd better let you finish
your work. I'm sure Mom'd be wanting some help with lunch right about now."
She paused at the doorway and 
glanced back. "I know you're really worried about all of us, Dad, but spare a
few minutes to worry about yourself, okay?"
  He looked sadly at her. "I'll see if I can't find room in my schedule."

October, 1999
Grant, NM

  Dave paced the room like a caged animal. He thought things were settled
after they got back from the airport, but then Jonathan had suddenly flown
into a rage, and a fight had taken place. The adjoining bedroom had been
trashed in the process and yet no more headway had been made. He knew that he
couldn't trust his own brother: the man had a fit of self-righteousness that
had failed to abate with time, as he'd hoped it would. He just didn't
understand: sometimes the world didn't do squat and it was up to you to
dispense justice. Some people would label him a fanatic or a lunatic, but as
long as he knew what he was doing was right...could there really be any
  *Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.* He smiled mournfully and
rapped on the door to Jonathan's room before opening it. Jonathan was crouched
on the floor on the far side of the bed, scooping up some papers that had been
scattered and disorganized by the fight. He still looked upset, probably from
the argument. 
  "Hey," Dave said roughly. "Do you wanna help me or not?"
  Jonathan hesitated, staring at the clutter in the corner of the room. Then
he motioned to his brother's room. "Let's get outta this mess. I need a bite
to eat anyway." He walked past Dave who turned slowly and followed him
through. Jonathan shut and locked the door.
  "Doncha trust your big brother?" Dave asked.
  "No," Jonathan snapped.
  Dave knew Jonathan's loyalty had been wavering even more so than it had in
the beginning, but this was the first time (even taking into consideration the
fight) that he'd been completely expressive about the situation. All that
anger packed into one little syllable. "Why not?"
  "Why can't you just leave them alone?" Jonathan cried. "I mean, what is
_wrong_ with you?"
  "What's the matter?" Dave taunted. "Our earlier tussle wasn't enough for
you? You wanna go at it again?"
  "You did the fighting earlier," Jonathan returned. "You questioned me. My
principles, my ideals. All I did was stop you from doing either of us any
physical harm. You were still steamed about my trying to stop you at the
airport, not me!" He clenched his fists and stood with his legs apart, a
trembling mass of emotion.
  "You just don't get it!"
  Jonathan visibly pushed back his rage. "Look at yourself. I mean, you're
intelligent, well-educated. You have a good job, good friends, good family. A
good wife. I just don't understand how you can go from that to _this_."
  "Justice!" came the battle cry.
  "This isn't _justice_! It's vengeance! And I won't let you do it anymore. I
tried to be your friend, to understand you, but I can't. I put up with your
little games. I let you send your letters and your faxes. I let you go to the
airport. Enough is enough...when is it going to _stop_?"
  Dave threw down his hat. "Okay, honesty time, right? It's gonna stop when I
pay him back."
  "When you kill someone." Jonathan's voice had dropped to a near-whisper.
  "If it'll stop the burning," Dave answered, sounding more in control of
himself than he had since the whole thing began. He expected Jonathan to
question what he was talking about, but his younger brother just stared. "It
might not stop the pain, but if it eases it, even for just a minute... I
can't...let it happen to anyone else because of them."
  "You're letting it happen to him."
  Dave sighed heavily. "We all make our sacrifices, our choices. I've made
mine. Now it's time for those responsible to take the responsibility."
  "You're nuts."
  "Am I?" Dave demanded harshly.
  Jonathan stared blankly past him, as if lost in some deep memory. But, as
his older brother watched, he began to breathe faster with each passing
second. Finally, he looked back at Dave. "Yes. And it ends now." The calm in
his words belayed the fire in his eyes.
  "What are you gonna do?" Dave demanded in a taunting voice just before the
pressure built to unbearable levels and Jonathan punched him squarely in the
  Dave fell back against one of the beds, clutching at his chin in amazement.
Without even pausing to give him time to rise to his feet, Jonathan was on top
of him, pummelling his stomach, pinning him to the bed.
  "Are you crazy? Get off of me!" Dave yelled, too preoccupied with trying to
get his brother off of him to fight back. He finally pushed Jonathan to the
side and off the bed onto the floor. Jonathan was up in a heartbeat, but so
was Dave. They struggled with each other, holding each other in such a tight
restraint that neither could get enough distance to cause any real damage
  Dave pushed his brother against the wall and, grabbing the lamp off the
nearby dresser, slammed it down on his head. The other man staggered for a
moment, then slid ungracefully to the floor. Dave paused for an instant, then
turned and, throwing his scattered belongings into his bag, began to formulate
a plan of action. Casting one last look at his fallen opponent, he turned and
ran out of the hotel room.

January, 1989
Cleveland, OH

  Al stepped through the Imaging Chamber Door with a somewhat lighter heart.
When he'd casually mentioned at lunch that they should do something together
at the complex that evening, nobody had questioned or even become suspicious
at the sudden suggestion. Someone out there was on his side, finally.
  Sam was in the kitchen pacing.
  "Everything going okay, Sam?"
  "No, it's not," he snapped. Then he sighed. "Sorry, Al. Look, I just spoke
to Aaron."
  Al was immediately concerned. "What happened?"
  "He came in from mowing the lawn and I told him I needed to talk to him. He
started giving me the runaround, and I just blurted it out. I told him I'd
been having an affair. He got really angry and stormed out of the house before
I could get five more words out."
  "Geez," Al moaned. "Listen, Sam, I talked to Sylvia. She says she loves him
and she's willing to make the effort. I told her you'd ended things with
Martin and that you were going to tell Aaron about the affair. She was a
little upset at first, but then she agreed it was the right thing to do. So,
all you have to do is smooth things out with Aaron and you're outta here."
  "All I have to do is... Al! Are you crazy? It could take _years_ to settle
things with that man!"
  Al conferred with the handlink. He shook his head sadly. "Sorry, Sam, but
you're going to have to make him listen. Sylvia says that she tried everything
to get him to notice her, but he wouldn't."
  "That's just what Martin said," Sam pointed out, leaning against the
  "Right," Al agreed absently. "She got lonely, Sam," he added somberly.
  "That doesn't give her the excuse to-"
  "No, it doesn't," Al said quickly. "But it does explain things."
  "Al...you've got to tell me where he went, because I'm not sure he's coming
  Al pulled up the handlink and his eyes widened. "You're right. He's not
going to come back. Ziggy says...in twenty minutes, he's gonna run his car off
of the road and-" Al looked up, sorrow deep in his eyes "-he's gonna die."
  Sam's face registered panic. "Okay, uh, you have to tell me where it
  "Yeah, the police report said he ran into some trees on the side of route 30
about 10 miles north of here. Sam, you gotta go! Go!" he yelled, gesturing
towards the door.
  "Al, go center in on him, okay? Tell me exactly where he is."
  Al vanished, and reappeared in a car speeding down the road, headlights off
in spite of the approaching dusk. Without pausing, Al centered back in on Sam.
"Here, hurry, read!" Al held up the handlink and Sam paused to read off the
directions to Aaron's location.
  Sam climbed into the vehicle. "Okay, Al, let's-"
  "The kids!" Al exclaimed suddenly.
  "They're at friends' houses."
  "Oh, good, as long as they’re..." He trailed off. "What?"
  "I said they're-" Sam started to repeat, the engine roaring to life at his
touch, but Al started speaking over him.
  "What do you _mean_ they went into Santa Fe? Didn't we agree-" Al stared
intently at the ceiling. "Dammit! Sam, I've got to go! Beth says Marina and
Julia went into town to get some things for tonight and they should have been
back an hour ago!"
  Before Sam could even reply, Al had opened the Imaging Chamber Door and was
  "Good luck, Al," Sam whispered