Episode 1232

Preemptive Strike 

by: M. J. Cogburn, C. E. Krawiec and Jennifer Rowland


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Theorizing that one could time-travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sebastian LoNigro set out to prove the String Theory that he had co-developed with his former MIT student, Samuel Beckett—an incredibly gifted genius who was destined for greatness.  After Sam’s sudden and untimely murder in 1973, a distraught Doctor LoNigro formed a strong bond with Sam’s older brother, Lieutenant Commander Thomas Beckett, and together, they both strove to ensure that Sam’s theories would not be forgotten.


Tom quickly rose in the ranks to Captain and eventually aided Doctor LoNigro in the development of a top-secret government project code-named Chrono-Leap, which was based off of a combination of the String Theory, and the work of the late Doctor Alexander Garner and his failed Time Displacer Unit.  During the initial test-run of the experiment, a malfunction occurred that endangered the lives of everyone inside the project.  In a bold attempt to shut it down, Captain Beckett bravely stepped into the Chronoton Accelerator...and vanished.


He awoke to find himself inhabiting someone else’s body 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 Doctor LoNigro, who became the Project Observer in the wake of the Accelerator incident, appearing in the form of a neurological hologram that only Captain Beckett can see and hear.


Trapped in an alternate timeline, Captain Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, putting things right that once went wrong.  All the while, he is subconsciously aware that another leaper exists somewhere, lost in time like himself, who holds the key to restoring reality back to what it once was.  Until that day arrives, Captain Beckett struggles to recall his lost memories of a “World Without Sam Beckett,” hoping each time to alter the hands of fate so that his next leap...will be the leap home.




Floating in the midst of Time, Captain Tom Beckett waited for the impending Leap into a new host.  When it didn’t immediately happen, a hopeful thought ran through his mind: ‘Am I going home?’  The fleeting notion disappeared when he felt his stomach tingle from the pull of a new leap.


Preparing himself for anything, Tom settled into his new host.  His first sensation was that he was lying down on something extremely comfortable and his eyes were closed.  He opened his eyes and blinked.  He couldn’t see a thing.  Turning slightly on the comfy mattress he was on, he found the green digital lights of a clock.  It read: 1:43 AM.  Turning back onto his back, he spread his arm out slowly to see if it would come in contact with another body.  When it didn’t, Tom couldn’t help but relax.


Flipping over onto his right side, he rubbed his cheek lightly against the fabric of the pillowcase and hummed softly.  “Now, this is the way to leap in,” he said softly to himself.  Sighing, he relaxed and let sleep overtake him.



Tom emerged from his dreams to the guitar riffs of Lynrd Skynrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" as the clock radio signaled the arrival of the scheduled wake-up time.  He rolled his head to the side to see that the digital display now read 6:00 AM.  As he lay there, idly humming along to Skynrd, the digital readout changed to 6:01.  Tom sighed and stretched as he sat up, flicking the switch to shut off the alarm in one smooth motion.


He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes with the heels of his palms and then turned to swing his feet to the side, patting his foot around for the slippers he somehow instinctively knew would be there.


Yawning, he slipped his feet into the warm slippers and scratched his right thigh.  Tom blinked sleepily as he rose from the bed and shuffled toward the bathroom.  Another yawn assaulted him and he stretched his back, hearing it pop several times. 


The way that the leaper meandered through the room to get to the facilities, it was as if he was on autopilot.  He used the toilet, flushed and started back toward the bedroom when he barely caught a reflection in the mirror that was beside him.  He glanced up at it as he continued back toward the bedroom. 


The flash of dirty blond hair and fair skin told him he had Leaped into a Caucasian.  The pajamas and underwear had clued him in to the fact that his host was male.  Yawning, Tom didn't think much until he stood before the mirrored closet door and saw a face that was as familiar as his own.


Because it was.


His lips parted and he slowly blinked.  He brought up his hand and he touched his cheek, as did his reflection.  He smiled as his eyes scanned his body–a younger body–then looked back up at what he had looked like before he began Leaping through Time.  He couldn’t believe it.   He let out a sick chuckle as he shook his head and uttered a phrase that he hadn’t heard since his younger brother Sam had passed away.  “Ohhh boy!”





Tom was rapt, captured by the image of his younger self in the mirror.  He couldn't help it.  He continued running his hands over his face, grinning as his reflection—as he—did the same.  'This is unreal,' Tom thought, only tearing his eyes away from the mirror long enough to begin examining his bedroom.  The weak chuckle escaped him again at the recognition that it truly was his bedroom.


He hoped to find a clue that would let him know precisely how far ahead of his initial Leap he'd landed.


Tom walked over to his dresser and looked down at the mounds of paperwork strewn over the length of it.  Glancing down at one that had "Holographic Matrix" written across it, he picked it up and flipped through the pages.  It was a training manual. 


Flipping another page, Tom paused at the sight of a detailed diagram of a large chamber with a figure standing in the center of it.  He studied it closely, a frown furrowing his forehead as he glanced at the handwritten notes, his lips moving silently as he murmured them under his breath.


“Once the time traveler has been neurologically linked to, the session observer…” Tom paused a moment, shaking his head softly as a chuckle escaped his lips, as it came back to him.  “Boy, if we only knew then…” The last word smacked him between the eyes.


Spinning around, he scanned the room, his gaze searching for and finding the calendar pinned to the wall by the door.  Moving as if in slow motion, the Leaper went to stand in front of the calendar and stared at a particular date circled in red: May 8, 1995.  A couple of seconds passed before he could tear his eyes away from that date.  “What’s today’s date?” he demanded aloud.  He almost jumped out of his skin when a sultry voice answered him.


"It is Monday, May 1, 1995, Captain Beckett," Ziggy said from the speakers embedded in the ceiling tiles.  "It is also seven minutes past 0600."


"May 1st," Tom repeated under his breath.  He stared again at the date circled in red on his calendar.  "It's a week before we test the Accelerator."


"Correct, Captain Beckett," the computer said with an air of long-suffering.  "Dr. LoNigro and Gooshie wished me to let you know they will be slightly late to the meeting at 0700."


A memory came back through the holes in Tom's memory.  "Because a circuit's failed in the Imaging Chamber," he said.


A sultry lilt seemed to come from the parallel-hybrid computer.  "You assume correct, Captain.  May I ask how you knew this information since you just woke and began to admire yourself in the mirror?"


A heated blush immediately laid its claim to Tom Beckett's face and he looked down at the floor to try to think of a way to get out of having to say anything else to the obviously nosy computer.   "It was more of a question than a statement and as for watching me in my quarters... didn't we discuss that just the other day, Ziggy?"


A pout could almost be heard in the computer's words.  "Yes, Captain.  It was twenty-nine hours and forty-three minutes ago that we had that conversation.  I am just fulfilling my duty as assigned to me."


"If it was that recent ago, then turn off all monitoring systems in this room," Tom demanded.  "Or, do I need to talk with Gooshie about this anomalic problem?" 


A definite click could be heard in the room and the sultry voice came back to announce, "All visual monitoring systems have been shut off in your quarters, Captain Beckett.  Would you like for me to put a do not disturb unless it is an emergency on your room as well?"


Putting his hands on his hips, Tom studied the floor a moment before letting his gaze sweep upward toward the ceiling. In the space of a minute or so small spurts of memories of other discussions with the hybrid computer popped through some of the holes in his memory. To his surprise he recalled how he had privately come to the conclusion that when Ziggy “pouted” it reminded him of his sister, Katie, as a little girl, pouting when she couldn’t have something she wanted.  It was just a snippet of a memory, but it was enough to remind him not to let this ‘female’ draw him in.


“That won’t be necessary,” he said, a small smile making his lips twitch.  “Just keep the monitors turned off until I request them to be turned on again.”


“As you wish, Captain Beckett.”  Tom grinned; the pout was still in place. 


"Incidentally, Captain Beckett," she added in a petulant tone, "Albert will be late to the meeting as well."


Tom didn't recall Albert having assisted Bobby or Gooshie in the circuitry, but he wasn't going to rely on what had come through the hole in his Swiss-Cheesed brain.  "Is he helping with the repairs to the Chamber?" Tom asked, despite a small voice cautioning him to just leave things well enough alone.


"No," Ziggy said, far too smugly.  "He's helping himself to Pulse Communications Technician Tina O'Farrell-Martinez." Final shot issued, Ziggy clicked off audibly and silence issued into the room.


Tom shook his head and chuckled.  He was home.  Prior to his Leap, but home.  And then it hit him.  It was a week before the Accelerator accident.  Perhaps he could prevent this whole mess from ever starting.


In the far corner of the room, a rectangular box of white light appeared and a very nervous Albert Calavicci stepped out of the room, and found an excited Tom coming around the side of the bed to meet up with him.  "TOM!  We definitely need to talk, Tom.  Have you talked to anyone in this time period yet?”


Tom stopped in his tracks as he screwed up his mouth and looked at his holographic partner.  “Technically, no.”


Albert’s eyes narrowed.  “Whaddaya mean, technically?”


“Does Ziggy count?” Tom asked as he raised one shoulder nonchalantly.


Al rolled his eyes as his left hand that held the handlink dropped to his side.  “Yes, she counts.  Majorly counts.”


Albert’s reaction caught Tom a bit by surprise.  “How so?” he asked.  “She can’t see me talking to ‘thin air’... I told her to turn off the monitor.”  To the Observer’s questioning expression, he added, “I responded to a comment she made and she said something about watching me...”


Albert did a fairly good double take to what Tom was saying.  “Okay, maybe she can’t see you at the moment, but in case it slipped your mind,” he responded, “her audio scanning is still on. It stays on all the time, even if she doesn’t comment on what she hears.”


Tom looked at Albert as if to say, 'Well, then why are we discussing this here?' 


Al regarded him and idly pushed a couple of buttons on the handlink before saying, "You know, you do have authorization to have her secure the recordings."


Tom nodded and called to the ceiling, "Ziggy, I want any and all recordings from my quarters sealed until further notice from me."


Still sounding pouty, Ziggy acquiesced.  Tom let out a sigh of relief and turned to face his Observer again.


"Al, it's a week before the 8th.  Do you realize what that means?"


Al took a deep breath to answer the younger man and he opened his mouth only to close it and frown.  He couldn’t help but see the excitement in Tom's face.  "Uh... what?"


"Al, we can fix it to where I don't leap out during the testing.  We could actually fix it to where..."


"Negative, Tommy boy.  You can't do anything differently than how it originally happened.  Ziggy's already frying circuits over on this end of the timeline.  She keeps sputtering on about how nothing can change."


"But Al, we could make it to where we can pinpoint places in time to visit and actually observe the past like it was meant to be.  Things could be so different!"


"That's exactly what Ziggy's afraid of, Tom.  You can't.  You have to do it all over again."


The portion of the stubbornness he had inherited from his father chose that moment to define itself in the line of Tom Beckett’s jaw.  “What’s wrong with doing something differently if it means….”


Albert, though steadily becoming more confident and comfortable in his position and duties since having been place in the role of Observer, was careful not to overstep his authority in any manner.  It was the younger man’s attitude that rubbed him enough the wrong way that let the words out of his mouth as he thought about the records of Tom Beckett’s leaps he had been given to read to help him understand.  Fixing Tom with an unwavering gaze, Albert said quietly, “Okay, we fix it and everything’s different.”  He paused then added, “Which of the lives that you’ve impacted for the better are you going to sacrifice to get that difference?”


Albert's words hit Tom in the gut as if he'd been punched.  The holes in his memory seemed to be being kind to him today, Tom thought ironically, as the sight of the scar that marred Al's Mediterranean good looks reminded him that if he hadn't been Leaping, Al would not be standing before him.


He knew that Albert hadn't referred to himself, that he instead, as Tom had learned he often did, was thinking of the others Tom had encountered on Leaps.  Albert had no idea he himself had been the target of one.  Tom knew Ziggy would have sealed those records as securely as she did the programming lines that gave her artificial intelligence.


Overwhelmed by guilt, he hung his head and quietly said, "You're right."  But in the next breath he raised his head and looked Albert directly in the eye.  "But it's not fair.  Why should my life be sacrificed?"


"Why was mine?" Al asked, so softly that it was clear he hadn't meant to speak aloud.


Tom just looked at his holographic matrix for a moment before he turned away from him and plopped down on the bed.  "It's not fair, Al."


"I know, kid," Albert said as he shoved his hands into his pockets.  "But no one ever said that life was fair, Tom.  Things...” Albert sighed and shook his head, "things happen.  We may not like it, but it happens and we have to live with it."


For a moment neither man spoke, both considering the unavoidable truth of Albert’s observation.  Tom looked up at last, met the hologram’s eyes, and read them before speaking.  Sighing, he accepted the moment and gave Al a rueful smile. Casting about in his mind for something to say, an obvious question came to mind, though it felt sort of odd to ask it.  “Did you talk to me yet?  I mean... in the Waiting Room?”  He got his next surprise when the Observer responded.


Checking the handlink’s screen for new information, Al said, “No. Ziggy’s been wigging out since you landed here.  She’s got the Waiting Room locked down. Says it’s to safeguard us... our future from accidental cross-contamination from the project’s past.”


"Well, damn it, Al, I don't know why I'm here. I can't stop myself, and my mind's so full of holes that I can't think of a thing going on this week that could have any impact on anything.  Especially," he finished sarcastically, "since I'm not to change a thing!"


"Thanks for not killing the messenger," quipped Al, lifting a sardonic eyebrow.


Tom sighed, exasperated.  "Well, what would you do if you were in my shoes?"


Albert glanced meaningfully at the clock.  "I'd get into them first.  You're going to be later than the rest of the staff to the meeting if you don't get a move on."


Tom raised his eyebrow at Al before he good-naturedly chuckled as he looked down at his bare feet.  He'd not noticed when he had kicked off his house shoes.  Moving back over to his closet, he grabbed a pair of jeans and a dark blue pullover shirt that his mother had given to him.  He grinned as he thought of her then turned back to his observer.  "Al, I...” He stopped his sentence when he looked back to find the room deserted.  "Great.  Well, at least, I can get dressed and get to a meeting that I've already been to."


Dressing quickly, Tom went back into the bathroom to brush his teeth and to comb his hair.  He then hurried out into the hallway and came to a halt.  It had been so long since he'd been in the halls of the project that for a moment, he felt lost.  Closing his eyes, he slowly found the map of the project in his mind and he thankfully made his way down the hallway toward the conference room. 


As he opened the door of the room, he thought of Sam. His brother deserved to be here.  Sam was the one that had the merit for such a task that was before Tom and he knew it more than anyone else in the complex.  Taking a seat, he leaned his head on his hand and wished for the umpteenth time that he had done something more to prevent that lunatic from shooting his brother.





True to what Ziggy in the time he presently occupied had predicted, Dr. LoNigro and Gooshie entered the conference room some fifteen minutes after the meeting had begun.  Taking his seat, Bobby LoNigro indicated to Gordon Carstairs, who had gotten the meeting started, to finish what he was saying. 


Gordon had said only a few words when the conference room door opened again.  Tom had to duck his head and try not to be too obvious as he slid a hand across his mouth to hide the grin that appeared as the Albert Calavicci of the current leap date apologized for being late as he took a seat and immediately gave his attention to the topic being discussed.




It took hearing his name spoken aloud a second time before the Leaper realized that someone in the meeting had addressed him.


Tom hoped he didn't look as foolish as he felt as he swiveled his head around, trying to identify who had spoken.  Bobby LoNigro waved a finger in the air to catch Tom's attention.  "Over here, Tom," he said.


Caught out, Tom blushed and apologized, "Could you repeat the question, Bobby?"  He wanted to sink beneath the table.  'Way to not raise suspicion for acting odd.'


"I said," Bobby calmly repeated amid the grade school tittering of the assembled staff, "are you prepared for the auditors coming tomorrow?"


"Right, the auditors from, er," hedged Tom as he frantically searched his damaged memory for a hint.  The notebook in front of him was no help at all.


"The auditors from hell," Albert helpfully supplied, winking at Tom.


Tom grinned at Albert's comment but a glance at Bobby told him that he was waiting for an answer.  "They're from Alamogordo, aren't they?" 


Bobby gave him a sigh with a slow nod.  "And you're ready? Right, Tom?" Bobby repeated.


"Oh yeah, sure.  No problem."  He didn't remember if he was ready for the auditors or not, but he was going to make sure that he was ready no matter what.  If he had survived auditors from hell before, then he was sure that he would win out in the end.


Sebastian LoNigro gave him a narrow-eyed look and turned to look at Albert Calavicci.  "Good.  I'm sure that Albert won't have a problem with helping just to make sure that everything is running smoothly."


Al opened his mouth and rolled his eyes.  He had learned so long ago that if he'd just kept his mouth shut that he wouldn't end up in spots that he didn't want to be in.  Yet, here he was again, right in the middle of the auditors.  'Great,' he thought to himself with an unmuttered Italian curse, however, he responded to the administrator with, "Sure, Bobby.  I'll be there."


“Now that that’s taken care of,” Bobby said with an eyebrow raised as he looked around the table, “do we have any other topics that need to be discussed today?”


The room remained quiet for a moment as the members of the Project Quantum Leap looked at each other.  Tom couldn’t take the silence anymore and he licked his lips and said, “I think that maybe we should put off…”


As if on cue, the hologram popped into the conference room, with a smile plastered on his face as he pointed a knowing finger at Tom.  “You know, I had forgotten about that particular position…”


“Put off what, Tom?” Bobby asked as he straightened up in his chair. Seeing the way that his project leaper was staring into space, he whistled as he leaned in toward the table.  “Tom?  What do we need to put off?”


“Put off?” the holograph questioned as he started to shake his head.  “No, Tom!  You can’t put anything off!”  Albert said as he waved his hands in the air in a negative fashion. 


Tom looked at Bobby, then at every face around the room before he came back to the head administrator.  “Perhaps it’s my mother’s DNA that has embedded itself into my being, but are we sure that everything is set up correctly for the testing?”


“I assure you, Tom, that everyone has done their part to make sure that you are safe during the testing phase of the complex.  Don’t you worry about that,” Bobby stated emphatically.


“I have already checked all of the algorithms and have recalculated so that we wouldn’t have any glitches within the system, Captain Beckett,” Gooshie piped up. 


“We have worked so diligently.  We’ve got the funding through several independent individuals.  We have all the essential people to run everything as smoothly as possible.  We have everything in place.  Are you that hesitant in stepping into the accelerator to test it?”  Bobby asked carefully.


"Toooooommmmm," Albert said warningly.  He narrowed his eyes menacingly and glared at Tom so ferociously that the Leaper wouldn't have been at all surprised if Albert Calavicci managed to transcend the laws of physics and throttle him, hologram or not.


"No, not hesitant," Tom grudgingly said, his tone making it clear that the former Captain was no chicken.  "I just...” He met the hologram's eyes.  "Just nerves.  Kinda like before we went up in space."


The Al of the past smirked and nodded knowingly.  "Yeah, you were a basket of nerves, Tommy Boy.  But what's this 'we' stuff, huh?"


Tom looked at the past Albert and grinned.  “Just wishin’ I was up there, Al.  That’s all,” he fibbed.  Swallowing, he looked over at Bobby and gave him a sheepish grin.  "Don't worry about postponing anything.  I..."  Tom's grin widened into a smile, "I must be a little nervous about those auditors coming tomorrow."


Bobby chuckled softly at Tom's words.  "All right, people, let's go ahead and do what we need to do.   Dismissed."


As everyone got to their feet and Tom started toward the door, he heard someone call his name.  Turning he saw Bobby coming up behind him with a two inch manual in his hands. 


"Tom, I have some light reading for you," Bobby said as he approached with a tap toward the manual in his hands. 


"Ahhh, light reading, huh?" Tom asked comically as he held out his hand.  "What's this over?  Holographic neural patterns and the ability of manipulating them?"


“Yes,” Bobby said equably as he placed the manual into Tom Beckett’s extended hand.  Now it was his turn to grin upon seeing Tom’s reaction.  “Remember?  When I gave you the “Holographic Matrix” manual last week, I told you that it was a two-volume manual.”


The hologram didn’t try to hide his amusement, and when the Leaper spared a flickered glance at him said, “Hey, look at it this way.  At least you got to eat the elephant in two bites instead of just one big bite.”


“After the auditors are finished, if I know you, you’ll go through that manual in a day,” Bobby was saying, not missing the way that the project’s first potential time traveler kept glancing to a point just to his own left.  So, in an attempt to alleviate some of the tension he knew Tom was obviously feeling, what with the auditors and the first testing of the Accelerator Chamber coming up so quickly, Bobby put a hand on his colleague’s shoulder.  When Tom turned to look at him, he said, “When you get finished with it, drop by the house and we can go over anything you have questions about.”


“Thanks, Bobby.”


Bobby smiled and clapped his hand against Tom’s back before walking out of the room.  Alone with his Observer, Tom frowned.  “I wish I could manipulate you sometimes.”


“Yeah, well, it’s a good thing I came back when I did.  What the hell were you thinking?  Did you not hear a word I said this morning?”


“That reminds me,” Tom said.  He looked up at the ceiling.  “Ziggy?”


“Yes, Captain Beckett.”


“In addition to any recordings from my quarters, I want you to seal any recordings of me talking, er, to myself.”  For good measure, Tom issued his security authorization.


Suspicion tinged the computer’s voice as she responded in the affirmative.


“You didn’t answer me, Tom,” Albert said, glaring at the Leaper.  “Just what the hell were you trying to pull?”


Tom looked at Albert and shook his head.  “I’m not trying to pull anything.  Who says that I didn’t say something like that the first time this day rolled around in some way?”


“Ziggy says, that’s who.  She’s flipping out so badly that Gooshie is having problems keeping the lights on in essential areas in the complex.”  The lights around Al dimmed and he glanced up at the ceiling.  “Gooshie!”  He paused as he listened to the technician respond from the other side.  “Ok… just keep the lights on in here, all right? Geez.”


“You’ve been hanging around me too much, there, Ally boy,” Tom replied as he tapped the two-inch bound manual in his left palm.


Albert ignored the teasing dig, deftly shifting the conversation back to Tom’s situation.  Indicating the manual that the Leaper was flipping through, he said, “Even with the holes in your memory, most of what’s in there shouldn’t be a problem for you. You oughta get through it by lunch time, easily.”


Tom didn’t immediately respond, instead continuing to flip through to the back of the manual. Here and there as he skimmed through the highly technical manual, a memory would dart up through one of the holes in his memory, snapping up a passage like a hungry bass after a minnow.  When he did finally meet the hologram’s gaze again, he nodded. “You’re right.” Snapping the manual closed, he said, “Looks like I’m going back to my quarters to read for a while.”


Albert looked at him quizzically.  “Why not go to your place?” he queried.


“My place?”  Tom asked, pausing as he headed for the door.


“Yeah,” Albert said, checking the facts on the handlink. “You’ve got a nice apartment in town, where we can talk without certain ‘ears’ hearing and, it’s only about ten minutes from Bobby and Donna LoNigro’s house.”


“Donna,” Tom said, almost to himself.  Shaking off the reverie that the name evoked, he exited the conference room and began following the route to the parking garage.



Though it had been twelve years since he’d driven the route, Tom easily navigated the highway that cut through Stallion’s Gate and then the meandering streets that led to the neighborhood where his apartment complex was.  Albert tagged along for the ride, using the handlink to “manipulate” his image so that he appeared to be sitting in the passenger seat.  Every time Albert tweaked the control he made a comment about the “manipulation” involved, obviously enjoying the way he was egging Tom on.


Tom didn’t comment, knowing that Albert was still displeased with him for his earlier attempt at changing his own history.  Still, Tom felt he’d had to try.  If only to give him some sense of peace, since it was painfully obvious he had no idea when he’d actually Leap home… all the way home, instead of twelve years and seven days earlier.

He pulled into his parking spot with complete ease and switched off the engine, turning in the seat to regard Albert.  “I’m sorry, Al,” he finally said.  “I couldn’t help it.”


Albert sighed and then gave Tom a small smile.  “You know, I’d probably have been tempted to do the same thing.”  A moment later he hardened his expression, “Just don’t do it again!”


Tom affected a meek child’s voice, “Okay, Pop.”


Shaking his head, Albert snorted a derisive laugh and then gestured at the apartment building.  “Look, the New Mexico heat isn’t going to faze me any, but you’ll get heat stroke if you don’t get out of this car and inside.”  He pressed a control on the handlink and vanished, ostensibly to appear inside Tom’s apartment, waiting for the Leaper.


Tom got out of the car, grabbed the manual that he needed to read for his soon to be career in leaping, and then ambled toward the house.  Unlocking the door and entering his cool apartment, Tom shook his head at Al.  “You could have at least walked me to the door.”


“Ah, but then you’d feel so special to be in the charming presence of a…”


“Yeah, yeah, and then I’d have to kiss ya.  Never mind,” Tom said with a lackadaisical smile.  Moving into the kitchen, he opened the refrigerator and found a can of cola, popped the top, took a swig of it then turned back to Al.  “I’m going to start reading that.  Maybe, it’ll give us a clue as to why I’m here.”


“A book would tell you why you’re here?” Al questioned as he went back over to the table to look down at the second part of Holographic Particles. 


“Well, Ziggy sure as hell isn’t telling me.  Might as well try to find out for myself, don’t you think?” 


Al looked down at the handlink in his hand and lifted one shoulder.  “Why not?”





Across town at the LoNigro house, Bobby’s wife was busy putting away the last of the groceries she had purchased that morning.  Though as busy as any of the other members of the top secret project, over the last few days she had noticed that her husband hadn’t gotten more than a few hours sleep and he wasn’t eating much more than it took to stave off starvation.  And now with the initial testing phase of the Accelerator Chamber about to start, she had decided that she was going to surprise him with his favorite dinner of herb-roasted chicken with the trimmings and apple pie ala mode.


With a satisfied gleam in her eyes, Donna opened the refrigerator door and placed a bottle of Bobby’s favorite wine on the top shelf to chill.  Closing the door, she said to her absent husband, “You, my dear Mr. LoNigro, are going to forget about equations, algorithms and everything else for one evening.”


Picking up the paper bag from the counter, Donna began folding it as she went to the pantry to put it away, but after a few steps she was overcome with a wave of dizziness.  Pausing, she closed her eyes and shook her head softly. Opening her eyes again, she continued toward the pantry but the dizziness returned, engulfing her. This time, she stretched out a hand toward the counter to steady herself, but her hand never made contact with the edge of the cool marble counter.



“So,” Albert asked over Tom’s shoulder.  “You having any luck?”


Tom looked askance at his Observer.  “You have anything better to do than kibbitz?”


Al laughed out loud.  “Yiddish from the Hoosier.”  The handlink squawked and he glanced at the screen, frowning at what he read.


Tom noticed and demanded, “What is it?”


“I don’t know,” Al said quietly, his entire attitude and posture serious.  “Look, Tom, you just hang tight, okay?  I’m going to go check back with Ziggy and Gooshie… see what this is about.”


“What *what* is about?”


“Nothing… I’m sure it’s nothing.”  Al keyed the IC door and stepped through it.  “You just keep hitting the books, Einstein.”  With a metallic whoosh, he was gone.


Stepping back into the future, Albert Calavicci frowned as he started down the short hall that led to Central Control.  Entering the circular room, Albert went up to the multi-colored cubed control where the Head Programmer stood looking expectantly at the temporary observer.  “What’s the meaning of this, Gooshie?” Albert asked as he waved the handlink in the air.  “Ziggy’s flipping out to the nth degree by Tom leaping into himself at the project within seven days of the initial leap and you’re worried about a variance in the timeline?”


“Yes, I am, Albert.  I haven’t seen anything like this happen in the past twelve years that I’ve worked here.  It doesn’t make much sense, either.  The only time that I have ever seen a spike in the timeline like this is when Tom leaps.”


Albert frowned as he tilted his head slightly at the man before him.  He shifted his eyes downward to the multi-colored cubed panel that resembled the handlink and slightly shook his head.  His eyes locked on one particular cube as he thought about what the Head Programmer was saying. 


Dr. Irving Gooshman licked his lips as he looked down at the reading that he was reviewing as he shook his head.  “It doesn’t make sense.  You don’t, you don’t think…”


Albert looked back up at Gooshie and his mouth opened in awe as he had the same thought that the Head Programmer was having.  “God, I hope not.”



Hours later, Tom couldn’t help but lay his head back on the couch as he put the thick manual beside him.  He had a throbbing headache and he knew that he needed a small break.  Standing, he went to the bathroom to look in the medicine cabinet to see if he had any acetaminophen.  Finding a small bottle of it, he opened it and put four small tablets in his hand. 


Leaving the bathroom, he went into the kitchen to grab a tumbler from the cabinet and filled it with water.  Popping the pills into his mouth, he swallowed them and leaned against the cabinet to drink the last little bit of the water.  Sighing he placed the tumbler back on the cabinet and immediately wondered why Albert hadn’t come back to tell him that it was all just a false alarm of… whatever was going on back at the project.


He was about to leave the kitchen when the phone rang and he reached over and grabbed the receiver from its cradle.  “Hello?”




“Hi, Donna.  Thank you for calling.”


“Why are you thanking me for calling?” Donna asked, a smile coating her words.


“You’re keeping me from going back and finishing the manual over holographic particles.  But, I’m sure that you didn’t call to hear me talking about those pesky things.  What can I help you with today?”  Tom asked with a grin as he heard Donna lightly laugh on the other end of the receiver.


“It’s interesting that you asked that question,” Donna answered.  “I know that Bobby hasn’t really had a lot of relaxing time with things going on at the project.  He’s always thinking and talking of work that I, well, I wanted him to have a night just not talking about it.”


“That’s going to be a job in and of itself, Donna.”


“I know, Tom.  That’s why I was calling,” she answered.


Tom frowned as he listened to her.  “Okay.  What is it, Donna?  What’s wrong?”


“Tom, I just don’t want him to talk any more about work.  Could you help me out and come over and help me to keep his mind off of it?  You know, just a nice little conversation about something other than the complex?  Words that I don’t want to hear tonight are Ziggy, complex or holographic particles.  Do you think that you could help me out?” Donna asked meekly.


Tom thought about what she was asking.  Had this happened before? He couldn’t ask Albert or Ziggy.  They weren’t around.  Tom bit the inside of his lip before he answered with, “Sure, Donna.”  Hearing a relaxed sigh coming from her, he asked flippantly, “So, what’s for dinner?”




“Oh, you make the best herb-chicken. Is there anything else that you need or want me to bring?”


He could see Donna’s beam when she responded, “No, Tom, you don’t have to bring a thing.  Tell you what, if you’d like to get to see the recipe first hand, then you are more than welcome to come over and help me with preparing dinner.”


Not stopping himself from the invitation, Tom immediately responded, “See you in ten minutes.”  After saying goodbye, Tom hung up the phone, grabbed his keys from the table and headed out to his car.  Little did he know that as he got into the car, the phone was ringing again.





It was a short drive over to Bobby and Donna LoNigro’s house.  It was a quaint little brick house out on the edge of town with many trees flanking the sides of it.  Getting out of his car, he slightly jogged up the walkway to the front door and rang the doorbell.  He waited for a few minutes until he heard a feminine voice from within call out, “Come on in, Tom.”


Grinning, he opened the door and stuck his head inside.  “Knock knock,” he called out to her.


“Come on into the kitchen, Tom!  I’m up to my elbows in raw chicken!” 


Tom followed her voice and found Donna LoNigro standing at the granite island countertop, an apron covering her clothing, cutting the chicken that she was preparing for dinner.  Her short brown hair was trying to get into her eyesight and she brushed it back with the back of her hand.  “I’m so happy that you came.”


“Well, I’m happy for the invite.  Is there anything that I can do?” he asked as he came up to the island opposite her. 


“No, not really, Tom.  But I would love some conversation.  Makes the preparation of dinner go by so quicker.  Don’t you think?”


“I’m really quite handy in the kitchen,” Tom offered again as he started around the counter toward her.  He paused at the end of the counter, watching the way she deftly finished cutting the last piece of chicken then placed the pieces into the large baking dish set to one side.  He grinned when she giggled at his, “Mom always said that I was the best potato peeler in Elk Ridge.”


Donna’s eyes sparkled mischievously as she shook her head.  “Don’t need a potato peeler or a carrot peeler or any other such helper this evening. But I will keep your talents in mind the next time you come over to the house,” she said lightly as she seasoned the chicken pieces with poultry seasoning, a little fresh rosemary and some garlic.  “For now,” she said, glancing over at him, “if you really want to help, you just take a seat,” she indicated the four chairs that lined the opposite side of the island counter, “and talk to me.”


Tom acquiesced and moved back around to the chairs where he had been standing and slid onto one of them.  Folding his arms on the counter, he watched the way she finished seasoning the chicken with a generous sprinkling of minced garlic then picked up the dish and put it into the oven behind her.  Setting the oven’s timer, she turned back to him with a flourish of her hands. “Finished,” she declared lightly.  “In about ninety minutes, dinner will be ready.”


Tom laughed lightly as he clapped his hands in response to the friendly, casual moment. “She knows quantum physics inside and out, she cooks and she’s beautiful to boot!”


Donna’s eyes seemed to twinkle even more brightly as she came back to the counter and cleared the few items away.  As she wiped the counter, she said, “I wonder what Bobby would say if he heard you say that.”


Tom bantered back, “You’re right. I don’t think I want to stir up that jealous streak that he swears he doesn’t have.” His smile broadened when Donna paused as she put the sponge back in the sink before turning back to him.


“Yes, Bobby’s jealousy scares me sometimes,” Donna admitted.  “You’d never think to look at him that he can be so… so passionate.”  She stretched languorously before turning to face Tom.  “I hadn’t realized how hot that oven makes this kitchen in this awful New Mexico heat.”  She grabbed her hair with one hand and twisted it up, holding it behind her head as she sighed.  “Why, Tom Beckett, you’re positively flushed.  You know,” she confessed, taking a step closer to him, “if Bobby were to come home right now, he might think…”


Tom stood nervously and laughed a timorous laugh, “C’mon, Donna, quit fooling around.”


She dropped her hair and shook it, her brown eyes dancing.  “Who’s fooling?” she intoned, holding his gaze for a long time before finally breaking away with a laugh.


Tom released an anxious breath, not having realized he was holding it.  Donna heard the noise and smiled, pausing in filling a tall glass with ice.  Her smile turned minxish and she picked out a single cube, holding it between her fingers and watching it start to melt.


“I *am* hot, though,” she said, sensuously running the ice cube along the side of her neck, then swirling it at her cleavage.  “Don’t you find it hot, Tom?”


Tom blinked and did his best not to look at where her hand was dangling with the ice cube.  "Uhm... I think it best that I leave...” he said as he turned away from her and started out of the kitchen where the "heat" was only getting hotter as far as he was concerned.


"Oh come on, Tom," Donna called out to him with a slight chuckle as she set the glass down and started after him.  "Tom..."


Hearing his name being called again, Tom turned where he stopped a few feet from the door to look back at her.  "Donna, I came over here to help you with dinner, to help you out with Bobby this evening... not to, not to..."


Donna tilted her head slightly as she took a few more steps up toward him.  "Not to what, Tom?" she questioned him slyly.


"I didn't come here to seduce or to be seduced by you, Donna."


The tension that had suddenly made its presence known like a genie appearing in a puff of smoke from an Aladdin’s lamp insinuated itself in the narrow space between Donna and Tom Beckett.


Tom didn’t take his eyes off Bobby’s wife for an instant.  He’d be lying if he denied that Donna LoNigro hadn’t *just* pulled the rug out from under him but managed to flip him head over heels in the process!  This was a whole new side of the woman he was used to seeing at the project and dealing levels of physics that he had to stretch to grasp.  That Donna LoNigro was pleasant, a good co-worker but at the same time all business... like now.


‘No,’ he insisted firmly to himself as he held her gaze. ‘This is monkey business!’


“Penny for your thoughts, Tom,” Donna murmured, her voice a shade lower and warm as new honey as she took a couple more steps toward him.  She stopped, surprise coming into her eyes when Tom took two quick steps back from her.


“Donna, you invited me over here to help you get Bobby’s mind off work for the evening,” Tom restated her own reasoning to her.


Donna, obviously enjoying the chase, smiled archly at him.  But as quickly as the mischief unmistakably in place in her mind had come out, equally as fast did it appear to fade.  Whatever it was that had interrupted the attack of impishness caused her to lower her gaze to the floor a moment before looking to him again.


“I’m sorry, Tom,” she apologized with a small smile.  “I shouldn’t have teased you like that. Forgive me?” she asked softly then before the young man had a chance to react, moved quickly to him, resting her hands lightly on his chest as she leaned up to brush her lips against his cheek.


“What the hell?” Tom gasped as the world suddenly seemed to twist crazily even as his skin tingled where Donna LoNigro’s lips touched his cheek.


He leaned heavily against the door, trying to regain his balance.  Tom rubbed at his eyes, convinced he’d suffered a stroke.  The woman standing before him, the woman who’d just kissed his cheek, was definitely NOT Donna LoNigro. 


Short blonde hair and ice blue eyes that glittered coldly marked the otherwise lovely face.  She looked like she would qualify as a front-runner in the casting of C.S. Lewis’ White Witch.  Tom’s already stunned lungs had the breath stolen from them as he took in her combined beauty… and malice.


“Who… who are you?” Tom asked.


“What just happened here?” the woman echoed, not answering him.  “You look like you just aged right before my eyes!”


Stupidly, Tom just said, “You’re not Donna.”


“No,” she said, not mincing words.  “I’m not.”  She frowned, studying him.  “But you—you *are* the same person, aren’t you?  You’re… still Tom Beckett.”


Dumbfounded, Tom nodded.


The blonde just looked at the older Tom Beckett standing before her and she shook her head.  “I can’t believe this… this is…” her eyes darted slightly to the left with a slight shake of her head, “wild.”


Tom again dumbly nodded.  He swallowed then blinked.  “You never told me your name.  Who are you?” Tom asked with a frown furrowing his brow.


The blonde flashed a smile toward him.  “Alia.”  She watched as Tom said her name slightly under his breath.   She tilted her head slightly and shifted her eyes back to him.  “It’s nice to meet you, Tom.”


Tom’s mouth moved up and down for a moment before he finally found the words.  “Same here.  Uhm… did you… for lack of a better term, leap into Donna LoNigro?”


Alia smiled again as she nodded her head.  “And you… leaped into yourself,” she stated.  “How interesting.”


“That’s one way of looking at it,” Tom responded with a careful smile. For as totally ‘out there’ as the situation suddenly was, he had to agree with this Alia – it was definitely a different and interesting situation.


Not sure exactly what he should do next, all the while wishing that Albert would suddenly step through the Imaging Chamber door, he glanced around then said, “Maybe we should sit down and talk.”  He didn’t say anything when Alia agreed with him, merely stepped back out of the way to allow her to move ahead of him to go into the living room then fell into step behind her.  In the living room, he waited for her to take a seat on the sofa then moved to sit in the overstuffed chair directly opposite her.   He didn’t take the bait when she quirked an eyebrow at him, an amused smile on her lips as she glanced at the sofa cushion beside her.


“This is fine,” he said, settling into the chair.


“So how did you start Leaping?” Alia asked him.


Tom couldn’t get past the irony of it.  “Accelerator accident… in a week, actually.”


“A week?  You don’t say,” Alia commented, glancing over Tom’s left shoulder.


Tom instinctively followed her gaze to see nothing there.  He whirled back to face her.  “You—you aren’t interacting with a hologram, are you?”


Alia’s face revealed nothing, but Tom knew he’d hit on something.  “You are!” he exulted.  “What other similarities are there?  Wait—what Project are you with?  It… it isn’t OURS is it? Did Bobby send you after me to help me?  Why the heck didn’t he or Albert tell me?”


Alia held a hand up to stop the onslaught of questions.  “Tom, slow down.  I can’t keep all your questions straight.”


Tom chuckled slightly.  “Sorry, this is just amazing.”  He paused then tried another tactic.  “Okay.  I know that you are interacting with a hologram.  I may not be a world famous quantum physicist, but you can’t help but look at someone when they are talking to you.  What’s their name?”


“He’s more intelligent than the average bear.  That’s scary, Alia.”


Alia smiled at the comment and gave into the inquiry that Tom had made.  “His name is Vaughn.  If you know about holograms, then you must have one yourself.  Who’s your hologram?”

“Albert,” replied Tom as he sat forward in the chair, his interest more than piqued by the young woman sitting in front of him.  He shook his head in amazement.  “You know how I started leaping, so when did you start?”


The hologram dressed in jeans and a dark blue buttoned up shirt with a leather coat pacing behind the overstuffed chair immediately came to a halt and pointed at the leaper sitting across from him.  “Don’t you say a word, Alia.”


“Why not?” she queried as she flickered a look at him.


Tom frowned.  “Why not what?”


Vaughn rolled his eyes.  “You don’t want to leak vital information about our project.  I’m going to go back and check the records on this guy and make sure that things still work out.  Just keep your mouth shut.” A swirling red orb of light emerged and Vaughn stepped into the mist, giving her a pointed look before he vanished.


Alia sighed as she pursed her lips.  “Vaughn left.”


Tom nodded.  “You didn’t answer my question, Alia,” Tom said as he stood and ran a hand through his hair.  “When did you start leaping?”


Alia shifted on the couch and put one of her legs under the other as she leaned back into the corner.  Deciding to ignore her holographic observer, she answered, “I am also a part of an experiment, but my memory has been affected by it.  It’s almost like…”


“Swiss cheese,” they both responded at the same time.  Both looked at each other a bit surprised then laughed. 


Moving to sit down on the edge of the couch, Tom watched as Alia sat up from her position.  “Sounds like our complexes are very similar.  Do you have an assignment—something that you’re here to do?”


Alia nodded, her eyes now looking deeply into Tom’s caring hazel eyes.  “I’m here, like I said on the phone, to give Bobby a night off.  Lothos said…”


“Lothos?” Tom questioned with a slight frown.


“The artificial intelligence unit who controls my assignments.  I’m sure that your complex has the same type of unit.”


Tom smiled as he placed his left arm on the back of the couch.  “Ziggy,” he replied. Tom looked down at the couch for a moment then back up to her.  He was beginning to find that the woman sitting before him with the arctic blue eyes was quite stunning and he felt drawn toward her.  “And that’s the only reason why you’re here?” he asked her carefully, wanting to believe her.


Alia nodded as she slightly moved toward Tom.  “Lothos is exceptionally efficient.  He doesn’t make mistakes.”  Alia blinked and smiled at Tom as she laid her hand next to his on the back of the couch.


A square of white light appeared behind the dark brown couch and Albert walked out as he shook the handlink and beat it on its side making it squeal in protest.  “Stupid thing.  Tom, I’m now getting mixed up data from Ziggy.  This… whoa, hello.  Who’s this?”


Tom turned his head as he brought up his right hand, his palm up to introduce the woman before him.  “Albert, this is Alia.”


“Hi, Albert,” Alia said as she looked in the same direction that her fellow leaper had.


Albert’s gaze went to the woman as he said, “Hello, Alia.  It’s a… wait a minute.  Where’s Donna?”


Tom looked back at Alia and licked his lips then said, “She *is* Donna.  Alia is a time traveler, Al.  Like me.”


Albert’s mouth dropped open in surprise and he looked back and forth between them for a moment.  “No wonder Gooshie and Ziggy are having conniption fits.  I’ve got a bad feeling about this, Tom.  You were supposed to be at a holographic training session this afternoon.  Because you didn’t show up, Bobby blew up.”  The handlink squealed ,bringing Albert’s head down, then he let Tom know what Ziggy had found out.  “Ziggy doesn’t have any record of there ever being another Time traveler anywhere.  This…”


“Does Albert have any idea of what happened to make us see each other?” Alia asked Tom.  She couldn’t help but look at the man sitting on the couch beside her and let her mind drift into thoughts of a romantic rendezvous with him.


Albert began pacing behind them as he asked the same question to Ziggy via the handlink.  He read the information back to Tom, “Ziggy’s wiggin’ out, but she says that when you two touched that it must have set up some sort of convergence magnetic field and you could see each other for who you really are.”  Turning back toward the two of them he ran a hand over his face and shook his head.  “I’m gonna go back and confer with Bobby.  He just got back from another meeting in D.C.  Maybe between a pow-wow with him and Ziggy we can figure this one out.”


“Okay,” Tom said as Alia’s thumb brushed up against his pinky unexpected.  “You do that.”


Albert glanced between the two of them once more, seeing the obvious attraction between them.  He blinked then hit the button on the handlink to pull up the Imaging Chamber door.  “I’ll do that,” he said as he stepped back into the future.  Before the door closed, Albert uttered, “Oh boy.”





Tom grinned as he looked at Alia and motioned with his head to the side where Albert had been standing.  “Albert left.”


Alia smiled in response, noticing how Tom’s hand was sliding slowly over her own, his thumb finally finding refuge under her right palm.  “Okay,” she answered.  She glanced down at her left hand on her lap then asked softly, “Do you think that we’ll ever make it home?”


Tom took a deep breath before he reached out and gently caught her chin with his free hand and brought her head up.  When their eyes met once more, he answered, “Yeah, I think that we’ll make it home.  I just know that once they figure out what went wrong with the initial Leap that they’ll fix it and bring me back.  Until then, I have to be patient.”


The red orb rematerialized, allowing Vaughn to appear through the mist.  Pocketing the black handlink inside his black leather jacket, he crossed his hands over his chest and looked at the pair on the couch.


Alia nodded as she deftly curled her fingers under her palm, her thumb caressing the side of his hand.  “Tom, are you any good with computers?” she asked.


“Yeah.  I helped our head programmer at times with Ziggy.  Components and such.  Why?” he asked curiously tilting his head to the side.


Alia perked up immediately as she blinked at him.  “In my snooping around the house to find out who I was, I found something upstairs that looks like a component of a computer.”


Tom’s eyes grew wide with surprise.  Could it be the piece of the retrieval program that wasn’t in place when the initial testing phase was initiated?  “What did it look like?”


“I can’t explain it.  Can I show you?” 




“Come with me,” Alia responded as they both stood and started toward the stairs that led up toward the several bedrooms.



Bobby LoNigro was more than irritated at Tom Beckett.  He had set up the time for the Holographic Training more than a week ago and just yesterday, Tom had told him that he would be there for the training.  When Tom hadn’t shown up when he was supposed to, Bobby had even called his house to get the leaper to come in.  Not knowing where Tom was, he had finally called it a day and decided that it was time to go home.  He would gripe at Tom tomorrow in the privacy of his office.


Pulling up into the driveway, he was glad that he was finally home.  He had been away to several meetings in Washington D.C. and he was ready to have a calm, peaceful dinner with his beautiful wife and just relax.  Shutting off the car, he opened the middle compartment between the seats and pulled out the registered pistol that belonged to him.  He always took it with him on the long trips so that he felt protected.  Placing it in his coat pocket, he sighed, trying to let out the aggravation that he felt toward Tom Beckett.  “Damn it, Tom.  Where were you?” he wondered aloud as he got out of his car.


As he started to close the door an unrealized habit of kicked in as he glanced at the street before turning to go toward the front door of his house, and it was then that he saw the familiar silver Ford Mustang parked at the curb.  For an instant Bobby was surprised that he hadn’t seen as he turned into the driveway.  He hesitated for a moment then walked far enough down the driveway to see the license plate on the rear of the Mustang.  Recognizing the number on the license plate of Tom Beckett’s car ignited the jealous suspicion stirred to life in him by the sight of the car. Jealous anger shown in his eyes as he turned marched quickly toward the door.



“Better hurry dear,” Vaughn called out to her from where he stood.  “He’s walking up to the door.”


Alia turned her head to Tom and smiled as he placed his hand on the small of her back as they climbed the stairs.  “Tom?”  Alia asked as she stopped their progress from going up the stairs.  Taking a step ahead of him, she met his eyes and licked her lips.  “Don’t get your hopes up.  I’d hate for you to look at this component and it not be what you’re hoping for.”


Tom gazed at Alia, thankful for her kindness.  “Do you always think of others before yourself?”


“Always.”  Alia smiled warmly as she heard the door open to the house and placed her hands on his chest.  When his hands came up to gently lay on her arms, Alia leaned in and gently placed her lips against his.  Not pulling away, she said softly, “Here’s to hoping that it’s what you need.” 


“Thanks, Alia,” Tom said softly as he lifted his foot to move up to the next step.


“What the hell is this!”  Bobby LoNigro demanded furiously as he stepped into the inside the front door, his gaze going immediately to the stairs and the sight of Tom Beckett with his hands on his wife. 


“Bobby!”  Alia screamed almost frightfully.  “Please… help me!”


“What?”  Tom immediately questioned as he looked up at the woman standing before him who had somehow gotten two handfuls of his shirt in her fists.  “No… this isn’t…”


A rectangle of white light appeared in the corner of the room and Albert walked into the room and couldn’t believe what he was seeing.  “Tom?”


“He’s been trying to get me upstairs!  Bobby, please!”  Alia cried out.


Not knowing what else to do, Bobby pulled out the gun that he put into his pocket and pointed it up at the man that he thought was a friend and a fellow co-worker.  “Take your hands off my wife!”


Albert immediately re-centered himself beside the leapers trying to understand what was going on.


Although Tom was caught unaware from the sudden change, he realized immediately what was going on.  He met Alia’s icy blue eyes.  “Why are you doing this?” he hissed at her as he tried to untangle her hands from his shirt.


“Dammit, Tom!  I said let go of my wife!”


“Lothos wants the project and with you dead and Bobby behind bars… he’ll get what he wants,” Alia hissed.


“Who the hell is Lothos?”  Albert asked confused as he looked back and forth between Tom and Alia.  “What’s going on?!” he asked again as he bounced on the balls of his feet.


Before Tom was able to say anything to Al or Alia, he felt the familiar tingle of a leap building in his abdomen and before he could answer the yelled question from his observer, he leaped.





The leap was instantaneous.   He didn’t lose a bit of the information that he had learned and looking down Tom found himself holding a pistol in his hand.  His gaze went immediately to the two people who were on the stairs, and from this perspective, it did look as if *he* was pushing Donna up the stairs.  It was seeing Albert do a double take to find the older and wiser Tom Beckett downstairs holding the gun that spurred him out of stunned inaction.


“Tom!”  Al yelled out again.


Tom immediately reacted.  He began running up toward the pair on the stairs. 

“Watch it, Alia!  It looks like your husband’s on the move!”  Vaughn called out to his leaper.


As soon as Tom was up the stairs, he grabbed a hold of his younger self’s arm just as he got free from Alia’s hold.  As she tried to grab at his shirt again, Tom gave the younger man a push that caused him to yell out and tumble down the stairs.  As Tom grabbed at Donna, who immediately morphed into Alia, he regretted bringing the gun up the stairs with him. 


Alia clawed and grabbed at Tom’s arm as she tried to get to the gun in his hand.  “No!” she called out as he held her at bay for a moment before she was able to get a grip on his hand.  It took some effort on her part, but she was able to get it down between the two of them as she fought for control of the gun.


Tom was astounded at the strength that Alia was displaying, but he was determined not to let her win this battle.  As they turned sideways on the stairs fighting for the gun, Tom caught her off guard when he told her, “Tell Lothos he’ll get this project when I land in hell.”


The gun shot that went off echoed in the room.  The two leapers looked at each other with malice before Alia blinked and stepped away, looking down at the blood on her abdomen. 


“Alia!”  Vaughn called out to her as he rushed toward the stairs.  “No!”


Before Tom could catch her, Alia began to tumble down the stairs.  He watched as a red hue enclosed Alia and whisked her away, leaving Donna LoNigro to continue to tumble down the stairs to land unconscious beside the younger Tom Beckett at the bottom of the stairs.


Moving down the stairs to his friends, Tom Beckett looked at the gun.  Putting the safety on, he put it in the pocket that Bobby had originally retrieved it from.  Seeing Albert at the bottom of the stairs with the handlink out, he asked a bit shaken, “Are they okay, Al?”


“Yeah.  They’ll have a hell of a headache and couple of bumps and bruises, but they’ll be okay,” Albert said as he looked up at Tom.  “Are you okay, Tom?”


Tom shrugged nonchalantly as he knelt down beside Donna and touched her face gently.  “Once they wake, I’ll be fine.”  Taking care to watch her head, Tom picked Donna up and moved her to the couch.  As he shifted her into a somewhat comfortable position, he said, “I guess we know why I was here.”


“Yeah,” Albert said as he looked at the handlink.  “Ziggy says that once you explain that they both fell down the stairs that you’ll leap.”


Tom nodded as he went back to his younger self and carried him to the overstuffed chair.  Placing him into as comfortable a position as he could, Tom turned back to Al.  “Do you know where Bobby keeps this?” he asked as he pulled out the handgun.


After asking Ziggy, Al answered, “In the drawer of the small desk just inside the front door.”


Tom placed it in the drawer then returned to the living room to look at Al.  Putting his hand into the pocket of his jacket, he felt extremely guilty for all the things that he should have done during this leap.  Looking over at his Observer, he opened his mouth to apologize once more, but Albert shook his head and waved a hand at the leaper. 


“You did good, Tom.”


Before Tom could respond, two groans emitted from the downed crew of Project Quantum Leap.  Tom turned to them as both the younger Tom Beckett and Donna LoNigro slowly sat up, each with their hands on their heads. 


“Bobby?  What happened?”  Donna asked with a whimper.


“Yeah, what train ran through here?”


“When I came in, it looked at first as if Tom was trying to push you upstairs.  I got jealous and I pointed the gun at you not knowing what was going on.”  The paled look that crossed over Donna’s face was one that told Tom that he had just scared her to death.  “It’s okay,” he assured her. “I put the gun in the drawer in the hall table.”  Hearing her sigh, Tom finished his explanation. “But then I saw what was really happening.  Tom was trying to keep you from falling down the stairs.  You did a poor job, there Tom; you both fell down the stairs.  I’m just glad that both of you are okay.”  Sitting down beside Donna, he gathered her into his arms and hugged her close.  “I love you, Donna,” he said softly knowing that Bobby LoNigro, though jealous of other men around his wife, sincerely loved her.


Turning to look at the younger Tom Beckett, the Leaper pointed a finger at him. 


The soon to be leaper grinned as he rubbed his head.  “Let me guess, you love me too, eh Bobby?”


The Leaper laughed and shook his head.  “I want to see you in my office tomorrow for skipping that leaper training.  Right after the auditors leave, you get a double helping of Holographic Particles.”


“Oh Bobby, do we have to talk about work tonight?”  Donna asked him as she leaned back from his arms to look up into his face.


Tom looked at her then turned to look at his younger self.  With a shake of his head, he responded, “No, we don’t, Donna.  All we’re going to do tonight is have some of your famous herb-chicken that I can smell cooking, have some wonderful company, and just enjoy being together.”  As Tom felt the warm tingling sensation begin to build in his abdomen, he turned back to her and leaned his head up slightly to kiss her forehead before he leaped.


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