that one could time-travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sebastian
LoNigro set out to prove the String Theory that he had co-developed with
his former MIT student, Samuel Beckett—an incredibly gifted genius who
was destined for greatness.
After Sam’s sudden and untimely murder in 1973, a distraught
Doctor LoNigro formed a strong bond with Sam’s older brother,
Lieutenant Commander Thomas Beckett, and together, they both strove to
ensure that Sam’s theories would not be forgotten.
quickly rose in the ranks to Captain and eventually aided Doctor LoNigro
in the development of a top-secret government project code-named Chrono-Leap,
which was based off of a combination of the String Theory, and the work
of the late Doctor Alexander Garner and his failed Time Displacer Unit.
During the initial test-run of the experiment, a malfunction
occurred that endangered the lives of everyone inside the project.
In a bold attempt to shut it down, Captain Beckett bravely
stepped into the Chronoton Accelerator...and vanished.
awoke to find himself inhabiting someone else’s body in the past,
suffering from partial amnesia and facing a mirror image that was not
Fortunately, contact with his own time was maintained through
brainwave transmissions with Doctor LoNigro, who became the Project
Observer in the wake of the Accelerator incident, appearing in the form
of a neurological hologram that only Captain Beckett can see and hear.
in an alternate timeline, Captain Beckett finds himself leaping from
life to life, putting things right that once went wrong.
All the while, he is subconsciously aware that another leaper
exists somewhere, lost in time like himself, who holds the key to
restoring reality back to what it once was.
Until that day arrives, Captain Beckett struggles to recall his
lost memories of a “World Without Sam Beckett,” hoping each time to
alter the hands of fate so that his next leap...will be the leap home.
When the blue light of the leap in dissipated, Tom had to cover his
ears. He needed to save them from all the offending noise around him.
People were standing on all sides of him, causing him to feel like a
sardine. People were bumping into him, and a pair of roaming hands grabbed
Tom someplace that made him immediately uncomfortable. When someone was
shoved roughly into him, it caused him to briefly lose his balance.
After regaining both his balance and his composure, he took a look
around. It was easy to see that he was in some kind of demonstration.
Judging by what the other demonstrators were wearing, Tom was able to
ascertain that he was back in the sixties.
At the front of the crowd, standing on a podium, there was a man
yelling into a microphone. It was hard to hear him due to the commotion of
the crowd, but it was easy enough to tell that he was at an Anti-War Rally.
This being the sixties, Tom figured the rally centered on the war in
Vietnam, a war that Tom fought in and believed in. Closing his eyes and
lowering his head, he said, “Ahhh geez.”
Tom was sickened. One thing that had always annoyed him was these
draft dodging, free loving, pot smoking hippies. Looking down at his own
clothing, he saw that he was wearing a tie-dyed shirt with a peace sign on
it. That left no doubt in Tom’s mind that he had leaped into one of those
degenerates. The crowd then roared with a renewed vigor, bringing Tom back
to reality. Tom looked back up at the podium and what he saw made him
Before his eyes, the very thing that Tom had fought so hard, for so
long to protect was aghast in flames. The symbol of freedom and unity that
so many brave men had died to protect was burning while the man at the
podium was egging the crowd on to bigger and louder cheers. It made the
former NAVY SEAL want to throw up. The man had just burned the American
Immersed in rage, Tom yelled, “Hooyah,” and started pushing his
way through the crowd, trying to make his way to the podium. When he got
there, the speaker stopped yelling and looked down at Tom.
“Eddie,” said the man. “Great, I didn’t think that you were
going to make it. Come on up here and say a few words.”
A little surprised at this turn of events, Tom allowed the man that
he had an instant dislike for pull him up onto the podium. Once up there,
Tom planted his feet and gave the man a right hook, connecting
directly with the man’s jaw.
Caught off guard, the man went down in a heap, and Tom was on him. He
managed to hit him a couple more times before at least three sets of hands
grabbed him and pulled him off the man. They then threw him to the ground
and started pounding on him, much to the approval of the crowd.
Tom was covering his head trying to shield the blows, when
surprisingly, the beating stopped. The man that Tom had just hit was pulling
his attackers off. Tom could hear him yell, “Stop! Let him go.”
Clearly shocked, one of the attackers turned towards the man and
asked, “What do you mean let him go? He just decked you. Why should we let
“Because he’s my brother.”
Tom’s attackers just looked at the man that Tom had just hit. Then
one of them asked, “What do you mean he’s your brother? I thought you
said that your brother is for the cause. Why would he hit you?”
“I don’t know why he hit me, but he is definitely for the cause.
I don’t know what his deal is right now, but I’m going to find out. Take
over for me, would you, Jeremy?”
Waving the man off, Jeremy said, “Whatever you say, Johnny.”
Johnny grabbed Tom by the shoulder and led him roughly off the
podium. “What’s gotten into you, Eddie? Why did you hit me?”
“Because you burned the American Flag,” replied Tom with the
anger evident in his voice.
“Yeah, only because you told me to.”
Tom had to take a step back at that revelation. Knowing he had to
tread lightly, he took a minute to compose his thoughts, and then said, “I
“What do you mean you were wrong? You were one hundred percent
right.” Pointing at Tom, Johnny continued, “You said that if we burned
the flag, the media would take notice. They would report on it and our
message would be spread, and you were right.” Then waving towards the
crowd, he said, “Just look at all the media people that are out in the
“There are other ways to go about it. By burning the American Flag,
you are spitting in the faces of every one of our men that died over
there.” Tom gave Johnny a quick shove. “You are spitting on every
soldier that was wounded or taken prisoner. You are spitting on every pilot
that was shot down.” He shoved him again. “You are spitting on everyone
that has lost a loved one and everyone whose life has been changed
“That’s not what we are trying to do, and you know it. We are
trying to get them brought home so that no more of our guys have to die in a
Tom rolled his eyes at that comment. “Maybe to the people that are
over there, it isn’t pointless. Did you ever think of that? They might be
for the flag, apple pie and the Fourth of July. In training, they are pushed
to their limits and then beyond to show them that they have their limits.
Maybe that’s what Vietnam is doing for America, showing us our limits.
That’s not a lost cause.” To Tom, this conversation was beginning to
seem awfully familiar.
Johnny shook his head. “Is that enough of a reason for our boys to
“Well if it’s not, how about duty! They take oaths to God and
“Eddie, what’s gotten into you? If you are so pro-war all of a
sudden, why don’t you go enlist? For that matter, why are you even
Tom just stared at Johnny for a second before saying, “Exactly,”
and walking away.
Tom was glad that his host had some money on him. Since he was
already in D.C. and because he really loved D.C., Tom decided to take the
opportunity to do some sight seeing after leaving the rally. He didn’t
know where his host’s car was or even what he drove. So, he hailed a taxi.
He had spent a lot of time in D.C. when he and Professor Bobby
LoNigro were trying to secure funding for Project Quantum Leap. In those
days, it didn’t really leave much time to enjoy the history of what was
Now he had some downtime and he was going to take full advantage of
it. The first step in that was to stop off at a store and buy some new
clothes. He hated the clothes that his host was wearing and what they stood
for. So he decided to get something a little more himself.
Seeing as every other time he had been there, over the last several
years at least, he was always in a suit and tie, he decided to go casual. He
ended up with a simple blue pull over shirt and a pair of jeans.
Wearing his new outfit, Tom put his host’s clothes in the bag from
his new ones and stuffed them under his arm. They might not be his taste,
but he was not about to throw them out on the kid.
After leaving the store, Tom flagged down another cab and told the
driver to bring him to Arlington National Cemetery. Not long later, he was
standing at the graves of John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie. Standing
there staring at the eternal flame that Robert Kennedy lit in memory of his
brother and sister-in-law, Tom said a silent prayer.
He remembered that infamous day in Dallas like it was yesterday. He
was at the farm. He was watching his father teach his brother Sam how to
drive a tractor. It was bringing back memories of when he originally learned
how to drive one. He remembered that he was smiling when his mother came
running outside. The three of them thought that they had done something
wrong. His mother was yelling that someone had just shot the President and
the First Lady.
Years later, when he saw the Zapruder Film, he saw
shots for JFK, one for Jackie. He could only hope that one day his leaping
would land him on November 22, 1963. That way, he could change what was one
of the biggest tragedies of the century.
When he left Arlington National, he headed to the Lincoln Memorial.
He was facing the South Wall of the Memorial reading the Gettysburg Address
when Al finally showed up.
“Hey, Tommy Boy, how’s it going?”
“Al, I wish you wouldn’t call me Tommy Boy. What took you so long
to get here?”
“Sorry, Tom, Tina threw me a very private birthday party and she
was my gift.”
“Al, I didn’t know it’s your birthday.”
“It isn’t.” Al
said with a glint in his eye and a grin on his face.
Tom just rolled his eyes at
the observer. “What have you got for me, Al?”
After punching some buttons
on the handlink, he read the information off the tiny screen. “Let’s
see. It’s November 15, 1969 and your name is Eddie Roberts. You’re from
Atlanta Georgia and you’re nineteen years old. You came to Washington,
D.C. with your brother, a Johnny Roberts, for an anti-war rally.” His
expression turned to one of amazement. Reading off the small screen, he
continued, “Hey this is interesting, Tom, this was actually the largest
anti-war rally during the Vietnam War. Ziggy says that there were two
hundred fifty thousand people protesting the war during this rally.”
Tom raised his eyes
slightly at that, “I have to admit, those are pretty impressive numbers.
But, Al, these people were cheering as this Eddie guy’s brother was
burning the American Flag.”
Al visibly flinched at that
before saying, “I know its sick, Tom, but people were doing that a lot
“That’s no excuse,
Al.” Noticing some people beginning to stare, Tom lowered his voice
slightly. “They are making a mockery of everything we stood and fought
for. They are spitting on the memory of the fifty thousand Americans that
died in Vietnam, on their families, on their friends. It’s just wrong.”
“Hey, don’t tell me. I
was there. I was held prisoner for six years while these,” Al waved
towards a couple of hippies walking by.
“These… hippies couldn’t even be bothered to support what we
did over there.”
“Sorry, Al. Why does
Ziggy say I’m here?”
“She doesn’t know.”
“What do you mean she
doesn’t know? There has to be something.” Tom looked over his friend’s
shoulder and read the tiny screen. “What happens to this kid that I leaped
“He disappears on
November 18, 1969 and is never heard from again.”
Looking at his observer
now, Tom asked, “What do you mean he disappears? Was he murdered?”
“I don’t know.” Al
glanced at the handlink again, and then threw up his hands. “There’s no
“Well that must be why
“I don’t think so,
Tom.” Al hit the appropriate buttons on the handlink and read the
information. “Ziggy says that there is only a 24.3% chance that you are
here to keep Eddie Roberts from disappearing.”
With a confused expression
on his face, Tom asked, “How is that possible?”
“I don’t know,” said
Al while shrugging his shoulders. “I know it doesn’t seem right. But
that’s what Ziggy is saying.”
“Well, why don’t you go
back and try to get me some more information then?”
“All right,” Al used
the handlink to open the Imaging Chamber Door and stepped through. “I’ll
talk to you later, Tom.”
Gate, New Mexico
Al walked out of the
Imaging Chamber and placed the handlink in its cradle. “What have you got
for me, Gooshie?”
Looking at the information
on his terminal, Gooshie responded, “There is nothing new to report, Al.
Ziggy still doesn’t know why Tom has leaped into the life of Eddie Roberts
on November 15, 1969.”
addressing the Parallel-Hybrid Computer, Al asked, “What’s the hold up,
Ziggy? It doesn’t usually take you this long to find information on one of
The voice of the
Parallel-Hybrid computer filled the room as she responded, “It seems that
Edward Allan Roberts was drafted on September 12, 1969. However, he failed
to report for duty as scheduled on November 18, 1969. After that date, there
is no information available.”
Al thought for a moment,
then looking up at the blue orb that was Ziggy, Al asked, “He was drafted?
Could he have maybe dodged the draft? Went to Canada, changed his name and
shunned technology? Something like that?”
“I estimate a 94.2 %
chance that that is precisely what happened,” was the computer’s
Looking down, Al spoke to
himself, “So the kid went to Canada and dropped off the grid.” A nasty
look appeared on Al’s face, “Coward. Well, at least that’s something
to go on.” Then looking once again at the orb, he addressed the computer.
“With this new information, can you predict why Tom has leaped into Eddie
the name that he used in Canada, I will be unable to ascertain with any
certainty why Captain Beckett has leaped into Edward Roberts.”
“Well, then I guess
I’ll just go see our visitor and get that name for you.” A moment later,
Al walked out of the Control Room and down the hall to the Waiting Room.
When Al walked into the
Waiting Room, he saw the Project Physiatrist, Verbena Beeks, sitting with
the visitor. They were talking quietly in the corner. She was, in fact, so
focused on the visitor that she didn’t notice the former Navy Captain
enter the room.
had to clear his throat to get her attention. Startled, Verbena jumped a
little and searched for the origin of the noise. Seeing Al, she politely
excused herself from the visitor and walked over to him.
he doing, Doc?” asked Al.
a little swiss-cheesed,” said the pleasant looking physiatrist, “but his
memory seems to be, for the most part, intact.”
cause I really need to ask him a few questions. Do you mind if I talk to him
alone for a couple minutes?”
at all,” replied Verbena. “I’ll just wait outside.”
you, doctor.” Al watched as Verbena walked out of the room before turning
his attention to the kid still sitting in the corner of the room.
Gate, New Mexico
A half hour later, Al
returned to the Control Room and said, “Gooshie, have Ziggy run a check on
a Robert Edward Allan. That’s the name the kid said he is going to use in
“Already done, Albert,”
“Great, fire up the
Imaging Chamber. I’m going to go fill Tom in on what we found out.” Al
then grabbed the handlink and made his way up the ramp and into the Imaging
away, Al.” Gooshie pushed the appropriate buttons to bring the Imaging
a moment, Al found himself standing in front of the Jefferson Memorial.
Looking for the leaper, he saw that Tom was reading a pamphlet on the
history of the memorial.
his observer out of the corner of his eye, Tom kept his attention on the
pamphlet in front of him and said, “You know, there was a time when I
could tell you everything about these memorials, now I barely remember
anything about them.”
well I still can,” said Al in a huff. “Not that I care to.” Al
carefully avoided looking at Tom.
I love everything about DC. It’s not often I get to visit here as a
Well, why don’t you try living on its streets!” barked Al now looking at
up from the pamphlet, Tom asked, “You were on the street in DC, too?”
to meet Tom’s eyes, Al made a big show about looking at the handlink. “I
don’t want to talk about it. So just drop it.”
right,” said Tom, giving in. “Do you have anything new for me?”
that’s why I’m here.” He punched a couple buttons on the handlink and
read off the tiny screen. “Well, according to Ziggy, Eddie Roberts was
drafted on… September 12, 1969. He was scheduled to report for duty on
November 18, 1969. That’s why he disappeared.”
shot a look towards his observer. “Are you trying to tell me that I’ve
leaped into a draft dodger?” The disgust was clearly evident in Tom’s
voice when he said, “I knew I didn’t like this kid for a reason.”
well anyways,” he ashed his cigar and continued reading the information
off the tiny screen, “he dodged the draft and went to Can…,” he hit
the handlink as the words stopped scrolling across the tiny screen. “ada,
Oh, Canada. He then changed his name to… Robert Edward Allan. He gets
married in a couple years and becomes an electrician. Five years later, he
gets divorced. He returned to the states in 1977 after Carter pardoned all
those draft dodging nozzles. Right now, he’s a single retiree with no
kids, living in Seattle Washington.”
I’m here to make sure he reports for the draft,” said Tom. “That seems
well nothing is ever that simple. Ziggy gives it a 92.8% chance that the kid
would go AWOL as soon as he gets back here.”
not for the kid, what could I possibly be here for?”
according to Ziggy…, there is a 96.4% chance that you are here to stop a
bus, loaded with protesters, from crashing and killing just about everyone
With his attention fully on
the observer now, Tom asked, “What happened to cause the bus to crash?”
“Well, according to the
police reports, the bus driver was the only survivor. He said that about
twenty minutes after getting on the road, a 1967 Pontiac GTO started
speeding along side the bus before pulling in front of it and forcing him
off the road.” Al looked Tom in the eye and allowed the information to
sink in for a moment. When it had, he continued, “Anyway, the bus went
over the edge of the road and started flipping. When it came to rest, it had
rolled 128 feet downhill and ended up upside down.” Then, looking away
from the handlink, Al dropped his hand and said in a somber tone, “The
driver of the bus was the only survivor.”
took a moment to collect his thoughts, and then asked, “Did they ever
catch the guy that ran it off the road?”
“Yeah,” Al brought the
handlink back up and began reading from it again, “Two days later, the car
is found abandoned twenty-six miles from the scene of the accident. They
traced it back to the owner… one Kyle Sharp. They brought the kid in for
questioning and he confessed to driving the car. He said it was just a prank
that went real bad. He’s still in jail.”
“If I am here to stop a
bus crash, why didn’t I leap into the driver? Why would I leap into this
kid that has nothing to do with the bus?”
“Ziggy doesn’t know,
Tom. But there must be a reason.” Al was unable to stifle a yawn. “Man,
I’m exhausted. I am going to head back and get some shut eye. If we find
anything new, I’ll come back and fill you in. Night, Tom.” Al opened the
Imaging Chamber Door and stepped back through.
Gate New Mexico
Since being dismissed from
Project Starbright after the vending machine incident two years ago, his
life had been going downhill. He had lost everything he held dear to him.
since then, he had been turning to the bottle more and more frequently. It
had cost him every job that he managed to get after being removed from
Starbright and being dishonorably discharged from the Navy. Eventually, it
cost him his home.
week had passed and the darkness was all encompassing. Everything had fallen
out from beneath him. As he stumbled down the alley way, he couldn’t see
fifteen feet in front of him. But he didn’t care about that. He still had
the one object that meant anything to him, his flask.
flask was the one thing that he would not allow them to take, couldn’t
allow them to take. It had been a gift from his first wife Beth, and it
never left his side. And tonight, Al was downing vodka from that flask.
Suddenly a noise. Al spun
quickly and looked behind him. “Who’s there?” he called, but there was
no answer. There was no more noise. It was just his imagination.
He turned again and began
walking to the makeshift shelter he had made his home for the last couple
Another noise sounded
behind him. This time it was a loud crash as a garbage can was knocked over.
Al spun on his heels again.
This time, with the quick turn, he stumbled and fell into some more trash
cans. Shaking his head and awkwardly standing back up, he screamed, “SHOW
“I know there’s someone
there. Come out and fight like a man!” He stumbled again. Looking into the
darkness, he still saw nothing. The silence surrounding him was deafening
and he began to think that maybe it was all in his head.
He turned back around and
started walking again. He didn’t get ten steps before he was hit in the
back with something long and hard. Immediately, he fell in a heap. Then,
they were on him.
They were hitting him over
and over. Shot after shot connected with his body. A couple caught him in
the head. He couldn’t fight back. He was pinned down trying to curl up in
a ball to absorb the bulk of the shots. Then they started stomping on him.
He could feel his ribs break.
When the kick came, it was
a swift, hard blow to his face. The force of the blow was enough to
straighten him back out. As he lay there, he wasn’t unconscious, but he
was close. He wasn’t able to fight them off, even when they took the flask
he was still holding in his hand.
The two men sounded as if
they were a million miles away when Al heard one of them say, “I’ve got
the flask, you get his jacket and his shoes.”
The other man forcibly sat
Al up and pulled his jacket off of him. When he had it, he pushed him back
to the ground where Al banged the back of his head on the pavement. Then he
took the shoes off the disgraced former Navy Captain’s feet.
While he watched his buddy
rob the homeless man, the first man pulled out a combat knife and said,
“Now, to leave him with our calling card.” He then walked very slowly to
the man that they had just assaulted and put the knife to his face.
new pain barely registered for Al as he felt the tip of the knife slice into
the skin of his left eyebrow. The man then sliced back towards his ear then
came back toward his jaw and the point of his chin.
shot awake and rolled out of his bed. He scrambled to his feet and quickly
rushed to the corner of his room. Kneeling in the corner, he covered his
head to protect himself from the blows which were no longer coming. Then,
after a full minute without being hit, Al summoned up the courage to look
around the room.
Al opened his eyes, he could still see the images of the beating he had
suffered at the hands of those two hoodlums. In an attempt to clear his
head, he squeezed his eyes shut and had to shake his head to remove the
images remaining from his dream. It took a moment for him to realize where
he did, he slowly got to his feet and made his way to the bathroom. After
walking to the sink, he turned on the light and ran the cold water. After
splashing three handfuls on his face, he grabbed a face cloth and used it
dry his face off.
the face cloth, Al looked in the mirror and saw the scar that they had left
him with that night. Putting his finger to it, he traced it all the way from
his left eyebrow back to his ear. Then he followed it down his jaw line to
the tip of his chin.
he did this, he remembered how the cops had shown up and turned their lights
on. The man that Al had come to call The Professor was so startled that he
dropped the knife. Not bothering to pick it up, both men ran the other
two police officers then got out of the car. One ran up to Al to start
tending to his injuries. The other gave chase. He never caught them.
officer that stopped to tend to Al’s injuries had radioed for an
ambulance. When it arrived, they loaded him in and brought him to the
hospital where he was treated for a concussion, three broken ribs, and a
severe laceration to the face. Then they promptly shipped him off to the
free clinic where he remained for a week.
had tried their best to keep the cut across his face from becoming infected.
Despite their best efforts, the cut became infected and he had to be treated
for that as well.
they released him from the clinic, all he could think about was revenge. He
wanted revenge on them for attacking him in such a cowardly fashion, revenge
for stealing his jacket and shoes, revenge for his scar.
that he might have been able to deal with. He had scars all over his body
from his six years spent in the POW camps. And although he would have almost
preferred another beating rather than accept charity, the doctors at the
free clinic had been nice enough to give him a beat up old Army Jacket and
he couldn’t deal with was losing his flask to those creeps. That flask was
all he had left from his first wife Beth, the only woman he ever truly
shut off the light and walked back to his bed. Sitting down, he turned on
the light on his night stand. Then opening the drawer, he pulled out the
flask and read the inscription; “To
My Darling. I Will Love You Always and Forever”
had given it to him just before he left for his second tour of duty. After
that day, Al kept the flask on him almost every waking hour. He took it on
every mission. It was his good luck charm. But one day he forgot it. That
was the day he was shot down.
years later, he had returned home to find Beth, his Beth, had remarried. She
had the Navy declare him dead and she remarried.
Navy had sent her his things, the flask among them. When Al finally saw
Beth, he asked for the flask back. She gave it to him, then asked him to
stay away. He obeyed her wishes.
took it back and held onto it, even when he lost everything else. He had to
get it back at all costs and that wasn’t open to negotiation.
thought it logical that the two men would promptly pawn the flask. So for a
month and a half, Al walked from pawn shop to pawn shop in the Washington,
D.C. area without success.
he gave up the hope of finding it in a pawn shop, he started searching for
the two men that had attacked him. In this, he had a lot more success. He
came across another victim of theirs, but the scar that he had went all
across his face. He directed Al to an old abandoned warehouse.
man left Al with one final word of warning. “I wouldn’t go there if I
were you. They’ll kill you as soon as look at you.” Then the man walked
took the warning in stride and went to the warehouse anyway. When he got
there, the windows were boarded up, but the door was kicked in. Al
approached the door and looked inside. Not seeing anybody, he entered
quietly and started searching for the two men that had attacked him.
was a small factory, so it didn’t take long to realize that there was
nobody there. He did however manage to find a small office they used as a
bedroom. He tore it apart looking for the flask, but found nothing. Figuring
that one of them must have had it on him, he sat down on a box and waited
for their return.
a half hour later, he heard some commotion as the two men entered the
building. Standing up, Al stood there as the Navy Captain he no longer was
and faced the doorway that led to the small back office.
was a stance he used many times against his subordinates whenever it was
necessary. Here, he did it with the hopes that it would have the same
effects on his attackers.
was watching from the shadows when the men entered the small former office
and stopped dead in their tracks.
the hell are you,” yelled the first man.
why the hell are you in our warehouse?” continued the second.
stepped into the light. To the men, the light seemed to shine off the scar
that they themselves had inflicted. The man that Al pegged to be the leader
took one step forward. “Hey, I know you. You’re that guy we were working
on, what was it, two months ago. But the cops crashed the party.”
was the first time that Al had gotten a good look at the two men that had
attacked him in such a cowardly fashion two months before. He was going to
show these men that he was not intimidated, so he didn’t say anything. He
just studied his prey with fiery eyes as he took two steps forward.
man that Al had pegged as the leader was about 5’8” tall and 160 pounds.
He had black hair and a muscular build. Al’s first thought as he sized up
his prey was that if that man had any kind of brain, which he obviously
didn’t, he could be dangerous.
buddy was shorter and fatter. There was a kind of uncertainty and fear in
his eyes that told Al that he could make the man cry with barely a look.
took note on how the two men stayed together instead of spreading out to
attack from both sides. This told him that they were not used to this type
of confrontation. It was in that moment that Al knew that he had the upper
else instinctively knows to stay away,” said the leader taking another
step forward. “But you, it looks like we will need to teach you another
a hint of fear or intimidation, Al said, “I’d like that. I’m always
ready to learn something.” Noticing
the men stop dead in their tracks, he took another two steps forward. The
look on his face, the tone of his voice, his whole demeanor told them that
he owned them. His voice was one of defiance when he said, “What are you
waiting for? Teach me Professor.” When the cowardly men didn’t move, Al
asked with the same authority, “What’s the matter? Is school out for the
day? That’s really too bad. I crave knowledge. I also crave the flask you
stole from me.” Al made a big production of clenching his fists and
cracking his knuckles to drive home the fear that he saw in their eyes.
what this is all about,” asked the man Al had come to call the Professor
while pulling the flask out of his pocket, “this stupid flask?”
was the wrong thing to say. With a speed he had not shown in years, Al
closed the remaining distance between himself and the two men and gave the
Professor an uppercut. The Professor went down quickly dropping the flask in
buddy tried to grab Al, but was unable to hold him when Al elbowed him in
the solar plexus. When he was released, Al turned on the man and, using his
boxing skills from his Golden Glove days, started hitting the man with
repeated body shots. Then with an uppercut to the jaw, he knocked the man
didn’t believe in kicking a man when he was down. So he walked to where
his flask lay and picked it up. He returned it to its rightful place in his
pocket and sat on some boxes to wait for the Professor to wake up. When the
Professor started to stir five minutes later, Al got up and walked over to
over him, Al slapped him hard across the face. “Get up,” he said without
emotion before walking back to where he had been sitting. He pulled out a
cigar he had come by earlier in the day, bit off the tip, and spit it at the
Professor. He pulled out a match and lit it as he said, “You made a
mistake when you attacked me. If I hear that you attack anybody else,” he
put the flame to the cigar and lit it. Then, shaking the flame out, he
finished, “I’ll kill you.” His voice was indifferent as he said it.
up on one knee, the Professor spit out some blood and said, “You caught me
with a cheap shot you…”
mean like you and the fat man did to me. Only I didn’t use a weapon and I
decided to stick around and face you. I didn’t run away like a little
didn’t you just go to the cops?” The Professor finally managed to stand
took a long puff off his cigar and sat there a moment before he answered,
“Now where’s the fun in that?” Al got up and stubbed out his cigar,
making sure not to ruin it. He would smoke he rest later. “Now it’s just
you and me, man to man.”
Professor charged Al and tried to hit him in the face. Al easily ducked the
blow and came up with a blow to the Professors ribcage. He could feel the
man’s ribs break as his body lifted a couple inches into the air. He hit
him again and again. Each time, the Prof’s body left the ground with the
force of the blow.
he stopped the body shots, Al lifted the Prof’s head and gave him a left
hook, connecting solidly with his jaw. The force of the hit caused the man
to spin twice as he was falling to the ground. He did not get up.
a moment, Al stood over the man he had called the Professor. His adrenaline
was pumping and his fists were clenched. He looked at the Professors
unconscious form and had to resist the urge to start kicking him.
he pulled the flask out of his pocket. It had a calming effect on him as he
kissed it and returned it to the pocket from whence it came. Then he
searched unsuccessfully for his jacket and shoes for a couple minutes. When
he didn’t find them, he left.
the memory had played itself out, Al, still sitting on his sweat soaked
sheets, looked at the flask one final time. He had had it ever since that
day. Even when he was drying out at the Sanctuary House, he had held onto
it. Vic and the rest of them had seen how much the flask meant to Al so they
allowed him to keep it as long as he agreed to random checks to make sure it
placing the flask in his bedside drawer, he turned out the desk lamp and,
within minutes, was asleep.
had taken six years, but he had finally been repatriated and was now
returning home to his loving wife Beth. He had just paid the cab driver and
was walking up the front porch to the door. What little gear he had left was
slung over his shoulder as he walked up the three steps to the front door.
earlier, the Navy had sent Beth his belongings, including his house keys.
That’s why when he got to the door; he knocked with his left hand. An
unnatural amount of light shined off his wedding band and nearly blinded
took a moment to clear his vision and almost fell backwards down the stairs
when a strange man answered the door, his door. “Who are you and why are
you answering my door?”
door,” asked the man? “What do you mean your door? This house belongs to
my wife, Beth.”
few words inflicted more pain and anguish than the Vietcong did in the
entire six years he was held prisoner. That pain was front and center in his
face and his voice when he asked, “What do you mean your wife Beth? Beth
is my wife.”
Al. She fell in love with me and had the Navy declare you dead. It’s tough
luck. Better luck next time.”
gave the man a final look before forcing his way through the front door and
into the Living Room. For a moment, he stopped dead in his tracks and looked
at the record player. It was playing their song, Georgia on my Mind by Ray
Charles. That was salt in an opened wound and it only made his heart yearn
for his wife more.
looked straight ahead and saw an opened door at the end of a long hallway.
Instinctively, he knew that it was his and Beth’s bedroom. That was
strange considering that their bedroom had always been right next to the
Living Room, but he didn’t dwell on it.
caught his attention was the fact that there was a massive amount of pure
white light shining out of the doorway. It made it impossible to see
anything that was inside the room.
started running towards the light, but with every step, the hallway got
longer and longer. He started running faster, but the harder he tried to get
there, the further away the doorway got.
running as fast as he could for five full minutes, Al stopped and looked at
the doorway of light. He was no closer now than he had been when he started
running. If anything, he was further away. When he turned around and the man
Al now knew was Dirk Simon was standing right behind him.
was looking at Al with warmth and understanding. His voice was very soothing
when he said, “I know it hurts Al, but Beth thought that you were dead.
Everybody did. You can’t blame her for wanting to get on with her life,
and she has now.” Dirk put his hands on Al’s shoulders and turned him
back towards the doorway.
light was gone now and Al could see Beth clearly. She was walking back and
forth in front of the door, singing silently to a baby that she held in her
arms. From behind him, Al heard Dirk say, “His name is Alex. He’s our
son.” For the first time since before his capture, Al felt defeated. Then
in the same soothing tone, Dirk said, “She’s happy Al, really happy.
Don’t take that away from her again.”
was crying now. He took two more steps forward and he was now right in front
of the door. Beth was only feet in front of him when she finally looked up
from Alex and said, “I’m sorry Al.” There were tears in her eyes as
she shut the door.
woke up with the tears still streaming from his eyes. He sat up and turned
on the light on his night stand. He then spun in his bed and put his feet to
the floor. Then he put on some slippers and walked to his closet to get
ready for the day ahead. There would be no more sleep that night.
This one was apparent to
Tom. He had to get on the bus that would be crashing. He knew that they
would probably have some sort of passenger list that his name wouldn’t be
on, so he decided to get one of the other passengers to invite him along for
considering how to go about doing that for a moment, he started thinking
that with the free love attitude of the sixties, he might be able to flirt
his way on. But the question was, who would he start flirting with?
answer came when he saw this cute little blond start to load some bags onto
the bus. He had walked over to her and offered her a hand. While he was
putting the last two bags in place under the seating area, he saw the
Imaging Chamber Door open out of the corner of his eye.
Al’s lecherous side came in handy. Tom didn’t know anybody that was
better at picking up woman, so he slyly asked for some pointers on what to
say to the cute little blond, Julia, to get her to invite him to come with
her. It had taken some fancy footwork, but, with Al’s help, it had gotten
Tom on the bus.
He took a seat near the
middle of the bus. He would have liked to be in the front near the driver,
but Julia was sitting in the middle and Tom didn’t think it would be a
good idea to sit anywhere but next to her since she was the one that got him
on in the first place.
Then, sure enough, just as Ziggy had said, they had driven about
twenty minutes when the GTO appeared. The driver, whose name Tom remembered
was Kyle Sharp, drove up behind them and started flashing his lights and
honking his horn. He was swerving from lane to lane. At one point, he cut
the car sharply to the right getting back in behind the bus, narrowly
missing an oncoming car. A moment later, he returned to oncoming traffic and
passed the bus, remaining very close to the side as he did it.
Pulling in front of them,
Kyle started braking quickly to cause the bus driver to hit his brakes to
keep from running into the back of them. Then he started swerving between
lanes in front of the bus.
Then the bus driver did
something that struck Tom as weird. He opened the door. He reached for the
broom that he used to sweep up with after everyone was off the bus. Shoving
it between the gas pedal and the seat, he stood up and said, “Now you
damn, draft dodging hippies will get what you deserve.” Then he stepped to
the door and jumped from the bus.
Tom was shell-shocked. All
he could think about was how Ziggy could have missed that. When Julia had
screamed a little, it brought Tom back to reality. Moving quickly, he got in
the center walkway and moved to the front of the bus.
When he got there, he pulled the broom from its place between the
seat and the gas pedal, and threw it to the ground. Then he got in the seat
and started to apply the brakes, but he was too late.
bus was approaching a fairly sharp, right hand curve going way to fast. Tom
hit the brake and tried to steer it around the corner. The bus was way too
big and didn’t corner worth a damn. Its high center of gravity caused it
to flip onto its side.
sounds were terrible. The metal sides of the bus were scraping against the
pavement leaving a trail of sparks in its wake. Tom would have rather heard
someone run their fingernails across a chalkboard then hear that sound.
Glass was breaking as the bus scraped along the pavement until the friction
of it all brought the bus to a screeching halt. That was bad enough, but the
worst of it all was the people screaming.
terror he heard in those screams was almost unbearable. There was pain and
anguish evident in each individual scream. The biggest horror of it was that
he could hear each individual voice clearly. His first thought after the bus
finally came to a stop was that he would hear those voices clearly until the
day he died.
The whole time Al was right
next to Tom, yelling at him to hold on. And somehow, through all of that,
Tom managed to remain in his seat. Al was still right next to him when Tom
lowered himself from the seat. He straddled the still opened doorway and
looked down. The ground was about three feet under the bus which told Tom
that the front of the bus ended up off the road.
Carefully, he started
making his way to the back of the bus, checking on injuries as he went. The
first eight people he checked were a little banged up, but other that some
cuts and scratches, the worst injury he saw among them was a broken wrist.
Then he saw Linda. She
wasn’t moving at all. Her blond hair was now red from the blood that was
coming from her nose, mouth, and a gash in her head. One look told Tom that
she had died instantly.
He felt awful. This was a
girl he had been talking to for that last half hour. It had taken all of
five minutes to see how full of life she had been. She was obviously a very
bright and happy person, easy to talk to. She had only been eighteen with
her whole life ahead of her. That was all gone now. All that was left was an
empty shell that had once been such a beautiful girl.
As he made his was down the
rest of the bus, he found a few more injuries, and some seemed very serious.
There was one more kid that was obviously dead at the scene. He kneeled down
at the kid’s head and began to cry.
Al punched a few buttons on
the handlink. His tone was somber when he said, “When all is said and
done, four of the passengers died as a result of the accident. Two were
D.O.A. and the other two die later tonight.” Al hit the handlink lightly
twice and lowered his head. “Ziggy says the paramedics won’t be here for
almost an hour. By then, there was nothing they do.”
Tom didn’t care who was
around. He looked at the observer and yelled, “What the hell take them so
knows about the accident until a car drives by in about a half hour and sees
the bus lying on its side. Cell phones don’t exist in this time, so the
car that discovered the bus had to drive to the nearest phone and call the
police. It all takes time.” Al pulled up some more information on the
handlink and read it to Tom. “According to the autopsy reports, it
wouldn’t have made much difference if they had gotten there any sooner.
There was massive internal bleeding and brain hemorrhaging.”
got to get these people out of here,” said Tom as he put one man’s arm
around his shoulder and helped him to the door. Once he got the man outside,
Tom saw the driver stumbling away from the scene of the accident.
gently helping the man to the ground, Tom turned and ran towards the bus
driver that had set the bus up to crash. Even from a distance, he could tell
that the drivers arm was broken. That didn’t stop him from grabbing his
shoulder from behind. Spinning the man, he gave him a right hook across the
jaw, knocking him out with the one punch.
was only then that Tom remembered the ’67 Pontiac GTO that had been racing
along side the bus. Standing up full, Tom looked left and right. The car and
driver were nowhere to be seen. He then looked back down at the unconscious
form of the driver. “Well, they are going to get him later, but this time,
you are going to pay too.”
picked up the man’s unconscious form and brought him over next to the bus.
He then laid him against a tree and used his shoelaces to tie his hands
behind him and around the trunk. Then he returned to the bus and began
getting the rest of the survivors off the bus.
sounded defeated when he asked, “What happens Al?” Tom was sitting in a
chair in the hotel room that he had spent the previous night in. He was
leaning his head in his right hand, sobbing.
Al punched some buttons on the handlink and said, “You changed
history. Now only four people died in the crash rather than everybody but
finally looked up. “What happens to the driver?”
calling up the information, Al said, “That would be Jonathon Heart. He
spent the rest of his life in prison.”
would make him rig the bus like that?”
according to Ziggy, this guy was a veteran of World War Two and a stout
supporter of the Vietnam War. He was just a little too fanatical about
stood up and walked to the window. “And the driver of the GTO, what
happens to him?”
took a puff off his cigar and read Tom the information. “Kyle Sharpe,
Ziggy says that he doesn’t spend the rest of his life in prison, but he
doesn’t get off Scott-free either. He loses his license for reckless
driving and evading responsibility.”
looking out the window, Tom leaned his forehead against his forearm and
asked, “If everything is working out, then why am I still here?”
keyed the question into the handlink and said in a voice that was an octave
higher than normal, “Oh, this is weird. Ziggy says that we have to
convince the kid to report for duty.”
that means I’m here to report for duty.”
says no. It has to be the kid’s decision to go. She is predicting that if
he reports, he will become a medic and save a lot of lives. I guess this bus
accident sort of stays with him.”
around and looking at Al, Tom said, “How am I supposed to do that when I
am here and he is with you?”
shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know. Leave him a note.”
gave Al an annoyed look and said, “Come on Al and get serious. You’re
there. You can talk to the kid and convince him to report for the draft.”
got a look on his face that told Tom that he was not thrilled with that
idea. Al walked to Tom, holding his cigar between the fore and middle
fingers of his right hand. He pointed it at him and said, “Tom, if you are
going to try to get someone to convince someone else to go to Vietnam,
it’s better to find someone that wasn’t a prisoner of war for six years.
It’s better to find someone whose life was not destroyed by the Vietnam
believe me. I know that you have a lot to be bitter for. You lost more than
most people because of that war, but I know you believed in it. You
wouldn’t have done a second tour if you didn’t. If this kid is destined
to save a lot of lives, you have to try.”
stood there with his head down for a minute before he said, “I’ll
try.” He then opened the Imaging Chamber Door and retreated through it.
Gate, New Mexico
Al walked into the Waiting
Room and cut right to the chase. In a very understanding manor, he looked at
the visitor and asked, “Why are you dodging the draft?”
Eddie Roberts was not
expecting the bluntness of the question, but he did not get defensive when
he answered, “It’s a pointless war. And I don’t think that it’s
right to force someone to fight, and possibly give their life for a cause
that they don’t believe in. Now, if it was for a cause that made sense,
that might be a different story.”
“What is it about the war
that you don’t believe in?” Al had sat down to get to the same level as
the kid so as to not be threatening in and way, shape, or form.
Eddie shrugged his
shoulders. “The United States is sticking its nose where it doesn’t
belong. It’s a half a world away and it certainly doesn’t concern us.
There is no reason for us to be there.”
Al lowered his head and
leaned forward. His elbows were on his knees and his hands were clasped in
front of him. He then turned his head and met Eddie’s gaze. “Do you
really believe that or are you just reciting the propaganda you got from
those Anti-War protests you have attended?”
“Al, look at all the
people that are dying over there. Don’t you think that when people give
their lives for their country, it should mean something?”
“It does mean something.
Kid, I’ve known more people than I care to admit that gave their lives in
Vietnam. Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that they all
believed in what we were trying to do over there, but they were willing to
die to protect the American way of life. If there was ever a good cause for
someone to give their life, that’s it.”, He paused a moment to choose
his words carefully, then continued, “Kid, there were a lot of lives lost
and a whole lot more that were changed forever, but should we have been in
how about those lives that were changed forever? I would like to hear just
one of them saying that we should have been there.”
pulled a cigar out of his pocket and lit it. After taking a couple puffs, he
said softly, “You just did.”
didn’t know what to say. But, after a full minute, he finally did speak.
“You look like you are doing quite well though.”
was bitterness in his voice when he said, “Yeah, well looks can be
deceiving.” Al didn’t like where this conversation was heading one bit.
do you mean looks can be deceiving?” Eddie could tell that Al was very
reluctant to share his Vietnam experiences. He didn’t look like the type
of person to open up to anybody, let alone a stranger.
Al didn’t know what to
do. He knew that this would probably come up, but he didn’t like to share
what he went through with just anybody. But he couldn’t ignore all the
lives that would be saved if the kid decided to report for duty. It was that
thought that finally made Al say, “For me, it has been almost thirty-five
years since the War in Vietnam ended. My life has been in the toilet ever
Eddie was listening
intently. His voice was soft and understanding when he asked, “How so?”
It was physically painful
to tell this kid even a little bit of what he went through in Vietnam, but
he had steeled himself to what he knew he had to do. “I was a jet jockey
during Vietnam. While on my second tour of duty, I was shot down and taken
prisoner.” Al’s expression became one of anger as he stood up and
started pacing, “For six years, I was held prisoner in a tiger cage that
was too small to stand up in and too narrow to sit down in. Everyday for six
years, I was tortured and had to watch as friends of mine were tortured too.
The ONLY thing that kept me alive was the thought of returning home to my
wife Beth!” He was seething with anger when he said, “Then, when I was
repatriated in ’73, I found out that my wife had run off with another
Eddie was dumbfounded that
Al had gone through all of that and still believed in the War in Vietnam. He
started to say something, but thought better of it, deciding instead to let
Al speak. It sounded like he really needed to get all this out.
Still pacing the room back
and forth, Al was waving his hands wildly, nearly burning Eddie with his
cigar. “After I got back and found that my wife had declared me dead, I
turned to the bottle to drown my sorrows. When I wasn’t drinking to
silence the ghosts, I was making passes at anything in a skirt. That got me
married and divorced five times. Eventually, my drinking got the better of
me and I was dishonorably discharged from the Navy.”
didn’t even pause to breath. It was like the floodgates had opened and he
was powerless to stop talking. “After that, I went from job to job, losing
each one because of the booze. Eventually, everything caught up with me and
I ended up on the streets.” Al got close to Eddie and started tracing the
scar on his face. “That’s where I got this, the streets of D.C. It’s
only recently that I was able to dry out and start to get myself together. I
lost absolutely everything because of the Vietnam War and I would fight in
it again in half a heartbeat. I…”
stopped dead in his tracks. Did he just say that he would go on his second
tour again in half a heartbeat, even knowing what he knew now, somehow Al
knew it was the truth.
remained silent for a long time before asking, “You would do it all over
again even knowing everything it cost you, why?”
took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He was no longer yelling when he
answered, “Kid, it’s not about Vietnam. It’s about preserving the
American way of life.” He paused a moment, then continued, “We have the
greatest gift ever imagined, freedom of speech. I mean, you live in a
country where you can say anything you want about our President. In other
parts of the world, if you say something negative about the leader, you can
be shot. And don’t you like living in a country where you have the right
to assemble these peaceful demonstrations without fear of reprisal from the
government. I think it was worth going through everything that I did and
then some to make sure that we have those freedoms. I wouldn’t want to
imagine a world without them.”
didn’t make a sound for a full minute, but when he spoke, he asked, “Al,
would you mind if I had a little time to myself to think.”
kid. I’ll be back in a little while. If you need anything, just ask for me
out loud.” Al pointed at the observation deck high up on the wall.
“Someone will get me.”
another word, Al headed out the door and to the Imaging Chamber. He had to
fill Tom in.
Al closed the Imaging
Chamber door behind him and said, “Hey Tom. How’s it going?”
Tom looked up at the sound
of his observer, “Hey Al. Did you talk to Eddie?”
“Tom, don’t you ever
ask me to do that again.” Al was not happy, and the glare in his eyes and
the tone of his voice let Tom know that.
“So you talked to him,”
Tom said excitedly.
“Of course I talked to
did it go?”
think I got through to him. He asked for some time alone to think things
through.” Then raising the handlink, Al read some new information to Tom.
“Apparently, now there is a ninety-eight point nine percent chance that he
will report for duty as scheduled.”
up, Tom asked, “Then why haven’t I leaped?”
to Ziggy, you’ll leap once the odds reach one hundred percent. Right now,
they’re at ninety-nine point two.”
what happens to him?”
goes to Vietnam and becomes a Navy Corpsman.” Then Al’s face turned to
one of complete surprise. “Oh, this is interesting. He does two tours of
duty and saves a lot of lives.”
great.” Tom was smiling now. “You just helped to save a lot of lives.
problem.” Al looked at the handlink, then said, “Bye-bye Tommy Boy.”
I thought I asked you to not call me To…” then, as the odds hit one
hundred percent, Tom leaped.