Samuel Beckett is an annoying complication. He needs to be dealt with. Permanently."
The metallic voice echoed around the two figures, together in a silvery chamber. The walls
of the room they occupied glowed crimson as they reflected the fiery red light flickering
what happened the last time we tangled in Dr. Beckett's timeline," one of them
do you suggest?" The other asked, more boldly than he should.
The wrath of the voice instantly stilled their tongues. "I will handle this. You will
follow my direct orders. I will stop him at the source."
the source?" The wheezing voice actually perked up a bit as the intriguing idea
settled about her.
does that mean, exactly? What can you do? You're stuck here." The other questioned,
not allowing any ideas to penetrate his mind.
can put me where I can cause the most damage."
wheezing broke up into a choking laugh, seeing the vision.
uninspired, the other inquired, "And where would that would be?"
inside their precious Project. Never send a human to do a computer's job."
the first fought to control her rickety laughter, the other's lips curled to a snarling
smile with the thought.
blue hue engulfed and took him on a roller coaster ride; twisting, turning, rushing him to
his next point in Time without stopping for a breather. It plopped him back into another
life rather quickly and his senses were disoriented for more than a few seconds. He
blinked, trying to gather his wits about him, and was finally able to gather himself
together and focus on his surroundings.
gentle rumbling noises around him became clear and he felt the sensation of being gently
rocked and bounced. Realizing that he was in a truck, a big truck, Dr. Sam Beckett looked
out the window to his right that framed beautiful countryside rolling past. Between the
noise, motion and pleasing view, he was lulled into a sense on calm and allowed himself to
relax. A glance to his left introduced a middle-aged man, the driver, whom Sam noted was
experiencing the same calming effect. The driver's eyes were slowly closing and his chin
drifting downward towards his chest. Alarmed, but not wanting to scare the man, Sam
cleared his throat noisily and the man jerked his head up and began to blink rapidly.
driver glanced at Sam and grinned sheepishly. "Sorry boss. Kentucky's a long way
away. I'm sure those horses are just as tired."
Sam wondered to himself as he looked down and discovered a clipboard lying on his lap. He
leafed through the pages, reading elegant names of probably elegant horses. He bit the
inside of his lip. 'I hope that I'm not a jockey.'
returned his attention to the view outside the window, trying to recapture the calm. The
picturesque green pastures and their chalky white fences rekindled a memory and made Sam
long for home. He so wanted to be back in Indiana, back on the farm and with his family.
truck downshifted and slowed down bringing Sam out of his reverie. They turned in a paved
driveway and passed under a carved, wooden arch that read: Kingswood Farms. Sam glanced
back down at the paperwork on the clipboard and noted the same name on the letterhead.
Yep, this is the place. Wait a minute. Did he call me boss? Am I the boss? Sam leafed
through the papers once more. I must be Jim Kidd - the owner. Wow!
winding driveway was awe-inspiring. It was lined with ancient oaks on both sides, their
tops curving and touching overhead creating a panoramic arch. It was so peaceful and felt
so much like home that Sam became nervous; he had learned from too many other leaps that
nothing is as it first seems.
truck stopped in front of one of the several barns within Sam's view, and the driver
hopped out of the cab with a grunt. Sam slowly lowered himself as well, surprised to see
several smiling faces coming toward them as he stepped out and away from the vehicle. He
noticed some of the faces get a puzzled expression, so he stopped.
familiar whoosh of the Imaging Chamber door divided Sam's attention between addressing the
strangers before him and his best friend and Observer.
Sam, how's it going?" Al asked casually as he stepped out from the doorway, allowing
it shut behind him. "Pretty nice place, huh?"
rubbed his nose and looked down to cover his mouth as he spoke. "They're looking at
me funny, Al." Sam held up the clipboard that he had in his hand and said to the
people gathered before him, "I'll just take these inside," and turned his back
to them. "Where do I go?" he asked quietly.
frowned at Sam a moment, not quite understanding his dilemma, then brightened. "Oh!
Yeah! Sorry, Sam. Into that house over there." The hologram motioned to an elegant
Victorian house at the end of the circular drive, approximately thirty yards from where
they had parked. "Oh, and Sam, you'd better start limping. That's probably why
they're lookin' at you funny. You need to favor your right leg."
paused at the suggestion, and the driver's voice sounded, "I'll unload the horses,
fine, go ahead," Sam replied with a wave, then carefully began to limp as instructed.
He ducked his head so that he could talk to the hologram. "Al! I can't do horses! I
was raised with cows!"
raised his eyebrows. "Would you relax? You don't have to 'do horses'. You were
injured awhile back, I mean Jim, was injured awhile back."
gave Al a curious sideways glance. "Jim, that's me?"
brought the hand link up his face and read its small screen. "Right, Jim Kidd. You're
fifty-two years old and you own Kingswood Farms -- over two hundred fifty prime acres in
the middle of Virginia horse country. He's loaded to the gills."
Al was describing the Visitor to the Waiting Room, Sam was admiring the land, the house
and all of its natural beauty. Upon reaching the house, Sam hesitated and peered into the
glass windows flanking the front doors and saw his reflection. Jim Kidd was a healthy man
who obviously spent a lot of time outdoors. His skin was lined and tan, his hair trimmed
in silver. It was a kind face. Sam grabbed the doorknob, then hesitated as a thought
crossed his mind.
frowned at his friend's hesitation, and looked around, wondering what had spooked him.
"What's the matter?"
you know, I just don't want any surprises," Sam said hesitantly.
just open the door, will ya?"
first?" Sam motioned with his hand.
chuckled and shook his head. "Sure, boss." He walked through the wall, and Sam
heard his voice from the other side of the door. "No surprises here, Sam. What were
you expecting? The Nightstalker?"
let out the breath that he hadn't known he had been holding. "No, a wife, perhaps.
Like I said, I don't want any surprises." He opened the door and stepped inside.
"What a place!" Sam exclaimed.
were trophies and horse paintings lining the walls and comfortable leather furniture and
stylish art everywhere. This guy was obviously good at what he did. Sam closed the door
softly behind him and continued to admire the house.
looked around. "Don't fret, he's a widower. Nice, huh? It's nothing like the ranch
that Beth wanted us to buy, though. Now that place
probably had a lot of bedrooms in it, right?" Sam interjected, then held up his hand
in a stop motion. "Never mind, don't answer that."
ignored the request. "It would have to Sam, I have four children and I know that I'm
going to have grandchildren by the tons. Don't you remember?"
sighed. "No, I don't. But thanks for reminding me again about my Swiss-cheesed brain.
So. What does Ziggy have on this guy? Does she know why I'm here?"
hesitated, then lifting an eyebrow in his friend's direction, replied, "Sorry, Sam,
not much in that field. All we have right now is a little information on Jim and his gang
out there, who are all probably still wondering about you."
walked up the broad, curved staircase to the landing on the second floor. Large windows
framed the landing, taking advantage of the view. A hallway lined with doors lead off one
side. Sam peeked in the first door and discovered an office that overlooked the barns.
Drawn to the window behind the massive oak desk, he looked out over a pastoral scene.
had followed Sam up the staircase continuing his narration of information. "Ziggy has
basic info on the farm, how well it's doing at this time, things like that. From what we
could tell, everything works out pretty well for this guy and the employees we could dig
up." Al meandered over to the window to see what Sam was looking at. "Nice
kept the truck driver from falling asleep at the wheel earlier. If that's why I'm here,
then why haven't I leaped?"
don't know. There wasn't an accident in the original history, either."
their viewpoint, they could see most of the farm; the horse van was off to the right, more
white fencing criss-crossed the land, and green pastures were dotted with horses grazing
in every direction they looked. To the left was an arena with a couple of people riding
and jumping brightly painted fences.
what we do know is it's May 28, 1977, and you are in rural Virginia." Al concluded,
slipping the hand link in his pocket with one hand and withdrawing a fresh cigar with the
was drawn to the riders in the arena. He grabbed a pair of binoculars on the windowsill,
and looked more closely at them. From this distance, even with the binoculars, he couldn't
tell if they were men or women because of the baggy clothes and helmets. As he watched,
one of them stopped their flashy bay in the center of the arena and dismounted. The rider
ran a hand down a front leg, carefully probing then picked up the horse's leg and looked
at its hoof. The rider then dropped the hoof, straightened, and pulled off the helmet,
releasing shoulder length blonde hair. She shook her head as she tucked the helmet under
her arm, then gathered the reins in her hand as she lead the horse to the arena gate.
over his friend's shoulder Al saw what had his attention. "Hey, she looks sort of
cute, Sam, but I bet she smells like horse sweat. Not that that's a bad thing, but, any
excuse to use the shower first
" Al stopped as Sam rolled his eyes in
exasperation. "Well, you obviously have other things on your mind, so I'll just go
talk to our Visitor." The Observer called up the Imaging Chamber door and stepped
through. "Just try to stay out of trouble, will ya?"
tilted his head to look at Al. "You know I'll try."
the other hand," Al's eyebrows wiggled up and down with a mischievous smile on his
face, and he left the statement dangling as he shut the Imaging Chamber door.
shook his head with a sigh then continued to look at the young lady. She seemed familiar
for some reason, but was still too far off for identification, if his Swiss-cheese memory
would even allow it. Something about the way that she walked, or the way that she turned
her head; he couldn't quite pin it down. His gut instinct was telling him that she was
important in some way to this leap, and curiosity urged him to find out who she was. Sam
put down the binoculars, then trotted out of the office and down the stairs two at a time.
He slid to a stop at the front door.
knew that she had to pass in front of doors to take the horse to the barn, so he calmed
himself down with a deep breath then casually opened the door. He glanced to the left and
saw her walking on the horse's left side, one arm resting on the animal's crest as the
other held the helmet and reins. The gracefully curved animal's neck blocked his view of
her face. Only when the alert ears of the horse pricked up in his direction and the
chiseled head turned in his direction was able to glance at her face.
felt his heart race at her familiarity. He knew her; and when her eyes turned in his
direction, he sucked in a breath of shock as his heart leaped.
she jumped slightly, then smiled broadly. "Oh! Good afternoon, Mr. Kidd. You startled
froze, unhearing and in total shock as his eyes fell on her face. "It's
impossible," he murmured in a barely audible tone as pictures of past events flashed
through his mind. A prison; a shotgun; a dark-haired man with sad eyes; a college library;
a loud-mouthed punk in a letterman's jacket .. and a cape? He dared not move lest he break
the chain of memories.
Kidd?" The woman said, her forehead wrinkled with worry when he didn't respond. She
took a step toward him, the horse shadowing her. "Are you OK?"
calling me Mr. Kidd.' Sam's mind finally registered. 'She doesn't have any idea of who I
am!' Sam replied shakily, "What? Oh! I'm fine."
you sure?" She didn't look convinced, but her step slowed.
I'm sure." The urge to run away overcame him and suddenly Sam's feet began to move.
forgot something." He bolted back into the house, carefully
shutting the door and leaning on it, his head on his arms. His heart was pounding
furiously. "Oh my God. That was Alia!" he breathed out loud.
gathered himself together, and stepped to the window next to the door. Peering through the
diaphanous curtains, he watched Alia lead the horse to the barn. She glanced back at the
house several times as she walked. Sam let the curtains fall back into place, feeling
self-conscience about staring at her. Thoughts began tumbling wildly through his mind.
'OK, she didn't recognize me. Or would she? Why do I see her? What is she doing here? I
thought she was safe somewhere!'
peeked back out the window only to see her talking happily to one of the barn hands as
they finished unloading the horses. He saw her hand off the reins to one of the men and
toss the helmet next to the barn. Then, she turned in the direction of the house. Alarmed,
he saw her jogging back to the house. "Ah, jeeze, she's coming back!" he
panicked; he couldn't allow Alia touch him until he figured out why he was here. He didn't
know if she would see him as Sam on contact or not, but he couldn't take the chance. Not
yet. He took the stairs two at a time, and raced into the office, slamming the door. He
quickly located the personnel files.
heard a knock on the door downstairs, followed by a squeak as it was pushed open.
"Mr. Kidd?" Alia's familiar voice called out.
for a second, Sam yelled in reply, "Come in!" He skimmed the personnel files as
quickly as he could. Her file had to be here somewhere. "Campbell, Barry; Davis,
Andy," he read the names in an urgent whisper.
Kidd?" There were muffled footsteps as she climbed the stairs.
up here." He finally came to the name. Novack, Alia. That had to be her! Sam heard
footfalls on the landing and slammed the file cabinet shut, quickly settling himself
behind the huge desk. He shuffled a few papers busily as he casually called out, "In
my office!" and tried to catch his breath.
door cracked opened and Alia poked her head inside. "I'm sorry to intrude, sir, but
are you sure that you're feeling okay? You look
uh, Alia. Yeah, I'm fine. I think that I'm just tired from the trip." Sam made a
mental note to try to keep objects between them -- big objects. The desk was a good start.
approached the desk, concern etching her face. "I know how these buying trips wear
you out, sir. You should take it easier. I've told you before that I'd be glad to
I mean, yeah. That may be a good idea. Next time, maybe."
started around the desk toward the window, then suddenly turned back to Sam and stepped
towards him. Sam bolted to his feet, keeping the chair between them, and covered his
action by pretending to retrieve something from the filing cabinet.
know, Mr. Kidd, I've wanted to thank you for
" She stopped only for a moment
when he popped up so quickly. "For letting me come to work for you. I must say that
personally, I feel like you were the father that I never had."
Alia, I'm glad that you feel that way." Sam's smile was genuine, pleased at the
thought of her happiness. She deserved that.
used to be so
so hectic in my life before I came here. I used to feel so unsure
about myself." Alia seemed to be lost in thought for a moment as she backed away from
Sam and circled around to the front of the desk. "But now, I feel so
The horses were just the thing I needed. I haven't been this happy in a long time."
He eyes glowed softly as she spoke, and Sam thought about what she had said.
looked relaxed, happy and healthy, and his sense of accomplishment made him puff up his
chest a bit. Unexpectedly, a feeling of envy washed over him, but he quickly pushed it
aside. "I'm glad, Alia," he replied honestly. "We're happy that you're
here." She was moving towards him again, so, trying to act casual, he turned his back
on her and walked to the other side of the chair, again using it as a barrier.
Alia asked, pausing by the file cabinet. "Are you talking about Mrs. Kidd, before she
felt like they were playing a game of tag. "Mrs. Kidd? Ah, no. I was referring to,
you know, Andy and ahm, Barry, and the other workers." Sam quickly blessed his
Alia looked confused for a moment, then smiled. "Well, I was worried about you.
You've taken good care of me and it's time I returned the favor. Now, will you quit
dodging me and let me feel your forehead?" She took a step towards the chair.
"My forehead? It's fine, really. I'm OK. But, uh, maybe they need help with those new
horses? Will you check on them for me? I didn't get a chance." Sam put on his best
smile and tried to stay in control of the situation by snatching up the clipboard at
thrusting it towards her. "I'd really appreciate it."
sighed and grinned, taking the board in defeat. "Alright. I will, but you have to
promise me that you'll lie down for a few minutes."
tapped the clipboard with her fingers, and headed out the door. She hesitated in the hall,
glanced back at him with a brilliant smile, then disappeared down the hall.
had given her a small wave then he collapsed into the chair when she stepped out of sight.
He exhaled loudly when he heard the front door slam. "Oh, boy!"
the quantum phasing dissipated, the Leaper looked around to find that he was in a rather
large room, surrounded by people in white lab coats. He huffed and snarled quietly at them
as he glanced down at the clipboard in his hands. 'Little, white lab rats,' he thought,
instantly disliking them. He closed his eyes to try and think about why he was here. It
was something important, he felt. In front of him stood a very colorful console and he
curled up one corner of his lip in a wicked smile. 'It has something to do with this
console. Something beautifully evil.'
he sought to remember the plan, he heard a familiar sound, the sound of a metallic swirl
of a door opening. The feeling crossed his mind that he wasn't supposed to be on this side
of that door, and he frowned.
redheaded woman in a wheelchair emerged from the diffused red light of the doorway. She
was slumped over as if she were very tired, or in pain, or both. Her pale face held a
scowl aimed at him. "Thames," was all she breathed, the name filled with
disdain. Laboriously she moved the little toggle under her hand and maneuvered the wheeled
device through the doorway into his time and place.
Thames remembered her even if he couldn't remember exactly what he was supposed to
accomplish here. She was too much of a thrilling irritant not to remember her.
however, was too involved with her own thoughts to even respond to Thames. A trip to this
Project, even a holographic one, dredged up unwanted memories. 'Thanks to Admiral
Calavicci, I'm trapped in this damnable chair. He had the audacity to shoot me in the
back. What kind of person would do that?' She scowled even at her own thoughts. 'A person
after my own heart, that's who. He's definitely not like the righteous Dr. Beckett.'
ZoŽ had barely cleared the door when her body was rocked by a violent coughing fit; she was
barely able to get enough air into her lungs for a moment. Finally, she got control of her
failing body, but she continued to wheeze while she looked at Thames standing there
looking like a nurse. 'God, I hate that color. Look at him standing there, looking
almighty and forgetting that I know what it feels like to be in his shoes.' "What are
looking at?" ZoŽ's sharp words were still labored as she regained
strength from her coughing fit.
turned his head and stifled a smile. There was something about seeing ZoŽ helpless in the
wheelchair that trilled him. She had been so stuck up on herself, but now
tell me, ZoŽ, baby. What do you want me to look at?" he replied as he looked her up
and down, chuckling. He knew just how to egg her on and engage her fiery spirit and loved
her for it; even knowing she was considered precious cargo to Lothos.
up," She groaned again and coughed, "you imbecile. You can't even remember why
you're here, let alone remember what it's like to hold anyone," she snapped with the
intention of shutting him up.
wouldn't let that happen. He lived to counter her at every possible opportunity.
"Better than never being able to hold anyone again," he taunted with a grin.
eyes slowly raised, her head following, the disdain on her face clear as she glared at
him. She moved the wheelchair closer and growled slowly, "Careful, Thames, you're on
the wrong end of this mission. You could be easily cut out of the picture with a tap of my
finger." She pantomimed the movement that would cut the transmission and leave him
caught in limbo forever.
glared back in return knowing full well that it wasn't a hollow threat. He had to give her
credit; even wheelchair bound, she still wouldn't back down from a fight. She always
finally looked around at the other lab technicians near him. The ambient noise level was
high enough to cover his chat with the hologram. He wasn't worried about being caught with
his hands in the cookie jar, so to speak; he was more worried about Time. "Let's get
this over with, shall we?" Thames bent down, focusing on the colorful console in
front of him.
Observer eyed the room with loathing. "So, this is the ever impressive Ziggy, is it?
She doesn't look that intelligent to me," ZoŽ snarled as she put her hand to her
chest. The constant pain dogging her there was becoming harder to disguise, and the
automatic curse leveled at Calavicci crossed her thoughts.
smiled at her comment. "ZoŽ, honey, if she were that intelligent she would have
known we were here already." Thames slid an orange panel off, laid it on the floor,
and studied the intense circuitry inside the panel.
you stop to think that she may know, but hasn't told anyone, you idiot? You can never
tell, Thames, especially anything involved with that goody-two-shoes Dr. Beckett.
Integrate Lothos quickly before she rats us out." ZoŽ watched as Thames looked
inside the console. "What is it? Finish the job, you moron! Quickly! Can't you
remember what to do?"
reached into the guts of Ziggy as ZoŽ talked and isolated the green and yellow wires she
was referring to. 'Damn! I hate the scrambled eggs memory of mine.' Thames glared at her.
"As if you didn't blank out on your first mission."
tried to speak again, but her voice caught again in another coughing spell. 'Damn him.
Damn both of them. This is entirely their fault and if Thames doesn't hurry and finish the
job, they'll have the upper hand again. The only good that came from being shot and put in
this, this thing, was getting the time to get back at both of them. All of those endless
nights pouring over schematics, reading boring and endless crap about Project Quantum Leap
and its funding, and to finally find the Project itself, have finally paid off. They'll be
gone for good.' The joyous thought of revenge lightened her dark mood. "All right
dear, do I need to tell you which wires to splice together for Lothos?" ZoŽ
back at him.
rolled his eyes toward her as his mouth twitched with anger. "Not necessary now.
Trust me," he said as he pulled out a pair of wire cutters from the lab technician's
coat pocket. Hoisting the tool, he clacked the ends together in the air, making a
threatening clicking noise.
don't trust anyone, Thames, you ought to know that by now."
yourself," Thames said as he cut the appropriate wires. "Hurry up!"
gorgeous," he teased as he carefully re-routed the wire bundles.
at his remark, ZoŽ couldn't tell if he was just teasing with her or trying to irritate
her. Whatever the case, it drove her absolutely nuts, and she clenched her jaw to the
point where her teeth squeaked.
Thames said as he stood and brushed off his pants.
time," she sneered in reply.
ZoŽ, you know I'm the expert with electronics here."
could I ever forget?"
I won't let you."
glared at him knowing what he said was true, but she did not want to give him the
satisfaction of knowing that it was constantly on her mind.
the red hand link on ZoŽ's lap squawked loudly. She looked down at it and an evil smile
crossed her lips as she read the words. She raised her head and said to Thames.
"Lothos is in."
mirrored the horrid smile. "Good. A little reprogramming here and there
" He sighed with satisfaction and crossed his arms across his chest.
"It's the beginning of the end of their interference."
a shower and a decent meal, Al walked down the corridors of the Project toward the Control
Room. It had been an hour since he had seen Sam, and he knew Ziggy should have at a little
more information than before. He retrieved the hand link from the control console, and
acknowledged Gooshie squatting down beside it. "How's it going, Goosh?"
looked up at the Admiral with the bewildered look that Al had come to recognize as the
programmer's thinking mode. He had been totally mesmerized by the contents behind one of
the console's panels. "Ahm, everything is ah
OK, sir." He frowned and
looked back at the wireworks, murmuring to himself as he shook his head.
wrong?" Al asked noting the look.
don't think so. I'm just double-checking behind some panels today. Routine."
nodded. "Fire up the IC. I need to give Sam the latest news."
sir." Gooshie stood and his hands began to fly over the console to bring the Imaging
was part way to the Imaging Chamber when the lights dimmed briefly. He stopped, and
frowned. That wasn't routine. He glanced back and saw Gooshie still at the console,
apparently unaware of any problem. "Hmmm," Al thought as he made a mental note
about it. He continued up the ramp, entered the Imaging Chamber and let the door shut
behind him. Stepping on the launch sequence pad in the center of the room, he stood for a
moment, wondering when Gooshie was going to start the program. "Gooshie, come
on." He said impatiently, addressing the ceiling.
twirling, nauseating whirlwind of images came up a moment later, centering him on Sam. Al
could see him through the swirling colors, leaning against a barn, his back to him. Beyond
him, horses were grazing in a pasture. The cacophony of images suddenly stopped, and Al
couldn't help but grunt in surprise when a knife-like pain suddenly struck his gut. He
couldn't help but double over, but forced himself to straighten up before Sam saw
a noise, Sam spun around, spotting the shaky Al. Al returned the look with a weak grin,
his alarm coming through even though he tried to hide it. "Hey, Sam."
What's wrong?" Sam moved closer to his friend, frustrated that he couldn't
shook his head trying to ward off the pain. "I'll be fine," he tried to assure
Sam, but knew that after what he had just felt, he would have a hard time convincing
you OK? What's going on?"
took a deep breath as the pain began to ebb from the center of his stomach. The breath
made Al wince, and his face turned a shade of green. The pain was replaced with severe
nausea. "God, Sam. I dont know what happened."
phase looks out of whack. Ziggy should be fixing that!"
looked up at the ceiling and realized Sam was right. Ziggy hadn't uttered a peep. In
addition, Sam was blinking in and out of sight, which did nothing to quell the
isn't she doing something about it? It'll make you sick!"
is, if you haven't noticed." Al doubled over, grunting in pain failing in his effort
to appear all right.
Ziggy purred quietly from all around him.
what the hell is going on?" Al groaned.
not right here. This
. isn't right." Sam began to pace in front of the erratic
hologram. He stopped in hopes to overhear Al's conversation with Ziggy, knowing full well
that it was futile. Al had to relay.
" Ziggy paused a moment before answering as if she were picking out the
correct term that she should use. "The Imaging Chamber is is is is
Ziggy's voice slowly dropped off, sounding to Al like Alice going down the rabbit hole.
what? Come on, you pile of useless bolts!"
'is what'?" Sam echoed, feeling completely helpless. "Al! What did she say?
Gooshie!" He tried to grab his friend as Al fell to his knees with a cry of agony.
Suddenly, Sam simply and completely blinked out of Al's sight, leaving him alone the
Imaging Chamber. As soon as the Imaging Chamber blinked off, Al fell to the floor
Gooshie squeaked as he watched the relay shut itself off. He instantly began to check the
console in confusion. He looked up as Tina and Dr. Beeks came in the room, Tina's heels
clicking noisily. "Admiral?" he called again, his voice tinged with alarm.
going on?" Tina asked as she smacked her gum enthusiastically.
was a surge of energy in the IC." He explained, facing the ceiling. "Admiral?
Can you hear me?" His hands flew over the console. "Tina, we need to get that
door open. Now."
Beeks immediately stationed herself by the Imaging Chamber door, impatiently waiting for
it to open. "A surge? Isn't Ziggy supposed to keep that from happening?" she
asked as she pushed futilely on the door, worried about Al's welfare.
is." Tina studied the console and noted the crazy readings on display. "What
?" She asked.
Open the door!" Gooshie yelled.
like Ziggy's on the rag now," Tina said as the readings slid crazily up and down, not
making any sense at all.
Gooshie continued asking as he tried everything he could to open the door with the
controls. "On the rag is an understatement." Gooshie muttered to himself, trying
to figure out what was wrong with the parallel hybrid computer.
think I know what to do." Tina dropped on her knees, eye level with control console.
She removed one of the smaller panels. "Here
take this, you old bitch."
She said as she tweaked one of the wires. The Imaging Chamber door slowly slid up.
ran into the ominously quiet room, going directly to the form on the floor. She gently
turned him onto his back and checked his vital signs. Relieved, she found them to be
strong. "Al, wake up, hon. Al?" She began to shake him slightly. "Come on,
and Tina stood together at the foot of the ramp as Beeks tended to Al. Occasionally, they
shot worried glances his way, but continued to discuss how this could have occurred.
quivered slightly as if he was fighting a twinge of pain, his breathing slightly erratic.
Suddenly, his eyes flew open and he quickly sat up. The hand link clattered to the floor.
fly-boy, lay back down and calm yourself." Verbena guided him back down and stroked
his sweaty brow. "Are you okay?" She watched him carefully knowing that she
could read him well. She could tell that he was in obvious pain just from looking into his
brown eyes. "Where do you hurt?"
tell me, doc." Al said as he took deep breaths and winced.
sarcastic won't help me help you, Al." Verbena said as she sat on her heels.
then, try 'all over'. What the hell was Ziggy thinking?" he asked with some anger in
helped Al to slowly sit up. "Ziggy? There was a surge, Al. I don't think that Ziggy
had anything to do with what just happened. Do you, Tina?" She turned to Tina for
confirmation when she heard heels click into the Imaging Room.
say," she breathed. "Either Ziggy has lost it, or something's seriously
honey, you can bet your best pair of high heels that there is definitely something wrong.
I just spent the last five minutes in pain, trapped in this damn room! You can't tell me
that Ziggy didn't have anything to do with it."
show you pain, buster. Lay off, OK?" Tina snapped, sure that Ziggy didn't have
anything to do with the problem.
shook her head at the two of them. "Now, Al, Tina, that's no way to act. We need to
find out what is going on here and bickering won't help us in the least."
figure out what happened," Tina commented. "Gooshie has a theory, but he didn't
say what it was; just that he needed to check some facts first."
grunted, not convinced that Ziggy wasn't involved in the torture.
was helping Al stand when Beth flew into the Imaging Chamber directly to Al's side.
"Oh, my God, Al! Are you all right?" She asked as she drew him into a warm, but
honey." He gave her a weak smile and returned the hug, loving the feeling of her next
to him. "I'll be OK."
do I need to do, 'Bena? Does he need to get to the infirmary?" she asked, ignoring
do not need to go to the infirmary, Beth. I just
I just needed a little help in
getting on my feet."
pushed him off of her, and faced him, hands on her hips. "You've never needed help in
your life, Albert Calavicci. Stop arguing with me." Her stern face gave way to a
smile, her relief obvious. "You know that I know you better than anybody else."
She stepped forward and lightly kissed his cheek.
grinned knowing that she was right. Maybe he did need to lie down for a little while, just
to make sure he was fully recovered from the mysterious malaise.
red metallic hue passed over Mr. Kidd's handyman as he worked in a barn. Instantly, he was
sent to oblivion where he didn't want to be, depositing in his place a tall, slim black
man surrounded by the handyman's aura.
immediately wrinkled up his nose in disgust at the heavy smell of manure. Overcome, he ran
outside to be sick.
him, he heard the throaty laughter of a woman as she wheeled herself from a red rectangle
into view. "Thames, you are priceless. Look at you! Farmer Thames!" She began to
laugh again, but set off a coughing fit. She pressed her hand flat to her chest to control
it and the accompanying pain. Slowly, she took a long breath that was emphasized by
to be Farmer Thames than stuck in that chair, ZoŽ."
looked up at Thames with animosity and snarled at him, "Get on with it!" She
huffed as he looked around at his surroundings. "Be glad you can't smell this place,
baby." He leaned against the barn door looking at the farm's expanse. "Where the
hell am I exactly?"
replied, "You're in the best place you'll ever be. You're here to kill the good Dr.
Beckett." ZoŽ started to grin, thinking of the plan that she and Lothos had
concocted, and jealous that Thames got to carry it out. "We need to find where he is.
That is, we need to find Mr. Kidd."
smiled at the assignment, and took a deep breath of clean air. "That shouldn't be too
hard. You're sure he's leaped into Kidd?"
slowly moved the wheelchair next to Thames' side. She looked around outside, and spotted a
man going toward the corral. She extended her arm and pointed at the man. "Yes. The
information came right from precious Ziggy's mouth, so Lothos is positive on that one,
chuckled lightly. "That's him, huh? I'm not impressed."
did you think you'd find, Thames? A young buck, owning a place like this? If only."
ZoŽ's mind slowly slipped away from the moment at hand, a fantasy beginning.
only you could get out of your chair and buck that buck?" His voice teased viciously.
have you know that before Calavicci put me in this chair, that I was the best
riding anything to the ground."
gave her a wicked, lustful look. "Ooh, kinky."
regret the day that he hurt me. I will have my revenge." ZoŽ said maliciously,
have our revenge, love. Remember, patience is a virtue."
snapped out of her reverie. "Patience is a thorn in my side, Thames. We need action.
Action that lets our adoring Admiral realize he will never be able to retrieve his friend.
You need to get some firepower. Something adequate to do the ole boy in."
smiled at her tone as he looked across the yard at Dr. Sam Beckett. "Not a problem,
baby. Trust me." He smiled widely as he turned back to her.
don't trust anyone, especially you, Thames."
you can learn," he tsked, then slowly walked away from the barn toward the house
hoping to find the firepower that he needed there. He was sure that Kidd had something in
the house. This was a working ranch, after all. They had to have something to put the
useless beasts down with.
shook her head as he walked away. She laid her hand on the link in her lap and quickly
popped in beside the Sam. She watched as he climbed to the upper rail of the arena fence
to observe the riders putting the horses through their paces. "You'll get yours, Dr.
Beckett." ZoŽ said through a tight, evil grin. "I'll make sure of that, my
dear. You'll be dead very soon."
glanced at the people riding in the arena. Something clicked in her mind and she frowned,
looking back at the female rider. There was something familiar there; but that wasn't
possible. She watched as the young lady jumped the horse over an obstacle. She seemed ever
so graceful, and it struck a sour chord in ZoŽ when she realized that she would never be
able to ride a horse. She clenched her teeth together in an effort to control her own
emotions from bubbling over, then she saw the woman's face.
The name was barely audible through her clenched teeth. She fought to control the fury
threatening to overcome her and her tenuous breathing, and realized that the tramp hadn't
noticed her. Theoretically, she should be able to still see me, ZoŽ thought as she
studied the girl. She looked damnably happy, but never took notice of the wheelchair-bound
hologram. "Well," she said finally, licking her dry lips and smiling like a
wolf. Trying to control her shaking hands, she concluded, "Isn't this interesting?
Now we can kill two birds with one stone!" She looked down at the link lying in her
lap and raised one delicate eyebrow as she tapped the link. "Oh, Thames,
darling!" she sang as the device took her to him.
put Tina and Sammie Jo in charge of investigating the problems that they were experiencing
with Ziggy in the Control Room. They were quite capable of tracking those problems down.
Gooshie, however, felt in his gut that something was terribly wrong. He walked down the
corridor; his mind working overtime going through previous diagnostics from earlier in the
day. He had even gone into his quarters and pulled out some diagrams of Ziggy's systems so
that he could double check what he remembered as he walked. Something wasn't tracking
right. "No," he said to himself as he flipped a page, and continued down another
hall. He put his free hand on the wall panels as he passed, each one matching the diagram
in his hand. He went into the first systems room where Ziggy's analytical relays were, and
began checking them in sequence.
The whisper seemed to emanate from everywhere, and he smiled at the source.
Ziggy. Glad to see that your communication relay is back online for the moment."
Ziggy repeated softly.
frowned as he looked around the technician's station. He didn't like the way Ziggy
sounded. "Ziggy?" He listened carefully for a moment, his mind working furiously
to figure out what was going on.
me." The sound was even softer than before and he knew that the computer was in
trouble. He had never heard Ziggy sound so vulnerable and weak. She had always been strong
and determined and very talkative with her Barbara Streisand ego.
no." Suddenly, something clicked in the programmer's mind and the pieces fell
together. Had Ziggy been compromised? Was someone or something trying to infiltrate the
Project? That would explain some of the anomalies. He looked back down at the diagrams in
his hands and thought of the various systems centers. The only one that had been occupied
prior to the first fluctuations had been the main conduits relay room in Section Four. He
slapped an intercom and told the Control room where he was going. Setting his jaw, and
with a firm grip on the diagrams, he headed toward Section Four.
stood at Ziggy's console, frowning at the information before her. "Dr. Fuller, would
you look at this, please?"
Jo walked over to see what Tina was looking at. "What?" She looked at Tina's
tapping finger. "That has to be wrong
. that can't be."
the room, Beth and Dr. Beeks were helping Al to the corridor. He was wobbly, but walking
with minor assistance. "We're taking the Admiral to his quarters," Beth told the
be fine, Beth." Al protested.
are the most stubborn man, you know that? You must want to take me to an early
grave." Beth said as she laid her hand on his chest.
honey, that was my dad," Al grinned.
Tina beckoned again. Finally she raised her voice to get his attention. "Admiral
looked at Beth gently then turned quickly to look at Tina. He pushed away from Beth and
wobbled to the console. "What is it, Tina? What did you find?"
don't know if I found Ziggy's problem or not, but I do know something. There's another
leaper somewhere, I think
that's the only time we've seen readings like this."
moved around the console and read the graph himself. "Shit!"
moved closer to the group at the console. "Oh no."
there's another problem." Sammie Jo started. "We can't tell if the leaper is
here or with Dr. Beckett. We need Ziggy to confirm that."
bucket of bolts nearly killed me in there, in case you forgot. Something is screwed up
wasn't Ziggy's fault." Tina said hotly. "I think that's what Gooshie was
intervened. "Well, I could have told you that. Ziggy may be just bolts and hardware,
but she has never done anything malicious."
glared at Verbena. "Well, she has now. Or at least something is wrong enough with her
to cause what just happened in the Imaging Chamber."
Sammie Jo stated. "I'm going to check the automated records from earlier, before
Ziggy started freaking out. Maybe there is an outside influence."
that possible Sammie Jo?" Verbena asked, confused. "I mean, we have security
measures, how could anyone get in here to sabotage Ziggy in the first place? She would
have announced a breech, wouldn't she?"
don't like the sound of all this." Al began pacing, upset.
Jo looked unsure. "I don't know." She said reluctantly. "Go find Gooshie
and ask him. He's been backtracking the longest, and would be able to steer us in the
right direction." She grabbed a clipboard and went off to another workstation to try
and prove her theory from here.
glanced at Beth, unsure of what to do. This situation was reeling out of control. He
nervously balled his right hand into a fist and used his left hand to pop his knuckles,
then switched hands as he paced. He didn't like feeling out of control. "Where did
Gooshie disappear to, anyway?" He asked finally.
think that he went to Section Four, where the maintenance conduit units are." Tina
waved a hand in the direction that he should take.
approached her husband. "Al, honey, you're going to make yourself worse. Please sit
down." She watched helplessly as he paced back and forth, then placed a hand on his
arm to stop his four-step pace. "Al."
acknowledged Tina's information, then looked at Beth with tenderness. He hoped that she
understood why he had to push himself. "Keep working on Ziggy from here." He
looked away from Beth to the hallway before heading toward Section Four.
turned to Verbena as she laid her hands on Ziggy's console only to shake her head softly.
"You know, 'Bena, I think that sometimes he was dropped on his head at birth. Doesn't
listen to a word I say."
know the feeling." They smiled at each other then headed off in hot pursuit to help
in anyway that they could.
Gate, New Mexico
Main Conduit Relay Room looked as if a tornado had struck. Multi-colored panels were
scattered on the floor, the cause of which sat by the exposed conduit main grid. Starting
at the left side of the grid and working his way to the right, Gooshie had stripped the
wall of panels to view the circuitry in its entirety. He and Dr. Beckett had wired this
section themselves, and now looking at the end result, he wondered why they hadnt
made it more simplistic.
sat back on his heels absently rubbing his chin as he followed the main conduit with his
eyes. The yellow color of the conduit was fairly easy to track as it mingled in with the
other colors, but an unfamiliar object interrupted the pattern. He'd found it.
of a bitch!" Clearly, he saw where the conduit had been cut and was now wired to a
lighter green outside line. He retrieved the test monitor from his pile of tools to test
the line for a power source and prepared to hook up. The sound of people entering the room
made him pause and look up as he connected one of the receptors.
have you got, Goosh?" Al questioned. He stopped just inside the doorway due to the
panels on the floor, backed by Beth and Verbena, when the programmer raised his hand for
them to stop. Patiently, they waited for a response. It was difficult for Al to keep from
tapping his toe impatiently.
hooked up the monitor's second receptor, and was instantly showered with sparks. The wild
haired programmer just had enough time to throw up his hands over his face when the
monitor exploded beside him. Al jumped back in the hall as Gooshie kicked the monitor to
the other side of the room. "Admiral, someone is accessing Ziggy from outside the
Project!" he yelled over the noise. Ziggys plea for help was still fresh in
Gooshie's mind as he reached into the exposed circuitry. He didnt even think about
the possible consequences.
no!" Al hollered as he dove in the room from the hall.
grabbed the conduit with both hands and pulled. As the connection broke free, a brilliant
flash erupted in the room. The concussion threw Al backward into Beth and Verbena, bowling
them all over. They were bruised, but still conscious.
wasnt so lucky. He received the full brunt of the blast, and was knocked back with a
loud grunt. His body flew across the room and impacted the opposite wall with enough force
to leave an impression. His hands were black and smoking, indistinguishable from the
burning sleeves of his lab coat. His body slid down the wall and crumpled into a
sat up and shook his head, his ears ringing. He blinked rapidly to clear the stinging
smoke from his eyes, and tried to find Gooshie in the haze. The first thing he saw was the
black hole where the conduit had been. "My God!" he whispered, then coughed and
scanned the room, stopping at the crumpled form on the floor. "No!" He breathed,
crawling into the room.
Admiral?" Ziggys voice floated through the room, strong and clear. "There
is another leaper. Someone has leaped to the ranch with Dr. Beckett. I surmise that Dr.
Beckett is in extreme danger."
and Verbena stood slowly still confused from the jolt and staggered to the doorway in
shock. Hearing Ziggys voice momentarily distracted them, then Verbena saw Al's
motion. Instantly she saw his intent, and raced past him, reaching Gooshie first. Beth was
close on her heels, and stopped to help Al to his feet.
Admiral immediately bowed to Verbena and Beth's expertise, and instinctively took command
of the situation. The Project was clearly under attack.
get the Imaging Chamber back online and get the medics down here STAT," he barked. Al
looked at the downed programmer as Beth and Verbena hovered over him, checking his vital
signs. He issued orders rapidly to the staff as they showed up, and only allowed the
medics to enter. He had to warn Sam, but he had to make sure the Project was secure first.
He delayed his departure to the Imaging Chamber until Julianna arrived, backed by heavily
armed Marines. He released the scene into her capable hands, and with one more glance in
Gooshie's direction left for the Control Room. He could hear Julianna and Verbena barking
orders behind him.
Ziggy asked softly as Al jogged down the hall.
Al replied his mind busy.
havent lost a friend, have I?" Her voice was almost a whisper.
took a deep breath and slowed to a walk, the other thoughts forgotten. Had she? He didn't
know, and couldn't afford to think about it now. "I hope you havent, Ziggy. I
don't know." He squared his shoulders and pushed the thoughts aside, and strode
quickly into the Control Room. He was met with the wide eyes and questioning looks of
Sammie Jo and Tina.
should have the Imaging Chamber ready to go." He snatched up the hand link, trying to
think of what to say. He stopped, and met their eyes. "There was an explosion.
Gooshie's hurt." The two women gasped in unison. "I don't know how bad. Ziggy
says there's another leaper with Sam and I have to warn him before it's too late. It looks
like Gooshie was right about an interloper." The pair dropped their heads, stunned,
and started working the controls. They knew what was at stake, and time was of the
approached the Imaging Chamber door. Ever so softly, the humming of the Imaging Chamber
began and Ziggys soft voice floated throughout the Project. "Thank you,
Gooshie. You saved me."
entered the Chamber somberly.
voice emitted from the intercom. "Admiral," she said, her voice cracking with
emotion, "Ziggy seems to be fine for the moment, but I dont know for how
nodded at the information and pushed back the welling emotions from Ziggys soft
thanks. "Center me on Sam, sweetheart."
his perch on the upper rail of the arena fence, Sam watched Alia and the other riders jump
horses over brightly painted fences. He studied Alia for several minutes, admiring her
gracefulness and control. In his mind he knew she integral to the happenings at the
Project, and the thought was counter to the peaceful scene before him.
Al pop out so dramatically had greatly disturbed him. Sam was determined to confront Alia
at first, but during the walk to the arena he had reasoned himself out of it. Talking
irately to her wasnt going to cut it, and he knew it. So, he calmed himself down by
just watching her and waited for the right opportunity.
sound of the Imaging Chamber door startled him right off the fence into the arena. He
turned to look outside the fence and saw a bright spot of light trying to grow to the size
of a door. Sam squinted into the white blur of light. "Al?" he whispered.
noted her boss' tumble from the fence, and reined her horse to a stop. She saw him lean
over the fence, and thought he was in pain. Nudging her mount in his direction, she felt
the horse stiffen, and saw his ears lock forward. His steps became hesitant, and he shied
to one side. He didn't want to go near the man. Her concentration switched to calming the
horse down. Her job wasn't going to be any easier when the horse saw a bright, red
rectangle appear close to Sam. The animal planted his feet, and refused to move.
ZoŽ maneuvered her way through the door and saw the horse, she grinned a wicked grin and
threw both of her hands up and said, "BLEEAH!" The terrified animal spun and
tried to run, but Alia pulled his head around and forced him into a tight circle.
ZoŽ laughed a throaty laugh, and turned her attention to Sam when she heard him talking.
tried to focus on his surroundings, and double-checked that his face was void of emotion.
"Hey, Sam!" he called out loudly. "Sam, where are you?"
hear you, Al." Sam whispered. "Where are you?"
is your friend here, now, Dr. Beckett?" ZoŽ questioned as she tilted her head every
so slightly to listen to his one-sided conversation.
Al muttered to himself. "First the cramps from hell and now this. Im standing
right beside you, Sam. At least, I think I am. This isnt good. I cant make
heads or tails of anything here." He started in on the hand link.
Whats wrong?" Sam tilted his head, trying to zero in on his Observer's voice,
and saw a flicker of light. "I
I can barely see you. Whats
wrong with Ziggy?" Sam glanced over his shoulder, and saw Alia working her horse in a
tight circle nearby, and turned his attention back to Al.
Al began to visualize Sam in the Imaging Chamber, faintly at first but it was slowly
getting clearer. "Were not sure about everything yet. G
working on it." Al was making some fast decisions. How much did Sam need to know?
What was his gut telling him to say? "Ziggy's been acting weird."
'Weird'? How weird? What do you mean, 'weird'? What's she saying?"
snorted a laugh. "Probably, 'Please, Lothos, don't cut off my power supply!' "
The comment made her fall into another coughing fit.
took in a deep breath. "Sam, Ziggy also says there's another leaper here with
leaper?! Here?" Sam turned in a circle, and saw Alia had stopped the nervous horse
just a few feet away. Her head snapped up in astonishment.
ZoŽ said hotly. "They know! Howd they know?"
did you say? Leaper?" Alias eyes began to blink rapidly. Her mouth dropped open
as she studied her employer with a fearful eye.
Sam started in a pleading tone, his arms out to his side.
Al shouted, suddenly noticing the woman on the horse. Her face wasn't very clear, but he
recognized her. He pounded on the hand link in his hand, trying to get more information
from Ziggy but not getting anything other than gibberish.
stared at the aura of Jim Kidd, open-mouthed. "Sam?" she said in a quaking
decided not to approach her. "Alia
." The horse started to fidget.
"Its me, yeah. Sam Beckett. And I think that youre why Im
bloody hell!" ZoŽ raised her hands to scare the horse.
horse jumped backwards at the commotion and threw Alia off over his shoulder. She hit the
ground shoulder first, and rolled into a sitting position. She scrambled backwards as Sam
approached. "What? What about Thames? And ZoŽ? I thought I was free of them!"
yet, you bitch." ZoŽ said hotly. "Id kill you myself if I were there,
Alia. Thames! Where have you been, you idiot? They know about you."
dropped into the arena behind Sam, smiling wickedly. He had left the shotgun leaning on
the outside of the fence hoping to get as close as possible first. That plan was blown now
that they knew about him. "Oh, what an introduction," he said warmly. "Did
you miss us, Alia?"
got to her feet, finally noticing the dangerous glint in ranch hand's eye as he entered
the arena. "Thames?" she whispered.
our leaper, Sam!" Al confirmed, his view flickering. He swore under his breath and he
tapped the keys of the hand link rapidly.
Sam echoed turning and preparing to fight. "Alia! Get out of here! Go!" Sam
motioned towards the woods.
hadn't moved. "No, Sam. Im not going to run away from them anymore. Im
facing my demons." She realized the term accurately described whom they were dealing
choice of words, my dear. But you really dont even know what demons are. Yet."
Thames said hauntingly.
know exactly what Im talking about," Alia growled, moving in for a fight.
talking and kill them, you idiot!" ZoŽ snapped hotly.
glare turned into a sickly smile as he thought of how he would love to hear her scream in
agony. "You think so?"
it, Sam! Get the hell out of here! Now!" Al realized that Ziggy was starting to fail
other rider in the arena heard the ruckus and started over to the group.
was undaunted. "Listen, Thames. You dont have the balls to try something. I
know that look. You wont do anything. Youre all blow and no go."
took the split second opportunity of Thames' distraction and charged at him. "Alia!
tackled him and they both went rolling, fighting for the upper hand.
out for the fence, Sam!" Al hollered.
Alia cried. "Sam!"
was a sickening sight for the leapers and Al as their auras undulated weirdly between
them. Sam blurred into and out of Jim Kidd, and Thames' alternated between a heavyset
white man and a thin black man. They rolled under the fence as one tangled mass, one man
intent on defeating and the other intent on killing.
moved with them but then the other rider arrived and stopped her with a firm hand on her
shoulder. "No. You dont want to be in the middle of that," he said.
managed to stop their momentum while he was on top of Thames' chest, and threw several
punches in a row. His knuckles were bloody, as was the Thames' face. With a roar of fury,
Thames had a burst of energy and threw Sam aside, holding him firmly by his collar. He
unleashed a mighty undercut to the gut, throwing Sam backwards. He landed hard on his head
and the world spun crazily for a few seconds. He rolled to his knees, unable to protect
his kidneys, and Thames zeroed in on the opening with hard kicks.
Dont let this nozzle do this! Get up and hit him!" Al fuzzy voice rang out as
he danced like a shadow boxer, his holographic image fading in and out.
on sweetie, dont let me down! Kick him for me, for you, for anything you want, baby,
just do him in!" ZoŽ cheered hoarsely as she watched from the sidelines.
rolled away from his adversary, and used that momentum to grab the attacking foot kicking
and twist it violently. There was a popping sound, and Thames yelled out as he lost his
balance and fell to the ground with a thud.
are you letting this leech get the better of you? Fight, you wimp, fight!" ZoŽ
managed to get away from the other rider and ran towards the pair. Sam quickly took the
advantage of his downed adversary and threw himself over Thames, grinding his elbow in the
man's neck. "Alia!" he gasped, "Get away! Run!"
wasn't the only one making her way to the fracas. A drumming of feet heralded the
inevitable arrival of the other barn workers, all eager to help their boss. When she got
to Sam's side, Thames let loose with a mighty roll and the pair knocked her off her feet.
A wild, stray kick from Thames hit her squarely across the face, bowling her back to land
hard on the ground. She clamored up to her feet, a red mark prominent on her face.
stood for a frozen second, her hand on her throbbing face. She took in the dusty battle,
and in an instant realized that ZoŽ must be here somewhere, too. Fear and panic washed
over her; she glanced up to the approaching barn crew and made the decision to leave Sam
in their hands.
scrambled back through the fence into the arena and was able to catch the loose horse that
still trusted her. Mounting up, she intended to do exactly what Sam had said
Gathering up the reins, she glanced back at Sam one more time then urged the horse to fly
girl! Run!" Al urged, his voice static.
Shes getting away!" ZoŽ observed loudly. "If only I wasnt in this
wheelchair." She looked back at Thames as he once again got the upper hand on the
tiring Dr. Beckett. Thames was now on top of him, his hands locked around Sams
throat. "Squeeze, baby squeeze!" ZoŽ said, her eyes glazed in ecstasy over the
shocked look on the good Doctors face.
on, Sam! You cant let him do this. Come on!" Al was hopping up and down now,
flustered that he couldnt help his friend. He got on his knees by Sam's head,
knowing that he couldnt help, but wanting Sam to know that he was there for him.
" The Observer was alarmed by the redness of Sam's face.
was fighting for breath, his vision fading to black, as he tried to break Thames
grip on his neck. He locked eyes with his Observer and best friend, using them as a focal
point. Suddenly, Al's face disappeared. Almost instantly, Thames grip vanished. He
took a great gasp, and blinked repeatedly to clear his vision, but Al was nowhere to be
seen. He rubbed his neck and turned around in time to see Alia and her horse sail over the
arena fence and gallop off into the distance.
Thames! We almost had him!"
choked a thanks to the workers who had pulled Thames off. Unable to speak anymore, he
stumbled to the nearest Jeep, and to the puzzlement of the workers, climbed in and drove
off spewing rocks and dirt as he went after Alia.
continued to thrash in his captors' grip, finally getting away when they saw their boss
was safely away. Thames ran to the shotgun against the fence, grabbed it, and made a
beeline to another ranch Jeep parked by the barn. He jumped in to the shouts of the
workers, and followed the trail of dust.
tore down the lengthy driveway, his neck a throbbing reminder of what was behind him. He
turned down the highway in the general direction he last saw Alia. Almost immediately, he
spotted a small paved road off to his right and he took it, relying on his bump of
direction. He calculated that he could head her off, and that she wasnt that far
ahead of him. The road made a sweeping curve around the base of a hill and when he rounded
the apex of the curve he saw a valley open up off to his right.
motion of a running horse in the corner of his eye immediately caught his attention. He
pulled off the road, hiding the Jeep in a bunch of trees, and headed back to the valley on
foot. Swallowed by the trees, he couldnt see her, so he crossed the narrow road and
climbed to a ridge above the highway just in time to see Alia come out of the brush edging
the roadway. She was almost across from him, but he wasn't sure if she was in hearing
distance and debated yelling to her. He opted to hold his tongue when he heard the sound
of a car on the highway, and was glad he did when he saw it was Thames. He realized he had
no time to warn her.
was galloping down the side of the highway when she heard the sound of the vehicle behind
her. She looked back over her shoulder to see who it was, and when she saw Thames, she
spurred the horse on and pulled the reins toward the roadside guardrail which was there to
protect cars from going off into the valley below.
watched in horror as he saw her position herself to make a jump. His eyes widened in awe
as the gelding barreled confidently down the straightway, like this was a walk in the
seemed an impossible jump from Sam's view. He saw the big, bay gelding's ears perk up as
he gauged the distance to the roadside guardrail. The rail itself wasn't that high, only a
couple of feet, but the drop on the other side was practically vertical. In addition, the
ground looked hard with loose rocks spread across the slope, staying in place by unknown
means. The dirt easement next to the roadway was in the same condition and Sam could hear
the geldings hooves pounding on the ground even from his distance. Alia was in a
perfect two-point position, her hands low on the horse's neck, weight in her heels, and
her body balanced to the galloping rhythm and raised slightly off the animals' back. Her
face was set in concentration, totally aware of the danger following her, but not allowing
it to distract her. She knew her life depended on the horse's ability.
bay's neck lowered slightly as he gathered his hindquarters under himself, setting his
feet for a firm take-off. Time seemed to slow as Sam saw the gravel flying from the
horse's hooves. He was awed that the animal could keep his feet, let alone make the jump
he was angling towards. The following Jeep was moving at a good speed, slipping slightly
sideways as it transitioned from the roadway to roadside, trying to close the gap between
them. Sam saw Thames leaning out the window, his elbow hooked on the doorframe for
stability as he leveled the gun on the galloping couple. The Jeep was entering the
straightaway Alia was on, and he would have a clear shot in seconds. There was a pinging
noise from rocks striking the metal guardrail and a screeching of tires mixed with the
thunder of the bay's hooves. The Jeep spewed a cloud of dust from beneath the two tires on
focused back on Alia and whispered, "NO!" protesting the planned gunshot and the
imminent leap of the gelding. As he raised his hands to his mouth to warn Alia, the animal
jumped. Sam held his breath.
was a graceful arc, the gelding's head raised up, ears forward. He seemed to float over
the guardrail, feet tucked neatly, then angled sharply down. As his hindquarters cleared
the rail and the pair sank down out of sight in a puff of dust, a gunshot rang out. It was
a wild shot, considering how the Jeep was fishtailing.
his higher viewpoint across the road Sam saw the horse slipping down the hill, amazingly
keeping his balance by sitting on his hindquarters while stretching out his front legs and
delicately using them to steer. Alia was molded to his back as if they were one unit. It
would have been a beautiful sight to study if it weren't for the Jeep sliding to a stop at
the horse's take off point.
he heard Thames shout at the audacity of such a feat. Thames jumped from the car and
sprinted to the rail to draw a bead on Alia. He wobbled for a few seconds as his feet
found purchase on the rocky ground, then aimed the gun in her direction. The dust from the
fleeing pair slowed his target acquisition, giving them a precious few moments to escape.
was firmly in control of the horse, guiding him gently. There was a ditch at the base of
the hill with heavy brush on the far side; beyond that was forest and cover. Sam could see
she had the slimmest chance for escape.
magnificent animal used his front legs to position himself for the jump at the bottom. He
was alert, again gauging the distance, ears pricked forward like he did this every day. As
he pushed off the hill, he raised his knees gracefully and sailed over the ditch. On the
roadside, Thames squeezed the trigger as the horse rose out of the dust. The shot was loud
in the absence of pounding hooves and squealing tires, and it made Sam flinch.
the horse landed on the opposite bank he stumbled, nearly going down headfirst. Sam,
horrified, watched as the horse's legs flailed in the loose dirt. Alia grabbed fistfuls of
mane and she lost both stirrups, fighting to stay aboard while the horse fought to stay on
his feet. With the reins free and flying, the animal managed to stay upright and crashed
through the brush just as another shot tore through the air. The horse and rider were a
frantic blur as they entered the woods. Sam just saw a glimpse of Alia clinging to the
horse's neck as they disappeared to the sound of yet another shot. He couldn't tell if
they had been hit or not; he was still shocked they survived the jump.
snapped back to real speed as Sam realized he was an open target standing on the hill.
Flopping down on his stomach, he parted a bush with his hands so he could watch Thames'
reaction. He heard the crackling sound of breaking brush fading in the distance as Alia
and her savior retreated. Thames cursed loudly and waved his arms angrily as he stormed
his way back to the Jeep and Sam was grateful for at least the illusion of safety behind
the skimpy brush. He watched the evil leaper fire up the car and start the hunt for a way
into the woods. Sam knew he had to find Alia quickly and get her to safety, wherever that
dammit, dammit!" Al ranted when he found himself surrounded by the Imaging Chamber
again. "Get me centered on Sam now, Tina! Move it!"
cant, Admiral. The powers been cut off to the IC
" Tina started.
dont want to hear excuses! Sams in danger!"
know, Al." Donna snapped, her fingers flying over the console. Her eyes were red, but
her voice strong. "Tina, check the main grid. Something is blocking the power flow.
Gooshie said," her voice caught, then she got it under control. "Gooshie said
there was an outside interface taking over."
bit his tongue at the revelation. The last thing he needed to do was make Donna more
worried and jump down everyone's throats.
me trace it down." Her normally plucky voice was shaky, trying to forget what she had
seen, and knowing Sams life was in the balance.
barely audible whisper floated down once again. "Danger. Shut. Down."
Al shouted towards the ceiling. "Ziggy, what in the hell are you saying?"
danger." Ziggys voice grew louder and louder until it
sounded like a freight train running through the room. "SHUT DOWN!"
blocked his ears, wincing at the noise. Donna and Tina slapped their hands over their ears
too, their eyes watering. Suddenly, the room was deathly quiet.
removed his hands before marching back to the Control Room, relieved the door worked at
least. "What the hell happened?"
ashen-faced Sammie Jo entered the Control Room, her red-eyed paleness a clear picture of
how Gooshies accident was affecting everyone. Sammie just shook her head. "I
think its obvious, Admiral. Ziggy just said to shut her down. I shut her down."
"And you listened?!" He waved his arms frantically.
Jo winced at the tone, but understood his annoyance. "Thats right. I did. This
morning, Gooshie was talking about the main grids. He was trying to save Ziggy. You know
how much he cared for this project. Ziggy was his baby, and he was doing everything he
could. So when she says to shut down, Im going to shut her down. She was asking us
to. She might be able to fight it now. I
I dont know for sure, but we have to
give her a chance." A tear slid down her cheek but she didnt bother to wipe at
looked at her with a frown. "Do we know how, what-ever-it-is, is trying to control
not yet." Sammie Jo said softly. "But if you give me time, I can
it, Sammie Jo! We've probably lost Gooshie and Ill be damned if we lose Sam
too!" Al knew the moment the words passed his lips how that sounded, and he wished he
could take them back.
Jo stormed up to Al and stopped mere inches from his face, her anger clear. "Im
not going to lose my father, sir. Understand?" Sammie Jo set her jaw as she looked at
him. "When it's time, we'll turn Zig back on, and get the IC running. I know that you
want to see Sam and make sure that hes okay. I know that! But remember that dad
knows some awesome Karate moves and can handle himself." Spent, the emotions of the
day suddenly set on her and she broke down, sobbing.
face softened at the sight, but his frustration was still there. And of all times for her
to start looking like Sam when hes making a point. Al closed his eyes and exhaled.
He reached out to her, and tilted her chin to make her look up at him. "Okay, Sammie.
Okay. Well do this. Well make it happen."
and the others brainstormed a plan of action, and set of in their search and destroy
missions. The infiltrater had to be isolated and stopped. They weren't even sure the
extent of the infiltration, but they had to start somewhere.
the scientists in control, Al had a break from the action, and reluctantly headed toward
the infirmary. He felt like a heel. He had gone off in full-bore fighting mode, and
hadnt dared think about Gooshie since leaving Section Four. He rounded the final
corner to his destination and hesitated just short of the door. He prepared himself
mentally, and walked into the infirmary.
was quiet. A feeling of foreboding overcame him, and he dropped into the nearest seat,
suddenly drained. Verbena must have heard him enter, because she appeared from another
doorway like she was expecting him. The redness of her eyes and cheeks hinted to report,
and Al hoped she wouldn't speak at all.
looked at Al with shiny eyes, her chin quivering. "Im sorry, Al," she said
Gooshie didn't make it." She didnt wait for a response.
She simply collapsed in a chair near him, silent tears running down her cheeks.
gritted his teeth at the confirmation of his unspoken fear. He closed his eyes and bowed
his head for a moment, then sat forward and buried his face in his hands.
emerged from the inner room, tear marks staining her cheeks, but she wasn't crying at the
moment. She regarded her husband with a sad expression. Shock had set in and she moved
toward him not cognizant of what was really happening around her. She sat down beside her
husband and placed a hand on his back. "We did everything humanly possible. We did
all we could, and it simply wasn't enough."
gently wrapped his arms around her, brushing her hair absently.
blinked twice letting his embrace close around her. Then the tears came again, her body
shaking in his arms. "Oh, Al
Im so sorry."
okay, baby." He whispered softly, forcing his own feelings down yet again. He held
her a little more tightly, trying to stave off the guilty feeling that he hadn't done
enough. "Everything will be okay."
know it will. It has to be. He can't have died for no reason. He was your
huffed slightly. "He was a pain in the neck," he quipped, trying to push off his
feelings of loss.
seen it before with other family members who had passed away, Beth understood what he was
trying to do. She lightly kissed his cheek. "Ive already said my good-byes.
Perhaps you should do the same."
blinked back some tears, not wanting to show the pain he was feeling. "I
cant," he said softly.
you can." She sniffed, her crying under control. "You may act like the hard ass
that you want everyone to think you are, but I know your heart. You have to have closure
on this. Ill come with you, if you'd like." She stood beside him and offered
her hand. "Al?"
took her hand, and squeezed it as he slowly stood up. He took a deep breath and followed
her. "I dont
sighed softly. "Baby, I know." Fresh tears fell down her cheeks again and she
softly tugged on his hand again with a sad smile. "You can do this."
looked at her lovingly before he allowed himself to be led into the room. It was cold and
eerie, and he wanted to flee right off the bat, but he stood his ground both mentally and
physically as he approached the body.
gently folded back the sheet from Gooshies face as 'Bena had done for her. He looked
peaceful, almost as if he was sleeping. She kept her eyes downcast at Gooshie's face,
trying to give Al an illusion of privacy.
jaw muscles worked quietly as he spoke through clenched teeth, the words directed at the
still body. "Damn it, whyd you have to be so
Beth finished for him.
He whispered, letting out a breath as he looked down on Gooshie. He felt responsible. If
he had only reached him sooner, this wouldnt have happened.
read his thoughts. "You cant blame yourself, Al. Gooshie did what he had to do.
he loved her, Al. He put his life into Ziggy. Ziggy was his reason for getting up
in the morning. He
" Beth choked, unable to talk.
knew that Beth was right. He couldnt blame himself. Now, he couldnt stop the
tears. They fell silently from his eyes, and he quickly wiped them away, only to have
fresh ones take their place. "He was
.jeeze, Beth, he drove me
nuts." Al pulled her close to stop his own quivering.
small laugh burst out from her sorrow. "I know. And his breath
" She wiped
at her own tears in Als embrace. "It could knock over a cow! But, Ill
miss his coffee, and his chatter, his absent mindedness and his quiet way."
chuckled softly behind the tears. "Whos going to drive us up the wall now?
He'll be missed. Its just
" he shook his head, unable to continue, and
simply held her.
held him as tightly as he held to her. Together in their grief, they stood in the room
saying good-bye in their own way. Beth finally stepped from the arms of her husband and
looked at Gooshie one last time. She laid her hand on top of his. "Good-bye, Gooshie.
Watch over us."
gaze followed her, but he stepped back smartly, and snapped into well-rehearsed attention.
With all the respect he had for his friend and colleague, he swallowed hard, and executed
a perfect salute to the fallen hero.
To Be Continued