"How is Sam?" Dr. Donna Elesee, AKA Mrs. Dr. Samuel Beckett, asked Al as he came into the Control Room. No matter how
often it happened, she knew she would never become desensitized to her husband's life being in danger. The fact that Al was staying in the Imaging Chamber for
hours at a time left no doubt that there was a problem.
"He's going to be fine," Al assured her. He did not make eye contact. Sometimes he found Donna's presence unsettling. She
had not always been a member of the Project. Of course, she and everyone else believed that she had because everyone other than Al and Ziggy operated in
whatever time line that was the present. Having witnessed the changes, Al could remember the different time lines, and, of course, Ziggy had them in her data banks.
Keeping up with the differeneces was maddening, especially when Al's finitely human brain tended to get a headache from sorting out the details. In one line, Sam
was left at the alter. In another, he was happily, albeit forgetfully, married. Sometimes Al wondered if God\Fate\Time had not meant to allow Sam to change his own
marital past. Maybe Donna would be better off if she were not married to a long-absent, world-changing time traveller who seemed to have little hope of ever coming
Occassionally Al got the distinct impression that Donna resented that it was Sam and Al, rather than Sam and Donna, who had
contributed the genetic part of Ziggy, thus making her a biocomputer. Of course, Al and Donna both knew that if things were different and she were the Observer;
Sam would not be able to do the things he had to do. And Al knew that she was not around the when Ziggy was "born" in the first place.
"What happens to Tommy now?" Al asked Ziggy, deliberately turning his attention from Donna. He knew she would want to
know why he was spending so much time in the Imaging Chamber. She would wonder why Sam needed him. It was obvious that there was some underlying problem
in this Leap and Al had every intention of avoiding her. Sam had not confided his past trauma in her and Al was not about to betray his trust.
"Now Tommy is found dead in his home on March 2, 1962," Ziggy answered.
Horrifying as the news was, it did clarify that it was Charles Whitfield, and not Tommy or another unidentified person responsible
for his disappearance. But even though that had been changed, it was not for the better. The child was definitely killed now, or not so definitely since Sam was still in
his place. Al shuddered to think that it had almost been Sam who was killed.
Al started toward his quarters, but Donna stopped him. "Aren't you going to tell Sam?" Her voice was soft and very feminine.
She had long dark brown hair that fell in natural curls past her shoulders. She was a lovely woman, though stress had settled itself in some lines on her face. She was
living, breathing, devoted broken heart waiting for her true love's return.
"He's asleep, honey." Al's tone was friendly. As unsettling as Donna could be, he had nothing but love and respect for her.
She had a heart comparable only to that of her husband's. She waited day after day, year after year, Leap after Leap. Her love for Sam was so intense that even
God, Fate, or Time could not snatch him from her heart. She accepted his call to change the wrongs of the past; she accepted his magnafluxed memory that blocked
her out. She even refused to allow Al to mention her to Sam. Her support of his mission was such that she would not allow his devotion to her to interfere with what he
had to do. After all, she said, "Sam couldn't do what he has to do, if he remembered me." She knew it was not Sam's choice to forget her and assumed that his
lapsed memory was due to the desires of Whomever was Leaping him. She longingly thought back to the time he had returned to her so briefly.
"There's something you're not telling me," Donna accused him.
Al said nothing. His only other option was to lie and he knew Donna would see through that. On the off chance that Donna did
not see through him, Tina Martinez-O'Farrell, the beautiful strawberry blond programmer with whom Al was having one of his longest lasting flings, would. She was
standing close by, and privy to their conversation. If she caught him in a lie, he would not hear the end of it until she burrowed her way to the truth.
"Al, I have the right to know what's going on," she argued. "He's my husband."
Al hesitated. "Not when Sam specifically asks me to keep something to myself," he asnwered, hoping he had not roused her
curiosity even more. "He's trying to protect an innocent child, Donna, and there are things that do not need to be made known to everyone on this Project." Perhaps
that would throw the trail off Sam's having a personal crisis.
"What about Verbeena? She's gone back with you. Is something wrong with Sam emotionally? Is he upset? Why is Verbeena
going with you? The last time she went back..." Donna's voice quivered.
Al understood her persistence then. The last time Verbeena had visited Sam, his mind was shifting from one ego to another,
and they almost lost contact. "It's not like that. Verbeena has and will go back to observe Charles Whitfield." Al gave the official answer and ingnored Donna's other
questions. He had taken a superior officer tone of voice, despite the urge to comfort her.
"If there's something wrong with Sam and you're not telling me..." her threat trailed off. She did not have a viable way of
completing it. Al outranked her. While Sam was gone, Al was head of the Project. For some reason she was never sure of, she had only manged to be the third
highest ranking member of the team. If Al refused her access to anything, whether it was information or a candy bar, there was nothing she could do but accept it.
She could argue, reason with him, appeal to his sense of friendship, even whine... none of it would get her what he did not want her to have.
With a smugness that brought no satisfaction, Al turned on his heel. "Gushie, I'm going back. If Sam is awake, I'll tell him what
happens. If he's asleep, it can wait until morning." He could kill three birds with one stone: get away from Donna's hurt expression; get away from Tina's glaring anger;
and check on Sam again.
Donna stared after him, frustrated, almost angry, wondering how she could get the information from a man who had faced far
greater challenges than she could impose. I ought to seduce him, she thought, amusing herself. A woman was probably all that could crack Al Calavicci.
But that option was a non-option. Sam might not remember her, but she certainly remembered him. She glanced at Tina. Tina could definitely seduce him.
Tina returned Donna's look. She was just as curious as Donna about the mystery Al was hiding. Perhaps an estrogen-laden
conspiracy was in order.