North America, Present Time

"She's free…"

Alia briefly heard the words as she leaped. At first she was confused, but then knew they had come from Sam's Observer, Al. She also heard Thames crying that Zoey was dying. She knew that the medics at Project Lothos would try to save her. If they did, would Zoey come after her again?

Alia had found herself in a large city. The date had been 2010 or thereabouts; she knew this because Barack Obama was President according to local newspapers. After two years here, she was finally beginning to accept that Sam had been right; she was in charge of her own destiny and had a blank slate.

Or did she? She remembered Lotho's lectures about predetermination, although Zoey certainly acted like they were on their own. In those early Leaps they'd been real friends-Zoey the former assassin who'd been freed through Lotho's manipulations and who claimed they were doing bad things just to get home-except that she seemed to enjoy it a little too much.

Alia still tried hard not to think about her own past too much. The hell they'd been in before-the years of shivering under the threat of nuclear fallout, before finding what seemed to be the paradise that Lothos and his creators offered in what had been the Isle of Man-the things she'd done to gain Lothos's approval, and then the missions themselves-all of that seemed like it had been done by another person. Maybe it had…

She didn't try to get in touch with Sam. From her own experience with him she knew that he was still out there, somewhere, but she couldn't sense him. She hoped that he was still helping people; he'd seemed to be a genuinely good person, the sort of person that Alia still wondered if she had a chance of becoming.

To that end, Alia had lived quietly for the past two years. No trouble with the authorities and certainly no attempt to return to England, where she knew that in this time Project Lothos was still a dream, but an active one, in his creators' minds. Part of her wanted to try and stop it-but part of her was still afraid, wondering if that might actually encourage the Project instead.

No, she told herself as she took another customer's order in the small restaurant where she now worked. She had a blank slate-and she was going to write her own future on it.