Episode 1325

Stepping Into A Slide Zone I

by: Katherine Freymuth, Helen Gerhard and Tom Nicklis







Scott Bakula as 

Dr. Sam Beckett

Dean Stockwell as 

Admiral Albert Calavicci






printer friendly version

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 ones 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.




April 8, 2008

Project Quantum Leap

Stallion’s Gate, NM


Al had bought himself a little time.  Not enough though.  He’d been able to convince Admiral Beckett that the airstrip at the Project was down for maintenance and that he would need to fly into Las Cruces .  He had, of course, assured that a limousine was waiting to bring him to Stallion’s Gate.


The limo had arrived ten minutes before and now Al was waiting for Admiral Thomas Beckett, USN to arrive into the heart of Project Quantum Leap.  He didn’t expect the meeting would be pleasant, but then it never was with that nozzle.  Al shook his head.  In all of his years of friendship with Sam, he and Tom had never gotten along and after Sam leapt what little tolerance that was present had turned into visceral animosity.  At this point, they were barely civil to each other; affording the other the respect due the uniform since the other man wearing it, in each of their respective opinions, did not deserve the respect themselves.  Al was wearing that uniform today, full dress whites, ribbons and medals evident.


Al had reserved the conference room.  He’d asked Ziggy to inform him when Admiral Beckett arrived at the room, giving the excuse that he couldn’t be waiting there due to the chance that Sam might leap and Al would be needed in the Imaging Chamber.  It was a lie and everyone involved knew it.  As long as Al was within the complex, he’d always be available to fulfill his primary duty as the Hologram Observer that connected the Project’s creator and head to his own time.  However, if it meant that Admiral Beckett would have to cool his heels waiting for him, Al felt the lie was worth it.


“Admiral Calavicci, Admiral Beckett has arrived at the conference room and is requesting that you meet with him.”


“Were those his exact words, Ziggy?”


“No.  His exact words were “Where the hell is Calavicci?  Get his ass in here now.”


Al huffed.  Same Tom Beckett.  But then again, why would I expect anything else?  He made his way to the conference room.  When he walked in, he wasn’t surprised to see Tom dressed in a similar manner.  This was going to be a showdown.  They were like two gunfighters, taking their place on opposite ends of the street, waiting to see which of them would prevail.  Only in this case, the street was a conference table.  Had this been a typical conference room, there would have been a head position at a rectangular table.  But Sam had never wanted the room to have that kind of ambiance.  Like the chivalrous King Arthur, Sam had assured that all conference rooms had round tables.  Nobody would be able to claim the “power position.”  At least not at the table.


They did, however, both plan to sit on opposite sides of the diameter with the furthest distance between them as possible.  The fact that neither would sit first was the only thing that kept them from taking a position at the table.


Tom spoke first.  “Thank you for joining me, Admiral.  How is Sam?”


“He just finished a leap three days ago.  We’re expecting him to leap any time now.”


“Ah.  I guess this affords you some time for general maintenance.”


“You know we take the opportunity whenever we can.”


A dismissive grunt escaped Tom’s throat.  “Yeah...I would hope so.  You play around so much I didn’t think you ever got things like that done.  I shudder to think what might happen to my brother if the equipment failed at the wrong time.  Parallel Hybrid Computer, Particle Accelerator, the Control Room, and an Imaging Chamber among other things.  That’s a lot to maintain.”


Al glared back at Tom.  “I think there’s more to it than that, Admiral.  I don’t play where your brother’s concerned.  Sam would be dead now without me covering his ass!”


“The same could be said for your career, Calavicci.  It certainly would have been dead without my brother.  All your honor and integrity was at the bottom of a bottle.  I've heard the stories at the Pentagon.  I remember the sorry drunkard that Sam put his neck out for.” 


Al stiffened at the memory of that time in his life.  “I never asked him to do that, but I’ll be forever grateful that he chose to.  And I’ll always be there for him, unlike you.”


Tom turned Al’s words against him. “Well, if you hadn’t kept me from him, maybe Sam wouldn't have gone through with this cockamamie project.  Leaping through time!  Only my brother could figure something like this out!  He never could stop himself from going after his dreams, no matter that they could sometimes hurt him.  And you let him do it...you could have stopped him.  You should have found some way to keep the accelerator from going online.  Snip the budget here; make sure the right parts weren't expedited there.  I know you know your way around a DoD contract!”


Now it was Al’s dismissive grunt that was heard.  “Oh, right. I forgot. You'd just destroy your brother’s dream simply because you don't want him leaping; doing what comes naturally to him, which is helping people. Kill the dream, Admiral, and you kill the man. Is that really what you want for your brother? For him to be miserable?”


Tom voice took on a harsher tone.  “If he’d had more time, he would have fixed the retrieval program.  Then he would be able to leap and not have been trapped for thirteen years.  It was your job to give him that time.”  Tom sneered.  “But instead...you were out on the town.  What went through your mind, Al, when they called you and told you he was leaping?  Did you realize then that you'd made a mistake?”


Al voice was low and calm but held the power of a coiled snake.  “Sam had all the time in the world. He just didn't see it. I can't change Sam's personality. He's the one who jumped the gun. He assured me that all he was going to do was work on the retrieval program. I didn't make a mistake, Admiral. The Contracting Officer did when he contacted Sam that night.”


Tom threw that bone to Al.  “Well, there's something we do agree on.”  He immediately went back into attack mode.  “But don't try to change the subject.  You could have made it impossible for him to leap at that moment.  I know my brother.  Sometimes you have to think ahead of him...figure out how to prevent him from doing something that he hasn’t fully thought through before it hurts him.  Prematurely leaping certainly did that.”


“I'm not a two steps forward, one step back kind of person. I don't purposefully hinder someone out of fear that something might - and I emphasize might - happen. I also apparently trust Sam a hell of a lot more than you do, and that's sad, Admiral.”  Al shook his head.  “Sam can't even rely on his own brother.”


Pure hatred resonated from Tom.  “You know nothing of Sam’s and my relationship, Calavicci.  You have no idea of what I would do to help my brother.  He can rely on me.”


Al finally spoke the truth he’d wanted to tell Tom ever since the older Beckett had started to show an active dislike for him.  After he and Al had met and become friends, Sam had talked at length about how things were between him and Tom.  While he loved his brother deeply, he also wished Tom would understand that he had grown up.  He loved being Tom’s Little Brother but hated that it sometimes meant that Tom would try to handle things the way he had when they were kids.  The meaning of Sam’s words resonated over time and now Al stated, “I know more about your relationship than you can possible understand, Admiral.  Trust me; I know the signs of an overprotective monstrosity.”


Suddenly, Tom had had enough.  He’d tried to get this man to understand where his next actions were coming from.  The man was too stubborn to see his own mistakes.  “Well, perhaps we should get right to it then, Admiral.  On Sam’s last leap, you stole a classified document that you had been given strict instructions by Homeland Security not to access.  Then you showed it to Sam even when you knew they were not to be divulged to my brother.”


“He needed that information to complete his mission,” Al stated firmly.


“Then you should have found another way to complete it.”  Tom pulled the papers he had brought with him out of his briefcase.  Handing a copy to the other man he went on, “You will be charged with stealing classified documents and for allowing those documents to be seen by unauthorized personnel.”


“There wasn't another way. And don't give me any crap about there is always another way.”  Al suddenly realized what he was reading.  “You're going to remove me from the project for helping your brother?”


“Not me, Admiral, Homeland Security.  You brought this on yourself, Calavicci.  Sam had been specifically banned from seeing this documentation.  Did you think you’d get away with that?”


Al was incredulous.  “Tom.  It was an incorrectly classified document.  It’s a glitch.  I’ve already asked Julianna to investigate this when she gets back.”


“What are you doing, Al?  Trying to hide behind your daughter’s skirts again?”


Al stepped forward, barely holding his temper.  He just wanted to knock this jackass into the next century!


Tom went on, “Even if Julianna finds that the classification is wrong, it won’t change anything.  The documents are at present classified and you showed them to Sam.  Do you deny it?”


Through clenched teeth Al said he wouldn’t deny the truth, but went on, stating, “This is a technicality, Tom, and you know it!”


“Come on, Calavicci, you know the regulations as well as I do.  As much as I hate to say this, my brother's life is not above the sworn oath we have taken to follow the laws of this country.  You will be removed from the project.  You will be charged.  But when you will be allowed to answer to those charges is open to interpretation of the Homeland Security regulations.”


Al looked back at the paperwork.  “How the hell can they call me a traitor?  Tom, that contract had been fraudulently targeted to a software company in violation of the Federal Acquisition Regulation requirements for competitive bid.  If anything, I’ve prevented a crime here!” 


Tom dismissed him summarily, “Don’t try to weasel out of this, Calavicci.  You know that you don’t have a leg to stand on.  If you were willing to steal classified documents this time, what’s to prevent you from doing it again and providing information crucial to national security?”


Al was floored by the accusation.  “You know the only reason I’d do that is if Sam needed information for his survival.  He’d never reveal anything.  The man is a certified flag, Mom, and apple pie patriot.  You know that.  You grew up with him.”


Tom raised his eyebrows pointedly.  “Is that why he provided complete and accurate information concerning this project during his leap as Max Stoddard?”


“He couldn't prevent that! They drugged him! Hell, those bastards could have made him do the chicken dance with how much sodium pentothal they gave him!”


Tom calmly stated.  “That is the point of Homeland Security.  If someone could do that to my brother once, they could do it again.  I know that Sam would never consciously turn against the country, but there are people who would not hesitate to use sodium pentothal on him again.”  Tom stopped for a moment, curious to ascertain how a man who had reached the same rank as his own could make these statements.  “When did my brother become more important to you than the laws of this country, to the oath you took when you chose to follow a military career?”


Al stated plainly.  “He isn't more important. He's just as important. What would you have had me do? Kept my mouth shut?  It wasn’t until we started working with the contract that the true nature of his mission became clear.  Without it, he might have actually been murdered!  We thought it was a random crime when really; someone was targeting Maria Torres.  Is that what you would have wanted?  To have me watch him die?”


Tom stated the obvious.  “You've done that before, Admiral.  Seen good soldiers die because that is the mission of the greater good.  But I think you took the easy way.  Instead of finding another way, you gave him the very information that you were instructed not to.”


“There was no other way, Admiral. None. Now you tell me you'd just stand there and watch your brother die for... a contract that was fraudulent to begin with.”


“Al, it’s a moot point.  The contract issue just indicates how much of a loose cannon you really are.  The real point here is that Sam must be retrieved.  Since you've been unable to do that in the past thirteen years, I'm being given that duty.  I will retrieve my brother.  This mission will not fail.”  Tom stopped, and then answered Al’s question, “And you ask if I'd watch him die...No…I would find another way.”


Al’s eyes narrowed to slits.  “You're saying I didn't try hard enough.  You're dead wrong, Admiral. I looked at every possibility. And if I obeyed that order, your brother would likely be dead.”


Tom figured it was time to end this charade.  “Well, at this point the only result of your decision to leak such information will be your departure.  I want you out of here by ten hundred hours tomorrow.  Do we understand each other?”


The kid who won the Golden Gloves all those years ago was evident as Al stated, “You can't order me out, Admiral. We're the same rank.”  Al’s anger got the best of him as he added, “How you got to that rank is another one of the great mysteries of the universe.”


Tom did not rise to the bait.  “Except that I’m still active military and you are retired.  Rank doesn’t matter in this case.  Do you really want to add a trespassing on government property charge to your list of crimes?


Al turned cold as ice and the two men stared at each other, both waiting for the inevitable conclusion.  Al knew he had lost.  He pulled every ounce of his military training to the fore.  “No. Sir.  I'm assuming that I'm allowed to take what belongs to me with me?”


Tom knew he had won.  After all these years, Albert Calavicci was exactly where he wanted him.  Heading out the door with no possibility of continuing the farce he had made of the past thirteen years when he’d allowed his brother to remain trapped in time.  “You will be allowed to take what you would for any standard TDY.  All the rest of your things will be boxed up by security and sent to whatever address you wish the items to be forwarded to.”


Al left the room, his entire body tight as a bow string.  He would rather have laid Thomas Beckett out with a one-two punch.  Only the knowledge that if he did so, he would be dragged off the Project and most likely charged with battery kept him from giving into that desire now.


As he walked back to his quarters to pack what he would be “allowed” to take (and he was under no illusions that they wouldn’t check his bags as he left,) a sickening feeling overtook him.  Retrieve Sam at all costs?  What did they think he’d been doing since that night, thirteen years ago?  There was nothing in heaven or earth that Al wanted more than for his best friend to stop bouncing around in time.  With this new development, he was afraid that whatever they would do would kill Sam.  That would truly be a high cost.


Had there been another way?  Was Tom right?  Al shook his head.  No, dammit!  NO!  Sam would likely have died if I hadn’t given him that information.  It was the only choice.  I will not be party to killing the man who has done so much for so many, politicians and brass be damned. 


A final thought came to mind, ‘Oh hell, what’s the Kid going to do now!’


With that, Al turned into his and Beth’s quarters to let her know they needed to pack.




June 8, 2008

Project Quantum Leap

Stallion’s Gate, NM


Tom Beckett was worried.  His brother, Sam, had not leapt for two months.  There were often lapses in the bounces that Sam would undergo.  But two months was a record. He’d had Ziggy running an analysis on the problem but up to now, she hadn’t been able to suggest a reason, much less a solution to the problem. 


As soon as he’d taken over as Project Administrator, Tom had pulled the main team together.  He wasn’t surprised that the Sam’s elite group of scientists had seen him as the enemy when he had informed them that Al had been removed from the Project.  Al had been the Project’s Administrator since before most of them had arrived in this remote location in the middle of the New Mexico desert.  There was a lot of history between Calavicci and the personnel sitting at the table.  However, he’d been given a job to do, and, by God, he was going to get it done.  His brother would be retrieved.


The team had informed him of the progress they had made.  He was actually impressed by the amount of work that had been done in the years after Sam had placed himself into the Accelerator and started on what had to be the strangest journey anyone in the history of mankind had undertaken.  This understanding, however, angered him even more.  If the retrieval program had been this hosed, why had his brother chosen to take his “leap of faith?”  Tom questioned the belief that Sam had that others would be able to follow his thoughts to fix such a complex problem.  Then again, it may be that assuring that Sam never really failed growing up could be a factor.  He cursed himself for taking such a tactic when they were children, but it seemed such a good idea at the time.  Keep things just outside of Sam’s reach until he had the strength and skills necessary to navigate the problems, and Sam would figure out a way to succeed.  If he desired it, he found the way to do it.  Maybe Sam had thought that his string theory was further along than it really was.


But then again, Calavicci had not helped out any.  Indeed, if he’d made sure that the parts necessary weren’t available to have the accelerator working while the retrieval program was still unworkable, Sam would never have been able to pull such a bone-headed stunt. Yeah, Sam had to be protected from himself, just like when he was a kid and no one was doing that.  Sam should have brought Tom on as a partner instead of that so called “best” friend, Albert Calavicci.  Some friend.


Over the last two months, the team had worked overtime to find a solution.  Still, the elusive retrieval program was not complete.  And without Sam leaping, nothing could be done to test some of the new theories they had developed.  Why wasn’t Sam leaping?


Tom decided that while it was unlikely that he’d get an answer in the affirmative, asking Ziggy for the umpteenth time whether she had determined anything new couldn’t hurt.


Tom’s voice held the weariness that he felt.  “Ziggy, has your analysis provided any new insights as to why Dr. Beckett has not leaped?


The haughty, honey tones of the computer answered, “Yes, Admiral.  It is serendipitous that you’ve asked.  I’ve just completed my most recent analysis and there is a 98.6% probability that if you leap, Dr. Beckett will become unstuck from his current unknown location.”


Tom’s eyes widened as his body took on a surprised stance.  “98.6%?!  How did you come up with that?  Me leap!  That makes no sense.  Having two persons stuck in time doesn’t sound reasonable!”


The computer sounded bored and if there were hands involved, Tom was certain she’d be filing her fingernails as she continued, “You asked me if I had any new insights.  I can not help it if you do not have the scientific expertise to understand that my determination of probabilities utilizes the computing parameters derived from the hybrid parallel and quantum computing paradigm.  While the late, but great Admiral Calavicci did not always appreciate my rather extensive abilities, he never questioned how my statistical processes were implemented.  I suggest that, in the words of that great songwriter, Don Henley, you “Get Over It.”


Tom pinched the bridge of his nose.  It was bad enough having to deal with the human scientists who questioned his qualifications as Project Administrator.  Having a computer with an ego the size of Everest—why did Sam think it necessary to give it a personality…Streisand’s no less!—made this situation almost intolerable.  And now, since Al Calavicci had died in that car accident the week before, Ziggy had decided to make him a martyr.  Tom was beginning to wonder if his brother was insane after all and this entire project was a playground for lunatics.  Okay, Ziggy.  Thank you for your insightful analysis.  I believe, however, you may have missed something if your suggestion is that I should leap.”


“I can understand why you might be scared to take such a step.  Although, the late but great Admiral Calavicci had no such qualms.  He was not afraid of stepping into the unknown whenever it was in my Father’s best interest to do so.”


Tom spoke with utmost patience.  “Ziggy, if Sam is your Father, then I am your Uncle.”


“Well, at this point, I’d say that you must have come from the shallow end of the family gene pool.  You obviously are not smart enough to understand that you need to leap to allow your brother to become unstuck and you do not possess the courage to do so if indeed an inkling of the concept was able to seep through your overly thickened skull.”


“Great, now I’m being insulted by a computer!”  Tom was seething, but held his temper.  “Okay, you bucket of bolts…”


“You will not refer to me with the affectionate terminology used by the late, but great Al Cala….”


Tom lost it.  “That’s it, Ziggy.  You refer to him that way again and I swear, I’ll strip all your wires and have your components melted down for scrap metal!”


Ziggy’s infuriatingly calm and arrogant tones continued to fill the room.  “None of that alters what you must do to cause my Father to be loosened from the constraint he is currently experiencing.  Nor does it lessen your duty to your mission which I believe was to retrieve Dr. Beckett at any cost.  Finally, your threats to destroy me do not alter the fact that you effectively killed my other parent.”


Tom suddenly realized what the evitable outcome of this interchange would be.  He figured getting there first would at least save time and aggravation.  “Who would my observer be?”  Tom realized that leaping would be a part of his near future reality.


“Sammie Jo had performed observer duties in the past.  As she has a significant portion your genes in common, she would be the logical choice.”  The computer droned on as if this were an everyday occurrence.


“Okay, please page Dr. Fulton to meet me in 15 minutes.  Dom, get me a Fermi suit.” 


The chief programmer had been silent during this exchange.  Indeed, he had been silent during most of the past two months, at least in the Control Room, speaking only when absolutely necessary.  Like most of the personnel on the Project, he felt that Admiral Thomas Beckett, while likely a fine Project Administrator, had acted on a personal vendetta rather than the best interests of the Project, and at the heart of those best interests was Dr. Samuel Beckett.  Now, Dom nodded and left to retrieve the suit.


Fifteen minutes later, Admiral Thomas Beckett stepped into the Quantum Accelerator and vanished.




Time Unknown

Al’s Place

Cokesburg , PA


Tom felt the tingly, almost electrical feeling leave his body.  Everything seemed fine.  He wondered where he could be and when he was.  He had come to his consciousness in front of a local establishment, Al’s Place.  It looked to be a nice, friendly neighborhood bar.  Probably a good place to find out more about his life.


As Tom walked through the door, he saw a rather husky, middle aged, dark-haired, mustached man in button down white shirt with an apron tied around his waist behind the bar.  He looked to be a pleasant soul, as he was whistling while drying glasses and putting them away.  Other then the Bartender, there was no one else in the room.  Tom walked up to the bar and commented, “I didn't see a sign when I came into town.  What town is this?”


The Bartender looked at him and in a friendly voice replied, “ Cokesburg , Pennsylvania .”


Tom figured the first order of business would be to learn who he was.  He looked into the mirror behind the bar and saw his own reflection.  Somehow the visage that looked back at him seemed distorted; a harder look than he figured was his projection to the world.  He figured the mirror might be old and that the lighting in the bar may be to blame.


The Bartender was looking at him, gauging the person he was.  Tom figured that he was just a good, savvy businessman.  After all, he was a stranger here and bars could encourage behaviors that a proprietor may not wish to have in his establishment.  Now that he knew he had somehow leapt as himself, he figured he needed to learn the date of his leap.  When he was.  Newspapers were generally good for that.  “Ah...you wouldn’t happen to have a newspaper would you?”


The Bartender gestured, “End of the bar, Can I get you anything?”


Tom was nonchalant.  “No.  Not at this time.  I'm looking for someone.”  He picked up the paper indicated, a frown crossing his face.  “Hey...doesn't this town print the date in their newspaper?”


The Bartender stopped wiping the glass he was holding and looked up at Tom. “Time is a little relative here.  Are you waiting for anyone I know?”


Tom was a bit annoyed.  “I don't know you and I certainly don’t know who you know.  What do you mean relative?”


The Bartender resumed his maintenance of the glassware.  “Time just kind of comes and goes. We like to take things slowly here.”


“Whatever...I don't have a lot of time to spend in chit chat.  I'm looking for my brother.”


The bartender put down the glass he had just polished and picked up another one.  “What's your brother’s name?”


Tom knew it wouldn’t help, but answered anyway.  “Sam.  He's in a jam at the moment and I'm trying to help him out of it.”


The Bartender stopped again and looked as if he were thinking of someone he knew well.  “Hmmm, I know a Sam.  He tends to find himself in a lot of jams, but he always seems to get himself out of them.  With a little help from his friends.  I’m afraid that right now, he’s having some major difficulties due to conflict between those he loves.”


Tom was annoyed.  He didn’t care about any other Sam, just his brother.  “That’s too bad.  Uh, the Sam I'm looking for is not always himself.”


“Who in this world is always themselves?  We all wear many masks and the way we interact with those around us is often different, depending on how we perceive them and ourselves.”


“Yeah, well.  I guess that's true enough.  I don’t want to get into a philosophical discussion right now.”  Tom continued to voice his concern about his brother.  “As to the Sam I’m looking for, people generally don't get to know him well.  They tend to think he's someone else.  He tends to only be around any one place for a short time.  How long have you known the Sam you're talking about?”


“Long time.”


Tom shook his head.  “I don’t think we’re talking about the same person then.”


The Bartender sighed and looked frustrated.  “I don’t know.  The Sam I know comes in from time to time when he needs help, or if I do. We help each other the best we can, and he moves on, off to make a difference in some other life.”


“Yeah....well my brother does try to help people.  While I admire him for that, I think it was damned stupid of him to get himself into the jam he’s in.”


“We all get into jams sometime. Is it possible that your brother made a conscious decision to live his life differently than you think is best and you need to accept that?  And as I said before, the Sam I know has friends who help him through his evolutions.”


Tom was floored.  He knew what these were from a SEAL’s perspective.  He suddenly remembered his brother had once indicated that he too had to work through such things, but he was only 16 at the time.  “Evolutions?”


The Bartender looked Tom straight in the eyes.  “Yes.  At any particular moment, the Sam I know finds himself working through things that he has little or no knowledge about or even what he should do.  Occasionally he needs his friend’s help.  Indeed, a couple of times, one particular friend of his, Al, has shown up in his stead. Al is always right there to help when Sam needs it.  I wonder where he is this time.”


Tom had a feeling that this place was not a normal stop along the timeline of his life. “Al?  AL !  You're not talking about a jerk whose last name is Calavicci are you?”


“One in the same, but I wouldn’t call him a jerk. He has helped the Sam I’ve been talking about more in the last thirteen years than you can possibly imagine.”


“Well, he's not going to be anymore.  He was killed last week in a car accident.  So if you know Al, then the Sam you're talking about...”


“Is the same Sam.”  The Bartender finished for him.  “Yes, we’ve been both speaking of your brother.  The reason why Sam is trapped right now is directly related to Al’s life and death.”


Tom didn’t want to hear this of all things.  It didn’t make sense.  “What do you mean?  Sam's been stuck for two months!  Calavicci just died a week ago.  I don't see how those are connected.”  Tom stopped for a moment, trying to figure out how this man seemed to know things far beyond what was normal.  “How do you know so much about this stuff anyway?  Where the hell am I?”


The Bartender was nonplussed.  “These events were set in motion when the Admiral was removed from Sam’s Project.  As to where you are, you’re simply in my bar.”


Tom’s eyes narrowed.  “This isn't like any bar I've been in.  You seem to know a little too much about such an Ultra Secret project.” 


“There is something special about this place and I am just a simple bar keep.”  The Bartender looked around his establishment, satisfaction in his eyes.  His voice indicated a definite pride.


Tom’s answer dripped with pure sarcasm.  “Yeah...sure....and I'm just some dumb Indiana farm boy.  I don’t believe that for a minute.  Doesn't fly, buddy.  I still don’t see how that traitor's removal from a Project he should have never been on would have anything to do with Sam.  As far as I’m concerned, he hasn't done near enough to help my brother out of this mess he's gotten himself into!  If anything, he’s responsible for it.”


The Bartender shook his head.  “I don't see how you consider that Al is a traitor. Sometimes, you do what you have to do in order to survive or help someone else do so.”  The Bartender took a moment to consider his next question.  “Did you do everything by the book at all times when you were a SEAL, Tom?” 


“This isn’t about me!”  Tom continued to feel that somehow, he’d stepped out of normalcy but he couldn’t figure this place out.  He decided maybe some questions were in order.  “How do you know my name?  Or that I was a SEAL.  We’ve never met.”


“You would be surprised at what a Bartender knows about their customers.  I know quite a bit about Sam.  Why would it surprise you that I know about those who are important to him?  But you haven’t answered my question.  Did you do everything by the book at all times when you were a SEAL?” 


Tom didn’t like the direction this conversation was going.  “That was different...it was war.  I had lives to protect.  Calavicci disregarded a direct order from Homeland Security...he chose to ignore that order.  That makes him a traitor in my book.”


“Al had your brother’s life to protect.”


“As much as I love my brother, his life does not take precedence fulfilling our oath to our country.  Even Sam would tell you that.”


“Yes.  But how many lives has Sam saved while he has been leaping back and forth through time.  How many people has he protected?  All those lives have touched others, and those lives, others. Your brother has done a lot of good.”


The answer from the older Beckett was dismissive.  “Yeah...I know all about that.  I've read though Ziggy's files.  Sam has done a lot of good, but he can do more for the world if we can get him back to the Project.  He should never have leapt.   Never have been given the chance to leap.  If I'd been his partner instead of Calavicci, I sure as hell wouldn't have let him leap.  Not without the retrieval program working.”


“Right now, because of events that were set in motion two months ago at the Project, he might not be able to do anything more at all. He might not even be able to get home.  Sam is in real danger of being stuck in time forever unless you can fix this.”  The Bartender placed his hand on Tom’s, “And, I can tell you with certainty, you would have been in no position to stop his leaping if Sam hadn’t leapt to begin with.” 


Tom was perplexed.  “What do you mean by that?  That makes no sense at all.  I could have helped him better than Calavicci ever could.  My brother's smart but he can do some pretty boneheaded things.  I've known Sam since he was born.  Hell, when Sam met that jerk, Calavicci was a drunken has-been.  I'll never know what Sam saw in him.”


“Sam has a gift of seeing what is inside of people.  It is one of his best qualities.”


Again, Tom dismissed any of this.  “All I know is that Sam has a soft spot for strays.  If Sam had had his way, every stray dog and puppy would have been brought to the farm.  We were lucky to keep it down to two cats.”


“Al is more loyal to Sam that any cat or dog could ever be.”


“Yeah, well, sometimes when something is that broken down, you shouldn't risk everything for it.  Need to know when to cut your losses.  Sam chose to risk his job and his reputation for that nozzle.  He didn't deserve it.  He never did anything that noble for Sam!”


“Remember, the story of the Ugly Duckling.  Everyone thought he was a worthless duckling, but he became a beautiful swan. Just because it's hard to see the good in someone doesn't mean it's not there.  How would you know what Al has done for him?  You’ve never really given the man a chance, never tried to see beyond your current perception.  I think you need to learn a little more about your brother and his best friend.  It seems to me, you don’t know them half as well as you think you do.”  The Bartender’s voice was firm and steady with surety embedded in every word.


The Beckett in front of him crossed his arms defiantly.  “I know them just fine.”


The Bartender shook his head sadly.  “I think you don’t.  I think there are some things you need to see.”  He sighed and looked into Tom’s eyes, cajoling Tom to really hear what he had to say.  “Normally a leaper touching another leaper will cause the leapers to recognize each other’s true selves.  In your case, the rules are going to change a bit.  You will see the leaper when you touch them but they will not see you.  They were like ghosts to you the first time.  Now, you will be like that to them.  You will see events as they unfold.  Open you eyes, Tom…and your heart.”


Tom suddenly felt that tingly feeling come over him again.  Al’s Place and the strange bartender faded from his view as he leapt again.




Project Quantum Leap Control Room

September 27, 1996

Stallion’s Gate, NM


Tom realized he was back at Project Quantum Leap, but somehow, things were different.  He looked down and found he was wearing a lab coat.


Al walked in dressed in an orange silk shirt with a silver bar at the neck, black slacks, and leopard print skinny suspenders.  Tom could never understand this man’s fascination with wild clothing.  Al turned to him, “Gooshie, fire up the Imaging Chamber.”


Gooshie’s been dead for years.  What’s Al talking about.  Tom was confused.


Al looked over to him, looking a little perturbed.  “Gooshie, anytime now would be good.” 


Tom was still confused. “Sam’s leaping?  You’re still here?”


Al looked at “Gooshie” as if he’d lost his mind.  “Gooshie, of course I’m still here.  Where else would I be?  And you know Sam’s already leapt.  He’s trying to make the leapee’s younger brother’s life better.    We already talked about that.  I want to get in there, pronto.  I have something to show Sam.”


Tom noticed that Al had something in his hand.  He suddenly realized what was different about the situation.  He must be in the earlier days of PQL and he must have leapt into Dr. Gushman.  “What are you going to show Sam?”


Al walked over to show Gooshie the picture.  “Well, the fact that he’s an older brother in this leap has got him thinking about Tom.  He’s got his memory back and I thought he’d like to see a picture of the two of them together.  I got the picture off the bookshelf in his office.”  Al looked at the picture.  “He sure was close to his brother.”


Tom took the picture out of Al’s hand.  It was the picture his mother had taken of Sam and him on the day of his graduation from Annapolis .  Seeing it brought back memories of being with Sam.  God I miss Sam!  He handed the picture back to Al.  “Okay, let me get this fired up…”  At that moment he leapt.




Meeks College Library

October 20, 1967


As he came to his senses, he found himself standing between two lines of bookshelves.  He was in a library.  But where?  And when?


Suddenly through the breaks between the books he saw a man grab the shoulder of a young, dark haired woman.  She turned and noticed he was holding a macramé purse.  She took it from him.  Tom couldn’t help but overhear their conversation.   


Elizabeth .”  The man was trying to start a conversation, or continue one.  “Look, um, can we just start over again?”  He sounded contrite.  “I’m sorry about the bathroom…”


She was obviously trying to end it by letting the guy down easy.  “Look…Knut, you and I are different.  We live in completely disparate worlds.”


Knut latched on to a simile.  “Sort of like the Montague’s and Capulet’s?”


Her face indicated surprise that this man would say that.  “Exactly…all…all you care about is beer and partying and I’m trying…”


“…you’re trying to change the world,” he finished for her.  “I know.”  He paused for a second and then continued, “…but do you think violence is the way to do it?”


Elizabeth answered too quickly, as if she were repeating something she’d learned by rote.  “It’s the only voice the bloated ruling class can understand.”


Knut faced registered that he was amazed she would buy such a statement “Do you really believe that?  What Duck says?  I mean, don’t you see?  If you use violence, you are as morally corrupt as the people you’re fighting against.”


Elizabeth replied passionately, “Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.”


Knut again tried to reason with her by stating with certainty.  Elizabeth , violence is not going to stop this war.”


She was obviously committed.  “But we’ve got to end it.  Too many people are dying.”


He cajoled her to try another path.  “Then stop it by using something more powerful than violence.”  He said it with conviction.  He seemed to be getting through to her.  Her body language was engaged in the conversation, she was listening.


Another man joined them.  He answered the statement with derision.  “Well, I’m afraid God seems to be sitting this one out.”  He learned against the bookshelves as if he knew he would win this argument.  Tom wondered if this might be the “Duck” that Knut had mentioned.


Knut said softly, “I wouldn’t be too sure about that…los…”  Tom felt Knut was about to call the man a loser but stopped himself.  Yeap, this must be Duck.  Knut switched gears instead, “I know this is a cliché, but the pen is mightier than the sword.”  Tom recalled Sam saying this to him on multiple occasions when events occurred in the world which Sam felt could be handled in better ways.  As a Nobel Prize winning physicist, he knew that what he said would be carried by the media, if only due to his status and the fact that many people would figure that a man like Sam Beckett would know what he was talking about.


Duck was angry.  “The time for rhetoric is over.”


Knut continued his logical argument, pointing out how little Duck had actually traveled down that path.  “You haven’t even begun yet.  You think 20 people at an outdoor rally is a big deal?”  A derisive chuckle.  “You need 20 thousand, 20 million…”


Now it was Elizabeth ’s turn to doubt.  “That’s impossible.”


Knut was adamant.  “Not with the pen…not with publicity…in any form.”  He was animated.  “Newspapers, magazines, pamphlets,” suddenly it was if he’d hit on the strongest one, “television…”


She was truly incredulous, “Television?”  He let out a sharp breath as if she didn’t believe that someone could be this naïve.  Who would put their cause on television?


Knut’s enthusiasm was infectious.  “Television is going to play a big part in stopping this war.  Publicity is the key, not violence.”


She seemed to hear what he had to say but suddenly decided to turn away from it.  “The only reason why you’re saying this to me is you want me to go to some party with you.  You don’t care about the people over there!  You don’t care about how many soldiers are dying!”  She started to walk away from him.


He grabbed her arm.  There was fervor in his voice.  “I do care!”


The other man rushed in, grabbing Knut, trying to pull him away from her.  “Hey!  Hey, let her go!”


Knut pulled his arm away and with an angry voice replied, “You stay out of this!”  He continued to try to catch Elizabeth ’s attention.


The other man was not giving up, grabbing at Knut with more force, and answered with anger of his own.  “Back away, man!”  Suddenly Knut turned on him and backed him into the bookshelf, causing books on the uppermost shelves to fall upon them.


Elizabeth was shocked.  “Don’t!” she yelled.  “Don’t!  Stop it!”


The man against the bookshelf was showing bravado as Knut grabbed at the sides of his vest.  Tom was sure that Knut wanted to lay this guy out, but instead released him and walked away.  As he reached the end of the aisle, Knut turned suddenly, his face showing that he was dealing with some deep internal pain.  “Look…I lost a brother in Vietnam .”  His voice broke and was raw.  “All right?  So don’t tell me I don’t care!”  He turned again and started to walk off again.


Duck yelled after him “Maybe you should have cared a little more about him, before he went.” 


Knut stopped suddenly and a breath left him as if he’d been punched in the gut.  Tom couldn’t see his face but could tell he was trying to control his emotions by the way he carried himself.  For a moment, although this man was much larger than his brother, the way he was holding himself reminded him of Sam during times when his Little Brother dealt with situations that threatened to overtake him emotionally. 


Elizabeth had looked at the other man in horror that he could say such a hurtful thing to someone in this much pain.  The man had looked at her and stormed off.  Elizabeth rushed up to Knut, softly saying to him, “Knut, I’m sorry.”


Knut was obviously still embedded in a deeply troubling memory.  He turned to look at Duck, but the man was gone.  He looked away, a lost expression on his face.  Elizabeth continued, “I’m really sorry.”


Knut was ready to pull away.  He softly answered her with a “Yeah” as if he really didn’t believe she was doing anything more than placating him.  He started to walk away again, when she stopped him.


“So, what are you supposed to wear to these luau things?”


Knut, at first just stared.  But suddenly a smile took possession of his face.  It held gratitude in its structure.


Tom felt an electrical tug pull him away from this scene.  He was unsure what it all meant.  Again, the blue glow claimed Thomas Beckett as he was whisked away to another time and place.




April 8, 1970



“She was going…to…kill you.”


Tom realized he was standing waist deep in the familiar (if a 38-year-old memory could be considered familiar) river water of Vietnam .  He remembered hearing those words before and saw Magic standing in front of him, the Vietnamese guerilla, the chu-hoi, lying face down in the water, his own hand on her neck, dead by Magic’s actions.


He looked down, letting out a breath, two.  He was here again, reliving that horrible day when he’d almost fulfilled his brother’s prophecy. 


Helicopters were flying all around them, shooting at the Vietnamese positions.  Magic had called in the Calvary .  How he knew they were there, he wasn’t sure.  The SEAL unit ran for the chopper.  Again Magic seemed to know exactly where the booby traps were.  Suddenly, Magic turned back.  A hole filled in Tom’s Swiss-cheesed mind.  Maggie!  Tom saw Maggie Dawson was running towards them.  Magic screamed to her to stop but Maggie didn’t hear.  She tripped the wire and Tom suddenly remembered the result, he knew what he’d see.  Magic reached her first, his voice cracking as he called out her name.  Maggie had just enough life left to hand the camera to Magic, her voice a whisper.  But her single word was understood.  “Pulitzer.”


Magic was inconsolable on the flight back, holding the camera, almost like he was holding a vigil over Maggie’s body.  Tears streamed down his face.  Tom had never seen Magic take someone’s death quite this hard.  Tom scooted close to Magic and put his arm around him, tears filling his eyes as well.  God, I could have saved her if I’d just remembered in time.  Magic tried to save her.  It’s my guilt, not his’.


Suddenly, the Bartender’s strange words made sense.  “They were like ghosts to you the first time.  Now, you will be like that to them.”  He could now see why Magic had seemingly changed on that mission, Operation Lazarus.  It had seemed like there was someone he was responding to that helped him to remember things.  Remember to say things as simple as “Ay, Ay.”  And then, just as strangely, returned to the way he’d always been.  Tom had chalked that up to the affect of Maggie on Magic but now… Now he knew. 


As he had touched Magic, he suddenly saw his brother beside him.  He realized that his brother had been correct during that weird leave home the Thanksgiving right before he left for Vietnam  He remembered how his Little Brother had done everything possible to keep Tom from going to Vietnam.  Sam had been telling the truth.  Sam could see the future, because he had lived it.  Tom hadn’t been talking to the 16-year-old kid he thought his brother was then.  He had been talking to the 40-something man who had lived most of his life without his big brother.  Tom knew for certain at that moment.  Originally, Magic hadn’t been there to save him.   He had died on April 8, 1970, just like Sam had tried to tell him.


He looked at his brother now.  Understanding for the first time what had driven Sam to step into the Accelerator without waiting for the retrieval program to be finished.  Sam couldn’t take the chance that he wouldn’t be allowed to continue his work.  He felt that he had to trust that those he left behind would figure out how to get him home.  That leap had been, at least in part, for this, to have more years with the brother he loved.  More tears came to Tom’s eyes.  He knew that to his brother sitting beside him, all his tears were for Maggie.  Tom knew better, but couldn’t tell Sam.


That night at the bar, Tom tried to console his inconsolable brother, knowing he couldn’t let on that he knew Sam was there.  He saw Calavicci standing by, as always.  He was dressed in his Dress Whites.  How cliché could one get.  He ignored the man now, just as he always did.  “You didn’t kill her, Magic.”  He thought for a moment ‘I could have saved her, though, if I’d remembered in time.’


Sam took a swig off of his fourth beer.  That one was almost finished too.  He knew Sam didn’t usually drink that much and his brother was certainly feeling the effects.  “She sure as hell didn’t die the first time…” He took a short breath, but he went on, “…April the 8th, 1970 rolled around.”


This surprised him.  He knew he would have been killed, but he assumed that Maggie had died the first time too.  He asked, “What are you talking about?”


Sam stopped for a second looking down.


Suddenly that jerk Calavicci provided the explanation to Tom’s question.  “No,” Sam turned his head towards his Observer as he pointed at Tom with his ever present cigar.  “But Tom did.”


Tom heard the self-loathing in Sam’s voice.  “Well there it is, isn’t it?”  He paused for just a second, and then stated, his voice cracking, “I traded a life for a life.”  Sam’s eyes looked into the distance at something no one else from any time could see. 


Tom didn’t know what to say.  Putting his hand on Sam’s shoulder, he just needed to get away.  Not wanting to have Calavicci see him acting different from the Tom of 1970, he smiled slightly and said, “You are one weird dude, Magic.”  It cut him to the quick to see his brother’s suffering so evident on his face.  He laughed weakly.  Sam finished the beer.  Tom walked away.


Tom heard Calavicci tell Sam, “I was the one who led you back to save your brother.  So if anyone’s responsible, it’s me.”  Tom had to admit, it was nice of Al to try and take some of the guilt feelings from his brother, even though he knew the truth.


The Colonel walked into the bar carrying a manila envelope.  He handed it to Tom, who knew this time around what would be in it.  They were the pictures that showed Al Calavicci and another prisoner being moved along by a couple of Vietnamese guards.  Tom opened them.  Looking at the pictures again he had the same reaction as the first time, “She was one hell of a photographer.”


The Colonel answered, “She was one hell of a woman.”


Sam, now working on his fifth beer chimed in, “And I killed her.”


The Colonel chose to disagree.  “No, I did.”


Tom didn’t like the way this conversation was going.  “Oh, stop it, both of you.”


Calavicci spoke up again.  “What did she say to you that time in the bunker?”


Sam’s head was down.  “She said she’d sell her soul for a Pulitzer.”  As he said it, he faced Al again.


The Colonel spoke again, a smile on his face.  “Not just her soul.”


Knowing he couldn’t let on, Tom stated, “Yeah, well, I wish she’d got it.”


Calavicci stated flatly, “She did.”


Sam looked up; an anguished yet puzzled look upon his face.  The news had obviously shocked Sam as he voiced an animated, “What?”


Tom knew that Sam’s question was out of place.  He filled in quickly, “Pulitzer.  I wish she’d won the Pulitzer Prize.”


Al stated again “She did. For her last photograph.”


Sam looked confused.  He got up and grabbed them away from Tom, looking at each one.  Suddenly he found a photo which he closely examined; recognizing what Tom already knew was there.  Al Calavicci’s face.  He’d been one of the prisoners.  The picture had been plastered around the world.  Tom hadn’t known it was Calavicci at the time, but he would later.  He knew now.


Suddenly Tom heard something from Al he never would have imagined.  As Sam looked at Al, realizing who would have been saved on that mission, Al looked back at him, pain evident in his eyes.  Tom realized that Al had made a decision on that leap.  “What the hell, I get repatriated in five years.”


Tom recalled reading the log of the leap when Sam had cut those five years down to two.  Still…the man in front of him was choosing another five years of hell at this point in time.  Who would do that?  From what Tom had heard from other POW’s, it was truly hell on earth.  No matter what the rumors were at the Pentagon, this man was never a traitor.


Sam’s voice was a whisper.  He too knew what Al had done for him, giving him back his brother.  “You could have been free.”


Al told Sam, “I was free.”  Sam just continued to stare at him.  Al continued, pointing to his head “Up here, I was always free.”  Sam was still stunned.


Tom remembered that night.  At midnight, he’d announced that he was alive.  He thought it more of a joke back then.  A way to say that his brother’s shenanigans back in November were just simply ridiculous.  Now he knew better.  But he had to keep up the act.  Looking at his watch he stated, “Hey, hey it’s midnight.  It’s April the ninth and I’m still alive.”  Then Tom put his hand on Sam’s shoulder, smiling broadly at him, “Thanks to you, Little Brother.” 


Sam looked at him in amazement but then a second later, Tom realized that he had his hand on Magic’s shoulder and was looking into rather severely confused eyes.    Sam had leapt.  He was about to say something but then felt the tingly feeling that accompanied leaping and he too, was gone.





Email the Authors