Steve squared off with the thug, trying to avoid the baseball bat. Expecting the next swing to be to the right, Steve dodged to the left. His miscalculation cost him. The thug had faked to the right, and then swung left, connecting with Steve's skull. Steve slumped to the ground, unconscious.
He woke sometime later, first hearing "I'm sorry Mr. Majors! I didn't pull back in time!" Steve then heard, "Get out of the way you clod."
"Lee, hey, you alright?"
Steve blinked, having no clue to his location. He looked up into unfamiliar faces.
"Someone call a doctor," a voice yelled.
Steve cringed at the sound. "Where am I?" he asked.
"Oh man, this isn't good," another voice commented.
Steve tried to sit, but was gently pushed back to the ground.
"Lie still, the doctor will be here in a minute," a third voice said.
"Where the hell is the doctor?!?"
The world began to spin a moment before Steve passed out.
Hours later, Steve awoke alone in a hospital room, his head aching. He looked around the room, not recognizing it. "Lee?" he muttered. Confused, he thought of the past 24 hours. Oscar had pulled him from vacation for an assignment in California. He flew to the destination and infiltrated the gang of thieves of high tech equipment, including items that would compromise National Security. Somehow his cover was blown. He was then attacked by one of the thugs trying to take his head off. The thug got lucky with his swing, hitting him in the head.
Steve was absentmindedly rubbing the side of his head when he heard a knock at the door. "Come in," he called.
"I didn't think you'd be awake," the man said, seating himself in a nearby chair.
Steve was relieved, finally seeing a familiar face. "What happened? Who were all those people? And why was my attacker apologizing and calling me 'Mr. Majors'?"
The man, Richard Anderson, better known as 'Oscar' on the TV show the 'Six Million Dollar Man' sat puzzled. "Lee, are you serious?"
"Lee? Look Oscar," Steve started.
Richard started laughing, "I get it. You're trying to get vacation time out of the executive producer. Nice going Lee, but I don't think it's going to work. We're on a tight shooting schedule and this accident will set us back a day or two."
Steve stared at his friend, dumbfounded. "One of us is very confused, and I'm not sure if it's you or me."
"I'm not the one who got hit in the head with a baseball bat, Lee. I'm smart enough to stay out of the way," Richard chuckled. "By the way, Frank is beside himself. He thought he pulled back in time to avoid hitting you. Guess his timing was off."
"Yeah, Frank Robbins. You know, 'thug #5'?" Richard replied. The blank look on Lee's face prompted him to continue. "You aren't playing, are you?" he asked, now quite concerned.
"Oscar or whoever you are, I am most definitely not playing," Steve said. He reached over to the bedrail on his right, took firm grasp of it and bent it out of shape.
At first Richard sat, astonished, and then shook his head. "Who rigged the bedrail for you? It was Jack, wasn't it?" He strode over to the rail, attempted to straighten it and couldn't. His look quickly went from humor, to puzzlement, then horror. "How... how... it's metal. It's real. How did you do that?" Richard stuttered. He leaned against the bed to keep his knees from buckling.
Steve returned the rail to its normal position, only slightly worse for wear. "I guess we are both really confused. You really think I'm this 'Lee' person, don't you?"
Richard nodded, "And you really think you're 'Steve Austin'?"
"I don't think, I know," Steve replied. He relayed the past 24 hours of his life, up to waking in the hospital. Meanwhile Richard sunk into a chair, ashen faced.
"But... but... it's science fiction. It's not real," Richard stammered. He then filled Steve in on the concept of the TV show. By the time he finished, Steve was shaking his head.
"I've never questioned reality before now," Steve commented. "The fact is, I need to get out of here before anyone else figures out my secret. I'm not quite sure how I've gotten this far without being found out"
Richard nodded, "How? How are you going to get out of here? You can't exactly waltz out of here. I mean you ah Lee is a celebrity. You'd be spotted in a heartbeat."
"What floor are we on?" Steve asked, formulating a plan.
"Second," Richard replied.
A smile played across Steve's face. "No problem. Here's what we'll do. I need you to leave instructions with the nurse that under no circumstances should I to be disturbed. I don't need anyone coming in here that knows your friend, but I don't know. Next, after dark, I'd like you to come back here at 9, but stay out of sight outside. By this evening my headache will have dissipated so I'll just jump from the window and meet you."
"Where will we go?"
"I'm working on that." The color suddenly disappeared from his face.
"Lee, Steve, what's wrong?"
The magnitude of the situation finally sunk in. "Sorry, it's just, well, my parents, my friends, none of them exist. I don't own a ranch in Ojai, I don't have a house in Washington, and the O.S.I. doesn't exist. If anything happens to me here, well, I will be out of luck."
"Oh my God," Richard proclaimed. "If you're here, then were is Lee?"
"Well, if we somehow swapped places, then chances are he's dead. I have a metal plate in my head, he doesn't," Steve replied grimly.
For a second time in a short period, Richard's face went white. The duo sat quietly for some time, contemplating the situation.
"How will you get home?" Richard asked.
"I don't know," Steve replied. "I don't even know how I got here."
"God help you both," Richard commented before leaving the room.
Steve chuckled, believing God has played a great Cosmic joke at his expense. For the rest of the afternoon, Steve lie in bed, formulating his escape.
Shortly before 9, Steve dressed and stood by the window, scanning the area. He spotted Richard in the parking lot, pacing in front of his car. Steve opened the window, carefully gauged the distance to the ground. He sat on the windowsill and swung his legs over the edge. He pushed off and easily dropped to the ground. Staying in the shadows, he quickly made his way to the car.
Richard jumped as Steve approached from behind, tapping him on the shoulder. "Don't do that!"
"Sorry," Steve said. "Let's go."
"Where?" Richard asked, getting into the car.
"North. I'm going to take a chance that a cabin my parents own, well, um... I'm going to take a chance that the cabin is there," Steve explained.
Richard pulled the car out of the parking lot, and found the closest on-ramp northbound. They rode in silence for a short time, both thinking.
"What's it like?" Richard asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, all of it. I mean, to me, it's a TV show, to you it's real life. What is the O.S.I. really like? What about your doctor? He really invented bionics? And you..." Richard let his voice trail off, feeling he was entering personal territory.
Steve laughed, "That's like asking a person who's been blind from birth to explain what it's like to be blind!"
"I know. I'm just curious," Richard admitted. When he returned home to find his wife and daughter out shopping, he took the time to contemplate what Steve's life was like. He couldn't get past the fact that to him it was a TV show.
"Well, I guess I'll answer the easy question first. Yes, Rudy Wells did create the science of bionics and in fact saved my life after my accident. I may have given him grief in the beginning, but I am actually thankful for what he did," Steve said. "And I don't know how your TV series goes, but I will tell you that Oscar was a real S.O.B. in the beginning, but has mellowed out over time."
Richard laughed, thinking of his character in real life. "Sorry, I'm just trying to image what he would be like."
"That's okay. I've had plenty of fun at his expense," Steve said. "Now, as for the O.S.I.," Steve said. He went on to explain the whole organization, from his perspective, allowing his opinions to creep into the conversation.
"I feel like I'm dreaming," Richard said. "I'll never understand this."
"Me neither. If in fact I am here, and not lying in a coma somewhere, how the hell am I going to explain all this when I get home, if I get home? And of course, assuming your friend wasn't killed, I'd say he's having just as much fun as I am, and that Oscar and Rudy are probably ready to have coronaries," Steve replied with a hint of humor in his voice.
"I'm glad to hear you see humor in the situation," Richard commented.
"What's the alternative? I'm not in control of what's happening, so there is no point in getting angry, it serves no purpose. Now if I'm stuck here, well, I'm a mess when I'm depressed, so I've been told," Steve replied.
They chatted idly during the rest of the trip up the North coast. Shortly before dawn, Steve directed the driver to an upcoming exit, then through a series of back roads to the top of a small mountain.
Steve grinned, seeing the cabin right where he expected. "If my parents don't own it, I wonder who does?"
They circled the cabin, peeking in the windows. "I'd say nobody owns it," Richard commented. The interior was bare. It contained four walls, a floor, a roof and a lot of cobwebs.
"Even better," Steve replied. He pulled out his keys and selected one. "Let's see if this works." He inserted the key and turned the lock. The door swung open.
"Well I'll be damned," Richard chuckled. "Anticipating our needs, I loaded the trunk with camping and fishing gear, along with essentials, food and water."
"Let me do a quick sweep of the cabin before we unload the trunk. " Steve found a nearby branch that would work as a makeshift broom. He opened all the windows and proceeded to sweep out the dust and cobwebs. He retreated from the cabin, coughing from all the dust that exploded out the windows and door.
"It may take a few minutes for it to settle, then I'll sweep it out properly," Steve commented, leaning against the car.
Richard wandered around the vicinity, finding a stream not far away. When he returned to the cabin, Steve was sweeping the cabin in a normal fashion, pushing the dust out the door.
"Much better," Richard said, walking inside. "Oh and there's a stream not far from here."
"I know," Steve said. "My Dad and I would come up here to fish several times a year when I was a kid. We don't get to do it as often now because of my schedule, but we make it at least once a year."
After dragging all the equipment indoors and unpacking, Steve leaned against the doorframe trying to figure out what to do next. "Well, I do know one thing," Steve commented, turning back to Richard. "You can't stay here for long. You'll be missed. Do you have family?"
"Yes, a wife and daughter. They are probably wondering where I am now," Richard replied.
"So you'll be missed by many people," Steve commented.
"Yes, and so will Lee. His son is supposed to come out for a visit this weekend."
"Lee Jr. He lives with his Mom in Kentucky. During the summer he spends a lot of time out here with his father," Richard replied.
Steve stood silently, slightly jealous of Lee, "A son..."
"You're not married, are you," Richard said. He figured if the show and Steve's life really paralleled then the answer would be 'no.'
Steve shook his head; "My lifestyle doesn't lend itself to the husband and father routine. Of course, I wouldn't mind settling down, but when the government owns you, well..."
Richard looked at his watch; he'd be missed by now on the set. "I'll help you as much as I can, but the fact exists that Lee will be missed. I'm sure word has already gotten back to the producers that he's left the hospital. For that matter, I should have been on the set an hour ago. The shooting schedule had been juggled so we could continue shooting while Lee recuperated."
"If that's the case, you need to get back there as soon as possible," Steve urged. "I'll be fine hiding out up here. It'll give me some time to think about what to do, if there is anything I can do."
"If push comes to shove, you could assume Lee's life," Richard commented. "The blow to the head could have produced selective memory loss."
Steve shook his head, "I'm not an actor and it would take a great actor to pull off stepping into someone else's footsteps on a permanent basis. No, I'm afraid I'd have to become a loner." He sighed, considering what it would be like to become an exile. He didn't like the idea one bit.
Steve urged Richard to return home despite the objections. "Look, I'll be fine here. I admit it's more than strange; this is like science fiction to me, or maybe horror, I haven't decided. You know the way up here. I know it's one heck of a drive, but you know where to find me. And needless to say, keep this to yourself."
Richard looked at him dumbfounded, "Whom could I tell? No one would believe me. They'd have me committed. However, someone else should know about you, just in case."
"Do you have someone in mind?"
"Yeah, I do. Martin would be my first and only choice. Thankfully he likes science fiction, so he may take to this, this, this situation, a little easier than I did."
"And Martin is?"
Laughing, Richard replied "Dr. Rudy Wells."
Steve just shook his head. "I'm beginning to feel like Alice, having fallen down the rabbit hole."
Steve guided Richard to the car. "Head on back. If you feel you can trust Martin, bring him up when you have a chance. I wouldn't recommend trying to explain the situation prior to your arrival. In my case, seeing truly is believing."
"Don't worry. Martin would just think I'm pulling his leg," Richard assured him.
Steve watched as his newfound friend drove off, heading down the mountainside. Finding himself suddenly tired, he unrolled a sleeping back and lay down on it, taking a short nap.
Steve awoke the following morning, having slept for much longer than planned. He climbed to his feet, stiff and sore, suspecting he hadn't moved at all during the night. Looking around, the surroundings hadn't changed. "Damn, it wasn't a dream," he said.
Realizing how hungry he had become, Steve rummaged through the supplies Richard had put together, grabbing a bottle of water. He then grabbed the fishing equipment, heading down to the stream to catch some breakfast. At the first cast, the water began to boil as he hooked a trout. The fish wasn't about to give up without a fight, leaping high into the air, momentarily permitting Steve to forget about his situation. The thrill of landing a fish, particularly a feisty one, always sent the adrenalin pumping through his veins. A moment later, he landed what he judged to be an 8-pound trout.
After cleaning, cooking and eating the trout, Steve surveyed the surroundings, making sure no one would be able to sneak up on him. Satisfied that he was isolated, the only route up the mountain being the road, he returned to the cabin and sat on the floor, leaning against the wall. He considered his immediate needs, food and water, which he had enough to last a few days, and furniture. "I can't sleep on the floor again," he muttered to himself. He constructed a plan and set to work.
Back on the set, Richard was amazed at the chaos.
"Where the hell have you been?" yelled one producer. "Lee is missing. Any idea where he might be?"
"No clue at all," Richard responded truthfully, heading for his dressing room. The producer fell into step with him.
"The schedule has been completely rearranged to shoot around him. You'll be up for the next few scenes, and the script for the next show is waiting for you. Lee will no doubt show up sooner or later and we'll continue with his scenes then," the producer explained.
Richard entered his dressing room, leaving the producer standing outside. He picked up the next script, thumbing through it. He chuckled at the plot, the whole show suddenly seeming like a joke to him, knowing that the real Col. Steve Austin resided in the mountains well north of Los Angeles. A knock on the door interrupted his thoughts.
"Come in," he called, seating himself in a chair, picking up the current script.
"What the hell is going on around here?" said the man as he entered the trailer.
Richard looked up as Martin shut the door, who took a seat on the couch. "Seeing that I got here extremely late, what do you mean?"
"Well, besides you not showing up on time, Lee is missing. No one knows where he is. He left the hospital last night without anyone seeing him. And the odd thing was that the window was wide open," Martin explained.
"I know he's been wanting some time off," Richard said.
"That may be the case, but this isn't the way to do it. Where could he have gone?"
Richard shrugged. A pounding at the door interrupted the conversation. "Scene 17A in 10 minutes."
"Do you have any plans for the weekend?" Richard asked.
Martin shook his head, "My wife's heading to her parent's house. I planned on staying home."
"How would you like to take a trip to the mountains," Richard asked.
"You do know where Lee is!"
"No, I don't, but I will be able to shed some light on the mystery," Richard replied.
The men decided to depart early Saturday morning, Martin curious about Richard's silence. In the meantime, they attended to their scenes, and memorized the next script.
Richard arranged for his wife and daughter to visit friends over the weekend, allowing him to get away. He arrived at Martin's house shortly before dawn. A quick honk of the horn brought Martin out, carrying an overnight bag and a thermos of coffee.
"Morning," he said through a yawn. Martin tossed his bag into the back seat, and then climbed into the front.
Richard put the car in gear and headed for the interstate.
Later that afternoon, Steve thought he heard a car coming up the mountainside. He walked to the window, carefully peering out. Thankfully he recognized the vehicle. He stepped outside to greet his visitors.
Richard pulled up to the front of the cabin. Martin turned to him, "So you didn't know where Lee was?"
"Things are not as they seem," Richard commented, climbing out of the car.
"Morning," Steve said, walking toward the vehicle.
"Hey Steve, how have you faired this week?" Richard asked.
"Steve? Yeah, right," Martin said. "Lee, do you realize just how much trouble you've caused by your disappearing stunt?"
Steve and Richard chuckled. "Steve, this is Martin Brooks. He plays Rudy Wells in the show."
"Nice to meet you," Steve said. "And I'm not Lee. Honest."
"Ahuh," Martin commented, looking from Steve to Richard. "Okay, so what's the joke? You two are obviously working together."
"Grab your bag and come on in," Richard said while grabbing his bag. "Steve, I've got supplies in the trunk."
"Thanks," Steve said, helping him unload the bags.
Entering the cabin, Richard took in the scene, amazed at the transformation. "You've been busy," he commented, placing the bags on the table.
"Yeah, well, I've had time," Steve commented. During the week Steve had constructed a table, chairs and beds. Although the beds were constructed of branches, they proved to be more comfortable than the floor.
"Okay guys, now would you explain to me what's going on? Lee, why are you hiding out up here?" Martin asked, taking a seat in one of the homemade chairs. "Hm, not bad. Comfortable."
Steve looked to Richard, "Seeing is believing. Follow me." Steve led the two men outside. He walked to the car, positioned himself and lifted the front end of the car off the ground. Steve glanced to Martin, who quickly turned white and fell back against the doorframe. Steve slowly returned the car to the ground. Brushing his hands on his pants, he walked over to the stunned man, extending his hand for a friendly handshake. "I'm the real Steve Austin. Nice to meet you."
Martin stared blankly at the man in front of him. "How... how..."
Richard led Martin inside, gently pushing him into a chair, and then taking a seat himself. Steve chuckled, starting to pace in front of the men.
"I think an explanation is in order," Steve said, grinning. Martin managed a nod and nothing more.
Steve spent the next hour explaining his situation to Martin, who had managed to regain his composure. Steve finally plopped into a chair, which creaked under his weight.
Steve looked down at the crossbars, "I better reinforce it," he muttered.
Martin sat speechless, having so many questions to ask, but not knowing where to start.
Steve glanced to Richard, who also appeared amused. "Yeah know, back in my time he wouldn't be speechless. It's not in his nature."
Richard laughed, "Hell, in this time he's not normally speechless."
Martin stood and paced the length of the cabin. "So you have no clue how you got here?"
"None whatsoever," Steve replied, rocking in the chair.
"Most likely. He had to have gone somewhere," Steve said.
Martin shook his head. "This is beyond amazing, beyond incredible. It breaks all the laws of science. I mean, never mind the concept of traversing universes, but that a television show in one universe is reality in another?"
"Yeah, well, who would have ever thought that someone would want to see my life on television?" He still had a trouble fathoming the idea.
"I don't know about you two," Richard started, "but I'm hungry. Any fish back in that stream?" Richard started gathering the fishing gear.
"You bet," Steve replied. Turning to Martin, "You fish?"
"On occasion," he replied. "I've been known to land a fish or two in my time."
"Don't let him fool you, Steve. Martin's good at it. Don't make any bets 'cause you'll lose," Richard warned.
Steve grinned, "I doubt that." Turning to Martin, "Loser cleans the fish?"
"You're on," Martin replied. The three men hiked down to the stream, each finding a favored spot to cast.
By the end of the afternoon, Richard chuckled to himself. "So, who is going to clean the fish?" He had a stringer full of trout, while Steve and Martin, strings combined, equaled his.
"Damn, I forgot never to bet you," Steve commented, grabbing the string. "Come on Martin, you lost too," Steve said, leading the way to a boulder he'd been using during the past week as a cleaning area.
Martin trudged along a few feet behind Steve, muttering about his friend's luck. "It's sheer luck."
Steve laughed, "No, not luck, skill. He just hides it well."
It took the duo an hour to clean the fish and dispose of the remnants. They returned to the camp to find a roaring campfire. "I suppose we have to cook too?" Steve chuckled.
"And let you ruin those perfectly good fish?" Richard teased, taking the plate of fillets from Steve. "Search through the bags I brought up and you'll find cans of beans and home made coleslaw."
Steve and Martin prepared the remainder of the food, setting it on the table. As Richard entered the cabin with the fish, he spotted Steve rummaging around for the water bottles.
"Look in the cooler," Richard said. "You'll find some beer."
Steve perked up and strode to the cooler. Opening it, he pulled out three cold ones and placed them on the table. "You've made my day."
Sitting down to eat, Martin asked, "Just how many beers can you have before becoming, well, impaired."
"Not many," Steve replied, taking a sip. "That's about the only thing I regret about my reconstruction. I used to be able to drink my Air Force buddies under the table."
They ate in silence for several minutes. Richard broke the silence, "Have you considered your next move? You can't hide out here forever."
Steve sighed. "I haven't a clue what I'm going to do next. If all else fails, I'll approach the N.S.B. with the truth."
Richard and Martin exchanged looks. "Steve, have you given any thought to coming back with us to Los Angeles?" Martin questioned.
Steve shook his head, "I can't see me trying to assume your friend's life. If I go back with the two of you it will be a disaster."
The two men grinned, "We know," they said in unison.
Surprised, "What are you trying to do, ruin your friend's life?"
"No," said Martin.
"Of course not," added Richard.
"It could just be a lot of fun," Martin concluded.
"Especially the first time a stunt is involved and you do it yourself," Richard commented. "Lee has a stunt double for most of the dangerous work, but does most of his own."
"There's nothing the stunt men have ever attempted that you couldn't handle," said Martin.
"I get the feeling I'm being tag-teamed," Steve chuckled. "You know, it could be fun."
The men spent the rest of the weekend, planning "Lee's" return. Steve closed up the cabin, locking the door behind them. He knew the fun wouldn't last forever and suspected he'd have to retreat to the cabin once again.
Early Monday morning, the three men walked onto the set, Richard and Martin grinning from ear to ear, and Steve slightly nervous. The two men briefed Steve the night before so he could recognize the cast and crew.
Steve spotted a well-dressed individual storming his way; he recognized the man as being the executive producer.
"Majors! Well the hell have you been? Do you know what you've done to the shooting schedule? We're way off and will have to do double shifts to get done on time. What do you have to say for yourself?" the man said, face turning a bright red.
"I'm afraid you have me mistaken for someone else," Steve said, smiling. "I'm Steve Austin."
The executive producer blinked. He looked to the other two men. "He hasn't recovered from his head injury?"
"On the contrary," Richard started, as Steve walked over to a nearby car, "He's quite recovered. Look." Richard gazed over to Steve.
The executive producer did the same. His eyes popped wide, jaw dropped, face turned white and then fell to the ground, unconscious.
Steve carefully lowered the car, looking around to see if anyone else had noticed; no one had. He walked over to the man on the ground, bending over him, "What's his problem? You'd think he'd never seen someone lift a car one handed," Steve chuckled. The three men laughed then walked away.
"Yes, this could be fun," Steve muttered to himself. "If Oscar could see me now..."
Heads turned in stunned silence, but only for a moment as the three men approached. Steve had been prepared for anything that might be thrown at him. He knew the people and he’d learned the script in record time. Martin had commented that even Lee didn’t learn his lines that fast. As for the acting, well, Richard instructed him to ‘wing it’. After all, Richard pointed out, Steve is playing himself.
Cheers erupted moments later, as several people announced the return of the Prodigal son. Steve was slightly embarrassed by the attention, but knew he couldn’t show it.
The men heard someone yell “Medic!” in the background, causing all three of them to chuckle. They had a plan. Steve declared it to be a bit cruel, but fun.
After being greeted by several members of the crew, the flustered EP caught up with the men. “How the hell did you do that?”
“Do what?” Steve asked innocently.
“You know damn good and well. You lifted the car. How did you do it? Who was in on the joke? Special effects aren’t cheap,” he finished.
Richard and Martin exchanged glances, both shrugging. “We didn’t see anyone around. And what do you men you saw Lee lift a car?”
The EP glanced to each men several times, stopping at Steve. “So you’ve dropped your ‘Steve Austin’ act, eh?”
Little did he know, a crowd had formed around the men, trying to figure out what their fearless leader was raving about. Several members started to giggle.
The EP had enough. “Dammit, we’ve got a show to produce. Everyone, back to work. You,” he said, pointing to Steve. “You better not step out of line again.” He stormed off for parts unknown.
Steve grinned inwardly, winking at the two men beside him. They headed toward a conference room where a hastily called meeting was about to get underway.
Steve fell into the part easily, amazing his two friends, with no one else the wiser.
Martin and Richard had been called away at lunch, leaving Steve on his own. He headed toward the canteen, but was stopped by the EP.
“Don’t start that again…”
“What can I say, it’s my given name?” Steve managed to keep a straight face through the exchange.
“Alright, alright, whatever you want. Anyway, we’ve got a scene coming up for which I feel we should use your stunt double.” The EP didn’t want another accident on his hands.
“Why? WHY? You almost got your head knocked of more than a week ago, remember? Your timing was off and you got hurt,” the EP said, his blood pressure rising.
“No stunt double. I’ll do it myself.” Richard had warned Steve of the upcoming stunt, which the real Steve Austin would have no problem performing.
The EP shook his head, “No.”
“Yes and that’s the end of the discussion,” Steve said, starting to walk away.
The EP reached out and grabbed Steve’s arm. “Stop. Let me show you the stunt.”
Steve shrugged, following the annoying man to the back lot, stopping in front of a gray plaster style building; which was actually a facade built upon a plywood platform. They climbed the three flights of stairs to the 'roof'. Walking to the edge, they leaned over the edge, looking at the ground.
“Even with the air bag, it’ll be too dangerous for you,” EP said.
Steve grinned. “That little jump? I could do that in my sleep.”
The EP shook his head, “Yeah, right. We’d we picking up the parts and you’d wish bionics were real.”
Before the EP could say a word, Steve stepped up to the ledge and jumped off, landing easily on his feet with bent knees. He looked up to the EP and saw him standing slack-jawed.
Steve yelled up, “I’m going to get my lunch now. See you later.” He quickly brushed away the slight imprints, then jogged off the set.
Once in the canteen, Steve retrieved a sandwich, chips and soda, then took a seat at a corner table. Minutes later, Richard and Martin appeared, both with broad grins on their faces.
“He is going nuts!” Richard exclaimed, sitting across from Steve.
“You should see him, LEE, he’s hysterical. He’s telling everyone what you did and of course no one believes him,” Martin chuckled.
The trio started planning the next escapade when the EP stormed into the canteen. Spotting the men sitting in the corner, he strode to the table, barely in control of himself.
“How the hell did you do that!” he screamed.
“Do what?” Steve asked.
“Don’t start that again,” the EP bellowed. “You jumped off a three story building and walked away.”
The crowd had started to gather again, hearing the unbelievable claim. “Do you realize how stupid that sounds?” Richard commented. “How in the world could Lee jump off a three story building without hurting himself.”
“You weren’t there, I was,” the EP said, staring at Richard.
“Were there any witnesses?” Martin calmly asked.
“No,” the EP replied.
“Then you have no proof?” Richard asked.
"I... was... there," he said through clenched teeth. Turning to Steve, "Look, Majors, I don't know what the hell is going on around here, but it's going to stop," the EP insisted.
"How can I stop something that isn't happening?" Steve questioned.
The EP glared at the three men, then stormed off. The crowd slowly dispersed, still giggling from the absurdity of the EP's claim.
Steve looked to his two friends. "You're trying to drive him crazy, aren't you?"
"Well..." Richard said.
"Yes," Martin confessed.
"The man is a tyrant," Richard continued. "He deserves anything we throw at him. You've seen how he is on the set."
Steve nodded. "OK, so I'm not the only one who thinks he's unreasonable. Now that we're on the same page, what's next?"
The three men put their heads together, formulating a plan that should send the EP over the edge, so they hoped.
At the end of the day, the friends said their good-byes. Steve headed 'home', planning on studying the next script. Little did he know the evening would be anything but quiet.
At first Steve felt uneasy staying at Lee's house, but as time passed he became comfortable with the surroundings. For the most part Steve discovered that he and Lee had similar tastes. Anything that appeared out of place Steve attributed to Lee's wife, who was on location in France and not due back for a couple of months.
This evening Steve lounged on the living room couch, nursing a soda and studying a new script. He started to view the show as a comedy, since a lot of the plots just wouldn't happen in his universe, and the dialogue was laughable. As the evening wore on, Steve decided to retire to the guest room, where he had been sleeping since the first night in the house, feeling uncomfortable with sleeping in Lee's room.
While shutting off the lights, he heard the front door open. He quietly walked down the hallway to the foyer, wanting to see who entered the house. Steve stopped dead in his tracks when he spotted a gorgeous blond woman walk through the door, closing and locking it behind her.
She turned around and jumped when she saw Steve standing there. "Lee? I didn't think you'd be up!" She threw her arms around his neck, giving him a hug. When he didn't reciprocate, she pulled back.
"Lee? Are you okay? I heard you had an accident," she said, searching his face for clues.
"I... I..." he stuttered as he backed away. "I wasn't expecting you home so soon. I was just heading out."
"So late? You're not partying again, are you?" She disapproved of his late night partying when he was due on the set the next morning.
"No, no, we're.... we're out of milk," Steve stammered, edging his way around her. Finally between her and the door, Steve reached behind him and unlocked the door. "I'll be home in a little while. Get settled in and we'll talk when I get back." He pulled the door open and bolted outside, shutting the door behind him.
Once in the car he willed himself be calm, but it wasn't working. He drove off, trying to figure out what to do next.
He found a pay phone close to the house, but off the beaten path so he could have some privacy. Digging Richard's phone number out of his pocket, he dropped in the correct change and dialed the number. A moment later Richard answered.
"We've got a problem," Steve said, trying to calm his voice.
"What's wrong? Hold on, let me change phones."
Steve waited patiently has Richard exchanged one phone for another. Finally, he returned.
"She's back," Steve stuttered.
"His wife. She's back. I thought she wasn't supposed to be back for a few months." Steve's head reeled, not knowing what he would do next.
"Oh damn," Richard muttered. "Where are you?"
"At a phone booth down the street from the house," Steve replied. "I said I was heading out to get milk just as she got home."
On the other end of the phone, Richard grinned, wishing he could have seen the look on Steve's face when Lee's wife arrived home.
"First thing you need to do is calm down," Richard started.
"That's easy for you to say. A stranger's wife didn't just walk in your door! Hell, it's not even my door!"
"You can handle this."
"No I can't. Richard, you don't understand. I'm not bragging, but I am known as a lady's man. I can't stay in the house with her! She's not my wife, regardless of what she thinks!" Steve was starting to panic again. He knew the obvious thing would to head for the cabin and stay there, but his disappearance would definitely throw up red flags this time.
Richard couldn't help himself; he burst out laughing at Steve's situation. "I'm sorry, I really am, but there's nothing I can do. You're going to have to handle this one yourself. Try using your head injury as an explanation for you not being yourself. She'll understand.
Steve growled, "I'm concerned about controlling myself!"
"Go home, take a cold shower and go to bed in the guest room. Lock the door so you'll be safe," Richard suggested.
Steve muttered a few things under his breath before answering, "Fine, just fine."
"Oh, and Steve?"
"Don't forget to pick up some milk."
Steve slammed down the receiver, irritated. If it were anyone else, he would find it humorous, but it wasn't anyone else, it was him.
He stopped at a convenience store where he frequented and picked up a gallon, then returned home, dreading the every minute of the trip.
Steve pulled into the driveway, turned off the engine and sat for a moment. Mustering up the courage, he grabbed the gallon of milk and headed up the sidewalk.
He walked into the house, closing and locking the door behind him. He took the milk to the kitchen and placed it in the fridge. Thankfully, he really did need milk, having emptied the jug earlier in the day. Closing the door, Steve spotted her standing nearby, leaning against the doorframe, wearing a slinky, white negligee.
"Got the milk?" she asked.
Steve swallowed hard. "Yes. It's been a long day; I really need to get to bed. I'm due on the set at 5am."
She nodded, "I understand. Come on, let's go to bed," she said, turning down the hallway.
Steve stood rock still. "Listen," he said, following her, "I haven't been myself since my accident. I've been sleeping in the guest room, and would prefer to do so tonight. Alone."
She approached Steve, looking up into his face, brushing aside a stray hair, which hung down over his eye. She smiled, "That's okay. I'm home for a few weeks. You just take your time." She stood on tippy-toe, quickly planted a kiss on his lips, and then walked into the master bedroom, shutting the door behind her.
Steve lingered a moment longer, trying to get his urges under control. Remembering the advice, Steve retreated to the shower, taking it as cold as he could, then climbed into bed. He was there for mere minutes before he rose and locked the bedroom door. Climbing back into bed, he lay back with his hands behind his head, thinking what a lucky guy Lee really is. Before needing another cold shower, Steve rolled over and fell asleep.
When the alarm went off at 4, Steve quickly departed the house, grabbing breakfast at the canteen. Shortly before 5, Richard and Martin entered, surprised to see Steve sitting at the corner table. The two men approached, grinning from ear to ear.
"How did last night go?" Martin asked. Richard had relayed all the details of the previous night's conversation.
Steve glared at his friend, turning his attention back to his breakfast.
"Sorry about last night," Richard said. "It's just, well, I mean, I figured you'd be able to handle the situation."
Before Steve could respond, the EP stormed into the canteen, scanning the room. Spotting the men, he strode over to the table, face already turning red.
Steve shook his head. Richard looked up at the EP, "What now?"
"My office..." he growled. "NOW."
Steve shrugged, following the EP out of the canteen.
Richard and Martin followed, keeping a discrete distance.
Once in the office, the EP slammed the door. "I don't know what the hell is going on around here, but it's going to stop."
"What's your problem now?" Steve said, straight faced.
The EP pointed to an upside-down six-drawer file cabinet. Steve chuckled, knowing that he was not responsible for this prank. Apparently word had gotten around and others wanted in on the fun.
"When did you do this?"
"I didn't," Steve chuckled. "Anybody could have done this." Steve quickly glanced around the office, looking for any camera or recording devices. Not spotting any, Steve said "But I'll fix it."
"Impossible. It's several hundre...." the EP's voice trailed off as Steve skillfully maneuvered the file cabinet into an upright position.
Steve brushed off his hands, "Gotta go." He left the office, leaving the EP to another temper tantrum.
Steve left the building, rounded the corner and almost ran into his two friends. "Alright, who's responsible for the file cabinet?"
"We've heard rumors. It seems part of the crew got together last night and flipped it. Everyone thinks the EP's going off the deep end, and there are plenty of people around here who want to help," Martin explained.
"Come on, we've got to get ready," Richard said. The three men headed for their separate dressing rooms, laughing at the EP's misfortune.
The first part of the morning was spent inside, filming the opening scene's in Oscar Goldman's office, then the cast was bussed a few miles down the road to a back lot that contained the Elgin's ranch.
Steve felt uncomfortable roaming around the set, seeing it for what it is, a lot of facades without structure behind them. The ranch house lacked interior; those shots would be done on a sound stage.
Richard noticed the discomfort and tried to distract Steve. "So if the structures were complete, this would be your parent's ranch?" he asked in a low voice. Steve nodded, looking out at the pasture.
"I'd love a place like this," Richard commented. Changing the subject, "Are you ready for the next prank?"
Steve smiled, a gleam in his eye. "Oh yes," he replied, chuckling.
Everyone was called to their spots, Richard standing off to the side. His shot was next.
The scene was flawless; cast members hitting their mark. Steve found the scene difficult playing off the people who resembled his parents. He was glad to move onto the next.
Spotting the EP off in the distance, alone, Steve felt it was time. He excused himself for a moment, going off in the opposite direction, then doubling back using the sets as cover.
The EP stood in the shade of a tree, something he'd frequently do since he despised the heat. He stood, binoculars hanging around his neck, reading over the upcoming scene.
Steve quietly walked up behind the EP, clearing his throat.
"What do you want?" the EP questioned.
Steve displayed his lopsided grin. "Ya know, I really am Steve Austin." He then grabbed the EP around the waist and leapt straight up into the old growth tree. He dropped the EP on a branch, then quickly returned to the ground, wiping away the imprints. He then retraced his steps back to his friends side.
"Well?" Richard whispered.
Steve needn't reply. The yells for "HELP" could be heard loud and clear.
Crewmembers looked around for the source of the voice. They followed the sound toward the tree. Once in range, they all looked up and started laughing. The EP lie over the branch, screaming for them to get him down.
Richard and Steve wandered over to the tree, joining the crowd.
The EP, spotting Steve, pointed down at the man. "YOU!"
Steve looked up. "Me?"
"Don't start that again!" the EP bellowed.
"What now?" Richard yelled up at the EP.
"You did this to me!" the EP yelled back at Steve.
Everyone looked to Steve, who merely shrugged. They broke out laughing. Someone spoke up, "Are you saying that Lee put you up there? What did he do, pick you up and leap straight up?"
"YES!" the EP replied.
The laughter continued, no one trying to help the EP. Minutes later, the crowd dispersed, leaving the man in the tree. Everyone figured if he got up there by himself, he could get himself down.
By the end of the afternoon, a celebration erupted at the studio. The EP, who was eventually helped out of the tree, stormed into his bosses' office, making wild accusations against 'Lee'. The boss sat patiently, waiting for the tirade to subside.
"Are you through?" the boss questioned.
Stony silence was the answer.
"You have been a thorn in my side for the past two years. The recent complaints against you are the straws that broke the camel's back. In two words? You're fired!" the boss said.
Two security guards appeared a moment later to escort the EP to his office. They allowed the EP five minutes to collect his personal belongings. At the end of the five minutes, the guards took the EP to his car, one of them getting in for the short ride to the gate.
Word of the dismissal spread like wildfire.
At the celebration, Steve stood off to the side, looking glum.
"What's wrong?" Martin asked, bringing Steve a drink. "Don't feel bad about what happened..."
Steve shook his head. "It's not that. I eventually have to go home, um, you know. I don't know how I'm going to handle her." He took a swig of the drink, recognizing the punch had been spiked.
"I don't know what to tell you. Maybe you'll luck out and she'll be gone by the time you get home," Martin said.
"No, she said she'd be around for a few weeks," Steve replied.
The two men stood watching the celebration.
"Where's Richard?" Steve asked.
"On the set. He had to re-shoot a scene," Martin replied. "He should be along soon."
As the afternoon wore on, Steve realized he couldn't wait much longer. He bid farewell to his friends, who wished him luck, and left the studio for home.
Steve pulled into the driveway and turned off the engine. He sat staring at the house, trying to figure out how he was going to handle the situation. Unable to think of a solution, and with panic rising, he dragged himself out of the car and headed indoors.
Entering the house, his nose picked up the wonderful smell of spaghetti, his favorite. Wandering into the kitchen, he spotted Lee's wife putting the finishing touch on the meal. "Smells wonderful," he commented.
Smiling, "I learned long ago that it's good for what ails you." She put the garlic bread on the table.
During the meal they traded stories of their recent work experiences. Steve found her fascinating, but had to keep reminding himself that she did not belong to him.
After washing the dishes, they retired to the family room to watch TV. They sat together on the couch, but Steve made sure a certain distance remained between them. As the evening wore on, Steve became more uncomfortable with the situation. He finally announced it was time for bed, to which she agreed.
Once again he was in the awkward situation of not knowing what to do to avoid her. As he headed down the hallway, she had gone around and blocked the way to his room.
"I know I said to take your time, but we can at least sleep in the same room," she purred, approaching him.
Steve took a step back, panicking. "No, really, I need..."
"It's okay, really. I promise I'll behave myself," she replied, taking another step in his direction.
"I... um..." Steve took another step back, hitting an object. He didn't know what it was, but he quickly lost his balance and tumbled backward, slamming his head against he corner of a table.
He was unconscious before he hit the floor.
Steve heard a voice, then another calling. The voices were familiar, but the name wasn't. He slowly drifted upward, toward the voices. He suddenly recognized the name.
"Lee! Lee! Wake up!" the voice said.
"Come on, wake up," said the other voice.
"How many times do I have to tell you, my name is Steve, not Lee," he said quietly.
The voices stopped. Steve wondered if he had been dreaming. He slowly opened his eyes to see Richard and Martin standing over him. He glanced around for a moment, and then scrambled to a sitting position, backing away from the men.
Steve tried to figure out what happened. He glanced around the room, recognizing the surroundings. Still disoriented, he looked up into the concerned faces.
"Richard? Martin?" Steve asked.
The men just shook their heads, disappointed. This was the same response they received a couple of months ago.
"No, I'm Oscar, this is Rudy," Oscar replied with a sigh.
"WHAT!" Steve exclaimed, scrambling to his feet. He fell against the wall, suddenly feeling dizzy. Rudy helped him slide back down to the floor.
Rudy looked at his confused friend. "Who are you?" he asked.
Steve, rubbing the back of his head, "I'm Steve Austin."
Oscar grinned broadly while Rudy checked for pulse in Steve's right arm. Finding none, he slapped his friend on the shoulder. "Welcome back, Steve. Where the hell have you been?"
"When we called and got no answer, we came right over thinking something was wrong with Lee. We found you on the floor and well, we didn't know who it was," Oscar explained.
"Lee?" Steve questioned. "Lee was here?"
"You know him?" Rudy questioned.
Steve looked to his friends, "Yes, I do, and you wouldn't believe me if I told you what happened."
After having dealt with Lee for the past couple of months, they would believe anything. After glancing at each other for a moment, they returned their attention to Steve. "Try us," they said in unison.
Rudy helped Steve to his feet and guided him to a chair.
"Well Oscar, it's like this..."