They agreed to let him use the copter to transport the (sedated) leapee from PQL to ITC. Which means they now knew where the project was located and more about what exactly was going on there, but Al was so close to reaching Sam he couldn’t care.
Sam was currently on a rather boring leap and had been for about a day. He was a bartender named Henry Denvers in the 60s, and Ziggy predicted he was there to stop a patron from driving home drunk which resulted in an accident and death of a couple people in the original history. With Al busy, Gooshie had taken over as observer. Sam didn’t know what Al was up to, he thought he was away on a spur-of-the-moment Vegas trip, which was what Al often used as an excuse when he had to deal with bureaucrats and didn’t want Sam to worry. This time, he didn’t want him to get his hopes up.
When they arrived at the lab, the three machines were divided among the leapee, Al, and Gordon; he was sent along to make sure it all went smoothly and to operate the machines, which Al had been quickly briefed on (and given a marker, which was a small ceramic button that would be used to recall the machines) but they were expensive and it was safer to let someone from the company deal with them. The plan was to pop in around 11pm in a nearby abandoned lot a couple blocks from the bar where Sam was, leave Denvers sleeping peacefully in the backroom as he often did, and bring Sam back in the machine they’d used for Denvers. Simple enough.
When Al asked about the 14th century problem he and Joe had discussed, Gordon gave a dry chuckle and Doniger simply said “It’s taken care of.” Al wasn’t convinced but Joe had said it shouldn’t interfere much, so that was it.
They were each standing in a cage, Gordon looking very threatening, Denvers snoring lightly, and Al shifting his weight nervously from foot to foot. He wasn’t thrilled about being in another cage but he would do anything for Sam. Joe entered with three backpacks and made his way over to Al. He passed him two of the packs.
“Just in case, here’s some clothes and currency for the time period,” he said in a hushed voice.
“I thought these clothes would be alright, who didn’t love some denim-on-denim in the 60s?”
“Not that time period, the other one. Just in case.”
Al was silent at that. Better safe than sorry, he reasoned. Joe gave the third pack to Gordon.
The room was cleared and Al could see Doniger and a couple technicians looking down at them from the control room. He gave a shaky thumbs up.
The lights were shut off and the room was lit only by what shone down from the control window and the blue light that seemed to glow off the water tanks. A loud whirring sound began and a speaker came to life.
“Stand still… Eyes open… “
A kind of liquid fog rolled through the room and licked at his feet, it was freezing and the metal creaked at the temperature drop.
“Deep breath… Hold it…”
A clunking noise started which quickly grew to deafening volumes. Al winced but as soon as it started, it stopped, and the room seemed even more deafening in silence.
A pink light appeared at the top of the cage, and with a final clunk it descended downwards. When it shone in his eyes, it briefly blinded him. He had to resist the urge to blink it away. When it faded on it’s own, he looked around and realized the lab was gone and replaced by an urban setting. The shock of it was dulled by years in the IC, which left him with a similar disoriented feeling. He was snapped out of it when he was hit with a cold breeze.
Gordon was already out of his machine and Al followed him over to Denvers, who Gordon slung over his shoulder fireman-style. Al could do a lot of things but carrying people wasn’t really one of them.
They walked the few blocks to the bar in silence and only passing a few other people, who probably assumed Denvers was drunk. When they reached the bar, they entered through the backdoor, which led into an empty storeroom. Al put a hand out to stop Gordon from leaving the room. It would sure look strange to the patrons to see two Denvers. He told him to wait there, and he’d go get Sam.
Al stood in the doorway between the back room and the bar and looked around. There was a small crowd and Sam was busy talking to someone at the other end of the bar. He lit a cigar. He had thought being here would be the same as when he visited Sam as a holographic and was surprised to find it felt very different. The smell was the main thing. He could smell the alcohol and the dirt and air that wasn’t stale like in the IC. It was a jarring reminder that this was real, he had time traveled, and Sam was right there in front of him. He was getting antsy just waiting for his attention and was about to interrupt when Sam turned around and met his gaze. He grinned and made his way over.
“Al… I thought I’d be stuck with Gooshie as my observer forever!” Sam whisper-yelled as his usual attention-drawing welcome. It’s a wonder people didn’t question him about it more.
“Well, Sammy, today’s your lucky day because you won’t be stuck with any observer from here on out!” Al smiled as he waved his hand in his typical fashion to articulate.
“You’re leaving?” Sam looked confused.
“What? No, Sam! You’re coming home!”
Al had thought it would be fun to surprise him with the news but at Sam’s look of doubt, it didn’t seem worth it. He reached out and grabbed his shoulder and gave him a shake.
“I’m here! Not a hologram!”
And Sam fainted.