Episode 801

Leapers Who Need Leapers II

By: Mike Bloxam

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PREVIOUSLY ON QUANTUM LEAP

 

Sam leaped into Sean Alsterson, his former roommate at M.I.T. who now lives in Australia.  Ziggy sensed something uncontrollable influencing the timeline and went on strike until she learned that Sam’s life was in danger.  Sam saved Sean and his family from a house fire and attended a meeting soon afterward: A meeting with his past self.  Sam, his dopplegänger, and Donna Eleese arrive at the house of Sean's in-laws just as Donna is replaced by another leaper, unbeknownst to Sam and the others.

 

PROLOGUE

 

Donna Eleese felt some strange force within her that also seemed to come from outside of her, and suddenly she was surrounded in a reddish, electrical light that made her tingle all over her body.  When she could orient herself again, her clothes had turned into a black, skin-tight suit to replace her knee-length maroon dress, and her surroundings entailed a small room with a reflective, bed-length table in the center.  Every surface was the color of sterile white: the walls, the floor, the ceiling, even the table except for the mirrored top that Donna instinctively stayed away from for the time being.

She noticed what looked like a control panel beside the door and attempted to use it.  The display requested a pass code, something Donna did not have.  “Where am I?” she mused aloud, examining the room and spotting a tiny camera above the doorway.  As frightened as she may have been, she gazed into the lens for a moment before taking another scan around the white room.  “W - where am I?” she repeated, this time with a stutter.

“Welcome to my project, Doctor,” a silky male voice sounded, coming from all around and startling Donna.  She took a few steps back from the door and bumped into the table.

“Who - who are you?” demanded the scared doctor.

“You have no need to know that.  With luck, you will not be here for long,” the voice continued.  “Somebody will be with you shortly.”  When there was no more, Donna waited in expectation of this “somebody”.

A few minutes passed and she decided to take a seat on the table and examine her new environs once again.  When her eyes finally came to glimpse down on the tabletop, she gasped loud.  It was not Donna Eleese staring back at her as it had been for her whole life in a mirror’s reflection: it was a stranger, a young woman with flowing purple hair and sky-blue eyes.  Donna began to breathe loudly and a shiver ran down her spine.  Swallowing hard, she looked into the camera again.  “What the Hell’s going on here?” she demanded with new-found courage.  In response, the voice spoke again, this time with a hostile tone.  “I told you before, that is not for you to know.  Now be silent or you will have to endure the consequences.”

“No, tell me what kind of trick this is and let me out of here,” she demanded, even at the threats of the voice.

“This is no trick, Doctor Eleese, this is reality.  However, when you return, things will not be as they were,” the sullen voice laughed.  The laughter grew until it filled the room, so loud that it made Donna cover her ears.  Suddenly, as if somebody flipped a switch, the maniacal laughing ceased and the white door opened, revealing a young-looking, willowy woman.  She took two steps into the room and stared directly into Donna’s eyes.  After a moment of staring at each other, the woman pulled a handlink out of her pocket.  With a press of a few buttons, her eyes widened and she said to Donna, “So, you’re Beckett’s wife?”  The surprised expression turned to one of devious pleasure as she whispered, “Delicious.”

 


     
PART ONE

 

July 18, 1990
      Melbourne, Australia

 

Deep within an underground complex buried on an island located in the Atlantic Ocean, Donna Elesee sized up her newest acquaintance.  With a determined look on her face Donna approached the slender woman standing in the doorway. 

“I demand to know what’s going on here.  Who are you?”  No response.  The woman continued tapping keys on the colorful handlink, causing Donna to press on.  “What is this place?”

“My name is Tala,” the reddish-haired woman answered with a hint of annoyance.  “You will be returned to your own time soon enough.”

“ 'Own time'?" Donna repeated with confusion.  “What are you talking about?  Where am I?”  She thought for a moment, realizing that this might be a time-travel project like Sam had theorized, and perhaps farther in the future than she could imagine.  “When do I… go back?”  She backed up as Tala stepped farther into the room with intimidation, the door swishing closed behind her.

“Soon enough,” Tala reiterated.  “Just sit tight and be quiet or I’ll have to discipline you.”  Her stony face and cold eyes gave Donna a chill that ran down her back, knowing that the threats were sincere.  “Now I’m going to examine you, so sit down.” 

Donna sat down on the table again, feeling like a marionette with a puppeteer pulling at her strings and watched silently as the sharp-spoken woman inspected her.

“There,” Tala stated after a thorough examination of Donna.  “I will return with food in a few hours.”  She turned on her heels and walked out of the room. 

 Just before the door closed, Donna spied the devilish smirk on Tala’s lips.

 

 

 

At the home of Sam Beckett’s temporary in-laws, Gwen Alsterson’s mother was interrogating Sam, seeing the aura of Sean Alsterson, as well as Sam’s younger self and his wife. Tala was as yet undetected in the aura of Donna Elesee. 

“My name is Sam Beckett, ma’am,” younger Sam said as he stepped up to shake her hand, “and this is my wife, Donna.” 

The woman took his hand, and with a sudden turn-face, said with a smile, “Call me Susan. Well, why don’t you and your wife come on in, Sam?”

Once everybody was in the house, Sam the leaper sat on a loveseat while Susan settled into a large recliner and young Sam and the concealed intruder flopped on a couch.  From upstairs, they heard Gwen’s voice and an older male voice trying to soothe little James.  By the sounds of it, they were not having much luck with the terrorized five-year old. 

“I wonder what ’as that boy so upset,” Susan blurted out.  Then she turned her attention to young Sam and Donna's aura on the couch.  “So are you from the States?  ’Cause your accent is certainly not Australian.”

“Yes, we’re here on business that happens to involve Sean, and he invited us to stay with him.  However, as you know…” young Sam replied before getting cut off.

“Well, you’re not stayin’ ’here!” Susan retaliated angrily.

“Mumsy!” Gwen yelled from upstairs.  “They’re only visiting!”

“What?!” the elderly woman screamed back.  “I can’t ’ear ya!”

Sam the leaper leaned forward, about to explain to Susan what the situation was, but Gwen appeared at the bottom of the stairs in a huff, her pregnant bulk supported by shaking hands on the banister.  “They’re only here to visit me and Sean, and they’re our friends!”  Though Gwen’s expression was semi-kind, her tone was one of aggravation.  “Please treat them with respect!”

“Oh, okay,” replied Susan, rebuffed, and started staring at the ceiling as if to conceal her shame.  Gwen patted her mother’s shoulder and ascended the steps.  Once Gwen was gone, Susan stood up and headed to the adjacent room, pushing open the double-swinging door and revealing a stove and refrigerator.  “Would any of ya like something to drink?” she called from the kitchen.

“If it’s not too much trouble,” both Sams said at the same time.  The two looked at each other and started to laugh, though the leaper’s laugh was a more nervous one. 

A silence followed and the leaper Sam noticed that Donna had been quite quiet since everyone had entered the house.  She seemed somewhat confused, but with some glee in her expression.  “Are you feeling all right, Donna?” he asked her with concern.

“Me?  Uh, yeah, I’m fine, thanks,” came the reply, with a slight smile to reinforce the words.  Sam was about to ask if she was sure, but Susan came in with four glasses of what appeared to be lemonade. 

“I ’ope you all like lemonade and vodka,” she said with a smile.  “I think we could all use a dose at this time anyway.”

“More than you’d think,” muttered Donna.  Quickly, her expression changed to one of embarrassment and she managed an uneasy chuckle.  “By which I mean, it’s been, um, a very stressful few days.”  Her eyes shifted from person to person before focussing on her beverage as she took a sip of the alcoholic drink.

 Leaper Sam, however, was not convinced that she claimed to be fine, and made a mental note to tell Al about Donna’s strange behavior.  Thinking of the small wave Al gave when he left the Imaging Chamber at breakfast, Sam realized that it had been a while since the Observer had reported in with any information or guidance.  “Hurry back, Al,” he thought forlornly.
 

 

PART TWO

 

Admiral Al Calavicci and Doctor Sammy Jo Fuller returned to an empty Control Room after a lengthy lunch break feeling a little more jovial than before.  “ This leap is a pretty tough one. Let me know how dad's doing,” asked Sammy Jo.

“Will do,” replied the Admiral with a smile.  He walked up the ramp to the Imaging Chamber.  “Fire it up, Sammy,” he said lightly as the door opened before him. 

Al centered himself on the silver disk in the middle of the blue room and waited for the swirling images to begin.  “Thank goodness coffee keeps me from tossing my cookies,” he grumbled to himself.  In a moment, the whirlwind commenced.  Normally after a minute a lock was maintained, but this time seemed to be taking longer.  “C’mon, hurry up,” complained Al as he closed his eyes. 
"Sammy, what’s going on?” he yelled as the swirling stopped, leaving the Observer alone in the large blue room. 

He steadied himself and stumbled to the Imaging Chamber door, punching the handlink furiously to exit the room.  He approached Sammy Jo at the main control panel and she looked up from the screen to speak to him.

“Al, something’s very wrong.  There’s interference in maintaining a link with dad.  We had the link set in the memory buffer, and we still have it, but some quantum force is blocking us from connecting to his mesons and neurons,” explained Sammy Jo in a hurry as she frantically jumped from console to console.  “I’m going to need some time to cut through it. I need some more of the programming staff.”

“Aw, damn it,” muttered Al.  “What kind of force?”

“I don’t know what it is, but it’s preventing... wait,” said Sammy as she suddenly stared up at the blue, sparkling orb on the ceiling.  “Ziggy, run a search through any other leaps where we couldn’t access Doctor Beckett due to outside quantum interference.  I have a feeling...” and she delved back into the console where she sat.

“Doctor Fuller, history is changing at a phenomenal rate at the moment where Doctor Beckett is currently existing.  I only have the capacity to...” Ziggy began.

“Just do it, you heap of scrap metal!” screamed Al, furious.  “If Sam’s in any danger, you’d better work your damned hardest to get us to him or I’ll disassemble you microchip by microchip!”

“Admiral, you know that I don’t respond to threats. As I was saying, I only have the capacity to observe the exceptional speed at which the past and present are being altered at this time.  You human computers can figure out for yourselves how to reach Doctor Beckett,” Ziggy retorted with a haunting air.

“That’s the camel that broke the straw’s back,” Al grumbled, then stormed out of the room, unwrapping a Chilvello and lighting it as he stomped down the corridor to the elevator.  Disembarking from the elevator cabin, the Admiral swung open the doors to the cafeteria and barked, “Any and all of you programmers, technicians, analysts, whatever!  Get to the Control Room this instant!”  Al then turned on his heels, half-soothed by the sounds of rapidly moving chairs and shifting feet.

“Al, what...” Sammy Jo started, seeing the Admiral storm back into the Control Room, with Tina and St. John right behind him leading a parade of technicians and programmers.

“All right, some kind of quantum field is blocking our access to Doctor Beckett,” announced Al.  Pointing to a couple of programmers, he ordered, “You two, search the archives for any other related activity.  The rest of you, find a way to get through this force.”  He glanced at Sammy Jo, giving her a wink.

“I sure hope we can do this quickly,” Sammy Jo said as she approached Al and Tina, her Southern accent thickening and adding urgency to her words.

“Don’t worry, hon,” Tina smiled, smacking her peach-flavored gum.  “We’ve been through worse, right?”

“I guess so,” replied Sammy Jo, cheering up a little.  “Well, enough chat, let’s get to work. 

 

 

It had been nearly two hours before two researching programmers approached Sammy Jo and Al at the main console.  “We found that similar forces, though not as strong, occurred in previous experiences with... other leapers,” the female scientist said, swallowing hard before saying the last two words.  “We are thinking that this may be either another leaper near Doctor Beckett and somehow is blocking us out, or that...” she trailed off, looking to her research partner.

“Or that it is a natural phenomenon, a side effect from a reported meteor strike just off the south-eastern Australia coast shortly before the time Doctor Beckett leaped in,” the male programmer finished.  “They were never found, so practically anything could have composed the meteoroids.”

“Oh, great,” Al responded.  “So it’s either someone else out there is leaping or a space rock.”  Glancing up at the blue orb, he asked with a nervous lump in his throat, “Ziggy, what are the odds that this is the work of Lothos?”

“Hypothetically, since Doctor Beckett destroyed Nathaniel Lothoman’s body, the computer portion would have died with him.  However, there is a possibility of his ‘consciousness’, one could say, may have remained within the computer, or they may have reconstructed a computer with a new body. I estimate the possibility of another leaper at 87.57%, and a meteor causing disruption at 28%,” Ziggy said with some sadness, thinking of her dear friend Gooshie and the sacrifice he made to save Project Quantum Leap from the evilness of Lothos.

Al was grateful that Ziggy didn’t pull an “I-told-you-so” routine, and turned to the room He saw that work had stopped and attention had turned to him during the conversation with Ziggy.

“Uh, right,” the Admiral stumbled at the unexpected attention.  “Now, we don’t want panic here, people.  Just keep your level heads and find some way of getting to Doctor Beckett.”  He sat down beside Sammy Jo and continued brainstorming ideas on how to reach Sam, silently worrying himself sick if Ziggy’s hypothesis was correct.
 

Melbourne, Australia
      July 18, 1990

 

Sam was getting impatient, aggravated that Al had not returned yet to help him with the rest of this leap.  What else was there to do?  He had saved the life of Sean and his family, and attended the meeting where he met his past self.  “I should have leaped hours ago,” he thought grudgingly.  He had been sitting in the living room for what seemed like days listening to Susan’s anecdotes, which got more and more unintelligible as she consumed more of her special blend of lemonade.

Suddenly Donna stood straight up, glanced over her shoulder, and then quickly turned back to Susan.  “Oh, uh, I’m sorry, would you all excuse me for a moment?  I have to use the bathroom,” she said. Both Sams watched her in surprise as she darted up the stairs. She hadn't even asked where the bathroom was.

Susan questioned in a slightly drunken tone,  “Why is she taking a bath at this hour?” Both Sams laughed lightly in reply, their surprise dispelled.

As Donna reached the top of the stairs, pursued by someone only visible to her, she saw Gwen leading a cautious five-year-old James out of the bathroom. “Now are you sure you’re ready to go downstairs, James?” Gwen asked in a soothing tone.  He was just about to nod his head affirmatively when he looked towards the stairs and saw a young woman with flowing purple hair at the top step with a man floating beside her in mid-air! His eyes grew wide and he scurried back into the washroom, slamming the door behind him and locking it.

 Confused by her son’s reaction, Gwen spun around to see the woman at the top of the stairs.  “Donna!  Oh, Lord, what is his problem?” she nearly screeched. She took an exasperated breath, then said calmly at the door,  “James, darling, what’s wrong now?”

“The, the, the woman!  She has purple hair! And the man is floating like a ghost!” he yelled frantically from the other side of the door. 

Taking another glance, Gwen only saw the concerned aura of Donna Elesee standing there. She sighed, and turned to an old man standing nearby.  “Daddy, where’s the key?” she asked him, pointing at the keyhole in the door.  “If he’s convinced he’s seeing floating men and purple ’air, I don’t think he’ll every come out on his own.”

“It’s in the kitchen, I’ll get it,” Gwen’s father replied in an aged voice. He excused himself politely, and slightly amused, as he passed Donna to descend the stairs.

“Wow, Trin, this kid’s still in his alpha state,” the floating man said, a mischievous grin crossing his face. He passed through the banister as he left Trinity's side and approached bathroom door.  “Hey, hey, kiddy!” He said in a sing-song voice as he melted into the door and disappeared from Trinity's sight.

Seeing someone walk through the door caused little James to nearly jump out of his skin, and he quickly opened the door with a shriek and rushed into his mother’s arms.  “Help me, Mommy!” he exclaimed, crying intensely into Gwen’s bosom as she soothed him with her embrace.  “I suppose you can go in there now, Donna,” Gwen said wanly over the crying boy's head.

Nodding in response, Trinity entered the washroom and closed the door behind her, letting out a sigh of relief.  Then she noticed the man who cruelly frightened James and gave him a glare.  “This is the first leap assignment since we got what’s left of Lothos half-running again. I don’t need you getting your jollies by scaring little kids.  It's, it’s just going to complicate the leap!” she hissed at the man, meeting his brown, Asian eyes fiercely.

“Whoa, calm down, Trinity. Learn to relax!  If I’m going to be a hologram, I may as well enjoy it, right?” he answered lightly, his eyes still locked with the leaper's.

Trinity’s blue eyes eventually dropped and she suddenly found the floor to be very interesting.  “Drake, just tell me, now that you’ve finally decided to show up, what I’m supposed to do?  All I know is that my name is Donna, and I’m here with my husband, uh, Sam?  Yeah, Sam Beckett,” she said innocently, leaning up against the bathroom door. The boy’s clamor in the hall was disguising her conversation with the hologram, and she had to admit that the scare tactic was working in their behalf.

Drake’s jaw dropped as he looked at her.  “S-Sam Beckett?  The Sam Beckett?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s his name.  Why?” Trinity questioned with confusion, watching as Drake frantically punched keys on the orange handlink.

 “Sam Beckett is the one who destroyed Lothos!  But I guess you can’t remember everything. Leapers would be more susceptible to memory flux with most of the main leaping systems still offline,” Drake reminded her, glad to see the enlightenment in her eyes as she remembered their time-travelling rival.  “We’re not having much luck with integrating the biological systems. Anyway, we’ve managed to erect a strong quantum field around you. As long as I’m here, it should block the leaping Beckett from contacting his precious Admiral until you can complete your mission.”

Trinity rolled her eyes at Drake’s long-winded explanation. “Which is?” she queried impatiently, crossing her arms across her chest.

“Well, Trin, you’ll have the honor of completing the job Alia and Zoey failed to do: Ridding the world of Sam Beckett!”

“Revenge?  Is that all Lothos can think about?  Ever since that leap where Alia and Doctor Beckett accidentally discovered each other, he’s been obsessed with destroying Project Quantum Leap.  That is, if ‘he’ exists anymore,” the leaper ranted.

“There’s some of him still around, Trinity. Unless you accomplish your assignment, he’ll march you through Hell and back.  There is a forty-eight-hour window in which we have a eighty-nine-percent chance of retrieving you, and after that the percentage drops,” explained Drake, clearing his throat before continuing.  “It drops by fifteen or twenty percent.  The only way...”

“Yes, I know, kill Beckett.”  She paused for a moment, noticing that the noise out in the hallway had been silenced, and she reached for the doorknob.

“Wait!” Drake exclaimed.  “You came in here to use the bathroom, remember?  Flush the toilet before you go.  Don’t want to raise suspicion, do you?”

Trinity smirked and pushed the toilet handle, washed and dried her hands and left the room, her eyes dancing with evil delight.
 

 

PART THREE

 

Project Quantum Leap
      Stallion's Gate, New Mexico

 

Sammy Jo was going over readings Ziggy supplied about the mysterious quantum field. Looking at screen, Sammy Jo noticed a pattern in field’s frequency. “It seems like every minute the frequency of atomic particles in the field changes slightly,” she mumbled to herself.

“Correct, Doctor Fuller, I was just about to say the same thing,” Ziggy purred.

“Admiral,” Sammy Jo said. “I think I have something.”

Al walked over to her terminal and with a look of relief.  “What is it?” he asked, keeping professional in front of all of the computing staff.

“It seems that after one minute, the frequency of the field changes by a small amount.  However, this means that we can only adjust our instruments once we have the reading, which takes about thirty seconds,” Sammy Jo explained excitedly.  “We can give you half a minute with Doctor Beckett, then the frequency will change again.  Whoever’s doing this sure must be using a lot of energy to produce such a strong barrier that changes so often.”

Giving her a nod and a smile, Al congratulated her.  He walked over to Tina and St. John, telling them to start up the Imaging Chamber with the modifications from Sammy Jo.  “I want to be able to talk to Sam as long as possible so be sure to keep on top of those changes in the frequency,” Al told them, getting rolled eyes all around.

“Al, hon, we know how to do our jobs.  You just go do yours,” Tina said light-heartedly.

Smiling weakly, the Observer picked up the handlink from the main control panel and the Imaging Chamber door slid open.  He centered himself on the silver disc and waited for the swirling images to show up.

 

 

Finding the hallway now devoid of Gwen and the hysterical boy, Trinity decided she might as well rejoin the rest of the people downstairs.  She descended the staircase, only to have Drake reappear in front of her at the bottom step. 
“I just love being a hologram!” he cheered, tugging at his white jacket that covered a multi-colored shirt and silver tie.
With a patient sigh, Trinity walked through him and re-entered the living room. Everyone was still seated and talking amongst themselves.  “Where’s James?” she asked, noticing only the adults were in the room.

“I put ’im in ’is room, ’e was feeling tired,” Gwen stated.  “But you sure gave him a scare somehow!”

For some reason, Gwen’s statement caused alarm bells to go off in leaper Sam's mind.  “How’s that, Gwen?” he questioned, very intrigued.

“First off, when you three were walking up to the house, ’e said that there were two Doctor Becketts!  And then, when Donna was at the top of the stairs, he said she had purple hair and a man was floating beside her.  Then he said the same man floated through the washroom door!"  Trinity glanced at Drake, widening her eyes at that fact.  “Oh, he cried his eyes out, but I think he’s just traumatized from the fire,” Gwen said, getting a worried expression on her face.  “What are we going to do, Sean?”

“Good question,” Sam answered, turning a now suspicious eye at Donna. He wondered feverently where Al was. “I mean, I don’t know, either. I suppose we’ll just have to rebuild the house.”

Gwen was about to open her mouth when the telephone rang.  “I’ll get it,” she said, swiftly rising from her chair despite her pregnant state.

 Trinity glanced at Drake when rebuilding the house was mentioned.  He fiddled with the handlink and shrugged.  “We don’t know who these people even are. I’ll go check the address outside.” He disappeared, only to re-appear seconds later frantically pressing keys on the handlink. “The ‘large’ man over there is Sean Alsterson, and the pregnant woman is his wife Gwen.  Their kid, oh, James, is it?” he said with a chuckle.  “Anyway, these are her parents Susan and Donald, and it says here that Sean and Gwen’s house burned down this morning, cause unknown.  It seems the Australian government classified the entire investigation at high security.  We can’t break their pass code.”

Hearing this perked Trinity’s interest, wondering what could possibly have started a house fire and caused the government to cover it up. 

“And Sean here works for the Ministry of Science.  So maybe that’s a clue...” Drake mumbled to himself, cut off by Gwen returning from the phone call.

“Sean, that was Sally Markson on the phone.  She said that you’d better get down to the Ministry building or you’re going to be in trouble.  And she wants you to take Sam and Donna with you,” Gwen told Leaper Sam in one breath.
Sam jumped up at that.  “Did she say why?  Before she said that I could...”

“I don’t know, Sean, just get yourself down there and fast,” she replied not unkindly.

“All right,” sighed Sam, discouraged at having to drive back to Melbourne.  At least Donna could direct him since she helped him get here to Geelong.  He didn’t feel as though he could depend on his photographic memory right now. “Well, I guess we’re going back to Melbourne.  ’Bye everyone,” he said standing up. Waving a good-bye to Gwen, Sam walked out the front door deep in thought and followed by his doppelganger, Trinity, and Drake.

“Shotgun!” Drake yelled out when they were on the veranda, and with a couple pressing of keys on the handlink, Trinity saw him reappear in the beige mini-van’s passenger seat.  She and the young Sam settled themselves in the middle-row seat while Leaper Sam drove Sean's vehicle.

Once on the road Sam glanced at Donna in the rear-view mirror, seeing his own aura in the reflection.  Ignoring the hazel eyes in the mirror he asked Donna, “So, where do we go now?”

As if caught by surprise, she said with a tinge of annoyance, “I don’t know.”

An uneasy chuckle escaped Sam’s lips.  “But you’re the one who helped us get out here, Donna.  Are you sure you’re feeling okay?” 

 Drake turned his head around and turned to stare at her with an accusing glare.

“Oh, yeah, I’m fine.  I was just joking with you,” she told him, laughing anxiously.  “Not a very good joke, I’ll confess.” Looking at Drake, she raised her eyebrows at him in a silent request for aid.  He punched some keys on the handlink and started giving her directions.  “Tell him to turn left at the next stop sign.  It will take him right out to the west-bound highway, the opposite direction of Melbourne,” Drake told her with a sly smirk.

“You can just turn left at the upcoming intersection, Sean,” Trinity said nonchalantly.  “That’ll take us to the highway back to Melbourne.”

Sam listened to Trinity’s directions, and fifteen minutes later down the road, he was still wondering what was wrong with her.  She seemed to be acting very absent-mindedly and simply strange in general.  “Maybe this is the way she is,” he mused to himself silently.  “I don’t remember anything about her.” He consciously redirected the sorrow he felt building by trying to figure out why Al hadn’t returned yet.  It had been many hours since the Observer had last stepped through the Imaging Chamber door.

As if in answer to his reflections, the door to the Imaging Chamber opened in the passenger seat next to him, and Al stepped through.  “He’s on the move,” Al said loudly.  “Keep me centered on him.”  Al settled himself down onto the passenger seat, unwittingly overlapping with the other Observer. Sam turned onto the highway heading west, away from Melbourne.

Sam wanted to scream, shout, and attack Al for being away for so long, even if Al was a hologram.  His frustration was building, but he knew he had to keep himself composed.

“Sam, I’m sorry it took me so long to get back,” Al started, then thought better than to upset Sam by telling him about the possible leaper, “but as you know, Ziggy’s acting up.”  The handlink made an insulted-sounding squawk, and the Observer continued.  “I’m only going to have thirty seconds to talk to you, then I’ll be gone for another thirty...”

 To Sam’s surprise, Al disappeared again in mid-sentence.  After a half-minute, he re-appeared, frantically pressing buttons on the handlink.  “Sam, Ziggy says that you have to get yourself back to Melbourne or Sean’s going to lose his job by the end of the week.”  Glancing around for a moment, Al turned back to Sam.  “Is that where we’re going, Sam?  To Melbourne?”

Sam nodded in response, stopping when he noticed the highway sign stating the distance to Inverleigh.  “I don’t remember passing through a city with that name,” Sam thought to himself.  “Donna, are you certain this is the right way?  I just saw a sign for Inverleigh.”  Just as Sam finished his sentence, Al was gone again.

“Oh yeah, certainly Sean,” Trinity replied, noting the mischievous grin on Drake’s lips.  “I remember driving through here before.”

With a thoughtful look in his eye, the younger Sam glanced at Trinity.  “I don’t think so, Donna.  I recall Werribee and Lara, but not Inverleigh,” he piped up as he began rummaging through the various paraphernalia littering the floor of the Alstersons’ van.  “Where’s that road map?”

Al returned again, telling Sam immediately, “You’re heading the wrong way!  You need to turn around and take the northbound highway.  Ziggy says that you took a left where you should have made right.”  The handlink made an agreeing noise, punctuating the Observer’s statement.

Grimacing, Sam took an off-ramp and managed to get the mini-van driving down the road in the correct direction.  “Hey, Sean, we took a wrong turn back in Geelong.  I think Donna said left, but she meant right,” young Sam said as he moved his finger along the slightly worn map.  “I guess you figured that out on your own, huh?”  The reply was a simple nod.

Drake turned around and looked at Trinity disapprovingly.  “Well, there’s not much we can do now but go along for the ride,” he stated a bit sourly.  “I think I’ll go back and confer with some of the gang, see what we should do next.”  With a few taps of the handlink, the Holographic Chamber door opened. Drake stepped backward into it, closing it promptly. At the same moment the transmission between Al and Sam terminated again.

However, Al re-appeared almost immediately. It took him by surprise for a few seconds, as he was just getting used to the thirty-second intervals.  “Ziggy, what’s going on here?” he questioned aloud.  He felt like he was being watched, and noticed that Donna was observing him oddly, almost as if she could see him. He gave her a double take, but she looked away, so turned his attention to the handlink.

“The quantum field that was inhibiting the brainwave transmissions just ceased.  We will have no problem maintaining a lock on Doctor Beckett now,” Ziggy announced into the Imaging Chamber. 

“I don’t know what you did Sam, but I’m here to stay, for the moment anyway.”  Al noticed the expression in his friend’s eyes.  “I know it has been a tough leap, but Ziggy says with a seventy-six-point-three-percent accuracy that all you have to do is save Sean’s job and then you can leap.”  He paused for a beat before continuing.  “Apparently, Sean never went back to Melbourne after he and his family went to stay with Gwen’s parents. This Friday he was fired.  If you can get to the Science Ministry building without getting lost again,” he said somewhat sarcastically, “then you should be outta here.”

Sam listened carefully; glad to hear that there was an end of this leap in sight, although he was nearly going crazy not being able to talk to Al.  He heard his doppelganger and whom he thought was Donna talking quietly in the back as he drove.  Glancing in the rear-view mirror, he saw that they were drawing out a route on the map with their fingers.  The expression on Donna’s face was one of aggravation, indicating to Sam that she simply made a mistake and felt remorseful about it.

 

 

Fifteen minutes later they returned to Geelong, back to where they had started.  With guidance from the younger Sam and more detailed navigation from Al, Sam maneuvered the beige mini-van along the correct route.

Finally they were on their way to Melbourne again. However, with the level of traffic on that day, Sam found it difficult to keep down his road rage.  The traffic, along with Sam’s general mood, seemed to lighten the closer they got to the Ministry of Science building which was located on the northern outskirts of Melbourne.  He didn’t even bother locking the vehicle once they had all arrived and sprinted to the back entrance, followed closely by his younger self and Trinity.  After taking the elevator up five stories, the group headed to where Sam had leaped in nearly a day ago.

“There you are, Sean!  God in Heaven, what took you so long?!” Sally Markson asked, not waiting for an answer as Sam entered the research laboratory where his desk was located.  “Oh, and you brought Doctor Beckett and Doctor Elesee.  Good, good.”  She waddled over to them from her desk, shaking the hands of young Sam and Trinity.  “We need to go see Doctor Kovanah immediately.”  Waving her hand and scuttling in front of the three plus Al the hologram, she led them down the hall to the elevators.  “I realize that you all must be very tired, but apparently Doctor Kovanah has postponed the meeting with you two and the science minister,” she said, referring with a wave to young Sam Beckett and Trinity. "I’m not certain why she ordered me to call you in, Sean.”

The elevator stopped on the third floor and Sally marched hastily toward the conference room where they had met with other scientists in the building for the seminar by young Sam and the real Donna Elesee in the morning of that hectic day.  Sally began to reach for the handle of the door, but before she had the chance to touch it, Sam spoke up.  “Can this wait a couple of minutes?  It was a long drive and I really need to use the bath- er, men’s room,” he told her, catching himself on the phrasing.

 With a sigh, Sally smiled wanly and said not unkindly, “Go ahead, Sean.  But don’t be long.”

Drake appeared beside Trinity, an impish grin on his face.  “Trinity, we may have some news here,” he announced, glancing around as he saw the aura of Sean Alsterson walking off down the hallway in a hurry.  “Let’s get somewhere private so we can talk.”  Trinity also excused herself to the bathroom, getting Sally even more anxious. 

 “Okay, but please don’t take a long time.  Doctor Kovanah is very strict,” Sally repeated to Trinity.

With a nod, the evil leaper headed off to the lady’s room, flanked by Drake.

Meanwhile, Sam burst into the men's room and gave it a cursory search for occupant. None. “All right, Al, I’m here.  I’m back at the Ministry building.  Now what do I have to do to save Sean’s job?” Sam questioned the hologram wearily as he leaned up against the sink counter in the restroom.

Al gave him an exasperated look as he checked the handlink.  “Ziggy originally said that Sean lost his job because he didn’t return to the Ministry of Science building today, apparently for this meeting with Doctor Kovanah.  But Ziggy says instead of losing your job on Friday, you lose it on Monday!”  The Observer gave the handlink a swat to the side, unfortunately seeing the same information as before.  “Looks like there’s no way to save his career now, Sam, unless you can do something to ‘wow’ that woman in the conference room.  Ziggy says there’s only a twenty-seven-percent chance of that happening.”

 Sam looked at Al somberly, letting out a heavy sigh.
 

 

PART FOUR


Trinity was simply annoyed. “So, what’s going on here, Drake?  You said I’m supposed to kill Beckett, right?  Well, when do I have that opportunity?  And is that all my mission entails?” Trinity demanded of her Observer as she washed her hands and face of the nervous sweat that had broken out.

Drake looked at Trinity, surprised by her sudden apprehension.  “According to our research, Sean Alsterson lost his job at the Ministry and was never re-employed, at least not as far as we can find.  So, Trin, it looks like you’re only here to kill Beckett. His murder would be blamed on his wife, and you would leap out.  That should buy us some time until we can get Lothos operational again,” Drake reported.  “If we can,” he added quietly.  “Since that bratty little kid saw 'two Dr. Becketts', we have to assume that Mr. Alsterson is a leaper. And since we’re having some troubles here at the complex, we no longer have the power to produce the quantum-inhibiting field. If Beckett is here as a leaper, then he will be able to have contact with his own people at his project.”

“Fine, so I’m only here to murder the Beckett from now, not the leaper right?  But I still don’t know how, Drake,” Trinity replied with a level tone, slightly agitated by Drake’s lengthy explanations.

“Well, I can’t think of everything!” he exclaimed, anxiety rising in his voice.  After a flabbergasted look from Trinity and taking few breaths, he said, “I’ll stay here as long as I can to help you out.  If an opportunity presents itself, then we’ll make our move.  Just be sure not to touch Alsterson, just as a precaution, because then Beckett will know about you.”

She nodded in response, and the two headed back to join the others, meeting up with Sam, sided by Al, on the way.  “So, Sean, do you know what this meeting’s all about?” Trinity asked in an inquisitive demeanor.

Sam shook his head no, uneasy about being alone with the person that appeared to be his wife.  “I haven’t a clue. This was a complete surprise to me.” 

They continued the walk in silence, coming upon Sally and young Sam still waiting outside the door.  “All right, has everybody had their washroom break?” the portly scientist asked sarcastically as she pushed open the door.

They entered the conference room to find Doctor Kovanah standing at the head of the table again, her face an unreadable mask.  The four people plus two holographic Observers walked into the room robotically, the overpowering gaze from Doctor Kovanah causing them to feel as if they were in the midst of a military investigation.

“Please, sit,” the intimidating woman stated simply. 

They all sat immediately without a word. 

Once in their chairs Doctor Kovanah remained standing at the head spot, her hands clasped behind her back.  “I realize that this morning I told you, Doctor Beckett and Doctor Elesee, that you would be meeting with the Science Minister tomorrow, as well as we would have reports on our opinions on your time-travel theories ready for you August the sixth.  I regret to inform you that, after the Science Minister reviewed the notes taken and my personal views, ’e has decided that we will not be able to fund this project for you.” She spoke as if she were giving a speech on the evolution of the cockroach.

“Yes!” Al cheered, glad that Project Quantum Leap would still exist in the future in Stallion's Gate, New Mexico.  “Sam, this is just the way history played itself out originally.  All you have to do now is to make sure that Sean won't lose his job.”

“I am, however, disappointed that you, Doctor Alsterson, are over forty-five minutes late!” the head of the quantum physics department exclaimed, causing Al to cringe at her words.  “Doctors Beckett and Elesee, could you please excuse us?”

Younger Sam looked to who he thought was his wife and said, “Certainly, Doctor Kovanah.  We'll just wait outside.”  He and Trinity, followed by Drake, exited the conference room.  Trinity motioned with her eyes for Drake to return and eavesdrop on their conversation.

“I apologize for my ’arshness, Doctors,” Kovanah said to Sam and Sally, “but I ’ad to convince them that we were indeed disinterested in time travel.  I believe that you two would be optimum for our new top-secret department on chronometric research, adapting the theories of Doctor Beckett.”  The eyes of Sam, Al, and Drake all nearly bugged out of their sockets while their jaws dropped wide open.

“Another time-travel project?”  Drake and Al exclaimed as each started punching keys on their respective handlinks. 
Sam could hardly believe it.  Was the Australian government planning on stealing his theories on time travel and planning to create one of their own?  He looked to Al, hoping for some answers.

“Sorry, Sam, I don't have anything here about another project, so maybe they flunked out, or maybe this is where the beginning of Lothos is!” The Observer said anxiously, basing his statement on percentages from Ziggy.

“Though I ’ave never met him, a Charles Deb-rock will be joining us soon to discuss further details with us.  Both of you must keep your mouths tightly sealed, not to discuss this matter with your family, friends, or colleagues, not even to discuss it amongst yourselves outside your labs,” the white-haired woman said with dead seriousness. 

 

 

The younger Sam and Trinity had been making small talk in the hallway, but Sam did most of the speaking as the evil leaper was paying attention to her holographic Observer.  Drake was nearly frantic talking about this hypothetical third project, which of course they knew was neither Project Quantum Leap nor the mirror project that created Lothos.  “We’ve never come across another leaper except for Beckett, so maybe we can assume that the Australian project here failed.  But, I still can’t get it out of my mind that they might be out there,” Drake sputtered to Trinity as he paced back and forth in the hallway.

Trinity couldn’t believe the situation at hand.  It was enough that they had to contend with Project Quantum Leap putting things right that once went wrong, what if there was another one with the same mission?  The Australian project could also be performing the same task as the project created by Nathaniel Lothoman had in mind, changing history for his own profit, or in this case, the Australian government would alter the past for their own sake.  Either way, Lothos, what was left of him, didn’t need any opponents, good or evil, in the same “industry” as him, especially with the current situation at the complex in the Atlantic Ocean.  That was the fuel that powered Trinity’s desire to succeed at this leap.

“Anyway, Trin, the others back here are as surprised as you and I are.  Tala is nearly spitting fiery-red bullets at this new information, and…” Drake stopped, making an insulted face as a tallish man walked through him on his way to the conference room.  “How rude,” the Observer muttered, glaring as the man opened the door.

 

 

“… should be here at any moment,” Doctor Kovanah said just as Charles DeBrock walked through the door into the conference room.  “Ah, Dr. Deb-Rock, I presume?” she addressed him as the door closed almost silently behind him.
“Yes, but it’s pronounced ‘De-Brock’, not ‘Deb-Rock’, Doctor,” Charles corrected with a light-hearted attitude and a touch of a north-European accent. 

Al had been trying to retrieve information through the handlink about this man immediately after Kovanah had mentioned his name to Sam and Sally.  “Sam, Ziggy has next to nothing about this guy.  It seems that any information about him is under the same high-level clearance as information on the fire at Sean’s house,” Al told his leaper quietly.

“My apologies, sir,” the quantum-physics administrator replied.  After a dismissing gesture from Charles, she cleared her throat softly and introduced him to the other two in the room.  “This is Doctor Sally Markson, our top DNA and xenogenetics specialist, and Doctor Sean Alsterson, our second DNA specialist as well as our number-one researcher in quantum physics and temporal studies.”

“Yes, I read up on their files before this meeting, thank you.  Very nice to meet you both,” Doctor DeBrock told them with a smile as he held out his hand to shake.  “How much have you told them, Doctor Kovanah?”

“Only that we are venturing into human kind’s greatest journey yet, thanks to you and the voluntary information from Sam Beckett,” she answered with a wicked smirk on her face.  Sam had to keep himself from throttling the scientist, but Al did nothing to restrain himself.

“You witch!” the Observer yelled as his holographic form passed through her multiple times before he gave up hope.
“Isn’t that immoral, stealing somebody else’s theories?” Sam questioned with a touch of anger.

“Not when it will allow us to change the past for the better,” Kovanah retorted sharply, staring at him with a cold glare.  “I know you’re friends with Doctor Beckett, but you will never say anything about this to ’im.”

After a moment of painful silence, Charles walked over to the table.  “Well, I suppose I can fill you in where the good Doctor Kovanah left off,” he began as he sat himself down at the table, motioning the other to do the same.  “I, along with a few other scientists, have been working on theories to send a human being travelling through time.  Nonetheless, we had a few holes that couldn’t be filled by us, we just didn’t have the resources or knowledge to do so,” he told them bluntly.  “Thankfully, that changed today when Doctor Beckett sparked some ideas with two of my partners at this morning’s meeting.  We firmly believe that we will be able to begin operation of the project within the year, but we need you two for the link-up of brainwaves between our time-traveler and us in the present.  As importantly, we need you to configure DNA sequencing so that we can achieve the first attempt at travelling.  With your extensive knowledge on temporal studies, Doctor Alsterson, and yours on DNA Doctor Markson, I know that we will be successful.”

Sam and Sally were speechless, both for different reasons.  Sally’s thoughts were on being involved with such an incredible undertaking, whereas Sam’s were the anguish he felt from being plagiarized. 

“I don’t know about Sean, but I’d be more than honored to be part of such an awesome venture,” Sally told Charles with a large smile, and they both turned to Sam.

“Uh, well,” the leaper stuttered as he looked to his Observer for guidance.

“Ziggy says that this will more than likely keep Sean with a job, and it won’t threaten Project Quantum Leap in the least.”  After a sigh, the hologram said, “Go ahead, say yes.”

“I suppose, how could I not say yes?” Sam answered, forcing a grin as he glanced from Sally to Charles, and eventually to the detestable Doctor Kovanah.

“It’s settled then,” Charles announced gleefully as he stood up.  “I have to get back to the complex soon, but I anticipate welcoming you both to the team on Monday.”  They all shook hands with him again, and he departed from the room.
“I just can’t express my pride in you two,” Doctor Kovanah told them with some actual happiness manifesting itself in her manner.  “This project will indeed be an ‘awesome venture’, as you put it, Doctor Markson.”

“Sheesh, she can’t even come up with her own words, let alone theories for time travel,” Al ranted as he checked some information on the handlink.

Doctor Kovanah stood up from her seat and began walking toward the door.  “If you wish, you may stay ’ere and discuss the situation by yourselves, but I ’ave another appointment to go to,” the white-haired administrator told them.  “See you Monday.”

After the door closed, Sally’s eyes met with Sam’s.  “Well, I don’t think there’s much to say, is there, Sean?” she said with joviality.  “We’re going to be members of a team that will progress temporal sciences far beyond our dreams.  I think I’m going to go to my office, I have some things to finish off before this new assignment.”  Sally stood up, and Sam mimicked her.  “You should probably go rest,” she advised, and after a firm hug, she speedily walked out of the room.

“What a day,” the Observer muttered under his breath.  Sam merely exhaled with exasperation, agreeing whole-heartedly.

 

 

Trinity had been listening to Drake’s continuous complaints about how people were acting around the complex, and became curious when the tall man that had passed through her Observer earlier left the conference room, followed shortly by Kovanah, and soon after her, Sally Markson.  “Where’s Sean?” she accidentally wondered aloud.

“Pardon me?” the young Sam replied.  He did not hear the response as when he finished the syllable, a haze of greenish-white light enveloped him, and he found himself alone in a large, empty room.  Strangely, it was the color of a pale green and seemed to have no walls. 

Young Sam Beckett was now the Visitor at someone else's Project.
 

 

PART FIVE

 

“Oh, I was just wondering why Sean’s still in there,” Trinity said to the man beside her. 

The leaper now in young Sam's body was somewhat taken aback when he heard the comment. “S-Sean?” he repeated, trying to figure out where he had seen this beautiful, brown-haired woman before.

“Yeah. Sean,” she repeated with annoyance as she waved a hand at the closed conference room door.  “How about we go in and see him?”  Not bothering to wait for a response, Trinity stood up and went back into the conference room.  She opened the door so silently that neither Sam nor Al heard it open.

“Then I should be leaping!” the form of Sean Alsterson whispered strongly. He turned around quickly when he heard a small gasp behind him.  “Donna,” he said nervously.

“Sean,” Trinity replied, hearing Drake punch keys on the handlink.  She stepped farther into the room and toward Sam-as-Sean.  “What was that you were saying?”

The new occupant of young Sam Beckett's body stepped in the door behind Trinity and came to a shocked stop at seeing the nineteen-ninety version of Sean Alsterson.  “Was I really that huge?” the leaper pondered silently, amazed at how obese he used to be.

“Nothing, really, just talking aloud,” Sam responded to Trinity.  “What shall we do now?" sputtered nervously, looking for a way to get as far away from this building as he could so he could think. "I think I’m free for the rest of the day,” he said, glancing at Al briefly.  “As free as I can be in this job,” he added mentally.

The three leapers stood rooted in their spots, none of them knowing what to say or do, and all totally unaware of each other's situations. 

Drake piped up, seeing this as an opportunity.  “Hey, Trin, if that is Sam Beckett and not Sean Alsterson over there talking to himself, you can kill both the leaper and the present-day versions!  Now, just some way to do it…”

Trinity’s eyes lit up as she realized exactly what Sam had said when she entered the room.  He was talking to his hologram!  Knowing that she had to be extra cautious, she turned to the aura of young Sam Beckett.  “Maybe we could go for some early dinner somewhere here in Melbourne?” Trinity suggested innocently.

“Sure, why not?” Sean replied, not really knowing what else to say, and turned to his past aura. “What about you, S-Sean?” he asked, forcing himself to use his own name. 

 Only leaper Sean saw the large, illuminated oval open up beside him and his Observer, a happy-looking woman, step out from within.  A shocked look came over her face as she saw the obese aura of Sean Alsterson.  “My word, Sean, you used to be 'uge!  No wonder you don’t like talking about the old days!” she stated with humor.  “As far as we know from the man you leaped into, the year is 1990.  He isn’t sure of his name, but I recognized ’im as your friend Sam Beckett.”
Sean managed to contain his immense astonishment, and looked at his former self with a new eye, and understanding why he seemed uneasy. 

“Sam, Ziggy has no idea what’s going on and she’s going absolutely bonkers!  The display on the handlink, it’s in German, no wait, Spanish, no, now it’s Russian!”  Al began slapping the handlink with his greatest force yet, trying his hardest to shake it back into sanity.

“Yeah, let’s go,” Sam said, looking distracted as he tried to ignore Al and his problems. 

The three leapers, trailed by the three holographic Observers, left the conference room, heading for the elevators.
“Trinity, I’m not sure what you can do now.  For some reason we’re losing huge amounts of power; I can’t stay with you for much longer.  You have to meet your objective soon or we might not be able to retrieve you,” Drake spouted with apprehension.  She nodded in response, furiously trying to develop a scheme to kill Sam Beckett; either one of them!

They entered the elevator, and Sam reached to press the down button at the same time as Trinity, their fingertips almost touching. It took a lot of control to pulled back her hand in a calm manner.

“Close one,” Drake whispered.  “Just watch yourself. No touching!” He waggled his finger teasingly.

“We’re not sure why you’ve leaped into Dr. Beckett, Sean, but we just can’t seen to keep track of what’s ’appening at this time.  Something ’as, 'cause all of the systems are going ’ay-wire,” the female Observer reported. “Aha!  It says ’ere that originally, you, that is Sam Beckett, was murdered by his wife? Donna over there,” she gestured toward Trinity. “And then she was sentenced to life in an American prison.  You must be ’ere to prevent the murder or to ensure it ’appens.  We’re not sure yet.”

Sean looked up at the ceiling of the elevator cabin as it came to a stop on the ground floor.  That's why the brown haired woman looked familiar; Sam's wife! 

They all managed to depart from the elevator without touching one another by sheer chance, with Trinity watching leaper Sam carefully. 

“Okay, Sam, I finally got something in English here.  It turns out that Donna is going to murder you?!?” Al announced, pointing toward Sean in the aura of the younger version of Sam.  “I mean, him over there…she murders that Beckett, and then she’s put in prison for life. Sean basically drops off the face of the Earth afterward.”

Sam didn't think he could be anymore shocked, and it was a real struggle to keep his face neutral. "Donna? Kill me? What's going on here?"  The uneasy suspicion about who he saw as his wife rose again, and he thought back to the other times during this leap that she didn't seem quite right; he had dismissed his uneasiness as Swiss-cheesed memories, but maybe something else was going on here.

The walk down the hallways to the rear entrance was a silent and solemn one. Each leaper trying to gather their thoughts, and each Observer trying to get more information on what their charges were supposed to do. The interference from each other was throwing the computers that ran each project into complete chaos. 

 They all boarded the Alsterson family’s beige mini-van in the parking lot. Sean had to abort his approach to the driver's side and allow his aura-wearing counterpart to take over; it wasn't easy not being himself! 

All three Observers positioned themselves in the front passenger seat, silently waiting to see what would happen next. The Sam and Donna auras parked themselves in the second row of seats. 

Trinity began to go through Donna’s purse in a desperate attempt to find a weapon to utilize against Sam, her mind whirling with possible plans.  After coming up with nothing, she looked urgently into Drake’s eyes, silently asking for help. 

With a shrug, he looked to his handlink, then glanced at the instrument panel of the van.  “Hey, this thing’s almost outta gas,” Drake noticed.  “You should maybe get out in the country somewhere.”  The Observer noticed her questioning stare, and elaborated.  “Nobody ever finds bodies in the woods, right?”

“Say, Sean, since we all seem to have some time off right now, do you mind showing us some of the areas outside the city? I'd love to see a wild kangaroo.” Trinity suggested to Sam. "Wouldn't you, honey?" She said to Sam's aura. "Then we can find some place to eat."

“Sounds like an idea,” leaper Sean answered, his mind whirling. "Getting away from any other distractions might be a good idea", he thought feverently.

"OK, then," leaper Sam replied from the driver's seat, not really anxious to go back to Sean's in-laws, anyway. 

 

 

They were several miles on the outskirts of Melbourne in a rural area when a 'low fuel' light came on.

"Great!" thought Sam. "Um, we need to look for a gas station," he said out loud. 

"Are we out of gas?" Trinity-as-Donna said innocently.

"Not yet," Sam grumbled.

"There's a station…." Sean-as-Sam stopped himself. "I mean, there should be a station right up the road," he stated carefully. "Shouldn't there?" Somewhere in his brain something told him that these memory losses were not unusual for a leaper. He caught his Observer's eye.

"I guess there's one up 'ere somewhere," she replied, shaking her link. "This thing's worse than my old Palm Pilot."
As the van climbed a particularly steep part of the road, it began to chug and sputter.

"Uh, oh." Leaper Sam said.

"Feels like it's out of fuel," leaper Sean noted out loud.

"Shit!" Leaper Trinity thought. "There's no woods here! Just rocks and dirt!" Then her eyebrow arched. "Rocks?" she thought, looking out the window at the roadside.

The van chugged over the crest of the hill, and lurched one last time, directed by Sam to the dirt shoulder. They all sat quietly for a moment as Sam tried to restart the van.

"I think that's it, folks," Sam sighed. "Maybe there's a gas can in the back?" He gave Al a sideways glance.

"Beats me," Al shrugged.

 “Well, let’s see,” Sam said, getting out of the van. 

"I'll help you," leaper Sean said, getting out of the car. He wasn't too comfortable sitting next to his…Sam's….murderer, alone, in the van.

The two respective holograms followed their charges, leaving Drake with Trinity. 

"Now looks like a good time, Trin!" he said. "Check the glove box! Maybe there's a screwdriver or something!"

Quickly, she leaned over the front seat and popped the glove box open. Yes! A shiny yellow, brand new screwdriver!

"I'm going to try for both of 'em just to be sure, but which one should I go for first, in case I only get one? The one that looks like Beckett now?"

"You got it, babe. Go for the sure bet." He tapped the link. "This piece of junk sure isn't going to help at all with a decision."

She popped the door open just as the other two popped open the rear hatch. The two were scrounging through the mess in the back of the van, trying to find the reserve of gasoline. 

“Not only were you large, Sean, you were also had a pig-sty on wheels!” The woman hologram called out playfully, fiddling distractedly with her link.

Al was next to Sam, mumbling curses at Ziggy, the project, and life in general, completely focused on the screeching link. "I can't get a time of death on you….er, him. Damn this interference anyway!" he griped.

Trinity emerged from the van with screwdriver in hand, aware that both of the men were occupied scrounging in the back of the van. Quietly, she moved along the side of the van keeping her eyes on the closer of the two. "Luck be with me; the Beckett we're sure of is closer!" she thought with joy. The corner of her mouth curled up into a leer as she gripped the weapon tightly and rounded the back of the van, aiming first for a low kidney shot. "That should incapacitate him enough for a first shot," she thought.

The feeling was catching, and Drake grinned a feral grin, too. "Go get 'em, Trin! You got a clear shot! Step into it!"
She pulled back her arm to get the full power of her body into the low stab and began her deadly jab when her target stepped back.

"I don't see…" the aura of Sam was saying as Trinity followed through with her motion, unable to stop the momentum of her body. "Hey!" he yelped in surprise.

Leaper Sam, seeing the sudden motion in his peripheral vision, instinctively grabbed at her extended arm, but not before she nicked his side with the weapon. "AL!" He yelped, getting his Observer's immediate and full attention.

What Al saw made him queasy; the rippling effect of merging auras was nauseating to see. "Sam! She's a leaper!" After an astonished second, the hand link squealed, and he punched the buttons and tried to keep an eye on Sam at the same time. "Hold her, Sam!"

Sam had a vice like grip on Trinity's arm, shocked at the purple-haired stranger that once looked like his beloved wife. Trinity snarled and fought like a demon, and they both went down in a tangle.

Shocked, Sean stood with his mouth hanging open as he watched the merging of auras. "Another leaper!" he whispered, eyes wide. "Isobelle! There's another leaper!" He barked a bit louder to get his Observer's attention. Isobelle jerked her head up from her link and ran the few steps to his side.

"Oh my Lord! That's why the readings have been so quirky!" She began a frantic input of information. "Sean, help him! He can't die! If he's you, then you will get stuck where ever…ooohhhh I can't take this much longer!" Her fingers were frantic on the keys.

Leaper Sean stepped up and grabbed Trinity around the neck with his forearm, pulling her off of his own aura ... which right now looked a lot like an older Sam Beckett!

"Sam!" Sean yelped, barely subduing the snarling woman.

Sam rolled to his knees, pressing his bleeding side with his hands. He glanced up at his name and saw the weird, undulating ripples of touching leapers. "Sean!?" He said, astonished.

Trinity paused at the inquiry and twisted around enough to see Sean's face in Sam's aura. "There is a third project!" She yelled to Drake, whose fingers were flying like the other Observers.

"A THIRD PROJECT?!" Al and Isobelle squeaked together, their unified voices unheard by anyone.

"Sam! Ziggy says Sean's in on the third project!"

"Trin, do something! The power levels are off the scale! We can't guarantee your retrieval!" Drake yelled, his eyes on fire. "Don't let them stop us, Trinity! You'll regret it!"

Trinity began to fight anew, desperation feeding her fear of being stranded in time. "NO!" she shrieked, wildly throwing her body.

Sean was unable to hold her. She broke free and fell, rolling along the shoulder of the road as Sean slammed into the back of the van. Sam stumbled to his feet, lurching from the painful wound, and tried to catch her.

Sam was nearly on top of her with Sean close at his heels when Trinity gained her feet. Her eyes, wide with fear, looked like that of a trapped animal. She whirled and sprinted across the road just as a car topped the crest of the hill that their van had just managed to climb.

The car impacted with the purple haired woman with a sickening thud and sent her sailing through the air. The car's brakes squealed too late as the vehicle fishtailed to a frantic stop.

"Donna!" Sam choked as he stumbled across the roadway. 'What's going to happen to Donna?' was all he could think as he made his way across the street, his throat tight with fear. He held his breath to keep from screaming, and fell to the woman's side, Sean stopping behind him in shock.

The woman's hair was snarled and wild, spread like a fan under her head. There was blood trickling from the corner of her mouth and her breathing was ragged and bubbly sounding. Her limbs were at an odd angle from her body, and all Sam could hope was that Donna didn't feel anything. He smoothed her hair from her forehead, speechless, a mix of fury and sorrow roaring through his brain.

Trinity's eyes cracked open, focusing in and out. Finally, she found Sam's eyes and an awful laugh choked from the cracked lips. "Checkmate, Beckett!" She cackled. "We still have your wife!"

"NO!" Sam said from clenched teeth, slamming his hand on the ground next to her head. "Al! What's going to happen to Donna?"

"Al?" Sean said as Isobelle reached his side.

"Must be Admiral Calavicci, his Observer," Isobelle clarified, unable to take her eyes from the horrifying woman on the ground. "Who is she, Sean?"

"I have no idea," he said, mystified.

"Sam, calm down!" Al said, kneeling next to his friend. Sam's eyes were full of sorrow when he turned them on his Observer. "It's ok, buddy. If that woman's project works like ours, she'll leap when she dies." He gave the gasping woman a visual once over. "And I think that may be soon. Who is she?"

"TRIN!" Drake's voice was faded and scratchy in her ears. She knew it was hopeless at this point. "Trin! We're losing you!" 

The dying woman found her hologram with her eyes and smiled. " 's ok, Drake. They can't stop…us…." her voice faded, her eyes closed, and she sagged deeper into the dirt. The last thing she heard was Drake's far-off voice spouting obscenities.

"That's it, Al." Sam said in a shaky voice. "She's gone."

Sean dropped to his knees next to him, the sound of cautious footsteps from the car's driver coming up behind.
"Please," a voice said meekly. "Don't tell me she's dead…I couldn't live with myself…" the stranger's voice cracked. Sean and Sam both looked at the stricken man, unable to tell him anything.

Then a glowing from Trinity's body brought their attention back.

"Sam! Look!" Al said, pointing.

Trinity's aura was fading in a reddish glow, replaced by a solid form. When the haze cleared, Donna surprised eyes were looking into Sam's. "Donna!" he cried happily. 

"Sam!" Al warned quickly. "She sees Sean, remember? He's her husband!" The hologram pointed at Sean. "Sam?"

"OK," he acknowledged his Observer, holding back his initial response to pull his wife into a tight hug.

"Sam! What happened?" Donna asked hurriedly, sitting up and glancing around. "I was ... I wasn't here…" her voice trailed off, confused, and she reached out at took Sean's hands. "Sam, honey, what happened?!"

Sean took over consoling her with a guilty glance in Sam's direction, and Sam unwillingly backed away.

"She's all right? She's all right? How could she be?" The driver stammered. "There's a 'uge dent in my car!" He watched as Donna got to her feet. "Praise God! There's not a drop of blood on her!"

Sam took his arm to calm him. "She, uh, works out a lot. She'll be OK, really." The confused man allowed himself to be led back to his car. "Um, we will need a ride to the nearest gas station, though. Can you do that?"

The man nodded enthusiastically. "By all means! Lord! What was she doin' in the road, anyway, man? Hey, are you OK? You're bleedin'! " 

As Sam lead him back to his car to inspect the damage, he pressed one hand on his wounded side. "I'll be fine. Let's check out your car." He gave Al a questioning glance and mouthed, why haven't I leaped yet?

"Ziggy was all screwed up from the interference, but now that the goofy-haired shrew is gone, she's making more sense. There's still interference from your old buddy there," Al tilted his head in Sean and Donna's directions, "but we can work around it. In fact, Ziggy thinks that's why you’re here; to stop the Australian from getting off the ground."

"How can I do that from here?" Sam said softly as he pretended to inspect the back of the car while the driver looked at the front.

"You can't. I have to talk to Sean. Hang in there, buddy, I'll be back." Al tapped the link and the Imaging Chamber door whooshed open. Al stepped through with a wave and a cocky grin. "Meanwhile, keep your hands to yourself. You're Sean, remember!"

"Yeah, yeah," Sam said sadly as the door closed.

 

 

 Project Quantum Leap
       Stallion's Gate, New Mexico

 

Al's mind was quickly throwing out thoughts as he was formulating them. How should he bring this up to Sean in the Waiting Room? How could he stop this project before it was even started? And most importantly, how good a friend was Sean Alsterson to Sam Beckett? 

He'd met Sean several times over the past few years, and now his demeanor made sense. From what he'd heard and seen, Sean was a good friend of Sam's, but always seemed nervous and fidgety. Even Sam had commented on it, but wrote it off as a weird reaction to winning the Nobel Prize. He'd lost some scientific friends due to jealousy on that one, but thought Sean was above that kind of reaction.

Now Al had it figured out: Sean knew he was working with plagiarized material. Sam's plagiarized material, to be exact. No wonder he was so jumpy; the guilt must have been tremendous.

And just then Al knew he had his out.

 

 

 The figure in the Waiting Room looked glum. Verbena had told him nothing and Al was sure his brain was going a mile a minute in there, with all the possibilities looking pretty grim. When Al stepped into the room, Sean's surprise was immediate and obvious.

 "Good 'eavens! Admiral Calavicci! Why didn't anyone tell me you were here? And where's Sam? He must be here, where ever here is!" He stuck out his hand and he glanced around the room.

 "Dr. Alsterson, please. Call me Al."

 "Certainly, if you call me Sean. 'aven't we made those requests before?" The man's eyes were now shining with relief.
 "Yes, as a matter of fact, we have. You remember when?" Al was curious to see how many holes were in his memory.

 Surprisingly, Sean rattled off exactly the circumstances where and when they had met, down to the brand of champagne they had imbibed that evening. He was laughing jovially. "And then Sam had to give that presentation the next day! At least we got to wear our dark glasses! I don't know how he and Donna did it!"

 "Well, that the old Beckett determination. You know."

 "Yes, I do, I certainly do. Quite and individual, Sam Beckett is. Is he here? Can I see him?"

 "Um, not really." Al motioned for Sean to sit on the bed and Al took a position in front of him. "Sean, I have to talk to you. It's serious."

 Sean settled down immediately. "Go ahead, Al."

 The Admiral began the story of Project Quantum Leap, leading Sean through the beginnings of the Project to its current state, and then told him about the events in Melbourne of the past few days. Al could tell that Sean was keeping careful track of all the information and considering the implications.

 "You're serious? That old cow Kovanah has finally done it; plagiarizing another scientist's work. I've never liked her, and now I know why! The woman 'as no morals." He met Al's eyes determinedly. "That's no way to run a project. And as far as I'm concerned, Sam is one too many leapers in time. When I go back, will I remember all this?"

 Al shrugged. "We don't know, really. We haven't had that much feedback. Ziggy figures, and I agree, that God, Time, Fate or Whoever got you here for a reason, and that reason will stay intact when you leap back. You have to stop the project, Sean."

He nodded solemnly. "I know. It's simply the right thing to do. Thank you, Al, for confiding in me. Sam's trust in you is not misplaced, my friend." 

"And his friendship is not misplace in you, Sean."

They shook hands, and Sean's forehead furrowed deeply. "Oh, my. I feel peculiar…."

And he leaped.

 

 

EPILOGUE

 

“I don’t believe this! You’ve wrecked my life, do you realize that?” Standing in front of Sam was a teenage girl, blond hair pulled back into a ponytail, her face red from emotion, eyes brimming with tears. She lifted a hand to wipe away the tears and her eyes filled with accusation as she stared back at Sam. “I’m seventeen! I want to live my own life!” She sobbed before turning and leaving the room quickly. A few moments later, a door slammed at the rear of the house hard enough to rattle several windows in the front.

Stunned, Sam stood immobile, his mouth open, wondering what on earth he had arrived in the middle of this time. A movement to his left caught his eye and Sam turned to see a boy standing in the shadows.

“Bimbo meltdown, huh?”

“What?” Sam muttered.

Mistaking Sam’s comment as disapproving, the boy hunched his shoulders. “Sorry.” He mumbled.

Looking back in the direction in which the girl had disappeared, Sam raised his eyes to the ceiling. “Oh boy.” He sighed.

 

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