Episode 1222

The Great Blue Yonder

by: Tom Nicklis


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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.



At the moment that Al leaped in, he became instantly calm. He had been nervous after seeing some of the precarious positions Sam had been put in during his leap-ins. But this was more than he could have possibly asked for. He was home.

He wasn’t home literally, but he was more at home in these surroundings than anywhere else. Staring out into the great blue yonder, he was completely at peace.

Then, looking down at the instrumentation in front of him, he could immediately tell he was the pilot of an F-4 Phantom II Fighter Jet. This was a jet Al knew inside and out. He had flown one occasionally during his first tour of duty in Vietnam.

While staring at the horizon out of the fighter jet’s window, a piece of Al’s memory came back to him, seemingly from out of nowhere. He had leaped, that was for sure, but Al could’ve sworn that just before he did, he touched someone on the shoulder. That someone’s aura changed into Sam’s. Then what had happened? They had both leaped.

Then Al suddenly became curious as to where Sam had landed. He wasn’t a pilot and would not be able to handle the F-4 Phantom II. Hearing a gasp of air coming from the seat behind him, he didn’t have to worry anymore.

Addressing his friend, Al said, “Kick in the butt, ain’t it?” But Al didn’t receive an answer. Sam was too terrified to speak.

Trying to calm his friend down, Al said, “Don’t worry, Sam, I know this plane like the back of my hand.”

“I’m afraid of heights, Al,” said the green-around-the-gills physicist.

“Really, then I guess you wouldn’t want me to do any of this,” said Al as he began displaying some advanced aerobatics.

Unable to control himself anymore, Sam vomited all over the back of Al’s seat before uttering those two simple words, “Ohhh boyyy!!!”





June 16, 1965

USS Midway


About ten minutes after Sam lost his lunch, Al got the call to return to the aircraft carrier. Feeling the plane make a nice smooth turn, Sam let out a huge sigh of relief. It didn’t go unnoticed by Al.

As Al brought the plane around for the landing, Sam couldn’t help but notice that Al handled the plane just like a woman: smooth and gentle. He couldn’t help but mentally kick himself for thinking just like Al.

After they were on the deck of the aircraft carrier, Al walked up to his friend and said, “Hey, sorry, pal; I probably shouldn’t have done the aerobatics, but I couldn’t help myself. It has been a long time since I have gotten the chance to fly a jet fighter.”

“Don’t worry about it, Al. Just don’t do it again.”

“According to Ziggy,” a familiar voice said from behind them, “he may not have a choice.”

Turning quickly, both Sam and Al saw the recently promoted Admiral Tom Beckett holding Stephen’s handlink.

Ignoring Al for a moment, Tom said, “Hello, little brother. It’s really great to see you again.”

As tears of happiness formed in his eyes, Sam instinctively tried to grab Tom and pull him into a big bear hug. He was more than slightly disappointed when his arms passed right through the hologram.

Noticing that people were staring, Al snidely said, “It’s good to see you again too, Admiral. But people are staring. Could you just tell us how we got here?”

“Well, I wasn’t here, but from what I understand, about five days ago,” Tom pushed some buttons on the handlink, “Al, you had to leap into Sam to save his life. Then when you got yourself into the same kind of trouble, Sam leaped into the would-be killer to save you.”

“I remember all of that,” said Al. “But how is it that we managed to leap together?”

“According to Ziggy, it’s because the two of you were touching.”

“It’s kind of like when you saved Alia,” Al said to Sam. “The two of you were holding on to each other when you leaped, so you leaped together.” Then looking to Tom, Al asked, “And why are you here?”

Giving Al a look of contempt, Tom said, “Well, you guys needed an observer and I was the logical choice. After all, I have a biochip installed in my brain that connected me to Omega while at Project Liberty, and since Omega and Ziggy were essentially ‘sisters,’ the link works with Ziggy too. All Dom had to do was tweak the connection a little bit so that Al could see me as well.”

“Has Ziggy said why we are here yet?” Sam asked.

Tom pushed a few buttons on the handlink and read the information scrolling across the screen. “Al, you are a Navy pilot named Commander Louis C. Paige, call sign: Pigeon.”

Sam couldn’t help himself. He smirked at the name. But seeing this, Tom clarified, “Your wingmen call you that due to your accuracy with your missile shots. You send them in like a homing pigeon that always seems to hit its target.”

Al was obviously not very happy about his host’s call sign, but it was something that he would have to live with.

Continuing to read off the handlink, Tom continued, “You’re twenty-three years old and are from Baltimore, Maryland. You have been in the Navy for five years and are planning to turn it into a career.”

Turning to Sam, Tom said, “Your name is Paul Sterling, call sign: Professor; Prof for short. They call you that because you were valedictorian when you graduated from high school last year in your hometown of Franklin, North Carolina. You’re nineteen and are counting the days till you are out of the service for good.” Then pointing towards Al, a smirk appeared on Tom’s face as he very purposely said, “You’re Pigeon’s rear. It’s your job to keep him out of trouble.”

“Well,” said Al, “that’s some information at least. How about the date and the name of this boat?”

“The date is June 16, 1965, and you’re aboard the USS Midway. Ziggy hasn’t said why you are here yet.”

“Let’s ask her, shall we,” said Al, pointing to the button that would call up Ziggy’s hologram.

“I know how to use the handlink, thank you very much, Admiral,” said Tom, pushing the button. Immediately, Ziggy’s hologram appeared out of the handlink.

“Hello, Admiral, Dr. Beckett. I trust you enjoyed your flight.” Al had to smirk at the hologram’s comment.

“Don’t start with me, Ziggy. Why are we here?” snapped Sam.

“In two days’ time, Commander Louis C. Paige and his rear, Lt. Paul J. Sterling, perish when the F-4 Phantom II they are in is shot down just south of Hanoi on June 17, 1965. I project a 98.7% probability that you are here to ensure that they survive the battle.”

With obvious irritation in his voice, Sam responded, “Great, just great.”

“Hey, don’t worry, kiddo. I may have been shot down the first time around, but I’m not exactly a slouch while flying a plane.”

“I know, Al, I didn’t mean it like that. I just wish that for once, one of these leaps could be simple. Too many of them put me in life or death experiences.”

“Well, this one is on me. All you have to do is sit there and watch the radar. Don’t let me get surprised by anything and we will be fine.” Then turning towards Tom, Al said, “Could you just direct the way to our quarters?”

Retracting the hologram that was Ziggy back into the handlink, Tom directed Sam and Al to their quarters before calling up the Imaging Chamber door. “I’m going to go see what else Ziggy can dig up. I’ll see you guys when I find out more.”  With that said, Tom stepped through the door and back into the future.



Project Quantum Leap

Stallion’s Gate, New Mexico


Exiting the Imaging Chamber and walking down the ramp to the project’s Control Room, Admiral Tom Beckett asked, “Ziggy, what are the odds that Admiral Calavicci and Dr. Beckett will be successful in their mission?”

“14.2%,” was the parallel-hybrid computer’s response.

For a second, Tom thought he could hear a bit of sadness in that response, but he decided not to dwell on it. “Ziggy, how could it be only 14.2%? The Admiral has a documented history of air combat. He’s been in a dogfight or two.”

“Perhaps you forget, Admiral Beckett, Admiral Calavicci was shot down in a dogfight in 1967.”

“That doesn’t change anything,” argued Tom. “Calavicci is still a damn fine pilot. There has to be better odds than what you’re giving him.”

“Admiral Calavicci is indeed a fine pilot. But he hasn’t been in a dogfight since he was shot down over Sun Bin Yan Pu in 1967. The pilots he will be going up against are some of the best in the Vietnamese People’s Air Force. That, in conjunction with the fact that the F-4 Phantom II that the Admiral will be piloting does not have an internal gun and Dr. Beckett’s lack of experience as a radar operator, makes the chances of success only 14.2%. However, if Admiral Calavicci were to have an experienced rear in the plane, I predict a 64.2% chance of success.”

“So his chances would increase by fifty percent if Sam is not in the plane. Is that right?”

“That is correct, Admiral Beckett.”

“Well, fear of heights aside, you know as well as I do that Sam would never allow Al to go there alone. What if we found a way to get him some practice before the mission?”

“That would increase the chances of success by 7.5%, but in the short amount of time they have before their scheduled departure, I don’t know how Dr. Beckett is going to get any practice.”

“I have to go talk to Sammie Jo. I have an idea.”



Knocking on the door of Al and Beth’s quarters, Julianna Sherman-Calavicci heard the voice of her stepmother say, “Go away.”

Ignoring the request, Julianna opened the door and walked in. There, she saw Beth lying on the bed with her head buried in a pillow. “Are you alright?” she asked.

“I thought that I said to go away.”

“Yeah, well, since when did I ever listen to you?” replied Jules with a smirk.

“When you have a point, you have a point. What is it, Jules? I kind of want to be left alone right now.”

“Yeah, and I want Sean Connery to sweep me off my feet, but neither is going to happen.”

Beth couldn’t help but laugh at that. “Ok, ok, I’m up. What can I do for you, Jules?”

“It’s not what you can do for me, it’s what I can do for you. Get dressed. You’re coming with me.”

“Jules, I don’t want to go anywhere. I want to be here where I can hear what is happening with Al.”

“No arguments, mama. You’re coming. Sammie Jo said that she would watch Jude, and I have a plane standing by already.”

“And where exactly do you want to take me?”

“It’s a surprise,” said Jules, walking over to Beth’s closet and pulling out an outfit for her to wear. Tossing it to her stepmother, she finished, “So get dressed.”

Resigned to the fact that Jules was not about to take no for an answer, Beth got up and said, “Ok, just give me fifteen minutes.”

“Ok, the clock starts now,” said Jules, walking to the door and stepping out into the hall.

Looking down at the dress that Jules had just picked out, Beth let out a sigh and began to get dressed.



An hour later, Jules was piloting a small Cessna 310R airplane over the New Mexico Desert, heading towards Arizona. Beth, being quite a capable pilot herself, sat in the co-pilot’s seat wearing the co-pilot’s headphones.

So far, it had been an uneventful flight, with the possible exception of a weird bang at take-off. So the two women had sat mostly in silence, each hoping the other would be the one to break it. But, as of yet, neither had, so Beth just turned to stare out the window. Staring at the desert far below, Beth couldn’t help but think about Al and started to cry.

Seeing this, Jules finally said, “Mama, don’t worry about dad. He’s very resourceful, and he has Sam there. Sam wouldn’t let anything happen to him.”

“But what if he can’t? Observing isn’t the same as leaping. At least when Al is in the Imaging Chamber, he’s not in physical danger. He is not actually in the situations that Sam seems to find himself in way too often.”

“But dad isn’t a recluse. He has found himself in a dangerous situation or two. And he always seems to find his way home to you.”

Murmuring, Beth said, “Thanks occasionally to Sam.”

“What, I didn’t hear that. What did you say?”

“Nothing, don’t worry about it.”

Jules was about to push Beth for an answer when they heard a loud bang coming from the left engine followed by a rattling. Looking over her shoulder, Jules saw that the propeller was not spinning nearly fast enough.

Queuing the radio, Jules said, “Mayday. Mayday. This is Cessna N312DZ. We have a left engine cutoff…”

Cut off in mid-sentence, Jules saw the engine catch fire. Reaching forward, she pulled the fire extinguisher release latch, which promptly put out the fire. As soon as the fire was extinguished, Jules watched as the propeller stopped spinning.

Beth said, “It’s ok, we still have the right engine.” But she spoke too soon.

The right engine overcompensated for the defective left. It wasn’t long until the right engine gave way too.

“Mayday. Mayday. This is Cessna N312DZ. We now have a right engine cutoff as well. We are flying dead stick and we are going down. Mayday. Mayday. This is Cessna N312DZ. We have a right and left engine cutoff. We are flying dead stick and we are going down.”

Then pulling the headphones off her head, Jules threw them down and said, “Mama, assume your crash position.”

Beth did as she was told and Jules started to try to bring the plane down. Finding a flat area of desert, she aimed for it and tried to get her air speed down. It didn’t take long for them to realize that they were coming in too hot.

As they were approaching the ground, Jules started to lift the nose trying to scrub off the excess speed. At touchdown, the wheels broke off from underneath them. Then the plane did a nosedive and both passengers flew forward in their seats.

Skidding across the desert sand, the nose planted itself and the rear end of the plane lifted into the air. As the rear of the plane went the rest of the way over, the plane came to a stop while upside down. Inside, Beth and Jules were hanging upside down in their restraint harnesses, completely motionless.





June 16, 1965

USS Midway


Sitting in their hosts’ quarters, Al and Sam were going over Sam’s responsibilities as a radar and weapons specialist. Slowly, using a paper and pencil to illustrate his points, Al described the parts of the instrument panel that his Swiss-cheesed brain could remember.

Sam was taking to it about as well as could be expected under the circumstances, but there was only so much that he could learn looking at shaky hand drawings.

They were about to go over the drawings for the thirteenth time when they heard the Imaging Chamber door open up. Looking over at it, they saw Tom walk through and close the door behind him.

Looking up at his brother, Sam said, “Hey, Tom, what have you got for us?”

“Not much right now. We’re working on something right now, but we’re not sure whether it will work yet. What are you two working on?”

“Well, Al was trying to show me how to read the radar and weapons displays. But it is hard using just these drawings.”

“Yeah, that’s what we are trying to…” Then speaking to an unseen person, Tom asked, “What do you mean ‘something happened to their plane?’”

“What?” asked Al. “What’s going on?”

Without answering, Tom opened the door and stepped back into the future.



Project Quantum Leap

Stallion’s Gate, New Mexico


Marching back into the Control Room, Tom said, “Ziggy, what’s happening?”

“I was tracking the flight of Captain and Doctor Calavicci. It disappeared from radar moments ago.”

“What do you mean that it went off radar?”

“I estimate a 98.3% probability that the plane has crashed.”

“No, Ziggy, please tell me that you are joking.”

“I don’t joke, Admiral. I tried to perpetrate a joke on Doctor Beckett and Admiral Calavicci once when I let them believe that Doctor Beckett had leaped into a wolf. Unfortunately, it didn’t go over well. Possibly due to the food Doctor Beckett was forced to consume.”

Shaking his head, Tom said, “I don’t want to know. Do you have a location on the plane right now?”

“Not at this time, Admiral. Unfortunately, when the plane went under radar, I lost its location. However, I have narrowed down the location to a fifty-square-mile-area of New Mexico desert.”

“Ok, try to get me the audio from their last transmission and dispatch a search-and-rescue team from the project to try and find them. Let’s just hope that they are still alive.”

Exiting the Control Room, Tom headed down the hallway to his office. This was a call that he didn’t want to make, but he knew he had to. “Ziggy, get me Lisa Sherman on the phone.”

“Yes, Admiral. Her phone is ringing on line two.”

“Thanks, Ziggy,” said Tom while picking up the phone and putting it to his ear. He heard it ring three times before it was picked up.

“Hello,” said a cheerful voice.

“Ms. Sherman, you don’t know me. My name is Admiral Tom Beckett. I work with your daughter.”

Beginning to sound a little nervous, Lisa asked, “How may I help you, Admiral?”

“Have you talked to your daughter recently?”

“Yes, actually, earlier today. She called and told me that she was flying herself and Beth Calavicci to California for the day. Why, is there something wrong?”

“Well, unfortunately, yes there is. I am calling with some bad news. Your daughter’s plane went off radar about twenty minutes ago and it is presumed that they have gone down.”

Panicking, Lisa screamed, “What!! Are they ok?”

“Sorry, Ms. Sherman, but at the moment, we don’t have any information. We have just dispatched a search-and-rescue team to search for the wreckage.”

“Where’s Al? I want to talk to him.”

“Admiral Calavicci is away from the project for a short time and I am in charge while he’s gone.”

“I’m coming there.”

“There really is no need for that. I’d be more…”

“The hell there isn’t. That is my daughter and a very close friend out there. I don’t give a shit if I have to hitchhike all the way there. I am coming!”

“In that case, let me send a plane to pick you up. It’ll be easier that way.”

“Thank you, Admiral. I would appreciate it.”

“I’ll have Ziggy dispatch the plane immediately and she will get in touch with you to tell you where and when it will pick you up.”

Then straining to hold her composure, Lisa said, “Thank you again, Admiral. I’ll be waiting.”

Hanging up, Tom asked, “Ziggy, did you get all that?”

“Yes, Admiral.”

“Dispatch the plane immediately and let me know when Ms. Sherman arrives. I have to go see Sammie Jo.”

Then leaving his quarters, he went to find Sammie Jo. Walking to her room, Tom knocked on the door.

Standing over Isabella’s crib, Sammie Jo was just brought back to reality by a knock on the door. “Come in.”

Entering, Tom saw Sammie Jo just staring into the crib, a look of admiration on her face. On her bed, Jude Albert was sleeping. Walking in, he saw her looking over her shoulder at him.

“Hey Sammie, could I talk to you outside for a couple minutes?”

“Sure,” Sammie Jo said while walking out the door and into the hallway. “What’s up?”

Letting the door shut behind him before speaking, Tom said, “Hey, did you get a chance to work on what I asked you to do?”

“No,” said Sammie Jo nodding to the door. “I have been busy. But I asked Stephen to take a look at it. With his talent with the holographic interface and the fact that he created the handlink, I thought he would be the best one to make the adjustments you asked for.”

“Alright, that’s fine.” Then nodding to the door, Tom asked, “Does Jude know yet?”

Confused, Sammie asked, “Does he know what?”

“What? Don’t tell me you don’t know yet?”

Now nervous, Sammie again asked, “Know what?”

“Sammie, Jules and Beth… Their plane… It disappeared from radar. Ziggy said that there is a 98.3% chance that they’ve gone down.”

“Oh no. Are they all right?”

“We don’t know yet. We just got word of the accident. To my knowledge, they haven’t been found yet. But Ziggy has narrowed the search to a fifty-square-mile search area.”

“But what happens if they are dead? What’s going to happen to Jude? What’s he going to do if his mother is dead?”

“Sammie, don’t go jumping to any forgone conclusions. Both Jules and Beth are good pilots. There is a very good possibility that they were able to bring the plane down safe and sound. We’ve sent a search-and-rescue team to look for them, and we are trying to get the audio from their last radio transmission now. Just go inside and be with Jude, but act normal.”

“Yeah, that’ll be easy,” said Sammie sarcastically.

“Try, Sammie; for Jude’s sake. I called his Grandma Lisa to let her know about the accident. She is on her way to the project as we speak. But I have to go see Stephen and see how his little project is coming along.”

“I’ll try,” said Sammie Jo before turning and walking back into her room.

Following the hall, Tom walked to Stephen’s room next. Knocking, he heard, “Come in.”

Opening the door, Tom walked into Stephen’s room. Looking around, he saw bits and pieces of electronic components scattered everywhere. Looking over to the desk in the corner of the room, he saw Stephen soldering something. Walking up to him, he said, “Hey, Stephen. How’s it going?”

“Hey, Uncle Tom. I was just doing some last minute adjustments on the handlink.”

“So, it’ll work the way I asked then?”

“Yeah, it wasn’t too hard. I just had Ziggy dig up a picture of the cockpit then I downloaded it into the handlink. It’s going to suck up a ton of power, but I think you’ll have at least a half hour before you run out.”

“Good. I just hope it helps your dad.”

“I think it will. Dad’s a quick study and this was a really good idea you had. I actually would like to figure out how to perfect it so we could use it again if we have to.”

Walking over to his nephew, Tom said, “All right, show me how it works.”



June 16, 1965

USS Midway


When Tom walked back through the Imaging Chamber door, Al and Sam were waiting for him. “Tom, what’s going on!” screamed Al.

“Don’t worry about it, Al. I have everything under control.”

“The hell you do! I am the administrator of this project and I want to know what is going on!”

“Well, unfortunately for you, Al, you are about forty years in the past right now and I am Acting Administrator. So I’ll take care of it.”

“And when I am back, I’ll be Administrator again. Now you said something about a plane. I want to know what is going on.”

“It’s nothing you can help with right now. A friend of mine was on a plane that had to make an emergency landing,” said Tom cryptically.

“A friend, who?” asked Sam.

“It’s just a fellow ex-SEAL.” Then quickly changing the subject, Tom said, “But that’s not why I am here. I have had Stephen working on something since we first located the two of you.”

“And what would that be?” asked Al.

“Well, Ziggy said that even with your experience in dog-fighting, that there is only a 14.2% chance of success.”

“No, I don’t buy that, not for a second. I had a pretty impressive kill record in ’Nam,” informed Al.

“True, but Sam doesn’t have any experience as a rear. With this particular plane, the pilot has to rely heavily on the radar and weapons specialist. If we get Sam some practical hands-on experience, then Ziggy says the chances might go up to 21.7%.”

“And how exactly are we supposed to do that?” asked the irritated Admiral.

“That’s what I had Stephen helping me with. Pull up a couple of seats and set them up back to back.” Tom watched as Sam and Al did as they were told. “Set them close together and then, Al, you sit in the first seat; Sam, you behind him.”

Sam and Al both sat down and listened as Tom said, “Ok, we’re going to have to go through this pretty quickly. I only have about a half-hour’s worth of power for this.”

Confused, Sam asked, “For what?”

“For this.” Tom pushed a button on the handlink and aimed it at the sitting men. From out of nowhere, a perfect holographic replica of the cockpit of the F-4 Phantom II appeared around them.

Both Sam and Al jumped as the hologram surrounded them and Sam asked, “What’s this?”

“This is the newest handlink feature, compliments of Stephen. That kid’s a genius, I’m telling you.”

“Well, what do you expect with a father like he’s got,” asked Al pointing at Sam.

“Ok, enough chit-chat. We’re on the clock here. Let’s get to work.”





Somewhere in the New Mexico Desert


Finally regaining consciousness about an hour after the crash, Jules did not immediately recognize her situation. All the blood had rushed to her head and she was very disoriented. After a couple minutes of trying to clear her head, she realized that she was hanging upside down in her seat. Trying to find a way to brace herself, Jules released the seatbelt. Unfortunately, being so out of it, she still fell down hard and banged her head on what any other day would be the inside roof of the plane.

Orienting herself, Jules could see that her Mama Beth was still out cold. Slowly crawling over to her, Jules supported Beth’s unconscious frame and released her seatbelt. It wasn’t easy, but Jules managed to keep Beth from falling as hard as she herself had.

The inside of the now somewhat flattened plane was very cramped and Beth was now twisted up like a pretzel. Although she still felt very loopy, Jules knew she had to get Beth out of the plane. So, summoning all her determination, Jules managed to get a good hold of Beth and began to drag her out.

It took a while, but Jules now had Beth outside the plane and lying next to it. Starting to feel a little better now, Jules surveyed the situation. Realizing that the situation was extreme, her Navy SEAL training kicked in. Knowing that the first essential in a desert survival situation was to locate shade, she opened the plane’s storage compartment. Grabbing a beach umbrella, she set it up. Then, speaking to the still unconscious Beth, Jules said, “I had planned to take you to a beach in California, and good thing too. Now we have at least a semblance of shade.”

It was also essential that she treat any injuries that she could. Knowing this, Jules looked Beth over for injuries. Immediately she noticed that Beth’s leg was twisted all out of place and dislocated. It looked painful and, all in all, she was glad that Beth had not regained consciousness yet. It made what she knew she had to do next easier.

Jules knew that Beth would be in excruciating pain when she woke up, so she grabbed her leg above and below the knee. Summoning all her strength, she shoved it back into place. Then using pieces of the destroyed aircraft, she created a makeshift splint and tied it in place to support the injury.

Grabbing the first aid kit from the plane, Jules started treating Beth for some cuts and scratches she received in the crash. When she was sure she had gotten them all, she then turned her attention to her own cuts and scratches.

While she was cleaning her own wounds, Beth finally regained consciousness and lowly moaned. “What happened?”

Not downplaying the seriousness of their situation, Jules answered, “We had a duel engine cutoff and we went down. We’re somewhere in the New Mexico desert right now.”

“Why does my leg hurt so much?”

“When we hit, you must have dislocated it. I popped it back into place and then I cleaned your other cuts and scratches.”

“Thanks, Jules. I really appreciate it.” Then changing the subject, she said, “Do you think they know we went down yet?”

“I would bet on it,” answered Jules. “Doesn’t Ziggy always monitor flights in and out of the project?”

“I honestly don’t know. It’s hard to think right now. Is there any kind of pain relievers in that first aid kit?”

“Let me check.” Grabbing some extra strength Advil, she handed it to Beth with a bottle of water from out of a picnic basket she had brought for the beach. “We don’t have a lot of water, so we have to go easy on it.”

“Thanks, Jules. You’re a life saver.”

“Well, I’m working on it,” said Jules while grabbing a cushion off of one of the broken seats to give to Beth as a pillow. Then putting it under her head, she went back to get some beach towels for them to lie on.

After they set everything up, Jules said to Beth, “Why don’t you try to get some sleep. It would probably help. At least you wouldn’t feel the pain in your leg anymore.”

“That’s not such a good idea, and I wouldn’t recommend sleep for you either,” said Beth in true doctor form.

Confused, Jules asked, “Why not?”

“Did you lose consciousness at all in the crash?”

Answering her stepmother, Jules said, “Yeah, I came around not long before you did.”

“Then you might be concussed. We both might be.”

“How can we tell?” she asked the doctor in Beth.

“Jules, you should know all this. After all, weren’t you a SEAL? You should know the symptoms of concussions.” Beth sounded very agitated.

Brushing off the agitation in Beth’s voice, Jules said, “It has been a long time since I have had any day-to-day experience with concussions, so could you refresh my memory. What are some of the symptoms?”

“There’s severe headache, dizziness, and vomiting, increased size of one pupil or sudden weakness in an arm or leg. They may also seem restless, agitated or irritable. Sometimes, the person may have memory loss or seem forgetful.”

Thinking about it for a moment, Jules said, “I do have a slight headache, and I was disoriented at first, but I’m fine now. I don’t seem to have any of the other symptoms. How do my pupils look?”

Looking at her stepdaughter’s eyes, she said, “No, they’re fine.”

Looking in her Mama Beth’s eyes, Jules said, “Your right pupil is larger than the left. And you sounded agitated before. That’s a second symptom. Do you exhibit any of the other symptoms?”

“I do have a massive headache, and I am dizzy. Then there is my leg, but that is beside the point. We know why my leg feels the way it does.” Closing her eyes, she said, “It’s obvious that I’m concussed. You have to keep me awake, no matter what. It’s not safe for me to sleep right now.”

“Don’t worry, Mama, you can count on me.”



Project Quantum Leap

Stallion’s Gate, New Mexico


Exiting the Imaging Chamber, Tom placed the handlink in its cradle and asked, “Ziggy, what are the chances that Sam and Al will be successful in their mission?”

“Due largely to the success of the holographic cockpit of the F-4 Phantom II that Stephen created, I predict a 47.8% possibility of success. It was an excellent idea you had, Admiral Beckett.”

“Thanks, Ziggy, but I got the idea from the Star Trek holodeck.” Then turning to Dom, he said, “Dom, get me some more power. We have to get another training session in. 47.8% is still way too low of odds.”

“I’ll do what I can, Admiral,” responded Dominic, “but it’s going to take some time.”

“Time is not something we have an abundance of right now, Dom. Pull power from wherever you have to, I don’t care. Just get it for me.”

“Right away, Admiral.”

“Ziggy, is there any other news on Jules and Beth yet?”

“Not at this time, Admiral,” responded the dreamy voice. “I have dispatched a search-and-rescue team to their last known location as you requested. However, they will not arrive there for another 18.2 minutes.”

“Thanks, Zig. Keep me posted,” said Tom as he exited the Control Room. Then walking down the hall, he knocked on Stephen’s door.

“Come in,” yelled Stephen from his workbench.

Entering, Tom said, “Hey, kiddo, how’s my genius nephew doing?”

“Who, me? I’m good. How’s Dad? Did the handlink work? Is dad able to use it to train?”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, not so fast. Let’s try one question at a time. What do you say?”

“Sorry, Uncle Tom,” apologized Stephen. “How are dad and Uncle Al doing?”

“They’re all right. And they are both very proud of you.”

“So the handlink worked then?”

“Like a charm. You definitely are your father’s son, Stephen.”

“Thanks, Uncle Tom,” said Stephen, positively glowing from the compliment. “So the hologram is going to be able to help Dad train?”

“It certainly is. Ziggy had been predicting that getting your father some experience would increase their chances of success to 21.7%. After your father got some experience in your hologram, their chances of success jumped to 47.8%. So I would say that it is a total success.”

Tom could see the pride radiating off of the youngster’s face at hearing that. “You just sit here and bask in your glory for a while, Stephen. You’ve earned it. I have to go talk to your sister for a while.”

Stephen got up and threw his arms around his uncle, giving him a big bear hug. “Thanks, Uncle Tom.”

“No sweat, kiddo. I’ll talk to you later, ok?”

Tom got up and walked out the door. Going to see Sammie Jo, he knocked on her door before being told to enter.

“Hey, Uncle Tom, is there any word from Beth and Jules?” Sammy Jo asked.

“Not yet. Ziggy sent a search-and-rescue team to try and find them, but they won’t be there for like ten minutes yet.”

“I know. Daniel is heading up the search-and-rescue party.”

“Good. Daniel is a good man. If anybody can find them, he can.”

“Thanks. So, any news about Dad and the Admiral?”

“Yeah, the modifications that Stephen made to the handlink worked like a charm. The makeshift holodeck brought Al and your father’s chances of survival to 47.8%. Dom is trying to get more power right now so that we can run the training program again.”

“Tell him that if he needs help to just give me a call.”

“Sammie, you have Isabella and now Jude to worry about. Your place right now is here. I’ll keep you posted on what is happening. But I had better get back to the Control Room and light a fire under Dom’s butt. I’ll see you later.” Then kissing Sammie Jo on the forehead, Tom said, “Give Isabella a kiss for me, too.”

“Thanks, Uncle Tom.”

On his way back to the Control Room, Tom heard Ziggy chime in. “Admiral Beckett. The search-and-rescue team has made it to the site of where the plane went off radar.”

“Have they found anything yet?”

“Not as of yet, Admiral. There is no sign of the plane or any survivors. However, as it is now quite dark in the desert, this fact is not surprising. It is quite possible that we will not hear anything until morning.”

“Keep them on it, Ziggy. It gets awful cold in the desert at night. And they could be injured.”

“Admiral, I think you should be prepared for the possibility…”

“Don’t say it, Ziggy. Don’t you even think it. We are going to find them. They may be a little worse for the ware, but they are alive. Trust me on that. Jules is a former Navy SEAL and Beth is too stubborn. She has to be to be Al’s wife. They’re alive, Ziggy. There is a 100% certainty of that.”





Somewhere in the New Mexico Desert


With the setting of the desert sun, the immediate danger for Beth and Jules changed from the immense desert heat to the deep night cold. Unfortunately, having planned to spend the day at a beach, they didn’t have any heavy clothes to wear for warmth. Scrounging around in the plane, Jules had managed to find a few select items to burn. It wasn’t much and she just hoped that she would be able to keep the fire burning long enough to get them through the night.

The other problem was Beth’s concussion. She was becoming increasingly more difficult to keep awake. Twice, Jules had to slap her lightly in the face to keep her from dozing off. But, for the moment, Beth was winning the battle against her weariness. Her eyes had just started to close when Jules had said, “I’m sorry.”

Curious, Beth asked, “Sorry for what, honey?”

“For getting you into this mess. I only wanted to get you out of the project for a while, to somewhere that you could lose all your worries. The middle of the desert is not what I had in mind.”

“I know, honey. It’s not your fault. There was a parts failure. Part failures happen occasionally. There’s nothing you can do about that.”

“But I put you in a dangerous situation that you didn’t have to be in.”

“You didn’t put me into this situation. You were flying us to the beach and we had engine failure. The way I look at it, you got us out of a dangerous situation. We could easily have died in that crash and here we both are. We might be a little banged up, but we’re alive. That’s thanks to you.”

“Thanks, Mama, but you wouldn’t have been on that plane in the first place if I hadn’t dragged you onto it. I mean, you said you didn’t want to go but I wouldn’t listen. I forced you to go.”

Beth’s agitation started to show through again as she said, “Jules, put a sock in it, all right? I don’t need to hear this self-pity right now. Did you drug me and carry me onto the plane? No. Nobody forced me to go. If I hadn’t wanted to go, I wouldn’t have. All I had to do was refuse. The truth is, we haven’t really gotten a chance to spend much time together recently, and spending the day together was a great idea.”

Smiling, Jules said, “Thanks, Mama Beth. I miss spending time with you too. Just promise me something, ok?”

“And what would that be, dear?”

“That after we get out of here, we’ll make it to the beach…” Looking around at the desert sand all around her, Jules shuddered before saying, “Well, maybe not the beach, but somewhere where we can spend the day together without the hassles of the project, just you and me.”

“I promise, but only under one condition.”

“Yeah, what’s that?”

“Next time, we drive.”

Jules couldn’t help it. She had to laugh at that. With a chuckle still in her voice, she said, “So what are you trying to say, huh?”

“Nothing, it’s just that two plane crashes in one lifetime, it should be enough to make anybody take the bus.”



Project Quantum Leap

Stallion’s Gate, New Mexico


Standing at the project’s heliport, Tom awaited the transport that would bring Lisa Sherman to Project Quantum Leap. Hearing the helicopter approaching in the distance, Tom stood at attention. He watched as the aircraft made final approach and finally landed.

When the helicopter’s blades stopped spinning, he watched as the door opened and Lisa Sherman stepped out. Walking over to her, Tom held out his hand to shake Lisa’s. “Ms. Sherman, it is a pleasure to meet you. I just wish it could have been under better circumstances.”

Shaking Tom’s hand, Lisa said, “So do I. Has there been any word yet?”

“Well, the search-and-rescue team arrived in the search area a little while ago, but there is no sign of them yet. In the meantime, I have arranged some guest quarters for you.” Then turning to a guard, he said, “Would you please get the lady’s bag and see that it’s brought to her quarters?”

“Certainly, sir,” the guard responded.

Tom started leading the way to Lisa’s quarters. Then, realizing that she may not have eaten, Tom asked, “Have you eaten yet? The cafeteria is open and their food is… edible… almost.”

Lisa allowed herself a little smile at that. “No, as soon as I got off the phone with you, I packed a bag and left. I actually am kind of hungry.”

“Then right this way.” Tom led the way to the cafeteria and ordered himself a turkey club. Lisa ordered the Salisbury steak and then they both sat down.

After a moment of silence, Lisa asked, “So, when do you expect Al back?”

“We really aren’t sure. We are hoping it will be soon, but he has been given a really important assignment. It could be a while.”

They finished eating in silence and then Tom led the way to Lisa’s guest quarters. “If you need anything, just ask Ziggy and she will get somebody to get it for you. I have to reiterate that your security clearance will only allow you access to your guest quarters and the cafeteria. Everywhere else is off-limits.”

“I know. I’ve been here before.”

“I know, but I still have to mention it.”

“Thank you, Admiral. You have been very kind.”

“It’s my pleasure, and as soon as I know something about Beth and Julianna, you’ll know.”

“Thank you.”

Exiting Lisa’s guest quarters, Tom walked back to the Control Room. “Dom, did you manage to get me that power I need yet?”

“Two minutes, Admiral,” replied the head technician.

“Good work, Dom.” Then grabbing the handlink, Tom said, “I’ll be in the Imaging Chamber. Load it up when you get the power.”

“Will do, Admiral.”

“Oh, and could you please let Sammie Jo know that Jude’s Grandma Lisa is here?”


With that said, Tom stepped through the Imaging Chamber door to wait for Dom to finish.



June 16, 1965

USS Midway


Tom only had to wait a minute before the Imaging Chamber came online. When it did, he saw Al and his brother lying on their respective bunks, sleeping.

With time and power limited, Tom wasted no time in waking the two leapers up. “Sam, Al, come on guys, get up. I have power for training, but it’s limited. Hurry up and set up the seats so we can get started.”

Groggily, Al asked Tom, “Haven’t you ever heard of the fifteen-minute rule?”

“No, what’s that?”

“It’s a rule that said that you are not allowed to use your brain for fifteen minutes after waking up.”

“Or in your case, not at all,” said Tom, chuckling.

“Why you…”

With a big smile on his face, Tom asked, “That got you up, now didn’t it?”

“Children, children, play nice,” said Sam, laughing to himself. It felt good to be able to see Tom again, even if he couldn’t hug him. “Let’s set this up.”

They placed the chairs back to back again and sat down. As soon as Tom pushed the appropriate button on the handlink, the holographic cockpit of the F-4 Phantom II appeared from out of nowhere and surrounded them.

In front of Al were the familiar gauges and joystick. Stephen had rigged the hologram to react to Al’s movements. So even though Al wasn’t actually touching the stick, it reacted to his movements and Sam’s radar screen adjusted accordingly.

In front of Sam sat a radar screen. Looking at it, he saw a blip coming up from the bottom of the screen. “We have a MiG 17 coming up at our six. He’s at two thousand yards and closing.”

Mock flying the holographic simulator, Al veered off to the right causing Sam’s radar screen to change in order to account for the MiG’s new position.

“He’s swinging around to follow us. Now he is at eight-thirty, fifteen hundred yards.”

Al performed a mock loop and the radar showed the plane following them.

“He’s back on our six. Shake him off.”

With Al making the appropriate movements to slow down, the radar responded by showing the plane starting to close in.

“He’s at our five and closing to eight hundred feet.”

Quickly, Al broke hard right and the radar responded by showing the plane flying right past.

“Great, Al, he just went right by us.”

Responding to Sam’s observation, Al went to swing the simulator back around. Then he asked, “Now where is he?”

“Now he is at our eleven, five hundred feet.”

Swinging the simulator around to eleven o’clock, Al fired an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile.

First Sam saw the Sidewinder’s quantity decrease by one then promptly saw the blip on the radar screen vanish. Then Sam proclaimed, “Direct hit!”

Hearing Sam proclaim victory over the MiG 17, Tom smiled and queued up a couple more opponents.



Project Quantum Leap

Stallion’s Gate, New Mexico


A half hour later, Admiral Thomas Beckett stepped out of the Imaging Chamber and into the Control Room. “Ziggy, what are the odds of Sam and Al succeeding tomorrow?”


“That is not quite as high as I would like it,” said Tom, “but at least it’s more than fifty percent now. Dom, what are the chances of getting this holographic cockpit able to run again tomorrow morning?”

“Not good, Admiral,” answered Dom. “I pulled every bit of power that I could muster for that training session. Hell, I even have us running on emergency lighting.”

It was not until Dom mentioned the lighting that Tom even realized how dark it was in the Control Room. Changing gears a little, Tom asked, “Ziggy, is there any word on Julianna and Beth?”

“Unfortunately, the search-and-rescue team has yet to find the wreckage.”

Shaking his head, Tom then asked, “Don’t you have any good news for me?”

“Yes, Admiral, Dom just saved a ton of money on his car insurance by switching to Geico.”

Rolling his eyes at Ziggy’s comment, Tom looked over at Dom and could see that he was smirking slightly. “Ziggy, I meant about Beth and Jules.”

“Actually, yes. I have managed to obtain a copy of Captain Calavicci’s final transmission.”

“Good work, Zig,” said Tom with a hint of relief in his voice. “Set it up for me in my office.”

“Right away, Admiral.”

Retreating out of the Control Room, Tom started heading for his office—an office he hoped would not be his much longer. The office’s previous occupant had been General Hawkins, but he had been killed in that whole Project Liberty fiasco. Before him, the office belonged to Dom. He was still fine, but he had received the office after his predecessor, Edward St. John VI, was killed when a plane hit the car he was in while it was making an emergency landing on the runway just outside the complex.

Then there was Gooshie. Gooshie was a legend inside the walls that housed Project Quantum Leap. He had been the project’s first Head Programmer. But when the project came under attack from an outside source, he gave his life to save Ziggy. Ziggy still carried a hint of sadness in her voice when talking about Gooshie.

All told, three of the four previous occupants of this office met with an untimely demise. He did not want to become the fourth. So walking to the office, he was thinking that he needed a talisman and considered giving his old war buddy Magic a call. It couldn’t hurt, could it?

He shuddered a bit when he walked through the door, but didn’t dwell on it. He needed to hear the tape of the last transmission. Just as he had asked, the recording was queued up on his computer.

Pressing play, he heard the familiar voice coming through the computer’s speakers. “Mayday. Mayday. This is Cessna N312DZ. We have a left engine cutoff…”

When Julianna stopped talking, she had left the radio queued and Tom vaguely heard Beth say, “It’s ok, we still have the right engine.”

In the background, Tom could hear the other engine give off a stained sound and knew what was going to happen next.

“Mayday. Mayday. This is Cessna N312DZ. We now have a right engine cutoff as well. We are flying dead stick and we are going down. Mayday. Mayday. This is Cessna N312DZ. We have a right and left engine cutoff. We are flying dead stick and we are going down.”

Then, from what sounded like far away, he heard Jules say, “Mama, assume your crash position.”

Not long after that he heard the sound of the plane crashing into the desert and the radio go dead.

With a heavy heart, Tom pressed the stop button and closed his eyes. This day had worn him out and all he wanted was to get some sleep. “Ziggy, if you hear anything about Jules and Beth, let me know. I am going to bed. Tomorrow might be a brighter day.”

“Goodnight, Admiral,” was the parallel-hybrid computer’s response. “Pleasant dreams.”

“Yeah, like there is even a chance of that.” Then getting up, Tom left his office and headed towards his quarters for a sleepless night.





Project Quantum Leap

Stallion’s Gate, New Mexico


The next morning, Tom woke up when he heard the shrill call of his alarm clock. Sleep had not come that night. He couldn’t stop his mind from racing. All night, he was hearing the last transmission from Jules before she went down. When he wasn’t thinking of that, he was thinking about Sam and the precarious position he was in.

Although he would never tell him, Tom had a newfound respect for Al. He had only been in charge there a week and he already felt like he needed a vacation. Al had been running the project for quite some time now and showed no signs of slowing. Tom really didn’t know how he did it.

Getting out of bed, Tom took a quick shower before getting dressed and heading to the Control Room. When he walked in, he saw Dom was already at his station.

“Good morning, Admiral,” said the head programmer. “Did you get any sleep last night?”

“Not a wink. Thanks for asking. Has there been any word about Beth and Jules?”

“Not yet. But the sun is up now. They should have better luck, with the daylight and all.”

“But with that daylight comes the desert heat. That is a complication that they don’t need.”

“Not to sound heartless to the situation with Dr. Calavicci and Captain Calavicci, but Admiral Calavicci and Dr. Beckett should be about ready for takeoff,” said the voice of the parallel-hybrid computer.

“Dom, fire up the Imaging Chamber.”

“Right away, Admiral.”

Grabbing the handlink off of its cradle, Tom walked up the ramp and stepped through the door.



June 17, 1965

USS Midway


When the Imaging Chamber came online, Tom saw that he was standing on the flight deck. Sam and Al were standing by their plane. Each was holding his helmet under his arm. “Hey guys,” he said. “Did you manage to get any sleep?”

“Some,” said Sam. “What does Ziggy say the chances of us succeeding today are?”

Punching up the information on the handlink, Tom read the screen and saw that the odds hadn’t changed from the night before. Not sure whether that was a good thing or a bad thing, he said, “64.2%.”

“Well, that’s certainly better than what she had been predicting,” said Sam.

“If you ask me, she is still forgetting about my combat experience,” informed Al. “Otherwise, the odds would be higher.”

Tom just glared at Al before saying, “I already told you. She is taking into account for your prior combat experience. It was Sam’s lack of experience that was bringing the odds down, and we did a pretty good patch job on that.”

“Yeah, whatever you say, Admiral.”

The newfound respect for Al was gone now. ‘That didn’t take long,’ he thought. “The other pilots are mounting up. You guys better get up there and prepare for takeoff.” Then Tom just stood back and watched as Sam and Al mounted their steed.

About fifteen minutes later, they sat at the end of the runway, waiting for clearance to take off. Tom stood at the other end of the runway. He wanted a front row seat for this.

A moment later, the flagman at the end of the runway gave the signal and Al and Sam’s plane shot forward. Reaching the end of the runway, they passed right though Tom and climbed high into the air. Then, spinning on his heels, Tom turned just in time to see Al do a lazy roll.

Inside the plane, Sam yelled, “Don’t do that!!!”

Laughing, Al said, “Just trying to get a feel for the old girl.”

“Yeah, well, if you’re going to keep doing that, you can drop me off at the next gas station.”

Serious now, Al said, “Sam, you had better get used to it. When we are in the dogfight with this MiG, we are going to have to do a lot of defensive moves like that, at higher speed too.”

Al wasn’t sure, but he could’ve sworn he had heard a whimper coming from behind him. “Sam, you have to make sure you hold it together today. I don’t have radar in front here, so I am going to have to rely heavily on you.”

“Don’t worry, Al, I’ll be alright.”

Repositioning himself outside the window of the aircraft, Tom had Dom keep him centered on the leapers. “Ok, guys, heads up. We are going to be intercepting four enemy MiG 17’s in about eight minutes.”

The second Sam looked out the window at his brother, he felt queasy again. In order to keep himself from throwing up again, he had to close his eyes to settle his stomach. “Hey Tom, maybe you could position yourself behind the airplane.”

A few minutes later, Tom said, “Alright, you should be having the MiG appear on your radar in about thirty seconds.”

True to Tom’s word, a blip labeled MiG 17 appeared on Sam’s radar about thirty seconds later. “Alright, Al, heads up. There are four MiG 17’s on our four at about twenty-one hundred yards. We are closing the gap quickly.” Seconds later, they flew right by the enemy aircraft.

“Now we wait,” said Al.

Confused, Sam asked, “Now we wait? What are we waiting for?”

“The rules of engagement say that we can’t fire until fired upon.”

Shocked, Sam said, “What? When were you going to let me in on this little piece of information?”


“Oops, what do you mean ‘oops’?”

Al didn’t have time to answer. Sam’s radar went red, signifying that the enemy had just taken the first shot. One of the MiGs had snuck up on their six and Sam had been too preoccupied to notice.

“Evasive maneuvers. They’re firing!”

“WHAT!!!” Al yelled while cutting hard left. The missile missed them by only three feet. “Sam, you’re supposed to be watching the radar.” Then queuing the radio, Al said, “This is Iron Eagle, we have been fired upon by enemy aircraft. Do I have permission to return fire?”

“Permission granted, Iron Eagle. Fire at will,” was the response.

“Ok, Sam, on your toes. Where are they?”

“We have enemy aircraft on our six, ten, two and four. We’re completely surrounded.”

“Which one is closest to us?”

“The one at two o’clock. He’s at three hundred yards. But the MiG on our six is closing fast. He’s at five hundred.”

“Alright, we have to shake this guy,” said Al. “Get ready for some of that fancy flying, Sam.”

Al did a tight roll and the MiG behind him did the same.

“Still there,” said Sam.

Over the radio, the leapers heard their wingman say, “Pigeon, I have a MiG on my tail. Could you maybe see fit to get him off my ass?”

Queuing his two-way radio, Al said, “I would love to, but I have my hands full with my own MiG right now.”

“Al, he’s still on our six and closing. He’s eight hundred feet back now.” Listening to his friend, Al started slowing down. “What are you doing? You’re slowing down.”

“I’m bringing him in closer, Prof.”

“You’re going to do what?”

“I saw this in a movie once. I’ll hit the brakes and he’ll fly right by.”

“Hey Al, lets talk about this for a second.”

But Al didn’t listen. He hit the airbrakes and pulled up on the stick. Quickly, the plane slowed while climbing. It was a risky maneuver, but it paid off as the enemy MiG flew right underneath them.

Accelerating quickly, Al pulled in behind the MiG that was just behind them. He tried to get a lock, but the pilot was good. Al was keeping up with him, move for move, but he couldn’t quite get the lock.

“Al, one of his buddies is coming around at our eight.”

“Just give me five more seconds.”

“Al, he is going to get a lock on us.”

“I’ve almost got him.”

“Al, they have a lock.”

“So do I.” Al fired a heat-seeking Sidewinder missile then watched as the plane in front of him exploded in a great ball of fire.

Sam yelled, “Al, he’s firing!”

Al did a couple of tight rolls to dodge the missile. Then swinging around to go after the uninvited visitor, Al saw that plane go up in flames too.

It was only then that Al saw that his wingman had managed to shake his MiG. He had just fired a missile of his own at the MiG and managed a direct hit.

Still watching the radar, Sam saw the other planes heading in the direction they had come from. “The other MiG 17’s are leaving. Al, you did it.”

“Correction, we did it, buddy.”

“You flew the plane. All I did was sit here and look at a radar screen.”

“Do you remember me telling you how important the radar and weapons specialist was in this bird? It was a team effort.”

Then, over the radio, they heard, “The Pigeon and the Professor. Great work, guys. Let’s head back to the carrier, what do you say?”

“That certainly sounds like a plan to me,” said Al over the radio. “Thanks for your help.”

Their mission a success, the two planes flew back to the carrier in tandem. First Al’s wingman landed, and then when the runway was clear, Al brought his plane in for a nice smooth landing.

After parking the bird, Sam and Al lifted the canopy and were greeted by a roar of cheers and applause. Turning around, Al shook Sam’s hand before beginning to climb back down the ladder. Sam followed closely behind him.

At the bottom, Tom greeted them. “Great work, guys, you changed history. Now both Commander Louis C. Paige and Paul Sterling survive the conflict in Vietnam. And they, along with your wingman, one Lt. Jack E.D. Baston, are credited with the first victories over MiGs in Vietnam.” Then, once again reading the handlink, Tom said, “Everything is turning out great. Get ready to leap.”

Then, giving each other a hug, both Sam and Al leaped.



Somewhere in the New Mexico Desert


Sitting next to the destroyed aircraft, Jules stroked Beth’s hair and spoke in a calming voice. “It’s going to be all right, Mama Beth. I won’t let anything happen to you.” Then wiping the sweat from her brow, she said, “Keep fighting. We’ll be rescued soon, and then we’ll be safe and sound back at the project. They can give you a once over and then you can go to sleep.”

The heat was intense. Jules didn’t need to look at her watch to know that it was a little past noon. The scorching desert sun positioned itself right above them and the near lack of shadows was more than enough information to determine the time.

They had been stranded for nearly twenty-four hours and their situation was becoming critical. It had to be one hundred twenty degrees and the immense desert heat had started to take its toll on them physically. To make matters worse, having only packed a picnic basket, they were running out of food and water. If they weren’t found quickly, they would be in serious trouble.

Jules had not had any sleep the night before. She had pulled an all-nighter trying to make sure Beth wouldn’t fall asleep. That task proved to be nearly impossible. What was worse was the fact that Beth was seemingly getting worse all the time. During the night, she had vomited a couple times, and her speech had become steadily more slurred. These new symptoms were enough to tell Jules that Beth had more serious problems to worry about than just a concussion.

What happened next was the worst thing imaginable. As Jules sat over Beth, stroking her head, Beth started to seize. Recognizing this, Jules immediately turned Beth over onto her side to prevent her from swallowing her tongue.

For the next several minutes, Jules sat alongside Beth and tried to keep her from hurting herself more than she already was. But, when all was said and done, Jules had to watch helplessly as Beth’s body convulsed.

Finally, when the seizing subsided, Jules looked her stepmother over for newly received injuries. After a second, she saw that Beth’s eyes were closed. Knowing that she still had to keep her stepmother awake, Jules tried to shake her awake without success. “Mama Beth, wake up, please wake up. You know you can’t go to sleep right now.”

When Beth didn’t wake up, Jules’s first thought was that Beth had fallen unconscious again. For a moment, part of her was glad that her stepmother had fallen back into unconsciousness. That thought lasted all of thirty seconds. That’s when she noticed that Beth had stopped breathing.

Immediately Jules started CPR. She didn’t even notice the tears form in her eyes as she worked intently at reviving her stepmother. “Come on, Mama Beth, come on. Fight, fight, damn it, FIGHT!!!” However, no matter how much she yelled or how hard she tried, Beth didn’t respond. Refusing to give up, Jules performed CPR for fifteen minutes before finally giving in to the fact that Beth had died.

Looking into the sky above, Jules screamed, “NOOOOOOOOO. PLEASE GOD, NOOOOOOOOOO!!! DADDY, SAM, SOMBODY HELP ME!!!”

Then turning back to her stepmother, she continued, “Please don’t be dead. You can’t be dead.” She was crying so hard now that she couldn’t even see Beth’s face clearly anymore.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I never meant for any of this. All I wanted was a day with just the two of us. None of this was supposed to happen. I love you so much. I never meant to kill you. I’m so sorry.”

Then, putting her head down, Jules just cried into Beth’s shoulder.





This time, the leap out and the leap in were almost instantaneous. There was no stop at what Sam was beginning to think of as the way station between leaps.

When the blue light from the leap in dissipated, a very unwelcome sight immediately greeted Sam. Directly in front of him was a set of rigid prison bars. Nervous, he glanced down at his host’s clothing and was relieved to see that he was one of the guards.

‘Good,’ he thought, ‘at least I am not a prisoner again.’ Again…Again… He had leaped into a prisoner on death row once. At both the beginning of that leap and the end of that leap, he found himself sitting in the electric chair. That was one of Sam’s clearest memories of leaping. Even with a Swiss-cheesed brain, there are some things you just don’t forget. At least he didn’t have to worry about that nasty little experience reoccurring this time, being a guard and all.

There was one thing however for Sam to worry about. Al was nowhere in sight. Where was he? He had to be somewhere. Walking forward, Sam started looking in the cells for his leaping companion.

This was obviously solitary confinement. A solid-looking steel door sealed off each cell. Each door had a smaller sliding door at about eye-level for checking on the prisoners. A little lower on the door was another sliding door that Sam assumed was for giving the prisoners their meals.

Slowly walking from door to door, Sam slid the eye-level doors open and peered inside each one. One by one, Sam saw that Al was not the occupant. He kept searching until he had checked all but two doors that were at the other end of the hall.

Spinning on his heels, Sam headed back the other way. Reaching the end of the hall once again, he checked the final two cells. In the last of the six cells, he saw the broken image of his best friend. “Al,” said Sam with hope in his voice.

What he heard in return dashed all those hopes at once. It was the voice of his best friend, sure, but there was a certain kind of defeat in his tone as he heard Al say, “Calavicci, Albert M., Lieutenant Commander, United States Navy. Serial number B-21-23-29.”

Realizing that the leap into solitary confinement had made Al relapse back to his days spent in a Vietnamese POW camp, Sam let out a very dejected “Oh boy.”


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