Chapel stood next to Calavicci's bedside and took the manuscript in both hands. The sundial glowed, and Calavicci's heart-rate spiked, as did his breathing rate. Time had accelerated to a dizzying pace. Chapel turned to the very last page of the book and waited. When the gold appeared on the page, he slowed time again, and he called the others in. Shannon Whitebirch and Gushie had come to explain, and they all waited while the admiral read the last paragraph of the story. Pete pulled the canister's lid off, and Chapel got ready to plunge it in. The last word echoed, and in it went. It sparked brightly and hissed before falling silent.
Albert Calavicci moaned, and Pete, Myka, and Chapel leaned over him, grinning. Whitebirch and Gushie stood back, and a a quick nod from Pete, they raced off to go find Tina and Sadie. The Warehouse agents backed away and let everyone else take over. Their job was done.
Gushie and Whitebirch sat down with Chapel, Pete, Myka, and Ziggy.
"So what happened?" Myka asked gently.
"I found the manuscript buried in a box of books I bought at a garage sale," Shannon said. "I found out what it could do, and I took it to Gushie. I thought it would help us piece together what had gone wrong with Dr. Beckett's initial leap."
"It's activated by the phrase, 'I wish you were here,'" Gushie said. "I stored it in the Imaging Chamber. Who would look for it there? Then the admiral said the key phrase."
"And the explosion?" Ziggy asked.
"It takes a lot of energy to cross that barrier," Shannon said. "It automatically draws on its surroundings to get that. It was in the central projector, so it drew on all the equipment."
"What about the power surge in your room?" Pete asked her.
"It got restless that night. That's part of why we had to hide it so it wasn't in contact with anyone."
"And the alarms?" Ziggy asked. "Did we ever figure that out?"
"I think I did," Chapel said. "That might have been Calavicci trying to communicate. Think about it. It must have been very disorienting, and he was obviously still connected, so he probably influenced you, Ziggy, without you even realizing it. He probably just wanted to get home."
"Speaking of which," Myka said. "Pete and I probably have to get going and take care of the manuscript."
Chapel nodded. "Alright." He stood and led them out into the hall. He took the sundial in his hand, and when they nodded, he ran his finger along its edge.
"Thank you for coming," he said.
"No problem," Pete said.
And then they were gone.
TWO DAYS LATER
Al decided to call on Dr. Chapel. According to the others, he had been instrumental in bringing him back.
Chapel was in Sam's old room, and he opened the door before Al knocked. That was a little creepy.
"Hello," Al said uncomfortably.
"Hello. Would you like to come in?" Chapel asked.
He pushed the door open and let Al in. Chapel sat down on one of the two cots beside the wall and just waited. Al had come to him, after all.
"I hear you helped bring me back."
"Perhaps. I had some help.'
"Speaking of, where are your assistants?"
"They had to go. What else is on your mind?" Chapel asked, changing the subject.
"Do you know what happened? What really happened?"
Chapel took a long time in answering.
"Yes, I do. And I suspect you do, too."
Al walked over to door and put his arm on the frame. "I do, and I can't make sense of it."
"You may never be able to. Or one day, you may wake up and suddenly it's all so clear you wondered how you missed it before. All the advice I can give you now is be grateful we were able make it here and to put it out of mind. This project needs you. That's why Congress called us in. We're... specialists in the weird and unexplainable, and this project will go under if you aren't in charge. That's not an overstatement." He paused, his eyes distant. "And Dr. Beckett has much to hope for."
Al jolted. How had Chapel known what he was thinking about? He always doubted himself, because he had never been able to bring Sam back.
Chapel stood and hesitantly put a hand on Al's shoulder, and he let the admiral see everything he was. He let him see the long nights in college, the too-short days at his Denver practice, the evenings with Artie in Univille, the lonely mornings from every day of his life, and everything between. Al choked for a moment, and he reflexively reflected it. He let Chapel see all he was. He let Chapel see the excited nights from the conception of the quantum leap, the cynical days from the more recent retrieval failures, the contemplative evenings from every day of the project, the idealistic mornings that followed, and everything between.
And then it was over. Chapel dropped his hand and looked away. Al left without a sound. There was no longer any need to say anything. They both knew each other completely.
Chapel sat down numbly. He had never let anyone see so much about him, but it felt good. It felt like he had flushed something out of his system at last. Maybe he needed this. He couldn't hide behind barriers all his life.
He laid down. It had been a long day. He needed to rest before he headed back home tomorrow morning. As much as he liked this time, he just wanted to go home.
He drifted off, and he thought of the future.
Ok, that wasn't exactly what I expected, but I like it all the same. R&R!