The mechanical hums and beeps of the hospice equipment had become ingrained
into their home. The quiet shusshing of the oxygen was as normal as the woman's frail
heartbeat. It was amazing to recall that the very same heartbeat that now caused the jerky
line on the monitor was the same one that this very home was built around, the same one
that made the homey ambiance wherever they went, the same one that followed him
everywhere, the same one that made his own heart go on.
He held her now fragile hand, bruised from needles and cold from fleeing
life, and wondered how he could possibly cope. He'd seen all sorts of war, all sorts of
suffering people and more broken lives than he cared to admit, but this one .. this one
was so very personal. His anchor was dropping away; his lifeline for dealing with all
those atrocities was being cast away.
His connection with life, their life, was being broken by cancer.
Tom Beckett looked down on the sunken cheeks of the bald woman that lay
in the hospital bed in his living room and saw only the raven-haired beauty he had married
in 1977. When her eyes drifted open, there was a moment of clarity around the massive
doses of morphine coursing through her system. Her smile was a mere twitch at the corner
of her lips, but her husband of 22 years saw the same radiance that had attracted him so
long ago. He managed a slight squeeze of her hand, and gently caressed the papery skin
along her sunken cheek. He leaned close so she could not see his tears.
"Hello, my sweet," he whispered gently in her ear as he brushed
her forehead with his lips.
"Tom." He heard her only because he was leaning so close. The
word was barely audible above his own breathing.
"Yes, my love." His voice sounded husky to him, but he knew she
"Find him, Tom." She uttered quietly, her breath as fleeting as
butterfly wings. He wasn't quite sure what she said at first, being so centered on his own
fight for control
"What?" He replied gently, still stroking her cheek with his
fingertips and caressing her forehead with his lips.
"Find him. Family. He's family." The effort exhausted her, and
the pillow beneath her head compressed slightly as she sank back, her eyes drifting
Tom pulled back, his tears under control for the moment. He knew whom she
meant; they'd had this discussion before in Japan, in Italy, in Hawaii, and in every other
city and country they'd lived in during his career. He had tried before, but not
whole-heartedly; he had his own concerns, what with his Navy career, raising children and
making sure his mother was cared for. After all, Sam could pick up a phone as easily as he
could, and hadn't really made any effort either, as far as he could see. Over the years it
just became easier to not try.
Only Melissa knew how deeply the separation cut her husband. She knew he
was incomplete because of it. Gently but persistently she hadn't allowed him to let go
completely. She knew it wasn't impossible, and she knew that her tough, Navy SEAL husband
would never be truly happy until he was reunited with his brother. And now she was leaving
him. She couldn't bear to leave, knowing he wasn't complete.
"Promise me," she whispered, using every ounce of energy she
could muster. She'd already said her goodbyes to Tom and her children. This was the only
unfinished business that vexed her, and she knew there wasn't much time. "Promise me
you'll find him." That took it all out of her. The response was lost in the swirling
wave of fatigue and weakness; she felt herself being swept away. In her mind's eye she saw
herself waving coyly at her lover and husband and her dear, sweet children from a distant
shore, not unlike all the other goodbyes she had given him when he left on all those Navy
cruises. Now it was her turn to leave.
"I promise," Tom croaked, wiping the tears from his eyes as the
monitors all fluctuated and fell. "I promise, my love."
He stayed by her side until her hand was cold hours later, wondering how
he would go on.
It's amazing what the human body can endure. It's even more amazing what the human
will can endure. With all the situations that leaping in time has made me face, and all
the puzzles I've had to figure out, it's still amazing to me that each leap starts so
fresh, like the first page of a new book.
But what has the overall toll been on my body? And what about my will?
There has to be a visceral memory somewhere keeping track of all these leaps. The
Swiss-cheese effect on my memory can't be retroactive and complete; I still remember ... I
think. At least, I remember when I need to, don't I?
And has anyone ever been able to measure how much the human heart can
August 31, 2000
Naval Air Station
It was a really irritating whistle that brought Sam Beckett to attention in his new life.
He blinked in the hot sunlight, immediately feeling the warm wind blowing in from across a
bay. What bay? He immediately thought, looking beyond the water to the curved
bridge in the distance. California? The very distant hills looked brown enough. He
shook his head at the clanging of a bell, bringing his attention back to the proceedings
The leaper was sitting in the middle of a line of folding chairs, a stage
in front of him decorated patriotically in red, white and blue bunting. There were men in
white uniforms standing on the stage at attention, one man standing behind a podium. Their
attention was to Sam's right, off stage. He turned his head and saw a red carpet laid out
on the short grass. One end started at the bottom of the stage steps, and the other end
stopped about 20 feet away, flanked by twin white rope railings.
A tall, trim man in dress Navy whites was striding confidently down the
red carpet to the stage. The irritating whistle had been a bo'sun and his brass whistle,
announcing the man's arrival, as was the clanging bell. Sam watched the man mount the
stairs, cross the stage and return the salute to the man behind the podium who must be
the, what, emcee? Host? Announcer? Sam thought. After the exchange, the new arrival
stepped back and sat with the others on stage. The man behind the podium began to
Sam took this time to slowly look around him. He was sitting on an inner
aisle chair with numerous rows of chairs stretching back behind him. Every chair was
occupied. In fact, there were people standing in the back, too. Most of them were in
uniform, and those that weren't were formally dressed. Blinking at the sky, he estimated
the time of day to be late morning, and automatically tugged at the tie he wore. The smell
of flowers tickled his nose and he cocked his head slightly to see a young woman, probably
in her early twenties, sitting next to him to the right, holding a spray of red roses.
Without turning her head, she jabbed him with her elbow.
"Stop messing with your tie!" she hissed quietly but firmly.
Sam, chastised, immediately dropped his hand and felt his cheeks
automatically turn hot. His mind started to whirl. She's too young to be my mother, I
think, he thought, looking at his hands. Then he noticed the class ring on his finger
which read 'Coronado High School 2000' At least I'm a high school graduate, he
mulled. The corner of a small booklet tucked under his thigh caught his eye. All that was
visible was the gold cord binding it, an anchor, and the date August 31, 2000. A recent
grad at that.
He tugged the booklet free of his leg and began to read the title as the
Imaging Chamber door swooshed open.
He read, 'Retirement Ceremony for Commander
Thomas Beckett!" the speaker finished as polite
applause started around him.
Sam froze as his heart jumped into his throat. His head snapped up to
find his brother, but instead saw the royal blue and gold form of the holographic Observer
burst from a bright rectangle directly in front of him.
"Tom!" Sam croaked out loud, oblivious to the irritated look
thrown at him by the young woman. He was forced out of his astonishment by her second,
well-placed jab. "Ow!"
"Shhh!" She hissed just as Al Calavicci slid to a stop in front
of them, forcing Sam to squint into the bright light of the Imaging Chamber.
"Sam! Don't move, OK? Just don't move!" The Imaging Chamber
door slid shut with a clank and Sam then tried to look around his friend to the stage. Al
waved his hands in front of Sam to keep the leaper from standing. "Sam, listen to me.
Don't say or do anything. Just listen, OK?" He took a breath when he saw Sam sit
tensely still and fix his wide hazel eyes on him. "OK, then. First things first. Do
you know who that is?" The hologram pointed back over his shoulder in the direction
of the stage.
Sam clamped an angry glare at Al and held up the pamphlet.
"Oh. I guess you do. OK, buddy, you just need to cool your jets for
a little while. Just sit. Relax, Sam." The last comment sounded more like an order.
The leaper took a breath and settled down enough to make both the woman
and the Observer happy. He stared expectantly at Al.
"Here's the scoop, Sam," Al started. "You're Jonathan
Thomas Beckett, age 18. You're known as J.T. This girl next to you is Catherine Louise
Beckett, 20, and your, I mean J.T.'s, sister. Tom is their father, Sam. You leaped into
Sam's eyes grew in shock. Nephew? I have a nephew? AND a niece?
AND they're adults? He blinked rapidly, futilely searching his brain. He had no
memory of them! His mouth sagged slightly and the look of his pain that passed through his
eyes was not lost on the Observer.
Al knew exactly how he felt. "Look, Sam, it's not your fault you
don't remember. It's the Swiss-cheese thing. I know you want to jump up right now and go
to your brother, but you can't. You hear me, Sam?" Al leaned over to catch his
friend's eyes. "All right? Sam?"
Sam nodded quickly, fixing his eyes on his hands until he could stop the
tears he felt growing. He took a breath and eventually looked up, now fully in control.
"That's good. Listen, we have an idea why you're here, but it can
wait. Right now you sit and listen to your big brother. You should be proud." Al's
voice was soft now and Sam heard the bleep of the handlink as the hologram called for the
door. "It'll give you time to catch up with family. But remember, Sam, you are
OK? And if anyone asks, you're going to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs in the
Sam nodded. The Imaging Chamber door
clunk-shoomed open and Al stepped
back through. "I'll check back after appetizers." He disappeared with the light.
When the doorway to the future clanked shut, Sam took a deep breath. He
finally took note of what was happening on the stage, and saw that a chaplain had just
finished the benediction. The host officer then introduced the guest speaker. Tom was
sitting behind the speaker, and his eyes were regarding the speaker with polite respect.
Sam felt like a complete fraud sitting there. How am I supposed to do
this? he thought. I don't know why I'm here, and honestly don't really care at this
point. How can I behave like a son to Tom?
Tomas Beckett had been his hero and role model. Sam studied his hands
clenched in his lap as he recalled many childhood interactions: Basketball, cows, and an
incident about being suspended by a rope in the barn? The last thought gave him a chill,
and he looked up to try and settle his mind.
Sam studied the man on the stage. Tom's short-cropped hair was gray on
the sides, and he saw the same strong jaw and clear eyes in a face rounded and lined by
the years. He was trim and fit, but that was no surprise to Sam. He did look a bit pale,
though. Probably from desk duty, Sam thought with amusement.
The guest speaker finished up his speech to polite applause, and Sam
realized he hadn't heard a word the man had said. The host again took the podium and
introduced Tom with a joke that made the audience laugh. Sam didn't get it; it was humor
based on a reputation Tom had obviously earned due to some incident somewhere. Then, after
a brief recap of his career, Sam's brother stood with a grin and confidently took over the
Sam felt his heart swell with pride. Tom's career had been impressive
Commander Thomas Beckett scanned the audience with a grin Sam remembered
clearly. Then he spoke.
"Friends, co-workers, fellow officers, sailors, and
family and I thank you for the time you've taken to be here with us today. Especially my
mother, who always wondered how someone could make such good friends when traveling so
Sam saw Tom indicate someone in the front row to Sam's right with a nod
of his head. Mom? was all Sam could think. As the crowd laughed at Tom's comment,
Sam leaned forward to look past J.T.'s sister to the old woman next to her.
Instantly, Sam felt tears burn his eyes. Mom! And she looked so old! Thelma
Beckett sat proudly, chin up, with the same loving eyes Sam remembered. It was all he
could do to keep his seat; instead he gripped the program so tightly it tore. Catherine
shot him another glare, but her elbow remained still.
Sam sat back, his throat tight. Did she live here? That didn't seem right
she lives with ... Katie! In Hawaii! Was Katie here, too? Sam leaned forward again,
much to Catherine's chagrin, and saw his younger sister on the far side of his mother. She
was so grown up! And the man next to her in the dress whites must be her husband!
Completely overwhelmed Sam sank back in his chair. Why was he here? What
kind of test was this, that he couldn't talk to his family as himself? Was this an
opportunity or a torture??
Applause brought him back to the occasion. He watched both sadly and
proudly as Tom's career was recognized and his accomplishments noted. He'd been all over
the world and had many adventures. Well, we're a lot alike in that way! Sam
thought. But no one will be discussing my adventures in public. He was struck by
melancholy as Tom was officially retired and presented with his plaque and flag. The
chaplain bid the officer fair winds and following seas, and with one final salute,
Commander Thomas Beckett, retired, left the stage to his final bos'uns whistle.
As Tom descended the stage steps, a handsome officer approached the front
row of seats.
"Come on," Catherine's elbow reminded him. "That's our
Cue? Sam stood along with his family. The officer offered Catherine his
elbow, as did Katie's husband to Katie. When they stepped away, that left Thelma and a
shocked Sam. Quickly figuring it out, he approached his mother - grandmother?- and offered
Thelma shifted her spray of roses to her other arm and accepted the offer
with a smile. Sam was surprised and saddened at the help she needed to rise; it was
difficult for him to keep a neutral face.
"Thank you, sweetheart," Thelma said, patting Sam's arm. Then
she whispered, "Don't let your sister get your goat! You're doing fine!"
Sam smiled and clenched his teeth to keep his emotions at bay. He fell in
behind Tom like the others, and received yet another glare from Catherine. She was nodding
her head to the front of the line.
Thelma whispered, "I think you're supposed to take me to your
dad." She made sure to be quiet enough to not raise a fuss and not embarrass her
Sam squeaked a grateful "oh!" and stepped up to the front and
Tom's waiting elbow. Thelma accepted the transfer and thanked her escort. Sam kept his
eyes down, not trusting himself, as a thought went through his mind.
Where's Tom's wife? Instinctively he knew there was one; he just
felt it. And also in that instant he knew in his gut that she was the reason he was here.
As he returned to the back of the group, he was deep in thought, trying to piece the
puzzle together and figure out the significance to her absence.
Although Sam was surrounded by a delectable selection of foods and lots
of well-wishers under the tents, he noticed none of it. He fought to keep his eyes dropped
in the midst of his family to avoid any attention. He heard Toms gracious thanks and
greetings, as well as the polite conversations held by his mother and niece. So focused
was he on his own toes and his own emotions that he didnt realize someone was
speaking to him. The now familiar jab to his ribs brought him around.
J.T.! Didnt you hear me? Catherine hissed, an
artificial smile plastered on her face.
What? Sam replied.
I said, isnt that the guy from that secret project in New
Mexico? she nodded her head to the back of the crowd.
Huh? Sam looked to the direction she indicated and saw a
familiar form amongst the sea of white. Al!
I see hes leaving. Good. He gets dad awfully riled.
Then she turned her attention to Sam. Why are you so quiet? Theres couple of
babes here that should be keeping you busy. She playfully patted him on the back,
and turned her attention back to her dad.
Sam, feeling even more like an outsider, considered going after Al but he
couldnt get his feet to move with any speed. After he watched the Al of this time
disappear into a waiting car, he managed to drift behind the informal receiving line then
turned his back to the crowd and faced the bay.
"I cant do this, do you hear me?" He muttered to the sky.
"This is impossible! How can you torture me like this?" He was well into his
self pity, trying to figure out what Al would say or work out what his instincts were
telling him when he felt a hand on his back. He looked up right into the face of his
Hey, son, how are you holding up? He asked with the cocky
grin Sam remembered so well. I know theres a lot of pomp and circumstance, but
itll be over soon. Then its just you and me. I tell you what, Im sure
looking forward to it.
Sam managed a weak smile, but his tongue felt dry and thick. He was
unable to reply, not trusting what would come out. My brother! You're right here, yet
something about that fact feels so wrong. What has happened?
Tom clapped him on the back with a laugh. Hang in there, son.
Itll be over soon.
Another high-ranking Navy officer vied for Toms attention with a
polite nod towards Sam, and Tom tossed a grin in his sons direction as he moved off
with the man.
Sam faded to the background and decided keep busy by checking out the
food tables and waiting for Al. He was looking at the third table of food when he heard
the Imaging Chamber door.
Quite the spread, huh? I tell ya, the Navy can really put it on
when it wants to, the hologram commented slipping the handlink into his pocket as he
popped a cigar in his mouth.
Sam didnt know what to say, or where to start. All he could do was
give his friend a look; he didnt yet trust his voice.
The Observer nodded, and fiddled with the cigar. I know Sam, I
know. This one is awfully close to home. I dont know what to say to make you feel
better, but can tell you some facts. You ready for them? Al waited patiently until
Sam could meet his eyes steadily. The leaper gave him a weak nod.
OK, then, buddy. Here we go. Al didnt even have to
refer to the handlink. Just over one year ago, Toms wife Melissa died from
breast cancer. You may or may not remember Melissa, Sam, because of the Swiss-cheese
effect, but they had been married for 22 years. Al noted the devastated look that
Sam brought under control, but continued on. Since then, Tom has become the number
one proponent to shut down the Project.
Sams head jerked up and his eyes locked with Als. What?
Why? he choked.
It was Als turn to study his toes as he gathered his comments.
I know how difficult this is for you, Sam. I know how close this is to you. But what
Im going to tell you cant be taken personally.
Sams exasperated look didnt need words. Al wasnt
surprised at the reaction; he felt like a fool saying that, but he had to try and get this
into some sort of perspective for both himself and Sam.
I know, that sounds utterly ridiculous, but you need so see
whats going on here, Sam. You need to stand back a second. Al took a breath,
waiting until he had Sams attention once again. Right after Melissa died he
came to the Project, demanding to see you. He cashed in quite a few IOUs to get as far as
he did. We met him at the gate, so to speak, and danced around the facts until his head
was spinning. He knew his questions werent being answered; he knew he was getting
nowhere. We had no choice. We did what we had to do.
What Al didnt tell him was how Sams own wife Donna had been
covering for Sam all these years; all the emails, all the cards and gifts, all the visits
to grandma Thelma with Sams own son, Stephen. If Sam didnt remember any of
this on his own, Al couldnt tell him. It was an immensely difficult line to stand
on, and one stand Al took on personally with the tenacity of a bulldog. He would protect
Sam and the Project in any way he could.
So, Tom knows nothing about what Ive been doing? Then what,
exactly, does he think I am doing? Sams wide-eyed look of confusion was
Al rocked on his heels and took a minute to reply. You know the
security levels needed to get the inside scoop on the Project, Sam. So does Tom. Outside
the Project and those that need to know, there are two schools of thought. Al eyed
Sam, trying to predict how his friend would take the information. Sams eyes were
locked on him. One view is that youre dead. The other is that you are
integrated into the computer somehow. Either way, youre unable to make an appearance
Sam ducked his head, squeezed his eyes shut, and pinched the bridge of
his nose. Finally, he found his voice; it was thick and low. Which one does my
Honestly, Sam, I think they believe something in the middle. I know
they dont believe youre dead. He rolled his cigar, and contemplated the
glowing ash. And I guess Tom figured that now that he was retired, he was going to
find you. We don't know why; he never really showed any drive in that area before. He
tried the direct approach, which he found didnt work. He knows about security
levels; he knows he has to have the right one to get in the Project. So, hes doing
it the long way around. Hes becoming political.
Sam had to turn his back to the party until he could control his
reaction. Tom, in politics? That was the last thing Sam could see him getting in to.
What? he finally sputtered. Tom could never
I know, I know, Sam. I know exactly what youre thinking.
Toms common sense is exactly why he didnt make Admiral. He didnt like
the game playing and the behind the doors dealing. Al looked a bit ashamed; he wore
an Admirals uniform and had his share of deal-making, but Als ace in the hole
was his POW status. Heroes got promoted a little easier. Tom may have deserved the
promotion, but didnt get it.
So, hes going to get into an arena he despises just to find
me? Sam concluded.
Al shook his head. Thats a bit simplistic, Sam. He loves you.
Your whole family loves you. He doing what he thinks is the right thing. The problem is
that its just now beginning to become a problem to the Project. Hes trying to
get the whole Project to be made public. That cant happen, Sam.
"And just how am I supposed to stop it? Convince him I am
dead?" The bitter tone in his voice was obvious.
Al sighed. "No, I don't think so. And Ziggy has no suggestions.
Right now in the Waiting Room we have one terrified young man who is putting up a very
brave front." Al smiled. "He's so much like Tom and you it's frightening! The
Beckett bullheadedness is a strong genetic stamp." The humor fell flat. "Anyway,
we're trying to get some details from him, but he is very tight lipped. Just go along with
the crowd and I'll check in as we get more information." Al called for the door, and
hesitated a second before stepping through. "Sam? Enjoy this time with family, all
Sam managed a small grin and nodded quickly.
To Sam, the reception was endless. He managed to use the big crowd to make himself
inconspicuous and study his family from afar. When the party was obviously coming to an
end, he stuck with his 'sister' Catherine to figure out what he was supposed to do. In
true sisterly fashion, she had no qualms in telling him what to do.
Catherine, Tom and Sam got in the limo provided for them when it pulled
up to the site. Inside, Tom unbuttoned his collar and tossed his hat into Catherine's lap.
With a huge sigh, he stretched his legs out in front of him.
"Quite a shindig, huh?" he commented. "Your mother would
have loved it. Especially the not doing the dishes part!"
Catherine laughed. "Not true, dad. She just would have had me and
J.T. do 'em while you two did, well, whatever you two did when we were doing dishes!"
They both laughed and Sam tried to feign levity. Inside, he was fighting
down the urge to relay his grief about Melissa and their own relationship. It was simply
easier to look out the window.
Tom noticed his silence and patted his knee. "What's the matter,
son? Worried about the Academy?"
Sam shook his head, "Ah, no
um, Dad. Just tired, I guess."
"I know what you mean. With all the packing and this ceremony, we're
all worn to a frazzle." He patted his knee again, and then reached up to stretch.
"I'm looking forward to tomorrow. A guy's trip; mano-a-mano; ah, yes!"
Catherine snorted. "Sheesh. Beer and killing fish. Typical
Tom put his hand over his heart and feigned being wounded. "Us?
Typical? Gee, J.T., your sister doesn't know a quality man when she sees one, does
"Right!" Sam couldn't help smiling at that, but had to fight to
keep the smile from turning into inappropriate hysterics. Tom really hadn't changed at
all, and Catherine was just like Katie in many ways. Al was right; he should be enjoying
this time, and he took a deep breath to relax himself.
The small house on base was very neat in appearance. Built when the base
was young, it was in good shape even though there had been numerous Navy families living
here since the 40's. When Sam got out of the car, he saw a similar car pull up behind them
and his mother, Katie and the rest of Katie's family stepped out, all smiles. Sam stood on
the front lawn for a moment, fighting tears as he watched his family gather around, the
children cavorting unabashedly on the lawn. Beyond the house he could see San Diego Bay
with Coast Guard and Navy ships docked sporadically. He felt like a foreigner and a fraud,
instantly regretful of the path he had chosen.
The strong clap on his back broke his reverie. "Come on, son, let's
get out of these monkey suits before the women take over the only bathroom!" Tom
thumped him playfully on the head and headed to the house, pausing to peck his mother on
the cheek as he passed by. Sam followed, but kept his head ducked, not trusting himself to
look directly in his mother's eyes. The house was small, so finding his room was not
difficult; it was the one with all the boxes. He changed into jeans and a short sleeved
shirt and took the time to gather himself together.
Tom stuck his head in the door, buttoning his shirt. "We'll load up
the truck while everyone else settles in. That way we can relax tonight, and hit the road
Sam nodded, and choked, "Sounds like a plan."
The rest of the afternoon went very well. Having something physical to do
was a blessing, and everyone attributed Sam's aloofness to nervousness about leaving for
college. Thelma, Katie and Catherine stayed out of their way as they loaded the truck and
happily chatted, prepared snacks and dinner, and watched the children. Good humored jibes
and comments flew back and forth among them all; Sam eventually felt right at home, and by
dinnertime had blended himself with J.T. seamlessly. Every now and again he caught his
mother looking at him with a curious statement, but she never said anything to Sam.
The dinner was rousing fun, but under the watchful eye of Thelma Beckett,
manners were at their best at all times. Evening coffee in the back yard was topped off by
a beautiful sunset and quiet chat. Sam enjoyed every second but his reason for leaping in
this scenario kept nagging at his peacefulness. Why couldn't he just have leaped in for
this? Why did there have to be another reason? He stopped his thoughts from heading in
that direction. He didn't want to ruin this golden opportunity with such negativity and
found it easy to enjoy himself.
Finally, after putting the children to bed, Thelma Beckett sighed and
kissed Tom on the cheek. "I need to go to bed, dear. What a day! I'm so proud of
you!" They embraced in a joyful hug.
"You going to see us off in the morning, mom?" Tom asked.
"You bet," she replied happily. "I'll be awake
"You can take the woman from the farm, but not the farm from the
woman, huh, mom?" Katie teased as she stretched on the couch. "Well, don't count
on me seeing the sun rise, Tom! My tribe will wake me shortly thereafter, and I plan on
grabbing every bit of sleep I can!" She snuggled into her husband's side as she
spoke, then yawned.
Thelma laughed. "I'll be up for the kids, Katie. You go ahead and
sleep." She turned to Sam and took his elbow. "And I'm so proud of you,
Air Force! That's so exciting!"
Sam nodded nervously, "Yeah. I guess so!"
"Nervous?" Katie asked with a sleepy grin.
"Oh, yeah," Sam said, bobbing his head. They had no idea!
"I ... I guess I'll be going to bed, too. Early rising and all," he stammered.
"Then you drive first shift. I'm going to chat with my little sister
for a bit and blow up the air mattress. See you in the morning!" Tom said to Sam.
Sam walked down the hall with his mother on his arm. "Um, you can
use the bathroom first," he said at the end of the hall.
"Thank you," Thelma replied, turning to face Sam. She studied
his face in the poor lighting of the hall, her hands resting lightly on Sam's forearm and
her brow wrinkled in thought.
Sam met her eyes and tried to keep the sorrow from his own. She seemed so
frail; it wasn't that long ago that he'd leaped into his own life on the farm and both she
and his dad were so young and energetic. Time, he thought. The power of it is
"You know?" His mother said softly, raising her hand to his
cheek. "I never noticed how much you look like your Uncle. " Sam caught his
breath. "You have Tom's jaw line, your mother's nose, but Sam is right there in your
eyes. I wonder why I never noticed that before?"
"I, ah, I don't know. Sunglasses, maybe?"
Thelma laughed and patted his cheek. Sam noticed how her eyes still
sparkled when she laughed, and it made him smile, too.
"I'll see you in the morning." She turned to go, but stopped
and looked at him again. "And don't let your dad bother you. He's very proud of you,
J.T. He chose the Navy, and you chose the Air Force. Every man has to make his choice
about the path he takes. He knows that."
Sam was taken aback by the last part of what she said; it so easily
applied to himself. How did they feel about the decision he'd made in 1995 to step in the
Accelerator Chamber for the first time? He managed to nod, not trusting his voice, and
ducked his head. Thelma kissed him on the cheek. "Goodnight, honey." She looked
at he door. "I hope I don't trip over the little ones in there. They look so cute
spread out all over the floor."
"G'nite," Sam finally managed to choke out as she stepped into
her room and closed the door.
PROJECT QUANTUM LEAP
STALLION'S GATE, NEW MEXICO
Al Calavicci collapsed into the worn recliner in his quarters with a
sigh, rubbing his face with his hands. Beckett men are a pain in the neck, he
thought. Why can't they be as easy to talk to as the Beckett women?
"Hey, there!" Beth said smoothly as she entered the room with
only a towel wrapped around her. "I thought I heard noise out here."
All thoughts about Becketts immediately fled the Admiral's mind as he
eyed his wife with a predatory grin. "Hey yourself," he said. "I see you
dressed up just the way I like!'
Beth giggled as she settled into his lap. "You are a bad boy,"
she said, and then sat up straight. "Who should have been here over an hour ago! Al,
stop it!" She slapped his creeping hand down trying to be firm but her smile gave her
away. "You need some sleep. You have huge bags under your eyes," she ran a
finger over his cheekbones.
"Well, that's what I came here for, but now it will be your fault
for keeping me up," he winked evilly. "If you know what I mean
pulled her close and began nuzzling her neck. Beth could always make him forget his
"What about dinner?" She whispered softly, enjoying the touch.
"Dinner's not what I'm hungry for." His reply was muffled.
"Let's go." He led her down the hall where he would eventually get some
The voice penetrated his sleep as an unwelcome intrusion.
Al felt a warm form under his out flung arm, and recognized the scent of
his wife. "Mmmmm," he said, trying to ignore the voice as he pulled Beth close.
"Admiral Calavicci, I know you are awake."
Al sighed. "What is it Ziggy?" he answered in a groggy
"Admiral, you have a meeting with Dr. Beeks scheduled."
Meeting? "That's not 'till
uh," he sat up and
rubbed his eyes. "Nine. Nine o'clock."
"It's nine-thirty, Admiral."
Al's eyes shot open. Nine-thirty? That means Sam hasn't seen me for
nearly 18 hours! He threw his feet out of bed with a flash of regret, and headed to
the shower. "Tell Beeks I'll be there in 15 minutes."
After a five minute Navy shower and quietly grabbing the brightest
clothes that complimented each other from the dark closet, Al was moving down the hall and
adjusting his bolo tie in just under 10 minutes. When he entered Beek's office it was
nearly a quarter to ten. He plopped down in the closest chair to her desk under Verbena
Beek's amused look.
"Hm. Purple and turquoise. Don't think I've seen that combination on
you yet," she commented with a grin.
"Cut the comments and cut to the chase," he groused. Then he
looked around. "I hope you have coffee."
"Nope. The pot outside was emptied over an hour ago. Glad you got
some sleep, Al. I didn't tell Ziggy to wake you. She did that on her own." Her finger
hovered over the intercom. "Shall I order you a cup?"
"By all means. And make it a pot," he said as he ran his
fingers through his hair to comb it. "OK, now. What's up with the mule boy?"
Beeks released the intercom after a short request, and laughed shortly.
"You should talk, Admiral. Anyway, the boy certainly has some of the Beckett brains.
There's really nothing more since I talked to you last night. He knows there's a lot more
here than we're telling him."
"Has he told you anything we can use?" Al asked.
"Not really. I get the feeling there's some tension between him and
his father, but I can't get details."
Al rubbed his unshaven chin. "If that's all there is, tension
between father and son, then I think we need to go with our original thought, that Sam is
there to keep Tom off our backs. Father-son conflict is no big deal. He's doing fine at
the Academy, and Tom has publicly stated his pride in J.T.'s accomplishments. It doesn't
look like there's anything for Sam to fix, except this pressure from Tom's campaigning.
Neither Ziggy nor I can see how he can help with the New York or Pentagon attacks, either,
as much as we'd like him to stop them. All that horror only eleven days away from Sam's
current time; it's frustrating." Al sighed and rubbed his eyes.
"I doubt one man could have stopped those attacks, Al. Even if that
one man is Sam." Verbena said quietly.
"Why didn't Tom just go back to farming?" Al asked
rhetorically, getting off the painful subject of the friends he lost at the Pentagon.
"Even without the promise of opening some 'Black Projects' of the
government, Tom still has a good platform. And God knows we need some honest
politicians," Beeks commented.
"Yeah, well, they certainly don't stay honest for long in that
environment," Al replied. "Tom's too good a man for that."
She nodded, keeping her amused eye on him. "I think I agree with you
about Sam's mission. I don't see a need for J.T. to see you, Al. He knows how angry you
make his dad, and I think he'd react the same way out of loyalty."
Al nodded and looked at his fingers. "We used to get along so well,
too. I think Tom's upset about the Air Force because I suggested it to J.T. And I managed
to get him in contact with the right people for the Academy appointment." Al smiled.
"I guess my tales of flying got him hooked! He would have made it even without my
help, though. He's a great kid."
"Yeah, he is, from what I've heard from Donna," Beeks agreed.
"She also says that J.T. made up his own mind, Al. The connections were appreciated,
but he had been thinking about the Air Force long before you suggested it. And didn't you
try to talk him into the Navy instead?"
"Yeah, well, had to try!" Al rose from the chair. "I've
got to get to Sam. He's going to bite my head off for being so late. I'll intercept my
coffee in the hallway on my way to get some food."
"See you later, Admiral. Good luck!"
I am exhausted, yet I can't sleep. My brother Tom is right over there, sleeping
soundly less than three feet from me. My mother is in the room next door, and my sister is
just down the hall. There is so much I want to say to them; so much they need to know. And
here I am, unable to say a word. No wonder I can't sleep.
Sam folded his hands behind his head as he lay on the floor and stared at
the ceiling. He couldn't recall the last time he felt so alone and yet here he was,
surrounded by family. He looked at the clock for the hundredth time - 4:55. It had been
only two minutes since he last looked at it.
He sighed. Tom grumbled something in his sleep and rolled over. Now
feeling restless, Sam crawled out of his sleeping bag on the floor and stood next to the
bed where his older brother slept. The moonlight found its way through an opening in the
curtains, and a slash of pale light fell across the sleeping face. Tom's arm was thrown
out to the side as if he was looking for someone.
"I'm so sorry, Tom." Sam said quietly. "I should have been
with you when Melissa died. And Dad," he voice cracked slightly at the last word, and
he felt his eyes begin to burn with the threat of tears. "How can I explain so you
will understand? What can I say?"
"You can't say anything, Sam, you know that."
Sam jerked his head up at the sound of his Observer. "Where did you
come from?" he growled, trying to quiet his thumping heart and quickly wiped at his
"I popped in outside so the Imaging Chamber door wouldn't wake you
if you were still asleep. Guess I didn't need to do that, huh?"
"Do you have anything for me?"
"No, Sam, not really. Everything seems fine in J.T.'s timeline. He
and Tom went camping on the way to Colorado Springs for a little father/son bonding time
before the Academy. That's it." He shrugged at the handlink.
"So I must be here to convince Tom to keep his nose out of the
"Looks like that 's about it, Sam. Ziggy concurs. Hey, you and Tom
get to do a little huntin', too! Get a nice wild turkey. Sounds like a fun trip!" Al
saw his friend was quickly falling into a pool of self-pity and tried to lighten things
Sam shot him a frown and was about to speak when the alarm clock went
off. Tom's hand slapped it quiet before Sam could even move. Rubbing his eyes, Tom sat up
and noticed his son's form next to the bed. "Guess we're ready to go, huh?
need some coffee first," he yawned.
"I know the feeling," Al replied knowingly.
"Uh, ok. I can make some," Sam replied.
"Oh no you don't. I've tasted your coffee. You roll up your bag,
there, and toss it in the truck. We need to be on the road by six." Sam's brother
stood up and stretched, and started to get dressed. They both heard a door quietly
"Mom's up already. She'll make the coffee!" He pulled on his
jeans. "I'll hit the shower real quick. You pack up."
"OK," Sam replied, getting busy.
"I'm gonna run some scenarios with Ziggy, Sam, so I'll check in with
you later. I think the best time to talk to your brother will be when you're alone on the
road." The Imaging Chamber door swooshed open. "See ya, buddy."
Sam simply nodded and gathered what looked like his things.
The kitchen was a homey scene, reminiscent of his days on the farm. His
mother had coffee made and a nice breakfast on the table in no time and effort. The
wonderful smells lured Katie and her husband from their sleep, and she yawned hugely at
"Gee, mom, this is like a vacation for me! The kids should sleep in
for awhile longer. Hey, J.T., ready to go?"
Sam smiled nervously in her direction. "Yeah. I think so."
"The Academy's going to be a challenge, but you'll do fine,"
Katie's husband said, dipping his toast in his eggs. "You Becketts are a stubborn
"Jim!" Katie said, giggling, as she nudged him.
"I've heard that before," Sam commented quietly as Catherine
made her way sleepily into the room.
"I need coffee," she grumbled as she plopped down in a chair.
"Eggs?" Thelma asked cheerily. Catherine made a face.
"No, thanks. Just toast. My stomach can't handle eggs right
yet." She put her elbow on the table and her chin in her palm. "Well, bro, this
is it. I finally get the place to myself for awhile."
"Guess so," Sam replied, digging into his food.
Tom joined them and they had quiet, cheery conversation with their meal.
Sam thoroughly enjoyed himself, and almost forgot the homesick pangs he'd been wrestling
with this whole leap. Al was right; he needed to get away from all this before he went
He helped his mother with the dishes, against her insistence that she
could handle it, in his own way of saying goodbye. He hugged her long and hard as Tom
tossed the last of their things in the truck.
"You'll be fine, Jonathon." Thelma whispered in his ear.
"First steps are scary steps, but look where they take you!"
"Thanks, mom... I mean, grandma." Sam stepped back as she held
"Your mom is proud of you," she added with a smile. "Talk
to her often."
"I will. I love you."
"And we love you. Good luck,
Catherine also gave him a hug. "I'll miss ya, bro. I got plans for
your room!" She winked and punched his shoulder playfully.
The rest of Sam's family wished him well, and he and Tom piled in the
truck and waved a final good bye.
Sam watched his family disappear through the rear window.
The conversation was minimal as they drove out of San Diego County, and both men
were comfortable with it. Tom slept while Sam drove, having gone over the route before
departing the house.
Sam couldn't remember the last time he had so much quiet time to himself.
His thoughts, jumbled and conflicted at first, became calmer as he listened to the music
on the truck radio. He kept stealing glances at his snoozing sibling, amazed that he was
here with him and dismayed knowing that Tom would never appreciate what this time meant in
They were headed through Yuma to Flagstaff for some camping and fishing;
a real guy's kind of trip. Sam figured there would be plenty of opportunity to talk to Tom
in the woods. Conversation was the whole point of the trip, really. He wasn't planning on
much beyond Flagstaff; he figured everything would be taken care of at that point and that
he would leap before reaching the next planned stop: Albuquerque, which would be a little
too close to the Project. That idea was a whole new set of emotions Sam didn't want to
tackle right now, and mentally set himself to be gone at that point.
By the time they reached Yuma they were ready for a stop and found a
dusty gas station just off the freeway. They topped off the truck and got some coffee and
were back on the road with Tom driving. After nearly an hour of light chat and trying to
find a decent radio station, Sam simply wasn't able to figure out a way to bring up Tom's
political plans. Instead, the scientist found himself nodding off, his head resting on the
He woke to Tom's voice. "Hey, how about a stop a Casa Grande? We can
stretch our legs at some Indian ruins."
"Sure," Sam replied, rubbing his eyes. It felt like he was
rubbing sand in them, they were so dry. Tom pulled into a parking area in the middle of
the most beautiful desert Sam had ever seen. The earth everywhere was red, and the green
of the manzanita so bright Sam had the fleeting thought that this was a color combination
he had seen on Al at one time or another.
The fluffy white clouds moved smoothly with the breeze against an
impossibly blue sky untainted by pollution, dust or fog. On the other side of a two rail
wooden fence Sam saw the remains of a huge adobe structure, once a thriving community of
Tom and Sam had the time of their lives. Sam enjoyed every minute with
his brother, forgetting at times who he was supposed to be. He caught his brother looking
at him in a quizzical manner on occasion, as if he didn't know who this young man was,
either. By the end of the afternoon Sam felt very close to Tom, and when they piled in the
truck to continue their journey conversation seemed to be easier.
"We need to get to our campsite before it's dark," Tom
commented as they pulled out of the lot. "It's up in those hills there. I'd say close
to two hours. We'll stop and eat at the first place we see, OK?"
"Sounds good," Sam agreed, stiffening as the sound of the
Imaging Chamber door.
Al stepped into the back seat, and looked around. "Oh, still on the
road, I see." He tapped the link and settled into a comfortable appearing position in
the back seat. Sam stole a look over his shoulder at his Observer. "Are we having fun
yet?" Al queried, pulling out a cigar from an inner pocket.
Sam gave him a quick, exasperated look.
"Oh, guess you can't say much, huh? Well, Ziggy says nothing really
goes on here. You go camping, you eat fish, you guys do some manly bonding, all that good
stuff. I guess you haven't had the chance to talk politics yet, have you?"
Sam coughed lightly and shook his head.
"Well, get to it, Sam! Ziggy gives it a 92% that that's the reason
you're here. I know you're having a good time with your brother and all
J.T? I never realized how much you're like Sam." Tom
remarked, eyes on the road.
"Um, Uncle Sam?" Sam said, wincing at the instant visual
picture of a bearded guy in red, white and blue pointing at him saying 'Uncle Sam Wants
"Yeah. Do you remember him?"
Again, Sam winced at the implied idea Tom presented. "Ah, not
really. How old was I when I saw him last?" The question was aimed at both his
brother and the hologram.
"Let's see now," Tom began, his forehead furrowing in thought.
"I'll check," Al said simultaneously, pulling out the link.
Tom continued, lost in thought. "He was working on some high
security deal, something he designed, and pitched it to a congressional committee
let's see; that was 1990? Yeah; that's when Katie moved to Hawaii. Sam couldn't
come to her housewarming. We saw him once on our return, just before I went to Japan. That
was eleven years ago. You were about 7. I guess you don't remember him, huh?
Stricken, Sam gave Al a mournful look, and was even more devastated when
Al nodded agreement. "Yup. He's right, Sam. We were pulling together all the funding
and just couldn't get away."
Sam turned forward and studied his fingers in his lap. Eleven years?
It's bad enough I don't remember any of Tom's family, and those I apparently met can't
remember meeting me! "Did I like him when I did meet him?" Sam asked sadly.
Tom smiled briefly. "Yeah, you did. You were thrilled to see some
one who could challenge you old dad at basketball!"
Sam smiled a sickly smile, and turned to look out the window to hide his
"Sam, get a hold of yourself. You need to jump on the reason you're
here, or you're gonna torture yourself like this for the whole leap!" Al leaned over
Sam's shoulder. "Ask him. Ask him what his intentions are if he runs for
"Uh, dad?" Sam stuttered to quiet the hologram.
"Yes?" Tom was still far away in his statement, eyes on the
"Why are you going to run for office?"
Tom glanced over at the aura of his son, then again focused on the now.
"Because I feel I have to."
"But you hate politics."
"That's before I figured out how to play the game," Tom stated
That statement made Sam blink in surprise. "Game?"
"Game?" repeated Al. "He thinks we're playing games?"
The Observer was getting hot. "He thinks we get our jollies out of this?!"
Sam continued in an effort to quiet the hologram. "You see politics
as a game?"
"Who doesn't?" Tom shrugged. "There are certain rules,
which most everyone finds their own way of interpreting, and certain ways to present
yourself." Tom explained with a little grin. "I happen to have very few
skeletons in my closet, so I should do well, or so I'm told. I have some experienced men
advising me, and some noble goals."
" 'Noble goals'?" both Sam and Al repeated in unison.
"Yes. The media is always touting the 'people's right to know', and
they will gladly cover me in a positive light. The analysts of a dozen newspapers in
Southern California say I have a good platform, and I'm willing to carry it out." He
glanced at Sam again. "You thought it was a good idea last week."
Sam's mind was whirling. "I ... I did? I mean, I did. But I've
thought about it a little more, and I was wondering," Sam hesitated. The sound of the
grumbling hologram in the backseat made it hard to keep his eyes on his brother.
"Ask him just how personal this platform is, Sam! Ask him!"
"Yes?" Tom said, glancing at his son. "You were wondering
"Ask him if he's doing this for personal gain, or for public
interest!" The hologram barked, eyes flaming.
"Ah, I was wondering," It was hard to ignore Al, and easy to
see why J.T.'s sister said Al aggravated Tom; they were too similar in many ways. "When
did you decide to do this? I mean, you never mentioned it before. I don't think." He
wasn't positive that was true, but trusted his gut instinct. "When did you stop
agreeing with dad
I mean, grandpa, about politicians, and decide to become one?"
"Yeah, answer him, will ya?" Al demanded the unhearing Tom.
Tom was silent for many seconds. He looked thoughtful, as if he wasn't
sure he wanted to touch on that subject.
"When, dad?" Sam pushed, quietly.
Tom shifted in his seat uncomfortably. "I don't think I want to
discuss that with you right now, J.T."
"What? What? It was a legitimate question, you nozzle!" Al's
ranting was distracted by the handlink. "Sam, Ziggy says you're probably on to
something there. If you can find out the real reason he's doing this, you can stop
"Why not?" Sam asked, knowing he was really pushing it now.
Tom's glace at him this time was one of annoyance. "I'll tell you
when I'm ready. Not now." His had gripped the wheel tighter. "Now get some sleep
so you can take over the driving soon. I'm getting tired."
"You aren't giving up, are you Sam?" Al asked, still annoyed.
"You were almost there!"
"Sure," Sam agreed with his brother and giving Al a 'the
subject is closed!' look. He settled down in the seat discovering that his eyes did
feel heavy, and they closed easily.
"Sheesh," Al griped. "I get the hint. I'm leaving."
Sam heard the Imaging Chamber door open and shut.
When Sam woke with a start it was dusk, and his stomach was growling. He straightened up
and rubbed his eyes, and glanced over at his brother as he spoke.
"I feel sorry for your room mate. You snore," Tom teased.
"I do not," Sam automatically replied. "You're the one who
snores like a buzz saw." Why does this conversation sound familiar? Sam
thought, momentarily perplexed.
That comment made Tom's sideways glace linger, and the smile on his face
fade. He was trying to study Sam in the fading light.
"What?" Sam asked, shaken by the exam.
Tom shook his head and turned his eyes to the road. "I just never
realized how much you are like my brother." He sounded just as perplexed as Sam felt.
"I've never noticed it before. You said exactly what Sam used to say to me when I
told him he snored."
That's why the comment sounded familiar, Sam realized. "But
he didn't either, did he?" he quipped, trying to lighten the mood.
Tom laughed lightly. "No, he didn't. You have some of his brains,
too, you know."
Sam hesitated. "Pretty smart, huh?" Inwardly, he winced at the
" 'Pretty smart' doesn't come close. He was brilliant." Tom
corrected himself, "Is brilliant, I mean."
Sam tried to gather his thoughts, but found the wildly surging emotions
difficult to deal with. "Sss
sso you don't think he's dead?" His own voice
croaked, knowing he shouldn't be going in this direction at all.
Tom hesitated. "No. No I don't. But I can't tell you why; some inner
instinct, I think." He gripped the steering wheel tighter as he spoke. They were
climbing up a mountain road, and the curves and poor light made him concentrate on the
road, much to Sam's relief. That way, he'd miss the battle of control going on within the
leaper's mind. "Help me look for the turn off. It's a dirt road near here. Should be
a small sign post with some numbers on it."
They found the turn off a bit later and left the main roadway. This road
was very narrow and even more winding. The trees were thick on both sides, with an
occasional opening that revealed a long, deep valley below them.
"It's just off season," Tom smiled. "We should have the
whole mountain to ourselves!" His face beamed. "I know we didn't stop to eat. I
didn't want to wake you. You must be as hungry as I am."
Sam nodded. "We still have mom's
I mean, grandma's,
sandwiches." He rolled his eyes sideways to see if Tom caught the gaffe.
Tom was giving him a quizzical look. Finally, he asked, "What do you
remember about Sam, J.T.? Anything? Or are you basing your memories on what aunt Donna has
Sam was shocked into silence, as he felt sudden tingling in his stomach
and along his limbs. Donna? Elesee? He blinked rapidly, unable to speak. Somehow
that seemed so right, like it was always that way, and he was surprised he didn't remember
on his own.
"J.T?" Tom said, glancing back and forth from the vision of his
son to the road.
She's my wife! Sam recalled in an instant, forgetting to breathe.
"Donna," he managed to squeak.
"Yeah," Tom said slowly. "Donna. Your Uncle's wife? Cousin
Sam's thoughts became an instant vortex of swirling emotion. He couldn't
speak if he wanted to. Cousin? That makes Stephen my
son. Oh my God! Why didn't
Al tell me? Feeling sick, Sam quickly rolled down the window and grabbed the window
frame with both hands as he faced the trees rolling by. His breath finally came in short
gasps, and he felt hot and sweaty all over.
"Son?" Tom said, concerned. Sam barely heard him. "There's
a turn out up ahead. I'm pulling over. You all right?"
NO! Sam's mind screamed at him. I'm not all right! This is
insane! I had no idea! Again, the threat of tears burned his eyes, and Sam showed no
attempt to stop them. He gasped again. What have I done with my life? I can't fix this!
He felt the truck slow, and seemed to notice for the first time that it was almost dark.
He fought to control his screaming mind, and turned to speak to his brother, but had no
idea what to say. Everything was in slow motion; he didn't feel one iota of J.T. in his
mind anymore. He was all Sam Beckett, and appalled at his own life.
Tom had begun to pull off to a wider spot in the road, and had slowed
enough to allow the dust of the dirt road to catch up with them and envelope the truck.
When he glanced at his son turning to face him, what he saw shocked, scared and surprised
the hell out of him. The person facing him was not his son.
It was his brother.
"SAM!" Tom yelled, shocked. The truck swerved slightly, and
Tom's attention jerked back to the road ahead.
Neither one of them immediately noticed the pair of white tailed deer
leap from the brush, panicked by the truck invading their grazing spot.
"TOM, LOOK OUT!" Sam yelled, recovering first and grabbing the
dashboard. They barely missed the two adult deer, but failed to avoid the young fawn as it
broke from cover to follow its mother. The truck struck the terrified fawn, and both Sam
and Tom instinctively ducked as the small body sailed over the hood and into the
windshield with a horrifying thud.
Tom wrenched the wheel in a vain reaction, and the truck fishtailed on
the dirt road, then spun crazily out of control. He slammed the brakes, but not in time to
save them from the sickening drop beyond the low line of dry brush along the roadway.
The last thing Sam saw was the beautiful purple of the darkening sky
between the trees, and the impossible downward angle of the cab. His last thoughts before
total darkness were of sadness and regret.
To Be Continued