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Origins - The Pilot Episode
By: Brian D. Greene
Episode #001

Saturday, January 28, 1984



"Our second great goal is to build on America's pioneer spirit...and that's to develop that frontier. A sparkling economy spurs initiatives, sunrise industries and makes older ones more competitive.

Nowhere is this more important than our next frontier: space. Nowhere do we so effectively demonstrate our technological leadership and ability to make life better on Earth. The Space Age is barely a quarter of a century old. But already we've pushed civilization forward with our advances in science and technology. Opportunities and jobs will multiply as we cross new thresholds of knowledge and reach deeper into the unknown.

Our progress in space, taking giant steps for all mankind, is a tribute to American teamwork and excellence. Our finest minds in government, industry and academia have all pulled together. And we can be proud to say: We are first; we are the best; and we are so because we're free.

America has always been greatest when we dared to be great. We can reach for greatness again. We can follow our dreams to distant stars, living and working in space for peaceful, economic, and scientific gain. Tonight, I am directing NASA to develop a permanently manned space station and to do it within a decade.

A space station will permit quantum leaps in our research in science, communications, and in metals and lifesaving medicines which could be manufactured only in space. We want our friends to help us meet these challenges and share in their benefits. NASA will invite other countries to participate so we can strengthen peace, build prosperity, and expand freedom for all who share our goals.

Just as the oceans opened up a new world for clipper ships and Yankee traders, space holds enormous potential for commerce today. The market for space transportation could surpass our capacity to develop it. Companies interested in putting payloads into space must have ready access to private sector launch services. The Department of Transportation will help an expendable launch services industry to get off the ground. We'll soon implement a number of executive initiatives, develop proposals to ease regulatory constraints, and, with NASA's help, promote private sector investment in space."

-Excerpt from State of the Union address by President Ronald W. Reagan, January 25, 1984


Thursday, January 8, 1981
4:03 PM
Trans-en-Provence, France

Sebastian LoNigro sat quietly in the backseat of a taxicab headed toward the town of Trans-en-Provence. His vacation was nearing its end and 'Bobby', as his friends called him, was anxious to return to the hotel to meet his wife, Dana. They were scheduled to leave France the following evening; heading back to the States. The past four years had seemed to fly for Bobby. Dana had earned her law degree and he had made significant progress in research involving quantum physics and most importantly... time travel.

His colleagues taunted him; said it couldn't be done. But Bobby continued his research in spite of them. He knew it could be done, he just needed something that seemed to be just outside of his reach. An idea... something he could almost grasp but not quite put his finger on. His former partner Sam had helped pave the way for this theory. The last he heard, Dr. Beckett had bridged a gap in the field of Quantum Physics while working out of Florida Tech.

Bobby thought to himself, "Has it been four years, Sam?" Bobby shook his head. "Time... time flies when you're quantum designing."

"Sir?" asked the cab driver, looking at Bobby from the rearview mirror.

"Nothing," replied Bobby. "Just thinking to myself."

"We will be arriving at your hotel in about twenty minutes," the driver informed him.

Bobby sat back in his seat and stared out the window. The scene was beautiful; tall trees and historic buildings scattered about the landscape. The sun shined down brightly in the afternoon sky. The individual beams of light flickering between the trees bounced against his face. And then something caught his eye.

"What the--" Bobby sputtered silently as he strained his eyes to see through the flashing sunlight. It had suddenly appeared just above the tree line. A silver object of some sort. It took him a couple of seconds to set his sights on it, but slowly the object began to descend. It was about half a mile away, he thought. It looked like... well, it looked like a UFO, Bobby thought.

"Driver!" exclaimed LoNigro, "turn right here!"

"But the hotel is--"

"Nevermind about the hotel! I have to get over there right away!" Bobby kept his eye on the slowly descending craft. "Step on the gas, will you?"

The cab sped along the country road, passing a mailbox lettered with the name "Nicolai." As they turned a curve in the road, the craft went out of view under the tree line.

"Damn it!" shouted Bobby.

"Sir, where are we going in such a rush?" asked the driver.

"Didn't you see it?" asked Bobby, still glaring between the trees."

"See what, exactly?" asked the driver.

Bobby didn't reply. As the road approached a barn and two smaller structures, the cab screeched to a halt. Bobby and his driver sat silently for a moment as what could only be described as a UFO finished its decent to the ground. It was about 40 feet tall, circular, and reminded Bobby of every single UFO B-movie he had ever seen. It gave off a sort of low continuous whistle.

"Oh my God!" Bobby whispered, as the craft hovered a few inches above the ground.

With the words barely escaping from his lips, the object began to rise again. Slowly at first; as soon as it approached the tree line, the craft picked up lightening speed and disappeared into the horizon heading northeast in a flash of blinding blue-white light.

Bobby opened his eyes. It was dark. The first thought that came to him was, "Am I blind?" But then he realized that the stars were out in the night sky. He stood frozen for a moment; then glanced at his watch. "4:11 P.M." he read aloud from the display.

He took a few steps forward, then stopped. Moonlight beamed down on the barn nearby. Trees brushed together quietly around him. The cab driver was gone. From the position of the moon above he guessed it must be about 9pm. Somehow he had lost nearly five hours, but his watch didn't show the time difference and he hadn't moved from the spot he was in before. How had he lost that much time? Time...

Suddenly something shiny caught his attention on the ground just in front of him. It glowed neon blue and as Bobby approached, he could hear a slight humming coming from the three-inch sphere. He reached down carefully to pick it up and as his fingertips brushed it, the sphere began to emit a pulse of light with small electrical beams buzzing outward toward his palm. It tingled, but not enough to shock him.

From behind him Bobby heard, "Are you from the paper?"

LoNigro turned and saw a man in his late fifties slowly approaching from the barn. "Ahh... no. No I'm just passing by." Bobby began to walk away quickly towards the road.

"Hey!" shouted the man. "Stop there! Come back!"

Bobby began to run; tucking the glowing object into his coat pocket. This is what he needed. The idea. As he stumbled down the dirt road back toward town, all he could think of was one man: his uncle, Thomas Collins.


Saturday, January 28th, 1984
12:30 AM
Starbright Project Complex, New Mexico

While he expected that most of the country was now into the early-stages of sleep right about now, Dr. Samuel Beckett whistled eagerly to the tune of Kenny Loggin's "Footloose" blaring from his car radio as he pulled up to four large warehouse-looking structures in the middle of the freezing desert.

It was dark; no moonlight in the cloudy sky above, but he could see from the security lighting that this must be the place. His contact person, Agent Ross Adams, had instructed Sam to meet him in front of building three at 1 A.M. Saturday morning for his initial processing. Sam was early, as usual. The drive from the airport had been a lengthy one and getting through security twenty-five miles back at the 'gate' wasn't much quicker.

Sam grabbed his briefcase from the back seat and got out of his rental car to take a look around. Mesas lined what little of the horizon he could see. There were two mountains close by which seemed somewhat out of place against the San Andres Mountain chain silhouette, but this was the desert and he would soon discover that the mountains would be the least of which was out of the ordinary. The four buildings, of which each stood approximately 80 feet high, were clearly numbered one through four. They were tightly spaced together and showed severe signs of wear over the years. If he hadn't been invited here, Sam would have guessed that this site was abandoned years ago.

Without any warning, a bright light blinded Sam's eyes with a voice accompanying it. "Dr. Samuel Beckett?"

Sam held a hand up to his eyes to block the light. He could now see a man in military fatigues was shining a flashlight in his eyes. "That's me," Sam replied.

"My name," the Marine introduced himself, "is Lieutenant Maxwell Tyler. I am the Project Security Director. Follow me please."

"Thanks, uh, Max." Sam followed Tyler into building three through a small back door marked "STAFF ONLY." The room was long and shallow, with another door at the end of the corridor painted blue, and no windows. Fluorescent lights lined the ceiling over a small desk with a chair on each side.

"Nice place you have here," joked Sam as Max pointed to the chair facing the desk.

"You have no idea," smiled Max. "Agent Adams will be here in a few minutes. Make yourself comfortable."

"Thanks," smiled Sam, a bit uneasy of his surroundings. Max exited the room through the blue door. Sam took a seat at the desk and noticed a blue and white folder labeled with his name in bold text. When no one came for about twenty minutes, Sam decided to reach for the folder and take a peek. As he pulled the file toward him, Sam glanced up and noticed a small security camera panning down at him. He quickly let go of the folder and sat back in his seat, now aware that he was being watched. Half an hour went by before Sam's eyelids began to get heavy and the doctor started to nod off at the late hour.

"Dr. Beckett!" shouted a loud voice, waking Sam from his five-minute nap. Sam quickly opened his eyes and leaped to his feet, nearly knocking over a small plant from the desk. The man who had entered the room was about Sam's age, light build, dark hair, and smiling more than he had ever seen someone smile at two in the morning. "I apologize for my tardiness, Dr. Beckett. I assure you it was unavoidable."

Sam reached out to accept the outstretched hand before him and shook it firmly. "That's all right, Agent Adams." This was the man who had hired him; the CIA agent in charge of recruiting personnel for the Starbright Project. He was dressed in a black suit and tie.

"How was the trip from Florida?" asked Adams.

"No complaints," replied Sam as the pair took a seat at the desk.

Ross Adams handed Sam a pen as he opened the folder on the desk. "You brought your paperwork with you?"

Sam took the pen and replied, "Yes. It's all complete as you requested." Sam had spent several hours filling out and signing the 73 pages of disclaimers, confidentiality agreements, tax papers, etc... while packing up from his apartment in Florida. He hadn't signed his name that many times since he sat for an autograph session at CalTech after patenting his design for the Quantum Reactor. He opened his briefcase and handed the stack of papers to Ross.

"Very good then!" smiled Adams. We'll need to go over everything and finalize what little paperwork is left before getting you settled in." For the next two hours, Ross and Sam sat at that small desk going over the mountains of paperwork and signing even more agreements. Sam thought he was going to fall out of his chair about an hour into this procedure, but managed to stay awake simply from the loud and boisterous voice of Agent Adams. Finally the preliminary work was done and Ross filed the papers into Sam's folder, standing up from the desk. "Well! Let's get moving!"

Sam stood up as well, his right leg half asleep. "What's first on the agenda?"

Adams grinned a big cheesy grin. "First we'll get you to your room. You can get settled in and grab a couple hours of shut-eye and then Commander Bartlett and I will give you the grand tour or Project Starbright!" The enthusiasm of Adams was almost too much to bear.

"Okay!" Sam chuckled. "I'll get my suitcase from the car. Oh... I'll need to return the car to the rental place in Alamogordo by tomorrow afternoon."

"Not to worry!" shouted Cooper, still grinning as he slapped Sam on the shoulder. "I'll have one of my people take it back for you in the morning. We have a full day ahead here at Starbright!"

Sam took his suitcase from the car and Agent Adams led him through the blue door. On the other side of the door was a maze of corridors and doorways and at the end of the main hallway was an elevator. "Here is your key to the elevator, Dr. Beckett." Ross handed him a small blue oval key attached to a silver key ring. "Just insert it into the lock and the doors will open!"

Sam followed the instructions and entered the elevator with Adams. The keypad inside was numbered 'Ground' through '21.' Sam looked puzzled as he tried to figure out how they got twenty-one floors in an eighty-foot high building. "Which floor am I on?"

Adams smiled broadly. "Your office is on fifteen but your quarters are on the fifth floor."

Sam pressed the number five on the keypad. But instead of feeling the upward thrust of the elevator as he expected, his stomach sank as the elevator plummeted at a high rate of speed downward. Sam grabbed on to the hand railings tightly.

"Kick in the butt, ain't it!" exclaimed Adams.

Sam's eyes got wide in realization. "It's all underground!"

"This is a top-secret project, Dr. Beckett!" explained Ross. "An above-ground working environment is subject to the elements as well as attack by enemies. Beneath the surface, we don't have to worry much about that sort of thing."

"What about the four buildings above us?" asked Sam.

"It's all for show! We put a few planes in there and a handful of decoy materials just in case someone were to be able to penetrate the high-security out here in the middle of nowhere. This project is only a year and a half old right now though, so there aren't too many questions being asked."

"Makes sense," smiled Sam as the elevator stopped abruptly and the doors opened. Sam followed Ross down a tastefully decorated hallway; passing a lounge stocked with vending machines, coffee and tea dispensers, and a television surrounded by plush sofas and recliners. They finally arrived at a door labeled with a nameplate in gold text: 'Dr. Samuel Beckett' and the agent turned to hand Sam a key card.

"This card," informed Adams, "will get you into just about anywhere in the project. Just insert it into the swipe slot and the doors open automatically."

Sam swiped the card and the door opened vertically with a whooshing sound. "Wow!" said Sam.

"Cool, ain't it?" smiled Adams.

"Sure is," Sam replied.

"Oh, Dr. Beckett..." said Ross with a grim look on his face for the first time since they met, "don't ever lose your key card. There have been rumors of information leaks lately. We wouldn't want your security clearance to become compromised. Understood?"

"Yes, sir," Sam agreed as his face became very uneasy.

"Now get settled in," said Ross instantly becoming overly cheery once again. "Commander Bartlett and Captain Calavicci will be by in the morning at 6 A.M. sharp. Then you'll get the full tour!"

Sam wondered if Adams had been drinking one too many cups of the lounge coffee as the agent turned and skipped back down the hallway; disappearing into the elevator.


_ - o O o - _


An hour went by and Sam had still not fallen asleep. He had unpacked his clothes and a few personal items; flipping on the TV in his room just to see what channels he got. The room was pleasant and about the size of his first apartment near M.I.T.  It featured a king-size bed, small refrigerator and mini-kitchen, ample bathroom and closet space, along with a small extension which Sam imagined would serve as a study. Speakers were built into the ceiling and he found out that by using his remote control, he could get any radio station or play any CD in the Project library through them. Unlike the frigid temperatures outside in the night desert, Sam's room was extremely comfortable; not too hot and not too cold. The blinds over his windows were dressed with tasteful coverings that reminded him of his own room back home in Elk Ridge, Indiana.

"Wait a second..." said Sam to himself as he went over to open the blinds. He looked out the window and could see the desert skyline outlined with beautiful mesa formations. His rental car rested below where he had parked it. "But I'm underground," he again said aloud, scratching his head. The remote fell from his grasp and suddenly the window lit up. Now he was seeing a view of what was apparently the other side of building three. "A video surveillance window! Incredible..." Sam picked up the remote and flipped through over 50 different views in his window before closing the blinds. He wandered over to the refrigerator and opened the door.

"Great. Nothing in here and I'm starving." Then he remembered the lounge just down the hall and decided to raid the vending machines. Sam checked his wallet to make sure he had tucked away the key card and walked toward the door to his room. There was no doorknob. "How do I...?" He felt around on the door for a lever or something but couldn't find anything. He finally shouted, "Open the door, dammit!" and the door slid open. "Voice activation from the inside... nice touch."

Sam proceeded back down the hallway and as he approached the lounge, he heard a female voice singing "What's Love Got To Do With It" by Tina Turner. As he opened the door, Sam saw a woman in her mid-twenties with long, red, curly hair dancing in front of the vending machine as she sang along with the song in her head and dropped some change into the machine's coin slot.. He entered the lounge and stood there a moment waiting for her to notice, but she kept on dancing with her back to him. She had on a mini-skirt and knee-high boots with a pink halter top. He decided to clear his throat to get her attention and as Sam did this, she turned abruptly and gum came flying from her now-open mouth.

"Oh my God! I'm like so sorry! I didn't see you there, baby!" she giggled as she rushed over to him to get the gum off his shirt.

As she peeled the neon-pink gum from his white shirt, Sam took her by the arms and lightly pushed her back a bit so he could see her face again. "Tina?"

"Dr. Beckett?" she asked in surprise. "Dr. Beckett!" She began to giggle even more and hugged him.

"Tina Martinez... wow it's been a long time since M.I.T." Sam hugged her back and then they stepped back from each other.

"Actually," Tina corrected, "it's Martinez-O'Farrell now."

"Oh, you're married?" asked Sam.

"I used to be...but like, I just never dropped the O'Farrell part. I think it gives me more of a, like, professional type of thing, ya know?"

"Yeah Tina, I got it." Sam laughed. If he didn't already know her from back at M.I.T., he would have never guessed she was a computer genius. "So what are you doing here?"

She answered, "I'm grabbing some grub! The vending machine in the main lab always eats my dough and won't spit out the whatever, so I just like--"

Sam laughed, interrupting her. "No, no I mean what are you doing here."

"Oh! Right!" She giggled again and continued, "I'm the computer architect here. Ain't it great!"

"Yeah that is great! They couldn't have found a more talented person to build for them."

Tina blushed, "Aww, Dr. Beckett. You'll make a girl pee in her pants saying stuff like that!" She giggled and turned back to the machine, kneeling down and reaching inside the drop container. "So what are you doing here, Doctor B.? Can't be for the sunshine, ya know?" She giggled as she stood back up revealing a brand new pack of gum.

"Yeah, I guess not." He laughed. "I'm here to help with the project's research. I designed a quantum reactor that the project was interested in and they agreed to let me continue my research here in exchange for my design."

"Cool!" exclaimed Tina. "Then I guess we'll be, like, working close together then!" She came closer to him, looking him up and down, tapping her boots to the rhythm that must have still been in her mind.

Sam took a step back, embarrassed, and said, "Uh, yeah I guess we will."

Tina took a step toward him and said, "Well then why don't ya come over to my room and we can like--"

"I really gotta be getting some sleep, Tina," Sam interjected quickly. "It's great to see you again though and I'm sure I'll see you tomorrow."

Sam hurried off down the hall back toward his room. Tina watched, giggled, and waved at Sam as he fumbled for his key card and swiped it about 10 times before the door finally opened; the doctor disappearing quickly through it. "Ahhhh," she sighed to herself, "same old Sam."

"Sam?" asked a man stumbling up behind her from the other direction of the hallway. He had on pajamas and a black and white robe. "Who's Sam?"

Ennunciating it correctly and slowly to taunt the man, she spoke, "Doctor-Samuel-Beckett. I just met him and he's not drunk again tonight." She turned away from him and shuffled away down the hallway toward her room.

"Beckett is here?" he shouted behind her. "Wait a minute honey! Come back!" He almost tripped twice trying to keep up with her down the hallway.

She kept moving down the hall as she answered him, "Yes he's here and he's like soooo gorgeous! Even more than I remember!" She began to laugh until he finally caught up to her and grabbed her; spinning her around angrily.

"You're my girl, Tina. No boy-wonder with a Quantum Physics degree is gonna take you from me!"

His eyes were angry but inside she could see a softer man. Somewhere deep down inside he was there and she knew it.

"Did he try to pick you up? Why, I'll take care of that nozzle right now!" He started back down the hallway toward Sam's room.

"No, wait, baby! He didn't hit on me!" she yelled after him, but he kept on going. Just as he was about to pound on Sam's door, Tina yelled, "Captain Albert Calavicci! Get your ass back to bed this instant!"

Al Calavicci turned back toward her just as quickly as he had left. "Yes, ma'am!"

"Oh, Al... you're so cute when you're mad!" she smiled, chewing her new piece of gum contentedly.

"Let's go back to bed, baby," said Al taking her by her midsection. "I'm gonna have one helluva hangover when I wake up and I want to remember as much of your body as I can until then."


Saturday, January 28th, 1984
6:00 AM
Starbright Project Complex, New Mexico

Sam was already showered and dressed in slacks and a green polo shirt when the knock came at his door. "Dr. Beckett?"

Sam said, "Open door," and the door to his quarters slid upwards revealing a Naval officer in his working whites uniform. He was about fifty, Sam estimated and looked friendly. He had good character in his face.

"Good morning, Dr. Beckett," said the officer smiling. "Commander Jonathan Bartlett, 2nd Assistant Director here at Starbright."

"Pleasure to meet you, Commander." Sam shook his hand.

"We're fairly informal around here, Doctor. You can call me Johnny."

"And you can call me Sam," replied Dr. Beckett. "Is Captain Calavicci not joining us? Agent Adams said both of the assistant directors would be meeting me today."

"Al is... unavailable right now. Had a rough night," explained Bartlett. "Sleep well?"

"Hardly slept at all, to be honest. I was with Ross until about 4 A.M. filling out more paperwork and getting to my room here." They began to walk down the hall toward the elevator.

"He let you call him Ross?" asked Johnny.

"Well, uh, no I guess not. I thought you said it was informal around here?" Sam looked questionably at Bartlett.

"Not with Adams," replied the Assistant Director. "He's CIA. No one here really trusts him much. He only came to Starbright about four months ago and since then he's fired more people than I can count."

"He seemed a bit 'upbeat' last night if you ask me," stated Sam.

"Yeah," agreed Bartlett, "but it's a weird kind of upbeat, don't you think? He skips around... literally skips like a schoolgirl and when he talks it's like everything he is saying is the most exciting thing to ever be said."

"I definitely know what you mean," laughed Sam.

"Rumor has it that his supervisor is an ex-nazi recruited by the CIA. I can't confirm it," said Johnny, "but I once heard him talking on the phone to someone he called 'Doctor L.' It was just plain weird." Johnny looked at Sam as they entered the elevator. "I'm sorry, Sam. It's your first day and I just told you that the man who hired you is a nutcase!"

Sam laughed. "Not to worry, I can take care of myself. So, where are we headed?"

Bartlett pressed floor fifteen. "We are meeting Agent Nutcase in your office," he smiled. The elevator plummeted downward for about six seconds and then opened its doors to a hallway much like the one that led to Sam's living quarters.

"Just be careful what you tell him, Sam. He can be your friend, but he can also be your enemy."

"Thanks for the tip, Johnny." The pair entered Sam's vividly decorated office. Sam couldn't believe it. He stared around in astonishment at his mahogany desk and matching bookcases; the place was magnificent.

"Dr. Beckett! Commander Bartlett!" shouted Adams with a huge smile on his face, coming over to greet him and Johnny. "I trust you found your quarters accommodating?" he asked Sam.

"Yes, of course," replied Sam. "The video windows are a nice touch."

"One of many I'm sure you'll discover as you get more comfortable here!" Adams opened his arms and spun himself around. "What do you think of your new office?"

Bartlett grimaced at Adams' early morning shouting of glee as Sam answered, "Very... accommodating. Thank you, Agent Adams."

"Call me Ross." The agent smiled largely again and Bartlett shot Sam a look of  'what the hell?'

Sam looked uncomfortably back at Bartlett as he replied to Adams, "And call me Sam."

"Sam it is!" Ross crossed the room and motioned for Johnny and Sam to follow. "Gentlemen! We're off on Sam's first tour of the Starbright Project! Let us begin!"


_ - o O o - _


The next couple of hours consisted of walking room to room, floor to floor surveying the intense maze of offices and libraries the project had to offer. Most of the offices were vacant and Bartlett occasionally whispered to Sam that this one or that one used to belong to someone that Adams had fired. As they walked the corridors, Sam noticed that each one was lined with speakers in the overhead ceiling much like the one in his own room.

"What are all the speakers for?" asked Sam.

Johnny replied, "It's an intercom system. Anyone with a level six operative code can use it from any of the offices here. You can direct your messages to everyone in the complex or to an individual room depending on the situation. We also have security systems that automatically prompt a computer generated voice to inform the staff of any problems or security violations.We hope to have a working 'A.I.' system in place by 1986."

"Artificial Intelligence?" asked Sam. "Are we that close to A.I.?"

"Closer than you think, Sam," said Ross with his cheesy grin. "Our head programmer, Dr. Gushman, has been working on it for the last year and has made significant progress."

"Not Dr. Irving Gushman... Goes by Gooshie?" Sam asked.

"Someone call my name?" asked a familiar voice around the corner.

"Gooshie!" Sam said excitedly. "It's been--"

Gooshie interjected, "Ten years, two months, and eleven days since we last spoke, Dr. Beckett." The short man smiled happily and motioned for the men to follow him into the elevator.

"Call me Sam, Gooshie!" asked Beckett while the elevator doors opened.

"No, no, Dr. Beckett. I am always formal... even with my old friends. You know that!"

Ross reached out to shake Sam's hand. "This is where we part for today, Sam. Dr. Gushman will take you the rest of the way along your tour!"

Bartlett reached for Sam's hand as well. "It's been a pleasure to meet you, Sam. I look forward to working with you."

"Likewise," said Sam as the elevator doors closed around him and Gooshie. Suddenly he knew why the other two men had left abruptly. Gooshie's breath blasted at Sam in the elevator. Sam realized that, indeed, nothing had changed with Dr. Irving Gushman.

Gooshie pressed floor 20 on the keypad and the elevator again lurched downward. "Have you seen Dr. Martinez-O'Farrell yet, Dr. Beckett?"

"Yes...uh we met last night after I arrived. Same old Tina! I think she was trying to pick me up in the lounge last night." Sam laughed out loud.

"She's a hottie, that one," commented Gooshie with a look of lust on his face that Sam had never seen before. "Too bad she's hot for the Captain."

"The Captain?" asked Sam.

Gooshie replied, "You haven't meet Captain Calavicci yet?"

"No... oh my God, Gooshie... you mean Tina... and the 1st Assistant Director... and she hit on me?"

Gooshie nodded as the elevator came to a halt and opened its doors revealing an expansive open workspace filled with computer monitors and equipment wall-to-wall being operated and worked on by several technicians dressed in white lab coats. Sam estimated that the room was about 500' X 800'.

"Oh boy, good thing I didn't take her up on the offer. Might have lost my job in the first week." Sam laughed, shaking his head.

"The Captain is a good man, Dr. Beckett. But he may be the one losing his job."

"What do you mean?" asked Sam as Gooshie led him across the room to what appeared to be the main control table. The table was lined with colored cubes that seemed to blink in synchronization with other cubes that lined the walls. It was unlike anything he had ever seen. The color coordination in neon had to be Tina's design, Sam thought. It was definitely her.

"Captain Calavicci has a drinking problem, Dr. Beckett. When he is sober, he is an excellent commander of this project. But when he's not sober, which lately has been most of the time, he gets very angry and loud."

"Reminds me of my sister's husband," frowned Sam. Katie Tanner, Sam's sister, had been in an abusive marriage since she was seventeen years old. Sam had repeatedly tried to talk Katie out of staying with Chuck, but she wouldn't listen. "My sister Katie's husband gets drunk more than his fair share of nights and Mom told me she has come home from the hospital with a black eye a couple of times. I've tried to help but... she won't listen to me."

"Captain Calavicci is not abusive, Dr. Beckett. He is just angry... mostly at himself I believe. His last marriage lasted all of five months. He divorced his wife Maxine last year when he thought she was cheating on him. Then he found out a few months ago that she wasn't. Now it's like the 70's never ended and he parties every night and goes to that disco club outside of Socorro. He's had a hard life and Dr. O'Farrell  is one of the few members of this staff that keep him straight lately."

"Sounds like you and he are pretty close, Gooshie," suggested Sam.

"He's given me a great life here and a great job. He convinced Colonel Weitzman to go forward with my Artificial Intelligence program development. I am only about two years away from finishing the chip block that will carry this project into the next decade!"

"Sounds very exciting, Gooshie," smiled Sam. As he turned to get a view of the other areas of the control room, his right hand scraped a metal pin sticking out of the nearby computer stand. Sam winced as he observed the two-inch gash on his index finger.

Gooshie apologized, "I'll get that fixed, Dr. Beckett. Many apologies."

"It'll be fine, Gooshie," Sam said as he pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket to wrap his finger. It was bleeding, but the cut wasn't very deep. "So tell me about all this equipment... how's it work?"

"Well, as you may have guessed, this is the control table. The cubes do various things from monitoring the temperature of the complex to controlling all the functions of SID."

"Sid?" asked Sam.

"System Interface Database," Gooshie explained. It is the heart of the Starbright Project. O'Farrell's design and my programming have taken the project years ahead of NASA's space exploration possibilities. SID's power comes from an energy orb in the Lab. And now with your help, Dr. Beckett, we just might be able to design the 'ISD'... the interstellar drive... this project was designed to create. Faster than light travel... who knows where we'll go in the future."

"Or in the past," came the voice of Dr. Sebastian LoNigro who had just entered the control room.

"An energy orb?" asked Sam as he turned to see who had entered the room.

Gooshie smiled, a bit confused. "Dr. Beckett, I believe you know Dr. LoNigro?"

"Bobby!" Sam rushed over to LoNigro and they gave each other a firm embrace. "Thanks for the recommendation for this job, old friend." Sam smiled at his former teacher from M.I.T.

Bobby smiled back. "Well, they asked me to recommend someone with a quantum physics background and I just told them the truth... that I knew the best one in the world."

Sam laughed, "I'm both flattered and excited to be working with you all again. I thought I would be the new kid on the block but with so many familiar faces, I think I'm gonna like it here."

"Sam," said Bobby, "with our combined research over the years, you and I will take this project to places no one can even dream about. You still remember our string theory, right?"

Sam pulled the same shoelace he had carried around for the last ten years from his pocket and began to recite, "One end of this string represents your birth. The other end represents your death. You tie the ends together, and your life is a loop. Ball up the loop and the days of your life touch each other out of sequence--"

LoNigro jumped in to finish the theory, "--therefore travelling from one point on the string to another would allow you to travel backward or forward within your own lifetime."

Sam laughed, "Yeah all we need to do now is figure out how to travel faster than the speed of light in a forward and reverse direction!"

Bobby smiled easily. "I've almost got the forward motion pinned down, Sam."

Sam lost his joking expression. "Are you serious?"

LoNigro took him by the arm. "Follow me to the Lab. I'll show you the basis for this project, and what could end up realizing our own theories."

"Come back later on, Dr. Beckett and I'll show you more of the control room," said Gooshie.

"You bet, Gooshie! It's great to be working with you, my friend."


_ - o O o - _


The elevator took Bobby and Sam to floor twenty-one. As the doors opened, Sam noticed the plaque on the wall nearest to them read, "THE LAB" but it looked more like several laboratories and development rooms piled together to him. It was about twice the size of the control room with about eighty different rooms arranged in a sort of asterisk pattern with a large room in the center. There were about 60 technicians working at the many stations, some of which wore military uniforms and some who were civilian contractors. The center room appeared to be where LoNigro was leading him and was enclosed with bullet-proof glass on all sides.

"Sam," said Bobby, "there are only three members of this staff that have access to this room. Not even the General himself can get in here without one of us letting him in. Those three are me, you, and Dr. Elesee."

"Where is Dr. Elesee?" asked Sam. "I haven't met him yet."

Bobby laughed. "He, Dr. Beckett, is a she. And what a she! I can't wait for you to meet her. Right now she's in Utah taking samples of a rare kind of tree bark for one of our projects, but when she gets back, you're gonna drop dead in your tracks for this one. That boy-scout in you won't stand a chance."

Sam shook his head, smiling shyly. "I'm not here to find a mate, Bobby. My work is more important than any of that."

LoNigro smiled. "Well, it won't matter anyway. She's turned in her notice. Donna's leaving for 'personal reasons' she says. You're taking her place."

"Well," said Sam, "it's all settled then. Now tell me about what you have here."

Bobby led Sam into the room and used his key card to unlock a small lock-box covered in wiring and more of those blinking cubes he saw in the control room. Inside was a small spherical object glowing neon blue with streams of energy flowing out of it striking the many contact points inside the box.

"This," said LoNigro, "is the heart of SID. It powers the quantum reactor and controls the plasma streams in and out of the thermal inductors. With this, we'll be able to test particle splits and regeneration over light year distances."

"I've never seen anything like it," Sam commented as he stared at the object. "What's it made of?"

Bobby answered, "We don't really know. It doesn't match any of the known elements and we haven't been able to reproduce it here in the lab. It shouldn't even exist."

Sam asked, "Do we know where it came from?"

"I found it," Bobby smiled. "I was in France and I saw... I saw something. It descended from the sky, landed, and then as fast as it came... it sped off again."

"Are you saying you witnessed a UFO?" asked Sam, surprised.

"I don't know, Sam. But as it disappeared, the thing gave of a flash of energy and all of the sudden it was almost five hours later. I lost time! I don't know how, but it happened! And when I looked down from the sky... there it was. The energy ball."

"That's incredible, Bobby!" Sam exclaimed. "So this thing... you believe it somehow took you five hours into the future?"

Bobby hesitated. "I can't think of any other explanation. And I haven't been able to make it do anything like that again, so I'm glad you're here to help with the research and testing." He took Sam's hand, bring it closer to the energy ball. "Touch it."

"It won't shock me?" asked Beckett.

"Trust me."

Sam reached out slowly and felt the tingle of the streams of light touching his hand. They seemed to focus only on him as they stopped striking the contact points inside the box. Sam placed the palm of his hand around the ball firmly and started to feel a warm pulsing sensation coming from the object as the ball lit up between his fingers. "It feels... it's like it's almost..."

Bobby finished, "like it's alive?"

"Exactly!" said Sam. "Like it's taking in everything I am feeling and beating with my own heart!"

"I've found that it only comes alive around living tissue," said LoNigro. The contact points inside the box are composed of animal cells. The light streams jump out at the cells, which charge the reactor. It's glowing especially bright today though. I think it likes you." Bobby laughed lightheartedly.

"Amazing," said Sam as he let go of the ball, "my quantum reactor design was only missing one thing. The energy source. And you found it!"

Bobby corrected, "I think it actually found me. After I found the ball, I took it to my uncle, Thomas Collins--"

Sam interrupted, "The General here? The head of the project?"

LoNigro answered, "Yes. General Collins worked on this base before there was a Project Starbright. He tested various forms of energy transfer and has experience with spacecraft of all types, so I just figured he would be the best man to turn to. But when the government got wind of the discovery and where it came from, they seized the energy ball and forced Collins and I to sign confidentiality agreements not to disclose information about what we had seen or tested already. They sent Jim McKay from NASA out to the landing site in France to investigate the findings of the French space program, GEPAN. When he returned with conclusive evidence that an extra-terrestrial contact had been made, they promoted Collins to General and made him the head of Starbright... a project designed to create an interstellar drive, or 'ISD', that will travel at or above the speed of light. Collins brought me back in to the project and several other men, two of which he had supervised before down at Holloman Air Force base in the 70's... Johnny Bartlett who you have probably already met, and Albert Calavicci."

"Gooshie was telling me a bit about Calavicci," said Sam. "Said he had a bit of a drinking problem."

"That he does. Al's a good man but last year the project oversight committee held a meeting under Colonel Jack Weitzman, who Collins worked closely with here at White Sands. Weitzman was Army Intelligence, and turned on Collins bringing in the CIA operative who hired you, Ross Adams, to put the thumbscrews to the project and clean up the personnel he felt were lacking in motivation. If Al doesn't clean up his act, Adams will get rid of him sooner than later."

"Sounds like a lot of people here really like this Calavicci," said Sam.

"He's the best supervisor aside from Collins that we could have, Sam. He's a riot, a ladies man, a friend, and a Naval professional... when he's not drinking."

Bobby and Sam exited the glass room and began the tour of the Lab. Sam noticed models of several test spacecraft, blueprints, beakers and tubes being mixed and tested, and all sorts of other technical processes being carried out in the many rooms of this underground laboratory. The pair approached a woman and man working on what Sam guessed was an air propulsion system engine near the rear of the Lab. As Sam and Bobby watched, the two military personnel nodded at them.

Bobby introduced, "Dr. Sam Beckett, this is First Lieutenant Julie Ashcroft and Brigadier General Jim McKay."

Julie put down her sander and reached for Sam's hand, shaking it. "Call me Ash. Nice to meet you Sam."

"Likewise," smiled Sam at the beautiful early 20's female with shoulder-length brunette hair. He then offered his hand to McKay. "General McKay, it's an honor to meet you sir. I've followed your research in space exploration since you first assisted in the founding of NASA."

"Nice to meet you too, Dr. Beckett," smiled Jim. " You can call me Jim, everyone else does. I've heard all about your progress in quantum physics. You had an article in Time magazine a couple of years ago if I remember correctly."

"That's right," smiled Sam. "Some of it was based on your work with deep space probe particle gatherings."

"Yes, of course," replied McKay. "Ash is one of our main engineers here. She has a military space weapons background as well as detailed knowledge of all the aircraft you'll see designed here."

Sam looked at Ash, "Weapons? I didn't know there was a weapons program associated with this project."

Ash shook her head. "Right now we are in the early stages, Sam. We still have to get one of these babies to fly first. But eventually we will need weapons systems to defend ourselves if we encounter hostiles in deep space... assuming we ever get there. The Space Shuttle is a start, but what we are designing here is based on technology far in advance of that. These craft are being designed to take off without your typical fuel sources. They have to be able to withstand extreme heat and collision at light speeds and land without a runway or gravity... like a helicopter without the blades."

Jim interjected, "The manned space station the president recently ordered NASA to build is not just a base for the Space Shuttle, Sam. As the SBP liaison to NASA, I am helping to design the station as a contact point for our ISD as well. Reagan has ordered it be complete in a decade, but our mission is to have it operational and occupied by 1986."

LoNigro said, "We'll let you two get back to work. I have to get Sam up to the tenth floor to meet Verbeena and Dana next before Collins takes him out to Stallion's Gate for his briefing with Weitzman at noon."

Sam shook hands with Ash and Jim once more and then followed Bobby back to the elevator. After arriving on the tenth floor, Bobby took Sam to the Physician's Ward. Behind the desk was a beautiful slender African-American woman speaking to a white woman across from her. She came around the desk to meet them, smiling, followed by the other woman.

"You must be Dr. Beckett," she said. "Very nice to meet you."

Sam smiled at the friendly woman. "And you."

"I'm Dr. Verbeena Beeks, the project physician. If you have any aches and pains, I'm the one to see, Sam."

"Well, I did get a pretty rough gouge on my finger from the control room earlier. But I think I'll manage." Sam chuckled. The cut had sealed up already and he could hardly even feel it now.

Bobby went around to the other woman and put his arm around her waist. "And this is my wife, Dana. She's the project attorney, Sam. If you ever need to sue someone over your aches and pains, she's the one to see." Bobby laughed along with the rest of the group.

"Bobby talks too much, Sam. But I guess you already knew that!" said Dana Barrenger-LoNigro.

Bobby exclaimed, "I talk too much? Me? Sam, you should have met her when I did. She wouldn't shut up for a minute! I had to marry her just to keep her quiet at my wedding ceremony!"

Everyone laughed again and chatted for a few moments before Bobby said it was time to go. He kissed his wife goodbye and they all shook hands again before departing.


_ - o O o - _


LoNigro and Beckett got back in the elevator but instead of going back to the ground floor, Bobby asked Sam to press the button just below '21' labeled 'TRANS.' The display illuminated and read, 'Insert Level 5 key card.' Sam inserted his card and the elevator dropped down rapidly, finally coming to a stop. Sam was glad he hadn't eaten breakfast as his stomach felt like it had floated to his throat.

The doors opened and on the other side was a sort of railway system fitted with five cylindrical vehicles decorated with the project atom logo and painted blue underneath the clear windscreen panels. They walked over to the vehicles.

"This is amazing, Bobby!" said Sam. "Where does this take us?"

"Anywhere on the White Sands military base," said Thomas Collins, who was waiting on a bench to their left. He stood, dressed in a beige suit and tie and shook hands with Sam. "I'm General Thomas Collins, the project Director, Sam. Call me Thomas."

"Pleased to meet you, Thomas," Sam said as he shook the Air Force General's hand.

"The base is about 115 miles from the gate to the main post on the other side of the space harbor," Thomas informed him. "Starbright is the only top-secret location at White Sands but most of the base is off-limits to the general public. They still do guided tours of Trinity Site though."

"That's right... that's where they set off the first atomic bomb," Sam observed.

"This transportation system is perfect," explained Bobby. "Driving a car above ground would take you two gentlemen half an hour or more to reach Stallion's Gate. But with this system, you'll be there in ten minutes. Better hurry, General. Don't want to keep Weitzman waiting."

"I suppose not, Bobby," Collins agreed. "Sam, slide on in the transport and we'll be on our way." Thomas lifted the clear wind screen hood and Sam climbed inside. There was room enough for four people, but only Sam and Thomas would be leaving the station this time.

"You aren't going with us?" Sam asked Bobby.

"Not this time, Sam. I have to get back to the Lab. Gotta help Ash and Jim with the uplinks on a new model this afternoon."

"Just you and me, Sam," said Collins, as he sat down next to Sam and closed the wind screen. "It'll give us a few minutes to get better acquainted before our lunch with Weitzman and the committee."

"The committee?" asked Sam as the General pressed a button labeled 'Stallion's Gate.'

The vehicle started off slowly as it rounded a turn to the right of the station, but then suddenly lurched forward at a speed of nearly 130 miles per hour according to the digital speedometer on the dash. "Yes, Jack usually waits a week before examining the new recruits, but in your case and with your background in quantum physics, he decided to speed things up."

Sam sat quietly nervous as the transport whirred through the illuminated tunnel. There were no curves; just a straight shot into a seemingly unending tunnel. He wasn't sure, but every so often Sam thought they might have passed an intersection in the tunnel. He supposed that this transportation system must overlap at intervals to allow the vehicles to travel all over the base.

After a few moments, Thomas said, "Sam, I want you to be careful what you say to Jack Weitzman and the oversight committee. Jack's just doing his job, but he's only concerned with this project. My nephew has told me in detail about your and his time-travel theories and Weitzman might use that to shut down Starbright. Whatever you and Bobby want to work on in your spare time is fine by me, but the more money Jack saves the government, the more cash he brings in at the end of the day."

Sam turned to Collins. "I understand completely. Getting the funding for my research on the quantum reactor from the government was very difficult. There's always a skeptic in the room ready to bring up any possibility that it might not work."

"Exactly... I'm glad we are on the same wavelength." Collins smiled at Sam. He liked this new guy. Reading about him in the newspaper and in Agent Adams reports, he had only seen the technical side of this young genius, but now that Collins had met the man, he already liked him.


Saturday, January 28th, 1984
11:45 AM
Stallion's Gate, New Mexico

The transport began to decelerate and finally made a turn into a dimly lit station until coming to a stop. The wind screen opened automatically and the two occupants of the vehicle climbed out and headed for the elevator. Sam noticed that this elevator only had buttons labeled 'TRANS' through '4'. When the door closed, Collins pressed '4', and the elevator began climbing. After twenty seconds or so, it stopped and let its passengers out.

The room inside this building was brightly lit and decorated with photographs of aircraft built over the years. There were some shots of the atomic bomb testing at Trinity, and one of a younger Thomas Collins holding a chimpanzee named ENOS which became the first U.S. specimen launched into space orbit. "I'd love to have been that chimp," said Sam laughing at the impossibility.

Collins smiled as he glanced at the photograph of himself and ENOS. "Well, you know Sam, chimpanzees and humans are very close in the evolutionary ladder. If you had only been born to a chimp... maybe you could have made that flight!"

Sam shook his head and smiled as Collins led him into a banquet hall. There was a long decorated table with a few men and women already seated and enjoying their lunch. Agent Adams was chatting near the middle of the table with another man in a Marine uniform and Sam could tell that the Marine was about to lose his grip with the smiling, boisterous CIA agent. He could tell from the interior of the hall that this building was built in the shape of a digital letter 'S', angled back and forth at sharp intervals. As they passed by a series of windows on their way to the head of the table, Sam could see that the outside of the building was white and that it rested on stilts above the ground covered by a dark colored, decorative solid fencing.

"Thomas!" shouted a man heading their way from across the room. "Right on time as usual. And this must be the Dr. Beckett I have been hearing so much about. I'm Jack Weitzman."

Sam didn't know what to say. The man across from him was dressed in a dark suit, bow tie, and... get this.... a stove pipe hat. Sam wanted to say, 'I haven't seen one of those since Lincoln got shot,' but what finally came sputtering out of his mouth was, "It's a pleasure to meet you, sir-- Jack-- uh, Colonel Weitzman."

Weitzman chuckled. "Jack is fine by me. We're all pretty..."

Sam finished the sentence over the top of Weitzman with, "informal around here. Yes I know."

Collins laughed along with Sam and Jack as they took their seats at the head of the table. Jack stated, "Sam, your quantum reactor has done wonders for this project. Bobby and Donna have been able to make significant progress in hyperspinning mice cells. Your work is brilliant!"

Sam nodded and thanked Jack. "You have an amazing facility here, Jack. I'm happy to be a part of it."

A lovely server pardoned herself and gently placed a plate of delicious smelling ham, vegetables, and soup in front of the three newcomers to the table. "What would you gentlemen like to drink this afternoon?" she smiled.

Collins ordered an unsweetened tea, Jack decided on a rum and coke, and Sam decided, "I'll have a beer."

"Are you a drinking man, Sam?" asked Weitzman.

Collins cocked an eye at Sam indicating that the answer should definitely be 'no' even if the truth was yes. Sam answered truthfully, "No, only socially and at special occasions. Since I'm not really doing much actual work today, I thought a beer might be nice with lunch."

Weitzman smiled, satisfied. "Very good then. Oh, Sam, I want to introduce you to my superior, Colonel Bradley Radford. The Colonel doesn't make very many visits to New Mexico, but I thought that while he was here he could meet our newest quantum physicist. Colonel, this is Dr. Samuel Beckett."

Radford, seated directly across the table from Sam smiled broadly at the doctor. "The honor is all mine, Dr. Beckett."

"My pleasure sir," replied Sam.

Radford asked, "how has your first day gone so far?"

"Not bad, really, Colonel. I only got cut once today." Sam laughed lightheartedly as he showed his wound to Radford.

"Doesn't look too bad to me. You sure you got that one today?" asked Radford.

"Yeah, I..." Sam looked at his finger and the cut was now completely sealed up and barely noticeable. "Where are you based, Colonel?"

"I work mainly out of Washington, Doctor Beckett. I come down every few months and visit my step-daughter and check up on the progress here," explained the Colonel. "Have you met her yet? Dr. Elesee?"

Sam finally put the relationship together and smiled shyly remembering what Bobby had told him about her good looks earlier on. "No, I haven't met her yet, sir. I hear she is leaving the project?"

Brad Radford looked surprised and turned to Jack and Thomas. "What's this? Leaving Starbright again? Every six months we go through this!"

Collins and Weitzman shifted in their seats. Sam had obviously let a cat out of the bag here. "I-I-I figured you knew, sir. I could be wrong... it's just I heard it from Bobby LoNigro earlier this morning. Said she was leaving due to personal issues of some kind."

The Colonel frowned and the men directly around him were silent. Finally he spoke. "Sam, you're scheduled to fly out to Washington next week to detail your research to the senate sub-committee, is that correct?"

"Yes sir, it is." Sam shifted in his plush chair.

"Donna's in Utah right now but will be flying out to my home in D.C. at the end of the week. I'd like you to meet with her and see what you can do to keep her on this project." He paused a moment to think. "Yes, yes there's a dinner on Friday night after the committee meeting at the Washington Convention Center. Perhaps you could take her to that and talk some sense into her?" Radford muttered to himself, "Personal problems..."

Sam sat up straight in his chair. "Ah... sir? Are you setting me up on a date with your daughter, sir?"

"Step-daughter," Radford corrected, "...and yes I am. That girl needs to get out of the house, off the base, and out into the world! That's her personal problem if you ask me. What do you say, Sam? She's a looker, if that's what you're worried about."

Sam stuttered, "Yes -- I mean no, no -- I -- well I suppose if you'd like me to try and help then--"

"Then it's settled. "I'll have a driver pick you up at your hotel after the meeting at the Capitol building. It's black tie, so dress appropriately. He'll take you to my place and you two can leave from there." Radford was somewhat smiling again in satisfaction.

"Sounds like... fun," said Sam nervously.

Collins eyes became as large as plums as he listened to this date being set up. Weitzman was too busy staring at his wife across the room to care about the conversation going on in front of him. Jack was the jealous type and he had made the mistake of marrying a very beautiful woman. If she were to ever divorce him, the woman would take him for everything he had and Jack knew it.

"Jack?" Radford looked to Weitzman, who was homing in on his wife talking to the Maitre 'd at the other end of the banquet hall. "Colonel Weitzman!" said Radford as he poked Jack with his index finger to get his attention.

Finally Jack's attention was broken and he looked over to Radford. "Oh yes sir, it's time to begin the meeting." Jack stood up and clinked his fork against his now-empty glass. "All right everyone! The Starbright Project oversight committee is now in session."

The meeting had started, but all Sam could think about was this date with a woman he had never met. A woman who was also the step-daughter of a man he barely knew and who was now somewhat in charge of his career. "Oh boy," Sam thought as the meeting continued for the next three hours.


Saturday, January 28th, 1984
9:15 PM
Starbright Project Complex, New Mexico

Sam spent the rest of the day touring the project. He met several of the office personnel, went back to see Gooshie and even bumped into Tina again on the way to the cafeteria. He had gone back to his room to try and rest after the long day, but there was still too much running through his mind. He had never been on a blind date before... how would he act? How was he supposed to get a complete stranger to stay at her job if she really didn't want to keep it?

Sam let out a sigh as he sat up on his bed, somehow still wide awake. Bobby had called him an hour ago and they had chatted awhile on the phone. He would be in the control room with Gooshie until around midnight, LoNigro had said. Sam decided to wander down there and see what his old friends were working on so late.

Sam stepped into the elevator and pressed floor 21. The doors closed and the enclosure started to fall rapidly downward. "Damn," said Sam as he realized that the control room was on the 20th floor... not 21. That was the Lab's floor number. The elevator stopped and as the doors opened and he was about to press button 20, Sam heard loud banging and swearing coming from the Lab. 'A fight?' thought Beckett. He decided to get out and see what was going on.

Sam went running toward the sound of the struggle. He passed the door to the Lab's lounge and realized that the noise was coming from inside. Sam burst into the room to break up the fight. But there was only one person in the room. A man... about forty-five years old, give or take five years, was beating the snack machine with a hammer! The man was dressed in a neon blue shirt with a black silk tie and black pants. There was a matching blue felt fedora laying nearby on the ground.

As he beat the machine again and again with his hammer, the obviously drunk man shouted, "Dammit! Gimme back my dime you hunk o' junk! You've messed with me for the last time!" He struck the machine again, causing a severe crack to appear in the glass display door."

Sam rushed over. "Whoa! Whoa, man. It's just a machine!"

"Who the hell are you?" shouted the man, turning with the hammer poised to knock Sam down if he came any closer. His words were slurred. This guy had taken about ten too many drinks tonight.

"It's ok! Calm down. My name is Beckett. Sam Beckett."

"So you're the guy hitting on my girl," shouted the man, barely able to stand. "All you new guys are the same. Think you can come in here and take the girls and not have to work for a damn thing! Well, I'll show you how to work for it!" He started toward Sam, who backed away toward the door to get some distance.

"Wait a minute! I don't even know who your girl is!" Sam exclaimed, keeping his eye on the raised hammer.

"Oh you know her all right. Red hair, great--" he put his hands up to his chest imitating breasts, "--casoombs, and killer legs!" He stood still a moment as he pictured her in his mind.

Sam looked puzzled. "Red hair? You mean Tina?"

The man raised the hammer again. "I knew it!" he slurred.

Sam stepped back again and said, "Wait a minute... you've made a mistake! I only know Tina from back at M.I.T.!"

"Oh yeah," the man said, squinting his eyes and cocking his head. "And how exactly do you know her?"

"She was a student under me at M.I.T. That's all!" Sam realized what he had said as the man came at him with the hammer. "No! I didn't mean under me like under me! I was her teacher for a semester!"

The hammer missed Sam as the Doctor moved out of the way, but it and its holder crashed into a large potted fern in the corner of the lounge. The man just laid there a moment and Sam thought he might have passed out. But then he groaned and started to move his legs, trying to stand back up.

Sam walked over, seeing that the hammer was now out of the man's grip, and offered to help him up. "You're Albert Calavicci, aren't you?" asked Sam as he helped the drunken man to his feet.

Al replied, "In the drunk! I mean, in the flesh."

Sam helped Calavicci to the sofa nearby. Al stumbled a couple of times on the way over, and then finally fell flat on his back into the cushions. Al slurred, "We'll continue this battle another day, Bam Seckett."

Sam smiled. There was something about this guy he liked. Right now he couldn't imagine what it could be, but Sam felt that somehow he should try and help the man. "I don't think so... Al."

Al tried to sit up, but only managed to get his index finger pointed in the air. "You will address me as Sasaista--Assost-Assisty--" He finally gave up trying to say 'Assistant Director' and then finished with, "Ok, call me Al."

They both started laughing; Al doing so more out of his drunken state than anything else. Sam held out his hand. "Let's start over. I'm Sam Beckett. Pleased to meet you, Al."

The Assistant Director smiled halfway and reached for Sam's hand. "I'm sorry, Sam. It's been a long... year."

"I guess you and that vending machine have had some problems communicating, huh?" Sam joked.

"The bastard ate my dime." Al started to laugh again, trying to sit up. This time he made it and put his head between his knees, trying to get his focus.

Sam looked up at the battered machine. Everything inside was forty-five cents and the display read back that it indeed still needed ten cents. Sam got up from the sofa and asked Al what he was trying to buy.

"Wrigley's," Al replied, indicating the chewing gum on the top level. "For Tina. She loves chewing gum."

Sam reached into his pocket, found a dime, and pressed the buttons 'E-7.' The pack of gum in green wrapping dropped down into the holding bin. He pulled it out and handed it to Al. "I'm sure Tina will be very happy that you got her a gift."

Al laughed. "Thanks. The color of the wrapper will go nicely with the new lingerie I got her." Al smiled slyly as Sam rolled his eyes. "You didn't hit on Tina, did you?" Al asked, already knowing the answer.

"No," Sam replied. "She's just an old friend."

"You don't look like the type that would go for her anyway. You look like you just got your merit badge for helping an old lady cross the street."

"I'm not sure if that's a compliment or an insult, but I'll take it," Sam smiled. He walked over to the coffee machine and poured two cups. "Cream or sugar?" Sam asked Al.

"I take it black," Al replied. As they sipped the coffee and Al started to sober up, Sam finally asked, "If you don't mind me asking, Al...why are you so angry?"

"It's a long story, Sam. Maybe I'll tell you one day. Right now I just wanna get back up to Tina before she locks me out again."

"Fair enough. So I guess I'll be working with you tomorrow on the reactor tests?" Sam asked as Al got to his feet.

"8 A.M. sharp. Ohhh...my head hurts already just thinking about it."

Sam laughed. "Need any help getting back to your, er, her room?" Sam winked.

"I could find my way up there in the dark with a blindfold. Actually," Al added as he picked up his fedora, "I've actually done that."

Sam shook his head, smiling at the oversexed man. Suddenly the door opened and standing there were Agent Adams and the Security Director he had met last night upon arriving, Max Tyler. Adams shook his head at Al after noting the hammer on the floor and the busted vending machine. "Calavicci, this is it. Destroying government property and attacking a civilian contractor. You were on your last warning and this is the end."

Sam looked up and saw the security camera above. They must have been watching.

Al walked up close to Adams, "Listen you nozzle, I don't care who you work for! This is my project and no snotty-nosed kid is gonna tell me when to leave and when not to."

Sam interjected and placed himself between the two men. "Wait, Agent. He didn't attack me. He was just--"

"Drunk," finished Adams. "Third time this week. He knew the consequences and now he'll face them. Lieutenant! Take this man into custody!"

Al put his hand up as Max was reluctantly moving toward him. "Max, you were there when I got off that plane after 'Nam. You're one of my only true friends. If someone's gonna put the cuffs on me, then it'll be me."

Sam faced Adams. "Wait a minute. I know I just met the man, but Al is vital to this project. I've heard the staff talk about him and they all love him. Please... just give him another chance."

Adams smiled, "Not if he was the last astronaut on Earth. I've been trying to rid this project of him for three months. Now I have cause."

Sam couldn't believe what he was about to do. "Adams, the quantum reactor I designed is vital to this project, is it not?"

Adams just looked at Sam in disbelief that this newcomer was interfering in his business. He nodded affirmatively, wondering where this was going.

"And," said Sam, a bit unsure of what he was about to say, "if it weren't for my reactor, Starbright would still be about three years behind schedule, is that not true?"

Adams asked, "What are you getting at, Beckett?"

"I want the Captain to stay on this project. I'll help him sober up. I-I'll do whatever it takes, but either he stays..."

"Or what?" Adams shouted, stepping out of his usual cheery character.

"Or I take my reactor and move to a different project," Sam finished.

"Sam!" said a wide-eyed Al. "It's ok. I'll take this to the Senate sub-committee if I have to. This S.O.B. doesn't have control over this project."

"What's it going to be, Ross?" Sam stared the agent down deep in his eyes.

Anger welling up in his eyes, Ross replied, "You have two weeks to get this man sober, Beckett. Any more outbursts or property damage from him, and I'll see to it that neither of you work for the government again." Adams paused, then added, "And you can address me as Agent Adams." Ross turned and walked out of the room.

Sam turned to Al and Max. Al, rolling his eyes under the blue fedora added, "Call him Agent Assho--"

"Al!" Sam interrupted, "I can't believe what I just did!"

"I can't believe it either, kid. I guess I should thank you. Only a handful of people have ever stuck their neck out for me like that." Al extended his arm to Sam.

Sam shook Calavicci's hand. "We'll talk about getting you sobered up in the morning."

"I'll be going now, Captain," said Max, smiling. "Way to go, Sam. No one has ever stood up to that man."

"Uh, thanks, Max," said Sam. "I'll see you tomorrow."

Al shrugged, "What do you mean we'll talk about getting me sobered up? You really meant what you told that guy?"

Sam smiled. "I always keep my promises, Al."

"Geez," Al replied, "you really are a boy-scout."

"It's a good thing you missed me with that hammer, buddy. I already got cut once today," Sam stated as he held up his index finger. "Another time and I might not have been such a nice guy."

"What cut? I don't see any cut," Al observed.

Sam looked at his finger where earlier in the day a two-inch gash had been torn into the flesh. "What the hell?" He checked each finger thinking he had just looked at the wrong one, but there was no cut, not even a scab where it had healed over.

Bobby LoNigro's voice blasted from the intercom overhead. "Doctor Sam Beckett, please report to the control room. Dr. Sam Beckett, please report to the control room."

Sam raised an eyebrow. "Guess I better get going."

"Thanks again, kid," said Al. "I'll see you in the morning. It's great to have you on with us."

Sam shook hands with the Captain again and headed out of the lounge for the elevator.


_ - o O o - _


As the elevator doors opened and Sam stepped out into the control room, Bobby rushed over to meet him. "Sam! You gotta see this!"

Sam followed Bobby hurriedly over to the main control table. the colored blocks were lit up like the 4th of July and paper was pouring out of the printer nearby with the words, "MY NAME IS SID" typed in bold print repeatedly on each page.

Gooshie exclaimed in amazement, "It started printing this over and over about ten minutes ago! I can't shut it off! Even the main power shut off controls aren't responding!"

LoNigro couldn't stop smiling. "What do you think, Sam?"

"Gooshie," asked Beckett, "could this be some sort of prank?"

"I checked that, Doctor. This printer is controlled directly from the control table. Dr. LoNigro and I have been the only ones here for the last hour. No one else could have started the printing from a remote location."

Sam's vision caught sight of the metal pin that had cut him less than twelve hours ago. He looked down at his finger where the cut should have been and then asked with an expression of shock on his face, "Gooshie! You said the control table is tied into the blue orb... you called it the heart of SID."

"Correct, Dr. Beckett. The orb controls the power supply to SID," explained Gooshie.

Sam began to collect the papers from the control table printer. "We have to destroy these!" Suddenly the printer stopped.

"Dr. Beckett, what's going on?" asked Gooshie.

"I have an idea, Gooshie, but we have to shred these papers and get down to the Lab!" Sam explained, feeding the sheets into a paper shredder.

"Sam!" shouted Bobby as he raised his voice over the shredder, "have you lost your mind?"

"No... no I haven't," said Sam. As the shredder took in the last sheet, Sam grabbed Bobby by the arm and began to run toward the elevator. "But this is gonna blow yours!"

Gooshie inquired as he ran behind the other two doctors, "but what about SID?"

"We're about to find out, Gooshie!" said Sam as the elevator doors closed on the control room.

Sam led his two friends into the Orb's protected room and unlocked the case. Shots of electricity were streaming out of the glowing neon sphere at a much higher rate than Sam had witnessed before.

"I've only seen it once, Doctors," said Gooshie. "Truly amazing, this device."

Sam said, "You both remember the gash on my index finger earlier today, right?"

They nodded.

"Look now." Sam showed then his completely healed finger.

Bobby said, "But that was only a few hours ago. And it's already healed? How can--"

Bobby stopped short as Sam took out his pocket knife and made a tiny slit in his fingertip measuring about one centimeter, just enough to draw a drop of blood. He placed his finger close to the orb and immediately the object illuminated brightly; lashing out its electrical streams toward Sam's outstretched finger.

"Dr. Beckett, what are you doing!" exclaimed Gooshie.

"Wait," asked Sam. After sixty seconds had passed according to Sam's silver wristwatch, Beckett pulled back his finger. The orb dimmed to normal, attaching its energy streams back to the contact points inside the case. Sam showed his fingertip to the two men. The small incision had vanished.

"Amazing!" shouted LoNigro.

"Complete cellular regeneration in a matter of seconds. Impossible!" stated Gooshie.

"It's blood... I dunno, maybe it's taken in some of my DNA or white cells," Sam hypothesized. "We'll have to test further to find out for sure. Bobby, you told me that it felt alive. I felt it too."

Bobby nodded in disbelief.

Sam held up a sheet of the paper that had printed on its own from the control room. "SID is alive," smiled Sam.

Bobby grabbed Sam's shoulders. "Do you know what this means, Sam? Light speed travel just might be possible after all... This might even help us with our time-travel hypothesis. It can restore and regenerate human cells! It speeds up time, so to speak.  At this rate it might even be able to completely regenerate an adult human body in... in about a week!"

"Theoretically," Sam added. "But we'll need extensive testing."

"And," LoNigro added, "it thinks on its own! At least in some fashion or another! We have to start testing right away!"

Gooshie and Sam stared at the orb. Sam became very serious. "We can't let this get out, Bobby. I was already warned by Collins that if Weitzman knew about my extracurricular experimentation with time-travel, he might try to shut down the project. For now we will have to apply the research only to the Starbright Project's agenda. Maybe we can do a little experimentation on our own after working hours."

Bobby agreed, "You're absolutely right, Sam. For now we should only tell Tina and Al the specifics of this. And maybe Bartlett. We'll keep it quiet until we have the proof we need to release the data. Until then, we can use what little we know of the orb's properties now and start applying it to the ISD."

"Space by day and time by night, Doctors?" smiled Gooshie.

Sam and Bobby smiled.

Gooshie, started for the elevator. "I'll get Tina! She'll want to hear about this right away!"

"No, Gooshie," shouted Sam. "If you wake her, you'll wake Al. He needs to get some sleep after what happened tonight. We can continue tomorrow night after work."

"Of course, Dr. Beckett," agreed Dr. Gushman.

"Doctors," said Sam, "tomorrow begins the long road to discovery."


Saturday, January 28th, 1984
11:25 PM
Starbright Project Complex, New Mexico

Agent Ross Adams sat at his office desk silently by the phone. This new Dr. Beckett had stood in his way. He didn't like that at all. Adams flipped a pencil between his fingers, lightly tapping the desks' oak finish with the eraser.

Then the phone rang. Ross picked up the receiver and asked, "Dr. L?"

He listened for a moment to the voice on the other end of the line.

"Yes, sir," stated Ross.

He continued to maneuver the pencil between his fingers as the voice spoke to him. Adams had never met the man on the other end, but when he talked, Ross listened.

"I understand. Yes, sir."

Adams put down the pencil and picked up a sheet of  paper from his desktop. It was taped together lengthwise in about sixty different places.

Printed on the paper were the words, 'MY NAME IS SID.'

Adams drew a broad grin on his face as he filed the paper in his desk-side cabinet. "Dr. Beckett," he asked to himself, "what are you up to..."


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