VIRTUAL SEASONS EPISODES

Episode 601
Double The Leap, Double The Danger

October 25, 1998 Denison, Texas 

After putting Al's life back together in Mirror Image and the blue light of Leaping fades, Dr. Sam Beckett finds himself in a leap complicated by an emotional situation. 

As 16 year old Ryan Dutcher, Sam feels hobbled by the family situation surrounding him. Unable to cope with the emotional whirlwind dogging his every thought, he slowly loses contact with Al and the Project. How can he save himself as well as Ryan's family and schoolmates from certain destruction without an Observer to guide him?

Written By:

Written By:  A. J. Burfield and M. J. Cogburn

PRELUDE

 

Within the five years since Dr. Samuel Beckett had leaped into the chaotic world of time travel, he was never quite certain where he might end up. He had leaped into so many different people, and so many situations with so many things to put right, it was a shock to leap into a scenario where he knew what had to be done. In fact, he knew even prior to the leap what he wanted to do; he hadnít expected the God-like entity in his last leap to grant his wish. 

Sam had suspected that the bartender in the establishment called Alís Place in his last leap to be the one responsible for leaping him around. In the past five years Sam and his guide from his own time, Admiral Albert Calavicci, had dubbed the invisible entity ĎGod, Fate or Whoeverí, never placing a face to the power. This bartender had seemed too familiar with Sam and his travels, and knew that Sam wouldnít leap home until he fixed the life of his guide and friend.

It was from Alís Place that he leaped yet again into the house of Beth Calavicci. She was slow dancing with the shadows of her dark home to the song Georgia, tears streaming down her face as she thought of her husband Al, whom she finally believed to be dead as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Sam could feel the sadness in the room, and took a hesitant step towards her from the shadows.

"Beth?" he called softly.

She turned, surprised, to see Sam standing in her living room. She brought her hand to her chest to control her pounding heart. "Who are you? How.. how did you get in here?" She glanced at the door then back to him, instinctively knowing he wasnít there to hurt her.

Sam did not move any closer, and calmed her with his voice. "Iím not going to harm you. Iím here to help you. Help you and Al."

"Al?" she questioned, her heart soaring at the sound of his name. "Youíre a friend of Alís?"

His voice shook with emotion as he replied. "Yeah, Iím a friend of Alís," and he knew that she trusted him by her smile and grateful sigh. "Think we can sit?" She nodded, unable to speak, and motioned to the couch where they sat at opposite ends. He faced her and said, "Iím going to tell you a story, Beth. A story with a happy ending but only if you believe me."

"And if I donít?" Beth asked softly, wanting to hear a happy ending.

"You will, I swear you will," he whispered. His voice was still wavering with emotion. "But instead of starting with once upon a time, letís start with a happy ending." His eyes were shiny with happy tears as he said, "Alís alive and he's coming home."

The memory of what happened next was incomplete to him now, but he did recall comforting her as she cried healing tears of relief and happiness. He remembered feeling rare inner peace just before the familiar tingling of an impending leap.

 

 

PART ONE

 

Once more he felt the sensation of falling in the blue twilight between leaps. This thrilling, sweet feeling was the familiar precursor to entering another life, and Sam relaxed into the fall waiting to see where he landed. This time, however, the wonderful feeling twisted him into and agonizing convulsion when it changed to feel as if someone had plunged a knife into his stomach. The ripping feeling tore upwards through his chest, and he opened his mouth to scream as the pain tore deeply through his soul. The pain was intense and unrelenting, causing Sam to retreat in his mind to a corner, any corner, that would provide even the slightest relief. He felt himself mentally curl up into a ball.

Then just as quickly as it began, the pain ceased. Unfortunately for Sam, as he felt himself gasp at the sudden relief, he materialized into a body that was mid-step going down a staircase. Surprised, the soul of Sam stayed in its corner as the host tumbled down the stairs. He didnít particularly care what happened next as long as the pain didnít return.

Sam lay at the bottom of the steps, curled in a fetal position, not wanting to move or even open his eyes. Slowly, the pain of the fall crept into his body as he opened one eye, and then the other. Shakily, he thought, 'Great. Just great. What next? People shooting at me?' and the thought struck him as odd. He frowned, and propped himself up to study the room he had so unceremoniously dropped into.

The walls were made of cinder block, telling Sam that he was in a basement. To his left he saw a teenage boy just pushing himself up from the floor, standing shakily on his feet. Sam watched as he looked about, and turned a complete circle, obviously as confused as Sam felt. The boy caught sight of Sam at the bottom of the stairs and cocked his head as he frowned, looks of laughter and anger crossing his face in succession. "Why are you down here?" he demanded. "Why canít you just leave me the hell alone?!"

Sam was taken aback by the sudden anger, not quite knowing how to respond. "I, ahem..."

"Yeah, I know what you were doing, you little creep. Quit snooping around down here trying. Like you really care. Youíre just looking for a way to get me in trouble." With that, he turned his back on Sam, shielding the workbench in front of him with his body.

Sam slowly got to his feet, feeling the tumble he had taken down the stairs and recalling the pain that had caused it. He shivered at the memory and instantly felt the desire to be somewhere else. He tried to keep calm, and focus on the boy. "I do care what goes on with you."

The boy chuckled hollowly, shaking his head. "Look, just go back upstairs and leave me alone. I donít need you buttiní in my business. Why donít you go call some of your friends." And with that, he turned his back on Sam and fiddled with something on the bench.

Sam noticed how he had said the last word like it was a dirty word. He took a step toward the boy and said, "Why donít we talk about this?" Instantly he knew those were the wrong words to say.

The boy spun around and stepped right up to Samís face. They were equal height, eye to eye and toe to toe, when the boy snarled, "You think youíre so smart! You think that because youíre popular you can get what you want all the time. Why would I want to talk to you about anything?! Youíre not anything like me, thank God. So why donít you get your sorry ass upstairs and tell someone else what to do? Like mom and dad, maybe! Iím sure theyíd love to hear your point of view! I know I could use some peace around here!"

Abruptly, he spun on his heel and continued to work on whatever he had on the bench.

At a loss for words, Sam stepped back and noticed that he could hear loud voices upstairs. He hadnít heard them before, but realized that the yelling had been going on the entire time. That was where the other boyís sarcastic remark was directed, and the thought crossed Samís mind that maybe he was here to fix the relationship of the fighters upstairs. Before he went up to investigate Sam frowned at the other boy, drawn to him for some reason. He seemed so familiar, but couldnít quite grasp why. The thought faded as he turned and he stomped up the steps, surprised at the anger in his footfalls. He burst out of the door at the top into a dining area next to a kitchen. As Sam looked around, absently rubbing his bruised back, there was a lull in the angry voices he had heard before. That gave him a moment to study the room. 

It was definitely a country style. There was framed needlework on the walls depicting coffee grinders and coal stoves, a cowboy style throw rug on the wood floors, and small cow shaped figurines on the red and white checked table cloth. It reminded him of a old farm house, but the adjoining kitchen was much too modern for that possibility to be true.

Suddenly the sound of glass breaking made Sam jump and spin to face the living room where he heard a female yell, "Are you nuts?! That was an antique!" Sam stepped up to the archway separating the dining area from the living room and peered around the corner. He saw a woman squatting down next to a pile of glass that was once a vase but was now a splash of water with flowers strewn amongst the shards. She picked up the biggest pieces while trying to keep a loose strand of her auburn hair behind her ear. Her hands shook slightly as she shook her head and tried to concentrate on the glass.

She was just starting to rise with a handful of glass pieces when someone grabbed her by her shoulders and jerked her to her feet, then spun her around. The glass flew from her hands and her head snapped back and forth as the man shook her sharply. "Forget the vase!" the man yelled. "Tell me!"

"I donít know what youíre talking about, David!" she screamed back in his face.

"Donít give me that shit, Allison!"

Allison continued to glare at David, and Sam could see the manís knuckles turning white as he gripped her shoulders. It had to hurt, but she wouldnít let him know it.

"Answer me! Are you, or are you not, screwing around on me?" The question was growled out through clenched teeth, and Sam could see the muscles of Davidís forearms tighten and the veins in his neck throbbing.

Surprised that he was still rooted there watching this drama Sam finally spurred himself into action. This was going too far; no man had the right to physically abuse a woman like that. He found himself prying the manís hands from his motherís arm, and forcing his body between the pair. He pushed each one off to an armís distance and held them there.

David grabbed Samís hand and tried to push it away. "Ryan, go to your room!" he demanded, still staring at his wife. "Iím talking to your mother!"

Shaking his head slowly and trying to catch his stare, Sam replied calmly, "No, dad." He turned to face his father with both hands holding him back. That finally got the manís attention and the full force of his glare turned to Sam. The manís nose was flaring, and his jaw clenched tightly as he dropped his arms to his side. 

"What did you say?" he growled. Davidís hands balled into fists at his side.

ĎHeís going to hit me!í Sam thought, shocked, and was momentarily relieved that Allison was protected behind him. Then he felt waves of dread and fear starting to build from his gut and held his breath. He could feel his knees starting to shake, but held his ground. "I said no," Sam repeated, his voice sounding like a whisper in his ears.

Almost immediately there was a flash of motion in the corner of his eye when Davidís fists caught him in the stomach and throat. Sam dropped like a stone, holding his throat and gasping for breath. Allison was instantly on her knees, cradling his head in her lap and running her fingers through his hair.

Still David yelled. "Answer me, Allison!" The anger that was there seemed to have ebbed a bit, but he did not acknowledge what he had done.

"What does it matter to you?!" she sneered, not answering the question, then turned her attention back to her son. Sam could feel her trembling grip tighten on his shoulders.

Quick as a flash Davidís hand shot down and grabbed her hair, forcing her to look up at him. "Tell me!" he demanded.

Sam couldnít see her face, but he did hear a short, sickening laugh come from her throat as she calmly sat there letting him pull her hair. "You donít care about me, David. All you think about is work. So what if I am having an affair? Youíre never here to stop me."

He continued to hold her hair for a four count, then pushed her away. She swayed, and caught herself with one hand on the floor. David let loose with a string of profanity that would make a sailor blush as he pushed over a small chair, kicked the leg of the country French couch, and grabbed his coat. He left the house with a door slam that caused a picture to leap off the wall and crash to the floor.

Sam rubbed his throat. "Mom?" he whispered, sitting up and turning towards her.

"Oh, Ryan, why did you do that, honey? You know your father didnít mean to hurt me," she stood up, patting her hair, then offered a hand to help Sam up.

He looked at her in amazement. After being personally used as a punching bag, he had a hard time believing that David wouldnít hurt her. She helped him to the couch. "Are you OK, mom?" he croaked.

"Iím fine, sweetheart. Howís your neck?"

Swallowing was painful but possible. "Iíll be OK," he sighed. She plopped down on the couch next to him. She ran her hand through his hair once more then let her hand fall to her lap. Tears filled her eyes in an instant, and she pulled him close as she started to cry. Sam mutely wrapped his arms around her and let her.

 

 

PART TWO

 

Rear Admiral Albert Giovanni Baptista Calavicci was sound asleep on the table with his head resting comfortably on his arm, the opposite hand still clutching a cup of cold coffee. He had been waiting for the news that Sam had leaped when he had fallen asleep in the Projectís cafeteria. The luxury of a regular sleeping schedule was lost on the Project members and it was a developed skill to sleep anywhere to catch up. He was snoring softly when a tender touch roused him from a dreamless void. The loving hand rubbed his back, encouraging him to wake up. He groaned slightly.

"Al?" a breathy, feminine voice called to him quietly. "Al, honey, you need to wake up. Thereís a problem."

Alís eyes popped open at that last word. It seemed like problems always arose when he was in his deepest sleep. "No rest for the weary..." he groused groggily as he rubbed his eyes. When he pushed the chair back and stood, he turned to find his Beth standing there patiently waiting for him to wake up, her hand dropping from his back. She smiled that smile that made his heart race, and again thanked the Gods or Fate or whomever that brought her back to him. He savored every moment with her, the fear that she could disappear with Samís next leap always in the back of his mind.

He pulled her close in a tight hug. If everything else went wrong today, at least he had this moment, he thought, and started to nuzzle her neck. She giggled. "All right, come on," and pushed him back. "You have to get going. Something strange is happening and Verbena is worried." She pulled on his arm, and he walked to the door with his arm around her waist.

He rubbed the last of the sleep from his eyes as they walked down the hallway towards the Control Room elevator. "So, whatís going on?" he asked casually as the car dropped down to the level where Ziggyís mainframe was housed.

"I donít know too much. All Gooshie told me was that you needed to talk to Verbena ASAP because there was something wrong with Sam."

Al was instantly on the alert. "When did he leap?"

"I donít think they really know, Al," Beth watched her husband carefully, knowing they were talking about his best friend. She knew that there was something special between them, and sometimes felt there was a lot of things he purposely held back telling her about Samís leaps. In all honesty, if Al felt she shouldnít know, she didnít want to know. "Ziggy canít seem to find him." She touched his arm as his expression turned grim. "Sheís been looking over an hour." Beth felt badly for him and bit her lip, worried.

Al was distracted by her expression, and instantly felt the power of his love for her, again grateful she was there. When she bit her lip like that...well, it was difficult not to take her then and there as the Calavicci libido kicked in. "Beth, honey, please donít do that." He took her chin in his hand and rubbed her lower lip with his thumb.

She knew that look in his eye. Pleased he was taking the news of his friend in stride she grinned at him and pushed him playfully away. "Oh, no. Not now, flyboy! You need to get this all straightened out!" Instead, she snatched his hand as the elevator opened and they strolled out like they were on a walk in the park. "I need to get some things for the girls in Verdad, then Iíll be back." They stopped before the Control Room door, and she leaned over as whispered in his ear. "Iíll get something for you, too, stud. Until later..." Pecking him on the cheek, she breezed off down the hall with a wave and a smile. Al admired her retreating figure for a few seconds, wiped the silly grin from his face, and entered the Control Room ready to work.

The Control Room was a beehive of activity with personnel weaving in and out of the area in a well rehearsed dance. When they noticed the Admiral, their speed increased slightly, and it became quieter. Al looked up at the disc hanging from the ceiling that he had dubbed Ziggyís Ďheadí and saw that the disc was dark. Normally it would be glowing with a rainbow of electrical charges, and Al was taken aback.

"Ziggy?" he inquired. "Whatís up?" No response. "All right you rotten hunk of bolts, talk to me!" Again, no response. Al glanced around. "Gooshie?" he hollered. "Whatís up with Ziggy?"

A short man with curly brown hair, disheveled mustache and wrinkled lab coat popped up from behind a console and approached Al. His bright blue eyes looked slightly unfocused. "Weíve been trying to figure that out, Admiral. We donít exactly know. Ziggy told us that Dr. Beckett had leaped, then POOF! Nothing."

"Nothing? Nada?"

"Weíve been working on it. Tina is about to have a nervous break down, and I think Iím not far behind." Gooshie exhaled loudly, causing Al to retreat a bit, as the man was known for his horrendous halitosis. "Sammy Jo is the only one not working on Ziggy right now. Sheís still working on that retrieval program."

"All right, then, keep it up. Is Dr. Beeks in the Waiting Room?"

"Yeah. She called for you." Gooshie was all ready heading back to the control panel.

Al nodded and left, heading to the Waiting Room. He placed his hand on the security pad and the door slid open. Inside the light blue room he found Dr. Verbena Beeks sitting beside the body of Sam Beckett, and stood by her side waiting for her to stop writing. "OK, Iím here. Whatís going on?" His eyes fell on the body of his friend and saw that his eyes were open, fixed on the ceiling. Al saw the eyes blink, and some small, sporadic movement in the extremities. What caught his attention was that Samís mouth was moving, but no sound was coming out. He leaned a little closer, frowning. "Sam?" There was no response, and it struck Al that it was like watching a silent movie. You couldnít tell what was being said until the words showed up on the screen. Al hated those movies. "Whatís up with this?" he asked, pointing at his friendís mouth. "Do you know what heís saying?"

"Bits and pieces," Dr. Beeks replied, her eyes on her patient. "But it doesnít make sense."

"How do you mean?"

"Well," she started, cocking her head. "Itís like heís talking to himself, as himself."

"Huh?"

Verbena frowned, thinking of a way to make this more clear. "Okay, itís like this:  when we talk to ourselves, we usually donít answer unless there is some sort of malfunction of the brain. Here, Sam is answering back, but not like heís talking to himself, but at himself."

Al crossed his arms, letting the information sink in. "But youíre saying thereís no brain malfunction? Heís not crazy?"

"I canít really say anything until Ziggy gets a lock on Sam and we get an idea whatís going on. Our friend here wonít talk to us."

Al threw up his arms and paced the room, rolling his head around to loosen his neck muscles. He shut his eyes, and thought, Ďwhen the shit hits the fan it really flies around here. Just for once Iíd like a leap to go well from the start.í "OK," he said out loud. "Weíll get to you when Ziggyís ready to rock and roll." He stopped at the door, and turned back to Verbena. "Meanwhile, keep him here with us. Try to pull our friend out."

"Will do," Verbena nodded. When Al left and the door was just about closed, she heard him bark out an order for and update on Ziggy. She smiled then turned her attention back to her patient.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Knowing he would be of no help in the Control Room, Al headed back to his office to attack some of the endless pile of paper work teetering on his desk. It never ended, he thought with a sigh. ĎAnd I thought the Navy was bad.í 

After attempting to sort the mess into orderly stacks and consulting his watch for the umpteenth time within an endless thirty minute period, he finally conceded to the uselessness of it all. He let out a big sigh, and leaned back in his chair, clomping his feet onto a minuscule empty space on the desk. He fished out an aromatic Havana from his pocket, the lovely scent hitting him even stronger as he gently tore off the wrapper. He rolled it appreciatively between his fingers, knowing his lovely wife would have a cow if he smoked it. He grinned at the thoughts invading his mind about his wife, and exactly how he would make up to her for his vice. His train of thought was derailed by a soft, drawling voice.

"Admiral?" the egocentric Ziggy inquired. Al noticed a subdued tone to her voice.

"Welcome back, Zig," he said with a slight smile. He pocketed the cigar and stood.

"I never left, Admiral," she replied in a condescending tone.

"What ever you say." He didnít want to argue. "Are you fully functional now?" 

"Yes, Admiral."

"Thank God." Al stood and slapped his hands together ready to get moving. He knew Sam would be irritated with him, griping about how long it took to get there, where ever that would be. As usual, Al would dance around the reason and get his friend back on track yet again. He headed to the Control Room once more. The Projectís corridors echoed with his footsteps, and he rode down alone in the elevator, tapping his foot impatiently.

When he entered the Control Room it was blissfully peaceful again. The army of technicians were gone, leaving only Gooshie and Tina at the control console, clinking their coffee cups in a toast. "So sheís fixed?" he asked.

"We believe so!" Gooshie answered. "Looks like when Dr. Beckett leaped there was a temporal discharge, which fried some circuitry in the main frame. Sheís fit as a fiddle now!"

"Well, my little violin," Al said as he picked up the handlink, "have we found Sam?"

"Yes, Admiral."

"Thatís my girl!" Al turned to the Imaging Chamber with a light step, hoping to get this leap finished and later, see what Beth brought him from town. He was grinning as he walked up the ramp.

"Which door would you like, Admiral?" Ziggyís smooth voice asked.

Al stopped abruptly, mouth open, and turned in time to see Gooshie lose his grip on his coffee mug, which fell to the floor and shattered.

"What?" Gooshie and Tina asked incredulously.

"Where is he?" Al asked, suppressing panic from his voice. Was Ziggy inferring multiple locks on Sam?

"Dr. Beckett is in Denison, Texas, on October 25, 1998. There are two locks, close to each other. I believe they are in the same house."

Gooshie and Tinaís hands were flying over the control board.

"All right, Ziggy, I donít care which one. You pick." With a quick glance at Gooshie, Al entered the Chamber already a little sick from wondering what was in store for him. The tilt-a-whirl effect of the Chamber would really make him miserable now.

"Iíve cross checked the lock address with a name, Admiral. A family called the Dutchers live there. Good luck."

"Thanks, Zig, now hit it."

A whirlwind of colors visually assaulted Al when Ziggy engaged the Imaging program. Although Al dreaded the dizziness this part always gave him, he knew it would be over quickly and endured it without complaint. When the pictures finally settled down he discovered himself to be in a dark room with cinder block walls. A basement, he figured, seeing the ground level out of one high window. A radio was playing some guitar screeching music Al recognized from one of his daughterís rooms, then saw Sam standing with his back to him at a work bench. Al sighed in relief to see Sam standing there, but was surprised he tolerated the musical selection.

"Oh, Sam, am I glad I found you! Ziggy was having a problem locking in on you, but Iím here now, so..." Al stopped when he realized that Sam wasnít responding to him.

Al watched as Sam lifted his head and scowled at the radio. "Jesus, now Iím gettiní voices on that damn thing."

"Yeah, well, I know Iím late," Al started warily, carefully observing his friend.

Sam again glared at the radio then picked up a pair of pliers, threw them angrily at the device, then continued on with what he was doing. He nailed the radio squarely, and it tumbled off the bench onto the floor and continued playing.

Flustered at being put off Al went around the bench to see what was holding Samís attention. He bent down closer, surprised at what he saw him working on. "Sam!" he yelled, "thatís a pipe bomb! What are you doing?!" He looked into his friendís face and continued, horrified. "You shouldnít be messing with those things! Come on Sam, talk to me! And stop tinkering with that or youíll be sorry!"

Sam sneered as he fingered the sealed end of the pipe. "Theyíll be sorry, all right. Theyíll all be sorry they pushed Ray Dutcher around. I will not be bullied anymore. They think they are all that and a bag of chips, well, weíll see whoíll have the last laugh." Sam raised his head to laugh sharply, and Al swore he was looking directly at him. He waved his hands in front of Samís eyes, but Sam didnít even blink.

Al ran his hand down the side of his face, worried now, and pulled out the handlink. He punched in the name Ray Dutcher, and was shocked at the return information. He whacked the link, wanting any excuse for this to be faulty information, but the link squawked loudly confirming its truthfulness. 

According to the readout, Ryan and Ray Dutcher caused injury and death to 30 students at Denison High School in two days, then killed themselves in a murder/suicide pact. 

Alís head snapped up in surprise as Sam continued talking to himself. "Yup, theyíll all pay!" he said, ending with an eerie laugh.

Chilled with fear, Al called for the Imaging Room door to open and backed through. "Hold on, buddy," he whispered, "Iíll be back," and he stepped back into 1999.

 

PART THREE

 

Sam-as-Ryan stayed with Allison for quite awhile after David stormed out. She cried some, and apologized some, but never really explained what was going on. She seemed content to just to pour out her feelings, never asking Ryan how he felt. Sam thought that was odd, considering what had happened. In fact, she had even hinted that it was Ryanís fault he got hit because heíd angered his dad. The whole interaction was based around her feelings, and Sam felt slightly put off by her. Still, he stayed, not saying much until she seemed to get herself together and left him with a hug.

He drifted off down a hall, instinctively knowing Ryanís room was in this direction. He found a door and let himself into the teenagerís room. When he closed the door, he finally felt himself relax. 'This was a crazy family,' he thought, concerned for the whole bunch of them. He distracted himself by poking around the room and located a backpack on the desk with a wallet sitting next to it. Triumphantly, he picked up the wallet and found a driverís license inside. The photo matched the face of the boy in the basement, and Sam thought he was in the wrong room until he looked at the image in the mirror over the dresser. "Weíre twins!" he realized. "Thatís kinda neat! Not!" He frowned at that comment. Where did that come from? He studied the license again and saw that he was Ryan Dutcher, born May 28, 1981. That didnít help much if he didnít know the date now. Must be at least 16, he thought. He was six feet tall, 195 pounds, and had black hair and green eyes. Well, it was a start. 

He studied the face in the mirror. Why was he here? To fix a marriage, maybe? He felt awkward and unsure in this body, anxious now that Al hadnít shown up yet. He wanted out of this unnerving house.

"Where is he anyway?" he asked the reflection. "Heís never around when I need him. Heís probably off with Mrs. Number Six Calavicci and not giving me a second thought!" Sam clamped his hand over his mouth as soon as the words spilled out. He was honestly surprised he had actually said them. Al wasnít like that! He turned away from the mirror and angrily kicked a pair of shoes on the floor, slightly embarrassed that it made him feel a little better.

Sitting on the bed, he pondered his actions. Why was he putting Al down, knowing his friend would do anything earthly possible to help him? Why was he losing control of some of his actions? He laid back trying to recall anything of the Project and his own life and home without results. Rubbing his eyes, he realized he was crying. 

Al stepped through the Imaging Room door into Ryanís room, not sure what to expect. He had updated Verbena and the team on the first lock, and was having a difficult time getting that eerie laughter out of his head. He looked around the room and located Sam lying on the bed, crying. Crying? What had happened? He was unabashedly sobbing, and obviously hadnít heard Alís entrance. He walked to the bed carefully, and leaned over his friend. "Sam?"

Sam jumped at the sound of his name, to Alís relief, and sat up. He looked around the room, wiping his cheek, but didnít focus on Al. Sam frowned as the thought crossed his mind that maybe he was hallucinating. His emotions were a roller coaster, ranging from initial calm, to anger, then sadness. Maybe this was the only way this boy had to release the stress of living in this bizarre house.

"Sam? Can you hear me?" Al asked softly so he wouldnít scare his friend half to death.

"Al?" he replied, looking around the room. "Where are you?"

"You canít see me? Iím right in front of you, Sam!" He waved his hand holding the handlink in before his eyes with no reaction.

"No, I canít see you. Shoot, I didnít even hear the Door open!" He stood, turning in a slow circle to recheck the room. "What took you so long?"

"Yeah, well, I had something else to check out before I came here."

"Oh, really? Blonde or brunette?" Sam seemed to be getting back to normal now with a little laugh. "Where have you been?"

Al smirked, then stuck his tongue out at him for good measure. "We had a problem getting a lock on you, and now this. Obviously, weíre having technical difficulties."

"No joke. Why am I here?" 

Al was thankful that Sam couldnít see him, and shuddered at the thought of Ray downstairs with the pipe bomb. "Well," he started casually, "itís October 25, 1998, and you are in Denison, Texas." Al worked the link to pull up the information once more. "Youíre Ryan Dutcher, and you have a twin brother, Ray." He hesitated and cleared his throat, trying to say the rest as calmly as possible. "In two days, Ryan and Ray blow up the gym with home made bombs, which he is working on as we speak!" Al glanced up and saw Samís look of shock.

"WHAT?"

"Ah, thereís more." Al continued to read, "In the original history, 30 students attending an assembly are injured or die. Then Ray and Ryan charge right into a SWAT blockade outside the school and get killed. Ziggy puts it at 99.4% that youíre here to stop the massacre."

Sam literally looked pale, and sat on the bed. "Do they know why they did it?" he whispered.

"Well, the only thing it says in the police report is that Ryanís dying words were ĎIím finally free.í Whatever that means." He dropped the link in his pocket. "Ziggyís running scenarios on where to start. In the meantime, be careful, Sam. This Ray guy is scary and dangerous." Al decided to skip the part about the double lock. With finding Sam crying like he was, Al knew that Sam was on thin ice emotionally anyway. "The police figured Ray was tinkering with pipe bombs for quite awhile before the incident, and thereís some in the basement right now. Donít touch anything down there right yet, OK?"

"OK. Iíll be careful," Sam replied as he heard the Imaging Room door open and Al say heíd check in later after he searched some more data bases on the boyís history. When the door clanked shut, Sam lay down on the bed again, quite satisfied to stay in this room until he could control himself better. His plan was put on hold when he heard Ryanís mother call to him.

"Ryan! Phone!"

Sam hadnít even heard the phone ring. 'Boy, am I out of it!' he thought wiping his face with his hands. He left the room for the kitchen, and took the phone from his motherís outstretched hand. "Thanks, mom," he said to her, then hesitated before speaking in the phone. "Hello?" he asked tentatively.

"Hey, dude. Que pasa?" the feminine voice pleasantly asked.

"Hey Angela," Sam responded without thinking, then frowned. 'Howíd I know that?' he wondered.   "Whatís up?"

She continued with out missing a beat. "Oh, just got home from church. I keep telling you to come with me to practice, Ryan. I think youíd really like the way handbells sound. They arenít as dorky as your brother likes to say."

"Yeah, I know. Iíll come sometime, I promise." Sam recalled listening to handbells at one time and knew that the music could be quite moving.

"Anyway, the reason I called was to remind you that Iím here if you need any help with the stuff from class, okay?"

As Sam was talking to Angela he watched as Allison prepared to vacuum the living area of glass. He knew the furniture would have to be moved back, and wanted to help. He lightly covered the phone and said, "Mom, Iíll help you with that in a minute."

"No, sweetie, Iím fine," she replied.

Angela overheard. "Hey," she said, "You arenít helping with dinner are you? Lord help you all and get the stomach pump!" She started giggling. "Weíll never forget the coffee cake incident!"

Sam began laughing. He remembered the whole incident she was talking about. He had volunteered to make Angelaís motherís birthday cake and forgot to add the sugar. She thought it was odd that a coffee cake had chocolate frosting, but ate it anyway, praising Ryan. No one else took more than one bite, and Ryanís cooking was a joke from then on. 

Sam recalled everything about the day, the party, the people and Ryanís rotten cake. Why would he know so much detail about Ryanís life? There was too much of the boyís influence on his thought processes, and Sam was getting concerned.

Angela was still teasing him when he saw the basement door open, and Ray step through. An icy chill of fear swept through his body and Ray walked towards him. Ray had glanced at their mother in the other room, then back at Sam, and raised his fist in a defiant pose that Sam assumed to be a threat not to tell about anything heíd seen in the basement.

Not knowing what else to do, Sam cut off Allison by saying, "Here, Ray wants to talk to you," and thrust the phone towards him. 

Caught off guard, Ray took the phone, glared at him again, and started talking with Angela. Sam skirted around him and went into the living room to help his mom move furniture back for vacuuming. He could hear Rayís voice as he spoke with Angela, but not exactly what he was saying. Ray actually let out a short laugh at one point, then he called Ryan to the kitchen. 

"Here, she wants to talk to you again." 

As Sam reached for the phone Ray dropped it just shy of Samís fingers, making him have to scramble to catch the receiver. He let our another short laugh as he watched his brother fall over himself to get the phone before it hit the floor. 'What a jerk!' Sam thought.

Without another glance, Ray went out the back door.

"Angela?" he said.

"Hey, Ryan, listen, Iíve got to run. Mom and I are doing the bonding thing and going shopping. But Iíll be home later in the evening, like I said, if you need help with the school stuff." 

"OK, thanks. And donít let your mom talk you into anything horrendous," he replied lightly.

She giggled on the other end. "Right. And Ryan? Donít let Ray get to you, OK?" Sam swallowed and massaged his bruised throat. 'Iím not sure Rayís the problem here,' he thought, but said, "OK. Thanks."

"Later, gator!" she laughed and hung up.

"Bye," he replied, staying on the line until the tone sounded in his ear. Slowly hanging up, he looked around the house and wondered if it was ever as happy as Angelaís home sounded. The sound of the vacuum brought his attention to the living room. He went back out to help move the furniture back into place.

They had just finished and Allison was putting away the vacuum when the front door slammed open and David stumbled in. Sam saw an angry look set on her face as he took her hand and kept her from walking away. The smell of alcohol wafted in Samís direction, and he felt himself stiffen in anticipation of another fight.

"Allison," David pleaded, "please. Iím sorry and I promise Iíll do better. Really. You know how I love you."

Her anger turned into disgust. "Youíre drunk, and your suffocating me with your raunchy breath." She turned her head away, but didnít try to leave.

He brought her into a hug, and Sam saw him start to cry. Then, she hugged him back! Sam couldnít believe his eyes. Soon they were both sitting on the couch, David professing his love for her and promising to change, and Allison comforting him. 

This is nuts, Sam thought shaking his head and massaging his sore stomach. He decided to leave well enough alone for now, but something inside told him it wasnít over. 

He backed off, slightly disgusted and confused at feeling that way. He retreated to his room to collect himself, avoid David, and try to find a way to control Ray while blending in as Ryan Dutcher.

"Oh, boy," he sighed, eyes shut and leaning against Ryanís closed bedroom door.

 

PART FOUR

Sam woke up with the sun after a night of restless sleep filled with farm scenes, basketball and a twin brother that had red, glowing eyes. His dreams were a chaotic mix of his own and Ryanís life, and he woke up just as tired as when he went to sleep. He remembered going through Ryanís book bag looking for some indication of homework without success. He browsed through the Economics book, and fell asleep trying to figure out where the class was in the material.

As he lay there in bed with blissful peace and calm in the house he tried to plan out his day. He would have to go to school, try to blend in, stop Ryan from planting a bomb and act like a teenager. 'Easy,' he thought as he rolled his eyes, wondering if of life would ever be easy for him again. 

The alarm went off suddenly, scaring Sam half to death. 'So much for peace and quiet,' he thought. He slammed the noise off and crawled out of bed, feeling the soreness in his throat and stomach from the day before. He gathered together some clothes from Ryanís dresser and quietly crossed the hall to the bathroom, he turned the shower on to hot. When the billowing steam indicated it was ready, he stepped in. The water was relaxing and he let his head fall forward, relishing the heat and pounding water on his neck and back.

After he washed and rinsed, she stepped from the shower and dried, wrapping the towel around his waist. He gathered up his things, deciding to dress in Ryanís room because there was so much steam. When he cracked open the door while trying to hold onto the clothes, he almost walked into David, who was standing in the hallway obviously waiting for Ryan.

"Uh, dad!" he said, surprised. "You, uh, startled me." Instantly he focused on the aches in his body the man had caused.

David stepped aside, then followed Sam in to Ryanís room and shut the door behind him. "Look, Ryan, I want to talk to you about yesterday." He stood awkwardly by the door.

Sam wasnít ready for this, and wasnít able to meet Davidís eyes. The fear he felt was perplexing and it bothered him that he couldnít get the feeling out of the way. He sat on the bed and started putting on his socks. "What about yesterday?" he mumbled gruffly, surprised at the indifference and slight hostility in his tone. He would never have addressed his own father in that tone.

"I know what I did, and Iím sorry. It wonít happen again."

'Yeah, right,' Sam thought.

"I wouldnít want you to think Iíd hit your mother. I was really angry, and had a little to drink. No excuse, I know, but Iím really sorry I hit you, son." He stepped forward and patted his son on the back. 

Sam felt himself flinch, which indicated to him that this scenario had happened before. 'Great. Add child abuse to the list of happenings here in the Dutcher household.

"OK," Sam responded, still not meeting the manís eyes.

Obviously feeling properly repentant, David opened the bedroom door and cheerily commented, "Well, another day at Denison High, huh? You sure need that diploma to get anywhere these days." He turned just as he shutting the door. "Iím really sorry, Ryan. OK?"

"Sure." Sam gave him a neutral stare as the door shut. He was fuming inside. "He thinks an apology fixes the whole thing. Amazing."

He quickly dressed, loaded up the backpack and headed for the kitchen, noticing he was the first one there. Dropping the backpack by the front door, he returned to the kitchen and pulled out some eggs and milk from the refrigerator, mixing together an omelet. He poured the eggs into a frying pan as set the table for four. As he turned the omelet, he looked up to see three pairs of eyes looking at him curiously. Ryanís mother came to him and looked over his shoulder at the omelet. She felt his forehead with her hand.

"Are you all right?" She asked.

"Yeah, Iím fine," he replied, trying to be cheerful. He motioned for everyone to sit, and got orange juice from the refrigerator. The were still staring at him. "Go ahead, sit!"

Obediently, they all sat at the table, giving him odd glances, and pouring their juice. Sam slid the omelet onto a plate, cut it into four pieces, and placed it in the center of the table.

"There!" he said as he joined them. "Omelet a-la Bec," he stopped himself in mid-Beckett. "I mean, Dutcher."

Allison was first to slide a section onto her plate and taste it. "Wow, thatís good, Ryan!"

"Thanks," he replied a little shyly, then retrieved the remaining piece for himself. The others were eating and commenting on how good it was when Sam looked at his plate and suddenly felt sick. He ran to the nearby guest bathroom and dry-heaved enough to make himself hurt everywhere. He was slumped against the wall when Allison stepped in and put a wet washcloth on his forehead.

"I donít know why you try to do things like that. You know how the sight of eggs makes you sick," she commented quietly.

Sam shivered at the thought of the eggs and laid his head on the toilet bowl. "I wanted to make you something special, mom. You had a hard day yesterday." 

"Thanks, honey, but how about dusting instead?" She giggled a little then kissed the top of his head. "Come on, time for school. Rayíll wait out front for you." 

"OK," he mumbled to her retreating back then climbed to his feet.

He was still feeling a little queasy when he met Ray at the car, and was starting to doubt his judgment when being Ryan Dutcher. Nothing was going right, it seemed, and now here he was off to the biggest test: school. A feeling of dread settled down on him, not helping the condition of his shaky stomach. There was a flash of terror when he slipped into the car. 'I canít do this!' Sam thought, but again felt like that wasnít really him talking. This was eerie. The feeling didnít subside as he stole a sideways glance towards Ray. In fact, it got worse. Ray was snickering evilly.

"That was really a good one, Rhino. I canít deny that."

Rhino. Sam knew instantly that was a nick name Ray hadnít used in awhile. "Please," Sam heard himself say, "donít bring that up."

Ray laughed again. "Great choice of words, there!" then settled down to drive. 

They were almost to the school when Sam heard a horn honk and Ray swear when he looked in the rearview mirror. A car raced past them, horn honking and arms hanging out the windows in obscene gestures. All the occupants in the car laughed as they raced by.

"Pricks!" Ray growled. "Theyíll get theirs someday, I swear." Sam saw him grip the steering wheel until his knuckles were white, then saw his lips curl into a sneering smile. "They wonít push me around much longer," he muttered.

Sam felt himself sink down further in the seat as his pulse raced. He felt his hands get clammy and wet, realizing what Ray was referring to. He was also at a loss for words and this confused him. 'Whatís going on with me?' he thought, feeling like the body was doing all this stuff on its own, unbidden. He started a mantra in his mind, "This isnít me. This isnít me. This isnít me," which helped him settle his racing emotions.

He realized Ray had parked the car when he heard him ask, "You gonna sit there all day?" as he grabbed his back pack from the back seat and slammed the door.

Sam snapped out of his reverie and did the same, following his brother towards the schoolís front steps. It was a large school, three stories high with "Denison High School" printed on the facade of the magnificent brick. He also saw the painting of a bear under the lettering with "Home of the Bears" under it.

As he followed his brother to the front steps of the campus it was hard not to notice the other students avoiding them. Some shook their heads as they passed and some turned their backs on them completely. Sam found himself dropping back, feeling his uneasiness grow and let Ray forge his way up the stairs and through the front doors. 

ĎThis is your brother,í he kept telling himself. ĎItís not normal to be afraid of your own brother!í 

Again, Sam realized he had not idea what to do here. He knew disaster was imminent and felt completely paralyzed to act. What was wrong with him? His thought processes felt so .... fuzzy.

"Ryan!" Sam felt a hand on his shoulder as he topped the stairs. Surprised, he turned around and came face to face with a very pretty, blue-eyed, red head girl. He knew at a glance that this was Angela.

"Hi," he said, flustered. "Ah, I didnít see you," he said out loud. To himself he asked, ĎHow did you know that was her?í

"No, duh!" she laughed. "I hollered twice! Are you ready for the Economics test?"

Sam looked at her blankly. "Test?"

"Oh, thatís great," she commented as they pushed open the glass front doors of the school, and walked down the hall together. "I told you to call me!"

Sam wasnít really listening to her because he noticed the curious looks in his direction didnít have the hostility as before when Ray was with him. ĎI guess people can tell us apart after all,í he thought.

Angela had continued to chat in his direction and he didnít hear a word. She stopped at a bank of lockers and Sam walked onwards, oblivious.

"Hey!" she hollered, and Sam stopped to glance back. "Donít you need your books, Einstein?" she quipped, nodding towards a locker. Sam drifted back, looking sheepish.

"Oh, yeah," he replied, feeling a little panic starting. "I need my book for.." and he hoped his fishing trip would be successful.

"Science?" she offered.

Oh, great. "Yeah, Science," he replied, hoping he didnít sound as clueless as he felt. As he reached for an upper locker, the combination popped into his head and the locker sprung open, revealing a pile of books and a very sour smell.

"EWW! You havenít washed those socks yet?!?!" Angela held her nose and backed up a step.

"Ahh, no?" he replied, also repulsed by the stench. Using one hand to fan the air, he flipped through the contents of the locker with the other.

Angela laughed again. "You said theyíd make a good science experiment."

"I did? Yeah, I guess I did," Sam frowned, clearly remembering the conversation to which Angela referred. That was before he had leaped, wasnít it? Why would he know that? Like the books in his locker he tried to flip through the contents of his memory. All he found were clear pictures of people he could name, but didnít know, all surrounded with feelings of uncertainty and fear. He felt his mind was warping out of his control, and an air of anxiety dropped over him totally disabling him from making a decision. He stood there, trying to get his mind back, he felt his heart start to race again. His hands started to sweat and shake. 'Whatís wrong with me?' he thought, terrified.

Sam only noticed the bell ringing when Angela punched him in the arm. "Hey!" she snapped. "Wake up, here! Itís time to go!" She looked at him quizzically. "Are you OK?"

"Yeah," Samís voice felt like a croak. "Go on ahead." He wasnít sure he could trust his legs to hold him. "I, ahh, canít find my science book." He had both hands on the lockerís edge to hide his trembling and to keep from collapsing.

Angela gave him a squinty, suspicious look, then reached over his shoulder and flipped a book down. "Here it is, goofy. I gotta go."

"See ya," Sam breathed, hoping he sounded casual.

She gave him one last look and trotted away. The hall had emptied quickly after the bell and Sam was soon alone, leaning against the open locker trying to control the urge to flee. He took deep breaths, in and out, working to get his thoughts to slow down and his body to relax. Deliberately he closed the locker and turned to the glass doors at the exit. He locked his eyes on a point outside the building suddenly feeling cramped and trapped. Using the walls for support he moved unsteadily towards his target, a stand of trees across the parking lot. Once out of the doors he ran awkwardly towards them.

The coolness of the shadows and the sheltering closeness of the trees was comforting and he slowed to a stop. He felt himself relax as if a load of bricks had slipped from his shoulders, and his mind grew calm.

"SAM!"

The suddenness of the voice jerked his head up. With wide eyes he saw a man not three feet in front of him dressed in neon purple and black. The dark colors blended with the shadows, but the purple glowed in the dark. Sam blinked, realizing after a few seconds that it was Al, but the hologram didnít appear very solid. Al looked rather ghostly and Sam caught himself in an open mouthed stare.

"Do you see me? Sam?" Al stopped punching the handlink and waved his hand to catch Samís attention.

"Yeah, I see you," Sam replied distantly, then focused on Al and squinted. "Youíre faded."

"Oh, thank God!" Al let out a relieved sigh and the words tumbled from his mouth like a waterfall. "We couldnít get a good lock for a few minutes, and when we finally connected with you, you didnít see me! Iíve been trying to get your attention since you got here, I mean there..." Al motioned over to the school. "Didnít you see me?"

"Well, no," Sam scowled, trying to remember the past few minutes, and alarmed that he couldnít. "Youíve been here? Watching me?"

"Yeah! I saw that Angela chick and the locker with the socks and all that. You didnít see or hear me at all?"

"No." The remaining tendrils of fear had retreated, and Sam found himself trying to figure out way he was out here instead of in school. "Why am I out here?" he asked himself out loud.

"It probably has to do with the panic attack I just witnessed!" Al waved his hand in the direction of the school again, getting more agitated as he stood there. "Sam, this isnít good. We canít get a clean, solid lock on you anyway, and if you have any more fits like that weíll lose you for good!"

"Fits? I had a fit?"

"No, not a fit!" In exasperation, Al forced himself to calm down with a hand on his forehead. When he spoke again he was much calmer. "You had a classic panic attack, according to Beeks. Sheís monitoring whatís going on from the Control Room with Gooshie, trying to figure all this out. Donít you remember?"

Sam gazed back at the school, trying to recall the past several minutes. "Whatís happening, Al?" he whispered, feeling the dampness in his hands returning and suddenly aware of his thumping heart threatening to race away again if he didnít get a handle on his emotions. Or were they Ryanís emotions? "First, I couldnít see you, now I canít hear you, either?"

"Well," Al started, the beeping of the handlink in the background, "Gooshie thinks your influence is being overrun by Ryanís. You know, that teenage angst thing. It can be pretty strong." What Al didnít tell him was that Sam was only working on half the resources he normally had. The other half of his essence was trapped in Ray and unresponsive, according to Ziggy. The decision to not tell Sam that fact was one he see-sawed on constantly; he reasoned that he could always tell his friend when the time came, or he would figure it out on his own. The latter scenario was less and less likely to happen as this leap continued on, Al deduced.

"Iím having a hard time keeping focused." Sam talked like he was in a daydream. "This kid is really mess up. Heís afraid of his brother and father for good reasons, and his momís no help at all. Ryanís existing on quicksand and itís no wonder his brotherís acting out like he is. Thereís so much hopelessness; I feel like Iím trapped in a corner and can only watch." Sam started to pace, wringing his hands. "What if I canít break through? I could get stuck here!"

"Sam, you donít know that!" Al responded although that very possibility had been raised. He dared not mention that theory right now. "So far what ever powers that be leaping you around hasnít given you anything you couldnít handle, right?"

Sam glanced up and mumbled, "Right," but didnít mention the God-like bartender of his last leap had said his leaps would be getting more difficult. He had mentally convinced himself that it wouldnít happen, but between his and Ryanís fears Sam was beginning to appreciate that he could function at all. "I need to find out what Rayís doing in the basement," Sam stated, wading his way through the sea of emotions in his mind. It was like treading water and suddenly he felt like he was running out of time.

"Right. According to the news reports Ray had one big bomb that went off in the gym, and several pipe bombs. They donít know where he stashed the stuff beforehand." Al whacked the handlink, not mentioning Ziggyís alarming slow down. It was taking too much energy to keep the tenuous lock. "He also has a couple of guns tucked away that he got awhile ago. He really planned this out." Al knew heíd have to leave soon to conserve power, and that the information he was reading may not be complete. They were searching by hand to save power. "Be careful, Sam. Donít pick up any pipes; they can go kablooey real easy."

The essence of this leap had seemed so simple; stop a massacre. The actual execution was proving to be difficult, being mired in the emotional bog of adolescence, domestic violence and apathy. Al was starting to get worried that their presence here wouldnít make any difference.

"OK, so play hooky today and check out the house. It should be clear." Al slid the link into is pocket as the Imaging Room door slid open. Alís color scheme stood out clearly against the white rectangle of light.

Sam nodded and turned to go as Al stepped back into 1999.

 

PART FIVE

     Samís feet automatically headed the right way to the Dutcherís house. It would have been a pleasant walk if not for the turmoil in his head. He always felt on the edge of control and fighting to stay there. He started to jog hoping the distraction would keep the Ryan part of his brain busy so Sam could think. Right now he was trying to recall the household ingredients needed to construct a pipe bomb. It was frighteningly simple.

     He popped out of the woods surrounding his, Ryanís, neighborhood and cut between two houses to the sidewalk. He could see his, Ryanís, house down the street with a dark blue sedan parked on the street in front. He could see the garage was open and his motherís, Ryanís motherís, car inside. A feeling of dread fell over him but Sam forced Ryanís feet to keep moving as he fought down the building anxiety triggered by the sight of the cars. Sam didnít explore the reason for the feelings, afraid of losing sight of his goal to search the basement. The fleeting thought of why his mom wasnít at work flew through his head.

Sam arrived at the front of the house and hesitated. Something wasnít right. 'Of course not! He chastised himself; youíre playing hooky and there are bombs in the basement!' That would put anyone on edge. He decided to enter through the back and go right down to the basement via the kitchen. It was the best route to avoid his, Ryanís, mother. It was getting harder remind himself that this was Ryanís life, not Sam Beckettís.

He slipped down the side yard and rounded the back corner, starting up the back steps with trepidation. Sam felt the anxiety rising with each step and it was becoming exceedingly difficult to maintain control. He dared not think about what Ryan was afraid of; this was more than the fear of being caught ditching school.

Tiptoeing through the kitchen, he was just reaching for the basement door when he heard soft murmuring from the living room; the same room that was filled with anger yesterday. He hesitated and could feel Ryan being drawn to the voices. His body turned, and Sam felt himself mentally screaming to stop. The pounding in his ears grew and it was like watching a movie in slow motion as Sam saw through Ryanís eyes. Sam no longer controlled the body and was fighting to control the mind.

He saw the cow-laden table as he passed the dining area.

He saw the back of the flowery country French couch in the living room as he moved to look over it into the living room.

He noticed the murmurs turn to soft moans.

And the last thing he saw was Ryanís mother on the living room floor, partially naked and in the arms of a strange man. It was at that second that Sam felt himself fall from the force of Ryanís emotional whirlwind. 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

"WHAT?" Al yelled amidst the hubbub of activity in the control room. "You canít lose contact!" He glanced up just in time to see the disc of Ziggyís Ďheadí go dark again. "Whatís happening?" he barked, feeling utterly useless.

"We think Ziggyís sort of acting as a circuit breaker," Gooshie answered from under the console. "There was some sort of surge...." his voice trailed off as he tinkered with who-knew-what in the console.

"Surge?" Al echoed.

Gooshie pushed himself out and got up. "Thatís the best way to put it, Admiral. We can still get a lock, and had one, but something happened to the flow of Dr. Beckettís neurons and more power was needed too fast to keep up."

"You mean there was an emotional Ďexplosioní?" Al asked in a mocking tone.

Gooshie tilted his head like he was examining a bug, completely oblivious to Alís tone of voice. "Well, yes, that would do it, I guess. So would an accident to the physical body." He stopped, seeing Alís alarmed reaction. "Oops. Maybe I shouldnít have said that...."

"Especially since Sam went looking for pipe bombs! I need to go there, Gooshie. Now!"

"Yes, sir," Gooshie answered, hustling over to the other technicians. "It shouldnít take too long, Admiral. We just need to boost the power a bit." He directed two young men off in another direction, and continued to brief Al as he worked. "It would be easier if both subjects were in the same room. I think we can reduce the power load if we drop the lock on the other subject; the one you canít seem to connect with."

Alís brow furrowed as he ran the suggestion through his mind. "Wouldnít that chance not being able to connect again?" The need to speed things along added a rushed tone to his words.

"No, not really." Gooshie tapped a few buttons, and jotted down some figures. "We know who and where he is, and we have the lock on the second subject as an anchor. The power saving is minimal, but every bit helps right now." He was distracted as Sammy Jo, who had overheard the briefing, approached him.

"Before you drop the lock, I have a suggestion," she interjected. Both men turned to her, Gooshie all ears and Al impatient and trying not to fidget. "This is a golden opportunity to test my retrieval program. I could lock on to the other subject. Since there are two locks for Dr. Beckett, the danger of interfering with his mission is much less. Like you said, the second subject is his anchor. It would be much safer to test my program this way! Itís a perfect opportunity!"

Gooshie appeared to be rolling that theory around in his head as Al jumped in immediately. "This is no time to be testing theories! Sam is in big trouble here, and we have to do something now!"

Alís tone immediately set Gooshie back to work on the console, but Dr. Sammy Jo Fuller stood her ground. She wasnít angry or put off, simply determined, and faced Al with the same strong sense of purpose possessed by another quantum physicist Al knew. And the same eyes. Al was taken aback for a half second, then spoke in a more professional manner. "One thing at a time, Sammy Jo," he said, touching her arm. "Letís get Sam back on track first, OK?"

She hesitated, then nodded. "I can do most of the preliminary works ups now, but donít dump the secondary lock, OK?"

Al looked at Gooshie, and he nodded. Dr. Fuller hustled down the hall. "Admiral, were ready for you now."

When Al stepped into 1998 it was total chaos. He found himself in the hallway outside Ryanís bedroom and found Ryanís mother on her knees at the door, weeping uncontrollably and trying to call out her sonís name. Al glanced into the living room, which looked virtually like a tornado had touched down. Every loose item was broken on the floor, the couch was turned over and the dining room tablecloth and contents were flung about in countless pieces. There was a strange man hurriedly fixing his tie as he headed out the front door, giving Mrs. Dutcher a long look before closing the door behind him. Al could tell by the look what had happened; he groaned and slapped his hand on his forehead. "God these poor kids," he mumbled angrily. "They didnít have a chance."

He went back to the hallway. Mrs. Dutcher was still crying, but seemed to be wearing down. She sniffled as she buttoned her blouse, still leaning on the door. Al moved around her and walked through the wall into the room. 

Ryanís room was an extension of the destruction in the other part of the house. He found Ryan pacing back and forth, mumbling to himself, "I knew it, I knew it, I knew it, Iím so stupid," and accenting the word by hitting himself on the forehead with a tightly closed fist. He kept repeating himself, pacing, and completely absorbed in his misery.

"That has to hurt," Al pointed out, referring to the punches. He then noticed the blood from numerous cuts on Ryanís hands. Every time he hit himself a little more blood splattered on Ryanís face. "You may want to clean off your hands, Sam. Make sure thereís no glass in them." He was starting to punch some information into the handlink when Al realized that Sam didnít respond. "Sam?" he inquired, peering into the boyís face. A chill ran down his spine when there was no response. "Hey! Sam!" he yelled, waving his arms and stepping into his friendís path. 

Sam walked right through him without hesitation, his mutterings and gestures getting more pronounced.

"Oh, no, not again!" Al wailed, "Gooshie, increase power! Samís not responding again!"

Al watched in helpless horror when Ryan became increasingly despondent as his mother tried to explain herself through the door. He finally stopped pacing, covered his ears, and shouted, "SHUT UP! SHUT UP!" Not able to keep her voice out, he bent and picked up a chunk of wood that was once the back of a chair. He heaved the wood through the window with a loud crash, and started climbing over the piles of destruction to escape.

"SAM! You gotta hear me! Sam!" Al unsuccessfully tried to grab him, his hands passing through the body. "Gooshie! Keep me centered on Sam!"

Ryan climbed over the windowsill adding more cuts to his hands. Al flinched, knowing how that should hurt. Ryan landed on the ground in a heap, then jumped up and dashed into the woods behind his house. Only Gooshieís constant centering on the boy kept Al near him. He continued to shout and make himself a nuisance to get Samís attention, but nothing was working. Ryan headed to the school. Finally tired, he stopped in the very stand of trees where Al had last connected with Sam and dropped to the ground.

The hologram squatted next to him as the boy started crying softly, exhausted and utterly defeated.

"Sam! You hear me? Buddy? Come on, pal, we canít lose you. We wonít lose you. Youíre in there, I know. Just come out, OK?" Alís fruitless pleading went on for several minutes, then he stopped. "Then Iíll just be here, OK? When you come out, Iíll be here."

The school day crawled by. Sometimes Ryan cried; sometimes he just stared into space. He even fell asleep for awhile, and all the time Al stood by, waiting. One time a police cruiser drove slowly by the school. 'Maybe Allison Dutcher had called them,' Al thought.

When the final bell rang, Ryan stood patiently out of sight as he scanned the crowd. Eventually Al spotted Ray at the top of the steps, a permanent frown etched on his face. He was easily able to make his way along because the students steered out of his path, obviously afraid of him. Ray, dressed entirely in black, looked like a dark shadow across the sea of brightly dressed students as he crossed the parking lot towards Ryan.

"Uh, oh. Here comes trouble..." Al muttered.

Ryan stepped out of the woods and fell in alongside his brother. Ray gave him a condescending glance, and continued walking to the car, his brother staying close. Ryan finally grabbed Rayís arm when they were at the car, bringing him to a stop. Ray shook loose, furious.

"Donít touch me ever again, you hear me?! Ever!" He shakily dug for his keys when Ryan stopped him with a statement.

"I want to help. I want to do what youíre doing, Ray. I hate this place."

Alís jaw dropped as the saw the burning anger in the boyís eyes. It apparently took Ray by surprise, too, as he stopped and stared in the same eyes. Then an evil smirk edged up one corner of his mouth.

"Really?" he replied slowly, his voice dripping with sarcasm, suspicion in his eyes.

"Yeah. Really." Ryan toed up to his brother, the fear gone. They locked eyes, and Al had to listen to the description of what Ryan had seen, the commentary heavily laced with descriptive derogatory comments about their parents. Al winced at the language; he couldnít begin to imagine a child talking about his parents like that. This whole thing was already tragic, and it was only the beginning. When Ryan had finished, Al was shocked by Rayís reaction; he laughed.

"Welcome to my world, bro," he said as he slung his arm around his twinís shoulders. "You finally woke up and realized itís just us two against everybody else."

Al tried to snap Sam out of Ryanís control by discussing quantum physics, anatomy, any of the dead languages Sam had a degree in, and even philosophy and Samís family farm. Nothing worked, and Al was helpless as they discussed Ďthe big showí planned for tomorrow. Finally giving in to Ziggyís squeals, Al reentered the Imaging Chamber with the thought he may never see his friend again.

"All right, Gooshie, Iím back!" Al stomped to the console, frustrated. "How soon can I go back?"

"We have to reset the power grids, Admiral. Weíve used enough power to light Albuquerque for a year!" 

"You do that, and Iíll talk to Verbena. Maybe she has a way to reach Sam."

"What if you canít reach him, sir?" Al stopped dead and looked up into the wide, hazel eyes of Dr. Fuller. "What happens to Dr. Beckett?"

Al looked to Gooshie, who shrugged his shoulders. "Well," Al started, "if the boys die without Dr. Beckett leaping, then, ahem," he shifted uncomfortably, "well, we theorize that Sam dies, too. We think."

Dr. Fullerís head tilted slightly as this information sunk in. "So, this is a life and death situation." 

"Not yet, but if we donít connect with him soon, it will be." 

"So, Iíd like permission to try my retrieval program. On me. I can leap in and get Dr. Beckett to respond and fix the problem, then weíll both leap out!"

"Out of the question! Listen, you will not try anything, you hear? Weíve already lost one good man there, and Iím not about to lose another. No!" Al responded with the first emotion he felt: fear. He also knew, deep inside, that he should have expected such a response from her.

Dr. Fuller wouldnít back down. "Iím not insane, Admiral. I wouldnít suggest something that wouldnít work."

Al took a deep breath to calm himself. "Look," he stated, "Your.... Sam took that chance and look where it got him." He turned to face her, standing toe to toe, and looked her in the eye. "I said no."

"But Admiral, it may be the only way!" She was persistent, he had to hand her that.

"Two leapers? Ziggy canít even keep me in focus! How can she power another leaper? Itís impossible!"

"Itís not impossible, Admiral," Ziggy purred. "My abilities are only limited by my power resources, and I have no control over that."

Al didnít like the way this conversation was going. To him, it meant failure, and he wasnít ready to accept that yet.

"Admiral," Gooshie interjected. "Iíve run over the numbers for her program and it could work. Like Ziggy said, itís only limited by power, which theoretically, we can overcome."

"So youíre saying itís possible?" Al asked, astonished.

"Yes," both Gooshie and Dr. Fuller said together.

"I give the leap and retrieval of Dr. Fuller and 85.73% chance of success," Ziggy added, "based on the factors I am feeding to the handlink." That was an unusual move, since the egocentric computer usually relished rattling off her data, but when Al read the information he realized why she had done it this way.

Ziggyís calculation for success was based on Dr. Fuller having a more extensive mapping of her brain waves, and her DNA structure being similar to Samís. Only Ziggy and Al knew that Sammy Jo Fuller was Samís daughter from a previous leap. Al wasnít even sure Sam would remember that. The genetic similarity enabled Ziggy to make a more accurate projection. It was their little secret, and Al snapped off the link before his was requested to share the information. 

"OK, well, letís use it as a back up plan, and one I intend not to use." Alís tone made it clear this discussion was over.

Dr. Fuller smiled brightly, interpreting his response as a go ahead to prepare. When she turned and left Al noted again how much she was like her father; nauseatingly optimistic. Still, it made him smile.

Al caught Gooshie looking at him with a puzzled expression, so he spun on his heel to find Verbena. 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

When Al reached the Waiting Room and Dr. Verbena Beeks he wasnít expecting to find it a hub of activity. He stood just inside the door watching Beeks lean over Sam Beckettís body on the bed. He wasnít motionless like the last time Al was here, but instead, was in constant motion rocking back and forth, moaning and pulling on handfuls of his own hair with both hands.

Al happened to glance up to the observatory deck high on one wall and saw Sammy Jo Fuller watching the activity. He caught her eye, and motioned for her to come down. Although Al didnít intend to use Sammy Joís retrieval plan, he knew she needed to be up on everything happening for the best results in her theory. That much he had learned about the scientific process in his time here at the Project, even though it went directly against his military "need to know basis" training for information release. Al had always prided himself as an old dog that could be taught new tricks.

Sammy Jo joined him by his side as the nurses under Beeks jumped at her orders to restrain Sam as his motion became more aggressive. They didnít interfere until Beeks ordered a sedative. Al and Sammy Jo exchanged glances, and both stepped forth simultaneously.

"No, wait!" Al said, getting Beeks attention. "Let us talk to him first. Heís being vocal now, right?"

Beeks took the syringe from a nurse, and stood up. "Yes, he is, but heís going to hurt himself soon. If you want to talk to him, do it now, because he needs to be sedated."

Al and Sammy Jo stood next to Sam. "Understood," Al replied. Beeks ordered the nurses to step back, but she stood on the other side, syringe in hand.

Sammy Jo leaned over Samís field of vision, catching his attention. Sam was sweating and gritting his teeth, but was able to focus on her face. 

"Weíre here to help," she said gently. "Whatís your name?"

His hazel eyes were locked on hers. He seemed to quiet, and his grip loosened on his hair. "R...Ryan," he whispered, then, "Ray!" he snapped in a louder voice. His eyes clamped shut and his grip tightened on his hair as he sat up quickly, almost crashing into Sammy Jo. He released the grip on his hair and his hands balled up into fists against his temples. "Get out, get OUT!" he cried through clenched teeth as he struck himself on the temples over and over.

"Thatís it!" Beeks barked, stabbing her patient with the needle.

Alarmed by Samís reactions, Sammy Jo and Al jumped back.

"Whatís going on?!" Al asked

After a second, Sammy Jo spoke up. "I think I know, Admiral." She turned and faced him. "Remember the Poly-Exclusion Principle? You know, we went over it when Dr. Beckett leaped into Lee Harvey Oswald."

"Is that the theory about two souls in one place?" he asked after a second.

"Yes. Actually, it says no two affirments in the same quantum state can be together at the same time. We sorta figured it was the same for souls then, and this seems to prove it again." She touched Alís arm. "Weíre running out of time. Iíve fined tuned my program as far as it can go. To save Dr. Beckett, I need to leap."

Al watched as his best friendís body relaxed some, and Beeks applied leather restraints. Sammy Jo was right. They were running out of time.

"Not yet," he snapped, meeting her eyes. "I told you it was a last resort. I need to check all other options first." With one last look at Sam, he stepped back, turned and left the room.

With a frustrated growl, Sammy Jo turned back to the bed and grabbed the side rails, gripping them tightly. She knew the program worked. He was just afraid of something. She was brought out of her thoughts by a hand on top of hers. She looked down and saw Samís hand on hers, stretching the limits of the restraints. Frozen, she moved her head slowly up to meet the gaze of Sam Beckett.

"Just give him time," he whispered quietly with a ever-so-slight smile. "He always comes around."

Shocked, Sammy Jo took a second to respond. "What?"

He still held her gaze, and Sammy Jo had to lean down when he said very quietly, "I always wondered what you looked like...." Then his eyes shut and he released her hand, falling deeper into the pillow, asleep.

Sammy Jo stepped back, unable to grasp his meaning. Beeks had stepped away, and Sammy Jo was the only one that heard the exchange. She decided to keep it to herself, and quietly left the room. Once outside she filed the conversation in her head, and asked Ziggy to test run her program one more time.  

 

 

PART SIX

 Al had left the Waiting Room without any information to help him. His only chance to get to Sam was to use the last resort information that was usually forbidden to discuss with him. Al would have to bring up Donna, Samís wife. It was the only chance left, and Al wasnít ready to call out the last resort until heíd done everything possible. He wasnít ready to admit failure yet.

He went to his office with the intent of changing clothes and showering, but found the chair at his desk too inviting. He flopped down, loosening his neon tie and thumped is feet on the desk. It felt great to elevate them and he tried to add up how long heíd been up as he slipped off his shoes and let them sit on his desktop. Heíd just reached 21 hours when there was a tap on the door.

"Enter!" he called tiredly, rubbing his face. He looked up as Sammy Jo Fuller walked in, and he suppressed the desire to yawn.

Sammy Jo frowned when she sat the Admiral. His clothes looked more wrinkled, and there were bags under his eyes she hadnít noticed before. Sheíd never seen him looked so beaten. She dropped her gaze as he slipped his shoes back on and stood up.

"Why donít you get some sleep, Al?" she asked, looking back up.

He was standing behind his desk now, glaring at her. "Is that what you came her for?" he snapped, starting to pace behind his desk. There was enough room for four steps before he had to turn. "Ziggyís overloading constantly," turn, "Gooshie and Tina are up to their armpits in circuitry," turn, "Samís leaped into a murderer and a suicidal teenager at the same time," turn, "and weíre losing him right before my eyes." He stopped, leaning on the desk to face her. "And you want me to rest? I donít think so!" He slammed his hand on the desk accenting his anger, then stood motionless, staring at her.

She knew this tirade was based on exhaustion and frustration. Sheíd been there herself, and kept calm, looking up at him with a bowed head. "I know how you feel," she said quietly. There was an awkward silence for a few seconds which ended when he walked around from the desk and put his arm around her shoulder. 

"Iím sorry," he said. She was surprised by the action and even more surprised when she heard the quavering of his voice. She immediately returned the hug, instinctively feeling that there was more to his action than she knew, and wisely kept silent.

He wasnít ready yet to play the last card and tell her what he really meant. She had seemed so much like her father standing there, all alone in their brilliant minds and their convictions of their ideas. If she only knew who her father really was, would her life be different? It was a thought he wrestled with often.

"You know, it would help Dr. Beckett more if you had some rest," she said, breaking the silence and standing back.

"Yeah, youíre probably right," he said, heading for the couch.

His path was diverted, however, when Ziggyís voice interrupted them.

"Theyíre ready for you in the Control Room, Admiral," she crooned, dashing all hopes of any rest. 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

It was the middle of the night in Samís time when Al joined up with the boys.

They were working carefully in the woods, obviously on the sly, avoiding lights and open spaces and the occasional Sheriffís car that cruised slowly by. It didnít take Al long to figure out why.

When he entered the scene Al found the boys hauling a large propane tank towards the school. Maneuvering the tank through the dark woods was slow work, and it was accented by Rayís whispered curses and Ryanís quiet grunts. Unsuccessfully, Al tried to interfere; he was hoarse from yelling, pleading and talking and getting absolutely no response from either boy. He couldnít seem to override the thrilling high they were on of finally feeling in control of their lives.

Al decided to concentrate on Ryan. He talked about Sam growing up on the farm and his family, and how he was helping make the world a better place by being such a Boy Scout. There was still no reaction. The only difference Al saw was that Ryan became more peaceful and calm, making happy comments about "everything finally being over."

The whispered plans eventually became clear to Al. The propane tank was the "centerpiece" of the whole event, and Al realized in horror that it was the bomb that killed all the students at the assembly. Ray dubbed it "Big Boy".

"Jeeze, heís even named it!" Al groaned. 

The boys broke into the gym easily enough, and wrestled Big Boy through a broken window and under the bleachers. They debated about spending the night under there, but decided the chance of being caught by a night custodian was too high. Ray rigged a detonator of sorts with a "specially loaded" pipe bomb wired under the valve. Al had no idea what made it "special", but it looked lethal enough. Ray made sure the "trigger" was lined up with the locker room doorway so he could shoot it then watch the fireworks. Just to be sure, they secured numerous pipe bombs underneath the seats themselves. Al could see why the damage was so extensive. They were thorough, and Ray was the instigator. Ryan just seemed to be in a dream, simply doing what his brother ordered.

Ray surveyed the gym and noted the exits. He knew the place would be crowded, but even with a lot of the students stampeding to the doors, Big Boy would do what it should. They would station themselves at the girlís and boyís locker room doors, Ray would shoot the "trigger" and they would escape to the schoolís main hallway from there. 

By the time Ray worked out how to get through the locker rooms, stashed some pipe bombs in the bushes by the outside front doors, and decided whose cars they would booby trap with the left over bombs it was well into those wee, dark hours just before dawn when everything took on a surreal cloak. They cleaned up the broken window so it wouldnít attract attention and retreated to the woods to wait until school started. 

Al noticed they never discussed what they would do after the attack. They didnít seem to care, or had their own ideas. They did touch on what to do if they got caught, and it chilled Al to the bone. The boys shook hands on a murder-suicide pact if there appeared to be no way out, then grew quiet as they waited for the dawn. Eventually, they dozed off.

Hoarse with emotion and continual talking, Al finally accepted that he wasnít able to connect with either boy. The overwhelming adolescent emotions were too much for Samís split soul. He knew that it was time to play the last card, and hoped he didnít lose everything as a result. 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Dr. Sammy Jo Fuller headed toward the Central Control Room fully prepared. She felt practically naked in the skin tight Fermi suit required for leaping, and had tossed on a lab coat over it to make her feel less self conscious. Her hair was pulled back into a simple pony tail, and she had removed what little jewelry she usually wore. 

Sammy Jo had been monitoring Alís progress, or non-progress, with the boys and knew that time was running out. She entered the Control Room to find the team assembled and ready to proceed. Gooshie and Tina stood at the main console along with Dr. Donna Eleese, who was here to oversee the process. Samís wife, Donna understood the retrieval process almost as well as Sammy Jo. Al was standing aside, clean and shaven but still looking exhausted as well as defeated. She knew his reservations about this whole plan.

She stood next to Al, placing her hand gently on his arm. "Al, I know how you must feel, but we need to try. Iíll do my best," then kissed him lightly on the cheek. "Thanks for giving me this chance."

Al knew exactly how she felt. Sam Beckett had given him a similar chance in another timeline that had saved his life. He gave her a feeble smile, and patted her hand.

"Ziggy, whatís the probability of Dr. Fuller getting retrieved within the first twelve hours?" he asked

"92.73%," the parallel hybrid computer purred.

"Excellent!" Sammy Jo responded. "All right, Ziggy, Iím ready. Are you?" She stepped towards the Accelerator Chamber.

"Yes, Dr. Fuller."

"Ziggy, have you..."

"..located a target to leap into in Denison, Texas who can help Dr. Beckett?" the computer finished for her.

"Well? Have you?" Sammy addressed the computerís disc with her hands on her hips, looking like a school teacher.

"Yes," Ziggy drawled.

"Well arenít you the good little computer. Who is it?"

"One Angela Morgan is currently in the vicinity," was the response.

Al watched the interaction between Sammy Jo and Ziggy. He was amazed at how they seemed to Ďbelongí to each other. He lightly smiled but it quickly faded as Sammy Jo shed her lab coat and started to enter the Accelerator Chamber. "Wait," he said, a little more sharply that he intended.

She stopped in the doorway and turned. "Yes?"

Her face was so innocent. Al opened his mouth for all his objections to pour out. He wanted to order her back to her quarters, to insist this wasnít in the best interest of the Project because her life would be in danger. But, he closed his mouth with the thoughts unspoken, and said instead, "Good luck." He didnít trust his voice to say anything more.

Sammy Jo smiled. "Luck has nothing to do with it," as she tapped her head, then her heart. "Itís all about hard work and love to bring back someone who should never have left."

"Amen," Al heard Donna comment shakily.

With a bright smile, Sammy Jo entered the Accelerator Room. The energizing hum was apparent as soon as the door opened, and grew louder in her ears when the door shut. She walked to the center point and firmly planted her feet on the pad there, taking a deep breath. "Ready," she stated calmly.

In the Control Room, Al stood back to watch the team that Sam had so masterfully put together. Each person had their own attributes integral to the Project, and yet pulled together like a family. They were family. Al could see the thrill and excitement in each of their faces, a hopefulness and enthusiasm there he hadnít seen in awhile. There were also the lines of concern around their eyes.

As the hum grew louder Gooshie began fine tuning a dial on the mainframe. "Sygraton, on line," he stated loudly to overcome the background noise.

"Affirmative," Donna said as she glanced over the controls.

"Stand by to fire," Gooshie said, all business.

Dr. Beeks moved to stand next to Al, and took his arm. He wasnít sure who she was supporting.

"Fire!" Gooshie barked. Donna hesitated, causing Gooshie to look in her direction. "Fire," he urged again.

Donna swallowed, took a breath, and gently lay her hand on the power node protruding from the console in front of her. A fine line of electricity shot up from the main frame into Ziggyís orb, which were intensified and redirected into two heavy streams of controlled lightning that slammed into the receptors in the Accelerator Chamber wall. 

Inside the Chamber the air around Sammy Jo became super charged with energy that filled her with a thrill of power. She closed her eyes and relaxed into it, letting her arms float upwards from the charge, never having experienced this kind of exhilaration before. She let out an excited yell, never wanting the feeling to stop.

In the Control Room the thrumming of power suddenly ceased, and Alís ears rang with the sudden silence. All his fears came flooding back as the quiet crackling of the cooling grids became apparent to his ears. 

"Well?" he impatiently queried Ziggy.

"Dr. Fuller has successfully leaped."

There was soft applause as Al let out a breath he didnít know heíd been holding. He glanced at a smiling Gooshie and Tina, then Donna, whose head was hanging down, expressionless, as her hands flew over the console.

"Do we have a lock on her?" Al asked.

"That will take a few minutes, Admiral," Gooshie said, checking the console. "We need to re set the power grids and let them regenerate. The power usage for this is enormous. When we do get a lock, it can only be for short periods."

"Check." He took Dr. Beeksí arm and the walked to the Chamber to retrieve their newest visitor.

An orderly with a wheel chair appeared out of nowhere as the Chamber door opened and Beeks entered. Almost instantly she led out Sammy Joís body with a whole new expression, sat her in the chair and whisked her off to the Waiting Room.

"Dr. Fuller has changed history," Ziggy noted matter of factly as the visitor left.

"All ready?" Al asked, a part of him dreading to ask. "How?"

"Angela Morgan now appears on the casualty list from Denison High School," Ziggy replied. "She now dies in the event."

Stunned, all heads in the Control Room snapped up, speechless. Al was the first to gain his voice. "Gooshie! I need that lock now!"

Samís life seemed to be in the hands of God or the Fates, but Al would be damned if he would allow anything to happen to Sam Beckettís daughter; he would never be able to forgive himself. 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

When she came to her senses after a glorious slide through a space she really couldnít recall now, Sammy Jo realized she was standing in the middle of a crowded sidewalk blocking foot traffic. She stepped aside and noticed that she was in front of a big, brick building with a bear painted on it. Slowly she looked up, reading "Home of the Bears" the "Denison High School".

 'Oh!' she thought. 'I made it!' Then she frowned. 'Made it where?' She knew she was supposed to be here. It felt right. She looked around again and saw teenagers trotting up the steps and standing in groups on the front lawn. 'High school,' she thought with a shudder as she recalled her high school days. Being a girl genius made for lonely times, being at least three years younger than her classmates.

Suddenly she was pleased by the memories and had to put her hand over her mouth to suppress a scream. "I did it! I leaped! And I solved the ĎSwiss cheeseí effect!" she whispered to herself. That problem plagued Dr. Beckettís mind, and seemed to be part of the reason why the retrieval program didnít work for him. That and the less detailed brain scan, she reasoned. Looking down at herself she was also happy to see that she was comfortably dressed in flare jeans. "Thank goodness Iím not a Goth or a Cheerleader," she mumbled.

'Now, down to business,' she thought. 'Who am I looking for?' She scanned the crowd hoping something would look familiar. She had a basic description of the boys, and recalled that Al said they were in some trees by the front parking lot. She was about half way there, spotting a thick stand of trees, when the sound of the Imaging Room door made her jump.

"Sammy Jo?" she heard as she spun around to face Al. "You remember me, donít you?" He held the handlink at a ready position, caution written all over his face.

She cocked her head, placed her finger on her lip thoughtfully, then snapped her finger and pointed at him. "I know! Chuck Yeager dressed like Bozo the Clown!" then smiled at his shocked expression. "Kidding! Yeah, Al, I know who you are!"

The relief in his face was replaced with a sour look. "Very funny. Glad to see your humor wasnít Swiss-cheesed." As he consulted the handlink, Sammy Jo caught the slight curl of a smile on one side of his mouth. "I can only stay for short periods of time because of the power supply. I came to tell you to be careful. Ziggy shows that Angela Morgan gets killed in this event, so donít be rash."

"Ok, ok," she said, "Iíll be really careful." It was difficult to hold a conversation and not look like she was completely nuts and talking to herself.

"And watch out for the pipe bombs. Theyíre all over the place," and Al motioned the entire parking lot with his arm. "In fact, if you point them out to the school staff now, maybe that would get the cops here sooner, and theyíll abandon their plan," Al thought brightening. "I know that there are a couple in the bushes by the front doors." 

Just then a bell rang and all the students started heading for the doors Al pointed to. "But, maybe not now while thereís a crowd. And I think youíre being watched. Hold on a second." Al blinked out of sight as Ziggy centered him on the boys. They were intently watching the front of the school, Ray fidgeting with his hand gun and Ryan calmly standing with his rifle at his side, looking like he was in a trance. Al followed their gaze and saw that most of the students were inside now, and Sammy Jo as Angela was nervously standing near the parking lot.

"Whatís she waiting for?" Ray hissed. "I want to take care of the cars before we go in." Ryan looked up calmly, seemingly indifferent to what was happening. Ray, however, was not happy. "Whatís she doing?"

Al noted the guns and Rayís edginess, and gave the plan a second thought. "Iíve got to get her inside," he thought, centering himself back on her.

"I think you need to get them separated," Al reasoned, returning to her side. "Work on Ryan. Heís not as nervous."

"Are they over in the bushes right now?" she inquired, fighting the urge to look.

"Yep, and watching every move. I think youíd better go inside and get the principal, or someone." Al punched the handlink, frowning. The result hadnít changed yet. Angela still died.

"What about telling the principal, and getting the police here now?" she asked. "That would stop them from ever starting."

Al looked thoughtful, "Worth a try." He didnít verbalize his relief that she wouldnít confront them directly, and avoid the bombs. "Iíll check back after we check the grids again. We donít want to have to reset when the you know what hits the fan." The Imaging Room door slid open and he stepped through. "Iíll be back," he repeated.

"Ok!" Sammy Jo turned her back on the closing door and headed towards the building. By the time she hit the stairs all the other students were gone, and the hallway practically empty. She walked down the hall, conscious of how loud her footfalls echoed as she walked. She saw a cluster of students at the end of the hallway, and saw that they were crowded outside the office she was looking for.

She slipped through the doorway into the reception area and noticed the older women behind the counter werenít in any way flustered by the crowd. Nudging her way to the counter, she was given a dirty look by a boy dressed in baggy clothes.

"No cuts, Morgan," he snapped.

She looked down and saw a yellow sheet of paper with "Tardy Slip" in bold letters across the top in his hand. "Just hang on a second," she replied, turning to the woman behind the counter laden with papers. "Hey!" she announced to her, leaning over the counter. "I need to talk to the principal!"

The woman obviously was used to dealing with teenagers and pressure, and didnít bat an eye when she replied matter of factly, "Heís not here, and he has an assembly to host in a little while. Come back after lunch." The woman moved off oblivious to the urgency in Sammy Joís voice.

Sammy Jo stood there for a second, stumped. What next? This wasnít as easy as she had expected. Looking around the office, she concluded that these people were probably safer in here anyway, and backed out to the hall. She would have to confront the boys next. She walked quickly down the hall towards the bright square of light that marked the front doors, blinded by the glare. She was right at the door when she noticed someone standing off to the side, and looked up to see a dark haired boy holding a rifle. It was one of the twins. But which one?

The boy was looking off to the parking lot, the rifle in one arm and holding a pair of pipes in the other hand. Sammy Jo realized they were bombs, and reminded her self not to touch him while he held them. From previous leaps they had discovered that when two leapers touched there was an effect that caused them to see each other as they were, not who they had leaped into. Sam had run across an evil leaper before, and they still didnít know where she had originated from, but the information gathered from those encounters was valuable in developing tracking programs for multiple leapers. Right now, the shock of seeing Angela change to Sammy Jo could result in him dropping the bombs, and an unwanted end to this scenario.

When she pushed on the doors the rifle automatically snapped up and leveled at her chest. The boy turned to her, eyes wide. It took a few seconds for him to realize who it was.

"Angela," he stated flatly, eyes dead. "Get away from the door." 

She stepped aside. A motion in the parking lot caught her eye and she turned to see the other twin, dressed in black, pop up from between two cars. He was smiling maniacally, then moved to a sleek Camero and ducked down out of sight. That must be Ray, she deduced, looking back to Ryan. This was her chance.

"Iíve got to talk to you. Thereís someone inside you that can help, Ryan."

"I donít need any help. Weíre doing fine."

"But Sam Beckett came a long way to be here with you. Heís a good and kind man, and he only wants the best for you."

Ryan looked at her curiously, a frown on his brow.

"Sam Beckett is from a farm in Elk Ridge, Indiana, and he knows how you feel. He wants to help you." She looked in his eyes for any flicker of recognition.

Instead, Ryan snapped, "Is this some shrink mumbo jumbo your mother taught you? Well, forget it!" His body tensed up, and Sammy Jo saw his grip tighten on both the rifle and the pipes. He was at the edge. "We have a plan, and you canít stop us, so shut up!"

She didnít back down. "You mean Rayís plan."

"Doesnít matter whose plan it is. Weíre one in the same."

"But why? Why are you doing this?"

He seemed to compose himself again, and his eyes again looked dead. "For peace," he replied quietly, looking off to the distance.

She was about to engage him again when Ray came bounding up the steps, his eyes squinted at Angela standing there. He held a pistol in one hand, and two pipes in the other. Then a grin overtook his face. "Hey, Angela," he said. "Glad youíre here!"

She looked skeptical at that remark. "Ray. You can stop this now."

"But weíve only started! Hey, we can use you," he motioned with his gun for her to face the doors. "We can get to the locker rooms now because youíll be our shield! And you can act as a lookout for Ryan." He leaned forward and whispered in her ear. "After all, he would be rather obvious in a girlís locker room."

"Why donít you just shoot me now and get it over with?" she challenged, not knowing exactly where that came from. 'Mind merging with Angela? Maybe thatís why retrieval success lessened with time.

"Donít tempt me, Angela. Itíll take more than you to stop us. Letís go!"

She walked forward with the boys close behind, knowing her body was shielding the two guns. The pipe bombs were held close against their bodies, surrounded by their jackets.

At least they arenít shooting their way in, she thought. Thereís a couple of lifes saved. 

A boy was walking toward them, a hall pass in his hand. Sammy Jo felt herself tense up, and the boy said, "Angela," and nodded his head in recognition.

"Hey," she responded nervously. He passed, not saying anything to the boys.

"Jerk," Ray mumbled. "Heíll certainly remember us after today!" Ryan snorted in response.

They got to the locker room doors without incident, and Ray slipped in the boyís door. "Wait until you hear my gunshots," he whispered. "That will be your sign. That and the really loud bang afterward!" He laughed a short laugh, then let the door swing shut.

Ryan and Sammy Jo went a little further down the hall to the girlís entrance. Sammy Jo pushed her way in, Ryan on her heels. When they stepped in enough to see the lavatory area, two giggling girls standing at the sinks looked up.

Ryan stepped out as they gasped, and leveled the rifle at them. "Shut up," he commanded. The girls were too shocked to move. "Get the duct tape from my jacket pocket and tie Ďem up. Then tape the door shut."

Fearing for the girls life's, Sammy Jo did so without comment. She gently removed the tape, not touching him, and taped the girlsí hands and mouth. They were crying now, seconds away from hysteria. Sammy Jo tried to calm them. She sat them on the floor as far away from Ryan as she could and taped their feet, then secured the door as best as she could with the tape. Ryan obviously wasnít concerned about getting out, and that worried Sammy Jo. This was getting out of control. Where was Al?!?

She went to stand as close to him as she could. There was a squeal from the sound system in the gym and Ryan had bumped the door open just enough to see the custodian setting up the podium and microphone. There were a couple of girls hanging up a banner that said "BEAR POWER!" on the wall behind the podium. Soon the place would be packed. 

"Ryan, donít do this. Let me help."

He didnít respond. She had to get him to put the bombs down somehow.

"Let Sam help. Heís in there. Just relax and try to find him."

Ryan turned slowly to her, his eyes a bit confused, then he squinted and raised the rifle again. "Iím helping myself. Back off, Angela!" His tone and the rifle were enough to force her back, hands out in a surrendering gesture.

"Ok, ok!" and she flinched as the sound of the Imaging Room door surprised her.

"Whoa, hey! What happened?" Alís voice was accented by the bleeping of the handlink as his hand flew furiously over the keys. "This is not good!"

She turned her back on Ryan, whose attention was again on the slightly open door.

"Al!" she hissed, "itís not working! I canít get to Dr. Beckett! This isnít working!" Sammy Jo leaned heavily on a sink, tucking her chin into her chest to control her breathing and the rising panic. "And all those kids will die because of me."

Al studied her for a second then turned his attention to the handlink, trying to come up with the right thing to say. Without thinking, he replied, "Sam didnít give up on your mother, so you canít give up on him." The handlink immediately squealed insistently, and Al realized that he had just spilled the beans.

Sammy Jo raised her head and saw Angela reflected in the mirror, her mind whirling. "What did you say?" she asked slowly, turning to face the hologram.

"Ah, I said, you canít give up on him yet," but he wouldnít meet her eyes, slapping the handlink into silence. He started to bounce on his toes nervously.

"No, you said he didnít give up on my mother! Did he leap into her life?" and instantly a conversation with her grandmother a long time ago popped into her head. Sammy Jo had dismissed the conversation as the perceptions of a woman who had spent a major part of her adult life in a mental hospital.

Her grandmother said her father was a man that came into her motherís life several times, but couldnít stay because he had to go and help others. Then she put two and two together. "Heís my father, isnít he?" Suddenly, lots of things in her life made sense. Her intelligence, for starters. 

"Ziggy?" Al asked after a second, hoping for some help, avoiding her stare. 

"Why didnít you tell me?!" she whispered feverently, trying to keep her voice down.

Al finally conceded, and pointed to the handlink. "Ziggy and I thought it best not to tell you, or anyone else at the Project." Personally, he knew what it was like discovering that Sam had changed your own history. You always wondered if things would just blink back to the original history unexpectedly; it could make you crazy if you dwelled on it.

"Tell me now, Al. Tell me everything, and quick," she demanded. Al had no choice but to comply with a sigh. She knew deep inside that this was the truth. It was like sheíd always known. 

When he was finished, she looked back at the disturbed young man at the doorway with a whole new resolve. She knew what she had to do, and spoke softly as she walked up to him, willing him to listen with stubborn optimism that was all Beckett.

"I know you can hear me, Dr. Beckett. Itís me, Sammy Jo Fuller, and you need to listen. Iím Abagail Fullerís daughter."

Incredibly, Ryan didnít turn to her. He continued to stare out the doorway, so she continued. "Sam, once you leaped into a man named Clayton Fuller. He was Abagailís father, my grandfather. When Abagail was a little girl she had been accused by a woman named Leda Aider of murdering her daughter, Violet. Leta tried to kill Abagail by setting Clayton's house on fire. Do you remember, Sam?" 

Al whispered, "Careful, Sammy Jo. Be very careful. Beeks says this may work."

She felt her throat get tight, and tears starting to gather and cloud her vision.

"Then you leaped into Will Kinman. He and Abagail were going to get married, and on the day of their wedding Leda convinced the town that Abagail had something to do with the disappearance of a little boy named Clovis. They tried to lynch her, and you saved her again. I know you remember, Sam." She glanced at Al and wiped a small tear from the corner of her eye.

Al studied the handlink and looked up at her. "Keep going," he said softly, watching Ryan closely. 

Sammy Jo tried to catch Samís eye. "I know you remember because you fell in love with Abagail. You fell in love, and you conceived a child. You even met that child once, when you leaped into Abagailís life one last time. You defended her against the charges that she killed Leda Aider. Leda committed suicide and made it look like Abagail killed her; she was so sure Abagail was responsible for the tragedies in her life! But you saved her again!" Sammy Jo was openly crying, but wouldnít give up. "Leda killed herself right in front of me. I blocked it all out, and if it wasnít for you I wouldnít have remembered. We both saved her that time. I know you remember."

Ryan was blinking rapidly, and the rifle dropped slightly. His eyes looked unfocused. "Sam Beckett, you have a daughter who is just as bright as you. Her name is Samantha Josephine Fuller." 

Ryanís eyes grew cloudy, and he took a step back from the door, turning to face her. "Abagail?" he whispered.

Sammy Jo inhaled sharply and wiped her eyes. 'There he is!' she thought, hearing at the same time the noise in the gym growing. There was the chant of a pep squad, and an announcement that asked everyone to scoot in closer so others could fit in the bleachers. The hum of voices grew even as they stood there. Sammy Jo glanced down and realized that Ryan had slipped the bombs into his jacket pocket, and his other hand was now empty.

Suddenly, Ryan snapped his head towards the hallway door, and raised the rifle. Sammy Jo spun around to see that the two girls had somehow worked out of the tape, and there was a long section on the door that was peeled back. They were huddled in a corner, their frightened scream covered by the start of loud music in the gym. 

Sammy Jo leaped forward and pulled down on Ryanís arms with both her hands. When they touched there was an odd, swirling feeling when they felt like one for an instant, then Sam Beckettís surprised hazel eyes locked with Sammy Joís terrified hazel ones. The rifle clattered to the floor.

Sammy Jo took him into a hug, crying uncontrollably, and he slowly wrapped his arms around her. He closed his eyes and lay his cheek on her hair. "Thank you," he whispered.

"Sam! Youíre back!" Al was practically dancing a jig in impatience. "Thank God, but you still gotta stop this!"

Sam pushed her back to arms length, studying her face and smiling. He moved his hands to her chin, and wiped the tears with his thumbs. "You look just like her." He dropped his hands, and gently pushed her to the two frightened girls. "Untie them, and have one find a phone and the other go to the office. I donít think theyíll have a problem knowing what to say."

Sammy Jo nodded and did as she was told. Sam felt for the bombs, took a breath, and slipped out into the gym. He saw Al pop into his vision, stationed outside the boysí locker room door, which was slightly ajar. 

"Sam, hurry!" Al motioned. "Heís taking aim!"

Sam looked around the gym and saw that it was almost full. A final small group of students was just filing in, and the noise level was high. A pep squad was bouncing around in front of the crowd. Sam edged up to the door and whispered, "Ray!" just before he pushed his way in.

"Jesus, Ryan, you scared the shit outta me!" he barked, but was intent on his view of the bleachers. "Came to join the fun, huh? Is Angela out of the way?"

"She wonít be a problem." Sam replied, then an idea struck him. "Hey, Ray, can I have the rest of the bombs? I could, you know, toss Ďem while you shoot."

Ray hesitated a second. "Sounds fair. I have six shots and you have four bombs!" he slid the bombs from his jacket and handed them over. Sam took them carefully and put them in a nearby sink. While Ray was aiming the gun, Sam added his two to the pile. "This would be easier with the rifle," Ray mumbled. "Hey," he said, turning, "Where is the rifle?"

Al supplied an answer, "Sam, Sammy Jo has the rifle."

As Sam tried to come up with a reply, the hallway door swung open and a boy walked in. Ray raised the gun quickly, and Samís marshal arts reaction took over. He hit Rayís gun hand upward, firing a hole in the ceiling, then grabbed the weapon and jerked it down and out of Rayís grasp. The boy raced from the room as Sam and Ray fell in a tangle on the floor, fighting crazily. 

Because they were both leapers, the fight took on a eerie air to Al. The forms seemed to undulate and ripple, the twinsí and Samís faces mingling and mixing. It was nauseating. Al was trying to figure out who was winning when Sammy Jo burst in, wielding the rifle. She stood watching, fascinated by the sight. She heard an announcement to clear the gym about the same time she heard sirens in the distance.

The boys continued to roll on the floor, fighting like wildcats.

"That did it! Historyís been changed!" Al announced among the melee. "Everyone gets out of the gym in time!" He and Sammy Jo both saw no reaction in the boys.

Rayís fury was difficult for Sam to overcome. It was clear that Sam was tiring. All at once Ray was on top of Ryan, both hands around his throat. Sam reciprocated the grip, and there was sickening wheezing from both of them.

"Hit him with the rifle, Sammy Jo!" Al screamed, pointing at Rayís head.

She spun the rifle around, and held the butt over Rayís head. Ray turned his head just enough for her to see her fatherís eyes, but they were full of hate. She slammed the rifle butt on his temple, and he fell over unconscious. Sam rolled to the side, exhausted, and lay on his back, rubbing his throat.

"Youíd better tape up his hands," Al pointed out, hearing the sirens loud and clear. She did as she was told with shaky hands.

"Youíd better tape mine up, too," Sam said in a croaking whisper, watching her with a smile. "Ryan will be back when I leap."

"Hang on, Dad," she said, smiling. "One thing at a time here. Iím not used to bashing people in the head." She dragged Ray to a stall and taped his arms around a post. Then Sam crawled over and got in the same position.

"Youíd better hurry," he said sadly, watching her with obvious parental pride.

"Everything turns out all right," Al reported happily as Sammy Jo taped Ryanís arms. "Both boys are put away for awhile, but they get the help they need. The parentís get divorced, though. Thatís too bad."

"But everyoneís alive," Sammy Jo finished, unable to take her eyes from her father. Quietly she stated, "Iím glad I met you. Again."

"Me too," he replied, looking deeply into her eyes. "I love you Sammy Jo." She saw his eyes were shining with emotion.

She felt her eyes tearing up. "I love you, Dad," she whispered tenderly. Then she saw his eyes go empty as a blue flame engulfed both boys, and the essence that was Sam Beckett disappeared.

"Bye, Sam," Al said sadly as the blue whirlwind dissipated. He tapped the handlink. "Gooshie, initiate the retrieval program."

Sammy Jo stood awkwardly, her hands limp at her sides, wondering if she would look like that when she leaped. 

"Iíll see you at the Project," Al said, stepping back into 1999.

Seconds later she was swallowed up by blue energy.

 

EPILOGUE

The energy drain from this leap had been enormous. The extra power grids and some of the mainframe had to be taken off line and replaced. Ziggy Ďsleptí for a day. By the time Al was able to contact Sam again, it had been almost 30 hours. It appeared to be a straight forward leap; keeping an old man from driving and crashing into a crowded bus stop. Sam had leaped into a retirement home, and all he had to do was spend a lot of time lounging around and not drive at the indicated time. That time had passed, and Dr. Beckett was now in flux; a term used when he was between leaps.

The staff decided that sending out another leaper was not advisable in the future. The power demand was too much for the system and the possibility of permanently damaging Ziggy was too great.

Sammy Jo was sitting with Al in the cafeteria waiting for the word on the next leap.

"Wasnít he mad at you for taking so long to get to the retirement home?" she asked about the last leap, trying to keep a conversation going.

"Yeah. But itís not like that hasnít happened before. He got over it." Al took a sip of his warm coffee. He had taken advantage of the 30 hour down time by sleeping and having some close, quality time with his wife. He was back to normal now. 

The unasked question hung there between them. She was almost afraid to ask, but she had to know. He knew what she was thinking, but waited until she asked it.

"Does he .... ?" she started, unable to finish, looking at him hopefully.

"No, he doesnít remember you," he answered. "At least, he didnít ask about you."

Her head dropped. "Now I know how Donna feels," she said quietly. 

Al leaned across the table and took her hand, smiling. "Iím sure somewhere in his Swiss cheesed brain, there is a little spot reserved just for you, Sammy Jo. When he comes home, everything will be fine."

She smiled at him appreciatively, understanding why he was her fatherís best friend.  

     "Thanks, Al." 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

 The disorientation of leaping was slow to wash away this time. Dr. Sam Beckettís senses crept back as if they were reluctant to complete the connections to his brain. He was hanging there, suspended by an unseen force over an unfocused landscape, as if God, or Time or Fate was reconsidering this assignment. The perceived hesitation was over when Sam felt pain slam into his body like lightning.

He gasped and struggled to escape the pain that enveloped him as the other senses snapped into awareness. He tried to flee when the pain was paled by panic when he realized he couldnít move; his hands were bound behind him and his feet were lashed together.

Sam tried to yell for the only friend he could recall, Al, but gagged on the cloth clamped tightly through his mouth and around his head. His breathing severely hampered, he tried to control the panic by concentrating on breathing through his nose. Looking wildly around the dank, dark room that smelled of mold, hoping to locate an ally of any sort, he saw two small windows set high in the wall that showed nothing but grayness, trash and litter all around the room, and a solid wooden door that was closed. He lay on an smelly, thin and dirty mattress on the floor as he struggled vainly against the ties and the pain.

The door caught his attention as it thumped and rattled, stuck to the frame surrounding it. Sam froze and focused on the door, hopeful and fearful at who may be coming in. The door finally gave away and jerked open, letting in a blocky Asian man. Sam held his breath trying to gauge the manís alliance.

The man stood there, just inside the doorway, and broke into a huge smile when he looked at the body on the mattress. Samís stomach lurched in response when he said in a cheery voice, "Oh boy! Sheís awake!"