Episode 1202
Flirting With Disaster

February 18, 1990
Atlanta International Raceway, Atlanta, GA.


Sam leaps into racing legend Frank Strickland, with the apparent mission of preventing a fatal accident on the racetrack. Will Sam be able to save himself from repeating the future?

Written By:

Erik Dreiling

Theorizing that one could time-travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett led an elite group of scientists into the desert to develop a top-secret project known as Quantum Leap.  Pressured to prove his theories or lose funding, Dr. Beckett prematurely stepped into the Project Accelerator…and vanished.


He awoke to find himself in the past, suffering from partial amnesia and facing a mirror image that was not his own.  Fortunately, contact with his own time was maintained through brainwave transmissions with Al, the Project Observer, who appeared in the form of a hologram that only Dr. Beckett can see and hear.


As evil and neutral forces alike do their best to stop Dr. Beckett’s journey, his children, Dr. Samantha Josephine Fulton and Stephen Beckett, continuously strive to retrieve their time-lost father and bring him home permanently.  Despite returning home several times over the last decade, Dr. Beckett has remained lost in the time stream…his final fate no longer certain.


Trapped in the past and driven by an unknown force, Dr. Beckett struggles to accept his destiny as he continues to find himself leaping from life to life, putting things right that once went wrong with the hopes that his next leap…will be the final leap home.



          “Go low!” a voice had shouted loudly into his ear. Sam jerked back in his seat as the voice was followed by a loud burst of static, causing him to wince. With his ears ringing, he found himself behind the steering wheel of a vehicle that was traveling awfully fast, too fast for his liking. The road was curving sharply to the left as he clutched the steering wheel, all the while holding his breath. When the road straightened out he glanced upwards at the rear view mirror and caught a glimpse of a red and white car quickly closing in on him.

What the hell,’ he thought to himself as he tried to make sense of what was transpiring. Sam noticed that he was wearing a helmet with a thick black visor. Might have he been able to clearly see, Sam would have noticed the red and white colored car quickly closing in on him, and within a moment riding his bumper. The car lightly bumped into his, causing the rear of Sam’s car to sway. Sam yelled as he fought to regain control of the car.

        “Go low, Frank!”

        Sam furrowed his brow just as the car gave him another light bump. Sam glanced at the mirror and saw the car starting to move downwards towards the left and then began to pass him.

        “Damn it, Frank, watch him!”

        Without giving it a second thought Sam up shifted, causing the gears to grind. He then jerked the wheel to the left. The car shot downward and clipped the car behind him, causing both to spin wildly out of control as he clung to the wheel for dear life.

        “Oooooooohhhh boooooooyyyy!”





February 18, 1990


        Sam kept his eyes shut as the vehicle continued to spin. He didn’t pay much attention to the voice that kept bursting through the waves of static. After what seemed like an eternity the car violently came to a stop, throwing Sam hard towards the dash, however at nearly the same time his body was jerked backwards and into the seat. When he was able to regain his composure, Sam slowly looked around.

The first thing he noticed was that the front end of his car was close enough to the windshield to where it appeared to stand upward. He fumbled with the belt that had saved his life, searching for any buckles or clips. After a couple moments he heard a soft click and his belt fell onto his lap. The driver side door didn’t open, he noticed as he moved to open it. Taking down the black safety net he climbed through the window. The sound of cars speeding by caught his attention as he peeled off his helmet, getting a much better look of his surroundings. Sam could obviously see where he was.

        Sounds of people cheering thundered through out the racetrack as a loud voice boomed over the PA system. “Final lap of the race is under caution!” The rest of what the announcer was saying was lost to Sam as he concentrated more at what was taking place. The remaining cars on the field were lined two abreast and moving at a much slower speed, Sam noticed as he squinted against the brightness of the sun across the track. He then noticed a wrecked car positioned in the far left corner grassy center of the track, with a plume of smoke pouring from the engine. He then observed that he too was also on the grassy center however his vehicle was more towards the center of the grassy area, leaving behind it two heavy sets of tire tracks that tore into the grass. The front end of his car was totaled as smoke poured out from its engine. He shook his head just as the tow trucks came onto the scene. When they were close enough they started to hitch up Sam’s car as the other hitched up the second car. Sam was soon escorted off the track. Behind him he noticed that the other victim of the wreck was following suit.

        Within a couple minutes Sam was brought before a team of medics, whom immediately began to lead him into an ambulance. “Where are you taking me?” he asked.

One of the medics looked up at him strangely.  “To the medical center, Frank.” Shaking his head he added, “That must have been one hell of a hit you took.”

Sam said nothing as he climbed into the awaiting ambulance. He watched the medics slam the doors shut as the ambulance made its way towards the on site medical center. Sam took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Through the small windows on the back doors of the ambulance Sam stared ahead, watching the track behind him as the medics began to what????

        After an hour of examinations the doctor was convinced that Sam was in good enough shape to return to the garage. When he arrived an older looking gentleman, whom did not appear to be in a bright mood, met him. He wore a baseball cap with ‘Murdock Racing’ emblazoned on its front. “What the hell was that out there?” He waved a hand at the pile of twisted scrap metal, which was once a stock car. When Sam said nothing he shook his head and said in a slightly quieter tone, “Roberts told you to go low. Masters was coming up on you. We could’ve had this one, Frank. Last lap of the race…” He then looked at the vehicle. Furrowing his brow he asked, “By the way where the hell is Masters? Wasn’t he right behind you?” Sam shrugged.

        “I’m not quite sure.” Which wasn’t entirely a lie; Sam didn’t know who this Masters was, but he then assumed that he was the other man involved in the wreck.

        “He’s probably still at the medical center. I’ll give them a call. I’ll speak with you later. I still need to load the cars on the carriers before we head out.”

As Sam made his way towards the other end of the garage another voice filled the garage, a voice that only Sam could hear.

“Hiya, Sam.” Sam spun around and was met with the smiling face of the admiral. Al took a short drag on cigar before continuing. He looked around, smiling as if he were a child in a candy shop. “Oh man do I love this sport,” he said as he walked around Sam. Sam was about to respond when Al said, “Do you have any idea who you leaped into?”

“Funny you should ask,” Sam said sarcastically. Al ignored it as he then gave Sam the basic information.

“You’re Frank Strickland.”


Al looked offended. “Sam, Francis Strickland is a seven time Winston Cup champion, earning his last championship in ’88. His career spanned from 1966 to 1990. Racing fans see him as a legend.” Sam chuckled as Al went on to recount Frank Strickland’s outstanding career. “Strickland is the only driver in the history of NASCAR to win the Rookie of the Year award and the series’ championship consecutively. He was the all-time race winner at Daytona International Speedway, with twenty-six wins in three different divisions. Strickland is a four-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association's Driver of the Year award. Not to mention, Sam, that Strickland was a two time winner of the American Driver of the Year award.” Motioning towards the wrecked stock car he added, “You really didn’t do his reputation any justice out there.” Sam let out an exasperated sigh.

“Just give me the where, when and why.”

“Okay, okay. You’re in Florida, at the Daytona 500 to be exact. It’s February 18, 1990.” Al paused as he solemnly looked up at his friend. “Sam, next week, during the final lap of the race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, Frank Strickland dies.” Sam narrowed his eyes as Al spoke. “I remember it ‘cause I was watching that race on TV. He was coming around the last turn and he was about to win when an accident occurred. Twelve cars were involved in the wreck. Strickland hit the wall doing 180 miles per hour.” Al shook his head. “He didn’t survive. The harness that was in his car had snapped and threw him forward. Race officials claimed that his death was due to faulty equipment. Sam, before each race, every car is inspected to properly insure the safety of the drivers. Somehow the harness in Strickland’s car wasn’t properly checked.”

“So, all I have to do,” Sam said after he thought for a moment, “is make sure that the officials thoroughly check Strickland’s car, and I can leap.”

“It’s not going to be that easy.” Pulling out his handlink, Al tapped at a couple buttons and said, “Ziggy gives us a sixty-five percent chance that you’re here to prevent the wreck. That wreck not only cost the life of Frank Strickland but also a promising career for Kyle Masters.”

“Masters?” Sam thought out loud. Earlier he had been asked about a Masters.

“Yeah. Kyle Masters. He’s Strickland’s teammate. He’s twenty-one years old, and was discovered by Strickland and Eugene Murdock in 1989,” Al waved a hand towards the direction the older man that Sam had just spoken to. “The kid was good, Sam. 1990 was his first year in the Winston Cup and he would’ve gone on to win Rookie of the Year had he hadn’t been injured.” Sam sighed as Al continued. “The wreck left him paralyzed from the waist down.” Sam glanced at Al and then at the remains of his car.

“Al, I don’t know how to drive this thing.”

“Not to worry, Sam. I’ll show you.” When Sam gave him a quizzical look Al retorted, “Remember when I showed you how to fly the X2? If I can do that then I sure as hell can show you how to drive this car. It’s not that hard, really.” Sam held his gaze at his friend for a beat and then let out a half smile.




Later that night Sam and Kyle Masters were at a local bar, nursing a couple of beers as an old Hank Williams song played from the jukebox. Sam could only think of the impending wreck that would occur next Saturday. Sam went over a thousand scenarios in his mind but none seemed to spell success. All Kyle had been able to talk about since the afternoon was next week. “I can just taste it,” he said eagerly to Sam. “I would’ve had Daytona if you hadn’t run into me.” Shaking his head he asked, “What happened out there, Frank?”

“Oh, uh…” While Sam fumbled for an answer, the bartender approached them and asked if they wanted anything else. Kyle shook his head, as did Sam. When the bartender left Sam caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror.

Frank Strickland had short brown hair that was turning into pleasant silver. He was tanned complexion; broad shouldered and possessed a bushy mustache. Sam tried a smile but looking at Strickland it felt as if this man rarely smiled.

Kyle said, “We can win this. With Gene’s engines we can smoke those guys. Of course the only real threat now is Anderson. His car sure can haul ass.” Chuckling he added, “Of course he’s also the biggest horse’s ass I’ve ever met.”

Sam narrowed his eyes at the assessment but said nothing.

Kyle went on. “Halfway through I passed that son of a bitch and I sent him into the wall. Can’t damage brains you don’t have.” Kyle’s smile quickly dropped as he glanced up at the mirror. A tall man, clad in blue jeans, white button up shirt and a cowboy hat passed by and sat on the stool on Sam’s left. Sam noticed the change and turned to face the other man.

“Strickland,” he said, greeting Sam as he tipped his head. He then looked past Sam at Kyle. “You best watch that tongue of yours kid. You never know who might be listening.” Sam glanced over at Kyle and could see that the young man appeared rather intimidated and flustered.

“I-I didn’t know you were standing behind me.”

The man chuckled.

“You think you’re hot shit, don’t you? Well listen up, kid, you haven’t seen nothing yet. I’ve seen runts like you come and go.” He grinned as he waved for the bartender. When the bartender approached the man turned to Sam and grinned. “I’ll have what he’s having.”

The bartender nodded and went about getting his beverage.

Turning back towards Sam he said, “Good race today, wasn’t it?” He took a moment to study Sam. “Of course it wasn’t a good day for all of us.” Sam resisted the urge to punch the smug expression off his face. Sam assumed that this was the Anderson that Kyle was talking about.

“Good enough, Anderson,” came Sam’s reply.

Anderson laughed.  “That little whelp of yours,” he nodded towards Kyle, “almost had it won. But I have you to thank for that, Frank. Hadn’t you done that,” he paused as he tried to describe Sam’s blunder, “whatever it was you did, I might not be sitting here tonight enjoying my victory.” When the bartender handed Anderson his drink, Anderson placed a five dollar bill on the counter and added as he looked over at Kyle, “Next time you run me into the wall… well, let’s just say you best watch your back for now on.” Sam narrowed his eyes at Anderson’s threat.

Kyle watched Anderson as he moved across the bar, heading towards the jukebox. There were a couple of other gentlemen standing near it and when Anderson approached them, they started talking. Sam studied Anderson for a moment before returning his attention to Kyle. Sam was about to speak when he heard laughter coming from behind him. Turning around he saw Anderson and the other two looking in his direction.

“Don’t let him get to you,” Sam said as he turned back around. When he saw that Kyle hadn’t quite gotten over what had happened, Sam took a sip of his beer and continued to comfort the young man. “Jerks like Anderson aren’t worth wasting your time worrying over.”

“That’s easy for you to say.” Kyle didn’t quite appear to believe what Sam was saying. Kyle shook his head and said, “Do you how important this career is to me? Ever since I was twelve, I knew what I wanted to do. I used to watch you race every Saturday and Sunday, Frank. You were my idol. I never thought that I’d be anywhere this close.”

Sam smiled as Kyle spoke. Clearly racing meant everything to the kid. Knowing what was about to happen the following Saturday distressed Sam.

Kyle went on, his grin turning into a smile as he spoke. “I was only in dirt tracks for two years before you and Gene spotted me. You know my father always told me to follow my dreams. Besides you, he was one of my greatest inspirations.” He smiled at Sam. “Did you know that my father used to be in Busch? He had a very short career, but I remember going to the tracks as a kid, watching him race. He even ran with you at one point. You remember, Robert Masters.”  Kyle added. Sam of course didn’t know but he nodded.

“My father spoke great things about you. I think it was during the ’68 season,” he started as he narrowed his eyes. “Yeah it was ’68 because that’s when my father first started. He only ran for one season before he wrecked his neck, but he told me of how, during one race, he lost control of his car and slammed into the wall. Well after the race was over, you came up to him and said ‘You ran good out there. I like your style.’ Since then, we’d followed your career through the divisions. I wanted to meet the Legend, but never did I fathom that I’d be racing alongside him.”

Kyle looked up at Sam, raised his glass, and took a swallow of beer. “Oh,” he said as he set down his glass, “Gene and the guys loaded up the cars just after the race. Mark’s driving down back to the garage, and Steve’s headed towards Atlanta.” Sam nodded and then went on to nursing his beer. “If you’re not flying out tomorrow then maybe you’d like to stop by my place. Ya know, have a few beers, and cook some steaks.” Sam smiled and accepted the offer, which was quickly followed by a surprised look from the young man. After a moment Kyle stood up and said, motioning towards the direction of the restroom, “I’ll be back in a few.” Sam watched him head towards the restroom. When Kyle disappeared around a corner, Sam resumed nursing his beer.

Martin Anderson had been watching Strickland and the kid with a look of pure disdain on his face. His eyebrows had risen when he saw Masters stand up and head towards the restroom. Anderson drained his glass and roughly handed it to one of his friends. He then quickly looked around as he followed Masters.

Kyle was washing his hands when he looked up at the mirror and saw Anderson standing in the doorway. Kyle quickly diverted his attention to his hands. He ran his hands under the faucet, letting the cool water dampen them. He then nervously ran them through his thick, wavy red hair, not bothering to look up when Anderson approached him.

Anderson took a couple moments to study the young man, standing nervously before him. He’d dealt with plenty of rookies who thought they were the best, and this kid was no different. He’d make damn sure that he knew it.

Kyle glanced up and said, “Don’t worry, Martin, I’ll get out of your way.” He quickly started towards the door when Anderson held up his arm to block Kyle.

“No rush. Just thought that you and I could have a… chat,” he said with a grin as he carefully chose his words. “You know you said some pretty hurtful things out there.” He could easily see that Kyle was growing more nervous with each passing moment. He chuckled. “You really hurt my feelings, Kyle, and I want an apology.”

“Uh, I’m sorry.” Kyle’s ‘apology’ almost sounded as if it were a question. The tension was so thick you could have cut it with a knife. Kyle’s eyes widened as he roughly wiped his hands with a couple of paper towels.

“Aw, you really don’t mean that now. Perhaps I should make myself a little bit clearer,” he emphasized as he heavily clapped an arm on Kyle’s shoulder, causing Kyle to flinch, dropping the waded paper towels to the ground.

“Hey, look, I’m really sorry, okay?” Anderson nodded and then started to turn away. Kyle briefly looked away when Anderson wheeled around, striking Kyle hard on the jaw. Kyle fell to the floor as Anderson looked down at him.

“Kids,” he said mockingly as he reached down to grab Kyle. As he pulled him upward he glanced up at the mirror and saw Frank Strickland standing in the doorway. He quickly turned around, smiling as he removed his hand from Kyle’s shirt collar to his shoulders. “Hey, Frank,” he said. 

Sam held his gaze on Anderson. “Let him go,” he said.

Anderson complied and removed his hand from Kyle. Taking a couple steps towards Sam he spoke in a cool, calm tone.  “I was just teaching the boy a valuable lesson,” he quickly glanced over at Kyle who now was standing by one of the stalls, keeping as much distance from him as possible. “And it’s to know when to keep your damn mouth shut.” Turning back to Sam he said, “You know you really shouldn’t be sneaking up on people like that.”

“Like you, I take every advantage.” Sam held his head up as Anderson took a couple steps closer. For a moment the two men sized each other up.

Anderson laughed.  “What are you going to do about it old man? This matter’s between me and the kid.” Sam said nothing as he took a couple steps towards Kyle.

“Come on,” he said softly to Kyle, “let’s go. Let’s say, I buy you another beer.” Kyle faintly smiled as he and Sam started towards the doorway. Anderson moved in between Sam and Kyle.

“I don’t think you really heard me,” Anderson started but Sam cut him off.

“I heard you clearly, but you keep this in mind, you ever lay a hand on him again and you’ll have me to deal with.”

“Is that a fact?”

Sam tipped his head and Anderson mirrored the gesture. With lightning reflexes Anderson swung at Sam. Sam ducked, whirled, and caught Anderson with a spinning heel kick. Anderson reeled back and collided with the dingy tiled wall. Sam looked down at him as Anderson was slumped against the wall, moaning softly.

Kyle slowly approached Sam, never taking his gaze off Anderson. “How the hell did you do that?”

        Sam didn’t offer a reply as he led Kyle out of the bathroom and back to the bar.

        Martin Anderson lifted his head up as Sam and Kyle left. “Son ‘bitch,” he muttered.





        The song ‘Radar Love’ was playing at high decibels on a radio that was situated in the middle of an old wooden table. The sun was high in the cloudless blue sky as the pleasant chirping of birds emanated from all around. Sam was really enjoying the afternoon, allowing himself the simple luxury of being able to relax. Good music, great food, great company, what more could he ask for? He heartily enjoyed the steak as he took the last bite. Setting his napkin down he glanced up and saw that expression on Kyle’s face. There it was again, that ‘I don’t know who the hell you are’ look that he’d been giving Sam through out most of the afternoon.

“Is there something wrong?” Sam had asked a moment later.

Kyle blinked, and then shook his head.  “Oh, uh, it’s nothing. Nothing at all.” Sam wasn’t buying it and Kyle could easily see it. After a moment he reconsidered his response and offered Sam a faint smile. Speaking softly he said, “Well actually there is something. Not to offend you or anything but lately you haven’t been… yourself.” Kyle frowned at his choice of words. “See, what I mean is, is that you seem a bit different.”


        Kyle nodded. “It’s just that you surprised me the other night at the bar. I mean first you accept my invite for today and then you lay out Anderson with that kung fu move you did. I didn’t know you knew martial arts.”

        Sam chuckled. “You’d be amazed as to what I know.” Kyle nodded and then narrowed his eyes, not sure as to what to make of it. The other part of Kyle’s comment intrigued Sam so he decided to ask about it. “Why would you be thrown off by my being here? Something else about me is that I could never turn down a barbeque,” he added with a smile.

        “Well that didn’t seem to stop you before, if you don’t mind me saying.” Now it was Sam’s turn to be puzzled. “Frank, I’ve been inviting you to come over here for God knows how long now and every time you’ve turn it down. As it is you rarely talk with the other team mates ‘cept for Gene.”

        “Well, I, uh, decided to reassess some things and thought it to be a good idea to come over.” When the comment earned a strong quizzical look from the young man Sam thought quick and added, “Ya know, to get to know the team.”

        “Frank, you’re part owner. You know everyone from the drivers to the guys who sweep up the garage.” When Sam’s smile had faltered Kyle added, “But I appreciate it. Thanks.” He tipped his head and held up his beer in a mock salute. With that, he took a sip.

        Since the previous night Sam had been going over various scenarios on how to avoid the wreck and Sam sought the opportunity to tell Kyle one of them. “You know, Kyle, I’ve been doing some thinking about Atlanta and I think that it’s best for me to sit this one out.” Kyle’s eyes widened as he slowly set his beer bottle on the tabletop.

        “You’re… not serious, are you?”

        “Yeah, are you?” followed another voice. Sam glanced over his shoulder and saw Al standing behind him, puffing away on a cigar with the link in hand.

Sam nodded.  “Yes, I am.” Sam then began to think of an explanation. Al began tapping keys on the handlink.

        “Ah, Sam, Ziggy’s saying that it’s not such a hot idea to pull Frank from the race. She says that if you’re not there then the wreck still occurs and Kyle still gets injured.” Al paused as he narrowed his eyes at the information scrolling across the tiny view screen. “In fact Ziggy is now giving it a ninety-five percent that it’s Kyle who gets killed in the wreck.” Sam let out his breath slowly.

        “You know,” Sam said after a moment of uncomfortable silence, “maybe when I arrive in Atlanta I can just have the guys inspect everything, you know, to make sure that all’s working the way it should.”

        “Huh, I never thought I’d see the day Frank Strickland gets cold feet about a race.” Kyle chuckled.

Sam then stood up and headed towards the glass slider door.  “I need to, uh, answer a call from nature.”

Kyle nodded.  “Down the hall, third door on the left.”

Sam smiled as he opened the doors and headed towards the bathroom.          When he got there Al was already standing in front of the door.

“What do I do, Al?” Before the hologram could offer a reply Sam continued. “I can’t just not be in the race because then Kyle gets killed!  And, I still don’t know how to drive the damned thing! What good will I be if I don’t know what I’m doing? For all I know I cause that wreck.” Al was shaking his head before Sam even finished the sentence.

        “Actually it was the Number 1 car that caused the wreck.”

        “Who drives it?”

        After keying in the request on the hand link it let out a couple of chirps and beeps. Al peered at the screen. “Martin Anderson.” The name made Sam’s blood run cold. “Anderson’s car was tailgating Strickland’s and just as they were coming around the corner Anderson lost control of his car and pushed Strickland into the wall.”

        “Al, do you think that the wreck was deliberate?”

        “I don’t think so. Ziggy searched the archives for the original footage and gives it a ninety-one percent chance that it was accidental. Why do you ask?”

        Sam said, “Well let’s just say that I had the ‘pleasure’ of meeting Anderson and I didn’t quite hit it off well with him.” Al started to question when Sam filled him on the incident at the bar the night before. When he was done, Al whistled and shook his head.

        “Well, I’d watch out for him, Sam. He seems to be the type that really holds a grudge.”

        “What happened to Anderson anyway?” Before Al could reply Kyle softly knocked on the door.

        “Everything okay in there?”

        “Oh, uh, yeah. I’ll be out in a minute.” When Kyle left Al went on.

        “Not much happened. He went on to race for another ten years before retiring.” Sam sighed. Al tapped at the keys on the handlink and a moment later the illuminated figure of the Imaging Chamber door appeared. When Al stepped through he said, “I’ll continue to run some scenarios with Ziggy and see about what we can do.” When the door closed Sam turned towards the bathroom door when his reflection caught his eye. Frank Strickland’s dark brown eyes stared back at him.




        The next two days Sam spent in Strickland’s home in Michigan viewing racing footage, studying various racing maneuvers and viewing some old interviews with Strickland. The man was very passionate about racing, Sam noted, which is most likely the reason that Kyle nearly had a heart attack at the possibility of him dropping out of the next race. Sam wouldn’t be able to actually drive in the stock car until he flew down to Atlanta. So for now, all Sam could do was study.

On Thursday he flew down on Strickland’s private plane to Atlanta to meet with Eugene Murdock, Kyle Masters, and the other three-team mates. They spent the majority of the day inspecting the stock cars, making sure to catch any flaws in the equipment that might prove fatal. Sam and Gene hadn’t found anything wrong and the equipment was even tested to ensure driver safety. At the end of the day Sam retired to the hotel room that he’d booked a couple days before.

Friday hadn’t been much different, with Sam inspecting the vehicles yet again, much to Murdock’s surprise. And yet again he hadn’t found anything out of the ordinary. Kyle and Gene looked on with quizzical looks and when questioned Sam he simply replied, “To ensure our safety.”



Qualifying for Golden Corral 500

Atlanta International Raceway


        Sam had just finished buckling himself in when Joe Roberts leaned his head inside the driver side window. Sam had been so preoccupied with his fear and doubt that he hardly noticed the burly crew chief. Sam acknowledged him as he slipped on his helmet.  Sam partially listened to Roberts as he rattled off about the car, his eyes locked onto the oval track that lay ahead. The pungent odors of rubber and gasoline filled his nostrils as the sounds of both the cars that went around the track and the cheering of fans mingled together. The sun was high and bright, causing a very bad glare against the car’s windshield, forcing Sam to squint. A few minutes later and Roberts finally leaned back and went over to talk to a couple people in the pit crew. Sam took a deep breath, and let it out slowly, trying as hard as he could to drive away the fear.

        “Hey, Sam.” Al’s voice came out of nowhere. Sam jerked his head back and saw the hologram in a crouch--the bars from the roll cage cutting through the image. “Ugh,” Al said as he noticed the disturbing image. He tapped a few buttons on the handlink and repositioned himself in the passenger side, appearing as if he were sitting on an invisible seat. “Sorry but it’s the best I can do,” he offered when he saw the strange looked he earned from the scientist.

A series of beeps and chirps produced from the handlink had Al reading its miniscule display. “Ziggy’s got some info here on the track that might be of some use.” He took a brief moment to read over the information. “Okay, the track has a racing surface of sixty feet wide. The length of the front stretch is two thousand three hundred thirty-two feet with the length of the backstretch being eighteen feet. Pit road is thirteen hundred and twenty feet. The banking on the track is twenty-four degrees in the turns and five degrees on the straights. Total track length is one point five four miles.” Al glanced over at Sam, who seemed to be barely hearing him.

        “Al, I can’t do this,” Sam said after a moment. “I’ve never driven one of these before. I don’t know the first thing--” Al cut him off with a wave of his hand.

        “Take it easy, will ya? I’m here and I can be your driving coach. I’ve been talking with Frank and he told me to tell you that the worse thing you could do is choke. You have to be calm, Sam.”

        “Yeah that’s easy for you to say, you’re not the one who’s sitting behind the wheel.” Sam shook his head. “I don’t know how I’m going to do this.”

        “Listen, Sam, you’ve done more extreme things through out these Leaps. Remember when you leaped into that traveling circus?”

        Sam vaguely recalled the leap--something about having to walk across a tightrope, and then… nothing. He shook his head.

        “It can be done. You just got to have faith. During the last eleven years, Sam, there’s hasn’t been anything that you couldn’t do, one way or another. I’ve seen you do some very incredible things.”

        Sam slowly nodded. He thought for a moment and then said, “What place did Strickland come in?”

        Al keyed in the inquiry on the handlink. “Second. Kyle Masters won the pole, beating Strickland by three seconds.”

        “What are the odds that the accident still occurs?”

        “Ninety-nine point nine percent; nothing’s changed.”

        “Damn it!” Sam slapped his hand across the steering wheel. “I thoroughly looked over this car three times and all the equipment is in perfect working order! I even tested them!”

        Al said nothing for the next few uncomfortable moments. There was nothing else that he could say to elevate his friend’s hope.

        “Get ready,” Roberts said as he leaned his head in towards Sam. “Anderson is about to finish. Better work your magic out there, Frank.” Sam shakily tipped his head and began to fumble for the ignition. After a couple moments he noticed the red switch and flipped it, the engine roared to life.

        “Okay, Sam,” Al began. “The speed limit in the pit is fifty-five so pull out slowly.” Al looked behind him and saw Anderson heading towards the garages. “All right go.” Sam then began to steer the car out onto the track.

The fans cheered wildly as they saw the infamous Number 3 yellow and blue Chevrolet Wrangler car emerge onto the track. They stood up, cheering and waving novelty flags with the 3 emblazoned on them. Several fans even held up homemade signs that showed their support for Frank Strickland.

“Are you okay, Sam?” Al looked curiously at the scientist, who was squinting his eyes tightly. It looked as if he were trying to fight off a migraine headache.

Sam then glanced up at Al.  “I’m fine, bud,” he said with a slight southern accent.

        Al sighed. “Now your mind is merging with Frank’s. Great!” He paused as he thought more about it.  “Maybe this could work to our advantage.” He tapped a few keys on the handlink and it produced a series of soft chirps and beeps. “Hey! Ziggy says that….” The rest of what Al was about to say was abruptly cut off when Sam, in the persona of Frank, tensed his body, gripped the steering wheel, and sped off down the straightaway. Sam occasionally glanced at the rpm gage.

        “Well, it doesn’t look like you’re going to be needing my help,” Al said softly as he stared at his friend.

        The car continued to climb up in speed as Sam handled the car like a seasoned pro. Soon they were coming up on the first turn, the turn having a high embankment. Sam let up on the gas as he started to take the turn. The car drifted upward and came very close to the wall. Sam eased the car from the wall and then shot off down the second straightaway. Through out the run Roberts would communicate with Sam via the radio hookup in the car. Within moments the run came to an end. Sam steered the car towards the garage.

        Just after climbing out of the car Sam blinked and shook his head, narrowing his eyes and slowly looking about the garage as if he’d never seen it before. The last clear memory he had was when Al arrived. Speaking of the hologram, Sam then looked around to find him. Instead, Eugene Murdock approached him with a broad smile affixed to his face.

        “Damn good run out there!” he exclaimed as he clapped a hand on Sam’s shoulder. “You got the pole!” Sam narrowed his eyes at the older man.

        “Uh, the pole?”

        “Yeah. You ran great out there.” Murdock glanced towards the direction of the track. “Kyle’s getting ready to go so I’m going to head towards the pit.” He tossed Sam a smile as he started to leave. “See you after.”

        Sam watched Murdock leave and then turned towards the car, staring at it with pure amazement. ‘What the hell had happened?

        “Hey there.” Sam turned around and saw Al standing a few feet away from Sam. He peered at Sam. “Are you okay?”

        “Okay?” Sam took a couple steps towards the Admiral. “I don’t even remember what happened. One minute I’m sitting behind the wheel, scared half out of my mind, and the next thing I’m standing here and Gene’s telling me that I won the pole.”

        “Well, out of nowhere your mind psychosynergized with Frank’s. Funny thing,” Al said as he cocked his head, “it didn’t even occur till you were out on the track.”

        “What are you talking about?”

        “Sam, I don’t think you remember this but often times when your mind merges with the person you leaped into the effect comes and goes without warning. However, in some rare cases the merging can be related to things that you do, or places that you’re at. And apparently in this case it’s when you’re out there,” he said as he waved a hand towards the direction of the track.

        Sam sighed heavily. “So what you’re telling me is that tomorrow, when the race starts, Frank’s going to take over and history’s going to repeat itself.”

        Al nodded solemnly. “Ziggy gives it a high probability. I guess we’re just going to have to figure out how to keep it from happening. This is a new development; no one saw it coming.”

        “Al, I can’t let that happen. Obviously I leaped here to prevent that wreck and to save Frank and Kyle.”


        “So why would it happen only when I’m out on the track? If I can’t control it then what good am I going to do out there?”

        Al started to pace, puffing at his cigar. “Let Ziggy and I worry about that. Right now, Kyle’s about to win the pole.” Just as the words left his mouth Sam could hear the booming cheers emanate from outside. Al gave Sam a grin. “In a few minutes, he’ll come in here so keep a close eye on him.”

        Sam shot Al a worried expression. “Does anything happen to him?”

        Al shook his head. “Oh, ah, no nothing happens, but it’s never a bad idea to make sure.” He tapped at the handlink and the Imaging Chamber door opened. Al stepped through and the door closed, just as Kyle’s car pulled into the garage. When the car had stopped, Kyle climbed out of the car, peeling off his helmet.

        “Hey, Frank! I did it!” Sam already knew what Kyle was referring to but asked him anyways.

        “Did what?”

        “Beat your time. I got the pole.” Kyle shrugged. “Sure it was only by about three seconds but I got it.”

Sam congratulated him.




        The rest of the afternoon was spent prepping the cars for tomorrow’s race. Sam, again, took the extra time to carefully inspect Frank’s car and to no surprise found the safety restraints to be perfectly functional. Sam cursed under his breath. He was running out of options and time, and now with the unexpected psychosynergizing occurring on the track Sam was at a complete loss on how to achieve his task. He prayed that Ziggy and Al were able to come up with something.





Race Day

10:25 AM.


          Sam stood in the lush 120-acre infield with the other drivers, near the pack of cars that awaited them. Various people from the press were weaving in and out of the crowd, interviewing the various drivers, taking pictures, and toting video equipment. The sun was high, the sky a cloudless blue, and a warm breeze was rustling through the track. Sam looked about with interest; seeing various drivers who would go on to become some biggest in racing history. Quite a few of them had approached Sam and made light conversation. The race wouldn’t start for a little while, which gave Sam a bit of extra time to collect himself and think of a way to prevent the impending wreck. Sam looked up just in time to see Kyle weaving through the crowd, towards him.

        “Hey,” he said as he approached Sam. Kyle took a moment as he looked about the infield with a broad smile on his face. “Can’t seem to get away from all those cameras; everywhere I turn someone is shoving a microphone in my face.”

        “Tell me about it.” Since he’d arrived at the track, just about every race correspondent had sought Sam out.  They asked him about his take on the logistics of his car and the race. Sam glanced past Kyle and frowned. “Speaking of which,” he said as another correspondent came up to them.

        Sam nodded to Kyle as he started in the opposite direction.

        “You’re not going to leave me to fend for myself, are ya?” Sam grinned as Kyle glared at him. The rest of what Kyle was going to say was cut off when the correspondent started yet another interview.

        Sam made his way through the crowd, careful to avoid any cameras. After a few minutes he saw Al standing near a group of drivers, apparently listening to what they were saying. Sam waved for him. When Al looked over and saw Sam, he started towards the scientist.

        “Hiya, Sam.” Sam tipped his head in response. Al started to move away from the group, talking to Sam as he looked around in sheer amazement. “I went over some scenarios with Ziggy and we weren’t able to come up with anything solid. Now that you’re mind merges with Frank’s whenever you get out on the track really throws a wrench into the plan.”

        “Plan?” Sam asked incredulously. “Al, there never was any plan. That’s why I needed you to work with Ziggy.”

        “Well we went over the situation a thousand times and nothing seems to work. The only possible solution here to prevent history from repeating itself is to… try to keep Frank from taking over.”

        “Al, I don’t know what else to do. Yesterday when I went out there it happened without warning and I couldn’t fight it. It was incredibly strong. There’s gotta be something that I can do to at least suppress it long enough for me to prevent the wreck.” Al nodded.

        “Yeah, Ziggy and I went over that possibility and although it proves to be the most effective means there’s no apparent way to go about it. So for now all you can do is just… focus.” Sam sighed.

        “Focus. Yeah.” Sam glanced around and saw Kyle talking with the correspondent. “He’s just a kid, Al. I can’t let him get hurt. Have you heard on how he goes on about this? I mean it’s his whole world, and I can’t imagine how it must have been for him after.” Sam thought for a moment. “What else happened to Kyle? You know, after the accident?”

        Al keyed in the inquiry on the handlink. Peering at the miniscule read out, he related the information to Sam. “Not much. After the accident he spent the next year in physical therapy and then spends the rest of his life in and out of hospitals.”

        “Damn it. I can’t let that happen to him. Look at him, Al. He’s got his whole life ahead of him. I can’t imagine what it was like for him to have his dream taken away like that. You should have heard him at the bar last week.” Sam looked away with a heavy heart. Suddenly, his fear and doubt about the race was pushed aside by the drive and determination to save Kyle from his sad fate.




        “So what is the key for a good set up, here at Atlanta?” The correspondent, Mark La Joy, said as he held out the microphone for Kyle.

Kyle grinned and shrugged.  “Well it’s one of those places that where you have to have a car that turns well, and you can get back in the throttle and still have it turn. In fact, Frank Strickland has liked the track since he was first here. He does a very good job with some of those things that we’ve done since the beginning, and they’ve always seemed to help us out.”

The correspondent nodded knowingly.          Turning back to face the camera he said, “Thanks for your time, Kyle.” Kyle nodded as he turned and made his way through the crowd, the rest of what the correspondent was saying lost to him. As he looked around he saw Martin Anderson talking with a few other drivers. Kyle quickly lowered his head as he moved past the group.

Anderson looked behind him and saw Kyle. He said something to his friends and then started towards Kyle.

        “Aw, crap,” Kyle muttered as he nervously glanced over his shoulder. ‘He wouldn’t start anything here, would he?’ Kyle thought to himself as he kept walking. He heard Anderson calling to him a couple times but didn’t respond. Then, as if out of nowhere, a hand clapped heavily onto his shoulder. Stopping in his tracks, Kyle slowly turned and was came face to face with Anderson. “Hey,” he said attentively.

        “Look, pal,” Anderson said in a soft tone that was thick with aggravation, “I was just wanting to say ‘good luck’.” Kyle nodded and started to turn when Anderson caught his arm and held it in a manner that meant business. “Listen here, you punk; you best stay the hell out of my way out there. You think that your checking me into the wall was bad just you wait till you see what I do to you. Got it?” His grip tightened slightly.

Kyle tipped his head.

Anderson smiled as he released his grip. “Good. See you out on the track.” With those words said he turned and disappeared in the crowd just as Sam came up from behind him, startling Kyle.

        “Everything okay?” Sam asked when he saw Kyle jump.

        “Oh, uh, yeah. I’m fine.” When Sam gave him a quizzical look he added, “Really, Frank, I’m fine. Just got the jitters I guess.”

        “The jitters?” Sam wasn’t buying it, but he didn’t press the issue, either. Looking around the crowd Sam said after a moment of uncomfortable pause, “I think the race is getting ready to start. We better head towards our cars.” Even as Sam spoke those words, he couldn’t completely shake the fear that began to overpower him.

Kyle agreed and they made their way towards the fleet of cars that were lined, two abreast, on the field. The other drivers were already starting to get in their cars. Sam glanced nervously at Al as he slipped into Frank Strickland’s infamous Number 3.

        “Good luck,” Kyle said as he climbed into his car, Number 9. “You’ll need it!”

        True words are often spoken in jest,’ Sam thought as he strapped himself in. The restraints were secure, Sam noted as he tugged at them for good measure.

        “How are you feeling?” Al asked as he curiously looked at Sam.

        Sam said, “So far, so good.” Thinking for a moment he added, “Maybe it was just a fluke--the mind merging. Perhaps I’m in the clear.”

Al looked at him for a moment. “Don’t be too sure on that. When it comes to Quantum Leaping you never know what to expect.”

Sam chuckled.

        The grand marshal’s voice soon filled the track. Even as he spoke Sam’s heart began to race. “Gentlemen, start your engines!” The crowd went wild as the sounds of the engines roared to life in unison. Sam took a deep breath, let out very slowly, and flipped the ignition switch. The pack of cars slowly moved out onto the track, maintaining a steady slow speed till the checkered flag was waved. Sam, in second position, was on Kyle’s left. He glanced over at him, and although he couldn’t get a good visual, he didn’t need to see that the kid was focused. The pack soon began to part. Sam squinted and a slight movement of the head brought about his other persona.

        “Sam?” Al asked nervously as he looked on at his friend from the passenger side.

        Sam said nothing as his focus intensified; his hands tightening on the wheel as he quickly went through the gears. “Comin’ up on ya, little buddy,” Sam said with that familiar southern accent.

        “Uh oh,” said Al. “Something’s telling me that this is going to be a long race.”




        A couple hours, four cautions, and thirteen lead changes later the race was into its last five laps. Through out the majority of the race the persona of Frank Strickland had taken over, guiding Sam through the race. Al would occasionally check the handlink and note that history was repeating itself. It took quite a bit of energy to keep Al connected with the scientist. Psychosynergizing played hell on the neural linkup.

Everything that Frank had done the first time around Sam was mirroring, down to the smallest detail in Frank’s technique. Time was running desperately short and Al needed to get through to Sam.

        “Ah, Sam… you in there?” Sam said nothing, as his focus did not waver. Al tried again. “Uh, Frank, you’re going to need to listen to me.”

        Sam tipped his head in acknowledgement.

        “Okay, now we’re coming up on the last couple laps here and you’re going to need to listen to me very carefully. Right about now Kyle is coming up on your rear.”

        “Yeah, I see him, bud,” Sam/Frank said.

        “Okay. What I need you to do is to let him pass.”

        “What the hell are you talkin’ ‘bout? This one’s mine, damn it!”

        “Frank, I really need you to let him pass, cause if you don’t then something terrible is going to happen.”

        “Damn right something terrible’s gonna happen! I’d be throwing away the race. Sorry, bud, no can do.” Sam/Frank stared straight ahead, closing in on the leader.

        Al nervously glanced behind him and saw Kyle trying to pass, staying close to the rear right side. Al knew that if he couldn’t get through to Sam then history was doomed to repeat itself. “Frank,” the hologram said in a serious tone, “if you don’t let Kyle pass then he’s going to be involved in a terrible accident which is about to occur in the next lap. Sam/Frank said nothing, but Al could tell that that comment had made him waver. The next few moments passed in silence. When Al saw the white flag being waved he glanced over at Sam/Frank and exclaimed, “Damn it! Let Kyle pass… now!”

        “Al?” Sam asked attentively.


        “Yeah. Why are you yelling?” Al sighed heavily with relief as Sam glanced over at him.

        “For most of the race you were Frank. I couldn’t get through to you.” Al didn’t know just for how much longer Sam would stay in control so he spoke fast. “Sam, Kyle’s right behind you, followed by Anderson. In order to avoid Kyle being in the accident you have to let him pass. Originally he was right behind Strickland when the wreck occurred.” Al saw Sam nod and then said, “Ease up on the gas but don’t brake.” Sam did and within a brief moment Kyle passed him by.




        “It appears as if Strickland is helping out his fellow teammate, Kyle Masters,” the commentator said as he sat in the booth with two other commentators. “This is very unusual for Strickland.”

        Another commentator nodded his head in agreement. Turning to face the camera he said, “Strickland had been dominating the race for the past thirty laps and then he just hands it over to Masters in the final lap.” They all laughed as they shook their heads.




        Sam had let out a sigh of relief as Kyle passed. The handlink chirped and Al held it up.

        “Hey, Sam! You did it! You changed history.” Sam glanced over at Al as he read the information marching across the screen. “Now Ziggy’s saying that Kyle’s not involved in the accident, now next you have to get Frank out of--” The rest of what Al was going to say was lost when the car unexpectedly lurched forward, and then began to swerve.

        “Uh… Al… what’s… going… on… here?” Sam asked, each word a mere fight to speak, fear paralyzing him.

        “Oh no, no, no!” Al exclaimed. “Anderson just nudged you!” As Al spoke the car pulled up and to the right, heading straight for the wall. Sam couldn’t control the car in enough time to avoid a collision so all he could do was close his eyes and pray for a miracle. Sam very slowly opened one eye as he felt something give way on his lap. He glanced down and saw one of his clips from the harness snap, throwing Sam forward. Sam cried out as the hood of the car crumpled up against the windshield.


        It was at that moment that Sam felt his body being pulled back into his seat. He tried to budge but something had bound him to the seat, his hands still gripping the steering wheel. Sam slowly opened his eyes just in time to see the checkered flag waving straight above him. He narrowed his eyes, trying to make sense as to what had just happened. One minute he was headed straight for the wall when his harness had failed. He was certain that he’d crashed. But if –

        “Sam?” Al asked, jolting Sam from his thoughts.

        “Al? What the hell just happened? I thought I crashed.”

        “You didn’t. Frank did.” Sam narrowed his eyes in confusion. Al simply said, “You leaped.”

Sam held his breath for a moment as he slowly glanced up at the rear view mirror. He took a hand off the steering wheel and flipped up the visor and saw the youthful brown eyes of Kyle Masters staring back at him. Sam sighed as he slowed the car as he rounded the turn. Al instructed Sam to drive the car to the Winner’s Circle. Sam did as instructed and as soon as he brought the car to a stop, he quickly released the net and scrambled out of the car, looking in the direction towards the finish line, and there it was.

        The Number 3 Chevrolet Wrangler was pressed against the wall, with an ambulance, blaring its sirens upon arriving at the scene. Sam watched as the medics scrambled out of the ambulance and towards the car. Sam couldn’t watch anymore, as he quickly looked away, unable to bring himself to stare at the chaotic mess of eleven stock cars, strewn about the track. A few of them had managed to land in the infield, leaving heavy tire tracks that went from the pavement and chewed their way through the grass of the infield.

        No one was cheering in the grandstands; the one hundred and twenty four thousand fans were silent, looking on in sadness as a racing legend was pulled from his car, and into the ambulance. The ambulance then drove off the track and towards the nearest medical center, which was were Sam needed to be.


5:02 PM


        Sam had arrived at the Fortuna Medical Center with Gene Murdock. They had spoken with a doctor who had quickly described the types of injuries that Strickland had taken. Much of the medical jargon was lost upon the ears of Murdock but Sam understood exactly what was said. The doctor had promised to keep them informed on Strickland’s condition. When the doctor had gone down the hall Murdock spoke in a soft tone, which carried with it a great deal of sadness.

        “I knew pretty much what happened when he didn’t respond on the radio,” he said. “I don’t need a damned doctor telling me that I lost him.”

        “I know,” Sam replied, placing a hand on Murdock’s shoulder.

        “We’d known each other for over twenty years, Kyle. Together we built Murdock Racing.”

        Sam said nothing when the Imaging Chamber door appeared in the center of the hall on Sam’s right. Al stepped through and the door closed. He walked up to Sam. “Hey, Sam.” Sam nodded in response.

“I just got back from the Waiting Room. I had to tell him what happened. When he arrived he thought that he’d crashed and died. It hurt like hell to have to tell him that it wasn’t he who had died but his friend.”

        “Excuse me for a minute,” Sam said to Gene as he went down the hall, waiting till he was out of Gene’s earshot. After looking around to make sure no one else was around he turned to Al. “What am I still doing here?”

        Al placed the handlink in his pocket and looked up slowly. “You weren’t here to prevent the wreck, Sam. Some things were not meant to be changed.” He shook his head slightly. “You were here to save Kyle.” As Al spoke his words were thick with sadness and frustration. “Ziggy says that Kyle goes on to win Rookie of the Year and to this day is still racing.”

        Sam pressed his lips together, breathing out of his nose. He refused to believe what his friend was saying. “I can’t believe that I wasn’t meant to prevent that wreck, Al. I was right there… right there! I had it!” At that moment a nurse, who was walking down the hall, towards Sam and Al, looked up at him curiously. Sam offered her a brief smile before she continued on her way, narrowing her eyes as she passed Sam.

When she was gone Al tried to comfort the scientist.         “There was nothing you could’ve done anyways. The harness that was in Frank’s car was defective. One of the clips hadn’t been completely secured. These things happen, you know.”

        Sam nodded, after a moment of collecting himself. “Okay, so Kyle’s safe, obviously, and Ziggy says that he goes on to fulfill a great career, right?”

        Al nodded.

        “So what else am I here to do?”

        Al said, “You’re to prove that the wreck was deliberate. Now you’ve got to prove that Anderson caused the accident on purpose.”

        Sam furrowed his brow. “Earlier you’d said that the wreck was accidental.”

        “Well, after monitoring the race Ziggy revised her calculations and the odds of it being deliberate went up significantly.”

        “So how do I go about this? I just can’t exactly walk up to the race officials and say that Anderson meant to cause the accident.”

        “That’s true, but if you had some hard evidence, something concrete… then maybe.”

Sam thought for a moment. “Well, maybe I can.”

Al narrowed his eyes. “And just how are you going to do that?”

Sam shook his head. “Don’t worry about that, but I will need your help with something.”




The president of NASCAR had made the official announcement of Frank Strickland’s death at 7 PM EST on the evening of February 25, 1990. Millions of fans had mourned the loss across the world. A moment of silence was taken just shortly after the announcement was made, for the world of stock car racing had lost one of its greatest legends.





The following evening Sam stood outside the Ace in the Hole Bar, hesitating slightly before opening the door.

Al stood by his side.  “I just hope this little plan of yours works, Sam. It seems like a long shot.”

“Just trust me. He is in there, right?” Al nodded and with those words being said Sam opened the door and stepped inside. He looked around for a moment and then saw Martin Anderson sitting at the corner of the bar, near the jukebox. Sam took a deep breath, held it for a moment before letting it out and walking over to Anderson. Sam said nothing as he sat beside him and ordered a beer. Anderson looked at him with pure look of disdain.

Sam just smiled and held up his mug. “Don’t mind me. I’m just drowning my sorrows.” Sam took a sip of the beer and set the mug down on the bar top.

“Sorry to hear about Frank,” was his reply, lacking in sympathy.

“Yes, it is hard to lose someone close to you.”

Anderson laughed as he took a sip of his beer. “You weren’t his close friend. You just followed him around like a puppy dog and he felt sorry for you.”

Sam shrugged off the insult. “Well, for whatever his reasons were it’s quite a sad time.”

“Too bad it wasn’t your ass in that car,” Anderson said tersely. “I was aiming for you.”

“So you’re saying that you meant to cause the accident?” Sam was fighting the urge to slug the man but he had to get proof, no matter how much of this man’s company Sam had to endure.

“Frank was a mistake,” was Anderson’s reply. “I went to go for you, but he blocked my way. I then went to draft him but I got too close and bumped him into that spin.”

“So the wreck was intended for me?”

“Damn, kid, you might have some smarts up there after all. I told you to watch your ass for now on, remember?” Anderson glared at him as he took another sip of his beer. As he set the glass down he glanced over at Sam and noticed the peculiar bulge in his right breast pocket, slight, but enough to catch his eye.  Sam caught the look and leaned back, turning his upper body so to where Anderson couldn’t get a better view.

“What are you hiding?” Anderson asked.

Sam shook his head.  “Nothing.”

Anderson stared at Sam for a beat before his arm shot forward, reaching for Sam’s pocket but Sam caught Anderson’s hand, gave it a brief squeeze before releasing it.

Anderson stared at him in shock.  “What the hell?”

“Back off,” Sam said thickly. Anderson stood from his seat, as did Sam, and for a moment each man sized up the other.

“Better be careful, Sam. This guy’s about a few beers short of a six pack.” Al moved closer to Sam.

“Want to take this outside?”

Sam shook his head. “No thanks.” He turned around when Anderson cuffed him on the nape of his neck, sending Sam struggling to keep his balance. Sam rubbed his neck and turned to face the other man.

“I won’t have any fighting here,” the bartender said as he leaned forward on the bar. “Better take that business outside.”

“There won’t be any business,” Sam said as he started towards the door.

Anderson began to follow.  “I beg to differ.” Anderson followed Sam outside, along with a group of six other men eager for the fight, and as soon as the door had closed behind them, Anderson reached for Sam.

Sam, glancing out of the corner of his eye, ducked the punch. Sam spun around and saw Anderson gearing up for another attack.

“You’re quick, runt.”

“I’m not going to fight you.” Sam stood his ground but started to keep a bit of distance between him and Anderson.

“C’mon, punk. You run that mouth of yours all the time but never have the guts to back it up.”

Al looked on with intent interest. “Aw, c’mon, Sam! You can take this nozzle! Give him one of those flying noodle kicks!”

Anderson stepped closer, passing through Al, causing the holographic image to shimmer slightly.  “Let’s have it,” Anderson said. When Sam didn’t respond he lunged forward, swinging at Sam. Sam deflected the blow as he stepped to the side. Anderson leaned into his swing, but this time Sam caught the fist and twisted his arm, bringing Anderson to his knees. Anderson looked up at Sam with a mixed expression of pure shock and intense pain.

“Listen here you ignorant son of a bitch! You caused that accident that killed Frank Strickland. I will personally see to it that you’re kicked out of NASCAR for it.”

“Better prove it, punk,” Anderson said thickly, gritting his teeth as Sam tightened his grip. Sam grinned, released Anderson’s arm, and patted his breast pocket, then produced a slender tape recorder. Anderson stared at it in disbelief.

“I’ll see to it that this tape gets into the right hands,” Sam said as he started to back away from Anderson, pressing the STOP button the tape recorder. Anderson slowly stood up and took a couple steps towards Sam.

“Better hand over that tape,” he said. Something inside Sam welled up, perhaps a residual from Kyle’s longing to stand up to him, but whatever it was it made Anderson stop in his tracks.

“Just try it.”

Anderson lunged forward and Sam met him with a roundhouse kick that sent Anderson to the cold pavement of the parking lot. He was unconscious. Al took a moment and stared at Sam. The six men that had followed them outside to watch had begun to crowd around the unconscious Anderson.

“Not bad, Sam, not bad,” Al said.

“What happens to Anderson?”

“Well Kyle gets the tape to the proper channels and gets Anderson kicked out of NASCAR. From there, not much else happens to him.” Sam smiled as he pocketed the tape recorder. “Although, just to be on the safe side we better leave a note for Kyle, just to make sure that he knows what to do with the tape.” Sam agreed and they went back into the bar. A few moments later they stepped back outside, Sam slipping a small piece of paper in the pocket that held the recorder.

“Al,” Sam said after a moment, “I feel guilty for not being able to prevent Frank’s death. If I would’ve just--”

“Sam, there was nothing else you could’ve done. The important thing is, is that you saved Kyle. You gave him a second chance, and that’s what you were meant to do. We can’t win them all.”

“I know, but I sure as hell can try.”

Al looked at him with a smile. “That’s what makes you perfect for this job, Sam Beckett.”

Sam glanced up, smiled at his friend, and leaped.





         Nothing. Sam Beckett felt nothing even after the last effects of leaping into yet another life had subsided. Stretching his arms and legs did not alleviate the feeling of nothingness as his equilibrium and sense of direction had also short-circuited. Shaking his head his eyes cleared as he found himself in a small confined area with a control panel full of hundreds of switches and lights in front of him and he was FLOATING over a couch. Sam instinctually pushed away from the panel landing on a hard but somewhat comfortable couch. Two people slept to his left and to his right was a small round porthole. Sam floated over to the porthole and saw wondrous blues and whites and browns as the earth turned beneath him. For the first time Sam had leaped off the face of the earth and landed in the tiny cramped quarters of an orbiting space capsule. Panicking Sam pressed against the hatch holding onto the maze of latches and let out a slow, long and mournful, “Ohhhhhhhhhh Booooooooooooooooy!”



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