"Shoot," said Kirk. "Am I supposed to say namaste at the end or at the beginning? I wasn't sure."
"I don't think it matters," said Lulu, tapping a key on the keyboard next to her. On a flat screen monitor, the image of Kirk went suddenly blank. "If it was really important, they would have said one way or the another."
Kirk and Lulu were in the basement of his mother's house. It looked like a typical basement rec room, with wood paneling, a tv in the corner, a few folded tv trays against the couch. Only two things suggested that something besides late-night poker games transpired in this room. The first was the Apple G4 Cube computer (which was recording Kirk with a white, vaguely pistol-shaped webcam). And then there was the sinister-looking device which rested on an end table. It consisted of a plastic mask attached to a basketball-sized bulb, the color of army uniforms. A small canister was attached in the middle, and it bore a black and white label with paragraphs of microscopic fine print and two words in bold block letters. The first word: "SEVOFLURANE." The second, in larger print: "DHARMA."
All right," Kirk said sullenly. "I'll say it twice just in case it's, like, a code word or something. No, not a code word. The ... whatever the thing that the hypnotists use."
"A post-hypnotic suggestion?"
"No," Kirk snapped. "It's ... uh ... it's called a ... um ..."He rapped twice on his forehead with his knuckles. "Shoot." And then it came to him. "A trigger word. In case it's a trigger word." He smoothed out the lapels on his lab coat. "Let's go again." Lulu tapped a key and Kirk's face filled the monitor screen.
"Namaste. This is the orientation film for the Stars Hollow station, code named 'the Scoop'." The camera panned back to reveal the familiar spiderweb insignia of the Dharma Initiative, with a curious logo in the center. At first glance, it could be mistaken for a stylized question mark or possibly a cartoonish hot air balloon, but after a few moments, the logo revealed itself as an artistically rendered ice cream cone.
Lulu sniggered at the logo - again - and then hushed herself. "Sorry, hon. I just think it's so cute, what you did with their insignia. I'll edit that out."
"That's why they invented Final Cut Pro."
Kirk composed himself, clearing his throat several times. "Your mission here at the Scoop is infiltration. The Scoop will be your base of operations and, from the outside, will not be perceptibly different from any other home in this small rustic town. You will become one of the denizens of Stars Hollow. Learn their customs. Drink their coffee. Attend their pointless yet strangely moving public events. Find every imaginable way to become - " he made air quotes - "'a regular.'
"If required, you should establish relationships with the locals in order to make your identity more meaningful, including intimate relationships. However, no local resident should ever be allowed to enter your personal living quarters. The communications and scientific equipment in your possession took years of painstaking research, and its cost is incalculable. You must not let it get into the hands of anyone not associated with Dharma. This must be your highest priority, beyond anything else you hope to achieve. Even if your mission should fail, the equipment you have been provided must be protected..."
Kirk stopped then, and waited. A moment passed. He whispered, "Slow fade-in, babe."
"Oh, sorry." She manipulated keys on the keyboard.
He repeated, "the equipment you have been provided must be protected - at all costs."
Fingers snapped in front of Lorelai. After a few seconds, she managed a faint, "Hey."
Sookie stared at her. She walked all around Lorelai, a quizzical look on her face, while Lorelai blinked and breathed and otherwise remained still.
"Where are you?"
"Oh, I just..." She trailed off. Then she started again,"where is everybody?"
"It's five in the morning."
Lorelai nodded, her eyes blank.
"Why are you here?" she asked Sookie.
"Breakfast, dear. I've got prepping to do, coffee pots to set up, inspections, and plus I had a hunch you'd show up here once you emerged from ... wherever you've been." She gestured dramatically up with her eyebrows, but Lorelai didn't get the hint.
"What's going on up there?" Sookie demanded.
"Going on where, how?"
"Okay, look, I don't need all the details, but give me a hint. You and Sawyer have been in that room nonstop for two days. The staff is starting to get resentful of delivering room service to their boss. Your mystery Sawyer man - can you at least say where he's from?"
"Can't tell you that," Lorelai replied.
"Can't? Or won't?"
"You would never, ever believe me if I told you."
"So ... he's Santa Claus?"
"On a tropical island."
"Okay, okay," Sookie said, holding her hands up, "forget I asked. So tell me something else. Is he dangerous? is he someone to watch out for? Should we call the State Patrol? The FBI?"
Lorelai stared off into oblivion. "Okay, let's think. Dangerous? Yes. Definitely. He's got the potential for great violence. But don't call anyone - he's safe as a kitten."
"Purr purr," Sookie teased.
Again, Lorelai let an easy setup go by without responding. Something was definitely wrong with her.
"Okay, sleeping beauty, we need to do something to snap you out of this. Should I make up a pot of coffee? You look like you could use it."
Lorelai shook her head emphatically. Sookie's eyes nearly fell out of her head.
"You might have misheard me," Sookie said. "See, I said, 'Excuse me, Ms. Lorelai Gilmore, caffeine addict of legend and infamy, would you care for a cup of java?' And that's when you're supposed to say ..."
Again, Lorelai shook her head in the negative.
"But," Lorelai suddenly looked hopeful, "can you do one of those frozen things?"
"What frozen things? You want a daiquiri?"
"Okay, good. That narrows the choices down to liquids."
"You know. The thing with the ice and the strawberries and the weird powder that you get in those funny little juice bars in New Haven? You don't need to add any of the weird powders - I always suspected they were just like placebos or something, or else maybe mild hallucinogens - but ... you know, one of those?" She went into charade mode then: she gestured a blending motion with a whirling finger (adding blender sound effects that sounded like a car with starter trouble), then poured the imaginary blender's contents into an imaginary vessel, and then drank down the entire thing with a great flourish.
Sookie stared at her as if she'd grown a second head. "You want ... a smoothie?"
"Yeah. Sure. They're good for you, right? And it sounds ... kinda ... refreshing, I don't know."
Sawyer looked over to his window, irritated. "Aw, jumping Christ on a pogo stick..."
Shirtless and wearing blue jeans, he drew the shades on the window. A burst of gravel splashed against the window.
He peered out the window to see Hurley, another handful of gravel poised to throw, and Jin , who was sitting in the passenger's seat of the sitting in the driver's seat of the Dharma van. Jin seemed uncomfortable and kept looking around nervously.
"All right, already, Hugo!" He waved frantically at the window. "Cripes. I'll be right down."
As he reached for his shirt, he glanced at the Dragonfly Inn brochure that Kirk had given him. There was something on the back that he hadn't noticed before, drawn in the margins. It was a familiar spiderweb pattern, drawn by hand with a pencil.
"Dharma." Suddenly it all clicked. "Kirk's one of them. "
"Son of a bitch."
"Okay, so there's another group of people on the island."
"And they're evil."
"Yes, with a capitol E, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for evil too."
"So how do you know Sawyer isn't one of the evil ones?" Sookie asked.
"Because ... oh, come on. Evil people love telling people how evil they are. Didn't you ever watch a single James Bond movie?"
"All right, all right. So they're evil."
"Yes!" Lorelai shouted, exasperated. "They kept him in a cage! Hello?!"
"Ooh, that must have been something to see."
"I know, right?" said Lorelai, wiping smoothie from her lower lip with the back of her hand. "All hot... and sweaty... and dirty ... and half-naked, and trapped in a cage like an animal..."
"Mmmm hmm." She leaned against the counter to steady herself.
It was at precisely that moment that Sawyer called out from the reception desk. "Hey, Becky, you back there?"
"Who's Becky?" asked Sookie.
"Come on back," Lorelai called. Sawyer stepped tentatively into the kitchen.
She attempted to make introductions. "So ... this is my friend Sookie St. James. Sookie, Sawyer." Sawyer nodded to Sookie. Then Lorelai paused. "Well, James, I guess. Or do you want to stick with..."
"Sawyer's fine for now. Hey, ladies, I hate to spoil your fun, but I got work to do. We got an appointment with your pal Kirk."
"Oh, right now? What's the rush?"
Sawyer waved the brochure like a smoking gun. "He's Dharma."
"Dharma," Lorelai echoed, feeling a sudden chill.
Sookie looked a bit lost. "Who's Dharma?"
But Lorelai was already on the way out the door. "We'll tell you later. Gotta go." She pushed her glass into Sookie's hand. "Thanks for the smoothie!"
They stood outside his window. Lorelai looked nervous. A crumbled figure rested on the couch, knees apparently curled to its chest, a tattered afghan draped over the body.
"Well, we can't just bust in on them. Look, his mother's sitting right there on the couch! We'll look like a bunch of renegade DEA agents, and she'll have a heart attack or something."
"That's his ma?"
"Yeah, I think so," Lorelai said. "Never met her, but she lives with him."
"That's his ma," Sawyer repeated, unconvinced.
"Well, don't you see her there?"
He pressed his face up against the window. "What are you doing?!" Lorelai hissed.
"I hate to tell you, Becks, but that ain't nobody's mother on the couch."
Jin whispered something harshly, and pointed to the couch also. Sawyer looked at him and shook his head slowly. "Dummy."
"Dummy," repeated Jin in his halting English. "Dummy - dumb?"
"No," Sawyer explained. "Dummy, not real woman."
"Ah," Jin said. "Dummy."
Sawyer rapped on the window. A voice called out, "oh, please come back later! I just have to rest right now..." The voice faded at the end, sounding just like a frail older woman.
"See, she's exhausted! Just leave her..."
Sawyer cautiously turned the doorknob, which had been left open. He stepped in quietly. Then, the door still open, he rapped his knuckles on the outside of the door.
"Oh, goodness! " the same frail voice called out. "And me in my dressing gown! Please just leave it at the door - my son will get it later."
The voice seemed to be coming from behind the door, not from the body on the couch.
Then Sawyer pointed, silently, and they all looked at the tiny black speaker located just above the door. Wires extended from the door and window to an electronic console on the wall, which extended to the speaker.
"I think you rubes have been letting Kirk fool you for years now." Emboldened, he went to the couch and pulled the blankets off 'mother', revealing a long pillow shaped to resemble a human form. A grey wig at the top completed the image. Lorelai gasped.
"So, now, we go see what the kids are up to in mama's house."
They heard a faint noise and followed it to the basement door. The door was left open, and they listened for a moment.
"Like our other agents, Jess Mariano and Max Medina, you will be given an identity and a back story to explain your sudden arrival. Townspeople will be persuaded by various means to play along with your back story to lend authenticity, and then the rest will be up to you.
"If I may, let me offer one bit of advice. There are two paths you can take with this mission. The first is full assimilation - the 'melting pot' approach. That is difficult, because you will never, despite your best efforts, truly be a local. No matter how you try to fit in, you will always be a stranger to these people's eyes.
"The other path, which in my opinion is far easier, is the 'fifth wheel' approach. If you appear unusual from the start, a little off, a little quirky, there will be less questioning when you occasionally let your 'mask' slip, as will inevitably happen. It is far easier to play a stranger in a strange land then to suddenly arrive and become an instant part of the community. So don't try too hard to fit in. Better to stick out like a sore thumb. Plus, in my experience, it's more fun."
From the basement, they heard a series of clicks. Lorelai looked at Sawyer and pantomimed typing. Sawyer nodded.
"Hey, Lu, I'm parched. Can you grab me a Negra Modelo from upstairs?"
"Sure thing." They all scurried away from the doorway. As Lulu reached the top stair, Sawyer reached out expertly and swept her up, one hand over her mouth, the other arm clutching both of her arms against her body.
"We're not going to hurt you, but you are going to stay her until we've had a chat with your boyfriend. Comprende?"
Lulu nodded frantically, her eyes huge.
"Great. Go sit down over there, and my friend Jin is going to make sure you don't try anything foolish. And here's a tip from me - don't piss off Jin. He can kill you seven ways to Sunday before you make a sound."
She looked, horror-struck at Jin. He met her eyes and, after a moment, Jin nodded solemnly in agreement. She sat down on the couch and folded her shaking hands in her lap.
"Lu?" Kirk called up the stairs. A flying can of Diet Coke nearly took his nose off. It bounced ontothe floor and popped open, leaking brown liquid onto the carpet.
"Hey, hot stuff, you're outta beer." Sawyer chuckled as he came down the stairs. "But you know what they say - when you're outta beer, tough Schlitz."
"Did you wake up my mother..."
"Oh, come on, man," Sawyer laughted. "Your mother ain't any more convincing than Norman Bates. Didja think that ruse was gonna work forever?"
Kirk stifled a grin. "Well, it worked for twelve years."
"Well, that game is over. It's all over, Gilligan. All but the shouting." He methodically rolled up his sleeves. "Way I figure it, the quicker you tell me what the hell's going on here, the less screaming you'll be doing."
Kirk, surprisingly, took a seat. He gestured them toward the big green couch. "Sure, I'll tell you. I knew you'd be coming here, sooner or later. That's why I had this primed."
He pointed to a wardrobe on the far wall of the basement. "That's it. That's the magic box."
"What magic box?"
"In time, good sir." Kirk picked up the spitting Coke can and managed to pop the top open. He took a careful sip. "In time, I'll tell you everything you want know. As much as I can, anyway." Kirk shouted upstairs. "Hey there, whoever's holding Lulu hostage! Come on down. Please bring Lulu with you. You'll both want to hear this, too."
And then, slowly, he explained everything. He told them how he had always dreamed of being a CIA agent, but the night terrors that had plagued him prevented that dream from becoming a reality. Then, one day while he was in college, a man was standing outside his dormitory and took him to breakfast. He told Kirk about his agency, promised travel and adventure,and convinced Kirk to sign a long-term contract for his services. The pay was lucrative - preposterously so. He collected paychecks for four years before he was contacted for a job.
And then, one day, the agency technicians came to his house and installed his device. "I've gotten used to calling it the Wardrobe."
"What's it do?" Sawyer asked.
"Well, let me explain it this way. Do you know anything about quantum physics?"
Sawyer shot him a look.
So, Kirk began the world's worst primer on quantum physics. He lost them within moments. Then, he tried another tack, using the example of a tunnel through the center of the earth, and that just confused them further.
"Okay. You know how when you shine a flashlight into the night sky, the light has to go somewhere?"
"Sure," Hurley said. "The light seems to disappear, but it could theoretically travel in space all the way to the end of the universe, unless it gets pulled into a black hole or, you know, hits something that interrupts or refracts the beam."
"Right. Exactly. So ... oh, wait, that's the wrong principle." He thought for a long while as they all stared daggers at him.
Finally, he gave up and said, "it's just a transporter, all right? Like in Star Trek."
"Oh, dude, why didn't you just say so? Now I get it." Hurley turned to Jin. "Transporter. Like Star Trek."
Jin was already nodding. "Beam me up, Scotty."
"Yeah, there you go. Exactly."
"So ... the wardrobe isn't the transporter, is it?" Sawyer asked.
"No, it's all nested behind the wardrobe. All the controls are behind it."
"C.S. Lewis," said Lorelai.
Kirk smiled wryly. "I loved reading the Narnia books when I was a kid. I wanted my own wardrobe where I could go into another world. And then suddenly, this amazing device shows up on my doorstep. I took an old wardrobe I had in the basement, popped off the back, and fitted it onto the front. I used duct tape to seal it tight - they probably wouldn't have approved, but it's never gotten me into trouble yet. And so there you go. Only problem was, instead of witches and talking lions and fauns, I was going around the world like a glorified maintenance man. Even with my fancy transportation, I was just another flunky, punching a clock."
He was living two lives. On one hand, Dharma set him up with a new life in Stars Hollow, a beautiful house all to himself (and his fictional 'mother' - part of his cover story), money to burn, and free rein of the town. "I could do anything I wanted. Hell, I could have burned the gazebo down and they would have found a way to justify it. I was untouchable."
And the other life was the one he had dreamed of - traveling, via extraordinary means - to mystery locations all around the globe. Sometimes, he wondered whether he had even left the planet.
But the adventures started to sour. Stars Hollow became boring. The freedom of impunity turned stale, and he kept trying new and different things to amuse himself. He told his secret to one other local, Taylor Doose, who wielded his powers as Town Selectman to hook Kirk into new job after new job. He kept each job for a few days and dropped it, bored, for another ever-stranger job.
Meanwhile, the adventures he had been promised were turning into drudgery. At first, he was excited about going back and forth to the island and the other stations around the world, and the technology fascinated him. But then he realized that despite all his questions, they never told him exactly how the transporter worked. "I was a mushroom - they kept me in the dark and fed me ... well, you know."
And the exciting assignments - cryptozoology, staging psychological experiments, equipping the hatches, planning "accidents" and carefully staged acts of serendipity across the globe - turned into meaningless assignments. "I was scrubbing floors in people's houses. Once, I replaced thirty-seven light bulbs with lower-wattage bulbs in a house in Stockholm. No idea why. They never told me anything."
They all sat, enraptured, listening to the bizarre story unfold. Hurley noticed that Jin had been nodding and humming in agreement throughout the tale, and wondered what part of the story rang familiar to him.
"And then the uniforms came. The uniforms were the last straw."
One day, he received a large box from Dharma's courier service. He was convinced it was some great new piece of equipment, but instead it was a box full of beige coveralls with his name - and his new title, the first title he had ever known throughout his association with Dharma - stitched on the breast.
"Kirk. Work Man."
"I was just a goddamned janitor to them," Kirk snarled. "Pardon my French."
"And that's when I sorta snapped. Lorelai, you probably noticed something was wrong, since you were in town then. I'm sure it was pretty obvious that I was out of control."
Lorelai, who had no idea what Kirk was referring to, nodded vigorously. "Oh sure."
"For the rest of you, I'll fill you in," Kirk continued. "I started doing more and more dangerous stuff. I started messing with pyrotechnics. Electrical stuff that I hadn't been trained for. Dangerous work. I was kind of on a death trip. Remember when I drove Taylor's stupid car into Luke's diner?"
"Suicide attempt," Kirk shrugged. "I staged it to look like an accident, and I didn't expect to live through that. I was kinda hoping for a fireball - blaze of glory and all that. I left a note in my house spilling the beans on everything. I guess you're not supposed to use your seat belt or use your emergency brake for suicide attempts - should have thought about that at the time."
"Anyway, that was sorta my low point. I don't really think I've ever really recovered. I just ... I had such hopes. I thought I was an insider, one of the special ones. I was part of the Dharma Initiative! And then it turns out I'm just a workman."
Kirk grew silent for a long while. They watched him, as storm clouds crossed over his face. A tear trickled down one cheek, and his hands clenched and unclenched.
"I always loved science," he said, so quietly that he could barely be heard.
"Well, you got to see some amazing science," Lorelai suggested.
"To see it, sure. But they didn't ... trust ... me enough to explain it to me. Look." He threw a slim pamphlet at Lorelai. "Want to know how the Wardrobe operates - there you go! That's all they told me, anyway. How to turn it on, turn it off. They set the coordinates remotely, so I can't actually run it by myself. 'Cause I'm just a work man, after all," he seethed. "Why would they tell the work man anything important?!"
Lorelai thumbed through the book. "So you're supposed to be unconscious when you go through?"
"Yeah, that's one of the big warnings. Big no-no. That's why I keep the anesthesia around," he said, gesturing to the bulb device on the end table.
"So," Hurley asked carefully, "how do you, you know, run the thing when you're, like, asleep?"
"Oh, Lulu knows how to run the controls, too. She runs it when I have a job."
Hurley nodded. "Yeah, okay, that makes sense. But why unconscious? What's that all about?"
Kirk grimaced. "I tried to find out once. I ... um ... put someone else through it once while he was conscious."
Gasps all around. "Who?" Lorelai asked.
"There was this guy, a cable installer. His name was Mick, Nick, something. He came to my house. I offered him a thousand bucks on the spot, and he agreed to do it. I never should have done it."
"What happened?" Hurley asked.
"Well, he went in, and then a few seconds later, he came ... clawing his way out. He pulled himself out like he was stuck in a well. He was only in there a few seconds, but ... his hair was white. And his skin was ... old. He aged, like, a hundred years in that few seconds. And his eyes were ... have you ever seen a rabid dog?"
"Yeah, me neither. But I always think that that's what a rabid dog's eyes look like - all feral and untrusting and ... volatile. He didn't live very long." He looked at the floor. "I buried him in the backyard."
"I'm not proud of it."
"It's their fault! I put his death on their shoulders!" Spittle flew from his lower lip. "Their damn fault! They could have told me what they were doing ... what the dangers were. But they never tell me anything! It's infuriating! " He threw the Coke can down on the carpet, hard enough that it bounced off the carpet a foot in the air.
"They've got some of the most sophisticated science known to man, and they're giving me bupkis, nada, zilch! I'm like their janitor, when i should be ... I should ..."
"I deserve better than this. I deserve better. I deserve..."
At that moment, Kirk's eyes were empty as burned-out lightbulbs. He was angry - no, something beyond anger, something more and darker and more volatile. Sawyer recognized the look and he didn't like it, so he started talking.
"So, ah, Kirk. You were going back and forth to our island?"
"Sure, a few times. I helped set up a few things before your arrival. Cleaned out the hatch a time or two, kept it stocked."
"Plunged that toilet in the hatch once. That was fun, let me tell you. I don't know what you people eat over, but pee-ew."
Sawyer smirked. "So, in your travels, didja ever see me over there?"
"No, Sawyer. I never saw anyone. I showed up on the beach when everyone was in the woods, and vice versa. I was the man who wasn't there.
"I did plant a couple of things for you, though," Kirk smiled.
"Books," Sawyer repeated.
"I thought you'd, you know, appreciate the subtle irony of Stranger in a Strange Land. Maybe not."
"No, no! It was ... impressive. I liked it."
"Mmm," Kirk replied noncommittally. "And, oh, yes, I did plant the trap door to get you here. I didn't understand much about the technology, like I said, but I found another portal. I set it up in the field where you guys liked to drive around your little bus, and presto - as soon as you drove over it, you were brought here."
"Just like that," Sawyer mused.
"Yup, just like that. Well, there were a couple of other things. The clothes and the Hanso card were unexpected - I don't frankly know how or why that happened. A neat trick, to be sure. Wish I knew how it worked.
"You knew that guy Ben, right?"
"Ben?!" Hurley and Sawyer both looked stunned.
"I guess you do. Well, it's his portal. I'll bet that's one pissed off hombre, right now. And it's not really something you can send search parties for, because as soonas they find it, zip! They're missing too. Pretty funny, when you think about it." Kirk grinned in spite of himself.
"And I know Dharma's going to come get me for that," he continued. "I've made my preparations. I recorded a new orientation tape for the next person who comes here - assuming they send someone here. I don't know what they'll do next, but that's not exactly a new experience for me."
"And the transporter," Sawyer asked. "You can use it to send us back?"
"Well, sure," Kirk mutterred. "And I guess, karma-wise, it's my duty. It's my last Dharma job - sending you all back home. That's what you want, right? Back to your friends, your ..."
Sawyer hurriedly interrupted him. "Right. That's right. Home. Home sweet island."
Lorelai looked worried. Kirk switched knobs that the others couldn't see behind the wardrobe. They heard humming, and the shadow of a red light began flickering. A steady beeping began.
"Now, it's going to take about a minute to get ready. I'm ... I'm going to have to put you out."
"Is that so?" Sawyer asked.
"Yeah. Sorry. Rules of the game, my friend." Luke picked up the anesthetic bulb and made some adjustments to the canister. "I guess you can go first, and I'll send your friends after you."
"Well, okay, then." Sawyer dutifully sat in a chair and Kirk lowered the mask toward Sawyer's face. "It's been good to finally meet you," he whispered to Sawyer.
Sawyer mumbled something.
"Sorry, didn't catch that. I suppose it doesn't ..."
The mask lowered on Sawyer's face for a fraction of a second before his hand shot out, caught Kirk's wrist. "Sorry, bub. Not feeling sleepy." He cold-cocked Kirk with a vicious uppercut below the chin. Lorelai and Lulu gasped. Jin quickly took hold of Lulu's hands, and then realized she wasn't fighting to get free.
Lorelai walked to Kirk's prone body. Lightly, she kicked at him with her toe.
"Nice shot, slugger," Lorelai said.
Sawyer flexed his knuckles. "You know what they say, Becky. Practice makes perfect."
"I don't want to know who you've been practicing on."
"It ain't my favorite thing to practice, I'll tell you."
"Well, I'd ask what your favorite thing was, but I think I know."
"Oh, I think you do, too..." Sawyer purred.
"Hey, hey!" Hurley shouted. "Bystanders over here! Innocent bystanders!"
"Yeah, alright," Sawyer growled. "We've got work to do. Fun later, work now."
He nodded at Hurley and Jin. "Come on, guys, give me a hand here. Let's give Gilligan here a pleasant bon voyage."
He looked at Lulu. "Are you going to fight us on this?" he asked.
"Hell, no," Lulu snarled. "He didn't tell me half that stuff. He's been holding out on me all these years. You guys do whatever you have to do. I won't stand in your way." Jin released her then.
"All right, then." Jin and Sawyer dutifully grabbed Kirk's arms while Sawyer carried him by the legs, his hands under Kirk's knees. Lulu helped by grabbing his feet.
"Three!" They heaved, and Kirk flew, feet first, through the wardrobe, through the portal, and out of Stars Hollow.
They listened, and far off, a million miles away, they heard the sound of his body hitting the ground. Somewhere, he had landed.
"So what do you think? He back on the island?"
"Yeah, he's on the island," Lulu nodded. "There's a big padded thing out in the forest that he lands on, kinda like the padding that pole vaulters and high jumpers land on. That's what the sound was." She started reaching for controls. "I guess we can shut this thing, since none of you really want to go back. You don't want to go back there, do you?"
"Wait!" Jin shouted.
He took the anesthetic bulb and handed it to Lulu. "I ... have to go."
Hurley sighed deeply and shrugged to Jin. "I'm not going back, Jin. I ... I want to be back here in the world. I understand why you have to go back." Sawyer whispered in Lorelai's ear about Sun and the baby, and Lorelai nodded somberly.
"Yeah, sorry, buddy, but you're on your own here," Sawyer said. "I've got ... more on the ourside than back there. But I know why you have to go. Godspeed."
Jin said his goodbyes. Lulu lowered the mask to his face and within seconds, he was unconscious. They took more care lowering him into the Wardrobe, and winced when they heard the whump! as he landed.
"It's okay," Lulu assured them. "Lots of padding. He'll be absolutely fine."
She looked for a long time into the emptiness of the Wardrobe, and repeated the words softly. "He'll be fine."
They met again, a week later, in a coffeehouse in Woodbury. Hurley and Lulu came alone, but seemed grateful to see each other and embraced warmly. Lorelai and Sawyer were already seated when they arrived, sharing a plate of onion rings.
"Ooh. That one - the double one," Lorelai called, pointing to an enormous onion ring. "That's mine," Lorelai called.
"You want it so bad. Come and get it," teased Sawyer, swatting her hand playfully as she reached for it. Finally, he picked it up and fed it to her.
"Hey, Lulu, you look great!" Lorelai said, looking up. It was true. She was wearing the simplest of outfits - faded jeans, sneakers, and a snug plaid sweater - but she looked completely comfortable. She seemed at peace with herself.
"So you're not going to Luke's anymore?" she asked gently. Lorelai flashed her a look and the question went unanswered.
"Anyone hear anything from ... you know?" Lulu asked curiously.
"Nope," Sawyer drawled.
"Yeah, it's a doggone shame," Sawyer said, chewing on an onion ring. "I guess the head honchos at Dharma weren't too fond of him using their fancy transporter without permission, so they didn't see fit to let him back off the island. Jack's probably put him to work fetchin' firewood or some such thing."
"Or else he's working for the Others," Hurley offered.
"Or else he's polar bear meat," Lorelai suggested.
"Now there's a cheerful thought," Lulu said quietly. She looked around furtively for a waiter.
"So what are you gonna do now?" Hurley asked Sawyer. "Just gonna settle down in Stars Hollow, or what?"
"Well, if Becky Thatcher here lets me, I'd like to stick around," he said, winking at Lorelai. It's a cute little town. It's got its charms to it," Sawyer smiled, squeezing her thigh under the table.
"And I hear they're looking for a town selectman. I reckon they could put up with a blowhard like Taylor as long as they did, a reformed con man might just stand a chance."
"Reformed," Lorelai repeated, and looked insistently at him. "You're out of the business, right? No more cons."
"No, darling," he answered respectfully. He raised three fingers in a Boy Scout salute. "No more cons. This time, I've got all my cards on the table. I've even got the flyers printed up and ready to do, when the time is right." He pulled a piece of paper from his back pocket and unfolded it. In bold, patriotic print, the flyer bore a simple message.
"Vote for James Ford - Town Selectman.
It's Time to Start Over."
It's Time to Start Over."