Smiles. Laughter. Congratulatory slaps on the back. Another job well done. General celebrations of a happy ending. Sam Beckett knew all about this scene. It was one he had left behind many times. And as Bill and Cat embraced him now, he felt the familiar tingle that meant that at any moment he would be Leaping again.
He was responsible for the happy ending, his efforts had ensured it, and for once he'd been allowed to sit back and savor some of the fruits of his not inconsiderable labors. He'd been rewarded by Whoever or Whatever controlled his Leaping, given some time to enjoy himself with friends made, and regain his strength.
A little "R and R".
He felt content, and profoundly grateful.
But now, he had no more time for looking backwards. With a last wistful farewell glance at the Donahue family, he surrendered himself to the limbo of blue haze that transported him to his next Leap. He began looking forward, to discover who he would become in this latest Leap, where and when he was 'landing' and most importantly, why…
'Landing' was almost right, for he Leaped-in in mid air, the body he'd invaded rigid, leaning forwards at a sharp, precise angle.
He was sailing, wind whistling in his/someone's face, taking his breath away.
It was cold. Bright. White.
There was a strong smell of pine.
He was wearing goggles, a knitted hat. He had on a pair of tight fitting black trousers, a white polo neck jumper and a thick knitted red sweater. Boots strapped onto long straight aluminum skis. He was holding, in gloved hands, poles that ended in a circle quartered by a cross and centered with a sharp point. Atop his sweater was a white bib, bearing the number 25 in large black numerals.
Then he connected sharply with thick crisp snow, and struggled to keep to his feet as he careered headlong down the steep slope of a mountain, which seemed to stretch to infinity below him.
He swerved to left and right, trying frantically to dodge red and blue flags on double poles placed in his path – slalom that was the word! He was in the middle of some sort of skiing competition.
Except as far as he couldn't remember, Dr Samuel Beckett had never learned how to ski!
As he hurtled drunkenly towards the distant finish line, fine snow spraying around him like the bow wave of a liner slicing through the ocean, it was at once both exhilarating and utterly terrifying.
He opened his mouth wide, took a deep breath and yelled: