The space was dark and cramped. And bumpy. Very bumpy. Just bumpy would
have been all right, though; it was the frequent sideways slides that got Sams
stomach rolling. He clunked his head on a window beside him and realized he was wearing a
helmet. The "Ouch!" he yelped was drowned out by the continual roaring/thumping
noise that seemed centered above his head and vaguely familiar.
Firmly grabbing the seat he was in to avoid another head banging Dr. Sam
Beckett, time traveler, took a terrified second to figure out where he was before total
panic set in. Before him in the darkness was a green glowing instrument gauge of some
kind. Sam looked carefully through the padded hood around the face of the gauge just as an
unexpected dip made his face connect with the instrument. His face was saved by the padded
hood, obviously there for that very reason, but his stomach wasnt so lucky as it
seemed to slam against his throat. To keep from throwing up, Sam tasked his brain to
figure out what the gauge was. He glanced again, uneventfully, and deduced that it was a
Looking around in the darkness, he saw he was seated behind a wall with a
small doorway in the middle. The profile of another helmeted person seated to Sams
right in front of the wall was barely visible, lighted only by the slew of gauges set low
in the front of the compartment. There was a window of some sort in front of that person,
and all Sam saw outside was darkness and rain slamming into the glass. Still peering out
the front window, Sam was suddenly shocked to see a bright light with the words
"FIRE" distinctly spelled out on it snap on above the window. Slowly, the
unidentified person reached up and tapped the light with his finger as Sams heart
rate jumped and his grip tightened on the seat. A crackly voice in his ears surprised him
and made him gasp.
"Damn thing always goes on in the rain," it said calmly, then
with an edge of laughter, "See any fire back there, Stubbs?"
It was then Sam recognized the thumping sounds.
"Oh, boy," he groaned to himself. "Im in a
International waters near Japan
October 7, 1984
Sometimes Quantum Leaping into some one elses life gave me a
new and different perspective on things. This leap gave me both of those things instantly.
I had been in a helicopter before, but not like this. The seats had been clean and
comfortable, the weather clear and sunny, it had been much quieter; it was enjoyable as
long as I didnt look down. This was as far away from that experience as Earth was to
the next galaxy in the Milky Way. There were no reference points outside due to the
complete and total blackness, and the vertigo that came over me was overwhelming and
disorienting. I was thankful to be sitting behind the pilot and just along for the ride. I
"Stubbs?" the voice repeated through the helmet earphones.
"Yoo-hoo! You asleep back there?"
"That ought to do it," another voice cut in. "Nice and
The rain instantly stopped and in a few seconds the fire light snapped off.
"Never mind, Stubbs!" the first voice said.
" k," Sam replied shakily, figuring out he was Stubbs.
The helicopter banked sideways, turning Sams stomach once again as
they slipped away from the rainstorm. They had flown into the rain on purpose?
"I sure wasnt in the mood to hose this thing down," the
second bodiless voice commented. "I wonder if theyll ever find the short that
causes that light to come on?" he added, obviously a rhetorical question.
The other voice just snorted a short laugh in reply.
Breathing deeply and slowly to control his nausea Sam tried to find the
horizon out the large window next to him. It worked for carsickness, didnt it? It
didnt work this time because he couldnt see a horizon. All he saw was inky
blackness. A flash caught his eye and he looked more intently out the window, finally
locating a weird glowing green streak. He assumed it was in the distance and below them;
it was hard to tell without any visual references, but they seemed to be heading towards
Sams death grip on the seat cushion loosened as curiosity overtook
him. The glow was a beautiful jade color, swirling in the darkness acting like a foggy
beacon. Then it hit him; phosphorescence! They were over the ocean, which explained the
darkness, and that glow was the wake of a ship! They were going to land on the ship!
The sense of relief was short lived, however, as they got closer. It was so
small against the surrounding blackness! How could they land on such a tiny target, in the
dark? They were very close now and he saw that lights were illuminating a landing circle
on the deck that looked impossibly small. His grip on the seat tightened again as they
swooped down to the target and hovered just off to the side. There was little room for
error, and Sam was glued to the window, frozen in fear as he noticed how the deck rolled
with the waves. Could this be done at all?
"You have to guide them in, Sam," a deep, gravely voice sounded
next to his head, causing him to jump and whack his head against the window yet again. The
noise of the engine was so loud he hadnt heard the Imaging Room door open.
Sam looked angrily at his holographic friend Al, and adjusted his helmet.
"Dont do that!" he snapped at him. The helicopter jerked away from the
"Do what?" came through the headphones. "Did you see
"Sam, you gotta tell them to go right, left, forward or back to hit
the landing circle. You have the best view of the deck!"
"Right or left?" Sam repeated looking out the window.
"You tell me, Stubbs!" the pilot replied. "Are you
Al pointed out the window next to Sam. "Look out there and direct
"Oh! Right!" Sam caught himself quickly, "I mean, left! Go
The helicopter edged left, almost over the circle, and Sam saw a square
painted in the center of the circle.
"They want to land directly on the square," Al said, indicating
it with his wave of his finger.
The pitching of the deck made Sams nausea return, but his desire to
be on the pad was much stronger. "Left, forward," he called, fixated on the
square and frowning in concentration. "Youre over it now!" he said
The helicopter hung for a few seconds as the pilot timed the rolling of the
deck, then quickly and expertly set down as the deck rolled away from them. There was a
normal feeling second of stillness followed by an opposite roll that sank Sam deeper into
"Well done!" Al commented. "Nothin like a Navy pilot
to have such skill!" he gloated, as if hed just landed the thing himself.
"Ive always admired heilo pilots. This vertical stuff is tough!"
"No kidding," Sam grumbled, fighting the restraints to get out of
Al gave him a patient sigh and pointed at a center buckle near Sams
waist. "Flip that," he said. Sam did, and the webbing released him. The pilot
half-visible to Sam slid the side door open so Sam could jump down.
He thought hed feel better with his feet on a solid surface but the
soaring of his stomach with the next set of swells made him wish he were back in the air.
Grabbing the open doorway of the aircraft kept him from tumbling sideways as the glared at
Als next comment.
"Its going to take you a little while to get your sea legs,
Sam," Al commented as he looked happily around. "Ah, the sea! Where men are men,
and women are afraid!" He chuckled softly as he looked around. He looked right at
"Sea legs?" Sam repeated through clenched teeth, trying to
control his stomach.
"Yeah. This is nothin. Id say a 15 degree
pitch...Ive see em land these babies at twice that angle!" Al walked to
the front of the craft as flight deck crew ran through him with wheel chocks and deck
chains. He admired the craft from all angles as Sam wobbled to one of the entryways to the
inside of the ship. The hologram noticed the lack of verbal response from Sam and turned
to him, noting his distress. "Oh, youll be OK in a day or two. Always took me
three days to acclimate on a cruise." A dreamy look passed through his eyes as he
drifted down memory lane.
"Three days!" Sam moaned, just as one of the pilots strolled by
intent on a clipboard in his hands.
"Seems like forever, huh?" the pilot said, lifting his head to
smile at Sam. "Just think, soon youll be away from this paradise!" He
laughed as he stepped through the portal into the ship.
Sam leaned against the bulkhead, unsure of his legs and roiling stomach.
"Ah the camaraderie! The brotherhood of the Navy stays with
know? Too bad this isnt a carrier. Then I could give you a tour!" Al chatted on
as he poked the handlink.
"Carrier?" Sam squawked, arms crossed over his abdomen.
"You know, air craft carrier. This is just a destroyer that handles
one submarine hunting chopper. You can really feel the old pitch and roll on these ships
because theyre smaller."
Sam just moaned at the pit-and-roll reference and stumbled into the
hallway. "Why am I here?" he griped through gritted teeth. "And
wheres my room?"
"OK, OK, hang on there, Sam." Al read the readout as he directed
Sam to get out of his flight suit and helmet. "Lets see
your name is
Eric Stubbs, youre 26 years old and a Chief Petty Officer. A good one, too! Says
here youre, I mean Erics, recommended to the Flight School. Thats why
youre leaving here, lets see.... in about 12 hours. Hes going to be an
Aviator! Thats really a privilege for an enlisted guy." Al continued to read,
obviously impressed. "They only choose a few enlisted guys a year for that program.
Erics worked his butt off to get his college degree while being enlisted. Quite the
go-getter." Al pointed to Stubbs locker in the hanger and told Sam to stow the
suit and helmet in it. Sam also put on the shoes that were in the locker and stowed the
boots. Al continued to read off the hand link. "Lets see here... Erics
parents were killed when he was 18, only child ..." he muttered as he hit the high
points of Erics life. "Pretty much on his own, and has done well, Id
say." He concluded, slipping the link back into his pocket and watched Sam with an
After changing, Sam had found an open section of the hallway that over
looked the ocean, and Sam took the opportunity to throw up into the vast darkness that was
the open sea.
"Eww, yuck. I bet you feel better now, though," Al commented
Sam just gave his holographic commentator a dirty look. He felt too
miserable to reply.
"I bet youre green, too. Good thing its dark." Al
went back to reading the link. "Anyway, Eric leaves for the States, becomes and
Officer and an aviator, and is currently a Commander. Wow, he was on the fast track! Knew
how to make influential friends." He glanced towards Sam and the disgruntled
expression finally sunk in. "Oh, your quarters...just follow me. Theres no way
you could find it yourself."
A look of relief spread over Sams face as he weakly stumbled after
his guide. "Doesnt sound like Im here for Eric. He does all right on his
"Youre right there." He rolled his eyes when Sam went right
down the first hallway. "Not turn right! I meant youre correct. Go this
way." Al pointed down the stairway. The corridor system was a nightmare; all the
halls looked alike to Sam and he felt helplessly lost as he bounced down the walls, still
unadjusted to the rolling motion. The doorways were all hatches, and Al had to remind Sam
to step over the thresholds after he barked his shin for the third time.
"My God, Al, how do you keep track of where you are? This is worse
than the Project...I think..." Sams brow furrowed for a few seconds as he tried
to focus in on a picture in his Swiss-cheesed brain of the Project deep down in the earth
of New Mexico.
"The frame numbers on the walls." Al indicated a stenciled number
high up on the wall. Sam noticed they were all over the place. "Your photographic
memory should pick this up in a snap. Each area is designated by which two ship frames
its between. The bigger the number, the further back from the bow. See?"
It made sense now. He could picture the frame in his mind like a rib cage.
"Youre in Chiefs Berthing down two levels, 2-135-2. Level
two, frame 135, port side. The flight deck is 01, the level below is 1, and so on. Got
"Yeah. The other 2 means port side. Thats
It was Als turn to roll his eyes. "Landlubbers. Yes. Port is
Gratefully, Sam found his room boldly labeled "Chiefs
Berthing" and stumbled in, collapsing on a bunk. Fortunately, no one else was in the
quarters even though there were about a dozen bunks. Al nosed around and found Erics
bunk, and directed a reluctant Sam to the proper resting spot.
"OK, so why am I here?" He could feel his bunk gently rolling
back and forth as he lay there, and closed his eyes to try and settle his stomach.
"Maybe its one of the guys in here." Sam tiredly waved his arm to indicate
the room "Find out who else is in here."
"Im on it, buddy. Now that youre safely stowed away
Ill have Beeks talk to Eric." He punched a few buttons and the Imaging Room
door opened with a clang.
Sam opened his eyes to say good bye and saw that the lighted doorway
framing Al was steady as the ship walls around it rocked back and forth. His stomach
lurched and he snapped his eyes shut again. "Yeah," he said weakly. "OK. I
just hope I dont have to be anywhere soon."
"Nope. You just came off a flight, you dont have duty, so you
have a few hours. See ya soon, ya lucky dog!" Al stepped back, a look of envy on his
face, and disappeared with the whoosh of the door. Sam watched him go with one eye, then
gratefully closed both eyes again.
He wasnt alone long. He heard the door open and footsteps come in,
still not wanting to open his eyes.
"Hey, Stubbs," the voice chirped. "Mail call. I picked up
your stuff for ya."
Sam sighed in resignation. He would just have to tolerate his queasiness
for now, and swung his legs to one side and sat up. He planted his feet firmly on the
floor and his head swam. He opened his eyes and looked up to see a handsome young man with
dark, wavy hair and a mustache holding out some mail to him. Sam noted the Officers
uniform. He took the letters, and saw they were addressed to AWC Eric Stubbs. Me, he
thought with a snort.
"Well, sounds like I shoulda left it in the mess," the man
replied to Sams reaction. Sam glanced up and saw him flip over an envelope and
it open. "Hope its not bad news," he commented to Sam as he pulled the
letter out. A stick slipped out from between the pages and bounced on the floor between
them. Sam and the man both looked at it, surprised, then the man bent over and picked it
up, and held it up under the overhead light. Sam could see a tiny + sign on
There was a heartbeat of silence before the man whispered,
"Shit," and immediately turned his attention to the letter.
Sam recognized the stick as a home pregnancy kit test results, and
instantly knew that it was the reason he was here.
Sam opened Stubbs mail, but didnt read it. He needed a reason
to stay where he was and think of a way to approach the subject with ... he glanced up and
read the name tag clipped to the mans shirt. Lt. Mike
"Uh, Mike," he ventured in a light tone. "Whats the
The man looked up, his mouth in an O shape, and his eyes wide.
"Ah," he stumbled, "It looks like Im going to be a father." He
looked rather dazed.
Sam still wasnt able to garner if that was a good thing or not.
"Thats, uh.." he hesitated, "Great?"
Mike sank down on the nearest bunk. "I think so," he said
tentatively. "Gee, I guess that means we have to get married."
'Bingo!' Sam thought. Now all he had to do was confirm with Al if he was here
to get them married or keep them apart; only Ziggy could supply that information. The
hologram was never around when he needed him! When did Al say he was leaving the ship? Two
days? Or was that when hed be home? He needed information. Now.
"What do you want to do?" Sam asked gently. He didnt know
how close these men were, and relied on Als comment about the camaraderie of
shipmates to pry further.
Mike hesitated for just a second. "Denise is great," he breathed,
smiling. "Weve only been dating a few months, but we have this connection, you
know?" His eyes became a bit unfocused. "I know Ive only been divorced a
little while. And I admit I was on the rebound for awhile." He chuckled, shaking his
head. "That would explain why I went out with Janet!"
Sam frowned. "Janet?"
"Yeah, I told you about her. The body builder?" Sam gave him a
blank look. "Great body, but a nutcase? I told you all about her taking a steak knife
to my apartment door!"
"Oh, yeah!" Sam covered, trying not to look totally appalled.
"Janet. I forgot her name." Controlling his facial expression to his shock was
difficult, but Mike went on, oblivious to the struggle.
"Boy, when I dumped Janet to date Denise, she was pissed. Anyway,
Denise was like, I dont know how to put it. It was like we knew each other our whole
lives. We could never get close enough. Ive never felt like that before. Not even
with my ex-wife."
Sam smiled. A knowing flash went through him, but he was immediately
confused by it. 'Why did he relate to that feeling? Did he have someone like that at home?'
He quietly cursed his Swiss-cheesed brain and made a mental note to ask Al about it.
"We talked about getting married before I left, but weve only
known each other for about 4 months," Mike hesitated for a few seconds, unconsciously
rolling the test stick between his fingers. "Even though it feels right, Im
still spooked from Debbie dumping me two years after our wedding. Maybe Im just on
the rebound; it wouldnt be fair to Denise."
As Mike spoke, Sams gut instinct was telling him that he was here to
make sure these two got together. There was true admiration, respect and love in his tone
as he spoke about Denise, and marriage obviously was a serious commitment for Mike; he
didnt take it lightly or jokingly. It didnt sound like Mike needed much of a
push to go in that direction.
Sams attention refocused as Mike let out a short laugh and re-folded
"She had a feeling she was pregnant when I left for this cruise,"
he laughed. "I told her it was probably a false alarm. I made a joke about how she
may be engaged to someone else by the time I got back. Six months is a long time." He
stuffed the letter in his shirt pocket. "I didnt really expect her to wait for
me. Shes so great. I wouldnt have been surprised if she was engaged!" He
laughed again, shaking his head. "She kept insisting she was sure she was pregnant,
and asked me what we would do if she was. I was leaving the next day for this cruise. She
wanted a serious answer."
Mike glanced up and Sam caught his eye. "Well?" Sam asked with a
raised eyebrow. "What did you tell her?"
There was a few silent seconds as a slight grin tugged at the corner of
Mikes mouth. His voice was a little softer when he answered, "I told her
Id just have to marry her. And I meant it. Now, Im not sure. I really
didnt think she was pregnant."
Something tugged at Sams mind. Six months? This was a six month
cruise? The guy on the flight deck said Sam would be gone soon for Flight School.
"How long have we been gone now?" Sam asked casually.
"One month, three days, and 15 hours," Mike replied instantly.
"Not that Im keeping track."
Sam did some quick calculations, and said, "So shes about eight
weeks along then?"
"I guess so," Mike replied. "She also said shed want to get married
before the baby was born. Wow, thats about the time Id get back! I dont
know about this...."
Sam was just about to reply when an announcement came over the speakers.
"Lieutenant OConnell , Lieutenant Commander Hines to the flight deck
immediately," the voice squawked , repeating itself once.
Mike stood up. "Sounds like somethings up," he commented,
standing and striding to the door. Sam, forgetting his queasiness, followed Mike through
the labyrinth of hallways to the flight deck he had just left. He didnt trip once in
any of the hatchways and managed to keep up with the rapid pace Mike set. On their arrival
at the deck, Mike immediately grabbed his flight suit and helmet from a locker and started
suiting up. Another officer soon joined them, also dressing out, talking rapidly to Mike.
Must be Hines, Sam thought.
"Whats up?" Mike asked Hines.
"Medical emergency," Hines said calmly. "Were to air
lift a fisherman to the carrier."
At the sound of medical emergency, Sam automatically grabbed his suit from
Stubbs locker, his fear of flying gone.
"What are you doing?" Mike asked. "Perantu is in back
Sam turned around to see a curly haired, redheaded man step into the room.
Sam could tell he wasnt well; swollen eyes, red nose and a tell tale tilt of his
head to one side.
"Hes sick," Sam said instantly, recognizing the tell tale
signs of an ear infection. Possibly a sinus infection, too, if not both. 'This man
shouldnt be flying,' Sam thought. 'His balance and decision making will be way off due
to the pain he must be experiencing.'
"Im fine," Perantu snapped in reply.
With his helmet on, Sam didnt hear the sound of the Imaging Room door
open, but the motion of a brightly dressed person moving in his peripheral vision caught
"Youre right, Sam, hes sick and shouldnt be
Sam didnt dare look at Al, because Mike was looking right at him.
"Airman Perantu there may be the reason this rescue fails. One man
dies, and another is seriously injured in an accident that he should have seen coming, but
didnt. No one knows why."
"He has a sinus infection," Sam said out loud, nodding towards
Mike and Hines looked at the man in question.
"But just try to tell an air crew member he cant
sounded somber. "Its a sign of weakness to them to be sick and be taken off the
flight schedule, so a lot of them fly anyway. It rarely effects a mission, but this time
it does. The guy they airlift dies, and the Corpsman almost drowns. There is suspicion
that Perantu was incapacitated and unable to perform his duties in the back, but nothing
go," Sam insisted, catching Hines eye. He was the
ranking Officer in charge of this flight, and had the power to make that decision.
Hines turned back to Sam. "Youre right.
Perantu, get to sick
bay. Stubbs, Mike, lets go. Wheres the Corpsman?" Perantu threw his
helmet into his locker with a loud bang as they left the room for the flight deck.
Weather conditions had worsened since Sam had landed the first time. He had
noticed the more severe pitch to the deck, and he could see flashes of lightning in the
distance. It was still so dark that he couldnt see a horizon, but the lightning
reflected off the water enough to give him some reference. He felt his eyes grow wide when
he realized they were flying right towards the lightning, and noticed the whitecaps
glowing in the water below. The Corpsman that had met them in the chopper was quietly
sitting in the jump seat, oblivious to the chaos they were approaching.
Al coached Sam on the radar and how to use it to track the worst parts of
the storm, and relay the proper information to the pilots. He also noted that dawn was
near, and there should be some light to maneuver by during the pick up. Sam did notice
that there was a slight grayness out the window, but he also noticed the sky being
swallowed up by huge clouds, heavy rain slamming into the aircraft, and the water
sensitive "FIRE" light blinking overhead. He prayed the pilots were as good as
"They dont crash in the original timeline, Sam, so relax.
this kind of flying makes you feel so alive!" Als eyes were shining with
exciting memories, none of which Sam cared to hear at this point. He was too busy trying
to keep his seat and focus on the radar. It was an eternity of heart pounding lurches and
thumps a before Al pointed out something on the radar. "There they are, Sam, dead
ahead about 1 mile! Tell em!"
Sam did what he was told, and soon saw the fishing trawler in trouble
bobbing off to the side, lights on against the dark water, barely visible in the feeble
"Wow, Sam, this ought to be fun! Theres no landing pad, so
its gonna be a basket rescue!"
"Yeah, great," Sam mumbled, feeling a slight surge of vertigo as
the aircraft dropped lower, hovering near the boat.
"Direct em Sam," Al reminded him. "You need to be over
that flat area there, but look out for all the antennas."
The pitch of the deck was treacherous. Sam fought down his fear and gave
them the information they needed in a calm manner, although his palms were damp and he
could feel sweat running down his neck. The pilots were all business. This is what they
trained for their entire careers, Sam thought, as he felt his confidence in these men
growing with each passing minute. The Corpsman readied the rescue basket and harnessed
himself up, which was quiet a feat in the rock and roll.
Finally, they were ready. Hines told them the victim was ready below, and
to go ahead and drop the basket and Corpsman. Al pointed out the wince, and directed Sam
in hooking up the man in his horse collar and the rescue basket. When he slid
the door open he was greeted with a blast of icy wind and rain that assaulted his face,
the only uncovered part of his body. Bravely, the Corpsman swung out, and Sam carefully
winced him down, hanging out the doorway for a better view.
Swinging wildly in the wind, the pilots did an exceptional job of keeping
the machine over the open spot on the deck. When the Corpsman hit the deck he was
instantly greeted by four men decked in foul weather gear holding up a fifth man between
them. They secured the man in the basket, and all but one scurried back inside the
boathouse. With the two men below initially steadying the basket, Sam winced it up without
"That went great, Sam!" Al yelled over the rotor noise and wind.
"The problems all occur next. The Corpsman slips the collar and goes in the drink,
and this guy," he pointed to the dripping basket, "bleeds to death. Something
happens with the wind, according to the pilots, but no one is able to say what happens
back here. Perantu claims he was knocked out."
"Ready!" the pilot reported in Sams ear.
Sam leaned out again, watching the cable lower. The Corpsman hooked up, and
gave Sam a thumbs up. Sam turned on the wince and started reeling him in. He wasnt
far off the deck when he started swinging.
"Look out, Sam! Thats bad! Tell the pilots hes
Sam did so, and the pilots compensated but not quickly enough. Suddenly an
unusually huge blast of wind hit them broadside, and the chopper dipped and twisted
sideways. Sam was prepared and held on, but saw the Corpsman swung right into an antenna,
snapping his head back in a frightening manner. His body went limp.
"Oh, Sam, hes knocked out! You gotta get him up here pronto!
Hes gonna slip the collar!"
There was no way to adjust the wince speed, but Sam, ignoring his fear of
heights, hung out the doorway and clawed at the man when he was close enough to grab. Just
as he had the mans arm, he felt the body slipping the collar. Sam held on
desperately, noting the wild waters far below and the fishing boat bobbing madly off to
the side. The wind had blown them aside quite a way!
He was able to hang on until the Corpsman was safely inside, Dr. Beckett
quickly checked his vital signs and closed the door. "Were OK! GO!" he
told the pilots, and moved his attention to the fisherman and his own pounding heart. All
Sam saw of his face was dripping hair and beard and wide, brown eyes regarding him.
Sam checked the mans vital signs and they were strong. The thickly
bearded man quietly watched Sam as he was being examined. He was very pale, and Sam was
surprised he wasnt in shock when he unwrapped the plastic from his heavily wrapped
arm. There was some spotting of blood on the end of the arm, where the wrapping was
The mans eyes were dark and somber, and followed Sam with interest.
"There should be a packet of documents in there somewhere, Sam,"
Al offered, stepping next to his friend. He pointed the unlit cigar in his fingers towards
the mans stomach area. They were both astonished when the mans eyes raised to
meet Als, and grew wide with surprise.
outfitzthat?" the man slurred, eyes locked on
Als electric blue and canary suit. Sam had been leaning down and heard him in spite
of the engine noise. Sam glanced at Al.
Al interpreted the look. "He can see me?" Al asked, astonished.
"Who couldnt?" Sam snapped as he snatched up the medical
papers. It was difficult to read in the pitching airship, but the amount of drugs in this
mans system would make it easy to write Al off as an hallucination.
"Youve got enough morphine in you to see whatever you want,
pal!" Sam said to him, figuring Al would pick up on the idea.
"Oh! I get it. A hallucination," Al sounded rather insulted.
"Id rather be a blondes dream." He leaned closer to the man.
"Meetoo," the passenger agreed. Sam smirked.
"Smartass," Al groused quietly.
"Hey," the man mumbled at Sam. "Thandzinthere."
Confused, Sam tried to figure out what he said. "Youre
hangin in there?" he questioned.
"Put your hand there?" Al guessed. "He wants to shake
Then Sam recalled what Al had told him about the man bleeding to death in
the original history, and frantically pawed through the mans blankets.
"Who are you talking to back there?" Sam heard in his helmet.
"Is he still conscious?" It was Hines.
"Yeah," Sam replied, finding what he was looking for and pulling
it out. It was a plastic ziplock bag packed with ice and ... a human hand.
"Is his hand in there somewhere?"
the pilot inquired.
"Aww, yuck!" Al commented. "I forgot to mention that."
"Thanks," Sam mumbled after the initial shock. "Yeah, got
it!" he said to Hines, who he could hear laughing in his helmet.
"Sorry!" Hines laughed, the noise and bumping of the chopper in
the background. "The Commander briefed Perantu, but didnt have time to tell
"Izmyrinonthere?" The man mumbled.
"WHAT?" Sam yelled over the motor noise, which grew louder as the
machine rose higher in the air.
"Mrin." The guy muttered, raising his wrapped left arm. Just then
the helicopter lurched sickeningly to the side again, slamming the metal basket against
the wall along with Sam. The mans arm somehow got crushed between the basket rim and
the wall, and the wrappings instantly turned bright red.
"SAM! Hes passed out!"
Sam saw that his eyes were rolled back into his head as the bloody arm
flopped down across his chest. The bagged hand skittered along the floor and wedged itself
under Sams seat. He didnt notice as he leaped onto the man, yelling,
"Ive got an arterial bleed!" to his companions. He frantically clawed at
the wrapping, looking for and end.
"There should be a survival knife in your flight suit, Sam! Cut it
off!" Al pointed at one of the many pockets of the suit, and Sam unzipped it. There
was a huge folding knife inside. "This is why he bled to death the first time!
Perantu must not have been able to stop the bleeding!"
He pulled it out and sawed at the bandages, which were saturated with
blood. He cut a long opening along the top of the stump and peeled the wrappings back.
"Got it!" Sam barked, reaching in and pinching off the artery with his fingers.
To Al he said, "This had to happen sometime. There wasnt much keeping this from
bleeding again. Perantu must have been distracted the first time."
Punching the handlink Al said, "It was pretty wild recovering the
Corpsman from the water the first time. Perantu could have been distracted, or even passed
out like he said. Doesnt matter now."
It was a long and bumpy ride to the carrier, which was also in the storm.
There was plenty of flight deck to land on there, so Sam didnt need to direct this
time. His fingers were numb from closing the artery. The Corpsman was just starting to
come around when the door slid open he was scooped out.
"Hes gonna be all
right," Al said, reading the link.
"No hypothermia to deal with this time, so hes back to work in a couple of
A doctor came in and relieved Sam, and asked about the hand as they off
loaded the patient. Sam felt around and reached under his seat, pulling the bag out just
as Mike appeared at the open side door. "Ill take it in, Eric," he said.
"You need to clean up. Good job!"
Sam gave him the bag, and Mike looked at the contents. "Hey, his
wedding ring is still on there!" he commented.
"He asked about that," Sam said, realizing thats what the
man had been trying to find out.
Mike regarded the ringed hand for a few seconds, then grinned slightly and
trotted off, following the medical team. "It gets re-attached all right," Al
says, "but not a whole lot of function. But hes alive! Doesnt go back to
fishing, but does all right running a tackle shop in town. Hes still there, as a
matter of fact! You should be leaping soon, buddy."
Sam felt otherwise. "No," he said, recalling the way Mike looked
at the wedding ring on the severed hand. "Im not done. What happens to Mike in
the original history?"
"Mike? The pilot?" Al looked confused. "Whats he got
to do with anything?"
"Hes why Im here, Im sure. Just look into it, will
you?" Sam made his way through a hatch and down a hall to the nearest bathroom to
clean up. He noticed the pitching on a ship this size was minimal in this weather, and
felt a sense on relief. Washing himself off, he listened as Al read Mikes history.
"Well, he finishes this cruise without incident, gets orders to
Jacksonville on his return and is currently a Commander. He looks fine."
"Does he ever get married?"
"Ah...yes. In a couple of years. His career becomes the center of both
their lives, which is why he does so well."
"Ah, no. Wait," Al punched the protesting link, and gave it a
shake. "Here we go. He has a child, Riley, listed as a dependent. Whered he
come from? He didnt have kids with the first or the second wife."
"Thats why Im here, Al. To have him marry the right
person. The boys mother."
Al looked skeptical. "I suppose you know who she is?"
"Denise is her first name. Ill get the rest."
"OK, and while youre looking for that, Ill see what I can find out from
Ziggy." The Imaging Room door swooshed open behind the hologram. "Ill be
back. Ha!" he laughed as he stepped back through the door. "Sounds just like
Swartzenagger," then the door slipped shut.
There were very few hours left for Sam to pack up Eric Stubbs things.
He hoped he got them all. At Mikes suggestion, he packed up most everything to be
mailed back, and arranged for that to happen. Mike helped him pack, regaling Sam with
flight school stories all the while. During a break, Sam brought up the subject of
marriage, and what he had decided to do.
Mike grew quiet. "You know," he said, "that guy we rescued?
Married 15 years. And he goes out for months at a time every year to fish. I asked him how
his wife liked that."
"What did he say?"
"Not much, really. It was his face as he talked that I remember. He
did say that he knew she was the one after a few days. I guess it happens," Mike
rubbed his neck.
"But youre not sure it could happen to you," Sam guessed.
"Yeah." Mike was quiet for a minute. "You know, deep inside
I know that we would get married, Denise and I. Im sure of it; more sure than the
first time around. And Ive always wanted kids."
"So, whats the problem?"
The pilot stood up. "I really think we should be married before the
baby is born. You saw that rescue today. Anything could have gone wrong. When I think of
how both those men could have died so easily... I dont know."
"It makes you realize how fragile life is, doesnt it?" Sam
"Yeah," Mike agreed. "I want to marry her now. If something
happens, our child needs support. Theyll have that if were married."
The sound of the Imaging Room door announced Als entrance. "So,
get married now."
Sam looked at him like he was nuts. "Get married now?"
"How do I do that?" Mike answered.
"How?" Sam replied, throwing a questioning look at Al.
"Vegas!" Al replied happily. "Get married by proxy."
"Married by proxy?" Sam repeated, confused.
"Ive heard of that," Mike mused.
"Yeah!" Al said enthusiastically. "Ziggy says all you need
is a specific power of attorney. They have lawyers here on the ship. They can write it
Sam turned to Mike. "You need a power of attorney..."
Al helped. "It has to be specific. It has to say that Mike wants to
marry Denise, and have someone listed as Mikes stand in."
".... that says who you want to marry and who will stand in for you.
They accept them in Las Vegas," Sam finished.
Mikes face instantly brightened up. "Hey! Thats perfect! I
can list you, and you can do it when you get back! You said you had a couple of days with
nothing to do!"
"Ah, sure," Sam glanced at Al. How close were these two?
Al poked at the link. "Says here you, I mean Eric, and Mike invest in
real estate together eventually, so they must be good friends. You can do this, Sam!"
"OK," Sam declared, a little hesitantly.
"Ill go see the lawyers now. Then I guess I should call Denise,
if the Captain will let me," Mike darted from the room. "Not much time before
you go, bud! I like this!" he said, hesitating just outside the door. "I
dont have to even rent a tux!" Then he was gone.
Finally alone, Sam faced his holographic friend. "So, why didnt
he do this in the original history? Or marry her when he got back last time?"
Al bounced happily on his toes. "I guess its like the first time
skydiving," he replied with a gleam in his eye. "He just needed a little
"And no one did the pushing last time."
Sam sighed and continued the seemingly endless job of packing. His flight
left in just under three hours, and he wondered if this event was going to be as simple as
It was almost two days before Sam saw the San Diego city skyline from an
airplane window. The old P-3 skimmed over the sandy beaches and scantily clad bathers of
Coronado Island just before touching down on the runway at North Island Naval Air Station.
Sam could just imagine Al oohhing and ahhing and dredging up memories from his time here.
What did Al call this place? The birthplace of Naval Aviation? The hologram had been a
sporadic companion during the trip back to the States. He finally got a little information
on Denise from the sons Navy database. Her last name was Green, and she was a
professional woman, a travel agent that owned her own office with one partner and did very
well. She never married in the original history, and did an admirable job raising Riley.
He had some behavior problems, not having a father active in his life, and could have done
better in school. It was looking, even to Al, that the purpose of this leap was to make
sure kismet happened this time; it was obvious these two were a perfect match. They just
needed a boost.
The heat blasted his face when he stepped onto the ramp that was rolled up
to the planes hatch. The tarmac reflected that heat, and Sam felt his shoes growing
hot as he walked to the hangers. It certainly wasnt like October in Indiana. It felt
like the middle of summer.
As he got closer to the hangers he saw a variety of cars parked alongside,
and changed the focus of his attention from the weather to the people gathered at the
hanger. Mike had only a couple pictures of Denise that he was willing to part with, and
after studying them Sam was sure he could pick her out.
His thoughts flashed back to his last hour before leaving the destroyer.
Mike had called Denise, and they had agreed to go ahead with the wedding. She
said she sure didnt want to walk down the aisle with a basketball stomach, and it
would make her feel better knowing Mike was there for them, albeit physically separated.
Sam was amazed at their devotion and practicality; no whining about a fancy ceremony from
her. Sam was looking forward to meeting her.
Mike had also warned Sam about the uproar this would probably cause in the
flying community. There was a group of Commanders wives that were very snooty and
proper that would probably find all this offensive, and may make things difficult for
Denise. This wives group didnt take kindly to girlfriends acting like wives,
and rarely accepted them in the community.
It could get ugly...but not nearly as ugly as the telegram Mike had
received from Janet, the girl he had dated prior to Denise. It seemed that word of the
unconventional wedding had already been spread to the rest of the squadron here in San
Diego when Mike had called to arrange clearance for Denise to come on base and pick up
Sam. Janet, who worked on the base, happened to be in the squadron office when Mike had
called in, and overheard the entire conversation. She had immediately sent him a telegram,
knowing that it would be read by several people on the ship before it even got to
"Dear Mike," it had said. "You dont have to marry her
because of this. These things can be taken care of before you even return! Youre
making a stupid mistake, and Im sure youll regret it. Im trying to warn
you, as a friend, to stop this now and wait until you get back. Youll change your
mind by then and see Im right. Love always, Janet."
It had been very embarrassing receiving that note. Telegrams were usually
sent only on life-and -death issues, and it raised a few eyebrows among the command staff.
His personal life was now the top gossip subject of the entire squadron, on the ship and
here in San Diego, and Mike did not like that kind of attention. Sam didnt know how
Denise would handle it; it would be great if she didnt care, but for some reason he
knew that it wouldnt be that easy. All Mike said about it was that Denise was strong
and confident, and would come through the whole thing with flying colors. His face always
glowed when he talked about her, and that made Sam smile. Such faith was a wonderful
Sam picked Denise out immediately. She was the only one there not in
uniform. Al had gotten an eyeful of her photos, and Sam wasnt surprised to hear the
Imaging Room door slide open as he approached her.
"Yowza! Even with a bun in the oven, she looks terrific!" Al
leered from behind Sam somewhere. "I wonder if those are all milk, or the real
Sam didnt have to ask what he was referring to. He dipped his head
and covered his mouth, pretending to cough, and growled, "Stop it, will you?"
She was smiling, wearing a sleeveless dress and sunglasses, her long, dark
hair blowing back from her shoulders with the breeze. No one was standing with her, and
Sam saw a couple of the uniformed personnel from his flight glance her way after speaking
to the ground crew. She was oblivious to the looks.
"Hi!" she said cheerfully as Sam approached. "Id know
you anywhere, Eric. Mike had some pictures from your last cruise shore leave in Hong
"Uh, oh," Al warned, noting the smirk on her face. "Those
usually arent too flattering...."
"Oh, yeah?" Sam said innocently, taking her hand. She had a firm
"I especially like the ones with the snake and the monkey," she
had a big grin now.
"I like a woman with a sense of humor!" Al leered. "I know
the kind of picture shes talking about....just laugh, Sam, and say I
dont remember much from that trip."
"I, ah, dont remember much from that, uh, trip," he
stammered to her smiling face.
"Yeah, I believe that!" She laughed and tossed her head aside,
and pointed to the direction of the car. "Im parked over here. This is pretty
"You dont know the half of it, honey," Al quipped.
Sam shot him a glare as he followed her. "I guess you could call it
that. It depends on your attitude, I think."
She started to unlock a gray Mustang. "I agree 100%. Attitude is what
makes you or breaks you, isnt it?"
Sam really liked this girl. He tossed his substantially loaded bags into
the trunk and rubbed his sore shoulders. Just before climbing in the passenger side, he
pulled out a large envelope. "Here you go," he said, handing it to her with a
smile. "All the proper paperwork, and a letter from Mike."
She took the envelope with a blush and opened it, a slight smile breaking
out as she read the power of attorney. "And my mom was always afraid I would elope!
This sure caught her off guard." She slipped it back into the envelope. "Dad
thinks its great. They both are meeting us in Vegas along with my brother and sister
and their spouses. Should be fun!"
"Sounds like it," Al said brightly.
"Yeah," Sam agreed slowly, watching her carefully. "Are you
She held the letter from Mike against her heart, then slipped it in her
purse to read later, in private. "Im fine, really. It would be great if Mike
were here, but I never was one for those fru-fru weddings anyway." She buckled her
seat belt and grinned happily. "You cant say this wont be
With that, she put the car in gear and pulled out of the lot, not noticing
the blonde woman watching her from the open hanger. If looks could kill, Denise would have
been cold on the tarmac a long time ago.
The plan was to leave for Las Vegas before dawn in her car, since
Erics was at his home in Florida. They hoped to get the marriage license before the
License Office in the late afternoon, and have a nice dinner with her family that night.
The actual ceremony would be late in the day the second day; they needed to locate a
decent chapel and allow time for Denise to get ready. As Sam helped Denise fix dinner,
they discussed what he should wear.
"So, standing in for Mike as the groom, does that mean youre the
best man, too?" She asked with a giggle.
"I guess so!" he replied with a smile. "This isnt too
weird for you, is it?"
"No, not really." She started some pasta to go with her simmering
sauce, and indicated Sam to set the table. "Im sure there will be people out
there that wont be surprised at my bucking tradition."
Denise was easy to talk to, smart, and a good cook on top of all that.
"Well," she admitted, "Spaghetti sauce is my specialty. I can make a ton,
freeze it, and end up cooking only once a week!" Between cooking and chatting, she
finished packing and answered the endlessly ringing phone. Most of the calls were good
wishes from friends and distant relatives, confirming the story of getting married without
the groom being present, but there were a lot of hang ups with no messages mixed in. It
was as close as Sam ever saw her lose her cool when she slammed the phone down at yet
another hang up. "WHO IS THAT?" She growled loudly between clenched teeth.
"I dont have time for this!"
It was close to midnight with they finally settled down to get a few hours
sleep. Sam had packed the car, and was settling down on the couch. The phone has finally
stopped ringing around 10:30, and it was quiet in the apartment except for the occasional
sound of a car passing by outside. Sam felt good about this leap. After meeting Denise, he
knew this is what he was here for. Mike and Denise were soul mates.
Al had stopped by a few times without any more information, and Sam
suspected he was checking to see what she was packing for her wedding night.
"Jeeze, Al, her husband wont even be there!" Sam pointed
"Hey, I dont need a logical reason to inspect a lingerie
drawer!" he protested jovially. Sams eyes were just closing when he heard the
Imaging Room door open. He was so tired he didnt even jump. "What do you
want?" he asked, eyes closed.
"Just checking in one last time," his friend responded. "I
have a romantic dinner date with Beth planned, so I want to be sure I have a few hours, if
you catch my drift!" His voice had a leer to it that Sam knew was connected with
dirty thoughts. "Well, maybe you wont."
"I get it," Sam replied wearily. "Get out of here. Im
going to sleep."
"Im not!" Al replied perkily. Sam could envision the
sparkle in his eye. "Ill be back in....."
Al was interrupted by the sudden sound of shattering glass and squealing
car tires. Sam leaped off the couch in time to see a large rock bounce on the floor right
through Als feet. The sliding glass door to the small patio was shattered into a
million shards, and spread all over the living room. Sam hurriedly grabbed for his pants
"WHAT WAS THAT?!" He heard Denise shout from the back room.
"Go see who did that, Al!" Sam hissed as he slipped the shoes on
and tiptoed through the glass.
"Im on it, Sam!" Al disappeared.
Denise ran down the hall, robe flapping behind her. Sam called out for her
to stay back as he carefully stepped through the gaping, glass hole in the door. He leaned
over the patio wall, but didnt see anything. He could hear a car accelerating madly
in the distance, but couldnt be sure if it was the same one hed heard before.
"Oh, my God!" Denise breathed. "Who would do that?"
Sam came back in. "I didnt see the car," he said as he pulled on his
shirt. "Im going to check out side."
"Well, I coming with you!" Denise snapped, putting on the
slippers she had in her hand.
They both edged outside. Nothing was amiss out front, and on a feeling, Sam
decided to check the car. When they rounded the corner to the carport, he noticed the
security lights near her car were out. Not a good sign. He held Denise behind him as they
approached her car, listening intently. They both held their breath. When they were close
enough to make out the shape of the car, Denise gasped just as Al popped in next to Sam,
causing him to jump.
"Sorry," Al and Denise said together.
"My car!" Denise yelped angrily. "Who did this??!!"
The gray Mustang was lurched to one side, two tires slashed and flat. The
windshield was cracked and the sides spray painted.
"I didnt see anyone, Sam," Al said, pounding the handlink.
"They got away."
Sam inspected the car on the other side as Denise swore a blue
Something about the back window caught Sams eye. He leaned closer and
squinted in the darkness.
"What?" Denise snapped. "What is it?"
"Looks like writing," Al noted.
"I think its red lipstick," Sam said, touching the words
with his finger tip.
Denise stepped to the back and put her hand to her mouth as she read the
writing, furious. "Whore" and "bitch" were scrawled across the window
with such force that the last little chunk of lipstick, broken from its case, was stuck to
the glass at the bottom of the h.
"Ill run more background checks," Al said coldly.
"Gooshie! Tell Beth Ill be late!" he hollered as he punched the link, and
stepped back through the open door. "We obviously missed a nutcase somewhere."
Sam nodded, and put his arms around Denise, who was now crying in anger.
They got a couple of hours sleep after unloading the car. Denise was
up early to borrow another car and arrange to get her Mustang towed to the body shop. Her
business partner, Carol, was a big help and loaned them her Camero. They finally hit the
road late in the afternoon, deciding to shift plans around and on arrival in Vegas and
look for the chapel first and get the license in the morning. Dinner would be late. Sam
could see that Denise was tense, but after getting out of the city in more open California
desert, she started to relax.
"I love driving," she commented. "I sure hope they can fix
my baby all right!"
"Your car is your baby?" Sam laughed.
"Sure!" she replied. "We go everywhere together!
Thatll change with all this," she added, biting her lip. Then she smiled.
"For the better, I know, but any change is scary."
Sam admired her positive attitude in the midst of all this.
"True," he commented.
It was getting dark as they started into the long desert stretch that ended
at the edge of the neon lights of Las Vegas. It was midweek, so traffic was fairly light.
Sam hadnt seen Al since the previous night, and was wondering where he was.
"Gee, you think that car could get any closer? They have the whole
rest of the road!" Denise adjusted the rearview mirror so the headlights of the car
behind them didnt reflect in her eyes. "They even have their high beams on!
What a putz!"
The hairs on Sams neck rose as a chill swept through him. When he
turned to look, he couldnt help but notice that they were in an especially empty and
isolated part of the desert. He had the feeling this wasnt a coincidence. All he
could see were bright headlights, impossibly close and getting closer. Then, the car
"Hey!" Denise shouted, fighting to keep the Camero in her lane.
The car bumped them again, and Sam was thrown sharply into the side window as Denise
corrected their path. "Whats he doing?!"
The swoosh of the Imaging Room door was simultaneous with the sound of
Als voice. "Whoa! This is a wild ride! I think Ziggy figured out whos
doing all this!"
"Who?" he asked, grabbing the dashboard.
"The guy back there, who do you think?!?" Denise shouted.
"Her name is Janet Barnes. She dated Mike before he met Denise."
Sam recalled the comment Mike had made about her, and how he had regretted
getting involved with her. Of course! It all fit! The embarrassing telegram (which Denise
didnt know about), the phone hang ups, the Mustang.
The Camero swerved wildly as they were struck again. Denise had a death
grip on the steering wheel, and a determined angle to her chin. "What do I do,
Eric?" she yelled, keeping her eyes on the road.
"Theres an all night gas station about two miles up, Sam. Go
"Look for lights," Sam said. "Theres got to be a gas
station around here!"
As they rounded a sweeping turn around a small hill they saw the twinkling
of lights in the distance.
"There it is!" Al yelled, pointing it out as he floated in the
"I see lights!" Denise said excitedly.
At the sight of the lights, the car dropped way back and made a U-turn.
Neither one could see the license plate or car type, but they stopped at the station and
called the Highway Patrol anyway. Denise toyed with the idea of going after the car, but
took into consideration her condition, and decided against it. Sam took a walk outside the
station to talk to Al as they waited for the police.
"In the original history, Janet Barnes tries to get back together with
Mike, but he goes off to flight school in Florida. She hooks up some other Navy guys, and
all the relationships turn violent," Al squinted at the readout of the handlink.
"She ends up an alcoholic and alone. What a pathetic person."
"What took you so long to find her?"
"Well, Ziggy was so enthralled at the prospect of a Vegas wedding, she
got a bit off track."
"Well, the mathematical aspects of gambling, the romance of a wedding,
and the interesting legal ramifications of a wedding by proxy got her off in all sorts of
Al shrugged his shoulders at Sams astonished look. "She even
started laying odds on how long the marriage would last! Plus, Mike only dated Janet a
couple of times, and Erics brain is so Swiss-cheesed in the waiting room that he can
hardly remember his name, let alone who Mike dated. He couldnt even tell us
Mikes whole name or the ex-wifes name!" Al shrugged, looking sheepishly
at Sam. "We arent mind readers, ya know!"
"Clearly," Sam said, annoyed.
"And this Janet gal is a real space case. She changed her last name,
at least twice, to that of the guy she was dating at the time! More than a tad possessive,
Id say," Al had a visible shiver at that thought. "Scares off who ever she
dates for more than a month. Any way, the name changes are what threw us off on the
"She needs professional help," Sam said.
"No kidding. But it looks like shes gone for now, and
heres the cops." The door slid open. "Ill check with you later,
Sam nodded, and went to talk to the officers as the door closed.
They finally made it into Vegas much later than they wanted, and had little
time before dinner with her family. Driving through town, Denise saw a series of chapels
that just seemed tacky, as she put it. Finally, standing apart from the glitzy collection
along one street, she spied a less flamboyant chapel simply named "Chapel of the
Roses". Driving by, she dove into the parking lot suddenly, catching Sam off guard.
"Here we go!" she stated. "This one feels right! Lets
go in, quick."
The parked and walked to the front door. Sam had to agree, it was a lot
less tacky. It was almost, but not quite, classy in appearance, with lots of stained glass
and wood. The inside lobby was neat and clean, with many pictures on the wall of the lucky
couples who were joined in this very establishment. There were four doors inside, each
with a different stained glass rose on the door. Only one was closed.
"We have a ceremony in that one," the matronly receptionist said
with a smile, pointing at the door.
"Looks great, I need an appointment," Denise said, getting right
to business. The receptionists smile never left her lips as she jotted down a time
in what looked like a dentists appointment book. She then gave Denise a pamphlet of
the details she may have forgotten on how to have a memorable ceremony. "Yeah,
yeah," Denise said, "See ya tomorrow!"
In the car Sam noted with a laugh that she seemed to rather short with the
"I know, I know," Denise said with a sigh as she backed up.
"I just want to get all this over with, get home and get fat."
They checked in the hotel, and made arrangements for a limo to take them
all to the chapel.
"Congratulations!" The Concierge said as he made the
This made Denise smile. "Thanks," she responded.
They had adjoining rooms on the 17th floor. On the ride up, she took a
breath and smiled at Sam. "This is finally sinking in," she said. "This is
serious stuff. Im getting married."
"Looks like it," Sam said with a smile, putting his arm around
her. "You OK?"
"Yeah. I know this is the right thing to do. I honestly believe we
would get married even if I wasnt expecting." She caught his eye. "Mike is
about the greatest guy I ever met."
The goofy grin on her face confirmed her love without having to say it, and
The rooms were basic, but nice. After a shower, Denise hauled him off to
meet her family at the restaurant across the street. They were a jovial bunch, siblings
and all, and showed Denise every measure of support. They had all met Mike once at a
family party and had all liked him. There were funny gifts, funnier marriage advice, and a
slew of ideas on what she should do for her wedding night, many which made Sam blush
furiously. He was glad Al wasnt here to make fun of his situation. Her mother
presented her with her own wedding veil, tears in her eyes. Her dad gave her an heirloom
ring, and the siblings supplied something new (naughty underwear), something borrowed
(diamond earrings) and something blue (a garter). This was a terrific family, and it
vaguely reminded Sam of his own family. A sister, a brother and two parents on a farm was
all he could come up with at the moment, mentally cursing his Swiss-cheesed memory.
They were just finishing dessert, and Denise was telling them all about the
Hong Kong pictures Mike had sent when Al made an entrance. Sam heard the door, and saw
him out of the corner of his eye, then excused himself to go to the restroom. Al blinked
in ahead of him, making a snide comment about a outfit worn by the sole occupant of the
room, who was washing his hands.
When the man left, Sam stated smartly, "Like you have room to comment
"What do you mean?" Al asked innocently.
Sam sighed, "Just forget it. Why havent I leaped? I cant
stand in for this ceremony. Erics name is on the power of attorney, not mine!"
"Because we think that nutcase Janet will try something again, and
thats why youre here."
"Really? Shes that dangerous?"
"We dug further into her history. She has a violent temper! She
hasnt used it directly against anyone up to this point, but Ziggy sees this as a
turning point in her life. She has abused a few inanimate objects, as you have already
seen, and both Beeks and Ziggy feel Denise is in actual physical danger, here."
"Id call ramming the car direct."
"Some people call that a bad case of road rage."
"I call it assault with a deadly weapon."
"Well," Al sighed, knowing this wasnt getting anywhere.
"Call it what you want, but when the blood gets right on the hands, thats
Sam thought for a few seconds, pacing the length of the washroom.
"Does she have a gun?"
"None that we know of."
"Then Id best keep my eyes open, huh?"
"Widely, Sam," Al agreed. "Very widely."
It was close to midnight when the blonde woman approached the front desk.
She looked out of breath, and smiled brightly at the receptionist.
"Hi! I need a room for tonight."
"Certainly," the clerk responded. "One night?"
"Yeah. My best friends getting married in the morning, and I
want to surprise her."
The clerk glanced up at her client.
"I told her I couldnt make it, but here I am!" She was
cheery, which also made the clerk smile. "Do you know where the ceremony is?"
The clerk knew she wasnt supposed to give out personal information
about on clients but this woman seemed so harmless and friendly. "Whats your
"Green. Denise Green. The groom is Mike OConnell, but I
dont think hes staying here."
If she knew that information, than she must be a friend, the clerk thought.
"Well," the clerk said, making a decision. "They ordered a limo for noon,
and any flowers are supposed to be sent to the Chapel of the Roses, about four blocks
down. Does that help?"
"Oh, yes!" the blonde replied brightly. "Thanks!" She
picked up the pen to sign the register. "My names Janet OConnell.
Isnt that funny? My names the same as the groom!" And she proceeded to
sign the register roughly, tearing the page.
Sam slept badly. He tossed and turned, and his attention on the adjoining
room, expecting to hear, well, he didnt know what he expected to hear. Some kind of
confrontation; but it never happened. He was jarred awake from a doze at nine oclock
by the phone. It was Denises dad, Mr. Green.
"Comon boy, its time for breakfast! We want to hear more
flying stories about my future son!"
He managed to get down to the dining room, with the chinking sounds of the
slot machines all around as they ate. They all played Keno as they ate, using various
combinations of lucky numbers involving Denise. It would have been another fun meal if Sam
wasnt so worried about Janet showing up. It was difficult keeping an eye on things
with the throngs of people everywhere, but Sam managed to get the schedule of events in
his head. After breakfast, it was off to get dressed for the limo pick up at noon.
Sam dressed quickly, keeping close to the door so he could hear everything.
There was squealing and giggling from the girls next door as they readied for the big
event. Denise hadnt bothered with a true wedding dress, and went with a simple off
white suite, classically cut. Sam had declined champagne with the men in the bar while the
A bit before noon, there was a pounding on his door that made him jump.
"Come on Eric!" he heard Denises brother call. "Lets go, and
dont forget that paperwork!"
Everyone met in the hall, and Denise looked beautiful. They met the rest of
the men in the lobby, and moved off to the front doors. Sam thought hed get whiplash
from trying to keep his eyes on the rest of the crowd in the lobby. The casino ran right
into the lobby, so there were clusters of people everywhere. They pushed out to the front
walk, and the blast of desert heat hit them all in the face. Denises brother started
asking why she didnt get married in the pool.
Sam could feel himself getting more and more tense the closer they got to
the chapel. When they got there, things were delayed a bit as the minister called the
license office to confirm the paperwork. Hed been working in Las Vegas less than a
year, and this was the first proxy wedding hed seen. He just wanted to make sure
everything was in order.
Nervously standing by the displays of fake flowers and photos of past
weddings, Sam nearly jumped out of his skin when Al opened the Imaging Room door right
next to him.
"Oh, sorry, Sam!" Al said, bouncing on his toes and looking
around. "Nothing yet?"
"No!" Sam shot back. "And its getting close!"
"Well, Ziggy gives it a 98% that Janet will show, so hang in
"Lets go!" They heard Mrs. Green chirp. She was already
dabbing her eye with a tissue. "Its time!"
Everyone piled happily into the Red Rose Room as Denise, her sister and
father stood outside the door.
"Go on, Sam," Al said. "Youre the best man and the
groom, so you have to go inside. Ill stay out here."
With one last look out the windows to the parking lot, Sam slowly walked in
the room and up to the altar.
He was standing there at the altar, trying not to fidget, for a few minutes
when the minister hustled down the aisle with a smile. Discreetly next to the altar was a
giant boom box, and he touched a button calling up a classical song. A few seconds later
the door with the stained glass red rose swung open, and Denises sister walked down
the aisle as the maid of honor. The door had swung shut behind her, and it was a few
seconds before she was set and the music changed to the wedding march. The doors did not
open, and the minister cleared his throat loudly.
"SAM!" Al yelled.
Sam sprang into action. He had sprinted half way up the aisle when the
doors were swung open with a bang by Mr. Green, who then fell on the floor. Sam saw he was
gripping his thigh, blood coursing between his fingers. "Get her!" he yelled,
unable to stand.
Sam darted out the door just in time to see Denise being half dragged
backwards towards the exit doors by a blonde woman. There was blood on the side of
Denises suit, and a huge knife being held to her throat.
"She came in from the back Sam! Youve gotta get her!"
He darted towards them as Janet yelled, "Stay back!" Sam slid to
a stop, his hands out from his sides. He could hear the collective gasps and screams in
the hall behind him from the rest of the family, and motioned to them not to move. Sam was
the closest, just a few feet away. Denise seemed to be holding her own at the moment.
"Janet," he called out. "You cant do this."
"Just watch me!" Janet hissed, hesitating at the sound of her
name and looking at Sam.
"I dont think reasonings going to work with her,
Sam!" Al said, "She seems determined."
"How did you know my name?" Janet growled, stopping for an
instant. "Never mind! It doesnt matter! Nothing matters anymore!" Angry
tears started down her face as she pushed the doors open with her back.
Sam ignored Al, and calmly walked after them, talking softly as she drug
Denise out the door to the parking lot. The limo driver was standing next to his vehicle,
mouth hanging open in surprise. Sam signaled him not to move, and Janet glanced his way
and tightened her grip.
"Yes, it matters," Sam continued. "Life always
"Not mine," Janet replied quietly but angrily. "I have no
life. And this bitch took what chance I had for a real life. Mike and I were destined to
be together. Didnt he tell you? We were great together! Then this, this WHORE, traps
him into marrying him! Thats not playing fair!"
"Boy, does she have delusions of grandeur," Al said quietly.
"Look, Janet. Dont do this. You still have all kinds of life
ahead of you!" Sam could see that Janet was listening. "I know youre
lonely, and you dont want to face your life alone, but theres lots of time for
you! You hurt Denise, and your time stops here." Sam saw her forehead crinkle as she
frowned. "Youre beautiful, healthy..." Sam was at a loss for words.
"Smart, Sam. Tell her shes smart."
"...smart," Sam took a step closer. "Use all that together
and no one can stop you."
"Mike called me smart?" Janet stood up a little straighter, and
Sam saw the knife slip just a hair away from Denises throat. That was all Denise
needed. She dropped straight down, below the knife, and rolled into Janets legs
causing them both to end up in a tangle on the sidewalk.
Sam jumped forward and grabbed her knife hand as she stabbed it towards
Denise, deflecting the blow up. Denise fought her way from Janets grip, and
scrambled to her feet. She ran right into her brothers arms as the limo driver
jumped in to help Sam. They managed to disarm her to the sounds of distant sirens. Janet
screamed and cried, then weakly gave in and went limp as the Police cars pulled in the
"That does it, Sam!" Al chirped. "She doesnt due any
time in jail, because they find her mentally unstable, but she does go to a State facility
for awhile where she gets lots of counseling. She does OK,"
"OK? What happens?" Sam was brushing off his suit, leaving the
scene to the authorities. "Well, she doesnt get married, but lives in a group
home with other troubled women, helping council abused women. She does good things,
"What about Denise?"
"Whaddaya mean, what about Denise? Shes here to get married,
son!" Denises dad was hobbled out on the shoulder of one of the son-in-laws,
having refused medical treatment. "Lets get to it! I can get stitches
"Now we know where Denise gets her strength!" Al quipped, amused
by the limping man.
Denise had brushed herself off and frowned at the blood stains on her suit.
"Not mine!" she said. "Daddy! You ruined my suit!"
Everyone laughed as she helped him back into the chapel. "Just hold
your bouquet over it, honey! Ill just lean on your arm! Well be back in a few
minutes, Officers! Come on, Eric!" And off they went through the doors, Sam looking
amazingly after them.
"This has to be the oddest family Ive ever seen!" he said
quietly to Al, following them inside. "And why havent I leaped?" he added.
"Probably because I love weddings!" Al quipped, shooing Sam into
the Red Rose Room. "And by the way, Sam, Mike and Denise are still together,
deliriously happy with two more kids after this one. Good job!"
As Sam stood at the altar once again, he watched the smirking bride and her
limping escort make their way down the aisle, amidst applause, to a befuddled minister,
with a perky hologram conducting a taped orchestra. Feeling like he himself was in a nut
house, Sam sighed gratefully as a veil of blue enveloped the scene. He leaped to the
words, "We are gathered here today..."
The first thing that Dr. Sam Beckett, time traveler, noticed was that the
sun had not quite risen, but judging from the red, yellow and purple streaked horizon,
sunrise would be within the next five minutes or so. Sam closed his eyes and felt the
warm, gentle breeze that would later turn this beautiful dawn into a scorching day. When
he opened his eyes it was because he felt his left arm sag with the weight of something
heavy gripped in his fingers. He blinked, and shifted his shoulders, and lifted his arm.
His fingers were tightly holding the handle of a battered leather suitcase.
Taking a few steps back, Sam bumped into something and turned around to find that it was a
red and rust colored VW van. It looked like it had seen better days.
Sam set the suitcase down on the paved ground next to the vans
drivers side door and walked around to the back side of the van only to be presented with
what looked like a half dozen luggage bags and a green and gold trunk wedged in the middle
of the chaos. He looked around to see if he could find any clues that might help explain
what was going on here.
Across the street was a neat row of houses making up a small neighborhood
that appeared to rise up sometime in the 1950s. It was a nice atmosphere, with a dog
barking somewhere in the distance and birds starting to chirp happily in the abundant
trees. Turning to his left he saw the van was parked in front of a house that was about
fifty yards from where he was standing. The house was quite pleasant with a metal fence
painted white bordering the perimeter of the yard and a blacktop driveway. The roof
sported a brick chimney and a weather vane of a trotting horse. Sam also noted that the
front door was standing open.
Well, he thought to himself as he observed the house. I
wonder if Im coming or going? His question was answered by a male voice
emanating from inside the house.
"Kenny! What are you doing?" A young man stepped into the
doorway, looking impatient. "I dont know about you, but Id like to have
all that unloaded before its hot enough to melt!"
Sam hesitated, realizing his physical labor had just begun, and muttered
tiredly, "Oh, boy."