Book I, Part V

				January, 2001
				Stallions Gate, NM

Beth didn't have to wait long before what little energy Al had was spent and
he fell asleep. He didn't seem to be aware of his surroundings while he was
conscious, but he clung to her as if she was the only familiar thing in the
whole project.

She was intending to sit with him for longer, but Donna appeared at the door,
hesitantly eyeing the scene. She walked slowly to Beth's side.

"Ziggy told us he'd come out of the coma," she hissed.

"He did," she responded softly, rubbing her thumb across his knuckles. "He
just fell asleep."

"How is he?"

Beth felt a sudden wave of dread pass over her. She had been so concerned with
letting him know she was there that she had given little thought to what
everything that had transpired meant. She put the back of her hand to his
cheek, feeling the unnatural warmth there. He was normally an incredibly light
sleeper, and her concern deepened when he didn't so much as stir. "Not so
good," she murmured. "He was in a lot of pain."

Donna put a hand on her shoulder and Beth felt a peculiar comfort from the
touch. "I'm kinda glad he's asleep. Sam's leaped in."

"When?" Beth asked, pushing a sense of normalcy into the situation.

"About 15 minutes ago. Lieutenant Commander Simmons is with the visitor now,
trying to get some data."

"When will you need me?"

Donna paused, reluctant to answer, but Beth glanced at her. "Now," she
admitted. "We need to make contact ASAP since we don't know his situation."
She studied Al's face. "Plus the visitor seemed vaguely upset. Nothing too
extreme, but he was definitely worried about something and so we'd like to
establish at least the basics."

"I understand."

Donna removed her hand and placed it on the rail of the bed. "You don't have
to be with him every second, Beth."

Beth released his hand slowly. "He feels it when I'm not."

"Maybe, but-"

"Not maybe. He does." Donna peered at her. "I know because I've felt it, too."

"Beth, you can't live your life down here, especially now that we need you up

"I know, it just...it hurts."

"He'll be fine," Donna assured her. "He's got a great track record."

"I'm not so sure," Beth whispered. Until she spoke the words, she had no idea
she believed them. Now she realized she did. What the hell was wrong with
her?! She'd given up hope while he was lying right there in front of her? "He
knew me and Verbena, but I don't think he knew where he was and he was
just...in so much pain and..."

"Would you rather he was dead?"

The question should have been shocking, but it wasn't. The answer should have
been immediate, but it wasn't black and white.

"It almost seems selfish to say no," she answered in despair. "I love him and
I can't stand to see him suffering."

Donna nodded. "I know, but let me ask you this: do you think Al wishes he was
dead?" Beth held back a sob. "He's got a real appetite for life, Beth. Don't
count him out before he's ready."

"I know, I..."

"You're just tired," Donna said comfortingly. "Don't feel bad for saying that,
but remember you've got a whole building of people who care about him here and
if you need it, there's a whole lotta faith I'm sure people could spare for
you." Beth nodded slowly. "I'll see you in the Control Room in 15 minutes,"
the woman said and left Beth staring at her husband.

				June, 1980
				Anchorage, AK

"I said shut her up!"

Some leap-ins were easier than others. The embarrassing ones were just that:
embarrassing. Others, however, were just over the top - leaping in when your
life was already in danger started the list off.


Doctor Sam Beckett stood up against a wall, a woman in his arms, and a gun at
his head. The only thing worse would be leaping in strapped into an electric
chair. *Where did that come from?* Sam hugged the woman reflexively and she
cried harder, an occasional shriek emerging as the gunman yelled. The man held
the gun firmly against Sam's head, making any maneuvering impossible. Sam
tried to survey the rest of his surroundings, but his view - and his mobility
- were limited.

The man cocked the gun. "Are you gonna shut her up or do I have to?" he

Sam looked into her eyes; they were wide and terrified and he really couldn't
blame her. He was feeling rather terrified himself at the moment. He hugged
her more firmly and put his mouth near her ear.

"Just calm down and he won't hurt you," he whispered. "Just breathe. Don't
think about anything else. In and out..." Her cries eased slightly and some of
the rigid tension in her limbs loosened against him. "That's it," he
encouraged, still keeping his voice smooth and soft. "Okay, now no matter what
happens, you just focus on your breathing, understand?" She nodded and the
last whimper faded and died.

"Great work," the newest adversary sneered. He grabbed Sam by his collar and
threw him down against the wall. Sam slid to the floor and put a reassuring
hand on the woman after he did the same thing to her. Now Sam had a good view
of the room. It looked to be some kind of office building - probably federal -
mortgage offices and nondescript nameplates on each window, a fountain in the
main lobby area, an arboretum between that and a set of elevators, even a
little cafe at the far end. There was also a metal detector with a man in
security garb lying next to the belt. Even from the distance, Sam could tell
he was dead.

Three more people were lined up on the floor beside the fountain: two women
and one man. Otherwise, the building seemed deserted. One of the women looked
straight at them and Sam felt sure they - she and his host - knew each other.
A flash of worry led him to look down. He wore (thankfully) a suit - dark gray
and completely conservative.

As the gunman stepped back from Sam, the leaper noticed him signaling across
the fountain and he spotted two more men, both dressed in black and carrying
guns. Sam wondered how many more there were in the building, or how many more
hostages. If they had enough people, splitting up the hostages would make it
easier to regulate them, and it would work against Sam. If not, maybe they
could all be kept together.

Of course, it also depended on how many innocents there were in the building
to begin with.

He leaned towards the woman beside him as his assailant started to walk away
from them. "What do they want?" he hissed. She looked at him with frightened
eyes and he knew he wasn't going to get anything productive from her. 

The man in front of them - definitely the leader of the group, Sam decided -
waved his hand at the five of them. "Everyone up," he yelled. Sam climbed to
his feet and reached out a hand to his companion. "Follow him," he instructed,
waving a gun at one of the two other men. "Ten paces behind him, ten paces in
front of me. Anyone violates that, they get it, no questions asked, no second
chances. Move!"

Sam filed into a small clump with the other four and followed without comment.
The impostors didn't seem to trust them in the elevator so they filed up five
long flights of stairs. From there they went down a long hall lined with
offices with plaques next to the doors that read "Environmental Protection
Agency", "National Marine Fisheries Service", "Alaska Department of Fish and
Game", "North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program" and so on. So it was
definitely a government building, then, and in Alaska. That had to be a first.

They were led to a large storage room and pushed roughly inside, then the door
was shut and locked and they were left alone.

Immediately, the hysterical woman slid to the floor and huddled into a little
ball. Sam felt sympathy for her, but he was also faintly irritated; falling to
pieces was not going to help them get out.

Swallowing his impatience, he opened his mouth to speak, but the woman (he
could now see she looked to be about 30 or 31) who had met his gaze from
across the lobby stepped forward and put a hand on their weak link. "You okay,
Cindy?" she asked gently. She glanced up and looked at Sam in dismay. "Hell of
a day, huh, Gary? First Seattle and now this."

"You're telling me," he replied, glad he knew his name and wondering if
`Seattle' was something he should be concerned about. "Is everyone okay?" he
asked, stretching the question to cover all the residents of the room. It was
a large room filled with janitors' belongings and office supplies and there
was plenty enough room for the five of them. Maybe even enough room to duck
into a corner without being overheard when Al showed up. The man and woman who
had been silent thus far both nodded. Gary's friend stretched out her hand.
"I'm Sherri Marks and this is Gary Turbot."

"Mary Robinson," the woman replied. She looked curiously at the man next to
her - it seemed as if they didn't know each other either.

"John Whitmire," he said, shaking Sam's hand. He glanced at Cindy, but didn't
speak to her.

"Well..." Sam took a deep breath and glanced around. "Is everyone all right?
And does anyone know what these guys want?"

John loosened his tie and rubbed his throat. "I don't know. All I know is,
there's no reason for them to treat us like animals!"

Sherri put out a hand. "The first thing we've got to do is just keep calm."

"They tried to kill us!" he pointed out roughly.

"If they'd wanted to kill you, you'd be dead by now," Sam said evenly. He
exchanged a glance with Sherri. "I think the thing to focus on is how to get
out of here," he said passively.

"With what? A stapler?" He lifted a box of office supplies for demonstration,
then rolled his eyes. "No, the best thing to do is just sit tight and wait for
the authorities to handle this one."

Sam swallowed. They'd found the weak link and now he'd found the stumbling
block. "Well, if that's your opinion, we won't bother you, but I'm for finding
a way out of here."

"I agree," Sherri said supportively.

John ran his fingers through his fine blonde hair. "I won't be left out of

"Then you can help us," Sherri said patiently.

Mary folded her arms, hugging herself securely. "Are you sure you should push

It was a valid question, especially since they were the ones with the guns.
"Do you know what they want?" Sam asked her carefully.

"No...but I've seen one of them before."

"Which one?" John demanded forcefully.

She looked slightly flustered at his assertiveness. Sam had the feeling one of
them would be getting into an argument with John before it was over and he
would have lain odds on it being him or Sherri. "The one who, uh, yelled at
Gary," Mary responded, glancing towards Cindy.

"Where have you seen him?" Sam asked before John could say anything more.

"He's not exactly a, uh, stranger to the courthouse."

"Courthouse?" he inquired. Sherri looked at him as if he'd just fallen out of
a spaceship.

"Yeah. You're in a courthouse," said someone from behind him. "The Federal

Sam resisted the urge to whip around at the unfamiliar familiar voice.
"Um...why is he here? Or, rather, why was he here before?"

Mary glanced towards John, as if expecting some type of protest. He was
watching her as 
steadily as Sam and Sherri. Even Cindy had pulled herself partly from her fear
to tune into what was being said. "His younger brother was in and out of jail
for theft, breaking and entering, and the like. About five months ago, the kid
was convicted of attempted murder and ended up back in jail."

"Five months ago?" Sherri asked. "That seems like a long time to hold back if
this has anything to do with it."

"He died," Beth informed him carefully.

"Died?" Sam repeated automatically. All eyes were immediately on him.

Beth stepped into view. "Daniel Simpson was found dead in his cell two days

"Who died?" Sherri asked him.

"Ah...Daniel Simpson," Sam replied hastily. "This guy's brother."

"How do you know?"

"The paper," Beth suggested helpfully.

"I remember reading it in the paper yesterday," Sam replied. "He died in
jail." He looked towards Beth for more information.

She looked worriedly at him. "Sam, Ziggy says that, before the day is out,
twenty people here are going to die."