Episode 1120

Eternal Shadows: The Enchantment

by: M. J. Cogburn 


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Finding himself back in Hope Springs, Virginia, Sam leaps into several people only to find out that Paige Ilene Arlyss has been trying to crack a virus that landed on her computer.  As her interest in the virus continued, Sam as Isaac Lane took her to Project Liberty.  Upon reviewing the project, Sam has come to the realization that General Hawkins has stolen his project out from under him – even going as far as using Ziggy as his own parallel-hybrid computer and a few members of his family against him.  Sam even finds out that General Hawkins has programmed Ziggy to lie. 


As Sam continues to search for the reason that he’s leaped into Hope Springs, startling new twists and turns happen at both projects.




Hope Springs, Virginia

February 13, 2006

7:50 P.M.


Sam frowned.  He wasn’t sure what the answer would be, but he decided to go with his gut.  “Of course, I was serious about it.  It… it wasn’t particularly a great way to ask you out on a date.  Let me rectify that.”  Pausing, Sam licked his lips.  As a grin spread out over his face, he asked, “Paige, would you go with me to the dance?”


Paige hesitated not sure if going to the dance was such a good thing or not.  She had been going out with Darryl a little over a year and she didn’t want to go to a school function and have the other teenagers begin to talk about how she was rebounding with the first person who had asked her on a date.  She lightly bit at her bottom lip as she looked down at her floor.  She licked her lips.  She had been the one to bring back up the conversation that he had initiated.  She knew that it wouldn’t be fair to him to have him re-ask only to shoot him down. 


Noticing that she wasn’t answering as quickly as he wanted, Sam said, “It’s just a dance, Paige.  It’s not like it’s the end of the world.”


Paige smiled on the other end of the phone.  “I know, it’s just….”


Sam nodded his head almost knowing exactly what she was thinking.  “Afraid of what others will think?” he asked thankful that Shepherd had left some of his memories behind.  “I mean Darryl wasn’t secretive about what happened on Friday.”


Paige sighed.  “I know he wasn’t.”  She paused for a second. “You’re right.”


“I am?”  Sam asked slightly frowning.


“He is a hypocritical ass,” she said simply.  Clearing her throat slightly, Paige smiled. “So, when are you going to pick me up?”


Sam couldn’t help but grin at her words.  “When would you like me to pick you up?”


“Seven o’clock?” she asked.


“I’ll be there.”






“Thanks… for everything,” Paige said sincerely.



Project Quantum Leap

Stallions Gate, New Mexico

February 13, 2006

7:50 P.M.


Tina’s face fell.  “When was this?”


“The leap in was at seven fifteen and it seems that the final leap out was at seven forty.”


“Wait.  What do you mean final?”


“I mean, Tina, that there was more than one.  There were three.  Three leaps in and three leaps out of the project and none of them were Sam.  We’ve had a breach, Tina.”


Tina shook her head not believing what Sammy Jo was saying.  “But, Ziggy would have like warned us, wouldn’t she?”


Sammy Jo began to nod then took in a deep breath.  “I would hope so.”  Licking her lips in disdain, Sammy Jo rubbed at her chin thoughtfully.  “Why didn’t she?” she wondered aloud then turned her head when she saw Dominic Lofton entering into the Control Room.  “Dominic – we have a problem.”


“Do we ever,” Dominic agreed with her.  “We need to re-route Ziggy’s systems through Al’s DOD Umbra Clearance Number.”


“What?” Sammy Jo and Tina said together. 


“You heard me,” Dominic said as he clapped his hands together and rubbed them experimentally.  “So, we better get busy.”


“Wait a minute, Dom,” Sammy Jo said as she caught him by the arm.  “Not only did Sam just leap, but we have bigger fish to fry at the minute.  We just had unauthorized leapers on base.  Three people have leaped in and then leaped out within a twenty-five minute span.”


“What?” he asked incredulously.


“That’s right.  Ziggy’s recorded the quantum signatures but she didn’t even announce that it happened.  What’s going on with Ziggy?” 


Dominic sighed, not happy that he had to let everything spill about what had happened over a few months ago, about the stuff that was now biting him on the butt with a vengeance.  “We need to call an emergency staff meeting.”


“Like why?” Tina asked quizzically.


“I think that everyone needs to be in on what’s going down now,” Dominic said.  Looking up at the ceiling, Dominic asked, “Ziggy?”


“Yes, Dominic?” Ziggy purred back at the head programmer.


“Please call an emergency meeting for all senior staff in the conference room at…” Dominic paused as he glanced down at his watch, “… eight o’clock.”


Without responding directly to the head programmer, Ziggy made the announcement.



Elsewhere in the Complex


"I gave you an order, Admiral Calavicci," Hawkins snapped, his eyes darkening as he glared at his adversary.  "And since I have presidential authority, you'd do well to do as you're told and keep your mouth shut!" He stared, unblinking, at the other man.  "I trust I was clear enough, Admiral?"


Al wanted to tell the man exactly what he thought of him, how atrocious it was that he had used an emblem of liberty and equality to kill members of his staff, and how he just wanted the pretentious ass out of his project ASAP.  The only thing that stopped him was exactly what General Hawkins had just said – ‘presidential authority’.  “Perfectly clear,” Al said.  With one last look at the whole situation to place it in his memory, he turned and left the room.


As Al marched down the hallway, his whole body shook from the intensity of the emotions that were flowing throughout his body.  Hawkins had literally stepped off into it now and demanding him to keep it off record – it was just too much for Admiral Albert Calavicci to swallow.  He heard the chime that rang throughout the complex that announced that Sam had yet leaped again, but he couldn’t do anything until after he had taken care of the problem that Hawkins had just created in Gooshie’s office.  He even heard Ziggy tell him that General Hawkins had left the building.  “Good riddance,” Al said to himself as he stalked into his office and slammed the door.


Picking up the phone, Albert Calavicci called the head medical unit to let them know that two corpses would be coming down.   He then called the next highest-ranking military security officer under him and explained what had happened in short measure.  “Yeah, you heard me.  Off the record.”


“But Al…”


“It’s Hawkins’ order, dammit,” Al growled into the phone. 


“Screw Hawkins’ order,” Daniel Fulton snapped back, letting Al know point blank how he felt about General Hawkins. 


“Dammit, Dan. These are in essence presidential orders.  Just… get it done.”


There was a sigh on the other end of the phone.  “You know that I will, Al.  Let me get this straight though.  The men were Henderson and Stend?”




“Bullshit.  That’s it pure and simple.  Not only were they clean of everything in their background… they barely spoke to anyone.  They couldn’t harm a fly, Al.”




“All senior staff report to the conference room at eight o’clock for an emergency meeting,” Ziggy’s voice announced throughout the complex.


“Listen, Dan, I don’t know what’s going on.  We’ll talk more after the meeting, all right?”


“You got it, Al,” Daniel Fulton paused then said, “Al?”


“Yeah?” Al said as he stood up from his chair as he readied himself to toss down the phone and walk out of his office.


“You know that I’m behind you one hundred and twenty percent, right?”


“Yeah, Dan.  I know.  See you in a minute.”


Without waiting for a response, Al hung up the phone and started out the door.  “I wonder who called the meeting,” he mused as he headed toward the conference room.


Somewhere in the British Isles

7:50 PM


Finding himself back in the Accelerator Chamber, the leaper shook his head slightly again to rid himself of the dizziness.  Even as he readied himself to be hauled away to a holding cell because of what he had done to the highest and most respected in the complex, he thought about what he had seen on the computer.  It didn’t make any sense - none of it.  According to the archives in the computer on Project Quantum Leap, this complex shouldn’t even be here.  How in the hell does that make sense?’ he thought to himself as he glanced around the room to see the two people who had leaped after him lying on the floor of the Accelerator Chamber.  Moving to them, he knelt to look down at them.


Staring down at the bitch that was known throughout the complex as one not to tangle with and her partner, a man who could seduce any woman with just a thought, he realized they were both dead.  Not only dead, but also smoldering from the impact wound that he had caused them.  Peering closely at the wound marks, he blinked, still not believing that what he had killed hadn’t even been human, but cyborgs.  Running his hand over his mouth, he shook his head.  That could explain how everyone had thought that they were real and why they were dead according to the records at Project Quantum Leap. 


A voice, soft and silken yet distinctly masculine filled the Accelerator Chamber, enveloping the still slightly dizzy leaper’s senses.  As the speaker expected, it was the familiar tone more than the words that told him he had the leaper's undivided attention.  "We need to talk... now."


The kneeling leaper slowly stood up, swallowing, then with a lick of his lips, nodded his head.  “Yes, sir.”  Looking back at the destroyed cyborgs, he took a deep breath and started toward Central Control.





Stallions Gate, New Mexico

Project Quantum Leap

8:01 PM


Al opened the door to the conference room and was surprised when he realized that he was the last one to enter.  He frowned as he glanced at the personnel in the room.  It was rare – hell, impossible at times to get them all in the room at one time, yet somehow they had not only beaten him to the table, but were all looking at him expectantly.  His defenses immediately going up, one of Al’s eyebrows lifted and he looked at each of them warily. 


“What?” he asked as he turned slightly to look at the door hoping that they were staring at someone who had entered behind him.  Not seeing anyone, Al turned back to the group looking at him anxiously. 


“You’ve been keeping something from us.  There are things happening at this complex that doesn’t make a bit of sense and it’s coming back to bite you in the ass, Al.  What’s going on?”


It was Sammy Jo that began in investigation and Al was a bit surprised at her blunt scrutiny.  Settling down into a chair, he held each one of their gazes before he opened his mouth to begin to tell the senior staff exactly what had been happening around the complex.


Between setting the background of what had happened with J.T. and reiterating about how General Hawkins had presidential authority, it took him a full thirty minutes to get around to every bit of information that he had acquired within the last couple of days.  The expressions on the senior staff told Al that he had been successful in his interpretation of the events.  The emotions ranged from astonishment, to awe, to anger then back to awe--mixed with anger.  As Al pointed out that General Hawkins had all but forced the information from Dom, Sammy Jo jumped up away from the table and began to pace, her anger quick and hot.  Al turned to look at Dom, who was not only frustrated with the situation he had put himself in, but he looked terribly uncomfortable and guilt stricken. 


“I know how you feel, Sammy.”


“You have no idea what I’m feeling, Al!” Sammy Jo exclaimed as she turned to him before sending a baleful heated glare to Dominic Lofton.  “He could have…”






“We all know what could have happened,” Al responded under her heated gaze.  “It didn’t.”  He watched as she shook her head with an exasperated sigh and continued to pace back and forth.


Al’s gaze went individually to the others in the room.  Donna and Beth both looked empathic and angry.  Just a look into their eyes told him that between those two women, General Hawkins wouldn’t want to meet them in a dark alley at the moment.  Next to them, Verbena sat scribbling furiously on a piece of paper.  Al almost snickered at the thought that struck him.  She looked ready to put any and all of them on a couch and talk to them about what was mentally challenging them at the moment.  Next to the empty seat was Daniel Fulton.  Daniel was watching his fiancé walking the floor, his own body language telling Al exactly how tense he was from what was happening around him.  Lightly shaking his head, he turned to look at Tina, who was lightly running her hand over her face, looking more or less put out from the whole ordeal.  Next to Tina sat Aurora Lofton.  She wasn’t happy with any of the news either; however, she was looking quite happy to jump down anyone’s throat that might come toward her husband.   


Knowing that he had only told them half of what he really knew, he debated himself for a moment on telling them the rest of the complications that surrounded the project and the leap.  Knowing that he couldn’t sweep it under the rug, Al went on to explain everything else he had learned from the leap as well as the new information surrounding Hawkins.  “As of this moment, you now know everything that I know regarding General Hawkins and the leap thus far.”


Sammy Jo immediately stopped pacing at his final words and faced him, a look of astonishment on her face.  “Then, you don’t know about the breach.”


“What?  What breach?” Al questioned as his eyes shot not only at Sammy Jo, but also to his head security officer sitting at the other end of the conference table.


Sammy Jo made her way back over to her chair and sat down beside her fiancé once again.  She licked her lips then took a deep breath.  “Daniel didn’t know about it and I wouldn’t have known about it either, if I hadn’t been at the computer when it happened.  Around 7:15, Ziggy’s program recorded the quantum signature spikes.  Maybe ten minutes passed then another spike and a third in less than five minutes.  Then she recorded the signatures leaping out at ten-minute increments later, the last one leaving at 7:40.  It wasn’t Dad.  Ziggy is as tight lipped as she can be.  I don’t understand why she wouldn’t tell us that this had occurred.”


Al took in a deep breath as he slumped in his chair.  Everything was starting to come down on him in almost insurmountable increments.  He ran his hand over his cheek and leaned against it before he looked at his senior staff again, one at a time.  “Anything else I need to know about?”


“We need to re-route all essential commands through your DOD Umbra Clearance Number,” Dominic said softly, knowing that just his thought was going to send the Admiral into another higher orbit.


“Why?” Al asked knowing that he shouldn’t have asked a question like that to such a computer-literate person who would probably answer in a way that would shoot over his head.  He reached up and pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to rid himself of the frustration that was surrounding him.  All I want to do is get Sam home.  That’s all.  Home.  Why?  Why can’t it be that easy?’ he wondered to himself as he tried to focus his attention on the head programmer.


“So that we can get some straight answers from Ziggy,” Dominic said simply.


“How long is that going to take?” Al asked, knowing that he needed to get to Sam to see who he had leaped into and at least give him a little bit of support by just being there. 


“Some time,” Dominic said as he shrugged his shoulders, not sure of how long it would take.


Al sighed.  “Great,” he muttered as he leaned his head back against the chair, wishing that he had a cigar with him.


“So… we have the go ahead?” Dom asked.


“No,” Al replied, then added, “Not until we’re sure about why Sam’s there to begin with.”  Seeing the look on the other man’s face, Al shook his head.  “I just want to be able to understand why he hasn’t been able to stay still in this leap.  I mean, yes, it’s the same place, the same town… but he just can’t seem to stay in one person’s body long enough to get anything done, or at least to figure out what he needs to do.”


For a long moment, the room was silent as every staff member began to think over Al’s conundrum.  As each person leaned back in their chair, their eyes fixed in various places of the room, Al looked at each one of them knowing that he probably had asked a question that couldn’t be solved.  In the moments where Sam had leaped into the same place a variety of times, even when it didn’t make sense at the time, the most logical conclusion would come to light after the leap was over. 


A movement caught Al’s attention and his gaze focused on Sammy Jo.  She had been sitting slightly cocked to one side in her chair, a frown on her face.  Slowly though, the frown left and her body slowly sat up and she began nodding her head.  Al knew that she was on track of an answer and it was obviously making sense to her.   She licked her lips then fingered them lightly before she slightly shook her head and chuckled.  “Sammy?”


“You know, Al, one of these days, when you have a question about that, you could just ask one of us and it would reduce some of your stress.”


Al frowned.  “Sammy Jo, what are you…”


“I know why Dad has leaped into Hope Springs so often.  It’s rather simple actually.”


“Then will you please explain it before my brain melts?”


Sammy Jo couldn’t help but smile.  “Okay,” she said shaking her head.  “Put your brain on the back burner and just listen.”  For a moment, Sammy Jo’s eyes raised toward the ceiling as she thought about how she wanted to express herself.  Rubbing her thumb over her fingers, she licked at her lips then leaned forward.  “When Dad first leaped into Hope Springs, Virginia, he leaped into Shepherd Jameson – an eighteen year old who had a telephone conversation with Paige Arlyss, right?”


Al bobbed his head up and down.  “Yes, that’s right.  They were talking about how she was going to crack the virus that was sent to her computer.”


Sammy Jo smiled back at his words.  “You even said that Dad had told her that cracking the code – on anything – was illegal.”


“Yes, but what does that…”


Sammy Jo held her hand up to stop him before he started.  “While all of this was happening – unbeknownst to us, General Hawkins was implementing Ziggy’s counterpart in Hope Springs – this Omega.  The reason why Dad was unable to do anything as Shepherd Jameson is because he was bounced out.”


As the words spilled out from Sammy Jo’s mouth, Al glanced around the room to see the rest of the programmers sit up with interest; each of them seeming to feed off of the other.


Tina was picking up the trail of the idea herself, her hand turning over slightly from an excited pointing in Sammy Jo's direction as she spoke, "They tried to like, test run their new equipment…"


Dominic suddenly sat up a bit straighter.  “Which in turn created a pocket effect – a bubble which popped him into the next…”


“Person.  Right! The next person that could possibly stop Paige from doing something illegal, that being Officer Lorraine McPherson,” Sammy Jo finished Dominic’s thought.


“So, in essence,” Beth said as she picked up on the others frame of mind, “they tried once again to start the mainframe – this Omega replica of Ziggy – and it popped Sam back out of time again to land into Isaac Lane – Paige’s father and then he could have stopped her?” she questioned wanting to make sure she was following their thought patterns correctly.


“Exactly!” Sammy Jo exclaimed with a grin plastered on her face satisfied that they had been thinking along the same lines.


“But even as Isaac Lane,” Verbena began as the realization came to her, “he wasn’t able to stop her.  I mean, Sam took her to Project Liberty and even helped this virus to get there.  So, maybe this was supposed to happen.”


“That might be the case,” Donna said thoughtfully.  “What if he wasn’t there to stop Paige?  What if it was for something simpler… like… oh, I don’t know… uhm…”


“Making sure that she didn’t cheat on a test?” Daniel Fulton suggested, unable to come up with anything else that wasn’t too outlandish for a teenager to have in their life to overcome.


“Or maybe, to stop her from meeting up with that guy that dropped her like a cold fish?” Aurora offered.


As other thoughts began to float about the room that made more sense, Al shook his head.  He couldn’t believe what he was hearing as his eyes darted to the people making suggestions as quickly as the thoughts came to them. 


Leaning back slightly in his chair, he propped his head in his hand and kept watching the way that the team worked as a well oiled machine – finishing each other’s thoughts and ideas – seemingly one step ahead.  Seeing the way that they worked so well together, even in the worst of times, he couldn’t help but think, ‘So, this is why Sam wanted each and every one of them.’  Hearing the more animated thoughts beginning to emerge from the group as well as a couple of giggles with the idiocy of how it sounded once spoken, Al smiled to himself.  Wanting to get them back on target, he cleared his throat.  “Okay.  We have some thoughts.  Let’s weed through them and see which ones seem the most logical.”



Hope Springs, Virginia

February 13, 2006


Dr. Sam Beckett leaned back over to the radio and turned it on.  Adjusting the volume, Sam settled back on the pillow as he listened to the light music playing on the radio.  The music seemed to have changed from the beaty music that Shepherd had been listening to earlier to more mellow love songs as people began calling in to the radio station to have the D.J. play their songs during the Valentine season.


Blinking as he began to mouth some of the words to the songs, he thought about the last couple of leaps into Hope Springs.  He shook his head as he considered what he had learned at Project Liberty.  His hands balled into fists as he thought about General Hawkins.  The man had no sense of right and wrong.  Stealing from one project to make another was even more than Sam could contemplate.  Sam’s hand came up from the bed and slammed back down beside him making only a muffled thump.


“Where are you, Al?” he questioned softly.  “I know that you can’t give me much, but at least you could give me something to work with… tell me what’s going on at the complex.  Something.”


Sam brought his hands up to his face and rubbed at both of his eyes for a moment before he turned his head to look at the computer sitting on the desk.  What if I do the wrong thing?’ he wondered as he sat up on the bed, licked his lips then ran his teeth over his lips. 


Following his instincts, he moved to the computer and sat down behind it only to pull up Shepherd’s email program.  He glanced at the messages that were listed on his computer.  Emails from various friends came up but one in particular caught his attention just by the subject header.  It read:  You can’t be serious’.


Curiosity on part of the Quantum Leaper made him open up the email that was dated for Wednesday, February 8, 2006 and he couldn’t help but grin at the person who had sent the email.  It read:


My God, man… have you lost your ever loving mind?  Do you want to have a brain left after she tells Darryl what you tell her?


If you want to be her friend… go for it.  But… don’t mess it up with those three words, dude.


Ok.  Look, I’m not trying to pop your gum for you, but Shep, think.  Do you honestly think that telling her that you love her will help?  It’s not going to make her drop Darryl for you. 


Think, Shep, think.


Don’t put your heart in the way – at least not until she’s not dating Darryl.  After what I heard Michelle telling me, it’s going to happen soon enough.  Just… just chill out.


>  Mike, I'm not sure exactly why I picked you to tell this to, but I have to tell 

>    somebody.

>  Every time I see Paige… every time I'm around her… I want to tell her about how 

>  much I love her. 


>  It’s not fair.  I want to tell PIA how I feel about her…


>  Shep


Sam sat back in the chair, shook his head and closed his eyes.  This leap was only giving him a headache.  Now, he had to deal with the emotions and hormones of a teenager who loved the girl that he couldn’t have as well as deal with Project Liberty, a rampant virus that had some information on file about him, and whatever was going on back at the project that was keeping Al from him.  “Al,” he called the holograms name softly.  “Where are you?”



Stallions Gate, New Mexico

Project Quantum Leap

February 13, 2005

10:57 P.M.


Al wasn’t sure exactly how long they had sat in the conference room until he glanced down at his watch to see that it was nearly eleven o’clock.  He grimaced as he thought about how he should have gone to see how Sam was doing. 


Beth saw the frown cross over her husband’s face and she went to his side.  “Al, honey, what’s wrong?”


“I meant to go check on Sam.  He’s been there in Hope Springs for over three hours.”


Beth softly rubbed Al’s back and smiled.  “He’s fine, Al.  Ziggy would have told you if he were in trouble.”


Al’s dark puppy dog brown eyes turned to his wife and he searched her face intently.  “Would she Beth?”


Beth wanted to answer that Ziggy would, but with the way that the parallel-hybrid computer was acting, she couldn’t answer him with a hundred percent certainty.  “If you’re worried about him, Al, go check up on him.”


Knowing that his wife was right, Al kissed her tenderly.  He touched her cheek affectionately, then turned and caught Dominic’s attention from across the room.  Motioning him over, Al clapped his hand on Dom’s shoulder and informed him, “Let’s fire up the Imaging Chamber.  I just want to check on Sam.”


Within five minutes, Al was standing in the bedroom of Shepherd Jameson.  He took a couple of steps toward the bed to see Sam sleeping peacefully, a piece of paper lying by his side.  Frowning, Al moved to where he could look down at the words on the paper, noticing that the time traveler had written what was there.  He read the words on the paper and his mouth opened in surprise. 




To borrow a line from a song:  ‘I’ve got something to tell you that I just can’t say so I’m writing it down…’ 


Ever since we met some eight years ago, all I have ever wanted to do was just be near you, Paige – to be a part of your life.  I know that this may sound clichéd to you, but… I feel that you are my destiny.  This could be my chance for the first time in eight years to get to tell you just how much I care, and  I don’t want to miss that chance. 


I know that you’ve just broken up with Darryl and that it’s not the best time in the world to let you know how I feel, but if I don’t get it out now, if I don’t let you know… how will I know if I missed something that was supposed to be to begin with?    Somewhere in the middle of all the years of friendship, I’ve fallen in love with you.  I’ve wanted to tell you so many times, but it never seemed to be the right time.  But now, it does feel like the right time.


I’m not asking for your love in return, PIA.  I am asking for a chance to show you.  If it doesn’t work… then it wasn’t meant to be.  But what if it does?


                                                                                  With love,



Al shook his head as he looked down at his buddy.  Some serious psychosynergizing had emerged from Shepherd’s mind intermingling with Sam’s.  Glancing back down at the paper, Al said softly, “Don’t worry buddy, we’ll get this all fixed.  You’ll see.”





Hope Springs, Virginia

February 14, 2006

7:00 A.M.


Dr. Samuel Beckett, Quantum Physicist crawled out of bed.  Going over to the closet, he pulled out a pair of blue jeans; a red t-shirt and a black and white patterned plaid button up shirt.  Looking for a belt, Sam came up empty handed, until he found a pair of suspenders.  Getting dressed, he looked at himself in the mirror, the ensemble of the red shirt and the buttoned up shirt only half way buttoned and tucked in, he thought he looked decent.  Pulling on a pair of sneakers, he headed out of the room.


As he walked down the hallway, he popped the last suspender into place, and yawned as he peered into the living room.  Every knickknack was portrayed in a way that anyone who entered into the room could see it plainly.  As he stepped into the kitchen nook, he heard voices from the other room.


“Oh, if Jessica calls me, tell her that I’ll be at the office late tonight.”


“David, first of all, I’m not your answering service any more than I’m Shepherd’s, and second of all, either a Hailey or a Holly called you last night,” a familiar voice caught Sam’s attention.  He backed up and leaned to look at the two people sitting at the table, eating already.  One of them, he recognized – Millicent.


“So which was it?  Hailey or Holly?”


A tut came back in response.  “I don’t know.  I can’t keep up with your girlfriends.”


The two looked up as Sam approached them. “Oh… don’t you look interesting,” Millicent said giving him a look.


Sam glanced down at his outfit, wondering if he needed to change.  He slowly took off the suspenders and the plaid shirt and put them over the back end of the chair he had pulled out at the table.  “Maybe I shouldn’t try to dress in the dark,” he said with a grin. 


“That might help,” Millicent said as she stood up as her parents came into the room.


Sam yawned yet again as he sat down then grabbed a grapefruit and cut it half on his plate.  He looked up as Mr. Jameson goosed Mrs. Jameson and he shook his head good-naturedly.


“Good morning,” Mrs. Jameson chirped as she went around the teens at the table and kissed each of them on the cheek.  After kissing Sam, she leaned back and winked at her husband before she leaned slightly forward and asked, “Isn’t tonight the night of the big date?  The dance?” she asked as she rubbed his shoulders.


Taking a bite of the grapefruit, Sam looked up at Shepherd’s mother.  Swallowing the fruit, he answered, “Yes, ma’am, it is.”


“I really like her, Shep.  Paige is such a sweet girl.  I’m glad that you two are finally hitting it off.”


Sam licked at his lips.  “She doesn’t know,” he said simply seeing the way that Mrs. Jameson slightly frowned. 


“Are you going to tell her?” she asked.


Sam nodded.  “When the time is right… hopefully tonight.”


Millicent looked at her mother, then at Sam.  “I hope you do.  It’s better than some guys stringing girls along,” she said as she slid a glance at David.


“What?” David looked back at Millicent mystified.


Millicent rolled her eyes with a small shake of her head.  “It’s official.  You’re hopeless.”



Hope Springs, Virginia

Project Liberty

February 14, 2006

8:30 A.M.


General Hawkins stood in the doorway of his office sipping his coffee as he thought about what he had learned at Project Quantum Leap as well as from attaining the virus from Paige Arlyss that held detailed information about Dr. Sam Beckett.  Scratching his nose, Hawkins leaned against the doorframe as he looked out into the Control Room to see Lexia Stafford stretch out again over the mainframe to get something, her skirt coming up higher and revealing more of her thigh.  Being the normal healthy man that he was, General Hawkins licked his lips almost hungrily, letting his eyes rove over the woman’s body; he shook his head slightly only to duck back into his office when he heard the telephone ring.


Moving to his desk, he plopped himself down in his chair then picked up the phone.  “Hawkins.”


“General Hawkins, this is Dr. Milo Hasselein.”


Even though the man wasn’t in the room with him, General Hawkins sat up a bit straighter as he listened to the man on the other end of the phone.  “Yes, sir,” he said respectfully.  “What can I do for you, sir?”


“I know that you are dealing with putting together this new project, but I came across some information today that you need to know about.  I just wanted to inform you that there has been evidence of someone hacking into and tampering with FBI, CIA and Pentagon Files.  The ISP source is encrypted so no one can pinpoint the place of origin or who has done it.  If you suspect anyone or know anything that could or might be the cause of this, I want a personal report on my desk ASAP.” 


“Yes, sir,” General Hawkins said plainly.  “Not a problem, sir.”


“Should I be expecting a report from you, General?”  Milo asked a bit menacingly.  He wasn’t happy that this had happened under his watch and he wasn’t about to have any of his employees acting like he wasn’t going to personally kick some butt and take names.


“No, sir.  Not at the moment, sir.  I don’t know of any tampering from this end, sir.” 


Hearing a grunt of approval, Milo Hasselein dropped his receiver back onto the phone and let the dial tone inform the General that he wasn’t going to talk to him anymore.


General Hawkins sat back in his chair and screwed up his mouth before he took another sip of his coffee.  “A hacker …” Standing up and taking his coffee mug with him, he walked out of his office and headed to the conference room.  Passing Lexia Stafford, he nodded to the leggy, attractive blonde then walked into the conference room to see the small laptop still open on the conference table.  Going to it, he sat down and pulled it toward him.  Seeing the screen come to life, General Hawkins pulled up a search on one name: Sam Beckett.


Several files came up located in the temp folder where they had been downloaded and he opened them up.  Although this virus had downloaded itself into the project, he just wanted to make sure that he hadn’t just lied to Dr. Hasselein.  That was the last thing that he needed to happen.  He had barely pushed the return key when the door of the conference room opened and Lexia Stafford stepped in. 


“General Hawkins,” she said as she entered into the room and started toward him.  “Is there a problem?  I… I saw you come in here.  I thought that the download had finished last night.”


“It had,” he said as he turned back to the computer before him.


“Oh.  Do you need any help with anything?” she asked with a grin as she came to his side.  “I’m a whiz with computers.”


General Hawkins’ eyes narrowed slightly at her as he thought for a moment.  “Yes, Ms. Stafford.  I require your assistance.”


Lexia pulled up the chair beside him and watched as General Hawkins slid the computer in front of her.  Smiling slightly at him, she placed her slender fingers on the keys and looked at him expectantly.  “Exactly what do you need to look at, General?”


General Hawkins’ tongue roamed over his front teeth for a moment as he looked at the laptop.  “Well, this virus that we have obtained, it downloaded information about Project Quantum Leap and Dr. Sam Beckett.  I want to see what it pulled up.”


Lexia nodded her head then pulled up a new search with the parameters specified.  A moment later, a list of the files that had been added was displayed.  “Is there something specific that you were looking for, sir?”  She read down the list as he did and then she pointed to the file labeled ‘Project Blue Book’.  Pulling it up, she read aloud, “‘Dr. Hardin, an investigator with Project Blue book used sodium pentathol to see if Maxwell Stoddard was telling the truth about seeing aliens.  It was then that Dr. Hardin told of how Mr. Stoddard claimed to be Dr. Samuel Beckett.’”  Lexia shook her head then turned to General Hawkins.  “I’m sorry, sir,” she said as she went back to the previous screen.  “Was there a specific instance that you wanted to read?”


“Not exactly,” Hawkins replied.  “I was just checking to make sure that it had done what it was supposed to do.”


Lexia smiled at him.  “I’m sure that it did exactly what it was supposed to do, General.  Most programs are more proficient than human beings.  They just follow the code and conduct themselves in the manner in which they were programmed.”  She paused and tilted her head slightly to the side, “Are you worried about something, General?”


“No… not really.  I… I just wanted to make sure that the files that it downloaded were all available to get to and you just proved to me that they are.  Thank you, Ms. Stafford,” Hawkins replied, placing his hand on her shoulder.  “Keep up the good work,” he said as he stood up and started toward the door.


Lexia’s eyebrow rose slightly as she stood before she glanced back down at the laptop, smiled then headed for the door herself.



Hope Springs, Virginia

February 14, 2006


As he ate his breakfast of grapefruit and cereal, Sam listened and chuckled over the way Shepherd’s family interacted.  When he was finished, he excused himself, got Shep’s backpack and headed out the door, whistling softly and jingling the keys to Shep’s truck.  He had just gotten into the truck and put the key into the ignition when he heard the familiar sound of the Imaging Chamber door-opening close by.  He looked out his window, saw nothing then turned his head to look out the passenger side window and immediately jumped at the sight of the Observer standing in the seat beside him.  Giving the hologram an annoyed glare, Sam started the truck and put it into gear to back out of the driveway.  “Where have you been?” he asked as he shifted gears and headed down the quiet street.


“And a bright, cheery ‘good morning’ to you, too,” Al came back, not even remotely put off by Sam’s attitude.  Truth be told, he preferred Sam’s vaguely annoyed attitude to the evolving ‘stew’ of problems approaching a full boil back at the Project.  Glancing around the changing scenery, Al asked, “Where are we going?”


“I,” Sam emphasized as he turned at the corner, “am on my way to school.  If you want to be helpful, try finding out what Shepherd’s class schedule is so at least I’ll look like I know where I’m going once I get there.”

“Aw, Sam, don’t get all melodramatic.  You always look like you know where you’re going.”  Al began to pull up the information that Ziggy had on Shepherd Jameson then turned to his buddy once more.  “Listen, I’m sorry that I didn’t come sooner.  We were… hell, we still are having problems with Ziggy as well as other personnel.”


“What?” Sam questioned still a bit miffed at his observer.  “Did we get another chip from Egypt that’s interfering with Ziggy’s normal operations or is it more than that?”


Al shot a look at Sam as he whacked the side of the handlink to make sure that it wasn’t getting caught on a piece of data that it was downloading.  “No.  We are mainly having problems with Hawkins.”


Sam made a face as he pulled into the parking lot of Hope Springs High School.  After parking the truck, he turned to look at Al.  “Do you have that schedule?”


“Oh yeah,” Al turned the handlink to Sam to show him the data there. 


“Thanks,” Sam said, and then started to exit the truck.


“You gonna give it to her?” Al questioned as he licked his lips.


Sam stopped in his tracks then turned back to look at Al.  “What?” he asked, more than a little surprised that Al knew anything about the letter he had written to Paige last night.


“Are you going to give her the letter?”  Al asked as he took a few steps toward Sam. 


Sam reached into his back pocket, then pulled out the folded piece of paper and looked at it, his teeth running over his bottom lip.  “I don’t know,” he said simply, his whole body language saying that he was shy and insecure.  “I … I love her.”  Sam turned and looked back at the school before him.  “I don’t think that I can take that kind of rejection.”




Without another word, Sam looked at the letter in his hand, and shook his head.  Putting the letter back into his back pocket, he turned then headed toward the entrance of the school.



“Sam?” Al called out as he hurried up to him.  “You don’t love her!  Shepherd Jameson does.”  Seeing that his words were falling on deaf ears, Al stopped and watched the leaper hurry into the school to go to his classes.


Opening up the Imaging Chamber once again, Al walked back into Control Room as he looked up at Ziggy’s blue orb sparkling above him.  “Ziggy?”


“Yes, Admiral Calavicci?”


Al looked around at the other Project personnel standing at his side before he pursed his lips and asked, “Want to give any abstract analysis as to why Sam is now acting like Shepherd Jameson?”


“That question cannot be answered, Admiral Calavicci.”


Al shot a look back up to the parallel-hybrid computer.  “Why?”


“The answer is close in relation to many others.”  Ziggy paused in her thought then gave examples of what she meant.  “Why is a tear shed?  Why does the heart love?  If you can answer any of these, you might be able to answer the question you gave me.”


Al didn’t like that answer and he shook his head slightly as he turned to look at Sammy Jo and Tina.  “I’ve got some paperwork to finish up.  Let me know if there’s any change.”


“Yes sir,” Sammy Jo said with a smile as she watched the Admiral continue out of the Control Room. 



As the day progressed for Sam, he kept mostly to himself, hearing the teens gossiping about the dance; who was going with whom and even found out the latest news about Darryl McDaniel and his new girlfriend.  He had thought that he would have seen Paige at some time during the day, but hadn’t.  He wasn’t sure if it was because she was deliberately staying out of reach or not.  By the time he got back home, he went directly to his computer and pulled up his email program, hoping that maybe she had sent him something through there.  There wasn’t one waiting for him.  Turning on the radio, he plopped down on the bed as he heard the last part of a song he remembered: 


My darling dear, love you all the time
I'm just a fool, a fool in love, with you.


Reaching over and turning off the radio with a growl, Sam stood up, grabbed at a robe that was hung up over the end of the bed and started toward the bathroom, muttering, “Why can’t they quit throwing it at me? Huh?”





Hope Springs, Virginia

6:45 P.M.


The Imaging Chamber door opened and Al walked into Hope Springs, Virginia to see Sam sitting in the Toyota truck that was out in front of the Lanes’ house.  Al frowned as he went to Sam and looked at his buddy fidgeting in the truck.  “Sam?”  When he didn’t get a response, Al lightly cursed then watched as Sam got out of the truck and started up the walk toward the house.  “What… he’s nervous?” he asked amazed as he watched Sam standing in front of the door running his hand nervously through his hair, then trying to knock out any wrinkles in the dark blue suit he had on before he knocked on the door.


The door opened a moment later, showing Isaac Lane beaming.  “Shepherd, come on in.” 


“Thank you, sir,” Sam said respectfully then entered into the house. 


Even as the door closed, Al slipped in and tried again to make contact with Sam.  “You aren’t nervous are you, Sam?”


“Let me go see if she’s ready, Shep.”


Sam nodded his head as he watched Isaac Lane walk upstairs to go get his stepdaughter before he looked down at his loafers.  He couldn’t understand why he was so nervous.  It was just a date, wasn’t it?  ‘It’s just a date,’ he told himself.  Shifting slightly, he looked up as he heard a door close.  Seeing Dianne Lane standing before him, one of her hands slightly behind her back, he grinned at her, remembering how she had tried to get him into her bed when he had leaped into Isaac Lane.




“Mrs. Lane,” he said simply then slightly turned his head to Al to let him know that he had heard him.

“Oh good, you can hear me.  I… I… oh S-sam…” Al said as his eyes drifted up to the top of the stairs at the same time that Sam’s eyes found the young woman who seemed to be floating down the stairs.


Dressed in a satiny baby blue tea-length strapless dress, her hair in soft ringlets framing her face, Paige Arlyss descended the stairs with a smile on her lips.  As she was met at the bottom of the stairs, she smiled brighter when Sam just looked at her for a moment, amazed.


"Y-you're beautiful," he said awe-struck.


“That’s an understatement,” Al said softly.


Paige, for once, was momentarily tongue-tied, a situation brought on by not only Shepard's compliment but also by his appearance.  It was the first time she had ever seen him in something other than jeans and a T-shirt.


"You ought to dress up more often," she finally said, reaching to fiddle with the one of the lapels of his dark blue suit then smoothing it down his chest.


Behind them, still standing on the stairs, Isaac Lane watched the teenagers, and smiled.  Watching them brought back memories of the first time he had asked a girl to a dance and went through the same ritual of picking her up.  When he reached his wife, he leaned in a bit toward her, whispering, “Where’s the camera?”


"Right here," she whispered back, showing him the small digital camera she’d hidden behind her back.  "Oh," she whispered, patting his shoulder. "He's giving her the corsage. This is the time." She picked up the camera and inched closer to the couple in front of her.


Paige had heard her parents whispering and glanced around to see her mother, wearing a grin and with the camera in hand.  She rolled her eyes, pausing as Shepherd was handing her a clear plastic, ribbon-tied box with a delicate pink rose corsage in it.  "Mom.... is that really necessary?”


“Yes,” Al responded with a grin.  “Just smile and take the picture.”


Isaac just grinned, chuckling softly as he shook his head lovingly at his stepdaughter.  "Of course it is, honey.  She’s your mother, and mothers are famous for wanting milestone pictures of their children."  Glancing at Shepard, it struck Isaac that there was an understanding in the boy's eyes that seemed oddly more mature than he was used to seeing.


Sam smiled as he looked at Isaac Lane then opened the small box that he had brought with him.  "My mom did the same thing," he admitted then picked up the delicate pink corsage.  "I wasn't sure what kind of dress you'd have, so I got a wrist corsage."  Seeing her smile again, he held it out for her then slid it onto her wrist when she presented her right hand to him.  Then turning her slightly toward her mother, he said, "Just smile, let your mom make a memory, find out your curfew, then we can go."


Paige nodded with a shake of her head then turned to face her mother, letting her mother take the pictures that she wanted.  Once the session was over, Sam turned his attention to Isaac.  "When shall I have her home, sir?" he asked more than respectfully.


"Since it is a school night..."


“Eleven o’clock,” Al said plainly.  “No later, young man,” he added as he shook his finger at Sam who slightly rolled his eyes at his observer.


"Dad," Paige grumbled not believing how her father was acting.


"Eleven o'clock."


Paige's shoulders slightly dropped at the curfew time.  Sam nodded his head understandingly.  "Yes, sir," he responded then put his hand on the small of Paige's back to usher her toward the door.  "Shall we?" he asked with a smile.


Sam wasn't surprised when Isaac and Dianne followed him and Paige out the front door to watch as he escorted her down the steps.  He brushed aside the thought about the vast differences in their ages – it didn't matter. All of them, Paige, Isaac and Dianne all saw him as an eighteen year old boy, and for the evening, that's how he was going to behave. 


After helping Paige get into Shepherd's small Toyota pickup truck, taking care that the hem of her dress wouldn't get caught in the door when he shut it, he closed the door firmly. As he started around to get in the driver's side, he glanced back to the house and waved to her still watching parents.  "I'll have her home at eleven," he called out.


Even Al was standing beside the couple on the porch, rocking back and forth on his heels, his hands in his pockets.  “You’re doing good, Sam!” he shouted.  “Keep up the good work!  I’ll meet you at the dance!”


Giving Al a nod and a smile, Sam got in beside Paige, then paused a moment to look over at her. "You ready for this?"  Smiling and nodding at her affirmative reply, Sam then put the key in the ignition and started the engine.


The drive to the school was brief, and Sam was glad that the weather seemed to be cooperating in this leap.  Virginia, in the springtime, he seemed to vaguely recall, could be chilly, but tonight it was almost balmy.


Arriving at the school, he saw where a large number of other vehicles were parked, as well as several couples making their way toward the open doors that marked the entrance to where the dance was being held.


Opening the passenger's side door, Sam offered his hand to Paige, grasping her hand gently as she stepped out.  After a minute or two of making sure that she had her purse and her dress wasn’t caught in the door, Sam watched Paige take a deep breath then lick her lips uneasily.  Paige glanced up at him at that moment and Sam saw the insecurity in her eyes in the glow from the security light that flooded the parking lot.


"Nervous?" he asked softly.


"It's my first dance. And... and I..."


"Mine, too," Sam said. It wasn't a lie. It was his first dance at Hope Springs High School. "But what's there to be nervous about?" He asked as he deftly turned toward the direction everyone else was headed. "We see these kids every day at school."


"That's the point, Shep," Paige said as she placed her hand on his arm to stop him from moving away from her.  "They were here on Friday when Darryl broke up with me... and here it is... Valentine's Day....” Paige's voice cracked somewhat and she shook her head.  "I'm... I'm being stupid."


"No, you're not," Sam replied.  "Let's just go in together and have a good time.  You'll see.  It won't be bad.  Just... relax and have some fun."


Paige looked down, ran her teeth over her bottom lip then looked up at the stars above them.  Taking a step toward him, she rose up on her tiptoes and pressed her lips against his in a simple kiss then stepped back from him.  "Thank you, Shepherd."


Sam felt a funny feeling the moment that her lips touched his.  He felt as if something had shot through him and his heart almost seemed to skip a beat in time.  He looked down into her face for a moment and understood exactly what Shepherd had written in the note that was in his back pocket.  He wasn’t sure when he would give the handwritten letter to her, but he knew that it was going to be tonight.  Looking down slightly to hide the embarrassment that seemed to come over him, Sam met her eyes then said, “We came to a dance.  Might as well go in and have a good time, don’t you think?”


Accepting the smile as her answer, Sam put his hand on the small of her back and guided her across the parking lot.  Nodding respectfully to the two chaperones that were monitoring the couples entering the school, Sam allowed her to lead the way to the gymnasium that had been transformed into an enchanted undersea realm.


Sparkling blue and white streamers were hanging all over the walls, with decorations of fish and sea urchins all over them. To the side next to the tables that held the punch was a statue of Poseidon with his trident in hand, casting his acceptance of the proceedings around him.  A band was up on stage, playing a song that Sam had never heard before and he grinned as he saw the banner up behind them that read in blue words, “The Enchantment Under The Sea” with pictures of fish with tridents over them.


Sam continued to look around the room at the decorations then found Al shaking his groove thing near Poseidon.  Chuckling slightly, he turned Paige toward the punch bowl.  As they moved to the table, Paige suddenly stopped, her back becoming rigid, her smile fading at the sight of the couple at the table before them.


Darryl McDaniel, Paige’s ex-boyfriend, stood dressed in a dark suit, his arm encircling the teen standing beside him.   


Even as Al came over toward the stopped pair, his gaze went to the couple ahead of them and he stopped swaying his hips to the music.  “Uh oh.  This isn’t going to be pretty.  Maybe you should turn her away, Sam.”


Sam shook his head negatively as he looked down at her.  “What do you want to do?” he queried softly.


Paige swallowed, thankful that he was beside her, and then straightened her shoulders before she turned her head slightly to him.  “I’m thirsty,” she said then pressed forward to move toward the punch bowl.


Coming to stand beside her ex-boyfriend, Paige picked up the dipper and was about to pour herself a glass when Sam stepped up beside her.  “Let me,” Sam said softly.


Paige nodded then moved slightly, only to bump into Daniel.  “Excuse me,” she said as her eyes came up to meet up with the one that had at one point in her life, held her attention more than any other. 


“Paige,” Daniel said as he looked at her from head to toe.  “You… wow… you look beautiful,” he said tenderly.  A soft punch on his arm reminded him of his date and he licked his lips slightly.  “You… you know Phoebe Daniels, don’t you?”


Paige looked over at the young lady at his side who now had her arm around his waist.  “Yes, I do,” Paige said simply, giving the girl a terse smile.


“So far so good, Sam,” Al said as he watched the interaction between the couple.


Sam had listened to the conversation between the two of them so far and was pleased that neither had said anything that was disconcerting to the other.  Stepping up into the midst of the threesome with a drink for Paige and one for himself, Sam cleared his throat.  “Daniel, good to see you.  Here you go, Paige.  Your drink.”  He watched as she took the small tumbler from him and he let his left arm snake around her waist somewhat protectively.


“Sam… what are you doing?” Al asked.  “You don’t want to start anything here.  Not now.”


Sam had heard exactly what Al had said but couldn’t help but look down at Paige for a moment.  “I’m the luckiest guy here,” he said tenderly, seeing Paige smiling up at him before he looked up to see Daniel frowning at him.  Turning to her once more, he said, “Come on, let’s go find a spot to put our stuff down while it’s not too crowded.”  Moving her away from the scowling ex- boyfriend, Sam motioned to the corner where they could set down their drinks.   


“You know, you didn’t have to do that,” she said gratefully. 


“And let you flop around like a fish out of water?  No.  No one should ever have to do that, Paige.  Especially not you,” he said tenderly.


Paige gave his shoulder a slight push as she blushed at his words.  “Oh go on.”


Sam thought about the handwritten letter that was burning in his back pocket and opened his mouth to say something to her about it when the loudspeaker closest to them came to life with a squeal.  “All right, gentlemen, if you haven’t already submitted your name to be named the King of Hearts, then you need to put your name in the box within the next five minutes.  After that point in time, the drawing will end.  Remember, if you are drawn to be King of Hearts, you must pick a queen.  It can be anyone within Poseidon’s realm and you will rule for the remainder of the evening.  Once again, you have five minutes.”


“Have you entered, Shep?”  Seeing his negative response, Paige turned him and gave him a slight push toward the right direction.  “Go enter in that drawing.  If anyone deserves to be King of Hearts… it would be you.  You have a heart of gold.”


Sam looked skeptical about what he was about to sign up for, but he didn’t want to ruin her evening for her.  If she wanted him to put in his name, he was going to do just that.





Hope Springs, Virginia

Project Liberty


The day had progressed slowly but steadily inside the complex levels that housed the new parallel-hybrid computer now codenamed Omega.  Nate Adams, one of the programming technicians under Lexia Stafford was ready for a much-needed break from his encoding session with the immense intricate computer system. Every time he tried to take a break, Omega would indicate another hitch in her central processing unit.


“Mr. Adams,” the pleasant-sounding even-keeled voice pronounced almost seductively.


“What?” Nate demanded as he stood up from where he had been kneeling.


“There is another anomaly in Sector Thirty-Two.”


“I just finished checking over that Sector, Omega.  There is nothing wrong with it.  Everything is working as it should.”


“The variance has re-occurred,” the parallel-hybrid computer was obstinate.


Nate sighed before he knelt down yet again to open the section once again.  Peering intently into the section of multiple cables and conduits, Nate sighed.  “Where?” he asked, looking at the mix master of wires once again.


“The main line into conduit number four,” Omega responded.


Nate took out his tools and plugged into the conduit and ran a diagnostic. The analytical response came back negative.  “Omega, you must be dreaming.  There is nothing wrong with conduit number four.  Re-run the diagnostic.”


It only took a moment for Omega to run the self-test.  “The anomaly is still present, Nate.”


Nate turned his head to look up at the sparkling orb in the middle of the room, his eyes wide as he realized that Omega had called him by his first name for the first time.  “Omega, I don’t understand why you are experiencing any problems.  There is nothing there.”


“You are mistaken,” Omega replied.


“Is there a problem?” a female voice queried, making Nate turn his head quickly to the woman dressed in a short mini-skirt who was standing just behind him. 


Tracing his eyes up her body to meet her eyes, Nate slowly stood up and shook his head.  “Omega is claiming an anomaly malfunction in conduit number four and there is nothing there.  Everything is working normally as far as my equipment is saying.”


Lexia slightly smiled.  “So you keep looking – finding nothing and the two of you are arguing back and forth.  Cute.”


“No, I’m not arguing with Omega.  Perhaps a re-boot…”


“No,” Lexia said quickly looking up at the ceiling to see how Omega’s orb had taken to that data.  “Omega, explain the glitch.”


Lexia listened intently as Omega spouted out the precise information about the anomaly.  Nodding her head as she listened, Lexia met Nate’s gaze before she responded with, “All right.  Now, re-route over it.  If Nate has already checked it, and there’s nothing there then, it must be a shadow on the inside of the conduit.  Ignore it.”


Omega went silent for a moment then registered, “It is done.”


“Are we going to have a problem with this again, Omega?” Lexia asked as she looked up at the orb slightly above her.




Lexia met Nate’s gaze and a small appreciative smile appeared on Nate’s face before he turned to Omega once more.  “Run another system wide diagnostic to check for any other questionable material.”


A moment passed before Omega said, “Diagnostic complete.  There isn’t any other debatable material found in the subsystem.”


“Very well,” Lexia said as she stepped up to Nate.  Smirking, she winked at him then said, “Sometimes you just need to know how to talk to the old girl.  Come on; let’s go get something to eat.  You’ve been busy for the last four hours and you need a break.” 


The two programmers left the Control Center and for a few moments, the room was quiet.  Suddenly though, an electrical hum inside the room grew until a thin snakelike form of electricity sparked along the edge of the orb.  It traveled along the surface of the sphere before it slowly left the surface to travel along the ceiling and down one wall as it sought out the object of its fancy.  Having found an electrical outlet, it went into it and immediately began to grow in strength.  As it seemed to gather power as well as knowledge, the twinkle inside the sphere seemed to grow to an intense flash of reds, blacks, and purples.


As the elevator door chimed its arrival to the Control Room, the electrical extension vanished and the intense flashes of multicolored hues slowly began to dissipate.  As General Hawkins stepped into the room, his eyes immediately went to the orb seeing the colors slightly changing.  “Omega?”


“Yes, General Hawkins?”


“Everything okay?” he asked warily.


A smile could almost be heard in the parallel-hybrid’s response.  “Just fine, General.  My parameters have been growing by… leaps and bounds.  Thank you for asking.  Your… concern is touching.”


Hawkins frowned, shook his head then continued on his way to his office. 


After a few moments, the same snakelike electrical river once more made its way back to the outlet as soft words floated down around the room, “Now… where was I?”



Hope Springs High School

7:30 P.M.


Paige smiled up at Sam as the slow song they had danced to ended.  “You know, just because you brought me doesn’t mean that you can’t dance with someone else.”


Sam half shrugged.  “I know,” he said then thought about what she had said.  He hoped that he hadn’t said the wrong thing to her at some point already tonight.  He just wanted her to have fun.  “You know, if you want to dance with someone else, too, you won’t hurt my feelings.”


Paige searched his face for a long moment.  “You’re sure?”


Sam nodded.  “Sure.”  It was a lie.  Although his voice was lighthearted, his heart was crushed as he saw her face brighten.  Sam watched as she turned and started toward the other side of the gymnasium, his heart coming up in his throat.  “Great,” he muttered.


“Where’s she going?” Al asked curiously.


Sam shrugged.  “I don’t think that she feels the same way that I feel about her.”


“You mean Shepherd,” Al corrected him.


“Yeah,” Sam said softly as he finally lost her in the crowd.  He sighed as he looked down at his shoes for a moment.  “How am I going to tell her?” he murmured to himself as he felt his back pocket to make sure that the folded paper was still in place.  Sam turned to Al then heard someone pop their hand on the microphone as the band ended their song.


“May I have your attention, please?” An older man with a dark blue suit on said as he held the microphone up to his mouth for the full effect of getting his voice heard above the talking of the crowd. “We are now ready to draw the name of the King of the Enchantment Under The Sea Dance.  Once he is crowned, the King may have his choice of any woman in the realm….”


“His choice?  Oooo,” Al said warmly as he glanced over a couple of the young ladies standing by.  “I could pick a choice here or there,” he murmured.


“It only seemed fitting to let the Queen of Hearts from last year pick the name from the jar for this year.  Phoebe Daniels, will you please make your way up to the stage?”


A squeal of delight came, making all eyes turn to the young woman whom Darryl McDaniel had brought to the dance.  Sam grimaced when he saw Paige standing not too far from Darryl, watching as he kissed Phoebe then patted her on the butt to make her go toward the stage.


Sam continued to watch as Paige slowly moved to stand beside Darryl, her eyes fixed on her ex-boyfriend.  He sighed, turned and started toward the door; his head hanging low until he heard a cheer then felt someone clap him on the back.


“All right, Shep!” the young man announced and Sam turned to look at him with a frown.


“What?” Sam asked concerned as to what was going on around him.


“You’re the King!  Go on.  Go up on stage and get crowned.”


Turning back around to look at the stage, Sam blinked then heard the balding man say, “Come on, Mr. Jameson!  I know that I saw you here earlier.”


Sam somewhat grinned as he made his way up to the stage.  As he climbed the steps, Al popped in beside him with a cheesy grin plastered on his face.  “Katie would be so proud, Sam.”


Sam chuckled lightly as he felt Phoebe Daniels place the small crown on the top of his head, kiss his cheek, then hand him the trident that proved that he was the new King.  As Sam let the Trident fall onto one elbow as he turned to face the crowd of teenagers before him, he couldn’t help but feeling as if he had done something like this before.  What it was, he wasn’t sure of at the moment, but he knew that whatever it was, Katie would have been proud of him anyway.


As Sam glanced out over the crowded gymnasium, he saw several girls staring at him, looking him up and down like he was a piece of prime rib.  He blushed as several of the girls winked at him as they tried to get his attention so that they could be the next Queen.


“So, who’s the lucky gal who will be your Queen?” the balding man asked with a smile as he held out a single red rose for Shepherd to present to his queen.  “Would you like to call her by name or ask her yourself?” the announcer shifted the microphone to him and waited patiently for the stunned young man to make his mind up.


Seeing the microphone directly in front of him, Sam glanced at the announcer then said, “I… I want to ask her myself.  Excuse me,” he stated as he turned away from the announcer and started off the stage.


“You heard it, ladies.  Shepherd, go find your queen.”


Sam made it down to the gymnasium floor and smiled at several of the ladies that seemed to meet him down there with a smile plastered on their faces.  Trying not to be rude to them, the moved past them and searched out the section where he and Paige had put their cups.  Not seeing her there, he turned back around to look toward the table where the punch bowl was and saw her standing at Darryl’s side, talking to him.


Everything inside of him told him to hand off the trident to someone else, but the leaper inside of him told him that this was what he was sent to do from the first moment that he had leaped into Shepherd Jameson a day or so ago.  Pressing through the crowd, he came up to the pair as Darryl shook his head and turned slightly away from her. 


“Paige,” he said tenderly.


Paige turned her attention to him and she noticed the crown, the trident and smiled warmly.  “You’re the King?”  Seeing him nod, she glanced back over at Darryl and frowned before it somewhat dawned on her what was happening.  Sam slowly held out the single solitary rose that had been given to him on the stage.  “Shep… no… you don’t want…”


Raising his hand to her lips to stop her from saying anything else, Sam licked at his lips nervously then reached behind him and pulled out the folded letter from his back pocket.  “Before you decide anything, read this,” he said softly as he held it out to her.


Paige took the paper from him and frowned curiously at it as she began to unfold it.  Her attention went to Shepherd, Darryl, the others in the gymnasium who were waiting impatiently for her answer then looked to the letter in her hands and began to read.  As she read, her mouth slowly opened and tears instantly began to swim in her eyes.  “Ohh Shep,” she said softly.  A trembling hand rose up to her lips as she noticed that Shepherd had sank to one knee.


“Ohh Sam… that’s really good,” Al remarked.


Sam shot him a quick glance, letting his observer know that he heard him, licked his lips then said, “Will you give me that chance?  Let me treat you like the queen that you really are.”


As a tear slid down her cheek, Paige smiled at him, and then nodded her head.  As he stood, Paige asked, “Why didn’t you ever tell me?”


Sam took her into his arms and held her close to him, his mind rushing to several different thoughts before he leaned back to look at her as cheers and ‘awws’ rang through the crowd.  “It never was the right time,” he said simply.


As the announcer told everyone that the next slow dance was dedicated to the new King and Queen, Sam slowly walked Paige out to the middle of the gymnasium.  As he began to sway to the song with Paige in his arms, he began to feel the beginnings of the leap begin to stir inside of him.  Knowing that he didn’t have a lot of time left, Sam leaned back to look at her for a moment then said, “I love you, PIA.”


As another tear slid down her cheek, Paige smiled up at him. “I really wish you had told me some time ago,” she said softly, “because, I love you too.”


Sam genuinely smiled at her as he felt the leap well up inside of him about to whisk him away to another life.  Taking his last breath as Shepherd Jameson, Sam said, “Just remember who said it first,” then leaned down to brush his lips against hers before he leaped.



A Special Thanks to Eleiece Krawiec, and Jennie Rowland for their assistance with editing and being bouncing boards.

More special thanks to Damon Sugameli and Greg Carey for keeping their mouths shut!  *grin*

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