CHAPTER THIRTY THREE

Dr. Barish was not happy when Stockwell informed him that his own men would be joining the retrieval team. He certainly didn't need any more interference from that quarter. Barish didn't know who it was, but obviously someone high up in Stockwell's organization had planned the demise of this experiment. Literally millions of dollars, down the drain. And the costs still climbing. All the man hours involved just in trying to round up these two men...it would be a long time before he would recover enough prestige to commandeer those kinds of funds again. And now he had to work with the organization that had spawned his failure. Well, he may have to accommodate Stockwell on this - Barish's own superiors would question his refusal of help - but he certainly didn't have to turn the search completely over to them. He had come out here in person - unheard of before - to make sure these two subjects were found and disposed of, and Stockwell's people were not going to get in his way.

He had discovered, to his disgust, that he was not allowed inside Stockwell's hospital. The gatekeeper had been quite firm about that, displaying a cold disregard for Dr. Barish's position. He would have to wait until 'official approval' had been received. From his conversation with the general, Barish knew it would come with Stockwell's team. Damn turf war. The politics involved in these matters were always distasteful to him. Why people could not accept the importance of this research and quit interfering with him, he would never understand. The politics, the so-called 'moralities', all the nit-picking crap that was thrown in his way - well, it had never stopped him before. He had learned to live within the system's banalities.

So he sat in his motel room, seething, waiting for the interlopers to make their appearance so he could grill the security people and doctors. His retrieval team was not idle, however. The locals here, as everywhere else, suspicious of buildings and people who refused to open themselves up to public scrutiny, had been somewhat helpful. Regardless of security procedures, people in small towns knew things, saw things, even if they didn't recognize the significance of them. His team had caught bits and pieces of information. Eventually, they would come across a pivotal piece, one that would allow them to put it all together.

And then this chapter in his career could thankfully be closed.


*****

Sam had finally arrived, in a van, still under heavy sedation. A nurse had come along, to make sure he arrived in one piece. Once he was installed in the room he would share with Randy, the nurse left without saying a word to any of the three men. As the van disappeared around the corner, it struck them all that they were very much on their own.

Sam finally awoke several hours later, confused, but aware enough to be near panic. It took all of them to calm him down, let him know that Randy was okay, that they were all okay, that they were no longer captive to Stockwell's organization. At least, not physically. Once they were able to get through to him, he calmed down, although still apprehensive. He asked to speak with Randy, alone. Kurt and Daryl, not happy about it, nonetheless left the room.

"Hey, Sam, don't worry about a thing. You're going to be fine. We all are. A few days rest here, and we'll head out to the Coast. We have to round up some transportation, but Kurt said he'd take care of that. And Daryl - you know, he's really not as slow as he acts sometimes. He knows how to set us all up with new ID's, histories - the whole bit. Just think, Sam, we'll leave here whole new people. Then when we get out west, we can start looking for our families, friends, our real connections. And no one will know where to find us unless we tell them. It'll be perfect."

"Randy, please, we have to talk first." Sam wasn't thinking all that clearly, but he had to get this straight from the start. Before Randy got too far into his plans. "I have to know how many pills you've got left. I can't remember what you said before. How many do you have?"

Randy was just a tad annoyed at the question. He didn't need those any more. He was thinking just fine now. Everything was clear, no more fuzziness. Well, okay, so he still didn't remember much from before Minneapolis, other than the war, but so what? That's why they were going west.

"I've got two left, Sam. And then I'm free of them. I don't need them any more, honestly. I'm feeling great."

"Randy, I know you feel good now. But that's not necessarily going to continue, not if you don't have your meds. Now, listen..." he forestalled Randy's protests, "I know you want off them. I want you to get off them, too. But you can't just quit. It could be dangerous for you. Your body's used to having them, okay?"

Randy frowned, but nodded. He could understand that. So far Sam hadn't said anything totally unreasonable.

"I know you want to get started finding your past. Believe me, I want to help you with that in every way that I can. But we need to make one stop before we can do that. We can both benefit from it. I mean, let's face it, I'm not exactly in top form, myself." He allowed himself a smile, and thankfully, Randy returned it. "So I want us to go to a place where I can recuperate a little more, and where there'll be someone to help you out if you have...trouble...from the pills. It'll only be for a few days. We can go there as soon as Kurt gets us transportation, okay? Stay there instead of here. And it's actually further west, closer to where we want to be anyway. Would that be okay?"

Randy thought for a moment. Sam wasn't really trying to dissuade him from his search. And if they would be closer to the coast, why not? But he wanted to know more about the place itself before he made any decisions.

"What is this place, Sam? Another hospital? 'Cause I'm not going to another hospital."

Good, Sam thought. He's at least open to the idea. He knew this was a risk. It was all there, in the files. Anyone looking would find it easily, and it wouldn't be hard to make the connection. But he didn't think he had any other choice. It had worked before. It would have to work now.

"No, it's not a hospital at all, Randy. Just...a house. It's safe, Randy. Believe me."

Randy frowned. So far, so good.

"Where is it, exactly?"

"A little place in California, called Bad Rock."