By C. Eleiece KrawiecEpilogue
When he finally walked out of the Imaging Chamber after Sam leaped, Al marched quietly through the control room, past Verbena and Gushie and the other personnel, heading for the Waiting Room.
In the doorway of the wide, quiet room he paused, staring at the bed in the center of the room. After a moment he crossed to it. Verbena entered a few minutes later and found him standing at the foot of the bed, staring at it.
"How was Perry just before he went back?" Al asked quietly.
"We talked the whole time you were in the Imaging Chamber with Sam," she said.
"What was his attitude?" Al persisted.
"He knew...more or less...what would be waiting for him when he returned home." Verbena said. Putting a hand on Al's arm closest to her, she waited for him to look at her. "He's really much stronger than you might think, Al. He'll be fine."
Being alone in the Waiting Room with Verbena, Al felt enough privacy was theirs for him to let a bit of his own feelings out.
"It was too close, Bena," he said, not even aware of the tremor of emotion in his voice. "It was too damned close. We could have lost him."
"That's a possibility with every leap," the psychiatrist reminded him gently.
"No," Al shook his head. "This would've been different. His mind, everything thing that makes Sam who he is, would have been lost forever. His body being used by someone else's personality. He might have been killed by Perry's father," he said with a frightened passion that rarely surfaced in the presence of other people. "Sam...his body...could have spent the rest of his life locked up and forgotten in a mental institution."
Verbena put a hand on his shoulder and waited for him to be still and meet her eyes. "It could have happened that way...but it didn't."
She let him think about that for a moment then said, gently, "Don't stay in here too long. You look like you need about a week in the sack ...alone." She smiled and winked at him, then left. He heard the door open then close with a soft whooshing sound. Still his eyes never left the temporarily unoccupied bed.
"Wherever you are, wherever you're sent, I'll be there, Sam," Al said over the empty bed. "Only God will ever stop me from being there when you need me. And whatever it takes, however long it takes, I'll get you home."
Feeling a tear slip down his cheek, Al hastily wiped it away and headed for the door. When the door opened, he paused and looked back.
"Maybe He'll even let me be here when you finally come home," he whispered into the stillness of the large quiet room, then stepped through the door and headed for his quarters.
Once more the solitary bed in the large quiet white room waited.