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Lenora's Fiction Archive

Apollo 1

The tingling sensation spread through their bodies, followed by a dizzying wrench as they were pulled from one place...

To another.

Agnes looked around. She saw that she was in a "clean room" of sorts . . . and there were pieces of spacecraft all over. She, and Al beside her were clad in white suits, and he held a clipboard. Looking at the spacecraft pieces and the paint on some exterior parts, it looked to her like a Mercury capsule but in its disassembled condition, she couldn't be sure.

Al sucked in a stunned breath as he looked at the clipboard. His green eyes widened in shock.

Agnes looked surrepitously over his shoulder at the clipboard. "Mercury capsule 204 disassembly"

"Liberty Bell 7," Al breathed. "These documents relate to the sinking of LB7."

Agnes gasped. "The investigation into why Gus' capsule sank!"

"Looks like we're in the thick of it, beautiful." Al blew out the air from his cheeks and began to feel in his pockets.

"That's for sure."

With a satisfied, "ah-HAH!" Al slid the handlink from his pocket and began to punch in numbers. He frowned, and slapped the thing, then frowned again. "This... is impossible."

Agnes gave him a look, "What?" she asked, dreading the worst, which was what they usually got.

"We're here to stop the Apollo 1 crew from being killed. But... we CAN'T change major history like that..." Al mused, staring wide-eyed at the screen.

"But . . . we're traveling through the multiverse. Maybe in this dimension, Gus and Ed and Roger are supposed to live, and go on to work on other missions?"

Al shook his head, replacing their lifeline to PQL in one of his many pockets "But now we find out a couple of things."

"Like what?" Agnes asked.

Al looked around. They were the only people in the room, and nobody seemed to be watching through the over head windows. Al walked to a far corner and held out the clipboard. "Take this."

Agnes grabbed the clipboard. Looking down she scanned the contents rapidly. The papers had diagrams and instructions for disassembly of Mercury Capsule 204 -- a spare capsule.

Then she noticed Al was clapping.

"What's up?" she asked, confused.

"Where are you standing?"

"Um . . . in a white room at KSC I'm guessing."

"Very funny. You're in the middle of the room, right?"

"Yeah."

"I'm in a corner. Ten feet away from you. And you took the clipboard right out of my hand."

Agnes giggled. "Oh, yeah. I guess use of my powers is kinda automatic . . . oh, I still have them! I wonder if you still have yours . . . Roma said we would."

At that moment the door opened and a tall man walked in. He moved to take the clibpoard from Agnes.

Al moved to stand beside him. He brushed the man's cheek with his fingertips, and vanished.

The man's blue eyes became vivid green.

"I guess you do."

The man grinned, then Al reappeared beside him.

Agnes handed over the clipboard, and the man nodded and walked out.

"Judging by that clipboard and the . . . pile of parts here -- we're pretty much done with the disassembly . . . I wonder what's next?"

"Analysis," Al said, eyes distant as if he were remembering. "Now they'll analyse the pieces to see why the hatch blew and the thing sunk..."

"Yeah. But . . . oh, God Al -- Apollo 1. The hatch there was impossible to open because of this investigation's findings. How are we going to change that?"

Al turned to her, green eyes hard. His face was a solemn mask. "We'll just have to make sure the findings change."

"That's gonna be tough. Facts don't lie. But . . . these facts are gonna tell a story that leads to . . . One."

"Facts don't lie. Facts CAN be ... misplaced. We're gonna make sure they talk a different language so One doesn't happen that way this time." Al grinned suddenly. "Besides," he quipped, "I'm a chameleon now. I can be anybody here I want to be... they'll HAVE to listen to me."

"True. I guess you'd know the ins and outs here better than I do. I've only *read* about NASA and the missions -- you were *here*." Agnes grinned. "Well, we can always pick out the head honcho and use him! Like Chris Craft . . . or one of the astronauts? They had a lot of say at this time!"

He looked at her, eyes softening. "Maybe Gus himself?"

Sadness filled her eyes. Gus was her favorite astronaut . . . and her hero. "Yeah. But this was his capsule. Some people blamed him. No . . . someone else . . . someone who's high up in the review board hierarchy."

"I don't mean for the convincing," Al said, lowering his voice. "I mean for my favourite beautiful lady."

"Yeah . . . but I'm afraid if I even see him . . . knowing what I know . . . I'll just break down into tears!"

And Al hugged her.

Agnes welcomed the embrace. Even though she knew she had to be skilled enough and strong enough to be chosen, it was sometimes hard. Especially when she ran across emotional events in the past -- like the death of her hero.

Though she didn't know it, her every thought had seeped into Al's mind. He went rigid with shock, his eyes widening. *You'll do fine,* Al thought, deliberatley not speaking aloud and studying her reaction.

Agnes' eyes widened . . . "I . . . " she stopped, then thought instead, *I heard that!*

*And I heard THAT.*

Agnes' jaw dropped. *I guess that's what Roma meant when she said we were linked inseperably* "Well . . . let's go see what's up." she took a deep breath. "They might need us in some meeting or other."

Al suddenly groaned the groan of a tortured man.

"Are you okay?"

*Just thinking... if we ARE linked...* He didn't finish in words, but the image of a woman in the shower sprang to both their minds. Al moaned and lay his head in his hands.

Agnes glared at him. *You know, you have a dirty mind!*

*And it's gonna be a ton worse because I'll feel YOU from inside of you!* His fingers worked like he was trying to make sense out of his last sentence, then he shook his head and gave up.

Agnes rolled her eyes. Why did she *ever* agree to *this*!?

*Because we were both chosen.*

*Fine by me, just...* And the train of thought stopped dead and he began to turn bright red.

*What?*

His mental voice was very very small. *I just realised... this works both ways....* And he groaned again.

Agnes folded her arms, *Yeah, but I don't have a dirty mind!*

*But still...* He looked half-panicked.

She glared at him, *We're gonna have to set some mind-reading ground rules Mister!* She sighed, *We'll work this out somehow*

A tech poked his head in. "Hey, what are you doing here? You're not authorised to be here!"

*Uh, oh.* Al stepped forward, hands spread. "We're helping with the investigation."

"This is highly irregular, sir. I'll need to see your..."

And Al brushed his cheek. Instantly he vanished and the tech's eyes were vivid green. "Busybody."

Agnes giggled. "It takes all kinds."

The new Al scowled at her. "Let's get outta here."

She nodded. "Okay." She followed him out the door.

They walked down the corridor to the room mentioned on the clipboard. Al knocked on it and heard a gruff, "Come!" Al opened the door and then held it open for Agnes. She stepped inside.

The man in the uniform stood, smiling. "Tech Matthews. Tech Garfellow. How may I help you?"

Agnes looked over to Al. *You know more about proceedure here . . . I leave this in your capable hands.*

*Gee, thanks.* He smiled and handed the clipboard over. "Disassembly Module 204 complete, Colonel. Request permission to proceed to phase 2."

"Phase 2... oh yes, trying to determine if the bolts would blow without Grissom's aid. Yes, by all means proceed, Tech Matthews."

*So I'm Garfellow* Agnes idly mused.

*Gareffa, Garfellow... name's almost the same.*

*You're right! Hmm . . . *

*Hm what?* "Thank you sir, we'll procced with all due speed."

"Very well. Dismissed."

*Hmmm what could this coinkydink mean?* she responded as they left the room.

*You've leaped into your double obviously. And me...Okay Matthews, you've served your purpose...* And Al stepped away from the confused Tech.

He took Agnes's arm and hustled her down the hallway. *No sense stickin' around to answer messy questions.*

*Good idea. What now? Start that phase 2?*

*Not yet. First I think Techs Garfellow and ... uh... Calvin?!?!?!* he read upside down on his jumpsuit, *... have to get some lunch.*

Agnes giggled *Even better! Let's go find the cafeteria*

THAT brought Al short. "No...way."

*Huh?* Agnes queried.

"Use your voice before you forget how to. And I am NOT settin' foot in that place again! I used to WORK here... I had to EAT this food!"

Agnes broke down into hysterics "Okay then where do we eat shotgun!?"

"Vinetti's. They make the best calzones in Houston. And in 66, there was this waitress there named Sarah..."

"Shoulda known. Calzones sound great! Lead the way shotgun!"

"Legs up to here.... huh? Oh, yeah... okay... wait a second." He grinned sheepishly. "No car."

"Great." Agnes then had a burst of inspiration and she started sifting through her pockets . . . until she found a set of keys on a VW keychain. "Looks like we do!"

"Okay, beautiful... " he crossed his arms. "Which parking lot, A, B, or 1?"

"Uh, oh." She sifted through her pockets some more . . . And came out with the back of a decal that was put on a company car... one that clearly had the letter "A" stamped on the back. "Aha! Jackpot!"

"Follow me... A is this way."

She trailed Al until they reached the exit doors. "Now to look for a Volkswagon . . . I'm betting a Beetle."

Al grinned as he scanned the parking lot. "Got a favourite colour?"

"Blue. A friend of mine had one of the 90s bugs, in this beautiful shade of blue . . . oh! There's a bright blue one!"

"Try the key."

She walked up and slid the key into the lock . . . and the car opened. "That was easy. Here, you drive. You know where this place is." and she handed him the keys.

Within minutes, the two of them were seated across from each other, splitting the hugest calzone Agnes had ever seen and chatting merrily while Sarah served them soft drinks.

"So what did I tell ya, huh?" Al grinned. "Is this place great or what?"

"Sure is! This is the best calzone I've ever had!" she said and polished off her half to punctuate her point.

Al had only picked at his.

"You okay? You're not eating much."

"Not hungry, I suppose." He sighed and pushed his plate away.

"Then can I have that?" she pointed to the half-eaten calzone on his plate.

Al chuckled and shoved the plate toward her.

Agnes polished off Al's uneaten food in no time flat.

Al drank his drink and automatically reached for the pocket he kept his cigars in. No cigar. "Calvin" didn't smoke. "Deprived kid," Al muttered.

"Yeah right. At least his lungs aren't blackened!" Aggie retorted.

Al flung a red and white checkered napkin at her.

"HEY!" she roared.

"Unchained melody" began to waft from the jukebox in the corner. Al smiled, becoming lost in memories.

Meanwhile Agnes' mind was working overtime, analyzing the situation. She'd lept into her double, apparently so had Al. They were investigating the Liberty Bell 7's trouble with the explosive hatches . . . and it had something to do with Apollo 1. Agnes became lost in thought, mentally reviewing the timeline of the early manned space program.

And so she completely missed Sarah's return until Al gently kicked her under the table. The kick brought her back to reality . . . and she glared at Al for interrupting just because of the waitress.

"Honey, Ah asked if you wanted dessert," Sarah drawled. "Specialty of the day is Apple Pie a la mode."

Al smiled. Applie pie with ice cream was his favourite... "No thanks," he said. "I'm not hungry."

"An' you sugah?"

"Uh, that sounds good." *You sure you're fine?*

He looked at her, puzzled. *Yeah. I'm really just not hungry! Read my mind if you don't believe me!*

*Just makin sure!*

He watched her eat her pie, and she studied his eyes. When he was still just a holographic observer, there would often be lust in his eyes as she would eat. But now there was just ... happiness.

Agnes polished the pie off just as fast as the calzone. "Ready to head back to JSC?"

Al checked his watch. "We've got time for a walk if you like. You've never been to NASA. Let me play tour guide, okay?"

She grinned, "I'd love that."

He took her around as much of the spraling complex as time permitted, then they walked back to JSC and began Phase Two.

The two of them were assigned to testing the actual hatch bolts. As they were readying the first test, Tech Lynne came over. He draped one arm around each of their shoulders and smiled at them both. "Of all the pairs in the complex, YOU two are the one I'd never have pegged!"

*Ha ha! That's what HE thinks!* Agnes mentally cracked up.

"What are you talking about?" Al snarled.

"You. And her. Vinnie's or whatever that place is. I saw you two at that place this afternoon. Congratulations!"

*I've had enough of this,* Al snarled mentally.

*Ditto*

Al reached up and brushed Tech Lynne's cheek.... instantly vanishing inside of him. "I'll take him back to work and hitch a ride back here."

Agnes nodded and went back to work so as not to raise suspicion.

Ten minutes later, a pretty young woman moved to stand beside Agnes. "Hi."

"Hey." Agnes replied.

The woman smiled, and Al stepped out of her. She swayed slightly, and he supported her till she caught hold of herself. She moved off and he whispered, "Thanks for the lift."

Agnes giggled. "Took care of the creep?" she asked softly.

"As always," Al grinned. "Took him into the ladies' room and hopped a lift in the doorway." He grinned. "They were still screaming when we left."

Agnes broke down into quiet histerics *You're evil!*

*He'll be apologising for weeks!*

They didn't get much done that day. And neither one knew where Calvin lived. He didn't have a driver's license!

*Oh lovely . . . I guess you're stayin at my place then*

*More ammo for gossip at work.* But Al didn't complain more than that.

*Can't be helped if you don't know where you live*

Agnes made spaghetti for her and Al, heaping his plate high the way she guessed he'd like it after skipping lunch. But to her surprise, he picked at it too!

"Are you sick or something? This is worrying me, your not eating."

"I dunno." He shrugged. "I'm just not hungry."

"That's not good . . . you gotta eat."

"Beautiful.. I feel FULL. Like I've eaten all day!"

Agnes pondered that . . . . "That's weird."

"I was kind'a hungry till we got to the store." He frowned. "And I merged with that mother to calm her and the kids down.... then when I came out of her, I wasn't hungry anymore."

"What if the merging has something to do with it?"

He lay down his fork. "It probably does. I have to completely control their bodies to get them to move... maybe I draw nutrients from them or something."

Agnes nodded, "Yeah, that sounds reasonable."

He met her eyes. "I'm, really NOT hungry, beautiful."

She sighed, "Want me to put this in the fridge? Save it for later, in case you do get hungry?"

"Sounds good... midnight munchies or something... and I'm crashin on the couch."

"Okay, sounds good." She took his plate and wrapped it in aluminum foil, placing it on a lower shelf of the fridge and pointing it out to Al so he'd know where to look.

Al woke up around 3 AM starving. He raided the fridge and found the spaghetti. Eating half of it, he put the rest back and then crashed for the rest of the night. That couch was actually comfortable!

Agnes, normally not much of a morning person, found herself awake a half hour earlier than she needed to get up. She snuck into the kitchen for some orange juice to hear Al's snores coming from the couch. She grinned and sat at the kitchen table with her orange juice, musing over the current problem.

Al walked in, still in the rumpled jumpsuit. He smiled at her as he passed by... then stopped cold, racing over and reaching for her, but not touching her. "A-Agnes?" He RARELY called her by her full name.

Her train of thought was broken. "Yeah, Al. Good morning!" she looked up at him, then asked in concern as she saw his face, "Something wrong?"

Wordlessly, he pointed to her arm.

She looked down . . . and gasped. Her arm was . . . stretched out, yet she hadn't been *consciously* using her powers. Concentrating, she returned her arm to "normal."

He just kept staring at her arm, his green eyes huge.

"Al?" She giggled, trying to lighten up the situation, "It's not that bad hon, just lost control of my powers for a minute there, I think."

"A... side-effect," he breathed. "Like my appetite loss..."

She thought a moment, then nodded, "I guess so."

"So," Al asked, fixing himself a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal, "what's on tap for today? I seem to have swiss-cheesed overnight."

Agnes giggled as she poured herself some cereal. "Back to work -- on the investigation. Phase 2 -- determining if the bolts can go off by themselves . . . and for us, probably determining not or somehow making sure those stay on the Apollo capsules."

Al nodded, mouth full. Swallowing, he said, "The second one. We've gotta find a way to talk them into keeping the bolts on the hatch. The other way, Gus looks a coward and they'll pull him from the program in disgrace." He took another huge bite of cereal.

"Seems your appetite has returned. Yeah, you're right. We gotta go for plan B." She sighed, "But how?"

"We'll think of something, beautiful. And I've not merged with anyone yet today. Seems that IS a side-effect of my power."

"Yeah. I wonder what triggered *my* side-effect?" she mused.

"You probably let your mind wander. With your ability, cohesion must be hard to maintain if you don't pay much attention."

"Could be. That sounds reasonable, anyway."

Al sighed. "I need a shower. I'll see you in a few minutes." He put his bowl in the sink and left the room.

Agnes was more than a little surprised when Al came out in a CLEAN jumpsuit, with clean clothes underneath! "Hey -- where'd you find those?"

He grinned lopsidedly at her. "Seems Calvin DOES spend the night here. Quite often."

Her jaw dropped. "Well, at least we're not creating unneccessary gossip."

"Nope." He grinned. "Found these in the closet in the bedroom."

"Seems he doesn't sleep on the couch either. Oh, boy."

"Don't worry, beautiful...I wouldn't dare take advantage of our friendship."

She managed a wry smile, "Thanks Al. And now, I better get ready. We gotta leave soon." She headed into the bedroom and quickly showered. Sifting through the closet she settled on a plain pair of bellbottoms and a tye-dyed shirt, then slid her jumpsuit over the ensemble.

"All set," she said as she entered the living room.

"Okay," Al said, flipping off the TV as he stood up.

"Anything interesting on the tube?"

"News. Deja vu." He smiled. "I'd rather get started."

She giggled. "You wanna drive or shall I?"

"Be my guest, Calvin doesn't seem to have a licence."

She followed him to the apartment complex's parking lot and slid behind the wheel. As Al walked around to the passenger side and got in, she looked over the 8-track collection in the car. Finding a copy of one of her favorites, "More of the Monkees" she popped it in and pulled out onto the road.

Then she nearly drove off the road when Al began to harmonise with the background... perfectly!

"Gee, I never plugged you for a singer Al!" Agnes said and started singing lead, as she always did, when "Mary Mary" came on.

He smiled. "The imaging chamber didn't have the right acoustics. Your ears hear my real voice now... and I bet it sounds different..." And he began the background again.

Agnes just grinned as she sang along with her favorite song. She'd loved to pretend Micky was singing to her when she was a kid -- as Mary had been her real first name. As an adult she'd used Agnes, her middle name, instead.

"Mary Mary where ya goin to? Mary Mary can I go to? This one thing... I will vow ya... I'd rather die than to live without ya...Mary mary..." and his voice raised in counterpoint, "Where ya goin to?"

Then Aggie's favorite part came up -- "What more Mary can I do to prove that my love is truly yours, I've done more now than a clear-thinkin' man would do!"

Then Al grinned as he heard their voices blend perfectly with the tape. Al had begun to slap his legs to the beat and nod his head in time.

Aggie herself had begun tapping out the beat on the steering wheel as she drove.

Al glanced over and hissed, "AGNES!" He pointed at her fingers.

"Whoops!" she replied as she noticed her fingers losing cohesion.

Al blew the air out of his cheeks. "Much more of this and my HEART is gonna lose cohesion! You're stressin' the old man here!"

Agnes giggled, "I'll be careful!"

"Good," he said. He then brushed his hair from his forehead again.

Agnes grinned as she quickly hit the fastforward button to skip "Hold on Girl."

Al leaned back in the seat and closed his eyes. Then he looked in the rear view mirror on his side and shouted in surpirse, sitting WAY up.

Agnes nearly swerved off the road, startled. She stopped the tape. "What?? What's wrong??"

"Who the h*** is THAT?" Al gasped, pointing at his reflection.

Agnes gave him a weird look, "You . . . why?"

"That's a 20-something-KID!"

"Maybe Calvin is a kid . . . and that's his reflection. All I see is you. Of course, I can't see that mirror from here"

Al licked his lips. "No... that's okay. I keep forgetting of course he'd be younger than me..." Al shook his head, knocking the longish hair out of his eyes again and wishing Calvin would get a haircut.

Agnes shrugged and popped the tape back in, which blasted on with "Your Auntie Grizelda". By the time that and "Steppin Stone" had played, they were at JSC. She pulled into the "A" lot and parked.

Al slid out of the car and streached, popping his back which was a little cramped from the couch.

"Ready to start 'Phase 2'?"

"As I'll ever be." He turned and smiled at her.

Shortly after three PM, Al strode through the corridors of NASA, report in hand. He was heading for the briefing with the test reports.

Al poked his head into the briefing room Aggie had ducked into a few minutes earlier. She had gotten caught up in worrying about the outcome of the briefing and had briefly lost cohesion in her arms. She had ducked in there to pull herself together.

"You ready, beautiful?"

She looked up, "As ready as I'll ever be. I gotta be real careful about keeping my head on!"

He sighed. "Me too. I'm tempted to merge with a more experienced-looking tech to pull this off!"

Agnes giggled. "We'll manage it somehow."

Al hugged her quickly. "Hope you're right, beautiful. Let's do it."

She stood up, took a deep breath, and headed for the door.

Together they strode in and began their report. "The bolts were misaligned," Al reported when he was introduced.

"They were installed 2 millimeters off where they were supposed to have been installed, and that caused them to fire prematurely."

Agnes forced herself to breathe normally while she waited for a reaction.

One senator spoke up, "Now, I'm curious. If the bolts misfired one time, then would it be possible for that to happen again? The Apollo capsule is now being designed and if these bolts can blow off by themselves, maybe they shouldn't be on Apollo."

Al shook his head vehemently. "They blew by themselves on IMPACT. In space, that will be NO problem whatsoever. Especially not if they're aligned properly in the first place. Besides,should anything go wrong in launch or heaven forbid, in a test, explosive bolts may just save the astronauts' lives."

*Good argument Al!* Agnes mentally cheered him on.

*Let's hope it penetrates these nozzles' heads.*

A female senator took up the questioning then. "What if it's misaligned another time?"

Al took a deep breath. "Then the bolts will be safe in space or during launch, our tests have shown. It's only on splashdown impact the chance of blowout occurs." He nodded toward the launch bay. "And we SHOULD consider safety our #1 priority... explosive bolts are safer than manually sealed hatches in case of emergency evac."

The first senator retorted, "Fine. Any other findings?"

"No, sir," Al reported, standing military straight.

The senators looked at each other. "Very good," the original senator finally said. "We'll review the report and make our recomendations to Mr Shea in a few days. Thank you very much. Dismissed"

Al gave a crisp salute, which Agnes copied. They left the room, and leaned against the corridor walls.

Agnes sighed. "Thank goodness that's over!"

"It's not over yet," Al said. "We gotta hope those idiots in there make the right choice."

Agnes moaned. "Oh yeah . . . I hate waiting!"

Al suddenly grinned. "Aggie?"

"Yeah?"

"I completely forgot." He pulled the handlink out of his pocket and began punching buttons.

Agnes giggled. "Me too!"

Al grinned. "YES! They vote to put the bolts on the Apollo one!"

Agnes squealed and pulled Al to her in a bone-crushing hug. "YAY!"

They both laughed for a second, then Al suddenly frowned. "Uh-oh."

Agnes' face fell. "What?"

"History's still in flux. According to Ziggy, we've gotta witness the actual fire to alter it..."

"Great." Suddenly she felt a tingling sensation. "And I think we're about to head there now."

"Agreed." Al reached for her hand.

She took it as they lept out of the corridor . . . . And into a white room. Looking around, she noticed the white Apollo capsule atop a Saturn 1B rocket, on the gantry . . .And the blast hatch was slightly open. *Al -- it's 5:25 PM -- five minutes before the fire!*

Al turned pale. He took her hand and they began moving toward the gantry... they were far enough away from it that it would take at least five minutes to get up there...

Another technician noticed the movement. "You get a call to go up and check wires or somethin?"

"That's right," Al said. "We got the call 30 seconds ago. Didn't you hear it?"

"No. They must have just asked you. I can see why -- you're Kraft's pets!" The man laughed and stepped aside, "Go ahead."

"Thanks," Al half-growled.

*Pets indeed...*

*I hope he means that in a GOOD way!* Agnes stepped into the gantry elevator which was thankfully on the ground already and punched the "White Room" button.

*Me too.*

Through the intercom they could hear Houston's instructions as they ran through the test, with Gus's voice responding.

"How are we gonna get to the moon if we can't even talk between two or three buildings?" they heard Gus say, and Agnes giggled.

Al shook his head as the elevator rose...

Then came the expected, but horribly dreaded words.

In an eerily calm voice, Gus reported, "We got a fire in the capsule!"

Al closed his eyes. "Come on, old man," he hissed under his breath... "tell Roger to blow the hatch..."

Agnes held her breath as she saw the elevator getting closer and closer to the capsule level. She looked around and grabbed a fire extinguisher that was there. "Get ready to hold your breath."

Al nodded. Then came new words... blessedly beautiful words...

Gus said, "We'll fry if we stay in here. Blow it, Rog!"

And the hatch blew open.

Just then the elevator stopped and opened. Agnes took a deep breath and ran to the hatch, Al on her heels.

She saw Roger struggling out. She kicked the hatch aside and grabbed his hand, pulling hard.

He fell on her with a grunt. Gus's helmet emerged from the smoke-filled capsule next. Al grabbed him and hauled him aside.

Agnes disentangled herself from Roger and started spraying the fire extinguisher in the hatch. "Where's White?" she cried, and then coughed from the smoke.

Roger cursed. "ED!" he yelled, whirling toward the hatch. A hand emerged from the smoke, and Roger grabbed it...

And there was a flash of fire as the pure oxygen atmosphere ignited.

Roger fell backwards and Ed fell on top of him.

"Clear the way!!!!!!!" Agnes screamed and she and Gus pulled Rog & Ed to the elevator. "Medics should be on the way Gus. I'm goin back to stop that fire!" Agnes said and, true to her word, grabbed her fire extinguisher and ran back, spraying like crazy until the KSC fire crew arrived and shoved her aside.

"We did it," Al breathed, watching wide-eyed as the elevator descended with three very ALIVE astronauts. Until he saw Ed go down between the other two.

"Clear the way!!!!!!!" Agnes screamed and she and Gus pulled Rog & Ed to the elevator. "Medics should be on the way Gus. I'm goin back to stop that fire!" Agnes said and, true to her word, grabbed her fire extinguisher and ran back, spraying like crazy until the KSC fire crew arrived and shoved her aside.

"We did it," Al breathed, watching wide-eyed as the elevator descended with three very ALIVE astronauts. Until he saw Ed go down between the other two.

*At least we're not dragging their charred bodies out of . . . THAT . . . * Agnes said as they waited for the elevator to return.

Al turned aside, punching buttons on the handlink. "Wanna know their futures?" he grinned at her.

"Sure." she said as they stepped into the elevator.

"Gus recovers completely. He is on 11 with Armstrong and becomes the second man to walk on the moon."

Agnes grinned. "Terrific. I'm glad Gus got to the moon."

Al's smile faded a bit. "Yeah, well, seems he's the ONLY one. That flash fire costs Roger his right hand. He becomes one of the foremost mission controllers Houston has."

"Rog a flight director. Never woulda imagined it! What about Ed?"

And Al's face turned grim. "Ed... doesn't survive the night."

Agnes gasped . . . and broke down into a fit of coughing from all the smoke she'd inhaled *Oh no!*

*The flash burned 75% of his body through his suit. He lives long enough to tell his wife goodbye... and then he gives in.*

Tears welled up in Agnes' eyes as the elevator stopped and she was hustled off for treatment. *Poor Ed!*

*Yeah... I kn--* And Al doubled over in a coughing fit.

A medic walked up to Al. "Come on -- sounds like you got a pretty good wiff of smoke too."

Al raised his eyebrows at that, but allowed himself to be seated next to Agnes and given oxygen.

*Boy am I glad to be out of that smoke!* Agnes winked at Al.

*Very funny.* Al grinned at her, enjoying the resurrection of their longstanding jibes.

*At least we managed to change history . . . when we get outta here, we'll have to check if they made sure to classify the plugs-out hazardous*

*I'm sure they will,* Al said, lowering the mask, and taking a deep breath before grinning at her again. *They're slow. Not stupid.*

Agnes suppressed a giggle *Some of them seem stupid! But yeah, I don't think they're THAT stupid!*

Al sighed. *At least the old man's okay.*

*Old man? Gus? Oh, come on -- he's not that old!*

*That's what the fledges called him when we were first assigned here. We were in awe of him.*

Agnes grinned as she took off her mask and she and Al were hustled out to make room for more technicians who had been battling the fire.

*And now, there's gonna be a whole new group to call him old man.*

Agnes giggled *And I'm glad there will be!!*

*Me too, beautiful.* He leaned back agains the wall and closed his green eyes. *Me too.* He began to smile again.

Agnes then took a good look at Al -- the first time she'd had a chance to since before the briefing and leaping in here.

"Al? Since when is your hair jet black?"

He frowned, turning to her and opening his eyes. "Not since I was about thirty. It started going gray then. Why?"

"It's black now."

*C'mon, beautiful... this is no time for jokes.*

*I'm NOT joking. Don't believe me? Find a mirror*

Al scowled at her. *You know I see 'him' and not the real me! 'He's' twenty something! YOU see the real me!*

*Oh yeah. And *I* see jet black hair! Here!* she reached up and plucked a strand of hair from his head and handed it to him. "SEE??"

His eyes widened. "But... but HOW? I don't dye it...I'm allergic to hair dye..."

Her eyes widened too, "Yeah . . . oh boy . . . "

He looked at her. "If you tell me my wrinkles are going away, I'm headin' for the hills."

"Head away." she said solemly.

His jaw dropped. He had been kidding... *Are you SERIOUS??? I'm... I'm getting....*

"Younger . . . think Roma could be responsible?"

"Yeah... but WHY?"

"With her, who knows."

The green eyes widened. "And how young do you think I'm gonna GET?"

Agnes shrugged.

*Great.* He leaned back and closed his eyes again... then opened them WIDE as the familar feeling began to spread through his body. *Aggie...*

*Looks like we don't even 'ave time to stay for bagels and tea!* she grinned and grabbed his hand, giving it a reassuring squeese.

And they lept . . .

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Created by Lenora McCoy

Last updated 03 DEC 98

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