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Part One

Stallions Gate, New Mexico - 2000

Verbena

It was late when the initial alarm sounded, well past what was considered business hours here and only chance that I was the first to make my way to the waiting room. Still, as I stood in the doorway, unsure to begin with, of what or of whom I was facing, I thanked God there was actually someone there at all.

The waiting room had been empty for a little over a month and half; completely dissolute aside from the steel table that had in the many years prior to his disappearance, held Doctor Sam Beckett’s prone body. Now however, the room again radiated with life – with hope, I thought wistfully, trying to slow my racing heart.

Sensors, that to the untrained eye appeared as no more than pieces of ultra modern art protruding from the otherwise stark walls glowed and hummed a healthy rhythm, reassuring me that our newest visitor was for the time being at least, in no distress. That of course could change and I stepped forward, readying myself for the moment when full awareness settled in.

Keeping one eye on my new patient and the other on the sensors, I moved with more than my usual caution. I could already hear a growing commotion coming from somewhere behind me and I ran a mental check of those who I knew were still on site as I drew closer to the table.

The individual, who like all the others that had visited us over the years, was clad in Sam’s fermi-suit and although they were currently facing away from me I knew instinctively that they were the spitting image of the man himself, right down to his fingerprints and the retina’s in his eyes. They groaned and moved restlessly as I approached, obviously disturbed by the sounds emanating from the outer corridor and the uncomfortable position they had found themselves in.

Clearly, full consciousness was not far off, and as the voices behind me fell silent at the very moment the sensors began, a more complex and less reassuring rhythm I realised it was time I announced my presence.

Taking the final step forward, I kept my tone as calm and clear as I was able to under the circumstances.

"You are perfectly safe. Just try and stay calm." I soothed gently, and then watched as the familiar frame of my friend stretched, and hands that had originally been held close to the body reached out, seeking purchase on the table beneath them.

I had not seen Sam, or even anyone who wore his distinctive persona for some weeks but as the visitor twisted awkwardly towards me, using their newly freed hands for leverage, I was astonished to see the changes that had taken place during that time.

In all the years since Sam stepped into the accelerator chamber the passage of time seemed to have had little or no effect on his handsome features. The white lock of hair that had appeared sometime after he had entered the chamber and Al finding what we had first thought was his lifeless body, had remained but there had been none of usual signs of aging. It was almost as if wherever Sam was he occupied a place outside of regular time. That seemed to have changed however. The familiar face, strong jaw and gentle green eyes all bore the telltale signs of someone who had not rested in days, perhaps weeks and who had aged beyond their years.

It was difficult not to stare at the unshaven face before me, or not to notice the hair that was now almost

entirely grey compared with the tawny blond it had been only a few weeks ago. Or even to remember that this person had no idea that they were now apart of top secret project, that to quote the Admiral had gone a little ca ca, and they needed to be treated with the utmost care, not gawked at as if they were exhibits in a zoo.

Just how I must appear right now, coupled with the slow, measured approach of high heels on the concert-covered floor was enough to remind me of why I was here.

Swallowing over the small lump that had risen in my throat I managed to take care of what was necessary at this point and introduce myself. "My name is Doctor Beeks," I say calmly, turning slightly to see who had joined me before I continued. "And this is Doctor Fuller."

For obvious reasons I was relieved that it was Sammi-Jo and not Donna, though I knew it wouldn’t be long before Sam’s wife arrived. Ziggy would have informed her, along with Al, the second the sensors had registered our guest. I couldn’t think about Donna or how she might react however, like everything else that had happened since Sam disappeared we would deal with it, for now we had our silent guest to contend with and helping them was what I needed to focus on.

Re-gathering the threads of my composure I stood quietly as Sammi-Jo gave our visitor one of her patented smiles but like myself, she only receives the slightest glimmer of recognition for her efforts. It wasn’t an unusual response and we both knew it. The majority of the souls who had found their way here over the years usually experienced an understandable period of disorientation. Once we dealt with the introductions and assured them that, they were safe, they were usually happy to cooperate for the duration of their visit. This wasn’t any different to any of the other leaps I told myself, certain that now I had given myself a moment to adjust to Sam’s changed appearance there was very little else that would surprise me.

Offering a small and what I hoped was a reassuring smile of my own; I ask the first of my many questions.

"Can you tell me your name?"

Together with Sammi-Jo I wait expectantly while the visitor seems to consider my question, watching as the familiar brow furrows noticeably from the effort that it appears to warrant, and then as the moments begin to stretch I reach out, attempting to offer support when no answer is forthcoming.

Sensing I believe, that it would be easier on our guest to have only one person conducting the preliminary evaluation Sammi-Jo moves quietly away as soon as it becomes clear to both of us that there will be no immediate response to my inquiry.

It is not entirely necessary that we have a name, though on the few occasions that it hasn't been possible to obtain one from the visitor themselves, Ziggy's capabilities have been stretched to capacity. There is only so much information kept on the various databases and time is always an issue to consider. The fact that our guest arrived showing no obvious signs of distress was a good indicator that Sam was safe for the moment, but as his situation was still unknown we did not know how long he would stay that way.

We needed information and we needed it as soon, as was humanly possible.

My hand remains poised on the stranger's forearm as their troubled eyes search first my own and then, apparently finding no answers there they peer past me to the door that I knew was crowded with on lookers.

"It's okay. No one here is going to hurt you," I assure them. "We're all just very pleased to see you."

I smile again. I was not sure who else had come to see what was going on but I doubted that even with Sam's changed appearance there was anything other than relief showing on the faces behind me. For the last few weeks the Project has simply tried to continue on as if everything was business as usual but no one, least of all myself had believed that with Sam missing that we could go on that way indefinitely.

Squeezing the strong bicep beneath my hand I add. "Can you sit up?"

Thankfully this question doesn't require as much thought as my previous one and with some slow rearrangement of Sam's long limbs they sit up.

 


 

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