Episode 610

Battle Scars

by: Katherine Freymuth

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PRELUDE

 

Admiral Albert Calavicci bounded up the stairs two at a time. His face was covered with strong concern, or rather almost panicked worry. Normally, he would take the elevator up to the infirmary in an emergency but, in this case, the elevator was far too slow for his liking.

Without any kind of warning to those on the other side of the stairwell door, he burst onto the level and ran down the hallway, forcing people to move to the side and make way for him. He busted though the infirmary door, panting hard and shouting, "Where is she?"

The Assistant Chief Medical Officer slowly walked over to him, his hands up in an attempt to calm him down.

"Just relax, AdmiralÖ"

"The hell I will relax! Where is she? How is she? What happened to her, damn it!"

The doctor didnít allow Alís volatile temper get to him. Instead, he remained calm, speaking to the Admiral in soft tones. "She experienced a slight heart murmur and weíre just keeping her here for observation. Knowing the problems she has had before, we just want to make sure there are no complications."

Al exhaled, a little calmer but still anxious. "Where is she?"

"Sheís in Room B. Your wife is in there with her."

Al started for the door quickly.

"Admiral," the doctor interrupted his actions quickly.

Al turned and looked at him with question.

"I donít think you should go in there in an agitated state. It might not be good for her. Wait a couple of minutes to collect yourself."

Al was about to make a comment about his not being agitated, about needing to see her. He stopped, however, when he realized the doctor was right. He nodded before waiting at the door, forcing his heart to slow to a normal rate. Then, with a deep breath, he entered the infirmary room.

As he entered, Beth Calavicci turned her head to look at her husband with gentle eyes. Her actions were followed by the young lady in the infirmary bed. The latter beamed at Al and extended a hand towards him.

"Dad!" she called out to him with a pleased smile.

Al hurried to her side, unable to keep the look of concern from his face. "Christa, honey, are you okay?" he asked as he took the extended hand, sitting on the side of the bed and looking at his youngest daughter with loving care.

"Iím fine, Dad," she tried to assure but the paleness of her skin indicated that she wasnít as fine as she was proclaiming.

Al looked at his wife with an exasperated smirk, indicating to her how he felt about Christaís obvious lie. Beth just gave him a gentle smile, dissipating Alís smirk.

"What happened, sweetie?" Al gently asked his daughter. "When I heard you were rushed here, I was worried sick."

"You still are, Dad," Christa pointed out. "I had a little pain in my chest. Thatís all. Itís not like nothing like this hasnít happened to me before."

Al brushed her hair. "Youíve got to take it easy, sweetie. Okay? You canít overexert yourself in your condition."

She sighed in frustration. "Why canít I have a normal life like a normal teenager?" she asked in a sad mutter.

Both Al and Beth looked at her with knowing sympathy. Al squeezed her hand gently.

"Why donít you get some sleep, sweetie?" He stood up slowly. "Maybe, in a couple of days, youíll be well enough to go home."

Christa sighed again. "Okay. Is it okay if I call Alan and let him know I wonít be able to make our date tomorrow?"

Al smiled. "Iíll see what we can do." He kissed her forehead gently. "Get some rest."

Christa nodded gently before Al looked to his wife and indicated that she should follow him out of the room.

Beth stood up at Alís indication and kissed Christaís forehead.

"Sweet dreams, honey," she bid her before following Al.

"Okay, Beth," Al said as soon as the door was closed behind them. "What happened?"

Beth exhaled. "She was mowing the lawn."

Al gritted his teeth in frustration. "And you let her?"

Beth frowned at him. "Al Calavicci, you know me better than that. I wasnít even home. I was grocery shopping. When I came home, I found her on her knees, on the front lawn, holding her chest."

"Well, what the hell was she doing mowing the lawn?" Al queried in a loud voice.

"She was trying to help us out."

"By risking her life? By doing something she knows she canít and shouldnít do? She has a heart condition, Beth! What the hell was she thinking?"

Beth gently took his hand in hers while touching his cheek with her free hand. "She was probably thinking of how much she loves us. Donít be so hard on her, Al. She was only trying to be helpful."

Al sighed, closing his eyes. "Well, she can help us out by taking it easy and letting us to the hard work."

"Sheís eighteen years old, Al," Beth pointed out. "Old enough to vote, to move out, to go to warÖ"

"Please, donít remind me," he put in.

"She doesnít want to be cooped up in the house all day. She has had very few friends since the incident and she likes helping us out. You canít expect her to just do nothing."

Al exhaled in frustration of his own helplessness. "I wish she wasnít so damn stubborn," he complained.

Beth smiled at him gently. "Like father, like daughter. Sheíll be all right, Al. She just needs a little rest." She kissed him gently on the lips. "And so do you. You wear yourself out, Al. You should take it easy more often."

"Easier said than done, Beth," he pointed out.

"I know," she said gently. She took his hand again. "But now is a good time to rest. The leap is over so you donít have to worry about Sam. Just spend some time with Christa. She needs her father."

Al nodded slowly before kissing Bethís forehead. "You are a truly remarkable woman, Beth Calavicci."

She smiled at him gently as he went back into the infirmary room.

Al slowly returned to the bed and sat beside it, watching the slumbering teenager under its covers. Christa had once been such a beautiful girl. Her bright brown eyes had shown off her curly brown hair and rosy cheeks. Most importantly, she had been so innocent, evil being only something found on television shows she didnít even watch. She was never interested in those crime shows; her favorite show was the Disney "Avonlea" series.

However, shortly after the Calavicciís had a family picture taken together, Christaís innocence was lost after the incident that had cost them all dearly. The physical and emotional scars that Christa now bore had been placed on her purposefully. Al was glad that his little girl couldnít remember the details of what had happened. Knowing that it had happened was enough to make the coldest heart shudder.

He brushed her hair gently, thankful that the act didnít wake her.

"Sweet dreams, honey," he whispered lovingly. "And never forget that itís whatís on the inside that counts." He bit his lip and forced back his emotion of sympathy for the girl.

Christa continued to sleep soundly, her head snuggled against the bed pillow so that her scarred face showed under the dim fluorescent lighting.
 

 

PART ONE 
 

Albuquerque, New Mexico

September 5, 1996

 

"Please, let us go!" the voice pleaded from behind the door. "Please! We havenít done anything wrong!"

Sam Beckett slowly walked towards the door, uncertain of the situation in which he suddenly found himself. The voice sounded very frightened, almost alarmingly so. Sam was almost certain that he had heard that voice somewhere before and that alone, along with the padlocked door in front of him, gave him a terrible feeling in the pit of his stomach that told him the whole situation was very wrong.

As Sam came closer to the door, it shook as something pounded it hard from the other side, causing Sam to jump backwards with surprise.

"Let us out!" another voice screamed from the other side. "You donít know who you are dealing with! My father is a very important man! If you donít let us go right now, youíll regret it!"

Sam started for the door again, ready to obey the demand. He had to be there to release those children Ė he was certain that they were children Ė and he didnít see a reason why he shouldnít do exactly that.

"I thought I told you to keep those brats quiet!" another voice growled angrily from behind him as he heard the sounds of harsh footsteps. The owner of the voice grazed past him, shoulders touching, before roughly opening the door of the room in which the children were being held captive.

The redheaded woman, who for a moment Sam could have sworn had blonde hair, grabbed a nearby object before entering the room. A moment later, Sam heard screams and crying, causing him to instinctively hurry towards the door.

"Shut the hell up!" the woman shouted at them. "Unless you really want me to hurt you!" She stormed out of the room, blocking Sam from entering in the process.

Sam had barely had a chance to look into the room, much less enter it, but what he saw through the closing door was enough to shock him from moving.

The room was small, windowless, and completely barren of any comforts. But what really caught his eyes and tore at his heart was the girl. She was raising herself from the floor, her eyes streaming with tears. Her cheeks were bleeding from cuts she had received and her clothes were splotched with blood. She looked directly at Sam with intense pleading.

"Uncle Sam! Please!" she cried out as the door shut and was locked from the outside.

"Oh, geezus!" Sam whispered appalled by the situation - especially since he was certain he knew the girl who had called out to him.

The woman turned towards him with a glare, her eyes flaming with such intense hatred. No, not hatred, Sam corrected his thoughts. Evil. Intense evil. He shuddered involuntarily at her glare, certain that he had seen that glare in those eyes before.

She spoke slowly and intensely, making shivers go up Samís spine. "You may look like him but donít you dare start acting like him. We have a job to do and Iíll be damned if Iím going to let you ruin it because you suddenly caught his conscience." She looked at him carefully. "Youíve dyed your hair like I told you. Good. The more you look like him, the better." She looked directly into his eyes, causing yet another shiver to go up Samís spine. "I thought you said you couldnít wear contacts."

"I guess they donít irritate me as much as I thought they would," Sam replied, forcing his voice not to quiver in fear. He wasnít sure why he was afraid but he somehow knew that he had to make sure he didnít get on this womanís bad side, especially when he had no absolutely clear idea why he was there other than to free those girls.

She huffed slightly. "Iím returning to bed. Keep them quiet," she ordered, her accent distinctively British to Sam. She forced an object in his hand. "Put it away," she ordered plainly. With that, she turned and walked away down the hallway.

Sam waited until she was out of sight before he looked at the object she had given him. He frowned at it as he flicked a switch, causing a small bolt of electricity to spring from one metal prong to another. A taser, he realized. His eyes widened in horror. She used a taser on those children?! "Geezus!" he whispered, quickly putting the taser on the small table where the woman had procured it. He took several quick steps from the table, as if trying to distance himself from the electrical device.

ĎI have to get those children out of here!í he thought with desperate determination. He quickly examined the padlocked door. It didnít take very long for him to realize that he wouldnít be able to open the door without a key and that the key was in the possession of the redheaded British woman.

He could here the murmur of voices from the other side of the door and he leaned close to it to hear what was being said. What he heard tore at his heart.

"Oh, gawd! Weíre going to die! Weíre going to die!" one girl cried with fear. To Samís surprise, it was the voice of the girl who had spoken strongly about her fatherís influence.

"Itíll be okay," the other girl, the one Sam was sure he knew, spoke gently. "You know, any minute now, my dad will send the cavalry to save us. I know he will." She spoke bravely but her voice also held a hint of confusion.

"Your own uncle didnít!" the response came.

"Heís not my real uncle, Leslie," the voice was filling with hatred. "Heís not related at all. In factÖ I hate him."

Sam pulled away from the door in shock. ĎShe called out to me and yet she hates me?í

"She doesnít hate you, Sam," a raspy voice, filled with sadness, replied to his thoughts. "Sheís just angry and confused, not surprising given the circumstances."

Sam had been unprepared for the voice and had to stop himself from jumping in shock. He turned to the source and looked at the Observer with confusion mixed with concern.

"What the hell is going on, Al?" he asked with a shaky voice. "Two girls locked in a room and a red-headed woman with a taserÖ"

Al winced at the last word, not surprised to hear it but nonetheless appalled. "Yeah, I know." He frowned after a second. "Wait a minute. The woman who kidnapped the girls was a blonde," he said with conviction.

"Well, this woman is a red-head and I think sheís British or Australian or something and she had theseÖ eyes," he said the last word with a shiver.

"What eyes?" Al questioned cautiously. 

"TheyíreÖ" Sam searched for the proper word to describe them. "Evil," he finally said, shivering again. "I swear she actually enjoyed hurting those children."

Al closed his eyes tightly, swallowing down fear and anger. "Are the girls okay?" he asked in a whisper.

Sam pursed his lips. "I donít know." He looked towards the locked door. "I canít get in there to find out. But theyíre really scared. I know that much. One of themÖ we made eye contact andÖ" He forced himself not to cry at the memory. "She called out to me, Al. She begged me to help her and IÖ I couldnít move. I wanted to help her, Al, but I couldnít." His voice was filled with shame for his previous inability to act.

Al swallowed tightly, unsure what to say to his friend. He knew giving him assurances was pointless; they wouldnít help Samís conscience. Neither would Al remain silent; that would make him seem cold to his friendís feelings and to the situation. 

Al took a deep breath, readying his thoughts into words.

"Sam, you may have saved her life and yours by not doing anything," he told him gently.

"How? By letting that woman torture her?" Sam retaliated with force, not raising his voice.

Al winced strongly, more from the words than the tone. 

"I think I know her, Al," Sam continued, pacing slightly as the soft sound of crying seeped through the door. "Iíve seen her before but I canít remember where or when." He looked at his partner with force. "And she called me by name, Al!"

"What did she say?" Al whispered, trying to keep his voice from quivering.

"She said ĎUncle Sam! Please!í She knew who I really was, Al! She knew me! And I didnít help her!"

Al took a breath. "Youíre not listening to me, Sam," he told him pointedly when he noticed the scientist was still on his guilt-trip. "If you had tried to help her, that woman might have killed her. Itís a good thing you didnít help her, Sam. It gave you both time to figure out how to get out of this hell." He took a deep breath, something still nagging at his mind. "Sam, are you sure the woman was red-headed?"

Sam turned at Al with disbelief. "What matter does it make? Those girlsÖ."

"May be in more danger than before," Al interrupted firmly. "Is she a red-head?"

"She is definitely a red-head and she definitely has a British accent," Sam told him, frustrated with Alís seemingly pointless persistence.

Alís face became a clear picture of fear and near panic. "Dear God, please, tell me Iím wrong," he prayed as he punched buttons on the handlink.

The sight of his friend being so frightened caused Sam to ignore his own feelings. He took a step towards Al while frowning with concern. "Al?"

"Oh, gawd!" Al whispered, his eyes staring at the handlink, at the information Ziggy was providing him. "It wasnít supposed to happen! All these years, all the therapy sessions, all the pain and it didnít even happen originally!" He couldnít stop the tears from finding their ways down his left cheek. "They did it to her to get to me! To hurt me! To punish me for things I hadnít even done yet!"

Sam frowned strongly with confusion and concern. Al wasnít making much sense to him, seeming to act irrationally. It scared Sam greatly. 

"Al, what are you talking about?" he questioned firmly, commanding Alís attention.

Al looked at him with tear-filled eyes. "The girl is my daughter, Sam! And the woman is a leaper!"
 
 

PART TWO

 

Sam found that he was having trouble standing, his legs buckling from underneath him. He backed away from Al and found support by leaning against the nearest wall.

"Christa," he whispered painfully.

Al closed his eyes at the single word. "You remember her."

"SheísÖ sheís my godchild. She was the only one of your girls who called me Uncle Sam."

"She IS the only daughter who calls you that," Al corrected. "She isnít dead, Sam!" He spoke with a hint of anger.

Sam closed his eyes tightly. "Iím sorry," he said genuinely. "What happened?"

Al bit his lip to control the rage that was building. "The bastards used her affection for you to kidnap her and Leslie." He took a shaky breath. "They torture Christa to show what they would do to Leslie if her father didnít pay their ransom." He was crying now, obviously on the verge of breaking down completely. "All Beth and I knew was that the girls were missing and being held captive by a wacko. That bastard of a Senator never even told us what the kidnappers were doing to Christa." He wiped his cheeks quickly of the salty tears that adorned them. "When we finally got her back, Christa suffered constant health problems. Still does. Not to mention the suicide attempts she made."

"Oh, gawd!" Sam exclaimed in shock.

Al took a slow breath, trying to regain himself. "Lately, itís been her heart. I tell her not to over-exert herself but she just doesnít listen. This is the second heart attack sheís had since all this happened."

Samís eyes widened with fright, as if hearing about the suicide attempts wasnít enough to shock him. "Sheís had a heart attack? Is she okay?"

Al exhaled. "The doc says she just needs some rest. But, damn it, Sam! She doesnít deserve this just because of me!"

Sam stood erect and looked directly into Alís eyes. "Iíll get her out of here, Al. I promise."

Al nodded his head to Samís words, sure of his partnerís promise.

"Al," Sam continued after a moment. "Is ChristaÖ mentally handicapped?" he asked gently.

Al looked at him with shock. "What? No! What the hell gave you that idea?"

Sam looked at him, worried about how Al would react. "She could see me as myself."

Al exhaled with understanding. "Sam, I think you should look in a mirror."

Sam blinked for a moment, slowly walking down the hallway, afraid of leaving the locked door. It was then that he realized he couldnít hear anything coming from the other side of the door.

"They cried themselves to sleep," Al explained with sad eyes. "Go look in the mirror."

Sam nodded and walked down the hallway. He appeared to be in a small, dirty house. The floor was marked with footprints that broke the dust overlay. The hallway had three doors on its sides. One, on his left side, was shut, obviously the room in which the other leaper was now sleeping. One of the doors on his right led to a small bedroom, which only had a cot and a table in it. The other led to a bathroom, the only room that seemed to be taken care of lately.

He entered the bathroom and turned to look at himself in the mirror. The sight caused him to stumble backwards in shock as he forced himself not to scream.

"Uncanny, isnít it?" Al said without humor.

"Oh, my gawd!" Sam said, forcing himself not to speak too loudly for fear of waking the sleeping leaper. He took slow steps to the mirror and touched its sleek surface as confirmation of what he was seeing.

"Youíve leaped into Kim Harper, a convicted rapist who was hired for this scheme to ransom Senator Brackenheinís daughter, Leslie Brackenhein, for $2.5 million."

"Leslie Brackenhein," Sam said quietly. "I know that name."

"She was Christaís best friend. The idea was to get her to go with a friendly face Ė yours." Al took a breath. "They say everyone has a twin somewhere in the world. Looks like yours is Kim Harper."

"And Christa thinks Kimís me," Sam said with shock.

Al nodded. "Itís only after all this is over that she realizes she was duped by this nozzle. Thus, the various emotional problems and the suicide attempts."

Sam looked carefully in the mirror. Kim Harper certainly looked very much like him. The hair was a bit too dark, the eyes were brown instead of hazel green, and the chin wasnít quite right but Sam knew that, with a little hair dye and some contact lenses, it would be hard for anyone to tell the difference between him and Kim Harper. He could see that there had once been dye in Kimís hair but it had been washed out.

"Al, does Harper wear contacts? I mean, did he wear contacts whenÖ" He let the meaning of his question be understood by Al without having to say the words.

Al shook his head. "No. Not once. Heís allergic to them."

Sam got a thoughtful look on his face as he left the bathroom to return to the locked door. "Whoís the woman?" he asked.

Al froze. "The red-head or the blonde?"

"Both, actually," Sam replied. "The blond first."

Al took another breath, putting his hands in his pockets. "Francine Raoul. Called Francie. The way I remember it, she was the one who cooked up this scheme and sheís the one who hired Kim to impersonate you. According to Ziggy, in the original history before that other leaper changed it all, Francie never got into any kind of seriously illegal activities, just an occasional tiff with the law. And Harper had changed his life around instead of breaking his parole. Originally, he too only had a few tiffs, most of them speeding tickets."

"And the red-head?" Sam asked with trepidation.

Al was quiet with that question. "Ziggy isnít sure. Sheís still trying to figure out how you could see her without having touched her."

"We did touch," Sam said with realization, the thoughtful look still in his eyes. "She brushed my shoulder when she was going toÖ" He swallowed slightly. "I donít think she noticed. She seemed to think that Harper finally dyed his hair and put in contacts to look like me."

"Good," Al said firmly. "The longer she thinks youíre Harper, the better. Then maybe we can end this nightmare as soon as possible before Christa really gets hurt." He looked towards the locked door and swallowed. "IímÖ ummÖ Iím going to go back and see if we canít figure out how to end this." He punched the exit code into the handlink. Before stepping through the Imaging Chamber door, he looked at Sam gently. "Take care of the girls, will you, Sam?"

Sam nodded gently in return. "I will. I promise."

A moment later, Al disappeared into the future, leaving Sam alone guarding the girlsí makeshift prison.

 

 

"Rise and shine, sweet cheeks! Mmm! Thatís one fine looking aura you have there!"

She glared at the black man as she rolled out of the bed, showing off her perfectly shaped body. If it hadnít been for the aura of Francine Raoul, which was practically flawless in every way, one would have seen a noticeably large scar across her abdomen. The scar ran from the bottom of her ribcage and ended just short of her belly button. She considered it a battle scar, something to drive her towards her ultimate goal.

"Enjoying the view? I thought having the real thing in the Holding Chamber would help quench the lust in your eyes," she commented to the black man as she readied to shower.

"With your aura surrounding her? Donít get me wrong, baby. Youíre a treat for the eyes butÖ I enjoy perfection."

She turned on him with a much stronger glare. "I had been perfect once, until Beckett spoiled our operations. Speaking of which, how is our look-alike doing?"

"The last I saw him, he was sitting by the room, looking too sad to bear," he told her, his voice feigning sympathy. "You know, ZoŽ, I donít think he is as into this idea as he used to be."

She huffed. "If he ever really was." She walked out of the bedroom and into the bathroom, glancing towards the locked door to see Harper leaning against the door, asleep. She frowned slightly. The fact that he was asleep didnít bother her as much as how he was sleeping. His position indicated that he was trying to keep something out of the room rather than something in. He looked protective rather than malevolent. She didnít like that look one bit. There was something else as well that she couldnít put her finger on Ė something about what happened last night between them.

"Thames," she said in a commanding voice as she stepped towards the shower. "I want you to keep an eye on Harper. Thereís something definitely different about him. Also, keep an eye on the Calavicci girl. If she is anything like her father, she is going to be trouble."

"What about Brackenhein?" Thames asked. "What are you planning for her?"

She gave a half-smile as she turned on the shower, checking its temperature. "Nothing."

His eyes widened slightly. "Nothing? What about your mission?"

She glared at him. "I havenít forgotten the mission. That doesnít mean I canít have a little fun while Iím at it. Think about it, Thames. We have Calavicciís daughter. We have a practical twin of Dr. Beckett. Who says we even have to touch Brackenhein to get her father to pay $2.5 million for her release?" She smiled wickedly. "No, I think Christa Calavicciís screams will be sufficient to make the Senator surrender the money if he believes that his daughter would undergo the same treatment if he doesnít."

Thames smiled with admiration. "And I wondered why Lothos was so adamant about saving your life. ZoŽ, baby, you are an absolute genius." He moved closer to her, his holographic body centimeters behind her. He put his head closer to hers, his lips beside her ear. "I canít wait to see what you do to her."

She gave a thin smile. "Go watch Harper," she ordered gently.

He stepped away from her, a sly grin on his face. "As you wish." Slowly, he lifted the pyramid-shaped handlink and pressed some buttons before disappearing.


 

Stallion Springs, New Mexico

September 5, 1996

 

If it were possible to feel more helpless, Al Calavicci didnít know how. He paced nervously in his living room, having already checked out every possibility he could think of but getting only negative results. It was hard enough dealing with his own daughterís disappearance without Senator Brackenhein accusing him and Christa of causing Leslieís disappearance as well. To Brackenhein, Christaís "bad" influence was the catalyst to the girlsí disappearance and, therefore, Al was responsible because of Christaís "lack of discipline". It took everything Al had not to go to the Senatorís house and knock the arrogant man senseless.

Beth watched as her husband paced, her own eyes filled with worry. Of the two of them, she was the one that tended to stay calm under pressure, mostly due to the years of stress she endured as a nurse and mother. However, it was hard for her to stay calm now when her youngest child was who-knew-where, possibly hurt or, God forbid, dead.

She walked slowly up to Al and guided him to the couch to sit, unable to handle watching him pace anymore. 

"What are we going to do, Al? I feel so utterly helpless." She leaned her head onto his shoulder as Al wrapped an arm around her waist.

Al sighed gently. "I know you do. Me too."

"Christa doesnít just get lost," Beth stated firmly, her voice edging towards hysteria. "She would call. Sheíd tell us where she was. Somethingís happened to her!"

Al held her a little more tightly, gently shushing her back to calmness. "Everything will be okay, Beth. The police will find both her and Leslie and theyíll be all right."

They were both quiet, holding each other even as the phone rang. The moment it did, Al hurried to answer it.

"Admiral Calavicci?" a garbled voice spoke over the receiver.

Al got a knot in his stomach. He had a very bad feeling all of a sudden, especially when the person on the other end of the line disguised his voice. Her voice. Al wasnít sure which.

"Yes," he said carefully, his attention focused on the voice.

"Do nothing to find your daughter and she will be returned to you once we have finished with her. I know you have already called the police. Call them off."

Al frowned at the words, anger growing on his features. "You want me to give up on her?! I canít do that! Sheís my daughter, for Godís sake!"

"If you do not do as we say, your daughter will not survive what we will do to her. I trust your love for her will help you to make the right decision." With that, the phone line went dead.

Al slowly hung up the phone, shaking physically from the conversation.

Beth was already at his side. "What did they say?" she demanded. When Al didnít answer immediately, she repeated the demand, this time with much more force.

Al swallowed before he slowly recounted the brief conversation to her. She took a step back in emotional shock.

"Oh, gawd! Oh, my gawd! Theyíre going to kill her!" She started to scream her words, repeating them and pulling at her hair viciously.

Al quickly yet carefully removed her hands from their assault on her hair before holding her firmly by the shoulders.

"Beth, donít get hysterical," he ordered. "Calm down." Yet right. You too, Al.

"Calm down?! Sheís our baby!"

"I know," Al whispered painfully. "And we want her back alive. Weíll just have to do as they say. Donít worry, Beth. Weíll get her back. I promise."

"How can you be sure?" she whispered with fear in her voice.

Al merely hugged her tightly. "Because I have to be."
  

PART THREE

 

Project Quantum Leap

Stallionís Gate, New Mexico

May 30, 2000

 

Al smiled gently as he stepped into the infirmary room where his daughter lay sleeping. Not wanting to wake her, he watched her sleep, her chest gently moving up and down as she breathed. Even as he watched, though, his eyes showed great and painful sadness, compelling him to slowly approach the bed. He sat carefully beside her on the bed, examining her features. 

Christa rolled on her side, unconsciously showing her scars to her father. The right side of her face showed evidence of being burned in such a way that only a madman or, in this case, a madwoman was capably of inflicting such on a child. It had taken over a year for her eyebrow to grow back though her eyelashes never really did. Her right eye had been removed due to the damage it had received from the burning, the original being replaced with a false eye that almost perfectly matched her left eye. 

Her short curly hair had once been scorched off, the traces still evident at her hairline. For nearly a year, she had had to wear a wig to cover her baldhead. It had taken longer than that, though, for her to cope with what had happened to her. Even now, Al could see the emotional scars whenever he looked into her bright brown eye. Every time he saw those scars, both physical and emotional, Al felt a surge of anger for the people who had turned Christaís life upside down just to get an arrogant bastard of a Senator to pay a ransom.

Now, his anger was far worse than it had ever been before because he now knew that her injuries were an act of revenge against him. ZoŽ Ė he was certain it had to be her; he could think of no other leaper who could want revenge on him Ė didnít even have the courage to confront him face to face. 

Christa moaned as she flinched, her face distorting slightly. Al took a shaky breath. He knew when someone was in the thralls of a nightmare. He slowly started to stroke her hair as she shuddered and moaned again, fear in every move and sound she made.

"Itís okay, sweetie. Itís over," he assured her. "They canít hurt you anymore." But his mind questioned whether he was certain that was the truth.

"Daddy! Help me!" she pleaded in her unconscious unrest as she began to thrash with the blankets that covered her. She screamed loudly, as if in agony.

Al acted without really thinking, his paternal instincts kicking into high gear. He took her quickly into his arms and spoke loudly and with repressed panic.

"Christa, wake up! Wake up, sweetie! Itís just a dream! Itís all over!" He repeated his words over and over until, finally, she shuddered physically as her eyes snapped open. She screamed in terror of the nightmare before succumbing to sobs, holding Al tightly.

"Daddy!" she cried, her mind still like a twelve-year-old due to the intensity of the dream. "Look what they did to me!"

Al gazed at her with sympathy, grazing his hand across her left cheek. "I know, sweetie. I know."

Tears rolled down her left cheek, brushing past Alís hand. "Iím going to die before Iím thirty and Iíll always be a freak!"

Al gently took her whole face in his hands. "Christa, you are not a freak."

"Yes, I am!" she insisted. "Iím a one-eyed, leather-faced freak! I wish I were dead!"

Al pulled her into a tight hug to make her stop screaming. "Christa. Listen to me. I donít know what brought this up so suddenly after all this time but you are not a freak. Do you hear me? You. Are. Not. A. Freak. You are my daughter and a beautiful human being. Are you listening to me?" When she nodded slowly against his shoulder, Al could tell she was now calm enough to think a little more rationally. He rubbed her back gently. "Honey, you havenít had a nightmare in a long time. Something happened to bring it on and make you so angry. What happened, sweetie?"

She hugged Al tightly. "AlanÖ dumped me," she sniffled. "He said the only reason he went out with me in the first place was because his friends bet him that he wouldnít take out the class freak," she said the words with tears in her voice. "Thatís what he said, Dad. He called me the class freak."

"Oh, sweetheart," Al whispered sadly. "Iím so sorry."

She sobbed into his shoulder. "I hate my life! I hate it!"

He rubbed her back again, slowly and steadily. "Christa, sweetie, let me tell you something. Alan and his friends are idiots. They donít know you. In fact, they donít deserve to know you."

Christa adjusted her head so that it laid face-out on his shoulder. "Iím just tired, Dad," she said plainly. "Iím tired of having to struggle my way through this world. Iím tired of the taunts and the insults. Iím tired of the medications I have to take every day. Iím tired of it all, Dad."

Al was silently for a moment. He understood the feelings all too well. What frightened him was that he knew, just by his own experiences, that Christa was, once again, seriously considering suicide.

"Do me a favor," he said gently as he separated her from him. He looked into her eyes, both false and biological. "Hang in there for me. Okay? Donít let go of hope."

After a second, Christa nodded slowly. Having gotten his answer, Al slowly stood, giving her a wide smile. He bent down and kissed her forehead with great affection.

"I love you," he stated with all of his heart.

"I love you too, Dad," Christa answered, her voice devoid of much feeling other than depression, her hands clutched tightly.

Al watched her for a second before slowly leaving the room. Once outside the infirmary, he leaned against a wall and rubbed his hands slowly across his face, trying to remain calm and composed despite the situation. After a moment, he looked up towards the ceiling.

"Please, God, help her," he begged, on the verge of tears.
 
 

Albuquerque, New Mexico

September 6, 1995

 

Sam woke due to the feel of a boot kicking at his ribs with a hint of aggression but not enough of one to cause damage to said ribs. He quickly looked up at his assailant as he sat up against the door. The woman looked down at him with a frown, obviously annoyed.

"Whatís wrong?" he asked, trying to keep his voice calm and unsuspicious.

ZoŽ gave him a slight, un-amused smile. "Whatís wrong?" she repeated the question for clarification. Without waiting for an answer, she continued. "Youíre here to do a job, Harper, not to sleep when the prisoners could possibly escape."

Sam frowned at her. "Theyíre children."

ZoŽ huffed. "And what if one of those childrenís fathers came in to rescue them? We would both go to prison, especially you. I doubt the parole board looks kindly on rapists that break their parole and ransom children for $2.5 million." She gestured her head upwards. "Go get something to eat," she ordered. "And donít take too long. We need supplies and I want to make sure those brats are well-secured before I leave."

Sam stood up, noting what she had told him. ĎThis could be my chance,í he thought. If I could get the children out of here while sheís awayÖ However, he knew that things rarely came about so easily, especially with an adversary out to ruin Christaís and Leslieís lives. With just a brief nod of acknowledgement, he walked away from the door. He wasnít comfortable with leaving this woman guarding the children but neither did he want to bring up her suspicions.

"Hi, Sam," a female voice said somberly as he entered the kitchen.

Sam jumped in shock and quickly turned to see the source of the voice, fearing for a moment that it could have been the Evil Leaper. Who he saw, however, made him even more afraid.

"Verbena?" he questioned with shock. "Whereís Al?"

The usually very calm and composed psychiatrist looked like she was on the verge of bursting into tears at his words.

"Heís in the infirmary," she said quietly, biting her lip.

Sam swallowed tightly, afraid of what the problem could be. "What happened?" he asked quietly.

Verbena took a quick breath, swallowing slightly. "Itís Christa," she continued in the same tone as before. "SheísÖ She somehow got hold of some Valium andÖ" She closed her eyes tightly. "Sheís dead, Sam," she said with tears in her voice. 

"What?" Sam whispered with disbelief. "She canít be." He quickly searched for a chair to sit in, his legs unable to hold his own weight anymore.

"SheÖ she swallowed enough pills to make her heart stop completely. Dr. Nath tried to get her heart started again but he couldnít. AlÖ" 

"Oh, gawd!" Sam whispered in pain. "No!" He buried his face into his hands, hiding his tears from the world around him.

Verbena took a shaky breath. "Iím sorry, Sam," she whispered, wishing she could wrap her arms around him to give him the physical comfort that they both needed.

Both remained silent for a few moments, allowing themselves a time to mourn before they had to focus on hardening themselves for the task they had to complete.

"What about Al and Beth?" Sam finally asked, his voice croaking with sheer sorrow.

Verbena swallowed, thinking how to respond. "Neither are doing well. Beth refuses to leave Christaís side. SheÖ sheís an emotional wreck. AlÖ he blames himself for what happened." She hesitated a moment, hating to tell Sam just how bad things were. "Heís in an infirmary bed. When he found out what happened, he passed out."

Sam looked at her with wide and worried eyes. "Passed out?"

Verbena closed her eyes painfully. "Heís delirious, Sam. He insists that it didnít happen and that itís all his fault." She shook her head. "Heís not making any sense at all and itís scaring everyone half to death, especially Beth." She took a calming breath. "I think thatÖ that the changing timelines are affecting his sense of reality. Ziggy told me all of the histories concerning this date and I understand the confusion and hurt Al is in now."

Sam carefully wiped his tears from his eyes. "Tell me how to get Christa and Leslie out of here," he said with determination.

"SamÖ" she started, obviously deeply concerned about his emotional state, foregoing her own feelings on the matter.

"íBena, I can keep Christaís suicide from happening," he took her gently. "It all started here, when she was kidnapped. She was traumatized by her kidnap, wasnít she?" he stated more than asked.

Verbena just looked at him with a frown. She couldnít understand how Sam could think of the leap giving the circumstances.

Sam looked at her sadly. "Whatís happening here affected Christa, caused her to have emotional problems and even caused her to become suicidal." He swallowed. "I need to get her out of here before sheís hurt like she was by that other leaper."

"ZoŽ," Verbena whispered. "Ziggy says that itís ZoŽ."

Sam looked at her as firmly as he could, given his emotional state. "Verbena, how do I get the girls out of here?"

Verbena took a breath, forcing herself to check the handlink for the information that Sam needed.

"Weíre not sure you can without endangering your own life," she told him gently.

"Forget about me being in danger!" Sam insisted firmly. "How do I get those girls out of here?" He took a breath. "ZoŽ mentioned she was going to pick up supplies. What about when she leaves?"

"Youíll need the key," Verbena pointed out. "And itís probably on ZoŽ at all times."

Sam shook his head. "Forget the key, then. Just what are the chances of the girls getting away from here if I can get that door open?"

Verbena pushed some buttons to find the answer. "Ninety-seven percent. But, Sam, the chance of you getting that door open without a key is only thirty-one percent and then chance of you not being caught in the act is lower than that."

Sam looked at her firmly. "And what are the chances of me getting that key off of ZoŽ and successfully using it?"

Verbena sighed. "Weíd better find a way to open that door without a key, then," she commented.

Sam nodded in agreement, standing from the table. "Why donít you look around and see if thereís anything around here I could use to get that lock off. I have to go back on guard duty before ZoŽ becomes suspicious."

Verbena nodded. "Good luck, Sam," she wished, her eyes damp with sorrow for all that had happened that day.

"You too, Verbena," Sam replied. He took a breath. "Tell AlÖ tell Al Iím sorry." He bit his lip, forcing himself to control the urge to cry at his loss.

 

 

"Good news and bad news, darling," Thames said silkily as he appeared at ZoŽís side.

ZoŽ turned from the door, key in hand, obviously prepared to enter the room to start really working on her mission. She looked at her associate, waiting silently for him to continue.

"I tailed Harper like you requested. He is at this very moment having a conversation with an invisible person. Seems your suspicions were warranted. Harper is really Dr. Beckett."

ZoŽ gave a wicked smile. "I knew it! It will be a pleasure to have revenge at last."

"Thereís more, love," Thames put it before she could continue. "Seems that Admiral Calavicci is out of commission some time in the future. Dr. Beckett is speaking to someone named Verbena. Weíre assuming that this is the delectable Dr. Beeks. Apparently, the Admiral is in the midst of a family crisis. Christa Calavicci has just committed suicide."

ZoŽ chuckled with glee. "Oh, this is just too good!"

"HoweverÖ" Thames began, interrupting ZoŽ. "Dr. Beckett knows that youíre Francine Raoul and is determined to stop you from hurting poor little Christa. I should warn you, ZoŽ. There is nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal and you have severely wounded Dr. Beckett."

ZoŽ looked at Thames pointedly. "There is also nothing easier to kill. I have both Beckett and Calavicci where I want them Ė helpless and desperate." She gave Thames a smile. "Relax, Thames. One way or the other, it all ends here."

"And if it ends for you rather than Beckett?"

"Then, at the very least, I wonít be leaping anymore."
 
 

PART FOUR

 

When Sam returned to the guard station, the first thing he noticed was that the door was open. Immediately, his suspicions and concerns were aroused. He slowly made his way to the door, watchful for the now missing ZoŽ. There was no indication, however, that ZoŽ was anywhere near the area.

He slowly entered the dark room only to find a blonde-haired girl shivering with fear in a corner.

"Leslie?" Sam asked gently, afraid of scaring the girl further than she already was.

She didnít answer, watching him with frightened eyes.

"Itís okay," he assured as he lowered himself to look less intimidating. "I wonít hurt you. Iím here to help you. I promise Iíll get you out of here."

She hesitated to speak for a moment. "And Christa?" she asked with concern.

Sam nodded slowly, even though a sense of urgency ran through him. "And Christa. Where is Christa, Leslie?"

She hesitated again, obviously afraid she might be punished for answering the question. "She took her," she said plainly.

Samís heart and throat tightened at her response but he forced calmness in his voice.

"Do you know where she took her?" 

Leslie shook her head, afraid to speak.

Sam took a breath. "Okay, Leslie. I want you to do something for me." He searched himself and found a pen in his shirt pocket. He slowly pulled it out. "Iím going to write a phone number on your hand. I want you to go into the living room and call this number." He gently took her hand and wrote the number on the back of it, thankful he hadnít Swiss-cheesed it for this leap. "Ask for Admiral Calavicci. Thatís Christaís dad, remember? Tell him everything you can. Okay, Leslie?"

She hesitated before she nodded and stood to obey. She stopped for a moment and looked at Sam. "Youíre not Christaís uncle, are you?" she stated more than asked. 

Sam swallowed and shook his head. "No. Iím not Sam Beckett," he lied, knowing that, when he leaped, it would be the truth.

Having gotten her answer, Leslie hurried to obey, not questioning her captorís change of heart.

"Ziggyís trying to find Christa," Verbena provided without being asked, having centered on Sam during his brief conversation. "Sheís having a little difficulty due to some kind of electrical interference." Her voice was filled with concern.

"Theyíre blocking our search and lock," Sam surmised, remembering that he and Al had once done the same trick to ZoŽ when they were rescuing Alia. "Can Ziggy break through the interference?"

"Sheís trying," Verbena answered, pushing buttons with desperation. "The only thing she can come up with is that sheís with ZoŽ and that theyíve left the house."

Sam hurried out of the room and stepped outside. He had seen a car outside of the kitchen window before. The car was now gone. There was no indication of another source of transportation.

"Damn it!" he exclaimed. Thereís no way I can catch up with them now! he thought grimly. Nonetheless, he immediately started to search for a means to stop ZoŽ.

 

 

The phone call had definitely caught his attention as he drove towards Albuquerque in his desperate search. Despite what the kidnappers had told him, Al Calavicci refused to let the whole situation just lie. His exact words to his wife were "Iíll be damned if Iím going to sit here and just hope for the best. Iíve got to do something."

And so that was what he was doing Ė something. He knew there was only a one in a million chance that he could find Christa by just stumbling across her but he needed something to help him feel as if he had some kind of control with the situation, even if it was a futile act.

The phone call, however, changed everything. Ziggy had patched it through to him, telling him that is was Leslie Brackenhein. He had listened to everything the girl had said with interest and controlled impatience, trying to keep Leslie calm while at the same time keeping himself calm. At least he knew Christa was alive still. And he knew that Ziggy was tracing the call as the two spoke. 

What he had hoped, however, was not to be. Christa was no longer where Leslie was. She had been taking by a woman away from the house to God knows where. The news almost made Al scream.

For now, though, the only thing Al could think of was to get to the house where Leslie was. Perhaps there was some kind of clue there as to where this woman had taken Christa and why.

As he came closer to Albuquerque, he began to pass a familiar road. He had often taken the road with Christa to a little hideaway only she and he knew about. He couldnít wait to take her up that road again so that they could sit on the rocks and tell stories to each other, so that Al could enjoy time with his youngest daughter without being disturbed by the real world.

Something nagged at the back of his brain as he passed the road and continued towards Albuquerque. He wasnít sure what it was. Beth would have called it a sixth sense reaction. Al would have called it his guts telling him something. But, either way, he knew he had to turn back. He had to go up that road without his daughter for a change.

Because, if he didnít, he would never go up that road with her again.

 

 

 

Sam had somehow got the old, worn-out Buick started and on the road, following Verbena's guidance. They now had a general idea of which direction ZoŽ had gone with Christa and they also knew that, with a few shortcuts, they could take some time off of the distance they had between them and their adversary.

"How far?" Sam demanded of the psychiatrist.

She hit the handlink with her palm, almost in a strange imitation of Al. "Youíre about ten minutes away from them now. But this car isnít handling the stress of this highway very well. If we donít slow down, itíll overheat in no time at all."

"And if I slow down, Christa could die," Sam said firmly, pushing harder on the gas pedal. "I canít let her hurt her, Verbena. I canít."

Verbena nodded with understanding and agreement. "Then Iíll start praying that this thing keeps running until we get to her."

There was silence between them for a moment as Sam tried to push the car to its limits.

"Do you think Ziggy has enough information that you could go be with her?" Sam finally asked gently.

Verbena hesitated a moment before nodding. "Sheís breaking through the block. She has a lock on her. You have to leave the city." She took a breath. "Iíll go keep an eye on her for you," she told him gently.

Sam nodded. "Thanks, ĎBena," he whispered.

She gave him a gentle smile before disappearing.
 
 

Christa struggled with the ropes that dug into her wrists and ankles, trying to scream through the gag that encompassed her mouth. The one thing she desperately wanted at that moment was to cry but she couldnít find the tears necessary to do that. She also wanted to get out of the car and run. Anything to get away from the woman in the driverís seat who looked at her with eyes that frightened her more than her fatherís when he was angry Ė and she had considered that very, very frightening.

ZoŽ smiled at her, her eyes having that gleam which indicated she was anticipating her plans for the child.

"You must calm yourself, Christa," she instructed the girl with round, soft tones that did nothing to sooth. "Thereís nowhere to run out here and your pathetic excuse for an uncle is far behind us. He will never catch up in time." She noticed the surprised look on her face. "Oh, I see. Youíve noticed that he doesnít quite look exactly like your Uncle Sam. He wasnít Sam Beckett when we kidnapped you but he is now. Didnít your father ever tell you what he does when he goes to work? Didnít he ever tell you why Uncle Sam doesnít visit anymore? No, of course, he didnít. Top secret government stuff. Canít take it home to the family. That sort of nonsense when it isnít as secret as they would like it to be." She smiled yet again at the girl. "Your dear uncle is traveling in time, little girl, and heís come to your rescue. Unfortunately for you, heís failed and nowÖ" She carefully brushed her cheek with the knuckle of her right index finger. "Now, my dear child, your father and mother will grieve for a very, very long time."

She moved as far away from her as she could, pressing herself against the door.

ZoŽ chuckled at her reaction. "Please, Christa, you really donít believe that that will work, do you? Youíre an intelligent child. Surely you know itís impossible to escape from me now." 

She turned off of the main road and continued for a few miles in silence as they approached their designation. ZoŽ had chosen this place specifically for this task, knowing that Admiral Calavicci would eventually find his way there. She could almost see him holding the small body in his arm, weeping continuously for the loss of his sweet daughter. It was a beautiful sight in her mind.

After a long while, she finally stopped the car and got out, carefully walking around to open the passengerís side door.

"Get out," she ordered the girl.

Christa slowly moved her legs out of the car, still seated in it. She couldnít do much more than that, she found, with her ankles tied as they were.

"Get out," ZoŽ ordered again. 

Christa looked at her with fear and uncertainty. Surely this woman didnít think she could move with her legs so.

ZoŽ growled in anger, grabbing the girl by her shirt and pulling her out of the car, causing her to drop to the ground a few feet away from the car. ZoŽ slammed the door closed before turning towards the girl.

"I want you to understand this very clearly, Christa. If you disobey me in anyway, I will make sure that you suffer greatly. Your death will be exceedingly painful and you will wish that you had obeyed me from the start. If you do as you are told, I will make sure that it is very quick and painless. Is that understood?"

Until that very moment, Christa had denied the possibility that she could die. However, the look on ZoŽís face convinced her that not only could she die but that she would die. Today. She couldnít help herself. She began to cry as she had wanted to before, streams of salt water adorning her cheeks, stopped only by the gag in her mouth.

ZoŽ grinned at her tears. "Excellent. Iím glad we have an understanding." She approached her slowly. "I am going to untie your ankles. If you do anything, remember what Iíve just told you."

Christa was motionless as ZoŽ untied her ankles, allowing her the chance to move her legs.

"Better," ZoŽ commented, helping the girl onto her feet. "Letís go," she ordered. "I think you know where." She forced the girl forward, urging her to lead the way.
       Verbena centered on Christa, watching with worried eyes as she was forced away from the car, her hands still bound and the gag still in its place.

"Hang on, sweetie," she said with a trembling voice. "Samís on his way." I pray, she added mentally.

Christa continued her slow march through the rocks and granite, quivering with fright. ĎGod, I donít want to die! Please, help me!í She sobbed, stopping briefly when her tears kept her from seeing where she was going.

ZoŽ shoved her back, forcing her forward and causing her to fall face-forward into the gravel.

"I didnít say you could stop, little girl," she growled. With a quick movement, she grabbed Christaís hair and raised her forcefully to her feet. "Thatís going to cost you, darling." She quickly removed the gag from her lips and untied her hands before taking several steps away. "No matter. I think right here will do nicely," she told the girl as she slowly took out a small pistol from her waistband. "Now, let me think. Where to shoot you first?"

"Please!" Christa cried, shaking uncontrollably. "Please, donít kill me!"

ZoŽ chuckled a bit. "And spoil my little present for your father? I donít think so."

Verbenaís eyes went from one to the other, frantic in her eyes. If Christa died here, now, she would never be able to forgive herself. She would never be able to face the man in the infirmary suffering from an emotional breakdown or to face the woman who was gently coaxing her husband, reminding him that Christaís death was not his fault.

"God, Sam, where are you?" she pleaded as she looked at the handlink. The odds of Sam getting there before ZoŽ pulled that trigger were less than twenty percent.

"Perhaps the knee?" ZoŽ questioned, her head tilted in such a way as to indicate she was asking someone other than Christa. Verbena didnít doubt that at all. Of course, ZoŽís Observer had to be here to watch this tragedy unfold. 

Thames smiled at the question. "It would be very painful for her."

"What do you think, my dear? Where should I shoot you first?" ZoŽ asked, turning her attention completely to Christa. 

The girl didnít say a word, crying loudly, afraid to move and also afraid not to move.

ZoŽ fired a round at Christaís feet, causing the girl to scream in fright and jump backwards.

"I asked you a question, Christa!" she demanded.

Christa finally spoke, her voice small and shaking. "I donít want to die."

ZoŽ huffed. "Too bad, child." She took her aim at Christaís heart.

There was a loud bang and Christa screamed again in terror. 

ZoŽ stood absolutely still for a moment, looking at her Observer with wide eyes of surprise before slumping forward to the hard ground, her face scratching against the gravel. Thames immediately turned around and looked at the source while pushing buttons frantically on his handlink.

Al stood a few feet away, his gun still raised; waiting to make sure that the person he had shot was not going to get up any time soon. At the same time as he lowered the gun, Sam hurried onto the scene, looking with frantic before he realized that it was Al who had fired the shot. Al looked at him quickly, freezing for a moment at the sight before he snapped out of his wonderment and hurried to his daughterís side.

"Christa!" he said with deep love as he took her into his arms. "Christa, sweetie, are you all right? I was so worried!"

"Daddy!" the girl cried into his shoulder, hugging him tightly.

The two remained in each otherís arms for a long time, causing Sam to smile with great relief. He looked towards the fallen body to see an older Al standing beside ZoŽís still form.

Al gave him a grateful smile. "Thanks, Sam." The hidden tears of joy in his eyes said so much more.

Sam slowly walked towards him, giving him a gentle smile. "Are you okay, Al?"

Al nodded slowly. "Iím okay."

They both turned their attention to the body on the ground. Very slowly, Sam lowered himself and turned ZoŽ over.

She was still alive but not for long, it seemed. Her eyes roamed the area to see the three figures that surrounded her. Just to her right was Thames, who was still fighting with his handlink to get Lothos to retrieve her before it was too late. Admiral Calavicci stood at a slight distance at her feet, looking at her with disdain and obviously waiting for her end to finally come. She couldnít blame his sentiment. In fact, she understood it all too well. Why shouldnít he hate her? She had almost succeeded in killing his youngest daughter.

The face that did surprise her was Sam Beckettís. He lookedÖ sorry for her. She couldnít understand why. She had never done anything good for him Ė just the opposite. At every chance she had, she thought of ways to ruin his life forever, had even tried to kill him three times already. 

She swallowed weakly. "This is it, then," she whispered.

"Iím sorry," Sam told her, much to the surprise of the others around him.

"Sorry?!" Al exclaimed. "Sam! This womanÖ"

Sam continued, despite Alís exclamation. "Iím sorry that your life brought you to this point. Iím sorry that the only thing you can do is hate others." He took a breath. "I forgive you."

ZoŽ chuckled, wincing at the pain the action brought. "You forgive me. You shouldnít." She looked at him as firmly as she could. "Mark my words, Dr. Beckett. You are a hunted man. Wherever you are, we will find you again. And when we do, we will finally defeat you. It doesnít matter if I live or die. Someone will find you and kill you." She slowly closed her eyes just before a flash of red crossed over her body.

She has leaped, leaving an unconscious Francine Raoul in her place.
 
 

EPILOGUE

 

It had taken a while to explain the situation to the Admiral Calavicci of 1995 but Sam was certain that no charges would be brought up against Francine Raoul and Kim Harper. He knew, after interviewing Christa and Leslie, that the girls were so frightened by ZoŽ that they shifted into an Alpha state whenever she was around them. Therefore, they had never even seen Francine Raoul before Ė only ZoŽ. As for Kim Harper, both of the girls spoke favorably of him as a person who, although he had assisted in the kidnapping, was also responsible for their rescue. It didnít take much to convince Al that Kim Harper had acted out of fear of the mysterious redheaded woman who had tormented the girls. 

As for Francine Raoul, Al tried not to explain why she wasnít hurt when he shot her. In fact, he couldnít say for certain that it was Francine whom he had shot. His mind was so focused on rescuing his daughter; the identity of Christaís would-be murderer hadnít even registered in his mind.

At the moment, Sam sat on the dilapidated couch in the house, waiting for the police to clear up the situation as neatly as possible. He watched as officers searched the house and the makeshift prison cell for further evidence of the mystery woman. Sam, however, knew the only thing that they would find was a taser. Possibly even some ropes. Everything was winding up rather neatly, all the little pieces fitting in place, other than the missing culprit.

"Why am I still here, Al?" he asked quietly of his Observer, who watched his younger self and his wife carefully and lovingly hold Christa.

"Hmm?" Al questioned, turning slightly towards him.

Sam sighed softly, understanding the distraction. "Why am I still here?" he repeated.

"Oh. Umm." Al searched for answers from the handlink. "Ziggy isnít sure. Whatís the big rush, Sam?"

Sam sighed again. "I donít know. I guess Iím just feelingÖ vulnerable. I guess. After what ZoŽ saidÖ"

Al looked at him with concern. "You really think that theyíll try to kill you?" he stated more than asked. It was a thought he didnít want to investigate. He couldnít imagine what he would do if the other project sent someone and killed his friend.

Sam shivered. "Perhaps," he whispered. 

Al took a deep breath. "Sam, look at me," he ordered. Sam obeyed slowly, looking into Alís determined eyes. "I will not let that happen," Al told him firmly. "I promise."

Even as Al made this promise, Beth approached Sam, tears in her eyes, Al and Christa just behind her. "Mr. Harper?" she asked for his attention gently.

Sam raised his head slowly to look into her teary gaze. He said nothing, giving her the chance to collect her thoughts.

"I just wantedÖ" She took a shaky breath before gently kissing his cheek. "Thank you," she whispered with all her heart. Then, without waiting for a response, she gently guided Christa out of the house.

The younger Admiral remained, looking at Sam with worn yet grateful eyes. "I think what she did says it all," he said plainly but genuinely. He turned to leave but stopped, turning back to look him in the eyes. He said nothing for a moment, just looking into Samís eyes.

"Thanks, kid," he finally said, his eyes sparkling.

Samís eyes widened as Al slowly left the building. Just as the Admiral stepped through the door, Sam leaped in a blaze of blue lightning.

 

 

Through a blue haze Dr. Sam Beckett could see he was holding something in his hand. The hum of humanity bustling around him distracted him momentarily, and when he finally focused in on his hand again he saw what it was he was holding: a plane ticket. Beyond his hand he saw a leather satchel sitting on the floor by his feet. Then he heard a womanís voice over and intercom announce, "Last call for flight number 211 to Dallas, with continuing service to Los Angeles and San Francisco, now boarding!"

  He looked up to see that he was leaning against a marble pillar inside an airport terminal. He saw a jet parked outside the huge window, with a wheeled ramp rolled up to the hatch. ĎThis is a time before tube ramps,í he thought to himself, noting his classic style of dress and dark fedora atop his head. "The 50ís?" he spoke aloud softly, looking around at the clothing styles. He also noticed the pert, uniformed blonde standing in the exit doorway, smiling at him, a confused look on her face. She whispered to a uniformed man, who then slipped out the exit and up the planeís ramp.

Sam had the feeling they were talking about him. He looked at the ticket, and saw it was for flight 211, so he grabbed the bag and stepped up to the lady, a few more passengers scrambling in line behind him.

"I thought you were on this flight, sir!" she said brightly, tearing his ticket. "Right up the ramp! Have a good flight!"

The smell of airplane fuel on a brisk wind hit him in the face as he stepped from the building. A majority of the planes on the tarmac were propeller styles, but the one he was directed to was a jet. He recalled that the jets started flying commercially in the late 50ís, and knew heíd at least partially answered the Ďwhení of this leap. All that was left was the what, who and why.

He walked up the ramp and found the copilot standing just outside the cockpit to greet him. "Good day, sir," he said with a smile. Sam got the impression that he was sizing him up. The uniformed man the woman had spoken with earlier was standing aside, waiting to disembark, but wouldnít meet Samís eyes. 

ĎWhat did I do to make them nervous?í he thought, dragging the satchel down the aisle. He found his seat, and stuffed the bag under it. He looked up to see the copilot studying him for a second, then return to the cockpit. Sam shook it off, and settled in his seat. He saw the name ĎJon Kyleí on the ticket, and noted the date as being October 9, 1959. He also saw that he was a young, white male by the look of his hands. There wasnít a wedding ring, and he let out a sigh of relief on that non-discovery. When he put the ticket back in his coat pocket the stewardess approached him and reminded him to buckle his seat belt.

As Sam went to oblige, he felt a hard lump in his armpit. He peeked inside his jacket and saw the butt of a gun in a shoulder holster. His eyes grew wide, and he quickly closed the jacket. "Oh, boyÖ am I a good guy or a bad guy?" he said softly to himself as the faint hope that Jon Kyle was going on vacation dropped from his mind.

 

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