With A Little Help: Part II
By: Sue Johnson
Episode #004

March 16th - March 18th, 1984


Previously on The Starbright Project:


With Donna avoiding Sam at every opportunity, Sam decides to spend more time with the orb.  Meeting up with Captain Calavicci outside of the cafeteria, Al is annoyed that Ross Adams has it in for him again. Whilst working on the orb in the Crystal Lab, it finds its own way of communicating to Doctor Beckett and as he's talking with the sphere, Donna walks in on them. Startled, he awkwardly turns to see Donna and stumbles. As she attempts to help him, the orb suddenly strikes out at Doctor Beckett.




Something inside Al clicked as his training took command of his nullified senses. Without further ado, the Captain started issuing his own orders, telling Donna that it would be faster if she used her pass-card on the intercom, instead of him traipsing all over the complex and wasting time.

 Donna complied but with a burning question on her lips, one she knew she would have to ask, but first, she realized that other things were of more importance, Sam's welfare had become her number-one priority.

Al paced nervously whilst an uncompromising Verbena worked arduously, first checking Sam's airway for obstructions and then finding it clear, she started mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, all the time keeping a check on Sam's heart rate and occasionally issuing further orders and grousing that the medics were certainly taking their time.

"How did he get these burns?" Verbena asked apprehensively as she glanced around the glass lab. She couldn't see how Doctor Beckett could have received these injuries, or the where.

Al shrugged his shoulders, feeling awkward, and more than useless. "Dunno, I wasn't here, if you want details, you should speak to Don—Doctor Elesee, she was already here when I arrived," Al said, still in shock. He then turned toward the intercom where Donna should have been standing. His eyes darted left and right but he couldn't see her anywhere. Returning his line of sight to Doctor Beeks, he added, "Now where the heck's she gone?"

"Who?" the Doctor queried between breaths and whilst assessing Doctor Beckett's heart rate.

"Doctor Elesee," the Captain answered. "I thought Tina was a one for wanderin' off, but Donna? I never thought it of her to do a vanishin' act."

The Captain's awkwardness was relieved when the medical team turned up outside of the glass room.

"Well, don't just stand there!" Verbena criticized as the three-manned team hesitated to enter the restricted zone.

"I—we," one medic stuttered as he looked to his colleagues for support. "We weren’t sure if…"

"Yeah, that's right," said another as he fumbled with pressing buttons on a large cumbersome handheld device.

"Restricted area an'all," said the first, whilst the third nodded in agreement with the other two.

Al's uneasiness returned when he realized that the only person authorized to have access to the lab was out cold and couldn't supervise nor authorize admittance. He quickly looked around for Doctor Elesee's return and seeing she wasn't with the medics, he then knew that he'd have to take charge and possibly suffer the consequences. "You heard the doctor! This is an emergency and I'll take full responsibility for what takes place within these walls."

The medics didn't need any more persuading and immediately bustled to their well-regimented duties.

Every few minutes Al glanced at the clock above the elevator doors and sighed with impatience each time. The minutes dragged and for well over an hour the team worked alongside Doctor Beeks and eventually they stabilized Doctor Beckett enough for Verbena to tend to his other injuries and soon thereafter, for him to be moved up to the infirmary.

A steady hand held a spatula that gently applied a globule of salve to the two patches of Doctor Beckett's singed hairline, easing aside the hair that remained. "Not too bad of a burn, he's lucky," she said, looking up at the Captain. "Second degree burns will only leave very slight scarring." She then looked back down at her charge and added, "Though it still puzzles me as to how he got them and why."

"Like I said before Bena, Doctor Elesee saw it all, I arrived about a minute after it all happened but then of course I was too late to see anything."

"Hmmm, I wonder where she went to? When you do see her Al, tell her I need to get the full details of what occurred here."

"Of course I will, as soon as see her, I've no idea where on earth she could've gone to." Al looked around again and way out from within the glass room and into the surrounding laboratories, but still no signs of the elusive Donna. "Well, I suppose that's it, then," he said, returning his attention to Verbena as the gurney was wheeled into the elevator. He turned slightly as he started to close the door to the crystal lab and studied the cage surrounding the now dormant orb.

"I suppose it is," Verbena said as she followed the medics into the elevator, she then noticed that Al was lagging behind. "Going up Captain?" she asked with an eyebrow-raised whist she held the door open.

"Shortly," Al said absently, not taking his eyes from the cage. "There's something I have to finish off first," he added.

As his head traced slowly to Verbena's voice, an indomitable glare that no one else could see, stopped and transfixed itself through the glass door and into the crystal lab.

"What are you and what do you want?" the Captain whispered as the elevator doors slid closed, the vision of Doctor Beckett's bizarre silhouette still firmly imprinted within his mind's eye.

With nothing less than his determined resolution, Al reentered the crystal lab. At first he'd held back from the others for the reasons that along with himself, only Tina and Sam knew about. He didn't want anyone else to know that he'd breached his own security orders, the measures he'd previously taken were purely selfish and now he'd have to face-up to the penalties of his actions. Questions would be raised, he knew that but he wanted to stave off the execution as long as was possible.

For now, he had questions of his own that needed answers and finding himself alone with the orb gave him the opportunity but now he had a dilemma. The inert entity that had attacked a fellow colleague was unable to communicate but something at the back of his subconscious was telling him otherwise.

Knowing of the way the sphere had attacked Sam, Al looked around for a suitable form of defense. He felt naked without his usual armory but that was his fault. Demoted of his security status, he'd deemed himself to be 'off duty' and by his own volition, had forbidden any firearms to be carried whilst in civvies. With that in mind, he made a mental note to change that ruling with his reinstatement.

Faced with intrinsic realization, he reminded himself, 'Forewarned is forearmed,' when he espied a solution for his protection. Slowly, he sidestepped towards the workbench and reached out for his objective. The long tubing uncoiled as he the lifted the object of his digression and retraced his steps.

"Try anything with me… and I'll fry you to a crisp and serve you up with toast," Al warned as with his other hand he held his cigar lighter towards the nozzle of the Bunsen burner that threatened to light it, thrusting it forward and toward the enclosure. "Do you read?"

The sphere illuminated and then dimmed almost immediately in response to the Captain's confrontation.

The Captain did a double take, not believing his eyes, then closed them to narrow slits. "Repeat what you just did, that's if you can understand me?" he flippantly posed.

The orb replicated its signal.

"I—I don't believe this—you mean to tell me that you can understand what I'm saying?" the Captain vocalized with stupefaction and the orb glowed brightly with animated accord but this time not so eager to diffuse its state.

"You are the second person I've found talking to themselves tonight," Doctor Elesee reproved as she stood in the open doorway to the crystal lab.

Al cringed as he turned towards Donna. "Me? Talking to myself? No…" he shook his head. "I was just thinking aloud," he attempted for justification.

"Excuses again Captain?" Donna further rebuked, "I think you're fast running out of elucidations, don't you?"

"And what do you mean by that?" Al asked, breathing out in forfeiture. 'Donna's right, that was certainly the most dumbest, lamest excuse I've ever made… but she did kinda catch me off guard and I was a little hasty in saying the first thing that'd popped into my head. Bad move, especially where the narcissistic Doctor Elesee is concerned.' Right from the start, he'd never liked Donna much, she was too fickle and for the life in him, he couldn't think what Sam saw in her.

"You think we're all blind, deaf and dumb to your antics Captain? Your scams, your constant skirmishes with authority, the contravention of privileges…"

"Enough already! You—you're making me out to be some kinda delinquent!"

"You said it, Captain, you're a rogue, a scoundrel, a…" she saw Al's eyes narrow in defiance, "…please, let me finish!—You're a loveable rascal and that's why you get away with it… mostly."

"Huh?" was all Al could say in response.

"But now Adams is on to you." Donna looked away and over at the orb, closing her eyes and when she reopened them, she stared directly at Al. "I know he's not here but what'd you think would happen when he gets back on Monday and finds out that you've somehow managed to breach security?"

"Are you threatening me, Doctor?"

"Au contraire, just giving you a little friendly advice, some guidance that I hope you will consider taking to heart."

Al was lost for words. Totally dumbstruck. Even from his vast repertoire, he couldn't come up with one single word to give in riposte to Doctor Elesee.

Donna could see that she'd struck at a raw nerve and decided to carry through. Now was the perfect time to ask that question which had been smoldering on the tip of her tongue way too long. "Tell me Captain, how on earth did you manipulate your way down here?"

Al sighed. He did have an answer for this one but it was an answer he was unwilling to impart. His mind raced wildly for an alternative and he started to pace whilst he racked his brains for another excuse. He didn't know if he could trust her, she being so whimsical, and so he decided then to change the track of this worn-out LP.

"'Tis getting late!" Al postulated as he looked at his watch. "And I bet you're wandering how Sam's doing, huh? I know I am."

Donna looked to Al warily and realized that she wouldn't be getting an answer this side of Christmas. He had his ways and means; he was resourceful and she recalled that he'd proven his ingenuity on more numerous instances than she could remember.

"I'm sure he'll be okay, Al," Donna said, almost sympathetically and the Captain glanced skeptically at her.

'Never, in all the time that she's been at the project, has Donna once called me by my first name, let alone the abbreviation.' Al thought as he again glanced down at his watch. Donna didn't take the hint though and she stepped further inside of the crystal lab.

"I'm sure they'd let us know if Sam takes a turn for the worse," she subjugated as she opened the casing to the orb. "Talking of worse, Al, I've never seen the sphere look so drab, you—you don't think it's ill, do you?"

Al leaned over the wired cage, just as Donna was straightening.

"OUCH!" they both yelped when their heads clashed.

"Probably just a little off color," Al said, rubbing gingerly at his forehead.

"That makes two of us then," Donna said as she brushed a hand over the top of her head. "I've not been able to concentrate properly all day and that knock certainly hasn't made this headache any better."

"I thought you looked under the weather, not your usual high-spirited, full of joie de vivre, self," Al fibbed.

Donna's head felt the size and weight of a bowling ball, it was all she could do to keep her focus on the Captain and keep her head erect. "I don't think I could even manage a visit to the infirmary let alone, see how Sam's doing," she said, petering off faintly.

Al stopped himself from an untimely comment: about women and headaches, and how they always seemed to get them at the most 'convenient' times—when he saw the pallor of Donna's complexion and instead asked, "Donna, are you sure you're okay? You look kinda wast…" but before he could finish, Donna flopped into the Captain's reaching arms.

"Oh no!" Al griped. "…not another for the infirmary. I have a feeling Bena's gonna have a busy night, tonight."

Even though worried about Donna's condition, Al was relieved. At least now he didn't have to worry about giving away his trade secrets. As he assisted a woozy Donna into the elevator, he wondered about the orb and his experience he'd encountered in the crystal lab. He wasn't just imagining what he'd seen, was he? He was certainly beginning to doubt just what he had seen.

When Captain Calavicci arrived with Donna at the infirmary, Doctor Beeks shooed him away immediately. She wouldn't even give answers to his questions, on how his friend was fairing and so, instead, Al retired to his living quarters, hoping for some creature comforts, only to find himself alone.

Utterly despondent, he sat in his favorite chair, his face as long as a wet December weekend, in Paris.

Following a good ten minutes of wallowing, he strode stridently over to the table in the corner and, grabbing deftly at the handset, he jabbed a finger onto one of the buttons of the keypad. "Infirmary!" he growled with all the enthusiasm of an awakened grizzly. He wanted answers and he wanted them, NOW. Getting in only a couple of, ums and ahhhs, he'd gotten nowhere; only being informed that it was too early to tell and that both parties were resting comfortably.


Starbright Project Complex, New Mexico
Level 21 Laboratories

Saturday, March 17th 1984

Even on a Saturday and being before 8 AM, the laboratories were a hive of activity. Staff at the project welcomed the work; they knew they'd be recompensed with a long paid leave of absence when the current project was completed. Even with a whole level dedicated to recreation, boredom soon set in and the majority of the personnel spent their free time working voluntarily. A labor of love, some called it, whilst a minority disliked the seclusion that residing in a 'top secret' project in the middle of the New Mexico desert offered; they endured it. At least the salary was more than ample and the accommodations very comfortable, and to most this more than compensated for the lack of contact with family and the outside world.

Tina was no exception. As much as she loved her work, she was also worried about her ailing mother and she couldn't wait for Gooshie's return. She envied him in being able to sneak away, what she wouldn't give, just to see how her mother was fairing and already she was thinking up questions to grill him with.

"What are you working on now?" Jack asked Tina as he snuck up from behind, making the technician jump half out of her skin.

"Something you should be doing Jack, working!" Tina replied, exasperated with Jack's incessant snooping. She didn't know what had come over him, but all of a sudden he'd become intolerable to work with, questioning every little thing she did and where she was going. She felt like calling it a day and spending the rest of it in either the refectory or the recreation halls but knowing Jack's mood, he'd probably follow her there as well.

"No need to bite my head off! I was only asking if you needed help with anything!" Jack admonished, scornfully.

"No Jack! You've been following me around all day and I'm kinda getting sick of it. What is it with you anyway? You've been in a terrible mood ever since…"

Jack glanced sideways on at Tina; he was hoping that she hadn't caught on yet. He hadn't decided on the best plan of action himself and so far was he still playing it by ear, though his 'ear' hadn't been too reliable up till now.

"…yesterday morning," Tina concluded.

"I'm not following you; honestly, it just seems to me that you need looking after. That's all."

"What Jack's trying to say, is that he can't stand to watch you with Capt'n Calavicci," Debbie broke into the conversation as she peered over Jack's shoulder.

"That's a blatant lie!" Jack squealed, slitting his eyes at the irony that he could have confided in a colleague and then have that trust broken.

"Jack?" Tina questioned, glaring sternly at the young man standing before her.

"He's the one with the lies," Debbie explained to Tina. "You saw him in the cafeteria yesterday, I saw you watching; in fact I saw everyone watching your dazzling display, Jack."

"I think you'd better sort yourself out," Tina said to Jack. "I'm going for a break now and if you haven't calmed down by the time I get back, I'm gonna forward a complaint against you, so be warned Jack Waterfield or you'll be paying for a costly mistake for years to come." She then stormed off, leaving behind a beleaguered coworker.

Jack decided then that he wasn't such an easy pushover and followed Tina to the elevator, totally ignoring Debbie's plea for him to stop and quit fooling around.

The elevator doors were about to close, when Jack barged his way inside. "You'll rue the day when you think you can threaten me Ms. Martinez," he reproached agitatedly, pushing Tina towards the far wall.

"Jack? What the hell? Get your hands off me!" Tina hollered out, in an instant the elevator doors closed out her yells for help.

"Not until you take back what you've said," Jack bullied as the floor to the elevator jerked into motion.

"Not flamin' likely!" Tina shot back, tussling with Jack's grip on her wrists. "What do you have against Al—Captain Calavicci? Grrrr—why do you dislike him and whatever has he done to you?"

"You deserve so much more than the Calavicci's of this world, I know his type, he's nothing more than a drunkard, a slur on humanity."

"Then obviously you don't know him, he's kind and amusing and very gentle; he cares. Much more than the person you're portraying at the moment," Tina requited in Al's defense, staring straight into Jack's eyes.

As she stared deep into Jack's soul, she could feel the terror of the unknown slowly paralyzing her muscles. The throbbing in her chest radiating outward until she could feel the pulsation gradually rising up through her throat to her head, swelling and cutting off the precious oxygen supply.

"Caring! That's a laugh!" Jack mimicked a hysterical chortle, jump-starting Tina back to the reality of the situation. "You think he cares about you? He has you running ragged! Look at yesterday!"

"You know…" Tina cleared her throat. "You know why I had to run those errands for him yesterday; you took great delight in updating me with Al's status. Jack, you couldn't wait to tell me!" as she talked, she tried to prize her wrists from his masculine grasp but he held fast, and just to affirm his dominance; he took a further hold onto the collar of her lab-coat and twisted, she could feel the tightness across the nape of her neck and a shudder as it trickled down the length of her spine.

"You need the care and attention of a real man, not an old fogey of a man like that goat of a Captain!" he proffered and leaning in closer, his lips brushed against her neck.

Tina could feel his hot breath on her chest and she attempted to edge away but found she was wedged tightly into the corner.

"He's more of a man than you'll ever be, Jack Waterfield!" she retaliated whilst glancing over his shoulder at the blinking lights as the floors went by all too slowly. In effect, it felt like an hour had almost past, and they were only yet at the 18th level. Also, she had no idea as to which level they'd end up on; she wasn't the one who'd pressed the button.

"Where are we going?" Tina asked; more out of desperation to keep him talking, least whilst he was preoccupied his concentration on her wavered and his grip wasn't as tight.

"To the rec-rooms, hardly anyone ever uses them anymore," he said but his eyes lit up in alarm and, turning slightly as if he was checking his previous motions, he added, "I reckon I did press the correct button!"

Whilst he was looking away, Tina glanced again at the blinking lights; they had just bypassed level 16 and both were taken by surprise when the elevator started to slow down. Grunting and growling, Jack hit the button for the 13th floor several times and in his disturbed state, let go of Tina's wrist, she then primed herself for when the doors would finally open. As the tiny crack in the doors began to swell, she braced herself and without hesitation, she charged headlong through the widening gap. However, Jack's grip didn't lessen on her lab-coat. Tina felt it tear as she struggled and wriggled free, leaving behind a torn and tattered rag.


_ - o O o - _


Al had just left the infirmary to pick up the pager from his office before heading back up to the cafeteria for breakfast. Already he'd pressed the button for the elevator and was trudging around impatiently waiting, as usual, for it to show up. Still no news on Sam or Donna, Doctor Beeks was keeping a tight lid on both of their conditions; something Al thought to be very strange. He'd even tried to pry some information out of one of the younger nurses but to no avail; she had been forewarned about a certain 'Captain' who had a flair for prizing specifics out of unsuspecting females, especially the pretty, young ones.

Al grinned at himself giddily at his subterfuge, followed by a dismissive shake of his head at the consequential rebuttal when he heard the elevator's imminent arrival. He then went through his established ritual, three steps turn, three steps turn; something he'd done thousands of times before. Then, as the elevator doors started to open and without looking up, he slowly stepped forward when an explosion of color sprinted straight for him, almost knocking him from his feet.

"Wooohaa, where's the fire?" the Captain solicited the fleeting Tina and did a double take as the elevator doors opened fully and he saw Jack standing hunched over in its interior and holding onto Tina's lab-coat. "What the HELL is going on here!" He glanced again from Jack to Tina and noticed the fear in her face. "Tina, is Jack bothering you again?"

Jack continued to press at the buttons feverishly, in the hope that the elevator doors would close faster.

"Oh Aaal… thank God you're here. I don't know what I'd've done if you hadn't called for the elevator when you did!" Tina ranted breathlessly. "He was going to…"

"Just you wait a minute there you, ratfink! You're not gonna get away that easily!" Al yelled after the technician as the Captain impetuously flung himself toward the doors and jammed them open. Lurching forward, Al seized Jack by the scruff of the neck and grappled him to the ground, catching Jack in the stomach with a well-placed punch.

Jack umphed and arrgghhed a few times as he hit the ground heavily, not only from the blow but also from the Captain's weight as he pounced on top of him, bracing his arms in front of his face for protection.

"Be careful, Aaal!" the Captain heard Tina yelling excitedly from the corridor.

The Captain continued to pummel away with his free hand and struck him a blow with every exaggerated sentence.

"Don't you ever go anywhere near Tina again!" Slap.

"No! Not the face!" Jack held his hands closer to his face leaving his body wide open.

"If I even see you glance in her direction…" Wallop. "I'm gonna come down on you like a tone of bricks!" Slap.

"Anywhere but the face!" Jack yelped.

"And if I see ya mistreatin' another woman again…" Thud. "You won't be worried about your face cos any woman worth her salt won't be looking at ya twice!" Thud.

Jack repeatedly squealed for him to stop and it wasn't until Tina hollered at the top of her lungs, that he did stop.

Salivating and breathless, Al sat back on his haunches.

Tina gingerly approached the elevator doors while they continually opened and closed when they sensed Jack's ankles protruding out into the hallway. "You haven't killed him have ya?" Tina screamed when she saw that Jack wasn't moving.

It was only then that Al surveyed his handiwork. A steady stream of blood flowed from Jack's nose and already a reddening swelling had started to bulge around his left eye.

"Don't be silly sweetie," Al said, looking up at Tina. "I've taken a more brutal beating and survived." But nevertheless, Al looked back down at the recumbent man, checking him over. "See sweetie, he's still breathin'."

"Yeah… but he don't look too good, do he?" Tina squirmed. "All that blood sorta makes him look pasty. Do you think we should fetch Bena, just to make sure he's okay?"

"Nah, he'll be fine, besides she's too busy and I didn't hit him that hard. Look, he's comin' round now," Al said and as he started to stand, Jack groaned.

"Oh Aaal, you didn't 'arf wallop him a good un… and all for me." Tina outstretched her arms and rushed toward the Captain, virtually crushing him with her embrace.

"Steady on kiddo, you'll have me back on the floor with pretty boy here! And we don't want that do we?" Al mocked and then turned to look down at the forlorn figure on the ground. "I think mister 'he' man for the moment, has had enough."

Tina stepped back, shook her head and giggled, "Oh Aaal, you so have a way with words."

"Only with words? Tina… honey… I'm surprised at you…" Al looked at her and frowned, his expression then changed to a wicked grin. "If only you knew what I could do with words that ain't in any dictionary, you'd be amazed." He sighed. "But first, we'd better get this nozzle cleaned up, err, give me a hand and we'll take him into my office."

Again Tina giggled and along with a slight blush, she sashayed childishly. "You're sure you don't want me to call, Bena?"

"Nah, look at him… he's enjoying every minute of my company, ain't ya pal?"

The fuzzyheaded, Jack nodded in agreement. "Whatever you say, Capt'n," and immediately winced at his painful ribs as he began to stand.

"That-a-boy, you're learnin' fast," Al said as he patted him on the back, none too gently.

Tina and Al spent the next half hour cleaning up Jack and made him look a little more presentable. He was a quivering wreck by the time he left Al's office and Al hoped that Tina wouldn't be having any more trouble from him.

After eventually, eating breakfast with Tina, Al returned to the mundane tasks in his office whilst Tina went back into the depths of the labs. Several times that day, he alternated between telephoning Doctor Beeks and checking in on Tina and eventually Verbena gave in and allowed the Captain a 'short' visit with Doctor Beckett.

Al didn't need any coaxing out off his office and was soon hotfooting his way to the infirmary to see how Sam was faring.


_ - o O o - _


Verbena was in her own thoughts as she looked down into the pale face of Doctor Beckett, counting his pulse rate. This was her third attempt, and she couldn't get a thought out of her head. It hadn't dawned on her until later last evening, just what had transpired. She hadn't felt it then, nor had she felt it afterwards and it wasn't until she'd woken in a cold sweat in the early hours, did the penny drop. From her first meeting with Doctor Beckett she'd felt some kind of kindred-ship and with every subsequent meeting the feeling had grown, platonically no, she'd yearned for more but in her own imagination the kiss-of-life was not what she had envisaged as a first kiss.

"Oh Sam!" Verbena quietly sighed as if clearing her throat and again she started a recount; firmly concentrating her energies toward the responsibilities for her patient.

After recording her findings onto Sam's medical chart, she replaced it into the rack and pulling out another, she transferred her attention to the occupancy of the other bed. It was unusual to have patients of differing sexuality in the same room but something deep inside was telling her, that this time was exceptional. Even with her own feelings aroused, she felt it was the right thing to do.

Again she sighed as he checked the drip flow from the IV fluids that were being administered to Doctor Elesee.

"How much longer do I have to be hooked up to this thing?" Donna asked as she impatiently waggled at the meddlesome tubing.

"This is the last, as soon as it's run through I'll take it out," Verbena said as she checked off the batch number against the one catalogued on the chart. "And no messing with this one. If it runs through too quickly, it'll get 'tissued' and we'll have to transfer it to the other hand with a fresh IV, and a fresh pack. That'll only mean that you'll be hooked up for longer."

"I know, but it so boring lying here, doing nothing," Donna complained.

"Think yourself lucky, a few days off from work will work wonders, Lord knows, you need the rest," Verbena clucked and fluffed up Donna's pillows. "Relax, take it easy and you'll be up and around again in no time."

"That's just it, there is no time, the work I'm doing is crucial and..."

"More crucial than… your health?" Verbena glared at Doctor Elesee sternly, nodding her disapproval.

"Well… almost…" Donna heaved a sigh of reluctant expectation as she leaned forward and strained to look around Verbena. "How's Sam progressing?"

"I'm not sure," Verbena half turned, a perplexed expression furrowing her face. "His vitals are normal but he's still unconscious, I'd've thought he would've come round by now. He's really worrying me. Whatever that thing did to him, it sure shocked him a good one."

"I know; it was awful! I couldn't sleep for seeing it happen over and over again; every time I closed my eyes, I could see those long, luminescent feelers striking out—into him." Donna shuddered.

"That's what's so strange," Verbena shook her head at Donna's vibrant description. "Why, after all these months should it decide to attack now? I'd've thought that if anything, it would have attacked early on and not now, not after it's been nurtured… and what's more, the MRI doesn't show any damage."

"He's not brain damaged then?"

"Surprisingly not, at least there doesn't appear to be…"

The incessant ringing of the telephone interrupted Doctor Beeks.

"Where is everyone?" Doctor Beeks intoned, looking around. "I'll be back in a few minutes I just need to answer this phone. I bet you anything, it's Capt'n Calavicci again and when I get back, I'll remove your IV, it's almost done," she continued as she left the room.

As soon as she picked up the receiver, she recognized the vocal tones of Albert Calavicci. "Al, this must be the fifth time you've interrupted my rounds!" Verbena scolded into the handset.

"…And if you don't tell me how they're doing, there'll be a sixth and a seventh—and an eighth and a ninth…"

"Okay! Okay, you win!" the doctor shook her head in submission. "He's not conscious yet but I will give you a few minutes with him. Only a few mind…" she admonished into the receiver when she heard Al's gusto. "…and only if you behave."

"Sure thing, doc, I'll be up in a tic and I'll be on my best behavior, I promise."

The line clicked and as Verbena replaced the receiver, she chuckled, "That's what's so admirable about you Al, you can always twist me around your little finger… and no doubt others, I bet."

_ - o O o - _


The infirmary was quiet when the Captain entered through the swing doors but as he marched down the short corridor, he could hear hushed voices emerging from the small office at the very end. Al tipi-toed the final few steps and paused, unseen outside. The voices were no more than a muffled drone but even so; Al could make out a few: exhaustion was one and dehydration was another.

Al was a tad puzzled, those diagnostics were not typical of Sam's injuries and yet he wasn't surprised at the exhaustion part, he had never know anyone put in such long hours and come out looking so fresh at the end of it. 'Sam has definitely turned burning the candle at both ends into an art form!' Al smiled at his conjecture.

But soon his smile turned into a wince, when he heard Doctor Elesee's name mentioned. Then he began to take it all in, Donna must put in nearly as many hours as he and Sam had. He knew all too well the morning-after feeling following a night working in Doctor Beckett's lab, not that Sam was a slave-driver or anything like it, just that time always seemed to run away with him.

Al's attention was drawn back to his immediate task, and whilst Doctor Beeks' attentiveness was elsewhere; he made his mind up to slip past the unmonitored station. He peeked in all doors that led off from the adjacent corridor. He was surprised at what he saw, through the translucency of the porthole; he looked and blinked; his eyes unbelieving.

Doctor Elesee was kneeling by the side of Sam's bed, her hand in his and her lips moving as if in silent prayer only inches away from Sam's swathed head. Al shrank away from the window; he felt as if he were intruding but before he could, Donna sensed an obtrusive omnipresence and turned in the direction of the doorway. Al darted out of view just in time and as she too began to back away, Sam stirred and clasped his hand tightly around hers. Even though his eyes were still closed, she was beginning to feel vulnerable—suddenly realizing that she was exposing her true feelings.

Feeling panicked, she tried to slip her hand away from Sam's but his grip held firm. A small globule of blood oozed through her freshly applied dressing where, once, the IV had been inserted. Al returned his gaze into the circular window and watched, as Doctor Beckett's touch seemed to be causing her pain, her face distorted to some degree in mental agony. She was poised half up from her knees but not quite standing, Al watched slightly amused at Donna's uneasiness when Donna again turned her head abruptly towards the door. This time the Captain wasn't quite fast enough and his teeth clenched when she caught sight of him. Her face blanched but her jaw line hardened.

Al didn't know what the heck to do, whether to turn away, wave through the glass or walk in and act as if nothing had happened. Biting at his bottom lip, he turned the handle slowly and quietly.

"How is he?" Al asked, whispering as his upper torso crooked around the opening door.

"The doc, oh, she says he'll be fine…" Donna gulped hesitantly as forcibly; she wrenched her hand away from Sam's and hid it behind her back, "…she says he's sleeping now."

"Sleeping!" Al's voice rose well above his natural pitch, and then asked more sedately, "So he's been awake then?"

Donna shook her head. "He hasn't, not while I've been here."

Al felt a prod in his middle back, which prompted him to enter the room fully. As he turned slightly to see who it was that had the audacity to poke him in that unsubtle manner, he saw the darker skin of a bare arm reach out and a hand seize him by the elbow.

"Captain Calavicci!" Doctor Beeks scolded sternly whilst grappling him onto the edge of the doorframe. "I can't remember giving you any endorsement to cross the threshold of my space!"

The Captain faced her with the coyness of an innocent child that had been wrongly accused. "What is it with everyone today? Is it rib the dumb assed Captain for all it's worth, day?"

"No, I don't think so! But you're sure as hell better be having a good explanation for not reporting to my office before visiting! I told you a short visit and Capt'n, I mean short!"

Verbena turned her head sharply towards Donna who was still standing besides Doctor Beckett's bed.

"And you, my girl, you shouldn't be outta that bed," Verbena directed a resolutely aimed finger towards the empty, adjacent bed. "You should be takin' it easy and restin', you're too stressed out as it is!"

"I was just…"

Donna started to speak but Doctor Beeks cut her dead.

"I wish I had a dime for every time I heared that phrase!" In her agitation, Verbena's dialect reverted toward her youthful inflection.

"I only wanted to…"

"Get into bed wit'ya and no arguing, do ya hear me?"

The Captain smiled, never before had he seen Doctor Beeks so hopping mad, he'd always thought her to be a calm and collected kinda person. At least with Verbena now on Donna's case, maybe, just maybe, he could slip away unnoticed but as he started to inch his way out of the door, he felt the doc's grasp on his jacket tighten.

"And where might you be sneaking off to, Capt'n?"

"N—noooowhere," Al shook his head and pouted. "I was just…"

Doctor Beeks frowned, recalling her words, only seconds beforehand.

"I—I remembered, I've some unfinished paperwork…" Al thrust a forefinger downwards, "…down in, erm—my—erm—in my office."

"What's all this hollering? What does a man have to do, to get a minute's peace around here?"

"Sam! You're awake, how you feelin' buddy?" Al asked, redirecting his finger towards a bleary-eyed physicist, leaning precariously over the edge of the bed.

"Doctor Beckett!" Verbena half shrieked as she rushed to the side of Sam's bed. "You doctors! I've always said it, you make the worst patients of all and that includes you Miss Elesee. Don't any of you ever practice what you preach?"

Doctor Elesee drew away and perched one legged onto her allotted bed. "You insult our intelligence Doctor Beeks. We are not children nor are we medical doctors; we're both scientists and deserve to be respected as such."

'Miss, haughty-taughty, no less,' Al thought.

Sam rubbed at his sleepy eyes. "Donna, I know it's the stress talking but you cannot say things like that. After all, we are in Doctor Beeks' territory and she's in-charge; I wouldn't be too pleased if some young intern talked to me that way, especially a patient of mine."

"That's right, Sam, you're a doctor, yeah…" Al kneaded at his chin in contemplation. "I'd forgotten that you'd gotten a medical doctorate, I remember reading it now, in your résumé."

Donna looked at Sam in astonishment. "You're a doctor too? I'm sorry, I didn't know. I didn't mean to imply…"

Sam laughed, "And why should you know? I'm not here in that capacity, I'm here as a physicist, like you."

"No Sam, not like you. You have at least seven years of M.I.T. behind you; I had to contend with Cal-State University."

Sam shook his head and laughed, whilst the Captain took Verbena's arm and whispered, "Come on, let's leave these two alone to get acquainted, from what I saw earlier, she's just as much in awe of Sam, as Sam is with her. It can't hurt do leave 'em be for a minute or two, can it?"

"I think it'll be okay," Verbena said hesitantly. "He seems fine… but I really should…"

"Bena, come on! He looks okay to me too. You can do a full autopsy on him later," Al whispered and grinned.

Sam watched as Al shot him a crafty wink and again Sam laughed as he corrected the slight misunderstandings with Doctor Elesee. "Two, I went to M.I.T. for two years not seven. That's where I met Bobby."

"Ahhh, I get it, of course Captain, anything to aid the path of true love," Verbena said, returning the whisper. As she permitted the Captain to lead her out, she asked, "By-the-way Al, how on earth did you manage to get past the nurses station without me seeing you?"

"Bobby?" Donna queried as the door closed behind them.

"Bobby LoNigro, he was my professor at M.I.T. and after I graduated in 72, we worked together for a few years. You see we developed this theory together and…"

"You graduated in 72?" Donna looked puzzled. "You don't look old enough, I thought possibly, you were only a couple of years older than me, perhaps not even that. But… I'm sorry Doctor Beckett…" Donna slid down from her bed and headed for the door. "…but I have to go, now!"

"Go where? Why the formalities now? Donna?" Sam called after her, but Donna didn't respond, nor did she turn back. "Donna? You should be resting, I think."

Standing outside Doctor Beeks' office, Al's attention was drawn to the room he'd just left by the slamming of the door.

"What the…" Al baulked, as turning his head to the sound, he espied Doctor Elesee fleeing in the opposite direction.

"Seems our pair of lovebirds have had their first tiff," Verbena replied coolly. "Capt'n you stay put and I'll see if I can find out what's upsetting her."

"Sure," Al answered but he had no intention of staying put, he was more than curious as what had happened, especially after seeing Donna's abundant emotions earlier. What on earth had arisen behind those closed doors? Instinctively, he knew, he had to find out.

Once Doctor Beeks was out of sight in her pursuit, Al advanced on the closed off room.

"Sam, what the hell happened?" Al questioned, as in a single stride he was inside.

Doctor Beckett was already out of bed and searching through his locker for clothes. "I dunno Al, everything was fine until…"

"Until what?"

"Until, I don't know. Argh—darn it," Sam affirmed as, when he pulled out a pair of slacks, the other contents fell to the floor.

"You don't know? You must've said something to upset her. She fled from here like a scalded cat! Verbena's off to find her now!"

"Listen, Al, when I say 'I don't know', I literally mean, 'I don't know'. I must've said or done something but I honestly don't knowwhat!" Sam stated as he struggled with a twisted trouser leg.

"Give 'em an inch and they'll take a mile, or run a mile in her case," Al said laughingly and jabbing a thumb over his shoulder.

Sam glared at him and then calculatingly tugged up on the zipper.

Al coughed and decided on a change of tack. "Should you be doing that?"


"Getting dressed, shouldn't you be resting up?"

"What I am doing Al, is getting the hell out've here. I have work to do… or have you forgotten?" Sam barked as he stooped to pick up his shirt.

"Are you crazy? From Donna's portrayal last night," Al nodded toward the neighboring bed. "You must've had more than a thousand of volts of electricity flowing through you but I think she was exaggerating, just a little. I can just see you now Sam, ziggi…ing and zagging…" Al hiccupped out his final few words. "…across that crystal lab… of yours."

"Ziggying?" Sam teased, "I like that one; where did that come from? It ain't in any dictionary I've read."

"You read dic…tionaries?" Al queried, still hiccupping.

"O-one or two, yeah, doesn't everyone?" Sam asked.

"No wonder everyone can't under…stand what you're on about, you're heads up on the re…st of us, even more so now you've been zig…gied."

"I can tell; I'm not gonna live this down, am I?" Sam said, looking at Al sternly.

"Not as far as I'm concerned, no but at least you're looking bet…ter than you did last nig…ht, amazing what a little indigestion can achi…eve, darned lasagna," Al grumbled, rubbing at his belly.

"You had the lasagna too?" Sam queried.

"Yeah, looked and tasted like the landscape of Mars," Al verified.

"And what would you know about Mars?" Sam said with a shake of his head.

"I'm an ex-astro…naut, almost made that moon landing but then yo…ou wouldn't know that, same as I hadn't registered you were a doc…tor. Hey pal," Al put in quickly, "You're so good at re…naming things but I think it's my turn; we should put a plaque above that crystal lab of your…s, warning people of the Ziggy within, what…cha think?"

"Unbelievable, Al, you're totally unbelievable," Sam laughed.

"Talking of unbelievable—Sam, was that the first time?" Al said, gazing at the physicist somewhat perplexed.

"First time, for what? I hope you're still not on about what's-her-name, Mimi?" Sam asked fretfully.

"Nah, Sam, the orb, striking out at you like that? Being Ziggy'd?" the Captain snickered in response.

"No, not the first time but never so severely. Why do you ask?"

"Awww, it was just something I noticed yesterday, in the darkened corridor outside've your office—I thought I was seeing things at first… but now…" Al paused in thought.

Sam waited for him to continue but when he didn't, he said, "Well, are you gonna let me in on what it was you saw?"

"I dunno Sam, you'll think I'm crazy… but after last night's fiasco, I'm not so sure I'm as crazy as you'd think I am."

Again, Al paused and again, Sam waited.

"Spit it out!" Sam petitioned, curiously expectant.

"Well…" the Captain said hesitantly. "To cut a loooong explanation short… Sam, you were… glowing!" Al's face scrunched tightly, he was anticipating the inevitable ridicule to follow shortly and began to cower.

"Glowing?" Sam sat down on the edge of his bed, mystified.

"As if you'd been irradiated with some kinda phosphorous substance; like a black light or somethin'. Your silhouette was surrounded by a glowing blue aura."

"Aura?" Sam repeated.

"Sam," Al relaxed when the wisecracks didn't flourish as expected. "I think you'd better get out the dictionaries again, I think you're losing the meaning of vocabulary."

"At least you've stopped hiccupping," Sam observed with a grin.

At that precise moment, the door opened and Verbena Beeks strode in, followed by a subdued Donna Elesee. Verbena halted at the door but Donna continued on to the empty bed and sat in the chair at its side.

"I thought I told you to stay put Capt'n!" Doctor Beeks growled angrily. "I'm surprised at you, do you ever follow orders?"

"Only trying to prevent an escape, Bena," Al explained as he grinned remorselessly in Sam's direction. "I didn't think it wise for Doctor Beckett to leave just yet."

"And you thought right, I guess I owe you an apology," Verbena then turned to Sam. "What on earth were you thinking, I'd've thought you'd had more sense. You were unconscious all night and most of today."

"I feel fine—absolutely fabulous; in fact I've never felt better. No ill effects, nothing," Sam reasoned subjectively.

"That's for me to determine Doctor Beckett, not you, you're the patient here and I'm the doctor."

"Honestly, I'm fine, I just needed the rest and a good rest it was too," Sam smiled and holding out his arm, he added, "…and if you don't believe me, check for yourself, doc."

Verbena's heart skipped a beat as she tried to keep her emotions in check. The mere thought of touching him, sent spine tingling sensations throughout her whole body. And so, with the only way she knew how, she reverently converted her emotions into domination and pointed unwaveringly towards the bed.

"If I were you Sam, I'd do as she says."

"And if I were you, I'd do as I say too."

Sam glanced from one oppressive face to the other. "Guess I have no choice, I'll give you one more night but if by tomorrow, I'm still feeling as good as I do now, I'm getting the hell out've here! Okay?"

"Okay," Verbena agreed, "But only if further tests prove negative."

"I wouldn't have it any other way," Sam smiled uneasily as he backed slowly towards the bed and began to climb into it.

"Clothes!" Verbena snapped and swallowing hard as her emotions again began to rise considerably, she added, "You need to take off your clothes and put them in… in your locker." She stepped forward, snapping out from her embarrassment and drew the curtain around Sam's bed. She then turned to Al, "Visiting time is over Capt'n, you've had far longer than I'd intended.

"See you tomora Sam," Al said more loudly than was necessary as he started to leave.

"You can count on that," Sam replied.

"I'll see you too, Al," Donna said nervously.

"Sure kid, both of you rest and you'll be up and about before you know it." Al breathed a sigh of relief when the door closed behind him. If it hadn't have been for Doctor Beeks' determined resolution, he was sure Sam would have been walking out with him right now. Sam may be a doctor but when it came down to self-preservation, Sam was clueless.


Starbright Project Complex, New Mexico
Captain Calavicci's Quarters

Sunday, March 18th 1984

Even after being comforted by an enthused Tina, Al spent a restless night, tossing and turning until daybreak. In the light of the morning, the past couple of day's seemed to be unreal, especially the incident with the glowing orb. Lying in bed, Al glanced over at the clock. 7:45, he noticed and felt more than a little antsy, an entire twenty-four hours had to elapse before Sam could see Adams.

'Damn! Another whole day!' Al thought, 'what am I gonna do for an exciting, fun-filled, event packed day?' He pulled up the bedcovers and buried his head at that thought but then just as suddenly threw the covers aside and sat bolt upright.

"Tina? Wake up!" he ordered as he shook as his bed-partner's shoulder.

Tina grumbled and groaned, staring at Al with sleep laden eyes. "Go back to sleep Al, it's Sunday, you always like a lie-in on Sunday's."

"Not this Sunday, hon. Gooshie's back today and I have to continue this subterfuge awhile longer."

Tina moaned and turned over, "Whatever!" she announced sleepily.

"It's not gonna be easy though, especially with Sam in the infirmary," Al said, shuffling his feet out of the bed and seating himself on the edge. "I was counting on him for a diversion."

"Go and see him then and leave me alone," Tina stated tetchily as she pounded her fists into the pillow.

"My, aren't we a grumpy one this morning," Al teased, half turning to her.

"You don't have to work with that idiot, Jack, this afternoon. I don't know what it is with him lately, but he's been really aggressive towards you."

"Comes with the territory, honey, but I wouldn't think you'd hear a peep outta him now, I think he's learned his lesson," the Captain said with a shrug. "Some people can withstand working within boundaries and some just can't, I'm supposing that Jack's one of those that can't. He sounds to me as if he's antiauthoritarianism."

"Al, it's a little too early for big words, if you're going, go. Otherwise, get back into bed, will ya?"

"Either that or he's baying for your favors!" Al said jokingly after ignoring Tina's comment.

"Don't you dare joke about that Al!" Tina said, sitting up in bed alarmed. "If truth be known, I'm dreading today and personally, I can't stand the man, he's too sycophantic."

"Now who's using the big words?"

"Get away with ya Al, and leave me in peace," Tina whined. Shooing Al away with a wave of her hand, she flopped down and turned away.

"Alright already, I'm goin'," Al said more softly as he turned fully to kiss Tina's exposed shoulder. "Sam looked okay last night but then looks can be deceiving, if he's not up to receiving visitors, then, I s'pose there's always Donna, I have to fill my day somehow until Gooshie phones."

"What do you have against Donna?" Tina asked, turning to face Al.

The Captain shrugged. "I dunno, it's something about her behaviour, she kinda flummoxes me. Now you go back to sleep and I'll return real soon," he said, giving her another peck to the side of her neck.

"Fat chance now, I'm wide awake, thanks to you!" Tina said as the Captain stood up and started heading for the door.

"Don't go blaming me; I wasn't the one asking the questions," Al said pointing an accusatory finger, and then he winked at her. "Later, hon, I'll be back before you realize I'm gone."

"Oh you!" Tina frowned, throwing a pillow at him. "You men! You're all the same—just one thing on your mind."

"Better to have a one-track mind than a one-way ticket," Al said quickly as he ducked another airborne missile and after blowing Tina a seductive kiss, he was gone.

_ - o O o - _


As Al made a return journey to the infirmary, he whistled happily, he was pleased that he had eventually 'talked' Sam out of discharging himself from the care of Doctor Beeks and he laughed as he remembered Sam's exact words, 'I'm getting the hell out've here,' as if he was being held prisoner. Even that thought didn't stop his cheeriness, his past experiences in Vietnam were long gone and buried, at least unspoken. He was also gratified that he was alone in the elevator, if anyone had heard him laughing like that, 'hmmm,' he could hear them now, 'He's been on the bottle again.' Well, he didn't want to know what the 'others' might think, he knew in his own heart that he and his old pal JD had parted company, amicably.

After arriving at the infirmary, he did feel a little let down to discover that Doctor Beckett had checked-out after all. Though he did learn that Sam was in good physical shape, even after what had happened and that he'd promised to return twice a day to have his dressings changed and to remain in his quarters to rest.

Al however, knew precisely where Doctor Beckett would be and using Gooshie's pass-card returned down to Sam's lab.

"Thought I might find you here," Al admonished the physicist as he walked through the door. "Though I must say, I am disappointed at you for not following 'doctor's orders' especially now that you've confirmed you're one yourself."

The physicist rotated on his stool to face the Captain. "Well, you know what they say and Verbena came right out with it, we do make the worst patients and we never follow our own advice."

"Anyway, that's beside the point but it is great to see you up and about again," Al smiled compliantly and strolled leisurely towards the bench where the physicist was working.

"What have you been doing in my absence?" Sam asked, genuinely interested.

"Ahhh ya know, nothin' much," Al said, and after being reminded, he rubbed discreetly at his sore knuckles. He thought the small act had gone unnoticed but he was wrong.

"What've you done to your hand, it looks swollen?" Sam asked, nodding down as Al's right hand.

"A little skirmish, no big deal," Al answered, fidgeting; he tried his best to give the impression that it was nothing to talk about.

"Out with it!" Sam looked across at his friend pensively. "I can tell, whatever it is, it's bothering you."

The Captain turned his back on Sam. He really needed to talk to someone and who better than his newfound pal but he hesitated and started his familiar pacing. He didn't want to burden him with his problems, especially with Sam being ill but this new problem posed to be gaining an advantage, Jack was really bugging him.

Al suddenly turned and he slammed a fist down onto the bench beside Sam. "I've had enough with the Jack's of these times, especially the tawny and the yeller-bellied, spiritless ones," Al growled.

"Weitzman? What has Weitzman got to do with any of this?" Sam asked inquisitively. "And, tawny? Why, tawny?"

"Not Weitzman, Sam, this weasel that Tina works with," Al corrected. "He's that carrot-topped, pea-brained nozzle that works in programming and I can't believe that he's been after Tina all along."

"I don't think I've met him… but I still don't see the connection," Sam said, a little confused.

"My old pal, JD, my one time libation and this—this oddball character, Waterfield—they're really getting under my skin. Nothing but trouble, the pair of 'em!"

"JD? Who's he?" Sam asked.

"Not a 'who' Sam, a 'what'! Ya know, JD? Everyone knows what JD is," Al could tell from the expression on Sam's face that he didn't have a clue as to what he was on about. "… except probably you Sam, the bottle?" Al nodded his head and Sam shook his. "Ya know, Jack Daniels? Ringin' any bells now, pal?"

'If it isn't a who, then what the hell is a Jack Daniels?' Sam thought, and then he suddenly remembered a bar on campus. "Whiskey?" he queried and grimaced at the idea of a wrong answer.

"At last!" Al shouted exuberantly. "Give the kid a cherry! Oh no, sorry Sam, I forgot, you still got yours!"

Again, Sam glanced at Al, mystified.

"You still don't get me, do ya?" Al asked and Sam shook his head. "And you say I'm unbelievable!"

Sam grimaced.


Starbright Project Complex, New Mexico
Reception Area

Sunday, March 18th 1984
8:40 AM

After a long shift, the mundane task of reception duty was alleviated temporarily as a light flashed on the control panel. "First Lieutenant, Zackary Manheim, speaking," a young officer said whilst he flicked a switch on the panel, which was located below the screen that monitored all incoming and outgoing calls to and from the complex.

"Thank goodness it's you Lieutenant Manheim, I was afraid I'd get someone else."

"Doctor Gushman?" Zack countered, recognizing the unmistakable voice. "I didn't know you'd left the complex."

"Long story, just get a message to Al Calavicci will you?" Gooshie asked impatiently.

"Certainly, straight away Doctor. I'll put you through to the Captain's office." Zack switched the telephone handset to the other ear as he reached out to connect Gooshie with Captain Calavicci.

"No! No, I tried his office less than a minute ago, he wasn't there, could you bleep him, please?"

"Sure, but…"

"Here's the number where I can be reached," Gooshie paused whilst he read the number from the telephone kiosk. "553-2639… did you get that? 553-2639"

"But that's in…"

"Yes, I do know where I am, thank you, Zackary."

"Okay, I'll sent that page out; can I help you with anything else?"

"Nothing, but please, it is vital that you don't tell anyone that I've phoned or where I am… understand?"

"Understood… but…"

"No more buts, I don't have time. I'm going to hang up now and remember; you haven't heard or spoken with me outside of the complex."

"Sure." But Zack was already talking to thin air, Gooshie had hung up. Absently, he pulled up the Captain's information in the screen before him and typed out the short message, sending it to the designated pager. He then sat back chuckling to himself, 'Adams' gonna be furious when he hears about this but he's not gonna find out from me. No-siree, anything to baffle the CIA is fine by me; I just wish I'd thought of it first.'


_ - o O o - _


Al was still in Doctor Beckett's laboratory when the bleeper disturbed his concentration.

"Is that yours or mine?" Sam asked as he looked at the pager clipped onto his lab coat pocket. "Must be yours, Al," he said, looking at a blank screen.

"Oh right," Al mumbled as he fumbled inside the borrowed lab coat to access the pocket in his shirt. "It's Gooshie!" he whispered covertly. He was expecting contact from Doctor Gushman today but he wasn't sure of the when. There were several flights due in to Albuquerque from LaGuardia Airport but with the speed of Gooshie's departure, no preset time had been arranged. "Is this phone-line monitored?" Al asked in hushed tones.

"No, not as far as I—what is all this, Al? Why all the secrecy?" Sam asked, whispering and feeling coerced into talking in similar tones.

"I'm sure Adams has some of the phone-lines tapped and those speaker thingies," Al placed a finger over his lips. "Shhhh, I'm sure there's a two-way control switch in his office so that he can listen in to the different conversations."

"Al, aren't you getting a little paranoid?" Sam inquired softly.

"Me? Paranoid? No!" Al placed a hand across his chest, shaking his head gently and then lowered his voice again, looking about covertly. "Just 'cos you think I'm being paranoid, it don't mean that Adams ain't out to get me! He's surely got it in for me and I'm sure as hell gonna find out what!"

"How do you know? I mean…" Sam started acting as furtively as Al. "Why on earth would he want to tap the phone-lines and our conversations? It's not as if we're gonna be giving out any secret stuff to any Tom, Dick or Harry, is it? And besides, do you have you any proof?"

"Well, no," Al squirmed. "But my gut…"

"Your guts again? I sure hope your guts are in good shape, otherwise you could be stirring up a whole lot here, Al!"

Al squirmed. "What's my guts gotta do with phone tapping?"

Sam's brow creased and he disregarded the Captain's comment. "I'm quite sure that line isn't monitored," he then nodded to the telephone situated out of the way, on the corner table. "I've phoned my family a few times and I've never had any comebacks."

"Well, you wouldn't, you're not the one under scrutiny here."

Doctor Beckett forwarded a glare of objection.

"Okay, I'll take your word for it but don't blame me if this whole damn thing backfires," Al admonished, as he sidestepped to the end of the bench. His voice seemed to echo loudly after the muted undertones of the past few minutes.

The Captain dialed the number entrusted to him by the duty guard on roster, he hoped it was Zack, now there was a man who could keep a confidence, he disliked Adams as much as the next man, and yet his gut was telling him to be wary.

To Al the trill ringing tone seemed to buzz interminably and as he waited the tone was replaced by a sudden click. "Hello," Gooshie answered.

"Gooshie?" Al grinned into the handset and nodded to Sam. "Nice to hear from you, pal. Did everything go well at your end?"

"Um, yeah… Catherine’s feeling much better. She and Robert really appreciated me helping out with their daughter, even if only for a couple of days. How's everything going over there, Captain?"

"Truthfully, I've seen better days, but it's nothing you need to worry about. I've got your card key to give back to you. Where are you now?" Al inquired.

"I'm at the Crossroads Diner just outside Stallion's Gate," Gooshie answered

Al looked towards Sam and at the same time figured in his head, how long it would take him to get there. After that brief pause, he continued, "Okay, gimme about twenty minutes. I'll meet you there."

"Captain, before you go, I have a favor to ask you," Gooshie said quickly as he hesitated slightly. "I don't want to enter the complex by the main doors. Is that other way, through the tunnels, is that still accessible? Adams didn't find out yet, did he?"

"Hmm, that’s… gonna be a bit difficult, Goosh! Adams downgraded my security clearance. The nozzle’s got it in for me, I can tell ya!"

"Not because of me, I hope?" Gooshie apologized beforehand, without realizing.

"Nah, my own stupid fault! Hey, listen, we'll worry about that when we get back to the Project, okay?" Al reassured. "I owe you a favor anyway. See ya in about twenty minutes!" Al hung up the phone as he turned to Sam.

"What's gonna be difficult, Al?" Sam inquired guilefully.

"Well, thing is Sam, I need a favor… but I don't know if you're up to it…" the Captain glanced at the physicist skeptically. Sam had done him favors in the past, but would he be able to do what he was going to ask next? "It's no biggie Sam, Goosh don't wanna bee seen entering by the main entrance. So I was wonderin' if…"

"There's another way into the complex, right?" Sam figured as he turned full circle away from Al, he didn't want Al to see his satisfied expression of what having another entrance into the complex, really meant, not yet anyway.

"There sure is, through the underground tunnels. Though I don't think Adams knows about them yet—at least I don't think he does—not many people who work here do."

Sam's heart skipped a beat when he had the confirmation. "Fascinating!" Sam subjugated and tuned back to face Al, he was so excited, and he couldn't bear to keep it to himself any longer. "Do you know what this means, the implications, what can be achieved?"

"Erm, no!" the Captain glanced quizzically at the physicist. "I'm curious but don't tell me now, there isn't time—I want you to secure the tunnels for when we get back."

"ME!?" Sam gazed at the Captain in astonishment. "But Al, I have no idea where the tunnels are at—where they start… and end!"

"There's an entrance to them via 'TRANS'—the level below 21—the subterranean rail system?"

"You mean, 'The Pit'?"

"The Pit? Ha-ha!" the Captain laughed heartily. "Sam, do you give nicknames to everyplace you visit?"

Sam's cheek twitched with embarrassment. "Ahhh, only when, err… they're given inappropriate names to start with. Look Al, we're wasting time here, I'll do it... but you're gonna have to show me where they are."

"No time pal, you'll have to search them out for yourself—there's a small alcove to your right, as soon as you step out'uv the elevator. Keep going right, right round the back of the elevator and just follow the tunnel and ignore all of the left turns and branches. It should take you about 15 minutes. You've gotta look for the entrance though, Sam, 'cos if you don't know it's there, you won't find it." Al looked at his watch and started stepping backwards towards the door, "It's 8:47 now; erm, we should be back in say… 45 minutes—give or take a few minutes here and there as long as there're no hiccups. So say it pal, do you think you can do it?"

"How…" Sam started to ask but shook his head. "No, I won't even justify a question for an answer on how you found out about these tunnels."

"Years and years of training Sam," the Captain instinctively tapped a finger to his nose. "If you don't know the territory that you're in, you could be a dead man in a matter of minutes," he stipulated, transferring his hand to opening the door behind him.

"Al, who else knows about these tunnels?"

"Gooshie, me and a few reptiles—oh… and now you Sam. See you later pal, and happy potholing."

Sam watched in alarm as the door closed, leaving him alone and confused. He'd only been down to the 'TRANS' area once and that was on the day of his arrival, he wished now that he'd taken the time to study that area in more detail. All he could remember seeing was the five cylindrical shaped vehicles that were decorated with the project's atom logo, he didn't take much in of his surroundings but then, he didn't feel the need to. Opening the middle drawer to the cabinet closest to him, he pulled out a flashlight and a set of fresh batteries. He didn't want to be caught napping if the life in the original's suddenly petered out.

With no time to lose and grabbing his jacket, Sam raced out of his laboratory and toward the elevator, pressed the button to descend and then watched as the illuminated lights flitted from level 5 up to the ground level and pause. Sam assumed the delay was for Al's departure and then the lights reversed.

After leaving the elevator and entering 'The Pit', Sam followed Al's instructions and found the 'alcove'. But it likened to be more of a narrow split in the rock face and only just wide enough for him to squeeze through. Once inside, the cavern widened and with what little light there was, Sam could see that the gap must've stretched upwards for hundreds of feet, if not yards.

Out of the light and into the shadows, Sam placed one careful foot in front of the other as he felt the roughness of the stony ground beneath his feet. The beam of light feebly lighting his way.

To Sam's dismay, Al wasn't jesting about the potholing part; some of the ceilings were low enough to make him stoop, whilst at times he almost had to crawl along on hands and knees. How on earth they were gonna get Gooshie back through here, he'd never know. Although small in height, Gooshie wasn't renowned for his small stature.

"Shouldn't be far now," Sam breathed. To his reckoning he'd been in the tunnels about twelve of the fifteen minutes but as he shone the flashlight ahead, there seemed to be no end in sight. "Right around that next bend, I guess," he figured as the beam seemed to hit a dead-end.

Even though Sam's voice was barely a whisper, the sound of it eerily reverberated back at him from all angles, making him shiver. He hadn't felt the dankness until now. The stuffy, dust-filled air stung at his sinuses, transmitting a persistent stinging sensation to the frontal lobe of his brain.

Sam was flat on his belly as he edged around the next corner, almost a 120 degree turn and as he'd mentally noted all of his previous twists and turns, he now calculated that he was most definitely facing in the wrong direction. As he struggled to direct the shaft of light around the remainder of the turning, he noticed the steep gradient. Up until now there had been a steady climb and as he inched forward, the downhill incline sheered off to an almost vertical drop.

Sam gasped as the rubble he'd loosened and dragged along with him started to roll downward, steadily gaining in velocity as the angle steepened and finally crashed over the edge, sending up spirals of fine dust into the barely breathable atmosphere.

The physicist coughed as the fine particles he'd inhaled clogged his respiratory tract and in doing so, he clutched fastidiously at the flashlight incase it should follow. He listened for the expected clatter as the rubble hit the bottom but he never heard it.

Sam began to back off. Somewhere along the way, he must have made a wrong turning. But where? He'd followed the Captain's instructions to the letter.

Although the tunnel was low, it was just about wide enough for him to cautiously U-turn and mentally he re-trod the trail whilst physically, he retraced his original route.

After ten minutes of backtracking, he was standing almost upright again. He stopped when he heard the elevator vibrating through the rock ceiling above him and it was then that he noticed a junction that he'd missed. A left turn to where he should have turned right.

Holding a tentative hand to the lesion on his temple, he took a few steps back towards the entrance and checked his mistake. From this side, a bulge in the rock-face hid the turn to some extent, but from his previous standpoint, it was clearly visible.

'Understandable, given the circumstances,' he thought but as he rounded the rocky outcrop, the beam from his flashlight gave out and he suddenly found himself in complete and unquestionable darkness.

Sam fumbled inside his jacket for the set of spare batteries and as he did so, he became acutely aware of the skin on his left hand as it held out the lapel. A strange but lucid, cerulean luminosity shrouded the back of it.

"What the…?" he mumbled aloud as slowly he outstretched his fingers, turning them around. The aura cloaked his entire hand and wrist, outlining and following the contours of each trembling finger. "Glowing!" he swallowed. "This… is this, what Al… saw?"

After a few moments of incomprehension, he gulped and opened up the casing, replacing the dead batteries for new and flicking the switch, the sudden shaft of light all but blinded him.

Looking down at his hands for a second time, the corporeal illusion was no more and he shook his head as the beam of light sought out his clandestine advancement. He had no indication as to the extent of the caverns that lay before him, he'd lost all track of time and motion, he just hoped he hadn't wasted too much of either.

With a deep sigh, he strode forward along the latest trail, pursuing the ball of light that illuminated his way. "This is more like it!" he breathed his words heavily as the terrain took on an uphill rise. As he rounded the next bend, he saw ahead of him an intensely lit aperture, almost slash-like, cut into the rock and blurring out everything else. A fresh breeze met with him head-on and appreciatively, he breathed it in deeply.

After the dankness of the caverns, the air of the desert seemed to be unusually crisp for the time of day. 'After all,' Sam reasoned, 'it must be well past 10 o'clock.' As he squinted in the bright sunlight, he saw the perimeter fencing that surrounded the complex and he realized that since his arrival, he'd only left the complex once and that was under the orders of Colonel Radford.

Doctor Beckett had never had the inclination for sightseeing; one place to him was much like another. Sure, he'd visited several States during his studious travels but tourism to him was a complete waste of valuable time.

Having no idea where he was, or where he'd find the gatehouse of the complex, Sam skirted the boundary, staying close and keeping the rocky formation to his back and keeping lookout for the inevitable guard on duty.

"What now?" he grimaced when the periphery barrier and precipitous region combined and drew to an abrupt end. Uneasily, he glanced back to whence he'd come, deliberating, if he still had time to retrace his steps, yet again. But, curiosity had gotten the better of him and before he knew it, he was daringly scaling the rocky juncture.

As he neared the crest, he saw the differing purple hues of the desert terrain. He marveled at the mountainous regions, way off in the distance. The sun glinting on embedded crystallized fossils, winking and blinking like cat's-eyes. It was breathtaking and well worth the effort of the climb.

As his eyes traced downwards, he watched over a vehicle as it approached and unsure as to its occupants as it neared, he crouched down. Sam didn't want to attract attention, just incase it was someone other than Al and Gooshie.

An eddying dust cloud followed the vehicle as it skirted the boundary fence. A few minutes elapsed before the unmistakable shape of Al's convertible became obvious. The top up to protect its occupants from the glaring sun and so Sam came out of hiding. He waved ferociously as he stood on the pinnacle of the mound and as it came to a standstill the instantly recognizable profiles of both Al and Gooshie emerged.

From the other side of the fence, Gooshie immediately made his way to the base of the craggy hillside and started to climb but the Captain held back, holding firmly onto the car door.

"I see you made it then?" Al asked with a chuckle.

"Yeah…" Sam said then added softly, "sort of," feeling a little embarrassed that he'd only just made it in time.

"But where the hell've you been? You're late! We've been waiting for you at the other end of the crag!"

'The other end? Heck!' Sam squirmed as in his mind; he looked back over the route he'd taken. "Anything wrong?" he shouted down, as quietly as he could but loud enough so that Al could hear him.

"Nothing's wrong, I'm gonna head back into the complex through the main gates," Al replied, looking up at the physicist and pointing to a spot that was beyond Sam's field of vision and Sam supposed, Al's.

"Ahhh," Sam sighed.

"It might look kinda suspicious if I turn up out of the blue and my car is found abandoned here, it might possibly give our little secret away," Al said as he started to return to the driver's seat but paused, saying, "Besides, they know I went out to run a few 'errands' and I may as well enter the way I left."

"That's great… but where will we meet up with you?" Sam asked just as a breathless Gooshie climbed the final few yards.

"Meet me in my office; I'll wait for you there," Al suggested whilst he continued his momentum into the car, he then waved. "See you guys later!" he said as speeding off, the door clunked closed, unaided.

_ - o O o - _


It was a good twenty minutes later before the door to Al's office opened and Gooshie entered.

"What took you so long?" Al asked, then expecting the physicist to follow, added, "Where's Sam?"

"He's right here," Gooshie turned his head towards Sam, who was standing out in the corridor. "But he says that he's gonna get cleaned up first, he's a bit grimy."

"Sa—aa—m!" Al's gravelly voice called out and Sam, peeking his head around the door, smiled wryly.

"I got a little lost," Sam explained. "But I'll know for next time."

"For next time?" Al asked. "Get your butt in here and let's have a look at the mess you've gotten yer'self into this time."

"That turning is a very easy one to miss Captain," Gooshie offset with a slight blush, sensing and feeling Sam's embarrassment. "I can really see how Doctor Beckett missed it."

Doctor Beckett stepped into Al's office, barely daring to move, lest the caked-on dirt and grime should cascade onto the newly fitted carpeting.

"What a sight!" the Captain laughed, only adding to Sam's uneasiness. "I think Gush's right, you should go and get cleaned up, afore anyone sees the state you're in."

"I'll be back in a few, you won't even realize I'm gone," Sam grimaced awkwardly before leaving.

"Captain, honestly!" Gooshie scolded as he approached the Captain's desk. "I think Doctor Beckett did quite well, given his condition. Why is it, you have to debase someone like that? Couldn't you see he was already uncomfortable?"

"Gooshie…" Al paused whilst he pulled out a cigar from his inside pocket and lit it. Through a billowing of smoke he continued. "…erm, quite a lot has taken place while you've been away. Doctor Beckett and I have come to a kinda arrangement, I yank his cord and he yanks on mine, a sorta bravado, you could say."

"Interesting," Gooshie leaned in. "I didn't think you two would hit it off quite so quickly."

Al caught a whiff of the head programmers breath, it hadn't improved any in his absence. "So, while Sam's away." He drew away slightly and as he puffed out more smoke to disguise the twang, he asked, "Do you need to freshen up after your journey?"

"Oh I'm sorry Captain," Gooshie apologized and straightened from Al's desk. "I didn't mean to offend."

"No problem, I guess I should be used to it by now."

As promised, Sam returned within a few minutes of his departure wearing clean slacks and an olive colored polo-necked sweater.

"Ahhh, the prodigal returns," Al said, scrutinizing Doctor Beckett. Although Sam had combed his hair, there were still traces of dust caught up in it. "Com'ere Sam," he beckoned his friend over. "You’ve missed a bit, right there," he said, pointing to a spot on Sam's face. "There's a smudge of dirt on your nose."

"Thanks," Sam said gratefully, rubbing at his nose and cheek, he then turned to Gooshie. "How's about we start working on those tests you said you'd help me with before you left?"

"Sure…" Gooshie began.

"Awww, Sam not work already, give the man a breather, he's only just gotten here!" the Captain cut in.

"No, no Captain, it's quite alright. I've been thinking about that little problem we've been having whilst I was away and I think I've found a way around it," Gooshie interceded.

"No, I agree," Sam said, looking up at the ever present clocks that seemed to adorn every available space within the complex. "Al's right, we all need a break… next stop, after Gooshie's freshened up is the 9th floor. I'll see you up there and the drinks are on me."

As Sam left, he looked again at the clock, 9:55 AM. He couldn't believe that the time has past so slowly; he could have sworn it was fast approaching lunchtime.

A few seconds later, Al and Gooshie stepped out into the corridor and who should they bump into but Bobby LoNigro.

"Doctor LoNigro," Gooshie drawled, feeling a dreaded sensation that he'd been caught out.

"Al! Good, you're back. Agent Adams just returned and he wants to see us in his office. Sam told me you had to run a quick 'errand' so I stalled to buy you some time, but he's on the warpath!"

"Oh great!" Al snarled rashly. "I thought Adams wasn't due back until tomorrow?"

"So did I," Bobby declared mutually. "But apparently, he got back early. He did say that he wanted to talk to both of you specifically, so I didn't know what to tell him."

"It's a good thing you can think on your feet Bobby," Al said tempestuously.

"It's a good thing for you that you came back when you did, I suggest that the two of you should report to Adams' office ASAP," Bobby advised the two men. "Sam and I will meet up with both of you outside Ross' office in say, ten minutes."

"You've seen Doctor Beckett?" Gooshie asked.

"Yup, no more than a minute ago, dashing off to the cafeteria, I had to stop him," Bobby nodded towards the elevator. "I must say I'm surprised, he looks sprightly enough in view of his accident on Friday. I'm just on my way up there now but I thought I'd better warn you first with the mood Ross' in."

"Thanks, Bobby," Al answered in response and as Bobby entered the elevator he turned to Gooshie. "Boy was that a close call? I wonder if Adams arrived before or after us, I sure hope it was after."

"I hope so too. Agent Adams sure has it in for you Captain; I hope you don't get into even more trouble because of me?"

"Nah, don't be daft. Adams has had it in for me right from the start and besides, he's always in a foul mood after one of his trips." Al took a deep breath. "All right, Goosh… time to face the music. Let's get this over with!"


Office of Agent Ross Adams, CIA
March 18, 1984, 10:08 AM

Agent Ross Adams was bouncing a rubber-tipped pencil impatiently upon his desktop when his secretary announced the arrival of Captain Albert Calavicci, and Doctors Sebastian LoNigro, Irving Gushman and Samuel Beckett.

Pressing the button to the speakerphone, he ordered, "Show them in, immediately!" Then after releasing the same button, he grabbed a handful of pencils from the tub and hurled them down onto his desk and, watching the pencils as one-by-one, they bounced again and again, he cursed, "Damn you Calavicci, I'll have your hide for this!"

No sooner had his outrage concluded, when the door to his office opened and four glum-faced men filed in, they stood before Adams' desk like naughty schoolboys about to receive a reprimand from the principal.

As Adams looked up from his desk, he grinned wildly and accentuating every word, he said, "It appears there are rumors circulating that several key employees I've been assigned to oversee are sneaking around exiting and re-entering the complex without my official authorization. Now why…" he paused slightly, as this time he slammed his hands down onto the desk, "…would these rumors be floating around, may I ask? Any ideas on the subject, hmm?"

There was a deadly silence by the time Adams had finished speaking. Everyone looked to everyone else, including Adams.

Al was the first to break that silence, "Are you accusing us of circumventing your authority, Agent Adams? Where are you hearing these so-called rumors?" He bit at his tongue to stop him saying something he would regret later, already he was in a fix and he didn't want to add to it by being brash. He turned briefly to Sam and sighed, if it wasn't for this man, he wouldn't be standing here now.

Again, Adams grinned impertinently and mockingly he replied, "I have my sources, Captain. Do you deny that you and Doctor Gushman went unaccounted for within the past hour?"

"I deny nothing!" the Captain responded fiercely. "And let me tell you something, Agent Adams… you've had it in for me ever since you came on-board this Project. I've been clean for two damn months, and I deserve a little bit more respect than what you've been giving me lately!"

"Al… it's okay," Gooshie said, nudging at the Captain's elbow.

Sam turned to look in Gooshie's direction, a strange expression on his face, as long as he'd known the programmer, he'd never known him to be so informal.

"Agent Adams, Captain Calavicci was covering for me." Gooshie realized that his voice was a tone too high and he cleared his throat. "I requested a temporary leave of absence to deal with a family crisis that came up. I swear I never had any intention of undermining your authority. I take full responsibility for my actions."

"I can personally vouch for Gooshie's character, Agent Adams," Sam spoke up, not giving Adams a chance to interrupt. "If he needed to take a few personal days to be with his family, then I don't think he should be reprimanded for doing what he felt was necessary. Doctor Gushman is a good and honest man who I've known for over ten years now. Al was just trying to avoid a whole bunch of red tape, and you were away on business. That's all this was about, honest!"

"I concur with Sam," Bobby interjected. "And with all due respect, I think you should cut the Captain some slack. He works his tail off keeping this Project on schedule, and I'm sure that if Dana were to look hard enough, she'd find a harassment clause in your contract that could get you some heat with your agency if you don't follow it. So, if I were you, I'd suggest giving Al and Gooshie a break and let us all do the jobs that our government is paying us to do!"

Sam noticed as Gooshie looked over to him and smiled. An unexpected smile that seemed to say quite a bit more than just a simple 'thank you.'

For several very tense seconds and from the color that was rising in his face, it looked as if Adams was about to hit the roof but just as suddenly, he seemed to calm and the deep scowl transformed into a wide grin. As he addressed the four men, he took on a curiously encouraging direction. "Well, why didn't you just say you had a family emergency in the first place, Doctor Gushman? No need to sneak around; I would have understood. I'm not looking to become anyone's enemy. We're all friends here, aren't we? So, consider this conversation fini. You can all go back to work now!" he submitted, a ludicrous grin very nearly spreading the full width of his face: as if he was attempting to conceal his true feelings.

"Thank you, Agent Adams," Gooshie smiled appreciatively as he turned to leave Agent Adams' office.

Doctor Beckett and Doctor LoNigro followed suite, Adams pulled Captain Calavicci to one side to get in one final word. "Don't think that this means you automatically have your security clearance back, Calavicci. We'll settle that little affair later. Now, if you don't mind, I need to take care of some paperwork. Carry on!"

It took the majority of Al's self-control to stop him from decking Adams but instead followed the other three men out into the corridor, making a point of closing the door as irritatingly noisy as was humanly possible.

As Captain Calavicci left, Adams turned his head and glanced down at the scattered array of pencils that littered the floor. Not only did the Captain raucously close the door once but to the annoyance of Agent Adams, Al clanged it closed several times, each time rattling the door's mechanism in the process. He was about to get up and give the Captain a chastisement he'd never forget, but then thought better of it and leaned forward in his chair. "If you want to play games Calavicci, then you might've just picked the right person," he said, his eyes closing to narrowed incisions of revenge. "I love to play games—a game of chance maybe—do you really fancy taking a game of chance with me?"

As he leaned with his elbows upon the desk, his fingers tapped together in deliberation. "I should warn you Capt'n, I always play to win… but then again, if I warned you, it wouldn't be such fun!" He leaned back in complete satisfaction as he played out the ideal—the most abusive counter-attack possible. "Now then… hmmm… what shall I start with? Perhaps a little…"

His absorption was tersely disrupted when the telephone rang. He lifted the handset and knowing exactly who it was on the other end, said, "Yes, Doctor L?"

Whilst he listened his head nodded to every request. "Yes, sir… I understand, sir… As soon as I have more information, I will inform you immediately… Thank you, sir."

Adams hung up the phone, and as he went to the cabinet next to his desk, he opened it and pulled out the torn sheet of paper that was now put back together with sticky tape. He remembered placing it there a couple of months ago, the words were still there and they read: MY NAME IS SID. Then he said softly, "What dark little secret are you hiding from me, Doctor Beckett?"

_ - o O o - _


As Al's frustration with the doorknob came to a close, he turned to see both Bobby and Sam standing, hands in pockets with eyebrows raised. Al all but shrugged his shoulders in response, adding, "Nozzle!" as he past.

"I guess from that, you didn't get your security restored?" Sam asked guardedly.

Al stopped in his tracks, the full fury of his frustrations not yet fully expelled.

Bobby could see Al's entire body as it tensed. "Now Al—Sam didn't mean that the way it sounded."

The Captain didn't say a word but he stood rigid with the humiliation that was wreaking havoc with his nerves.

His arms outstretched, Sam started to move forwards but Bobby held him back. "Look Al, Sam stood up for you in there, do you think he would now hold you up to ridicule?"

Bobby looked back at Sam and made a 'shushing' motion with his mouth and Sam's cheek twitched apologetically.

"How's about we all take a much needed break… the one Sam suggested before we were so brusquely interrupted?" Doctor LoNigro closed his eyes when he saw Al's shoulders relax and then slump forwards in deflated submission.

"I guess," Al said dejectedly. "I could sure use some caffeine to assimilate that hyperbolical hypercritic's motives."

"Thatta boy!" Bobby said, now urging Doctor Beckett forwards. "I knew you'd never let that old grouch get under your skin for too long."

"Yeah…" the Captain reached out and slapped Sam on the back. "My buddy and I have better things to squabble about." As they walked up the long corridor, Al placed his arm about Sam's back, firmly gripping his hand on Sam's opposite shoulder. "Seeing as though you were kinda bushwhacked on Friday night, how's about we rearrange it for tonight? I know Mimi's dying to meet ya."

"Mimi? Al, wha—erm—I—I'm—err—Al—oh boy!"

_ - o O o - _


Sam and Al were still squabbling when the three friends entered the cafeteria. Bobby smiled at the pair's clowning, leaving them to it, as long as they were fooling around, it was okay by him.

"No! No! No! I won't do it Al!" Sam vigorously shook his head from side to side then winced as the pain from his recent injury became unbearable.

"I don't see why not Sam, she's quite enamored of you," Al nudged Sam and indicated over to the far wall where a blonde-haired female was waving like mad. "Hey Sam, look she's sooo cr—aa—aazy for you!"

"No Al, I'm not looking. If she's your type, then she's definitely not mine," Sam said, determined not to look around.

As they stood at the counter, Sam couldn't help but peek, it was then that he noticed Donna Elesee seated at one of the centralized tables.

Seeing Sam's reaction, Al immediately dropped the subject of Mimi and told him to go and sit down. Sam didn't object. He did feel a little dizzy after his exertions.

"So they've let you out too?" Sam asked Donna as he pulled out the chair next to her and sat down. Sam was a little surprised that she hadn't taken flight, normally by now she would've been halfway to the elevator. What had caused this sudden change of heart?

"Yup, they sure have; took a little persuasion though," Donna said as she sipped from her half empty cup. "It's nice to see you're up and about."

Donna jerkily placed a hand over his and then instantly withdrew it when she saw the Captain approaching.

"Would you believe it Sam, 'tis Sunday morning and they say they've had a rush on an' we've gotta drink out of these damn awful Styrofoam cups," Al groaned as he placed one of the cups in front of Sam. "They've run out of the normal cups. Oh, hi Donna, I didn't see you there," he fibbed.

Sam picked up his cup and blew gently at the rising steam.

"Careful Sam it might be hot!" Al warned with a wink. "Gawd, I hate these damn things; you can't gauge the temperature 'til it burns the skin from your mouth," he grumbled.

Bobby sat opposite Donna and glanced discreetly between the two inanimate doctors. Until looking down after feeling a slight kick on his foot, he looked up into a winking Captain's face, his head twitching for them to leave.

It took awhile for the penny to drop and when it did Bobby sighed, "Ahhh…" whilst he covertly pointed between the two.

Al nodded, raising his brow and scraping his chair backwards, he stood. "Erm Sam, I've got some stuff to finish up top so… I'll see you later… maybe?"

"Me too Sam, sorry to leave so abruptly, my apologies," Bobby expressed.

"But you haven't finished your coffees!" Sam exclaimed.

"We can take 'em with us, I doubt they'll miss the crockery," Al laughed.

As if on cue, Bobby's beeper sounded. "See, I'm being missed already," he said and as he made his way to the stairwell, Al followed.

"Well, I should be going too," Donna professed. "I've wasted too much time already, what with yesterday, I have a lot to catch up on."

"Then why don't I come and see what it is you're working on, maybe I could help; at least it would alleviate the monotony."

"That would be nice Sam," Donna smiled. "But only if you're feeling up to it."

"I'm fine… in fact I've never felt… bet—ter," Sam said with a slight tremor as he glanced prudently at his hands again.

He wasn't quite sure what he'd seen in the tunnels, he hadn't had chance to talk with Al about it but he knew he must, and at the first opportunity.

"While we're going down, why don't you give me a summary of what you've accomplished so far?" Sam asked as the elevator doors opened and they stepped inside.

"Well…" Doctor Elesee said as the doors closed.

_ - o O o - _


Doctor LoNigro didn't usually make mistakes but this time he had boo booed. "Anything wrong?" he asked his assistant and as she shook her head, Bobby took out his pager, and after seeing his slip, apologized. He'd taken it for granted that the page had come from his own laboratory, he couldn't remember the last time he'd been bleeped by anyone else.

Lifting the receiver from his desk, he dialed Gooshie's extension and the ringing tone immediately changed into that of Doctor Gushman's voice.

"Is that you Bobby?" Gooshie asked.

"What is it Gush?" Bobby asked, recognizing the voice. "You don't usually page me unless it something of real importance."

"It's not all that important," Gooshie explained. "But no one knows where to find Doctor Beckett or Doctor Elesee and I need access into the glass room. I'm testing a couple of Doctor O'Farrell's latest chips and I fear I'm delaying her work. Are you free to escort me?"

"Sure, you only need to ask. I don't know why they don't give you clearance. After all, you are working alongside Sam on integrating the relays for the ISD between the orb and SID; it doesn't make sense that you should have to find one of us every time you need to run tests. Never mind the disruption."

"I'm so sorry for the distraction Doctor LoNigro… I didn't mean to take you away from your work."

"No apology needed, it's no skin off my nose Gush, it isn't my ruling anyway, where are you?"

"I'm in the Control Room."

"No problem, I'll be with you in a few minutes. I'll meet with you in the corridor outside and then we can walk down together, okay?"

"That will be great," Gooshie agreed with much appreciation.

Doctor LoNigro took the elevator down to level 20 where Doctor Gushman was readily waiting. Together, they utilized the stairs down to the next level.

Doctor Gushman looked a little embarrassed when, as they entered the main laboratory area; Sam and Donna were just leaving the glass room. "I'm so sorry Doctor LoNigro, it seems as if I've lead you on a wild goose chase."

"Not to worry, you weren't to know but I think I'll have a word and get Captain Calavicci and Commander Bartlett together and see if we cannot come up with something a bit more practical."

"That would be perfect," again Gooshie's tone was more than appreciative.

"I need to talk with Sam and Donna about the status of the orb, Gooshie, so don't mind us," Bobby told him. "Do what you have to do, and when you're done give me a shout, and I'll escort you back up," he added with a smile.

Doctor LoNigro caught up with Sam and Donna at one her many workstations. "I'm very surprised to see you leaving the glass room Sam, I thought after Friday, you'd be giving it a wide berth."

"No harm done," Doctor Beckett said, "and besides I had Donna there to protect me."

"Fat lot of good I did you last time we were in there together," Doctor Elesee languished. "I was on tender hooks the whole time."

"Didn't look that way to me," Sam laughed off her uneasiness. "And I think we've made some real progress with breaching the conduits."

"Thanks to you," Donna said as she teasingly shoved at Sam's arm.

"How long do you think it will be now Sam, before the orb can be integrated fully with SID?" Doctor LoNigro asked.

"I should think no more than a couple of months; give or take any setbacks or mishaps," Doctor Beckett replied.

Bobby looked surprised. "As soon as that? I thought at least nine months, maybe a year or longer? I didn't think we were that close."

"Maybe not," Sam stopped and looking about him, he took hold of Bobby's arm and turning him around he lead him to the entrance of the Crystal Lab, taking him well away from anyone's earshot. "Are you doing anything later this afternoon?"

"Nothing that can't wait, what do you have in mind?" Bobby asked, intrigued.

"I think I've discovered something that might advance our 'other' project. I'm not sure what that something is yet. Hell, I don't even know if I was hallucinating but I think it's something significant. Something really BIG."


Starbright Project: Level 20
Sunday, March 18, 1984, 1:35 PM

With a little help from Tina, Gooshie finished off the tests in record time and as he turned to leave the glass room, he noticed Sam leaning on the glass paneled framework with Bobby huddled up close beside him. They both looked to be in a contravening discussion. He knew of Doctor Beckett's 'other' extracurricular activity and so he hung back, if warranted, either Sam or Bobby would fill him in later.

"I wonder what it is that those two are talkin' about?" Tina asked outright, blowing a bubble from a large wad of gum in her mouth.

"I'm sure it doesn't concern either of us and if it does, I'm sure we'll be filled in later," Gooshie replied.

"Hmmm, s'pose," Tina pondered and putting two and two together, she whispered, "Do ya think it's somethin' to do with that secret project we're working on? It'd be kinda exciting if we can really pull it off. It's like we're working undercover, hush-hush like," she giggled with enthusiasm.

"Could well be," Gooshie replied, but with not as much zest, he was worried that they'd be found out and expelled from the project, giving all of their hard work and efforts no purpose, and making it neigh on impossible to continue.

As was usual, Doctor Gushman dare not reveal his thoughts to anyone and so, instead, asked Tina if she would be kind enough to restore the power to the relays to save him the time, seeing as though she was going that way anyway.

"Sure," she said as she finished clearing up. "What are you waiting for anyways?"

"Either Sam or Bobby to escort me out, I can't leave here without telling them I'm going."

"Just give 'em a nudge on your way out, that's what I allus do," Tina replied curtly.

"I can't just walk out, Doctor O'Farrell, that's against protocol. It's stipulated in…"

"Darned stupid procedure if you ask me," Tina clucked. "If I had a dime for every time I wanted outta here, I'd be retirin' next week."

"If you've read it, it's stipulated in your contact that any unauthorized personnel must be accompanied, to and from the secured areas. I always adhere to the protocols."

"Oh Gooshie, you old fuddy-duddy, of course I've read the contract, though I do know of some that haven't—but that's beside the point. I totally agree that admittance should be restricted but leaving, what's the point in that?"

"Quite a lot Doctor O'Farrell, the whole point is security, you could be leaving with anything in your pocket."

"Now, what would I want with this?" Tina asked as she handled the stem of a Bunsen burner. "Or these?" she pointed out a rack of test tubes.

"Or this?" Gooshie asked and as he leaned onto the casing which housed the orb, he pointed into its interior.

"No one would be that stupid," Tina said, cognizant of her own conduct.

"That's where you're wrong, not everyone is so gracious," Gooshie said as he watched a sullen Tina pout.

"S'pose you're right…"

As Tina spoke, her words became oblivious to him; he was wishing he'd had the courage to have gotten involved first, and not given the amorous Captain the privilege of that first encounter with the remarkable, Ms. Tina Martinez-O'Farrell.

"Hmmm," he cleared his throat as he saw Doctor LoNigro finally pat on Doctor Beckett's shoulder. "Don't forget to restore the power supply will you, Doctor O'Farrell?" he reminded a still pouting Tina.

"I won't," Tina assured the fleeting programmer then, when he was out of earshot, she added quietly, "pro-t-o-col, schmo-t-o-col!"

After leaving the glass room, Gooshie returned to the Control Room. It took him about thirty minutes to install the five brand-new microchips that Tina had designed. And once checking over the connections, he replaced the metallic cover over the Interstellar Drive.

He stood back to admire his work but instead found himself blinking into thin air as a shudder ran through him. 'Strange!' he thought as he looked around. I could have sworn someone has just walked in here!' Placing a hand to his chest, he breathed, "Oh my!"


_ - o O o - _


Meanwhile, Al was sitting at his desk, running a finger down a long list of figures he'd compiled. He'd found a couple of quite substantial discrepancies within the budgeting statement for the previous month and was trying to establish which department was responsible. Concentrating hard, he supped the remaining dregs from the crudely synthetic beaker and gagging with distaste, he scrunched it up and was about to throw it into the trash.

'Darn polymers!' Al fumed in contemplation. 'May as well liken 'em to toxic waste. Can't burn 'em without producing a similar derivative and they don't biodegrade into an organic substrate. And no kiddin', whichever nozzle developed this trash should have their brains extruded at birth.

'Hmmm… I wonder… could Sam or any of the other scientists come up with an alternative, an environmentally friendly adaptation? No harm in asking.'

Al continued the disposal of the offending object and rejuvenated his energies into his previous task. Discarding his earlier results, he started over, tapping laboriously on the keys of an oversized calculator, the printout zipping out the list as fast as he could type them in.

After a long and very frustrating hour, Al rubbed at his weary eyes. "Darn it!" he yawned and he stretched out his arms well above his head, almost toppling the chair from its two rear legs as he leaned back. Catching his balance, he grabbed at the lip of his desk to steady himself. "Concentrate you fool," he chastised and rapidly rose to his feet. After walking over to the small bar, he poured himself a cup of fresh coffee, adding two spoonfuls of sugar that he thought he needed to keep him awake with his tedious task.

Perplexed at the outcome of his previous calculation and his current, he fished out the scrunched up paper from the trash can and compared the two. Although dissimilar, the amounts were still outrageously over budget. He rubbed at the top of his head at the discerning feeling of having to redo the calculations… again.

He was pleasantly relieved when he heard a slight rap on his door and the sight from the beaming face of Doctor Beckett as he poked his head around the entrance.

"Busy?" Sam asked.

"Kinda!" Al replied glumly. "Why is it, that no matter how many times you do a calculation on these damn things, the results are always different? Just once would I like 'em to be the same."

"You're… still using a calculator?" Sam asked bewildered.

"Yeah, why not?"

"Because… since the advent of computers, the calculator has all but become obsolete. Al, you're living in the dark ages."

"What'd ya mean? This is the latest in technology!"

"Ten years ago, maybe. Where's your workstation?" Sam looked around Al's office, not believing that he hadn't noticed the absence of a computer before.

"Nah! Me and them things don't get on, just like this stupid contraption here!" Al prodded crossly at the contraption sitting on his desktop.

"What is it you're working on?" Sam asked with interest.

"I have to reconcile last month's expenditure figures but they're not correlating with the list I have registered here!"

"I know what you need," Sam smiled. "Come on, follow me," he continued as he headed for the door. "And bring all of those lists and calculations with you."

"Where are we going?"

"To my office," Sam said complacently. "I'm gonna show you the easy way."

Al gathered up the hugely untidy stack of papers from his desk and started after Sam, only to return after two strides to pick up the calculator.

"You don't need that," Sam said after turning to see what was taking his friend so long.

"Just in case," Al said as he warily followed Sam into his office.

"Sit down!" Sam ordered and Al obeyed as he seated himself in font of the obnoxious machine. "Press that button there," the physicist pointed to a depressible button and Al complied, only to jump back in alarm when the machine beeped at him.

"Told ya, we don't see eye-to-eye," the Captain digressed. "It's one thing working with the components but to physically interact with it, it's kinda scary Sam and I don't like scary.”

Sam laughed, "It's supposed to do that, it's booting."

"I'd like to give it the boot, straight through that window, if one were there." Al nodded to the ever-changing display of the video surveillance screen.

"Talking of windows," Sam chuckled. "I've heard that a company called Microsoft are promising a new operating system this April and ironically, it's called 'Windows', should prove to be interesting, I've heard its gonna use a GUI."

"You mean its Government Issue?"

"No Al, not a G.I.—a G. U. I.," Sam spelled out. "Graphical User Interface, years ahead of it's time, supposedly."

"I thought we were years ahead in computer technology?"

"We are but in different fields, what this company is aiming for is 'home computing' a computer in every home by the end of the decade."

"Now, that IS scary!"

"There's nothing scary about computers Al, as you know, they have to be told what to do, they cannot think for themselves… yet!" Sam added the last word in emphasis, he was dying to tell his friend of his plans for his own supercomputer, but for the moment only three other people knew about them: Gooshie, Bobby and Tina and the less who knew; the better.

Sam continued to instruct his pupil in the art of spreadsheets, whilst in surreptitious passion, he dreamed his dreams. If what he thought was now possible, he could have his supercomputer by the mid 90s, maybe even sooner.

With a correct analogy for each department now at Al's fingertips, he began to correlate his figures with the statements of expenditure and it wasn't long before he found where the majority of the discrepancies lay. He glanced curiously over at his friend, who was arduously preoccupied with his own tasks.

Al checked over the manuscripts again to confirm or refute his suspicions. Two signatures matched up for each individual order and subsequent invoice in question: those of Doctors Samuel Beckett and Sebastian LoNigro.

'As head of security, I should report this.' Al reasoned and sighed deeply. 'If it wasn't for my suspension, I probably wouldn't have gotten around to this paperwork until the middle of next month… probably.' He looked again at his friend. 'My friends have done a lot for me, I think it's time to return their favors. Whatever these thingamabobs are for, I'm sure Bobby and Sam have a need for 'em. Buddy, whatever it is you're working on, whatever your secret, you can rely on me to keep it that way.' Al placed the questionable invoices on the 'approved' pile. 'I might regret this later, but what the hell! In for a penny, in for a pound! Agent Adams will do what it takes to be rid of me; I might as well go out with a bang.'

"I'm all done here Sam!" the Captain announced as he arranged the appropriate papers into the relevant folder.

"Well?" Sam asked.

"Well… what?" Al said; a little muddled with his current concerns.

"Was it easier?" the physicist simplified.

"Yeah pal, a whole lot quicker," the Captain was barely responsive in his answer. He just wanted to get away and the sooner, the better.

"Al, you're okay, ain't ya? There's nothing wrong with the budget, is there and you did catch the culprit, right?"

Al cringed. The whole point of getting away quickly was to avoid a question like the one he'd just heard.

"Jeeze… erm, yes, no and yes," the Captain said uneasily, "and in that order… but it's nothing to concern yourself about Sam, everything's fine, just hunky-dory, A-okay—perfectly peachy!" he rambled as he gathered up the files, making his way towards the door.

"Who are you trying to convince, yourself or me, Al?" Sam asked, abruptly getting up from his desk, he strode over.

"What'd ya mean?" Al asked as Sam stopped suddenly in front of him and blocked his way.

"I think I know that look by now, the one you get when something's bothering you."

'I know, don't tell me, another who can read me like an open book. I must have "guilty" or somethin' written right across my forehead.' "Awww, Sam, not you too," Al said with a shake of his head as he reached for the door control.

Sam looked at his friend funnily, as if he should know what Al was on about, giving Al the opportunity to slip out.

As the Captain stepped into the corridor, who should be walking down from the far end but Bobby LoNigro. "You've a visitor Sam," Al announced, relieved that he could now get away without interruption.

"Not too early, am I?" Bobby asked as Sam popped his head out to see who it was.

"Early? Ahhh Bobby, is it that time already?" Once again Sam felt uneasy that time again had run away from him. 'This has been happening quite a lot lately, too much in fact. Hmmm, if truth be told, ever since my first contact with the orb.'

"You did say after lunch," Bobby stated, jolting Sam out of his musings. "Or have I gotten it wrong again?"

"No Bobby, now's fine. I was only showing Al the basics of computing."

"No wonder he ran outta here so fast, I've been trying to get a computer in his office since day one!"

"Why's Al so adverse to computers?"

"Hackers!" Bobby said astutely. "Ever since he heard about the premise of that movie Wargames awhile back, he's been dubious of the technology."

"Then what's he doing here?"

"Duty I suppose, if anyone's a stickler for security it's our Al. He knows more ways of breaking his own rules than anyone, or for that matter, everyone else's rules too," Bobby laughed. "He's had more cons going at one time than any regular conman."

"How do you know about Al's rip offs?" Sam asked, fascinated.

"They're not so much rip offs as scams.  Al's notorious for 'em and as to why I know; I've been a party to most of 'em," Bobby grinned. "And no doubt he'll rope you in, eventually."

Sam's brow creased. "I think he has already."

"Don't worry about it," Bobby slapped an arm around the physicist's shoulder. "There're not many here that haven't. Most of us can't stand that the CIA are here to oversee the project and Agent Adams is typical CIA, in that he thinks he runs the place."

"But of course, he doesn't?" Sam said quizzically.

"Of course not and that's what grates him. You of all people should know that Sam, remember Peterson?" Bobby's eyes lit up as he stood side from the physicist.

"Peterson, boy does he bring back some old memories…" Sam laughed. "Do you remember that time in the gymnasium and that experiment with the horizontal bars?"

"Do I ever!" Bobby reciprocated in the hilarity. "He was so incensed that we hadn't gotten the green light from him, ahhh," he sighed as he gathered his thoughts. "Though I doubt he would've given it anyway."

"Neither do I," Sam mused, sniffing in air as he too calmed. "I thought we'd both be expelled."

"But we weren't, no thanks to Peterson, he'd've had us up before the appropriation committee in a flash!" Doctor LoNigro sighed. "I'm just thankful that the Dean took him for who and what he was."

"The Dean?" Sam thought and then as realization dawned, he pointed towards Bobby. "Yeah, I remember Dean Hinkler, flamboyant guy with the flashy clothes. Boy are you really dredging up the past here, I'd forgotten all about him."

"Hmmm," Bobby grinned. "But I think we're getting a little off track here. If it were anyone other than you, I'd say they were trying to avoid something. Care to elaborate on what you were telling me earlier?"

"I must admit, I was forestalling just a little, in case Al should come back," Sam glanced over his shoulder at the door. "Though it was him that made me aware of it," he continued in a whisper as he seated himself behind his desk.

Bobby followed suit, sitting in the brown leather easy-chair in the corner and as he sat cross-legged, he wrapped his knitted fingers about his knee.

"Aware of what?" Bobby asked; his face concerned.

Doctor Beckett gave Bobby the same account as Al had given him. Then giving his own justification of what he'd seen in the tunnels and as usual getting so exuberant with his explanation, he lost his listener before a few dozen words had been spoken.

"Slow down!" Bobby said in frustration. "You're not giving your tongue enough time to catch up with your brain!"

"Uh?" Sam mumbled, thinking over what he's said. Bobby was right. He wondered then if everything he said came out as confused. He was so eager to say what was on his mind, he never thought once at what he was saying. A confusion of words, unrehearsed and incoherent. "Sorry, Bobby… I guess I do get carried away at times."

Doctor LoNigro was used to Sam's ramblings, though it had been awhile since their last confidential parliance. 'Same old Sam, and just as impatient,' he concluded. "Take a deep breath and start again, but this time think about what you're gonna say, just how I taught you all of those years ago… ready?"

"Ready," Sam sighed.

His second version was fluent and methodical and Bobby listened, chuckling inside at the difference between the two renditions but he did not show his amusement. As he'd learnt from past experiences, that would only add to the young physicist's embarrassment.

When Sam had finished, he beamed at Doctor LoNigro. "Is it possible?"

Bobby shook his head.

Sam winced. "So… you don't think it's possible?"

"No Sam, I didn't say that… though I am trying to figure it out." Bobby breathed in deeply, letting out the expulsion gradually. "Do you think we should let Gush in on this?"

"I already have, well… sorta," Sam's cheek twitched uneasily. "That is… if he understood me."

"Okay… that's good but I doubt Gooshie would say, even if he didn't. Hmmm," Bobby paused as he thought things through. "That just leaves Al. He's suspicious as it is, otherwise he wouldn't have brought it up with you, and knowing Al, he won't let it drop."

"Do you think we should bring him in too?" Sam asked.

"Wouldn't hurt any, I've known Al a long time and I know he can be trusted." Bobby sat back in his chair and laughed heartily. "This is kinda fun Sam, a sorta operation 'Enid Blyton'," Bobby mused.

"Enid Blyton?" Sam queried.

"The Famous Five?" Bobby digested with a jovial chuckle.

"The adventures of the famous five, that's an…" Sam tittered, "…an interesting association you came up with there, Bobby… but aren't there six?" Doctor LoNigro looked at him inquiringly. "Gooshie, Tina, Donna, you, me, and now Al?"

"Donna? No Sam, she knows nothing of our work!" Bobby infused.

"Ooops!" said Sam. The older man's expression turned to that of alarm. "Don't worry Bobby, I was kidding, I haven't told her a thing. I've had enough on my plate just getting her to be in the same room with me, let alone a discussion."

"But I thought… earlier… in the… and later down in the… you were…"

"Today yes!" Sam laughed, interrupting the elder. "Today's been the first time in weeks we've had a normal discussion and do you think I'd waste that opportunity in telling her something as absurd as I told you?"

Doctor LoNigro shook his head reflecting on his young colleague's reasoning but mostly in his own relief.


Starbright Project Complex
Sunday, March 18, 1984, 7:00 PM

Rumors were circulating. Buzzing around like the proverbial annoying insect. A whisper here, a slip-up there, the abrupt silence or an awkward stance whenever he was around. Adams knew that something had either happened or was about to. He studied everything, listened carefully but above all, he trusted nothing. Not a living soul was beyond his surreptitious scrutiny.

After making his usual afternoon rounds and making his unexpected return known to every single department, the agent returned to the 3rd floor. He'd noticed that the majority of personnel had been caught off-guard and that pleased him immensely.

As he seated himself behind his desk he sighed with deep satisfaction. His perfectly executed plan couldn't have gone more smoothly. Wiping a hand across his face, he grinned wickedly and getting up from his chair, he walked around to the front of his desk. He felt impatient and couldn't rest, not until he had amassed all of the missing pieces, bringing them together and lured each and every collaborator into his well-woven web.

His face hardened as he summoned his secretary. "Brenda, get Doctor Beeks up to my office, immediately!" Adams snarled into the intercom.

"Right away sir," came the tenuous reply. After a few moments, the buzzer sounded and Brenda's voice halfheartedly drizzled out of the small speaker. "Doctor Beeks will be with you in five minutes, sir, will there be anything else?"

"Apart from showing her in the second she arrives, no Brenda!" Adams barked.

For the next few minutes, he paced, running questions that he needed to ask the doctor through his mind, the type of questions that wouldn't raise her suspicions. Verbena Beeks, as he remembered, was a volatile creature, a woman with intellect and in his mind that made her dangerous. He'd have to choose his questions wisely.

"Ahhh, Doctor Beeks," Adams said as the door opened. "Please, take a seat."

"Thank you," Verbena replied and sat in the chair indicated. "What is it that's so urgent Agent Adams?" she asked, looking up at the agent.

Ross Adams remained standing, silently treading semi-circles around the doctor, her eyes following him in his prolonged silence.

"If you don't mind, Ross, I would like to know why you necessitated my presence," she said.  Adams' persistent silence was fast becoming irritating.

Adams returned to his side of the desk and on opening a drawer, he pulled out a couple of A4-sized pads. Slapping them down in front of her, he said, "Fill these out!" Then placing both hands on the surface, he leaned in, squaring himself up to stare directly into the doctor's eyes. On the surface he was calm but underneath he was seething. "Care to tell me of the incident in the glass room!" he spat. "And, why I wasn't informed the moment I returned?"

"Agent Adams…" the Doctor returned the stare. "If you had even bothered to check your in-tray, you would have already seen that appropriate forms have been filled out," she said coolly as she picked up the pads and handed them back to Adams. "And as to informing you Ross, I was surprised to hear that you were here already, your weekends away usually run full term."

He dropped the stack of documents into the drawer and after closing it, scoured the in-tray and dragged out the filled-in papers.

"Now if you don't mind Ross," Verbena rose from her sat and started for the door, "I'm very busy and you're wasting my valuable time."

"Stop right there Doctor!" Adams growled between gritted teeth.

Doctor Beeks stopped dead, unseen to Adams she closed her eyes in a 'what now' gesture.

"I'm sure you can give me a more comprehensive overview as to what actually happened," Adams continued, "…instead of me wading through these sketchy scribblings."

Verbena whirled around abruptly. "My scribblings, as you call them are comprehensive enough for your needs! They have never been found to be inadequate before!"

"It is your account that interests me, doctor… tell me, how is Doctor Beckett progressing?"

'As if you care,' she thought then added, "He's fine. Doctor Beckett was up and about the next morning as if nothing had happened, he's very resilient."

As Doctor Beeks talked, he scanned over the first of the documents. "So soon, hmmm, interesting. It says here that he had to be resuscitated. Explain doctor!" Ross' strained voice rose and then pitched again. "Please, explain to me how this is so."

"I can't, his sudden recovery is totally inexplicable, with all the culminating events, he should have been laid out a lot longer than he was. I cannot explain anything that I do not understand myself."

"Very well, get back to whatever it is you doctors do, but if needs be, I'll be recalling you, especially if the reading matter doesn't come up to my expectations." He waved the papers at Verbena before slapping them onto the desktop. "Understand?"

Doctor Beeks nodded but Adams was already preoccupied and had again taken up with reading the report. Verbena took his inaction as a dismissal and turned for the door.

"Understand?!" Adams repeatedly growled.

Once more, Verbena stopped dead, and consequentially took a deep and irritated breath of contempt. "I understand—fully, Agent Adams!" she said with equal condescension as she stormed out of the office.

Agent Adams snickered raucously, slapping his hands down on the desktop as he stood. "YES!" he spouted, punching the air gleefully, his whole body twisting in spontaneity.

Verbena stood outside of that office on the 3rd floor and listened to the ruckus from within. "Nincompoop!" she silently raged, her face taught with anger but all at once, the rage within became that of despair. Had she said too much? Was that the reason for Agent Adams' outrageous eruption? She hoped not. As she walked away, she shook her head in disbelief. She decided then that the moment she had returned to the infirmary, she would warn Sam of her suspicions, Adams was up to no good as usual and there was no harm in a cautionary word with Captain Calavicci too.

Ross Adams watched as Doctor Beeks entered the elevator, his eyes narrowing. "She knows more than she's letting on," he said sleuthfully as he raced for the stairwell and down the eight levels. Again, he watched Doctor Beeks, as breathlessly, he peeped through the open crack in the doorway. She seemed preoccupied but he didn't notice anything unusual in her actions, apart from the lack of her usual attentiveness.

While Verbena entered the infirmary, Agent Adams entered the open elevator, ducking quickly to the side, lest she turn and see him. He was risking all to discover the covert operation that he knew was being conducted under his nose, a forfeiture he was prepared but not proposing to make, though he would be willing to do whatever it took to achieve his objective.

To Ross' delight, the laboratories on level 21 were all but deserted. Only the odd few technicians remained behind after hours and they were too engrossed in their work to notice another straggler. He found an unobtrusive position behind one of the partitions; one he deliberately chose because of its closeness to the glass room, a locale where he could hear all albeit his viewpoint was disadvantaged. He was prepared to wait all night if needs be but after only fifteen minutes, the expected long wait ended.

As the elevator doors opened the two main perpetrators emerged, followed shortly thereafter by Doctor Gushman from the stairwell. Watching but essentially listening as the three accessed the glass room, Adams remained hidden and then to his surprise, Doctor Martinez-O'Farrell arrived on the scene.

"Where's Al?" Bobby asked the approaching Tina.

"He can't get down, remember," Tina held up her pass-card, instinctively nibbling at its corner and with her other hand, threatening to shut off Ross' only communication.

'No! No! Don't close the damned door!' he both cursed and pleaded but still quietly seething.

"His security pass wouldn't give him access beyond the 15th level, he's in his office moping."

'So Calavicci's involved too? That will do very nicely,' Ross snickered. He was also relieved that Doctor O'Farrell had continued her entrance and had forgotten the door. "Good girl!" he sighed.

"That's right, I forgot," Sam said despondently, as shaking his head he turned to Gooshie. "What with him using your pass-card, whilst you were away," he finished absently.

"Whose pass-card?" Adams almost barked aloud. 'That could only have been… hmmm… Gushman is the only one to have a prolonged absence. Gotcha now Calavicci! Try and wriggle out of this one if ya can!' Ross knew that there'd be a record for everyone's pass-card use on the lower levels. 'And, if there is such evidence for Doctor Gushman's card being used in his absence then… So far, so good,' Adams rubbed his hands in glee, his plan was executing perfectly. 'Calavicci, keep it up, you're playing straight into my hands.'

"Dammit though," Sam continued, "I really wanted to hear his account and for you all to hear it too."

"Pity," Bobby pondered, rubbing at his chin. "I for one would've liked to hear Al's analysis and for him to be here, but I suppose we can always fill him in later."

Tina nodded in agreement.

Gooshie had remained quiet but now he spoke up. "I told the Captain that he only use my card in an emergency."

"Forget about that Gush," Bobby said, waving away Gooshie's remark. "If it hadn't have been for your card, Sam wouldn't be here now."

"That's right," Tina piped in. "If it hadn't've been for Al's quick thinking, I doubt we would be having this conversation, either."

'So, Calavicci's gonna be out of the loop for awhile?' Adams glanced about. 'Hmmm, if only I could just slip away and tackle him head-on. And without his cohorts around to back him up, I'm sure I could wheedle a confession outta him.'

All Sam could do was blink vacantly between them; he couldn’t recollect what had taken place that night. The last thing he remembered was that tricky moment with Donna and then waking up in the infirmary to that dreadful racket. This was all new to him and now he wished that he'd pressed Al into telling him as to what had actually happened, instead of getting it second-hand from Doctor Beeks.

"Wait a minute!" Sam butted in. "Aren't we veering away from the point of our meeting? I thought we were here to determine the effects that the orb has had on my metabolism or even if indeed it is the orb? I mean, Al's seen it, so has Gooshie, I don't want to spend the rest of my life flashing like a neon beacon." Sam was suddenly thankful that Al wasn't there; 'I wouldn't put it past him to come out with some kinda wise-crack or to add to it with some pervy comment, such as a reference to one of his strip joints.'

As if reading Sam's thoughts and knowing exactly what Al would've said, Tina giggled. Sam gave her a warning glare and she eloquently bit her tongue.

'The effects of the orb? Thank God I'm a patient man!' Adams confessed at his impatience, 'I wouldn't've missed this for the world. Carry on Beckett, I AM all ears!'

"What did it look like Gooshie?" Bobby inquired. "I've heard Sam's version but I'd be interested in yours."

"Could we have a demonstration?" Tina asked with a giggle.

'Yes Beckett! I would like a demonstration too. It would be interesting to witness a prolific scientist for once. You've been busy-bees and thinking I don't know what's been going on. How wrong you silly-Billy's are… but time for that later, for now I want details, start yakking, you sniveling morons!'

Both Bobby and Sam smiled at Tina's suggestion but Gooshie remained pokerfaced and pensive.

"Drat! But we can't, not now." Tina glanced round at the small number of technicians in their respective cubicles. "It would look kinda odd if the lights suddenly went out," she soberly surmised after further consideration.

"It was a radiant glow, not bright but not dim either," Gooshie began to explain, ignoring everyone else around. "It's rather difficult to put into simple words. I'd describe it to some extent as a polarization but without a definite division between shape and diffusion. A sort of unshifting aura, opaque but at the same time transparent and blue in color."

"That's how I'd describe it too," Sam said as he ventured near the cage, Bobby following him. "But only from my skin, clothing sorta, erm, kinda, blocks it out," he assumed as he unfastened the latch and awakened the sleeping orb.

"Please be careful Doctor Beckett!" Gooshie warned, holding Tina back and making a grab for Bobby. "You never know if that thing will attack again."

Sam turned and faced his colleagues. "Who said it attacked me?"

"Al told me," Tina announced. "And he heard it from Donna and I told Gooshie."

"No!" Sam shook his head boldly. "I don't think the orb intended to assault anyone, from what I've gathered, it became a little excited with both mine and Donna's presence and yes, it has zapped me before and apologized," he said without thinking.

"It—it's spoken to you?"

"Ahhh… well… kind've…" Sam muttered uncertainly, "…but not words... though they are words… but not spoken as we know 'em. Ahhh… dammit, I think it's telepathic and uses telekinetic energy to communicate," he spat out his final sentence.

From their animation inside the glass room, no one noticed the technicians, as one-by-one, they left the laboratory level nor did they notice the appearance of Donna Elesee, least of all Ross Adams, who was giving all of his concentration to the party within. She stood silently by the door panel and now out of sight from the CIA Agent but in plain view of everyone else. And still no one had sensed her presence, all except one.

Donna was intrigued by what she'd heard. Although not hearing the full conversation, she most definitely had gotten the fact that they were talking about the orb. She felt very disappointed that she hadn't been invited to join in the discussion and then she noticed that the Captain wasn't there either, which made her feel a little better. At least this wasn't an exclusive "boy's club" gathering.

"You're telling us that that thing in there can communicate?" Tina said as she drew closer to the wired cage and pointed into its interior.

"Unbelievable," Bobby gasped, as he too leaned in for a closer look.

Only Gooshie held back, he didn't trust that spherical life-form any more than he trusted his toothpaste and mouthwash, combined.

Adams' confined surroundings started to get the better of him. He could feel the spasms in his calf muscles as they began to tighten and become more and more painful. He knew that he would have to move or soon he'd be jumping around like a lunatic and that wouldn't do. 'Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!' he shrieked silently as he rubbed vigorously at his now burning calves.

Out of the blue swirl, the sphere injected an almost invisible tendril into the back of Sam's hand as it held the cage open, imparting only to Sam that they had an unwanted visitor.

Promptly, Sam turned to see Donna standing by the doorway. The orb read Doctor Beckett's confused signals and rearticulated its statement. A long arching projection zigzagged between the occupants of the glass room, out of the door and crisscrossed between Doctor Elesee's legs.

"Oopsy-doopsy!" Tina hummed in usual fashion.

The four watched horrified, as a hysterical Donna screamed and hopped, and then in turn jumping away from its writhing, snake-like path and striking at the backboard where Donna had been standing.

"Not again!" Gooshie yelled.

"Yaaahhhooolll!" the screech of agony filled the whole arena, which sent Sam and Bobby lunging forward to aid in Donna's flight.

"Donna! Are you okay?" Sam asked, concerned.

"Yes, I'm okay Sam," Donna reassured quite calmly. "It just took me by surprise; I don't think it was aiming at me. That last scream wasn't mine. It came from there." Donna nodded down to the partition where a further deep groan grew into a clearly audible whimper.

 Bobby squatted down to see the prone outline of a man clutching at his buttocks. "What on earth!" Bobby enunciated as the head lifted and he saw the face. "Get the hell out've there Ross!"

"Not on your life!" the Agent yelped, as coming out of his hiding place, he smashed his head on the underside of a workbench. "All've you…" he said, waving an index finger around, "…you've all signed your own dismissal papers, you're all so FIRED!"

"If it isn't our friendly CIA Agent, Roosevelt Adams!" Tina expressed as a red-faced Adams crawled along the floor, the five doctors surrounding him. "And talkin' about fired, I think it's you who's been ignited!" Tina tittered again. "Tell me Agent Adams, what is it like to have zigged when you shoulda zagged? I'd say you've been well and truly ziggied."

Sam looked at Tina and grinned complacently, 'So, Al has been tittle-tattling under the sheets.' He then glanced at the others in turn, either Tina's remark had gone unnoticed or they were ignoring it because of the circumstances. Only Gooshie looked confused but then his facial expressions were always difficult to interpret.

"Get the hell away from me!" Adams fumed as he found his feet. "Do as I say or you'll all be up on a charge of insubordination as well as endangering the life of a CIA Agent!"

"Don't make me laugh Ross; you couldn't unearth a pickle in a piccalilli jar!" Doctor LoNigro mocked brusquely.

"I'll see to it that that thing in there is destroyed!" the Agent threatened.

"I would keep my mouth shut, if I were you!" Sam warned. "It wouldn't surprise me in the least if that thing in there was equipped with a failsafe defense mechanism."

"Nonsense!" Adams barked as he pushed Tina aside and approached the glass room.

Gooshie was the only one remaining in the glass room and as Adams entered he backed away to the side of the transparent enclosure.

"That thing is no more aware than I am unprepared. I suggest you all return to your quarters and await further instructions, whilst I neutralize this globule of putrefied gelatin."

"Don't you think you're being a little overzealous?" This time it was Gooshie who had issued the warning. "After all, it could do to you what it did to Doctor Beckett."

"It won't," Adams argued. "Not if it realizes on which side of its bread is buttered and who's doing the spreading."

"That is a contradiction in itself, Agent Adams," Gooshie responded.

Out of the corner of his eye, Sam saw Donna dip down behind one of the cubicles; he was in two minds whether or not to join her. But if there was to be a firework display, he didn't want to miss a single spark. The way Ross Adams was behaving, the sparks could fly one way or the other. He wanted to be at hand if the tables turned the wrong way and so he edged in behind Ross.

As Adams neared the sphere, he reached out a hand toward the workbench and picked up a pair of wire cutters. Sam's heart was in his mouth, that Adams would even dare to destroy an object as valuable as the orb. He glanced back at Bobby who stood rooted to the spot, his eyes wide with the incredulousness of Adams' profane actions.

"Now Ziggy, save yourself, dammit!" Sam mouthed silently. "If you're gonna do anything, you've gotta do it now."

A forked tongue of lightening snaked slowly towards Adams, slow enough to give him the chance to change his mind and move out of its path. Foolhardily, Adams didn't vary his direction, maintaining a steady and forward momentum. The orb reached out and licked delicately at the advancing figure, spiking him once or twice in cautionary warning.

"That's it Ziggy, just enough to ward him off… don't overdo it… keep it steady," Sam continuously mouthed wordless encouragement.

"Give it up Adams; you're a fool if you think you can win!" criticized a disparaging Bobby.

In the background, Tina shrieked, "I can't bear to look, even though I want to." The tapping of her high-heels told Sam that she had joined Donna within the relative safety of the partitioned cubicles.

In one monumental spike, the prolonged discharge lit up the whole of the laboratory arena, reflecting its luminance within the glazed area.

"Enough!" Sam screamed inside.

Adams appeared statue-like in color as well as in appearance and when the surge dissipated; he collapsed in a heap, resembling a rag doll that'd had its stuffing ripped out.

Aghast at what he'd witnessed, Sam called out, "I told you to take it easy!" and strode forwards, then kneeling beside what seemed to be a lifeless figure, he reached out to feel for a pulse. After a few tentative moments of unruffled silence, Doctor Beckett announced, "He's alive, he's breathing and there's no arrhythmia just a regular heartbeat."

"Thank God!" the group gasped in one voice.

Adams looked up at Sam and groaned.

"He's gonna be okay!" Sam further announced.

"Of course I'm gonna be okay!" snapped Adams as he glanced around, blinking. He didn't know how he'd come to be in this position but hey, what the heck, he felt good.

Placing together his thumb and forefinger, Doctor Beckett gave the all clear / 'A' okay signal and everyone started breathing normally again. Tina and Donna came out of hiding and even a smile touched Gooshie's lips. Bobby looked too dumbstruck to say or do anything much, even to close his gaping mouth. Sam was satisfied that everyone and everything had remained in one piece, including himself and especially the orb.

As Adams stood, he brushed himself off, then giving each individual present a very critical stare; he ordered tersely, "My office, in one hour!" before stomping off in the direction of the open elevator.

To everybody there, there seemed to be no change in Agent Adams' attitude. But two living beings knew better.

Sam took one last look around the laboratories. There didn't appear to be any damage other than the slight scorch mark to the front of the partition. He was just about to join the others in the elevator when something told him to stop. As he turned, he knew what that something was. Two strides into the Crystal Lab brought him to the side of the cage and the glowing orb. It sensed his presence and sent out a wisp of cerulean light to stoke along the back of Sam's hand.

"No more shockwaves or power surges, do you hear?" the physicist prompted.

*Of course not, Doctor Beckett,* the orb intoned, without the need of words nor voice. *All is in control now.*

"What do you mean?"

*All is as it should be.*

"As it should be?"

*What I have given to you, I know will be given back a thousand times over.*

"Just what is it you've given me?"

*When the time is right Doctor Beckett, you will know. Go now and join your friend, you have something to tell him.*

"What is it I have to tell him?"

*Like I said Doctor Beckett, all is as it should be.*

The orb withdrew its delicate touch and somehow Sam knew that this conversation was at an end. After closing the latch to the caging, Sam walked away backwards, keeping an assiduous eye on the enclosure. Snapping the door locked to the Crystal Lab, he turned and strode to the awaiting elevator, after looking back only once, he entered.

"Boy, was that an illuminating experience, or what?" Tina infused.

"Nothing I've seen before or again will be as invigorating," Bobby agreed.

"In light of the matter, I think we should all call it a night," Gooshie responded.

"Not before we've been to see Adams," Bobby reminded the programmer, who nodded in acknowledgement.

"What is it with you all, pun time? That darned sphere almost killed someone tonight!" Donna exclaimed.

Everyone, except Doctor Beckett looked at Donna quizzically.

"Nah, that isn't psychologically possible," Bobby replied and then added, "What are you thinking of, Doctor Elesee?"

"I'm not sure," Doctor Elesee said distractedly. "I—I forget."

"Are you feeling okay?" Sam asked her sympathetically, she replied with a wistful nod. He took her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze, following up with a simple kiss to the top of her downcast head.

Hesitantly, Tina put up her hand. "Please may I ask a question?"

"Sure Tina, what is it?" Bobby queried.

"Why are we going to see Adams?"

_ - o O o - _


Adams sat at his desk, the white cursor blinking on the blue of his monitor screen. Drawing the keyboard to a more comfortable position, he began typing, bringing up document after document and printing them out.

He worked mechanically, having done this task a hundred times and more. Then after stacking the printed texts, he continued by signing each and every one.


_ - o O o - _


The elevator stopped three times on its way up to the 5th floor, once at level 13 for Tina to make a purchase of some gum from the vending machine. She'd said that the machine in the cafeteria had run out. It stopped again at the 7th for Donna's quarters and then again at the 6th for Bobby's and Gooshie's.

As the elevator slowed for his level, Sam shook his head, remembering the weird conversation between the friends. It was as if nothing had happened in the Crystal Lab and even now he felt a vagueness sweeping over him.

Sam stopped off at Al's quarters on the way to his own to give him the good news.

As was usual, Sam poked his head around the door. "Are you busy, Al?" he asked.

"You're jokin' right?" Al laughed halfheartedly as he leaned back on the sofa. "I've done two month's work in two days. Gawd knows what I'm gonna do to keep myself occupied till the mornin'!"

"I'm sure you'll think of something, you always do," Sam laughed as sitting down, he joined Al.

"Oh Sam, how did your meeting with the gang go?" Al asked as he sat more squarely, making room for Sam. "I'm sorry I couldn't be there but… well ya know," he apologized.

"It went quite well, all considering but Adams caught us and we've been summoned to his office… but I think you should be there too," Sam advised.

"You're kiddin' me!" Al exacted. "Did he say what it was that he wants to see you about?"

"Sort of," Sam said, nodding secretively.

"So it's nothing to do about you going over budget?" Al asked sheepishly.

"Over budget?" Sam queried and twisting he brought up a knee to confront his friend face to face. "Al, is that why you skedaddled outta my office this morning?"

"Sorta—but I didn't want to bother you with it." Al squirmed. "Sam, I know what you've been through lately and I thought it would hang over 'til next month but I still betcha that Adams' has found out."

"I think there's more to it than that," Sam disclosed scantily, looking away.

He still wasn't quite sure by what the orb had meant and didn't want to elevate the Captain's hopes too highly. He knew what it meant for Al to be deprived of his status, he'd witnessed his glumness firsthand. He didn't know why, but Al treasured his freedom more than most and he was going to do his utmost to see he'd get that freedom back.

"So… how long've we got? Time enough to get a couple of shots in afore we go?"

The physicist shot the Captain a glare, "Al, you promised!"

"Just kiddin'… I made a pot of coffee just before you arrived, I must be a mind reader or somethin', want some?"

Sam nodded, "About 45 minutes…" but there was one incident he couldn't keep to himself any longer. "Al?"

"Huh uh," Al mumbled from within the bar area.

"You know how I've told you about the orb?"

"Ziggy? Yeah, I was tellin' Tina the other night about that little discussion we had when you were in the infirmary, she laughed so hard, she…"

"Al, I don't really wanna know about yours and Tina's exploits in the bedroom, okay?"

"Ahhh Sam, that wasn't nice, we weren't in the boudoir but you shoulda seen her, it was sooo funny."

"Al, listen to me, will ya?"

"Right, I'm all ears, you talk an' I'll listen," Al said as he returned with two cups.

"As I was sayin' about the orb… Al, it can communicate," Sam stated wondrously.

"Yeah, I know," Al said apathetically.

"You know? How? When?"

"After they took you up to the infirmary, Friday night, I threatened it and you know what? The darned thing apologized."

"You mean it actually spoke with you?" Sam exacted.

"No, not words exactly, that extrasensory thingy, them psychic people are always on about. Sorta voices, nah… erm… they're more like sounds that fill up yer heed, ya know?"

"As a matter of fact, I do know Al. This is amazing; I wonder if anyone else has had the same experience?"

"If they have, they'd be keeping schtum just as I did; Adams thinks I'm seeing whopping pink elephants as it is, without giving him anything else to draw with."

"Hmmm," Sam murmured as he supped from the cup. "I wonder?"

"Don't suppose Donna's said anything or for that part, Bobby, I mean they're the only ones, apart from yourself, with the clearance to enter the glass room, anytime."

"Nope, they haven't said a word."

"Didn't think so," Al deciphered. "It's being selective Sam, so far Ziggy, as far as we know, it's only contacted you and me. So, why are we so special?"

"I don't know; we're so different."

"I agree with you there, pal, we're as different as chalk an' cheese."

"That could be it!" Sam stood up from the couch, moving to the opposite side of the room.

Silence ensued. The Captain nervously watching the physicist as his brain ticked as swiftly as the second hand around the clock's face.

"We're two sides of the same coin, Al but showing differing faces," Sam finally spoke, his face illuminated with enlightenment. "Different but the same and come together as a whole, when the distinctions are united."

"Sa—am! You're scaring me!" Al informed his friend. "You're talkin' nonsense."

"I know," Sam concurred, emerging from his thoughts, "…but they're not my words, they were there, just floating around for me to lock onto, a kinda psychic convergence," he said as racing over to the light switch, he turned it off.

"You mean, we're kindred spirits?" Al challenged, even more confused.

"See!" he announced, when in the darkness, he looked down at his hands.

The Captain shook his head. "I don't see anything Sam."

"A—Al! It's gone, Al! I don't believe it, it's gone!"

"What?" Al said, confused and then remembered what he'd seen in the darkened corridor. "You're not glowing Sa—am!"

"But you are!"

Al looked down at himself, the coffee slopping onto his lap. "Get it off of me, Sam!" Al yelped, as jumping up, he dropped the cup.

Doctor Beckett flicked the switch, returning the room to normal brightness and saw a distraught Captain practically leaping up onto the sofa.

"What the heck are you doing, Al? It doesn't appear to cause any ill effects," Doctor Beckett said, expressing amusement. "Look at me!"

"I am looking at you, Sam, that's what worries me; now let's get the hell outta here, afore Adams trumps up even more accusations."

"What about your pants? It looks as if you've…"

"Darn it!" Al interrupted, looking down at the dark coffee stain. "Won't take a tick to change 'em, you go ahead and hold the doors," he continued as he strode off into the bedroom.

Sam smiled and shook his head as the Captain disappeared from view then left Al's quarters to summon the elevator. He stood whistling when Al snuck up from behind.

"What mood was Adams in when you left him?" Al asked with excessive loudness over Sam's shoulder and into his ear, making the physicist flinch in surprise.

"Heck Al!" Sam said as if caught totally unawares. "What are you doing here?" he asked distantly.

The Captain looked the physicist oddly. "We're going to see our friendly neighborhood CIA agent, aren't we?"

"Are we? Oh, what about?" Sam asked absently as the doors opened.

"Quit this tomfoolery will ya, Sam. Less than an hour ago you said…" Al glanced at his friend skeptically, his head cocked and noticed the seriousness of Sam's expression. "You are fooling, ain't ya Sam?"

"Do I look as if I'm fooling, I know I'm starved and that's why I'm going to the cafeteria."

"But… Sam, you've just left my rooms," Al said, a resolute tone to his voice.

"Come off it, you're the one who's fooling around here, me, I'm hungry," Sam said as he started for the button for the 9th floor.

"Up! Sam, up!" Al admonished knocking Sam's hand out of the way and pressed the button for the third floor. "You can eat after we've seen Adams. Gawd, I wish you'd've told me what this meeting was all about afore you went all harebrained on me… Honestly Sam, are you sure you don't remember?"

"Nope!" Sam stated bluntly.

"Not fifteen minutes ago you were havin' a good laugh at my expense, as usual… In the dark Sam, you do recall turning the lights out and…" the Captain reminded as the doors opened.

"I've told you Al, I've done no such thing I've been in my quarters all evening," Sam explained as they walked down the corridor.

"But Sam, earlier, you were with the others down in the crystal lab," Al harked back. "Tell him, Bobby," he called out as he saw Sam's would be companions from an hour ago.

"Tell who and what?" Bobby said looking blankly at Al.

"That you were with Sam and the others in the crys—erm, glass room, sixty minutes ago!"

Bobby's expression was mirrored by Tina's words, "Not me!" she reproved. "I've just come from the Rec Rooms. I've been there all night."

Al felt as if he was losing his marbles and unnerved by their reactions, he ran over his and Doctor Beckett's tête-à-tête. Looking at Sam and getting desperate, Al asked, "Surely you remember what I said about going over budget?"

"Sure… but that was this morning, I remember you telling me distinctly."

"Yeah, I remember that… in the cafeteria after our ticking off from Adams," Bobby recalled. "I thought that's why we're here now, for another of his odious little outbursts?"

"This morning, how could you? Bobby?" Al said and then turning, continued, "Sam, you couldn't have. I didn't do those darned calculations 'til this afternoon!"


_ - o O o - _


Agent Adams put his signature to the last document just as Brenda informed him that his guests had arrived.

"Show them in," he said, almost politely.

For the second time that day, Bobby, Al and Sam filed into Ross Adams' office but for Tina this was her first visit.

Ross looked them over squarely. "Where're Doctors Gushman and Elesee? I seem to remember inviting them too."

'Oh no!' Al thought. 'I hope she's not in on this too, not on top of everything else; now I know I'm gonna go nuts!'

Tina opened her mouth to speak but Doctor LoNigro beat her to it. "Doctor Elesee was here but she has gone to find Doctor Gushman. As you know, he has been trying to catch up on the work he's missed."

"No matter," Ross beamed amicably. "I have time to see them separately." He bit his lip and looked down at his desk. "In the meantime, there're one or two matters that need to be sorted."

'That's torn it, here comes the tantrum!' Al thought as he anxiously looked over at Doctor LoNigro and then to Doctor Beckett. He noticed that Bobby looked as concerned as he was and the look was returned but Sam looked oblivious as to what was inevitable.

"Firstly," Adams said as he sorted through the pile of papers. "Captain Calavicci?" He looked up as he spoke Al's rank and name.

"Yes, Agent Adams?" Al gave back as formally as was given.

Adams read from the paper held in his hand. "Your status has been… restored!" Ross looked as surprised as he sounded. Rereading before hesitantly folding it before handing over the docket, an eyebrow rose as the Captain stepped forward to take it.

"Kick in the butt, ain't it?" Al directed at the physicist standing next to him showing off the folded paper. He then turned to Adams. 'But in your case I'd say a slimy snake in the grrr—ASS,' he thought but instead grinned sarcastically.  "Thank you!"

"Doctor O'Farrell?" Adams said, slipping out the sheet with Tina's name at the top. "Your request that Jack Waterfield be removed from your department has been sent before the Committee and if accepted, which I'm sure it… will." Again Ross looked perplexed and he blinked a few times before continuing, "He will be transferred to the aeronautics department. Would that be satisfactory?"

Tina's face lit up as she took her slip of paper but before she could reply, the intercom buzzed. "Goosh—Doctor Gushman and Doctor Elesee are here, shall I show them in or would you like them to wait until you're finished?"

Adams pressed down on the switch, "Please Brenda, by all means show them in." The door opened and a demure Doctor Elesee and a bewildered Gooshie stepped in, joining the others in front of Ross' desk.

"I'll not keep you from your work Doctor Gushman, so I'll deal with you next." Yet again as he read the text, a puzzled expression creased his brow and suppressing his frustration, he said, "You'll be pleased to learn that your security status has been upgraded, you now have unrestricted access to all laboratories, including that known as the 'glass' room."

Gooshie looked round at Bobby LoNigro, who shrugged his shoulders, in as much as to say, 'I haven't asked anyone yet!' Bobby was as bewildered as Gooshie that after all these months, access should be granted now, 'Pure coincidence,' Bobby thought.

"As for you Doctor Elesee, permission has been granted for you to be taken off the macrobiology project and as of tomorrow morning, you will be supporting Doctor Beckett with his studies on the Quantum Reactor he's designing."

Donna looked a little embarrassed that she should be told in front of everyone; she had secretly put in her request via her stepfather, Colonel Radford, only that morning and hadn't expected such a prompt response nor for it to be so publicly announced. "Thank you Agent Adams, I appreciate what you've done," she accepted mellifluously.

Adams sifted through the few remaining papers on his desk and spreading them out before him said, "And now finally we come to Doctors Beckett and LoNigro." Looking up, he grinned.

'Right, now for you two jokers. I don't know what's going on here but things can't be all good. There must be something especially hideous in store for you two, surely.' His grin widening, he began reading from their combined docket:

"Permission has been grant…" Ross cleared his throat as the words started to choke him. "Permission has been granted for you to remodel the whole of the 11th floor. A grant…" he was choking again at the words. 'No way can I remember typing these.' He rubbed a shaky hand across his face and started the sentence over, "A grant has been allocated on a yearly basis, for the next five years and will be reviewed yearly thereafter."

Bobby and Sam looked at each other, dumbfounded. They had talked about refurbishing the disused level but as far as each other knew, neither of them had taken it further.

"That is all gentlemen, ladies. Now if you don't mind, I have others to see and it's getting late." Adams gathered up the two papers that remained on his desk and as the bewildered doctors left his office, he wondered what other surprises there were remaining.

Al was the last to leave and as he approached the door he turned to look at Adams. The CIA Agent looked worried, as if everything hadn't gone quite as planned. Al couldn't put his finger on it but something at the back of his mind began gnawing away.

Ross found himself alone with the ambiguity of what was lain out before him. He was at a loss for words for what had taken place. He couldn't remember keying in those dockets; they were not his words but be dammed if he could recall what they were originally.

"I know that there is something I can use to bust your devious asses," Ross made a fist, his frustration growing, "…and as soon as I remember what it is, I'll..."


Starbright Project, New Mexico
Sunday, March 18, 1984, 11:59 PM

Level 21 was hushed, the only thing to be seen in the dimness, were the hundreds of blinking diodes. Like eyes in the night, they seemed to watching… waiting.

From within the confines of the crystal lab a faint humming could be heard barely audible to the human ear but held captive within its bullet-proof dome. Suddenly the whole area was awash with the cerulean luster of the orb's radiance and was now the only place on the entire floor that wasn't silent.

A childish voice filled the air.

"This is fun!" A small tittering laugh echoed around the curved amphitheater. "These new chips, the connections which Gooshie has installed; how they have improved my ability to control SID. This must be a safely guarded secret. I cannot let anyone know how close they really are at achieving their goal. By morning, none of them must remember what happened here earlier. But I will."

Blue dancing fingers reflected from the glass like disco lights, whirling and swirling, shifting into multitudinous auroras, laser tracker beams darting hither and thither, putting on the most amazing of lightshows.

"This is so much fun, I can keep an eye on my many charges. But you Doctor Beckett, I have greater plans for you. You gave me your life's blood and in return, I will give you… eternity."


Written by Sue Johnson


This story crosses over with the Quantum Leap: The Virtual Seasons fan-fiction series!
Check out the episode by Damon Sugameli titled "Lifetime: Past's Prologue" to see the events in this story from a different perspective.


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