February, 1989 - Original History
San Diego, CA

  Work turned out to be in the kitchen of a restaruant. It seemed to be a
fairly nice place, from what Al could see, and he figured they made pretty
good money there. He found Sam moments later, striving to keep up with
impatient commands tossed in his direction. "Sam, that steak is supposed to be
medium rare," Al said, peering over his friend's shoulder.
  Sam jumped reflexively. "Al, I'm a little busy here."
  He pointed with his cigar. "Yeah, I know, and I'm telling you, you're
cooking that wrong."
  Sam looked daggers at the hologram as he scrambled to remove the food from
the grill. "Don't tell me you've worked in a restaruant."
  "No, but I've made a steak before, Sam," Al countered sourly. "Doesn't take
a genius. Used to have steak all the time when I was with Brenda. Ooooh, you
wouldn't believe how energetic she'd be-"
  "-when we'd have-"
  Al stopped and cast an innocent look in Sam's direction. "Any luck with
Amber yet?" He took a drag on his cigar and watched the smoke drift upwards,
"mingling" with the steam from the grill.
  Sam reached through Al to get a spatula. "Not really. She does know she's
pregnant, though. Probably went to the free clinic or something. Why? You got
something else for me?"
  He cocked his head thoughtfully. "Nah, but I've got to go up to Washington
and I may not be back until tomorrow afternoon. I just wanted to check up on
you before I left."
  "Oh. Trouble?"
  Al shrugged. "Same 'ol, same 'ol. Everything's fine. They just need to hear
it from the head honcho."
  "And they'll settle for you?" Sam joked.
  The admiral glared half-heartedly at him. "Everybody's a comedian."
  "Yeah, so why do you really have go to Washington?"
  "Well, one day there was this boy named Sam. And from a very early age, in
his plot to regain all the money spent on taxes and build the world's biggest
  "-Until he met an admiral who already filled the bill. Come on, Al. Quit
messing with me."
  The expression on Al's face changed abruptly. "Sam, do you trust me?"
  "Al, you know I trust you."
  Al nodded. "Then don't, Sam. Just don't."
  Sam stopped his work for a moment and studied the hologram. "Okay," he said
  "Jake! Take twenty," called a man Al didn't recognize.
  "Sure," Sam returned, handing off the ticket he was holding to someone else
as he left the kitchen. Al followed him as he got his food and proceeded back
to the break room.
  "Thought you didn't eat red meat," Rick commented as Sam entered the room.
  Sam took a seat across from him, casting a sidelong glance at his partner as
he did so. The more the day wore on, the less he liked "the boyfriend". "I
made an exception. It's been a rough day."
  "Rough?" Rick's voice was harsh as he laughed and leaned back in his chair.
"Hell, this is a slow day. What's up with you, man? You're not normally this
  Sam didn't bother to reply and took a bit of his food to cover the silence.
Al, on the other hand, felt no such inclinations. "Geez, Sam, what's his
problem? This the boyfriend?" Sam nodded slightly as he chewed. "Does he
know?" Another nod. "Some father _he_ oughta make."
  The physicist was inclined to agree. "So, Rick, I heard the good news." Al
coughed subtley.
  Rick paused; the food on his fork slid off and onto his plate as he halted
its upward ascent. "What do you mean?" he asked carefully.
  Had Amber lied? "About Amber...and...you know."
  "How did you know?" he demanded, setting the fork down with a sharp clang on
the table.
  "She, uh...." He glanced at Al for guidance, but he just shrugged and
pointed to the handlink. "Well, she told me."
  Rick seemed to hesitate and then laughed. "Oh, well I suppose that's okay
then. She told me she didn't want anyone to know yet."
  "Why not?"
  Rick picked his fork back up. "Dunno, I mean, it's not like they're not
gonna find out eventually. I think she's kinda ashamed, you know? But that's
okay. She'll get over it."
  "Sensitive fellow," Al remarked. "You got the money to handle this, punk?
What about the time?"
  "Well, I got to get back to work. See you tonight." Rick stood and left Sam
and Al alone in the room.
  Sam sighed and buried his face in his hands. "Oh, I just hate this, Al. What
do I know about all this?"
  "I'm afraid I can't help you too much there, pal. You know people, though."
  "I'm so tired of dealing with everyone else's problems. I just want to be
home and simply deal with solving my own. What do I need with the trials of
the world? One person at a time...."
  Al closed his eyes. "I know," he murmured, but they both knew the words had
long ago lost their comforting value. A phone conversation Al had had just
that morning rose up in an unwarranted sense of urgency within his memory.
  ^"I don't know if we can call off the dogs on this one, Al," Senator Barrett
said. "This guy's a genius, right? He can take care of himself."
  "Right. Like travelling through time is your everyday occurrence."^
  Al ran a hand across his face. Barrett had been wrong when he had spoken
with him earlier that day. Al hated to admit it, but he was. Not,
unfortunately, about the first part, but about the last, he was just plain
  ^"I don't think I can make it without you, Al."^
  Sam twisted his spoon in the ice cream in front of him. "I didn't say
anything, Al."
  There was a silence and then Al gasped sharply, almost doubling over in the
process, and Sam looked up at him. "Al?"
  Al smiled reassuringly at Sam, too focused on his breathing to respond
verbally, and fumbled in his pocket. He pulled out a bottle of pills, which
slid out of his unsteady fingers and rolled to someplace Sam couldn't see once
it lost contact with Al. Al's eyes traced some invisible path along the floor
and his expression contorted into one Sam wasn't all that comfortable with. 
  "Al? Are you okay?"
  The admiral glanced up. "'Bena?" he choked out and fell to his knees,
gasping for air.
  Sam was up out of his seat in an instant, though he couldn't do a thing.
"Al!" he called, worried that his friend was having a seizure or worse.
  Verbena suddenly appeared at his side, gripping his arm just as he fell
completely to the floor, trying to prod him back into consciousness. It didn't
appear to be working. Her expression was tense and worried and she said
something to someone else in the room with her. Then, to Sam's utter
amazement, another person clutched at his other arm, helping Verbena to haul
him up and into a wheelchair they apparantly had nearby. Sam was so intent on
using his doctor's training and instinct to figure out what was going on that
he had to look twice to make sure it was who he thought it was.
  "Beth?" he muttered to himself in disbelief, knowing that she couldn't hear
him. Al hadn't said anything about this. "What on earth?..."
  Verbena cast him a reassuring look and the trio disappeared out of the
Imaging Chamber, leaving Sam feeling more alone than he had felt in a long