He was floating, and all around him was nothingness. He was infinitely heavy, and yet he was infinitely light. He was all and he was nothing... he was vast in size and yet he was too small to see... He was Somewhere.

Where am I? He could not voice the words, since he had no mouth, no throat, no vocal chords. He couldn't think them, for he wasn't even sure that he had a mind. The words came though, and as was so often the case, they brought an answer with them.

You know where you are.

I don't. I'm lost. I don't know where I am. Where am I going?

You're going home.

Now? Somehow he already knew the answer to that one. Of course he wasn't going home now. Home was always being waved at him, held out of his reach as a goal to aspire to. He wasn't sure that he even remembered what home was anymore. Memories of a red door wafted into his mind, or what he thought of as his mind. Blue flowers; a tiled floor. He wasn't sure if that was his house, or just one that he had once seen. Maybe it was one that he had Leaped into. Maybe it was just a place that he would have liked to have seen. Either way, he thought of it as home. He had no other thoughts to cling to.

Is it time? he asked the nothingness. There was a pause.

It's time.

Where am I going?

There was no answer. There was never any answer. Not to that question. He wanted to screw his eyes up tight, but he had no eyes; or at least he didn't think he did.

I'm going home. He clung to that thought, repeated it over and over to himself. I'm going home, I'm going home, I'm going home... It was easier to think that way, so that there was some sense of hope amongst all this confusion and the hollow sense of emptiness.

But it also hurt to think that way. It hurt because it set his hopes up. It made him long for the day when he would see home; remember home. When he would be home. And that hurt more than anything.

Because he was beginning to believe that it would never happen.


Blam! Something hit him hard, knocking him sideways, and he felt himself falling. There was a cold, hard substance pressing against his cheek, and a familiar salty taste in his mouth. Oh boy... He sat up.

"You coming back for more?" A hand seized his shoulder, attempting to drag him to his feet, but he knocked it aside without thinking and stood up. His vision was blurred, and his ears were ringing. He blinked about him.

"What the hell's going on?" It wasn't the best way to start a Leap - asking questions about the very things he was supposed to know - but his head didn't feel entirely confident about the whole business of thinking just now. In fact it seemed to be considering abandoning ship altogether. He tried to raise a hand to rub at the most painful spot, only for a hard, heavy blow to knock his arm aside. What felt suspiciously like a fist crashed into his ribs and he felt the strength leave his legs. He crashed to the ground for the second time in less than a minute, and blinked blearily up at the scene above him. Three people - damn but they were big - stood in a row in what looked to be a corridor. Sam got the impression of bare brick walls painted a uniform shade of drab grey, and a floor done in cold, hard tiles of a matching shade. He was willing to bet that the pattern of small, square tiles was currently pressed into his left cheek.

"You want some more?" One of the people confronting him, a giant of a man dressed in blue denim, was rubbing his knuckles on his white T-shirt, leaving grimy streaks across the material. Sam groaned.

"Just leave me alone." He made it to his feet anyway, aware that such a gesture was tantamount to asking for a fight. He had only just Leaped in for pity's sake; why was somebody beating him up already? The man who had threatened him stepped forward, clenching and unclenching his fists in indication of menace.

"You want us to leave you alone, don't try getting in our way, boy." A hard hand knocked into his shoulder, carrying enough force to make him stumble back against the wall. For the tiniest second a flash of anger burst through Sam. He didn't like anger. It was non-constructive. But then, he also didn't like being beaten up by a collection of ill-dressed Neathderthals with unpleasant personal hygiene. He took a deep breath.

"Just keep out of my way." He managed a smile that he hoped was friendly, then turned to walk away. A hand grabbed his arm.

"Not so fast, boy."

"I said leave me alone!" Sam whirled, reacting with the same, in-built speed which had carried him through similar situations in the past. So he didn't remember himself too well; so he didn't remember his capabilities or his talents. His body certainly did.

He hit the first man low, with a solid blow beneath the rib cage that made him stumble back. The other men advanced in an instant and he ducked one punch, spun easily, and delivered a high kick that caught one man in the chest and knocked him back. His head struck the tiled floor, and although he was still conscious, clearly he was out of the fight. The third man spat on his hands, rubbing them together.

"This is getting interesting." He made a move, feigning an attack to Sam's right, then dodged sharply to the left. Sam was waiting for him and aimed high, landing a hard jab to the side and spinning to end with a kick to the knees of the first man, who had been coming back for a second assault. The third man wobbled, and rather than give him time to catch his breath and try again, Sam finished him off with a fast blow to the side of the head and a second to the stomach. The man went down and did not try to rise.

"Alright!" The shout of pure glee from behind Sam made him turn, fists ready for another attack. There was none. Instead he found, to his surprise, a young boy standing in the corridor. He was wearing blue denims and a white T-shirt just like the three men on the floor, and it was as this fact registered that Sam realised he himself was dressed the same way. He frowned, unable to understand both the kid's presence or his jubilation.

"Hello?" His voice sounded tentative, he realised; much too much so. If he was going to go on Leaping, he had to start being more convincing in each enforced rôle from the very moment of his arrival.

"That was incredible, man. You were amazing!" The kid ran forward, then cast a nervous look towards the threesome on the ground. "Come on. We'd better get back home before somebody comes by."

"Back home?" Then this kid really did know him. Did they live together? Maybe the kid was his brother, or his son. He followed along like a robot, passing heavy metal doors that began to have a horrible familiarity. The kid ahead finally stopped before one such door and pushed it open.

"Home sweet home." He went into the room beyond the door, leaving Sam standing alone in the corridor. The Leaper stared at the heavy door with its tiny, trapdoor-covered window, and he stared at the cold tiles of the floor and the drab greyness of the place. He felt his heart beginning to sink.

"Jon?" The kid inside the cell reappeared at the door. "Come on man. It'll be lock-up in ten minutes. Do you want to get caught by Morganstein again?"

"Er... no." Whoever Morganstein was, Sam got the distinct impression that he didn't want to get caught by him. He stepped into the cell and looked about.

It was not a large room, but it did not seem to be too inhumanly small, either. It was painted grey, naturally, although from shoulder height upwards a paler shade had been used, clearly in an attempt to make things look a little less boring. A two-tier metal bed was pushed against one wall, each of its bunks covered with a blanket of dull, dark blue. A table was bolted to the floor at the other side of the room, with two chairs similarly affixed, one on either side of it. There was a triangular cupboard in one corner and a shelf running along one wall. There were one or two books on it, but Sam did not feel inclined to check out the titles just now; besides, it might look suspicious. If this was his cell, presumably he was expected to know the names of the books in it?

"You get hit harder'n it looked?" The kid, who by now had sat himself on the lower bunk, was grinning up at Sam, and it took him several seconds to react.


"I said, did you get hit too hard? You're gazing about at this place like you never saw it before." The kid seemed to think that this was funny, and Sam gave him a distracted smile. In all honesty he had been hit pretty hard, and with no warning, meaning that he had been unable to do anything to lessen the jarring impact of his fall. He rubbed his head, using the gesture as a cover under which to take one final look about the room. There were two posters representing the sole décor of the place; one of Rock Hudson in The Sea Devils - 1953, Sam's much-holed memory told him, although he couldn't imagine why - and the second of Arsenic And Old Lace, which his memory didn't seem to recall in any way. That was strange, given that the picture clearly showed Cary Grant, whom he could distinctly remember idolising at some point in his youth. Given the unreliability of the Leaper's recollection, however, it could well have been his all-time favourite movie. As it was he couldn't even remember if he'd ever seen it.

"You sure you're okay, Jon?" The voice of the kid on the bed distracted Sam from his own personal confusions, and mentally he shook himself. Time to don the borrowed garb of the mysterious - and clearly incarcerated - Jon.

"Yeah, I'm fine." He wished that he knew the kid's name. "Just a little shook up, you know."

"I know." The kid was still staring at him as though he were the hero of the hour, and Sam was beginning to find it a little embarrassing. He climbed up to the top bunk and lay down, staring up at the peeling paint of the ceiling, and wondering how long it would be until lock-up. That, surely, would be the time to go to sleep, when maybe he would have some time to explore his cell and find out a little more both about himself and about the kid on the lower bunk.

"Don't you want to play any chess tonight, Jon?" The voice below him sounded surprised, and Sam gave a start. Hell, did he even know how to play chess? He had to imagine that he probably did. After all, as a child he had been into all those perceived high brow pursuits; or at least he thought he had.

"No, not tonight." He hesitated. "I'm a little whacked, you know?"

"Whacked?" The voice sounded confused, and he winced. Yet another great move. So far this Leap wasn't going all too brilliantly. He wished that Al would show up to tell him which year he was in, so that he could avoid making anymore gaffes like that one.

"Yeah. Beat, you know? I'm going to get some sleep."

"Okay." Down below the kid sounded almost relieved. "Night then."


Sam lay awake for a long time, listening to the sounds of the empty corridors. He heard the heavy padding of booted feet before very much time had passed, and watched as a uniformed man in his early fifties slammed the door shut. The trapdoor opened seconds later, and a pair of torch-lit eyes stared unblinkingly into the cell; then the trap banged closed and the booted feet marched on to the next door. Sam stared at the closed metal barrier, trying to remember if he was claustrophobic. He didn't feel at all panicky, which was a good sign, although the mere thought of phobias was enough to make him think about flying on a trapeze. He frowned at that, but dismissed the thought. Why his swiss-cheesed mind couldn't come up with the occasional useful snippet he would never know. Not that he didn't appreciate the odd moment of trivia.

"Sam?" The voice was very quiet, but all the same it made the Leaper jump. He hadn't heard the Door open, so presumably Al had materialised elsewhere. He turned, treated to the slightly disturbing sight of the hologram suspended three feet above the ground, half of his torso lost in the wall, and the top of his head cut off by the floor of the room above. He winced.

"Sorry." Al's image flickered, then slid into a more natural position. Sam sat up to greet him, relieved to see his old friend. No matter who he was, or where and when he went in the world, Al's presence was the one constant that kept him close to home. The handlink which flashed and spluttered as the hologram peered at it was a closer link still; a part of the great, all-knowing, all-seeing -well, more or less - computer known as Ziggy. He often wished that he could touch it, could see it and hold it for himself, but that went against the rules. He had no idea what the rules were, or why they had even been thought up, but he had it on the best authority that he had made them, and therefore they were unbreakable. At least, Ziggy thought so. Personally Sam was of the opinion that he should have consigned them to the rubbish bin a long time ago.

"What have we got, Al?" Sam jumped lightly to the ground, stealing a quick look at the sleeping boy on the other bunk. He looked even younger when he was asleep, and Sam felt a momentary pang of some awkward emotion. What the hell was a kid like that doing locked away in here? Al seemed to read his thoughts, which was quite likely given their cerebral link with Ziggy the Super Computer.

"The kid over there is Frank Jacobs, known in here as Jake. He used to be Jake the Snake on the outside, 'cause of his ability to get through little windows and the like. Made him one of the best juvenile sneak thieves in his town." The hologram grinned. "Every kid should have a hobby."

"Jake the Snake?" Sam's voice came out a little too loud and he flinched, but the kid did not awaken. "What's he doing in an adult prison?"

"Adult prison?" Al grinned at him in that familiar way that suggested he was about to tell Sam something he would rather not know. "Have you looked in a mirror since you Leaped in, buddy?"

"No..." All of a sudden Sam was not sure that he wanted to know who he was this time. With a sinking feeling in his heart he walked over to the cupboard in the corner of the room - the most likely place for a mirror that he could see - and opened the door. Sure enough the flash of mirror glass caught his eye, and he stared at his reflection.

He was about sixteen, maybe a little less, certainly no more; maybe a little below average height, with an athletic build and strong-looking physique. Well-turned out, he thought to himself; vaguely stylish even in the prison uniform. Jon was a handsome black kid, with a naturally wide smile and pleasant, intelligent eyes. He wore a chain around his neck which on closer inspection proved to be a St Christopher, and by first impressions it looked as though he hadn't started to shave yet; or not regularly at any rate. Sam groaned.

"I'm a kid," he said sadly, leaning forward and resting his head on the mirror. His reflection, pressed up against him, looked sad and resigned. "I'm a teenager again."

"Yeah, puberty." Al visibly winced. "And in prison too. No girls to gaze at, no magazines to finagle..." He caught Sam's look and shook off the reverie. "Okay, it's September 12th, 1960. Your name is Jon Pearce and you're sixteen years old. You were born on August 14th, 1944 to Mary and Connor Pearce." He grinned. "We actually have a fair amount of data on this guy. Prison records are useful things to have."

"I'll try to Leap into prisons a little more often in future."

Al wisely ignored the sarcasm and continued.

"You were arrested - that is, Jon was arrested - in February this year, for robbery and aggravated assault. He claimed to be innocent, but nobody believed him and he was found guilty less than a fortnight later. We're not exactly talking about due process of law, if you see what I mean. He was sent straight here on a five stretch." Al shook his head. "Poor kid. His parents died in May '59 and there was nobody else to speak up for him at the trial. He didn't have a chance."

"You think he was innocent?" Sam asked. Al caught his eyes and held them with his own.

"Sure he's innocent. Three days from now the warden receives Jon's pardon, along with details of the real culprits, and Jon's release is ordered immediately."

"Well that's great!"

"Not so Sam." The Leaper didn't think that he'd heard his friend sound this serious in a long time. "Sometime tomorrow there's going to be a riot, and one of the prison officers is gonna get himself killed. Jon gets blamed for the crime, and even though he didn't do it he takes the rap. He gets life. He's transferred to an adult prison in 1965, and he dies in the prison hospital in 1981 aged thirty-six, of a rare form of cancer."

"You mean he contracts AIDS." This time Sam's memory did him credit, and gave him every little detail known about the disease in his own time. Al nodded.

"Yeah. Jon's gay, and in prison there's no provision made for safe sex. There sure as hell wasn't in 1981, at any rate. There's no record of how he contracted the virus, or who if anybody he caught it from, just the medical details about the cancer. They were making breakthroughs back then, but it was still a disease nobody really knew about."

"I remember." Sam leaned against the wall, casting his mind back. Al had told him on more than one occasion that he had a photographic memory, but he himself had come to think of it as a photographic memory which had run out of developing fluid. This time, however, he seemed to be able to see whole pages of medical text in his mind. He was a doctor wasn't he? A doctor of medicine amongst other things. He could remember this. "Even a year or two later there were still a whole lot of cases that went undiagnosed."

"Sure." Al sauntered about the room, trying, and failing, to look casual. He took it almost as personally as Sam did when their data told them something bad about a person involved in a Leap. "Ziggy says that the chances are well over ninety percent that you're here to save Jon. You have to see that he doesn't get hit with the rap for this murder before his pardon comes through three days from now."

"I can do that." Sam nodded hard. Maybe he could be at the other end of the prison when the death occurred. Maybe there was someway that he could prevent it altogether. "Does Ziggy know who really killed this guy?"

"There's not a lot of data. Police records go by the assumption that Jon himself was the guilty party." The Observer checked his handlink, giving it a familiar, impatient shake to get it going again. The link wailed in protest and he gave it a good slap. "Here we are. Officer Charles--" A slap of the handlink, a squeal of protest. "Officer Charles... Looks like Mog. Mog?" He slapped the link again but it refused to elaborate, clearly deciding to have one of its least co-operative days instead. "Either way he's not a favourite amongst the inmates from what I can see. He going to be killed by a single knife thrust high in the left side of the body. It misses his heart, but I guess it gets plenty else instead. It happens in the middle of the riot, and witnesses are going to say that Jon was the guy who stabbed him."


"Other inmates. There were no other officers in the vicinity at the time." Al shrugged. "Not exactly damning evidence, but I guess it was enough for them."

"They convicted him on the strength of what a few other inmates said?" Sam was incredulous. "You've got to be kidding."

"I wish I was, Sam." Al stared at the handlink, as though not wanting to look at his friend instead. "It's 1960, pal, and you're black. More than that, you're an orphaned black kid with nobody to look out for him. You think anybody's going to believe anything you say?" He sighed. "And that's before we even get into the whole gay thing."

"The odds are kind of stacked against me, aren't they." Sam managed a small, wry smile. He remembered Stonewall, but that had been in 1969, a long way in Jon's future. Attitudes hadn't really even changed all that much then. It had been the seventies - the eighties even - before a guy like Jon could really have expected to get a fair deal. Maybe not even then.

"Maybe not entirely." Al flashed him a cheery grin, which did not quite reach his eyes. "It's doubtful any of them know Jon's gay, so if it's any consolation you only have the two hundred years of deeply ingrained racism to worry about."

"Well that's definitely a consolation." They shared a smile, before Sam found himself having to suppress a yawn. He didn't feel especially tired, but clearly the part of him that was Jon Pearce felt differently. "Any ideas?"

"I'm going to go and talk to Jon. I think it's fair to say that his experiences are nothing like anything we've ever encountered before. Maybe he can give us some tips if nothing else."

"Good idea." A thought occurred to Sam. "How's he taking it?"

"Well enough." The Observer shrugged. "He thinks he's been kidnapped by aliens, but the change of scenery's doing him some good. He loves the food. Of course, he realised pretty soon that he's in the body of a white man right now, but we fobbed him off with a pretty snappy explanation, and he settled down fairly quickly after that."

"Good." He had only been here an hour if that, but already Sam was beginning to like Jon Pearce a great deal. Clearly his cellmate thought highly of him, and the neat, well-ordered appearance of the cell itself suggested a personality that he might be able to fit into. "I'll see you later then."

"Yeah." Al hesitated, clearly unwilling to leave. He was looking about at the cell, taking in its confining space and sparse, uncomfortable furniture. "You gonna be okay Sam?"

"I'll be fine." The Leaper shrugged. "I've Leaped into prisoners before, right?"

"I guess." Even so Al still didn't seem inclined to leave. He paced about the cell, staring at the tiny cupboard, the bolted-down table and chairs, the thin mattresses and the two film posters. Sam caught his eyes lingering on the poster of Rock Hudson, and he smiled.

"Kind of an ironic choice, isn't it."

"You could say that." Al returned the smile. "But if history goes the way Ziggy says it did, Jon isn't going to be around to hear his hero come out."

"1985..." He remembered the year. He remembered the newscasts too, and the terrible photographs. Sam shuddered. He didn't want Jon going through that. The chain of thought clarified something in his mind, and he wandered over to the posters.

"He died, didn't he. In 1985."

"Huh?" The sleepy voice of Jake came to him faintly from the bunks. "Who's gonna die in 1985? Are you having nightmares again Jon?"

Sam jumped. The sound of the Door closing made him repeat the involuntary action, and he spun about to see that he was alone. Al had departed.

"Sorry Jake. I didn't mean to wake you. I guess I was just... thinking about something I read."

"You read too much." There was a creaking of metal as the boy lay back down. "Get some sleep, huh Jon? You're gonna need it if there's any more trouble tomorrow."

"Yeah, sure." Sam wandered back over to the beds and climbed onto his bunk. He lay very still for a long time, gazing up at the ceiling, then slowly rolled over onto his side and closed his eyes. He hadn't felt claustrophobic before, but suddenly the walls seemed to be moving in on him. The cell felt very small, almost suffocating, and he tried not to think about it. It didn't seem to work, but gradually fatigue took over anyway and the worries faded. Finally, he let himself drift off into sleep.


I've had a lot of experience of Leaping over the years. Or at least, I think they're years. To be honest I don't really have a clue about how long I have been Leaping, but... well I think you get the drift. This was something new though. For the first time in my life - or as much of it as I can remember, anyway - I had Leaped into somebody that I shared no experiences with; had no hope of identifying with. Although my instincts told me that Jon Pearce was a good kid, and that I'd probably like him a whole lot, nothing in my life had prepared me to live in his.

I've never been in prison, either as a child or as an adult. Oh, I've been in them since I started Leaping, I'll give you that, but it's not the same... and I don't really remember those times anyway. I certainly couldn't imagine what it must have been like for a lonely kid to be arrested and locked away in such a fashion as Jon had experienced. My own childhood is admittedly a little confused in my memory - along with absolutely anything else that might be of use - but I do remember that it was happy. I remember arguing with my brother Tom, and stealing my little sister Katie's sweets when I thought my mother wasn't looking. I remember going to swim in the river, and milking the cows, and... and something about a big red kite and the bull in the top field, but I think that might have something to do with the swiss cheese that my head is full of most days. At least I hope it is. I'd never been confused, I'd never been an outcast, I'd never experienced prejudice. Not at that age. I couldn't even begin to understand how it must have felt for Jon to be sixteen, and black, and gay - all in 1960 when such a combination was a passport to vilification and abuse.

But, as usual, I was being thrown in right at the deep end, and I learnt on my very first Leap that the only thing you can do then is to take a deep breath - and swim like crazy.


Morning came in an all too sudden burst of light, accompanied by a hammering on the cell door as it crashed open. In the bunk below Sam, Jake woke with a jerk, then leapt out of bed and crashed to attention. The whole bunk shook, and Sam raised his head, looking blearily about.

"What's up?" he asked sleepily. It looked as though Jake flinched.

"What's up? What's up?" The voice came from the door, and as Sam climbed down to the ground he got a better look at the guard who had caused their rude awakening. He was tall, although part of that was undoubtedly the fact that Sam himself was looking at him through the eyes of a not-especially-tall teenaged boy. He was dressed in an immaculate uniform with glistening boots, and he carried a heavy looking night-stick in one hand. He slapped it against the palm of his other hand as he stared into the cell, his heavy-lidded eyes staring right into Sam's, as though seeing straight through the disguise of the Leap. Sam saw the name patch sewn into the left breast of the man's shirt. It read Morganstein, CMR.

"There some reason why you aren't standing to attention this morning, Pearce?" Morganstein took a step into the room, a lazy air to his swagger. He spun the night-stick in his fingers, and Sam preyed for him to drop it. He didn't.

"I, er..." Sam had no idea what to say. "I overslept?" It came out as more of a question than he'd intended it to. Morganstein paced onward until he was standing less than an arm's reach from the Leaper, before he folded his arms and stared deep into the eyes upraised to his. Morganstein was a tall man, Sam decided. He would have seemed that way even if they had met when the Leaper was in his own body.

"Well then you'd better make sure it doesn't happen again, hadn't you." Menace dripped in that solitary sentence, and Sam felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle. The night-stick swung from a short leather strap, tapping against Morganstein's leg.

"Er... yeah." He wasn't sure what else to say, but the stiffening in Jake's shoulders told him that he had chosen the wrong thing. "I mean... yes sir." He tried to sound confident, although he really didn't have a clue how he was supposed to address the man. 'Sir' sounded like a fair bet. A sneering smile curled one side of Morganstein's mouth.

"You're getting too big for your boots, Pearce. Maybe you think you can try it on with me like you did with Grable and his gang yesterday. Is that it?"

Grable? Sam could only imagine that he was one of the people he had fought with, directly after his Leap. He shook his head.

"No sir."

"You're sure about that?" Still the voice was soft, and still the sense of menace filled the words.

"I'm sure sir." Sam swallowed hard, trying to overcome the last vestiges of Jon's fear, which seemed to have been left inside his aura. He didn't want to be afraid of Morganstein, and he didn't want to look as though he was. Somehow he felt sure that a man like this would only exploit such fear.

"You'd better be." The cold, fish-like grey eyes moved closer, hovering bare inches from Sam's own eyes. "You don't want to tangle with me, Pearce. Remember that." Abruptly he turned away, as though suddenly remembering that he had other prisoners to awaken. He marched briskly from the room, leaving the door swinging in a hot and stale breeze. Jake let out a long, deep breath.

"Man." He sat down rather hurriedly on the edge of his bunk. "What got into you, Jon? You're lucky he didn't use that stick on you for what you said."

"I, er..." Sam gave a rather vague shrug. "I was still half asleep I guess."

"You're nuts." The boy threw a shirt at him. "Come on, look lively. The last thing I want is him coming back to hurry us along."

"Sure." Sam slung the shirt over his shoulder, glad that he had somebody else to follow, to give him an idea of the morning drill. All the same he felt apprehensive as he left the relative sanctuary of his cell and stepped out into the alien world outside. Out there he knew nothing, and he had no idea what to expect.

They began with the showers, a large, cold room lined with more of the plain grey tiles. The only real difference between this room and the corridors outside it was the lining of mildew caught in the cracks, or creeping inexorably up the walls. The showers themselves seemed to have no setting for any temperature above the sub-arctic, and the only towels available were about one foot in length and considerably less in width. They were made from what, as far as Sam could see, appeared to be the same material as the sacks on his father's farm, only slightly less soft and welcoming, and they all had a number stamped on one side in black ink. Sam's was 09908. He assumed that it corresponded to the number stamped on his shirt. One of the older prisoners was 007, and Sam felt an irrational surge of jealousy. If he was going to go Leaping into prisoners, the least that The Powers That Be could do was to Leap him into a prisoner with a cool number. He wondered what Ziggy's response would be if he suggested it.

After the showers, when Sam was once more attired in the blue denim uniform that he was already growing heartily sick of, they made their way to the dining hall, accompanied by a steady stream of adolescent prisoners in identical garb. The dining hall proved to be a gigantic room filled with long tables in symmetrical rows, all with metal legs, and all with matching grey peeling Formica tops. There was a line of guards at the door, holding what was clearly a routine inspection of their uniforms, sending some inmates away and yelling at others. It was a strangely intimidating experience, and one that it was a relief to be through with. Jake led the way to a table at the far side of the room, where a group of boys already sat, in possession of grey plastic, compartmentalised trays. Sam tried to look enthusiastic about the contents as he followed Jake's lead in nodding a greeting, before moving on to the queue at the food hatch. A grimy-aproned chef attired all in grey - well why not? thought Sam to himself, variety is very overrated - spooned what looked like porridge into one compartment of his tray, and then a pasty-faced young assistant who seemed to be no older than twelve poured weak coffee out of a huge metal kettle at least twice the size of his head. There was a thick slice of bread too, so stale that it was positively brittle. The pasty-faced assistant balanced it on the tray next to the porridge, then nodded at Sam to move along. He did so with a sense of some relief, following Jake back over to the table whose other occupants they had nodded at earlier. They sat down.

"Hi," Sam said, determined to be friendly. They all stared at him, eyes wide, and he gave an inward groan. Great, yet another procedural gaffe. He hoped that his nemesis Morganstein hadn't witnessed it.

"Boys." As the last of the food-gathering teens collected his tray and sat down, a voice rang out from the speakers positioned, Sam now noticed, in all the corners of the room. He suspected that it was the voice of the Warden that he was hearing, and tried to look suitably interested. He suspected that he failed, for one of the prison officers stationed nearby was glaring at him. "We begin a new day. Let us pray for thanks before we enjoy our breakfast." Sam wondered what the Warden was having, and doubted very much that he would be praying over it if he was eating the same as the boys. On the other hand, praying might be a very good idea. He wondered if there was a prayer to prevent food poisoning. All around him boys were lowering their heads and folding their hands, although he noticed that not one of them had closed so much as an eye. Perhaps they were worried about their food being stolen, and hoped that he wasn't here for long enough to get that desperate.

"We thank thee, Lord, for the food we are about to eat. Amen." The ridiculously short prayer was a relief and a surprise. Sam frowned, hoping that nobody had noticed his vague mouthings of unknown words, then glanced around at the others on the tables. They were all beginning to eat, and he guessed it was okay to make a move. He sipped the weak coffee, tried not to make a face, and then tried to get busy with the porridge. There were worse things to have for breakfast, after all. At least he could be thankful there were no eggs.

"What's got into you, Jon?" A boy sitting opposite him, small, black and clearly one of the youngest, spoke up in a voice that was unnaturally mature. Sam blinked.


"Speaking before Grace." It was clear that this was unforgivable in terms of prison rules, and Sam shrugged.

"Er... I forgot I guess. Maybe I'm feeling a little off-colour today."

"You can say that again." Jake looked about, his expression one that lingered halfway between horror and admiration. "You should have heard the way he talked to Morganstein first thing."

"Morganstein?!" The little black kid looked shocked, and the other kids around the table all looked deeply impressed. Sam shrugged, smiling in a way that he hoped didn't look too conceited.

"It was nothing," he said, with real feeling.

"Like hell it was Sam." The voice of the Observer came from directly behind him, where Al, with his usual disregard for his friend's sanity, had appeared without warning. Sam choked on his porridge and tried not to look too surprised. "Morganstein is the officer who gets murdered in a couple days, and he and Jon Pearce are old enemies. Morganstein's been making life tough for the kid since he first arrived here back in February, and it's been getting steadily worse between them ever since then." His voice sounded serious, but Sam couldn't find a decent excuse for turning round to look at his friend's face. "Jon's been telling us some real nightmare stories, Sam. You've gotta be careful."

"Hmm." Sam nodded, trying to make it look as though he were working out a kink in a stiff neck. He waited for Al to continue, frustrated that he couldn't prompt him in any way.

"Ziggy says whoever really murdered Morganstein had no trouble setting Jon up as the stooge because everybody knew they hated each other. You've gotta be sweetness and light to this guy. If there's one big flare-up between the two of you, it's going to be the perfect excuse for the killer." His voice came closer as he wandered around in front of Sam, clearly tired of talking to the back of his neck, and settled in place directly between Sam and the small boy who had spoken first. He was only visible from the waist up, and appeared to be growing out of the sugar bowl that formed the centrepiece of the table. "Whatever it was you said to Morganstein, you'd better find a way of mending those bridges, Sam."

"Sure." Sam spoke the word into his porridge, but still Jake frowned at him.

"Sure what?"

"Oh, just thinking aloud." The Leaper frowned at the sugar bowl, wishing that Al wouldn't wander through the furniture in such a fashion. It was extremely off-putting.

"What are you gonna do about Grable?" The oddly old-sounding voice of the small boy sitting opposite stole Sam's thoughts away from Al momentarily, but he couldn't see the kid thanks to Al's current position. He tried to lean around, so that he had a better view, but the strange looks that he received persuaded him to return to a more normal position. Remembering that the kid could still see him, he shrugged.


"The leader of the musketeers you tangled with yesterday," Al filled in, consulting the handlink. "Ziggy says he's a nasty piece of work, in for drug-related offences, assault and kidnapping."

"Oh." Sam nodded. "Grable. Why would I have to do something about him?"

"You beat him up Sam," Al told him, just as the black kid opposite came up with an almost identical sentence.

"You beat him up Jon." He paused. "Have you seen him yet this morning?"

"No." Sam's questioning eyes brought Al's attention back to his handlink and he gave it one of his customary beatings.

"The kid you're talking to now is Jefferson Lake. Call him Jeff. The other kids in your little group here, going clockwise, are Lewis, Frankie, Jo-Jo, Ramrod, Newton and Skate. Plus Jake of course." He was grinning. "What a bunch of names. Reminds me of my own, back at the orphanage. They used to call me Railroad, 'cause of - well actually I can't remember why."

"Uh huh." Sam was trying to listen to Jeff whilst also keeping an ear focussed on Al, but the long list of names had left him extremely confused, and he was no longer aware what either of them was saying. "I haven't seen Grable, no, and I don't expect him to cause any trouble." He shrugged. "Can we talk about something else?"

"Yeah. Ask them about this week's episode of Bonanza." Sam couldn't tell if Al was being cutting or just plain sarcastic, and decided not to find out. It wasn't his fault if he didn't know a lot about usual topics of conversation for a prison canteen. He tried to recall the list of names barked at him by Al, and could remember only one.

"Frankie. You been doing anything interesting lately?"

"Huh?" Frankie turned out to be a white boy, probably about fifteen years-old although he looked younger. He was small, with earnest blue eyes and a rather unruly sprouting of brown curls, which could have been rather magnificent had it not been for the close prison cut. He seemed rather unnerved by all the sudden attention. "I haven't done anything."

"Sure you have." Although Jeff was clearly younger, he spoke to Frankie with gentle encouragement, and when the boy proved not to be forthcoming he explained instead. "Frankie's got himself on the works detail in the school. He's going to be teaching other kids how to read." At this, Frankie looked mortified, as though terrified that he might be about to lose whatever respect he had earned in the group. He shook his head, his voice coming out in an uneven stammer.

"I-I-it's nothing. J-just an hour or-or two. Really."

"Hey, lighten up Frankie." Reaching out across the table, Sam suddenly remembered that he was supposed to be the same age as the boy, and therefore such a gesture might not be appreciated. He withdrew his hand. "You shouldn't be embarrassed. It's great news. I'll bet a lot of kids in here can't read, and that's going to hold them back when they get out. They won't be able to find work, and they'll just end up right back in here again." He offered the boy a bright, encouraging smile. "You can really make a difference. I'm proud of you."

"Really?" Frankie sounded hesitant, but the look in his eyes made Sam feel like a king. He had never been idolised before, at least as far as he could remember - which wasn't all that far - but he could feel himself growing to like it. Around here, clearly, Jon Pearce was something of a hero. He shrugged, trying to look casual, cool, off-hand - and failing miserably. Al was grinning.

"Yeah, sure. It's cool." He took a swig of his coffee, still trying to keep up the image of laid back, retro style. The coffee tasted revolting, but he swallowed it anyway. It would hardly look cool if he gagged at the breakfast table.

"Hey, Pearce." He recognised the voice from yesterday, and turned. Three older boys stood behind him, standing in a row to further increase the illusion of sheer size. They all wore their regulation-issue denim shirts cut off at the shoulder, displaying an unnerving amount of muscle. One sported a death's head tattoo which, although hardly original, did a good job of raising Sam's blood pressure. He smiled nervously, already feeling his cool front evaporating. Al was practically baring his teeth at the threesome, but the presence of a threatening hologram that nobody could see anyway, let alone touch, was hardly encouraging.

"Grable." Sam aimed for the rough centre of the threesome when he spoke the name, in the hope that it wouldn't be too obvious that he had no idea which one Grable was. It was easy to see how he had come to mistake them for men the previous evening, and he had no wish to get on the wrong side of them now. They were all about eighteen, taller than most of the prison officers, and big enough to make Morganstein look like a minor threat.

"You made us look stupid, Pearce." The man in the middle of the threesome, slightly smaller than his fellows but with a clear air of leadership, moved closer to the table. Sam could smell alcohol on his breath, but kept quiet about it. There was no sense in inviting trouble.

"You jumped me," he said in defence, hoping that it was true. He was sure that Jon wasn't the kind to deliberately begin a fight with a trio like this one.

"You started it, you little--" Grable, for Sam was sure it was he, broke off as he caught the eye of a guard. "Listen. You. Me. Out back at four o'clock. Got it?"

"Out back?" Sam felt his blood beginning to run cold. "I can't make it at four. I have a piano lesson." Further down the table someone giggled, and Sam tried not to wince. He really hadn't meant it as a joke. A heavy hand closed around his shirt just below his throat, and he felt himself pulled halfway out of his chair. Unsurprisingly the guards all seemed suddenly to be looking the other way.

"You'll be there, Pearce. Or I'll finish the work I started before you butted in. Got it?"

"Got it." Sam nodded, although he didn't have a clue what Grable was talking about. He pulled himself free, then deliberately turned his back on the threesome, returning his attentions to the coffee. The others around the table were staring at him with even more admiration than before, and he found himself wishing that they would find themselves another hero. This was getting hard to take.

"You gonna meet him, Jon?" One of the boys whose name Sam was yet to track down made him turn sharply. He paused, then nodded. There was no point trying to hide from Grable, especially given the very limited amount of space he had to play with in a prison. It had to be best just to get it over with.

"Yeah, I'm going to meet him." He hoped that the mysterious judo skills he always managed to call upon in moments of great need - and which he could not for the life of him remember ever learning - would not desert him.

"Thanks." He realised that it was Frankie speaking now, and frowned. The kid looked deeply grateful; almost painfully so, and Sam looked to Al for help. The Observer, as was his wont at such times, gave the handlink a hefty slap.

"The fight yesterday started out when Grable and his cronies started knocking Frankie about. They were calling him a qu - a que - a--" He sighed and gave the handlink another slap. "A queeeee--" He raised his eyebrows, gave up and tossed the handlink over his shoulder, causing it to vanish immediately from Sam's vision. "I think we can assume they said he was gay."

"You didn't have to help me yesterday," Frankie told him, his voice sounding shaky. Sam offered him what he hoped was a warm and comforting smile.

"It's okay Frankie. I helped you because I wanted to. We've got to stick together against jerks like that, no matter what they say." Around them everybody else was starting to rise to their feet, and he followed suit without waiting to follow Jake's lead. He didn't want to spend any more time sitting here, contemplating his congealing porridge and cooling coffee, than was absolutely necessary. "What's next?"

"Are you kidding?" Jake shook his head, clearly convinced that his cell mate was going round the twist - or that he had already gone. "School, buddy. The bit where they try and teach us something useful to make us into nice and ordinary people when we get out. We're in machine shop today. Man, you really have to start learning your timetable."

"Machine shop?" That actually sounded like it could be fun. Sam had missed out on much of the practical side of learning when he had been at school, due to the tendency of his teachers to promote his work in the theoretical branch. He had taken science and maths and half a dozen languages, not to mention history and music and even more science; but he had never had a single lesson of woodwork or metalwork, at least as far as he could recall. He wondered if they were actually allowed any real tools.

"Go along with him Sam. Play it easy." Al had already opened the door taking him back to his own world, and Sam felt a pang of regret. He hated it when Al left him alone, especially in situations like this one. "I'm going to check the records, try and find out what it was that caused the riot that led to Morganstein's death."

"Right." Sam nodded at him, making it look as though he were really nodding and speaking to Jake. The door slammed shut. "Lead on."


They made pipe-racks, which was hardly politically correct but might, potentially, be useful Sam supposed. They were fashioned from wood on a metal framework, and from what Sam could see from the one with Jon's name on it, he was in the body of a potential pipe-rack artist. Somehow he couldn't summon up any enthusiasm himself, and used the time to try and learn some names instead. Jake and Frankie both worked close by, Jake with plenty of enthusiasm and a complete lack of talent, and Frankie with a total lack of both. His pipe-rack looked more like a climbing frame for a particularly energetic wood-louse; or so Al observed when, arriving in the middle of the room, he did a double-take and shook his head in sad regret.

"I made a pipe-rack once," he announced in a loud voice, and strode towards Sam through three workbenches and six inmates.

"Really." Keeping his voice low in the hope that the drone of machinery would hide it, Sam did not look up. He fiddled with a stray piece of wood that he was unwilling to put into place. Jon might have planned to use it for something else.

"Yeah." Al's voice carried the familiar note of reminiscence. "At the orphanage. I was pretty good at it actually, got an extra credit mark." He gave a philosophical shrug. "They took the mark away when they caught me actually using the pipe-rack to keep a pipe in. I mean what did they expect? What am I gonna put in a pipe-rack, huh? Sausages?"

"Al..." Sam tried to keep his voice to invisible companion level, all too aware of the close presence of both Jake and Frankie. In the event, neither of them seemed to notice, but a boy several benches along glanced up. Sam guessed that his name must be Al, and tried not to catch his eye. "Did you come here for a reason?"

"Do I have to have a reason to visit my friend?" Al was clearly in a jaunty mood, which suggested either that he had found something of use to the Leaper, or that he had seen a particularly pretty lab technician just before entering the Imaging Chamber. Sam fervently hoped that it was the former, although by the rakish slant of the scarlet fedora on his partner's head he was distinctly suspicious that it might be the latter. "Actually I do have a reason. Ziggy finally dug up the full details of Morganstein's death, and I have to say that it looks to me like more than one person was involved. Morganstein was a big guy, and I don't think Jon could have taken him on his own."

"And they didn't notice that themselves back in 1960?" Sam was incredulous. Certainly they had very likely been anxious for a conviction, if only to restore proper order to the prison; but to ignore evidence like this suggested something else. "Do you think Morganstein might have been involved in something? Drugs maybe."

"I wouldn't put anything past a guy that looks like that." Al was gazing at a picture displayed on the handlink. "He looks like something Louis Jourdan might create." He tapped at the link to make the screen scroll down. "Okay, Ziggy says that his wrists were cruised. Cruised?" The long suffering handlink took another hefty blow to the side. "Bruised - so it seems likely that he was handcuffed some time before he was stabbed. Taking that little fact into consideration I'd say we're looking for two people at least. I just can't see it being a one man job to get Morganstein in handcuffs." He shook his head, clearly disturbed. "Hell Sam, I thought we were dealing with a simple miscarriage of justice here. It's starting to look more like a set-up. Question is, can you think of anybody who would want to frame Jon Pearce?"

"I'm getting a few sneaking suspicions, yeah." Sam raised his eyebrows and Al nodded.

"Oh yeah. Maybe if you throw the fight today. Maybe if you let Grable win..."

"That's not going to do any good." Sam shook his head. "I have to think of something else. Something to get him off my back."

"Think fast Sam. Ziggy says that whatever it is that sparks off the trouble leading to Morganstein's death, it begins in less than six hours."

"Can I save Morganstein?"

"I don't know pal." Al gave him an encouraging pat on the shoulder, causing his arm to pass straight through Sam, the hammer in his hand and the pipe-rack on the work bench. "I'm not even sure how you can save yourself."


'Out back' turned out to be a small, paved yard out of view of the main prison, with a surface of loose and cracked slabs interspersed with wiry grey-green weeds. One or two were flowering, displaying tiny flashes of weak colour in a world made almost entirely of grey. Sam bent down to get a look at one, wondering if he had ever been able to identify such things.

"Picking flowers for your grave, Pearce?" Grable and his two cronies came through a hole in the fence, knocking aside a roll of half-rusted chicken wire and beating a path through a short distance of barbed wire fencing in order to reach the yard. They looked perfectly at home in it, amongst the smashed paving slabs, the chipped concrete surround and the low-grade attempts at graffiti. Clearly the would-be artist had had only a black marker pen with which to complete his supposed masterpieces, and had given up after a few vague attempts to capture some of the inner-city spirit. Rather than brighten the place up in the way that proper graffiti had a way of doing, in this case the few scratchy lines merely added to the dejection and the lack of colour.

"We don't have to fight." Sam straightened up, folding his arms, trying to give some indication that there was a tall, athletic man inside the small, unassuming boy now confronting the threesome. He didn't so much feel like David confronting Goliath as like a tiny shrimp being confronted by a blue whale. Still, he had beaten all three of them before.

"Sure we don't. We can just kill you and leave it at that." Grable glanced over Sam's shoulder to where Jake and Frankie were hovering, clearly nervous. "I see you brought your boyfriends with you."

"Leave them alone." There was disgust in Sam's voice, which was not a good manoeuvre on reflection. He could see Grable's two companions begin to bristle.

"I plan to leave them alone." Grable grinned, extremely unpleasantly. "I'm not interested in the harem. Just the sheikh." He began to flex his arms and hands, clearly warming up. "Now come on, let's get this over with. I want to be back inside before room inspection."

"Fine." Resigned, Sam unbuttoned his shirt. He didn't want to fight, but if he had to he would, and could. He threw the shirt back over his shoulder, and out of the corner of his eye saw Frankie catch it and hang over the fence beside him. He looked terrified, Sam thought with regret, and turned his back on his three opponents. "You two get out of here."

"Go?" Jake looked from Sam to Grable and back again. "You're kidding. There's three of them."

"Yeah, but right now they only want to fight me. You're not getting involved in this." Sam tried to look as authoritative as possible. "Come on Jake, get back inside. Make sure the cell looks okay for the inspection, alright? You'll be more use there. The last thing I want is to have to deal with Morganstein this evening as well."

"I guess." Jake took one last, unhappy look at the scene before him, then turned about. "Come on Frankie."

"I'm not leaving." Frankie had folded his arms in an imitation of Sam's own earlier gesture.

"Yes you are." Sam glared at him, seeing the boy's crestfallen expression. Frankie, quite clearly, did not want to think that Jon did not want him close by. It was an uncomfortable feeling but Sam couldn't help wondering if, in his desire to protect the boy, he was causing him some other form of injury. "Just go."

"Fine." Frankie turned rather too quickly, catching his sleeve on the fence as he went, and from the gasp that escaped him, Sam thought that more than the material had been torn. He considered going after him, but Grable was moving in close behind him, and his two confederates were already stripped to the waist. It was an unpleasant sight, and Sam couldn't resist a grin.

"You really should warn people before you go flaunting all that."

"Jealous?" The biggest of the three flexed muscles that would have impressed Arnold Sch--thingy. What was his name? wondered Sam. He was sure that he remembered someone big from his own time, with a long name that was clearly well beyond the ability of his own, swiss-cheesed mind to remember. He grinned, genuinely amused.

"Jealous of what?"

"Never mind." The second man, whose tattooed biceps read Jason And Olivia, was doing warm up exercises. Sam watched him nervously. This, he could sense, was the man to watch out for. Grable was all threats and little action, the third man was all brawn and no brain. This man, however, was a different species altogether. He had cold eyes that reminded Sam of Morganstein, and the pupils seemed enlarged. His thin-lipped mouth was tightly closed, the corners twitching at rhythmic intervals into an insincere, strangely gruesome smile. Somehow they all looked a lot bigger now than before. When he had met them on Leaping in, Sam had been acting on pure adrenalin, powered by the automatic need to survive; but right now he was in a far more rational state of mind, and instinct had given way to calm realism. He didn't see any possible way to win, especially now that they were wise to his speed and martial artistry.

"Do you guys really not want to talk about this?" he asked, optimistic as always. Grable made a loud noise that could only have been a refusal, and Sam sighed. Ah well...

The second man, Jason, came first. He swung a right that Sam dodged easily, not bothering to return the attack with one of his own. The third man came at him a second later, but he had no fluidity of movement and it was easy for Sam to stay out of his way. Jason made another punch, again one that was easy to dodge, but followed it up almost immediately with a feint to the right that nearly caught Sam out. He covered in time to deflect the blow when it came, but lost track entirely of Grable. A solid fist slammed into his kidneys and he staggered.

The third man backed off, leaving Sam clear to watch Grable, listening rather than looking for any movement from Jason. He threw a punch at the former, seeing with some satisfaction that it landed heavily, then dodged aside just in time as his third opponent threw himself back into the fray, head lowered like a charging bull. Sam spun him with a simple judo move, allowing the other man's own great size to propel him into the fence. He recovered with horrible speed, spinning about and racing back into the attack. Sam dodged him, grabbing Jason's descending fist, spinning him so that he crashed into Grable. The pair of them collapsed to the floor in an untidy heap, and their rather heavier companion tripped over them, turning the whole, sorry gang into an uneven tangle of arms and legs. Sam spared time for a grin, wondering if he could call it a day yet. They were all on the ground. In wrestling terms he was at least halfway to victory, at least by his own rules.

"Get off me Len, you're breaking my arm!" For the briefest of moments the bravado was gone from Grable's voice, then he was sliding out of the melee and slapping his hands together, looking for all the world like an angry chimpanzee preparing for the attack. He pointed one long arm at Sam. "You! You're dead meat Pearce!"

"Come and get me." Determined now, Sam allowed himself the briefest moment to close his eyes and gather his thoughts. Somewhere inside his mind he felt very calm, and somehow that felt right. He could not remember learning his fighting skills, could not remember who had taught him or what he had sought to learn. All that he knew was that this was one lesson he could remember. Grable came for him.

Sam spun without thinking, letting his body do the talking. He felt both feet leave the air, felt rather than saw the world rush by him. He felt the solid impact as his foot caught Grable in the jaw, and heard the grunt of pain that told him his kick was still good. He landed well, keeping his balance, whirling in the same easy motion to meet Len. The big man - boy, Sam reminded himself; he didn't think that Len had yet seen his eighteenth birthday - met the Leaper's fist head on, slumping suddenly as a hard chop to the back of his neck caused him a temporary loss of sensation. He did not feel the foot as it kicked into his chest, but the force of the blow knocked him to the ground regardless. He lay very still, perfectly awake, staring up at the distant sky. Clouds scudded by, only marginally less grey than the sky itself.

"Very good." Jason was clapping, his sardonic, deeply unpleasant smile no wider or narrower than it had been before. There was no humour in it, no glee or hint of anticipation. It was a dead smile, as dead as his eyes. "But not good enough."

"I beat you last night. I can do it again." Sam tried to relax, tried to let the tension flow from his shoulders. His neck muscles had knotted themselves, and he wanted to get the kinks out before he tried his luck with Jason. Somehow he got the impression that the tricks he had used the previous night wouldn't work so well again. Not with this guy.

"You got lucky." Still there was that infuriating half-smile, still those mocking, lifeless eyes. "Not this time." He shook his head as if to emphasise his point. "Ready?" He came slowly, seeming to make it easy at first. Sam dodged the first blows, deflected a third, took the fourth but easily compensated. He heard Grable coming up behind him, but the other man was dazed still, and no real threat. He hit Jason twice, limiting himself to basic fisticuffs, aware that there was not really the space or time for manoeuvre that his brand of martial arts required. He deflected another blow, backed off slightly, and felt his feet collide with something solid. He heard Len's deep voice exclaim in surprise, and he felt his heart run cold. Jason had just played a move from Sam's own book of tricks, for just as he himself had caused Len to trip over Grable and Jason, now Jason had pushed Sam in just the right direction. He had nowhere else to go. Hands gripped his ankles, but he did not need Len's helping tug. One blow from Jason and the unmoveable bulk on the floor pressed solidly against Sam's heels. He went down.

They caught him by the arms, slamming him against the hard, unforgiving paving slabs with such force that his head sang. White dots exploded their way into his vision, and he groaned. He could see Jason's leering face above him, with Grable hanging over his shoulder. They were almost fighting each other in their eagerness to be the first to land a blow. Sam heard a ripping sound as part of his T-shirt gave way. He wondered if it had torn enough for him to slide out of it and get away, but he could still feel it tight at his neck, and threw that idea aside. He struggled instead, planting a stout knee in somebody's soft spot, but he could not place the resulting exclamation of pain. Already his world was beginning to constrict around him, hemming him into a tiny space filled by his enemies. He could see a tiny piece of sky far above him, iron grey and promising rain; as grey as the ground beneath him and the walls to his left and his right; as grey as the fence that reared up above him. He was heartily sick of the colour. It struck him that he was about to see another colour to replace it; that pretty soon his world was going to be red instead of grey. The grim humour of this struck him, but he did not manage a smile. All that escaped him was a grunt of pain as Grable won the initial struggle and put the boot in, his hard, prison-issue shoe slamming into Sam's ribs. He struggled to roll with the kick, but Len's weight had transferred itself to his arms and he was utterly helpless.

It started to rain just as Jason moved in to take over. Grable clearly preferred to watch rather than take part, and Sam got a vague image of the tall boy as he retreated to the semi-shelter of the crumbling wall off to one side of the yard. Around about them, the cracked paving stones grew wet, and Sam felt the dampness soaking into the tatters of his T-shirt. The sensation of that gentle cooling water was as intense as the pain in his head and his ribs as Jason, his face as bright and alive as Sam had so far seen it, began a steady rain of blows. Len was holding his prisoner in an almost upright sitting position now, pinioning Sam's arms effectively but leaving his legs free. It hardly mattered. Jason was well able to keep out of the way of legs which, whilst they might once have kicked powerfully, were now reduced to weak and blind jabs in the dark. The darkness was reaching Sam's mind now, and he clung to consciousness only through sheer stubbornness. He wondered where Al was, and thought, briefly, about Jake and Frankie. He was glad that they weren't here. No kid should have to see something like this. He was glad that Jon wasn't here either.

Sam didn't know when they left him; or why. He was aware in a distracted, almost third-person sense, that the blows had ceased to rain down upon him from above; and he was aware, even more distractedly, that he could move his arms. And move them he did, as he lay on his back in the growing puddles, beginning to convince himself that he was on his feet and heading back to the main buildings. He was climbing the stairs, walking along the corridors, entering his cell. He was climbing up onto his bunk and closing his eyes, and the roof was leaking and there was water in his bed, and he couldn't care less... He realised, only vaguely, that he wasn't in bed; that he was still lying in the yard. He realised that he had to get up, preferably before room inspection, and make his way back to the cell. He realised all that and more, but made it only halfway to a sitting position. He struggled to get his arms and hands beneath him, to have something to take his weight, and almost managed to make it to his knees before his head spun in a wildly dizzying motion that made him suddenly and deeply anxious to throw up. He wasn't altogether sure how he managed not to, and was equally uncertain how he had managed to wind up lying face down in a puddle. Some part of his consciousness told him that he would drown if he stayed like this, but another part was convinced that he was breathing cool, refreshing air; a stimulating autumn breeze on a mountainside, looking down at a view of tiny cars and people moving beneath. He wanted to move, and wasn't entirely sure why he didn't. Grey blocked his thoughts.

He awoke with something soft beneath his head, and something equally soft brushing his forehead. His first thought was that his mother was with him, but his mother had never, to the best of his knowledge, been in a boys' prison in 1960. At least he didn't think so. He wasn't entirely sure of anything right now.

"Al?" he asked, confused as to why his voice didn't sound like his own. Where was his bed, and his computer with the day's schedule on it? Where were all the pieces of paper with equations scrawled all over them, and notes of questions to ask Ziggy? Where was the photograph of himself with Al, taken on the day they had finally got the green light for Project Quantum Leap?

"No." The voice above sounded hurt. "It's Frankie."

"Frankie?" He didn't know a Frankie. Was it one of the new lab technicians, sent in by the governing body as inside men to report back on project expenditures? Was Frankie some previously unheard nickname of Gushie's? Did somebody have a son he hadn't known about before? It was possible. Certainly the voice sounded young enough to belong to somebody's son. Did he have a son? No, he didn't think so; but then he remembered almost nothing about his own life due to the swiss-cheesing effect...

Reality snapped back into place. He had Leaped. He was Jon Pearce, and he had just taken one of the worst beatings of his life at the hands of Grable and the Charmless Twins. And Frankie. Frankie was... His eyes opened.

"Frankie." He tried to sit up, regretted it, but forced himself to do it anyway. The boy had clearly come back after the others had gone, and had found him-- Sam gulped. He had been face down in a puddle. "You saved my life."

Frankie shrugged, turning pink to the very tips of his ears. "I just turned you over," he said quietly. Sam grinned, slapping him on the shoulder.

"I'd have drowned if it hadn't been for you." He could almost believe that the boy had gone red to his toes. "Where did the others go?"

"They ran when the five minute bell went."

"Five minute bell?"

Frankie sounded awkward, as though it were something very obvious. "Five minutes till room inspection."

"Oh. How long ago was that?" Sam had a horrible feeling that he knew the answer to that one. Frankie merely shrugged.

"About fifteen minutes ago."

"Oh." With a mighty effort the Leaper made it to his feet. "I guess we'd better be going then."

"Back inside?" Unsurprisingly Frankie didn't sound too enthusiastic about that plan. Sam could sympathise. Somehow he felt sure that he already knew what Morganstein's reaction to their late arrival would be, and he had no desire to experience it. Still, they could hardly spend the rest of their lives hiding in the yard.

"Yeah, back inside. Come on." He reached down for the boy's hand, pulling him gently to his feet, hoping that he would make it inside without having to lean on his companion too much. It was a struggle to make it through the fence, but he made it through sheer willpower, remembering his over-shirt at the last second. His arms felt like dead weights, and he didn't feel capable of getting into it right now. Wordlessly Frankie took it, folding it neatly and draping it over his arm. He looked vaguely like a waiter Sam thought.

"Morganstein's going to kill us." The voice beside him sounded scared; maybe more than scared. Sam rested an arm around the boy's shoulders.

"It's okay Frankie."

"No it's not. He hates you. You know he does. And he hates me too because of what I am." Bright blue eyes gazed at Sam, and Sam wondered what the boy was seeing. Did he see something unfamiliar in Jon Pearce's eyes? Did he see some distant shadow of Sam Beckett? Or did he just see the eyes he had known since he had first met his fellow inmate? Sam wondered if the pair of them would ever have been friends on the outside. Frankie was well-spoken, clearly well-educated, very white; and the world outside the prison walls was very, very 1960. Jon and Frankie might have passed in the street and never even so much as shared a salutation.

"What you are?" Sam remembered the previous night's fight with Grable and the original reason for it. "Oh. That. Well, er... maybe you shouldn't have let them know about it. I mean, in a place like this..."

"It's on my record Jon. You know it is. It's part of the reason I'm in here."

"Yeah. I guess." They had reached the main building now, and Sam led the way inside. Frankie was keeping close to him, seeking protection from somebody he clearly still thought of as close to infallible. They could hear no sounds of talking, no thump of footsteps, no echoing of heavy metal doors opening and closing. They began to climb the stairs.

Their own floor appeared deserted. Room inspection, clearly, was over. Sam had no idea what happened after that particular ritual. More lessons? Food? He wondered if they should head for the meal hall, but Frankie still seemed set on his present course.

Sam's cell was one of the first after the stairs. The door stood open and Jake lay on his bunk. His face was hidden in the pad that passed as a pillow, one arm buried underneath it. He didn't look up at the sound of footsteps, nor make any move at all until Sam was beside him. He reached out, concerned, and Jake flinched away.

"Jake?" He took hold of the boy's shoulders and turned him, seeing the tear-stained cheeks even before he saw the split lip and the swollen right eye. There was a long tear along the sleeve of his denim over-shirt, and blood stained the collar. Sam shook his head.

"Morganstein?" he asked. Jake did not move for a second, as though contemplating whether or not to tell the truth; then he nodded slowly, painfully.

"He wanted to know where you were."

"I'm sorry Jake." His heart so heavy that it seemed to weigh on his soul, Sam helped the boy to his feet, running a professional eye over him. He stood well, he moved okay; there did not seem to be any sign of real injury. He seemed more concerned about his shirt than his bruised face at any rate, and the Leaper guessed that damage to clothes was something of an unforgivable transgression in this place - especially in view of the inspection before breakfast that morning. He glanced self-consciously down at his ruined T-shirt, more off than on. He wasn't exactly best placed to pass such an inspection himself, and without further ceremony he took his other shirt from Frankie and handed it to Jake. The boy looked almost pathetically grateful, but was that really jealousy in Frankie's eyes?

"Where'd everybody go?" his youthful nursemaid asked. Jake shrugged.

"They're all still in their rooms. Morganstein called a silence order, and everybody's pretty mad about it. It's supposed to be recreational period right now, but he's got everybody sitting in the cells doing nothing.

"He's right. It's like the inside of a champagne bottle in a warm room out there." Appearing at Sam's shoulder with a complete lack of warning, Al made Sam jump. He covered as best he could, going to look out into the corridor.

"Trouble?" he asked. Jake and Al answered in tandem.

"Yes." It was Al who continued, elaborating further. "Ziggy's projections are changing all the time, Sam. Before the records said that Morganstein died at eight tonight, but now she's saying it might be before six." He frowned, staring at his old friend. "What the hell happened to you?"

"What happened, Pearce? Somebody take a shine to you?" The second voice, so different to Al's and yet voicing so similar a question, made Sam turn. Morganstein stood in the doorway, arms folded, night-stick swinging. He was looking about at the room, taking in Jake in his new shirt, Frankie in damp, rain-spattered clothing, and Sam looking as though he had been taken apart and put back together again badly. He grinned. "I'm going to enjoy this. Let's see what I've got. There's missing room inspection, breaking a silence order, being outside the main prison building during a section of the day when you're supposed to be inside." He was ticking the charges off on his fingers, his grin getting bigger with each one. "Fighting, improper state of dress, failure to stand to attention when an officer addresses you..." He tailed off in order to catch a breath, then turned his eyes to Frankie. "And being in somebody else's cell during a silence period."

"Hey, leave him alone. He's only here because of me." Sam's words clearly were not going to have any effect on Morganstein, but he had felt obliged to try. Morganstein did not even bother looking at him. Instead he marched over to Frankie, and grabbed the boy by the scruff of the neck.

"Into your own cell, you good for nothing little maggot." Frankie tried to shrink away, but the big officer cuffed him smartly across the side of the head. "And stand still when I'm speaking to you." The small boy stifled a sob and Morganstein groaned.

"Listen to you. You're a wimp, boy. A good for nothing little weasel. It's no wonder your parents never come to visit you." Frankie gave another whimper and Morganstein brandished his night-stick. "Shut up."

"Leave him alone." Sam took a step forward and Morganstein turned to look at him, still holding Frankie by one arm. He grinned at the figure now confronting him and made a low, braying noise like sarcastic laughter.

"Come on then. Protect your boyfriend."

"He's not my boyfriend." Preoccupied with Morganstein, Sam didn't see the effect that his words had on Frankie. "Just let him go."

"We have rules in this prison so that we have order. I'm not going to let someone go unpunished on your say so." Still holding Frankie more or less immobile, the big prison officer strode towards the door. Sam planted himself firmly in the way.

"Be careful Sam." Al sounded worried, but Sam ignored him. He had more important things to worry about just now than his Observer's warnings about future events. He put out a hand, letting it rest, with real authority, on Morganstein's arm. The big man grinned.

"You asked for it." With a mighty shove he pushed Frankie aside. The boy skidded on the smooth tiled floor, landing heavily against the bunks. Sam hooked a thumb towards the door.

"Get going," he ordered the boy. Frankie shook his head.

"I'm staying with you."

"I said get going!" Sam's voice was loud and stentorian, the voice of a full-grown man rather than the sixteen year-old boy that he was living within. Frankie paled. "Go on, Frankie. You'll only get in the way. Get back to your cell and stay there." He nearly added 'whatever happens', but stopped himself in time. There was no sign yet of the riot that was supposed to lead to Morganstein's demise. Staring back at him with wide open eyes that were filled with tears, Frankie ran. Sam hoped that he hadn't sounded too harsh.

"Jon..." Jake sounded uncertain. Sam ignored him. His cellmate had nowhere to run to, and would have to stay here. He only hoped that the kid had the sense to keep out of the way.

"You're gonna be in solitary so long you'll forget what other people look like." Spinning his stick, Morganstein took a step forward. Sam took a step back, heading for the wider space of the corridor. The big man followed him every step of the way, the night-stick swinging backwards and forwards. It made a swish, swish sound in the air, showing the force it carried. Sam thought about how Morganstein had threatened Frankie with it, and his blood boiled. It took a lot to make Sam Beckett angry, but this evening he felt comfortable with the strange, hot-cold fury within. He had reason enough to be mad.

Morganstein came at him with the night-stick swinging, but Sam kept out of its way easily. He let the big man grab his arm, but he swung quickly aside and left his would-be tormentor gripping a tattered fragment of T-shirt sleeve. Feinting in one direction, he stepped quickly back the other way and made a snatch for the night-stick.

He almost made it. Morganstein, his large, chunky fingers clenching and grasping at thin air, brushed the leather strap of the night-stick just as Sam spun it away. Just in time they found purchase, sliding on the leather, bending, gripping, and finally snagging in the strap's looping shape. With all of his strength he pulled, and Sam felt the stick snatched from his grasp. It almost tugged his arms from their sockets as it went. He stumbled, and Morganstein, still searching for his own balance, met him halfway. The night-stick slammed into his ribs, causing fresh waves of pain to reawaken his mind to the lingering reminders of the work of Grable and his cronies. Tears sprang into his eyes and he almost lost his footing. The stick fell again, this time catching him across the shoulders, and he fell with the blow, dropping to his knees to try and lessen some of the impact. He made a grab for Morganstein's legs and tugged. The big man crashed backwards, bringing Sam forward on top of him. The Leaper struggled for some kind of a hold on him, trying to avoid the wildly slashing night-stick. It missed him as often as it struck, but still he could feel the blows take their toll.

"You're a dead man Pearce!" With a huge and fearsome shout, Morganstein threw him aside, dragging himself up to his feet before Sam could even make it to his feet. Down came the night-stick. Desperation lending him strength, Sam dove for the other man's knees, clinging grimly on, struggling to resist the heavy blows crashing down on his shoulders and unprotected back. For the second time that day the pair went down, Morganstein yet again taking the brunt of the floor. As Sam could testify to from the previous day, the tiles were not a good surface to land on, especially when one fell hard, and more or less without warning.

"Pearce has got Morganstein down!" He didn't recognise the voice. It was deep and loud, like the shout of a man rather than a boy. For a moment he thought that it was the shout of a prison guard, especially when he felt hands on his shoulders; but then the hands were on Morganstein as well, and the officer was being dragged to his feet. Sam caught a glimpse of five or six denim-clad boys heaving the struggling guard along the corridor. Whoops and hollers echoed in the air, but dazed and confused as he was, Sam was not altogether sure what was happening.

"Sam." It was Al's voice, calling to him from a little further down the corridor. "Sam! This is it, Sam! This is when things start turning nasty. You've got to stop them!"

"Huh?" He made it to his feet, staring after the struglling Morganstein. Down the staircase booted feet were coming at a run. "Let him go guys."

"Are you nuts?" The same deep voice which had announced his fight in the first place came from directly to his right, and he turned to see a tall, beanpole of a boy, aged about eighteen, with carroty-coloured hair and a leaping, bouncing Adam's apple. "This is what we've been waiting for." He clapped Sam on the shoulder, almost knocking him over. "And it's all thanks to you."

"What the hell is going on here?" Reaching the top of the stairs just as Sam regained his balance, a prison officer stood solidly in the corridor. In his immaculate uniform he was an impressive sight, but Sam's newest friend merely laughed.

"We've got Morganstein." He took a few steps forward, arms folded. "We want to talk to the Warden."

"No way." The guard also took a few steps forward. "Get back to your cells or there'll be trouble."

"He's right Sam." Al was standing beside the Leaper now, face flushed with concern. "Ziggy says that the situation deteriorates very quickly. Pretty soon there's gonna be anarchy, and people are going to start getting hurt."

"Yeah, come on. This isn't a joke anymore." Turning to Carrots, Sam reached out for his arm. "You've got to let Morganstein go before somebody really get hurt."

"Are you nuts? It was you grabbed Morganstein in the first place." Carrots twisted his arm, a rough attempt at a judo manoeuvre that Sam himself might have tried had the circumstances been reversed. He staggered back, falling against the railing that looked down to the floor beneath. He got a dizzying view of the net that hung between the floors, and a strange, unsettling perspective over a scattering of guards now heading their way; then he regained his balance and turned back to the drama unfolding in the corridor.

"We can't fight them. They've got guns." He took a step forward, heading back towards Carrots. The boy shrugged. In all honesty Sam wasn't sure if the guards were armed; they certainly didn't wear guns openly around the prison. He was sure that they had them, though, in some cupboard somewhere.

"Yeah?" Carrots pulled something out of his pocket. "Surprise."

"Oh no." Al was staring at the gun in the boy's hand, almost transfixed by it. "Sam..."

"Drop it." Sam took another step towards Carrots, hands held away from his body. "Come on man. It's not worth it."

"Oh yes it is." Carrots did not point the gun at Sam, even though he was almost close enough to be a threat now. Instead he aimed it solely at the guard. Black metal gleamed in the harsh strip lighting of the corridor, and the guard did not move. "Get his handcuffs."


"I said get his handcuffs! Listen, Morganstein knows you started this. We all know how much he hates you. You think he's gonna let you get off with a week in solitary? That's all I'm looking at so far. But he'll take you apart. Now get those handcuffs!"

Slowly, mechanically, Sam moved forward. The officer glared, but made no move to resist when his cuffs were taken from him. Sam used the metal bracelets to link the guard's hands behind him, then stepped back. He followed at a distance as they began to move towards the cell where the other boys had taken Morganstein.

The big man lay on the floor of the cell, hands cuffed, face bruised. He looked up as the others entered, his eyes resting on Sam.

"You're gonna pay for this, Pearce," he spat. His eyes danced with fury and he struggled to sit up straight. Carrots laughed.

"Lock 'em in this cell," he said, gesturing for the young guards to leave. They did so unquestioningly, and Sam followed in a daze. This was crazy. Five minutes ago he'd been worrying about how to get Jake past the guards on the way to the meal hall, without the boy being told off for having a torn shirt. Now he found himself at the very centre of a potential riot. Al seemed to guess his thoughts.

"This is not good Sam. The situation is going to deteriorate. Your carroty friend over there; his name is Paul Lomass. He leads the other prisoners in a riot. A group of them go up to the roof to protest and two of them come down the hard way. It's a high roof, Sam, and there's only concrete to land on."

"What abut Jake and Frankie?" Walking away from the others so that he could speak freely, Sam turned to face his friend. Al consulted his handlink.

"Jake's sentence is almost doubled as a result of his part in the riot. I don't know what part that is, but at any rate he doesn't get released until 1965, by which time he's not the kid you know now. When he walks out of here he's a real hardcase. Two months after his release he holds up a liquor store and kills the owner's family. He manages to escape, but the police finally corner him in the back room of a strip bar several blocks away. He shoots three cops - kills one - and a couple of passers-by get hit too. He holds out till he's only got the one bullet left, and then he shoots himself in the head." Al sighed. "You have to stop this Sam."

"You think I don't know that!" It came out louder, more forcefully, than he had intended, and he sighed. "Sorry. What about Frankie?"

"Frankie never makes it out." There was nothing more to be said, and Al shrugged. "There are no details."

"He saved my life." Sam shook his head, staring at the plain grey floor. "What do I do Al?"

Al was silent for a second. He hated to see his friend like this - to see him so weighed down by the cares and horrors of somebody else's life. Sam cared about everybody; it was what made him such an ideal candidate for the post of Leaper. It was also the reason why the problems he was sent to solve caused him so much pain. The Observer shook his head sadly, and wished for the thousandth time that he could touch Sam, and try to help just a little of that pain to go away.

"I don't know, kid," he said finally, and having nothing else that he could do for his friend, he turned away and went in search of inspiration elsewhere. The Door slammed shut, and Sam heard its last echoes, audible only to him, fade into the background noise of talking inmates. If things went well he would be Leaping soon, and the regimen of slamming, locking prison doors would be gone from his memory perhaps forever. But he had his own prison door that would very likely keep him trapped long after these other prisoners had finished their sentences. It seemed a cruel kind of twist, but the jailer who routinely locked Sam behind that door - the man who was forever leaving him sealed in the past with no way that he could think of ever to escape - was his own best friend.

And worst of all was that the door didn't even exist.


"How is he Al?" The soft voice was as beautiful as its owner, and Al was frozen in place by its sound. Strange that a woman he loved so much could be so painful to speak to. Maybe it was the memories they shared, or maybe it was just the knowledge that each shared the other's heartbreak at the ongoing situation within Project Quantum Leap. Ordinarily Al tried not to speak to her during Leaps. Time enough for that in between times, he figured. Time enough when Sam was off floating in the ether, or drifting through Ziggy's synapses, or swimming through the rings of dust round Saturn. Wherever the hell it was he went whilst the body in the Waiting Room was comatose.

"He's fine." Al turned to face her, taking a deep breath as he did so. It was not easy looking at her, and knowing when he did so that he was looking into his own past. The past that he had shared with Sam Beckett. They had been through so much together; through so many hardships with the project and the funding; through so many times when it looked as though the Accelerator wasn't going to work. It struck him that maybe it was just as hard for her to look at him, and with that thought in mind he tried to make himself smile. He loved this woman, like an old and dear friend. It shouldn't hurt so much to spend time with her.

"Does..." Her voice caught and Al reached out, instinctively, to take her hand. She squeezed his, smiling that same brave smile that she had been using ever since that fateful day when Sam had first stepped into the Quantum Leap Accelerator - and vanished. He had woken to find himself in the past, and his friends had woken to find themselves living a nightmare. She took a deep breath. "Does he remember me this time?" It was a question she always asked when they met during a Leap. Maybe next time, was what Al always told her. Maybe next time when Sam Leaped, his swiss-cheesed brain would supply him with that one small piece of information that meant so much to this woman, waiting in the present, or the future, or whenever the hell it was that they were.

"No Donna." He managed a tight, strained smile. "Not this time."

She nodded, her head moving jerkily. At first it had hurt her that her husband had no idea he was even married, let alone remembered the name of his wife. Now she seemed to understand that it was better this way; that what he didn't remember he couldn't miss. Al had wanted to tell him so many times, but the rules were clear and simple.

"Good." The one word seemed to take a great deal of effort to say. "Thankyou Al."

"No problem." He knew that it hurt her that he could see Sam and she couldn't; that he could travel into the past - more or less - and speak with Sam and be with Sam, whilst all that she could do was stare at the empty space in her bed, or look at the photographs and wonder. Where was he now? When was he? Did he remember her during the untraceable times between the Leaps? Did he remember everything during those fleeing moments - or were they more than fleeting moments to him? Were they more like weeks or months or years? Nobody knew, least of all Sam Beckett.

"He's in 1960," Al told her, as they began to walk down the corridor together. It was a way of carrying on the conversation, of making it last and giving them both something to do to save them from silence.

"Yeah I know. I saw the report." She smiled that tight smile again. "In a teenager's body, right? I think that's kind of sweet. We all say that we'd like to be teenagers again, but Sam actually gets to try it for real."

"I don't think he's enjoying it much right now." Al turned a corner, heading towards his office, and she followed him automatically. "It's pretty rough there. The odds seem stacked against him."

"Don't they always?" They shared a grin, then Al reached the office door and walked in. Donna followed him, staring around at the plain walls, the functional decorations, and the large framed photograph on the shelf behind the desk. It hadn't always been there of course; but she had no way of knowing that. Even for Al the memories had become confused. He still spoke to Sam about his countless wives; about his great long list of conquests. They only seemed real now when he was in the Imaging Chamber, isolated from the real world, and by the effects of Sam's ever changing of history. Donna picked the photograph up.

"Do you remember when this was taken?" she asked, her bright smile saying that she knew he did, and she wanted to talk about it. He smiled too.

"Yeah, sure. Las Vegas, about three months before--" He broke off. About three months before Sam had stepped into the Quantum Leap Accelerator. About three months before he had forgotten about Donna and Beth - even about Al himself at first. That first Leap he hadn't known his own name. He hadn't known his purpose, his job, his reason for suddenly being inside a body he didn't recognise.

"About three months before he first Leaped, yes." Her smile told him that she was past the stage where she couldn't talk about it. Long past. Of course; it had been a long time. Sometimes Al forgot about the passage of real Time. He seemed to spend more time in the Imaging Chamber than in the real world these days, and sometimes it was all too easy to forget the long years that the Leaping had been going on. Sam's body, cared for by the doctors and nurses and by Ziggy herself, had been saved, more or less, from the ravages of Time - but there was still no denying that Time was passing.

"Yeah." Al's grin came back out. They had all insisted on a holiday, and Sam hadn't wanted to go. They'd almost browbeaten him into going, and he'd eventually agreed; on the understanding that they would go somewhere quiet and secluded where he could carry on his work and his calculations. He'd been horrified by the suggestion that they go to Las Vegas. It had been so very much against his nature to be in such a place. Of course he had loved it, just as they had always known that he would. They had wound up, rather typically, in what was very likely the only club in the whole of Las Vegas where there were no gambling facilities to be found anywhere; in fact all that there had been, save for a never-ending supply of cheap cocktails, was a little old man in a 1920s tuxedo sitting all on his own at the back of the room playing jazz classics on a battered old piano. Al didn't think that he'd ever enjoyed a night out so much in all his life. He stared at the photograph now, seeing Sam's smiling face staring back at him. He was sitting at the piano, Donna perched on the stool next to him, whilst Al and Beth leaned over the top. The little old man in the tux had taken the picture. He had given the negatives to Donna, telling her to print up a copy to remember her husband by. That had confused them all. They hadn't known then, that Sam would soon be leaving them all. And yet somehow a strange little old man had. Later, months later, Al had gone back to try and find him. He had found the club and the piano; had even found Sam's collar button which had been lost that night. Of the little old man there had been no sign. Later Al had wondered if the whole thing hadn't been some alternative history set up by Sam during one of his Leaps, so that his little extended family back home would have one more happy memory of the times before his disappearance. It was a nice thought, but an impossible one. Tragic though it was, Sam didn't remember enough about himself to be able to arrange such a thing.

"What's going on Al?" Donna asked, breaking the chain of the Observer's thoughts and planting him once more firmly in the present. "What is it that he's involved with this time?"

"A prison riot." Usually Al didn't tell her anything about the Leaps; didn't want her to worry. Even though she was a bona fide member of the Project Staff, everybody had closed ranks about her after her husband's disappearance, so that she didn't have to know the wilder details. "If he doesn't sort a few things out pretty quickly, his guy is gonna wind up spending the rest of his life behind bars."

"What does Ziggy say?"

"Ziggy says that the odds are stacked against Doctor Beckett." The disembodied voice cut into their conversation, coming from the hidden speakers in the wall. "Currently the riot is progressing more or less in the manner recorded by history. In a matter of a few hours, Officer Morganstein will be dead, and Jon Pearce will be arrested for the crime."

"That nuts Ziggy. We all know that Sam would never kill the guy."

"Precisely Admiral." There was a pause, apparently for thought. "However, we ourselves are not in control of the legal machinery of North America, 1960." The computer sounded almost miffed, as though, somehow, this were Al's fault.

"So what do you suggest, Ziggy?" Donna always knew how to talk to the computer, which amused Al no end. Ziggy loved to be referred to, to be asked questions and encouraged to speak; not that she needed much encouragement.

"Doctor Beckett needs either to prevent the death of Officer Morganstein, or to prove who the killers really were." Ziggy spoke as though this were obvious, which in all honesty it was. "My research has uncovered no leads as to the latter."

"No leads at all?" Al lowered himself to a seat on the corner of his desk. "Great. Just great."

"I am trying my best, Admiral." The computer sounded put out. "Even I have my limits."

"Yeah, I know." Slowly Al went over to the shelf and placed the photograph back in position, almost exactly as it had been in before being moved. "It's just that the sitting around is the bit I hate the most. The bit when we've done all we can, and it's up to him from now on. I want to be doing something."

"There is that report for the Ministry of Defence that needs writing, Admiral." Ziggy almost sounded as though she were teasing him, or making some kind of a joke. Al glared in the direction of the nearest speaker.

"Go fry your CPU, you glorified microchip."

"If I did that, Admiral Calavicci, this entire complex would become completely inoperable." Ziggy sounded infinitely smug, and Al sighed.

It really had come to something when you let your computer have the last word.


Sam sat on the balcony overlooking the long fall down three flights of stairs to the hard stone of the ground floor. The fall was unimportant, since there were several nets strung up to prevent accidents, but he liked the view nonetheless. He liked the sense of perspective. At times like these, when he really thought about it, he was sure that he remembered being scared of heights. He wondered if it had been a Leap which had cured him of it, or whether he had ever really had the phobia to begin with. It was too hard to be sure these days. Sometimes he could barely remember who he was, unless he concentrated, and remembering little things such as which memories were his, and which belonged to the people he Leaped into - either past or present - was far too much to think about. He had wondered if it was all part and parcel of going mad, of losing one's own identity in a landslide of other peoples'; but he had ceased to worry about that now.

Prison riots, he had decided in no uncertain terms, were boring. When you weren't sitting in or by your own cell, you were sitting in or by somebody else's. Admittedly there were other options; standing on the roof waving banners for one, or running around in the yard throwing missiles at the growing group of journalists outside; but for Sam these were easy temptations to resist. Jake had gone up to the roof, more for the view than for anything else. He didn't know where Frankie was, and in all honesty he had other things to worry about. Much though he despised the man, he had to think about Morganstein just now. He had to work out how to save him, and how to make sure that he stayed saved. Being seen as far away from the cell as possible had been an early plan to ensure that Jon Pearce didn't get blamed for the murder, but if somebody was really planning to frame him that wouldn't necessarily work. He was summoning up the energy to go back downstairs now; to volunteer for guard duty so that he could be sure nobody stuck that knife in the unpopular guard's chest. He couldn't believe how it had all fallen apart so quickly. After all Al's warnings and all his own attempts to stay clean, to be careful, he had sparked off the riot without even thinking about it. It was all his fault. It was his fault that Jake and Frankie weren't going to live happily ever after - weren't going to live at all according to Al; and it was also his fault that Morganstein was going to die. He wondered if his failure would result in him having to live the rest of Jon's life; whether he would be the one, and not Jon, who spent the next twenty years in prison, before suffering an unpleasant and extremely premature death in a secure ward in some hospital somewhere. He shivered involuntarily, and nearly lost his balance.

"Thinking of jumping, Jonny?" The voice was jovial, but all the same Sam turned round very quickly, and stepped away from the banister. One of the older inmates was confronting him; a very tall young man of about eighteen or nineteen, with coffee-coloured hair and skin of a matching shade. Even his eyes were the same colour.

"Er... no." Sam managed a grin, wishing that the prison uniforms came with names attached instead of numbers. It would make his life so much easier. "I was just... thinking."

"Yeah, I'll bet." The tall boy strode closer, throwing an arm around Sam's shoulders and steering him towards the stairs. Sam didn't resist. There was still nothing threatening about this new boy's demeanour, and he saw no reason to look for trouble. Prison hadn't made him that paranoid yet. "I heard what you did, Jon, and I admire you for it, but you should have realised that it would lead to a lot of trouble. I can't see how we're going to get you out of this one. Can you?"

"I beg your pardon?" Steering himself out of the guiding arm, Sam frowned up at the other man. He received a benign smile in reply.

"Incitement to riot, Jon. Morganstein's bound to press for that charge if nothing else. He can also get you for assault, not to mention the basic breach of discipline over a missed inspection and--" He trailed off, making a disgusted face as he indicated Sam's torn T-shirt and generally ruffled appearance. "What did you do, anyway? Fall into a hedge?" He held up a hand for silence. "No, don't bother to explain. I heard Grable and his oh-so-delightful companions crowing about it earlier. Of course they made it back in time for inspection, so it's a shame that somebody had made such a mess of their cells." He grinned, a charming, utterly delightful grin that seemed to demand a return. "They pulled two days solitary each for the stolen gear as well." He shrugged, this time with an accompaniment of what was almost a fully-fledged flutter of the eyelashes. "Don't know how that found itself into their cells. They were still protesting their innocence when they were led away to solitary. They'll be missing all this ruckus."

"You planted something in their cells?" Sam, who had absolutely no idea who this tall teenager was, suddenly felt deeply grateful to him. His companion shrugged again.

"I did no such thing. Nobody saw me doing any such thing, which is the deciding factor I think you'll agree?"

"I think so." They had arrived outside Sam's cell, and he gestured inside. "Coffee?" His companion laughed.

"I'll take a rain check, for some day when I've got more time and you've got some coffee." He leant forward, and to Sam's surprise, kissed the Leaper gently on the forehead. "I just wanted to let you know that you've got Grable and co off your back for a day or two."

"Uh... thanks." Sam frowned, wondering how best to phrase the question - who the hell are you? It would be a little awkward now, given the obvious intimacy he was supposed to share with this man; or appeared to share with him.

"No problem. We'll talk about it another time." The tall, graceful figure put a playful hand on Sam's shoulder. "Be good, and I'll see you around. Yeah?"

"Er... yeah." Deciding that he had to play it as though this man were a very close friend, Sam flashed his own smile. "Any time."

"That's what I like to hear." The hand on his shoulder stroked briefly across his cheek, then the boy turned and was gone. Sam watched him go, hearing his almost impossibly shiny shoes click across the floor as he left. He thought that he heard his visitor call a greeting to Frankie as he headed away from the cell, but when Sam went to the door there was no sign of the other boy in the corridor. Above the clicking of his guest's footsteps he thought he heard someone else running away, but the noise was too soft to be sure.


Sam stretched sleepy limbs and stood up, deciding at last that the cold flagging of the floor was not the most comfortable place he had ever slept. He stamped the pins and needles out of his left leg, and took a quick glance through the window of the cell door beside him. It was the cell where Morganstein and his fellow prisoner were housed, both still alive. Nobody had been into the cell all night, and from what Sam could see their only company was in the form of Carrots - Lomass, Al had called him - and the smooth-faced Lothario who so clearly had an eye for Jon Pearce. Lomass was a wild card, but he was intelligent, and Sam could see no reason for him to kill Morganstein. It would not be logical since the guard was their best way of winning concessions from the authorities. As for the other boy, Sam liked him in an instinctive way; an instinct that he had long since come to trust.

"Hey Jon!" His admirer came to the door and unlocked it, gesturing for what he saw as his fellow inmate to come inside. Sam did so. It was a strange way of doing things, for the people inside the cell to be in charge of the key, but the keyhole went all the way through the door, so the lock worked equally well on both sides.

"Hi." Sam hesitated. "So er... any news yet from the outside?"

"There isn't going to be any." Morganstein's voice dripped with hatred. Sam ignored him.

"Not yet, no." Lomass stretched out on the lower of two bunks, his gun still in his hand. "It'll be soon though. It has to be."

"Yeah, sure." Lothario swatted at the gun, clearly disapproving. "But as soon as they know you've got that, all deals will be off. Throw it out the window."

"Get lost Feroux. You run your rebellion the way you want, and I'll run mine the way I want. Get it?" Lomass twitched nervously out of the way, the meaning in his expression clear. Lothario - Feroux, Sam thought with relief. It was only one name, but it was better than nothing at all - grinned lazily and withdrew.

"You never stop, do you." Morganstein's expression was disgusted. Feroux eyed him with raised eyebrows, a lazy stare that suggested he couldn't be bothered to get angry.

"I don't need to make passes at the entire population, old fellow. No matter what you say." He indicated Sam with an almost proud gesture. "Jon and I have an understanding. We'll be fine together, even outside this place. Right Jon?"

"Er... right." Sam smiled awkwardly. Morganstein laughed.

"You split up with O'Connor that quickly? You were ready to risk your life defending him yesterday."

"Just defending a comrade." Feroux's eyes were soft as he gently stroked Sam's hair. The intensity in his eyes was off-putting, particularly for Sam who had always tended to avoid intimacy like the plague. Al teased him for it of course, but then Al would. Al lived for intimacy.

"Er..." He took a step back, finding nowhere to escape to but solid wall. Feroux did not seem to have noticed his discomfort. Morganstein had.

"He doesn't look to me like he values your company, Feroux. He's probably wishing he was with O'Connor right now." Feroux's eyes flicked from the guard back to Sam, and this time Sam noticed a new kind of intimacy; something very, very worrying indeed. It was only there for a second, but he could swear that it was a flash of pure ice.

"Shut up, Morganstein." Whether or not the look had been Sam's imagination, there was no mistaking the ice in Feroux's voice now. "You don't know what you're talking about." The gently stroking fingers made another pass over Sam's hair. "Who's O'Connor, Jonny? Does he mean little Frankie? Surely you can't be serious about him?"

"Er..." Sam had no idea how to answer that one, but he had seen nothing to indicate any kind of a relationship beyond friendship between his host and the pale-faced boy who held him in such high regard. Frankie was white, and so-called mixed-race relationships had been frowned upon enough in 1960, without adding homosexuality to the equation. Surely Frankie and Jon didn't think of each other in that way? All the same though, he had to wonder. There was something in the way that Frankie followed him around. Finally he shrugged, hoping that he looked certain.

"I'm not serious about Frankie," he said lightly. "He's a good friend, but that's all. We don't have anything in common." Feroux's smile was approving, but the look in Morganstein's eyes said it all. He had seen something, clearly, and it was something that he heartily disapproved of.

"Nothing serious?" He practically spat the words out. "I've seen you. You think nobody does, I'll bet. It makes me sick to my stomach, but I've seen you. The looks, the smiles, the making eyes at each other." A faint shudder showed in his thick frame. "The whole lot of you disgust me. In prison, out of prison, they say it makes a difference to lock you all up together, but it doesn't. You're just as bad outside these walls."

"Shut up." Feroux turned on him very suddenly, a glitter of bright steel in one hand. Sam had not seen the knife before, and it made his heart pound with great violence. Morganstein had been killed with a knife, in the original history. He wondered if he should try to take it away.

"Hey." He stepped forward, dropping his hand lightly to Feroux's wrist, steering the knife away from its current target. "Go easy, okay? He's not worth the energy."

"Isn't he." Those eyes glittered again, this time with more ice that before. "Have you ever seen someone bleed to death in a gutter because of blinkered, pig-ignorant bastards like him? Have you ever woken up in a hospital ward after getting beaten to a pulp by morons who are so scared of you they can't even see you as a human being?" The words spat themselves from his mouth, heated rage scarcely held in check. Sam put his free hand on the tall inmate's shoulder, guiding him to a seat on the bunk. Lomass, who had been lying on it in full recline, moved his feet without complaint. Even he seemed affected by the intensity of Feroux's words.

"I know what you've seen," Sam told him gently. He did recall, vaguely, a girl hurt in a car crash - a girl who was bleeding to death because she wasn't allowed into a white's only hospital. He couldn't remember what had happened to her, which he found terribly disturbing. It was all the same, all part of the same thing. "Just take it easy. Hurting Morganstein isn't going to get anything accomplished."

"You can say that again." Morganstein's voice was heavy, but there was no indication of relief or gratitude. Sam almost wanted to hit the man himself.

"Maybe it would have accomplished something." Slowly, very slowly, Feroux's eyes lifted themselves towards Sam's; but the intimacy of earlier had gone. "He's right, isn't he. It is Frankie that you're interested in."

"I don't know what--"

"Don't give me that!" Suddenly there was a nasty, cutting edge to the voice. Feroux had been so charming, so polite, so pleasant; but now Sam found his blood beginning to chill. He took a step back, suddenly very wary of that knife.

"Listen." He held up his hands, appealing for calm, but one flash of those coffee-coloured eyes made silence reign once more. He hesitated, uncertain.

"Just get out of here Jon." The anger and hatred was gone from Feroux's voice, but the indifference that replaced it was more frightening that the preceding emotion.


"You heard him." The anger had apparently transferred itself to Lomass, who sat upright now, glaring at Sam with eyes that were as cold as the black gunmetal of the pistol resting in his lap. "Get out."

Beginning to feel his deepest worries resurfacing, Sam got out, and walked with stiff and unwilling legs back towards his own cell.


I had never been so unsure of myself in my life; which is saying something when you make a career out of being unsure about everything. Walking away from that door was probably the hardest thing I had ever had to do, and even though I'd had no choice, I couldn't help thinking that I had made a very grave mistake. Feroux, it seemed, was an extremely unstable guy; but was he angry enough to make murder a possibility? I couldn't believe that; not for sure. And yet...

I waited for a long time, not having the slightest clue what to do next. Maybe I could go back to the cell, try to talk to Feroux; try to convince him that he was the man for me. I wondered what I could say to him, but there didn't seem to be a lot. How do you tell a guy you don't like that he's the love of your life? I had liked him at first, but his little display in the cell had convinced me that in reality he was very dangerous indeed. I've met a lot of people like that since I started Leaping, but I've never really learnt how to handle them. You can run from them, or you can meet them head on, or you can try to beat them at their own game. I've never been any good at any of those three options; which is why I've always had to handle things my own way. It makes things a little more hairy, but I guess it's how I get to keep on Leaping; and whilst that might not exactly be ideal, it sure beats being dead.

Of course, with a guy like Feroux, being dead might just be the only option.


"How's it going?" Stepping out of the blue flash of light which marked the position of the open door, Al tapped a button on his handlink and the door crashed shut. It was a loud noise, and it had taken some getting used to the fact that nobody else could hear it. Sam smiled in a distracted way.

"Good and bad. Nothing happening."

"Why does that not sound like a good thing?" Glancing about at the corridor around them, Al frowned. "Why are we lurking out here?"

"So nobody sees us." Sam glanced left and right, then slipped closer to the closed door that was currently blocking his view of Lomass's cell. Al, speaking in a stage whisper, waved his handlink in the air.

"Good news Sam. Grable and the others? Ziggy says they weren't involved in the riot."

"I know." Wondering why Al was whispering when nobody else could hear him anyway, Sam eased open the hatch in the cell door. It revealed a small viewing hole, barely big enough for one eye. He peered through it. Al, never one to stand on ceremony, merely stuck his head through the door itself. Inside, the hologram could see Lomass, whom he recognised, and a tall, oddly distinguished inmate, whom he didn't. They appeared to be arguing, in low, earnest whispers designed to keep their two hostages from hearing. The Observer frowned intently at his handlink, which had erupted with his right hand through the steel of the door, just below the handle. He could find no mention of a second hostage. The records merely stated that Morganstein was killed by a single assailant; and that now it had happened at one minute past noon. He shook the handlink, eliciting a long series of screeches. It was four minutes before noon, local time. Five minutes for one hostage to disappear? That didn't seem right.

"Ziggy!" Al's voice was hard, determined. "What's going on here? Speak to me! I need a new set of probabilities." Figures scrolled and flashed their way across his handheld screen. "This is no good! These figures are the same as the last ones!"

"What's going on Al?" Unable to see or hear anything of use through the viewing hole, Sam wished he could haul his holographic companion back through the door. Instead he had to listen to the disembodied voice floating back to him through a four inch thick slab of steel.

"I don't like this, Sam. Ziggy's projections say that not enough is changing. Morganstein still dies, at exactly one minute past noon. That's in barely five minutes."

"But there are two witnesses!" Sam banged on the door, his frustration becoming too much to handle. The door opened, and he found himself looking straight down the barrel of Paul Lomass's gun.

"Or two accomplices," Al pointed out, as the Leaper stepped inside the cell.


Sam stood in the corner of the cell, feeling the moments ticking past him. It would be noon before much longer. Just another few minutes before somebody stuck a knife in Morganstein's ribs. He wondered which of them it would be; the tall, sophisticated Feroux; the fierce, dedicated Lomass? Or maybe the guard currently sitting alongside the victim? He was a stocky man of about forty, neatly turned out but still somehow crumpled; as though he had dressed himself up for an inspection and then fallen sleep in his clothes waiting for it to begin. His shoes were polished to a mirror-like sheen, and yet his trousers were turned up and wrinkled. He wore a heavy blond moustache, and his thinning hair was kept under control by the application of just a little too much hair oil.

"Why the gun?" Deciding to take the bull by the horns, the Leaper turned to face Lomass. His question met with stony silence.

"Because we can't trust you." It was Feroux who answered in the end, sounding almost betrayed. "You've been doing a little too much talking, Jonny."

"And that makes me a threat? I started all this, remember?"

"By accident." Morganstein made it sound like the hardest of insults. Nobody bothered telling him to shut up.

"I want to help." Sitting slowly down in the nearest chair, Sam kept one eye on Morganstein and another on Feroux. "I have to live here too, remember? I want to get out of here in one piece."

"Well that's easy." With frightening ease, Feroux turned on the charm. "I've told you before, Jonny. Getting the best out of this place is easy. You just have to know who to come to."

"I'll bet." Al's voice was heavy with sarcasm. Sam did not react.

"Listen to you. The pair of you. You'll never get out of this. You think the other kids here are going to want anything to do with you once they find out what you are? It's a wonder you're still walking round here as it is." Struggling with sudden violence against his bonds, Morganstein had pushed himself halfway to his knees. "It's time you listened to me. All of you. You!" He snapped his head round to look at Lomass. "You want to sit there and listen while these two plan their love life together? You want to listen to their warped little plans for spreading their filth? I keep these corridors clean, and if you know what's good for you it'll be me you side with. Not them." He was on his knees now, heading for his feet, his eyes bright with that startling intensity that Sam knew only too well. Lomass merely laughed.

"What makes you think they disgust me any more than you do? They're not the ones who stalk these corridors looking for kids to beat up. They're not the ones who flash night-sticks around, breaking ribs and collar bones and making half the littlest kids quake in their beds at night." He moved closer, his gun waving in the air with a slight hint of uncertainty, the hatred in his voice undermining his earlier cool. "How many was it last month, huh Morganstein? How many kids did you put in hospital? They deserve it did they? Did they ask for it?" He laughed, stepping back and shaking his head. "What about you, Jon? Did you ask for it last Friday night?"

"Last Friday night?" Sam, of course, knew nothing about this. He knew what the stick felt like though, and could still feel it from the night before. "I don't remember."

"I'm not surprised. It's a wonder you can remember anything." With a sudden sigh as of releasing tension, Lomass sat back down. "You see, Morganstein? You disgust me. You disgust me as much as anything else I'm likely to see in here. You think anything Feroux gets up to is going to bother me? At least he looks after his friends. At least he doesn't leave twelve year-olds so bruised they can hardly walk straight."

"You don't understand." His eyes still burning, perhaps with more intensity than ever before, Morganstein pushed himself up to his feet. Standing, he towered above all of them. "You're not going to get out of this. None of you. Not unless you work with me. I can get you out of here and make sure no charges are ever brought against you. But I'm not going to help you." His eyes, with all their fire, turned towards Feroux. The tall, lithe youth merely smiled. Sam saw those perfect coffee-coloured eyes twinkle as if with good humour; then he lashed out with his foot, kicking the guard's feet out from under him. Morganstein crashed to the ground, measuring out his full length on the hard tiles. His head struck the shoulder of his fellow hostage.

"Getoffa me." The moustached man struggled out of his companion's way, the blatant hostility in his tone a clear indication of his feelings for his comrade-in-uniform. Morganstein sneered at him.

"Anybody would think you were on their side you good for nothing creep." He aimed a kick at his partner as he struggled to right himself. His companion kicked back, but Morganstein rolled side, moving with the blow. He grinned.

"You're a real pal O'Reilly. A real pal. A guy sure knows where he is with you on his side."

"Get lost." O'Reilly turned away. Lomass laughed.

"Listen to 'em. Any more like this and we could be running the whole prison."

"I'd like to see you try. Scum like you haven't got the brains to run a duck pond." His words edged with the beginnings of a giggle, Morganstein made his way once more to his feet. He wobbled as he reached his knees, beginning to lose his balance. Feroux laughed, a dangerous sound that was at once both musical and sinister. Sam saw the flash of the knife blade again. There was only so much abuse that this kid was going to take from Morganstein before he collapsed completely. Only so much. He stole a quick glance at his watch. Thirty seconds. There was thirty seconds left.

"Sam?" Al's voice, softly inquiring, edged with tension. Sam didn't spare him the sidelong glance that he wanted. Instead he kept his eyes fixed on Feroux.

"You've got to get rid of your weapons," he said, his voice an oddity after the conversation had been left for so long to the others. They all looked at him; O'Reilly, Morganstein, Lomass and Feroux. Expecially Feroux. His coffee-coloured eyes glittered in tandem with his blade.

"Please. They'll never make deals if you're armed. If you hand in your weapons you can win concessions. We can get Morganstein reassigned. They'll listen. They can't deny all that evidence; all those bruises. I'll testify. So will half of this cell block." He was counting a lot on people he had never even spoken to - never even met. But a few of them; a few of them he knew. "Jake will testify. I know Morganstein's been giving him a hard time. And Frankie too. He--"

"Frankie." This time there was contempt in Feroux's eyes. "Always Frankie."

"He's just a kid. He really doesn't mean anything to me!" Desperate, Sam took a step forward. Al was counting down now, although he hardly needed it to remind him how little time there was left. Eighteen seconds. He had to talk fast. "Listen, Feroux--" damn, he wished he knew the kid's first name-- "you know I'm right. You must know it. They won't listen to you when you've got a gun or a knife in your hand, but they'll listen to the voice of reason. They have to. You and me, right? You and me? We'll do it together." He reached out, stroking the smooth, coffee-coloured hand that held the knife. "We can make them listen to us. Tell them what's been going on." He felt the fingers beneath his own relaxing, saw the knife blade lower slightly. Behind him Al was entering the final countdown. He could hear the hologram's hoarse whispering.

"Five, four..."

"No!" With a sudden flash of energy, Morganstein drove himself almost to his feet, diving forward in a sudden move for the three distracted inmates. Behind him O'Reilly's voice echoed, warning him to stay back, warning him about the knife, warning the others that the big guard was coming. Sam swung around, seeing the huge figure flying unstoppably towards him. Instinctively he threw himself aside. On the floor O'Reilly lashed out with his legs, catching his colleague a hard, solid blow to the ankles that changed his trajectory by the slightest amount. Feroux raised the knife. Lomass called out a warning. Together they collided on the bunk. There was no sound, no scream. No shout of pain or of horror. Morganstein merely toppled, slowly, sliding from the bunk on to the floor. A long, slick river of blood followed him, smearing itself across the dark blue blanket and the hard, cold grey of the tiles. The big man's fish-like eyes blinked up at the ceiling, seeing grey; more grey. His mouth opened and closed.

"You pushed him into me!" His voice almost a squeak, Feroux stared at O'Reilly, who himself was still seated on the floor, unmoving. The blood-stained knife toppled onto the floor, landing hard with a clatter. The sound seemed to rouse O'Reilly, who shut his mouth suddenly and leaned forward over Morganstein. He was no medical man, but the wound looked fatal to him.

"I was trying to stop him." The words stuck in his mouth. "I was trying to keep him from doing anything stupid."

"We killed him." The madness gone from his eyes, Feroux was sitting very, very still, his eyes now fixed on the hole in Morganstein's chest. "What the bloody hell do we do now?"

"Keep calm." Sam stepped forward, his medical training taking over. He might not remember his medical school, or the names of his teachers, or the grades he had got in his final exams, but his body knew what to do. He could feel it, in his mind; the certainty, the clarity. The knowledge that through his external appearance and the confusion of too many long years of Leaping he was still Sam Beckett. Doctor Sam Beckett.

"No." All of the heat and fury of Feroux had transferred itself to O'Reilly. Sam could see it, simmering away behind the other man's eyes. "No. You keep back. It's your fault, all of it." His eyes sought out Feroux's, Lomass's. "Don't you see? He started this riot. He caused all of this. We can blame it on him. Who'll know? Everybody knows they hate each other, everybody knows Morganstein's figured out what Pearce is, and hates it. Everybody. They don't even need to know I was here, and you - you were just passing, right? You saw it through the door, but there was nothing you could do. Right? Right?"

"Right." Lomass sounded certain, his head beginning to nod. "He's making sense, Feroux. Think about it. And what do you owe Pearce anyway? He's not interested in you. It's Frankie he wants. You know that as well as he does."

"I know it." Feroux rose to his feet, unarmed now but somehow no less frightening. His coffee eyes glinted as they stared at Sam, seeing dark brown eyes staring back at him, dark brown eyes that belonged in a dark brown face; an immature face of a sixteen year-old boy. A sixteen year-old boy that was really a scientist, of uncertain age, of unremembered origin, and who couldn't even remember what his own, real eye colour was. Sam wished that Feroux could see him and not Jon; wished that just for a second he could look the boy straight in the eyes instead of having to look up at him. Wished that he could blast out of his borrowed aura and scare the living daylights out of this nasty trio. And he had thought that Grable and his buddies were bad.

"You can't do this," he tried, his voice faint with shock. On the floor at his feet Morganstein made a weak, bubbling noise that might have been agreement. "He's still alive. We can still save him."

"If we save him he'll tell the truth. We're all done then." O'Reilly's voice was calm and supremely confident. Al felt like punching him on the nose, even though such a gesture would be futile coming from him. "We all want him out of the way. This is the best way to do that."

"Yeah." Feroux's voice showed a glimmer of its previous fire and brimstone. "Yeah, you're right."

"Of course he's not right!" Sam reached out, gripping the boy's arm, but Lomass's gun jabbed heavily into his ribs.

"Back off," the carrot-haired youth told him, his voice showing no mercy. "This'll work just as well with you dead. Maybe better."

"I--" Sam's voice was failing him. He just couldn't believe the landslide he seemed to be caught in. His eyes sought out Al, searching for the one source of reassurance in the room. Feroux leaned close.

"Play along, or I'll take Frankie apart as well." The words held real finality, and with his feet as heavy as lead, Sam stepped back. Lomass unlocked both guards' handcuffs, pulling O'Reilly from the cell. Feroux followed them. The door clanged shut. They didn't lock it; there was no point.

"Oh Sam..." Al's voice was quiet, and filled with remorse. "Oh Sam, I am so sorry. I should've--"

"Save it Al. There was nothing either of us could have done." He couldn't believe that though; not really. He had known the future, he should have been able to change it. That was his job. He knelt beside Morganstein, wondering if he had it in him to save the big man. Did he really have the skill? There was no choice; he had to do something. Quickly he pulled the blanket off the bed and tore a piece off it, using Feroux's knife to cut where his hands were not strong enough. He wadded up his piece of the heavy material, and pressed it against the deep hole. Strangely he felt Morganstein's own hands trying to help him. He pressed down, hard, using other pieces of material to try and fix the wadding into place. Morganstein was still trying to help him, desperate to live. He heard half-formed words coming from the guard's mouth, but he didn't have the time or the energy to spare in listening. Instead he went to the cupboard. There was junk inside - plenty of junk. A bottle of aspirin, a jar of something antiseptic. A long piece of sticking plaster, a tube of toothpaste. Dammit, there had to be something somewhere. He rummaged further, knocking over a bottle of some kind of medicinal fluid. Shampoo, soap, matches; all the usual jail currency. Two packets of cigarettes, a jar of something that might have been coffee. His eyes went back to the bottle. Bingo.

"What?" Morganstein's voice sounded heavy and dull. Sam scooped up his head, tilting it forward, and poured as much of the liquid from the bottle as he could down the guard's throat. Morganstein coughed and spluttered.

"It's okay," Sam told him. "Just a little illegal moonshine." Probably the stuff that he had smelt on Grable's breath the previous day. Was it really only the previous day? It felt like a lot longer, but of course it couldn't be; he could still feel the effects of his fight in the yard less than twenty-four hours previously. He pulled aside the wadding a little, pouring antiseptic onto the hole, plus a little of the alcohol. Morganstein gasped in shock and pain. Sam was tempted to take a shot of the stuff himself. At least if he was drunk his head might stop hurting. Maybe then his heart would stop pounding too, and the sweat the drenched him might cool. He shook the thoughts away. There was no sense in him getting drunk too. That would not help matters. He dragged the blanket from the other bunk and draped it over Morganstein, then fetched the big man a pillow. There was no longer any response when he caused the guard to move. That was bad. Probably very bad, but he couldn't quite remember. The immediate crisis over, swiss cheese was replacing the calm order of his adrenalin-fuelled memory. Vague thoughts wandered through his brain: lung injuries, drains - was there fluid in Morganstein's lungs? How was he supposed to deal with it if there was? He just couldn't seem to think hard enough to reclaim those all-important memories. He wondered where the hospital was, and how he could reach it. Al was telling him, giving him directions. He was walking, although he wasn't sure how. His head hurt, but he was walking. He smiled to himself. Maybe, just maybe...

Just maybe.


"How is he?" Al's voice, startlingly loud, broke through Sam's state of semi-consciousness. His eyes snapped open, surprised, searching for a face to go with a voice he was sure he should recognise. He focussed finally on Al, and smiled.

"Okay, I think. Any longer before the doctor got to him and I don't like to think what would have happened."

"A life sentence. Adult prison. Premature death." Al's smile was reassuring, and Sam welcomed it.

"I feel terrible," he admitted, stretching tired and cramped limbs. "Leaping would be good about now."

"Maybe Morganstein isn't out of the woods yet." Al wandered over to the bed of the sleeping guard. "Man is he ugly."

"Yeah." Sam shrugged. "He can't be the reason I'm still here. There's nothing else I can do for him. I managed to stop his blood loss being fatal, I managed to do something to stop him going into shock at the scene... Everything else is up to the doctors here. What does Ziggy say?"

"He takes early retirement. Goes to live in Santa Fe and takes up glass making. Good at it too, apparently. Makes a fair living, marries in late middle age to a local woman. No kids." He shrugged. "Unremarkable, but content."

"More than a lot of people can hope for." Sam stared down at the sleeping figure. "And Jon?"

"He gets his pardon in a day or so, leaves this place by the end of the week. Starts up a little business in LA and just about scrapes a living. It ain't much, but it sure beats a life behind bars. He lives a long time too."

"Not exactly dynamic."

"No, but like I said; it beats a life behind bars." Al tapped away at his handlink. "The prison authorities have decided they've taken enough. In the next couple of minutes they go in to restore order. Lomass and Feroux get what's coming to them, and O'Reilly loses his job. There wasn't a lot they could do to him other than that. Still, anything's better than nothing."

"And Jake and Frankie?"

"Thanks to your rescue of Morganstein, and the decision it made the authorities take to move in, whatever it was that Jake was originally caught up in never happened. He gets out in a little while and goes back to the big wide world. Joins the army, eventually becomes an officer. Marries, has three kids. We're not talking about anything world shattering here, Sam. No Nobel Prize winners, no great inventors. Just good, ordinary people living good, ordinary lives."

"That's what it's all about." Sam rubbed the back of his neck, trying to convince himself that it didn't hurt as much as it thought it did. "And Frankie?"

Al shook his head. "Sorry. Nothing's changed for him. He never makes it out of here."

"But that's crazy Al. He's a good kid. What can possibly happen that could kill him?"

"He kills himself. Maybe he goes stir crazy. It happens you know. You can't save everybody, Sam."

"When does he die?"


"I said when does he die?" There was intensity in the voice, and Al saw the brightness in his old friend's eyes. Maybe Sam couldn't save everybody; but he needed to try. It was what made him who he was.

"Today." Al tapped the handlink again, setting off yet another chorus of ear-spitting shrieks and screams. "In five minutes. He jumps from the roof just before the riot is brought under control by the uniforms."

"Five minutes? But what-?" Sam broke off. He was remembering Feroux, leaving the cell, calling a greeting to a person that Sam had not seen. There had been no sign of Frankie in the corridor. No sign, except... Footsteps. Running footsteps, fading away into the distance. Frankie had been there. He had heard Jon Pearce claim that he wanted Feroux instead. He groaned. "Oh no..."

"What is it Sam?" Again Al recognised the look on his partner's face. Resolution. He bashed at the handlink. "Ziggy! Centre me on Frankie, right now!" He vanished from the hospital room, but Sam did not wait to wonder at it. He was already running for the doors.


It was cold on the roof. Frankie Chandler pulled his denim shirt closer around his body, wishing that his hair was thicker, to help stop his head from feeling so cold. A light flurry of rain fell around him, chilling his body even further, and making the roof around him slippery and dangerous. He didn't care. He was going to jump soon anyway.

"Hold on, kid." The small boy didn't know it, but there was a man - an invisible, holographic projection from his future - standing behind him, willing him to wait; praying for him to keep calm. It was a holographic projection of a man who was no longer young, and yet looked as though he could never be old. His eyes were very young indeed. He was dressed in a scarlet suit with a lemon yellow shirt, and a tie that clashed with both. Had he been able to see him, Frankie might have been revolted at the sight; or he might have been reassured to know that in this huge, grey monstrosity of a building, someone cared enough to try and stop him from ending it all.

"Frankie!" Sam burst onto the roof with a crash as the door slammed open. Al jumped. So did Frankie, the movement making him slip closer to the edge of the roof. He glanced back.

"Keep away from me Jon."

"I can't do that. I have to talk to you." Painfully aware of the slippery roof tiles, Sam made his way carefully forward. "Come on. Give me your hand."

"No." Frankie eyes were stained with tears that were only partly hidden by the rain. "You don't care about me. I heard you say it. You prefer Feroux." For a second the anger rushed out of him, to be replaced with hurt. "What's he got that I haven't? Is it because you're the same colour? You always said colour wouldn't matter between us."

"It doesn't. And I don't care about Feroux. Honest."

"Why should I believe you? I heard you talking to him, and to Morganstein and O'Reilly and Lomass. You told them all that I was nothing to you. You never let anybody see us together. You spend more time with Jake than with me."

"Jake's my cellmate. I have to spend time with him. We get locked in together every night! Look--" He took another step forward, but Frankie merely slid closer to the edge of the roof. "Please! Frankie, please. Listen to me. Feroux is nuts. He was trying to kill Morganstein. I had to stop him. I had to play along." He clenched his fists until they hurt, certain that he could feel blood from where his nails had dug into his palms. "He tried to frame me. He stabbed Morganstein, and then he tried to make out that I'd done it. Go on downstairs, ask around. Trust me, I don't want anything to do with the guy."

"Really?" The voice was querulous, questioning. "You're not just saying that?"

"Frankie..." Sam took another step forward, reaching out with one hand, hoping that his instincts were correct and that Jon really did feel this way. Otherwise Frankie was going to be heading towards the yard by the fastest route, just as soon as Sam Beckett had Leaped out, and Jon Pearce had Leaped back in. "You must see how much you mean to me. From the beginning. We have something special, you know we do." He had reached the boy now, and he touched the cold, pale hand that was closest to him. Doleful eyes turned to stare at him.

"You gave your shirt to Jake."

"I didn't want him to get into trouble. I was already in a mess. I didn't think they could do anything else to me." He grinned. "Not that it mattered. We kind of forewent the uniform inspection anyway. I don't think anybody would have noticed if Jake had been wearing a diamond tiara and a pink fluffy tutu." The hand beneath his curled about, grasping his fingers. He gave it a reassuring squeeze.

"Come with me, Frankie. When we get out of here."

"Where to?"

Sam shrugged. "I don't know. Anywhere. Los Angeles. San Francisco. Yeah, San Francisco would be good." It was a liberal city. He was sure that if these two were going to have a shot at living anywhere, Frisco was as good a bet as any. He glanced up at Al as though to ask for confirmation on this. Al grinned at him.

"You've done it, Sam. Frankie gets out of here early and meets up with Jon in Frisco. They open a hostel together, for kids like them. Frankie becomes a teacher. As of..." a quick glance at the handlink... "1999, they're still together, and still running the hostel." He wanted so much to shake Sam's hand, or clap him on the shoulder, or just to give him a high five. Success, again. It never ceased to feel good.

"Thanks," Sam breathed. The word was meant for Al, but Frankie frowned at him.

"Thanks?" he asked. "For what?" Sam smiled at him, brushing damp tendrils of hair out of the kid's eyes.

"For not jumping." Frankie smiled back, just a little shy, then Sam took his other hand as well, and pulled him away from the edge and towards the door. There were men in uniform around them now, but none of them were making any moves. Maybe they knew that Jon Pearce was one of the good guys, or maybe they were just displaying a rare level of tact. Either way, Sam ignored them. He reached for the door handle. The sensation of cold metal, slippery under his fingers from the rain, was the last thing he felt of 1960; before the world vanished in a flash of blue, and Jon Pearce came back to his body. Sam Beckett had other places to be.

Alone on the roof, Al grinned at the flashing blue light that told him it was time to be heading back. Back to the real world - his real world; back in his present. Back in the world that Sam had once belonged in, and where he had almost lost hope of ever seeing him again.

Almost, but not quite. Sometimes even Ziggy herself said that Sam Beckett would never come home, but if all this fooling with Time travel had taught Al anything at all, it was that never was a hell of a long time.

And nothing was impossible, when all you had to do was keep the faith - and Leap.