I Like the Way He Smiles

I'm in the lab when the alarm goes off this time. Someone has entered the waiting room -- jumped into Sam's body -- and it's time for us to go through this again. I've stopped trying to imagine what we're going to find, whose life we're going to be dealing with. We've had far too many crazy leaps for me to think I can predict them. Whenever I think we're due a quiet one we get something even more nuts.

So I don't wonder what we're going to find when we check the monitors. Verbena heads into the room, wearing her white doctor's coat and prettiest smile. I listen as she introduces herself and starts to find out as much as she can about our newest visitor. I listen 'cause I don't like watching the screens. I don't like seeing strangers wearing Sam's body. It's creepy. But though I always tell myself I'm not going to look, I can't seem to help it. I look up and see someone frowning at Verbena. Whoever it is, he or she is confused but not really upset. I look away again fast.

See, I don't like the way somebody else wears Sam's face. It's ugly. Makes him look like a stranger. I don't like looking at Sam and seeing a stranger looking back at me. Instead I stare at one of Ziggy's screens and wait for him to start telling me something. Names, locations, the colour of our client's hair. OK, so he's not a client. What am I supposed to call them, victims? Ziggy's working faster than I can follow and soon I've got enough to head out and meet Sam.

Gooshie tries to grab me and say something stupid -- last minute instructions or something -- nothing I need or want to hear. I pull my arm out of his grip and head for the imaging chamber. Ziggy doesn't say anything; I've got my handlink and anything I need to know will be on it. Eventually. Usually right after Sam has figured it out on his own, but still it's nice to have things verified occasionally. And sometimes Ziggy tells us before we need to know.

The disorientation doesn't bother me anymore as the imaging chamber vanishes and I see a park appear around me. I've got a name and a general description so I spot Sam almost immediately. Mark Sherman, 35 years old, engineer. He looks like a Nordic warrior, huge and intimidating. I have to look up to see his face. When I do I see a stranger's face looking at me.

Then I see Sam smile.