by Lorraine Anderson
I'm not sure which is worse: the times he shows up outside the gates of the project, or the times he doesn't.
Who? Verbena, who do you think, dammit?. . .
I'm sorry. It's not your fault you don't remember. And I know this session was my idea, not yours... even though you've been wanting to talk to me for months. I know. I've been avoiding you, ever since Samantha Stormer.
But it's hard. It's hard. I remember things that never happened. Or, well, they happened once, but not in this particular reality. I know the old saw about "times, they are a'changin'." I just didn't expect them to change like this.
I'm trying to change the subject, aren't I? Verbena, you know I hate even the idea of talking to a shrink. Other people can go, not me. But this has me muttering to myself.
Back to "who?" Well. . . Sam, of course.
I know he's not here now. I know he's Leaping. But I'm not seeing things. And if you could remember. . .
Ziggy. Ziggy knows. She'll tell you. Ask her. But later, ok?
The first time Sam showed up outside the Project door was... oh, well, you remember Jesse Tyler? Yeah? Actually, I think it was before that. I think the first one who showed was that baseball player. Tim Fox, I think. I'm not sure. I got security reports, but I didn't pay much attention. Actually, I didn't read them, or else bells would've gone off; it wasn't my job, it was Tom's. Or was it Vic Johnson? I can't remember.
Either way, they wouldn't have known the name of the Leapers. And when I tried to look the reports up later, the names were gone. Another thing that got changed.
But anyway, the guards sent them. . . him!. . . on his way. It was almost like "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Remember that movie? They came, but they didn't know why. I actually thought that maybe the accelerator was some sort of magnet, drawing all the nut cases to it. But I was too worried about Sam to think anything of it.
It was right after Sam Leapt into Jesse Tyler. Security called down that there was this elderly black man at the gate, calling himself Sam Beckett and insisting to talk to me. I didn't believe it for a second, of course. I couldn't. How could I? But this case was different. I was beginning to think there was a leak. But to a 100 year-old man?
And none of the rest called themselves Sam Beckett. Eerie.
Anyway, I went to the surface. I took one look at the elderly man and turned pale. "Jesse? You remember?" I said.
The man sighed. "No, Al. It's Sam." He got up slowly from his chair, but was still more spry than I would expect a 100- year-old man to be.
He reached out to hug me, and I drew back automatically, so all he got hold of was my forearm. But that was enough. Apparently, just a touch was enough to. . . oh, I don't know why. . . I watched him morph from an elderly black man to. . . Sam.
It never happened to anybody else, and other people touched him, I know. I must be sensitive to Leap energy or something.
An older Sam. God help me, he must've been around eighty. I never did sit down and figure it out. Never had time, and it seemed worthless, anyway. Anyway, you figure Sam was about forty-three when he Leapt into Jesse, and that leap was back in the mid-fifties, so you add forty years. . .
Thank God there was a chair up there, 'cause otherwise I would've been on the floor. "Sam?" I looked up at him weakly. "How?" I shook my head. "We didn't succeed, did we? We didn't save his granddaughter." I put my head in my hands. "I told you you'd return the hard way. . . but God, I didn't believe it."
Sam put his hand on my shoulder. I looked up at him. . . he was impossibly old. "I. . . think that's why I'm here." He looked pointedly at the guard, then his face looked blank, like he was confused. "What. . . "
I grabbed his arm. That seemed to steady him a bit. He shook his head. "Sorry. It keeps fading in and out."
I stood up. My strength was returning. Maybe the situation wasn't entirely critical. I nodded at the guard. "Give him a guest badge." It was one of those new kinds, remember. . . the one before these. The kind that puts out a radio signal and opens the door for you and keeps track where you are in the building. . . it wouldn't get him in every place, but at least the automatic guard system wouldn't yell when I took him in. As it turned out, I didn't have to worry.
I led him. . . rather, he led me. . . to my office and told Ziggy to secure the door while I went to my desk chair, motioning toward the guest chair.
"Door secured," he. . . yes, Ziggy, that was before the Streisand persona showed up. That happened a couple of Leaps ago. God alone knows why; I wish He'd tell me.
Anyway, Ziggy said, "Hello, Dr. Beckett."
"You see him, too?" I yelped.
"Of course, Admiral. I'm programmed to see Dr. Beckett no matter what his body aura looks like. Didn't you remember?"
I close my eyes. "Of course. I'm sorry."
Sam sank into my guest chair with a groan. He was stiff. It looked like he had arthritis in his hands, and if it was there, it was probably other places. His hair was thinning and totally white. He looked like a scarecrow; his face had collapsed into itself, weathered and wrinkled. But his eyes. His eyes were dancing, although he looked tired and weak.
Well, he was home.
"It's good to see you, Al." Sam shook his head. "All these years I've been thinkin' I was Jesse Tyler, I knew there was sumpthin' I was a'missin."
No, I know it didn't sound like Sam. "You've been thinking you were Jesse all these years?"
He straightened up, and his midwest accent returned. He
looked like he was concentrating. "Yes," he said slowly. "Then a couple of days ago, I was looking at the calendar. . . suddenly I remembered. Not everything. No." He bit his upper lip. "But I knew I had to be here. I knew I had to see you. So I caught the bus out here. I had to see if there was another chance that we could save my. . . Jesse's granddaughter." He looked concerned. "Have. . . we done that Leap yet?"
"It's the one we're on, Sam." I looked at him sadly. "God, Sam. I'm sorry you had to go through that."
"Don't be. Jesse has had a good life. He lost his granddaughter and he lost Miz Melny, but he survived. He's had a good life." Sam smiled. "But maybe Jesse can live through it himself. Maybe I won't have to. Maybe I can help."
"Does Ziggy know everything?"
"He'll tell you he does. . . but no. How can he? He can connect up with every computer in the country and pull out a lot of information, but he can't sneak into bedrooms. He can't tap houses. He can't listen into private conversations. . . except for the ones here in the project." Yeah, I know she isn't supposed to. She does, though. I glared at Ziggy's interface, then shook my head. "You know that."
"I know. But there's sumpthin' I bet you don't know." He had apparently stopped concentrating. His grammar was slipping, and he looked out into space. I could almost see Jesse overlay on top of the old man Sam had become.
I waited for a moment, hoping he would snap out of this funk by himself, then I walked around the desk and put my hand on his shoulder. God help me, His bones felt like match sticks. I could've probably broken his collarbone with a twist of my wrist.
"Sam. . . . Sam."
"Hmmm?" He looked up at me. "Oh, Al, yes. I'm sorry. I'm getting old, I guess."
"Not so you would notice," I said gently.
Sam grinned at me, then sighed. "What I was going to say was that Miz Melny talked to her husband."
I stared at him. "But her husband is dead!"
"Yes. He is. And Miz Melny was as sharp as a tack."
I shook my head. It didn't mean anything to me then, but later on, well, that's how I saved her from being hit by a train. I must've remembered the conversation in the back of my mind, 'cause when I shouted at her, she heard me. God help me, she heard me when I told her to stop. "But how do we save Nell?"
"Nell?" He was phasing out again, and he brought himself back with a jolt. "Oh. Yeah. I'm a'forgettin'." He shook his head. "Ziggy? Can you arrange it so that I can go into the Imaging Chamber and see myself. . . and ev'rything else. . . and not have. . . um. . . "
"The younger Dr. Beckett see you?"
Sam smiled with relief. "Yeah."
"Of course. I will arrange it. As long as you don't touch the Admiral, he will not see you."
Sam sighed. "Good. I've been wanting to see Nell and Miz Melny again."
Yes, he was back. But he was magnafoozled. Or maybe just elderly and confused. But I knew had to tell everybody-including Donna-or else they wouldn't let him go in. I knew Ziggy should back me up, but would they believe a moody computer?
Donna. . . she's quite a woman. Do you know she wasn't originally here when we started the project?
Hear me out. I know what you remember. She wasn't here until the second Leap. I turned around, and there she was. Scared me half to death until the secondary memories kicked in... then I remembered the marriage. In the original history, Donna left Sam at the altar-we changed that. But I'm digressing.
Anyway, I looked out into space, thinking about what I would have to do, then I looked down. He was asleep. Well, it was long way from Alabama to New Mexico, and the mental strain was undoubtedly catching up with him. Not to mention his age.
He woke up slightly when I shifted him to my cot, then I thought he fell back to sleep, a slight smile on his face. I started to leave, and I heard a whisper behind me. "Thanks, Al."
"That's ok, kid," I said lowly. "I'll just get everything set up."
He smiled and nodded, and I closed the door. I had a lot of explaining to do.
The first person I sought out was. . . you. I couldn't tell Donna, she would go ballistic on me. I couldn't tell Gushie, he wouldn't pay any attention to me. So I sought you out.
You were in your office. I went in, turned around and made sure your door was closed, and attempted to broach the subject. You looked happy, undoubtedly you thought I was coming in for another reason. Ok, those nightmares I had when Sam first Leaped. "Is Ziggy on?" I said abruptly.
"No." You knit your eyebrows. "Should he be?"
"I want him in on this."
"Admiral," you said in your best professional mode. "I don't think Ziggy should be in on a session. . . "
I must've looked puzzled, then I smiled sadly. "No, it's not what you think."
You pushed a button. "Ziggy," I said. "You there?"
"Is Dr. Beckett still sleeping?"
"Yes. According to brain scans, he'll undoubtedly be asleep for the next three hours."
"What is this about?" you said.
I sighed. "Ziggy, where is Dr. Beckett located?"
"One is located in Red Dog, Alabama, on August 8, 1955. Another is located in your office. As you know."
You started out of your chair. "Sam's here?" you gasped. "But how can. . . "
I closed my eyes. "He made it. . . the hard way. Living forty years from 1955. And he still looks like Jesse Tyler."
"But that means. . . "
"Yes and no. You think it means the Leap didn't succeed." I sighed and wiped my forehead. "I'm not so sure. He says he's back here to make sure the Leap does succeed." I leaned forward. "He wants to go into the Imaging Chamber with me." I paused. "The problem is, he's either magnafoozled, or senile. . . or both."
You raised your eyebrow. "He's here and he's been living as Jesse Tyler all these years?"
"Yes. He's been Jesse Tyler. He didn't realize who he was until a couple of days ago."
You glanced at your seldom-used monitor. "Ziggy."
"Yes, Dr. Beaks?"
"Can you show me Dr. Beckett. . . the one in Al's office?"
"With or without the body aura?"
You had a look of surprise on your face. "Both."
"Tricky stuff. Yes, Dr. Beaks." The picture appeared on the screen. Sam was still sleeping.
"My God," you said.
"A real kick in the butt, eh?"
"Yes." You leaned back. "Ziggy? Please ask Dr. Elisi to come in here."
I looked at you, alarmed. "You sure that's wise?"
You smiled. "She's stronger than you think, Al. She can handle it."
"Dr. Beaks?" Ziggy interrupted. "She wants to talk to you."
"Is it important?" Donna said. "Weitzman is about to arrive."
"Damn. I forgot," I said. "Yes, it's important. Very."
She sighed. "I'm coming." She clicked off.
"Turn the screen around to face you," I said. I knew it would only take a minute or two for her to arrive.
It took her five or more. I had forgotten that she would be up on the surface. Donna & I must've just missed each other-thank God. They were a long five minutes, too, because you and I were arguing-discussing-whether Sam actually should be allowed into the Imaging Chamber, especially in the condition he was in. I was for it, you weren't so sure. You were afraid he would touch me and then the younger Sam would see him. Not a good idea. I agreed in principle, but. . .
Donna came into the office during a lull in our conversation. I got out of my chair. "Sit down," I said, and I put my hand on her shoulder.
She turned pale. "Sam's dead, isn't he?"
She's smart, but she'd come to the wrong conclusion. "No. Sam is not dead. Turn the monitor around, Dr. Beaks."
It was still showing the split screen. Donna put her hand to her mouth. "Sam?" She grabbed my arm.
I held her hand. "He showed up on our front doorstep this afternoon."
"Oh my God." She calmed herself with an effort. "How much does he remember?"
"It comes and goes." I explained the situation to her, including our discussion. "What do you think?"
She closed her eye and exhaled forcibly. "I think. . . he's still director of this project and deserves to do what he wants to do. But I would suggest that only the people in the control room know about this." She looked up at me. "Does he remember. . . me?"
I shook my head. "I don't know. I don't. . . think so."
She smiled ruefully. "Doesn't make any difference." She seemed to come to a conclusion. "I'll take him into the Imaging Chamber. I won't be able to see anything but you, but at least I can keep him from touching you."
To make a long story short. . . that's what we did. We did ask him about the retrieval program. . . he looked blank and said "Retrieval program?" So we dropped the issue.
Sam was able to help some. He helped Ziggy locate Nell. He helped in a couple of other things. Mostly he was a sight-seer, though. And the longer we were in the Imaging Chamber, the more he was like Jesse. All the old memories once again living and breathing and talking, I suppose.
But when Sam. . . the young Sam. . . Leaped from the lunch counter, and I turned around to smile at Sam and Donna. . . they were gone. I turned pale. "Ziggy. Where did they go?"
"Dr. Beckett and Dr. Elisi were never in here."
"What?" I shook the hand link. "They most certainly were in here. Check your circuits, tin man."
"Not in this reality, Admiral. And I believe you will find that no-one else besides you and I will remember him. You and I are protected from the time changes."
"We'll find out about that, dammit." I walked out of the Imaging Chamber. Gushie was the only one at the console.
"Hi, Al," he said, bored, obviously. "Dr. Beckett Leaped, I see."
"Yes, he Leaped," I growled. "Gushie. . . was anyone else in the Imaging Chamber with me?"
He looked at me as if I were some sort of desert lizard that had crawled out of the Chamber. "Why in the world would anybody go into the Imaging Chamber with you? They couldn't see a thing unless they were touching you. . . and I presume you would feel that!"
I closed my eyes. I didn't like Gushie's tone of voice. . . but I was in no mood to argue. "Just checking. I'm going back to my office." I strode off before he could ask any more questions.
I resisted the impulse to go talk to you. . . I didn't want to be put in a straitjacket this early in the game. I went straight back to my office, sat down heavily in my chair, and looked at the cot. It obviously hadn't been slept in. I put my head in my hands. "Oh, Sam. Now what?"
Yes, Verbena, you're right. He came back. Next Leap. As Cam Wilson. I got a call from security about this fifty-some year old white man, claiming he was Sam Beckett and what should they do? So I went up and touched him and sure enough, it was Sam.
He was just about the same age. . . Lessee, 1995 less 1961 is 34 years plus 43 - he was 77. A healthy age. Still magnafoozled. Also, he acted older than Cam would have, but I've seen people younger than myself acting far older, so I don't suppose anybody would suspect.
Of course, how could they?
Same story, he looked at a calendar and remembered. It was a little harder to get away this time. . . he was married to Jill, Cam's girlfriend, and his daughter-in-law was about ready to have a baby. He said Jill could've killed him, but he made up some story about a business trip, which made me wonder about "Jesse Tyler's" story. . . did Sam just sneak out of some rest home or out of his house without anybody seeing?
Well, it doesn't make any difference.
We had almost exactly the same scene. I took him down to you, we called in Donna. And Donna was still as upset, and as cool, and as supportive as the last time.
It was Sam who mentioned about Bob abusing Cheryl, Cam's sister. I remembered about the "racing for the pinks" - the owner's registration and mentioned that to Sam so he would race Bob, but Sam reminded me about the laughing gas speed booster.
And then he disappeared again as soon as his younger self Leapt.
On the next Leap, he didn't show up at all. You remember Nick Allen, the Bogey lookalike? I was almost expecting Sam, and when I found out from Ziggy what had happened to Nick. . . I was beside myself. Yes, I drank. I also placed a bet on a horse in Santa. . . no, Rudioso, which I don't do - well, I haven't in recent years, I prefer Vegas. . . but I was drunk at the time, and it seemed like a good idea. Don't ask me why.
But - we saved Nick, and Sam Leaped. Sam's been showing up off and on at the gates of the Project ever since. Sometimes he helps, sometimes he's a tourist, depending on the magnafoozling, I guess.
Why does he show? My theory is that each Leap fails 'till we turn it around and make it a success. It's all in Ziggy's damn percentages. Until it hits one hundred percent, the Leap's a failure. And those times that Sam doesn't make it here, well, we're pretty damn good on muddling through. I hate to admit it, but Ziggy does do a good job of predicting possible outcomes. And then there's Sam spooky second sense. And I help where I can.
But anyway, I'm having a hard time dealing with this stuff-you know?
When "Samantha Stormer" showed up, it almost sunk me. Samantha as a young woman was a Goddess of Love, but the image of Samantha in her sixties-she was still beautiful and only a little older than I am. I almost didn't want to touch Samantha to watch her morph into Sam. I did. I had to. But if I concentrated hard enough, I could still see and hear Samantha. And then talking to the younger Sam in the Imaging Chamber...?
My best friend packaged into a beautiful woman.
Thank God we got that problem fixed so I can see Sam as Sam.
Donna had this funny look on her face that whole Leap. She was laughing at me, and I think she was laughing at the thought of Sam in high heels and a sexy dress. But she went back home and cried, too, I think.
Yeah, I'm ignoring the problem again. What do I think I should do? Well, keep on, I guess. I know. . . I know I've handled worse things than this.
Yes. I had that idea - keeping a record - a public record. A private record? A diary. . . no, you call it a journal, don't you. "Diary" sounds like a teenage girl thing. Ha! Yeah, journal sounds more masculine. Besides Sam will be interested when he gets back - for good. And Ziggy is keeping a record someplace, too.
Which is the other thing I want to ask you. Ziggy gives a 98% chance that you'll remember this conversation-since we're doing it between Leaps. So what I was kinda wondering. . .
Yeah, could you? Could you review all this the next time Sam Leaps? Every time Sam Leaps? Ziggy says she understands, but. . . I need a real person. I'm sorry to put this on you, but I can't put it on Donna's head. Can I? God knows she's strong, but can you imagine her each Leap waiting for her husband to show up at the front doorstep? God, she'd go insane. It's hard enough on me.
Thanks, Verbena. I knew you'd understand.
I hope we won't have to do this much longer. . .